From clueless to qualified – my short duathlon career 

I’m currently on a two week break at the end of what feels like a pretty lengthy season. And it’s been a good one. A few highlights include wins at Hawridge and Stewartby duathlons, knocking my 5k PB down to 19.38, 2nd at the Berkhamsted 5 miler, 3rd at the Windsor 10k and I’ve nicely wrapped up my season with a qualifying spot for the European sprint duathlon champs next year (insert little cheer from me!)

Anyway, I thought it would be a nice time to look back on my potted career in the sport…and why it’s so much fun.

5 years ago, I spent my 23rd birthday up at 6am to compete in my first duathlon. Someone at my then running club had suggested the races at Box End Park, just west of Bedford – and I spotted they had an off-road duathlon. I wasn’t doing much cycling (pre buying a road bike or two) other than the odd MTB session around the Chiltern Hills at the weekend. However I was doing a fair amount of running, I’d done a 3.41 in my first crack at the marathon earlier that year and was in semi-decent run shape ahead of cross country season.

Mum and I got up at the crack of dawn, turned up and quickly realised we didn’t really have a huge idea what we were doing. Luckily, the nice man in the car next to us was very helpful (and turned out to be the winner and British #1) and quelled my fears somewhat. This was pre being comfy with cleats at all times so literally all I had to remember was helmet. I remember 3 main things about this race:

1. It was BLOODY FREEZING

2. It was BLOODY WINDY

3. I was first woman. But, there were only 7 of us.

I think (judging by my times) it was a 5k run, a something k bike and then a 5k run again at the end.


And that was that. I think I then got sent a trophy in the post! My first win – how exciting.

My next one, which I was reminded of by Timehop recently, was the Grim Challenge in Aldershot the following October – again a cross duathlon – which I did with my parents! We entered ourselves as a team and decided to do it all together. Basically what happened is we waited for my mum on the run and then for me on the bike. The main thing I remember about the bike was having to cycle through what was practically a lake of mud and getting off a couple of times to run the bike down sand/mud banks (it’s where they test the tanks which says a lot!) I think it was 5k-20k-5k. You can see from transition what the ground was like…

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We won first mixed team (LOL) although again, I think there were only two mixed teams. The prize here was a giant duffel bag each (I mean, so giant that I literally could fit into it)

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The main thing about this was spending the afternoon in A&E because mum came off her bike on a hill – and was helped up by a kind man that was not her husband. Luckily nothing broken just a super bad wrist sprain which was given a support and a significant number of painkillers.

I think by this point I may have bought myself a road bike, so 2014 came with my foray into road duathlon with the Jekyll & Hyde in Hyde Park (clearly October is the right month for duathlons for me)I also did a Women’s only duathlon at the Velopark in Stratford…and that didn’t go too badly.

img_4324My duathlon career then continued into 2015 (also the year of my first triathlon) with another J&H and ANOTHER women’s only Velopark and then in 2016 I started to do a little bit more…My running was going well, I was getting a fair amount of commute bike miles in, OH and I had bought a new aero bike that really needed some more mileage. I raced Hawridge and St Albans, getting on the podium in both and realised I was doing alright at the smaller local stuff.

Earlier this year, having spied a lot of other Clapham Chasers doing AG champs, I decided I might as well have a crack at it. Criteria is straightforwards, give intent to qualify, enter one of the qualifying races, finish top 4 in your AG. After careful studying of previous times, I decided it was doable. I chose Oulton Park and Bedford (a week apart) to give myself two cracks at it. If Oulton Park went well, Bedford was good practice and a nice end to the season, if it didn’t, I had a second opportunity.

I had some good practice over the summer, giving the Ashridge duathlon series a go, going back to Hawridge, racing Stanborough tri and being super happy that the lake at Stewartby had algae so it was turned into a duathlon!

Oulton Park meant an overnight stay in a Premier Inn but a pleasant 7.30 start. It’s not a flat course by any means and the distances are based on a lap of the track and therefore a bit off the usual distances. And this was pretty serious. This was the biggest duathlon I’ve entered and it felt it at the start. Gulp. This is qualifying territory. This is proper racing. There is a man (several of them!) checking I don’t break any rules. There are penalties if I do something wrong. AAAAAAAH.

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However, to cut a long story short, Oulton Park went exceptionally well! Finished 3rd AG (the pain of waiting in the queue for your result to print is INSANE) so rewarded myself with a fishfinger wrap, a McFlurry and then A NEW PAIR OF WHEELS! (If I’m being honest, this is probably the hardest I’ve raced all season. It really meant something and I wanted to finish strong – mainly so I didn’t lose my AG spot in the final 500m but, looking at it, I was a good 90 seconds ahead of the girl behind)


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Which therefore meant Bedford was a bit more relaxed. I could play a full game of netball the day before, I wasn’t overly stressed, I could give my new wheels a whizz, I didn’t mind getting up at 6am… In contrast to OP, Bedford is dead flat. And was windy. Which is awful if you’re trying out your new 60 deep sections, you still aren’t 100% comfy on your tri bars and your bike handling skills on 180 degree turns aren’t great…so yeah. I’ve had better bikes.

