HER SPIRIT – small steps to a healthier and happier you

I want to tell you about HER SPIRIT, a new business I’m very proud to be part of. At Endurance Women we recognise that when ordinary women are extraordinary in running, cycling, swimming and anything that requires some grit and staying power, the drive to finish comes from within. We push limits and boundaries, that many think are impossible to go beyond and when we do this we empower ourselves and inspire others. Every individual step forward helps progress positive, and proactive change for women, men and children… This is what drove me to create a movement of endurance women. So when I was approached by Mel Berry and Holly Woodford to see if I wanted to get involved with HER SPIRIT I jumped at the chance. We had a shared vision. In essence, we wanted to free women from the shackles of old ideas and constraints.

Together We’re Stronger

At HER SPIRIT we’re reaching out to all those inactive women, that campaigns such as This Girl Can inspired with their brilliant videos and social media content. It’s a place where many endurance women will have started.

We decided to take things further and we’re challenging those traditional views about how to achieve wellbeing success.

We’re here to guide women, inspire women, and educate women so that they can free themselves and find the healthier, happier version of themselves.

The secret to finding your whole spirit, and the core of our belief is to add to women’s lives, not take away. That means eating good nutritious food, not cutting calories, being active because you love it, not because you have to, and finding your peace of mind.

It would be fantastic to have Endurance Women on board as one of our Founding Members and guides for women starting out, and for women who can’t afford our services.
To date we’ve signed up 21 influential women (since launching two weeks ago). It’s a crowdfunding initiative but we’re making sure that the founders are getting value for their investment in us. It costs  £100 to subscribe as a founder, which gives you Lifetime membership of HER SPIRIT  www.herspirit.co.uk as well as lots of other benefits. 

  1. The opportunity to be one of our first customers who will help us shape our offer and brand, the first part of this journey began rolling out this week. 
  2. Founder goodies – Once you’ve signed up the first goody box will arrive at your preferred doorstep the middle of the following month. 
  3. The opportunity to gift 5 FREE 12-month 2019 subscriptions for Christmas to friends and family. 
As well as the benefits open to all our members such as a supportive community, regular challenges, training and nutrition ideas and real women’s stories, as a lifetime founder member you get a premium offering which also includes:  
  1. Once a month founding members Webinar to discuss ours – and your progress – making you always accountable with your A-team.
  2. Opportunity to be featured in our Podcast of the week and to cross promote your work, causes, and get your voice heard. 
  3. An hour’s one-to-one mentoring and follow-up.

 

7 Ways To Find Your Running Form

My running form feels like it’s gone. I’m running badly. But I’m also planning to run the Brighton Marathon in 2019 (it’s in 21 weeks). So what am I going to do about it? Here’s my 7-step solution to fixing bad running form.

I’m quite an obsessive type. But once the obsessing is done, it is also in my nature to find solutions. So, when I ran another bad session, and a very slow cross country, and felt terrible, I knew l had to deal with myself and my unhealthy and frankly annoying negativity. First tip, negative thinking and talking don’t help!

1. a) What’s Your Why?

Yesterday, I wrote on the Endurance Women Facebook page: “Running with others works. I went into a bit of a negative place about running over the last few weeks. Lost perspective. Beating myself up for not being fast etc… The thing is running is fun! Getting outside, getting fresh air, moving your body the way it should be moved. It’s the same for cycling and swimming. And the chat, the banter, the post run coffee is all part of it. Hope you’re endurance training always remains fun… Don’t lose perspective (as I did last week!) … keep smiling 😁😂🏃‍♀️🏃‍♀️🏃‍♀️”

1. b) And What’s Your Why? (I’m not a ‘Fun Runner’)

What I wrote is only half the story. Yes, I do love running with others and getting outside – and smiling. But I realise it’s important to be honest with myself and the part two to my why is this: I run because I like to see what my limits are and to be competitive. I like racing, I like pushing myself.  I don’t just want to finish a race. I’m not a fun runner. You won’t find me shouting ‘oggy oggy oggy’ when I’m racing a marathon. I want to be breathing hard and pushing myself.  I want to compete and I want to progress, I want to see what my limits are.  That’s the main reason I do it. However,  if the only reason I ran was to compete in races and improve then I would have stopped. And I haven’t. And to make sure I don’t I’ve thought more about the solutions…Read on.

Aye Aye… who’s that on my shoulder? Run quicker!

2. Enjoy the means to the end… not just the end (yep, be in the moment)

When the balance tips over into the negative and I obsess and focus on how bad I feel I am, it doesn’t do me any good. I say things like I want to give up running – but I really don’t. It’s a bit like when someone’s trying to get pregnant and obsessing about it day in and day out. There’s a real danger they might stop enjoying the thing you need to do to get pregnant. And if you stop enjoying that (or only do it with the end in mind) it makes it even harder to get what you want. And really it’s a miserable place to be. You leave the moment, miss the good bits and only look at what you have’t got, that’s somewhere in the future. So of course, once again I’m reminded, what matters is being in the moment, and enjoying the process. And for me the process is a process where my goal is to get faster and improve.

3. Strength training

Running to perform well isn’t easy. Yes, you just put one foot in front of the other, but, to keep doing that there’s a bigger picture. There’s the total body to consider! I’ve got to stop talking about doing strength training and start doing (important for over 50s). When I did my PB in 2012 I was working with personal trainer Matt Shore and doing box jumps, dynamic squats and lunges and pull ups to work on my upper body. I worked on the core and did stretching too. It all helped even though I would often think ‘I should be running’, but without a solid foundation of strength, injury and bad form follow. I also did a lot more hill running and off-road training. All of this makes you stronger and boosts running economy (you go to from 0-7 min mile quicker).

