Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Preparing for the Double

So, embarking on my first real “very long” distance race off the back of my recent stumble into the hole of overtraining has been described by not just a few as “madness”. Well, who can argue? But whilst it certainly will be a tough challenge, it’s also an opportunity to implement some new training ideas that I have been discussing with my coach.

Firstly, given the short time that I left myself to prepare for the Enduroman, I am placing a fair amount of faith in the high volume of training that I have banked since signing up for my first Ironman in 2006, and our ability to monitor my response and as I focus on BIG sessions over the 6 week block (which started mid December)- without overdoing it and slipping back into the danger zone.

Designing the Plan:
No matter how many Ironman races I’ve trained for, there’s no escaping the fact that the Double is a whole different level of endurance – both physical and mental - and the need to do some very big training days, during which one gets very tired. Without this challenge, how can one be mentally prepared and learn to anticipate the needs that might arise on race day? What food works best? What clothing? How can I minimize discomfort on the bike/wetsuit/run shoes? What can I focus on the get me through this particular type of "bad patch"/agony?

It’s fortunate for me that from the very start of my ‘serious’ racing career my training has been geared towards steady volume. I’ve clocked a lot more hours than the average age-grouper between 2006 and 2010, and maintained an equivalently high training load through the two years since as a professional. But, my recent situation has forced me to be smarter than my old ways of simply cranking out the hours to get there and to figure out a way of achieving some big hours, long tiring days and fatigue simulation, without falling back into "total" fatigue.

The starting point was to evaluate what I think I can handle at this point. Historically I have an average training week of 25 hours, with about 50-60% of that consisting of weeks with over 30hours and my history has shown that I can sustain that 25-30 hour week for a pretty long block and race well afterwards, if allowed sufficient recovery time or taper. In this instance, a long taper is not an option –so it’s a question of taking that 25-30hr week and being smart with it. Here, the plan for Feb 4th-5th is to have recovery periods interspersed in my week. Historically I have been negligent of the need for recovery, until I get to a point where I’m so bombed I have no option, so this might seem obvious but it really is a new approach for me!

I do have the flexibility with my coaching work to include a big day in the middle of the week – this has enabled me to structure my week around two high-volume blocks: Saturdays will be my longest ride (because I don’t swim on Saturday mornings) followed by a short pace-oriented run. Sundays will be a short ride followed by a long run. At peak this should amount to 12 hrs riding and 3.5hrs running over the weekend. I anticipate that Sunday’s long run at the end of this big weekend will be very, very challenging for me and as such the focus of that session will be – how to get through it rather than pace or distance run. Mid-week will be a long continuous swim-bike-run day, and as the race approaches and I become more familiar and confident with the long sessions, I’ll look to include some Ironman intensity into this session. The other 4 days of the week will be very short training days with workouts focused on stability, flexibility and keeping my “top end” active in the pool. I will also include one full day off each week which is something that I have never done previously.

We've been so lucky with mild weather so far this winter (only one ride in the snow) but ,unsure of how long that will last, from 3rd January I will be based in La Santa in Lanzarote, which will enable me to get these long days (and nights!) done without fear of freezing or iced roads, or too many other distractions.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Looking back on, and learning from 2011

My time since returning from Florida has been pretty relaxed, taking some time off training and spending more time at home and with steven now that both of our racing seasons are over, and we're anticipating our first bit of British wintertime in a few years. It's nice to be in the same home for an extended period and settle into routines that do not entirely revolve around training schedules. For me that has entailed a combination of baking, lie-ins, organising and coaching a Triathlon Skills course at the local leisure centre, but also much time reviewing and discussing the previous year(s), current position and future of my triathlon racing career. I've heard this past-time described as "naval-gazing" hahhaha..but it's an important process which must have a place in the overall process. When things aren't working out as planned, it's essential to acknowledge this, try figure out why and what can be done to get things back onto the correct tradjetory.

So, what's prompted this? Well, I guess I'm wired that way anyway - the engineer geek in me is still pretty active and having diligently tracked my training data all season, at the end of the year I'll do a bit of numerical analysis anyway: basic stuff like swim bike run volume, average weekly training hours, how many days off etc - it gives me something to do between episodes of Masterchef and Live Flesh and batches of experiment baked goods.
This year's numbers actually reveal a lower overall training volume than the last few years have AND less racing than 2010…but I reached the end of the season feeling exceptionally tired and frankly, considering the DNS at Wales and DNF in Florida, not in a fit enough state to race. Considering that the 'classic' symptoms list of an overtrained athlete reads remarkably like my dating site bio would, the apparaent correlation between this lower training vol and my fitness to race should be disregarded. In fact both factors probably stem from the same cause: i was not fit to race for the same reason that I have not been able to maintain the training loads that I would expect to. Overtraining.

Anyone who knows me, my training history and philosophy will not be in the least surprised at this. I have lived by the attitude of more is better - initially, when i was first getting into the sport this was more races - an olympic distance or sprint most weekend through the summer and running races in the winter. I think it was 2005 I raced over 65 times in the year. I did not do a lot to training - I did't really need to! When I decided to move up to long distance my focus had to switch to more (low intensity) training to build up my aerobic endurance. And I did a lot: as far as I was concerned ,more was better and some very good race results proved it, and encouraged this philosophy in me. Most of the people that i raced against and trained with were doing more intensity and a lot less volume. Of course with Scott on board since I became full-time in 2009, and turned Pro in 2010 things have changed - I have some very clear pace and power targets and most of my training is now geared around that …but that underlying high-volume mindset is still there. Founder of Epic Camp, Scott is not known for his minimal approach when it comes to training. When I consider the sort of triathlete that I am and the qualities that will make me successful given that i have no prior background, no 'proper' technical training, or outstanding natural talent in either swimming, cycling or running then it's this mind-set that is my strength: if applied intelligently.

>Having been an endurance athlete for many years and prolific racer, with a higher than average training volume over the last few years I am resilient and have a great track record of being injury-free.
>Whilst I have a tendency to do too much vs. too little, I have a good work ethic & believe its essential to work very hard to succeed
>My perspective on what's possible to do in training is different than most people's due to my own experiences (with Epic Camp, Steven's training, and my own history)

Its not hard to see that with these characteristics, left unchecked I would have a tendency to get into an over-trained state fairly easily.
And I also believe that all of the above characteristics are absolutely essential for finding my potential in this sport.

Doing things different from what's 'conventional' (although, I'm not are that such a thing exists in the context of training to be a professional Ironman athlete) leaves you open to criticism and the barrage of people happily saying "i told you so" when you experience set-backs. But I feel that set-backs of one kind or another are inevitable for everyone ,no matter what your approach, and although they give us short-term frustrations they do provide us with the stimulus and information to re-evaluate and tweak our methods for the better.

Of course the first thing I needed to do was take a break. 3 weeks of less than 10hrs training and with a lot of time on my hands and some damn good reasons to get this figured, I pulled together my complete training history since 2006 and between us, Scott and I have looked for some answers. Things that have worked, lead to good race results and also looking for patterns where race results have been negatively effected. With some patterns identified and an out-line plan, or at least a set of principles, in place: to work within some new constraints whilst aiming to maintain resonance with the positive aspects of characteristics and qualities mentioned earlier, the things that make me tick I'm feeling ready and enthused again to get to work and prepare for my next event - the somewhat daunting challenge of Enduroman Double Ironman ,Lanzarote. It's not ideal timing, but I know that it's possible and I will give myself the very best chance of success there by looking after my training, nutrition and life balance in the meantime.

Monday, 7 November 2011

(most of ) Ironman Florida

Everything started off wonderful - 4:30am I was saved the half hour walk in the dark by a couple of guys who happened to be leaving my motel at the same time in their truck. They were getting down early to get a park spot for their day of volunteering. Great guys. Checked all my gear was set up fine in transition and i found a warm and quite space inside away form the 3000 other competitors to relax and do some stretching until it was time to get into the wetsuit. 

The wind had dropped from the previous day and so there were no longer crashing waves that seem to have been growing all week - it was completely flat calm, and lit by a gorgeous pink and orange sunrise. Perfect. 

The pros got a 10 min start, which is difficult for me as a weaker swimmer since once I get dropped by the faster feet I'm swimming alone - but I've had some experience of this now and have been swimming well in training and stayed connected longer than usual. There were side currents pushing us inside the buoys that we all knew we were supposed to swim around the outside of, but i guess that no-one wanted to add extra distance swimming back on themselves to do so. There were a few of us  was dropped off the main groups but we could see the line that they took and were pulled by the same drift. As far as i could see everyone went around the main corner buoy correctly, so this infringement added distance rather than cutting the course, although i was wondering what would happen if it were called as a penalty - for everyone! Second lap I managed to separate myself from the girls I had following me so it was a solo effort. I was able to judge the drift this time and made sure to swim the correct course. The second lap took a couple minutes longer, but I think that was more due to swimming without anyone to pace or draft off, rather length. Although I was hoping for a bit faster, I had completed the swim just within my target time.

