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

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7 Life Lessons from Endurance Women

Endurance training and racing is a great metaphor for a successful and happy work and home life and applying the principles of endurance can teach us many key life lessons.

Endurance Women are…

1. Consistent

We do the same thing week in week out. Training can be boring, it can be hard, it’s not rocket science and one of the key things is just doing it. Once you’ve made a commitment to it, it’s a case of doing it day after day, week in, week out. Any elite athlete will tell you consistency is one of the key components of success. The same can be said of going to work and repeating daily tasks, doing the housework, the food shopping, getting the kids to school. The buzz, the excitement, of gold medals, promotion and great exam results, won’t happen without the doing!

2. Focussed

Endurance women set a goal, whether it be a race, or training session goal and they stick to it. Taking part in events for running, triathlon, open water swimming, cycling gives you a linear path to follow. The goal is crossing the finish line, whether it’s 5K or a 500-mile trek across Asia. Big or small, goals are simply the end point, and help set you on the path of doing. Goal-setting works in life, as the famous Harvard business school study showed when students who wrote down their goals were found to be the achievers 35 years on.

3. Patient

In 2002 before setting up my own residential running courses and doing my first marathon, I joined a training group run by Keith Anderson. He taught me the importance of patience when it comes to marathon running. As they say it’s a marathon not a sprint. Longer events take longer to prepare for. There are no quick fixes. Similarly, if you’re starting your own business, working on a marriage, raising children, you have to take the rough with the smooth, work at it, be patient, keep doing, be consistent, persistent and positive.

4. Positive

A positive mindset means you look at what we’ve achieved not what you haven’t. Endurance Women celebrate success, and yes, we have learnt the right to brag on social media; if you want to wear your meal after a race, go ahead! The very action of doing endurance sport, makes a person more positive, as the blood flows and you’re body moves, getting outside in the fresh air, being sociable makes it easier to look on the bright side. Saying yes to life, being positive is one of the keys to a successful and happy life.

5. Boundary-free

Endurance Women live life to the full. They never say never. They have what Carol Dweck calls a ‘ growth mindset’, open to challenges, open to ideas, open to opportunities. This doesn’t mean pushing too hard in SAS style, it does mean not giving up. This is about stretching yourself and seeing where you can go in a relaxed and meaningful way. We live in a world of opportunity with more doors open than ever before, see where you can go, but remember there’s no pressure.

6. In the Moment

Endurance Women learn to stay in the moment. Ultra runners like Jo Kilkenny, recent winner of Deadwater, a 235 mile run over six days, who I interviewed for EW Stories, tells me that  you have to take each step as it comes, and break the distance down. Looking at the bigger picture is overwhelming. Whatever your goal, or dream is, break it down into manageable chunks, and enjoy where you are. It’s the core message of time-management books, of mindfulness, of self-improvement tomes and as the saying goes, ‘every journey starts with a single step’. Just thinking about the step you’re in is a good way to live.

7. Resilient/Persistent

Two qualities of Endurance Women that feed into one. Endurance training and racing teaches you to be resilient. A puncture on a bike ride, a cramp on a long run, a panic in a swim, to endure all of this requires you stay in the moment, to not panic and as you do this, you build your resilience. Being resilient allows you to persist with your dreams and goals. The more times you don’t let a knock-back set you back, the better you become at learning to handle failure, the further you will go.

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A Freelancer? Business owner? Part of the gig economy?

Check out my article, 7 Ways Endurance Sport Can you Help you Survive the ‘Non 9-5’.

 

9 weeks to go: Turbo, long run, and a proper sea swim

I’ve adapted my plan and with the help of the Turbo and Zwift, I’m still keeping the Ironman goal in mind.

I’m trying to focus on what I am doing – and not what I’m not doing/or haven’t done. The positives are plenty this week.  I’m really glad to be back swimming properly, albeit slowly.  I’ve also managed some running sling-free but had to keep the sling on for a long off-road run, and I’m covering some ground on the Turbo, ticking off eight sweaty spin hours this week.

The week has gone very quickly and today’s post is a shorter one. I last blogged midway through this week, having already completed Monday and Tuesday’s turbo sessions using Zwift and I’d got back in the pool and sort of swum for 750M.

On Wednesday morning I got straight on the bike and did Marianne’s session, switching between the heavier gear and 65RPM and easier gear and 85RPM. This was followed by the prescribed brick run, which was 10K easy, moderate, harder in 10 minute blocks (roughly). I finished the last block with a sub 7.30 mile, which felt like progress with my sling (I was in and out of the sling). Thursday was a day off, but Ciara and I went for a late session at the pool, and I did fit in an easy swim and managed 600M full crawl stroke and another 600 or so of drills.

