York Leeds York

Part of my commitment as a Primal Europe Ambassador is to take part in some of the Velo29 events.

Primal Europe are the official clothing sponsors of the Velo29 sportives and they have some amazing custom jerseys for these events – you can check them out here Adam bought the York Leeds York one and its awesome!

At the beginning of the year I looked at the list of events and tried to find some that suited my training plan. This is harder than you would think, especially as I am training for a marathon at the moment so most of my weekends are taken up by long runs. But the York Leeds York event was quite early season and on a Saturday, so meant I could travel up on Friday after work and still be back for a long run on the Sunday!

Friday night we drove up to York (we being me and Adam who had kindly agreed to come along with me). Bikes on the roof of the car, boot packed with tons of kit as the weather had been a little unpredictable, on Thursday it had snowed in both York and Leeds, this could be a very cold event! Luckily the snow had passed, however this was replaced by some quite persistent rain and it rained for the whole drive, poor bikes got very soggy on the roof of the car. We eventually arrived in York at 10.15pm on Friday, checked with the hotel that we were ok to take the bikes up to our rooms, unloaded the car, then ordered a Chinese takeaway (well we can’t do a sportive without fueling). All in all this made for a rather late night.

Up just before 6am the next morning to pack up, have breakfast and check out.

Jenni had also driven over from Southport to ride with us and arrived at the hotel quite late. Unfortunately she was rather ill on Saturday and was then unable to join the event, so this left it with just me and Adam riding together.

We headed to the start at the York Auction Centre and there were already so many people there. The car park was packed solid, and there were so many people around. I hadn’t quite expected such a massive turnout to a sportive so early in the season, especially as the weather was not great. It was raining when we arrived at the start, not too badly but it was destined to be a damp ride!

Adam and I headed in to registration and collected our rider numbers before heading over to the Primal Europe stand to introduce ourselves. This was the first time I had met any of the team in person and it was lovely to finally put faces to names and meet James and Ben. I used this opportunity for a cheeky selfie with James and then it was time to get the bikes and ourselves ready for the ride ahead.

Once ready we joined a queue of riders ready to start, the queue snaked round the outside of the auction centre as the race itself was starting from inside the building. Everyone waiting to start seemed in good spirits and we spoke to quite a few people who had done the event the previous year (its always a good sign when people go back for a 2nd time). One poor gentleman had managed to forget a wheel as he had had to dismantle his bike to pack it in the car and hadn’t remembered to put the wheel in the car. The organisers did call over the tannoy to see if anyone had a spare but unfortunately no one did, so he had to head off to have breakfast and wait for his friends and family to finish.

Quick race briefing and we were off. Almost as soon as we started so did the rain, it was varying in intensity from heavy miserable drizzle, to angry sideways heavy rain. But this didn’t appear to deter any of the riders. Some of the roads were incredibly flooded, at one point I came around a corner at the front of a small group and shouted ‘swimming pool’ there was no other way to describe the large puddle that spanned the entire road. Luckily it was only a few inches deeps and we made it through to drier land! (I do love a triathlon but taking my bike for a swim was not on the agenda!)

After some initial flooded and muddy roads the roads towards the mid point were a bit easier, less mud and surface water but it was colder! As we got towards Leeds the temperature dropped noticeably and there were still patches of snow banked up at the side of the roads. We arrived at Harewood House rather cold and damp. It was an absolutely stunning location and I am sure on a summers day I would have stayed a little longer, sat on the grass and taken pictures of the house, but I was pretty cold and my fingers weren’t too keen on trying to take photographs, I do feel like I might need to go back one day just to appreciate how lovely it really was.

I did however manage to take photos of some participants bikes racked in the snow!

We queued for a very welcome hot drink and I ate a very sweet and tasty flapjack before a mass undress operation to try to go to the bathroom. Cyclists – I am sure you all sympathise. I had to take off layer after layer of clothing to be able to get to my Onyx Thermal bib tights.

Then we set off on the 2nd half, not wanting to hang around too long or get any colder than we needed to be. Once again all cyclists seemed to be in good spirits on the ride back, even a poor lady whose hub in her rear wheel had died, she was cheerfully waiting to be picked up by the mechanics and we stopped to chat to her for a few mins and check she was ok.

I also managed to ride for a while with some ladies from the Yorkshire Lass Cycle Club. They were really lovely and friendly and it was so nice to spend a while chatting to some new people as the miles passed by. One of the ladies husbands was a triathlete and had done Ironman Vichy last year!

65 miles later (we did the medium route) we arrived back in the auction centre to be presented with our medals, have our photo taken and the all important post ride snack – an actual bbq’d sausage in a bun! This is possibly the best post event food idea ever and was most welcome as a warm filling food item after quite a cold event.

Bikes back on the car, quick change in the carpark – thanks to Dryrobes – they really do make post event routines so much easier. Then a quick goodbye to the Primal team and it was time to begin the long journey home. We arrived home approximately 10pm that night. A crazy long weekend, exhausting but fabulous! I loved every minute of it, now where is that Velo29 events list, I need a new target!


