Sunday, 30 September 2007

The other side of the line...

Today I missed the Great North Run for the first time since I started running. Not as in missed it on the box, or missed it because I wasn't there and was pining for it, but as in missed it because I was unable to actually do it... injury has finally thwarted me for the last couple of weeks :(

So, today I was on the other side of the line. Today I was a spectator, albeit an incredibly privilleged one (see above pics that I took this morning). My toe was on the wrong side of the line for running but very definitely on the right side of the line for spectating. This morning I got to watch our best female distance runner Paula Radcliffe warm up with the rest of the celebrity field and prepare for the 13.1 mile onslaught that lay ahead of them. After taking the picture that Tom's post shows I was whisked down the course (on the closed roads with a police escort) to the finish where I stood with my nose and my camera lens as close to the finish line as I could get, and that was pretty close, snuggled in with the rest of the worlds press who had come to see Paula's debut run since pregnancy and 50,000 other people slog their guts out. Usually I'm in that crowd bobbing up and down in a myriad of colour, fancy dress, spit and sweat and I love it. Today it felt odd not being able to be part of the runners but I really enjoyed seeing the race in all of its glory. I saw Paula run her heart out only to be beaten by a spectacularily strong American girl (Kara Goucher) and in the men's field Martin Lel beat Sammy Wanjiru by a measley 8 seconds. Today I realised that it's not so bad on the other side of the line, it's just something I'm not used to.

Being injured is a strange thing and something that (touch wood) doesn't happen to me very often so when I am injured I don't deal with it very well -Tom can verify that! In fact I would go so far as to say that I almost feel like I lose a little bit of my identity when I can't train. Thankfully I have been able to swim and cycle, but there's a little bit of me that feels like I'm not complete because I can't get out there and run. I'm on the mend though and the tendonitis is making progress. I've had regular visits to our physio Liz Foley with her magic hands and I'm hoping (actually that's a down right lie, praying & wishing is a better way to describe it) that when I see her on Tuesday that she'll let me start running again, but hey, I've survived. Tom hasn't got a meat cleaver through his head and we still have all of our crockery intact... had I not been able to swim or cycle though I'm not sure I would be saying the same... but basically I've had to be a big brave girl and deal with it.

The last couple of weeks have consisted of swim, swim and swim and turbo, turbo, turbo. I've done a solid 15km in the pool this week and some long old turbo sessions in the garage to try and maintain my endurance if this tendonitis of mine is going to disappear in time to get some sort of mileage in for the Dublin Marathon. If I do get to start running again my goal for Dublin won't be set in stone. I'll still go for sub 3.30 (what the hell) but I certainly won't be chasing a marathon pb (3.22), I'll just be happy to be there and to be doing it.

We spent the beginning of the weekend celebrating Ray finishing the Coast to Coast walk and can't wait to see the pictures and hopefully get an insight into Ray's wonderful journey. And I got to finish the weekend seeing my speedy boy run a course pb (for him) of 1.21.17. I'm never at the finish line before Tom so it was great to wait for him with my camera in the press section and see him cross the line, well done Tom you're amazing. x

So I've had my spectator's hat on for the whole weekend but I'm more that ready to rid it for a new foot and a few weeks of more focused training, it's been great like I say to see the other side but I'm ready to jump the line and come back. Tomorrow I'm going to see if I can follow Tom in the pool and go for my mile time... 26mins 22 secs to beat :0 and I'd like to get some hard bike sessions in to stop me going insane.

Lastly but not leastly my very good friend Liz Yelling is running the Chicago Marathon a week today (Oct 7th) and I wish her all the speed in the world to get her to the finish in a time that she truly deserves, run like the wind girl, we'll be there in spirit willing you on.

Watch this space...

H. x

The 'VIP' life...

It's been another great week in this seemingly never ending great season. Following last Sundays late night blog posting where I set myself the target of breaking 25:15 for a mile in the pool and getting close to my pb of 25:04... I felt great during the warm up and broke 25 for the first time with 400 splits of 6:12, 6:12, 6:12 and 6:08 giving me 24:44! I've not done much on the bike this week except for a fairly steady two hour turbo session on Wednesday evening. Running however has also gone well with a pretty comfortable hilly 18 miles in 2:09 on Thursday evening followed by today's Great North Run. I wasn't really sure what to expect this morning and having done 18 miles a couple of days ago and picked up a slight head cold over the weekend wasn't expecting a great race. The first mile of the Great North is always pretty quick as it's almost entirely downhill... 5 minutes and 50 seconds later and I was hoping it hadn't been too quick. It took me a while to settle into a rhythm and I felt pretty much on the limit from the start but by mile six my confidence was growing that I might be able to hold on to break my course pb (1:22:37). Miles 4, 5, 9 & 11 are all pretty slow and I knew that with the last mile along the seafront often in to a headwind the sting was definitely in the tail of this race. Coming through mile 12 in 1:14:44 though I knew I was looking good and a strong 13th mile (5:55) the final 0.1 (a half marathon is 13.1 miles, in this case 37 seconds) saw the clock tick in to the 1:21's for a finish time and my new pb for the course of 1:21:17. Overall I was really pleased with today's time which at 1 minute and 20 seconds faster than 2004 (when I went on to pb for the marathon in Venice) sets me up for a good race in Dublin in four weeks time where the target is to put the season to bed with a comfortable 2:58/2:59 which I can use as a foundation to go sub-2:55 in the London Marathon in April.

