Seven weeks & counting…

The voice in your head is a liarIt’s only just dawned on me recently how incredibly close I am to doing this triathlon. I’m mildly panicked to say the least, not only have I not lost anywhere near enough weight but I’m worried about my lack of cycling. Both of these things are going to imapct on the final day. So serious head on, this is what I must do in the next 7 weeks…
1) Stick to my nutrition plan, as someone once said to me no one ever died of starvation between lunch and dinner…
2) Stick to my training plan, consistency goes hand in hand with success
3) Do my long bike rides, miles in the legs will give me payback on the day
4) Absolutely no alcohol…at all…really!
5) Do another triathlon but don’t cut off half the route (I’ll explain another time, but safe to say I’m now officially my club numpty!)
6) Bite size chunks, one day at a time…that kinda thing

Well, that’s the idea.

 

 

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Sunny Days & Half Marathons

The voice in your head is a liarThe last time I ran a half marathon was unintentional to say the least. Simon & I had gone to France to stay with his brother & wife in Small Hamlet close to the town of  Middle of Nowhere, it’s a lovely place! On our first morning there I said to my sister-in-law ‘So, where’s a good off-road route to run? Just a small loop will do, maybe 10k?’  She duly took me outside, walked me down the road a little bit until we came to a footpath with a red arrow and a white arrow. ‘Follow the red arrows, I’ve been told it’s a lovely loop, I’ve not done it before but definitely follow the red arrows. See you later’.  Well that was it, off I went from Small Hamlet close to Middle of Nowhere, no mobile phone, no Garmin, nothing just me & my thoughts.

Garibaldi's

Garibaldi biscuits, fondly referred to as squashed fly biscuits

After half an hour I thought this doesn’t feel right, I should be looping back by now but with Julie’s words ringing in my ears I carried on.  Another half an hour and still not looping back I noticed  two more arrows in the distance, one red and one white pointing in opposite directions but this time with numbers on.  Hurrah!, this should tell me how much further to go.  It turns out that the smaller red loop was 75km in total and the white loop 115km!  Oh dear.   I managed to find a main road, with a house that had an English car sitting outside, knocked on the door and the surprised woman showed me a map, gave me some water and a couple of Garibaldi biscuits to keep me going.

It turned out by the time I got back to the house I’d run 15 miles with most of it off-road. That was my last half marathon experience until two days ago.

As part of my plan to do the middle distance at the end of September I had to get one half marathon under my belt.  So I duly found one close to where I live.  Although I’ve been training hard over the last 3 months this didn’t mean I wasn’t nervous for obvious reasons. I’ve not run 13.1 miles for a long time, the majority of my running has been done to a low heart rate which in turn means far fewer miles, 7 at the most.

Coach Musty had put a plan together for me which went along the following lines…

First 30 mins @ 145
Second 30 mins @ 150
Third 30 mins @ 155
Fourth 30 mins @ 160

And so my heart sinks. The last time I ran to heart rate was for a 10k race about a month ago.  I never wrote about it as It was an utter disaster, nothing went to plan and it really knocked my confidence.  More than I let on to anyone so you can imagine the feelings & emotions running through my head building up to this and once I was on the start line.

This girl is on firePutting my nerves in a box and saving them for later I started racing.  I’d made a promise to myself not to look at my heart rate for the first 30 minutes in order to find my own pace and just relax into the race.  This lasted until the mile 1 marker.  12 mins, boy that’s slow but I had to keep to plan.  My heart rate was at about 160 but I was determined not to let this affect me.  I didn’t look again until the 3rd mile marker and thankfully my heart rate was at about 145, this I could live with.  The next 4 miles I tried hard to keep to plan and found that I was consistently within reach of the sub 4 hour runners for the full marathon which wasn’t too shabby I thought.

My legs felt strong so gradually I dropped the sub 4 hour group behind me. I got to mile 10 and thought right 3.1 miles left, let’s see what I’m capable of and off I went.  My heart rate went up to 170 and continued to climb steadily reaching 189 max and I’m passing lots of people now. I can’t believe this, I’ve stopped looking at my heart rate monitor and started to listen to my legs, they had the power to keep at this pace so when i went into the stadium and sprinted around the field to the finish line.  Emotions were beginning to bubble under and suddenley there I was at the finish line. I looked down at my watch to see the magic number 1 hour and 59 minutes and promply burst into tears.

I don’t care that I’m under 2 hours by 1 minute it’s just the fact that I’m under 2 hours. So I cried, wobbled around a bit, cried some more, got my medal, burst into tears again – you get the picture.  It truly was a pivotal moment in my training and actually believing in my own ability to do this, to stop listening to my head & my fears and to listen to my body.

 

 

Ever seen a monk on a bike?

Strike

I did, just yesterday! You see there’s a tube strike on in London at the moment and so the world and his wife (or monk) are trying to find other ways to get around town. As we have the delightful Boris Bike alot of people are choosing to use them. The sad fact is though that alot of these people show no road or bike sense at all so I thought I’d observe and complie a list of stupid, silly, outrageous things I’ve observed over the the week so let’s start with the monk on a bike…

Monk on a bicycle1) Monk on a bike, robes flowing behind him almost getting caught up in the back wheel. Next time I’ll suggest he hitch his robes up & tuck them into his pants, that’s if he wears pants, not too sure what the monk rule on this would be?

