15
Jul

VITORIA GASTEIZ 70.3

Filed in Race Reports

It’s that time again. The time when I find myself staring at the three race bags on my hotel bed, wondering if I’ve put the right kit into the right ones, what I’ve forgotten, what things need to be taken out in the morning, what still needs to be put in. Argh! No matter how many times I do this it never gets any less stressful.

And rightly so. As I do my triple-check I realise my goggles are not in my pre-race bundle. In fact, my goggles are nowhere to be found. Rookie Error No. 1. Cue an extra trip via the Expo on the way to the bus to leave my bike in T1. Or is that T2? My brain is already hurting. Just as well my daughter’s with me. Even more confusing is the fact that there are TWO T2s – T2.1 and T2.2!! Just what I need. Thank you Caitriona for working that one out for me!

 

As always, the actual ‘doing’ was far easier than the ‘thinking about’. We were in a super hotel in the gorgeous Vitoria-Gasteiz, about an hour north of Bilbao and priding itself in being the ultimate in ‘Green’ – and boy, could UK Green-wannabes learn a thing or two. Open motorways with not a single car passing the speed limit; cars cut out engines at ALL traffic lights, streets totally spotless … Delightful.

We quickly became experts in the tram system – priding ourselves after the first day in being able to order our tickets in Basque! So much fun. Registration was super-efficient, marshalls incredibly helpful and general organisation superb.

The briefing was led by a team of marshalls who tried so so hard in English and it was soon apparent that this was a room of serious athletes who were immune to the little language ‘mishaps’ which had Caitriona and I in complete hysterics (we were very much alone – weirdoes??). The briefing would’ve been far ‘briefer’ had they called a bib a bib, for example, rather than a bee-ai-bee? After the 100th time it, well, from now on it will forever be a bee-ai-bee number 😊 Our favourite was the acetate informing us that whilst some athletes would use of ‘personal aid’ bags, most athletes ‘couldn’t be bothered’ (exact wording)! You’ve just got to love English translations!

Enough of that. Race morning breakfast at the hotel was the best I’ve ever seen – just WOW!. There was absolutely nothing missing. My sole mission was to avoid the Doom Fruit (see report of IM Cairns). After, while I faffed around fighting with my wetsuit, Caitriona tended to my Rookie Error No. 2 – namely that I’d left the attachment for my bike computer at home (with my goggles, apparently). Those battles fought and won, time for the start.

SWIM
Oh. My. Sweet. Holy. Mother. Of … I remain speechless. And bruised – head, ribs, shoulder, legs! I honestly don’t think I’m a wimp when it comes to the ‘washing machine’ of mass starts – but this was brutal. GORGEOUS lake with beautiful clean water was assaulted by 1000 athletes all at the same time, all heading for the same first buoy. Cue a panic attack after 50m which sent me reeling and thinking about IM Cairns and DNFs and, if it’d been a possibility I might have turned around and headed back for shore, but there was no way out. I was in the middle of 4000 flailing arms and legs (total). If I had a proud moment in that whole race, I think it was probably right then. I treaded water for a few moments, still being knocked around, then decided to start forcing my breathing, refusing to be beaten at the first hurdle. I got my head down and turned thoughts completely inwards and literally ‘yelled’ the Bubble Bubble Breathe swimming drill for a good 100m or so. I was elbowed in ribs and head, legs were grabbed, I was kicked in the side and in the head – I guess it’s pretty much normal but I’ve always managed to find some clear water and there simply wasn’t any! By the second buoy (500m) I’d found some space. Woohoo. I lift my head, sight, and hear the horn blowing again. Effing bloody marvellous. Guess what? Here come another 1000 FULL distance (140.6) athletes – all strong, aggressive and 800 of them men. Round 2. At this point I’d developed a whole new style of swim stroke and was holding my own much better in the elbow-strike, don’t-fucking-dare-swim-over-me stakes, my breathing was under control and I was getting this done. And so it went. 45 minutes, including panic attack and faffing. I was happy with this when I found out afterwards (never looked at my watch). I’d been aiming for 50.

https://www.facebook.com/amanda.hyatt.92/videos/10160685616090319/

T1
Everyone who knows me knows that the bike leg is my nemesis. My strategy was not to faff but not to ‘race’ here. Managing to get my wetsuit off without entertaining the other athletes was already a win. Salt tab at the ready and out I went.

BIKE
What a gloriously beautiful course. Although classed as flat – and it certainly was in comparison to most other courses, there was a clear 10km gradual ascent which I thought might be a problem, but I didn’t even notice it. It really WAS flat (kinda). Little rolling hills all the way around with some long flat stretches in between. There were just two ‘kicks’ which required a bit of out-of-the-saddle and gear change but apart from that, to be honest, there could be NO excuses here for not finishing other than my own head – and I kept my head in a good place with my usual messages taped to the bars. I was a little worried about my bike handling on a rental bike (it’s already crap on my own bike, for goodness’ sake) but the magnificent Oscar (known as ‘O’) from the rental shop in Bilbao did the most amazing job with my five-min set-up and saddle change and I have to tell you now I am sold sold SOLD on electric gears! Bloomin’ Heaven! When I win the lottery ….

 

I am totally rubbish with nutrition on the bike so I really made a concerted effort. My main problem is usually dehydration combined with water sloshing in my stomach so I can’t drink any more and I’ve finally sorted this out with salt tabs. I had 3 nutrition bars at the ready but only ate one (that alone is pretty good for me). I alternated between bites of bar, the local electrolyte drink and water (which I drank least of). I’d ordered the electrolyte drink Finis Sport and used it in training so knew it would work for me. I think I drank about 1 ½ litres of this, my oaty bar and a litre of water.

