Category: Mastering tri life


Sunday 26 August 2018 – Olympic Distance Triathlon 
1500m swim
45 km bike
10 km run


Another weekend, another 5.30 a.m. alarm, another skirmish with wetsuit awaits. It’s pitch black outside. I’m beginning to wonder if they’re going to floodlight the turn buoys. Never mind. By the time I get to the castle dawn has well and truly broken and my only quibble is that it could be a damn sight warmer, seeing as I’m in France and it’s August. Ah well, could be worse. Here I am in the most stunningly beautiful venue in the grounds of a majestic castle with acres and acres and acres of glorious gardens and countryside. How incredibly lucky I am to be able to be here, to do this.

I’m relaxed as I have zero expectations. Six weeks on the sofa is not a recommended training plan. I’d meant to train. Honest. But once I finished my 70.3 my body and brain, mojo ‘n’ all simply got up and left. And you know what? Zero expectations is a fabulous place to be.

My swim start is at 7.30. I saunter down to the line and stop halfway to … erm … take my wetsuit off and attempt to put it on the right way around!! Like I said – zero expectations. Just as well. I took it as a sign of good luck.


Well, nobody was going to drown. The brief included instructions such as ‘if you get into trouble and get fed up lying on your back with a hand in the air signalling the marshals, just stand up.’ Yeah, it was that shallow. Not that you could see the bottom, – or your hand, or anything else for that matter. This was a swim that was blissfully current-free, but if you were prone to letting your imagination run away with you this was probably not the most relaxing swim for you. I’ve not done that much gardening in years – an hour of weeding 😊 From surface to floor it was weeds – and not weeds that you could see … some were frondy, some were flat and weird and it was quite entertaining. Some were large and moved past very quickly. Oh. Wait. No, that was a fish – nothing under 18 inches in length! Aaaaaand … stand up if you dared! Who knows what was lurking in that squidgy mushy sinky slushy mud below haha



Apparently the French like to do half the run again BEFORE the bike! Out of the laKEW, across the path, around the pond, up the steps, around to the far side of the bike racks ….. hilarious. Still, plenty of time to untangle the weeds from under arms, caught in watches, goggles, wrapped around ankles …

No wonder T1 took me so long! I also struggled with freezing hands so it took me forever to try and get socks and shoes on, clip helmet … all requiring functioning fingers.


Not a lot to say about the bike. It took me a long long time to get going. I felt like I was pedalling through glue. However, I hadn’t been on a bike in 6 weeks so can’t complain. The course itself was great. Enjoyable when you had no expectations. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone wanting a fast race. Although there were no hills to speak of (nicely undulating), the first half of the course was very stoppy-starty with so many 90 degree turns in and around villages and no real opportunity to settle down. It didn’t help that there were also stretches of bone-shattering cobblestones, over which I lost my water bottle and the lack of water after the swim affected me quite a bit. Second half of the course was amazing and a combination of salt tablets and a newly acquired bottle meant I could look up and enjoy it. Shame is wasn’t terribly friendly. Being used to multiple shouts of encouragement by athletes passing me/lapping me … of which there are ALWAYS many (and today even more than usual), it was disappointing that not one athlete had a word of encouragement, even though I did my best to cheer on as many as I could.

T2 and THE RUN


The run was the best and the worst. I was happy with my transition considering I didn’t have triathlon races in my trail shoes so had to tie knots. I also realised very VERY quickly that this was where the lack of training had caught up. I started slow slow slow and it didn’t take long to realise that no other gear was available. However, the run was GORGEOUS! How lovely to have a trail run instead of road – and through and around these stunning castle grounds. Fabulous! And even though any self-respecting tortoise could have lapped me I won my own little battles. After the first 5k I was more and more tempted to do a bit of run-walking, but to be honest I could NOT come up with a good enough excuse the whole bloody way around. All I could think was tired legs, jelly legs, general fatigue – were simple not acceptable excuses to start walking, so I ran (using the term loosely) the full 10k and ended on a high if only because of that. It’s the little things, innit?

p.s. My sole injury: sore heel. I thought it was the result of running on gravelly ground in trail shoes, since I hadn’t run for a while, but no …. I’ll admit – just for your amusement: it was the result of running on two panadol which I’d snuck into my shoe in case of emergency after the bike. (Feel free to roll your eyes) 🙂


My laughable results:

Swim 00:45:13
Bike 01:51:27
Run 01:08:22

Total: 03:55:45


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.

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.

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.

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.


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!

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


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

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.

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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