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

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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

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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.

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What makes our greatest athletes?

Photo by: Jaguar Mena_Flickr
Chris Froome became the first person to ride through the channel tunnel. Photo by: Jaguar Mena_Flickr

Where does the grit come from at the very beginning of an athletes career? The grit which is the very reason they have won a gold medal at the Olympics, became a world champion, and won the yellow jersey.

The same grit, that shoehorned them into the sport, to put their focus into something positive. Channel the energy into something constructive; causes blood, sweat, tears and shows where they have come from, and where they are going.

Teams at the Olympics are handpicked. With a vast amount of reasons for competing in their chosen sport. Many, because they were told they would never be good enough, they don’t have the mental capacity, their body is not the body of an Olympian, or they fear the very sport they compete in.

Continue reading “What makes our greatest athletes?”

The Olympics has lost it’s spark

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The build up to Rio 2016 has been like no other in the history of the Olympics. London 2012 was the start of the ancient sporting event steadily going downhill. With questionable funding statements, confusing and ugly artwork surrounding the Olympic park, and an sporting legacy left in tatters after little longer than six positive months post-Olympics, which didn’t last in the UK, nor did we have the funding for.

Rio 2016 has been surrounded by far too many drugs tests, and missed drugs tests in the press. A country being eliminated from competing, then allowed back into compete. Along with the stadium barely being finished, water unsafe to swim in and a body washing up. Athletes kit going missing, an athlete being held on sexual assault, protests, and the athletes village being half built: it will certainly be an Olympics to remember–but not for the right reasons.

Continue reading “The Olympics has lost it’s spark”

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”

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.

European champs: Challenge Paguera race report

10730905_10152801801128656_8938323613375215012_nMy first ever European champs representing Great Britain’s U20 team, and it’s up there as one of the hardest races I’ve ever done; more for the ‘new experience’ rather than the race.

After myself, my dad and many others from the British team trained for a flat and fast course, we were in for a surprise. I’m not sure of the exact elevation of the bike and run courses, but I’m certain that they weren’t “flat” like advertised!

SWIM

During the week leading up to the race it was bordering being a wetsuit banned swim, and at 24 degrees C on race day, it certainly was! However, the race was in the sea and despite the salt, it was fairly pleasant to swim in. The surfer waves we were paddling in on Friday afternoon had disappeared by Saturday lunch time when the race started, and I was on for an open water PB, despite my Garmin saying afterwards I had done 1.6 miles instead of 1.2!

Disappointingly, my dad was out of the water just before me, but transition isn’t his strong point and I was in and out before him in no time.

CHPE1202-20x30

BIKE

Onto the bike, and the first of the two lap course goes through the town center scattered with supporters, until you begin to climb the 151m climb up to the turn around point and the first aid station. The roads get narrower as you climb higher and reach the first town making it difficult to overtake and not to be seen drafting!

After the turnaround point my dad left me for dead on his road bike and I didn’t see him again until the run. After the biggest climb at the beginning of the laps, the course was littered with slight inclines that damaged your average speed and required a little more power–enough to make it harder than you had planned and expected.

Cycling on closed roads was a brilliant experience, it was well managed by the police, and despite the hills, the course was scenic. The support through the Magaluf strip was brilliant with people sat in bars drinking all afternoon and shouting “go GB!” And I can now say I’ve been to Magaluf twice…

10001483_10152808694503656_2865468149819653921_nThe descents were fast and technical, and if you had good handling skills, that’s where you could make up your average speed. I flew through my first lap and got considerably slower on my second after losing a bottle and having back and neck ache, probably due to having to re-build my bike after the flight.

It was a very hot day, something around 31 degrees C, and with no clouds in the sky and direct sunlight on you all afternoon, staying hydrated was incredibly important. The race got harder as I was getting dehydrated after decanting a bottle from the cages on my seat a couple of miles after the last aid station, but soon enough 56 miles came along and T2 was waiting.

RUN

Transition was huge, with three racks of bikes that went on for a good few 100m, we had to run to the end and back before we could collect our run bags, so there was no chance of a quick T2.

The run course was an undulating four laps of the town center with the main hill getting steeper each time you went up it; or at least it seemed that way.