Now to today's picture... the Leukaemia Research Fund celebrity team photo from this morning's start line. H and I have run and raised money for the LRF for many years now and although we've been a little quiet on the fundraising front recently, H continues to take their publicity photographs for nothing and in return we become honorary celebs for the day. I've taken part in races such as this and big city marathons both as a normal everyday runner and as part of a 'VIP' team and thought I'd give you an insight into the day of a typical 'soapstar' jogger.... Arriving in the Jury's Inn hotel in Newcastle on Saturday night there's time for a quick shower and snooze before popping down to the amazing complimentary buffet to stock up on much needed carbs. Before we know what's happening the alarm's buzzing and it's time to make our way down to breakfast for a last minute feed and then on to the team bus which will drop us right at the start line. It's then straight to the front and in to the special VIP area where we share our own toilets and warm-up area (the first mile of the course) with the likes of Paula Radcliffe and all the elite men, not to mention various z-list celebs, ex-footballers and TV chefs. We then get front row seats for the start of the wheelchair and women's elite races before making our way to the start line a good two or three minutes before the gun... and when I say start line I mean start line! Normally I hang out a couple of rows back but today I had clear road ahead of me with my big toe literally touching the line. I don't know if you've even been at the front of a 50,000 person queue before but if not I can tell you it's quite a surreal feeling. Fast forward to the end of the race and no sooner have we picked up our finishers t-shirt and medal then we're whisked off in to the BUPA hospitality tent for more free food and booze (the best apple pie H has EVER had apparently) and a chance for one last hob-nob with the 'stars'. Then at 3pm sharp we make our way to the buses just in time for a police escort back to Newcastle and boy do they go for it... all the traffic stopped, straight through red lights and police outriders everywhere. If this is what it's like for Eric Pollard can you imagine what David Beckham's life must be like?? Minutes later and we're back in the car and slip back in to the non-VIP lifestyle of sitting in total gridlock on the A1 and then queuing for ages in service stations to pay a fortune for the exact opposite of what only hours earlier we weren't expected to either a) queue for or b) pay for!

Anyway, that's about it for now. I seem to be racing all the time at the moment and would really value getting some decent training in but with a 10 mile timetrial this coming Saturday and the possibility of Carsington Duathlon on the Sunday training may have to wait... roll on the winter ;)

One last thing... a massive GOOD LUCK to our mate Liz Yelling who is running in the Chicago Marathon on Sunday. For those that don't know, she makes me look like the proverbial tortoise and is hoping to manoeuvre herself in to a place in British team for the Beijing Olympics. She'll need to run under 2:30 so positive thoughts will be much appreciated ;)

See you next week,


Sunday, 23 September 2007

End of season inspiration...

Following last weekends race in Bala this week has been pretty chilled regards training with a couple of good rest days (Monday & Wednesday) and plenty of good food. By the time we got home last Sunday I was pretty knackered and although I'd wanted to properly start the build to Dublin Marathon (Monday the 29th October) this week I figured another fairly chilled week would do me good... so here I am ;) I did manage to slot in a good couple of run sessions in the last seven days though, with a good pyramid treadmill session (3 min @ 18kph, 6 @ 17, 12 @ 16, 6 @ 17 and 3 @ 18... with a two minute walk in between each) on Tuesday and a comfortable 20 mile run at 7:30s with Tony on Thursday then yesterday morning I chucked in a nice 75 minute run including Kirkstall Hills.

Today we had a great time at the Ilkley Triathlon which is brilliantly run by Leeds & Bradford Triathlon Club. It's a fantastic event and very much inclusive with loads of first time and novice triathletes completing a 500m pool swim followed by a testing 9 mile bike and 3 mile run. After marshaling all morning H and I joined in with the family AKJ to form a girls (Jo, H & Andrea) and boys (Flaps, Andy and me) team. Flaps kicked off the boys race with a strong swim, handed over to me for the bike and Andy finished off in style with a rapid 3 mile run. An hour or so later H lead the girls team out with a quick 20 lengths before handing over to Jo for the bike and then Andrea took the baton for the anchor leg to round off a fantastic day.

I know I keep saying it but tomorrow really will kick off four weeks of serious structured training starting with a timed mile in the pool at 6am (target sub-25:15, pb currently 25:04) and then a nice easy hour on the turbo in the evening followed by a steady 4 mile run. Next Sunday sees us in the Great North run but it will be treated as nothing more than a hard training run so I expect to hit some pretty big run mileage this week. I'm not sure what to expect from the Great North as I don't feel that fast at the moment but the 1:25 half marathon at the Vitruvian two weeks ago would suggest otherwise... watch this space ;)

So, what do I mean by end of season inspiration??? I've long believed that in order to be inspired you must surround yourself with inspirational people and at this time of the season when energy levels are beginning to flag and motivation is falling this is even more important. There is so much more to training than 'training' and sometimes it is important to take your foot off the gas and open your eyes to what those around you are achieving. I've been extremely fortunate over the last few days to have friends and family who have shown me the way and reminded me how great it is to push yourself to the limit and truly achieve...

