Teamwork makes your dreams work….

I apologise in advance. I’m not good at brevity at the best of times, but this is going to be long. A cup of tea is probably a good idea……

When we pulled up at the lake on Saturday afternoon to register for the race, it’s fair to say that I was feeling a bit odd. I was highly emotional due to a lovely post that had gone out on “This Mum Runs” earlier in the day which told 70,000 women about my couch to triathlon journey and then hundreds of women sent me messages of support and luck via facebook and Instagram. I had no idea what was going on when my phone suddenly went bananas as I was faffing about trying to cram 7 changes of clothes into a Kitbrixx bag. I sat on my bed reading them in floods of tears. I was now not only worried about letting my daughters down if I didn’t cross the line, but also the ladies (most of whom I have never met) that were all counting on me to get around too. I felt determined yet completely terrified.

But when we arrived at the lake to register, Merida and I started bumping into people we knew who all were smiling and the briefing itself was friendly, reassuring and importantly, very inclusive. Numbers collected, cups of tea drunk and we set off for the hotel, which was a short 10 minute drive away.

Bikes

Our room was comfortable, even with Han Solo and Shiny Sheena accompanying us (triathlon attracts thieves unfortunately and so we had been strongly advised to take our bikes with us into the room with us.) An early dinner at 6pm was followed by 90 minutes of more faffing, packing and repacking kit ready for the morning. We watched an episode of Killing Eve and lights were off at 10.15pm as the hotel were putting on a triathlete’s breakfast at 4am. There was also a wedding on in the hotel and the guests were noisy and this coupled with my general nerves meant that when the alarm(s) went off at 4am, I felt about as rested as Santa Claus after a busy Christmas Eve.

I had never wanted to eat less and yet it had never been more important, so I forced down some porridge and we were off. Merida was calm and although we both felt tired, we were quite jovial as we arrived in transition and racked our bikes. I tried to look like I had a clue what I was doing, but the cat was already out of the bag with that one as after a week of faffing, I had forgotten to pack something to wear TO the event. I was the only triathlete that arrived with a pair of Levi’s on over my bikini bottoms, but I don’t think anyone noticed as everyone was busy getting their stuff ready so they could change, grab their bike and get out quickly after the swim.

I greased myself up with body glide, used plastic bags to get into my wetsuit, was zipped in, zipped others in, and then we went to watch the first wave set off. I felt sick. I felt like I would see my porridge again any minute and I had to fight tears but managed to keep it together, mainly. Breeder of Boys was there, and she is an extremely experienced triathlete who is currently training for Ironman Barcelona and she gave me a reassuring hug. It was quite chilly at 6am on Sunday and the air temp was about 7-8 degrees. My feet were cold as I waited on the banks of the lake and I was worried about how cold the lake was going to be, but it was actually much warmer than the air temp. I waited at the back of the pack of the “green hats” and as the watching crowd counted down backwards from 10, I tried to steel myself for the what I was about to do. As “go” was shouted and most of the swimmers swam off, I counted to 10, said a little prayer and then set off.

When I swam in the lake on the weekend before, it was beautiful and clear. On Sunday it was churned up and muddy. I tried to do everything that coach George had taught me, relaxed my arms, breathed deeply and just got into a routine. There were lots of fast swimmers that went off like a rocket, but there were plenty of slower swimmers too, some breast stroking, some alternating between front crawl and breaststroke and I felt happy swimming along with them. All was going well and I was trying really hard not to think about the fact that not once, had I actually swam the whole 1900m before today, when the wave that had started after us, the orange hats, caught us up. These guys were Cotswold 113 Tri – 9.6.19 – www.113events.comtaking no prisoners and were very keen to get through. Thankfully nobody swam over me or ducked me as per the horror stories that I had read and panicked about, but I did get kicked in the chest and hit on the head. This lead to some water swallowing and some coughing, but I managed to recover and before I knew it, I could see the big red arch that was at the end of the swim and I could hear Dave (legendary triathlon Marshall who is the most encouraging person you will ever meet) shouting for us to swim to him. I started to kick my legs hard to ready them for the next part of the race. I arrived at the arch and as I tried to get out, I tripped and was almost dragged out by the marshals, but I was out and was relieved.

But no time for celebration now. I ran to transition, taking my wetsuit off and arrived at my bike.

On Friday afternoon, as I was sat at my desk, stressing about the triathlon, I received a message from Merida that floored me. She said she had decided that rather than go for a time herself, she would like to complete it with me on Sunday. Almost the next step in our crazy friendship; 10k, Half Marathon and then half Ironman triathlon. (I never pretended it was a normal friendship!) After some tooing and froing which involved me checking that she was being serious, several times, I quickly agreed. We had to have a plan as there are rules in triathlon which mean, particularly on the bike, you cannot travel too close together or “draft” each other, as you will be disqualified. Drafting is where one rider sits in on the back wheel of the cyclist in front meaning they gain an unfair advantage as they are not being buffeted by the wind and so don’t have to work too hard. With this in mind, we needed to be careful.

So, the plan was that Merida and I would meet in transition after the swim as we are similarly paced (Merida completed the swim in 50 minutes and I in 53) and then we would set off together on the bike but not too closely. We agreed a pace of 15 miles per hour (we both have computers on our bikes that tell us this stuff) and I would keep Merida in my sights. This pretty much worked well over the whole cycle. Merida would be in front and at times I could just see her in the distance, other times I was closer. A couple of times I overtook her and we had a little chat on the way past and a few times we cycled side by side, but always we were careful not to draft.

Cotswold 113 Tri – 9.6.19 – www.113events.com

I found the first 10k of the bike quite tough because I was cold. I was wearing a wet triathlon top, arm warmers and had swapped my bikini bottoms for proper (and padded) cycling shorts because 90k is a long way. In the early part of the bike I struggled to warm up. The air temperature at 7am was around 10c and it felt fresh. I was worried but just dug in thinking about what Merida had given up to race with me and also my daughters who I was going to be seeing later. I remembered the words of Triathlon Mum to me who had contacted me the night before to impart her wisdom, “eat like it’s Christmas Day on the bike” and so I diligently ate protein flapjack and drank my carb drink, regularly. The problem was as I approached 40k, that drinking half the lake after being hit on the head, coupled with plentiful drinking was not good for my bladder so I cycled up to Merida and requested that we stop at the feed station which was approaching for a comfort break. Merida was also in need, so sped off to get there first to minimise queuing and I arrived shortly afterwards.

As I got off my bike, I came over a bit wobbly and lightheaded. The Marshall approached me quickly and suggested that for the next 20k, I ease back a bit as I would need my legs for the run (remember that, it’s important……!) and I agreed. A quick comfort stop in a leaning portaloo, which had liquid on the floor (don’t think about it) was akin to ice skating in bike cleats and so I was quick.

For the following 20k we did ease back a bit, but the sun was out and I was no longer cold. I kept eating and drinking, thanking each volunteer Marshall we passed for giving up their time and before I knew it, were at 80k. My back and bum were beginning to complain after nearly 4 hours on the bike and so I was beginning to look forward to the run.

As we pulled around the corner to the dismount line and then into transition, I saw eldest daughter and Fitbit sister waiting for us. They were cheering and very excited, immediately getting on the phone to tell my other family members that we were back in and would be running past them soon.

At this point I felt quite confused and angry. It’s hard to explain. I was very pleased with how the bike leg had gone and had completed it in 3 hours 48 minutes and 46 seconds. This is massively under my target 4 hours with Strava giving me an average speed of 23.9 kph or 14.8 mph. If I could be bothered to work it out, I know that the first 40k would have been much faster than the average speed too, so I had no reason to be feeling negative, but I was.

If the race had ended there, I would have been elated, but of course, I now had to run a half marathon and it was quickly dawning on me that I still had at least another 3 hours ahead of me. But nonetheless, I quickly changed, picked up my electrolyte drink and off Merida and I ran. My family were cheering and although I felt tearful, the presence of my daughters made me hold it together, until we were out of their view at least…

Of course, once they couldn’t see us, I started to cry. I had a banging headache and honestly wasn’t sure I could do another 3 hours of this. Merida, in her famous gold shorts, quickly swung into action and got me going again. I can’t believe it, but with exception of a loo stop (a proper loo, it might have been the best sit down of my life) we pretty much (but not entirely) ran the whole of the first 7k loop. It was very slow and much slower than I had been hoping for, meaning that a 3 hour half marathon wasn’t going to happen, but at this point it was very clear that the goal was simply to finish.

There were 3 water and feed stations on the run which was 3 x 7k loops. The first one, next to the toilets, was for water, the second was water, flat coke and energy gels and the third was a veritable buffet; crisps, pretzels, peanuts, jelly babies, jellybeans, cake you name it, it was all there.

