Sunday, 24 February 2008

Chill time...

As H has already said, we had designated this week as a recovery week... a time to kick back, move less, eat more and generally rebuild before a couple more weeks of hammer time in the run up to our first race of the season, the Ball Buster Duathlon.

We set the alarm for an hour later each day, took out all the long bike rides and I reduced my long run from a steady 18 miles to an easy 14. Overall volume dropped from about 20 hours to around 12 and apart from the regular Tuesday tempo run intensity was pretty much gone.

By the time we were driving home from our Sunday pub lunch in the Yorkshire Dales I was about as chilled as I get and ready for a nice relaxing evening kicking back with H and looking forward to an early night...


the I.T. version of Sod's Law struck and in trying to download my GPS data from this morning's cross country run I managed to first crash my laptop then my Garmin (GPS watch) and finally all three of the software packages I have available to download my stats!! Those of you who know me well will know that without my stats I'm not a happy bunny and five hours later I'm still no closer to fixing it... which is why I'm posting my blog entry now, in case I've torched my laptop and lobbed it out the window before the night is out!

I did have all kinds of interesting thoughts lined up to post but as I am currently the polar opposite of today's picture I think I'll leave it at that and go back to banging my head against the proverbial brick wall!!



p.s. Well done to Ozzer, Eek, Liz, Sam, Tony, Ady and H for some great athletic achievements this week... I would list them but I'm to grizzly ;)

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Frankie says...'RELAX'...

After a hard 12 weeks of base training I was really ready for recovery week. I'm a funny thing though. The nearer the recovery week loomed the more I was looking forward to it, then the first day into it and I wasn't sure I wanted to have an easy week! But this is where people fall down and like the picture says... Recovery comes first! Recovery is just as important as the training, it's when the training effect takes place. Stressing the body and then allowing it to re-build is what makes a strong athlete. Ploughing on would make me peak too soon and could cause me to suffer from over training (something I've done before when I was just running and didn't enjoy at all.)

So, what have I been doing all week with all of this spare time?! Training wise I had a great one-to-one swim analysis session on Monday eve where I picked up a few pointers that I'm going to work on from this Monday onwards so that's given me a renewed swim focus and I'm looking forward to seeing it progress again. I put my foot to a real test in my 18 mile run on Thursday and it passed with flying colours so I'm made up about that. I certainly wouldn't say it's gone completely but it's definitely not causing issues and my check up visit to podiatrist Andrew Horwood was very positive as I don't need to go back for two months, and only then if I have any pain. Yesterday Tom & I rode to Ilkley, popped into Betty's Tea Room and scoffed a big Fat Rascal scone then cycled home.

This week and weekend has been about doing all of the things that we just can't fit in while we're in full training mode. Don't get me wrong, I love training and I don't feel like I miss out on anything at all when I'm training hard, but it's been fantastic to have the energy and the time to go to the cinema and not worry about having to get to bed early. On Friday evening we went out for dinner, went to the cinema (had our treat- a huge three scoop pot of ice-cream...deeeeeelicious) then came home and didn't worry about getting to bed late as we didn't have to get up at silly o'clock on Saturday morning. Today I raced in the last cross country race for Leeds Bradford Tri and then we drove to Cray in the Dales to scoff Sunday lunch. For once we were in the pub and not cycling past it wishing we were in it!!!

I've also had more time to spend with my good mate Lizzie Lou Lou (runner Liz Yelling) who came to stay on Tuesday night. We had a really nice time catching up. Liz was tapering for the English National Cross Country Championships and I wasn't training hard so we got to spend some quality time together. I reckon the porridge I made for her must have helped her win by a whopping 45 seconds yesterday , well done Liz, awesome performance ;)

Time to get my bum out of the recovery groove already... the week has just flown by. Time to re-focus and tomorrow is Day One of 19 solid weeks. I'm feeling good, I'm eager to get on the real road to Kona and it's all about to take off, wuhoo!!!

The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance, the wise grows it under his feet. James Oppenheim

H. x

Sunday, 17 February 2008

20 weeks and counting...

12 weeks down and 20 to go to Ironman Germany. Leaving only 33 weeks to Kona (if we qualify) since we started our blog!!! Time is whizzing away and with 12 solid weeks of base training under my belt, culminating in a 80-90 mile ride today I'm hoping to go into week 1 of 20 ready for action.

