Posted by: fitartist | September 19, 2016

Paleo: 12 Weeks To Change Your Life by Rebecca Field

I have a cupboard full of recipe books and a quick flick through will reveal exactly which ones are the tried and tested favourites (well-thumbed, slightly stained pages)! I was interested then, to be offered an e-recipe book to try out. I do often search for recipes online, usually when I have a mish-mash of ingredients and I have no idea how to put them together to form an actual meal! This usually means a hurriedly scribbled list and some sketchy instructions on a scrap of paper, so I wasn’t sure how well I’d get on with an e-book; I enjoy sitting on the sofa with a ‘real’ book, marking pages that catch my eye.

We do have an iPad in the house, so this turns out to be the best platform for me, propped against the chopping boards, wedged behind the butter dish! The book is well-written and nicely laid out, with the usual lists of ‘store cupboard’ essentials, a good section on planning ahead, some words about the importance of exercise (of course!), all interspersed with case studies to inspire you to have a go (and keep going).

Cover

Cover

This is more than a recipe book. You will find sections on motivation, stress-reduction, the importance of sleep, ‘bad days’, nutrients, hunger, so basically a holistic approach to making changes to your diet (as it should be!). After reading the introduction, finding out what’s in and what’s out, working out a plan of action and thinking about incorporating exercise, you are presented with some helpful weekly meal plans. I find it so much easier to stick to a plan if I’m told exactly what to do! In an ideal world, we would, at this point, do a weekly shop based on these plans and make it all the more achievable to stay focused. Although there are foods that you have to avoid, there is a very positive focus on eating a nutrient-dense diet, offering a wide range of vitamins and minerals to make you feel fitter, stronger and more alert.

The Recipes!

Beautifully illustrated, with colourful, mouth-watering images of all the meals, the recipe section is clearly laid out, easy to follow and, best of all, uses small lists of easy-to-source ingredients (I am turned off by long lists and complicated methods, no thank you!). Breakfast includes lots of egg recipes, which is great since I am currently limited to a plain omelette or ropy-looking poached eggs!

Granola

Granola

Lunch offers lots of delicious salads, soups and broths, and ‘wraps’ (with the wrap element being lettuce leaves), all bursting with colour and nutrients. Dinner is a meaty affair, which is fine by me, but we do try to eat meat only a couple of times a week – it took quite a lot of scrolling to reach the fish section! There is an excellent salad and sides section, with some tasty dips and sauces and lots of vegetable dishes to make into a main, or to accompany an earlier recipe as a side.

Grilled fresh trout

Grilled fresh trout

Quite often when I look at ‘healthy’ recipe books, the puddings are either overlooked or disappointingly dull, but this book offers a selection of fruity treats, such as Raspberry Ice Cream, using coconut milk (it looks yummy!) and one I might try this weekend, since we have lots of plums, Roast Plums with Star Anise and Cashew Nut Cream. Included also are snacks, smoothies and juices, so plenty (200 recipes!) to keep you focused on eating an array of foods across the week.

Try this at home!

Just like the picture in the book...sort of!

Just like the picture in the book…sort of!

This week I gave one of the recipes a try. It happened to be a day when Hector had a friend around after school, so I wondered if I was risking it trying something new with potentially fussy eaters! The Persian Chicken Kebabs are so incredibly easy to make though and, as I was mixing the marinade (garlic, pepper, ground coriander, turmeric, ground ginger and lemon juice) the boys looked on, Hector’s friend commenting ‘I don’t like ginger. I don’t like lemon juice. I don’t like chicken’. It was a different matter though, when I presented them with tasty skewers, piled on a mixed salad and they tucked in, telling me that they did ‘indeed like the chicken!’ Result! I do find it hard sometimes to work anything a bit different into our diet, but the recipes here can easily fit in with family life, with enough to choose from to please the choosy amongst us!

Posted by: fitartist | September 14, 2016

Run, row, ride! Join a new virtual event!

I have been logging my activity for a few years now, keeping track of my running/swimming/cycling to have a record of how far and how fast (or slow!) I have been going. It’s really good to look back and see what has worked, which activities have challenged me most and to get a sense of how I am progressing. I do sometimes wonder how far I have gone over the years, imagining where I could have got to in that time. I was very interested then, to have the chance to try out this new virtual challenge, that allows you to set a goal, either individually, or as a team.

