Sierre-Zinal Race and Swiss Ironman 2021

I mentioned back in May that I’d entered the Sierre-Zinal race. Just in case it was impossible to stage the event on the appointed day, due to Covid, (which of course it was), the organisers had a rather neat Plan B. This required competitors to choose and register for a date between the 4th August (when the élite race still took place) and the 12th September. Up to 400 competitors were allowed each day and they could choose to start at any time between 6am and 8am. This naturally spread out the field, even before the start. Feed stations were still available at 4 or 5 locations, so there was no need to carry anything unless you wanted to. I chose to do the event on 25th August and since it promised to be a warm, sunny day, I carried a small water bottle along with some gels (but no camera unfortunately).

During my ‘reccy’ back in May, it had taken me 1h 45 minutes to get to Plonchette. This represented about one third of the time to complete the 31km/19 mile and 2,200m/7,200ft of ascent course. My goal therefore for my ‘race day’, apart from simply finishing, was to reach Plonchette inside 2 hours and complete the course in under 6 hours. 🤞🤞

In the event I arrived at Plonchette in 1h 40 minutes, so I was a little worried that I would fade (badly) in the closing stages. I therefore decided to take it very steadily from thereon in and just hope that I got to the finish in a decent time. However, I needn’t have worried, with the ‘aid’ or company of 2 fellow runners, who were either 10 to 30 seconds behind or in front for much of the course, I finished in 5h 14 minutes 28 seconds. Result!! (See happy finisher in pic 2 below).

It’s a fabulous event and if you’d like to ‘see’ the course, please check out this video link or the official Sierre-Zinal website.

But if you think I’m crazy, read on below…

Swiss Ironman – 5th September 2021

Just before we left Switzerland, my younger brother, Steve, came over to do the Swiss Ironman, which took place in Thun on 5th September. For those of you who are not familiar with the distances involved, this requires competitors to swim 3.9k or 2.4 miles, then bike 180.2k or 112 miles and then run the marathon distance of 42.2k or 26.1 miles. (And you thought I was mad!)

Jude and I had planned to go over to stay in Thun both before and after the race to support Steve, but packing (and very welcome visitors in the shape of the Pounders) meant that I went alone and via public transport on the day. However, this did mean that I’d miss Steve getting out of the water (not that I would have recognised him in his wet suit) and would only see the bike and run sections.

The bike course was around two loops (of quite a hilly course) and although I got into position for his first lap return, I didn’t get a good photo of him. Thankfully, I caught him on the second lap and the 3 lap run course meant that I had plenty of opportunity to see him in action!

Well done Steve – YOU ARE AN IRONMAN! (This phrase was my overriding memory of the announcer as each competitor finished!)

Ynys, North Wales

My apologies for neglecting my blogging duties for the past week or so but, as mentioned in my previous post, Jude and I have been in quarantine in the UK. This severely hampers one’s ability to take and post interesting photographs.

However, I did take the opportunity to go the ‘scenic route’ to post our COVID tests in the nearby village and I did manage to get a few evening sunset pictures only a few yards up the road from where we were staying.

Our cottage (see pic 1) was in the small village of Ynys and looked out over the Glaslyn/Dwyryd estuary to the hills and mountains of Snowdonia. On the far side of the estuary, was the small village of Portmeirion, (pic 3), which is built in an Italianate style (more info and pics here) and famous for being the setting for the 1960’s cult TV series, The Prisoner, (more info here). This seemed quite appropriate given our situation. I fully envisaged a great white balloon coming to capture us if we strayed from our cottage! As it was, Jude had 6 phone calls in the 10 days and I had none!

In case you are wondering, all of our tests (i.e. the one before we left Switzerland and those on Day 2 and Day 8 of our isolation) came back negative. 👍👍😊 So we were then free to explore… See next post(s).

Plockton, Scotland

With the heatwave continuing, Jude and I decided to take a trip to the pretty village of Plockton, which was used for the filming of the TV series Hamish Macbeth.  It sits on the shores of Loch Carron facing east, away from the prevailing winds.

On the west side of the peninsular there’s a few beaches marked on the map, so we set off in search of one of them with our picnic.  For much of the day we were on our own apart from a herd of highland cows who, like us, took to cooling off by paddling in the crystal clear waters.

Later in the afternoon we took a boat ride on one of Calum’s Seal trips, where you don’t have to pay if you don’t see any seals.  We were not disappointed, as one of the small islands in the loch was covered by around 30 to 40 seals.

Luss and Arrochar, Scotland

Jude and I were heading to Lochcarron in Wester Ross, Scotland for a week in Kate and Geoff’s Waterside apartment before heading even further north to Sutherland for 3 nights. The journey up from the Lake District was quite long and we were not due in Lochcarron until the Saturday, so we stopped off in a place called Luss for lunch and spent the night in a B&B near Arrochar.  Both are near loch Lomond.

Apart from having a beautiful loch side location, Luss is a charming ‘conservation village’ with neat rows of renovated cottages.  It was used as the main location for the Scottish TV drama series Take the High Road. Perhaps fittingly, we had one of those famous people spotting moments, when John Sergeant walked by.  (For non-UK residents, he’s a well known BBC journalist, who also took part in Strictly Come Dancing).
Here I have to apologise, as I left my camera in the car, so I have no photos of the village, nor of Mr Sergeant, not that I would have taken his picture anyway!

By stark contrast, Arrochar was quite a dull place, though it does also have the advantage of sitting right at the water’s edge – at the head of Loch Long.  We were very lucky to catch it on a very calm day, as the surface of the (n.b. sea) loch was like a mirror.  Many walkers  travel through Arrochar on their way to climb a very interesting mountain called Ben Arthur (@884m or 2,900ft), or the Cobbler as it’s more affectionately known due to its very unusual shape.