It looks like 'the foot' is coping well surviving a 16 mile run on Thursday evening (the longest I've run on it since last September) and two consecutive runs in a row :) I'm still strapping it and have another appointment at the podiatrist this week so I'm still being very cautious, I can do without it becoming a recurring injury throughout the season. So if I can just maintain my running I'll be pleased as I don't expect much in the way of speed out of them just yet.

I've managed to get some great miles in on the bike and some hill sessions to try and strengthen those legs of mine (god I hate hills!) The proof of my cycling improvement I can only gauge in a race but I really hope the work I've put in so far is going to make a difference.

I'm swimming better than I ever have too. Solid 15-16km weeks with a good mix of speed, endurance and technique sets are seeing me swimming strongly.

Ironman training is relentless. No sooner have you finished a session you're already fuelling and recovering for the next one, either that afternoon or the next day. This year we've managed to get to bed a lot earlier than we used to and it's more often than not that we're actually asleep before 8.30pm. Going to bed so early makes the 5am alarm calls seem normal now.

I'm not far from race weight too. We both made a conscious effort to try and get the majority of weight off while we were base training as we didn't want to start the 20 weeks having to watch our food intake so carefully when the intensity will be going up. So things are good in the world of Ironman. All I have to do now is survive this next 20 weeks.

Racing starts in March with a duathlon called The Ballbuster. It's an 8 mile run, 24 mile bike, 8 mile run. It's hard and it's hilly and last year I did really well. This year I don't expect the same out of my runs due to 'the foot' issues but I'm hoping to see an improvement in the bike, that's my aim for this year, hopefully my running will eventually catch up to where I was but if I can just consolidate that and not get too bogged down with how I was running last year then things should be just fine.

Who knows what the next 20 weeks will have in store but it's time for the hard work to begin.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. Aristotle

See you out there.

H. x

Weight watchers...

Starting this blog there were 50 weeks to go until Hawaii, so if we were lucky enough to qualify in Germany (July '08) the whole journey would require almost an entire year of dedication, focus and above all desire. During this time we have two, and only two, desired outcomes (destinations) ... 1. to qualify for the Hawaii Ironman and 2. to race in the Hawaii Ironman. In order to reach these destinations it is vital that we follow a path that will take us there... this may sound obvious but too often I see athletes set themselves an outcome (destination) goal without understanding the process (or path) which will get them there. A bit like wanting to drive from Leeds to Oxford but driving west on the M62 instead of south on the M1.

In order to reach your destination it is important therefore to set yourself regular short term goals focused specifically on keeping you on the right path. For the endurance athlete one of the most significant of these goals is to achieve optimal racing weight... easy to say but extremely difficult to achieve. What is your optimal racing weight? A tricky question that can take years of trial and error to solve... The true answer is 'the weight at which an athlete is able to achieve maximal power to weight ratio' i.e. if you're super powerful but really heavy then running a marathon in 35 degrees following a six hour warm-up won't be great fun... imagine Steve Redgrave. However, at the other end of the scale it's no good being super light but unable to maintain significant levels of power... I don't imagine Halie Gebreselassi could hang with Lance Armstrong on the bike?

The best way to calculate your ideal weight is to regularly assess both weight and performance and to look at how performance varies as weight changes, this can take years however and having thought about it for the last five or so I still don't know my exact answer... it probably changes over time.

When I broke three hours for the first time in a marathon I was about 72 kilos and felt pretty light and yet strong. At the time I would have considered that to be my 'racing weight' and would sit around 75-78 during the off season. When I started training for my first Ironman in October 2005 I realised that I was about to train for harder and longer than ever before and as such in order to ensure adequate energy intake and avoid the pitfalls of illness and injury I conciously 'over ate' so that effective refueling was 'guaranteed' after the endless long swim, bike and run sessions. As a consequence I actually put weight on over this period (some of which was undoubtedly body fat) however I also trained and raced harder than ever before remaining injury and illness free for the entire period and reaching my desired destination of a sub eleven hour first Ironman.

At that point it was time to raise the bar and my second Ironman goal became more about performance than 'completion'. I therefore decided to shed a bit of excess weight and see what happened. I got down to 67 kilos by late March and felt great, performing well right through training and again reaching my Ironman destination largely injury and illness free and four minutes faster than my target time of sub ten hours (it's common to put on a kilo or so during your pre-race taper and I raced around 68.5 in Switzerland).

At the time 67kgs was the lightest I'd been since I was a teenager (I think I topped out at around 83 when I was a fat lazy student) but I still felt that I could go a few kilos further whilst maintaining power and therefore increasing my power to weight ratio that is so essential in endurance sport. The couple of times I did hit 66 however I seemed to struggle, perhaps my body just wasn't ready for it? or maybe I just couldn't recover properly when losing weight during peak training i.e. not refueling properly?

