Sunday, 28 September 2008

Healthy competition...

The title and photo of this week's post refer to a subject close to my heart... competition, something feared by many and understood by few. According to Wikipedia, " Competition occurs naturally between living organisms which coexist in the same environment" and "may give incentives for self improvement"... with regards the above photo (100 yards to go at this year's Vitruvian), myself and the other two athletes were 'temporarily' inhabiting the same environment, unfortunately this lead at least one of them to achieve just enough 'self improvement' to take me right on the line... had I realised they were there perhaps I may have improved just enough to hold on to fourth?

From the start of training to the finish line of your A-race, competition is a valuable tool to keep you on the path to success... but what do I really mean by competition? For as long as I can remember, in just about every area of life, I've loved pitting myself against someone my equal excited by the unknown as to who would come out on top. I've never really enjoyed winning that much though, and certainly not been that bothered about losing... it's competing that really floats my boat. That however, is precisely the bit that people often fail to understand... the way I see it, to be 'competitive' means to love 'competing', not winning... there's nothing better than finding yourself in the final mile of a race, shoulder to shoulder with your arch rival, a situation guaranteed to bring the absolute best out of both individuals regardless of who gets to the finish line first. Really then it's a win-win situation as even if you do get beaten to the chequered flag you'll have achieved that little bit more than had you been miles ahead or behind.

Unfortunately most people who get classed as 'competitive' are actually just bullies who's insecurity creates a desire to beat others into submission or throw their toys out of their pram whenever they find themselves coming off second best. In reality they hate nothing more than actually competing, they're just bad losers! Perhaps that's why it bothers me so much when I get called competitive by others? Perhaps that's also why I'm never that bothered by my finishing position and much prefer to measure myself against the clock, seeing my rivals as a tool to pull me to a faster finish time rather than someone to beat or be beaten by? For example, last year when I finished 3rd at the Ballbuster duathlon I posted on my favourite Triathlon Forum ( that my finish position didn't mean that much to me, particularly due to the weaker than normal field, but the fact I pb'd by miles and broke three hours for the first time meant everything. Several people mistook this for a negative thought, replying that 'you can only beat who's there so don't put yourself down'... my reply to this however would be that all that finishing third means is that only two people faster than me turned up... a measure of other people's ability to get out of bed on a cold and wet March morning not a measure of my winter training! The fact that I took my time from 3.09 the previous November to 2.58 four months later was however an accurate and significant indication that all the hours on my bike and early morning starts had been worth every heartbeat... see 'self improvement'.

In the same way, I like nothing more than warming up for our weekly club time trial and seeing my LBT rivals getting ready to race... not that I care particularly whether I'll beat them or not... but I know their presence in the race and my desire to compete will pull me to a faster time. This was particularly evident at the Ashbourne Duathlon earlier this year when, with a pre race target of sub 2.20, I found myself chasing Richard Hamilton from gun to tape and although I came off second best I hit my target with only seconds to spare... with nothing left at the end I'm sure our two hour competition made the all the difference to my finish time!

This love of competition is not only beneficial during a race but can also bring out the best during training sessions... something I'm currently working on in order to develop my run speed (or lack of). Recently my good mate Dave McGuire has been doing rather well at the Hyde Park Time Trial where a sustained period of work has seen him dip below 18 minutes for the 5k on more than one occasion (my pb for the same distance is 18.10) and suddenly I see an opportunity to compete and therefore facilitate a little self improvement ;) For the time being however I'm a little way off this level of performance and so, in order to bridge the gap, Hels and I have been racing each other on the same course using a handicap system. Having done the race earlier in the year, I'd finished two minutes and 42 seconds ahead of H... last week then I gave her exactly that head start setting up a grandstand finish where she pipped me by a mere five seconds! This week, she set off 2.37 before me... only to shade it yet again by the narrowest of margins. Both times however I was pushed to my absolute limit and subsequently will have gained maximum benefit from the session... had we started at the same time the result would have been a foregone conclusion and neither her nor I would have found those extra few ounces of effort that make all the difference. Next week we'll see what happens off 2.32 ;) At the moment, Helen is pulling me closer to Dave and once I get within touching distance hopefully he'll help to pull me under 18 minutes...

At first this may all seem a bit contradictory to my number one goal of qualifying for Hawaii, something which is achieved purely by finishing ahead of others and has nothing to do with a set finishing time! When I think about my aims and ambitions within Ironman triathlon however, they all relate to who I would like to compete with, as opposed to who I would like to beat, it's just that the specific athletes who I would like to find myself shoulder to shoulder with at mile 140 are typically found in Kona every October, and if I'm going to compete in the Ironman World Championships I'll need less than nine or so athletes who are faster than me to turn up in Lanzarote on May the 23rd! The faster I am the more likely this will be and the more I 'compete' (remember, this applies to training, eating, sleeping and lifestyle just as much as actual organised racing - if I'm trying to have more sleep than someone else, regardless of how many zzzz's they get I'll no doubt up my count as a result) over the coming winter, the faster I'll be on race day.