My first run lap was difficult with little energy left in my legs and being thirsty for water, I took on everything: water, Pepsi, and isotonic drink and soon enough, my pace picked up and I felt better.

With it being late afternoon it was still very hot, but much of the run course was shaded, and with sponges and bottles of water being thrown over us by spectators the heat wasn’t a problem, and it was pleasant being out. Except squelching shoes as I plodded on for 13 miles dripping wet.

The ‘new experience’ was meeting Peter Whent on the second or third lap when I was beginning to get delusional and zone out, when he introduced himself and I muttered some tangled words before asking if it’s acceptable to wet yourself during the run (we all know that’s a yes on the bike) and as he said yes, I grabbed a few bottles of water at the aid station, and it is one of the hardest and strangest things I’ve ever tried to do. I didn’t fail, but I didn’t entirely succeed and I came to realise that when you are really trying to wet yourself while shuffling down the  prom in Mallorca, and pouring water all over you, you really do have problems.

CHPH1574-20x30The support at the finish line and the start of each lap was incredible, with spectators handing out a Union Jack flag as you were about to cross the line, and throughout the whole of the run I planned my finish line face, when actually I sprinted across the line with my arms half in the air and a look of bewilderment because I had just come second in Europe for U20 middle distance, and it was difficult to take in the electric atmosphere.

But the best feeling of the day wasn’t standing on the podium waving my flag like a lost child, or receiving a silver medal. It was watching the last two women cross the finish line a minute or so apart and seeing the entire place light up and cheer them on to congratulate them on a very tough and in some parts, a lonely day out.

For one of them it was her second ever triathlon, and to see that almost everyone in the town was there cheering them both on is what makes this sport so fantastic.

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!

 

High5 Product Review

I was lucky enough to be sent a few goodies–High5 sports nutrition products by TFN to try and review, so here goes!

Energy Source, Energy Source Plus, and Energy Source Xtreme.

Easy on the stomach, tastes more like fruit cordial more than an energy drink which makes it a lot easier to drink on a bike ride and doesn’t just taste like pure sugar like some other products. This became particularly important after my last triathlon which had a very choppy swim and made it difficult to stomach food, drink or gels on the bike due to all of these products tasting so sugary and sickly!

It comes with a money back guarantee if you don’t like it so the chances are… you will.

High5 Xtreme has added caffeine for when you need a kick.

High5 Zero Tabs

http://www.tfn.uk.com/high-5-zero-hydration-tablets-tube-citrus

The citrus have to be (in my opinion) the best flavor, and the best thing about these are that they are zero calories! (Berry and pink grapefruit also come pretty close). So if you are doing a long session and aiming to burn fat rather than consume sugar and calories while you do it, these are your best option. Or rather a short session and need something in between water and energy these are also your best option. Zero calories to maximise fat burn while replenishing electrolytes, salt to avoid cramping and minerals you cannot retrieve from water.

Berry Zero tabs also come with added caffeine which seems odd for hydro tabs but another good use is for throughout the day if you begin to fall asleep at your desk, drop one into a bottle of water to make water a little more interesting as well as staying hydrated throughout the day. Also to be used to rehydrate after a long workout to quench your thirst!

High5 Energy Gel, ISO Gel

http://www.tfn.uk.com/high-5-energy-gel-summer-fruits-box-20

http://www.tfn.uk.com/high-5-isogel-citrus-with-caffeine-box-25

Several flavours and personally I haven’t had any problems with any of them. ISO Gels come with added caffeine which is welcomed after a long time in the saddle! I was a bit sceptical of the Energy Gels at first as in the packet they feel quite watery unlike some other brands which are very ‘gloopy’, however the watery the better! Hence, you don’t have to consume water straight afterwards which makes it easier when you don’t have a water bottle to hand. They are easy to swallow, and easy on the stomach. Packed with 23g of carbs, if they don’t give you a boost, you probably should stop and sit down, or seek medical attention.

High5 ISO Gels are more like a concentrated energy drink for an extra boost with 24g of carbs and are again very easy to consume, much like drinking fruit juice.

High5 Protein

http://www.tfn.uk.com/nutrition/post-training-nutrition

Banana is my favorite, and out of the many proteins I have had, some taste like milkshake, and others taste like I don’t know what. So again I was quite apprehensive about this one, but felt pleasantly surprised afterwards. It does just taste like banana milkshake!