Anyway, as I started my training for this year's Ironman (twelve weeks ago) I was 74.8 (I never have got the hang of moderation) and decided that I'd have a crack at dropping ten kilos in an attempt to race around 65 in July. Most athletes would bring their weight down over the entire training period but my theory is that if you are losing weight you are by definition not eating enough (refueling adequately) and during the extremes of training leading up to an Ironman event this is likely to increase the chance of both injury and illness. Therefore I wanted to get within a kilo of my desired racing weight by the end of this 12 week period of less intense training, alowing me to gradually shed the final kg over the next five months.

Four weeks ago I pb'd at the Brass Monkey half marathon at 70.8 and having lost four kilos over the preceeding eight weeks decided to focus a little more and loose the same again in the next four. My target for this morning therefore was set (28 days ago) at 66.8 and with a few dietary changes, particularly the removal of refined sugar, off I went. Today's picture shows my progress... the blue crosses are my weight each day and the red line is the five day average (5DA), as you can see weight can fluctuate a little so I use the 5DA to smooth things out.

The bottom line... today I tipped the scales at 66.05 bringing my 5DA nicely down to 66.4... a total weight loss of 4.4kg over the last four weeks and 8.4 over the last 12. It seems to have gone pretty well and I felt strong on today's hilly hundred miles. Hopefully I can hang out around the 66 mark for a month or so which will allow me to refuel better and build some strength, before finding another kilo through April, May and June. As always I'll be closely monitoring health, mood, fatigue (mental and physical) and performance to ensure that I don't go to far. So far so good... touch wood ;)

Right, it's getting late and what I thought was gonna be a short post has turned in to War and Peace so I'll stop going on ;)

Speak soon,


p.s. smashed my 400m pb in the pool on Thursday taking it from 5.53 down to 5.40, must be doing something right ;)

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Super Tuesday!

Following my frustration at last Sunday's 10k performance I had a great comment from my Iron friend Jevon (here) which really helped me keep everything in perspective, thanks mate ;) ... however... I'm in no mood for 'the curve to level' just yet and on Tuesday evening set about smashing some 2007 training benchmarks ;)

Looking at this week in last year's diary, I'd swum 10 x 300 metres off 5:30, averaging about 4:50 per 300 which at the time was such a 'breakthrough' session that I had questioned the accuracy of the clock! This Tuesday I swam the same session but averaged 4:25 per 300 with a fastest of 4:20 :) Then in the evening I did my 40 minute tempo run and where last year I finished with ten minutes at 16kph and a max heart rate of 166, this week I finished with 7 minutes at 17kph and a max heart rate of 164 :) :) However, as much as it's important not to get too disappointed if you miss the odd goal it's extremely important not to get too carried away when you smash them. Therefore, although it's great to remind myself how far ahead I am of this time last year, I'll be keeping the hammer down for a while yet ;)

To round off the week I ran one of my best long runs yet on Thursday, a hilly and windy 16 miles with Tony B in 1:52 (eight minutes faster than next week last year) with a comfortable heart rate averaging 143 and maxing out at 155. Then chucked in a nice hilly century ride on Sunday with Ben G and Lee, climbing 15,000 feet in six hours 27 minutes.

This week coming is week 12 of our 12 week block of 'base' training and then we'll be backing it off for some well earned recovery before turning up the heat through weeks two and three of the 20 week push to Germany.

I feel so motivated at the moment, and above all excited about the prospect of what this triathlon season might bring :) During my turbo sessions this week I've been listening to the podcasts from Epic Camp New Zealand, a nine-day ultra endurance training camp where a group of about 20 top athletes push themselves to their absolute limits... listening to those guys and girls open their minds to what is possible when you remove self imposed limitations from your thoughts is quite liberating, check it out.... here and the Epic Camp website... here.

Finally, talking about breaking barriers... a massive well done to Ian and EK who respectively joined the sub-80 and sub-90 half marathon 'gentlemens clubs' today at the Wokingham (I think) half marathon.

If you want to push your limits, you need to push your limits,


A sniff of Spring...

