Category Archives: Races

Race recap: The Lakesman Triathlon 2017

Finally, after months of preparing, and a day of frantic list-making, packing and bike fettling, race weekend was ON. I eagerly headed up to Keswick, with everything looking perfect. Conditions forecast: cloudy with occasional sunshine, and race day temperatures peaking at 16 degrees. Lovely. And I could relax about race logistics, because the organisers of the Lakesman Triathlon are brilliant, taking care of literally everything to make racing as stress-free as possible.

Registration was quick and easy at HQ next to Derwentwater, and once it was done I could catch up with Rach over tea, and await the arrival of James who decided that driving to Keswick was far too soft, and he’d ride over to meet me (insert eye roll emoji). Friday evening was fairly uneventful, getting settled into our ace B&B, sussing out somewhere to go and guzzle carbs, and an early night watching some comedy DVDs.

Lakesman TriathlonSaturday morning dawned, already really hot and sunny, and this was my first hint of what was to come. I carried on calmly plodding through race prep though, taking my bike for one last little spin to make sure everything was working before racking, drinking ALL the fluids and electrolytes and starting the endless task of packing my transition bags.

The Lakesman Triathlon

I headed down to the briefing, and was happy to learn some of the rules were being relaxed, namely the one about outside assistance on the run, so we could be joined for laps by friends and family, and they would be allowed to pass us drinks/sunscreen/nutrition as needed. Athlete centred racing right there.

With Anna the bike all racked and ready to go, I said a begrudging goodbye, and headed off to dinner with a few of Team Bear. I loaded up on very boring pasta, even more boring mineral water, and tried to quell the rising sense of dread about the temperatures: during Saturday the forecasted temperatures just kept climbing, to 27 degrees. Not what I want for marathon running after 112 miles on the bike! Still, there was nothing I could do about it, so I did the final bits of race prep (hair braiding and number tattoos) and set a 4:15am alarm. Eek!

I slept better than expected, and awoke at 4am to an already sunny morning, calmly resigned that the day might turn out to be a bit more of a battle than I’d anticipated. Once slathered in sunscreen with my porridge pot forced down, I headed down to the start to add my bottles to my bike and my food to my bike transition bag, and before I knew it, I was wading into the shallows of Derwentwater ready to start the race.

Swim
I don’t know if you’ve ever been to the Lake District, but Derwentwater is definitely one of the most beautiful lakes- I doubt there’s a more beautiful swim start in triathlon anywhere.

Photo borrowed from the Lakesman Triathlon Facebook page

On race morning it was mirror-smooth, warm and looking especially beautiful. I had a calm and uneventful swim, although at points had to remind myself to get a shift on and stop enjoying the views- swimming as the sun rises in such a beautiful lake, sighting off the mighty Skiddaw in the background, is something that will stay with me for a long, long time after this race. The work I’d done with Chris since November really helped, and I felt great in the water, swimming smoothly and efficiently, and even staying calm when the sun completely blinded me on the finish straight and I couldn’t sight the finish line at all. Before I knew it, I was out and running up the exit carpet, wrestling with my wetsuit zip and starting to think about the rest of the race ahead, lapping up the cheers of ‘go on girl!’ with a massive grin on my face.

The Lakesman Triathlon

T1
With it being a hot day ahead, I took extra time in T1 to make sure I had everything I needed. Rach happened to be in there as her relay cyclist left, and she did a great job of helping me get my shit together. Jersey on, helmet on, food in pockets, socks on shoes on and awaaaaay on the bike! I didn’t top up on sunscreen though, as I thought the P20 I put on pre race would be enough. Lolz.

Bike

The Lakesman TriathlonThe bike was probably the bit of the race that I was most excited for. I had a heart rate monitor on, I had a pacing plan from Chris (strictly Zone 2 only!), and I had real hope that I could bike well. The first section out to the cost was into a direct headwind, which felt a little like riding into a hairdryer, but I tried to chill and keep on top of my food and fluids.The Lakesman Triathlon

I was already having to drink a LOT on the bike, and was very grateful for the frequent bottle stations: in total I put away 3 litres of fluid, and probably poured as much cold water on the back of my neck and down my arms to cool myself down. My Stoats bar, peanut butter sandwich and Tailwind drink plan was going down nicely, and I was making reasonable progress. There was a long, flat coastal section with a tailwind, which I LOVED, as well as a more undulating loop where I had good fun overtaking men on heavy TT bikes, whilst I nipped past on my little light road bike! I wasn’t doing a brilliant job of keeping my heart rate down, but it was what it was, and on a hot day, it was clear the race was a matter of just keeping going.

From 80 miles onwards, I was ready to just be done with the bike leg: my seatbones were starting to get a little sore on my saddle, and I was absolutely desperate for a wee in T2, as well as being kinda lonely. I think I really underestimated how lonely the bike would be, with the exception of small clusters of supporters out with signs and cowbells. I felt definite relief as I breezed down the hill into T2, especially as I hadn’t haemorrhaged as much time as I expected.

