Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Happy Christmas!

After a final long run on Tues 22nd, I settled down for a few unadulterated days of rest with my family and in-laws. My parents were over from France and my sister up from Brighton whereas the Troughtons braved some rather inclement weather to head down from up north.

I had four days off training but unfortunately it wasn't as restful an experience as I would have wished. Adam was working over the Xmas period which meant I was woken at 5am every morning and didn't sleep particularly well as Adam has quite a nasty cough. This coupled with having to play the hostess resulted in me feeling pretty tired by the time the time everyone headed back to their respective homes! I still feel I haven't totally shaken off the cold and rundown feeling that has been plaguing me over the last month.

We had a fantastic Xmas and it was wonderful to spend time with all my favourite people. The Troughtons were initiated into the Cadman Christmas ways and we all ate, drank and were merry together! I started training again on the 27th with some treadmill intervals followed by 2 days of time on the turbo which is officially my least favourite pastime at the moment. It is so uncomfortable! I have been sitting in front of a successful few days of cricket which is helping to pass the time but it seems extremely difficult. To maintain an average speed of just 22km/hr (very slow!) has my HR soaring skywards! I think (hope) I maybe have the resistance too high! I have pencilled in a few Sportives and Reliability Rides over the next few months to hopefully build up my endurance and get me ready for the RAF Triathlon Camp in Lanzarote in March.

Anyway, a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all. Stand by for resolutions in the next blog entry!

Monday, 14 December 2009


As readers of this blog will know, Herbalife are doing a wonderful job in supporting me with their nutritional products. I was thinking over my last post and how run down I have been and think it is no surprise that I have been extremely nutritionally poor over the last fortnight. What with being so busy, feeling rubbish and Ad being on nights (meaning I can't really be bothered to cook as it is just me) I have mostly been surviving on toast, cereal, crumpets, teacakes......hmmm, spot the theme. What training I have managed to do has been such short sessions that I haven't bothered with my normal recovery strategy of Herbalife Formula 1 powder and I certainly haven't been making my 2 litres a day - well, not unless Lemsip counts!

The lack of fruit, vegetables, good protein and adequate hydration has, I'm sure, contributed to a vicious cycle of being run down and not training. Feeling so rubbish that all I want to do is curl up with the afore mentioned crumpets means I don't prioritise healthy meals and am thus missing out on crucial vitamins and minerals hence lowering the immune system further and leaving me susceptible to further cold and flu symptons.

Having had a good double run day (16miles this morning and 6 miles at lunch) with both runs followed by yummy Herbalife Formula 1 chocolate recovery mix, I feel I may just be on the road to recovery. It was certainly a timely reminder that if I am going to train at these levels it is not like previously where I have just been doing a marathon or even an Ironman. Training like this is properly moving into the realm of the professional athlete and, though I am but an amateur, I need to start behaving more professionally and supporting my body through good nutrition, hydration and recovery.

Sunday, 13 December 2009


I have continued to be up and down with training due to a linger cold which has seen me have to make cuts in training to afford myself some rest. Everytime I seem to get back up to speed with things I start feeling run down again and have to take another days rest. Whilst it is only just December and I have many months to train for the Double, I am becomingly increasingly frustrated by my inconsistent training.

The lack of training doesn't bother me so much as what a change in routine does to my mental state and motivation. If I am in a set routine I flourish and find I have no problems making my training sessions. Yes, I get tired and have 'can't be bothered' days but I always manage to find a way to drive me through - I hate haveing a blank in my schedule where a session should have been.

However, as soon as the routine gets moved around and I start missing sessions through either other commitments or through illness it is hard for me to get motivated again even on the days I feel better. It is two fold for me. If I have had to have three days off through illness, it is very hard to get back to training twice a day and until I get back into that routine I struggle to remain motivated. I am also not good at just doing a little to keep ticking over. If I have a 2hr run planned but can't manage that as I am ill, I don't see the point of just doing 20-30mins to keep me ticking over - I feel it is hardly worth it even though it definitely would be, if only to make me feel my fitness isn't disappearing at a rate of knots!

It is definitely a common theme for athletes to be massively concerned that their fitness will disappear immediately that they stop training whereas actually you may lose a bit of top speed but generally endurance remains reasonably well. After having Sat-Tues off due to illness I did manage to train Wed-Fri but I felt rubbish again yesterday so have had the weekend off. I have plugged in a double run session tomorrow though followed by a long cycle and tempo session for Tuesday. Off on Wednesday as we have a wedding and then weights on Thursday followed by Intervals on Friday. Saturday I am really going to try and get out and about on the bike because I feel I need to - fingers crossed please for a warmer and sunnier weekend next weekend please!

I'll post my christmas training plan next time but suffice to say I am really going to try and keep going at it even though, with having the whole family down at our house there will be lots of temptation to do very little!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Music is the food of life.....

So, it feels like absolutely ages since I posted an update. Work has become extremely busy in the last fortnight and we have also been up and down the country at weddings and hen dos. My fabulous friends Kath and Rich got married last Sunday in a beautiful ceremony in Bath and Adam and I then had a few days in Bristol generally relaxing which was lovely. Some of our closet friends, Chris and Christina are getting married next Wednesday and so we then headed up to Doncaster the following weekend for their respective hen and stag dos. The Hens were very restrained whereas my lovely boyfriend was somewhat worse for wear! All of this gallavanting has meant that whilst I have still managed some decent training including all my long runs, it has been slightly less consistent than usual and my outside biking has certainly suffered due to us travelling over the weekends.

I have also been feeling a little bit run down this week so had Tuesday off and dosed up on Lemsip and an early night. I nearly took Wednesday off aswell but the guilt of not training got too much as I was feeling a bit better, just a little tired, so I did my reverse brick session. I did feel better for training though a massively elevated HR in the sprint sections of the bike showed I still wasn't 100%. Another early night last night saw me falling out of bed at 0510hrs to head to the gym for a 2hr 15 run before work. Phew!

And this is where the title of the post comes in. I don't know about other people but I really can't run without music. I know loads of people say it ruins the getting in touch with yourself as you run scenario but I don't care! It definitely helps me keep going when times are tough and I am feeling fairly distressed by the precedent that appears to be being set so that IPods are banned at races - trauma!! Apparently there are two ways that people follow when getting through tough runs. I forget the exact names but one is about being introspective and really concentrating on how you are feeling and being totally aware of yourself. The other, my school of thought, is the distractionist theory which basically says distract yourself however possible so you don't think about the pain!

Anyway, the traumatic thing that happened this morning was my IPod dying with the last tough 15mins to go. As I was on the treadmill this shouldn't have been too stressful as I could have just plugged into the radio. However, I am particularly partial to a certain treadmill which is located away by itself in a corner with its own fan and a mirror directly in front for me to check form. Unfortunately this is the only one which for some reason doesn't connect to the entertainment system. So, I had to revert to the introspective theory and concentrate on how I was feeling instead. As I was getting pretty tired this wasn't a particularly attractive option so I quickly reverted to distractionist theory by counting down number sets and minutes to go etc.

All in all though a good session and I am feeling much recovered which is fantastic. The extra rest was definitely a good idea and I am pleased that I am recognising when to train and when I need a bit more rest. This will become key as the sessions ramp up over the next 18months!

Monday, 16 November 2009

Bike Clothing

Whilst Herbalife will provide most of my racing kit there are times especially for winter trg where I will require specialist clothing especially where the bike is concerned. For example, Herbalife do not provide long bike tight, long fingered gloves or overshoes. There are going to be key products over the next few months as outdoor bike trg gets colder and colder! Happily, a bike clothing company called Endura has offered to provide specialist trg clothing for both me and also my bike crew who will be trg with me and also supporting me on the challenge where the need arises.

Endura's clothing has received extremely good reviews and Adam has already been feeling the benefits of their long tights and overshoes. My long fingered gloves should arrive this week and I am SO excited as last weekend my fingers nearly froze off and we were only out for 90mins or so! I'll let you know how I get on with it.

I had my second session with Andrew McKenna (www.northants-sports-massage.co.uk) yesterday and I think it is going to be absolutely key to keeping me fit and well in the run up to the challenge. Andrew had a good go at my niggles and during both bike and run training today I felt really strong so hopefully it is all working. Prevention is always better than a cure!!

Work Woes....

Work has suddenly got massively busy and it is making it more difficult to fit in trg. I am having to work later to make up the hours that I am missing by fitting my trg in at lunch and in the morning and, whilst this is acceptable, it generally means I am more tired and have more hours of stress than I would like.

