Crystal Palace Triathlon 2015

Oops, I did it again, or something like that. Yup, this time last year I did my first ever triathlon and on Sunday I had another go at it. This time I had Edward’s company (and the little fella, who cheered us on alongside our friend Sally). Having a fellow triathlete in the house meant dealing with someone else’s stresses and niggles in the run up and only added to my own stresses and anxiety levels (I do sometimes wonder why I do these things). So off we went, with Hector saying: “It feels like we’re going on holiday” and met up with our friends down the road at Crystal Palace.

On our way

On our way

We all had different start times (you give an estimated swim time) and, at one point, it looked like Edward would be hotter on my heels than we had anticipated, but (thankfully) there was a delay and chips (timing chips, calm down) were being handed out then we were called in number order. This delay meant we got to sit in the viewing gallery with our ‘fans’ for a bit…and I got to build up my adrenaline a little bit further. You may remember that last year I didn’t particularly enjoy the swim and experienced panic as I took to the water. This year was going to be different. In training for my recent Swimathon, I have covered many kilometers, reaching my goal of 5k in one go, so this would be a doddle. But it wasn’t to be. I climbed down and straight away felt a sense of deja vu, my breath shortened, my chest tightened and my limbs felt weak, I was panicking again 😦 A length of heads-out breast-stroke, a tentative face-in-the-water, some more breast-stroke and a few stronger lengths of front crawl. By now the faster swimmers (Edward included) were coming up behind me, wanting to overtake. I felt a tap on my foot so moved aside at the wall to let someone through (an excuse for me to take some deep breaths). What was happening?! I felt so upset, after all my hard work. About half-way through the 750m swim, I stopped at one end and lifted my goggles off, I was going to get out. Looking around I saw Sally and Hector jump up, waving the Hilly Fields parkrun banner, I felt such a surge of support from them, I couldn’t let them down. On I went, slow and steady, I wouldn’t get anywhere near the time I know I can do, but I would make it and get on my bike for the next leg.

Where's my bike?!

Where’s my bike?!

Of course, the bike was excellent fun, though I did notice that things feel a little different when you start a bit later…there seemed more evidence of bike knobs and some really aggressive and thoughtless riding (yes you, silly arse who undertook me on the chicane and had the nerve to have a go at me, you inconsiderate tw*t), it also felt more crowded than last year which meant you really needed your wits about you. This is a nine lap, 20km course with a sharp hill that slows everyone right down, a steady climb then some super speedy descents (with a tight bend at the bottom, cue me holding tightly to my brakes, wuss). During this leg I was overtaken by Edward and also Stephen, this messed with my head slightly – because everyone starts at different times, you lose a sense of where people are and how far they have left to go…these two were fast and were basically leaving me behind 😦 I didn’t see any of our other friends en route, but I smiled each lap as Sally and Hector leapt up and cheered for me, banner in the air. Somehow I managed to keep track of the nine laps (this is so hard! Many people employ various tricks such as tape on handle bars. I feel for those – some of our friends included – who mistakenly added a lap). Into transition and the wobbly legged run. Both transitions I ran in to the wrong section, I really wasn’t focussed, so had to duck under with my bike until I located my stuff! Quick faff and a fumble and off I went.

Caution!

Caution!

Numb toes. This is what I remember most about the run, my toes had gone numb during the ride. It sort of helped in that it distracted me from the challenge of running 5k after the other two exertions. Up the little hill I plodded, onto the humid grass section, around the tedious car-park bit and – weeeeeeee – down the hill…twice. It’s a relief to head left into the stadium on lap two, a brisk trot around the track, a cheer from Siggy: “You look strong!” (‘I don’t feel strong’) and a last little push to the finish line. Once I had composed myself I gave Hector an extra big hug and congratulated my friends, who had all done brilliantly – Edward smashed his first ever tri, with a time of 1:23 (on no training, jammy bugger), he does now appreciate just how hard it is, telling me that he thought he might vomit during the bike leg (no thought of slowing down though)! One of our parkrun friends, David, who is a regular triathlete even took to the podium as the winner in his category. Wow!

