16. February 2015 · Comments Off on Training with a World Champion: Tri Camp with Leanda Cave! · Categories: embrace the bike, Run, Swim, Triathlon · Tags: , ,

Back in November when I competed in Miami Man Half Ironman, Tom and I met 4 x World Champion Leanda Cave and heard that she was holding her first triathlon training camp in February.  We held a quick conference over our pre-race pasta binge at the Olive Garden and decided that this was an opportunity to learn from the best and we couldn’t miss it.

It was this past weekend in Port Saint Lucy, Florida, and it was absolutely fantastic.  Amazing.  A brilliant weekend – fun, enjoyable, a nice small group and we learned so much.

It was three days of sport, with swim/bike/run each day, plus extra sessions like strength & conditioning, nutrition talks, and swim video analysis. Leanda’s sister Mel Cave (also a prolific competitive endurance swimmer) and USAT coach Kris Swarthout were working with Leanda which meant that we had continuous feedback in all disciplines.

I can’t possibly tell you everything we did, but I’ll break it down to the key things Tom and I took away from the weekend.

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With Leanda before our brick ride

SWIM

We had a video analysis in the pool, drills sessions and an open water swim.

Leanda getting ready to spy on us from underwater!

Leanda getting ready to spy on us from underwater!

Tom and I had a swim video analysis done back in December 2013 so it was really interesting to see what we had managed to correct since then and where we still needed to improve.  If you’ve never had yourself videoed, I can’t recommend it enough.  You really have no idea what you are doing right and wrong in the water until you can see yourself – you will be surprised!

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Leanda and Mel teaching. Tom, Sam and me in the water.

If you care to watch our videos, here they are.  First, my video:

With additional commentary here.

And Tom’s video:

With additional commentary here.

I learned that my body balance and roll and positioning are good, but that I am lacking in power because I have no catch and am failing to lead with my elbows (or EVF for the technical term – “early vertical forearm”).  I now have very specific drills to knock this on the head, and hopefully after that I should have much more power (= speed!).  I’m hoping that if I can get this sorted out, maybe a sub-1 hour Ironman swim could be possible.

Technique is one thing, but open water swimming is another, so we had a session where we practiced sighting, turning around buoys, and beach starts and exits.  All things we never practice but have to do every single triathlon!  I had never realised there was special technique to swim over top of the masses at the swim turns (involving a single backstroke roll-over) and I can’t say that I’ve ever raced into the water properly before.

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Leanda and Mel demonstrate proper EVF

The Blue Seventy crowd: me, Leanda, Ken, Tom, and Adam!

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Leanda also told us she would like to see us swimming 5 times a week.  Eep – some room for improvement there!

wetsuits2BIKE

bikeshot

The bike is my weakest of the three disciplines and Tom’s strongest.  We had three bike sessions, the first focusing on bike skills, the second a group brick ride along the coast, and the third a time trial session.

We worked on cornering, pacelines, and transition skills (I’ll look at the transition work separately).  The bike ride along the coast was fantastic – it’s not every day you get to draft off a world champion!

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Ready to ride!

The most exciting photo of the whole weekend:

Leanda and I leading the pack

Leanda and I leading the ride

My cornering skills definitely improved – hurrah!

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Tom’s cornering didn’t really need much work…

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While we were cycling, Leanda’s right-hand man Lou Cantin was busy snapping photos of us all, which he sent to us later – how cool is that?

 

TRANSITIONS

Again, like some of the open water swimming skills we did – transitions happen every race, yet how often do we practice the actual skills?  I do brick runs but it never occurred to me that I might be able to bring it to the next level.

Leanda showed us how she jumps on the bike in transition:

While I wasn’t quite ready to try this, Tom was, with great success!  For me it was a major coup to learn to get my shoes on whilst cycling off:

Tom also mastered the moving dismount:

RUN

The run sessions were broken into a drills & technique session, a brick run, and a track session.  Leanda is an advocate of the Pose method, where you lean slightly forward and “catch’ yourself before you fall by placing your foot underneath you, with a high cadence.

We also practiced injury-prevention drills, some familiar, some not.

On Saturday we did a brick session – 36 mile ride along the beach followed by a 30 minute run.  We were to do 5 min easy, followed by intervals of 90 seconds hard, 3 min easy.  I ran with Leanda’s training partner Guido and the “easy” sections were definitely using that term loosely!  We ran just over 4 miles.

Post-brick smiles with Sam and Jen!

Post-brick smiles with Sam and Jen!

Sunday saw us at the track, which I love/hate (I love it because it makes you fast; I hate it because it hurts so much!).  I do track every week so it’s a familiar pain, but it was a different sort of workout from what I’m used to:

4*(100m hard, 100m jog); 4*(400m hard, 200m jog); 2*(800m hard, 400m jog); 2*(400m hard, 200m jog)

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Giving the boys a run for their money!