T2
The one goal I had all the way through training for this race was a strong run, and I felt optimistic when I came off the bike. I thought I’d taken on plenty of food and fluids, and once I’d finally had a wee, I was excited to get going. I stripped off the bike jersey and helmet, put on fresh socks for the run, my favourite running shoes and the all important visor, and headed out to see this thing through!

Run
Running out of the transition tent and onto the run route genuinely felt like running into an oven. My legs, however, felt reasonably good, and I started to chip away at getting this thing done. The first couple of miles ticked by uneventfully, until I hit the long out-and-back section of the 5 lap run course, otherwise known as the Highway to Hell- a double out-and-back on a closed road with NO tree shade whatsoever. Pretty soon into the run leg, I started having to have walk breaks, as I was feeling absolutely rubbish- low on energy, absolutely parched and far, far too hot. In the aid stations, I tried water, electrolytes and even slurps of Coke, as well as the gels I had with me, but nothing was working. I felt nauseous but thirsty simultaneously, and was really struggling to run.

I saw my sister for the first time at about 10 miles in, and burst into tears. I’d really wanted to be proudly nailing this race, and I felt angry that my body was failing me like this. Her and James did a great job of keeping me company whilst I ran and walked the rest as best as I could, but it was a long, depressing shuffle for me, as I watched the sort of times I’d wanted and any hope of a placing in my age group slip away from me. Perhaps there was an element of mentally giving up too, but I was absolutely hating it, despite the wonderful marshals and aid station volunteers, giving us encouragement, dousing in cold water and drinks. The heat was ridiculous for the Lake District though; within half a mile of dousing myself in water I was completely dry again. I could feel myself burning, and I wasn’t the only one struggling; there was real fighting spirit and camaraderie out there between all the struggling racers.

Eventually, I picked up the final lap band on my wrist, and after one more slow trip up and down the Highway to Hell, it was time to run down the finish chute. I unashamedly burst into tears, a mix of frustration at how my race had turned out, absolute exhaustion, sweet relief that it was finally over, and pride at what I’d achieved. 

I’m honestly still deciding how I feel about the race that played out. I know an ironman is something very few people in the population will complete, and I did so in a respectable time, but it didn’t feel like the race I trained for. I worked bloody hard in training and was determined, above all, to have a good run leg, which I didn’t manage, and I feel slightly pathetic for having not managed it. I’m proud of my mind and body for holding up throughout a long training period, and learned a lot about myself and my limits, but I’m not sure this is something I ever want to put myself through again, despite the race itself being fantastic.

Lakesman are organising a 70.3 race next year and I think that is more realistic for me to commit to; the training will be slightly less of a massive commitment, and I can experience the fantastic atmosphere of the Lakesman again. Phil and Marie, who organise the race, are probably my favourite race organisers out there, and deserve for the event to be a huge success- from registration to completion, it couldn’t be more obvious that they live and breathe this race, and I look forward to many years of the race, whether for me it’s as a 70.3 racer, a relay for the ironman or as a volunteer.

Over and out; time to be casually deliberate with all the merch I bought. Oh, this old mug? It’s just from a race I did recently.

Race times, should you be interested:
Swim 1:23:35
T1 7:48
Bike 7:04:38
T2 7:33
Run 5:30:33
Overall 14:14:07, 26th woman, 5th 25-29

Race recap: Paris Marathon 2017

Long before I entered The Lakesman, I had entered Paris Marathon this spring, with the original aim of a sub 3:30 run. Obviously, since entering it, circumstances have changed considerably, and the winter has been a heavy one of swimming, biking, and less running than I’ve done before but on much more tired legs. Based on the training I’d been doing, I was cautiously optimistic that a PB might be possible on fresh legs, and coach Chris agreed I could go for it.

Game on!

I ventured to Paris on the Friday with James, and after registering and picking up my number, resisting the temptation to buy ALL the kit at the expo, and learning how the Metro works (it’s essentially the Tube but with a lot more stairs), we settled down in our Airbnb in Montmartre, which whilst cheap, was a nice cosy studio flat handily located near two Metro stations.

Saturday rolled around, and it was time for the customary Paris Breakfast Run, which was like parkrun, but bigger and following a tiny pickup truck blasting cheesy pop around the streets of Paris to the Eiffel Tower. Jolly good fun all round, and a nice gentle shake out of the legs after a few hours cooped up on the train to London and then the Eurostar the day beforehand.

Paris Marathon

The Breakfast Run was already super hot, and that was starting to worry me, because I prefer racing in cold weather, but I’ve been working on trying to suck it up since I started training for the Lakesman, so I tried to relax, soak up the sunshine in the Jardin des Tuileries (an excellent place to sunbathe, even if James does now resemble a stripy lobster) and focus on the task in hand- eating my own bodyweight in French patisserie et boulangerie. Definitely the best way to spend a sunny Parisian afternoon!

Paris Marathon

After a giant bowl of pasta in a local Italian, relaxing over a Batman movie and some Milka cookies, and sorting out my kit and how the hell to get to the race start on the Champs-Elysees, I had an early night and tried to chill out despite the rising temperatures. Easier said than done!