The US races are great because they have wetsuit "peelers" ( no longer allowed to  call them "strippers" - it's a family show ;o) who yell to "get on the ground !!-sit down!!" yank the suit of your legs for you and haul you back to your feet. This all happens pretty soon after the water's edge and I wonder  how those people who aren't as fast getting their suit to their waist are dealt with! Transition volunteers were super efficient and my bag was handed to me as i ran, i was dressed and out the door and being given my bike in what seemed like a flash. Too bad i was not as sharp getting my shoes on - socks may be nice in cold weather but when they stick to the velcro on shoe straps, it makes it damn hard to slip feet into shoes on teh move. Not that flash, and very public!! Again the American crowd are ace - they don't hold back and know just what to say to get you going with  a big smile on your face.  

I felt good starting the ride, bright sunny but chilly morning, out along the beach front. Panama City beach is where the college kids come for "summerbreak" and its a stunning cacophony  of visual noise and advertisements; every lot for about 20km is either filled with giant carbon fibre fun-fare figures, the flashing lights of a nightclub or a fast food outlet. The course then turns inland, and you get to look at trees for the next 140km, until your return to the City. Racing on my new Enve wheels with Powertap hub I was able to see my effort was a little above target, but as usual had the feeling that I need to make up some time and get warm, and that it was worthwhile holding this. There were very few riders on the road - a couple of age group men with fast swims came past and  I was able to keep them in sight for a while, but I knew that it'd be much later in the day before there was any real company on the road - and this could be more of a hinderance with the difference drafting rules that are applied to professionals. So, feeling good I just got about the business, finding   arythm and settling into it for a few hours. 

After about 80km, I began to feel inexplicably nauseous if I let my HR get too high and threw up a few drinks. I was not too concerned by this, I had been eating enough up to that point and figured it was a 'rough patch' that would pass. Otherwise I was feeling OK at that point, and I knew that we'd mostly be riding with a tail wind on the return leg and with more of the faster age-group males around me to pace off I should be able to make up time. I did feel pretty dreadful by the end of the ride, but this was more associated with the spasms that I get in the backside due to a trapped sciatic nerve and having spent over 5 hours working hard down on the aero-bars, and not worse than usual. The last 20km into town was into a string headwind which was a struggle, but the town had woken up and were out to greet us in. My pink camo QR gets so much attention, it's wikid - it's hard to feel miserable when the bike attracts so much love from the roadside! I can say that I was looking forward to the run exactly, but pretty keen to get off the bike. At this point in the race I was about 12 min down on my target times, and knew that to break 9:30 I'd need to pull off a 3:15 run or better. I know that this was well within what I am capable of, and going into my favourite portion of the race with a clear target time would give me the motivation to push for it. Although I'd not seen the route, I knew it'd be flat. Possibly windy, but flat.

Another slick transition thanks to the expert volunteer crew and despite the nerve twinges through my glute, I was slightly surprised to feel I had light legs starting the run. As usual, I covered the first couple of km slightly faster than target average pace, but not excessively so. It has back-fired on me a few times, but generally I find it's good to have the legs moving and then settle, especially as there were some age-group guys around to pace off.  My tummy felt a bit gurgly, made a few very strange sounds, and by mile 2 I was stopped in a port-a-loo. Basically from there on it was a series of sprints between toilets - I was not able to settle into a rhythm before my stomache cramped and I was looking for my next outlet. Frustrating because my legs felt fine and since my heart-rate was dropping each mile or so, I felt good the whole time whilst I was actually running and was generally able to catch back up to the people that I'd be running by prior to my detour.  Of course as the miles passed, I was loosing more time to the 'bathroom'  and the lack of hydration and nutrition having an increasingly significant effect on my ability to run. By the time I'd run half way I was considering withdrawing, but had taken some more Ibruprofen for the thumping headache that had developed, an Immodium and a Monster caffeine drink thought i'd see if I could not rescue my race if that kicked in and I was able to start getting some gels in me, because my at least my legs weren't hurting.  

Whether it was because I had let that idea into my mind and I was feeling totally wretched again by then, or whether it was just lack of nutrition, but three more miles of running below my target pace and stopping at each aid station I kind of ground to a halt. I walked in circles a little bit, around an aid station which was decked out like Santa's grotto, and finally made the tough call not to head out any further into the second lap. Even a hug from Santa at the side of the path couldn't make me feel better.

This is my first ever DNF in countless triathlons since 2004 including 17 Ironman distance and longer, many of which I suffered in and some in which I had poor, even embarrassing, results. But, although it would have been possible to struggle another 10 miles round by walking, I'm no longer out there for the finisher T-shirt, and certainly not a big medical bill.

Nonetheless, being around an Ironman event the day afterwards when you failed to finish is one of the worst feelings in the world.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Cape Town Out- Florida In

Well, it has been an eventful week in my life and not so much in ways that i'd wish for. Learning of the cancellation of Challenge cape town was a real gut-blow for me on Tuesday evening. After a hectic day training, packing and making sure work was all tied up before left, I was checking my emails before relaxing over an early supper with Steven, ready to depart early the next morning. A contact in Cape town had heard a 'rumour' that the race was cancelled. I thought it was a joke at first, but steven encouraged me to check it out. Less than an hour later I hung up the phone to the race director, who had confirmed that, yes, they were pulling the event.

An upset like this had a pretty big impact on me, but it was whilst on the phone to my travel insurers that I made me realize that on the whole, I have very little stress in my life. Sure, there are things that I worry about, commitments that may put pressure on my time, and things do not always work out as I'd like them to - but on the whole I 'choose' most of my problems myself. So, my insurance was not going to cover the costs of the cancellation of this trip. What the hell reasons would it cover then? I asked, infuriated. Well, serious illness, death of a family member, fire or burglary of your home, being called to go and serve at war...she began to explain. Oh. OK, Thanks. I hung up feeling less hard done by with my situation after all.

Ok, I'd invested a lot of money, focused the last month of my life and had my heart set on this race. That was one thing that was bugging me, sure. I was also feeling was bummed out that I'd not raced at Ironman Wales in order to preserve my health and be able to train effectively for this one, passing up a good earning opportunity there I'd also let myself and my sponsors down with that DNS. I knew it was the right call at the time, despite criticism from some quarters, but it suddenly felt like a poor 'career' choice.

However, you can only base your decisions on the information that you have at the time, and everything was going to plan with a nice 5-week block of good health very solid training in the bag since then. I was feeling sharp and ready to get our an finish my season with a couple of weeks in the sun, training in cape town with some very helpful contacts that I'd set up there prior to a tough and exciting destination race. So, news of the cancellation really knocked the wind out of me ...but immediately Steven and I started thinking - where can I go race?

I scoured the events calendars online and with not a lot happening within Europe at this time of year, my choices were Ironman Florida, Arizona, Cozomel. All were coming up soon, so a rapid decision needed to be made, and none would be cheap. The other option was "Or not". Cut my losses and call it a year.

The night was spent sleeplessly running through options in my mind. Wednesday I got up, having slept little, and headed out for a ride. It was sunny, since I was "supposed" to be on a plane over Africa all day, I had nothing at all to do. I also had no idea what I was going to be doing with myself for the next 3 weeks, so iI'd take the opportunity to ride with no 'plan', no targets, no time limits and a few quid in my pocket incase a coffee stop seemed appropriate. Getting out on my bike often enables me to get things in a better perspective; sometimes I'll use the time to think things over, other times it simply enables me to clear my mind and enjoy the feeling of being physically tired and more relaxed at the end of the ride. Steven and I went for a meal, a few drinks and chatted about things we had to catch up on, and a bit about plans for next year. No decisions made, feeling even more exhausted and with a big meal and much wine in side me (far less in the kick-ass racing shape than I had 48 hours previous)...and leaning even further towards the economically obvious option: winter down.

Thursday morning I woke up feeling 80% convinced that I'd made my decision. Frankly I could do without all the hassle and cost of arranging another race, let alone deciding where,and that would be it for 2011. I had lots to look forward to in 2012....but somehow, even though there was a lot of 'sense' in this choice, I felt very disspointed. Afterall - I am a professional triathlete and racing triathlons is what I "do" - what sort of go am i making of this career if I don't race? Not a good one.

There was an e-mail from Ironman Pro Registration telling me that, given the circumstances, my late entry to Ironman Florida had been accepted. A rush of excitement. Florida had been my last choice of the three races - low kona points, low prize purse, dead flat course that really did not appeal....but the dates matched my planned race weekend and other commitments and ...this felt right.

