A Double Double

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If you are going to finish your season, you might as well do it in style! 70.3 World championships was the big goal for the season, and in my mind, was probably going to be followed by a small training break. But, one week later and I found myself back on a start line at Weymouth 70.3. It was a great opportunity to try and get valuable ranking points for next year, and also have one last blow out before a well deserved rest.

 If you had said to me at the start of the year that I would successfully back up two ‘doubles’ this year I am not sure I would have believed you! Nevertheless, I have and I am delighted to have finished the season on a high. Here is how the first ‘double went down ……. And this is how the last two weeks happened: 

Ironman 70.3 World Championships

Racing in the USA meant we aimed to arrive in Chattanooga on the Tuesday, which would give me plenty of time to get acclimatized and adjusted to the time zone. As with many best-laid plans, they don’t always come off! Cue a storm in Atlanta on Tuesday night and a flight delayed until Wednesday morning. When we finally arrived in Chattanooga we got to the hotel and I got on with the final hard sessions before race day. I always do the same bike and run sessions 4 days before an event. The bike session is a big gear session and the run is a speed work session.  I feel like they are a perfect primer before some very easy days leading into the race. The rest of the build up to race day was no different to any other. We drove the bike course, registered, sorted my race equipment out and rested as much as possible.

 Race Day

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I was feeling pretty nervous and I had been in the build up week too to be honest. The unknown, the uncertainty and the doubt were creeping in. Nevertheless I just stuck to my normal race preparation. I racked my bike first thing and then went away from the transition area to do my own thing. I always find it helpful to warm up away from the nervous energy that surrounds transition. It helps me to not think too much about the race until I really need to. Before I knew it I was warming up in the water and being called to the start line.

Swim

My first experience of a dive swim start and most importantly I didn’t lose my goggles and managed to get into my stroke pretty quickly. I built into the swim and found myself in a small group with swimmers I was pleased to be swimming with. I also managed to accelerate around the top turn buoy to ensure I had a good line in and out of it. This was a great start to my race and I came out the swim at the front of that group and confident I could build on this solid start of coming out the water in about 22nd.

Bike

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You only have so many matches to burn in an Ironman 70.3 event and choosing when to burn them is an important lesson to learn. I love a good climb and set about the bike course with real intensity. There was a short, sharp hill before the main climb and I decided to over take an athlete here, which was definitely a match burnt. Despite going on to pass three or four more athletes up the climb, I lost touch with a few of the other athletes who I had been with on the swim and also got passed by one other athlete. Nevertheless it was a good start to the bike and my main aim was to keep fuelling, keep pushing hard and try to catch as many athletes as I could. The descent on the bike was a lot of fun. I enjoyed the wide-open road and the opportunity to really go for it. The headwind on the way back towards town was less fun and a really tough section of the course. I finished the bike in about 16th and was with two other athletes coming out of transition onto the run.

Run

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The run was hilly and I choose to build into the course and try to consolidate on the hills and attack the flatter and downhill sections. A conservative first lap meant I felt strong going into the second lap and could push on and hold a consistent pace. This meant I overtook athletes going into the final few kilometers and finished the race much stronger than I have done in previous races. I was pleased that I stuck to my own strategy and think that this was what overall led to the positive result of finishing 14th .

Finishing 14th in my first Iromnan 70.3 World Championships is a really solid result. The performance happened because I made sure to focus on my own strengths and I stuck to my race plan. I am pleased I was able to perform to the best of my ability on the day, but I go away with a renewed motivation and a commitment to get better to improve on this result next year.

 Ironman 70.3 Weymouth

📷 Huw Fairclough

📷 Huw Fairclough

So the week leading up to race day was pretty eventful!! We had the small matter of travelling back from the USA, which was delayed by 24 hours due to a Hurricane, then collect my bike from Heathrow due it deciding it needed another 24 hours in the USA and then finally travel down to Weymouth on the Friday night. All, whilst doing my best to get back onto UK time and ensure my body was good to go for another race. This included some rest, the key bike and run sessions on Thursday and a much needed massage with Helen too. When we finally got to the hotel it was nice to just relax and try to re-focus one last time.

 Race Day

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It was cold and a real shock to the system after Chattanooga. It was a case of keeping the layers on for as long as possible before the start of the race and making sure I had extra layers for the bike in transition. I did my normal land warm-up, but decided not to do an ‘in water’ warm up as I have a tendency to get cold waiting for the start.

 Swim

After a good start to the swim, we quickly got split into smaller groups. The swim was cold and very choppy. The waves were making it difficult to sight and we were all swimming very different lines to buoys.  I was also finding it really hard to avoid not swallowing lots of water as I knew this would not be good for me later in the race. When we finally got to the first turn buoy our whole group ended up going markedly off-course. As we were re-directed, mainly to avoid a boat in the sea, we started picking up a bit more momentum and on the way back to the beach, one swimmer broke away. I tried to follow her, but could not keep her and the sighting buoys in sight, so decided to try and stick with the speed I was swimming and limit the loses on the way into transition.

Bike

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Getting through transition in bare feet was painful. I was also trying to make sure that I had my bike gillet on and some arm-warmers. You can see my attempt at getting the arm-warmers on in the picture, but I would like to think that having warm wrists helped my hands finally thaw out at about 60km. The bike was hilly, with lots of corners and little lanes, with uneven surfaces. It was a classic British countryside type of route and I felt thankful for the hours I have spent in the Surrey Hills on similar style roads. I pushed on alone for most of the bike course having passed fourth and third early on. I was in second place for a long time until I finally caught Hannah coming over the top of a hill. She then chased on the whole way back to transition and we ended up coming in together. The cold weather and the impact on my hand dexterity made eating hard on the bike and my Garmin not working meant I did the whole ride blind to time and distance.

Run

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Back in transition and back trying to run on concrete with numb feet….. so painful!! Once I had trainers and socks on, however, I quickly got into my running and felt good. I was holding good form and felt fluid and relaxed. I was trying to stick to my nutrition plan, but was feeling increasingly bloated and full (probably from drinking the sea water on the swim). I knew I had built a bit of a lead, but also knew that Katrien  was running very well.  As we went onto the third lap I really felt the fatigue hit and everything started to hurt. As my pace dropped, Katrien kept getting quicker and I just had no response as she came passed.  I held on for second place and come away from the race knowing I couldn’t have given anymore. 

Looking back on it now I wish I held on, but I think the fatigue finally caught up with me. Nevertheless, I backed up worlds with a strong performance and raced as bravely as I could. I will continue to attack races in the knowledge that I am getting stronger all the time. It is exciting to end the season with two good results and I am now looking forward to some rest, relaxation and planning for 2018.

This season would not have been possible without the most amazing team around me.  

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  1. The best equipment. Check out why I wear the Alpha wetsuit here, all about the Argon18 E119 here, the Fulcrum disc and racing Quattro, the x-lab hydration system here and the Skechers meb4 here. Not to mention my ISMseat.
  2. Nutrition delivered to my door and chosen by me to meet my needs for training and racing from Komfuel
  3. Countless hours at Digme Fitness for specific power based bike sessions mean I have never been stronger on the bike. 
  4. Andy Bullock who as a coach pushes me and believes in me in equal measure.  
  5. More massage and treatment from Helen Smith. As someone who isn't always good at keeping on top of this, it has made a noticeable difference.
  6. The best support from all my family, mum and Pete, not just on race day, but all through training. 

As I build towards 2018 I will be looking to develop my team and continue to ensure I create the right environment and opportunity to become the best athlete I can.  

Keep the faith

It has been a while since I have put together a blog and with only a month to go until the World 70.3 Championships I thought it was about time I wrote a brief update about what I have been up to.

Racing

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Since Barcelona, I have done two races; Ironman 70.3 Elsinore, European Championships and Ironman 70.3 Jonkoping. The plan for these races was to build on my performances in the previous two races and try a few different things out. I had some areas that I wanted to work on and the races certainly provided an excellent opportunity to do this. I finished 7th in Elsinore by having a strong run, after a disappointing swim and bike. I came away feeling pleased with the performance on the whole, but the following week was struggling with a lot of fatigue and a sore hip. I managed this for the few weeks leading into Jonkoping and felt confident I was coming back into some form. In Jonkoping I finished 6th and I felt terrible the whole way through. I felt like I was pushing hard throughout, but was just lacking any change of pace or good form. I came away feeling pretty disappointed and was left with lots of questions and frustrations around the performance. It was a race that I would like to forget, but instead, have spent a lot of time going over to try and work out where I made mistakes and how I need to race to get the best out of myself.  In both races, I tried some different strategies to previous races and learnt what does and doesn’t work for me. I also challenged myself on courses that were less suited to my strengths and raced athletes I had not raced before. It was good to get these different experiences and understand how to deal with the ups and downs that racing can throw up.

Training

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 After the two races I decided I needed to return to some consistent training and get a good block of work in before World 70.3s in Chattanooga. I set out on the block of training with good intent, but after an easy week I was aware that the hip and hamstring niggle had not gone away. This was a frustrating time because on the one hand I really wanted to push on, but on the other hand I knew I needed to get my body right first. Luckily, I have people around me who know how to get me to see a more logical perspective. I spent a lot of time seeing Helen and also adjusted my training plan with Andy to slowly build the intensity in my training and keep an eye on how my body was responding. Whilst I am not the most patient person, I am pretty good at sticking to a plan and making sure I do everything I can to get to where I want to be. Helen’s treatment, and an adjusted S&C and mobility programme, has seemed to have done the trick and over the past week and a half I really feel like I am getting some spring back in my legs, hitting some better times in the pool and slowly putting some power back through the pedals. I’m not quite there yet, but the adaptations are happening and the belief is building again. What was a very short time, seemed to last for ages, but training is not always going to be as smooth as I would like it to be!

What have I learnt?

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  1. Form is not forever. It is unrealistic to be in great shape all the time. The body needs time to adapt and rest and whilst I would love to continue a steady upward trajectory of improvements, I need to allow myself to accept the times I need to back off and rebuild
  2. Listen to the people around you. They can help you be less emotional about the situation and help you put a plan in place to get back on track.
  3. Work to your strengths. The last two races have taught me to go back to my own processes and stick to a race plan that works for my strengths.
  4. Think bigger picture. I am a thinker and this can mean I can overthink sessions and races. By focusing on the bigger picture it is easier to let sessions just happen and get the work done, whether it is going well or not. ‘Chop wood, carry water!’ 
  5. Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will. This quote is so true. With uncertainty and disappointment, doubt crept in. Keep the faith and accept that things will go wrong. Just keep moving forward and learning. 

So What’s Next? 

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All aboard the ‘CHATTANOOGA CHOO CHOO’ for the final month of training for the World 70.3 Championships. This was the main aim for this season and I am excited to have the opportunity to race in my first World Champs. It is going to be an unbelievable experience and I am working hard to be in good shape and race with belief and a smile. 

Thank you to everyone for all the support this year. Check out my recent interview with Tri247 and OA Podcast. It has been a fantastic year and I am so grateful for all the people who enable me to do what I do. Racing around the world, training day in and day out… it really is the lifestyle of dreams.

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Doing the Double !

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As I begin to build back into training I thought it was a good time to put some words down about the past two weeks of racing. Pays d’aix and Barcelona 70.3 races have been in the diary since January, when I began my winter block of training.The decision to race back-to-back 70.3 races was something some people questioned, but throughout the winter it gave me a really clear vision of what I was aiming for and the closer the races got the more I felt confident that it was a good decision.

