07. June 2016 · Comments Off on Spin me right round, baby · Categories: embrace the bike, Holidays, Pregnancy, Yoga · Tags: , ,

I’ve been both charmed and embarrassed by the accolades I received after my last post about running the Toronto Women’s 5k race at 30 weeks pregnant. Thank you very much, readers!

Just to put it into perspective, just remember that Alysia Montaño was still racing track events at 8 months (34 weeks) pregnant….

Or how about my friend Lara? She is 10 weeks ahead of me, which put her at 40 weeks (that’s full term, folks) when she proposed we go do a spin class together the day after the race.  On her due date.

I suggested a nice long walk instead, but no, she was insistent: spin or bust. So yes, on her due date, we could be found at Quad spin studio spinning our legs furiously and being shouted at by a bearded man in spandex. I was tired from the race the day before and was sweating profusely… Lara elegantly maintained her pregnant glow and kept up with the furious pumping while I gave up and sat out a couple rounds, pretending to churn my wheels while secretly setting the bike to the easiest setting possible.

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Two days later, a now overdue Lara was suggesting an outdoor prenatal yoga session. We found a yoga video online and proceeded mostly to ignore it, instead having too much fun clowning around in the soft sunshine.

This makes me crack up most of all:

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Lara is now 41 weeks and 1 day and I am wishing her all the best….  as she continues to walk, jump and skip to get that baby out! Good luck Lara! Maybe one last spin class will do it?

 

 

 

It has been six months since my last post, and I apologise for the lost momentum.  I hadn’t raced since Ironman Florida and it seems I am slightly lost without races to train for and concrete goals to pursue. I realised after the Ironman that I needed a break, both body and mind.  I was still sore from the hit & run and after a full year of racing, my motivation was waning.  The need for a pause was cemented when I found out shortly after the Ironman that I was pregnant!

I was very sad to defer my place in the London Marathon and to give up my place in the Tokyo Marathon, to which I had received semi-elite entry. Hopefully I will qualify again in the next few years. Always good to have goals!

So… races are have been on hold for a little while. I’m still running and cycling, a little bit of swimming. Earlier in the pregnancy saw me doing a lot of yoga and some weights classes. Oh, and cooking.  It feels weird not to have a plan or a dream but there will be time for all of that again later. And of course, it goes without saying, we have a whole lot of new stuff to look forward to!

A brief catch up of the last few months, from 1 to 10:

  1.  A lot of yoga, then a little of yoga.
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Me doing one of the very few arm balances in my repertoire.

IMG_1357I really suck at yoga. But I try. I’ve been to around 80 classes in the last 16 months. In December I went nearly every day for the whole month.  I definitely improved. Now I’m not going as much, and I’ve regressed.

I try to attend classes with my superstar yoga friend Nancy (also a superstar cyclist and runner), who continues to inspire me as she turns herself upside down and inside out.

Now I’m getting bigger and the yoga stuff is getting a bit more challenging. I’ve given up on any sort of vinyasa for the next little while….

 

 

 

 

2. Some FUN bike rides

It was nice after all that Ironman to go out for some nice short rides with friends and go for a coffee afterwards. No looking at mileage or the clock. Of course I was pregnant during these rides but still very early on, so I was having to work pretty hard to keep up!

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3.  A trip home to the UK for Christmas

We enjoyed a wonderful 10 days in the UK for the Christmas holidays. It was so nice to be home, to enjoy the cold, to be with family and friends, and finally to get to meet my nephew Finn who was born in late April.

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We got lots of cold-weather runs in. I used to yearn for spring back when we ran through the cold dark winter, but I can tell you now, you sure learn to appreciate the cold after sweltering in the heat for ages.  Oh, and hills too. I have a new love for hills.

4. Running with Haile 

I’ve said it before – Haile loves to run. We try to take him running on the trails at least 2-3 times a week, and he happily does 10-12 miles with us (I’m sure he would go further, but this is our off season!).
IMG_2723We also try to take him for a barefoot run on the beach regularly. It’s a good strengthening session for our feet and legs, and he loves playing with the IMG_3028other dogs and galloping in and out of the surf.