4. Check in on nutrition

I can be very haphazard where nutrition is concerned and often eat carbs, carbs and more carbs, way too much sugar, tea/coffee and alcohol. It’s about getting the balance right. As we get older we need more protein for muscle repair and building strength. And we all know why less sugar, booze and caffeine is a good idea. I’ve been a person who’s got away with it for a long time, but I think I need to up my nutrition game, and put my focus on fuel. It’s not about drastic changes, just small steps, and being conscious of why I want to eat right.

5. Are you deficient (Iron supplements)?

Even with good nutrition iron, vitamin D, and magnesium can all take a battering when you do endurance sport. My blood was tested in June and vitamin D and iron levels were included and came back as normal, but following a chat with Emily Proto, top runner and masseuse, I remembered that iron needs closer attention when you run. Prompted by our chat I looked at my records again, they were the very low end of normal and I’ve read here, that for runners 20-plus is where we should be heading (mine was 18 in June and I’ve been anaemic twice before).  So my actions are: I’m having roast beef for dinner,  and I have started taking Spa Tone in my Smoothies again (liquid iron supplement) and will try to eat more pulses and dark green veg – and avoid drinking so much tea, swapping it for hot water (as tea can impair the absorption of iron).

6. Flexibility and core strength

Runners often neglect flexibility and core strength. Swimming is a great way to work on both of these and I love swimming but since the Ironman I’ve barely swam at all. My tattoo is firmly affixed now, so more excuses. I will work on strength in the pool, using paddles to build the muscles around my now repaired broken collar bones. And kicking with a board is great for my core. A stronger core, and good upper body strength will also help me feel more balanced and I hope improve my slightly compromised biomechanics.

7. Periodised training (add in a ‘building confidence’ mesocycle)

When you’re off form it can make you lose perspective and lose confidence. It makes sense to step back and look at your training year. Good coaches periodise your training and allow athletes to focus on different aspects of their endurance fitness in six to 12 week blocks. I’m clearly in the off season period having completed the Ironman on October 7th. But with five weeks passed I’m coming out of recovery (I think) and I’m ready to focus on speed. My goal race is the Brighton Marathon 2019 which is 21 weeks away and for the next five weeks my goal is to  build some confidence by working on speed and strength before I start marathon training. Joe Friel recommends athletes in the 50-plus category include more intense training, and my endurance has definitely been worked on this summer, so a little step back from miles won’t do me any harm.  As building confidence is a goal I did question the wisdom of racing tomorrow – another PW can zap my energy if I let it. However, a simple re-frame of my thoughts and a step back has convinced me it’s a good idea. Racing at my threshold pace is a great session for this week and will be another step to contribute to the mesocycle goal of getting faster.  A few more park runs, and some speed work and strength sessions will, I hope, result in a pick up of pace and a boost to my confidence, as well as giving me a break from the long runs until after Xmas. Of course, I could still be knackered, so the caveat is, if I don’t get faster I don’t give myself a hard time, I just keep working on finding solutions.

 

My Ironman Journey: 7 Great Things About Ironman

Today is exactly a year since I wrote that first blog post, with no idea where I was going to go on this Ironman Journey. But I’ve learnt some great lessons, had amazing experiences, gained some confidence in my ability to overcome obstacles, let go of negatives, as well really enjoying living right here, right now!

1. Hurdles can be overcome (expect the unexpected)

The two blog posts which describe my accidents, were my most read (should I take that personally?). The first accident on December 30th, left me scarred, toothless and in a lot of pain for New Year’s Eve. The next broken collar-bone happened 10 weeks before the event, leaving me questioning whether or not I’d actually race at all. I now have two plates in my shoulders, christened Eric and Ernie.

On race day, I had prepared very well, leaving nothing to chance, even practising taking off my TT wheels and removing the inner tube over and over,  (to date I’ve never had a puncture). I hadn’t prepared for or expected the sea to be so choppy and I hadn’t expected to get sea-sick. As I could feel the sickness rising, I was sure I had eaten something dodgy, even as I was flung about in the water it hadn’t occurred to me it could be the choppy sea. As I started to retch I realised how much water I’d swallowed (with race day adrenaline I hadn’t noticed). I stopped and retched, then got going again. I decided that no way this would end my race. (I later read on a Facebook group that I wasn’t alone, and one poor woman was removed by the lifeguard on her third sickness bout. And for future reference, long distance swimmers take sea sickness tablets).

Fiona Bugler coming out of the swim at Ironman Barcelona

2. Negatives are banished (it’s good to be grateful)

In training I think I may have stopped swimming if I got sick. I definitely would have stopped if I saw a jelly fish. But as we swam long I spotted lots of jelly fish and just looked at their tentacles, not feeling in the slightest bit scared. On the bike I was pleased to be comfortably going along at 18 then 17 mph, surrounded by other cyclists. But I was very aware that the retching and inability to keep nutrition down wasn’t going to help me. I just took on what I could, little bits, grateful for the bits that stayed in! On the second half I was overtaken continuously, but I didn’t let it bother me. I focussed on the fact that I knew I’d finish, and I was just grateful for every mile I went forward without a puncture or a mechanical. After a long transition (running back to the loo – so glad it was there!) before the run, and now very far back in the race, I still knew I’d make headway on the run. I chose not to look at my watch as I didn’t want to judge the pace. I went by feel. My stomach was sore and so I let Cliff Bar blocks to just sit in my mouth (rotting my teeth but getting energy in). I took water as even the thought of sugary drinks made me feel sick. But around 15 miles I took on some Coca Cola. A few minutes later I was loudly retching and what was left in my stomach exited. But, I reminded myself I can still take on water, and managed the marathon on three blocks and water for nutrition.