When you arrive at the first race of the season you are always wondering what kind of shape you are in. I knew that training was going well. I was swimming faster than ever, had consistently backed up a good mixture of hard work and easy miles on the bike and my running had been progressing well too. Nevertheless, putting them all together in a 70.3 is a very different kettle of fish. Whilst I was confident, I also had some nerves. It was important to just focus on getting the processes right and see what I could do on the day, something that in many ways can be easier said than done.

Pays D’Aix

I am a creature of habit and my pre-race routine reflects this. We travelled on the Thursday after my final bike and run sessions before the race. I like to do a couple of high intensity sessions in the build up to races to make sure I am sharp. I always rest two days out from the race, which helps me feel recovered both mentally and physically. This day is usually spent registering, organizing my kit and getting to know the bike course by driving around it. Knowing the course is really helpful on race day. I am able to know what is coming up, when to eat and drink and what parts of the course I think I am able to attack on. This was particularly the case with Pays d’aix due to the technical descents and steep climbs! The day before the race I always do a short run and then swim on the course. I try to practice the start and finish of the swim course so I know exactly what I am doing on race day. Then it is about racking the bike, getting off my feet and fueling up for the following day.

Swim

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In the past I have dreaded the swim and felt particularly nervous about it going into races. Whilst the nerves were still there, this felt different and I was determined to put the swim training to full effect. I managed to start well and get on the feet of some good swimmers. I then swam side by side with another athlete for a long time. As she accelerated I tried to go with her, but did not quite hold the pace at this point. Nevertheless, I knew I was near the front of the field and I just kept focusing on the processes of my pull and rotation. I managed to hold the gap to the swimmer in front and maybe even close a few metres in the later stages of the swim. Coming out in the top five was a perfect platform for the rest of the race and a swim that was a big step up from previous years.

Bike

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Start hard and maintain it. I went off out of transition and passed a couple of athletes very early. At first the legs were taking a while to get going, but I continued to push on and was pleased to start to feel better and better as the ride went on. I knew it was hilly and as we climbed I quickly found the front of the field. It was great to be in a race on the bike. There was lots of changing of position on the front and I really felt like we were all pushing each other to ride harder. The time I lost on the bike was the descents. I just didn’t have the skills, confidence and ability to stay with The other athletes on the technical descent. This was frustrating at the time, but a good lesson and something to work on over the next few months in training. The legs held up well and despite a bit of a tough spell at about 70km I still felt strong up the final climb and set about staying in contention as we came into transition.

 Run

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I came off the bike in 3rd, about two minutes down. I set about making up the time and tried to build into a rhythm as quickly as possible. I try to focus on my cadence, running tall and working the arms during the run. Every aid station I passed I was taking on water and Coke and things seemed to be ticking along nicely. I went into second place on the second lap and up until about 10k felt pretty strong. Then what started well soon began to feel like a real effort. I was doing my best to hold good form, but I was feeling increasingly dehydrated and was finding it difficult to focus. The aid stations seemed further and further apart and I just couldn’t get enough fluid in to try and compensate for what I now know was not enough fluid and nutrition on the bike. As I lost second place due to the well paced running of the other women, it was then about not letting things completely fall apart.  Pete was a massive help at this point, pushing me on and also letting me know that the whole family and coach were sending messages on What’s app. I kept plugging away and as I came into the final few km I started to know I could hold on.

Crossing the line was initially a huge sense of relief and was quickly followed by drinking copious amounts of water. As I started to feel a bit better I enjoyed the realization that I had performed well and was proud to find myself on the podium.

 

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Barcelona

The week leading into Barcelona was the best preparation for a race I have had. Not working, being in the sunshine, being able to ride parts of the course and enjoying a mini holiday with Pete meant I was relaxed and well recovered. I had also gained confidence from Pays d’aix, but more importantly I had spent a long time on the phone to Andy to debrief the race before and make a plan to correct the mistakes I had made before. The best way to learn is to race and the opportunity to put things into practice so quickly as really exciting.

 Swim

Race morning preparation went as it always does. Check my bike, add my nutrition and hydration, warm up, wetsuit up, swim warm up, family hugs, kisses and good lucks and then focus on the start line. The men went off ahead of us and I was in a good spot on the start line. Despite this the shout of ‘take your marks’ and the hooter all happened a bit quicker than I had expected and I felt like I was left standing. The first few 100 metres of the swim was therefore really messy as people tried to find space and form groups. I tried to stay calm and find some space to swim in, but just couldn’t seem to get out of the chaos. Eventually this subsided and I found myself at the front of a big second group. I set about getting into a good rhythm and tried to build the pace throughout swim. Me and another athlete were side by side for much of the swim and I was pleased that we kept the small group ahead of us in sight.

 Bike

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Coming out of transition Pete yelled at me that he thought I was in about 9th. I was pretty disappointed to hear this at the time, but it made me go on the chase. I passed two athletes as we went out of town and then tried to settle into a solid pace as we hit the bottom of the first climb. The first 45km went really quickly. Most of it was uphill and I continued to push on. As I caught 4th and 5th they came with me. We then passed 3rd not long after that and 2nd at the top of the final climb in Montsany. As we crossed a timing mat I thought about my family and friends watching the tracker and wondering if I had gone off too hard. I also felt excited that they would know I had made some good ground. At this point in the race there was a very narrow, windy descent on a poor road surface. Luckily I had been down the descent during our course recon on Friday. Nevertheless it was sketchy and I struggled on some of the sharper corners. I got passed on the descent, but as we came to the wider sections I tried to attack more than I did last week. There was also (finally) some flat road, so I enjoyed travelling at a faster pace for a few kms. I stayed in second until the final aid station, where I get passed as I was taking on fluid. I knew I had to drink here and took the decision to do so. I had been really focused throughout the bike to stick to the nutrition and hydration plan in order to run well.

Run

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The run was the part of the race I really wanted to improve on from the previous week. I made the decision to build more slowly into the first few kms and then get into my running. I found a solid rhythm pretty early and felt relaxed and composed.  I knew exactly what I was doing with my run nutrition this time and it was brilliant in helping me split the course into smaller sections. As I moved back up into second place I could see a group of three or four athletes all fighting it out for 3rd on the out and back course. It was hard to say how far they were from me, but it felt closer than it was and it was big motivation to hold strong and maintain the pace I was running. I didn’t really believe I was going to hold second until the last kilometer. The final three kilometers were starting to hurt and I tried to push harder to ensure I held the position. Coming into the finish line was an amazing feeling and a combination of shock and excitement. I was so pleased I had put together a good performance and also put into practice what I had learnt from the previous week.

I have been overwhelmed by the support and messages I have received  over the last few weeks. It has been great to start the season well, but this only makes me hungry for more improvements. I have been able to consistently train with good volume, but more importantly good quality. As I am now back up to full training it's  taught me that racing is much easier than training (I'm exhausted)! I still have much to improve on in swim, bike and run to get to the top step of the podium, but making these improvements is the motivation I need.

 

Behind the scenes....

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Racing is the part that everyone sees, but here are some of the things I think have contributed to my development...

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  1. More swim volume and more swimming in my wetsuit. This has meant that I have been swimming steady when I need to and then had better quality in the hard sessions.
  2. Lifting heavy in strength and conditioning sessions and then backing off into races. This is key for the development of power and stability through swim, bike and run.
  3. Specific power development sessions on the bike at Digme fitness.
  4. A coach who has changed my training programme as I have developed and pushed me just enough as we work on all aspects of training and racing.
  5. The best equipment. Check out why I wear the Alpha wetsuit here, all about the Argon18 E119 here, the Fulcrum disc and racing Quattro, the x-lab hydration system here and the Skechers meb4 here.
  6. Run often and with good form. My run volume is about the same, but I'm running more frequently and again with the easy easy and the hard hard!
  7. More massage and treatment from Helen Smith. As someone who isn't always good at keeping on top of this, it has made a noticeable difference.
  8. The best support from Pete, not just on race day, but all through training. When I'm tired he puts up with me and also makes sure I get out the door and get the work done.

Following the last two races I am now going to race in the  Ironman 70.3 European Championship race on June 18th. I'm excited to take on a quality field and compete at a championship race. This will be another challenge and one I hope I can rise to!

 

2016 - Taking the leap. 2017 - Making it happen

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2016 will be a year to remember for many reasons, both, good and bad.  As another year goes by I am always amazed by, not only how quick the time goes, but also by how much seems to have happened. This year has been no exception, not only in the public sphere, but also for me personally. Taking time to reflect on the year might not seem important and might even be overwhelming, but by doing so I have already been able to take courage from the things that have been tough, motivation and excitement from the successes and gratitude for the amazing people I have met and worked with along the way. At the start of this year I said I would be taking the leap and learning to fly on the way down. As the year is coming to an end I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about what has enabled me to strengthen the wings and help me to fly. Here is what has given me two podiums, a race win and some huge learning in 2016.

Sponsors

I am often asked, "can you make a living from professional triathlon". At the moment, no, but in the future I feel confident I can. Despite this, I know that those who have believed in and supported me this year have enabled me to work towards making a living and have also helped me to push towards achieving my potential. It is a real privilege to be able to train everyday and have the opportunity to achieve my goals and I am grateful for what my sponsors provide and do for me.

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 Orca have helped raise my profile and have the comfiest and fastest wetsuit I have swum in. I have loved my race kit and used the transition bag for travel and races all year. Anyone who knows me knows that the fact there is a specific pocket for everything from helmets, to race shoes and nutrition is perfect for me. I am excited to be working with Orca in 2017 and hope for continued success! 

I-Ride UK have made cycling fun and fast on my Argon18 E118 and Fulcrum Wheels. The time trial set up has been reliable all year, with the fastest bike split at Weymouth 70.3 and a new course record at Castle Howard triathlon. The team offer a great service and also distribute a large amount of cycling accessories, apparel and training aids. 

Skechers Performance trainers have been the best trainer I have ever run in. Since running in the gorun4 I have had no lower limb troubles and my previous calf tightness has markedly improved. I have also run faster off the bike this year and gained 10k pb of 36.25. Running fast and in comfort is a key part of triathlon success and I am pleased to have met some of the great Skechers team at Ironman Europe events during the year.

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Etixx UK products are part of my day to day routine. From recovery and energy bars, to Iron and Cartinine tablets the range keeps me fuelled and supports my health throughout my training. It tastes good, they deliver quick and are a great team to work with.

Digme Fitness is an exciting new spin and hiit studio in Richmond, Oxford and soon to be Blackfriars. Headed up by two enthusiastic and successful triathletes, Geoff and Caoimhe, the team at Digme have been unbelievably supportive and helpful. The use of the KEISER bikes during my training has been excellent for specific power based sessions and has enabled me to push my bike strength week on week. Having only launched this year, Digme is already seeing great success and I am excited about continuing to work together next year. For anyone in London or Oxford who wants to get strong on a bike, in a fun and sociable way, get down to Digme.

Scicon Bags made travel with my bike easy and the simplicity of packing and unpacking the bike meant even I could do it on my own! 

Consistency in Training

The simple things are sometimes the hardest to achieve, but normally the most important. Triathlon training is about showing up everyday and ticking off the sessions. Making each day count, going easy when you are meant to and committing to the hard work when it is needed. Long sessions have become less and less daunting and backing up big days of training day after day is becoming the norm. I am not taking this for granted, but am confident that a winter that starts with only three days a week working, rather than working full time until May like I did this year, will achieve even better results. The key to consistent training this year, from my point of view, has been:

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1) having a plan and then having a plan for that plan. Knowing exactly how each session fits into the day and then making sure I am ready for that the day before means I can make best use of the time I have.

