Looking Ahead – 2020!

The title of this blog post and the nature of how this blog came about suggests that it should be about relationships and life and looking forward rather than back. Well, I COULD have written a post like that – and maybe I will as I have temporarily  given up on dating and have currently resigned myself to being single a bit longer (no bad thing) – although… no – this isn’t about that.

I like paper to do lists, I like paper diaries and I like paper wall planners. Although I have taken to using my phone diary a lot as it syncs to my laptop diary and I can print that off all colour coordinated and blocked out. Saves me a job! This has got me thinking – how to other people plan out their year?

I find that a huge wall planner, next to my desk in my office works best. Academic of course…

Its even got a basic code – races that I am interested in go on – regardless. As soon as they are ‘booked’ or confirmed – I put a cloud round them. Holidays have a line through them. It works! It really does! When I am sat working in my office (which, when it is tidy, is more frequent that it is at the moment) and I am wondering what my plans are/training needs are, I can quick glance at what is coming up – I can visually see the space/time between events – which makes planning so much easier. It also means that if I get my way then May next year will be bust and I need to save some serious money to do what I want!

I am VERY excited though – which probably means actually, dating would not be wise…

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Cyclocross Shock to the System!

Ok ok that is maybe a bit of an overreaction but still.

Today I finally managed to actually attend and race my first (and possibly last!) cyclocross race.

I was dragged there (nicely) by one of my mates who has taken my CX and upgraded it to a 36 on the front and an 11-34 on the rear so I couldn’t really not go – I even bought some new CS shoes. I have never been so worried about a race – so nervous and so ‘argh’ about doing a race. I had no idea what I was doing but a reasonable idea of what I was getting involved in.

img_2559I went to register and retrieve my number (21 again!) and paid for my race entry and chip before going and checking the bikes. We saw the juniors finish and then we were allowed to go to a pre-race run round to checkout the course. Well. That did NOTHING to help my nerves and used up valuable energy I could have used to race. Sometimes not knowing whats coming is good!

Again having no idea what I was doing, suddenly it was only 4 minutes to the start line – somewhere off in the distance and I had to make a dash for it – hanging on at the back the race was off. WELL. Baptism of fire.

I was not ready for that. At all. Down the hill, round the woods, up out of the wood, back down into some grassy descents before some sneaky awful switch backs and up back through some trees. And repeat. The grassy climbs were the hardest bit. REALLY hard. The wooded sessions were right up my street though – which is the same as trail running – gravel/trees etc – the other good thing though was that in 40 minutes I definitely made some improvements in my bike handling skills! As for position – I don’t think I was last female but I definitely was somewhere near the end!

It was basically 40 minutes of feeling absolutely sick and hurting.

After I finished I was wondering if I would ever do it again – I am not sure. Not yet anyway. I genuinely think that was harder than swimming 5.5 miles in Coniston last week!

Ah well. All good training!

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Coniston Epic Swim 3.8km

Well what a lot of random fun was had!

This weekend just gone, I spent in the Lake District with a friend and a group from a mountaineering association in a bunkhouse in Coniston. I only knew my mate but had such a lovely time meeting everyone as well as eating lots and swimming lots!

I travelled up with my friend on Friday, in the rain, expecting a wet miserable weekend, only for the weather to improve greatly. The main purpose of the visit being swimming!

Saturday I did attempt to run – badly – my knee is giving me some serious issues – walked over to Hawkshead and then later swam in the still waters of Coniston, before a mini epic BBQ.

This was the Saturday – more important was SUNDAY!

Alongside my friend, we had booked on to the 3.8km Epic Swim. All well and good. A good training swim for Coniston end to end apparently (I swam 4km in my local lake earlier in the week remind myself I could actually swim!). We walked down to the start line – flip flops are the most annoying footwear ever = to the point that I am almost persuaded that crocs might be a good idea.

We were probably cutting it fine to be honest – but having already got my registration pack (advantage of mate having a pooch that needed walking – he went and got them!) it was literally a case of listen to the race briefing, dumping my bag and getting in the water.