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5. Sewing

I have the nerdy hobby of sewing quilts. I don’t sew anything else – just quilts. Here are some recent projects:

6.  Skiing!

We went on an amazing ski trip to Breckenridge, Colorado, with friends. It snowed for the first two days and then we had two days of sunshine. It was a perfect trip from start to finish.  We had great intentions of getting in some cold weather runs too while we were out there, but we were having too much fun on the mountain. We skied, we ate, we skied, we ate. I was 16 weeks pregnant at the time and just about managed to fit into my ski kit with the flies left unzipped.

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7. Cooking

Back when I was at law school, I used to cook a lot. I even had grand ideas of making my own cookbook.IMG_4095
That never came to fruition, and over the years I got stuck in the same rut of recipes. My New Year’s resolution this year was to get back to cooking and to make new stuff more often. I stuck to it pretty well for the first few months, although as I’ve been suffering more from various pregnancy symptoms, it’s not always my first priority.

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8.  Working

Our bike fitting and triathlon shop Magnum Multisport is now open for appointments! It’s been a learning process on how to get the ball rolling properly in the USA/ Florida/ Palm Beach County/ Wellington (yes, each of those has an impact and its own red tape), but we are getting there and it won’t be long before we are open full-time. We now have awesome Argon 18 tri and road bikes in stock and some very slick Lynskey titanium road and gravel bikes. We also have beautiful Lake Cycling shoes and make fully custom moulded foot beds and custom cleats for the ultimate fit. And of course a plethora of other bike gear too, including Shimano, Profile Design, Foot Balance, Cobb, ISM, Fi’z’k, and more signing up with us every day.  Tom is a fully trained F.I.S.T and BikeFit bike fitter and also has a degree in sport science. I know I’m biased but I can tell you he knows what he is doing!

Our website is still a work in progress, but you can check it out here: www.magnummultisport.com.

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9. (Trying to) stay fit

I’m currently 3/4 through the pregnancy (7 months) and I’ve been very lucky so far – I have been feeling good and been able to stay active, for the most part.  I ran nearly as normal until 21 weeks, including doing my club track workouts. Then I had some trouble with shin splints which meant taking time off running and more time on the bike. Now I’m back to running again but it really varies day by day what I’m able to do.

I’ve been loving Sufferfest videos on our Kickr computrainer. I trained for Ironman Lanzarote in 2014 solely via Sufferfest videos on the indoor trainer and I had forgotten how convenient it is to jump on the bike without ever leaving the house. And I work much harder than I generally do on a ride outside.  It’s win win! Tom did a bike fit for me on the bike fitting rig we offer at Magnum Multisport in order to get me more comfortable on the bike with my belly – the result included turning my handlebars upside down, which, while looking crazy, makes a huge difference in accommodating the ever-growing bump.

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Note the upside-down handlebars!

10. Racing!

I know I said my racing was on hiatus… well, I thought it was when I started writing this! But I did a couple of 5Ks for fun.  I ran the Shamrock 5K at 19 weeks. I wasn’t expecting much, but it went better than I had hoped and I won my age group.

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Then at 21 weeks, I ran the Race Against Invasives 5K trail race in our old trails stomping grounds, the Apoxee Wilderness Trail. This was the first time I felt the full force of carrying a baby while trying to maintain any type of pace and it wasn’t pretty… but I got through it and still managed a sprint finish. My friend Ben was first woman, of course!

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More updates to follow!

Meanwhile… today’s 4 mile very happy run in Georgian Bay at 29 weeks. It’s like running while carrying a bowling ball:image

I’m not going to lie – at this stage, some days I feel great running, other days I don’t even make it to half a mile. It really seems to vary from day to day.

Did you stay active through your pregnancy? I’d love to hear what worked for you and what didn’t.

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!

08. October 2015 · Comments Off on More food to go: potato cakes au velo · Categories: embrace the bike, Food

A number of readers were very interested in the baked rice balls I made the other day for my long bike ride from Skratch Labs’ Feed Zone Portables, and I promised to follow up with another recipe.

