Sunday, 28 December 2008


So here we are again, another Sunday evening and we find ourselves scrambling around trying to steal a moment to write the blog. For the last few weeks it doesn't feel like our feet have had a chance to touch the floor and having arrived back only a couple of hours ago from a lovely couple of days with H's family in South Shields we've got less than 12 hours to be walking out the door for three days at Tom's mum's, NYE in a Luton Airport hotel and a ten day training camp in Lanzarote. Twelve hours doesn't seem too bad but when you factor in eight hours sleep, writing the blog, packing two bikes (see today's picture) and all the kit for two weeks of travel/training and slotting a turbo session in somewhere... every second clearly does count!

We arrived back from an amazing honeymoon in Miami on Christmas Eve where although we managed about 55 miles of running and 15k of swimming we also overindulged in chocolate, ice-cream and Starbuck's Frappuccinos with true Ironman style. Unfortunately having left for the States feeling comfortably fitter than this time last year, we now feel comfortably fatter!! Christmas Day saw us hit the Dales on our bikes for a nice relaxing 45 miles of fresh air followed by a lunch of beans on toast, the Queens speech, Wallace and Grommit, East Enders and bed.

Up until a couple of weeks ago we'd been really excited about the Chevin Chase (just under 7 miles of seriously hilly and largely off-road running) and our first chance to compare our fitness against last year in a race situation, but warming up at 11am on Boxing Day it was clear that our transatlantic travels had affected us more than anticipated. Both of us had a similar race and whereas this is normally an event we really enjoy right from the gun our legs felt empty and unable to inject any pace, struggled to keep moving up the hills and screamed in pain on the seriously steep downs. Our combined times were around six minutes slower than last year and with Lanzarote only 21 weeks away we suddenly feel a long way off being Hawaii contenders... two weeks ago we were lighter and faster than our 2007 training diaries, suddenly we're heavier and slower!

Still, there's nothing like ten days in Lanzarote living like an athlete to kick start a training block and with our 20 week countdown starting while we're out there (Monday the 5th of January) we'll no doubt be able to hit the ground running once we're back in Blighty and able to establish our much needed routine. Although neither of us consider ourselves particularly talented athletically we do seem able to withstand and absorb higher than average training volumes over extended periods of time so by the time we hit our first major race of 2009 on the 21st of March, the Ballbuster Duathlon, we're confident that we'll be back on target.

Finally we'd like to say congratulations to our super motivated training partner Dave... the master of modesty had played down talk of a 45 minute run prior to the race only to fly round in 43.44 for a top 20 finish in a high quality field, well done mate! A field which by the way was led home by the Brownlee brothers, with Alistair's 37.19 equating to an average speed of around 5:25 per mile... not bad considering the steepest hill must be close to 1:2 and the deepest mud was half-way up our shins! Also a massive well done to fellow Virgin Active Road Runner Vikki King for joining Dave on the winners list for the Hyde Park Time Trial yesterday morning.

Right, next time you hear from us we'll be in Lanzarote on the final leg of our six week adventure and about to start 20 weeks of ruthlessness, determination and self belief ;)

See you in seven,

Mr & Mrs Williams xx

Monday, 22 December 2008

Lazy days...

As we're still lapping up the sun on South Beach and enjoying some serious 24/7 quality time tonight's post will once again be short and sweet. 

Firstly, thanks so much for all the kind emails, texts and blog comments since we tied the knot and apologies for not getting back to you. Seeing as we pretty much spend our lives connected to some form of IT based communication device we decided to turn everything off for the duration of our trip and so have essentially been out of contact with the real world since getting on the plane in Heathrow. Having not ever missed a Sunday blog deadline though we thought we'd quickly boot up the laptop, check our emails and fire off a few short paragraphs just to say hi.

To cut a long story short we're having a brilliant time and Miami has more than lived up to its glamorous reputation. The sun has shone every day, our hotel is fantastic, we've swum and run every day, spent hours sleeping by the pool and/or sea and have indulged in ice cream / pizza / burger aplenty. The one downside however has been how expensive everything is, and I'm not talking New York, Venice or Rome expensive... this is a whole other level, to the point where you really do have to be careful what you order off the menu or which sun lounger you kip on. On our first day we were chilling by the roof top pool and H fancied a little kip in the shade so grabbed forty winks under a small cabana... turned out that although the sun loungers are free, the cabana's are $750 per day!!! Another close shave saw us go for dinner at the Setai hotel, we've had lunch at the pool side bar which wasn't that expensive (for round here) and chose to have dinner in their 'grill' as opposed to the main restaurant so figured we were on safe ground... looking at the menu H suggested I went for one of their famous Kobe beef steaks and at first glance I thought it said $30, not bad for a steak in a five star hotel, until I worked out that once you added the compulsory 18% gratuity, tax and resort tax that it would be $40, still not horrendous... then at the last minute realised that it was priced PER OUNCE!!!! Their fixed price three course menu did me fine in the end at $55 ;)

Anyway, before this turns into an epic... this week's photo is of us with our amazing friend Steve. Unfortunately he was unable to make it across the Atlantic on the 13th but did fly over from LA on Thursday in order to celebrate in style at one of the most amazing restaurants we've ever been to, Casa Tua. Steve is one of life's great 'believers' and although I won't repeat the details here (that's for him to tell you) sitting and listening to him explain his dreams and ambitions along with his five year goal was as always a lesson in living every day and truly reaching for the stars. What Steve would like to achieve is nothing short of 'Hollywood' but I have absolutely no doubt that he will get there, for two reasons and two reasons only... he has the BELIEF and the DESIRE. Those two things are pretty much all you need in life, unfortunately people are commonly lacking in both. It was wonderful to spend time with such a brilliant friend. 

That's about it for now, we'll be 'shutting down' as soon as this is posted but fly back on Tuesday night and will be back in blighty on Christmas Eve morning and can't wait to catch up with everyone as soon as possible.

Have a brilliant Christmas and we'll see you next week,

loads of love

T & H x

Monday, 15 December 2008

Mr & Mrs..

Forgive us for this incredibly short, sweet and joint blog this week but as you can see on Saturday we got married!!!  It was truly AMAZING and we both had a wonderful day full of love and laughter and a handful of happy tears, actually quite a few happy tears, most of them Tom's.  We've just arrived in Miami and have unpacked in our hotel room, it's amazing we're going to love it here I'm sure.  However, having had no sleep on Saturday night, driving to Heathrow at 6am in the morning and then travelling all day and night (it's now 04.20am in England and according to my body clock, however it's actually 23.20pm here in Miami.  Three nights of little or no sleep have made Tom feel ill and he's actually asleep already having nearly hit the deck in Miami airport, hopefully a solid kip tonight and a rest tmrw should sort us both out.

I'm going to leave it there because it's certainly time I was sleeping to. A very quick thank you to all we know and love, hope you had as good a time as we did and thank you for making our day so special. x  A new chapter in our lives and it's exciting. 

Time to sleep, maybe we'll blog mid week, maybe we won't???  Night all.

Love Mr & Mr Williams.  x

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Do you believe?

As H and I wrote about a few weeks ago, Leeds based double Paralympic gold medallist and inspiration extraordinaire David Stone lists self belief as his number one weapon in the fight for gold medal glory. There are two types of person those who have it and those who don't... and what an amazing weekend this has been for the former :)

First of all, on Saturday morning H and I had the privilege of joining our mate Tess round the Hyde Park Time Trial for a massive three minute pb. She'd been on the brink of breaking 50 minutes for a long time and I absolutely knew that with the benefit of a decent pacing strategy she could have a 'breakthrough' performance. Setting off at a decent pace with a 4.5 minute walk / 30 second run plan we comfortably broke ten minutes for every single kilometre and crossed the line triumphantly in 47.40!! It was an amazing experience and, a bit like when Bannister broke the four minute mile, a psychological barrier has been broken and I'm sure many 'breakthrough' performances will follow.

