Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Run.....

So on Eddie's count I was off, and with a little trepidation took those first steps across Marble Arch square, following Jo out of central London. In my enthusiasm, I got a little carried away at the first road crossing and nearly got wiped out by a bendy bus!! A little more caution required me thinks! After the first near miss, I concentrated on settling down into a rhythm, chatting to Jo and generally trying to remain calm. A few times a little voice crept into my head trying to overawe me with the distances still left to travel but I pushed it to the side and concentrated on breaking down the run into its various parts. I am normally extremely grumpy for the first 20miles or so as it seems so pointless - I've run 20miles loads of times, it still hurts and I still have miles and miles to go. I can't really get focused on the task in hand and am usually quite introspective. However, it was great to have Jo with me, she provided a welcome distraction and that, coupled with the busy London streets, helped the first hour pass easily. I enjoyed running along looking at the sights, skirting through the edges of Hyde and Green Parks, heading for Vauxhall Bridge where we planned to meet up with the support vehicle so Jo could head off home. Jo was concerned about making sure she got the route right but I just let it all wash over me trying to absorb the experience, walking or waiting where needed so she could check directions, taking every opportunity to conserve energy both physically and mentally. Just before Vauxhall Bridge we pulled over to the side to await the support vehicle. After a few minutes they swung up to us, saying the traffic was pretty busy (it was 3pm on a Friday afternoon after all) and would Jo be happy to continue for a few more miles with me until we were out of central London. Jo, bless her, happily gave up her time even though she had things to do that evening and we were somewhat taking her out of her way, and we continued on over Vauxhall Bridge, through South London to the Oval.

England were playing India in the Test as we passed Oval Cricket ground and I imagined Adam wishing he was stopping off to watch the game not having to watch his crazy fiance running her way through London! There was a Pepsi promotional stand outside and the girls offered us a few cans. I was a bit concerned about having the sugar and caffeine at this stage so declined but Jo grabbed a can. It was really hot in London that afternoon and I was a little bit jealous so when she offered me a sip, I gave in and enjoyed a good drink from the can! As we moved away from the stand, Jo nearly wiped out this poor old man - I thought he was going to shout at her for cycling on the pavement but he just seemed a bit bemused at these lycra-clad figures jogging along and we apologised and headed off. Jo was keen to accompany me through Peckham and Lewisham as she feared a young blonde woman in lycra might attract a little bit of attention in those areas but the cultural melting pot again provided a welcome distraction though the streets did get a bit busy and, at times, we were reduced to walking pace. I did get a few comments, notably about my bottom (!), some complimentary and one not so much, which I think was a bit cruel given the circumstances!! As we reached the outskirts of Lewisham and were into the suburban boroughs proper it was finally time for Jo to head home. I gave her a huge hug and thanked her so much for being part of my Arch 2 Arc journey both literally and metaphorically! Those first few hours had flown by thanks to her but now I was safely in the hands of my support crew as we headed down the Sidcup Road en route to the first major checkpoint at Swanley around 20miles into the run.

At a few points along the way, the RAF Media team who were accompanying me, stopped for a few minutes to take some footage or photos. Whenever I came across them I always took a moment to stop to record a few of my thoughts. I think they were a bit surprised that I was happy to stop and chat and reassured me that I didn't need to stop everytime if it was disrupting my rhythm. I was quite happy to stop though - it was a nice distraction at the moment whilst I was feeling fairly fresh plus it would be a good momento for me and also nice for all those people supporting me virtually as the media team were providing real-time uploads as we went along. The first 20miles to the first check point passed relatively quickly helped by the fact that Jo had done the first 9 or 10 with me so I only had a few hours alone before we pulled into the Swanley ASDA for my first proper re-fuel stop somewhere around 7pm that evening. The crew had done a brilliant job of getting everything set up for my arrival. They had got a chair ready with somewhere to lean my feet on, I had coats and blankets immediately thrown around my shoulders and was handed a steaming bowl of chicken super-noodles, a treat I discovered at the Double Ironman which is my favourite thing to eat during the run. My drinks bottle was refilled with the H3O Pro isotonic drink I was using to keep hydrated and I did my first official piece to camera with the media guys. After that they discreetly moved away to start some of their editing so I could have a few moments chewing the fat with my team. I could see they were still nervous about getting everything right for me as they flitted round sorting things out but generally they were acting as an extremely well-oiled machine. That was the advantage of both Adam and Mike being part of some of my biggest training sessions - it meant they knew exactly what I needed at each stage but also how to adapt if something wasn't working for me. A bucket of warm water, sponge and baby wipes were placed in front of me and I took the time to wash and dry my feet thoroughly before changing my socks. Refuelled and refreshed I had a little stretch and got ready to head back out into the dusk of evening. I had a feeling that I would enjoy the next bit as I had got the first boring 20-odd miles out the way but it was still early enough in the event that I didn't feel totally fatigued. The next stop point was about another 10miles or so down the road where I was going to meet up with my parents at the hotel where they were staying the night. I was looking forward to seeing them again, as I knew they would be really excited to see me and to see that I was making progress towards the goal they had heard so much about over the last two years. I would continue to follow the A20 down to Wrotham Heath were they would be waiting with the promise of a coffee. Soon after we set off again from Swanley the A20 has to cross under the M25 - which was a great feeling as I knew now I was properly out of London and well on the way to completing the first stage of my epic journey. The road meets the M25 at a big roundabout which can be a bit confusing so Eddie got out of the support vehicle to jog with me under the various underpasses to make sure I got the right exit. Eddie had badly hurt his shoulder and had been trying to avoid using it at all so I was thankful we had Mike along to do most of the driving. However, we were just jogging along one of the underpasses and he turned to tell me to watch my footing and went absolutely head over heels himself. He tried to protect his shoulder by not putting out his arm when he fell so it was quite a heavy landing and I was full of immediate concern. Obviously being Ed, he brushed it off but I could tell it was hurting him quite a bit and hoped it wasn't an omen for the challenge!! After he had got me set again on the right road, he beat a hasty retreat to the van, probably so he could wipe off the brave face he was putting on! Hopefully someone got him a cup of tea soon after that to help him through the pain (Ed is obsessed by tea!!). I had tried to memorise some of the key points of the run so that I would know how we were progressing and soon after passing under the M25 we passed the famous motor-circuit of Brands Hatch at the next point I had memorised in my head, West Kingsdown. Obviously as we were running along the road, I could pick up road signs to places which helped break things down a little. The problem was it was often things like 'West Kingsdown, 8miles' which is ok if you are in a car but if you are running and averaging 4-5miles an hour, takes a pretty long time to reach!! Upon reaching West Kingsdown, Ad informed me that my parents were all checked in to the hotel they were staying in overnight (lucky them!) a few miles further on down the road at Wrotham Heath. So that became the next target and I was looking forward to seeing my parents who I hadn't seen since we set off a good seven hours ago. By now it was dark and I had my luminous vest and lights on. It was still really warm though and I was enjoying just running in a t-shirt through the velvety night. It sounds silly but it felt quite comforting, I guess there is some womb-like psychology here, and I happily plodded on. Soon, I could see the outline of lights ahead and not too much further after that a shady figure grasping at a wine bottle emerged out of a dusky bus shelter. Fearing an unwanted encounter (!), I slowed until I realised it happened to be my Dad!! The shame! ;)

Friday, 23 September 2011

Race Report - the build up.......

Ok, so nearly a month has passed since my successful attempt on the Enduroman Arch 2 Arc and I have finally sat down to try and pen a few thoughts on the attempt. The build up was actually fairly stressful. We were due to swim any time from Saturday 20th August which would mean running anytime from Thursday 18th. However, Adam was involved in a really important project at work that was due to report on Friday 19th which meant, really he didn't want to go prior to that. As Ad was so busy it fell to me to do all the organising, shopping, packing, list-writing, double-checking and panicking so when the initial call came I wasn't really in a focused state of mind. We had told Ed that really we were happy to delay as long as possible, obviously without jeopardising the attempt, and that we definitely couldn't start before Friday. As it happened Sunday looked the best day to swim so Friday at 3am became our start time. Whilst within our constraints of not starting before Friday it was pushing it to get Ad back home from work on the Thursday, try and get him some sleep and then get to London before kick off. It did all get a bit much for me at that point, I think I was probably a bit tired and sitting by myself on Thursday afternoon thinking I was going to start at 3am that night made me a bit panicky. It wasn't helped by the fact that we had massive faff organising the support vehicle which we had hired. After a catalogue of disasters we finally got it home only to find it was leaking brake fluid all over the driveway. RAC was summoned and it disappeared back from whence it came. All very well but we were due to start in 12 hours and now didn't have a support vehicle. Luckily my wonderful father-in-law to be stepped in and offered up his 4x4 as an alternative. We were aware it was going to be a squeeze but after a quick trip to Halfords to buy bike racks, we at least had options available.

Soon after, Eddie rang and said the weather looked better to delay for 12hrs until 3pm on Friday. I cannot express how relieved I was. It sounds silly, after waiting and waiting for the moment, but I just didn't feel ready to go and the prospect off having another night in my own bed, getting some proper rest and having a chance to talk everything through with Ad seemed to make an absolutely extraordinary distance and I cheered up no end. I knew that timing would meant I would end up swimming through the night but I figured I'd worry about that when the time came!