Comparing my times with last year, I can see that even with a disastrous swim, I improved on that section, took a whole minute longer on the bike and a similar time in the run. Transition has improved (though I really faffed about) and I achieved an overall PB. I can’t say I’m over the moon, the horrible swim experience spoilt it for me, and I really, really want to sort this out ahead of my open-water tri in September…any tips welcome! But Hector said to me afterwards: “You should just be proud that you did it Mum”. Wise words.

One year on

One year on

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Aldi Specialbuys Cycle and Triathlon Gear

…is in store now!

I’ve been having some fun trying a few things out this week πŸ™‚ Once again, Aldi comes up with a selection of super-bargain-priced gear to stock your sporty wardrobe, this time with a range of cycling and triathlon gear. On Friday I headed over to the Olympic Park to get my bike spinning around the road track that weaves around the outside of the Velodrome. Before I mounted my trusty steed, I slipped into a base-layer vest and some rather fetching bib-shorts. This was the first time I ventured into the world of the bib-short, so was pleased that they were way more comfortable – and possibly even flattering – than I had imagined. If you’ve never seen bib-shorts before they’re hidden away under a jersey, think Big Daddy and you’ve got the right idea.

70s Stylee

70s Stylee

These are particularly good because they have a little clasp that brings the ‘braces’ together in the mid-chest area, to keep them firmly in place (this a female-specific feature). Well, I’m definitely a convert now! The good thing is, they keep your midriff and lower back warm and there’s no chance of anything riding up and revealing more than you would like. The base-layer, whilst seeming a bit stiff and rustly at first, turned out to be nice and long and also kept me warm and cosy on what turned out to be a windy ride. I also rode in some nice little black gloves which, for me and my *tiny* hands, were perfect in an extra-small.

Next up on my race agenda is the Crystal Palace Triathlon, where I will be showing off my new triathlon suit. At Β£14.99, this is an incredible bargain, when you consider that you can often end up spending up to and over Β£100 for other brands – great if you’re embarking on lots of triathlons…and have the cash to throw around, which I don’t so this is a welcome option. There are some nice details such as an internal mesh bra in the women’s model and also leg grips to keep the shorts in place and some handy pockets for gels. I’m always surprised at the detail in the Aldi gear, when you consider what a bargain they are. This current range has items ranging from gloves at Β£3.49, base layers at Β£9.99, bib-shorts at Β£11.99 and even cycle shoes at Β£24.99. If you like the running gear, then you’ll find the cycling range a useful addition to your kit mountain drawer.

Magnificent March, A Round-Up

At the beginning of the month I decided to re-brand March as ‘Magnificent March’. I didn’t share this with anyone, it was just in my head. It wasn’t one of the ‘-Athons’ or ‘-Tastics’, just me and my challenges to overcome. When I was struggling with a run or tiring mid-swim, I would shout ‘Magnificent March!’ to myself and the pace would lighten and a little surge would happen.

It was a busy month, with two half-marathons and some of the longest swims I’ve ever done. After a PB at the Brighton Half, I went on to run a *tiny* bit faster at the Richmond Half, securing another PB. On a roll, I decided (prompted by Edward) to undertake another half-marathon to see if I could go that little bit faster and hit 1.50 mark. The next ‘local’ race was the Paddock Wood Half, but it was sold out. Luckily I was able to transfer a place from a friend of a friend who couldn’t run (why don’t more races do this?). Unfortunately the PB streak wasn’t going to continue, with the conditions (wind and rain and general grimness) not being in my favour and a hideous state of GI discomfort from the half-way point rendering me pretty useless (yes, I did have to duck behind a much-welcome wall at around the nine mile mark). Eek!

This was my first race wearing my Kent AC club vest (I’ve had the vest for about a year, but have never really thought about wearing it!). Sorry I didn’t do it justice, fellow club runners!

Clubbing

Clubbing

As I turned a corner into some serious head-wind at around mile eleven, I slowed to an uncomfortable walk, only to be picked up by a friendly ‘Come on Adele!’, a fellow parkrunner, who accompanied me to the finish line, thank you Ian! It was a great race and certainly does have PB potential, being flat (ish) and scenic. It’s very well organised, with efficient baggage storage, well marshalled and friendly support and even a marshal telling you which portaloo to go to. I’ll give it another go next year, maybe that’ll be the day for a super-PB.