Conveniently you can buy it in sachets which save all the measuring and mess making, or if you prefer in a 1.6kg tub.

Almost all of these products come in cheaper than other brands. If you would like to test these products, enter a race they sponsor… Outlaw Half had nine feed stations in total, with everything you could imagine from bananas, coke, to all the energy substances you could ever want.

One downside I would like to point out is that the packaging is very dull and boring. Yes, bright colours and large writing makes it simple and to the point, and yes, we care more about what’s inside the packet than outside, but when you have a basket full of energy gels, bars, and drink powder from all different brands, the design of the packaging can make a product look much more desirable–or the opposite.

One last thing is that out of all the nutrition brands I have tried, High5 have the best bottles.

Aberfeldy Half-ironman Race Report

The worst weather conditions to race in, in my life. [So far]

Looking at the size of the waves on Loch Tay the day before, we were certain that the swim would be shortened, and in the race briefing, the organisers were still deciding whether to shorten it or not on Saturday night.

The day started some time just before 5am, waking up to the words “happy birthday” from Jack. We went down to Kenmore where the race started and I set up transition. It was just becoming light when we arrived and the weather didn’t look promising. The forecast was for showers all day and for plenty of wind… My wave was off at 7am, despite the water being choppy, I was in good spirits, and didn’t feel nervous at all*. I’m a confident swimmer, have swam in all different temperatures, so to swim in a loch renowned for being cold, it wasn’t too bad.

*Ever since Christmas, my confidence has increased significantly. I have learned to have confidence in my own ability, and this showed through my exams this year, and also in all of the races I have done since.

We heard the sound of bagpipes and we were off. The course was a simple inverted triangle with the first leg swimming directly across the loch, then directly into the current making it impossible to get any closer to the buoy, and then back to the marina.

The longer we were in the water the harder it was, as the next two waves set off in around 20 minutes later the wind picked up and the waves got bigger…

More than anything it was frustrating to be swimming and not moving anywhere.

Getting out of the swim I heard Jack and my dad shout for me, and I saw the dogs feet. Afterwards, they said I didn’t look very well, the waves made me feel sick and having a sip of some sugar on the bike didn’t make me feel any better. But I started to climb and it started to rain. The weather was getting worse the higher we got, and as the day went on. We descended down Schiehallion and not long after, arrived at the bottom of Loch Rannoch for the flat section. As I sought comfort in the aero position, it was clear that it was going to be a long day. The wind got stronger and the rain got harder, it was cold; and not very nice conditions to be out in. As I got further around the loch, the sickness had passed, but now my hands were too cold to eat any food. Physically I was going well, I had only drank half a bottle and had one gel and didn’t feel the need for any extra energy.

My motivation for doing the race was that the scenery is beautiful–and it was, I’d have appreciated it more on a sunny day–and I wanted to enjoy it on my birthday! As I got further and further into the bike course it took me 40 miles to decide to pull out, as I got colder and colder, I was not enjoying any of it, and it was possibly turning into the worst birthday ever. The reason why we do triathlons is because we enjoy them; I wasn’t enjoying it so what’s the point? It became a question of health vs the pride of the finish line and the achievement.

If I had continued I would have been ill and not in a good state, I understood that after I stopped. I found some marshalls and they wrapped me in coats and blankets and put me in the car with the heater on. It took me well over an hour to warm up, and when I did feel warm, I was still shivering. I felt like the Mitchellin Man with the amount of clothes I was wearing, I was in tears due to giving in and it being my first DNF, I felt like wuss giving in even though my legs and energy levels were ok. I thought that when I got back everyone else would have finished and I would be the only one that didn’t.

On the way back somebody was being airlifted after falling off their bike, so I didn’t feel like the only one not to finish. Then we saw runners heading back to Aberfeldy to finish their race. It was like a stab in the chest thinking “that should be me!”

As many of you may know, I struggle to make decisions, this is probably why it took me 40 miles to decide! I wanted to stop because I was too cold, and wasn’t enjoying it, but then I thought about what my dad would say if I had a DNF… Annette Quarry still managed to complete Ironman UK even though she had a stomach bug, Chris Lawson completed Ironman Lanzarote even though “he had a foot like spam” as Andy Holgate referred to it in his book. Determination wasn’t really part of the decision. I’m determined at the best of times but this wasn’t due to tiredness. I thought about what John Knapp would say… just keep turning the pedals… and one foot in front of the other… but again it wasn’t tiredness so it didn’t apply.

