It’s ok to have a bad day…

So yesterday morning I had great intentions of getting up early and going for a run… The alarm went off, and the lazy side of me decided I didn't want to get up, I wanted to have another hour in bed. So I did, no big deal really as I was supposed to be going open water swimming in the evening so I took running kit to work with me with the plan being on the way home from swimming I would just get out of the car a few miles from home and run then. I text my boyfriend who promised he would make me get out of the car at least 3 miles from home so I could get a run done.

Then he ended up having to work late… We have to both leave work precisely on time to be able to make it to the lake to swim before it closes, with Adam working late there was no way I would make it, plus he had my wetsuit etc in his car as he usually picks me up from the train station and drives us to the lake.

So here I had a choice… Do an alternative form of exercise or sulk… I looked up classes at the gym, there was a 90minute endurance cycle class… I could have done that, I could have gone for a run as I hadn't bothered to go in the morning. It was raining, I find the rain demotivating… I am also absolutely useless if plans change. I can not cope with a change of plan… so instead of training I went home in a sulk…

Adam ordered me an Indian takeaway to make up for the fact he wouldn't be home and I ate tons of food and sulked in front of the TV watching Masterchef…

As far as training days go yesterday was a complete fail. Therefore today needed to be better.

It's ok to have a bad day, an off day, where your training doesn't go to plan and you eat more than you normally would. But a bad day doesn't need to turn into a bad week, it's easy to let it, but it doesn't need to.

So this morning I got up to do the horses before work as normal, but instead of getting dressed in jodhpurs and a hoodie I put on my running leggings and a running top, I drove to the yard, mucked out the horses, put them in the field, and then I ran home…

Iv never run home from the stables before, iv cycled it a few times but iv never run it, turns out it's not that far if I run through the parks, 3.3miles and exactly 30mins later I arrived home. Morning exercise done, it was actually a really pleasant run, slightly misty as the sun rose but very pretty. And I feel so much better for getting back to some form of training. I'm even still on time for work!

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Midnight Man 70.3

This weekend race day was a little different to normal… Instead of getting up early I woke up at 8am, went to the stables, took my horse out for a hack… Came home, had breakfast, had a nap. I woke up for lunch and then went back to bed to lie down for a bit. This was no ordinary race day, this was Midnight Man race day and as the title suggests racing would be taking place through the night.

I genuinely thought racing late in the day would play to my strengths. I'm not good at getting up and going in the mornings, and I hate eating early in the day, it makes me feel quite sick. So surely having a day to wake up and eat should have been a benefit? This didn't seem to be the case, actually I didn't really know what I should or shouldn't do during the day, or what I should or shouldn't eat.

3.30pm, car packed and we headed off to the event. Adam had entered the quarter distance while I had entered the half so we were both racing the same event meaning the car was pretty packed with both our bikes and all our Tri kit. The benefits of racing close to home meant we were in the event car park 20mins later. It is a small event in comparison to some triathlons, therefore registration and racking was a quick and easy process and a few minutes later we were sat on the grass with friends.

Quick race briefing at 5pm with an explanation of the course, much needed as it was a lapped course with a number of turns in all 3 disciplines. Then wetsuits on and at 6pm we were off.

The water felt really cold when I first got in, however there was plenty of acclimatisation time allowed and when the starting horn sounded I was more than ready for the swim. A bit of hustle and bustle as we headed off the start line as people converged on the race line from quite a wide start but everyone soon settled into their pace and spread out.

There were 10 water safety boats on the lake so it felt safe. First lap passed reasonably quickly but I seemed to slow down a lot on my second lap and therefore wasn't out of the water until 49 minutes later.

Into transition, wetsuit off, helmet and shoes on and off out onto the bike. Earlier on in the week I had worried that it would be cold as we had had a few days of 13 degrees and pouring rain, but the weather had brightened up considerably so no extra layers were needed.

The bike course was described as flat and fast, and this is pretty accurate, although as its a lapped course after a few laps you become aware of every little incline and change in the road surface. The first 4-5 laps passed by quickly enough, but laps 6-8 I found a little soul destroying, it was quite lonely out on the course, it was now dark, and self motivation is not my strong point, plus I like to relax and put my pyjamas on about 9.30pm, I'm not used to cycling at this time of night so I was getting sleepy.

However a group of lovely friends were on the start/lap line shouting encouragement every time I rode by and this was hugely appreciated.

I also need to mention the highlight of my bike section was a lovely lady cycling past and shouting out 'I love your blog' this genuinely left a smile on my face for at least 2 laps and shows me that our amazing kit by 2XU is helping our followers to recognise us at events!

56 miles and 3hrs 11 mins later the bike was done. I have no desire to ride a circular lap of a dual carriageway again in a hurry but hats off to the organisers as a road closure of that magnitude cant be easy to arrange and it did make for a fast and safe course.