2) communicating with my coach... regularly. Be honest about how you are feeling in and around your training and make sure you are willing to adjust the plan accordingly. There will be days when you are tired, but if a day turns into a week, something isn't right. For me, Andy knows the line and we are constantly working together to push the line, whilst trying to stay the right side of it.

3) Do your Strength and Conditioning. I think you need to be robust to maintain a large volume training plan and robustness comes from the ability to move in a functional way with good strength and stability. I keep strength and conditioning work in my programme all year round and believe it is a big part of staying fit and healthy.

4) Keep the 'WHY' ! Always know why you are doing it and what the goal is. Day to day I feel more or less motivated about getting to the pool or pushing in a run session, but reminding myself how I will feel after a session, what the goal is and why I am doing it means there is less time to think about all the reasons I might not want to get out and train and helps me get it done. Day in, day out!

Learning to Race 

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At the start of 2016 I had done two 70.3 races.... I have now done eight. Every race I have learnt something new and each race in 2016 has been an improvement on the performance from the last. The podiums at Dublin and Weymouth were built from the learning and development from Mallorca and Staffordshire. The performance in Bahrain was the culmination of the whole year, and amongst a talented field, it was the one that leaves me feeling the most excited for next year. When racing I try to:

1) stick to the process

2) know that things can change

3) believe in my strengths

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4) know the course

5) learn and make changes 

2016 racing was about learning. 2017 is about competing.

Strengthening Belief

Over the year my physical fitness and capabilities in swim, bike and run have continued to improve. This has had a big impact on my performance, but is only a small part of what it takes to compete as a pro. As a psychologist people always ask me if I use my knowledge in my sport. In short, I can't not. There is a growing awareness of performance and sport psychology and in triathlon, I see lots of opportunity to develop strategies for racing and training. For me, I feel like I have made a big shift in my approach to training and racing over 2016. In addition, I know my well-being is a key component of good performance. I have come to realise that lowering stress day to day is as important to success as knowing what works for me on race day.

So what has strengthened my belief in 2016 and how can you apply this is your training?

1)  Focus on your own training and goals. Write goals down and remind yourself of them regularly.  Make sure to look back over training that you have done and take confidence from this to the start line.

2) Accept that you will not break records everyday and that a bad session is just a bad session. It is not a reflection of you as an athlete.

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3) Celebrate the improvements and good sessions. No matter how small, this is really important because racing is few and far between, but day to day improvements can give you a welcome lift and renewed motivation.

4) Train with others. This helps on many levels, with better athletes giving you something to chase and supportive and similar athletes providing an amazing sounding board for sharing training dilemmas.  

5) Relax, rest and enjoy the time off training. Knowing when to think about training and when to switch off is not always easy, but is key to performing better and, for me, being happier.

6) Surround yourself with people who believe in you and people who are willing to push you to be better. I am lucky to have a coach who does this and Pete, family, and friends who support me everyday.

An eye on 2017 

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 Half way through 2016 I suddenly realised that racing to learn was not enough for me. I needed a more motivating goal and something that would push me on to the next level. In 2017 I want to qualify for the World 70.3 Ironman championships and the end of this year has been a good start to this goal. In addition, I am working hard to build the right support I need to compete at the highest level and I am looking to develop new partnerships, whilst continuing build on the existing ones. 

I am finishing 2016 filled with excitement, motivation and a little bit of fear about making some significant changes to be competitive at the highest level. As they say, 'fortune favours the brave' and I can't wait to build on the great platform I have built this year. 

2017 races are still being planned and training starts again on Monday! It has been nice to have a rest, but I am excited to build up to the first race at the start of May. Thanks for following and supporting my progress and I hope 2017 will bring new adventures, more progress and as much fun as 2016 has!

  

 

 

Bahrain - Middle East Championships

When I think about the race I am left with two very different feelings. Looking at the result and finishing 12th leaves me frustrated and disappointed, particularly because it was the run that led to this position. Thinking about the performance, however, makes me feel excited, confident, and proud of the progress I have managed to develop this year. Both perspectives are important and both will drive me through the winter training. Safe to say I am enjoying my rest, but also chomping at the bit to get going again!

 Before The Race

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The trip to Bahrain was made easier by the fantastic support of my aunt and uncle and also having Pete there with me. Each race we are becoming more accustomed to the travel, logistics and preparation and I am so grateful that I don't have to do it on my own. The flight went by quickly, thanks largely to meeting and then chatting away to Alice Hector. It was nice to have fellow British girls racing and it was great to see Alice perform so well to finish 7th!

The final few days before the race went quickly and I was pleased to do my final training sessions of 2016. As race day approached, I was ready to race and I really knew I was ready. I was relaxed and confident and saw the race as a fantastic opportunity to put the hard work I had done to good use. It was amazing to be in such a competitive field and I was excited to see what I could do.

The Race

Swim  start came around quickly on race morning. With a wetsuit swim confirmed, I finalised preparations by putting on my Orca Alpha and got in the water for my swim warm up. The flexibility of the suit around the arms is great and I felt comfortable as I lined up on the start line. A deep water start, with not far until the first buoy meant it was pretty frantic and a large group rounded the first buoy together. As we came around the buoy, I felt in a strong position and started to build a nice rhythm with plenty of other swimmers around me to work with. I worked my way up the group and noticed there were some people dropping off the pace. The course turned again and there was a long stretch into the chop of the sea water. I held my position and pace and continued to try and stay near the front of the group. The chop made it difficult to sight at times, but the course was well marked. I also ended up swallowing a fair amount of sea water, which I now know isn't the best idea when racing. The final turn buoy was in sight and suddenly the group split. I could see some people heading for the exit, but I knew we had to go left of the last buoy so I quickly changed direction and headed towards it. A few others came with me and soon the other group had redirected to it too. The swim exit was as frantic as the start with a group of about 8-10 of us all coming out the water in quick succession. A front pack swim has been my aim all season and 3rd out the water was the dream start.

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Bike course in summmary was quick, windy and sandy! Out of transition I managed to pass a few athletes putting their feet in their shoes and I was riding in fourth. Two athletes came past me fairly early on, one of whom I could not stay with and the other of whom I managed to keep in sight for the long 30km section from the swim start down to the race track. My bike strength has developed a huge amount and I was confident I could hold the tempo and effort I was putting in. I also knew I had the perfect set-up and was delighted to have the wheel set that I have been racing on all year. The lightweight Fulcrum racing Quattro is a great option for the front and its shallow rim was good to avoid being blown around tooo much in the cross-wind. The Fulcrum disc has been fast and reliable all year and even in the cross winds offered the stability I needed for me to ride aero throughout the course.  The course finished with a loop of the Grand Prix circuit and being isolated between the front group and the group behind me meant it was a solo lap! Coming into transition I passed my bike to a volunteer and off I went to set about the run.

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 Run began well for me and I felt able to get into a good rhythm for the first 5km. Although I felt in a good rhythm and my legs felt ready to build from there, my stomach was really starting to feel dodgy. I had felt pretty bloated and was trying to get fluids in and stay cool, but each aid station this was becoming more difficult. At about 8km in I knew I was starting to struggle and felt the only option was to take a toilet stop. Having lost one place dong this I came out and tried to get back into my running. This didn't last long and two more stops followed at successive aid stations. It was so demoralising seeing people come past, but they were running well and I just couldn't respond. I know I have a great run in me and I am disappointed that I could not bring home what had been, up to that point, a performance to be pleased with. I kept plugging away and was determined to finish, despite by this point having no energy and feeling very dehydrated. As I crossed the line I didn't know what to think or feel. I wasn't disappointed at that point, just felt at a bit of a loss as to what to do. I headed straight out to see Pete and my mum, which in hindsight was not a good idea! I spent the next half hour lying on the floor, trying to stay warm and not shake, waiting for the medical team. It took a while to get sorted, but I am grateful for the help and as always for having mum and Pete to help me get back to the hotel.

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Racing this year has been a bit of the case of getting two out of three and whilst this isn't all bad, I certainly know that if i can put all three together in the next race it will be a very good day! 

The race marked the end of my 2016 season and a welcome rest. This race and the rest of the year would not be possible without my amazing team  Etixx Skechers Digme Fitness I-ride UK Orca. In addition a huge thank you to Andy Bullock for continuing to push me to be better and believe in me! Most importantly to Mum, Pete and Chrissie and Paul who made the trip as wonderful as it was!

A year in review and 2017 plans will be posted soon!!

 

 

Ironman 70.3 Weymouth - 2nd 2nd in a row

 Where to start?

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The back end of this season is turning out pretty well!! If you had asked me at the start of the season if I would get two second place Ironman 70.3 professional finishes I am not sure what I would have said. I think I have often thought about what I could achieve and always felt like I would caveat it with the reality of not being able to fully focus and commit to my goals in the way that I wanted to. Yes I know many athletes work full time and achieve incredible results, but the intensity that I need to achieve in training to develop and compete at the level I want to is not compatible with a full time job.

I have pushed so hard in training since May and really tried to utilise the benefit of working three days instead of five. The guidance from Andy has been crucial and we have been balancing the need for more volume with the need for some quality high intensity work. Nothing shows the work I have done more than the big step up I have taken in performance. The second place finishes show this, but more importantly, so do the times I have achieved in bike and run and the way I have been able to compete much more in races. There is still a long way to go, but to be running and biking like I am is exciting and holds much promise.

So what about Weymouth?

Anyone who raced on  Saturday 10th September would know that the weather was in stark contrast to the Sunday. On the Saturday morning, in the pouring rain and howling wind, I did my final run and swim preparations.  I then spent the rest of the day watching BBC weather and hoping that the Sunshine that was due would arrive! I was really fortunate to be able to stay with friends who lived on the end of the run course. This made the logistics for the whole event very easy and I am very grateful for not only the house, but also their amazing support on the day. People who get what it is about when you are racing are so important to have around and these guys totally get it…. Check out the trailer for the documentary of their amazing second place at RAAM: https://twitter.com/raamin4charity/status/775224189791895552

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By this point in the season the familiarity of race morning preparation is a welcome one and I felt calm and ready. There was a great atmosphere at the start, particularly with the Ironman event going off at the same time. The view across the sea as the sun rose was pretty spectacular and I tried to soak up the energy and experience for the race start. After a short warm up in the water we were all trying to stand on the stony beach and not get cold. I was unsuccessful in A: walking on the stones without my feet hurting and B: not getting cold. The start hooter was therefore a welcome sound and charging into the sea I was off and swimming well, trying to chase the very fast Hannah Drewett and Emma Pallant towards the first buoy. Too much kicking quickly landed me in trouble and I was unable to keep pace, feeling like I was not holding a good rhythm and slowly drifting off the back of the lead three. The swim leg has had a consistent theme this year and is something I am continually trying to work on. I am learning all the time and trust that the performance will come soon. In the race I tried not to allow the frustration get to me and just focus on the rest of the swim. This can be difficult, especially when feeling isolated on the swim course, but I was sure there was a lot of racing left in the day and pushed on to the swim exit.

I exited the water in 4th, with 5th Suzie Richards hot on my tail. As I got through transition and out onto the bike I really wanted to attack hard. I knew that after the short flat section along the prom, there was a drag up into Preston. I worked hard from the off and for the first few kilometres my legs were burning and my heart rate fairly high. Once into my rhythm though, I felt stronger and stronger and before I knew it I had passed third and had the opportunity to see first and second on the out and back section of the course. This gave me a real boost and the incentive to keep pushing on. There was a lot of tree cover and fast descents in the first half of the course. This led to numb hands on the bike and toes that never warmed up. Luckily the uphills came and the sun came out – a good combination for getting warm. Through half way and finally I caught second place and continued to build time on her into the final kilometres. Emma rode really well up in first and kept the distance at 2 minutes 45 by the time I got to transition.

