2017, a round-up

As 2017 comes to a close, I’m taking this opportunity to look back at what has definitely been a year of two halves. This time last year I won a place in the London Marathon and my running year suddenly had a new focus! My training went really well and I enjoyed the challenge of taking my runs further afield, having not run a marathon since 2011, when I ran in Brighton. I trained hard, sometimes getting up early on a Saturday morning so that I could run the last 5k of my long run at Hilly Fields parkrun, the support of my fellow runners pulling me around those hard last few kilometres.

With this dedication to running taking over my life, I decided to step back to the 2.5km distance at my now annual Swimathon, realising I might struggle to fit in the training for the full 5k. Last year I had really enjoyed my swim at the Aquatic Centre, so decided to swim here again, even having a fly-by (swim-by?) from Duncan Goodhew partway round! You can read all about my experience here.

Swimathon

When April approached I felt ready, taking my place at the green start and looking forward to seeing my family and friends along the route through London. Training for and running a marathon is a long journey, with so many factors affecting your performance on the day. I ran well for the first half or so, then took an emotional and physical dip, struggling through the rest of the race. I think I realised that big races are not for me, finding it difficult to focus and riding an emotional roller coaster, whilst trying to negotiate a space for myself. After London Marathon I had serious post-marathon blues and Edward suggested running another marathon, using my training and hopefully achieving the goal I had hoped to reach in London. Five weeks later I stepped out onto the Cyclopark in Gravesend and enjoyed a calm, controlled and steady marathon, with space around to switch off and run my way to a PB. You can read a detailed account of these two events here.

My marathon

As June rolled around, so too did Endure 24. After my marathons I kept everything ticking over, running with my GoodGym groups and tackling parkrun for an extra push. Endure 24 is a 24-hour team relay, where I camped out with my friends and we aimed to have a team member on the 5 mile course throughout the 24 hours. It was an amazing experience, with my endurance training putting me in good stead to complete a total of 30 miles. Our friends had tried persuading us to participate last year, but I had been concerned about needing sleep, not wanting to run through the night. How strange (and delightful) then, to find that my favourite part of the whole event was the night-time run, where I had just the path ahead lit by my head torch and a sense of being alone in the darkness, amongst the trees, beautiful.

Team work

A quick look back over those first six months of the year and you will notice that I didn’t really stop. I barely allowed myself time to recover and went on to pay the price. My knee became painful and I found myself hobbling around and even being kept awake by the pain. Hours were spent at the physio, being given different diagnoses, from hamstring tendinopathy, to eventually finding out that my medial meniscus was not coping very well with the continued impact of all this long running. I didn’t have much choice but to continue running, since my work depends on it, but cut right back on track sessions and moved into the pool to keep my heart and lungs strong.

After taking part in the inaugural Swim Serpentine last year, I entered again, keen to have another go. Some time after entering, Swim Serpentine made an announcement about the London Classics, a new event for those who had completed the London Marathon and Ride 100. If you also completed the 2 mile Swim Serpentine, you would enter the Hall of Fame for the London Classics. I quickly got on the phone to upgrade from the 1 mile to 2 mile course and got myself down to the pool to make sure I was fit enough to take this challenge on. Some good, rough sea swimming on holiday in Cornwall was about as much as I managed in terms of open water acclimatisation, so it was a bit of a shock to the system to ease into 15 degree water in September!

London Classics

This year also saw me trying another new swimming event, the inaugural Marathon Swims. A chance to swim again at the Aquatic Centre, this time committing to the 5k distance (though there were people there swimming the full 10k!). I loved this new event, enjoying the format and the atmosphere and, of course, that amazing feeling when you pull yourself out of the pool, having achieved something great.

5k finisher!

There are just a few more days of 2017 left to go, with tomorrow being my annual birthday run, this time at my beloved Hilly Fields parkrun. With a year split between endurance running and water-based activity, it might not be a surprise to find out that I am keen to try my hand at swim run in 2018. There is so much to say about this particular challenge that I will give it its own post in the new year. Until then I will eat, drink (Alkoholfrei) and be merry.

