Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The big challenge

So triathlon completed on Monday morning, it was time to come home and log onto the computer to book the next race...  Actually, it's not exactly the next race, but it is my big 2013 season goal: Ironman 70.3 Zell am See, and partly the reason why I set this blog up.

Mr W and I were married in Zell am See in August 2011 (having got engaged there in December 2009), and as such it is a very special place to us.  Where better than to make my long course racing debut?  We have been planning to go back there for some time and this seems to us like the perfect excuse for a trip and holiday.

Since getting into tri, I have been keen to try something really challenging, and this will be the biggest challenge!  I don't yet have any interest in doing an Ironman as I can't see how I could fit the training into my current life-patterns but I think the 70.3 should be just about do-able.

For those of you unfamiliar with 70.3 events, they are half the distance of a full ironman.  This means a disproportionately short (compared with an Olympic Distance Tri) swim of 1900m, a 90km bike, and then a half marathon.   The swim must be completed within 1 hour and 10 minutes (that's the bit I'm confident about), the bike and swim by 5 hours, 15 minutes, and the whole thing within 8 hours, 30 minutes.  The bike cut off is what makes me nervous at present.  I've cycled maybe 50k so far, but certainly not in the half of the time allowed to me.  So there will be a lot of cycling training going on.

We've booked the time off work and we've booked to stay in the hotel where we were married from.  Nearer the time, we'll be looking at booking somewhere to stay on the way down there (we have conveniently located friends about halfway in Heidelberg).

I've already started looking at training schedules and have a vague idea of what I will need to do in my mind come the start of 2013; more excitingly, I've been looking at races that I can do in the run-up.  So far I've found a pool-sprint in March, Blenheim tri in June, an Olympic distance in early July, and I'm hoping that a half-iron-aquaman (the run and the swim without the bike) will fit into the calendar too.  I'm not going to completely abandon my swimming either as I hope to do my 10k swim again in May, date depending.  Oh and lots of R.E.S.T. will need to go in the schedule too, I know I can't properly train for this distance without taking a rest day each week!  But more on this all to come, I hope to blog about my journey to the 70.3 and I hope that you will follow it with me!

Monday, 27 August 2012

Things I learned from my second triathlon

Rather than a race report, here's a list of things I learned today in my second-ever-triathlon.  It was good, and I enjoyed myself, but goodness me a lot of things could have been improved on. I'm documenting them here to help me through next time, and help other aspiring triathletes.

1. Make sure you pack everything the night before.
And I mean everything, not forgetting the things that you normally put on, because if they're not in your bag, then you WILL forget them.  Just because you always put on your watch after your wedding ring, does not mean that you will do this on the morning of the race.  I got to registration and realised how naked my wrist was...  [Fortunately Mr W was on hand to lend me his, but it's big and chunky and not pink]

2.  Make sure you pack EVERYTHING the night before.
For example, not just your race belt, but also safety pins to attach your number to it with.  This error had us raiding our first aid box for safety pins, and when we found only one, sticking my number to the belt with a plaster.  Not ideal.

3. If you can't do a recce of the bike course in person, have a good look at the map.
Not necessarily just to look at where the hills are, which Mr W was trying to scare me with last night, but to get a feel for the different villages that you will be going through so that whilst out on the bike, you have a sense of how far through it you are and when you're coming up to the end.

4.  Get some R.E.S.T.
A triathlon two days after a painful 1500m swimming race and 8 days after a 14k swim is never going to feel good.   My arms felt tired still at the start of the swim which meant I was never going to get a great time.  I think I was about 6m30s for the 400m swim (the timing chip recorded my run out of the swimming pool centre too) and I know I can go at least 15s faster.

5. Dry your feet
I'd taken along trainer socks as opposed to proper socks this time (because last time I just looked stupid wearing fashion day socks with my trainers (because I don't yet have any sports socks), and thought it would be easier to get my feet in them.  Because the distance between the swim and transition was a lot shorter than in the last transition that I did, my feet didn't have much time to dry.  Trying to jam wet feet into socks isn't easy and I definitely lost time here.  Maybe standing on my towel whilst I put my helmet, sunglasses and raced belt on before attempting the socks and shoes might have helped [*of course proper triathletes will use cycle shoes, without socks, probably clipped onto the bike already, but I'm not at that stage yet)

6. If you're using new equipment, make sure you know how it works.
I have clever new laces called Greepers which work on a principle that you don't ever need to tie them, you just pull them closed.  However, although I've used them twice (and LOVE them because there's no danger of the shoes coming untied), in the heat of transition I couldn't remember which bits I was supposed to pull on to do them up.  Oops!  Another good 30s lost here.