Getting Turbo Tough

By Friday I was ready to go again and did my planned long bike ride (I’d swapped from long run to long bike due to the weather), followed by an hour brick run. The ride was on the turbo and was broken up as one  hour continous, then 10 minutes on a Zwift route which I abandoned as I found it very dull, followed finally by an uninterrupted 2’10 sweet spot training session with long bouts in the tuck position on my TT bike.

Innsbruck, a tiny corner of my living room… who cares it’s a workout!

On Saturday, I was back on the bike again! See below… Trying to convince myself it was fun. After the ride I went for a sea swim, and it was blissful to be able to swim continuously for 1500M. I didn’t have a wetsuit because the logistics of getting it on and off, well, I didn’t want to go there, so I was in my Zone 3 two-piece. After 35 minutes I was feeling cold, but, it was a double celebration as I had wanted to see what I could do without (well almost without) a wetsuit. After Saturday’s training I had a lovely lunch at the Hospital Club with my very old friend, Sarah (i.e. we’ve been friends a long time, she’s not a pensioner). My shoulder ached a lot as I made my way though the crowds of Covent Garden, and I was happy to have an early night on Saturday.

Sunday was long run day! And it was a slow start. The good thing is I had my sister and niece coming to visit, so I had a deadline. But I did manage a good hour of procrastination.

Procrastination… Guilty, but reading Eat that Frog (check it out)

The Long Run

The run was hard work. It’s been a long time since I’ve gone long, or off-road, and it’s true with running, if you do’t use it, you lose it! My shoulder was achy so sling-free wasn’t really an option. I’d decided to go off-road, and hadn’t really thought about the one-armed affect when negotiating flint paths, and hills. In the woods, I was looking down at branches and potential trip hazards and as I hadn’t seen where I was going, I got properly lost. The map looked like one you’d see on Bear Grill’s The Island, when the contestants take completely the wrong route in search of the sea!

 

We’re going on a bear hunt!

I also did a cow-avoidance diversion (regular for me on long runs). They were assembled in the middle of a path in the field to Ditchling. Some mountain bikers ahead had gone right through them, so I braced myself. I stopped running as I got close and I even said hello! But one of them was ‘staring me out’ and I decided to say goodbye and then take the longer, steeper route in the field. I need to deal with my cow phobia. The run continued on the South Downs Way, the lovely bit between Ditchling Beacon and Devil’s Dyke. However, on reaching the A23 path, and the hills to take me the Dyke, I decided to take the flatter path to home as my shoulder was fed up wit the hills. So the last five miles of my run were alongside a motorway – I genuinely wouldn’t have been surprised if someone reported mad woman seen alongside motorway with sling on the news. However, I reminded myself that the mentally challenging sessions (turob, motorway runs) are all good mind-training for the day long IM coming up in eight weeks time!

Losing my marbles (and Tri accessories)

I’m writing this at the start of Week eight. Virtually every day I have to spend 20 minutes searching for some missing piece of equipment (goggles, floats, cossie, heart rate monitor, watch etc.). Today, the missing piece is the long bit that attaches the Chill Swim bag to me! And so another week starts….

 

12 week countdown – The week that ended with another broken collarbone

The week: A long trip back from Ireland; working and interviewing; my son’s graduation from Newcastle university; hills on the TT; easy running; some great swim sets; and then falling off my bike at the Sussex CU 100-mile Time Trial and ending up with a broken collarbone. The twists and turns of my Ironman Journey!

A week is a long time in triathlon training! I finished last week’s blog on Monday as the boat pulled into Fishguard. We’d got up at 630am and were by home by 630pm, and I was determined to start the week with training and have no more days off so we headed out for a three and a half mile run, which I described on Strava as ‘sore legs, grumpy, tired’ – but I was glad I had done it.

On Tuesday I was up at 630am for a bike ride with Rachael and Catherine, I was still post-half IM weary and a bit behind the girls, and somehow managed to not attach my Garmin Edge properly so it flew off onto the grass verge! Another first on the TT, I managed to climb the hill to Devil’s Dyke – a demon dealt with but more bike demons to come!

On Wednesday I met Tori for a run. A fellow endurance woman, she had got up at 430am to go for a pre-run sea swim, I’d been tempted, but I knew I was too tired. We had a fantastic seafront easy 11.3 mile run and injected some pace from just beyond the pier, keeping around about 7.40 pace for just short of two miles. In the afternoon I went to the pool and was pleased to tick off my 3150M swim set, 5 x 400 varying paces, with 150 using paddles, and 200 warm up and cool down. After this I was tired!

Early starts and Spa

On Thursday I had 530am start and very slow 10K jog, then a trip to Newcastle for my son’s graduation (2.1 in History and Politics from Newcastle University – proud mother moment!). Again, I was tried but managed to keep going til 1230am. I had decided to let myself lie in at the hotel but did think I might run, but as it was I took the planned day off, other than swimming two lengths under water and racing Ciara my 17 year old daughter in the  10M ‘spa’ pool (she won)…. it’s a thing we like to do at a relaxing spa!