2) Woman in a short skirt (I’m sure she was wearing pants but to he honest I didn’t look)

3) Woman wearing designer high heels – yes I looked, what can I say they were gorgeous but not on a bike.

4) Man wearing espadrilles – nuff said.

Espadrilles

5) Lots of people NOT wearing helmets – seriously, if you’re not gonna wear a helmet don’t fall off in front of me, I do not want to be left on brain detail.

6) Man carrying a Tubor…or it could’ve been a french horn, I’m not really into brass instruments to be honest so it could’ve been either.

7) Man with long flowing locks & and even longer flowing beard. Nothing wrong with this apart from the fact that I really wanted to shout ‘Quick, look busy Jesus is coming!’

8) Man in flip flops – I’m saying nothing apart from road rash, no toe nails = ouch!

9) Pedestrians not looking – fine, go ahead, walk out into the road without looking to see if I’m charging along on my bike!

10) Bike users randomly stopping…without checking to see if anyone is behind them – that was interesting

11) Bike users turning left or right without indicating, just drifting along in thier own little world completely oblivious as to what’s going on around them.

12) Woman with a mobile phone held to her ear by a headscarf having a conversation whilst cycling – I kid you not!

13) People, just loads of people cycling along with ear phones on listening to music.  That’s 20% of your senses lost, gone, vamoosh! Good Luck.Pahley Bike rider

14) Trying to text/read a text…whilst cycling.  I’m saying nothing.

15) A lady on a Pashley wobbling along in the middle of the road in rush hour wearing a straw hat, linen dress, & strappy Sandels.

A particular favourite of mine were dapper gents in their designer suits & Italian brogues huffing & puffing whilst trying to cycle through the rush hour traffic, a slight glow to their red faces.

Boris on Boris Bike no helmet

A funny thing happened to me at the gym…

Well actually it wasn’t funny at all. I passed out on the treadmill whilst it was moving. This is not to be recommended, two bruised knees one a bloody mess, one bruised cheek & eye and one dented ego later I scuttled off to work with the thought of ‘I’ll just carry on as normal, everything’ll be fine’. But my body was having none of it. By lunchtime I was a mess and decided to go home and crawl into bed. I then spent the next 30 hours in bed, sleeping & generally feeling sorry for myself.

photo

This all started with a stomach bug over the previous 2 days. I’d been out for a run on the Saturday and knew half way round that something wasn’t right. I felt ill for the rest of the day so took the decision not to ride on the Sunday. So on the Sunday I did what any self-respecting triathlete would do, ignored my bug, played with the kids, mowed the lawn, did some food shopping and general household chores. Of course what I should’ve done is rested. Completely. But I didn’t. I went to bed on the Sunday evening and said to Simon one of three things will happen tomorrow 1) I’ll be fine and carry on as normal, 2) I’ll still feel ill but I’ll be well enough to work but not train or 3) I’m too ill so I’ll stay at home. I wish I’d chosen option 3. But I didn’t, the rest they say is history.photo (2)

The last 2 weeks have been an interesting learning curve for me. I think it’s fair to say that with a lot of triathletes the temptation is to ignore illness and just train on through – whatever you have will pass and besides, you have a training plan to stick to. There seems to be such a big culture these days of just ignoring your body when you’re ill and sometimes we can get away with this but when you train as hard and consistently as you do for a triathlon it makes it all the more important to listen to your body, stop and give it time to fix itself. The human body is an amazing machine made up of a very complicated system and if something mis-fires then the result can be catastrophic.

If we train too hard throughout an illness then our immune systems find it harder to cope and get back on an even keel. Too much intense exercise can decrease the body’s ability to fight off viruses. So if this is the case how best can I ward off illness and allow my body to function properly? I genuinely believe that a healthy, nutritious, balanced diet is the best starting point. I feed my body with food & drink that is nutritious – this is a no brainer for me. I’m not saying give up everything you love but just adapt to take things in moderation. Go back to making treats just that, a treat. How much better does a lovely chocolate brownie with a full fat cappuccino taste when you’ve not had one all week? Trust me it’s a true taste sensation disco going on in your mouth. I also still like to have the odd glass of wine but I understand and know the effect that it has on my body and my training the next day so I’ve made a conscious decision to cut back to one or two glasses once or twice a week. All of this should at least give my body a fighting chance to get itself back on track and in tip-top condition to fight any other nasty bugs lurking about. Now I just need to get back on that treadmill….

Turning a Corner

Success your go to itGood news, I turned a corner this week. Not a massive one but just enough to give me the psychological edge on my running.

I’ve been doing low heart rate training for a while now and not really seen any differences. I love the idea of low heart rate training, it’s given me time to notice what’s been going on around me rather than head down, heart exploding, legs aching & music blaring in my ears. That said there are days when I’ve been incrediably frustrated at times. In the beginning my runs were more walks just to keep my heart rate low. Not so this week, finally things seem to be falling into place.

