Thursday, 23 April 2009
Over a month has passed since my return from New Zealand – though it seems like much longer. The last five weeks seem to have brought rather more than their fair share of trials and tests for this recently turned ‘carefree and footloose’ full-time triathlete. Perhaps I really thought it would all suddenly become easy, that the sun would always shine and that end would somehow just meet….well of course I didn’t. But I have been surprised at times in where these challenges have come from, and pleasantly so in their resolution too in the most part.
Of course I expected to miss the close circle of triathlon friends and training partners that I’d built up through Tri London over the past 3 years once we departed the city in January – knowing that we were never likely to return to that scene – but I had expected to enjoy the freedom of training alone, with an option of falling into a new local scene should I choose it. Not quite so. There are a great many factors that I could identify as possible reasons for the lack of motivation that I experienced during the first weeks of my time here; the big bag of post-race fatigue coupled with a rather rude return to grey skies dropping wet stuff all over the place being pretty obvious starting points. Add in a couple of tbsp of disappointment with my result at New Zealand, an invalid boyfriend (in recovery from an op on a foot tendon – see Steven’s blog for the story!) and therefore my long-term training my partner being suddenly absent from the mix, as well as the personal stress brought about by this change in dynamic between us, and it was with less than glee that I’ve been heading out into this merciless terrain on the bike and just trying to keep it going for 3 or 4 hours.
I’m also discovering a new world of triathlon in a rural, provincial setting. With training facilities spread over a much wider area than we are accustomed to in London, and club members equally so, there are certainly more challenges for clubs when it comes to organising pool time and group sessions.. A lot of travel is involved for many and pool space is at a premium, with Taunton based Somerset RC Tri currently operating a waiting list, for example. However, after much time invested searching and emailing, I have been able to join the local council-run, tri-based swim sessions which many of the Somerset RC attend and they really are a jovial bunch of people. There was a great atmosphere in the pool – and it’s clear that there’s a good spread of abilities, and atmosphere of encouragement and most of all fun. For a more serious swim session I was fortunate to come across the Yeovil District Swim Club’s head coach Alex Pinniger. He trains 6 kids squads to a national comptetion level, and has a couple of promising young triathletes under his wing, too. He generously allowed me to join his evening sessions, where I was humiliated by 10-12 year olds lapping me over 400m! On the whole folk are friendlier here than in London – I think that goes without saying – which is lucky for a new-comer to these parts trying to fit into the not broadly publicized scene but, because of the dispersed nature of the club members, you just run into people less frequently, so it takes a while to get established. After countless hours spent internet trawling prior to my move, virtually everything of use that I have learned about the club was through casual conversation with swimmers, cyclists and runners that I’ve chatted to whilst out and about. I feel as though I have finally found my feet here – this evening I’ll be moving on! One thing that I’ve learned since the beginning of my life as a full-time triathlete without fixed abode is that routine and familiarity are important underpins to my successful training, and ultimate happiness. This is something that our plans for the following year rather overlooked in favour of international racing, exotic locations and cheap or free accommodation, but will certainly influence our thinking for after Kona.
So, although there are still plenty of things that I am working on and anticipate that it will take some time, I feel that I have at last emerged from my gloom, feeling strong and fit (aside from the hay –induced perma-snot) and ready to ride in the sunshine. I’ve sussed out some great new rides and run routes down here and with the sun shining there certainly is happiness in the hedgerows of Somerset.
Monday, 6 April 2009
As defending ladies winner of this local race, wearing the number “2” and having been featured in this the Somerset Gazzette’s race preview this week there was a certain sense of pressure/pride in this race. However, positioned so soon after the Ironman (with last weekend’s disastrous 20 miler to vouch for that!) and London Marathon 3 weeks later, my entry really was intended as a last long run before London. So, the keep temptation at bay and thoughts of the much needed £100 prize money out of mind, I ran without a watch - but I did have the Garmin sneakily attached to my back for HR data and splits info after the event. I took it easy and chatted my way round the first half in 1:37 or something, 4 mins slower than Lotte who set another PB of 1:33 for the half marathon. I was surprised to see later that my HR was 160 -165 BPM for this first loop, as it really did not feel that hard and I really had been in conversation with a guy from my old running club, Bracknell Forest Runners for the majority of that time. Splits were about 7.30 give or take hills. It started to hurt when the half marathon runners stopped and the race thinned out. Miles 15-18 were tough, my Hr dropped to 155 and splits to 8-8:15 min/mile. But after mile 19 or20, I entered a happier place thanks to a caffeinated gel and some ibuprofen, caught the runners who'd passed me during my bad patch and even picked up to 'race pace' (sub 7 min miles, Hr 175-180) for the final two miles, second place and a 3:19 finish.
The race was won in 3:14 - not fast at all, and quarter of an hour slower than my time last year. For the sake of 5 min I could have earned another £50, but glad I didn't, as I have not enjoyed a long run so much for a long time ;o) and such a relief after last week’s fatigue and poor training. Here’s what coach Molina had to say:
“That’s good news in several ways:
- that your Hrate was easy to elevate . That’s a good sign you’re not nuked!