The Cadman family had arrived on the Wednesday so we all settled down for a final supper, made sure all the equipment was ready for packing when the Troughton contingent arrived the next morning and then headed off to bed. I woke up feeling much better prepared and with only the smallest hint of butterflies. The Troughtons arrived early, Mike was assigned chief-driver during our expedition and Ellen was going to be UK-co-ord and chief dog-sitter. I was so so grateful to both of them for all the help they gave during the challenge - it is safe to say I couldn't have done it without them both. Team Cadman were going to see us off and then leap-frog along the route with the responsibility of arriving at the end of each stage fresh and ready to do all the feeding/hotel-check-in/supply-buying jobs required for the tired crew. Our system worked like a charm, but more on that later. Around 10am it was time for the off and we said Goodbye to Ellen and I gave Heidi a huge hug before Mike, Ad and I loaded up into our newly acquired support vehicle and headed for London. Mum and Dad has already gone ahead so they could check into their hotel and then head to Marble Arch to wave us off. The journey down was fairly uneventful, both Mike and Ad have been part of my training build up so were pretty aware of how I might be feeling emotionally, how my feeds work, what to say to encourage me etc so there wasn't much that needed to be discussed. I tried to nap and keep all the emotions bubbling around inside of me under control. Obviously we had let a lot of people know I was finally setting off so I was kept very busy answering the gazillion wonderful messages of support that started to flood in.

About 45minutes from London we stopped at the final service station on the motorway for me to go and get changed into my race gear, have a final coffee stop and get ready for the off. Ad helped me carry my run kit box in and I went to get changed. I took a moment to myself in the loo just thinking of everything that lay ahead as I knew I wouldn't have any further moments alone to try and absorb the enormity of it all after that. I got changed into my run kit, pulled on a Herbalife top and headed back to the car. Ad met me outside the loos and all of a sudden all the emotions I was feeling built up again and flooded out. I got really teary but Ad was brilliant and talked me through it all. I was so scared of failing, of letting people down and not being able to finish what I had invested so much in. After a bit of reassuring and a big hug, I calmed down and headed with Ad out to the car. After getting all the worries out I suddenly felt much calmer, it was time to race!

We headed into central London where Mike had the unenviable task of trying to drop us off close to the Arch and then circling round until we were a go, ready to pick up Eddie and Ad again. We got onto Oxford Street and then he pulled over and let us out. Ad and I headed up towards the Arch. We had a last loo break in a conveniently located KFC opposite and then headed onto the square of Marble Arch itself. A wonderful little group of well-wishers had assembled to see me off, my Mum and Dad were there busy explaining to some interested tourists what I was about to set off and do, the RAF media team were there ready to follow the whole event as it unfolded, and Gavin and Mila were there to represent my wonderful sponsors, Herbalife. I was also joined by a wonderful guy called Cyril Morrin who had come to wish me well and also Jo Kilkenny. Jo and I have trained together through the year and she will be attempting the Arch 2 Arc in September. Jo had offered to cycle the first leg with me through London in case the support vehicle got held up and it was great to have her there to steady my nerves. Jo has a really good understanding of the A2A and is a great ultra-runner to it was fabulous to have her there to get me through the first 8-10miles.

After a few conversations with the RAF media team and some photographs of me looking ready and set to go, Eddie came over to offer a final few words of advice. I gave the Herbalife team a big hug and thanked them for all their support. Then with a hug for Ed and a massive hug to my parents who I would next see around the 30mile mark I got ready to go. A final kiss from Ad and I touched the wall of Marble Arch. Ed gave me the signal, started the clock and....we were off!!

Friday, 19 August 2011

We are a go!

We are a go for 3pm today. See you all in Paris!

Thursday, 18 August 2011


The weather is not looking great for swimming Sun/Mon so we are currently delayed 12hrs. New start time 3pm tomorrow (Friday) at the Arch! Will be able to confirm 9am tomorrow.....

Wednesday, 17 August 2011


Cometh the hour.....

I have a provisional start date of 2.30am Friday morning. Wonderfully sociable. :)

Time marches on...

During the last couple of months we have been blessed with two new arrivals into our world, Kobe Brown and Isaac Hughes. Both boys are totally gorgeous and we visited their fairly sleepy parents this weekend to see how they were getting on. I was talking to my friend Zoe about how I imagine waiting for this challenge to be like being pregnant. You are so excited but also you get this inevitability factor (note I avoided the phrase 'impending sense of doom'!) that at some point the time will come, this amazing event WILL come around and you can't stop it! You know it is going to be painful and emotional but that the reward will ultimately be both worth it and a total joy. Whilst my poor friend was a bit perturbed that I was comparing her pregnancy to my endurance challenge I think she forgave me my panic-addled brain and kindly said she understood where I was coming from!

It reminds me of the Sanskrit saying that I use about a thousand times during each and every endurance challenge I get into, गच्छेदेतदपि - 'This too shall pass'

Monday, 15 August 2011

The waiting game.....

is what I'm playing. Thankfully having been here before with the two Channel relays I am not too concerned. Plus, because of Adam's constraints at work I know we can't go before Thursday anyway so at least I can plan my time until then to get everything sorted in not too mad a rush. It's a bit of a shame I guess because Friday looks a great day to swim but hey. I am frantically observing wind maps like there's no tomorrow (www.xcweather.co.uk) - anything blue is good, green is doable and above green is going to be a particularly unfun day in the water. Thankfully from Sunday onwards also looks good and at the moment I am imagining starting running Friday morning in time to swim off the Sunday high tide. However, I only have a basic understanding of the conditions and understand there is more to it than a map being blue! So basically I sit and wait and when the call comes I trust the pilot and off I go!

It has been particularly hard to taper for this event, not least as you don't have a fixed start date but also because once the key sessions are out of the way it is pretty hard to stay motivated. As I said with the 90min swim a few weeks back, you try and justify why you are doing it (keep the body ticking over, maintain feel for the water, monitor water temperature etc) but really your head is saying, "I can swim for 10hrs, we know that, why am I messing around in the sea for 90mins." I splashed around for just under an hour at Anderby yesterday - it was nice to get in and out at the same time as everyone else! Though even that plan was slightly foiled by the controversial time-keeping but some who shall remain nameless! As always, everyone was brilliantly positive and supportive and I felt good in the water so I decided to take a moment to say goodbye to Anderby training and then head in for strawberry milkshakes and bacon sarnies!

No more sessions planned for this week, I shall probably take the bikes out for 10mins just to check them over, have a swim tomorrow and maybe do some body balance classes just to stretch out. Final massage is also booked in for tomorrow and then it really is a case of just resting, hydrating and not panicking!

Obviously I'll post here immediately I know anything but, once the challenge is underway, updates can be found on the forum section of the Enduroman website (www.enduroman.com), manned ably by my wonderful Aunty Sally!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Five minutes of fame.....

They say we are all supposed to get five minutes of fame during our lifetime and mine definitely came on Friday! The RAF Recruiting media team who are supporting the challenge in a big way, had set up a press call with regional news teams and I spent a fascinating morning cycling up and down the pan in front of a load of King Airs and trying not to think about my best side or the fact I was encased in unflattering lycra! BFBS, BBC Look North and ITV Regional News were in attendance and it was a great opportunity to explain the challenge, talk about the charities and thank my sponsors and the RAF for the great amount of support they have given me. The day previously the Lincolnshire Echo had also released a piece on the challenge which can be found here. It is great that people have been interested in the story and hopefully it will encourage people to support the charities which is the main point! The tv coverage will run on the iPlayer etc probably until Friday so if you want the take the chance to go and spot me in action, now's the time!

The RAF have also decided to stand up a media team to follow the entire challenge which hopefully means more coverage will become available. I just need to be really savvy about linking it to the Just Giving pages whenever we put something out so a lot of people have been interested in donating but haven't found the links. For anyone following this my two charities are Help for Heroes (www.justgiving.com/rachaelcadman) and ShelterBox (www.justgiving.com/rachaelcadmanshelterbox) and both would be extremely grateful for your support! During the challenge itself I shall be updating via the forum on the Enduroman website and the RAF Careers Facebook page (www.facebook.com/rafcareers) should hold all of the media clips etc that the mobile team send back.

Not long to go now!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

What is fitness....?

So, comedically, I almost failed my fitness test! Now, obviously I had a plan to only do the absolute minimum required to pass because of my concerns of causing any injury at this late stage. I still felt a bit rubbish dropping out at a mere 6.9 on the bleep test but I knew it was sensible. Next came press-ups which I knew I had to do 9 to do, not a problem. However, there had apparently been some kind of policy change which seems to have been adopted from the College - not sure if it is Air Force wide. We now have to do tricep press-ups. Infinitely harder and definitely require prior training. What's more there was no gashing it off! The PTI actually drew chalk marks lining up out shoulders with our middle fingers (so the arms are pressed right into the sides) and made us stay there. As there was only 3 of us, we did it individually so had nowhere to hide! It was insanely hard, but I pushed through (distinctly conscious of the pressure on my shoulders) and managed 9 very poor excuses for tricep press-ups. Thankfully it seemed enough to appease and I passed but it was a close call!! If that is going to become policy I have a lot of specific training to do. Which begs the questions - what is fitness? I am probably as fit as I have ever been and yet I nearly failed. Don't get me wrong, I'm not bemoaning the MSFT, it's probably as accurate an assessment of general fitness as anything but it is an interesting thought!

Aside from that, work is extremely stressful, every little thing that could annoy me or go wrong is. It is the niff naff I wish I didn't have to deal with. For example, my travel claim to the Interservices last week was called for audit. Cue more form filling and a hunt for supporting documentation such as proof of having business insurance for the car. And the laptop I have borrowed to take to Cosford tomorrow for the very important briefing didn't work - it was locked out due to me given the wrong password. Thank goodness I checked otherwise it could've been egg-on-face day on Thursday! Anyway, hopefully come the press call on Friday, work should be calmer and I have now booked some extra days off in advance of the challenge to help me manage the stress better. Poor Adam, he's living with such a crazy loon at the moment!!