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London Marathon, five weeks to go!

I woke up this morning and instantly started talking about triathlon. I don’t know if it was the sun streaming in through the window, the birds nesting on our neighbour’s jasmine, tweeting with great enthusiasm, or the fact that I was slightly envious of Edward heading off for a pre-work swim, but triathlon was at the front of my mind.

People keep asking how my training is going. I know they mean my London Marathon training, so answer with this in mind, ‘So far, so good’. It is going well, weekday runs are a combination of leading GoodGym Lewisham, track/hills or evil mile repeats with Kent AC, my GoodGym coach run, something longer and pacier and, of course, the LOOOOONG run. In the past few weeks I have built up gradually to last Friday’s 20-miler. It was gorgeous, sunshine (and a bit of unexpected drizzle at one point), river, canal, zoo, park and a slightly mis-judged, but tired run down Regent’s Street. I say it was gorgeous, the scenery was gorgeous, but it was definitely one of those runs where you doubt you will ever be able to run a marathon at pace and find yourself frequently giving yourself a good old talking to. Edward and I looked at my stats on Strava in the evening, ‘What happened here, in the middle? You went much faster for 3k?’ ‘Oh yes, that’ll be where I put some music on’. Consistency? I’ll get there. I hope.

So where does triathlon fit in with this? It doesn’t! Since I won my place in the London Marathon – on Twitter – before Christmas, my mind has been taken over by it. My usual week of running, cycling and swimming (with a bit of strength work thrown in) has been cut to running, running and more running (with a tiny bit of swimming and strength). Last week, I thought ‘I’m finding marathon training irritating!’ I look at my schedule and decide ‘I mustn’t swim that day because it will make that run there much harder. I mustn’t go on the turbo trainer, my legs won’t carry me through the half-marathon I have to do then’. I’m being a bit precious about it and I don’t like it.

The last time I ran a marathon, back in 2011 in Brighton, Hector was much smaller, I wasn’t part of a running club and we hadn’t set up Hilly Fields parkrun. I printed a schedule and did my best, having an enjoyable race. This time I have so much support around me, friends who have run multiple marathons, coaches who know what works and what doesn’t and everyone telling me I should aim for a certain time. The pressure is on! It’s important to focus, but it’s important to have some fun too. Time to plan something beyond the Big Day.

This morning I received an email from OSB Events, the people who organise the wonderful Holkham Triathlon I took part in last summer. This morning, Edward was saying that of course I should be doing an ironman, with all this marathon training in place but, when I reminded myself how far the swim is, I quickly dashed that idea! Maybe though, a half-ironman wouldn’t be such a bad idea after a marathon? I found it incredibly hard last July, it is a very tough thing to embark on, but maybe it’s what I need to focus my mind beyond London.

All suggestions most welcome!

A round-up and look forward

I know, I know, it’s the middle of January and I’m only now rounding up my year, tsk! It’s been a busy time, but in a good way, with numerous volunteering opportunities, coaching and leading runs. I guess another delay to writing this post is the sheer scale of what I have to round up from 2016! It was a fantastic year, with big changes and big challenges.

Family volunteers

Family volunteers

I started my year by qualifying as a UK Athletics Coach in Running Fitness and starting my role as trainer for GoodGym Lewisham, running to do good in our community, making a difference and growing our friendships and fitness at the same time. With my birthday present at the end of 2015 being a place in the Outlaw Holkham Half-Ironman, my goal for the year was pretty clear, leading to many sessions on the turbo, hours of laps at the pool and a continuation of the consistent running that happens anyway. My ongoing goal to improve my swim speed and to overcome my open-water and race panic saw me proudly swimming my 5k Swimathon at the Aquatics Centre, my favourite pool.

Medal moment

Medal moment

In September I dived straight in (or rather schlumphed heavily into the Serpentine with hundreds of other people) and went for it with the first ever Swim Serpentine. I can’t say I’ve particularly progressed much with the open water swimming, having pootled, heads-up all the way round, chatting to each and every marshal en route! There’s a lot of work to be done, so I’ll be back this year and swimming it with my head down and with determination (my favourite bits were the hot tub and sauna at the end. Ahem).

