Sunday, 26 August 2007

Food for thought...

My aim this week is to encourage you to think... nothing more than that, just think. Sounds easy? Having spent the last five years of my life working with many different people, both as a personal trainer and now as a university lecturer, it strikes me how little we actually think about the things we do. Often things which we simply accept without question can have a significant effect on not only our own life but also on those around us. How often do you hear someone say something like 'as long as I have my health that's all that matters'? A comment like this would suggest to me that they are putting their health and wellness at the very top of their priorities, however their actions do not always agree. Of the many areas of life in which we can achieve good health, nutrition and diet must be one of the least understood. We all know that having McDonalds, KFC and Burger King three times a day would seriously damage our health but what about those of us who always go for the 'healthy' option? Are we thinking hard enough about exactly what goes in to the low fat, low sugar healthy options? Just because it's low in calories etc. does that mean it's doing us good? Actually.... NO! Confusing? Actually.... NO!

Those of you who took the time to read the article that I mentioned in last week's post will have some idea of what I'm talking about, those of you who haven't I suggest you pop over HERE and come back when you're done ;) Unfortunately the average person in today's society is so inactive that they can't actually afford to consume a reasonable amount of energy without doubling in size by the week. Shockingly, when I asked the University of Leeds Lifestyle Group to time how long they spent without moving during the average day
(i.e. sleeping, sitting, driving etc.) I found that even on a day when I did three hours of hard endurance training I was totally sedentary for 18 of the 24 hours!! Imagine then how little energy I would be expending were I not training for an Ironman? How much do you move? Anyway, the physical activity discussion is for another day... for now lets get back to food.

We seem to have found ourselves in a situation where little of what we eat is actually food. Instead we consume a variety of products designed to look and taste just like food. A quick look at today's picture demonstrates this very well! What you're looking at is the label from a bottle of Robinson's No Added Sugar Fruit Squash claiming to be 'the perfect choice for your family'. Lets think about that for a second...

Are all the items on the ingredients list of this drink actually 'food'? Would your great grandma recognise them? The bottom line... are they bad for you? A quick Internet search on aspartame HERE and sodium metabisulfite HERE certainly provides food for thought. Can something which is 'not recommended for consumption by children' justifiably be included in a 'family' drink? Of course there is some controversy, and for every person who is anti artificial additives you can find another who says they are fine. But should we even be having those discussions?

H and I are currently striving to 'only eat food' and have therefore ditched many of our previously favourite things such as NutriGrain Bars, Options Hot Chocolate and the 'healthy' fruit and nut mixtures sold in many shops which often contain THIS!!!
As I said, all I want you to do is think. Look at the contents of EVERYTHING you (and your kids) eat, find out what they are and what they may or may not do to you and make your own decision instead of assuming that the people behind the multi-billion dollar artificial additives industry have your health at the top of their priority list.

As usual I'm now propping my eyelids open with matchsticks so to round off... this week has seen some great training. Particularly today where I did an 80 mile ride which included 5 laps of the Pool Triangle (hilly 12.5 miles) at increasing intensity. The idea of this was to learn about pacing longer rides and I set myself the target of each of the five laps being successively faster... which I managed (just) with 38:32, 37:18, 36:37, 35:41 and a quad busting 35:29! My pb for a single lap of this course is 30:54 but stick it on the back of five consecutive days of hard training and then a 55 mile 'warm-up' a long 35 takes some doing although I did still have the energy for a 75 minute brick run straight off the bike which included the infamous 'Kirkstall Hills' run from the gym. On top of today's 5+ hour session there's been loads of good running and swimming and with a day under two weeks to go I'm feeling sharp for the Vit ;)

This coming week will see the final few days of hard training before next week's taper. Things will become much more focused toward the race and on Tuesday H and I are off down to Rutland water to ride and run the course in advance of the big day. We also have the final Pool Triangle race of the season where although a pb will be the target I think the preceding five days of hard training will cause my legs to disagree!

By for now,


It's a hard life...

