Mid-Channel....

Mid-Channel....

Monday, 13 December 2010

End of season down time and Start of season ramp up!!

Gosh, it has been such a long time since I have post on this site but life has just been so busy! Adam returned from his tour of duty in the first week of November and it was such a joy to have him home. Of course, my schedule has now become a lot busier as I have other things to do of an evening than just train and I have to think about his needs as well as my own. So these first few weeks have been a bit of a juggling act especially as Adam has had post-deployment leave so has all day at home by himself so by the time the evening comes round he wants to get out and do things whereas I either need to train or am knackered! We had booked a holiday so that I could get a proper break from training and say goodbye to the 2010 season and so Adam could have a bit of a relax after having worked 24-7 for the last five months.

We headed off for two weeks in Cuba which was just what we needed and we had a fantastic time. Training was chilled out but consistent. We run for 30-60minutes every morning along the beach and coastal path which was warm even at 7am, did some press ups and sit ups and then finished off with a dip in the sea. A pretty blissful way to start your day off! We took some time out from our resort to drive the length of Cuba up to Havana (our tour guides thought we were bonkers) which was an amazing way to see the country and Havana itself is really interesting. We took a tour of the Partagas cigar factory and Adam indulged himself in a number of Cuba's finest! Getting back was a bit of a shock as the country seems to have entered a deep freeze! Leaving Cuba in sunny 30 degree heat to return at 6.30am into a dark Manchester with the mecury hovering around -5degrees was not such a happy welcome home! I returned back to work the next day to find I have been posted up to Lincolnshire which is great news. Adam started up there early last week and we have had all our fingers and toes crossed that my posting officer will find somewhere up north for me too so that I can join him. I start my new job on January 17th and life is more and more hectic! We are both in new jobs, trying to find a new house, preparing for Xmas and thinking about getting a dog, so training is being squashed in around everything as best I can.

The Lanzarote Ultra however looms ever closer so I have tried to remain as focused as I can. Cycling is still pretty much non-existent however I am up to 5miles in the pool and this week will attempt my first 10k pool swim. This was a target I wanted to meet before Xmas so all appears to be on track. Running is going ok too, I am upto a 30mile run split over two days. So yesterday I ran for 20miles and today I was run the remainder. Having spoken to a lot of respected ultra runners this is apparently the kindest way to get your body used to the endurance required for long distance running. Doing a 30-40mile run straight off means you are more likely to be injured and will certainly need a long recovery period whereas doing a 20-25mile run one day followed up with a 10mile run the next means the recovery is much quicker and also you get used to the feeling of running tired. I have to say I have no real ill effects for doing the 20miler yesterday and feel ready to go again for the ten miles this afternoon. Other than that I am just trying to sort logistics and keep calm!! I cannot wait for Xmas - Adam and I am heading home on an epic road trip to France to see my parents and it'll be lovely to see them and my sister and eat, drink and be merry!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Banning Channel Swimming....?!!

According to a news report on the BBC last night, 'Channel Swimming should be banned according to French Coastguards' with swims being likened to a pedestrian attempting to cross the M25! To be fair this shouldn't come as a surprise as the French banned Calais-Dover Channel swim crossings over 17 years ago. However, fingers crossed no-one on the British side listens too hard, at least until August next year has passed!!

Reflections on the Daily Swim Challenge.

Firstly, here are the stats from the last month:

Week 1 (Days 1-9): 11,250m
Week 2 (Days 10-16): 22,500m
Week 3 (Days 17-23): 35,000m
Week 4 (Days 24-31): 56,000m (extra 250m just to round up the session on the last day to 8,000m!)

Total for October: 124,750m.

I must admit I was actually shocked by how much I had managed to swim - nearly 125kms or a little of 78miles is just shy of an IM distance swim on average every day. I am really really pleased with this swim block and really think it will help contribute to the success of the challenge.

However, this swim really was about quantity over quality and I spent a lot of time just finding a rhythm and churning out the lengths. This is ok up to a point as that is ultimately what I will be doing when I finally swim the Channel however, going forward it will now also be important to build up to some proper structured sets with time trials to measure progress, drills to improve technique and speed work to build overall speed and give me a few fast twitch fibres for when the command to 'Sprint' finally comes!

There were many positives to take away from the challenge. It helped improve my mental strength as I had to find the motivation to go and exercise every, single day without fail and I had to learn to complete some pretty long and boring sets plodding up and down the pool. Surprisingly this have never been SO much of an issue for me. I love to train in the pool and on the treadmill, I like the consistent environment, the constant calculation of new statistics and the distraction of whatever's on the tv! Plus it's always warm and I always have access to loos, nutrition etc! But I do know that I will need to get used to both running and swimming outdoors and my key sessions will always be done in this environment so I can begin to understand the challenges of the race.

The swim challenge has also improved my efficiency and feel for the water. Even during the longest of swims I rarely felt tired and especially on the long evening swims felt strong and smooth in the water. I need to swim at least three times a week, preferably four or five to try and maintain the type of efficiency I have built up. My shoulder strength has also hopefully improved. I have also managed to lose nearly 11lbs during the month which is a huge bonus. I wanted to try and keep a restricted calorie amount whilst training hard in swimming(something I am less comfortable doing during heavy run periods as I believe the immune system gets so depleted it needs more support from food and its requisite vitamins and minerals). As I am training so hard I normally justify that I can eat whatever I want which means I have never lost weight even during the hardest periods of training but it would certainly help the run if I can be lighter so I will continue to restrict a little until I am somewhere between 10 and 10.5 stone (about 3lbs away) and then look to maintain that weight and see how it feels.

I am certainly looking forward to a more varied approach to training but I really enjoyed the challenge and it has made me appreciated that swimming is my first love and, having neglected it so heavily, to focus predominantly on biking for the Double, I look forward to putting many hours and miles in over the next nine months!

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Hallowe'en and the conquer of 1/6th of the A2A - Part 2!

After the second set of 80lengths I stopped for half a fig roll as a treat and then proceeded to start on the 40s - the first of which was pull. This forty lengths I thought about all my amazing sponsors and the support they have given me over the last year and the support they are continuing to give as the A2A grows ever closer. I also thought about the charities I am choosing to sponsor, notably HULA which is the closest to my heart as I volunteer there and see first hand the difference people's charitable donations make - SPONSOR HULA!! (www.justgiving.com/rachaelcadmanHULA). The next 40lengths I though about my family notably my Mum who has supported all my endurance events including crewing through the night at the Double - I remember how absolutely dead tired she was when I finished. I also thought of my Aunty Sally who is having to start a new chapter in her life after losing my Uncle last month. I may have mentioned that I though a lot about my Uncle whilst I did the Channel relay and asked him to look out for me and I did feel his presence out there on the wind. The second to last 40lengths I thought about my fiance, Adam and how much I love him and how lucky I am to have him in my life. I giggled along in my head as I remembered speaking to him last week and saying I was having real problems keeping my mouth shut when I swim - I sort of enjoy funneling water through my teeth(!) - I've always done it but it is not going to work in the sea where the salt will ravage the inside of my mouth and throat! He sighed despairingly and said, "See you're a real life whale, floating along sifting for plankton" - Charming!! That's love for you right there!! And the last 40lengths were foe me - thinking about the A2A and how I am going to cope with it mentally and how positive I am about how today has gone as I felt really strong throughout the swim and surprisingly not at all bored during it as I had feared. I did the last 1,000m at pace to try and mimic how I would feel if I was told I needed to 'sprint' during the Channel swim as can sometimes happen if the pilot is trying to 'break' the swimmer through a strong tide. And I still stayed strong, managed to pick up the pace a finished a really happy bunny! The eagle-eyed amongst you will note that I swam 8,000m tonight instead of my alloted 7,750m. The OCD in me did struggle with that as I wanted to do the target no more no less but I reasoned that I often swim a few lengths at the end of a session anyway (again the OCD in me making sure I have done the whole amount in case I miscounted a length or two somewhere) so really doing 8,000m tonight was ok. I wanted to round it up to 8,000m (5miles) as give or take with the Isle of Wight that is my longest swim to date and I am really chuffed by how easy it felt. My feel for the water is much improved and though I still worry about my low stroke rate I can feel how strong I am getting in the water. Reflections on the whole swim challenge will come in the next post but it has been a great experience.

Lastly, the best thing happened as I did my traditional few extra lengths at the end 'just in case'. The pool at my gym has glass walls and just as I was moseying along enjoying the last few lengths of cool down, the local park opposite began its fireworks display! Now I am a massive fireworks fan and 'ooh and ahhh' with the best of them so it was like a wonderful celebration of the completion of the challenge. I floated along on my back just watching the explosions of colour and feeling pretty content with the world!!

Roll on November!

Hallowe'en and the conquer of 1/6th of the A2A!

So today as I have said, I wanted to try and complete 1/6th of the A2A by running 14.5miles this morning and following it up with the last of the swim challenge, 7,750m, this evening. Fair eough there's no cycling but we can't have everything! The clocks going back allowed a leisurely wake-up and by 8am I was munching on porridge with raisins and syrup. By 9.20 I was in the gym and ready to start my run. The plan was to do 9min run/1min walk for the first two hours and then switch to 5min run/1min walk for the remainder. The first hour was probably the hardest but the second hour went well. Switching to 5:1 ratio at that point was a good idea as I could start feeling myself fatigue. The longest run I've done since the Double is 11miles so this is a step up. Still just over 2.5hours later I was done. First part of the day, check! Back home to refuel and have a short 75mins nap.