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As I headed out onto the run I knew that it would be difficult to catch such a good runner, but I didn’t want to give any time away to third and I wanted to push hard and put in another good run performance after my 1.21 at Dublin. The first few kms of the run, as with the bike are always going to feel tough, but I worked hard to focus on my cadence, arm position and posture. I remembered the tempo runs and speed work from the weeks leading into the race and trusted I could hold the pace I set out at. The run course was very special as it was lined with people the whole way round. It was made even better by my sister, her partner, and my nephew being there as well as Pete, Mum, Phil and Suzanne. Having so much support spread around the course meant I was always being given bonus energy. The cheers from the Freespeed crew and other supporters only added to this. My particular highlight was a group of children singing ‘Don’t stop know…. “You are having such a good time!” This truly captures what is so great about the Ironman events and I felt lucky to be performing well and being given the support to push on. The final half a lap really hurt and I was struggling to hold my form and pace. Safe in second I settled and just tried to enjoy the last two miles into the finish line.

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Crossing the finish line was a mixture of joy, relief, satisfaction and pride in another good performance. When I stop I always feel a bit unsure what to do with myself, particularly as the adrenalin wears off and I start to feel the effects of the racing. There were a lot of high fives and hugs with my family and friends and there is nothing better than sharing the success with them.

What’s next?

I had made no concrete plans for post Weymouth, but have now decided to race Bahrain 70.3 at the end of the year. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain from putting myself into a championship race to close the season. I am hoping to carry my form and momentum through a little longer and go and have some fun in what will hopefully be an amazing experience. An experience for me to learn from, benchmark where I am against some quality athletes and get a bit of winter sun!

An Ironman 70.3 Podium

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4am – Mum wakes up on the other side of Dublin to walk 40 minutes to the shuttle bus and then get the shuttle bus to be at the swim start on time – What a legend!!

4.15am – I’m up (closely followed by Pete) and drinking coffee, whilst trying to force down the breakfast that I don’t really want, but know I need. At this point I am wondering why I do it, but as I put my timing chip and race kit on my feelings soon change

5am – We walk out the hotel room and as the door shuts behind me the anticipation starts to build. The drive down to the transition is always the worst point for me. My thoughts jump around ‘I don’t want to race’ ‘I’m ready as I have ever been’, ‘I am excited to race’, ‘I hope my bike is ok’, I don’t want to race’, ‘Let’s do this’!!

5.15am – Transition time. It is quiet and calm at this early stage and I complete the final checks to my tyres, Etixx energy bar, fluids, and mounting the Garmin. As I walk away from my bike I visualise the route I will take through transition and feel calm again.

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5.40am – Obligatory pre-race toilet stop. The worst part of racing is definitely the portaloo experience (no further information needed)!!

5.45am – Away from the hustle and bustle that has now descended on transition I seek solace on my warm up run. It was great to have the space and time to run away from the nerve filled air of transition. The familiarity of my pre-race jog, activation, and movement patterns always gets me focused, relaxed and excited to race.

6.30 - Final preparations done and I am slowly getting into the trusted Orca. In an attempt to stay warm I keep my socks and shoes on and then put my jacket back on over the top. I recce'd the swim and it is safe to say the sea was not warm!

6.55am – Before I know it I am in the water and ready to go. It is cold and we all reluctantly wait as the men go off. I start far left and the hooter sounds.

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7.10am – Already lost the feet in front and the isolation frustrates me. I focus on my stroke and try to keep sight of the buoys in front, plugging away as fast as I can.

7.29ish – Out the water, disorientated and willing the blood to return to my freezing fingers and toes. People are cheering and the sight of dry land is pleasing.

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8.43am – Time feels like it is flying by and I feel the same on my Argon 118! Having passed another athlete through Dublin city centre I was now out in the suburbs and enjoying the course alone. I visualised the hours training and the stationary bike of Digme Fitness. Confidence and conviction grew as I continued to ‘stamp’ on the pedals and push hard out of corners.

10.04am – I’m in transition and suddenly surprised to see my bike is the second to arrive. This is the first point I had an idea of where I was in the race. ‘Stay calm’ I say to myself as I rack my bike, get the helmet off and empty the contents of my red bag in front of me. Socks on, Skechers on, Oakleys on, grab Etixx gel, pack bag, hang bag (won’t go on the hook… finally on the hook), spin race belt, get running.

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10.06am – I’m off, tempo, cadence, hips up and hands high. I try to relax into my running as my legs scream at me for the first few kms. ‘This will pass’ I told myself and I was confident it would. Cheers and shouts willed me on and the strength I gained from seeing Pete and Mum gave me the belief to push on.

10.30. The first lap had been and gone and I was still going strong. Every aid station I drank, water, coke, water (much of which ended up over my head, in my shoes and probably over fellow runners – sorry!)

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11am – Lap 3 and It is beginning to hurt, but I know I am clear in second. I settle my pace, but work through the last few kilometres. Pete tells me to ‘see what I can do’ and I feel motivated to set a fast time.

11.26am – I am turning onto the finish line. The famous red carpet is ahead and I am starting to smile to myself. I am delighted, tired, surprised, happy and proud all at the same time. I see my mum and suddenly it feels like all the hard work was worth it.

11.27am – Hugs all around, smiles and even some tears (I was tired)!! Thanks to Rob and Susie Cheetham for the support and kind words. I didn’t really know what to do with myself now, but I was just trying to soak it all up and reflect on the day with my support crew.

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11.36am – Covered in Beer!!!

12.30am – In the car, covered in tin foil and on my way for a shower. Seeing all the messages from from friends, family and coach was amazing. The sense of performing to my best was starting to hit me and I kept going over all the parts of the race that had gone well.

2pm – Freshly showered eating the most amazing (and greasy) Triple cheese toasty… It tasted sooooo good! Finally relaxing with a coffee in a quirky bar/café called Wigwam I could reflect on the surprise at my run split, the frustrations with the swim and the confidence from the bike.

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3.30pm – Someone please collect my bike and transition bags – ok I know I have to do it myself, but it was a long walk and the legs were getting a little stiff.

4.30pm - Car packed fully of smelly beer soaked kit and a bike for Pete to clean again!! Off to chat to the lovely Sarah Lewis and compare race notes... Best of luck in Australia!!

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5.15pm - The picture says it all! Standing on the second spot of podium with a big smile!

What a day with my awesome team Etixx Skechers Digme Fitness I-ride UK Orca and thank you for all the support getting me in such good shape for the race from Andy Bullock! 

 

 

The road is long and hilly....

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The road is long and hilly….. Especially when you are in North Yorkshire. What a fantastic course Castle Howard was. It certainly inspired me to a race winning performance on a day that I decided to be brave and race with more heart and less head. Success can be equally hilly. This race feels like the top of one of those hills for me, not just because of the win, but because of the performance. I have been at the bottom of the hill on a number of occasions this year, not just at races such as Mallorca, and at times,  Staffordshire, but also with frustration in my form. This happens to all athletes, but just as on the course at Castle Howard you just have to remember that for every downhill, there is an up and for every low there is a high. Sunday was certainly a high and a confidence boost in my ability to perform on race day.

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Leading up to the race training had been going well. I recently did a 10k in a time that I had not run since 2012 and I knew that I was finally seeing the form that reflected all the hard work I had put in. This run form showed on race day and although I ran the first lap like it was a 10k, it was fantastic to feel the speed and spring that I have been lacking in other races this season. I put most of this down to working part time because it has allowed more time to recover, eat well, and focus on my training. This is making a difference to my day to day ability to perform well, but also in my confidence and belief in the work I am doing. After Staffordshire I really wanted to do some more work on the bike and Andy has made some good changes to my program. In addition, I have been able to team up with Digme fitness and start to do some key sessions on the fantastic Keiser bikes they use. Training with power has enabled me to see my potential and I am excited for (and slightly dreading) the sessions that Andy has given me for the coming weeks. In the race and on the bike I have already started to see the benefits of this work and I know there is a great deal more to come!

So what about race day….

By now, I imagine that my perspective on racing has become somewhat predictable on the blog. I try to share my experiences, but would also like to keep the blog a little more varied. As a result here is my race in short:

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I got swum over at the start, but swam well for the back end of the swim. A terrible T1 gave me motivation for a great bike to catch the lead woman at about 12kms. We cycled the whole bike course neck and neck, with very little to choose between us and came into T2 together. I then had a good transition and got out onto the run first, running as hard and as fast as I could. I had to dig deep and paid for the early pace in the last few kilometres, but was delighted to cross the line in first and break the course record!! Some important learning about nutrition, racing, and transitions, but physically I am right where I want to be.

Now for a different perspective….

Whilst competitors are out smashing themselves around the swim, bike and run there are a whole host of hardy spectators who give up their time and energy to support. The atmosphere at triathlon events is always special and for me it is largely down to the fantastic support. I feel lucky to have some of the best spectators, not that I am biased, and thought it was about time to get a different race report and perspective:

 Mum – Aka ‘nannamazza’!

 "Castle Howard was rain almost free (Mallorca and Staffordshire were very wet affairs), with stunning views, supportive spectators and real delicious coffee" (very important for mum who is more caffeine fuelled than me!)

"I love being a spectator to this completely ‘mad’ support. The competitors are amazingly fit and very supportive of each other. However, I am always very relieved when Nat is safely in transition after the bike."

"Being a spectator is difficult to describe when most of the action is completed ‘out of sight’ of the spectators !! We get a few glimpses of the athletes as they bob up and down in the water, whizz past on super fast bikes and then disappear on a long run only occasionally passing spectators !!"

"However, I am visiting places for the first time – Zell am See in Austria, Alcudia in Mallorca, Stafford, Devon, Dublin, Weymouth, Wales and Yorkshire !!!"

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"I am a very proud parent and Castle Howard was a great result for Nat. I would like to mention all Nat’s support team especially Pete her boyfriend who manages to know everything about a tri bike and always has lots of advice based on his own experience of Ironman events. Pete is also very good at guiding me to all the best vantage points for a spectator!"

"Great family support from Lou, Ali, Chrissie, Paul and Lizzie - who get regular updates on what's app!"(phone signal permitting)!

Fellow athletes....

Regardless of the result, the wider triathlon community are some of the most supportive and excited people I know. Everyone seems to love following races, refreshing trackers and having updates as and when the race is going on. The feedback following Castle Howard was very special. It is amazing how much respect people have for each other and a willingness to congratulate, support and celebrate a win with you makes it even more special. Those who see me regularly know what I have been doing to try and achieve my goals and I feel hugely grateful for having them around. Special mention to Tom Higgins, who not only smashed his personal race for 4th, but has been helping me swim and run faster with our regular Sunday morning sessions. Also thanks to Ruth Purbock (who recently won Hever Castle) and Rich Newey (recently qualified for Kona for the third time) for company on the bike and words of encouragement and support during my race prep. Two uber bikers who have pushed me on in recent months. Lynzey Ryan is running a marathon (again) and is an excitable, genuine and fun Yorkshire girl who celebrates success and hard work better than anyone. Please help her support an awesome cause on her just giving page here:

http://m.virginmoneygiving.com/mt/uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserProfilePage.action?userUrl=LinzeyRyan&un_jtt_redirect

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There are so many other people to mention who congratulated me on Facebook and Twitter and I am just so excited that people can get involved in helping me chase my mad dreams and goals. I hope it inspires you to get out there and give things a go, but more importantly it really inspires me to continue to work hard, to keep improving and hopefully achieve more in the future. THANK YOU!

