Sunday, 25 January 2009

Here I am...

I think it's fair to say that over the last few months I've been on a journey. Of course life is one huge journey but I wasn't particularily aware of my life journey until I discovered Ironman and even then it's shown me things about myself that I'd rather I didn't know, made me behave in ways I'd rather not have and sent me into a confusing dither about generally everything of late. However, as the mist lifts from my foggy, wooly, tired person I can now see the path ahead and the trail behind. Ironman in fact isn't really the perpetrator, I am. My physical and mental burnout... not Ironman at all. Me.

Since the day Tom & I decided we were going to start training for triathlon I've managed to get myself lost in Tom's aims and goals. That's not Tom's fault, he thought that all the goals I had were just the same as his. I thought all the goals I had were just the same as his. But I'm not the same as Tom, I won't ever be the same as Tom, I don't want to be the same as Tom. I'm me. For a long while there I actually got myself lost. Really rather quite lost. Thankfully I see where I've gone wrong and I'm now trying to sort out what I want, what are MY goals.

I'd like to race Ironman...phew that's a relief, for a while I nearly threw it out of the window.

I'd like to train hard, get in great shape, enjoy my training and be free of comparing myself to other people. I want to be me. In Lanzarote this year I'd like to race as well as I can. I'd like to swim under the hour, ride a 6hr 15min - 6hr 30min bike and run a 3hr 50min marathon. They are my goals. I'm not training to chase Tom's sub 9hr 30 dream so why on earth do I get annoyed when I don't perform the same as him in our training sessions?! I've hindered myself for too long. The training camp in Lanza has done me more good than bad. Yes I trained hard, harder than I was capable and it broke me. But I wasn't suffering from overtraining. I was trying to be something I'm not and in the end that takes it's toll, especially when I'd been training like this for a good few months. I didn't go to the training camp with my own clear cut goals so I just went along with Tom's. Now I see why I need to make my own goals clear. What do I want. So now I feel like I can start my training for Lanzarote with a new perspective.

Tomorrow (Monday) is the dawn of a new day, a new week and the beginning of training for myself, what I want and what will suit me and my goals. It's not even new found positivity, it's just re-discovering the things that I need.

Lanza's training has given me a new feel on the bike and much stronger legs. I've had two great rides this weekend. Thoroughly enjoyed them both and ridden well. I feel like I've lifted a huge weight (one that I'd placed firmly on my own head.) And at the end of the day...what does it really matter?! If I swim just over the hour, if the ride takes me much longer and if I blow up on the run, what does it matter? As long as I'm true to myself and I have Tom by side I'm happy, something I've not really been lately.

SO, I'm bored of all of all of this in-depth mental cack, no doubt you are too. I'm on the road to re-discovery and it's about time :)

"All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them." Galileo Galilei

H. x

Tom's 28 day challenge...

The good news is that following last week's success at the Brass Monkey half marathon I've struck a rich vein of swim form. Every Thursday H and I complete a set of either 8 x 200, 6 x 300 or 4 x 400 metre efforts in the pool whilst a few hours earlier our mate Roger will have done the same thing many thousands of miles away in Australia. During the day we email our respective results round the world and spend the following seven days plotting how we might squeeze out an extra few seconds in the race for a weeks worth of bragging rights ;) Last year Roger was living in Leeds and so we'd do the session together once a week and I'm pleased to say that since his move down under last autumn we've managed to keep the tradition going... anyway, this week we were doing the 200s with the session laid out as;

400 warm-up

4 x 200 off four minutes

400 easy

4 x 200 off four minutes

400 cool down

Although my 400pb (set about six months ago) is 5:40 and these are only 200s a total of 8 reps for the session had so far seen my best effort an even mix of 2.52s and 2.51s. On Tuesday I managed to find 2.51, 2.49, 2.47 & 2.47 for the first four and 2.43, 2.44, 2.49 and 2.52 for the second four. Although I clearly blew after number six, I also reckon that a sub 5.30 400 is possible at the moment and am therefore confident that my swimming is, like my running, as good as it's ever been... HOWEVER as I said last week, and to be honest as I've said about a million times since starting this blog... IT'S ALL ABOUT THE BIKE, unfortunately I'm great at working on my strengths but not so great at working on my weaknesses... until now.