On the first lap, Merida used the feed stations like the proverbial carrot – “come on, run until we get the next station and then we’ll rest”, and I obediently shuffled forwards as best I could. At each station I gulped water, then flat coke, but didn’t really want anything to eat as my stomach had really begun to hurt. I forced a couple of pringles down as I knew I needed the salt and it was hot. I learned many things on Sunday, but one of the most important ones was not wear a black tri suit.

I was boiling and it wasn’t helping my headache. Also peeling myself in and out of a black, damp from sweat, tri suit to use the toilet was horrendous. I seemed to turn into some kind of contortionist as my shoulder seemed to dislocate itself as I tried to get back into it again afterwards and on one of the three visits (one of each loop), I had to  be helped back in by a confused looking lady who was queuing with her daughter to use the loo after me.

As we were finishing lap 1, I steeled myself to see my family and promised to hold it together in front of them, but sadly I couldn’t seem to. They were all cheering but I looked into the eyes of Hockey Sister and stated tearfully “this is so hard” as Merida shuffled me through again. My sister has since told me that I scared her at this point and she mentally put all her faith in Merida to get me over the line.

End of lap 2Now this is the point where I hit “The Wall”. I’ve heard about it of course. Apparently, it happens around mile 22 on a marathon when your body has used all of your glycogen supplies and effectively you are running on empty. However, for most marathon runners this is anything from 2-5 hours in and I was in the middle of hour 6 of my triathlon.

I sobbed, my head was killing me, I couldn’t catch my breath, I dry retched being sure I would vomit, but nothing came up. Everything hurt. Everything. My ankle ached and my stomach was suffering severe stabbing pains. Anything I put into it including water, made it worse. I genuinely have no idea how Merida didn’t punch me in the face during that hour as I must have been the most miserable and pathetic run buddy the world had ever seen. But somehow she managed not to. She has since told me, that there were periods of that loop where she had severe doubts that she would get us both over the line, and it is completely down to Merida and her resolve, smiling and general magnificence that she managed it.

I don’t really remember much at all about the final loop to be honest. I was still crying and dry heaving off and on and at certain points had to ask Merida which way we were supposed to be going (as I couldn’t remember) but then, finally, we were at the end. The finish line was in sight and somehow (and I have absolutely no idea how) I broke into a sprint. I could not believe that the end was there, finally, in front of us. Mike, the triathlon Marshall that had dragged me out of the lake earlier, was cheering and so were my family. I saw my daughters grinning and teared up again. Merida took my hand and we powered down the finish line to collect our medal.

Finish sprint

I love this photo. Not just because it demonstrates real friendship and support. Not just because it shows we completed it. But most importantly because if you look over my right shoulder, you can see one of my daughters watching me finish. The look on her face makes all the pain worthwhile.

It is the hardest thing I have ever done. It was truly horrendous in parts and overall I was third from last (somehow I beat Merida in the sprint finish so was 0.5 seconds faster than her overall, of which I do have some guilt!) Lap 2 of the run was on a par with childbirth but somehow my friend got me round. Merida you really are a complete marvel. I am so grateful that you are my friend and thank you from the bottom of my heart.

ChampagneI was happy to have finished but me being me, I was also a bit disappointed with how badly the run had gone. But I shouldn’t really have been surprised because as you know, my running suffered a hefty setback this year and so I was in no way run fit and it was really only a couple of weeks ago I decided to do the whole thing. I completed the half marathon in 3 hours and 31 minutes and so my total time for the 113 triathlon was 8 hours and 31 minutes. If Sunday had been Weymouth Half Iron 70.3 (which I am doing in September) I would not have received a medal as I would have missed the cut-off by 60 seconds and this is a sobering thought.

So lots of work to do on my running to come before Weymouth, but first I’ll allow myself a few days off and a few glasses of champagne with my triathlon buddies.

 

 

The fourth discipline of triathlon is faffing…..

Faffing. It’s an official triathlon word that is used to describe the action that happens around a triathlon. Overthinking would be another word that would work well for this also.

For a triathlon, there is an enormous amount of “stuff” you need and the “kit lay” photo I will take on Saturday evening THIS WEEK, will probably need a wide zoom lens, possibly panoramic, to get it all in.  When I did the sprint triathlon last year, I wore a triathlon suit, which is like a long swimming costume that has a small chamois in it (which is the bike padding bit) that you wear for the swim, bike and run. But the distances required for the upcoming 113 triathlon render the, frankly laughably thin, chamois completely unusable for a 56 mile bike in particular and so I have spent more time stressing, faffing and overthinking the age old question of “what should I wear” to the triathlon, than for my wedding day. The professional triathletes seem to complete the whole thing in a swimming costume, but they have much less body fat than I do and their thighs don’t applaud them as they run along…so what to do?

As always, I turned to the professionals. Coach George Clack of https://bristolopenwater.co.uk/ had overheard a conversation I was having following one of the open water swimming lessons I have been having about wanting to do a practice tri (or Trytri) and offered to accompany me for the swim and the bike part of it. I accepted gladly and arrived as promised on the Wednesday afternoon.

It is very easy for faffing to take over when setting up your bike and transition area and George was very clear about not letting this rule your race. I racked my bike, got my bike and running shoes ready, socks unrolled and a towel and then got into my wetsuit. George is very calm and when you are freaking out internally, you need calm.

We got into the lake and waited to start. I am worried about the scrum that can happen at the beginning of an open water race but George put me at my ease. Let the racers go, count to 10 and then set off. Yes I’ll be behind them, but am I expecting to win the race? (I tried to keep a straight face) no, then setting off 10 seconds later to keep out of trouble, is worth the sacrifice. So I started my watch, waited 10 seconds and then swam off. I kept myself relaxed and got into a rhythm and before I knew it, I was out and running towards my bike, unzipping my wetsuit using a couple of tips that George had given me before we started.

At the bikes, I started to get a little frazzled. George’s mantra of calm, once again helped and I slowed myself down and looked at the task in hand. For a 56 mile bike ride, it’s important to be comfortable and so I was trying out putting on proper cycling shorts over my tri suit (for the extra padding) to see if this would work, and then taking them off again for the run. George’s philosophy again of taking a couple of extra minutes to ensure comfort would hopefully pay off and so before I knew it I was ready to start the bike section. Putting on shorts had taken an extra 20 seconds so after all that faffing, the difference in time for my transition was neglible.

The bike is always my favourite part and particularly so on a sunny day as this was. George coached me round offering advice on gears, seating positions, drafting and triathlon rules and as an experience triathlete and double ironman, he has plenty of real life examples and advice to share.Tri Suit by the lake

Before I knew it, we were back at the lake and I now had to complete the 5k run. George sensibly had ducked out of this part…can’t say as I blamed him…and I ran on my own. Immediately I knew I should have taken a drink with me and the training session was worth it for this alone as I will never do that again!

The afternoon was completely invaluable to me for many reasons. Mainly the confidence it gave me around transitions and the rules, but also the fact that it showed that bib shorts over a tri suit is a terrible idea and nappy cream was the only thing that seemed to soothe the problem.

George is available for one on one triathlon lessons and I fully recommend them. This is not an ad (just to be clear), just a general recommendation.

For comfort, the bike leg is the most perplexing part and important to get right. Over the past 4 weeks, since the last blog I have been on quite a few bike rides including a lovely morning over to Bath and a lovely cycle to Thornbury with some lovely Mummy Triathlon friends. Wearing cycle shorts is fine for pretty much any distance and so following the Trytri, I have decided to take a few extra seconds in transition and change into proper cycle shorts (under a very big over the head “toncho” towel) for the 113. This in turn means wearing a tri top and bikini bottoms for the swim under my wetsuit, so there isn’t too much faffing around changing in the first transition. I still wasn’t sure at this point what I would wear for the half marathon but I planned to test this.

Running as always is up and down and helpfully the weather has been hot too, which as you know, makes it harder for me, but none the less, I have been continuing to run. The problem is, that I seem to constantly go off too fast and so I seem to be dropping back into run/walk with alarming ease. I don’t have a problem with run/walk but I think in order to regulate my breathing for the race, slow but steady will be better. The other thing is that I can’t remember the last time I had a good run and this is worrying me. I’m tired and generally knackered. I’m worried about falling over again and this seems to consume every run I do. I also hadn’t managed to get a long run in and when training for a half marathon, this is always critical, but I kept putting it off because I was exhausted.

But sometimes life offers you a life line, whilst kicking you in the teeth at the same time. We’ve had some family stuff going on which has meant that apart from one run, I didn’t manage any training for a week. But this particular run was one I will never forget. I had planned to run 10 miles, but was in no emotional state to do it, but I’m a stubborn idiot (as I’m sure you’ve realised by now) so I set off. The first 2 miles were ok and then my mind took over and I started crying and I sobbed my way through miles 3 and 4 when I bumped into Smiley and her Mum. They are ladies I know through This Mum Runs. (Smiley is a London Marathoner who never stops smiling). They let me sob on them (actually, horrifyingly as I look back, I’m not sure they had any choice truth be told) and then insisted that they accompany me for the rest of the run. We managed 9 miles and I have never been more grateful to anyone in my life. I needed the run for so many reasons and without them, I am fairly sure that I would not have completed it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the running community is pretty awesome – thank you so much.