3. Comparison is Futile

For most amateur athletes, getting to the start line of an Ironman is an achievement in itself.  In Ironman racing and training many things can happen on the way, training is hard, sacrifices are made – and everyone’s journey is different. Even for the competitive athletes,  time is less of a focus,  as every course and every race is different, with different challenges. The longer the distance the more respect there  is for it and even when competitiveness is great there is far less concern about comparing to others, and there’s a mutual respect amongst the leading athletes. When I first set out on this journey a year ago I wondered if I could be competitive for my age, as it motivates me to compete. I was soon humbled by the task. The bike was harder to maser than I expected and with the arrival of Ernie and 10 weeks to go, it was a case of adapting and focussing on what I could do, not what I couldn’t. I put on the blinkers where times, other people and racing was concerned. I feel like I let go of comparing myself to others for good – and as for being competitive, I let go of that, too – for now!

4. The moment is the only place to be

Whether cycling on the turbo for five hours, or silently running in the rain and the dark on the third lap of the marathon on race day, a key lesson I learnt was to stay in the moment, in the mile I was in. As I approached my third lap a big chunk of the course was finishing and as I headed out for eight more miles, ‘You are an Ironman’ was ringing in my ears as fellow competitors entered the stadium to finish. It was dark, it was wet, the end of the path on the seafront seemed to never end… but I knew  it was just a case of taking the next step. The finish was ahead and I’d get there.

5. Triathlon is a great leveler

Swim, bike, run athletes come in all shapes and sizes with different stories, and with very different strengths from cardio, to strength and power, to mental fortitude. There’s no one size fits all and if you’re good in one sport it doesn’t mean you’ll be good in all. For me running had been my strength, but I had to learn that running in an Ironman, unless you a very accomplished swimmer and cyclist too, is just not the same as running a ‘normal’ marathon. At 70.3 I ran very similar pace to a normal half marathon, but this didn’t follow through at double the distance. The key thing I discovered was my running style and biomechanics were the positives, not my pace. In the race, I didn’t look at my watch once. I simply focussed on finishing and retaining a good upright posture. I was still overtaking lots of people on the run, but I did eventually start to walk which was more psychological than anything. I’d got so far behind on the bike and it was very dark and wet and so I just decided finishing was all that mattered – and it was.

6. It brings out the best in people

I remember when I first ran the London Marathon it confirmed my belief that humanity in the main are good. When 35,000 runners and two to three times that in supporters get together to reach a common positive goal the energy is great. At the start of race day I felt excited not nervous and loved singing along to Sweet Caroline with the other competitors as we stood in the rain on the beach looking at the very big waves. The friendly and smiling faces of the volunteers who manned the bike route food stations were always a boost. And at the end of the race, as I ran that last lap in the dark on race day I was grateful to be high-fived by a smiling elderly Spanish couple standing by the side of the course in the dark and the rain at gone 9pm on a Friday night. And as the other runners walked/ran, some talked, some didn’t – the collective support was tangible.

7. The Joy of the Finish line: You are an Ironman

Whether it’s eight or 15 hours, there’s something special about an Ironman finish. All the things that could have, or may have gone wrong, are behind you. Having held in emotions for 13 hours, I was very pleased to let them go. I had expected to cry, but I didn’t, I laughed. An Irish woman cheering me on shouted, ‘I can feel it!’ I laughed even more. I couldn’t wait to see my children and Chris. As I reached the finish carpet I saw them cheering and smiling – as excited as me. They told me after they’d loved watching people come in, break-dancing, proposing marriage, and wearing high heels. I just stuck my hands in the air and cheered … I think my picture says it all.

Fiona Bugler from Endurance Women

 

 

 

7 Tips To An Ironman Taper: 2 weeks to go

Here’s 7 tips to taper for an Ironman (and a bit about my taper for Barcelona):

  1. Two weeks to go: Reduce the volume. Keep intensity

  2. Stick to your training routine

  3. Expect to feel flat, tired, unfit and negative!

  4. Remind yourself why

  5. Feel the fear – and let it go

  6. Give yourself time

  7. Fail to plan, prepare to fail

Continue reading

Killing five hours on the Turbo: three-week coundown

Last week was the three-week countdown, with promises of storms, wind, rain etc. I opted for a long turbo session on Saturday. Here’s how that five hours went (and the rest of the week).

Saturday was set up as my last long big brick training day before starting the two-week taper for Ironman Barcelona. After a slow 4K in the pool (setting goals like 1K continuous, 100s but no break etc), I came home and with my nutrition bottles full, snacks in the bento box, and race gear on, I got myself ready for a day on the turbo.

The Tacx turbo is currently on loan to me by Chris. He gave it to me to help get me going again after breaking my collar bone at the end of July. Do you remember? The heatwave! Last August I relocated to Brighton and downsized, so the turbo is squashed into a dark little section of what I laughingly call my ‘dining room’.  I’ve become accustomed to sweating it out in this small space, following fantastical, virtual routes on Zwift.