For the month of February I'm going to set myself three clearly defined and measurable goals, all of which are designed to work on areas of my training which I've successfully neglected for far too long.

What I'd like you guys to do is join me in setting your own three personal 'weakness focused' goals with the aim of coming out of the winter as more rounded athletes. It would be great if you'd post your goals (and your progress each week) via comments on our blog and hopefully we can all benefit from a little motivation as the long dark nights and grey winter days continue to challenge us on our athletic journey.

From the 1st to the 28th of February I will achieve the following goals...

1) 48 hours of cycling
2) Drink two litres of water EVERY day (not including training intake)
3) Spend a minimum of ten minutes stretching EVERY DAY

If I neglect my swimming, running or Internet guffing (three things I'm currently doing well in) over that time then so be it, but those three goals WILL be achieved and hopefully I'll become a little more bendy, a little less thirsty and most importantly a little faster on two wheels ;)

The challenge doesn't start until next Sunday so you've got a little time to think about what you would personally like to achieve... the only rule being that they must be process based goals (i.e. stretch every day) rather than outcome based ones (i.e. be more flexible)

Anyway, hope to see some interesting comments...

See you on day one!


Sunday, 18 January 2009

The Brass Monkey...

It's been a little while coming but two years after running 80 minutes for the first time I've finally snuck under the 1.20 barrier with a shiny new half marathon pb of 1.19.35, crossing the line 37th out of 1280 runners and putting last year's 1.20.01 behind me :)

Having gone so close 12 months ago and also running 1.20 at the Great North Run at the end of last season I knew I was capable so rather than excitement my feelings this evening are more of relief and in a funny way a sense of closure. Over the last few years I've developed a rather annoying tendency of switching off before the line thinking that it's a case of 'job done' only to miss out on a target or position by the smallest of margins. Not wanting to suffer that fate in Lanzarote I said to H that my biggest goal today was to cross the line having given it my all, particularly if I had a pb 'in the bag' by the final mile... Kona qualification could come down to a single second and when you're racing other athletes (as opposed to the clock) the race may well be decided in the final 0.6 of 140.6 miles. I definitely achieved that today and for those who like these things here are my mile splits, not including the final 0.1 (with average heart rate)...

1 - 5.55 - 159
2 - 6.07 - 161
3 - 6.08 - 160
4 - 6.06 - 161
5 - 6.03 - 163
6 - 6.12 - 163
7 - 6.05 - 163
8 - 6.00 - 165
9 - 6.01 - 166
10 - 5.55 - 167
11 - 6.02 - 167
12 - 6.07 - 169
13 - 6.04 - 170

I'm extremely aware however that I've been a good enough runner to hit my target Ironman marathon split (3.20) for a couple of years and that the reason I haven't is largely down to my cycling ability being not quite up to scratch and today's result doesn't do anything to disprove that.

Too often you see triathletes trying to improve their run split by improving their running (I've often fallen into this trap - see last season) whereas the limiting factor is typically the fact that they're starting the run having already blown (see last season). A good analogy of this can be found in the housing market (bare with me)... a few years ago H and I were looking to move to the country and spoke to a few mortgage lenders, initially we were excited about the sums of money on offer but when we thought about our level of income and what we could actually afford compared to the maximum amount we could borrow there was probably a £75,000 difference between the two figures... thankfully we stayed true to our values and although we still live in the same small cosy semi we also enjoy the freedom that a relatively small mortgage, which we can comfortably afford, allows us... putting this back into the triathlon setting have a think about your target bike split for this year's A race... can you 'afford' to ride that fast or are you just 'capable' of riding that fast? Last year I was capable of riding a five hour bike split (not that my 5.09 in Germany would agree) but I certainly couldn't 'afford' it, hence being over an hour slower than my stand-alone marathon pb in my most important race of 2008. The big lesson for me being that it's no good just being able to ride your target split... you need to ride it easy... can I ride 5.40 at Lanza in 18 weeks time? YES ...can I comfortably ride 5.40 at Lanza in 18 weeks time? I'll let you know of May the 24th ;)

Anyway, getting back to today, what feels particularly good about this morning's performance is that my focus over the last few weeks has most definitely been on two wheels and with 500 miles paid into the cycling bank of Lanzarote earlier this month I'm confident that while I'm in similar run shape to 12 months ago my bike fitness is comfortably ahead. Unlike last year, Hels and I have no more running races scheduled for our Ironman build-up and from tomorrow morning we'll be free to concentrate on improving our pedal power in time for the first real bike test of the season at the Spring Ballbuster on March the 21st.