Flying through February

February is such a short month, it might only be a few days shorter than most but it seems to pass far quicker than most!

This could be in part due to the fact I spent the first week in Dubai on holiday and taking part in the Ironman 70.3 event – if you want to know how it went you can check out the post here.

It’s finally starting to get a bit brighter, the sun is starting to shine more often and the mornings are brighter. It’s also not pitch black when I leave work in the evenings!

This reminds me that the cycling season will soon arrive and I am a little concerned that I may be underprepared for this!

I only cycled 4 times through December and January! This was not a good total. Therefore I am doing my best to take advantage of sunny weekends and slightly milder evenings!

I’d like to point out that despite my lack of training I did survive the 56mile bike section of the Ironman Dubai 70.3. But with York-Leeds-York sponsored by Primal Europe fast approaching I am not certain I’ll manage to get through this event with the same lack of training?!

I also have the Brighton Marathon in April and marathon training takes a fair amount of time so my Primal Europe Source Women’s Crop Leggings and Graphite Women’s Capri’s are working overtime with all the run training I need to get done!

So when I am not run training I am trying to fit in as many cycle rides as I can! I also like to combine my weekend rides with a chance to be social and have breakfast and/or cake with friends. Although I do confess that one weekend recently this plan almost resulted in no cycling! It was a really cold Saturday morning and I headed to my local parkrun with some friends. Bikes loaded in the car, and the plan was to change after parkrun and drive to an area a little way from home, cycle a loop to a great local bakehouse, stop for cake, cycle a loop back to the cars.

Having got changed and added many layers to combat the cold (Pixel8 thermal arm warmers were added under my neon heavyweight jersey) we drove to our planned start point! It was wet and windy by the time we arrived and the plan changed – drive to the place we had planned to have breakfast. We got out of the cars and the weather was vile, we were all cold and tired after parkrun so we left the bikes in the car and went for breakfast! Luckily breakfast proved to be just the motivation we needed and after breakfast we successfully headed out for an hours ride!

I’m finding that all good rides at the moment start and/or end with a good cup of tea!

But if tea provides me with the motivation I need I think I’m probably not doing that badly! Time to stop typing and get outside again! Preparation for the events I’ve entered is taking up a surprising amount of time! Cross your fingers for me that the training pays off when I get to York for my first cycle Sportive of the year next month!

Ironman 70.3 Dubai 2018

Signing up for this event was almost an accident…

When Adam was put on the waiting list for Ironman Malaysia 70.3 it looked very unlikely that he would get a place, so we started looking for other 70.3 races that he could do as his first middle distance.

I had done 70.3 Dubai in 2017 along with some friends and one of these (Olivia) had decided she wanted to do it again, so we looked at joining Olivia and heading back to Dubai for some winter sun.

The dates for this event were announced really late (announced on 30th September for entry opening 5th October) We spent quite a while holding hotel reservations for the dates we thought it might be based on previous years! Eventually dates were released and I signed up in October. When we signed up I was reasonably fit, almost in the final phase of training for my full distance event in Malaysia, I just presumed I would be able to keep my fitness up between the 2 events. But that wasn’t the case. Winter flu, post Ironman fatigue and then a nasty shoulder injury plus Christmas and New Year excuses meant my training was non existent and my fitness had upped and left me!!

So I headed out to Dubai knowing that I wasn’t ready for this event, far from it. But it was a good excuse for a holiday!

We arrived on the Wednesday, dropped our bags at the hotel and walked down to race registration. We registered but there was some confusion over what swim hats people should be taking, and the event backpacks hadn’t arrived yet! Not the best organisation but nothing too dramatic. We wandered round the expo, bought one of the race tops and headed down to look at the beach.

When we did this event last year the sea was reasonably calm. This year the red flags were up for no swimming, strong winds had made the waves and swell quite dramatic and it didn’t look very welcoming. Later that day it was confirmed there would be no test swimming due to the dangerous conditions. This wasn’t exactly good for confidence.

With no test swimming in the sea allowed we decided that we would just have a little swim in the hotel pool the next morning. I had only swum once since Ironman Malaysia and my shoulder seemed to be getting worse not better. It had been strapped up by my physio but by Thursday morning I couldn’t brush or plait my hair, and couldn’t put my own swim hat on, it was looking highly unlikely that I would be starting the event on Friday morning.

Adam made an attempt at plaiting my hair and Olivia helped me to put my cap on. I got into the pool and decided to give swimming a try, I had to know if I could do it. Verdict, my arm would go over my head under duress but it was very painful and my stroke was quite obviously one sided, after a few short attempts I decided I might be better without the tape. The tape was holding my shoulder correctly, but being in the correct position was more pain than I could cope with. So we took the tape off and I tried again. It was a little easier, not much but I wasn’t in danger of drowning!

We spent the rest of the day relaxing by the pool and then in the afternoon headed down to rack our bikes and transition bags.

