Choose one: career or sport. Not both

We all have our things we do might makes you – ‘you’, and me – ‘me’.

Without sport I wouldn’t be ‘me’.

It’s a good 50/40/10 split respective of work, sport and a tiny bit left for social beer drinking.

Returning to sport after a break, feels like coming back after an injury. Trying to get into the swing of things again, and formulate some kind of new routine in my new city. This feeling is heightened with added frustration when it happens over and over again.

More often than not, injuries occur when you’re close to your peak fitness, so the last memories you have – the last performance markers you have – are of elite performance. David Millar

Taking up triathlon and endurance sport was a big lifestyle change from horse riding and team sports. Not only in terms of physical changes: exercising more and changes in body shape, but change in mindset too which transpires towards everything else in one’s life.

Endurance sports give you the understanding that to succeed in anything one has to be dedicated to the cause and committed enough to overcome the hurdles in order to achieve the goal. Whether that’s in a race, in the workplace, or as a general rule in life. Good things come to those who work for it.

Yet, this attitude is rare, and many people give up too easily. In fitness, it can be a bad day at work which results in a missed run or a missed gym session. For some, that’s a one off; but for many it spirals out of control and in order to get back ‘on the wagon’ one must be seriously motivated.

Often my friends ask how I have the motivation to train after work. The answer is it’s mostly just a mindset and a lifestyle, and many people have the same mindset and lifestyle – if I didn’t train I would feel like something was missing.

I love my industry, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now. However my frustrations come from starting over and over again when there is an interruption, whether that be injury or career. Injuries (which are non-self inflicted – in that they weren’t planned) and tend to appear when training is going well and the peak phase is about to begin.

New jobs are good in every other reason of your life, except the sport part, and every single time I’ve had one it knocks me out of the running for peak performance.

It’s certainly true that the 9-5 kills all hopes and dreams, but if one can endure the pain to go to a session regardless of a long or bad day at work, there is a genuine guarantee that exercise will turn those bad feelings into good ones. Nobody ever regrets a workout.

Last chainy on the road tonight before we move to the race track for winter and I finished with an epic ride! Just feeling on it today, and it showed. #stronglegs 💪🏻 •• Only done a few chaingangs this year as I was a bit late to the party, but I've met some lovely folk, and the social side is what makes it fun! • • • • #strongnotskinny #cycling #bellainsella #italianstripes #strava #stravacycling #stravaproveit #lhcbs #cyclist #lovecycling #lancashire #visitlancashire #cyclinglife #bikes #stravaphoto #felt #ColdDarkNorth #leavehomecomebackstronger #fitness #fitnessmotivation #healthylifestyle #otefuelled #bikestagram #bike #bikelife #bicycle #otefuelled #feltbikes #suunto #rapha

A post shared by Niamh Lewis (@athletejourno) on

Don’t stop training

When an athlete stops training abruptly, the effects aren’t just mental with the stress of knowing it is going to be harder to get back to the performance state you were in , but physical too. Their body goes through an array of changes from weight gain and water retention over short periods, to muscle atrophy, a drop in metabolic rate and a loss of fitness for longer periods.

In addition to all of that, for me: my muscles ache, my sleep becomes disrupted, my eating habits change because my body stops telling me what it requires as fuel and I become extremely grouchy and even more short tempered than usual.

So not training isn’t as simple as missing sessions and relaxing instead – when all of that is going on in the background.

Love-hate are the strongest relationships

Fitness and exercise is something I dedicate so much time and energy towards. I wholeheartedly love it; but there are things I hate about it too. There are times when I wish my life could be ‘normal’ and didn’t revolve around exercise and nutrition.

Sometimes, I don’t like that 40 percent of my life is sport related, and I wish the majority of that 40 percent could be socialising, or just hanging out and not doing a lot, what it feels like the rest of the world does.

My way of switching off is suffering on the turbo or a weights session in the gym. Not relaxing in its most popular form. But, the burning of the body often means relaxation for the mind.

I would like to learn the art of doing nothing. For once be one of those people who after getting home after work, is happy vegetating on the couch.

That is the ultimate luxury for an athlete, especially in winter when it’s cold and dark outside. It is a luxury I hardly get to experience, but it never feels like such a treat as the when the feeling of guilt and disappointment sets in, the realisation arrives that one could spend their time more wisely by training and not lounging around, then outcomes the time management diary and the vicious circle starts again. Looks like I can slot in aimlessly browsing the internet, talking bollocks to friends, and watching trash TV three weeks on Thursday after the gym.

Moving jobs and moving cities isn’t easy for the average person. It’s even more difficult when new gyms, /running/cycling/triathlon clubs are added into the mix. On the bright side, exploring new routes is a good way to get to know the new local area, but since I came from one of the best swim/bike/run/gym locations in the country, the bar is set and as much as I love the city, my new found sport routine will never compare to the old one. Besides, I don’t even know where the nearest swimming pool is.

#strongnotskinny •• I get loads of comments on my #thunderthighs. Often at time trials folk will say "you've got powerful legs" which I'm never sure is a compliment or an insult. 😳 However, despite looking a bit odd in shorts I wouldn't have achieved any of my finest moments if they were half the size. •• They can squat almost 100kg, carried me around 4x half ironmans (one of which got me a European silver medal) I've scaled a massive proportion of Lake District peaks either walking or running, they can put out a load of #watts and do well in time trials, as well as countless other physical challenges; so they might be #thunderthighs but they're functional and bloody powerful 😏🍑🙌🏻 • • • • #hatersgonnahate #fitisthenewskinny #stronglegs #strongisthenewskinny #strongissexy #strengthtraining #strength #endurance #legs #pins #gym #health #fitness #fitnessmotivation #squat #peachy #squatbum #leanin15 #strongwomen #healthybodyhealthymind #cycling #cyclist #tri #triathlon #trife #athletelife

A post shared by Niamh Lewis (@athletejourno) on

New beginnings

Which brings me to my main frustration.

Eight weeks ago I was in the best shape of my life. I was healthiest I’ve ever been with a resting heart rate of 47bpm and the leanest I’ve ever looked. I had some good results constantly coming through on the bike, with my power output steadily growing, and my time trial results getting quicker.

I wasn’t the strongest I have been in terms of kg lifted, (earlier on in the year, I claimed a 97.5kg squat) but I had more all round body strength.

I spent the end of the summer stripping back my weight workouts to focus on technique, stronger individual muscle groups mastering body weight strength, and working on weak points before I wanted to lift heavy again. My body was very much being fine tuned to being a good cyclist, runner, and strong and functional.

