Monday, 26 April 2010

Two down... one to go...

I’m writing this whilst we cruise along the M1 northbound at 10.30pm on Sunday night on our way home from the London Marathon. With 80 miles to go we popped into the services for a celebratory Burger King to swap drivers and with 27 days to go until the most important race of my life I’ll need to reign in my taste for junk food for the next four weeks.

Twelve weeks ago, with my motivation at an all time low and my energy levels following suit, I spent some time seriously contemplating an early retirement from my Ironman journey. My self-imposed conditions for giving it one last shot on the 22nd of May were that I would set myself a training schedule which I believed would put me in a position to qualify for Hawaii in Lanzarote next month. My only motivation with regards taking to the Canarian start line is to qualify for Kona and as such there can be no half measures, either in training or racing. I’ve not considered the demands of the 16 week schedule on my body, and whether or not I would be able to survive… I simply set myself what I believe is required, and anything less would simply remove any chance I have of achieving my ultimate (and only) goal. With 12 of the 16 weeks down I can definitely say it is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, by quite some way, and with four weeks to go I’m still not convinced I’ll make it to the start line. Nevertheless, so far so good and with my two main training goals / fitness markers achieved I believe that with 27 days to go I’m still in the game.

With swimming reduced to a bare minimum due to whatever the mystery injury is that I’m suffering from (long story) it’s up the my bike and run to do the talking. So, that meant two serious training / racing goals in the build up to Lanza… The Circuit of the Dales 50 mile super hilly TT (in it’s 50+ year history only two people have been under two hours on the full course, and Chris Boardman wasn’t one of them!) and The Virgin London Marathon.

The former saw me pb by around ten minutes with 2:21 and proved that my 16 weekly bike hours is doing the trick on two wheels, confirming my thoughts that having started 2010 in the worst bike form of my life I’d found the complete opposite by early April. The latter would be my chance to do the same for my running and suggest that my target 3.10 run split in Lanza really is possible…


It had been a far from ideal build-up to today’s race, overtime on the podcast along with a return to teaching at the University found me needing solid 20+ hour days (literally) to fit in my 16 hours bike hours. Arriving in London I was pretty much the most fatigued / tired / knackered I’ve ever been, my legs felt about as close to lead as I could imagine and thoughts of running a ‘comfortable’ marathon, let alone in under three hours, seemed somewhat of a pipe dream. Still, if I’m going to run 3.10 in Lanzarote then I need to be in sub-2.50 marathon shape, so today’s target of 2.55-2.59 would need to be comfortable… Despite my default confidence, having seemingly emptied my legs over the first part of this week I was somewhat concerned that they wouldn’t have the strength required to hold 6.45 per mile round the streets of London for nearly three hours. Because of this I tried to stuff in a little extra food and drink over the last few days in the hope that they would last the distance… which was nearly my undoing, as despite my legs feeling great from start to finish and feeling like I had an extra gear right through miles 1-26 I found myself needing two rather long wee stops and an even longer ‘number two’ stop, as well as a ten mile fight with the ‘gingerbread men’ (check out Tony’s Trials on Marathon Talk if you don’t know what that means) in the second half of the race. (Sorry R & K but those jelly babies would almost certainly have pushed me over the edge!).

Anyway, here are my 5k splits (corrected to remove toilet breaks)…

20:29, 20:46, 20:53 (+30 sec stop), 21:02, 20:37 (+30 sec stop), 20:37, 20:35 (+60 sec stop), 20:40 & then 20:29 pace for the final 2.2k.

All achieved with the feeling that if required I could have dropped any one of them under 20 minutes if I’d wanted to. A finish time of 2:56:39 (including toilet stops) is bang on 6.45 per mile and at the effort level that it took I’m pretty confident that with 27 days to go I am most definitely still in the game ;)

There’s many a slip from cup to lip though and with four weeks until Lanza there are plenty of hard training sessions and key workouts left to bank before I attempt a short and steep taper into the defining moment of my Iron journey. In six days time I’ll be on the start line of the Yorkshire Cycling Federation 25 mile time-trial champs, the second fastest marathon of my 14 or so 26 mile efforts, just six days prior, will not be accepted as a legitimate reason for a sub-par performance.

With my swimming looking like it will cost me at least five minutes over my Kona rivals and a sub ten hour performance likely to be required, over perhaps the hardest Ironman course in the world, nothing less than ‘everything’ will do the job. I’m sure that a few of you reading this will be thinking that I’m pushing it too hard and doing too much… my answer to that is I’m doing what is required to achieve my goal, nothing more and nothing less. Yes, I may not make the start line, but that isn’t my goal.