Being a amateur athlete but trying to train to the level of, at least, a semi-professional athlete is such a juggling act. I'm sure all multi-sport athletes out there, and athletes in general, will understand what I mean. For example, last weekend I went to my friend's hen do in Bath. We had a lovely afternoon walking in the countryside and then a sauna in the swedish sauna they had built in the cottage we rented for the weekend before preparing a fantastic meal. During and after the meal we played games with the bride-to-be and generally had a lot of fun. It was a great time and fantastic to get to do some socialising which is normally so restricted in my life due to training. However, after the games we were all expected to head out into Bath for drinking and dancing. This was at 10.30 at night!! Normally I would already have been asleep for at least an hour and I knew going out would impact upon my resting on the sunday and thus trg on the Monday. Still, I couldn't let everyone down and so headed out though I chose not to get involved in the messy sambuca drinking rounds! In fact, bar a couple of glasses of wine before going out I didn't drink at all.

We finally got back to the cottage at 4am and, exhausted I feel into bed. I was awake by 8am and up by 8.30am. I'm so used to being awake early that it is often hard for me to sleep in too long. Despite having hardly drunk I need feel pretty rubbish, tired and dehydrated. I started the long journey home reflecting on how difficult it is to balance a social life when you are trg to level that I am. That one night out coupled with a few glasses of wine and a long return journey totally exhausted me. I did manage to get up to train on Monday after a very early night on the Sunday but it did throw me for a few days until my sleep pattern came back.

It's so important to get support from those you love, your friends and family who will support you when you most need it. Equally it is important to realise that though you are but an 'amateur' athlete you will get some of the conflicts that are so prevalent in a pro-athlete's level when trg at this level. Work also impacts. I'd would LOVE to get the opportunity to have an afternoon nap, an ice bath and a sports massage every day but unfortunately I also have to earn a living as well as train. With my event still over 18months away I am sure this is not the first time I will be in conflict and finding I am having to juggle many aspects of my life. I just hope I can get it right and it doesn't cause too much stress!

Friday, 6 November 2009


On Wednesday I drove down to Swindon to meet up with one of my sponsors, Less Bounce who were running a photo shoot for their new catalogue. Less Bounce is fantastic as it uses 'real' women to advertise its products showing that they are suitable for all shapes and sizes. The proprietor, Selaine had invited me down and I was definitely a little nervous.

The shoot was taking place in the Retreat Spa, Swindon and I was first up at 8.30am. Selaine had a range of bras for me to model and then asked if I would mind also doing a couple of shots for the swimwear range. Seeing as I'll be spending many an hour in the next year in the deep blue sea, I could hardly refuse!! I actually had a lovely time, it was great to meet Selaine and thank her for supporting me and the other women was all great. They were all really interesting and had some great stories to share. I explained about the challenge and they were really enthusiastic and supportive with many asking for the blog details or how to donate to my chosen charity, Help for Heroes. It was a fabulous reminder that it really will be a big achievement if I can complete the challenge and also of how supportive the public really is of our Armed Forces, which is fantastic. A big hello to Debs who left a comment, it was fabulous to meet you and good luck with the running!

All in all a really fantastic and positive day and, if I'm brave, I'll post some pics of the shoot here soon!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Highs and Lows.....

Whenever you have a long term goal it is always expected that the journey towards it will contain highs and lows. This is why it is especially important to have intermediate goals and areas of focus. Last week I had a brilliant week training putting in nearly 16 hours over the 7 days Sun-Sat including a 2hr and 3 hr bike ride and a split long run day of 90mins in the morning and 45mins at lunch. However, in hindsight maybe I am trying to do a smidgeon too much for this stage of trg. I still have so far to go and though I managed both sessions yesterday I was feeling very fatigued. I woke this morning and decided my body would be better served with some more sleep instead of a morning weights session. I was always planning a day off tomorrow as I have a photo shoot with my kit sponsor Less Bounce but I may also skip today's lunchtim session and have a double day of rest. This is pretty much unheard of and I am already feeling a bit itchy to get back to trg which is a good sign. Sometimes when you just feel fatigued or bored of trg an enforced rest can be enough to get you re-motivated.

I am in two minds about today's session but as it is meant to be a recovery week anyway I may just take it off and get some proper rest. Then I can hit it big style on Thursday morning with a 75min run and then a swim session with the tri club in the evening. Friday would then see me picking up a weights session in the morning and intervals at lunch and then a ride out on Saturday morning. Another rest on Sunday as normal and I should be ready to hit Base 3 with avengance! This is when it would be beneficially to have the objectiveness of a coach who can say, 'Yes, you're doing too much' or 'No, get out there you lazy thing!' When you monitor yourself you have to decide whether you are really tired or just being lazy. And even if you are just really tired you still get the guilt if you miss a session!

Still I hope I have enough experience at this game to know that, having just reached November now is definitely the time to do less rather than more so that when the crucial moments come in the spring I am not found wanting or, more importantly, injured! It is easy to burn out in this game so a rest it is and then hit it hard again Thurs-Sat I think. It will be scary to find out how normal people live for 48hrs and I may actually get some work done!!

Thursday, 29 October 2009


I have been in discussions for a while now for Herbalife to come on board as the key sponsor to this event. Well the contracts have been signed and I am finally a full sponsored athlete! The package Herbalife are offering is fantastic and provides me with financial, nutritional and clothing support. It addresses all the key concerns I would have about the challenge and has taken a huge burden off me. Now I just have to concentrate on raising charity sponsorship and, of course, doing the training!

Herbalife is the perfect sponsor as they encourage a healthy lifestyle but also social responsibility and as part of my work with them I shall also be raising money for the Herbalife Family Foundation which is involved in many projects from disaster relief, to bringing good nutrition to children worldwide (http://www.herbalifeww.com/uk/company_overview.shtml). To the team at Herbalife good nutrition is essential whether for weight management, a healthy lifestyle or sporting achievement and they are supporting me with their nutritional products to help me train and recover well. I am using their H30 Pro in training and their Formula One shakes to aid recovery. I am also supported by a raft of supplements and am feeling great at the moment despite training twice a day, 6 days a week!

I absolutely couldn't do this challenge without the support of a corporate sponsor as the financial implications would be too great so I can't thank Herbalife enough for choosing to support me and my World Record Attempt on the Enduroman Arch 2 Arc.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Henlow 10

Wednesday saw the running of the Henlow 10, a local 10miler that finishes at RAF Henlow. This was to be my first B race of the season and the first chance to assess how these first few months of focused run training have improved (or not!) my speed endurance. The race started at 12.30pm from an old aerodrome near Old Warden. I wasn't sure I had quite got my nutrition correct before the race and set off feeling a little heavy-legged which wasn't surprising given I had raced on Sunday. The aim was to complete the 10miles in 1 hr 25 which meant averaging 8.30min/miles. The first mile was very fast and I thought the mile marker came up a bit short, my new RS200 SD beeped its autolap mile marker around 15seconds later.

A quick word on the HRM. Dom Phipps of Generation Bikes Ltd (www.generationsportsandcycles.com) provided me with this to help aid my training and I love being able to see how fast I am running though it is mighty distracting as I need to keep sneaking a peek at my wrist every so often! As I learn what different paces feel like hopefully this will pass! It is a funky red colour and I am really enjoying it and I am sure it will help my trg come on in leeps and bounds!

The second mile however I was still under target but this time the mile marker was about 15 secs after my autolap had beeped. This was the case for the rest of the race with the markers progressively getting further from the actual mile point as measured by my new friend. I did mapmyrun it later and found it was a good 200m long which wasn't surprising as they confirmed afterwards that they had measured it using a car odometer - not the most accurate!

I had forgotten quite how lumpy the course really was or 'undulating' as race directors like to term it and certainly for the first half the downs did not outweigh the up. Still, I was easily under time hitting the half way in about 42mins. There are some faster miles in the second half, notably the seventh which is a nice long run down into Shefford but the long drag coming out of Shefford more than takes away the speed it has just delivered. I felt like I would easily make it as all my splits had been under 8.30 but as the time ticked down I felt sub 1hr25 slipping away. The course was definitely long but a sustained push to the end, which saw me make up some places, took me across the line in 1hr 25mins and 24mins. I definitely begruadged the course those 24secs but knowing it had been more like 10.2miles definitely helped, the HRM had me cross the 10mile point a 1hr 22 44mins which I would have been thrilled with and I still took 3 1/2mins off last years time so everything is headed in the right direction.

