Sunday, 26 October 2008

Training thoughts...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you next week,


Inspiration...aspiration and some perspiration...

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

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

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

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

Time for bed?  Definitely.

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

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

H. x

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

Sunday, 19 October 2008


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

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

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

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

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

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

Believe, believe, believe...

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

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

H. x


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

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

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

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

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

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

Total 9:58

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

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

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

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


Sunday, 12 October 2008

True competitors...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speak soon,


Fear in the round...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consistence is incompatible with failure.

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

H. x

Sunday, 5 October 2008

One long hard challenging season.... DONE!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

....and resssssssssssssstttttttttttt....

The pic above I took as we travelled back from the Great North Run today and it probably sums up the next month for me quite nicely. Having just spent the weekend in my home town for the run and the last real focus of the year we have returned happy, tired and ready for the dawning of a new day/month. Today closes all mental and physical challenges and tomorrow we begin a month of rest and recovery.

I'm happy with my race today. I pb'd for the course running 1.33.29. Having been injured for it last year I can only compare it to the year before that when I ran 1.36. This year I had no idea of the kind of running shape I was in, as the only thing I could compare my times too were the runs off the bike in the latest triathlons I'd done...not quite the same as running stand alone!

I ran on feel as opposed to letting my mile splits determine whether I should be running faster or slower and it worked. I felt strong, relaxed and in control and waited until mile ten before I started testing myself properly. So, I'm over the moon and on a flat course I think there's a sub 1.30 in me. It was also really nice to see the coast line of South Shields and hear many a Geordie voice along the way.

So, I'm looking forward to starting November fresh and eager as we begin our Ironman journey on the road to Lanzarote. October will be a refreshing and much needed mental and physical recovery . There are things I will have to put in place to make sure I don't fall by the wayside in the next few weeks. The first step of that is to be in bed in less than three minutes and for fear of writing another uninspiring post (Brother) I shall take my weary self off to sleep now and write about my plans next week.

Sometimes the most urgent thing you can possibly do is take a complete rest

Night night...

H. x