I fought hard against having a DNF, but then as Jack always says look at the bigger picture. It’s my birthday and why should I put myself through this when I don’t have to? It wasn’t the course that was the problem, it was just the weather. Shit happens.

I have my GB age-group race in October and currently my options are: make myself ill to complete this, making training for Mallorca harder… or stop now, and focus on the more important race, and everything else between now and then.

I’m not a professional, so my life doesn’t revolve around triathlon. One DNF in my life isn’t the end of the world; in the end, nobody else cares but me.

There was my answer. I continued until I found a point where I could stop, they gave me coats and and put the heater on in the car and took me back to Aberfeldy where my parents and Jack informed me that around 25 people were pulled out of the swim or told my a doctor on the edge of the marina not to continue. After that I remembered that at the beginning of the bike leg, some people had turned around and gone back.

And talking to a couple back in the hotel who looked like serious triathletes, one said it was the worst thing he has ever done and the other said she is a long distance runner and refused to run after arriving in T2.

The organisers of the race had a few too many problems on their hands when the swim should have been shortened, the marshals sent the first person on the bike the wrong way, and when Fraser Cartmell got into T2, they lost his transition bag and he ran off with two different shoes that spectators had thrown at him after he was shouting “I’m a size nine!”

Another tale at the finish line was that one of the top five males crossed the line… the organiser said “well done Doug, brilliant effort” and he replied: “F**k you Richard, that was ridiculous!”

So after hearing these tales, I felt better that the decision to stop was the right one, and it was a wild day for everyone else as well.

But it wasn’t a ruined day. We headed back to the hotel, I got warm and showered and Jack and I went out for an early Sunday roast and to celebrate the rest of my birthday. We were heading for a film in bed before an early night when Graeme and Dianne our hosts called us into the conservatory on the way back and the evening was spent drinking wine and whisky in good company until the late hours when it really was time for bed.

The day may have started off rubbish, but it soon got better and in the end, the triathlon didn’t even matter, because I had one of the best weekends with the best people in a long time. And that’s the bigger picture.

 

 

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.

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If Le Tour De Yorkshire was a success, what does this mean for cycling in Britain?

Cycling in Britain appears in the news more than it should. There is always a new story about a cyclist being killed on the road, stories from cyclists about being shouted abuse at, many even wear helmet cameras just in case of an incident! Road cyclists aren’t a favourite of motorists in cities like London and Manchester, and even smaller and more rural places like Lancaster.

I started writing this post about how successful the first two stages of Le Tour De France was in Yorkshire, and whether attitudes would change upon cycling in the UK.

I saved it as a draft and went out on my bike, and now I’ve deleted it and changed the focus of the post because nothing has changed what-so-ever.

During the short loop of 22 miles I did, included being beeped at and shouted at more than once and, being called an “[effing] moron” just for cycling…

The first incident was coming over the bridge at the beginning of Lancaster’s one way system. There were two of us riding single file and sticking to our left side of the road so cars could pass. Can picture it? Think of your stereotypical taxi driver, constantly drives over the speed limit, pulls out on cyclists and other drivers whenever he feels like it, and thinks he owns the road. Beeps at us and shouts out of the window at us to “move out of the way”. Move to where? We were already as far into the left side of the road as was possible.

To my delight, about 100yds ahead, the traffic lights turned to red and he stopped. So I did the obvious thing and acted like a first class prick: stopped about two metres in front of him and waited for the lights to turn to green. When they finally did, I rode very slowly in front of the car at about 13mph until he angrily sped off into the left lane.

We carried on going up through town, and about half a mile from where the incident with the taxi driver occurred, we were called “f***ing morons” as we cycled up the one-way system, bearing in mind it has two lanes, nobody was in the other lane and we were again, riding single file and on the left side of the road. This one infuriated me even more because I couldn’t get revenge. However, it did fuel me with anger to pedal up the Lancaster Royal Grammar School hill pretty quick. I am still Queen of the Mountain on that category four climb.