A few times this week both Tom & I have talked about how other people see us. Our friends and family are incredibly supportive and understanding and we couldn't ask for more from them. However, people that don't know us very well think we're 'obsessed', 'boring', 'unadventurous' and couldn't think of anything worse than spending the hours we do... training. My week culminated today with a fantastic 100 mile ride (see above pic) in what can only be described as torturously hilly! Granted, riding 100 miles in the leg burning countryside of Holme Valley is not everyone's cup of tea but the thing that struck me today was 'I was ALIVE'. I love my life, it's amazing. We don't have much money (in fact no money at all!!!- all donations greatly received ;) We don't have a huge house, or fast cars, or the best triathlon equipment but we're fit, healthy & most importantly, HAPPY.

We were in Sainsbury's this week and at the till we were served by the most lifeless soul I've ever seen. He looked like he barely new he was alive. I wanted to go to the fresh fish counter, buy a huge wet kipper and slap him round the face with it. You don't have to be the fittest person in the world to appreciate your life. You don't have to be the richest person in the world, but you do have to be a happy person and be aware of what's around you. Today I saw the most beautiful views in places I would never normally visit. I rode to the top of Holme Moss in Holme Valley and watched the world below, kestrels in the sky & kamikaze sheep on the road, it was fantastic and I really, really appreciate the fact that I can put myself in those places and truly appreciate them, they make me happy. And all the time that myself, Chrissy & Jonny (in above pic) were out there today I couldn't help but think that my life ain't hard in the slightest, not when the things that make me happy I surround myself with. Tom & I cycled to Ilkley on Friday early evening and we went to Betty's, bought a big fat scone each and sat on the grass and scoffed them in the fading heat of the day. Our training sessions aren't all lung busting affairs and we love nothing more than spending the time together chatting. Our training regime is hard, but then so are our end goals. However, we never lose sight of each other and what makes us happy. So to the people who think we're 'obsessed', 'boring' and 'unadventurous'... you got the wrong couple.

Regarding training this week, it's been full steam ahead. Another solid 19km week in the pool with my fastest set of 300's on Tuesday. I ran long (18 miles) on Thursday and surprised myself (and Tom & Tony B) when they tried to run past me at about mile 14 but like a Jack Russell I kept nipping at their heels and they had to give in and let me run the rest of the way home with them as they just couldn't quite shake me off. That was particularly satisfying as they were running 6.50min miles so I did a great negative split for the last half of my run and finished really strong. I got an open water swim in on Sat am and an interval session on the bike with a run off it and then today I did the Holme Valley 100 mile and boy do my quads feel those hills now! Jeez I've just counted up my training hours for this week... just over 30hrs, that's the gravitational pull of a Betty's scone for ya ;)

It's a hard life... NOT!!!

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Somewhere over Helen's rainbow...

This week I peeked into the pot of gold that sits on the other side of my rainbow. I've had some brilliant break through sessions (particularly in my swimming) and a solid week of training, all is good. However, along with my pot of gold was also a pot of reality... I'm technically inept when it comes to cycling! All will be revealed.

First week of hard training done for The Vitruvian & I'm back in the groove. Really enjoying getting my teeth into the harder, shorter sessions and it's improving my swimming & cycling which is fantastic. My legs have worked hard this week and I've also done some quality running miles - although I still feel a bit one paced in races shorter than half-marathon distance.

19km of swimming this week and no junk km's in there, my best session being a 500m w/u then 10 x 400m's off 7mins with a 500m c/d. I averaged about 6.35 for each one and I'm really, really pleased with that, definitely a marked improvement since the last time I did this session. I feel so much more efficient in the water but would benefit from a few coached sessions to get my stroke rate down and tweak my technique to give me that little bit more that I need. I know there's a faster swimmer in me somewhere, unfortunately I reckon it's sitting in the pot of reality along with my bike handling skills ;)

