Week 20 of 40: Feeling fit, plans to ban the booze, and pre-race stuff

Build up to the Swashbuckler 70.3 Triathlon and some random stuff

I’m writing this on Thursday morning before I get stuck into my year-end accounts. It’s feeling so summery. I love this time of year. I’m feeling fit! I noticed it first last week. Running felt lighter, easier, cycling faster – swimming, well not quite so as I haven’t done enough. I feel like my endurance base is building. I’ve had lots of tired days, but today I’m not tired (yesterday after early morning swimming I did take a 20-minute snooze at my desk). I lay in until 715am and had a late start today. I did procrastinate, but managed to get my run back and be ready to start the day properly by 1015am – so I’ll get my full eight hours in (a thing of mine being self-employed is that I have to get eight hours in, and that doesn’t include blog writing!).

More Alcohol-free beer Vicar?

I’m building up to going booze-free. It’s something I’ve talked about for, erm, years (and yes I have written about it too!). Pre-children I was a very heavy, madly hedonistic  drinker, then in my late 20s/early 30s a non-drinker for some of pregnancy (but not all), after that I became a social drinker. I’ve had non-drinking months, I’ve drunk just at the weekend (but to be honest not very often) and I’ve run 20+ marathons this way. I haven’t been ‘drunk’ drunk for a long, long time, I haven’t been sick, or been so hungover that I’ve been wishing the day away (although this was something in the past I was too familiar with). I’m not unhealthy from drinking (well not that I know of) but I do battle with drink in that I always think about what I’m going to drink and I always feel it needs to be kept under control. I do keep it under control, but, it takes energy! I also know that the fact that I have to think about not drinking at all, and don’t just don’t do it with ease, means it has some control over me. And that won’t do at all!

So, I’m cutting out most booze now and going booze-free from the beginning of June (I’ve got a holiday to fit in) until, well at least until the Ironman. I think it’ll be one less thing to think about – i.e. I won’t need to ask if am I dehydrated from the two glasses of wine I had the night before, or because I didn’t take on enough fluids on the bike? If I’m not boozing, I’ll know. I think it’s just easier to get it out of the picture whilst I focus on IM training. I’m not expecting to feel massively different because at the moment I don’t drink enough for it to be noticed when it’s gone, but I do think it takes away an excuse to not perform so well.

The Random Race Stuff

The reason for writing now is to capture where I’m at before I take on my first proper half ironman on Sunday, the Swashbuckler, in the New Forest. When it gets to writing up on Sunday this will be all-consuming, and my mind will be full of the race, analysis and what’s coming next . This is, strictly speaking, my second middle distance triathlon as I did Braveheart Ben Nevis Triathlon in September 2016 but I’m not sure that can compare to other 70.3’s as the run was a long hike up Ben Nevis, so I feel like a 70.3 virgin.  My coach has said don’t go mad this week, but don’t taper as this race is part of the bigger picture –it really is just training for Ironman Barcelona. He’s away for a few days so I’m not sure what he’ll make of me doing a 8.5 mile run this am (albeit very slow and comfortable at 115 HR)… but I just felt good and the sun was shining.

I don’t have great expectations timewise on Sunday. I’m guessing the swim could be anywhere between 2.00 and 2.15 per 100m, I’m expecting to the bike to be between 13 and 15 mph and the run between 8.00 and 8.45 min mile pace. Transition is not a strong point. On that basis I’ll be aiming for around 6.5 hours plus.

As for the rest of the week, I’ve got a swim tonight and a club turbo/My Ride session tomorrow – then it’s all about a weekend of getting ready for, travelling to, and then being in the water for the painfully early 5.15am start for racing.  I’d of course like to surprise myself with faster times but we’ll just have to see – and importantly I’ve got to pick up the training again on Tuesday. Watch this space…

Week 17 of 40: Getting out of my comfort zone

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

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

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

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

The Week

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

Tuesday:

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

Wednesday:

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

Doing a Brick session shoes and bike ready

Bricking It

Thursday:

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

Friday:

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

Saturday:

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

Sunday:

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

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

 

 

Week 11 of 40: Swim Smooth Stroke Analysis and pre-camp training

Monday 12th March to Sunday 18th March

This week was a pre-training camp week, so not too much work before arriving on Sunday, when the bulk of my week’s training was carried out, with the week’s IM training tally being three runs, three bikes, and one swim, which included some fantastic Swim Smooth stroke analysis.