With over two and half million people lining the streets of Yorkshire over the weekend to watch Le Grande DÊpart,  it was said that it was one of the best departs of Le Tour De France, and is likely that it will return to the UK in the coming years.

The race director Christan Prudhomme said:

“I can see the Tour in their hearts, and in their eyes. For that, I say thank you to everyone in Yorkshire who has made this Grand Depart so very, very special.”

It was also noted that it wasn’t just local people that turned up to watch the professionals whizz past, people from all over the country came to watch. The peloton even had to stop part-way up Buttertubs pass due to the volume of people and lack of road space. After the success of London 2012, more people started cycling and realised the benefits of schemes like Ride2Work and used it as an incentive to cycle:

Mark Brown, Head of Ride2Work at Evans Cycles, said: “The big stat we had was of that from July to August we saw 150% increase in people joining from the same period in 2011.” (Cycling Weekly 2013)

Over the weekend, more people certainly got out on their bikes in Yorkshire, as roads closed to cars at 6am on the morning of the stages and the only way to get around was on foot or by pedalling. As I cycled up Buttertubs at 9:30, the peloton was not due to be passing until 2pm, and people were already getting themselves a spot on the hill. 10488135_10203846251053897_1856081899815137271_n

The success of the Tour in Yorkshire was a celebration of cycling, and many turned up on their best bikes in their best club and team kit.

10518662_10203846099490108_7981864125507733782_nMore and more people support cycling, if not do it themselves. London 2012 sparked enthusiasm and inspiration in many to take up sport, whether it was doing their first triathlon, or going to play football. London 2012 was a success due to the smooth running of the events, and also the support and interest of so many proud British people, proud to support Team GB and proud to have the Olympic and Paralympic Games in their country.

If well respected events like the Olympic and Paralympics, Le Tour De France and so many others can’t change peoples attitudes towards cyclists, what will?

My question is, with so many people from across the UK turning up to watch and support the Tour, as well as more and more of the UK’s population beginning to cycle themselves, why are cyclists still hated on the roads in Britain?

So… I Made The British Team

So… I made the British age-group team for middle distance triathlon.  (70.3/ half-ironman)

I won my age-group in my first ever middle distance race.

I have a very good chance at being British Champion at the British and Scottish qualifier in Aberfeldy for middle distance.

And in my third middle distance race I will be racing Challenge Rimini the ETU championships, with my name on my tri-suit and representing my country in the Under 20 category.

I’m quite proud of myself!

I started triathlon two years ago when I joined COLT (City of Lancaster Triathlon) for their open water swimming sessions. As my dad was roped into the stupidly simple sport by an injured friend who needed someone to fulfill his place in Fleetwood tri, he signed me up to a triathlon too.

Cockerham triathlon 2012.

I could open water swim, although this “lake” was in a field filled with rainwater and cow droppings … (don’t ask). I had done a few sportives, was due to do the Manchester 100 miler a few weeks afterwards (on no training–again don’t ask) and no matter how much I said I hated running; I was signed up every year to the Great Manchester Run without consent, and was dragged along to the odd 5 or 10km local race and passed by every single vet 50.

I finished in 1:31:16, and caught the triathlon bug–perhaps it was something in the “lake”.

2013 was my best season, I left the hockey club, got fit and trained over winter. I attended some technique classes for my swim stroke and in no time became pretty good at swimming. The coach Sue, made me start training with Carnforth Otters, I was then invited to the COLT Thursday night swimming sessions, where I met almost all of my club friends, and became more of a capable swimmer.

Alongside this, I was cycling for fun now, rather than being forced to and I suddenly understood why people enjoy road cycling. I started running, I did Lancaster Half Marathon, joined the running club at Lancaster & Morecambe Athletics Club. and things were going well for me. I was now fit: doing three spinning classes per week, running at the club twice a week and cycling at the weekend. I did another sprint triathlon in Kendal and kept going. The next sprint triathlon was Capernwray, and one month after Kendal I knocked 13 minutes off my sprint triathlon time.

Next was, The London Triathlon, olympic distance. After my A level exams were over, my days were spent working or cycling. I became a fantastic cyclist, doing 70 odd mile rides in the Trough of Bowland just to fill my time up. I became a fan of open water swimming, doing a race in the Lake District and cycling the 50-60 miles home for training, I wanted to see how good my swimming was one night, and took on the Ironman-distance swim (3.8km). Nine timed laps of our usual lake at the club swim and I did it in 1:17, a respectable time for that distance, I didn’t train or get nervous about it, just turned up and did it.

