Week 17 of 40: Getting out of my comfort zone

Monday April 22nd to Sunday April 29th: out of comfort zone

A few weeks ago I read on an inspirational business-type thing, about the value of getting out of your comfort zone every day. I wrote it down on a post-it and put in my purse – it’s stayed with me!

Yesterday (Sunday) I started to write this post with: 

‘I’m tired! This week’s training has added up to 14 hours… the most I’ve done in some time. But I’m also satisfied. This weekend was all about coming out of my comfort zone. One, to do the Swimathon on Friday night when I was feeling really tired and two to do the Puncher Sportive today, when I still feel under-confident on the bike.’

The Week

Monday: It’s my day off and I’m catching up where I left off yesterday. This is my fourth Monday off in a row. It’s become my routine.  I knew I’d pushed it last week with a FTP bike ride test, a Swimathon and a bike race within three days. In my notes to my coach I said, ‘At the end of the Puncher, I had the sort of tired feeling you have when you feel like going to sleep’, not what I expect when moving! My eyelids were heavy and I think if someone had produced a bed by the side of the road I would have conked out! So, yes, time for a rest. Rest is the time your body recuperates, muscle fibres rejoin (I know that’s not a technical explanation, but they do something), adaptations take place, that help get you fitter. And, as you get older, rest is even more important.


A mid morning easy run exploring a ‘sort of’ off-road route in the mist (going around in circles on the golf course). I was out of my comfort zone taking turns into the mist and making myself run onto an unknown course.


I joined Rachael from Girls Run the World for a really nice 630am 20-mile bike ride followed by an easy jog round Preston Park. Cycling still gets me out of my comfort zone. I always feel slightly uneasy about it. I also am not great getting up early and tend to not sleep the night before an early start where I’ve arranged to meet someone.

Doing a Brick session shoes and bike ready

Bricking It


I procrastinated and ended up not running until the end of the day. After been sat at my home office desk (the dinning room) doing accounts all day, the longer I left it, the harder it got to get out the door. Luckily, I had told two people what I had planned to do – I was accountable. So at 6pm, I got myself out the door and, once again, out of my comfort zone. I made a conscious decision to get out of my comfort zone further by going off-road. At that time of day it would be so much easier to head to the seafront. But I ran the 2 miles to the Downs, crossing the busy roundabouts by the A27, running into a field and a dead-end and climbing over a barbed wire fence to get back on track! I forced myself onto an unknown footpath that ran behind some houses and felt slightly uncomfortable about being on my own on unknown territory. And finally, I made myself get to nine miles, running an extra lap in the park at the finish.


I was very tired. I struggled to get out of bed for the Bri Tri Club My Ride (Watt bike session) which I knew was the dreaded FTP test. I knew I had to go as places in the session are premium! I told myself the FTP test was probably not a bad option as I would work hard for 4 minutes as opposed to doing repetition intervals. I was delighted to improve my score from 159 to 170, which  divided by my body weight of 56Kg gives me a watts/kg power ratio of 3.06, putting me at the bottom of Cat 3 or Good! By Friday afternoon I was struggling to keep awake at my desk and the idea of swimming 5K in a pool seemed ridiculous. But after taking my daughter who’s learning to drive for an hour long drive I woke up – and when I got home I had no time to think so it was straight to the pool for the Swimathon. I was in a packed lane with slower swimmers at the start. I reasoned this was a good thing as it stopped me going too fast for the first 2K (I was even standing up half way at one point!). Once the pool cleared I got into a rhythm and found I was really enjoying the feeling of flow from just going up and down, length after length. After 4K my lack of swimming showed, with a little bit of cramp, but a drink a stretch and a few lengths not kicking saw it off. I was delighted to swim 1.47 for 5K (it’s on Strava. I did start my watch after the first 25M and I did 5K – although Swimathon gave me 1.54!).


Park run was considered but a lie-in and laze about seemed a far better option, and a recovery jog of just getting out there and moving for 5K was needed.