On Saturday, back in Brighton, it was the perfect day for a pre-race long swim. I met with Tori and two new friends and after much faffing with parking on my part we got in. One with a hangover, one sans wetsuit, me faffed… and off we went, once in the water we were flowing brilliantly, and we were all a similar pace – synchronised swimmers. It was a beautiful swim that covered the entire IM distance, including going quite far out and joining a group of stand up paddle boarders, around the West Pier. Thanks to Nicki for the fantastic pictures!

TIME TRIAL COURSE – G100/61: the next demon

I signed up for the  Southern Counties CU 100-mile Time Trial and had a sense trepidation and gut feeling that maybe it wasn’t right for me – or was that fear? I knew this was going to be way out of my comfort zone, but I wanted to try out the TT bike on a long ride, and to do the distance in race conditions without chats and stops for coffee. I did lots of research* but couldn’t get the course to download onto Garmin Edge (note if you’re doing it and find this I have a the course on Strava). Having spoken to the organiser I thought I could just make the cut off of six hours and decided that if I had to be pulled out /timing stop at 80 miles I could just add on the extra 20 myself. But having the time pressure was the thing that made me feel nervous about the whole event which had just 40 fast riders on the start sheet. I’d checked out results and knew I’d be last.

Another worry was that I’d be knackered, but I was really pleased when I woke up at 430am to feel fine. Chris and Tori decided to join me and do some laps, as well as manning the ‘fuel’ stop.

I had that feeling of being part of a different tribe at the start: lots of pointy helmets, and disc wheels, aero shoes and long socks! As I said I was out of my comfort zone and although I was vocalising how nervous I felt, I also had a knowing that as always I was actually fine, and I believed I would complete it and reminded myself how good that would feel. I followed the example of a woman ahead of me and chose not bother with the push off start. I didn’t think it would make much difference to me.

As expected the aero-dynamically dressed riders behind me soon overtook, but I was happy with the ride, and relaxed and the course which I’d been told was ‘horrific’ wasn’t at all bad, undulating and an A road, but with great weather and relatively empty roads, all was good. After two hours I had settled in to the pace of 17.5mph. I reckoned I was now last on the lap but didn’t mind and as I started the second lap I was confident I’d keep the pace for the whole distance which would get me comfortably under six hours. I felt good in the tuck position and started to relax thinking how good this was for Barcelona, and for practising nutrition etc… I managed to eat a cliff bar and drink. I was needing the loo and try as I might I have yet to master going on the bike! But I decided to wait until I had done three hours at 17.5mph before stopping.

Chris had leant me his aero helmet and it kept sliding to the front. It was large and I have a big head – but not hat big! I hadn’t put the visor down because I wanted to see where I was going on the first lap, but when I fly hit my eyeball I knew when the loo stop happened the visor would go down. I did decide adjusting the back dial to stop it sliding to the front was important and managed to get it fitting properly on the move. Thanks goodness I did!


Being new on the TT bike I was making sure I concentrated and didn’t get lost in working out sums about pace. I took care over potholes, and focussed ahead, but for what must have been seconds, I lost my concentration. As I headed down the A283 towards the  left turn I realised I’d over-reached. I saw the two yellow jackets of the  time-keepers who were pointing left and in a split second decided to try to take the corner, in the next split I knew I wasn’t going to make it and was now out of control, and fearful of what I might hit if I went too wide, in what was left of the second I made a decision to head for the grass (and the two timekeepers). I hadn’t see the gravel on the road, or the kerb, and of course it was all too late! Over the handlebars I went landing on my left side. The pain didn’t kick in at first but I instantly knew this wasn’t ‘a get back on my bike’ situation. I lay head down lamenting the fact that I was out of Barcelona, that I’ve spent so much money on it: race entry, travel, flights, reccey trip, new bike, coaching, new gym new clothes! On top of that there’s all the training and progress made. As I lay there one of the time-keepers asked if my collarbone was okay and I said, yes fine.  A few seconds later I moved and the pain kicked in. Ah, no it wasn’t okay! I knew it was broken having broken the right side back in December. I asked the guys to call an ambulance. I had some confusion at first wondering when I had broken my other collarbone – I couldn’t remember. But soon after I felt (relatively) normal. The paramedics could see straight way it was broken.

So, that’s it. I’m off for the operation tomorrow for another plate, completing the full Metal jacket! My ironman journey isn’t going to be as smooth as I hoped, but as someone on social media and my very wise 17 year old daughter simply said, everything happens for a reason.

Next steps

The positives are, that Chris is going to lend me his turbo, and I think I might get bike strong using that. I will get to run again, last time I ran after three days. My swimming had improved but that is obviously the biggest worry with just 11 weeks to go to Barcelona it’s going to be hard to get that back.