Leanda and Chris recommended doing track workouts at 8 weeks out to the Ironman to sharpen up speed.

STRENGTH & CONDITIONING

We all know we should do it, but how often do we do it?  I am going to start…this time I mean it!  I’ve just invested in some swim cords and a bosu ball.

THE REST

We spent a fair bit of time just listening and learning – both during the training sessions and in the education sessions:

Group meals helped us get to know each other while wearing a bit more clothing, and at the very end Leanda drew names out of a hat (or energy drink tin, rather) to win prizes kindly donated by her sponsors. Tom and I won matching Santini trisuits!  Thank you Santini!

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group

Such a small group meant that we got plenty of coaching attention

And a final picture of the great coaches and organisers of the camp:

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Leanda, Kris, Lou, Guido, Mel

All in all?

It was really remarkable to be learning from a world champion. That’s not something you can replicate. Having such high level coaching from the whole team and Leanda as real inspiration has given new life to both Tom’s and my training.

I now know exactly what drills will correct my swim technique and improve my speed.  The bike skills we learned will make a tangible difference to my times, and the strength training will improve my run.  I’ve come out of the camp knowing exactly what I need to work on to make me faster and stronger.  Above all for me, though, was getting the opportunity to work one-on-one with Leanda.  As a woman in triathlon – still a minority – it was incredible to be working alongside one of the best female athletes in the world.

Have any questions about the camp?  Let me know!

Back in October, I went through some metabolic testing at Sportstest in London.  It was truly eye opening.

I had wanted to get myself tested because I was trying to figure out why I was such a crappy cyclist.  Yes, that’s the truth of it.  I was running and swimming generally well, but my cycling consistently never matched the other two.  I couldn’t figure it out.  I was putting in the time – I did Sufferfest sessions 3-4 times a week, I did long hours on the bike, including a number of Century rides, and I rode rain or shine, snow or ice.

Palace 2 Palace, 144 km cycle:  the only sportive where I finished ahead of the others. Because they all got lost… and I didn’t. L-R: Tom, me, Jojo, Dalia

And yet I sucked on the bike.  It was exhausting and disheartening.  Why was I always so slow?  Finally, metabolic testing with Dr Garry Palmer would reveal the truth.

The Test

Pre-testing, Garry discussed my training regime with me, my bike times vs my run times, and surmised that it was likely because I was training too hard on the bike.  Pushing too hard all the time, never letting up, always going for it, exhausting me.  Could that be it?  The testing would tell.

I won’t go into great detail about metabolic testing, but you can hear more about it from Garry himself here or read my friend Karis’s recent post on the subject. Essentially, Garry was monitoring my heart rate, my oxygen uptake and my CO2 production, first on the bike, the on the run.

VO2 max

Testing time!

I was in for a shock.

It was my “off-season”, I’d just had several weeks off after an intensive year of racing, and yet my bike results were good.  Very good.  My VO2 max was in the top-trained athlete range (61.19), and my power to weight ratio was very high (4.68).  What it boiled down to:  I wasn’t trying nearly hard enough on the bike.

It was all mental.

All the times I’d struggled in the sportives to keep up, all the times I’d been dropped by my friends – it was all because I wasn’t trying hard enough.

I generally pride myself on giving 110% effort, so this really was a surprise.  I think all the years of bike commuting just meant that I didn’t know how to suffer on the bike.  I had been coasting along in the “recovery” heart rate zone (or Zone 1) the entire time. I’d learned how to push hard on the run, but not on the bike.

We then moved on to testing my run:

The run brought fewer surprises, but again Garry identified my training zones.  We did establish that my running was ahead of my cycling – but not by that much.  It also showed that I was doing my “steady” runs far too easy.

The graphs

The various tests resulted in a number of complex graphs and numbers spewing out, one example here:

Test results

Test results

These graphs show the points at which you stop burning fat and only burn carbohydrates.  As an endurance athlete, the longer you can burn fat, the longer you can keep going.  Tom and I are both believers in fat-fuelled sessions (long and slow without taking on extra fuel so your body learns to burn fat rather than “hitting the wall”, which is what happens when you are burning carbs only and your body runs out of supplies).  Turns out pretty much all my cycling had been in the fat burning zone only.  For endurance triathlon, you ideally want to be in Zone 2 – where you burn both fat and carbohydrates.

The consequences

No more excuses!

If there is one thing I’ve learned doing endurance sports over the last few years, it’s is that the mental is more important than the physical, by far. This testing really brought that home.

