Archive for the ‘The Road to Ironman’ Category

IM Sweden – A breeze? Nope. It was THE breeze …

26
Aug

Yes. The breeze. It beat me. Brought ‘weatherbeaten’ to a whole new level – and another DNF. That’s a record for me – 2 x DNF in a year. D’ye think someone’s sending me a message?

It’s taken me a while to get around to writing this but I promise I haven’t been sulking all the time! Hindsight is a real b**** – packed chock full of thoughts of ‘should have’ and ‘if only’ and ‘what if’ – which are of little benefit when you’re already hiding in a corner with a comfort blanket and sobbing because the rattle you launched across the room has fallen down the gap in the floorboards and is now the property of dust and spiders.

Hrrrrrrrumphhhh!

That eensy-weensy DNF aside, the Kalmar experience was very special and soooooooooo much fun. It was so lovely to be surrounded by friends and family – all supporting, smiling, encouraging, helpful, positive, fun, excited and just, well, magical. Huge thanks – Karim, Caitriona, Kelly, Kurt, Jody, Amy, Fiona and Russ. What an entourage!! You ALL know how special you are and I hope you know how much you contributed to making this trip totally fabulous!!

Not so many thanks go to British Airways – who couldn’t be arsed to put my bike on the plane and caused me untold stresses at Copenhagen Airport. It finally arrived THREE FLIGHTS/SIX HOURS LATER!!

IM Kalmar T1

And the biggest mention and recommendation for ANYONE doing an Ironman event ……….. Two words: NIRVANA EUROPE (http://www.nirvanaeurope.com/). I cannot recommend them enough. Punctual, super-helpful, nothing was too much trouble – they went above and beyond the call of duty and I can only say the service was EXCEPTIONAL! I would seriously urge any competitors to have these guys on your side!

OK. Back to the eensy-weensy DNF thing …

A quote from the official race report said … ‘For the 2,161 athletes lining up at the start, looks ended up being deceiving. Battling the choppy waters of the Baltic Sea, the athletes began racing under challenging conditions ….’, and then … ‘Strong winds whipped through the first 122 kilometers on the island of Öland, making the bike extremely challenging.’

(For the full article see here: http://www.ironman.com/triathlon/news/articles/2015/08/ironman-kalmar-recap.aspx#ixzz3jxkWLFNG)

Ultimately, this meant that even swimmers in the elite category came off the swim 5 or 6 minutes slower than estimated – and came off the bikes up to half an hour over the estimated time. You’ve no idea how happy those statistics made me since it helped me regain a little perspective!!

IM Kalmar start line

Summary: I had an AWESOME swim. I loved it! The sea was wavy and rough and choppy and basically sh** but I loved it because I had no issues to contend with other than the waves and the jellyfish! No banana issues, no retching, no having to stop every 20 strokes. Best swim EVER!! Yes, the course was tricky to follow – I had NO idea which buoys to follow … but I DID have a pack of swimmers to follow (first time ever I’ve been able to keep up!). I was able to draft, I was totally unbothered by the kicking, elbows and knocks throughout the entire swim (not just the start line, as I’d originally thought), I never felt uncomfortable or panicky, I apologise to the jellyfish who got a surprise internal examination – and I even managed to ‘race’ (I use the term loosely) to the finish! I was SO happy – and I can confirm that I am STILL super-chuffed with that swim, regardless of anything to do with the rest of the day!

IM Kalmar swim

On to the bike! Let’s keep this brief. 122km of hell. I can safely say I didn’t enjoy one single second, I’m afraid! I was smiling when I got on my bike and started out on the course. Felt great. Soon as we hit the 6km bridge it was straight into headwind. That was it for the rest of that 122km loop – headwind or side wind – take your pick. Not till we reached the bridge again did we get a 6km tailwind to come across to the mainland – but by then it was too late for me. The first 40km were fine. Tough but I was managing to keep around 24/25 kph and I was pleased with that. About two hours in, though, I suddenly started feeling really really weary. And I don’t mean tired legs. My stomach started cramping and I just felt ‘weary’! Three hours in, I was forced to make a loo stop, which was supposed to be brief and ended up being ten minutes. AAAAAHHHHHH!! Unplanned and took me by surprise. You don’t need details. I emerged after ten minutes, thinking ‘Right! Let’s get back to it!’ I fuelled up, jumped on – and was thereafter beaten by that damn wind. I did everything I could think of – played with every single combination of gears available – but I could NOT gain back the average mileage lost from that loo stop. 22.5 kph is the absolute minimum to reach an 8-hour bike cut-off and the most I could manage was 21.8 kph. FRUSTRATION!! Not only that, but I actually FELL ASLEEP on my bike. That’s how hard it was (for me)! Too much wind to be able to look around and take in views so it was head down, pedal and watch the average mileage, and four times my eyes literally just SHUT!! It was so scary! I mean, how does that happen?

I think the swim took it all out of me – and/or I need to be more aware of the FIFTH triathlon discipline – FOCUS/NOT-FALLING-ASLEEP! I need to re-address this. I think I was just completely wiped!

I’m sure you’re thinking I obviously wasn’t trying hard enough or ‘How can anyone fall asleep on a bike?’ or ‘I should have been pedalling faster or stronger or harder ……?’ WHATEVER!!! That’s how it was. I don’t EVER give less than 100% and I was simply well and truly beaten. Kudos to the wind and to the awesome cyclists out there! I salute you! You inspire me!

I came back across the bridge and did the calculations – 2 hours 10 mins to rack up the final 60km. With nigh on six hours behind me struggling to even keep 21 kph, there was no realistic way I was suddenly going to pull out an extra 10 kph for another two hours. It was not going to happen.

I came down the hill to the roundabout and saw Karim and Caitriona and Kelly screaming there from the side lines and I rolled up and it was all over for me. And not a single teeny-weeny judgmental word from anyone – I LOVE YOU!!!!!