If like me your aim is to achieve self improvement, in any area of life not just triathlon, I'd urge you to embrace competition without fear of failure and as often as possible place yourself in that 'shoulder to shoulder' situation where only then are you able to truly question yourself. I'd also suggest you avoid environments where you are the top performer and in the absence of someone faster, stronger etc. you should manipulate the environment to facilitate close competition. A great example of this was a couple of years ago when I found myself refereeing a game of Dodgeball between the Sales and Personal Training teams at the gym where I worked (bare with me on this)... after a few ten minute rounds the PTs were consistently beating their significantly less athletic rivals by 30 or so points and with both teams assured of the same outcome each time neither were putting in much effort. I called for a deciding game, yet this time awarded the sales team a 30 point head start, in the end the result was the same however both teams upped their performance several fold with the personal trainers only claiming victory after achieving a two point lead at 52-50. Interestingly I overheard a conversation just after where someone from the losing team was recounting the closeness of the match and how he'd given everything and played the game of his life, only to loose by two points at the death. The fact that the true margin of victory was actually 32 points had been lost to all involved and the Dodgeball version of self-improvement was testament to the value of true competition.

Talking of sleep, I'll refer you to my good mate Ben G's blog post for this week and leave you with a quote to ponder...

"Position is a measure of others, whereas time is a measure of yourself."
- me ;)



p.s. to quickly talk stats... next week is the Great North run and for once I've no idea how I'm going to do! Long runs are going better than ever with a hilly 16 covered 'conversationally' with my mate Tony this week in 1.49 (6.50 per mile) yet in terms of speed I'm slower than I've been in a long time with both this and last week's 5k tests a struggle to finish just above and below 19 minutes respectively. Last year I pb'd for the course in 1.21.17, this year it would take sub 1.20 or plus 1.25 to surprise me... whatever happens though the season will have been a great success and I'm really looking forward to removing my foot from the proverbial gas for the remainder of October :)

From the sublime to the ridiculous...

Yesterday I took racing to a completely new and completely different level! What has she gone and done now you all wonder?? Swam the Nile? Cycled round the world in a weekend? Or run from here to Timbuctoo? Endurance is definitely my forte and going long has always suited me. Going short has always been painful and as I'm discovering, really not any faster than my going long speeds!

So, what is it that I've done?...

Well yesterday I took part in my first cycling TT hill-climb...and it was, are you ready for this... 1200 yards long!!! See now you're having to go back and re-read this to look for what's so amazingly different... yesterday, I raced for just over 4mins!!! I mean 4 whole minutes (4.19 to be exact.) I felt like I understood Naomi Cambell when she said she wouldn't get out of bed for less than a bazillion pounds. How on earth was I going to get my head round starting a race that's finished before it's even begun?! I'm so used to those first few minutes being the time I use to get comfortable on my bike and getting settled into the race. Then I engage my brain, start thinking about the tactics of the ride/race and how I'm going to deal with speed and distance etc. It was weird, really, really weird but actually I really enjoyed it and don't get me wrong it wasn't in any way easier just because it was ridiculously short compared to my usual races.

As Tom and I rode to Weardley Bank where it was taking place I was quite thankful that my brain and body were only going to have to concentrate for such a short space of time. The season has been long and I'm well and truly ready for October's month of rest and recovery. There were about 30 riders and each one knew the pain they were about to go through. Tom & I knew it would hurt, and hurt it did, in a very short lived way. The hill was broken into two sections so there was a slight reprieve in the middle just before the last push to crest the top. A whole host of people's family and friends were there to holler support at the riders and I have to say the atmosphere in the cycling community is second to none. I had a good few 'Go on lass' shouts as I rasped my way up the hill and I loved it. It's a community I'm proud to be able to be part of. It's inclusive, it's supportive and it's real. Oh, and I came second last ;) I reckon that if I'd have been doing the climb as an interval session I'd have probably got faster along the way such is my endurance, it appears not to kick in anywhere near the beginning of any race, (although having ripped the lining of my throat out on the first attempt I don't remember suggesting I did it another few times!!!)

Riding back home having raced for a whole 4+ minutes was just the oddest thing, my legs and heart were fine, completely oblivious and probably relieved it wasn't another long, long race, but like I say the wheezy feeling in my chest and the burning throat from gasping so much up the hill were the sharp reminder of just how much you can push your body in such a short space of time and distance. It's a talent to be able to belt out of the gate and get straight into race pace and there were some quick riders there yesterday and Tom & I enjoyed watching them envious of their strength as they powered up the hill.

This morning on my run before we went off to do the photography for the Ilkley Triathlon I was reminded yet again that I'm just not set up for speed over a short distance. Both Tom and I warmed up on our way to the Hyde Park Time Trial (5km run race) course so we could get a short sharp session in as we head quickly towards the Great North Run (a week today in fact.) My first two miles (of only three!!!) were slower than the last three or four miles of my 16mile run on Thursday, what's that all about?!! I find it very bizarre that I can actually get faster as I run longer. Something I need to look at a bit closer me thinks, but that's for another day.

The Ilkley Triathlon went really well today and Leeds Bradford Tri club put on a great show, very organised and great fun and something else I'm very proud to be part of.

But right now, all I want to be part of is the land of nod where I can dream about what it might be like to be sprinter instead of a snail :)

H. x

P.s...To all of those we know preparing for the big day in Ironman Mecca a.k.a Hawaii, soak it up and live the dream, we'll be watching you every step of the way. x

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Tick tock...

