This time next week … IM Sweden!

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???

Seventeen days and counting … (Ironman Kalmar)

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.


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.


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!


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!


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!




(Note as a personal trainer: Zero-to-Half in 4 weeks is NOT a recommended plan and comes under the umbrella ‘Know Your Own Body’ and ‘Do What I Say Not What I Do’)

The 4 weeks (history):

Week 1 – Sprint Tri 1
The swim (800m): Missed the first buoy, found the second, retched my way back to the beach. When the rescue kayak is practically hugging you all the way it’s a good sign that you look as shit as you feel 
The bike: Don’t be silly!

Training: As many BTRS swim sessions as I could get to – building confidence! 4 x runs (coached – creeping back from 6 weeks no running due to IT band injury)

Week 2 – Sprint Tri 2
The swim (800m): 2 buoys and made it back to shore. Mission accomplished.
The bike: One lap of two – just needed to prove that I’m not a COMPLETE loser and I can at least make it to my bike
The run: One lap of two (slow 5k – still wary of injury)

Training: Same as above with 2 bike rides (incl. 1 x 40km)

Week 3 – Sprint Tri 3 – Completed

Training: Plenty swimming. Each week managing a little further without having to stop. Not enough biking. Running coming along with a killer Kenyan hills session this week – lost so much stamina in those few weeks of enforced rest but a strong hills session made me feel a lot better about my recovery (no ITB issues – Wahay!)


Sprint Tri 4:
COMPLETED #lastplaceisawesometoo


The Swim (1.9km – 3 laps of buoys/kayaks)

Lap 1: Spent most of it just telling myself this was a swim like any other day, keeping breathing as even as possible and attempting to do something akin to ‘settling’.

Lap 2: The advantage of being really slow is that when you can’t see the buoy you can just look for the big bunch of swimmers coming straight for you – and swim in the opposite direction – because they’ve already been around the buoy. It must be there somewhere.
Now … is it OK to stop mid-race in the middle of the Channel and laugh out loud? Am so glad there wasn’t a camera around. I was so far behind on the second leg I couldn’t see any swimmers anywhere. Then I realised I couldn’t see either of the kayaks either. LOST.COM! PAHAHAHA At least I could see the beach! Finally spotted a swimmer and followed … only to find she’d already rounded the kayak and was heading home! **Note to self: Prescription goggles! You can only have this much fun when you’re just trying to ‘finish’, not worrying about times.

Lap 3: **Note to self: When using distraction techniques during the swim, remember to sight AS WELL!! One lap to go and I knew I could finish so long as I didn’t ‘force’ anything. I spent a little time going through some technique checks to see if I’d completely lost the plot and was actually doing backstroke or something. Not the time for correcting or experimenting but I thought that if I found my swimming was getting ‘sloppy’ because I was tired I could tighten up a bit. Checks done, and knowing this lap was going to be toughest I ran through some positives – mainly reassuring myself that there was nothing lurking beneath me that was going to either eat me or kill me (as opposed to Ironman Cairns where, I am assured, EVERYTHING under the surface is going to eat me or try to kill me – gotta be swimming SUPERFAST by then!!!). The worst that’s happened here is being assaulted by a plastic bag – and something else that bumped into me last week which I’d really rather not dwell on. It wasn’t a plastic bag! Wetsuit still intact so am guessing it didn’t have teeth. Moving on …… BANG!! Oopsies. Got SO distracted thinking about the perils of the sea that I forgot to sight at all and went headlong into the kayak!! Yes, seriously! Head first lol Ah well – could’ve been worse – I might have swum right past it and ended up at the Marina. Gotta look on the bright side.

I MADE IT!!! MISSION ACCOMPLISHED FOR THE DAY!!! That was the goal for the day – to complete the swim and I did it! Nothing else really mattered. Everything else optional.

THE BIKE (90k/56 miles)

Was feeling fab after the swim and decided I’d see how far I could get on the bike. After all, I’d done what I came to do … and it was the most beautiful weather. What excuse did I have for not going for a cycle?