Lovely Medal

Lovely Medal

In my post-race state of illness, I didn’t register how lovely the medal was, just felt happy to get home, into the bath and then to bed (very weird for me). You do see this scene all around the course, so it’s worth entering just to see a bit of Kentish countryside.

Alongside all this running, my swimming has been going from strength to strength, with the Swimathon just around the corner. I have been following the schedule closely, so closely in fact, that I noticed a discrepancy in a couple of the weeks’ distances. I like to scribble the lengths down on a piece of paper and seal them in a little waterproof bag to peruse poolside, but found the lengths didn’t add up, meaning a shorter distance. I got in touch with the Swimathon team and they sent me an amended schedule promptly πŸ™‚ This week I have completed two swims of 2k and today I swam 3k. The furthest so far has been 4k – 4k!! I know! Only another 1k to go and that’s the full distance. I really didn’t think it was within my reach when I signed up, but I’m proving myself wrong <<<this is good.

“But what about the cycling?” you may ask. I did dust off my road bike and give the tyres a little pump a few weeks ago, when I was invited to meet the people of ashmei at their headquarters in the Hertfordshire countryside. I had been shortlisted, along with a fair few others, to possibly become an ambassador for the brand. The plan was to either join the others on a run or a ride and I decided it was the perfect chance to get out on my bike, and made my way up, all lycra-clad and eager. Getting off the train in Tring, I met a few other would-be-ambassadors and headed over on my bike, to be greeted by a gate that opened as I approached. Small pleasures. We were quickly mingling and exchanging Twitter names (I found I already ‘knew’ quite a lot of people already) and then listened intently as Stuart, ashmei’s founder, told us all about where they were coming from and where they were going. You might already know about ashmei’s (rather lovely) products, which are made from merino – super wicking, non-stinky, soft as – and have a distinctive colour-way and cut. We were all treated to a pair of socks to put on straight away and test on our ride or run.

Soft socks

Soft socks

People quickly gathered outside, next to the lovely AirshopPhoenix and off we went.

Runners

Runners

Having a look around at the other cyclists (and triathletes, I discovered) and their super-bikes and top-notch gear, I felt a little out of my league, but I’m not one to be put off by such things, so got chatting to a couple of people and set out to enjoy the ride. It was so good to be out pedalling again, but I soon found myself away from the pack with another cyclist, Cav (thankfully!), and well, lost! The group had pulled away and left us behind, turning a corner and going out of sight. Oh dear. We looked at a fork in the road and went on instinct. We may have lost the group, but we would enjoy our outing. After a few ‘this way, or that way?’s, we made it back to HQ just as the runners were tucking in to the post-exertion snacks (and a little ahead of the other riders πŸ˜‰ ). The volume levels increased as people chatted, all glowing from a good, sociable run/ride. Photos were taken and off we headed.

Photo-taking

Photo-taking

I spent the return journey in the company of new friends, talking endlessly about running/riding/adventure (oh yes). Goodbyes were said and Twitter buzzed with the excitement of the day and a slight curiosity about what ashmei were looking for in an ambassador. I didn’t get selected, but you can read about the three people who did here, here and here. Maybe Google them too, they have done some interesting things!

And so into April I go. Awesome April maybe? My Swimathon is two weeks away and then I will be focussing on the Crystal Palace Triathlon. I can’t wait πŸ™‚

A New Challenge

If you follow my progress regularly, you will know that I have enjoyed swimming for a long time, and found it particularly useful during pregnancy when I swam almost every day, even when I was going into ‘overtime’. Even so, I don’t really consider myself ‘a swimmer’. Oddly. Last year I found myself in the unlikely position of ‘racing’ other people in my first triathlon, a weird experience for someone who used to try their hardest to dodge swimming in PE (it was pretty horrid). Since I signed up for the Crystal Palace Triathlon, I really got stuck in, and have been swimming two, three or even four times a week since then, finding my stroke improving and I might even have got a bit faster. Woo-hoo! In May I will be having a go at the CPtri again and, in September attempting my first open-water and Olympic distance at the Hever Castle Triathlon. It was with this in mind that I signed up for the Swimathon in April.

