Fambridge Yacht Haven Middle Distance Triathlon & Tri London Middle Distance Club Championships

July 10, 2017


Swim – 39 mins 45 secs (current & a tad lost!)
T1 – 01 min 58 secs

Bike – 2 hrs 44 mins (fastest female bike split)

T2 – 1 min 25 secs

Run – 1 hour 37 Mins

Total: 5hrs 5 mins 

Position: 

1st Female

1st Vet

1st (but only!) Tri London Female 

2nd Overall Tri Londoner

This is a small event held on the Dengie Peninsula in Essex.  I last raced here in 2011.  Transition is set up in the Fambridge Yacht Haven Boat Yard. The swim is in the tidal River Crouch and the bike is two loops on the quiet, undulating roads of the Dengie Peninsula. The run is four laps, predominantly off road along the river bank, through some fields and back to transition at the Yacht Club.

Five of us raced from Tri London for our own Club Middle Distance Championships –  as I was the only female I didn’t have much to do other than finish to win that trophy!  Unfortunately I think the race clashed with some qualifiers for Standard Distance European Champs so the field on the whole for the race was relatively small at circa 100 triathletes.

Dengie Events are a small organisation but slick. Registration was quick and simple, volunteers and marshals were friendly and well informed and the safety crew were knowledgeable, friendly and very reassuring.  (I always make friends with the safety crew with my history of allergies! 😉)

It was a dreary start to the day with drizzle and grey skies but a promising look on the horizon.

The Swim:

It was a deep water start after entering the water on the concrete slipway so only a tiny squeal from me as my feet found the warm, slimy mud at the end of the slip.  My swim time was slow for me. Five minutes slower than a couple of weeks ago. I can only put this down to the tide and associated currents. We seemed to have a fast swim out and then a slower return. Two loops of this and it is evident from my Garmin lap times that this was the case. Of course it wasn’t helped by me swimming off towards buoy 2 instead of buoy 1 on the first lap!  I’m sure my fingers also ended up inside a jelly fish at some point but thankfully I only found one.

T1

I entered transition with a couple of the Tri London lads just ahead. I know one of them is definitely a faster swimmer than me so was pretty happy that although my time was slow I wasn’t alone! The lads headed out on their bikes before me but that was a good thing the chase was on.

The Bike

I was fairly certain that one of the Tri London lads was headed out on the bike before I got into transition and two I had seen leave. That left one. He could well be ahead but if he wasn’t I was sure he would be before too long.

I hadn’t tapered for this event and had raced a hard 70.3 a couple of weeks prior so I was pretty pleased to be maintaining a 20.5 mph average speed on the undulating and breezy course.


Two well signposted loops. The sun was out now and it became progressively warmer as we cycled.  One chap overtook me as I left transition and I overtook several more and a handful of females. I had no idea how I was placed but did my best to keep the power to the pedals and continued my hunt for the Tri London lads. I wasn’t sure I’d catch them but it was a good focus for me. Every time I saw a glimpse of someone ahead I tried my hardest to catch up and pass. Eventually with five miles to go I caught sight of the familiar blue of the Tri London kit. Whoop! I had found one and another hit on his toes too. I didn’t manage to create much of a gap but was delighted to reach T2 ahead of them.

T2

Relatively quick for me. Now time to put my non-existent run legs to the test.

The Run:

I’m battling a retrocalcaneal bursitis and Achilles tendonitis courtesy of a “Haglund’s Deformity”. You can see the excess bony growth in the picture below which has a sharp edge rubbing against the bursa.

 

As a result I need surgery but I’m trying to muddle through until the end of the season.   I’m doing very little run training as a result and the little I do is 9:1 mins run/walk circa once a week for less than an hour. In spite of this so far I have managed to run reasonably respectably in races.  Dropping some weight has definitely helped my run times too.


With only one aid station on each lap I didn’t get many walking breaks. The off road run on uneven terrain was also difficult for my right foot. I’ve managed to adapt my gait pretty well to keep the stress through my Achilles down by planting my foot down and lifting it back up without powering through the forefoot. I maintained a steady pace, power-walking up a short hill on each lap to avoid over stressing my foot and also for a bit of a chance for it to off -load. I also walked the only aid station back at the start and finish. Unfortunately the bin was placed a bit close to the aid station itself so I frequently had to stop. It was seriously warm on the run and trying to maintain fluid levels was more important to me than my speed.

I had no idea of my position in the race but shortly after leaving the Yacht Club for my final lap I heard the commentator mention a female also on her last lap. That definitely spurred me on and I spent the entire lap looking over my shoulder for her determined to try and avoid her passing me. Fortunately she wasn’t gaining on me.  As an added bonus I found a Tri London lad melting in the heat during the last kilometre of the run. After a brief chat my legs picked up the pace to head to the finish. 

I crossed the finish line to learn that I was the first female and the first female vet! Wow! I had just won a triathlon. I know it was a small field but I’m still chuffed given that I thought I wouldn’t even be running at all this year!  Not only that only one of the Tri London lads was ahead of me – happy days!


Thanks Tri London lads for your fab company and helping me keep my focus for the race.

As ever huge thanks to Giant Radlett & Cadence Performance.  Along with my pride and joy – my trusted Liv Trinity W time trial bike the new race kit clearly helped! Can’t thank these guys enough for their ongoing support and maintenance of all things bike.

Thanks also to Simon Costain at The Gait and Posture Centre for keeping me on my feet during challenging times. Gareth Ziyambi is also a miracle man keeping on top of the aches, pains and strains with minimal input. Particularly with a recent troublesome ‘mouseitis’ that was giving me awful pain and discomfort in my arm and shoulder. 

@MattLovell holds all the secrets to helping me on my way to racing weight. All it takes is a little willpower but that’s easy when you can see the results!

All in all everything seemed to come together on the day. Long may that last. Looks like I might enter The British Middle Distance Championships after all!

I really like this event and hope to not leave it another 6 years before I’m back!

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EUROPEAN LONG COURSE TRIATHLON CHAMPIONSHIPS CHALLENGE POZNAN, POLAND – 24th July 2016

July 31, 2016

3.8km Swim (Challenge have admitted this was short*), 180 km Bike, 42 km Run

Short Report:

Swim             54 mins 52 secs

T1                   4 mins 13 secs

Bike               5 hrs 37 mins

T2                   3 mins 48 secs

Run                4 hours 1 min

Total:            10 hrs 38 mins

European Long Course Triathlon Championships Silver Medallist!

2nd out of 14 GB ladies

7th Overall Female

Long Report:

This was my 8th Iron Distance event.  The days of Long Course Champs being Long Course (4k, 120k, 30k) are long gone since the European Triathlon Union teamed up with Challenge.  The race is now one of Challenges iron distance events around Europe.

I did promise myself that last year would be my last ironman but then the World Long Course Champs was to take place in Oklahoma and a nightmare to travel to so I decided I would have one last stab at getting my much yearned for PB and sub 11 hr ironman by taking part in Challenge Poznan.  I qualified for Team GB & entered the race early in 2016.  Then in March I upset my Achilles (again!) and had to stop running for three months.  Hardly the best race prep but I did manage to have more bike focused training.  I started running again in June and had completed a couple of 70.3 events prior to this big one and the Achilles was holding up with a  9 min run:1 min walk strategy on all my runs.

I arrived in Poznan late on the Friday night.  Something I never do.  I usually like a couple of days pre-race to find my feet and faff!  Luckily I had Martin (my husband) with me and he dragged my bike around to save my arms.

The day before the race was a frenzy of building my bike, registering, packing my transition bags, race briefing , racking,  eating and meeting the other Team GBers.  The event was not particularly well organised with long waits to rack our bikes whilst they numbered the bike racks.  It was far from restful!

Anyway my previous two nights sleep had been good so I wasn’t too concerned.  Managed to get to bed fairly early.  Not much sleep was had but that is normal before a big race.  Breakfast was ready and waiting in the fridge for my 4:30 am alarm call – cold spaghetti Bolognese from the restaurant J.

I was pretty organised in the morning and left the hotel at 5:30 for the 20 min walk to transition with Martin which left ample time before our start wave at 07:05.

The Swim:


A deep water start 100m from the end of the lake.  We were swimming in Lake Matalski, a fantastic rowing lake so the swim was a simple long length of the lake, turn to swim the width of the lake and return to the start end.  With a 2k long lake with measurements for the rowers clearly marked you would have thought Challenge could manage to mark out a 3.8km route but when I exited with a swim time of 54 mins I was confused and looking to see if we needed to dive in again!  Luckily I spotted people in the change tent and everyone was commenting on how fast they had swum.  I know my swim speed and that a 54 min 3.8km is very unlikely and was certain the course was short.  Anyhow, worry about that later.

The Bike:

I was quite concerned about the bike leg as I had been experiencing knee pain on all my bike rides longer than an hour since June.  I was hoping my gruelling massages with Gareth Ziyambi and Cliff Gudgeon would see me through and thankfully they did!  A closed road out and back circuit along a dual carriageway.  Nothing to look at but the road ahead.  Luckily it was four loops of 28 miles each which meant I could keep my brain occupied with time and distance calculations.  My four hour mind numbingly boring Wattbike sessions were definitely great mental prep for this!  The course was mostly flat with a few low rollers here and there.  It wasn’t too congested which was lovely.  I saw a Danish girl whizz by me sometime during the second loop and thought she was in my age group but there was no way I was prepared to challenge her at the speed she was going.  I was sticking religiously to a HR in the top of zone 2.  I knew it was going to be a long day!  It was warming up already on the bike with the air thick and humid.

fot.Pawel Naskrent/Maratomania.pl

fot.Pawel Naskrent/Maratomania.pl

I managed to maintain an average speed of 20.1 mph which I was very happy with.  The end of the bike course was poorly marked and it wasn’t until lap 3 that I had sussed out where to exit to go back to transition.  I also managed to spot Martin here who told me I was in 2nd place (WHOOP!) which gave me a bit of an incentive to motor on on the final lap when my focus is usually beginning to wane.

The Run:

We started by exiting transition and running along the length of Lake Matalski where we had swum earlier.  I was quickly plagued with a stitch which is usual for me after I get off the bike.  I stopped to stretch and sort it out and then ran on.  It was a long way to the first aid station so I employed my run/walk strategy.  I couldn’t make out the run route at all.  It had us twisting and turning all over the place.  Some was trail/sand, some cobbles, some pavement.  The aid stations were roughly every 2k so they became my walking territory along with any hills of which there were a couple short and steep on each lap.  The crowds in the city centre were a fantastic support and in fact there were people sparsely populating the entire course with a lot of locals banging wooden spoons against saucepans the entire afternoon.  As irritating as it was I had to admire their dedication!

fot.Pawel Naskrent/Maratomania.pl

fot.Pawel Naskrent/Maratomania.pl

It was great to see Martin close to the end of my first loop, he informed me I was still second with a 15-17 minute lead on the 3rd placed girl.  I knew I had to remain focused and that I could still be caught but knowing your placing is a great incentive to keep running!  I could also see that I could be on for my sub 11 hour race time that I had yearned for since I finished Barcelona in 11:07 three years ago.  The run surface was tough, it was a grueling route and the humidity was insane.  It was so hot and sticky.  It was just fab to have so many other GB athletes out on the course.  We were the largest team of 37 and the encouragement was great both from them and their supporters around the course.  Even Laura Sidwell, GB Pro who was racing the middle distance event (and won!) was encouraging us on her way around!

On lap 3 I became concerned that my lips were slightly burning.  I put it down to the sun and salt stinging them and then to the oranges that I had been sucking on at each aid station.  However it was slightly unnerving since my lips are often the first thing to react when my allergy kicks in.  I was just a wee bit concerned as I had taken an anti-histamine in the morning so perhaps my pro-dromal signs would be weakened…… I ran on but it wouldn’t go away even after washing my face with water and stopping eating the oranges.  I reassured myself that nothing else was happening and all was ok but then when it wouldn’t subside I looked at my skin on my arms and legs to see a fairly significant rash.  I couldn’t bear the thought of doing so well this far and not finishing so I popped another anti-histamine and told myself to just keep on running, no stopping (it can make it worse).  I know that being scared made me run faster which is no bad thing!  I saw Martin again as I began my final lap and he told me that I was still ahead but that 3rd was closing in but he knew I wanted the sub 11 more than anything and he knew I could do it.  The final lap was hard, I was hurting – my legs simply didn’t have much running in them.  I finally reached the final climb up to the spectacular finish line and rocked across in 10 hrs 38 mins absolutely over the moon!  (The state of my legs below gives you an idea of the kind of terrain we were running on at times!)

fot.Pawel Naskrent/Maratomania.pl

fot.Pawel Naskrent/Maratomania.pl

So a new PB over this distance by 29 mins – although I do acknowledge that our swim was short, in spite of that I would still be well under the 11 hours I yearned for.