This weekend's second great example of belief being the foundation for personal excellence was played out as we all slept last night where my mate Russ Cox was competing in the final Ironman of 2008 in Western Australia. Those of you who follow Russell's blog will know that having broken ten hours a few times, and with his sights set firmly on making it to Hawaii, he believed that he was capable of a 9.20 performance. Unfortunately this world is full of people who take great delight in knocking those who dare to dream... so much so that even the most ambitious of us are often scared to state our true goals for fear of being labelled arrogant if we succeed or deluded if we don't. Having posted a detailed strategy, the day before the race, of how he was going to get achieve his goal everything seemed to go pretty much to plan with splits of 58/4.55/3.22 (ish) seeing him cross the line almost bang on 9 hours and 20 minutes and in the process scoring a significant victory for those of us who choose to believe.

Unfortunately our potential 'hat-trick' of success was scuppered earlier today when Jevon had his end of year marathon ambitions snatched cruelly away at the final hurdle. An overturned car obstructing the course led to the cancellation of this morning's Luton Marathon and with 26.2 miles of energy burning a hole in his pocket he was forced to return home for a commiseratory (not sure if that's a word) rather than celebratory lunch.

On a final note I'd just like to say that although some people 'believe' and some people don't, it is most certainly a choice... sometimes we need a little help in order to see the light, but it's there in everyone. All we need is to create an environment where people are encouraged to dream and in turn shout those dreams from the tallest buildings without fear of being knocked down by negativity. The actual outcome isn't that important, had Tess gone round the HPTT in 51 minutes and had Russ blown up and finished an hour outside his target time they would still both have succeeded... you see the success comes in having the dream and being brave enough to go for it. The only failure in life is to never even try.

Anyway, that's about it for another seven days.

Keep believing,


Just done it...

Wow, what a weekend, what a whirlwind, but what fun!!!  Most of you will already know that on Saturday Tom and I were married.  The pic above is at HPTT (Leeds weekly 5km time trial) on the morning of our wedding.  I say wedding but actually it was only our wedding in the eyes of the law.  Tom and I have actually chosen to get married next weekend in the middle of the Yorkshire Dales, outside (yes, outside in this weather!!!)  Unfortunately English law doesn't allow people to legally marry outdoors and also our venue isn't licensed so Tom and I had to cross the T's and dot the i's yesterday in I guess what is classed as our 'proper' wedding but in our heads that all happens with everyone we love and care about next weekend, bring it on we can't wait!!

So, to the pic above.  Saturday was a bit mad.  We got up at 5am, were pedalling away on our bikes in the garage for 2hrs by 5.30am, rushed to get showered and ready to hot foot it to HPTT where Tom had promised his friend Tess (see above pic) that she could break 50mins for the 5km time trial.  And 50mins she did break too.  But then you can't imagine Tom would take anything less.  We practically marched Tess around the course and she was fab and all three of us were so so pleased that she made it in a blinding 47mins!!!  So Tess, you can do it and we hope it spurs you on every week when we can't make it so keep up the good work. x

Then we skipped off to have our wedding rehearsal for the real deal wedding next week, had lunch and off we went to sign on the dotted line and so here I am now Mrs Williams, very, very odd and all a bit surreal.  I'm looking forward to wearing THE dress and saying OUR vows next Saturday and then I truly will be Mrs Williams.

Training this week has been great but sporadic.  Great turbo sessions (far too much ice and snow this week to get out) great swim sessions with a break through set of 4 x 400's this week in 6.12, 6.00, 6.06, 6.07 and our weekly tempo treadmill on Tuesday, a 10mile treadmill run (pavements too icy to run on) on Thursday and a hard running interval session this morning. I'm feeling strong and in good condition.  I just feel a bit mentally torn by my excitement for the impending wedding, arranging the last few things to be done and keeping my head switched on for my training sessions, it's all quite difficult for my brain to juggle, it just likes one or two things to concentrate on, not a few million!!!

This time next week my friends, Mr & Mrs Williams will be blogging from their honeymoon destination of Miami!!!!  Wuhooo!!!!!  We've booked what looks to be an amazing hotel which boasts a 40 metre rooftop pool and fingers crossed the warmth of the sun :)

Well done to Tess once again, you can do it girl, so impressed. x  

Commiserations to Mr Jevonelly who trained like a demon for the last 7 weeks (after coming back from injury) for the Luton marathon being held today.  He ate pasta like an athlete until he felt like Jaba the Hut and he tapered the way athletes hate to, to be in tip top condition for this mornings race.  Only to be thwarted by an upside down car on the Luton Marathon course that couldn't be moved and so the whole thing was cancelled!!!  My heart goes out to you sir :(

And of course a huge thank you to Yve and Ray, Sam and Amanda and Ben, Lies and Charlie who all witnessed the oddity of our first wedding!! xxx

I'm soooo excited I might explode!  

See you in Miami!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and married!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! xxx

H. x

Sunday, 30 November 2008


The weirdest thing about writing my blogs at the moment is the fact that I've got nothing to moan about.  Nothing to psycho-analyse, nothing to be negative about, nothing to ponder and certainly nothing to be worried about.  Although now it sounds like I'm moaning about the fact that I've got nothing to moan about!!!  But in all honesty it actually makes the subject matter of my weekly brain spewing, really rather quite a challenge. 

What can I say apart from this week has been another great training week.  Another stepping stone in the swimming arena when I pb'd for 400m on Tuesday.  Previously I'd only just managed to break 6mins with a 5.59 until Tuesday when I swam 5.52 (I know 7 seconds doesn't sound a lot) but in the pool and for me that was a big step forward.  It wasn't my best performance either.  I didn't feel as up for it as I'd hoped and I didn't hit the wall as well as I could have but I did manage to push myself harder than before and so 5.52 is there for me to enjoy yet know that there's a little more in there on the right day :)

I'm a little disappointed that I'm not managing to get outside on my bike very much.  Morning ice, dark nights and awkward working hours in the day have meant that I've seen more of the back of the garage door than the Dales :(  Still I've done some good 2hr turbo sessions and if anything surviving them mentally has got to be part of the training for IM too.  I'm really looking forward to our training camp in Lanzarote in January where I think I'm going to have to bike, bike, bike until I can bike no more.

In the running department I've taken to changing my running foot strike.  It's a slow process and one not to be taken lightly but after a running training analysis it appears that as well as being a bit of a heel striker, I collapse on my right hip which is affecting my back and making me a bit wonky.  In fact wonky enough that I have to have my back regularily manipulated.  So, after the running analysis and a chat with Liz (my physio) I've been trying to strike mid-foot (not as easy as it sounds after years of being a heel striking hoverer!!!)  Striking the ground with my mid to fore foot appears to keep my body in a straight line and although my calf muscles have taken a bit of a battering they are slowly but surely coming round to the idea and I'm hoping that this will take my running up a notch.  Although as Tom has pointed out that won't be of any use to me if I haven't done the bike, bike, bike thing because that's what is going to determine how strong I am in the run.   Still I feel good about the whole ensemble, it's coming together nicely :)

Before I sign off there's a few things to mention... 

Firstly to Mr Jevonelly. I'm willing you a happy taper week as you eat your way through tons of pasta in preparation for the Luton Marathon on Saturday...may the force be with you. We will certainly be with you in spirit and look forward to hearing all about it, have a great

Secondly to Eek who is living the tri life in Oz... may the sun shine down on your sessions all day... xxx

Thirdly to Francesca, Tiffany and Luchia, how you made me laugh, you're brilliant...and all that jazz... xxx

And last but never EVER least to Tom, I can't WAIT to be your wife :) forever, and ever and ever and in fact legally and in writing in 6 days but in heart, soul and party stylee in 13 days...xxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx

H. x

Negative assumptions....