Patience is not one of my virtues, so it may be that I have to learn to have some, hold back and not push so hard? I’m inspired by Tim Don who came back to victory six months after breaking his neck, and Chrissie Wellington who was back on her turbo a day after breaking her collar bone but as a friend reminded me, we have very different lives and priorities. Setbacks will bring interesting lessons. I look forward to seeing what unravels.

 

*Check out this report: https://ridewriterepeat.com/2015/07/26/100-mile-time-trial-doing-things-i-thought-i-couldnt/

20 week countdown: week three, 17 weeks to go –– Best Laid Plans

Themes for week: Best Laid Plans (& Finding Your Tribe)

Another week done as I write this there’s 16 weeks to go, but now looking back to week three of 20.

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. The best laid plans of Fiona always change. But the key goals I set myself did stay intact – just some of the details went off course. I had written down last week that I had to hit double figures – that happened. I also had coach Dave remind me that I needed to get on my bike, and that happened, not quite for 10 hours, but I was happy with what I managed.

I was once again reminded of the importance of Finding My Tribe, i.e. of not giving myself any excuses to not train, this week I had a good week of training because I met Tori, Gill and Rachael and joined in sessions with Arena 80 AC and Bri Tri Club – and at the local gym for My Ride. In fact, I didn’t do any sessions by myself.

On Monday I swam in the sea with Tori – it was quite choppy.  Tori swam with no goggles or hat – she’s seriously hard! On Tuesday I ran with Gill (she was running to work)  who showed me a great new route over the Downs. I finally found my Downs loop (something I’ve been looking for since I moved to Brighton) and I felt great running 15 miles with relative ease (on a run that took in 1,673 ft elevation) but then immediately after, a 48-hour illness kicked in and I was on Lemsip for the rest of the day, and following two days!

On Wednesday I had planned to ride, but wasn’t sure about getting up early after feeling ill on Tuesday. So instead I met Tori for a lunchtime choppy swim (with lots of drinking of sea water and goggle fun!) and then persuaded by Rachael I made an impromptu decision to join in a club off-road run with Arena 80 AC (the run where a man asked the group of runners at Ditching if anyone had a light?).

My throat was red roar when I got home (not from smoking I might add). On Thursday I thought I’d need to take the day off but decided to try to do something as I hadn’t cycled yet and went to the gym’s My ride class. I thought a short sharp session might help me sweat out the lurgy. I managed to work hard but I don’t think flat out. I let myself just do that for Thursday.  On Friday I had planned to go to the Bri Tri My Ride and run after, but, another change of plan happened as I wasn’t up for the early morning start and felt I needed to shift the cold. But feeling better in the afternoon I arranged to meet Rachael and we ran off road on another great route, through the poppy fields. On Saturday, I finally felt ill-free.  Again I met Rachael and joined Arena 80 AC’s super series age-graded league at Worthing (we cycled there and back). It was great to be back at park run, especially as it was an anniversary run and Dame Kelly Holmes made an appearance.

On Sunday there had been a plan to do the London to Brighton Bike ride with my sister Clare, but we couldn’t quite sort the number situation, so I cycled with Bri Tri on the route without the hill and somehow got funnelled into the finish of the London to Brighton when I went to meet my sister. I promise I didn’t raise my hands as I crossed the finish line, or take a medal or even bottle of water! Well done to my sister, Clare, who conquered Ditchling and the race on very little sleep and long working hours.

I’m still off the booze. Not sure I’m feeling the benefits as I’ve had cold sores, sore throat, and migraines, but as I write this, I’m optimistic that I’ll stick with the no boozing and that I will start to see the benefits.

This week I was reminded by Coach Dave, that ‘It’s time to get back to basics with some consistent training over the coming weeks,’ as he reminded me ‘you’re still very much in the base building phase of your Ironman training.’

The scary base plan

Consistent training is scary! Here’s the rough plan which I’ll work with week by week. It’s hard core and if I manage to do it all, I’ll be clocking between 15 and 20 hours a week (like another job!).

Swimming – use the SwimSmooth Ironman plan which includes one technique session, one fresh and fruity and one longer swim. (three hours)

Cycling – as much as possible totalling around 10 hours per week. The longer this is delayed the harder it is going to be to do well in Barcelona.

Running – four or five runs a week including one long run, one medium run with some target pace and two or three recovery runs. (up to 6 hours)

I’ve got three full weeks, and one half a week before I head to Galway to the Tribesman Middle Distance Race. Can I do this sort of training? Watch this space!

 

 

 

 

The Eastbourne Triahtlon

On  Sunday morning, I opened my eyes and quickly closed them again. I was feeling emotional – am I still exhausted I wondered? Do I  really need to get up and race the Eastbourne Triathlon? I need sleep. I’m tired.

When I got home on Saturday night, and when that alarm had gone off on Sunday morning, every bit of me did not want to race.  Coach Dave has got me to record my heart rate variability using the app, HRV4 Training when I wake up in the morning. On Sunday I was so tired that I went into a deep sleep for the minute the HR recorded (for the record 43), and woke with a start when it finished.