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Less than 3 weeks....

So, after last weekend's 2+2 the plan was 90mins run and 90mins in the sea this weekend. It is hard to get motivated for the sessions now as they don't seem to have a purpose as such. I know it is just to keep me ticking over and to stop my body from shutting off but it is hard mentally. I did a 90min run on Saturday at the gym on the treadmill as I have been a bit worried about my ankle. It is just a niggle, but it is frustrating as I have never had any problems in all my training time. I can just feel it, it feels in equal measures weak and stiff but it survived the run on saturday fine. I just worry about what 87miles might do to it! Plus I have my RAF fitness test on Tuesday which involves the bleep test shuttle runs and I am worried about the effect of that. I have considered asking the PEd staff to allow me a few months leeway but it seems silly that I can't pass a basic fitness test when I should be the fittest I have ever been!

Physically everything I do seems to make me tired at the moment so I am giving myself lots of rest. Emotionally I know I am also struggling. I am not nervous yet but accomplishing easy tasks seems such an effort. I was trying to explain something simple to Adam about how we could do my feeding yesterday and I just couldn't make myself understood. And it was too hard to try and explain so I got frustrated and we had a little row. So then I went upstairs to have a little cry. Thankfully Ad has seen it all before and understands so soon afterwards came upstairs to give me a cuddle, run me a bath and pack me off to bed!

Anyway, the swim today was a bit lumpy but that's all good training. Though the time seemed to drag actually enjoyed being out there on the oceans waves with my boy and Cedric the Seal for company. It was really fun and I only have one more dip now over at Anderby before the big swim. On the weekend of the 13/14 Aug all the people who have supported me with my swimming are coming to join me for a final good luck swim followed by bacon butties like normal people might do!

I am frantically making lists, buying things I probably don't need, washing piles of clothes and packing and unpacking over and over. I just want to get it all done over the next week so the final week I can just focus and not be worried! We'll see how that works out!

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Some media links......

Air Cadets

Is this the taper.....?

So I have spent the last two days at the beautiful Belvoir Castle which was the site of the RAF Interservices competition against our sister services and teams from the Fire, Police and Prison service. Obviously I am not competing but have been extremely busy in my role as Safety Director for the event. I am now not only physically tired ( I was up til midnight working on the Emergency plan and then up again at 5.30am to get there in time for registration to open) but mentally tired from trying to remember everything I had to get done. Thankfully the event ran smoothly with no major incidents and everyone finished safely. A huge well done to all those who competed especially the brilliant RAF teams who gave a fabulous effort as always and were rewarded with some great performances. People are often staggered by the distance I am attempting but I always tell them it is because I don't have a fast twitch fibre in my body so have to find other ways to challenge myself!! And boy, would I have got a hiding today - I am certain I would have come last by miles and I was so impressed by the speed of everyone racing and their ability to wring out every last bit of effort even though muscles would have been screaming and lungs burning! Chapeau as they say a la Tour! :)

I have one more thing left to do, which is host a two-day 2* visit next week at work before I can literally just concentrate on normal tasks and start focusing on the huge event ahead. I am nearly there with the logistics of everything, I just really need to secure a support vehicle and we are about ready. This weekend is the big list making weekend and then the mad shop will start. I managed to snaffle some flourescent 'CAUTION CYCLISTS' signs from the race today and some marshal vests so we're one up already with the financiers. :) The spare room is about to be transformed into Race HQ........

Monday, 25 July 2011

BBC Lincolnshire....

Today I went to do an interview on the Breakfast show of BBC Lincolnshire. It was another great opportunity to publicise the challenge and the charities. The media machine is kicking in and I am glad I have someone now to organise it all for me as I have other things to concentrate on!

Brilliantly P&O ferries have agreed to give my crew and support vehicle free passage across the Channel which is fabulous and every little bit helps to reduce the cost of the challenge.

Training wise, we went over to the coast first thing on Saturday morning to get a 2hr swim in but the waves were manic and it would have been too dangerous to swim so we just enjoyed walking the dog up and down the beach and playing with her in the breakers like a normal couple! It has been weird enjoying weekends like 'normal' people may do, shopping, visiting friends, cleaning the house - all the exciting things! Anyway, that left me with a 2hr pool swim to do which I enjoyed - I broke it down into a proper multi-stroke conditioning session the same as I would have done normally when I was a 'proper' swimmer and not just an endurance plodder! On Sunday I got a two hour run in which will probably be my last 'long' run now before the event. I have been having a little bit of stiffness in my ankle which was bothering me a bit but I'll get Sid at the Lincoln Sports Injury Clinic to have a look for me. They have been a massive help in keeping me in top shape!

Taper time.....

Since the 10hr swim I have found myself to be quite demotivated and lethargic. With now less than four weeks to go I have started my taper which is strange as normally I would only taper for ten days or so before a big event. I know that because it is such a big event I need to concentrate on shortening the workouts, eating well and getting lots of rest but the normal taper anxiety is setting in. This is a common phenomenon where you start to panic about all the training you haven't done and what fitness you will lose before the big day. It is actually pointless worrying! There isn't any scope for me to do another long workout before the big day and anyway I wouldn't get any fitter for doing so and may even compromise the race if I got injured or pushed too hard etc. All I can do now is rest and try not to go too mad. I am experience enough to know all these things but I still spoke to Steve and Eddie, the Enduroman directors to take advice on the taper. Needless to day, they told me to do all the things I knew I should be doing which was good. Even if you are experience, the 'taper madness' makes you a little crazy so it is nice to get some reassurance!

Now is the time to focus on the publicity, logistics and fundraising side of things. I have involved both the Herbalife PR team and the RAF Media Comms cell and since then it seems the publicity machine has kicked into high gear. The first article to come out was a piece in the Grantham Journal which can be found at here. Following on from that piece, a reporter from The Sun called to talk to me as they are a huge supporter of the military in general and Help for Heroes in particular. They will hopefully publish a piece over the weekend sometime.

Other than that I am trying to create a fundraising strategy as, bar completing the race, the main emphasis for this is to raise money for good causes. The two charities are linked to this blog and are ready to receive your donations!!

Friday, 15 July 2011


The big one. The KEY session. The moment whether I find out if I really have what it takes to swim the Channel. No pressure then. 10hrs. It's a long time to do anything. Let along swimming.......

I woke up tired on the day of the big swim. Not surprising really as it's just before 6am and I haven't really slept. Ad says that it's good that I'm tired. That it's replicating how tired I will be during the real thing. It's slim comfort. Plus it makes me slightly want to hit him.

Despite having tried to be organised and loaded the kayak the night before we are still late getting away. We have decided it is only fair to bring the dog with us today as we are away for such a long time but as she starts catawauling away in the boot, I wonder if it is such a good idea. I have marshaled lots of support for today and many brilliant people are going to turn up to help and support me swimming. First up are the Bainbridge family who we meet on arrival at Anderby. Jackie asks me what time of the day do you call this (no surprises, we are late) but I think she's kidding! Their eldest son, Sam, is going to join me for the first few hours trying out his new wetsuit (a BlueSeventy Helix like mine - good lad) before a race he has tomorrow in Wakefield. I think it is for Jane's appeal (the charity set up in memory of Jane Tomlinson) as that is who they did their Channel relay for. Sam is a much better swimmer than me so, knowing we are pressed for time, I head out into the water knowing he will catch me up once he has finished struggling into his wetsuit.

As we have Heidi we us, Ad is going to walk the shore for the first few hours with John (Sam's Dad) to keep an eye on us before my in-laws arrive to take over dog duty. It is surprisingly warm in the water and I feel calm and relaxed. Today is the day and I just have to get on with it. I think Sam swims in circles round me as I only see him periodically but that suits me at the moment, I am happy in my own little world and the time passes quickly to my first feed at 45mins. As Ad is on the shore I come into the beach for my first feed and am met by lovely fiance and very excitable dog who swims up to me gulping saltwater as she snaps at the waves. It is a nice break but I head back out quickly, wanting to establish a rhythm. I feel great during the next 45mins before my second feed at an hour and a half. For the first time ever the time is passing quickly and I like the control of having the watch on my wrist counting me down. I am very happy being alone and not feeling stressed by anything. I am almost jubilant at how easily it seems to be coming to me today but in my head I caution myself not to jump too far ahead. I know how quickly the low points come and how hard they can be to climb out of.

At 90mins I waded back into the shore for my next feed and Sam, finishing his stint, headed in. I told Ad all was going well, chugged back my warmed energy drink and headed out again. I was enjoying the solitude and being lost in my own thoughts and the water was the best I have ever seen. I had thought with the heavy rain the night before the silt may have been churned up and the temperature cooler but it was just the opposite, warm and as clear as can be expected in the North sea! For the first time I didn't have a cold dip around the 1hr 45 mark. I knew from the 2hr mark lots of good things would happen in sequence each planned to get me to the next feed. By the 2hr mark my in-laws had arrived and I gave them a wave as they struggled to stop Heidi flying into the sea again to say 'Hi' as Ad gave me my next feed. I told him that so far everything was going well and it was the best first few hours I had had. I had asked Hannah to come in and join me between 11am and 12pm which, had we been on time, would have been hour 3-4. However, as I came in for my 2hr 30 feed I was still feeling like I wanted to be on my own and was going to ask Ad to delay Hannah until a bit later. However, I saw her already suited up and on her way down so I felt like I couldn't ask her to wait now. Hannah is my secret weapon! Her and Robert got me through my last swim and I wanted to keep her in reserve almost, until I really felt like a needed a boost. She is just perfect to swim with as she always gets on the right side of me (literally not figuratively!!) because I only breathe to my left side and she swims at exactly the same speed so gets me into a perfect strong yet sustainable rhythm. She's ace! :)

Anyway, Han came into join me and I settled down again knowing that she would pull me through the next hour whatever happens. She assured me there was also more help to come. Lots of her wonderful friends who literally only know me through being on Han's distribution list, had also turned up, some to sit ALL day and were there just for me, to support me and swim with me when I needed it. Honestly, it restores your faith in the good of humanity and I couldn't believe all these people would willing give up their time to sit on a cold beach all day and help someone out who they didn't even know. It was very much appreciated!!

