Tuesday, 29 December 2009


Our title says it all... for the first time in the three years we've been blogging we missed a Sunday deadline!

Christmas has a serious talent for jumbling the days of the week up and before we knew where we were it was Monday!

This time last year Tom and I just got married, honeymooned in Miami, returned home for a fairly unceremonious Christmas and then disappeared off to Lanzarote for one of the hardest training camps of our lives. What a way to start 2009... exhillarated but exhausted!

Twenty-ten is going to be a whole new year and a very different year. If there's one thing we won't be starting the year with it will be fatigue. On Boxing Day Tom and I love to run the Chevin Chase, a 6.9 mile challenging off-road run. Last year having just returned from the States we had our worst ever races on the Chevin. Jet lag and the general malaise from our honeymoon weren't really the best prescription for a good race. This year we went into it in much better condition, following a wonderfully relaxed Christmas with plenty of key run sessions. Regular readers will know we've both struggled a little with our usual commitment to the pool and for Tom on his bike, however running races have been going well and this year's Chase (albeit it an icy snowy challenge) was a huge improvement on last year will both of us placing higher than 12 months ago, and it felt great to race on strong legs even if they were a little too full of quality street.

So, we're putting the finishing touches to 2009 with way too much chocolate, mince pies and the kind of food I might as well just clag to my hips. Unfortunately moderation wasn't one of the gifts from Santa this year, however we have managed to get out and put a fair few running miles in.

At the minute I'm sitting typing this at my mum's house in South Shields with a full tummy and a DVD on the box. Tomorrow we're back to Leeds and counting down the days to January the 1st and the start of an exciting year.

See you in 2010 with some really exciting news,

H (& T) x

Sunday, 20 December 2009

A bump in the road...

There's something about December... every year I spend November motivated to the absolute max, getting stuck into my routine and flying towards Christmas ready to start the new year in the shape of my life... only to come to a grinding halt come month number twelve! There's just something about this month, no matter how hard I try I'm completely unable to listen to my alarm clock, ignore my lazy streak or avoid the chocolate box! This year, as if my own yule tide will power (or lack of) wasn't enough of a spanner in the athletic works I seem to have developed some kind of repetitive strain injury which is causing me a reasonable amount of discomfort through both arms when swimming and cycling. According to my good friend and physio extraordinaire Ove it's likely to be caused by too much time at my computer with bad posture... so less work and more training should do the trick then ;) In all seriousness it seems to be aggravated by swimming so I've not been in the pool for a week and will probably avoid it for another couple, cycling isn't great so other than a pre-crimbo long ride with Ben G scheduled for this Wednesday I'll be keeping off two wheels for a while. In an attempt to fix the problem I'll be partaking in a little sports massage, thinking constantly about my posture, particularly when tapping away on a keyboard, and booking an appointment with Ove asap. I've been working with a few athletes recently and have been emphasising the fact that the priority, for those people with summer goals, should be above anything else to arrive in 2010 injury free, healthy and good to go. For the moment then I'll be shelving my plans for swim PBs and bike miles in favour of a little more running and a lot more recovering. What makes things really hard is that not only do I really want to be swimming and biking there's actually nothing stopping me... except for common sense and the knowledge that if I start 2010 super fit but injured I'll be unlikely to reach the spring whereas if I compromise a little match fitness for a great foundation from which to build toward Lanzarote then 2010 will no doubt be rather special.

On the flip side of course is that running seems to be going really well at the moment... I've seen the light with regards shoes and have swapped my super heavy and somewhat clumpy Mizuno Wave Nirvanas for the lighter and somewhat smoother Mizuno Wave Inspires. For years I've avoided anything approaching lightweight shoes due to fear of getting injured but as I've said a few times, this year is about taking the odd risk in order to maximise speed. I've also got stuck into my Tuesday night tempo run and Thursday evening track sessions (12 x 400 off 2:30) and am enjoying feeling fast for the first time in quite a while. I won't bore you with the stats but due to the track being closed this week I repeated an interval session not done since this time last year and ran far quicker than 12 months ago. This morning we raced cross country with our tri club and again I was both surprised and pleased to finish a little closer to the pointy end than I'm used to. The big test of course will come on Boxing Day when H and I line up for the Chevin Chase, where my best performance came two years ago with 45:59 and 34th place...

At that I'll wish you a very happy Christmas and fall back into my December comfort zone ;)


p.s. today's pic comes from yesterday morning's parkrun where a few like minded people came together a demonstrated that with the right attitude and a little bit of teamwork great things can be achieved :)

Team work...

Another lung busting, leg burning cross country challenge today. Why oh why do they hurt so much?! Is it because it's off road and I don't run off road very much or is it because you know you're not running for yourself but you're running for your team? (see above pic). Leeds and Bradford Tri Club has some very strong athletes and it's great at this time of year to all get together and be running for each other as opposed to against each other. I love it. I love being part of a team, I think that's why I love parkrun so much. It's really not about the time. Of course I have my own personal goals and times I'd like to break but I just love seeing the glee on newcomers faces for doing something they've never done before and knowing they'll be back for more. Being an athlete shouldn't be defined by speed, but by dedication. Not even dedication to a team, but dedication to one's-self. A commitment to move out of a comfort zone and try something new and challenging.

My training's in a bit of a funny place at the minute. I'm not training very consistently due to work commitments and general Christmas busy-ness and that means I'm not in a very good routine to slot training in and then this has a knock on effect because I can't be bothered to do it when I can't do it at my usual time!! I'm actually in good nick at the minute though and that's just enough to keep me hitting the roads for my key sessions so my fitness hasn't gone down the pan thankfully and I'm really pleased with today's run, 7th lady home. Yesterday I had planned to try and nail my 5km time to squeeze under the 20min barrier but the snow and ice put pay to that as I slid around the course in 22mins and 2 seconds. Still, it's out there waiting for me to cough up my lungs in an attempt to pb, I'm just not sure when that will be, I'd have loved to have done it before the end of 2009 but we're marshalling the next one on Boxing day and will be away for the week after so 2010 it shall be.

Tom's mum and step-dad Ray are here for a few days and it's lovely. I knew from the second they arrived that finally the Christmas festivites could commence. The mince pies have been cracked open and the house has been Christmas-ified with a little fat tree and the cosy glow of the Christmas lights, it's great to spend time with them (even though we did drag them to Temple Newsam to stand in minus temperatures this morning while we threw ourselves round the fields!)

Tonight we're off to the cinema to see Where The Wild Things Are so I must go and get ready... ahhhhh throw another log on the fire and pass me a Quality Street will you :)

Happy Christmas one and all.

H x

Daily pix still here and here.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

It's the most wonderful time of the year....

As I near the end of the year I can feel the draw of Christmas joy (usually found in boxes of Quality Street!!) Parties are happening and celebrations of a year gone by are nearly upon us. In fact this time last year Tom & I were approaching our wedding day and a whole year of events and mammoth training sessions which I'll never forget! I'll save the look back on 2009 for another post but today I can feel a change in the air. Something about 2010 and it's speedy approach is very appealing. I chose the above pic (taken at our very good friend Jevon's place) because I feel like 2010 is a new dawning for both of us. Tom's so excited about his new projects it's already like Christmas in our house. I love it, and I can't wait for the whole thing to take off.

Life is good... really good. I'm really looking forward to running regularly with our mate Russell and hoping that his speediness will drag me through to my 2010 desires. I think it'll be really good for both of us to do our long marathon training runs together. I'm so used to doing a lot of my training on my own, especially running, that it will be a nice change to have someone to go through the highs and lows of those long, cold Winter training runs with.

Work is going so well that I'm frightened to jinx it. I've got some fantastic shoots lined up and I'm loving dipping back into the world of TV every now and then. The exhibition project couldn't be going better. I'll be ready to spill ALL info about it for those interested at the beginning of January but I do know that the date will be 3rd February 2010 in Leeds at Salvo's restaurant. The rest of the details etc will be posted like I say early January. I've had an awful lot of interest in my little pictures and am very excited to see them all printed and framed.

