Sunday, 30 November 2008


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

H. x

Negative assumptions....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you soon,


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

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Inspiration Sir? Yes please....

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

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

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

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

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

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

Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try. Anon

H. x

I love winter....

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

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

"Champions are made in the winter"

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

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

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

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

See you soon,

T x

Sunday, 16 November 2008


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

any idea Jevon?

Every second counts...

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

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

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

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

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

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

H. x


Sunday, 9 November 2008

Back on track...

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you in seven ;)

Hels & Tom. 

Sunday, 2 November 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Anyway, it's good to be back :)

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

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

See you in seven,

T & H