I had the balance of nutrition down to a tee because when you focus on the food vs fuel concept, your body eventually tells you what it needs and you feed it, simple as that.

Since I came back from a long break in April I was very happy, and full of mojo to have a successful season, and to really be able to peak.

But, at the ripe age of 22, I decided it was time to take my career a little bit more seriously and got a new job – in other words, eventually I had to listen to my mother.

Here we are now

My 50 percent is happy and has significantly increased to take the majority, but my 40 percent has shrivelled into a measly 25-30 percent, while the social beer drinking has increased slightly.

All of those physical and mental effects took over. And as I’m in the biggest city in the North of England, I spend a lot of my training time stuck in the car.

I reluctantly said bye bye to my low resting heart rate and my bike which now lives further up North. I watched the power in my legs flitter away as my strength and leanness faded. Anytime I get back on the WattBike I look despairingly at my new low FTP, and wonder how we got here.

Now, I now sit in the traffic envious of the runner/cyclist commuters.

At the beginning, I was happy to take two weeks off to adjust to my new job, and the short period of rest would do my body some good, before starting to wind down into winter training.

But my days were too long, the commute to far, and eventually I had to move to a different city which resulted in a shift in everything. Finding a new gym, finding a running club, finding routes to run and trying to find time to cycle is impossible.

I love my work, it was an excellent risk and decision to I needed to make, and it means I have new projects to focus on. Despite it being no more hours than before, it is more mentally taxing, and the commute takes the most time.

I certainly still bat for the shift workers. The dreaded 9-5 makes one feel totally lazy. It drains the life out of you along with the motivation to do any exercise. Eight hours minus lunch never seems to provide enough time to be productive – the day is over before it has began, the weekend comes and goes, and Monday is spent waiting for Friday. Then there is the lack of movement while hunched over at a desk staring at a computer screen.

The dreadful effects of eight weeks off is a sad reality of sport and fitness. One cannot expect to stop training and still be lean and lift one-and-a-half times their body weight. Achieving the goal, as well as maintaining that physical shape takes hard work, and hard work I am willing to put in every time.

Again and again and again

David Millar’s description of coming back after an injury is the most accurate. Although this isn’t an injury, the last eight weeks have felt like some form of rehab:

“Returning from an injury is hard, though that’s not really due to the injury itself, but more to do with your head coping with the total inability it has to make the body do what once came easily.

“More often than not, injuries occur when you’re close to your peak fitness, so the last memories you have – the last performance markers you have – are of elite performance. Comebacks are at the opposite end of the scale, which is humbling for a professional athlete, but also it makes coming back an interesting and affirming experience.”

I’m all for change and new beginnings, I realise I’m in a fortunate position to be able to change jobs and re-locate as easily as this; but my frustrations lie in the drastic amount set backs and multiple times starting over and over. Every time, I will stand up and go back to it because it’s my 40 percent, my non-negotiable and I would be very different without it.

Every time I will build back up to where I was and more, but every time it makes me feel less enthusiastic and more exhausted to achieve something I once loved. Set backs make us stronger, but stronger for what?

The most upsetting part is in seven years of training, I have never managed to reach peak performance and reach my true potential in triathlon, cycling or power lifting. Something has always had to give, whether it be opportunities or injuries, they come along and wipe me off my feet like a game of snakes and ladders. And in every stretch, I drive to reach my potential in any given sport… until an opportunity comes along and the last tier to peak performance fades away.

I often wish there were more hours in the day, longer days would mean I wouldn’t have to choose between sport or career. I want to see a time where I can have both, not one or the other.

Advertisements

Internet dating: my final word

14264026_10209967840129798_8605017307366831890_nMy final word on internet dating is that for those who do it, it has turned us into shallow human beings.

Using apps where you can scroll left or right if someones photo is flattering enough without even knowing their name or where they come from.

Many of times when I scrolled through the “meet me” section on Plenty of Fish, I knew I wouldn’t actually meet any of the guys, mostly because I had no interest in doing so; besides even if I did, they all lived too far away anyway. (There is also always that one person who looks nothing like they do in photos.)
However, while I was there scrolling, there was always this one thought at the back of my mind that it was morally wrong to say “yes” or “no” to somebody by the way they look and how attractive their profile picture is.

Of course physical attraction is necessary when going on a date, we all want to stare into their dreamy eyes over dinner and not take in anything they are saying but you can’t start a relationship based on looks.

You can look for the person of your dreams by attraction but it doesn’t mean you will hit it off instantly.

Only responding to the attractive people is not going to make your dating life any easier. Once you filter through the ones you thought were your type–none of it works out. You then parade around in misery to say there are no lids left in the world for your pan because they are all gay or married.

Look outside of the box and see what you find–maybe a lovely personality, similar interests, and a little firework in the pit of your stomach.

14225415_10209967836449706_3706916714159533772_nMany of my ‘spark-less’ dates did turn out to be a fun evening: lots of laughter and the hours flew by; before you know it you’re the last ones in the restaurant, or you drank the bar dry. Just because it doesn’t work out does not make it a bad date, at the very least we became acquaintances. Facebook friends who speak occasionally, send a happy birthday message and say hello when passing in the street. As long as it is mutual and honest agreement that it is not going to work, there is no harm done, just another friend made, and you will never know if you don’t try.

I would also like to point out that some of the drop-dead-gorgeous people I came across on my internet dating quest were the weirdest people I have ever corresponded with in my life. It works both ways, a lot of creepy people look creepy too, but don’t be fooled by the ones with those handsome looks. Some of my closest friends are people I never thought I would associate with, whether it is friends I met at work, at the triathlon and cycling clubs, in the gym, or on social media. Everyday is a networking day, sometimes the best people take you by surprise and catch you off-guard.

14184294_10209967835409680_2996600504898086203_nAside from it being shallow to judge a book by its cover, and filter through the internet dating sphere for your new mate, 21st century technology did create a way for people who live miles apart to connect: social media.

The best dates I had were with people I met first face to face, friends of friends, or people locally. None of this swipe left, flirt for a bit and then go on a date, just real humans meeting, talking and arranging a date. Nothing can beat the feeling of being asked out face-to-face, and the look on your face when you say: “ERRRRRMMMMMM” and look at your best friend.

The cliche that the good people turn up when you least expect it could be true… sometimes when what you are looking for doesn’t show up, something shall we say “different” appears instead.

I14225437_10209967837369729_7393168869670784601_nnternet dating can never beat a spontaneous real meeting with someone. Meeting face-to-face, no Instagram filters to hide behind, and no fantasy created in your head based on the things you text about.