Christmas in the Williams household will be a cosy relaxed affair and I can't wait to get my teeth into the Chevin Chase on Boxing Day. Last year I ran like a mule (having just returned the day before from our honeymoon in Miami). A no pressure almost guaranteed improvement from last year, I like it! Followed up by a great afternoon (as is tradition) at the Kennedy household et. al.

So, the clock is ticking, it's Saturday night and tomorrow we celebrate being married a whole year. Time to sign off cyber world and sign into celebrations :) :) :)

Happy Winter training peeps, keep up the good work and do a few bike miles for me seeing as I'm no longer friends with my bike. Anyone want a Quintana Roo Lucero race machine???!!!

Daily pix still here and here.

I'm off to spend time with my wunnerful husband :)

H x

Three hundred and sixty five days...

Tomorrow is mine and H's first wedding anniversary and it seems almost impossible to believe that a whole year has passed since we promised the world to each other in front of our nearest and dearest. Our friend Jevon wrote a wonderful blog entry about the passing of time only last week and here I am, flicking through our wedding pics, wondering just the same things.

Sitting here considering what to write there are many wonderful experiences I could reminisce about and even more exciting adventures in store for year two but for me it's all about the next 24 hours...

Our friend Lisa P bought us a terramundi money pot as a wedding present and for the last 365 days we've gradually filled it with gold coins... tomorrow morning we'll be cracking him open and heading off to Swinton Park Hotel in North Yorkshire to treat ourselves to some well deserved 'us' time. We're fortunate in that we have loads of things in common and really do love spending time together. Although I've never added up the hours (surprising considering my love of stats!) I'm sure that out of every 24 we're within touching distance of each other for well over half.... but... and it's a BIG but... it's probably not that often that those precious seconds, as all seconds are, are spent simply on us. If we're not swimming, biking or running with someone we'll be skypeing, facebooking or tweeting, H might be photographing people and I might be standing in front of people... in the rare moments that we aren't filling one or more of those roles we're probably steeling precious time to visit friends or family or maybe plotting our next steps on this wonderful journey through life. There's even the odd random day, take today for example where I spent the morning in the company of 200 people dressed up as Santa Claus as they ran laps round our local park. Of the last 365 days though, I wonder how many seconds out of our yearly budget of 31,536,000 we actually spent as just us? H is without a doubt the single most important part of my life yet, thinking about it, despite the hundreds and hundreds of hours we spend together the amount of time we spend truly and simply on ourselves, and absolutely positively nothing else, is minimal... at best! I'm sure that's one of my main motivations for long training hours... a 5k swim, 100 mile bike or 20 mile run with H is pretty close to 'just us', certainly closer than most will ever manage... but there's always a clock, heart rate or training partner ensuring that three is most definitely a crowd.


In an hour or so we'll be falling into bed and just before we embark on our final sleep before December the 13th we'll be turning off our phones, unplugging our computers and locking away all our training gear... none of which will see the light of day until we wake up on December the 14th. Tomorrow we'll each be spending every single second of our allotted 86,400 on just us, totally disconnected from the big wide world... just us... 172,800 seconds, very well spent.

Time... how do you spend yours?

See you in 604,800 ticks of the clock,


Sunday, 6 December 2009

Two steps forward and one step back...

It's easy when writing a blog about training to only talk about the good times, paper over the not so good times and make out like you're never injured or ill and pb for fun on a daily basis. The bloggers I most admire however are those who are honest and not only praise themselves when they do well but also let everyone know when things are slightly off course. If there's one thing that I've learnt during my journey from couch potato to Ironman athlete it's that no matter how fit or fast you get there will still be plenty of time where you're not on the proverbial ball and for whatever reason (sometimes 'just because') you feel like you're going backwards. I vividly remember watching an Ironman for the first time (Lanza 2005) having never even seen a triathlon and thinking that these 1,500 super athletes must surely feel like Buzz Lightyear 24/7, never have an off day and float around permanently in some kind of zen like state of uber fitness. Four and a half years later and with five Ironman finishes in the bank I'm sorry to say that that couldn't be farther from the truth... in fact with an opportunity to test your physical form pretty much every week and an easily accessible diary of lifetime best performances it's easy to feel less fit than ever before.

Before I outline what has felt like a somewhat below par week on my iron journey I'd like to point out that I'm doing this not because I'm particularly worried nor because I could do with a little tinternet based support... I just think it might help anyone who's not quite hitting their targets at the moment and ease the 'I don't feel like my training's working and I'm never going to get any better' wobbles... if there was ever a time when outcomes mean nothing and the process means everything then December is that time.

As H has said in her blog we've both been unusually busy recently, and I'm not sure we coped that well with the transition from low training volume and work loads in late summer / autumn through to a return to full training and increased work demands from the beginning of November. Arriving at our mate Jevon's place last Friday my mind was full of to-do's that hadn't been to-do'd and my body was creaking under the strain of four good training weeks on the bounce. A Saturday and Sunday respectively comprising of five hours in the saddle (most of which were spent hanging on to Jevon's back wheel) and a very hilly ten mile running race at max effort, either side of a double helping of curry, beer and chocolate took me into this week with not only broken legs and lungs but also will power. I am pretty good at backing it off though so both Monday's sessions were canned and it quickly became a rest day, Tuesday morning's swim suffered the same fate as did everything on Wednesday. By the time I got to Thursday morning's swim, which was due to include a max effort 400, I was feeling rather flat and with completely the wrong mental attitude only managed a 400 warm-up, 4 x 50m and half of the aforementioned 400 before pulling the pin mid length (number 9 if you're interested), walking (yes walking) back to the side and storming off in a sulk! Thursday evening's run never happened and then Friday became a rest day... well, I had done at least 60 minutes of training up to that point and I'd hate to over do it! So, that made five days where eight sessions were scheduled and only one and a bit were completed, I hadn't even got on my bike and with a 400m swim pb of 5:32 to beat I'd thrown my toys well and truly out of my #winterswim pram when five seconds down at half-way.

Suddenly my dreams of one final season of Ironman glory felt about as likely as Yorkshire not producing the next triathlon world Champion!

It's funny really, no matter how experienced you are it only takes a couple of off days to create feelings of doubt and consign recent feelings of returning fitness to the depths of your most distant memory banks. My point being that it's important to realise that to improve consistently week on week for more than a month or so is impossible for all but the most chemically enhanced amongst us and in order to take a giant leap forward it's necessary to take plenty of small steps backwards along the way. I'd also be willing to bet that pre-Christmas fitness (in relation to lifetime best) is inversely related to race season fitness (in relation to lifetime best). I know for a fact that this week I've been less motivated, slower, felt less fit and generally been more grumpy than this time last month.. but I also know for a fact that come the start of race season proper I'll be firing on all cylinders.

So, if you're worried that things aren't quite on track at the moment and you're experiencing the odd yuletide swim, bike and/or run arse kicking (even it's it's from your own training diary) then fear not... the proverbial boot will be on the proverbial other foot when it comes to the proverbial showtime ;)

Have confidence in your process and I'll see you in the summer,

T ;)

P.S. I think I may have set a lifetime PB for most analogies and proverbialisms (is that a word?) in a single blog entry?

P.P.S. Thanks to my running club friends for dragging me out of my somewhat slack week by way of five very hilly and very very muddy miles of 'doing it for the team' max effort ;)

Winter legs...

One thing I have noticed is that when things aren't in place and organised my brain goes to mush, my motivation to train disappears and my nutritional strategy goes up the swanny!

Tag team illnesses between myself and Tom have meant I've not been in the swing of training for a few weeks and that tiny dent in our usual orderly routine has thrown me out of kilter. Combined with my ever increasing work load (which is brilliant & I'm loving it), I discovered that if things aren't in place then something has to give. This week it's been the sessions that I don't class as key. Still, I don't like it and come tomorrow morning now that I've spent a week making to-do lists and organising my time better I should be able to to get back into my routine.

