Sunday, 30 March 2008

Zero to hero... and back to zero!

What a crazy seven days since I last wrote... this time last week I was layed up with a decent case of gastroenteritis having just stumbled through the most miserable training run of my life...

By Tuesday morning I was back in the pool for a decent 5k technique based swim set... and that evening I got 35 minutes through my weekly 40 minute tempo run feeling pretty good before a slightly elevated heart rate (a good sign that you're not quite recovered) persuaded me to stop the session. It's rare for me to can a session early but with one eye on my final long run before the London marathon which was scheduled for the Thursday I took the sensible option for once. Keeping Wednesday's bike easy I was raring to go on Thursday afternoon and looking for a serious confidence booster ahead of what is probably (possibly tied with UK 70.3 on June the 15th) my most important event in the lead up to Germany.

My normal pre-marathon 22 mile route starts from our house, follows the course of Leeds half marathon, takes in a nine mile detour about 8 miles in, then follows the course through town and back home. Having done the same run three weeks ago in 2:43 at an average heart rate of 139 I wanted to up the stakes a little, get straight into the 140's and hold a steady effort all the way. Two hours and 32 minutes later an average heart rate of 145 (max 154) had seen me average 6.56 per mile and raised my pre-London confidence through the proverbial roof, the previous week's frustrations suddenly seemed no more than a distant memory...

The 24 hours leading up to today had been hectic to say the least with Saturday going something like this... 5am alarm, 5.30am 2 hour turbo, 8am breakfast, 9am marshal at HPTT, 11am run club meeting at Virgin, 12.30 easy seven mile run with a few hills and strides, 2.30pm lunch, at 8pm we were at a wedding reception in Harrogate, midnight bed, 4am (actually 3am) up to watch Alistair competing in the first round of the ITU world cup (not sure of the complete story yet but basically he led the best triathletes in the world out of T1 before crashing on the bike and coming home 43rd... see HERE) which didn't finish before it was time to pack the car and head off to...

Standing on the start line of the Stokesley duathlon (5k run, 30k bike, 5k run) this morning, I had two goals... 1. to work the bike as hard as possible and 2. to average a higher heart rate in the second run than the first (something which I didn't manage in the Ballbuster). It was also our tri club's annual duathlon champs and I had hope to be mixing it up for the title. People are notoriously bad at pacing duathlons and when the gun goes it's pretty normal for everyone to head off in to the sunset at their max effort only to blow-up spectacularly by half-way through the bike. With a field of under 200 I was hoping for a top ten and true to form come the second mile I was back in about 50th place... no worries I thought, a super-speedy T1 should see me make up a good ten places, a strong bike another 25 leaving me five more 'targets' for the second run. Flying in to the first transition I was somewhat surprised to see my bike helmet was nowhere to be seen and with most of the field flying past it seemed like that was it race over. Fortunately Ben G's other half Sarah was spectating and spotted it about 30 yards from where I'd left it, whether it had been caught in a gust of wind or kicked by a careless athlete who knows, but having spent what seemed like a lifetime in T1 I was on the bike and with nothing to lose had my foot flat to the floor....

Being able to adjust goals mid race is a key skill if you are to keep your focus when things aren't going to plan, many an endurance athlete has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by being unable to come up with a decent plan B at short notice. With my chances of making the top ten out the window and most of LBT miles up the road I turned the bike section into a straight time-trial... knowing my good mate Ben G would be giving it everything and that we are normally pretty close on the bike I was chasing his time. Twenty minutes later I was feeling good, flying through the field and back on track to achieve goal number one... then suddenly...


A flat front tub (tyre) and I'd achieved yet another first in my athletic life... my first DNF (did not finish). I've never DNF'd any kind of endurance race or challenge in my life and pride myself in the fact that as long as I am able I will always keep going... we learn most about ourselves in times of adversity, my proudest achievements have often come about from situations that others would consider failure... but with 15 miles of road ahead of me and no spare tub the only sensible option (carrying on would have meant wrecking a carbon fibre race wheel and taking a serious safety risk) was to put my energy in to cheering on Ben, H, Khara and all my brilliant LBT team mates.

I am feeling a little 'flat' about doing less than half a job today but it was great to see Ben and Donna take home the respective titles of male and female LBT duathlon champs (I think this is correct but haven't seen the official results yet), H get grips with the bike, Khara look so strong running off the bike in her first ever multi-sport event, Mark Redwood flying on the bike once more and all the rest of the LBT athletes representing the club so brilliantly.

Today's picture is obviously a video... it's Chris McCormack in T1 on his way to winning the 2007 Hawaii Ironman... I wonder what was going through his mind knowing that he'd lost the race by a matter of seconds the year before. (Thinking about it I may have posted this video before but it seems fairly appropriate given my great impression of a headless chicken in today's T1).