Nearing the end of Han's hour, Debs came in to join us. I have met Debs before at a session at Whisby and she had been concerned she'd be too slow to come and help out today. Not so! She was easily matching the speed of Han and I which was great because I knew I'd have at least another hour of someone swimming around the same speed as me. I could feel though that the happiness of the first few hours was beginning to fade and I set myself up for the first dip which was bound to come soon! It is important when the dips come to just keep focusing on small goals and working through things that occur. This is why I love endurance stuff, it's pretty much a metaphor for life! You get some real down moments when you go really long and you have to learn to work through them and every time you do you grow more confident and appreciate that you can get through most things that life throws at you. I knew if I could just work through the hour with Debs then that would take me to 4.5hours and from there I could get to 5hrs. I couldn't wait to get to the 5 hour point as then I knew I was working downwards towards my goal of ten hours. I kept working out the minutes a lot. I do this when I am running too. I knew I had 600 minutes in total to do and if you count down in minutes in seems to always be quite a big proportion that has gone everytime you reassess. For example after only 40mins I was down to 560 minutes which sort of sounds like a good chunk of the total! I don't know, it seems to work!

After 4.5hours Debs headed in and my last support swimmers swam out to join me. I've never met Caroline before but I knew that she was coming out to do a stint and she also introduced Simon to me. They set themselves up on either side of me and we headed off down the bay. With Caroline on my right hand side, I couldn't really see her but I could tell immediately that Simon was a much stronger swimmer than me. I could tell he was trying to stay with me to encourage me along but despite this he kept pulling ahead. He even resorted to doing breaststroke at points. It is funny writing about it afterwards as you realise how fragile your mental state is during big sessions like this. Obviously Simon was trying to help and had given up his time to come and support but during that leg down the bay I was getting more and more cross with him! I was having a real dip and when you're in a down moment and really struggling just to keep yourselves moving forward and someone is next to you doing breaststroke because it is just so easy for them, it makes you go a little crazy!! Anyway, we turned down at the bottom and began the return leg back to base camp for my next feed, the 5hr point, hurray! I was keeping very close to the shore, almost able to touch the bottom. When Caroline gestured for me to move out a bit, I explained I was keeping close because I was due to come in for a feed and didn't want to have to make my way in from too deep. She accepted this but I think they both understood I was feeling the need to be by myself a bit and they stayed out deeper whilst I struggled along feeling sorry for myself.

I hadn't realised it but around the time Simon and Caroline got in the tides had also changed and now I was fighting the tide the opposite way to what I had when I first got in. This was also messing with my head as I had built up a routine - fight down the bay against the tide for 15mins or so, turn and drift fast back to base for about 6 minutes, swim past base along the row of houses on the shore line for a few minutes and then turn and fight the tide back to base - 30mins dead. It was a good routine and I was settled but with the tides turning I know couldn't work out how long I was suppose to go in each direction so the first time I swam 15mins down the bay with the drift of the tide and it took an age to get back to base. It took so long that I was late for my 5hr feed and psychologically it was a struggle. Anyway, Caroline and Simon cheered me on through my 5hr feed and congratulated me on making it through half way. I was trying to be pleasant but I felt so bad for them as they definitely got the worst shift having to put up with down and grumpy and spiteful Rachael!! We set off again up the bay fighting the current along the row of houses to the turn point. I was really starting to feel quite sick so Simon took me out deeper to try and help avoid the choppiest of the waves nearest the shore. It was a sensible strategy but I was just desperate for the next feed to come so I could get in and see Ad. I was starting to get a bit worked up on this point, I was feeling sick, mentally quite down and also my breathing was seeming to get a bit shallower - I was probably just getting a bit overwhelmed by it all and panicky. Funnily enough, breathing to the other side for a few strokes helped a bit so maybe it wasn't all psychosomatic and actually all the breathing only to my left side was compressing the ribs on that side a bit thus impeding my breathing.

After an age we came in for my 5.5hr feed and I definitely had quite a massive mental wobble. Ad came out to meet me with my next feed and I burst into tears. I told him I wasn't sure if I could do it, that I was struggling to breathe and generally got totally overwhelmed by everything and started to panic. I think I felt stressed by trying to keep up with Simon and also the change to the routine Ad and I normally have of just the two of us with me feeding out of the kayak. Having all that support was utterly amazing and I couldn't have done it without everyone but I think the pressure of everyone being there for me and the expectation on me just got too much.

Ad was totally brilliant and manage to calm me down. He subtly funnelled Caroline and Simon out of the water (bless them I felt terrible, they had just been trying to help and I had gone all mental on them!) and told me to take a deep breath, head out on my own, taking it steady and getting back into my own headspace and that he would get the kayak and come out to join me in a few minutes. It was just what I needed and I took a deep breath, pushed all the panicky feelings back down inside and set off. After first the panic and tears threaten to take over again but I took it steady and soon I calmed again. Adam came to join me in the kayak which was a great comfort as ever, and soon we got back into a rhythm. We stopped heading so far down the bay as fighting to tide to get back to camp was too stressful mentally so we did small circles along the few hundred metres of shore either side of camp. By the time I reached the 6hr mark I was feeling a lot more settled and knew that after my next feed, it would be my longest swim to date and a series of milestones were to come. It was funny how at my six hour swim, I had my dips around the 3hr mark but at 6hrs I felt like I could have swum forever whereas this time I didn't really get a dip until 5 or so hours in but I was totally ready to quit it all at that point!

Ad stayed with me until my next feed which was a great milestone. The longest I have swum to date was 6hrs 33mins during my 11mile swim in the Lanzarote Ultra. So I knew in just a few more minutes it would be the longest I had ever swum which was a good feeling. I also knew it I could just get 90 more minutes or so under my belt then we were home and dry, I could get Hannah in for an hour or so and soon we'd be into the last hour. So I really tried to zone out, get my head down and push on. When Ad had come out kayaking he had taken the watch back so as to be in control of my feeding and when he went in around the 7hr mark to swop with his Dad for an hour or so, I forgot to get it back. I am unsure whether having the watch helped me or not really. It was great in the first few hours when time was passing by so quickly but I'm not sure how I would have felt with it during the later hours when everything was becoming a bit of a struggle. Mike came in to do a stint in the kayak with me and we nearly lost Heidi to the sea again. She loves water and had enjoyed having a little swim out to join me so far when I had come in to get my feeds. However, now I wasn't coming in to feed she took this as a signal to come out and join me in deeper water and a few times we had to shunt her back into the shore. In fact, Ad had to swim out and get her one time as she appeared to be off to Holland!

Between 7 and 8 hours I was starting to feel a bit down again, mainly because the water had started to chop up a little and I was really starting to feel nauseous. I hadn't learnt my lesson of Weymouth and taken my seasickness tablets which was a bit silly. I just couldn't believe the water was actually making me feel this sick though actually the constant getting up from horizontal to vertical this time probably hadn't helped either. I was feeling really unhappy in the water just because I felt so dreadful. I stopped unenthusiastically for my feed at 7.5hrs and poor Caroline again seemed to get the short straw as she came in to join me for an hour or so. I followed Mike out a bit deeper where the water was calmer and just tried to get my head down and arms moving. My arms had been sore in both shoulders, which is unusual as normally only my left shoulder hurts, but thanks to some crafty ibuprofen at the 6hr point, they were easing well. Feeling really grotty I stopped by the kayak for my 8hr feed. I was really really happy to have reached this point as I knew know that not only was the 10 achievable but also that I could feasibly stop now and still have a good chance on the day. Eddie stopped Steve Haywood at 8hrs during his 10hr swim as he truly believe he was already ready at that stage to tackle the Channel; Steve successfully became the second person to complete the Enduroman Arch 2 Arc.

Mike handed me down my warmed feed and I tred water next to the kayak whilst trying to swallow down the drink. As Mike rooted around for a biscuit or something to accompany the drink, I was overwhelmed by a sense of nausea. Spinning desperately around to try not to inflict the inevitable on Mike, I was spectacularly sick 6 or 7 times with the final time projecting straight from the pit of my stomach out into the sea. Mike calmly stated, "Ooh, so that came straight back up then!" and hunted around for a bit of tea to wash out my mouth. I was creeped out that I might be swimming around in my sick but thankfully it seemed to have rapidly dispersed. Still, we weren't done yet so I got my head back down and started swimming. After actually being sick I did begin to feel so much better. I was worried that having lost a lot of food and fuel I bit start to feel more tired and weak but actually I felt rejuvenated and strong. We may have to tweak the feeding though, perhaps having a drink with protein in isn't necessary every 30mins and we'll alternate with a carb only drink every so often.