Well, compared to the night before, the water was just a wee bit choppy. The night before, despite the amount of rain, was fairly warm and very still! We were (reliably) informed that the water temperature was about 17 – and in all honesty, it wasn’t really cold. I had taken my booties and gloves just in case but didn’t feel I needed them.

The route had changed – but that made life easier – just three laps rather than one short and two long. Only issue was that the wind meant that the chop was against us for the first half of the lap, but then with us for the second – I haven’t ever swum in conditions like it so wasn’t sure what to expect. Swimming into waves above your head and trying to sight was certainly interesting but no where near as bad/hard as I was expecting!

I found the first lap quite hard – and had to keep reminding myself that I could actually swim and the time didnt really matter, it just seemed to take a while for me to find my rhythm and mojo. I did though and by the second lap felt more relax and in the flow of it. By the third lap I was desperate for a wee and very happy to be swimming towards the exit point. I cannot pee in my wetsuit – which has now become my more pressing concern about the End to End swim!

I got out thinking my mate had beaten me – he hadn’t – he was 50s behind me! I couldn’t decide whether I have enjoyed it or not but I rather liked the medal! I was, however, very ready to go to the loo!

It was worth it though as I indulged in three breakfasts – including a communal fry up.

I also really enjoyed just swimming. Its the first time I have done just a swimming event and I really enjoyed it – it made a change from just running or cycling events – maybe thats the way to keep the love of triathlon alive – by doing the various disciplines in stand alone events?

Who knows?

What I do know though is that water fleas are actually a thing, and possibly the cause of the nasty bites/bruises I am now sporting on my legs!

Time Trial Love

This week has seen the last of the Club Time Trial Series.

What on Earth am I going to do with my Thursday evenings now?

Well, according to one of my mates (who only discovered my blog the other day  – yes I am talking about you!), I should go train seeing as I have some big swims coming up and a half iron triathlon!

I only started part way through last year and rather enjoyed time trailing more than I thought I would so I rather looked forward to this year and it still holds the same appeal – although this year I’ve gone in with a mission of going for the Championships. I think I’ve got it simply through default to be honest.

It is actually a bit sad that the series I’ve done has seen so few women race and few from my own club in it too. It is a rather sick kind of fun – the whole time you race you think ‘why am I doing this?’ but there is something rather satisfying post race about pushing so hard and trying to ride a bike fast. It is a strange way to spend an evening though. That much is true! From those in speed suits, disc wheels, aero shoe covers, pointy (ok ok aero!) helmets through to those like me who rock up with bright pink socks, her favourite road bike, cake and pie, meeting up in a roadside lay-by, setting off at minute intervals. Despite all this though – every single person there that I’ve spoke too or passed has been so welcoming and supportive – no judging, all there with the same intention – to ride bikes as fast as they can.

Finally raced my TT bike in an actual TT race and ended up with a personal best on that particular course by 2 minutes!

I have a confession though. I’m being sucked into marginal gains.

I have a horrible feeling I may end up with a disc wheel and a speed suit.

Cycling is a ridiculous hobby/sport.

(Apparently I’ll be racing CX this year….)

 

 

Sledmere Sunset Trail 10k

Sledmere Sunset Trail race on Friday night was a bit of a last minute (week) decision. I haven’t really run properly since Edinburgh Half Marathon so I knew it was never going to be brilliant!

I had managed to get a last minute place – in terms of – I had a place that someone didn’t want/need and it got transferred over, while I was sat in the cinema watching the trailers!

Anyway, back to the race. I tagged along with a mate who was running it and thankfully the weather had, for the most part, had improved. Considering the amount of times I’ve been through Sledmere, I have never stopped at the house so it was actually quite a treat to be there.

I registered, had a bit of a moan about how unfit I am and wandered down to the start line. The 10k did on mini lap – the 3.8km mini trail race route then did a longer loop around the estate. I have to say, the route, for 80% was really lovely – reasonably muddy but not XC style thankfully, undulating but few real hills as such (cant believe I’m saying that of all things!). I was doing ok for the first 5km – a bit caught up with slower runners but I wasn’t initially too worried – then we hit grass. I hate running on grass. Majorly. To me it is harder than sand.