Next Sunday H and I are racing the super hilly 50 mile time trial 'the Circuit of the Dales' and I get the opportunity to make amends for today ;) Hopefully Alistair will do the same in New Plymouth...

See you in seven,


You can't stop progress...

The race season is definitely upon us (it's just a shame a change in the weather isn't following too.) Todays race (above pic courtesy of Khara's other half Steve) was The Stokesley Duathlon, run 5km, bike 30km, run 5km again. It wasn't an important race for me but it's good to get a measure of roughly where I am and also to get the feel and taste for racing. I can rarely push myself as hard in training as I do when I'm racing. What I have to remember though is that I'm racing on tired legs and I can't expect to set the world on fire with my times. So todays race was about maintaining a constant effort and heart rate on the bike. Keeping away from heart rate spikes that pushing too hard for short bursts create and also avoiding the heart rate lows that switching off and not pushing hard enough on the down hills create. This is an area that I need much work on.

I started the run and felt a little sluggish (after a hard and very very busy day yesterday I didn't expect to feel fresh.) I always try to negative split the runs in a duathlon but the distance of this one made it hard to pace. I was roughly about 8th or 9th girl after the first run but managed to make up 2 or 3 places on the bike. The bike course was great and suited me well, not too technical and with lots of flat sections, hills that weren't bad at all and downhills that I could stay on my tri bars for. So I concentrated on trying to maintain an even heart rate and was relatively successful for the first lap but just felt it slip away from me on the second lap and when a girl who I'd beaten on the first run came past me I just couldn't go with her. I know I have the strength and I know I have the ability but I just can't get the transfer from brain to legs to sync. Off the bike and onto the second run & I knew I'd used my legs in the ride as they felt dead. Because I'm an inconsistent rider I sometimes think I save my legs purely because I haven't got the ability to nail the bike so there's always something to give on the run at the end. It was good (in a not good way) to feel like I'd used them today as it means I can tick the box which says 'progress'. I felt like a little snail on the run and it's so short it was practically over just as I was getting into a rhythm but I'm pleased to say I still negative split the run by 20secs and managed to re-catch the girl that over took me on the bike and was gaining on the girl in 4th place. Overall I'm pleased. Today wasn't about performance for me, I used it as my learning curve. And many of the other races that I've entered before Germany I will do the same for. Tom & I had a good look at my heart rate data and it was nice to see the line a lot flatter than usual without as many steep peaks and deep troughs. I'll plug, plug, plug away until I get it right.

A good end to a good week of hard training and time for bed already, a very early night for two very tired people. Tom is gutted about his DNF today but he's always amazing support when he spectates so it was fantastic to have him out there shouting me on. Well done to Khara too who did her first multi-sport event and looked strong and comfortable when I saw her on the two runs, I'm really pleased she enjoyed it, it's great and challenging sport. There were a handful of our tri club out there today too and the sportsmanship that comes to being affiliated to the same club is great with everyone shouting each other on, I love it... but it's definitely time for sleep........zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.........zzzzzzzzzzzz

Night all.

Never discourage anyone...who continually makes progress, no matter how slow.

H. x

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Easter break...

This weekend was to be a monster training weekend, lots of free Easter time, Tom off work, Tom's training mate Ben G here to stay so they could train hard and me to do similar sessions but on my own... until an absolute hideous run session from hell put pay to things.

I'd already had a tough week with the toughest session on Tuesday. In the morning I swam a pb set of 300's off 5mins 15secs and swimming many of them between 4min 32sec to 4min 40's, my best set yet. A strength session followed and then in the evening the tempo session which I did last year on the treadmill. This week I pushed myself to the edge with Tom keeping me hanging on when I truly didn't think I could. I didn't know if I was going to finish it with 10 seconds to go it was that hard and I couldn't have done it if Tom hadn't of been there to keep me strong. It's not meant to be ridiculously hard but I think a combination of the knock on effect from 'the foot' and the mental confidence knock that resulted in said injury has meant that I fear this session every week. Positively I know I can push the limits when my mind and body are saying no and that's what you need in Ironman if you want to beat the mental demons that seep into your mind when the going gets tough and all you want to do is stop. However, if every Tuesday run session is going to be like this then I'm going to have to change the session because I can't go pushing myself to the very, very edge every week from now until Germany or I'll be broken in half by the time I get there.