However, head down, corners conquered…set a new sprint distance PB, finished 14th F, (3rd AG so qualified again technically!) and ran the second run at the same mile splits as my first (I NEVER do this!) and crossing the line in 1:08:07 (19:47-0:46-36:05-0:43-10:44)

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So…a good end to a busy year. And a great end to 5 years of “just giving this duathlon business a go!”

A few thank yous to wrap this up – my parents, for frequently driving me when I’m too tired after a race, standing in the cold, cheering me, buying me food, listening to me run through my checklist for the nth time – specifically then my dad for fixing my bike 90% of the time, my mum for ringing a cowbell and having the loudest voice ever…my sister for literally being dragged to 75% of races despite hating running, my boyfriend for his motivational pep talks, buying me cycling presents and accepting that our life mainly revolves around me…hey DW for training with me and sometimes beating me in races …anyone at Clapham Chasers who has been a helping hand along the way…there is a lot of thanks!

And, just because I have to say it “woah I’m going to Ibiza”

I hope you all now have the Vengaboys stuck in your head. Over and out.

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Let’s hear it for the girls – Windsor Women’s 10k review 

On top of the world! Still buzzing from the Windsor Women’s 10k on Saturday and for more reasons than one.


Firstly, just to say I was given a press place for this race – but my mum entered off her own back, but I am, as usual, 100% honest in my review. Pre-race info was thorough – and we left home at about quarter to 8, taking heed of the advice of avoiding Windsor town centre so coming through Datchet instead…and we arrived at 8.25, no traffic and were about the 10th car there #keen

Continue reading

Age is nothing but a number

I’m running the Boudavida 10k TOMORROW. My mum is also running it. She’s at the higher end of mid 50s (she’ll hate me for saying that) Is that a big deal that she’s running?  Is it a big deal that she’s out at boot camp three times a week? Or mountain biking, horse riding or skiing? Some people think it is…purely because of her age.

My parents being active is very much the norm in my family. I think how you grow up and your family have a significant influence on your attitudes towards health, fitness and exercise in later life (as well as on your life in general, obviously!) and I’m lucky that mine have always been pretty positive. To be perfectly honest, I feel like my parents have got MORE active as they’ve got older – which often isn’t the case.

To that point, they chose to spend their 3 week summer holiday this year on 1) a week in the south of France where we basically went running and cycling every day 2) a week of guided MTB in Italy (and I’m not talking just pootling along trails, I’ve been on bikes with these two and it’s quite frankly terrifying) and 3) a week in Chamonix where they chose not to do the vertical kilometre (because they did it last year) and instead just did more cycling and running. They didn’t suddenly get to 50 and resign themselves to churches and historical monuments.


So what am I trying to say?

I believe age is an excuse that is far too easily dropped in when people aren’t really that old and the root of the problem is something different. Obviously “old” is subjective and I’m not expecting every 85 year old to be cycling every day, but I think far too many people are using cut offs as young as their late 20s to prevent them doing a sport or particular type of activity, where they should be trying their best to extend it as long as possible until they truly can’t do it.

Yes, there are many factors that come with ageing that may impact your ability to exercise (life changes, body changes, career changes) but for a lot of them, there are ways around them. Being “older” does not stop you being able to do whatever sport you want (unless obviously, because of underlying health issues) and it doesn’t mean you suddenly have to stop skiing, weightlifting or doing “young people stuff” – there isn’t a sudden ban on it once you hit the next birthday!

I have limited tolerance for example, for anyone who tells me they are too old for rugby. I think my main problem here is that my dad is still playing rugby and he is 57. Therefore I think saying at 29 you are too old is quite frankly, a shit excuse. Find the real source of the problem. Did anyone watch The Pacemakers on BBC? It was fantastic – a group of men well into their 90s who were still getting out, keeping their bodies and minds active and not letting their age get in the way. If I’m lucky enough to keep running into my 90s, why wouldn’t I try and become a world champion in my age group? What a great idea if you’re lucky enough to be able to do it! And have you seen some of the 5k times of the V70s in Battersea Park?!

Think you are getting the picture now. Gone are the days where the only options were “nifty fifties” and aerobics and gone are the days of growing old gracefully and confining yourself to “old-people activities” – but I think more people need to embrace it. There are sports now that our grandparents could only have dreamt of playing or participating in and the choice is huge. Hitting a milestone doesn’t mean you can’t keep doing what you were doing before.

Keeping active for as long as possible is a real treat and if you’re lucky enough to be able to (and there are so many people who unfortunately can’t) then you should, and do away with all of those who make you think you’re too old to do something. Want to get to 70 and wish you had continued on with a sport more than you did? Not me.