Paris Marathon

Race day dawned cool and sunny, but the kind of cool where you know the moment the sun comes up properly it will be bloody boiling. Porridge shovelled down and kit bag packed, we headed down to the finish to hand in my bag, and then down to the Champs-Elysees to get in my starting pen- what a mess! Despite leaving loads of time, the pen entry was pretty chaotic and we ended up late in, but fortunately the race didn’t start without me…

As usual, I’d set a range of goals the week before the race:
A- between 3:35 and 3:40
B- sub 3:45 for a London GFA and decent PB
C- survive the race hopefully with a sub-4

Once the race started, the first few miles were pretty steady, but coming out at a comfortable 8:30min/mile pace, but it was clear that running much faster probably wasn’t going to happen, so I decided pretty early to shoot for my B goal, rather than put the hammer down, completely overdo it and end up DNFing or completely missing a PB. As the race wound through some of the tourist attractions of Paris, I was enjoying myself, despite the rising temperatures and absolute carnage of the water stations. I was smothered in sunscreen with a visor on, and my tactic of taking on water and pouring some over my head at each water station was keeping me feeling relatively alright. I hit halfway at 1:50-1:51, so bang on target and pretty happy with things.

Paris Marathon

The second half was a bit less scenic, with the famous tunnels proving a bit demotivating, runners starting to walk everywhere (not tidily to one side, but ON the green racing line, grr!) and some even starting to collapse, I suspect from overheating. The second half wasn’t pretty for me, but it wasn’t as ugly as it could have been: Paris kept the beautiful sights coming sporadically, especially passing the Eiffel Tower at mile 18. That said, each mile was feeling tougher, and the water stations seemed to be getting further apart, with more co-ordination needed to dodge the mountains of bottle caps, discarded bottles and orange peels contributing to the slippery danger, and I’ll be honest, I thought about binning a PB effort quite a few times.

 

Strangely, it was a Pink song stuck in my head for the latter few miles that got me through- lyrics about how ‘just because it burns doesn’t mean you’re gonna die; you’ve got to get up and try, try, try’ seemed pretty apt in my dead-legged state! That and having a firm word with myself, followed by ‘it’s just a parkrun left now Marsden, don’t you dare fucking start walking’.

Eventually, the endless parks section finished, and once I was into the 26th mile, I knew as long as I kept running, I had my Good for Age time and a decent PB in the bag. My eyes began to sting, and only partly because they were full of salty sweat. I’d done it; I felt like shit, but it was over, I’d toughed it out, and I hadn’t just written the race off because the conditions didn’t suit me. I crossed the line wobbly and nauseous, and pretty quickly remembered why- I’d done a great job with gels and water, but had I taken any electrolytes? Had I hell as like. I felt like Jonny Brownlee with no Alastair to save me. Fortunately I managed to stagger through the finish funnel, collecting my (properly sized!) race shirt, medal and a few bottles of water, as well as my bag, and settled in on a kerb to take on some electrolytes.

Paris Marathon

Once I located James, we shuffled off to the nearest McDonalds to speedily replace my lost sodium, and noodled back off to Gare du Nord to await the train home. Where I promptly learned that I wasn’t appearing on any of the race trackers or results, despite the results for the race numbers adjacent to mine being online.

To cut a long story short, I don’t know yet if this story has a happy ending: I know I ran my GFA time, as my creaking hamstrings and agonisingly painful quads will attest to, but at the moment the organisers seem spectacularly disinterested in fixing my time for me. In fact, until I contacted them, they weren’t going to admit that my result is missing because my timing chip didn’t work on the starting line. Never mind that as organisers they promised accurate race timing when relieving me of the best part of £100 for my race entry.

Paris Marathon

So, I look on Paris for now with mixed feelings, the champagne bottle firmly still sealed in the fridge, the medal solemnly hanging on the nail with my others, and the race tshirt stashed in a drawer somewhere, but a head full of lessons learned and confidence in my own ability to tough it out when the conditions aren’t my favourite. To be continued…

Race recap: Brighton Half Marathon 2017

After a while as a runner, you find you’ve raced most of your local races, especially the flat, fast courses, and sometimes, just need to shake things up a bit. I love local racing, but equally I love going on a bit of an adventure to a new race, which was how I landed in Brighton for the Vitality Brighton Half Marathon yesterday.

After a less than stellar taper week involving hormonal chocolate grazing, a couple of missed sessions and some very achy quads, I wouldn’t have been expecting a great performance, but decided to roll with it anyway. Things aren’t always going to go perfectly anyway, right?

After 3 trains and a quick trip on the Underground on Saturday, I landed in Brighton, and after a mooch around some shops, met up with the lovely Tess for coffee and a giant piece of carrot cake. After hatching our plans for the race (me, a full-gas PB effort and for Tess, a strong, controlled marathon paced confidence booster), I headed off to my accommodation, a lovely little airbnb in Preston Park, close to where the Brighton Marathon starts and easy walking distance from Madeira Drive where Brighton Half Marathon starts. Once I’d done a little shakeout run (needed after a full day cramped up in train seats) and scarfed down some pasta via Deliveroo, I caught an early night.