Today was my biggest step away from comfort. I have a niggling uncomfortable fear of cycling. It was sportive day and the ride (including getting there and back) added up to 5.5 hours long, and 75 miles with some hills, and an average pace of 13.7 mph, including 62.5 miles of the Puncher Sportive. I knew I had to not think too much and just do it. I decided I didn’t want too early a start, and that I’d go it alone. I headed off at 730am with tyres pumped, Garmin Edge charged, Garmin watch on, fuel and drinks on board and in the right clothing on what turned out to be a cold morning.

I was fortunate to find a group from Crawley Wheelers to tag onto for the first half and met some fellow Bri Tri club mates on the second half, but for most of the second half I was alone. I decided to stop thinking (about punctures, rain, etc…) and broke the distance down into sections. With around 10 miles to go I felt, as I said above, very tired. But I got on and got up Ditchling Beacon (for a brief moment I panicked that I may have to go down the Beacon to finish as lots of cyclists who had finished were heading back down. I knew I couldn’t do two Climbs), but as it was, the finish was at the top. I chose not to brick run, 75 miles is my longest run to date and I felt very happy with myself and ready to rest. And ready to go again this week!



Week 16 of 40: A good week’s tri training

Monday 16th April to Sunday 22nd April

Tri training this week has gone well. And as I sit here typing and trying to remember what I did in a pleasantly aching body, I’m reminded why I love training. I love pushing myself on tough hill climbs on the bike, and running in the heat for 21 miles. I like the feeling of doing the sessions, even if they’re not perfect. I love the heat of the unexpected April sunshine and I love the coldness of the sea (although I was very glad I had my thermal wetsuit, booties, thermal gloves and neoprene hat on and that the only cold I felt was on face, and in my teeth!).

So here’s how the week went. I had a day in London on Monday so used it as my day off, and I was recovering from my 30K (just short) run on Sunday. Recovery is important and  getting the training balance right is all about listening to my body – working hard but not too hard that I can’t train again the next day, and the day after, and for rest of the week.

By Tuesday I was feeling recovered, but not ready to go crazy! So I added in some faster work as part of a run in the park, 4 x 3-330 efforts at between 7.08 and 7.20 pace per mile with one min recovery. I met with coach Dave who reminded me the importance of protein in my diet – something that stayed with me for the rest of the week.

Tackling the Beacon with a migraine

Wednesday was a planned early start, and Tori turned up at my place at 550am. I put a familiar, ‘slightly not right feeling’ down to still being a little tired and the early start, and off we went. We climbed out of town on what felt like a summer’s morning, I felt pleased to be up early, but half an hour later, as we set off down Ditchling Beacon I realised that the sunlight flashing through the trees wasn’t the reason for the flashing lights I could see. And by the time we reached the bottom, I knew I was in the middle of a migraine, to be specific and ovocular migraine (distorted vision, a slightly sick out of it feeling, but not always the headache). I felt shaky and sick and the thought of going up the Beacon again made me think I’d need to get a cab. Not quite sure what to do, I said to Tori, we’ll keep going, but I felt very ropey. We stopped again. Then I rationalised that these migraines normally only last 30-40 minutes, and this could happen in the Ironman. A couple of nurofen, a Cliff Bar shot block and about 20 minutes of faffing and it started to clear… and I’m pleased to say I got up the Beacon (and Tori made up for the faffing by doing the Beacon twice!).

On Thursday I knew had to swim but still feeling a bit tired I  didn’t push it and focussed on  the catch and reminded myself to kick from the hips. Slow but sure. I followed this by a very easy seafront run of seven miles at nine-minute mile pace in the beautiful sunshine. It was just the right amount of training, as I knew My Ride (Spin class) on Friday morning needed energy!

Sure enough the Friday bike session was a good intense workout, with 10 x 40 secs  at 120 per cent of the FTP intensity. I ran there and followed this up with an easy run around the park – not even looking at my watch to register the pace, and being very conscious of again conserving energy for Saturday’s planned workout!