IM Kalmar support

I am gutted to have once again not made the run but I can only be satisfied that I KNOW I did absolutely everything I was capable of on the day – and pulling out was the right decision/the only decision at the right time on that day. Another DNF and once again on the bike, but this time with a FABULOUS swim behind me – it somehow makes it a lot easier to deal with. That’s a whole discipline better than in Cairns. Hey! One step at a time …

Taking six months off now, I think. I am going to kickbox and run trails and climb walls and swing kettle bells.

A final, special word for BOSH TRI and the Facebook NUTTERS – your online support was overwhelming! Big big hugs and thanks to all of you, too.

For now ………………. This is Ironman Hyatt signing off for a wee while. XX

IM Kalmar Post DNF

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This time next week … IM Sweden!

09
Aug

This time next week I will be somewhere in the environs of Kalmar, Sweden – on my bike. Cycling. I will have swum 2.4 miles (3.8 km) and will be visualising getting off my bike sometime in the near future (as near as possible) to start a wee marathon jaunt.

I think my last blog was slightly negative – but more than that, on re-reading I fear it was rather dismissive of the people who got me to this ‘here’ and and this ‘now’. I just want to rectify that.

I would never have got to the start line of IM Cairns on my own – and I most CERTAINLY would never be packing for IM Sweden 9 weeks later!

I hold Kurt Charnock and Amy Jordan ENTIRELY responsible for my clicking on the IM Sweden website the day after my Cairns DNF. Thanks for that is on hold hahahaha

I hold my husband entirely responsible for my IM Sweden registration. After the massive expense (and the treat) of a magical holiday (never mind the DNF in the middle!) in Cairns, Australia, I couldn’t even entertain spending money on another jaunt away – yet when I landed at Heathrow Airport, the first words out of his mouth were ‘So, have you registered for Sweden?’ (Yes, he IS amazing!)

Fabulous friends and family have kept me encouraged and determined to give this another go. Caitriona, Chris, Sebastian, Rebecca, Kelly, Jo (Andrews), Ros, … Eeeek!

And then ………. AND THEN ……… there is the BTRS ‘family’. I don’t have time for an Oscars speech here – but THANK YOU!!! The support has just been so unbelievably humbling – what on earth I did to deserve it, I’ll never know! The influx of messages and texts after Cairns was incredible. Hiding was impossible. The words ‘IM Sweden’ floated around and suddenly I had a whole new type of message coming my way ….. ‘Come swimming!’ ‘Are you swimming tonight?’ ‘If not, why not?’ … and then ‘Got to get your get bike miles up’ …. followed by Kurt, Amy, Jody … giving up HOURS of free time to accompany me on several bigger-mileage rides ……………….. and all simply to help me reach my second IM start line even more prepared than last time. Words fail.

Steve McMenamin and Simon Barry – thank you for your texts and support (and Steve for all your bike help)!

Jane Millar – thank you for your swimming help/advice/tips and time.

Issi, Becky …… MWAH!! Thanks for picking me up – continuously!

THANK YOU! I really don’t know what else to say but it had to be said. You are ALL unbelievably supportive, encouraging, inspiring …

With all of you behind me, how can I possibly NOT make it to the finish line this time??

I am one very lucky athlete.

Russ? Amy? Ready???

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Seventeen days and counting … (Ironman Kalmar)

30
Jul

Oh my oh my. Yes, blogs have been missing – since Cairns! About as ‘missing’ as my training. Seventeen days to Ironman Kalmar/Sweden and am I ready? Erm …. well, not really. Then again, how ready will I ever be? Especially after feeling so ‘ready’ for Cairns and then not getting much past the swim.

Hey ho. It’s a different journey and I’m still trying to file Cairns away and open a new chapter. I thought it’d be quite easy. I thought entering Sweden – 9 weeks away from Cairns – that I’d simply be able to top up my training and keep everything ticking over.

Easier said than done!!

One big big BIG mistake: letting go of my coach. Merely because I’d already decided to take a few months ‘off’ once I’d ‘nailed’ Ironman Cairns!!! Hrrrrrmph! My next mistake was not immediately running back and going HEEELLLLPPPPPPPP!! What nowwwwwwww???? And HOW DO I PREPARE FOR SWEDEN????? But I didn’t. I thought I could let it slide and simply redo my pre-Cairns training for the same weeks up until Sweden.

Idiot!

Seventeen days to go and I’ve ………………………………………. done a bit of running, played games in the sea, done TWO sea swims (neither v. long), and done one long (if fantabulous) bike ride (and a few shorter ones) – supported by the amazing group of athletes and friends that is BTRS.

IMG_4651 REMEMBER

I’ve had loads of encouragement and the best of help and suggestions – but I’m not a ‘do what feels right’ sort of person. Nor am I a ‘do a bit of this and a bit of that’ sort of person. I need plans and structure – and I need a coach. It takes a great coach to ensure that, with history of various injuries and niggles AND training hampered by weather I was still able to train 17-20 hours per week for three full months pre-Cairns without the slightest hint of injury. That was an AWESOME feeling. That feeling has been sadly lacking since Cairns.

So Sweden is coming up and I’m living on the hope that my pre-Cairns training will carry over. I’ve added four bike rides (albeit hugely enjoyable rides (3 of them) with FABULOUS company!!), a couple of runs and two swims??? Yep! That’s about it! For nine weeks, that is NOT good Ironman training. Structure, consistency ………………….. gone!

But all is never lost. I’m on holiday now and I’ve done more this week than in the previous six. I had a fantastic 15-mile run the other day and it felt GREAT (last long run). I’ve done a couple of really full-on gym sessions – mostly cardio because no point doing any strength stuff now. My cycling ‘was’ definitely my weak point so I’ve been boosting that with some solid sessions on the erg to target my leg strength. These have definitely paid off (I did a 500m PB this afternoon)! Probably my biggest fear (because I’m not even going to entertain the thought of ‘the marathon’) is the swim, which is where I came to pieces in Cairns. Apparently, the ‘issue’ I had is oh so common – so common, in fact, that there are LOADS of blogs and articles about it. No guaranteed cures, however, so it could still be an issue and that is very VERY worrying!