Part 2 of the challenge was the final session of my month of swims - 7,750ms. By 4.20 I was back in the pool and with provisions (1xH30 Pro, 1 x Orange Squash, 1 x Fig Roll) stacked neatly by the side I was off. I felt really really good during the swim - strong and smooth with a good feel for the water. I remember I felt the same in my evening swim post-run last Sunday which is encouraging for the A2A and means I am recovering well. I decided to do 2 x 80 length and then 4 x 40length alternating pull and full stroke. The first 80 passed quickly and with a quick swig of juice I was onto the second. People often ask me what I think about during long swims and it can be any manner of things but today I decided I would have a set figure of support or inspiration to think of during each section. The first 80lengths were dedicated to my friend Mimi Anderson (www.marvellousmimi.com) who is the most inspirational ultra-runner I know and who has just broken the WR for the furthest distance completed by a woman on a treadmill in seven days. Mimi only took up running in her forties and her journey is quite incredible - just check out her blog for the massive list of her achievements. We first met in 2006 when we both competed in the Libyan Challenge. I think Mimi was first woman home, I think I was second to last! It was my first foray into ultra events and her advice, support and humour made the whole experience a pleasure! Anyway, just before I went out I needed some motivation so went and looked on her blog for the video posted last weekend of her in the last two minutes of her run (completed may I add on a broken foot) and that was all I needed to get me heading straight for the pool. So she was a great help today and got me through those first 2,000m. The second 80lengths was dedicated to the two wonderful (and competing!) forums I use - tritalk and runnersworld. I have met a number of people from both sites 'in real life' and they are nothing but supportive of my crazy ventures - always leaving messages of support and following what I'm up to. A runnersworld forumite 'Symes' first planted the seed of the daily swim by completing the same thing but running based - 1km x day of the month. I think he got the raw end of the deal but I'm sure most runners would disagree!


Day 31!

So it's the morning of the last day of this crazy swim challenge and I am just loading up on porridge in advance of what is going to be a tough old day. I want to replicate 1/6 of the A2A run and swim today so in an hour or so I am off to run 14.5miles on the treadmill and then this evening sees 7,750m of swimming and the end of the infamous swim challenge. After which I am going to have a nice glass of wine to celebrate. Having not drunk all month it'll probably floor me! Still I've lost nearly a stone since Adam again at the end of September which I am chuffed with! I'll let you know how it goes.......!

Friday, 29 October 2010

Powered by figs....!

So the swims continue! Over the last few days it has been very weird swimming in the pool on camp as a lifesaving course is also being held there. On Thursday I was swimming along minding my own business when I noticed a prone plastic figure submerged on the bottom of the pool. Obviously it was apparent that is wasn't real but it was a bit disconcerting (especially given my weirdness about things under the water) to have to swim back and forth over this little drowned figure!

I was going to save a post on lessons learnt from the swim challenge month until after the conclusion of the big swim on Sunday and I will come back to the topic then but I realised today that endurance events are slowly but surely teaching me to be more 'present'. I am constantly planning, organising and scheduling future events that I hardly take the time to be happy in the moment and appreciate my life NOW! I find this is very pronounced when I am doing long sessions especially in the pool. During long runs it usually hurts too much for me to have much time contemplating but during these longs swims I have found myself always trying to rush through the training to get to the next thing on my list. I'm not scared of really long training sessions, in fact I really enjoy the challenge of 'going long' but I view the time spent training for such events in a peculiar manner. It's not resentful of the time spent as such but like I said I am always focusing so much on what's next, what other things I need to accomplish in the day, that I am not really concentrating and thinking about the training I am doing then and wishing that 5kms took only 10mins to do not 90!

Some people would see doing a 3hr swim say as a real challenge, I don't view it like that at all - the training doesn't both me, it is the time spent doing it that does. And I don't even mean I resent the time spent because I could be using it to do better things like clean the house, spend time with my fiance, catch up with a friend, I mean I 'resent' (not quite the right word) it because it is stopping me from getting on with the next thing on my list. Weird eh?! Anyway, doing these events is help me to develop my patience and to appreciate what I am doing in the here and now instead of always rushing off to the next thing in my day!

Two more big days of swimming to go. Figs got me through the days today, strange though they are. I got some dried figs in the supermarket the other week because I love dried fruit but if I get apricots I can literally eat a whole bag of them in one go which has literally hundreds of calories and a lot of sugar. I don't quite like figs as much and they are pretty filling so I am satisfied after about three which is a normal snack size. Anyway, had a few before my lunchtime swim of 4,250m and then had a fig roll (the endurance biscuit of champions for cyclists out on a long ride) before my evening 3,000m. No unpleasant side effects as of yet! ;)

Two days to go........!!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

No Mojo Day!

So I figure it is important for prosperity to also record the days when the funk just takes over! Whenever I have been following other people's blogs and they appear to have endless capacity for training, mental toughness and more energy than a duracell bunny, I always breathe a sigh of relief when they admit to having a day when mojo seems to have taken the day off! Yesterday was one such day. It was always going to be tough to keep my running up whilst swimming to such an extent and bar this week I have managed to run three times a week which is at least ticking things over. So yesterday I was supposed to do 5miles at lunch. As I normally swim at lunch to make up the distance this meant I'd have to swim in the morning instead, run at lunch and then complete the distance by swimming in the evening.

Lunchtime came and I just couldn't make myself hit the gym! I was probably tired from getting up a bit early to swim in the morning and the rainy weather certainly wasn't helping. So I got in the car, drove to Tesco Express and bought an Options Belgian Hot Chocolate, Squirty Cream and a magazine! Spent lunchtime trying to stop myself squirting all the cream directly into my mouth and reading Marie Claire!

It was great at the time but to be honest didn't make me feel any better about myself nor reinvigorate me for my evening training session so I think the take home message is that I should have probably forced myself to the gym which would have at least stopped me feeling sluggish all afternoon. In the evening I had to hit the travel agents to book our holiday (14days in Cuba next month - I am SO excited) which put enough of a spring in my step to get me to the pool to finish off the set. That and feeling weighed down by copious amounts of squirty cream which definitely required burning off!!

Monday, 25 October 2010

The Life of a Pro Swimmer....

Well, maybe not quite but certainly nearly and definitely more than that of a pro triathlete this week. To finish the swim challenge I shall be swimming nearly 50kms this week. Definitely more than a pro triathlete would and nearly that of a pro swimmer. And they don't have work and an imminently returning fiance to cope with!

Day 23 and 24 went well. I enjoyed the swims both times and felt particularly strong yesterday evening. I swam the full distance of 5,750m on Saturday to start building endurance and then did a split swim on Sunday. I did 1800m post a 12mile run to feel how it felt to swim directly after running (albeit a lot shorter than the A2A will be!) and followed it up with 4,200m in the evening where I had a great feel for the water. Surprisingly I didn't feel tired swimming after running despite almost running out of energy during the run itself and my legs weren't tired. Weirdly my arms were though! I don't know if that is just cumulative fatigue from the other three weeks or whether they get tired by running?! If they get tired by running I will need to try and minimise that during the A2A as I need them fresh for the swim - maybe I am hunching my shoulders or carrying tension in them - not sure! Once I got swimming they did loosen off and they did feel good in the evening swim.

Day 25 looms - it'll be split swims all this week and three run and 1 core-stability session to add in. Come the weekend I shall do at least one of the swims all the way through and possibily both the saturday and sunday swims - depends how running goes as I also have a 14mile run pencilled in for sunday so i'll need to juggle a bit. Plus Ad is home on the Tuesday so I'll also have washing, cleaning etc to do!! Good training this weekend though. The run and swim on sunday were approximately 1/7th each of the A2A distances. Now I just got to do 7 times those amounts plus 180miles on the bike and I'm there! :)

Have a great week. Please add comments to let me know what you are all up to!

Friday, 22 October 2010

The Joy of H30 Pro

One of the things I found at the Herbalife Autumn Summit was that people really wanted to know about the products I was using to support my training. My most prolifically-used product is definitely the H30 Pro. I have just started using it again post the Double as until now most sessions have been less than 75mins. For session less than 75-90mins I try and use water only so as to minimise calories and also to encourage the body to use fat as fuel rather than topping up with easy-access carbs. However, on Tuesday I just couldn't face the swim session (4,750m - about 90mins) and felt tired and low on energy. So I decided to break open the H30 Pro again and I truly felt such a difference. I had a good swig before I even started the session and almost immediately my body responded by feeling more alert and energised. Maybe it was a placebo effect because I know how much I like using this product and how well it supports my sessions but whatever it was it helped!!

The Swim Challenge....

So, as you will be aware, I have reached Day 22 of the Swim Challenge (10lengths x the day of the month). Swimming has been going well and I have luckily been spared too many aches or pains. My shoulders have been stiff on occasion but they usually loosen off once I have begun swimming though my neck has been getting quite tight.

Tuesday was the first day where I didn't really fancy swimming and with 4,750m to do in a single session it was always going to be tough. Still, once I actually was swimming and certainly post-swim I felt much better for doing it. Wednesday saw a 2km early morning swim - eek - as I had planned to run the annual Henlow 10 at lunchtime. This is a great 10miler that I have run for the last two years but I left entering this year until the last minute as I wasn't sure what shape I would be in. I think that probably caused a bit of doubt in my mind come the day as I didn't have any pressure to do it so that plus a bit of a sore throat meant I wimped out. I decided not to run by telling myself it was sensible so as not to have jeopardised the completion of my October swim challenge but I probably could have done it if I was a bit mentally tougher! I did however go down as a volunteer and helped out with the results collation so at least I was contributing in some way. Wednesday evening saw the final required 3kms. Thursday I swam 3,250m at lunch meaning I only had a 2km swim for the evening and for this I was joined by my friend Becki. It was so lovely to have a change of set and someone to do the training with and the lengths passed easily. A relax in the steam room post-swim for a good gossip and a lovely homemade burger at the gym was our reward.

Today is Day 22 and I have just finished 3,500m this lunchtime so I have 2kms to do tonight which I will do as a cool down after the run I have scheduled. I'll probably do an hour of run/walk - building consistency with my running is the most important thing at the moment. The weekend will be tough with a straight 5,750ms on Saturday and then a 12mile run followed by a straight 6km swim on Sunday. Ouch! I know in the future this will become a small-fry training session but it seems a reasonable amount at the moment. In fact it is about a 1/7th of the A2A!!