Olivia and I had signed up for the Iron Girl run, we thought a nice social 5km shake out run the night before the event might do us good – plus you got a medal! So we joined this event and ran a lovely 5km together along the beach with quite a few other women, it really was a lovely way to spend the evening and we got a great medal, bag, t-shirt and sweatband for our efforts!

4am Friday morning the alarm went off. Up we got, we had ordered breakfast to the rooms for 5am – yuk! I hate eating in the morning, but it’s a necessary evil on event day. I managed to plait my own hair – progress!!! We had a taxi booked to take us to the start so headed down, checked our bikes over, added water and nutrition to the bikes, then it was time to get into our wetsuits and head to the start!

We got in the warm up area for a quick acclimatisation the water was 22 degrees but it felt cold! Swam a few strokes, my shoulder was coping…

Then we lined up for the start, Olivia, Adam and I made sure that we all started at the same time (it was self seeding and we are normally similarly paced swimmers) we ran down the beach together, shouted a quick good luck and we were off.

The first part of the swim is within a marina, but the safety and stillness of the marina soon gave way to a quite aggressive open sea. It was rough, really rough, I panicked a bit, I wasn’t strong enough with my shoulder injury to swim through the waves as they came towards me and realised this quite quickly, I adopted a weird breast stroke style with my chin on the water, pausing as the biggest waves approached, bobbing over the top and then trying to carry on. The swell was so high I couldn’t see the buoys and I don’t think many of the swimmers could as wherever you looked swimmers were going in all different directions. It took me a really long time to get to the 2nd turn buoy, and by the time I did I was exhausted. I had thought once we turned and swam parallel to the beach that it would be easier, but that wasn’t the case. Depending on the weather report you read the swell and waves were between 3-5ft, that’s not easy to swim through. The next turn point seemed to be getting further away rather than closer and my strange stroke was really tiring me out, I wasn’t sure I was going to make the swim cut off and I have never worried about this before. Eventually the last turn buoy was in sight, surely now it would get easier as we were heading towards the beach? But no! With the sun in my eyes and the tide going out actually this last stretch took way more effort, my attempts at breast stroke were ineffective and I was being carried back every time the current pulled so I had no choice but to attempt a painful front crawl. Eventually I made it to the beach but even standing up and running out was a huge effort as the swell was strongly pulling people back into the water. Volunteers were offering hands to those being dragged back in, I plodded up the beach exhausted, and completely unsure whether I had the energy to attempt the rest of the event.

But I had made the swim cut off so I decided to try! Quick sip of Coke to get the salt out of my mouth, dried off my feet, sunscreen, helmet and bike shoes on. Off I went!

Olivia’s husband Spencer was there cheering me on as I started the bike leg, he said Olivia had mentioned the swim was like a washing machine, so I wasn’t the only person who had suffered!

The bike course is an out and back course through the desert, it’s on a main carriageway and there is a lane coned off for the cyclists. The first half is a gentle incline for the whole 28 miles with a few flyovers and the 2nd half is a gentle decline. In 2017 there was a strong headwind on the way out but a nice tail wind on the return. This year the wind wasn’t quite so predictable. Whilst it wasn’t as strong a headwind on the way out it still felt tough, and a number of other competitors mentioned the wind as I cycled past them. I knew it had been easier on the way back last year so tried to be cheerful. Turns out the wind had other ideas on the way back and actually the last 15 miles or so had a strong headwind which meant no advantage was gained from the slight decline and actually the last few miles were pretty tiring!

By now I was about 25-30mins slower than my event time for the same sections in 2017. I had taken an extra 10mins in the swim and at least 15mins more on the bike. Into transition, one last section to go – 13.1miles to run!

I jogged out of transition trying to loosen my legs up. I had only cycled about 4 times in the last 2 months, not great preparation, especially as the bike leg had been quite tough coming back. After trying to sort out my rhythm and breathing over the first few km’s I adopted a very non scientific walk/run strategy. Walking for 1 minute and running for 2. I saw Olivia running along in the opposite direction she was doing really well and she told me Adam was about 3km ahead of me.

As I came towards the first turnaround point I saw Adam going in the opposite direction, he asked if I would catch him up, but I didn’t think so. He had been about 25mins ahead of me I was pretty sure I wouldn’t make up that much time. But about 6km later I did indeed catch up with Adam. He too had found the swim and the bike tougher than anticipated and was exhausted with sore feet so running wasn’t really on the agenda.

I decided that I would rather finish my race with Adam than a few minutes in front of him, so I walked with Adam for the last 7km. Until the finish was close obviously! We ran down the finish side by side! The first and possibly only time we will finish a race together- turns out my race circumstances weren’t all bad!

Dubai 70.3 2018, you were beautiful, brutal but quite amazing all at the same time. I’m sure il be back one day.

In the meantime you will find me mainly with the physio or at the gym trying to gently repair my broken shoulder and rebuild some strength!


Becoming a Primal Ambassador

So as we have already shared in December I (Helen) was announced as a 2018 Primal Europe Ambassador!

The initial application process took place in October 2017 and was quite simple really, fill in an online form with some information about yourself and links to social media pages. I have to admit I did this section and almost forgot about my application, I didn’t really expect to be taken any further, surely there would be thousands more interesting cyclists that they could choose?!