Someone who is always at the end of the phone or the end of a text, who you weren’t quite sure what kind of category they fit into, whether there is physical attraction or not, and what their views of you are… and you made a huge gamble on whether or not it was a good idea to travel 300 odd miles to see them.

There are some things internet dating will never confirm: whether those feelings are mutual, whether the person you are talking to is a real human being and who they say they are, and whatever the ‘thing’ is between you, will it be the same when you meet for real?

The one person I did meet who has become important in my life I didn’t meet through internet dating. In fact he was the one at the end of the phone when I had a terrible date, or when I paraded around in misery claiming all the good guys were gay or married. And when we did eventually meet, I had a fairy tale few days of staring into someones eyes, meanwhile discussing mutual interests. Now I think about it, it was around bonfire night and there were fireworks exploding in the sky.

Just don’t do it: part four

14202704_10209967835009670_9054107651854029870_nAfter all of the spectacular chat-up lines, comments on my body and the disturbing things some blokes say they would like to do to it, as well as thanking me for having a profile on Plenty of Fish and allowing them to send a message–what even?–I decided to remove myself from the internet dating world and try things the old fashioned way.

And that didn’t work either.

 

 

Cyclists will never win the collision war

Whether it is an accident with a car, a bus, or a pedestrian, cyclists will never win the collision war, even if it is not their fault.

Recently, while out riding with my cyclist friend–who works as a collision investigator for the police–we were discussing collisions with buses and bikes. He had reported three incidents to our local Stagecoach branch about near misses between the drivers and himself.

The first happened in winter while riding at night: “lit up like a Christmas tree” (in the words of the Stagecoach boss after seeing the CCTV footage), the driver did not see my fellow cyclist, and even after the Stagecoach boss described to the driver where the accident occurred, worryingly the driver does not recall seeing a cyclist.

The second occasion involved going through the one-way system in Lancaster when a bus driver didn’t look in his mirror before pulling out in front of him. And during the final incident, he was a spectator watching a similar thing happen to another cyclist in front of him. On this occasion, if it wasn’t for the way the pavement split into a verge, the cyclist in front would have been squashed by the bus, and the driver of the big metal box would probably have been none the wiser.

On the final occasion, which happened minutes before I met him for a bike ride, we began with a trip to the bus station to report the incident, which was subsequently dealt with and passed on appropriately. On the other occasions, the bus drivers were sent on a driving course and apparently have since changed their attitude towards cyclists and of course, will thoroughly check their mirrors before pulling out.

Later on that week, I recalled the incident to my grandfather who is a retired bus driver for Stagecoach, and before I had even finished the description of the incident he replied with: “bloody cyclists, it is their own fault.”

Which brought me to the conclusion that despite having many cyclists in the family, the said person still has that attitude. If I can’t change his opinion on cyclists (I asked him if he would still have that attitude if it was me and my bike that was nearly squashed by a bus), then no amount of campaigning for cycle safety is going to change attitudes towards cyclists.

A few days after the ride when we discussed the incidents, I had my own bike accident.

Setting off on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I was riding down Morecambe promenade on my own when, without looking, two young children ran across the path and straight into me. I flew straight over the handlebars and hit the floor hard without really knowing how I got there.

I could hear the screams of two young children crying their eyes out as they lay on the floor next to me, and then the pain of my possible broken elbow hit me. The mother of the children ran over to them, while another lady ran over to help my bike and I up off the floor and rang an ambulance.

At first, I was calm as I inspected myself to see if my limbs were all in the places they should be; then the shock set in of what just happened. Meanwhile, I received a tirade of abuse from the kid’s family and a group of people on the prom, who did not see the accident but decided to divulge all of their hatred towards cyclists towards me.

According to them: I did it on purpose, I should know better because they are children. Cyclists are stupid. Cyclists shouldn’t be on the cycle path. I’m delusional. I was going too fast, and I deserve to have died because I purposely rode into the children.

Shaking and furious with emotions running high, I turned the abuse back on them and almost started a fight to stand up for myself. I couldn’t believe they had just said I deserve to have died in that incident, and in-case they didn’t notice, I came out worse than the children with my arm beginning to swell and a broken bike–while the kids escaped with little more than a bump on the head and some grazes. Two women came over to offer some help, and told me to ignore the idiots who just launched a fireball of verbal abuse towards me, because they did not see what just happened, and automatically took the attitude it was the cyclists fault. They gave me their details and said they would act as a witness to prove it was not my fault if anything ever came of it.

As I explained to the mother, of course I didn’t hit them on bloody purpose, as soon as I saw them running I swerved to try and miss them and shouted “woah watch out!” Also, after looking at my ride data afterwards up until the point of the collision, there is no proof I was riding “too fast” as my speed on that particular segment was low.

The ambulance crew arrived, and called for back-up to assist me. After being checked over they took me to hospital for an X-ray on my arm; and after things calmed down they discussed with the family that I had every right to be riding on the path. As kids will be kids and not look where they are going, it was an accident, nothing more.

The paramedic crew were exceptional, and of course understood the whole situation. An accident is an accident whether it is a pedestrian or a bus or a car, and nobody can ever say straight away it was the cyclists fault without looking at the whole incident first.

I don’t endeavour to defend all cyclists. I could name a collection of times when people have been cycling drunk, and veered into the path of a fast moving car, or hit a lamp post, tree, and other non-moving objects while under the influence.

I can even name the times when cyclists have gone through red lights, not stopped at crossings, or descending down windy roads dangerously. There are times when cyclists are the cause of the incident; in the same way drivers using their phones cause incidents, or driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. As well as pedestrians not looking where they are going–again the list goes on and neither party is exempt from blame.

But what has been proved is that cyclists make better motorists, because we are weary of what is going on around us, as well as the correct distance for overtaking: which is another cars width.

My point here is that despite the legacies created by the Olympics, the Tour de France (in Yorkshire), and British Cycling’s success, it has not altered the negative attitude towards the people on two wheels.

Cyclists are seen as the villains, but actually we are the vulnerable ones. We are only protected by a thin piece of stretchy clothing and a polystyrene and plastic helmet which absorbs shock if your head hits the floor, it does not prevent deaths or serious brain injuries. Unlike drivers we are not protected by a huge metal box around us, we are not wrapped in bubble wrap and we do not bounce when we hit the ground.

Cities in the UK are designed for cars only. The cycling revolution was an afterthought poorly implemented with a section of the already small roads taken away and covered with coloured tarmac to indicate a cycle lane. That does not stop people driving in the cycle lane through city centres, and it does not encourage them to look in the mirrors and check their blind spot before turning or manoeuvring.