Into transition and as I put my trainers on a man held his bike light up to help me see, he had decided to stop as he was finding it difficult to motivate himself and lived very close to the event, therefore said he found it too easy to opt out. We all have these days. I sympathised with him, thanked him for the light and I was out onto the run, 4 laps of 5.25km, I jogged round my first lap, testing my legs and it didn't feel too bad. Then disaster… (mild disaster) I needed to pee…

Now, after I have stopped or walked once I find it really difficult to get moving again… Think giant tyre, once rolling, keeps rolling or gathers momentum, once stopped, flat, heavy and difficult to get moving… Yep, that's me. I spent my 4th -5th km debating if I could just put up with my uncomfortable bladder but that's not a wise move, so I paused to use the portaloo.

Shortly after the loos was a water station so I took a cup of water, then tried to plod onwards, but by now my legs had realised there was an easier option – to walk, so lap 2 was a mix of walk/run, based on nothing technical, purely on how I felt. This made me a lot slower than I had intended but also meant I didn't end up too tired (it was 11pm by this point). Lap 3 was a bit more run than walk, Lap 4 Adam met me at the drinks station and walked a little way up the road with me.

Last lap! Laps are tough and require more mental motivation than I can muster, especially in the dark with no other competitors anywhere close by.

Then it was over… 6hrs 24mins and 45 seconds later! Over 10 minutes quicker than my effort in Dubai in January, and 2hrs quicker than my plod around Staffordshire 70.3 after my operation! I am now almost 5 months post ankle operation, so I think my race on Saturday night was something to be proud of?

After my race Adam asked if I wanted a recovery shake, we had bought my usual Torq recovery with us but actually the thought of drinking it made me feel quite ill. Instead I had 2 cups of coke, a bottle of water and we stopped at McDonalds on the way home so I could get a cheeseburger happy meal…

As someone who normally avoids McDonalds I can't quite explain why I did this but it was obviously what I wanted to eat and after over 6hrs of exercise I wasn't going to argue myself into a healthier alternative. A little bit of what you fancy does you good, or at least makes you happy! And it was 2am!

2017 London Triathlon

We were particularly looking forward to this race! As you know we don’t often get to do our events together as we live so far apart so this was a great opportunity for us to catch up and race at one of the biggest triathlons ever. 


Saturday night Jenni came to stay with me and we headed out for dinner and a chat whilst my ever helpful boyfriend Adam checked our bikes over! After dinner we packed all our kit and we were even more excited as this would be our first race in our custom kit! We had designed a logo and then with the help of 2XU we designed full custom kit, Tri suits, bib shorts, cycle jerseys and running vests. We had eagerly been awaiting the arrival of this kit and we were not disappointed. The printing is fantastic and it’s all amazing quality! We love it and couldn’t wait to race in it! 


Our start time was 7.40am, this meant an early alarm for us. 4.45am, alarms went off and we got up and tried to eat some breakfast, packed all our stuff into the car and we were off. Luckily I don’t live too far from the event so it was only about half an hour to drive. 

Once we arrived registration was very simple, just show ID and collect your timing  chip as all numbers and wristbands had been sent out by post. We moved quickly into bike racking which was super well organised – it’s such a luxury to have a fully indoor transition area! 


Bikes racked we went outside to have a look at the swim course. The course looks a long way all mapped out in one loop but it was well marked with buoys and lots of kayakers for water safety, our only concern was it was quite cold outside, this could mean it would be a chilly start to the bike! 


The London Triathlon is a busy event and we knew lots of people taking part, a number of those people were in the same wave as us so we had plenty of friendly faces around as we got into our wetsuits and got ready to start. 


Then it was time to start! I’m always a nervous swimmer in open water especially at the start, but once the swim was underway I actually felt quite relaxed, I took an inside line that surprisingly wasn’t too crowded and it made it easier to sight as there was a yellow rope strung buoy to buoy so I didn’t have to keep looking up for the buoys. 

Just over 33mins later and the swim was over, wetsuit off, into transition. Then off out onto the bike. The course was a long loop up to Westminster in central london, then a smaller loop to finish. The course goes out and back so you can see all the other competitors on the other side of the road. I saw a number of people I knew on the bike leg, it’s so nice when someone goes past shouting encouragement. 

We had quite a big group of supporters out watching us and I spotted them towards the end of my first lap. My boyfriend managed to take this slightly crazy looking photo of me. I was enjoying myself honestly!! 


Bike done, just the run left to go. Now I haven’t done much running recently other than the Spitfire Scramble, iv been avoiding it, giving my ankle the best chance of fully healing, so I wasn’t looking forward to the 10km at the end of this race. I set off trying to make sure I didn’t go too fast, 10km can feel like a long way at the end of an event and I was determined to finish the run still running! Whilst out on the bike course I had passed and been passed by the same man a few times (I’m afraid I don’t know his name) but it turned out we were a similar run pace, so side by side we ran alongside the docks, listening to the music that was playing. I have to say for me the music was a great addition, last year the run felt a bit long and lonely outside by the docks, but this year the turn point was early, there was lots of music and the course had been extended inside the building. This felt weird at first but was actually quite good as I’m more determined when I know people can see me and there was no where to hide on the inside loop! 