Team work

Team work

My Virtual Mission allows you to see exactly how far your running/cycling/swimming/rowing, and so on, have got you. You can join an existing mission, such as the one I joined, that aims to travel from Land’s End to John O’ Groats, or you can set up your own (I’m seeing how long it takes me to swim the English Channel!). It’s a really fun way to convert what could be quite dull statistics into something a bit more interesting, giving a goal and also a sense of achievement when you reach your (virtual) destination.

Land's End

Land’s End

It’s really easy to get started (read more about this here) and you can even set up your challenge as a fundraiser for your chosen charity, giving even more motivation to keep going. Once you set up your mission, you just go out and exercise, as usual and upload your data automatically via a connection to Strava, for example, or by using the mobile app. Easy!

Keep going!

Keep going!

The event starts on October 1st and you can select your own time-frame in which to complete your mission. Why not get set up now, ready to get stuck in when October rolls around? To get £5 off your registration, enter ‘5off’ at the checkout. See you in John O’ Groats!

Posted by: fitartist | September 14, 2016

Shine Night Walk 2016

I quite often get asked by running friends to join them on 24-hour night-time challenges. I always politely decline, saying how much I need my sleep. I’m not quite sure then, why I’m going anywhere near this upcoming night-time event! I had initially signed up to the full marathon Shine Night Walk, but realised I would need to step back to the half-marathon option if I was to make a volunteering commitment on the Sunday morning – oops! So why did I agree to take part? The Shine Night Walk is Cancer Research UK‘s night-time marathon, to bring people together and to raise much-needed money to fund research into cancers that affect people around us every day. There will be people raising thousands of pounds and also walking to raise awareness, to remember loved ones and to celebrate those who are living with cancer.

I consider myself to be pretty fit, having taken part in a few endurance events in the past few months and having covered the half-marathon (and marathon) distance numerous times now. I do realise though, that I shouldn’t be complacent and imagine that this will be a walk in the park (or city, to be precise – see the course map here), so will be doing a bit more walking in the next couple of weeks, to gear myself up for the challenge. I have been given some very nice Sole dual-layer socks to wear and some footbeds to help me float on air around central London. I have no idea how long it will take me to complete the half-marathon distance, but I will look forward to cooling my feet and letting them breathe the next day, in my lovely, comfy flip-flops.

I think the course is well-stocked with aid stations, with loos and fuel, so I shouldn’t have to carry too much, but I do need to get myself fully lit-up, with face paint, glow-sticks and LED lights, well I do want to shine for the occasion!

Posted by: fitartist | September 12, 2016

London Duathlon…not long now!

Oh my, this always comes round very quickly! Only a few days until I throw myself wholeheartedly into this year’s London Duathlon. It will be my third time in Richmond Park for this brilliant annual event. You can read about my two previous ‘attempts’ here and here. The first year I really struggled with cramp, I hobbled my way to the finish, where I promptly threw up. This led me to embark on an ongoing exploration of how to deal with cramp and dehydration, trying all sorts of fuelling strategies to get to the bottom of why I had such a difficult time. In the second year I had had a nasty chest infection in the lead up to the race, so went into it feeling a bit rough and not particularly confident! Both times I was over three hours finishing and would dearly love to smash that three hour mark this time.

Got my number!

Got my number!

How will this race be different? I haven’t done a great deal of road cycling (one long ride with friends and, of course, my half-ironman back in July, oh and Ride 100!), but have been on the turbo-trainer and to spin classes *a lot*! I really enjoy the bike leg in any multi-sport race, I look forward to it during the swim (or run 1) and look back longingly at cyclists when on the final run leg. My running, as always, is plodding along, but there’s a bit too much emphasis on the plod right now, I can’t see myself running the 10k and 5k run legs any faster than previously this Sunday😦 I do think, however, that I might just have got on top of the cramp and dehydration problems that have caused so much discomfort and distress in the past.