Winter is certainly here and I'm showing my legs the Winter way. I'm loving the cross country series that we're doing. It's great to run as part of a team and being able to run in two leagues means I get to run with Virgin Active Road Runners and Leeds & Bradford Triathlon, awesome. I threw myself up hill and down dale yesterday getting caked in mud for 5miles of pain & fun. I'm hoping the benefit of doing the cross country series is going to pay me back in Spring and fingers crossed eventually getting that sub 20min 5km time at parkrun!! I've not had a chance to have an assault on it for about 3 or 4 weeks and plan the 19th as my next chance.

I got out for 16miles today. Just to remind myself that I can still run long and really enjoyed that time on my own, ipod in, 8 undulating miles out and 8 back, negative split - running 1:06 out returning in 1:01, that's a good sign for me, I've not run longer than 13miles since The Vitruvian in September so I'm pleased I could average sub 8min mile today.

SO now that order has been restored. Life is back on track, the house no longer looks like Hansel & Gretel have been throwing crumbs all over it in a bid to escape and come tomorrow I have no excuses for why I NEED that chocolate bar or why I'm too tired to do that training session. My brain is de-cluttered...lovely :)

'Til next week....

H. x

Daily pix still here and here...

Sunday, 29 November 2009

The masterplan...

With Christmas fast approaching and Lanza getting closer by the day I though it was about time I laid out my race / training plans from now till then, partly because you guys might be interested and partly because I need to know myself...

Ironman Lanzarote is on the 23rd of May (25 weeks yesterday) and despite me having several equally important races after that it will be approached as if it was the one and only 'A' race of 2010. The only way to give something truly 100% is to give it truly 100% so I'll start thinking about the Outlaw on Sunday the 24th :)


December 26th - Chevin Chase (entered) - A super hilly seven mile cross-country race, I've done it quite a few times and never quite got it right. This year I'm really keen to do well and confident that a number of XC races in the build-up should see me good. Best ever result was in 2007 with 45:59 and 34th out of 814.

January 24th - Brass Monkey (entered) - My favourite half marathon of all time, I've run it for the last five or so years and broke 80 minutes there (first and only time) with 1:19:35 for 37th out of 1,280. As with all my 2010 races I've got no time (outcome) goals but expect to hit the start line in my best ever condition ;)

February 27th - March 7th - Lanzarote Training Camp (to be confirmed) - Like 2009 I'm keen to find some winter sun and a few of us are looking to sort a self-supported Ironman camp, nothing's confirmed yet but something like 500 miles of cycling, 50 miles of running and several open water swims should fit nicely into a well organised week.

March 14th - Yorkshire Road Club 10 Mille TT Champs (to be confirmed) - My newly joined road cycling club have their ten mile time trial champs early in the year and what better way to get focused and fast ;)

March 27th - Big Cow Duathlon (to be confirmed) - Having just spent the weekend with our great friends the O'Neills, Jevon seems to have found a suitable compensation to missing my favourite duathlon in the world (the spring Ballbuster, we'll be in Lanza) with this nice 4.5k / 16k / 4.2k effort. I'd not normally travel for such a short event but with a great looking cycle sportive the next day it could make a great weekend of training...

March 28th - Team MK 100 Mile Sportive (to be confirmed) - Following the previous day's max heart rate uber-sprint I'll be looking to jump onto the road bike and give it everything over 100 miles of rolling English countryside.

April 4th - Circuit of the Dales Hilly 50 TT (date and entry to be confirmed) - This super hilly 50 mile time trial has been going for over 50 years and boasts past winners such as Chris Boardman and our great friend Carl Saint, it was also my first ever TT back in 2006. It's a good 20 minutes slower than a fast course but with a pb of 2:32 (compared to my 1:58 for a flat 50) and having recorded my first ever DNS there this year I've certainly got unfinished business ;)

April 25th - London Marathon (entered) - I've done run London five or six times and having passed on it this year I just couldn't resist sticking my name down for 2010. It's only four weeks from Lanza so I'll not be having a go at my pb (2:49 in 2008) but again I should be in my best ever shape so it'll do for my last and longest training run and a nice 2:58 will give me 'good for age' entry for 2011 & 2012.

May 23rd - Ironman Lanzarote (entered) - This is it, possibly my last ever official mdot race and I intend to go out in style. This year I finished in 10:20:20 and 89th out of 1,052 male finishers... in 2010 I'll be stronger, faster, lighter and will certainly race harder... watch this space ;)

Other than that I'll be doing XC races for my running club on the 5th of December, 17th of January and 31st of January and for my tri club on the 20th of December, 10th of January, 31st of January and 21st of February. I'll also be racing parkrun whenever possible and slotting in plenty of long training rides and the usual mega-brick bike/run sessions with Mr Ben G ;) Not to mention competing against my wonderful wife in #winterswim (we're level on points at the moment) and running hard every week with Dave 'Mad Dog' McGuire.

Sounds good?

Finally... today's picture is courtesy of Martyn Loach and is from a brilliantly organised hilly ten mile running race that H, Jevon and I did this morning. I'm not sure where I came but I gave it everything and managed a slight negative split on the two lap course to finish in 64:36... onwards ;)



We've just returned from a weekend with our very good friends The O'Neill family. In the past our days together have tended to be training fests... days are spent toiling on our bikes, running up random hills for miles and even competing with Jevon's youngest daughter Alice in the pool. This weekend was a little more leisurely...well for me. In fact I'd go as far to say I had a lazy weekend which was great but I'm feeling a little like Tinkerbelle (see above pic) their rabbit, their large cute cuddly rabbit) as in so well looked after, kept warm and cosy while the weather's rubbish outside and a little over indulged!

It's always great to get away for the weekend especially when it's to spend time with lovely people who are on the same wavelength. I had planned to run on Saturday while the boys went out for a long ride but was way too warm and cosy in a house full of life with two teenage girls springing around and the company of Jevon's wife Fiona. How could I resist the luxury of a boy free day! Thankfully the fact that we had all entered the Pednor 10 mile race held today (Sunday) and only just round the corner from them meant I didn't need to feel too guilty...until curry was ordered in and scoffed before we hit the cinema room in their house, and then copious amounts of chocolate were consumed whilst watching 'Burn After Reading', a rather odd Cohen Brothers film. Curry, film, chocolate, what great fuel for race day I thought.

This morning arrived and a little down on our usual 8hrs kip we peeled ourselves out of bed for an early breakfast. Having eaten enough chocolate to keep me going until next Christmas I didn't really need any more food but I threw down a bowl of cereal and off we went into Pednor in the rain to see what our little legs were going to do. Jevon's plan was to take it easy round the course (2 x 5mile loops) and if his calf or back started to give him jip he was going to can it. 2 miles in and I could hear the little bugger (actually big bugger would be more accurate) and there he was, running strong which is remarkable considering their 80mile ride the previous day coupled with his running niggles which have prevented him from getting out on the road. I felt okay, my legs felt strong but I felt a bit sick and so on the hilliest section Jevon was no longer at my side as he ploughed up the steepest section of the run. I managed to keep him in sight and caught up on the first downhill section but with his easy first lap plan still in play he got even stronger on the second and left me for dead as he hit the 5 mile mark. A small field and no one around made it a little difficult to not switch off, and a few times I had to remind myself I was in a race not bimbling round Pednor house hunting! 73mins later on an undulating course and 3rd lady home it was over, time to hit Starbucks and top up that already full sugar level!

A weekend of indulgence with friends and my husband and a race to boot, wonderful. Thanks guys.

This weekend coming I was looking forward to hitting parkrun and seeing how close to the 19/20min mark I could get but I'm going to have to wait ANOTHER week as our cross country race falls on Saturday, so it'll have to wait until the 12th before I can see if I've got a tiny bit faster... I've got people to catch!!!