Since the assessment with Garry, my cycling has improved 100%.  Don’t get me wrong – I still have a long way to go, but the improvement has been palpable.  I trust the numbers he has given me and I’ve finally learned to push hard on the bike.  My Half Ironman time has dropped nearly an hour (5:58 in Norway in 2013 to 5:01 in Naples in Jan 2015), with my bike split going from 3:22 to 2:42, 40 minutes! (granted, Norway was hilly, and Naples was flat)!

It’s true that it’s pancake flat here, unlike hilly England.  So perhaps I can’t put everything down to trying harder, but I’m definitely pushing more than I ever have before, and it feels good.

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All in all, I would highly recommend getting yourself tested if you haven’t done it already.  And I am continuously amazed at how much of this sport is mental, not physical.

Have you ever has a metabolic assessment?  Did it help you?

 

23. January 2015 · Comments Off on Where it all began: a sort-of love story · Categories: Triathlon · Tags:

I’ve been asked how I got into triathlon and endurance running, especially since originally I hated running.  Truth is, there were a lot of factors, including a lot of people who really inspired me, but I will save that for another day.

I guess the very beginning starts with my trusty London commuter bike.  A heavy GT Palomar step-through steel frame I picked up secondhand for £199.  Which saw me through a decade of commuting to work in the London streets, various attempts at road cycling and even, back in 2004, my very first (and only) mountain bike race:

June 2004, Hampshire, with Tom.  I entered the 30km race.  He did the longer one - no idea what that was.

June 2004, Hampshire, with Tom. I entered the 30km race. He did the longer one, whatever that was!

I had no idea what I was doing.  I fell off, I was covered in mud, I got sunburned, and I absolutely loved it.  Don’t ask me how long I took – I have no clue.

(I think racing was maybe a bit more fun before I started caring about times….)

I commuted to work by bike, I rode my clunker for some shorter road rides, and even the occasional off-road adventure with friends.

Obviously a true mountain biker wouldn't have had to get off the bike! - borrowing Tom's MTB for a day out cycling

Obviously a true mountain biker wouldn’t have had to get off the bike! – borrowing Tom’s MTB for a day out cycling

Tom did his first triathlon not long after I did that first race (on that same mountain bike!).  It took me another 8 years before I tried one too.  After years of talking about buying a road bike, but not being willing to part with the cash, I finally bought a Pearson Pave in summer 2011.

I started running because I wanted to get fitter for the bike (ironic, because now I prefer running).  I was always a decent swimmer, so once I was comfortably running 5km, it occurred to me… why not try this crazy triathlon stuff that Tom does?  Spring 2012:  Human Race Sprint Tri at Dorney Lake!

But I wasn’t brave enough to venture into the unknown alone.  No, I recruited my amazingly game-for-anything friend Jojo to do the tri with me (you can read her write-up on it here, with more photos).  Doing it with Jojo made it that much less scary.  I was so thankful to have her with me on the start line, even if she decided ultimately that tri wasn’t for her.

Trying on our rental wetsuits at Cycle Surgery

(Jojo went on to run two excellent half marathons since that triathlon. And yes, we ran our first half marathon race together, too, which she enjoyed much more than the tri, and have done a gazillion cycle rides and sportives together and she kicks my ass on the bike every time.)

DSC_6482 My first triathlon

My first triathlon, the Nuffield Health Tri Challenge, sprint distance, 2012

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Jojo finding her kick for a sprint finish!

We had perfect weather for it, hot and sunny (not exactly the norm in the UK).  I absolutely loved the race, but at the same time I couldn’t possibly conceive how it was humanly possible to go any further than the 750m swim, 22km bike and 5km run.

Since that day, while I’m still a relative newbie, I’ve gone on to do Ironman and Half Ironman, marathons and ultras.  But I’m not sure I was ever as proud of myself as the day I did my very first sprint triathlon!

And that very first bike?  Any Londoners reading this will know that it’s pretty exceptional that I rode it daily for a decade in London and it was never once stolen (OK – nobody else wanted it).  And it lived outside, too.  When we left this autumn, it went to my friend Malgosia who I hope will continue to love it for me.

This past weekend was the HITS Naples Triathlon.  I did the Half Ironman while Tom, still recovering from a running injury, did the Aquathon.  It was a fantastic event.

We registered and racked our bikes the evening before:

And checked out the beach where we would be swimming the next morning:

And readied our nutrition for the race…

No, we didn't actually take all of these!

No, we didn’t actually take all of these!

 

 

We had a typically sleepless night, woke at 4:44am and got ready to do battle.

It was so cold.  So so so cold.  I was so unhappy!  (12 deg C is 53 F.) It was cold, dark and windy.  It’s not supposed to be windy at 5 in the morning!  Water temperature was around 18 C / 65 F.