Cycle tracks were a good investment, but they are limited as many come from disused railway lines, and of course you can’t have a cycle track leading in every direction. In addition to this, a separate war has broken out between pedestrians and cyclists on cycle paths more recently; as both tend to stray from the designated pedestrian-cyclist lane, or take up the whole of the path.

What will it take for the general public’s attitude to change towards cyclists? The bus drivers discussed above had to redo their driving course for their attitude to change. When I learned to drive four years ago, courses were only then being adapted to include cycle safety. All of these adults who have been driving for years haven’t adapted to drive in areas with an increased amount of cyclists.

According to a 2014 figure by Cycling UK only 18 percent of registered AA drivers are cyclists. Which means many don’t understand what it is like to be passed by a car so close you can feel it brush past your skin, or accelerate so quickly to overtake you that it is unsafe for all other drivers on the road let alone the cyclist in question. But also, they have no idea what it is like to be involved in an accident and hit the ground so hard and so fast you injure yourself and you don’t understand what just happened.

All of my cyclist friends have been involved in an incident at any one time. And every time the driver has said the rider was “going too fast”. It is a poor excuse used when firstly, the driver hasn’t taken any responsibility for their actions. Secondly, most of the time it is a 30mph zone and the rider is doing around 20mph. And finally: how did they possibly measure the cyclists speed? The police and paramedics question how can somebody on a bike be going “too fast” compared to somebody in a car?

Thankfully, most of them came out with little more than a battered and bruised body. But some of them recall waking up in an ambulance not knowing how they got there. One friend, despite wearing a helmet, suffered a serious brain injury which he will have for the rest of his life as a result of the collision.

The sporting legacies from our cycling success has encouraged a new wave of people to get on a bike which is a positive result. But what it hasn’t done is changed the view of cyclists from a motorists point of view. It also has not adapted our roads, and cities to be cycling friendly, and it takes a sharp increase in cyclist deaths for something to change.

In 2013 the Department for Transport reported that there are an average of two cycling related deaths every week and 60 serious injuries. That is a worrying increase of 40 percent in the last five years.

Yet, what these figures don’t encourage is more funding and better implementation of cycling in the UK. Many other countries, and most affluent countries in Europe have less incidents with cyclists, because their motorists have different attitudes. This is due to the roads being wider, less potholes, less congested roads, and most importantly more rules in EU law which allow every party involved to take road collisions seriously.

Until roads and city centres in the UK are properly adapted, the attitude towards cyclists will never change.

Bad dates make the good ones look good: part three

At this point, aside from being amused by some ridiculous yet entertaining chat up lines, I’ve been on dates with three guys from Plenty of Fish. The first date was terrible, although on reflection it probably wasn’t a good idea anyway. The sort of date when you know it is going to be bad but you ponder well… I have nothing to lose.

Continue reading “Bad dates make the good ones look good: part three”

Searching for patience and humour: part two

Dating is a huge learning curve. Especially internet dating. After a while you have an eye out for the freaks. The ones who have little more than a few brain cells and stand you up for “banter” (I speak from other people’s experiences), and the ones who have an extremely good-looking profile picture, but don’t seem like a real human being.

Of course there are a few people genuinely looking for a date, to find a relationship. Yet with the amount of messages asking for casual sex, these people seem few and far between. Then there are the ones you chat to for a while; get on with really well, have a few things in common, next you are wondering if this person could be your future partner… and then one day later they disappear off the face of the earth and you never hear from them again–those are the ones to watch out for. Continue reading “Searching for patience and humour: part two”

The worrying and entertaining world of internet dating: part one

imageIf you are single, enjoy being single, have a sense of humour and some time on your hands download a dating app.

Do it now, Tinder or Plenty of Fish.

First, I’ll confess that I joined POF as a bit of a joke to see what the free dating app world was like, and I was met with, well… Some interesting chat up lines to start with.

I was recently single, and loved (still do) the freedom of being single and my also single friend said: “Come on join it, it will be a laugh!”

So I thought: “alright, why not.”

Continue reading “The worrying and entertaining world of internet dating: part one”

Everything happens for a reason: what’s the reason?

Week five of having a broken foot.

I got in my car for the first time today in 33 days. Despite everybody telling me not to drive, I just wanted to see if it was painful or not, and to have some sort of grasp of ‘normal’ life before the injury. I only drove to the doctors to get my sick note…

But for that 15 minute drive I felt free, the way I did before the injury. Going about my business in the car as usual. I rely on my car so much and I appreciate having it because of course others do not have that luxury.

Continue reading “Everything happens for a reason: what’s the reason?”

The dark side of athlete injury

Day 25 of having a broken foot. I wondered how long it would take for me to feel like this. Personally, I thought it would happen sooner, so I’m impressed I made it this far, that’s a sign of improvement, right? But this is where I feel it all spiralling downhill…

All athletes go through this with injuries, and only other athletes can sympathise. It becomes less about not being able to do your sport and more about turning your life upside down. Exercise is not just my hobby and interest, it is my escape from the world, my focus, my coping mechanism, the thing that makes me feel happy and it keeps me the person I am.

Continue reading “The dark side of athlete injury”

Education cycle comes full circle

I write this on final submissions day: 18 May 2016. One of the most important days of the year. The day when officially my university friends and I begin the transition from students to graduates.

Graduation isn’t for two months and one day yet… but as from today there will be no more studying, essays, deadlines, or university work to do, just pure freedom and relaxation for a little while until the real world catches up with us.

It is a strange feeling, and it hasn’t yet hit me that 17 years of education is finally over. Pressing the “submit” button for the final time was an experience in itself, knowing that everything you have worked for in the last three years is summarised into one grade, one day of wearing a fancy cap and gown, and one certificate. THREE YEARS. And it took 14 years to get there, non-stop; always looking ahead towards the next thing. In primary school it was taking SATs in the summer to get ready for high school, high school it was taking GCSE’s to get into sixth form, and then the pressure was on in sixth form to get the grades for university. Always, always, always aiming towards the next thing, and now it is done, it’s all over, no more education.