I wasn't sure what to write about this week until I heard a radio interview with a chap from Leeds who was attempting to become the 'World's fittest man' by completing a series of physical challenges. I actually bumped in to him in the gym the other day and he seemed like a great guy, I hope he managed to achieve his goal but can't seem to find out how he did via the tinternet. Anyway, what was it about the interview that gave me the title of today's blog.........?

Toward the end of the interview the guy posing the questions asked what the toughest thing about all this training was, to which the reply came that it was having to eat so much boring food, such as 'plain dry salmon'... and that with a daily consumption of 9,000 calories per day it had become rather monotonous. Having worked in the fitness industry for the last seven years I know from experience that the negative assumption i.e. in order to be fit your diet must be plain, dull and boring is all too common, and here live on radio was the 'fittest man in the world' emphasising that terrible stereotype. There seems to be some kind of widely held belief that if you're not eating chips and cheese for lunch and Domino's Pizza for dinner (which is equally bad) that life surely mustn't be worth living... in fact when I experimented with giving up sugar earlier this year I was met with the (serious) comment from a fellow gym user of 'why don't you just give up living?'!!!!!

The sad thing about all of this is that the complete opposite is true and actually one of the greatest benefits of training so hard is that you get to eat the most amazingly nutritious, tasty, wonderful food crammed full of a wide range of minerals, vitamins, healthy fats and of course... calories. Don't get me wrong, I'm in no way a believer in the 'train hard & eat junk' point of view but if you're going to train well you need to eat well and by that I mean really really well. Over the last few years Hels and I have become fairly keen 'foodies' and are increasingly moving toward an organic, locally sourced diet high in complex carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats and free from artificial additives of any sort. The way we see it is that food is one of the great pleasures in life and should be thoroughly enjoyed right the way from buying it, preparing it, cooking it and finally eating it... not to mention the fact that by doing that, both your quantity quality of life will significantly increase... really it's a win/win situation and one which is only made possible by living a physically active and challenging life. Unfortunately, the typical exercising adult mistakenly believes they need to consume a diet full of low-calorie (i.e. low goodness), low-fat (i.e. low taste) and sugar-free (i.e. aspartame and additive full) foods... and the far more common sedentary individuals of this world burn so few calories throughout the average day that if they were to consume the required amount of highly nutritious and tasty foods full of all the necessary goodness they'd be the size of a house in no time at all.

Anyway, to cut a very long story somewhat short I'll simply redirect you to the best article I've ever read on modern day diet dilemmas.... 'Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.'

The subject of incorrect negative assumptions is unfortunately rather common, so much so that I often wonder if they've been created as part of some kind of conspiracy to keep the 'common man' from rising up and achieving something... every day I'm faced with someone who assumes that they should hate their job or the gym (or any form of exercise for that matter), that healthy food must be boring food, that you can only have a good time with alcohol or wake up with coffee, that once you're married the spark disappears and that Mondays must surely be miserable... and heaven help the early rising, t-total vegetarian, with a healthy addiction to exercise for whom life surely must barely be worth living.

Anyway, I can feel myself climbing up onto my 'soap box' so I'll leave it there...

"Don’t take the silence of the yams as a sign that they have nothing valuable to say about health."
- Michael Pollan

See you soon,


p.s. In case you're vaguely interested my current healthy food addiction lies in the form of lathering pretty much everything I eat in oodles of this lovely stuff... enjoy :)

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Inspiration Sir? Yes please....

The training's going really well and I'm loving it.  I'm motivated, I'm improving and after the Annual Yorkshire Road Club Cycling Lunch today I'm inspired beyond belief.  

As the regular readers of our blog will know I've been on a fairly deep and personal journey trying to discover the things that make me tick.  And as you know they weren't always the things that make me tick the right way!  I'm not afraid to say that I'm deeply flawed but I wanted to understand those things and see if changing them could make the difference in my training and then in my racing.  Yes, and yes to both of those things and I'm in a much better place right now. I can't wait to watch my own improvement (I don't mean that to sound as conceited as it does) but I'm motivated by own positivity, and it's quite liberating.  Yes I still have off days when the negativity tries to pour in but generally I think I've kicked the habit and replaced it with a much better positive version :)

At the YCC lunch today Double Gold Paralympian David Stone (see pic) was the guest of honour and he talked about the things that made him as good as he is today.  He was truly inspirational.  I'm sure though that being in a better head space than I was this time last year that his words really rang loud and true.  He was asked what three things made the difference. His answer?  

1 - Self Belief (although a very new one on me, I'm there, for once I believe in myself!) 
2 - Determination (One thing I most certainly have.)
3 - Ruthlessness (Lots of things get put in your path to distract you but you have to be ruthless and stay focussed to get the best out of yourself.)

Those three things are all things that every one of us has the ability to tap into.  They don't cost anything, they don't rely on talent and if they're put to good use they can help achieve personal greatness.  It's been tried and tested and the proof is in David's very own Olympic Gold Medals. I want to be the best that I can be and today for the first time I understood all of those three things and knew that I was already applying them.  And already they're a huge part of what is making a difference in my training performance.

Bring it all on, I'm ready and I'm waiting!

Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try. Anon

H. x

I love winter....

Well... I sort of love winter, in a Rocky IV 'training isolation' type way! Unlike winter, tonight's post is going to be short sweet and to the point...

A few weeks ago Hels and I were in J E James Cycles in Sheffield kitting ourselves out in some nice cozy winter gear to help us through the next six months, and whilst we were waiting for the card to process I was having a chat with the lad behind the till. Every now and then someone says something completely out of the blue that just absolutely hits the spot and stays vividly etched on your mind for quite some time, and this was one of those moments....

"Champions are made in the winter"

There's absolutely nothing to add to that really, it's absolutely true yet was said with such naive honesty by this teenage lad that I'm sure the truth and magnitude of those six words passed him quickly by... but not me.

So what's motivated me to write about this today in particular? Hels and I spent this afternoon at the Yorkshire Road Cycling Club's annual Christmas Luncheon and were probably in the company of more 'champions' per square foot than our thirty or so years have ever known. We were kindly invited by our friend Steve Woodrup (owner of the best bike shop in the north and, along with his son Tony, responsible for H and I flogging ourselves round the Pool Triangle every Wednesday in the summer) and only knew a couple of people out of the 100 or so in attendance. In an effort to get to know a few more of this hardiest of athletic communities we'd ticket the box on the booking form indicating that we didn't mind who we sat next to, which saw us end up with eight of the YRC's most 'experienced' members.... and considering their club was founded in 1892 they had some serious stories to tell. For a good few hours we enjoyed being entertained yet motivated with endless stories of pioneering trips round Europe in the 50s, all done on a shoestring and more often than not ending up in Tour de France stage victories... as you do! We were made to feel really really welcome and loved the easy way in which phenomenal athletic achievements rolled off the tounges of our octagenarian hosts, things like... "what sort of time do you do round the Pool triangle?" to which I replied rather proudly "a short 30 minutes" to which the reply was "that's fantastic, my son's done 25 minutes round there and also won a bronze medal in Sydney"... as you do!

I'll leave Hels to chat about the greatest champion of the day, double Beijing Paralympic gold medallist David Stone, who's wise words will fuel our training fires for the next six months and then some.

To cut a long story short we were both humbled and inspired today.

See you soon,

T x

Sunday, 16 November 2008


In one of the teaching rooms at the University there's a great poster of Steve Prefontaine (see today's photo) with an amazing quote that has stuck in my mind since the first time I read it...

"To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift"

How often however do you hear people spouting out such motivational quotes only to follow a path through life which pretty much contradicts their every single word? Anyway, it got me thinking about myself and how I approach the various areas of my life... how often do I sacrifice the gift? Quite often actually!