What's next?

Every race this season has been an improvement on the previous one and I hope to continue this as I head to Dublin and Weymouth 70.3s. After that I will assess where I am at and set goals moving into 2017. I have big ambitions for next year and as I continue to learn I am grateful for the continued support of my family, coach and sponsors:

Andy Bullock - for listening, adapting and pushing me to be better

DigmeFitness - for their energy, awesome studio and opportunity to develop my bike sessions

I-ride UK - The Argon18 bike and Fulcrum disc flew to the fastest female bike split

EttixxUK - keeping me fuelled on the bike and healthy in the build up to races

Orca - as the first two females out the water were in their wetsuits!

Skechers - who helped me gain the fastest run split of the day in the Speed3 trainer

 

Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire - 6th Pro

After a few more days recovery from Mallorca than I had originally planned (and would have liked) I got quickly back into the training and build up to Staffordshire. The key sessions had been put in place, after debriefing Mallorca with Andy, and I was motivated to work hard. Over the training block I hit some really good run form and also identified some changes that I needed to make to my open water swimming. Most notably, May was my first month working part time, which was good for consistency and hitting my biggest training week volume to date. This all gave me confidence going into the race. I am pleased that things are heading in a good direction and whilst this is a small change, I hope to utilise it to continue to make improvements.

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Race Day

My nerves were a lot higher than I had expected. After feeling so awful in Mallorca I was pretty concerned about how the day would pan out. I also knew that I had been feeling fit in training and had the classic thoughts of wanting to show what I could do on race day. After a good talking to by my mum and Pete I pulled myself together a bit. My warm-up also helps me settle down a bit and before I knew it I was walking out to the swim start with a small field of girls I knew well. It was great to race alongside Nikki and Kim and inspirational to see the fantastic run of results they have put together. It was also nice meet the other girls and the relaxed atmosphere made the waiting around much less stressful!

Swim

As we entered the water I felt focused and ready to go. I knew where I wanted to be on the start line and before I knew it we were off. I worked really hard from the start in the swim and wanted to keep my effort level as high as I could. This allowed me to get on some good feet heading towards the first buoy and whilst I knew the pace was building the whole time I tried to stay in the bubbles as long as I could. As we turned the first buoy, there was then a long long long long way to the next big turnaround buoy. By this time I was on my own and just got my head down and tried to keep swimming hard. Whilst there were some smaller sighting buoys, there was also lots of other things in the water. This made it hard to know if I was heading in the right direction and I did wonder if I had missed a buoy at one point. The buoy finally arrived and I sat up, checking where I was. Luckily I quickly sighted I was on track and got back into my swimming. I felt strong for the last few 100m and came out 4th. Whilst I was disappointed I had doubted myself in the middle of the course, costing some valuable time, I was pleased with my position and the effort I had maintained throughout.

Bike

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After an uneventful T1 I was quickly onto the bike and tried to get into my rhythm. Early on the bike was tough and I just couldn’t get myself going or get any energy in. I kept my head down and tried to keep working. As time went on, I had some better form and I tried to make the most of this. As I got into the final 15km I was really struggling and having spent the whole bike course on my own it was actually quite nice to see an age-group man come past me, even if it was unfortunately very briefly. The rain began to fall and I just kept focused on getting to the end of the bike. There were some tricky descents in the wet and the sharp corner back into shugborough hall left my wheels skidding all over the place. I was so pleased to be in and ready to hit the run as hard as I could. I knew I had not made any time up, in fact I had lost a lot of time, but I wanted to finish strongly and make sure I put in a good performance to the end.

Run

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As I got onto the run, my legs felt good and I maintained my form most of the way round. I had discussed my cadence and arm position with Andy coming into the race and it was great to have these things to focus on. I kept looking up and along the path I was on, one to keep my head high and run tall, but also to watch for the worst puddles and the thick mud in the forest. Having not taken in much nutrition on the bike due to feeling fairly sick most of the way round I decided to carry a gel, but did not end up using it. Instead I used a combination of coke and water, taking sips of each at every aid station. This seemed to work well for most of the run. I struggled a bit during the final lap and decided to bypass the last few of the aid stations. Having run consistent time splits up until this point I dropped off a bit, but approaching the final two miles, being willed on by so many supporters and volunteers, I did manage to pick it up again into the finish line. This gave me the third fastest run split and confidence that I can finish strongly.

Important shout outs!!

Volunteers, marshalls and race organisers for standing in the rain, shouting support and making a complicated set-up run smoothly.

All the girls for making a fast, fun and enjoyable race – Lucy, Kim, Lucy, Nikki and Nicole!

All my amazing sponsors I-ride UK, EttixxUK, Orca, Skechers and Scicon bags.

Hampton pool for the best swim venue in the UK.

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Andy for all his wise words, time and support to help me develop.

Last, but not least – Pete for the support he offers everyday and with all the race day logistics and my mum for standing in the rain AGAIN…. The boost I get from you both is worth so much!

Mallorca 70.3

Having just arrived home from Mallorca and spent a day at work, I am finally starting to feel like I can look back, review, and reflect on my first experience on a pro start line. It has taken a while to recover and to feel able to do this, having spent much of Saturday and Sunday either being sick or lying in bed! To be honest, being so unwell after the race has somewhat clouded my view of the whole experience, but now that I have started to feel a little more normal (and my pee has returned to a colour that would be more in keeping with a hydrated individual) I will try to reflect on what in many ways I feel is a good platform to build from.

Before

The final training block leading into the race had been good. I had been a bit over tired, but some rest, and then a solid 6 week block had seen lots of good quality sessions. I was hitting quality times in my km run reps, keeping up with the 400m pace in my swim group and feeling strong on the bike. Whilst this did not make my aims for Mallorca any different, it did make me feel confident going into it.

Having arrived in Mallorca during the week I had done the final few sessions, practiced the swim start and recce'd the bike course - paying particular attention to the winding descent. After that, there was nothing left to do, but all the normal pre-race set up that always seems to be most nerve wracking and stressful time... "Have I got everything I need?" "Am I going to go the wrong way?" "Was the coke before the water or after at aid stations?!" These nerves and questions are as much about the race as about the questions themselves, but we all need something to occupy our minds and for me the logistics seem to be where my mind goes. I like to be organised and my race preparation and set up is no different!

During

Race day arrived and before the race start I felt surprisingly relaxed.... I did have some nerves, but knew these were a good sign. My stomach wasn't feeling great and I did say to Pete I felt a bit sick, but at the time I thought nothing of it. As I watched the pro men go off I was pretty excited and positioned myself on the start line ready to go. As I ran into the sea I was right up there and got a good start, finding some feet and feeling like I was being pulled along at a good pace, but not having to be going off too hard or work over my limit. After this, however, I think I just misjudged the effort level and did not push on to go with this group. I became isolated and did the rest of the swim out to the turn point alone, going slightly off course twice, before turning back to bring a big group back to shore. I am really disappointed with my swim time and the fact I didn't push hard enough, because I feel that this is something I have been able to do consistently in other races. This is a good lesson for me and I need to find the belief I have in training and bring it to my next swim start. I have worked really hard to get quicker in the water and I am now a better swimmer than my time suggests, particularly the speed and endurance I have found in the pool recently. A lesson learnt and something to think about for my next race.

As I got through transition and out on the bike, I pushed hard all the way to the base of the climb. It was a wet, windy and lonely section of the course. As I then began the climb it got misty and still pretty lonely. I started to see others coming back down the other way, having called it a day and I wondered if it was going to get worse. I kept going and just tried to focus on working up the climb at my pace, regularly taking on my Etixx sports drink and Etixx peach gels to stay fuelled. I was making good progress without pushing too hard. As I approached the summit I knew it was now time to take a deep breath and remain calm for the descent. I was delighted with how relaxed and well I was able to descend as a result. Nothing silly, but also a good level of confidence and composure to allow me to focus on the process needed, particularly in the wet conditions. It was easy to feel balanced on my Argon E-118 and the bike responded well in the wet and slippy conditions. It was great to have my Fulcrum racing Quattro wheels with 25mm tyres to choose. They were light on the climb and grippy on the way down! As I came off the descent I was very cold and I knew it was taking me a while to warm up, because anytime my legs were still, they were still shaking on the pedals! A final hard, flat and fast effort back into transition eventually helped me warm up, despite the rain continuing to fall. I had a key focus for the last 20km of the bike and was pleased to pull this off, making up two places in this section. This shows that learning from each race is really helping me develop. On reflection, the words effort level feel important again for the bike section and I am still aware that there is potential for more, but time and experience will tell.

Onto the run and taking my own Etixx gels to encourage me to stay appropriately fuelled, I wanted to put the tough brick runs from training into action. I went out well and maintained a good pace, focusing on a quick leg turnover. I have been running in the Skechers go run4, which have been great in my speed work sessions and were paying off in the early stages of the run. Although I knew I was working hard, I held relatively good pace and reminded myself to relax and keep the legs moving and my feet light. The weather conditions were not easing and I was finding it more difficult to drink at aid stations. As I started to tire, I suddenly felt a lot colder than I had and my stomach just seemed to go instantly. For the last 5km I don't really recall much other than willing myself to get to the next toilet stop, persuading myself to not stop or walk and encouraging my mind to tell my body that it would pass. As the finish line approached I felt everything and nothing all at the same time. I felt relief and a sense of disappointment, but also in some ways, proud just to be there and have got to the end. The race was not perfect, in fact a lot went wrong! The race was, however, solid and strong and in many ways fitted with my expectations.... A chance to learn, experience a quality pro field and produce a performance to build my 2016 year on.

After

The finish was a welcome sight (as were the toilets!), but it seemed to be a catalyst to allow my body to actually respond to the bug that had probably been there all along. I am so grateful for my support crew getting me back to my room before the sickness began! I spent the rest of the day and the following day and night in bed. As a recovery strategy, both in terms of hydration and hunger, I don't recommend it!! All that time in bed you would think I have done a lot of thinking and reflecting, but to be honest I haven't. I need to get healthy and then build back up for the next week. I will review the race with Andy and take the learning into my next race, setting new objectives and areas to focus on. I will have new motivation and belief in training and now know what I am aspiring to be... There is lots of work to do!!

A huge thank you to:

Orca for my new race suit, the comfort of a great Alpha wetsuit and their continued support and encouragement.

EtixxUK whose products are easy to digest when racing and keep me going through the hard training blocks. I have recently noticed a big difference in levels of fatigue thanks to taking their Iron supplements.

I-Ride UK for giving me the best bike, wheels, accessories and helmet for racing.

Skechers Performance whose trainers I have only recently been running in, but since I have I have had less calf tightness and no soreness through a previous foot injury.

Andy Bullock whose guidance, support and willingness to listen during my training is fundamental to my enjoyment and development in the sport.

Hampton Pool for the swim lane and endless heated outdoor swim action.

Freespeed for the bike fit that was fast and comfortable.

And not forgetting Pete and Mum for just being them (and for standing in the rain watching me suffer)!!

I thought it was about time for an update! It has been a busy, but productive, time and there has been lots going on. As always there have been ups and downs along the way, but on the whole I am making progress and things are building nicely into what is going to be an exciting season! 