This week has been a really good week for a few reasons. Last week I wrote about 'Time out' and this week I'm going to write about 'Time In.' One thing both Tom and I are guilty of when we're training really hard is neglecting the many things that need doing. Even simple things like mowing the lawn. Training 20+ hours a week just doesn't leave you in the mood to mow the lawn in your spare time or do any of the hideous tasks that actually make your life easy to function. But these things all need doing and they don't go away, no magical gnome comes and mows the lawn over night, or de-scales the bathroom tiles, or de-clutters the office Unfortunately what happens is Tom & I do the minimum required in and around the house and regarding the general tasks in our life. We put things off.

This week I've trained hard but also worked against the clock which has actually been less stressful than it sounds. Right now we plan to be in bed by 9pm (it's 8.37) so I have a limited amount of time to write this week but by doing it this way I'll be in bed on time for the 5am alarm call. Tom's discovered an application for his new toy (his i-phone) called Remember The Milk (basically it's just a 'to-do' list) I don't have the luxury of said i-phone but I do like making lists in my paper diary (long live the pen and paper.) I've stuck to what I've needed to do every day, have barely wasted a single second and therefore Tom and I have had loads of quality time together and with friends AND still trained twice a day. Hallelujha it's a miracle and one I'm liking. The lawns are mowed, the bathroom tiles are no longer orange and the office is the inner sanctum once more. I can feel order being restored by the very minute.

If we can stick to our new 'doer' attitude then training for Lanzarote will be a joy and not 6mths of training our physical bodies to the max but neglecting the mental neccesities. I'm liking my lists and I'm slowly but surely becoming a 'doer'!!!

90 secs and it's time for bed...night...

H. x

P.s They (whoever 'they' are) do say...if you want something doing, give it to a busy person.

Bring it on, I'm ready, pen and paper in hand...lists are the new black ;)

Speed blogging....

Only 16 minutes and 4 seconds to go.... over these last few weeks Helen and I have made a conscious effort to become a little more productive with our time and get a few more things done. Once the Vitruvian was out of the way it struck us both how many of the other aspects of our life that we'd neglected throughout the year. 'To-do' lists have become our best friends and for the first time in a long while we've actually done things like mowed the lawn and tidied the office. I even popped in to Paul Smith this afternoon and tried on a suit for our wedding!!

So here we are on Sunday night once again sat in front of our computers racking our brains for something interesting to write about... normally the blog takes us about 45 minutes to an hour but often I find myself 'writers blocking' my way comfortably through the hour and way past a sensible bedtime for someone who has to be up at 5am for 200 lengths of the pool. Neither of us really knew what we were going to write about tonight so in an effort to focus the mind a little gave ourselves a 20 minute limit from start to finish and in eight minutes and three seconds will be clicking on 'publish post' regardless of the state of play!

Rather than focus the mind however it seems to have turned this weekend's writing into one of those Mallet's mallet - mustn't pause, mustn't hesitate type games when in fear of a clonk on the head from a big rubber hammer your mind instantly empties of any meaningful information and an endless stream of blabber falls out instead. In fact I just spent about 45 valuable seconds looking for a picture of Timmy Mallet himself to adorn this post but with just over three minutes to go found myself panicking that I wouldn't actually finish what I started and would end up having to go to press mid-sentence!

Right, 2:38 left so time to say good-night and draw a line under probably my most meaningless blog in history. Next week normal play will resume where having spent the day cheering everyone on at the Ilkley Triathlon, which is organised by our tri club (Leeds & Bradford), I'll no doubt have motivational story a plenty to go on about ;)

30 seconds....

erm... well done to our good friend Ben G for breaking the hour in his 25 mile TT today.



Sunday, 14 September 2008

Time out...

The above chocolate bar probably best sums up what my week has consisted of since last Saturday's Vitruvian. If I haven't wanted to train this week I haven't. If I've wanted chocolate I've eaten it. If chips were on offer I've eaten them. If I wanted to fit into my wedding dress this weekend I couldn't possibly (I've eaten it!!!) If my legs didn't want to run fast they haven't. If my brain didn't want to think about exercise it hasn't... I think you're getting the picture.

I'm sure people think I lead a monkish year round existence in which I have the willpower of a buddhist, an obsession with training and only treat my body like a temple. I can assure you that if I'd made a video diary this week that concept would be slayed like St. George's Dragon! I do admit though that this week is an exception to normal weekly living but actually, one I've only half enjoyed.

I'm an all or nothing kind of girl... training, eating, sleeping, happy, sad etc ...rarely do I find the happy medium. I love being disciplined, training hard, eating well and being strict with my diet, going to bed early and getting up at silly o'clock. On the flip side I've enjoyed not having to be so strict about getting to bed a bit later, eating what I like and not having to think while I train just letting my brain wander and my body choose the speed it would like to train at. However, all week I've eaten nothing of nutritional value and exercised in a part time fashion. Don't get me wrong, I certainly realise that there's a huge importance placed on rest and recovery and it's been a long season so it's much needed.

The plan after The Vitruvian was to have this week (gone) as an easy week and then focus on a little more running for The Great North Run in three weeks time, take the rest of October off and start refreshed and raring to go as we plunge ourselves into Winter training. There is of course the small matter of our wedding in December. Followed by the hardest training we've ever done so that Timanfaya and Mirador del Rio (the hilliest sections of the bike course in Lanza) don't bite us in the bum. This plan is perfect except I'm writing this after a last supper of Domino's pizza and a bag of maltesers and I feel thoroughly sick!!! I told you I never was one for moderation.