And European Long Course Championships Silver Medalist!!  My fourth European medal in a third age group.  I really could not be happier.  As an added bonus I have also qualified for Challenge Samorin – the new Challenge Championship 2017.


Whoop! What a great race.

I find it quite interesting that this is probably the least training I have ever done for an iron distance event.  My biking consisted mainly of mountain biking through the winter, a week in Lanzarote and the Tour of Wessex.  Since the end of May 90% of my long ride cycling has been on my Wattbike at race pace for 3-4 hours at a time.  I was worried about the bike leg because of this but in fact I think it did me a favour with my fastest ever bike split!  My running was virtually non-existent and I replaced all of my run sessions with bike sessions until early June.  No run training seems to suit me!  Quality vs Quantity it seems is the way forward!

Huge thanks as ever to my sponsors Cadence & Giant Radlett.  They provide me with immense support and some fantastic bikes to ride.  Also to Simon Costain at the Gait and Posture Centre who literally keeps me on my feet.

To all my friends, family, Tri Londoners & Oxygen Addicts you are always ace in your support.  Kevin from Tri London deserves a special mention for patiently sitting on a mountain bike beside me to enable me to do my last few long runs whilst he was out of action with a calf injury.

Last but very definitely not least to Martin, my husband whose support is never-ending, having him out in Poland was simply fantastic.  He is always there for me wherever I am.  I have had some great results this season and his presence at my races has been a huge contribution to that.

Next up Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Mooloolaba, September 2016.

*Explanation from Challenge for the Short Swim

Basically in spite of measuring the distance accurately, drawing a map, putting it on facebook, showing us in the briefing, showing the judges in their briefing and having a guy show us on a jet-ski in the morning it still wasn’t enough!  One of the water canoes positioned himself across the path of the oncoming swimmers directing them around a buoy but this was the wrong buoy.  However, he was not allowing people past.  The pros, the men and then the ladies were all directed to turn too early.  The race referee and the ETU Technical Delegate allowed the race to continue on the basis that the shortening of the swim did not affect the outcome of the final competition.

 

 

The Commando!

November 21, 2015

Guiding at The Commando – Hever Castle, Kent – 14th November 2015

Alison has struggled to participate in sport having lost her sight ten years ago. I was put in touch with her by the British Triathlon Federation just over a year ago as Alison had wanted to take part in a triathlon. We successfully managed this at the Hercules Festival of Sport back in September and I was keen to find another challenge.

I thought an off road run with obstacles could be fun and approached my good friend Nina for some advice as she was working with The Commando Series. Fast forward a couple of weeks and we found ourselves welcomed with open arms by The Commando Series and before we knew it we were on the start line! This event appealed to me as I knew there were Commandos on the course to help out if Alison’s visual impairment meant we came unstuck at any point.

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©colinbaldwinphotography

I need not have worried. I had described each of the fifteen obstacles to Alison and she did not appear to be phased by anything! We thought through our tactics and before we knew it we found ourselves at Hever Castle in pouring rain and a boggy field. There was a lovely heated marquee for us to keep warm and dry in whilst waiting for our start wave and within a short time we found ourselves rolling around in the mud in the warm up pen!

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The Commando Series is a 6km obstacle challenge designed to give the participants the opportunity to experience the mud, sweat and pain of real, modern day, commando training, taking on 15 gruelling obstacles over a wild terrain course. Many of the obstacles were designed to be exact replicas of the training obstacles found at the Royal Marines Commando Training Centre in Devon including a 30m neck deep wading pool and the dreaded Sheep Dip a 2m long tube submerged in muddy water.

After the warm up we were already fantastically muddy. It was pelting with rain too. The terrain itself was tough enough without any obstacles!

We had a briefing from Brian Adcock the Commando in Chief, an ex-Commando who had ultimately made our participation possible.

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©colinbaldwinphotography

The torrential rain had made the ground extremely slippery even in trail shoes. It was tough enough just for me to stay upright and I could see where I was going!

The course consisted of the following obstacles:

  1. Tunnel Rats – 10m long winding tunnels crafted out of wriggly tin and earth, crawling through on our hands and knees.
  1. Smarty Tubes – 8m long and 2 foot wide drainage pipes sunk into the ground, semi-immersed in muddy water and getting progressively deeper.

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  1. The Wires – a 40m long wooded glade dissected with metres and metres of elastic cord – this was really tricky! It wasn’t just the wires there were logs and very slippery, uneven terrain.
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©colinbaldwinphotography
  1. Slippery Slope – a 30m long steep muddy slope with large ropes hanging down that we had to haul ourselves up on. It looks flat in this photo but I can assure you it wasn’t! It was like mud ramps so it was tricky for Alison as there were sudden drops in the ground at repeated intervals all the way up.

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  1. Monkey Bars – OK this one beat us so we chose the easier option of a balance beam instead.
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  1. The Scramble – an 8m high scramble net. Not a problem for Alison, just scaled it like a pro! This was the view from the top.
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  1. Doom Drop – a 30m slippery slide with a steep entry and long run off. This was so much fun we wished it was twice as long. Alison went off first and then I followed. She showed no fear just throwing herself off the top of the steep hill onto a tarpaulin covered hill side flowing with water and washing up liquid. We literally bombed down it!
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©colinbaldwinphotography
  1. Catacombs of Doom – A 30m long cave system originally tunnelled out by Lord Astor’s workers on the estate. I don’t know why I led us through this Alison would probably have done better! It was very dark and so slippy we ended up crawling through on our hands and knees. No photos – it was dark!
  1. Peter’s Pool – a 30m wide clay marlpit once used for brick making and now filled with chest-deep muddy water, we are both quite short so I am sure it was more like neck deep! This was tricky to get into and in fact Alison ended up have a pretty quick immersion as I hadn’t realised until we were hanging off the ropes that the sides of the mud bank were cut away where she was hanging. She was still grinning when she resurfaced though!
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  1. Creepy Crawly – a 12m low scramble net that we had to commando crawl under.
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  1. River Cross – A crossing of the River Eden – neck deep but assisted with a rope
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  1. The Chasm – A 20m crossing of another clay marlpit this time on a high wire, we crossed using the Tyrollean Traverse method. It was daunting enough to get onto the wire let alone traverse across not attached to anything knowing there is quite a drop if you fall AND not being able to see! Huge KUDOS for this one Alison! All I could do was describe how far she had left to go from the other side!
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  1. The Frogger – a 15m crossing of the River Eden using inflatable tyres or an option to go back in the water again using a rope to navigate the crossing and that is the option we chose.  This is us clambering out.
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  1. Sheep Dip – 1 2m long drainage pipe submerged in muddy water – pushed through from one end by a commando and hauled out at the other!
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©colinbaldwinphotography
  1. The Wall – the finish line – a 12ft high wall with a scramble net over it. Tough enough for anyone that could see where they were going let alone Alison that couldn’t but it was no problem, Alison was at the top very quickly and calmly!

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Then the climb down the other side to the finish!

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Another highlight? The warm showers afterwards:

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All in all this was an amazing day out. We are so grateful to Nina and all at The Commando Series for enabling us to participate and for their help and support both before, during and after the event.

Thanks too to Colin the photographer at Peachy Snaps Photography for some amazing shots.

Thanks also to Martin for being chauffeur, photographer and most importantly Ted, Alison’s guide dog minder for the day in awful weather conditions!

None of it would have been possible with the help of Lesley Keddy and all the volunteer guide runners at South Oxhey Park Run that enables Alison to keep run fit.

Last but not least I would like to thank my sponsors for their continuing support.  Giant Radlett spoil me rotten with fantastic bicycles to ride and neverending support.  Not only does this help my triathlon racing, it has also meant that I have been able to keep fit in spite of having to take a long break in my running due to an Achilles injury.

Its a wonder I am able to run at all but Simon Costain from the Gait and Posture Centre continuously supports me with these awkward feet of mine!

I would highly recommend this as a superb day out for anyone and we hope to be back next year.  Finding the next challenge is now on the cards but this will be a tough one to beat!

Alison you are gutsy, fearless and an amazing inspiration to others.  I cannot wait for the next challenge.  Any ideas anyone?!

HERCULES FESTIVAL OF SPORT SPRINT TRIATHLON – 13th SEPTEMBER 2015 – GUIDING ALISON MEAD

October 5, 2015

Could you imagine swimming 400m in a pool you had never set foot in before, then jumping on the back of a tandem with someone who has little experience and hitting busy roads for 13 hilly miles and then wrapping that little lot up with a 5k hilly off road trail run on uneven ground, all the while being blindfolded?!

Let me introduce you to Alison Mead a 53 year old tough cookie that has a B1 Classification from British Blind Sport having lost her sight in 2005.

I was introduced to Alison by the British Triathlon Federation in July last year. Alison was keen to get involved in triathlon again having participated in a race a couple of years before. Alison needed to find a guide that could help her achieve her dream of racing again and I was hoping to be that person.

We started off by run/walking along the Ebury Way, a fantastic trail not far from her house in Oxhey. After doing this a couple of times I suggested we might try going to a local Park Run as it had the feel of more of an event than running on our own. We decided to go to St Albans Park Run on a chilly morning in November 2014. We might have been the last people to finish but it didn’t matter the support and encouragement from other racers and park users was fantastic and we left on a real high.

A short while later Park Run started up near Alison’s house and Ted, her gorgeous guide dog, learnt how to bring her there in spite of the fact that some of the walk is off road. I would run here with Alison whenever I could but logistically committing to training every week was difficult to fit into my already busy schedule. Soon other people offered to guide Alison and within no time she had a guide every week! A lovely lady called Lesley Keddy, has now set up a rota so Alison has a guide most weeks and if she doesn’t she kindly helps marshalling. Fullerlife Leisure based at Watford Grammar School for Girls have supported us in using their pool for swim training. Cycling was a steep learning curve as I had never ridden a tandem before. Alison has her own tandem that I initially took to the Ebury Way Trail with a friend who was experienced in riding a tandem. Alison and I then ventured out on the trail and once we were competent we ventured off to Moor Park on the roads the week before race day. The tandem is a definite learning curve! Once its up and moving it is fine but setting off requires balance and concentration!

Race Day was soon upon us and with some invaluable help from Kay Tang, Cycledude in transporting the tandem at an ungodly hour of the morning we found ourselves outside Westminster Lodge in St Albans at 5:45 am.



Hercules Events, the race organisers had been so accommodating and helpful and Alison was given race No.1! We had our own special briefing from David the Race Director at 6:40 am and then were allowed to start our swim whilst the main group then had their briefing.

I could hear their amazing cheers of support from all the other race entrants whilst David explained what we were up to. We had 16 lengths to swim, ducking under the lane ropes at each end of the pool.  
When we first started swimming together Alison was really only confident swimming alongside the wall but we soon learnt how to manage against the lane ropes by swimming in a busy public pool on a bank holiday weekend!

In a little over 11 minutes we were out the pool and had a fairly long run to transition just as dawn was breaking.

   We organized ourselves fairly quickly and managed to get the tandem off the rack and had another long run to the mount line. Alison is amazing in being able to run just holding the bike to guide her.


 Mounting the tandem and getting it going was the only bit of the whole race that I was nervous about and thankfully we managed on the first attempt!


The ride was a little hilly but it was only towards the halfway point that some of the faster entrants came by us. We had been hoping for a minimum average speed of around 12 mph so our 15.5 mph average was a brilliant boost and Alison clearly loved the descents and feeling the wind in her hair as we exceeded speeds of 32 mph. We found ourselves back in the park in no time at all. We had to slow up for the half mile or so through the park to the dismount line as by now the narrow footpath we were riding on was busy with other runners and cyclists.


We dismounted successfully and then had to negotiate a windy transition with a very long bike. Mission accomplished and we were soon heading out onto the run.

  
 The run really took some guts. It was predominantly off road on hilly, uneven ground. We knew the first part around the lake as it is the same as Park Run St Albans but then we ventured up and down several hills on tricky terrain. Alison experienced a severe cramp in her hamstring so unfortunately although we were looking set for a 5k PB all of a sudden she was brought to a grinding halt and we had to spend several minutes stretching out and massaging her hamstring. In spite of a couple of stints of this we still managed a decent time and as we rounded the final bend with 200m to go we could hear the race commentator announcing her imminent arrival. At this point a third bout of severe cramp set in but Alison battled it out to run across the finish line as its inflated structure actually started to collapse just as we crossed under it!