Tuesday and Thursday saw the best of my running sessions. The weather god's certainly haven't been good to us this Summer and on Tuesday evening it was raining hard so Tom, Tony B & myself did a treadmill session set by my coach Martin. 15-20mins w/u then 2 x 12min intervals with 6 min jog recovery in between. Sounded a bit too easy when I said it out loud, in fact I think I may even have suggested doing three (now there's a surprise). First interval done and boy was I pleased I'd been over ruled! It was more of a tempo session than a speed session and I had a bit of a light bulb moment. It's probably due to noticing the very different changes of pace needed for the various races I've done in the past few months. In the middle of my first 12min interval I felt like I either wanted to speed up to get it over and done with (not possible when the interval is on time and not distance) or I wanted to slow it down to a more comfortable pace (must come from my long run mentality). So the good thing is I found my threshold and had the perfect tempo session. Uncomfortable enough to know you're working but not comfortable enough to be slacking off...perfect. On Thursday I did 16miles my first long run since Austria and wasn't sure if I was going to enjoy it or not, especially as I had to do it straight after work at 6pm. The route I do is an out and back which is great for negative splitting (running the second half faster than the first). I felt good on the way out and passed Tom & our mate Darren who had done the exact same run but were nearly finished. I got to my turn around just over 8miles in 1hr05mins and gradually picked up the pace on my way back feeling awesome and finishing really strong in 1hr01mins. Just over 16miles in 2hrs 06mins with a very strong negative split, great work and another spoon of gold out of my pot at the end of this weeks rainbow :)

Now to the pot of reality. Bike handling...I'm sure it's partly to do with being a girl but I'm crap, absolutely awful when it comes to sharp bends, wet surfaces and pulling wheelies!!! Today I raced in the Stockton Olympic Distance Triathlon (1500m swim, 40km bike and 10km run). Today it rained and rained and rained. Today I swam well (24+mins), cycled like a girl (1.13) and ran okay (43mins). Total time 2hrs 24mins (not a pb) and 2nd girl (although there were only seven of us!) Today I realised that when I can't do something well I switch off. The Pool Triangle (our weekly 20km TT) has only been dry once or twice every time I've done it so it wasn't necessarily the rain that turned me into a big girls blouse today so it must have been the course. Put me on a bike course that flows and I'll put my head down and bury myself into the race but put me on a twisty, turny wet course and I'm crap and not only does it highlight my lack of technical skills but it also makes my head switch off. I couldn't get my heart rate up for love nor money on the bike today. It took me a while to realise that it wasn't tired legs or lethargy from a hard week but purely to do with the fact that I couldn't just hammer it, I had to think about my line... were my pedals in the right place going round tight bends... was I going to slip on the dodgy bit of slippery wood that we had to go over three times...and was the rain ever going to stop! The answer should have been concentrate, work hard, stay focused and get on with it, so lesson learned. Must do some handling stuff on the bike! Off the bike and onto the run. See I'm happy again, running controlled and enjoying it, heart rate back up and working hard. I still feel like I can't turn the pace up. I could have stayed at the pace I ran at today for half-marathon distance in a tri but couldn't pick it up to make a noticeable difference for it being a 10km run...

... but it's all there somewhere over my rainbow, all I have to do is keep dipping into my pot of reality and my pot of gold will keep growing :)

H. x

P.s A huge well done to the guys who did Ironman Uk this weekend, tough conditions for a very tough course. Recover strong and enjoy your Ironman glory. x

How not to race a tri... and some homework...

As usual I've spent the week thinking of what to post and having settled on one thing have changed my mind at the last minute!
Our next race was originally scheduled to be the national middle distance championships in Rutland Water on September the 8th but when our club was offered free places in today's Stockton Olympic Triathlon we jumped at the chance to get stuck in to some decent competition. I'm not sure why but I had a feeling that having not raced properly since Ironman Switzerland my next race would be a bit rusty and was pleased to get it out of the way before my second 'A' race of the season in three weeks time. With a relative small field of around 60 male athletes I fancied my chances of getting on the podium so although this was very much a 'C' race and I'd trained hard all week I planned to give it everything (see last week's post).

The swim went well and although it's still my weakest discipline and the water was way colder than the claimed 17 degrees I stepped foot on dry land in 23:29 and about tenth place... with the bike currently my strongest discipline I felt like I was out of the water in striking distance of the top three. So far so good...

