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!

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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 πŸ˜‰

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!

I am a Half-Ironman!

(or rather woman)

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

Our spot

Our spot

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

Post-race (non-alcoholic) beer!

Post-race (non-alcoholic) beer!

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

Has to be done.

Has to be done.

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

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

Top fuel.

Top fuel.

Ahem.

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

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

Big nerves.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Half-Ironman

Half-Ironman

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

A Round-Up and a Look Ahead

Well, that flew by, didn’t it?! I really can’t believe it’s 2016 tomorrow. It’s been another great year, in my own running and multi-sports, but most excitingly in helping others reach their goals. 2015 has been another busy year, with lots of races and times smashed, starting with a new half-marathon PB in February.

Big Medal

Big Medal

In April, I went beyond my own expectations by swimming my furthest distance yet, in the 5k Swimathon. Having only swum a mile at most, I trained steadily and reached my goal with a little help and support from my friends.

Happy Hug

Happy Hug

Watch this space to hear more about my Swimathon plans for 2016, it’s going to be another exciting swimming year.

After months of training and dipping my toes – tentatively – in open water, I went for it and had a brilliant time in my first open-water triathlon at the Lidl Bananaman Triathlon. It makes me smile so much when I re-read this race report and look at the happy photos, what a brilliant day we had.

Easy Riders

Easy Riders

September saw me taking on the London Duathlon again, under less than perfect conditions (I was full of cold and should probably have stayed in bed, but…).

Will run for roasties

Will run for roasties

One of my proudest race moments of the year was the Hever Castle Triathlon, my first go at the Olympic Distance. I was so nervous about the swim in a lake and river, it felt amazing to exit the water with a smile on my face.

Cold, but happy

Cold, but happy

So, what have I got planned for 2016? It’s going to be a big year! I will be taking my running coaching to another level, in my new role as trainer with GoodGym Lewisham πŸ™‚ We will be running to do good, from January 18th, making a difference all over the borough and getting fit in the process. My own goals are to continue on my triathlon and duathlon journey, with the next level being tackled in July at the Outlaw Holkham Half-Ironman. Yes. Bugger. I blame my friend Siggy, who twisted my arm, at least I know she will train as hard as me and we’ll smash it together. FitArtist is ten in 2016! I will be working out a celebratory plan-of-action, so keep an eye out for any special events. And, of course, I will be spending lots of time running and cheering at my beloved Hilly Fields parkrun and junior parkrun.

It was my birthday yesterday. I always run on my birthday and thought it might be nice to see if any of my friends wanted to join me. This is what happened:

Lovely friends

Lovely friends

Two more friends joined us en route and they were all very well-behaved when they came home for tea and cake…

House-trained

House-trained

That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Have a brilliant 2016 and I look forward to your support, encouragement and ideas throughout the year x

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.

Jam

Jam

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.

Lake

Lake

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.

Relief

Relief

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.

Concentration

Concentration

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.

Archer

Archer

Some trampolining.

Boing!

Boing!

And even some bungee jumping πŸ™‚

Happy

Happy

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.

Finished

Finished

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 πŸ˜‰

Hever Castle

Hever Castle

Summer Round-Up

Arrrghhgh! Where has the summer gone?! I’m braving it and trying to keep the toes out for as long as I possibly can, but I felt decidedly chilly on this morning’s first-school-run-of-year-four (I know, year four!!). It really does seem like yesterday that I was picking Hector up from school with the whole, long, warm (?!) summer holidays ahead of us, and here we are in September. It was a lovely summer holiday, with lots of fun activities, many active…

Body Boarding in Dorset

Body Boarding in Dorset

Some less active…

Crumble-bound

Crumble-bound

Some that involved getting muddy…

In Deptford Creek

In Deptford Creek

And some that involved getting wet…

Royal Victoria Docks

Royal Victoria Docks

This last image shows the Royal Victoria Docks in East London. Some readers might know this from the London Triathlon – this is the same body of water that thousands of tri-hopefuls leap into each year. You can now go swimming here on a regular basis, so I thought I’d give it a try. The opening times are limited obviously, so I found myself setting my alarm for silly o’clock one Sunday morning, in an attempt to cycle over there, swim and get back in time to volunteer at Hilly Fields junior parkrun. Phew! It was, incidentally, the same weekend as the London Triathlon and some of the roads were closed and already being sped along by eager athletes, so I sort of got lost-ish on my way. It was ok though, because I found an equally bemused cyclist heading in the same direction. We chatted open-water as we pedalled and it turned out this chap was training to swim the channel. Yes, the channel. I bowed as much as you can bow whilst riding a bike. Needless to say, he was off in his speedos as soon as we got there, whereas I, in my usual nervous-numpty mode sat sadly on the side, unable to get in. You see, the steps that are usually there were not there, they had been removed because they were not safe. I was told it was ok though “…because it’s about twenty feet deep, so you can dive in”. To many swimmers this would be an invitation to splash, but I instantly froze at the thought of:

a) twenty feet deep

and

b) dive in

and gently swished my toes in the perfectly still, calm, golden sunrise water while others jumped in and swam off into the distance. A very kind coach came over and chatted to me, giving me some tips about what to do when I got in (roll onto my back, allow some water into my wetsuit). I knew I would be fine once I got in, but I was stuck. Eventually I gave myself a good old talking to and reminded myself that there was a kayaker lifeguard there to call out to if I really couldn’t do it. And shalumph, I plopped in and rolled onto my back. It was fine. I couldn’t have chosen a more beautiful morning for it and set off towards a big red buoy at a steady heads-out breaststroke. Numpty. I had decided that I would swim the 400 or so meters around and back to the pontoon and maybe go around again if I felt good. I did and I did. Maybe trying to do this kind of thing on a tight schedule is not a good idea and I should give myself more time. To get in.

Lots more open-water swimming was done on our camping trip to Dorset, some lovely sea swims after sandy runs along the beach at Studland. I am ok once I’m in the water, I just need to be able to ease myself in slowly. Maybe diving is the next challenge, but I’ll need to be pushed…anyone?

So, what’s next?

In three weeks I will be taking on the London Duathlon again. Remember last year when I pushed so hard (and neglected hydration and fuelling so much) that I threw up at the end? Well, this year I will be finishing with a smile on my face and hopefully not needing to lie down in a crumpled heap. The following week I will be stepping up to the Olympic distance triathlon at Hever Castle. I am properly nervous about this. Every time I read about it, it’s billed as being tough, with a ‘technical’ bike course and challenging trail run. But hey, the swim is in a beautiful lake (and river!) in the grounds of a stunner of a castle! Eek! There are events following these, but I’ll just get these two out of the way first shall I?! πŸ˜‰

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 πŸ™‚ 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.