That's about it for now, well done to all our LBT and Virgin Active Road Runners friends who ran today and particularly to my amazing wife Hels for putting in a really positive and mature performance despite still feeling the affects of Lanzarote. It's really hard to do the right thing and hold back when all around you are racing hard, particularly if you're as competitive as she is... not running at all would have made her feel worse but going all out would have no doubt resulted in pain, frustration and most significantly would have worsened her already fatigued state. Thirteen point one miles at just under 7.30 pace meant she had a great training session without having to dig too deep, sometimes giving it your best means holding something back... my inspiration as always x


I think Hels has already talked about the rest of our brilliant weekend, it was great to spend time with Jonny and Kelsey and celebrate little Charlie Lack's first birthday in style this afternoon... a true reminder of what's important in life (and it isn't triathlon)...

We all take ourselves a little seriously sometimes so if you need something to remind you that the time on a race clock really isn't worth stressing about I'll leave you with something that my dad says to me (in reference to a great book I read about the British humanitarian and author Terry Waite) when I'm worrying about something not worth worrying about...

"It could be worse, you could have been chained to a radiator for five years!"

Yours in thought,


Chocolate cake saves the day...

After last weeks blog about my mental sanity you'll be pleased to hear that:

A) I survived
B) There was no need for a Samaritans call out and 
C) I'm glad it happened.

Why am I glad it happened?  Well, I think one of the problems with blogging is that sometimes things sound worse than they are.  I guess that's my fault as a blogger, maybe I'm a secret drama queen!? But incase you're now feeling duped, to clarify I didn't make up or embelish any of the tale that fell out of my brain through my fingers and onto the computer screen last week, it was all true and that was exactly how I felt.  I love that I'm surrounded by people who care and thank you for every last word of advice and consideration, I soaked it all up and listened, I even had an easy week of training ;)  But I can honestly say that yes it was still a good thing.  I love the fact that I'm learning about myself, my boundaries and what makes me tick, in fact if anything surely those feelings are the ones that make me feel the most alive because they're so raw.  Had I not tested myself in Lanzarote, had I not tried to be one of the faster lot then I would have sat in my comfort zone, enjoying riding round but never really testing myself.  I like to know what I can and can't do and now I know.  But I also know that when push comes to shove I'll go down with a fight and I have got the mental strength to hang in to the very last minute.  I'll take that over comfort zone any day, as messy as that is going to be on the odd occasion!

I'm also not ashamed to say that I'm still suffering the fall out from such training but I know it WILL make me stronger long term.  This week I've really enjoyed un-timed and easy 3km technique sets in the pool every morning.  I've done a few easy hr turbo sessions to keep the bike legs moving and last but not least and the biggest tell of all I've bimbled my way through a few miles of running in the lead up to the Brass Monkey Half Marathon which was this morning.  I've been torn all week about whether or not to do it.  One day it was a definite no and the next it was a yes.  Suffice to say I decided to run it under the premise that it was to be a training run.  I know I'm fit enough to run well but obviously still being fatigued means that today isn't the day for that.  I ran completely within myself, never having to motivate myself and keeping an eye on my heart rate so that I didn't switch off.  It was the oddest thing to be running comfortably yet at the same time knowing that if I tried to push the pace it wasn't there.  I definitely did the right thing.  If I'd just gone out all guns blazing I would have crashed and burned and hated every second and then been incredibly disappointed with my time, instead I ran to the best of my ability today.  And also from todays result - 1hr 38- I know I still need another easy week before picking up the intensity.  