For someone who hates the treadmill, I’ve been surprised how I’ve come to quite enjoy training on the turbo. It could be connected to my general dislike of cycling, cars and all things mechanical. However, I think there’s also something in the masochism. In her book A Life Without Limits, Chrissie Welington talked about Brett Sutton’s unique approach to training, including putting his athletes into the training equivalent of a torture chamber, a treadmill in a room with no TV, no music, no windows.

Hungry after the swim I’d had a cafetière of coffee, and some marmite on toast, but I tried not to extend the already long transition (which had included a 20-minute drive along the A27 from pool to home). For the first 90 minutes I chose to listen to Graham Norton on Radio 2, a good interview with Lily Allen, and some banter, kept me ticking over.  I like the Watopia course as it makes it seem like I’ve covered a reasonable distance.

Inspirational Video

After one hour I got off the bike and searched Amazon Prime for some inspirational video. I’d watched Iron Cowboy on Friday night, about James Lawrence’s crazy 50 Ironman Races in 50 days! Yes 50! So, under the triathlon film section, the next choice was The Ultimate Triathlon, a documentary about Luke Tyburski’s  journey from Morocco To Monaco as a swim, bike, run, covering 2000km in 12 days. This was a handy 97 minutes, fitting in nicely with my planned break on the bike. After Luke’s epic journey, next on the list was the hugely inspirational Heart: Flatline to Finish, a story of six cardiac patients, followed over a year, as they take on Ironman. In between these films I’d treated myself to a cup of tea. Next up, I chose an inspiring endurance woman (who also happened to have a film that lasted one hour, just enough for my last section), Nikki Kimball’s 237-mile run across an impossibly hard trail, in Finding Traction: The Ultra Marathon Documentary.

And on I went…

 

With masochism on my mind, I kept going. Watching these individuals push the limits kept me pedalling. Luke repeatedly going unconscious after 15 hours of running, Nikki’s meltdown running 50 plus miles on no sleep, and the heart patients appreciating every second they had and the chance to follow their dreams.

The Why?

Of course these films, these stories, raise questions about the sanity and purpose of doing these things, including Ironman, and the reasons why? Watching as I rode, I was inspired by the heart patients who chose living over a death sentence and appreciated the social element and the support and camaraderie of doing triathlon (ironic as I spent all day on my own, but that will return). I won’t tell you the story, but one of the most inspirational of the group, who chose to coach as well as train, talked passionately about the chance to give something back. Similarly, Nikki a depression sufferer pre-ultra running, who questioned what the hell she was doing, and considered giving up, in that meltdown scene, was reminded of her inspiration. The next day she met a woman form the online community, Girls on the Run, a non-profit empowerment programme, inspiring girls aged eight to 13 through running. And to think I nearly gave up she said tearfully. And Luke, he simply said: If it doesn’t challenge you. It doesn’t change you.’

For me ‘the why’ is a whole other blog post – which I may come back to at the end of this training block.  I was brought up a Catholic and so of course 40 days in the desert, fasting, stations of the cross etc… have left a lasting impression! Somewhere, deeply embedded in my subconscious there was a belief that suffering and endurance will lead to some kind of spiritual enlightenment. But I feel for me that’s an old idea and I’m currently reviewing my policies. I can’t help thinking that the masochism and suffering is a bit unnecessary… However, I do also feel the experience of pushing your limits, of being consistent, of training, is transformational. And for me I  have a feeling of having come full circle with my challenging and changing.  I know it’s a good thing. But as I say, I’ll come back to that.

And back to the Training…

Five hours on the turbo was followed by a slow run in the park in the rain. I’d started training at 830am and finished up by about 7pm (yes, there were breaks!). On Sunday the planned long run started well, I felt physically good, but mentally a little weary. By mile 14 I hit the wall I was reminded of the films I’d watched.  I was feeling very spaced out, going pale, and slowing down to a shuffle, but as a nod to Luke and Nikki I remembered I wasn’t remotely close to a limit. I’d just got my nutrition wrong!

A summary of the week

Two days in London, half a day tidying up my very messy house, the launch of DrivenWoman and a lovely treatment with the brilliant Greg Funnell* at Optimum Muscle Care meant I only managed five days training, but 14 hours was satisfactory – and what I could manage.

*Thank you Greg – I swam pain free on Saturday for the first time since the CB break.

And that is that really. I’m now in the two-week countdown. This week I do have three rides, three runs and three swims planned, but all of less volume and intensity. There’s breathing space. The training now shifts to stretching, relaxing, preparing and getting ready to enjoy the big day!

10 Things to Tell You About Ironman Training (4-weeks to go)

This week (September 10th to September 16th 2018)  I wanted to tell you about Ironman training and share some surprises,  some facts, and some lessons I’ve learnt over the last seven days from a typical week of Ironman Training…

1. Your immune system gets… confused

I mentioned in last week’s post that I was flagging and on Lemsip-alert, a familiar feeling from my marathon running days. On the day we left for Barcelona, I had the achy, slightly shivery, tired feeling, familiar with the onset of a cold, or as I’ve come to recognise over years of endurance training, a slight imbalance, a tip over the edge, familiar when I train harder. It lingered in Barcleona, but I managed to train. For a week I’d wake up thinking, there’s no way I’ll train today, then I’d be fine, then ill, then fine. (I’m pleased to report I’m currently fine!)