Took me 3 ½ hours. I FINISHED! I’d already won! I made it to the run.

 

T2
Rookie Error No. 3 – I always run with a running belt, but wasn’t going to carry anything here, relying entirely on aid stations, so when I had to fumble around looking for my inhaler (recently diagnosed with asthma) I realised I’d forgotten to practice carrying stuff in my tri suit pockets. Could I find the damn pocket? So stupid. Extra minutes lost. I didn’t spend too long in T2 but what did take time was a much-needed toilet break and that delayed me somewhat. That done, I was THRILLED to realise that while I’d come in off the bike thinking ‘Oh my God, I’m achey, I’ll never get through this run,’ once I was on my feet I felt fab!

RUN
Warm, completely flat, pretty and very very twisty so no chance of getting bored on any long ‘straights’. There were no ‘straights’. Two loops of 10.5 km for the 70.3 distance. I had planned run-walk strategies of various kinds and I did this for the first couple of km but after that if I felt I could run, I ran. After all, my run is not much faster than I walk. People think I’m joking. Really! There is a reason I don’t run with people! But in my own little running world I was running, not walking, and proud and so SO happy to be on this course and ‘running’. So much so, that the first loop went by without a bother. Setting out on Loop 2 I needed a reset so I started dedicating miles. THANK YOU to my dedicatees (my word?) for entertaining me and I hope you don’t mind.

Kilometre 12 – Sebastian: You go out too fast and you crash and burn so we did a few 4:1 walk-runs on this stretch while I congratulated you on falling 6 times and getting up 7 – and that’s what I would do!

Kilometre 13 – Chris: You ran your first HM without any training (or warning – emergency team member required lol). If you can do that, I can run another km. You make your own success. So would I.

Kilometre 14 – Rebecca: Bless you, my darling, you hate running probably as much as I do at this particular point in the race. Let’s walk a bit – a couple of 4:1s over this bit.

Kilometre 15 – Karim: Your running’s getting better and you can go for longer with adequate rest. We did a couple of 9:3s and ran the rest. Whatever happens, you keep moving forwards.

Kilometre 16 – Issi Doyle: No matter how bad you feel, how injured you are and in spite of a mountain of medical issues you just battle through and keep crossing those finish lines. If you can conquer all of that every day, I can bloody well conquer one kilometre. Slow and steady.

Kilometre 17 – Becky Taylor: Any excuse not to run. Ha! Ok. I can do with a bit of that right now. A bit of 1:1 walk-run here.

Kilometre 18 – Jo Andrews: The woman with the strongest ‘finish’ I know. Inspires me every time – always pulls it out of the bag. In my ear ‘Get a f***ing move on!’ Focussed on my cadence, picked it up and did my best to push out faster kilometre. Almost did it. Managed 950m before I failed you. Dammit. Next time. I was chuffed to do my fastest km here though 😊

Kilometre 19 – All for me. Focus inwards. Everything seems fine. No injuries, no niggles, bit bloated (not surprising with the concoction of water/coke/Aquarius and orange segments), head in a good place – no excuses available!

Kilometre 20-21 – Caitriona: My never-failing supporter at every race, at every finish line, in between races … on my shoulder the whole way. Saw me into the swim, out of the swim, onto the bike, onto the run and several times around the run. For you. THANK YOU! Strongest finish I could manage.

Big thanks to FABULOUS support all the way around. I particularly got SO MUCH motivation, amusement and energy from the older generation dotted around cafes who got up from their chairs specifically to applaud and encourage this ‘older generation’ runner on the course. Definitely the Granny vote but hugely appreciated.

Finish line was low-key apart from the stronger athletes but didn’t bother me one bit. Across the line there was …. Beer or coke – and melon. Local event 😊 Fab. Got my medal, tee-shirt, towel – and hug from my biggest fan, my daughter.

She had a celebratory G&T for me. I had a celebratory smoothie – after about an hour 😊 Oh, how times have changed.

Nothing more to bore you with. Purely by chance we went to the medal ceremony the following day – where I found myself on the podium. I think my words were ‘Oh My God, second place and there were more than two of us!’

Finish lines, not finish times. I am thoroughly pleased with my result and so happy with a training programme that suited my needs, my head, my body, helped with race without injury …

As the words on my tee-shirt said (that I’d saved especially for the run):

‘There will come a day when I can no longer do this. Today is not that day.’

It wasn’t.

Lots to ponder and improve on, but for today – HAPPY!

 

 

Swim: 45:44
T1: 08:17
Bike: 3:33:32
T2: 05:53
Run: 2:50:30

Total: 07:21:00

 

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10
Apr

BUT Management April – Putting ‘me’ first

Oh my! Easter! BUT Management took a bit of a hit, needless to say. I really did wimp out and fall for every trick in the book, but I’m BACK and I’ve taken steps in the right direction and those BUTs have been locked firmly into a cupboard (although at least one seems to squeeze out through the keyhole on a daily basis – oops).

Two major changes since my last post have led to a much more positive-looking few months ahead. From mid-2017 up until January of this year my headspace was in an extremely undesirable state. Much as I was trying to fight my personal battles and keep cheery for friends and family as much as possible, low mood was affecting everything to the extent that I finally had to seek out the help of my GP. Nothing huge but that prescription has been pretty life-changing within my own little bubble and has allowed me to stop stressing over all the stuff I couldn’t control and focus on stuff within my control. That’s a win for me.