We finished the weekend with lashings of my home-made chocolate birthday cake to celebrate our Godson Charlie's 1st birthday, my friend Lies' 30th birthday and also my good friends little girl Emily's 3rd birthday.  My brother Jonny and niece Kelsey were here and we spent all afternoon in the kitchen yesterday covering ourselves in icing for todays party and it was lovely.  Balloons, ice-cream, pass the parcel and crazy dancing in our living room with the kids just puts everything into perspective.  Life's for living and for learning and for loving but it won't always be easy, but who wants easy every day?  Maybe just every other day ;)

Before I sign off I'd like to say hello to the lovely lady who I thought had lost her marbles when she spoke to me as we were running today just before the 10 mile mark.  I didn't quite understand what she was saying when I heard the words Lanzarote and internet, it made no sense, I smiled and said nothing, but then she wished me good luck for Lanzarote to which I was a bit confused as I didn't recognise her, but it appears that folk have stumbled upon our weary warblings out there in the real world and bless her she said she recognised me and wanted to wish me luck.  I hope you had a great run and thank you for your kind words, apologies for my blank looks!

And of course to the boys that always pull it out of the bag when it matters.  To my husband who starts the year with a much wanted 1.19, finally shedding 1.20, you're always my hero. x And to Top Twenty Tony who stormed round the course pb'ing with 1.16 (oh what I'd do to be able to run like that!) To Ben G who managed to hold onto an awesome time while impressively blowing himself to smithereens in the process. I'm impressed Ben and now you know there's definitely a sub 1.30 out there for you :) To Debra Brown who ran a fantastic time, pb'ing for fun but frustratingly missing out by a nano second to take her under the 2hr mark, no waving, smiling or acknowledging the crowd next time Debra, that must have cost you a second at least ;) To Dave M who has more energy than a Gibbon on speed (and that's while he's running) great time 1.20, over the moon for you.  And to every last Virgin Road Runner who did themselves proud out there today, Richard, Barbara, Kaye, Nicky & Vikki, well done all. x

Time to get that recovery sleep in.

"Simply pushing harder within the old boundaries will not do."  Karl Weick

H. x

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Happy New legs....

It feels like an eternity since I was last sitting at this computer splurging and regurgitating the contents of my mixed mind into our blog... or rather should I say my cheaper pyschotherapists couch!!!  It feels good to be back in the hot seat with Sunday's evening clock tick tocking away with all that is loved and familiar surrounding me.  No more airport lounges, hotel rooms or internet cafes costing million pounds a sentence to tell you of our shinaningans.

I feel a deep delve into the contents of my wibbly wobbly mind to try and begin this year on an even keel but I promise I shall try and keep it short.

After the most amazing and wonderful wedding and honeymoon we threw ourselves (as you know) into Robin Brew's Winter Training Camp at Club La Santa (cockroaches an' all) ten days of training fun in the sun... or so I thought.  The aim of the camp in Lanza was to get high cycling volume in, some good swimming and of course the odd run here or there.  Now those that know Lanzarote or that have indeed raced the Ironman there will know that it is a devil of an island with it's long, long hills surrounded by acres of lava fields and winds that could turn anyone mental (see above pic).  On the first day we went off for an easy ride and so three groups were formed group one being the fastest.  I set my stall out early, I wanted to test myself on this trip and the only way to do that was to see if I could hack it with the big boys. The answer to that one is a rather swift and large 'NO' but hey I hung in there as hard as I could and when my legs could take no more I was spat out of the back (this happened quite regularily) but they waited for me and back into the pack I went, legs grinding out the miles as hard as they could, heart attempting to clamber out of my very mouth, lungs on the edge of bursting... all while they chatted happily, oblivious to the wheezing weirdo amongst them :)

For the first couple of days I coped (just) with the help of Tom and his back wheel he would drag me back into the fold and it was good but it was hard, very, very hard.  Mentally it was as challenging as it was physically because every day from day one I was having my legs ripped off and they weren't flat, slow, short rides, they were long, hilly, windy and much faster than my heart, lungs, legs and mind were capable of.  All good training though, the only way to make improvement is to test yourself.  Unfortunately I think I blew myself to pieces.  I coped well until Thursday, 7 days in.  On Wednesday Tom and I swam 2km in the open-air 50m pool (in the dark), wolfed down breakfast before 8.30am to ride the Ironman course (approx 101 miles having to cut a small section out due to road works.)  I loved it, I rode well, I ate like a horse - actually I ate everything except a horse, Snickers, Fizzy Coke a Kit Kat chunky and a Mars Bar they've all become new bike nutrition friends, mmmm :) As soon as we got back from the ride I ran an easy and very comfortable 12km off it before having to be back in the pool for 4pm for another 2km swim set.  In hindsight (oh that wonderful thing) I should have had a rest day on Thursday, but this is me we're talking about, and it appears I had an inability to see when I should stop.  The whole week had been structured more-or-less as the day I just described, the only changes being the length of the bike rides, they varied from 120km to 90km, still not short and always with a run off them followed by a pool session and the day always beginning with a swim in the dark.  

