Sunday, 30 August 2009

An early bath...

Those of you who check out my Twitter feed from time to time will already know that my feet are officially 'up'. This time last year I had a great race at The Vitruvian (national middle distance champs) finishing in 4:12:31 for 13th overall and 5th 30-34. Ever since crossing that finish line I'd set my 2009 goal for the same event as sub-4:10 and a top ten finish, unfortunately however, common sense has prevailed and I'll be standing on the touchline this coming Saturday. I love supporting at events, especially when H is racing, so I'm still really really looking forward to being a part of one of the best races in the UK... but... if I'm honest I am pretty gutted that I've not lasted till the end of the season.

Following Lanzarote in May I felt like I did a really good job of holding on to my Ironman fitness without over-cooking things and seven weeks later followed up my best ever Ironman performance with my best ever Ironman performance (despite a wobbly race week), going 9:28 in Switzerland. Looking back I was pretty much at the end of my mental strength a week or so before race number two and if I'm being really honest my season ended in Zurich.

When talking about religion the other day someone said to me that you either believe or you don't and that's not something you can choose (I don't). The same can be said of our motivation to train and race... you either want it or don't, but it's not something you can control (at the moment... I don't). I think it was Eddy Merckx who commented that it was the person who wanted it the most and was willing to take the most pain who would win the Tour (apologies if I just made that up).

At the moment I really want to want to train... but I don't. I really want to want to race... but I don't. How do I know this? Well the only way to really find the answer to questions like these is to ask them... set your alarm for 5am and see what happens? Push the first five miles of a ten mile time trial as hard as you can and see what happens for the second five? Over the last few weeks I've repeatedly put myself in these situations and almost every time I just haven't wanted it badly enough... I've ignored my alarm and disappeared under the covers or backed it off just when I needed to turn it up.

By the time I got to last weekend's Team Relay event I was mentally pretty much empty, H was really worried about me when she heard I'd missed my second transition of the day as it was so out of character. Unfortunately it seems my sub-conscious had exposed my lack of 'want' by keeping my mind focused on veggie burgers and gossip over swim, bike and run. Moving into the afternoon I ended up running a second 5k to help out a good friend who's team mate was injured. Normally I'd pretend I didn't want to do it but deep down would have been glad for the opportunity to once again test myself... this time I really didn't want to do it and at that point I knew it was time to stop. The second I'd made my decision it was like a giant weight had been lifted from my shoulders as the pressure to train and race no longer fought against my desire not to... I'd go as far as describe the feeling as 'liberating' in fact.

Note: one of the best pieces of advice there is - if you're in a hole, stop digging.

I am hoping that four weeks of pretty much zero training (one week down and only one very easy 60 minute run in the bank) will get me back in a position where I can start building toward a good winter of training and a solid effort into Ironman Lanzarote 2010. I think that by stopping now I've probably avoided climbing into a hole deep enough to keep me submerged for a good while. The Ironman world is littered with examples of athletes pushing themselves so far over the edge that it takes years to recover, and of particular importance is the fact that you can still be performing to a high level even after you've done serious damage. Elite athlete Clas Bjorling wrote an excellent piece on this (part one and part two) and with his words along with the recent case of multiple Vitruvian champ John Hotchkiss at the front of my thoughts there is clearly only one sensible way forward... rest, sleep, eat.

I've not picked up illness or injury recently, nor in the last few years in fact, and have been performing reasonably well in swim and bike, but I have experienced several days (over the last couple of weeks) of the most severe lethargy that I've ever felt and can't remember wanting to exercise less than I do right now. Hopefully I've not done too much damage and by the time we're sat in front of the tinterweb cheering our mates round the Hawaii Ironman (second weekend in October) I'll once again feel like the athlete I desire to be.

Good luck to all those racing in Rutland on Saturday, I'll be there cheering you on with as much passion as I would have like to have raced with.

See you next week for a season review,


p.s. Today's photo is me sitting on the grass doing nothing much, which is where you are most likely to find me over the next three weeks ;)

Special people...

