Swimathon 2017 #blogsquad

Cast your mind back to March last year, when I swam 5k at the London Aquatics Centre. Well, I am delighted to announce that I am once again #blogsquad ambassador for Swimathon. I’m so happy to have this goal to work towards, following a bout of (proper) flu, then a chest infection in December and January, my swimming has fallen slightly by the wayside – stripping down to a swimsuit and getting into a slightly cold pool isn’t that inviting when you’re feeling under the weather!

FOCUS!

So now it’s time to focus and build up my swim strength again. After taking on the 5k challenge for the past couple of years, I have decided this time to go for the 2.5k challenge. You might wonder why I would choose a shorter distance, knowing that I can swim the 5, but I really want to get faster! I have found that, when I increase my distance, I get slower. With a summer of triathlons and swimming events lined up, I would love to build my speed and my confidence. On Monday morning I did a post-school-run swim, which felt blissful, it’s such a positive start to the week! I did feel slow though, but this swim was about finding a rhythm and enjoying the water, the pace can pick up later.

Are you signed up to swim the challenge? Why not share you stories in the comments section and tell me about your goals?

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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!

London Duathlon, 2015, I did it!

Do you remember last year, when I tried really, really hard, forgot to take on fuel, had a tough time, then threw up at the end? Well this year was going to be different. When you have such a very long time to work towards a goal, it’s motivating, but also seems so far away that you only really address any big issues as it gets nearer. I had all summer to train, but ‘all summer’ includes the school holidays, where training gets a little less intense due to lack of time. I felt fit and strong in the run up to this race, but was struck by a particularly nasty cold about a week and a half ago. This meant my last full week of training was cut short and taper week was spent drinking lemon and honey tea and blowing my nose. Somehow I managed to keep the cold away from my chest and rather nervously gathered together my stuff and re-read Chrissie Wellington’s autobiography to give me a little psychological boost (it’s very good).

Lasti-laces

Lasti-laces

So, when Sunday morning came round, I did the quietly-trying-to-get-dressed-and-have-breakfast-without-waking-anyone thing and swept out of the house while it was still dark. Last year my two-strong support crew did a splendid job of cheering me around the course but, due to an earlier start time, they decided to do junior parkrun and swimming instead 😦 By the time I got to Waterloo Station, there were a few slightly tired and nervous-looking people with bikes. I got chatting to a chap called Andrew who was taking on the Ultra distance. Respect. It was turning into a beautiful morning, with blue skies and pink-tinged vapour trails and, when we arrived at Richmond Park, things were really getting going.

To transition

To transition

Once I’d faffed about a little, racked my bike, said hello to a fellow Kent AC runner, David and pinned my number to my top, it was time to leg it to the loo before starting the 10k run. It was at this point that I really wished I’d gone sooner, there definitely need to be more loos next year, people were hopping about anxiously, though the entertainment was quite good, watching men wrestling with tri-suits as they entered/exited the urinal area (yes, I was trying to distract myself here). When I eventually left the portaloos I had to run over to the start which, by now, consisted of a rather long line of people waiting to be ushered through the staggered start area. This is all organised really well, minimising the chances of crowds of runners filling the road which, in places is shared with cyclists. I would like to have positioned myself a bit further forward though, to avoid waiting around, getting nervous!

To the start

To the start

A countdown of beeps sounded and off we went. I could feel from the start that this was going to be difficult – the couple of runs I had done in the week, to test my cold-stricken body were very laboured and wheezy, so I took it steady, feeling the need to warm up fully in the first couple of miles. I quickly found myself in a to and fro with another runner of a similar pace, she would overtake me, I would overtake back and so on, pulling each other along. She did apologise further into the run for using me as a pacer, no need to apologise, I was doing exactly the same! The temperature was rising and I reminded myself of my fuel plan to avoid a repeat of last year. In the last kilometre, the other runner pulled away as I slurped messily on an overly sweet gel (they really are quite disgusting). T1 involved a quick drink, shoe change, grab bike and helmet and go.