Just over 56mins later and it was all over… I was really proud of my run time. It finally feels like I’m starting to return to normal fitness levels and this is exciting for me! 

I actually managed a PB at this event, despite a slightly slower bike leg my run was quicker than the year before and I came in at 2hrs 54mins and 36seconds! 


I enjoyed the day, and I’m sure I’ll be back again next year. Local event, closed roads and a PB course… Yep, I’m hooked! 

And even after racing in it for nearly 3 hours I am still in love with our new kit! Thanks 2XU!!! 

Unfortunately for Jenni she had some issues with a back injury causing breathing problems in the swim, and despite the best efforts of the swim safety team and the Red Cross medics she was unable to continue her race. Huge thanks the the swim safety and Red Cross for looking after her! Hopefully she’ll be back next year too! 

Spitfire Scramble 2017

The Spitfire Scramble was exactly 4 months to the day after my ankle operation…

I’d signed up as part of the lovely Scrambled Legs team almost a year ago, and obviously had no idea that when I got to the start I would have done almost no training due to injury, in fact quite the opposite, I had vowed to train and train well for this event. Best laid plans hey?


But on Saturday I started this event with some of the most amazing ladies I know, and I knew that whatever I managed would be accepted as ok, so there was really nothing to lose.

We had signed up as a team of 8, so that meant that following each lap we would have between 6-7hrs to recover whilst the others ran.

I was 3rd to go in our team so I started at about 1.30pm. I was quite apprehensive, I have only run a handful of times since my operation, and 5km had been the longest distance, each lap of Spitfire Scramble was just over 9km. Almost double the distance I had tried to run since the op.

I started my lap and had only gone a few hundred meters when someone shouted ‘is that you Helen?’ And running up behind me was Dave Sherman! He had completed a full distance triathlon the previous weekend at Challenge Roth, so I was quite surprised to see him out running an event so soon. Dave decided to run my lap with me, I was so glad of the company as I really wasn’t sure I could run a whole lap, but at the same time I didn’t want to slow Dave down. He is a very fast runner (super speedy when compared to me) but he reassured me that he didn’t want to go too fast as he was still recovering, so on we went.


The route was slightly different this year as they had moved the camping field to a bigger one. This massively improved the camping area and also made the run seem a bit easier as the section at the beginning was the bit I had found tough when it was at the end last year, getting it over and done with early suited me.


Running along next to Dave, chatting, taking awful looking selfies and not thinking too much about whether I could or couldn’t make it meant the lap past quite quickly for me, and just under 53 minutes later I was back in camp! Lap 1 completed successfully! No one could have been more shocked than I was!

A few hours of eating, relaxing with the girls and cheering people on and some glitter application later and it was time for lap 2…


I was super lucky with my lap times and lap 2 coincided with sunset. I managed to keep up an almost identical pace during my 2nd lap which shocked me, I had been prepared to be a lot slower, apparently not! Towards the end of the lap there is a hill, described by our team as the hill that keeps on giving… this is because it climbs and turns and climbs and turns and climbs and turns again… you get the idea? Evil as this may be the hill does provide some stunning views once you get to the top! And I managed to take some photos of the view during this lap…


Gorgeous hey? Following the hill it was approximately 1km mostly down hill back towards the start/finish area.

After my 2nd lap it was time for some more food, and to try and get some rest as without any the early morning lap would be super tough. Turns out sleeping in a tent when it’s warm and lots of people are running or waking up to run isn’t actually that easy, but I managed a 2-3hours of snoozing before getting up at 3am!

I started my final lap at 4.20am, just as the sky was starting to lighten and I finished it just under an hour later. This time the view from the top of the hill was the sun rising and it truly was a beautiful sunrise!


This was my running done for the day as there wouldn’t be a need for me to run a 4th lap, I was quite pleased about this as my third lap had been a few minutes slower than my previous 2 due to me walking a few sections and I am sure a 4th lap would have resulted in more walking than running! 2 amazing ladies in our group (Danielle and Sophie) did run 4 laps however, and they are incredible!

As a team we completed 26 laps during the event and this put us in 6th place in a very tough field of 13 all female teams. We are all very proud of ourselves and each other.

After the camp was packed away I had a long nap yesterday afternoon, this was followed by a lot of food from Dominos!


This was then followed by a very early night, I was in bed by 7.30pm! But I woke up this morning feeling surprisingly ok and still very happy!

The Spitfire Scramble is done… Until next year of course!

Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire

We did it…on the hottest day of the year! 


Staffs has been our combined A race for 2017 and one we signed up to circa 10 months ago. Jenni’s first middle distance and Helen’s second. 

Bikes racked and kit packed we headed to Staffordshire early on sat. Registered, attended the race briefing and started setting up transitions. This took all day due to it being a split transition set up and the crazy heat made it a sweaty job. There was a huge emphasis on the temperature and everyone was advised to forget their race times and listen to their bodies.

After checking out the swim course and driving some of the bike route we hit the local pub for a much needed dinner and retired to our rooms for an early night. 