I was planning to write about The Vit tonight and maybe if I get time I will pen a few thoughts about it. But this weekend we spent time with someone who is actually changing lives, maybe he's changed yours? He changed mine!

If I were to write his name (Paul Sinton-Hewitt) you probably wouldn't know him. But with over 19 active parkruns being held across the country (and some as far as Zimbabwe & Holland) Paul and his team are turning things round for the better in a world full of greed, expense and obesity.

If you're already a runner what more could you ask for... parkrun is free (I'll just repeat that as it's really not often that races are free) it's a FREE 5km run held every (going to have to repeat that one as well) held EVERY Saturday morning at 9am in its various locations around the country. If you aren't a runner, even better. You couldn't ask for a friendlier, no pressure way to exercise where the most important aspect is getting out there in a community full of walkers, joggers, sprinters and folk pushing prams (I was over taken by one at Bushy Park this weekend!!!)

Back to my title then, and of course the picture above. That's me with Paul Sinton-Hewitt. He's doing amazing things. It's not often that you get the opportunity to meet special people, but when you do I don't know about you but you just know they're special. When Tom first met up with Paul a couple of years ago to talk about starting Leeds' very own parkrun I had no idea (nor particular interest if the truth be known) in Tom's latest crazy idea about some free 5km run in a park in Leeds. I mean, who'd want to do that! It'll never catch on!!! But then embarrassingly that's the lazy side of me, I think all I heard come out of Tom's mouth were the words...'fantastic, brilliant, early, every Saturday and forever.' Mmmmm???

Honestly (even though it's EVERY Saturday) it's changed me and my perception of running (for the better) and helped so many people I can't tell you. I'm overwhelmed by the affect such a small thing has had on such a large number of people and I'm truly proud to be part of that community. It will be Leed's 100th parkrun this coming Saturday and I wish I could be there but I'm racing and will be somewhere in the Leicestershire countryside on my bike while the celebratory coffee and cake is happening :(

We stayed with Paul S-H & his soon to be wife Jo this weekend and apart from the bit where I slipped and threw myself half way down his stairs bruising my coccyx and hurting my elbows we had a great time. parkrun (always lower case) was born and lives there and in his office the computers whir away logging all of the info and creating the data for the coming events. He's like a dog with a bone, he never gets tired of it. The nicest thing of all is that Paul's reasons for starting parkrun have never changed. It was never created to make money. It will always be FREE. That's not really what makes it special though nor Paul. It's his enjoyment as he watches something that started so tiny and small grow and reach it's tiny fingers out to the communities surrounding it bringing exercise and friendship to all who take part. That's the bit he loves to see, that's what makes him special.

I've loved watching the people that first came to Leeds parkrun as walkers. They walked every week with smiles on their faces, they were part of a race, the time and speed irrelevant. Then bit by bit they would start running little sections. Those sections get longer and in front of our very eyes (we marshal every weekend that we're in Leeds) they could run the whole way, amazing, just amazing. Faster runners can always take care of themselves and they come, they run and they go, its wonderful to see their speedy talent. But for me parkrun is the most inclusive race I'll ever go to. Women push prams, men race round with their dogs and kids, small, tall, short, fast and even Ralph our very own 'joggler' (he runs and juggles all of the way round and has done 26mins 25secs without a single drop!) it's active fun and afterwards we all go to the nearest cafe and chat over hot coffee and cake. So have a look near you and see if you've got a parkrun close by, if you do try it you might like it!

It's 20mins passed my bedtime so I'm going to be uber quick finishing up. So, The Vitruvian is this Saturday! I have no idea where my head, legs or body are at, I could pb (personal best) or I could pw (personal worst) who knows??! I know I'm ready for a rest though and then I plan to pick up my running over the Winter months and try and inject a bit of speed into the old legs. In fact I'll probably start running parkrun more in a bid to get faster but 5km's boy do they hurt. I ran Bushy parkrun this weekend and managed a respectable 21.45. Not my best but not as bad as I thought it would be. Bless my husband who is knackered and writing about his decision to pull out of The Vit, a good decision I think, I look forward to having him screaming his support at me round the course on Saturday with his mum & Ray and then having a couple of weeks together where for both of us training isn't a factor. Lovely :)

Time almost certainly for bed and to say a quick thank you to Paul Sinton-Hewitt & Jo and the kids Dylan & Ruby, we had lots of fun (except for Tom winning Uno!! oh and falling down your stairs!) Have an amazing time when you tie the knot next week (apologies again for not being their due to racing - but we'll be with you in spirit!)

