Reader, the race is over.

Eva Lake was born on August 5 at 6:15am, weighing 7lbs 5.5 oz and measuring 20″ long.

It’s pretty shabby that I’m only writing this now, when Eva is 11 weeks old, but that’s how long it has taken to find some semblance of normal life.

The best part of her birth story is that my waters broke at 3:30am on 4 August, but with no accompanying contractions. So Tom, Haile and I went for one last 5km run together before sunrise, and yes, during labour.

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After my waters had broken and a 5km run with an unconcerned Haile

The run failed to bring on the desire effect, however, so later that day we found ourselves in the Wellington Regional Hospital with me being hooked up to IV Pitocin.  Have you heard of Pitocin?  It’s a drug that intensifies contractions by about a billion (no exaggeration).  Our “birth plan” (hahahah) was to go all natural, no drugs, just hypnobirthing that sweet baby out of me.  Well, modern medicine says that if your waters break, you have 24 hours to get the baby out before risk of infection to both mother and baby. So they needed to speed things up.  Bye bye birth plan.

I had envisioned myself walking the hallways and breathing the baby down, but instead I was all but chained to the bed and struggling to survive each thunderous, murderous Pitocin-enhanced contraction.  I doubt I’d have made it through without my doula Tina and Tom helping me every moment of the long night (honestly, I don’t know how anyone gives birth without a doula). I’ll spare you the details but it was no-epidural as I had planned (stupid, stupid me) and Eva Lake was born early the next morning. And then my placenta didn’t come out. Which meant after stitching me back up, the doctor had to dive back in with foreceps and pull it out piece by piece (sorry, too much information?).  The result was very bad tearing. I’m only telling you this because that’s what stopped me from returning to sport for so many weeks after (and unfortunately, as confirmed by my OB today, it’s still not fully healed).

But I did get this:

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Taking Eva home from hospital at 2 days old

I found going home with a brand new little baby very difficult, especially when I couldn’t even take a walk outside for over a month. I felt like I had been playing a game throughout my pregnancy – how much can I do? How long can I keep going for? But once Eva arrived, reality hit hard. How much could I do? Nothing, just feed her and hold her and try to stop her from crying.  That was the first month and the straight truth was that I was not in a good place for a long time.  There were a lot of tears.  I don’t mean from Eva (although there were plenty of those too).

I had a big blobby postpartum jelly belly, a body that felt destroyed from childbirth, the brutal burning summer sun which meant I couldn’t even venture outside with her, and a helpless hungry newborn. Tom was (and is) amazing. He didn’t blink when I cried for the 15th time each day and he approached baby care as an equally shared responsibility (as it should be, but still not so common to see in action I think). I’ve read that the first 3 months of the baby’s life are known as the “fourth trimester” because essentially they should still be in the womb in terms of their capabilities, but they have to come out earlier due to the size of their heads versus, ahem, the size of the exit pathway. Everyone told me that at 3 months old, everything would get easier.

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Scenes from 4am, just a few days old.

Slowly things came together, as friends promised they would.  I attended some new mothers’ support groups – it’s amazing how much better you feel when you realise that other babies, and their mothers, cry too – and we slowly learned a bit more about Eva and she learned to negotiate the world.  Now at 11 weeks she is doing great, sleeping through the night frequently and giving us big smiles.  It’s amazing what a difference it makes once the baby starts smiling.  It’s a real game-changer.

39 weeks pregnant, 1 mile ocean swim with friends

At 7 weeks postpartum, the doctor told me I could resume gentle exercise, with the caveat that things were still not all healed up – so take it easy.  I started out in the pool and was shocked to discover how much easier it was to swim without a huge pregnant belly. Same with my first run.  Although I was still as slow as can be, I was already a minute faster a mile without the belly despite being massively unfit. Relief!

I gained a lot of weight while pregnant.  43 lbs / 19.5kg [Edited – later consideration of numbers showed I actually gained 50 lbs / 23kg]. They say you’re only supposed to gain 25-35 lb. As active as I was, there was no way that was happening – the numbers on the scale were on a very steady ascent.  That was with running, swimming, cycling, walking and yoga for around 10 hours a week.  My friend Cathy was kind enough to point out that I fell pregnant right before/at Ironman Florida, so I was at racing weight rather than “normal” weight, so I do need to take that into account. Easier said than done.

Nonetheless, post-baby, I was, and am, dealing with a lot of extra weight slowing me down, plus I am massively unfit from all the time off and minimal real training during pregnancy. Which is difficult both physically and mentally.  But I’m trying not to worry about it, and hopefully once I resume proper training, it will trickle away…. My chocolate binges probably don’t help.  My current return to exercise is running and swimming a few times a week, as permitted when Tom can look after Eva, and doing core exercises every day. I’m looking forward to getting back on the bike soon, but my nether regions aren’t quite ready for that yet. My good friend Lara (she of 40 weeks spin class) and I are holding each other accountable to do the MuTu 12 weeks core & diastasis & pelvic floor workout.  I hate that sort of stuff and I never do it normally (OH! That’s why my core is so weak!). Although Lara is in Toronto and I am in Florida, we text each other daily to confirm we have done our sets for the day. Lara, I love you. Yes, it was her idea.

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Eva’s first swim

We have even taken Eva swimming, and she seems to like it – see above! (Lovely scar on my arm from the hit & run one year ago.)

And we have taken her to brunch in Palm Beach:

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But her favourite place of all (other than suckling my boob) is on the quilt I made for her:

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To be continued:  travelling abroad with Eva, my first runs, my first race back!

 

I walked out towards the ocean. We had pumped our tyres and filled our water bottles in transition in the dark, scurried to the transition bags to put our last-minute items away while the loudspeakers brayed with a countdown to head to the beach for the swim start. I reluctantly took off my sweatshirt, my flip flops, and awaited a shiver in my tri shorts and sports bra, all that I was going to be wearing for the swim. But the air was already hot.  Somehow you don’t notice the moment between dark and light when you’re occupied with a thousand thoughts. We had gone from the harsh glow of head lamps flashing in our eyes to a calm and underwhelming sunrise.

The ocean had its own surprises. Yesterday it has been a tranquil dozing beast. Today it had shaken off its stupor and the surf was crashing down, lashing out in mock fury at the nearly 3000 swimmers lined up on the beach. And it was a non-wetsuit swim due to the unusually warm sea temperatures.

Tom, Will and I ran into the waves for a quick wetting and warm-up before the official start. The ocean wasn’t playing nice. I fought my way out for less than a minute before heading back to shore. The swim is normally my best discipline of the three. I knew today’s swim wasn’t going to be good. It also didn’t help that I hadn’t done any swimming since the morning of the hit & run three weeks earlier. Never mind. It wasn’t the moment for doubts. I had had ample reason and opportunity to pull out of this Ironman, but by now I knew I was doing it, whatever the day would bring.