The Power of Positivity!

On Saturday I attended the Herbalife Autumn Summit to talk to the distributors about the Arch 2 Arc and how Herbalife has been supporting me in the journey. Gavin had advised me to be prepared that everyone would be really encouraging and supportive and want to know all about the challenge - I thought he was just being kind! Well, the event blew me away! I first met with Martyn Farmer from the President's Team (as far as I can gather as they were very modest about it, being a member of this means you're doing pretty well!) who would be interviewing me on stage and we talked about the challenge and thought about the areas we wanted to focus on most during the interview. Martyn was extremely enthusiastic about the challenge and helped me to identify the key messages I most wanted to speak about, he was also unbelievable knowledgable about all the Herbalife products, when was best to use them and the science behind them. In fact this was a common theme of everyone I spoke to. Everyone used the products, everyone understood the products and everyone believed in them. Many said the Herbalife products and the role they played as a distributor had changed their life.

Around 2.30pm it was time for us to present. Martyn said he would go on stage first and do a lead in and then invite me up to join him. When he went up on stage, I couldn't believe it. People were clapping, cheering, taking photos and asking for autographs - the positive energy was amazing! What was more amazing was I got the same reception - I was staggered by how supportive and enthusiastic everyone genuinely seemed about the challenge and what I was attempting. Martyn and I talked for about 20minutes about the Arch 2 Arc and how Herbalife has supported me both financially and through product use. Martyn related it all back to the tools they use at Herbalife using words such as 'upfront decision' which basically means that once you commit to something and put that commitment into the public arena it's as good as done. The rest as he said, "is just details"!

In the evening I had the pleasure of attending the Summit party where I was hosted by Martyn and his wife and fellow President's team member, Karen. And this for me is where I was truly blown away. Without exception everyone was welcoming and extremely excited about the challenge I was undertaking. Many said it was 'an inspiration' which is always extremely humbling to hear and I posed for photographs with many different people. I felt like a true Herbalife celebrity and I cannot emphasise again how I lucky I feel to have them as main sponsors to the Arch 2 Arc. Now with another 400-odd people cheering me on, I feel even more motivated to train hard and do everything I can in my power to succeed in the challenge I have set myself.

Thank yous must go to Martyn and Karen who hosted me superbly and introduced me to many wonderful and interesting people - everyone had a story to tell! Also to the rest of the President's team - Jane, David, Penny and Jeff for supporting me and letting me join them for dinner! Also, thank you to Gavin who invited me and Mila, Branka and Alex who organised me prior to the event and made sure I got to the right place at the right time with the right presentation materials!

But mostly thank yous must go to all the fascinating distributors who were so welcoming and supportive and extremely passionate about what they do and the role of Herbalife in their lives. I had written a long list of many people I had the pleasure of meeting so I could thank them on this blog but typically I have lost it so my greatest apologies to any one I miss out.....

To Lindsey and the whole Dean Family - it was wonderful to meet you and I cannot thank you enough for your support and for getting me through the first overwhelming ten minutes of the party!

To Izabella, the most enthusiastic woman in the world and my new Facebook friend - your energy and belief in what you do is truly infectious!

To Carl - my Ironman buddy!

To Shannon, an aspiring IM athlete - just make your 'upfront decision' and go for it - anyone can do it if they really want to. If you need any help at all just get in touch!

To Sue and Raymond who are allegedly giving up 'the best Chinese in Glasgow' to join the Herbalife family.

To the many wonderful people who said I had inspired them to take on their own challenges from a 5k run to a 10mile walk to the ONER (much respect for that one - it's a toughie!!).

To the Scotland team who are flying the Herbalife flag north of the border - if you ever need me at the Glasgow Wellness Centre, I'll be there!

To Dawn who is still looking unbelieveable at 77 - if that's what Herbalife can do for you then count me in!

And finally to Renata who made my day for showing me her car where my Herbalife athlete profile is proudly displayed in the back window!

And to David, Claire, Carli, Kevin, Karen, Trish, Sarah and all the others - thank you so much for your support, it means an awful lot!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Swim Rage Part 2

I promise I will stop moaning about swim rage after this post but this is dedicated to a woman I met at breakfast this morning after the Herbalife event (which I will talk about in the next post) who totally gets what I'm talking about!! After the event I drove back down to Milton Keynes and headed to the gym to get Day 17's swim in before the arrival of the windscreen people (GRRRR!!!!). Everything was going swimmingly so to speak and I was into my third km when I was joined by another man. He was a faster swimmer than me so when I stopped to let him passed, I asked whether he'd like to swim side by side in the lane so I wouldn't hold him up. He said that actually he'd prefer not to as it 'confused him'. Seriously??! How can that be confusing? Anyway, he obviously spotted my look of incredulity and explained it might also be annoying if someone else were to join us in the lane and in fact he was just about to 'invite his daughter to join us' and started called to a girl across the pool. Bemused, I left him cajoliing her to join us in the fast lane and carried on with my set. Well, no wonder she needed persuading as she was probably no more than ten and set about swimming as her dad had instructed but doing a slow breaststroke. I couldn't quite fathom why her Dad had asked her to join us when she would obviously struggle but, not wanting her to have a bad swimming experience, tried to be as courteous as possible. She was obviously not accustomed to 'swim etiquette' being so young but I just tried to be patient and let her swim at her own speed, waiting at the end of each length for her to get far enough ahead so I wouldn't catch her. Not so for her charming father though who continued to swim a rather ostentatious frontcrawl throughout. And when he inevitably caught up with his poor daughter, instead of waiting and encouraging her, he sprinted splashily past her, often bumping into me coming the other way. What a twit!!

So about from Mr Competitive Dad, the daily swim challenge continues to go well and I am really enjoying it. I fully expect it to get hard over the next 14 days but at the moment I am relishing the routine and having fun with it. I'm going to try and get a run in this evening (windscreen men dependent) which will round off a great weekend!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Swim Etiquette......

I panicked before the Double as I notoriously dislike swimming with other people in a lane (SELFISH obviously!) and I thought I would get very frustrated with having to keep stopping and starting to meet other people's speeds (whether faster or slower) esp as that was the only part of the race I wanted to get a good time in. However, everyone was very courteous and, mindful of the fact it was going to be a long day, even I was fairly relaxed about it.

I am however, a stickler for swim etiquette!! Argh, this can make my blood boil. I am currently reading a blog by Scott Ragsdale (chairman of a company called Naseba and a 2010 Channel Swimmer) which is really helping me climb my mountain of the 10 length swim challenge. I am going to talk about Scott's blog in another post as it has certainly piqued my interest but he does talk a lot about trying not to react negatively to situations and I am trying to follow his example. However, yesterday I failed big time!

I was swimming along doing 200m Pull sets alone by myself in the fast lane. Two women got in at the far end of the pool and blocked my approach to the wall so I couldn't tumble turn. Not wanting to kick and/or splash them I went to do a push and glide turn instead. As I approached to turn however, one of the women stopped me BY TAPPING ME ON THE HEAD HARD TWICE. I was FUMING!!!!!! She stated that I had been swimming in the middle of the lane and asked if I could please pick a side to swim and indicated down the swim lane saying, "It's ok when you're by yourself but not whilst others are in the pool." I explained that until 10 seconds ago I HAD been swimming by myself and of course would've moved once they had got in and set off again swimming in the direction she had indicated. I completed another 50m of my set and reached the other end again where they were still standing. Again, they were blocking most of the lane so not wanting to aggravate by tumble turning between them I again set up for a push and glide. The same woman again TAPPED ME TWICE HARD ON THE HEAD (so angry!!!) and told me I was swimming in the wrong direction. Now, she was quite correct on that point but I had only being trying to swim in the direction she had indicated so as not to cause her any more stress. Muttering under my breath I changed direction and swam off. Anyway, conflicts like that happen in the pool all the time and it wasn't that that I minded so much. The big problem for me was that she thought TAPPING ME HARD ON THE HEAD was a suitable way to stop me. You don't normally rap people on the head to get their attention so why do it in a swimming pool?!

For the record, if you want to overtake someone in a pool, tap twice on the soles of their feet as they are approaching the end of their length. If you want someone to stop, wave your hand at them underneath the water as they are approaching the wall. DON'T TAP THEM ON THE HEAD!!

Ps. I shan't even start complaining about the fact that these women then thought that a good swim set was swimming 50ms and then stopping to chat blocking the wall for others........

Rant over.................. ;)

Sunday, 10 October 2010

People are strange....

Genuine conversation in my gym changing rooms today. Woman 1: "So i've decided I'm not going to do sit-ups anymore, I want a flat stomach." Woman 2: "I thought sit ups were supposed to help you get a flat stomach?" Woman 1: "No, I was talking to Amy and she said that doing sit-ups make your stomach stick out." Woman 2: "How does that work?" Woman 1: "Apparently if you do sit ups, it works the stomach muscles under the layer of fat on your tummy and makes your stomach stick out, so I think they're probably a bad idea." Woman 2: "Gosh yes, I don't want sit ups to make me fatter, I'll stop doing them too."

Are you kidding me........??! As they say, a little bit of knowledge can be dangerous!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Good Times!

My training mojo is SLOWLY on its way back! Hurray! About time too! I did a five mile run at lunch which I felt I good have extended for another couple of miles which is great so I am going to push on with an 8 miler tomorrow.

The swim challenge is proving to be a great motivator. A lot of people advised me not to do it as I would get stale, might get injured etc but I knew that I would need something to keep me going and it is working well. I appreciate I am only 7 days down and it is going to get TOUGH over the next week or so but I have tried to get people from the RunnersWorld forum to help me along by swimming a session with me or posting a session for me to do. This really helps me along the way.