The week started with a ‘just do it’ nine-mile easy run after the weekend. I decided to run for an hour to an hour and a half and not look at my watch and thoroughly enjoyed it. On Tuesday I returned to an old favourite of 6 x 1K with a 60-secs instead of 90-secs recovery. I went as hard as I could which on current form was my current half marathon pace (4.40).

On Wednesday I settled for a 30-minute My Ride spin session. I missed the slot on Thursday morning for a run, then it was back to the club My Ride session on Friday AM, with a killer 3 x 3 minutes at 120% FTP.

An unexpected turn of events on Friday meant no sleep at all before travelling on Saturday, so I was pleased with Sunday’s four-hour block on Day one of the Got To Tri Camp.

Swim Smooth Video Analysis: Work on the Catch

We were videoed to see how we swam and coaches Graeme and Rachel gave us excellent and detailed feedback using Swim Smooth Stroke Analysis.  My weakness is  in the catch and therefore I need to train myself to ‘reach over the barrel’. I lack power due to not engaging the big muscles in my back (latissimus dorsi). Our coaches base their analysis on Swim Smooth Training. In 2016 I had my style analysed by Fiona Ford, a leading Swim Smooth Coach who analysed me as a  Kicktastic swimmer, with a stroke characterised ‘by a very dominant and propulsive leg kick’ but one that ‘lacks catch and feel for the water with their arm stroke. As kicking is a relatively inefficient method of propulsion, and uses very large muscle groups, this swimmer is often short of breath.’ At the time I was probably running more frequently and more miles. A year on and my upper body and position in the water has improved, as has my cadence and rhythm, but the kick is similar, if not as robust. This time the coaches classified me as Bambino where, ‘Co-ordination in the water is a key concern and learning to improve their rhythm, timing and catch will really aid this’.  As someone who swam competitively as a child (6am in the morning for three or more years)  and loves open water swimming I think there were some limitations in the description from Swim Smooth, however, having not trained for three months I can see how this label fits. The focus for me in the run up to Barcelona is, says coach Rachel, about improving the catch and feel for the water by sculling/doggy paddle and trying a slightly increased stroke rate.

Check out the video of me in action!

Week 10 of 40: Fitness tests in the pool and on the bike

Monday 5th March to Sunday 11th March

This week was low in volume but I was pleased to fit in some fitness tests on the bike and in the pool. I also decided that I may swap the marathon for a half marathon as I focus my energy on the six month countdown to Ironman.

I had given myself a pass on hard training this week, as after three half marathons in five or six weeks and the start of the triathlon season, just around the corner, I thought I deserved a bit of recovery. But the recovery was a bit more than planned due to another turn of events, called life.

On Wednesday on what was hers and my dad’s birthday (he died last January), my aunty in Ireland died.  Being Ireland, funeral arrangements were quickly organised and we flew out on Saturday morning and back Saturday night.

Fitness Tests

Earlier in the week I’d managed a couple of swims and three My Ride (spinning) sessions, including another unexpected FTP test (see last week’s post). This time I scored a little higher, 164 (it was 159 the week before), but I’m not sure it was totally correct as I didn’t hit stop after I’d finished in time to record the result accurately, so I’ve given myself a FTP  of 162 (or 2.89 watt/kg) and am using that for sessions going forward.

I also attempted a Critical Swim Speed (CSS) test for swimming, which includes a warm up, then 400M at pace, with five to 10 minutes of easy swimming/drills, followed by 200M at pace. The times are recorded and from this you can estimate your goal time for 1500M and race pace in general. It tells you what your lactate threshold is, and, just like in running and cycling, training at this threshold pace once a week, can help you get fitter – and faster. You can read more about CSS testing here. I completed it at a busy public pool in a session time popular with senior citizens, so there were a few stops and diagonal lengths and for a more accurate result I will do the test again!