Time for bed, I've now got a weekend's worth of chocolate to sleep off... I could be some time!

H. x

Daily pix still here and here.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Easy as ABC... and sometimes D!

Having legged it round the Leeds Abbey Dash 10k this morning in a close to pb 37:51 (H also ran a 'close to pb' time with 41:45) then chilled out over a celebratory coffee with some great friends and training partners we popped home for a quick change into our Sunday best in time to sit down for the annual Yorkshire Road (cycling) Club (YRC) Christmas luncheon at 12:30. As last year we had a great time in great company, our friend Carl Saint was guest of honour having won the World Tricycle Time Trial Championships earlier this year (well done mate) and we spent a few hours surrounded by amazing history and heritage... today's photo was first awarded in 1899 (yes, that's 110 years ago) for winning the YRC 12 hour time trial champs with a distance of 192 miles!

That finished at around 4.30 and with our running club's equivalent event due to kick off at 5.30 this evening at our favourite Indian restaurant in Leeds we've nipped home to grab a couple of things and I thought I'd take ten minutes to start the week's blog ;)

Time's up.... back in a couple of hours...

Wow, what an amazing evening! In total we had 29 runners competing in the Abbey Dash this morning and 40 dressed up smart at the Aagrah tonight. We're only a little running club but what we lack in size we more than make up for in commitment, enthusiasm and laughter. It's something I've been involved in since moving to Leeds in 2001 and despite the best efforts of our hosts to stick the proverbial spanner in we've gone from strength to strength over the years and with 2010 just round the corner are looking forward to exciting times.

I was planning to waffle on about something boring like how I classify my races into A, B, C and D categories and what each of those means (hence today's title) but having spent the entire day in the company of more inspirational people than I ever knew existed I'll save that for another day...

For now I'd just like to say thanks to everyone who motivates me every single day, most of whom probably never realise it. I'm fortunate enough be involved with quite a few different groups of people, who are interested in two things... 1) achieving exciting things and 2) helping others to achieve exciting things. It's got to the stage where I seem to know quite a few people with this same positive outlook on life and it seemed that all of them were either running the Abbey Dash this morning or standing at the side of Kirkstall Road as we all went by. Running the 5k back into town from Kirkstall Abbey there seemed to be a constant shout of 'go on Tom' and with every one of those I found the strength to turn it up just that little bit. I was really going for it today and got myself in a bit of a zone but believe me I heard every single shout and they absolutely made the difference.

Most of the people I hang out with now didn't know me when I was in my twenties but believe me when I say that parkrun, Run Club, LBT, this blog and even the exciting new #winterswim have changed my life more than you could possibly imagine... and if you've been part of any of those great adventures in even the smallest way then I owe YOU a massive THANKS.

See you next week,


Today I'll be mostly 'Dashing'...

'Tis early-ish o'clock and I'm writing this now because today must be our most eventful day in our social calendar and there will be no other gaps left available apart from the one where I fall into bed when we get in tonight.

In an hr and 45mins I'll be legging it up Kirkstall Road and back with a few thousand other folk to see what my little legs can run 10km's in. I actually have no idea. I know I've been running shortish 20mins for Parkrun but could I sustain the same effort for double the distance? Errrrmm....not if you want to see me cough up a lung. SO, I'm quite excited to see what I do have, I guess I'll know in 2.5hrs!!

I've had another mixed bag of training this week. As you know I've had laryngitis and to accompany that I've had the most annoying tickly cough known to man. The throat thing...not a problem, no pain, no flu symptoms, just strained and poorly vocal chords. Cough... more of a problem. Coughing fits in the middle of the night for nothing other than that bloody tickle. So another week of fairly light training but my treadmill session on Tuesday evening's is still progressing and I'm really pleased with how that's going. I swam really well on Thursday with my fastest set of 200's and that feels great to be getting faster. I'm just having to take a few steps back before heading forwards again. I thought I'd overcome the whole throat, cough thing until I woke myself up at 2.30am this morning with yet another annoying tickly coughing fit. What's a girl to do?! I feel absolutely fine which is great. I've had another two extra rest days and hope that that's me and illness done :) No more cough I say!

It's our running club awards ceremony tonight which I'm really looking forward to. The club has gone from strength to strength and we see newcomers all of the time. I'm really looking forward to seeing our sea of red and white Virgin Active Road Club running vests today and then celebrating our year of running with them all tonight, we have an awesome bunch of mixed abilities and personalities, fantastic.

Right, I've got much to do and time waits for no man... time for me to get this head and these legs prepared for 41+mins of pain... I'll keep you posted.

Daily pix still here and here...

H x

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Stop...and Go!!!

After five years of training for Ironman and gradually building our bodies to be strong enough to cope with regular 20+ hour weeks of solid training it's easy to see why you can become blind to the stresses and strains your body still has to go through even though you become mentally and physically immune to the demands you place upon it day after day, week after week.

When I first started training for Austria in 2007, it was a slow build. I was stressing my body little by little and seeing how it could cope with the longer sessions. The same for Tom too. Eventually we hit this year with the ability to train really hard and really long without injury or illness and compete in two Ironman events within 7 weeks of each other. A great testament to how well our bodies had adapted over time to the necessary demands. And also great testament to how we treated our bodies in terms of nutrition and sleep to allow those injury few years to happen.

A comment left on Tom's joint blog last weekend however, has really given me food for thought this week. Our good friend Gabriel commented on Tom's lack of injury... 'You don't seem to get injured like me which helps me back off the workload when I am nearing my limit.'

It's made me think an awful lot about how I felt this year and what I could have done to have improved my perfomances, afterall my training was as consistent as one would hope and I suffered no injuries, neither did Tom. But did the fact that we allowed our bodies to soak up high volume day after day, week after week actually work against us in some way as opposed to for us?? Would a few days of enforced rest due to the odd snivel or tight muscle have allowed a few more extra recovery hours to give us that extra bit of 'zap' that I feel we both lacked this season?? Interesting words me thinks and Gabriel's comment has truly hit a note for me.

On Sunday evening while I was working last weekend I started the hideous process of coming down with gastroenteritis. On Monday I was forced to lie on the sofa in my dressing gown for fear of not being near a loo. On Tuesday I was 'fixed' and trained, did a light swim in the am and then did my harder treadmill session followed by run club on Tuesday evening. On Wednesday I had to fit my longer run in early in the morning due to work commitments etc and so I ran 13miles. I thought I'd had a 24hr bug and was amazed that I had woken up on Tuesday feeling so fine, albeit a little 'empty'! Off I went and trained hard on Thursday too. However, on Friday I had the beginnings of a sore throat and on Saturday morning I decided not to train. By yesterday afternoon I started loosing my voice and now as I type this I'm practically mute. Time for me to think about Gabriel's comment. Is this enforced rest the thing that is going to give me my zap back? Laryngitis is a viral thing I think and god only knows where I've picked it up from but actually I think I'm happy I have. Monday's gastroenteritis was the first time I've been ill this year. Nobody likes being ill (especially not the athletic type) but I do think there are nuggets in Gabriel's observation) and I'm hoping this means my body is not as strong as it was over the beginning of the year and the result of that will mean I come back a little fresher. I see that I should have given my body more time to recover from the stomach bug on Monday before resuming training as usual but that's the typical old Ironman in me. I'd be interested to know what you think? Do you never get injured or ill allowing you to never back it off? Or do you suffer from the odd niggle or snivel but always come back stronger? Answers on a postcard...

Today's post is a joint blog because the true 'writer' in the Williams household is in the middle of writing a feature for Triathlon Plus. Tom's just had his first piece published in this months edition and it's fantastic to see his great skills on the published page! Here's to many more :)

Time to take my silent voice out for a stroll in the woods for some fresh air. I haven't trained for two days which would usually make me grizzly and unbearable to be around. Gabriels' off the cuff remark appears to have worked wonders, but if I don't come back like Usain Bolt there'll be hell to pay ;)

Happy Winter training guys.