Mega medal

Mega medal

As always, my favourite sporting moments have been those shared with others and, in June, we took Hilly Fields parkrun on tour to Paris, enjoying the beautiful course, cheering on friends to super finish times and, best of all, encouraging and cajoling Hector around his first ever full 5k! What a wonderful weekend, running, eating, socialising and sightseeing!

On tour

On tour

Other highlights have been supporting and facilitating others to push themselves and reach their goals. Our wonderful parkrun and junior parkrun are growing all the time and, with the introduction of a tail-walker, we welcome runners, joggers and walkers every week, with nobody finishing last. Once again, we put together a massive team, to take charge of the baggage trucks in Greenwich Park, taking care of the belongings of the many nervous runners, about to embark on the Virgin London Marathon. One of my favourite days of the year (more on that later…).

Top team

Top team

In July I gritted my teeth and tackled my first half-ironman in the beautiful surrounds of Holkham Hall. We had an incredible family and friends weekend, enjoying camping in the grounds, playing on the beach, fuelling up with fish and chips (yup, I’m such a pro) and slipping in a couple of little sporting events for good measure.

Knackered

Knackered

The summer was an active one, with coastal runs and sea swims in beautiful Cornwall and a real family treat, a trip to Club La Santa in Lanzarote. What a dream! Massive swimming pools (often all to myself), classes on tap and group runs and rides to keep us happy…I think we’ll be going back (Hector hasn’t stopped talking about it!).

Representing

Representing

In September I returned to the excellent London Duathlon, where I had my best experience in my three years of this race (though not a PB, so close, next time!). My race report was featured in 220 Triathlon magazine, which caused my Mum to squeal in W.H.Smith ๐Ÿ˜‰

Spread

Spread

My last post was all about getting out, whatever the weather and volunteering certainly encourages that! As a family, we always try to embrace whatever the weather throws our way and our Christmas holiday involved getting out, being active and making the most of what’s on our doorstep, with a brilliant day in the Olympic Park.

Family fun

Family fun

To round off what was a great year, I realised that, if ran as much as I could at Hilly Fields parkrun in the run up to Christmas, I could reach my 100th run on New Year’s Day. With some incredible support and juggling from my fellow run directors and a few slow-paced, flu-ridden strolls, I made it – Peckham Rye parkrun AND Hilly Fields on New Year’s Day, making it to 100!

The double

The double

An epic start to 2017! In the run up to Christmas, I was in bed, totally knocked out by ‘proper’ flu, none of this ‘man’ flu, proper, can’t move a muscle flu. As I lay there, I scanned twitter to see that the London Marathon were running a competition to win a place in the 2017 race. Typing in the answer to the question, along with probably hundreds of others, I thought ‘That would be nice, but I doubt it will happen’. Weeeeeellll, I won! There’s nothing like a marathon on the horizon to focus your training! It will be my fourth marathon, but it’s been a while. When I ran previously, I wasn’t part of a running club, or part of an amazing running community, so this time will be very different. Not sure I’ll be able to work on the baggage trucks this year, but hey!

Get outside and fight the winter blues!

I’m finding it very, very tempting right now to ignore my planned sessions, being pulled back inside by the call of the sofa, a cosy blanket and a mug of steaming tea. I know though, that if I don’t get outside, get some fresh air and have a change of scenery, I could start to succumb to the winter blues. Some days it doesn’t feel like the sun will ever emerge…

Where's the park gone?!

Where’s the park gone?!

My strategy for coping with the colder, darker months is to get outside each day, rain or shine. I like to try and do this early on, so I don’t have a chance to talk myself out of it! A good way for me to fit it all in, is to do a ‘School Run Run’, which usually involves heading up and down some hills…

Hilly (Fields) Hills

Hilly (Fields) Hills

Two of my weekly runs happen in the evening, not my favourite time to run (I find it difficult to fuel evening activity) but, as I lead the GoodGym Lewisham group run on a Monday evening, I have to be there, perfect, no excuses! I can also guarantee that, after running with a friendly group, chatting as we go, then making sure everyone is engaged with the task, I come home feeling a warm glow and with a big smile on my face. My other evening run is on a Tuesday with my running club. Again, I have to be there to coach the girls’ group first of all, but I have been known to slope off before my own session starts (gasp!), but the pressure to stay is strong and this doesn’t happen very often. It seems sticking to a run is much easier if you ‘make an appointment’, put it in your diary and, even better, do it with friends – you won’t want to let them down.