I feel like giving up alcohol four and a half years ago opened my eyes a little more to ‘who I am’ and Ironman has shown me not only what I’m capable of but how great it feels to ‘achieve’. Over time however this improved 'vision' has not only made me feel good about myself and my achievements but has also made me aware of the disparity in my application between the various aspects of my life.

Anyway, to cut a long story short on Friday I reached some kind of tipping point where following lunch at Salvo’s with AKJ I finally decided enough’s enough… I’m no longer going to guff around staring out of the proverbial window and ‘sacrificing the gift’. If I can marry the girl of my dreams and run across Ironman finish lines around the world it's about time a 'gave my best' to every single other second of my allotted 'three score and ten'.

This weekend therefore I read half of Steve Pavlina’s ‘Personal Development for Smart People‘ and all of David Allen’s ‘Getting Things Done’ with the latter providing valuable insight into possible reasons why things have been getting on top of me recently (my lack of drive in areas outside Hels and endurance sport was beginning to frustrate me). The bottom line being, according to Allen (and I'm inclined to agree) that in the absence of stating clear ‘points of next action’ for the large number of ‘projects’ in my life and in turn collecting those somewhere not inside my head, my mental ‘RAM’ had given up the ghost.

As part of the Getting Things Done (GTD) strategy I’ve attempted to identify all the ‘open loops’ (aspects of your life which aren't where you would like them to be but you haven't decided on the best course of action to change things) spinning around my mind and have processed them into ‘next action points’ which I’ve then 'captured' using the productivity tool ‘Remember the Milk’. Defining every single thing in your life that isn’t currently exactly where it should be is at least as difficult as it sounds but hopefully the 55 'next action points' that I know have contained, a safe distance from my brain, represent a significant portion? Even as I write, more and more 'loose ends' are floating into my consciousness... perhaps by the end of the day I might have in excess of 100 previously unanswered questions safely tucked away in my online to-do list and no longer able to dull my thought process and motivation... pretty amazing when you think about it!

Anyway, I've been up all weekend (almost literally) reading, writing, plotting and scheming and will no doubt revisit this topic extensively over the next few weeks or so. However, as part of 'giving my best to everything' I've committed to 'no Internet use after 7pm' in an attempt to concentrate my work into fewer (more productive) hours and in turn increase the amount of time I spend kicking back with H, friends and family.

For the moment I need to crack on and get a few things done, see you next week.


p.s. seeing as we've already had an athletic quote today I'll leave with something from one of my favourite films....

"See, you get yourself 3 or 4 good pals; then you've got yourself a tribe. And there ain't nothing stronger than that."

any idea Jevon?

Every second counts...

Training, working, eating, sleeping, arranging our wedding, the time is just disappearing faster than we're spending it.  It feels brilliant to be back in the training saddle and although the body has been slow on the uptake the mind is definitely appreciating the return to routine and order.

I've got good feelings about my achievements next year.  I think my training for this Winter is going to be so beneficial that it's going to make a huge difference.  It's not a case of more training, or infact that I did anything wrong with previous years training.  The biggest difference is as I approach my fourth year of triathlon I feel ready to take on a bigger bike volume including some hard intensity.  I'm swimming better than I have done and I'm still improving :) and I'm looking forward to doing shorter sharper run sessions.  The benefits of all will hopefully see me swim faster than before in Lanza, deal with the hard, hilly, windy bike and still be able to run well off it.  I've never raced an Ironman yet, I've always felt like the speed with which I run off the bike has already been dictated.  No room for holding back, or alternatively just going for it. That's because although I run off the bike well, I don't bike well enough to be able to run at a pace of my choice.  I get off the bike and cross my fingers that my legs don't buckle underneath me and that they'll carry me round the 26.2 miles.  Next year I'd like that to be different, and at the minute I feel positive that with the foundations of a great training schedule in front of me, an amazing training partner (and soon to be husband) always by my side and new found mental strength which I was more than lacking last year I can't fail to improve and move nearer to that Kona goal.

Training this week has been consistent and different and has felt great.  15km covered in the pool with some focused 400m & 200m reps and technique sets.  I've hit the turbo not being able to get out through the day (until today when we looked for hills to do some specific Lanza training on- can't wait for those sessions...not!!!) Long intervals, short intervals and some bike technique has seen my sanity maintained while I pedal away looking at the back of the garage door.  And my running has followed a fairly similar pattern.  A long run, easy run, a tempo session and a hard as nails interval session which got the old heart thumping has been my running diet this week and I've thoroughly enjoyed the variation and look forward to more of the same :)  Providing I can stay healthy and injury free I've got my eyes on improvement in all areas.

Over dinner this evening we were both shocked at just how fast time is tick tocking away and carrying us with it.  The pic above was taken last week on our 5th Anniversary and in less than 4 weeks we'll be married, have our honeymoon, return for Christmas and then we're off to Lanza for a training camp.  Lanza is going to just stick it's big windy nose into our faces in the blink of an eye.  If I could just put everything into slow mo it would be great.  Sometimes life feels like one of those time lapse cameras,  everything's happening and I'm in the middle of it loving it but it's all going too fast.  

And right now it's time to sign off and enjoy the rest of Sunday evening before Monday's 5am alarm call signifies the beginning of another no doubt uber speeded up week.

The clock talked loud.  I threw it away, it scared me what it talked. Tillie Olsen

H. x


Sunday, 9 November 2008

Back on track...

It's my turn to write our joint blog tonight, normal blogging will resume next weekend :)  And as it's my turn I find myself writing it at a reasonable hour which is always a bonus on a school night.

This week has been a mixed bag of pain, lactic acid and outdoor clothes that could keep Edmund Hilary warm!!  But hey, we're back.  It's been a huge shock to the system and a huge shock to the brain but it feels great.  Getting into the pool for our first swim session on Monday was fantastic but it was hard.  Getting onto the treadmill on Tuesday was mentally tough and physically hideous.  And then having no time to ride outside through the week we re-aquainted ourselves with the turbo in the garage...ouch.

We did both need the rest, and there were times in that rest when we would question whether we were really going to benefit from a whole month... particularily when we were starting to get jumpy about how long it had been since we had done anything remotely testing.  I'm really glad we did do it though.  I got to update my website and we got to do things around the house that had been neglected (no that doesn't mean the garden for those that know us and our green fingered ways!)  We feel mentally ready for the hard work ahead and it's great watching your fitness improve over the days, albeit a painful few days!

Last week we went riding with Ady and he ripped both of our wobbly legs off.  Today I got out into the Dales and rode a very windy 60 miles.  The scenery out there is just amazing.  Todays bleak, windy day truly suited the rolling hills, the bleating sheep and the hardy Yorkshire cyclist.  This Winter we both refuse to be cold.  Last year we may as well have been cycling in open toed sandals so we've invested in sturdy Winter shoes and thick overshoes.  Nice warm toes :)  Hopefully these Winter miles are going to make Summer smiles!!

So we're back in the groove, back in a routine and eager to make the changes to our training in a bid to give Lanzarote 2009 absolutely everything.  The only thing we don't have is... the perfect flapjack recipe :(  Flapjack is just the best nutrition for us when we're out on our long rides, you just can't beat it.  Unfortunately we can't make it the way we like it either.  Last Sunday we made flapjack, the biscuit version, actually the kind of biscuit that could break your teeth.  We want a recipe for soft flapjack..anyone out there know one then do pass on your knowledge.  I'm just about to go into the kitchen and try another different recipe, fingers crossed.

We're hoping this coming week won't be as painful as the one just gone but we're both loving being back.

See you in seven ;)

Hels & Tom. 

Sunday, 2 November 2008

They think it's all over... it is now :)

In an effort to sort out the few final bits and bobs before 'proper' training starts tomorrow we've decided to utilise our Sunday evening hours a little more efficiently this week and write a joint blog entry...