2. Tired all the time (TAT)

I’ve been so tired this week. I had two days off, one for travel, one for exhaustion. I ran on Wednesday night, but it was more like crawling at the end, I could barely put one foot in front of the other, and my body felt like lead I was clocking 11 minute miles and just willing myself to get home. This was closely linked to the point above. But, as I know these feelings pass. By Sunday 9-minute miles for 16 felt totally fine after a bike ride and a big training day on Saturday.

3. Welcome a Rollercoaster of emotions

Ironman training makes me happy, and it makes me sad, angry and chilled, competitive and couldn’t give a sh**e (more of the latter as the weeks have gone by – it’s really about finishing now). Like my immune system my emotional barometer is on freefall one day and the sun is shining the next. No it’s not the menopause – it really is training. One session I’m screaming venom about cycling thinking of nothing but impending doom and going over the handlebars; the next session I’m loving the feeling of the smooth roads, and the sunshine and enjoying that Autumnal feeling of expectation and excitement being just round the corner.

4. It takes up the whole bloody weekend

I’m getting to the point of longing for a Saturday morning when I do a park run, have a croissant and a coffee – and have time to clean the house – and even doing the washing! And maybe even go shopping for winter clothes… I’m getting carried away now. After all, I’ve spent all my money on… whiskey and beer? diamonds and pearls? No – on bikes, races, training, tools, gas canisters, socks, butt shield (yep), nutrition, and lock laces.

5. Enough Already?

You know the 2018 life-coach/counsellor/guru mantra, ‘You are enough’. But with Ironman training, I can sometimes feel like I’m just not doing enough, damn it! There’s always someone knocking out 17, 20, 30 hours a week, as well as working full-time, rustling up whole-food wonders on instagram, and being successful in minimalist and immaculate homes. Meanwhile I rush in and swig a lager (followed by an Erdinger) and hungrily scoff a bag or two of marmite crisps. The dreaded Social media can give you the comparison-wobbles – but as I know, only if you let it! The truth is, enough is really enough… more isn’t always better, and we are all different. Different lives, families, work and different bodies and capabilities. And no one really cares anyway.

6. It makes you hungry, ‘hangry’ & not hungry all in one day!

After a weekend training and surviving for hours on bloks and drinks, Mondays are usually ‘eating all day’ day. On Saturday morning I ate a bagel and a banana and was out the door by 830am and didn’t finish training until about 530pm. The session was a bike ride with a coffee/half a bacon sarnie stop, some protein bars, and a hydration drink; this was followed by a 10K run, with some pre-run chocolate, and then Cliff bar bloks; then a sea swim. We were hungry and talked about food all through training, and quickly consumed post-training coffee and cake, then crisps and a beer and prawn crackers. By the time it came to eating the ‘proper meal’ at around 9pm I didn’t know if I was hungry or not, and only managed half my rice and chicken. The following day on the short ride/long run we ate blocks and drank water from the public toilet taps (forgot the camelback). We ravenously ate M&S egg and tomato sandwiches and crisps, snacked more on chocolate. I fluctuated between starving and too tired to feel hungry. I ordered a pizza, it didn’t arrive, again by the time it did come (without cheese horror) I was eating for the sake of it.  Monday is eating day!

7. It’s a great way to end the week

When the long swim, the long ride and the long bike are complete, the feeling is one of accomplishment. The messy house, the sunburnt nose, and wild hair, the very tardy nails and exhaustion don’t matter. I’m starting to feel fitter.

8. It includes a lot of cycling

I knew doing an Ironman was going to include a lot of cycling. I hadn’t appreciated how much – and how six hours on the bike was going to impact on my social life! I haven’t done enough (but enough for me – see point five). I’ve broken two collarbones, I’ve loathed the bike, and loved it, and I’ve learnt loads about the roads and good/bad driving. I read somewhere that an Ironman is bike race with a swim and a run added on. I tend to agree.

9. Marathons will never be the same again

As anyone who has read my blog will know, I love running. But, my body was starting to give me warning signs, more niggles, stiffness, aches and pains. I would run 50-70 miles per week and always tried to do 60 miles a week for six weeks before tapering for three weeks. For the Ironman I’ve done about 25 miles a week. I will never complain about a long run again, six hours on a bike is a lot harder than three hours on the run (I think mainly because I’m not very patient). Is a marathon going to seem easy after this? One thing is for sure my body is thanking me. Swimming strengthens the core and keeps me flexible, and it’s good for the mind and soul. Cycling makes me strong. On Saturday I did feel strong running. The triathletes were right, cycling does help your running (well, I’ll have to see what I do park run in come November).

10. I’ll miss Ironman training when it’s gone…

With all my moaning and groaning, my anxiety and negativity (there’s been a lot), I have also had an equal measure of loving it – all. I’m proud of myself for getting back on the bike and learning two new sports. I’m now part of Zwift and wear long lycra shorts – I’ve even got a ‘twat hat’, and I wake up on Monday morning with bike oil on my legs! Bring it on… well almost, it’s an Ironman, I’m not tapering yet, there’s another week of hard training to go before that happens.

 

Five weeks to go: Recce Trip to Barcelona

The race is getting closer and it seemed the right time to check out the Barcelona Ironman Course with a bike route recce.