Last weekend was another big brick session with another mammoth bike ride: 50 min swim, 5 hour bike, 50 min run.  I was dealing with the usual Florida heat issues, but also a massively unpleasant headwind the whole second half of the ride.  I mean, a killer headwind that had me crawling. It was ugly.

In anticipation of yet another long day on the bike, I tried out another recipe from Feed Zone Portables. This time I made mashed potato cakes, and they were really very decent.

Mashed Potato Cakes

1 cup instant potato flakes (I’d never heard of these, but it’s just dehydrated potato and sold in supermarkets, who knew? very easy)

2 tablespoons grated parmesan

1/4 teaspoon tarragon

1 vegetable bouillon cube in 1 1/2 cups hot water

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Optional: 2 tablespoons chopped cooked bacon (I left this out)

Mix potato flakes, parmesan, and tarragon in a bowl.  Add the veg stock, then the eggs and stir quickly until all combined. Batter is somewhat thick and lumpy.

Spoon the batter onto a hot griddle to make small cakes.  Cook 5-6 minutes per side, until golden brown.

Verdictimage

These cakes were a winner.  They had the consistency of pancakes on the outside, but when you bit into them, it was still just mashed potato, meaning they were nice and creamy and really easy to swallow while out on the bike, and washed down quickly with a gulp of water. They tasted good – just like a big dollop of mashed potato. They were easy to unwrap and cram into my mouth and they didn’t take up much space in my jersey.

Nutrition per serving

The above recipe says it makes 10-12 cakes, which calculates to 2-3 per serving.  My batch came to 10 cakes, so I went with 2 per serving.

Energy 125 cal  Fat  5g  Sodium 349mg  Carbs 13g  Fiber 1g  Protein 6g  Water  70%

These were a winner!

Tom did the same brick session on Monday. He had mostly conventional energy food on the bike – gels, chews, and bars – but said his stomach was a bit queasy when he finished the bike and was about to start his run. He couldn’t face another gel, but he saw these cakes sitting in the fridge and grabbed two. He stuffed them down before his run, said they tasted good and actually settled his stomach, and then had a great brick run.

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A dorky photo at about 50 miles into the brick ride.

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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

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

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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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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!

I like numbers.  Data.  Stats.  I’m addicted to my Garmin (I use a 810 on my bike and a 910 for running and swimming). I log every mile (or rather, kilometre) without fail, although I have never included my bike commuting as part of that (slowly weaving my way through London traffic for 10km never really counted as cycling in my mind).

So here we have it, my 2014 in numbers, minus the bike commuting (which would roughly have amounted to an additional 2500 km):

Swim:  193.21 km I  73:24:56

Bike:  6513.00 km  I   273:17:58

Run:  2393.34   I   232:30:17

Strength training & yoga:  24:14:18

 

And now for….. 2015 RACING!!

I only started racing in 2012, but I do have a history of competing.  When I was a kid, I competed in ice skating and then in my teenage years I competed in hunter/jumper horse riding.  So when I started racing in 2012, it was no surprise to find that I absolutely loved it.  The nerves, the expectation, the goals, trying to smash those goals.  Back in my horse riding days, my coach used to say that I had a hunger for it, and I think that still holds true.

With Dream Catcher at Toronto’s Royal Winter Fair in 1997



This hunger means I train consistently and hard (yay!), with a tendency to rest less than I should (boo!) and a strong penchant for entering too many races every year (uh oh).  In 2014 it included a six week spell of London Marathon, Ironman Lanzarote and Sierra Leone Marathon (with just a week between the last two).  In 2014 I raced/participated in a total of 14 events, and 15 in 2013 (see here for more info).

 

 

Race plans for 2015, subject to change:

January:  Hits Triathlon Series Half Ironman, Naples

April:  London Marathon, UK

July:  Laugavegur Ultra Marathon, Iceland

September:  Ironman 70.3 Augusta, Georgia

November:  Ironman Florida, Panama City

 

I’ve actually entered all of these already, apart from the Icelandic Ultra (registration opens on Jan 9, and it looks awesome).  I suspect I’ll probably find a couple of shorter races to pepper throughout 2015 too.