H x

Daily pix still here and here.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

The year ahead...

With H off doing her 'luvvie' thing this weekend in Northumberland (she's shooting stills on the latest ITV drama) this is going to be somewhat of a joint blog. Tim posted a great question on my last entry so I thought I'd try and answer it here by way of a season plan of both of us...

Lets start with H... regular readers will know that Hels has put Ironman to bed and will be focusing mostly on running. She really wants to work on building her photography business and with that comes a reduction in the time available to train. This season she averaged around 20 hours per week with plenty of 25 hour plus blocks thrown in for good measure but for the 09/10 season we're planning to half that volume to around 10-15 weekly hours. Rather than seeing a corresponding drop in performance levels she'll be looking to hit around 8-10 hours running per week and fitting in swim sessions and the odd bike when time allows. Although her multi-sport performance will likely drop she should be able to knock off a few long-standing run PBs. It's unlikely that H will do any triathlons next year but that will depend largely on how much bike she gets in over the winter, she's been super busy at work recently so may well only get out a couple of times per month. We are aiming to keep a minimal level of cycling in her programme a) as it's a great way to build leg strength and muscular endurance with minimal impact and b) we haven't ruled out the odd duathlon or maybe tri in 2010. There will however be plenty of swimming, simply because she really enjoys it and having gone from a non-swimmer to sub six minutes for 400 it would seem a shame to stop. November and December will be treated very much as training months and although there will be plenty of road and XC races they'll be trained through. Her first 'A' race is going to be the Brass Monkey half-marathon on January the 24th, probably followed by the Silverstone half in March and then the Virgin London Marathon on April the 25th. In between those there will be a load of smaller local races to keep the competitive fires burning and of course there will be regular outings to our very own Leeds parkrun. At the moment we're not looking past London for H... one of the great things about running is that with the exception of a couple of super popular races there's no need to plan your season years in advance. She may look to do an autumn marathon but with plenty to choose from we can leave that till after London.

What about me?

The question that Tim posed was 

"I'm interested to hear your plans for next year involving the Outlaw. Specifically since you'll qualify for Kona at Lanzarote will you train/peak for the outlaw and race it or use it as a training day or a long swim bike?'

Firstly, thanks for the vote of confidence mate :) Despite the title of our blog Kona is no longer the driving force for me that it once was, yes I'd really love to race there, but events of this year have reminded me that it really isn't the holy grail that it's made out to be (for age-groupers at least). Although I would be disappointed if I missed the cut again, my final season of Ironman certainly won't be judged, be me at least, on whether I get to the Hawaii or not. I wouldn't even call it a goal anymore really, my focus for Lanzarote is to get to the start line in the best shape of my life and execute the best race of my life... I'm determined to focus on the process this year rather than the outcome. The Outlaw will receive the same treatment, as will a third (and final) Ironman if it happens. I do definitely intend to give the Outlaw everything in terms of training and racing ;)

I've always wanted to race a UK based Iron distance event but having spectated at IMUK several times I certainly don't have enough faith in the organisers to deliver an event deserving the five months of blood sweat and tears that it takes to get there. To be honest I'd given up hope but then up stepped the guys at One Step Beyond with their new 'Outlaw Triathlon', I just couldn't resist the opportunity to race an event like this in what will hopefully be really great shape (I'm confident that their ability to deliver an event is somewhat better than their ability to choose a decent name for an event!). 

So, with the Outlaw well and truly on the schedule that left me with Ironman Lanzarote on May the 23rd, the Outlaw on August the 8th and possibly Hawaii on October the 9th. That obviously makes three Iron distance races in a season, yet having done 'just' two this year I found myself blown to pieces come September and having to pull out of the Vitruvian for fear of exploding! So just how do I plan to survive 2010?

Having spent a large amount of time reflecting on my performances this year two things have become clear 1) I was very fit and 2) I was very tired. I pretty much PB'd from start to finish all season... half-marathon in January (1.19), Ballbuster in March (2.55), Olympic tri in June (1.59), Pool Triangle TT in June (29 something), 50 mile TT in June (1.58) and Ironman in July (9.28)... so the fitness was clearly there. But, and this is a big BUT, for the majority of those events I felt pretty knackered and certainly someway short of 100%. On thinking a little clearer I think I can trace the majority of that tiredness back to a four week period between December 08 and January 09... H and I got married on December the 13th, which although was without a doubt the best day of my life was also pretty tiring both physically and mentally. We then hopped straight on the plane to Miami and by the time we hopped off at the other end I'd developed as bad a case of sickness and diarrhea that I've ever had. A couple of days later I'd recovered and proceeded to log a good 40+ mile week of running and a few hours of swimming in the heat and humidity of South Beach before flying back on Christmas Eve, doing a long ride on Christmas Day and then the Chevin Chase (7 mile XC race) on boxing day! In the blink of an eye we touched down in Lanzarote on January the first and kicked off 2010 with 26 miles of swimming, 500 miles of cycling and 75 miles of running in the first ten days! To be honest, looking back at that lot it's a wonder I survived to tell the tale! Still, my fitness was clearly improving and a week after landing back from Lanza I broke 80 minutes for the first time over 13.1 miles and it was game on. Unfortunately, that massive month put me in a state of fatigue that 400 hours training over the next 20 weeks was never going to let me recover from.

The biggest lesson I've learnt from all that and something that I am determined to focus on this coming season is to not put myself in that hole in the first place. Full-on Ironman training is not something that allows much space for recovery and come January I'll be giving it absolutely everything for 20 weeks, at the moment I'm feeling really good and will be prioritising sleep, food and rest over training to make sure I stay that way!

So that's the first cause of my fatigued dealt with, what about the second. What really pushed me over the edge was two Ironman events in seven weeks with no time allowed for proper recovery... the week after Lanza I trained for five hours, but the week after that it was 25! By the time I crossed the finish line I'd been going hard for seven months since the aforementioned hole digging process! Now, if you're going to perform to your highest ever level, you have to be prepared to follow that up by being the tiredest you've ever been, and that's fine... unless you've just booked a slot to the world Ironman champs and have to do it all again in a couple of months! To be honest, I think had I made it to the Big Island this year I may well have ended up doing serious long-term damage to myself. Unlike the Vitruvian I wouldn't have pulled out and looking back I actually breathe a sigh of relief that I wasn't given the opportunity to nuke myslef!

I've just outlined a schedule though to three great Iron distance races in the space of a few months so how will I a) be able to perform well in all of them and b) survive to see 2011? (Which I think is the main point of Tim's question... sorry if I'm going on a bit)

Well, despite pre-season concerns over doing two Ironman events in seven weeks I actually felt that racing in Lanzarote was beneficial to my performance in Switzerland. I basically didn't really take any rest between each race, therefore not allowing my body to slip into recovery mode as with only a few weeks to play with there probably wouldn't have been time to wake it up again. The problem, as I've just stated, is that having done that successfully (in terms of race performance) there was nowhere left to go and my season was effectively over... this year I may well have (if I'm lucky) one final Iron destination. Fortunately however there are eleven weeks between Lanzarote and the Outlaw and those extra 28 days should allow time to recover properly from the first race yet still have time to build things up for the second. So the gap should look something like...

Weeks 1-3 - active recovery and a gradually building volume of something like 5, 10 and 15 weekly hours.

Weeks 4-6 - a return to my standard 20 hour basic week and hard work across all three disciplines.

Weeks 7-9 - some 'race pace and above' focus and a couple of big sessions plus the odd race.

Weeks 10-11 - taper time!

In terms of Outlaw performance I'd probably rather they were closer together, but in terms of carrying on the season that extra four weeks should make all the difference.