Night all...

H x

Oh and as always my daily photo's are still being posted here and here...

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Last man standing...

With two weeks to go before my last race of the season (The Vitruvian) I'm sitting typing this blog feeling as far removed from athleticism as is possible! On one hand that's good, it's keeping me 'real' on the other hand it's hideous. I've talked a lot in past blogs about my desire to discover this enigma that is 'moderation'. If I could pop into Sainsbury's and find it nestled between the chocolate and the vegetables I'd snatch it off the shelf. But I only do extreme... and very well. That's what happens with my 'all or nothing' personality.

I mentioned last week that I was enjoying my relaxed approach to training and to eating and that's true. However, with two weeks to go before the middle distance race and the desire to eat cake being higher than the desire to get out of the door I could be heading for a train smash. Honestly? I think I'm tired. Physically and mentally tired. It's been a long season for me and the first time I've taken on two Ironman events in the same year. I'm not so fatigued though that I'm a wreck and I know that because I've pb'd (way beyond what I ever thought I was capable of) in our weekly 20km time trial. But I've switched off, that's the top and bottom of it. I've switched on the chocolate and cake button and switched off the focused training button!! And the issue isn't actually the cake or the lack of focus, the issue is... I no longer feel like me. Choosing an apple over chocolate and a swim session over a late night is who I am and that's why I feel a bit hideous.

Give myself a break I hear you say in your heads as you read my ramblings. Having a rest is good, eating crap for a while is good, being relaxed is good. Yes, yes & yes I completely agree. But not if it makes you feel crap and I've just reached saturation level.

Life it seems has to be a balancing act and I've just tipped myself over the edge. Time to re-group and pull in the reins. So that's where I am right now, Sunday 23rd August 2009... sick of eating crap, getting to bed late and ditching sessions due to getting to bed late. I understand the need for a good rest and the second I cross the line after The Vit that's exactly what I'll do. I also won't be trying to cram in missed training sessions between now and then. The race will be what I'm capable of on the day. In the meantime I'll be re-visiting my old self. Getting to bed early and eating the fruit and veg that I really do love. All or nothing, I tell you it's got a lot to answer for! Anyone got a spare moderation button they could pop in the post???

Anyway, enough of that. This weekend was the National Team Relays and it's such a great event. Our club Leeds & Bradford have got an awesome community with such great people and we always make a full day of it. Two huge tents, the BBQ on the go all day, the fun of racing, comparing times, screaming on team mates and generally catching up with club members from all over the country, it's just brilliant. And as the sun started to fade on what had been a beautifully hot day the last lone runner left on the course (see above pic) made his way past our tent and so we all stopped what we were doing to cheer him in.. that's what the Relay's are all about to me. Performance in time?... not important. Doing your best for your team?... Brilliant :) Funny how you can hurt so much more when you know it's not just for yourself!

We topped the weekend off by traveling to our mate Sam's in Leamington Spa and going out for a 3hr easy ride in the Cotswolds. Three hours of chilled out chat with Sam and his mate Dom followed by a pub lunch before hitting the motorway, perfick :)

The clock is about to strike ten and I'm going to sign off and get myself into bed. Tomorrow is a new day. It won't have any cake in it and only light training but tomorrow I can start getting back to being me, wuhoo!!!

Pix of the day are still going well and now I've gone over to Facebook and Twitter it's making life a lot easier to upload them :) I'm already thinking about what I'll do when the 365 days are up on the 2nd Feb 2010 and it's doing wonders for tapping into my creative side, marvellous.

H. x

"If one oversteps the bounds of moderation, the greatest pleasures cease to please." Epictetus

P.s If anyone has a drop of moderation they could share with me that would be wonderful...

