Monday, 24 August 2015

A 10k warning

This weekend after working a 70 hour week, I ran the Birchwood 10k. I was tired, really tired, but having not had the chance to run all week I was looking forward to getting out with the club and taking my weary legs for a jaunt.

It was a really hot and muggy morning and I only really noticed this when we actually started going. The heat and my tiredness made for hard work and when I reached the 5k mark I knew it was time to stop thinking about finish times and just concentrate on getting round. I slowed a little but kept going as much as I could. I can't honestly tell you much about the course - it was fine. A mixture of paths and roads and from what I remember not much shade. There were a couple of little inclines, mostly bridges over main roads, and I was thankful for the downhill that came with these. The kilometres passed by - 7 then 8 and then finally 9. Hurrah last stretch! I turned a corner and thankfully saw the finish line. I was pleased I'd not stopped the whole way in the heat and was so looking forward to finishing the run and cooling down. This race was never going to go down in my running history as a great run, but I was pleased I'd given my best on the day.

That was until 300m from the finish line a girl in front of me totally collapsed. It was horrible. I stopped along with another runner and we tried to break her fall a bit and he managed to lie her down and get her in the recovery position, while I ran back to the last marshal I'd seen to tell them we needed the medics. She couldn't talk and was really hot. When I got back to her thankfully a spectator with water was also helping. Another girl up ahead seemed to be in the same situation on the ground.

It was horrible and it really scared me. Everyone running past us looked exhausted and it made me realise how important it is to be sensible. Chasing PBs and giving all we have is part of most of our running, but it should not at the expense of our health. I know I'm definitely guilty of thinking 'it's only 10k' or 'only' such and such distance but these distances and the running conditions on the day should be respected and not underestimated.

So this race served as a bit of a warning to me. Remember to listen to your body and stop if you need to. No finish time is worth it.

Monday, 10 August 2015

London Triathlon Race Report: No longer curious...

...I am an official TRIATHLETE!

Triathlon DONE
16 weeks ago we were all total novices to the sport of triathlon and strangers to each other, but yesterday we spent the day cheering each other on, laughing, crying, ringing cowbells, shouting like lunatics and navigating our way together through the London Triathlon. Then we celebrated our successes with beer, medals and cake whilst cheering on the last of the runners. It was ace!

What a day. Arriving at the Excel was nerve wracking and complete bedlam. I had so many questions. Could I re-enter transition after I've racked my bike and before I got my wet-suit? Why were people milling about in transition when the race was on? What on earth do I eat for lunch??! I had never been so glad to get rid of my bike and leave it in transition before heading to meet the team who were in my wave. Finally meeting, relaxing in the sun together and cheering on our team members as they began their races was brilliant and totally calmed all my nerves. Then the first official Team Tricurious athlete arrived and we oohed and ahhed over her medal in awe. I was having so much fun I actually kept forgetting that we had to go and race, but soon enough the time had come. Off I went to transition, donned my wetsuit and out I went.

Nothing can prepare you for the swim start, you just have to experience it. My big plans of waiting 10 seconds after everyone had started and keep to the back and side didn't really pan out. I suddenly found myself somewhere in the middle of the pack and then the klaxon sounded and it was too late to move anywhere but forward. The amount of people and limbs around and indeed kicking you is mental and not a pleasant experience. With all the excitement and all those swimmers in such close proximity I could not get my breathing right in front crawl so I did breaststroke until I found more of an opening and got into my rhythm. I did as much front crawl as I could but it was pointless as there was no room. Thankfully towards the half way point, the pack thinned out and I was able to get going. I just wish my breathing had been under control but I felt too wound up in all the excitement. And then suddenly the end was near and after answering 'Yes thanks' to the nice marshal who asked if I was OK as I got out the water, I undid my wetsuit, and off I went. Off my wet suit came (thankfully I'd remembered Katie's tip of letting water in towards the end of my swim) and into transition I ran, past Jamie and my cheering supporters which gave me a massive boost. Phew swim done! Next!
Wow transition is long isn't it? Does this count as part of our run? I padded over to my area and seemed to go on autopilot. Helmet on. Socks on. Shoes on. Take a gel. Un-rack bike. 5 mins or so and suddenly I'm cycling. The bike course was longer than I expected. Every time I thought I'd reached the turning point it just kept going. Two laps of sheer concrete was not the most inspiring route but having my boyfriend and friends on course was brilliant and the lapped route meant I passed them a few times. You can see from the huge grin on my face how happy I was to hear and see them. I must admit I did a little tear at this point.  
I also caught up with Chrissy during the ride and after confirming we had definitely done two laps, we rode in together with my cheer squad cheering her in too.

London Triathlon - Swim, bike, run
The second transition was so much faster that I had to double check I didn't have my helmet on or anything. Nope, bike racked and I was good to go.