Thankfully tomorrow dawns a new week and the three week run training block should reign me in as I shun the chocolate and go back to the Helen I much prefer, the one that's in control. Now all I need to do is design a way of not turning into Augustus Gloop in October when we have our rest month... all answers on a postcard please! It's actually a part of my personality that I would like to understand a bit more about. How do I maintain control and find a bit of moderation that will stop me from jumping between one extreme to another???

When I'm not training so hard, when my priorities are different, when my life doesn't only revolve around me and my training and Tom and his training, how do I find the button that has 'moderation' written on it and put it into action? I've never wanted to be 'average' yet isn't 'moderation' another word for average? Maybe that's why I've avoided it? But surely moderation's not so bad in moderation??? How do I tap into my 'moderate' resource, if in fact one exists within me at all. And if it doesn't what do I do about it? Questions, questions but I want a life after training that isn't full of all the things I hate about not training. It seems I have a long way to go before I understand the complexity that is myself. I'm enjoying the newer more positive version of me (which will be tested in the pool tomorrow when I attempt to set some swimming pb's in a couple of short distances.) But my next task is to try and research this distinct lack of, well, moderation.

It is better to rise from life as from a banquet - neither thirsty nor drunken.

H. x

Oh, before I go I must say welcome to the world of triathlon and well done to Debra and Andy Brown who did their first multi-disciplined race in Derby today. It's a slippery slope this whole triathlon malarky but one you'll love being on I'm sure. x

Bumble turns....

Following the success of last week it's been seven days of kicking back (on the training front) and patting myself firmly on the back for a season well done. Enjoying a mid-morning coffee with my good friend Tess (thanks for today's motivational email by the way) earlier this week, she almost fell off her chair at my large latte and even larger slice of apple crumble... so I'm not sure what she'd have made of tonight's pepperoni passion / Hawaiian (as close to Kona as 2008 will take me) combination from Domino's, chased down by a nice tub of Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey (topped up from H's family bag of Maltesers)... I don't blow-out very often but when I do I really do! Still, that's a battle for another day... for the moment I'm back to doing what I do best, and as from tomorrow morning the training gloves will be firmly on, with three weeks till the Great North Run.

Also on the training front, this time swimming, I've finally done something I should have done ages ago and committed to learning how to tumble turn. At the beginning of the year H and I had a few lessons in this from our mate (and Barcelona Olympic swimmer) Ian Wilson, Helen's determination and persistence however saw her pick it up at about the same time I got bored with ramming my head into the bottom of the pool every 25 metres and ever since she's looked like pro-Joe to my average-Joe. My problem being, that my tumble turns were so bad, the amount of energy required to change direction every length left me gasping for breath and therefore unable to carry out any kind of meaningful swim set. However, in the absence of any kind of triathlon in the next six months I really don't need to be swimming that hard until at least November and have therefore given myself two months to get my turns in order before resuming full swim training. In order to stay motivated I've decided to 're-set' my swim pb's and tomorrow morning will be 'lowering the bar' over 50, 100, 200 and 400 metres... my current best times being 0:36, 1:19, 2:45 and 5:40 respectively. I might leave it a while before I attempt the mile though, as the thought of 64 consecutive tumble turns is currently not something I would feeling confident of achieving without inflicting serious pain on either myself or however else might be sharing the lane ;)

Also on the swimming front, H and I were fortunate enough to be present at this weekend's inaugural Great North Swim, a one mile open water event in Lake Windermere. Hels had been asked to photograph the event by Nova (the organisers of all the 'Great' series of events) and in need of an able assistant had brought me along for the ride. We had a brilliant time and really enjoyed working together with, at one point, H taking pictures from the sky in the Channel 4 helicopter and me following alongside the elite race in the tv company's speedboat (one of our pics and race report HERE)!! Over two thousand people took part in the race with a total of ten age-group and two elite waves spanning the day. Motivation was there in spades with five of the six Olympic open-water medalists contesting the prizes and the odd Olympic triathlete thrown in for good measure. We were also fortunate enough to spend a fair amount of time with Maarten Van Der Weijden over the course of the weekend... at the age of 20 he was diagnosed with Leukaemia yet seven years later he won gold in the Beijing Olympics 10k open water swim. You couldn't meet a more down to earth and humble individual than this six foot seven Olympian, who spent whole weekend tirelessly signing autographs and giving spectators every second of his time in order to pose for photo's and offer advice on braving the icy waters. I'd also really like to mention Team GB open-water swimmers Dave Davies, Keri-Anne Payne and Cassie Patten who, like the Dutchman, were amazing ambassadors for not only their sport but also their country. You'd struggle to meet a more inspirational group than these great athletes... if only our national media could see past their football focused blinkers!

Today's picture... my gorgeous wife-to-be alongside my amazing friend and best-man-to-be, a constant reminder of what truly matters in life ;)

I'll leave you to ponder this great quote from my current read...