I’m actually running for most of my runs – wahoo! I think I’ve cracked it!

So why bother with low heart rate training in the first place if I find it so frustrating? I’m bothering because I’ve seen first-hand how good the results are in other club members. Their running has improved massively in both speed and technique and to be honest I’ve felt for a long time that my running pace hasn’t improved and after some research and talking things over with other people I decided to give this method a go.

Here’s the science bit…listen carefully…

As a triathlete who’s looking to jump up from Olympic to Middle Distance I need to develop my speed, strength & endurance. Speed can be achieved by interval training. Strength through strength & core work sessions at the gym but endurance…this is the tough one. In order to increase my endurance I need to focus on low heart rate running & cycling in order to increase my aerobic engine. Once this aerobic engine has been achieved then any speedwork I have done will have an big impact on my fitness. To do this I have to be guided by my heart rate rather than the little monkey sitting on my shoulder shouting ‘faster!, faster!’

The thing with low heart rate training I’ve realised is that in order to go faster I have to go slower – bizarre. I also have to be committed 100% to this way of training otherwise it just wont work. I have to admit though that I’m beginning to enjoy the slower pace of running. I like the fact that I don’t feel shattered after a run, that my muscles aren’t sore and that my face no longer resembles a bright red beacon. I also love the fact that I’m burning fat efficiently, I’m losing weight and my BMI is slowly coming down.

So, frustration aside, what’s not to love about this way of training?!

Training, Wobbles & the Power of Peanut Butter!

Peanut Butter & SpoonI feel as though I’ve been ignoring you all over the last couple of months, I’m sorry, life has been manic, running around, hair on fire kinda thing.

I’ve been focusing on getting used to my new way of training. I always knew getting a coach would give me structure and it has, he’s fab, I just hadn’t factored in the intensity or how the lack of freedom to my training would affect me. All I have to do each day is look onto Training Peaks and voila, there’s my training plan. In that respect it’s great, the only thing I have to worry about is packing my bag the night before..swim kit…running gear…cycle stuff…clothes for work…brekkie & lunch, sorted. But there are days when I feel ever so slightly overwhelmed by it all. What have I taken on? Can I actually do this? How long will I take? Where did I put the kids? Ahhhhh!  Like any other sane woman out there I head straight for the peanut butter and take a moment to stable the wobble and think things through rationally.

And then I have a swim session like this morning.

I seriously felt like a rocket.  (BTW, this isn’t me!)Swim like a rocket

I can feel my training coming together and it felt good. I initially thought maybe it’s my new sports drink (1/3rd apple juice, 2/3rds water – all hi-tec stuff with me) but then I thought, maybe coach Musty’s master plan and my own hard work is begining to take shape…. one arm drills, band swimming, sprints, they’re all begining to take effect. In the immortal words of any Z list celebrity O.M.G!

Wobble over, head in the right place I’m ready to rock!

Now…has anyone seen trainers, track tonight where I will hop, skip & shuffle my way to faster running…apparently.

Kid’s Bikes

Didi on balance bikeI’m deeply passionate about cycling. I don’t pretend to be fast or anything special I just get a deep enjoyment from going out on my bike with friends, family or on my own. So it would be lovely to pass this passion onto my children, so we started early.

Here’s something controversial…I believe that there is no place in this world for stabilisers. Phew, there, I’ve said it! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard parents say to me “But I learnt to ride a bike with stabilisers and I’ve done alright” yes I know but it doesn’t mean to say that it’s the best way.

Stabilisers teach a child to…well…be stable. They’re counter intuitive to the art of cycling. I have clear memories of cycling along on my bike with stabilisers going round a corner and leaning out. Now think about this…when you’re on your bike and you’re going round a corner which way to you lean? You lean in with your inside foot at 12 O’Clock. This is what I mean by counter intuitive, they keep your child stable but don’t teach them how to ride. This is where the fabulous, utterly amazing and completely nonsense free balance bike comes in.

My children have both learnt to balance on the Early Rider Classic – A bike I will never tire of looking at. By using a balance bike they are learning at a very early age how to balance using their core stomach muscles. They feel the movement of the bike and move intuitively to it’s own movement. I’ve had 3 year olds come to my shop who’ve been on a balance bike for 6 months, get on a pedal bike and cycle away as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. Amazing. I hasten to add that my own son took a lot longer to grasp the act of pedaling because it was just too tempting to look down and pedal backwards – so frustrating. But I look at him now at the age of six and he still uses the skills & techniques that he learnt on his balance bike to this day when on his pedal bike. He holds his feet about a centimeter above the ground sometimes when he’s coming to a stop. Yes he can use his brakes but it’s his feet he still goes back to. This is good because if he ever does serious mountain biking and his brakes fail him he knows what to do…instinctively.

So now my daughter is balancing and to her it’s second nature. She can’t wait for her first pedal bike and to be honest neither can I. So hurry up Didi & grow another 3 centimeters so you can get your own spotty Frog 43 and start learning the art of cycling!