From about 5/6km in to 7km, you had to run down the bottom of a long valley – and it was awful. Just energy/leg zapping grass. Even my mate at the end had a moan about that bit! Then a climb out and another run through the woods and down the trails. Apart from the grass, my only bug bear with other runners was down to the fact that very few were willing to fling themselves down the descents!

It started to rain at the 8k mark but my mate was already in – and I was happy for the rain just to cool off a bit. I pushed the last 2k – to an extent, as it was mostly downhill and then I heard my mate cheering/shouting at me to hurry up as I came to the finish line.

If I hadn’t been so unfit – I think I might have enjoyed it more – the scenery and setting was really lovely and doing an impromptu 10k during the week rather than on a weekend in the morning, was actually pretty good! The medal was also one of the nicest I have too! As for the organisation – that was top notch – as was the marshalling and cheering on. Driffield Striders put on a great event!

Same time next year I think!

Racing at Edinburgh Marathon Festival

For all I hate running – this weekend I loved it!

Its been a pretty epic weekend in some respects. My mate and I pulling in 5 medals between us.

I’d heard good things about the Edinburgh Marathon Festival from friends who had been and I never need much of an excuse to go north so cutting a long story short (the full story of the weekend is content enough for a blog post in it’s own right), there was four of us heading to Edinburgh to race.

In the end, it ended up being just the two of us racing as the other two were genuinely very poorly.

The racing started on Saturday. I was only down for the 5k but one of my mates was down for the 10k before hand. Feed and watered at breakfast we headed down to the start line – and I watched the start of the 10k race, and waited/watched for my mates return. So far so good, with a cheeky second climb on the 10k – my mate came in with a respectable time and we promptly headed for a cheeky coffee before the 5k.

Racing a 5k…

This seemed odd to me – being a distance I had never raced, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The route takes you around Arthurs Seat – my observations?

  • If doing a short race – such as a 5k, put down a faster than usual time. I tend to plod out a 5k in 32 to 35 minutes – although my last park run was 31 minutes. Anyway – I found myself near the back with all the runners who were clearly not runners, or just starting out. All kudos to them but I found because there were 1500 of us – and the route quite narrow, I struggled to run between to get myself out.
  • This was more of an issue in one respect as the route was a slow gradual pull up hill – so people who could possibly have run were walking – it was a tough pull in that respect but I know I could have slow run it quicker than walk it.
  • It’s over so quickly!
  • The views at the top are just amazing. The most scenic 5k I’ve run.
  • Benefit of a long slow climb at Edinburgh 5k? An awesome down hill which lead to some PB times on Strava in terms of 1km/1 mile etc distances.
  • I reckon, if I had put a faster start time and started further up, I could have smashed my 5k PB.

Did I enjoy it? Yes! Very much! And it was so well organised too!

Perfect racing conditions, good company and well organised. So far EMF was looking like it was going to be a lot of fun!

The Half Marathon..

I cant say I slept well Saturday night or that I was feeling particularly prepared (LSR anyone?!) but I knew that the course was flattish and had PB potential.

Nerves where there but the bigger debate was what to wear. The weather forecast kept changing and although I had brought a waterproof and clothing for post race – it was still all changeable.

Morning came round and I was sort of thankful I had liberated some instant porridge from Sainsburys the night before. Getting up at 6am and eating breakfast I was a little quite when my mate walked into the kitchen. Him contemplating his marathon and me my half. I was more than happy to know he was planning on coming down to the start with me. The forecast had changed and the rain was just drizzle (it saved the torrential for the start of the marathon!). Deciding against the waterproof – we wandered to the start – the hostel perfectly placed close to the start – and I dropped my bag off. I decided NOT to queue for the loo but I wish I had now – which will soon become clear as to why.

Theres not much to say in terms of the waiting and hanging around. It was so busy and so wet! It really was just a quiet waiting game. Thankful for my mates forethought on the bin bag raincoats!