"... but at least two to three hours of every day were consumed with tedious, repetitive filling in of forms that could equally have been done by a dog with a pen tied to its tail..."
-Michael Hutchinson 'The Hour'

T x

p.s. a MASSIVE well done to Debra, Andy and (I think) Rich R for becoming triathletes this morning ;)

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Fun fun fun...

What a difference a week makes... seven days ago I was writing my blog entry on Helen's laptop whilst sitting in a traffic jam on the M25 at midnight, 200 miles from home, going nowhere and needing to be up for work at 7am... today, we've just had a nice long lie-in with breakfast in bed and are chilling out in front of Sunday morning telly with an entire day of absolutely nothing ahead of us!

Yesterday was our final triathlon of a roller-coaster season, our final 'A' race of the season (the other two being the London Marathon and Ironman Germany) and most of all MY final chance to actually enjoy a swim, bike and run all on the same day... something which I hadn't managed to achieve in 2008! It's been a mentally tough season this year, I really enjoy racing and am always gutted when the relatively short triathlon season comes to an end but up to yesterday hadn't really enjoyed a 2008 triathlon... having either gone the wrong way or got beaten up in the swim, frozen to death or run out of energy on the bike and blown up during (or sometimes before) the run, some pretty good results on paper had masked a season of enduring rather than enjoying. Even when I won my age-group at UK 70.3 I'd hated every revolution of the coldest, wettest and most miserable bike of my life... and that's saying something coming from Yorkshire! The key point being that we do this for fun, if something's not fun it really isn't worth doing... life's far too short to waste time being miserable.

I would rather enjoy a race and come last that hate it and come first!

So, back to yesterday...

The events of this season and particularly the last couple of months had seen a seriously uncharacteristic drop in my confidence... not in my own ability but rather in the chances of everything going right at the same time. I knew I was in good shape as my results had been ok and as I kept saying to myself, 'the sign of a good football team is that even when they play badly they still win'... but playing badly isn't fun and in my life fun definitely 'trumps' winning!

I said last week that my race goals were 30/2.15/1.23 for, plus transitions, something close to 4.10 and top 15 overall... but more importantly I just wanted to enjoy racing and feel strong from gun to tape....

With about 100 30-34 male athletes in my wave I expected to be out in the top ten but in an attempt to avoid getting caught up in the 'washing machine' start I took up a position to the far right. Next to me was Jim Cresswell who was likely to be in the top couple out of the water and also a contender to win our age-group. I thought I might be able to hang on to his feet and get towed to a good time but as he disappeared into the distance I realised that wasn't to be. Still, the first lap seemed to go pretty well and with 14:15 on the clock I was on for my 30 minute target... 14 minutes and 30 seconds later I was on dry land and 1.15 up on target and 2.35 better than 2007.

The weather had been pretty shocking in the lead up to the race and even during the swim I hadn't made my mind up as to bike clothing. Coming in to T1 though it seemed pretty mild so I opted out of socks, gloves and arm warmers and was on my bike in a respectable 1.36.

Last year I rode 2.17.38 which at 17th overall was my best split of the day, combined with my roller-coaster bike form of recent weeks I felt (prior to the race) most challenged by yesterday's ride. Initially, as a few riders passed me, I felt like I was slightly off the pace... my faster swim however had seen me out of the water ahead of athletes who previously wouldn't have overtaken me simply as they would never have been behind me... relax and banish negative thoughts (a lesson learnt in Wimbleball). Although my legs didn't feel amazing, I had no trouble getting my heart rate up and sitting in the mid to high 150's for the first lap I was back at the feed station in 1.06.22 (over two minutes up on last year) and feeling more confident by the minute. Knowing that I was up on my target and still had a half marathon to run I consciously tried to ride steady for the second lap and although my heart rate dropped a little I felt this was due to good pacing strategy as opposed to weakening legs. Taking intermediate splits from various land marks I knew I wasn't losing much time and a second lap of 1.07.27 gave me a reasonably paced bike of 2.13.49, which at 11th overall (2.15.08 including T1) would for the second year running be my best split in comparison to the field... and a massive relief :)

Coming in to T2 my 'sans socks' feet were like blocks of ice and having been in the same situation in Wimbleball ealier in the year, when I had to stop on the run take my shoe off, I was determined to take my time. Note to self - get it right the first time, less haste more speed... one minute and five seconds later I was out on the run ahead of target and 6.24 ahead of last year.

Starting the final 21.1km I knew that if I could match last year's run I'd finish in 4.10, and feeling pretty good, thoughts of sub-4.10 were creeping in... The Vitruvian run is a double out-and-back with the first 'out' and second 'back' slightly longer than the other two sections... also, the great thing about out-and-backs is that you can find out not only who's ahead and by how far but also who's behind. Hitting the first turn in 20.55 I was 5th 30-34 and close to 4th, unfortunately the podium places were occupied (several minutes up the road) by Jim Cresswell, Mark Couldwell and Chris Stuart who are all solid athletes, so the chances of a medal were looking slim. Fourth place would be great though and it would only take one of the top three to blow up and I'd be in... it also seemed like I was about three minutes ahead of the 6th place athlete so was free to concentrate on those ahead of me... or so I thought... As I passed through half-way (41.46) I flew past the guy in 4th and feeling great was only looking forwards. As I reached the final turn at the end of the second 'out' I knew I was slowing a little but was less than three minutes behind third and tried to pick it up for the final five or so kilometres... coming in to the final mile with 4th 'in the bag', running on fumes having given everything and losing time on the leaders I was over the moon that I'd finally enjoyed a triathlon and had also achieved my pre-race time goal with regards finish time and had a good chance of top 15 overall... entering the finish straight the best supporters in the world were waiting as usual with 'The Religion' and grabbing our globe trotting flag of St. George I triumphantly headed to the line... seconds later, pantomime style shouts of 'he's behind you' let me know that I'd somehow missed a chasing athlete at all three of the previous turn-around points and with a few metres to go was sprinting for the line... unfortunately there's a reason why I like to 'go long'... I'm rubbish at 'going short'... and although according to the results we've finished in identical times (4.12.31) I definitely came off second best... if I manage to still be racing in the final 10k of the Lanzarote Ironman, yesterday's finish line lesson will no doubt be at the front of my mind ;)