  
I have to say that this was simply the most fun I have ever had at a sprint triathlon! Alison is just so gutsy! Her swim was strong, we beasted the tandem ride (and didn’t fall off!) and her run on that hilly, off-road, uneven ground battling with severe cramp in her leg was outstanding.

Alison had a few objectives – to finish, enjoy it and hoped to beat a previous race time from a couple of years ago. She managed all three even though this event was longer than the last one!

None of this would have been possible without the help of many people. We would both like to pass our thanks to the following:

Carol Macdonald at Triathlon England for putting us in touch with each other.

Hercules Events for being so accommodating and helpful.

Lesley Keddy from South Oxhey Park Run, the other guide runners and of course Park Run itself which was an essential part of the training preparation for this event.

Kay Tan, Cycle Dude the mobile bike mechanic for transporting the tandem in the middle of the night.

Fullerlife for supporting us with training at their pool.

The roar and support of those waiting to race after us.

Lesley & Nick, Ted’s original boarders who looked after Ted for 24 hours

Ted himself who is of course invaluable and he also played a major role in getting Alison to Park Run

Alison High a friend and regular guide at Park Run, Alan & Sandra & other friends that came to support.

Must not forget Martin, official paparazzi for also getting out of bed in the middle of the night!

All the awesome tweeters and facebookers!

Then of course there are my sponsors:

Giant Radlett, for keeping me on some beautiful wheels and providing never-ending support

Simon Costain at The Gait & Posture Centre for literally keeping me on my feet!

Since the event we have even been featured in the media with both The Mirror and Join In Uk writing some lovely articles. If you are interested you can take a look here:

The Mirror article

Join In UK article

We are also delighted to have been invited to attend British Blind Sports 40th Anniversary Gala Dinner next month.

If perhaps you would like to to consider guiding please take a look at Join In UK and/or Guide Running UK for more information. I guarantee you won’t regret it.

Alison – you are a inspiration and should be very, very proud of yourself!  I’m now hunting out a new challenge for us!

Protected: Microalgae……….is it beneficial?

October 11, 2014

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English Middle Distance Triathlon Championships – The Grafman!

June 10, 2014

Short Report:

 

This race is a middle distance triathlon located in the heart of Cambridgeshire near the ancient villages of Buckden & St Neots. The race base is set at Grafham Water . The swim is a dip in the beautiful Grafham Water Reservoir, followed by a fast out, 2 laps and back undulating bike course, finishing with a 2 lap “out and back” scenic run around Grafham water and the surrounding villages. It was the official English Middle Distance Triathlon Championship event. It was also possibly the hottest day of the year so far!

 

Swim: 33:26

T1: 2:12

Bike: 2:44:53

T2: 1:28

Run: 1:52:59

Total: 5:15:59 (3rd in AG 40-44F)

National Age Group Championships Bronze Medallist

 

Long Report:

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My race no of 69 seemed to cause a lot of amusement!

Race start was at a very civilised 7:30 am which meant that for a change I was getting out of bed later than I would on a normal weekday! As my parents were also watching me race I went up the night before. They had conveniently found a campsite just around the corner from Grafham Water but I decided to treat myself to a night in more luxurious accommodation at the Premier Inn in Huntingdon, 10 minutes drive away. Martin was also with me and just as I was getting into my wetsuit at the swim start my brother and his wife also rocked up. Uh oh! The pressure was on!

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It was only two weeks since I had completed the Tour of Wessex so I was slightly worried that there would still be an element of fatigue in my legs. Along with that I had a terrible cold straight afterwards and although feeling much better still had a voice that was a lot gruffer than normal so possibly was still carrying a virus.

The Swim:

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There were wave starts with the women in the final wave along with the older men. My plan was to try and stick to the feet of Naomi, another Tri Londoner who is a much faster swimmer than me, for as long as I could. I probably managed it for about 50m before there was complete carnage from all around and I lost her. I tried to maintain the pace but developed quite a strong stitch and was worried as that doesn’t normally happen to me in the swim. I eased off and as the carnage settled I then couldn’t find any feet at all and spent the rest of the swim on my own. The route was one large triangle, run out of the water, back in again and then swim a smaller triangle. Judging by my GPS tracking, I didn’t do too bad a job at sighting in spite of the strong sun shining for the return leg which made sighting extremely difficult. I glanced at my watch as I exited the swim and was pleased to see it was a couple of minutes faster than my race last month. I had tried to put more effort in but I always find it so difficult in the swim to push hard when I am not trying to keep up with anyone.

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T1:

As I ran up the bank into T1 I could hear the family shouting and the cameras clicking! I was pleased to see a far amount of bikes still on the rack too. I took my time in T1. I have big problems with blisters on the run so I wanted to make sure I put some silicone anti-blister lube on my feet before putting my socks on and had to sit down to do this. Still a relatively quick transition for me.

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The Bike:

The bike was an out and back course in the shape of a T. The length of the T ridden just once and then the bit across the top twice. In spite of the waved starts there were lots of us out on the bikes which meant that there was also a lot of drafting. In spite of the BTF presence it didn’t seem to make any difference. They only seemed to be out on their motorbikes for the first 30 minutes or so anyway! As is usual for a waved start race I found myself on many occasions stuck behind the slower guys with cars trundling behind them, unable to overtake as the roads were fairly busy, narrow and there were cyclists and cars coming in the opposite direction too. Coupled with this seven miles into the ride my right knee was hurting pretty badly. I had injured this knee last year but it has been great, its stood up to a long training camp and the Tour of Wessex and I couldn’t understand it. Then I remembered that the day before I had walloped it directly onto the knee cap at speed on the corner of a window sill getting onto my watt bike. I was tempted to stop and try and stretch it to see if it would help but in the end opted for the HTFU option and got on with pedalling. I tried to ignore it but to say that the bike course dragged on is an understatement. The pain was radiating into my thigh. I tried to put more effort through the opposite leg. Regardless, my heart rate was also quite high so I figured I was actually doing ok. Being out and back I could see the other Tri Londoners and try and watch the progress of everyone. I tried to distract my mind my working out how far ahead or behind others were and then if I was gaining or losing on them. It was great entertainment for an otherwise boring course. There was really only a group of supporters at the top of the T, gathered outside the Snooty Tavern. Pat from Tri London was great encouragement each time I passed. Soon enough I was returning to T2 once again stuck behind a camper van slowing us all down.

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T2

I was pleased to see quite a lot of empty spaces on the bike rack but had no notion of where I was in the field. By now it was hot! hot! hot! In and out just 13.1 hot miles to run!

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The Run:

 

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The run was a couple of loops of mixed terrain around Grafham Water. Slightly undulating in places but nothing too terrible. We had to run across the dam on the south side of the reservoir. With a fairly stiff breeze this was quite exposed but relatively cooling. However, after turning around at the end of the dam if felt like I was cooking on the return. Not sure if I took on a gel too soon but I developed a terrible stitch just after the first turnaround point and ended up having to stop and do some stretches and deep breathing before starting to run again at a slower pace, didn’t quite work so I repeated the actions again then set off running at a slower pace and it seemed to do the trick. I decided to ignore the next aid station and let my stomach settle. The next part of the run was relatively shaded either through woodland or alongside trees. I saw a few competitors for whom the heat had got the better of them. Including a couple collapsed. I offered assistance both times but they were in good hands. My stomach settled and I began to enjoy myself, particularly the abuse from my brother and the encouragement from Martin as I ran past transition each time. The aid station at the far end of the course about 4 miles in had run out of water and cups – less than ideal on an extremely hot day! My knee was sore but nothing like it had been on the bike and I was able to maintain a steady pace. Was good to see so many of the other Tri Londoners and others I knew. It made the time pass quickly and I began my counts again to see if I was losing or gaining time. My family were around the transition area with the other supporters and that made for a great buzz when I ran through.

I’ve been plagued with Achilles problems over the last few years and have just had new orthotics made by Simon Costain at the The Gait and Posture Centre. He has also been manipulating my “concrete” feet on a weekly basis and this has made such a difference to me. This is the first race I have really noticed it, with minimal discomfort from my feet on the run.

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On the final lap my sister-in-law ran the last 100m with me putting the pace on which meant I had to pick mine up. Couldn’t believe how soon it was all over and was delighted to be welcomed across the finish line by a cool pint of Erdinger and of course Martin and my family.

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There were a huge gang of Tri Londoners present – 17 of us in total – we sure made our presence known. The Tri London ladies were awarded a spot prize of Team of the Day which was a bundle of protein bars and then the task of finding the “Male Legs of the Day”! It was absolutely fantastic to have so many of us there and some noisy supporters to boot. I have never raced with so many friends before and it was a superb experience.

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I had been hoping for a top 10 position at this race. After crossing the line you can obtain your results but you have no idea of your placing. I went along to the prize giving to support my fellow club members as I was sure a couple of them would have been on the podium. It was an awful shock to hear my name called out for the Bronze! I am delighted!

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Huge thanks to the team at for their continued support. Two days before the race I managed to snap two of the cables on my bike that control the Di2 (electronic gearing). Don’t ask me how I managed this but after a panicky call to the store the trusty Dave came to the rescue and sorted it – phew! I’d also like to thank the team at Sofa.com. I am striving to be the best I can be this year in recognition of the huge amount of support that & the team from have given me. spoil me rotten and alongside that they provide an excellent service for all things bike! are rather special people too. Alongside their lovely sofas they just love being nice, they do lots of lovely things for various charities which you can read about . remains my inspiration and with the support from Sofa.com and Giant Radlett I stay focused and determined to train hard and hopefully race well. I appreciate all the help that I get more than these guys will ever know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tour of Wessex – 24th-26th May 2014

May 29, 2014

The Tour of Wessex is a three day cycle sportive which took place over the last bank holiday weekend in May. It involves cycling over 337 miles and 25, 168ft of climbing through beautiful, quintessential villages of Somerset, Dorset and Devon, through Cheddar Gorge, to Corfe Castle and over Exmoor. Challenging hill climbs and pure endurance make this a tough but awesome event. I have previously ridden it in 2010 and 2012. The event HQ is based in Somerton, the ancient Royal Capital of Wessex.

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This year I chose to stay in a hotel in Glastonbury 7 miles away from HQ with a friend. There were several others that I knew also there and many others besides. Camping and Glamping are available but if the weather is bad I felt it would be impossible to get warm.

With a horrendous six and a half hour journey down to Glastonbury on the Friday night we arrived much later than we had hoped but managed a quick pint in the pub with some friends before preparing the bike and turning in for the night.

The bike I chose to ride for this event is a Giant Avail Road bike with aero wheels. I love this bike! It is so comfortable and great for climbing too.

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Up at 6 for breakfast and then a hurried drive to Somerton for the start of Stage 1.

Stage 1 – 107 miles, 7,210ft of climbing – 6 hrs 32 mins moving time, 7 hrs 17 mins clock time

Garmin File can be found here

Myself and another Tri Londoner Sara were riding together but there were many other friends around too. Its quite tricky to all meet up at the start but we found Farouk and Ben. It was a miserable morning. Overcast and raining and only about 10 degrees. I stupidly thought that if I wore a waterproof I would just get hot and sweaty so decided to just ride in a short sleeve cycling jersey with arm warmers and shorts. Bad decision! The rain was relentless all day.

We left Somerton and as the first 25 miles or so are fairly flat we managed to maintain a good average speed, riding in some fast pace lines. These rides are all scenic and soon enough we were passing alongside Glastonbury Tor an iconic and evocative landmark.

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From here we crossed the Somerset Levels. Lying below sea-level these were terribly flooded only a couple of months ago and although they have resurfaced from under all the water the surface water created by the rain today was pretty significant.

Next up was the 8km climb through Cheddar Gorge – not so great in the pouring rain but still majestic. Britain’s biggest gorge is famous for its dramatic cliffs which rise 450ft to the plateau of the Mendip Hills and is an impressive sight. Its a pretty tough climb through the gorge itself with a maximum gradient of 17%. The rain was making the roads so treacherous that all the manhole covers were incredibly slippery. At the foot of the gorge some poor chap had found out the hard way and I saw him picking himself up off the road with his bike in one hand and his front wheel still attached to half his front forks in the other.