I'm normally pretty rapid in transition and manage to at least hold, if not gain, places during this crucial period. For some reason though (see paragraph 2) I'd left my brain in the cold dark water of the Tees Barrage and arrived at my bike with my wetsuit still fully zipped up and swim hat firmly in place! Twenty seconds of guffing around later and I grabbed my bike helmet only to realise my race number (normally already attached under my wetsuit) was nowhere to be seen... as fellow competitors raced out of T1 I was still messing around in my transition box looking for my number belt... all I could think was how glad I was to be learning these lessons now and not at the Vitruvian.

Finally I headed out on to the 40k bike and got my head down to try and claw my way back up the field. By this stage the weather was horrendous with strong sidewinds blowing me all over the road and heavy rain reducing grip on this extremely technical course to a minimum. Still, I felt pretty strong and managed to work my way up to third place about 60 seconds off P2 and another 60 off P1 before entering T2... where the fun began all over again!

In an otherwise well organised race the signposting was pretty poor and entering the final roundabout on the final lap of the bike it wasn't overly clear where to go. On a marshalls intructions I turned right and headed back towards transition the same way I'd left just under an hour ago... unfortunately he'd sent me the wrong way and I found myself on the wrong side of T2, much to the bemusement of the crowd. A quick hop over a fence and finally 'my transition hell' (nice tabloid headline for you Steve D) was over and all I had to do was run.

Setting out on the run I knew there was I strong possibility that I'd be disqualified for going the wrong way on the bike (and rightly so even though it wasn't my fault) so just thought I'd get my head down and learn to hurt. Every now and then I could see the guys in first (Tim Ashelford from LBT) and second place but knowing they were both stronger runners than me was more interested in consolidating the final podium place and keeping ahead of the two athletes who were about a minute down on me. Thirty-eight minutes of running later and I'd achieved my goal by running hard, finishing strong and holding position to finish in a total time of 2 hours and 3 minutes.

As soon as I crossed the line I found the race referee and confessed to my diversion, which she deamed worthy of a three minute penalty (pretty reasonable I thought even though it probably cost me time rather than saved time). It wasn't just me though and the guy who came second had (mistakenly) deviated from the run course for which he too was docked three minutes.

They say the sign of a good football team is that even when they play badly they still win and considering I had the worst two transitions I've ever had as well as a three minute penalty I'm pretty pleased with my revised time of 2 hours 6 minutes and 6th overall. This brings me to this week's picture which is Tim Ashelford with his first place trophy, me with me '3rd in category' award and H with her 2nd overall lady and holding fellow LBTer Deborah Stockley's third lady award... all in all a great day for Leeds Bradford Tri.

Before I go I was going to talk about food this week but fancied some race reflection instead so would recommend you have a good read through THIS article which will lead nicely on to next week's post (unless I change my mind). It's quite long and took me a couple of goes to really understand it but it's definitely worth the read... as long as you think about how it applies to you.

Finally I'd just like to say well done to everyone we know who did (or is still doing!) Ironman UK today. It's one of the toughest courses around and by all accounts the weather wasn't very friendly... today you have truly earned the title Ironman ;)

speak soon,


Sunday, 12 August 2007


So here we are... four weeks in to the '50' and it's time to start getting serious. The last four weeks have seen a return to some kind of training following a three week post-Ironman recovery period and although they've been fairly 'off the cuff' and lacking in structure there's been some pretty intense sessions which have reminded me only too well how much it takes to earn the title 'Ironman'. With 46 weeks to go it's about time I had a look at where I am so as to start plotting the route to where I need to be on July the 6th 2008.