Then at the end of November I received an email saying I had been selected as a finalist in a 2 stage process. Stage 1 was to create a 1 minute video showing why I would be a good ambassador. Now I don’t mind admitting the thought of this made me a bit uneasy, I’m actually not the most confident person especially on camera and I wasn’t sure I could do it! I had a chat with my boyfriend Adam and he offered to film me and edit the video and we could see from there if I wanted to submit it.

So off we went! Loaded 2 bikes into the car and I rode one across the park to an area we thought would be suitable for filming multiple disciplines, luckily our local park has mountain bike tracks, grass and gravel paths and also road surfaces so we could film lots of different shots in a short space of time with no travelling needed.

With much giggling and quite a few repeated shots (especially off road – that’s not my specialty) we had enough footage of me on the bike. We had also filmed me leaving and re-entering the house so people could see my full journey. The last section was hardest, just sat on the sofa with a cup of tea there was no where to hide from the camera whilst I tried to explain the benefits of cycling and how it can make you feel.

Video submitted, then to wait. Out of all the videos submitted 7 would be chosen for the next stage. Then on the 4th December I was told I was a finalist! All finalists videos would be shared on Primal Europes social media channels for 24hrs, the ones with the most engagement (1 male and 1 female) would become the 2018 ambassadors. They did a draw to decide which video went on which day. Mine was Tuesday… Is Tuesday a good day for social media engagement? It was now!

I am so lucky in that I have the most supportive friends and family, and quickly my video accumulated lots of views, shares and comments. I couldn’t believe the reach that is possible in such a short space of time! Some of the comments left by people I know were truly humbling but encouraging at the same time! They genuinely thought I would make a great ambassador! Then it was time to cross my fingers and wait. With my video being the 2nd of 7 to be released there was plenty of time for someone else to achieve higher levels of engagement.

Then on the 13th December I was announced as one of the 2018 ambassadors! I was genuinely shocked but excited.

Primal are the official sponsor for the Velo29 sportives, so as part of my role I will be attending some of these events. I am already signed up for the York Leeds York Sportive in March – nothing like an early season event to work out where your base fitness is at hey? Jenni will also be riding this event as we start to train for the Vatternrundan and our Ironman events. We need all the cycling training we can possibly fit in! Anyone want to join us on this ride?

Iv already tested out some of the Primal winter kit, and it’s been great, although I have to admit I have done minimal cycling during January as the weather has not been my friend, heavy rain and high winds are not the best cycling weather, however I have made it out a few times and I also bought a new winter bike! I think I could have an addiction to Liv bikes – I blame Giant Docklands for this! Too many pretty bikes in one place!

But with my kit ready, winter bike up and running, I’m ready for the rest of the winter season! Although il be taking a break from the winter next week when I head to Dubai for Ironman 70.3! After minimal training this may not be my best performance at middle distance but I’m looking forward to the warmer weather and a chance to use my Primal kit in another climate!

Il let you know how I get on!


2017 Achievements and 2018 Aspirations

2017 has gone past in a flurry of events and excitement. We have achieved so much more this year than I would have thought possible and yet there is still so much we want to do.

Some of our main achievements this year include: Ironman Dubai 70.3, Tokyo Marathon, recovering from my Ankle Operation, Staffordshire Half Ironman, Swim Serpentine and completing the London Classics, Berlin Marathon, Ironman Malaysia. Alongside many other races, triathlons and sportives it’s been a busy, fast paced but fun year!

There was a noticeable lack of mountains this year as we concentrated on our marathon majors and triathlon goals. Much as we would like to do everything as soon as possible we really do have to balance work, life, family, training and rest to be sure to have a good quality of life and I think we did pretty well at chipping away towards our goals throughout 2017.

Living so far apart provides its own challenges as we aren’t close enough to run and cycle together on a regular basis… Therefore we need to thank the people we have met locally who continue to train with us, challenge us and offer support and motivation! Without these amazing people our challenges would be so much harder! So to these people – you know who you are! Thank you!

Outside of our sporting achievements there have been a few other highlights! We successfully designed our logo, and designed and purchased custom kit. We were added as a featured blogger on Challenge Finder and we were also featured as a 5 page spread in RunDeep Magazine! I’ve also been selected to be a brand ambassador for Primal Europe for 2018, so I’m sure you will hear more about that soon, and hopefully this opportunity should take me on some more adventures!

For 2018 we already have a lot of plans – I’ll be at Ironman Dubai 70.3 and Brighton Marathon. We will both be travelling to Sweden for the Vatternrundan. Jenni will be at Ironman Bolton whilst I am at Spitfire Scramble. Then we will both be at Ironman Italy and the New York marathon! So 2018 will see us moving towards completing our marathon majors, halfway through our ironman goals and making headway on the cycling goal!

As ever we are open to suggestions for other events, we already have a number of runs and sportives in our training calendar, but open to recommendations for other events we should try!

2018 will be another challenge but will hopefully bring amazing experiences, more achievements and we will get to meet even more incredible people along the way!