We've only got one thing to say this week anyway.... thank god that's over! Regular readers of our ramblings will know that in order to remove all traces of fatigue from a long hard pb'd filled season, and at the same time relax mentally before what are certain to be the most challenging six months of our life, we decided to kick back and do pretty much no training for four weeks. Now most of you won't believe this but if there's one thing we're not addicted to (well maybe H is a little bit) it's exercise, and before you think we've gone completely mad let us explain that statement...

We are addicted to the feeling of achievement that crossing a finish line in a new pb gives us, we are addicted to starting each day as if it were our last, we are addicted to challenging ourselves to see if Adidas are in fact correct and 'Impossible is Nothing', we are addicted to spending endless hours together in pursuit of a common goal, we are addicted to following in the footsteps of those who inspire us... it just so happens that our current method of feeding all those addictions is training and competing in triathlon.

Sometimes however, you have to step backwards to step forwards and as such yesterday provided our first sensible training session since the Great North Run four weeks ago. So how's it been? Not good! We have done a little bit but only about 3-4 hours a week and nothing even close to remotely challenging, the only time we got out of breath was on a 20 second 'flying lap' round the Manchester Velodrome a few weeks ago and the only pain we went through was when Tom tripped over the ball just after running out of talent during a 5-a-side game. Other than that we've eaten like our life depended on it, stayed up / got up late, and oddly enough seemed shorter on time than when we were training... perhaps we might never know what happened to the 20+ hours per week we expected to be spending at will???

Anyway, the bottom line... was it fun? did it feel good? are we now refreshed and full of energy? and did we get all those things done that we'd put off since this time last year? No, no, no and no!


Are we glad we did it? will we be stronger through winter? are we less likely to get injured/ill? and have we created a todo list to get all those things done at the same time as training? Yes, yes, yes and yes!

Yesterday morning we did a 75 minute fairly easy yet hilly run and in the evening we did a two hour steady turbo session. This morning our mate Ady came round and joined us for a four and a quarter hour ride during which Tom spent most of the time fighting the urge to get off and walk on the hills due to empty legs and burning lungs! It's amazing how quickly your conditioning can disappear and it's hard to believe that only last month we pb'd at the Great North... but conditioning fluctuates so much more than true fitness, which will still be there we just can't find it, and as long as we can push through the next couple of weeks we should be flying come Crimbo :)

Anyway, it's good to be back :)

Today's picture? Two great British champions... although some people out there doubt Paula's motivation when it comes to Team GB, her lack of Olympic medals I think are more likely down to her wanting them so much more than anything else which unfortunately can lead to pushing the training that bit too hard and arriving at the moment she's waited four years for somewhat cooked! As was the case following Athens its great to see her back on form and representing us across the pond. Talking of American adventures today also so Lewis Hamilton snatch defeat from the jaws of victory with a couple of laps to go before brilliantly swapping said defeat for the preferred option of victory with only a corner or so to go. There are two great lessons to learn from these great performances... both summed up rather well by this quote from a book which Helen recently read (apologies if we posted this previously)...

"Rule number one - try for every ball. Rule number two - if you can't reach the ball see rule number one"
- Seven Habits of Highly Effective Athletes

See you in seven,

T & H

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Training thoughts...

As you can see from the look on my face in today's photo (taken on the final lap of the run at Ironman Germany) my most recent Ironman run didn't quite go to plan... in fact, before I'd even crossed the finish line I was already thinking of ways to avoid this level of suffering ever again!

So, here we are five days away from the start on our Lanzarote training and it's time for change. As I've discussed in previous posts I felt that although I was fit enough to achieve my individual splits for the swim, bike and run in Germany, I wasn't quite strong enough on the bike to then run a decent marathon. Basically I was a good enough runner to run 3.20 but not a good enough cyclist to run 3.20... and Lanzarote is well and truly all about the bike!

Training for Germany my goal had been to maintain bike fitness against 2007 and improve my running, which I did by increasing my run volume and reducing bike volume, yet maintaining a decent number of long Sunday rides. As a tactic it seemed to work and my running improved right through the year with pb's half marathon and marathon as well as a really great run at UK70.3... unfortunately I underestimated the German bike course and my lack of overall bike volume combined with a slightly below-par day saw me miss my bike target and really struggle on the run. So, in order to swap things round for Lanzarote i.e. building my bike whilst maintaining my run fitness I've decided to implement the following key changes to my training...

  • No autumn marathon - this time last year I was about to run the Dublin marathon but with Lanzarote around seven weeks earlier in the year than my previous mdot events I decided to take a recovery month straight after the Great North Run and therefore be ready to start training at the beginning of November.
  • No spring marathon - for the first time in ages Helen and I will not be running in the London marathon. Partly this is due to it only being a few weeks before Lanza and recovery would be tight but mostly because the run focus and taper leading in to it, and the recovery required afterwards, mean that for the last three years I've somewhat neglected my bike during this key period in the build-up.
  • Bike based training camps - with a ten day Lanzarote camp already booked for early Jan and one or two more in the pipeline I'll be making sure of at least two (probably three) weeks of solid warm weather bike miles in the build up to the race.
  • Less long rides but greater overall bike volume - last year I did quite a few very long and very very tough rides, typically at weekends, which although I'm sure were beneficial they were so demanding that I'd struggle to complete any quality bike sessions during the week. This year my long rides will be a little shorter and a lot easier and my intensity will come from 3-4 shorter sessions mon-sat, hopefully allowing me to increase my bike volume.
  • Less long runs but greater overall run volume - a bit like my cycling, in the build up to Germany my Thursday long runs were pretty tough, often 20 miles plus and at close to seven minute miling. Again, the fatigue from these sessions can last quite a few days and reduces my ability to get out on the bike for quality work. Hopefully by spreading my run volume out over a greater number of shorter sessions I can maintain run fitness whilst freeing up time and energy for bike sessions.
  • Less demanding race schedule in the two months prior - I like racing and my ability to keep within heart rate limits and below prescribed effort levels means they can be no more intense than a decent training session. Even though I had a great race at 70.3 I held back significantly on the run and was also more than happy to complete the following week's super-sprint at Ironman pace. However, once you add two transatlantic flights (to and from Vancouver) and two very long car journeys (to and from Wimbleball) along with limited down time due to excessive travel, all within the final four weeks of training it's no wonder I wasn't quite on the ball come race day. This year I'll be kicking back at home and probably doing race simulations in the Dales with sleep, rest and chill-time much more of a priority.

My basic week is therefore likely to consist of (roughly) the following bike sessions, all of which will have some kind of run off...
  1. 60 minute easy turbo
  2. 120 minute interval based turbo (i.e. 3 x 30 minutes hard with 10 minute recovery)
  3. 120 minute steady turbo (variations in pace, slightly above and below Ironman effort)
  4. 3-4 hour outdoor ride including approx 90 minutes of hard hill work
  5. 4-6 hour easy long ride
Last year, most of my cycling was pretty long and steady so this year will see a significant increase in quality and intensity as well as overall volume, which coupled with several specific weeks of bike focus during the training camps should see me capable of a sub-5.40 bike split in Lanzarote.

With the build up to Lanza about to start I feel, for the first time, that I really KNOW what is required in order for me to get amongst the Hawaii slots... as opposed to the last three years, where it's been somewhat of an experiment. The first time I tried to break three hours for a stand-alone marathon I was on schedule to about 30k before blowing up spectacularly, but the experience of getting through half-way on target showed me what I needed to do in order to make that step in the future. I feel that I went through the same process in Frankfurt this summer and having been in the mix through 100k on the bike I know clearly where I am, where I need to be and also how to get there.

On a separate note our good friends Billy, Claire and Daz are all running in the Dublin marathon tomorrow morning. So please send them some positive thoughts at 9am and again a couple of hours later when the going will no doubt be seriously tough!

See you next week,


Inspiration...aspiration and some perspiration...