It will then (if selected) be nine weeks from the Outlaw to Hawaii, of the three events Kona is probably my lowest priority in terms of performance, just being there will be pretty special. I will of course be approaching it as I have every Ironman I've done though and aiming to go out in style ;) I'll probably leave it until after the Outlaw to decide the best schedule for those nine weeks depending on how I'm feeling. At half-way between seven weeks and eleven weeks it could go either way i.e. keep the tempo rolling or back off for a couple of weeks and build again. Although I don't really mind how I feel directly after Kona as it will be 'pipe and slippers time', I've got no interest in sticking myself in a hole that could take years to get out of.

Anyway, hopefully that's answered the question? 

In brief... all three will be very much 'A' races and approached 100%, by not digging a big early season hole I should avoid ever reaching a state of deep fatigue and by allowing a few weeks of PROPER recovery I should be able to peak for events two and three.

How hard can it be? ;)


Sunday, 1 November 2009

#winter swim

I fear that I might be about to create a monster! A week or so ago I was chatting away with my great Iron-buddies Ben and Ove and looking for a little motivational nudge to ramp things up over the winter came up with the idea of a handicapped swim competition between the three of us. Me being me though I couldn't help posting it on Twitter and Facebook and within 24 hours was receiving messages of interest from people I'd never ever heard of from all round the world! So, here we are then, I'm a little pushed for time this evening but promised I'd get some details out by the morning...

The bottom line...

Swim 400 metres as fast as you can by midnight next Sunday and Tweet the time using the hashtag #winterswim. All updates regarding the competition will be Tweeted by me via twitter.com/tomstraining using the hashtag #winterswim.

The details...

One of my all-time favourite training quotes, which I heard whilst listening to one of the great IM Talk podcast series, is that athletes should 'train as hard as they can consistently train'. There are two key words in that sentence and these, in order to importance, are 1) consistently and 2) hard. Ironically these are two things that most people typically fail to achieve between November and February (inclusive), preferring to waddle through the winter months with the odd splash in the pool, an occasional cafe ride and perhaps a couple conversational jogs to get them out of the house. But... as my Ironman compadre Mr Jevon O'Neill keeps reminding me... 'Champions are made in the winter'... but, and this is where it's at... only if they train consistently... and hard (not hardly)! So, I'll leave you to your own devices re the bike and run but the  chances are you're a triathlete and if so there's an even greater chance that your idea of a winter swim is 5 x 100 with fins, paddles and a pull buoy (read lazy boy) so for the next four months prepare to become a swim champion!

When we're talking swimming, 'little and often' just doesn't cut it, 'hard and often' does however so from this point on you'll be required to swim a max effort timed swim at least once every two weeks. We'll work in two week blocks, which for those of you a little slow on the social networking uptake means you only have seven days to swim your first timed effort (400 TT) which will then act as your baseline time from which swim number two will be measured.


The initial base times must be submitted by midnight on Sunday the 8th of November (UK time) and will consist of a max effort 400 metre swim. Once base times are submitted, many already have been, they will be converted into a percentage of the current Olympic record for that person's gender. This figure will then become your handicap and subsequent performances will be measured against it. I will then host these somewhere on the internet (to be sorted this week sometime) so that they can be accessed at any time by any of the entrants. The person who improves the most, in relation to their best previous performance, each time will win the most points (not decided how many yet) and whoever has the most points at the end of the season will earn the right to call themselves the CHAMPION! Note: I've already had a few 'that's unfair' moans... the bottom line is if you do a flat out timed effort every other week from now until April I pretty much guarantee you'll arrive next summer in the best swim shape of your life and if that isn't a bargain I don't know what is!

Dates and deadlines...

Oct 26 to Nov 8 - 400 metres (baseline time)

Nov 9 to Nov 22 - 100 metres

Nov 23 to Dec 6 - 400 metres

Dec 7 to Dec 20 - 200 metres

Dec 21 to Jan 3 - 400 metres

Jan 4 to Jan 17 - 800 metres

Jan 18 to Jan 31 - 400 metres

Feb 1 to Feb 14 - 1500 metres

Feb 15 to Feb 28 - 400 metres

'Bonus events for the Bonkers'

Mar 1 to Mar 14 - 3,800 metres (Ironman distance)

Mar 15 to Mar 28 - 400 metres

Mar 29 to Apr 11 - 10,000 metres (Olympic OW distance)


  • Swims can be done in any type of pool and you are welcome to change from one swim to the next i.e. from short course to long.
  • ALL swim aids that would not be permitted in an Olympic final are deemed illegal, so certainly no flotation devices, paddles etc. If someone could let me know if Mr Phelps would be allowed a Wetronome or similar device in 2012 then we can make a ruling on those little fellas.
  • All correspondence must go through Twitter under the hashtag #winterswim - if you don't know how to do that then Google it, it's not rocket science and I don't have time to utilise the many different forms of messaging available.
  • Times must be tweeted under #winterswim by midnight on the final Sunday of each block, late efforts will not be accepted.
  • As we've already said, this is all about consistency throughout the winter, once enrolled any missed swim will result in immediate disqualification from the entire competition - you have been warned!
  • Late entries to the competition will be accepted, although you're first event will only act as a base line time.
That's about it for now, please forward this to as many people as possible, #winterswim is a fully inclusive event, handicapped in favour of novice swimmers and designed to keep all of us on the freestyle straight and narrow until the sun once more shines!

See you in the pool,


Saturday, 31 October 2009

Life/work/training balance...

It's just amazing how much more I can get done now that I'm not putting in 20+ hrs of training. I'm still swimming 18km a week and after tomorrow's run will have done a solid 55miles of running this week, the bike... well I haven't had time to fit one of those in. But I've had a good week at work and still got to bed at 9pm every night this week and had a leg rest day!!

At run club on Tuesday night I was chatting with my friend Alison who is living her Ironman dream right now and loving it. I told her that I actually felt relieved not to be IM training anymore. I'm hoping this is a sign that I'm happy to move onto pastures shorter, faster and newer (if that's a word).

Tom's signed himself up for Lanza and the new UK Ironman distance event The Outlaw and I've signed up for The Brass Monkey Half Marathon and the London Marathon. I'm liking the change...and the fact that I don't have to get out in the cold, wet, Winter rain to HTFU for hours on end. Somehow I feel like it's easier to do the whole work/training thing too. I often used to get booked for work and try and wangle it so it fitted in with my training. Now I know I can always do a run more-or-less anywhere I am and at more-or-less any time of day, but also if I don't get to run, it doesn't matter and so training is no longer a burdon on my work commitment and vice versa... everyone's a winner. Work has just gone from strength to strength now that I'm concentrating on it a lot more and I've got some exciting shoots lined up in the next few weeks.

One think that can slip by without noticing though is the life/life balance. One thing we have to make sure we schedule into our life is quality time. It's just so easy to let training, eating, sleeping, working all become part of every day life. We train together, we eat our meals together, we go to races together but everything doesn't revolve around triathlon or running and so time aside from training is something that we've worked really hard to achieve. Sometimes I think people think we're maybe a bit too focused or serious about our training but actually we aren't. Of course we want to do well and yes we train hard, but we'd both give it up at the drop of a hat if either one of us wasn't happy or if it was detrimental to our lives together. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to share this kind of selfish lifestyle with Tom, not many people have that.

So, tomorrow I'm doing the Guy Fawkes 10, a hilly (very hilly I hear) run race in Ripley, North Yorkshire. I've saved up this week's HTFU for the weather which is due to be awful for it!! Hope my legs serve me well, they've worked hard already this week.

Today we marshalled at Leeds parkrun and then helped with our mates Red Welly Relay Challenge which saw the girls team thrash the boys!! Well done girls :)

And a happy IM training all you hardcore lot out there, braving the elements to turn those bike Winter miles into IM Summer smiles :) I'll be holding the coats...

H x

Daily pix still here and here...

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Writer's block...