4am breakfast. Great set up by the Holiday Inn as pretty much all guests were competitors but it was a struggle eating so early. 

Then we headed off to the Shugborough Estate, boarded the Athlete bus and started driving towards Chasewater. Everyone was relieved to find tyre pressures were ok when attaching nutrition to the bike, massive relief!

Gathered on the grass everyone was waiting until the last possible moment to get into wetsuits as it was super hot even at 7am. Quick change before our wave was called and we were off.

8am the swim started for us. No acclimatisation so a bit of a shock diving in. The course consisted of one lap. The water was pretty murky and with dazzling sunshine I was glad to have mirrored lenses. Bit choppy compared to some of the smaller stiller lakes we’re used to swimming in but we both got through in circa 50 mins. 

Long run to transition, quick change and out onto the bikes. The route was pretty technical in the first few miles; very narrow lanes that had sharp concealed bends. We came across an accident early on  and knew it was necessary to slow the pace down to ensure safe riding. Beautiful bike course, undulating hills and amazing scenery. There was a long gradual hill towards the end which was quite tough and slowed everyone down but more so because of the heat. Then we were done. 

T2 we took our time to apply suncream etc and headed out on the run. The support was amazing from spectators and a really great atmosphere. So many had rigged up hoses to spray water over us to keep us cool and bands were playing outside of pubs. The run was a disaster. Everyone was walking or adopting a very slow shuffle. The heat was just incredible and the casualtys started to come thick and fast. Lots of people collapsing, being sick and suffering with cramp. At this point I think everyone knew it was better to be safe than get a great time so we’re running very short distances and certainly walking up all of the hills. Great opportunity to chat to fellow athletes and really enjoyable.

Overall a great day. Helen did amazingly given she’s only a few months post op. We are both happy to have finished in such challenging conditions! Bring on the next one!

Chase the Sun


Last night was my first event since my ankle operation and I headed to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford to join my friend Robbie and take part in the Run Through Chase the Sun Event. I’d never done a Run Through event before so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. But it turned out to be a really good race! 

It started under the ArcelorMittal Orbit There were options to run either 5km or 10km with the course being a loop of 2.5km, so 2 laps for 5km and 4 laps for 10km.


We arrived nice and early, collected our numbers easily and sat on the grass enjoying the sunshine whilst all the other runners arrived. It was a nice organised but relaxed atmosphere and the marshalls were wandering in and out of he participants asking if anyone had questions and checking that timing chips had been correctly fastened. 

A quick group warm up and then everyone was lined up in pace order, then we were off! 

I had opted for the 5km as I am only just starting to run again following my operation, Robbie was doing the 10km, so we set off together but separated after about 1km.


The route was really well marked with tape, cones, marshalls and signage for turns and km markers, in addition to a few motivational slogan signs too! 

The marshalls were awesome, most had some kind of musical instrument maracas or tambourine and they were very cheery and encouraging! One Marshall ran along for a bit cheering everyone on and I recognised him from the Run Tatton race I did last year, I was unsure at first as surely a Marshall from a race in Cheshire wouldn’t be at a race in London but I asked him and he was indeed the same person, full of boundless energy! 


It was a really hot evening but the organisers were well prepared, there was a water station at the lap point, so it was possible to take water every 2.5km if you needed it! I wouldn’t normally need water on a race of 10km or less but I did this time! A combination of the heat and my body having to work harder as I’m not as fit as I used to be, I genuinely needed a drink and the water was a welcome treat! 


A very reasonable 31mins later I crossed the finish line. I was really pleased with that for my first race back! The medal is awesome and they had water, bananas, flapjacks (really really tasty flapjacks) and Pip n Nut Almond Butter at the finish line! 

All in all a fab race, I will definitely be doing another Run Through event! 

Liverpool Rock and Roll Half Marathon


This weekend was a rare weekend that Jenni and I actually spent together. After a swim on Saturday morning in a local lake (Tri Farm) I headed up to Liverpool on the train as we were both taking part in the Rock and Roll Half Marathon on Sunday.

For Jenni it was her first running only event of the year and for me it was my first event post ankle operation, I’m not actually back to running properly yet so I had said I would go along and run/walk with a friend who had entered it as her first half marathon as it sounded like a lot of fun. 


Sunday morning arrived and we headed to the Echo Arena and joined a mamouth queue for bag drop, I understand bags need to be searched, but 4 people searching thousands of bags and one extremely long queue does not seem the most effective way of doing this? It was cold outside and windy and all in all not the best way to prepare for the race ahead. 

Once through the bag check in (40mins later) we headed out to find our start corral, these were grouped from 1-20 depending on your expected finish time… We were supposed to be in 20, except that didn’t exist, after about corral 15 there were no barriers, then there were signs up to 19, but no 20, and everyone from 15 onwards was just stood around in a muddled group… 

9am start time came and went… no announcements to explain the delay, just cold confused athletes standing around… eventually the race got going and we crossed the start line at approx 9.40am. The start had no atmosphere, no warm up, no music or mc, no announcements, it was dull and lacked atmosphere. 