1075_010426

BUT ……… family and the bestest of friends will abound in Sweden. I CAN do this! I’m ‘well rested’, to say the least – although I think nine weeks of taper might be a tad long? But let’s not split hairs!!. The swim is ‘brackish’! I can’t wait to find out what that means. I think it might mean ‘full of jellyfish’, but who knows! The bike course is ‘flat’. PAHAHAHAHAHAHA That’s what they said about Cairns. I don’t believe ANYTHING!!! And any way, ‘flat’ means ‘wind’ and that can be worse than any bloomin’ hill so let’s see. Still – I’m happier about the bike now. Bummer! You know what? I think I came close to actually ‘enjoying’ a couple of those training rides. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME!!!!! I’m hoping I will have avoided consistent vomiting in the swim this time to be able to give the bike course a good go.

Like I said, we’re not talking about the run.

I did my last three-hour training session today. It’s way past midnight now. Sixteen days and counting!

Eeee.

And THAT, my friends, is all the negatives out of the way. I can. I will. That medal awaits. Just keep swimming, just keep pedalling, just keep running! This will happen!

REMEMBER

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IRONMAN – NOT THIS TIME!

23
Jun

Ironman sign

Midst the tears of disappointment, frustration and devastating result I shall try very hard not to dwell on the brighter, brilliant and more positive aspects of my Ironman adventure … travelling over in FIRST CLASS (Oh My Goodness HOW WONDERFUL AND AMAZING WAS THAT!!!), landing in Australia for the first time (a dream since teenage years) (did I mention that I flew First Class?), the adorable company throughout of my wonderful and magical eldest daughter, corals, snorkelling ……… these things are for another blog. I must try very hard not to mention the Great Barrier Reef, the tropical fish, sky rails, rainforests, the cutest koala bears EVER and, of course, did I mention that I flew First Class?

First Class dining

I will focus instead on the task that lay ahead (after my FIRST CLASS flight)!

Good luck cards

Drop Bags

Time to Race

RESULTS:

Swim: 55:22 (1.9 km) – 1:12:55 (1.9 km) – TOTAL: 2:08

T1:       9:52

Bike:    5:05 (81.6 km) – RACE TIME: 7:13:18

DNF

 

Cue MELTDOWN!! Or, well, to be totally honest, the meltdown didn’t come until I met Caitriona on the way back to the hotel. At the moment the marshall informed me I’d missed the cut-off and he had to ask me to stop, my body said THANK YOU!!!! Having the decision made for me was one of the positives amidst soooooooooooooooo many negatives!

So what happened? Perhaps the reason this blog has been delayed a while is because I can’t say for certain. I don’t know! All I can say is that involved the swim, it most definitely involved bananas … and after that it was all down to lack of ANY fuel.

Breakfast was spot on. Breakfast has seen me through so many races I know it was right. Then there was that top-up banana an hour before the start time. Well, I’ve practised bananas pre-swim and never had a problem. Not so on June 14th. On this day the banana decided the limelight belonged to him/her and it was determined to fight back! Why? Nerves? I was pretty calm. Emotional? I got a bit flustered because I desperately wanted to hug Caitriona before I dived in and I couldn’t find her – but I DID find her and all was well, I took a deep breath and we were off. Fear? Nope. I’d warmed up, swum, nothing scary about the water. I was perfectly happy with that. So ……………. What? All suggestions welcome (please post below). Adrenalin? I’m pretty calm and wasn’t noticeably worked up (not that I knew, anyhow). Jet lag? Really? Who knows?!

Anyhoooooooooooooooo … took my place at the start line, perfectly happy running into the water, swam about 20 strokes, concentrating on not going out fast (chance’d be a fine thing!!), controlling my breathing and settling into my natural pace. It took about 20 strokes to realise that perhaps breathing should be a priority over pace – and I just couldn’t breathe! I started to breaststroke and attempted to slow my breathing down but EVERYTHING seemed constricted, it felt like my chest was about to burst out of my wetsuit and I couldn’t get any air past the top of my chest, which meant that essentially I was sort of hyperventilating and could NOT slow it down! After a couple of minutes I decided that if that was what my breathing was going to do, maybe I could adjust my stroke rate to suit it – as opposed to the other way round??? I know, I know – who DOES that??? But it was the only strategy I could come up with. Alas, it didn’t work (surprise, surprise!). On to Plan C. Wait. Slight problem. I didn’t have a Plan C.

Never mind. My stomach has a Plan C. Cue a new strategy. Lean on lifeguard’s surf board, retch, take a few deep breaths, swim 20-30 strokes. Repeat. For 1.8 km!

No, really! That’s how it was. His name was Heath, by the way (probably still is lol). He might have saved my life; he certainly saved my race! I didn’t think I was going to make it to the very first buoy! As it was, Heath didn’t move more than 3 ft away from me for the entire swim. He talked me through the lot, muttered a million platitudes and was a master at disguising his thoughts of me repeatedly retching over his lovely surfboard. He supplied me with fresh water and did my sighting for me – pointing out which buoy to head for next as my head was just spinning. As we reached the halfway beach turnaround he leant down and grabbed my wrist and looked at my watch – at which point he said ‘Awesome! Run! You can still make the cut-off!’ At which point I ran, returned to the water, swam 10 strokes and then properly threw up!! Hey ho, after that I felt soooooooooooo much better!! I managed to settle into a half-decent stroke rate and complete the swim. I was a little surprised that the timing for the second half of my swim was so much slower, but having said that the water had definitely changed by then. There was quite a big swell (compared to the first hour!), it was choppier and the current was a little faster.