I have often wondered when I hear elite swimmers talking about 'fast' pools how that can really be true but I can tell there is such a huge difference between the pool at Henlow and the pool at DL. When I swam in the Henlow pool a few days ago when I still had my cold and my inner ear problems were affecting my balance it was honestly a weird, surreal experience. Everything was bathed in a weird light from my orange goggles and it was so bouncy underwater I felt like I was a bottle bobbing on an ocean - it was a bit trippy and disconcerting. I have discovered this week that ears truly are important for the old balance thing and I suppose that may explain why I have been a bit clumsier this week also? Anyway, the DL pool is a joy to swim in and feel fast and tonight when I did my 70 lengths I felt really strong. That was a bit surprising considering it was a double training day which I though might kill me after my virtual inactivity of the last 6 weeks but no! It turns out training is good for you!!

Plus I have been so boosted by two compliments I have received in the last two days. Firstly a colleague from work was swimming along in the lane next to me and confessed he had tried over his last few lengths to keep up with me and concluded I was 'shifting along a bit' (maybe not so slow and steady after all!) And then tonight at the pool after my session, the lifeguard actually came up to me and said he wished he could swim like me! I was so proud! :) He said, those other guys were swimming around the same speed as you but you made it look so easy, you have such a great slide! So there you go, even though I am not sure my super low stroke rate is going to win me any points in the Channel, it is at least easy on the eye!! Anyway, I don't know if the daily swim is making me more efficient or a better swimmer but those quotes really boosted me and will help me over the next tough weeks. The point today I think, it that compliments are ALWAYS well-received. If you want to compliment someone but are afraid they might think it a bit cheesy, I say go ahead! You never quite know what you might be encouraging!!

Monday, 4 October 2010

Time Flies.....

So much has gone on in the last two weeks that I want to talk about so I will try and cover it all in the next few posts. As you probably gathered I had a fantastic time during my swim to the Isle of Wight but generally the time since the Double has been extremely tough. I have always wanted to try and identify the highs and lows of training for an event such as this but don't want to put too much out there on a public forum. Suffice to say that I have certainly had post-event blues which I have been told are extremely normal. The problem is that I still haven't really had my post-season month off yet because despite doing very little training I have still been caught up mentally in the Channel relay and the Isle of Wight swim. It has also been a difficult time personally as three days before the relay, I lost my Uncle suddenly to cancer which had only been diagnosed shortly before. All this combined with a tough time at work and Adam still being away has made me extremely lethargic and not really up for anything, let only training. I think the mental aspect of training for an event such as this is really interesting and I'd love there to be some psychological studies done on the personality types of women, in particular, who attempt these sort of events. I really believe people are searching for something or running from something or have some sort of addictive personality when they do these kind of things. I'm not saying this is a negative thing as, well managed, this is obviously helping people to achieve fabulous things but I do know a number of women who are top endurance specialists who are using their events to escape depression or eating disorders. I wonder what my poison is?!

Anyway, Adam was home last week which really really helped me get things a bit back into perspective and cheered me up a bit. I am SLOWLY starting to feel like training again and have set up a challenge for myself so I can get a great swim block in through October while he's still away. The challenge is to swim 10lengths x the day of the month so 10L on the first day, 20 on the second all the way to 310 lengths on the 31st. It will be extremely tough especially during the latter half of the month but I am hoping it will get me back into the routine of training and build me a great block of swim endurance too!

The first three days are under my belt but typically I have been hit by a horrid cold the last few days - I hope I can shake it before the number of lengths increases significantly!

I need to have a think about what I'd like to achieve in intermediate goals by the end of the year. I am thinking a 10km swim and a marathon but we'll see how it goes! Not even thinking of biking until it gets warm again - it's hard enough fitting in two sports - how on earth did I manage with three! (oh yes, I didn't really do any swimming - well that's certainly en route to change!!)

Day 4 - 40 lengths here I come! :)

Friday, 17 September 2010

Isle of Wight and a half!

So today I swam to the Isle of Wight. This swim had been pencilled in for a good fews months and I figured it would be more valuable open water swim experience plus it would be good to do a swim where I start at one point and finish at another. I had booked the fantastic Keith Plumridge to pilot my support boat and he had arrange a safety kayaker, Nick. I had asked Keith to make arrangements so that I could do a two way swim if I felt up to it but I wasn't sure if I would manage the 7mile total at this stage given my longest swim to date was the Double 6 weeks ago and my longest open water swim is about 75mins.

We couldn't have been more lucky with the weather, lovely and sunny and the water felt warm especially from the safety of the wetsuit. I will write more details about the swim once I had a bit of a rest as I pretty tired at the moment but I just wanted to write my key lessons learnt from the swim before I forget them.

I hadn't ever fed during a swim before so I didn't give any instructions to my support kayaker which was a mistake as it meant didn't feed at all during the first crossing which took a smidgen over two hours and I could feel my energy draining away towards the end and I knew that would affect the return crossing. I think a feed at the first hour and then every 30mins from then will suit me and it was a very timely reminder as to how important nutrition is.

I now even more firmly believe that the key to the Arch 2 Arc is conditioning the body to undergo the stresses and strains. Core conditioning and strength are going to be SO important and must be the key focus of winter training. I am quite lordotic in my lower spine anyway (my bum sticks out!!) and with the increased buoyancy in my legs from the wetsuit this put quite a large strain on my lower back. I think this would make me quit much sooner than shoulder pain would. I also got some discomfort in my hip flexors which I know are always tight so I need to work to get my leg muscles balanced and have a good stretching programme. My arms felt reasonably ok, my elbow joint was actually more sore than my shoulders but generally they held up well over the 3hrs. It also doesn't help that I only breathe to one side as my lower back was worse on the left side due to me only breathing that way. CORE CONDITIONING is going to be CRUCIAL!!!!

I got a lot of chafing at the back of my neck on the hairline - this has been a common problem in this wetsuit so I need to check I am pulling it up enough at the back and put loads and loads of grease there.

Right, desperate for a cup of tea, will write more on the actual swim later!

Monday, 13 September 2010

Gaining Channel experience....

So as you will know, last week Team Love 146 and myself set off to swim across the Channel. For me, it was another few hours to be spent gaining valuable Channel experience in advance of the Arch 2 Arc next year. Honestly, I wasn't really looking forward to the swim before I got down there - it seemed that the waiting had dragged on too long and interfered with my rest-period post-Double and I just wanted to get it over with. Plus, I was nervous that I hadn't done any cold water acclimitisation this year and worried that perhaps, like last year, I had been a bit arrogant in my lack of preparation. Still, there was nothing that could be done now and last Fridau just saw the last minute packing and food preparation before waking at 2.30am on Saturday morning ready for a swim at 6.30am. Of course, I had the added stress of being the team organiser this time around but I was actually quite proud that I managed to remember everything including stuff like taking people's NOK details just in case. I met up with the team at the Marina car park and they seemed a great bunch. We had two English, 2 Kiwis, 1 Polish and 1 Irish swimmer - quite a mix! Kasia, our Polish contingent is swimming a solo in a few weeks and seems supremely in control compared to the rest of us! Her swimming is a joy to watch and to the dulcet tones of Rule Britannia (ironic considering she's Polish!) she led our attempt out of the bay just after 7am on Saturday 5th August.

Thankfully I had remembered to drug myself up thoroughly this year and I did managed my nausea much better. It might have helped that we were on a much larger boat aswell this year which meant there was space to spread out and sit up on deck. It was also nicer to know I only had probably two, at a real push, three swims to do and I had 5hours off between swims. Those first five hours were a bit of a wait though as I watched the other team members get their first swims done. I had chosen to go last to maximise the amount of time other people got swimming - as it was their first time I wanted them to get value for money (!) and hopefully get the chance to swim in as many conditions as possible including a night swim. Despite all their assurances that the water was warm I knew I wouldn't be able to relax until I had felt the temperature myself.

Finally it was my turn and I lined up at the back of the boat to undertake a handover from Jane. I jumped into the water and despite the initial shock of cold which I knew would come, I settled down and actually the water was fairly warm. By the end of the hour my skin had started to feel a little cold but I had very few shivers getting out and warmed up quickly which was good news. There were periods where it was quite choppy and I certainly couldn't resist looking at my watch - people that say those hours pass quickly are quite frankly, liars, in my opinion (!) but I had two pretty enjoyable swims. A hugely more positive experience than last time. Not that I would change last time as that is valuable experience to have in the memory should I face horrible conditions during the Arch 2 Arc but it's nice to know the Channel can be kind when she wants! I did a few prayers to Poseidon and also to my Uncle who had sadly passed away four days before and I felt protected in the sea and strong throughout. I was also able to swim on the correct side this time (the one that matches my breathing side) and it was really helpful! I thought I wouldn't like not being able to see what was on my non-breathing side but actually I wasn't too bothered and it was nice being able to see the boat and be distracted by what was going on on-board! I also found that my ideal position was about 3metres or so off the boat and about mid-way down just past the pilot's window. I didn't like the periods where I got too far in front on the boat and this was also good knowledge for next year.

We did have some difficult points in the swim where we weren't moving against the tide and it took us a considerably longer time than we first anticipated. We finally finished just before I had to get in for my third hour (well done Jane!) in a time of 16hours and 11minutes. I felt happy with my swims during which I had felt strong and comfortable. I do wonder about my stroke rate though which was nearly 15spm lower than others at around 47-48 compared to Kasia's 62-63. I will take some advice from Dan, Steve, Lynn and Eddie about whether this will be a factor in my swim and see if I need to work hard to increase it.

All in all a good experience and really helpful for next year! Well done to my fab team - they were a great bunch to work with and I'm proud of them all. Good luck to Kasia for her solo - I am sure, given the right weather window, she'll do brilliantly!

Friday, 3 September 2010

We are a go!