Monday & Wednesday were typical sessions for the week and Thursday was the usual 2km speed swim set, strength work in the gym and then that evening a 20 mile run. The weather all day had been pants and wasn't going to improve so it was a case of get out there and get it done. Leaving 15mins before Tom left to do the same route I knew I would see him not long after I would turn around and we would get home at roughly the same time. The first few steps out of the door and I knew it was going to be a slog. My tummy didn't feel great and the wind was horrendous. On I plodded, Camelbak and gel to boot. The route I did was an out and back which meant that for the whole 10 miles out I had a 22mph head wind which wasn't any fun at all. In fact I felt like I would have been quicker if I'd tried to run through a brick wall. It was hideous, I felt queasy and my tummy was all a bit gurgly but on I pushed desperate for the turn around so I could get the benefit of the wind on my back for a change. By the time I got to mile 9 I felt like crying, the wind was just relentless and it was making the whole thing so so hard. I wanted to turn back then and there but I thought what the hell, I'd run for 9 miles in it, another 1 to mile 10 wasn't going to make much difference. I was more broken than a broken thing when I did turn and all I could think was that in roughly 1hr and 20 mins I would be home, warm, dry, away from the wind and it would all be over. I passed Tom at about mile 11 as he plodded his way to miles 9 & 10. We both pulled sad faces as we passed each other. I was on my way home, Tom still had a mile and a bit in that wind. I was running so slowly I knew Tom would eventually catch me before I got home. I really wanted to stop but walking would have prolonged the misery so I just kept thinking one foot in front of the other (and don't poo your pants.) I couldn't even stomach the idea of taking the gel my tummy was a gurgly queasy washing machine. I got home surprised that Tom hadn't caught me and wondered if he was having a similar nightmare to me, only Tom tends to have a much more sensitive stomach than me. I waited 10 mins before jumping in the car to see if I could find him, he should have been back. About a mile and a half away from home I saw his little luminous gillet bobbing slowly down the road and I pulled over to see he was okay. My run had been a doddle compared to his. My stomach had felt dodgy but it was okay. Tom (& I'm sure he'll talk about it in his entry) had endured a nightmare of a run and was broken. He wanted to finish what he'd gone out to do and as much as I wanted to drag him into the car and just get him home my heart went out to him because he'd suffered for most of the run and didn't want to let it beat him by stopping 1 mile away from home.

It seems like we've both picked up a stomach bug. I've got a fairly strong constitution though and apart from being exceptionally tired on Friday (which we turned into a complete rest day) I was okay. Tom however has had a very bad stomach since and is still not right now. I also decided to take Saturday off as a complete rest day too because I felt like after such a battering on the Thursday that one day just wasn't enough to recover.

Today's pic is of me & Ben G on the turbo's in our garage. We did an hour interval set then ran 8 easy miles off it and it was good to get out after a couple of days on the settee in front of junk TV. I'm glad that this weekend hasn't turned out to be as huge as planned because I think I needed the break both physically and mentally and I feel good for it.

Tom is still a poorly boy though so I'd better get back to him and peel him some grapes!!!

Week 6 is about to begin and I hope I have fresher legs and head to start it with.

Happy Easter all...

H. xx


Where do I start? With University closed from Thursday afternoon to Wednesday morning over the Easter weekend, and with my training going great I had been looking forward to a brilliant opportunity to log some serious training with Ben G and H, and yet have plenty of time to kick back and focus on some quality recovery. During the same period last year H and I had used the extra time to double our training hours... however the key difference between professional athletes and serious amateurs is not in training volume, but actually in recovery volume. What I mean by this is that when pro athletes train we train but when pro athletes recover (i.e. sleep, rest, get physio or massage etc.) we work. We'd therefore cleared our diaries and arranged for Ben to come and stay.

On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday morning I felt great, training went really well with good sessions in all three disciplines... Thursday night was scheduled to be a 20 mile run
at a reasonable pace which although is one of my most challenging sessions of all I was looking forward to getting stuck in to it and seeing where I was. About 30 minutes before the run I started to feel a little bit not quite right... then just before H was due to leave I suffered from a slightly premature dose of the 'runners trots'. It's common for runners to suffer from digestive issues on long runs, fortunately I have a pretty good understanding of what does it to me and so avoid things like muesli, nuts and fruits (particularly oranges or apples) on the day of a long run... any of these will set me off at the 16 mile mark without fail but by avoiding these it's extremely rare that I have a problem. Experiencing 'problems' prior to my run I knew it could be something more serious and said to H that I may well ditch the run early and so not see her until she got back.

Setting off at my target heart rate of 140-145, considering the uphill gradient and major headwind, I was maintaining pretty much my target pace to come in around 2:20-2:25. Experiencing stomach cramps from the first mile however I wasn't convinced I would last and by mile six I was looking for a suitable place to 'pit-stop'... I've always understood the importance of 'be safe be seen' but since taking up road cycling I've become increasingly aware of our vulnerability on the roads, whether cycling or running... unfortunately this 'backfired' on me somewhat on Thursday afternoon when trying to pop for a quiet number two next to a major route out of Leeds during bank holiday rush hour whilst wearing a luminous bright yellow gillet and backpack!!!