Ironman Malaysia – the event

The feeling when we stepped off the plane in Langkawi and saw the sign welcoming the athletes is indescribable, somehow it hadn’t really seemed real up until this point, but it was pretty real now…

Ironman – anything is possible… Is it? I was going to find out in a few days!

We dropped our luggage and bike boxes at the hotel and headed straight to athlete registration. Wednesday was the first day of registration so it made sense to register early and get it out of the way.

Registration was a quick and easy process, lined up, got given a bag that contained all my transition bags, an athlete wristband was fastened around my wrist and then I was weighed – this is the first time I have had to do a weigh in at a triathlon… not sure if it is usually standard practise?

I found my name on the athlete wall and took a quick selfie with it – as you do?!

I also bought a vest top with the names of all the participants on it, I wasn’t sure if this was a bad omen but it was a lovely vest and I didn’t want to wait until after the race to buy it as Ironman Merchandise tends to sell out quickly…

Quick wander around the Expo and it was back to the hotel to relax for the evening.

Thursday morning we headed to the start area to take part in a test swim. It’s always a good idea to do this if you can, it gave me a chance to familiarise myself with the beach, the layout of the buoys etc as well as to swim in the exact water I would be in on race day.

The swim course was so clearly marked, big yellow Ironman buoys at the entrance and exit points and big white buoys at the turn points. The course was a big triangle, a 2 lap swim with an Aussie exit (30mtrs run) between laps. There were red flags marking the way on the right hand side spaces approximately 20mtrs apart… It was a very well laid out course, seeing this and doing the test swim put my mind at rest… The swim would be lovely!

We then spent a bit of time on the beach but I was really nervous about overheating or getting sunburnt so we didn’t stay outside for long.

We went out for a little practise ride to test our bikes that afternoon and managed to choose the worst moment of the day as we got caught in torrential rain!! The rain was so heavy it managed to wash one of my contact lenses out of my eye from behind my cycling glasses! Oh dear! I was a bit worried, the rain made the roads like a river, if that happened on the event day the bike would be tougher than I had anticipated!!! Bike ride done, time to prep the transition bags and get everything ready as on Friday we would need to rack our bikes and drop off our transition stuff.

Friday morning we headed to rack our bikes and drop off the transition bags. Again, a quick easy process, super well organised with lots of volunteers on hand to assist!

Then the rest of Friday was spent mostly eating, drinking lots of water and trying to stay rested and hydrated. Easier said than done in quite extreme humidity.

I got a really lovely email from Tailwind who are the company I was using for my nutrition. It’s a dissolvable nutrition that provides all the carbohydrates and electrolytes you need for endurance without the need for additional food. I had started to struggle to eat enough on my long Brick sessions so I swapped to Tailwind as I was pretty sure I wouldn’t manage to eat enough in the heat!

It’s the little touches that make such a difference. I emailed back with a picture of the swim start. Almost time to find out if I could be an Ironman!

Saturday morning was event day. We were up at around 4am, the hotel did a buffet breakfast for the athletes from 5am. I’m not good at eating in the mornings, but I did my best, some cereal and toast, then we headed down to the start!

Pumped up the bike tyres, added nutrition and bottles to the bikes. Then waited for the swim start. Adam started about 40mins before me so once he headed to the start I had a little lie down at the side of the start and dozed until they called the athletes to warm up.

I had a quick swim warm up, testing my goggles as I had positioned them badly on my head during the test swim and they leaked, I didn’t want this to happen during the event. I also managed to slice my toe open on some sharp rocks/coral! I am pretty accident prone and clumsy!

Then I was lined up ready to start the swim and I can genuinely say this was the first time I haven’t been nervous at the start of a mass participation swim!

The first lap went well, approx 44mins, then a little jog along the beach to start the 2nd lap. There were volunteers with cups of water so I rinsed my mouth out quickly and then I was back in the sea. 2nd lap underway! 2nd lap was also quite pleasant and I exited the water after 1hr 34mins. I had expected it to take me about 1hr 30 so factoring in the exit and having to swim round a few groups of people I was doing ok!

Transition1 I decided to do a complete change of clothes so I changed out of my Tri suit and into bib shorts and a jersey, this would make my bike more comfortable and also give me a bit more protection from the sun than my Tri suit. I took my time getting ready, had a few sips from a can of coke I had in my transition bag, applied sunscreen, and walked out to my bike. I wasn’t in a rush, I wanted to take some time and make sure I was settled. 9 minutes in transition was time well spent to be comfortable.

Then it was out onto the bike course. I was worried about the bike section, Iv massively struggled with my cycling this year I seem to be getting weaker and slower rather than stronger and faster. 112 miles was going to be more of a struggle than I wanted it to be!

Here I wish I could show you the course. It was amazing, through the rain forests, alongside the coast line. It really was a beautiful course. However it also had its hazards. The roads aren’t closed, however junctions and major turn points were well marshalled by both volunteers and the police, it’s still a bit daunting to be on open roads at one point a women stopped and did a 3 point turn in front of me… Not ideal.