When I started the Ironman journey I wondered if I was going to survive the training.  Then I wondered if I would survive the actual race.  Right now I'm wondering if I'm going to survive this rest month without exploding.

5 more days of resting and eating anything (and everything) I like and then the training is going to start and I feel more focused than I ever have before.  I'm ready to train hard and  'train smart' as the Yelling's knowingly advise and my focus will not waiver.  I suppose completely letting go in this rest month is what is going to enable me to work harder, become stronger and be the best I can come May 23rd 2009.  

This weekend Tom and I went to stay with the O'Neill family (see above pic.)  We met Jevon (a fellow Ironman athlete) last year in Austria and we've stayed in touch ever since.  One of the fantastic things about trying new things is that you meet new people, all creating their very own personal Ironman journey's and some of them you know you'll be friends with for a long time. Jevon came to stay with us for a couple of days this year in the run up to our respective Ironman events.  It was a whirlind of heavy training, cramming food in and then sleeping for what felt like a nano second before the new day started and we were training hard again.  This weekend was the complete opposite.  We were waited on hand and foot with superb food bouncing out of the oven courtesy of Jevon's wife Fiona (who I'm sure I've met before in a previous life.) We went for a 7 mile run and watched the sun set from a beacon high on the hills close to Jevon's house and finished the night off with chocolate, coffee and two films.  Going to bed at silly o'clock, fully content, chilled out and relaxed.  We even managed to fit a swim in today, in between reading the Sunday papers, playing on the Wii, being entertained by Jevon's two girls Erin and Alice and generally eating Fiona out of house and home.  A truly inspirational and aspirational weekend with a tiny drop of perspiration thrown in for good measure.  Thanks guys. x

So we've got 5 days of resting hell to do before unleashing ourselves into 6mths of solid training.  In Lanza I know I can swim under the hour, but I need to concentrate on the bike so I can run solidly off it.  I'm aiming for about a 6hr 20 bike (roughly equates to a 5hr 30 on a faster course)  and a 3.50-4hr run.  Bringing me over the finish line in a sub 11hr 30min (with transistions.)  Ambitious? Yes.  Unrealistic? No.  Live like a monk, train like a demon for 6mths? Yes.  Get to Kona? I think so :)

Time for bed?  Definitely.

Before I go though, I must say a huge, huge good luck to my good mate Clare Roberts who is running her first marathon tomorrow in Dublin.  I can't wait to hear all about it. xxx

And to Tom... I can't wait to marry you in 6 weeks time :) xxx

H. x

If we all did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.  
Thomas Edison.

Sunday, 19 October 2008


Time to start getting real I think. Writing about training is the only thing that may maintain my waning sanity!!!

I'll cut to the chase...this rest month is beginning to kill me. Don't get me wrong, I was desperate to have it and couldn't wait to have the pressure of training twice a day removed from my day. No 5am alarm calls, no hard sessions physically or mentally and all of that time to do the neccessary side-lines jobs around the house. The first week was great and to be honest we haven't actually had oodles of time to ourselves, in fact if anything we've been ridiculously busy and time seems to have just been swallowed but it's been used in a completely different way. However, now I'm desperate to be training again.

I'm relieved to feel like this. I was worried that I wouldn't be looking forward to getting back into hard, long and tiring days of endless training, especially after feeling so desperate for it all to stop for a while. And here I am biting at the bit already. I'd much rather feel like this though than be dreading the slog that lies ahead. Tom and I are starting to mentally prepare for the task that lies ahead. Getting our heads around not only the training but the serious task of goal setting for Lanzarote in the hope to be following our talented mates down the Queen K and tasting the Hawaiian Island for ourselves. This is what is now keeping me going because I feel out of condition and un-athletic in shape and size and if I'm honest a little bit out of sorts. My training is so very much part of what makes me and of who I am that I feel like I'm a little lost when I'm not training for such a long period of time. I recognise that it will make me a better, fitter, stronger athlete and I'm doing it...but now... I hate it. I feel a bit like a fish out of water floundering on the sand. I've still got two weeks to go and it's becoming purgery but I know that feeling like this now will make the training so much sweeter when I can finally get my teeth into it.

The thing that makes me laugh is that I'm still doing an hour of exercise every day, a light run, a light swim, an easy turbo and bit of strength work. But I really honestly don't feel like I'm exercising in the slightest. I'm relaxed about the sessions too. If it means having to get up at 5am to do it then I'll miss it and I'm not that bothered. The twisted side of me quite likes the feeling of letting my condition go because I'll enjoy watching my fitness level progress once I get back in the water, in the saddle and on the road. The same goes for my pie eating skills. Come November the 1st, they too will go out of the window and the lean, lighter version of me shall return once more. These things I can't wait for. It's the most bizarre thing because it's like a light switch that snaps on. I have no desire to lie in, no concept of missing a training session and no desire to fill my face with pie!!! If you asked me to do it now I couldn't (even though I'm desperate for Nov 1st to come around.). The date is set. November is the start of Lanzarote training, not a single day earlier. A rest month is a rest month. I have to go through this process to get to November with the passion, the want and the BELIEF that I can swim, bike and run that course to a place in Hawaii.

Walking through the quiet, beautiful still streets of Geneva earlier this afternoon with Tom and his pa (we're here to celebrate his pa's birthday) our conversation was turned to the importance of belief. Not just in Ironman but in everything. What's the point of anything in fact if you don't believe? So, being new to this positive existence that I've been embracing of late I can see that it's in me, all I have to do is believe, train hard and do my best on the day. If I don't believe I can do it when I'm training then what's the bloody point in trying to do it on the day? And if I don't do it on the day, I've still given my all and believed in myself and that can't change.

Next weekend we're spending with our mate Jevon and his family and that should suitably finish off our last weekend of real freedom. We can talk training and Ironman to our hearts content but all while lounging around drinking coffee. I can almost see the start line which comes the Saturday after that, I actually feel itchy and if I thought I could claw that date a bit nearer I would... but I can't so I have to endure this feeling and allow it to fuel the desire when the Winter rides are cold, long, wet and hard and the runs are a slog and the swims are endless.

Believe, believe, believe...

"You can have anything you want if you give up the belief that you can't have it."
Dr Robert Anthony.

Two things I want you to know. One... I hate this month of rest!! Two... I believe.

H. x


Hels and I arrived in Geneva last night to celebrate my Dad's birthday, which was today, by spending some quality time together. Sadly, time is once again refusing to wait and with a wonderful day behind us all I already find myself sat in bed, with the alarm set suitably early for us to take the ten minute walk to the airport in time for our morning flight. To make things worse H has already written her blog and is snoring away peacefully next to me (Dad and I spent the last few hours playing around with his new MacBook Pro) as I try and think of something interesting and thoughtful yet short and sweet...

As Hels has already talked about in her post, our six months of Lanzarote training starts on the 1st of November and as much as I too am fed up with sitting around not doing much training (only four hours this week) I'm extremely aware of the challenge we both face between the end of next week and May the 23rd. I sat down with Jack on Thursday and we put together a rough 'basic week' to follow throughout the winter and one thing really struck a chord with me... the level of commitment required!

Lanzarote will be my fourth Ironman, having reflected on the previous few years I am confident enough to consider myself a serious contender for a Hawaii slot and having spent the last week or two following the coverage from this year's world championships my desire and drive to achieve my dream is stronger than ever. I'm determined to step up to the plate this year, will be holding nothing back over the next six months and will be racing for a top ten in my age group and automatic slot. Don't get me wrong, I'd be delighted to accept a role-down but this year is about making it happen and not having to rely on someone else turning their place down is very much part of that. Over the last few years I've helped quite a few people to train for and complete their first marathon and have often pursuaded them to sign-up for the race by asking them not 'do you think you can run a marathon?' but 'do you want to run a marathon?'. Once the comitment to race is made we can then start working on the 'how'.... So what will it take...