“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift”
                                    - Pre

See you next week,


26.2… This chapter ends here…

So, with Paris marathon still in my legs and very little running in the two week gap my body had to recover, my expectations were swaying in the breeze of uncertainty.

I’m surprised to report that I was only two minutes slower than Paris and my legs certainly aren’t as trashed as they were then. So I have a 3:29 (from Paris) and a 3:31 (today) in the space of two weeks, that’s not bad going is it J

I thought a lot (well that’s a lie, about two weeks actually) about how I was going to approach today. Was I going to just run round with friends and enjoy the ride or was I going to try for a pb? I waited until Saturday to decide and not surprisingly I decided to give it a go BUT (the plan) if it ever got too much for my poor legs then was to back it off. And that’s what I did. I went for sub 3:20 (my pb) and felt great but at mile 16 I knew I wasn’t going to be able to sustain the pace without imploding into a tiny million bazillion pieces …and going through hell wasn’t on my day’s itinerary. I slowed down and instead enjoyed the amazing atmosphere, weather and general pain that comes with 26.2miles… my last 26.2miles for quite a while.

Here endeth a rather HUGE chapter of my life in the athletic world. Last year saw the end of Ironman and crossing the line today in front of the Queen’s house (with a huge smile on my face) draws a line under double run days and 5am starts. I’d love to write something really poignant about how that feels but to be honest it hasn’t quite sunk in yet. With sore legs and a tired body I still feel like an athlete, will that change the week after next? Who knows? How do you make the transition from athlete to normal person? I’m hoping the stork will come and visit us after Tom’s done Lanza and the new chapter in our life will begin. Until then I need to have a rest. I will, of course, keep running, just not as emphatically as I have done. parkrun will play a large part in keeping me sane… thank you parkrun for existing!

Well done to all of you who ran today (especially Tom, read his blog) I can’t wait to watch him in Lanza, it’s going to be a special day! My permanent source of love and inspiration, you’re AMAZING.

To Kay for her incredible marathon journey and HUGE pb, you’re inspirational girl x

To Chris Jones who gives his all, it’s there for you Chris, well done x

To Michael Jameson, I hope you enjoyed it out there Mike x

To Paul Gaile, a pb and super speedy, amazing x

To Dave McGuire, you always love the day Dave, and always have a smile, love your enthusiasm, great time x

To Tony & Ruth (of’s Tony’ Trials) officially the fastest baby to run a marathon! x

To the rest of the Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research team, well done x

To Nicky who has already run 6 marathons this year!!!

And to Mel's Dad who ran 3:21 and had suffered bad cramp!! Brilliant time x

And to all I’ve forgotten (apologies) but well done x

And then of course, thanks to all who came to support and to all who sent their love and support. Seeing your little faces willing me on was such a boost. Thanks for the jelly baby offer Kirstie, it was great seeing you and Mr Hami (twice).

If you haven’t done London Marathon yet it’s a must. Honestly, it’s one of the most amazing marathon experiences, ever.

I’m not sure if I’ll keep my part of the blog going yet. It could be a very boring read, but thanks to you all for every word, every piece of advice and every inspiration for the past five years.

Definitely time to sign off before I cry Gwyneth Paltrow style.

H x

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Team Williams....

Joint blog this week, we're having a time issue (or lack of it...)

I can sum my epic week of life in the running world up in one sentence...

'This week I have been a non running, cake eating, marathon recovering, almost normal person.'

The nice thing about recovering from a marathon is that for the first week your legs and body ache enough to be incapable of anything other than rest (unless you're Russel Gardham and you PB at parkrun by quite some way!!!) I've actually enjoyed not double day running. I've been able to lie in, eat what I've wanted and had more time than I know what to do with when I've not been running, showering from running, eating after running or sleeping because of running. All very unusual.


A whole week of that has left me feeling, lazy, unhealthy and in need of some fruit! You long term blog readers will know I have no moderation button. I'm training or I'm definitely not training. I'm eating well or I'm eating anything with no nutritional value whatsoever etc. This week has been no different. I've opted out of the training world and into the cake eating world. As of tomorrow training will resume and cake eating will stop...on or off...simples!