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At the aid station at the top we met up with some others. Had a little chat and big feed before heading off. I suddenly realised then how cold I was. There were now four of us, Farouk, Yoann and Sara were all with me. Less than a mile from the aid station Sara developed a puncture. We stopped to fix it but I became unbearably cold and knew what a mistake I had made by leaving my rain jacket behind. I was shivering violently, my teeth were chattering uncontrollably and it was still raining. I was numb in my face and from the elbows down and knees down. Never mind, the only thing to do was pedal faster!

From here we went on to Wells, England’s smallest city with a magnificent cathedral which we cycle right by.

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Next up came one of the toughest climbs of the weekend – King Alfred’s Tower. Although this is only a 2.32 km climb its average gradient is 6.5% peaking to 18% and with a river running down it as we were climbing. My limit for getting off the bike and walking was not far off and many others chose to do so!

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Shortly after this point we reached a marker that split the long ride with a shorter ride. Luckily the rain appeared to be letting up, I have never been so tempted in my life to cut something short! We said goodbye to Farouk at this point as he had undertaken Lanzarote ironman just one week earlier. I prayed that the weather would dry up and make the remaining 47 miles more bearable! We rode a long loop back to this same position but then it was just 20 miles to home.

From here we passed by Longleat Estate & Safari Park and Stourhead House & Gardens. Its an impressive area to cycle through and thankfully on a wet day not nearly so crowded as it usually is.

On the return to HQ we were really battling with a head wind. If any pace lines came through we jumped on them. They usually fell apart on the hills but with what felt like 12 very long miles to go a pace line passed by us and one of my club mates, Adrian was on the back. He had a fully packed up bike preparing for some monster ride across Europe. I knew he was an incredibly strong rider but felt able to jump on the end of the line and sure enough we managed to cling on. With some super fast riders working together at the front and another chap that seemed to be about 7 foot tall with a black batman cape flailing behind him in the wind riding directly in front of me we were sorted! The miles flew by! The group disbanded on any ascents slightly but we managed to cling on to the end, feeling slightly guilty that I hadn’t done any of the hard work but would make up for it again.

We arrived back looking like we had been mountain biking. The bikes were filthy, we were frozen and soaked right through. I was so glad not to be camping!

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Thankfully tonight we were visiting some friends in their rental cottage so we managed to wash and dry our clothes whilst having dinner. My socks were past rescue though and ended up in the bin. We spent some considerable time trying to clean the bikes with a packet of baby wipes and a towel and just about made a difference.

Throughout the evening and the night it continued to rain heavily.

Stage 2 – 116 miles, 7,398 ft of climbing – ride time 7 hrs 14 mins, clock time – 7 hrs 59 mins

Garmin File can be found here

The morning arrived and it was still raining! It was forecast to be dry! Just as we started it began to clear up but in an effort not to make the same mistake as yesterday I decided to pack my waterproof in my rear pocket.

Today another Tri Londoner, Bjoern, was riding with us. He had what sounded like a pretty miserable day yesterday riding on his own. Again a speedy ride initially with 10 miles of fast pace line riding to the first hill. The first sight on this ride is the Cerne Abbas Giant, 25 miles in. This is an ancient nude figure, sculpted into the chalk hillside above Cerne Abbas. It stands 180ft tall and is Britain’s largest chalk hill figure. In past times it was apparently used in fertility rites, perhaps inspired by its fabled phallus.

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This is a pretty ride through some little villages with some interesting names, Piddletrenthide, Piddlehinton, Puddletown, to name but a few. The weather was dry and warm. I was almost too warm but I certainly was not complaining! This area is the spectacular Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. We had a few long climbs in the Lulworth area but with the view of the sea it made the whole experience much more pleasant! We then had a long descent down into Lulworth Cove but unfortunately no time to stop on the beach and admire Durdle Door as we headed straight back up the steep climb out of Lulworth Cove.

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Next up it was time to climb across the Lulworth Ranges which are used by the Arnoured Fighting Vehicles Gunnery School, one of the British Army’s pre-eminent training establishments. I just hoped they were not out firing today as we seemed to be riding incredibly close to targets!

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Six miles on we were treated to the spectacular sight of Corfe Castle rising high above the village of Corfe. The view of the castle which dates back to the 11th century is so beautiful and impressive it was worthy of a quick photo shot.

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We had some speedy miles from here until the stunning village of Milton Abbas. This is a picture-postcard village which dates back to 1773. You ride through the centre of the village surrounded by thatch cottages, olde worlde pubs and tea rooms, the temptation to stop was definitely there!

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Its a pretty tough climb but made all the easier by the fantastic scenery. I had to stop at one point to adjust my saddle. I was in a whole world of pain! My saddle had become ever so slightly nose up and I hadn’t noticed it the day before but by now I was in an awful lot of pain. We lost Bjoern at this point but I was sure he was happy enough by then on this lovely dry day! I tilted my saddle down which felt enormously improved but I fear the damage had been done! Not long to home now – we managed to jump on a pace line heading past us and as the terrain had smoothed out somewhat we kept a high speed back to Race HQ in Somerton. Towards the end there were just four of us, two guys and myself and Sara. Sara and I definitely pulled our weight this time, spending a lot of time on the front battling with the strong headwind. We all helped out but those lads were so polite on the return through the timing mat that they dropped back to allow us across the line first.

Stage 3 – 114 miles, 10,560 ft of climbing – ride time – 8hrs 5 mins, clock time – 9 hours 30 mins

Garmin File can be found here

I really wasn’t looking forward to today. We both seemed to be developing colds & the saddle sore I experienced yesterday was awful but I hoped that the adjustments I had made would see me through. Oh how wrong I was! I had employed all the tactics I could think of to try to alleviate the problem including wearing two pairs of shorts. Sara was facing similar problems and this cost us an awful lot of time today. I rarely freewheel, even down hills but every turn of the pedals was painful. I stopped at a shop to buy vaseline, switched my shorts around, stopped regularly, stood out of the saddle regularly but all to no avail. From the pain point of view it was a deeply miserable 114 miles of riding – I have never experienced anything like it! I won’t say any more about it – lesson learnt! I SHOULD have adjusted my saddle as soon as I realised there was a problem and perhaps lowered it even further during the ride today, anyway….

Day three is always a tough day not only is it advertised as 112 miles and ends up 114(!) but you also have 223 hilly miles already in the legs. When you look at the chart they give to you the hill climbs all look much of a muchness until you notice that they almost halve the scale for day three!

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Day three leaves Somerton and heads towards the Quantocks via Bridgewater. We got to the start line early today and early on Sara and I started working with a Verulam cycling club member. He is local to me in Radlett as this club is based in St Albans. We all did our fair share until an extremely long pace line came by and we jumped on. Unfortunately Sara got dropped at a set of lights and I had not realised. As she was not in sight I stayed with this group until the hill climb up to the first aid station. It was an exhilarating ride to that point. My average ride speed was well over 19 mph until the start of the climb up to Quantock Common. This was pretty tough with tired legs & saddle sore! Its a 2 km climb, average gradient 7.8% with a maximum gradient of 16%. The Quantock Hills are a designated Area of Outstanding National Beauty so the views did not disappoint.

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After descending the other side I was greeted by the sight of the first feed station and lots of my Tri London buddies. I waited here for Sara and then four of us departed together. Whilst “racing” this sportive may be the preferred choice of some, I prefer to ride with company. These are very long days in the saddle and definitely much more fun with friends. It is fantastic training whichever tack you choose. Whilst I had a beautifully light bike, Sara’s was considerably heavier and I’m glad it was her and not me powering it up those hills! I know for sure she will be motoring when she next gets onto her carbon steed!

We rode from here passing Dunster Castle, dating back to Norman times. Although there were a couple of shorter sharp hills it really felt like not time at all before the second feed station was upon us and I didn’t feel I needed it. It was probably placed strategically at the bottom of the Porlock Hill Toll Road. This is a pretty long climb – 6.7 km with an average gradient of 5.7% and a maximum of 14%. I actually really enjoyed this climb. This toll road is definitely a far easier alternative to the viciously steep Porlock Hill which even cars seem to struggle up! The road climbs from the village of Porlock to Pitt Combe Head. The road snakes along the coastal cliffs, and provides stunning views across Bridgwater Bay to the Vale of Glamorgan. The first part winds through quiet woodland with switchbacks where you can see the riders below and its really very pretty and tranquil. It then opens out onto open moorland of heather, gorse and whortleberry bushes.

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No sooner have you descended this hill you are faced with another steeper climb back up the other side onto Porlock Common. From here its just relentless hills over and through Exmoor National Park. Many of these were steep and long. However, my legs were feeling strong and I was too, but oh boy! did I mention I was saddle sore???

At the 118 km point we were faced with a particularly brutal climb and at a sharp hair pin half way up the gradient becomes 25%. Exactly at this point it seems my chain perhaps caught a spoke as I changed into my lowest gear and the pedals refused to turn. With feet in an awkward place I was unable to unclip before toppling into the road much to the amusement of a passing van as I lay sprawled on my back with a bicycle clipped to me and still couldn’t unclip! Luckily Sara came to my rescue and unclipped me and noticed my rear wheel was now out of its stays! I was worried the rear derailleur would be damaged but fortunately it all seemed to be working fine. With no more damage than a bruised and scraped elbow the hardest part was working out how to get back in the saddle on this brute of a hill!

We managed and continued to plough through the miles, albeit rather slowly. From an average ride speed of well over 19mph at the first quarter of the ride we were now down to just over 13 mph! The final aid station eventually became a welcome sight on the horizon and we had a well earned feed but just as we were leaving Sara had another flat! It was a great place to have one though as the Shimano Support Team kindly repaired it for her.

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What was also welcome was that the aid station crew informed us that it was all down hill from here back to Somerton! Whilst not strictly true it definitely was much easier going and there was at least the long descent down from the top of Exmoor. We picked the pace up and worked hard together to get back as quickly as we could. For the last long 8 miles (which soon turned into 10) we led a mile each and picked up a couple of others on the way and let them jump on the back. By alternating each mile it definitely made the time pass much quicker and we were soon on the lovely River Parrett Trail which is beautifully flat and scenic. It crosses the somerset levels and moors and from here is just 5 miles to the base. Two naughty climbs in the last couple of miles and we were back to HQ. Tired, sore but thrilled with our achievement.

Two tired bikes too!

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SUMMARY
The Tour of Wessex is not to be underestimated. It is a very tough challenge! However it is such a friendly event in wonderful surroundings with amazing people. My legs and I felt strong throughout the entire event this year and I put this down to some serious mileage with the Every Day Training Camp out in Lanzarote in March and over Easter with my Tri London buddies. The Giant Avail road bike was also a fab bike for this terrain and definitely helped make the whole event very enjoyable. I was spoilt with the fantastic company of Sara for the whole event and of course my other Tri London pals & triathlete friends.

Many thanks to Giant Radlett for the crazy amount of support I get from them and also to Sofa.com. Pat remains my inspiration and without the support I received from Sofa.com I would not have attended the training camp in Lanzarote and this event would have been a whole different ball game! I usually use the Tour of Wessex to get fit for the season, to be on the start line fit made for a much better experience!

Time to rest up for a few days to cure my cold in time for the English Middle Distance Triathlon Championships on 8th June and oh! Did I mention I am saddle sore?

World Long Course Triathlon Championships – Belfort, France – 1st June 2013

July 9, 2013

THE SHORT REPORT:
RUN (10K) 48:53 (20th)
T1 3:18 ((6th)
BIKE (87K) 3:29:33 (19th)
T2 6:16 (13th)
RUN (20K) 1:49 (11th)

TOTAL: 6 hrs 17 mins 6 Secs
PLACING: 15th 40-44AG

THE LONG REPORT!

For the second time in my triathlon career I had qualified to race for Team GB at the World Long Course Triathlon Championships. This is a distance that I love. The race format is (usually!):

4k swim
120k bike
30k run

This year the race was in Belfort, France, somewhat earlier than last year. This little town lies near the border of Switzerland and France and is in fact a 29 times Tour De France Stage Town. Part of the bike course was along the road that leads over a pass near the peak at the Col du Ballon d’Alsace, 1,171m (3,842 ft). The pass is noted as the site of the first official mountain climb in the Tour de France on 11 July 1905. The Tour has crossed the mountain twenty times in its history.