I loved the bike course, I always look so much happier in the bike photos than the run! The stretch of road out of transition is quite narrow, with runners coming in the opposite direction and faster cyclists overtaking with an ‘on your right!’. The course was familiar and I knew what to expect as we rounded a corner and started to ease upwards. This hill is tough-going, especially on the fourth lap! There was a timer van at this point and the little speed-bump type mats felt rather big! It was always a joy though, to hear the cheers from the little crowds that had positioned themselves here, really encouraging people on, even running alongside someone who was pushing her bike. Once up and over, there are some great downhill stretches where I really let myself fly, well by my standards anyway, I was still being overtaken by braver folk. Some very tight corners, complete with straw bales and onto the flat for a bit. It was here that I had one of my loveliest moments, when a magnificent stag stood feet away with his family, lifted his head, opened his mouth wide and sort of mooed/roared at me! Not something you see in many races!

I knew from my watch and from how my legs felt (cramp had set in as soon as I got on my bike) that I was coming up to transition time, but couldn’t find a chance to take on another gel. I had stuck to my plan and had plenty to drink on the bike, so had the second gel as I changed my shoes again. This is where things get really hard. Running from the bike is always difficult, but somehow more so in a duathlon where you have already completed a run. I kept it steady and worked my way through the nasty cramp that had hold of my quads. A little walk. A little jog and so on. I overtook a man I had talked to briefly at the start, he told me I was doing well. I kept going. Another gel. I passed the spot where I had stretched then crumpled slightly last year. Another walk. I grabbed some water from a volunteer and we both did a double-take – a fellow club runner! I was now doing the ‘I’ll walk to that cone, then jog’ thing. For the last two kilometres though I really wanted to run, I didn’t want to take any longer than last year, so kept it steady and encouraged other runners that I passed along the way – you see many people stopping with cramp in this run, it’s really hard work. The finish was in sight and I pushed on through, grabbing my medal, t-shirt, water and a banana. I had done it! I had hoped to get under three hours (last year was 3 hours 4 minutes), but I had no idea at this point if I had achieved that goal (I doubted it), but now my only goal was to refuel quickly without being sick. I managed half a banana and a Goodness Shake before I felt a bit bleurgh, so sat down and took the obligatory selfie 🙂

Bling

Bling

Duathletes continued to trickle through and lots of people stood around stretching and refuelling, it’s always a rather slow journey home! Feeling ok, I gathered up my stuff and headed to the station on my bike, a nice gentle ride to loosen my already stiff legs. I hadn’t hit my time goal, finishing in 3 hours 10 minutes 31 seconds – the time was lost by running a slower 10k and taking a bit longer on the bike. Having a stinking cold is not the best preparation, but I’m glad I managed to finish and not suffer too much! Once I’d got home, had big hugs from the boys, drank tea, bathed and had a little lie down, it was time to enjoy some good roast dinner to really refuel, I definitely got to eat the last roast potato this time!

Roasties

Roasties

Thank you to London Duathlon for giving me the place. If you want to enter next year’s race, register your interest here and check out the distances – you can take a shorter challenge, or even a longer one if you’re feeling epic! I’d love to race at the London Duathlon again, it’s an excellent course and really well supported and organised…and I really want to go under three hours!! For now I will rest and recover, massaging my aching muscles and fuelling my body for Sunday’s triathlon – eek!

Juneathon Week 3, A Round-Up

Are we really into the last full week of Juneathon?! It’s flown by! I always find June flies and start to feel particularly pressured at this stage, as Hector’s birthday approaches. Looking back over last week, it was another varied and fun week of activities, with a good mix of run/ride and swim.