It's not often that I'm stuck for words but sitting here staring at today's photo I'm suffering from a severe case of writer's block. I'm therefore going to delegate this week's task of providing blog content to one of my all-time athletic heroes and 2007 World Ironman champion Chris McCormack! Apologies to those of you who have already read Macca's race report from Kona but it really does capture so many of the things that I try and get across in my weekly ramblings. Whether or not you're a triathlete there is so much to be learned from the great man's reflections on something not quite going to plan, (remember last week's process v outcome thoughts)... check out his brilliant blog entry.... HERE

Before I disappear.... swimming's going great, running's going OK and cycling's just going... BUT it's good to be back and I'm certainly moving in the right direction (as testified by the fact I managed to squeeze into my wedding suit trousers last night, which was by no means a foregone conclusion!).

Also, thanks for the great comments on last weeks entry. I finally got round to replying yesterday afternoon and almost wrote a whole blog entry in the process!

Right then, the sun's showing its face over the clouds and I'm off out on my bike with my wife.



An ordinary week...

So I did it... I got back on the bike last Sunday and went on a 50miler with my mate Emma. The route was perfect, the weather was perfect, the company was perfect. However my legs weren't perfect... For the first hour they were as happy as Larry, although a little in shock at what I was asking them to do. By the second hour my legs started telling me they hadn't been on a bike enough recently to ride at the same pace as Emma nor were they going to do so and so by the third hour they'd given up the ghost as I forced them to pedal back to a much needed large helping of Emma's roast veg. We had a great gossip in those three hours as Emma plugged out a constant even pace while I desperately tried to hold on and chat at the same time, often resulting in me dissappearing off the back. A session that taught me a lot. Firstly leg strength like fitness buggers off as soon as you don't use it. Secondly I never ride at an even enough pace when I'm out on my own and thirdly... cycling's not all that bad. I do however, have to look at what I want to achieve in the cycling world. With my focus going to running for the Winter and Spring season and adding in my 3-4 swim sessions a week, it's going to leave me little space for any real bike time. I can't have everything though and so something's got to give. I'm going to try and just maintain on the bike with one turbo session a week and one outdoor ride a week and I think that's going to suit me fine. In fact after writing this post I shall be donning my cycling attire and having a ride out to Burnsall with Tom it should be just over 50 miles, lovely.

I've had a great training week. I've managed 18km in the pool with some very strong 5km swim sessions which I'm really pleased about. I'm having regular physio again with friend and great physio Ove Indergaard and it's making a real difference, thanks Ove. I'm running consistently too which is great. I just need to get a few more speed sessions in and I reckon that sub 20min parkrun will be mine. I ran really well this weekend. No pb this week with my 20:43 but I ran hard from gun to tape, my heart rate average 175 and my max at 181. I just need to get more of those short sharp sessions in, a little more time and with a sprinkle of good luck and the wind on my side I reckon I'll crack it.

Friday evening saw the first dip into the sweetie bag for five weeks and I saved myself for Tom's heavenly chocolate pots. Loved it while I scoffed it (although it was probably a tad too big and a eaten a little too close to bed) but then paid the price for the 70% choc sugar hit and didn't sleep a wink after 3:15am, just too full of sugar, I felt hideous. So with a new reviewed version of one treat a week I think I'll just stick to a bar of the stuff after dinner or a restaurant dessert if we go out for a meal, then we can't go overboard. If I JUST ate the dessert I'm sure it would have been fine, but someone's got to clean the bowl out while it's being made and when you haven't had chocolate in a while that bowl tastes like it was sent from heaven... mistake! Lesson learned, no hard core desserts close to bed and no eating of the mixed ingredients before either!!

The disaster of the week has only just occurred... the washing machine has finally given in and washed itself to death. I don't blame it, it trains harder than we do and must be on at least three times a day when we're both training twice a day. I have an ongoing battle with our washing basket. My mission to get it absolutely completely empty is futile but constant and I'm already stressing about what I'm going to do between today and tomorrow when I go out and try and get a new one. I tell you a "woman's work..."

Daily pix here and here...

(The pic at the top was taken in Dunstan Steads nr Alnwick while I was shooting for a new ITV drama).

H x

Monday, 19 October 2009

A clear lack of goals...

(Note: Sorry for the slight delay this week, I got caught up in a rather excting new writing project (all will be revealed soon) and had to put things on hold for a few hours. Still, better late than never...)

Well, maybe not a lack of goals... just a complete change in thinking as to what they are. Let me explain...

For quite a while now I've wondered about the possibility that I somehow manage to limit my performances through my goals. At first glance running a 2:58 marathon when your target is three hours or doing a 9:28 Ironman when the aim is to break 9:30 can seem like a success (especially when like me you used to be a lazy, overweight, binge drinking Brit), and for several years now I've enjoyed pb after pb. But, and this year convinced me, it can become all too easy to do just enough to hit your target yet fall short of your true potential. What this year has also taught me is that no matter what time I do in a particular event, I'm only truly happy when I feel I've given my absolute best. When I say 'best' I mean from the start of training to crossing the finish line and to be brutally honest I don't feel I managed that for any of my 2009 events. Before I get buried under an avalanche of 'people like you will never be completely happy with your performances' let me provide you with a few examples where I've walked away elated knowing that I'd just given my best...
  • My first ever marathon - in 1999 as a somewhat overweight student I gave up the booze in January and gave everything I could for 15 weeks before perfectly pacing a 3:53 marathon (1:57/1:56) and crossing the line totally spent.
  • My first crack at breaking three hours for the 26.2 - several years later I lined up on the start line of the Lausanne marathon having run more training miles than ever before (or since), went through half in 1:30 and then promptly exploded at around the 20 mile mark. It took everything to hang on to some kind of speed and falling (literally) over the line in 3:10 I lost all use of my legs (literally) for several hours.
  • Ironman Germany 2008 - Despite blowing up well before the end of the bike and missing my overall time goal by over 30 minutes, as well as maybe making a few mistakes in training such as neglecting my cycling in favour of running. I honestly absolutely gave everything through every week of training and gave more to that nine hours and 59 minutes of racing than any race ever before (or since).
I could go on, but for me those three events are prime examples of focusing 100% on the process from start to finish (training & the race). The second two are probably my proudest achievments in sport, note that I missed my desired outcome in both, and great examples of true happiness coming from the process rather than the outcome. Yes, I missed my target but I went for it 100% and walked away knowing that I had given my all. I'm much happier about my 9.59 at Germany than my 9.28 in Switzlerand!

This year I went into both my Ironman events a good few kilos heavier than I would like to have been, I knew that having not taken part in a running race since January I was well short of my 2008 run form and set my race gear up somewhat conservatively... all of this 'knowing' that it would be 'enough' to hit my pre-race goals. In Lanzarote that complacency dropped me right in it when the run got tasty and in Switzerland I was the victim of measuring my efforts (training more than racing) against what I thought others would achieve. At the beginning of the season I wrote on here about getting back to really hurting in races and truly giving it my all, I maybe got close to that in terms of painful races but at the same time constant analysis of my training and racing performances, although accurate lead me to fall somewhat short of what on reflection I know I can achieve.

This next 12 months is likely to be my final Iron year, and I know (absolutely) that I can go a lot faster than ever before if I can just stop focusing on the outcome and concentrate on the process. To put that in context, I would have thought that to qualify for Hawaii would take just under ten hours in Lanzarote, to break ten hours in Lanza would be a dream come true regardless and having gone 10:20 this year it would be a big step forwards... a success? Maybe not... the problem is that by concentrating on the outcome, I'm forgetting what it is that will see me sign off from mdot a happy man... the feeling of having given everything (truly) to the process... regardless of the outcome. The truth is you see that I'd rather give everything and go 10:30 (missing Kona) than just do 'enough', break ten and book my place at the Big Dance. The danger of setting the sub-10 target is that the second I feel I'm in shape to do just that I'll back it off and cruise to the start line.

