Sunday, 28 December 2014

Ironman Barcelona

It's Boxing day and I'm killing time in Bristol airport once again. As I prepare to kickstart my 2015 season, I realise that I've yet to write a report on the final race in my 2014 season; Ironman Barcelona which was back in October! An indication of just how busy I am able to make myself once the training and racing is on hold for a couple of months…and also that some recent crap in my personal life took a lot of energy from me, and made it hard to focus on such things.

But as we approach 2015 and the opportunities it brings - I feel that the review of this great race will help me back in the frame of mind to make the most of the two weeks I'm about to spend coaching a festive New Years' tri training camp with my good friends at Trisports Lanzarote. So be warned - this could be a long post!

Whilst the home races of Ironman UK and Challenge Weymouth were the real focus of my racing season, I entered this former Challenge race in Barcelona on a high after  what I measure as a successful season on the suggestion of friends who were also planning to do the race. With the fast course, end of season timing and an easy to access location it was appealing on a number of levels. The choice to do this race was primarily for fun, and also to see how fast a time I could manage. 3 weeks after Weymouth is not long, but that was a relatively undemanding race and experience of the last few years has shown that I do tend to perform at my best with a few months of racing behind me…as long as i'm not too fatigued buy that point. So basically it was a 50-50, but since it was "for fun" I felt under little pressure here. The recent takeover by Ironman meant that the original prize purse offered by Challenge was still honoured and therefor  superior to a typical P2000 event. There was a large and  strong field - kind of an alternate Kona - so a top 3 never seemed likely for me, but being in the top 8 was my goal, would cover my race expenses and possibly leave me a few quid for a holiday afterwards too.

Travelling alone to Calella was somewhat of an experience, arriving late at night with bleary eyed and uncertain navigation and a broken rental cars taking up the small hours, I was extremely displeased to spend the following morning making an additional trip back to the airport to deal with what turned out to be a very small oversight by the car hire firm. At least I knew my way between airport and hotel well enough for a confident return trip! Having established a parking space near my hotel, I did not need to move the car once for the whole stay; Ironman Barcelona is actually cited in Calella - a small resort on the Costa Brava just north of the city - and is  one of those great race locations where everything to do with the event is easily accessible on foot.

The ocean was beautiful and felt almost warm enough to be non wetsuit, but we were assured that it was still safely within the range for a wetsuit "optional" swim. The bike course was simple - out and back along the main coastal road. Not entirely but mostly flat, making it fun to ride and with fantastic views of the coast as it wound through the various coastal resorts, the potential speed came from the lack of junctions and almost perfectly smooth road surface. The run followed the beachside path up and down between Calella and the small neighbouring resort with a variety of running surface and this was absolutely pan-flat. The potentially difficult aspect of this would be the monotony of 4 flat laps, and possible heat. I loved the location, was enjoying chilling out mostly on my own, and was really looking forward to riding that course.

Come race day's early start  -and just as i'm leaving my hotel rain starts. Storms had been forecast and not materialised …and oh ,what timing ,now it was. Within 5 minutes the spitting rain was an absolute torrent and in the 20 minute walk to transition I was soaked through. The torrent continued, accompanied now by thunder and fork lightening as we quickly set up bikes in transition, shivering now in the drenched lightweight waterproof that I had on me. 2000 bodies sought shelter in the transition tent as the storm continued and cut the power. Most people got into wetsuits for warmth - few of us believing that the race would go on in these conditions! But no announcements were given and, despite the continuing wind, rain and most worrying forked lightening, we made out way to the starting pens. With approximate 10 minutes to go before the male pro start, news reached us that they were announcing a delay. We gathered in one of the large marquees whilst race organisers advised us of a 30 minute delay. At this time it did seem that the storm was getting lighter and local understanding of the weather patterns proved to be correct as 20 minutes later conditions had almost completely calmed, other than the ocean being choppier than it had been during the last few days. I have to admit that by this time, being wet and cold and rather intimidated by the long, single loop swim within a small wave of female pros and wet conditions on the roads, i was not wholly enthusiastic about starting the race - lucky for me Elle Haresign was also racing and we get along well, have a good laugh and her positivity was a good motivation for me. The time came, they announced us each by name into the water, the rain eased to a stop and we got on with it!

I'm afraid that it's another terrible swim experience to report. Though I started well and remained connected to a small group, I found myself shortly at the front of it, sighting off one of the large yellow buoys. I could see the main group over to one side through the chop, but continued swimming on my line. A canoeist was close by - not necessarily a bad sign, but eventually she pointed out to me that the buoy that i was heading for was not actually part of the course - in fact i'd swum a long way off to the left and had quite a lot of chop to cut across to get back to the first turn buoy. I had seen the course layout mapped and not felt that there was anything complicated by it. With all the power outage, the very large transition area and confusion prior to the race, it had not been made clear that the line of permanent yellow swim buoys were not actually in line with the course and not to be used for sighting off - and I'd not taken the trouble to make sure I knew this. A hard lesson learned as the majority of the swim is a 2.2km stretch northwards into a choppy current …which I after this error i was left to face solo. It seemed to take forever!!

Time has passed now and I can't remember whether I was actually last out of my wave to grab her bike - but it seems likely given the 1:07 swim split…

The start of the ride was rather treacherous, 3km through narrow and winding streets of the town, recently soaked slick drain covers and aggressive speed bumps. I was leaving transition at just about the same time as the fastest male age groupers, amped up, racing these streets and taking each corner far too fast. Amazed that no one came off, it was great relief to finally exit the town via a small hill and onto the highway where the fun would finally begin. The sun was fully out now and drying the roads, no noticeable wind (in fact it was a slight tail-wind out, headwind back) and as described earlier this beautiful 50km stretch of road offered a smooth ride with great views…3 or 4 distinct "bumps" in the first 20km or so, then flattening off almost entirely. Closed to traffic there were just the roundabouts that gave cause to reduce speed occasionally…and a few patches of sand and debris left by the earlier storms. The perfect road to ride, and ride fast! Knowing that Eleanor would have likely been a good 10 minutes ahead of me out of the water, I had some riding to do to make up ground on her if i was to redress the 2-0 balance of the season so far. She's pipped me by one place one both the previous occasions we'd raced and despite the respect I have for her, in both cases I'd felt that it was more down to error on my part than superiority on hers. So I was very to pleased to see that at the far turn point, she was only ~2 minutes ahead  -had I closed such a gap already?  I was riding as well as I felt! I got ready to bring her in on the return to Calella, feeling sure that I could hold this effort for the duration.