I flew out to France from City Airport with Martin (husband), Olivia (fellow Tri London club member) and her husband, Andy. We hired a car at Basel Airport and thus ensued our first challenge – to exit the airport in the right country – we failed! Ending up in Switzerland and in the wrong country for our car hire! A quick traipse back through the airport and we managed to exit in France and collect our hire car from the right desk. The second challenge soon arose – how to get two bike boxes, four adults and lots of luggage in the largest estate car Hertz had available. We managed but there was no room for a cat’s whisker!

We checked into our hotel about half an hour from Belfort. Two other Tri Londoners, Kris Boye & Alex Thompson were also joining us here. The hotel was fine. It was a fraction of the cost of accommodation in Belfort and there were no rooms available in Belfort anyway, even though we had looked to book early.

The weather reports had been pretty dire for the week with race day no exception and the organisers website declared that the swim may well be shortened due to adverse weather conditions. As soon as we arrived in Belfort we went straight to registration where the team managers briefing had just finished and I quickly learnt that the swim had definitely been cancelled and the race would now take on a Long Course Duathlon format of:

10k run
87k bike
20k run

I knew this would not suit me so well. In spite of not being the best swimmer this tends to be the discipline I perofrm the best in and it also tends to break up the field much more than a short run. I am also a steady runner but one who’s pace does not slow much even over long distances and generally find that the longer the run the bigger the gains I make, particularly during the later stages so I was not too happy to find that last run shortened by six miles.

We went to explore the race venue and the mountain in the car. The race base was at the lake that we were supposed to swim in and the day we visited it was sunny and the water looked very inviting.

View of the Lake

View of the Lake

We drove most of the route of the bike leg and I became more and more nervous about the extent of the climb as it seemed steeper than had been predicted and I was wishing I had changed my rear cassette for some lower gears. Once at the top of the Col Olivia and I put our bikes together and rode down the mountain to get a feel of the descent. It quickly became apparent that descending on a TT was not going to make the most of the downhill speed. With the snake pass descent, cornering on a TT made one feel extremely vulnerable and Olivia was making huge gains on me on her road bike. Nevermind it would be easier on race day with the roads shut and being able to sweep wider. This recce had proved extremely useful though because we were also aware of how cold it felt to descend even though it was a relatively sunny and dry day.

The good weather didn’t last long and the next day it was pouring with rain. We had to rack our bikes but first we went traipsing around Belfort District looking for warm clothes and various missing bike parts. By the time we got around to racking the car parks were a quagmire with cars stuck all around.

This was the general state of everywhere around the race venue!

This was the general state of everywhere around the race venue!

We made our way to a relatively clean grassy area put the bikes together and waded through the mud to transition which was equally boggy although covered by a blue carpet.

Transition the day of racking

Transition the day of racking

Race morning soon arrived but unfortunately nobody had warned the hotel that lots of hungry triathletes would be seeking breakfast at 6:00 am since they were open at that time anyway. Unfortunately arriving at 6:02 meant most of the food had been eaten! The poor waitress was scurrying around frantically trying to cope but luckily the bread van arrived just after we did so we managed our carb fest.

The boys drove us to the race start which was a sedate 8 am and left us there since they were heading off up the mountain before it closed to find a premier photo spot. They managed that task very well! Olivia and I headed off into the boggy and muddy transition dressed in our newly purchased matching fleeces and bin bags. We had bags to drop off in T1 and T2 which were already muddy and slippery so goodness knows what would happen during the race. Next up time to find the team manager to be marked up for medical conditions.

We hovered around race start with some of the other GB athletes all dressed in warm clothes and bin bags before making our way to the start pen. We had been warned to try to get to the front of the pen since the path soon became single file after the start.

Trying to keep warm & dry!

Trying to keep warm & dry!

Before I knew it we were off. I was under strict instruction from Jo at Everyday Traininng to take the first 10k easy to save my legs for the bike. This was a hard task when everyone shot off out of the starting blocks. Less than 100m in and I suddenly felt a whip against my legs followed by half the row of ladies behind me falling flat on their faces. Seemingly a TV microphone cord had been flicked up. Luckily no damage done and off I trotted. I quickly fell into pace with one of the girls from GB that I have been racing with a few times at the Euros and the Worlds previously. We reiterated our desire to save our legs and not to chase after those sprinting away from us. The run course was a trail around woodlands and the lake and was scenic but with two fairly substantial hills. The first run Garmin data can be seen here

Before long we were back into the muddy transition, I grabbed my bag, shot into the changing tent and put on a few layers. This was one race where the strict kit regulations were relaxed due to the dire weather and we could wear pretty much anything provided it did not advertise sponsors or clubs. Luckily most of my Giant clothing is manufactured with my sponsors on so it wasn’t against the rules. On went the fleecy bike jacket, the knee warmers, long fingered gloves and toe covers on my shoes. I was already wearing arm warmers and a vest under my GB kit. Uneblievable in June eh?! I have been trying to make my transitions quicker this season and was pleased to see I placed 6th in my age group for this one! I shot out of the T1 tent and as I went to put my glasses on found I had lost a lens – no point looking for them in the mud so they went straight into my back pocket. I decided against bringing a rain jacket with me. I figured if it rained I just had to pedal hard enough to keep warm.

The bike was windy enough, gently rolling for the first 20 miles then there was approximately 15 miles of climbing, pretty gentle for the first 8 miles then rising much steeper. The road wound up around the mountain and Martin and Andy were a welcome sight on top of the hairpins. They were busy clicking away and shouting words of encouragement. Soon the climb steepened and I began a long, slow grind, wishing I had had the sense to change my rear cassette for some lower gears. I was passing some but being passed by many and all in all I didn’t feel that strong on this bike leg. The scenery was pretty and I started to warm up on the climb, almost becoming too warm but I knew it would not last.

The climb up Ballon D'alsace

The climb up Ballon D’alsace

Close to the top visibility became extremely poor and suddenly an aid station appeared a few metres ahead with people moving eerily through the mist.

This is a picture taken from Europsort TV coverage

This is a picture taken from Europsort TV coverage

I grabbed a bottle and braced myself for the descent. We were told there would be an ambulance on every hair pin bend and I think there was. Unfortunately at least two of them were busy with casualties. The descent felt slightly safer than two days ago with the ability to sweep wide on each corner in the safe knowledge that no cars would be coming up. I managed a top speed of 34.9 mph. I was glad of my extra clothes for this descent as it quickly became very chilly. The rest of the bike passed without any dramas and soon I was racing back into a very muddy T2. The bike course data can be seen here

It was a long run through transition in bike shoes pushing a bike on boggy carpet which was floating on the mud beneath. Another quick change in the tent and off I went on the run. I was suprised to find Nicky again since she had passed me on the climb. She told me she had received a five minute penalty (later revoked) and her anger seemed to give her a burst of adrenaline as she shot off away from me. Nicky and I have raced at the European Long Course Championships twice with gold and silver medal positions so I was scared when she started making big gains on me. I hoped I would be able to pull back later in the run. We had two laps of the same route we had run earlier to do. This time around the hills felt far more of a struggle but on the descents I seemed to gain a lot of places so tried to run those as hard as I could. On lap two I got a severe stitch at mile 7 which was present for a good couple of miles and ended up having to stop and stretch and deep breathe before it crippled me from being able to even walk. Eventually I managed to beat it and from mile 9-12 I managed to increase my pace and suddenly started overtaking lots of people. I felt great and continued to push the pace ignoring my heart rate and really enjoyed passing others, finding Nicky and some other GB girls and powering past and having no-one pass me. Unfortunately it was all over far too soon and I was yearning for that extra 6 miles that we usually have. The second run Garmin data can be seen here

I crossed the line in a time of 6hrs 17 mins and 6 seconds to finish 15th in my age group and 2nd Brit. Not quite as I had hoped but in the circumstances I was happy.

Finishers Medal!

Finishers Medal!

I quickly found Olivia who had had a blinding race but now appeared to be suffering. After some extensive treatment by the excellent medics she made a good recovery and Martin and I decided to go and fetch the bikes and the cycle back to the car parked a couple of miles away. Unfortunately that field too was badly affected by the mud and some poor lady was stuck in her car revving the engine so hard that black smoke was pouring out of her exhaust. We intervened and helped release her from the mud and in one split second I went from being nice and warm in lovely clean and fluffy clothes to being covered in mud from head to foot again! So much for being rewarded for my good deed! The poor lady was mortified!

Mud Glorious Mud!

Mud Glorious Mud!

Never have I beeen to a race where so much of my kit got so muddy. I have been cleaning it for weeks now! The following day my legs definitely felt like they had raced hard when we decided to do a spot of sightseeing which involved lots of walking up steep hills and climbing steps! The views were worth it though!

A few of the sights

A few of the sights

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All in all another fantastic experience racing for Team GB. The team manager, the other athletes and of course Tri Londoners all enhance the experience. Likewise travelling with a couple who speak fantastic French. Olivia there seems to be no end to your talents! I really appreciated having my no.1 fan and the fantastic support of Martin with me for this trip as he helped enormously. Thanks to all of my friends and family that continually support me and for all your lovely comments, texts, e-mails and facebook posts I am always astounded by the amount of encouragement I receive.

Finally none of this would be possible without my fantastic sponsors Giant Radlett, every member of the Giant Radlett team goes out of their way to make sure I am race ready with both equipment and maintenance and I cannot thank them enough. Alongside Giant the nutrition from Powerbar, the knowledge and experience of my coach Jo Carritt at Everyday Training and my new sponsorship from Pat and the team at Sofa.com makes me one of the most fortunate triathletes around 🙂

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ITU World Championship Long Course Triathlon – 2012

July 30, 2012
Short Report:
 
Swim – 4 km – 1 hr 18 mins 41 secs
T1 – 3 mins 46 secs
Bike – 120 km – 3 hrs 54 mins 5 secs
T2 – 2 mins 54 secs
Run – 30 km – 2 hrs 45 mins 50 secs
 
Total:  8 hours 5 mins 15 secs
 
12th in the world! 40-44 AG (35 starters)
 
Swim 10th
T1 17th
Bike 18th
T2 24th
Run 15th
 
The International Triathlon Union is the world governing body for the Olympic sport of Triathlon. It was founded in 1989 at the first ITU Congress in Avignon, France and has maintained its headquarters in Vancouver, Canada since then. It now has over 120 affiliated National Federations around the world and is the youngest International Federation in the Olympics.
 
While most known for the short course events you can watch at TriathlonLive.TV, the ITU also has a long course triathlon series that culminates in the ITU Long Course World Championships, where nearly two thousand athletes from dozens of countries compete for elite and age group world champion titles by racing a 4K swim (about 2 and a half miles) , 120K bike (ABOUT 76 miles) and a 30K run (a little over 18 miles).
 
Having won the European Long Course Champs here in Vittoria-Gasteisz in 2010 I was familiar with lots of the course and looking forward to racing the World Champs.  However, racing this just three weeks after my ironman at Challenge Roth and with a sore knee that had been troubling me for some months now I knew it would be tough.
 
Nobody else from Tri London was racing so I was all set for it to be quite lonely out there.  I should not have worried though.  There were many familiar faces and two of the lads (David & Brian) that I met last year in Finland were at the airport so we all traveled together.
 
We had a few days before the race to ride some of the course and visit the lake for a swim.  The weather was pretty cool considering the time of year so I was thankful for that.  I didn’t do too much in the way of training before the event as on a short cycle to the lake my knee still felt really sore.  I had seen Bruce Butler just before flying out and he had worked on it a lot and taped it up and initially it had felt much better.
 
Vitoria-Gasteisz is the capital city of the Basque Country and also the European Green Capital.  Its quite a nice city and we saw plenty of it as we managed to get ourselves very lost on more than one occasion.  Most notably one night in the dark in a torrential rain storm.  We had attended registration and then taken a walk around the city before finding a fantastic restaurant for supper.  Unfortunately whilst we were in the restaurant a torrential rain storm started and we were only in light summer clothing.  We chose to stay in the restaurant and have a few more drinks but the rain was relentless and in the end we had to leave.  Thankfully I was sensibly drinking soft drinks but I wasn’t the only one so the mad dash back to the hotel in the rainstorm was pretty hilarious.  We lost one of the lads and in spite of turning back he had disappeared into thin air.  All of our paper registration bags were in tatters with race numbers and bike stickers flying around the pavement and one of the lads in leather soled shoes spent more time on his bottom than upight!  In the end after more than an hour of trying to find our way back to the hotel that was 10 mins away I had to resort to using my bike Garmin to find our way back to the hotel.  Thankfully we made it!
 
This race had split transitions which meant racking your bike by the lake which was a good 20 minute coach ride away from the city centre.  Unfortunately this took up the majority of the day before the race as the queue for registration and racking was immense.  Martin flew out the day before so it was great to have some company and my no.1 fan by my side.
 