Maybe I’m just in my own world. Maybe it’s because I’m surrounded by parents and family members (and not just my own) who are still running, cycling, skiing, playing rugby, circuit training, tyre flipping, horse riding and doing god knows what else – although my grandma is now down to aqua aerobics rather than badminton. I’ve taken my mum to 10ks with my Chasers crew, I’ve taken her to The Foundry, I play touch with my dad on the regular. Has this distorted my view on the subject? Most probably. But it’s given me the inspiration to do the same.

At the 10k, they’re running a “Generation Game” competition – where you aim to get the lowest combined time between the two of you. So we shall see how that goes (!) but I reckon we could have a decent go at it – my mum is far far better at sticking to a training plan than I am, and to be honest, she probably does more than I do. She has been giving herself smiley faces at the end of each week and has literally done each session to the detail. I love seeing parent and child combinations – ever watched the junior runners at parkrun? Especially the ones outsprinting their parents to the finish. We are basically just a version of that + 20 years.

I however, wrote multiple plans, didn’t do multiple things and I’m just hoping to go on a wing and a prayer and try to remember not to go out hell for leather. (Because, after I had booked this into my diary, I then found out we have Southern road relays on Sunday. So this will very much be a test of me being able to stay sensible, maybe pick it up a bit but not sacrifice the big one. A big night of foam rolling ahead on Saturday! )

Race report – Herts summer tri, Stanborough Lakes

So, time to fess up – I actually haven’t done a triathlon in nearly two years. Not since Hever Castle. I mean, I’ve done duathlons a plenty, runs a plenty, lots of open water swimming and lots of cycling. But not so much “putting them together” – so, I decided I wanted to get a couple in this season, and the first was last weekend.

The Herts triathlon is run by Active Training World (who organise a lot of races in my local area) – it’s held at Stanborough Park in Welwyn, which was a peachy 32 minute drive from home. Which is nice when you have to leave before 6am. YAWN. Did the usual night before “frantically googling triathlon packing lists to check I don’t forget anything” and set my alarm for 5.30. Obviously then spent the drive there worrying I had forgotten something vital, plagued by stories of people who forget things like cycling shoes and helmets. Continue reading

Planning your race calendar

I love a plan. OK, I mean like, really love a plan. Particularly for training and races and meals. I’m a control freak and the amount of notebooks I’ve filled writing what I’m doing that week is ridiculous! (Note, this definitely does not mean I always do what is in my plan. I have good intentions that are usually over ambitious and assume I can manage on about 3 hours sleep a night whilst training 17 times a week. I still haven’t quite realised that this isn’t physically possible)

Last week I sat down to try and plan my race calendar for the rest of the year and thought I would give a few tips that might help…

1. Have a vague idea of what you want to do this year. For example, I’ve gone for shorter stuff, duathlons, i’m not fussed about marathon this year, a couple of tris and MAYBE an autumn half (so not really shorter stuff, basically just not a marathon)

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2. Have a vague idea of how willing you are to travel and spend money, i.e. I don’t really want to be spending upwards of £80 on a triathlon and I really begrudge spending anything over £30 on a run-only event unless it’s a marathon or a real ‘must-do’. I might do a destination event if I see something that really piques my interest, but haven’t spotted anywhere in particular.

3. Long list the potential events. This is the fun bit! Get a piece of paper and use all means of finding races (mainly Google) and WRITE THEM ALL DOWN. Use points 1 and 2 to help or hinder your selection.

4. Read a bit about each one and then manage to find even more races that you hadn’t spotted. Add them to the long list in really small writing at the very bottom. Decide that parkrun “doesn’t really count” so you don’t need to properly plan it.

5. Do a second hash of your priorities. Age group qualifiers? PB races? Terrain? Distance from home? Just FUN? What do you want to get out of a race this year? No, what do you actually want, make a decision woman.

6. Then probably remember that you have to have a social life and do things like attend weddings, go to work and see your family so I would use this to cross out anything you definitely definitely can’t do or make your excuses to people now. (Your long list now should be suitably long with maybe couple of items crossed off) Be slightly mysterious to anyone who is trying to make plans with you for later in the year until you’ve worked this out.

7. Then realise you can’t enter 3 events on the same day. Get rid of a few more. But whilst doing this, find a few more events you weren’t aware of and add them back in as replacements. Also then decide this is the year you really want to try and time trial your way through a 3,000m but also want to do a 100m race because you miss school athletics but genuinely don’t know if you are any good at sprinting any more. Then worry that you will look a bit ridiculous and would like some moral support. Phone a friend and bribe them to enter.

Race planning goals

8. Now match your medium-long list to your priorities and realise that they’ve probably changed again. Decide on which events you actually want to do and think about entering them (basically make a “definite, maybe and definitely not” or “A race-B race-C race” type list that won’t kill you from over-training or over-racing)

9. Work out that 7 of your events have already closed for entries so you can’t do those. Feel sad because it is one of your favourite races. Switch in some other events from the maybe list. Tip – find out when each of the entries close and if they are likely to sell out so that you can stagger race costs and not have to justify it all in one go to anyone who may not understand.