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I will be the first to admit it – I am a huge wuss when it comes to the cold.  I hate being cold, and I get cold extremely easily.  I don’t perform well when I’m cold, either.  My first instinct is to make myself as small as possible and not move at all, which isn’t really compatible with a half Ironman triathlon.  And c’mon, we are in Florida – it’s not supposed to be cold!

I have never come so close to backing out of an event as I did Saturday morning!  I was shivering hard while still dry and couldn’t even imagine how I would cope coming out of the water into the wind.  But as always, when the horn sounded, I forgot everything and dove in for the fight!

Swim – 1.9 km Half Ironman / 3.8 km Ironman

The chop!  The wind was up and the water was very choppy.  And I lost my timer chip off my leg as soon as I started.  Argh!  I had to stop and search for it and then when I couldn’t get it back on, I stuffed it down the front of my wetsuit and dove back into the fray.  The water had zero visibility – I couldn’t even see my arms as I swam.

I was certain that it would be my slowest swim yet due to the chip incident and the strong chop, but once I made the first turn I found my own space and a good rhythm and was surprised to come out of the water and back into transition in 32:11, my fastest half Ironman swim yet.

Tom also had a good swim, doing two laps of the course in 1:03:37, which was the exact time he swam in Ironman Lanzarote!  Although in this tri, the swim time included the run from the ocean to transition, about 400m, which means that we both had our best swims to date.

Bike – 90.1 km Half Ironman / 180.2 km Ironman

The course was flat and fast and amazingly marshalled by the local police – we had a clear run through every single stoplight, fantastic!  My feet were frozen through and my hands shortly followed suit, which made changing gears and opening shot blocs challenging.  I kept it a steady Zone 2 heart rate throughout – arguably too low, but that’s what felt right so that’s what I went with.  There was a good cross-wind on the bike which meant that we had some head wind for nearly the entire course – can’t tell you how disappointed I was when I hit the halfway turnaround point and discovered that I wasn’t getting the tailwind that I had been looking forward to the whole way out!

The course was out and back but would you believe I nonetheless managed to make a wrong turn?  I only mention this because that wrong turn cost me 2 minutes extra which then later caused me to go just over 5 hours, arghhhhhhh!  Live and learn!  Oh well, mustn’t dwell on it.

I finished the bike in 2:42:42, which was a PB by 10 minutes for me.  Very happy!

As for Tom, he crushed it!  180.2 km in 4:52.46.  I’ll do the maths for you – that’s an average speed of 37 km/h or 23 mph!  He was in second behind RW Training coach Rich Wygand until poor Rich had his tyre explode*, after which Tom got to follow the lead motorcycle around the course and was first bike back from the full Ironman distance bike leg.

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First off the bike in the full Ironman distance!

Tom won the Aquathon! Yay Tom! (And then he got to rest.  He says Ironmans are much better when you don’t have to run a marathon too.)

Run – 21.1 km

The run course was again out and back.  My feet were numb from ankles downwards for the first half hour, always a strange sensation.  I took it easy for the first half, a steady Zone 2 heart rate and a comfortable pace.  When I reached the turn around point, I knew I could survive an hour or less of suffering, so I upped the pace and pushed, ending up with a nice negative split and an overall half marathon run of 1:40:36.  Maybe I should have pushed harder earlier, but it was still a significant half Ironman PB for me so I was happy!

I finished the race in 5:01:19 – a thrilling PB, but so disappointing that I would have gone sub-5 hours if I hadn’t take that wrong turn!

I was 8th woman overall (out of around 70 women) and 49th in the whole race (around 300 people).  I was particularly pleased to see that my run was actually the 29th fastest run out of everyone.

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The best moment of every race!

 

*Rich Wygand had to wait around 45 minutes for the support vehicle to swap him a new tyre, but he somehow managed to make a storming comeback to finish sub-10 hours, 2nd overall in the full Ironman!  Legend!  Meanwhile his wife Carol Wygand won her age group in her first Half Ironman in 5:13!

 

Do you do any races in your off season?

 

Weekly Roundup

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Total time:  10:28

Swim:  3km, 53 min

Bike: 124 km, 3:55

Run:  38km, 3:10

 

 

Before I ever got into triathlon, I was into books.  I still am, of course.  I have two degrees in English literature and I read as obsessively as I train.  Novels are my favourite, but since getting into running and triathlon, I have been hugely inspired by some tremendous sport memoirs.

These books have helped me push my limits, helped open me to the possibilities of what the body can achieve.  They inspire, they lead by example, and they encourage.

Some of my favourites:

 

Born to Run:  A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall

I think by now, most runners have read Born to Run.  It’s so good, I made both my non-running parents read it.  Hidden tribes, superathletes, secrets exposed, myths debunked – it’s a real page-turner.  But seriously, the author starts out not being able to run 5 miles without getting injured, and by the end he can run 50 miles.  It’s such an epic read precisely because it could be about anyone.  You, me, and the superathletes.  We are human, he explains, and we are born to run.  It’s amazing.