What have I done that might make a difference? I have learned to drink whilst on the bike. Now this might sound totally daft to anyone who cycles long distances regularly, but there really is a skill to drinking on the move – it can be quite tricky reaching down to grab your bottle from its cage, sipping whilst steering and looking where you’re going and then getting the bottle back in the cage…all in one swift, smooth move. Well, that’s now mastered, but there’s also the actual *remembering* to drink. Yes, I know! I finish the first run (or the swim), jump on my bike, get caught up in the excitement of it all (quite often going ‘weeeeeeee!’ down the hills) and simply forget to take a drink. This was what happened on that first London Duathlon and I paid the price horribly, swearing never to let that happen again. I have also been taking magnesium supplements, having read that they can help with muscle recovery and also with cramping. I fill my drinks bottle with Precision Hydration tablets (which I first found at the triathlon show at the Olympic Velopark earlier this year), making sure I have the right level of electrolytes going back in (I sweat heavily on the move) and I even took some salt tablets during my half-ironman (I’ll try anything!). Let’s see if all this gets me through Sunday’s duathlon in one bouncy, not wobbly, piece!

Watch this space!

Posted by: fitartist | August 26, 2016

South Coast Path Run

I like listening to the Marathon Talk podcast. I think the idea is that you listen to it on your long run, but I go ‘pah!’ to that and listen to it on the turbo trainer, get me! I was very inspired by Martin Yelling’s Long Run Home and did a little dance when I realised that it would coincide with our trip to Cornwall. Martin’s goal was epic: to raise money for three charities by running 630 miles over 21 days. This in itself is an incredible challenge, but the path is rough, narrow in places and very, very hilly. I followed Martin’s progress before we set off towards Fowey and looked on as he battled the heat, the rain, the terrain and the subsequent pain.

We were due to arrive in Cornwall the day he ran the section nearest where we were staying, so I planned to head over to the next stage on the Sunday morning. Sadly, Martin succumbed to injury and took an enforced ‘rest’ day that day. I had really looked forward to this run, so decided to cover the ten miles I had planned near our house, so Fowey out towards the west and back. It was stunning, but I soon appreciated what Martin must have been going through in the days before. First up, I found myself in a field of maize (it’s easy right? You just go along the edge of the sea and you can’t get lost?!).

Maize maze

Maize maze

Picking my way through, I was soon on a romantically named road and back in the right direction…

Love

Love

At this point it was raining and I went thump on my bum, with a loud ‘oof!’, yes, this path is really, really challenging! The thing about this kind of running is that you are so focused on the path ahead and keeping your footing, that you almost forget to look up and enjoy the view (perfect excuse to pause and get your breath back).

The view

The view

There were steep hills to conquer, with interesting structures to aim towards…

Look-out

Look-out

There were steps to scramble (imagine doing this in a 20 mile+ day, never mind on a leisurely 10-miler!).

Steep!

Steep!

I didn’t see many people, but those I did see gave me a jolly ‘Good morning!’ and one chap, who was CYCLING along the path (!), stopped to have a chat. This was not London. Every so often, I would find myself in a cove, just me and the water lapping around me. This one was the inspiration for Daphne de Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’, giving it an eerie and romantic air.

Menabilly

Menabilly

As I went on, the weather changed and I was getting gradually wetter and wetter, but this felt lovely. The air smelt delicious, the cows lapped up the grass and the structures I had seen on my outward journey slowly disappeared…

Nearly.

Nearly.

I returned to the house, where people had eventually emerged from their bedrooms, feeling refreshed, invigorated and recharged. Martin went on to complete a few more legs of his run, helped along the way by runners who, like me, had wanted to share the experience. His injury put his own running on hold and others took charge of the tracker, to complete the Long Run Home, reaching his fundraising goal along the way. After a few more runs along this path, my ankles ached, my glutes ached and my cheeks ached from all the smiling. Holiday running is just wonderful!

Posted by: fitartist | August 25, 2016

Ion8 Sports Water Bottle – No Leaks!

At last, a drinks bottle that doesn’t leak!! I had been complaining about constantly ending up with wet stuff in my bag (and even getting a wet back one day), after going through a series of water bottles that promised to be leak-free, only to find they clearly weren’t. Thankfully Cathy at JogBlog saw my plea for recommendations and forwarded me details of a bottle that looked like it would do the trick.

I was a bit cynical when I was sent the Ion8 Sports Water Bottle to test and carefully propped it upright in my kit bag, worrying that my books and notes might end up soggy by the end of my journey. The number of bottles I’ve been through is getting into double figures, as they work brilliantly for a few days, then start to leak everywhere without fail. I’ve tried pop-up tops, twisty tops, screw tops and flip tops and now have a cupboard full of them. This bottle is different though and uses a combination of a removable lid, with a button and a clasp, double locking!

Watertight

No leaks!

