Hever Castle Triathlon, Olympic Distance

This was my first step into the world of the Olympic Distance triathlon; I was very nervous. The Olympic distance consists of a 1,500m swim (that’s about a mile), a 44km cycle and 10km run. At Hever Castle the swim was to be in a lake and river, a very cold lake and river. Brrrrr. In preparation for this, I took myself off to the Kings Cross Pond Club again last week and managed 30 lengths before I started shivering and had to get out, so I was a little bit nervous about having to be hauled out with hypothermia! But before I could attempt any of this we had to get there.

This was my birthday present from Edward and Hector (yes, I know my birthday is in December, but I do like to milk it!), so we were all set for a nice family day out in Kent. We hired a car (triathlon is an expensive business) and set off bright and early for my 9.45 wave start. Of course, along the way we realised we didn’t have any cash, so took a detour to find a cash machine in the countryside. We also had to pause briefly to deal with poor Hector’s travel sickness and off we went…to join a massive queue to the car park.



Due to the wet weather earlier in the week, the car parks were a slippery, muddy mess and there was a tailback of about two miles, with cars populated by twitchy triathletes, eager to get to transition. Eventually, as my start time got closer and closer, we decided to put my bike together and I would cycle down by myself. It’s a good job I did! By the time I reached transition I didn’t have any time to fret and quickly racked my bike, laid out my stuff and put on my wetsuit. The ground was muddy and squelched a bit between my toes as I headed to the water.



You see that? That’s where I swam, all the way to the last buoy (which isn’t showing in this photo, taken later in the day), sharp left, then into the river and back round! As we had all been delayed by the traffic situation, the waves were moved back fifteen minutes each (phew!) and we all gathered in our red swimming caps for the pre-race briefing, given by the race director. This was really good, with maps, and very clear but obviously a little scary. Again, this distraction stopped me getting worked up about the upcoming swim and we were soon heading away from the beautiful loggia and into the 14 degree water, gasp. It was an absolute stunner of a morning, with clear blue skies and a lovely golden glow over the water’s surface. I positioned myself near the back and let everybody else head off and do their thing before I eased forward into a tentative breaststroke, head out. I looked at the first buoy, deciding to break it all up into chunks: swim to the first buoy, count your strokes, enjoy the view, breathe out steadily. I chuckled to myself, imagining I would be last out of the water, but I soon passed other swimmers and caught up with those ahead of me, ticking off the buoys as I went. At the far end of the lake we turned towards the Japanese tea pavilion (yes, it’s a very fancy sort of a swim) and into the river Eden, under a bridge and around a bend. There was a lot of this around the bend thing in this section and I would approach each turning afresh and aim for the next corner. It was along here that I thought it might be nice to thank one of the marshals in a kayak, not a great idea when your chin has set frozen and you swallow a load of water. I overtook some more swimmers and started to hear the noise from the start/end point, I wondered if the boys had made it to the car park yet and looked out for them as I swam to the swim-out area. This was being assisted by some Speedo people, putting out a helping hand as you reached the edge. I made the mistake of putting my foot down and felt it sink into mud that was the texture of marshmallow! Climbing out, I reached for my zip and heard Edward and Hector cheering my name. I kissed Edward, feeling a great sense of relief at having completed this swim: ‘You’re so cold!’ he shouted as I ran to transition.



This was where I thought the otherwise excellent organisation was lacking, just a clear sign at the end of each row where you come in from the swim would make it so much easier. Luckily I had taken a look at what was at the end of my row, so located a big red flag at one of the stalls and tried to pick out my bike amongst the many others. I peeled off my wetsuit but couldn’t find anywhere to lay it, the bikes were all so close together, so I fumbled about for longer than I had hoped, guzzled a gel, downed some drink and ran along the exit and bike mount area, trying to stay upright in the mud. It took great concentration to exit safely, with the mud being covered by big plastic boards, which were tricky to negotiate on a road bike. Over some speed bumps, around a corner and out of the grounds to the bike leg.



From this point Edward and Hector had a fair bit of time to fill as I disappeared out into the Kentish countryside, so amused themselves with all the great stuff on offer…a bit of archery.



Some trampolining.