So... where have I been and what have I been up to? 

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Hampton Pool has been my venue of choice for countless swim sessions. This morning, nearly 50 other people were mad enough to get up for a 6.30am swim on their Saturday!! It is great chasing the Teddington Swim Club masters length after length, but what makes it even better is the fact that they are all in such good spirits for that time of the morning (mostly)! I have made it a real focus to swim with others this winter and I am seeing the benefits. Hampton have continued to support me to do this on a Friday morning and our triathlon group is still reaping the rewards. More recently, swim sessions have been made even more fun with the new kit arrival..... Everyone loves a new kit day and Orca made it one of the best ever!

I-ride UK  is down in Burgess Hill and I went down to visit them at the end of February. It was an exciting day as I collected my Argon18 E118, the Fulcrum wheels I will be racing on and a Catlike helmet that makes me look super fast (or like a bug, depending on who you ask and which way you look at it). Adam gave me lots of good advice about the wheels and bike and I am really grateful for the support. I look forward to racing hard and hopefully doing the bike justice!

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Fuelling with Etixx and getting nutrition advice from their expert Glenn Kearney has been a good addition to my winter preparations. The products makes fuelling and recovering easy. My particular 'go to' options are the Recovery Bars and the awesome magnesium tablets. I am looking forward to getting more input on my own nutrition over the coming months and will share what I learn and the impact on my training and performance soon!

Every week I speak to coach Andy and everyday I check my training plan. This is a routine part of my days and weeks and fundamental to me completing sessions, maintaining quality and developing as an athlete. As two busy people I value the fact that Andy and I can have such a good way of working and the the fact that the thinking behind my training has been done allows me to get on and do it!! 

I recently went to Freespeed studios for an expert bike fit and lots of brilliant advice from Richard. It was a really enjoyable visit, not only because I came away with a position that I feel confident and fast in, but also because it is always nice to spend time with someone who is passionate about sport and willing to share their experiences. I would highly recommend Richard to anyone looking to get a bike fit or anyone who loves to talk bikes and triathlon!

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The gym.... Not somewhere that triathletes might be known to frequent, but my twice weekly strength and conditioning session has been so important to staying fit and strong. I have also had some pretty tough treadmill sessions, one of which ended with a staff member asking if I was ok! 

Cycling, cycling cycling! Some of this has been less than pituresque, but commuting into work is a good base and a time effective way to travel, build bike volume and keep the legs ticking over. Slightly more appealing and where I think the best quality lies is the turbo. The best of the cycling however, has been thanks to the friends who I have been able to join around the Surrey hills and the Windsor loop staple! Thanks to Rich Newey for a 100km smash fest and thank you to Tom and Chris for teaching me business whilst they single handedly keep all the coffee shops in the area in business. Tomorrow I will be joining Jane Hansom for the first TT ride of the year.... Let's hope she goes easy on me as I am pretty sure she will be in great shape as always!

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Running, running, running around all the parks, to and from train stations, up hills and down hills. I also had a good hit out at the Kingston Half Marathon . This gave me a good indication of where my running is and also the work I need to do to get to where I want to be. As a run lover I have found it frustrating not being in the run form I have been in previously, but I know it is in there and my most recent sessions have felt more like the run I no I have! 

Most importantly... I have been at home and I have been shown by PS... that sometimes you do not know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have! Thanks for all the support and always being there for me, despite everything. This year we are a team that will be unstoppable! 


 

2016 - Taking the leap and learning to fly on the way down

2015 was quite a year! When I look back on it I find it hard to comprehend all that happened. As seems to be the case as I get older, time moves fast.... Last year was no exception! When I take the time to reflect on what has been, I feel proud of the race wins and completing my clinical psychology doctorate. I feel fortunate to have had so much wise and caring support to achieve these things and I have enjoyed the opportunity to rest, take stock and celebrate. The thing is, when the post race high has gone or the graduation outfit worn, photos taken and bubbles drunk I am often left thinking about the hours that it took to achieve those things and the ups and downs along the way. In many way training is much like completing a thesis. The end product, the part that everyone sees and is celebrated, is not what it is all about for me. Don't get me wrong, nothing beats the feeling of winning a race, performing to the best I can, smashing a session or completing my thesis for that matter. But, they are small moments in time and don't come around that often. What is more special, is what it took to get there, who helped along the way and the impact that working towards goals has on the fulfilment I get in my day to day.

2015 will go down as the year of 1sts:  

First TT bike owned, first half marathon run, first half ironman completed, first (and last) doctoral thesis written and first time up a mountain in snowdonia! There was nothing to lose and lots to learn and the results, the progress and the challenge have fueled the motivation for this year....2016 will be about taking the leap and learning to fly!!

Next year I have decided to take my pro licence. I know that this is bold and some may say not the right decision... But for me I know it was the only way I wanted to go. I never want to be left saying 'what if' and I truly believe that I can achieve more in the sport and race against the best. Yes, I have a lot to learn. Yes, it will not be easy. But, I'm excited and will be leaping into the unknown anyway.... The question is, how am I planning on gaining my wings?  

1) Stick to the process : I know that when race day comes I will be able to stand on the line and be confident in the hours I have put in. For me, the key to this is consistency, taking each day as it comes and sticking to the plan. 

2) Work with an amazing team : This is as important as ever this year. I am fortunate to be surrounded by people who believe in me, keep me motivated, push me in training and give me a boost when it gets tough. I have joined Teddington swim club to improve my swim. I will continue to work with Andy Bullock, who makes training fun and motivating, alongside a continual focus on making improvements. To support my training and racing, I have partnered with Etixx UK whose products and nutrition advice will not only aid my performance and recovery, but also keep me healthy. In addition, I am also working with Orca and I-Ride UK and I am excited about racing and training in some amazing kit, a fast wetsuit and the perfect Argon 18 TT bike.

3) Race plenty : My race plan is set up to provide opportunities to race against better athletes, learn about how I cope with different courses and develop effective strategies for tapering, performing and recovering. I love to race and will try to make the most of every opportunity I get this season.

4) Don't be afraid to fail : There are two ways I can approach this year. I can be scared (and at times I am), or I can just embrace it and know that I have nothing to lose. Things will go wrong, I will get found out... But I will make sure I go for it. It's better to go for it and lose, than still have something left at the end and know that I should have been braver.

5) Remember to smile : I am a sports fanatic. I love to train, to push my body and to get the satisfaction from smashing a session or performing to the best of my ability in a race. I perform my best when I smile.... As simple as this sounds I am going to focus on not putting pressure on myself, smile (even through a grimace) and let the winter work shine through.

It's going to be an exciting year! I hope you enjoy following my updates. Thank you to everyone for the continued support. 

 

 

Snowman Triathlon - A race like no other

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1 mountain climbed

2 nd, the position I came out the swim

3, the number of Thames Turbo I-ride race team smashing it up and racing with me

4, times falling down the mountain

5 gels consumed (and around my face afte the bike)! 

6 rpm at many points on the bike course... Snowdonia hills are steep!!! 

7 "wahoooos" on the descent out of Blaenau-Ffestiniog... It was fast!

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8 'am I nearly there yets' up Moel Siabod

9  visions of Nevis to keep me going around the course

10 Degrees, how cold the lake water felt on my face

11 degrees, the actual temperature and reason for a 500m smash and grab swim

12 x 11, the number of minutes it took me to get around the bike course

13, the number of times I needed to remind myself I would get round and I enjoy racing

14 divided by 2 people in the support crew cheering me on down the finish....

And 15 realisation moments running the last km that I had actually won and I could soak up the atmosphere!

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An unbelievable way to end the Always Aim High Series and my season. It has been a big year, with a mixture of success and lessons learnt. Moel Siabod was the biggest hill of the season, both mentally and physically. lt will, however, soon be followed by many more hills, through winter training and the big challenges I have planned for next season. All I know, is when you reach the top, the view is always amazing and the feeling is like no other. This feeling is what motivates me to work hard, believe in my dreams and keep improving.

Biig thanks to everyone who gives me the opportunity to compete to the best of my ability. 2016 is going to be epic!!

A Day to remember - IM 70.3 World Championships

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There are many reasons why a day will stay in your memory. How memories are stored in our brains depends on how they were encoded. Simply put, we have little filing cabinets in our brain for long term memory. A filing cabinet allows us to keep these memories organised, open them up when we want them and put them back when we don't. If, however, we are more emotional at the time the memory is created (or anxious or experiencing trauma), these memories can be left floating around the brain and not stored in the nice neat long term memory section. The memory can be more present, appear when it is not wanted and become integrated into present situations in a, sometimes, less than helpful way. Now, why am I doing the 'Psychology' bit you may well ask..... Well because processing the memory can help. All memories start out as the 'floating' disorganised type, but some are more easily stored than others. Sunday 30/8/2015 has been with me a lot over the past few weeks and it's about time I stored it away in the draw labelled : 'one to remember' .

I will remember it as my first IM 70.3 age-group World Champs. I will remember what it has taken to get me there in great shape and the confidence I felt going into the race. I will be pleased I gave it my all (ending up in the medical tent), but use the disappointment of not putting it together on the day to learn new strategies for racing.

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I will remember the beautiful scenery and the opportunity to see a new part of the world. I now know the build up to a race and how important it is to not get excited and nervous too early. The scale of the event was phenomenal and the huge number of athletes a new experience, but an experience I have now had and can deal with.

I will remember the pre-race routine and the waiting. I know the impact of a later start and the lack of preparation I had done for this. I have learnt to replicate start times in training, even if the opportunity to do so might be limited.

I will remember the doubts before the race and in the swim. The frustrations at loosing feet and the lack of belief in the pace I can hold, that I know is there in training. I will remember this feeling for training, for finding faster swimmers to push me and to work towards delivering what I am capable of in races.  

I will remember how much I love cycling up mountains, the feeling of relief, elation and fatigue at the top and the knowledge that it is a good asset to be able to climb.

I will remember how proud I felt to have finished, despite the lack of run legs, the heat and the small demon in my head telling me to stop. I am strong and whilst the run was slow, it was consistently slow and I kept plodding on. I know how I was running off the bike in training and know that this will be there when I need it. I have learnt that you can do it, even when you having a bad day. 

I will remember how great it was to see my family and friends during the run. Them being there reminded me of how much they had given up to support me in the build up, and on the day, and that I could do it. I knew they would be there at the end to pick me up (literally in this case) and still smile, saying you did all you could and have achieved so much.

i will remember the review with my coach this week. The things I have already put in place to make improvements and changes that respond to the mistakes I made and the things I have learnt. I will remember the new found excitement for the next block of training and the renewed belief that I have  in myself to be better.

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 I will remember how grateful I felt to be competing against so many amazing athletes and the opportunity to see where I am at and see where I want to get to. I feel grateful for all the support that gave me the opportunity and I can't thank all my sponsors, team mates, coaches, friends and family enough. This continued support will help me take the memories from this race to race faster and better in the future.

So the memories are mixed, some good and some bad. Importantly, however they are now filed away and ready to be used when I need them. Next time I'm on the turbo, on the last rep of a run set or maybe even when I am next on a Swim start line. I finished 17th in my age-group, I survived the heat and I have completed my second IM 70.3 race. All in all, 'one to remember'.