Boy, was I glad to get out of that water!!!!! I actually did the swim in 2 hours (bloody miracle). The 8:18 seconds was the time it took to launch a quick hug in Heath’s direction – alongside a massive THANK YOU!!

I was a sort of greenish colour when I got into the tent. The euphoria of having actually made the cut-off was short-lived. The ladies who greeted me were amazing and literally undressed and dressed me – while I tried not to think about having to get on a bicycle!

I did my very very best to smile as I exited T1. I looked like shit but I was actually feeling positive by now. This was something that simply had to be done. I got on my bike thinking that I would just settle into a ‘regular’ pace and give my body a little chance to get itself together. I tried unsuccessfully to drink a little water. I figured that even if I had to play catch-up later it was more important initially to give my stomach time to settle so that I could then focus on the job in hand. I pedalled, remembered to look up and absorb the beautiful coastal scenery, I tried to relax and tell my body all was ok. Body wasn’t in listening mood.

Cut a long story short, hills felt like mountains and I watched my average bike time go down and down and down as the inclines went up and up and up. By the time I’d reached the first turnaround and beginning of the second loop I’d thrown up half an energy bar and avoided the energy drink I had because it was making me feel really queasy – which I wouldn’t have minded had it actually reached my blood stream and given me some ENERGY!! I was so desperate for energy. My legs felt great, my head was still battling with positives and ignoring little voices and I was simply praying for a hit of energy – even a small one!

As I made my way back up to Port Douglas on the second loop I was accompanied by the sweeper bike. I’m sure he was lovely but I feel I must apologise for the names I was secretly calling him. Eventually, he couldn’t sweep slowly enough and he buggered off for a while haha

Coming into Port Douglas for the second time the marshall chugged up alongside me and told me I had four and a half minutes to reach the turnaround. I did my best. With the help of the marshall on the microphone and the crowd – who were all counting down for me – I made it! I actually laughed. It was quite funny. My stomach didn’t appreciate the humour. I came out of Port Douglas and thought ‘Come on! All the way home!’ … Mr Sweeper was at the roundabout on his phone doing various calculations. ‘Twenty minutes to the next aid station cut-off’, he said. ‘Come on! Keep that pace and you’ll make it!’ he said. ‘And drink more!’ he said – as he whipped my water bottle out of the cage, pootled off on his moped and returned five minutes later with a full bottle. Bless them all, they did everything they possibly could to get me through this course bar getting on the bike and cycling it themselves.

A fairly brutal headwind thwarted my efforts to make that 20-minute cut-off. I felt like I was cycling backwards – and the cramps in my feet were UNREAL!! I don’t know where the cramps came from but they were agonising. I have a completely amateurish theory (I know NOTHING about cycling) that they might have been a result of my using the aero bars that I’d originally had no intention of using? In actual fact I used my aero bars for a LOT of the bike course. They were easy, comfortable and the position suited my stomach. I just wonder if the position then altered the pressure on my feet – maybe changed the position my cleats should’ve been in? I could be totally making this up in my head, but ……………….. it passed the time!

I was escorted into the wagon of shame at that 75-mile mark – having missed the cut-off by 6 minutes. I finally had time to feel sorry for myself and notice how upset and uphappy my stomach was – and it was the longest journey ever – brightened up only by the man sitting opposite, who informed me that he’d been BEHIND ME IN THE SWIM!! Oh My God! I didn’t come last!! Lol

I don’t think I need to detail the meltdowns. Unfathomable thanks to my beautiful daughter, who mopped up endless tears and annoyingly kept saying ALL the right things (love you)!!

Massive congratulations to all the athletes who DID finish. I’m very proud of ALL of you (special mention for Keith Jackson and Chris Stainer) … even if I didn’t applaud and smile and jump up and down as ‘XXX YOU ARE AN IRONMAN’ wafted up endlessly into my hotel room, which was directly over the finish line. I was not going to be allowed to forget!! Haha

But don’t think I begrudge you any teensy weensy millisecond of your incredible achievements! You are both just incredible athletes and I am so SO happy that I WAS able to see you both across the finish.

As for me ………………….. hey, I’m uninjured. That can only mean one thing. It’s time to fight back.

Message from Rebecca

 

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Let the Adventure begin …

08
Jun

8 p.m. on June 8th and I’m sitting in the First Class (yes – gift from my amazing husband!!) lounge at Heathrow with a couple of hours to go before the adventure really and truly begins. It’s a little hard to relax when realisation keeps invading my dreams and sending my stomach lurching in fleeting moments of absolute terror – but hey, I’m trying! My new friend Mimosa (1 part orange juice, 4 parts champagne) is helping!

This is IT! If I squint I can just make out the start line. Over there … 6 days away. No matter what way I measure it, it’s still getting closer. In fact, it’s excruciatingly close – so close that it no longer matters what I do in terms of swimming, biking or running. In 6 days I will not learn to swim stronger, to bike faster or to run without swearing. I am where I am and all I can do now is to give it anything over 100% – my minimum effort percentage for anything I do (if not, then what’s the point?).

The final few weeks could perhaps have gone a little better. Training ramped up to 17-18 hours per week, which was more than enough for me – and I still maintain that my coach has been magnificent in bringing about the increases in volume and intensity without injury (permanent key objective). I’ve finished every session feeling proud, if occasionally it was tough getting out there because I was just ti-i-i-i-i-r-r-e-d!!