Race day finally arrived.  In spite of not sleeping well all night, typically the hour or two before wake up time I was fast asleep and somehow my alarm had not sounded.  Martin woke me up and I made a mad dash down to breakfast.  This was not the sedentary pre-race prep that I was yearning for!  I had my usual quick breakfast of a small bowl of muesli and a sports drink before dashing back to the room to get my bags.  Everything was packed and laid out ready so I left Martin in bed and ran down to the coach.  There was lots of confusion about the timing of the coaches and the two that were waiting were almost full and I just managed to get one of the last seats.  As I was sitting there looking around me I thought people were carrying very large bags compared to mine and wondered what on earth they had in them – uh oh – wetsuits!  Of course!! Where was mine? Hanging on the wardrobe door.  I rang Martin in a blind panic from my mobile but his phone was turned off so I pelted back into the hotel and with no key had to pound on the room door hoping he would waken.  He did, I grabbed the wetsuit and made a mad dash downstairs to find the coach had gone!  Another one was there but they said it would not leave until it was full.  There were only a few of us on board and eventually after much negotiation they decided that they would take us too.  Phew!!
 
Arrived down to a very cold and misty lake but had a lot of time to faff before race start which I love.  Martin arrived just before race start which was great but all too soon the time had come to take my place on the start line.  The race starts on dry land and on the whistle we ladies all ran into the water.  Its a 4 km swim and one loop which was L shaped.  Its a beautiful lake but it felt like a hard swim.  Everyone was reporting the wind to be against us for the large majority which is perhaps why we found it quite slow.  Out of the swim and onto the bike.  The course is undulating but with a sore knee hillier than I had remembered from 2010!  I had no idea of what sort of position I was in so just kept my head down and one eye on my heart rate and pedalled as much as I could.  My knee didn’t feel too bad which was reassuring but the wind was up as was common for the majority of my races this year!  The Garmin Bike file is here but the wind did seem to slow me down quite a lot and I was disappointed as this course in 2010 is still my fastest bike split during a race of this distance.  Mind you, in hindsight perhaps my ironman three weeks ago also played a part 😉  We had one and a half laps of the bike course before returning to the centre of Vitoria-Gasteisz to the Old Town.  Our bikes were taken off us as we entered into T1.
 
T1 – Transition was in a large marquee at the back of the Old Town, you run into the marquee try and find your bag by the number which was pretty difficult due to the sheer volume of bags hanging on the pegs.  After a slow transition I was off out and in desperate need of a toilet.
 
The Run
 
In spite of passing a couple of aid stations there was still no sign of a loo and as we were in the middle of a city no bushes to hide behind either!  My Garmin had failed to pick up a satellite whilst I was in the marquee so I missed the data for the first part of my run but when I evenutally did find a large portaloo I left the watch outside to pick up the reception whilst I nipped in.  Loo stops are never quick in the GB kit as it all needs to come off which is a right pain.  Never mind the multi-tasking worked and as I set off I had a GPS reception.  The run course is great for spectators as it was 4 out and back loops through the city.  Luckily it was semi-shaded but fortunately it remained a fairly overcast day which kept the temperatures down.  Martin was on the run route and that was great, being able to see him so much kept me moving.  At the end of each lap you had to run past the finishing chute and that was tough seeing people moving down it when there were still another couple of laps to do!  Nonetheless my knee was holding up and my legs were being fairly good to me and allowed me to maintain a pace I was pleased with over the 30 km.  I seemed to be passing more people than were passing me and I even managed to pick up the pace for the last loop past the grandstand and around to the finish.  This last little loop seemed to last forever but it was great as the Team Manager and a whole host of other supporters were there cheering us all in and I collected my flag from them and sprinted for the line and was pretty delighted with my time considering Roth only three weeks previously and my dodgy knee! The Garmin run file less the missing parts is here!
 
All in all a fantastic experience and I was pretty pleased with my position given the circumstances.  Here’s hoping that next year I can improve on that!
 
 

English National Middle Distance Championships The Owler Triathlon – 23rd July 2017

August 26, 2017

Short Report:

Swim 1.9km – 41 mins 33 secs (long at 2.2km)

T1 – 3 mins 40 secs

Bike 90km – 2 hrs 44 mins 58 secs

T2 – 1 min 38 secs

Run 21km – 1 hr 49 mins 19 secs

Overall: 5 hrs 21 mins 9 secs

National AG Championships Gold Medallist!

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I was a late sign up to this race. I really didn’t expect to be running this season as I am due to have surgery to my heel. However I have found that by reducing my run training to an absolute minimum I have still been able to race to a reasonable standard so I decided to give the National Middle Distance Championships a go. The field looked competitive so I had no expectations other than to try and have a decent swim and bike in preparation for my A race at the World Championships Long Distance Aquabike on 27th August.

Unfortunately, due to some blue algae in the lake the race was supposed to be at, the swim venue was changed which resulted in a split transition and a bit of a logistical nightmare for both pre and post-race. Nonetheless it was better to have this than to face a duathlon.

The Swim:- The new lake was actually very pleasant. Clean water and weed free but unfortunately there were a couple of sandbanks running across the lake which we had to try and swim over four times although the water was only knee deep. This combined with a long swim (2.2km) resulted in a very slow swim time for me. It was just about possible to swim through these shallow areas although my fingers were scraping the lake bed even with an adapted stroke.  The first wave were running across the sandbanks but we were told in no uncertain terms we were to swim.

Owler Swim

T2:–  There seemed to be a fair few bikes around but because of my swim time being so slow I was disappointed and set off hard on the bike to try and see if I could find some girls in my age group. I thought I must be towards the back of the pack.

The Bike:- I was working hard and the course was fast and flat to begin with. I was maintaining a good average speed and was picking off lots of women but couldn’t find anyone in my age group. I did however find my friend Kevin and felt better about my swim when he told me his was only 30 seconds quicker than mine and he is generally a much faster swimmer than me.

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The bike course soon became undulating on narrow country lanes with lots of twists and turns. I was getting infuriated by being held up by slow moving cars and campervans that couldn’t pass some of the slower cyclists in front of me. I made the most of these times by taking on fluid and nutrition. I then got held up by farm vehicles and temporary traffic lights and the people that I was passing were managing to catch up with me again. Then I hit a pothole whilst climbing a hill and lost my puncture repair kit. How many more things were going to slow me down?! I shouldn’t have asked.  A few minutes later it became apparent that I had missed a turn when a pack of cyclists came flying down the road telling me and some others behind that we were going the wrong way. I found it hard to maintain my focus from this point on but turned around and managed to find my way back onto the course. When I finally arrived back in transition there didn’t appear to be too many bicycles there and I could hear the commentator mention my name but didn’t catch what he said.

T2: – I had a quick transition and headed out onto the run course.

The Run: – Transition was on a running track but we left the stadium and headed out off road onto trails and some country roads. It was a slightly rolling course of which we had a couple of laps to run. It was great to see some of my fellow tri club members out on the course many of whom were racing one of the shorter distance races. I was running well but with my adapted gait to try and protect my heel. I also speed walked up the steeper inclines as this too helps to reduce the pain and irritation in my heel. I was keeping an eye on the women in front but couldn’t spot anyone from my age group. I wasn’t overtaken by many women either and again no-one in my age group. I was beginning to wonder if I could possibly be at the top end of the field but didn’t want to get too hopeful!

I maintained a steady pace and was constantly checking over my shoulder for any competition but there wasn’t any. I arrived back at the stadium and had a clear run to the finish line 300m around the running track.

I felt pleased with my performance but had no idea where I had finished and was disappointed to discover that no splits were available.  However, there seemed to be very few women across the finish line. It soon became clear that there had been some problems on the bike and run course with athletes (myself included) getting lost. The organiser advised me that there would be no presentations until the race had been unpicked and it felt strange walking away from a race not knowing the outcome.

Later that evening the results were published online and I was showing as first female in my age group by over five minutes but of course I knew there was to be an investigation. That took almost a week with lots of evidence going to and fro with Triathlon England. It was initially felt that we had all been given the bike route prior to the event and therefore it was our responsibility to know the route. Lost or not the results should stand.  However this soon changed and as a result of the investigations I and the 3rd place lady (who got more lost than I did) have both been awarded the National Champs gold medal which I have since received in the post.

The big investigation and delay into the results being published has taken the shine away from it for me and I’m left wondering what would have happened if nobody got lost on the day.  One thing is for sure, I would have been ecstatic to have just been on the podium straight after the race on race day!   Hopefully next year there won’t be any added complications!

All in all looking back I am over the moon both with my performance in this race and for the season this far where I’ve had some fantastic results in spite of the challenges caused by my foot and from wayward individuals tampering with signs!  The Owler is a lovely race and I feel for the organisers who of course rely on volunteers and have no control over members of the public trying to spoil our fun!

As ever special thanks to Cadence Performance & Giant Radlett for their continued support of all things bike. To Simon Costain of the Gait & Posture Centre & Gareth Ziyambi at A2Z Elite Health for literally keeping me on my feet. Next stop Canada for the World Championship Long Distance Aquabike where my poor foot can at least have a well deserved rest!

My 2017 season so far:

1st Female – Hercules Events 5k Open Water Swim

2nd In AG – Ironman 70.3 European Championships – Helsingør, Denmark

1st Female – Fambridge Yacht Haven Middle Distance Triathlon, Essex.

Gold Medallist, National Middle Distance Championships  – The Owler Triathlon, Kent

Ironman 70.3 European Championships Helsingør, Denmark – 18th June 2017

June 22, 2017


Short Report:
Swim 1.9k: 34 mins 1 sec  (3rd in AG)

T1: 7 mins 13 secs (0.5 mile long transition!)

Bike 90k: 2 hrs 33 mins  (1st in AG)

T2: 2 mins 35 secs

Run 21.1k: 1 hr 47 mins  (2nd in AG)

Total: 5 hrs 4 mins 51 secs

2nd in AG!

Qualification for Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Chattanooga, Tennessee September 2017

Long Report:

We have friends that live in Copenhagen and they have a beautiful summer house in Hornbaek just 8 miles from the race.


Last year they invited us over to race and I was very happy to finish 3rd in my Age Group especially since I had struggled with an Achilles problem and hadn’t really run for a few months.

Roll on a year later and I’m still struggling  and now require surgery to remove some excess bone which is scheduled to take place at the end of my season. My main focus this season was therefore going to be swim/bike with my A race being the World Championships Long Course Aquabike in Canada in August 2017.  However having already signed up to return to Helsingør I decided to see how I went.

I was a tad disappointed with my race number prior to the race. Thankfully all superstitious tendencies have now been forgotten 🙂


Because this race was the European Championships it was a much larger event than last year with 2,500 athletes (last year was 1250 athletes). Because of this and my lack of running It made for a very laid back build up to the race. I had no expectations because I knew it would be much more competitive and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to run so I fully intended to swim and bike hard and provided I had good times for those disciplines I thought I’d be happy. I was going to employ a strict jog/walk strategy for the half marathon and see how my foot held up.

Two weeks prior to the race I had a steroid injection into the swollen bursa and and had only run one 5k since.  The furthest I had run since December was 11.8 miles – just once. Hardly the best race prep!  In fact since December I’ve only averaged 17 miles a month running.  On a positive I have trained much harder on the bike than usual.  The table below shows my run volume and June includes this race’s 21k!


There were 9 of us around for the race weekend which made for great company. Four of us were racing and the rest there to cheer us on!


With no expectations I was feeling relaxed and had a solid nights sleep.  I got up for breakfast at 6 am. Cold spaghetti bolognese made by my friend and fellow competitor Farouk the night before (thanks Frouky!) It was perfect 🙂

We left the summerhouse at 6:30 am before the roads were closed to organise ourselves in transition. I’d lost my hydration bottle top the day before so I was hoping my improvisation with a rubber glove and elastic band would hold out (it did!).


No dramas on race morning. I was totally chilled out knowing that I really wouldn’t be competetive. However I did feel somewhat rusty having not raced since last September.

Swim:  Race start was 08:10. Everyone seeded themselves based on swim times and I was in the first wave of age groupers.


It was a big group but we had a rolling start which involved jumping off a pier into the cold Baltic Sea below one by one. With no chance to acclimatise it felt pretty chilly and I was glad of my decision to wear a neoprene hat and goggle/mask which helps protect my forehead from the cold. Other than that it was a pleasant swim.  Thank goodness there were no jelly fish like last year when the whole harbour was like a jellyfish soup.