At  8am on Saturday morning I arrived at Tori’s and we drove to leg 11 of the South Down’s Relay which we’re running on June 3rd as members of the Bri Tri team. Leg 11 is my leg and there’s a lot of hills! I loved the run. We ran the two legs, 5.25 out, and back, adding up to 21 miles. After this we had a lot of food then met again for what was my first sea swim of the year. Just 800M but a good start. On Sunday I watched the London Marathon in bed, and tracked people I knew on the app… and I could see the heat was taking a lot of them down, well done everyone. After this it was a 30 mile easy bike ride with Ditchling Beacon at the end.  My training Peaks entry was this:

“Easy ride, on a bit of an unplanned route. Ended up doing a lot downhill but glad to get Ditchling Beacon climb in – was in a ‘I’m never going to like cycling’ mood but Ditchling changed that… don’t like cars, pot holes and time spent for what feels like not much reward, but hills make up for that! Do like hills.”


Week 14 and 15 of 40: I like the bike & joining in the Brighton Marathon

April 2nd to April 15th

In this two-week block I did some long bike-rides and long runs, including joining the Brighton Marathon for 18 miles.

I will return to blogging about my training weekly from next week as it helps keep me focussed on where I am.  But for the last two weeks have both been four-day work weeks, which means cramming… so here goes:

Longer Bike Rides and some good hills

Looking at my Strava records, the blobs I’m happy about, include the two longer rides (big mauve blobs), both of which included a climb up the infamous Ditchling Beacon, which has the following stats: length 0.9 miles / 1.45 km; height gain 143m; average gradient: 9%; max gradient: 16%. It hurts!

The Joy of Off-Road running

I was also very happy about my two long run blobs. First it was so good to get back on the Downs on Saturday as I practised leg 4 (out and back) in preparation for the South Downs Relay in June. Since moving to Brighton I’ve got out of the habit of regularly running off-road – a big mistake, as I really love it. In Eastbourne ,the Downs were less than a mile from my house and I had many tried and tested routes. Where I live now requires a little extra running to and from, but with the South Downs Ways sign-posting there’s really no excuse not to go off-road.

Support team: Triathlon Coach and Physio

I’ve also got started with triathlon coach, Dave Powell, who reminded me to invest in some Whey protein, for post-workout recovery fuel. I’ve also started taking supplements again. Every extra boost helps in preparation for the Ironman. I take CurraNZ, Alive Ultra 50-plus, Spatone liquid iron, which I’m adding to my smoothies and Pro D3 Vitamin D tablets for bone and muscle health.

Dave has started me off with a rough guide of four runs, two long bikes and a My Ride, and two swims (more to come once shoulder rehab is further along).

I also saw the Catherine, a new physiotherapist, who’s given me some exercises for my shoulder, which is still a little weaker post collar-bone break – but I’m confident will now get stronger.

The Sort of Brighton Marathon

And finally, today I joined in with the Brighton Marathon running 18.67 miles at 7.55 (sub 3.30 pace). I decided to run it last week as I realised that I couldn’t defer my place a second time and I think I probably spent around £150 over the two years on my number! I wanted to do a long run and I wanted to be involved in the marathon, which is literally on my doorstep. But I didn’t want to run a marathon without having done a long run of more than 17 miles.

I felt slightly fraudulent as I stood in Preston Park before the race started. As the announcer said things about ‘all those long runs’, I shuffled about nervously (I hadn’t done them!). I’ve done 20-plus marathons, and turning up at a start line this untrained was a first (an average of 25 miles per week as opposed to 50), but I knew from the start that even though I could complete the marathon, I wasn’t going to, because my focus now is the Ironman, and because in some ways I felt I hadn’t earned the right. I wondered if it was a of a bit stupid idea … but as soon as we started running, I was happy I’d made the right decision to run.