There are also Monkeys on the course, some of these areas known for monkeys were signposted – again I wish I could show you a photo of the sign. But monkeys don’t tend to stay in their designated zones and there were quite a few wandering along the verges and across the roads, eagerly investigating any drinks bottles that managed to work loose and fall within their vicinity. Quite cute, but the athlete guide had given quite strong directions not to look at the monkeys, show them your teeth or the whites of your eyes and not to eat or drink in front of them. I was worried. I didn’t want to be attacked by a monkey! Luckily they kept their distance!

I quite enjoyed the first lap of the 2 lap bike course but by Lap 2 I was finding it tough. My feet had swollen, I had to pause to loosen off my bike shoes. I got off at an aid station, stamped my feet a bit and refilled my bottles. At 64miles there was the special needs station, I also stopped here and ate a cheese sandwich I had put in my bag, I loosened my shoes a bit more. 50 miles left, but it was going to be far from easy. It’s funny how the first lap didn’t seem too hilly, but I definitely noticed the inclines on lap 2, but so did the other riders I wasn’t alone in my struggle.

Transition 2!!! Bike was done, over, I’d made it! I was so worried about making the bike cut off I couldn’t believe I’d done it, with some time to spare as well! It took me longer than I had hoped at just over 7hrs 30mins, but it was done! 8 mins in T2 and another full change of clothes.

I was off onto the final section – the run.

Now… this is where I made some mistakes. I know that once I have walked once I find it difficult to get moving again, once I have walked for a while my hips stiffen and pretty much refuse to run, so I had planned to carry a bottle of water, jog the first 1/2 of the marathon and then take it from there. What I actually did was jogged 2km to an aid station, had a cup of coco cola, jogged to the next one, walked through again and took another bottle of water and then just couldn’t motivate myself to run… I am quite sure I ran less than 8km of the full 42.2km course… Not ideal, but once I’d walked a bit I couldn’t get my hips to run again so was left with no option but to power walk… Luckily I can walk quite fast, but even so this was going to take a long time!!!

I saw Adam when I was about 24km in, quick hug, apologised for taking so long, off onto my last lap! By now it was dark, they were giving the runners glow sticks at the aid stations which was a nice touch, but some of the paths were very dark, a headtorch would have been beneficial… the run was pretty enough in the daylight but a bit soul destroying in the dark, long dark roads, aren’t very motivating… But the kms passed quickly enough and soon I only had 1km to go, I tried to jog, not fun, jogged 200mtrs, walked 200mtrs, jogged again, started to loosen off – why hadn’t I tried this earlier? I could have shortened my time by loads! Too late now! 400mtrs to go, 200mtrs to go! Adam was at the side cheering me on, I ran (jogged) towards the finish! I had made it!

Ironman Malaysia was done! 15hrs and 28mins later! I had made it!!!

For anyone I didn’t tell about this race before I came out here I hope you can understand my reasons for doing so. For anyone who knowingly or unknowingly helped me train I can not thank you enough!

I am an Ironman, and it’s amazing! I am now enjoying the heat, food and amazing location that is Langkawi! I’m sure there is loads I haven’t said but now it’s time to get back to the beach!


Ironman Malaysia – the logic and preparation

8 months ago I was stuck at home post ankle operation, bored, miserable and demotivated. So I started looking for something to aim for, a reason to recover quickly.

I looked up all the late season Ironman events and tried to work out which ones I could possibly be ready for.

At the end of March whilst still at home unable to walk I emailed Adam (my boyfriend) and asked how he would feel about a trip to Malaysia in November…

Adams dad lives in Singapore so the logistics were easy enough, fly to Singapore, spend some time with Adams family, acclimatise a bit and recover from any jet lag, then head out to Langkawi Malaysia for the event. Adam even decided to sign up for the 70.3 event on the same day so we would be able to do some training together!

The only issue with this plan? I wasn’t allowed to train for 3 months post op, so therefore would only have 5 months to get ready for the event. I wasn’t sure this would be possible so decided to keep it a secret. No publicising it on social media, I told only a couple of close friends and family. Therefore, if I didn’t manage it no one would need to know.

Luckily I have a number of super fit friends and we do lots of swimming, running and cycling together so training for the event as part of my normal routine wasn’t as difficult as you might think.

As soon as my ankle wound healed I started open water swimming, and entered the open water swimathon and swim serpentine events.

Both quite long distance swims so I had a public reason for doing so much swim training, and much of this was done with Olivia, who was a fab training buddy, even swimming with me in torrential rain!

I cycle with Romford Cycle Club and it’s usually easy to persuade some friends to add on a few extra miles to club rides, or ride long distance training rides with a promise of cake. Massive thanks need to go to Hassan here as I’ve really struggled with my cycling this year and he has put up with my long slow rides, even travelling down to the South Downs with me for a long distance Sportive in the tail end of Storm Brian so I could ride some hills.