But after letting the snooze button ‘snooze me’ for 30 minutes and battling with myself I finally got up at 515am and got out. And guess what – it wasn’t that bad – in fact it was good. It turned out that it was residual tiredness. The dregs of a tired week. I’m very glad I didn’t listen to the negative, emotional me, because once I was up and driving on the empty roads, I felt completely fine. It was a beautiful, bright sunny day – and I was so glad not to be missing this part of the day.

No Nerves

I wasn’t at all nervous as I’ve been performing very averagely recently so had zero expectations, and it was just a sprint. Note, in 2013 when I was a much fitter and faster marathon runner, I did my first sprint triathlon and I remember finding it very, very challenging – Note to self, this is progress.

I arrived in Eastbourne before 630am and when we got to the start it was fantastic to see so many old friends and familiar faces, from my two old clubs, Bodyworks XTC and Tri Tempo in what until August last year was my home town for 13 years.

The Swim

I met Gill, a fellow Bri Tri member at the start. Excitement kicked in as we gathered at the water’s edge. Gill and I ran/walked into the water together and for a minute were swimming along side each other. I could see we were heading in the same direction and I decided rather than swim over Gill (which it felt like I was going to)  I’d move away. That was the last I saw of Gill on the swim (she swam 19 and I was 20 minutes). We’d been warned that the current was going to be strong and Chris who had practised the day before, and been to Gary’s session (channel swimmer and all-round swimming king), showed me the best route to the take. I think I took it! But of course I hadn’t switched on my watch so I don’t know what pace I went at, or what distance I covered. However, I did find my ‘off to the left and then back to the bouy route’ (avoiding fighting the current) had somehow got me back in the group who had got ahead of me at the start. The sea was reasonably choppy and a bit unpredictable, but when I saw the sun shining on the water I had one of those moments, when I thought, I just love this!

As I got out of the water I was reassured to see not unhealthy, reasonably fit looking men around me which was a sign I wasn’t totally useless! I also noticed the watch wasn’t on and decided to tell Gary (guru Gary) who probably wondered what the hell I was saying . I ran to transition and wasn’t super slow (but still need to get faster). Then it was time to put the watch on and get onto the bike route.

The Bike

The bike route is a familiar one for me, from running and cycling in Eastbourne. But I think my recent climbs up Ditchling Beacon combined with my pimped up bike (now sporting Chris’s gears/brakes, flash new wheels and seat) meant that what I had always thought was a killer hill, didn’t feel hard at all! In fact at one point I had to look up to double check I was still on the hill. Again, note to self, progress.

The short ride felt good, again I loved the surroundings (I’ll never get bored of the South Downs): the white cliffs, the green fields, and the Sunday morning stillness. I didn’t look at my watch once. I loved the downhills and nearly hit 40 miles per hour as I hurtled down the empty road to East Dean (for me that’s fast).  It was great to see Scott, fellow comms officer from Bri Tri marshalling in the lonely spot (I’d also spotted Rachael, Mark and Grace – good turn out on the volunteer and racing from from my new club). As we headed back up the loop towards Beachy Head and the seafront we had a little headwind, but nothing too taxing. I enjoyed the bike and was pleased to cycle this challenging route five minutes faster than last year (okay I had just come back from a fracture – but still progress).

The Run

Being a sprint I was back in transition quickly and off on the run. The run takes you up to the top of the South Downs again – with a rather lovely climb up the side of Jubilee Hill. I’m not fast on the hills but the run didn’t phase me at all. It was getting hotter now, and feeling a little humid. At the top, I did have to have a word with myself as I realised I had slowed down way too much, and reminded myself, this event is short, to concentrate and I think I said out loud ‘pull your finger out’. So I worked hard on the downhill and though not particularly fast, it was a satisfactory run and I felt good at the finish, and as Dale shouted out 100m to go, I decided to have a little sprint (the glory bit).

I love a podium

It was a real bonus and a lift to my spirits to get second place vet and sixth woman in the ‘normal’ race, or 9th if you count the top three vets. But what lifted me more was how I felt good, I enjoyed it, I didn’t feel pressure, and I remembered why I do this. When I  left Eastbourne  last year, it was with some sadness and on Sunday I was reminded what a jewel it is – and the race somehow personified Eastbourne’s best bits, a fantastic backdrop for anyone wanting to challenge themselves as an endurance woman.

I recognised that my unintended taper for the previous three weeks were partly the reason for feeling refreshed and physically good, but I needed a kick-start to my Ironman training because in the middle of last week, I was not feeling the Ironman love.  But thanks to rest, friends and of course, Eastbourne, I’m back in love with this thing and ready for a summer of IM loving!

Week 18 and 19 of 40: Pacing myself and managing fatigue

The last two weeks have been about pacing myself and managing fatigue, so I can adapt to training for an Ironman, managing workloads as a self-employed business owner, a volunteer, a mum – and it’s about appreciating life’s pace isn’t always predictable.