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10. Actually enter the events and write them in your diary. Feel smug.

11. And a bonus #11 – then try and write/find a training plan that remotely can suit multiple events without completely killing you!

How do you plan your diary? Am I the only one who gets over-enthusiastic?

Strength In Depth – just what is fitness racing?

At the beginning of November (yes, I know I’m late!) I was invited by European Fitness League to get an understanding of their flagship event “Strength in Depth”. I literally had ZERO idea what to expect, so I was keen to see how what I described to my mum as “competitive tyre flipping” shaped up.

I met with Harry, Managing Director, for a behind the scenes look at what was going on. This basically meant I got to understand the practicalities and logistics behind an event like this, as well as sneaking down “competitor-only” corridors, meeting some of the event and media crew and basically getting an all-access pass.

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The Format

I was there on Day 1 of the Finals weekend. Teams had been competing in qualifiers for a good few months beforehand, culminating in the end event for the top 40 over the period. As a team, you basically divide and conquer the numerous events over the weekend. There are various rules about which combination you can compete in, but basically, not everyone is good at everything, and this is the opportunity for each individual to play to their strengths. There’s a live leaderboard on display as teams go through the rounds – which means it is super easy to find out how you (and your competition!) are getting on.

The Events

At first, I couldn’t quite work out what was going on or where we were in the schedule – but was directed out to the outdoor spectator balcony where you could see people starting to get ready for event #2 – the Spartan Race. I’ve heard rumours of huffing and puffing about the amount of running that was needed for this event, but it says something when the teams start in reverse qualifying order and the first-placed still managed to take a couple of minutes off second!

The whole team has to complete the event, which led to some impressive shows of sportsmanship– carrying team members round, giving a helping hand over obstacles, leaving no man (or woman) behind. There were a couple of the expected mishaps (the usual rolled ankles on landing) but the fact that the guys got 40 teams off at 2 minute intervals timed to the second is a huge credit to the organisation skills of this event.

Next up, they moved back inside. There was a lot of waiting around as a spectator, because as you can imagine, getting 40 teams around the muddy course – and then through showers – is quite a feat. However, they were already setting up for event 3, and passed the time with a demonstration from two Rio medal winning rowers and then Crossfit Kids. This was frankly terrifying and inspiring in equal measures (mainly because they can do proper pull ups and lots of functional moves that I can’t). I was also able to peruse the stands (lots of supps, stash and foam rollers) and contemplate getting my hair braided. Oh, and watch some of the Wales Australia game on TV.

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Events 3 and 4 took place concurrently, with 3 in the main hall and 4 being a pool-based event (who knew swimming would be involved?!)

I mainly watched Event 3 – which was a mind boggling displaying of skipping skills, lifting and some VERY strong bar muscle ups…which I can only dream of. And things like 50 toes to bar…where I can do about 5 before I get tired. It worked well having a male team, a female team AND a mixed team that all had to get through it (a sub-team doesn’t start until the previous has finished their workout, which means maximum support and pressure to get it done within the rules so you can move on)

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For full details of each of the events that took place when I was there – click here

The Teams

Teams HAVE to have 7 male and 5 female, plus one from each gender has to be over 40, which means it really promotes a blend of abilities, ages and genders, which you need when you start to understand the varied activities that the teams have to participate in. People had travelled from overseas and all around the UK – which shows what a pinnacle event this has become.

The team spirit works well across a lot of the events i.e. if you need to get 15 bar muscle ups, you can work out between you who is going to deliver what rather than expecting each individual to have the same ability. Big cheering teams are very much the centrepoint of this competition, with lots of supporting children and families!

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The Venue

As a Loughborough girl, I have a slight inbuilt hatred for Bath, but you can’t deny what fabulous facilities they have! There is tons of space, both indoor and outdoor, and it is set up well for a multi-sport event, without having to make people traipse between venues all day. The warm-up area was particularly impressive, with enough space for all the competitors to have their own little corner and adequate space to warm up with a range of equipment.

Also note – the café is pretty top notch if you are looking for a decently balanced meal.

The Experience

As a first time spectator of this kind of event, I was wowed. Any sense you have of weightlifting events being individual is quickly thrown out of the window and there are some true tales of battle to get there. It’s also incredibly inspiring to see what people are able to do with their bodies…I left late afternoon and, I have to say…I actually went to the gym that evening! There’s something about watching people throwing their bodies around that makes you feel like you need to get training.

Strength in Depth ISN’T just for Crossfit fanatics – in fact, they aren’t affiliated, although a vast proportion of athletes and teams will come from a Crossfit background, because it’s the type of thing they are used to. It’s a real show of determination, team spirit and an absolute bucketload of pure physical ability which can’t help but get you thinking….could I do that?

A big thanks to European Fitness League for inviting me down and providing me with some of their fabulous imagery!

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2016, where did you go?!?