Winning IS everything...

... the problem is we seem to have forgotten exactly WHAT winning is! Let me explain myself using a couple of nicely topical examples...

Seventy-three years ago the Olympic games were hosted in Berlin and would be remembered primarily for the conflicting presence of two of the most influential individuals in history... Jesse Owens and Adolf Hitler. The 1936 Games were designed by the Nazi government to showcase the superiority of the white Aryan race over the rest of the world.... four gold medals later (100m, 200m, long jump & 4 x 100m) and Jesse Owens managed to turn Hitler's very own Olympics into perhaps the most effective anti-Nazi message possible.

All of this I, and probably you, already knew... but my definition of winning comes not from four gold medals... rather, a single silver. Luz Long was one of Owens' main rivals and with one jump left in the first round had already qualified for the final, whilst Owens had fouled both of his first two jumps... one more and he would be out, leaving the route to gold clear for the German athlete. Seeing his fellow competitor struggling Luz wandered over to Owens and offered him some advice regarding his approach to his third, and only remaining chance to advance to the final. Knowing Owens was easily capable of making the required distance he suggested that the American started his run several inches earlier, therefore keeping well clear of the take-off board and, although reducing the 'length' of his jump, guaranteeing a place in the final. Following his rival's advice Owens snatched a place in the Olympic final and would then go on to set the Olympic long jump record securing the gold medal and leaving Long with silver.

You see, for me winning is about giving your absolute best in fair competition against your closest possible rival - the actual outcome has pretty much nothing to do with it. A true winner will always seek to challenge themselves against who they perceive as the best and will always do so on the most even playing field possible. What's the point in coming first if the favourite isn't there? What's the point in going 'swifter, higher, stronger' if you're in possession of some kind of advantage... hardly 'competition'.

Despite coming second, Luz Long walked from the Olympic stadium (arm in arm with Jesse Owens and right under Hitler's nose) as one of the greatest 'winners' of all time.

Now, if I'm going to define winning as I see it, let me define winning as it seems to have become...

Rather conveniently we don't need to leave Berlin... just fast forward to the 2009 world athletics championships and the semi-final of the men's 4 x 100 relay. With the USA beating Great Britain into second place by just over one tenth of a second both teams qualified for the final and the world looked forward to the prospect of Jamaica v United States. Then, as the evening's coverage drew to a close news began to filter through that the Americans had been disqualified... somewhat surprising to all of us who had watched the race live and seen nothing wrong with their performance. It seems though (according to the BBC online coverage - see the 21.32 comment ) that the British team had spotted an infringement and launched an official complaint. Now I hate cheating as much as anyone, and as I've already noted above you can only 'win' on a level playing field so what could the Yanks possibly have done to lead the British Team to protest??? Well, the answer it seems was to start, not complete, but start to hand the baton over a couple of inches before the designated zone... did they technically break the rules? YES. Did they gain an advantage? NO. Did they do it deliberately? NO. Were they the best team? YES Did the British team get one of their main rivals thrown out of the world championships for no greater reason other than 'they could' in order to increase their own chances of 'winning' (their definition not mine)? IT SEEMS SADLY SO! The video is HERE if you want to see for yourself.

As part of my role as a lecturer in sports science at The University of Leeds I hold regular seminars around the ethics of sport and competition. Unfortunately society seems to have forgotten what it truly means to 'win' (as demonstrated earlier this year by my namesake on the rugby field) with the common definition centered around an outcome rather than a process. More often than not I come across the 'win at all costs' attitude (which would be fine if they actually understood the word 'win') and only slightly less disappointing is the almost as popular 'it's not the winning it's the taking part' camp.

Going back to the title of today's blog...

WINNING (giving your absolute best against your closest rivals regardless of the outcome) REALLY IS EVERYTHING.