The week off training had helped me though and my legs once again felt like themselves. I felt, well not exactly rested as the week had been extremely stressful, but I was no longer “falling down” tired, as I had been for the previous weeks. The timing was good as last Saturday Merida and I went to the location of the 113 triathlon to practice and familiarise ourselves with the place (well me really, Merida completed an Olympic distance triathlon there a fortnight ago so she knows the place well). We swam in the lake (it’s nice, clear, there were shoals of tiny fish to be seen as I swam above them) and then we cycled one loop of the two loop bike course. We cycled with some members of the tri club and it was extremely enjoyable. The two ladies that joined Merida and I were lovely. Chatty, experienced, one training for Zurich ironman and both were very happy to impart their knowledge and experience to me. Now here’s the thing, the bike loop is flat. Completely flat. No hills at all. Now I know this can’t be viewed as a brilliant training opportunity for Weymouth 70.3 in September, but I don’t care. This was the confidence boost I have so sorely needed. I have been worried about the bike leg ever since the 100k uphill Tour de Bristol, but this should be fine.

Finally off the bike, Merida joined me for a 3k run around the lake, which importantly was in the shade. Hideous but manageable. I’ve done a lot of practice runs off the bike recently in preparation so I’m hoping I won’t fall over on jelly legs and embarrass myself in front of the more serious triathletes on Sunday.

So. I think I’m ready. Obviously, I could be better prepared for the run and I know the final 10k will be 100% mind over matter, but I’m confident that as long my ankle doesn’t go pop and I get enough food and liquid into my body on the bike section (I’m taking sandwiches and flapjack as well as technical nutrition stuff) I should get round.  Nutrition and hydration will be key and I still have 5 more days of faffing about that to go, but apart from this, I think I am ready.

I am mentally prepared for the fact that I will probably be last, but I am genuinely not bothered. Trundling as always will feature in the run and I’m wondering if I shouldn’t just change into my Trundler T shirt for the run leg? At least it might make me smile as I grit my teeth for the final hour. Plenty of time to faff about that over the next 5 days.

My wave starts at 6.10am on Sunday morning and I will start swimming 10 seconds after that. I hope to complete the 1.2 mile swim in around 50 minutes, the 56 mile bike in around 4 hours and then the 13 mile run is anyone’s guess. I’d be delighted with 3 hours for that, but have no expectations really. The goal is to finish and then enjoy the cold can of full fat Coke that has been promised to me by my daughters. I suspect that Merida and myself may indulge in some other fizzy type drinks later on in the day also, if all goes to plan.

My next blog post will hopefully be a post race analysis but I still have to that “20 minute easy run” to get through this week. My sister said to me yesterday “don’t fall down any holes this week”. Wise words indeed.

Couch to half ironman distance triathlon? Let’s find out. I’ve promised my daughters that I will do my very best and this is all I can do. Let’s hope it’s enough.

See you on the other side.

Suspension bridge June 2019

 

 

 

“Have a crack at it and see what happens…..”

So much has happened in the last month that I really should blog more regularly but my training plan is full (understatement) and I also have to work as well as be a Mum and Wife so I genuinely struggle for time. But a lot HAS happened and so I’ve decided to split this into more than one blog, otherwise, you’ll need to take a break whilst reading it!

This post will focus on running.

As you know, I have been unable to run following the fall 2 days before the Big Half in London. I have been seeing a physio (who has been magnificent, even though he clearly thinks I am barking mad) who has gradually put me back together in the weeks since the fall. I’ve been a good student and have diligently completed all of my daily exercises, calf raises on the stairs, balancing on one foot, pushing my knee forward until it touches the wall to increase the ankle’s mobility amongst other things until, quite honestly, I was sick and tired of it. Dr Crane has played his part also as each PT session has also included some ankle rehab. I don’t know what it’s called, but in the gym there is a piece of equipment that is essentially half a large beach ball on a tray. I have stood on it to balance and then rocked my ankle back and forward (making it ache, but not hurt) and we have focused on weights that strengthened my ankles whilst not twisting them in any way. One thing I didn’t know, and may be useful for you if you ever become injured in a similar way, is that any machine in the gym which has yellow around it’s bottom is a “rehab” machine. It seems to be gentler so as not to irritate any injuries and I have spent a fair chunk of time on the rehab cross trainer in the gym as I have desperately tried to preserve my running fitness.

Finally, nearly 3 weeks ago and exactly 6 weeks after my fall, the physio said I could start run/walking on the foot. Apparently, although it was weak, at this point the only real way to strengthen it properly was to run on it, but CAREFULLY, he stressed.

The following Wednesday (17th April) was the first opportunity I had to try and I completed 30 minutes at 1 minute run and 1 minute walk. The first 5 minutes were quite uncomfortable and I was feeling a bit desperate and wondering whether I should stop, when suddenly it loosened and the pain subsided.  I was able to run fairly freely and it was as though my ankle had needed a very thorough warm-up but now it was ready for action. I managed 3.5k in 30 minutes even with 15 minutes of walking and I was pleased. Analysis of my stats showed that when I was running, I was running very fast. I had no idea whether this was residual fitness or pent up excitement at finally being able to run again, but whatever it was, I just knew that I felt happy. The Bristol 10k was fast approaching and long suffering readers of this blog will know that I have a bit of a history with this race. I was desperate to run it, even if I was only to run/walk it as a training run for the 113 triathlon (which has a half marathon at the end of it) and I wanted that medal. This year even more important as my youngest sister Queenie had signed up for it for the first time and I had promised to run it with her, so all the more of an incentive to get my knackered ankle moving.

The weekend after was Easter and I was away with almost all of my family (immediate and extendedElizabeth and I at Butlins) for a 4 days and 3 nights of absolute chaos at Butlins. The weather was hot and we all had a brilliant time. Queenie and I managed to sneak away for a 5k as I was keen to test my ankle over a greater distance whilst still keeping to the run/walking strategy and although I could feel the extra 1500m in my ankle later in the day, I managed it. Queenie was feeling happy as she didn’t want to run the Bristol 10k on her own and I finally felt positive about my running.

As always though, these things never follow a straight line and the next run was absolute pants. I only managed 1600m and my ankle hurt the entire time. As I was due to be out on a cycle later that same day, I decided to call it a day at just under a mile for fear of damaging myself and my mood was dark again and my confidence plummeted. But I knew I needed to keep trying and so I decided that company on the run might help distract me and so I reached out to the mighty network of “This Mum Runs” lovely runners and asked if anyone fancied a slow run/walk the following Friday. One lovely Mum, Scottie, did and we chatted away as we ran/walked and before we knew it we had run for an hour. Once again, I was riding high. On the Sunday, my eldest daughter (inspired by watching the London Marathon on the TV earlier that morning) came with me for 7.6k of run 2 mins walk 1 minute and again my ankle seemed to be ok. It was also my daughter’s longest ever run as she has never run more than 5k before, so this was an added bonus as she was also feeling full of confidence and achievement.

On Monday, at PT I was relaying all of my runs to Dr Crane who then deftly demonstrated that he is absolutely the right PT for me. I had carefully been telling him that I was going to run the 10k which was the following Sunday, but was promising to be careful and only run/walk it, when he said that as long as the physio was happy (and I was seeing the physio later that week) that I shouldn’t plan to run/walk it, I should “have a crack” at it and see how I get on. He said that I would “be surprised at how much running I would be able to do”. I was elated and felt like I had been given permission to run! Physio duly signed me off a couple of days later, although strapped my ankle up with magic tape (kinesiology tape) as a precaution, but I was ready.

As usual, at this point, all sorts of plans and ambitions started to flood my mind. Could I run the whole thing? Could I keep up with my younger sister? Could I even get a PB? Should I try for a PB? And as much as I tried to ignore them, they kept nagging at me.

The Bristol 10k is a big race. 13000 people run it each year. It’s very well supported and you are cheered pretty much from the moment you set off until you cross the finish line. I love it, but my youngest sister is not a fan of crowds and so I needed to take this into account and I was a bit unsure how to manage this. Then the Tequila Queen, who has been injured recently, messaged me to ask if I would like her to run with me and my sister and what times were we hoping for? This was brilliant news. This Mum Runs were providing the pacers for 75, 80 and 90 minutes and Queenie wanted to get under 80 minutes and this is what I had promised her that I would help her achieve. But the 80 minute pacer (who I know and is an absolute legend by the way) would be in the throng of the crowds, which Queenie would not enjoy. So the Tequila Queen and I quickly made a plan that we would set off on the run at the very back of the pink wave (or party wave as I like to call it) and TQ would be in charge of the pacing. The race is chip timed so it doesn’t matter what time you start, but starting at the back meant that there wouldn’t be 2000 people snapping at our heels which would hopefully help my sister and not put extra pressure on her in her first ever big race. My good friend Twin Mum was also running and kindly said she’d run with us too.