7. If you must have water on the run and there aren't any water stations, choose a decent water bottle.
Not having managed to drink on the bike as I haven't learnt to do that yet, I decided to grab my water bottle so I could get some fluid on the run.  My bottle is neither easy to hold nor has a sports top.  I got fed up carrying it over 5k with the water sloshing around AND I had to unscrew the cap to get water out.

8. Wear a headband.
This is the easiest lesson I learned in today's tri, on the run leg this time - I've only just bought myself a headband after having had hair in my eyes whenever I run, and today was its first outing.  What a treat it was to run without hair flapping everywhere!

9.  Don't plan to do anything afterwards.
I've been home, and in bed for a few hours.  I have got to wind myself up to do some packed lunches for my husband this week, but I really wish I didn't.  Next time I'm planning to do that the day before!

10. Enjoy yourself!
Like my last triathlon, I found myself smiling for most of it, especially when there were people around to smile at.  It is good fun, and if it isn't then I guess you'd wonder why you were putting yourself through that torture!

I think my overall time was about 1h42 minutes, for what was 400m pool swim, 22.5k bike and 5k run.  I'll be interested to see how my splits break down, I was especially pleased with my bike (after much initial wobbliness and terror I actually started going pretty fast!), but also with my run as I have barely had any chance to do run training. It'll be interesting to see where I finished overall, probably right down at the bottom, but I was certainly saved from being last by the guy with a flat tyre...

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Final 1500m race of 2012

So yesterday was off to Box End Lake for the final 1500m race this year. The race was the fourth in a series of which I've managed to attend all and achieve reasonably consistent, if not improving, times.

After swimming 14k last weekend, I was a bit worried about my preparations. But it all seemed to go to plan - three gentle recovery swims building in length followed by some speed work on Thursday where I managed to do a new pb in the pool for 1k of 15:37 which I felt fantastic about. Friday was a planned rest day but I just felt exhausted. Work over the last few weeks has been taking its toll and maybe I was coming down with something.

I didn't really feel like going to the race but I knew I'd feel worse if I didn't go. And waiting to start, I couldn't see my arch-rival which meant that I basically just had to get round to come third overall in the series (it sounds better than it is as I think only three women were actually in the running in the end for a series prize as you needed to attend 3 of the 4 races).

The race was good and bad. I felt tired from the beginning, an overhang from last weekend perhaps along with feeling under the weather but my stroke was strong and looking at the weeds on the bottom I seemed to be going well. One breakaway pack were a long way in the lead, but for me it is rarely about position as that's so variable depending on who and how many turn up, and all about the time.

As I rounded the penultimate buoy with about 350m to go, I looked at my watch and saw that I was on track for another pb. I am not quite sure what went wrong but what was painful already was just increasingly painful and I had nothing left to give. I also seemed to lose the ability to sight, corroborated by my husband on the banks, and as I hit the bank ready to stagger 5 metres uphill to the timing chip I could see that the clock read 22 minutes. I was so tired it took me another 10 seconds to get to it and then I had to lie down on the grass to recover. OUCH.

However, when I saw the results in the evening, it transpired that the breakaway group had been almost entirely male and I was actually second woman back for that distance. Too bad there were only 6 in the race!

So my times this season on that course have been:
And I've come 4th, 4th, 3rd and 2nd.

I'm pretty pleased with it really as I only ever entered the distance in the hope of sharpening myself up a bit for longer distances. Now I'm keen to see if I can break 21 minutes, and I'm hoping with the coaching I have lined up in Feb I might just do that!

PS: husband is still mending my computer and I'm still typing this on my iPhone...sigh...

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

From 14k to 1.5k and beyond

So, with a 14.1k swim completed on Sunday, my next race is at the opposite end of the scale, a 1.5k which is the shortest distance that I race.  I feel like I'm going pretty well and would love to beat my PB of 21:59 if possible to end the season on a high

It's not actually my last race of the season.  Oh no!  Saturday kicks off 9 days in which I will race 4 times, and then there are four more races before the season ends in eight weeks time.  So in order of occurrence I have left to go a 1.5k, a sprint tri, a 3.8k swim, a 40 mile sportive, a 3k sea swim, an Olympic distance tri, a 3.8k swim and a 2.6k swim (yes, the latter is a rather odd distance).