I’m going to take the opportunity to recover from the stress of final year. It’s difficult to explain this kind of stress. There are many who say university is a walk in the park, think there is no hard work involved; it’s all about partying, drinking and sponging off the government. Anyone who has been to university understands the pressure that final year students are under, particularly now tuition fees have risen. There is the cost of living for starters, in my personal experience of living as a student, if I didn’t work alongside my degree I would have been homeless, because my loan was never enough to cover basic rent. Students now have to justify  the £40k worth of debt in one grade, and if you don’t achieve that grade then… well you have a lot of explaining to do for a start. Then there is the academic pressure, the deadlines, the procrastination, the countless hours sat in the library trying to inject knowledge from a text book into your head with an empty can of red bull at three in the morning. Then there are the dark times, every student goes through the motions at university, some feel the pressure more than others, and as I learned, that’s what personal tutors are for.

University is not just a learning experience it is an expensive life experience. Learning to move to a new city and find your way around, live with a load of strangers, and if you go when you are 18 fresh from sixth form or college, you start as a teenager and you leave as an adult! You learn some independence, you discover what stress is, you find out what the small hours in the morning are, and by trial and error you teach yourself never to make big decisions after 2am.

You also discover some amazing people who will stick with you for life, whether that’s just one person, or a whole group of them. You experience some funny alcoholic combinations, you lose your memory on multiple occasions and you do some pretty scary and daft things, all in three years. And at the end you find yourself, your experienced, knowledgeable, wiser, more educated self, and you will treasure those moments for the rest of your life, and sometimes wish you could go back and do it all over again because three years felt like three weeks and it all slipped by too fast.

The person who moved to Salford three years ago doesn’t exist any more. I feel like Niamh Lewis version II. I found some confidence, I learned how to date, network, meet new people, look after myself. I learned how to look after my finances, how to drink, (and how not to drink), how to work nearly full time alongside studying full time, how to write, and how to be a journalist. Now I leave three years later, older, wiser, stronger, more confident and mature, and with a greater sense of life experience and achievement. For the time being I’m going to enjoy the time off. Concentrate on enjoying the fresh air riding my bike, and running on the fells without following a training plan, or without worrying about studying. Just enjoying the freedom at the moment until it runs out.

At the moment I’m not entirely sure what I want to do next, maybe a Masters, maybe go travelling, maybe look for work in my appropriate field, or maybe take a gap year of just working and training and take some time off to decide. Who knows, and who cares?

Here’s to the future, and thank you for the past.

 

 

 

Lakes in a Day

Fell and ultra running as we know it. Lakes in a Day is a 50 mile ultra marathon from Caldbeck in North Cumbria to Cartmel in South Cumbria. The route requires running up and traversing across the ridges of the famous lakeland fells before beginning the final leg of the race down the side of Windermere. With twenty-four hours to complete this race, many of the athletes will be running in the dark through the woods into the early hours of the crisp autumn morning.

With over 4,000m of ascent, this event attracts long-distance veterans and has been described by one competitor as “tears, sweat and achievement”, and by another as a “grand day out”… 

A whistle stop tour of some of the most spectacular parts of the Lake District with astounding views from the top of the famous lakeland fells: Blencathra, Clough Head, Great Dodd, and Helvellyn, before descending down Fairfield Horseshoe to Ambleside, just over half way. The final leg of the race runs down the western side of the largest natural lake in England, finishing in the small picturesque village of Cartmel.

Now in its second year, the race attracted more interest with over 300 people on the start-list.

This year, records were broken as Kim Collison arrived in Cartmel still in daylight in a brisk 9:12:07, breaking the men’s record. Likewise, in the women’s race Helen Leigh arrived at dusk breaking the women’s record with a time of 11:00:10, both receiving the ÂŁ500 cash prize.

Cumbria is renowned for its few-and-far-between rays of sunshine, and rain so regular it keeps the vast array of lakes and tarns topped up; but race day surprised many athletes, with the tranquil breeze on the peaks, and the cool temperature in daylight hours. What started off calm for some, ended up as a long and lonely day out for others.

During daylight hours, nearly all of the runners seemed in good spirits, some running alone, others forming in groups. The miles and the peaks started to tick off; the feed stations became an all you can eat buffet with a selection of sandwiches, sweet items, and pastries for breakfast in Threlkeld. Well-deserved pizza and pasta in Ambleside. And soup, sandwiches and warm winter food served in Finsthwaite before the final section home through the trees and under the moonlight.

Crowds gathered in Ambleside clapping the runners as they came through the town centre. Support runners got their head torches ready for the last 20 miles when the afternoon merged into the evening.

The day got cooler, the evening got quieter and soon it was 8pm in Finsthwaite watching the runners come in, one by one, and two by two to the last feed station: identified as the only building for miles with light pouring out of the windows.

Walking through the field to meet the runners, dark figures appeared, getting closer and closer… Pausing to see what it was as it stepped closer towards me, I put out my hand and found the horse’s nose nudge me for attention. Panic over.

In the distance, specks of light shone through the trees, the bright ones lighting up the path in front as a group of runners passed through the gate and experienced the same thing I just did heading for the light of the next feed station.

The bulk of the field had spread out in the last 10 miles, some with fifteen and twenty minutes between each runner, alone in the dark with only arrows to follow to the end.

Bottles were filled, soup was slurred, and food was eaten to allow the runners to continue through the forest and the fields to Cartmel to the finish.

The last point of attraction was Newby Bridge, with around four miles to go the support from the cheering guests was welcomed. Where one path meets The Swan, and crosses the A590 on a windy path, peaking to a grand view of Grange-Over-Sands all lit up.

Civilization at last.

“Follow the lights and you’ll soon be home” were the words that were echoing at this point. Followed by the instructions from the race director:

“When you reach the Cartmel Pudding shop, veer around the corner, past the pub where you will see the finishing gantry, and you are home.

 

 

 

 

Need inspiration?

Sometimes, inspiration is closer than you think. When you have lost your mojo, finding it is difficult; but following someone else’s journey onto a path (literally) into a world of new terrain, can do just the trick.

Continue reading “Need inspiration?”

Ironman 70.3 Zell Am See-Kaprun race report

imageIf I’d have been writing this yesterday it would be a very bitter race report, but having slept on it and today seeing my official results on the website, I care a little bit less.

Continue reading “Ironman 70.3 Zell Am See-Kaprun race report”

Successful year triathloning

Inglebrough sunrise
Ingleborough sunrise – *spark inspiration*

There is no doubt you’ve heard it already, what a great year your Facebook friends have had, plastered all over your homepage; so you should! It’s the one time of the year that we get to evaluate ourselves, our lives and the things we do.

So here’s my evaluation:

I thought 2013 was the best year I could have in sport, but this year has topped it. 2013 was perfect. Progression from thinking 30 miles on the bike was far, to doing 100 milers with out thinking twice. I did my first half marathon, hated it, and have done many more since. Every race result was an epic one in that year, and although it didn’t turn out that way this year, it was so much better.