As we set off, I inwardly grumbled about the hot sun beating down on us. I had been checking the weather all week and it was supposed to be cloudy and cool – it most certainly was not. If anyone reading this has just got engaged, I strongly recommend that you choose the day of the Bristol 10k to get married as it is always ridiculously sunny and hot.

Things were going ok, Queenie was flying and I knew we were well on target for even my PB and so tried to relax into the run. The problem was that my ankle wasn’t comfortable. The day before I had been to the birthday party of SwimDad and I had got quite cold as we had sat in the garden. As I now know from the X-ray that was taken of my ankle when I initially fell, I have arthritis in both ankles and it seems that it is aggravated by the cold. My ankle wasn’t happy the morning of the 10k and at 4k I made the difficult, but ultimately sensible decision to not chase my PB. There was some hasty discussions between the Tequila Queen and myself when I asked her to keep running with Queenie so she could get her time. I didn’t want to compromise my ankle and I felt that if I kept running at the speed we were running at, I would be jeopardising not only this race, but ultimately the triathlon. I also wasn’t sure I could keep the same speed up, if I’m being honest,  as 4 run/walks in 8 weeks isn’t the best preparation for a 10k and my run fitness certainly was not where I would have liked it to have been. Queenie didn’t want to leave me and was quite tearful, but I urged her on and I knew she was in very safe hands with the Tequila Queen. Finally they ran ahead and Twin Mum and I relaxed a little.

We dropped the pace a little, only by about 10-15 seconds per kilometre, but it made a difference to my ankle and we were able to carry on. We walked twice I think (possibly 3 times) over the whole race and on the whole I am happy with how the race went. TwinMum usually runs 10k in about an hour and so she chatted to me easily as we made our way up Cumberland Road, which is definitely the most unpleasant part of the course. Lots of people were cheering and shouting to us and as we approached 9k I saw my family, all screaming at us.

Me running at Bristol 10k

Suddenly I became emotional. I have no idea why, but tears were pouring down my face, but we pushed on as I waved promising to see them at the end. By this point, I’d had enough and just wanted the race over with. I went into a sprint finish by the Hippodrome, which is much too early and I really paid the price. By the time I crossed the finish line I was close to being sick and then hugged TwinMum and had a little cry. I really didn’t think that I would have been running that race when I fell and so suddenly the emotions were strong. I ran the Bristol 10k in 80 minute and 56 seconds. This is my third fastest time for ANY 10k ever and only 2 minutes off my all time PB so all in all I’m pretty happy with it. Queenie smashed her time and took 5 minutes off her 10k time coming in well under 80 minutes. She was so strong and determined and I was very proud to call her my sister on Sunday. Enormous thanks to the Tequila Queen for selflessly pacing my sister. Tequila’s will be on me as a thank you (but after the triathlon!!) TwinMum was a legend. It’s lovely when you run with your friends. We had a good old catch up during the run and she was wonderful, keeping me going and also carrying my water bottle over the final 3k of the race. Thank you.

Jo and I medals

So we are now at 4 and half weeks to the Triathlon and (touch wood) my ankle seems fine. The 10k seemed to do it the world of good and it is definitely stronger which is a huge relief. I now just have the small task of getting back up to being able to run 13 miles in the next 4 weeks. It’s a big ask, but as you have probably guessed by now, unless something goes horribly wrong in the next month, it is no longer my intention to just complete the swim and the bike in June as a training exercise for the Weymouth 70.3 in September, I am intending to complete the entire triathlon in June as well. My training plan over the next 4 weeks is intense and has lots of running in it including a couple of long runs, which I intend to complete by way of a trusty Parkrun Sandwich to and from Eastville Parkrun. Maybe I’ll see you there?

I’ll keep you informed and will blog more regularly, I promise, over the next 4 weeks as panic sets in as we get closer to the 9th June.

Let the countdown commence……

Plans? They’re more like guidelines…..

So as weeks go, it’s been a bit plop.

Last Friday night I was in tears, bashed up and in lots of pain. I didn’t feel up to travelling to London to support my husband in the Big Half and things were looking very desperate indeed. But, as always, things seem better after a good night’s sleep and I woke up on Saturday morning feeling dejected but determined to get to London and assume my role as “Cheer Squad”. I took plenty of painkillers, pulled on my sturdy walking boots and gritted my teeth for the train and subsequent tube rides. The hotel we had booked was a 10 minute walk from the start line and Tower Bridge and so although I wasn’t able to dart about London to spot and cheer my husband on at multiple points of the 13 mile route, I was able to stand on Tower Bridge and cheer him at seven and a half miles.

On Tower Bridge

I will say that the gale force winds and a freezing cold downpour of rain in the 30 minutes running up to the start was helping to ease my disappointment a bit, but I was choking back the tears as I waved both Husband and, then a bit later, Hattie off. I made my way to Tower Bridge. I had chosen my triathlon club hat to wear as it’s bright orange and the first rule of supporting someone in a race is that you must be easy to see. I watched thousands of runners go past me last Sunday and spotted very few familiar faces, even though lots were there. But because Husband and Hattie knew where I would be and that I had a hat on which was so bright you could see me from space, this meant that they both saw me before I saw them. For anyone who is ever going to support people in a race, this is important to remember.

I was also very lucky to witness the Majesty of Sir Mo Farrah as he glided past me, not even looking like he was sweating. I cheered enthusiastically and shouted “you’ve got this Mo” as he ran within 1 metre of me. I think he realised that he was doing ok as he completed 21.2 k in the same time it takes me to complete 7.5 to 8k, but it never hurts to be reminded!

Husband got a very respectable time considering the 45 mile per hour winds that the runners had to endure and came in a few minutes under 2 hours and Hattie smashed her time by 15 minutes. All in all it was a good day for the runners, despite of the challenging conditions.

Magic Tape

Monday morning rolled around and I decided to seek a professional opinion. I booked a physio appointment for Tuesday morning as I am someone who needs to know the facts. Even if the facts are not what I want them to be, once I know I can move forwards. The Physio was brilliant. Encouraging and understanding but careful not to over-promise anything. My foot was black, blue, yellow and green by Tuesday morning and he examined as best he could but essentially massaged the swelling away and patched me up with some “magic tape”. I was told to walk as normally as I could on it, aided by painkillers, was given exercises and asked to return on Friday.

On Wednesday morning the swelling had reduced so dramatically on my foot that it almost looked normal. This encouraged me no end. I did every last one of the exercises, multiple times and began to hope. This was dangerous of course, but in a week of emotions both high and low, I couldn’t stop myself.

Thursday morning came and I was able to walk normally. My foot ached but it didn’t hurt. This further fanned the flames of hope. On Friday morning I virtually skipped to the physio appointment. My foot had almost returned to something resembling normality and so the Physio was able to examine it thoroughly. The basic facts are that I have ripped something complicated sounding on both sides of my foot, by the ankle and the outer foot and the upshot of it is no running for 8-10 weeks. I didn’t hear the next couple of minutes worth of explanation as I was desperately trying not to cry and process this information. But then I started asking questions.

I might be able to run in 4 weeks’ time, and it might be fine. But the emphasis is heavily on “might”. After you have sprained your ankle severely it is very weak and if you roll it again, apparently this could end up with a very long break from running (as a best case scenario) or surgery (worst case scenario). Therefore, to be able to run “safely” (and that’s a direct quote from the physio) it’s an 8 week break.

But, I can swim and I can cycle. Cycling needs to be gentle at first with little or no resistance for a couple of weeks but after that, there are no limits. The Physio was also on my side about how far can I “push” my body through exercise also. An aching foot is fine but a painful foot is not. The foot will need to ache as it rebuilds itself and I test it out, but pain is clearly not good and if this happens I need to stop immediately.

The triathlon is 12 weeks away, which means that I would be running a 13 mile final leg of the competition not having trained for it, which simply put means that the triathlon is not happening. I was devastated and was not looking forward to my PT appointment with Dr Crane at all. I had thought about cancelling it, but Dr Crane assured me that there was lots we could do that wouldn’t involve the foot. So fearfully anticipating 60 minutes of bicep curls, I set off.

It turned out that going to PT was the best thing I could have done. Dr Crane immediately understood what I was going through, gracefully ignored my tears and had some practical ideas. I’ve made massive progress working with him and much of my panic is not wanting the progress to slide. He knows this and so made some very good suggestions.

  • Try to get a deferral for next year or refund for the 113 triathlon. It will be frustrating if I try and complete it not having been able to train properly and these races are expensive.
  • Getting my ankle back up to speed will take time and the pressure of “maybe I will make it to the start, or maybe I won’t” is not helpful and is distracting – PLUS I don’t want to be rushed into running sooner than I should­. (his words, not mine you realise!)
  • Find an alternative race in September/October time. Keep training and make this the goal.

