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Tuff Fitty’s London Olympics

It all began with “I have a dream!”…Michael Barrett and his ideas!

Majorca: check…Isle of Wight: check…what next?  London velodrome?  And while we are there, a quick swim at the London Aquatics Centre…and tag a quick run afterwards to make it a triathlon!

One thing is always assured with Michael – he IS thorough with his planning.  Within no time he had reserved a full 1 1/2 hour velodrome session for 16 lucky Tuffs and 2 lanes in the 50m pool at the London Aquatics Centre.  Quickly the places filled up.  Next up transport – prospect of rail strikes meant a minibus hire was the more flexible option with Mark S as the qualified and designated driver.

After a flurry of detailed event instructions from Michael (would put some triathlon events to shame!), some last minute team changes, the Tuff Olympics team were off on Saturday 25th.

Chris E and Tom G elected to meet there (James T dropped out last minute), while Clare W, Dominic, Graham, Jon & Sam, Pete, Michael, Simon T, Mark S, Ed, Les, Nathan and Adrian meet up at Tullett’s to collect the GLB (Green Love Bus).

Despite the GLB being a fairly “mature” vehicle, in Mark’s very capable handles it safely and comfortably delivered us there and back in one piece.

And so we promptly arrived in the London Olympic Park, meet up outside the Aquatics Centre, quick change (after some minor panic that reception could not find our booking) and in we go into the 2 lanes of the 50m Olympic pool.  The plan – swim for a while, then in turn we would all do a 100m timed swim.  We soon realised that a 50m pool is a very long way…would I ever get to the other end of this endless pool?!  But also, time to properly settle into a rhythm without reaching the other end too quickly (if at all?). 

After some 20-30 minutes of warmup, Michael started the process of starting us off on our 100m timed swim.  Some choose to dive off the starting blocks (some even managed to keep their goggles on!), while those less brave settled for a traditional in-pool start.  All too soon the hour was up and time to get change.

With a 1 1/2 hour T1 involving changing, 15 minute walk to the velodrome, stand in awe of the 250m velodrome track, lunch, more gawping at how steep the velodrome corners were, get changed into our cycling kit, select our (fixed wheel) track bike, it was “time”!

After a quick off-bike safety introduction, onto the track side, mount our bikes while clinging onto the centre railing for dear life!  Time to slowly set off around the central flat bit for a few laps before stopping (no brakes, fixed wheel).  Despite all trying our hardest, only one of us successfully managed to fall off while stationary… We repeated the cycle of being slightly braver (madder) going gradually higher up the banks until we were travelling at speed around the track and breaking into a sweat.  All too soon it was time to perform our “flying lap” – 3 laps: 1st lap gather speed from stationary, 2nd lap sprint as hard as you can (timed), 3rd lap slow down and stop. 


Once the Flying Laps completed, time for some more free cycling before T2.

T2 was much quicker affair as we were able to quickly change into our running kit and leave all our kit in the velodrome lockers.

And off we set around the ~1.6km loop around the velodrome to complete our 5km run.  Some decided to push themselves, while others enjoyed being in such a historical place.

Finally T3 – enjoying the great (but very hot and steamy – at least in the boys) velodrome changing facilities, load our kitbags back into the minibus before heading over to our final activity of the day: “refuelling” at the Crate Brewery & Pizzeria.

To finish off an already amazing day, Michael had arranged for us to eat in a canal narrow boat “moored” alongside the pub. 

Despite Ed’s multiple attempts to set the narrow boat adrift, a very enjoyable evening on comparing our (terrifying/exhilarating) velodrome experiences over delicious pizzas and beer (soft drink for Mark) was had by all.

Eventually, after some additional pre-drive home drinks, we all made it back to the Green Love Bus (it was still where Mark had parked it!), arriving back in Worthing with less than 7 hours to go before the start of the Swimmers’ Revenge (all those who signed up were actually on time!)

Despite the terrifying experience of the velodrome, nearly all of us thoroughly enjoyed the experience – some even went so far as registering the day’s session to allow them to progress through to the next level of training.

Clare’s Report

When Mike posted his idea for the Tuff Olympics I was up for it, I’d heard the velodrome is quite an experience and a Tuff day out in London sounded fun.

We met bright and early and piled into the fun bus and headed to the Olympic park. The challenge of the day was a timed 100m swim added to the time of a flying lap at the velodrome with the winner being crowned the Tuff Olympian.

I enjoyed the swim, it was nice and relaxed, that is until the stop watch came out for the timed 100m. 100m all out feels a very long way when there is no push off at 25m!

Next to the velodrome. Riding a fixed wheel bike, with no breaks on an incline is mental! It was scary at first, it took some deep breaths and self talk but eventually the confidence kicked in and I was whizzing around. The flying lap was so much fun, I recommend it to everyone. I’m definitely going back for more.

London Olympics Cycle Clare

After the velodrome the others ran 5m around the Olympic park. I’m injured so can’t run at the moment so was gutted to miss the run but actually had a nice time relaxing in the sunshine as the others looped past.

Then to the pub for well deserved pizza, drinks and the winner announcement. No surprise that Tom was crowned the Tuff gold medallist, he showed us how it was done in the pool and on the track. Well done Tom!