So, the end of December is typically time to look back at the year, what has happened, what ridiculous resolutions or goals I will set myself for 2017 etc etc. Rather than going at it month by month…I’m going to dip around a bit between sports just to confuse you all!

TLDR – fewer miles, more PBs, less frantic exercising because I felt I had to, more rest days, few niggles, still don’t like swimming, must go cycling more.

Swimming

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Swimming was basically a necessary evil this year. I did the Henley Swim Club to Pub in July and that is basically the only reason I did any swim training at all. However, I did it in just over 30 minutes, dropping 4 off my time at Hever 9 months previously. They gave me a beer 10 seconds after I exited the water and that was brilliant.  I did quite a lot of open water practice with my boyfriend (we also ate a lot of cake) and can safely say, my confidence has improved massively, as has my breathing and ability to not have to stop and tread water. I’m probably going to enter at least one swim and one triathlon this year, so it makes sense to keep it on my agenda. But I don’t think it will ever be “the one”

There is a lot of talk about doing the Henley Marathon next summer in the office, but quite frankly, I think 14km is probably a bit too far when I don’t even really like swimming that much. I swam in a lake in the Pyrenees where I survived some super weedy patches (I basically didn’t bother with the swimming area and just hopped in, leaving some bemused looking fishermen…but it got a good photo). A year previously, I would never have even considered doing this – and the weeds would have probably drowned me in panic (and don’t even mention what creatures probably lived in there)

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Cycling

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No real big rides this year at all actually. To be brutally honest with myself, 90% of my bike miles were commuting, which isn’t great. But this was partially planned when I realised that to do my marathon training justice, I needed to drop back on the extra miles I was putting in my legs elsewhere. I tailed off my commuting at the end of 2015, and there was a noticeable change – I PB’d at pretty much every distance –  as well as jumping up around 100 places in my usual Surrey XC league standings. So as much as I hate to admit it, cycling all the time and a “running + cross-training = OK” formula doesn’t always work.

A few noticeable exceptions – my trip to Brighton in November and an un-Garminned 2k stretch as part of the RBC V Series but to be quite honest, A VERY BORING YEAR ON THE BIKE. Must do better. Must do more MTB.

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Running

I look back to 2012 and 2013 and wonder WTF I was doing with 180 mile months. This year I managed to run a much more consistent pattern over the first 4 months of the year, and as you can see, there have been no zero miles months so far this year.

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This year was a year for PBs and most of them came just from a byproduct of more miles.  I started with the Winter Run in April – which, unfortunately as a non UKA licensed course, doesn’t quite count…but it was a 10k PB anyway (41:32), especially in horrendous rain and being the day after a cross-country mudbath at Parliament Hill.

Another PB came about at the Watford Half the following weekend which was totally unexpected. If you’ve run Watford, you will know it ain’t flat. I think my half PB is currently pretty soft, and to be perfectly honest, the last time I trained for a half itself that wasn’t during a marathon block was Maidenhead in 2012…which is flat. In an ideal world, I reckon I should be running around a 1:31/1:32. So maybe one for this year.

I would love to say that VLM was dreamy, but it wasn’t. It was a cold hard slog for the last 6 miles, and the reason for that is well…I never really did much over 20. So I don’t know what I expected. But, I broke the magical 3.30, got another GFA & BQ and all in all, happy days.

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Had a week off and then decided to just “see how it went” at a local 5 miler the following Bank Holiday weekend, and it went swimmingly.  I placed 2nd at my first duathlon of the season…and 1st at my second. I won a 2 mile ran in Battersea Park (and I won a mango!) and my team placed 3rd ladies in the 3 x 1 mile relay. We won the cross country league. I spent 4 days running and napping by the pool in the Pyrenees (altitude training and cheese for the win)

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I ran along the beach on the Basque coast. We came 2nd in the Great Team Relay (I got to finish in the Olympic Stadium) I ran up the Madeloc…again. I got another trophy for a 2nd place in a 10k trail race. I ran over the Millau Bridge in May with my parents & uncles. It was spectacular (and breezy as anything!)

I did a few more parkruns – and was 1st woman 4 times out of 4 at Colchester #humblebrag. Tooting Common became an easy “1 mile run to the start line” option. I amassed many, many contributions to the “ugly running photos” album.

I took a bit of a break from running in November because of a niggly Achilles – I’m still not 100% “in the zone” but I’m getting there. More rest days, more chill out time, more sleep and a few more reality checks from the important people in my life have contributed to a bit more balance and mental stability…and I’ve learnt a lot about myself, my attitude and what my body and mind respond best to. I understand why people say peak years come during your 30s – a solid base and appreciation of training, focus and what makes you tick only come with time, so don’t rush it.

…and all the other stuff

I got back down to City Strongman classes at The Foundry (which, if you haven’t been to, you need to) I played in 2 7s tournaments this summer, getting tries AND scoring a conversion (highlight of the year). I practised line-outs in the back garden.