 

Change No. 2 followed nicely from my headspace change. A lot of my difficulty in getting off my backside to do any training came with the captions ‘BUT I’m tired’, ‘BUT I’m depressed’, ‘BUT I’ve no goal so it doesn’t matter.’ My new perspective on things accompanied the realisation that perhaps not having any sporting goal wasn’t going to be as relaxing or stress-free as I’d thought. I need those goals. I need that pressure to get out and do ‘sporty’ work … run, swim and, dare I say, bike. I suppose part of the battle is discovering the kind of stresses you can do without and the kind of stresses that are ‘needed’ – like the motivation to get out the door and run. The stress ‘release’ follows. And thankfully, that’s been something that’s been easy to fix.  Cue ‘Hit the Registration button’ and my ‘BUT I haven’t got a goal’ is no longer. I’ve compromised, though. I’ve entered a couple of triathlons late in the season and they’re both short (sprint and standard). Goals are in place … BUT 5 months is a bit long to train for a sprint tri (at my level, anyhow – I’m not going to be ‘shaving off seconds’ lol) so I’ve sorted out my training and safe to say I am now getting off my backside. I’ve been working pretty hard, I’ve battled a few ‘BUT-I’m-tired’ excuses and got the job done and injuries are staying away *touch wood*. My plan is this: I’m currently following a 70.3 training plan. This is enough to keep me working hard, keep my endurance, keep me out long enough to clear my headspace each time and I’m working on some speed stuff, too. Best of all, there is no STRESS with the training, I’m already seeing improvements in my fitness and it’s challenging enough to keep me motivated. Another win! Eight weeks or so before my races I’ll switch to a more race-specific plan and take it from there. Meanwhile, the build-up from injury both inside and out has been positive, interesting and feels great.

All in all, I think the last couple of months have really challenged my BUT management … but for now, I’m winning.

 

 

 

 

 

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30
Jan

BUT Management January #callthemidwife

It’s true. Some BUTs are more easily managed than others and this BUT management in January has been a challenge. Or is that me diving into Excuseland once again?

January is drawing to a close and it hasn’t been a whole lot of fun. I came back from skiing and the Aussies picked on me big time, driving me to my bed with the brutality of their flu. Ugh! It’s been years since I was last bed-ridden with an illness like that. In fact, I can’t even remember the last time, so it was a bit of a shock to both mind and body to find myself void of enough energy to do more than reach out for the next dose of paracetamol. As a consequence, my BUT management focus for the remainder of this month has been …
BUT I’VE BEEN SICK!

Far FAR too easy to succumb to that ‘but’ for days. or even weeks: I should/could go to the gym and work out BUT I need to give my body time, I don’t want to get ill again, I’m still coughing, I’ve got no energy, I’m not fully recovered, blah blah blah. Fortunately, from the safety of my living room I had an episode of SAS: Who Dares Wins to watch, and as those men pushed themselves way beyond comfort zones getting up that mountain all I could hear was the DS yelling ‘GET UP! MOVE! YOU WANT ME TO CALL THE MIDWIFE? GET OFF YOUR ***ING ARSE’ (or words to that effect). Humiliating as it was for the relevant contestant (it is reality tv, after all), the reference to the midwife made me laugh out loud – until the penny suddenly dropped and I thought ‘Sh*t, that’s me right now. Not moving, making excuses about being tired, exhausted, aching …’

And there it was: the perfect time for some BUT management. It was all the motivation I needed. Thank you, DS. The very next morning I hauled myself out of bed and headed for the gym with a kill or cure attitude – and pretty much nailed a decent session. I’ll even admit to hearing that little voice in my head (‘Need a midwife??’) while choosing my weights and yes, it worked. I put back the 8kg and took the 16kg.
‘No midwife for me today,’ I thought. ‘If I’m here I might as well make it worthwhile.’ Felt good.

Kettlebell swing tabata (16 kg)

It hasn’t all been easy, though. I’ve been back working out for a good ten days now and I haven’t wimped out BUT (there it is!) I’m struggling with energy and motivation. Coming up to Christmas I felt driven and couldn’t wait to get to the gym, I was smashing goals and seeing results. This month? Nada. Zilch. Ugh.

Still, I’ve beaten the ‘but I’ve been ill’ demon and even managed to complete thetrilife.com‘s virtual indoor standard distance triathlon last weekend (to be done within a 48-hour period) – 1500m swim, 40km bike, 10km run. So I haven’t been sitting on my butt BUT I am looking forward to February and I’m trying to come up with some strategies to rediscover my motivation and enthusiasm. There could be a strong case for managing ‘BUT I DON’T FEEL LIKE IT’ over the next week or two. I’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile, I’ll be catching up on the latest episode of SAS: Who Dares Wins and frantically dodging midwives.