And even some bungee jumping 🙂



Meanwhile, I was getting my head round cycling in a race along open roads. Not that I go that fast, but you really have to have your wits about you when dealing with potholes, other cyclists (some overtaking at speed) and cars. The whole two-lap bike course was well sign-posted and marshalled and I didn’t have to stop and wait at road junctions at any point. Every so often I would pass residents who had come out to cheer (thank you) and was given a boost when we cycled past the in/out area each lap – there was a woman at the roadside who called out ‘come on lady!’ each time, I think she probably did this for every female competitor (I did feel we were very much outnumbered by the men). Before I knew it I was bobbing back over the speed bumps and into T2. Here I did a double-take as a woman’s voice reached my ears from the crowds along the edge. I had just swum a mile, cycled 40k and the thing she thought to call out was: ‘Oh, snotty face’. Yes, really. Thanks for appreciating my effort.

Racking the bike in T2 is always a wobbly sort of moment, the legs were still spinning, my toes were still numb and it was a very wobbly, hobbly affair. Edward and Hector called out some encouragement and I headed off into the woods, wishing I could feel my toes. I guzzled some more gel – yuck. I felt able to run steadily and enjoyed the setting, it really is quite a lovely race. Along the route there were water/gel stations and many of the volunteers were teenagers who were so incredibly enthusiastic, you couldn’t help but pick up the pace. Briefly. This was a two-lap course and each time we encountered an incredibly muddy down-hill section. I commented to a fellow runner here that I wished I had worn my trail shoes, he said he wished he had entered the sprint! A nice straight stretch towards the beautiful castle and around then up a hill, a steep and cruel hill. I had one of those moments where I wished I hadn’t noticed someone walking and walked myself 😦 I normally love a hill, but I really was knackered by now. Through the finish area and into lap two but not before going over a cheeky little footbridge that felt like Mount Snowdon. I knew I only had a few more kilometres to go, but had to guzzle gels and neck water to get me there, I really was struggling by now, none of the nasty cramp I had at the London Duathlon last week, just sheer tiredness. As I tackled the hill for the second time, I knew it wasn’t far, so sped up to cross the line with my hands in the air.



The finish area was excellent, like a bit of a food fest! There was coconut water, cola, water water, water melon, melon, oranges, Soreen, biscuits…pretty much something for everyone! I couldn’t get enough of the watermelon, so took some time to refuel before gathering my bike from transition. It had taken me three-and-a-half hours to complete the race, quite a lot longer than I had hoped, but I was so happy to have done that swim, probably the slowest swim I’ve ever done, but still! We spent some time afterwards enjoying the beautiful grounds and refuelling before heading home for steak and chips. I would definitely recommend this race, it’s rather wonderful, if challenging. Hector asked if we would go there again, saying ‘Maybe if we do, it will be because I’m doing a triathlon’. I think he’s tempted 😉

Hever Castle

Hever Castle


Race the Cake

There’s Race the Train, Race the Horse and now Race the Cake. I knew I wanted to get out and run this morning while Edward and Hector headed off for a swim. Edward was mixing up a marble cake as I left and asked if I would be in to take it out of the oven…er, no! ‘It takes an hour’ he said ‘Ok, I’ll be back in an hour’ I replied.

I legged it off down the Waterlink Way. I wanted to go slightly further than my other runs this week, so had 10k in mind – just within the cake removal time-slot. The sun shone, the earth was frosty and I saw runners at every turn. First of all I was greeted by friendly ‘Hello’s from running club friends, then I stopped for a chat with a group of Parkrun friends who were having a sociable run together. After a brief ‘how should we keep our shoes clean after a muddy Hilly Fields run?’ pause, I went on my way. Yesterday I ran Hilly Fields for a change. It was tough. It was muddy (see new image at the top of this page). I pushed myself hard, I skidded around, trying not to fall, I struggled up the steep hill, my feet failing to get a grip, and I pushed myself and others on to the finish. According to my watch I had a (Hilly Fields) PB, but my official time shows a second slower 😦 I might just run again next week and see if I can crack it.