Running strangely enough I found easiest… I kept my miles light until after the Berlin Marathon, then discovered some local runners/triathletes run locally at 6am on Wednesdays covering 10-14km these mornings, this became my middle distance run each week, huge thanks to Dave and Lee especially for giving me a reason to get up at 5am on Wednesdays!

I have friends at work who run 5km with me at lunchtimes and my sister Katie was training for a half marathon distance so I did my long runs and my recovery runs with her. I am hugely motivated by being with other people and am really grateful to everyone who ran with me as part of my training. Particularly to my sisters Sarah and Katie who did a 9 mile run with me one day straight after I had done a 75mile cycle with Hassan. They were ready and waiting when I got off my bike and made my longest brick Session a lot more pleasant than it might have been.

So after just under 5 months of training it was time to travel!

Adam and I flew out to Singapore on a Thursday after work, this meant we had plenty of time to get in some last minute taper training and get used to the heat before travelling to Langkawi.

Adams family were great, they knew we still needed to get some training in, so they arranged for us to be able to swim on the Saturday morning with the local Tri club who swim out from a beach on Sentosa. This was fantastic as it gave us an opportunity to swim in the sea and without our wetsuits, as the water temperature for the race was forecast to be 29 degrees.

On the Sunday morning we joined Adams dad on a 50mile cycle ride with the Singapore West Coast Riders, this was great as we were able to see how it felt to ride in the heat. We are so grateful to the local clubs in Singapore for letting us train with them.

Finally on the Tuesday morning, we headed out along the river for a 5-6km run. This for me was the hardest bit, the heat and humidity meant I was sweating almost before I had started running. It couldn’t be more different to running in the UK!

Then on Wednesday it was time to fly to Langkawi and get ready for the event, but I think it’s best if that forms another blog post.


Starting a new parkrun – we need your help!!!!

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We are fortunate to have a number of inspiring people around us, people who have helped us in our fitness journeys and continue to support and encourage us.

There are a number of amazing programmes and events that help to get people of all ages and abilities involved in some form of physical activity and we are keen to support these wherever we can.

One such initiative that has turned into a global success is parkrun.


parkrun are free weekly timed 5km events in local parks. They start at 9am on Saturday mornings each week in parks up and down the uk as well as overseas, and are a great way of getting local communities active. With clearly marked routes, helpful volunteers, back markers (no one finishes last) and a family friendly atmosphere parkrun really is a great way to start the weekend.

We both enjoy participating in local parkrun events and therefore I (Helen) decided to look into what would be involved in holding one in the park most local to me – Hornchurch Country Park.

I’ve teamed up with Lisa from FatGirlFit in order to work on this as a project. We are both passionate about helping people get involved in physical activity and enjoying exercise and the outdoors, how better to do this than to arrange a free weekly local event as encouragement.

We have identified a great 1 lap 5km route through Hornchurch Country Park (subject to final approval) and can’t wait to be able to launch our parkrun event.

Therefore we are now quite a way along our journey to getting this organised and we now need to gain the funding for the start up costs.

Start up costs amount to £3,000 and are a one off cost as the ongoing management and organisation is all done by volunteers, so once it’s set up and running (literally) it is completely self supporting.

We have been approved as a potential community project for Aviva and this is where we need your help. We need people to vote for our project to enable us to receive the funding we need to turn this dream into a reality and help people from around our local area to enjoy the many benefits of a local parkrun.

Please vote for us via this link and help us bring parkrun to Hornchurch Country Park!


Once you have registered you have 10 votes and we would really appreciate if you could share with all your friends, family and colleagues to help us gain some much needed support for this project!

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Thanks in advance, fingers crossed we can make this a great local success.


Berlin Marathon 2017

This weekend we travelled to Berlin for the Berlin Marathon.

The Berlin marathon is one of the Abbott 6 marathon majors which form a major part of our planned challenges and with this race being located in Europe it wasn’t too far for us to travel for the weekend.

We flew out separately on Friday morning, Jenni from Manchester and me (Helen) from London Stansted but our flights landed at Berlin within 5 minutes of each other. As they were early flights (departed at 6.30am) we were able to spend the full day in Berlin.

We got the train into the city from the airport which is a very quick and easy way to travel, soon we had checked in and left our luggage at the hotel and were on our way to the Expo. The Expo was easy to get to by train and after a short queue our entry cards and passports were checked then we could proceed to collect our race packs.

At this point we encountered a small hiccup… Whilst on the plane from Manchester Jenni had stood up to allow another person to access their seat, a passport had dropped to the floor and a fellow passenger alerted her to the dropped passport, she picked it up and placed it in her bag, when we arrived at the Expo Jenni realised she had 2 passports in her bag, both hers and one belonging to a stranger. We presumed they might be a runner so tried to get help from the officials at the Expo but to no avail, Jenni called the British Consulate in Berlin and advised them we had the passport. A little while later they called back to ask for permission to pass on our phone numbers, we were then called by an associate of the passport holder. The person who’s passport it was had travelled on to the Czech Republic but luckily they managed to arrange for someone to collect it from our hotel! Phew! Mini drama on day 1!