Ten minutes of scrambling through brambles and barbed-wire fences later and I was about to make a serious schoolboy error... do I turn back and run the six downhill tailwind miles home to safety or do I 'tough it up' and push on? I've never been one to back down from a challenge, so on I pushed.. only four more miles and I'd be on my way home, how hard could it be? At around eight miles I was struggling to concentrate, half a mile later I passed H and was pretty much done and by 9.5 miles I was staggering round Otley town centre looking for a loo! Unsuccessful in my search and too embarrassed to wander in to a local pub dressed to the nines in luminous lycra I took my only option... 800 metres more and dig in for the home run. By 12 miles I was back in the 'loo' and staring at the toughest 8 miles of my life... normally I'll hold somewhere between 7-7.15 minute miles on a run like this but according to my GPS I was now closer to eleven minutes per mile and home seemed further away than ever before. By mile 18 H had done her run, showered, changed and becoming increasingly worried had set off in the car to come and rescue me... by 18.5 she found me practising the 'ironman shuffle' along Otley road. If she'd reached me a few miles earlier I may have jumped in for the ride but having suffered for so long I wasn't about to let it beat me and discarding my Camelbak and ipod I pushed on for fifteen more minutes and home... and the completion, albeit 40 minutes slower than expected, of possibly the toughest training session of my life.

Sitting here on Sunday night having been sidelined with what seems like a decent case of gastroenteritis (see HERE) and with no visible light at the end of the tunnel I can afford some time to reflect...

I doubt there's anything I could have done to have avoided being struck down with the trots but will certainly take the braver option and turn back earlier next time. It's also been quite a humbling experience... before I'd run a marathon I thought marathon runners were super-human people who never had a bad session, once I'd run one and having realised this not to be the case I thought surely it must be true of Ironman athletes... however... now I have earned both forms of endurance medals and then having just spent almost every mile of a three hour run concentrating solely on not pooing my pants or breaking into a walk, and being over the moon to have achieved both of those goals it is quite clear that some things never change ;)

Hopefully next week I'll be posting a more positive entry having just competed in our tri club's annual duathlon champs at the Stokesley Duathlon.

Today's picture says it all ;)


Sunday, 16 March 2008

Busted balls...

As you know, this Saturday saw the first race of our multisport season and a chance to assess the effectiveness of our winter training period... I'd also been like a kid waiting for Christmas all week... finally at 8am on Saturday morning the flag dropped and the talking stopped ;)

As you also know, I'd set myself the target of a five minute improvement on last year and therefore a time of around 2.53 with the idea of doing each run in under 50 minutes (7.67 miles according to Garmin) and the bike in something around 1:11... leaving no more than three minutes for both transitions.

Coming in to T1 I'd covered the first run in 49:42 which at 6.28 per mile was 1:25 quicker than last year and even though my HR had been a little higher (av 161 v 153) I was feeling very strong and confident of a good day... a good T1 saw me on the bike still over a minute ahead of 2007 and ready to hammer round three fast laps. As well as being super hilly, the Ballbuster course is very technical with some extremely tight corners as well as some extremely fast corners, neither of which are much fun in wet greasy conditions, and Saturday was plenty greasy and plenty wet! Not being the most skillful of riders I struggled a bit and the poor visibility due to thick fog only made things worse, particularly on the first lap. Still, I set about making up time that I lost on the technical sections by working hard on the straight bits and with no-one coming past me I felt I was setting myself up to have a chance on the run... coming in to T2 I'd ridden 1:12:53 which at only 49 seconds faster than last year was a little disappointing but I think the conditions probably cost a minute or two, especially the way I rode them ;)

I love running off the bike and starting the second run with the clock on 2:05:43 I knew I only had 48 minutes to cross the finish line... time to hurt... having averaged a heart rate of 161 on the first run I was looking to get straight in to the mid 160's before setting up camp in the 170's and then giving it absolutely everything for the final 1.5 miles up Boxhill. Unfortunately my body wasn't playing ball and despite having my foot flat on the floor I struggled to get out of the pedestrian 150's and ended up averaging 158 and maxing at 164 (compared to 165 and 176 respectively for the same run last year). Frustratingly this saw me lose most of my advantage over 2007 and 51:41 later I crossed the line in 2:57:25 for 9th place overall out of 190 finishers... still... a pb by a 'massive' 29 seconds ;)