I’ve tested the bottle thoroughly, with a family holiday in Cornwall, so it’s been on trains, to the beach and upside down in my rucksack…and it really hasn’t leaked! After almost giving up on ever being fully hydrated on journeys, this is a revelation! It comes in three colours (I have the pink and feel like some sort of water-drinking professional when I get it out on the tube) and has a nice rubber grip. This is what the manufacturers have to say about the bottle:

‘When closed, hypoallergenic silicon seals the spout and vent completely, and keeping it sealed, clean and hygienic. The bottle can be opened with one hand by using its spring loaded flip top. To prevent accidental opening when carrying in a bag, ion8 has a lid lock. While many rigid bottles are painfully slow to drink from, the ion8 has a vented, smooth liquid flow, providing effortless hydration. There is no annoying screw top and no tough nozzle.

A wide opening also allows refilling without spillage, and is big enough for ice cubes or even chunks of fruit for a healthy, subtle hint of flavour.’

It’s also free from nasties:

‘Ion8 is made from BPA Free, phthalate free, non-toxic TRITAN by Eastman. Tritan® is highly resistant to odours, can be easily cleaned and is dishwasher safe.’

Ooh, I didn’t know that about the dishwasher, great (I was avoiding putting plastic bottles in the dishwasher, having melted one previously).

If you fancy having something reliable and nice to use, then I’d recommend the Ion8, I’m now a non-leaky believer😉

Posted by: fitartist | August 10, 2016

The Primal Pantry Paleo Protein Bars

Yum!

I’ve tried bars from The Primal Pantry range before and really enjoyed them. I find them quite satisfying and filling, which is unusual because I often find myself reaching for the ‘snack box’ not long after eating the usual cereal bars. I was happy to be sent some of these to taste test and put them to very good use in the past few weeks, with my various epic events that needed both fuelling and refuelling (more on that in another post).

Paleo Bars

Paleo Bars

These two new protein bars in the range claim to be the ‘cleanest’ bars around (meaning they are made without any additives, preservatives, flavourings or colourants); they are also grain free, dairy free and gluten free. Even so, they are not short on flavour! I would say, having tried the other bars by The Primal Pantry, these are the tastiest yet, with the Cocoa Orange being a personal favourite, so orangey! I am hoping they might bring out a mint-choc flavour, now that would be delicious!

When should you use this bar in your training? I would say this is great post-activity, with both protein and carbohydrates to aid recovery. I have also used the bars (cut into neat little bite-size chunks) on a long bike ride though, finding they give a great energy-boost (and they gave me something to look forward to!). Try them for yourself, from health food shops and larger supermarkets, for £1.99.

Posted by: fitartist | July 11, 2016

I am a Half-Ironman!

(or rather woman)

Yes, I did it! Like last year, when I requested an Olympic Distance Triathlon for my birthday, I found myself in Norfolk last weekend, ‘enjoying’ my half-iron birthday treat. We picked up Hector from school on the Friday afternoon, filled a hire car with camping gear and my bike and headed off towards Holkham. It was very exciting as we drove through the area, spotting arrows and signs – we were on the bike course! Driving up into Holkham Estate, we were directed towards our patch of land and set to putting up our tent…we were very lucky at this point, getting the thing up just before there was a very sudden downpour…followed by beautiful double rainbows.

Our spot

Our spot

We had thought of staying in a cottage, but it seemed to make perfect sense to be right there on site, with just a stroll down to registration, transition and the briefing on the Saturday. Hector enjoyed the lovely playground with Edward while I picked up my number and stickers, racked my bike and listened very carefully to the quite entertaining pre-race briefing. It was interesting – and reassuring – to hear how much care is taken in testing the water before committing to holding an event. Apparently the lake we were to swim in was very clean and, due to be under-fished, we might see some very big fish on our swim. Eek! At this point, Edward had to nip off to take part in the 10k that had been organised (alongside a 2.5k race) in addition to the triathlon, so Hector joined me at the briefing, ‘Boring!’ Edward did really well in his first 10k in years, finishing just outside the top ten and getting himself a PB on a tough course.

Post-race (non-alcoholic) beer!

Post-race (non-alcoholic) beer!

The rest of our day was spent on the beach, enjoying the dunes, trekking to the water, dodging incredible thunder storms (by huddling under our picnic blanket) and burying a child. Of course.

Has to be done.