It was a beautiful sunny morning with blue sky and lovely clear water. The swim felt fast although it was pretty congested in places and I received a few kicks. I was very happy with a swim time of 34 mins. That’s much quicker than my normal practice swims by almost 3 mins per 1km.

Strava link:  

https://www.strava.com/activities/1042432076

T1 was a hell of a long way from the water and then they make everyone run to the far end of a very long transition too. It ended up being half a mile run hence the fairly slow time of 7 mins 13 secs.  For me with my foot problem running barefoot is very difficult so it was more of a hobble to the transition area.



The Bike:

Once out on the road I was determined to work a bit harder than I would usually. I wanted to use this as a guide for the World Championships Aquabike event in August. It was a hot day but breezy on the bike so I didn’t get too hot. I was focusing on maintaining power and at 40k my friend Kris came past.  I had thought that he was ahead of me so it was great to see him and it also helped to keep my focus by not letting him pull too far away or even getting in front on occasion.  As a result we ended up going into T2 within seconds of each other.


I was delighted with my 2:33 bike split. I’d passed a lot of people and very few had passed me, and I hadn’t spotted any women overtaking me.  It wasn’t the same course as last year but very similar it was scenic and undulating and I was 14 minutes faster.  My left knee had become fairly sore around the 50km mark and I remember thinking how great it was that it wasn’t a full ironman!  This is my first year not racing iron distance after 8 consecutive years.

T2 no dramas. Fairly quick and time to see what was going to happen to my feet and legs on the run!

Strava link: 

https://www.strava.com/activities/1042432187

The Run:

By now it was hot, hot, hot! I usually do ok running in the heat. Whether my foot would hold up would be another matter. Halfway through the first lap I found our support crew or at least heard them before I saw them! Martin (hubby), Jackie, Celeste, Simon & Svenja. What a team! Martin quickly told me I was in first place in my age group! I was shocked and may have uttered an expletive knowing full well that I couldn’t bear to relinquish that position because of my pesky foot. I was planting it down and lifting it back up without powering through on it. It was sore but not unbearable unless there was an incline. I just wasn’t sure that I could sustain the pace having not put the distance or hours in in training.


I didn’t quite employ my 9min jog/1 min walk strategy but I did walk through all the aid stations drinking and taking on a gel every half an hour.  I saw a lady run by me fairly fast towards the end of the first lap and thought she may be in my age group. There was no chance of me running at the pace she was going anyway, foot problem or no foot problem! Sure enough on questioning my support crew on the next lap I was advised I was in 2nd.  They felt that if I maintained my pace I should keep my 2nd place. That was going to be the hardest thing to do though. My knee that had become sore on the bike now felt like it was tightening up as did the quad on that side. I guess it wasn’t helped by my slightly adapted run gait either which involved my left leg doing much more work than my right.

How I managed to maintain my speed I do not know but I did and I am astounded and so very happy with the outcome of 2nd in AG and a spot to race at the 70.3 World Championships in Tennessee! It was also a big PB on a true distance course.

Strava link: 

https://www.strava.com/activities/1042432135



Thank You’s!:

Huge thanks as ever to my sponsors. The team at Cadence Performance/Giant Radlett. Their support with bikes and excellent maintenance and mechanical skills enables me to race and train on amazing bikes.

Simon Costain at the Gait and Posture Centre has been invaluable at using his expertise to literally keep me on my feet.  I’m awaiting surgery to remove an extra growth of bone on the back of my heel. The bone is rubbing on the bursa and Achilles’ tendon which at times makes it difficult for me to even walk normally. My latest orthotics are definitely helping to take the strain.

Gareth Ziyambi at A2Z Elite Health for all the physio and massage that also helps to keep me race fit.

Martin, my husband, for his unrelenting support and encouragement and of course the others in Denmark who all played a role in my achievement our hosts Kris & Jackie; fellow competitors and good buddies Kevin & Farouk and the all important support crew Simon, Svenja & Celeste. Thanks also to all the friends, family and fellow Tri Londoners at home who provide me with a constant source of encouragement, messages, social media likes & kudos!

 

The Commando – 2016

November 21, 2016

Sunday 13th November 2016

The Commando is a 6km trail race with 18 obstacles throughout which are designed to give the participants the opportunity to experience the mud, sweat and pain of real, modern day commando training with 18 gruelling obstacles over a wild terrain course. Many of the obstacles were designed to be exact replicas of the training obstacles found at the Royal Marines Commando Training Centre in Devon including a 30m neck deep wading pool and the dreaded Sheep Dip – a 2m long tube submerged in muddy water. It is designed to be challenging for the participants. Alison Mead and I wanted a tough challenge last year and had an absolute blast so when we were invited back we jumped at the chance.

The course is pretty challenging for anyone – I think all those that participated will agree. Can you imagine undertaking it blindfolded?! Let me introduce you to Alison. Alison has a B1 classification from British Blind Sport having lost her sight in 2005. She is one tough cookie and since being introduced to her by British Triathlon in 2014 I am honoured and privileged to guide for her. There is no stopping her, she shows no fear, it was not easy, we struggled in thick mud, I tumbled and pulled Alison down, Alison tumbled and pulled me down but we had a barrel of laughs!

We knew the drill this time around and after arriving at the stunning  Hever Castle on a beautiful winters day we were really excited. Martin was looking after Ted, Alison’s awesome guide dog as well as playing Chief Photographer. We were greeted by Yvonne as we signed on and swiftly made our way to get our camouflage make up and do a quick interview before heading to the warm up arena for a beasting before we had even started the race!


The Race!

After our race briefing from the Commando in Chief, Brian Adcock we were on our way. Brian kindly makes our participation at this race possible.

 

 

Obstacle No.1 – Estuarine Immersion

 

This doesn’t look hard from the photo but it is a 20m long mud run and we were up to the top of our thighs in thick mud. It sucked us in, each step we took was slow, the river bed was very uneven and when you hung around trying to stabilise yourself you sunk so far in you couldn’t pull your leg back out! It took us a while but thankfully we didn’t lose a shoe or end up totally immersed in it!

Obstacle No.2 – Tunnel Rats

 

Next up, two 10m long winding tunnels crafted out of wriggly tin and earth. We had to crawl through on our hands and knees. I attached our usual run tether to my leg for Alison to follow me through.  Ted was keeping a watchful eye as we emerged. 

Obstacle No. 3 – Smarty Tubes

 

An 8m long and 2’ wide drainage pipe sunk into the ground and semi-immersed in muddy water. Again Alison followed me through whilst holding on to the tether attached to my ankle.

 

Obstacle No.4 – The Wires

 

This doesn’t sound difficult but we had to crawl under or over a 40m long stretch of wooded clearing with many wires criss-crossing the path with loud gun-fire sounding and smoke belching out at us. There were also fallen trees to navigate and the ground was muddy and extremely uneven.

Obstacle No.5 – Slippery Slope

 

A 30m long steep muddy slope with large ropes hanging down to assist our progress. As well as struggling up the steep slippy slope there were several banks of mud to navigate over too. The photo doesn’t do it justice whatsoever.  Every footstep taken slipped. With the uneven ground and the sudden drop after the banks of mud it was tricky to keep your balance.  It looks easy from the top!

Obstacle No.6 – Monkey Bars

 

Whilst I took the monkey bars Alison made her way across a balance beam.  I think the bars were easier than the beam.   Balancing when you cannot see is very tricky. Have you ever tried standing on one leg with your eyes shut? I fall over straight away!

Obstacle No.7 – Scramble Net


A replication of climbing up the sheer side of a ship – this was a 10m high scramble net laid onto tyres up the face of a vertical mud bank. No stopping Alison, she was up it in a jiffy!

Obstacle No.8 – Doom Drop

​​ 

This remains our favourite obstacle – a 30m slippery slide with a steep entry and long run off. This year we bombed down it together. It was a bit bumpy on the bum but as much fun as we remember – its fast – assisted by water and washing up liquid!

Obstacle No.9 – Catacombs of Doom

 

This is a 30m long cave system originally tunnelled out by Lord Astor’s workers on the estate at the same time as they were digging out the lake. Its pitch black in here – I really think Alison should have been guiding me through!

Obstacle No. 10 – Peter’s Pool



A large 30m wide clay pit once used for brick making and now filled with chest deep muddy water – pretty chilly water at that! The descent into it was less than easy too! There were fallen trees submerged under the water ready to catch us out!
Obstacle No. 11 – Creepy Crawly

  

A 12m low scramble net supported on scaffold poles over a muddy section of ground. No problemo! We were muddy and wet already! Ted was still thinking we were mad though!

Obstacle No. 12 – River Cross

 

A crossing of the River Eden using tensioned ropes.  The hard part was lowering ourselves in – the easy bit getting wet!

Obstacle No. 13 – The Chasm

 

A 20m crossing of another clay marlpit filled with muddy water. Huge kudos to Alison for this one – she was on her own. Up on the wires before I knew it and off she went – I was on the rope opposite only able to give her voice guidance and she was not phased in the slightest in spite of being suspended above water for the 20m crossing.

Obstacle No.14 – The Blocker

 

A 6ft obstruction of piled up logs – literally a 6ft high wall and Alison was up and over it like a shot!  No photographic evidence for this one. Apparently Ted refused to cross the river to get there – he didn’t want to get wet!

Obstacle No.15 – The Frogger

 

A 15m crossing of the River Eden on inflatable tyres – might look easy but it wasn’t! They were unstable and slippery!

Obstacle No.16 – Wobbly Bridge

 

Exactly as it sounds – a 20m long wobbly bridge! Plastic containers tied together made for a tricky crossing which wasn’t wide enough for us to go side by side but we didn’t fall in!

Obstacle No. 17 – Sheep Dip

 

The dreaded sheep dip! A 2m long drainage pipe submerged in freezing cold muddy water – Alison was gone through in a flash and I followed straight after. It was chilly and not too palatable!!

From here we had a lovely run back to the final obstacle and finish line via the grounds and gardens of Hever Castle.  Goodness knows what the public, who had come out for a Sunday afternoon stroll, thought they had come across! However , the backdrop of the castle was so stunning Ted made us pose for a photo with him 🙂

 

Obstacle No. 18 – The Wall

 

The final obstacle before the finish line – a 12 foot high wall with trail rope and foot holds. Again Alison flew over this – nobody helping and nothing tied to us to make us think we were safe!

 

 

Yay! We made it for the second time and definitely had just as much fun. It was a cold day but with beautiful blue sky and sunshine and of course we were warmed up with the lovely warm showers:

  

We would like to say a huge thank you to Brian Adcock, Yvonne Turner and everyone at The Commando Series for making this possible for us. For all the commandos & volunteers the whole way round who gave us so much encouragement and made sure we were safe. To Martin, chauffer, photographer and Ted minder.  Ted definitely was worn out by the whole experience!


In addition we would like to thank Lesley Keddy and all of Alison’s guides many of whom are part of the Ricky Running Sisters. Park Run of course deserves a special mention as this is where Alison predominantly does her training. Then there is of course the support that I get that keeps me trained up and able to guide from both Giant Radlett who support my training in general and Simon Costain at The Gait & Posture Centre who literally keeps me on my awkward feet.

We cannot recommend this event highly enough – it is simply so much fun. Here is hoping we will be back in 2017 for a bigger and better Commando!

Alison you are courageous, fearless, gutsy and an absolute inspiration to me.  Thank you for trusting me to do these crazy things with you!

St James’ Place Foundation Triathlon – St Albans – 16th October 2016

November 15, 2016

Swim 400m

Bike 21km

Run 5 km

Can you imagine swimming 400m in a pool with obstacles that you’ve never swum in before? Jumping on the back of a tandem in torrential rain and putting your life in the hands of someone else for 13 hilly mills on busy roads and country lanes? Finishing that lot off with a hilly run through puddles in the rain on uneven paths and country lanes with no footpaths all the while being blindfolded?

Let me introduce you to Alison Mead who represented Tri London at a sprint triathlon in St Albans this year.  Alison has a B1 classification from British Blind Sport having lost her sight in 2005.  This is the second time I have guided Alison at a triathlon and she did herself proud finishing with fantastic times.

Our swim was 400m in a pool but although we had a lane to ourselves unfortunately there were a set of steps at the end of the pool which made things slightly tricky!  Nonetheless we had a great swim.

