Don’t Plan It. Just Do It.

Ordinary Women Being Extraordinary

Gill Bickle, 36, a dispensing optician from Brighton, last year qualified as an age group triathlete for the 70.3 distance and has a place at the world championships in 2018. An endurance woman through and through, Gill’s suffered with cancer, and a debilitating iron deficiency – as well as more recently concussion. She’s opted not to plan too much…

‘I didn’t plan on becoming an age group triathlete. I was ‘sort of’ sporty as a kid, then started smoking and partying. When I was around 26 a friend of mine was taking on the marathon, so I stopped smoking and started running. We didn’t have a structured training plan, all of It was hard and we did loads of training.

‘We coped with the long runs and miles by eating lots of sugary sweets and snacks – and we both put on weight, I think I put on about two stone. I had a plan to run to time not mileage and I think my Sunday long run got shorter as I got heavier! We had a goal of completing the marathon in around four and a half hours. By mile 20 I was walking and she’d left me, then when I started running again and caught up with her, she was walking. We crossed the finish line in five and half or maybe five hours 50 minutes – I’ve blocked it out. It was horrendous.

From Jogger to Runner

‘After that I gave up running for a while, but then another friend persuaded me to do the Dublin marathon. Then in 2010, Brighton launched its first marathon and I decided to take on the race being held in my home town. I joined a group, I trained, and ate properly, and I did have a plan. I ran the race in under four hours. By 2014, I’d got my time down to 3.31, which I ran two years in a row.

‘The journey to triathlon was almost accidental. At my fittest I somehow managed to do an unofficial Ironman event in around 13 hours, based mainly on my running fitness. I also did the Stafford 70.3 in 6 hours 45, again off running training. But it was when I was training for the Paris marathon and got injured, and then I ran injured and the injury lingered for four months, that I began to introduce swimming into my training. At around the same time I decided to have a break from the longer distance runs for marathon training. The plan was to try to get faster as I wanted to break 3.30 for the marathon, so I started to do sprint triathlon and shorter runs.

‘It wasn’t long before I had a new plan in place and I lined up for more endurance by entering a half Ironman. But in April 2016, all plans halted as I found a lump – and this lump turned out to be cancer.

A New Challenge

‘At first I hadn’t expected it to be serious. I’d toddled off to the doctor by myself, but when I’d been examined they asked me if there was anyone at home, and organised for me to see a MacMillan nurse as a follow-up, so I quickly worked out what was going on. Then the fear kicked in and I began to play out different scenarios in my head, and weigh up which was the least bad case (all of which were not great!).

‘There was a period of around six weeks when they were trying to work out what type of cancer I had and training was just for enjoyment not performance. Endurance training helped me, for example, when I was getting scanned for 20 minutes, I’d remind myself it was the same time as a park run. And I recovered quickly. Fortunately, it was a rare type of cancer and a simple operation removed it, followed by physiotherapy, radiotherapy and just two weeks of being out of running.

Best laid plans

‘After that I signed up for another half Ironman, this time in Kronborg Denmark, and the Brighton Marathon, and was considering a full Ironman. Training went really well and I was making great progress, but then in the last few weeks of marathon training I started to feel very tired. It had come on very suddenly, from feeling great to feeling awful. A blood test confirmed I had an iron deficiency, and there was a possibility that I’d had a stomach bleed which had accelerated the drop in energy.

‘The iron deficiency had left me feeling very run down. I was catching colds and tired, but until the test had confirmed it, I had believed I was over-trained, as the symptoms were similar. Bike rides were hard and slow, and I was running about two minutes per mile slower than my usual pace and barely able to make it up a hill.

‘It took a while for the iron reserves to build up. Training was patchy and inconsistent, but once the iron levels returned to normal, I felt completely different, so I decided to just go and do the half Ironman I’d signed up to and with around five weeks of proper training under my belt I headed off to the race. I did better than I thought, completing the race in 5’50 and taking 45 minutes off my earlier half Ironman time.

‘With this result under my belt and my confidence and health boosted I signed  up for The Gloria 70.3 Ironman Turkey, being held just 12 weeks later. I wanted to see what good iron, good fitness and good training would result in. I had a terrible swim, and I think lost seven minutes in the swim and transition one. But with triathlon you never know what’s the best balance, because the bad swim might have helped me to work harder on the bike. I felt like I was in a good place to push myself on the run. I did and it was a good race. I did it in 5’31 which meant I qualified as an age group triathlete for the world championships.

Bike Training For Triathlon

‘My coach has worked on the basis that to get times quicker it has to come from cycling. This means that all training goes against what I want to do – which is to run. I have to look at the margins I can make and it’s always on the bike. So going forward from Turkey to South Africa this year, it will still be bike training as a focus. As you become more efficient on the bike, you’ll use less energy for less time, and this can serve you well on the run. And if you’ve been an endurance runner you’ve built up a mental resilience and you can tap into your runner’s mindset – the one that got you to do off-road runs in horrible weather on a Sunday morning.

Support Network

‘I’ve had some tough times, but the people I’ve met through endurance training and racing have helped me and I have a great support network. I’ve been in my town for a long time and I’m an active member of running groups and a couple of clubs, including Brighton Tri Club and Brighton and Hove City Athletic’s Club. Sometimes I’ve leant on this group even more than my old friends, as we spend longer together out on training rides and runs.

The next race…

‘I’m really looking forward to my next race, but the last few years have given me some perspective. All the plans that I’ve made have changed. Most recently training was going well and then I  came off my bike, got concussion and was out off training for three weeks (Fiona Bugler: Check out my story, Gill is in the ambulance with me).