The bottom line is this... In order to give myself a chance of Hawaii qualification I'll most likely need to dip under 9 hours and 30 minutes (at least) in Frankfurt, however this would by no means guarantee me a place as in Germany this year the 'slowest' qualifier in my age group (30-34 year old men) did 9 hours 20 minutes and with the race also serving as the European Ironman Championships the standard is extremely high. At a complete guess I would hope that 9:29 would give me a close to 50% chance of qualifying. In June of this year I completed Ironman Switzerland in 9 hours and 56 minutes (slowest qualifier was 9:34) and am therefore looking to find 27 minutes (or 4.5%) over the next 46 weeks. This may seem like a lot although having set myself a target of 5% from 2005-2006 I managed 6% from Ironman Austria (10:34) to Ironman Switzerland (9:56) and feel that with the correct approach it is possible.

With the 2007 swim in Switzerland seemingly 3-5 minutes 'over distance' I would hope that even without an improvement in my swim ability I could expect a minimum of 3 minutes (0.5%) to come from an accurately measured swim course. Also, although the Swiss bike course wasn't the hardest around, three good climbs on each of three laps meant the 112 mile cycle course contained nine significant hills where my speed was severely restricted. In comparison Frankfurt has around 500 metres less climbing overall and is widely regarded as being one of the fastest bike courses in Ironman. I would expect therefore to find at least another six minutes (1%) without any improvement in my cycling ability. The run course differs very little between Switzerland and Germany and assuming they are of similar speeds I doubt the marathon will be giving me any 'free' time. Overall then I'm hoping to attribute nine minutes of my 27 to the difference in course alone. Leaving 18 more minutes or 3% still to find...

There are several areas that I can look to for these 18 minutes such as my training strategy over the next 46 weeks, race equipment (i.e. carbon disc wheel or power meter) and my race day strategy.

In both the Ironman races I have completed so far I've found myself half way through the run (21k to go) with over two hours to achieve my goal (sub-11 in IMA and sub-10 in IMCH). When you've been racing for eight to nine hours in 30+ heat and you know that as long as you just keep running you'll achieve your goal it's very difficult to push harder and take yourself truly to your limit. It would in fact be entirely the wrong thing to do as the risk of 'blowing up' increases exponentially with every minute that your goal creeps higher. If you've set yourself sub-10 and you manage to get yourself in a position where it's suddenly within touching distance why risk loosing an hour in the last 10k (very easy in Ironman) for the sake of 9:54 over 9:56? It's a bit like a formula one racing team turning the revs down on their car when they're in the lead with ten laps to go... they've won the race already so why risk an engine failure for the sake of winning by three extra seconds? This is where my problem is however... whereas in 2006 and 2007 I've know from well before the race exactly what my target was I won't be afforded this luxury in 2008. My 'real' target is to finish in the top 15 places within my age group in order to qualify for the world champs, unfortunately I'll be unaware as to my exact position until the race is over.... with 21k to go in the marathon I could be 30 seconds behind or ahead of the final qualifying slot but will have no way of telling!

This brings me to today's picture... it's time to hurt! The biggest difference in my race strategy between this year and next year's Ironman will be that, regardless of how I'm doing, with 21k of running left it will be time to turn it up, take a risk and take myself absolutely to my physical limit. On the road to Kona nothing can be left on the course and as every one of those final kilometers passes I will need to push myself to new limits of physical and mental endurance. The ability to really hurt and yet keep pushing is rare and even some of the best athletes never find their true limits, but as with most areas in life in order to progress I look to those around me for inspiration. My good friend and training partner Darren Robinson (pictured shortly after finishing the UK 70.3 Ironman - one of the toughest in the world) has what I can only describe as a 'talent' for pushing through extreme levels of physical and mental pain in order to achieve every last ounce of performance. Together we've shared many of the hardest training sessions I've ever been involved in, several of which have seen me exceed my limits and give-in mentally, but I've NEVER seen him even back it off. I've seen him push it to the point of black-out and even to tears but he's always found something extra when all around are falling down, pushed through the finish line and never fallen short! It's amazing how convincing an argument your mind can present for backing it off when the going gets tough. You may have trained twice a day for a year, made countless sacrifices and be on the verge of achieving a lifetime goal but when the going gets really tough your mind will tell you that it doesn't really matter if you quit and that the pain really isn't worth it and even if you slow it down you'll still do a 'great' time and no-one will mind. This is the point where great things can be achieved but 7,000 calories into an Ironman you need to be strong! The great Eddy Merckx once said that (and I'm paraphrasing here) 'the winner of the Tour de France is simply the man who can withstand the most pain'. Between now and July'08 I'll need to learn how to really hurt, with every race from now till then I'll be imagining the guy in front is in the final Hawaii position, I'll be pushing through the finish line and will leave nothing on the course.

