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)


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)


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!!


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!!


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)


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!