Now … you know me … I can’t cope without a plan and I have to admit that yes, I DID sit down last night and do some numbers. A squeak-through Ironman cycling pace, I learned, is 14 miles/hour (22-ish km/hour). I have NO idea what pace that is so first goal on the bike was to connect my phone to the battery-eating Topeak set-up (that will soon be GONE) just so that I could get a rough idea of what 14 miles/hour feels like on a bike  Didn’t get too long to get a feel for it. I then had to stop and disconnect Topeak so I had phone options if I ran out of trouble (note: it takes less than 3 hours for Topeak to eat through an Iphone5 battery!). After that, my aim was to try and keep roughly to this pace. Hilly route, though – some of those hills I found really tough but the reasons were all perfectly ‘normal’: stamina issues, very new to cycling, never cycled this far before, not enough cycle training … Aside from that, though, I was really pleased with myself. I’d figured, when I’d driven the route the day before, that I’d have to get off and WALK! But no. No walking. Thoroughly chuffed with that. Only one hiccup … a very special kind of thanks-an-effing-bunch to the asshole who sped up the bus lane in his car, frightened the wits out of me, made me wobble, I hit the kerb and came crashing down onto my hip, grazed me knee blah blah blah … no sob stories. But hey – thanks! Hope you accomplished whatever it was you were after (btw, he didn’t – because nobody would let him back in **karma – wahay**). Thanks to the bus driver who stopped and asked if I was ok. I think I was more worried about my bike but it seemed ok too. I took the opportunity to attempt to eat something. I managed a mouthful of flapjack and left the rest for the seagulls. Ugh! I KNEW I needed to eat but ….. nope. Not going to happen.

(Can I just stress here that I DID actually set an alarm and fuel properly at 3.30 a.m. in the morning?? Insane – but I could not do a 6.30 mega-swim on the previous night’s dinner. I think this powered me for the day! #planningiseverything)

Got back from Newhaven and started the 6-lap TT fun. OMG this nearly did my head in. At least when you’ve got tough hills to cycle up you can chase cars on the way down and rest your legs. Flat. Relentless. Boring as shit (think Brighton Marathon ‘power station’ section – equivalent). But the fuelling system was AWESOME! Shout what you want on one side of the lap – and by the time you came up the other side – there it was!! Thank you THANK YOU to this fabulous organisation!! This was probably the most fuel I took on during the entire race – one whole bottle of electrolyte drink (at least it went down and stayed down).

**Note to self: Need second bottle holder on bike. Water was fine – and electrolyte drink was fine, too – but the drink was so sweet I really needed to alternate with plain water but only have one bottle-holder. I will fix this promptly.

The six laps were long long long and completed only through mind games. I was really flagging by the end but I’d got that far I wasn’t going to stop two laps short of the distance – and tired and ‘aching legs’ and ‘aching hands’ are not suitable excuses. And yes, I had real pain in my hands – must ask someone about this – presumably from constant pressure. My right hand especially kept going numb but no pins and needles – just really painful. I did keep changing hand positions on the bike but couldn’t get comfortable anywhere. Just lack of habit? Would cycling gloves help?

THE RUN (13.1 miles)

I have to admit that after all that, the thought of a half-marathon run was NOT top of my list of nice things to do in the sunshine – as it might be on another day. My lower back was screaming, quads were past screaming, my feet hurt, my hands hurt and all I can see in my head was that tiny bloody smallest violin in the world image! I didn’t know if I could finish, but I could NOT come up with a single viable reason not to start. I really need to get more creative!