See you next week,


p.s. This week's winner? Ben G for lending me (his closest rival) his disk wheel for our club time trial championships - despite leveling the playing field with his act of sportsmanship he still crossed the line nearly 20 seconds ahead of me - we both 'won' though ;)

p.p.s And this week's loser? The first guy off for team number 92 at this weekend's Team Relay Championships - despite drafting his way round the bike by sucking onto whatever wheel he could, and crossing the line before me for the 'win' - he was very much the loser (see above).

p.p.p.s. Massive apologies for letting my amazing team down on Saturday with perhaps the worst two transitions in my triathlon history. If it had been me on my own I wouldn't have been so disappointed (although as Kev cleverly pointed out I would have done well to arrive late to my own transition) but being part of a team raises the stakes and looking at the results my lack of focus probably cost us four places (5th to 9th) in the mixed competition. I truly am sorry, hopefully you'll have me back next year to put things right?

Sunday, 16 August 2009

I know I CAN run...

I've just forgotten how!

Regular followers of my Twitter Feed (also see right hand side of this page) will know that I've been struggling a little this week. Since early in the week I'd been feeling really really tired, struggling to get out of bed in the mornings and fading toward the end of training sessions. Whether this was delayed fatigue from two Ironman events in seven weeks, a virus picked up last weekend or a combination of both, was unclear, but whatever the reason I was pretty much as knackered as I've ever been. By the time I woke up on Thursday morning I was feeling pretty low and doubting very much that I'd make the start line of this morning's race. Fortunately my inherent lazy streak saved the day and following 48 hours of 100% rest I used yesterday's LBT aquathlon (950m open water swim and 2.2 mile run) as a last minute fitness test to decide whether or not I'd toe the line this morning. Although it didn't go amazingly (good swim, tough run) I didn't have any feelings of tiredness or fatigue... as for my fitness that's another matter (see below) but I was certainly back to 100%.

I've been swimming OK recently and biking well but yesterday's 15:10 for 2.2 miles (28 seconds per mile slower than my marathon, yes marathon, pb pace) highlighted once more how far behind I've let my running fall. In fact chatting with H earlier today, I don't think we've done a pure running race since early February and it's starting to show. Taking this into consideration I'd decided to adopt a somewhat 'all or nothing race strategy' for today's Olympic event of 'swim like there is no bike', 'bike like there is no run' and then tough it out in a James Cracknell style (complete with blisters I would later discover). Inspired by the recent performances of Yorkshire's finest (here & here) I'd much rather come off the bike first (or my equivalent) with a chance of winning and finish last than come off the bike tenth (or my equivalent) and finish tenth... joining me on the start line were two friends and fellow LBT athletes who tend to beat me over Olympic distance (Richard Howarth and Tim Ashelford), but that gap's been getting shorter every year (Tim beat me by less than a minute in Cleveland) and now it's time to go for the win. So, what happened...

As the gun went I took it out as hard as I could to the first turn buoy (see above strategy) and fighting for position found myself leading Tim through the first lap. Entering the water for lap two I quickly found the feet of three strong swimmers and took the chance to tuck in and recover. Half way round the lap Tim cruised by and I managed to stick on his feet to the final turn buoy before taking advantage of some dodgy navigation to pip him by five seconds clocking 21.25 for a seemingly accurate 1500. Hopefully Richard, who typically swims sub-20 wouldn't be too far ahead... so far so good...

A better than normal T1 saw me only a few seconds behind Tim starting the bike, catching him earlier than Cleveland (where I think I managed to build a 60+ second gap) I was hopeful of gaining the two plus minutes I'd need to hold him off on the run (on a good day - see below). Richard was still out of sight so once again it was hammer time as I set about closing the gap, I didn't know how big that gap was but was hopeful of closing it and maybe working on building a lead for the run. Flying through the first few miles at Pool Triangle intensity (again, see today's strategy) I was blown away as Tim came flying back past me like I was stood still... averaging 25mph I was far from stationary! Working really hard to keep the gap under 100 metres Tim was absolutely flying and it took 30 minutes of pretty much max effort to finally get back in front at around 20 miles. I knew by this point that the best I could hope for would be a 30 second lead into the run and with Richard nowhere to be seen I'd be chasing him from the start (on a good day). Jumping off the bike my Garmin GPS showed 57:32 for 23.55 miles which at an average speed of 24.56 mph placed me 5th overall starting the run and despite not being in a good place re competing with my LBT rivals it was definitely a case of 'two down, one to go'...