So... what's the bottom line? Today's picture is the profile of the course, along with my heart rate (red) and speed (green)... you can see that having got my heart rate to around 170 by the end of the first run it gradually dropped through the race. This is the opposite of what happened last year where I managed to gradually up the intensity throughout the race and posted the second fasted second run of the day. Why is this? There's two possible reasons... firstly, maybe I went off a little hard in the first run? My heart rate was a little higher than 2007, but I'm pretty experienced and having run this race three times before felt confident coming in to T1 that I'd left plenty in the tank. More likely I think, is that as I thought might be the case, I was just a little too fatigued from my recent high training volume (particularly in comparison to this time last year) and although this didn't really affect the first hour of the race it showed its face in the final hour. Last year I'd spent the weekend before snowboarding with my Dad, whereas this year I did the HPTT on the Saturday morning, a two hour turbo and 9 mile run on the Saturday afternoon and a super hard century ride and two mile run on the Sunday, in fact I didn't really back it off at all until the Wednesday... three days before the race! With regards the bike, I had hoped to be a minute or so quicker but was like Bambi on ice round some of the corners so will reserve judgment on my bike progress until the next couple of tests (Stokesley duathlon on the 30th of March and the Circuit of the Dales on the 6th of April).

Overall, it's great to get the multisport season rolling with a decent result and I feel like I've learnt a couple of good lessons... 1) to give races a little more respect with regards tapering, especially important ones (note to self regarding London marathon in April and UK 70.3 in June) and 2) that I still need to incorporate a little more high intensity work in to my run and bike training as although endurance is clearly there, speed is lacking.

In two weeks time it's our club duathlon championships at the Stokesley Duathlon and with some fellow LBTers posting great times at the recent Clumber Park Duathlon I'm itching to get stuck in to some decent competition ;)

Time for bed,


p.s. the results which have been posted on include T1 in the bike split and T2 in the second run.

First race of the season...

16 weeks of base training. Hours on the bike in the cold, in the wind, in the rain. Hours on the turbo in the garage staring at the back of the garage door. Months of rehabing my injured foot and back into the swing of running and km's and km's in the pool. Over the last 16 weeks I can definitely say I've become stronger and fitter. But the real test is how you race, are you improving... the race stats tell the truth.

Yesterday was the Ballbuster Duathlon which is an 8 mile loop (very hilly) which you run once, ride three times (24 miles) and then run again. Last year I did 3hrs 20mins, had a great race, particularly in the two runs. After my 6mth running injury I didn't expect to be running as well as I was this time last year, although I'm not far off. However, after putting hours and hours of effort in on the bike while I was injured I had hoped to have made a marked improvement on the bike.

Last Tuesday at run club I had a long chat with my good friend Jackie about the race and it really helped me take some of the pressure that I appear to have piled onto myself over the last couple of weeks. The outcome of our chat was that as long as I've done my best I can't be disappointed and if the result isn't what I had wanted my head isn't going to fall off and the world won't end, but I have to look at the results and learn from them. It helped me a lot and I went into the race feeling calm and ready.

The trick to this race is not to go off too hard on the first run because the long up hills and hard down hills batter your quads and if you mash them too soon you're in for a painful day. I had a very comfortable first run (I wonder if it was a little too comfortable) 56mins I got into transistion. It was very foggy and drizzly and the visability on the bike section for the first 30mins wasn't great. I got out on the bike and not having ridden my race bike on the road for a while it felt good to be down on my tribars and on a light fast bike. Unfortunately for me the bke section is very very technical with twisty fast descents and tight sharp bends. The recent bad weather meant that there were a million huge pot holes in the roads and road works had left terrible grit, mud and loose stones on much of the course. I think I hit the same pot hole on every lap, cursing as I was jolted over it and clinging onto my tribars trying to maintain my balance. Don't take your mind off a single pedal revolution were the words that were ringing through my ears. Words that Tom had said to me in the car on the way there. Today I was going to see my marked improvement on the bike. Today was not my day :(I could feel I wasn't fluid or consistent on that ride at all. Something I really have been working on. There are a few things to note here that were out of my control... the conditions weren't great it was slippy and wet on the course and it is very technical meaning I'm much more cautious on bends than a more experienced rider. However, the biggest tell of my bike leg was my heart rate data. It's like being shown the truth...the road surface and the weather were partially to blame but my work rate is there in black and white. Now I felt like I was giving my all, but I was incredibly aware that I wasn't riding well and when that happens my heart rate gives me away because it drops. But physically I have the endurance and so I was looking forward to getting back out on the run where I ran a very consistent 56mins again (chasing down my mate Spaniel (Sam) who had overtaken me on the bike but not realising I'd overtaken him back in second transistion! The overall time was 3hrs 23mins. I was 3 mins slower than last year. My runs were both slower than last year by about a minute but as I said earlier I had expected that. My bike was a whopping 13 seconds quicker!!! And this is what I was disappointed in. The good thing is that Jackie & I were right. My head didn't fall off and the world hasn't ended. I was near as damn it the same as last year and last years conditions were dry and clear.