When I swam 10k back in May, it took me nearly 5 weeks before I was feeling race ready again, possibly something to do with the small matter of my first ever tri only 2 weeks later, and I know I definitely did not give myself the best possible recovery (even swimming 2.5k in a 50m pool the next day!).

So what am I doing differently?  I'm trying to listen to my body.  I have swum both days now since the event, but only a slow 1k yesterday, and a faster 1.75k today.  I'll do another recovery swim tomorrow - my arms are still feeling tired now but no longer sore - before some speed work over 3k on Thursday morning and a rest day on Friday.  I wanted to fit in a run to keep my legs ticking over, and I may head out tomorrow night, but I will be guided by how tired I feel (I still have an hour of cycle-commuting each day!).

Between the race and tri, I'll maybe fit in another speed swim session or recovery swim, depending on how my body feels, and then after the tri, I'll have to work out how I feel to give myself the best possible chance of doing well in my 3.8k on Thursday 30th.  I was so close to breaking the hour for that distance back in early July, and I was convinced that it was the rather odd course (with multiple turns per lap) that cost me the extra 18 seconds, so I really want to be in the best shape I can be to challenge that!

Does anyone else have any thoughts on how to manage training and recovery around multiple events?

Monday, 20 August 2012


So...my longest swim challenge to date completed!

Yesterday morning, following a horrific night's sleep owing to a post-exam-results party four doors down, was the Henley Bridge to Bridge swim. It couldn't have been better weather. I've noticed in the last ten days that Autimn seems to be drawing in a bit, both in the mornings and with the darker evenings and we drove past some beautiful misty fields. But by 8am, wetsuited up and ready to enter the water it was still very definitely summer and getting quite warm. The water was a warm 20C, almost too warm for a wetsuit.

The swim was divided into five sections of approximately 4k, 3k, 3k, 2k and 2k, by the locks on the river where swimmers and support kayaks needed to get out. Although the swimmers all set off together, once we hit the first stop we were divided into 10 groups depending on our initial speed to 'work together' to complete the swim.

I have to say that I wasn't in the right place to be doing the swim when I set off. The combination of feeling that I hadnt prepared quite as well as I would have liked due to being distracted by bike riding and a difficult week at work led to a lackadaisical approach to the first 4k and saw me put into the 5th group which over the next 3k really didn't challenge me.

At each lock stop was food, and it transpired a good deal of hanging around whilst the laggers from the group caught up and also had ther food. At the second stop,we were not too far behind the 4th group, so when they got ready to leave after we' stopped for four minutes, I jumped in with them. That was more like it. I realised after about five minutes that I was at the back of the group and didn't want to get demoted back down again so I pulled out my race pace and over ten minutes or so caught up with the leaders, I was buzzing by the time I reached the next stop.

Unfortunately that may have been a mistake! The next stage, a little under 2k was easy still despite sore shoulders, but the final 2k was just painful. The river became straight at that point and I knew I was looking out for a bridge to mark the finish but it just refused to appear! My shoulders got more and more sore and I was ready to give up, except there wasn't anywhere to get out. Was so relieved to get out although it was a bit of an anticlimax as the goody bags and certificates were a ten minute walk away!

In total, my finish time was 3hours 47 minutes, but looking at my watch, I think only three hours and one minute were spent swimming. There was an awful lot of current so I'm guessing it was equivalent to about 10.5k in a lake.

My arms are pretty sore today but nothing is as sore as the hairline at the back of my neck. My wetsuit came undone slightly and I think I got scrubbed by Velcro. OUCH. I also seem to have a bit of an earache which I hope will go away. I don't feel on my usual post race/event high so not quite sure what that is about, but as usual I know I need to move on not least because Saturday sees the start of four events in nine days for me. Will blog about that tomorrow.

Ps I apologise for the brevity of this post and more importantly the lack of pictures. I have plenty of the latter taken by my husband but my computer has a virus and I'm not allowed to upload them until it's fixed - in fact I'm having to blog on my iPhone which is a bit of a pain. Will put some pictures up in a separate post as soon as I can!