Last year in Lanzarote the final Hawaii qualifier (thanks to a four place roll-down) in M35-39 finished 14th in cat with 10:15:56, the 10th M35-39 however crossed the line in 10:02:50 and 52nd overall out of around 1300 finishers. So there it is... as crazy as it sounds to get within four minutes of my Germany time on a course at least 40 minutes slower, having committed to my goal I'm no longer interested in 'can I do it' and am 100% focused on 'how will I do it?'...

From studying the results it seems the swim is quick, t1, bike and t2 slow and run about average, so am thinking of something like this to get me close to ten hours...

Swim 55
T1 4:30
Bike 5:35
T2 3:30
Run 3:20

Total 9:58

As I said, that may sound crazy but my goal is automatic Hawaii qualification, that is what it will take on the day and I'm fully committed to doing what it takes from now till then to acheive it!

Over the next week or so I'll be putting together a more detailed training schedule and so next Sunday will try and outline just how I intend to transform myself from my current Homer Simpson like state to someone capable of finishing in the top few percent of the toughest Ironman race in the world... how hard can it be?

Anyway, time waits for no man so I'm outta here for now...

Remember, all that matters is desire the rest is easy ;)


Sunday, 12 October 2008

True competitors...

What an amazing week!! I doubt I've ever been exposed to such a depth of motivational and inspirational people in my entire life... and if you'll allow me a couple of days extra in order to go back to last Friday I could add Kelly Holmes to a very distinguished list...

It's almost like I'd planned it... this stage of the year is typically the most devoid of any significant motivation, the season is over and not only is training cut back to a minimum to allow my body to recover but even if I wanted to train my next event of any real meaning is months away. To make things worse the football season is in full swing and the nation is fixated on a bunch of overpaid, under trained celebs making hard work of a sporting contest against Borat and his mates. (note: before you think I'm some kind of tree hugging hippy who doesn't understand 'the beautiful game' a few years of working within football clubs at the highest levels of the sport was all I needed to see the light... think premier league internationals unable to hold a plank for as long as the average housewife) Then just when I'm starting to feel about as far removed from an ultra-endurance athlete with Hawaii potential as I possibly could... along pop a host of Olympians to show me the way!

Last Friday I was fortunate enough to attend a talk by Dame Kelly Holmes and plucked up the courage to shout something out during the post-talk Q & A session... how difficult had it been, in both her gold medal winning Olympic finals, to let the other women gain such a lead in the early part of the race? Her answer was that she'd prepared perfectly for both races and arrived in the blocks confident of being the fastest athlete in the field. She knew what she could run and that as long as she ran the fastest race she was capable of no one would touch her, she also knew that typically the others would go off too hard and fade dramatically in the final few hundred metres. All that was left to do was execute what she knew she was capable of... simple! But of course, if it was that easy we'd all pace every race to perfection and I'd have paid a little more attention to my heart rate monitor over the first 50k of the bike in Frankfurt a few months ago... note to self, on May 23rd 2009 - listen to Kelly!

Five days later I was back at Carnegie organising the University of Leeds biathlon (3k run, 200m swim) team in the annual Varsity match against 0ur arch rivals Leeds Met. The Met have a well established triathlon club run by my friend and coach Jack Maitland, this year was the second running of the event and the first as an official Varsity competition. Unfortunately the overall result was the same as last year in that we came a gallant second, but unlike last year we did post the fastest individual run and swim times and had people in the top three of both the men's and women's categories. What was so great about the day was the true competitive spirit shown by everyone involved... 100% effort (at the expense of any kind of pacing strategies, see above), 100% support, and every single person left the track or pool proud that they could not have given more and winning or losing was merely the under card to the main event of 'competing'.

Two days on and I found myself having lunch with several colleagues from the University in order to celebrate the performances of our students who had been involved at the absolute highest level of competition at this summer's Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games. In Rebbecca Gallantree, Alistair Brownlee and Claire Cashmore we had three fantastic ambassadors for the University and three great sources of inspiration for yours truly ;) Perhaps the most thought provoking part of the day however came from Al's younger brother Johnny who had travelled to Beijing as part of Team GB under the Olympic Ambition programme. We were chatting about the Olympic Triathlon and how it had felt watching his older brother racing... he said that although it was an amazing experience his love for competing had led to the almost uncontrollable urge chuck on a tri suit and join in with the swim start in the hope that no-one would notice he wasn't really meant to be there. What was so striking was the absolute honesty and belief with which he meant what he said... he really does love what he does so much that had he thought about it in advance and arrived at the event 'appropriately dressed' Jack may have been cheering on two Leeds triathletes instead of one!! The point I'm trying to make is that from the highest level down we all start out doing what we do because it's fun and we love it... unfortunately as the years advance we begin taking ourselves a little too seriously, and slowly but surely forget the real reason for being where we are... and more importantly, how we got there. I got to where I am in triathlon primarily because I love it so much, I love the training, the racing and the lifestyle... it's been a fine line though and has taken plenty of effort to keep that enjoyment as priority number one. If I'm ever going to reach my Hawaiian destination though it'll have to be the fun way, partly because by enjoying the journey the destination becomes far more attainable but mostly because that's why I started out in the first place.

Finally, to the subject of today's picture, the most striking example of the simple equation of FUN = SUCCESS and possibly the most talented female athlete that Britain has ever produced. Last night Hels and I stayed up way past our normal bedtime to watch Chrissie Wellington retain her Hawaii Ironman crown with relative ease despite an 11 minute stop to fix a puncture. Having raced (and won) her first Ironman event just over 13 months ago in Korea she is now undefeated in six races over the distance and is widely accepted as being unbeatable over one of the most physically challenging one-day sporting events in the history of the planet! An, albeit short, athletic career which has lead American magazine Sports Illustrated (prior to last night's victory) to describe her as the tenth toughest athlete on the planet, one place behind Ricky Hatton's Las Vegas conqueror Floyd Mayweather. Despite being at the top of such a challenging sport and training under possibly the most physically demanding coach in the world, Chrissie's ever-present smile is sure evidence that she's enjoying every heartbeat of this wonderful life... no doubt if there was a table for the most 'happy to be there' athlete in the world she'd be a close second to young Johnny... both of whom have the world at their feet... for a reason!

Anyway, apologies for going on a bit today but it's been a pretty special week. As Hels has already said, well done to our amazing friends who last night added to their already extensive tally of Ironman finishes in extremely tough conditions.

If we can follow the examples set by Kelly, Johnny, Chrissie et al. then this time next year there's a fighting chance we'll be following them over the most famous finish line in ultra-endurance sport...

Speak soon,


Fear in the round...

Yesterday was an exciting day for two reasons. Firstly Ironman Mecca (Hawaii) was fit to burst with endurance athletes all eager to take their winnings and their beatings on the Kona course and we were going to be there to watch it all unfold ... on the t'internet :(

And secondly our mate and fellow tri club member Andy Bewell had invited us to his birthday celebrations. Not the usual dinner and drinks, or jelly and ice-cream affair but an hours track cycling at Manchester's Velodrome - home to the Cycling World Championships and stomping ground to many of British cycling's heroes...Chris Boardman, Michael Hutchinson, Bradley Wiggins, Victoria Pendleton to name a few.

Having come to cycling (of the road kind) pretty late in life I've been on a steep learning curve since the day I decided to get into triathlon. And as many of you know there are many features of cycling that have tested my mental and physical ability, with a few left still to conquer.

Yesterday took my fear to a whole new level! But it's just a track you say? No cars? Fully lit?With friends?

Before we went we had marshalled (as normal) at the HPTT and gone for our social coffee with friends afterwards. One of our mates Dave (great character, he soaks all information up like a sponge and he's a great listener) he said something to me just as we left and it stayed with me for the whole of the day and was part of the reason why I didn't bottle the hours track session once I got there. He said...'Wow, that's awesome, you're going to try something you've never done before? That's fantastic.'