I left PT (after 30 minutes of arm weights, my shoulders feel reassuringly sore today)  feeling much brighter as I had a new plan.

I am very lucky in that I have many ladies and friends that are in touch with me and offer support, experience and guidance. One of these ladies, Triathlon Mum (yes I have named her this) messaged me last night with a suggestion that I would not have thought of in a million years. I contacted the 113 to request a refund as per Dr Crane’s suggestion, but as I hadn’t taken out cancellation insurance (Note to self – ALWAYS TAKE THE INSURANCE) I was only eligible for a small refund. These races are not cheap and although the fault is entirely mine, it was disappointing. Triathlon Mum suggested to me that as I can still swim and cycle, why not still compete in the 113 anyway? Do the swim, then the cycle and then stop. Do not take part in the run and plan for it this way – apparently some people do this. I wouldn’t be eligible for a medal but it would be strong training for whatever event I chose to go for later in the year. She competed in the 113 last year and as she has lots of small children and so doesn’t have lots of time to train, had focussed all her training on the cycle and had barely run at all. It can be done (although I suspect she is a much better runner than I am!) She also contacted me earlier in the week when I originally fell, to reassure me that as long as I could cycle, all was not lost. In her words “train for the cycle and you will complete the triathlon, train for the run if you want to WIN the triathlon, because you can always walk on the run”. Very wise words and words I needed to hear.

Quickly a plan began to form. I could do this. I would do the swim and the cycle. It would also keep my training on track which, in a week when I had been stress eating chocolate quicker than a 6 year old on Easter Day, was important.

So now the only question to answer was, what race for my “A” race? Merida is competing in the Weymouth 70.3. It’s the official Half Ironman race, fully branded with cut-off times. She and I had discussed it previously on a run, but I am a bit scared of a sea swim and the cut off times so had dismissed it in favour of the friendlier 113. But that was then and this is now and so as of 25 minutes ago, I am registered for the Weymouth Half Iron Man on the 22 September.

I better get back in the swimming pool and onto my bike next week.

Plans are more like guidelines anyway……..

HIIT Happens

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Thank you for reading.

They are always watching….

The half marathon is now two weeks away on Sunday and I’m into the last phase before the brain scambling taper starts. Of course this time, for the first time ever, I’m not really tapering properly (because the HM is just a training run for the triathlon) but nonetheless on the training plan the week before the HM looks light.

I say this, because the plan as a whole is NOT light. In fact heavy and bulging at the seams is more accurate. Dr Crane has the plan building over a 3 week period incrementally and then the fourth week is lighter and recovery driven. This fourth week is the week before the Big Half (it’s almost like he planned it that way….!)

But as I enter into the final weeks before the half marathon it means the return of the long run, or more accurately, long, slow run.

Previously Hattie and I have always completed our long runs together and this has helped enormously with the difficult mental challenge of how to complete a big distance, as well as being practical. Chatting helps take away the tedium of listening to your feet hit the floor monotonously a few thousand times during the course of the run and talking takes your brain away from this.  The problem is that over the past 6 months my training has changed due to incorporating all three disciplines, running, swimming and cycling, as well as strength training into my plan. Hattie also had to run alone for much of last year whilst I was benched in the run up to and post-surgery. During this time she has managed to take minutes from her times by adapting her running to a system called “jeffing”. This is where you plan to run/walk the distance from the very beginning and it’s extremely successful. Plenty of people run very fast marathon times using this method and if you like to sprint (like Hattie does) it’s a gift. Using this method Hattie is now faster and stronger and this coupled with the fact that I am working on my endurance (ie trying not to walk) means that sadly, we are no longer the perfect training companions for each other. We reconciled this over an emotional coffee together and so although we still run together regularly over shorter distances, we are not doing our long runs together.

Since my last blog I have completed 2 long runs and although I was now to be running them alone, I decided to be a little creative. On the first Saturday, my daughters were at an orienteering event in Leigh Woods and so I spoke to Merida to see if she fancied meeting for a run. My rationale was that although I needed to run 14k, I could do this as a run of two parts. For the first 6k I ran with Merida and her lovely Labrador Lily through the mud and trails of Leigh Woods. This required lots of organisation (when doesn’t it?!)  When I met Merida, I left my road running shoes, spare buff (head warmer) and dry socks in her car. We then departed on the run which was beautiful as we were running in the woods, slow in places because the mud was pretty thick after a week of rain and glorious and it provided Merida and I with the perfect opportunity for a catch up. An hour or so later, we were back at the car. I quickly changed into my dry shoes and clothes, leaving Merida with my muddy wet ones (I collected these from her later in the week, which she had freshly laundered – thank you Merida!) and we parted ways.  I was then running from Leigh Woods to meet Husband and daughters at the in-laws in Horfield. I set off and for the first time in a long time, I ran listening to music.

Leigh woods in the rain

It was surprisingly ok. I walked a little bit more than I liked over the final 2k but all in all, I was pleased. My legs were tired after negotiating all the mud in the woods and this impacted the final part of the run. But, I wasn’t too worried as trail running, although a bit slower, is an excellent workout for the legs and undoubtedly would have helped with overall strengthening. Dr Crane is always trying to encourage me away from concrete as it’s widely known to be better for your knees and is a more all over body workout.

The following week was the same round of swimming, PT with Dr Crane, more running and a spin session on my bike using the indoor trainer.

When last Saturday rolled around, my plan had a 10 mile run required so ,once again, I called on my triathlon team to assist in the break-up of the run. RubyRed is possibly the busiest woman I have ever met. Her schedule is a dizzying list of 7am trains to London, flights to continental Europe, chairing committees and a myriad of other commitments including being on several Executive Boards and running her own business. I think I am busy and she makes me look I spend most of the day drinking cups of tea whilst filing my nails. In the midst of this crazy schedule, RubyRed has also allowed herself to be talked into signing up (by me!) to do the 113 triathlon with Merida and myself. (We are calling ourselves Team Fearless…..although I can think of some more appropriate team names truth be told!) Recently, RubyRed has an annoying leg niggle which has been threatening to preclude her from completing an upcoming half marathon and so wanted to test out her leg. So with a 16k/10 mile run on the agenda, she suggested that she meet me at Eastville Parkrun, with both of us running there to meet each other. For me this was perfect as being a runner, I mentally know where 5k is in pretty much every direction from my front door, and as luck would have it, Eastville Parkrun is exactly 5k from my house.

So I got up at 6.30am and ate a hearty breakfast of porridge and peanut butter and then at 8.15am I set off. The route to ParkRun is quite hilly and so it has the added excitement of whether I might get there on time as Parkrun starts at 9am. But assisted my headphones and a music mix that included a hefty dose of Madonna, Queen, the Beatles, Bonnie Tyler and Sister Sledge, I arrived and met RubyRed and we ran the Parkrun together. Now not to keep going on about it, although I am getting faster and stronger, I am still not a fast runner. But this worked well for Ruby Red who had been warned by the physio that speed was not her friend and so she needed to keep the pace down. Now finally, here is an area that I can help with! Ruby Red and I ran and chatted our way round and for the first time ever, I ran up the whole of the dreaded long hill without stopping. This has never happened before I was elated. Ruby had no pains and I had enjoyed a lovely catch up and was now two thirds of the way into my run. We parted ways and then I ran home. It felt ok. I felt strong and the times demonstrate that I am on track for a sub 3 half at The Big Half and as long as I don’t go off too fast. I could also beat my time at Landmarks Half of last year. I have received my starter pack for the Big Half in 2 weeks time and I notice that there is a 2 hour 45 minute pacer. Of course, I realise that this is a training run and I’m not supposed to be racing it, but I wonder how long I could keep up with that pacer? (of course, this all depends on whether I can find the pacer on the day anyway, but it might happen).

I’m tempted to test the timings on my long run tomorrow morning, which will be another version of last week – a parkrun sandwich but running home via a slightly different route. I will let you know how I get on.

Finally a word on strength and conditioning. My eldest daughter plays a lot of hockey and as she grows, she has developed a couple of little niggles here and there. I know how important it is for her to be strong as well as fit, so we have started taking Pilates classes together. She is 12 and it’s been quite a struggle to find a teacher willing to teach a 12 year old, but I’m glad I was patient and waited for the right one as the teacher we have found is excellent. We had a session this morning and I genuinely feel more stretched and loose than even after I have had a sports massage (it’s less painful too as the teacher doesn’t grind his elbow into my buttocks!) My daughter was initially sceptical but as soon as she heard that the England Hockey team all do Pilates, coupled with the fact that she also feels amazing after the sessions means that we will definitely keep this up.