I extended my run distance with a couple more 10km’s and half marathons. I did the Manchester 100 sportive, but this time enjoyed it, and did it in 5 hours 45min easily, averaging around 16mph.

Running became my nemesis and something I struggled with, particularly distance. But swimming and cycling I could do all day.

I was on fire this season. I completed the London Triathlon in a PB of 2:43, another respectable time.

My dad had just completed Ironman UK 70.3 in Wimbleball. And said that I should probably do one. I could easily do the distance, and it was the next logical step up from olympic distance triathlons. So I signed up to the Outlaw Half 2014 race. I had a break from September to December whilst I settled into university.

2014 began with so many changes in my life, the main one being the start of my relationship with Jack, who is also in the British age-group team for duathlon. He raced the ETU sprint duathlon in April this year in Horst, Netherlands and did very well being 10th in the 25-29 category in Europe.

My training kicked off with a week in Club La Santa in January with my parents, who both had/ have races to also begin training for:

My mum: Virgin London Marathon 2014

My dad: Ironman Zurich 2014

On 1st June 2014, I completed my first middle distance triathlon and crossed the line in a respectable time of 6:16:09 (with plenty of areas to improve for a sub-6hr). I had the pleasure of being told I was the winner of the female Under 24 category.

As I ran my last lap around the rowing lake, I already knew what was next: Aberfeldy middle distance triathlon, where I can be British Champion in the female Under 20 category.

I never thought being part of the British team was on the cards for me, and I certainly never thought it or knew what was ahead of me when I dived into that field in Cockerham.

A lot of people are surprised that I have completed a middle distance race at the age of eighteen, and are also surprised that I can survive the miles I do, swimming 5km, cycling 100+miles, and half marathons are becoming more and more popular for people my age.

Physiologically, and historically, younger people have fast twitch muscle fibers and should be fast over short distances. Generally speaking, I shouldn’t have endurance at my age, which is why endurance events such as half-ironman, Ironman and so on, are attractive to older people, (with a few exceptions such as myself) who have had time to build an aerobic base.

I haven’t got an Ironman in me yet, but I’ll certainly give middle distance a good go. Jack says the feeling of having your name and “GBR” on your tri-suit is indescribable, and I certainly cannot wait to find out.

Outlaw half race report

10432942_667556003314459_5228502497892675885_n “Excited” wasn’t the word. Jack and I travelled down to Leicester on the Friday afternoon and spent the Friday night and Saturday night staying over with friends. Jack raced Nottingham sprint triathlon on Saturday, a qualifier for the ITU and ETU sprint triathlon championships. Jack was 30th
in his category, racing against national age-group athletes and outright winners, and only six places away from qualifying for ETU triathlon champs next year. Well done Jack.

I registered and went to the race briefing on Saturday afternoon and then the spotlight was on me.

I am more than glad that Jack had raced on the Saturday, not only was it a good opportunity for him to race and try to qualify, but it also took a hell of a lot of pressure off me going into the race, knowing that the weekend wasn’t just about me and I could support him.

Race day started at 4:30am at Jon and Nikki’s with everything packed, organised and ready to go. We left at 5am and it was chaos by the time we got into transition. Nikki and I were off at 7am in the last wave and Jon at 6:40.

Surprisingly, I wasn’t nervous, I was ready to race feeling positive with my training and that I was as ready as I’ll ever be for this race. 7am soon arrived and we were off, the water was full of weeds, (more so than the club relays last year) and was extremely murky. At one point I had weeds stuck to my face whilst swimming. And as Jack said: it was like swimming through an underwater garden centre.

Despite feeling fast, my swim was extremely slow, I spent the whole of the bike and run wondering where I went wrong. It was a straight out and back and I am positive it was slightly longer than it should have been. A mixture of zigzagging, drifting towards the middle, and swimming through a garden all contributed to a slow swim. In the last 500m I looked up and wondered where everybody had gone… I thought “I can’t be at the front surely” and… “I can’t be at the back!” but as I glanced at the Garmin stepping out of the swim and it said 47:00… it was bad news. However, transition seemed to only be one-quarter empty, so it wasn’t all bad.