Then we were off, past the stadium and onto the streets of Liverpool, the course was gently rolling up and down hills and we were walking the ups and jogging the downs, about 3km we were caught by the back marker but then we made an extra effort to get moving and ensure we remained in front of him as we didn’t want to miss the cut offs and be removed from the course. 

Successfully in front of the back marker and with quite a few competitors behind us it should have been a pleasant experience however at about 4-5miles we found ourselves being chased by 2 small road sweepers, I understand they need to keep the event tidy but we weren’t at the back, they were driving quite dangerously close to us and as they swept up the bottles the caps were bursting off and could easily have caused an injury! They also overtook us, this was not a pleasant experience. 


There were apparently lucozade aid stations on the course, these were all closed by the time we got to them, bottles strewn all over the road were the only sign that they had been there…

There were also some bands and music stations along the course, some of these were fab and fun and encouraging, others weren’t playing, hadn’t set up yet (presume only bothered about the marathon runners?) or were just testing their systems, as far as rock and roll goes that wasn’t the experience I got… 

Hey ho, it is what it is, we were in good spirits and continued on, the route then went through some lovely parks and it truly was very pretty. Then in a section between some parks 2 full sized road sweepers were at work, one had managed to get caught in the barrier tape so it was unclear as to where we should go, they were driving pretty fast, again bottle lids exploding off as they swept up the bottles and this was an unpleasant experience, we were not at the back, we were still on the course, they shouldn’t have been driving around us and they could potentially have injured us. If a race has a cut off point and a back marker then all competitors in front of that should get the same experience, this was certainly not the case.

Still, on we went, back into some more gorgeous park land with lots of gentle down hills, some lovely charity supporters offering bananas and then we were over halfway, spotting other runners in the distance and catching up with them became great motivation. Then with 4 miles to go the course turns alongside the Mersey and runs in a straight line for almost the last 4 miles, by now a number of marathon runners (very fast marathon runners – sub 3hrs) were starting to run through so we cheered and encouraged them as they passed and they were very encouraging in return… 10miles, 11 miles done, we were going to make it and not a back marker in sight! Yay!!!! 


The support of the crowds as we entered the final section was incredible! The finish was loud and exciting and gave us the encouragement to make the final run down to the finish! 13.1miles done, and another medal earned! It was an amazing medal as well! 


All in all I enjoyed the course and I imagine for the masses the experience would have been very different, however for a race that says it caters for runners and walkers and has a walking back marker I firmly believe that more should be done to ensure the runners at the back of the field have a good time, know where they are going, have access to the same aid stations and motivational support as the faster runners. Closing sports drink stations and sweeping the course whilst people are trying to continue their race is poor form! 

Jenni here – Helen and I had very different race experiences on the day. For me the actual race was great with tonnes of support and a fab atmosphere in my home town. Loads of people turned out to cheer us on and hand out jelly babies. I also really enjoyed the music at each mile marker, particularly those with a nod to the Beatles classics such as Penny Lane played on penny lane. Running past some iconic music venues such as the Cavern Club, through the stunning Sefton park and to the Albert Dock was amazing. I had only run 6 miles to date so just wanted to plod and get through the distance as this was going to be my longest run before Staffs so I’m really pleased with a steady time of 2:22. Not fast but it was quite easy and a confidence builder. The highlights were the concert at the end and beer tokens. I’m a big fan of a beer post race! So great race for me but I would agree with Helen, if advertised as catering for those walking the distance it’s a shame the support wasn’t there for those that actually deserve it more than most. 

My first triathlon – Southport Tri (Olympic Distance)  

 In October 2015 I secured a charity place for the VLM and started running. Then exactly a year ago today I bought a bike and started cycling and a couple of months later, in August we signed up to do IRONMAN 70.3 Staffordshire so the only thing left to do was swim which I started doing in Feb this year. I had booked a Sprint distance Triathlon as my first event in April, however, at the time had (unknowingly) entered a super speedy time for the swim and the thought of being chased and having my feet tickled in the pool was enough to cause a huge confidence crisis resulting in me dropping out! So fast forward to yesterday and my first ever Triathlon, an Olympic distance consisting of a 1.5km swim, 40km bike and 10k run.

 

I’ve done hardly any running since Chicago marathon due to injury yet knew mentally I could cover the distance and I’m a fairly strong cyclist so hadn’t been too concerned about that, it was all about the open water swimming. So two weekends ago I went to the Lake District and swam for the first time in Rydal Water, which was beautiful. I noticed that the buoyancy from the wetsuit made me much more streamline and , therefore, more efficient in the water. I then attended the Endurance Store’s Open water swim time trial event to get used to swimming amongst other people as I was terrified of the washing machine effect. 


And finally a last minute swim clinic with Jo Jackson the day before the event for some useful hints and tips. Key learnings which I found very helpful including reaching forwards as if you were stretching over a barrel and having your fingers enter the water with your palm facing towards. Also rotating from the hip and keeping a continuous steady kicking motion and finally positioning the water line at your temple with nose perpendicular to the floor.