Strength is so important but as always it’s important that the little ones see what you are doing as they will try to imitate it and as much as possible, I want fitness, health and strength to be seen as the norm. There’s a very poignant phrase of “they’re always watching”. My daughters know that it takes work to get a strong body and they know I am strong and certainly stronger than I was – it’s a work in progress obviously. My youngest daughter poked me in the stomach yesterday and we were both shocked to discover that underneath my “insulating layer” my stomach is quite hard. There are definitely muscles under there that I wasn’t aware of. We both giggled in shock when she did it and we had a chat about being strong and how important it is.

My Mum had her birthday this week and two of my sisters came to visit her on the special day. As soon as my 3 year old nephew spotted my bike on the indoor trainer he wanted to go on it and when I showed (and demonstrated) for him the shoes and cleats, he was fascinated. I can’t think of anything that demonstrates the “they’re always watching” phrase better than my 3 year old nephew. This morning I FaceTimed him and he spent quite a while telling me that he now has “special magic” cycling shoes “like Aunty Claire” but they don’t click like mine do! Obviously, I’ll be buying him a tri-suit for his birthday now but we must remember that they are always watching and so we must keep working.

To cleat, or not to cleat…

In January I ran 51k, cycled 80k, swam 2825m and attended 6 PT sessions.

I’ve had to drop my trained sessions with Dr Crane down to one a week as I was struggling to fit everything in around home and work and so now only attend PT on a Monday. The half marathon is now only 4 weeks away this coming weekend and so the long runs are back with 10k becoming frequent and a 14k run planned for this weekend.

Watch 1500m swimSwimming is ongoing and some swims are good, and some are not. Some weeks I can’t remember all that Triton has taught me and it’s a bit hap hazard, but my distance is improving even if my technique leaves a lot to be desired. This week I swam 1500m which is the furthest I have swum since I was at school.

The largest part of any triathlon is always the cycling and as I have documented previously, I love cycling. I love my bike, Shiny Sheena, and I’m learning to love the padded shorts and cycling clothes that accompany the activity. However, what I don’t enjoy about cycling is how technical it is and how complicated and baffling it is to a beginner.

I am someone that will always research anything new that I am undertaking and I also enjoy the research process. This is true of anything I do– we are currently are researching Labrador breeders as we hope to add to our family later this year with a puppy. I dream of running through the woods and fields with my dog running beside me, off lead, in the vein of the Dalmation Mamas that I stalk on Instagram. They have magnificently combined the activity of walking their dogs whilst running and it looks glorious – beautiful scenery, fresh air and enormous blue skies. I want some of that in my life. One of these ladies have even set up a business doing this. If you want your dog walked whilst she runs with them, send me a message and I’ll put you in touch. (I’m not on commission by the way, I just think they are fabulous).

So back to cycling. When you decide to cycle, you think you will jump on the bike and start peddling. You then quickly, reconcile yourself to the fact that your bottom will never like you again and may well never recover from being made to sit on such an uncomfortable saddle, but apart from this it’s fairly straight forward.

Then, someone suggests padded shorts as they will help your bottom – so you get some and it does help, but still you experience discomfort.

Chafing.

Now I have experienced chafing before whilst running on a few occasions. The friction that is caused by material (often damp from the sweat) moving rhythmically hundreds and thousands of times, often tiny little movements which causes the skin to rub away. You are usually unaware of it until you get in the shower and experience a scene not unlike Hitchcock’s Psycho where you scream so loudly the cat falls off the windowsill and your daughters storm into the bathroom with fear etched across their faces terrified at what they might find.

But cycling chafing is a whole new ballgame of horror. It’s also not something anyone ever warns you about either (unless you know them very well) as it’s a bit embarrassing. Luckily for you, I don’t care about being embarrassed so I am here to share my wisdom and experience with you.

When you cycle for an hour, even with a padded bottom (do not wear underwear, this is critical), the movement of your legs rotating around on the peddles causes friction in your nether regions. Obviously, I can’t comment on what the situation is like for men, but for women, it is staggering. There is a lot of skin and erm…flesh down there, right in the hot spot of all the action, and it rubs. It rubs a lot.  The thing is, you’re not aware of it when it happens the first time. Basically, your whole bottom hurts from the saddle so the specifics of chafing are unknown……. until you need to use the toilet. I sat on the loo and waited for the comforting trickle to start unware of what was about to happen.

Oh, my goodness. The horror. The burning sensation. It felt as though the urine was physically burning a hole into my…. bits. Imagine a soldering iron……ARGH. I was in a public toilet when this first happened to me and I had to bite my hand to stop myself from screaming. The cat falling off the windowsill would have been the least of my worries if members of the public had heard my toe curling screams of agony. And the worst of it was, that this was the half way stop point and I then had to cycle home again. I won’t dwell on this further, but it was not nice and unlike anything that I had ever experienced before, and I had had no warning. I asked Merida what I could do to alleviate the pain (I didn’t go into details as an accomplished cyclist herself, I knew that she would understand what I was asking about) and she did. You can buy creams and lotions to put “down there” – liberally is my advice – and it definitely does help to mitigate the unpleasantness.

When husband and I cycled to Bath on my birthday mid-January, I took a little “travel pot” of cream and re-applied it for the journey home. One of my largest concerns about the triathlon is how I am going to apply this cream to my nether regions in the transition phase, after a swim in a lake and getting out of a wetsuit, without anyone seeing anything that they shouldn’t. Should I ask my Mum to make me a “modesty robe” so I can get changed in public without showing my wares to all and sundry, or should I adapt the philosophy that nobody will care what I am doing as they’ll all be worrying about their own stuff anyway? More on this in months to come I am sure.

So apart from comfort, the other technical bit about cycling is power. For a 56 mile cycle, I want to get it completed as quickly as possible and therefore want to have as much power going through my feet as possible which will in turn, rotate the wheels quicker. This means cycling shoes. I have seen people wearing these before and frankly they look weird. The shoes have “cleats” which are bits of plastic that are screwed into the bottom of the shoe, which you push into the pedals resulting in a pleasing “click” noise. You are then secured in and become part of the bike. This increases your power as you not only push down when you pedal, but you pull up too – which doesn’t happen when you pedal in trainers.

I received cycling shoes, cleats and pedals for Christmas but up until a few days ago, they had remained in their box. Dr Crane is very enthusiastic about cleats and as I am training with him to keep my cadence (technical word for how many times I rotate the pedals in a minute) to 80-90 a minute (fast!) cycling shoes and cleats will help this.

Shoes and cleats

Upon opening the box, there were no instructions as to what to do or how to assemble them. They are a reputable brand and again this was annoying. Once you’re in the cycling club, you’re in. But finding this stuff out at the beginning is hard. Merida came to my assistance once again and now the pedals and cleats are ready to go. I’m too scared to try them out on the open road just yet as if you don’t clip your feet out quickly enough when you need to put your foot down, you fall over sideways, usually a road junction. So, for the time being, my bike is attached to the indoor trainer and I will spend the next couple of weeks practicing clipping in and out as I cycle in my back room.

I have also bought a gadget called a cadence sensor, but already exhausted from the cleats fiasco, I haven’t had the enthusiasm to open the box yet. I’ll report back next time. I need to practice with cleats as Team Fearless (myself, Merida and RubyRed) accompanied by the Baron are planning a 75k cycling in 3 weeks’ time. 75k?! I will need the power, the cream, the padded shorts and probably an ambulance, but we’ll see what happens.

Runing in the Forest of Dean

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January and phase two….

eliz and me boxing dayChristmas has been and gone in a wink of an eye. It was predictably busy and mince pie filled but I somehow managed to keep my training on track with PT and as many runs as I could fit in. A “little and often” was the mantra and this included a lovely Boxing Day trot with my sister Queenie who has really caught the running bug since last Summer. She’s entered the Bristol 10k and I think we will be racing…!

I had very determined plans to run Eastville Parkrun on New Year’s Day and get my 2019 off to a positive start, but alas I was still fast asleep at 10.30am following a 3am bedtime and epic kitchen disco the night before.

Unfortunately it got worse and shortly afterwards, I came down with a hideous cold that lasted the rest of the week and meant that I didn’t manage any other runs, cycles or swims. Back to work followed on the Wednesday and I was a bit frustrated at the, not exactly, flying start to the year.

At my first PT session with Dr Crane, the following week, I was presented with the next phase of my training plan. It had ramped up a notch or two and now included swimming and cycling and I was relieved to see them both on the plan. In addition to the two PT sessions, the plan now had a swim, a longer cycle and a longer run but the runs were only increasing by 5 minutes and for January the longest run was to be only 70 minutes. I could feel the panic set in as I read it as in order to complete 21.2k on the 10 March (the Big Half) I would need to be at least be running up to 14k by the end of January, as this is what my previous plans have entailed. 70 minutes probably wouldn’t even get me to 10k (although I am ever hopeful..)  Dr Crane explained calmly that although I am running the Big Half, I need to decide what I’m actually training for here. I didn’t quite understand what he was asking me until the penny dropped. I’m training for a half Ironman distance triathlon, NOT a half marathon. Essentially, the half marathon is going to be a training run as part of the triathlon programme. With this in mind, I won’t be tapering in the run up to the half in the same way that I have previously and I also shouldn’t race it…..(well no promises there obviously!)