I was looking forward to Brighton’s lovely, sunny weather at the seaside for the half, but sadly it didn’t play that way, and race day dawned grey, a bit damp and pretty windy, but I was still determined to put in a hard racing effort, see where my legs were at, and hopefully shed my old PB from 3 years ago of 1:43:57. As I was in the media tent, I had the luxury of a nice cosy tent to get changed in, a quiet bag drop right next to the start line and a Portaloo with no queue. Bliss!

Brighton Half MarathonThe race itself got underway, and for the first 4 miles I was flying, well inside goal pace and banking time, but knowing at mile 4, I would turn into a headwind that would last until mile 10. But, the turn came, and it never felt as bad as I was expecting- with the wind coming from the front left of me, I ran on the right shoulders of some big blokes, and shielded myself from the worst- cycling has definitely taught me the benefits of drafting! I kept up the splits under goal pace until about mile 9-10, where it seemed I’d been running into a headwind forever- that and a slight uphill made me have a little mental wobble. But I shouted at myself a bit about how the Lakesman will hurt too, shoved a gel down and decided to woman up.

And once I was out of the headwind, running next to a rainbow of beach huts down the flat run in to the finish, lined by cheering crowds, it didn’t seem so bad any more: my tired, painful quads were easier to ignore, knowing it was ‘only a parkrun to go’, and that all I had to do was hold my pace to run a decent PB. I won’t share any of the photos of my gurning, pained face as I crossed the line (frankly, they are not worth the purchase price), but I was made up with a new PB of 1:42:32.
Brighton Half MarathonThe media tent was a godsend, in that I could get my bag back super quickly, and get changed into some warm, dry clothes and have a cup of tea, and then cheer Tess through the finish before we headed off to refuel over a pub lunch and a cheeky IPA or two with her running club- a lovely, welcoming bunch.

Brighton Half Marathon

Photo nabbed from Tess

For a training block that’s been swim and bike heavy, I was made up that I could run a PB at the Brighton Half yesterday, when it wasn’t an A race or my target at the moment. I’m not sure if it’s a reflection of being fitter, or being able to suffer more, but either way, I’ll take it- Brighton, you were glorious, and I’ll be back!

My run can be found on Strava here: https://www.strava.com/activities/880172628

Massive thanks to Brighton Half Marathon for my free media race place, in exchange for writing about the race. 

 

Adaptability and ironing

After my last blog, you’d be forgiven for thinking I was on a one way ticket to supreme fitness and surely a PB at my first race of the season, the Central Lancashire Half Marathon last weekend. I’d got in some decent runs and my legs were feeling pretty strong from cycling, but alas it was not to be.

A few days after my Christmas century ride, I became steadily more ill with what turned out to be a chest infection, and even though doctors make terrible patients, even I knew running was out of the question. So I did nothing. I took a week off, diligently took my antibiotics and focused all my energy on getting better. When I could breathe again without coughing and was feeling much better, I headed out to test the waters, but not with a full pelt launch back into training- with a steady run with a Buff over my face (top tip to warm and humidify chilly air before it hits your chest and makes you cough).

Happily, it went fine, but rather than attempting a full gas half marathon effort just a few days later, I adapted the plan. Instead of racing, I joined a friend nursing sciatica round for a steadier run, chatting the whole way round and enjoying a leg stretch, though still finishing in a respectable 1.52 and scooping a MASSIVE first race medal of the season. A PB effort can wait until Brighton Half in February!

CentralLancs

 

At first, I was gutted to miss an opportunity to get a PB I’d secretly been hoping for, but until June, it’s all about seeing the bigger picture- wise words from Drewbies definitely spring to mind about how whilst you’re training for it, the iron distance tri needs to be your priority. Other races are fun to do as B goals along the way, but they’re just that- small goals to help motivate training, not to race at all costs and cause you setbacks.

So, happily, after a steady run around that half, a mahoosive medal to start the year’s collection and an easy week to get going with training again, I am positively raring to go. There’s ironing to be done!

Race recap: West Coast Half Marathon 2016

It’s been a busy old race season compared to the previous year, and I’m kinda ready to wind down my training and enjoy some downtime before the big buildup to the Lakesman starts, but when one of my favourite race organisers, Fylde Coast Running, announced a new half marathon, I was all ears.

westcoasthalf

The West Coast Half was unusual, in that it was a point to point race, rather than a loop, and this can only be a good thing back where I come from (near Blackpool)- though it did mean hedging my bets that the whole thing wouldn’t be into a headwind!

As with all of FCR Events’ races, this one was cheap to enter (£22), well organised, and pancake flat, heading from the start in Preston, through Freckleton and Warton, to a rather scenic finish at Fairhaven Lake in Lytham. I entered it thinking I’d either be in PB shape (unlikely) and could have a blast along the coast to a new PB, I could use it as a long tempo run and try to break 1:50 (more likely) or if all else failed, I could enjoy a scenic long run along the coast with somebody else taking care of drinks for me.