Oh and yes... the memory of those painful few miles last Sunday have already been wiped from my memory bank which means that I have decided I will run London, sod it! Just don't expect me to win ;)

So that's enough about me, what's Tom done this week.

16 x 16 appears to have caught him between the devil and the deep blue sea. It's keeping him from going under (mentally) but at the same time it's proving to be very difficult (time wise). Any time spent away from home prevents those hours from being ticked off. Getting stuck in Bournemouth due to this volcanic ash episode has not helped at all. And so today, instead of racing Skipton triathlon he got up and rode from 6am until 3pm. Yup, that's right, 9 Yorkshire hours in the saddle. Tom's incredibly fit at the moment and very strong but hitting that 16 x 16 is a true test and one I'm not sure I could have stuck to. Come Lanzarote he is going to be so strong both physically and mentally, these long days in the saddle will pay him back I'm sure.

As for the swimming... I'm pleased to say that in our #winterswim finale (a 10km relay) Tom did the distance, something we weren't sure would happen. Team Williams which comprised of Tom and ...myself had 5km each to do. If you were a betting man you wouldn't have even looked at us. I haven't swum for over 4mths and Tom...well, you know his swimming story.
Alternating 25 x 200's was how we decided we would break it down. 2hrs and 49mins later and we were the proud owners of sore arms but at least Tom had 5km under his belt. His arms certainly not pain free and no better than normal but he got through it. His epic Iron journey this space.

Well done to all of those who were racing today, it was great to come along to Skipton and give you all a shout. Some great races had by you all on what is for many the first tri of the season. Have some cake (if only to stop me eating it!)

It's 9pm which means its bedtime. I'm double running tomorrow...yipeeeee!!!!! And Tom...he'll be on his bike!

H & T x

P.s Bradford's parkrun (see above pic) is now up and running and it's a beautiful course so if you're in the area on a Saturday morning go and play :)

Monday, 12 April 2010

Taking a gamble...

So, here you all were reading my preparations for the London Marathon and out of nowhere (and in secret) I travelled to Paris on my own on Friday and today I ran the Paris Marathon! That's me & Russ at the end.


Well, two weeks ago I tapered for and ran Wilmslow Half Marathon in preparation for London. I was expecting to run really well especially after my result in Silverstone at the end of a super hard week and no taper. Wilmslow didn't quite go to plan (easy mileage week and a taper) and yet I wasn't really sure why...

... until a day later and it all clicked into place. It was the 'wrong time of the month'. And then Tom reminded me London would fall exactly one month later.

So... I had two options... Take a chance and run London OR look for a marathon that fell two weeks earlier.

The thing is I'm unfortunate to have had many of my 'A' races ruined by the joys of my monthly cycle. Increased lethargy, really heavy legs and an inability to push myself have left me feeling disappointed at many of my races.

So knowing my performance at London was almost certainly going to be hampered it was time to look at my options. I could of course run London, feel crap, waste the endless hours and miles of effort for a result I could practically predict before I even start... OR take my chances.

I made a phone call to a very good friend with amazing connections in the business world of sport (8 days before Paris which was full & closed) and before I knew it he had me a place (thanks James) and I had eight days to taper for it (gamble number 2).

I finished my 70 mile week on Sunday, and then had Monday, Wednesday and Friday as rest days, ticking over on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday to keep my legs and mind at ease.

I went off at 3:20 pace feeling great (getting to half way on target). The bad man came at about mile 19, he stole my ability to run, and I was thankful to cross the line in 3:29.

I had to do it and it was a gamble, a gamble I'm really pleased I did. I took a chance, I didn't pb but I'm proud of myself for trying anyway.

My mate Russ who I've been long running with in Leeds (he always training for Paris, me always training for London!!) ran really well getting a huge pb and running 3:18, great work Russ :-) thanks for your company, hope your return journey wasn't a nightmare.

So that's why I ran Paris.

Unfortunately because it was so last minute and Tom was also racing, he couldn't come. One thing I do know is he's an amazing influence on me. Without him and his outlook on life I would never have had the confidence to travel to Paris on my own and run this marathon. So a million heartfelt thank you's go to my ever supportive amazing (and speedy - read his blog) husband xxx

And a huge thanks to Brian (Tom's pa) for sorting my accommodation out (I stayed with his good friends Mike & Robin) who were lovely.

My legs are marathon smashed and it's too soon to decide whether I'll run London (for pure fun, not for time) or not. I'm writing this on the flight on my way home and am more than ready for bed.