So I'll cut to the chase. I was off to try a new thing, but hey I can ride and it's indoors and I was a little apprehensive but what could go wrong? I've seen it loads of times on the box and never even contemplated any kind of difficulty. I'll assume that most of you reading this haven't been inside a velodrome and those that have will know just how high the banking goes...high, very, very high, for those of you who don't! Have a good look at the pic above.

Oh, and a track bike?... it has NO brakes, yup, that's right NO brakes. And they're fixed wheel bikes, which means they have no gears and so once you're cycling you can only slow down by not pushing so hard on the pedals and to stop you have to grab that rail on the left. And yes, your feet are clipped in too!

I can honestly say that there are few times I can count as an adult when I've actually felt fear in such a huge dose. I really, truly didn't want to do it because I didn't think I could. However, Dave's words rang in my head. Here I was with the opportunity to try something cycling related, exciting and completely new. Ian (the guy taking the session) gave us the low down and started us off gingerly and slowly. My heart rate going at about 5mph was already off the Richter Scale and that was only on the flat bit at the bottom of the track. How was I going to get out of doing it? Why hadn't my head fallen off? That would have been a great excuse. Then Ian told us to start cycling on the track.

Not one of our group had ever cycled on a track before so we were all in the same boat. I'll ignore the men (sorry men) because they all dealt with it very well. So, as I'm a woman I looked to the other four girls in our group. Two I knew very well (Khara and Harriet) and two I'd just met. Although I'm a more experienced cyclist than Khara, she's far more confident than I am. Khara's actually quite fearless and takes so much in her stride. In the past I would say that I would have felt threatened to not be 'the confident one' and would have endured the session, ruining it for myself and had an awful time. I'm glad to say though that the 'new' me allowed my fear to let Khara show the way. I knew that if she got on that track then so could I and so I did...after a few more laps on the flat that is. As I cycled round watching the men hooning their way round the track I watched the girls gain the confidence to get on there too. And then I followed and you know what... it was AMAZING!!

The thrill, the ease, the height, the speed (I can pretend I was super speedy can't I?) It was the most exhilarating thing I've done in a long time. And yes Dave, I did, I went and tried a completely new thing, and I loved it. I really couldn't wipe the smile from my face after we were allowed 20mins to go as fast as we liked out there. I didn't want to come off it in fact. But the reason why I had such a high from it was two fold. A) I wasn't afraid to be afraid or afraid to show I was afraid and B) I went from hating it and being truly scared to loving it and being so completely able to do it.

I'm discovering these things about myself all of the time and I'm enjoying the changes it's making to me as a person and as an athlete :)

And then on a high we watched the Hawaii Ironman Championships. Envious of all of those athletes that had earned their places, both of us eager to be there next year. As usual Chrissie Wellington was amazing, winning by a long way even after puncturing and losing 11 minutes to get it sorted. Craig Alexander won the men's race, hard earned and well deserved even though Macca dnf'd. There were a good handful of people out there who we've got to know and made friends with through various events and we were routing for them all. They too are showing us both the way. In our month of rest -which don't get me wrong I'm enjoying - I'm making the mental preparation for a tough Winter of training. October's rest I'm hoping is sorting out the physical fatigue while the mental fatigue fades too. I can clearly see the road ahead and I can't wait to get on it.

I heard a great quote in an after dinner speech that I was photographing this week and it's taking me to Kona...

Consistence is incompatible with failure.

Huge well done to Steven Lord, Mark Booth, Louise Tompkinson-Hill, all three have lived the dream and become Hawaii Ironman Finishers. Show me the way...

H. x

Sunday, 5 October 2008

One long hard challenging season.... DONE!

I've just sat down at my desk.... and having left the house a 5am on Saturday morning for an easy 8 mile run, then gone straight to the Hyde Park Time Trial's first birthday event before catching a lift (thanks Joe Jnr & Snr) to Newcastle on Saturday afternoon and running the Great North run this morning, following which Hels and I spent a good few hours in heavy A1 traffic this afternoon before rounding the weekend off with dinner at Viva Cuba... it gives me great pleasure to declare this amazing season.... over!

For the next few weeks we'll be resting a recuperating whilst making sure everything is in place for the start of our Ironman Lanzarote training on November the first. I'm thinking I'll probably write the odd extra post during this period as things will be changing, plans and schedules will be forming and goals will be stated... for tonight an extremely simple race report from this morning's 13.1 miles...

With the impending period of rest and no serious importance placed on the Great North Run I'd decided to change my normal approach a little, partly for the fun of experimenting and partly to cram those last few hours of decent training in before being unable to challenge myself physically for 28 days. So, on Thursday Tony B and I went out for our weekly 'long' run but whereas on race week we'd normally take it a little easier we decided to have a bit of a go at our reasonably hilly 10 mile out and back route. The first mile, aside from being the first mile, is slow for a couple of reasons... it's mostly uphill and there are lots of twists and turns, normally it's about 45 seconds slower than the average pace for a run so when we our Garmin's were beeping after 6:39 I knew we were in for some serious work. Prior to the run we'd agreed to back it off for the final 2.5 miles but even though we slowed by about 45 seconds per mile still came in bang on 64 minutes including stopping for traffic etc. By the time I finished an easy 8 miles early on Saturday morning, the week had seen very little in the way of a taper but my only real goal for this morning was to go as hard as possible and that certainly wouldn't be a problem!

Arriving at the start about two hours before the gun we had plenty of time to hang around and get cold so H and I decided to do a decent warm-up. About an hour before the race we did an easy 20 minute jog over the first mile of the course followed by about 20 minutes of race pace strides over about 40 metres broken up by various dynamic stretches. Once we'd cheered the wheel chair athletes and elite females on their way it was time to take our place on the line and hammer the final 13.1 miles of the season.

I really didn't know what to expect from today and as I'd said last week, my long runs had been as good as ever but I was seriously lacking top end speed over the shorter distances. With my half marathon pb at 6.05 per mile and my marathon pb at 6.29 per mile I would much rather have been facing 26.2 than 13.1 miles... still it would soon be over, and I felt that a good day might see a pb for the course...

You can normally tell a lot by the first mile and hitting my lap button for the first time at exactly six minutes I was already seven seconds down on last year and with no other memorised splits until the ten mile mark (61.44 in 2007) it would be nearly an hour before I could once again check my progress. As the early miles ticked by I was feeling strong though and the fact that Tony was barely pulling away from me gave me confidence that I was having a good race. By the ten mile marker T was well and truly out of sight, having disappeared up the first decent hill to mile five, but at 61.44 I was exactly (to the second) level with 12 months ago and ready to put in a good 20 minute effort all the way to the finish line. There is quite a bit of climbing in mile 11 & 12 of the Great North but where I'd lacked speed on the earlier downhills I was now feeling strong on the uphills and dropping down to the seafront at the start of the 13th mile I knew a solid six minute push would see me pb the course and possibly break 81 minutes... motivating myself by remembering last week's photo from the Vit I was determined that no-one would pass me over the final 1600 metres and the effort required to achieve this saw me cross the tape at 1.20.55 and my fastest GNR in five or six attempts!

Interestingly my lack of top end speed was well demonstrated with my five fastest miles being 31.4 seconds slower than last year (30.16 v 29.44), however my improved strength and endurance more than compensated with my slowest five miles being 49.7 seconds faster this year than 12 months ago (31.38 v 32.28)...

Anyway, that's it for now... see you next week if not before,


p.s. nearly forgot... just wanted to say a massive thanks to everyone at the Leukaemia Research Fund for looking after us so well as always (see today's pic - from 2007). H and I have raised money for them in various ways since my first marathon in 1999 and have in the process been fortunate enough to hang out with some of the most inspirational and generous people you could ever wish to know.