I set off not far off PB pace, inadvertently, but naturally this slowed down after the first 5 miles, where my lack of specific, consistent run training in the latter half of the year kinda showed- but the splits I did run after that were consistently between 8:20-8:30, and despite contemplating sacking it off/walking/making a few crap excuses as to why I hadn’t run well, I made it to 10 miles on target to break 1:50.

A lesson in terrible form and a pain face near the end!

A lesson in terrible form and a pain face near the end!

As I passed the windmill that marked the move onto the seafront path for the ‘only a parkrun to go’ section, I fell into step with a girl obviously finding the pace she’d kept up so far pretty tough, so we ran together, spurring each other on for a couple of miles (even if she did hate me for trying to talk to her!), and before I knew it, my gait more a death shuffle than a sprightly sprint, I picked up the pace a little and after a loop of the lake, was done, in 1:48:40.

I collected a fairly hefty medal and the obligatory big finishers’ t-shirt and felt happy: I’d approached the race with minimal drama, an A, B and C plan, and nailed the B plan with a good helping of grit and determination when things got tough. FCR Events had put on another good race (though the cycle lanes and paths next to A roads used wouldn’t hold up to much bigger numbers of runners for the first few miles!), and I’d done a bit more work on that iron will. Oh, and earned a colossal roast dinner made by Mama Marsden, of course…

Only another 127.5 miles to go on the big day now! *small vomit in mouth*

Race recap: Sundowner Middle triathlon 2016

It’s apparently widely acknowledged in life that the two things you should try out before your race are your kit and nutrition. I inadvertently broke both of those rules for my longest tri to date, the Sundowner Middle distance on Saturday, and not only did I surprisingly survive, but this happened!IMG_4158

Swim
Owing to being a bit chubby hench for my beloved wetsuit, it sadly sustained a big rip to the shoulder. Wetsuits are bloody expensive, so I was over the moon when blogger babe Sophie pretty much saved the day by sending me her wetsuit that she no longer uses. I didn’t end up with time to swim in it before the race, but I tried to stay chilled and not worry too much about it.

IMG_4171

Extra lolz for when the lake mud gives you a beard.

By some bizarre happening, I got put in the fastest wave of the day for the 4 lap swim course in Allerthorpe’s dinky little lake, so the swim leg kind of felt like being beaten up in a washing machine, with one bloke deciding to pick me up by the shoulders and throw me out of the way. I tried to stay relaxed through it though, and put into practice the work I’ve done on my swim lately, and despite feeling like it was going EXTREMELY badly surrounded by speedsters, I overtook two blokes on the finishing straight and came out quicker than I did for last year’s Olympic swim leg at Castle Howard. Progress!

46:01 (although 43 minutes on my Garmin!)

T1
Putting on arm warmers, it has to be said, is not easy when you’re soaked, they’re soaked from the heavy rain, and your hands aren’t working particularly well. Neither is posting your Stoats bars for on the bike into the pockets of your trisuit. Otherwise, without incident, I was safely out onto the bike leg!

2:17

Bike
I set off really optimistic on the bike, feeling great. The course is a super flat, 2 loop course, which was well marshalled. I soon realised a few things, however:

  1. The week before your race, however nice they feel on a quick spin, is not the time for TT bars you’ve barely ridden on or a new saddle that alters the fit of your bike.
  2. A flat course in a headwind and heavy rain is one of the most miserable cycling experiences known to human kind.
  3. Stoats bars may be delicious but they are bloody hard to open when your hands are no longer working.
  4. A driver offering you a can of Coke is a kind gesture, unless he tries to pass it out of the passenger side window and nearly kills you.
  5. Blokes will take almost any excuse to draft and cheat when people aren’t there to see them.

IMG_4177

After a freezing, miserable grind of a ride in which I saw my vague bike target go out of the window, my shoulders seize up completely and my feet go completely numb, it was finally time to get off the bike. AT LAST.

3:19:36

T2
If I thought putting arm warmers on whilst cold and wet was difficult, I clearly hadn’t contemplated the practicalities of removing my helmet and putting on my running shoes. Much to James’s amusement, I had to get a marshall to do them for me. NOT my finest hour.

4:24

Run
Wow, I thought I’d run through wobbly legs before, but nothing quite prepared me for how they’d feel on the run leg. I staggered out of T2 and despite feeling pretty terrible, set a reasonably good pace and rhythm for the first two laps, picking off runners in front of me, and hitting my pace target.

The 3rd lap was somewhat different.

Now, I’m loathed to criticise the organisers for doing a largely brilliant job in difficult weather, BUT, on a 3 lap run course for the half marathon, with a mostly out and back route, by the 3rd lap as a slower racer of the final wave, I ended up pretty much alone, with only a handful of other runners out on the course.

Every time I passed a marshal, they were radio’ing about how the ‘last competitor had gone through’ or ‘slowest woman (!) was on the way’. How utterly demoralising. Between that and the route signs being taken down around me, it was really tough to find any motivation to keep going, and I’m ashamed to say, I pretty much gave up. The walks through the water stations got longer, the bounce went from my step and it was a death shuffle to the finish, despite the fact I was still on to break 6 hours 20.