We squeezed our way into the starting queue. We were immediately absorbed by over a thousand hot bodies, naked skin against skin, smooth skulls in bathing caps and goggles hanging around necks, people anxiously glancing at their watches counting down until the start, the whole lot squeezing, pulsing, moving towards the start. At 6:15, the crush burst over the timing mats and we threw ourselves into the sea.

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With thanks to Kris Swarthout and Nick Morales for this photo of Ironman Florida 2015 swim start

And so Ironman Florida began.

I think it’s fair to say that Ironman training had begun once we had completed Iceland’s Laugavegur Ultra Marathon on 17 July (best race I’ve ever done, by the way – see here for some spectacular photos). We had a week off after the ultra, and I had 3 weeks off after my crash, so that left 15 weeks of training for the Ironman. In that time, I:

  • swam for 26 hours – 70 km / 44 miles in the pool and/or ocean
  • cycled for over 76 hours – 2187 km / 1359 miles
  • ran for over 48 hours – 471 km / 293 miles

Many people will have done a whole lot more to prepare, but nonetheless it was a significant time commitment and effort, and originally I had hopes for a good race. Then, stuff happened:

  1. I got hit by a car. Yeah yeah, you’re sick of me saying that by now. 3 weeks off pre-race and nursing injuries and wounds is not really ideal, though.
  2. It was too bloody hot so it was a non-wetsuit swim. For any non-triathletes reading this, wetsuits are like body-sized life preservers. They give you free buoyancy, free glide, free speed.  Most swimmers are significantly faster in a wetsuit than without one. No, it’s not cheating because in most triathlons, wetsuits are mandatory so every single person has that same advantage.
  3. And…. I got completely decked by the surf going in for my second lap and I lost my goggles.  Yes, lost my goggles!

Swim: 3.8 km / 2.4 miles – 1:26

My first lap was uneventful. There was the usual scrum of bodies kicking, hitting, punching, and trying to get through the surf took a while and lots of diving under the big waves, and then once we were out there was a pretty strong current dragging us off course if we weren’t sighting the buoys consistently. But overall I just kept it steady and made my way around and didn’t really worry. Swimming is normally my thing.

As I came out onto the beach after my first lap, I heard our friend Dave the announcer saying that huge numbers of people were losing goggles. I thought to myself as I ran back into the sea, what would I do if that happened?

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A swimmer heads back out for the second lap, with thanks to Nick Morales

It was even rougher heading into lap 2. I had made my way out maybe some 300m, diving under the big waves, when I saw a huge one coming. I am comfortable in the sea, I am a strong swimmer, waves don’t scare me. I dived underneath, but it was no use – it slammed me to the ground, tumbled me upside down, dragged me to the side. For the moment, the race was forgotten and it was just the moment of staying calm and not fighting the drag until I could make my way to the surface. And then I came up sputtering, feeling for my head, knowing already that my goggles were gone. I saw a glimpse of them in the swirl of the opaque water but as I lunged for them, another swimmer thrashed over top of them and then both the swimmer and the goggles were gone.  I felt around blindly. I was being dragged further out to the side into the bigger and bigger surf and I knew I couldn’t do another whole lap without goggles.  For a brief moment, I wondered whether this race was just not to be. I could end it now. Swim to shore, walk to transition and turn in my chip. It was just too much after everything else that had happened.

But I knew I wouldn’t do that.

I fought my way out of the water. The big surf kept dragging me back every time the waves rolled in, and so it took me ages to get back to the beach. I ran along shouting “goggles!” and – bless her, bless her, bless her – a woman reached into her bag and threw a pair in my direction. I have a terrible time getting goggles to fit my face at the best of times so I made these as tight as they would go and crashed back out into the water for my second lap. While I was utterly grateful to this unknown woman for allowing me to continue the race, these new goggles were terrible. They were tiny and dark and foggy and they pinched and hurt. I couldn’t see a swimmer next to me until they thwacked me and I definitely couldn’t see the buoys to sight properly. But don’t mistake this for a complaint, because those goggles got me around when I would have been a DNF (“Did Not Finish”).

I finished the swim in 1:26. In absolutely ideal conditions (never count on those!) – that is, no accident, wetsuit swim, calm waters – I would have hoped for 1:00 to 1:05. This was the slowest swim I’d ever done in any triathlon. Oh well. I reckon I lost 10 minutes to the goggles incident. In reality, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I was 36th out of the water in my age group out of 126. I reckon if I hadn’t lost my goggles, I would have been top 10. Tant pis.

T1: 12:14

I’m slow in transition at the best of times. This was the worst of times. We had a long run up from the beach (600m according to Tom’s Garmin, or nearly half a mile) and into a hotel ballroom. The volunteers were excellent. One grabbed me and proceeded to help me – yes, don’t laugh – wash the salt out of my wounds, clean them up, cover them in vaseline (she barked as she dabbed her fingers into a giant tub – “you don’t have any blood born illnesses, do you?” – and then she wrapped me up with my assortment of sticky burn windows and bandages. Then she helped me get my compression sleeves over the wounds (important to keep the bandages on, the wounds clean and the sun off of everything), calf sleeves on my legs for yet more sun protection, my sleeved-top over it all, sprayed the remaining showing skin with sunscreen and filled my pockets with my food for the bike. She was superb. I wouldn’t mind having her dress me every day. Without her, I expect my 12 minute transition time could have been closer to 20.

Bike: 180.2 km / 112 miles – 6:22

IMG_0529The bike remains my weakest discipline of the 3. Unlike my first Ironman, Ironman Lanzarote, this time I didn’t have any fears about actually making it around the course, but this almost entirely flat course had some of its own challenges.  The wind is always an issue in Florida, because it is so flat – there is nothing to stop it as it comes blowing in, whistling through the flat land and giant clear-cut roads. The forecast that morning showed that we would start with a headwind, and then end with one too, because the wind would change direction during the course of the day, so that was fun – a headwind for most of the ride. That said, it wasn’t a terribly strong wind so it really could have been much worse. The course is, quite frankly, dull. There was one wooded section early on that looked like it had some nice trails, and I thought, ooh, trail running, that sounds like much more fun. Otherwise it was black or grey tarmac ahead, white lines, avoiding cars, avoiding cyclists, eat, drink, pedal pedal, don’t think about the painful hip, don’t think about the painful elbow and hands, just pedal. For over six hours.

My one major criticism of Ironman Florida was that much of the bike course was on open roads. That is to say, roads fully open to cars, trucks, motorbikes etc. Every other triathlon I have ever done has been mostly closed roads, with just the occasional local vehicle going by. No, this was full on heavy traffic and given that I was hit by a car for no good reason at all 3 weeks previously, that did make me nervous. Especially since the shoulder was full of cyclists in race mode, overtaking while big trucks thundered by. I emphatically did not enjoy those big roads in any way.