I’ve maintained all along that I wished to stand at the start line knowing that no matter what happened I had trained to my absolute best; that if things didn’t go my way it would not be because I missed out a few key sessions or had a few extra easy weeks. Unfortunately, the final two weeks didn’t really go as planned but I think that if there was ever a time to be forced to ease up a bit, then surely the final couple of weeks (taper weeks, in actual fact) must be the best choice? A migraine simply floored me for almost 4 days and I could NOT face my training sessions for love nor money, so that’s been a bit tricky to get my head around because I felt I’d ‘missed’ key workouts. Add to that my having to be fished out of the sea (again) due to a seeming inability to be able to stand up and walk out of that damned water (cue ‘shore dumps extraordinaire)! Well – ‘extraordinaire enough to lift my feet clean off the pebbles and send me into an undignified face plant … only to be caught by the next mischievous, evil bully of a wave which thought it was hilarious to see me frantically try to save myself by clutching a pebble! Cue the ‘fishing out’ bit … all of which resulted in damage to pecs and lats. Typical! Grrr! In short – that put paid to a few more sessions but I did manage a few catch-ups so everything has been ticking over. And, more importantly, I still maintain that I can stand on the start line confident that I never missed a session – because in my head (yes, that’s MY head … not a ‘general’ head) I’m not counting the missed sets of the last couple of weeks because I know in my heart of hearts I simply could not physically do them. Had I voluntarily taken a few lazy options, that would’ve been another matter altogether.

All that is very important for me – for my headspace. It has got me to where I am now – confident that I’ve given my training 100% attention and commitment. Whatever happens now, it will not be because I failed to prepare. And it certainly won’t be because I gave up!

Giving up is not an option. But I’m pretty good at not giving up – and where there’s not-giving-up, there’s hope!

Here’s hoping.

And through all this, never once did I hear a grumble along the lines of ‘Training AGAIN?’ or ‘Seriously? You’re going to be gone for how long?’ from my husband or any of my family. They’ve been magnificent and so incredibly supportive and inspiring. And speaking of inspiration, this journey would not have been so enjoyable and exciting and challenging without the help of so many friends beside me, behind me and – in the case of Jody East and most of BTRS Race Series triathletes – in front of me!

Thank you all for your unfathomable confidence. I won’t let you down.

6 days.

Eek.

Nothing more I can do.

‘Excuse me … yes, … could I have another glass of champagne, please?’

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FOUR WEEKS TO IRONMAN …

17
May

Been an interesting three weeks since I last posted. Training building building building – with one or two hiccups, but what would training be without hiccups, right?

Weeks 7-to-go and 6-to-go were interesting and devastating at the same time. Basically, … remember when I said that if everything went pear-shaped on race day, that my goal was to know that I could never say ‘It’s all because I missed that one workout’? Well, that little goal went to pot somewhat as I received the most devastating family news that knocked me for six – and threw my headspace right out of the game. A 2-hour run turned into a 2-hour walk (token gesture) to try and get some perspective. Having said that, looking at my diary, I muddled blindly through all the other sessions that week – culminating in Steyning Tri (http://rawenergypursuits.co.uk/) on the Sunday.

The tri was not officially on my training plan but was, I think, constructive – just as a learning curve. Certainly it was that! I road tested my precise Ironman clothing once again – and am happy with all of that! The weather was bloomin’ awful – wind, rain, yuk, yuk. I certainly learned some valuable lessons!

Lesson 1: When you set out your transition gear, cover all with a bin bag so you don’t come out of the swim and be greeted with sopping socks, water-logged cycle shoes – and that thermal hat you were going to wear under your helmet to ensure warmth? Yep – that was soggy, too!

Lesson 2: When you set out your transition gear, cover all with a bing bag so you don’t come off the bike and be greeted with an optional pair of sopping socks and WATER-LOGGED TRAINERS! At the very least, put your trainers upside down! I actually had a second pair of trainers in the bottom of my transition bag and I pulled those out (because running in wet Hokas is like a weight-training session!) – but I also had to then run in bare feet, which culminated in unwanted blisters!!

Hey ho – can’t complain. Every day’s a school day and this was GREAT in terms of education!! I fought my hardest and still came in last overall (no surprise there – that’s my usual spot, anyway).

Swim was slow but slightly thwarted by the man in front who hadn’t read the rules that said ‘if your feet are touched by the swimmer behind, stop at the end of that length and leg them past’. After three lengths of swimming practically on top of him and tapping his feet and being ignored, that last little straw broke (stress week (see above)) and I grabbed both ankles and pulled him backwards – and overtook! #lanerage Sorry haha

Swim: 19:45 (800m)
T1: FOUR MINUTES (4:04) And no – I STILL wouldn’t come last. Did make me laugh, though – serious clothing issues and time wasted being pissed off that all my clothes were soggy
Bike: 1:25:59 (40km) – actually quite pleased with this – not the average speed I was looking for but considering the weather and my state of mind I was very happy with this.
T2: TWO MINUTES (2:12) – still far too long (should’ve been about 30 secs) but I really wasn’t chasing times (as you can tell)
Run: 46:52 (8km) – Yeah – I was ok with this. The run was actually quite hard but I didn’t walk anywhere so happy! Just one niggle: my new, favourite and absolutely my Ironman Cairns choise of shoe – the most fabulous On Clouds – https://www.on-running.com/en-gb/shop – they SQUEAK when the surface is wet!!!! Annoying beyond belief!! (Now got ‘dry weather’ shoe choice and ‘wet weather’ shoe choice because they nearly drove me mad!! haha. Oh well … all in all:

TOTAL TIME: 2:38:55 

Six weeks to go

That thing I mentioned about devastating news and my headspace? Yup, this was the week it sank in – and I sank with it. Decent swim set on Wednesday and forced a respectable brick session on Thursday but the rest of the week was, unfortunately, a right-off. This’ll be the week that comes back to bite me. Having said that, I’m not going to look with regret. It wasn’t laziness or apathy …. I just could not emotionally get in the game and I’m going to accept that what it is and move on.

Five weeks to go – BIG WEEK!

Big training week. And yes, I’m BACK!! So much out of my control, concentrate on the things that ARE under my control, e.g. my training.
And indeed, a big week it is. 2 x 5+ hour bike rides, interval sessions, bricks, Iron distance swim … and a long run (which I’m about to do soon as I’ve finished writing this!)