I'll start with today's photo which shows Jessica KJ carrying the Southerns flag over the finish line in Austria this summer to become an IronKid. Last Sunday she was competing in her first ever cross-country race whilst representing her school (Ackworth) in their Inter Schools Cross Country Championships and finished 7th overall in the under-11 girls 2k race! Even more impressive was the fact that of the five girls from her school who qualified ahead of her she beat all but one on the day. As an athlete she has the perfect balance of determination (to push herself to the limit) and patience (to listen, learn and improve) and will no doubt go far.

My second inspiration of the week is my amazing step father Ray. He's currently walking from the west coast to the east coast of England which will see him cover around 200 miles in 15 days and on Saturday evening H, Mum and I popped over to Reeth for dinner with him and his two Framlingham team mates Vic and Mary. A few hours in the company of those three was enough to seriously charge my motivational batteries and I can't wait to cheer them over the finish line this Friday evening in Robin Hood's Bay.

Thirdly, my new bike training partner Ben G set a blistering time of 2:02 for 50 miles in yesterday's Yorkshire Road Club 50 mile time trial. This beat my own pb by a whopping 12 minutes but where you go mate I WILL follow so keep blazing that trail and I look forward to smashing through the two hour barrier with you early next season. I figure that if I can keep up with Ben on the bike all winter then going sub-5 for 112 in Frankfurt will be the result ;)

Fourthly (nearly there), Andrea KJ ran the anchor leg for the girls in the Ilkley Triathlon today and seeing her running so strongly over the final 400 metres having set off with real conviction to conquer the seriously hilly 5k run was an amazing experience. As triathletes we can easily become desensitised to the things we achieve and today was not the first time Andrea has shown me 'why' we do this.

And finally... just when I thought she'd done everything there was to do this season H goes and qualifies for the British Triathlon Team for next years world championships in Vancouver!

To be honest, as I sit here and write this I feel like I could go on forever listing the friends and family who have inspired me in some way. It's amazing actually, when you stop and think about the wonderful things that other people can bring to your life!

I'll leave you with this quote which I have taken from a blog that I subscribe to that is written by a legend of the ultra-endurance world, Gordo Byrn...

"I’ve greatly leveraged my ability to achieve by strengthening the person closest to me.

Once you have the right people around you, spend your time strengthening them and assisting with the achievement of their goals -- your efforts for others will multiply when they come back to you."

T ;)

From Coast to Coast...

What a week, what a season, what a year... and it all finished with a huge great slab of chocolate cake to celebrate qualifying for the World Championships in Vancouver 2008. I've had such a great season that I truly didn't think it could get any better after I got Bronze in my age group in the National Middle distance race The Vitruvian, and here I am two weeks later wondering how on earth Tom and I are going to afford the trip of a lifetime for me to represent Great Britain in Vancouver in June next year!

When I went to race Bala last weekend, I didn't think for a second that I had a chance. I'd done The Vitruvian the week before and knew I would still be fatigued from that and I had the onset of tendonitis in my right ankle so my race plan was to just nail the bike regardless of the consequences when I hit the run. Then we saw that I actually raced quite well and since last Sunday Tom and I have spent the rest of the week stalking the British Triathlon website and am convinced between us we've made it the most popular site in the whole world after the number of hits it must have had trying to see if I had qualified or not.

By the time Friday came and there was still no change I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to wait until Monday to start the stalking all over again (it's actually quite tiring all of this stalking malarky!) So our plans this weekend revolved around someone elses achievements for once and it made a for a fantastic weekend and a great change to water, bicycles and trainers. Tom's step dad Ray has taken on the phenomenal challenge of walking The Coast to Coast over 15 days (200 miles across the country from West to East starting at St Bees and finishing next Friday in Robin Hoods Bay.) Yesterday, me, Tom and his mum Yve all travelled round most of the back roads of Cumbria to see Ray in Reeth at the end of his eighth day. What was so lovely about seeing him was he actually couldn't contain how much he was enjoying his challenge, the joy was actually pouring out of his face. It was in his huge ear to ear grin and danced in the sparkle in his eyes as he told us about the things he'd seen with his two walking pals Vic and Mary. His elation was infectious and it made me want to cry because he was living his dream, something he's wanted to do for many years and now he's doing it and he doesn't want it to end. What I witnessed in Ray was pure sunshine, a high that no drug could touch and here he was sharing that with his wife and Tom and me and it really made me think about what achievement means to people and the people that want to share it with you. I talked to Tom a lot about it today as I realised that I think I try and box away my achievements thinking I'm not really worthy of enjoying them or that I've stumbled on them by default. I'm under no illusion that I'm going to win or even medal at the Worlds (and that's not a negative comment just a very honest one) but I'm over the moon that I have the opportunity to go and after being touched by Ray's sunshine I'm not going to hide that I'm excited and proud and when I run down the finish chute in Vancouver with the Honorary Southern's flag in my hand, a GB kit on my back and the people who love and support me by my side then I too will grin from ear to ear and hide nothing from those who've come to see me enjoy a race I never in my wildest dreams imagined I could race in.