My ride was uneventful. The road lay ahead, long straight sections. It was hot but overcast. We had 5 minutes of rain late into the ride.  I tried hard to eat on schedule, as per all the long training rides I’d done – alternating between Clif bars and Honey Stinger Waffles every hour, and drinking my bottles of Scratch Labs. I stopped at a couple of aid stations for water and bananas, I stopped three times to pee, had to queue once for the loo, and otherwise I plugged away for 112 miles. The puncture wound on my elbow made going into aero position very painful so I mostly stayed upright the whole time, very uncomfortable on a tri bike. I reckon I got down into aero maybe 30% of the time. Enough for one photographer to snap a photo, at least.

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Pre-crash, my goal for the bike was around 5:50-6:00.  I still had pain in my left hip when I pedalled, aero position meant full weight on an open puncture wound, and I’d had nearly 3 weeks of no cycling.  I was not unhappy with 6:22.  I came off the bike 42nd in my age group.

T2: 8:45

Another painfully slow transition. I changed socks. I re-applied sunscreen. I swapped out uneaten food for gels. I took 2 ibuprofen for my hip. I ate a gel. I blow dried my hair. Ok, not quite.

Run: 42.2 km / 26.2 miles – 4:32

IMG_0442I didn’t know how well my hip would hold up for the run. I also think it hurt me a lot to have essentially 3 weeks off running prior to the race. But it was what it was, and I was going to make the best of it, at whatever pace I could manage. My plan was to walk the aid stations for no more than 30 seconds, and otherwise to maintain a steady if not fast run. And that actually worked out pretty well. The only time I didn’t run outside of an aid station was just before mile 19 when I stopped to vomit 5 times. Yeah, that wasn’t so good.  My stomach was happy on the bike and for the first 10K running, but I am generally not great with gels and despite practicing with them, my stomach still started rebelling after the first hour. I stopped for the loo a few times but nothing helped… the stomach was just getting worse and worse until finally I vomited, when I then felt much better, and decided I would have to continue from that point onwards taking on no more nutrition. Just water and a little bit of coke (in retrospect, I should have had a lot more coke). And here is a dirty secret. Not long after the vomiting episode, I came to an aid station where they were offering chicken broth. I’ve been vegetarian for around 3 years but at that moment I needed to get something down me, something salty, not sweet.  I took that paper cup and I downed it in three gulps and it was absolutely delicious.

It was unseasonably hot. But it was a cloudy day and that helped enormously. I put ice in my cap at every aid station, poured ice water over myself, and stuffed sponges down my front and back in an effort to keep cool. It seemed to work – I never suffered from heart rate drift like I so often did on the super hot long brick days I did in training. This was not my best day running, by any means, but I kept moving, was consistent, and I overtook 598 people on the run course.  Pre-accident, I was looking to run 3:45 to 4:00 for the marathon; on the day, I ran 4:32. Again, I wasn’t unhappy with my result considering the circumstances.

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The run course is two laps, and it gets dark very early in Panama City – sunset was 5:15, I believe, which meant that you had to finish within 11 hours to finish in daylight. Once the sun had gone, the course was dark, as in properly dark, couldn’t see where you were putting your feet type dark, which I hadn’t expected. But I’ve done a lot of very early morning training runs before sunrise so I’m not unused to running semi-blind, and at plodding speed you don’t risk tripping up quite so much. Before long I was on the home stretch, stomach still in a bloated knot, legs barely lifting but still running until the end. The red mats of the finish line stretch came up sooner than I had expected (who says that in an Ironman?!) and then it was all over. As I crossed the finish line, the loudspeakers boomed with announcer Dave’s voice,

You are an Ironman, Julia. Major car accident, hit on her bike 3 or 4 weeks ago. Way to go Julia. Brain power trumps body power.

Total time: 12:41:57

I finished 27th in my age group, 125th woman and 670th overall out of around 2980.

This was my second Ironman. I’m not in love with the distance, but I haven’t decided whether I’m done with it yet or not. I also have had major bike crashes weeks out from both Ironmans. It would be kind of nice to see what I could do if I weren’t nursing injuries or forced to take time off to convalesce.  My original goal for this Ironman was 11:10-11:45, and I reckon it was not unreasonable if things had gone right. But I’m not sure I need to chase that goal any further – does a number really matter? Maybe I will move on to new and different challenges. I’m still taking it a day a  time.  It’s two weeks post-Ironman right now and my hip still hurts to walk or run, so I have been focusing on yoga and having a harsh reminder that being fit to swim/bike/run means nothing once you enter a yoga studio!

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This was Part II of my Race Report. You can read Part I here.

After being hit by a car while out cycling just 3 weeks out from Ironman Florida, I didn’t expect to be able to race Ironman Florida. I was thankful to be alive, to be mostly in one piece, but I was also extremely bruised, swollen, and bloodied.  I could barely walk – surely it was ridiculous to put any more thoughts towards the Ironman.

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But I am stubborn, and I didn’t want to give up yet. I said I would take it day by day and make no decisions until the day, and that’s what I did.  After 4 days of complete rest, I started seeing an excellent physio, Hillary Hamer, herself a strong triathlete and ultra runner so she knew where I was coming from and she didn’t flinch when I said that I still had hopes of making it to the start line.

Instead, Hillary put me to work, forcing me raise my left arm above my head – a move that I had tried to avoid since the crash, due to road rash all over my shoulder and a deep puncture wound on my elbow, and just general hurt.  She made me do hip and glute strengthening exercises despite the massive bruising (or rather, because of it), she made me use all the things that were hurting rather than continuing to baby them, and she ultrasounded, massaged, iced and taped all my bruised and swollen bits.  My bum – where I was hit directly by the car – was just a black and purple mess of bruising.

The irony was that I had gone through all this last year – when I crashed my bike just four weeks out from Ironman Lanzarote.  This time I had one week fewer and more serious injuries (last year I had severe bruising but no road rash or open wounds), but it seems I’ve got the recovery routine down pretty well – unfortunately! After a week of rest, icing, and phyio, Tom set up my bike in the living room on the turbo trainer and on I climbed for my first 30 minutes of cardio.  My bruised hip/glute hurt with every pedal stroke. But I was told that as long as the pain was not intolerable, it wasn’t a bad thing.

imageThe next day I did an hour on the turbo trainer, just easy spinning.  Same pain, no worse, no better. I thought to myself – I can handle this. What was more worrying was the puncture wound on my elbow, which was directly where I would put my full weight onto the aero bars in a race.  But again, take it a day at a time, make no decisions.  10 days after the crash, I rode my bike outside again for the first time, with my friend Nancy.  Nancy had also suffered a terrible bike crash this summer, and after extensive surgery and physio it was also her first time back on the bike outside. We were a sorry pair and a great team.  My bruised hip/bum still hurt, but no worse than before.

And then it was time to run. It didn’t matter at all if I could cycle if I couldn’t run.  And so after nearly 2 weeks of convalescence, I did my first 30 min jog.  Same old story – it was painful but it was manageable. And although it looked nasty and was very sore to the touch, my bruised ankle didn’t seem to mind jogging.

And so the week of Ironman was upon us.  I had done a couple of gentle rides and a few short trots.  No swimming, so that my wounds could continue to heal. My friend Will had flown all the way from London with his fiancée Malgosia to race with Tom and me. We had been planning for over a year to race this Ironman together.