I had really wanted to have a short break, eat and change and then hit the treadmills for another 5miles to really help start shoring up the endurance work but the gym had been closed for the run and I couldn't face heading back out into the rain so I called it a day and used the opportunity to head home early.

It was a wonderful surprise when I headed into the pool for a swim the next day to find that B/W/H had actually won the Men's and Ladies team prize. The team prize counts the first four qualifiers and I had actually recorded the faster B/W/H Ladies time leading the team to victory! This was totally unexpected as I never win anything so I was quite shocked - I should have stayed for the medal ceremony after all! I have now received a little wooden shield which will take pride of place on my desk. A fourth place at the local 5k and now winning the Ladies prize, it's not international glory but it is a definite step in the right direction and shows me that maybe the middle/back of the pack attitude I have always had needs to be rethought! :)

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Du Blues 2 (sort of...)

So, you will remember I posted last week about going to watch Adam and his friend Chris in their first duathlon and Chris got a puncture and couldn't finish. Well, having been training hard I think he was a bit despondent to get a DNF in his first foray into multi-sport. He was extremely keen to get another one under his belt whilst he had the momentum but Adam was working the next two weekends so yours truly agreed to keep him company at the 1485 No Frills Duathlon.

I have NO idea what possessed me to agree, it must have been Chris' newbie enthusiam. Considering I view duathlons as basically triathlons without the fun part and with double the evil part, the thought of doing my FIRST EVER duathlon was pretty unappealing. The only joyous thing about it was the fact that the start time was at 10.30am so at least it wouldn't be a really unsociable start. I met Chris in Market Bosworth feeling nervous and, as there was a bit of a chill in the air, dithering about what clothes to race it. I eventually went for an odd combo of cycling jersey and arm warmers, tri shorts and topped off with running gloves and a buff to keep my newly coiffed hair out of my face. Despite the nip in the air I manage to nearly boil myself to death on the first run and gladly ripped off the gloves and buff in transition.

Setting up transition had been interesting. Having not raced multisport for three years now I felt like total newbie again and was stressing about forgetting things and not remembering what order to do stuff in. I think it helped that I had chose not to run with lock laces (used my trainers which normally see the more sedate pace of ultras/Ironman where gadgets such as lock laces are not a normal feature and didn't want to thread them with lock laces only to have to undo them again for training the next day) and so knew I was going to be slow in transition anyway so I didn't need to panic too much.

The first run went fairly well. Dom Phipps from Generation Bikes Ltd (www.generationsportsandcycles.com) has kindly supplied me with a Polar RS200SD which means I can finally tell how fast I am going during a run and this feedback was great as I cantered round the first 5k. I entered transition in around 25mins and was feeling ok. The aims for the race was to try and have two steady and well paced runs of 26mins each and to push the bike as hard as I could. Transition was slow but steady and I headed out to the bike course. It was a pretty good course and I passed a number of the quicker runners and made up a few places. My biking is still slow as it is the bit that I have the least background in and has been the most neglected but I was pleased that I pushed as hard as I could without worrying about the 2nd run. Off the bike for the second run I felt pretty strong and once I got my legs moving I seemed to be tapping along ok. Unfortunately the HRM foot pod had gone onto stand by whilst I had been out on the bike so I didn't get any measurements but I thought I was doing ok.

Unfortunately within the first km I was struck by the same agonisingly debilitating stitch type pain that I got last year in the Henlow 10. It feels like an extremely severe stitch but isn't cured by the normal hands-above-your-head, breathing out on opposite foot fall etc. When I saw a doctor after the race last year he wondered whether I had a mild abdominal or intercostal tear. The biggest problem is I can't really run as each footfall causes a stabbing pain and it is so severe that my breathing gets out of control and then I get a bit panicked. Hmm, not good. I knew it was only 4kms to go and so I tried so fast walking stints and then running when I could. I found that if I jammed my fingers into the spot where it hurt then that gave some relieved so I hobbled on running with only one arm going and stopping for walk breaks when necessary. I finally staggered over the line where Chris was waiting. Poor Chris! The first time we had raced together and I was a bit teary due to the frustration and the pain. It wasn't as bad as at Henlow and subsided within a few minutes after I had stopped but it was so frustrating that it had impacted upon my race. I thought I was probably be down in the 29mins or so for the second run and was chuffed to find that I had actually managed to hold it to 26mins all the same so my total time ended up around 1hr 42.

Chris had a good race ended up slightly outside his prediction of 1hr 30 at 1hr 33mins but consdering it was his first race it is always hard to judge and I thought he did fab. We watched the last finishers over the line and the presentation then headed back home. All in all it was a good morning's work as the stitch obviously didn't impact as much as I had initially thought and we were home by 2pm feeling chuffed. Considering I was fearing the worst, I actually thought my first duathlon went pretty well and I was pleased once again with how my running is progressing. I just hope the residual pain of the stitch thing goes before my second race of the week on Wednesday - my first B race of the season and the first opportunity to really guage my running progress over the last two months- the Henlow 10!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Pamper (?!) time

If you can count sports massage as pamper time then I guess I have been truly pampered this week! I had my first visit to Andrew McKenna, who is going to do my massage for the challenge. We both trained as therapists through the London School of Sports Massage (I was with the North London School) so I understood the way Andrew went about the treatment and could talk about various aspects of it with him which was really helpful. Andrew is a former international runner and has studied and trained both here and America, having someone with that level of knowledge supporting you is a fantastic help. His Dad is also a coach and has links to Milton Keynes Athletics Club so he knows all the haunts round our way!

The real pampering began when my wonderful products arrived from the Green People. Green People specialise in organic face and body care and is one of the biggest names in organic beauty in the UK. They have sent me a wonderful selection of products to pamper my poor body with when it all gets too much! I am racing a duathlon this weekend and my reward for completing it is a lovely hot bath and a full session with all my new potions and lotions. They have also sent me some of their suncare range which is fantastic as I try to use organic products where I can but always find it difficult to get a good cream that offers protection aswell as utilising organic products. I know I will be slathering it on especially during some of my longer swim sessions.

Training continues reasonably well - the consistency part is definitely getting there and I am really pleased with how running is going. I had two days off Sunday and Monday and actually I felt much more tired and run down from having the two days off in a row than I normally do from just having one. I also have a day off today so rescheduled my long run for this afternoon. I really didn't want to go out and do it and having been up early for a promotional shoot in Swindon that was then cancelled (darn!) I went back to bed. The nap really helped and I feel much better than I have been doing for the last few days. I forced myself out for my run on a mile loop round the house. The Double Ironman format is 42laps of approximately a mile so I thought I may aswell try and mentally prepare for that. It also meant I could have access to a nutrition stop as I passed the house every mile. It actually went very well and I completed the 12 laps in 1:42:44 including a two min stop for the loo and refuel. Maybe I have the sub 1:50 half mara in me I so want! The Henlow 10 is next week and is my first B race off the season - I'd love to go sub 1:25 and I did the 10miles today in 1:26:15 with the 2mins break included so it is possible though the course is more challenging that the loop I was running.

The big break through today though was that I actually felt like a runner. My heart rate settled within the high 150s within the first mile and settled between that and the mid-160s for the rest of the run. I felt like I was actually 'running' and pushing and focusing etc the whole way run instead of just plodding. I didn't start slowly because I was worried about bonking and I kept a constant pace all the way - it was a controlled 'hard' feeling which after this run I'm not scared of anymore - I've realised this is how running is supposed to be and, don't get me wrong, jogging can be hard work too if you go long enough but I am going to try and be a 'runner' from now on! We'll see how it goes. :)

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Du Blues

I went to watch Adam and his friend Chris compete in their first Duathlon last Sunday (Ad sporting his nice warm Chocolate Fish merino wool socks!). They both had a great first run in what were pretty wet conditions then headed out on the bike. As it was his first duathlon Chris had borrowed a bike and disaster struck about half way through the course when his tyre popped. I was duly summoned from my support/photographer spot at transition to come and help him out. Unfortunately he hadn't realised he was racing on tubs so we couldn't fix the problem with the tools we had so I had to pick him up and bring him back. Such a disappointment in his first race. However, he has picked himself up and promptly signed up for another one (the 1485 No Frills Duathlon). As Ad is at work it has been left to yours truly to race with him for moral support. I shall basically train through it before having a few days taper before my first 'B' race of the season - the Henlow 10. Ad finished in a little over two hours which given he had stopped with Chris to try and help him out, he is pleased with.