Kettlebell goblet squats - 16 kg

 

(For more about BUT Management, see here)

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16
Jan

BUT Management – 2018 Fitness Goals

But Management 101

Yes, it’s decided. 2018 is going to be The Year of the But. It’s taken me longer than usual to think about my fitness/sports focus for this year. I’m not a great believer in New Year’s resolutions for the same reason I never start anything on a Monday or the first of the month (too easy to quit), but I am a huge supporter of goal-setting and I’ve always had a few to reach for and keep me moving onwards and, hopefully, upwards. Until now, that is. It’s a very strange feeling but for the first time in as long as I can remember I simply don’t have a single fitness or sporting goal. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? To be honest, I’m not sure, but it’s been interesting taking a big step back and attempting to assess why that might be. For somebody who is so driven by goals and competition (I admit I’m a tad competitive – even if mostly with myself) I crossed into this year without a single target and it’s the oddest sensation for an habitual goal-chaser, so while I’m taking an objective view of possible reasons for this life anomaly I’ve decided I’m going to experiment with an all-new so what philosophy that I heard about recently and will be reporting on anon. I shall henceforth leap onto my life-in-2018 snowboard (regular stance, please) and swoosh down that goal-free slope, accompanied by a chorus of groans over these sickeningly dreadful analogies from despairing readers (job done haha). Just two eensy little problems: (1) I can’t snowboard; and (2) at the crest of my 2018 slope there is already a sizeable gathering of BUTs!

That’s where the management comes in, and my focus for this year. Perhaps the reason I have no 2018 goals set is to surreptitiously relieve myself of the stress of all the BUTs that have plagued me for the last two, presenting me with excuse after excuse after excuse for stresses and failings (I can feel a ‘but’ coming already – as in ‘but you did it’ …) in my life, sport, family, friendships … whatever! There’s a lot of personal stuff that I’m not willing to share, and which ultimately contributed to struggles in my public sporting endeavours, I’m pretty sure, but the competitor in me has not really escaped the BUT-stalking and it’s time, I think, to savour lessons learned, roll with this new experience and give body and mind a wee rest from batterings of self-recrimination and hauntings of not-good-enough, not-strong-enough, giver-upper, etc. etc. Here’s to some frank reassessment and improved accountability.

I’ll keep you updated as I go along. Meanwhile, do please feel free to join me and post your own BUT management goals below. Let’s kick BUT together! 😊

                         Sample of BUTs I’ll be working on:

I got to the end BUT

I’m proud of myself BUT

Everyone says I can do it BUT

I started off really well BUT

… BUT I thought I’d done enough

… BUT I failed, didn’t I?

… BUT …

 

#sowhat #BUTmanagement

 

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23
Jun

The Cotswold Way 100 Mile Run

It wasn’t really in my plan to bore anyone to tears with yet another ‘race report’ that’s only really of interest to the person writing it, but I suppose that since the Cotswold Way 100 Mile Run is/was my ultrarunning swansong I should write a few notes.

Now, for anyone contemplating a 100-mile race this is not for you. Much as I would have loved to have raced 100 miles I never had the courage and most certainly never had the self-belief that it would ever happen, hence I opted to tick the 100-mile box with a multi-day challenge option: 100 miles over four days, fully supported, with set mileage and camping overnight in runners’ villages and, best of all, no cut-off times to stress over. Many thanks to http://www.100milerun.com/cotswold-way-challenge/ for organising this challenge and looking after us all throughout. The route, of course, was the official Cotswold Way in its entirety – starting from Chipping Campden and finishing in the beautiful city of Bath.

Daily mileage:

Day 1: 16 miles. Elevation 2,000 ft. (Chipping Campden to Hailes)
Day 2: 30 miles. Elevation 3,633 ft. (Hailes to Cranham)
Day 3: 23 miles. Elevation 3,170 ft. (Cranham to Wotton under Edge)
Day 4: 33 miles. Elevation 2,930 ft. (Wotton under Edge to Bath)

Random thoughts:

I always ALWAYS doubted I could do it, purely on the basis of how I felt every time I ran a trail of anything over 15 miles. I was in pain for three days afterwards, so how on earth was I going to do four in a row? The answer is simple – and purely psychological. You go out to run 10km you’ll be tiring by 7 km. You go out to run 20 km, you never really feel that same tired until around the 14km mark or thereabouts. It doesn’t enter your head to feel tired before then, so although my legs were always trashed after 15 miles this was not an option to ‘succumb to’ when I needed to do the same another three times. Simples.

Before I get slammed for not appropriately acknowledging my 100-mile achievement (something I’m not very good at), I am going to admit that I am very proud of:

(a) my training, and

(b) I ditched my ‘walk one day’ option.

Did I walk? Well, of course! Who doesn’t walk during an ultra (elites excluded)? But my strategy had been to walk at least one of the routes in an effort to save my legs for the final ultra on Day Four. Didn’t need to. I’ll put this down to sticking like glue to my training plan, on top of an amazing training base – gleaned over the winter and all thanks to the BTRS Trail Series ( http://brightontriathlonraceseries.co.uk/ ). Without that trail series, and the support of the BTRS friends and athletes, I would never have got out of bed and put in those miles on all those stormy, freezing and unsavoury days.

And as for my training plan? Those peak three weekends of a 5-hour+ run on Saturday followed by 3-4 hours on Sunday were NOT FUN! I really did almost lose the will to live, but it’s all down to those toughies that I finished the 100 miles injury-free (apart from the obligatory loss of a few toenails). My most vivid training memory, however, was my delight at heading finally into the taper phase, a delight that rapidly evaporated when I looked at my first taper weekend – a run of THREE AND A HALF HOURS! For crying out loud! Did they misunderstand the word ‘taper’?