Now I can see my heart rate data I need to work on getting that working at a more consistent pace instead of letting it plunge to pedestrian depths. THIS is my next challenge. I know I have the fitness, I know I have the capability but it's locked away in me and somehow I need to find a way of releasing it because when I get to grips with it I'm going to make such an improvement it's going to make a huge difference to my times. And that's quite an invigorating thought, it's a bit like when I couldn't swim. I was excited at the thought of one day being able to get into the pool and do front crawl like other swimmers. Soon, when I've found out how to unleash the cyclist in me I'll be riding like the girls who I can run with and they won't be leaving me when it gets to the bike section because I'll be right beside them!

All in all I think I've come away with a positive. Thank god for data, numbers and the truth that races tell or how would we ever improve?! Well done to my inspiration Tom who is always amazing & to Sam (we've become a double sided pigeon Spaniel, you on the run, me on the bike!) who didn't enjoy that last run but conquered it none the less, and also to Pauly P who entered the world of the multi-sport event for the first time yesterday and did incredibly. Hope your legs are on the mend boys.

Right now I have to take my body which is full of soooooo much chocolate it's practically streaming out of my eyes, in fact it very well may have replaced my blood I've eaten that much, and as from tomorrow it's back to a healthy, normal and no added sugar lifestyle. Me and chocolate are out of bounds for a while, I've eaten enough to make Bella Emburg look under nourished.

Night kids.

H. xx

Sunday, 9 March 2008


When your end goal is a test of endurance so extreme that it is deemed an 'ultra' endurance event it makes sense that you develop your ability to endure. The last 16 weeks have been all about this and with a bit of luck I seem to have survived :) At the moment people are regularly asking me how my training's going and the honest answer is 'great'... BUT... it's easy to be in awesome shape in March, the key is building on that for another 16 weeks in order to peak in July... and crucial to that is surviving the journey.

Today was, I think, my fourth century ride of this training block and the final one where completion was the name of the game. Over the winter months the weather tends to be harsh enough that in order to make these rides possible so many extra layers are required (especially with my rubbish circulation) that access to food is largely restricted to 'pit-stops' and you're so weighed down that any form of speed is severely limited. I use them therefore as lessons in endurance, in the truest sense of the word...

"The act of bearing or suffering; a continuing under pain or distress without resistance, or without being overcome; sufferance; patience."

It's easy really, just pick some hardcore winter weather (although seasonable this tends to be in plentiful supply in Yorkshire from December-March) and combine with a suitably challenging bike route over suitably baron and harsh landscapes (available all year round in the Dales). Get from A to B in one piece and then kick back with a well earned Honey Stinger natural protein bar and a piping hot mug of decaf coffee ;) The more you can endure and suffer now, the stronger you will be come race day... both mentally and physically. You may have heard the saying 'pain is weakness leaving the body'... I prefer the more positive stance of 'pain is strength entering the body'. This can be mental and/or physical and today's 105 miles through sleet, rain and driving wind provided seven hours of both... tomorrow I will wake up significantly 'stronger'.

The one downside to all this however is fatigue and I am beginning to loose the ability to raise my heart rate to 'race-pace'... a potential problem with the first big race of the season, the infamous and aptly named Ballbuster duathlon, coming up in six days... this week therefore will see a serious drop in volume and a slight increase in intensity with the aim of sharpening up enough to see just how strong I am. The Ballbuster was my first ever multisport event and has seen me progress from 3.29 in November '05 to 3.09 in November '06 and then to 2.58 (and 3rd overall) in March '07... Saturday's target?? If (and it could be a big 'if') the weather is favourable I would hope for something around 2.52-2.53 as proof that I have 'endured' just the right amount over the last four months ;) Watch this space...

I am still keeping my training diary on paper but the way I was uploading it on to here proved way too time consuming, as soon as I work out a more efficient method I'll backdate it... for those interested in the stats this week saw 12k of swimming, 168 miles of riding (including turbo work) and 66 miles of running (my biggest ever I think) which took a grand total of 24 hours. With the run being my key focus this year, the Ballbuster being a 'runners' race and the London marathon only five weeks away, coupled with some crazy-bad weather up this way I decided to run run run this week :)

See you next week,


p.s. Nearly forgot... today's photo is Ernest Shackleton's ship 'The Endurance', to cut a long story short Shackleton's ill-fated trip to the South Pole inadvertently became the greatest most 'ultra' feat of endurance ever... click here.

Misplaced mojo...?