Hope you've all had an amazing weekend :)

H x

Ma femme est une legende...

This week it's (nearly) all about my amazing wife, who jetted off to France under the proverbial cover of darkness on Friday morning for a covert mission to take on the mighty Paris marathon. Her blog entry is likely to be infinitely more interesting than mine so I'll let her fill you in on the details, but just thought I'd start this short blog entry by saying how amazingly proud of her I was as she blagged a last minute entry and set off to take on the wonderful challenge of racing 26.2 miles. 

This week has been a real roller-coaster on my journey to Lanzarote on May the 22nd. I started on the wrong foot with FAR too much chocolate on Sunday and Monday, leaving me feeling sick as a dog and almost devoid of any motivation and about as far from the athlete that I so desire to be. It's amazing how poor food choices can really affect my mood, but they do, and frustratingly I have a great habit of adding to the problem by comfort eating and simply adding to the issue. Fortunately I also seem quite good at chucking in a couple of hard sessions and jump starting myself back into gear... this week then I had a 130 mile ride scheduled for Tuesday, a hard 22 mile run for Thursday and the Circuit of the Dales hilly (very - much more vertical ascent than Ironman Austria in less than half the distance). The 130 was always planned as an easy ride and I've never struggled with distance, but Thursday and today were key sessions in the build up to Lanzarote... both of which I've done for the last three or four years and so would therefore provide some great feedback...

To keep this short I'll just drop in the stats...

22 Mile hilly run including the Leeds Half Marathon Route...

2007 - 2:32:59
2008 - 2:33:10
2009 - 2:38:55
2010 - 2:30:25

Circuit of the Dales hilly 50

2006 - 2:38:22
2007 - 2:30:31 (short course)
2008 - 2:32:55
2009 - DNS
2010 - 2:21:03

So, with four good training weeks (and they will be good, believe me) and a two week taper... the swingometer is tilting slightly toward Hawaii ;)


p.s. the first rule about swimming is that we don't talk about swimming!

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Chill time...

Exactly seven weeks from this very moment I'll be kicking back in Puerto Del Carmen (Lanzarote) and the final chapter of this blog will have either a) just come to an end... or b) just started. Over the last few years Ironman has given me the most amazing highs and also the most difficult lows that I have ever experienced and with, potentially, a mere 42 days left of this wonderful journey I have a feeling the roller-coaster will chuck in a few more twists and turns for good measure.

Hels and I spent this afternoon kicking back in the great company of our friends Liz, Chris and Russell and having got out at 6am for a nice five and a half hour ride with my mate Guy and done all my todo's (other than the blog) it became a super rare afternoon of doing nothing much in particular... a real treat in the endless business that is our current crazy lifestyle.

Anyway, this is meant to be a blog about the road to Kona so where are we? Well, next Sunday I'll be able to tell you a lot more... I'm racing in the Circuit of the Dales time trial and having done it almost every year since I started triathlon it should provide me with some great feedback on where my bike legs are at. I feel that my 16 x 16 hour challenge (16 bike hours a week for 16 weeks - I'm currently one hour up on target with 145 hours in nine weeks) has so far brought me on par with my best ever bike condition, yet with a steeper 'trajectory' heading toward Iron day on May the 22nd... this time next week I'll know. Running is flying... despite taking it easy, feeling rubbish and having two extended stops for gingerbread men (if you don't know what that means then catch up with Tony's Trials on Marathon Talk) I snuck under 2:30 for a very hill 20 with an average heart rate in the 130s... I know I'm in my best run shape ever and that means I know I can break 3.10 in Lanza.

As for the swim... let's not talk about swimming just yet shall we ;)

Right, it's Easter Sunday and I've still got time to do a little more of nothing in particular...

Night x

Throwing caution to the wind...

Quickest ever blog for two reasons...

A) I've consumed way too much chocolate and I need to lie down

B) It's Easter and even Sainsbury's are closed!!!
That means everyone's entitled to a day of time out...

In a nutshell...

...I've run 70miles this week (even though I was trying to get my mileage down!)

My long run is now done... it was long and it was tiring.

And today for the first Easter in a long long time Tom & I have indulged in hours & hours of endless chit and chat over lunch with mates at our house with no second session to be done, no washing machine on, no clock watching & no calorie watching....ahhhhhhhhhh wonderful.

Hope you all had a marvellous Easter and feel as sick as I do...

Night night.

H x