Great week – and plenty more learning going on. Hit a big wall on my bike on Wednesday, which sent me back to Mark Laithwaite’s AMAZING series of articles on raceday nutrition – a must-read for any endurance athlete. Read the latest one here – and link to the previous ones (http://iancorless.org/2015/05/06/race-day-nutrition-part-seven-marc-laithwaite/)

I’ve learned to stop stressing about my speed on the bike. I need to settle down and just enjoy the race day that’s coming. Don’t make the cut-off? Sod it, I’ll do the run anyway and still cross the finish line. I need to just keep training, keep the consistency and know that I’ve done all I can do.

Back in open water again – what an amazing feeling – but how hard is it to swim in a wetsuit!!! Argh! Am I the only one who just finds this HARD?? Oh well – just got to suck it up and get on with it. I’ve tried once again to focus on increasing my stroke rate these last couple of weeks – but when I look at the stats afterwards it appears I am going NO faster. Now, this might defy logic, but I guess that when I increase my stroke rate I’m reducing something else somewhere. Technically, I’m doing something wrong. Conclusion: When I increase my stroke rate I don’t go any faster BUT I get tired more easily so I’m going to stick with what’s working with my lower stroke rate for now (too late to be changing technique – need to just focus on distance now).

Long bike on Monday was lo-o-o-o-o-o-o-ng. But it got done. Long bike on Saturday with the BTRS group  –http://brightontriathlonraceseries.co.uk/ – was FABULOUS. 40 miles on a mostly beautiful route in and around the South Downs, lovely company and very useful race day chatter (thank you Steve McMenamim – https://www.facebook.com/steve.mcmenamin.9. Dropped the group back at base and continued on with Keith Jackson for a further couple of hours. Is this guy strong on his bike or WHAT!! The first half an hour I was getting very frustrating because I was struggling so hard with the headwind and could NOT keep up no matter what I did. Why have I just got NO POWER in my legs? It just will not happen. Does my head in. Anyway, after half an hour – and making it clear to Keith that he should power ahead and not get frustrated waiting for me (would meet him at the end) … I decided to quit stressing and just focus. Had a great ride after that – apart from a tumble off my bike. Case of miscommunication. Came to a fork, I knew I needed to turn left, then had a last-minute change of thought and decided perhaps it was a right turn? Didn’t quite manage to communicate this to my bike, which continued left, while I turned right!! Interesting! Desperately tried a slow-motion uncleating of my right foot, followed by a roundhouse kick to an imaginary head to set up my impressive midair flip which would result in me landing lightly on my feet before my bike hit the ground. I think it needs more practice. I didn’t quite make it. Scraped and bruised knee and a pulled calf muscle from the failed uncleating business *sigh*.

**Wee note to car drivers** When you see a cyclist falling into the middle of the road it would be very much appreciated if you would take a sec to roll down the window and yell a quick (even if insincere) ‘You allright’? – rather than merely driving AROUND ME!! Is this a good time to be grateful you didn’t just drive over me?

OK. That’s all the news for now. That’s it. I think this is kind of the official countdown now – FOUR WEEKS TO GO!

Is it time to pack yet?

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SEVEN WEEKS TO GO – EEEEK!

27
Apr

In exactly seven weeks’ time I will be mid cycle, or mid run or even waiting to start the swim (I can’t work out the time difference but you get my drift)! So ….. now that I’m officially into single-figure countdown mode, what are my thoughts on the impending challenge?

Training …

Wow! I’ve never been so out of my depth. I can honestly say I have no idea what I’m doing. By that I mean that if I was putting together a training plan for a sprint tri, I could probably put it all together pretty well following basic personal training and programme planning rules and guidelines. Ironman distance, however, leaves me flummoxed and I have never been so so SO happy to have complete and utter confidence in my trainer. I am like putty in his hands, to be honest. He tells me what to do. I do. And apart from a bruised forehead from frequently falling asleep at the table and waking up only when my head has collided violently with it, I am LOVING the challenge. It’s new, it’s exciting, it’s tough but it’s never boring. I might be training 12-15 hours per week (oops – think I hit 17 the last 2 weeks lol) but it’s always different and, a bonus for us 50-plussers, it’s so much easier on the joints as a result of the variety of sports and different muscle groups being used for each. Increases in volume and intensity have also been very carefully structured so I have always been able to manage and best of all I always know that every workout has a purpose. I’ve found it incredibly comforting knowing when I go to the pool, or go running or cycling that whatever I’m doing is the right thing to do = the bliss of having a great trainer, thank you Ian (http://iancorless.org/)! I’ve got a pile of triathlon books, all with training schedules in them – and I just don’t know what I’d do had I had to resort to them as they are ALL DIFFERENT! Wow, it really is a minefield! I’m feeling very lucky and relieved.

Learning and improving …

I’m learning all the time. I’ve kept records of every workout and logged all my times. I think this has been a really good tactic. It’s fantastically motivating to look at this past week’s timed swim or 400s or 100s … and compare them to similar swims of two months ago and yes, all times have improved. The process has been fascinating, too – and I’m still playing around with high-catch techniques and flow-swimming techniques and working out which one is best for ‘me’ for the long swim. The stats have been very interesting.

In terms of running, well, I haven’t been too worried about the running side of things since I enjoy ultras. However, I’ve been thrilled to dispel any myths that correct training for running long does not translate into shorter distances. After 4 years, I’ve come closest to my 5k PB and currently chasing it – and at the recent Brighton Half Marathon I was aiming for a fast 2:15 (that’s fast for me) … but running on cadence alone I managed to break the 2 hours! Run training is still ‘different’, though – with a great mix of threshold running, easy running and runs with a specific target of ‘slower than race pace’ to teach the body to deal with ‘every’ kind of pace and, in the case of Zone 1 running and biking, to teach the body hugely important lessons in nutrition!