My options:

  1. Do Ironman Florida, knowing it would be a sub-par race, given injury and extended time off.
  2. Skip Ironman Florida, and do Ironman Cozumel instead (3 weeks later).
  3. Forget about Ironman this year.

I discussed these options with Tom and friends ad nauseam (sorry guys).  And although really options 2 and 3 were the more logical choices, I was still keen on doing Ironman Florida, providing I wasn’t going to do any long-term damage to my body.  The visible bruising was gone, but I was still very sore and with limited range of movement. I didn’t mind if my time was slower than I had originally been training for. I wanted to do the Ironman.  To do, not to race.

IMG_0385We made the 8 hour drive up to Panama City on Wednesday. I packed as if I were racing, although I still wasn’t certain I would be. Every day counted as another day for my injuries to heal. We bought yet more expensive bandages for my wounds for the race. We went to the expo.  And as I stood in line to register, I thought, that’s it – once I pick up my bib packet, it looks like I’m doing it. I still hadn’t made a definitive decision, although “yes” was the likely answer. Despite injury and nearly 3 weeks off everything… I wanted to swim, to bike, to run.

Nancy texted me that night, asking how I was feeling. I told her – nervous and unsure. She told me to do a headstand to drain the boogiemen out of my brain. I liked her way of thought, so I did what she said.  She was right. It helped.

We racked our bikes the next day. My bike, racked. This race was looking pretty likely. But until my timing chip on my ankle passed over the starting line, I could still pull out. Meanwhile, we were hearing more and more mutterings that the swim was going to be non-wetsuit legal, something which made my situation even more complicated with a slew of bandages to put on my still-open wounds in transition.

I didn’t get much sleep that night. Was I being foolish to race – or melodramatic not to race? Was I being too hard on myself – or at risk of being too easy on myself?

 

My Race Report is continued HERE.

A tremendous slamming, like the whole world colliding with me. The noise, filling my whole head. Flying. Lying on grass with one arm bent underneath me at a wrong angle. People shouting. “Don’t move, the ambulance is on its way.”image

Saturday’s long brick session ended very early with a hit and run.

………

I’m ok.

………

 

I can’t believe that I am ok.  It all happened so fast. I never saw the car coming. I was pedalling happily, down in aero, riding east along Northlake Boulevard towards the coast.  It’s a big road, but I was in the bike lane. It’s a long straight road. There were no cars pulling out, no turns, nothing to make me wary. I had been working against a fierce wind heading north for the first hour of the ride and was now in a crosswind that allowed my efforts to reflect some speed. I was riding moderately hard and going 34 km/h (just over 21 mph).  I had swum an hour in the dark that morning, got on the bike around 8 and was looking to be on the bike for a solid 6h30 before running for 50 minutes.  It was to be my very last full big brick session before Ironman Florida.

Last year I had a major crash 4 weeks out from Ironman Lanzarote.  That one was caused by bad luck and my own doing – I hit a pothole and lost control and crashed into a tree (read about it here if you’re interested).  This year, it’s just 3 weeks out from Ironman Florida, and it was absolutely not my fault in any way.  That makes it feel worse.

We don’t know what happened.  The driver just drove out of his lane into the bike lane. He clearly didn’t see me.  Witnesses said they watched him crash into me and just keep going.  Nobody got his license plate number.  The impact was hard enough to tear his whole wing mirror off his car. He was going about 50 mph (80 km/h). The police speculated he may have been drunk, he may have been uninsured, he may have been texting. We don’t know.

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The wing mirror that ripped off when it collided with my arse

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What I do know was everyone else that day was tremendous. The witnesses who stopped to help me, who called an ambulance for me. The paramedics who took care of me – who even let my bike come on the ambulance with me once the police had taken photos for evidence. The nurses and doctors at the hospital, the police who came to the hospital to check on me. Everyone was brilliant.

As I lay on the stretcher in the ambulance, my phone buzzed. A text from my friend Ben. “The wind is bad coming from the north. Hope you’re only riding south today.”  I hesitated. Do I tell her? I didn’t want to worry anybody or be melodramatic. But it had happened. It was real.  I told her.

She and Travis met me at the hospital 7 minutes after I arrived.  7 minutes.  With clean clothes for me because mine had been cut off by the paramedics. Tom arrived not long after. The shock was starting to set in.  Seeing them all there in my room felt like tangible happiness.image

Ben told me that our friend Nancy was also trying to track me down. We eventually learned that she had heard about the crash on Facebook.

I had sent Nancy my planned route the night before. She knew exactly where I was going. She knew it was me although she desperately hoped it wasn’t. She was frantically texting and calling all our mutual friends, not saying why, trying not to scare anybody but trying to find out if I was ok.

And actually, truly, I was.

The Good News

  • I was alive.
  • I didn’t hit my head. Zero head injuries (I will still likely replace my helmet just in case!)
  • X-rays showed no broken bones!
  • When I was hit, I was next to a grass verge, so rather than flying through the air and landing on concrete or asphalt, I landed on grass. I think that made a real difference.

The Bad News

  • Road rash. We aren’t sure if it’s just from the car or whether I somersaulted through the bike lane before ending on the grass, but I have bad road rash on my shoulder and elbow, and also some on my hip and knee. I lost my favourite jersey and shorts – both were burned through and then cut off off by the paramedics.
  • Big puncture wound in my left elbow and very swollen elbow area.
  • Sprained shoulder / rotator cuff issues from landing with the arm at a wrong angle.
  • Severe hematoma on my left arse/hip where the car had direct impact.  Some utterly fantastic colours coming through now….
  • Sprained right ankle, likely from the bike hitting me as I fell.
  • Various bruises of varying degrees of severity all over my knees and calves.

All in all, I got off pretty lightly considering that a car ran me over at 50 mph.

As for the bike, it didn’t come out too badly. Unlike last year’s crash, where the bike frame literally ripped in two, this time I only managed to tear off the left Di2 shifter and there are some compressions on the frame. If I manage to heal in time to race, the bike should be good to go too. If I’m not too scared to get back in the saddle.

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So what next?

Ironnman Florida is in 2 weeks, 3 days. I don’t know whether I will make it to the start line. The hospital wanted to send me home on crutches with an air cast, but I said I would rather hobble. I am acutely aware that I am lucky to be alive, to be relatively intact, and that whether or not I’m fit to race is irrelevant when I consider the big picture. Nonetheless, I’ve been training hard for this race for months and I really have put in nearly all the work. It is crushing to miss it after all that.

I’m taking it day by day. My good friends Will and Malogsia are flying in for the race from London, arriving in 10 days – yahoo! And I’m trying to stay positive, moving gently, drinking copious cups of tea and hugging my dog Haile despite his protests.

I am grateful to be alive and to have such caring friends and family who came to visit me in hospital, who brought me homemade cookies, sent me flowers, chocolates, books, made me cups of tea, and who continue to send messages of encouragement and love every day. Thank you all.

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Thank you Zoe, Alex, & George for the flowers!

