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!

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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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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

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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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Outlaw Half – Race Day – this is it!!!

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19 weeks ago I decided to blog about my training for the Outlaw Half – thank you if you’ve stuck with it and apologies for my endless droning on about injury and tiredness and whatever else I felt like moaning about. Despite the groans, I have actually really enjoyed it – I’ve been pushed to my limits at times both mentally and physically and this has felt way harder than marathon training.

Four weeks ago I felt super fit and ready to smash it – three weeks and 6 days ago I hurt my calf enroute to a half marathon PB and to be honest my confidence has taken a bit of a blow. I feel ready, but not as ready as I did feel. I’m quietly hopeful my leg will hold out on the run and let me run how I want to.

But, it is what it is and the race weekend has arrived. I’m all packed, washed the bike, cleaned out the car, had a kit run through as per our GreenlightPT training weekend, packed up my son’s bag for a weekend at the Grandparents and apart from finishing off this post am all set…

Kit check

Kit check

There’s a large group of us from MK travelling up to Nottingham tomorrow, plus a sizable section of support. We’ve done the training, can’t do anymore now – come on boys and girls – let’s do this!!

To follow the action there’s a live tracker http://www.onestepbeyond.org.uk/the-outlaw-half-live-results.php – I’m #1065

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Outlaw Half Training – Week 16-17 done – PB, injury and taper

Week 16 was the final recovery week before the taper starts and what better way to start a recovery week than a race! Bank Holiday Monday was the Milton Keynes Marathon and Half Marathon and I ran the half and ran myself into a new half marathon PB. The downside was the pain in my achilles and calf I felt towards the end of the race didn’t disappear with the other achey muscles and by Thursday I was at the physio. The muscles were so tight to continue running would be asking for trouble – with the St Neots Olympic Triathlon booked for the Sunday it didn’t look good. After been told I shouldn’t run for a few weeks I mentioned that fact I was due to race and was told I could race but shouldn’t really run – although if it felt ok after a short test run on Saturday I could take it slowly.

Probably didn’t help matters that I took the day off on Wednesday and went out with the ‘Wednesday cycle group’ – a group that my father in law rides with – they do push the speed a bit but I felt I needed a bit of a test after a relatively slow ride to the Beacon the previous weekend. It was also the day the Womens Tour of Britain started and came right through Northants finishing in Northampton – just up the road from me – so the route for the group was a trip to the Dairy Farm at Upper Stowe then a saunter across the other side of the A5 to Kislingbury to catch the peloton as they raced past. I struggled to start off with as I still had the tough half marathon in my legs but once I got going it wasn’t too bad and it’s not every day a major cycling road race passes through your manor! by the end of the ride I’d another 47 miles under my belt.

With no running possible I did an 40km on the bike on Saturday followed by a 10 minute easy jog to test my leg. It didn’t feel right but wasn’t painful so I resolved to race at St Neots but decide on the run when it happened.

The St Neots Triathlon is one of the first open water triathlons of the season. Run by NiceTri Events it was the first time I’ve taken part. We had a 150om swim in the River Ouse, followed by a two lap bike that headed out towards Grafham Water before takinig in a bit of a hill at Little Staughton. The run was then a four lap run around the Riverside Park. The race was supposed to be a bit of a warm up for Outlaw, a chance to race half the distance a few weeks out but to be honest with my bad calf I realistically knew I couldn’t race it so my heart wasn’t really in it. I enjoyed the swim and felt I’d swum well coming out of the water quite well up. It was very cold so I struggled to get bike shoes on and then just couldn’t get warm on the bike. I struggled big time and spent most of the bike leg being passed.

I got back from the bike leg and started on the run but it was clear after a lap that I probably shouldn’t continue. The ground underfoot was a mixture of path and grass so wasn’t the best mix of surfaces if you have a dodgy calf. My leg didn’t hurt but wasn’t right – after one lap I pulled out. Not how I wanted to end the day but there was no point making it worse. On the upside I did get a chance to cheer on the others which was great.

Week 17 was the first week of taper – same training sessions but turbo brick changed to a ride and I exhanged interval session for a physio session as I couldn’t really run. I needed an easy week as I think as well as being injured I’d still managed to over do it – 160 miles of cycling plus a hard half marathon and most of an Olympic Triathlon.

I did have a long 80km ride/run to do which went really well – I used it to test out my nutrition and managed to get a reasonably steady 3km run done after. I rounded off on Sunday with a quick lake swim and an easy 4 mile run – leg was ok but still not right.

Just two weeks to go…

Outlaw Half Swim Cap

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Outlaw Half Training – Week 12-15 done – the hard work is complete (I think)…

Week 12 was a recovery week – all the usual sessions but without the brick runs and a much shorter ride and run at the weekend.