So I finally heard from our boat pilot last night, Eddie Spelling on the beautiful boat Anastasia, that we are a go for 0630hrs tomorrow. Cue much frantic texting to the team to get organised with poor Kieran having to quickly sort out a flight over from Ireland in order to arrive in time! Didn't sleep much last night for thinking of things I have forgotten to pack! Hopefully I remembered most things and just have to do a food shop this afternoon before getting up in the middle of the night to head down to Dover. I figure so long as I have a cossie and goggles and definitely sea sickness tablets this time (!!) then I should be ok! It will be nice to get the majority of the swim done during the day light hours with hopefully a nice warm sun on our backs - it makes SUCH a difference if you are already warm before you plunge into the freezing water! Though it does lead to some contraversial tan lines! Poor Adam, I don't think he's seen me yet this year without a random assortment of criss-crosses! My best to date were those I had on return from Cyprus, I had sock marks then cycling short marks then running short marks plus fingerless glove marks - NOT pretty!

I am also regretting a Body Pump class I attended on Wednesday. I have decided that the best approach for the A2A is to spend the winter getting really strong and conditioning my body to be able to withstand the rigours of training come January. So lots of weights, body pump, body conditioning, pilates and core stability classes. So I hit the class with vigour on Wednesday! I was so rubbish - I could hardly do the exercises with even the lightest weights on the bar and there were all these tiny gym bunnies twiddling weights around without so much as breaking as sweat! Well, vanity led me to really go for it on the bicep set with the result that I woke the next morning unable to straighten my arms! Even today, I am still struggling to get them fully straight - useful when you're about to cross one of the busy shipping channels in the world! :)

So, here goes - I shall report back as soon as I have stopped being completely knackered - took a few days last time! Wish me and Team Love146 luck!!

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Playing the waiting game........

So post-Double I had a few more achievements I wanted to tick off before I wrapped up the season. The first was my second cross-Channel relay which was to be a 6-man team this time. Our tide was due to start on the 17th August and would run until the 24th. We were number three position on the tide. Basically for every tide period (around a week) the boat pilot will book four swims (soloists tend to book up the first two slots). When the is a weather gap he calls the first person due to swim and asks if they want to swim. If they like the look of the weather they swim, if they don't, the second person is called etc.

Well the weather has been terrible all tide. It is now the last day of our tide and there doesn't look like there will be a break until the weekend. Eddie Spelling, our boat pilot and my boat pilot for next year's A2A attempt has said there is a slim chance of a swim tomorrow but realistically it looks like Friday is the earliest. We will thus be swimming on a Spring tide which isn't too much of a problem except that the tides will be much stronger and could push us more easily away from the French coast. Also, it is complicated by one of our team members having to return home to Ireland tomorrow for work and other of our team members having a holiday booked to Sweden over the Bank Holiday weekend!

So we play the waiting game. I was planning to do no further exercise between the Double and the swim to let my body recover totally and have a bit of a break but dragging no training into three weeks would be a bit daft so I resumed training on Friday with an easy swim. On Saturday I did a killer cardio conditioning session for 90mins in the gym and I woke on Sunday not being able to move. My quads and shoulders felt worse that post-Double! That will teach me for getting back into it too quickly! A gentle 50 lengths of the pool on Sunday helped loosen things a bit but I took a welcome rest day yesterday as well. I will continue ticking over this week with some running, spin and swimming but nothing too major as we may be called to swim at any time.

I have also confirmed my cross-Solent swim with Keith Plumridge for 17th September which should be another tick in the experience bank and my longest OW swim to date. It is just over three miles across the Solent and so I will hopefully complete each direction in between 90mins - 2hrs dependent on the tide which we swim perpendicular to. So a total of 3-4hours in the water - great training! :)

Thursday, 12 August 2010

2010 Double Ironman Race Report (Part 6)

Post-race:

I was amazed how quickly you can go from running and feeling strong to seizing up totally and hobbling around like a cripple! It took me about all of 2mins! I spent some time speaking with other people’s crews who had been so kind in supporting me and finding out updates on where their various loved ones were and I commiserated with Rachael about her race. I was so disappointed for her but amazed at her generosity of spirit that she could cheer so enthusiastically for the rest of us ladies while obviously being sad that she was unable to finish the race. There were plenty of people out there that I wanted to see in, including her husband Steve, so we stayed around for a couple of hours chatting to people and refuelling on a massive bacon cheeseburger from the food van – it was utterly gorgeous!!

Mum had yet again been a star and packed up most of the stuff into the car already so all I had to do was pick up my bike. I actually abandoned her again for a quick rub down of my quads with Tim and when I came out she had finished all the last bits and pieces. I could however see she was desperately flagging by this stage so I went to collect my bike, thanked all the team and promised we’d be back out again in the morning to support some of the finishing Triplers! We made out way to the car park where we found Rach folding Steve into the car for the drive back to Milton Keynes – they were heading off on holiday tomorrow and had to get home. Poor Steve was so tired he had to be ably assisted by Rach and Michelle just to get his seatbelt on!! We got back to the hotel around 9.30 totally tired out and couldn’t be bothered to move further than the local McDonalds to pick up some food. Mum was exhausted and by the time I returned up to the eyeballs in junk food she had fallen asleep fully clothed on her bed! I ate my little picnic quietly, had a very welcome shower where I was faced with the dilemma of how to clean my (very!) dirty feet whilst not being able to bend down and finally collapsed totally shattered into bed!

We woke up pretty stiff around 8am and my calves were locked which meant anything other than standing on tiptop was a challenge! Summoning my old sports therapy expertise I gave them a little rub down and soon they felt better. One of my first thoughts though was, how on earth are there still people out there competing? Throughout a whole second night!!! After a quick shower we headed down to breakfast and met up with a lot of the other Double athletes and some of the speedy Triplers to swap war stories and the highs and lows of the last 48hours. It was amazing to hear some of the battles people had faced and once again I realised how lucky I was not to have faced any major difficulties. I wanted to head back to Friary Grange to see some of the other athletes come in as I knew that Marie and Sally would no doubt still be out there doing an utterly awesome job of supporting their men. I also couldn’t believe that some of the marshals were still there, in their same spots, still cheerful and enthusiastically supporting those still on the course. Watching some of the athletes still out there, obviously in a lot of pain but still moving and still determined to finish was totally inspiring. I was again privileged enough to get to run a lap with the inimitable Reverend Graham and we moved along at a comfortable shuffle together talking over the events of the weekend and appreciating the bond that an event like this puts between people.

As I left the Reverend to carry on, I found Monique in the physio tent having finished her Triple in around 50hrs. I am so in awe of her achievement and for not being afraid to mix it with the boys. I couldn’t believe how easy she was running after getting off that bike, puts my stand alone marathon to shame. After bumping into a fellow Doubler eating chips with gravy we decided that was the order of the day (chips obviously NOT gravy!) and headed into town. Despite my warning Mum got a ‘regular’ cod and chips whilst I sensibly stuck to my small portion. It was absolutely massive! Still the remnants of it went down extremely well with those athletes still out on the course with them grabbing greasy handfuls to fuel them as they came through the village. Some bless them, had the grace to apologise for their dirty hands!

It was amazing to finally see Ted finish having felt as though we have all lived with him through his many highs and lows this year which culminated in him decided to upgrade to the Triple just a few days before. Marie was there to meet him and it was a truly touching sight to see them together having both struggled through many sacrifices to meet their goals. Having seen the Reverend out into single figures, it was time to get my tired-out mother home and I began the long process of saying goodbye to the other support crews and the wonderful Enduroman team. Though I am nervous about the challenge of next year I feel so much more confident having met Steve and Eddie. You can see how much they support their athletes and how they will truly do all they can to help get them through to meet their goals. Of course, behind every good man….are Lynn and Kathy who were so warm and calm throughout and obviously fully embrace the Enduroman spirit.

In summary (finally!) I had a wonderful race. I was extremely lucky to muddle through with no real problems and to feel strong throughout. I really hope I gave a good account of myself and made my friends and family proud. It was an honour and a privilege to race with such wonderful other athletes and I hope everyone is justly proud of their achievements and got everything they wanted out of the race. Thanks of course must go once again to the wonderful Marshals and support crews who were so kind and enthusiastic, to Tim, the physio who sorted my back out, to Dan for keeping me eating despite protests (!) and to the wonderful Enduroman team who put on such a fantastic event. I also want to thank my friends and family who came to support me and who continue to support me each and every day and my gorgeous fiancĂ© who couldn’t be with me at the event but who I know was there in spirit willing me on and who has given me the last and next 12months to discover everything I need to about myself through completing this and hopefully the A2A. Lastly, my Mum who flew out from France to support me so wonderfully throughout the event. She did everything totally selflessly even when she was exhausted, got everything right and I truly couldn’t have done it without her!

2010 Double Ironman Race Report (Part 5)

The Run:

I set off onto the run feeling pretty good. The plan initially was to stick with what I had done at IMCH and start off with a run/walk ratio of 9:1 dropping to 4:1 after 2.5hrs and walking any uphills. In the end the course lent itself nicely to run/walking as once you left the leisure centre there was a pavement leading up the road uphill to the point where you cross into the ‘Blair Witch Woods’. After climbing the steep steps cut into the mud that leads you up into the woods it is then flat until the run turnaround point. At the run turn-around point it is then again a long drag back up the road before heading downhill past the entrance to the woods and back into the leisure centre. So I decided early on that I would walk the long uphill drags and run the woods and the downhill back into the leisure centre and then I didn’t have to worry about timings or looking at my watch. I thought that would mean I would end up running about 60% and walking 40% which I thought would work.

On my first lap out I bumped into Marie who was doing an amazing job with only 3 or so laps to go until the end of her single IM. Her husband was entered into the Triple and she had decided to support him by entering her first IM. They both sacrificed a lot to make the start line and their stories are inspiring. When I caught up with Marie she was looking pretty upset and I asked what the matter was. It turns out she was battling a serious lower leg injury and could hardly run. She also had only 26minutes to make her cut-off and was feeling really low. I decided to spend my first two warm up laps with her encouraging her and pushing her on. I could see the panic that all her training and sacrifices would go to waste and I hoped I helped her through the worst of it. I encouraged her to push on and run when she could and her determination to push through the pain and do everything she could to make her cut off was absolutely awe-inspiring. It was absolutely the best motivation I could have received having been about to set off on my own journey of trials and tribulations so I thank Marie for allowing me the privilege of running those few laps with her, your strength inspired me so much to keep on if trouble hit.