Cycling is definitely my biggest worry but I am quickly seeing the effect of a winter of turbo and indoor bike hours! Yes, that HAS been dull at times but I’ve escaped with the help of a great gym which has decent TV screens to keep me going for those 2-hour + bike sessions. Getting outdoors on my bike has been scary. I’m not very confident at all, but that’s picked up loads in just the last couple of weeks. A proper bike fit, followed by a good weekend with 7 hours in the saddle, some TT sessions and plenty of cadence work has all led to improvement. Still learning! Two days ago I decided to throw in half an hour of bike before my long run. I cycled up and down the same short hill for the half an hour. It might seem like nothing but during that focussed session I learned how a slight adjustment to my posture on those hills made all the difference. The little things all count. It’s also been intriguing how bike sessions are designed to target specific fuel sources. The understanding of this has helped me a lot in terms of race day nutrition-planning.

Mindset …

I’m in a mild to middling state of panic. The ‘Will-I-Make-The-CutOffs’ Monster is lurking continuously and is slightly terrifying but is kept somewhat subdued by the knowledge that if it all goes pear-shaped it will be because I simply wasn’t able to do it. It will NOT be because I missed a bunch of training sessions, had too many days off or did too much of my own thing when I didn’t fancy what my training plan said (oh so so so tempting at times!). I know it sounds rather narrow-minded but I just have not waivered from my training plan once. Nerdy? Oh well. If nerdy works for me, then I’ll go with that haha

Preparations …

Yes, they’ve started. Too early? Well, there’s just so much to think about training-wise that I’ve started ticking off little things here and there so I’m not overwhelmed at the last minute. I’ve been flustered about what ‘exactly’ to wear and I had a few girlie-specific questions so I sent a big hug and a list of said questions to Ironlady and Friend Extraordinaire Sarah Danning and within one message reply my clothing issues were sorted. I could’ve been worrying about that for the next seven weeks so early prep is suiting me just fine! Thank you, my friend. You made a bundle of nonsensical worries go away and transformed them into the easiest format! Love you. So … I now know what I’m wearing. Phew! And I also know what I’m going to eat/drink and when. My liquid fuel is sorted, my solid fuel is … nearly! I’m still a tossing around a couple of options. I know the laps of all the courses and roughly the distances with landmarks that might help me (can only confirm these when I’m there). I’ve got strategies for the swim, the bike and the run and have designed bike ‘bands’ and wristbands (for the run) with key focus points to act as reminders. I have more. I know. Panicking!!! Too much? Pah! Who cares! It’s fun, too, it’s keeping me focussed on my challenge and I think the more I prepare now, the better I’ll be able to cope with inevitable surprises!!

Support …

My beautiful eldest daughter will be there to see me off and pick up the remains at the end. Still got fingers crossed that friend Sara will also make it along. Pre-race and race day all sorted, then. BUT …. and that’s a very big BUT … I think that all of the above would mean absolutely NOTHING without the constant and unwaivering support, guidance and help from the most amazing family, incredible friends, fantastic Facebook group BOSH Tri (https://www.facebook.com/groups/380633181991688) and my more recently adopted ‘large’ and spectacular sporting family that is BTRS (http://brightontriathlonraceseries.co.uk) . You know who you are and I could never have got to this point without you. You are AMAZING and I am truly TRULY grateful. I am the luckiest person on Earth. I don’t say it enough but I am very very aware that this would never have happened without your support. Thank you.

OK. That about sums it all up. Conclusion? Panic has set in!

Jeez! Just imagine what the NEXT blog is going to be like!!!!!

‘You can spread YOUR toes another day, then!’

16
Feb

snipped the yoga teacher, failing to understand why I couldn’t take off my socks (infected toe). Jeez, that must have been the stressiest yoga class EVER! I’d already been accosted for choosing the wrong mat, for not having the correct number of blocks (how would YOU know – I could be a professional ballet dancer?) and I’m not even going to try and describe the ‘tone’ with which I was informed that this was an ‘intermediate class, you realise’??? Oh dear. Wrong person to take that attitude with. Having spent twenty years trying to curb my tendency to corpse on stage (and failing miserably), a silent and deadly yoga class filled with regular pensioners farting, twisting and contorting and admiring their lythe and flexible bodies (not) in the Dorian-Gray-enchanted mirrors was only going to result in 90 minutes of something akin to an episode of Candid Camera as I attempted to suppress my giggles. Being told I would ‘just have to spread my toes another day’ was, frankly, the last straw.

Thankfully, yoga was an option I’d chosen for myself to supplement my training with an extended stretching session (with the exclusion of my toes, evidently!!). It is/was not on my official training plan. Phew.

Two weeks since The Pilgrim Challenge Ultra – and six weeks into my official Ironman training plan and I have suddenly realised that just in these last couple of weeks I’ve been conquering a lot of mini stumbling blocks. Even better, I am fully confident that this is ALL due to the training I’ve been putting in. My goal since January has been to not miss out on a single session. I’ve stuck to that and slowly slowly I’m seeing changes. You can’t complain about results that you don’t get from work that you don’t do. So true. And oh such a great feeling.
In The Pilgrim Challenge my nemesis was those 268 steps. They didn’t get me this time!

On the following week’s 16-mile run to Newhaven Fort and back (commonly known as BTRS Trail Run #4) my goal was not to PB but rather to ‘run the hills’. There is one particular nasty on the return journey which has ALWAYS brought me to a walk. Not this time. I use the term ‘run’ very loosely, but I didn’t walk AT ALL (and this definitely contributed to a fab bonus PB as well!!).