At that point I realized that I had been far too much influenced by the costs.....and that i'd lost sight of what really motivates me. I guess that this had been the case for most of the year. Perhaps it's even why I've not raced as well as I should. The reality is that that the chance of me winning enough by racing to even cover my costs is low in most situations. Fortunately, although I am a professional athlete and racing triathlons is my 'job', the racing is not my only source of income. In fact the sponsorship and prize money I get is a very small part of my income, so although it is tempting to think I could earn a few extra bucks to upgrade my computer or get a bit of kit it's never a question of paying rent or putting food on the table and therefore the money is not my main motivation. Racing well, and representing myself well, is. And if that means packing and unpacking my bike 3 times in 2 weeks.....(my most hated task ever!) then so be it!

Monday, 10 October 2011

home life

this is the longest spell that i have been located in one place in the last 3 years! apart from a 10 day trip to Morzine in july, and a week in Tenby this spell in taunton has really given me a chance to establish a some great training routines and set up a few 'projects' both at home and in the local community.

at home my small scale agricultural projects have delivered disappointing harvest but useful learning experience and real enjoyment. Actually i am quite proud of my slow-starting chilli crop, though desperately jealous of my neighbours far superior tomatoes. they really DO need to be watered everyday, apparently. Needy things!
since it'll be a winter ( mostly) here, my next project is likely to be the construction of a 'cold' frame and of course the home-brewing!!

outside of domestic life i have been enjoying the chance to get more involved in the local triathlon community. with steven having been away quite a lot through the summer, it has been nice to have some company in my week and although the great proportion of my training is still solitary and specific, and during working hours there are a few club sessions that i have tailored into my own schedule. this is partly about access to facilities, part about suitable training company and motivation during tough weeks and part as a way into the local scene, which will be of real benefit through the winter and also, ultimate to my coaching business.

i do not make any attempt to push my services whilst out training with the clubs, but i am now coaching four local athletes as a result of getting to know people, sharing the experiences of my triathlon life and sometimes a little advice. whilst the work is still mostly done via email and online, it's nice to see these guys and girls out and have first hand experience of their training routes and environment.

i'm not quite sure how it happened, but i must have had a quiet week or afternoon and seem to have taken on the tasks of setting up and delivering a couple of beginners courses in conjucntion with Tone Leisure and the Somerset RC Tri club.

you may have seen my Facebook page for The Taunton Ladies Cycling Club (do me a favour and "like" it, please!!) - this started off as an idea in response to a lack of a slower club ride more suitable for some of the girls in the club, and has developed into a combined bike skills and fitness development course with one of the personal trainers at my gym. She offers a special fitness spin class during the week, whilst i run a 45 min session covering basic bike handling, group riding and a few mechanical tips before leading out a very gentle (for now) short ride. our hope is that after the initail 8 week course, we have established a network of local ladies of similar ability who will continue to meet on a sunday morning to ride together.

meanwhile, more triathlon specific and aimed at a slightly more advanced level, myself and another of the Tri Club's enthusiastic members , Sarah are in the process of finalizing details of a 12 week " triathlon for beginners and improvers course" which will commence in November, after my return from Challenge Cape town. This is not intended to be an advert (although I WILL write up some details on this too in due course!) but i suppose it's a demonstration that if left unsupervised, this is where my attentions will tend to wander.

it's not very PRO-like, I know, and i have been criticized for taking too much on (true at times) and "giving too much of my energy away". whilst it's possibly true that i'm creating more distraction in my life than is good for my training and racing performance, it's clear to me that i have a need for this type of project and involvement. This was true back when i was in Tri London, too - i quickly became not only the race captain, but one of the club and committee's key active members. It could be i'm just a busy body and want to see things done my way, but i think that there's a lot more to it than that. whilst being the best that i can personally be in this sport, is important to me and i am motivated by this in itself, there are other reasons for my commitment to this career, and one of them is being able to motivate, advise and even inspire others. Satisfying this provides the balance that is required in my life to enable me to train hard and race well.

It has to be said that since giving up the day job, traveling the world and chasing the dream of being a Pro Triathlete, It;s a whole different scenario from being the star of the club and being rewarded with accolades and trophies after each race. I'm not only finding renewed value in what i can offer and how i can influence others by sharing my knowledge, experience and enthusiasm for the sport, but also gaining a sense of having found a place in this new community. it seems that, despite generally being regarded by those close to me as fairly anti-social, there is a level where i need to have connections with people.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

ironman wales (DNS)

The 11th September has turned out to be a tough day for me. Tough because i am NOT racing the first ever running of Ironman Wales, in Tenby. My race kit, number and timing chip lay forlorn in our apartment, whilst I stand on the North beach and watch Steven and the rest of the race participants start their day of racing and feel rather sorry for myself.

The decision to withdraw from the event was one of the more difficult choices that I've had to make during my brief professional racing career. Not only because it was a chance to be amongst the first to race this challenging and beautiful new course in my home nation, but it's a great event to do for the sake of my own profile, the team and my sponsors - not least because of the relatively small female field it offered a good chance of a podium finish for me.

However, despite having raced 16 ironman races in the last 5 years I know better than to be complacent about it. For the past fortnight I have been suffering on and off from stomach upset which has slowed my training down and left me weakened. Knowing that I'd be paid to merely finish the race was extremely compelling and although I thought i had a pretty good chance of making it around the course eventually, that is not how I want to represent myself, my team and coach. Never mind what the effects might be on my health and preparations for my next event.

So, after a week of indecision, sporadic training and feeling that I might be well enough by race-day, I made my decision to withdraw on friday evening: if i was not fully well enough to face a full meal and have a settled stomach for more than 36 hours before race-day, then I would not race. I took myself out on a long ride on saturday afternoon to ensure that I'd not be tempted to change my mind as the excitement mounted in Tenby, and felt sufficiently dreadful at the end of the day to reinforce the decision.

Today I have been as enthusiastic supporter as possible whilst remaining within close radius of toilet facilities, taking in some of the great Pembroke scenery, atmosphere in Tenby and , in admiration of the great job done by the organizers in the face of some heavy unforseen weather conditions forcing them into moving the swim start to the contingency location.

Monday, 29 August 2011

the Little Woody

since ironman uk and an easy week following that race, training has been going well. i have been finding that i'm recovering less quickly - whether this is as a result of the slightly more intensity focus that my swim and bike sessions have had recently or residual fatigue from the 10 hour race i'm not sure (i suspect the latter actually) but either way i've certainly been training less hours than my typical weeks, but really enjoying the training that i am doing. a good race at UK, and i feel that although my slower bike split does highlight where i really do need to do more work it was the best performance that i've managed in a while, has re-motiveated me and i'm enthused about racing again as well as my long term training and athletic development.

So, I approached Trevor at Blacksheep sports and he kindly offered me a start in the Little Woody this weekend. My flat mate Alex was signed up for the full iron-distance Big Woody and was planning to make his way there by train and then do race with out any support. I'm sure that he would have managed fine, but it's better to have friends along for a big day - especially those who can drive and know how to pitch a tent ;o) - and it provided me with a chance to fulfill my hankering to do a bit of racing myself.

I believe that this was the 4th running of the event in the Wye Valley/Forest of Dean, with 49 signed up for the Big and 172 for the Little Woody races it would be a low-key event, enabling me to race for fun and test my fitness without too much pressure, and provided everything that I enjoy about these sorts of races. Onsite accommodation was 'bring your own' with access to a college gym toilet and shower facilities, plus a marquee heated by half a dozen constantly boiling tea urns to shelter form Friday evening's torrential welsh downpours. Sorting out transition bags in the boot of a car in the dark, soaked to the skin was not one of the happiest moments of my race career, neither was missing the race briefing due to being hopelessly lost on the way both to and from dropping bikes off for racking at the remote site of T1, but there was a jolly atmosphere of camaraderie on the campsite as the competitors wandered the make-shift campsite with bottles of water and head torches before settling down for their pre-race sleep.

Saturday morning we woke to a clear starry sky - the forecast was for a dry day, and the sigs looked good. The 20 minute bus journey to the swim start (how did it only take 20 min!!!) was very warm and cosy, and it was with a certain amount of reluctance that the wetsuit clad passengers disembarked. We, The Little Woody competitors, had arrived just in time to watch the start of the full distance race, which we did from the cliff tops around the flooded quarry pit of the Dive Centre. Apparently there are all manner of submerged aircraft and vehicles in there to amuse training scuba divers, but despite it's depth the pit was surprisingly warm.

The water was also beautifully clear as well as being well sheltered from winds on account of the steep sided pit that it was in, and in all the venue made for a very pleasant swim with perfect conditions for fast times. I exited the water after my two laps in just over 27 minutes - that's a damn good swim for me. I was swimming hard for the first lap, then forced to find feet to follow on my second lap due to steamed up goggles (get some de-fogger!!!) and aware that i had a few people on my feet by the occasional toe -taps that i was getting. As I climbed out of the water, it turned out that eh swimmer behind was my own sister, from Tri London. She'd done well to stay on my feet and proceeded to run past me on the jetty. From here it was a further long run up out of the pit to T1, most people stripped wetsuits, slipped on some shoes and walked or jogged up this incline.