Back to the bottom line... how much will this be worth? I reckon 15 seconds a mile over the final 12 miles, so around three minutes or 1%.... only 15 minutes (or 2.5%) left... more on these next week.

For those who are interested a quick low down on this week's training.... key sessions were eight fantastic two minute hill reps (including both uphill and downhill running) with Tony B and H on Tuesday, only nine seconds away from my pb (31:03 from 30:54) at the Pool Triangle on Wednesday evening, a strong bike leg (15k in 20:45) but painful run leg (5k in 19:00) at the team relays on Saturday and six consecutive days of swimming from Monday to Saturday... all in all some great 'pain training'! This week will see an increase in running, another assault on the Pool Triangle on Wednesday and a return to individual racing at Stockton Olympic Triathlon on Sunday where as I have no idea what the course is like the main goal will be to catch the person in front ;)

Before I go I'd just like to say good luck to all our friends doing Ironman UK this coming weekend... you can follow their progress here, and also to our mate Steve Haywood who around the same time will be attempting possibly the ultimate triathlon test... check out the 'Arch to Arc' here.

"There will come a point in the race, when you alone will need to decide. You will need to make a choice. Do you really want it? You will need to decide. At that point you will begin to suffer. It's a small piece of your life, but one you'll remember. Make it count."
-- Rolf Arands

See you soon,


Smells like team spirit...

I had another fairly relaxed but good week of training this week and was over the moon to PB in the Pool Triangle (the weekly Wednesday 20km Time Trial) where I broke 36mins for the first time - 35.25 to be precise. I'm loving shaving time off my rides and feeling the benefit of harder, shorter sessions. On Tuesday Tom killed me & Tony on a new hill session that he made up about five minutes before we left the gym and on Thursday we got out for an easy 40 mile ride. I managed to get a swim in every day (except today - we ran 13 miles before leaving for South Shields) this week, concentrating on speed work and really varying the sessions which I'm really enjoying. Then on Saturday I raced in our club team (Leeds & Bradford Tri) in the National Club Team Relays in Nottingham. It was a fantastic day and team spirit was high. The girls team raced in the morning and the boys team raced in the afternoon, so when we weren't racing we were supporting our fellow team mates. Racing for a team not just for yourself is a whole different ball game. Every time I wanted to back it off I knew I wasn't just racing for me, I was racing for three other people & then the club as a whole, it's a fantastic incentive to make you push that little bit harder. Oh & the fact that our best mate Sam is determined he's going to beat me in The Vitruvian, that also made me push that little bit harder. Catch the pigeon Sammy, I'm gonna be ready and you ain't gonna catch this pigeon...(I hope!)

We've got three weeks of really hard training which I'm hoping are going to get me in sharper shape for The Vitriuvian which is more-or-less a half Ironman distance race. I can't wait. I can feel the sluggishness of Ironman gradually disappearing and I'm ready for some hard graft, and some painful sessions. Racing that 5km in Bushy Park last week has brought me back to earth & to respect the distance no matter how short. Having gone off like a nutter in that race last week & paying the price for it in the last km I ran a very different 5km in the team relays and paced it well finishing strong. I'm also feeling a lot more competent on my bike now. Gone are the days (I hope) when I switched off and pootled along like I was out on a ride with my granny. I'm learning how to hurt myself on my bike which is giving me a better insight into how I should be pacing things in different distances and I think I'm starting to enjoy actually being out on my bike. As for my swimming, well I feel good in the water at the moment but am in desperate need of a few coached sessions to tweak my techninque and help unlock what I'm sure is a faster swimmer in me.