Well, that would have been the case had there not been 2500 other competitors out on that same road, and with little to separate them they seemed to be gravitating into packs. During my first lap it was not so bad - fewer riders out on the course, and it was really the stronger male age groupers who tended to be riding solo or at least in legally spaced pace lines. The next lot of groups that passed me were still pretty small and were going rather faster than I was and did not disrupt my rhythm too much if I hung back  just a few pedal strokes to let them go. But I found that on any slight rise I'd be cruising up past them again, find myself on the front and over the next km or so get sucked in, through and since not willing to engage in the drafting, out the back of the group again. Rather frustrating and somewhat disruptive, but at this point still quite entertaining and giving me something to focus on and pass the ride time. As we rode further into the course, and more and more riders joined the laps, the conditions on the road became crowded with large bunches of riders forming - whether deliberately or simply an inevitable outcome of putting such large numbers of cyclists out on a course of this nature, there was a lot of drafting going on. It soon got to the point where easing off to avoid riding within the draft of a group that had just caught me simply meant drifting into the front of the next, slower moving, one. With the application of a few more watts I was able to ride past most of these groups - but they'd soon bridge the gap back up to my rear wheel, before one or two riders would come round to "take their turn" ….this pattern of riding was detremental to my own pacing and utterly frustrating. As such I spent the middle lap of the bike surging -  and pondering possible solutions to this problem . I felt sure that most people would prefer not to have been caught in this situation, but had succumbed to the reality that everyone else was doing it and that a genuine effort to follow the rules was effectively a decision not to "race".  That was the situation I found myself in, and eventually decided that my best resort was to ride just a bit off the back of a decent paced group - keeping the legal distances much as possible - though this was easier said than done due to the rolling nature of the course which meant that if i did not ease off significantly on even the smallest climbs, or lost focus and allowed my power to climb up on the flats, I'd find myself riding right into the back of the bunch. It was probably after having observed a few of these moments that a motor ref decided to single me out for a penalty and I was shown the red card. I have to admit that it never even crosses my mind that this part of the pre race briefing would apply to me, and was a bit unsure of what exactly I had to do!  I knew not to dispute it…and that I'd have to stop and serve a 6 minute penalty at some point…but could I choose where? or did it have to be the next box? and where were the boxes?? My hopes of catching Elle disappeared and were replaced by a big struggle to maintain positivity for the remainder of the race; we were about 4.5 hours in, with another 90minutes or so left to ride and a marathon to run - I couldn't give up on it yet; there was certainly still all to race for, although I was only in 8th place at that point and 6 minutes would surely see me off the bike outside of the top 10. I had to remain positive of my ability to run it back, and the generally unknown nature of what's going on "up the road". For all I knew all of the top 10 women had been served penalties!

Decent runs in both of my two previous Ironman races had given me plenty of confidence for the foot portion of the race -  my running does especially improve with a few races behind me and I felt well recovered from Weymouth's 38km flat "marathon".  This experience of long and full race seasons is something that I felt I had over Elle, and most people, at this time in the year. It was a great run course - dead flat and with an interesting variety of surface and scenery - with plenty of vibrant support on a hot and sunny afternoon. Although I'd travelled out alone, I am lucky enough to know plenty of people on "the circuit" and was getting some great support - and bottle aid - along the way. Although there seem to have been fewer aid stations on Ironman run courses this year, they were distributing drinks in bottles at this event - with the caps on if requested - which I really appreciated as it enabled me to run with a drink in hand pretty much the whole way around. This is especially valuable later on in the run when the course gets very congested around the aid stations.

I don't remember the run very clearly; like all marathons it got pretty painful, but my recollection is that throughout I was running pretty well and felt strong. There was no walking and no toilet stops anyway!  I passed a couple of Pro women…thinking "maybe now i'm back in the money" …but was later on passed by Katrina Gossman - who I tried to keep pace with briefly but she was in another gear altogether..and that threw me into a bit of a wobble, and another girl passed me…she didn't pull far ahead and I  like to think that I dug in a bit and caught her back..but am unsure of that fact now. Anyway with about 5 km to go I became aware that I was damn close to being caught again ( maybe it was the one that I had re-passed and was going for another go at it, perhaps I was facing the loss of another position) and had to drive deep to prevent it.  As I write this I now remember the agony of that last half-lap!!! But for me that's the sign of a good race - when I can push that hard after  9hours of racing and pick up the pace. It always seems to be the same situation that provides the motivation for me- not wanting to be caught (again) at such a late stage! All whilst these "twos and fro"s were going on, I was somehow oblivious to the fact that Elle was having a tough run a very short distance ( like a couple hundred  meters!!) ahead of me, and going through the same fear of being caught  -by me! She was being damn sneaky to evade me spying her at the turn-arounds as she told me later just how close I was. I know that if I'd been alert enough to see that, I'd have pushed on and caught her, and she admitted how relived she felt as she realised she'd managed to stay out of sight!

So, I finished in just over 9hrs 30 - a new PB even with the 6 minutes stop time - but in 14th position, which was disappointing for me. If it were legitimate to take that penally time off, then yes, i'd be in the top 10 and getting paid. I'd have finished in front of Elle and have a sub 9:30PB. But of course I can't really claim that, and although it's unfortunate that the ref took the decision to punish me - a lone female Pro caught within the masses of bunches of guys - I can't deny that there were plenty of moments when I was way too close to other riders out on that course. As a professional you just have to accept that this is something that will happen, and deal with it as part of the sport, in the same way that punctures, crashes, mechanicals and wrong turns can effect your race, and if you do enough races it will inevitably happen to you at some point.  Overall it was a great race experience, and one that I'd return to under similar circumstances-  an end of season race for the joy of racing and without pressure to earn money or points.  

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Challenge Weymouth 2014 - race report

I’ve just returned from another great weekend of British Long Distance racing at the inaugural Challenge Weymouth. Great for me as it’s just about 90 minutes drive from home, and I have friends with a wonderful holiday home close to the course so it’s a low stress and low cost event for me to race - with the added advantage of certain amount of knowledge of the bike course. It’s a little out of my radius for cycling from home, but still close enough to make a day trip by car feasible.  Billed as fast and flat, some might have been a bit surprised to have accumulated 1800m of climbing on the bike, but it was certainly about as flat as possible given the local Dorset terrain! The race was a few km short here and there, in particular on the run which appears to have been set out to enable an accurate Half Challenge course and there was thus half a lap missing from the Full Distance race..but I know that will be adjusted for 2015 when the event will be the ITU European Long Distance Championships. 

On the day, unusual and strong easterly winds created a humungous surf in the bay and the swim portion was reduced for the Full Distance athletes to enable a denser covering of swim safety crew. This was announced to us as we prepared in transition at 5:30am on race morning - the start times would all be pushed back 30 minutes to enable the reorganisation of the course marker buoys and water safety team. The change was managed and communicated well - and though many people we disappointed that they’d not be completing the entire Challenge that they’d train so hard for, when we saw the size of the surf and swell out there, no one was thinking that even the shortened swim would be an easy option! 