 

Day One – The Cotswold Way: Chipping Campden to Hailes

Shortest run. Three big consecutive climbs. Job done. Took it very easy (although I only have one gear so you could say the same every day haha). I spent today with a young girl called Kate and we had a lovely few hours together. Scenery? Hilly and green. The villages were stunning – so much love and pride in those gardens – gorgeous.

First night in a tent. Pretty much first night EVER in a tent. I claim the hashtag Born to Glamp. Definitely not born to camp. Now, just a few souls are privy to the story surrounding my first introduction to a tent and you’re not one of them. Sorry. There are some things that I just don’t want to go viral! I’ll save it for a drunken evening. That said, my lighter-than-light self-inflating air mattress was/is the best thing since sliced bread. Many thanks to  http://www.pillow.co.uk/ who were in charge of all our accommodation needs.

Special thanks to The Orchard tea room at http://www.haylesfruitfarm.co.uk/tea_room/ who saved my sanity with tea and served a fabulous dinner, too. Bravo on every level. Trip Advisor, here I come.

Day Two – The Cotswold Way: Hailes to Cranham

After a great night’s sleep and a super breakfast I set off with Kate but soon found my legs and pulled away, making use of any ‘free’ miles that I could. I was nervous about a long run the second day and this was not an easy one, either.

Today was physically the most challenging BUT … I made it. No villages today. Just trails. And a whole lot of green! Pretty and green. Greenly pretty? Whatever. You get the idea. I experimented with trekking poles today in a bid to save my legs a little. Did they do the job? Yes. Were they worth the effort? The jury’s still out.

 

 

 

 

Today’s run was further enlivened by hundreds of runners from Race to the Tower – who were all running the same route as us but backwards (well, they weren’t running backwards – you know what I mean) – towards the first tower we reached on Day 1 (see pic). It was lovely to have so much company out on the course.

 

 

 

 

 

Day Three – The Cotswold Way: Cranham to Wotton under Edge

Sleep was not particularly plentiful last night. I fully expected to wake up in a lake, since it rained torrentially all night and I think most of it came through my tent. Thank you Magnificent Air Mattress for saving me again.

Shorter day today. I battled with trekking poles v. no trekking poles. I put them away and then missed them so I took them out again. Hmmmm. If yesterday was the most physically challenging then today was the mental challenge. So near and yet so far. Fortunately, I enjoyed the route today. No villages, but so much variation in terrain it helped boost interest and enjoyment. This was the day I’d planned to walk and I walked the first few miles but after that running was just easier (even if it was a jog). I spent quite a lot of today by myself. Because I ran more than walked today I was perplexed when I saw my Garmin stats – which were little more than crawling speed. It took me forever to remember that the final five miles or so I’d hooked up with a trio of entertaining Scotsmen (one of whom was injured so they were walking) who then dragged me kicking and screaming into the pub for a pint a couple of miles before the finish – and I forgot to pause my Garmin! Oh woe is me!

 

Day Four – The Cotswold Way: Wotton under Edge to Bath

I had an awful night, mostly stressing about today’s ultra. I didn’t think I’d make it, my toes were throbbing – bruised, battered, black and blue. The Negative Committee was out in full force. I woke up and cried, then cried when I put my trainers on, picturing myself hobbling 33 miles. Then I discovered that breakfast, which was supposed to be at 7.30 a.m., had opened up early without any announcement. The queue was already mile long (no exaggeration at all there!) and I decided to skip it. So while I was sitting on a bench with a face like thunder and wallowing in my own misery and levels of pathetic that humanity has rarely witnessed, a lovely lad (who just happened to have run across Canada the previous year – as one does) sat down beside me and said he’d noticed me hobbling and could he suggest I take out my shoelaces and do them up a different way? As only the best Borgs do, I complied.

I had the BEST RUN OF ALL! Not only that, I think I ran (mostly due to the loveliest and wonderful-est running buddy Lisa) the entire route – barring the obligatory walks on hills. The sun came out and thankfully there were lots and LOTS of free miles to be had today. We crossed that finish line together and oh did that feel GOOD!

 

Best bits:

The finish line;
That cup of tea at the end of Day 1;
The medic who MADE me a cup of tea at the end of Day 2;
My tent revelations (undisclosed) 😊
Discovering that I am capable of more than I thought;
That air mattress – YES!
It only rained at night – yay! (Is this a Cotswold way thing???) lol
Master lesson on how to lace my trainers;
Dry-roasted peanuts and salt and vinegar crisps (aid station lifesavers);
Lisa (best running buddy ever);
Spotless portaloos and general bathroom facilities.

Less best bits:

Annoyingly random meal times without announcements;
No electrolyte drink options (mercifully not a problem for me, but needed by others);
Would really have appreciated a bottle of water at the finish line;
Green overload 😊 (up for debate)
A notice board with timetable of events would have made life easier.

Would I recommend? Yes.

Fuel per run:

2 litres water, approx.
1 GRENADE bar @ 10-15 miles
Handful dry-roasted peanuts (or 2)
½ packet salt & vinegar crisps (full packet Days 2 and 4)

Final day deviation: Banana (making up for skipped breakfast)
1 Mars Bar (ERROR ERROR ERROR)

All that remains is Goodbye

What a way to finish. I’ve done a few and seen some glorious places I would never have otherwise visited. Now it is time to bow out graciously (with a few battered toes). With thanks to the world of Ultrarunning for the adventures and proving time and again that finish lines really are more important that finish times (thankfully) – and I am capable of more than I think. For this lifetime, however, I bid you adieu.