The cooking theme continues!

This past weekend was another massive brick session, and I needed to be sure to power up for it appropriately.  It dawned on me to try two of my own foolproof recipes.  These ones are guaranteed delicious.

Banana Muffins or Banana Breadimage

I have made this banana bread for years, but this time I made the same recipe into muffins in order to have portable food for the bike, and it worked perfectly.  The original recipe comes from A Little Bird with the omission of the booze and sultanas. I save old bananas by popping them into the freezer, and when I have enough I thaw them out and bake ’em.  I should add that the quantities set out below are for one cake or one pan of muffins…. I nearly always double that batch and either freeze the second loaf or give it away, ‘cuz that’s how delicious it is.

175g plain flour (=1 1/2 cups)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

125g unsalted butter (melted, or not – I’ve done both. I also frequently use salted butter. = just over 1/2 cup)

150g sugar  (=2/3 cup)

2 large eggs

around 4 very ripe bananas

30g chopped walnuts (walnuts aren’t my favourite nut, but they work well in this recipe. I’ve also used pistachios in a pinch. = a handful)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 170°C / Gas Mark 3 / 338°F.  Grease up your loaf tin or muffin tin. I’ve used butter for this or olive oil spray.

Spread the walnuts out onto a baking sheet and place them high up in the oven so they toast.  Keep an eye on them; it only takes 4-6 minutes and you don’t want them to burn.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl.  Melted or room-temperature butter makes this much easier.  Add in the eggs and the bananas and mash it all up.

Slowly mix in the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt. Don’t over stir.  Add in the vanilla then stir in the walnuts.  Boom, you’re done.

Pour the mixture into your tin(s) and bake.  If you’re making a loaf, it will take around an hour.  A big loaf may take more time (put a knife into it when you think it might be done. If it comes out clean, you’re good.  Messy, bake some more).  I’ve found that it’s hard to overbake these babies.

If you’re making muffins, around 40 minutes should be enough.

Cool and enjoy.

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This recipe does seem to be pretty idiot-proof. I’ve not managed to mess it up yet. However, see those chocolate cookies on the right in the above photo? Don’t they look delicious? Want a closer look?

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Don’t be fooled. They were disgusting.  My attempt at gluten free chocolate cookies. Tom and I shared one freshly baked, both made faces and the rest went straight into the bin. Yuck. Epic fail. No, I’m not giving you the recipe.

But I was on a cooking binge. That same evening I also whipped up most delicious carb-loaded trick of all: tortilla española. I learned to make tortilla years ago when I was living in Ireland, taught by my Irish boyfriend Des who had in turn been taught by his Spanish ex-girlfriend.  Thank you, Des – this recipe has proved to be the gift that keeps on giving!

 

Tortilla Españolaimage

Tortilla to Spaniards is like PB&J to Americans or tea to the Brits – as commonplace as it comes, but always welcome, always delicious. But to be boringly healthy, I’ve changed the oil from the gallons of vegetable oil to much less coconut oil. It makes the tortilla just as moist and you can use way less.

3-5 potatoes, depending on how big you want it to be. If you’re making your first one or if you have a small pan, smaller is definitely more manageable.  I try to make them as big as possible!

a hearty tablespoon of refined coconut oil

around half a cup of frozen peas (other veg can be used too)

4-6 eggs, depending on how much potato you’re working with.

1/2 chopped onion (I buy frozen chopped onion and it’s a great shortcut)

Get the onions gently cooking in the coconut oil in a large frying pan.image

Cut the potatoes into very thin slices. Think dauphinoise type slices. As you cut them up, add them to the onions frying away, until all the potatoes are in the pan.  Keep the heat low and stir occasionally so the bottom potatoes don’t burn and so that the top potatoes get their turn on the hot bottom too.  If you have a lid to your frying pan, putting that on in between stirrings will cook the potatoes through even faster.  You want the potatoes to be cooked through so they are really really soft. This normally takes 15-25 minutes depending on how many potatoes you’ve used.  If at any point you notice the pan going too dry, add a little bit more coconut oil.

If you are using a fresh vegetable, like chopped up asparagus or peppers, add them in with the potatoes to cook. If you’re using the extremely convenient and very tasty frozen peas option, add them in at the end. I find that the peas give a really satisfying pop of moisture and sweetness.image

Crack open your eggs into a large bowl and beat them.  Add a bit of salt and pepper, but don’t overdo it (you can always add more to the cooked product, but you can’t remove it!).  Add in the cooked potato, onion, and miscellaneous veg and stir it up. You can mash it up a bit too with your wooden spoon.  Then pour it all back into your frying pan, still on low heat on your stove top.  Let the mixture settle into the bottom and pat it on top until smooth and press the spoon around the sides to try to bring the mixture into a vague cake-shape.  Leave cooking for maybe 15 minutes or so. I watch for little bubbles appearing at the sides of the tortilla – usually a sign that it’s ready to be flipped.

Flipping sounds scary, but it isn’t. Just place a large plate on top of the tortilla, hold it in place and flip the pan so the tortilla ends up on the plate. Then gently slide it back into the pan to let the other side cook. This side takes less time – maybe 5-10 minutes.

Then stick a plate back on the tortilla and flip it out of the pan again. Presto!  A perfect looking potato “cake”, absolutely delicious and full carbs and protein. I cut a few squares, wrapped them in cling film and stuck them in my jersey pocket for the ride. Delicious. As a main meal, it looks impressive to guests and is a vegetarian (although not vegan) meal.

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These foods kept me going strong for the day – a 1 hour swim, 6 hour bike ride, and 50 minute run. Best of all, my friend Molly surprised me by showing up for the run, meeting me at my house, no less. With our chit chat, the run flew by and suddenly I was done for the day – relief! 12 hours later I was back out running at 5:20 am, 2h45 minutes with the Wellington Runners’ Club and feeling surprisingly good. Which I put down to being adequately fuelled from the day before.

This Saturday is my very last mega swim-bike-run session and I’m also racing the Wellington Horse Country 10 Miler on Sunday.  I’m using the term “race” here very loosely as I don’t expect to have much oomph left!

3 weeks 1 day until Ironman Florida! 

What are you training for?

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My friend Zoe took this photo of graffiti on the Parkland Walk, an amazingly beautiful and somewhat hidden away woodland trail in north London, minutes from our house. It was one of my absolute favourite places to run, with or without Zoe. I remember running by this graffiti and the words sticking in my head.  What would I do if I weren’t afraid?

Zoe posted this photo 115 weeks ago, some 2 years 3 months – around the time that I raced my very first half Ironman, Ironman 70.3 Haugesund, in Norway. That was already a huge leap for me. When I contemplated doing a full Ironman, I thought to myself, it’s not fear holding me back – it’s just common sense. I can’t do an Ironman. That’s not fear, that’s just being rational.

But it stuck in my head. What would I do if I weren’t afraid? What would I do if I weren’t afraid?