As we headed to 8hrs 30, I could see the end was in sight. Caroline had swopped with Debs and I knew soon Hannah would be heading with me for the final stretch. Ad swopped with Mike again and came out with me and I felt as comfortable as I had all day. I knew it was just a case of getting into a rhythm and counting down those final 90minutes. With and hour to go, Han came into join me and we headed out for what was to be the last few laps of the bay. The tides were such that whichever direction we now swum in we didn't seem to be making much progress so we just headed in small laps up and down in front of base camp. At the 9hour point I took a feed from Ad which happily seemed to go down quite well and asked for the watch back so I could count down every one of those final minutes. I couldn't believe having started at 600 we were now down to the final 60. I really enjoyed that last hour, it is a tried and tested formula and I was feeling comfortable and, though tired, strong. Like the six hour swim, knowing I was about to be allowed to get out, I felt like I could have swum for much longer which is positive!

Finally as the last minutes counted down, Han gave me a high five and a massive congratulatory hug and we made the final turn at the end of the bay. All we had to do was swim in to base camp and we were done! Ad went on ahead to drag the kayak in and get my towel and stuff ready and Han and I enjoyed the final drift into shore, stopping the clock at 10hours and 1 minute!

Everyone came down to congratulate me which was amazing. As I watched my family and friends I felt an enormous sense of gratitude that these people would give up their weekend to come and support and help me. Hannah was a trooper, she had hot chocolate on the go for me before she had even taken off her own wetsuit and Ad sat me down and got me stripped off and wrapped up. I enjoyed listening to the tales of the day from the shore perspective and basked in the knowledge that we were now good to go for the swim. After saying good bye to the stalwarts Debs and Hannah who had stayed through to the bitter end, we bundled a wet and tired dog into the car and headed off for fish and chips at Horncastle before wishing Mike and Ellen goodbye and heading home. I just about managed to wash out the wetsuits and hang them up (the only compulsory post swim activity - everything else can wait) and then relaxed into a warm bath filled with my Neom Organics Bath Oil (a fabulous birthday present). Warm and dry, I rubbed some Aromatherapy Associates Deep Tissue Muscle Gel (another fantastic birthday pressie choice!) into my aching shoulders and thankfully slid into bed, fully aware that I would sleep like a baby!! A very successful day all round and a huge thank you to all those who made it so!

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Hello 30s..................

Some might think that the most exciting thing to happen to me this weekend was turning 30 (!) but actually it was not having to train!! I had the most lovely weekend really, I was woken up on Friday with balloons and champagne and presents, yippee! Ad had to work but had left me with a present treasure hunt so I headed out with Heidi to find some lovely vouchers for a dinner out with my lovely fiance and a new wallet of my choice! I then hit the gym for a lovely couple of miles in the pool, followed by a coffee and some bircher muesli. When I got to the gym, for some reason I couldn't get through the barrier. I asked the receptionist and was, in return, questioned as to whether it was my birthday. I said yes and was given a voucher for a free coffee for my troubles! Not bad!! After breakfast I headed to the spa for a fabulous Elemis facial which incorporated one of those face masks that sets on your face and can be lifted off in one go - very 'Face Off!' One of the resurfacing serums did have the sensation of CS gas on the skin though which was a bit perturbing!!
Back to the house and out with the pooch again for a nice walk along the canal to the pub for a lime and soda in the sun and a quick catch up chat to my birthday sister Aleks! Then out shopping for a nice outfit for my lovely meal before settling down to watch Mr Murray begin his campaign against Nadal. Ad came home around 4.30pm and I had a nice few hours of pampering with my new gifts before I was whisked out to town for dinner. We went to The Old Bakery in Lincoln and had the tasting menu with matching wines. It was a really really lovely meal and the patron is Italian so we got a few ideas for the wedding including a fabulous sparkling peach dessert wine which was delicious! An absolutely perfect day and a fabulous start to my fourth decade!!
On Saturday we took Heidi for her first trip to the beach. It was very interesting to see Anderby Creek from the shore this time as oppose to the sea where I normally get to see it! A wonderfully warm weekend which finished off with a trip to Donny to see our friends and their beautiful new born son and to have a meal out with the in-laws. A great relaxing weekend and one I hope to have many more of in about 8 weeks time!!

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Is that you Mr Consistency...?

For the last two weeks I have managed to train consistently which is something of a miracle! Better let than never eh? Nothing massive, session wise but just training 6 days a week is making me feel better and stopping me turning into a total porker from all the food! :) Strength and Conditioning session on Monday plus a 10k tempo run today which I really enjoyed. It is the same session as I did last Tuesday and it's really good. Can't wait to get the fast stuff going again when all this is over!! Work is busy, I am working on a specific project at the moment, but I am managing to fit everything in just about. Really looking forward to my birthday weekend which has a scheduled break from training pencilled in and a visit from my sis to look forward to! :)

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Role Reversal....

So after Ad's fabulous support yesterday, it was my turn today to be chief crew. Adam was playing in his golf club's annual Club Championships and I had the job of making him a little picnic after the first 18 holes. It was nice to be able to look after him for a change and I have just finished cleaning the house, sorting the washing, ironing him a work shirt for tomorrow and preparing our lunches!! I feel I've in some way repayed the help and support he gave me yesterday! :) I think this is the only difficulty in being a worker, partner, friend etc aswell as trying to do the challenge in that, life still goes on. Whereas a professional athlete gets time off after big sessions to sleep, eat correctly and generally not give themselves any stress, I have to work, clean, look after the dog, be a partner to Adam, not totally neglect my friends and family, cook meals, do the shopping etc etc. It is something I must be totally mindful of in the final sessions before the A2A. The house can wait for a few weeks, I need to relax and get focused for the challenge ahead!

Make or Break....

So after a disappointing swim in Weymouth last weekend I felt I had to try to redeem myself with at least 6 hours this weekend. It is funny as I feel I can do it already, both physically and mentally but only because I know I peak mentally for the big occasion. I'm not as strong when it comes to intermediary targets. So I felt I had to get a big swim in this weekend more for everyone else than for myself I suppose; though on the flipside I know that every bit of training I can get done gives me an improved chance of making it across the Channel.

I also get nervous after I have put a target out there as I always worry about not making it. I am such a dichotomy I suppose, I totally feel that, on the day, I can swim for as long as it takes - I know I can dig that deep, and yet, I worry constantly about not having the mental focus to make training targets. I don't know really what that means, I suppose at this stage I should get a sports psychologist involved!! I just guess I feel a lot of the time that I can't be bothered with the training - I feel I can harness everything I need to to be able to get the challenge done and I almost feel that using mental strength to get through training sessions is a waste I guess. I don't know!!

Anyway, the wonderful Robert and Hannah had rallied the Anderby crew and a lot of people were coming down to support me which was fabulous as I think otherwise Ad and I probably would've stayed curled up in bed! After a bit of a late start, which we excused by saying the weather was better later in the day but was really because we were being lazy, we finally set off on the road around 9am. The promised sun was just about breaking through the clouds when we arrived at Anderby and Adam jogged down to the beach to check conditions as I did my usual dash to the loo after a last minute attempt to fully hydrate during the drive. Conditions were A-Ok so there was no excuse not to suit up and head down to the beach. I have to help carry the kayak and supplies down the boardwalk and across the sand to the beach and I secretly always resent it as I get a bit psychosomatic and start to imagine all the detriment it is causing to my arms and how tired they will be before I even get in the water!

We are trying a new feeding system using a maltodextrin complex carbohydrate drink with a little added protein to try and give me more sustained energy. I love my H30 Pro but, as it is purely isotonic, I have found I just can't rely on it solely during the swims. I tried to use it last weekend and get my carbs from proper food (which is what I do on the run - H30 Pro for hydration and salts and normal food for energy) but I just couldn't get enough food down me during the short feeds plus it is a lot harder to eat solid food during the swim.

At 10.45am I set off through the breakers to start the 6hr swim. The water felt a lot colder than last weekend in Weymouth but a lot warmer than it has been early in the season! I set off parallel to the shoreline and after a few moments Ad pulled up alongside me in the kayak. I love having Ad beside me during these swims, it settles me and gives me a good focus plus I can feel him willing me on and it makes me stronger to feel his support. We are trying a routine of feeing after 45mins then 90mins and then every half an hour after that. In Weymouth the first 45mins flew by so I expected this to be the same. However, it seemed to drag a lot more this time and I had constant doubts about whether I could push through the swim. Around the first feed, Hannah and Robert arrived at the beach and Ad left me for a short while to go and say Hi. Though I feel much more comfortable in Anderby now I still didn't like him not being near me, I find it much more comforting to have him there. It's not because I am scared of the open water, I am feeling more and more at home in that, but because I feel that with Ad by my side I can do anything. It sounds a bit corny but it's true. I know he won't let me fail and that is a great comfort.

Hannah and Robert walked the beach for a while and Ad reported that they were going to wait for a short while until the rest of the crew arrived. I was happy with that, the longer is took them to get in the water, the longer I would definitely swim for as I couldn't get out when they were all expecting me to be able to swim the 6hrs. So I knew that the I was guaranteed to swim for at least an hour post them getting in so I counted down to the next feed and waitied. The next feed came slowly but finally I got to the 90mins and Hannah and Robert still weren't in the water which was great news and it meant I would definitely get to three hours, an hour with them and then I could definitely push it for 30minutes more myself. I was justifying to myself that 3hours was still a good session and that not to worry that I wouldn't do the six. Excuses excuses!! I was still feeling cold at this point. Not like worryingly cold just cold enough that it was uncomfortable and your mind starts to question 'What's the point? It's uncomfortable, why put yourself through this hardship. If this was the Channel, you could do it but you've got nothing to prove now. Three hours is a good swim, be pleased with that and go home, have a nice weekend with your fiance...' etc etc. The two hour feed came and despite being happy they weren't in the water, I was also starting to resent the fact they hadn't got in yet thinking that the more they faffed the longer I was actually going to have to swim for. The thoughts kept coming and I kept trying to bat them away, understanding deep down that, having got out early last weekend, it was important to make the six hours. I am always cold around the 2hour point and I was not feeling the love for swimming, but I kept my arms turning, head down and plugged away.