I left off last week’s post having already started the five-week countdown with a long swim and bike session, then a day off on Tuesday.  On Wednesday I worked hard all day and then finished the day off with a Zwift session of 1:45. On Thursday morning I hit the park for a pre-travel day set of intervals, ran at what was not a slower than usual pace, but it was better than just running slow. The journey to Barcelona was long! BA had a number of issues, so we spent six hours at Gatwick getting on and off the plane, and didn’t arrive at our hotel in Barcelona until 2am.  It was actually quite relaxing at the airport. I had a slightly ill feeling and enjoyed just zoning out, and I managed to finally get to read Chrissie Wellington’s, Life Without Limits (inspiring!).

We had a lovely lazy beach day on Friday, and then having mustered up some energy got into the sea for a planned 3K swim, I heard the announcement that the water quality wasn’t good today and that the yellow flags meant that you swam with caution. I didn’t really think much of it, until Chris stopped and pointed out a dead bird. He swam over to investigate, but soon realised that it wasn’t a bird. It was a rat, and there was another one close by. I’ll be honest, I wimped out and swam straight back to shore after just 650M! Later we saw more rats washed up onto the shore. I spoke to the lifeguard who explained that the problem was that there had been a big storm the day before (the same thing happened in Brighton back in the summer). She expected the sea to be rat-free in a couple of days.

Rats in the sea

That night as the rain lashed down, lightening struck and thunder clapped, we agreed that rats might be making a comeback. After some red wine and a late dinner, we were still optimistic we’d do the long bike ride and run in the morning.

Saturday started a little slower than planned, the travelling, the lateish night, and for me, just being tired, meant it was hard to get going. We went for a beach breakfast first, and finally set off on the ride around 11. But things didn’t start well. We hit a cycle path that was overcrowded, soon after Chris got a puncture, then a second puncture. The C02 canisters weren’t working so we had to back-track to Decathlon. Chris is a much faster cyclist than me and we were both tired now. I suggested he go off and do the bike ride work out the course and I do a run. It worked!

Tweaking the plan (again!)

I headed off through a hot, humid and very crowded Barcelona seafront, combing sightseeing with slow running. Chris worked out the route on the pre-recce recce, and did one lap, out and back (57 miles).

Barcelona sightseeing run

On Saturday we ordered room service and watched Netflix. We had a good sleep and even though we didn’t exactly bounce out of bed when dawn broke, we were on the road by 10, both ready to complete as much of the 2.5 lap course as we could.

The course is, as we were told, flat. There are obviously a few minor inclines as you go in and out of the various seafront towns along the N11 route. A fairly busy dual carriageway at first felt daunting, but I soon noticed how courteous  Catalonian drivers are. It seems Barcelona is made for bikes, as well as bike lanes in and out of town, there are instructions for drivers to allow 1.5M for cyclists. And there are lots of cyclists going in both directions. We took it very steady, stopped for brunch in Callela (where the race starts and finishes) and then stopped for coffee near the finish. All along the course I was tracking my friend Tori and her girlfriend, and a friend from Eastbourne, as they took on Ironman Wales – and knowing we were all cycling together in real time I was inspired by their valiant efforts. For me the day was just about completing most of the course (100 miles) and saying goodbye to my bike demons and getting used to the tuck position, all of which I managed.

Bric and Trip

We headed out for a short 5K seafront bric run when we got back. I managed to trip up as soon as we were out the door on a small hump at the children’s playground, the bit where the kids land off the slide. I thudded down hard and hit my right shoulder (my broken collarbone side). After a check to see if I had knocked the plate or to check if a screw was sticking up, we started running again. I felt totally fine doing 5K and could have done the hour, but we agreed it was time to eat.  By the time we’d showered, changed, scoffed some crisps and found a restaurant it was 10pm. But the food was worth the wait. A short cab journey had taken us to a lovely burger bar.

Down but not out (again!)

 

And relax…

Start of the four-week countdown

Monday morning started in Barcelona.  I looked out of the hotel window from the 13th floor, and saw a slightly less manic city start to London or Brighton, and lots of cyclists! We managed a seven-mile easy run, with a little bit of pace at the end. It was the final session of our recce trip. We considered swimming but now there was a brown foam, as well as yellow flags, so we decided to have some holiday time instead.  We walked another five or six miles, meandering our way into the gothic part of town, into churches and shops and stopping for tapas, juice, more tapas. Again, with a quick google search, we found a gem of a restaurant for dinner, Canate. We waited an hour for a table and drank red wine, observing a constant flow of people, some with reservations, some not.  But it was worth the wait, and after five or six tapas dishes and the best tiramasu I’ve tasted, we headed back to the hotel waited and ready to pack up bikes and suitcases.

Keep consistent and keep going

I’m now home and at the start of four weeks to go. Today marks another day off as I’ve travelled, washed and unpacked. My shoulder is now stiff and achy but I’m hoping it will ease off – swimming will be interesting. The plan for the week ahead includes these core sessions:  swim/bike/run bric at the gym; bike 5.5-6 hrs steady pace throughout but last 15 mins of every hour slightly overgeared + bric run 60 mins easy pace; long open-water sea swim. It’s not time to taper just yet, it is time to continue and be consistent.

 

Six weeks to go: Endurance, Cyclists’ Hand Palsy, lost Garmin and other fun!

End of the summer (but not the sun – or the endurance)… Monday 27th August–Tuesday 4th September (& that’s taken me into the final countdown!)