- That you werent’ completely crippled.
- That you can run an easy 3:19 when you’re not that fit.
- That you can run without a watch! – if you’re going to be in this sport long term then its important to just train relaxed sometimes and go completely on effort."
And i am hoping that this means that I am finally recovered enough to start training for lanzarote - afetr recovering from this run!!
Thursday, 2 April 2009
It’s been a while since I last wrote, and it’s been an eventful couple of weeks so here’s a quick catch up.
First off, in my first week back in Taunton I was struck down by a very severe bout of ‘yellow label fever’. This was a very violent gastric reaction to something growing on a packet of quick-sale scones which I was too (hugry/tired/inherbiated/all of the above) to notice after a bargain hunting spree at Tesco. Serves me right I suppose, but 3 days of rear-end evacuation at alarming flow rates was kind of frightening. I came close to calling for an ambulance at one point. Needless to say I was pretty weak after 3 days of fasting, so did not train much for the rest of the week. Luckily it was a nice weekend and I was able to get back on the bike and push the pedals around feebly on Saturday followed with a easy 2hr run on Sunday.
Jeremy Lazarus, had asked me to assist him in a seminar/presentation that he was holding as part of the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust ‘Harnessing Talent’ event on the 24-25th March, in Leeds. Jeremy is a NLP master practitioner with whom I have had a reciprocal back-scratching, door-opening relationship since working together a few years ago when he first started using his NLP for athletes, and needed a guinea pig. So, last week I was treated to an all expenses paid 2 –day conference in Leeds, aimed at helping retired or retiring athletes into the working ‘market place’ – or real world. You should read more about this fantastic initiative, masterminded by Kelly Holmes herself in response to her own feelings of lost direction and identity, having achieved her athletic dreams and facing the realisation that the next step was ‘retirement’ – in her thirties. The majority of the other delegates were either retired or about to retire athletes who had enjoyed at least partial funding to pursue their Olympic medal dreams for most of their life. Almost every person that I spoke to had been to either Beijing, Sydney or both ..and many had won medals! I was NOT worthy! However, I was pleased to meet some really genuine, interesting and super-friendly people well as learn, from the many seminars and guest speakers, the very real value that sports people can bring to the workplace. Not just utilising their sporting experience for sports related work like coaching, mentoring or inspiring kids, but in general as dynamic, driven, resourceful and hardworking personalities that athletes of this calibre are by nature. Our presentation was very well received and Jeremy has asked me to present at another of his training courses later in the year.
From Leeds, my next stop was a trip across the north of England to visit Steven and his leg in Stokesly, on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors. The visit was almost entirely chaperoned by Rita, his mum, who has been taking care of his every need since our return to the UK, and although we have not always seen eye to eye, I found a new level of respect and affection for her this weekend. Really, nothing is too much trouble for her -it’s hard to believe that she is nearly 70 years old the amount of energy that she has to give. So she drove Steven and my bike from London to Leeds, collected me and then across to Stokesly - a full day of driving. I had packed the bike in the hope but not much expectations that I’d get a chance to use it, but Steven virtually pushed e out of the door both Thursday and Friday! I am very grateful for this – not only was this giving up precious hours that we could have spent together, but that sort of help is much needed at the moment when I am seriously lacking in motivation. I love riding on the moors, but feeling so weary still, with grey and windy weather and without company, I really wasn’t raring to go. Alarmingly just 3 hours rolling easy over that terrain was about as much as I could ride at the moment – but I had to remind myself that it was less than 3 weeks since the Ironman.
Friday afternoon I was getting on another train for a weekend in London, where I hoped to hook up with some Tri London club-mates for a ride on Saturday and then do the Gade Valley 20 mile training run with my sister and other friends on Sunday. This is an excellent series of non competitive training run that the Hemel Hempstead based club organise each year in the lead up to London Marathon. The route is picturesque and on very quite roads around Ashridge, mile marked and marshalled with water stops. It really is an excellent opportunity for race pacing and nutrition practice, as well as a great social event – the same faces turn up there for the 12, 17 and 20 mile runs each year, and despite all the very good reasons for doing so, I think that it’s mostly for the cakes afterwards! Well, I had an awful run…my plan had been to run it ‘as I felt’ – and very conservatively. I felt that setting off on just under 8 min pace was pretty conservative, but only 4 or 5 miles in my calves were really hurting. It’s a hilly course and the up-hills became progressively tougher and down-hill sections increasingly painful. Unfortunately most of the long down hill sections are in the later stages of the route. My pace just slowed and slowed whilst everyone I knew – including my sister in the end – went past me. I was seriously worried that I was doing damage and inhibiting my recovery and preparations for the London Marathon – my target marathon race. I am scheduled to run Taunton Marathon - as defending ladies champion!- the following weekend, and of course I began questioning the sanity of that, too. I felt too sick for cakes afterwards, so Lotte and I shoved a couple in our bags for later in the day!!
Sunday evening I arrived back ‘home’ in Taunton. It was a fun trip, but really I am glad to be back home and settled, to get into a good routine and begin my preparations for the Ironman Lanzarote.
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