Scott Jurek runs with Arnulfo Quimare in Mexico

Reading Born to Run is what made Tom and me want to run ultra marathons.  It suddenly made the idea of going out into the wild and just running all day long extraordinarily appealing – and natural.  And my experience in ultras so far has been as positive as the book made it sound.  Running ultras feels natural and fun.

The book also had a major impact on the running shoe industry, provoking traditional shoe companies to invest in barefoot or minimal trainers.  I haven’t gone the true barefoot route, but I do run in minimalist shoes, even for the ultras.

If you are going to read just one book about running, this is the book.

 

A Life Without Limits: A World Champion’s Journey by Chrissie Wellington

A Life Without Limits, for me, was the triathlon equivalent of Born to Run.  It doesn’t hurt that Chrissie is around my age and didn’t really get into triathlon properly until her late 20s/early 30s.  She is just such a smart talented woman who lays herself bare in this autobiography, talking about her eating disorder in her younger days, her need for control and perfection, and the gritty determination that made her World Champion 4 times at Kona.  Above all, she has such an infectious smile (even her Twitter handle is @chrissysmiles), such a positive outlook that you can’t help but think that she would make a great best friend and mentor.

Chrissy is my absolute hero!  And her book is a must read, even if you don’t do triathlon.  I really believe every female athlete should read it.  And the men too.

 

Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek

Born to Run introduces Scott Jurek as one of the all-time great ultra runners who comes to Mexico to run with the Tarahumara, so he was a familiar name when his book came out. Eat and Run picks up on that run-all-day philosophy and mixes in Scott’s vegan diet, complete with a number of amazing recipes.  Scott’s vegan chili is now a staple in our house.  If for some crazy reason you want the chili but not the book, you can find the recipe online here.  But that’s just one of many fantastic recipes in the book.

Scott Jurek running Badwater

After reading this book two years ago, Tom – formerly a pretty hard core meat & potatoes sort of guy – suggested we go vegetarian.  Ok, he actually said let’s go vegan, but he didn’t really realise that meant no milk/yogurt etc.  In the end we settled on pescetarian, which isn’t a perfect solution, but the point is, that’s how much of an effect this book had on us.  Faster recovery times, fewer aches, less swelling, all down to diet.

It’s not just a cook book, though (the recipes are truly secondary to his running life story).  It really comes down to the details of how to run, run, and run some more, how to run in the deep snow, how to race Badwater in 130 deg F (54 deg C), how to cope with being one of the world’s greatest long distance runners, and the highs and the lows.  This book made me want to get out there and RUN.

 

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

This was the first running book I read.  It’s a bit different from the other books I’m listing here – Murakami is best known as a writer, not as a runner.  I have read every book he has written and I think he is one of the best modern authors out there.  1Q84, one of his recent novels, is an absolute masterpiece, in my opinion.

But this book is fantastic not only because of Murakami’s masterful prose, but the fact that, again, he is just an ordinary runner.  He is you, he is me, he is the guy next door.  He isn’t particularly fast, nor is he particularly slow.  He just runs, and ruminates while he runs.  He generally runs 10km every day, and he never takes more than one day off at a time.  He has tried his hand at Ironman and at ultras, he runs marathons regularly, but truly he runs because running is his thing.

A great read.

 

I’m Here to Win: A World Champion’s Advice on Peak Performance by Chris McCormack

This book took me out of my comfort zone.  I’m the sort of athlete who goes into a race saying to friends, no, I haven’t trained enough, no, I’m not expecting much, I’m just going to see how it goes.  But then when I am racing, I am 100% in the game and will always try my best.  Macca’s book delves into the psychology of winning and specifically winning at Ironman.

 

What stuck with me the most was his method during the race of overtaking someone while running really hard, but trying to make it look as easy as possible – easy breathing, relaxed.  And as he goes by, he says to the person he is overtaking, “You’re doing great!” And then he tears away, making it look like he isn’t suffering, that he can talk and run, that it’s easy.  And more often than not the person he overtakes like that will give up just that little bit, letting Macca get in front, not realising that as soon as he is out of sight, he is gasping for air, choking on the effort it took to go past like that.  But the psyche-out takes root and the overtaken lets himself be beaten.

It doesn’t always work, though.  Macca told everyone going into his first Kona that he was going to win it, and he ended up with a DNF.  I’m not sure I’d be able to handle that sort of humiliation.

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Finding Ultra:  Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World’s Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself by Rich Roll

 

World’s fittest man?

While I find the title of this book a bit daunting and over the top, it’s actually really good.  Rich is an overweight alcoholic who completely turns his life around via running, Ultraman (3 x Ironman), a dash of yoga, and a whole lot of green juice out of his Vitamix.