On our way back to transition one of the other racers veered off the road and had a fall into a ditch at the side. We couldn't see what had caused the problem but unfortunately it was a nasty fall resulting in a dislocated shoulder and me having to call 999. High drama! Luckily, one of the next racers along happened to be a doctor so she assessed him and agreed he could be moved down to transition where a St John's ambulance crew would be able to help him. She was probably cursing the Hippocratic oath as any chance of a good time faded away but I am sure he was very grateful!

This has been my first recovery week in the cycle and sessions have been shortened and a swim and weights session removed. Had a good hour run yesterday despite feeling very lethargic before I started. When I get out of the routine in things like recovery weeks or tapers I tend to get very tired and demotivated but actually once I am in doing the session, I tend to feel quite strong. So these weeks are a good psychological challenge more than a physical one and, as we know that doing the events I have chosen it will always be a mental battle, they're probably good training!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Does Autumn make you go crazy......?

And no I don't mean anger and frustration at the horrible cold and rainy weather that seems to have appeared nearly overnight, I mean actually clinically insane? If that was the case, it might explain why, for reasons best known to others, I decided today that doing a Double Ironman would be a sensible idea. After an Ironman. A fortnight after.

Not really sure what possessed me to sign up. I had been considering it after seeing that all the other women who are trying to complete the A2A already have this in the back and I did speak with Steve Haywood, Enduroman's Director, who told me it would be a 'good warm up'. However, since the event was full I could put that level of madness to the back of my mind. Unfortunately it appears that some other competitors have recovered full use of their mental faculties and have withdrawn which early yesterday morning left a big gaping hole with my name on it. Maybe it was the pressure of knowing the place would be snapped up within minutes and I didn't want to get left wondering 'what if' that encouraged me to whip out the credit card and get signed up!

I have justified it thus: There is a 52mile run involved - this will let me know what it feels like to go long in the run. Said run will also be in the dark for some of the way thus I will get used to running in the dark. I can also practice my feeding strategy. I may also have to cycle in the dark which gives me practice for this aspect of the A2A. Training for a longer event such as this as opposed to 'just' an Ironman will give me less work to do to build up to the required distances after the IM next summer. I'll be almost there on the run distance front anyway thus I can throw all my resources into the swim and just keep the run ticking over as opposed to having to tackle them both. Plus, after racing the IM only a fortnight before I'll be knackered and thus will learn if I have what it takes to race tired.

See, I knew it made sense really! :)

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

October inspiration

So a new month dawns and we are truly headed into autumn and winter. The days will become shorter and colder and motivation will wane. I have a quote that I love that I refer to sometimes when I'd prefer to stay in under the duvet and it shows me where I need to head....

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt

Andrew McKenna

I have had some fantastic news with regard to sports massage therapy support. Andrew McKenna of Northants Sports Massage will provide all my sports massage therapy during training for the Arch 2 Arc. This is an absolutely brilliant commitment from Andrew and will make an absolute world of difference to my ability to recover from the intense training I shall be undertaking.

Andrew himself is an ex-international level runner who went on to completed both a degree in human biology and a diploma in sports and remedial massage from the London School of Sports Massage. He has worked with multiple athletes in his time and I sure he will be able to provide a fantastic service. His website is www.northants-sports-massage .co.uk and contains lots more information about how much of an asset incorporating sports massage into a recovery programme can be. I hope to arrange my first session with Andrew over the next few weeks so I'll report back on how I get on - not too painful I hope!

4th is the worst place to come.....

Having taken Thursday off as I had an all day meeting and a 2hr each way commute to content with, I had had to use Friday to get my long run in. This meant I had missed Friday's speed work session and was playing catch-up. There was a local 5k running in Milton Keynes this weekend and I decided to head down to that and use it as a speed/tempo type session to replace Friday's. Having trained all the way upto the race I wasn't expecting anything fantastic just a good session and a bit of a marker to see where I am before training begins in earnest. I jogged the mile and a half down from my house as warm-up then sat in the shade watching people prepare. About 15mins from the start they began a mass aerobics warm-up which I have always avoided since I got sunstroke from bouncing around in the sun before the start of the Great North Run. So I did a few strides instead and then waited for the start.

The run follows a route around Willen Lake that I run on a regular basis so it was good to know how far I had to go etc. I ignored my watch at the first km and was pleased to find I was at 9.25 through 2kms. The km between three and four seemed very long but I was still on target to go sub-25 (my secret dream) as I passed the 4km mark in 19.09. In the last 50m a sprightly young girl zoomed past me but I had no energy to chase and finished a few moments later in 23.33. I was frankly flabbergasted at this time and it is a massive pb! I was only slightly peeved to hear them announcing as I crossed the line, .."Charlotte...17 years old....got the third woman spot....." Damn!! I know it is just a local race but I have never imagined myself to be able to actualy get placed in a race especially a running one so I was actually pretty downhearted on the walk home. I do think the course was probably 200m or so short so I can't get too carried away with my time but even so that would take me under the 25min mark which I am ecstatic with. I didn't think I had it in me to go that fast especially at this stage of the season. (And I am aware that for most of you out there, this is not 'fast' but for a plodder like me, it's thrilling!)

Monday, 28 September 2009

Mountain Biking Angels...

Last weekend Adam was on nights which I hate because I can't get anything done during the day (musn't be loud!) and then he is gone at bedtime. :( I fitted in my first cycle by myself which if you have read previous blogs you will know is big step for me as I hated cycling by myself during my build up to Ironman Germany in 2006. It always seems a faff and a big deal but last Saturday I was brave and just backed the bikes into the car and got on with it. I tried to extend our normal route a bit but ended up on the A5 - hmmmm, so had to turnaround and go back up the hill I just zoomed down. About 90mins and a happy bunny.

This week has seen some fairly consistent training despite the fact that I have had a sore back. My back is normally one of my strong areas so I was very surprised for my mid-back to feel stiff and a bit sore come Monday night. I woke up on Tuesday and it was ok but I think I exasperated it by doing Weights on Tuesday morning especially as I have moved on the higher weight, lower reps phase of training. It was sore Tuesday afternoon and I asked various forumites for advice on whether to swim or not (I think I just wanted an excuse!) - naturally responses were 50/50 so, as I know it is important to keep moving with a sore back, I eventually hit the pool. The session didn't seem to make it any worse so that was good. Hot water bottle and icing session Tuesday night relieved it slightly but I stuck to only swimming again on Wednesday and, knowing I had a meeting on Thursday, figured training could wait until Friday. The day off on Thursday probably did it good and, bar a little stiffness, we were ready to go by Friday.

I replaced my interval session on Friday morning with the long run missed on Wednesday. I did 8.5miles in 80mins and it felt very comfortable which I was really happy with - hopefully all bodes well for my first proper 'race' of the season, the Henlow 10 in October. I also got promoted at work - hurray! - so we had champagne after training and then an early departure mid-afternoon.

This weekend Adam has been on days which is by far my preference - I can get LOTS done in the day-time without him distracting me but then he is home for dinner. :) I gave the house a good clean as it was long overdue and, as last weekend, bit the bullet and headed out for a cycle. I was even braver today as I set off from home so had to navigate getting out of Milton Keynes which actually went without a hitch which, given my sense of direction, is a miracle! There is a steep-ish hill about 7miles from our house which Adam had attempted during the week to make sure he was prepared for his duathlon next weekend and he challenged me to see how I did on it. So I headed off for the hill and, whilst it was a tough, out-of-the-saddle scenario for me I managed to make it to the crest of the steepest part, lungs bursting, legs driving down against the pedal and........break my chain!! I nearly toppled off the bike as suddenly my legs started spinning and as I had no speed, had only a fraction of a second to yank my foot out before I fell off. I tried to put the chain back on and it seemed ok so I started off again the long but much more gentle climb that finished off the hill. Within a few moments the chain had come off again and I was back to a precarious, nearly-falling off scenario. This repeated a few times until I admitted defeat and decided to walk to the flat at the top to see whether, once it was on the flat, the chain would settle as there was less pressure going through it. As I was walking along I noticed that one of the links was totally squint and realised I may have more of a problem then I thought!

As I didn't bring a chain tool out I was going to be stuck. At this point, a group of mountain bikers passed me on the way to the top. Most of them offered cheery greetings, probably thinkgin I just couldn't manage the climb. Luckily, I had left the chain dangling and one of the finally noticed and asked if there was a problem. I explained the situation and the whole group stopped at the top to help. There had multiple chain tools amongst them and one very organised person even had 9-speed chain links. We managed to fix the chain by removing the broken link and I went gingerly on my way. I cut the ride short as I didn't want to put any pressure on the chain especially as Adam wasn't around to rescue me if needs be so only managed around 75mins including the stop which was disappointing as I had wanted to do over the 2hr mark. That will have to wait til next weekend now!