When I looked at the distances, I was initially drawn to the 2.5k distance, a challenge indeed. I ummed and aahhed a bit and decided that, if I am to ask people to sponsor me to raise money for Marie Curie Cancer Care, I need to do something even more challenging, so I’ve committed to swim the whole 5k! Arrrghghghghg! The furthest I have swum previously is one mile (1500m), so this is really taking me out of my comfort zone. I was surprised (and delighted) at how many people sponsored me straight away, which really gave me a push to get going with my training. There are some really useful training plans on the website, and I went along to my local pool (where the event will be held) yesterday to throw myself in to my first session.

Essentials

Essentials

I swam 92 lengths of the 25m pool but, as it was split into sets, with short rests, I felt fresh even when I reached the end of the session. It was odd taking rests and sipping my drink – I normally roll up, get in, swim hard, get out, go home. It gave me a real confidence boost getting through that first 2300m session, I now feel like I can reach my 5k target in ten weeks’ time πŸ™‚

New Year’s Resolution!

Really, that’s what a parent at the school gate had the cheek to call out the other day as I ran past. She clearly doesn’t know me!

Happy New Year and good luck to any of you who are trying to stick to new year’s resolutions, I don’t have anything against them, I just think January is a crap time of year to deprive yourself! It’s the perfect time to try something new and commit to getting fitter though and, with so many group initiatives to help you along, you won’t be alone. This year I’m logging my activities on Jantastic as part of the Hilly Fields parkrun group. I did this last year and found it gave me a real focus and helped me commit to a set number of runs/swims a week. Another group endeavour I’ve taken part in previously is Janathon, where you jog, blog and log every day for the month. It’s a great way to receive some support and encouragement to get you out there (and there are prizes too!).

I thought this might be a good time to look back over some achievements in 2014 and look forward to some new challenges in 2015. Last year was a fantastic year for my running, with a new direction and a new pace. My regular involvement with Hilly Fields parkrun helped me make lots of new running friends and encouraged me to become a regular at Kent Athletic Club, which inevitably helped me to get a bit faster, at last ducking under the 25 minute mark for 5k, something I had been aiming towards for a long time. This sense of camaraderie also saw me entering more races and smashing my 10k PB along the way. 2014 was also the year I tried triathlon, with a local race at Crystal Palace really giving me the bug. This new interest made me realise just how much I love cycling and led to me competing almost to the point of collapse at the London Duathlon in September (it hasn’t put me off wanting to do it again!). I also took part in my first sportive, hopefully the first of many.

It was a good, consistent year, giving me a strong base to move forward with this year. First up is the Brighton Half-Marathon in just a few weeks. I haven’t run this distance in a very long time, with the Cabbage Patch 10 being the longest recent race, so I’m steadily building up towards the 13.1 miles. This is going to be a very sociable one, with a group of us heading down from Hilly Fields, and Edward and Hector coming to cheer us on. A month later I’ll be facing the distance again, with the Salamon City Trail Richmond Half-Marathon – I enjoyed Richmond Park so much in the duathlon, that I wanted more! There are still places available, and you can also enter the 10k race alongside it. I’m hoping to get a place in the Crystal Palace Triathlon again, it was such good fun last year and, for my birthday, I was given entry to a triathlon, so went for the Hever Tri in September. I decided to set myself a greater challenge by entering the Olympic distance race, so that’s a 1.5km swim, 40km bike and 10km run. I’ll definitely need to work towards this one, especially the swim, which is in open water, expect lots of posts about tentative dips in slimy ponds…

For now I’m ticking off my four runs and three swims a week on Jantastic, and keeping it interesting by visiting some lovely locations. Good luck with all your running/swimming/riding adventures in 2015!

Aquatics Centre Mile

Aquatics Centre Mile

I am a Triathlete

I did it, my first triathlon! It was amazing. I want to do it again.

I felt good: I had trained well, with four runs a week, three or four swims a week and cycling when I could fit it in (this bit could have been more structured) and felt strong yesterday morning as I pulled on my tri-suit and headed over to Crystal Palace Park. Yesterday we shared the park with some Minis, who were heading out to Brighton, as we headed in…

Paris, London

Paris, London

I was arriving with my parkrun friends Stephen and Siggy and, during registration and set-up, bumped into Sally, Marie, Ian, David and Viv…that’s the nice thing about attending a local race! By this point I was really, really nervous, and quickly laid out my bike and all my race essentials in transition before grabbing my swimming cap and goggles and heading poolside. I commented to the people around me that the swim looked quite relaxed, there was something quite meditative about watching people zig-zagging up and down the 50m pool…until it came to my turn.