Some highlights of the week were the fun club session on Tuesday evening, where coach Adrian had us sprinting around the park, doing step-ups in the playground, running fast hill repeats over the spirally footbridge, doing *ten* planks in a row and some relays in pairs 🙂 On Thursday I ventured out with my wetsuit to see if I could get into the Serpentine without getting right back out again. I did – my coached session the week before had given me so much confidence – and found myself really enjoying it and pushing myself to swim 2k of the 100m lido (with the occasional flip over to bob around and enjoy the view).

Lido

Lido

As always I loved my ride around the road circuit at the Olympic Velopark, I pretty much smile all the way…Saturday saw me jumping on my bike and heading over to Burgess parkrun as Hilly Fields was cancelled because of the fayre. A whole load of HF runners were there, so a great atmosphere and lots of chatter at the start. It’s very different from Hilly Fields that’s for sure…flat as a pancake! As a result, I found myself pushing hard and running my fastest time this year (not a PB, but so lovely to see I’ve ‘still got it’).

Hilly Fields on tour

Hilly Fields on tour

The most fun of the week probably happened yesterday, with a trip up to the Olympic Park (again, I certainly make use of its ‘legacy’!) with our bikes for a Father’s Day present of a ride on the mountain bike circuit. Edward hired a mountain bike because his hybrid road wheels wouldn’t have withstood such a bashing and off we went.

Happy Father

Happy Father

I think Hector was pleased that it was less ‘mountain’ and more ‘bumps’ – he told me he hadn’t been sure about coming, good for him for going for it anyway! So, we bobbed up and down with lots of whoops and joyous sounds and found a nice little spot to enjoy our picnic in the sun. As we rode around, Hector kept looking over to the road circuit and asked if we could go on there. Of course, I was overjoyed to be able to share this with him, so we left Edward to enjoy the rough and tumble of the mountain course and headed onto the smooth road for a quick three miles. I did feel a bit odd on my mountain bike and wearing jeans, but so lovely to show Hector around.

Smooth

Smooth

We even decided to go there together over the summer holidays and do some road riding 🙂

Monday: A quick lunchtime swim, not a good idea (lane hoggers and ladies-bouncing-up-and-down class)
Tuesday: My favourite summer time club session, with planks, bridge repeats and relays, fun
Wednesday: Lovely evening run with a friend
Thursday: My first solo swim in the Serpentine 🙂
Friday: My weekly date with the Velopark
Saturday: parkrun tourism with friends
Sunday: Super family Father’s Day fun on bikes

All in all, a lovely active week 🙂

Running: 19.2km
Swimming: 3km
Cycling: 56.5km

Juneathon, Week 2, A Round-Up

We’re half-way through, already?! What a week! A varied, hot and sticky, cold and wet, fast and furious sort of a week. I continued in my quest to overcome my open-water fears by jumping into the Serpentine Lido in my lovely new wetsuit:

Suited up

Suited up

I took part in a beginners’ session with RG Active, which saw me putting my face in the – slightly green – water and even managing to swim in a straight line! (I will write more about this in another post).

On Friday I got myself back into my date-with-the-velopark, which I missed for two weeks due to a certain Sir Bradley smashing the hour record and half-term getting in the way. I love my little trips up to Stratford with my bike. A quiet spin around the road circuit is just what I need at the end of the week, I always feel invigorated and floaty afterwards.

Post-ride feet up

Post-ride feet up

After a wet and wheely week, my weekend was all about the running. On Saturday I volunteered up at Hilly Fields parkrun then headed over to Wimbledon in the afternoon for a lovely 10k trail race (more about this in another post).

Blingy

Blingy

Sunday was all about Hector, the boy who ‘doesn’t like running’. A little while ago, if you asked Hector if he enjoyed running, he would say: ‘I like cycling and swimming, but not running’. Quite firmly. Since he started junior parkrun, he seems to have caught the bug! I had signed us all up to run the City of London Mile and, when I told Hector he would miss junior parkrun on Sunday, he left the dinner table to have a little cry. So we did both!

junior parkrunner

junior parkrunner

After some running (and volunteering from the parents), we rushed over to St Paul’s where I quickly took part in the women’s mile, then a quick number change and Edward, Hector and I ran our first race together. I was so very proud of Hector, he ran all the way, steadily keeping pace and, when I asked him in the last stretch if he wanted to hold our hands or go through by himself, he picked up the pace and said ‘By myself!’.