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20
May

thetrilife Masters Programme – Month 2

It’s been a more intense four weeks and my goal has been to stick firmly to the plan and focus on running cadence, bike cadence (rather than pushing gears) and anything and everything to do with swimming.

SWIMMING: Drills this month have focussed on hand placement. I feel fairly confident that I’m not too far off here. And remember I chickened out of finding ‘gears’ last month? Well, I really REALLY tried this time. Of course, finding 6 gears to swim 6 x 75m progressive meant that I was close to swimming backwards for the first one – but try I did and I did my best. Interestingly, my ‘progression’ in terms of stroke rate was always the same. For 5 of the 6 I simply upped my stroke rate, but for the final one I dropped stroke rate in favour of power. So did this mean my final 75m was the fastest – as it should have been? I DON’T KNOW!!! Lol Since I didn’t pause to press the ‘interval’ button every 75m my watch didn’t record them. Note to self: I need to play around with this a bit and find out!!

BIKE: A couple of these sessions I substituted with a SPIN or RPM session and simply add on the isolated leg sections (usually beforehand). Although I’m good at pushing myself on my own and I do complete every set, I still work harder in a class and get a good mix of climbing and sprinting so I think it’s working well. The longer rides have been fine. I’ve been lucky with the weather because I’m a wimp if it’s raining or cold. I’ve really focussed hard on maintaining cadence and am learning that if I focus on that then my speed creeps up gradually to that magical 14.5 mph whereas if I keep pushing bigger gears my pace fluctuates wildly and in the end I get tired quickly and my final average speed is slower!! It’s hard to get my head around this but I’m going to 100% trust the plan!

RUN: Not getting any faster. In fact, I think I’m still getting slower – but still focussing on cadence and I’ll stick with it. Have to admit, I still do do DO enjoy my running – whatever the pace 

OFF-PLAN ROUND-UP: I juggled a couple of weeks and threw in TWO sprint triathlons this month – Steyning Tri and Uckfield Tri. Both were pool swims – not very fast but steady. Both times I was pleased with the bike – at least reaching the minimum mph I was looking for – and I was chuffed to bits with the runs – both times averaging under 10 min miles. Yes, they were short distances but all boxes ticked and good chance to kick in the competitive spirit and get a great workout.

Finally – my test results this month compared to last month:

Month 1 Swim – 300s: Avg. 6:55 mins/13 spl – and 2.18/100m
Month 2 Swim – 300s: Avg. 6:37 mins/13 spl – and 2.12/100m

RUN TEST: Month 1 – Avg HR over 20 mins @ 90 rpm: 129 bpm/Avg 10.53/mile
Month 2 – Avg HR over 20 mins @ 90 rpm: 135 bpm/Avg 10.41/mile – a little further, a little faster; weather a lot warmer

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10
Apr

MARATHON CHECKLIST FOR FIRST-TIMERS

Filed in Just running

It’s countdown time, your Facebook page is filled with running posts, injury posts and article upon article about what to do, what not to do, what you should have done, what it’s too late to do now and oh-my-god-you’ve-done-everything-wrong posts. Right? Yeah. ‘S’ok. Anyone who’s run a marathon has been there and heard most of it and I think I’m right in saying that you need to treat the advice in the same way that you treat all the suggestions about how to live your life, how to bring up your child, how to fold your laundry …… blah blah blah! Listen to all of it, nod, respect every viewpoint and then take the bits that are going to be good for YOU and run with them. In this case, literally!

For what it’s worth … here’s my list. Ignore at will or take what’s useful. Whatever you decide will be the right decision for you at this time.

– Whether you’ve done the training or you’re taking the ‘it’ll-be-alright-on-the-night’ approach, too late to dwell on should-haves and could-haves. Focus purely on the day that’s coming and getting yourself from start to finish. Remember – it’s all about the finishing photo!

– Don’t wait till you’re stressed out the day before your race to iron your name on your shirt. Do it a few days before so you have time to resort to Plan B without hysteria!

– You’ve heard it time and again but PLEASE don’t ignore it. NO NEW CLOTHING ON THE DAY! Nothing. Nada. Not even nail varnish!! God forbid – what if you find your new colour clashes with your laces????

– TOE NAILS. Cut them, file them … Brighton marathon is flat so little chance of you losing any – but why take the risk, eh?

– Double check your breakfast ingredients are all ready. Nothing worse than waking up to find Mum’s bought the wrong oats by mistake or forgotten to buy the all-important bananas!

– NO CARB-LOADING! You know that post-Christmas-dinner feeling when you can’t move because you’ve eaten so much? Why on earth would you over-eat the night before a big race – ensuring you arrive at the start line sluggish because your body’s still trying to cope with all that pasta! Stop it! By all means increase the carbs a little in the couple of days leading up to race day – but by ‘increase’ I mean perhaps a baked potato with your usual chicken and salad, maybe extra oats in your smoothie for mid-afternoon snack! Yeah, really! THAT is ‘loading’. No ‘double portions’. Double portions will merely lead to double trouble.

– I would love to know the percentage of marathon households emitting the familiar sound ‘OMG SAFETY PINS WE HAVEN’T GOT ANY SAFETY PINS’ on race morning. They’ll be in your race pack but invariably there’ll be a mishap. Just dig them out of the sewing box NOW so you’re not searching on race day and getting stressed. Besides, you know that if you have loads waiting you won’t need any because that’s just sod’s law!