I loved been part of the race. I did my marathon morning ritual having porridge, lots of water, and energy drinks, but I was a lot more relaxed knowing I was really just doing a long run and not racing. And because I knew I wasn’t completing today, I chose not to wear my club vest or tell too many people my plan. I enjoyed running along comfortably at sub 8 min mile pace (I’d never do this pace on my own) with lots of other runners to keep me company. I love marathons… and today being so close to my new home town felt really special. A brilliant touch was the row of vintage ford escorts, minis and mods on scooters cheering and hooting their horns as we headed up towards Ovingdean. I felt the race love…

The lack of marathon training started to show after mile 15 as the pace dropped off slightly. I did wonder if some of it was psychological as I’d told myself I might continue if I was comfortably running along at sub 8 at 18 miles. But in some ways I was glad that the pace dropped off, as it reminded me that there is a reason for doing mileage when I’m marathon training. If I could go and run a marathon well off no proper training, then I’d have to ask myself why I’d bothered all those other times. Around 16 miles my hip flexor tightened and the tiredness of yesterday’s bike ride may have kicked in. It was good to feel the discomfort as it reminded me that the more time and consistency I apply to IM training the better the experience will be!

I got to 18 miles, and thought, I’ll just go a little further and then find a good place to stop. A huge part of me wanted to just finish the race. I worked out that the pace was dropping off and would probably mean the last eight miles would average 8.30-8.45, which would add up to at least another 1 hour 10 and that would get me in (totally knackered) in around 3.40. I knew it wasn’t worth it, but I still had grabbed an energy gel.

Thanks Rachael

It was then I spotted Rachel From Girls Run The World. I’d cycled with Rachael yesterday and she was one of the few people I’d told about my plan to stop. I hesitated before going over, but then when I did, and I stopped, that was it – I knew I wasn’t starting again. Rachael got me back in rational mode and reminded me, (as I think I’d asked her to if I saw her) that ‘Today’s not your race… your race is the Ironman’ (wise words Rachel, and as you say, one mile at a time ;).

So… now I’m a bit weary after two long days of training, but, I’m also ready for another week of swimming, running and cycling to prepare for the Ironman in 25 weeks. And to all my club-mates and friends who did train for and complete the marathon – really well done!





Spartan Obstacle Racing Empowers Women


Ordinary Women Being Extraordinary

Emily LeRoux, is the driving force behind Spartan Women and the newly appointed global ambassador for Spartan Races. She talked to me about Spartan and how it helps empower women.

‘In my early 20s I was a rower. I trained with other women and we were empowered as we managed work and new careers with rowing and we pushed ourselves hard in Salford Keys in Manchester. By the time I met my husband, got married and had children (I’ve got two boys who are now aged seven and four), I found rowing was too time consuming, work was demanding more of my time and of course I had young children to care for. I kept fit with mountain biking and some running.

‘Seven years ago work with a global recruitment company, Michael Page, gave me an opportunity to move to Japan. I launched a running club after work and it was a great way to socialise and break down cultural barriers, we had 120 members and organised two races a year. I’m passionate about empowering women and noticing a lack of support in business I also set up the networking circle, ‘Mums In Business Tokyo’. It whilst in Japan that I also discovered Cross Fit, going three or four times a week to keep fit, and it was there that I became immersed in a fantastic ex-pat community, including Joe De Senna, the current CEO of Spartan. Spartan came along at just the right time for me.

‘I’m now the driving force behind Spartan Women and I work on partnerships and sponsorships.  There’s no typical working week for me and I’m lucky enough to work at home as well as one day a week in the office. I also travel, for example, going to the Stade de France for a weekend of Spartan training.

‘Like a lot of busy women, I fit in exercise where I can, for example after dropping the boys to school going to the gym for an hour or two, and squeeze in my run. I prefer to get my training done in the morning and I always take two days off a week. It makes a big difference if I have a Spartan race ahead, a goal to aim for, as this means I have to train and every week and that make a plan.

All-round fitness

‘I’m not that keen on running, but that’s not a problem where Spartan is concerned. All you need is to be able to run 5K and have a decent all-round fitness, strength and flexibility (which you’ll get from going to the gym regularly or going to classes). The thing that makes Spartan great is that you will always be supported by others. Spartan courses offer a level playing field where  you can excel in different parts and there are no barriers; it’s open to all, old, young, able or not able bodied, male and female.