The picture in my post this week is from a wedding we went to today. My brother Jonny (far left) was the Best Man for his best mate Kev - and a grand job he did too on what was a lovely day. It made me think that my whole weekend had a very team like theme running through it, and in fact how much life is like being part of huge team. I hope Kev (the Groom) enjoys life with Stef & baby Jack as they start their life as a newly married team. I couldn't train or race as hard as I do without all of the people I have supporting me. Living with Tom is like having constant love & support on tap, we are a great team. Going home to sunny South Shields today and spending time with my family was the perfect way to end the weekend which just had team spirit running right through it. Jonny's got to be one of my biggest supporters and I'm loving sharing my Ironman experiences with him and my lovely niece Kelsey, long may our adventures last.

However, Jonny has already started saving for a trip to Hawaii next pressure then ;)


Monday, 6 August 2007

The Hare & the Tortoise... or is that Helen is a tortoise?!...

I hit earth with a bump this week and boy did it hurt. I'm just starting to train that little bit harder, or rather my sessions have been a little more intense this week and it's come as a huge shock (and an incredibly painful one) to discover that my legs don't know what speed is anymore!

As our training session on Monday, Tom & I had a race. 4 x 10min hard intervals on the turbo followed by a flat out 6km run. Tom gave me a 2.5min head start on the run & then attempted to hunt me down...and this was how our week started! It was tough, really tough but a great session & I think we're going to replicate it every month, although the handicapped start is going to change as I got home first by quite a way.

Training long for Ironman has removed most of the little speed I had & my legs have only too easily forgotten how to hurt themselves anymore. My lungs & heart, oh & head also quite quick to follow. Monday's session was the first reminder of THREE this week that I am in fact a tortoise. However, I don't despair, the tortoise does come good, albeit slowly. On Tuesday Tom, myself & our friend Tony went out to do 8 x 2min run intervals with 2min jog recovery which very nearly made me throw myself in the canal, I mean how long can 2mins be? Too long is the answer to that! Thankfully on Wednesday we took it easy & rode into the Dales in the early evening sunshine covering about 55-60miles, stopping for a hearty flapjack in the middle (how easily I slip back to tortoiseville). Tortoiseville wasn't to last for too long however as on Thursday we both did our Annual Club 10mile Time Trial Championship which is held in Boroughbridge. Painful from the first pedal stroke I worked so hard knowing it was only short. 10miles seems like a walk in the park when you've been training for a distance of 112miles...NOT!!! It's brilliant to get back in touch with the painful side of sport, you truly know you're working hard when you feel like someone is ripping your lungs out of your chest and using sledgehammers on your quads! I hadn't done a 10mile TT before so this one is a line in the sand for me but a line in the sand that this tortoise is happy with for now. I did 27mins 4 secs bringing me home 3rd girl out of 8 and 50secs behind first. I put so much effort into that TT both mentally & physically and I'm happy with my time because I got the best out of myself that night and if I can do that every time I race I'll never be disappointed...but boy does it hurt. Having done three decent swim sessions this week we threw in a short sharp one on Friday morning seeing as intensity seemed to be the buzz word for both of us and we did 500w/u - 15 x 50m hard - 500 c/d and then I ran a leisurley 9 miles.

We spent the weekend in London as lots of our friends were competeing in the London triathlon and they all did brilliantly, it's been a fantastic weekend watching them (some in their first ever multisport event), you can't beat it! Our training plan therefore was pretty ad hoc. Tom had discovered a 5km run which is held in Bushy Park every week, free of charge so we thought we would go and check it out. And it was there that I truly realised that I'd morphed into something considerably slower than I used to be. I enjoy 5km runs, perfect short sharp distance. Not this week though. Saturday was a beautiful day in Bushy Park. Loads of people milling around waiting around to go and hurt themselves round the course, even Sonia O'Sullivan turned up for a leisurely jaunt. My legs had the biggest wake up call when the gun went and by the time I got to the end I felt like an Oompa Lumpa struggling to get any decent stride length out of them - they seemed to have shrunk disproportionately to my body! My heart had already given me it's max output so other than it stopping it couldn't give me an ounce more and my lungs were once more going though hell. 20mins 30secs after the gun went I crossed the line knowing that for the next couple of weeks I need to work on my speed! I'm enjoying seeing the differences the variations of training are having, I'm learning things about myself & my capabilities all of the time. I've particularly learned that doing an Ironman doesn't make you invincible but it can disillusion you. Just because I trained solidly for over 20 weeks and am fitter than I've ever been made me feel like I was going to fly round that 10mile TT and run like the wind on that 5km. My heart, lungs & legs told me different.