So as you’ve heard in my other posts… I completed my first half ironman and won my age-group, which got me slightly addicted into doing another one-and-a-half (see below) which then led me to qualify for GB age-group U20 and race in Mallorca.

This year I learnt some confidence, and not to be nervous both in and out of sport. If it was the start of an exam or the start of a race I would just calmly wait for it all to commence and get on with it.

Standing on the beach in Mallorca was a surreal feeling. Stood there in my tri-suit with my name, sponsors and ‘GBR’ on my chest next to a load of other women ready to start the biggest race of my life, in the warm salty waters of one of the Balearic Island with not a worry in the world, and confident that I would be having a good day.

Things didn’t turn out the way I planned to that day, but it seemed the field had been ambushed as it quickly became the hardest, hilliest and hottest race our lives. Despite this–and the photo of me looking at my feet for some words of wisdom in the last leg of the race–it was still a fantastic day where I got to stand on the podium in the evening waving my Union Jack with pride with people getting my name wrong, but clapping me and saying “well done” in all different languages. That was the highlight of my year.

The other “half” you might be wondering about is Aberfeldy Middle Distance Tri. My first and only DNF after getting mild hypothermia somewhere around Loch Rannoch on the bike. The race that I wanted to enjoy on my birthday turned into the worst day of my life.

Out in Mallorca, thinking about Aberfeldy was hard, and debating whether or not I would finish, in a long race so much can go wrong, your race can be turned upside down in a second: a crash on the bike, a fall, an injury… But, Mallorca was the complete opposite: sunny, hot, and warm water, and I suppose I could almost stretch to ‘enjoying it’, as oppose to cold, windy, rainy, miserable Scotland.

However, after experiencing a DNF and the mental trauma that goes with it afterwards, if I had to crawl to the finish line on the promenade in Pageura, I would do so.

Away from triathlon, my running has improved, working with a couple of coaches I now enjoy running and can be consistent.

My cycling and time trialing has improved massively with achieving a 25:48 for a 10 mile TT in my first season this year.

I’ve learned more academically and I’m closer to being a journalist than I was last year.

I found the lid to my pan and spend our one year anniversary together last night on New Year’s eve. It was him who taught me confidence and not to be nervous…

I feel 100 times older, wiser, and more knowledgeable than last year, and so much can change within a year.

My goals for this year are to swim the length of Coniston, do a fell race, enjoy a fell race, go on holiday more, eat less chocolate, and get down to race weight!

So here’s to 2015. May there be many more special memories, good races, improvement and progression, and fun!

Good luck and make the best of your year.

Fussing over nothing

Following yesterday’s accident during my last training ride before next weekend’s race in Mallorca for the ETU Middle Distance tri Champs, one could describe it as split second feeling of relief.

A freak incident that was perhaps due to my over-sized quads and just happened without explanation. I fell off my bike and damaged my elbow.

Why did I fall off? I couldn’t answer that until I got home and investigated the bike. One second I was standing up pedaling up the slight incline some would call a hill, and half a second later I was sat on the floor in agony and unable to move. It was something that couldn’t be avoided or saved in any way because it happened too fast with a cry of pain and bewilderment as to how I got on the floor; consolidated my wet eyes all the way home.

My chain snapped as I was pedaling up the hill, there was a wagon and a couple of cars behind me on the windy country lane that were waiting to get passed, so I sped up to let them past and was either riding with a weak chain, or I put too much power through the pedals and before I had got to the top, ended up with a sore elbow.

It sounds more spectacular than it was, there was no damage to the bike except it needing a new chain and there was no damage to me except a severely bruised elbow and some other cuts and bruises.

My elbow was the first thing to hit the ground and when you are as heavy as I am that’s a lot of force! My first instinct was to pick myself and the bike up before the wagon that was behind ran me over, but all of a sudden I couldn’t move and getting up wasn’t possible, I was in excruciating pain with my left elbow and suddenly became panic stricken that no.1: I was in the middle of a busy road ready to be run over, and no. 2: there was nothing I could do about it because I was in so much pain.

A man in a car coming the other way saw me hit the deck, and the wagon driver stopped and got out to help me up and make sure I was ok. I was certain I must have broken or at least fractured something, a bang or bruise on the arm doesn’t hurt this much!

The two guys picked up my bike and the things that had fallen out of my pocket and were asking me some questions, and I tried to pause the panic for a second or two to reply to them.

As I was out on my own I said that I would ring somebody to come and pick me up as there was nothing I could do about a snapped chain without any tools on me, and there was no chance I could cycle home anyway. One man insisted on taking me and the bike home because he lived near-by so I agreed, looking him up and down to make sure he didn’t look dodgy.

The wagon driver helped him put the bike in the car and I turned around and now felt slightly guilty that there was a small cue of traffic sat behind the wagon, that from their point of view, looked like he had ran me over!

I said my thanks to both the men and we headed home, my arm still stiff and throbbing, with patches of blood all over me on body parts which didn’t touch the floor or take a beating!?

I had left the state of shock at this point and was returning to my (cough) calm self as the fellow cyclist was making conversation in the car. I began to be able to move my arm which indicated it thankfully wasn’t broken.

When I got home I rang my dad whose reaction I wasn’t sure about. It was his bike and to fall off a week before the race isn’t good preparation, but aside from the chain it had a soft landing! He sounded concerned which isn’t usual (probably because his dreams of having a sprint finish against his daughter may have been cloudy).

I text the other people I thought should know, Jack, and my coach Chris and they advised going to get an X-ray. By this point I attempted to do a front crawl action to see if I could swim, it was stiff and weak, it felt like a possible small fracture but nothing that could make my swimming any worse!

I decided to get an X-ray anyway to be on the safe side and once again, thankfully they said it wasn’t broken, it has just taken a mighty bashing and is severely bruised. They dressed the road rash and send me home.

So by now you are thinking stop being a baby!

Yes, me too! A wasted afternoon I suppose. But aside from thinking “how did I get here?” whilst sat on the floor after being flung off my bike, my second thought was “I FEEL PAIN, I CAN’T RACE, what will I tell everyone?”, and then my third thought: “I HAVE TO RACE, with one arm!”

My thoughts, and point of writing this, while sat in the waiting room at the hospital were: why did I immediately assume I couldn’t race? Was I really going to give in that easily? I want to race, and I’m quite looking forward to it as long as everything goes well on the day. Most of you can relate to feeling heroic when you are racing and feeling good, but why was that my instant reaction?