And eep – the first half Ironman is 10 days away!

 

What was your 2014 like?

What’s your 2015 race calendar looking like?

 

29. December 2014 · Comments Off on Beasting the Big 100 · Categories: embrace the bike, Weekly Roundup · Tags: ,

We all have one.  A scary number.  Something that looms large.  For some it might be the 10K, the half marathon.  For others, the marathon, the Ironman, the ultra.  Whatever it is, the size of the number isn’t the issue – it’s the fear factor that matters, the associations with that number.  For me, it’s the 100 MILE CYCLE.  The Century ride.

Fear of the number isn’t bad.  It creates motivation and drive to train, and the sense of achievement that comes with completing the challenge.  But I will admit that I’ve had a bit of a strange relationship with the big

Why?  I mean, I’ve done an Ironman, and I’ve cycled the 100+ miles quite a few times now.  So why does it still make me anxious?

Because it’s a bloody long way!!!

And I’ve failed a few times.  And here’s the thing.  I’m not good at failing at things.  Nobody likes to fail, and if you work hard, push hard, try hard, it’s hard to accept that sometimes things just don’t work.  But there you go.  Sometimes they don’t.

First Attempt – Fail!

With friends Dalia & Jojo, at the start of the ride

With friends Dalia & Jojo, at the start of the ride – our first 100 mile ride

May 19, 2013.  This was the Wight Riviera Sportive, around the Isle of Wight.  Now, I should say – the Isle of Wight is really really beautiful.  It’s a stunning place to cycle, and it has non-stop hills.  Welcome to cycling in the UK – May 19, and it was barely above freezing, and raining off and on.

This is not me. You can tell because I was NOT smiling that day.  But you can see the route was stunning.

A view of the Needles

 

 

Stunning.  Except it was cold and raining.  Cold, raining, and 101 miles /163 km and 2219m of climbing.  Gulp.

I suffered.  I wasn’t ready for it.  Jojo quickly disappeared off with a speedier pack, while Dalia kindly stayed with me throughout my suffering.  Dalia had some mechanical issues, so we had to wait for a mechanic to fix those while the clock ticked on, and then when we did pedal onwards, it was pretty much at snail pace.  Yes, so slow that when, chilled through, nearly delirious, we finally arrived back at the finish some 7 hours later, my GPS showed that we had only done 145km, not 163km.  What happened?  I was just so thankful to be back that I didn’t dwell on it, but on the ferry journey back to the mainland, a kind official explained that the broom wagon crew had altered the route at the end to bring us back a bit quicker.  Thank goodness but….  my first failed attempt at 100 miles.  Wah!

 

Second Attempt – Success!

Sunshine makes me happy!

Sunshine makes me happy!

What a difference sunshine makes.  Second attempt was while on a (highly recommended) cycling training camp with Andy Cook out of Club La Santa (sport heaven), Lanzarote, in January 2014. We cycled in a group, it was warm and sunny, we had a couple of stops where we drank coke and ate cheese sandwiches and it was, point blank, a fantastic experience.  We took it slow and steady and I survived the 2700m elevation.  It was awesome.  (Strava link here.)

 

Third attempt – fail!

Don't be fooled by the smile.  I was frozen.

Don’t be fooled by the smile. I was frozen.

Sadly the third attempt was back in the rain.  Except no, it wasn’t so much rain, as snow, sleet, and hail. C’mon, seriously?!  There isn’t much wore than sleet while cycling.  It was the Lionheart Sportive in Wiltshire.  Again, long and hilly (there is a theme here…).  I was so frozen that when I got to the halfway point, I turned my bike and followed the signs to the 100 km route, saying goodbye to my dreams of getting another 100 miler under my belt. (NB – friend Dalia, mentioned above, soldiered on and did the 100 miles.  Beast!)  I drove home shivering and then ran a frozen miserable 17 km, cursing Ironman training.

 

Fourth attempt – Epic fail

Before

Before

After

After

Just to make sure my confidence was well and truly shot, my fourth attempt at the 100 miles was the one where I had the mega-crash and totalled my bike after 105 km.  Read this to hear more about that.  I won’t dwell on it here.  Moving on!