For this week, this has been the plan:

MONDAY: PT – weights and cycling
TUESDAY: Swimming 1200m Run – 30 minutes
WEDNESDAY: Rest
THURSDAY: Swimming lesson
FRIDAY: PT – cycling and weights
SATURDAY: Run 60 minutes
SUNDAY: Orienteering Cycle for 60 minutes

We tweaked it a bit and added in one extra short run as I like to run with my friend Lady J whilst our daughters play hockey on a Tuesday evening and this is just a sensible use of time, but apart from having to flex the days here and there for work stuff, the first week has largely been ok.

The sections in italics were not initially on the plan I was given by Dr Crane but I have added them in. My swimming lesson on a Thursday needs to keep happening and my swimming bock of lessons I have paid for doesn’t finish until March. The lessons aren’t strenuous at all though as they are largely technique driven meaning that all swimming is doubly slow as Triton encourages me and my 4 classmates to slow the entire movement down to perfect it and learn it properly. I am constantly told I am going too fast as believe it or not, it’s hard to swim front crawl as though you are in slow motion. The point is that the swimming lesson is not strenuous.

Now the plan is quite full and busy as you can see, but I am committed. It doesn’t leave a lot of time for other things though. My youngest daughter was 11 last week and apart from her birthday presents, the thing she was most looking forward to was running parkrun solo. As I had to run 60 minutes according to the plan, it would have made much more sense to have just taken myself off for a plod on Saturday morning alone, but as well as being a trainee triathlete, I am also, and more importantly, a Mum. So I was going to parkrun too. We got there early and I started running straightaway around the park. I was able to get to the start just as everyone else (647 of them on Saturday morning) were setting off and so as my usual parkrun time is 38-40 ish minutes, this would leave me with only 5-10 minutes to run at the end which would make a lovely cool down. This was all fine and worked pretty well. My daughters completed their Parkruns in respectable 30.32 and 31.45 and husband was sub 30 as usual.

lois and i parkrun

I felt ok but I did push myself over the final lap and so knew I needed to stretch properly afterwards. All would have been well if I hadn’t promised my daughters that I would take them to town in the afternoon as they were keen to spend the rest of their Christmas and birthday money. Despite a shower and a good stretch, I could feel my entire body start to physically seize up over the course of the afternoon and I was practically begging them at 6pm to go home and not just because I had spent 45 minutes in the Primark changing rooms. I did 25000 steps on Saturday and I was exhausted.

The next day, Sunday, Daughters and I were orienteering at Ashton Court at 10am. I absolutely love orienteering. If you’ve never done it, please try it. You don’t have to run and plenty of people walk it. I spent the most glorious 55 minutes running around woodland in beautiful countryside and for the first time ever, I completed the course without getting lost.  Now orienteering was NOT on the plan, but I love it so did it anyway. To my mind, balance comes in different forms doesn’t it? Straight after orienteering we had a mad dash to get Eldest daughter to a hockey match up in Failand. Sandwiches were eaten in the car and then I had a 60 minute cycle on my plan and 3 changes of clothes packed to make the day work. My husband is very supportive of my exercise endeavours and I know that I am lucky in this respect. He cycled my bike up to Failand to watch the hockey and then we swapped. He drove the car and daughters home and I then cycled to meet RubyRed’s husband, the Baron, who had very kindly volunteered to meet me and join me on a cycle ride. I am not that confident on roads and I’m still struggling a bit with the gears so I was grateful to have an experienced rider in charge.

We cycled out towards Barrow Gurney and he shouted helpful instructions about gears, how to manage climbs and I absolutely loved every single second of it. I learned that cycling down steep hills is terrifying and I was shouting to myself “I’m going to die” as we descended at speed. As we sped past the airport we peaked at 51 kph. That is REALLY fast and I haven’t even got my special cycling shoes and pedals on yet. THe Baron and I went our separate ways not far from Temple Meads and when I rang our doorbell, husband opened the door and looked visibly shocked to see me. “You were fast?” he said. I replied, “I KNOW” with a big grin on my face. Big thanks to the Baron for Sunday and to my amazing friend RubyRed too.

So as you can see, it was a busy week and exhaustion has been quite a feature of the evenings. Training in December, when work is quiet is one thing, but training in January which is one of the busiest months of the year when you work in recruitment is something quite different. I haven’t barely managed to catch a breath. School run, work, PT, family birthdays and training commitments have made for a very tired Claire indeed. I have also lost 11 pounds since New Year’s Day which whilst I am pleased about it, does seem to be quite a lot. I am eating well and focussing on protein for muscle recovery but the weight is dropping off quickly and this again is making me tired.

When I arrived for PT yesterday, Dr Crane asked how I was and I was honest and said that although I wasn’t sore (30 minutes of tortuous foam rolling had taken the edge off that on Sunday night) I did feel a bit weary. I wear a Garmin watch which gives me millions of statistics (most of which I don’t understand) but one thing I do take note of is my “resting heartrate”. This is how many times your heart beats in a minute when you are asleep and is a fairly good indicator or overall health. Mine is usually 51-54, but on Sunday night it was registering at 61. I started on the treadmill for the session of scheduled sprints which started with a 5 minute jogging warm up but my legs were not playing ball at all and my heartrate was through the roof. I felt dreadful. Sweat was pouring from me and it just wasn’t happening. Very quickly Dr Crane came the conclusion that sprints were not happening (even if I had wanted to do them) and we went and did weights instead. He also sent me some poignant reading material about how rest is important! Today I have rested and worked from home and have spent most of the day eating protein as I was hungry. This is a new and challenging process for me and I know now that I am going to have to listen to my body and rest when I need to rest. Orienteering on Sunday probably wasn’t the best idea from a training point of view and it is almost certainly what pushed me over the edge, but I loved it. So if I need to rest today in order to do something I really enjoyed off the plan, then so be it. I know Dr Crane is supportive of this but this is new for me. Not going at 100% all the time is going to be essential if I am going to complete the triathlon in one piece.

It’s my birthday tomorrow and I will be 44. To celebrate (and the plan has been tweaked to allow for this) I’m taking a day off work (or at the least a few hours) and Husband and I are going to cycle to Bath for lunch and then cycle back. I hope it won’t rain, but even if it does I don’t care. This training is hard work and I’m going to have to dig deep to get through it, therefore doing things I really enjoy is going to be important if I am to survive the next 6 months at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swim, bike, run, medal

2 days ago I completed a Sprint Triathlon. If I had told myself this two and a half years ago, I would have wet my pants laughing at the prospect, but there we have it. It’s true. I have the medal (and it’s my favourite medal too).

I think it’s important to remember where I started before I recount Monday’s exploits because I really and completely truly believe that if I can achieve a Sprint Triathlon, then quite literally anyone can. You can do anything you put your mind to if you want to do it enough. The fact that the idea scares you is not a reason not to try because the more the idea scares you, the greater the sense of achievement and more alive you feel because of it. Two and half years ago, the idea of running terrified me but knew that I needed to do something drastic to improve my health. I wanted to be an active, not lumpy Mum and I needed to set my daughters a better example. So I downloaded the couch to 5k app and over the past 2 and half years have persevered with what has become the most complicated relationship of my entire life. Running. I am not fast. I am not a natural runner. Most of the time I actively hate it. It makes me swear and often cry……but it has also given me more than anyone could have ever predicted. Not only a 4 stone weightloss, healthier heart, longer life expectancy (we hope), lower cholestorol, peace of mind, better sleep and the ability to eat (within reason) whatever I like as well as a haul of medals, but most importantly it has given me good friends, my squad, my tribe. I am part of a family of women who all met through running. I would not have met these people if it wasn’t for running; Hattie, Curly Sue, Merida, Miss Fonda, Ariel, Ruby Red, Captain, LA Blond, the list goes on and on. Two and half years ago I didn’t know any of them, but now count some to be part of my “inner circle” of great friends.

So if you are about to start on a couch to 5k course using whatever means you have chosen (app or running group), don’t be afraid of being afraid. Embrace it and remember that you can do it if you really want to do it…and one day it might lead you to a triathlon medal!