I can't tell you what a mixed bag this whole week has been. I feel like I've been on a rollercoaster hitting merry highs and stomach churning lows... maybe it's time to get the prozac out?! The culmination of said week was in todays ride. I had planned to ride 100 miles and run 2 miles off it. Not a problem, did the same session a couple of weeks ago, yes a hard session but a good one...until today. Granted I've had a hard week so I wasn't expecting much physically however it appears that I hadn't counted for mental fatigue and how to counter-act it. So I gave in to it. From the second I left the house I wanted to turn round and get back into my jim-jams, crawl under the duvet and keep warm. Having these kind of thoughts two minutes away from the house is fatal and although my legs actually felt fine my mind wouldn't let me use them properly so today was hideous and I lasted 80 miles and then ran two miles off it. I got rained on, hailed on, snowed on, the wind was strong and I broke. A bad day in the office and typically of my personality I've spent all afternoon beating myself up about it for being weak. To be honest I think I'm stressing a bit about the whole Ironman thing and putting un-neccessary pressure on myself. I've been a bit miserable this week and I don't like that either. I think I'm worried I'm not going to perform as well as I did last year and it's all building up and it's turning me into a quiet, miserable stress head. So, if anyone out there has seen my mojo and knows how I can find it again I would be most appreciative if you would point me in the right direction.

This week hasn't been all bad at all but like I say it has been a very mixed bag. I've done some great photography shoots this week and loved the results. I had a good treadmill session on Tuesday and a great swim session on Thursday and yesterday's session was great too. But how do you stop worrying, how do you stop putting pressure on yourself, how do you stop comparing yourself to people who are better than you???? If I could do all of the above I'm sure I would feel better about myself. Maybe it's unrealistic to expect great things of yourself without a little bit of the above I don't know, but how do I find out?

The road to Kona was never meant to be easy but I didn't expect this. An easier week this week a bit of mental and physical down time and a bit of reflection might help. First race of the year on Saturday (The Ballbuster Duathlon- an 8 mile run/24mile ride/8mile run) time to recharge the batteries and see what I've got.

So this week has been odd. My brother made the highs in the week by turning himself into my Fairy Godmother and telling Cinders she shall have the wedding dress that she so desires. It's so much more than it being about cost, it's the gesture and the fact that he will be giving me away on the big day, and giving me away in a dress he really wants me to have that means so much to me. It's a gesture I'll never forget and will hold close to my heart for years and years to come so thank you Jonny, you're the best.

This week coming then I'm searching for that missing mojo. If I haven't found it by the end of next week I'm going to give up training and take up knitting (do you think people get stressed about how many stitches they've dropped and that Edna's moss stitch was much neater than theirs or that in fact Edna knitted for eight hours last week and Sheila only knitted for four!???) I guess there's a competative streak in most people, I just need to harness mine and look a little more closely at the positives instead of dwelling on the negatives... all answers welcome on a postcard!!!

Don't let your mind bully your body into believing it must carry the burden of it's worries.
Astrid Alauda

H. x

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Toil, sweat and wedding dresses...

Week two on the Road to Kona and I have trained my little socks off AND gone in search of a wedding dress (do you think Tom would mind if I modelled myself on Jordan and her lovely design???).

With last week being a recovery week it was time to let the dog see the rabbit and unleash the start of what is going to be a hard and rocky road to Germany. I started Monday off with my usual 5km techinque swim with Tom. This week I changed my drills after spending time having my stroke analysed. It's so hard to change something that feels comfortable but over time it will just happen I'm sure I just have to keep focused when I'm in the pool and make the changes happen gradually. Tom and I were talking about times for Germany & although I don't really think about it as much as the statitician in Tom does I guess I'd actually really like to get under the hour for the swim. I did an hour exactly in Austria and I'm swimming better now than I was then, so maybe this is a possibility! I managed to kill myself in the pool on Tuesday doing 20 x 150's off 2.5mins. I averaged about 2.19/2.20 for them so I was having a tiny amount of rest. Very hard set both mentally and physicaly and afterwards when myself, Tom and AKJ were doing our regular weights session I truly did think someone had stolen my arms, they were useless! These were the best sets of this week, Thursday and Friday's were good but not as intense or goal orientated.

I've also had a good week on the bike, although the weather being so windy this weekend put paid to getting out today (that and I was cream crackered) so today I had a rest day, lovely. On Wednesday though I got out and rode a 100 hard and hilly miles in the Dales. Not the same route that Tom did (I think I'd still be out there if I'd done that.) It was also a mental challenge as the wind on Wednesday wasn't very kind and I had a strong headwind for the first 60 miles and boy did it wear me down. I got home raced into the garage, got my trainers on and bimbled out of the door for a slow 2mile run. This was my first real brick session (where you run straight off a bike ride) and my legs certainly knew it. It takes a couple of sessions to get into the flow of running off the bike. I'd been on my bike for just over 7hrs and my legs would have preferred a hot bath and some junk tv, instead I ran up a long hill and then back down it, great day in the saddle (albeit tough) and great to be running off the bike again. Yesterday because of time constraints and my mum & Tom's mum were visiting I did my session early in the morning. I did a hard 2hr turbo and then ran 8 miles off that and I ran well and really enjoyed the session.