In case you were taking Rich too seriously….

Confession:  the first thing I did after moving to Florida (more space!) was buy a Vitamix too.  It’s pretty darned amazing.

And who does an Ultraman when he hasn’t even done a triathlon?! (Well, my friend Karis did an Ironman after just a sprint triathlon, but that’s a story for another day – or have a read of her blog at See Kay Tri.)

This book yet again shows you what we humans are capable of when we put our minds to it.  And also why you should buy a high-powered blender.

 

Ultramarathon Man:  Confessions of an All-Night Runner by Dean Karnazes

There is a theme here…. again, Dean was in his 30s, hadn’t run since he was in high school, and was drinking too much… and then on his birthday, he left the bar, and started running in his jeans, and didn’t stop running.  He ran through the night, ran to another city, and then rang his wife to come pick him up.  The ultramarathon man inside him had been awoken.

Dean is a legend in ultramarathon circles.  He has run 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days, he has run from one major city to another just in time to toe the starting line of that city’s marathon, and he orders pizza while out running in the middle of the night, has it delivered to a street corner and rolls it up and eats it like a burrito… while still running.  Don’t believe me? Watch this.  Yeah, he is pretty cool.

 

This book is an inspiring get-off-the-couch read.  I particularly enjoyed the section where, as a beginner runner, he sees a couple of US Marines training for the Leadville 100 (a mountainous 100 mile race) and asks them what they’re doing.  They scoff at him when he expresses interest in the race.  He nonetheless qualifies for the race a few months later and enters it, only to beat them.

Yeah, I’d like to do that too.  Leadville 100 – one day!

 

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth:  What Going to Space Taught Me about Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything by Chris Hadfield

This book choice may seem like the odd one out, because, well, technically speaking, it’s not about sport.  Why have I included it in this list?

Because it’s £$%$^ awesome!!!!!!!

But seriously – look at the the second half of the book’s title is:  “….Taught Me about Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything.”  That could come directly out of triathlon.  Chris talks about choosing a goal and doing whatever it takes, with all the drive, determination, and grit required, to get to where you want to be.

And there is this.  If you haven’t seen it…. Chris made a space video cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity.  I LOVE this:

 

Other books?

This is far from a complete list of books to read.  For example, Paula Radcliffe‘s My Story So Far can’t be left out.  The men’s marathon world record keeps getting broken… Paula’s 2:15:25 marathon world record has remained unbroken since 2003.  That’s nearly 12 years now of world domination?! Incredible. I also think it is important to recognise and support strong female athletes just as much as we do the men.

Paula knows how to embrace Rule 5!

The indomitable Killian Jornet recently wrote Run or Die, a dramatic title that speaks of his need, not love, but actual need to run pretty much since he conquered his first mountain while the rest of us were learning to bump our bums up the stairs.  Running comes so easily to Killian, though, that I found this book somewhat harder to relate to than the rest of the books on this list – somehow he isn’t quite as mortal as the rest of us.

 

What are the sporting books that have helped shape you as an athlete?

I raced the Miami Man Half Ironman last month.  It was my first triathlon on this side of the Atlantic, first triathlon in hot sunny Florida.

It rained non-stop.

But I still had a blast.

Things boded well when I got to meet a hero and a legend, Leanda Cave, at the expo the day before (4-time World Champion!).  She was doing a Q&A and I took away some excellent swim sighting tips that I put into practice the next day.

Amazing Leanda Cave!

At the Race Briefing, they also confirmed that yes, there were alligators in the lake we were swimming in.  Incentive to swim faster….

Yup, let’s get this triathlon started!

 

Sunday Nov 9 2014

Swim – 1900 m – 34:42

Leanda had said in the race briefing to try to sight the swim course out of the water before starting the swim.  This made all the difference, because it turned out the swim buoys were not in a straight line at all.  I definitely saved some time by choosing the more direct path as a result of Leanda’s sighting tips.

A wave start meant that there wasn’t a frenzied fight at the beginning, but instead a nice straight swim.

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I’m the one in the centre breathing to my left.

 

“Sight like an alligator”

 

It was two laps around the alligator-infested lake.  I can’t say I saw any alligators, but it was a nice smooth swim.  Not the fastest I’ve done, but not too far off and by far the most comfortable.

Then up out of the water into transition to discover it was pissing it down…. sigh.

Wetsuit strippers stripped me of my wetsuit.

Transition had a long run across the grass with the bike to get to the start of the bike course.  Tom ran alongside the transition fence shouting at me to remember that my carbon wheels would mean very poor brakes in the rain.  Noted!