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Just keep swimming

...or training for a 14k.  I have to say that since I did my double swim two weekends ago, I've been lacking in motivation to get the km in.  The week after the double swim was a right off (probably due to too much cycling), and this week I've been a bit under the weather so not getting the miles in.  I have to say thinking about the move into Tri is proving terribly distracting to the end of my open water swimming season - too much else to think about and try out (more on this anon).

I managed a reasonable swim at Uxbridge lido, and hammered out 4x sub 16:30 km, despite huge numbers of leisure swimmers.  I cut my last km short by a half when a ball game started, but despite not having reached my planned length, I was pleased with the speed (although this isn't the aim for the 14k).

I don't feel hugely confident about the approaching swim next weekend.  However, my second 10k last year in September suffered similarly from end of season lethargy and I still got round (and beat my husband!).  I'm trying to look for some positives to keep my confidence up in the next week and not waste energy panicking:

1. The water temperature in the river was last reported to be a balmy 19-20C.  This may change but it's a lot warmer than the 14C I had mentally prepared myself.

2. Owing to all of the recent rain (and more forecast this week), the river is running quite fast, so hopefully there should be a bit of a current to help me along.

3. The swim is not a race, but rather more like a sportive, where we all just help each other to get round (we will be swimming in three groups, determined by our speed reaching the first checkpoint)

4. Unlike my 10k swim, I don't do all of the distance in one go, as there are 4 points along the course where I will have to get out to go around a lock and where we will be fed.  I can't decide if it is better to concieve of it as several shorter swims, because I don't ever train like that.

So for the next week, my goal is to keep myself ticking up but mainly to rest up.  I'm conscious that I have a tri only 2 weeks away, so a trip out on the bike with my husband will probably happen (not least because it's a nice social activity for us together), and maybe a brief run one night this week, but I intend short 2k swims, and a couple of rest days before the event.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Cycling #3

Hot on the heels of my successful cycling excursion on Thursday, I was keen to go out again.  So after spending Saturday morning in bed watching the Women's Tri at the Olympics (in one word - wow!) we got ready to go out again.  This time our destination was Thame, 17 miles away, and therefore a little bit further than the two previous jaunts of 12 and 14 miles away.

I am sure that the extra distance would have been manageable had the ride been flat like the first two rides that I've done.  However it wasn't.  There was a big hill that I was just glad that I didn't have to go down which required a lot of grunting to go up as well as a small narrow hill which I froze in the middle of and had to walk down.

We stopped in Thame and although I was just feeling sick and tired I knew that I would need to eat something in order to make it back so I forced down some gluten free pancakes with maple syrup which were probably just about right - low on the fibre so easy to digest and maximum carbs.  After a quick look in the Oxfam bookshop in the town and a purchase of the weekend newspaper, it was time to head back again.  Mr W had decided on a slightly flatter route for the return which had a shorter option (by about a mile) and a longer option.  Unfortunately for me he chose the shorter option, seeing that I was tired, but failed to consider that this was along a busy A road with lots of cars going past at 50-60mph.  200m in I panicked and froze and we had to go back to do the longer option, with me in floods of tears from being so scared and feeling so pathetic.

From then on it got worse.  My back muscles are still not accustomed to riding this bike so I needed to get off every 2 miles to stretch it out.  Then I hit complete meltdown 7 miles from home. Mr W informed me that it would take an hour to go home and get the car to come and fetch me. Decide to plod on as I can't bear the thought of sitting by the side of the road by myself for so long. Mixture of walking and cycling. It can't get worse?! It can...it then starts raining. Mr W offers me his showerproof. It isn't. I cry some more and swear a lot. Bike is now smothered in mud. Padded cycling shorts are absolutely sodden, must be like wearing a wet nappy. Two miles from home I cheer up as we are definitely in walking distance. Peddle hard only to lose Mr W who is worn out by it all and needs a carb gel to get him home.  Resume alternate walking and riding for final mile and finally get home.

So what went wrong?  In the cold light of day it's obvious that I can increase distance quite easily over the flat, but if I want to practise hills I will need to do a short ride.  Maybe that's something I could go out and tackle for an hour on an evening?  It makes me a little nervous of the 40mile sportive I've entered on the 2nd September as will be covering some of the same roads as yesterday AND a longer distance and I don't think there will be gluten free pancakes with maple syrup halfway round.  We'll see.