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I went skiing twice. I’ve been back playing netball – and we won our league. I’ve been doing a hell of a lot more lifting and I don’t know the last time I went to a class at the gym or used a treadmill, spin bike or cross-trainer. I realised I like hanging upside down on rings and ropes. I feel pretty happy in my body right now (well, not after 7 days of solid Christmas eating and wine) but this year has finally seen me settle down in myself and relax a bit more. I know what my happy weight is and where it is easy to maintain it without setting restrictions. My clothes still fit me. I’m still breaking belt loops on jeans because they aren’t designed for quads and glutes that match my waist size. I’ve bought 3 pairs of trainers and I don’t want to count how many pairs of leggings and new tops I acquired without throwing anything out :/

I don’t know what 2017 is going to bring and I haven’t really set my goals yet. I’ve got a rough idea, but I would prefer to see how January goes before making any big claims. But you’ll hear about them…

And with that, over and out 2016! Have a good one!!

 

#YourGoTri – The time Kate was finally convinced to try Triathlon

It’s been a super summer of sport and between the Olympics, the Paralympics and the Brownlee’s demonstration of sporting brotherly love at the Triathlon World Series in Mexico a couple of weeks ago, “triathlon” hasn’t been far from anyone’s lips.

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The Brownlee Brothers (courtesy of mirror.co.uk)

If you’ve been reading or following us for a while, you’ll know that it is Katie F, not me, who is the triathlete of the pair of us. I hate running with a burning passion, and despite being a reasonable cyclist and a not-terrible swimmer, the running alone has always been enough to put me off even considering doing a triathlon. So when British Triathlon contacted us to say that they were running a campaign called #YourGoTri to encourage new people into the sport by pointing out how easy it is to factor all three disciplines into your weekly fitness routine, Katie gave me a look that said “now you really don’t have an excuse”.

I guess now I really don’t. Continue reading

10 ways to have the perfect race

Having just come off the back of a PB at the London Marathon, but a slight longing feeling of “I could probably have done that better”, the best thing to do is have booked in another race, right? (For all those coaches out there who are reading this and groaning at me, I promise I won’t complain when I get injured, but this is one of my favourite races so I HAD to do it)

The Pednor 5 is a low key local race on a looped course, originally named “The Pednor Loop”…which just happens to be bang on 5 miles long!  It’s put on by Chiltern Harriers and it’s one as a family we’ve been doing for a good few years now – and it’s always on May Day Bank Holiday, 7pm start.

Seriously, every year I run this race I spend about 90% of the day wishing I hadn’t signed up for it or that it was a 10am, rather than a 7pm, start. And this year was no different – which meant I wasn’t expecting anything great to take place when 7pm finally rolled around…

However, I came out of it with a new 5 mile PB, and a 4th female position – and a smile on my face. AND I WAS HAPPY! At no point had i felt I was really struggling or that I had judged it wrong – the total opposite to mile 20 of the marathon, or indeed mile 1.5 of Tooting parkrun on Saturday…

  • As it’s an evening race, throw all caution to the wind the day before – drink as much cider as you want, practice rugby in the back garden and just generally forget that you have a race the next day

  • Pick a nice distance. 5 miles is fun! It’s less painful than a 5k where I have a tendency to go all out too early on, but it’s not as long as a 10k meaning that you can push to the right degree.ish.
  • Fuel well during the day, including sausage sandwiches and scones the size of your face. And flapjack (remember you are still in marathon recovery phase so can still eat a lot and justify it)

  • Know the course. I’ve run it multiple times and we went out and recce’d it again on the bikes on Sunday because Dave hasn’t done it before. I think the hills actually felt harder on the bike…(actually maybe don’t know the course. My legs felt shattered on the bike the day before and I was already dreading the big hill…)

  • Find a race friend. Mine was this man in yellow. We ran together from about 2.5 miles, had a bit of a chat, gave each other some encouragement and generally helped each other stay on track.

  • Trust yourself on the hills. I am RUBBISH at hills currently because I’m not running them very much, but I found myself catching people which gave me a new found confidence. Also helps here knowing the length of the hill (see point earlier) which meant I pushed harder than I probably would normally plod.
  • Make it look like you are finding it easy. This was interesting – most of the people I passed in the first 2 miles sounded like they were about to keel over and die – which made me focus more on my breathing and not sound like them. And it worked!  Secondary to this – smile at cameras!

  • Be the hunter, not the hunted. Pick people off and breeze past them. Put on your best “I’m finding this easy” face as you go past and make people scared of trying to catch you. I was mainly picking out the women – and when I passed the last I could see at mile 4, I made a pact to myself that I wouldn’t let her back past me (so this, + man in yellow, made me have a pretty fast last mile, despite the uphill)
  • Don’t make it your A-race! I was putting minimal pressure on myself for this run and it showed. Have a race you tell everyone about, then have a secret squirrel race that you are secretly going to ace. As a sub-bullet here, pick a course that you don’t expect to do well on. Pednor has a couple of hills, but also some quad-bashing downs.
  • Actually listen to advice about keeping it steady in the first half before then pushing on. Then you will do things like run negative splits, nice mile times and LOADS OF CRs ON STRAVA!!