Fifth Attempt Success!

Rain rain rain, always rain!

It always rains!

Ironman Lanzarote was just 5 weeks away when I had the crash, so I really needed to get another 100 miler in, if only for the sake of my confidence.  One week after the crash, I did the Wiggle Ups and Downs Sportive, a hilly 103 mile route in Surrey, with my friend Zoe.  Guess what.  It rained.  It rained like Noah’s Flood.  (Would we expect anything less of April in England?) It was torrential rain, and it was cold, a wet spraying filthy muddy clinging cold that bit into our hands and feet and sodden clothes for the full 103 miles.  That’s right, the full shebang. Zoe and I made it around.  It was misery but we did it!  I couldn’t have done it without Zoe slowly chugging along beside me, a faint silhouette of relentless support in the pouring rain!

Do not be fooled by this brief moment of sun!

With Zoe, photo taken in the brief 5 minutes of sun we had the whole ride!

Sixth Attempt – Success!

This one had to happen!  Ironman Lanzarote!

Ironman Lanzarote

Ironman Lanzarote

112 miles, no problem at all! (Other than bad stomach, but that’s a story for another day.)  Have I mentioned I cycle a whole lot better in the sunshine?

Course profile of Ironman Lanzarote

 

Seventh AttemptSuccess!

Sunshine = smiles!

Sunshine = smiles!

June 2014.  My friend Rebecca and I rode 178km with 2646m climbing around Kent on a beautiful sunny day.  It didn’t rain.  Bliss!  A great ride.  Sunshine makes all the difference!

 

Eighth AttemptSuccess!

I call this one a success, but it was a bitter success if there ever was one.  This was the White Rose Classic put on by the Ilkley Cycling Club in Yorkshire, and we rode part of the route the Tour de France would be doing the following week.  I had been warned – this one is known as hard, and it truly was.  From our start at the nearby hotel to the finish, we rode 191 km /119 miles and 3658 m of climbing.  Brutal ride.  It hurt. It hurt for some 11 hours.  I rode again with my friend Rebecca who kept saying to me, You’re an Ironman, you can do this.  With 25% grade climbs it nearly killed me, but I crawled around it at snail’s pace and made it to the end.  Magnificent.  (Yes, it was truly beautiful too.)  And yes, it did rain a bit too.  Obviously.

 

Ninth Attempt – Success!

Christmas Eve 2014, yes, just a few days ago.  Maybe now I can stop labelling them success vs failures in my head, given that I’ve had a run of successful rides.  But as I said, it’s hard to get a scary number out of your head once it’s lodged itself in there.

This was a successful ride in a new way, however.  Since moving to Florida, I’ve been learning how to push harder on the bike than ever before.  All the other 100+ mile rides were very hilly, and often snowing/sleeting/raining.  Here, I can focus on just the bike, riding hard on big open roads. And I thrive on the bike in the sunshine.

This was the Santa Pull 100, a fantastic group ride organised by pro team Rich and Carol Wygand of RW Training.

At 25 miles in

At 25 miles in

We rode to the ocean! I still can’t get over how amazing it is to ride along the ocean.  In total Tom and I rode 186 km / 116 miles in 6h17, with an average speed of 30 km/h.  (See the ride here.)  BOOM!  Thanks RW Training for giving me back my 100 mile confidence!

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The sun rises over the beach – we started cycling at 5:30am

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Drinks refill stop, around 75 miles in

 

 

Filthy happy faces after 186 km.

Filthy happy faces after 186 km

Nine 100+ mile rides attempted to date.  Six successes, three failures.  100 miles is still a long way, but I’m getting a bit less scared of it now.  And those failures would only be true failures if I had never made the attempt again.

Lessons learned:

  1. I hate cycling in the cold.
  2. I ride better with friends

Morals?  Move to somewhere warm.  Cycle with a great group.  DONE!

 

What’s your dreaded number? 

What scares you?

 

Weekly Roundup

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 10.28.44

Total Time: 16:11

Swim:  4.7 km, 1:40

Bike:  284 km, 9:30

Run:  39 km, 3:48

 

 

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?