I was near the back – think think id put down a 2:40 time – but my plan all along was 7 minute Ks – so I wasn’t worried about being so far back – it did mean though that I had a 15 minute wait from the gun time to actually getting over the line!

The start of the race though through Edinburgh is just lovely – downhill and down the Royal Mile too! Seeing the city from a different angle was really cool – I didnt over cook myself either. The first 5k flew by but this is where I kicked myself. I decide rather than queue and miss the start of the race (in hindsight a daft idea), I’d go at the 5k mark – but this lost me time that, if I had gone before, would have seen the official time be sub-2:30.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing though.

Anyway, back to the race – I managed to keep a good pace – right through to the 6 mile mark my head was in a good space and my feet still holding up. Breathing was perfect and I suspect that the slow runs on the treadmill really played a part here.

After the half way mark my feet, or rather toes, started to get sore and I knew I would get blisters. The second half of the race took us out to Musslebourgh and Preston Pans – fairly familiar places as I’d been to watch the half-iron last year. The atmosphere was good though – all the way round. The route fairly flat and my pacing consistent – I was even in a pretty good place mentally and enjoying it, but by the 8 mile mark I was trying to work out the maths as to how far was left in kilometres as well as how long it would take if I ran at a certain pace. I never quite managed to work it out (I spoke to my mate about this and he does the same in races). By mile 10 my right hip and glute was starting to complain too!

Either way – we reached the part of the course that had the switch back.

I hate switch backs. So the marathoners 10 mile switch back must be horrific.

The turn around point seemed to take forever to get to and my feet were so sore by this point. I kept glancing at my watch – I was looking at a negative split – my pace increased and I was feeling mostly ok.

I managed to work out that I might be able to get the sub 2:30. I know thats not fast but I was on track for a half marathon PB.

I still done know how I managed to push the pace at the end to the extent I did. At the switch back point it was sheer determination and a bit of run/walk strategy and clock watching that got me to the end. This wasn’t helped by the headwind that all the runners encountered on the switch back – I dread to think how demoralising this was for the marathoners (my mate and many others commented on just how awful it was!). The sign for 25 miles for the marathon appeared and I knew that there was only 1.2 miles between the finish and me. I went for it.

The finishing shoot appeared and I tried to sprint finish but as soon as I pushed harder I could feel that I might just be sick and eased back – just enough not to be. It was awesome! I had got round a half marathon, with very little walking and knew I’d got a PB! I was incredibly happy about this but I don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet.

Walking through to retrieve my medal and goody bag was well organised and clear. I really couldn’t fault the organisation. I went and retrieved my bag (very quickly – I genuinely was impressed with this!). Next priorities were actually getting changed and getting food. Next time I am taking a towel. I could have had a proper shower!

I got changed and had a bit of a chat with some of the women in the changing room and went in search of food – I had at least a two hour wait for my mate. A peanut butter and banana waffle and a cup of tea later, and I was sat chatting to some of the marathon finishers as well as a couple of blokes from Doncaster who were supporting their wives. Thankfully by this time the sun was shinning despite the wind. Now was just the waiting game – but a chance for me to contemplate how much I had enjoyed it – and how much my mindset had changed when it came to pushing (I think a lot of this is to do with racing TTs and my stubborn determination to push through the pain on them – I think its helping my running mojo).

The marathon… 

I didn’t do the marathon but I did go to watch the finishers and to keep an eye out for my mate. Time ticked by and I genuinely started to worry that I’d missed him. Thankfully I hadn’t – and I genuinely was relieved to see him come in. The headwind had had an rubbish impact on his race but such is life – that switch back was never going to be pretty.

The best thing about racing with mates is the post race review and chat – it is so much better when you’re with mates.

Once changed and ready – then came the worst bit of organisation/lack of local knowledge/only annoying bit of the whole weekend happened. There were a load of buses sat outside the playing field/school where the finish was. These were apparently the local and spectator buses.