Getting in and out through the waves was exhausting and with a strong current pulling to the west, I think I was washed most of the way to Portland! There was a stoney groin just to the west of the course and there was sa real danger of ending up on the wrong side of that at the end of each lap - I did manage to correct myself there and swam a better line second time around, but this diversion and lack of practice in surf conditions, I exited the water exhausted to find my gear back all alone left in transition. As the last Pro out nto the bike I wasn’t feeling very happy and the overcast morning did not help my mood. However, if wasn’t long before I caught up to and passed a couple of the other girls on the climb out of town. They then stuck around just behind me, where they seemed to stay for most of the ride. Eventually I also picked up Tamsyn Hayes and on the second lap the tiny Michi Herblauer. The three of us would occasionally exchange positions but for the most part each time one of them came to the front, it felt that the pace slowed a lot and within a few seconds i found myself moving past again. However, any gap i gained stayed pretty small and although I knew that there were still at least 2 women ahead of us, I was reluctant to really push the bike,  knowing that they'd benefit from that so in all it wasn’t a hard ride. I suppose the lack of punishing hills, the good conditions and a better (more ample) nutrition plan on the bike all combined and I felt pretty strong and enjoying being “in” the race. Michi seemed to decide to make a move at the 120km point, opening up a small gap - which took a bit of pressure to close down again and at that point we lost the others.  We’d just been through the part of the route which is an out-and back, enabling me to establish that Caroline Livesay was about 3 minutes ahead, and as I passed again Michi I communicated to her. Regardless of what she decided to to, I was going to try to close that down and with a bit of a push along the flat parts of the course I didn’t see her again. However, as I turned back into Weymouth we were slowed up by traffic, and the next time I looked around there she was. 

We entered and left transition together, and I was thankful that I’d had a pretty "steady" ride - there was going to be lot of work to do on the run. With this small, light and fast looking rival on my heels, I knew the first few kilometers had to be fast to shake her off .That’s all I thought about - get rid of her and then settle into a sensible pace, figure out who it is that’s leading , and by how much.  Michi was left behind me after those first couple of km, and Caroline was not too far ahead. I reckoned she was a bit tall for a very fast runner…and that left only Eleanor Haresign in front, a couple of minutes ahead of her. I reckoned i'm faster on foot than she…we'd raced together once in Lanzarote but it had been more like leap -frogging between toilets stops for the both of us. She made it to the line first on that day but i didn't think that proved anything…so set out to get her. If i can maintain it, my “sensible” pace will yield a 3:15-20 marathon.  In first half marathon i managed to close the gap to the lead from 4 mins to under 2…passing Caroline in the process. The win was in my grasp! I just had to keep fighting for it. The support that I had was fantastic. My Mum was there on the side of the course passing me my bottle each lap - I’d hand it back to her as I passed in the opposite direction, and she’d fill it ready for the next time around. She was spot on with that, and had hooked up with Joe Skipper’s family and other serious Iron-Parents -even Elle's crew were giving me splits - and lads from the tri club came down for the day and between them I all got great support.  Of course every single person who encourages me out there is appreciated, but it’s even more motivating when it’s people I know. Of course Elle was getting even more encouragement as the leader having the lead bike is a real advantage as everyone gets behind you. So, she wasn't gonna give it over that easy, and although i heard that she was "having a wobble", she rallied back after 25km and opened in that gap right back up to 4+ minutes just as I had a wobble of my own & pace had dropped to barely faster than 5mins for 25-30km. As we rounded the turn around on the last lap, I became aware that my position was in danger from behind - Michi was making up group and fast! With a lap to go it was down to under 1min…I knew i'd have to pick it up or else. Luckily i have some experience of running scared in the last 5km of a race …and i knew that the run course was short -  so that last half lap really was a frantic "sprint" to the finish! So much so that the finish line crew did not see me coming…and I took a wrong turn rather than into the finish chute, headed off out onto another lap! My legs gave out as I crossed the line,  but it feels good to finish like that,  in 2nd place and to a super strong winner.  

Thanks to my good friends Olivia and Andy who put me up in their lovely cottage for the long weekend. Olivia placed 3rd in her AG in the Half Distance race, despite being full of cold and caffeine! And thanks to my mum who made the trip down to support me by train, having lent me her car. 

Friday, 12 September 2014

Ironman UK - race report

It's clearly been a busy 6 weeks since my 3rd place finish at Ironman Uk in Bolton …never has a race report taken quite so long to write! But with 2 days remaining until the start of Challenge Weymouth, I felt that this may be a good time to reflect on that race, and use the learnings from the day to help me through this upcoming race.

The conditions in Pennington Flash were great as usual; a warm if slightly green-tinged lake, so calm water other than the beneficial whirlpool motion of the masses all swimming counter clockwise at pace! Nice big buoys mark a simple course ,which includes an "Australian exit" up the jetty, 60m run through crowds of cheering spectators and a "no dive" re-entry for lap two. The pro field had a  good separation on the start line which is the best scenario for me, with faster age group swimmers coming past after about 200m proving ample foot-following opportunities once the Pro field has strung out behind the super swimmers. As usual Harry was there to set the pace in the pond.

I felt that I swam well, did not loose the back of the small  pro pack at the start of the swim, and found my self side by side with another pro female through to the first buoy. She was swimming close, a bit too close, to my left side which was to her disadvantage in the end as I turned very tight to the first buoy, squeezing her out of space. Not entirely intentional (certainly not since I'm friendly with all the other women in the race!) but with my race head on thinking of my best interests first. The effort level was hard throughout the swim, I seemed to hold my position and always managing to be with and just behind a small group.  I *felt* that I was successfully implementing the stroke points that our swim coach had rather harshly drilled me with earlier that week, certainly my arms were aching as we concluded 3.8km. So I was a little disappointed to post a time of 61 minutes (when I have swim under an hour in each of my previous races here) but I was not last out of the water at least. The swim times are always subject to variability - even in a lake - dependant on the exact position of the buoys and water level, I suppose. I was focused throughout and couldn't have executed that swim any better, really.

It was a small female pro field at Ironman Uk this year, with just 7 women registered and only 5 of them starting on the day. All of them were known to me, the "on paper" favourite being Katja Konschak of Germany - recently placed 9th at Ironman Frankfurt in 9:20…but with Ironman "rookie" Tamsin Lewis the one that I had my eye on for the day. She races 70.3 with speed far superior to me across all 3 disciplines and would likely have a lead from the start.  However, with Katja having raced so recently and the testing bike course that she had not yet even seen and Tamsin's inexperience at the long distance (and to be fair, an unfortunate history of not finishing races) - I was certainly in this race feeling that I had an excellent shot at the win.