I’ve talked about Kathrine Switzer before, the first woman in the world to race a marathon, in my Thanks Paula, Thanks Kathrine post about running the London Marathon this year. Kathrine talks about the fear she felt when the race officials attacked her mid-race, trying to drag her off course:

That was how scared I felt, as well as deeply humiliated, and for just a tiny moment, I wondered if I should step off the course. I did not want to mess up this prestigious race. But the thought was only a flicker. I knew if I quit, nobody would ever believe that women had the capability to run 26-plus miles. If I quit, everybody would say it was a publicity stunt. If I quit, it would set women’s sports back, way back, instead of forward.

Kathrine finished that race, and many more since (in blistering times!), and most recently started up 261 Fearless, an organisation to promote women in sport. The organisation’s describes itself as “a global community of women, be she a walker, jogger, runner, or front of the pack racer, who have found strength, power and fearlessness from putting one foot in front of the other.”

There is no doubt that sport empowers us. A run in the rain is one of the best cures for a bad day at work, in my opinion – allowing you some ownership over your day. Some people take baby steps – I did. I started with a sprint triathlon, then an Olympic, then a half Ironman, and just when I thought I could go no further, I signed up for my first ultramarathon and my first Ironman.  My friend Karis didn’t need baby steps. She went from sprint tri to Ironman in one fell swoop. Some people will never do more than a 5K. The distance doesn’t matter. It’s learning to believe that you can do whatever you decide you want to do that does matter. And you learn this just one step at a time, one run at a time.

I’m not one for inspirational quotes and rah rah cheering. I like to get on with things and get the job done. But I do believe that every single person out there can do it if they believe they can do it, and for that reason I was honoured to be asked to be an ambassador for 261 Fearless to promote women in sport, to empower women through sport.

I now have a couple of ultramarathons under my belt and I’m currently training for my second full Ironman, which takes place in just 5 weeks. Training is really tough. I’m beginning to realise that I just don’t like being out on the bike for so long. Whether I race another Ironman distance after this one or not, however, I will know that the decision is based entirely on choice rather than fear.

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Pre-dawn swims, but the pool is much warmer here than in London!

 

As we crossed over the state line heading into Georgia from Florida, I received a text from my sister: “Going into hospital at 5pm to be induced.”

….

Laura was 39 weeks pregnant. We had booked Ironman 70.3 Augusta back before she was even pregnant, in November last year as part of the Ironman race package with Ironman Florida. We only realised the race was a week before her due date a month ago. But first babies are always late, right? And hey, there was no reason why she also couldn’t look after our dog while we were away….

We did arrange alternative dog-sitting, but we still didn’t really think the baby was going to come early. But Laura had had a tough pregnancy, with extreme back pain, nausea, and more recently was presenting with a dangerously high heart rate – 157 bpm while sitting down in the doctor’s office. Considering that’s nearing my Zone 4 heart rate on the bike… that wasn’t good.  Doctor said it was time to induce.

In a flurry of texts, we continued to drive (that is, Tom drove, I flurried the texts). Concerned friends were asking whether we were going to turn imagearound. Laura said keep going, there was nothing we could do. But another text said:  “I’m scared.”  I couldn’t believe I wasn’t there for her. But her husband Zach was going into hospital with her and she didn’t need more people taking up space while she laboured. And I needed the time on the drive to finish my baby quilt. Yes, I reckon out of the nearly 3000 athletes racing Ironman 70.3 Augusta, I was the only one frantically sewing the binding on a quilt on the way to the race. (Also yes, I have really nerdy hobbies.)

But what better way to take my mind off of the race? I always get bad pre-race nerves. To the point that every single time, I wonder why I put myself through so many races. (Because as much as I hate races before the start, I love them just as much after I finish. It’s a complicated twisted mindset.) On we drove to Augusta, Georgia.

Pre-race

Ironman Florida is our main goal this year, so we intended to treat this half as somewhat of a training race. We arrived early enough to get to to the Ironman Village to register and pick up our race packets, ate some dinner and went to bed for a night of no sleep, filled with anxiety for my poor sister in the throes of labour and me with the usual pre-race nerves.

imageSaturday morning we met up with my old friend Emily who lives in Augusta (my sister jokes that I know someone in every city everywhere in the world), enjoyed meeting her husband Andrew and her two kids that they had miraculously popped out since I last saw her 5 years ago, whilst also being an amazing trauma surgeon (yes, I feel intimidated!), and had a little walk along the Savannah River – the same river we would be swimming down the following morning.

 

A little bike ride to check out the bike course and a short run in the afternoon and we headed to the Bike Transition area to rack our bikes.  Ready to race!

But still no baby. The flurry of texts with Laura and Zach continued, mostly saying things weren’t going well and it looked like they might have to do a C-Section. Tom and I went to bed early and worried, but for once I wasn’t thinking about racing.image

Race Day

Our alarm was set for 5am so we could head to transition to pump our tyres and lay out our final gear for the race. But first things first. I woke up, looked at the phone, only to see some 52 messages from my family. Kylie Isabella Phillips had arrived safely during the night, a natural birth and a healthy baby girl. Well, if Laura could manage to deliver a baby naturally after 25 hours of labour, surely I could squeeze out a measly half Ironman? Time to race!

 

The Swim

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I had heard great things about the swim at this race – swimming with the current in a straight line down river, sounded good to me! It was a wave start and Tom’s wave was right before mine so we headed to the start together. It was very well organised. Wave by wave, we headed out onto a large pier and jumped into the water to swim 1900m downriver.

Photo thanks to http://www.pingjeffgreene.com

Photo thanks to http://www.pingjeffgreene.com

There were 220 in my age group, but we were well spread out across the pier and as soon as the horn sounded, I shot off to try to avoid any carnage. I needn’t have worried, as I was very quickly by myself, a few others within sight but nowhere near fighting distance. I knew this swim was going to be nice and short so I didn’t mind exerting a bit more effort than I might normally for 1900m. The current was ever-so-obliging and it wasn’t long before I was getting stuck into the pack of Tom’s orange-capped men ahead of me, trying to swim around them without wasting time.

I exited the water in 25:09, definitely a PB half Ironman swim for me but of course somewhat of an artificial time with that wonderful current. My swim had me 11th in my age group.

Bike

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Photo thanks to Podium Performance

It was drizzling gently as I headed off on the bike – hurrah! Training in Florida has been harsh with the extreme heat and humidity so I was really praying for a cooler day in Georgia. Although I couldn’t see out of my glasses for most of the ride, it was worth it for the lovely cooling effect.

The bike has always been my hardest/worst leg, and this race was no exception. The last half Ironman I did was HITS Naples back in January, where I had a massive PB of 5:01 with a 2:42 bike split (spoiler: I did not PB at Augusta). But that was on a dead flat course. While Augusta wasn’t crazy hilly when compared to some of the cycling I’d been doing in 2014 at Ironman Lanzarote, Yorkshire, and the Alps, including various Tour de France routes – it still had around 540m of climbing, which was a lot compared to the big fat ZERO of climbing I’ve been doing in Florida.

Let’s compare.