My bike transition was fast on account of already having stripped my wetsuit and completely forgetting that competitors were responsible for packing up their own swim gear in and depositing it in bags onto the transport truck. I just rode off and left mine, then worried about my £400 Speedo wetsuit for the rest of the race!! Right from the start the tome of the bike course was set by a series of steep hills, winding descents on roads washed with mud and debris of the previous day's rain, and sharp bends. Similarly to the sort of riding at IMUK, there may not be too many distinct killer climbs, but the constant change of pace, braking and accelerating, coupled with short sharp hills can make for a very wearing ride. I'd say that the bike course was certainly comparable to that at Wimbleball, both for scenery and difficulty...and then it's an extra 10km longer (i'd have known this if i'd been at the briefing!). Being a smaller event, the route was entirely marked out with arrows but not marshaled at every turn and certainly without the privilege of road closures or traffic control on junctions, however, as far as i know everyone managed to follow the route safely and without getting lost. I felt great and was really enjoying the first 85km of the ride, maintaining target power and feeling in very focused, and of course expected to grit my teeth and get on with that final 5km.....i did have a little sense of humour failure when that final 5km turned into 15km, with a couple of real steep hills thrown in for good measure!

I was pleased to finally be hobbling my way through T2, chucking on my run shoes and limping around the college fields and...my tent! The run route then quickly turned us onto a lovely series of trails and paths through the edge of the Forest for a two-lap out-and-back route. The surfaces were great for running, soft but not muddy, and generally sufficiently wide to accommodate a small race in two directions. The terrain was gently rolling but not hilly - although feedback from those who did the full is that it got steeper on each lap! - and made for good fast running, once my run legs decided to join me for the day. It's always nice to have a couple of turn-arounds: to keep an eye on your competition and to give a bit of support to your fellow competitors. I was impressed to see my sister and another girl dukeing it out for second place about 16 minutes behind me after the first turn-around, and between them they'd pushed the pace sufficiently to close for another minute 3 miles later. with no-one to chase and no real fear of being chased down, I admit that i was not really testing myself running - i was not using any pacing device but felt that I was maintaining my Ironman pace after the first few km and perhaps a little faster on the final few. I avoided developing any real pain in my legs due to a slightly easier pace and the wonderfully soft surfaces, which is just perfect for a 'training' race. My run split was 1:32 which leads me to suspect that the course may be about a mile short, but i was not complaining given that i felt i'd earned it on the bike!

Finishers were greeted across the line by Trevor, the race director and there was plenty of refreshment available. I spent the afternoon taking advantage of this, and the free massage whilst supporting Alex and packing up our campsite in the sunshine. I collected a beautiful plate decorated by a local craftswoman for my win, and will have my name added to the perpetual trophy - another local artist's work. So i guess i'll have to race again next year in order to return it!. Perhaps the BIg Woody? Not likely!!!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

ironman uk 2011 - report

a rare dry weekend in bolton ( it is official, according to bolton local jonny it really does always rain there!) and a fast day of racing.
just nipping under 10hrs this year and finishing 4th place.

read my race report :


pics to follow soon

Saturday, 16 July 2011


just sitting down for a quick blog catch-up prior to another round of packing (light) for travels to camp. it feels like i've been on camp for most of the period since wimbleball and my last post. much of this has been camp at home - my favourite kind if the weather is good, and that's not only because i dont need to pack for it! "camp at home" is what i call it when steven's away and although i mostly dont mind him being around ;o) and he never ever asks me to compromise my training at all when he is, when he's not here i do take the opportunity to really optimize my day to suit my training needs. i get to eat what and when i want, work when i need to, have totally undisturbed sleep and usually get bored enough in the evening to get to bed early. i'm really quite a solitary person and when i'm tired can get quite craggy, so being on my own suits me best at times.

that said, there is no substitute for good training partners and having motivational people around. i've learned that the difference between me performing brilliantly and sub-par ,in training or races, comes down mostly to motivation. i set my 10k pb at the end of a 30hr week immediately after a 4km swim set: it was just a small local event but a close race. for a £20 M&S voucher! whilst it's valid that Ironman is a solo sport and you need to learn to overcome your own demons whilst out on the road, an argument that i've heard often as reason to train solo, you also gotta put in a lot of hours. too much time doing that alone, well firstly it can get boring and secondly, for me anyway, doesn't provide a lot of motivation when it gets tough -or even to get tough in the first place. I currently spend around 2/3rd of my training week on sessions with specific pace or intensity. That's not very sociable - but its also not entirely exact. There are times when i know i'm going to need a bit of help to hit my targets and that's when i seek out a training buddy or group. For example, i enjoy riding with a group of local road cyclists each saturday. same time, same route, same tea stop, same faces each week. i initially scoffed at these boys who ride a fast group pace around the lanes, attacking on every hill with a sprint to the tea stop after an hour...and then do the same on the way home, every single week. but now its my favourite session of the week - i have good company, get to keep in touch with the local cycling scene, develop my handling skills, am able to gauge my own riding fitness against the group. having brought my power tap out on a couple of these rides recently, i know that i am achieving an equivalent amount of riding time in my 'target watts' zone as i would during a tough 2hr interval session. what's more - i don't get to dictate where, when and how long my efforts are. Likewise, our flat mate Alex swims at about the same pace as me, i'll switch my planned swim set in order to join him on his sometimes, just because it's more fun that way...and i believe that giving it 100% on his set is better than just 'getting through' my own.

so, this year i have been making a point of seeking out and investing time and money on good training environments and opportunity to hook up with good training partners.

whilst my 'home camp' is great in terms of environment and time to be alone and self -focused, what it lacks a little of is motivational company. so whilst steven was making his way back from austria, i hopped on a train to visit friends in teh yorkshire dales for a few days of getting sorted out on some very steep hills by Emma ( who was a fantastic ride support crew on our pre lanzarote training camp) staying up too late with good compaby and a few wines with the added bonus of a pilteas workshop and physio treatment from Ali (http://www.millsphysiotherapy.co.uk)/. we also hooked up with one of my athletes (kerri, who recently qualified for kona) to preview the Ironman UK course. although the less said about that the better -a very wet day, some technical problems with the route navigation methods we'd chosen (a faulty garmin, a very small scale and soggy map and my memory), a bust chain and frequent clashes with the manchester to blackpool mass cycle ride (the northern equivalent of london to brighton- i.e endless streams of fluorescent and wobbly cyclists!).
I managed to catch up briefly with my sister in london for a swim the next day, then had a follow up bike check and shoe fitting at Profeet, collect some product from Maxifuel, a very groovy Luis Garneau aero-lid and some Asics pirhana race flats before a massage and train home to catch up with steven and hear about his race at Ironman Austria over a steak and cider. Despite feeling very tired after the trip, i also felt very refreshed and have enjoyed a solid return to my usual routine sessions this week....prior to packing up for my next and final camp before ironman UK.

The pink QR is coming to the Alps. Much deliberation about that, since i have a lovely Litespeed road bike with compact gearing...and there are some lovely climbs to be done around Morzine, but we felt that with only 2 weeks until i race I need to spend a bit of time on the TT bike - especially since i have a few adjustments to make on it and some new saddle options.

when Ali was sticking her acupuncture needles in my rear end, we saw that the irritation was very close to my point of contact with my much-loved ISM adamo saddle. it then dawned on me that the onset of this nerve problem that has been bugging me since april coincided with when i put that saddle fitted to my bike. having had a few days away from that saddle, the accupncture to release a lot of associate dmuscle tension and aslo a good massage treatment from aurelie (http://www.thetritouch.co.uk/)on the interaction pathway in my feet and lower legs it seems like now is the perfect time to switch saddle and see if that is the cause.

but - i'd just sold my spare saddle with my old bike!! with only a few days at home before flying out to geneva i thought i was stuffed, and had to borrow steven's dirty old stele italia ( actually superbly comfortable, even if its minging!) for wednesday's session. i'd mentioned my situation to my friend jenny when we met for a ride in london on my way home form the north, she's Freespeed's female team member and partner of Freespeed's founder richard...and mentioned that he had some Cobb demo saddles to work with. a cheeky email and bless him, a Vflow Plus arrives by special delivery friday morning. meanwhile, back in taunton, i was in my local bike shop checking out their range of saddles when one of teh guys that i ride with on saturday (known as "cheesy") pops in. he's the area rep for Fizik, who have just launched a female specific road and tri saddle. would i like to test it out? you betcha! he kindly also lent me a demo to take away for a week or two...so now i have a couple of options to try out next week and hopefully will find a seat that is comfortable and kind to the missus for race day

so ...i digress somewhat ( perhaps i should blog more often and then you'd get all this waffling in smaller doses- this was billed as a 'quick catch up'. advertising standards may have issue with that description) about an hour ago, having completed my training for the day, washed the bike i was about to start packing up for a camp in the mostly- french-but-a-bit-swiss alps with a few of 'the girls' - some very strong british female triathletes - for a great combination of environment and motivational company.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

wimbleball - 70.3UK

this weekend was our local ironman 70.3 race - everyone should have one! Wimbleball is a real toughie but offers some great riding and running as well as top spectator support for us. Big thanks in particular to my sister for making the trip all the way from london just to shout something about a fish at me as I ran past her, Richard Melik and Tamsyn Lewis of Freespeed for great pics and support, also the troup of unknown women who were cheering for ' Jo from Taunton and Nice' until i pointed out that i'd only ever visited Nice once....so on the next laps it was just 'Jo form Taunton!'