I'd been warned about the wobbly post cycle running legs, and I'd done a fair few brick sessions in training to try and get used to it. But I hadn't. My word they were like jelly running through treacle. Oof it was hard. The two lap course again helped mentally and although the running route was narrow with many twists and turns I actually quite enjoyed it. Although it was HARD. As a runner, I thought this would be my easiest section, but not after the swim and cycle. Running on tired legs in the beating hot sun is hard work. Still, passing the finishing line whilst heading out on to my second lap really gave me a boost. 'Just 2.5k and I'll be an actual triathlete' I thought. I'd opted to leave my running watch at home so had no idea what speed I was going but I knew it was slower than my normal 5k pace. But that was OK. As I always think in races, as long as I put in all the effort I can in that time on that day that's good enough. I did my very best and kept going. The looped course also meant that I could keep my eyes peeled for other Team Tricurious people on the other side of the route, and this kept my mind of it when the going got tough. Two showers on the running route meant we ran through little rainbows and the cool water felt amazing in the heat. Then suddenly I was heading up a steep ramp, turning back into the Excel and heading for a very short, but very determined sprint towards the finish line. Yey! I did it. Triathlon DONE.

I felt sick, happy and really quite emotional. I couldn't believe it was all over. Even though I found each section tough, I loved it. The swim was hard, the cycle was OK and the run was all over the place, but as I kept reminding myself, a challenge isn't there to be an easy ride. I had decided to not worry about times and just enjoy the experience but I expected the whole thing would take me about 2 hours, so I was over the moon when I got my time of 1.40.10 and looking at the results this is mostly down to my run and a swim PB! Not so slow after all!

Excitement on finding the finish line, beer and my cheer squad
But times do not matter. Without a doubt, the best part of the whole day and whole experience was sharing it with Team Tricurious, and having Jamie and my very loud and brilliant cheer squad supporting me at each and every stage (and acting as official Crandon race photographers!) I felt very emotional, and so much gratitude to them and everyone who sent me good luck messages on the day - thanks for all the support.

Having people to share your training woes, ask silly newbie questions, and cheer and support each other during training as well as the actual race was just brilliant. Rounding it off with the whole Tricurious gang in a little post race party, and cheering on other triathletes was the icing on the very tasty triathlon cake.

Team Tricurious

If numbers are your thing here are how mine add up:
Swim 18:36
T1 5.19
Bike 48.40
T2 2.14
Run 25.22
Total 01:40:10

Position 146 lady
33rd in my age category

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Triathlon - One week to go

A Team Tricurious Post

It's been 15 weeks since I received an email from Laura and Katie asking me if I wanted to do my first triathlon with them and be part of Team Tricurious, and now there is just one week to go until the big event. One week until I can hopefully call myself a triathlete.

A week to go
With four months of training under my belt, I not only can't quite believe how quickly the time has gone but also how much I've enjoyed it. The variety of training for three sports is really fun and as I've mentioned before, really sociable. I love running but found marathon training can get a bit monotonous and lonely; mixing it up with swimming and cycling has kept the boredom at bay. I've also enjoyed the freedom of not following a plan. When I missed running longer distances, I just built that in to my week and held back a bit on the other sports. When I was recovering from a half marathon I took to the open water instead. I realised that in both training and organisation, it's all about balance.

I'm also really pleased at how far I've come. When I first went for a tentative dip in the pool I was frustrated that I couldn't even swim a whole length of front crawl and couldn't fathom breathing on the go. Now I can bust out 800 metres in the pool. I can't manage this in the open water but back then, swimming outdoors was something other people did, not me. Now I get into the Quays usually twice a week and have really been surprised at my times decreasing, even with lots (and lots) of breaststroke thrown in.

Whilst I previously cycle commuted, I never traveled any distance further than 6 miles because I had no reason to. Triathlon training has pushed me to ride longer, discover new routes in and around my city and even enter my first cycling event. I have sought out longer rides, taking opportunities to cycle to far away places that I previously had always put in the 'too far away' file.

And I'm pretty sure adding cycling and swimming into my weekly training has helped my running come on. Over the past four months I've got running PBs in various length races and was just 10 seconds off of my half marathon PB the other week. But it's not all about the times; I've felt stronger in my legs and really looked forward to going running when I've been playing away with other training.

Whilst triathlon training has been fun and different, that's not to say I'm not nervous ahead of next week, I very much am. But I'm nervous about the unknown rather than the actual 'doing it' part. Before I was scared of having to be rescued in the swim but I know I can cover all the distances and I'm just trying to take a tip from Laura and Katie and think of the day as just doing three things I enjoy in quick succession, rather than my first triathlon. My main worry now is getting a puncture, forgetting to eat or fuel up during the triathlon and getting it very badly wrong in transition. But I guess this is all part of the 'first triathlon' fun.

I'll now be spending the next week worrying about whether I should be tapering or training, and practicing replacing an inner tube.