2:05:19
IMG_4143

I crossed the line with mixed emotions. I’d tried so, so hard for most of the race, but missed the 6 hour target I’d secretly had in mind. That was mixed with pride at having completed my longest race to date, a strong swim and a run where I had wanted to sack it off a few times.

The best bit?
Upon crossing the line, and receiving a gorgeous medal, I printed out my results to learn that I’d come top (out of 3) in the 20-24 age group and won a trophy! Which nearly made up for the fact that despite ordering a small on entry, all the small race shirts had been taken and I was gruffly handed a medium with a shrug. Us women can dream, eh?

All in all, after seeing the saga of the Rubicon Middle unfold the following day in Yorkshire, I had a good time at the Sundowner Middle, which was well-organised, and aside from the few small niggles about morale on the last lap (don’t diss someone that’s actually busy winning a trophy guys!) and the shirt, I couldn’t be happier to have a solid 70.3 in the bank, a raft of lessons learned and things to work on over winter, and a big ol’ confidence boost ahead of the Lakesman!

The one bit of kit I was really glad I wore was my new Threo trisuit– again, not tested before the race but it was perfect (and I paid for it!). It was comfortable, and solved so many trisuit problems I’ve had before- no sausage leg, pockets for snacks, and a well-designed race belt that doesn’t constantly jiggle around. Full marks!

 

 

 

Stepping stones to your dreams

As I alluded to in my last post, I’ve set myself a fairly lofty goal for next June- to race the iron-distance Lakesman triathlon. At the moment, it’s in equal measures terrifying and exciting, because I know I’m a long way from where I’ll need to be, and I have a lot of hard work to do to make sure I not only complete the race, but actually enjoy doing it.

Lakesman

Laura Fountain wrote a piece recently on base building for marathon training, which really chimed with me- I’m guilty of thinking the shiny training plan stuck to the wall will take care of everything for my goal race, and not always putting in the prep to hit the ground running, so to speak.

Training for the Lakesman is going to require a lot of good habits, and they aren’t going to magically embed themselves by January, so here’s a little of what I’m planning as the stepping stones to my A goal. The B goals along the way that will motivate me, give me confidence and allow me to learn the craft before I dive straight in.

Stepping stone races

FullSizeRender (3)
A couple of pals of mine recently raced  iron-distance triathlons as their first triathlons, and both absolutely nailed them, but I know diving straight in the deep end isn’t the thing that would give me confidence. 140.6 miles of swim, bike, run is a big, big question mark for me, so stepping stones in the form of Olympic distance triathlons at Allerthorpe Classic and Jorvik Olympic and a 70.3 at the Rubicon will build my confidence at longer triathlons.  To keep me interested in running I’ve also got a couple of local half marathons and the Paris marathon pencilled in for 2017. I might even chuck a swim race in to make all those lengths worth it. Smaller goals to break up a long slog of training.

Getting some helpWharfeSwim
I’m very, very aware that in particular my swim, but also my bike and run have technique flaws that need addressing to be efficient over that distance of race, so I’ll be calling upon people much more learned than me to help me. I’m off to see Tom at Trimechanics this week to start working on making my running form more efficient and ditching the big clunky stability running shoes, will be calling on Mother Mermaid Rach to help sort out my inefficient swim stroke over the summer, and nearer the time, will find a coach to help me write a training plan well-suited to my life, my goals and where I’m at now.

Being realistic
One of the ways I spent a fair bit of the Lakesman last weekend was grilling both athletes and their nearest and dearest that I knew, about how much training they’d had to do, how they’d managed it around life commitments, and how their races worked out for them off the training they’d put in, before I signed up- I wanted to be confident I could put in the work that would be needed.

Fuelling it properly
I’ve been quietly chipping away at getting my body composition in a better place for endurance sport with the help of fitnaturally, and am making reasonable progress. Learning to think about what I’m eating and why, and how much of it, has helped me to shave off over 3kg of unnecessary ballast, so I’ll be keeping going whilst I get ready for ironman training, because that training volume will need me healthy, and with a strong engine in a light body, not carrying around lots of extra cake weight 😉

Relay recap: The Lakesman Triathlon 2016

If you know me at all, you’re probably familiar with the fact by now that if you promise me endurance sport somewhere pretty, with good company, I’ll be there like a shot. So when Team Bear pal Rach needed a pair of running legs for her relay team for The Lakesman Triathlon (Keswick’s brand new iron-distance triathlon), I snatched her hand off for a place.

Before the race
Unlike from WTS Leeds last weekend, the communication from the Lakesman organisers couldn’t have been better in the run up to the event. From the small participant numbers (limited so they could get it right for the first year) to their engagement with social media and answering athletes’ questions, the overall impression was that this was an event team who really cared.

My iron weekend began on the Saturday morning, when I packed up my little car and headed off to Keswick, via Skipton parkrun for a little leg loosening jog since it was en-route. I checked in nice and early (top marks) to my lovely B&B Skiddaw Croft in Portinscale, which I was very happy to discover a) had a room for me with an incredible view of Derwentwater and b) was practically on the run route and only a short walk from Keswick. Perfect!