"Achievement seems to be connected with action. Successful men and women keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don't quit. " Conrad Hilton

Life is great :)

H. x

Sunday, 16 September 2007

It's all about the bike...

The pic above is of me doing my first race of this season (Eton sprints) on my brand new spangly Quintana Roo Lucero (which I love) and today I did my last race of the season on my speedy stead. From here on in and over the coming gruelling Winter months it will be time for me to effectively strap myself to a tortoise and get out there and ride, ride, ride... not on my Roo but on my trusty road bike with it's slow winter training tyres and no aero bars. Just me my little legs and the road. No more cold water swims, no more deep section wheels to help me go that little bit faster and no low aero position to cut through the air with. Plain old hard yakka is what's on the horizon for Turton over Winter.

What a fantastic season, I've loved it all and hey I'm an IRONMAN, how can I not be happy with how the year has gone! Dublin Marathon is next in 6 weeks time so all I need are my legs and feet (although I've got a bit of a gammy ankle which I'm hoping won't be anything serious.) I raced well today I thought. Talking about it with Tom before hand I'd decided to concentrate on the bike section and only that really as I tend to not quite perform as well as I'm capable of. So I ploughed through the swim -literally, it was a windy, windy day & I felt like I was swimming in the Atlantic it was that choppy - got on my bike and worked as hard as I could irrespective of the consequences for the run. I know I can run well off the bike but I don't always supply the goods on the bike so I just pushed it and worried about the run when my feet hit the tarmac. I had a good ride for me, my heart rate data shows my inconsistency's but that's something to iron out over the Winter months and the run went better than I had expected giving that I was pushing the bike. All in all another good day, a great way to end the season.

I'm seeing Liz Foley our brilliant physio tomorrow to see what I've done to my ankle (typical to injure it in the last week of the season) and then if it's okay it will be full steam ahead for 6 weeks of running for Dublin. As it's not been a target race for me I'm happy to just run it and see what happens. A no pressure race, I love them and often do better than I expect. Switch off a little bit from triathlon as a race and get the battery's recharged. Spend November recovering from the marathon and just kick back for the month, let my body recover & most of all let my brain rest. I want to feel the eagerness and the thrill of getting back into training over the Winter months and I won't be able to unless I take this step back from where I've been for the last 5 months.

I swim well and it's improving steadily. I run well and I'm not concerned about that. But I do need to push forward with the bike so there's my focus after my break. Bike, bike, bike and a bit more bike. Learning from the master (and no that's not you Tom!)...

I'm hoping to be busting my ass on my bike over Winter... bring it on!!!!!

See you out there kids...

H. x

Season finale...

Today H and I did the Bala standard distance tri, officially our last triathlon of the season. It's been a great five months, starting with a pb over the super sprint distance at Eton in May and finishing with a great couple of races in the last eight days. With the small matter of the Great North Run, Dublin Marathon and a few cycling time trials to go before our recovery month (November) I'll leave the season preview for a few weeks but whatever happens in those last few races 2007 has been an amazing year full of pb's and breakthrough sessions.

Following last weekend's efforts at the Vitruvian I've felt fatigued both mentally and physically all week and have therefore taken it pretty easy... until yesterday when Ben G and I rode in our (as a team) and my first ever two-up time trial, over 18k in South Yorkshire. (For those who don't know, a two-up tt is where you ride together and your time is the second person over the line. Due to the reduction in wind resistance it's far easier to ride behind someone and therefore as a pair you can share the workload and go quite a bit faster) It was all looking good until about 90 seconds (literally) before the start when I noticed Ben had a puncture!!! We managed to scrounge a back wheel off a spectator in the few remaining seconds though and got to the start line with about two seconds to spare ;) We had decided on a strategy of one minute at the front / one minute at the back and with Ben leading we set off at a frantic pace hitting 27mph within 30 seconds and holding it pretty consistently for the first few miles. A tough middle section with both hills and headwinds saw us struggling to hold on to the early pace but with the last few miles downhill on the A1 with a decent tailwind, we recovered well to post 24 :42. Before the race we'd pencilled in 25 mins as a target so were well pleased to dip under by nearly 20 seconds. (Especially on my tired Vitruvian legs and Ben's tired IMUK legs)

