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!