I then met up with Team Bear, donned my wetsuit and went for a little dip in Derwentwater, which has to be one of the nicest lakes I’ve swum in- clean, warm and calm. Run done, splash in the lake done, and later on that evening, carbing up with a yummy pizza done, time to set a very early alarm to be able to watch Rach out of the swim onto the bike, and head to bed!

Race day
Being in an iron relay is a strange experience; you wake up super early and excited, but still know if you’re doing the run that you have a long day ahead of you. Still, I excitedly got down to the lakeside to watch the first swimmers emerge, with Rach heading out of the water well-placed in the women with a 1:09 swim.

After giddily cheering on just about everybody onto the bike (I LOVE iron cheerleading), I headed off to Wetherspoons for a classy and expensive pre-race brunch of £2.47 Nutella toast and coffee, and before I knew it, it was time to head back down to transition and be ready for Rach arriving. Our plan was for me to take the timing chip and Rach join me for lap 1 of 5, as a brick run for her. However, as my favourite ball of ginger magic arrived in T2, her hips didn’t want to play, so I grabbed the timing chip and skipped out onto the run to wrap up this Team Bear relay- and beat the other Bear relay team!

A lapped run course was never going to be easy, much less given that I hadn’t run over 6 miles since London, but that’s not to say it wasn’t fun. It’s impossible to be out on the run course of an ironman like the Lakesman and not be inspired; from regularly seeing the male leader to briefly running with the female leader on her last lap (both incredibly gracious, lovely athletes), to seeing people battle their toughest demons to drag themselves to the finish, there’s a lot of inspiration to be had.

My race got chewy at about 18 miles, as I’d expected it to, and I no longer bounced through the aid stations; I walked through, taking the chance to guzzle much-needed sugar to keep me going. It was tough, especially mentally, but I take great pride in finding my limits and overcoming them, so I did just that.Lakesman

As I ran down the slip road towards the lake one last time, past the last aid station, I grabbed Rach by the hand and before I knew it, we were running down the red carpet towards that magical archway, hands reaching for the finishers’ tape the marshals were holding across for us (an excellent touch that makes us all feel pretty pro), and nailing that 11:49:34 finish.

Lakesman

 

Post-finish

Lakesman

I thought I’d been well looked-after at the finish of a race before but this was nothing compared to the Lakesman. We were immediately ushered into a marquee filled with tables and chairs and a veritable banquet of food to go at, from a yummy giant cheeseboard, to proper baked potatoes with chilli or curry, Lancashire hotpot (I knew this was the better side of the Pennines for a reason) and endless supplies of hot drinks to warm us up after the rainy run.

The marshals and volunteers were incredible too. No sooner had I wondered if my legs would work to go get pudding, than a bowl of Cartmel sticky toffee pud (the Lakes’ best secret) was delivered to me! Northern hospitality doesn’t get better than that…

Sure, there are bits of feedback we’ll all be giving the organisers, but they’re minor blips in a fantastic race, run by athletes, for athletes- the thing that shone through all day was how much the organisers had lived and breathed the race for years, and wanted their baby to be a much-deserved success!

The aftermath

As I sit and write this, my body is in Yorkshire, after a dreary day back at work. My heart is still in Keswick though, and my brain is full of dreams, after watching both teammates and complete strangers push themselves past limits I never even thought were possible.

So, if you know me at all, you’ll know I’m pretty impressionable. One of the reasons I went along to the Lakesman was to find something to put me off racing; a rough swim, or horribly hilly bike leg, or terrible organisation… But I’m sure you can tell I didn’t. Not one thing to put me off.

So…. I’m in. Let 2017 be the year I become a Lakeswoman. *insert terrified emoji here*

NB: I have fully thought through the decision to do this race, unlike previously where I’ve entered on a whim, failed to fit in the training properly and DNS’d/DNF’d/had a really shit race. Cathy wrote a really good blog this week about how you have to respect the distance. No winging it. No half measures. The time in your life has to be right- like where I’m on a GP job for 4 months of the training build to the Lakesman, where I’ll have no evening, weekend or night shifts to get in the way of training- and importantly, resting and recovering from training too. I’m committed to giving it my all, and I have a few months before the build starts to get my swimming in a better place, fix up my run technique and get a good base of endurance on the bike- as well as racing some shorter triathlons as practice.

Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

 

Marathon recovery

Recovery is a very personal thing; that much is obvious to anyone who does endurance sport. Whether it’s the recovery needed between reps on a track, or recovery after an A race, it’s a very personal thing.

After running the London Marathon two weeks ago, I was in massive need of some good recovery time. I raced carrying an illness (FYI, not something I would ever advocate as a doctor, but we do make the worst patients), and had a really tough time of it. Afterwards, my cough came back with a vengeance, I was utterly knackered and absolutely everything hurt.

Fairly soon, my Strava filled up with people going for ‘recovery runs’ with their clubs barely slower than their marathon race pace only days earlier. My Twitter and Instagram was filled with selfies of runners out showing off their race tshirts. Have they all recovered spectacularly quickly?! Are they clearly a lot fitter than me?! These were the thoughts I initially had.