Has to be done.

We were also trying to keep in touch with our friends Siggy and Stephen, who had persuaded me to do this thing in the first place. Staying in a tent in a rural area leads to flat batteries and no signal, so slightly snatched conversations! We explored the tiny little shopping street at Wells-Next-the-Sea, picking up a new bucket and spade and marvelling at the superbly stocked sweetie shop.

If you have followed my blog regularly, you know that I try hard to find the right fuel in the run up to a race and also during the event itself, trying my best to avoid cramping and stomach issues. I hadn’t really thought ahead to my pre-race dinner and, as we were travelling light, we decided to go out to eat. Following the snaking line of thriathletes, we were led to the most wonderful fish and chip shop, where I shared this with Hector:

Top fuel.

Top fuel.

Ahem.

A relaxed evening was spent lounging around in our pyjamas, the boys drawing and me frantically rereading Chrissie Wellington’s excellent autobiography for inspiration (it never fails to inspire). I was anxious to get to sleep early as I had an early start. Hmmm, I did get to sleep fairly early, but found myself awake at 1am, then pretty much every hour after until I decided to just get up at 5am and traipse to the loo. Amazingly, I managed to get dressed, faff about, make porridge and tea on the stove, faff some more and leave without disturbing the boys. I was very nervous.

I had had difficulty finding my transition spot the day before and still took some time working out where my stuff was (and it was obviously now full of gear and people!). I laid out my belongings, doing a little run-through in my head, making sure everything was in order. I then spotted Siggy and Stephen, so had a little nervous hug and excited chat about what they’d got us into. Time ticked away quite quickly, so I decided to put my wetsuit on and put my very stylish Orla Kiely Tesco shopping bag in the baggage area with all the posh tri-bags. Time to leave transition and wait by the water.

Big nerves.

This is the point where I really start to panic. The water looked calm and I knew it wasn’t terribly deep (in fact we were able to stand at first), so this reassured me, but I looked around nervously at the other women in my wave (about 250 of them) and listened carefully as we were given some last-minute instructions. More hugs and we were heading down the ramp. The water was pleasant, but I still had that seeping-in-through-the-zip moment and wasn’t sure if I liked the feeling of my toes – and then my legs – sinking into the deep, blancmange-like silt! I kept back and to the side, allowing other, more confident women to move forward. A countdown and some cheering and we were off! I had given myself a good talking to in the previous days, telling myself to stop being such an utter wuss and not doing breaststroke for the whole thing. I did breaststroke. I looked to the side, where people were walking along the river bank, calling encouragement to their athletes. I smiled at marshals, who asked if I was OK. I noticed another woman turning around and going back after just a few hundred meters and I watched as pretty much everyone else peeled away in a surge of strong, front-crawling arms and legs.

Gradually, I put my chin in the water, gently blowing bubbles to regulate my breathing. I looked ahead and wondered where the island was. I chatted to some more marshals (a sure sign that your swim isn’t going as planned) and I avoided the fallen tree that bent over the water (and apparently looks like a crocodile if you have your face in the water, which I didn’t). I approached the island and swum round it, head up. I turned and looked hard to see how many buoys were left. I kicked my legs a little harder as I saw the last wave (of men) coming though now and hoped they didn’t catch me up and push me under. This, for some reason, gave me enough incentive to try front crawl. Here, I glided easily, overtaking, reaching buoys quickly. I ticked swimmers off then had another brief panic, going back to breaststroke and getting overtaken again. Men caught up but didn’t duck me. I tried again, thinking I could see the finish, where we were due to climb out – surely not?! I saw Siggy, I had caught her up! Overtaking, I shouted ‘Go Siggy!’ and made my way towards the last buoy, where we would make a sharp turn left. Me and all the other swimmers now crowding the area. The water became unsteady, a wave hitting me in the face and going down my throat. I choked and tried hard to breathe, a kind woman ahead calling out to see if I was OK. I was, I was just freaking out.