My race report can be found on the race reports section of my website

Saturday, 28 May 2011

a little movie from lanzarote

I've been keeping myself busy this week and just published my little movie to my MobileMe Gallery. Thanks to russ cox, steven lord, andy bruce and carlos gutierrez for the footage (and support!) Click the link below to check it out.

Ironman Lanza 2011

Sunday, 22 May 2011

OUCH - my IM Lanzarote report!!

the first race of my 2011 season yesterday …and it was a bit of a shocker. To be honest, it's a total mystery for me as to what exactly went wrong, and why but it's not an experience I'm keen to repeat so once i've given myself a couple of days to celebrate the success of my friends and athletes who raced yesterday too and put my own disappointment behind me disappointment I'll be looking closely for clues in my final preparations.

But, back to the start of the day: I arrived early in transition to prepare my bike and do final checks because i knew that with so many athletes, including my sister, racing there would be a lot of distractions. These were quite welcome distractions really, and certainly helped with all of our pre race nerves. Our support crew were already positioned for a long day of filming and yelling, passing their final good luck wishes through the railings of transition zone.

I'd been lying awake in the early hours of the morning listening to what sounded like very strong winds, but the morning was calm and as it slowly became lighter, the huge crowd of Ironmen and women to-be gathered on the beach, whilst we warmed up in the professional start area. I was excited and calm and we all greeted one another with good luck wishes. Gun start and its a case to get in the water and swim as hard as possible to make some space before the descending crowd of age-groupers hit us! Very rough, and rather frustrating for the entire back stretch of the first lap, but with plenty of company I was getting good draft and no chance to slow up because of those behind. I was aware that there were several green hats indicating female pros around me ,which was encouraging. I stayed within the same group after the land-buoy for the second lap which apart from a couep of tussles and brief double calf cramp as i turned around the far marker buoy ,was just smooth, strong swimming. I was running up the beach within 57 minutes -a huge personal best swim time..setting me up for the day that i was expecting based on the shape i have been in training recently.
My bike did look quite lonely in transition, but the results tell hat i was actually the 4th female pro out of the ocean. Natasha Badman's Cheetah was still in place, though it was only a matter of km long before she'd passed my and was a speck in the distance. However, as we made our way westwards into a healthy head-wind, found myself riding in the company of Emma-Ruth Smith ( who 's number bib read "curly - em"!) and Karina Ottenson, exchanging positions as we went. It seemed that i was making my passes on the inclines whilst they both seemed to have the advantage when the road tipped down. I knew that I had to take advantage of the motivation that the 'racing' experience gives me, and so kept my efforts up even after they'd both pedalled out f sight on the long sweeping down hill stretch of highway to El Golfo - confident that I'd see them again once we hit the undulations of that loop. As it happened, I was at the top of Fire Mountain, having been extremely frustrated by the line of tourist coaches blocking the course -whY???? - before I caught back up to Emma -Ruth, who then bowled over the ridge on her drops and out of sight. The winds were pretty strong blowing from the North-East, which meant a headwind for much of the first 2/3rds of the course. It was pretty draining but luckily, we had a crew of super -EverydayTraining supporters out and about- Ali and Farouk and Naomi and Thomas leaping around like loons at various points to give me a lift. Aside form that though, there was a general atmosphere of gritted teeth about the race - very little exchange between the athletes, which is unusual in my experience of this race. I certainly noticed that I was feeling the strain a lot earlier in the route than i had last year, despite feeling in much better shape prior to the race. I was passed by anther Fpro on Haria -and though i did not know my position, figured that I was probably near last. But fought to stay positive and focused on keeping my own power and effort up to what i knew i needed to do. Despite this, it was clear that this was going to be my slowest ever bike split on this course - as these were the toughest conditions that i've raced here in. My mined did go back to Wanaka (jan 2011) -it certainly wasn't as tough as that!! Te final portion of the course was mostly with a tail -wind - with 52 chain ring this forced me to really get my cranks spinning, which i reckoned would do me good for the run. I found myself passing people in this last portion of the ride, and started thinking about my run. I have ben in great running shape recently and was looking forward to making up some places once off the bike.

Using my new Timex Global GPS, since traditionally there have been no distance markers out on this run, I set out just a bit (but not too much) faster than my target pace of 4:40, and got into a stride. A spanish guy asked me my division, several time before i understood his accent, and i admit o was a bit snappy with him - a sign that was working a bit too hard to want to chat. However he did not seem to take any offence and complimented my running as we fell into stride together. About 3km along the beach front course the head wind hit, and he encouraged me to run in his draft. I wasn't going to turn that offer down! I'd seen some of the other girls already heading out past the 2km point as i'd ridden in, so knew that i had at least 15 min to make up.
Lap 1 of the run is an 18km out-and back most of the 9km out into a headwind and even on the shoulder of my spanish friend, i was finding it tough. Our pace had dropped to run 5min/km -but that would be so much quicker on the return - however, just as we got into sight of the far turn, I found myself slowing…and then having to make surges to close the small gap up. Perhaps it was these short efforts that brought on the stitch (or maybe the cup of ice water I threw on myself, or the can of red-bull in transition) that forced me to slow for a moment. He actually looked like he was waiting for me, so i made an effort to catch up again, but my stomach cramped again and i waved goodbye whilst i jogged a little and stretched out my rib-cage. Pretty much from that moment on ,only 10km into the race, it was all over for me. The stitch passed, but i was barely able to run under 5min/km with the wind on my back. I cant really describe, or even adequately remember the feeling -my legs were not sore, no stitch, it wasn't low blood sugar or caffeine or any other familiar bad running experience - just spaced out and drained. With the wind on my back and the sun out, it felt extremely hot -but i usually handle the heat pretty well. I was caked in salt, but that's not unusual for me and i had been taking on adequate electrolyte drinks, magnesium and salt tabs. I have had poor runs before, but that usually means just going a bit slow because of sore legs or general fatigue. This was different - i felt like i was giving hard effort, HR was high and i was breathless, but still barely running -in fact there was a lot of walking. And a lot of thinking about pulling - the thought of how long it might take to walk 24km was pretty daunting! But, at the same time i could see that others ahead of me were finding it tough, and was hopeful that i'd recover my ability to run.

Well, i stuck at it and saw all our coaching athletes, my sister, our friends on the course and had huge amount of support along the way - despite my obvious detonation people were saying such encouraging things. With a run split of 3:59 and race finish of 11:10 I placed 7th Fpro overall and have plenty to reflect on.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

final preps and new team

yesterday was my last 'proper' training day: a early 3hr ride in the Blackdowns with Taunton's locals, 5 mile race-pace run before packing up the bike ( not my favourite chore) and heading over to wellington for and a set of 20 x 150m in the deserted windowless pool there. Todays short spin and steady swim rounds off a week of about 80% volume, 70% load of recent weeks before my trip to the island on monday.

It's been quite a week though - the highlight being the launch event for The Challenger World UK Tri Team in london on Wednesday and Thursday. It was great to see the other team members again ( i dont run into them much since we're all based in far flung locations and the ITU triathlon and Ironman circuit don't cross over much) and have a chance to meet our new sponsors and support network for 2011. The team, formerly Team TBC Sportsaid retains our association with Sportsaid, but with Challenger World and other new sponsors on boards this year, the level of professionalism and athlete support has really moved up a level. Ryan (Bowd) was running around like a blue-arsed fly throughout the entire 48 hr period, but has done a magnificent job on our behalf. Aside from the invaluable product that we all received from Speedo, Evans, Asics, Timex, Maxifuel and Gatorade, sports performance footwear advice and support from Profeet and being hosted by Crowne Plaza Hotel and Virgin Active gyms, this was a great opportunity to meet and talk to our sponsors face -to -face. I always make a point of learning as much as I can about the products that we'll be using as well as the motivation behind the sponsorship and what I can offer as an athlete to give them the most value in return. It's really nice that on the whole, the people representing these brands and organizations are keen on sports themselves and its generally easy to find a common ground and rapport, making for an enjoyably social couple of days.