Adam kept me amused by relaying the events of the shore. It seemed something akin to Glastonbury was being erected and more and more people seemed to be arriving. Just before the 2.5hr mark, two other bods appeared in the water. One was a young guy whom I took to be a guy called Sam that Hannah has told me about who has aspirations to swim the Channel in the future and also another lady. They swam over and asked how it was going, I told them I was bit cold which seemed churlish considering they were only in their cossies! Unfortunately a cold North sea isn't the ideal place for introductions or polite conversation so I hoped they wouldn't think I was too rude when I put my head back down and continued swimming. Sam kept pace and I was happy for a while as I knew he was a good swimmer and I appeared to be keeping up with him though he appeared to be swimming head up front crawl. I wondered if he was practicing sighting or something and after a while he put his head down and began to swim properly. Ha, all fantasies that I was swimming ok were then shattered as he easily pulled away! In fairness I felt like I was swimming ok, my stroke was still consistent but he was obviously just very strong through the water. It was lovely having someone else undergoing the same mad caper as me and I felt cheered. The only issue I had was that Sam had obviously noted the fact that I only breathe to my left so had positioned himself between me and the shore so I could see him as we swam along. This was really helpful except it placed him between me and Ad. It was really strange but I felt a strong sense of needing to be near Ad and was almost resentful of Sam being closer to him than me and I really wanted to get back close to him. I put up with it as we swam down the shoreline as I can sight reasonably well heading that way. On the return leg however where I end up sighting out to see I quickly slowed up in order to nip behind Sam so I could get close to Ad again. When I think about it now, it was such an odd feeling to have and I apologise to Sam if I seemed to be weaving around and generally acting a bit strange but I genuinely had a desire to be near Ad. Not least as foolishly by not being near him I felt worried I might swim off line and therefore spend more time heading in one direction, which is crazy as it didn't matter in the slightest, all I needed to do was spend time in the water!!

Anyway, Sam got me through the 2.5hour feed which I was happy to note meant that by the time Han and Robert got in the water I would definitely make it to four hours. I had NO idea what they were upto, after all they'd be here for about three hours at this point but I was starting to feel grateful again that they still weren't in the water and they could definitely chaperone through to match last week's total of four hours. They finally got in the water, I think around the 3hr mark, though it was hard to tell as I think I got a somewhat delayed feed at that point as Ad had got distracted talking to the beach crew! After the first bottle was finished at 90minutes, Ad kayaked into the shore before each feed to collect a new bottle, pre-labelled with feed, top it up with hot water and head back out to feed me. I had two feeds per bottle which meant the first one was always lovely and warm and the second always a bit lukewarm. Still anything remotely warmer than the cold seawater was a bonus at that stage!!

Having Robert and Hannah in the water with me gave me a HUGE boost! It felt like we were back training at Whisby and we surged along like a little pod of dolphins. I started to feel much stronger and the cold feeling that I hadn't been able to shake since I started finally left. The only weird that that was distracting me in the water now was what felt like every so often whacking my hand into a semi-filled water-balloon. Hannah let out a squeak on a few occasions which confirmed that she too had felt them. It was weird, I think they must have been jellyfish from the feel but they definitely weren't stinging which was a relief. I did think I saw a few outlines of white transparent type umbrella structures floating along but the water is so murky in Anderby that it could have just been my eyes playing tricks! I settled down to enjoy swimming with them, knowing I was in for at least four hours which was great. We stopped at every end of the bay to have a quick chat and enjoy the swim. They said I was doing brilliantly and still looked good, which boosted me no end and I loved swimming along with them. I finally started to enjoy the swim and felt the best I ever have on one of these long swims. It was great! I felt fresh and strong and warm and the fight I had had to make to get through the first 3hours or so seemed to disappear. We swam along companionly (hmm, not sure what word I mean here but it's too late so that'll have to do, you know what I mean!) and when we stopped at one end we even saw a grey seal pop its head up nearby. It was amazing - it was so huge and close. Ad had mentioned it earlier when I stopped him as he was grinning away at something. I asked him what it was and he said there was a big grey seal and it reminded him of Heidi and was making him smile! Our dog is just so gorgeous and sometimes she does just look like a big black seal or otter! Hannah and Robert had said they'd seen it numerous times from the beach all throughout the swim and it was obviously keeping an eye out for me. Oh, my own guardian angel seal, nothing beats it!

On the last lap Robert headed out to get a thermometer to do a temp check. I optimistically (or pessimistically in terms of today but optimistically in terms of relatively for the Channel) plumped for 14 degrees, Hannah went for 16 and Robert sitting in the middle at 15. It terms out in was 16 degrees which I was a bit disappointed with as it means we're not that much off Channel temperature. Though actually after the first three hours I didn't feel at all cold so I shouldn't worry too much. After a few laps of the bay, it was time for Robert and Hannah to head in and leave me to finish off. I knew they had been hoping to swim for an hour so I guessed I had around 2hours to go so I was chuffed to bits when Robert said it was nearly quarter past 3 which meant I only had 90mins. I had worried that when they went in I would lose focus and start to feel down again and cold but actually I didn't. I continued to feel warm (relatively!) and felt confident and strong. I knew the six hours was in the bag. Don't get me wrong, knowing it was in the bag and still having to swim out those 90mins are two different things but I never wavered and just kept on. I felt great when we started counting down the last hour and soon it was my final feed. Actually Ad decided to mess with my head a little on the final feed by stopping me early with around 35minutes to go just because we had enough feed left to 'squeeze some more feeds in'!! I refrained from telling him I could manage perfectly well now to get to the end with no more feeds and stop making me think I had less to go than I had, and just carried on feeling triumphant as I headed off for the last lap! A few extra small loops later, just to make up time, and I was counting down the final few minutes. I felt absolutely great, still warm and still strong and brimming with confidence. I had no aches and pains bar a little pain in my right shoulder and a stiff lower back. I fully felt like if I had had to continue swimming for 8, 10 or even 16 hours I definitely could have done. If today had been Channel day, I could have made it, I am sure. It was a fabulous feeling and I have never felt so good at the end of a long swim. What a relief!! It is going to be ok!

I headed in to shore, clumsily body-surfing the waves and met the wonderful little group headed towards me who had been spectating and supporting all day. I met Jacqui and her husband and two boys and she spend no time at all getting me a cup of hot chocolate. Ad helped me strip off and plonked on my lovely wooly hat and wrapped me up in a towel. I felt great, really strong and not tired so I think the feeding has worked well. I was absolutely amazed that there people, who are total strangers by the way, we only met today, would come and spend their day on the beach and look after me and encourage and support me. I was flooded with gratitude. I also couldn't have done it without Robert and Hannah. After I was snuggled up in the sun, they passed me some cake to munch on. It turns out this was birthday cake. Yup, it was Robert's birthday and instead of living it up somewhere celebrating here they were helping me out by swimming around in the freezing sea. They downplayed their part in it all assuring me I would have done it without them. Maybe I would, maybe I wouldn't. I felt sure that the outcome might not have been as successful as it was without them , and even if I had managed it definitely wouldn't have been as easy as they helped make it to be.

Finally I need to say a big thank you to Ad. He is such a massive support on these big sessions. Not only does he sort all the logistics out and look after me and make sure I am fed and warm but just having him there gives me the confidence that it will be ok and that I can do it and that speaks volumes. He also kayaked alongside me for 6 straight hours so he got a bit of a workout in himself plus some very sunburned arms!!

It was turning into a wonderful warm evening but we had a pooch to get back to so we said our goodbyes and very heartfelt thank yous and headed home. Despite many offers of help from Christopher and Sam which were greatly appreciated, I think it was testament to how good I felt that I managed to drag the fully laden down kayak back to the car!!

First Open Water Swim!! (10th April 2011)

So in advance of my first proper open water swim, Adam and I decided to go and do
a recce over at Anderby Creek. The coast is about 50miles away so we enjoyed a nice
drive through some of the lovely Lincolnshire countryside. There are some lovely
villages en route and we did a bit of fantasy house-hunting to pass the time. The run
up to Anderby Creek was lined with campsites but on arrival it had a bit of a ‘League
of Gentleman’ Royston Vasey feel! We parked up and headed over the boardwalk
to have a look at the beach. It was a lovely remote stretch of sand though the water
looked a bit chilly!!

Open water swim phase

Ah, the time has come to start open water swimming! Much as I would love to keep
putting it off as I am well aware that the sea in general and the North Sea in particular
is freezing at the moment, the time has come to get rubbered up and dive in! I have
met up with a local couple called Hannah and Robert who have much experience in
this area – Robert is a Channel Swimmer himself and Hannah is Chief Crew – who
have advised me of the best places to swim. Lincoln triathlon club don’t start their
open water sessions in the lake until the beginning of May so I am going to have to
brave the open water off the coast until then. Hannah and Robert have recommended
a place called Anderby Creek so happily I am going to spend my next few weekends
pootling about there. My father and mother-in-law to be are going to come over and
accompany Adam and I to the coast as Mike will come and kayak for me while Adam
and Ellen walk the shore. I have no idea how cold it will be but I have decided not to
bother investing in a neoprene hat or booties etc as I am not going to use them during
the A2A so I may aswell start getting used to the cold now!!