 

Bike – 90 km – 2:52:10

The bike course had a deceptive number of sharp 90 degree turns which were tricky in the driving rain.  And the rain!  It came down in a flood, in a tropical downpour, the rain blinding me, fogging my glasses, covering the roads so I felt like I was a speedboat leaving a wake through the flooded roads.  I did notice that every time the rain got worse, I overtook more people, though.  I’m no expert in rain riding, but I’ve certainly been forced to do it a lot in the UK and perhaps that helped a bit!

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22 90 degree turns in this course!

On the plus side, the course was pancake flat.  What a nice change from my last triathlon, Ironman Lanzarote (2551m of elevation…).

The bike has been my weakness for a long time, and my crash this year didn’t help with that.  I will post about bike confidence another day, but since moving to Florida I’ve been learning to push myself more on the bike.  I was really hoping to finish the 90km in around 3 hours, so I was thrilled with 2:52, especially as that included the long jog in bike cleats.  Despite the rain, I had my best bike split ever.  It was also my first tri on my new Trek Speed Concept!

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Run – 21.1 km – 1:48:53

I knew I had done my fastest bike split to date, but how would that affect my run?  Having a good bike split had been my main goal, so I was ready to sacrifice the run a bit if need be.  As long as I finished within 2 hours…  or perhaps within 1:49 (my Ironman 70.3 Norway run time)…

The sun made a brief appearance for the run, enough for me to curse the heat (c’mon!  raining on the bike, hot on the run? That’s just wrong!),  but thankfully that didn’t last and the extreme rain returned to do more damage to the already soggy course.  From the start I made the decision to run straight through the ankle-deep puddles rather than try to trot around the outside, and that was a good choice given that one way or another, every single athlete was going to get soaked.  (I did see one man running in a big flapping poncho.  Wish I had a picture of that.)

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The run course was 2 laps around the Miami Zoo.  But it was raining so hard that all the animals were in hiding (smart!).  I won’t lie, it wasn’t a pretty run – either the course, or how I felt – but I got around in a reasonable enough time for me.  I overtook around 150 people, while only 1 man overtook me.  Clearly my running is still better than my cycling.

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Total:  5:21:50

I came 3rd in my age group, which was my first podium finish in a triathlon and was pretty exciting!  (I know it was because Leanda Cave wished me good luck). And I even got a trophy… as strange as it is….

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My first triathlon trophy… a zebra?!

 

And following Miami Man, Tom and I were inspired to sign up for Leanda Cave’s Triathlon Camp in Florida in February.  Can’t wait!

 

05. December 2014 · Comments Off on Friday intervals & the deep darkness of early cycling · Categories: embrace the bike, Rule 5, Triathlon

It’s Friday!

Fridays start with forcing our poor little whippet puppy out of his warm bed for a pee outside at 4:55am:

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Haile: “Do you have ANY idea what time it is?!”

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It is VERY dark outside…

 

I am pretty sure that this is the only time in the entire day that he really hates us.

Then we hop onto our Treks and head off at about 5:20 am to meet with the fantastic RW Training group.  It is dark.  So dark.  So so so dark.  Did I mention how dark it is?  We’ve just moved here from London.  London has so much light pollution that you could probably read your book outside and complete a paint-by-number and thread a few needles while you’re at it, all sitting outside at 3am.  But not here.  No.  We have moved to a semi-rural area and there are no streetlights, very little light pollution, and the darkness swallows you whole on your bike.

 

It's DARK

 

Tom isn’t bothered by it, but I have pretty crappy night vision and I struggle to feel comfortable drafting in a complete void.  So I can’t say I always enjoy the 11 km cycle to the beginning of the ride, but… rule 5!

We meet at 6am at the mall for our intervals session.  Carol, half of the RW Training couple, took a photo this morning before we headed off:

 

Ready to ride!

 

5*6 min intervals with 2 minutes rest in-between, for a total cycle of 51km and home by 7:30am.  Not bad!

How do you fit your training into your day?

24. November 2014 · Comments Off on CRASH! Or, crash lesson in Rule 5 · Categories: Crash, embrace the bike, Triathlon

Let’s get stuck in. It’s a swelteringly hot November day – yeah, that sounds awfully strange to me too. Sweltering in November? Remember, I just moved to Florida and am adjusting (and trying not to post sunshine pictures on Instagram every 2 hours).

And I want to go out on my bike. But today is supposed to be a rest day….

What? I want to ride my bike?!

Let’s back up here.

<rewind>

April 19 2014. 6 days after I ran the London Marathon in a very happy 3:24:32, feeling good, I set out to do a 100 mile ride. Ironman Lanzarote was just 5 weeks away.

It was a sunny 7°C / 44°F. Tom and I had driven to his parents’ house in Goodworth Clatford, Hampshire for the weekend in order to get some solid cycling in.   We were pretty lucky with the weather – it wasn’t raining. (It’s always raining in England, except when it isn’t. Which is seldom.)