What a relief to be pulled out and to make my way up the ramp, undoing my zip and peeling off my wetsuit. Transition. Time to put on my cycle kit. Off I went, happy now. In the briefing we were told to have our bikes in the right gear for a hill start, I pedalled on. We rode up a long, straight road, a beautiful start to a bike leg and out through the gates of the estate. These were open roads, so we had to ride carefully, looking out for other road users. Junctions were marshalled and some had cones to guide us away from busy traffic. I had put two drinks bottles on my bike and had also invested in a little bento bag for my cross bar. Once I had settled in to the ride, I took a few gulps and a salt tablet (I wasn’t going to be beaten by cramp this time). The organisation of this event was excellent, the attention to detail impressive. I really appreciated the bright orange spray that had marked any potholes and drains, making it so much easier to just ride! We soon encountered our first hill, where I overtook a fair few people. One man, who I went on to meet at every hill, commented that these hills were hard work – he should try the North Downs sometime! Here I realised that all the hours spent on the turbo trainer had made up for any lack of actual road riding and I felt comfortable, strong and happy. I nibbled on chunks of bars that I had carefully wrapped in foil, guzzling drinks to wash them down (I need to work on this skill).

The first part of the ride was gorgeous, through quiet villages, on more or less empty roads and with little to challenge us. Later though, we were directed towards an A-road, where I put my head down and pedalled hard; I didn’t like this bit. The road was busy and fast and I had a little scream as two motorbikes sped past at top speed. Feeling a bit shaken by this and the bit of a traffic jam that we met at a junction, I pulled over at the next aid station to compose myself and have a chat with the lovely marshals. On your race number is your name so, as I pulled away, the team of people shouted ‘Go Adele!’, giving me a little boost to pick up the pace and catch up with anyone who had overtaken me on my break. This last bit went quickly and we were very soon turning the incredibly sharp bend that would take us back towards the hall. I was pedalling fast, feeling that I might make good time on the bike, but suddenly felt something hit my leg, ‘What’s that?!’ My bottle cage had come loose (I had been wondering what that rattling noise was!) and was falling off. Quickly, I jumped off and decided to just tighten it enough with my finger to get back to transition, fiddly! Back on I jumped and tried to catch up again. Along the long, long road and down the hill to transition where I attempted to find my space again. Off with the helmet, on with the running shoes and off in the wrong direction towards bike out. Doh. Eventually I found the way out and was greeted by a great big cheer of ‘Go Adele/Mum!’ and got myself a lovely big hug from the boys.

By now it was getting hotter. The hill that I had ridden with ease and enthusiasm was steep and long on the run, with tired legs and numb toes. The half-marathon was a three-lap run, taking on this hill three times. I ran the first lap, slow and steady, determined not to walk. I took some liquids at the feed station, feeling boosted for the lovely section under the shade of the trees, towards our campsite. At the lap marker, we were given wristbands to wear, signifying how many laps we had done (what a great idea!). I ignored the finish funnel to my right and kept going towards the feed station, where I sucked on a gel, urgh! The long road stretched ahead and I found myself slowing down to a walk. I wish I hadn’t, I wish I had kept a steady but slower pace, but I had done it now and felt like I had given myself permission to stroll and chat! I ran chunks of it ‘To the drinks’, ‘To the gate’, ‘To that marshal’, but walked great chunks too. Lap three and I saw numerous athletes pushing their bikes out of transition, medals around their necks. Keep going! Another gloopy gel, yuck and a loo stop!

Only one more lap to go and I would be a half-ironman! The long road stretched out in front and I walked again, but heard a familiar foot-fall behind me, it was Siggy! ‘Come on Adele’, she said, ‘We’re going to do this!’ ‘I’ve had enough Siggy’, ‘Come on!’ On we went, jogging steadily to the next drinks station, the last. Siggy chatted constantly, keeping me going, distracting me. My knee hurt, but I didn’t want to moan because she was so upbeat! We made it through the trees and out to where the tents were, people sitting in deckchairs, cheering, encouraging. Only a few hundred meters to go! We saw Stephen, who had finished a while before us and turned to run up the red carpet! The tape was out, like we were the winners and we held hands to cross the line, hands in the air! We had talked about doing this, but didn’t really imagine we would finish at the same time. Medals were put around our necks and Stephen was there to meet us. I had a little cry, then pulled myself together to hug Siggy and thank her for getting me round the run. It turned out Edward and Hector were at the beach (!) so we went into the food tent and tried to force down some of the delicious food on offer, along with a couple of pints of alcohol-free Erdinger (I love that stuff!). We debriefed, sharing our highs and lows and were soon joined by the boys, who gave us lots of cheers and high-fives🙂

Half-Ironman

Half-Ironman

I’m not sure if I will do this race again next year, but only because I like to try different events. It was brilliantly organised, one of the best I’ve been to, with great attention to detail, incredibly friendly marshals, who seemed to appear just as you needed them to point you in the right direction. The venue and course were beautiful, the on-site camping was spot-on and I would heartily recommend this race the anyone thinking of giving it a go. What next? I’m not sure yet, but not an Ironman, stop asking me that question, people!