My running is still ticking along. I'm not setting the world on fire or setting any ground breaking personal bests but I'm happy to say that I'm still running without irritating 'the tendon' and that's everything I could hope for. I ran 20 miles on Thursday and was pleased to keep it together. It was good to run the day after my 100 miler too just to get used to having that fatigue in my legs (not something I'll do every week, but it's definitely good to run on tired legs) and that felt like an iron session. When I get through the hard days it helps my mental strength.

A hard week of training, a great week of training and then at the weekend I was training in between wearing about 20 different wedding dresses! Tom's mum Yve came up and my mum came down and we went off to our two appointments to see whether I look good in a merangue or not!! We all had a great time and it was an eye opening experience, one I certainly couldn't have done without my two mums (so thank you to you both for such great advice, help and amusement.) I have to say trying on wedding dresses felt very peculiar, especially when I'm always in sports gear but I soon got the hang of wandering around in silly dresses playing at being a girl for the afternoon and it's made me look forward to the day when I get to be a girl for the whole day then too. (Just have to win the lottery to buy the dress we found ;)

A great end to a great week and it was lovely to spend time with mum, Yve and Ray. Happy Mother's Day to the mummy's, love you both lots.

Here's to week three...

H. x

A day of rest...

It's the first in a while but today H and I decided to kick back and partake in our first full day of rest in quite some time. This week was scheduled to be the hardest so far and with all the key sessions in the bag by the end of play on Saturday and howling gale force winds outside our lovely warm house this morning it wasn't the hardest decision in the world to give our battered bodies some well earned r & r.

We don't schedule that many full rest days in to our regular training, preferring to take either easy days or 'leg rest' days to facilitate active recovery. The 'norm' amongst endurance athletes is to allocate one day a week as a rest day but as our bodies have become accustomed to larger training volumes over the last few years this hasn't appeared so important and with full-time jobs keeping us busy it's hard to fit enough training in mon-fri in the same way that full-time athletes are able to . We have also found that if rest days are strictly written into training schedules they are often taken when not needed and then there can be a reluctance to take them when they are really needed on an allocated training day.

The key however, and this is vital, is to understand how your body is dealing with your current training volume and so be able to recognise when a full day of rest would be beneficial.. and then be honest enough with yourself to take a day off... guilt free.

This week had been massive up until today..

Mon am - 5k technique swim
pm - 30 min v.easy turbo / 30 min v.easy run / 30 min stretch
Tue am - 10 x 150 swim off 2:30 averaging 2:14 then weights
pm - 40 min treadmill tempo - 10 mins @ 14, 15, 16 & 17 kph
Wed am - 103 mile very hilly (13,000 ft. climbing) windy ride followed by 2 mile run
Thu am - 8 x 100 hard swim (2 x 400 wu / 400 cd) then weights
pm - 20 'easy' miles at 7.20 per mile av hr 135
Fri am - 5k swim straight through
Sat am - 10 x 2 min hard run intervals
pm - 50 mile ride with BG including 4 x 4 mile efforts

On top of this high training volume, H's mum and my mum and step-dad came up to visit us this weekend... and what with mother's day cooking and eating (Friday night!)... alongside wedding dress fitting and venue inspecting... coupled with 'late' night chatting and early morning training we had crammed more than enough in to the first six days of this week. By the time we'd crawled out of bed this morning and had enjoyed a lovely relaxing breakfast with mum and Ray we were in full pj's and slippers mode and looking forward to our next session being 200 technique based lengths of the pool tomorrow morning :)

At the moment my training is flying, I'm pretty much at my desired racing weight (66.1 kgs this morning), feeling strong, still super motivated and well ahead of last year in all three disciplines. Being on top of your game in March is easy though... building on that week after week right through to July is another matter and Ironman is all about surviving the training. I am taking a few chances this year... upping my run and swim volume whist maintaining (at least) my bike volume and getting lighter than ever before is quite a challenge, but at the moment I'm absorbing it all pretty well.

Today's picture? Having got back from my Saturday morning run intervals a little behind schedule I grabbed breakfast 'to go' and headed down to Hyde Park to help out with our weekly 5k race, the Hyde Park Time Trial ( It was a stunning morning and with the sun shining and 45 minutes to go before the start I took the opportunity to dine 'al fresco' ;)

Have a great week,


p.s. well done to Sam for a great pb of 1.32 at today's Reading Half Marathon and to Liz for leading home the ladies in the same race in a frighteningly fast 69 minutes!!