Swim 28.45
T1 1.36
Bike 2.13.49
T2 1.05
Run 1.27.16
Total 4.12.31
5th 30-34
13th Overall

Bottom line...
I'm over the moon to finish the triathlon season with not only a great result but an enjoyable experience. For the third successive middle distance triathlon I've managed to compete with athletes who are consistently amongst the Kona qualification places over 140.6 miles... from November I'll be aiming to convert my half-Ironman form into long distance performance.


Now to the subjects of today's photo, my Mum and step-dad (Ray) have been a wonderful support over the last year. I know they found it hard to see me suffering so badly in Germany earlier in the year so it was even more special to have them there on Saturday. Along with the Kendal-Jones clan and my Auntie Les they form the 'hard-core' of our amazing support crew without whom neither H nor I would have got this far... let alone had the belief to keep pushing for another year. Simple words cannot possibly describe how brilliant it is to hear your shouts of encouragement during a race but, thanks!


I feel, once again, like I'm starting to waffle so I'll sign off with a massive well done to Helen for 'seeing' my 1st in age group and 'raising' it by also becoming a national champion... again words cannot describe my admiration. Well done to Pauly P for becoming a Vitruvian despite a slight imbalance in his cross-training (golf) to race specific training ratios. A really really big well done to Jo for taking a giant leap toward Ironman Austria with a really strong performance in her first half-Ironman... although having cycled Land's End to John O'Groats with Flaps earlier this year her pre-race nerves where somewhat misplaced ;) Also well done to all our fellow LBTers, TriTalkers and assorted friends who took on yesterday's challenge...

The biggest pat on the proverbial back however goes to our brilliant friend Sam... having built all season to the Vit and set himself some challenging yet achievable goals... he spent the entire swim, bike and run puking and pooing like his life depended on it and probably suffered more in yesterday's race than I have in my entire lifetime, yet his Olympic attitude saw him cross the line a true champion, and reminded me of this great quote (courtesy of my mate Bill)...

"My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race, they sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race"
- John Stephen Akhwari (Video & Wikipedia)


see you in seven,


A first...

                                     Me, my first Gold medal and celebratory bottle of Moet.

Yesterday was the last race of the season and time for me to implement all of my new found thought processes into a whole race. Following IM Germany we ditched the long sessions and trained hard and short in a bid to find some zip. And as you have been reading I've been trying to discover how to think differently. Having the weekly Pool Triangle to see those changes in the bike has been great, but I felt a little anxious for The Vitruvian (1.9km swim, 52 mile bike, 13.1 mile run.) Learning how to push myself for a 20km time trial on a course I now know like the back of my hand is a little different to an 85km bike course with a hard swim for a warm up and a half marathon as a cool down!!!

As you can see by my picture I didn't do too badly :) Last year I was 12th girl overall and came third in my age group with a time of 4hrs 58mins. This year I was 6th girl overall and won my age group with a time of 4hrs 50mins :) :) :) (edited: to become national 30-34 female middle distance triathlon champion - Tom)

I wanted a couple of things from the race. The first one was to carry forward the new Helen into the race scenario, never to let my head go down if a girl passed me and most importantly to never give up. The second was to see an improvement in the swim and the bike. I've always been able to run off the bike well, mostly because I've never been able to push the bike section hard enough and so yesterday the plan was to forfeit the run by riding a harder, more consistent bike. Comparing last year's to this year's splits, you can see I made the biggest improvements in the swim and the bike and then ran a much slower half marathon.

Last year:

swim 33.51
bike 2.43.54
run 1.36
Overall 4.57

Yesterday's times are still only provisional so I don't have the official ones, but off my watch:

swim 31.21
bike 2.33
run 1.42
Overall 4.50

So with my 7 minute pb and all of that coming from the first two disciplines I'm over the moon. The great thing about my run being much slower than last years shows that I have the ability to run 1.36 (I'm not less run fit) but I can only do this once I've got my legs used to riding a 2.33, and this is key. So, these are the things that I will concentrate on in my block of Winter training and I must say it's an exciting thought (that is the eventual outcome as opposed to the endless hrs of Winter weather!!!) Improvement on the bike will naturally lead to being able to run well off the bike. I was a whole 6mins slower on the run this year and this is what's exciting because had I been able to run the same as last year I would have pb'd by 13mins. This is what is going to spur me on in the cold, wet Winter months.