Caythorpe Canter (2nd April 2011)

I met up with my good friend Becki on a pleasant spring morning for the Caythorpe
Canter, a trail marathon near where I live in Lincolnshire. I had warned Becki that
it might be a bit of a slow one given that I am now solely in run/walk mode but it
is her first marathon so she was willing to go with whatever speed I wanted. The
atmosphere at these events is great, very informal and welcoming and I was very
much looking forward to out day. Becki has done a few events with me before and it
is always fab to run with her and have a good catch up. She is totally selfless about
it and always lets me run at my pace and walk when I want and I am always grateful
to her for helping me out. We estimated around 5.30-6hrs given stops for homemade
cake etc! Happily the Canter starts at the civilised time of 9am so after registering
we made our way calmly to the start line. At the start line I saw my friend Anthony
Gerundi who won the Double Ironman 2010 and was looking to post around 3.30
today. Given that that was the only time I was likely to see him today (!) I wished
him good luck for the race and wandered off a bit closer to the back of the group!

The gun went and off we went. The first few miles are all on roads, pretty much until
the first checkpoint at around 6miles so we had decided we would run pretty much
all of that unless there were any major hills. About 3miles in we were confused to
see the fastest runners heading back towards us. Knowing there was no out and back
section to the course we stopped and waited to see what was going on. Turns out they
had taken a wrong turn and like lemmings we had all followed! Anthony was leading
and if had known that I would have relied more heavily on my own navigation skills
as he has somewhat of a reputation for getting lost! Thankfully being near the back
we had only gone half a mile or so out of our way unlike the front runners who had
probably gone over a mile before the realised they were wrong and had had to double
back to the rest of us! To think at one point therefore we were almost in the lead!
J With the extra distance it was probably 75minutes before we reached the first
check point and I think Becki and I were wishing we had decided to carry our own
water. Becki had sensibly brought a camelback to run with but not so sensibly had be
swayed by my insistence that we’d be ok between checkpoints! It was a pretty sunny
day and we definitely felt thirsty which was not a great sign. Still we were happy to
reach our first marker and have a couple of glasses of squash and a bit of fruit cake.

During the race there were quite a few off road sections on trail and through fields
and it was beautiful scenery. The first have passed reasonably quickly and both of us
felt comfortable. The longest Becki had run prior to this was 18miles and we were
both excited about reaching that point and celebrating her new longest run! However,
around 15miles, Becki’s knee was really starting to give her some problems. I think
probably all the running in fields where the ground can be quite uneven and the path
was often so narrow that your feet fell at different heights as you tried to follow the
established path, was probably putting a strain around the knee joint. We decided to
walk more and only run where the path was flat and wide. This reduced our speed
but was a chance for us to have a nice chat. Becki kept apologising for having to
walk but I told her that walking was as valid as piece of training for me as running
and anyway, I was hardly begging to be able to run, I was pretty tired! I think not
fuelling properly was probably also beginning to take its toll and we were starting to
feel it as we made the last check point in a local school. The 18-mile point had come
and gone and we took a moment to toast Becki’s longest run! We took the chance to
have a little sit down and refuel on Penguin biscuits though we were cautious not to
sit down for too long as the chairs we made for little people and it was pretty hard to
get back up especially with seizing knees!! We were warned that the last challenge
was just around the corner, a particularly infamous hill but, once we had made it over,
it was a nice steady run into the finish.

We set off on the last leg and, upon reaching amoderate hill, I enquired of Becki whether this was the hill everyone had been talking about as she has cycled up it before. She looked at me with amusement and we headed round the next corner where I was faced with something altogether more Himalayan. I may have had a little curse but we had no real choice except to get on with it. We slowed right down and I spent a lot of the following minutes adopting a
bent over position using my hands to push off my knees with every step just to make
forward progress!! We finally crested the top of the hill and were relieved that there
were only a few miles left to face. We walked and jogged those last few miles, the
highlight of which was me managing to do a comedy fall as I tripped over a tree root
and narrowly avoided landing on a dead blackbird, and finally crossed the finish line
together a few minutes over the 6hr mark. It was great to get a long run done –
probably somewhere between 27-28miles with the detour and, as always, it had been
a pleasure to spend the day with Bec. We had a happy time refuelling with some
fabulous sandwiches and homemade cake before setting off to our respective abodes
for a welcome bath!

Training Update (March 2011)

Training Update (March 2011)

So training seems to have been a bit piecemeal for the last couple of weeks. Despite feeling remotivated on the return from Lanzarote I haven’t really got any key sessions in. I have had some consistency and trained most days but it’s only been a few miles in the pool or an hour or so running at a time. Adam’s 30th birthday came round on the 17th March and a few days were taken up with some great celebrations including a return to Northcote in Lancashire, the restaurant of Nigel Haworth, North-West representative and main course winner on the Great British Menu. We ate there two years ago for my birthday and ate Nigel’s exact Great British Menu menu which was fabulous and it didn’t disappoint on our return!

Sunday, 19 June 2011

RAF Triathlon Camp (March 2011)

My aim for our time in Lanzarote was basically to get some biking miles done. I think Eddie was a bit perturbed during the Ultra when I informed him I hadn't done any biking at all since the Double Ironman in August but I just don't seem to be able to find the time or motivation to manage all three of these sports and I figure the biking is the least important. I know that, come these warm weather camps in Lanzarote and Cyprus later in the year, I do need to knuckle down though and use them as a way to solidify the endurance base I will have built on the bike for the Double. I knew that I probably wasn't going to want to do much running because of the 45miler a few days previously so swimming and biking was in!
It was great to meet everyone coming off the plane and, as I am the Tour Manager, my first job had nothing to do with any actual training but everything to do with the admin faff that accompanies 22 people travelling internationally! Thankfully most people's bikes had arrived safely so that was one less worry to deal with. I collected all thekeys and got everyone checked in and we arrange to meet about 90minutes later for an acclimitisation run. We do this run every year just so people understand the lay of the land, have a little shake down after the long flight and start to find the people of the same ability to train with during the week. It does definitely help to have other people to train with and I was feeling very positive about the week. After the run we all met up again in the bar for me to chat through the plan for the week, introduce the coaches and get the Det Cdr to lay down the rules!! Normally I have no problem with taking triathletes abroad, I think we're generally quite a boring lot! Unlike the swim team when it is almost always absolute carnage!!
I settled into my room with my buddies Penny and Laura and we began to plan a timetable. Outside of the coached sessions, La Santa is a great place to be as it also runs a comprehensive fitness programme. I ran their half-marathon last year and the Stretch & Relax and Core Stability classes are always popular ways of supplementing training. The coaching programme was similar most days, usually a morning swim in the fabulous open-air 50m pool followed by breakfast (the food at La Santa is fab!) and then splitting into our bike groups for a long ride of 3-4hours. After a quick soak of our legs in the pool post-ride and maybe an hour or so relaxing in the sun if we're lucky it's back for more great food at dinner. The evening is usually a coached run drills sessions or another technical aspect including some lectures on nutrition and bike maintenance. It is a fabulous camp and a really good way to inject some professionalism into our Interservices team and get everyone bonding properly.
The camp passed quickly and covered all the aspects I had wanted. As I got stung by the jellyfish during the Ultra attempt and had such a bad allergic reaction, and because of the 45miler I stayed away for running but covered a good 250miles of hilly and windy biking in the Lanzarote sun which was ideal. It was great to hang out with old friends and make some new ones and I embraced the week with an enthusiasm for training that I have been missing somewhat over the last few months. I really think the sun makes everything so much easier and being able to dedicate your whole time to training, thinking about training, recovering from training without worrying about the stresses of everyday normal life, is paramount. I flew home at the end of the week feeling refreshed and invigorated and ready to start the final phase of training before the A2A.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Lanza - Post-mortem

Ad and I spent a few days post-event with Eddie and Lynn and finally it felt like a bit of a holiday! The day after the event I awoke without too much muscle soreness which I always think is astonishing. I suffer much much more from doing a stand-alone marathon than I ever have from a distance triathlon event. I don't know whether it is because the intensity is lower or because you are using all the muscle groups but I always feel reasonably ok afterwards. We spent a few days doing touristy things like visiting the Timafaya National Park and heading down to the beach at Playa Blanca. Typically despite being beautiful weather during the challenge, it was a bit overcast when we finally managed to have some time to spend on the beach. We also managed to ruin the poor Endurovan! On our first day, Ad opened the door into the wind and it nearly wrenched it off its hinges! And when we were in the National Park, someone helpfully drove into it in the car park and has dented the door. So the poor van is a bit bashed up but Eddie has been very generous about its misfortune saying it adds character!! It was wonderful to spend some time away with Ad and Eddie and Lynn continued to be the most wonderful hosts. We all went out for a meal on our last night and it was great to be with them and chew the fat and absorb all of their advice and experience ahead of the A2A. Finally Thursday came and Ad had to head back to the UK while I headed to the North of the island to Club La Santa to join the RAF Triathlon Training Camp who were flying out that day. Lynn and Eddie gave me a wonderful gift to celebrate the Lanzarote Ultra, some fabulous local wine made on the island and a pair of beautiful silver and peridot earrings which I will always wear to compete in now for good luck!

Now I can reflect on the event, I don't think it could have gone much better. Yes, I certainly had points during the swim where I wanted to give up but I didn't even get to the point of vocalising those thoughts so they can't have been that major and more importantly, I managed to work through them which is a great confidence builder for the A2A. The run went really well and I got through the cycle on no training so it shows what can be achieved if you put your mind to it! I just need to stay positive now ahead of the A2A, prepare as best I can and focus on building the mental strength required to get through the challenge!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Part 4! The bike....

I had thought I wouldn't be able to sleep much during the afternoon as it would be warm and sunny but after a cup of tea, I decided I would just go and lie down at least to get some rest. Ad shut all the shutters and the room remained pretty cool and actually I was soon out like a light. Obviously I was physically tired both from the exertion of exercise and no doubt from not having had a proper night's sleep for two days. Ad and Ed also needed a rest after having been up all through the night before with me so the house soon became still and quiet.