First race number

First race number

Monday: Last-minute before bed run, oops!
Tuesday: School run run, swim session in the Serpentine
Wednesday: Local pool swim
Thursday: Slightly feeble cycle to the station and back, too busy for anything else 😦
Friday: Ride around the Velopark circuit (sigh) and a quick swim during H’s lesson
Saturday: 10k Summer Breeze race in Wimbledon (tenth lady!!)
Sunday: Women’s Mile and Family Mile at the City of London Mile.

All in all, a lovely active week 🙂

Running: 24.4km
Swimming: 3km 300m
Cycling: 43.7km

The Fit Family

The Fit Family

Juneathon, Week 1, A Round-up

Yay! Seven days done, it wasn’t that hard was it?!

My Juneathon week was a good old mix of activities:

Monday: A back-to-school run and a little swim
Tuesday: Tough track session with my running club
Wednesday: A late one! A quick swim before the pool closed…nice and quiet
Thursday: (my favourite) a swim in a pond then Assembly League race with my club
Friday: Seeing how far I could swim with one eye on Hector’s lesson (54 lengths, it turns out)
Saturday: A wheezy Hilly Fields parkrun
Sunday: Warming-up the little legs at junior parkrun then a 16km family bike ride

It’s been a wheezy sort of week. I have had asthma for years and it’s never really been a problem when I run, but recently it’s been stopping me in my tracks. After three visits to the GP, I have a pretty new purple/pink inhaler, but still find myself slowing down and sensing the heavy-legged feeling that comes with a lack of air. This spoilt all of my runs during the week and it’s getting me down. I’m hoping it’s down to this stuff, that is currently floating in the air where I live, a cotton-woolly substance scattered by the trees in the nearby park…

Fluff stuff

Fluff stuff

A highlight of my week was the swim on Thursday, a dip in the amazing King’s Cross Pond Club, a naturally filtered swimming pond just a short walk from the train stations. I also had a wonderful time yesterday with Edward and Hector when we set off on our bikes with the Thames Barrier as our goal. We weaved and pedalled our way along the Thames Path, pausing to enjoy the sights along the way and to eat our picnic at the Ecology Park, then we took a well-earned rest when we reached the Thames Barrier. This was Hector’s longest ride ever (16km) and he felt quite proud of himself after a slightly reluctant (and possibly intimidated?) start (all this after achieving a PB at the Hilly Fields junior parkrun in the morning 😉 ).

Thank you to Heather for the jparkrun photo.

Thank you to Heather for the jparkrun photo.

Totals for Week 1

Running: 22.1km
Swimming: 4km 650m
Cycling: 16km (I do actually cycle every day, but don’t keep track of all the little to-and-fro rides, so this is the only ‘timed’ ride I did).

We made it!

We made it!

And the Whole30 challenge? Well, for lunch today I had scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and watercress with cherry tomatoes…so let’s just say that’s going really well!

Gauntlet Games, Trent Park

I was offered a place in the Gauntlet Games a little while ago and I thought ‘Nah, that’s not for me’ but, after having a look at the video and stopping myself being so stuffy, I decided to give it a go. I’m glad I did! So, off we all set, bright and early to get to Trent Park. As we came out at Cockfosters and followed lots of other sporty types, I commented that people seemed to be mostly in long tights and was I missing something? Eek! The park was lovely and the atmosphere was buzzing, with a group of runners setting off in one of the earlier waves as I queued for my race number and t-shirt. I noticed that there seemed to be lots of groups of friends/family and felt like a bit of a Billy-no-mates (this was ok though, because people were rather chatty and excited). Once I was numbered up and ready to go, my wave were called into the warm-up area by a muscle man in Gladiator attire. I don’t normally do pre-race warm-ups, but I wasn’t going to argue with him. I had noticed that lots of people had cool neon stripes on their faces, and worked out that there was a face-painting table near the registration, so briefly ignored the Gladiator while I prioritised my appearance. After we had done some jogging around, some lunges, squats and weird press-ups, I felt knackered it was time to go, but not before we had knelt down and done some more odd things…

Hands in the air like you just don't care

Hands in the air like you just don’t care

And we were off!