‘Before, if I got injured or ill and couldn’t run, I’d get really upset, but now (particularly as I’m a triathlete) I let it go, and think if I can’t run, I can swim, or go on my bike.  But one plan I do have, and that is to give the race in South Africa my best shot.’

#endurancewomenstories #realwomen #justdoit #ordinarywomenextraordinary

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Doing Buggy Miles and Making a Difference

Ordinary Women Being Extraordinary

Becci Holdaway, 34, from Eastbourne, works as a sister at Eastbourne’s District General Hospital’s (DGH) A&E. She’s also a mum of two boys, and runner racking up ‘Buggy Miles‘ and has ambitions to run a sub-three hour marathon.

‘Running is a time when I’m not a mum, a partner, nurse – it’s time for not thinking, it’s my relaxation. Now that I have a one-year old I’m really enjoying clocking up Buggy Miles.

‘I haven’t always been a runner, my passion was dance, and as a child I danced with the Royal Ballet and then went on to the Sylvia Young theatre school. But my dad was a runner, and I had happy memories of going to watch him at the London Marathon, then the Mars London Marathon.

‘By the age of 18 dance was coming to an end and I started to run on the treadmill, building up to running 30 minutes non-stop. I then joined Crowborough Running Club and took part in the Brighton 10K, running 48 minutes without too much difficulty.

The marathon journey starts

‘I had my first child, Joshua in 2008 and  in 2009. Now settled in a new job at DGH, I was running regularly and in 2009, aged, 26, I took on my first marathon on the lapped (and slightly dull) course at Luton. I had a goal to run sub 3.30  so I felt gutted when I ran 3.31. But disappointment didn’t last long and just five months later in 2010, I ran 3.21 at London. The next goal, was sub 3.15 and by 2013 I’d run 3.16.

‘After this attempt life got busy with  a master’s degree, and then I went through divorce in 2013. There was one night when I put on my wedding dress and got smashed, but I didn’t let it drag me down for too long and running helped to get me back on track, and I focussed my energy on my next marathon in Poland. Finally, in September 2014, I achieved my sub 3.15 goal, running 3.08.

New Beginnings

‘I had just met my partner Lee, and it was great to have someone to share my training life with. He took me up on to the South Downs to train on the hills, I’m a road runner and moaned a lot at first, but training off-road got me stronger.

‘Lee is a great runner, and swimmer and has kept fit all his life, but in December 2015, his life underwent a dramatic change when he had a heart attack at The Mince Pie 10 Mile race. He’d started to feel unwell in the race, but carried on running and still managed to gain fifth place and ran 10 miles off-road in 1.03. I came in seven minutes later and placed third woman. I knew he wasn’t right when I saw him. He’d spoken to first aiders who thought he’d over exerted himself, but I knew he needed emergency help. The paramedics took an ECG but didn’t know how to read it. Luckily, I had done a cardio course and was able to see that his result showed ST elevation. In layman’s terms, the main artery to Lee’s heart was totally blocked. When we got to the hospital I had hoped the cardiologist was going to tell me I’d misread the ECG – but I’d got it right. However, it was my quick actions and knowledge that saved Lee.

Life change

‘It was a life-changing event and just three months later when I found out I was pregnant with Ted, we both felt it was right. I  felt determined to not let pregnancy stop me training and had set my goal of running Beachy Head Marathon once Ted, my baby, was born.

‘I ran all the way through my pregnancy and I’m sure it helped not just keep me in shape, but keep me in good spirits too. Just three weeks after the birth I started to run Buggy Miles with Ted. Often I’d go out after just two or three hours sleep, but a good strong coffee and getting my foot out the door was all it took and soon I was making progress.

‘When maternity leave finished, I went back to work three to four days a week after. Then I started to do some intervals by myself and kept the Buggy Miles easy, establishing a good aerobic base of fitness. In October 2017, just 11 months  postpartum, I ran 3.43 at Beachy Head Marathon (a tough off-road marathon that includes the Seven Sisters’ cliffs), taking sixth female place, and having a really brilliant day from start to finish.

Taking Positive Action

‘I love running and I love Parkrun. Joshua, my (just) 10-year old son, has also go the bug and has just started doing Junior Parkrun. Running is also a great way to bring people together and raise money for charity and with this in mind, I decided to do something positive.

‘In 2017 three of my colleagues were diagnosed with terminal cancer and another young person I knew died at the end of 2017 in the care of the hospice. In A&E we’re like a family and we all wanted to feel we were doing something. As a regular parkrunner I decided it was time to take positive action and came up with the idea of an A&E parkrun takeover. We had #TeamA&E t-shirts made up and got everyone involved. Staff who’d never run before gave up smoking, got fit and got into running (and kept at it after). On the day (November 11 2017), we had: local radio; an ice cream van ; a mascot, ‘Wifie Bear’; sports massage; and hundreds of runners in #TeamA&E t-shirts. We managed to raise £6,000 for St Wilfrid’s Hospice in Eastbourne and McMillan Cancer.

‘I have lots of running ambitions and want to get as fast as I can over the next two years, whilst still spending time with my boys. I’m very disciplined about my training, Lee might say I’m a bit OCD! I do three sessions of Buggy Miles every week, to build by baseline of fitness, and the rest of the time by myself I run faster threshold or interval sessions. I do shifts so have to take my running times and stick with them and I’m often out of bed at 530am, and after a caffeine shot I’m out the door. Lee is really supportive and he plans my training for me – and once he’s planned it, I do it. The goal is to run a sub 1.25 half marathon, and keep doing the Buggy Miles, and then when Ted starts school, I’ll revisit the marathon – I’d love to try for a sub-three hour marathon. I’m motivated by the push of a new goal, and I absolutely love running, so why not?’