Posted by: fitartist | June 15, 2016

CapitalTri Splash and Dash 2016

I have a *little* race coming round very, very quickly and I am starting to panic slightly. I have only been on one big bike ride (though I have done lots of turbo training in the stuffy confines comfort of my own room), lots of swimming, but not the open-water variety and plenty of running, but nowhere near half-marathon distance. Eek! Regular readers will know that I am a strong swimmer, not especially fast, but strong but, when I venture into the open-water environment, all that work on technique flies out of the window and I become a jibbering (ship) wreck. I definitely need to get more cold water practice in before my half-ironman in just under three weeks’ time, so I decided to enter my first aquathlon at the weekend.

I’ve done triathlon (sprint and olympic) and duathlon, but never an aquathlon. I had a little ponder beforehand about what I should wear: the reservoir swim would need a wetsuit, but then I would be running and, as I didn’t really need the padded trisuit, what would be the best outfit for this event? I then looked at Sunday morning transport and realised that the only way I could get there for the 7:55 start was to cycle, so padded trisuit it was. I looked at my Citymapper app, I looked at GoogleMaps and they both had me cycling in to town from South East London, over Tower Bridge and up Kingsland Road. So I totally ignored this and went towards the Greenwich Foot Tunnel and up through the Isle of Dogs. I know a bit of this area (mostly from running/supporting at the London Marathon), but I get a little lost beyond the, erm, top bit of the river. Mr GoogleMaps was shouting from my pocket every so often: ‘Take a right turn towards the Blackwall Tunnel Approach!’ ‘Bugger off!’ I shouted back as I pedalled really fast along a horribly busy road.

After a while, I decided to step away from the main road and wend my way towards Mile End Park and work it out from there. Time was ticking away. The sky was turning grey. I was getting a bit stressed. When you are someone who experiences panic in a water-based race, a calm journey is vital, so this was not the best preparation for jumping into a dark pool. Through Hackney I whizzed, down Dalston I dashed and up towards Stoke Newington I rushed. I knew I wasn’t going to make it on time though, so wasn’t entirely sure I’d be taking part! At 7:53 I skidded up to the entrance to West Reservoir and asked a man in hi-viz if I was too late, he very kindly said: ‘Don’t worry, we can probably put you in the next wave’. What a lovely man! I calmed down, took a deep breath and locked my bike up, before heading in to register.

West Reservoir

West Reservoir

After I had picked up my number, swimming cap and timing chip I went outside to have a look at what I’d got myself into. My (original) wave was about to start and I looked on as people jumped in, yes, jumped in. I’m not a jumper inner. I hate jumping in. First pang of nerves. I decided to find the loo and get myself ready. The facilities here are great, there’s a cafe (though I didn’t make use of this, so can’t vouch for its niceness), plenty of loos and there are even hot showers (none of this ‘You’re swimming in cold water, toughen up!’ nonsense here). In the changing room, I got chatting to another swim/runner, who was also a bit nervous and it turned out she had been here before and had lots of good things to say about the experience. Now to find somewhere to store my stuff. Most lockers were locked, but some were open, but with stuff in them, so I ended up just leaving my bag in the changing room, reasoning that these were nice people who wouldn’t be interested in nicking my purse, my phone, my warm clothing and my bike lock key. Gulp. More lockers or a bag store please!

Time to go! There was a very relaxed pre-race briefing by the nice man I had met when I arrived, then it was down to the jump-in jetty. At the end of the jetty was a very jolly woman with a big camera, saying ‘Now, do your most dramatic jump in for me, go on!’ Nope. I’ll just sit here and dangle my feet in thanks, then slowly schlumph in in my own time. Thank you very much. The water was lovely, really pleasant and I didn’t gasp once – this didn’t mean I had any plans to put my face in just yet though. The sky was getting greyer and the water stretching out in front of me seemed even darker. Aaaaahnd, off we went! As always, I let the big men get over themselves and splash off into the distance, before I did a little timid breaststroke towards the first buoy. The lap at West Reservoir is 750m, so I would be swimming two laps, for now though, I would just get to the first buoy.