In the last two weeks there’s been more work, which I’m always grateful for, a few committee meetings for my voluntary comms roles –and a big loss in my extended family, which puts time, and stress, and work and training in perspective. A trip to Ireland this week reminded me how lucky I am, being part of this connected group of people, but sadly it included saying goodbye to two very special people.

But there has always been a determination to stick to the routine of training. I love training. It gives me energy, as well as taking it away, it gets me outside (I  love being outside) and it keeps me on health straight and narrow (most of the time).

In week one there was a  conscious decision to ease back a little after the events of the pervious week. I was feeling tired. Work was demanding so I had to find that sweet spot between doing it and being consistent – and not being exhausted (managing tiredness is a key part of IM training) . The easiest way to do this was to take out intensity, so most of the sessions were done at an easy /steady intensity.

 

Week one

To keep running interesting but not exhausting I added in some strides to an easy run on Tuesday, including  7 x 30 secs and 3 x 1 min. An easy 2K swim and 35 mile evening bike ride on Wednesday were tiring, but again not flat out. But I did feel tired the following day, and even though it should be expected I did have a feeling of ‘oh dear will I ever run fast again?’ as I ran an easy paced hour. But experience reminded me that this is endurance training and on occasion that can mean feeling tired, and slow! On Friday energy levels were restored so that I managed an interval session on the bike in the Bri Tri Club My Ride session (2 x 10 x 40 secs) and I followed this up with a slow explore-jog. On Saturday I only had enough energy for an easy run to and from our club committee meeting and then on Sunday I really enjoyed a 3-hour off road, very easy, very hot – and very lost long run. It was hard at times but I have now worked out a great new route, and covered some more miles in preparation for South Downs Relay, coming in June.

Discovering bluebells on my long run

Week two

As the heatwave continued and tiredness kicked in, there was nothing for it but to hit the beach. I’m fortunate to own a thermal wetsuit and really enjoyed a 1100M swimming at a reasonable pace on Hove seafront. On Tuesday I ran. I used to run a session when marathon training (based on no sports science, just my own benchmark aerobic run) which was to keep 130 heart rate for 10 miles.  I decided to see where I was at 130 HR. It took ages to get my HR up. I didn’t quite manage the 8.00 min mile I used to run at this heart rate (moderate intensity), and had to settle for 8.20 and I’m guessing this is my top end of aerobic pace.  Wednesday demanded an early start as the trip to Ireland was planned or the afternoon, so I met Rachael for a 7am sea swim – it was cold! I was much slower than Monday partly due to the time of day, and partly due to a few extra waves. I made myself get out and run after the swim, feeling chilly in my Tri suit, but as always once I got going I felt good and enjoyed a 10K run. I decided to pack my running gear for my short visit to Ireland and got up reasonably early, and feeling very, very tired I managed an easy jog/explore around my mum’s home town.  On Friday I had no time to train – and was desk-bound for the day, so I was well-rested for Saturday’s half IM distance bike ride, followed by 40-minute run with the girls from Fitbitch – reminding me how great it is to train with like-minded athletes. And finally, a 33 mile bike ride has finished off the week. Next week it’s countdown to my second half Ironman – my first was Braveheart Ben Nevis – which was very different – so it kind of feels like a first! I have no idea what to expect time-wise – but I don’t think it’ll be fast.

Dream Team

 

Brathay 10in10: 10 Marathons in 10 Days

Ordinary Women Being Extraordinary

For most of us running one marathon is a lifetime’s achievement. But for a growing number of women it’s been to run the same marathon, every day for 10 days. Even more amazing is that amongst the 34 women to have completed the Brathay 10in10, six of them have done so as many as two, three and four times.

And this year five more women have been offered a place, one of whom is returning for a second time. In addition to training for the event, no mean feat, they have also pledged to raise over £18,000 between them for Brathay Trust, a youth charity who organise the event to support their work with vulnerable children and young people.

Along with 15 men – also raising £3,000 each, they will run the same 26.2 miles each day. It is an anti-clockwise route circumnavigating England’s longest lake, Windermere and taking in the honeypot villages that include Hawkshead and Ambleside. It’s now one of a handful of marathons around the world whose course is entirely within a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Lake District.

Recognised as one of the UK’s ultimate endurance running events, it was devised by academic Sir Christopher Ball, as a trustee of Brathay. He ran it aged 72, to prove that ordinary people can tackle extraordinary feats of physical and mental endurance. It has since raised over £1.2million for Brathay’s work including supporting residential programmes at the charity’s base near Ambleside and community projects in the Furness area of South Cumbria. 104 people have completed it.

With just months to go, we take a closer look at these endurance women ahead of their monumental challenge which starts on Friday (11 May) and finishes on Sunday 20 May.