 

Next up was the tandem ride from St Albans pretty much all uphill to Shenley Village.  From here we took a tour of some of the sleepy country lanes.  The weather was atrocious though, pouring rain and pretty dark.  We kept our spirits high and powered our way up all the hills and were very happy with our bike split, finishing in the top half of the field.  We made our way back to the transition area to begin our soggy run.

 

We were delighted to have some supporters braving the inclement weather.  Martin was around the race base taking photos and as we were running Lesley, one of Alison’s guides popped up to give us a cheer.

 


In spite of the weather we had a fantastic time and were delighted with our result.  

We were very appreciative of the support and help we had with logistics from the organisers, Hope & Home’s for Children.  In addition we would like to thank all of the people that sponsored us we managed to raise a whopping £482.04 for Hope & Homes for Children.  Finally we must give a special mention to everyone that makes these events possible for us.  From Marty, our photographer and Chief Supporter to Kay Tang from CYCLEdude who not only services the tandem for Alison but also got up at sillyo’clock to transport her to the race.  Then of course there are all the wonderful people that guide for Alison and the fantastic Lesley Keddy who keeps the whole rota organised.  Without everyone’s help entering these events wouldn’t even be an option.  I’d also like to thank Giant Radlett who support me with all things bike & Simon Costain at the Gait and Posture Centre who literally keep me on my feet!

 

The Cowman – Middle Distance Triathlon – Sunday 4th July 2016

July 8, 2016


Swim – 1.9km       32:37

T1                               2:07

Bike – 92 km          2:53

T2                               1:45

Run – 21 km            1:50

Total                          5hrs 20 mins

 7th lady

2nd AG FV40-50

Winner of Tri London Middle Distance Club Championships!

Pre-Race

I had less than ideal race prep for this event as my good friend Alison Mead had been asked to attend the parkrun Ambassadors Conference as Guest Speaker. This was a very worthy distraction from my race. The parkrun team are incredible. Their passion for parkrun and the inclusion of all is overwhelming and it was a real honour for us to talk about our roles. Alison spoke as a visually impaired runner and myself as her guide to an audience keen to promote VI running & guides at their weekly parkruns. 


I am extremely appreciative to Giant Radlett for making Alison’s attendance at this conference possible and also to Lesley Keddy, Kaye & Rose a few of Alison’s guides from Ricky Running Sisters that stood in for me at the local school fun day at very short notice in order that I could bring Alison to this conference.

So I arrived home late the night before the race. I had wanted to make some fairly significant changes to my TT bike. Giant had ordered me some lower spacers for my aerobars and I was keen to try them in a race environment prior to my iron distance race at the European Long Course Champs in three weeks time. As a result of a neck injury I have been riding on raised aerobars for the last 18 months but really was not very aero at all. So on Saturday night I dropped the bars 4 cm(!) and rushed around the flat trying to put all my race kit together.

It was an early start at 4 am the next day, leaving home after an early breakfast at 4:45 and arriving at the race at 5:25 am all in good time for registration and plenty of time for organsising myself in transition before it shut at 6:45 am.

Its great to race at Club Champs races as there are usually always plenty of friendly club mates around and this race was no exception.

It was a warm morning and good weather was forecast. The sun was already up for the race briefing. Shortly after we were in the water of the lake at Emberton Country Park having a brief warm up before the gun fired to signify the start.

The Swim:

A beautiful lake with clear water that felt lovely and clean. The temperature was slightly warmer than the outside air temperature so it felt very pleasant. We had a two lap swim and the only real difficulties were:

  • pretty significant argy bargy at the start because of the mass start
  • shallow water at one part of the lake where my hands couldn’t fail to scrape along the bottom of the lake and
  • a particularly tricky bit of sighting towards the end of the laps when we were swimming into direct sunlight which was completely blinding!

However no real mishaps and I was pleased to exit the water in 32:37, must have been the mass start that helped me J

T1

I was delighted to see that my neighbour’s bike was still on the rack, she had looked super fit and serious when I met her in the morning! All in all a relatively quick transition for me in just over 2 mins.

The Bike

The Cowman bike was hillier than I remembered but then it was six years ago when I last did this race! I worked hard on the bike as my running is still not up to scratch having been out of action for a few months. The field was relatively sparse and I was only overtaken by a handful of men, overtook plenty myself and was pleased that no ladies overtook me.

It was only two weeks since my 70.3 race in Denmark so I was pleased with my performance in spite of a slightly sore left knee which is still bothering me. My average speed was 19.8 mph and the bike course slightly long at 92k so I was happy with my 2hr 53 bike split.

T2

Again not to shabby for me and my neighbours bike wasn’t back in transition which pleased me even more though I suspected she would probably catch me on the run.

The Run

The run is hilly and predominantly off road. I am still employing my run walk strategy at a 9 min run/1 min walk ratio due to my recent Achilles injury. It was hot and I became very itchy with bad urticaria which was quite stressful but fortunately it didn’t develop into anything more serious (I suffer with exercise induced anaphylaxis) and I managed to finish the run albeit slightly behind my neighbour from transition who ended up winning our age group.

It was great fun being surrounded by the other Tri Londoners and even some support on the sidelines. I was delighted to be the first lady home for Tri London and 2nd in my 10 year age group at the race!

I feel I had a solid race in spite of my recent problems with running and am now looking forward to the European Long Course Championships in Poland! A little over two weeks to go!

Huge thanks once again to my sponsors Giant Radlett & Cadence Performance for their amazing support and my beautiful Giant Trinity race bike, it really is super fast and comfy with it. Also to Simon Costain at The Gait & Posture Centre for keeping me on my feet and to the never ending encouragement of my family, fellow Tri Londoner’s, Team Oxygenaddict & friends. 

Here’s hoping my good fortune can continue in Poland!

Ironman Kronborg 70.3 – 29th June 2016

June 28, 2016

 

Short Report:

1.9 km Swim – 34:54

T1 – 6:57 (including ½ a mile run from swim to mount line!)

90 km Bike – 2:47:59

T2 – 3:59

21 km Run – 1:50:35

Total: 5hrs 24 mins 24 secs – 3rd in AG and a place at the World Champs 70.3!

The Longer Version:

Having raced two full iron distance triathlons in Denmark, the most recent just in August last year, and having good friends that live in Copenhagen I jumped at their idea of racing Kronborg 70.3.

I love middle distance events but have never actually raced in a 70.3 Ironman branded event before. Soon after Ironman Copenhagen a few of us signed up.

I had less than ideal race preparation with an injury to my Achilles in March this year which kept me from running until just over two weeks from the race.  My entire run training was run/walk for a 3 mile, 4 mile, 5 mile, 6 mile and a 9 mile run.  I didn’t believe I would be competitive and really just wanted to enjoy my first race of the season and use it as a good warm up for the European Long Course Champs next month. I was hoping to swim and bike well but for the run I had planned to continue with my 9 mins running followed by 1 minute walking in order to preserve my Achilles.

 My husband Martin, Farouk a friend and I flew in to Copenhagen a few days before the race and after a night in the city we headed up to Hornbaek just a few miles from the race venue of Helsingor where our friends have a lovely log cabin.

The stunning Kronborg Castle is the backdrop to the race base and we were to swim in the old ferry terminal. 


The day before the race we were studying the route of the swim and I was dismayed to see loads of jelly fish. I hate them!! Up until that point I had no pre-race nerves but all of a sudden that changed quite majorly!

 

Race start for the ladies wave was a leisurely 09:30 am but transition closed at 8:00 am so it meant lots of standing around in pretty chilly weather. However it did mean that we could watch our friends do their swim. I’m not so sure that was a great idea either though as I could see the jelly fish still in abdundance and also hadn’t realised we had to jump or dive into the water from the jetty and there was no option for any water acclimatisation. More angst!!  I was trying to stay calm as stress before exercise is a major factor in setting off my anaphylaxis.

 The Swim


Soon enough we were off and actually the first part of jumping in wasn’t so bad after all. At 16 degrees the water was a degree or two warmer than the outside air temperature so it was pleasantly warm. The swim would have been lovely had it not been for the darn jellyfish! Putting my fingers into them and feeling them bump against my face or leg had me flailing around in a panic on several occasions and squealing so loud I was probably heard in Sweden.  

On the plus side it probably made me swim a tad faster than I have been recently. Two laps of the old ferry terminal, nice and protected was done and dusted in 34 minutes and the guys helping us exit literally plucked me from the water and swung me up onto the carpet. Awesome!
T1

 

Managed a quick glimpse of Martin as I ran to our bags and the change tent. Transition for me was relatively quick by my standards but as the whole distance from swim exit to the bike mount line was half a mile it still took almost 7 minutes. Also we had to run in our bike shoes if we weren’t prepared to do a running mount.

 The Bike


Two loops, pretty fast and scenic heading north along the coast road. It was windy but pretty flat apart from a small undulating section inland halfway round the first loop. It was crowded and I was working hard to overtake as many people as possible. I was aware that I was pushing harder than I would normally but knew that I would only be run/walking on the half marathon so felt I could race a bit harder than usual. However on the second loop most of the guys had disappeared since many had a 90 minute head start on us and I found it hard to stay motivated with a dramatically thinned out field.  The wind also picked up a bit and I had developed a pain in my left knee which was clearly having an impact on my power and speed which both dropped.  I am also ridiculously high on my aerobars at the moment due to my neck injury end of 2014 into 2015.  Nonetheless I was pleased with my 2 hr 48 bike split and an average speed of 20.3 mph.

T2

Managed to become disorientated and couldn’t find my bag in spite of rehearsing the position of both bags several times in the morning. Their numbering was not straightforward either but eventually a marshall came to my rescue and I was out on the run in just under 4 mins.

The Run

This was a lovely run on some trails around Kronborg Castle then out and around the fluro green lighthouse in the old ferry terminal then through the pedestrianised section of the town. 


Loads of support most of the way around. Most importantly Martin was at the aid station which we passed by twice on each of our 5k loops. I spent the first 7 miles being strict with my run/walk strategy. 9 minutes running/1 minute walking and the places that I lost on my walk I soon caught up again when I started to run and was averaging 5:20 min/km. Realistically I was not going to be able to go much faster than that with only five runs in my legs and 27 miles in the last couple of weeks.

So on I trotted. It was fab seeing Martin at the aid station each time I passed. At half way he told me I was only 36 seconds away from the 3rd placed lady in my age group. Whaaaaaat?! 

I was shocked but of course didn’t know if this girl was gaining time off me or if anyone was behind me running faster and about to catch me. Never mind. My Achilles felt reasonably ok so I decided to push the pace a little and just walk the short distance through the aid station twice on each 5k lap. By now it was pretty warm and I was starting to feel thirsty so knew I needed to take on fluids properly. By the last time I passed Martin at the aid station, Kris my Danish friend who had also been racing was with him and Martin sternly told me to put my cup down and run and Kris shouted that I had to make up 17 seconds! I ran not knowing if anything they were saying to me was true or if they were just trying to get me to run faster! I was trying to look for people that may have been in my age group but it was impossible. No-one had calf markings so I just had to run as hard as I could.
I crossed the finish line in 5 hrs 24 mins and 24 secs which is a PB over that exact distance by about 3.5 mins though these transitions were also much longer than my previous race PB. 

After finishing I had no idea where I had placed since no apps or result trackers were working. The boys thought I may have caught 3rd place but because we had a drip feed into the swim it was about half an hour before it was official that I was 3rd!!!!

Wowza – over the moon I am!

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever stand on the podium at an ironman event.


The shocks didn’t stop there either! When I went to the Awards Ceremony I found out I had qualified for the 70.3 World Champs in Mooloolaba in September!


Huge thanks as ever to my sponsors – Giant Radlett & Cadence Performance this was the first race on my beautiful new Liv Trinity and I just love this bike. The support I get from these guys is phenomenal & I really do feel privileged.

Funny my bike, Bindi, hails from Australia seemingly she must want to pay her home country a visit!

Thanks also to Simon Costain at the Gait & Posture Centre who literally keeps me on my feet. Last minute adjustments to my orthotics a week ago have made an incredible difference to my comfort when running.

I’d also like to thank Martin my long suffering husband who I regularly wake up at an unearthly hour of the morning to tell him I’m off training! His support out in Copenhagen was truly fantastic. Without him and Kris pushing me I am pretty sure that the 3rd place spot would never have been mine.

Thanks to our hosts Kris & Jackie for taking great care of us and to Farouk for his company too, we had a lot of laughs this week.

Finally to my Tri London buddies, Regents Park Cyclists, Team Oxygenaddict & friends and family. Thanks for all your messages of support – you’re awesome – all of ya!