So, on to today... If you want to perform well in an Olympic tri it's never a good idea to do a flat out half-ironman the week before... and even worse to do a two-up tt the day before. However, with the seven month off-season approaching and Ian, Sam & H all racing today I was never going to hold the coats. Serious winds, and therefore waves on the lake, had led the organisers to shorten the swim to 1,000m and although I hate doing 'short' races I'm sure it was the right decision as the 500m swim out into the lake was really challenging and I witnessed quite a few athletes being plucked from the water during the early races. The 500m swim back to shore however was far easier as each wave pushed you closer to the finish. After stepping out of the water at 20:30 a pedestrian T1 (note to self: must work on transition technique) saw me starting the bike ride with 22:30 on the clock and 19.5k of solid headwind ahead of me. After battling the wind for 32 minutes I turned to race the 19.5k back to T2 with a following wind all the way and about 27 minutes later, a much less pedestrian T2 saw me hit the run with the clock at 1:24 overall and just 10km left of a rather long season of triathlon. As you know one of my main goals over these 50 weeks is to 'learn to hurt', but today I just couldn't muster the mental strength. I probably managed to hold an effort level of around 8.5-9/10 for the whole run but there was certainly no 'ten' in the tank today! 38:50something and it was all over, 2:02:58 for a slightly short, but no less demanding' Olympic distance triathlon and 76th place out of about 750. At around the top 10% of the field in a world championship qualifier with tired legs and fatigued mind I'm pretty pleased, although I'd hope to hit the top 5% of this kind of race on a good day... (here comes my Statto bit) this would have meant 1:59 today and I'm pretty confident last week and yesterday could well have cost me those three minutes.... who knows... as I always say anything other than what you actually achieve is just pub-talk... it's easy to say 1:59 but much harder to do ;) Hopefully I'll get to race an Oly flat-out and in top form next season and see what I can really do over the shorter distance.

It's funny how much you can change in a week... last Saturday I felt pretty good following the Vit
but an easy seven days with too much dodgy food has left me feeling pretty far removed from the athlete I aspire to be. Tomorrow morning H and I start the final five week build up to the Dublin marathon and with the students also back in town I'm really looking forward to a little more structure in my life and some consistent run training. Dublin is in no way an 'A' race but I'd like to dip under three hours with the aim of using it as a foundation from which to go for sub 2:55 in the London Marathon in April.

Before I go I just thought I'd point you toward a couple of sad news items which have given me a serious reality check... earlier this week the duathlon legend Benny Vansteelant passed away, a few days after being hit by a car whilst out training. Then as I'm sure you are all aware the British World Rally Champion Colin McRae died, along with his 5 year old son and two friends, in a helicopter crash this weekend. These two tragedies have encouraged me to think about what is truly important in life... will I give it everything to qualify for Hawaii... yes... does it matter if I don't get there... not in the slightest! Too often we get bogged down in our own personal goals and challenges and lose our perspective on what actually matters in life. I'm not saying I'm going to work toward my various personal goals with any less enthusiasm and vigour... I just won't beat myself up if never achieve them... they're not important.

That's about it for now, thanks to Ozzer for posing with me for today's photo.

I'll leave the inspirational stuff to H this week,

T ;)

Sunday, 9 September 2007

The Vitruvian

It's been a long hard season and I could certainly feel the fatigue in my legs on Saturday morning, but crossing the finish line with the Southerns Leeds flag reminded me yet again of how great it feels to train hard and then race strong. Since entering the Vitruvian on our return from the summer Ironman races I'd been determined to finish the triathlon season in good shape and therefore build a strong foundation on which to base my winter training. Last week I stated my goals for the race and with a target finish time of 4 hours 20 minutes thought I'd set myself a tough but attainable goal. With a focused mind and the usual amazing support crew of assorted friends and family I was feeling pretty confident as I walked down to the water at 6:30 on Saturday morning.

Coming out of the swim I was surprised to see 31:49 on the clock. It had felt like one of my better swims, starting strong and passing other athletes throughout without being overtaken I had expected to see around 28-29 minutes. Once I was on the bike I was already over three minutes down on my target and yet again had to resort to plan 'B' (rapidly becoming plan 'A') of making up the lost swim time on the bike then hanging on for the run. I still feel like I'm swimming better than ever and could expect to break the hour for double the distance... maybe it was a little long? I am beginning to think I could be overestimating my swim ability but the pool doesn't lie and a quick flick through the results showed a few Ironman athletes posting times slower than half their IM distance efforts? Anyway... time to hammer the bike...