Anyway, a big thanks to my mountain-biking angels - it would have been a long walk home without their help!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Back in the water....

This morning saw my first foray back into the pool since the Channel relay. I am using some sessions from a different training plan than normal and it felt strange not to stick to my W'Up/Drills/Main Set/Cool Down format but it is always good to mix things up a bit and keep them fresh. Second session of the day will be in a minute - an hour tempo turbo though I do have a bit of a headache which I hope will pass before I start. I think I might have a short early evening nap tonight if I get home in time. I wish I had a job where I could have an afternoon nap between 2 and 3pm as I think it would make a massive difference to how I recover. Still, very few people have that luxury I imagine.

Friday will see another swim set and an interval session then I am going long bike and long run on Saturday and Sunday. Normally I split my long bike and run sessions as I believe otherwise the run is never done to the best of your abilities but because of being a lazy daisy in France I am now a run down so Sunday it will have to be.

Cycling will hopefully see me reach 2 hours in the saddle this weekend which will allow me to get to the stage I want to be before joining Team MK at the beginning of October. It will also allow me to get more use out of my fabulous new sunglasses provided by Colin Pickering at Bloc Systems Ltd (www.bloceyewear.com). I tried their Leopard model last weekend and really liked them. They are lightweight and provide good sun glare reduction without impacting on the clarity of vision that can occur in some models. I always find this a bit perturbing on busy roads, if I can't make out shadows and things because of the tint of the glasses but these work really well. They also have yellow and clear tints for low light and they look really good too! I may try the Stealth version this time and I'll let you know how they compare!

Basically a massive thank you to Colin for supporting the challenge. Colin also supports the Army Winter Sports programme so does a lot to help our Armed Forces and I am extremely pleased that he has chosen to support the Arch 2 Arc.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Post Swim thoughts....

My first post swim thought was, 'Thank God I signed up for the Arch 2 Arc prior to this swim coz I would NEVER sign up for it if this was my first Channel experience!' However, it has now been a week or so since the swim and all the negative thoughts have been replaced (as they always are) with positive thoughts and the belief that it wasn't really that bad! This is what my Mum says childbirth is like!

When I dredge the thoughts back I can remember that it was hard and it was cold. The swimming was never that tiring, probably coz I was so busy fighting the waves to think about it but I do remember being cold. Thus, step one is to do loads and loads of acclimitisation. As I didn't do any prior to this relay I am hoping I can take a big step forward with this. There is also mental preparation to do as I remember some of the hours going fast and others slow and being bored and counting the minutes. I need to have a very strong mental focus and positive attitude and a regime to fall back on when any of the demons start to surface. This will need as much practice as the physical training I am going to undertake.

In summary, the swim was invaluable for helping me to appreciate the complexities of Channel swimming and to help open my eyes to quite how huge the challenge really is. I know I need to do more night swims, acclimitise to the cold, learn what foods work well for me and improve my bilateral breathing. What is great is that I don't feel any of these issues are insurmountable and that completing the relay was a great little deposit in the bank of experience and will definitely help come race day in 2 years time!

Naturally I took the Tuesday off following the swim but then I was panicked about missing the first week of my Ironman schedule and it being a sign of this to come so I proceeded to train three times on the Wednesday! Naturally this caused a pretty extreme tiredness by Thursday morning so after my morning session I abandoned both the afternoon session and Friday mornings, to get a proper rest. By Friday afternoon I was ready to get some more training in and completed a nice brick session. Saturday morning saw Ad and I out on the bikes for 90minutes before a quick change and heading to the airport.

We spent a long weekend with my parents in France, returning Tuesday afternoon. I did one run session but mainly enjoyed having a few days off as now it is full steam ahead for training, pretty much for two years straight, eek! Think it is definitely going to be a case of one day at a time otherwise I can see that just thinking about the vast amount of training required will mentally swamp me!

After a thwarted session this morning where everything I wanted to do had to be abandoned because of mechanical faults, closed pools etc and a single strength session had to suffice, I am off for a nice brick to get Base 1, Week 2 finally underway!

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Sprinting, Sunshine and Success!

Though I was feeling better about the swim I was still feeling desperately sea-sick and the waves didn't seem like calming anytime soon. I felt rubbish that I couldn't be on the side of the boat cheering for the other team members but I thought it was more important to do whatever I had to do to be able to swim so the boys set me up in the best sleeping area on the boat and just let me nap. As I wasn't eating or drinking I just tried to conserve energy and sleep as much as possible. It was so awful I actually began to look forward to my stints in the water as they were such a relief from the nausea.

As I was preparing for my third stint our pilot, Paul Foreman, came over and said, "Rach, we are about 2miles from the point we need to be when the tides turn in less than an hour. I need you to sprint as hard as you can for your stint. If you can push really hard you won't have to swim again but if you don't then we could be stuck for six or more hours." Hmmmmm. Wasn't sure how much energy I had for sprinting (not that I think activity lasting 60mins+ can ever be classified as a sprint!) but the fact that I could avoid us 6+hours more of swimming was a pretty huge motivator and I swopped with Mike, put my head down and did everything I could. The hour actually passed fairly quickly and thinking about sprinting distracted me from the crazy waves and the cold. Getting back on the boat, I was told that, though the tide had turned early, we had passed the point we needed to and we would probably land during Andy or Mike's next turn. Hurray!

As Chris started off on his hour the waves did finally begin to calm down as we reached the calmer, more inland waters off the coast of France. The sun came out and warmed the air which at least made the prospect of diving into a cold seas somewhat more appealing. Andy followed Chris and did a fantastic last push to get us within a mile of the coast. Mike swopped in for his turn and about 25mins into his stint, Paul said we had reached the shallow waters where the boat would stop. He allowed us to all get in the water to swim the last few hundred metres in to shore before Mike upon whose exit and clearance of the water, the official clock would stop. Finally those last few metres were upon us and we staggered triumphant out of the water on a pebbly beach frequented by a few french day-trippers who looked at us like we might be a bit mad! Celebratory hugs and the obligatory picking up of a pebble of the shore and we had finally made it. We had swum to France!!!

After a few minutes soaking up the achievement we headed back to the boat where we were congratulated by the crew and given our official time of 13.32hrs from Michelle. Handshakes and thanks all round and some posing opportunities and I could finally take off my cossie and get changed into warm dry clothes, bliss! The calmer waters meant I could also finally eat and drink which I did with gusto before curling up for the return journey home.

Luckily our boat is one of the faster ones and after 1hr 45mins we were back in Dover Marina and unpacking the remnants of our trip. Many thanks were exchanged with our wonderful boat crew, especially our boat pilot, Paul who looked after us so well despite having had no sleep as he had just returned from another successful crossing when the weather cleared enough to take us too and we just couldn't miss the opportunity. I lugged my things back to the car and got ready to set off home. The team said our goodbyes with hugs in the carpark and a promise to stay in touch . It is always so strange how shared experiences can bring you closer to people in a short space of time then you are to some people you have known for ages. I set off home praying for a clear route and was rewarded with a very fast return journey to get home just before 8pm. A quick clear up and I was all ready for a huge hug and congratulatory kiss from my lovely boy when he got home. What a day! Post-trip thoughts to come but this has already been a bit of a mega-posting!

Bye for now from your Channel swimmer! :)

Sea-sickness and Sorrow......

Andy is our strongest swimmer and set off at a strong pace whilst I'll immediately curled up on all our bags and feel asleep. I was exhausted! So I missed most of Andy's swim but woke up to watch how the hand-over to Mike was supposed to take place and then napped again for half an hour until it was my turn. I prepped my cossie, goggles and hat and attached the bright green lights to my costume and goggle strap. I applied a little vaseline to my neck and got ready to head in. Though I was somewhat unamused by the prospect of a freezing cold night swim and a bit apprehensive about how I would cope swimming next to the boat, I was also excited.