After all of the bad weather we've been having it's been such a joy to get out on my bike a lot this week. For the first time this year I could feel the warmth of the sun and smell the beginnings of Spring which is surely only just around the corner now. On Wednesday I got out and did my first century ride of the year. It was a lot colder & a bit windier than it has been over this weekend but it was dry and a good test of leg and mental strength. My plan this year is going to plan. And that plan was to ride, ride, ride and drop my run mileage, although I hadn't envisaged being injured with my tendonitis for this long. The thing about me (apart from the fact that I'm a girl which can be a hinderence) is that I say one thing but really mean another. If I'm really honest I thought that I'd probably ride more and run the same (I didn't like the idea of dropping my run mileage.) Therefore my tendonitis has actually been a blessing in disguise and has forced me to get out on my bike because I just haven't been able to run very much. Like the Chinese have a "Year of the Rabbit"... or something." 2008 is Helen's Year of the Bicycle! Wednesday I did 100 miles. On Saturday Tom and I went and did some hill reps (I'm a snail on hills and am regularly passed by kids on mountain bikes, old ladies with zimmer frames and ice-cream vans!!!) One thing that Tom is trying to instill in me is that I actually do have more than one speed (that being slug like.) It's a hard concept for me to grasp as I tend to only give what I think my little legs are capable of but it appears that when I put my mind to it not only can I ride slower but I can also ride faster (now there's a revelation!) Overall I'm still a slug but I hope these Winter miles are going to help with all of the races in Summer and as our friend Ben G reminded me today, Ironman Germany's bike course is flat, yes boys and girls that's F-L-A-T, and boy am I pleased!!! Yesterday was really the first sniff of Spring and it was just great to be outside soaking up the beautiful views and for the first time I was looking forward to riding today too. Tom and his mates were going out to do the 100 miles that I did on Wednesday (although they were taking a slightly hillier route) and I went out and did 80 miles. We all rode the first 16 miles together and that was a nice start for my ride and I bumped into them again at about 32 miles. I can even say that I enjoyed all of the rides I've done this week and that's definitely a first.

I've had a great week in the pool this week and I've managed three runs this week with no irritation so I think my tendon is peeking around the injury corner and if I can do the same this week then I think I've cracked it, wuhoo!! I had a session with Liz the physio and she's given me some exercises to help me and the podiatrist's magic strapping technique along with foot exercises using a spiky ball have been a god send.

230 miles in the bag on the bike (in the first throws of Spring) and a 14 mile run with no tendon pain is just what I needed to cheer my stupid hormonal face up this week.

Enjoy the silence...

H. x

(Of Spring) "... Summer in the light and Winter in the shade." Charles Dickens

Sunday, 3 February 2008

The age of Aquarius...

Well, yesterday saw me reach the ripe old age of 33 and to celebrate Tom took me to The Box Tree restaurant in Ilkley (see above pic.) We must have passed this place a million times on random journeys through Ilkley either on foot, by car or on our bikes and we have often thought about eating here. It's the only Michelin Starred restaurant in Leeds and is reknowned mostly for the fact that Marco Pierre White cut his teeth there. Tom & I love eating out and finding new and exciting restaurants. We expected The Box Tree to be special but I think that truly underestimates the eating experience we had and so we have found a new favourite place to dine (to be kept only for uber special occasions though.) As you can imagine we had a small dilemma in that this month is our 'no added sugar' test, so would we break it for my birthday??? We were undecided until the first course came and then all words like 'no' were thrown out of the window. I mean could you resist Milk Chocolate Delice on an Irish Coffee sponge with Earl Grey Tea Ice-Cream??? Say no more! Oh, and thank you very much Tom, it was a fantastic birthday treat. x

So, no more of this flippancy and birthday talk, what's been going on this week with my training? I took the plunge on Tuesday and went for my timed mile time in the pool
and PB'd by 50 seconds making my new time 25 mins 19 seconds. Not that I'm going to be breaking any world records with it but I'm really pleased with my improvement.

The harbingers of doom (known as weathermen) threw all kinds of spanners in the works regarding my plans on the bike this week. I had wanted to get out and ride this weekend but with the weather warnings all saying snow and lots of it I knew I wouldn't get out so on Wednesday I took the opportunity to get 80 miles in before the sky fell down. And then lo and behold after a few drops of the white fluffy stuff came and went, the sky cleared and after running the Dewsbury 10km today (I'll get to that in a mo) I went out for a 3hr ride... not a drop of snow in sight, although it was windy. So things on the bike are coming along, I do need to start working on some hills now that I'm getting a little more consistent, oh it's a long hard process!