Anyway I broke myself into a million pieces mentally, legs and body to follow shortly after.  I questioned everything for the next three days.  Do I want to do Ironman? Maybe I don't want to do it anymore?  Do I want to qualify for Kona? Actually I don't think I do.  Am I going slightly mad? What's my life all about? Will I ever be happy with my training or my results?  But before you pick up the phone and send the Samaritans round here (and that's for Tom!  I mean poor Tom listening to my broken mental drivel) it did clarify a few things for me.  Yes, I need to change (for my sanity), no I'm not the same as Tom, we don't have the same goals (although I'm crap at defining my own so I just choose his) and I'm sure this is no revelation to any of you that know us both and actually it's no revelation to me but I just ignore it and carry on using Tom's goal setting as my own and then am constantly gutted when I don't achieve those goals. So now I have to work out what MY goals are????...answers on a postcard please.  You don't expect me to actually know what I want do you? 
So you see pushing yourself over the mental and physical edge does have it's benefits!!! In the last 9 days I have done 440miles of cycling, 40km of swimming and 75 miles of running. And that was the easy bit, the mental breakdown afterwards has become the hard bit because now I need to know the answers to those questions.  What do I actually want?

The answers out there... somewhere.

Hel. x

P.s I have regained my sanity and am no more a snivelling wreck you'll be pleased to hear.  The sound of our wheelie bins blowing around the street has brought me back to Angleterre with a bump!!! :)


Finally... our five week adventure of marriage, wedding, honeymoon, Christmas, New Year and ten day training camp has come and gone and here I am back home and super motivated to get back into 5am starts, evening runs with the lads and long cold rides in the Dales. Last week was the first of 20 in the run up to Lanzarote and with all the burger chomping and ice cream scoffing of Miami weighing heavy it was time to get serious...

Flying out to Lanza as part of the rapidly developing Team Southerns project I was keen to kick my training back into gear with good volume across all three disciplines. For the first time ever Hels and I had signed up to an organised training camp and would be staying at Club La Santa under the guidance of Elite coach Robin Brew. Not knowing the exact training itinerary prior to departure made goal setting somewhat difficult but in the back of my mind I had 50k of swimming, 500 miles of cycling and 75 miles of running as a tough but attainable goal...

On arrival we found that the sun wouldn't be raising its weary head until around 7.15 and would be tucked up for the night by just after six o'clock each day so 'tacking' early or late sessions either side of the organised training might be difficult... this did prove to be the case but on the positive side it meant we'd be fed and watered by 7.30 every night and with no point in setting the alarm any earlier than 6.45 we might even manage the holy grail of 72 hours sleep in nine nights (eight hours per night)...

To cut an extremely long story extremely short here are the week's stats...

As you can see I managed three out of the four targets and had I not thought the swim would be the easiest to bag (prior to the camp) I might have dipped my toes on the first day. By the last few days my previous thoughts of 'I'll just chuck in a couple of 10k days if needed' had changed to 'if I can just drag myself out of bed for 4 x 400s my O.C.D. will be satisfied with a full marathon in the pool'... who needs 5k per day... 4.22 is so much nicer ;)

Anyway, as I keep saying, it's all about the bike really so 500 miles on the Lanzarote hills was priority number one and a final day ride round the northern loop of the Ironman course taking in both Haria and Mirador del Rio saw my first ever ten consecutive days of riding and a job well done. We'd taken our race bikes out to test our handling capabilities over this seasons A-race bike course and although challenging the ups weren't that steep and the downs not that technical so it's definitely all systems go for the Stealth on May 23rd... Other than volume and the odd hill effort I didn't really test myself too much on the bike, rather using the lovely weather to spend time in the saddle, now we're back in the lovely English winter the shorter and more intense turbo intervals will no doubt become par for the course.