So, I can honestly say that 60mins was the hardest ever, it made me want to cry on a par with the horrific never-ending desert night trek in Libya. As everyone else breathed to the right the boat was set up so we swam with it on our right. Unfortunately I breathe to my left and whilst in the calm waters of the pool I can happily bi-lateral breathe, I had no hope in the ridiculously choppy waters. As we had missed the neap tide slot which is typically calmer we had no choice but to swim on a spring tide which is typically choppier and it was living up to expectations. It was as much as a could do to breathe at all let alone breathe to my weaker side so sighting the boat became a breathe, take stroke, swivel head in random owl-like manner to check where the boat was, swivel head back, breathe on normal side, take stroke routine that basically meant I went nowhere fast! As I had such difficulty getting into the rhythm I also got freezing cold and not knowing quite how to place myself in relation to the boat meant sometimes I was miles away (scary and not endearing to the pilot who is trying to look after you) and other times I literally thought the boat would come crashing down on me. It is so choppy that sometimes you are happily placed just a few feet to the side of the boat and then a wave will hit and it will loom up over you and you definitely feel you are about to be squashed!

After an eternity the white light signalling my turn was up came and I scurried back to the boat to swop with Chris who jumped into the water and swam past me on the takeover to his stint. Unfortunately being back on the boat was not the joy I expected it to be as, usually for me, I got sea-sick. Not enough to actually be sick but enough to make me feel awful. The problem was that anytime I moved anywhere I felt really nauseous. It was easy to manage by lying deadly still on my back but it meant I couldn't move to dry myself, get proper clothes on, make a hot drink etc. Thankfully Ad had reminded me to bring my sleeping bag and eventually after about 30mins of violent shivering it usually warmed me up enough. The biggest problem was that I couldn't force myself to either eat or drink and was in danger of dehydration and totally running out of energy.

I have done a lot of endurance events and have always felt I have the mental capacity to complete whatever I attempt no matter what. Coming out of the water in the dark was the first time I have thought I could possibly fail at something and began to appreciate the massive challenge a solo swim is. At that point I felt so low that I nearly said to the others that I didn't think I could do it (they later said they pretty much all felt the same). Luckily, doing a relay means that if you quit you ruin other people's hopes and dreams too and that was a huge motivator to keep me going. If I had just been on my own I think it may have been a little different!

Luckily the next time I woke up for my second stint the dawn had broken and I felt a lot more comfortable in the water. As I could see the boat better I didn't mind spending longer between sights and thus could get a bit more a rhythm and wasn't quite so cold. The sun was just breaking through and that time is my favourite time of the day so for the first half an hour or so I was a lot more relaxed and happier. I did start to get a little cold towards to end of the second half of the hour but things were looking more positive..........

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

When the time comes.......

On Sunday, Chris Boland, our team organiser called and said that Pace Arrow (our boat for the Channel) had been recorded headed to France on AIS (a tracking system) and we should prepare ourselves as we were next in line. He hadn't managed to get hold of Paul Foreman, our pilot, but be ready to go any that night as the next tide was around 1am. Adam was up early to go shooting with his uncle, but I declined as I wanted to be prepared in case the call came in so I stayed behind and did the cleaning and shopping! The last track on AIS showed Pace Arrow about a quarter of the way across at 6am, but there were no further updates and Chris couldn't get any news from Paul. Finally around 5pm Chris texted to say Paul was in but the weather meant a swim was unlikely. He was going home to check the weather and consult a second opinion from Mike Oram of the CS&PF and would let us know by 8pm. At 7pm the call finally came from Chris that we were to assemble in Dover by 11.30pm for a 1am start.

I must admit to having a little wibble at this stage - after all the waiting I had begun to wish it would be called off as it had taken up so much off my time and energy and I felt so unprepared when the final call came in that heading down to Dover at midnight on no sleep to swim through a forecasted rough sea in the dark didn't seem particularly appealing! After some calming words from Ad, I hit the road. I am always better once I am alone. While I am with family and people who care about me I can resort to being a bit pathetic knowing the will look after me and tell me it is ok and still care about me if I can't do something. Once I am out there on my own I get tougher, it is just me then and I have to get on with things. Especially with a team of people I haven't met whose dreams also rely on me to get it together.

I arrived in Dover around 10.45 so grabbed a quick 20mins nap in the car before meeting up with Chris and the two members of the team I hadn't yet met, Andy and Mike. We got out bags together and set off round the marina to meet up with Paul Foreman, our pilot, Graham, his mechanic and Michelle, our official observer. Paul explained the weather forecast and how the swim was going to go and we confirmed our names and order of swim with Michelle. There was one other boat due to go out with a soloist - Eddie Spelling, who I have a relay booked with next year - so we waited until they were prepared to set off together before heading out. We headed through the dark out of the harbour round the coast to Shakespeare Bay where we were due to swim from. Andy, our first swimmer, got prepared and on the approach to the bay, dove in and swam to shore ready to start. Once he was clear of the water, he raised a hand and on Michelle's signal waded back into the water to start our swim. It was 01.32am......

At least my feet are Pro! :)

On Friday I took a trip to London to meet with the team at ProFeet. Profeet is a specialist company who make customised insoles for use with running and cycling shoes and also ski boots. I met up with Jono and we spent two hours analysing my gait, foot strike, various muscle imbalances (I have one leg shorter than the other?!) and moulded the results into the perfect customised insole for my foot. ProFeet have agreed to provide a customised insole for both my running and cycling shoe aswell as provide my trainers for the challenge. As I have narrow ankles but fat feet Jono fitted me into Mizuno trainers which I have never used before but they seem very comfortable and I can't wait to get out and try them. I will try and build up in them slowly but as Jono declared my other trainers 'totally shot(!)' I may have no other choices!

It was a fantastic and very interesting experience and I want to thank the team so much for the time they took with me and also the support they have offered.

On Saturday, despite wanting to play in my new shoes, I decided I would be better off cycling as I am still trying to stay off my legs before of the last-ditch possibility of a swim this weekend. So Adam and I headed to Woburn for a 19mile cycle round some of the roads I use to commute and their tributaries. It was actually a really nice ride with not too many busy patches and I enjoyed it. I do like cycling and I think it really helps to have Ad with me as it is lovely doing something together and I feel much safer. So, as long as his enthusiasm continues I am set! Got back early evening so nothing to do but shower, eat and early to bed!

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Ah...the bike....

The bike has traditionally been the bit of triathlon that I think I have the most opportunity to improve in. Having come from a rowing background I feel I probably have strong enough legs to do well in biking once I commit to long long miles, time trials and lots of drills!

Having sat around doing pretty much nothing the last week I couldn't bear it any longer and set out on Tuesday for a run. I thought I would just have a nice gentle 20mins or so just to say I was exercising again but instead ended up doing nearly 8 miles. Hmmmm. I must have been frustrated because normally wild horses can't make me enjoy running! It was very hot and windy though so by the hour mark I was definitely ready to make the turn for home as dehydration set in. I trialled a new thing for my long runs which is instead of a constant pace, which can see me 'plod' a bit and get generally slower and slower as I lose concentration, I did a 1 minute 'focused' run - probably at tempo speed - every 5mins. This helped keep my overall speed up I think. This early in the season my long runs are probably around 10min/mile pace but doing this resulted in an average pace of 9.37/mile - interesting! It also helps break up the length of the run and keep me concentrating.

So, back to the bike. Yesterday saw me out on the road for nearly 3 years! Having concentrated on marathons and ultra-running and swimming over the last few years I have totally neglected my biking and so it was a rather dusty Specialized that was dragged from hibernation in the garage yesterday. Biking is a funny one for me. Like I said I believe I have a lot of potential on the bike and I do really enjoy it (if I am not concentrating on speed anyway!) but it always seems a big deal. With running, you are never normally more than a few miles from home but with biking you can be 100miles from home at any point. This always makes me turn every ride into a mini-drama of all the things that could go wrong and involves me taking all manner of different clothing options, phone, credit cards, thousands of bike repair options, millions of inner tubes etc. It just seems a hassle sometime and I always panic about all the things that can go wrong, from being stranded with a puncture to being involved in a crash.

I have decided that they way to appraoch this is to do it more. A lot more. And to take away some of the stress involved by learning how to do basic bike maintenace (enough to get me home) and become the slickest tyre changer in the business! Hopefully this will give me more reassurance that the worst is not always going to happen and I can cope if it does! This will mean a fantastic winter doing long rides that will see me super fit and strong come spring! I guess, like with my crazy issue with inanimate objects scaring me in the water, that the more you are exposed to it the less it bothers you. In fact I am sure that's a theory somewhere.....aversion therapy anyone?!