Ironman 70.3 Augusta bike:imageVs. HITS Naples Half Ironman bike:

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That Naples bike course is typical for most of my training rides in Florida, save for the occasional bridge. But I digress.  The Augusta bike course was great. We crossed the Savannah River downstream from where we had been swimming and set off into the South Carolina countryside and into the rolling hills. I love cycling on closed roads and the volunteers and police did a great job of keeping us riding safe and fast. I couldn’t see much through my wet glasses but I focused on keeping my heart rate in check, climbing steadily and descending safely. I had enough nutrition and drink on my bike to keep me going without needing to top up at any aid stations and I worked on picking off the men in front of me one by one. Of course, plenty of people were overtaking me too – including many of the fast women. Best of all was the weather. After the sweltering heat of Florida, the relatively cool temperatures (20°C / 68°F) and the drizzle meant I never felt hot on the bike. Amazing. Bliss.

Ironman Augusta 70.3 Julia bike

I arrived back at transition in 2:56:05, very pleased to have done sub-3 hours over the hilly course, with an average speed of 30.7 kph / 19.08 mph, with my bike leg placing me 24th in my age group.

Run

The race doesn’t really start until the run, does it – but uh oh, my legs were dead. This is going to be a disaster, I thought to myself, as I trudged up the (only) hill from the river to the city streets. Tom and I have been doing a lot of volume in the recent weeks and we didn’t taper for this race, and I could feel it in my legs. I had felt strong coming off the bike, but suddenly I felt like I had nothing left in me. Surely this triathlon business was pretty silly, wasn’t it? Did I really need to bother with this run?

But then I remembered Laura, 25 hours in labour, 25 hours of pain without knowing how or when it would stop… and I thought, I can do this. What’s a measly half marathon compared to what Laura went through? It’s amazing what a little perspective does for you. So I kept on plodding, trot trot trot, and when my watch beeped at the first mile and I saw that it was 8:12 (5:05 min/km), I realised it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I let myself walk the aid stations, which meant that I knew I never had to run for too long, keeping the walks to a maximum of 30 seconds.  The run course was two loops around downtown Augusta, with every single citizen out on the streets cheering for us by name – it was fabulous. I took a gel every half hour, I kept on trotting, and when I reached the halfway mark I told myself it was time to get a bit more serious and I upped the pace just that little bit more.

I soon noticed that I was overtaking the people who had dropped me back at the beginning when I had first started walking the aid stations. I wasn’t running fast, but I was running consistently and it slowly gained me ground as many of the others started to slow down. One of the great advantages of being a better runner than a cyclist is that you then get to overtake people in the run, and that’s what my run was from start to finish, just picking people off one by one.  I finished the race strong, with my last mile at 7:03 (4:22 min/km). In fact, in the overall rankings, I moved up 458 spots on the run.

Ironman Augusta 70.3 Julia run

I finished the run in 1:45:40, with an average pace of 8:03 min/mile / 5:00 min/km. Again, not my fastest run split (I did 1:40 at Naples) but I felt like I ran the best I could given the mileage in my legs and after those hills, and Tom was waiting for me at the finish line with a sweaty kiss.

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I placed 17th out of 220 in my age group, 67th woman and 432nd overall out of 2645 athletes, and most importantly, number one Auntie to Kylie.Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 12.55.09

Let’s talk food! Sadly I don’t mean pizza and beer, but rather the much less appetising notion of energy food, food on the go, sport food.  I hate it all. It has taken me years to be able to choke down a gel and even still I’m rubbish at it.  If I wouldn’t eat it while sitting at my desk at work (when I am always ravenous!), why would I want to eat it on the bike when food is the last thing on my mind?

Last year my good friend Karis (who incidentally thinks gels are scrumptious, damn her) gave me a copy of Feed Zone Portables when she came to visit us in London. She gave it to me right before we both did Ironman Lanzarote, and then I took some time off of mega long bike rides after that, so I didn’t get around to testing out any of the recipes.  And then suddenly we were moving to the US, and everything in our lives was upside down, and half our kitchen equipment was shipped around the world while we were in limbo.  Then the move happened, and everything was in boxes…. ok, enough excuses.  The point is, now that I am back doing long rides and gagging on jacked up pouches of gelatinous sugar, I finally remembered the book, dug it out and made something.

The authors of the book have cooked up food for riders for the Tour de France and pro Iroman athletes, so they know what they’re doing, and it gives a really detailed breakdown of the nutrition, carbs, protein, etc., so you know exactly what you are consuming on the bike.  The idea behind it is that unlike gels and bars, you actually can eat real food all day long, and even enjoy it rather than forcing it down.

I ended up adapting their recipe for Potato & Sweet Ginger Baked Rice Balls – it called for crystallised ginger, which I didn’t have, so I went with leek and potato instead (always a winning combo, right?).  In retrospect I should have gone for something a little less healthy in order to pack a bigger calorie punch, but going by the information they set out in the book, I would estimate that each ball I made had about 200 calories – not too bad.

Potato & Leek Baked Rice Balls

1 cup uncooked sticky rice (they recommend Calrose rice, which I used)

1 1/2 cups water

2 small potatoes, peeled, cooked and mashed (~1 1/2 cups)

1 chopped leek

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon olive oil

Salt

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 C) and lightly grease a baking sheet.

Cook the rice in a rice cooker if you have one, or just in a pot if you don’t, adding a dash of salt.

Boil the potatoes until they are soft.

Sauté the chopped leek and minced garlic in the oil.

Combine the potatoes and the leek and garlic and mince in a food processor to get a uniform finish (or if you’ve chopped the leeks fine enough, then just mash it all together by hand), then thoroughly with the cooked rice.

imagePlace clingfilm into a small bowl and then pack the rice mixture into the bowl.  With a little tug of the clingfilm, your ball will pop out in a perfectly uniform shape, beautiful!  Repeat until you’ve used up all the rice mixture, then bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes.

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Once you take them out of the oven, wrap them individually in cling film, tinfoil, or parchment paper, and they’re ready to go into your jersey pocket on the bike.

 

Verdict?

The rice is pretty dense, so there is no fear of them falling apart.  They were relatively easy to eat on the bike in terms of reaching into my pocket and grabbing one, and obviously with no packaging to tear open, they were easier to get into.  I would add more salt next time, as really, salt on a long sweaty bike ride is only a good thing, and the balls were slightly bland without it. Were they scrumptious? No, but they weren’t bad, and there are lots of other baked rice ball recipe choices in the book (date & almond; lemon ricotta; honey banana; peaches & coconut cream; BBQ chicken; sweet & sour chicken; curry pumpkin date; spicy black bean; sweet potato & bacon).  Let us not forget that I also messed with their original recipe of potato & ginger.

Baked rice balls are just one type of portable food suggested by the book – it has a gazillion others, from two-bite pies to baked cakes and cookies, baked eggs, waffles and pancakes, and many more.  So I will try again and see if I can find something that truly is delicious, both on and off the bike – but my initial reaction is generally positive.