Another weekly ‘appointment’ is at parkrun, either running or volunteering. I’m coming up to my 100th run and, if I stick to it over the next few weeks, it will coincide with our New Year’s Day run at Hilly Fields ๐Ÿ™‚ I hate missing my parkrun and it’s about way more than running 5k, if I miss the bit in the cafe afterwards, I feel very out of sorts! Sundays often involve some volunteering at junior parkrun, so encouraging little ones to take part and getting out in the park to blow the cobwebs away.

It doesn’t have to be an outside activity either, a brisk walk (or ride) to the swimming pool for a quick swim does the trick too – I started the week with a Monday morning swim and felt much better for it (it helped that there was only one other person in the lane though!). And, if you can’t get out to run/ride/swim, a walk will definitely do the trick. At half-term, we jumped on a train and had a day out at the beach and had it pretty much to ourselves. As you can see, the ever adventurous Hector is immune to the cold and took his body board, trunks and enthusiasm to make the most of what turned out to be a beautiful day.

Enjoying an October paddle

Enjoying an October paddle

What do you do to arm yourself against the pull of the sofa?

Aldi Specialbuys Running – Out Now!

Yes, it’s that time again! Get yourself down to your nearest Aldi right now! The running kit is in again…

Photo: Aldi

Photo: Aldi

Click here to have a look at the range, in stores now.

Photo: Aldi

Photo: Aldi

Once again, the Aldi Specialbuys Running range doesn’t disappoint, with kit ranging in price from ยฃ1.99 for a pair of insoles to ยฃ49.99 for a pain relief massager. In between, you will find t-shirts for ยฃ5.99, shorts for ยฃ4.99, shoes for ยฃ19.99 and a nice-looking bottle for ยฃ6.99. This week I’ve been trying out some socks, headbands and a handy little wristband to stash keys and coins (sadly not big enough for a phone though). Right now I’m sporting a pair of compression socks (ยฃ3.49) that I wore for my cycle ride this morning, lovely and warm, with just the right amount of compression.

I’ve tried many of the items from the Aldi running (and cycling) range in the past few years and they’re all still going strong, so you can’t beat them for value and durability. Just make sure you get there fast though, because they do sell out!

Photo: Aldi

Photo: Aldi

Lidl Bananaman Triathlon Race Report

Who wouldn’t enjoy a race that involves this journey to the venue?

Happy cyclists!

Happy cyclists!

As we don’t have a car and I needed to transport my bike (and Hector was super keen to try out his new bike), we took all of our bikes on the train to Windsor and rode the two or so miles to Eton Dorney along the Thames Path. At the station we saw people dismantling their bikes to put into taxis…no need, just ride! And look at what greeted us on arrival!

The lake.

The lake.

I was a little taken aback at the vastness of the lake – with it being a purpose-built rowing lake, it’s loooooong. I took it all in, clocking the inflatable buoys and breaking it down into the little chunk that I would actually be tackling later on in the Lidl Bananaman Triathon. Phew. It is a stunning venue and the party was already in full swing, with little ones tearing around wearing medals picked up in the Scootathlon and older athletes already exiting the water for one of the earlier waves of the triathlon. Feeling relaxed and a little bit excited, I got myself a cuppa and headed over to registration where I was given everything I needed, promptly and with a big smile.

Registration

Registration

As the event was sponsored by Lidl, there were mountains of bananas, as much water/juice/crisps/cereal bars as you could ever need and a barbeque for competitiors and spectators, now how many events boast such hospitality?! With it being about 10.15, my support crew needed a pre-lunch lunch.