Monday, 31 August 2009

Bedford Mile Swim

By Friday I was totally fed up of doing nothing so I checked out whether I could head to our normal lake for a 30min swim or so over the weekend just to keep the 'feel'. However the lake was being used as part of the Bedford Multi-Sports Weekend so I wouldn't have a chance to swim. Then I noticed they were running an Open-Water mile race on the Sunday morning which would suit - I would go easy of course........!

The race atmosphere was actually great. The sprint triathlon was also being run that morning and it was good to be back on the fringes of the sport I have been out of for nearly three years. It was like when I went to watch Sam at Bournemouth and now I just can't wait to get stuck into proper winter training and get strong and fit again!

A minor drama with my wetsuit ensued, which was basically due to the fact I haven't had in on for three years and had forgotten it was a top-down zip and having a two-minutes-before-start ripping it off panic as I thought the zip had broken, only to realise my mistake and have a frantic re-put back on scenario! We were set off at 7.45am and I tried to hold back and not get sucked into the whole competitive thing. I settled into a nice rhythm and felt smooth over the first 800m, I hadn't managed to get a draft off the start as there appeared to be two very distinct groups, one super fast and one slower and I seemed to be in no-man's land between them. In fact I basically swam alone for the entire race. I did get a bit more competitive in the final 800m and sped up a bit to try and catch up with 2 people about 15ms in front of me. I sighted better round the course and nearly caught them at each buoy only for them to pull away again down the straights. Nearing the end I caught someone trying to come up on my shoulder in my peripheral vision and, whilst mindful of the fact that I could have a Channel relay call-up later in the day, stretch out a bit just to hold them off. A scramble out of the lake and a 25m sprint into transition and we were done. I timed it around 28mins and the official clock came out as 27.55. Pretty happy with that compared with old OW olympic times done in 2005-2006 especially considering it wasn't full-on race mode.

All done and home before 9am for a lovely bath and a raisin bagel - good set up for the day!

Friday, 28 August 2009

Playing the waiting game.....

This has been such a challenging week. I was tired after walking in the dales so I decided that it was sensible to take Monday off from training and just have a good stretch. With a little latent fatigue in the muscles I decided just to swim on Tuesday to keep the 'feel' for the water. By Wednesday I was somewhat tearing my hair out with the lethargy I was feeling which always comes when I have to taper my training back. The big problem with not knowing when we are due to swim the Channel is that I cannot taper properly. In a normal taper you would reduce the duration of sessions but keep the frequency and intensity pretty much the same, this helps avoid the stale feeling you can get whilst tapering but also allows the body to rest. I don't want to do anything high impact or strenuous before the swim but because I don't know exactly when I am swimming, this means that pretty much every day has to turn into a rest day, 'just in case' we are summound on two hours notice to head to Dover. And I am going a bit doollaly! I broke free a bit on Thursday and did a very gentle and short brick session with 30mins on the bike followed by a transition to a 5min run. Am trying to not run at all at the moment to keep the impact down but I figure 5mins couldn't hurt! For once, and this is quite quite rare(!), I am missing running. I was just feeling like I was making progress and with the drop in weight, it was starting to feel a bit easier. Grrr........

So, rant over (you can see I have too much energy!). On the positive side I have been in talks with Chocolate Fish Merino who supply fantastic merino training products from base layers to beanies. I LOVE training in merino wool especially for things like hiking and cycling where you want something lightweight that is flexible enough to cope with both the increase in heat from climbing and the decrease in heat from descending or reaching a windy summit! I used merino products whilst I was racing the Mark Webber Pure Tasmania Challenge adventure race and they were perfect for the cycling and kayaking phases. The wonderful Amanda McCaig has agreed to provide me with some kit support in return for product review and I can't wait to try them out! As I said Chocolate Fish Merino have a wide range of products available and if you haven't tried training or racing in merino wool before I would definitely give it a go. It can also help to reduce the likelihood of cramp and muscle fatigue in the same way as compression tights. I had to ask the very knowledgeable Amanda for the science behind why and she said this: "it is to do with the way it keeps a steady "body-climate" in both terms of temperature and moisture. If moisture is dragged away from the surface of the skin too rapidly, it causes dehydration. Because the wool absorbs the moisture and then lets it evaporate gradually, this doesn't happen". Interesting eh?! The chocolate fish website can be found at http://www.chocolatefishmerino.co.uk/.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Non-specific training....

So this weekend I headed to the Dales with Adam's sister Claire and we took in two of the Yorkshire 3 peaks, Pen-y-Ghent and Ingleborough. Actually due to some quite heavy mountain fog we skipped the summit of Ingleborough but having slogged up the 'Lord of the Rings' type stone ladder scramble that gets you to the plateau before the summit we felt we could count it! I had a fantastic weekend and feel very 'soul-revived' which makes returning to computer-based work seem even more of a slog. Enduroman recommends long weekends hiking as a great endurance base activity without the impact associated with long-distance running and I could certainly feel the benefits. Apart from some tight calves though I felt great come Monday and ready for my mini-taper prior to the Channel relay. Our tide starts on Wednesday and I will pack my bag tonight and prepare everything I might need so I can make the last minute dash to Dover as soon as the call comes!

Some fantastic sposnorship opportunities have come my way this week. Firstly the wonderful Sue Losson offered me shower washes, body lotions and sunscreen from the fantastic company, Green People. I hate putting chemicals on my skin and the intense training programming with multiple showers, lots of chlorine and cycling wind burn can often result in dry skin. So the fabulous products they produce which are free of nasty chemicals will be a great treat and soothing to my skin. I am especially impressed with how they manage to produce an effective high factor sunscreen without the addition of chemicals that so many commerical products contain. Their website is an www.greenpeople.co.uk, go and see for yourself!

Secondly, Warrick Kernes at Action Cameras has offered me a helmet camera to record the cycling leg of the race. This will be a great addition and I hope to use it, not just for the race, but also to capture some of the many hours of training so people can see how intensive the preparation for a challenge like this becomes. I hope to add the videos produced to the blog in the future - if a technophobe like myself can work out how to do that! For anyone else who wants to capture their own training or perhaps an epic race themselves and record their own viewpoint you can get further info at www.actioncameras.co.uk.

A big thank you to both Sue and Warrick for their support!

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Training and water-monsters!

Sunday saw me visit the lake at Box End near Milton Keynes for the first time to get a bit of open water training in. I thought it was important to do a bit in the open water in preparation of our Channel relay next week as my training has mainly been confined to the pool. It wasn't cold at all once I had got swimming which came as a bit of a relief and I felt comfortable in the water. We were training in the water-ski park and I was freaked out by some of the obstacles! I have no idea why I get freaked out by structures in the water but I do - it is a completely illogical fear and I get it with buoys, boats, pond weed etc! I was a bit worried about it affecting how I would feel when swimming near the boat as we cross the Channel so it was important to go and face my fear in the water-ski pit. I tried to explain my fear to Adam and at first he was sympathetic, "It's naturally and sensible to fear things in the water, you could get tangled up, or scrap yourself badly....." When I explained I wasn't at all afraid of getting hurt but it was because I genuinely think they are sea monsters who might actually eat me, he went from sympathetic to actually concerned......for my mental health that is! As with all great fears I understand it is totally illogical and I have to just get on with it but they still give me the heeby-jeebies!!

Training has gone quite well this week with me managing at least a session a day with a couple of days with double sessions scheduled. I want to try and prepare my body during this preparation phase for the challenges of training twice a day when I hit the Base phase in two weeks time. I am going hiking this weekend for two days which, though not very specific, is good for building low-impact base endurance. Then next week is our Channel tide so from Monday I shall probably be forced into what could be upto a week of taper whilst we wait for the tide and our chance to swim.

We did get a call from our pilot, Paul on Monday asking if we wanted to swim on Wednesday, yep, 36hrs from when he called (!), as the weather was so good. Unfortunately most of us already had commitments so we couldn't make it so we'll swim as scheduled next week. Fingers crossed for more good weather and for the wind to drop!

I had a chance to speak to Steve Haywood (Enduroman Director) for the first time this week to ask for confirmation of my slot. Steve had been very busy with the Double Iron UK and Enduroman no. 6's successful Arch 2 Arc attempt (Well Done Dave, Congratulations!) so hadn't been able to get back to me. He did advise that June was a difficult time to swim as it is still so cold and they normally reserve that slot for relay teams. He gave me the opportunity to change my slot to a later one and, after 24hrs thinking time, I gratefully accepted. It would have been foolish to ignore his advice and he was correct in reminding me that I should only try and control the things I can not those, such as other competitors' results, that I can't. So, although I did want to do the race over my 30th birthday and despite the fact that more women my schedule their attempt in front of me, I have changed date to no. 1 swimmer on 7th August 2011. Having looked at the two women currently due to swim in front of me, both look extremely talented athletes and both are Double Iron finishers so they may well have successful attempts anyway. Either way, the challenge is hard enough and I must remind myself that just to complete it will be a huge success, first woman would just be a bonus.