Even with this heavy run in my legs I still managed to fly this morning, I hadn’t expected much, just a slow run, but I felt good, strong and flew along the path with ease. It feels great when a run gives you that buzz. As I reached home, I expected to be greeted by the smell of baking, but found a note saying: ‘I didn’t want to leave the oven on, can you put the cake in?’ One of the many reasons I have to run:



So, this was my fifth run this week – one more than I ‘pledged’ to complete on the Jantastic website. I also managed two swims, but no ride. I think I need to get out and go, see how far I get, see if my legs like the sensation of spin, spin, spin…

Distance: 6.23 miles
Time: 56.18 minutes
Average Pace: 9.02 minute miles
Calories: 626

Autumn fun

Last time I wrote I was still crawling back from the depths of a cold, which seems such a long time ago now (sorry, I’ve been busy having fun!). I booked myself a place at the Petts Wood 10k ages ago, prompted by my Parkrun buddies Siggy and Stephen, who belong to the Petts Wood Runners, and were dutifully positioned around the course to shout out encouragement and generally say nice stuff to make you feel good and not like the wet, muddy mess you really were. Of course, in true FitArtist style, I had good intentions of training hard towards the 10k distance, but in reality I ran a few hills, did a few longer runs and succumbed to The Cold in the weeks leading up to the race. Race day dawned and it was absolutely chucking it down and had been all night. Not the light, refreshing sort of rain, but the heavy, sideways, not-going-to-let-up kind of rain. ‘Oh well’ I thought as I worked out a long-winded bus journey to get there during Sunday engineering work hell.

Eventually, I made my way onto the cricket ground that plays host to the start and finish of the race, and nodded knowingly to other hardy souls who ploughed on, heads down. I must say, I was immediately impressed by the slick organisation of the event, which was apparent even through the sheeting rain and across the slide of mud. Once registered and rid of bag, coat and umbrella, I huddled under a gazebo with a shivering group, who talked mostly about the weather and what might lie ahead, accompanied by the tempting smells wafting over from the bacon roll tent. Before long we edged reluctantly to the start line and cheered each wave as they set off (yes, this small race even has a wave start and chip timing!). This was where my smiles began. I couldn’t help but break into a wide grin as I splashed through puddles and avoided slipping all over the place as we made our way onto the residential road and out towards the woods. You might imagine that a 10k run in these conditions would be hell, but I would go as far as to say that the rain added to the fun: I had no time to think about how far I had run or how fast (or rather slow) I was going as I kept my eye on the deep, dark puddles beneath my feet and avoided tripping on tree roots and rocks.

A couple of years ago I did Grim in Aldershot with Grant and Tom, and I would say that this race was on a par with that, but on my doorstep and way cheaper to enter! I quickly realised that there was no point in trying to go round the mud and puddles, so leapt in them with abandon, often squealing with delight. Around the route were the friendliest marshals you are ever likely to encounter in the rain, and I thanked every one of them as I went. Lovely people. Before I knew it I was heading out of the woods and back towards the recreation ground, encouraged by a few determined locals, who happily urged us on from their driveways. I managed a sprint finish of sorts, my shoes heavy and full of water and, once across the line, I was handed a medal, a banana (by a gorilla, really) and a warm samosa (excellent post-race food) and I quickly joined the queue to retrieve my belongings so I could buy a steaming cup of tea to ward off blue lips. I will be entering this race again next year for sure, but only if they arrange rain for me.

I rode the bus home like this...

I rode the bus home like this…

I am loving this gorgeous Autumn weather (though I have got annoyingly wet pretty much every time I’ve left the house in the past few days), especially the leaves and the bright skies.

Coordinating with nature

Coordinating with nature

With half-term coming up next week, I will be making the most of the warm weather and glowing trees, pulling on my walking shoes and doing some conker-gathering and bat spotting (a cool Halloween event we’re looking forward to…).

Coming next: a return to club night.

I feel good…

Da-da-da-da-da-da-dum! There I was, in the school playground, surrounded by umbrellas and rain-coated parents, embracing the drizzle in my lycra running gear when a fellow mum tapped me on the shoulder:

“You’re dedicated!” she said “You can do it for all of us!”

Good and grimy

Good and grimy

So I did.