I had tried not to 'expect' what happened next as negative thoughts certainly promote negative performances but I certainly wasn't surprised when Tim flew past me a couple of minutes into the run and Richard disappeared out of view almost instantly (he'd had about a minute on me into T2). Fifth to sixth straight away and we all know what happened to our mate James on his journey to the South Pole. I knew things weren't good when I couldn't get my heart rate within 10 bpm of my bike (163 v 153) where normally you'd look for a ten beat increase but I'm quite a good survivor and digging I seemed to be holding 6th pretty well. For a while I was pretty much running on my own, but struggling to hold any kind of pace slipped to 10th over the last couple of km and crossed the line following a 42.35 run (6.55 miles on Richard's GPS) and posting 2.05.40something. At this point I really should congratulate Richard and Tim for placing 3rd and 5th in 2.00 and 2.01 respectively and giving me a good old-fashioned kicking. Great performances lads... see you next season ;)

How do I feel about it... I'm definitely recovered from whatever it was and hit pretty much 100% of what I'm physically capable of at the moment. I'm really pleased with where my bike and swim have got to this season, swimming 21 minutes and riding 60 minutes is beyond anything I could have hoped for a couple of years ago. But... my lack of attention to running has finally let me down (note: I know I ran 3.24 in Lanza but I KNOW I'm capable of 3.10-3.15 in the right shape - based on a 2008 2.49 marathon pb at London with a 19 minute final 5k).

I've gone on far too long to discuss the reasons for my current condition (I don't mean that in a negative way at all, and am quite positive about this year's progress - it's been a great season, full of pbs) but do have loads of ideas regarding the next steps...

to be continued...


The only way is up... and down...

Gone are the days of long swims, long, long runs and even longer rides. I did promise myself that post Ironman I would re-visit the shorter distances and try and recover what fast twitch muscle fibres I have left. Actually I'll re-phrase that. I'll try and discover my fast twitch fibres! Ironman has almost certainly stolen any kind of speed I had but strangely only in my running. Through the whole of my training I've gradually improved both swim & bike and recently had some cracking results in both, but my poor old running has been unravelled and I no longer feel light of foot or fast.

Lanza & Switzerland have flown way into the past and I will no longer be revisiting the Ironman world for quite a while but I'm really enjoying trying to up my game in a bid to get a bit of speed into these old legs of mine. Swim sessions are short and sharp, and run sessions are much more speed focused, heart rate pushing sessions. I'm loving it, although my legs beg to differ. The bike I'm ashamed to say I've neglected a little bit :( I've managed to get a few short hard turbo sessions in but as for road miles, they've been few and far between since Switzerland. I MUST get out to do some mileage before The Vitruvian kicks my proverbial ass! I have however, pb'd big time in our local 20km time trial and have been shocked at how hard and fast I've managed to push myself on the bike, it's been quite a revelation. I'm terribly inconsistent though and this is something I'd like to try and work on. One week I'll exceed my expectations and then the week after I'll be way below what I would even normally expect to do???

However, as the above pic suggests (taken in Bournemouth last weekend) the only way is up... for the painful sessions, and down in the cake eating sessions! I like my new challenge and I'm looking forward to having a little more time in every day life now that Ironman won't be stealing it. One thing I have succumb to though since July is cake eating! Not good when you're trying to improve speed that's for sure! I've enjoyed being more relaxed about what I eat and I think it's a necessary part of coming out of a solid block of Ironman training and racing but boy can I feel the difference when I'm running. I think it's a little bit too late to do anything about it for The Vitruvian now, I am what I am and I'm fine with that. I'm feeling a little bit raced out to be honest and I'm looking forward to crossing the line at The Vit and then having a complete month of rest. Then come October I'll be concentrating on getting lighter (holding my strength) upping the pain in the sessions and crossing my fingers that the outcome will convert into two speedier legs :) :) :) Watch this space!

