Monday, 27 July 2009

Trentham Triathlon

I don't really know what I'm thinking, writing about and showing pictures of me in lycra, but I did say that this blog is about everything that I do with and without a camera in my hand!

I also thought I owed my family one after posting lots of shots of them with red faces at the Race for Life last week! If you give it out you've got to be able to take it!

So Emma and I (special thanks again to Emma for being my single supporter yesterday - I don't think I could have even attempted yesterday's race if it wasn't for her - she was chief bag carrier, bike holder, drink fetcher, lip balm dispenser, towel positioner and of course photographer!) set off at 5:30am yesterday morning to arrive at Trentham Gardens in Staffordshire (I know, I don't know what we were thinking either!) for 6:30am.

My race (sprint distance triathlon which is 500 metre swim, 20k bike and 5k run) started at 8:10am, but we had to allow time to park, get my kit organised, register (you have to go and collect your race number and get your number written on your arm!) and rack my bike (this is where you 'park' your bike and leave your kit for after the swim section) so there's a lot to do in a short space of time!

Then it was time to head over to the swim and get my wetsuit on in preparation for the start of the race!
There were a number of different distance races, so there was already one race underway in the water, so it gave me the chance to see what the course was and which direction we would be swimming in!

This was my first 'open water' triathlon and so I don't mind admitting it was a little bit scary! When you're in a pool, you can see where you're going, you can grab the side if you panic, you can just climb out the ladder and get onto the side if it all gets too much - but not in the middle of a lake! I'd also heard scaremongering stories of how murky water is, you can't see where you're going, you get bashed around by the other swimmers, etc. so I was slightly apprehensive!

I got my wetsuit on which I'd bought on friday from Tri-central in Manchester - a BRILLIANT, dedicated triathlon store, run by triathletes for triathletes, so they really know what they're talking about. I even got to swim in their 'endless' pool (which is like a treadmill but in water - a small pool with a current that keeps you on the spot as you're swimming!) to try the wetsuit before I bought it. What a great facility!
Once I was wet-suitted up it was time for the safety briefing just before we got in the water - no going back now!

Once we were in the water I made sure I was right at the back of the pack to try and stay out the way of the other swimmers and just to give myself plenty of room!

Then the gun went and we were off! Out to the orange buoy in the very far distance and back via another buoy just off the shore.

I was delighted to start at the back and end up coming out of the water just about half way into the pack - I'd really been working on my swimming in the build up to this race and the extra training had really paid off. (That's me just taking my goggles off!)

Coming out the water here and I know it looks like I'm about to keel over but that's actually because I thought I was going to! Everybody came out of the water looking like they'd drunk a couple of bottles of wine on the way round! I realised that even when you swim that distance in a pool non-stop, you always then have a breather at the end before making your way out the pool slowly. I realised a was a bit dizzy from turning my head so frequently as I was swimming and then I was immediately trying to stand up and run!

You then had to get your trainers on and run to the bike transition!

Emma got back to see me head out on my bike in the miserable weather!

Two laps of a dual carriageway course wasn't the most inspiring, but it was quite a fast course and there were a LOT of cyclists out all at the same time so it felt like you were really part of something. There was a lot of friendly chat on the way round - The shorts I wear are '' team shorts, so a lot of users of the site gave me words of encouragement on the way round, which is always really nice to hear.Link

For how intimidated you feel at certain points of a race like this (mainly when you turn up on a morning and you see some real machines turn up as well!) you quickly realise what a friendly bunch all the athletes are. Everybody was laughing and joking by the lake at the start which really helped to put you at ease and everybody was very encouraging on the way round as well.

Then finally off the bike and out for the 5k run!

At the end I was buzzing from my first experience of an open water swim! (And looking particularly good in my lycra!)

Looking slightly better after a shower and proudly showing off my race t-shirt!

Thanks to the guys at TriCentral for sorting me out with a great bit of kit and for all the advice and thanks to the organisers for putting on a great event!

I'll definitely be back next year (which I'm sure Emma will be delighted to hear!)

Friday, 24 July 2009

Race for life 2009

Last sunday was our annual day out at the Race for Life at Aintree racecourse (I've no idea how the girls get over those jumps!) in support of Cancer Research and on a more personal level, in support of my Aunty Cathy who is now cancer free after battling and beating breast cancer. This year was our 5th year at the Race for Life and I'm sure we'll be attending for many years to come.

For those who don't know how the Race for Life works, it's an annual event run by Cancer Research at venues up and down the country. To quote the Race for Life website:

"Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life is the largest women-only fundraising event in the UK.

Since 1994, women of all ages and fitness levels across the UK have come together at these inspiring events.

Some take part in celebration of surviving a cancer experience. Others take part in memory of a loved one or to give hope to a cancer-free future. But all of them share a common goal: to raise money for Cancer Research UK’s pioneering work to beat cancer."