  

All race photos by Barry Cornelius – available at http://www.oxonraces.com

VLM 2016 – aka the one where the wheels fell off!

So, it’s that time of year again! The one day of the year where everyone gets inspired, and plans to run a marathon next year. And also the one marathon of the year that most people seem to think is the ONLY MARATHON EVER. And I always get shocked watching the highlights at the amount of people willing to talk to Denise Lewis rather than tell her to naff off because you’re trying to PB (sorry Denise!) So here is my London Marathon review.

I’ve been pretty restless the last few weeks or so – a busy month at work combined with some missed sessions, a niggly Achilles, knee and hamstring (YUP I’m getting the excuses in early here!) has meant my expectations were rapidly rapidly going downhill.But IT’S LONDON AND THEREFORE YOU HAVE TO BE EXCITED!

Anyone who has asked recently about my goal has been told “3.20 – 3.30”. Truth be told, I didn’t even back myself to get that. I’ve never really felt that I’ve ‘got’ how to run a marathon properly. I’ve had people telling me I should have been pushing more towards the 3.15 end of things, but to be quite frank, the thought terrifies me. And if the thought terrifies me, then there is very little likelihood I’m going to get anywhere near it.

My taper was a real taper – and by that I mean I hardly ran at all. Instead, I spent a lot of time acquainting myself with my foam roller, a lacrosse ball and some kinesiology tape (applying this to your own hamstring is quite hard) and hoping for the best…

I got uber excited picking up my number at the expo on Friday evening – the buzz is incredible and it’s such a special event. I think I wrote something imaginative like “I love running” on the wall.

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Managed actually not to purchase anything – wasn’t quite sold on the tshirt this year so no snazzy memorabilia.

Saturday was spent at the rugby before coming home to a pre race dinner of a jacket potato with beans and some chocolate and some ice cream. Dinner of champions!

The usual wake up, get ready activities took place. It was raining when I woke up. (Didn’t really have contingency plans for clothing)

Boyfriend taped up my Achilles and told me it was all going to be OK. I told him I did not believe him, I didn’t want to run and I was going to be rubbish. We then had a ‘fine then I won’t try and be motivational if you’re going to be like that’ type disagreement. (He is learning every time how to get better at this, basically by either ignoring me or agreeing with everything I say) I got on the tube (rain had stopped) and headed to London Bridge, no real wait for a train to Maze Hill and then the usual trudge up the hill to the Green Start whilst eating a bagel with PB.

 

This is when you start to realise exactly the scale of the operation – and green is only a handful of people compared to red and blue!  It’s incredible seeing the sheer volume of people heading in one direction.

I took a gamble that I would be OK wearing just a bin bag. Despite the fact the organisers had specifically sent an email saying it would be cold.It was cold. Ended up finding some fellow Chaser ladies huddled in the changing tents.  We had a bit of a chat around times and worked out a few pairs – Cat has a trail marathon next weekend so her and Jas were going to be hitting the 3.40ish mark, and Korkoi is “IM training but not doing as much running as she should be so not really in marathon shape” so we decided to go out together. Plan was hit a 3.25 pace and just see what happened.


Greenwich was fairly quiet as usual from a supporter side, lots of people warning you about humps in the road, and it felt fairly cluttered with runners as the first 10 miles or so always do! We eventually got caught up by ANOTHER Chaser, Leanne – we had set a fairly similar goal (to be entered into the very very accurate cheer squad spreadsheet tracker) so we decided to push on as a three – and it was great to have a little bunch together, especially all in club vests. There was lots of “Come on Chasers” support all across the course, and this was such a nice little boost. I’ve also realised I quite like not having my name on my vest – this means that anyone who shouts Katie is someone I actually know, which is quite a nice feeling.

Here are some ugly pictures of me running, courtesy of Darren Tanner.

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Knee gave a little bit of a niggle around mile 8, which wasn’t ideal…but surprisingly, my Achilles and hamstring felt GLORIOUS (well as much as they could!) At mile 9, my little support crew were ready and waiting. This time, the cow bell had been remembered (we always forget the cowbell for races…) I think I remember thinking at this point that the pace was probably quite optimistic…(we were running solid 7.30-7.40 splits)

We lost Leanne at around 11, but Korkoi & I continued on, over the amazing sight (and sound) that is Tower Bridge with thousands of people either side, before hunkering down on the Highway and spotting the leading men coming the other way (with a fair old gap between them and anyone else) The Chaser cheer brigade were in full force around mile 14, covering both sides of the road, including Ingrid the mascot (inflatable doll…don’t ask) and a few pints in hand.

The gloves were eventually thrown around mile 15, round about the same time I decided I wanted to put my headphones in – I was beginning to feel the strain. Korkoi and I kept pretty close together round the Isle of Dogs, which is always a bit of a drag for me, but spruced up by my support crew being ready and waiting around mile 18, which is roundabout where she started to pull away. Had gel #3 probably around Mile 16. Citrus flavour this time.