For now, I need to focus on my swimming with the 14k 2 weeks today.  It's been a rubbish week in swimming terms as I've only clocked 10.2 km.  I hope that resting up in front of the Olympics (synchro!) this afternoon will prepare me for a week of endurance swimming before an easy week before the event.  The bike, now cleaned, will stay quietly in the back room for now.

Friday, 3 August 2012


It's been an up and down week really and that has definitely been reflected in my training.  On Monday I worked a crazy day, trying to fit in everything that needed to be done before I took the rest of the week off, and it ended with a 5-7 evening duty as well.  I then had my grandmother's funeral down in Devon (6 hours in the car as well as a draining church service and tea), and then it was our wedding anniversary.  We had been planning to go away for our anniversary and stay in some amazing yurts in Somerset, but after the funeral I just wanted to be at home, so we didn't go.  The cycle ride was good, but given that I have my 14k river swim in 2.5 weeks time (and intend to have an easy week the week beforehand), I should really be getting the km under my belt right now. 

For the second time this week I have conked out after 2k.  I had a vague plan in my head of doing 4 or 5k so that went substantially out of the window!  Unusually, Mr W and I had gone swimming together (we don't usually as it always winds each other up due to our close but different swim speeds); he had been planning to do 3k but I think he got out after not even a kilometre!  So there was little incentive to stay in when I wasn't loving it, when I was achy from yesterday's bike, even though we'd driven to Uxbridge lido!  My one consolation is that I did good times on both of the kilometres, 16.12 and 16.01 (was trying to get that second k under the 16 minutes but it didn't quite happen), so a bit of "sprinting" (it's relative when you swim such long distances!) at least got done.

This afternoon I went out for a very short run to keep the legs ticking over.  Running is difficult for me to fit in, but I know if I don't go at least once a week, then the next time I go, my legs will seize up for days afterwards.  Was aiming for 3k and hit a really good pace for me (I'm a super slow runner - will have to do a running blog soon!), but blew up at 2.8k with a dreadful stitch and ended up walking 1.5k home...oops.

I know I need to rest but it's difficult to know where the balance lies.  I'm keen to go out on another cycle ride this weekend whilst I have the time to spend with Mr W, and also to get in a properly long swim.  We'll have to see how they go, a few Powerbars may help things along...

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Cycling #2

After a change in plans for the celebration of our first wedding anniversary, we have been at home carrying out an impromptu triathlon camp.  I guess the prospect of the Olympic women's triathlon on Saturday is quite motivating!   It had been 10 days since I'd been on the road bike so I was keen to go out again and see if I could push it a little harder and a little further.   It turned out I could.

We cycled to Aston, a pretty village in the Cotswolds, which my GPS tells me is 23.59 km from our house.  It took about 1h 20 minutes to get there, there was a strong headwind and I was still reminding myself of how the road bike handled.  We timed it right as we pulled into our rest stop just as the rain started!  The rest stop was the delightful Aston Pottery which we shall definitely be returning to - plenty of gluten free, dairy free options, lovely looking main courses and a great gift shop too!  Mr W had a cream tea and I had a hot chocolate.   The rain did stop, but just as we unlocked our bikes it came on again and although we had waterproof tops, it made for fairly unpleasant cycling at points, especially since road bikes don't seem to have mudguards.  However, I took my turn cycling in front, rather than blindly following Mr W, which worked rather better in terms of pacing as I did less freewheeling, and even managed a km on the drops which actually felt quite comfortable.  So all good, until the last 3 miles when I just got tired and didn't want to be on the ride anymore.  It was a shame that I hated the last bit so much as the rest of it had been really good!

I learnt that I need to drink a bit more regularly.  Until I can manage to drink on the bike, I need to stop every 45 minutes I think to top up my water levels.  Having a bottle cage and bottle on my bike will help with this so hopefully Mr W can fit one soon.  Like last time, insufficient calories on the rest stop.  And although I didn't feel hungry at all when we got back, within 3 hours I was absolutely starving and we ended up going out for our anniversary dinner at the rather early hour of 5pm!  And then stopping to get pizza on the way back...  Guess I could pre-empt this by trying to force down food a bit sooner.

Oh and my poor bike is super muddy now so I've had to spend quite some time wiping it down and making it look nice again.