– Charged your Garmin? #justsayin’

– Couple of wet wipes tucked away somewhere (they fold nicely in a mini sandwich bag) will see you comfortable if you get short-taken!

– Prepare for THE WALL! If (more likely ‘when’) you hit it you will feel that it’s affecting you far worse than any other runner. It isn’t. The wall is about perspective and strategy. Plough through it, leap (mentally) over it, go (figuratively) around it … but it DOES help to have a plan of action. Write a mantra on your hand and start chanting it to the rhythm of your feet (‘Nearly there, I’m nearly there’ or ‘I can do this, I WILL do this’ … or anything positive and ‘rhythmical’). Avoid phrases like ‘Don’t give up’ because they use negative words even though the meaning is positive. When you hit that wall your brain will only hear the ‘don’t’!! Maybe this is the time you can start counting strides? Pick a number, count, look up, take a drink, repeat, etc. I know somebody who wrote a few friends’ names on their hand and as they hit the wall they started having individual conversations with them (in their head). Whatever you do, it’s up to you. It’s never easy. You’re running a marathon, for goodness’ sake! There’s a reason very few people ever accomplish it. This is one of them. Give yourself the BEST advantage. PLAN your assault of that wall and remember … on the other side it’s time to run for home!!

– The expo ……… It’s exciting. It’s full of marathon fever. You can get lost in there. You can spend hours ……………… ON YOUR FEET! GO HOME! Feet need to be UP!

– Finally … marathon week … expect flu symptoms, bronchitis, IT band playing up, that old ankle injury will come back, you’ll feel ill, knees are aching a bit, that cough has returned ….. etc. etc. etc. You are not alone. Even better, for the vast majority of you these symptoms are all in your head. I can hear you right now: ‘Are you kidding? This sore throat/(insert appropriate symptom) isn’t in my head. It’s real.’ Yes, it is. Sorta! But it’s only a ‘temporary real’. I PROMISE YOU – a mile across that start line those symptoms will have disappeared (you’ll have a whole new set of things to think about haha). For now though, this is your body’s way of making you take notice. It’s merely saying ‘Time to compromise! You want me to carry you for 26 miles? Then feed me, give me water and get these legs on the couch!’ The least you can do is listen. It does have a point, after all.

I AM EXCITED FOR EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU. A marathon start line is an incredible achievement all by itself. Look around, feel proud, feel the buzz, ditch the excuses and do what needs to be done. The magic only happens outside your comfort zone. Go chase it.

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10
Apr

thetrilife Masters Programme – Month 1

Four weeks down. My thoughts?

Direction! I’ve got direction. It’s great to be training with purpose. I neeeeeeed direction and purpose. For the last six months I’ve been mostly sitting on the sofa, going for the occasional run and that’s about it. I decided to try and rediscover my triathlon dreams and I entered a couple of sprint tris but the occasional swim and bike is dull, boring and demotivating. Without a plan, everything comes under the umbrella ‘junk’. So here I am, at the end of my first four weeks of training on the TriLife Masters programme and not a junk mile or minute to my name. That feels so good. It gets me up in the morning and it’s ultimately comforting to know that whatever I’m doing is the right thing to do. I’m not worried that I should be doing hill sprints instead of an endurance run – or swim drills instead of 400s. What a great feeling that is.

In terms of training this month has revealed the effects of a few months off. At 50+ you lose fitness like everybody else, but you ALSO lose strength and power and it is very VERY difficult to get those back. To an extent, it’s not possible to get them back, but I can regain some with hard work and determination and I can definitely prevent my body losing any more.

So … RUNNING: The focus has been on stamina and cadence. Fascinating. My stamina is non-existent but this is something I CAN really work on – and love doing. Plenty hard work ahead. I’ve been trying really hard to get this higher cadence sorted – mostly by shortening my stride and concentrating on form. It’s working. It’s harder than it should be, but it’s getting there already. Parkrun after four weeks and I did nothing other than focus on maintaining steady cadence – and I still came in around my previous average. My hopes of a PB have gone out the window – that six months off has put paid to that – but that 5k result is still super-motivating.

SWIMMING: Breathing is better. Body ‘roll’ is better, my stroke is more even and I think my kick is improving. Still struggling with speed. I feel my 100s and 200s should be harder. I’m going for even pace but I think that pace should be consistently faster. That’s my problem … when I increase stroke rate I seem to lose pace so need to figure this out. Drills are paying off, I think – but only just done my first ‘test’ so too soon to know.

BIKING: She has a name: Polly. Not my choice of name; she was sort of named for me – but it’s stuck. Polly she is, then. She’s doing well. Once again, focus has been on cadence. Lighter gears and cadence. Long rides have been easy and enjoyable (lucky with weather) but I’m still – as always – worried about speed. Back to the ‘power’ question again. This is going to be a big battle. As a masters athlete I can’t increase it any more. What’s gone is gone, so the research dictates – so where am I going to find that power? I’m going to trust this programme 100% to show me where! THAT is exciting.

First sprint tri of the season in a couple of weeks. Actually looking forward to it.

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23
Mar

thetrilife Masters Programme Week 1

Oh, I’m such a slave to programmes but find myself completely at a loss without. After my two IM fiascos last summer I ditched my bike for the indoor rower and focussed on a team WR attempt – which proved to be hugely successful and so much fun! (Well – if ‘fun’ and ‘rowing’ can be used in the same sentence??) After that, though (December) I lost the plot and resorted to doing more or less nothing. January came along and for the first time ever I had no goals, no plans, no motivation, no desire to do anything. February came and went in much the same way. It was time to get my act together and take action. After much research, I signed up to the Trilife Master Programme – simply to give me direction, to get reinspired, to get me moving and basically to tell me what to do.