We had a right walk to get the buses back into Edinburgh and paid £5.50 for the privilege! Then there was a faff sorting out which buses we needed to be on. Getting back to the hostel and talking to another lad who had done the marathon, what we should have done is just get one of the local buses back. £1.70 and less hassle/walking.

Despite this, on the bus back into Edinburgh, I was seriously contemplating and discussing doing the whole lot again next year!

So it must have been good!

And I have (temporally at least), found my running mojo again!

Rock’n’roll Half Dublin anyone?!

Pressing Reset – Holkham

This has come as a bit of a surprise to even me but after seeing a Facebook post about changing my A race, a month of being far too sociable and thinking I can manage to balance everything, as well as a rubbish race last night and cold….. I’ve decided to quit Holkham and change to Outlaw X in September.

After speaking to mates last night and some equally awesome people on Twitter, this will come as no real surprise – there are multiple reasons for this and I am quite happy to share them – I don’t feel at all bad about changing my race or my priorities – in fact if anything, going to see Graeme Obree speak last week has just reaffirmed my own outlook to not really care what others think, to not worry too much about life’s purpose and to enjoy the moment. I’m not a pro and life happens and no-one will die as a result of me changing my mind!

So why the change?

  • I don’t think I will be race fit in 6 weeks. That is completely my own doing. I had a plan. I was, at the start, doing well to keep to The Plan. Then I booked too many social things and took on extra work with my own business and an extra day at work in the day job, that I’ve struggled to fit it in – slowly heading towards burn out.
  • I was too ambitious with my initial training plan – I think this may have contributed to my loss of running mojo. It had all started so well too! I know too well though that this does ebb and flow anyway.
  • My friend withdrawing meant that I was racing far from home on my own. Ok this is a bit of a no-goer as an excuse and her decision, like mine, has been the right one (so no feeling bad!!). Changing my race means I can probably actually get out on the bike more with her, which was part of the original plan when we discussed Holkham anyway so win win! We will be back! And I’d still like to do Holkham.
  • Delaying/changing my A race means I can take on board what I’ve learnt in the last three months and get it right or rather improve it. How many people honestly get to reset their training during a race season? We are still only just in to triathlon racing season and I’ve a reasonably ok base on which to restart – so taking this as a mini win.
  • I need to reset – building on from the last point. I’ve come down with cold/chesty cough and noticed last night how much it effects my riding. As well as getting a good kick in the backside about doing more hills and actually going and doing some S&C – as one of my mates keeps nagging me to do. I need to mix up my training again. I also need to swim more as I have signed up for Coniston End to End and that now lands BEFORE my half-iron distance race.
  • Outlaw X is quite a bit closer to home. I hadn’t sorted out my accommodation for Holkham but Nottinghamshire is closer – which has some obvious travelling advantages. I also think I know a few people who might be doing it so that’s a bit of a winner for me too.
  • The weather will, hopefully, stand a chance of being cooler. Equally, there is a higher chance of it being a lot wetter – but I don’t really do well in heat – to be fair, this is just an advantage of having a later race – it could end up being an Indian summer and hot!
  • It gives me chance to go do some sportive that I’d like to do which will help with training – after last years events and thinking about my cycle fitness by September last year – I was in a good place – hopefully I will be in an even better place by this September!
  • Hopefully I have learnt to not book in too many social events – or rather, balance them a bit better. I feel like, after 8 years of being in a relationship with someone who actually wasn’t that spontaneous and that up for mini-adventures, I’ve been making up for lost time. I don’t want to lose that but I’ve been thinking about this a lot since Alnwick Sprint a couple of weeks ago – why not incorporate my mini-adventures/road trips with training? So going forward, I want to incorporate them.
  • Triathlon/training has taken over a bit too much and I need to step back as well I think. Hopefully in changing races, I can actually take a step back. I am heeding the warnings of my friends about burnout before I do actually properly burn out.

Genuinely think this is a good call on my part. A middle distance triathlon was the goal for this year and changing it has all sorts of advantages. It also means that I stand a better chance of getting a time I am actually happy with compared to racing in 6 weeks and possibly breaking myself!

Roll on a summer of training and enjoying life!