I don’t put a great deal of thought into my school run runs, I just turn up in my gear, drop Hector off and run away(!) in a randomly chosen direction. Today it was upwards towards Hilly Fields. On Saturday I am run director for our pre-Christmas Parkrun, so wanted to check out the course and see just how muddy it is. We have asked people to don their Christmassy gear to get into the festive spirit, but I think it might be wise to choose wellies over running shoes this time! I pushed hard up the hills and slightly wussed out along the off-road paths that our course takes, choosing the pavement over the ‘pond’. I did, however, head up ‘The Hill’ and splashed through a mud-slide with a big smile on my face. I’m just glad I had on my trusty trail shoes and not my pretty purple ones:

Squelch, squelch

Squelch, squelch

I was absolutely drenched when I got back, but felt great: there’s nothing like a wet, muddy morning run to lift you out of the doldrums. It looks like the rain is here to stay, no white Christmas for us Londoners, so I should get used to it, especially as January approaches and we have JogBlog on our backs, nagging encouraging us to sign up for Janathon 2013. If you don’t already know about Janathon, it’s the slightly evil twin sister of the warmer and less gritty Juneathon, where a growing group of runners/joggers/plodders get together in virtual and real space to share their love of getting out and about in running shoes. The idea is that you get out every day for the month of January and run/walk/cycle/spin/gym/skip/whatever it is that gets your heart pumping and then blog about it. You can find out all the ins and outs and sign your life away up here. Watch out though, it’s addictive and you will find yourself getting up in the middle of the night or running home from the pub to fit in a run. Really.

Distance: 3.29 miles

Time: 35 minutes 47 seconds

Average Pace: 10.52

Best Pace: 7.44

Calories: 432

Land of my fathers

Well, actually my mother, my father is not proper Welsh. Now this has got to be one of, if not the most beautiful runs I have ever done. The other weekend, we drove for seven plus hours, well into the early hours of the morning, to the incredible landscape of North West Wales to stay with Edward’s family who were visiting the area. Readers may know that I am in fact Welsh, having been born and brought up in North Wales (though I have now lived in England for longer than I lived in Wales, which feels odd!), but I have never visited this area before, and how disappointed I felt not to have taken advantage of this when it was on my doorstep. We were staying in a little town called Nefyn, just a short walk from an untouched and quiet beach, where we had use of a beach hut, so could sip tea after a bracing swim in the Irish Sea, how very, very civilised! I knew that I would want to run here, so had packed my gear, and headed out on my own on Sunday morning. For some reason my Garmin packed up completely, freezing its display as soon as I switched it on (I think I know how to fix it), so this was to be a run of mystery in terms of pace and distance but, after a few minutes, I realised that this was an entirely positive thing as I paused to absorb the views and breathe deeply, smelling the fresh, clean air. For once, I had also decided to carry my camera, not something I normally do because it’s quite big, but I’m so glad I did.

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I will let the images speak for themselves, but needless to say, you will all no doubt want to go there right away, well don’t, it’s mine!

No cake ’til Brighton!

On April 10th, I will be running the 26.2 miles that is the second Brighton Marathon, so my weekends at the moment are spent mainly pounding the streets of South London in an attempt to make it a fun and – relatively – painless experience. I have decided to raise money for Guide Dogs, and would be really, really grateful if you could sponsor my effort. ‘But she’s done this before! This will be her third marathon!’ I hear you cry so, to make things a little bit harder, I am also pledging to not touch any cake (or puddings and biscuits) until Brighton, that’s seven weeks away. Yes, really, no cake ’til Brighton!

That means less of this:

and more of this:

So, if you think I’m trying hard enough to gain your support, you can sponsor me here. You can find out more about the fantastic work of the Guide Dogs charity, and see how having a guide dog really changes people’s lives here. I have been looking on You Tube to show Hector what a guide dog does, and found this recent advert, but watch out because you might find yourself gushing over gorgeous little puppies like we did 🙂

Thank you for taking time to read all of this, and thank you in advance if you feel you want to support Guide Dogs, every little bit helps.