With one lap to go for Marie, I left her to enjoy her glory moment and hit the tent to do a kit change. Now our tent is not particularly accommodating and my mother decided this was the time to renege on her crewing duties and go all David Bailey on me taking flattering shots such as me reversing lycra-clad arse first back out of the tent – thanks Mum! After a sponge down, baby wipe, hairbrush and change of clothes I felt in fine fettle and headed out for lap 4 of the run. I decided to run in my Skins as my quads were feeling pretty sore – probably from running a marathon only 13 days before! Having short laps was ideal as it was never far until the next interest point or friendly marshal! I really enjoyed running through the woods and the marshals on the run turn-around did an absolutely sterling job all day – they were so supportive and friendly, always cheering me on.

I was absolutely starving after the first few laps but was nervous about eating solid food having always relied on gels etc during long runs before and I was worried what it might do to my guts. On the return to the tent, Mum was nowhere to be found (I had, to be fair released her for a few laps to go have a wash-up) and I dived in rummaging through our things and coming out with half a buttered teacake in each fist! As there was a good walking section just after the athlete village I decided to eat the teacake, do the walking bit and then see how the woods felt for running. If my stomach didn’t like it I would just have that as a walking bit also. Happily I didn’t seem to have many problems and alternated through those first few laps as sugar lap (sweets or gels), water lap (to settle stomach), solid food lap (1/2 a roll or small bit of cake). Though the laps were short, getting to the half way point seemed to take forever!! I think because there are 42 laps and 42kms in a marathon I sort of equated (though I knew it wasn’t) that a lap was a km! Of course, as we were doing a double marathon each lap was actually 2kms so they didn’t come down as quickly as I had in my head that they would. Finally I reached the halfway point of 21 laps – hurray!!

Around this time I began to realise that the Danish girl who had been well ahead of me was really starting to struggle. She was starting to take walk breaks whereas before she had been mainly running. I caught up with her on one lap and asked if she was ok. She said she was really struggling with the heat and maybe hadn’t got her nutrition and hydration right. I did feel bad for her as she was only young though apparently she is quite an experienced athlete and I was thankful that Mum was winning the ongoing battle with me about keeping eating! As I started running again, it occurred that I had just gained a lap back on her and I began to wonder how far ahead she actually was. As she had come off the back at least 30mins ahead of me and had been running strongly for a marathon I thought she would be at least 6 or 7 laps ahead of my more relaxed run/walk pace. Within another 2 or 3 laps I had passed her again and decided to ask the run turnaround marshals how far ahead she was. It turned out she was now just over three laps ahead of me. Though I knew that was still quite a long way to make up (nearly 4miles within the 25 or so I head left) I began to get a little excited that maybe I could catch her. I decided not to really change my strategy but see if she continued to suffer and came back to me. I was aware that by pushing on and not sticking to my own race I could easily end up in the same predicament, only a few laps before she had been running well. So I continued with my run/walk plan, continuing to enjoy the run and take the time to speak with the marshals each lap. There was a road crossing just before the ‘Blair Witch Woods’ and the guys there were utterly wonderful, they must have been there for a good 24hours at least preventing all us zombiefied runners from being run over!!

I continued to stick to the plan but decided just to spend last time each lap chatting to Mum and the support crews in the athlete’s village. I had a few laps where I just grabbed a gel or half a banana from Mum and powered on through and soon I was within a lap or so of the leading girl. Around this time some of my friends arrived to support me so I eased back off the pace again a little as I wanted to be able to spend time with them on each lap and to thank them for coming over. I was also being lectured by Mum and Dan, who had formed some kind of pincer movement, that I must eat so I calmed down a bit and chowed down on mini-sausages and sweets!

I caught the leading lady with about 18 laps to go and concentrated on getting a few further laps between us in case she had a resurgence. I couldn’t believe for the slightest moment that I was the leading woman in the race as I just never win anything like this. I am a very middle of the pack athlete and though my aim was to lead out the swim I could believe here I was 26hours later back in the lead. It was a wonderful exciting experience and I was grinning like a Cheshire cat! Once I had put those few laps between us I decided I was going to now relax totally through the last half marathon or so and just really enjoy the experience as I was definitely not doing it again!! Adam managed to call again around lap 37 and we had a very random conversation in the woods. He couldn’t believe I had now been going for 28hours but was so excited for me that I was on the last stretch. He said he would call back in a little while when I had finished. I said I had about 6miles to go, so he said he would phone in an hour or so. I was like, um, try about 2 hours! Think his mind was boggled that I was going that slowly!!!

Finally I hit my 40th lap and I could begin to think of the finish. On your last lap you run the opposite direction to the other laps you have completed so you can high five all the other runners on the course as you pass them. Before setting out on my last lap I changed into my Herbalife kit and spent a moment with my Mum to thank her for all the amazing help and support she had given me over the last 32hours. I told her the last lap was for her and gave her a massive hug, I hope she was proud of what I had managed. The last lap was amazing! I was flying along, wanting to finish but also conscious to take it as slowly as I could and really absorb the atmosphere of that last lap and the feeling of achievement. I took the time to thank all the marshals who had supported us all so well for so long and happily high-fived and hugged my way past all the familiar faces I had raced with over the last two days. I took a short moment in the woods when it was quiet to reflect on what, for me, had been a perfect race. I had been so lucky. Bar a bit of soreness early on in the bike, I had had no major issues. I had no injuries, hadn’t felt sick or unwell, hadn’t got really tired, had no mechanicals, the weather had been fairly kind and I had been brilliantly and selflessly supported by my friends and family and most wonderfully all the other crews, marshals and the Enduroman team. I was full of happiness as I ran my way down the hill and into the athlete village for the last time. All the support crews high fived me down the run-in chute and I finally crossed under the finish banner in 32.16, and the female winner of the Double Ironman UK. Steve shook my hand and placed my medal round my neck and I posed for my finisher’s photo. I found my Mum and gave her a big hug and got a second photo taken of the three of us grinning from ear to ear! I had done it!

2010 Double Ironman Race Report (Part 4)

Bike:

Urgh, the bike! This was the aspect that had been most worrying me. I knew I had massively improved my endurance at least on the bike but having only done 127miles previously I was worried I hadn’t done enough. I was conscious of trying not to push too hard on the bike as everyone had advised me how badly pushing too hard on the bike can affect your run. So I was fairly sedate on the first few laps coming in around 53mins a lap, stopping for a few mouthfuls of food and heading out again. I knew it was really important to eat and though I didn’t like eating whilst actually cycling, eating when I had stopped was not a problem at all. I had been worried about not drinking enough during a swim and I think this might have been the case as I was starting to get a thumping headache. However, my neck and upper shoulders were also really tight and I mentioned this to Mum at the end of the third lap. She told me I should see the physio who was on-site all the time and had said we should come to him at the earliest opportunity so he had a chance to sort things out before they got too problematic. I didn’t really want to come off the course after only four hours especially as I wanted to try and get 6 or 7 laps in before dark but Mum was insistent (clever girl!) and said she would just see what the process was for booking in with him whilst I was out on my next lap. It has to be said that whilst I was keeping reasonable speed I didn’t much enjoy lap 4, the headache was there, my neck was sore and my helmet straps had inexplicably worked loose at the back so it was falling down my face which didn’t help my neck as I was having to peer out of it.

As I entered the athlete’s village at the end of lap 4, Mum was at the entrance waving me down and saying I was booked into with the physio and was to go straight there. So, no time to argue! I headed into the physio tent and told Tim what I was struggling with. He asked me how long a break I wanted as he could do however long I said. I was tempted to have a good hour (or thirty!) but said just 5 or 10mins should see me ok. He first loosened the muscles in my neck and shoulders and then said he was going to release some of the joints as the whole of my upper spine was locked and it was no wonder I was in pain and getting headaches. After a few good cracks, I felt much better and that, combined with my first two ibuprofen to help with the headache saw me good for the next few laps. As I said, I had written Mum a list but I often found I didn’t want much of the sweet stuff (especially muesli bar type things) I had suggested and luckily she was brilliant and often had hot savoury stuff ready for me without any prompting!

By lap 7 it was beginning to get dark and when I stopped that time it was time for lights and my high vis vest. I hadn’t really felt cold at all up to this point. Looking at the Rev in the video last year I had worried I would start to get really cold as the temperature dropped but apart from changing my high vis gilet for a jacket I stayed in just my short sleeve cycling top all night without ever feeling really cold – we were so lucky that the rain was only really showers interspersed with periods of sun which actually got quite hot and they themselves had cleared by the time the evening came. The only thing that did make the biking difficult was the wind. It was one of those joyous cyclic winds that somehow appear to be in your face the whole time and it did definitely slow some of the sections down considerably. However, generally the weather held and I was just so glad we didn’t have the torrential storms they had faced last year!

I was so glad I had managed to get seven laps done before the night came as I knew that it was only one lap to go until half way and I had some good milestones to achieve throughout the night such as the end of lap 10 which would signify my longest ever cycle. In my head I broke it down into 4 sections of four laps and only ever focused on one segment at a time. I instructed Mum on the psychology of the segments and keeping me focused on just one part of the time. For example, I was excited to reach 8 laps as it was halfway but I told Mum to encourage me by saying stuff like, ‘brilliant you’re on your third segment’, NOT stuff like, ‘excellent one IM down only one to go’, which just focuses you on the fact you have another IM to do instead of just the first lap of a segment!!