After collecting our race packs we had some photos taken with the Berlin Marathon signs in the background, and also managed to spot the mascots for a cheeky picture before we left the Expo.

We spent the rest of Friday wandering around Berlin looking at the sights, it was lovely weather and the city felt very calm and relaxing!

Saturday we had decided we didn’t want to do too much, we went to see the Berlin Wall at the East Side Gallery and then on to the Tiergarten, where we strolled through the park back towards the marathon start. We got to the start area not long before the start of the Inline Skating marathon! This looks like so much fun! 26.2miles on skates! We watched all the waves set off before heading in search of pasta (pre race carb loading – that’s the bit we are really good at!)

Early night for us on Saturday, involved sewing our timing chips to our shoes (as no fasteners were provided and we didn’t want to re-lace our trainers), then attaching numbers and gels to race belts (one of Jenni’s gels exploded on her – not fun), then with kit laid out we were ready for bed!

Sunday morning started quite calmly, up at 6am, breakfast at 6.30, this allowed us plenty of time back in the room to get ready and make sure we weren’t too stressed. We left the hotel at 8am and walked to the start, our friend Janet had travelled with us and she walked to the start too she had kindly offered to meet us next to the start pens so we could keep our coats on as long as possible, we were really grateful for this especially as it was raining!

Once we were in the running village it took us a while to find our different bag drop areas and we then found ourselves in a reasonably long queue for the start pens.

Once through the queue we found a portaloo – last nervous wee! And then tried to find Janet, this was easier said than done as the mobile networks had jammed, but eventually we found her. She walked along the barrier with us until we were close to the start line so we stayed warm and dry for longer than most people. Then we swapped for foil blankets and had a quick pre race photo!

The start was staggered so the fastest athletes had set off 45 minutes before our wave, our wave started at 10am. The start was a long wide street but even so it felt quite congested, there were a lot of people on the course and it took a few kms to get out of the masses and settle into our race.

This time we had planned to run the entire way together. This hasn’t happened at our previous majors, either we haven’t been running the same race, or in the case of Chicago we both had various injuries and decided it would be better to run separately. For Berlin we were excited to run together. It can be so motivating having someone with you step by step, knowing you are going through it together, even if you don’t speak, it’s quietly reassuring!

We ran along quite happily until about Mile 11 when for some reason it felt like we had been out on the course for a lot longer than we had. We slowed pace a little bit, had a short walk and both took a gel. Neither of us had done much distance running as we had both been protecting injuries so our training had been mostly cross training (swimming and cycling) and the running had been minimal. Jenni had done one long run of 17 miles in training but I hadn’t run more than 10km as a training run, I had been concentrating on trying to ensure my ankle and hip injuries stood the best possible chance of making it through.

But despite our less than ideal preparation here we were and we were doing it together! Miles 11-17 felt a bit rough, not easy, and a slightly inconsistent pace but we made it through. Something happens after this point, I think it’s when mentally you realise you have already covered far more distance than the miles left to go, then the mindset changes to positive as you start counting down rather than up! 9 miles left to go! That wasn’t too far!

We kept on side by side the majority of the time, it really was nice to be on the course together. As the miles ticked by we started comparing the distance left to distances we knew we ran at home, visualising how far it was in terms of local miles.

The course was a good one, sufficiently wide for the most part and quite pleasant, there were lots of incredible bands stationed along the route that really lifted our spirits and made us smile! These were appreciated the most during the last few miles.

The only down side to the course was the water stations, the drinks were in cups which we always find quite difficult, and runners had discarded their empty cups all over the road which made running through the water stations quite precarious especially when the paper cups and plastic cups were mingled together, disintegrated paper combined with wet squashed plastic cups is unsurprisingly rather slippery!

Still, there were no disasters and we successfully navigated all water stations without incident!

The last few miles of a marathon seem to feel so different each time we run one, sometimes you literally feel like the last few miles are impossible, like you are never going to make it, other days it’s a feeling of elation as you count down the last few kms. Thankfully we were both feeling positive whilst heading towards the finish line of Berlin. Our pace picked up to that of our normal running pace, we started smiling and posing for photographers! We were offered a shot of Jäger from a spectator which made us smile (we declined the shot) we were going to make it!

Then the end was in sight! Under the Brandenburg Gate, into the park and across the finish line! Side by side, arms round each other, perfectly in step for identical finish times and a great final photo!

We had made it, another marathon major ticked off the list! We got our medals, had our photos taken, collected our bags and headed out to meet Janet. We also managed to purchase 2 giant pretzels on our way out of the park – obligatory silly post race photo can be viewed below!

On our walk back to the hotel we stopped at the final turn point on the course to offer some encouragement to those still on the course and let them know how amazing they were and that they had nearly made it!

We hope people found our encouragement helpful, I was pleased to spot Carl looking determined with only a few hundred meters to go. Well done Carl!

We are super pleased with our achievement and had a great time running together. We treated ourselves to a yummy dinner at a local German pub we had discovered on the first evening, then it was another early night for us! No partying on this trip!

We are already looking forward to our next challenges and look forward to sharing them with you!


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!