As it happened, it was only those two out T1 ahead of me I jumped on my bike and got to peddling!  Twice before i've lost all my bottles at the mercy of the concrete speed bumps on the way out of transition - i kept a close eye on them time time and managed to avoid the worst part of the bumps - but saw age-group champion Tracy Cook loose both of hers as I passed her. She's a great rider and it gave me a little motivation to push on, hoping to stay ahead. I feel that, although far from being amongst the top ranking  Pros, my status in the Pro field is validated as long as I am not beaten by the amateur athletes. There are some brilliant women racing age-group at the moment, and although they don't effect the Pro prize pay out or ranking points (in Ironman), it's not appealing to me to finish behind them! This could easily become a segway into another topic regarding what's the 'real difference' and who should be entitled to a Pro Licences …but let's not do that now!

Having rained torrentially all through the previous 2 days, the conditions early on that particular Sunday morning were rather grey and misty. As we gained height on the bike at the start of the first loop ( now two long loops rather than 3) the mist thickened, and after the steep limb up Sheephouse Lane to the moorland at the top, it was a thick fog. You couldn't see the top, which was sort of nice because that hill does go ON! I was rather surprised to have passed Katja already on the start of this climb which is only about 30km into the ride, putting me into second place. I felt that I had a great advantage in these conditions because, although I was terrified descending off the top in these blind and wet conditions, I did at least know the road pretty well, whereas Katja certainly was riding the fast descent blind.

I was really (kind of)  enjoying this race - feeling that I was racing myself into a win. The motorcycle film crew were appearing at regular intervals to film, and were giving me splits. Tamsin was ahead by 5 minutes by half-way on the first lap … not impossible, certainly if she "blows". Of course, I was riding hard too, and it hurt. By the second lap, it really hurt…and I was feeling hungry too. To the point of seriously considering stopping to pick up dropped food, or pulling quickly into a local store and begging for the loan of a MarsBar. The bike course at Ironman UK has been significant improved, in my opinion, by the changes ( two long loops which take you through some nice scenic areas and up the sharp incline of Hunters Hill) but certainly not made it any easier! The route winds along some of the more rural roads in the areas, all up and down and lots of tight bends. Uneven surfaces and patches of gravel are inevitable on these sots of roads. The effect on the cyclist is a constant changing momentum, lots of slowing and accelerating, short sharp climbs where you're likely to find you're in the wrong gear if you don't know the roads well, or accustomed to riding then at speed. A lovely route for a ride - a very hard route to race.

The splits information that I was getting were growing - Tamsin eventually finished the bike in the region of 15 minutes ahead of me - but I was still in second place, my best standing in an Ironman (this one actually) to date, and with the run still to come. That's where I've gained places in the past when I was having a decent day. I was looking forward to it.

The end of the bike course caught me out - one aspect that I had not recce'd, or even looked at closely, before the race and had made assumptions that we'd follow the obvious road route into T2 at the Reebok stadium ( now Macron, I think ). Nope, we were suddenly diverted off the main road into housing estate, a steep slope down and "shoes off" "dismount" all happened in a flash, Not that i was sorry that the ride was over, but not quite prepared. The run through transition was agony - rough stoney surface. It was unfortunate that the file crew was on me as I yelped out strongly recommended that they get some carpet, with the use of an expletive or two, I'm told.

Fastest T2 of the day! Then, the run out onto the bike course was right up the steep slope that we'd just ridden down. Ouch. Everything really really hurt, and I needed the loo. Maybe wish i'd spend a bit more time, and a penny, in transition! But I was chasing - and of course, being in second place I was being chased. 

Luckily for me friends of mine Steven and Roger had also just finished their rides and were on the early part of the run. Steven I was sure I'd catch up to and pass, whereas Roger I know to be an excellent runner. He was slightly behind me, but soon came by. If I could stick with him I felt sure of a good run, with the bonus of company and encouragement of a friend. I had no GPS on my watch, so no clue of our pace - but it felt solid. More solid than I did! Roger was running comfortably, I figured it to be about 4:20-30 pace. Reluctantly I let him slowly pull away from me. I consider that was my first show of weakness. Why did I too that? It's hard to justify in retrospect  -sticking at that pace would have certainly gained me a faster run (Roger ran 3:13) and  almost certainly prevented me from being caught. I suppose that to feel like I  was running "hard" after only 3kms (and not knowing my actual pace) didn't seem a risk worth taking at the time. We saw Steven, faster swimmer and cyclist, at the turn-around and I focused on catching him. I was impressed and pleased for him that it would actually be about mid-way through the marathon before I did so. 

One of the great benefits of being a leader in the race is having the "lead bike" for company. These volunteers give varying degrees of support, but in general they're willing to chat, give a little info and lots of encouragement. It also alerts the watching crowds to who you are and that you're a significant part of the "race" whilst they wait in support of their own loved ones further back in the field. And as always, the support up on Bolton is massive! Ironman have really built on the event over the 10 !!! years that its been run here and these days the atmosphere out on the run course on a sunny day rivals that of any Ironman in Europe. Racing on "home turf" adds another bonus n that I know so many people out there on the course and in support that it's a real joy for them to see me doing well. So I run stronger for that, and always try to have a smile or wave for anyone who calls me. 
I had found my running rhythm and was feeling pretty good, running alone, just me and my bike guy, for the first 15km stretch from Transition in Horwich to Bolton town centre. Following a few short very steep hills between the canal path and the centre of town, I developed a stitch …just as I was given the news that Katja was in sight behind. I wasn't sure but reckoned she'd made up about 5 minutes on me by that point. Maybe it was because I was having a bad patch …but at the time it really didn't occur to me as anything but inevitable. And let her pass with out any thought of sticking with her. Again, it's easy to be critical in retrospect and look at the "what ifs" - but at the time a stronger emotion was ruling my actions, and although I had set out to win and did not want to concede my position of course….I just handed it over at that moment. In a way it might have even been a relief. We switched bikes and the new guy was nice enough but didn't really know much about the sport or the race or even the time though he did get the crown going when I came through each time and tried to keep a look out for any other of the pre women coming from behind. From that moment on it was really about keeping moving forward and getting through another Ironman - Tamsin was looking great out there and was certain to win it. Katja was not looking great, but her hunger for Kona Points was driving her constantly forward. Amy is a strong runner and always has me looking over my shoulder, but aside form a brief panic after the final turn point when I didn't see her and imagined her right there on my heels, she was too far back off the bike to be a threat. I held it together and finished on the podium in a time of 10 hours and 21 minutes, having lost a whole 10 minutes to Katja, in second, on that run. A 3:33 marathon is feel below what I feel I should be able to do - whether I did push too hard on the bike, or just a bad day or simple down to those couple of low moments when I let myself be defeated to easily. On my last lap , when I suddenly became paranoid that Amy might be catching me I really did pick it up and ran a hard 5km to the line I guess I could have used that at an earlier point  - but for sufficient motivation. 