I had never cycled in the dark before and hadn’t even had my lights on except in the sitting room so I didn’t know how well I would be able to see or if they would point in the right direction. I had various different attachments holding all my borrowed lights on but Carl’s uber-lumicycle light duct-taped between my tribars was actually all I needed. In fact I got quite a lot of abuse from cars who thought I was on ‘high beam’! A few of them flashed me to turn it down and one polite young man even yelled out of his car as he passed, ‘Turn your light down you flaming poof’ which amused me no end! J After the pain of the first few bike laps which was honestly the only time I felt, ‘Why on earth am I doing this, I just want to be at home’ I settled in and I quite enjoyed cycling at night. Psychologically it was easier aswell as I just said to myself, ‘All you have to do is cycle until the sun comes back up and you’re done’. Just thinking of that kept me going. I didn’t get cold and Mum continued to feed me good food – she handed me some chicken super-noodles around lap 9 which were certainly not on the list and I was sure I didn’t want but were amazing upon eating them – she’s a genius my mother! J I didn’t even really get tired through the night. I had a slight dip around 4am but by then I had less than two laps left and I knew the sun would be up in around another hour and that would make me feel more alert so I just plodded on and sure enough the sun did soon rise and I was onto the last lap. The marshals had been SO amazing through the night, they were like little beacons of joy – I just wanted to get to them each time! There was one random guy who appeared about half way through the night in a layby about halfway along one of the long straight stretches and began cheering us on, yelling and clanging a cow bell. I had no idea at the time if he was an actual official or just a random weirdo come to join other weirdos cycling through the night! I did later find out he was official and I thanked him for amusing me for a good few laps!

It was weird not knowing who the other people cycling past you were, you couldn’t shout out to people like you could during the day and I also didn’t know how the other girls were doing. I knew I had lead until the end of the eighth lap when I came in for some more physio but the girl in second, an experienced Danish endurance athlete overtook me at this time and I didn’t see her again after that. I also caught up with my friend Rachael a few times and I could see she was struggling on the bike. She said she had had awful nausea and couldn’t really eat and the pills she was trying to take for the nausea she was just throwing up again. A horrid vicious cycle to be in and though she was super brave and battled on as much as possible she finally withdrew off the bike in the early hours of the morning. Luckily for me and because of Carl’s super light, I didn’t feel I had too much of a drop off in speed through the night and cycled reasonably consistently. I didn’t enjoy the bike as such though it did have it highs but I felt strong and as happy as possibly throughout which was a blessing! One of the highs was my fiancĂ© calling me from Afghanistan at 2.30am in the morning. Luckily I had just reached the end of the lap and was scoffing ravioli in transition. I was worried I would break down a bit speaking to him as I obviously miss him and was upset he couldn’t be there to support me and I was having to focus quite hard on staying positive and strong on the bike and I thought it might disrupt all that. However, it was just wonderful to speak to him and have him be able to be part of the race a little bit even from so far away and I was happy again for another lap of so!

Finally the last lap came! All in all I had had a good experience on the bike, nothing awful had happened, I didn’t feel bad at any point and had kept quite strong. As I said, I certainly didn’t love it and I was FULL of joy to get off the bike and out running but it really wasn’t the huge bogeyman I had made it out to be. Having the mantra of just ‘Cycle until the sun comes up’ really helped me as it had links with my new philosophy of stuff like this – the oft quoted saying, ‘This too shall pass’. And it did! And I gratefully handed in my bike to Eddie, wandered over to Mum and got ready for the Double Marathon!!

T2:

I had a plan that I wanted to get out pretty much immediately onto the run course and get two laps under my belt before changing into run kit. I thought this would give my legs the chance to get into run mode plus it would mean I only had 4 x 10 laps to get through. So I swapped my helmet and gloves for my trainers and hit the run!

2010 Double Ironman Race Report (Part 3)

The Swim:

The swim is always a strange one for me as, being my background I don’t tend to think too much about it. In fact, I was at this stage wondering if I had been rather too arrogant about relying on having done it for so many years as I really have done very little swim training in preparation for the Double, probably averaging less than 2 hours a week. I also worry so much about getting on the bike that it almost comes as a bit of a shock that I have to get in the pool and swim for 2.5hours before even getting anywhere near my pedals! The lanes had been seeded by IM times and I think I was fortunate in that I was seeded 4th overall which meant I was in the fastest swim lane but the slowest swimmer in that lane. This meant plenty of opportunity for drafting off those who were a bit speedier. I was more than happy to take my turn at the front when necessary but I was just that little bit off the pace of the others so often found myself happily at the back again, hanging onto feet!! I had planned to stop every km or so for a drink and started off by counting 40 lengths, stopping, drinking and setting off again. This coupled with stopping every 10laps or so to let people overtake worked reasonably well through the first 4k.

By around 4k I was tiring slightly, not so much that I was concerned that the lack of swim training would kick in but just a little fatigued. My wetsuit was rubbing slightly at the neck but I didn’t have any major concerns and I think I held my pace fairly consistently. They were running a leaderboard at the side of the pool which was updated every km with people’s times – in hindsight I should have got Mum to write those times down so I could see how consistent I was but never mind. Between 4km and 6km I did start to get a bit bored of swimming and had to try and keep myself focused. I broke it down at this point to stopping every 20 to help mentally and also as I was worried I wasn’t drinking that much and may start getting a headache as I often do in the pool. Asking the lane counters at 5km how many lengths I had done, they said 5,150 which was nice as I had a few extra banked that I didn’t know about! I tried to ignore those though and keep to counting the 20lengths as before as I knew they’d be a nice surprise over the last 600m! And they were! Once I had reached 7km, I said to myself, just 6 x 100m and you are out of here. I pushed on through each 100m but the two-lap to go float came into the water much quicker than I had expected so it was nice to have those lengths in hand that I hadn’t been counting!

Out of the water in around 2.16 and I really wanted to get under 2.20 for the swim. My secret aim had been to get under 2.20 (I had said 2.30 as I thought that was realistic given an IM time of 71mins but I had secretly hoped that with the drafting and wetsuit I could go 2.20) and be the first woman out of the swim so with those two boxes ticked I was very chuffed! I was aware the timing mat was out near bike racking though so I grabbed my bottles and went to pick up my race bag from my crew. Unfortunately this was the time they decided it would be good to do a photo shoot so, with one eye on the clock, I dutifully posed for prosperity! I then legged it out of the door and rushed up to the bikes. Finally across the mat in 2.19 – hurray!!





T1:

I knew that I didn’t want to change in the pool as I wanted to try and get a good swim time so I had made up a bag of bike kit and placed it in the change marquee next to bike racking. I had decided I would swim in tri shorts and a sports bra as I didn’t want to face getting too naked in the tent as who knows who might have been out at the same time as me! In the end it was just myself and the other RAF representative, Mike , so I do apologise if he got an eyeful! I decided in the end to change my top as it might give me a chill having it next to my skin so after wrangling with my wetsuit, I changed then added a cycling jersey, gloves, glasses, socks and shoes. I was just debating what other layers I might require when the heavens literally opened so it was on with a water-proof and off out to my bike. I handed over my kit bag to my crew waiting near bike racking, stuffed some soreen and a gel into my back pocket and wobbled off to the mount line.

2010 Double Ironman Race Report (Part 2)

Race Day:

Woke up around 6.30am which was nice though it did feel odd that there were already people out there who had started their races and were on their way. Unplugged all the batteries I had felt the need to re-charge overnight despite them being fully charged when we left home in case they ‘de-charged’ themselves (!), and got ready for breakfast. Normally I have no dramas eating breakfast and have got the IM routine down-pat. Porridge with sugar or honey and sultanas, orange juice and tea then soreen and banana whilst setting up transition. As there was breakfast being put on in the hotel I thought I would do but to be honest I didn’t feel like eating any of it. Struggled through a bowl of Alpen, some Apple Juice, a yoghurt and a plain piece of really cheap and gross white bread. Back to the room to pack up and have a cup of tea and we were back at Friary Grange before 8am.

We couldn’t rack until 8.15am so I decided to drive the bike course whilst there were no athletes out there. The course seemed ok with just enough points of interest to act as markers and break it up into chunks. I could tell the return leg would be slower than the outward leg as there was a short steep hill over a train line and a long drag through some woods to contend with. Back to Friary Grange just after 8.15am and racked the bike after having my helmet and lights checked by Eddie. Then began the torturous process of lugging all the kit and food boxes to the tent from the car a good 300m away. Thankfully the tent had survived the night and now looked Lilliputian compared to the other behemoths surrounding it in the athlete’s village. I was knackered by the time we had got all the boxes into it and just wanted to lie down and contemplate the day ahead. However, we had a last minute Morrisons trip to do to get the fresh things such as rolls and milk so there was no time to stop. We had to be ready to go pool-side by 10.45am so, after returning from Morrisons, I decided it was about time to get down there. At this point my in-laws arrived which was wonderful so I support crew of three for the swim. We headed down to the pool around 10am as it takes me a good 20minutes to get my wetsuit on!! I was absolutely boiling and I think all crew members were relieved when told I only needed them at the beginning of the swim and the end so they were free to get fresh air for the rest of the time!

It was great to see some of the Triple athletes still swimming – the fastest amongst them were already out of the bike but at this stage only 4hrs had elapsed so the majority were still there. We saw Pink Sally who said the Rev had done well and was about 5th out and that no one else was having too many problems which was good news. Around 10.15 am I started liberally lubing up with Body Glide and dragging my wetsuit on. I was continually stressing at this stage about how much energy it seemed to be taking out of me just to do simply things like get my wetsuit on and I did wonder how on earth I’d make it through the day! At 10.45am, Steve began calling us down to our lanes so red hat, earplugs, goggles and nutrition in hand, I hugged all my crew and nervously made my way down to my lane, number 5.

2010 Double Ironman Race Report (Part 1)

Pre-Race:

I had managed to be fairly organised in the days leading up to the race so when I went to pick up my Mum who was crewing for me from the airport on the Wednesday I thought I had most things done. I did still have the food shop to do (£100 of utter crap – OMG!!!) and I was still stressing about my lights as I hadn’t ever gone out on the bike on them and they were borrowed from about four different people as I was so worried about not being able to see!