Running went pretty well over the ten days, although the five or six hours ('plus' sometimes... I think the Wednesday was around 9.5) of daily training meant my legs weren't game for much speed work in this discipline either. However a very comfortable 8 sub seven minute miles off a 2k swim and 110 mile ride (Ironman course) on the Wednesday (today's picture was taken immediately after that session) felt great and hopefully an easier week this week will help them get close to six minute miling at this Sunday's Brass Monkey Half marathon where 79 minutes has been my goal since going 80 minutes and one second last year!!

As far as swimming was concerned H and I knocked out a steady 2k most mornings (usually something like 10 x 200 off four minutes) before working on technique with Robin in the afternoon. The only really challenging pool session was a 3.8k timed effort midweek where I was pleased to finish in 62.55 (long course, no wetsuit, no drafting) having blown up with about 800 to go... hopefully the addition of five months training, a wetsuit, salt water and a decent draft should see me closer to 55 minutes on the day. We did also manage a lap (1.9k) of the swim course in Puerto Del Carmen but with the buoys placed somewhat randomly it's main use was to remind me how rubbish I can be at sighting!

As for the fourth discipline... sleep... an average of 8.7 hours per night was almost certainly key to surviving the camp.... I say surviving because by the end I really was about as cooked as I've ever been, but in a very good way... I think. I've not counted the total training hours but I'm guessing they'd be in the region of 50-60 or the equivalent of around 35 per seven day week... I did manage close to that volume once last year but ended up pushing myself over the edge, this time less work and more sleep has it seems made all the difference.

So, here we are.... 19 weeks to go and I feel fitter than ever before yet also with a lot more to give in terms of training intensity. The only area I'm a little behind in is weight (currently 70.8 kilos compared to 66kgs 19 weeks out in '08) but I always find that difficult to manage over the off-season and then the Christmas and New Year period and would expect to shed close to a kilo per week over the next six to eight weeks... Lanzarote being as hilly a course as it is I would really love to race at around 63 but body weight has always been pretty far down my list of priorities so we'll just have to see what happens...

Other than that, it's just great to be back :)

See you in seven


p.s. Hopefully having kicked 2009 off with a new half marathon pb... two seconds? how hard can it be?

Sunday, 4 January 2009


For what seems like the millionth Sunday running we're posting a pretty poor excuse for a blog entry via a fairly sketchy internet link from somewhere other than our lovely home, which we are starting to miss. The last month or so has been pretty amazing and sitting here in training paradise with sub-zero temps back home we certainly aren't moaning, but it will be great to finally wake up at home on January the 11th without the need to pack almost immediately in order to spend a more time living out of a suitcase.

We arrived in Lanzarote on Thursday afternoon and having spent the morning in freezing cold Luton Jo & Andy AKJ and us found ourselves in the afternoon spinning our bike round part of the Ironman course under a red hot sun before knocking out and easy 5k run part of which took in the view constituting today's photo!

The training has been pretty intense and in our usual 100% style we've managed to hit the pool for a sunrise 2k before joining the rest of the camp for typically a long bike followed by a 10k run then lunch before an afternoon swim session in La Santa's amazing outdoor pool. By tomorrow afternoon we will have ridden the entire bike course in sections and then on Wednesday it's every man for himself as we tackle the full 180 hilly kilometres, probably with a cheeky 10k run slapped on the end... and a swim session to finish the day!! That will be the final official session of the camp but we don't fly out until late Saturday so hope to use the extra 72 hours to take our 10-day training totals to 50k swimming, 500 miles cycling and 75 miles running... a lot will depend on how well we weather Wednesdays efforts though...

Anyway, that's about it for now, apologies for not replying to emails or texts over the last few weeks but time, money and internet connections have been at a serious premium... with about 6-8 hours a day of training and the supermarket here being the most expensive in the world (£5.50 for a box of Weetabix makes South Beach seem cheap!) finding the time or even cash to communicate has been somewhat difficult.

Anyway, looking forward to next week's posts coming from home sweet home and also our return to normal life.

Take care,

T & H