It’s easy to say ‘Oh, but you know what to do already’. Yes, maybe – but much like doctors make the worst patients I find it extremely difficult to set up training plans for myself and stick to them. I need external eyes, experience and knowhow. Besides – since I never crossed the finish line of those two IM I’m not really feeling too confident about doing anything for myself. Committing to a programme is a great motivator.

And so … after a slightly interrupted taster week, I’ve completed Week 1. Loving having a programme to follow and knowing that I’m in professional hands. There are no ‘fluffy’ sessions here. Everything is exact, everything has a purpose. Not a junk mile in sight and it’s fun to be back in the classroom again! One week and lots learned::

Swimming: One of the sessions is VERY heavy on kicking. I’ve always thrown in a couple of token ‘kicking’ drills – thinking this was enough. Doing ‘lots’ of kicking has been fascinating – repeated lengths with nothing to do but discover different effects of kicking technique. Suddenly it clicks and my speed almost doubles, then I lose it again. Actually can’t wait to repeat that session. I’d have lost the will to live had I ever tried that on my own! And as for T-pace? Working on that one. Currently, I have one pace which I’m calling T-pace. If I attempt T-pace + 10 I think I’ll find myself dead in the water. Needs work! As for ‘building’: I can just about find 4 speeds to build on – but definitely not 8. There’s a goal right there! Final Week 1 swimming lesson: Faster stroke rate does not mean faster speed. Looking forward to finding a happy medium here (hopefully in this lifetime). In my case, increasing my stroke rate is resulting in a less-efficient half-executed stroke and therefore less speed.

Biking: Turbo session great. Harder work than it should be. My fitness is at the bottom of a very deep hole somewhere. Going to be interesting hauling it back up. Already ‘natural’ cadence is getting closer to the desired 90 rpm. That’ll do for now. Outdoors – tentative and unsure on my bike so need to find some confidence. As always – slow! Will be working on that a lot.

Running: The hazard of focussing on endurance these last months is that short-and-fast has been left behind. Result? I have ONE gear and one gear only and that gear is slower than it’s ever been. Never thought I’d have to work really hard on my running. That used to be my ‘given’. Not any more. Quite a challenge keeping up cadence of 90 continually so that’s a fun goal for now.

Bring it on Uckfield and Mid-Sussex tris. It’s going to be a FUN and positive confidence-building summer.

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24
Jan

Chi Running – a workshop for beginners

Filed in Just running

CHI RUNNING WORKSHOP

Talk to any runner about energy and he/she will happily launch into conversation. Mention ‘chi’ rather than ‘energy’ and odds are a small percentage will nod knowingly, a slightly larger percentage might smile and pretend to be open to ‘whatever works for you, dearest’, some will respond with a derisive snort and others will roll their eyes and turn away. Of course it is a matter of each one to his own, but as a slow ultrarunner – and therefore someone who is out on a course for considerable hours – an opportunity to learn rudimentary techniques affording me forward motion with maximum efficiency and minimal effort could not be missed. It was with some excitement, then, that I found myself stepping through the door of Gray Caws’ Chi Running Workshop for beginners (http://www.n8pt.com/). I would not be disappointed.

The small group (5 in total) was friendly and meant that everyone got ample individual attention and it was easy for everyone’s questions to be answered. Following brief introductions and without further ado, the first order of the day was to film us all running. After that it was back to the classroom but there was no time for sitting down. In fact, there was very little sitting down. A couple of my friends had speculated that we would spend an hour at least listening to the origins and philosophies of all things ‘chi’. Not so (although, having a teenage background in martial arts I am great believer in the power of chi so I wouldn’t have minded this at all!).

The morning was spent learning about correct postural alignment, why it was so important as a runner/walker and what we should be aiming for and how to adjust and correct. In the most basic terms, the better your postural alignment the less work the body has to do to enable forward motion. In other words, the less effort would be needed. We spent a lot of fascinating time learning exercises to correct and ‘discover’ the most ‘functional’ posture – in terms that made such complete and ‘grounded’ (no pun intended) sense.

Having got the general gist of these basics, it was then time to analyse our individual running form (video-ed earlier). Armed with the knowledge of what we were aiming for, these analyses were hugely informative and enlightening. Even after just that couple of hours, we were all able to view movements such as ‘my arms keep crossing my body’ or ‘my feet fly out to the sides’ not merely objectively but with a very comforting and motivating awareness that we now knew ‘why’ we did it, where the movement originated from and how we could begin to correct it.

The afternoon afforded us time to put some of this into practice with drills focussing on maintaining alignment while moving, the effect of cadence and the importance of arm movement.

If ever there was a worthwhile workshop for runners – or walkers (!), this was/is it! Sceptics can stay away. All others should put aside any preconceptions of ‘fluffy’ ideas or images of groups of runners chasing various auras around the park whilst chanting various incantations (don’t tell me some of you haven’t pictured this!). Nothing could be further from the truth. For a runner – and I think (probably mistakenly but definitely subjectively) endurance runners – the word ‘chi’ should be readily available in your vocabulary. It has certainly jumped to the top of mine. Check out upcoming workshops or find out more at Gray Caws or  http://www.chirunning.co.uk/.

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