I'm starting to think like a winner and not a loser who wishes they were a winner. Tom made a good point today by saying that in races your position is only a measure against other people (and you can only race the people that are there) but the result (i.e time) is a measure of yourself. So irrespective of whether I was first or last in my age group I got the best out of myself on that day and was rewarded with a great pb and now I have the foresight to see the improvement that is to come with more hard work on the bike and in my head. Roll on Lanzarote 09!!!

Yesterday's middle distance race was a first for a couple of our friends. Jo Ladd who is a fully fledged Team Southern's sibling was amazing out there. Jo did her first sprint triathlon last year and has trained consistently and with much determination to arrive at yesterdays race nervous but fully prepared (except for forgetting her socks and now having HUGE blisters.) She was awesome out there and when she crossed the finish line we all felt so proud because it's such a daunting prospect and both Tom and I love being part of her triathlon journey and can't wait to see Jo do IM Austria next year. AKJ (as you'll have seen in a previous post) is about to embark on the same journey, and one we're very excited about being part of too. x x x
It was the first middle distance race for our friend Alison too, who was equally as nervous but just as capable as Jo and we knew would have no problems with the distance at all. Great work Alison, I hope you're very proud of yourself, because you did it, every single stroke, pedal and step.

Tom and I were very lucky to have fantastic support on what was a hard day for spectators because of our unseasonal weather. Even my ma and step-pa came to watch me for the very first time. AKJ and Andrea, Yve, Ray & Les and my ma & pa all braved the rain to shout and scream us on and without their support races just wouldn't be the same so thank you , thank you, thank you.

Time for a well earned rest day followed by an easy week and then a bit of a run focus as we head towards the Great North Run.

I'm on the mend mentally and I'm loving it :)

H. x

P.s Huge well done to Sammy who puked his way round the whole course but still finished (that's the Ironman attitude boy!) and Pauly P who managed to do the whole thing on barely any training!! and to the LBT'ers all doing LBT proud. And of course to Tom who found his swim, bike and run legs and restored his lost faith in racing hard :) always my inspiration. x

Monday, 1 September 2008

Yeah but... not but... yeah but...

Firstly I’d just like to say that I’ve written the blog in some far flung places but never at half past midnight in the car having been stuck in horrendous traffic on the M25…it doesn’t get more glamorous than this, so forgive me if it’s a short and sweet and somewhat disjointed post!!!

Anyway, why the Vicky Pollard style title? Surely the Queen of chav isn’t appearing in a triathlon near you I hear you ask. Well, it appears that myself and Ms Pollard have more than I thought in common. Thankfully I haven’t started wearing shell tracksuits and chain smoking but with my newly found bid for brain freedom I appear to have a ‘yeah but’ attitude!!! I’m reading a great book ‘The Psychology of Winning’ that is helping me understand where I am now and where I’d like to be. Being positive isn’t just about smiling in the face of bad races or being more understanding when training sessions don’t go to plan or learning how to turn negatives round. Learning about all aspects of myself have led me down a very simple path and one that comes incredibly naturally to me is my ‘yeah but’ attitude. It comes from years of being afraid of failure, of giving myself excuses in case things don’t go the way I planned. I say that sentence so many times in my general life it’s actually quite scary. I hear it now because I’ve learnt more about my inner self in the last two weeks than I ever thought possible. I’ll give you some examples. When I do well the first thing I’ll start my sentence with is… ‘Yeah but…the ladies field wasn’t strong today.’ When I do a great photographic shoot and people compliment me, what do I say… “Yeah but…that’s because I had a great model.’ When I don’t do well I never use ‘Yeah but’ I just accept my performance thinking it’s a true reflection of my ability. Get the gist? ‘Yeah but…’ fills my life with the excuses that stop me believing in myself. Last week at the Pool Triangle I used my new found positive learning and applied it for the whole 33 minutes and 58 seconds of it. I was over the moon to have pushed myself really hard to that PB and that ‘Yeah but’ hung in the back of my mind. In the past I’ve almost hated doing well and PB’ing because I’ve always thought it was through fluke rather than hard work or progress and so I take that into my next race with that very thought at the fore of my mind and true to form and utterly convinced I couldn’t possibly repeat another good performance I will fall back into doing an okay or ‘comfortable’ performance. When I don’t match or come close to what I believe is a one off it’s because I never believed I was capable of it in the first place and it’s easier for me to slip into an average unchallenged, tick the box kind of race. Scared of the challenge, scared of failing, I’ve been like this forever.

This past week was the time to see if I could start to shake my ‘Yeah but’ attitude and where better to start but at the Pool Triangle on Wednesday. Instead of ‘Yeah but’ going round and round my head as I prepared for 30+ minutes of pain I knew I was going to go as hard as I possibly could because I wanted to prove to myself that I had turned a corner both physically and mentally. It felt like a windy night as I warmed up and there was a ‘Yeah but’ just itching to come out but I stayed strong I was going to run my legs into the ground in a bid to get as close as possible to my previous weeks performance. I worked so hard I can’t tell you. I felt sick at the top of the hilliest section and thought I’d gone off too hard but still pushed every ounce of energy out of my screaming legs. I got a quick look at my watch as I approached the finish line and was shocked and elated to see 33mins just tick over to 34mins. 34.04 to be precise. The proof is in the pudding and I just served myself a whopping great wedge of ‘You did it’ pie and what a feeling that was. It felt a million times better than my PB last week because I have no ‘Yeah buts’ I only have ‘I did’ and that’s down to having an ‘I will’ attitude. So my picture this week is myself and John Coleman (super speedy cyclist) with our respective 1st Man and 1st lady prizes for being the fastest in this years Pool Triangle league.