Strong from Spartan

‘Spartan can mean different things to different people. There are age group competitors who are super-fit and others who just join in for fun. I love the fact that I’m able to move quickly along the monkey bars. Before Spartan this was something I thought I’d left behind me in the playground.

‘I’ve found that racing Spartan is great for work too. As I said when you’re on the Spartan course, it’s a level playing field and hierarchy doesn’t play a part the way it does in the office.  And the nature of the sport is about supporting each other, for example helping each other over obstacles, on monkey bars, or jumping through fire, so it’s fantastic for building team bonds. On top of that there are the fitness, health and wellbeing benefits and there’s plenty of research to show that a healthier workforce is happier and there’s less absenteeism.

Spartan for Women

‘When one woman helps another, amazing things can happen, and that’s what Spartan is all about. It’s also a place where you can discover an inner strength, where you will push boundaries, using your power and agility, and finding your mental fortitude. We’re in the ‘Me Too’ era, we’re fighting inequalities and the gender pay gap and it’s the right time to give women a voice in all areas of their life which can start by building confidence out there on the course. The competitive, team-building disciplines of sport and the skills that women can harness to achieve career success work together. I’m proud that Spartan has its own community of women and a facebook group where women are supporting each other and being each other’s cheerleaders.

‘I really think that Spartan can be a mental and physical catalyst for transformation in all areas of your life.  As a member of the Spartan community you’ll get support, meet new people, and create a new network. Spartan races are held in 30 countries and around one million take part annually, and contrary to what many think, 40 per cent of our racers are women – and the number is growing. We find that women tend to take part in races and train together and women are helping to grow Spartan as a family sport. Joe, who set it all up is a family man and Spartan is now open to kids and families as a fantastically healthy way to spend your weekend with your children.’

Give Spartan a Go

April 7/8 sees the launch of Spartan Races in the UK at St Clere, which is 40 minutes by train from central London and within sight of the M25. Situated on the scenic North Downs and known for its rolling hills – this beautiful yet challenging course will be host to a Sprint and Kids distance. Plus, new for this year, we’ve added a Super to give you more opportunity to go for the hallowed Trifecta! Enter here.


The fire jump brings out the Spartan in everyone!

Fiona’s Spartan Day…

Back in 2013, I tried out a Spartan Training Day. You can read about my experience here.


Week 12 and 13 of 40: Bri Tri Camp & Cycling (& Happy Easter)

March 19th to March April 1st

A good week of training at Triathlon Camp… here’s a piece I wrote for The Bri Tri Club about our week away.

And a good week after it, too. My first 10-hour plus week for a long time and I hope I can stick at this.

As I indicated, training is easy when life doesn’t get in the way. Getting out of bed and running in my swimsuit and dry robe out the door and into the pool, then eating a big breakfast,  and on the days it wasn’t raining, following this with a bike ride, and then a run along the prom, if you fancied… It was fun and do-able – without work, family life, washing, cooking and the general day to day stuff we’re all engaged in.

Being in Mallorca got me back on the bike and in a group of cyclists. And on Saturday I  went out on the bike again – and I hated it. I hate cycling. It takes ages, I’m no good at it and I don’t get fitter by doing it.

Oh dear… maybe I should have thought about this before I entered and paid for an Ironman… But seriously that was a low-blood-sugar-level rant written yesterday when I felt exhausted after my 50-mile jaunt to Eastbourne and back again.

The truth is, I’m very pleased with the last two weeks of training. I’ve managed to keep to my personal baseline for running at 30 miles (it was 50 when I was marathon training). Under 30 miles and I really think I’m no longer a runner – and I know lots of people (most) disagree with me on that one. But having run 20+ marathons I know what works for me when it comes to running (miles) and what doesn’t (less miles). I’ve also done a long bike and a spin session and a swim. But for now I’m off to eat some Easter Eggs, so all that’s left for this update is to say a very Happy Easter – and for anyone who saw my facebook post today, April Fool’s!