In all, I can say that I finished on the podium, was not beaten by any amateurs and did enjoy the racing experience at Ironman UK. I also learned a little bit about how to race stronger …now to implement that at the next one Challenge Weymouth on Sunday! 

Friday, 25 July 2014

Catch up! Ironman Lanzarote & 70.3 UK

 I'm a little shocked that so long has passed since I've updated this blog - life has been hectic and time passes very fast! 
So a little recap of 2014 so far: 
From February through April it was work, work, work with the training camps - Epic Woman, the 4th EverydayTraining Endurance Camp Lanza, the first running of a Beginners camp with Trisports Lanzarote and then EverydayTraining King of the Mountains camp in the Pyrenees.  All very different groups of people, high energy,  hard training and great fun in the sun! 

Whilst out in Lanzarote, I took part in the infamous Volcano Triathlon, run by Club La Santa. One of the most challenging Standard ( 1.5/40/10k) distance races on the circuit...made especially so this year by the very very windy conditions. I had a good race there too, finishing 3rd in a semi- elite field (the winner was last years runner up at the Ironman) with the fastest female run split of the day.  

The main event for the early part of my season was Ironman Lanzarote (may 17th); if I'm honest the less I say about this the better. It was a disappointing race other than the fact that I performed "reasonably" across all 3 disciplines, conditions were good and I had good support from the many friends & colleagues on the island and the friends and athletes that I coach who were also in the race. This would also be my 5th time at this event, which was my first ever Ironman and also my first ever race in the Pro start in 2010, an achievement that the race organiser mark with a special award that i was looking forward to receiving.

However, most else about my day was disappointing - primarily I felt that my favourite Ironman race has been spoiled by the admission of 2300 competitors - creating very rough and congested and conditions in the swim, and issues with drafting, congestion and safety on the bike. Perhaps I  let this effect me rather too much - or spent to much energy focusing on negative aspects - and rather than working my way forward through the strong field from the 8th position that I was in at the start of the run. I've never quite understood what people mean when they've told me that they "just did not have their legs on" on the bike - something I've been lucky enough to avoid - until now. But this day it's just how I felt - riding out of transition, where i'm usually having to battle with myself to keep a cap on my power, I just seemed unable to hold even my "sensible" racing wattage without what felt like extraordinary effort. With a long day ahead of me, I didn't worry about this so much, as consider it a  bit odd and actually thought that a steady start should prove to be a good thing later in the day once I started feeling better.  To be honest looking back I can't really recall whether I did start feeling stronger, but at least I had plenty to focus on with the negotiation of large groups of cyclists spread across and along the early sections of the route making it very difficult to avoid being in a drafting position. This improved a little after the long drag up Fire mountain and by the time we hit the hills at the far end of the course the field had spread. I came off the bike in 8th position in a time of 5hr 50. slower than last year and my target, but windy condition sand the congestion on the roads could have accounted for this 

To be honest up until this point I'd not enjoyed much of the day, with the battering i took in the swim, slow time and sluggish bike. However the run at Ironman Lanzarote is a real highlight - with the beach front course enabling great access for spectators and ensuring fantastic atmosphere and support through the afternoon. Following a very hot week leaden up to the race, we knew it'd be hot out there on the run, and I had prepared for this as best one can.Carrying my own drink in a small bottle makes it easier to stay on top of hydration without having to stop at aid stations during the later laps, and having my mum out on course at the "hand-over' station with cool refills was an enormous help. I started the run as usual trying to hold myself back to a sensible, sustainable pace…after 15km or so i was really suffering - not from the pace as such, but simply just lack of race specific training or any long runs since the marathon.  Looking back I'm disappointed in myself that  I allowed my self to slip backwards and out of the top 10, even more so when i saw the very cool trophies that were awarded down to 10th place.   Putting a more positive light on this, I could tell you that out of the 33 professional women on the start list, which included several former winners of this race, I finished in the top 1/3rd. But the truth is that it was not a result I'm pleased with. 

2 weeks later I'm back out working on another of our camps. this one a King of the Mountains cycling oriented week in the Pyrenees. Great fun and long hard days on the bike. Not what one would think of for great recovery...but I seem to have recovered quickly after the Ironman, and managed to rebuild a bit of base fitness in a short period of time  -by riding 6+ hours in the mountains every day and drinking a lot of beer. 

Returning to the UK just a few days before Ironman 70,3UK which is very near to my home, I made a late call to race it! The organisers were very obliging and allowed my late application, the  weather was perfect and being my home race I can always rely on tremendous support out there around the course. I was pleased with a PB on that course and a 3rd place finish, 2nd pro. Being passed by an age-grouper in the last km was a bit gutting...if only I had been aware that she was closing I'd have been able to prevent that, but even as it turned out that does not effect the payout ,which was the main objective.

This tough little 70.3, and the Ironman and high-volume camp prior to it of course, required quite a bit of recovery after …and it was a little later than i'd hoped before i was able to start my training build towards one of the main events of my season; Ironman UK.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

You know it's Ironman week when….

May 12th marked the start of the first Ironman Week of my 2014 season. It's familiar territory for me, the week spent at a race venue, awaiting the start of one of the toughest days in my year with an equal eagerness to get out there and put the hard training into practice, and to be on the other side of the finish line and able to relax! 

This will the Ironman number 25 for me - and my 5th time racing in Lanzarote, the scene of my Iron-distance debut as an age grouper in 2007, and also of my debut racing in the Pro field in 2010, this race has special meaning for me. Having spent many months of the last few years in Lanzarote on training camps though the European winter time, the Island feels much like a second home. The Ironman course a regular training route, the local climatic conditions familiar challenges and there'll be many familiar faces out around me this week belonging to the many acquaintances and friends that I have made during my times here. 

With all races, the situation before the race has been different;  whether it's a home race, or far away, whether with home-stay or in hotel accommodation, whether I am with company or travelling alone…and as I'v remarked in previous blog -posts this calls for a degree of flexibility when it comes to the pre-race routine and rituals. 

There are however, some certain Race -Week characteristics that I have found can be counted upon wherever I go:

You know Ironman is coming up when: 

  • You spend more time planning, reviewing, and generally fretting over your training plans than actually training
  • You'll suffer (and inflict those around you to) 2-3 days of headachy, lethargic,  horror as the caffeine works its way out of your system
  • Once clear of the caffeine, you'll find yourself napping in the day or going to bed before it's even dark
  • After many months of pain free training, you seem to be plagued by at least one very serious niggle which rather than resting, you'll alternate between poking it, fretting, testing it with "just a short one", and rushing round the race site looking for a physio
  • After many months of perfectly smooth riding, your bike also seems to have developed multiple creaks, clicks and rattles. You'll spend another couple of days riding, fiddling, and worrying before finally bothering the local bike shop
  • You develop an obsessive need for some small item that you didn't bring, and cannot be sourced locally at the race venue. Most excursions out of the hotel will revolve around a search for said item and result in the purchase of several approximately similar, but useless, alternatives
  • Whilst you're going out of your mind with boredom not training, everywhere you look there are people, apparently dressed in full race kit, running or cycling around the place. You'll wonder a) should I be out there doing something? and b) why are they in their race kit? (before heading back to the hotel to slag them off in a blog post)
  • Most of the conversations that you have will feature the weather forecast for the race day (a topic which seems to transcend all language barriers) 
  • Shaving your legs counts as  "something to do" with the day
  • However, you'll have a long list of "things I need to sort out" relating to your race kit that you ought to be doing with all this free time…and you'll probably not do any of it until the night before check-in
  • You really fancy a beer, most of the time

I'm sure there's more - tweet 'em to me @jo_carritt  (if you are also bored enough!) 