On the other end of the spectrum, Steven is currently out in Lanzarote so here in Somerset it's very quiet. It has been great to be able to hermit myself away whilst finalising my race preparations ,catch up on work and sleep really well. The caffeine weening process is now complete - the first two days are murder and i'm best left alone anyway -and i'm sleeping really well in a big comfy bed to myself. The place is a bit of a tip though so one of toady's jobs is get it straightened out before i leave!

This year's Lanzarote is going to be AWSOME! we have a huge posse out racing:
EverydayTraining athletes: Simon, Mel, Kevin, Mark, Lotte, Roz, Paul T, Paul W, Sergio & Jamie..then others from our training camp: Emma, Jon, Brett, Ted, Matt and Mark - maybe.....and other friends Helen, Raff...with my mum, steven and russ and the other halfs of most of those listed doing the cheerleading!
i think the post-race partying could be more fun than the race itself :o)

Righto- its 6:30am and i've a busy day so i'd better get on with it!

Friday, 6 May 2011

Financing the dream

My latest Tri247 column gives a little insight into how i keep myself out of trouble, and make ends meet, since 'giving up the day job'

Monday, 2 May 2011

building a race day nutrition plan

check out my coaching blog for tips for developing a race-day nutrition strategy

everydaytraining coach's blog

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

post-camp, london marathon, pre-lanza update

yet again i find myself apologizing to regular readers (if you exist, then get a life! Only joking, please don't) for recent lack of contribution to the blog. as usual this is a sign that my life is being so interesting that i've not had the time to sit down and write about it, let alone ponder on ways to make it seem even more interesting, relevant or exciting. So, i'm just gonna spend a little time recounting recent activities, news and significant training observations and plans. hold on tight!

you might have followed out training camp blog on www.everydaytraining.org.uk. we're extremely pleased with how this turned out - it was so much fun, everything worked out really well with the accommodation, catering, training and support crew, and we had really positive feedback form all the athletes who came along. We're pretty proud of our first effort and it was well worth all of the hard work that went into it. No question about it - there will be more to come. We feel that this is really something unique that Steven and I can offer and definitely a direction that we'd like to steer EverydayTraining in. Of course - its not a big earner, and our own training was somewhat compromised by the camp (which i'll talk about later) but there are remedies to both that we can work on, or at least plan around, in the future.

post camp we both felt a little down - not only the physical and emotional exhaustion of the week but a very low feeling once its all over. when you feel like that but too tired to really go out and train then there's only one thing to do - go straight to london and run a marathon!! having been to 'busy' to book cheap train tickets (i forgot) i borrowed mums purple micra and we wizzed up the motorway to west london. whilst rachel was out smashing course records and getting a 'taste for wildlife' in South Africa, she had kindly given over her flat for my stay in town. It was good to have a bit of isolation to catch up on sleep, coaching work and cookery programs on tv, and great to see her and hear all about the race on their return

I was properly excited about this year's marathon. pior to our 2.5 week traip to lanzarote i'd been seeing some great power numbers on my bike, and running really well. I'd even managed to sneak a few long runs in. During the camp, i got sick with a sore throat and cold ( the first in 6 months or more - great timing!) and so made a point of taking it as easy as i could get away with - luckily some one was required to time -keep and ride with the back-markers! Mid-way through the week, I came right (thanks to my regular supply of Vitabiotics Wellwoman and Immunace!) and enjoyed putting in a few more intense sessions. I was feeling so good running - being out of the gym and a low intensity spell seemed to bring something extra to my run speed. So, with my long runs banked, some good form prior to the camp, and easy couple of weeks and i was all set for a new marathon PB. oh yes i was. Unfortunately, i left my brain on the crowded train to Blackheath and, despite all the good advice about pacing that i'd given my athletes - set off at 2:50 pace. Which felt bloody easy to start with, of course. I bumped into an old club-mate who was running an 'easy' 2:55 and we strode along chatting through the first 12 miles. Of course it was not really an easy pace for me, and since i was not really out to push very hard on this run with ironman in a few weeks, i decided to ease off the pace to a more sensible 'just about ironman' intensity. unfortunately, i discovered that the damage to my legs had already been done by that point - it probably would have been as well to commit to 'racing' it. The second half was a miserably painful barely ironman paced 100 minutes of regret. 3:06 isn't such a bad time- and had i paced it well, that could have been a comfortable run that had little impact on my preparations for lanzarote. If i'd pace it really well i might have broken 3hrs and been really happy and full of confidence for lanzarote. As it was my legs were screwed for a week, and i'd run a minute slower than last year. Luckily, my sister is training in sports massage and needs screwed up legs to practice on. the things i do for my little sibbers ;o)

aside from letting her fix my shredded calves, i was also kind enough to bundle hr and her bike into mums micra at 5:45am on Thursday in order to drive her 40miles out of london and deposit her on the side of the road near Basingstoke (of all places!), point her in a generally south westerly direction and clear off. She wasn't smiling much when i left her but she really did look pleased to see me 5 hours later, after i'd ridden out to meet her in Castle Cary. She was still going strong and at the end of her 175km trip, came out for a short run with me too. I reckon she'll survive an ironman - and probably survive it pretty quickly, too.

the weather in somerset has been absolutely glorious and it's been perfect weather for riding around through spring-filled lanes, looking through the hedgerows at the new-born lambs, on my brand new Litespeed Archon c3. wow - it's a nice bike, just seems to fly up hills. Qunitana Roo and Litespeed are now being distributed in the UK through Evans, which is great for me as it means this year i have a very specific TT bike ( the cd01) and a good road bike that i can use on some of the hilly or more technical courses - like Wimbleball, or IM france - which the CD01 is not most suited to. I had put drops on the QR last year, but it was a real compromise, and absolutely horrified the tech development guys when they saw it at Kona!

So, it's now 3 weeks until i'm back in lanzarote and i've just started back into 'proper' training after almost a month out of the routine. Hopefully the break will have freshened me up a bit, and i do now feel really motivated to get back on it...but i must admit, only 2 days in, it feels harder than i remember! Ah well, keep bringing it on ;o)

Sunday, 27 March 2011

home- and away again

We arrived back to the UK after a 2-day journey through air and time, culminating with a -mile trip in mum's purple nissan Micra, dangerously loaded with or bike boxes and baggage obscuring the view out of every window. Good thing it was a saturday night and the local Po-leese had other things to focus on in town. to a bit of a chill shock, but that has been tempered somewhat by the beautifully clear and sunny weather that we've had all week. yesterday I even briefly considered riding in shorts as i went around one of my favourite routes on Exmoor - one reserved for fine clear days like that. It's great to be riding and running around 'home' and witnessing the signs of spring in the countryside. However since our return it feels like my feet have hardley hit the ground. Or rather - my bum has hardly hit the sofa. my feet have been hitting the ground in a fairly regular and rythmic manner since it recently it's dawned on me that the Virgin London marathon is approaching and a few long runs might help me in that regard!

Aside from catching up with friends and family - and a surprise christmas dinner complete with presents and requests for reciprocation, most of my time has been focused around final stage of organization for the training camp which starts next week as well as kit orders, renewing my team and sponsorship contracts and arranging for good to be shipped in the small time period that i'm here in the UK to receive them. This has required a good deal of back and forth correspondence, which is time consuming, and at times frustrating when I just want/need to get out and train! But on the whole it's been enjoyable and fulfilling, not to mention a great learning experience. We have had amazing support from sponsors for this camp and I'm confident that the efforts invested in oragnising this first camp at just about hopefully break-even will be worthwhile if the athletes all have a great time, see fitness gains and the camp sponsors feel that we have justified their support with exposure to a hungry market. Next time around, we'll be more experienced, have an established network of support and a basic camp template in place. We envisage that running training camps will become a key aspect of EverydayTraining in the future - so here's hoping that we pull this one off! The basic premis of the camp is a big volume week of no-nonsense training, with a few competitions and challenges to add a bit of extra motivation as fatigue sets in and mojo's threaten to crumble .This is the sort of thing that both Steven and I really enjoyed about Epic - and felt it was rare to get such an opportunity. We've done it on a 'shoe-string' to make it really accessible, and just hope that we're not proved to be total freaks ..and that those who've signed up for this week of suffering will enjoy it too! Both steven and I will be posting up daily 'blogs' from camp on the coaching website blog page and you can follow @EDT_news for Twitterings too.

The coaching aspect of EverydayTraining is developing nicely too - since our return to the UK we've signed up 4 new athletes - 3 of those are local triathletes, which is a very positive step for us in getting into the 'scene' down here. However both Steven and I are realizing that there is a point where we will not risk reducing the level of attention and service we can provide taking on more athletes - we're not there yet, but I am already holding my new sign ups until after Ironman Lanzarote this year.

