Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Birdathlon

This year was the big 38.  Not quite 40 but certainly not 21.  This year was also the first year in a long time that I haven't wanted to celebrate my birthday by eating a lot and then getting blind drunk.  You see, I've ditched the beer belly and become fit.  I'm sure there will be other posts about that so I wont dwell on it here.  Let's just say that the thought of stuffing myself with food until I feel/am sick and then washing it down with beer no longer excites me.

Last year, on my 37th birthday, I was in the middle of a pretty full on diet.  I really wanted to have the usual blow out, but I knew that it would end up with me hating myself afterwards.  So I was good, and I felt good about being good, but it was a bit of an anticlimax.

So how could I celebrate being 38 without feeling bloated and depressed, or let down by the lack of excess?  The birdathlon was the obvious answer.  I would run 38k (38 miles is way too far to run), swim 38 lengths of the local pool (it's a really short pool but I am a really bad swimmer) and then cycle 38 miles (seems appropriate).  The idea for the birdathlon came to me a few days before my birthday.  My training involved not exercising too much for the remaining two days until my birthday.  I didn't tell anyone of my plans.  My wife had asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday and I replied with a cool, "I might go for a longish run."

Birdathlon Leg 1:
run route on Garmin Connect:

Well I woke up early on my birthday and set off to Keswick.  At this stage, I wasn't sure if I could run the 38k or 23.6 miles.  I was loosely training for the Loch Ness Marathon but had fallen a bit behind with the training, my longest run for a while being 12 miles.  I'd decided to run around Derwent Water.  This is a beautiful place to run, the route around Derwent Water is about 9 miles so I thought I would do one lap and then see how I felt.  I parked at the Kettlewell National Trust Car Park and headed off turning right from the car park.

At the start of the route there is the choice to run on the trail or the road.  As it was still early, meaning no traffic, and also because I was planning on a long run, I thought I would run on the road.  It's not too far to the right turn across the board walk towards Manesty Woods but on the way I decided that I really couldn't face running two laps of Derwent Water and so carried on towards Seatoller.

Here's a quick shot from the road:

This is a really nice, slightly hilly run.  The Borrowdale Fell Race had been two days before, and then the imaginatively titled Day After Borrowdale Cycle Challenge had been the day before.  There were a lot of, what were almost certainly, endurance athletes waking up from their tents as I ran by.  I gave them the knowing nod of the fellow athlete.  I was in the, what I find to be quite pleasant, mode of not quite knowing where I was going.  I was thinking that if I could run for 7 miles in one direction, I could run for another 7 back, making 14 and then a lap of Derwent Water of 9ish could take me close to my goal of 23.6.  At about 4 miles I got to Seatoller.  Beyond Seatoller is the Honister Pass, the hellish route that the Day After Borrowdalers had cycled the day before.  So I turned around.  I'd covered 8 miles at a slow and comfortable pace by the time I got to the boardwalk around Derwent Water:

This board walk is made from recycled tyres.  It's just a bit springy and really lovely to run on (mental note for later).  The 8 mile mark is when I start to get my runner's high so this was the ideal place to have that confidence because, once you set off around a lake, it's pretty hard to take a short cut.  It was still early which means few people and lots of wild life including this little fella:

Just stood there staring at me.  I carried on around the lake.  There are a few small hills and a bit of rough track but it's a quite nice run.  Beautiful scenery on the way around that I don't have the skills to capture but I tried:

A nice cool day, fine rain, almost perfect for a run.  Heading back towards my car which was at about the 18 mile mark, I foolishly decided to just carry on rather than stop to get the water that I had in the car.  My logic?  Well I can easily run a slow 6 miles without water, why should I stop?

The last six or so miles were spent running backwards and forwards, as much as possible over that springy board walk.

I thought that I might struggle to stop at 23.6 miles.  I thought that I would want to carry on to do the full marathon distance.  Absolutely not!  I really don't think I could have ran/shuffled another yard.  At the end I could tell I was dehydrated.  I stopped at the public toilets to fill my water bottle up before walking back to the car.  There was only a hot water tap so I filled the bottle with the water that was lingering in the pipes before it started to get hot.  Anything would do at this point.  I sat on a wall, checked my Garmin.  I'd done it, ran the 38k.  The Birdathlon was on!

One of the advantages of burning 2846 calories is that, well, you can allow yourself a little indulgence.  I mean, it was my birthday.  I just happened to know that my favourite place to eat, The Lakeland Peddlar, served breakfasts up until 11.30am.  It was a rush but I made it in time for, what else, the Power Breakfast:

Ok, this isn't the Power Breakfast, this is the Boneshaker Salad that I had the day before when we also happened to go to my favourite cafe.  I told you that I made my birthday last.  The Power Breakfast is yoghurt, banana, honey and granola.  Accompanied by a Soy Latte.  Yum!

Then it was home to open my cards and have some birthday cake:

This is a chocolate coffee meringue layer cake (my daughter and I like to bake).

Birdathlon leg 2:
Leg 2 was the swim.  No photos to show but my plan to swim 38 lengths saw me struggling at about 16.  I'm not a very good swimmer at all.  I have worked hard on my technique and think that I do swim properly now, even if it is with goggles and a noseclip, but don't have any stamina.  A quick trip to my locker and my conversion app told me that 21 lengths was about 380 metres.  That'll do, time for T2.

Well I do like my coffee so off to Costa to refuel:

and, as it's my birthday, I think I deserve some cake:

Carrot cake and a Soy Latte and I'm good to go.  Back home to the family, call my parents, hang out with my wife and daughter and then, and by this time I was comfortable telling my wife what I was doing, onto leg 3.

Birdathlon Leg 3:
Bike Route on Garmin Connect:

The weather had improved by this point.  My plan was pretty simple, ride for about 17 miles, turn around and make up the last few miles by going around the local streets, ending at my house at 38 miles.  A ride along the coast towards Silloth was in order:

Maryport Harbour

from the golf course towards the harbour.  There's a path along the promenade, a 
bit rough in places but with stunning views over to Scotland and the Isle of Man.

that's Scotland over there.

After about 14 miles I arrived at the village of Allonby.  Allonby is popular with kite surfers (I'd like to learn to do that one day) but is also home of Twentyman's Ice Cream.  Time for a fuel stop:

Another few miles and then turn around.  Oh, crikey, it's windy going this way!

looks like it's going to be a pretty sunset

Got to head inland a bit now though.  Heading home, still some gorgeous views just around the corner from my house:

bike leg

then home.  Birdathlon complete!  Bath, one or two beers and sleep.  What a great day.


  1. The similarities are increasing my friend. I looked back to find out what a Birdathalon was. Lo and behold it was a 38…something (swim, run, bike) that had to do with your age. Oddly enough, for my 30th birthday my wife and I put together "The Jonathan Auyer 1st and only 30th BDay 30k". Not quite the 38k distance, and without the swimming and biking. Will there be a 40…something this year?

    1. That's very cool. You guys are in Albany? I've spent some time there about 15-20 years ago, mainly day trips while I was working on a summer camp in the Catskills. Stay in touch, we are obviously soul brothers. And no plans for the big 4-0 apart from a week in a yurt with my family.