 

For me a triathlon is a logistical nightmare requiring a lot of thought into kit, transitions, fuelling, where to put all the stickers and tattoo placement! After a few phone calls I had prepped everything, including gels tapped to the bike, which if you haven’t tried is a fantastic and efficient way of fuelling on the bike. 

Other top tips include taking your wetsuit off when it’s soaked, therefore, easier to remove and having a fizzy drink in transition one to stop the dizziness and take away the taste of the lake! I had a big bowl of pasta in a last ditch attempt to carb load and went to bed early.


5:30 alarm and trying desperately to eat porridge and drink loads of water and electrolytes when your stomach is doing somersaults is most tricky but I donned my tri-suit and drove the short distance to the event. Racked my bike, laid out all equipment and then wrestled to get into my wetsuit, which I have to say I think is the hardest thing about a triathlon. We then gathered for our wave race briefing at which point I was desperate for a wee but couldn’t face trying to get in and out of the wetsuit so put it down to nerves and danced about instead. I got talking to some of the other girls of which for many it was their first Olympic distance and some were even training for Staffordshire which was great to see. We made our way into the water and I positioned myself at the back knowing I would rather have the space than a good time. 


And we were off! At first I really struggled to regulate my breathing as the water was very cold but soon got into a rhythm. I then started getting cramp in my arm and was freaking out that so many people were ahead of me. We had to loop an island twice and after the firs loop I was thinking this was a big ask but just tried to stay calm and keep pushing forwards and 41 mins later I was done. Quick jog to transition, gulp of coke, dry the feet off and I was on the bike, relived to be back in my comfort zone.

 

The bike route was flat but exposed so quite windy at points. I was overtaken by so many people on the most amazing bikes I have ever seen and felt as if I wasn’t moving but was actually doing about 17mph which given the wind I was quite happy with. The bike portion was the opportunity to hydrate and refuel. I’m not great at doing this but made a conscious effort to drink/eat every 9 miles ready for the run. The only thing I found with the cycle was not being as comfortable in a tri suit as I’m used to having lots of padding in bib shorts and there’s next to nothing in the suits so I was shifting my weight around trying to get comfortable.

 

Cycle done, quick change of shoes and I was off on the run. This is where it all went wrong. I have never done any brick training (big mistake)! I felt like a drunken octopus with zero control of my feet and legs. I had numb feet and literally couldn’t get them to do what I wanted them to. I was also running too fast. I even tried to walk at one point and had even less control then. It took 3 miles to feel normal by which point I was hungry and noting the lack of running training. Also, I was being overtaken by all the University teams who were tonnes faster and mentally I felt a bit tired. But I shuffled along and finally made the turn and ran over the finish line to be awarded with a massive medal by Jo Jackson which was very nice. Total time 3:29:11! I had three friends also competing and they got great times so a fab day for all. Awesome experience and really well organised event. 

 

 

Body confidence, a barrier to sport? 

We are currently designing new kit and received some samples from 2XU to try for size. I was perplexed when the large cycle jersey was very snug and yet I was a small tri suit. Standing looking at myself in skin tight lycra I suddenly felt very self-conscious and hyper aware of how alien my curves were vs a typical triathletes slender toned body. I have my first ever triathlon in 2 weeks and rather than the obvious concerns, namely the fact I have never swum in open water or currently due to slow return from injury am only averaging 4 mile runs my main concern is actually about how fat I feel and uncomfortable in my body (in skin tight lycra).


I noticed at the Maserati Tour de Yorkshire last weekend that I hardly saw any women cycling. In fact, looking at the results for the 100km there were only 150 women vs 2350 men! It’s very rare I see many females at any of the cycle sportive I enter. It got me thinking about the barriers to entry for this sport amongst others. Is it the initial outlay of cash, the fear of mechanical failure or body image in a male dominated sport? 


Helen and I recently applied to be ambassadors for Specialized to encourage more women to cycle as it’s a fantastic social sport but unfortunately were unsuccessful, which is a shame as it’s something we are both very passionate about but we wish the chosen ambassadors the best of luck and will do everything we can to support them. It’s good to see the bike manufacturers are recognising a whole demographic that are not currently involved in cycling and making an effort to get engagement. Giant Liv have been particularly good at this but it’s still slow to gain traction.

Swimming is another minefield. Ladies Are under the perception they have to be waxed within an inch of their life and then they have to make the walk into the pool under fluorescent lights highlighting every flaw. This takes some confidence! 

So it got me thinking about my goals and how they conflict. In order to achieve the perfect body from an aesthetic perspective the focus would be on HIIT training and weights and having tried this approach in the past I know it delivers fantastic results. However, when training for an Ironman, the focus is predominantly on the cardio and long distance at that. Of course cross training is important including strength and conditioning exercises, however, given the already huge time commitment one would always prioritise practicing one of the three disciplines over the aforementioned strength training.