My transition splits were pretty swift (not compared to sprint or standard distance) managing a long-ish run from the swim exit to get my bike and get my wetsuit off which is usually a tough task:

T1: 3:12

T2: 2:17

My first thought on the bike was “count how many people you pass” and in the first two or three minutes I had lost count… so my next thought was “count how many people pass you” and this was seven all together! Four of which were male which I wasn’t too worried about, and if a woman passed me, I got all competitive and thought “right, I’m not having that”–not the best idea for an endurance race, but nevermind, I managed to keep that number to a minimum, so I had made up quite a few places by the time I had finished the bike.

10435843_10152460893128656_433417485587717418_nI had averaged 19mph for the first 30 miles and then slowed down to 18.2mph until 50 miles. After 50 miles my back was killing and my saddle (to say the least), my tri-suit has no padding! But I tried to hold my speed, stay strong and put up with the pain for the last few miles to get myself back to T2 and start the run. The bike course was very scenic, windless and flat, making me wonder whether this was going to turn out to be a perfect day or not. I thoroughly enjoyed the bike course and was beginning to wonder whether this could be my distance, and then telling myself, wait until my nemesis (run) and then decide.

I had to force myself to eat on the bike, I took a piece of flapjack and a granola bar, as much as I like granola bars, whilst cycling and in the aero position it was like eating gravel. Trying to breathe as well as eat proved hard with it all falling out of my mouth–it wasn’t pretty.

My plan of taking one bottle on the bike and collecting some more on the aid stations proved to be a good idea! To give some context: on one of my long rides in training I put a couple of bottles in the cages on the back of the seat. Somewhere around Lytham St Annes, a mixture between going over some bumps and my bum being oversized, knocked off and smashed one of my favourite bottles! I made a couple of adjustments to the cages with the hope that my bum, and the bottles would fit on the seat, as it was a DQ if you got caught littering on the course, and my plan proved to have worked.

Apart from back and bum pain I was in good spirits, I was hydrated and energised and ready to smash the run.

As I came back into transition I saw my mum and dad who came down to support me and it gave me a boost seeing familiar faces.

Just as I had racked my bike in T2 the guy with the microphone read out my name as I crossed the timing mat (albeit he couldn’t pronounce my name) and said that I was first in my age-group. I screamed as thoughts of winning my age-group had left my head after a bad swim. This gave me the boost I needed to run out of transition and do the first mile in about 8:10min/miles. I saw Jack just as I was about to start my first lap down the towpath and he ran alongside me telling me that he was proud of me! (Aww)

10296578_10152461248218656_35913321525741919_nI ran strong, held my form and gritted my teeth when it got tough. I had expected to be passed by many, but again it was the opposite way around, although, it was difficult to tell which lap people were on so I didn’t bother counting this time. The two lap course made the 13.1 miles easier to break down. I thought I would struggle on the run and end up run/walking, so I hadn’t planned a time or a pace, I would just take it as it comes–but the only time I walked was through the aid stations, making sure I was hydrated and stayed energised as my mum and dad had drilled into me days before, the night before, and every time they saw me that day. They, and Jack popped up at different points around the run course and then cheered me on as I ran down the finishers chute to become an Outlaw! (Well… half)

I began to struggle at around 10.5 miles of the run, just beginning my last lap of the lake, but I was determined to just keep plodding on… and I remembered one of the quotes from a COLT:

“just keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward.”

The last mile of the run was the hardest, there was a feed station at the top of the lake, and looking at my watch on my last time past it, it was exactly 12 miles. One mile to go, I can do this! But words cannot describe how demoralising that lake is. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, if you stand at one end, you cannot see the other. Yet, at the top of the lake (furthest away) you could hear the cheers of the stand, and the names of people finishing but could not see it. So at 12 miles I could hear it, and I knew I was almost there, but the long straight home feels so much longer than one mile. 12.10, 12.20, 12.30… I was getting closer and closer and passing more people. At this point my knees and hips were beginning to hurt and I pushed on determined to pick my pace up. Groups of people started to appear cheering everyone on and suddenly I was running down the finishers chute for a sprint finish, I saw my parents and Jack, this was my moment and I enjoyed every single second. As I crossed the line it was confirmed that I was the winner of my age-group and I screamed, I had never been happier to race my first middle distance and get on the podium later (literally… I was on the podium, with prizes and everything)

I finished in 6:16, my target was around six hours and to beat my dads time for Ironman UK 70.3 last year which was 6:20 and I did it! As I plodded along on the run, I felt quite content, I was happy, enjoying it and I could easily highlight the areas to be improved for a sub six-hour.