So enough of the mushy stuff….let’s talk triathlon. There is more to triathlon than swimming, cycling and running. There is also the complicated lesson of logistics. In order to participate in a triathlon you have to transport your bike to the venue and this requires a bike rack. Now we have a bike rack, but it comes out maybe twice a year and we always need to watch a youtube video to remember how to rack the bikes onto it. The Red Lady and I were due to start our swim at 7.41am, which meant in order to have enough time to get everything sorted out before we started we would need to set off at 5.30am. Ugh. I am not a morning person and I believe that the only reason you should ever be up at 5am is to board a plane for a holiday….but at this time of the morning we needed to be ready to go and faffing about getting the bikes on a rack wasn’t an option. Therefore the Red Lady bought her bike round on Sunday evening and thank goodness she did. After 45 minutes of trying to get the bikes onto the rack during which we all got covered in oil, we finally got the bikes on to then discover that the car would not go in the garage with the bikes  on. Needless to say, there was swearing…..so the next morning, my very lovely Husband got up with me at 5am to help rack the bikes up and at 5.30am the Red Lady and I were away and off on our adventure. (Husband and daughters were to arrive later but in time to cheer me on for the run.)

When we arrived at Westonbirt House, the location of the Sprint Triathlon, we had to go and collect our race pack which had instructions for transition (the area where you go from swim to bike and then bike to run, essentially where you leave all your kit), lots and lots of stickers (to put on your bike and helmet) and race number tattoos. As I have already said, I am not good in the morning and nerves, coupled with my general ineptitude first thing in the morning resulted in my leg looking like this when I had finished.

race-tattoo.jpg

So now as I was clearly looking professional….the Red Lady and I headed off towards the swimming pool to await instructions. The swim leg was 400m and I had been allocated “lane 2, position 1” which meant I was given a red swimming hat. The Westonbirt Sprint Triathlon is put on by a company called DB Max and they are brilliant. I don’t know if all triathlons are like this, but every single Marshall on Monday was superb. The lady in the pool explained with expert clarity that red hats would go in first and that there would 5 swimmers per lane, each wearing a different coloured hat and we would be starting in 10 second intervals. We were each in charge of counting our own number of lengths but there was also a person counting at the end of each lane who would help. If you are tapped on the feet whilst swimming, you must let the tapper overtake you at the end of the length then when you’re done you jump out and then you’re off to transition. Pretty simple. I was off first (being a red hat) and I did feel the pressure as I knew everyone would be chasing me. The Red Lady and a TMR Mum Jemima, was also in the same wave but a different starting position. Despite having practiced my front crawl religiously since January, I am ashamed to say that as I sat listening to the Marshall, surrounded by other triathletes (some of which looked fairly experienced) I lost my bottle and at the last minute changed my plan of swimming all front crawl, to swimming alternate breaststroke then front crawl. I was tapped on the foot twice but on the whole I was pleased with my swim. I had set myself the target of completing the swim in less than 12 minutes and my chip time (which you wear on a strap around your ankle) registered 11.35. I marked it up as a success.

What I hadn’t practiced however, was getting out the pool and getting to my bike in a soaking wet trisuit. I had practiced getting off the bike into a run but not the swim to bike. Westonbirt is also slightly unusual in that there is a 600-700m run from the swimming pool to the transition area (where my bike was) and I was surprised by how weird it felt. I got out the pool and ran to my towel, quickly dried my feet and put my shoes and socks on and tried to run. It wasn’t easy. My legs were wobbly and I felt strangely self conscious as there were lots of spectators walking around, getting in my way too ( “please MOVE I am doing a triathlon” – I muttered inwardly to myself, or words to that effect…) as well as swimmers in later waves walking to the pool. Everyone was offering support but as most trisuits are black, it’s impossible to see who is wet and who is dry so it was a confusing run.

The rules of the transition are plentiful but they all follow a common sense theme. You are not allowed to touch the bike until you are wearing your helmet and this follows that when you come back in from the bike leg, you are not allowed to take your helmet off until you have parked your bike. Safety, safety and safety. I didn’t rush in transition (I should have been quicker really and I will be quicker on future triathlons) but I didn’t want to break any rules. The Red Lady caught me up and we had a little chat as we prepared ourselves. I am quintessentially British and spend a lot of my life worrying about being appropriately dressed for the weather. One of the things I was most worried about on Monday (other than getting up at 5am) was whether I would be cold on the cycle. I would be wet…and hopefully travelling quite quickly so in theory could get very cold. Therefore I decided to put a Tshirt on for the cycle, somehow rationalising that this would keep me warm over a soaking wet trisuit!

There is a “line” at the edge of transition and you cannot get onto your bike until you are over it and also you are not allowed to cross the line coming back from the cycle whilst on your bike. Again safety, safety, safety. You must not ride your bike in the transition zone in case you hurt someone. The DB Max Marshalls were all positioned perfectly – as you headed out to the run the Marshall here had a loud booming voice, full of encouragement and enthusiasm, calling everyone “Runner” and telling us we could all “do it” and we were “amazing”. By contrast, the Marshall situated by the transition line entering and leaving the bike area shouted instructions at us reminiscent of a Sargeant Major but he had clearly decided that not one triathlete would forget the rule and risk disqualification on his watch, so barked at us loudly. It was a bit scary coming in as he shouted at me to “remember the line and get off your bike” but it was invaluable as I had spotted my family and was more intent on waving at them than remembering to get off the bike before the transition line.

As the Red Lady and I headed out to embark on our 24k cycle I felt excited. Now as much as I struggle with running, the opposite is true of my bike. Prior to Monday, thanks to my UGIDA, I had only managed 3 rides on my bike but I had always felt that this would be the strongest section for me and I wasn’t wrong. I quickly sped away and really began to push the cycle. For much of the ride I was on my own, surrounded my beautiful countryside and I found myself nodding to early morning dog walkers and then talking to the horses that were watching from the fields. “Good Morning Mr Horse” I shouted to them, like a crazy woman, but smiling. I felt truly happy. Also mindful of the advice of a professional contact, Mr Lapin, who had advised that I needed to “not come last and overtake a man” I made sure that I overtook the first man I saw (I don’t think he was very happy) and I was not last. I was ecstatic. I love cycling. I sped down the hills so fast that I wanted to squeal and pushed up the hills, digging in, not wanting to slow down. It’s a slippery slope though as I am already eyeing up cleats, new pedals etc but I am confident that I can be good (or at least not completely rubbish) at cycling. I mean, my enormous glute muscles must be good for something!

Westonbirt Sprint Tri – 28.5.18 – www.dbmax.co.uk

Finally, I got off the bike and almost into the arms of the enthusiastic Marshall as I set off on the run. My legs were wobbly and they felt very tired. I hadn’t been cold on the cycle as I had feared because it was warm and muggy and because I was peddling my little heart out. My average heartrate on the cycle was 150 beats per minute and I was hot when I got back. A trisuit is essentially a very large pair of spanx and it hides NOTHING. It is not an outfit for the body conscious but I think it says something about the atmosphere on Monday that in transition, I pulled my Tshirt off and ran in only my trisuit without really giving it too much thought. Westonbirt Sprint triathlon is an event for all types of athletes, all levels of fitness and all shapes and sizes, all doing their best and working towards that medal. I didn’t look out of place as I ran in my black lycra outfit. The run was nothing short of horrendous. It was here that the 5 weeks when I was unable to train properly due to UGIDA really showed. I had planned to run/walk the final 5k 3 minutes and 30 seconds, but this didn’t really happen. My legs didn’t seem to work properly at all but at the same time worked very fast. I couldn’t seem to take normal size strides…so was running in a fashion akin to someone in a Benny Hill sketch running to pat a bald man on the head with comedy music accompanying me. I was 5 minutes ahead of the Red Lady at the end of the cycle but she caught me up. We passed each other (the run was laps) before she caught me and she was clearly enjoying the run as much as I was as she shouted to me “I don’t like you very much at the moment”….. She didn’t mean it, I don’t think!!! 5 minutes later she had caught me and slowed down for a quick chat. I urged her on telling her not to wait and she was off. She was so strong on Monday and I am so proud of her.

On the final lap, I was really hurting but my cheer squad, Husband and Daughters, cheered me over the line and I was ecstatic. The finishers “high” was immense and I don’t think I have experienced a high as big since my very first 10k in 2016. I am a triathlete! I cannot believe it. I am very proud of myself.

Westonbirt Tri - RUN

There was 444 competitors on Monday and I came 380th in the swim, 385th on the bike and 434th in the run. I am always found out on the run.

Over a celebratory breakfast with Curly Sue this morning, we have formulated a plan which will hopefully help me to run faster (finally) and be stronger. I am going to redo couch to 5k but hopefully running faster and slow jogging the walking bits. I’m going to continue cycling (have I mentioned that I love it?!) and swimming but I’m also going to embark on serious strength training. I have ordered some weights and I will get strong. I want to do more triathlons and I’m also considering a wetsuit to try some lake swimming as I would like to do a longer Olympic Distance triathlon. But I don’t want my running to always undo all of the progress made by the swim and bike. I’m also entered for the Portishead Sprint Triathlon in early August so plenty to focus the mind.

So I enter a new phase….again! Get fast and get strong.  Arm wrestle anyone?….