Nutrition info: for the entire rice mixture, so divide between however many balls you make

Energy (calories): 940  Fat: 1  Sodium: 465  Carbs (g): 220  Fiber (g): 6  Protein (g): 17  Water (%): 57

On a side note, the good people behind Feed Zone Portables also make Skratch Labs electrolytes, which I only just discovered while out running the Leadville Marathon this summer. They are the tastiest electrolytes I have found to date (with about 40 calories per bottle) and I truly recommend them.  Yes, these I even would drink while sitting at my desk!

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In the lead up to Ironman Florida (6 weeks away!), I’m now doing big brick sessions every Saturday, getting progressively longer each week.  Last weekend was a 50 min swim, a 4:45 bike ride, and a 50 minute run. Just to give you an idea of when I’m munching on the rice balls – all during the bike ride (sadly still doing the gels thing on the run). We get to the ocean at first light, and my favourite part of the whole brick is seeing the sunrise over the ocean in the morning.  Moments like that remind me why I’m in Florida.

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Heading into the ocean at sunrise

Last weekend, my friends Ben and Molly came along for part of the swim and bike portion – not because they needed the training, but mostly because they were worried about me swimming all alone in the semi-dark and being eaten by sharks.  I am pleased to report that not one of us was eaten or even tasted, but we did have a few brushes with jellyfish and sea lice.  All part of ocean swimming. But seriously, I’ve been living here for less than a year and I’ve already met people who are willing to be eaten by sharks with me.  How awesome is that?

A long day in the hot sun isn’t complete without a puncture either.  Did you know that frozen CO2 cartridges will stick to your clothing if you try to use them to cool off?  Try it, then you can get a really cool photo like this one:

imageIt was so hot out there that I drank 8 bottles of water and electrolytes. Apparently it was 100°F/ 38°C with the sun. Turns out there is a secret spot in West Palm Beach that has a cold water fountain rather than the molten lava that spurts from the other fountains all along the A1A beach road. Info like this from friends on a scorching day is worth its weight in ice.image

Happy cooking, happy eating, happy riding!  We are racing Ironman 70.3 Augusta this weekend in Georgia and praying for rain!

What do you eat on long rides and runs?

We have escaped the heat! That’s a laughable concept when we were living in the UK (where summer begrudgingly arrives for a week or two at best), but Florida is bloody hot and the humidity is strangling. Running an ultramarathon in Iceland was a wonderful way to cool off but it wasn’t long before we were drowning in pools of sweat again.

Evidence that on occasion, we don't wear lycra.

Evidence that on occasion, we don’t wear lycra.

So what did we do, but get in the minivan, loaded up with two TT bikes, a windsurfing board, 2 wetsuits, a duffel bag filled with water bottles, cycling helmets and shoes, and lycra galore, and most importantly of all – our whippet, Haile. And we drove 24 hours north to Canada. The drive really wasn’t that bad. Haile slept in my lap the whole way there, and we listened to Laura Hillenbrand’s biography of Olympic runner Louis Zamperini, Unbroken (it was excellent).

imageThe premise for the trip was to attend an old friend’s wedding in Toronto (hey Alan and Amy, you looked amazing, thanks for having us!). The morning after the nuptials we headed up to my parents’ place on Georgian Bay, namely, The Cottage, otherwise known as Paradise.

The Cottage is where I grew up cross-country skiing in the winter, swimming in the summer; where our first dog is buried; where Tom and I got engaged; where we honeymooned with 20 friends and family after our wedding.  The Cottage is nothing but good memories both in the past and future.

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Normally at this time of year, The Cottage should be hot and sunny, but at the moment Georgian Bay is having a little autumnal practice session. We don’t mind. It’s been around 16°C (60°F) during the day and much colder at night, but really that is absolutely ideal running weather. I did my first intervals session of the year yesterday where I was actually able to get to my real 5K pace (something I haven’t seen in a long, long time). I jumped in the lake afterwards and that sweet fresh water felt amazing (and yes, I screamed as I dived in. It’s cold).

Ironman training continues. Thanks to the wonderful invention of wetsuits, we’ve also been able to do some proper open water swimming, and the newly resurfaced Twelve Mile Bay road is perfect for cycling intervals – even if we have to hike out to the paved road before we can get going!

It’s supposed to get warmer over the next few days, but it doesn’t really matter if it does. The Cottage is perfect no matter the weather.

03. March 2015 · 1 comment · Categories: Triathlon · Tags:

I am fascinated by tattoos.  And no, I don’t have a single one.  But I love them.

I love that people have the passion for something, or the interest in, or the will, to put something permanent on their body.  To go through the pain, and to be marked for life.  Or even just the simple love of the beauty, or the desire for the memory.  I’m sure there are thousands of distinct reasons people seek out their individual tattoos.  If tattooed people don’t mind the questions, I love to hear the stories behind the artwork.

If I were going to get a tattoo, it would have to be something Polynesian.  I love the designs, the strength and beauty.  I particularly like them creeping up the side of the neck to the ear, which I saw on many a lady when in the region – but was hesitant to get my own, as I thought my City of London law firm job wouldn’t really appreciate the artwork in the same way.

A few of my top picks:

Why haven’t I done one on a hidden spot, if not my neck?  Well, truly I am too indecisive, and while I think these tattoos are stunning, I don’t have the passion behind them to sit for needles for that long.

So why am I discussing tattoos in what is ostensibly a sports blog?

Now that Tom and I are based in Florida, we have seen so many more tattoos here than we ever saw in the UK.  We can’t quite figure out if it’s just because there is generally more skin on show due to climate, or if people are more likely to get tattooed here.  And there is a huge prevalence for MDot Tattoos:

This is the logo of the Ironman brand, the best known brand that puts on long distance triathlons (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run, for a total of 140.6 miles covered by the athlete).  There are other races of the same distance, including the increasingly popular Challenge Family.  But Ironman cornered the market with its name – it sure sounds better to say “I’m an Ironman” than “I’m a long distance triathlete“, doesn’t it!

There is no doubt that it’s a massive accomplishment to finish each and every Ironman (or any long distance triathlon!), let alone do all the training to get to the start line, so I can understand why people get these tattoos.  But why do more people seem to sport them here than in Europe? We have competed at Ironman brand triathlons in Lanzarote, Spain and Haugesund, Norway, and competed/attended countless triathlons in the UK, all featuring scantily-clad athletes, same as in Florida, but we never noticed the MDot tattoo featuring so heavily as we do here.

A friend of ours (who is a truly exceptional Ironman triathlete and has an MDot tattoo with fantastic personalisation) told us a story about once meeting someone else with an MDot tattoo.  He asked him which one he had done, only to hear that the man had never done an Ironman, but that he hoped to one day, and the tattoo was his inspiration.  This again provokes some thought – is that fair to those who have put in the time and did the deed?  Or is there no such thing as bad etiquette when it comes to what art you choose to put on your own body?

I would love to hear people’s thoughts!

Do you have a tattoo?

Do you have an M-Dot?  If not, would you get one?