I hate Canary Wharf. Some people think the buzz is amazing, but for me, this is where it starts to hurt. I think it’s the slight incline up to the roundabout that does it – my legs just didn’t feel the same afterwards.

I hate Poplar High St. And the drag back to 21 (despite Run Dem Crew being brilliant – we’re taking some tips for the Chaser squad next year!)  Basically my least favourite bit of the London Marathon is mile 20-22. I say this every year. And I don’t learn.

I hate coming back along the Highway. Everything seems so much further away than it normally does. And everyone is so cheery and all I wanted to do was listen to my music and zone out but the crowd were too loud. (I think you get where I’m going with this – I had a pretty bad time over the last 10k. There was a tiny bit of walking – the ‘having a drink’ technique – but everything was starting to feel the force of the fast 20)

(I’ve been having a discussion with a guy at work about this – my love for the crowd was waning at this point. I don’t want to sound like a brat, or ungrateful, but seriously, if you’re in a bad place, the crowd are actually incredibly frustrating. I wanted to zone out and listen to my music – but I couldn’t hear it. I wanted to slow down – but they kept shouting at me. I wanted to not be experiencing some severe pain surrounded by 000s of people. I wanted to cry. Maybe in a way this is good, because it stopped a lot of these things – but at the time, all I could think was JUST GO AWAY. Especially anyone who says “you’re nearly there” at mile 20. THAT IS A LIE)

Stole Haribo from a small child (same as last year) but didn’t have another gel – and looking back, I wish I had,  because it was just sitting in my belt… Saw my friend Hannah at Old Billingsgate and then mildly perked up going into the tunnel because I knew that once I was through that and up the slight (MASSIVE) incline under Blackfriars Bridge, it was simply a case of the longest two miles in the world. Apparently I missed Colin Jackson here but ain’t nobody got time for that, I’ve got a PB to hit!

When I realised the wheels were falling off (i.e., mile 20) , I was doing lots of mental calculations. “It’s OK, I can still get under 3.30, I just have to run 5 x 9 minute miles” and so on. Switching from 9 minute miles to 5 minute km to 8.30 minute miles to 6 minute kms. Round and round and round.  I think this kept my brain busy. And everyone I notched around the 8.30 pace, the more I realised the goal was back in sight. At mile 24, the clock said bang on 3.10. That meant 2 x 10 minute miles, plus the little bit extra, minus the little bit I had in hand from getting over the start line and I WOULD BE THERE. Simply a case of gritting teeth and hanging on in there – I wasn’t having this pain for nothing.

 

My family said they knew I was struggling/had tried harder than last year because I looked a lot less happy (see above photos). I nearly missed them on Embankment, but luckily fishwife mother was on form with her shouting. My stride was off, I was just plodding. But plodding at a just about OK speed to get me there. The Houses of Parliament actually came up sooner than I was expecting them to – considering I run this route on a regular basis, I think I just switched off.

Running up Birdcage Walk, I had THE WORST wave of nausea ever. I mean I have never come that close to throwing up from running, but somehow managed to convince myself if I was going to vom, I wasn’t going to do it until I had crossed the line. I also had a really self-conscious thought of not wanting to go to the side and accidentally vom on a spectator’s foot or something. I got overtaken here by a Roman Soldier. And then by Elvis as we rounded the corner – and then suddenly the finish line was in sight! And it was saying 3.28! I had no idea about what my time over the line was, but knew I had done it as long as I could shift my backside down that last straight within a minute. And I have never felt so happy to do so.

3.27.32. A new PB, 817th female and 524th AG. 6 minutes off last year.

I didn’t really know what to do when I had finished. Whether to cry, to be happy, to stop, to walk. It’s a weird feeling, finishing a marathon – fairly overwhelming. I was also overwhelmed by the amount of support I had when I checked my phone – from people tracking, to congratulating – it really made it worthwhile.

Bit of post-race analysis..

  • My splits were horrible I mean truly, this was a beautiful example of ‘pushing hard early on and it catching up with you’. I was probably on for a low 3.20 until mile 20, and then I dropped straight from 7.38s down to 8.20s. And there was nothing I could do about it!
  • However, I am 99% sure it would have caught up with me even if I was slower – so was the banking time strategy a success? Who knows?
  • I am also very happy about how evenly I ran the first ¾ of the race. I truly wouldn’t have done this without Korkoi & Leanne to push me through it. And to be quite honest, it felt comfortable until then.
  • Here is a PERFECT example of ‘a marathon is a 20 mile run with a 10k race at the end’  done badly, or ‘here is a wall, do you want to run into it?’

Look out for a future post entitled “What I learn most years when I run a marathon and really should remember for the next training cycle rather than saying at the start I’m going to do it and then not doing it at all”

(Well done for reading this far!)