I realise that my training for this race hasn’t been as focused as previous, or as much as other people. Especially from the beginning; life gets in the way and you can only do as much as you have time for. But even mentally, I’m looking forward to the well earned rest and no compulsory swim/bike/run for a bit. Knowing that I’m racing in a warm climate with sunshine and possibly a wetsuit banned swim doesn’t make me want to go out cycling in the wind, rain and cold for three hours. That happened in Aberfeldy and look how that turned out: cold, wind and rain clearly doesn’t work for me and after this continuous season that has consistently been 10 months of training… I’m bored now and I need to do something different.

I’m looking forward to this race next weekend and I cannot wait to swim, cycle and run representing GBR with my name on my tri-suit, but I’m also looking forward to having a happy ending to what’s been an undulating year; full of ups and downs, my first (and let’s hope last) DNF–an emotional race that consumed me for 40 miles, and days afterwards, ruined my birthday, and left me all cried out in the middle of Scotland fed up, freezing cold, and soaking wet.

So if there is one thing I can work on over the winter aside from physical performance, it is mental performance. Throughout my many years horse riding and being flung off a horse, and then trod on by it, brushing myself off and getting back on; I should be used to it by now. I had the determination and the fearlessness to carry on and test the boundaries. The same with hockey, I had the fight in me that gave me the courage to hit the ball as hard as I could and play on even though it was a frozen pitch and I was wearing a skort!

I lost the determination this year, which is possibly the key to where my training has wandered off to. That and getting a bit fed up of training when I didn’t want to. A bit of over training syndrome perhaps? Training for an age-grouper shouldn’t be punishment, that’s when  you lose it and bad things happen.

I believe I lost the will power around the time I left the gym and stopped doing spinning classes and being shouted at by Sally. My determination came from spinning and pushing for that extra little bit of power for those last seconds… and everything I did after that that required grit and determination came from picturing myself on a spin bike and going hard for those last seconds. It’s so easy to give up, and with Sally shouting at you, giving up was never an option.

So that’s the plan for winter. Rest, get back to spinning and find some determination to come back next year and have a blast.

The Clue is in The Title

IMG_1252.JPGChallenge Mallorca.

My next task/ challenge/ race/ chapter of my addiction, whatever you want to call it.

Challenge Mallorca – 1.2 miles / 56 miles / 13.1 miles

My year started off great, I completed Outlaw Half, won my age-group and qualified for GB age-group under 20 in middle distance triathlon.

I completed the Great North Swim 5km, one of my long distance swimming challenges I wanted to complete this year, and sporting wise it seems to have gone downhill from there. Alas! It’s not all bad.

(Wait until after Challenge Mallorca for a full review of the year so far… but in a nutshell here it is)

Last year I achieved everything I set out to do. This year I almost have, but I’ve had a couple of setbacks along the way. This year hasn’t been as smooth and as perfect as last year was but you only have your best season once…

The difference is, last year I improved massively in a short period. Possibly because I was new to it all, but at the same time my endurance on the bike was incredible.

Last year my swimming was faster, my cycling was slower but longer, I was better on hills and rubbish on the flat, and my running was worse.

This year my swimming is slower–but more endurance based, my cycling is faster but doesn’t really have a need for rides over 60 miles, I am rubbish on the hills but pretty damn good on the flat! And my running is better and more pace controlled.

Another bonus for this year is that I have qualified for GB age-group something I didn’t think I could do last year, or even knew existed.

So, I may have had a DNF, my first three ‘offs’ on the bike, and another few setbacks this year, and not be as strong as last year. But ultimately, I am superior this year; this will show in Challenge Mallorca.

So Challenge Mallorca… my next ‘Challenge’, my first GB age-group race and my first international race. I’m quite excited as I now have a coach, I have a GB tri-suit that is soon to have my name on and gives me pleasure to show off, and I’m excited to race somewhere warm and flat after my last adventure in Scotland.

This race will be able to tell me whether middle distance is my distance… or whether Outlaw Half was a fluke and I should just stick to standard distance.

Training will be difficult as it is coming towards the end of open water season, the weather is now becoming cold and grim (I know it is August) but hopefully my new coach will be able to shout at me, even if it is via email.

After this race I will have almost ticked off everything from my new year’s resolution list:

5km swim – done

Outlaw Half – done

Qualify for GB age-group – done

Time trial – always wanted to do one and this year I plucked up the courage after some people said “you’d be good at it” do I did and it turns out I’m not to bad on the track. And now I love the TT bike even more. – done

Sub two-hour half marathon – almost done

Do an international race – almost done

50 min 10km – done in training but not in a race! – almost done

So keep an eye out for my training diary and for a new list of things to complete for next year.

Chao!

 

Reminiscing

I enjoyed my time at Heysham, I would not be as hardworking and have success in sport and academics without the support and encouragement  of certain members of staff, as well as the incentives that the school has.

I chose to stay at Heysham for sixth form, after I had been a student for five years. During this time I made friends, I had good relationships with most of my teachers, everything was accessible and I knew by staying I had opportunities such as being Head Girl, that I would not have had elsewhere.

I believe that Heysham has helped to shape me into the person I am today. As it was a Sports College, I was always involved in sport throughout my time there including: hockey, netball, representing the district at cross country, and I represented Lancashire in athletics in 2010. We were encouraged to volunteer and give back opportunities to other children with the Sports Leaders scheme, as well as other awards such as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.

One of my favorite aspects of the school is that they award students for outstanding effort, most improved and many other awards in all faculties of the school; no matter what your talents are, you are recognised for it.

In addition to this we have opportunities to travel abroad to train and compete overseas, as well as academic trips all around Europe! Ranging from ski trips to Austria, Club La Santa training resort in Lanzarote and educational trips to Disneyland!

The first trip to Lanzarote sparked my interest in triathlon. When I came back my interest in fitness and sport had blossomed and I took part in my first triathlon. Moving forward three years I have now qualified to represent the GB Middle Distance Triathlon Age-group team, and have returned to Club La Santa many times–without the first taste in July 2011, I wouldn’t have known about the resort, or the ultimate challenge of Ironman, that I am wound up so very tightly in, on the little volcanic rock; and wouldn’t have found a sport I was actually good at. For that, I thank the opportunities given to me from the school; in particular Mr and Mrs Kirby for organising the trip every year and Mr Kirby for the many cycling trips to Famara beach and the cafe!