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Coaching Beginners

Well, once again i'm back in Lanzarote, and have just finished working with Trisports Lanzarote as coach on their Beginners' Triathlon Training week.

  Beginner's Training Camp blog on EverydayTraining site…..

Monday, 7 April 2014

The Marathon

With 2 training camps scheduled into the first quarter of 2014, I realised that my plans to race Ironman in South Africa on 6th April were probably unrealistic. I really wanted to return and do justice to that race - and with a new course on the race's 10th anniversary I'd have loved to have been there this weekend. However, the demands of working these camps would be such that I'd be unable put in the preparation required for a successful race. I'd suffered enough there last year, and wasn't going to go back for more of the same!! 
So…plan B.  I decided that I'd like to have a crack at a marathon PB, and as it happens my local marathon and half marathon races - a very well organised event, where I achieved my existing PB of 2:57+ - falls on the same date as IM SA this year. 

I've raced a few "straight" marathons  i.e one which is not preceded by a swim and bike ride, and some of them I have trained specifically for and others I've done of the back of general Ironman training. Most people who know me, and the amount of general training and run training that I do, assume that I could  pretty much show up and run a marathon.  I could - however, racing a marathon ,or achieving a challenging target, DOES require very specific training. The difference in the times that I have run with or without that specific training plan reflect this. 

2014 started off very well for me in that regard, following a 12 week schedule based on  Hal Higdon's "Advanced" plan. I was quite enjoying the focus, and being based in the UK through the winter, running is the best way to invest those limited training hours. I became closer to my local running club, Running Forever, revived their Monday evening track sessions by making a commitment to turn up weekly to lead  a session, and switched my usual Saturday Morning club ride for the local ParkRun. The first 7 weeks of the plan were going great…consistent weekly routine and steadily building mileage. 
I knew things would get mroe difficult to manage once I relocate to Lanzarote for 4 weeks in Feburary and March to run two back-to back high volume training camps; Epic Woman and our own EverydayTraining Ironman camp. Not only would I  have limited time to do my own training within the camp's heavily bike focused schedules and additional organisational work each morning and evening, but I'd be coming out of each camp very fatigued. On top of that, I got sick - and suffered a flu and persistent chesty infection pretty much through that whole period. So, although each camp did have a run requirement, and offered some opportunities to put in some intensity can see form my training log that I was barely maintaining the run fitness that I have achieved up to mid February. 

Well - that's the excuses laid down!! What I must take responsibility for is not properly adjusting my targets or adapting my race strategy. Whilst a PB might have been off the cards, a successful run and the perhaps the win were still possibilities....had I been a bit smarter in race day. 

I took a gamble, though, and set out at my original target PB pace - and really enjoyed the first lap, running around with the half marathoners, many of whom are club-mates, others that I train with or see at local events. I was leading the marathon and there weren't even any other female marathon runners in sight when I went through halfway in about 1:28, still on pace and still feeling decent. 
I had suffered a little from the lack of porta-loos along the course - not sure why I was having tummy issues, but possible that it was due to running at this higher than "steady" intensity for longer than I was trained for. But, apart from the short detours that this required, I didn't really consider it took ugh of a problem until maybe the third or fourth occasion which roughly coincided with a sudden loss of pace and an obsession with trying to replace fluids and take on some energy.  I was passed by an extremely energetic woman, who I attempted to keep up with for a short period, to find that I couldn't raise my pace over 4:50/km….my legs and feet were hurting and I was feeling utterly rotten. The second lap of the taunton marathon is pretty tough -the majority of those participating in the event run the half -marathon and the field and support is very much reduced, and dispersed, after they all finish. 
During yet another detour into the fields I was passed for a second time…slipping into third place, and barely caring. I'd lost all hope of a good time, let alone that PB…and have another painful 7 miles to go. I planned to withdraw at the upcoming village where I knew my mother would be supporting, with the car. 
My former coach , Scott Molina once told me that he never took his wife or family to support at races. the reason was that, when you are feeling like utter crap, and you see them …you just want to stop for some of that love and sympathy. And they will generally let you. Lucky for me  (although I did n't think so at the time) there were club mates of mine at that point too. Between them they persuaded, or rather- shamed, me into finishing. During that brief stop I'd had some water and a gel and did actually feel better for the break. I was still in 3rd place and a male club mate passed us.  I can't let him beat me…i said, as  iran off again, with much better pace than before. 

A short wile up the road, another woman reached my shoulder. Oh crap - I'm not going to get passed again in the last 3 miles!  I had a look at her and she seemed to be in as bad a state as I was…so I gave a small surge  (very small -think slow motion!) which was enough. The "hilly" part of the course was ahead of us, and I was glad that despite my sever loss of pace all my endurance and cycling mean that I generally have strength to run the hills steadily.  I passed several runners and put a safe amount of road between myself and 4th woman. The final couple of miles were really painful - but that's always going to be the case even when well trained! I managed to catch and pass the club mate that I'd been chasing, and finally finished in about 3:20…with a hugely positive split!! I'm not sure that I have ever run a worse marathon time outside of Ironman…other than the one which went up the Jungfrau. It was a very disappointing day but I can't blame my legs - they did what they could with the training they were given. Full responsibility goes to my brain! The women's race was won in 3:10. A decent time, but certainly with smarter pacing I should have run at least as fast as that in my current state of fitness. 

However, I have to remind myself that I entered this race with one goal - a PB -and despite all those reasons to excuse failure that happened between setting the goal and doing the race, the fact remains that if u don't commit to the pace on the day, there was no chance of achieving it. 

Unfortunately, the price for the gamble not paying off was painful, humiliating and disappointing. But despite my incredibly sore legs and body…I really want to have another go at it!!!

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

A Freaky Weekend!