Actually, in the gym this is very evident. I know from my own experience I would shy away from the free weight area. I remember being perfectly happy there with my PT and then when following his plan on the days I was alone I would skip bits in favour of the cardio machines where I felt more comfortable. Weights are integral to a fitness program and yet you find mostly women on cardio machines and men doing weights, is this again due to confidence?

So we end up in a chicken and egg situation. With hindsight I would have trained to achieve the body I want and then started training for the endurance events but as it stands I’m out of time with only 6 weeks until the Ironman 70.3 event and with several challenging endurance events before this. It’s daunting feeling underprepared and then having body image concerns. I wonder how many women feel the same and are reluctant to enter these events because they don’t feel comfortable donning a wetsuit and skimpy tri suit surrounded by tonnes of super fit men with single digit body fat %? Is this down to stereotypes and societies expectation for women to always look beautiful and glamorous?

Helen here now – Following on from Jenni’s thoughts above I felt this was a good time to add something that has recently been highlighted in a number of ways – women’s appearance or expected appearance whilst taking part in sport. 

There was a recent article in the Evening Standard with tips for acing the London Marathon! Great right, everyone needs some advice in the lead up to a big event? Except some of this advice was exactly the opposite of helpful and in fact probably added fuel to many women’s fears. The article states “𝕐𝕠𝕦𝕐𝕠you might have a finish line to cross but you do not want to look like a troll doing so. You need sweat proof make up” ummmm really? If I can run a marathon I’m damn proud, regardless of whether I look like a troll… and hang on a minute are we seriously comparing makeup less women to trolls?? 

To be fair I have made this comparison between myself and a troll previously…


But this was in 2015, and I hadn’t just run a marathon, I had just woken up with crazy hair and despite ‘looking like a troll’ I didn’t feel awkward or embarrassed. 

Anyway, I like to think women and sport are moving on from the whole picture perfect perception, surely the Evening Standard article is an exception? After all, campaigns such as This Girl Can are working hard to persuade all women regardless of background, body shape or body confidence to get involved in sport. Their adverts showcase a fantastic array of women demonstrating sport in its raw realistic sweaty form. So this must be having an effect right? 

Apparently not, imagine my dismay when attending an event recently that was supposed to be about encouraging women in sport when one of the workshops was a hair and make up demonstration?? Oh dear… Perhaps these campaigns aren’t working? The session began with a lady saying you might want some tips for make up to use straight after a gym session, fair enough, but went on and suggested that no woman should be without concealer, stating that whilst everyone has dark circles under their eyes using concealer will make you feel better?! Ummmmm nope… I feel just fine without concealer thanks, it doesn’t affect my performance in sport or outside of it… Some days I chose to wear make up, I get up in the morning, have time to apply it and chose to do so, or maybe I’m going out for the evening and want to ‘glam up’ a bit, but I certainly don’t feel like I need to wear it?! The session went on to explain that eyeliner is good for making your eyes look better but it can be hard to apply?! 


At this point I took a selfie of my eyes and sent it to another lady I knew in the workshop, just as the conversation moved on to contouring, then I left… 

I had attended this event under the assumption that as we were supposed to be working towards addressing the barriers that women in sport face there wouldn’t be any of this sort of stereotypical ‘women must look good at all times’ promotion, as surely that’s exactly the sort of thing we are working to evict? Women don’t need to feel like they must look immaculate every minute of every day, people aren’t immaculate, that’s unrealistic. Dark circles under my eyes and non prominent cheekbones are natural, and are the last thing I think about when working out. I wish every woman could feel the same.

I respect people’s decision to wear or not to wear make up, whilst working out or not working out, what I dislike is the perception that if we don’t wear it we won’t ‘feel good’ or we will look like a ‘troll’. 

Girls out there, if you love your sweat proof make up that’s brilliant, we love seeing your inspiring gym pics, but if one day you don’t want to wear it you should feel like that’s ok. Girls working out taking realistic sweaty selfies, you are fab! Well done for being confident enough to do so. Girls scared to work out because of how you look either without make up or in your gym kit, we are here for you, and so are thousands of other women! You can do it!!! Regardless of shape, skin tone, eyeliner, go out there and show yourself how awesome you are, the rest of the world will soon see too! 

Moving the Goal Posts?

WMM-cities

This week the announcement about Abbott World Marathon Majors partnering with Wanda Group was released.

I am proud to be on a journey to complete my 6 marathon majors and having got half way through (Tokyo, Chicago and London complete) I fully intend to finish the journey and complete New York, Berlin and Boston Marathons.

Wanda Group own the Ironman series and as our followers will be aware we are planning on completing 4 Ironman events. So surely this partnership should be good news for us? Brands we love coming together to work on events?

Then why am I less than thrilled at the development? Well I have geared myself up to run 6 world marathon majors, I know where they are, I’ve researched how to get into them, I know what I need to do to achieve this goal… But then this happened, and depending on the article you read there will be 3 further marathons added to the series.