Gladiator Ready!

Gladiator Ready!

Straight away I was confused and went the wrong way. Yes, really. It was very unclear which way we were meant to go and there really should have been another marshal doing their best pointing. I was also a bit confused because there was a mixture of 5k and 10k runners and I had thought the 10k was a trail run for the first half, then obstacles, but it was obstacles, trail, more obstacles. Once I’d stood around for a bit looking blank and going through all of this in my head, I ran hard at a pile of straw bales and threw myself over. I was then pelted – very hard- with footballs as I tried to balance on a bar, then off into the woods. Trent Park is a lovely place to run – I have run there once before in a handicap race, where I think I got a PB at the time, about six or seven years ago. I enjoyed running through the trees and leaping over tree stumps, quickly leaving the other people behind. It was at this point that I realised this definitely wasn’t a running race, with many people walking between obstacles and giving me suspicious looks as I came wheezing up behind them. I had been slightly nervous about what was going to be thrown at me (and what I would have to throw myself at), but had chatted to a woman at registration, who had done this before. She told me that I would be fine and it was a lot of fun. She was right. You would be running (or walking) for a bit and then you might hear a yelp or scream, which gave you a little warning that something was coming up. These might be giant bouncy balls to work your way through, a pool of muddy water to splash around whilst avoiding being plunged by a gladiator or, possibly my favourite, a big water slide thingy going down a hill. As I approached, the Gladiator asked me to hold on while he made it good and slippy for me and that I needed to ‘take a run up’. I took a run up then very daintily got down on my knees and lay on my front. Ahem. He then had to pull me along and send me flying down the hill…towards a stuck woman. I put out my hands and gave her a shove to avoid head-butting her feet and off we both splashed into a foamy pool of very cold water. Yay! At this point I had to stop and re-attach my race number, which was a bit soggy (this makes it easier to identify yourself in the race photos afterwards).

I took on a few more obstacles, then the path forked and the 5k and 10k runners split up. I really enjoyed this trail run section, feeling good and overtaking many of the people from earlier waves, who were now walking. It was relatively easy to work out where you were going here, with red and white striped plastic dangling from trees and bushes, but there was one spot where I found myself in completely the wrong place and I’m pretty sure I and a few others went the wrong way towards the end. A few more arrows and clearer marking would be great next year 🙂 After my little run, I joined the obstacle course again, this time tackling some of my fears head-on by climbing over a wall of tyres (it’s not that high, I’m just a wuss) and crawling through a pool of muddy water under a scramble net – my contact lenses even got muddy at this point and I spent quite some time blinking! Before I knew it, I could hear the music and cheering at the finish area and people were shouting ‘Nearly there!’ – I just had to play a game of British Bulldog, wade through foam, being challenged by a semi-naked man and dive through a bouncy castle thingie…

Bouncy

Bouncy

…before a quick sprint to the finish…

Foam legs

Foam legs

I was given my medal as I crossed the line, but there was no timing (Edward had my Garmin and said I did it in about 55 minutes, not bad!). As you can see, I was a bit wet, sticky, muddy and dishevelled:

Messy

Messy

I can’t imagine why Hector didn’t want a big hug…

Rrrraaaaaarrrr!!!

Rrrraaaaaarrrr!!!

If you think this looks like a load of fun (it is), there’s still time to have a go yourself. There are other events happening in the next few months in Cardiff, Brighton and Hertfordshire. Just visit the website to book your place and put aside all ideas about racing and PBs and just have a laugh.