On reflection though, I remembered that recovery is far more important than most people give it credit for, so I focused on doing my own thing. On not running a single step until my body felt ready and I really wanted to; something I think is very underestimated but pretty important in recovery from a big race- not starting training again until you feel the need to train coming back. Until you feel ready.
recovery

So what have the past two weeks involved for me? A full week initially where other than work, I did nothing taxing. I had plenty of hot baths (Radox Muscle Therapy, you are a bath soak of dreams), and gave my legs, particularly my battered quads, some gentle massage. I did some of the easiest Jasyoga videos and really focused on how my body felt during them. I ate well, focusing on balanced meals, with plenty of protein and carbs, and the odd treat in there, because 4 months of training and a marathon is a long slog. I also watched a LOT of TV. Hello new Game of Thrones! As far as I can when working, I prioritised sleep too.

recoveryrecovery

This week, I was itching to get moving again, but I made sure I did it gently. An easy spin on the bike out to my favourite cafe for lunch with James. A 20 minute easy jog around my village, focusing on just enjoying it. A welcome return to my favourite club ride out to Bolton Abbey for coffee. All things I wanted to do (especially with a new bike begging for a test ride), and none of them with any pressure on pace, or distance, or anything but fresh air and enjoyment. And you know what? It’s made me hungry to get out there and back into proper training now.
recovery

All these things are underrated, but reading more into recovery and how elite athletes do it, these are the small things that add up, and keep the fire for training and self-improvement burning, rather than burning out halfway through every season because the athletes have completely overdone it. It’s how other than odd niggles that have required a bit of rest and extra attention, I haven’t had a proper injury for over two years now.

There’s a lot to be said for recovery, and I think it’s an underrated art.

London Marathon 2016

The week I had leading up to the London Marathon on Sunday was not an easy one. Taper flu reared it’s ugly head on Monday with a sore throat, and despite me resting hard and praying I’d be better, on my last day at work on Thursday I had a hacking cough and my consultant was threatening to put a ‘danger of infection’ label on my forehead. Not ideal marathon prep.

Knowing that the London Marathon organisers allow a generous cutoff for deferrals (8pm the night before the race), I headed down to London to collect my number anyway, figuring I’d either be well enough to run, or could defer, catch up with friends and have fun cheering on the runners. I caught up with wonderful Rebecca who I hadn’t seen in AGES, ate lots of carbs and tried to remain positive.

London Marathon

I went for a short test run on Saturday afternoon and barring a lot of snot rockets, felt okay- my chest had cleared pretty well, I was hardly coughing, and running felt relatively easy. 7pm came and my head was still a swirling conflict of ‘respect the distance; only idiots race ill’ and ‘this is the race you’ve always wanted to do; just adapt your goals and try to enjoy it’. As 7:59pm came and went, I made up my mind: to run the race, aiming for 9 minute mile or so pace, 40 seconds per mile slower than I’d trained for, but would still see me round in sub-4 hours.
London Marathon

I won’t drone on with a mile-by-mile recap, but for the first 16 miles or so, I felt great, running an average pace of 8:40min/mile or so without issue, and really enjoying the massive crowds and iconic route. I briefly ran with super strong Cathy before she headed off to bag herself another stellar time, and then things started to get hard, with my legs starting to seize up and my cough making a re-appearance. I knew Steph was planning to be at mile 21, so focused all my attention on getting there, telling myself if I made it to her it would all be okay.

Mile 21 came and went, and through the dense, wonderful, cheering crowds, I sadly never spotted her. It became harder and harder to keep going now that carrot dangling in front of me had gone, with searing pain in both quads, and sharp pains in my chest whenever I coughed or took a deep breath. It’d have been oh-so-easy to pull out at that point, but with the ghosts of Snowdonia Marathon fresh in my mind, I stuck it out, having a disciplined walking break at the next few mile markers, but forcing myself to run in between, buoyed by brilliant encouragement from the crowds. After an age, mile 25 appeared, shortly followed by James, and I held my head high, determined to run and enjoy every last agonising step of my victory lap to the finish.

I rounded the last corner, saw the finishing line and promptly burst into tears, partly at the sheer relief that I could stop running, and partly with emotion at having overcome a few of the demons that have taken residence in my mind since last summer and the start of a disastrous run of races.
London Marathon
4:01:01 is a bittersweet time when I was aiming for sub-3:40 all the way through training, but I’m proud to have stuck it out, I mostly had a blast, and I will 100% be back to conquer that brilliant course in the future. London, it was a pleasure! In the meantime, I *may* or may not have entered Paris as next spring’s project. One to crack on with when I can walk down stairs without a handrail and looks of alarm from fellow hospital staff, perhaps….

London Marathon

PS. James and I stayed with the wonderful Sarrah and Chris via Airbnb for the race, and I can’t think of a more welcoming, obliging pair of hosts for a weekend. If you’re racing in London, I would highly recommend staying with them- details here.