 

 

 

UK 70.3 - Wimbleball

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I have written a lot of words recently... About 50,000 to be more precise! I am saying this, in part, to account for the time it has taken to reflect on the race, but also because, for me, UK 70.3 Wimbleball was as much about the before and after as it was about the day. I have been blown away by people's belief in me and the support I have received during this year. Many wise words from Pete, family, friends, coaches, physios and tutors have kept me going with both my doctoral thesis and my training. Thanks to all these people I got to the start line in great shape, both physically and mentally and all I had to do was stay focused, stick to the process, and enjoy the opportunity to see what I could do.

Beginning at the end

Running around the corner onto the finish line I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry... I just couldn't believe it was finished and I couldn't quite believe I had won!!

The run was tough, much like the bike it was up, down, up, down and up, down some more. I went out of T2 way too quick... A combination of suddenly being cheered around the course and my legs feeling like they were still spinning at over 90rpm made it difficult to slow myself down. Settling into a rhythm, I found myself in first place midway through lap one. From this point on a combination of stubbornness, amazing support from competitors and spectators alike, and an underlying belief I could do it kept my legs ticking over and focused me on not letting any females pass. It wasn't pretty, it really hurt, but I got through it!

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The bike, much like the run, was 'rolling' (by this I mean hilly, very hilly)!! Coming out the water, the rain began to set in. This made for a wet, hailstormy and gusty first lap. Across the top of the moor, the field gates were sending me sideways, whilst the hailstones smashed me on the head! I was playing a good cat and mouse with all the guys on the second half of the course. They would fly past on the descent, whilst I caught up on the ascent! I kept reminding myself it was not a sprint, and 90km was a long way. Ride composed, stay strong and keep eating. 

The nerves pre-swim were much worse than the swim itself. Being stronger and more skillful in the water is starting to make a difference and dare I say I quite enjoyed the swim in this race (first time for everything)! I swam well to the first buoy and had a good pack to work with. I finished strongly, which left me thinking could I go quicker? The answer is probably yes, but the swim was solid and created the base for what worked out to be a performance I am proud of and a performance I am excited to build on. I believe and hope there is so much more to come.

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A huge thanks to AndyI-Ride UK PowerbarHuubThames Turbo and Everything but the Cow for believing in me and helping me achieve my goals. Super excited for the 70.3 World Age-Group Championships and exploring the Austrian mountains! For now it is back to training, working and staying fit and healthy to prepare as best as I can for the end of August and beyond.

 
 

Slateman - Take Two

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Before I start I just wanted to thank Suzie Richards for her amazing blog.... Not only because she said such nice things about me, but also because it has kicked me into gear and got me writing my own report on 'Slaying the 'Slateman'!! Not only does she beat me across the finish line, but she also beats me to the blog post!! Anyways, now I have finished writing the thesis, I feel much more inspired to write a race report!

For those who don't want to read until the end, I will start with a handy Summary.....

Freezing lake, big Welsh mountain, head winds and a steep steep hill to run up. Swam as fast as I could just to get out quicker. Cold hands made for a less than average transition. Biked like a nutter, dug deep on the run and finished 2nd Female. Loved it!

For those who are more interested in the details...

I raced the Slateman last year and loved the race. It is fantastically well organised by Always Aim High events and set in beautiful (if a little hilly) Snowdonia. We arrived on the Friday and had a good final few days leading into the race. My taper went well and I felt relaxed and ready going into race day. I have had a really good winters training and was excited to try and put it to good use. The race is part of a series of three and there is a big incentive to do them all... Not just because they are set in beautiful scenery and are all challenging in different ways, but because the grand prize is well worth the effort!

I always arrive early and was feeling pretty nervous on race morning. It felt like it had been a long time since I had done a race with open water, probably because it had! I set about sorting transition and ran through transition so I could get an idea of where my bike was and what it felt like running from swim in, to bike out, to bike in and to run out! This is my normal pre-race routine... What wasn't so much was a quick interview with Dream team TV :) . It was nice to be asked and helpful for me to reflect on the race last year, my preparation and the race ahead. It also helped being more nervous in front of the camera than about the race, because it took my mind off it!

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The time before the race went really quickly and next thing I knew our wave was being called into the lake.... "It is not cold, it is not cold, it is NOT COLD!!" We were off and I relaxed into a rhythm pretty quickly. For some reason, I couldn't find any feet and ended up doing much of the swim on my own. When I got to transition it was the first time I realised the swim had gone ok... As all the bikes near mine were still there! This is where the good news ended as I then spent the next minute and a half 'faffing' with my wetsuit, not getting my helmet done up and then jumping on my back wheel as I tried to mount my bike (if I knew how I managed that, it would be more impressive)! One of my worst transitions ever and having numb hands and feet does not work well for me!

Fuelled with the fact I had been bypassed by Suzie in transition (whose transition was impressively textbook) I knew the chase was on. I got my head down and rode as hard as I could the whole way round. I felt strong on the TT bike and stayed on the bars as much as I could. It was windy, very windy... But the course is fast and you can get into a great rhythm. I even had a moment of appreciating the Ogwen Valley and being reminded of how amazing it is to get to race in Snowdonia! Coming into T2 I knew I had rode well, but still had no idea where I was in the race. I managed to safely dismount my bike and decided to swing my arm around in a mad attempt to get some blood circulating to my numb hands. Helmet off, shoes on... Shoes on, can't get foot in, shoe's on finally and out I go onto the run.

I went off hard and whilst I was a little put out by the new 'extra hill' at the start of the run (thanks for that, but feel free to take out next year!), l soon had sight of Suzie. This made me continue to run hard and focus on staying tall. I made up some time and was soon within about 20 seconds... But then the zig-zags arrived! Whilst I managed to do them quicker than I did last year, so did Suzie. She was incredible up them and whilst I tried to chase, my early running was taking its toll and I was hurting! I wanted to make a race of it and kept running hard and attacking the descents for as long as I could, but as I neared the end of the run I realised I would have to settle for second again.

Was I disappointed? Yes.... But was I also delighted? Yes. I gave everything and made it into a race. Suzie was amazing and we were both faster than last year, which is all you can ask for. I know that Suzie has big plans this year, and onwards, and is clearly training hard and getting the results she deserves! It is fantastic to race against good athletes because it pushes me to be better! Most importantly it is great to catch up with Suzie, chat all things training and triathlon, and see someone who races with a smile on her face!

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I left the beautiful Llanberis with a smile on my face and one thought 'I will be back!' Thank you to Always Aim High for the amazing event, the hospitality and the coverage of the races. I am also so fortunate to have an unbelievable amount of day to day support from Pete, his family watching on the day, and my family always! Thanks to Andy, I-Ride UK Powerbar, Huub, Thames Turbo and Everything but the Cow for believing in me and helping me achieve my goals. So excited for the rest of 2015!!

 

The 'fittest' hockey players make good triathletes.... Even if it is a drunken bet!

During my hockey playing days I was always described as the fit one, the one who ran lots (sometimes too much) and the one who was (I quote) always training! It seems that these traits fit into the triathlon world. In fact I train less, and still have a long way to go, before I reach the fitness of the many triathletes I have come across. The truth is I do love to train, I do like to run and I enjoy the opportunity to push myself physically. These things haven't changed from when I played hockey, but I was curious to know if other hockey players turned triathletes were the same... So I decided to ask!

I have been lucky enough to enlist the help of four talented athletes:

Kim Morrison:    Twitter Name: @triathlonkim, Website: KimMorrison.TUMBLR.com, Coach: Perry Agass, Team: Tri-Anglia Triathlon Club

Kim Morrison: 

Twitter Name: @triathlonkim, Website: KimMorrison.TUMBLR.com, Coach: Perry Agass, Team: Tri-Anglia Triathlon Club

 

 

 

Sam Baxter:    Twitter name : sbaxter220  Website : www.teamfreespeed.com    Team/Coach : Team Freespeed/ Terence Collins

Sam Baxter:

Twitter name: sbaxter220 Website: www.teamfreespeed.com   Team/Coach: Team Freespeed/ Terence Collins

Parys Edwards:    Twitter name:   @parysedwardstri   Website:   www.parysedwards.com                                                           Team/Coach  : Tom Bennett at T2coaching

Parys Edwards:

Twitter name: @parysedwardstri Website: www.parysedwards.com                                                        Team/Coach: Tom Bennett at T2coaching





Ali Rowatt:    Twitter name : ali_rowatt    Team/Coach: Team Freespeed/Stirling Triathlon Club

Ali Rowatt:

Twitter name: ali_rowatt    Team/Coach: Team Freespeed/Stirling Triathlon Club

Between them they have represented at county, regional and international levels in hockey. They have gone on to be talented triathletes, winning age group titles, qualifying for Kona and all aiming to compete at a high level. I wondered if it was coincidence that they have been successful in two sports and whether there are any common denominators or magic formulas. It seems that they are just talented people, who train hard, and know what it takes to be successful! 

I decided to ask them all a few questions about their hockey playing days and their triathlon exploits. I hope you enjoy the responses as much as I have. I am very grateful for their honesty, the helpful advice they give and the inspiration it has given me.

How long did you play hockey for? 

Kim: Started at School Under9s (Gresham’s School) right the way through to Loughborough Uni, then into the world of work I joined Chiswick then Teddington Hockey Club

Sam: 15 years

Parys: From when I was 10 years old until I was 30.

Ali: 15 years

Me: Like everyone else, I played hockey from a young age and played until I was 26.

What position did you play? 

Kim: Upfront, right wing. When I joined Teddington in 2012 I moved to left defender to mark my prefered position, coaches orders!

Sam: All over moving progressively backwards over the years 

Parys: I started as a midfielder, later became a striker and ended my career as half....by my last season at Leicester I was a supersub- put meOn anywhere!!!

Ali: Midfield, sometimes defence 

Me: I remember being called “Sniffer Seymour” at Maidstone for my goal scoring prowess as a youngster. From my international career you will see goal scoring was not a skill I held onto and I was much more suited to playing in midfield or defence.

What county/club/region or country did you play for? 

Kim:  Norfolk, Norwich Ladies, Loughborough University 2nds, Chiswick, Teddington

Sam: Bradford, Yorkshire, N-E England

Parys: I played Zimbabwe u18s, then switched allegiance after being selected for SAu21s. While in SA I played for Eastern Province and later Southern Gauteng. When I moved to the Uk I played for Leicester for 6seasons and returned to SA for our annual Interprovincial tournament to represent Natal for a few years.

Ali: West District/Western Ladies/Edinburgh Ladies/Giffnock/Scotland 

Me: Maidstone, Canterbury, England and Great Britain

Did you swim, bike or run before or whilst you played hockey?

Kim:  Nope although at school I swam in the school competitions

Sam: No

Parys: I loved running and was athletics and xcountry captain at school, but had never ridden a bike other then as a kid. I never swam as a youngster and my stepfather taught me enough not to drown when I was 8 (not much has changed since I fear!!), later I did a little bit of swimming as a last resort when I was injured- no wonder I had a negative association with it!!

Ali: Run and bike 

Me: When I was younger I used to swim and run... Following in my older sisters footsteps.

What is your best hockey memory or achievement? 

Kim:  Hockey Tour to Canada and South Africa, what an opportunity!

Sam: Winning Uni Tour

Parys: Getting selected for the SAu21 team for the JWC in Korea- I had really battled with injury in the build up and it looked like it would never happen so it was a great feeling to hear my name being called out in the squad.

Ali: Commonwealth Games 2006 

Me: World Cup 2010 - Argentina - Being part of the first female England squad to get a World Cup medal.

What do you miss? 

Kim: The team environment, social evening training sessions and the boozy side!

Sam: The Banter

Parys: Some of the team banter....oh and getting a perfect reverse stick shot on goal- always a sweet feeling!