The week:
Six weeks to go and with the shoulder healed, I’ve been able to train properly – and that’s meant, I’ve been knackered as I continue to test my endurance, and my mettle!
On Bank Holiday Monday I was at my sister’s house and nipped out pre-party for a 3.1K in the local pool.  I hadn’t planned the session, so decided to try and work on breathing on my left side. Not only is this my now slightly less mobile side, it’s also a side I don’t use when breathing! So I made myself do a length of breathing on the left, a length on the right, and then mixed up the breathing (every three, four, five, six, and seven strokes), and then tried kicking hard on every fourth length. It helped pass the time.
On Tuesday I was supposed to ride two hours easy outside, but got too into work (after four days off) and opted for the Turbo at 8pm! I managed 1’20 on Zwift.
On Wednesday I felt tired but made myself go through the motions on the turbo (inside as it was raining), then a bric run with some ‘fartlek’, 10 laps lasting between 34 seconds and three minutes! I managed 45 seconds at 6 min mile pace – a short-term goal is to get back under six for those shorter reps.
By Thursday with a Turbo session and long two-hour bric run planned, I had to dig in mentally. I decided not to get up super-early. Being self-employed, I can structure my day how I like, and work later in the day – which I did, and stayed awake! Friday was a lovely long sea swim of 2.1K,  by myself, and then Saturday was the big bike ride…

The Big Bike Ride

The plan was a big endurance session, 4.5 to 5 hours on the  bike a 20-30 min bric run and I had hoped to do a swim too, (but ran out of time for that).  I was tense from the off, still feeling nervous (visions of being flung over the handlebars) about the TT bike and long rides, as well as tired. But I decided to grin and bear it, and just do it.
One thing that was bothering was the time it takes to do a long ride. I’m very inpatient and hate wasting time. I’m also a slow cyclist and the idea of being out all day didn’t feel me with glee, especially as I had to drive to Watford for a big family do straight after. As Marianne reminded me after, ‘if you are tense and rigid on the bike it is really hard to pedal fluidly and efficiently. ‘
Early into the ride, as we headed out of Brighton I looked down to check my pace, I was feeling more relaxed and pedalling well at this point. No Garmin Edge! I rode to catch up Chris and we spent the next half hour looking in vain for the missing gadget.
This was a 50th birthday present from my family. Losing it, and time, sent me into a negative spiral. A meltdown of industrial-sized freezer with door left open all night proportions kicked in. I told Chris, ‘I f**kin hate cycling and I’m not doing the Ironman.’  He suggested going back and trying out the turbo, and then when I started to calm down reminded me it’s called Ironman for a reason. I pulled myself together and off we went at a reasonable pace.
In gritting my teeth and just doing it I think I’d tensed up my entire upper body. On the downhills I kept my right hand held onto the bars and my left arm in TT tuck position. I’m quick to recover from bad moods and broken bones, but I hadn’t noticed that I was still holding the tension in my body!
After the ride I managed a 2.5 mile bric (how am I going to do a marathon?) and more searching for the lost Garmin, then I was in and out and on the M25 for a long car journey up to London.  A brilliant family do with dancing followed and I got to bed at 3am. It wasn’t difficult to take Sunday off!

Five weeks to go

At the start of this week I was understandably tired. Sleep-deprived I still woke up at 5am and got on with Monday. Training was good, a 4.1K swim, followed by an hour on the Watt bike. However, I noticed in the pool that my right hand which had been feeling a bit numb and tingly now had a renegade little finger, which wouldn’t move back and join the rest of the hand, making my swim interesting.
A bit of googling and I found exactly what I had – cycling hand palsy. It can be down to bad set up of the bike, but as I had a professional fit, I believe it’s because of bad posture and positioning due to my tension. I said to coach Marianne that I think the wavy finger is symbolic – reminding me that I need to stay tuned in and listen to my own mantra, relaxed, controlled, smooth and fast… As I was cycling on Saturday I had realised that the negative spiral was all about fear and it was up to me to control that, not the bike.
Triathlon has forced me out of a decade long comfort zone of identifying as a marathon runner, I even made my work as a content & communications specialist reflect all of this (She Runs She Writes, Running PR, The Running Ed). But change is growth and sometimes a bit uncomfortable, with unexpected hurdles (broken bones and stray fingers). I love trying new things, and I have fallen for triathlon, but I’m reminded that commitment is the bit that counts. A quote from a  programme on Radio 4 on Monday morning (Morality in the 21st Century) stood out for me:

‘My favourite definition of commitment is falling in love with something and then building a structure of behaviour around it for the moment when love falters.’ Training, eating well, staying positive, and sticking with it!

P.S. Tuesday was another unplanned day off and so now I’m swapping my training around. This was partly due to a disjointed day including a chunk of time out to go to the hospital for my X-Ray. Check out the before and after pics: no wonder it hurt.

7 weeks to go: Back on the bike (baptism of fire)

This week I finally got the bike out on the road – with me on it! I’m going to say it: I hate the bike! I really do not enjoy cycling – most of the time. But it’s teaching me a lot about endurance and about overcoming anxiety and fear.

2 days off… but look at the big circle

I’ll start this week’s entry with the bike story. And story it is. I’ve started to enjoy Zwift and training on the turbo. I also realised I was in my comfort zone. I’ve learnt that one element of endurance training is not allowing myself to get too comfortable. There comes a time when I have to step out of that comfort zone.