Thanks to my parents for coming down to support me, Chris and Martha, and Nikki and Jon for giving us somewhere to stay and race prep! COLT for being inspirational and the most supportive club in the world. Everybody for their wishes of good luck.

But most of all to Jack for being there for me throughout my training and the race itself. If I panicked he was there to comfort me, he kept me mostly calm throughout, (albeit he has stressed me out a few times throughout the last few months) and he believed in me when I didn’t. Without him I would have entered the water a nervous wreck, and have suffered mentally a lot throughout that race. But knowing he was there, and seeing him in different places throughout the run supporting me was an amazing feeling. Thank you. X

 

p.s. You lot that do Ironman are all mental, respect!

Outlaw training week 10, 11, 12 and 13

Ok, so I may have neglected the summary of my weeks training for the last couple of weeks, but I’ve still put in the hard work and done the training!

So lets start with the mileage of each week.

Week 10

Swim: 1.2 mile

Bike: 56 miles

Run: 10.5miles

 

Week 11

Swim: 2.1 miles

Bike: 0

Run: 12miles

 

Week 12

Swim: 3.1 miles

Bike: 48miles

Run: 17.5 miles

 

Week 13:

Swim: 1.9 mile swim

Bike: 87 miles

Run: 18.1 miles

Now into week 14 of training with only THREE weeks to go and I am very excited!

In the last few runs I’ve had TWO 10km PB’s… the first was during a 10 mile run by one minute and 30 seconds, the second one was a few days later (week 13) and I did a quick 10km with another 1:30min shaved off it. Progression isn’t the word!!!

Week 12 ended with Kendal triathlon: the first tri of the season and I was on target. Granted three minutes slower than I had planned, however there was a mechanical error on my bike and I ended up having to do the hills in the big cog–which set me back a minute or so. Another thing was that I should have just ran faster! I was out all on my own (first out of the pool by a long time) therefore it was a lonely race for me having nobody to chase, or chase me.

But, I still put in a good performance and my focus is on endurance not speed. Over these 14 weeks I have worked to adapt my body to endurance and now feel that Kendal sprint was not going to be a PB or my main focus. It was just a race to test myself, have a run through a triathlon before the big one, and remember everything!

Back to week 13, I did my first open water swim of the season at Capernwray dive centre and it was coooooooold! 10 degrees with a swim-suit, tri-suit and a wetsuit on! But we did 1km and it wasn’t actually too bad after about 200m.

20140506-104114.jpgThe long ride of week 13 was 87 miles. Averageing 16.4mph which took about five hours. Felt good when we returned home and finished it off with a short transition run to test the legs. As it was training with my dad (for Ironman Zurich) we were (supposed) to take it at 16.7mph–the average speed for his race– but with the addition of another member of Team Lewis we slowed down a bit. She did well bless her.

So… my target for the race is to average 16-18mph. A target which so far seems ok. On a different training ride I did 50 miles in three hours, inclusive of a headwind and some hills so some more mileage in that awful and extremely uncomfortable saddle and we should be there. (I hope)

My running seems to have improved… perhaps with the addition of a Garmin to tell me my pace and shout at myself when I need to pick up the pace. The miles seem to be clocking up quite nicely at the moment. On my recent long run (10 miles) my average pace was 8:28min/miles which is a good target, and my plan is to be slower than that on race day with swim arms and bike legs. But I also need to remember it is a race and I can’t stop the clock whenever I want!

Morecambe sunset
Morecambe sunset

So, this week: week 14 will see some strength work in the  gym for my core, arms and shoulders which will follow through until the race as well as a couple more open water swims in Dock 9 (Salford) now the season has started. Then finishing the week off with a brick session consisting of 1-1:30 hours on the bike followed by the Morecambe Half-marathon (Morecambe pictured) just as a test.

Happy days 🙂