I'm still taking my daily picture and really enjoying it. I hope you've all managed to make the transition over to seeing them on Facebook or Twitter. Work's going well and I've got some exciting shoots on the horizon, up is the new black :)

I'm off to eat more cake ;)

H. x

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Fun in the sun...

We've written our weekly blog from many weird and wonderful locations but few have been as great as where we find ourselves on this gorgeous summer evening. Yesterday morning we jumped in the car and headed south for another one of our 'adventures', three days of quality time with our close friends Martin and Liz and our first meeting with their beautiful baby girl Ruby Rose. As luck would have it our mate Greg was also in Bournemouth this weekend and taking part in the VOTWO open water swim, it's been a while since we shared the same start line (probably Reading Half Marathon in 1999!) but we've been close mates for over 15 years and that made today's race really special. 

The three of us lined up next to each other on the beach (running start into the water) and having done a few triathlons with a dry start we assured Greg that it wouldn't be that crazy... five seconds later the hooter went and five seconds after that all hell broke loose as 150 athletes set about the 3800 metres as if they were 380! Although we both did a sea swim in Lanzarote this year, the currents in Bournemouth we're much stronger and as we headed straight out for about 300 metres to the first buoy Martin and Liz wondered if our goggles had misted up as the entire field drifted way left of the first right hand turn. Sea swimming is a real skill and very different to 'still water' events, although the leaders seemed largely unaffected the rest of us faced a serious battle probably covering well over 4000 metres a piece, half of which was 'uphill'... some GPS tracking would be really interesting! In the end I finished in 66 minutes for 24th out of 133 finishers, H followed in 75 minutes and 60th overall and Greg completed his first ever Iron distance open water sea swim in 80 minutes and 74th. All three of us were super pleased (see today's photo) to conquer the most challenging OW swim conditions we've ever faced - it was tough and we got our butts kicked by some great swimmers, but we all gave it our absolute best... if anything it'll make 1500 metres in a lake at next weekend's Olympic distance triathlon seem a little easier :)

Racing over, it was time to kick back and enjoy one of the most valuable yet rare things in modern life... quality time with great friends. Greg had made the journey from Oxford with Mik, Lillia and Morris and together with Mart, Liz and Ruby we kicked back over a lazy lunch watching the world go by on the Bournemouth beach front... I'd even been strong enough to leave my phone at home (you should try it some time, although uncomfortable at first the feeling of freedom due to being out of contact is rather liberating!). An evening of chilling on the beach followed and as the sun fell on a truly wonderful day we found ourselves looking forward to a lifetime of 'adventures'....

See you next week,

T & H x

Monday, 3 August 2009

Without fear of failure...

Well, I promised last night that this evening I'd attempt a blog post slightly more worthy of yesterday's events so here goes...

Long time readers of our blog will have seen me refer to today's quote (see below) on more than one occasion. It was said by perhaps the greatest triathlete of all time and is something that I aspire to one day get close to. This Sunday, during eight hours and 45 minutes of awe inspiring racing, everyone present at Ironman UK was witness to the best example of 'really living' I have ever seen...

Up here in Yorkshire we've become pretty used to success on the international triathlon scene, but even so few could have predicted that a 20 year old lad from York would lead from start to finish over 140.6 miles against one of the world's most established ultra endurance athletes to become the youngest ever winner of an Ironman triathlon... oh, and did I mention it was the furthest he'd ever ridden a bike on his own and the first time he'd ever run a marathon? To be honest though, no amount of stats, figures or split times could get close to describing what those of us lucky enough to witness Phil Graves' Ironman arrival will remember for ever... I'm not one for hyperbole so please believe me when I say this really was the stuff of legend!