Not long ago I did the 5km Swimathon at the London Aquatics Centre, I trained hard, working on my technique and really powered along with a strong front crawl. Here I was doing a feeble breaststroke as others peeled away confidently. I really do need to sort my head out about this😦 ‘OK’, I thought ‘I’ll try a little front crawl now’. ‘Oooh, no! It’s dark and cold!’, back to breaststroke. Jeez, I make it into a big old ordeal for myself, I even got a bit bored at one point. Lap one done and another to go. ‘Right, I’ll definitely do front crawl now!’ and yes, I did for a bit, overtaking people, sighting really well, reaching the buoy quickly and efficiently, then back to breaststroke and slowly pootling along again.

As I neared the end of my second lap, I saw something dark splashing about in the water, a leg or arm reaching upwards. I wondered why the marshal wasn’t acting on this and going to this person’s aid. As I got nearer I could see clearly that this was not a wetsuit-clad limb, but a bloody great big black fish leaping in and out of the water! You should have seen me move! Woo-hoo! Sharks! I watched with interest as those ahead of me negotiated the water exit and wondered what the score was, would there be a shallow bit to stand up in, would there be a grippy mat thing? No, there was a wooden ramp with green slime on it, so I oh so elegantly schlumphed back out and attempted to stand up as cramp set in. There’s probably a photo.

Into transition, which was soggy and grey, it had been raining while I was in the water and I hadn’t noticed. I peeled off my wetsuit and wrestled with my damp socks and running shoes, not really managing to adjust my elasticated laces properly, which made for some really uncomfortable numb-toe running as time went on. Finger on my Garmin, I looked around for the run-start timing mat, but there wasn’t one, the mat was in the entrance to transition, so all that faffing about had counted towards my run! Damn it! The 10k run was an eight lap course around the reservoir. This was on grass, with a narrow groove carved out by earlier runners. It skirted a river to one side and was overlooked by new developments and a path frequented by dog walkers and runners, what a lovely place to live! The field was small in this race and, as I had started in one of the last waves (and made such a pig’s ear of the swim), I often felt like I was on my own. Now, I like this, I enjoy being able to concentrate and just focus on my form, so this suited me. Even though there were eight laps to keep track of, I managed to do so – though I was doubtful after a friendly chap spoke to me on the fourth lap and I briefly lost concentration! A few more laps – each one with a little smile and nod to the photographer – and it was time to head to the finish and a banana, a bottle of water and a Topic, yes a Topic, nice!

I gathered my wet things from transition, chatted to a man who was training for an Ironman in Bolton, thanked the marshal who gave me encouragement every time I passed him and went to grab my stuff to go home. I’d quite like to do one of these events again, now I know how to get there😉 I might enter a shorter distance though and see if I can speed up a bit. Now to look forward and build myself up for Holkham Half-Ironman, it’s not going to be easy, but it will be so much nicer if I can get on with the swim and do front crawl!

Aquathlete!

Aquathlete!

Posted by: fitartist | June 10, 2016

Foodie Round-Up

I’ve been trying out a couple of new fuel and hydration products and though it might be good to pair them up and see how they can work together for a post-run/activity refuel/rehydrate option. First is DRINKMaple, which is a drink tapped from maple trees in Vermont. The website tells us that DRINKMaple is packed with nutrients and gives a refreshing low-calorie, gluten-free, dairy-free drink. You can read about the nutritional value here.

DRINKMaple

DRINKMaple

So what does it taste like? Well, erm, sugary water really. If you like sugary water, then great, but I prefer my water unsweet(ened) so, to gain the nutritional benefits, I added mine to a smoothie, with frozen berries, banana and a bit of almond milk.

Sweeeeet!

Sweeeeet!

That looks a bit more exciting doesn’t it?

To accompany my Super Maple-Berry Smoothie, I toasted a Dr Zak’s high protein cinnamon and raisin bagel. I’ve tested a few Dr Zak’s products before and found them tasty and filling, so these bagels are a nice addition. I buttered mine and added a little honey, which is just fine if you’ve run ten miles and pounded out an hour on the turbo trainer (more on my current training later in the week).

Refuel

Refuel

The bagels are tasty and they do fill you up for longer, but the most valuable feature is the high protein count, which is exactly what you need after a tough session.

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