And we start with the person who looks after the event and keeps a close-eye on the runners – Brathay Trust’s operations manager, Aly Knowles. She has first-hand experience of what the 10in10ers go through to train and then ultimately cross the finish line on day ten, having taken part in two 10in10s. Aly says she was lucky enough to be involved with the first 10in10 and then watched with awe when two women completed it the following year. In 2008, when many believed it was impossible for women to tackle such a physical challenge, Selina Da Silva and Michelle Atkins proved it was. It earned Michelle a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, for the most consecutive marathons run by a female. In 2012, Sally Ford’s phenomenal run meant she was first over the finish line and became the second female 10in10er to enter the Guinness Book of World Records – the 10in10’s fastest woman with a time of 36:38:53 which remains unbroken today. Legal PA Kaz Hurrell has set another record by being the only woman to run the 10in10 four times and she’s keen to be back for a fifth one.

This year the five women who are taking part have very different running backgrounds, and are entered as FV35 to FV60.

Brathay training weekend 2018Diane Morris has six children (aged between 12 and 26 years-old) and three grandchildren. She first started running eight years ago with a group of mums who were fundraising for the playgroup. Since 2013 she has completed six marathons and eight ultra-marathons.

Janet Shepherd claims she would never run for a bus until she made a start in her late forties. Making up for lost time Janet celebrated her 55th birthday by crossing the finishing line of her first 10in10 in 2013. Now she back to kick start her 60th birthday celebrations from the start line of another 10in10 challenge.

Brathay training weekend 2018

Joni Southall says she has been running on and off since her school days, representing North Yorkshire in the 200m and 100m relay and enjoying cross country events in the winter months. This year she and her dad, Gary Wade, are making event history by signing up to run it together – running is clearly in this family’s genes.

Liane Warren voices the relationship many of us have with running – loving it, needing it, but not finding it easy. Running gives Lianne focus and motivation and, describing herself as a natural worrier, it is her stress-reliever and a refuge from the pressures of life too. She says she has a terrible running style, likes to eat chocolate and drink wine – but dares to hope to do something amazing.

Linda Somerville is the event’s youngest runner and ran her first marathon in Edinburgh in 2011, three months before her 30th birthday, and has been hooked ever since. Having notched up 23 marathons she shouldn’t have any problem achieving her goal of getting to 50 before she is 40, and 100 before she hits 50.

All five endurance women and fundraising heroes have only a few months of training left before their first marathon on Friday 11 May.

Why not join them on their last – Sunday 20 May – when the course coincides with the one day ASICS Windermere Marathon? You never know where it may lead – this year, 15 of the 20 signed up for the 10in10 are past Windermere Marathon runners. More details can be found on the Brathay Challenges website.

Profiles of all of the 10in10ers can be found on the Brathay Challenges website here and videos and updates will be shared via twitter @BrathayEvents and facebook @BrathayRunning.

Why I started Endurance Women

I’m an ordinary woman, but very occasionally, I feel extraordinary – after a week of hard training, or when I’ve completed a big race, or got up and met some friends for a freezing cold swim in the sea at 6am.
I think I’ve always been an endurance woman. As a child I loved to push myself running or swimming further and faster, climbing trees higher, staying out to play later. When I was six years-old I set myself the challenge of swimming 100 lengths of the outdoor pool at the Hotel Hermanus in Winterton near Great Yarmouth, as my dad lay on the lounger and counted for me. Soon after I was doing backward dives off the top board at Amersham swimming pool and had ambitions to go higher at the 40ft board in Galway (but somehow mum and dad distracted me). There were some blips along the way, you can read my story here.
My career is driven by my passions. For more than 20 years my work in content and communications focussed on health, fitness and sport. For 10 of these years I worked as a personal trainer and coach. Endurance is in my DNA (literally) and I’ve run over 20 marathons with most success in my 40s when I ran 10 under 3.30 and five under 3.15; I’ve competed in ultra events and triathlon and at my best I’ve been competitive for my age.

Approaching a new age category

As I got closer to the big 5-0 I realised what I’ve gained from this passion is so much more than times to be proud of: I’ve made great friends; had amazing experiences and I’ve learnt all there is to know about myself and what I’m capable of. So, at the end of 2017, as the big day loomed, I decided it was time to create Endurance Women and consolidate what I’ve learnt as a coach, content provider, and story-teller.

Ordinary Women Being Extraordinary

First, I wanted to share the stories I hear every day of ordinary women being extraordinary. Each woman I’ve spoken to has an amazing story to tell. Jane went from feeling a bit fat and unfit at 40 to winning Ironman Kona (the competition for the world’s best age-group triathletes); business owner, Joanne, a 49-year-old mum of three, didn’t let blood cancer and persistent injury get in the way of her aspirations to race long; Buggy-miles Becci, a new mum of two and general hospital Sister, transformed her local park-run into a fundraising event for the local hospice; and of course, The Guardian‘s very own Running Blog Editor, Kate Carter, mum of two young girls who took just six years to go from starting running to completing a sub-three hour marathon.