I woke up about 5pm ready to have a shower and stretch, eat a decent meal and get ready for the cycling. Lynn as always did superbly well for us, providing tasty, filling meals with salad and bread and I felt the energy returning after the break. I had a stretch and tried to decide what I wanted to wear for the first leg of the cycling. I would still be warm at 6.30pm but would get cold reasonably quickly as the sun went down after the first hour or so. I was nervous about the cycling as traditionally it is my weakest discipline and I hadn't done any real training for it. I think Ed was a bit shocked when I told him I hadn't been on my bike once since the Double in August. It may seem foolish to some people but I knew I had a good base of cycling fitness from the Double and, as I wasn't fussed about time, so long as I kept moving forward I would eventually get there. I was a bit concerned that I wouldn't have any strength for the wind or power for the hills as I hadn't done any specific training and Lanzarote is notorious for both of these factors!! As 6.33pm approached our little party headed slowly down the driveway to ready for the off. Ad carried my bike down the drive to the amusement of Ed who made some 'under the thumb' comments but I was extremely grateful and couldn't have asked for a better support crew than my wondeful fiance! At 6.30 I gave Lynn a hug, Ad a last kiss and clipped into my pedals. At 6.33pm precisely I pushed off and headed off down the road to Yaiza with the Endurovan trailling slowly in my wake. The first part of the bike course was familiar to me as I had cycled it many times with the RAF Tri team during our training camp the year previously. We headed through Yaiza and then onto the road into the Fire Mountains and the Timanfaya National Park. The road up Fire Mountain was straight into a quite hearty headwind but I knew the landmarks I was looking for and kept my head down and pedalling on. I think Adam was a bit amused at how slowly I was making progress as he hasn't been to Lanzarote before and doesn't know of the notorious wind. About halfway up the drag up Fire Mountain he got out of the Endurovan to bring me down a new water bottle. As he reached me he turned and was nearly immediately blown backwards by the wind. I think he was shocked at the force and said, 'Oh, now I understand why you're taking such a long time!!!' It was tough but like I said to Eddie, 'I've done this hill once so I'm not scared of it, I know I can do it again!' So I started off with a positive attitude to the cycling though still apprehensive about the notorious Mirador that leads up to the highest point on the island which I've never attempted before so couldn't approach with the same confidence.

The climb up to the top of Fire Mountain was a lot less strenuous than I remembered (the last time I was here I had a massive bonk* at Yaiza before the return leg and people had to pour Coke down my throat just to get me to start peddling again!) which I was pleased with - maybe after all this time my cycling is actually improving a little?! And the descent down the other side past the Timafaya National Park entrance was also not as white-knuckled as I remembered from previously either. I think the fact that by now it was almost totally dark probably helped as I couldn't see the steep descent or corners approaching!! The road then rolls on for 10kms or so into Tinajo which was a part of the ride I really enjoyed. The Endurovan had left me to it to leap-frog on to Tinajo and prepare me a hot drink so it was just me and the amazing sky full of stars. It was lovely to arrive in the lit-up but totally deserted town of Tinajo and to stop for the first of my ham sandwiches. It was funny, I thought I would really like them on the run but they didn't work for me at all whereas on the bike they were totally fabulous. I wish I had made more than two as they had to be rationed as the Pepperami had been on the run!! Funny how food can be such a big factor on your mental state! After a swift cup of tea we rolled up through more villages beginning with T (Tiagua, Teguise) before hitting the route to Haria where I knew my biggest challenge lay ahead. I don't remember much about this part of the route (hmm, maybe I was sleeping!) except that each village triggered vague recollections of being there last year with RAF Triathlon and how much I have improved as a cyclist since then!

I was starting to get quite tired as the road started to wind its way more and more steeply through switchbacks to the village of Haria. I couldn't quite work out where on the route we were now and whether I had started the infamous climb up the Mirador yet. I was starting to get quite tired both physically and sleepily and struggled to stay awake whilst plugging away up the hills. It seemed to go on for ever and the camber on some of the switchbacks was extreme. Ad and Ed had had to go on a few miles up the road and I felt very alone. I remember shouting out-loud at times in the frustration and probably for sheer tiredness. I believe I used some very choice language and I was glad Ad and Ed weren't around to laugh at my silliness! Ed had warned me that at one point it became very steep but it was just for a short while. On reaching that point I pushed and pushed and ground the pedals round until it got so steep I was hardly moving. I thought at that point it would be best just to clip out and walk rather than try and push on and maybe get to the point where I wouldn't be quick enough to clip out in time before I toppled over. I had just got off the bike and was starting to push up the steepest part of the hill when I saw a torch bobbing out of the darkness. It was Ad and I was so relieved. He told me I had literally a few metres to go to the top where Ed was waiting for with the Endurovan and I could have a rest. I was so happy to see Ad but slightly annoyed that I had got nearly to the top of the hill when I had decided to get off. I could have definitely made it over riding but it in the darkness you can't tell how much longer up the hill you have to go! Despite this being good at some points, it does make it difficult to gauge your effort and know when to dig in. I could definitely have got to the top of the hill being, as it transpired, about another 50m but had it been another 500m I think I would have struggled!!!

I was glad to reach the top of that section and the chance to have a drink and a bite to eat. And just having a few moments chatting to Ad and Ed cheered me up after I had been feeling quite alone for a while. I never felt scared in the dark which I did wonder if I would but sometimes you feel isolated and alone and having the crew to chat too makes such a difference to your mood. Unfortunately it wasn't the end of the climbing, I had thought that was maybe the Mirador done but Eddie informed me that no, we still had to drop down into Haria village before climbing up again to the peak of the Mirador. It was getting late, around 10pm by now and I just wanted to get it done so we pushed on after a short break, dropping down into Haria before turning left up a short steep hill and the beginning of the climb up the Mirador.

The actual final climb up there Mirador wasn't as bad as I thought it might have been and I managed most of the way. I got off at one point just to have a little rest from the long winding climb and refocus, have a little think about how completing the challenge would feel etc. Mirador literally means 'lookout' and I wished for a moment that it wasn't the middle of the night and I could appreciate what I was sure would be amazing views falling away below me. The road is bordered by a wall leading up to the top where a small fortress and gun battery sits. It was a bit surreal passing the long disused fortress in the last few metres before the top and reaching the isolated layby where the Endurovan was parked up. It was pretty chilly at the top and Ad wrapped me up in a jacket in preparation for the next downhill section. I had a quick cup of tea and a sandwich and headed off eager to get off the top of the chilly mountain and head for home.

The downhill section off the top of the Mirador was a bit hairy, I couldn't see very well and despite being well wrapped up with a jacket and long gloves, I was so cold that I was shaking which made for interesting bike handling. Despite it being a no work section, I really didn't enjoy this part as I was tired and cold and worried about coming off the bike if I got my speed or cornering a bit wrong due to tiredness. Half way down at full pelt my light also took the inopportune moment to fall off leaving me skidding to a halt and giving Ad and Eddie who were following me down the hill in the Endurovan, a heart attack as they braked sharply to avoid running me over! Having a car following you is a bit disconcerting but I needed the extra light and I am sure it was worse for Ad and Ed. I have followed a bike at night before as a support crew and it is no fun, you are so conscious that if you judge things just a little bit wrong you can end up whacking into the rider in front of you.

Light re-affixed we headed on down the hill to Arieta where we had a short stop before pressing on. I also really didn't enjoy the next section which was the long straight road to Tahiche. It appeared flat to the naked eye but either it was deceptively uphill or I was just getting extremely tired as I appeared to be going absolutely nowhere! It seemed to take forever before we finally reached Tahiche and turned off the main road for the final time to head to San Bartholme, our final stopping point before the final stretch back to Yaiza. I was glad to be off the long stretch to Tahiche and revived a little at this point. Our final stop at San Bartholme proved amusing. I had just hopped off the bike looking for a bush to have a quick wee when suddenly everything was illuminated! A police cruiser had pulled up next to the Endurovan with full beams wondering what a car was doing cruising around so slowly at this time of night. Eddie mustered all his best Spanish to explain I was completing a long distance endurance event and they were my support crew while I tried to creep further and further into the darkness to avoid mooning everyone!!! I've always said triathlon is not a glamourous game!

Finally the police let us on our way though I'm not convinced they didn't think we were completely mad and we made the last turning down to La Geria and Yaiza. I'm pretty sure I was going a bit delirious at this stage, alternating between very hyper (I got extremely over-excited by the sighting of a hedgehog at the side of the road which I regaled in great detail to Ad and Ed who definitely thought I was going bonkers) and very tired. I was extremely pleased to roll into the familiarity of Yaiza knowing it was just a few short miles home. I pushed on desperate to get home but also wanting a little time to revel in the achievement and soon the lights of the Endurohouse were sparkling in front of me. I cycled round the last roundabout and up to the drive where Lynn, despite the fact in was about 2am, was, bless her, waiting for us to get home. I very happily got off the bike and gave her a big hug while she offered many congratulations. I gave Ed a huge hug and I could see how pleased he was for me. I couldn't wait to give Ad a massive hug as well and he told me how proud he was which meant the world. Honestly, they were such a wonderful crew and I couldn't have done it without them.

We all piled into the house where I proceeded to eat my body weight in Cadbury's chocolate fingers accompanied by a steaming hot cup of tea before having a quick shower and heading straight to bed!

* This is not as rude as it sounds (!) - it basically means when you totally run out of energy - similar to hitting the wall in the marathon