Hungry boys

Hungry boys

I paced up and down, checking out the swimmers, making sure the entry into the water wasn’t too scary and making sure I could see the bike out/run out points – not sure why, but the signs for these are often placed at ground level and, once transition is full of bikes and people darting about, it’s difficult to see where they are. Any chance these could be identified by a flag or something? After numerous nervous loo-visits (oh, how the tri-suit is the enemy of such pre-race nervousness!), I decided I should just get on with it and set up in transition. At this point I switched my Garmin on to get a signal and found that the battery was flat. After a minor hissy fit, I decided that it didn’t matter and I would embrace ‘going naked’, could be interesting!

Still relaxed!

Still relaxed!

Before long I was pulling on my wetsuit and heading to the water. Eek! Now, I’ve been very carefully preparing for my first open-water triathlon, with wetsuit-specific coached sessions and solo swims to build confidence, so I was totally thrown when given the option to go without a wetsuit – if the water reaches a certain temperature you have a choice. After much umming and ahhing I decided to stick with what I had planned – Edward pointed out that I had taken on this particular race as a practice/test event for future races and should use it to try out the wetsuit in the swim and transition. I’m so glad I did, the water didn’t feel that warm! I was in a women’s wave (complete with bright pink hats, oh yes) and we all bobbed about, acclimatising while the race organiser gave us a briefing then quickly sent us on our way with a loud parp of the horn. Cue lots of ‘Ooh, sorry!’ and ‘Oops!’ comments from my fellow swimmers, really! And I had heard horror stories about being kicked, ducked and having your goggles removed. How very civilised!

That's me, there!

That’s me, there!

Interestingly, I found this open-water swim easier in terms of managing panic than the pool tri in May, as there was nobody tapping at my heels, I could take some deep breaths, compose myself and do as much breast-stroke as I liked ๐Ÿ™‚ And I did. Even after swimming front-crawl up and down the Serpentine Lido, I found myself bobbing along, head in the air. I did a few stretches of front-crawl as I grew more confident and off I went. I did it! I climbed up the ramp towards transition, whipped off my wetsuit like a pro and legged it to bike out. Yesssss!

The bike course was 21.2km, so four laps of a perfectly flat and lovely smooth road (it was pretty twisty and turny in places though and quite windy). The bike is always my favourite bit of a triathlon and I flew around, smiling all the way. Each time I reached the start area I was given a huge cheer by my crew and sent off into the next lap. After all my training sessions at the Olympic Velopark, I was swiftly pulling out my drinks bottle and taking a swig, unlike previous races where I’ve ended up dehydrated and turning green. Oh, what a difference a few swigs of electrolyte replacement makes.

Time to hang up my bike and pull on my running shoes, but not without banging my head on the bike rack first and shouting ‘B*ll*cks!’. Sorry. By this point it was hot and the run route was an out and back stretch fully exposed to the sun. I kept giving myself little pep talks: ‘Relax your shoulders. Light on your toes. Head tall. Arms lower.’ – this all really helped, especially at the point where I realised it wasn’t just an out and back, it was an out and back and out and back again. This is also where I appreciated my on-bike hydration and enjoyed a tri-run without crippling cramp. Carrying on the pep-talk, I soon turned to face the finish and picked up the pace towards the barbecue smoke and the giant Erdinger glass to give a little sprint through the arch and a very happy ending.

Thank you Hector for the photo!

Thank you Hector for the photo!

A few sweaty high-fives, a hug from a giant banana and I found myself holding a pint of ice-cold beer and a burger. Result! (I must point out that this was alcohol-free beer and bloody good it was too!). Hector punched in my race number to the machine that pumps out results and I could see how I had faired, competing somewhat blindly without the Garmin feedback…

The numbers

The numbers

I can’t really compare directly with my last triathlon because the swim distance is shorter and the bike slightly longer, but it’s a tri-PB for the bike and run (and check those transitions!), so I’m very pleased. Best of all was the fact that I could see that my training is paying off, I didn’t have cramp and I felt amazing afterwards as we cycled back towards Windsor. Thank you to Human Race for giving me a place – I’m already looking up future events at Eton Dorney and will be back next year to see if I can smash those times.

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚
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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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