Endurance Women are Pioneers

All endurance women are pioneers. We’re the first generation of women to push our endurance boundaries, and to take on challenges like these. And the further we go in distance, the closer we get to being on a par with men, as we’re more efficient at burning fat and stamina is one of our strengths. But in the year I was born (1967), the general consensus was that women were too ‘fragile’ to run a marathon. Kathrine Switzer proved this was not the case, by being the first women to officially enter and complete the Boston Marathon. She was famously man-handled by the race manager, who tried to pull her out of the race but went on to finish the in 4.20 and is celebrated as an advocate for positive change and the founder of 261 Fearless, an organisation that uses running to empower and unite women. Read her story here.

We are strong!

We must not underestimate our strength. When we set a goal and achieve it whether it be going from couch to 5K like many of our community, or taking on a seven-day treadmill challenge like ultra-runner, mother and grandmother, Mimi Anderson (story coming soon), we’re making an impact and forcing positive change. As we share our fundraiser pages, our success stories, our smiling race-face pics and medals on social media, the movement gathers momentum, and the ripples of positive energy become a tidal wave of change.

The power of Endurance Women

When we stretch ourselves through sport – physically, emotionally and mentally – there is power. And endurance is a pathway to a very big positive change for women individually, and collectively for society. From interviewing ordinary women being extraordinary and from my experience as an endurance athlete, I’ve seen that when we come out of our comfort zone we unleash an inner strength and great things happen. When women push limits the effect in the world is a little different to when a man does this. Women are at the core of creating families, and making change happen from the inside out. This can be catalyst for a powerful movement, creating healthier homes in the workplace and going beyond boundaries both physical and metaphorical – ultimately creating a stronger and happier society where we don’t just live long (kept alive by modern medicine) but we live well.

A Growing Movement

As the community of endurance women grows in numbers, I’m inspired and can’t wait to see what comes next. It’s easy to take for granted that every time we push a little more, when we put on our Lycra, get muddy, and celebrate crossing a finish line the impact we’re having. Each step forward is a step away from self-imposed limitations (and excuses) of age, time, family, work.

Join Us

I’ve focussed on women, but I believe all of us can be more successful in life if we adopt the qualities of an endurance athlete: never giving up, staying in the moment, keeping positive, setting goals, and supporting each other.
Join us and set your next challenge. Be at the start line. Celebrate on the finish line.

Week six and seven of 40: End of five-week spin block and this week being ‘ski fit’

Monday 5th February to Sunday 18th February: Ski Fit

Week six started the day after my first half marathon for two years. The good news is that I felt no fatigue at all from the race, no aches, no tiredness. The week started with an early morning My Ride Spin session and I was pleased to complete another week of three sessions, bringing to close a consistent block of five weeks of three times a week spinning classes since the accident.  Running was made up of three runs, two long slow runs and one treadmill session with steady intervals.

 

Getting Ski Fit

On Saturday 10th February I travelled and on Sunday I went skiing. I wore my Garmin but didn’t really give an exact record of what I did as I was too cold to run it on when we started! I did however record 25 miles worth of skiing and found my heart rate averaged 81 and maxed at 116pm – so for me it seemed it’s not an aerobic activity. (It’s worth noting it was day one and I  was skiing cautiously because of my recent collar-bone break), However, exercising at altitude, being outside all day, working out in the cold leaves me feeling, well, knackered. And according to Harvard Medical School, a  person who weighs 155 pounds burns 223 calories in half an hour of downhill skiing.  And three days in I’m feeling ski fit! I’ve noticed  the burn in the quads after a long day, and the satisfying tiredness from being cold and active at altitude. I did wonder if five weeks of spinning had helped me ski better, but I’ve read that quads are not worked eccentrically on a bike, as they are when you ski.

Strength, balance, agility

However, from my experience over the last few says I feel my body being challenged to be strong, to be flexible and to balance and be agile. I’ve focused on using my core muscles and am aware as I twist and turn downhill I’m working my legs as if I were doing repetitive squats at the gym. And once again I’ve been reminded that I must stay flexible as I get older (I want to be able to get up when I fall on or off the ski slopes!).

I’ve also hit very, very cold points (including getting so cold today I was reduced to tears)  and I’ve had some serious shivering episodes. However, I’m reassured that my shivering means I can scoff more tonight. As Outside Magazine reports, ‘A 2010 review of studies on shivering, published in Frontiers in Bioscience, found that 75-to-80 percent of the calories consumed by shivering came from muscle glycogen stores. So if you find your teeth chattering, you’ll want to increase your carb load’.  And as I know from experience of preparing to swim in cold temperatures for the Ben Nevis Braveheart Triathlon, brown fat activation happens when you’re cold for an added calorie burn boost.

 

 

 

Bigging up the bag lady look