What better way to hit the ground after a month of hard training on camp than a bit of racing? I find  motivation after such a great month can be lacking. In a physically and mentally fatigued state, the sudden return to cold weather, the ton of mail and endless list of mundane tasks to get on top of coupled with the lack of daily company can be very depressing. So, pre-empting my Post Camp Blues, I created a few distractions for myself on the weekend after our return. Starting with the Swimmathon on Friday evening at Milfield School, a chance to swim in their beautiful 50m pool and a good way of pushing myself back into the routine of swimming up lanes after a month of fairly short open water swims in a wetsuit. It is also a good way to ensure that I complete the 5km "set" …and someone keeps count for me. I wasn't especially pleased or surprised at my time for this - would have liked to have been faster of course, but  making allowances for my lack of recent swim training and general fatigue from the camps I'd taken it pretty steady. I initially felt lucky to have a lane all to myself (who in their right mind spends their Friday evening swimming??), but after about 1km started to get bored and missed having people to pace of and work with.

Home for steak wine and holiday photos with my Mum who's been away on a Caribbean cruise…and a long due lie-in the next morning before Parkrun. The conditions have improved vastly since I last raced it back in Feburary - the course of our local Parkrun is on the town's floodplains, and they have been well utilised this year with many sections of deep mud and ankle deep puddles, with a few weeks when the entire area was feet deep in water (the run was cancelled on these occasions! )  - so I was expecting some faster times at the front of the field. So it proved to be, although this week I was not contributing to those…probably the lack of warm up maybe played a part in that ( normally I have a 6km run to the start) but more likely being out of practice of running that hard, combined with a slight feeling that I ought save something for the weekend's main event: The Peaky Freaky Duathlon the next day. But, it was good to be back there and see all the local runners I have got to know through this well-orgaised and social event and have a fast hit-out to remember what it's like!!

After a short ride on my race bike, fitted with Airstreeem wheel set that I planned to use for the Duathlon, the afternoon was spent trying to figure out a clever method of strapping my run shoes to my bike for fast transitions in the point -to-point-to -point-to- point format race. Unable to come up with exactly the right arrangement for ease, speed and confidence that I'd not loose a shoe part way round the race,  I opted for the less speedy but simple and reliable "bag on the back" method.

The Peaky Freaky was to be my first multispot race of the year , and is a quirky event put on by local race organisation Freak Events. They run several high quality triathlon races through the summer, as well as open water swim training down in Devon and a half marathon in the autumn. This is their first event of the year, and to break us in gently ( ha!!) the freaky format is a 60km bike on a very flat route around Somerset's levels, interspersed with 3 short fell runs up local Peaks. With a relatively small field of about 80 for this rather unusual endurance challenge, they manage to combine a wonderfully friendly and low-key atmosphere with superb organisation, a high standard of marshalling and support, a competitive field as well as a "Peakless" event for novices, and great value for competitors.

My Race Report:
Starnding in the carpark of the Webbington Hotel, race HQ for the day, you can survey the landscape and distinctly see the Peaks that we will ride to , and then run up…with the largest of them behind us - that familiar "peaked" hill that you see as you drive north from Bridgewater on the M5, Crooks Peak. The race starts with a long, flat bike leg (36km) from the Webbington Hotel, south through Cheddar and Wedmore, before turning west towards Weston-super-Mare alone the Mark causeway. It's a route that I happen to ride a lot in training, and have done many, many interval sessions along the causeway. So much more fun when it's a real race with real competitors - two of whom are club mates who I'd love to beat today, although it'd be down to attrition over the distance rather than speed. For safety reasons the race has a staggered start and Julian, obviously worried about being "chicked",  made a great point of ensuring that we started off in the same wave…..and promptly rode his day-glo bike (one of 14 apparently) of into the distance! James, another club mate, was more shrewd and started in a later wave - that way knowing if he caught me, he was definitely ahead. I wished I'd thought of that!

The conditions for the day were "a bit nippy" and "windy - very windy". In the last few days we've had sunshine interspersed with sudden hailstorms, so we were expecting a bit of everything. Luckily we only got sunshine and wind. I raced in shorts and short sleeve jersey, but kept arm-warmers, gilet, buff and long finger gloves on through the whole race.

The first leg of the ride took just under an hour, I was passed by a few fast guys (some of whom i later learned were doing the bike-only course) but no women. I wished that I'd given my self a later start, since having gone off in the first wave I'd then have no idea whether there was anyone behind running a faster time than I - she'd not have to actually catch or pass me to beat me. so, instead I just focused on making it as hard as possible for that to happen.

It felt like I was faffing around in transition for an age with my run shoes in the bag and all that …but i checked splits on the results sheets after the event and it was only actually about 40 seconds each time. James had opted to ride on flat pedals in his run shoes, and managed his turn-arounds in just 20 seconds…I'm not convinced that the 20 seconds saved made up for the loss of power on the bike. Mind you…as we exited the first transition at Brent Knoll, he passed me having ridden 2 minutes quicker, so I guess it worked for him!

Given that it was billed as the easiest of the three, I was kinda shocked at how steep the run was! In fact, I walked up bits of it. And down bits of it, too. Marshals "dobbed" (their term) us on the back of the hand with a marker when we got to the turn around at the top - a col way to ensure that everyone did the full course since I doing  there is no shorter way to get between the peaks than as per the designated race route. james and I finished that first run together, though he was off and away on the next section of cycling before I got out of tradition. I guess that 20seconds is enough to be out of sight - a crucial distance in a race.

The second ride was more head-windy than the first, though only 12km. I battled with my shoe bag which kept blowing sideways and hitting my leg as I rode, and worried about the next run. I was pretty much all on my own at this time and going through a bit of a bad patch. We rode through Breem and it smelled of chips.. I wished I was on holiday, easting chips for breakfast  - which just shows how rough I was feeling, that I was dreaming of a caravanning holiday!

The next run was up Breem Head to the fort but after the first short steep section, was actually a lot nicer and easier than Brent Knoll, as we ran along the cliff top with incredible views over the Bristol Channel. The route was sort of circular so i did not see James or Julian ahead, and assumed them long gone. I just caught sight of second woman, but was unable to judge how far behind she was in actual terms ( I thought about 3 minutes) never mind in relation to her own start time, which I figured could be 4or5 minutes. Anyway,  it did not seem like enough and that gave me a bit of extra boost to push the last cycling section. The tail wind helped a bit too!

The third leg of the bike should have had a tailwind most of the way, but of course it never quite works like that! There was also a slightly more hilly bit of riding as we made outs way back to the Webbington through the lanes. I can tell when my legs are tired when I find myself unable to climb in the saddle, and I was taking all of these hills standing up on the pedals. Luckily, only one more run to do.