Well, after a bit of an epic post I'll say 'That's all folks' for now and get ready for my hopefully sunny and relaxing weekend in the Dales.

Friday, 14 August 2009


In the words of a certain Mr Ramsey, I have finally acquired the right amount of sponsorship to at least allow me to confirm my place with Enduroman. The contract has been signed and posted today and I will pay the deposit to them this evening. No turning back!! I am always amazed by how easy these things are to enter. The first time I entered an Ironman I was sure some alarm would start ringing indicating my amateurship status or I would, at the very least, receive some polite but firm emailing along the lines of, "Thank you for your interest in Ironman Germany, However, we have some concerns about your ability to complete this challenge........". And now it appears I can enter a challenge that is beyond even my comprehension with just an A4 document and a hyperlink!

The possibility to confirm my place with Enduroman was facilitated by the wonderful Sue Concannon at the Halifax bank whom I contacted to ask for sponsorship. Sue explained that she couldn't make a decision on sponsorship herself as it was co-ordinated at Group level. However, she thought the challenge was impressive enough to donate £100 personally to help me fund it. She has also agreed to pass on the Just Giving information to her colleagues. For this support, I am extremely grateful. It makes it all the more touching that it was donated at a personal level. With this money and the fantastic £500 donated through David Thomlinson at Accenture I can finally confirm the place. Now I just need the next £250 to confirm my place with the boat pilot!

I also received a selection of sports bras from Selaine at Less Bounce and my favourite Shock Absorber (now in a nifty shade of pink!) was put through its paces on an 8mile run today. Selaine has been so helpful and I hope I can reciprocate in some way. She has sent posters demonstrating the new Help for Heroes crop tops that are now available for purchase and I am going to circulate those to all our gyms to hopefully get her some free marketing.

I am waiting out on a few other sponsorship leads but still need a key sponsor to decide to support the challenge. Fingers crossed something will get sorted over the next few weeks as Adam is getting fed up with my constant emailing!!

Summer Holidays....

So after a disaster a fortnight ago where my car blew up on the way to Dover for the last training session before the Channel Relay (more on this later) and a chance to meet my team mates we have been operating a rather interesting car share programme in our house. Luckily Adam has been working the night shift so we have kind of managed. The car issues didn't manage to put a dampener on our extended weekend in Devon last weekend where we travelled to see old university friends. A fantastic weekend ensued with training (some, not necessarily specific), rest (lots, mainly day-time napping!) and cream teas (multiple, home made). On the training front I did some running in our hotel (dull) and some running in a crazy mad-race (fun). The mud race consisted of waiting til the tide had gone out in an estuary and then legging it across and back. Very wet, very muddy but very funny though unlikely to result in a PB. Still I came home second woman and Adam came second overall and won his category so we have bling to take home!! And as the event was sponsored by a proper brewery much after-race merriment was had. I also managed to do a bit of 'swimming'. Not very specific as mainly involved snorkelling round the local rock pools with a spear gun trying to catch our tea though it was freezing cold so I guess that counts?!

Back to work yesterday and had two days of good preparation trg with a swim and cycle yesterday and an 8mile run today. As my Base period long run starts at 6miles I am feeling confident about entering that phase in 2 weeks time. For those who don't know I have some other races to concentrate on before this crazy challenge comes about. These are namely a Channel relay race in 2 weeks (eek!) and Ironman Switzerland next year. These will provide shorter term goals otherwise I think two years trg for the same event could overwhelm me. So I am sticking to an IM trg plan at the moment (I am in the preparation phase, about to enter base trg) which will see me through to August next year when I plan to ask Steve Haywood from Enduroman to coach me specifically for the Arch 2 Arc. Can't even begin to think how hard it will be.

Plans for the weekend include a strip, clean and re-build of the bike, an open-water swim session and a run. Ooh, and a bit of house-work and playing the lady wife to Adam, finding a new car and hosting the in-laws.......!!

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Back to training....

Having had a reasonably relaxed time at home in France with only three run sessions and a relaxed 1km swim in a beautiful lake we found it was time to get back to some structured training. And I was really looking forward to getting back to it. Monday found me on the spin bike doing a short muscular endurance session followed by weights. I followed this with a swim at lunch. That was very hard! You lose the 'feel' for the water so quickly, even quicker than run fitness. I did a main set of 2 x 800m at 70% effort and 85% effort resulting in times of 14.48 and 13.54. Slower than I would expect but the pool was very busy and the choppiness of the water won't have helped times. Though it is good for Channel training!

The return to training also saw me receive an email from Guy at Blue Seventy offering to help me with a reduction in kit costs which is fabulous news and means I can get some proper goggles now instead of my ancient ones. And this evening Selaine at Less Bounce replied offering to support me with training kit. They provided sports bras and swimwear so that is fabulous news. They have also been working with Help for Heroes and have even produced a Help for Heroes sports bra which looks fabulous.

Training today consisted of a build up run to prepare me for tempo running in the weeks to come. The main set was 6 sets of 4mins @ tempo plus 1 min jog recovery. I am enjoying running at the moment which is something of a revelation!

Friday, 31 July 2009


I'm still on the (sponsorship) campaign trail and, as noted, it is so disheartening when people don't even respond. On return from holiday I started to work through my Sky Plus-ing and watched the coverage of the ultra-distance Jungle Marathon. One team battling the spiders, jaguars, snakes and piranha was Schroders, headed up by Julian Winser. They did such a fantastic job and with a military connection I hoped they might be able to contribute to the pot. I hunted down Julian's email and sent him my proposal which he replied to within a few hours. Unfortunately they are restricted to on-island sponsorship (they are based in Guernsey) but Julian was so supportive of the challenge itself and will propose a charity donation instead. It was absoloutely wonderful just to have someone reply and validate that the challenge is a good one and what I am attempting to do is worthwhile. So, if Julian does visit this page, a big "Thank you", you made my day!

Thursday, 30 July 2009


So in the last week since I wrote I have been emailing everyone I can possibly think of who might be able to provide some sponsorship to support this challenge. Enduroman advises that you will probably need a pot of around £5000 to complete the challenge including their fee and that of the boat pilot who guides you safely across the Channel. So far not much luck. It is more depressing actually to receive no response that to receive a negative one. At least that way I know the email has been read and people have made a decision regarding the challenge. Thinking all my work in trying to gather sposnsorship has just been automatically binned is SO depressing.

I've been at home in France this week for a holiday with friends and family. It was fantastic, such a relaxed and chilled out time, just what was needed. I used the time to spend planning my 52week Ironman Switzerland attempt which I race on the 1st August next year. It will at least get me to a fighting fitness before I start the huge endurance build which the challenge will require. The work really starts in September at the beginning of the Base period. The next month is just going to be used to establish workout frequency and preparing for the Channel relay. Only 3weeks to go now and we are off to Dover this weekend for our first (!) and last team meeting....

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

In the beginning......

A few weeks ago I went to watch my friend Sam compete in the bournemouth triathlon. Having not done any triathlon for nearly 3 years due to other commitments I was a little shocked to realise how much I had missed it. Not that I miss Olympic distance you understand. I need to 'Go Long'...... The week later I planted the seed in Sam's head of completing her first Ironman and after securing some funding from the Royal Air Force Sports Lottery, we signed up.

Around this time Jo Kilkenny was attempting the first female attempt of the Arch 2 Arc. Unfortunately for Jo she didn't finish the swim though it sounded like she gave it everything in her attempt and did set a record for the run leg. So.....this left me with the thought of being 'in for a penny, in for a pound' and I decided to investigate. I spoke with Steve Haywood at Enduroman and he informed me there were still slots for both 2010 and 2011. Due to IM commitments in 2010 I proposed a 2011 attempt. However, the costs involved were a sticking point with estimates around the £5000 mark. I got on the sponsorship campaign and within a few days had my first sponsor.

I had contacted David Thomlinson at Accenture as I used to work at the company and knew their commitment to supporting sporting endeavours. I wasn't disappointed. David responded and offered to sponsor me £500 from their Foundation. How fantastic! A massive massive thank you to them for getting me on the way. Just another £4500 to go!