Coming out of a reasonable T1 (1:12) it was straight in to a solid headwind for the first few miles and combined with tired feeling legs it wasn't looking good as I struggled to get the speed over 20mph. A quick downhill followed by a sharp left turn out of the wind however and I was soon cruising along at a touch under 30mph and gradually pulling back some time. Due to my slack swim I'd hoped to better my pre-race target of 2:20 for the bike and so coming in to the end of the first of two laps anything under 1:10 would be good... 1:08:30... same again and I'd be back on track for the run. By this point my legs were really screaming, particularly in the headwind sections and the three climbs which make up the infamous 'Rutland Ripple'. With a serious increase in perceived effort for the final hour though I was confident of a good time and jumping off the bike in 2:17:38 I'd clawed a couple of minutes back and following a reasonable T2 (59 seconds) it was time to ask myself some questions ;)

Starting the half marathon my overall time was 2:52:09 and feeling that my run needs the most work at the moment I knew it would take something special to break 4:20 overall. It's funny how at times like these your mind can start making excuses as to why you really don't need to push it that hard and how as long as you get close to your goal that will be fine... well 'close' and 'fine' are two words which I no longer wish to associate with my athletic goals so with all my inspirations (most of whom I've written about in this blog) brought to the front of my thoughts it was time to answer back! Within the first 100 metres of the run I'd heard the encouraging screams of my mum and everyone else and knew it was time to dig-deep. I love out-and-back courses because as soon as you hit half way you know exactly what you're dealing with, and as this was a double out and back of 5.25km in each direction I knew I needed to hit the first turn in 22 minutes... 20:35 and I was on my way back to the start and feeling strong... 41:35 and I hit half way knowing that the same again would see me smash 4:20 with time to spare. It's at this point where your mind can yet again intervene, in an attempt to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, by convincing you that it's in the bag and that there really is no need to inflict too much pain on your already aching legs and burning lungs. Well, as I've also previously talked about, I now have only 300 days in which to learn the art of maximum suffering which I will no doubt need to call on come the final 10k (of 226) in Germany. Time to ramp it up... hitting the turn for home in just over 63 minutes I knew I would break my target and pushed for every single second imagining all the way that my coveted Kona spot was just in front of me... 1:25:07 and I'd done it... 4:16:45 for 6th in my age group and a top twenty overall finish out of around 700 athletes!

Sitting back and reflecting (during today's well earned 'Duvet Day') I'm really pleased with how the season has gone and am confident that I'm currently in the best shape of my life and therefore in a great position from which to build toward a sub-9.30 finish in Frankfurt next July. I'd set Saturday's target time based on the performance of athletes from last year who had gone on to do well in Ironman this year so to beat it by over three minutes was fantastic... I also finished ahead of a couple of guys who had comfortably gone sub-10 during 2007. It's also particularly nice to finish with a strong run, which had been missing for most of the season... I'm sure this was largely down to my Tuesday and Thursday runs with Tony B (cheers mate)... hopefully another few weeks of good running will see Tony and I both break three hours in the Dublin Marathon and what will be my final race before a much needed and well earned rest period for the whole of November.

And so to today's picture... two years ago H couldn't swim front crawl (at all) and was in the process of buying her first EVER bike... yesterday she stood on the podium of the National Long Distance Triathlon Championships after winning a bronze in the female 30-34 age group. I'd be proud of her whether she came first or last, it really doesn't matter, but words can't describe how great I felt as she stepped up to claim her medal.

Training wise this week will be very easy in an attempt to recover from yesterday in time to do ok in a 25 mile two-up time trial with Ben G on Saturday and our final triathlon of the season in Bala on Sunday (both with no real goal other than to enjoy).

Finally, we've added a couple of sections to the site. On the right hand side there is now a link to our photo gallery, at the moment there are only a selection of pictures from Ironman Austria (2006 & 2007) but when time allows we'll upload some more. Also on the right we've added a race results section which at the moment only covers 2007 but we hope to backdate it a couple of years over the next few weeks.

For the first time in ages I've managed to finish this before midnight but as I'm up at 4:30 (off to London for a rather exciting meeting which I'll tell you all about next week) that's not much use!

Well done to Sam and everyone else who did the Vit, thanks to Mum, Ray and our most vocal of support crews for the extra minutes you give us... hope you're all coming to Germany?

loads of love,


I've come a long, long way...

Well, our triathlon season for 2007 is very nearly over. Yesterday (Sat 8th Sept) I raced in The Vitruvian which was my biggest focus post Ironman this year. I did it last year so it's been good for me to see how I've improved since then. To be honest although comparing the results are the 'realest' (if that's a word) way of seeing progress I'm inclined to take more from where I've come from mentally than in the sense of time, as in splits, numbers and position - statitician Tom's favourite things!!!

The night before The Vitruvian I had a good long chat about my training to date and my training to come with my coach Martin and one thing that chat did for me was to highlight that irrespective of my result in the race that I was to do the next day, I've come a long, long way from where I was. The picture at the top is from Lanzarote in 2006, where it all started and also the place where I rode my first ever 100 miles (on the Lanza Ironman course). Here we are Tom & I post ride, a ride I'll never, ever forget. Sun, wind, wind, a bit more wind, hills, wind, wind, hills, quite a few tears, but most of all determination.

So I went into the race yesterday knowing that whatever the outcome, even if I didn't improve on last year I was still a better athlete than I was then. I'm so much more knowlegeable about my bike (which has been the biggest learning curve for me). Don't get me wrong, I'm still very much a girl when it comes to fixing it but I'm learning and most things I do for myself, the rest I just look blankly at Tom and thankfully he helps me out. In the picture above I couldn't have told you the difference between the seat post and bottom bracket or what to do when the chain comes off never mind fixing a puncture.