Maintenance now. Hard core very soon!

I have to confess to some bailing out and procrastination this week. For example, opting for a cup of tea with Bri Tri Club mates on Friday instead of going straight out to run (saying that the spinning session had been tough!). I did have the tea break and chat justified as I’m not in the six months red training zone!  However, I think this is the last month I can get away with this. After Easter it’s six months to go, and then I have to get my head down and get training, consistently – and up the volume of training. And from Easter onwards I have to say no to tea breaks and yes to running off the bike.

I’ll have a half!

However, when it comes to running the Marathon, I think it’s looking less likely. I had decided last week I’d need to do four 20 mile long runs to get me in shape. I’m now a long run – and a whole week of running – down. I think even my planned ‘tempo’ marathon maybe counter-productive when it comes to the longer term goal of the Ironman. And I’ve done enough marathons to know what training I need to do to enjoy it and run it well – and that box has not been ticked. So I’m going to stick with the half marathon, and soon after the 2018 triathlon season will be in full-swing.

To keep base building and for my peace of mind, I’ll try to fit in three more long runs before tri season starts. I love long runs (here’s what I think about long runs). And I haven’t forgotten that this summer, I also need to fit in long bike rides.

 

 

 

 

Teach A Girl To Swim

Ordinary Women Being Extraordinary

Mum of three children (ages nine, 11, 13), Malini Mehra, 50 is determined to make 2018 a year that counts. She’s set herself a goal of swimming 500K, which includes swim training 10K per week (as well as running and cycling) and taking part in swim events in cities around the world (totalling 150K of racing). She’s also lined up a marathon, 100-mile bike ride and Ironman Barcelona. She’s combining her experience from a 30-year career in sustainable development, climate change and human rights with her love of a challenge to make life better for women and teach girls to swim.

‘Climate change is the major issue of our times and it’s devastatingly obvious that it’s here to stay. Its impacts are many and you only have to look at how floods are affecting us all globally – including here in the UK. However, our losses and suffering are nothing compared to what those in coastal areas of Bangladesh, Cambodia and other Asian regions experience.

‘Floods are the most common form of climate disaster and they’re becoming more frequent – with women and girls are most at risk. Women are twice as likely to die in a flood, and four times as likely as men to die in a disaster in the developing world. In addition to this, women are the last ones to respond to emergency warning when disaster strikes as they’re often taking care of young children or elderly relatives.

‘This is a very real gender disparity and explained by the different social roles and status of men and women in these societies. Females are more likely to die than males in floods, for the simple reason that women and girls are generally not taught to swim.

‘There are also important cultural reasons due to notions of modesty and the taboo of menstruation that prevent the same freedoms for girls as boys enjoy. It’s common to see boys jumping into the water and enjoying themselves, but not girls. This isn’t fair or right and needs to change. Everyone should be able to enjoy the wonder of water and swimming. And no-one should die because they haven’t been taught basic safety swimming.

Time to Take Action

‘In my day job I’m the chief executive of GLOBE International, the world’s leading cross-party network of parliamentarians committed to green issues. I could see that there are a number of small organisations doing what they can to help out, but they lacked the resources and political know-how to do more. I decided to use my position to try to make a difference. I’m a mother, a feminist, I’m passionate about action on climate change – and I can swim! So, I came up with Teach A Girl To Swim (TAGS) to raise awareness of the issue and connecting those working on climate change, gender equality and disaster risk reduction around the world.

‘The attention-grabbing part of the TAGs campaign are my 10k swims in different cities – Kolkata, Dhaka, Beijing, Manila, Tokyo etc – which bring media attention to the epidemic of drowning deaths around the world, climate change and its differential impact on women and girls. But the bulk of my work is about raising funds for local organisations doing work on drowning prevention, raising awareness and putting in place national policies and measures, – and money! – to ensure that swim safety (for girls and boys) is a basic part of the national curriculum and a fundamental part of a country’s response to climate change and disaster risk reduction.