Despite coming into the race having won the UK half-Ironman and soon after placing third in the national 100 cycling time trial championships (three hours 37 minutes for 100 miles, on a bike... think about that for a minute) many of us thought this a step too far for someone so young. The common advice seemed to be to stick to middle distance racing for a while, rack up some prize money and sponsorship and maybe in a few years step up to Iron distance... when 'ready'. I've long believed that in order to achieve extraordinary things we need to throw 'the book' out of the window and live an extraordinary life, and Phil Graves is certainly living 'a life less ordinary'. Coming out of the swim with Stephen Bayliss it was no secret that Graves would set about building as big a lead as possible, as quickly as possible. Spectating at the start of the first real climb of the bike course we were initially disappointed to see Bayliss leading the way, 30 seconds later however, as Graves flew past us on his tri-bars pushing what apparently (and what looked like) a 57 tooth chain-ring (uphill - think about it) we were left in little doubt as to who would be first onto lap two. What we weren't prepared for was that 90 minutes later he'd have a lead of over six minutes and would attack the hill (three mile climb, 72 miles of riding and a marathon to go - think about it) like nothing we've ever seen. There really is no way words could do it justice - picture the aggression of a young Mike Tyson and the focus of Tiger Woods - I've seen Ain-Alar Juhansen destroying the climb up the Mirador Del Rio on the way to winning Ironman Lanzarote and that doesn't even come close. The fearlessness with which Graves set about attacking what appears to be one of the toughest Ironman courses in the world was a joy to witness. In a sporting world where mediocrity is rewarded to such an extent that true passion and flair are so often compromised in the name of 'professionalism' it was wonderful to see someone so young put everything on the line, hold nothing back and truly give 100%. I mean absolutely, positively, 100%... everything, really truly everything... it's something that very few people will ever get close to, I certainly haven't... yet ;) 'Everything' isn't measured in times, places or trophies, nor is it measured in money, success or fame... it's all about you, as a person, an individual is defined by their actions, not their outcomes, and on Sunday the 2nd of August 2009 Phil Graves 'really lived'. Perhaps one day, we will too?

"Unless you test yourself, you stagnate. Unless you try to go way beyond what you've been able to do before, you won't develop and grow. When you go for it 100%, when you don't have the fear of 'What if I fail?', that's when you learn. That's when you're really living"
- Mark Allen

See you on Sunday,

T x

A spectator sport...

Yes, today's pic means that not only did we spectate at an Ironman today instead of racing one, but that we've also only JUST got home after what has been an amazing day watching from the t'other side!!

Therefore my friends this post is short. I have an appointment with the pool tomorrow and because I've given up the long stuff I can't be missing the short stuff or I'll go clinically insane.

Armed with a cool box of food, five jumpers (this is England and Summer fell on a Monday this year) my husband on one arm and the wonderful Richard Leake (our great friend and tri club chairman, see above pic) on t'other arm, we ventured out into the wilds of Rivington in Bolton to see what Ironman UK had in store. In short a lot of squelchy mud (thank god for wellies.) A swim course that was difficult to spectate from (thank god for wellies.) A bike course in which we found the perfect spectating point to de-camp (thank god for geographical practitioners Tom & Richard) and a run course that would confuse a Garmin (thanking god I wasn't running.) Well done to every last man & woman out there today, it looked like it was a challenge in many ways, what an awesome day we had.

Our tri club had a few members racing so we thoroughly enjoyed screaming our heads off all day. WELL DONE!!! We were also there to watch Yorkshire lad Phillip Graves who is only 20, I repeat that, 20yrs old, race his first Ironman. I think Tom is penning a few words about how amazing he was so I'll leave that to him. What talent!!

Soaking in the IM atmosphere gave me a little time for reflection. Not the time now as bed is calling, but hold that thought. A day with stato Tom's very own twin Richard Leake made for a very interesting and number filled day, thank you both, you make me laugh.

If you want to see this week in pix then click here and look through the last seven days... it's bed time..........

Night night....

H x


Having spent almost the entire last 24 hours travelling to / spectating at / travelling back from today's Ironman UK (our alarm went off twenty hours and four minutes ago) I'm too tired to think. H seems to cope with short term sleep deprivation much better than me and is happily fiddling away with Photoshop as we speak... I however am struggling to do much more than stare blankly at my computer screen (not much change there you might say)...

Well done to all the athletes who took on the mighty challenge of Ironman UK today, not least the subject of today's photo.

I really really promise to write something deserved of today's title by the end of play tomorrow,

sleep well,