I'm learning every time I get on my bike. Yesterday I learnt that even though I'm a fitter and better cyclist than I was last year I'm still very inconsistent. Last year in the same race I rode 2hrs 52mins and this year I rode 2hrs 43, a 9min PB but I know I didn't ride well yesterday and I can do better than that on a good day. I actually felt worse on the bike this year than I did last year & last year I had a trauma with my gears. I went through a stage like this with my running a while back where I had to almost have a 'magic' day for me to perform well and this made my run races very inconsistent. It really got me down at times and I didn't feel like I was improving at all. I'm now going through more or less the exact same thing with the bike but I can see it and I know over time I'll conquer it. I'm better than I was, I know I am but I still need those 'magic' days that unfortunately I have no control over. They happen when they happen, that's the 'magic' in them! Thankfully I run off the bike well and my inconsistency in my running has disappeared. I just need to keep working at it and my cycling will become as consistent as my running has.

Overall my target was to beat last years 5hrs 8mins and nudge under the 5hr mark. My swim went okay. I had a bit of a navigation issue in the middle of the first lap and had to have a word with myself after I went off course by miles and had to swim hard to get back in line, my second lap was much better. Then onto the bike where as I've said I had taken for granted that I was much better and so just expected to produce the goods. Shame my legs weren't having the same thoughts. Strong winds and stupid legs meant that I felt more tired than I expected and I found the bike leg hard which gave me concern for the run and knew getting under the 5hr mark was going to be tough. When I got out on the run Iwas convinced that someone had actually stolen both of my feet and replaced them with someone elses and then sent the lady from the film 'Misery' to inflict as much pain on them as possible for the first 7km. I really felt like my ankles were struggling to recognise that they needed to be connected to my feet, why I'll never know. Gradually I either got used to the sensation or I ran it off but I just got stronger and stronger and had a great run. 1hr 36mins for the half marathon, 4mins off last year. So I beat my target 4hrs 58mins (phew) and was third in my age group which I'm really pleased with, I think Tom's blog entry has the pic of me on my first podium. It was a great way to celebrate a not so great (in sections) race.

I had fantastic support (as ever) while I was out there. My brother Jonny and niece Kelsey (number 1 fans who I love seeing and hearing on the course.) Tom's mum Yve & Ray who are now professional Triathlon supporters and always full of love and enthusiasm for us both.) The huge Kendal Jones clan (die hards who will be Ironman-ing it themselves before too long) and Ady & Sarah (thanks for the ear plugs Ady, you stopped me behaving like a weeble when I got out the water, shame they didn't have sat nav fitted in them, I might have swam on a better line if they had!) Thanks to you all for a season of love, support, advice and friendship.

So, I'm looking at how far I've come. In 2005 I bought my first EVER bike and learnt how to swim (Gareth you've got all of these highs & lows to come and you're going to love it and hate it in a Marmite like fashion). And look how far I've got to go.......... the possibilities are endless as long as there's determination.

Never give up...

H. x

Monday, 3 September 2007

Goal fever...

I'm writing this with a tummy full of curry and boy was it nice. I've had quite an indulgent weekend and I've really enjoyed it. After having an incredibly solid but brilliant few weeks of hard training it was good to just relax a little and go with the flow, but I have to stay focussed for The Vitruvian on Saturday and so I shall leave my indulgent head on the pillow this evening and will wake with a strong, focussed one for the rest of the week.

I feel like I haven't raced for ages, and I mean really raced. I'm looking forward to giving my all on Saturday and am spurred on by my friend Emma-Kate's impressive Bronze at this weekends Triathlon World Championships in Hamburg. A brilliant result for her and so very well deserved. I love it, it makes me want to get out there and race as hard as I can, there can't be a better feeling. Raw talent I may not have but I have the desire and the ability to push myself hard. I won't ever be as fast as the top girls but I'm prepared to train just as hard as they do and race equally as hard, so really there's no difference in our perfomances, we're only seperated by the clock. It's a common misconception that people often think that when you swim/bike or run a bit faster than them that it means it doesn't hurt you as much. Or if you're used to running a marathon or doing an Ironman that running a half marathon or doing a Half Ironman must therefore be easy. Wrong, wrong and wrong again. It's how hard you test yourself no matter what the distance, how much you know your boundaries and how much you want something.

I've learnt that although having natural talent would be fantastic thank you very much, actually all you need is an understanding of YOURSELF. I used to feel a bit hard done by that I wasn't born with an Olympic Gene but as I grow as a person I see that I can be an Olympian. Maybe not in the truest sense of the word but I've made my Olympics the possibility of reaching the World Championships in Hawaii and if I don't get there I'll move it to Lanzarote Ironman (it's a win/win situation). Goal setting is definitely the way forward, the reason for dragging myself out of bed at 5am every morning to swim 100's of lengths of the pool and pounding the roads of Leeds for miles and cycling up hill and down dale for endless hours. I couldn't do any of it unless I had a goal.