Now all I have to do is remember how this feels and apply it to all aspects of my life. I want to be a winner and that doesn’t mean literally winning races, prizes or even the lottery. It just means I want to behave like a winner and forget my natural losers behaviour. Only time will tell but I’m doing it and it’s working.

Keep on truckin’

H. x

P.s It’s now 1.30am, we’re still in the car and 65 miles from home but we’ve just had a fantastic day at Liz Yelling’s post Olympic beach party and it was great to catch up with Liz and Martin. Both of whom are winners ;)

One lump or two....

With only six days to go until our final triathlon of the season I’m pleased to report that my cycling legs and I are once again friends :) A bit like spoilt child at a supermarket checkout, they’d thrown a massive fit and lobbed all their toys well and truly out of the pram the second I stopped feeding them refined sugars… I’m sure Super Nanny would have reprimanded me for caving in to their demands so easily but all it took was a few flapjacks and some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream!!!

If you’ve read my recent posts you’ll know that since experimenting with removing (completely) refined sugars from my diet, although my swimming and running were great, I was losing power on the bike almost by the day. Following a couple of really poor sessions where I couldn’t raise my heart rate out of the 140s I found myself rapidly approaching the National Long Distance Championships in the worst bike form of my life…

Although it’s not necasarily the best idea to make radical lifestyle changes so close to an ‘A’ race, my intention was to see how it would affect my performance through training and racing for a long distance event so that I could possibly apply the same principle to my build-up to Lanzarote. Although I would have liked to stick with my plan right through to the Vitruvian the evidence against it seemed so clear so quickly and convinced me that without refined sugar I am unable to refuel effectively when training up to three times per day. What led me to this conclusion…?

In the table below you can see my heart rate and times for the 12.65 mile hilly cycle time trial that Hels and I do on a Wednesday night. The first ride is where I set my pb (30:31) and you can see that my heart rate gradually increased throughout, to a max of 170. The second ride was two weeks later and at 32:51 was the slowest I’ve ever ridden the course. You can see from the heart rate that, although I can assure you it was a maximal effort, I was unable to raise my heart rate even to 150. This lead me to believe that my cardiovascular fitness was good but my legs had suddenly been sapped of their usual strength which they use to challenge my heart and lungs. Over the same period Helen had followed an identical training and lifestyle strategy to me, with one key difference… she had continued to include refined sugars in her diet, particularly during training. Also during the same period, she produced a massive pb to win the LBT club time trial and pb’d twice at the Pool Triangle, on the second time smashing it to pieces taking it from 35:09 to 33:58… where I was clearly doing something wrong she was even more clearly doing something very right, and with only one real difference in our lifestyle the answer to that was staring me in the face… successive high intensity bike sessions followed by a diet high in complex carbohydrates but low in refined sugars had seen my cycling muscles become depleted in glycogen (carbohydrate) and without this essential fuel they were unable to produce significant power…

That was my best educated guess at least, but there was only one way to find out the truth… in order to allow my legs to recover I reintroduced refined sugars through things like energy bars, sports drinks and flapjacks and although continuing to run and cycle my challenging sessions where confined to the swimming pool. Following ten days of this I would then return to the Pool Triangle with the hope of seeing my heart and lungs once again pushed to their limit… If my theory was incorrect however, I’d be ten days out from the Vitruvian with a serious problem….

Warming up on Wednesday night, listening to the most motivational tracks my ipod had to offer, I was as focused as I have ever been. Although I don’t really get nervous I was really apprehensive about how the session would go and knew that within the first mile my heart rate monitor would give me all the information I needed… Within a minute or so of the start my legs were screaming but my lungs were also burning and my heart rate was 160… it was great to be back at top speed and loving the feeling of pushing myself to the limit. Crossing the finish line after 30 minutes and 40 seconds I’d ridden my second fastest time ever and beaten all of the times I rode last year. My target for this year has been to maintain my bike speed whilst building on my swim and run… it’s been a bit of a roller coaster, but as the season comes to an end I seem to have achieved that goal… we’ll find out on Saturday ;)

I like to state my goals prior to a big race as it helps me to commit to them on the day. My performance at the Vitruvian last year was (and still is) probably, in terms of time, my best ever in triathlon. However, I am a stronger athlete this year and am therefore looking for improvement in at least two out of the three disciplines… last year I swam 32 minutes, biked 2:17 and ran 1:25 for a 4:16 and 20th overall. Depending on conditions, this year I’m after 30 minutes, 2:15 and 1:23 respectively for something close to 4:10 and a top 15 placing.

I’ll leave you with a great quote from AJ Acosta on a recent Competitor Radio podcast

“I don't care if he's the inter-galactic champion of the world, I'm still going to give it my all"

See you next week,


p.s. apologies for any typo's etc but as you can see it's not 3am on Monday morning, we've only just walked in the door (massive traffic jam on the M25) and we're up for work in just over four hours.