Friday, 23 January 2015

A snow filled few months and the 2nd race of the Bowhill Duathlon series

Snow has been the object of my affection in the past few months. One of the things I have missed the most spending more than a decade living on the southern hemisphere, were the cold frosty days with sunny clear skies. The white fluffy magic stuff called snow which makes everything look like a fairy tail. Out of all the places I have visited and all the countries I have lived in, winter in Scotland with the snow captured hills surrounding the Scottish Glens must be one of the most beautiful sights I have experienced to date. And although I have been pretty much in a state of hypothermia almost 100% of the time since I have set foot here, it has been so easy to fall in love with the beauty of Scotland.
Fynn appreciating the amazing views on our long runs

I have mentioned before that I believe I have inherited my love and passion for the outdoors, extreme sports and most likely also snow from my uncle Eelco Dijk. Eelco belongs to one of the best climbers Holland has ever produced and reached the top of many famous Mountains, including the Annapurna where he was part of the first successful Dutch expedition in 1977. The Annapurna is listed as the most dangerous peak in the world to climb with its 38% fatality rate. In 1982 my uncle was leading the first Dutch expedition to Mt Everest where he beat all odds and survived an avalanche at 7000m suffering many broken ribs, a collapsed lung, undergoing surgery without the use of general anaesthesia and spending 2 months recovering in a Tibet hospital. I was very excited when he suggested coming to Scotland to spend some time with me after many years of little to no contact whilst I was living on the other side of the world. Part of me was nervous meeting him again after so much time apart as I knew we both could not ignore the past or my reasons for turning my back on my family by moving to New Zealand at the age of 21. It ended up being a weekend which I will treasure for many years to come.
Extreme conditions on top of a Munro

Hearing my uncle talk about climbing, the mountains and his passion for adventure, reminded me of my passion for the sports and what I have been wanting to achieve. I felt I was talking to a man who's thoughts I understood and who himself understood my actions, and after floundering around the world so aimlessly for many years, I felt like I finally had found some sort of an anker in the form of a family bond. There was no doubt our genetic up make was the same.

Eelco, Fynn and Michael heading to the top

Michael joined us and with him being there I connected my past with my present which had been a very rare event in the past decade and made it even more meaningful. We spent the weekend in the Scottish Cairncorms walking up snow covered Munro's enduring extreme winds and low temperatures. Whilst Michael and I were negotiating what the safest way down would be, navigating through snow and ice, my uncle who felt completely in his element was already half way down the mountain! "what were we worried about, the man survived Everest" Michael laughed. So many stories, adventures, and experiences to share, I wasn't planning on letting another 10 years slip by without being in my uncle's company.
What better than to reconnect with family on top of a Munro

To continue the snow theme I  travelled to the Scottish borders to race the second event of the awesome Bowhill Duathlon series organised by Durty events. The plan was to go all out from the start and see where I was at but the cold weather and the large amount of snow turned my race more into a survival test even though the race lasted for not much more than an hour! I tried to warm up but my body went into lock down due to the freezing temperatures just before the start. Close to 200 competitors showed up on this frosty, snowy day which is a reflection of what a great organisation Durty events is attracting that many athletes mid winter. Once again I didn't start close enough to the front and it felt like everyone struggled with the cold and the normally fast starting pace was lacking. I had to waste energy going around people cycling through bog in the berms trying to get some free ground. Finally I could set my own pace and I felt great and powerful. I was very happy to catch up to Kirsty McPhee who is a very strong competitor. I knew she would stick with me and I thought it would be a perfect way to be able to push each other and try catch the speedy Rosemary Byde.
Charging up the hill with Kirsty Mcphee on my right and a bunch of men behind me!

When we reached the top of the hill the snow started to be quite thick and deep and my chain kept on catching, I managed to release it by a backwards pedal stroke but I lost a lot of speed doing this and then suddenly the chain got stuck. I didn't have the patience and wasn't in the frame of mind to humour this and in an hour long (short) race a mechanical means race over. With frozen fingers I tried to release the chain and suffered a few hissy fits in the process. I apologise to anyone I yelled at! When it finally came undone and I jumped back on my bike my shoes and pedals were so full of snow I could not get my feet in. Another hissy fit and a serious desire to just sit in the snow and give up. I ended up walking down the hill until the snow had been replaced by mud and got back on the bike. I decided I would finish the ride as I didn't know how to return to the event centre any other way. I thought I was dead last. I managed to catch a few people before I headed into transition. Even though I was in a serious bad mood, I decided to continue the run and see if I could manage a half descent run split. I felt like I was running with ice clumps for legs. I was getting very frustrated with not being able to get my HR above 150. I stayed motivated by looking ahead for people to pass until I was on my own and dropped the pace. I was so pissed off with the whole situation that I packed up all my stuff and headed for home straight after the finish line. 
Sharing what life is all about with Michael

Ready to give up on racing all together I reunited with Michael and dog Fynn  who themselves hadn't succeeded in their mission of walking up a Munro due to the large amount of snow. Even Fynn had been in a better mood.
One of the many great things about Durty events is that they have race results up within a few hours of finishing which saved Michael from having me as a silent grumpy person for the rest of the evening. Turned out I still managed a 6th place overall female, and 5th in senior women. My run split wasn't even as bad as I thought it was after all. The fact I finished the race meant that I was standing in 3rd place in the series rankings behind Rosemary Byde and Kirsty McPhee. This little experience in the snow taught me once again that, whatever happens and how ever bad you think you are performing, never ever give up!!

Rosemary Byde seems to be in her own league in these series with Kirsty McPhee in second Although I have no chance to knock them off the two top steps of the podium, I will try my hardest to be in the hunt for a podium spot in the last event of the race which is the longest one and more suited to my style of racing.

Thanks again to Bowhill Duathlon for an awesome race and I will see you all again in February

"no matter how you feel, get up, dress up, show up and never give up"

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