Ali: Big tournaments 

Me: The team, big tournaments and the tactical side of the game.

What do you not miss? 

Kim: Sore fingers when playing in the cold!

Sam: Defending short corners and broken fingers 

Parys: The first 10mins of a training session in the dead of winter when your hands were so cold it felt like they would shatter as I hit the ball

Ali: Pitch sessions 

Me: I agree with everyone above... Although sore fingers on a bike in winter is just as bad!

When and Why did you start triathlon? 

Kim: September 2012 (although I took part at school a couple of times for fun when I was 16years old breaking the swim record for 400m). I read Chrissie Wellingtons book ‘life without limits’ on holiday in Thailand after Mum said… “do not read that darling otherwise you will start triathlon!”

Sam: In 2008 - It was a Drunken bet

Parys: In 2007 when I moved to London - I had always held a slight fascination with the sport and thought I might enjoy it

Ali: In 2008, It was a new challenge after giving up hockey 

Me: I wanted a new challenge and a way to keep fit whilst working and studying full time. I did some 10k runs and got a bike to commute on... So it seemed the next obvious step!

Favourite training session and best discipline  

Kim:  My favourite session is rolling 400s in the pool, I always amaze myself! My best discipline since investing in a new bike appears to be the bike this season (2014)

Sam: long winter bike with coffee stop is my favourite session and the bike is my best discipline 

Parys: love a tough intervals run session, especially with my current team mates Ness Raw and Tamsin Lewis as we all end up pushing each other, but if I'm honest nothin beats a long ride in the Surrey hills- that's an easy session for me to tick off especially if the sun is shining! The run was probably my best, but now the bike!

Ali: Interval run session is my favourite session and the run is my best discipline

Me: Running interval session - I like the pain and still feeling like I have some leg speed! The run is my best discipline, although the other two are catching up!

Best race

Kim: Kitzbuhel European AG Championships 2014

Sam: IMUK 2012

Parys: 70.3 world champs in Vegas in 2012- my first big win and I exceeded my expectations!

Ali: Ironman 70.3 World Championships Clearwater 2010

Me: Slateman 2014

What do you like about triathlon? 

Kim: Hard work/ dedication/ hurt/ pain… I love it all!

Sam: Pushing myself

Parys: Its such a unique challenge- each discipline has it's own demands which I love. Also there is a fantastic camaraderie in the sport.

Ali:The challenge

Me: The challenge of always having something to improve on in each discipline.

What don't you like about triathlon? 

Kim: Swim starts, how on earth are they ever fun!

Sam: Obsessive triathlon chat and forums 

Parys: The swim!!!

Ali:Long training hours

Me: Packing - there is so much kit to organise and bike mechanics/preparation.... Always get someone else to do it! The bike mechanics... NOT the packing!

What do you think makes a successful triathlete? 

Kim: Consistency

Sam: Commitment, selfishness and single minded attitude 

Parys: An ability to endure pain.

Ali:Dedication

Me: I think being physically robust is key to managing the training load and believing in the hard work on race day.

Which sport is more kit obsessed? 

Kim: Triathlon for sure

Sam: Triathlon

Parys: Triathlon- it's a no brainer!! ( it's also vastly more expensive!!)

Ali: Triathlon

Me: I agree that triathletes are kit obsessed, but I know many a hockey player who were very fussy about their stick!

Were you always described as the fittest in hockey? 

Kim: Yes, bambi was my nick name… I think it was the way I ran being one of the tallest on the pitch!

Sam: No

Parys: Yup- always the last one running on the good 'ol bleep test!

Ali: Yes

Me: As with the girls, I too based my hockey career on being able to run! Even if you lack the skills you can always run out of trouble, run out the way or run back to make a tackle!!!

Do you have any of the same superstitions pre race as you did pre match? 

Kim: Nope none, completely different feeling. I was much more relaxed before a game of hockey. But I think that may be due to the standard I was playing. I had ambitions to play national league but triathlon took over when I was on the cusp!

Sam: Never put my playing/race top on until just before the start 

Parys: I always memorise a race verse (from the bible) that I think about when I'm racing and I used to write one out and tape it to my shin pad for every hockey game. It's my way if keeping my sport in perspective.

Ali: No

Me: I always pack the night before, always arrive early and write little notes on my hand.... Normally a reminder to relax and smile!

 

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Snow or sand? 

Kim: SNOW

Sam: Snow

Parys: Sand

Ali: Sand

Me: Sand

Training or racing? 

Kim: Racing

Sam: Racing

Parys:Training

Ali:Racing

Me: Training

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Mornings or evenings? 

Kim: Mornings

Sam: Mornings

Parys:Evenings

Ali:Mornings

Me: Mornings

Coffee or tea? 

Kim: Coffee

Sam: Coffee

Parys:Coffee

Ali: Coffee

Me: all together now.... COFFEE

Beer or wine? 

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Kim: Wine (tinto only)

Sam: Both

Parys:Wine

Ali:Wine

Me: Wine

Book or film? 

Kim: Neither

Sam: Film

Parys: Book

Ali: Film

Me: Book

Winter or summer? 

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Kim: Winter

Sam: Either, just not rain

Parys: Summer all the way

Ali: Summer

Me: Winter

Starter or dessert? 

Kim: Both… I absolutely love food and will never be thin!

Sam: Both

Parys: Desert

Ali: Starter

Me: Starter

Favourite sporting moment you have seen/watched 

Kim: Athletics (track) always gets me, especially Mo at London 2012. I always get a tear when I see these athletes perform at such a level, inspiring!

Sam: Andy Murray winning Wimbeldon 

Parys: I was fortunate to see lots of the London Olympic Games, it was incredible especially the athletics and so was seeing a few of my Leicester team mates win the Bronze medal.

Ali: Finishline at Hawaii Ironman at midnight 

Me: Being part of London 2012.... An incredible few weeks experiencing every emotion possible and being truly inspired by all the incredible Team GB performances. Particular highlight was shouting at a TV screen as Mo smashed the 5,000m race

Future goals/ambitions in triathlon: 

Kim: I was once told… ‘sky is the limit for you’ by Michelle Dillon and that is what I am sticking with!

Sam: AG Kona podium 

Parys: After winning the world champs again last year I secured sponsorship and I'm racing pro this year. It's been an interesting journey so far and I've finished third in my first 2 races and I'd love to keep getting on the podium for the rest of them.

Ali: Win AG in Hawaii Ironman 

Me: Reaching my potential 

Interesting fact people do not know about you: 

Kim: I spent my younger years at Great Ormond’s Street Children’s hospital undergoing complex heart surgery.

Sam: I turned down a place in 1D 

Parys: I have an identical twin sister and when we were 21 we played hockey against each other for different countries - her playing for Zimbabwe and me representing SA. I spent most of the game worried she would get hurt (SA won 7-1 I think)

Ali: I played tennis at Wimbledon when I was young…. I was very young and it was an exhibition of "short tennis" with plastic racquet and sponge ball

Me: I'm left handed..... No excuses for anyone who says this is why they can't play hockey!!

 

And finally.....

It is not uncommon for people to take up different sports, or move across to a related sport. In fact we see very successful transitions and examples in sport all the time. People seem surprised at how hockey and triathlon are related, but the people I spoke to seem to share some common traits. Apart from all liking coffee, they all played sport from an early age, they all have big goals and ambitions and they all commented on the mentality needed to be a successful triathlete. Hockey is dynamic, quick and a game that lasts 70 minutes. This is bound to contribute to the physical capabilities. Having said that, the training is hugely different, and like the others I could not successfully play hockey now. Im not quick enough and the stop, start, change direction would kill me!

It has been great to reflect on my hockey playing days and hear about other people's experiences of dedicating themselves to a new sport. I will follow their progress and can't wait to see all the success they will have in the future!

EBTC - Dairy Free Goodness

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Everything But The Cow is a new company that is run by determined and talented women, who turned an idea into a reality. It is therefore an exciting time to be involved. I am also honoured to join two other fantastic sporting females.... Check them both out here:

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I am looking forward to being inspired by everyone involved, learning lots, and being part of the journey! 

It's all about the support crew!

Typing this blog with my non-dominant hand has been a bit of a challenge! Being injured has meant I have had lots of time to think and I have been very up and down. What finally got me back to wanting to write was an email from a hockey friend. She updated me on what she had been up to, but also reminded me to keep my blog updated! It made me realise that when others tell you about what they have been up to, it seems to make you want to get going yourself.

I have been out of action now for over four weeks, probably the longest time I have ever had off training! I am disappointed not to be racing for the rest of the season, after crashing at the race in Windsor. I was in good shape physically and felt confident in all the hard work I had put in over the winter. Now I have to remind myself the hard work hasn't disappeared, it is just currently on pause! I have had to have surgery on a broken collarbone, but I am now fully reinforced with a metal plate and screws! I am ready to move forward on the journey through rehab. I have been bored at times, but had more time for my studies, so it is not all bad. I have also been reminded how much I love to train and therefore feel even more motivated to get back to it.

It's times like this that you feel even more grateful for the people around you. I can't thank people enough for the support, the best wishes, the extra pairs of hands and the belief in me to recover. I know I will be drawing on this a lot over the next few months. Triathlon is an individual sport, but in many ways, I am learning that it is all about having the right people supporting you... Especially when you are injured!

My coach has listened, reassured and helped me plan. Other athletes have drawn on their experiences and given me some brilliant advice. Most importantly,  friends and family have been there to put things in perspective and remind me of what's important.

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Over the next few months I will be reminding myself of this feeling and I will work hard to get myself back to places like this!!

Taking it step by step and day by day.

 

'Wing Building' British Super Series - Blenheim

A little rhyme to reflect on my first elite race.....Blenheim was a great course in beautiful scenery. Well done to everyone who raced, the experience has made me excited for the rest of the season and Finishing 10th was a good start! I am really enjoying the opportunity to race at this level. 

 

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Build up week took forever, taking it day by day

Rather be training hard and long... But staying disciplined on my taper

It never really hit me, until I was at the start

The fact I was in an elite wave and I wanted to make a mark

I felt the nerves and anticipation too, but I was ready to go, even though I was new

Swim, we were off, I couldn't find a rhythm

Hitting all the wrong lines, feeling lost, didn't make a decision

So I came into T1, a long way back... Out onto the bike to hunt for a pack

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Up a few hills feeling so strong, so glad to find help, it didn't take long

Pushed the bike with @susie_richards, we couldn't of been working harder

Each sharing the work, as we went on, steadily getting  faster

Reaching lap three we caught @loufoxtri, good to have more in the pack

Such a good bike, we had worked our way up, and now we could all try get back

End was in sight and the gaps they were small, into T2, stay strong and run tall

Rhythm was there, plenty to chase

It was good to work hard, to try keep the pace

End of lap one I tried to get clear, run strong and run tall, there's nothing to fear

Still running with Lou, still feeling the pain

 

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But not giving in, still lots to gain

Little by little, we moved up the race, passed a few more, still more to chase

End was in sight, I had nothing more left

No response to the sprint, I needed a rest

How much I have learnt and need to review. Windsor up next, I'm no longer new

Enjoyed the bike, I loved the run. Onwards and upwards, but keep having fun

I wanted to say, big thanks to my coach, for the plan and the calm, structured approach

My race it was tough, I was put to the test, such a good experience, racing some of the best.

 
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Big thank you for all my support from I-Ride, Huub, Powerbar, CurraNZ and Compress Sport. Through training and on race day it is massively appreciated!!

Bring on Windsor!!