Chicago World Age Group Triathlon Championships – Race Report

Race morning started a bit earlier than I had planned due to the storm that hit Chicago the previous evening. As a result pre-race racking was postponed until race morning. It was only just light at 7am as I left the Fairmont Hotel (our home for the week) at the top end of Grant Park but surprisingly warm considering the predictions, although my choice of trisuit and team jacket caused some amusement to a pair of Australian competitors who I chatted to at the traffic lights who thought it was rather cold in their woolly hats and thick tights!

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Transition was rather large!

Transition was around a 10 minute ride from the hotel and was a good opportunity to test out my last minute pedal and tyre changes – I found a large piece of glass in my tyre and my pedals seized up on the crossing from the UK! How not to be relaxed the night before a race…anyway, short test ride was fine and after the most minor of checks on transition entry (just my brakes – nothing else at all) I eventually found my racking spot. Transition was rather large, rather wet, rather muddy and very sandy – that’ll be nice later!

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My spot – bit sandy…

I had quite a nice spot in transition not too far from the end of a row and set my stuff up. A few of my GB team mates were racked near me and we did a quick scout of swim entry, bike and run exits while doing the usual faffing around with kit. Once I felt happy with it all I took an easy walk back up to the hotel for breakfast. With my race not until 11am I didn’t want to hang around the race area and thought I’d be better off chilling back at the hotel for a bit.

I headed to swim start about an hour before my wave to see if I could work out the best starting spot. The swim reccy didn’t enable us to swim the first half of our route so it was a case of winging it and hoping for the best. Following the storm the lake was quite choppy, even within the sheltered Monroe Harbour. From what I could see from previous waves the worst place to start was on the right – not only was it the tightest spot, there was also the danger of someone from a previous wave swimming head on into you. The route followed the harbour wall north for about 350m, round a buoy (or a booey as the swim Marshall called it!) then went south back past the swim start pontoon and all the way to the end of the harbour to the exit.

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The pontoon

We were called onto the pontoon and precariously made our way to the end to jump in. The pontoon was so unstable it was difficult to walk along it. I understand not long after my wave it actually broke resulting in later waves having a shortened swim and also diverting the elite men to have to use the age group exit and transition in an underpass!

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Swim start – bit of a scrum!

I opted for a start on the left and we were off. I’ve been a bit hit and miss with my swimming in races this year. Training has gone well but in races I’ve either had a stormer or as in the ETU Champs a panic attack. As a result my last few races I’ve started nice and steady and then build throughout. This seems to suit me and psychologically works as I pass people towards the end of the swim. The downside of this means little draft opportunities. I was going well, came back past the pontoon and was pulling away from the group I was with. Only trouble was the water was so choppy I couldn’t see any swim exit buoys at all. I could see the Field Museum which I knew was near swim exit so used that as a guide and used the harbour wall to stay straight. Eventually I saw the final turn buoy and had to double back a bit as I was too far over but came out of the water ahead of the group I’d passed earlier and started the 500m run to transition.

I wiped my sandy feet on my wetsuit – top tip from the sprinters – bike shoes on and I was on my way. I’m still not brave enough to do the shoes on my bike thing yet but this does have it’s advantages as I was moving very quickly passing quite a few girls still grappling getting their feet in. I capitalised on this and rode hard knowing the course was flat.

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Entrance to Lower Wacker drive

The Chicago bike route was rather unique in that no competitor had been able to ride it before the race. We’d all seen the route map, been warned about the change of light conditions and also the dodgy narrow tunnel on the secret road. So, it was with some trepidation that threw myself into the bike leg and despite the lack of course knowledge I loved it. Much of the course followed Lower Wacker Drive. To the film buffs out there you’ll know this better as the tunnel in the Dark Knight where the Joker and Batman chase each other. It was fab to ride in – part was open on one side, then it turned dark – and was rather quick. I was grinning like a Cheshire cat – not many of us in this world have had the opportunity to cycle down here and I was loving it. Judging by some of the other whoops and yells I could hear so were others!

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The ‘secret road’

Following the tunnel, we surfaced briefly before entering the ‘secret road’, a private busway that runs alongside the train tracks. This was just like a normal road but in a cutting and partly underground. It was rather narrow in places so made it difficult to pass and it was clear there was a lot of drafting going on. I pushed on although I was conscious I had been passed by a fair few girls. I was passing people but more were passing me. After Edmonton where I had about the third slowest bike split in my AG I had resolved to work on my bike over the last year so that didn’t happen again. I got my head down and pushed on. We arrived back near transition, did a 180 turn and went back out for another lap. Two GB girls had caught me up and overtaken me and I worked like hell to catch them back up. After a fair bit of cat and mouse I hit transition ahead of them both – just! My bike time was solid midpack and I know there is still so much more to come.