I set out from my in-laws’ house in Goodworth Clatford, all by myself. Tom is much faster than I am so we were each going to do our own thing.

I felt good! Here is the photo evidence! I was going to smash that 100 miles! In fact, maybe I’d even do 112 miles for good measure!

Feeling good! I’m going to kill it! YEAH!

 

Km 105 / mile 65: I wish I could say a rabid badger jumped out at me. Or at least a swerving lorry. But no. It was nothing but a pothole, me and a bloody pothole that I didn’t notice until I was wheel deep, down on the aerobars with no brakes.

 

It might not have been QUITE this big.

 

I slammed out of that pothole and my left arm fell out of the aerobars. Here is a moment of honesty: I don’t have skills on the bike. I’m just hanging on for the ride. And this bronco wanted me off.

I had just been cresting a hill when I hit the pothole, so as I lost control the bike picked up speed on the descent. By some miracle (because I sure can’t claim skill), as I hit 45 km/h / 28 m/h, I ended up on the grassy verge and crashed into a tree.

I was pretty sure I was going to die. Or be permanently disabled. You don’t hit trees at that speed and walk away.

My front wheel and my helmet hit the tree. They saved my life. The force of the impact was taken by the fork and steerer tube. The steerer tube ripped through the head tube. Pretty impressive stuff. I flipped through the air and landed on my back.

I was alive.

My first thought was to dial an ambulance. But then I realised that despite living in the UK for 11 years, I couldn’t remember what number that is (turns out it’s 999). So then I called my father in law Chris and said in my best understated British-learned way, “I’m afraid I’ve had a bit of an accident.”

Anyone want to buy a fixer-upper?

 

Chris rescued me an hour later by car, along with Tom’s brother, and Tom eventually arrived too on his bike, desperate with relief that his worst fears about me cycling alone had come true and yet I was ok.

I was ok. I still fainted in the shower, though.

 

This was 5 weeks before Ironman Lanzarote. 30 weeks of training, 10-20 hour training weeks. And my thighs were a mass of hematoma and my bike frame was smashed beyond repair.

 

50 shades of purple and green!

50 shades of purple and green!

and yellow!

 

The happy ending to this is that I did manage to get back on the bike only a week later, my road bike this time, and complete my 100 mile ride in the pouring rain in the Wiggle Ups & Downs Sportive.  I even smiled (I promise it wasn’t just for the camera):

I love riding in the rain. I do. I DO. (Ok. I hate it.)

 

And Tom managed to get Trek to send me a crash replacement frame in a very slick black. But the fear still lingered, and I rode my road bike in Ironman Lanzarote. I’ll tell you about that another time.

But I’m pretty damned excited to be excited about the damned bike again.

24. November 2014 · Comments Off on What the £@$% is Rule 5 anyway?! · Categories: Rule 5, Triathlon

In my last post, I told you about my CRASH SMASH into a tree as a crash course in Rule 5.

Are you thinking “What the hell is this Rule 5 nonsense?!”

Embrace the Rule 5!

Rule 5 comes from the Velominati, who have very kindly put together a list of 95 golden rules for cyclists.  No, I definitely can’t remember them all, although I have picked up some truly key things, like:

  • Rule 37:  The arms of the eyewear shall always be placed over the helmet straps.
  • Rule 12: The correct number of bikes to own is n+1.
  • Rule 9:  If you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass.  Period.

There are actually lots more that really truly relate to actual proper cycling stuff, but then I get bored.  However, although the badass in me loves Rule 9 (cuz I tell you, I have ridden in EVERY TYPYE OF BAD WEATHER, cycling in the UK), the best, the greatest, the most magical rule is:

Rule 5:  Harden the fuck up.

Rule 5 solves everything.  Don’t feel like running today?  Rule 5.  It’s raining too hard to even contemplate starting the ride?  Rule 5.  Water is too cold?  Rule 5.  You’re hungry?  You’re tired?  It’s too early, it’s too late?  RULE 5!!!!!

So embrace Rule 5, I say…. although the flip side is Tom’s favourite quip, “Rest is Best!”, but more on that another time!

19. November 2014 · Comments Off on Welcome to Rule 5! · Categories: Triathlon

My name is Julia.

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I’m mid-30s and started triathlon and endurance sports in 2012.  Not very long ago, I know!

It’s a bit of an addiction.

My love of sport has led me from quitting a pretty amazing job as a lawyer in a big City law firm in London, UK….

…to moving to Wellington, south Florida with my ironman husband Tom, where we can train year-round and where we have come to set up a premium triathlon and endurance sports business.

Please join me on on my rambles and our journey.  I warn you, I’m easily persuaded to try just about anything new, anything extreme, anything ultra!