My goal for this week is to go into Saturday ready for action. Eat well, sleep well and train smart as my coach Martin often advises me. I shall ignore the fact that it's way past my bedtime (as always on a Sunday eve when it's time to write this blog).

So on that note I hear bed calling. Training this week was fairly relaxed after a solid Monday and Tuesday. Tuesday I did a great 2hr bike/2hr run brick session and felt super strong on the run which was fantastic. Wednesday was the last Pool Triangle of the year and I gave it my all but my legs were in pieces from the very hard days that had preceeded it so I had all of the pain of a hard 20km time trial but no glory what-so-ever!!! I still got 1st Lady for this season though and have £25.00 English pounds to spend in Woodrupps our fantastic local bike shop. I ran long on Fri am (5.30am to be precise) and didn't get much out of the old legs but enjoyed bimbling along watching the day break and the world going about it's business. And today I ran the third leg of the Leeds Country Way which was amusing to say the very least but a very relaxed affair. So I look forward to a week of sharp and short sessions with a huge dollop of mental & physical recovery mixed in to get me to Saturday in the best shape possible...

Bring it on!!!!!!!!!.......

H. x

Where am I?

Having tried to avoid going on about triathlon too much over the last few weeks I thought I'd get back to the stats this week and think about our second and final 'A' race of the year. This coming Saturday we are off to the Vitruvian and I'm looking to place well and set myself up for a strong winter of training. In the UK, with the triathlon season running from May to September, triathletes are made over the long winter months. During the summer we spend so much time either tapering, racing or recovering that long periods of consistent training are hard to come by. For me this weekend is about pushing myself to the absolute limit and finding out exactly where I am in all three disciplines. The next eight months of training will then be designed with the aim of getting me from where I am now to where I want to be by Frankfurt next July.

I know where I need to be in Germany (55 min swim, 5 hour bike and 3.25 run)... So where am I (or more accurately where do I THINK I am) now? Having not done the Vit before and with triathlon distances being a little inaccurate setting a relevant goal is a little difficult but here goes...

Swimming is going well, having struggled in the pool somewhat in the lead up to Switzerland I've upped both the intensity and volume over the last six weeks and have produced some pb sessions... such as 6 x 300 off 5:10 averaging about 4:30-4:35 per 300 (about 5-10 seconds quicker than similar sessions prior to IMCH). I'd like to think then that I could break an hour for the Ironman swim so at 1.9k I'd expect to dip under 30 minutes on Saturday.

I wasn't so sure about my biking since Ironman but a pb at the Pool Triangle on Wednesday night of 30:43 (compared to a pre-ironman pb of 30:54) shows that I have as much speed as ever. Although I haven't felt so strong over longer distances I think the near 300 miles I clocked over the bank holiday weekend training week should see me good. Based on last year's results then, I've set myself the target of 2:20 for the Vitruvian bike leg which at an average of 22.4 mph is 0.6mph slower than I managed on the only slightly shorter Bala race in June.

Finally the run... Due to significant increases in both my swim and bike speed over the last 12 months running has gone from Hero to Zero in my triathlon performance! It no doubt requires the most work of the three disciplines to reach my July'08 target but plenty of short hard efforts over recent weeks coupled with three good runs of 16, 16 &18 miles respectively and I'm confident of a sub-90 minute half marathon on Saturday. This would be similar to the 85 minute 20k I ran at the end of Bala on a much more demanding run course.

Overall then, if all goes to plan, my race goal is 4 hours and 20 minutes. The only slight question marks remaining are the horrendous transitions I had in Stockton two weeks ago and the fact that at 71kg's I'm 3kg's heavier than both Bala and IMCH earlier this year. With training going well though I'm feeling pretty confident that a focused mon-fri will lead to a good result on Saturday.

This brings me nicely to the photo of the week... my good mate Martin with his well deserved 'Official Qualification Certificate for the Hawaii World Ironman Championships 2007'. This for me represents the bottom line, it's exactly where I want to be in just over ten months time. Having seen first hand how hard Martin had to not only train but then race in order to qualify I know these things are not just given to you but you must earn them. Do I want it badly enough to find my true limit? That is a question which I will ask myself on the start line in six days time and answer over the last 10k of the run.

That's about it for now... I just wanted to say well done and thanks for the inspiration to my good friend EK who won a bronze medal at the world age-group championships in Hungary this morning and also to University of Leeds Sports Science student (and local Leeds lad) Alistair Brownlee who won silver (click on 'junior men') in the elite junior race on Friday. Both athletes produced awe-inspiring runs to reach the podiums of their respective races and will be in my thoughts when the going gets tough at the weekend!

Yet again it's ridiculous o'clock on Sunday night / Monday morning and I'm breaking one of my golden rules (to prioritise sleep) in order to write this blog!! Next week, with the race on Saturday, we have designated Sunday a duvet day and so a mid afternoon 'blog-slot' should be the order of the day ;)

Before I go... thanks for all the positive comments about our blog, both verbally and via the 'comment' option on this site. Our replies can be found in the comments section under the relevant post.

Have a great week,