A great example of this happened last week when I did my first timed mile for ages. My previous pb was 23:38 and I was over the moon to stop the clock in 23:52... the problem is that almost instantly I felt myself feeling complacent about my swim ability and losing the drive to spend a long winter flogging myself in the pool. Why bother, afterall I'm ahead of this time last year and should easily do 'enough' to swim my target time?

So this year is going to be completely devoid of time related goals, there will be NO TARGET TIMES... yes I'll measure what I do but that will only serve to confirm forward motion. I intend to push as hard as I can from now through till Lanzarote and beyond, be as dedicated as possible, as strong as possible, as light as possible, as fast as possible and race as hard as possible. Whatever the outcome of that process is then that will be the outcome... nothing more. But I will walk away from Ironman happy that for once in my life I've put everything on the line and given my absolute best.

Today's image is current World Ironman Champion Craig Alexander who summed it up perfectly in the post-race press conference in Kona, note there is no mention of time or position (outcome), it's all about a 'good performance' (process)...

“There were a lot of bad patches today. Last year to win was exciting but this year is more rewarding because it was a different race. It was a harder race. This year I had to work at it and chip away for every mile on the bike and the run.”

“There are some great bike riders in our group. I felt the pace was slid early. I got dropped two or three times on the way up to Hawi. The thing is, my main focus was just to give a good title defense and put in a performance I could be proud of.”

“I didn’t attack [Lieto] I just found a rhythm. But I didn’t feel that fluid motion I felt last year. Today I felt like I had to work for every second.”

“I think a lot about my family out there. They sacrifice a lot for me; we travel a lot. I certainly feel, not a pressure or obligation, but a duty to the people who make my career possible. I don’t want to let them down. It’s nice to give something back with a good performance.”

(Quote borrowed from Simon Whitfield HERE)

Hold on to your hats,


Saturday, 17 October 2009

I have bike amnesia...

I'm trying to keep ahead of the game and get the blog done today (Saturday) before the business that is Sunday means another late night at the computer. I'm an organised girl these days and loving it!

I'm really enjoying my training at the minute. I'm even enjoying the 'no particular' focus of it, which is generally very unlike me. I'm swimming as much as I was and managed 17km in the pool this week. I think I'll have to drop one of those sessions once my run focus becomes more scheduled but I'm loathed to drop much more of my swimming as A) I enjoy it and B) I think swimming is a great non weight bearing session that can benefit both endurance and strength. My running is ticking along at a great pace. I'm starting to get a feel for the road again and am just beginning to shake off the Ironman shuffle that I had perfected. It did me well for four years and actually suits my natural running style. I have the knee lift of a 90yr old and barely raise my feet off the ground, in fact Tom often wondered if I was speedwalking but no that's me and my Oompa Lumpa running style.

Getting running fit I think I'm going to really enjoy. Mainly because it's a great change to what I've been doing for the last four years and also I can set myself completely new goals, ones I didn't even have when I used to just run. I also think I'm benefiting hugely from the volume of Ironman training that I've put my body through. I just have to find some of those 'fast twitch' muscles I hear talk of, as my legs ignore me when I ask them to switch on!

However, the speed is coming slowly and I'm enjoying the short, sharp sessions. Well, I have been used to 8-10hr training sessions so a 50min speed session mentally seems like a walk in the park...until my brain realises that it's now got to forget 'going long' and instead learn how to go short and painful. The perfect test of my speed has become Leeds parkrun and having pb'd again this morning by 34 seconds I'm really enjoying that lighter, faster feel that comes with actually picking my feet off the ground. So with a 20min 31second 5km under my belt I can feel the lure of the lower numbers drawing me in, can I get under 20mins? I have done a 20:10 but that was on an uber fast course one Summer when I was only running and getting plenty of miles in. So with that in mind and being generally fitter and stronger I'm sure with more hard work that elusive sub 20 should start getting closer. How close to Tom can I get???

As for the bike :( :( :(

I've been a little naughty and kind of neglected it. I've done two turbo sessions a week but haven't actually been outside on it since The Vitruvian which was about 8weeks ago!! I've lost my bike mojo to be honest, I'm just not interested in getting out on it! However, my mate and fellow Ironman Emma Rand has seen my naughtiness and in a bid to stop it any longer has asked me to go out for a ride with her. I hope I find my mojo whilst on tomorrows ride in York... maybe it's fallen under a bramble bush. I couldn't really tell you why. I think the bike has always been something I've had to force myself to enjoy because IM training has such huge bike volume in it. I actually do enjoy racing my bike, just not training on it. Anyway, I can't thank Emma enough for forcing me out tomorrow I just hope my legs don't fall off in the process down to the fact that they don't know what riding is anymore...or hills for that matter... hmmmm hoping Emma's planning a flat ride!! So tomorrow I shall know whether my destiny lies in staring at the back of the garage door for short sharp sessions or whether I'll actually bother my big beeee-hind to get out again.

So that's it for me this week. I'm off to find my bike memory...let me know if you see it...it could be in Starbucks feeding itself on cake and coffee!! Oh and my month of no caffeine, biscuits, choc etc is up on Monday, yeahhhh... but, I'm going back to one treat a week and I'm enjoying my new found discipline... well I never said there was a size limit on the size of that one treat did I ;)

Daily pix still here and here...

Chow for now.

Hels x

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Courage, passion and conviction...

Here we are, once again celebrating the athletic genius/perfection/awesomeness of GREAT British athlete Chrissie Wellington. I've lost track of how many Ironman victories that is, but to makes things easy for us 'stattos' let just say she's never lost, for in the world of Wellington it's significantly quicker to count defeats over victories.You know when someone is truly special at what they do when you still get great enjoyment from their performance despite the outcome being decided practically before the start gun's finished smoking. In a similar way to Tiger Woods or Roger Federer she's simply a joy to watch, the opposition merely there to add some decoration to the occasion. On what was clearly not a fast day she snuck under the 17 year old course record and won by 19 minutes and 57 seconds, to put that in perspective there was only 18 minutes between the first and 15th (yes, that's 15th) male athletes. It's rare that I enjoy such sporting domination, she certainly doesn't possess what one could accurately describe as a rival and even the term 'under-dog' suggests a sporting chance which clearly no female athlete (and few male for that matter) has the luxury of having! What really is scary though is the fact that she clearly has more to give, I think we'd be naive to think she didn't push herself very very hard this weekend but there's certainly more in the tank. She probably rode that bike course more 'solo' than any other athlete... imagine if she could find a couple more minutes in the swim and get out on the bike with the main group of male pros? The first female swimmer hit T1 with Craig Alexander... perhaps CW could stay with him!

Talking of Craig Alexander, you'd do well to find a more measured performance anywhere in elite sport and I got the feeling that he knew exactly where every other athlete was during every single minute of his 8:20:21 effort. It's almost like he has some kind of in-built radar system that tracks everything around him and allows him to execute the perfect race performance based on the situation at any given time. Although not quite as dominant as Chrissie you also feel with Alexander that there is plenty plenty more. I'd hoped this year that someone would step up to the challenge and force something special but with 'only' a 2:48 run needed it's back to the drawing board for all his rivals... although I'm not sure they actually are ;)

As for my third prediction... exiting the water in 4th and clear of the main contenders it was game on for Phil Graves from the start and by the early stages of the bike he'd ridden into the lead and set about making his mark on this great race. For nearly 50 miles Phil had us all screaming full volume at the video feed, a display of courage, passion and conviction of which we should all be extremely proud. Racing isn't about about making up the numbers, it's about putting yourself on the line without fear of failure and letting the cards fall where they may... at 20 years of age (that's 17 years younger than the current champion) he did just that and with the world at his feet the next decade or two promise to be quite a ride.

Last of all, but certainly not least of all, a MASSIVE WELL DONE to all our amazing fellow age-group athletes for taking on the 140.6 miles of 100 degree Hawaiian challenge. Some surpassed their goals, some hit them and some missed them but YOU ARE ALL CHAMPIONS.

Recover well and thanks for the inspiration,