That’s not to say I should be enjoying pain and suffering. It’s not some kind of sackcloth and ashes story. It’s recognising that to move on, sometimes you have to switch off the thinking and just do it. And so getting on the bike was all about that.

Unfortunately for me I have an overactive mind, and vivid imagination and the thinking bit never stops (probably why I do enjoy doing endurance sport). So after an accident on the bike, reigning in the fears and the thoughts and the feeling of foreboding is key. I have to remind myself not to confuse my gut feeling with anxiety.

The planned bike ride was on Friday, a trip to the Isle of Wight to go round the island. Chris had done it before and assured me it was mainly flat and traffic-free and a good place for me to get back on the bike. Warning! It’s not flat – or traffic-free, but it is a good place to get back on the bike.

It was as I said on Strava a Baptism of Fire. We emerged from the ferry to traffic and wound are way up some good climbs out of Ryde. I felt nervous being back on the road, and also on the time trial bike. But told myself to concentrate – and relax at the same time.

Most of the first 30 miles I cursed cycling. I was not in a positive mindset at all and repeatedly told myself I hate cycling. ‘I’m stopping this after the Ironman and going to concentrate on Swim Run’. I tried to rationalise what it was I didn’t like, and all I could come up with was cars/road/uncertainty. After cake and tea, and chats in a nice shop/bar/cafe, I took note of the nicer side to cycling. Exploring, meeting new people and going further than you can with running.

As we climbed up the steeper hill on the coast, I started to really enjoy it. Cycling into a headwind, having to focus on working to get up the hill sharpened my senses and put me into a good mindset. I like working hard enough to feel I’m being pushed – but I’m a bit of a scaredy cat when it comes to speed.

I realise as I type this, I will look back in a few years and think what was I going on about? When I first did a sprint triathlon I was completely freaked out by the open water – now I don’t think about it and can’t recognise that frightened person. (I also didn’t have any idea what gears to use, or even when to change them then, but for some reason I didn’t worry about the bike). But for now, I’m here, and I have to be patient with myself. Back to the ride.

The rain started when we stopped for lunch. But stopped again after and there as a very lovely purple patch of cycling on empty smooth roads, picking up the pace, feeling comfortable as I had settled into my mantra of ‘relaxed, in control, fast’. As we got nearer to the finish, Chris who’d been waiting for me at points along the way, went on and headed to Ryde. Meanwhile, I was behind him religiously following the signs for the bike route (we’d been successfully following them all day) and for anyone contemplating the ride, note, they are very clear and will get you round the course without GPS. There is a but! Don’t do what I did and start the route again.

Hitting some serious traffic in heavy rain, I was starting to feel emotional. I was cold, wet and realised it had been too long since I’d seen Chris and I’d gone wrong. But I carried on following the signs. As I started to climb hill after hill (away from the sea) and saw a bus going the opposite way with Ryde on the front, I knew the signs were taking me back onto the course. I rang Chris, who was at the ferry. And so began my attempt to find my way back. I headed to Ryde but realised I needed to check where the ferry was, so typed it into maps. Luckily, I could hear the sat nav and followed the instructions – but when I hit another hill (away from the sea) I had to double check again. I rang Chris, he rang me. He said be sure you’re not going to Fishguard (he meant Fishoburne) but the  maps said, Ferry Port Ryde, so on I went with this journey. The sat nav took me into town, up hills, and out of town, then along a wooded path for about a mile. By this time I was cold, wet and getting a bit worried, but I could see I was heading to a ferry so told myself there was nothing to worry about. Just follow each step. I finally emerged from the path (amazingly puncture-free) to the ferry port. It was the wrong ferry port.

It turned out the ferry was however going to Portsmouth, so I decided to get it. There were more hiccups (missed the first ferry, went to the wrong car park in Portsmouth, waited at the bus station not the train station, lips were going blue etc). But Chris and I finally were reunited (he’d got the right ferry) and were so relieved we’d got back to the car before the car park closed that we just laughed a lot and enjoyed the heated seats!

By Saturday with a planned two hour ride, a run, a swim, we both felt tired. And I felt close to meltdown on what we changed to a 10-mile spin. We stopped at Devil’s Dyke and watched the hang-gliders. As I saw them set off on and up into the sky in what looked like a very precarious set up I realised that fear and risk-taking is all relative and got over my irrational thought process (brought on by being a bit tired I think!). A 5K run after the short ride was relaxed but not easy and I reminded myself that this is what IM training is about – getting out and moving when you’re tired.

As for the rest of the week. I’d had two days off training which did throw me off a little. Work had got busy and life’s demands were more demanding. I was disappointed to only manage one swim, but it was a reasonable distance at 2.5K the longest with my dodgy shoulder, and I had a great brick session on the turbo and fartlek running on Wednesday. I finished off the week with another endurance test, a long run on the Downs in wind and rain. Starting tired I had wondered if I would get around, then reminded myself I’ve run this Eastbourne run (The Friston loop) at least 300 times and must have had that thought process 280 times! The wind and rain battered us, but we did have the wind behind us on a few key hills, we ran through a field with a huge cow and her babies – and a bull in it. I rejected the option of a shorter route down, and we hit the top of the Downs and I felt totally exhilarated by the crazy conditions (I imagined my dad ‘yahooing’ along with me and laughing along with his nutty daughter)  and I also remembered this is living and this is me – and this is what I love to do. And so another week of training is done.