‘So, that’s it in a nutshell. Some people think I’m a crackpot, but I hope this publicity will spark dialogue and drive action and make a difference.

Family life

‘In 2000, I founded an NGO working on corporate responsibility, sustainability and climate change in India and the UK. It meant a lot of travel for me back and forth. I’m Indian and my husband is British. It was especially tough when my kids were very young.  I was a militant breastfeeder, which meant I took the kids with me everywhere for the first year of their lives – all around the world, to my offices in India and international board meetings and conferences. My husband is in the same field and we had consecutive travel all the time, so someone was always at home with the kids. We had no nannies and it was exhausting. So, I’m really glad I don’t have to travel with them anymore!

‘Thankfully, we live in a very different world now to our mother and grandmothers. My grandmother had her first child at 13, my mum at 23 and me at 36. That’s a massive change and we have many more choices now. IT has also transformed the working world for women and given opportunities for many modern mums to work at home and grow the ‘kitchen table economy’. We don’t have to compromise family life in the same way as before. Parenting is very different now. I really like working from home and being a hands-on mum. So, now I’m working flexibly with a portfolio career and therefore able to structure my day so that I can prioritise family and also be committed to work and training. I’m lucky, I know this isn’t the case for everyone and the trade-off between family, work and training is very real.

Training

‘I train five days a week, which includes a three to five-mile run after the school drop off and one hour of swimming (2.5K) four days a week. I have focussed my training on swimming and do 10K per week in between four to four and half hours. I also train with Mark Kleanthous (@ironmatemark) for expert coaching. I’ve run more recently as I’m running a marathon on March 11th. I’ll be swimming throughout– it’s the bit of the Ironman that I’m least anxious about – and I’ll begin to focus more on getting cycle fit over the summer so I build my bike legs, and can get off the bike after 180k and still have the legs to run a marathon and have a good finish to Ironman Barcelona!

Teach A Girl To Swim: the Legacy

‘I’ve always loved swimming and as a child growing up in Delhi, I splashed around in pools before learning to swim at school in London when I was 8. I was lucky to learn in the UK when I did. This country is very unusual and our kids very lucky that the national curriculum includes basic swimming skills. This should be the case everywhere. I want this year’s commitment to my goals and challenges to be meaningful, not just a flash in the pan. I hope to raise awareness about teaching girls to swim, to raise money and in the longer term to create a foundation for TAGS, so that I can leave a positive and lasting legacy.

‘Inspiration for me has come from many sources. Back in 2009, I started working with a fabulous Indian ultra-runner, Dr Rajat Chauhan, who had started this amazing Himalayan ultra-run – on the highest peaks  in the world – called  La Ultra – the High. We worked together to use the run to promote awareness, in the run-up to the Copenhagen climate summit, of the impact of climate change on the Himalayas, where glaciers are receding rapidly. The High is an incredibly tough ultra trail race. You’ve got to contend with thin air, altitude sickness and crazy trucks flying past you like juggernauts. I’d love to do it one day though. Events like these are powerful catalysts for change. I’m also driven on to keep going by women like Diana Nyad, the unstoppable endurance swimmer, motivational speaker and author, who’s now almost 70 and an absolute force of nature.

‘And after this crazy year, I’ve got more planned – I love endurance sports and women do get better as they age! We can get better PBs as we age, while men flag and wilt.  So, that’s a real upside of aging – as long as one keeps one’s health. For next year, my son and I are planning to cycle the length of the UK – from Lands End to John O’Groats – when he’s 12, so we’ve got a lot of long training rides in store!

‘I hope 2018 is the start of something bigger and I can inspire people to make a real difference by engaging with and supporting the Teach A Girl to Swim campaign.’

More info

Support Malini: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/teach-a-girl-to-swim 

Check out Malini’s impressive professional profile: https://globalchallenges.org/en/about/ambassadors/malini-mehra

For great coaching advice: http://www.ironmate.co.uk

#endurancewomenstories #realwomen #justdoit #ordinarywomenextraordinary