Aside from sport, I became head girl in my last year. A lot of people knew me at school as being sporty and hardworking. Studying there for seven years taught me maturity and to focus on the more important things such as education, and future prospects. So many times, we were told that if we didn’t get the qualifications we wouldn’t get the job. Even at university we hear that phrase–because it’s true. Education enables you to better your knowledge and stand out from the crowd, and education is as much as learning as it is personal development. To be at school for seven years is a large part of life. Then to continue and complete a degree or further it enables you to better your lifestyle and give you more opportunities–make use of it!

If I could change anything about my time at Heysham, it would be to have worked harder earlier in my GCSE’s, to prepare me for A level and university. And to have worked that little bit harder in Club La Santa!

To come back and visit staff at school is a reward as well as a reminder of how hard I, and others, have worked to get into higher education and use all of the opportunities we had. It is also a glimpse into the past at how far we have come since being there, and how much there is to go.

Ironman Zurich 2014

IMG_7014Every time I watch the video of the start of Ironman Zurich 2014 it gives me goosebumps. I don’t know why, I didn’t even race; perhaps it was understanding what those 2550 athletes were thinking and knowing exactly what is going through their heads.

“This is going to be a long day.”

“Come on, I can do this.”

“I am Ironman.”

“If I finish in 13 hours, I can make it before the take-away closes.”

The day started at 4am. My dad and Jon both quieter than usual–as you would expect before the biggest race of their lives so far. There wasn’t much conversing in the car except what they needed to do before the swim start and discussing how their day will go. I went down for the swim start to watch how the day would unfold, and also to give them some moral support. This was my third Ironman as a spectator, yet my first to see the whole process unravel over the weekend, instead of just irritating the non-ironman enthusiastic residents of Babylon Lane at Ironman UK.

One of the things I enjoy when spectating at triathlons, is how other people prepare themselves, from sprint to ironman the principles are the same, the facial expressions are the same, and the way you see people eyeing up and comparing themselves to the rest of the field is the same.

Watching intently, you see some of the first-timers with a look of absolute terror on their face; dreaming of the finish line and planning to take the day as it comes.

Then you see the confident multiple ironmen (and women) that have a plan, the ones that ride the Cervelo P5’s with a carbon disk wheel, they know and truly believe they are better than you. They don’t give away any body language because that’s weakness, and an ironman is just a typical Sunday for them. Next there are the ones also don’t give away any body language–Jon–you can’t tell what they are thinking except they are running through the day in their head, the processes, transition, nutrition plan, their average pace and so on. And last but not least there are the ones like my dad. The one that buys a long sleeve top the day before, because he wasn’t sure what the weather would be like and didn’t want to get cold on the bike–but then left it in his hotel room anyway. He starts preparing for the swim start and realises he also left his swimming hat in the hotel. But aside from that he is quietly confident, he’s done the training and in the end, time is irrelevant, it’s just another triathlon that has a badass name.

As the swimmers stand on the beach waiting for the gun to sound and enter the lake, the music begins and the commentators attempt to remind the athletes why we do triathlons. Enjoyment comes at a price (entry fee) and aside from the professionals, we do this for pleasure, for a challenge and to do something different. The beginning of races are stressful, with around 2500 triathletes sweating twice as much as they should in their wetsuits, apprehensive about how brutal the swim will be. It is a huge juxtaposition between stress, emotion, and lashings of testosterone as people swim over you. All for that moment of glory holding your arms and head up high, closing your eyes and embracing the feeling of relief as you cross the finish line. We do it for the medal being hung around our necks as our token of achievement and memorabilia to keep forever more, for the tattoo on the back of the legs and for the look of respect when people ask “have you done an ironman?” When your name and your time flashes up on the finishing gantry, that’s evidence that you did it. And all of this is why hearing music, the cheering and commentators voices as the gun goes off and you enter the water at the beginning of any race, is important to remember why we do it*.

IMG_7117

I made my way back to transition to hang up our COLT flag near their bikes and met the rest of our family and friends for a second breakfast for our long day ahead–after watching them in T1 and out onto the bike, of course.  We headed to “heartbreak hill” as it is known in Ironman terms to watch them pass from there. “Wild” is the only way to describe it. Think Le Tour De France up Buttertubs Pass in Yorkshire. There was about a metre and a half gap for the cyclists to pass as locals and supporters lined the hill. The most dangerous thing was family and friends swapping bottles of their soon-to-be Ironmen and women in the tiny space and then running alongside them. (Despite there being an aid station 200yrds further on…)

The atmosphere was amazing as supporters made their voices hoarse all day and had sore hands from clapping by the time they finished–much like COLT alley.  We headed down to the event area and managed to get a spot watching all of the cyclists and runners pass on their laps. As the day went on and more and more people were coming into T2 to start the marathon, my mother and I sat and shouted people’s names to cheer them on. (Only the British ones, and the ones that we’re walking.) There is a flag and first names on the athletes race numbers which happen to hang around the crotch area. In addition to this, 85% of the field were men.  It was entertaining for both us and them, as most people said “thanks” and others gave you funny looks. Some which expressed “yes mum?” And others: “how do you know my name?”

My dad and Jon seemed to be doing well and smiled each time we saw them. My mother was shouting in transition at guess who… “what’s he walking for!” We measured the time gap between them and had estimated times of their arrival at specific points so that we knew if the day was going to plan. There was eight minutes between them in the swim which remained at eight minutes half way through the bike and they were ahead of their schedule. After T2, an outfit change and what we thought was a cup of tea and biscuits, my dad had dropped back to 15 minutes behind but seemed to be running strong. As it was four 10km laps on the run, we worked out that we would see one of them around every half an hour if they held their pace.

On his third lap we began to get worried about my dad, he was behind our estimated time of when he will pass us and we heard when he did pass that he had been in the sin bin for 6 minutes! He never mentioned what for so we discussed what it was likely to be: peeing in the wrong place at the wrong time, detouring from the routes to pee in the wrong place at the wrong time, or nipping into transition while on the run to get a quick slice of his beloved Soreen.

IMG_7114On his last lap, we saw that Jon had a storming run completing the marathon in 4:01hrs, and finishing in 11:30. My dad had kept his pace, but with a couple of mishaps like being in the sin bin, and slowing down on the last lap finishing in 12:30.  All in all, a short day for an ironman! Helped along by our double breakfast, homemade sandwiches, and some pizza stolen from the finishers tent afterwards. A fantastic day for the newly crowned Ironmen, and what finished with wine and beers on the balcony to celebrate.

 

*”we” meaning a collective group of triathletes, using Ironman as an example, not excluding shorter distance athletes.

IMG_7120