The same can be said for the dreaded hill on Trail #2 – which I conquered the previous week, a parkrun time that was a lot closer to my PB than I’d thought possible AND a very satisfying stamina blast at the end of kickboxing class which left me buzzing rather than dying! It has been tough, too, though. Oft times I really have to drag myself out of the house with a bucketload of unwillingness strapped to my ankles. You would think, after 52 years, that I would know myself pretty well by now but still just the other day I surprised myself with how much utter unadulterated CRAP I could come up with in an effort to get myself out of a workout on the gym bike. This continued, not only until I’d grumbled and fought my way to the gym, but even into the workout itself … Since I’m here I at least deserve to make the session a bit shorter …. I’ll cut out the cooldown …. Maybe I’ll just do one of the main sets rather than two … Or I could do half of the second but at an easier pace … Or I could … OR YOU COULD JUST SHUT UP AND DO THE GODDAMNED WORKOUT!!!!! JEEZ!

The rewards don’t come easily but it is soooooooooooooo nice to see them coming. I’ve found a lot of my training sessions quite scary, sometimes terrifying and I can’t even think yet about the big picture, i.e. start line of Ironman Cairns – because right now I know I’m not even close to being ready. Spotting these small changes in fitness and ability, though, is massively motivating and comforting. I just have to continue to have 100% faith in my coach and training programme and I WILL make it to that line.

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Training starts here!

20
Jan

Uh oh! Here we go! The road to Ironman really and truly started on 1 January 2015! Not that I haven’t ‘kind of’ started. Since registering I’ve taken swimming lessons, been learning to swim in open water, bought a bike and had it fitted, completed a few sprint tris and a half-ironman … but all rather in preparation for the preparation, if that makes any sense? There was no real urgency. Training came under the umbrella ‘getting ready for 2015’! So I’ve done bits of this and bits of that and I know I can swim a 70.3 distance in open water, a full Ironman distance in a pool, I can cycle 56 miles (far too slowly) and I can run/walk 44 miles (just not after swimming and cycling for endless hours!). I worried about starting late but my coach has assured me January is perfect in order to avoid burn-out and make sure I get to the start line with half a chance of ‘enjoying’ my race!

So here goes. The training starts here. Oh. Wait. Training has already started!! Eeek. It is 20 January and I’m into my third week of Ironman training. Loving it. Loving the focus. Loving having such a fantastic goal but …………………………. ai ai ai ai ai ……………………. yes, panicking already. A few negatives have crept in – and so soon!!! I am so rubbish on the bike. How on earth am I going to last 8 hours!!!! My swimming is not very strong – what if, what if, what if ……. And my running? It’s so slow already – can it get any slower without crawling? Probably. And all that adds up to …………….. missing the cut-off!

Jeez! Googling personalised banners. I’m taking my own FINISH LINE ribbon with me – because I might not make that cut-off but I’m going to finish NO MATTER WHAT!!

Hopefully, as training progresses my confidence will grow too. For now, all I have to say is …. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!

 

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Aug/Sept Training and Shavings of Fe

28
Sep

Lessons from August

 

The ‘no excuses’ plan worked. A print-out of my training plan for August sat on my bedside table in the Dominican Republic. Midst swimming with sharks, cocktails, delicious food and wonderful family holiday mood, it did not go unnoticed. Neither did it interfere in any way – but it DID get done. The intervals and the long runs made their way onto the beach without hardship – just lots of sweat, a bit of hard work in an extraordinarily beautiful setting. The work paid off. Although I firmly believe my already slow running pace is getting slower and slower, the effort and time on feet was enough to see me through to the end of a summer’s racing injury free, with two more ultras and some sections of another half ironman in the bag. What more could one ask?

 

Other lessons:

 

Injinji socks: Not for me

Tailwind Nutrition rocks! http://www.tailwindnutrition.com/

 

Shavings of Fe to round off official summer training

And so to finish off September … a half-ironman swim and run, organised by the amazing ‘family’ that is BTRS http://brightontriathlonraceseries.co.uk/

 

I have no idea of swim times. I am simply very proud that I managed another half-ironman swim without drowning. My new wetsuit feels fab in the water. Unfortunately, there is no engine attached but since one of my many MANY Ironman fears is the ability to complete the swim, I am heading into winter very satisfied that with the incredible support and help from the BTRS group I can safely cover at least half the distance. PROGRESS!

 

The run? Well, thank goodness it was a little bit faster than the last one but I’m still holding onto the theory that I’m getting slower rather than faster. This was further fuelled by the fact that I’m pretty sure I was close to being lapped by one Simon Barry – who’d started the swim at the same time as me but then did a wee 56-mile bike loop before the run. There is just no point in despair, is there! That actually really made me laugh!

 

Not sure of my official time. My watch said 2 hours 31. End of October I am going to run this same course in under 2:15. End of.

 

I wimped out of the bike this time. My head’s still recovering from the High Peaks race – at least, that’s the excuse I gave myself. Pretty sure it was an excuse and I shouldn’t have got away with it but I did. In the spirit of the weekend I wanted to do the bike miles on the Friday at the very least. I managed 35 miles. Left it too late in the day and I’d forgotten to attach lights to my bike. Just plain lazy, really (yep – I was too busy reading my book lol). What really scared me though, was that I finished my race, had some stomach problems so came home and crashed for a couple of hours – and all the time I was watching the clock and thinking ‘The Ironman athletes are still out there’! Truly, honestly, crazily scary. I mean, I thoroughly enjoyed the swim and run … but I wimped out of the bike – and all I can think is that in less than a year’s time (a lot less) I need to do that bike loop – AND THEN DO THE WHOLE LOT ALL OVER AGAIN!!! Oh. My. God. 9 p.m. 10 p.m. 11 p.m. and there were Ironmen still running! It was totally inspiring to watch the raw determination and mental strength. WOW! There really was nowhere to hide and it was very humbling. But boy, did that scare the crap out of me lol How to match that? Where to find it?

 

Yikes, I say. Yikes. Eight months to find some answers.

 

Huge thanks to Brighton Triathlon Race Series yet again for another incredibly emotional event. The energy of these inspiring athletes only serves to feed me with dreams and ambitions of my own.

 

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