Other exciting news for me is that my new bikes have arrived! I was doubtful that the contract with American Bicycle Groups and QR would be in place and bikes shipped in time for me to take on the Camp - but they were received in our local bike shop - Bicycle chain, Taunton - where Brian my favourite mechanic put in a few hours over-tiem to get it cabled, cut and set up for me to train on saturday, get it in a box ready for departure today. he's a star. And the bike is COOOL. It is pink, which is something that i am having to come to terms with :o) - but i think that it's gonna force me to ride it fast - for fear of being called a Jesse. Steven commented yesterday that I'm riding well - he couldn't quite drop me as he usually does at 300W.

long run this morning (not my favourite session - 3hr run = about 45 min of fun in total for me), quick hair cut for steven and were OFF to LAnzarote this afternoon!

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Christchurch Quake Experience -real perspective!

Tuesday 22nd was a pretty wet and dismal morning, and i had a later than usual start to my day, giving me a nice relaxed hour or so to work on training schedules before setting off to the IM talk 'studios' to record an interview for next (this) week's show. It was good to see john and bevan ,who i'd not seen since last year's Epic Camp, and we recorded about half an hour of chat about my year and transitioning form age grouper to professional triathlete. Quite a lot of focus was around financing this move, goal setting, making race choices and whether to 'target' kona other aspects of the lifestyle that differ from doing triathlon as a 'hobby'. I will write some posts on these areas in the near future.

I left the studio in St Martins around 9am, still raining so, unenthusiastic about my 3hr reps session in the cloud covered port hills I pulled into a mall for a breakfast bun and coffee as the weather cleared up a little. Despite the poopey weather the session went well and I had just got home, made a coffee and lunch was settling in for an hour or so of work on a few athletes schedules before my track and gym sessions at QE2 when there was that familiar rumbling and jolting of an aftershock.

Since our arrival in October last year, these have been a fairy frequent occurrence, and although alarming at first, Steven and I had become quite used to it. They had also been dying down and far less frequent as the months went by. But this one's a biggie, I thought, as the shaking seemed to escalate rather than die down as usual. And the intensity seemed to continue mounting - I was pretty much frozen to the spot with fear on the bed, not that i could have really done much with the room shaking and objects starting to fly around the place as they were! I could hear stuff in the other rooms smashing and crashing around. The reality is that the shake probably lasted all of about 10 seconds, but it seemed like a long time before the world was still again. I tried the door of my room to go survey the damage, but it was jammed in the frame. The windows were on restricters so in order to get outside (which i was pretty keen to do!) I was going to have to break a window, I thought. Still wearing my bike jersey, I had a very useful multi tool in the rear pocket, which i realized i'd be able to use to undo the fixtings that limited the windows...and climbed out to find the terrified dog and screaming neighbours and the road in our cul-de-sac sort of folded up on itself with water gushing up from the depths of the earth. In the house was areal mess and the power had gone out. I set about clearing up and wondering what to do next. There were several large aftershocks during the next hour, which had me running outside again. The neighbors who had also been home that time were also wandering around, shell-shocked - in the street, seeking comfort from one another's stories in the confusion and fear about the rest of their households. Being a tuesday afternoon, Steven would be at the cinema and after an hour or so, decide i'd head out towards there. To my relief, he appeared just as i was leaving - it was a lot worse beyond our own street, with knee deep floods and broken roads and jammed up traffic and it had taken him 90 minutes to walk and wade the 2km home.

We are very fortunate - despite all of us being in different locations around the city, the household are all fine and were soon all assembled in the house. Shaken and a wee bit stirred. We spent the afternoon together, telling our stories, discussing our options what to do now and checking over the damage. An evening reading by candle light and listening with gut wrenching horror as the news of damage and tragedy in the city center slowly began to unfold over a small battery powered radio. Despite being a smaller magnitude than the earthquake that the city was just about recovering from last September, the center was both shallower and closer to the city. These factors all manifest in a lot more surface movement and structural damage to buildings and hills alike - and the fact that it was the middle of a weekday, sadly it was clear from very early on that there was a significant death and injury toll. The numbers are still coming out as communications have made it very difficult for people to contact and account for their missing friends and relatives.

Having decided that without water or power, with rain dripping in through the light fittings and that one doorway totally inaccessible (suggesting that the structural load paths of the building had been sufficiently compromised) we probably should not stay there another night, we packed up and headed to Ali's parent's farm in Ashburton. We were fortunate to have this option, and having driven a low route through accessible roads and crawling traffic that wednesday morning, were able to leave the reality behind and watch it on TV. This made us feel somewhat 'guilty' of course - seeing other's working clear the roads and find water and food for their family. Let alone the hundreds of volunteers with the heartbreaking heavy work of search the wreckage of the city centre for those trapped in fallen buildings. It was actually an opportunity to get to know our house-mates a little and do some training together - a very rare occurrence as they have very busy lives and must usually fit their training around work.

Our return to Chirstchurch yesterday it was a little sad to see the state of the place but also quite uplifting to see how people are really helping each other out - teams digging the roadways clear, those with water (wells or still connected) going around and making sure other have it, even letting strangers in to shower. People giving free food from the front of their house to those working in the streets, writing up signs with information or even just messages of care. There are reports of looting too, of course, but these few acts of incomprehensible selfishness are more news worthy than the millions of acts of kindness we see. The level of organization, sound public information and general common sense is impressive and it seems that on the whole people are reacting extremely responsibly to the difficult conditions.

As the rest of the Ava place household are heading up to Taupo for the Ironman ( Andrew, who's P3 locked in his city center office on Tuesday has been offered the loan of a bike by so many friends and the race organizers have even put him in touch with Cervelo for a loan of a P3) I'm currently staying with his extremely hospitable and generous parents on the west side of town, which has been less effected by the damage. We just felt quite an aftershock just now! but water and power - even internet! - are still connected here. I have withdrawn my own entry to Ironman New Zealand, which was rather a tough call but my recovery/fitness has been questionable since Wanaka and last weeks trauma and disruption really I lost my focus for this race. I feel I'm better saving the cost of the trip and spending some time on a build up for ironman Lanzarote in May.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

reasons to race - and finding perspective

After Wanaka Steven and I took a proper holiday touring around some of the classic tourist spots in the south island. We made a pact to leave our laptops switched off for 5 days - and survived! We visited Milford sound, did a little kayaking there and then returned to Wanaka (which I preferred on account of it being a lot warmer and drier!) for a couple of days and did a cruisy ride over the Crown Range. I had a bit of time to explore the walking tracks around the lake, leaving Steven in the 3D maze at puzzling world! bless 'im. I've also had plenty of time to reflect on the race, and my performance there.

There are many reasons for me to race - but the most important and motivating is the belief that it's an opportunity to achieve one of my goals. At the start of the day in Wanaka, I was deep down seeing many reasons why the day would not turn out that way for me. Getting paid is also a goal of course, and i was fairly confident off that outcome in this case, but it's just not enough to really get me fired up into race-mode. Later on in the day, I began to realize that although the conditions were horrible, I have previously excelled in races where the conditions have been extremely tough - but the point is that I was not believing that on the start line, and that effected my whole experience. Might have even effected the outcome of my race.

Part of this is an underlying feeling that I'm close to raced out. I had a very fun and exciting period of racing from May to August last year, where every race just seemed to get better for me. I'd put in a long consistent winter block of training prior to the start of the season, and then continued to build specific fitness as I raced through the summer. The highlight for me was qualifying for Kona at IM UK - though that did mean one more race 6 weeks later, rather than the planned break from sept - oct before preparing for Ironman WA in December. Of course there was no question of tuning this opportunity down and i gave it no thought at all as I signed the cheque for my Kona entry!

The World Champs was amazing experience but frankly, a disappointing performance - certainly after the high of IMUK. Looking back I feel that this was the start of the next period in my year - one of regular racing through the fatigue that I'd accumulated during the summer without a chance to fully alleviate it in the short turn-around between races. Kona, IMWA and Wanaka were all great experiences for various reasons, and this period has been beneficial for me as an athlete but non of them did I feel I'd raced any better than 'OK". There are many reasons to race, as i've said, and gaining experience, developing and refining race strategies, course and race venue/organisation familiarity, and sponsor exposure are all very useful at this stage in my career, as well as the physical strength that this regime will have built in me. However, this must be balanced against the overriding drive towards those personal goals - and at the end of the day: enjoyment and long-term health.

It's been a long time since there hasn't been an imminent race on the horizon, and no matter how many you do - racing an Ironman IS a big deal and I still get nervous thinking about the next one, become preoccupied with what's best for that race rather than the longer term training plan. So, my feeling is that it's time to move into a new phase - and therefor Taupo is in the balance. I do have an entry and I admit, I think that it sounds terrible not to be fully commited to the event, but that's the reality of racing as a professional and trying to make a living out of the sport, especially in the early phase of a career. There are so many opportunities to race now, and we do have the luxury of being able to get a relatively late entry - but I had to make my decision just days after Wanaka and before I could really assess how well I'd recover from that and set about preparing for the next one 6 weeks later. Having made the decision that i do have the option NOT to race IM NZ, i'm freshly motivated by some focus on skills and specifics, with more recovery and freshening up for each session for the next month or so. Already I'm feeling the benefits of this and if this continues then chances are good that by march I'll be feeling great and ready to race - and be on the line at Taupo, but for now I'm not thinking that far ahead.