20150919_132231It was a long run from dismount to the racking and was not a comfortable experience in bike shoes – another thing to work on next year – I was so pleased to get my trainers on and start running. The run was 3 and 3/4 laps. Not the most inspiring of routes but we got to run around the Buckingham Fountain four times plus it was great for supporters. I got to see them twice on every lap which was great for morale. After a fantastic start to the season I had trouble with my calf from late June resulting in a painful 10km at the ETU champs in Geneva, thought it was fixed until a week before Vitruvian in late August when it went again, resulting in a great swim/bike at Vitruvian but a DNF on the run. I had done very little run training as a result so was quite nervous about this final leg. As it was probably my last race of the season I was just going to go for it and if it went it went, I’d blinking well crawl to the end if I had to! Mercifully after a steady first km all felt good and I felt good. I’d got a good pace going and was passing people. I passed a few GB girls so knew I was going well. The heat was rising so maintaining pace was difficult but I dug deep and left nothing behind and made it to the finish in one piece! I finished in 37th place and fourth GB in my age group – a massive improvement on last year where I had very few girls behind me in the race and was last GB home! I was super proud – one of my best races of the season, my swim wasn’t my fastest, nor my bike or run but overall as a race it all came together. After a summer of injury it finally came good at the right time.

wpid-20150919_143415.jpgMy improvement this year is no small part a result of my coaching from Adam Gibson at GreenlightPT. It makes such a difference to have someone else doing the thinking about what training needs to be done and how much and when and keeping it interesting. It means I can just get on and train. Working full time with a young family means one less thing to worry about. Another benefit is the voice of reason when you’re heading for disaster. Under normal circumstances I’d have hobbled round Vitruvian as I was in an age group podium place at the time but going into the race I was under strict instructions to stop if there was any pain otherwise I’d most likely jeopardise Chicago. Deep down I knew this but sometimes you need someone else to tell you it. Coaches know their stuff and you have to trust them!

20150919_191348I have also had brilliant support at home from friends, work colleagues, teammates at GreenlightPT and Redway Runners but most of all my family. I was lucky enough that my husband, son and sister were able to make the trip to Chicago with me and it does make a difference to have them there – especially my husband when my bike doesn’t do what I expect it to do (hence a dash to the LBS to buy new pedals!). It’s been a brilliant season, probably my best to date and I know there’s still more in the tank for next year. Just one last little local triathlon at the weekend and that’s me done for the year.

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Three weeks and counting…

Exactly one year ago today, I made my GB Age Group debut in Edmonton at the ITU World Championship. In three weeks time, I get another opportunity to race for GB in the 2015 World Championship in Chicago.

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I targeted qualification for the World Champs at the start of the season and registered myself for all three qualifiers. With Outlaw Half at the end of May sandwiched between the qualifiers it was a busy couple of months but under the guidance of my coach Adam at GreenlightPT managed to perform well at all three qualifiers and Outlaw and managed to win my age group at the first qualifier at Belvoir Castle and therefore booked my place for Chicago!

I was really pleased with how this first half of the season went. I was swimming, cycling and running faster than I have ever done and for the first time ever actually pass people on the bike leg! With Chicago in the bag, it meant the pressure was off for all my other races. Outlaw Half was a great experience again. The weather was awful – it poured from the start of the swim, all through the bike and then dried out for the run but I loved every minute of it. Despite the weather, I knocked nearly 5 minutes off my bike time – which was pretty good considering most of the bike leg was under water and it was my first ride on my new TT in the wet! I’d set myself a target of 5:30 – 11 minutes quicker than last year and on the day came in at 5:31 – partly due to the weather on the bike course and blowing up towards the end of the run. But, it was still a 10 minute PB and I know in decent weather there’s plenty more to come there.

The other two qualifiers Deva and Dambuster were also really good for me. Having spent three years in Chester at university I was excited to race here and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a fantastically well organised race with a great course. Even got myself on Breakfast TV and the Channel 4 highlights by virtue of the fact I came out of the swim with TV host Louise Minchin! The bike course was fast – my fastest ever ride and the run, on paper sounded dull – three laps of the Meadows and along the Groves – but in reality it was great, really pretty and varied terrain. It was also the National Champs so I was super pleased to finish 7th in my age group. I really recommend this event and hope to go back next year.

Dambuster was another favourite of mine. I qualified for Edmonton here last year and the course suits me – the bike is interesting with the first third very hilly (the Rutland Ripples), the second third mostly downhill and the final third lots of ups, lots of downs and not a lot inbetween. It’s challenging to say the least but you are rewarded with a nice flat out and back run to finish.

With things looking up I settled into some training ready for the European Champs in Geneva when the old calf problem raised it’s head again. With three weeks until Geneva it was a race against time to get fit. Unfortunately it didn’t go to plan – with a panic attack in the swim (don’t ask!), an ok bike leg, the run was a painful 10km. My first experience of the European Championships is one I’d quite like to forget! It was a great event in a beautiful location but for me, not my best experience.

Post race in Geneva - at least I'm smiling!

Post race in Geneva – at least I’m smiling!

Post Geneva, I settled back into training and trying to get my leg sorted. All seemed well by the start of August and GreenlightPT took part in a fun relay event, well sort of fun, it was the East Midlands relay champs and for me, I felt I was back on form – running still had a little way to go but after three weeks out it wasn’t too bad! My team – the ‘Green Goddessess’ came third in the women’s race so bit more bling for the collection and a good day out was had by all.

Green Goddesses - 3rd place!

Green Goddesses – 3rd place!

Before Chicago I had one more event to do – the Vitruvian. It’s basically Dambuster, twice over and was an event I’ve been keen to do for a few years. Roughly three weeks before Chicago it’s a good gauge of my fitness and form and I was hoping to get a decent 70.3 time (bike is a bit short so was hoping for sub 3 hours on that leg). But, as has been the case this year, for every high, another low and a week before I tweaked my calf again…With physio and staying off it and praying it was just a bit tight I went ahead with the race on the understanding if I got to the run and it hurt – to stop. It was a real pain as I was swimming well, biking quite well (a lack of proper run training means more time on the bike) and I can normally wing the run despite no training. I felt good race morning – after my disastrous swim at Geneva I was keen to put that right and adopted a different more relaxed approach – i.e. forget about everyone else and do my own thing. It worked and I really enjoyed the swim. It was a two lap route with a short run between loops and I came out first in my age group. Straight onto the bike, knowing there weren’t too many girls in front and I got my head down – bit too quick for the first lap – I did it quicker than I’d done Dambuster – that’ll hurt later! A girl from my age group passed me on the first loop but I managed to maintain second and hit the run in 10th place overall – not bad for me…the run started well. I was under strict instructions to keep it slow which was hard as my legs wanted to go much quicker but eventually I settled into the agreed pace, but by 5km my calf was starting to twinge a bit. Not badly but enough to know it could put Chicago in jepoardy if I continued so at the 5km turn I decided I’d walk/jog back to the start and then drop out.

Vitruvian swim start

Vitruvian swim start

Except I got to the halfway point back near transition and the commentator announced I was still in second in my age group (despite my walk/jogging effort!) and the competitor in me took the turn around and carried on. However, 400m further along my sensible voice came through and I took the decision to stop. It was one of the hardest decisions I have had to make – to be in contention and then walk away was really difficult but I know it was the right one. I swam really well, I biked well (2:41 split) – so it wasn’t a wasted day and I still got my hoodie!

And here were are today. A year since my GB AG debut and now looking forward to Chicago with a few more weeks training to get done. Not sure how much running I’ll get done but hey it’s only a 10km and I’ve nothing else in the diary after September – I’ll blinking well hop round that Buckingham Fountain if I have to – bring it on!

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Getting ready – plans for 2015

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Edmonton, Canada

Watching Top Gear tonight and their trip to Canada made me reminisce about my trip to Edmonton last year and also reminded me that I hadn’t written anything here for a couple of months. As my race number for the MK half dropped through the door this week it seems quite timely to update what is going on in my world.

The MK Half will be my first race of the year. It should have been the Bucks County XC Champs but as has been the case since May last year, my calf had other ideas. A common theme throughout my posts last year was my struggles with issues with both my calf’s. Although my running has gone from strength to strength (I’ve PB’d at every distance raced in the last 12 months) my calf’s neglected to join the party. Any time I run over 10 miles or a hard track session they give up, cramp up and generally cause me grief to the point I finished most of my running races nearly in tears and then need loads of physio to get me running for my next triathlon. Funny thing is, I never get the problem in a tri…

Anyway, after the MK Winter Half in December, I took some time off from running, ramped up the physio and have spent most of the winter doing strengthening exercises. Touch wood, the problem has eased massively but I’m nervous about next Sunday. It’s so early in the season and I’ve lots planned so first sign of trouble and I’ll be backing off!

Aside from my running woes everything else is going pretty well. I decided at the end of last year that I wanted to have a bit more structure to my training so have teamed up with Adam from GreenlightPT and it’s already working wonders. My time off the road has been well spent on the bike (mostly the turbo thanks to the wonderful British weather) and in just 8 weeks I managed to increased by FTP by 10%. I also decided to treat my swimming with a bit more respect, rather than the necessary evil that triathletes have to endure and have made some big gains in the pool over the last few weeks.

'Percy'

‘Percy’

I also treated myself to a TT bike. After my son started school in September I decided to up my hours at work back to full time and along with an unexpected pay rise, the extra cash was burning a hole so I now am the proud owner of a Planet X TT. It’s still sat on the turbo but as soon as the weather clears up we’ll be whipping up and down the lanes of North Bucks and South Northants. I know it’s all about the engine that drives it but to quote a well known supermarket ‘every little helps’!

So the next few months will be a lot of hard work to get ready for the ITU qualifiers, Outlaw Half and the ETU Champs in Geneva. I’m really looking forward to Outlaw. With an improved bike leg I know there’s gains to be made as long as I can run comfortably. I’ve no idea how the qualifiers will go. I’m now the baby in a new age group with the over 40s – I only turned 39 10 weeks ago so have no idea where I sit in the scheme of things, and am very conscious of the fact I got lucky with my qualification for Edmonton last year – hopefully luck with be with me again this year!

Categories: Injury, Outlaw, Races, Training | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Thank you 2014…you were great

wpid-20140731_110606.jpgIt has to be said, from my point of view, it’s been a pretty awesome year and beyond my wildest expectations.

As the clocked turned midnight at the start of the year, I was injured (again) but with one main goal and a ‘would like to have’ goal. The main goal was to complete the Outlaw Half in a decent time plus at some point get 1:40 in a half marathon (current PB was 1:45). As it turned out – I achieved both and a whole lot more. I wont bore you with the details – the rest of the blog is full of it, but in summary:

  • Duston pool triathlon – age group win (April)
  • MK Half Marathon – PB 1:42 (May)
  • Outlaw Half 5:42 – earning me a European Middle Distance Triathlon Champs place (June)
  • Dambuster – Qualified for World AG Triathlon Champs (and subsequently European AG Champs)
  • MK 10km – PB 45:02 (July)
  • MK Triathlon – age group win (July)
  • Parkrun – PB 21:03
  • ITU World Triathlon Champs in Edmonton Canada – 41st place (August)
  • Northampton Half Marathon – 3rd in County AG Champs (September)
  • ETU Middle Distance Champs in Paguera, Mallorca – 19th place (October)
  • MK Winter Half – pb 1:39 (December)

I knew deep down with the right training and some luck with injuries there was some good stuff in there but I just needed to get to it! But with support from my family and friends and some fantastic help from GreenlightPT, I achieved things beyond anything I could have predicted at the start of the year. My swimming has gone from strength to strength, my cycling is getting there and my running has hit numbers I never thought possible. Running with Redway Runners is always good fun and there’s always someone to run with and the GreenlightPT squad are a great crew – swimming on a Wednesday has been such good fun, even when we’re a mess by the end of it.

My proudest moment was the parade from the athletes tent in Edmonton to the lake for the start of the ITU World AG Champs – we were led by pipers and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a lump in my throat.

So, what about 2015? Well I hope for more of the same – I’m giving GB AG qualifying a bash with the hope of a slot for Chicago and also getting that sub 5:30 for a half ironman. I’m actually (for the first time in about 5 years) hitting New year uninjured and raring to go. I’m working with Adam at GreenlightPT again and hope to outdo this year – it’ll be a tough call but I’m ready…are you?

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Medal haul for 2014

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ETU Champs – Challenge Paguera-Mallorca

They said the bike course “would be fast. Without any major climbs…”

They said the run route was flat along the beach promenade…

They said it would be a pleasant 21 degrees…

They said it would be a great event….

Well – one out of four isn’t bad is it? I rounded off the season with the European Middle Distance Champs in Paguera, Mallorca. This was my second GB Age-Group outing of the year and my final A race of the season, after Outlaw Half and the Worlds in Edmonton and as you can imagine I arrived in Mallorca a little jaded. It had been a long old season and I kind of just wanted to get it over and done with. But once we had arrived and bumped into fellow teammates I started to get the vibe back. The team bike reccy, that I nearly missed and had to cane the first five miles to catch up with the team, the swim reccy straight after into 5ft waves, the team briefing that left us all with a lump in our throat -‘ you’re GB, be proud’, and the obligatory team photo – all 230 of us, got me fired up and ready to race!

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GB Age-Group 35-39 Team

Racking had to be done the night before into a 300m long transition – I was really worried about finding my bike – just three rows of bikes, but with 250m plus of racking length, it was easy to miss your spot. Transition was also narrow – pretty much single file, especially with a bike in tow. We also had to use bags to hold bike and run gear – something I’d never had to do before. Normally you have the luxury of laying all your kit out making it easy to spot if anything was missing – this time, you had to leave it all in the bags and hope you had everything.

Race morning was strange – with a midday start, there was no need for an alarm, although I woke up early anyway. With several hours to kill before transition opened we hung around the hotel chilling, making sure my food was all sorted and that I kept hydrated as there were predictions (depending upon the weather app) of 29-30 degree highs later that day.

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I felt quite confident about the swim. With a 400m PB in the pool the previous week, I felt good and knew I could probably get away with starting at the front. I normally start on the far side out of the way but because the spectators were lining the route into the water it was quite narrow and I was worried I might get caught up among them so I came in a bit – big mistake – I was quick into the water, but took my dive a tad too early and had to come up for another one. I got caught on the side of my goggles which swung out and smacked back onto my face. They only stayed on because by some strange quirk of fate I had decided for the first time ever to wear a hat over my goggles. Unfortunately this meant the goggles hit my face with such great force I was gifted a black eye as a result! Non contact sport it is you know!

Anyway, once I’d recovered from that I settled into the swim. It was my first ever sea swim and my first without a wetsuit and rather surprisingly I really enjoyed it – I don’t like swimming in a wetsuit and this was heaven – warm and wetsuit free. I found myself swimming the first 400m or so with Jenny Bosman, winner of Outlaw 2014 (names on trisuits are a great invention!) and was quite honoured to be in such good company, but still feeling good, I decided to push on and find some feet further up. I drafted a Swiss girl to the top buoys until we turned then decided I still had some more in me and pushed on again. We had started to pick up the men from the previous wave, who had red caps, the same as the marker buoys. I fear I may have done some zig zagging as a result of mistaking the odd head for a buoy- with the swell sighting was a split second opportunity. In the end I gave up looking for the buoys and went for the big hotel next to the exit beach. I realised at this point most of the other swimmers were way over from the line I was taking – not sure who had the best line, but to try to save some energy I made my way across to them.

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I came out the water a smidge over 34 minutes – 2 minutes slower than Outlaw half, but with the distances nearer 2km and it being a non wetsuit swim – I was pleased and about 8th in my age group. The run to transition was long and narrow – I had to run around a few older guys who were walking and then got held up again in transition when they were walking down the narrow aisles to get to their bikes. This was even worse when they did the same with their bikes in tow! However, once out, I hopped on and was ready for a great bike split. My cycling has improved loads over the last few months and today I was going to put it into practice. The first four or five miles climb steadily until we reached a hairpin section that was steep – I didn’t mind this, I quite like the odd hill and passed a few people. We rounded the top of the climb and began the descent towards Calvia. It was then the heat hit me – I was in a furnace. My face was on fire, my whole body was burning and I suddenly had cramp behind my left knee. I kept on eating, and drinking and pushing on, but people were passing me left, right and centre. Another climb out of Calvia on the out and back section we hadn’t done in the reccy, although I’d seen it, I was surprised how tough it was.

Eventually we started to descend towards Palma Nova and Magaluf for some much needed cheers from the Brits on holiday. There was a long drag from there up to Santa Ponsa followed by a real killer of a bike path to take us back into Paguera to then start the lap again. I got my head down, kept eating and drinking but despite my best efforts, I seemed to be slowing. It appears from the results I wasn’t the only one and on the second lap there was a lot more chat between everyone encouraging each other up the hills.

I came in from the bike wpid-wp-1416523489680.jpeg10 minutes slower than Outlaw, even though I felt I’d cycled harder and stronger – just goes to show how different routes can be. Transition was a long affair again. I had to run 200m with my bike – take my shoes off, carry them all the way to the far end of transition and then run all the way back up again, find my run bag, get my shoes, cap and suncream on and then get moving. Surprisingly the start of the run, my legs didn’t feel too bad – the cramp had gone, I felt hydrated and fueled up – but being off the bike, there was no longer a breeze protecting me. Across the Torra beach promenade the heat hit again. I kept on moving until I hit the first aid station after about 2km. Sponges down my top and a bottle of water and I pushed on. Back up to the main drag and we had a long out and back section – it was a long, long drag up to the top of a hill and back down again. I managed to run to the top and felt quite good on the way down. There was another loopback to do up another hill to an aid station and at this point I decided I needed to go to the loo – with all the hydration I was desperate so took the opportunity when it arose – trisuits are not the easiest thing to take off at the best of times, but when you’re tired and hot and in a hurry in a confined portaloo it’s not easy. I don’t think I ever quite recovered from that stop as from that point onwards I fell into a run/walk routine. I could walk the hills and the aid stations butIi had to run the flats and down the hills. It seemed to work and I kept going. My worst ever half marathon but in 34 degree heat – it was by no means the slowest half of the day.wpid-20141018_180146.jpg

The support on the course was fantastic, with so many GB Age Groupers competing there was a real camaraderie going on out there along with all the supporters. It did make walking difficult, especially when you’re representing your country, but in the name of self preservation, it had to be done at points – and at some points my waking was fast than my running/shuffle. The finish area was fantastic, lined with hundreds of people all cheering. I was given a Union flag and for the first time I cross the line with a bit of a smile, not playing with my watch – the time didn’t matter. I’d just come 19th in my age group at the European Champs – not a bad end to the season really….

Talking to other team members that day and since then we’d all had a similar experience. Tough bike followed by a hot and hilly run. Would I do that one again – hell yeah? It was a great experience and Paguera and the surrounding countryside was beautiful – just a tad cooler next time please!

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One final hurrah

Finally, the end of the season has arrived. To be fair, it’s been a long time coming. I started my training for the Outlaw Half back in January with my aim for the season to just complete the half ironman and after that get a sub 1:40 half marathon in. In reality, following Outlaw it all kind of spiralled out of control and took me on a journey I couldn’t have imagined and no opportunity to run my 1:40 – yet!

My finish time at Outlaw qualified me for the European Middle Distance Champs in Mallorca and the Dambuster triathlon I decided to do a few weeks after, despite still l feeling the effects of Outlaw qualified me for the World Champs at Standard distance and also the European Champs in Geneva next year. So all in all a pretty successful year.

But back to the point of the post. In a few days time I’ll get to represent the GB age group team at Challenge Paguera in the European Middle Distance Champs. This will be my last triathlon race of the season. It’s my second GB age group vest following my appearance in Edmonton so I kind of know how it works now although this isn’t a fully supported BTF race so has a slightly different vibe to it so far.

I’m pleased that some of the GreenlightPT crew are also competing which is nice as it’ll be a great experience to share together with no doubt plenty of stories to take home with us!

I don’t feel particularly prepared for this race. I’ve followed my plan and have hit my targets but after the highs of Edmonton I’ve struggled to get the motivation going for this one which is a shame as I really wanted this to be the one where I get a great result. I’ve had a few niggles which haven’t helped my confidence on the run and with stresses of work and home I’m a little apprehensive about this race. I’m typing this somewhere over France having got to the airport hotel at 11pm last night, only to have to get up at 3am to catch my flight so am lacking somewhat in the sleep department – all good prep eh?

That said  – it’s the last blow out for the year, I’ve enjoyed the training over the last ten months so I’m hoping it will all come together and I can finish on a high and repay the faith others have had in me.

Good luck everyone and see you on the other side!
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ITU World Champs – it was ‘epic’

Apologies – it’s been a while! Since I found out in late June that I was heading to the ITU World Champs in Edmonton, Canada and then to Mallorca for the ETU Middle Distance Champs it’s all been a bit mad with training, organising travel plus the usual day to day family life and work.

In a word, Edmonton was awesome! To be honest, in the lead up to it I was having serious reservations about going. The doubts had set in, was I really be good enough to be there, what if I came last, what if I had a mechanical on the bike and didn’t finish and a whole host of other scenario’s were going through my mind. I had been training well with a 10km PB, a cracking duathlon at Silverstone and over a minute off my Parkrun PB. Plus I’d had a great swim and age group win at our local Big-Cow triathlon but the enormity of going to Canada was weighing on my mind. There are a lot of better triathletes out there and I felt a bit out of my depth. However, this was a once in a life time opportunity, I took some man up pills, packed up my bike, my kit and the family and off to Edmonton we went.

On arrival in Canada it finally sunk in that this was kind of a big deal. Our hotel reception looked like a branch of Corley’s and was full of people in national kit. As one of the GB team hotels, it also seemed to be home to half the US team and a fair few Kiwi’s plus the odd business traveller slightly bewildered by all the half dressed people walking around with their bikes!

Opening Ceremony Parade

Much of our first few days seemed to be taken up with admin and watching the other races. Register in one place, drop bike off to the mechanic in another, swim reccie at the park, bike reccies, team meetings, opening ceremony, bike racking plus trying to fit in some training. But having watched some of my GreenlightPT team mates in the Aquathlon and Sprint races it settled my nerves. I was also reassured by one of my teammates who I know from home who was in the same age group as me. Karen had travelled out there with her family too which was great as our kids know each other and she’d competed at the ETU Champs earlier in the year so knew how these events work. I think I’d have been a bit lost without her as it was really helpful to have someone else who knew exactly how I felt.

GB Age Group Standard Team

Race day day dawned and I was up at 4:30. The BTF had arranged breakfast at 5am for us although  I think the hotel may have over estimated the need for the full fry up – however there was quite run on the porridge! We had to be at the park early as transition shut at 7am. Although the bikes were already in place we still had to set up shoes, helmets and have our wetsuits checked. Rather than rely on the free public transport (which was actually very good) I got a taxi with Karen from her hotel which was great as it was one less thing to worry about.

Transition – it was huge!

We had to be in the athletes village about a half hour before the race. To get a decent position on the pontoon you need to be at the front of the queue in the holding area. So we were. We were marched across to the swim start behind a lone piper and it gave me a bit of lump in my throat – this was it – the World Champs and I’m in the race. I had nothing to lose so it was race face and game on. I managed to bag a space on the far right. In the swim reccies I reckoned this was the best spot – you hit the first buoy on the outside away from the usual crush – however several other girls had a similar idea and before we’d even stepped on thev pontoon there was some argy bargy going on but I held my ground and as the buzzer sounded, two steps, dive and off I went. I surprised myself that after 50m I was in clear water – a bit worried that I may have jumped the gun I could see a pack to my left and one other swimmer to my right. The GreenlightPT sessions were paying off! First buoy was fine but with the whole field then turning right about 50m later the fun started! I settled into my pace and tried to find some feet to follow. Halfway round the second loop the next wave caught us up – they’d only started 3 mins behind us so not surprising although they take no prisoners and swam straight over the top in order to keep their line.

Out of the water and there was a long run to transition – and it was loooong – 100m, then through the elite transition then along a bit further then round the edge of our transition – I was puffing well by then. Running after a hard swim is tough, but with a wet, wetsuit it’s really hard work. Transition was OK – the chips were so big I struggled to get my wetsuit over the top but got there in the end and ran another 100 plus metres to get to the mount line.

My bike is my weakest event and although I’d been working on it I knew I was going to get a master class in riding a bike quickly. Within a half mile of transition we had an 8% hill – just what you need to get the legs and lungs going.  I’m sure it wasn’t that bad on the reccie! But, I still managed to pass a few people although they all came back past me on the flats and downhills. Groat Road was a long downhill – I stopped looking at the speedo…there were a couple of other out and backs before the long climb up the other side of Groat Road over the river. A long twisty climb, again, passing people left right and centre until we reached the top and then they all come back past me again! Totally outclassed!

Two laps of this route meant we got to do a brief loop in the park and could hear my husband and son cheering. Another loop done and it was out for the run. We had to run two sides of the transition boundary before hitting the run and out into the park proper. First part of the run was on road but then it turned to off road. Very dry and sandy paths. It was hard to get a grip and with tired legs took a while to get going.  The first 3km followed this off road path, though the woods with few spectators and then eventually came out onto road up to a turnaround point before heading back towards the main arena. A quick turnaround and back out for the second loop. It wasn’t the most inspiring of runs and the off road section was really leg sapping by the second lap but I was passing people and felt strong.

The final couple of hundred metres were on the blue carpet, past elite transition and then 100m down to the finish line to the roar of the crowd. I had given it my all and had just completed the World Triathlon Final! Boom!

Karen, me, the kids and our medals

Karen, me, the kids and our medals

I was 42nd (and not last), posted my best standard distance time ever (despite nearly 6 minutes in transition) and had done my fastest ever bike split, averaging over 19mph (quick for me) my run was OK but I reckon it would have been quicker if I hadn’t been desperate for the ladies! Karen was an amazing 18th place – if ever there was an advert for hard work paying off – that was it!

So what next? Most people would probably call that a wrap to the season but I’ve still got the ETU Middle Distance Champs in Mallorca in October so back to the grindstone with longer rides and runs but as a final word if you ever get the opportunity to take part in an ITU or ETU event with the GB Age Group team – do it. It’s not cheap but the memories are worth it – roll on Chicago 2015 (if I qualify!)! What’s not to like – it was epic!

The bling from the front...

The bling from the front…

...and from the back!

…and from the back!

Categories: Races | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

What a month….!

Sorry, no posts since early June, but it’s been a bit of a whirlwind few weeks. Following the Outlaw Half I didn’t really do much, then I remembered that I’d got a late entry to Dambuster on 21st June (booked in just before I injured myself at the MK Half!) so then spent a week trying to get my legs to remember how to move a bit faster than they had done for the past few months.

I wasn’t looking forward to it – although I had retained my fitness from Outlaw I really wasn’t feeling it – I’d only entered on a whim with an eye on an outside chance at a qualifying spot for the ETU Champs in Geneva next year, but as it also doubled up at the qualifier for the ITU Champs this year at about 4:30pm the day before I found myself registering for selection for that too…

Following a 3:30am alarm call I made the journey to Rutland Water, a truly beautiful location for a triathlon. I hadn’t quite appreciated what a big event it was – there were a lot of people there, two transition areas, the women and older men in a field behind the main transition and numerous waves – and immediately worried I may be out of my depth!

As it turns out, it wasn’t too bad – I had a good swim, albeit slighlty longer due to following some feet down the final stretch of someone who was aiming for the wrong buoy! My bike was ok – spend most of it with people passing me, as usual, but it was a tough route and I rode strongly for me – whipped past a load of people on the hill at Ketton and then actually had a great run – I was only passed by a couple of people and I passed loads! My overall time wasn’t far off my Olympic pb so considering the long transition and long bike route I was pretty pleased with myself!

20140621_151732Anyway to cut to the point of the post – I did qualify – for the ITU World Champs in Edmonton, Canada in September! A combination of people ahead of me either having already qualified or not put themselves forward for selection meant I rolled in at the fourth qualifying spot! Following the official notification we spend a frantic couple of days to see if the logistics were possible – further complicated by a second notification a few days later to notify me I had also qualified for the ETU Middle Distance Champs in Mallorca in October as a result of my time at Outlaw.

So, as you can imagine it was a complete whirlwind of a month – I am so chuffed, but under no illusion, the Canada spot is good fortune due to the location of the event meaning it’s probably not as difficult to get in as if it were to be held in London – but regardless, I will be going (family holiday!) and will be proud to be part of the team and do my best. We’re all booked up and looking forward to it.

Mallorca is also on – just some finer details to sort out with the flights – and this is my main ‘A’ race. Canada is a welcome distraction en-route to this and I will be working towards that as an ‘A’ race too but I know the main goal is the half. I came away from Outlaw really pleased with what I’d achieved, but knowing there’s more in there so I now have an opportunity to give it a go.

Ironically – I didn’t qualify for the ETU race in Geneva (the main reason I did Dambuster!) – but I am top roll down at the moment so might still happen! There are two other qualifiers but I’m unable to do either of them so I’ll let fate determine what happens with that…

Knowing how well my 70.3 plan worked for Outlaw (and by default Dambuster) I have enlisted GreenlightPT‘s help again to train for this and have a plan to follow – it starts tomorrow…with a rest day!

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Categories: Outlaw, Races, Training | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Outlaw Half – Race Report

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National Water Sports Centre – Holme Pierrepont

Race morning started at about 3am thanks to a rather noisy chap returning to his room in our hotel after a night out. I dosed for about another half hour then got up – too excited to stay in bed. Porridge down, race number tats on and down to reception to meet my brother-in-law at 4:30.

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Start of wave four – that’s me – just there…

The lake looked beautiful in the early morning light – but it did mean the turn buoys were hardly visible in the distance – it looked a long way. I positioned myself to the left of the start on the side at the front but out of the way – it was a bit weedy but at least that should mean it was relatively clear of other swimmers. I quickly found some feet and stuck on them, but then seemed to hit a wall of swimmers – I went through them and could see a pack ahead and tried to catch them. Within about 400m we already were catching up with the previous wave, but I found another swimmer and stuck with her all the way to the first turn, except she didn’t seem to want to turn! I eventually forced the issue and we turned but I could tell I’d swum a great big semi-circle round the two top buoys – not the best route but as I came of the top buoy to head back I seemed to have escaped the main pack and could see only a few white caps ahead – trouble was there were a lot of red caps now and I spent the next 750m swimming around the previous wave, we even caught up some silver caps from the second wave that started 20 minutes before us.

I got to the ramp and climbed out – no pulling out needed for a change! I felt really good – in the scheme of things 1.9km is not too long a swim. I quickly got my wetsuit down around my waist and ran into T1. Wave four had a separate transition from the rest of the field which meant a long run along the lake before getting to the bike. As I came into T1 one of my GreenlightPT training weekend buddies came down and we had a quick wave and shout – quite a coincidence when you consider there were some 350-400 people in that wave. I quickly set about getting the rest of my suit off, shoes, helmet and number belt on and then set off with my bike. Turns out my T1 was pretty quick as I overtook a fair few people…

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T1 – really pleased with the number of bikes still in transition as I left!

First part of the bike was a loop of the lake. I wanted to take on food quickly so got stuck into half a Powerbar cereal bar. I felt great and was looking forward to the next 90km in the saddle. The first part of the course was very fast, although I did have a steady stream of both men and women passing me – the downside of being a faster swimmer and not such a good cyclist – but didn’t let that deter me as I was flying! At about 18 miles I checked my overall average and it was well over 19mph – I have never ridden that fast in my life and although I was feeling really good I was very mindful of the words of wisdom from Ian Turner (finished second at Outlaw Half in 2013 and 2014) who came to our training weekend about not burning yourself out on the bike. We had the only major climb of the day between 20-21 miles so I took that steady, although still passing people before we hit the first drink station. Luckily we had practiced this at the training weekend meaning I took my Outlaw branded High 5 bottle with no problem at all. Judging by the number of bottles scattered around, others were not so fortunate! The route continued in reasonably flat surroundings until we completed the northern loop and rejoined the original route before branching off again. For about 5/6 miles we met cyclists coming the other way – these were the leaders finishing the southern loop and heading back towards Holme Pierrepont.

The southern loop was much more rural than the northern loop. Pretty villages and winding lanes, but along with that came not such good road surfaces. As we were now over 30 miles into the bike leg the field seemed to settle down and I found myself overtaking and been overtaken by the same people. One chap and me exchanged places along a good 20 miles – which gave for a good bit of banter each time we swapped over – he’d usually wait until I was taking a gel or a drink and then blast past laughing that I couldn’t catch him – I did though😉 . Didn’t half make the last 20 miles fly by! The last three miles of the route back into Holme Pierrepont was the worst surface of the day – would have been better off on a MTB.

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T2 – still pleased with the number of bikes ‘not’ in transition!

Back into T2 and I was still feeling good. I’d caught up with another fellow GreenlightPT swimmer so we ran the first bit out of T2 together which was nice. As we came out of the mens transition area I met the GreenlightPT support crew. They were brilliant and just what I needed. They were great and really got me going on the run, except after I passed them cramp kicked in big style on both quads – ouch! I tried to stretch it out but that caused both hamstrings to go – I gave up the stretching malarky and decided to run it off – the worst 5km of my life – but then it eased.  I was  almost running to the schedule that I had planned and felt ok. The out and back route along the river meant I got to see loads of team mates. A few gentle high fives were the order of the day although this had changed to more of a grunt by the second lap! I had a really bad spell on the first lap of the lake after coming off the river route and did a lot of walking. The regatta lake that we had earlier swum in looked so long and we had to run the whole way round it – twice. Coming off the lake the I passed the GreenlightPT crew again. It gave me a real lift as I was hurting by then. There was a feed station just after and I took a caffeine gel. It kicked in and I felt a whole load better so I took another one as I came back off the river for a second time – I ran the rest of the way – all the way to the top of the lake and back down again. It was a long, long slog, but I was passing people and the finish never seemed to get nearer but eventually I saw the red carpet and the finish line. I even got a bit of a spurt on – although it probably looked like a shuffle to anyone watching. But I crossed the line and stopped my watch – just sneaked inside 2 hours for the run – poor but I didn’t care as I realised I’d broken my 6 hour target – by nearly 20 minutes!

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All over – I am an Outlaw!

Recovery drink - it really is!

Recovery drink – it really is!

I loved that race – I felt good throughout, bar a bad patch on the run and this is due in no small part to my GreenlightPT training plan that Adam provided me with. I’ve followed it for 19 weeks, only really missing out on the running at the start and at the end due to injury. The training weekend gave us the insight to plan nutrition and think about pacing – something I probably would not have given too much thought to on my own. I went into the race prepared and confident I would finish with a rough idea of an achievable target. There was a large group of us from GreenlightPT participating and the camaraderie all weekend was great and made the whole event a fantastic occasion which I thoroughly recommend.

So, I am now an Outlaw (half sized)!!! When’s the next one? Got a target now…

Stats of the day:
Total time – 5:41:18 (32:22 swim, T1 2:13, 3:05 bike, T2 1:43, 1:59 run)
Overall position: 482 out of 1107
Female position: 50 out of 246
AG position: 17 out of 60

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The bling

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A copy of this report can also be found on the GreenlightPT site

Categories: Outlaw, Races | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Outlaw Half – DONE!!!

I am an Outlaw (well a half version anyway)! And I smashed my goal time of 6 hours – report to follow!

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Categories: Outlaw, Races | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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