This tortoise is on the move and learning fast!!!

H. x

Quality time...

I thought when we started this blog that it would be difficult to think of things to write every week and not go on about the same old 'heart rate' this and 'interval session that'. In actual fact the difficulty is in working out what not to write. Having spent the whole week changing my mind on a daily basis, I try and make my posts both topical and personal and at the same time cover areas of life away from the subject of Ironman.

This weekend H and I were down south for the London Triathlon supporting several members of our running club some of who were competing in their first ever Olympic distance event (1.5k swim, 40k bike and 10k run). We'd arranged to stay at our friend Pete's house in Notting Hill but arriving at Kings Cross on Friday afternoon found ourselves with a couple of hours to kill. Fortunately our mate Steve was around and a short underground journey later he had unknowingly become the subject of this week's photo! The sun was out and time was our friend (for once) so we headed to Kensington Park with a fruit salad and a skinny hot chocolate from Starbucks and set about kicking back on the grass and talking about anything and everything. Why am I telling you this? .... It really was a 'light bulb' moment for me, it's so rare that H and I prioritise some quality time with a good friend, just being together for the sake of it. Don't get me wrong, we spend quite a bit of time going out for dinner with friends, inviting them round to 'eat in' or swim/bike/running with them but we're always doing something I'm talking about just chilling out and enjoying the company with no distractions or real purpose... except for the odd Mr. Whippy (see photo). Sitting in the sun on Friday afternoon I remembered how important it is to take some time off from the latest goal or challenge and concentrate on what is truly important in life but more importantly I was reminded of what actually is important in life. I would certainly value my friends over any Ironman or athletic goal but how often do I prioritise them so?.... not enough!

The rest of the weekend had a pretty strong 'friend' theme running through it with Pete kindly loaning us his lovely house, Sam coming to stay on Saturday night, friends from my work, our tri club and our running club competing on both Saturday and Sunday and the whole AKJ clan either racing or spectating on Sunday. I think in all we clapped and cheered our way through one sprint tri and six Olympics and without having lifted a finger in competitive anger are now sitting at our respective computers at ten-to-one on Sunday night as shattered as had we raced every step!!

On that note I must remember the importance of lifestyle balance and in particular the principle of prioritising sleep over pretty much anything else so please forgive me for the brief skim over this past week's training on the road to Kona....

Bottom line... the focus was 'short and sharp' in an attempt to get some speed in to my sluggish Ironman legs.... Monday night saw 4 x 10 min hard efforts on the turbo followed immediately by a 6k race against H where giving her a two and a half minute head start I was duly hustled and lost by over a minute! Next time it'll be 1:15 and we'll see who can handle the pressure ;) Tuesday was another hard running day with Tony B again blowing my legs off over 10 x 2 minute reps on the road. A more relaxed Wednesday allowed me to hit my sub-24 minute target with 23:36 (and second place) at our tri club's annual 10 mile time trial championships on Thursday night. On Friday H and I did our weekly 15 x 50 metre 'relay' in the pool and Saturday topped a painful week off with the Bushy Park 5k Race where my (by now) tired legs suffered big-time for 18 minutes and 36 seconds. Sunday (today) was supposedly a rest day but getting up at 5 and spectating non-stop from 6.30am to 6.30pm has caused tomorrow morning's scheduled 6am swim to be changed for an 8am breakfast ;)

Sorry for any typos etc but it's now 1:09 am and I'm off to bed!

Have a great week,