Week 13-15 was the start of the second block of build weeks. Longer brick runs and the rides building up to 90km all followed by a run. At the end of week 13 I also took part in my first triathlon of the season at Duston, which as I’ve already blogged about was a great success!

I also took another swim clinic with GreenlightPT as it had been a few months since my last one. I had been working on the various points that Adam had picked up last time with my head position, cross over on my pull and my exit on the pull so was keen to see if I had managed to fix these issues, plus the session always has a few time trials to check on performance.

I am pleased to say I had improved on all counts and my 400m TT time was a season’s best by some way and not too far off my overall PB. As ever though I came away with more to work on and a super tough endurance session that has really made me work in the pool.

Week 15 was rounded off with a full length 90km ride followed by a short run. I wanted to try to build a hill into the ride similar to the main hill at Outlaw and received a variety of suggestions, one of which was Ivinghoe Beacon, which would be around 50 mile round trip from home. I’ve never ridden this hill before so thought it would be a good one to try. Just to make the day really tough it started early in the morning at Box End, near Bedford. A quick lap of the cable lake – my first open water dip of the year – before heading home for a quick bowl of porridge and out on the bike.

I rode alone as my brother-in-law, who I normally cycle with has injured his hip and was unable to ride but it was a good test for me as I have to ride alone at Outlaw. It made for a tough ride as it was quite windy in places and although the only notable hill was the Beacon, there were a few undulations out there to keep the legs burning, but took me through some beautiful countryside before the climb up to the Beacon. The inital climb starts down in the village of Ivinghoe – I started the gentle incline strongly when a 4×4 decided to come round me and slam its brakes on – no idea why but the end result was me in a heap in the road still attached to my bike and said 4×4 driving off. The road was quite a busy B road so I didn’t want to be lying in the road for long, but typically couldn’t get my shoes off my pedals as I was lying down and then realised my Garmin was still going! Not sure what concerned me more, lying in a main road or the thought of my Garmin still running. Either way, I resolved both situations swiftly. A couple of drivers had stopped to check I was alright. Luckily no damage to me or the bike that I could see, although I was concerned about my new trisuit which I was testing as I had landed heavily on my side.

I dusted myself off and continued on my way, a little bit angry at events – I have no idea what the driver thought they were doing but they clearly had no concept of other road users, particularly cyclists and it was clear why so many accidents happen. With the bit between my teeth I took the Beacon by its horns and had a nice steady ride to the top – even passing another cyclist on the way. It wasn’t as bad as I had been led to believe – quite long, but more of a gentle drag than a major slog. It kicks up a bit towards the end but the views you are rewarded with on the way more than make up for it.

I stopped at the top to have a check I was alright after my fall and I could feel my left leg had taken a bit of a bashing – nothing too serious but could feel there would be bruises in a few days. From the top of the Beacon I was a bit hazy about the route back down to Ivinghoe. I could return the way I came but wanted to take a more scenic route through Ashridge Park, down Tom’s Hill and through Aldbury (anyone who watches Midsomer Murders will recognise it) – only problem was my phone couldn’t get a signal so my route wouldn’t show. i decided to play it by ear and make it up as I went along. I knew roughly where I wanted to go so set off down through the Park, eventually arriving at the top of Tom’s Hill (glad I didn’t come up that!) and descended into Aldbury. From Aldbury I found a signpost that pointed to Tring (wrong direction) so took a punt on a random road that I thought headed in the right direction – luckily it did and I found myself back in Ivinghoe village and on the route home.

Although hit wasn’t particularly hilly going home it did feel like a long slog but gradually the miles ticked over and I reached home in 61 miles. A fair bit over the 90km I was supposed to do but with a few stops I figured it had evened itself out! A quick run after to round of the full triathlon day and that gave me the confidence to know I can complete the Outlaw Half.

Outlaw Half

 

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Milton Keynes Half Marathon – Race Report

I was looking forward to this run, first time I’ve actually really looked forward to a running race in a long while. My training for the Outlaw Half on June 1st has been going well and my long runs have been much quicker than anything I’ve done in the past, and all done on tired legs following a long ride the day before.

So, with a day’s rest before the race I knew this could be a PB potential race! My current PB for a half is a touch under 1:46 and based on what I’ve done in training I knew that was a good realistic target.

As always the day started with a team photo. DLRR met outside McDonald’s at Stadium MK, home of the MK Dons although without our revered leader (he was managing the marshals today) it was a somewhat less formal affair – no idea who actually took the photo, but it appeared on Facebook during the event so the result was there!

The Milton Keynes Marathon is now in its third year. After marshalling the first year in torrential rain, running the marathon in a heat wave last year, I jumped at the chance to run the half when they introduced it this year. You get all the camaraderie of a major marathon, but only half the distance to run – what more could you ask for? The course for the half followed the same route as the marathon until just before the 10 mile mark when the marathon runners turned off to continue along the city redways  while we continued to the stadium to finish.