Huge thanks to Mark for driving the minibus, and getting the gang of tipsy Tuffs safely home. A massive thank you also goes to Mike for planning the whole thing, he thought of everything, even organised a Zone 3 goodie bag, which was fab. He’s an event planning superstar! It was an awesome day, with a lovely group of Tuffs, the perfect mix of challenge, competition and lots of laughs.

Ed’s Perspective

I’m not sure why I didn’t sign up immediately when I first heard of the planned trip to create A Tuff Olympic Mini Tri at the 2012 Olympic venues in London, my usual procrastination meant I’d think about it later….. I eventually answered the calls for participants late one night when there was only one place left and am I glad I did. What’s not to like: A chance to try something new in track cycling especially at the Olympic and recent Commonwealth track; a chance to swim in the same pool as Olympians; a pool I’d seen from high up in the temporary seats of the Aquatic Centre 10 years before but never thought I’d get the chance to swim in and a chance to complete our usual triumvirate with a run in the Olympic Park. I must have been mad to hesitate!

Not an especially early start meant I could meet the minibus in good time and then cause a little delay as I hurried back from the shop with extra supplies – because I thought I had more time than I did. Bus banter was good and Clacket Lane Services provided the opportunity to make the bus disappear! Arriving at the park it was a short walk to the Aquatics Centre.
The massive space that is the Aquatics Centre seems to lose even a 50m pool and a 10m diving platform, but you quickly realise how much longer double your normal lane length really is! My first time in a 50m pool – the extra distance makes a noticeable difference, which is odd for those that swim in the sea where there is never a side to push off not 25 or 50 meters! It must be something about following that black line. After some warm up lengths and completing a timed 100m it was off see what track cycling was all about.

The Velodrome had certainly the “Wow” factor. Having seen tracking cycling before on the television you felt like you were inside a familiar place and that it was special. Walking in put you very close to the action and when we arrived, we saw another group starting their timed laps. That would be us very soon. Off to get changed and collect a bike and we were ready if a little nervous.

Andy from the Velodrome team took us through the process of gaining confidence on the fixed wheel bikes, he had a confident manner and a well-practiced patter, you could tell he’d taken many nervous first timers through the stages to their flying laps.

As you would expect safety is taken very seriously and that means no riding on the carpet unless you’re accredited at the Lee Valley Velodrome (this was made quite clear!), no tissues in pockets, no phones when you’re riding and, shock horror- no watches (but with no Garmin>Strava recording how will I be sure I was actually there and the ride actually happened) – basically you must have nothing to distract you from your riding.
Stripped of all but the bare essentials: helmet, cycling top (no flapping t-shirts here), gloves, shorts, socks and clipped in shoes we were ready to go with our single gear fixed wheel bikes.

Once on the circuit and clipped in your new best friend was the handrail! Used to provide that third point of balancing contact and as we were to find out something static to pull against to launch ourselves when we start. A simple circuit on the blue mat helped us get familiar with how the bike felt and how to control the speed on a fixed gear bike, remember no brakes! Then another circuit or two building more speed gaining confidence then on to the Cote D’Azur, then on to the black line, then higher up the circuit and faster round the banks. Eventually you’re up high and you’re upright but not really upright! There’s definitely something really weird about going round someone who is below you and at a different angle than you to “your ground”! Then we pause and it’s time for our flying lap. Andy gives us a final briefing and one by one we set of powering round as fast as we could, thankfully Jon Babbage is there to capture it all on camera. Then it’s over, we get a few laps more to practice and we have to give back the bikes. It seemed so short but as the saying goes time flies when you’re having fun. I’d certainly want to go back and try again. I know others felt the same.

To complete the days exercise, we changed for a 5k run around the park. We eventually settled on a start point and off we went. As I started my run, I could tell I’d given a lot to my legs during the flying lap, but eventually I got into my stride and actually enjoyed a few laps around the park area of the Velodrome in the breeze.

The last part of the day was beer and pizza which of course was very welcome and Tom’s recommendation of the lively riverside pub was a great choice.

Many thanks to Mike for his expert organisation, Mark for driving and to everyone for their company, making it a great trip and a fabulous day out.

Chris’ Report

In 2012 none of my Games Maker duties were at the Olympic park and I was very disappointed to never got there. After 10 years The Tuff Olympics let me not just get there, but to swim in the pool and ride the Velodrome. Brilliant! Due to a dodgy knee I didn’t get to run in the park like the rest of the Tuff Olympians. We did a timed 100m in the pool, after diving in I’m sure I’d have had a much better time if I hadn’t had to stop to put my goggles back on! It was my first ever 50m pool swim and bizarrely this week back at the Wave it seemed a lot longer than half the London pool. The Velodrome seemed to be smaller than I was expecting even at the much much slower speeds I managed than most riders, I got up to the blue line but anything higher and I was convinced my wheel would just slip out from under me on the banking. No golds for me but a great day out and a good excuse to wear my Games Maker Uniform.

Thanks Michael for organising it, can we do it again next month?

The Flickr album, including the (not so) Flying Laps is here: