Monday, 21 May 2018

Do I really want to do this???

Saturday 19th May was my second attempt at qualifying for the Glasgow Triathlon European Championships, sprint distance.

I'd tried back in September 2017 and got a ranking of 109%. With 60 athletes trying to get 25 places, my odds weren't really that high. So I was approaching this race with caution, and not being an 'A' race, didn't put too much emphasis on the event. Being a sprint, its short and fast, and with a qualifying Olympic distance 'A' race in 2 weeks time, I was happy just to see how I fared in the field of something realistically out of my reach.

That didn't mean I didn't stress over it, nor have rubbish nights sleep the two days before, and a migrane aura the day before - all working against a half decent race. So I got up early, drove to Nottingham on the morning of the event, and arrived with a good 90 minutes spare to register and rack.

200 women went off at 10:15 for the 750m swim in the rowing lake. I can safely say I would much rather be ontop that lake than inside it! It was the most hideous triathlon swim I have ever done. I couldn't breathe or see, and was being elbowed, kicked, jostled and pushed for the first 500m. I had to do breastroke (something I haven't done for 10 years in a race) to get my breath back, and could feel myself moving further and further down the pack. At one point I was ready to roll on my back, put my hands up and give up the whole thing. I also thought 'if this is what the EU Champs is like, I don't want to be there'.

But I carried on, got some sort of rythmn in the last 200m and have never been so pleased to get out of the water!

Feeling despondent, I transitioned as quickly as I could and got on the bike. 4 laps of the lake, no drafting allowed, and lots of leap-frogging with similar-paced athletes. I managed a steady 34kph throughout. Happy with that, it's almost what I've done in time trials with no bends or corners. 35kph would have taken an extra 30s off my time, which I could probably save on transition somewhere!

Onto the run. I set off at 4:27 min/km. WAY faster than I could sustain. So I mentally gave myself a talking to, to slow it down and succeeded in speeding up for the next Km! Feeling good I maintained a 4:27 pace throughout, finally running the best 5k I've ever ran. Amazing.

So, despite a terrible start to the race, I ended up in 5th place in my age group, out of 28. This MAY get me a qualifying place as the lady in 2nd wasn't trying to qualify which means my position is 4th.... as far as I understand. But the dark art of BTF age group qualification eludes me, so I will have to await the official results from Triathlon England, and try not to get my hopes up!

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Recovery from injury

Back in November 2017 I pulled a calf muscle in my left leg. It was mostly preventable at the time, because I did a long hard run, then immediately afterwards went on a 1 hour walk and a 1 hour walk/run with my beginner runners. I then did a brick session 2 days later.

Hindsight is a great thing but the journey I have gone through since then has shown that there was so much more to it than just over training.

I realised my calves had been tight for a year. A year of harder racing, and of new minimalist shoes. Not until I went to a physio, a running coach and podiatrist did I realise that 1) I needed to run better and 2) I needed to be more sensible with my shoe selection.

I took two months off running. That was tough. Whilst I could swim and bike and do S&C, I was mildly concerned that my running speed and efficiency would suffer and take a long time to return to pre-injury state. But I had my physio assessment which told me I was well balanced (some would disagree), strong and flexible and in essence, no reason for the injury to re-occur.

So I got back into running slowly - run/walks, building up slowly to 5k then 8 and then 10k. Hard runs were still hurting the calves and then the right calf started hurting.

Eventually I came to the realisation that perhaps the shoes were causing a problem. A trip to the podiatrist confirmed this, and that the 6mm drop in my lovely fast race shoes were not good for my feet which naturally have a higher heel than toe (not normal, apparently).

I'm pleased to say that back into running again, with tentative calves, my speed is as fast as before. in fact my duathlon this February was 1 min per 5k faster than last year. Very happy about that, and it goes to show that some time out of training doesn't cause too much harm in the
long run.

Pumping Marvellous

A couple of months ago, I walked up Snowdon with a charity called Pumping Marvellous, led by some ex-SAS and marines from Intrepid Adventures.

The aim was to raise awareness of patients with heart failure and several of the walkers that joined us did so because they had a friend or relative with heart failure. They wanted to experience the breathlessness that their loved ones experience on a daily basis just by going through their daily activities.

We were each given a heart rate monitor from 'MyZone' and once we had uploaded our personal details such as height and weight onto the App, it was able to track our activity during the day. The idea was that the charity would analyse our activity results at the end of the day and compare them to those of the heart failure patients.

At the end of the day my App told me I had burnt 2750kCal, walked 18k in 8:41hrs. My average Heartrate was 103 and maximum was 158bpm. MyZone allows one to compare workouts with friends and earn "MEPs" as part of that competition. Our guide swears by it and uses as daily as his main workout tracker. Certainly the belt was easy to wear and use, and if you're a competition soul, it could be the App of choice.

Snowdon was, as ever, wet and cold at top, the views were poor. It was still beautiful, atmospheric and green. We walked up the Watkins path which started steady and easy then in the last 400m of ascent, it became steeper and looser under foot. The steps became larger, causing the legs and lungs to work harder. That's when the heartrate would have hit the 158bpm maximum. For me, that is around 87% of my maximum, and not at all challenging. Running at 177bpm is possible for me, and regularly happens!

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Swim Camp Lanzarote days 1-3

Day three of my attendance at Tri50 swim camp in Lanzarote run by Jo Lewis and Sandra Barden.The weather is glorious (a tad windy), the beds hard as boards, and the company lots of fun. so far!

The camp started on Sunday night with a meetup of all 13 athletes and a long introductory session over a beer. We learnt about the experience of the other athletes, their reasons for being on the camp, plus some 'interesting' facts which mostly ended up being who had met someone famous.