On Thursday we did the food shop and I sat down with my Mum, who is a crew-newbie and tried to explain the nutrition strategy I thought I might use. Of course, I had no idea what I would want to eat either (hence the ‘buy everything anyone has ever suggested on any thread’ manic Tesco shop) so it was a bit like the blind leading the blind. I also tried to talk through the psychology of the race, how I might feel etc. and also talked her through lots of bits of kit which she had never heard of before – arm warmers, Nuun, bottle cage battery etc! We packed the car except for the bike and went down to the pub for a meal. My Thursday night Burger, Friday night Pasta strategy had worked well in Switzerland so I was keen to replicate it!

We set off around 11am on Friday for the journey to Lichfield – the car was loaded to the hilt and had the power of a geriatric ant but after a few hours we made it to the Friary Grange Leisure Centre. We had wanted to get there early in the hope that we would be able to pitch our tent before registration. We headed for the race HQ and met Steve, Kathy, Lynn and Eddie (the Enduroman team) and also the inimitable Dan Earthquake! Eddie said it was ok to pitch the tent and helped us identify the best spot – away from the loos and near the entrance/exit to the course. I did regret my £9.99 tesco tent purchase when I found one of the tent pole ends missing but in true military style we managed to fashion something! It took ages to put up as it was very windy and we must have looked a right comedy pair but finally it was all pegged down and looking lonely all by itself in the vast field. Around this point the legend that is the Reverend Graham and the beautiful Pink Sally arrived and put us to shame by erecting three tents within about four minutes! It was fantastic to finally start to put faces (and real names) to forum personas.

After the tent debacle we headed by to Esporta to check in and get ready for registration at 5pm. Unlike IM where you might arrive a few days before and have basically nothing to do but lie around and rest and eat and maybe have a gentle swim, I felt like I never stopped all day – there was so much to do logistically and so many amazing people to meet. I did try and have a bit of a nap on Friday afternoon as I was still struggling with a bit of a sore throat but woke again at 5pm in time for registration and the pasta party. At registration we got our race numbers and an amazingly well-stocked goodie bag and I finally got to meet loads more of the forumites. Everyone was SO friendly and inclusive and it looked like it might be a really wonderful experience as everyone was so supportive of everyone else. We chatted for a while to everyone and I realised my brain was already turning to mush when I couldn’t decide what to drink with my dinner and came back from the bar with water, coke and a fresh orange. Decisions just became too difficult over the following days!!

After the pasta party we went upstairs for the race brief. I was pretty knackered by this point and just thinking, God I could fall asleep right now, how am I going to manage to race tomorrow and stay up all through the night. Due to the massive logistics of the event, the brief seemed to take for ever, probably not least because I was desperate for the loo! After the brief we all went outside for a group photo and then Mum and I finally made our way to bed around 10pm.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Pre-race thoughts.....


So we're about to set off for sunny Lichfield so I thought I would write down my final thoughts about the race:

Firstly, I am still feeling a bit pants. MUCH better than Wednesday don't get me wrong but still a bit tired, weak and pathetic as well as snuffly. Look forward to lots of nose clearing on the bike - glamourous sport for us ladies eh? I have been getting better every day and hopefully that will continue tomorrow. However, I have the sore throat and snuffles of someone whose immune system has a breakdown just lurking in the background and I am praying it survives the weekend. It was definitely induced by racing an IM so close to this and some will say I was foolish for doing that. Other experienced endurance bods have said that is perfect prep and I was always going to do it. I owed it to the RAF really as they had support me with it all though maybe I did push it more than I needed. Still I had a good race and took lots of confidence from my run strategy so there are swings and roundabouts.

Bar the snuffles I continue to feel calm about this race as I have about all those since Ad went away. I can see that life is about so much more than these races - these are my hobbies. They are not that important - time will march on and the world will keep turning and very few people will care about 72 crazy athletes swimming, biking and running in circles in a Lichfield backwater. Now don't miss understand me, I want to complete the race and am motivated for it and I know how much it means to people, as it does to me too. What I have discovered though is I no longer have to be defined by these races, the world, even my world is bigger than these races are. Next year when I retire I look forward to my future as a wife and mother - those are the important things. (Disclaimer - only important to me - for others this may be their sole focus and I am not trying to take away from that AT ALL).

I feel ok about the swim - I am not good at sharing a lane, I don't like being held up and I panic about holding others up, I'd rather be in open water. But it is a long day and the last thing I ned to do is cause myself any stress over 2.5rs of it. So I will be calm and courteous to others and not get stressed. 10mins either way on the swim is not a problem - I'll be using that up just eating over the first few laps of the bike anyway!

The bike. I am a bit scared of the bike. It's long, it's going to be boring and probably uncomfortable and I have never cycled in darkness at all. Yep another numpty who has fastened all her lights on but hasn't tested them at all. They could be at completed the wrong angle or whatever. I could hate riding at night or I could love it and find that it is actually easier to concentrate, calmer than the bustle of daytime and easier to find peace and rationalise the crazy thing you're doing.

The run. Hmm, I have always been a poor runner. But I have stuck at it and have surprised myself with my capability in this. Both races I have run off the bike have seen me do really well (for me!) and have a comfortable time. I love run/walk. I think it is a super invention and helps me enormously. I am looking forward to the run. What will be will be at that stage and if I have to walk it all, I can do that. But I don't think I will have to. I am aiming to run/walk according to my schedule for at least 30-35miles. After that - who knows?!

Other thoughts? I must stayed focused on my own race. I can dragged in to trying to match others and get panicky when I cannot or overly confident if I can go past them. These things don't matter in this race. I just need to finish and I must stay steady on the bike as it can all go badly wrong on the run otherwise. I must stay focused and maintain momentum - every revolution takes me closer to the finish. And I must relax and have a good time, taking time to thank the marshals and my wonderful Mum who has come to support me (and has already been shouted out and we're not even there yet! I'm one apology in already!). I will only being doing this once so I need to savour the experience.

Bring on the Double Iron - it's going to be an interesting weekend!!

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

3 days to go!

So with three days to go until the Double Ironman I thought I would post a few thoughts about how I am feeling. I am surprisingly calm about the whole thing. Now, of course, my attitude may change dramatically by Friday evening but if it anything like Switzerland I am confident that I will be able to stay fairly relaxed. Of course, I had some nerves racking the bike at 5.30 in the morning before Switzerland but those were good nerves - anticipation and adrenaline rather than stomach churning or crippling! And I feel the same about the Double at the moment.

This year has been a bit of a relevation in that I have realised that I have been defined for too long by my need to do endurance events - ever longer and harder than before. I don't know where the drive comes from to do them, I was obviously searching for something, trying to fulfil some hole or gap that I couldn't pinpoint and didn't know where or how it came to be there. Behaviours like that I am sure are set from childhood and though I can identify various aspects that may have contributed I don't know feel the need to delve to deep. Whether it is through meeting Adam or being seperated from him as I am at the moment I don't know, but I finally understand that I am made up of much more than just the 'girl who does the crazy endurance events' and also that these events are my HOBBY. The world will not end if I don't do them or don't finish them, no-one will die and few people will even notice! Those that do will tend to be those who care enough about me to love me whether I am proving how 'strong' or mentally tough' or 'superwoman-like' I am or not. I don't feel the need to analyse much more, suffice to say I am in a very calm place now about these events. The day will come to race and the day (or days!) will pass and what will be will be. The would will certainly not stop turning for 72 crazy athletes swimming, cycling and running in little circles somewhere in a Lichfield backwater!

At this point I should probably reassure my sponsors that whilst I have come to realise that these races are not the be all and end all and I am looking forward to my retirement come next September, I am also really looking forward to the challenges of the next 12months. Realising that they are not the be all and end all has lifted the pressure and as such I am feeling really excited about both the races and the training and hopefully achieving all my goals. Having only 12months to go before the A2A also allows me to focus on an end date when all the hard work and sacrific will be over and that gives me renewed determination to do everything I can to achieve everything I have wanted to over the next year.

So, to the Double! Wow, the logistics for this race are incredible. I knew how to pack for IM this time and had a smug chuckle and my friends who were doing it for the first time and had piles and piles of different kit and nutrition choices laid out in transition and they didn't know what would work for them. I had the minimal stuff I needed based on the experience of having raced an IM before. Now, the shoe is firmly on the other foot! I have piles and piles of labelled boxes with all different kinds of kit. And don't even get me started on the nutrition! Going through the night and for so long requires so much more planning: race kit, warm weather kit, kit if it is raining, kit if it gets cold and during the night, different lighting rigs and all the spare tools, batteries and equipment!

The nutrition is hilarious! Honestly, I did half the shop at Tescos the other day and I was surprised Gillian McKeith didn't dive out of the mung bean aisle and strike me down! I had all different things that I would never consider eating: sweets, chocolate, cakes, tinned beans and sausages, cornish pasties, crisps, energy drinks and gels, fatty meats and cheeses, cocktail sausages, sausage rolls, scotch eggs, coke, white rolls, tea cakes etc etc. Urgh, it was gross! Basically I have made a list of everything people have said they felt like eating (not counting the bacon rolls from the catering van, and the egg McMuffin for McDonalds!) at various times and bought it all. Experienced racers have said you just never know what your body will feel like at various points so it is important to have a huge selection to try and tempt yourself into eating. Goodness only knows what we'll do with the leftovers though - yuk!!

My Mum is a darling and is coming to help crew for me over the weekend! She came to Ironman Germany with my two best friends when I raced there in 2006 and it was amazing to have them all there supporting me - it really made my race! Luckily she seems to be very excited by the propsect of standing in a muddy field for 30+hours feeding a probably emotional and tempermental daughter! It is certainly going to be an interesting weekend!