I had trained so well, swimming many hours up and down my local pool, trying out different pools on our travels and venturing over to the Olympic swimming pool to try the 5om distance, but this was different. I climbed down what seemed to be a really long ladder into cold water with nothing on the pool sides to grab hold of before a marshal called ‘Three, two, one, go!’ (this was repeated at fifteen second intervals). Suddenly I felt panic, I was breathing in, but not out and couldn’t put my face in the water. I did a feeble attempt at a breaststroke, with my head out, thinking: ‘Breathe, breathe, you can do this! You’ve done this so many times! Why now?!’ (afterwards Edward told me that he and Stephen were at poolside mouthing ‘Breaststroke?!’). But I stuck at it, there was no way, after all of this excellent training that I was going to stop. Things felt a bit easier as I went on, moving gradually across the pool. The sun shone on this section, making it feel nicer, brighter and warmer, the end was in sight and I dared to put my face in. I tried a front-crawl and overtook some swimmers ahead of me, I could do this. Soon enough I was in the final lane and could see Edward, Stephen and Hector cheering and waving, I smiled and took the lane.

Now to transition. I had been awake throughout the previous night, worrying about transition, but I needn’t have been concerned. I was told not to run, so waddled damply to my spot, talked through my planned routine, chatted to a fellow athlete and off I went. Easy! (I did forget my sunglasses though, and on a 25 degree day, it might have been more comfortable).

That's me in the middle

That’s me in the middle

It was such a relief to get out of the pool and onto my bike. Now this section was a bit of an unknown quantity to me, and I didn’t have a clue how long it might take, so I just went for it. It was my favourite part of the race, I LOVED it! The course is lovely: nine laps of the park, largely in the shade of the trees (phew), with one sharp hill as you leave transition and a superb down-hill section on your return. I love a hill, whether running or riding, so I would put my head down and take it on with determination each time. As I reached the flatter road, I changed gear, did a bit of overtaking and whooped my way down the hill (if I wasn’t clipped in, I would definitely have had my legs out).

Happy!

Happy!

I had been worried about keeping track of the laps, and that my Garmin might not have a signal during transition, so Edward had taped some masking tape to my frame to tear off at the end of each lap. All seemed to be going well, so I left the tape and used my Garmin and a steady chant of the lap number in my head. As the laps went on I thought I had another to go but, when I looked at the distance I saw 20k. Running into transition 2 my muddled head told meΒ I had another lap, but the Garmin was pretty clear!

I wobbled through transition on an unsteady combination of cycle shoes and spinning legs, a quick change of footwear, an addition of my shades and a gulp of Lucozade Sport (bad move) and I was off again. Oh, it felt very odd. It was straight up the hill and I felt heavy and slow, though my Garmin showed a good pace considering. I looked sideways at the cyclists, thinking: ‘I wish I was still doing that’ but finding that, after nine laps of the park, the two and a bit laps of the run went very quickly and, before I knew it, I was heading into the stadium.

Edward's panoramic view

Edward’s panoramic view

I threw my arms in the air as I took to the track, such joy! I heard a whistle and the beat of a tambourine and saw my support crew of Edward and Hector in the stands waving and cheering πŸ™‚ Just a lap and a half to go now. As I saw the finish line, I ran hard, a bounce in my step.

Look at that hair go!

Look at that hair go!

And there I was, a triathlete!

Gold?

Gold?

Despite the poor swim experience, I loved it. I am eagerly looking for another event, to keep up the momentum and will definitely be trying for a place at Crystal Palace again next year. It’s such a great event for a first timer in particular: super friendly marshals who even looked up your name on a list to call out encouragement, a delightful bike and run course, a course that is perfect for spectators, with many ways of navigating the different disciplines to make sure you see all of the action, and a perfectly placed transition for viewing from above – it was odd looking up during transition and seeing lots of peering faces – and you even get a print-out of your results shortly after crossing the finish line!

I’ve really enjoyed the build-up to this event and a big thank you to everyone who helped me to reach this point πŸ™‚

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