Stadium MK is a great venue to start and finish an event – plenty of parking, as many toilets as you could want (all very clean!) and loads of space for runners and supporters.

The start was a short walk away from the stadium on one of the main roads heading towards the city centre. There were no waves this year so runners were free to start wherever they wished. This was good news for me as I was keen to run with the 3:30 marathon pacer (8 min miles). I headed to the start and tried to look the pacer out – all the pacers had big blue balloons  so they could be spotted easily, except I could only find the 3:45 guy – there were two other pacers near the front that I could see but hadn’t got a hope in hell of getting near enough to find out whether that was the one I was looking for. I decided to just pace myself and see if I could stumble across the pacer early on in the race. With the course doubling back quite a bit in the early miles I knew I should be able to spot him.

The first couple of miles follows one of the main city roads up towards the City Centre. It’s a gradual climb so it’s good for keeping the pace in check early on. The first of the loop back sections came just before we entered the City Centre and was a good chance to check where I was in the scheme of things – plus I spotted the 8 min pacer – he was quite some way ahead of me so I doubted at that point I’d be able to catch up so I decided to carry on as I was. Miles 3-7 consisted of loops of the City Centre grid square. It sounds bad on paper but in reality it was great – the terrain is undulating – we entered the City at almost its highest point and ran down almost to the station before running back up and looping around the various boulevards. For a club like DLRR it’s a bit like a normal Sunday run – we loopback to the slowest runner to keep the group together – it’s a very social format and I spent most of that 5 miles waving and shouting at fellow runners as we spotted each other across the carriageway!

All this joviality meant I wasn’t clock watching too much which is no bad thing as the undulations meant my mile times varied by over 30 seconds but I was making good time as we left the City Centre and headed back down the main road towards the stadium. The road out of the city was a nice long downhill and gave me a chance to stretch my legs a bit and see how I felt – still plenty of running there – I could also see the 8 min pacer getting nearer – I was averaging well under 8 min miles and even by mile 8 I hadn’t caught him so not sure how far under he was!

At the roundabout before the stadium the course turns left and heads along the V9 Groveway – a road I know well as I drive along it every day on my way to work at the Open University. It starts nice and flat then as you approach the river Ouzel it swings down before sweeping back up past the OU. We had to run the length of it as far as the roundabout before taking a U-turn and running all the way back again. It was a great opportunity to see other runners coming the other way – I could see the top end of  the half marathon race heading back towards the stadium. At about 8 1/2 miles I finally caught up with the 8 minute pacer. I was actually travelling faster than 8 minute pace now so swung straight past his group – best laid plans and all that!

About half a mile after the U-turn the marathon and half marathon split with the long haul guys heading off onto the redways and the half marathon continuing back towards the stadium. Once the split occurred the road suddenly thinned out and first time I ran on my own for a bit. We climbed back up the road and headed towards the stadium but as we’d only reached 11 miles we had to run back past the stadium and round a small lake before running back up to the stadium again.

This is a little disheartening as you can see the finish area and people already running towards it, but you have to run right on past it…it was at this point that I could feel my calf and achilles getting really tight – almost cramp like. I felt like I had loads left in the tank but couldn’t up my pace too much for fear of doing some damage. This isn’t my A race of the year and I couldn’t afford to take  the risk. It got to the stage where almost every step sent a pain up my leg, made even worse when we left the road to run round the lake. This was on footpaths that weren’t in the best condition, not good when your leg is on the verge of cramping up. Nevertheless I stuck with it, I knew I was on for a PB, but not sure how much.  Somehow I managed to  churn out a 7:30 mile just before the end and held on.

The run out into the stadium is magnificent – for a reasonably small club the stadium is large – Rugby World Cup matches will be held here in 2015 so it holds a fair few people. Nowhere near full today but enough to make a noise to get the heart pumping. We had to run around three sides of the pitch to finish – never has a football pitch seemed so big – but I managed to step up a gear and cross the line in 1:42:18 – a new PB by well over 3 minutes!

I was so pleased with my run, everything went to plan, apart from the calf/achilles issue and I know I had more to come. It means I go into Outlaw knowing I’ve got a good half under my belt but also know 1:40 is there for the taking later in the year…

I must add that the marshals and volunteers out on the course and at the stadium were amazing. There were loads of them and were all very vocal – although it helps that a lot of them were from DLRR! Having marshalled a few years ago, I know what a long day it can be and they did a sterling job. Some of the best in the business – and I’ve run a lot of races over the years to know that!

It does go to show that you can still run well off the back of triathlon training – I’m only really running twice a week properly under my GreenlightPT with an interval session and a long run but it seems to be working for me…

 

MK Half medal

The medal – one of the best I’ve got in terms of design!

Milton Keynes Marathon Half Marathon Route

 

 

 

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

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