What else? well, since returning to ChCh, getting back online and having a bit more time with less training to do, I've been keeping myself busy arranging he logistics for our EverydayTraining Camp which is coming up in April. It's our first experience of organizing something on this scale and it's a pretty rapid learning curve, but most of the details are now in place. We have some great nutritional support thanks to Powerbar, athlete's recovery will be taken care of by For Goodness Shakes and they'll have their aching bodies cared for by The TriTouch. The accommodation is a friendly hotel that we've been using as our training base in Peurto del Carmen for years, and we have some great crew coming along to give Steven and I some back-up during the week. The next phase is the fun part - detailing the camp schedule!

I've been spending a little more time with my coach Scott, taking about future plans and training ideas, and this week has seen me back in the gym, back with the swim squad and backing off the ride/run volume a bit. I'm doing well with my diet, thanks in part to Ali's veggie patch, and this combined with my return to gym work is seeing me trim up a little already. I have a sort of love/hate thing with the gym - in that i've never really liked training indoors and never really look forward to my workouts - but find them strangely addictive and usually enjoy it once I'm there. I do find that for me, gym-work really seems to kick-start my metabolism and i seem easily trim up and gain definition on my return to regular gym routine. I can be a bit of a meat-head too, and when I read about Gordo's Big Steel Challenge or January, although I'm starting it late I've started tracking the weight of steel I'm shifting in a session. I reckon i'll easily move 350 tonnes this month.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

challenge wanaka report

phew - what a challenge. that's my IM distance race count up to 15 and has to be the toughest yet! Wensleydale 2008 came to mind, but this was twice the length so tops it!! Having a spot of bother publishing my website - will have it updated, hopefully with some pics, in a few days...after our vacation around the tourist attractions of this wonderful part of teh world. steven won his age group - and an entry to Challenge Roth - so we're celebrating :o)

challenge wanaka in the glorious southern lake land of south island new zealand, has a contingency plan in case of weather conditions making the swim unsafe. in the briefing, race director assured us that only a 'howling north westerly wind' could mean conditions were this. wednesday through to friday we'd been treated to the best weather - clear, calm, sunny and warm. However at some point during teh early hours of saturday the nor-westerly started, whining - and though not at full blown 'howl', 5am race morning saw trees bent double and flags flapping violently in the winds blowing over the lake, which for the first time in our visit was not glass flat, but had significant chop. It was going to be a tough day.

lake wanaka is surrounded by mountains and glaciers and has a reputation for being very very cold even in the height of a kiwi summer. temperatures this week have varied a surprising amount - from pretty cold to quite fresh -but certainly nothing of the compulsory neoprene hats at race directors discretion and gloves and booties of previous years. because of the sudden change in weather I opted to swim in my neooprene cap. strangely - the water temperature had risen - not quite enough to overheat, but i was certainly toasty in it. anyway, brain freeze was one less 'challenge' that wanaka would be throwing at us today. But it had plenty more in store for us!

The bike course is composed of 3 sections - the first 35km out and back towards Treble Cone takes you out on steeply undulating roads paved with coarse chip. All too easy to blast your legs on all those steep rises on keen fresh legs, so I'm careful to lighten my gearing and use the small chainring. i'm struggling to get myself moving this morning so holding myself back doesn't seem to be an issue. return through town and then its out on the second segment - a loop through Albert Town and Lake Hawea. More short steep and frequent hills, rough chip and some shocking cross winds as we pass Lake Hawea. I've ridden this loop a few times in the week and do quite enjoy it, though not so much in the strong winds blowing my front wheel about and feeling inexplicably below par. A relatively small field has spread out pretty well by this point and there are few people around to pace off. i'm glad i have my powertap, but right now it;s just telling me i could ride harder. just about the end of this loop, on yet another steep climb, I'm passed by a familiar age grouper who I train with in Christchurch. I'm surprised that she was behind me being a better pool swimmer than I am, and this changes my state of mind somewhat. Knowing that she's a strong rider and would love to beat a pro, I fire up to stick with her.
The final and longest section of the course was unknown territory to me, around Lake Dunstan to Cromwell. Cromwell is the lowest and farthest point on the course, and with a ripping tail wind we race the next 40km keeping one another in sight and pushing each other along. My legs start to feel good working and I'm having fun. I know that we'll pay for this wind assistance with long slog back up the other side of the lake into the headwind, and try to get as much nutrition in me whilst I can. The cross winds have made it difficult to eat or drink much so far. At the 110km mark we turn, and it really is as hideous as i'd anticipated. The roughest roads i've ridden on, long gradual incline and wind so strong that it's literally difficult to make progress. Dropping into my smallest gear and spinning feverishly it's a case of head down and keep an eye on those ahead. My age-group pal and a couple of male age groupers who've been around for the last hour or so got a little way up the road now and I work hard to regain contact, but for all the efforts i put into the wind they're still apparently receding into the distance. For some reason my powertap starts playing up ( shoulda changed those batteries!) - so no speedo, power or anything just heartrate and perceived efforts and inner voices . keeping it at moderate level and my thoughts away from packing in. i tell myself that no one is enjoying this -no one is passing me and actually it does appear that after a while i'm gaining ground on and then passing those ahead of me. I still feel pretty strong despite being trapped in my personal version of hell! But of course i know that it's not eternal - it will end eventually so just keep plugging away at those pedals and there's progress. Some pretty fierce gusting cross winds and a few final hills just to seal this bike course in the memory as the toughest in all of my own triathlon experience - and i do tend to go for the tough bike courses!

I'd been looking forward to the run even more than usual- it's mostly off-road and follows the lake and river walkway on a 21km loop. I love to run trails and feel that this terrain plays to my strength. Starting my first lap with the lead male helped me keep good pace and it was fun to exchange a few words with his bike escort and receive some great encouragement form his support crew. About 17km into the first lap I passed Belinda Harper for 4th place, which really encouraged me. I did not realize at the time that she'd suffered a bike crash, loosing the lead, and was not about to give chase, so fear of being re-passed kept me moving. The wonderful scenery, enthusiastic support from the locals and many friends who were here taking part in the events of the weekend ( there had been a half distance and team relay races too), and the wonderful feeling of getting through a very trying day despite not being on my best form, got me through the nasty steep hills on the course with a smile on my face.

Challenge Wanaka was a wonderful experience - a beautiful location, an intimate feel to a superbly organized race with an honest and challenging course.


Tuesday, 11 January 2011

tourist training

we're on our way to race Challenge Wanaka, with our Jucy 8-seater rental and big picnic box we're taking the scenic route there. And my word, it really is! We've been so lucky with the weather this summer and are seeing some of the best Kiwi scenery in the best possible conditions. Rather than the full-on madness of Epic Camp, it's just Steven and I doing bits and pieces and taking turns to ride en-route. We both took a trip up to Mount Cook - not the summit,or even the glacier ( they said not suitabel for road bikes, but hows a bout a $500 helicopter ride up there?) but at least to the small and very subtly designed alpine village where climbers depart for the mountain side huts. A 2hr early morning run in the lovely little town of Twizel consisting of 3 laps of the trail which circles the town reinstated my confidence in the calf pinch that had been bothering me all week, then set off for teh 5hr round trip. Short, paced run off the bike finished a 37hr week. Not Epic ( and i'm glad not) but I'm now starting to feel fit again after Bussleton and Christmas. I feel ready to train! But there's the small matter of a iron-distance race on saturday though! I do wish that I had 3-4 weeks to get in some real fitness and shed a couple kg, but it's not really likely that the organisors will move the race at such late request. even for me - who was at one point last week the only female professional entrant. could've been my first big win ;o) ....or the first occasion where i've finished dead last. Half full/half empty etc
we're staying in the little town of Hawea ( which is actually on the race bike route) for a couple of days under the expert hospitality of Doug Scott in his amazing batch. Doug's a friend from previous Epic camps, skinny as a rake (i'm jealous) and is currently on fire on the bike. he's going to rock the half which he's doing in preparation for Taupo and nursing his legs back to running form. Todays training - my last 'session' before the race went good. power high and Hr making sense, good speed on the run -like i said, i'd love to have a few weeks to work with this but at the least it gives me some confidence for the weekend.

It's a tough course - similar to wimbleball, but twice as long, but such amazing scenery and fingers crossed that the weather holds up. Tomorrow we move into Wanaka and the hotel that sponsors the event giving us complimentary accommodation. hows about that for being looked after!

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