Of course, once I’d started, there was no way in hell – bar being stretchered away – that I was not going to complete!! Dammit!
I was, however, still very aware of this half-marathon being way off my recovery-from-injury running plan so – as always – I’d arrived with a plan. This would definitely be a run-walk and there would be a LOT of walking (a) because I was shattered anyway and it gave me a good excuse lol – and (b) because I did not want my ITB issues to make an appearance – just not worth it. My plan was Run 6 minutes, Walk 4. That is a LOT of walking – but gave my ITB plenty time to regroup each time and I thought this might work. It did. And those 10-minute chunks worked really well psychologically, too. Four of them and I was around the turnaround point … another four back. The care and attention every time I came through Base Camp was just amazing. Thank you SO much for forcing water on me, forcing a rest stop, throwing water over me, pressing four jelly babies into my hand ‘just in case’ … The support of BTRS was just mind-blowingly fabulous!!!

Lap 2 of the run was a case of mind games. I ditched my 6/4 plan because I needed more distraction. I played around with 1/1 2/1 3/1 4/1 etc. just to keep myself occupied. I rounded the turn point and home stretch was ahead and along came a complete lifesaver in the form of Paul Wilman – on his bike – with water – and, of course, nobody else to look after because everyone else was already safely across the finish line LOL Thank you so much Paul for cycling the entire final 5k beside me. There were a few walks in there but I definitely ran more than I walked on that final leg, the chat was fab and I thoroughly ‘enjoyed’ (yes – enjoyed!!) what I had previously been dreading.

When I registered for Ironman Cairns 2015 I knew I had a long road ahead – albeit a very exciting journey. I also knew I’d have to face distances like Half-Ironman at some point along the way. Never EVER did I think I’d be grasping that medal so soon in my journey. And never would it have happened without the encouragement, support and gentle pushing to ‘just see what you can do’ of the most amazing group that is the BTRS family. As a PT I am always urging people to challenge themselves because I’m a firm believer that we can be constantly surprised. I am very happy to say that I’m still surprising myself, too. Black Belt Kickboxing, Half Ironman … it’s been a year for surprises. Keep ‘em coming.

From Zero to Ironman – and so it begins

And it begins with an unmitigated disaster that was my first sprint tri with the friendliest most wonderful group of triathletes who, I am assured, will be there to see me through my journey from start to finish. I’m already confident that I have found the perfect motivational group – thank you BTRS http://brightontriathlonraceseries.co.uk/. That, however, is where my confidence starts and ends for now. Registration for Cairns Ironman was confirmed last week. After last night’s swim … erm … well, I learned two things. (1) This journey is going to be interesting, to say the least; and (2) The only way is forward.

The swim was around two buoys. I missed the first, made the second – but only after gasping and wheezing my way after the first 20 strokes. I think there was a Boa Constrictor hiding in my wetsuit trying to strangle me from 20 metres in. Oh My God, was it pathetic (my efforts, not the Boa). I was so disappointed in myself – in my swimming (I use the term loosely). The previous day I’d been swimming without a wetsuit and my daughter commented that I looked so graceful!! ‘Grace’ did not look down on me yesterday. The kayak kept suspiciously close … testament to how obvious my struggles were! But I rounded the buoy (any buoy ….) … and then proceeded to retch violently all the way back to shore. Ridiculous. So …. what now?

My sprint tri turned into a salt water retch fest – and finished there! I didn’t have the energy to attempt to unrack my bike and try out my newly beautifully pumped up tyres 🙁

But … every day’s a school day, right? So the upshot of this is:

1. Need to work out why I struggle so much with my wetsuit
2. Need to sort my breathing. I think the retching came not from swallowing water (I CAN actually swim, believe it or not – I didn’t swallow THAT much lol) but from hyperventilating. On reflection I was definitely gulping air in but when I tried to swim I couldn’t get enough air OUT – hence constant gasping. Does that make sense? I need to experiment with that and/or seek advice
3. It’s been suggested that if my wetsuit is affecting me that much it might be in my interest to upgrade
4. There is a big PLUS to being right at the bottom of the triathlon rung … a little work and I’m going to get a real buzz from progress 🙂
5. I now have a benchmark
6. I also have a new goal: do the swim plus at least one lap of bike next time
7. I’ve met some amazing people

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