It's a fabulous event, it's a very emotional atmosphere, people are running for a lot of different reasons, my family run to celebrate Aunty Cathy's recovery from cancer, but lot's of people are running in memory of someone special, but the mood of togetherness is apparent from the moment you approach the venue.

Local radio stations do a great job on the PA system of getting everyone fired up for the start, there's a mass aerobic warm up (which is hilarious!) and people are raring to go when the gun fires!

I look on every year enviously at the girls heading off to the start line together. You don't get the buzz and emotional atmosphere at any other event. I'm a (reasonably!) keen runner and cyclist and a fledging triathlete (yes, having completed a triathlon I am allowed to call myself a triathlete!) and so I enter quite a few different events every year. But I wish I could be a part of this one. Which is why I think we always turn out in decent numbers to support our girls, because that's the closest we can get to being involved. It really is an amazing experience every time.

And so some shots from the day!

Our girls (minus my Mum and sister Kate who were still tying their trainers!)

The start!

It's great when girls really throw themselves into the spirit of the event:

Here come our girls! My cousin Jill (6942), my Aunty V (7302), my sister Kate (6902) and my Mum (6900)

My beautiful wife, Emma, gives the camera a big wave!

It's always really emotional seeing who people are running for - our girls all had Aunty Cathy's name on their backs:

My cousin Ruth and niece Caitlin spot me!

Aunty Anne went round with Caitlin and did a great job!

Aunty Clare and my cousin Beth (Aunty Cathy's daughter) jogged round together.

My cousin's (from left to right) Alice and Sarah went off so quickly at the beginning that I missed them on the first corner! Sarah was probably the most glamourous runner there - even when she finished she still looked like she was ready to go straight out for a night on the town! Not a bead of sweat in sight and perfect makeup all the way round!

Just going past the 3K mark and Aunty V was doing great under Jill's one to one coaching (Jill did the London Marathon this year and similar to Sarah, didn't break much of a sweat!)

Mum and Kate just passing 3K...

Kate was digging deep but looking comfortable coming past 3k (Emma does a lot of running as well - hence the reason she had enough energy to get her hand in the air every few yards!)

Aunty Clare and Beth pass 3k:

The big finish:

Aunty V and Jill round the final corner before the finish line:

Emma and Kate come over the line with Mum. I was particularly proud of my Mum this year who didn't think she'd be able to run it all the way after a fall last year (not in the race) left her with a shattered shoulder that has taken a huge amount of recovery from. She's still facing another operation to get as much mobility back as possible, but it's been a year of ups and downs for her, numerous visits and stays in hospital so running all the way round a 5k course was a real achievement for her. Well done Mum!

It's a fabulous event and I was so proud of everybody in my family for going back for the 5th year running. One of the Race for Life's biggest problems in terms of getting runners there on the day is they suffer from a lack of 'repeat business'. Many women do the race once and then never again. It's hugely important that people continue to enter the race every year and continue to support the charity. It helps to make a massive difference to so many people's lives and you never know when you might need help like that yourself.

Get out there and get running!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Amazing Golden Wedding anniversary celebration!

A couple of weeks ago I had the great privilege of being asked to shoot a real landmark occasion - Beryl and Melvyn's Golden Wedding Anniversary celebration. 50 whole years! That is a magnificent effort!

Shooting weddings is one of my absolute favourite things in the world, being part of a couple's first moments together as they embark on a journey into the future and leaving them with amazing memories of their day. Being able to shoot a couple 50 years into their journey was a true privilege.

Beryl and Melvyn's family organised a real English garden party, hosted by Laura and Jim (Beryl and Melvyn's daughter and son-in-law) and if I hadn't been shooting it, I'd have been begging for an invite! I love a great family party and this was exactly what this was!

Original wedding photo's had been dug out along with other memories and provided nostalgic and amusing moments for everyone!

Guests arrived and couldn't wait to say 'hello' to the guests of honour!

A great time was had by all...

...well, nearly all....!!!

Boredom didn't last long however...!!!

Laura had asked if I would shoot some group shots as she didn't want to miss out on the opportunity of having all the family together in one place.

The lads were great at 'mean and moody'!!!

The wonderful hosts, Laura and Jim!

Champagne was on ice, as just like at a wedding, there were speeches!

At the risk of sounding repetitive, I felt truly privileged to shoot this celebration, everybody there, all the family and friends were so lovely and made me feel so welcome, that I really didn't want to leave!

Everybody was so relaxed (champagne will do that to you!) that it meant they were completely at ease with me shooting on the day and we got some great stuff. Sometimes trying to shoot a small event is more difficult than bigger gatherings, as it's hard to blend into the background, people notice you and don't relax, but everything about this party meant that guests were so relaxed that they didn't worry about my presence.

Thanks for inviting me guys and thanks for making it such an enjoyable day!

All the very best to Beryl and Melvyn - here's to many more years!