The first day wasn't too tough. We had some video analysis and CSS testing in the morning, with feedback in the afternoon. CSS stands for Critical Swim Speed and is used as a training tool based on your aerobic ability to swim 400m then 200m as fast as possible. CSS is in fact a number which is your 100m pace, used to increase aerobic endurance over time. All very technical, and particularly good when you have a coach that sets you CSS swim sessions throughout the winter.

The video analysis is always exceptionally useful, as with anything, you often think you know what you are doing but in reality its often very different! I had had a video analysis 18 months previously and so I was keen to see what had changed. As it turned out, not a huge amount! I still had a left hand 'shimmy' thanks to the catch being in the wrong position......something to work on during the rest of the week.

The next two days involved two lots of sea swims and two lots of pool swims, and I decided to throw in a couple of bike rides for good measure.

At the end of day three I can safely say I am looking forward to my bed in 4 hours time!

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Having a coach really works!

In January I started with my coach.
This year I have achieved the following AG results:
2nd place in first ever duathlon in January at Eton Dorney
1st place in sprint triathon in Berkhamsted in April
6th place at Windsor standard distance triathlon in June
1st place at Woburn Abbey sprint distance in September
8th place at Thorpe Park sprint distance in September and possible AG qualification......

Having a coach really works. I have done more races than I normally would, meaning I have gained more race experience, also meaning that I have more confidence. And the results speak for themselves. I also no longer think that I am 'playing' at triathlon and feel I can call myself a triathlete.

As an example, I now put myself at the front of the swim, rather than the back - because I now know it will give me the best chance in the race, get clear water (as I did at Woburn) and get out on the bike quicker.

But its hard work. The training sessions are tough and can be relentless, when the legs are tired and there is another session of hills, or sprints, or another lung-busting swim set. When I look at the training plan and wonder how on earth I'll be able to complete the session, and my head is questioning my ability the whole way through, until the final couple of repetitions when i think 'thank god, its nearly over but I did it!'

But it also means I don't overtrain. I train smarter and get more rest than I would if i were left to my own devices. And I am getting results.

Its going to be a long Winter but I'm looking forward to next years challenges, races, results.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Peer pressure and screaming legs

For the last few days I have had my best girlfriends with me at my mums villa in the Algarve.
There were 6 of us and words don't describe how much fun it was and how lucky I am to have such an amazing group of friends.

But this blog is mostly about sport and team work. Four of these girls I spent a summer with in 2005 training for racing in a lightweight coxless four rowing boat. Without realising, that summer we cemented a life long friendship and formed the most solid bond you could between friends; trust, honesty, competitiveness and loyalty. And I didn't really know them before we started training together that Spring. It took just five months in a boat.

Through our mutual desire to succeed and win, we went through calorie-deprived arguments (discussions), relationship and work stresses, self doubt, and negative energies from other coaches & crews. Together we helped each other get through all of this and we did win. We won Henley and the National Championships. Together. As a team. We learnt a lot about each other, and its left us with a very honest and healthily competitive relationship.

The reason I'm writing about this is because of how they still have a positive effect on my training. We now don't row together. One of us is an amazing marathon runner, the other does little sport but has an active outdoor life in Devon, and the other has a mental strength that pushes her through anything she puts her mind to. But this week we cycled together on holiday.

Because we have been through so much together and have so much trust in each others ability, we are a great team. We know how to work on each others strengths and weaknesses, supporting and pushing each other to the end.

Our last ride together this week was a toughie - steep hills; over six of them in a 30k ride. At a max HR of 170bpm on a couple of occasions I know I wouldn't have pushed myself so hard in any other training - they brought out the best in me, because competition between us is healthy and FUN.

In the last hill I had stupidly considered taking it easy, until one of the girls cruised past me saying 'I thought this was supposed to be a hill session miss smith'.......well that was red rag to a bull! Three of us then raced up the last hill, legs screaming, lungs bursting, until we got to the top, and could then cruise down to coffee and cake.

I also learnt something that at a ripe old age of 48 I should know by now...that you can do anything you want to. You have to put your mind to it and you have to face the fear and just do it. Practice will make perfect.

Thanks for an awesome weekend girls, you're amazing and I love you lots. You've inadvertently helped me in my triathlon training as I'm sure my bike legs are stronger than they were, thanks to your persistent cajoling.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

A win!

Whooo hooo!!

I came first in my age category (40-50) at Berkhamsted Triathlon at the weekend, and 3rd female overall. £25 prize money in the bank!

It was a lovely race: the bike was on familiar country roads through Wigginton, Cholesbury and Tring. A little bumpy& gritty in places, but that's part of riding on Hertfordshire roads, and was expected. The run was lovely, once you got over the 1km uphill at the very start - but hey, from there, there were some lovely downhills, great views over rolling hills, and mostly on paths and trails. A second nasty hill on the run nearly reduced me to a walk, but I kept going. At a 5:12min per K pace, i was fairly happy.

The swim was a pool swim and the hardest bit was the turns as we had to duck under a lane rope at each second length. And I have just realised that for 400m we swam 16 lengths, meaning the pool must've been 20m, and more turns than usual! No wonder I was a little slower than expected.

Oddly, the night before the race I was feeling quietly confident: I suspected it might be a small event and the competition not too tough, but you never know until you're in it. You don't know how you'll feel on the day or who you're going to be up against. The stars just aligned on that day, and I'd like to think the training is paying off.

One thing I'm clear about is that at last my race running is getting easier on the legs and lungs, so much so that I also look forward to the run leg of the event! Freaky!