An article in Chinese press states that the agreement includes 3 Asian marathons being added to the Abbott Series. You can read the article here. Suggestions are that this will take a few years to come to fruition so perhaps 2019 or 2020. What does this mean for runners taking part in the current 6 star journey?

Abbott currently state that:

“The Abbott World Marathon Majors is a series consisting of six of the largest and most renowned marathons in the world. The races take place in Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and  New York City”.

So therefore will Abbott be changing their whole ethos by embarking in this partnership? If they currently consist of the largest and renowned marathons will adding others bring this prestige to a lower level?

There was a lot of speculation on social media following the announcements. Some people were understandably excited at the prospect of the marathon majors expanding and adding new places to visit to their running tourism bucket list. Others however were voicing concerns. What does this mean for people already on their 6 star journey, will the award continue to be celebrated? Will it become a 9 star award? Will the new races become a separate series? Is this purely a money making partnership that hasn’t considered the effect that will be had on the runners themselves?

Abbott had a blanket response when questioned on social media which stated

“Abbott World Marathon Majors is committing to continuing to recognize runners who are Six Star Finishers.  If a runner completes the Tokyo, Boston, Virgin Money London, BMW BERLIN, Bank of America Chicago and TCS New York City Marathons, AbbottWMM is thrilled to celebrate his/her accomplishment via our Six Star medal, recognition on our website and other avenues.”

A fair response? Many appeared pacified by this. The 6 star will continue? But will it? Previous evidence perhaps suggests otherwise. In 2013 Abbott expanded their 5 star award to include Tokyo, the 5 marathon majors became 6… You can no longer be recognised for being a 5 star finisher. Therefore can runners reasonably assume that once further races are added to the series that the 6 star award will become obsolete? The press release from Wanda acknowledges that Tokyo is the only marathon to have joined the majors series in the 11 years of operation and adds:

“Wanda will get the exclusive right to hold a WMM race in China in a city jointly selected by Wanda and WMM.”

So that’s at least 7 stars then? The information in the press is conflicting. With some articles saying the deal includes a definite 3 additional races joining the series, but Abbott say that the team will be looking to expand the series only when suitable races are identified:

“We have confirmed we are looking to expand our series. We are beginning the process of considering and evaluating races — and only those events that meet our criteria, or that we can help meet our criteria, will be added to the AbbottWMM family.”

This doesn’t sit well with me, how can they have guaranteed a further 3 races will be added if they aren’t sure that there are 3 races that will meet their criteria. The article I linked earlier from a Chinese source states 3 races in Asia will be added. Abbott state that they are considering races across Asia and Africa?

If a further 3 races are identified and added to the series what then? If Abbott honour their word then apparently runners will be able to still complete a 6 star journey, but will this feel like a lesser achievement, if the goal posts have moved and there are now 9 races in the series is 6 an achievement? Or have you only completed two thirds of the journey? 6 marathons is a fantastic achievement and has been proudly celebrated by many, Abbott currently do a fantastic job of recognising the effort that goes into training, running and not to forget the logistical planning involved to participate in these marathons across the globe.

So if there are 9 races in the series in total and you complete the first 6, do you stop there? Or would it be like having an option to run 20 miles of a marathon race and stop there, you will get a medal, you ran 20 miles, but you didn’t complete the course?

The cost involved in taking part in a further 3 events will be significant, travelling to Asia (and/or Africa depending on the article you read) will not come cheap, and costs will rocket. The journey is already a significant financial commitment, will this take it even further out of reach of many?

Not to mention the difficulty in obtaining the race entries in the first place. The ballot/lottery systems are notoriously difficult to obtain places through with many runners having to use expensive tour operators in order to gain a race entry or needing to raise very high amounts for charities with entry places. Again, I have nothing against entering via charity, I have run London Marathon twice for Action on Hearing Loss and I am fully behind using these events to help to raise awareness and funds for charity. But with the charities aware of the high demand for places and the fundraising targets hiking year on year entering in this manner adds a lot of stress to the already difficult task of training for and running a marathon.

I have contacted Abbott for response and despite a lengthy email exchange, beyond the items stated above I did not find that their responses answered my questions. Will the 6 star become a 9 star? Will the series expand or will the new races become a separate series, what races are being considered? If I complete the 6 star in 10 years time will it still be a recognised award? I can only guess that perhaps the logistics have not yet been fully thought through and perhaps when the press releases were prepared the organisations were not expecting the level of interest and concern from their current audience of runners.

In the meantime until I know otherwise it is back to training and planning on how to complete our 6 star journey… But I for one will be unlikely to expand my challenge to conquer a 9 star journey if this is the eventual outcome, the financial and logistical elements will likely prevent me from considering expanding this challenge.

Have you completed the 6 star award? Are you working towards it? Would you expand your challenge to include further races if added and how would you feel about this?

Sources:

https://www.worldmarathonmajors.com/news-media/latest-news/wanda-group-announces-exclusive-ten-year-strategic-partnership-with-abbott-world-marathon-majors/

http://www.china.org.cn/sports/2017-04/26/content_40698943.htm

https://www.wanda-group.com/2017/latest_0426/1651.html