Crooks Peak is the big one - the longest run and the highest peak. We started with a mile or so along the road, before picking up a Bridalway, which became progressively steeper as it turned into a footpath and then just a grass bank, studded with flints. I was racing in my new Sketchers GoBionic Trail shoes which proved a superb combination of tread and flexibility in a light-weight shoe, and are as comfortable running at speed on tarmac as they are wading through mud or running up grass banks. That last open section, where we could see all the way to the distinctive "peak" ahead of us, was run directly ito the teeth of the cold wind. It felt like such a battle - and indeed it was! I could see Carl, one of Julians friends who'd put a lot of distance into me in the early part of the race, walking just ahead of me, and passed him. The race leaders were bombing down the hill back towards the finish, and a few moments later, Julian appeared, as one of them…but not as far ahead as I'd expected. After what felt like an incredibly long time running slowly up the hill, and getting only ever fractionally closer to the top, a saw James, just making the turn - he'd lost some ground to me through the course of the 3-hour event. That's a great thing about endurance training  - I might not be fast, but I do tend to slow less! I was hoping that this would be true against the female's field - there was £150 prize to be had, which is well worth the journey! Once finally at the top and refusing the sweetie offered to me as I got "dobbed" for the last time  (I was proper dobbed by that point!) , the wind was at my back and i felt like one big jump i'd be able to sail down the hill. Not quite but it was great fun hurtling down the grassy bank. Almost missed a turning at the bottom ("back the way you came" may be a perfectly reasonable description in general, but doesn't work so well during a race, I find) then had to crank it along the road to the finish to make up for the few lost seconds and in effort to secure the win.

In 3 hours and 3 minutes with not much change i placed 6th overall, with my club mates and rivals Julian and James 5th and 4th respectively, both just under 3 hours and within 20 seconds of one another  and placing 2nd and 1st in the Vets category. Perhaps if they'd started in the same wave, it might have been different? Second female was Lisa Picton in 3:10 …it was closer than comfortable, but not as close as i'd feared out on the course. Looking at the results I was putting small amount of time into her on each leg - including the transitions - until that last transition and run where she must have sniffed the line, put on the afterburners and reduced the gap a bit.

Thankfully the sun shown all day, we were fed soup and sandwiches and socialised whilst waiting for the final finishers and prize givings. A great event, and I do hope that Jarad wasn't joking about the possibility of doubling it up next year  - racing once forwards and once backwards around the route. That would make air a whole different prospect though…with people taking between 5 and 10 hours to finish, logistically extremely tough to organise, let alone race!

Sunday, 16 March 2014

EverydayTraining Endurance Camp Lanzarote 2014

Phew, with the second camp in my month-long stint in Lanzarote over…it's gonna be hard getting back to the normality of training alone and with considerably less sunshine in the UK next week. And normal portions of food, which I"ll have to prepare for myself!

It's been another superb week with an excellent group of athletes, lucky with the weather and just a few trials and tribulations along the way to ensure that Steven and I don't get complacent and continue to learn how to provide the best possible training camp experiences for serious ( or just plain crazy) athletes .

daily blogs from this camp can be found following the links below:
Day 1 - EDT camp lanza day 1
Day 2 -EDT camp lanza day 2
Day 3 - EDT camp lanza day 3
Day 4 -EDT camp lanza day 4
Day 5 EDT camp lanza day 5
Day 6 - EDT camp lanza day 6

Friday, 7 March 2014

Camp Life

well right now the UK seems like  avery distant place; whilst i have only been on Lanzarote for just over 2 weeks having been through the very intense experience that was EPIC woman camp ( read the camp blogs here ) time seems to curl up on itself when we're cramming 16 hours into every day! There's always a real empty feeling once the camp is over and all the people who have been your entire focus of the past 8 days, feel like life-long friends - are suddenly gone. However, this time is a little different because after a few days rest and relaxing with Daz and Debs of  Tri Sports Lanzarote, who hosted our camp (and provided an amazing standard of hospitality and support throughout ) it's time to move on and start with one of the highlights of my year ; the EverydayTraining Endurance Camp in Lanzarote!!

This will be our largest camp to date - after 4 years word has gotten around and the result being that this year we even had to turn people away. That's a bittersweet feeling; but Steven and I feel that exceeding 18 on the camp would change the dynamic that we are so proud to have created amongst previous groups of campers. We have several returning campers and equal number of first timers. some of whom  either Steven or I coach directly, some not. Pleasingly, we have a good balance of male; female athletes ( with our all-female support crew helping with that balance).

We have been presented with one or two challenges this year -namely a new location and the logistics that entails - and also look forward to presenting some new challenges to the campers ( i recce'd an awesome new and exotic run route yesterday and we're just off togo try a new swimming route too…)

campers arrive tomorrow. you can  follow the blogs from this camp at 

Monday, 24 February 2014

EPIC Woman - Lanzarote

We're already on our 3rd day and i've only just gotten around to providing a contribution to the Camp Blog. Luckily, we have some enthusiastic writers amongst the group who've recorded the EPIC first days brilliantly and from a number of different perspectives, all of which can be read here:

Common themes seem to be; Trisports Lanzarote are looking after us superbly (well, of course), it has been somewhat cooler than most of us expected so far, stunning scenery, great views, hills, wind….and so far great spirit has been demonstrated by our group of 9 campers.
It sucked that I came down with IronFlu less than 24 hours before the start of the camp, but I'm reckoning that these first few days operating on half a lung have prevented me from the higher intensities or EPIC volume that tend to be costly later on in the 8-day camp. We'll see…both the overall points competitions and the QoM comp are pretty close after the first 3 days, and now we're beginning to see some "plays" for points from a number of directions, which is fun to observe. Whether motivated by the game, or simply striving to get through what has been deliberately designed as a very challenging week of training  - most people would consider a DAILY minimum of 3km swim, 80km ride and 9km run for 8 days pretty heavy  -so far i've been impressed at how these women are throwing themselves at the challenges. I've included some of the toughest bike routes that I know on the island ( since they  also happen to be the most scenic, unique, iconic, fun - and may include camels )…and the running is mostly on trails, virtually all on hills…and then we ask them to race a QOM…then tack on for extra "credit"?
Points standings as of day 3:

Alicia D11
Robyn M15
Maya WH24
Wendy L25
Iona M26
Josta B27
Lisa WH30
Karen R30
Suzanne Z32
We had a nice calm ocean swim this morning, and setting out a square ~600m course to swim round not only help to break that 3km swim down, it also provides an opportunity to work on sighting ( directly into the sun when required) and swimming a straight course. A few of us can use all the practice we're offered!
The ride today was a sample of the North part of the Ironman lanzaroet course - the most scenic and, with winds rising as they did today  (and are likely to for the rest of the week), the most challenging. Including a time QoM up Mirador de Rio halfway round provided some logistical challenges with a mixed paced group, few of whom have any prior knowledge of the Island…but with Daz's help as a guide and a few regroup/photo stops we managed to co-ordinate to that point, and the lunch stop that followed, pretty well.
runs and /or pool swims followed … then paella, dessert and massage ( i'd not recommend doing these 3 in that order, BTW!) …followed by a somewhat weary day recap and brief for tommorow's aquathlon & Ocean Lava combo….
Aquathlon YAY!!!

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