Adele xxx

Another short long run

Other than injury, I can think of nothing more draining on your energy during marathon training than a stomach bug, so imagine my horror when I succumbed this week. After my fabulous track session on Tuesday morning, Hector really wanted to go out in the running buggy, even though it was raining, so we did. Just under three miles, and we had to make the return leg by train due to the now heavy rain and, during this run, I started to feel pretty awful and wondered if I had been a bit ambitious for the day’s activity. By Wednesday morning it was clear that I was just ill, and Edward even had to work from home so he could take Hector to nursery (incidentally, Hector was really excited about this and just rushed in and waved happily at Daddy!). During these few hours I just slept and ran to the bathroom. I remembered that, when Hector had a vomiting bug the other week, every time he ate, he just brought it back up again, so I decided to go without food for the day and see if that cleared the bug. Oh how feeble I felt, lying there sipping recovery drinks and clutching my aching stomach.

I was much better on Thursday, as if I had never been ill in fact, but my energy levels dipped through the day and I was reminded to slow down and stick to soup for a while. I would say that yesterday was the first day I was able to enjoy my food again. Bleurgh. So, when I looked at my schedule and saw that today was to be the eighteen mile day, I realised I would have to be realistic and just see how I felt during the run. Earlier in the week I was sent some samples of Orbana energy drinks, and had been keen to try these out after last week’s long run, where I had failed to equip myself properly with any kind of fuel, and wanted to see how much better I could run with the right fuel on board. Of course, today was just about getting out and seeing how far I could go on weak legs, but I did pack some fluid for the journey, keen to keep myself hydrated after such a challenging week. Funnily enough, I knew that the drinks were good because they were the only thing I could keep down during my illness, and really seemed to help as I sipped them gently throughout the day!


The first few miles were fun, as I was accompanied by the boys on Edward’s bike, and we paused briefly to enjoy the view of the Kingfisher resting on a branch before he disappeared in a flash of neon blue. As we reached a fork on the Waterlink Way, the boys went towards the swimming pool and I kept going towards Beckenham Place Park, so a repeat of the run I did a few weeks ago really, though this time I knew where I was going! After last week’s long run, I have realised that I should sip some fluid at intervals instead of waiting until I’m on my knees, so stopped at four miles for a gulp then carried on my way through the mud. The thing I like about the Orbana drinks is that they don’t taste that strong, my drink of choice outside of running is tea, and other than that I drink mainly water so, when I drink some of the other sports drinks, I find them far too sweet and really artificial-tasting, but Orbana tastes a bit like diluted juice, which I find more palatable.

It was nice running through that park, passing lots of muddy dogs and listening to the woodpeckers making the most delightful sound – I had carried my iPod Shuffle with me, but I’m glad I didn’t plug in because this was too good to miss. I did a random sort of lap, taking in a few dead-ends and odd loops, then came out to run towards South Beckenham station to step onto the Waterlink Way again. I had been stubbornly ignoring the fact that I was suffering from the most dreadful stitch and now stomach cramp, and determinedly plodding on as if everything was alright, but now I was beginning to think I should cut this run short and save the long, long run for next weekend. As I passed under the train track, it was ever so tempting to hop on the train home, but I didn’t.

Now I was passing some allotments, and I took a long sideways glance at the array of raised beds and compost heaps constructed mainly out of reclaimed wood. I am becoming slightly obsessed with acquiring wood, and wondered where they had found theirs. We started building a compost heap out of a palette we found at the end of our road, but realised it’s quite hard to dismantle them, and need another source of wood for the next level (it’s rapidly filling up with peelings and tea bags!). We also want to get our raised beds in ready for the planting season, so need a good supply of planks. I did ring round some scaffolders to see if they sell off old planks, but they are very reluctant to let you have them in case you do yourself an injury. ‘But I am going to saw them up and plant vegetables amongst them!’ I protested ‘Health and safety’ said the nice lady on the other end of the line.

Anyway, back to the run. By now my stomach was really hurting and I kept having to stop to sip fluid and bend over to clutch my stomach, but on I went (I didn’t have much choice really). I kept at it until I reached the park near home, and I was reduced to switching off the Garmin and walking the last mile home, looking out for discarded planks along the way.

Time: 1 hour 39 minutes 52 seconds

Distance: 9.33 miles

Average Pace: 10.42

Best Pace: 7.47

Calories: 1000

(I will review the Orbana drinks in more detail on next week’s long run, here’s hoping I don’t get any more bugs).