Running wise, where do I start? After The Brass Monkey, an irritated tendon, no running for another week and a trip to see a foot surgeon I think my tendon is getting more coverage than Posh Spice! Said tendon has behaved this week and after a jaunt to another foot man in the way of a podiatrist I have seen a small improvement. Foot exercises which require a spiky soft rubber ball (the kind dogs love to chew) and strapping for my foot which help stabilise it have made a difference I think. I did my long run on Thursday (on the treadmill may I add due to the nasty weather) with my foot strapped and it definitely helped, more so afterwards than during. Then today I tested it out on the Dewsbury 10km course and it didn't twinge or niggle a bit which is the best news, hopefully I won't wake up with it the size of a golf ball tomorrow though! Am I turning a corner with 'The Tendon'? Here's hoping!

And a huge well done to all the many Virgin Road Runners (Lisa P and friend Zoe included) who threw themselves into the jaws of a windy out and back course today and especially to Khara who has endured problem after problem injury wise only to break 50mins and go home with not only a PB but a huge smile too!

I'll sign off with this quote that kind of puts the whole 'tendon' thing into a little box...

If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire, then you got a problem. Everything else is inconvenience. Robert Fulgham.

H. x

A rather odd day in the office...

Today I ran in the Dewsbury 10k, a super fast 'pb' course, with every intention of continuing my nine month winning streak of personal best times... As I've already said Dewsbury is a super-fast course and warming up I felt great, I was 5kgs lighter than last year, much fitter, had just smashed my half marathon time and all my mates who I run with have 10k times in the low 36's, I started well, paced it perfectly, felt strong, gave it everything and...

was ten seconds slower than last year :( finishing in 37:40 :( :(

I don't think I've ever had a race quite like it. Everything went brilliantly from the build up to the race itself but for some reason the clock just didn't play ball?? I'm normally pretty good at predicting my times and had expected something around 36:30, in fact if I hadn't had a watch on I would have laid money that that's what I'd done, but for some reason the speed just wasn't there... even thought it felt like it was?? odd!

To briefly run through the race... I was using a Garmin GPS for the first time and had set it to bleep every 0.5k with the aim of averaging 1:52. Running through the first 500m at what seemed like a slightly too fast pace I was a bit concerned to see that I was bang-on target and would therefore need to keep the hammer down for the next 19! Still, pushing on I felt comfortable through 2 & 3 km and was confident that if I could could stay within reach of my 3:42 per km through the uphill 4th and 5th kms I'd be looking good for the downhill second half. Reaching half-way in about 18:45 I knew a decent 5k would see me under 37 for the first time and felt confident that it was on. At the 7k mark I'd clawed back to about 5 seconds down and was still passing people with ease but frustratingly the wind decided to show its face. A 15mph headwind all the way home, compounded by the fact I found myself running solo,
saw me slow through 8, 9 and 10 to cross the line in 37:40.

So where did it go wrong?

First of all why was I slower than last year? Although I am undoubtedly fitter and stronger than 12 months ago today came at the end of 14 pretty hard days as opposed to last year where I'd had a comparitively easy build-up. This race was never a major goal and consequently I'd trained right up to yesterday with a hard two hour turbo. Secondly, I think the wind probably played quite a large part... to live up to my 'statto' nickname, the top few times were considerably slower than previous years and I actually finished 22 places higher (82nd v 104th) in a slightly larger field. I would still expect to be faster though as two weeks ago I finished within a minute of TonyB over double the distance compared to two minutes behind him today.

DID it actually go wrong?

Actually I'm pretty please overall. To get so close to my 10k pb when I've not trained specifically for it and haven't done any speedwork for at least six months isn't too bad. I've also felt strong all the way through and was very comfortable on a 40 mile ride in the Dales this afternoon. The bottom line is I think the wind cost me around 30 seconds and my lack of speed work probably another 30-45... I'd have been over the moon with 36:30-36:45. You can always tell when you haven't found that extra bit of speed when your legs don't hurt after the race, and jogging back to the car today they felt no different to jogging to the start line.

Most importantly I'd set myself the goal last week of crossing the finish line today giving it my absolute all right to the line and definitely achieved that. Although I seemed to have some kind of 6-minute-mile 'rev-limiter' fitted to my legs I really couldn't have squeezed another second from anywhere.

What was also great was the large number of Virgin Active Road Runners and Leeds Bradford Triathletes I saw out on the course. Well done to everyone, particularly all those who pb'd despite the wind and thanks for the amazing shouts of encouragement along the way.

Finally, I couldn't think of a good picture for today so typed 'not enough speed' in to Google and that was the first thing that it found!

Speak soon,

T ;)