26. January 2015 · 2 comments · Categories: Run · Tags: ,

This is Haile.

Haile at 10 weeks old

Haile at 10 weeks old

Haile is full of mischief and is the world’s biggest lover of other dogs (first) and people (second).

Haile at 8 weeks old

Haile at 8 weeks old, the day we took him home with us


10 weeks old.  He is always happy.

Haile is named after Haile Gebrselassie, the world champion marathon runner:

He is living up to his name.

Haile is a 4.5 months old whippet and he loves to run.  And play.  We chose a whippet because we wanted a dog who would run with us, but at the moment it seems that I’m spending all my time running with him!


Haile at 20 weeks

On Sunday, out of curiosity, I put my old Garmin 110 on his collar so we could see how far he goes when we go for a “walk.”  I walked 4km… he ran 7.5 km.  (We are lucky in that there is a large safe open space where he can run off-lead).  And that was after a dog park play session in the morning and a puppy play date in the afternoon.

I’ve started to log the dog walks (and runs) on my own Garmin, since it is time on my feet and it does all add up.  Tom was away so I was on single-parent duty with Haile all week and was rather amazed to see my walking and running with Haile amounted to 38 km and 7 hours.

That excludes the time we spent at the dog park, too (where he runs and plays with other dogs while I get to watch).

With Mavis, an English bulldog - she was born the same day and they have had play dates since they were 9 weeks old.

With Mavis, an English bulldog – she was born the same day and they have had play dates since they were 9 weeks old.


And yes, Haile has a heart on his side!

We don’t get any peace at home if Haile hasn’t had his walks/runs or dog park outings – he makes the rules.  No dog is too big or too small to play with.

Haile is still learning how to run on a lead, so my regular training runs are still solo.  On Sunday I headed out for a 24 km run, my first long run gearing up for the London Marathon.  I suffered.  It would have been a lot more fun if Haile had been with me – and I’m sure he will be this time next year!  I’ve just ordered a Stunt Puppy running lead so that will be the first step.

The Stunt Puppy lead lets you run hands-free


Do you run with your dog?


Weekly Update

Screen Shot 2015-01-25 at 19.19.32

Total time:  18:07 (misleading, as much of that was dog walking and yoga)

Swim:  1200 yards, 27:10

Bike:  164 km, 5:38

Run:  48 km, 4:32


Of particular note was a really great super windy group ride on Saturday along the ocean, and more to the point, the coffee afterwards.



Thank you Sinead Ferguson of Wellington Deep (and mother to Mavis) for the dog park photos!

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


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.

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll have seen that last weekend I did the HITS Naples Half Ironman, and then three days later I signed up for the Sunshine State Palm Beach Half Marathon this past weekend.

It was awesome.

No, setting the alarm for 4:44 am Saturday morning was not awesome.  The jangling race nerves and the cold dark morning were also not awesome.  Racing one week after doing the Half Ironman was also not really very awesome.

But I had a secret weapon for this half marathon.

Secret Weapon!

Secret Weapon!

I first met Ben when she beat me in the Wellington Horse Country 10 Mile race in October.  As we stood gasping at the finish line, she told me about the Wellington Runners’ Club and their Wednesday night track sessions.  I’m a real believer in the track to sharpen up speed so I came along the very next Wednesday, and haven’t looked back since.

Ben also raced with me (and beat me again) in the Miami Man Half Ironman in November.  She is fast and she is strong.  Let’s put it this way – she has done an 11 hour Ironman!

So when I knew she was doing the Palm Beach Half, I immediately thought it would be great to run with her for pacing, if she was open to it.  She was – hurrah!

Running with someone who more or less runs a similar pace is a fantastic experience.  You never feel good throughout the whole race, but you also never feel bad the whole race – and when you’re running together, you have that little bit more of an incentive to try to keep up when you’re in a bad moment.  As it happens, Ben and I discussed afterwards that she feels at her best in the middle of the race.  I’m the exact opposite – the middle is where I struggle, and then I can usually find a bit more in the tank once I know the end is in sight.

The race started at 6:30 am so it was dark as we ran along the coast and we saw the sun rise over the ocean, still a novelty for me.  Our pacing worked beautifully.  I had my watch set to lap each kilometre, and Ben’s lapped each mile – so we had regular updates of our pace.  We agreed to start the race off about 10 seconds slower so as to prevent going into overdrive too quickly, and then we nudged it up after 2 miles.  Our splits were generally even and we ran the first half at a slightly more casual pace, then picked it up when we finally made the turn around and started heading back for home.  I had this pre-race text message in mind from Tom (who was travelling at the time) as we pushed ourselves that much harder:


Err, I assume the missing word in there is HURT.

Neither Ben or I have been in proper speed training or half marathon training leading up to this race, but we are both running spring marathons (London for me, Boston for Ben).  I wanted to see where my fitness was at.  Ben had cheap entry via Groupon!  (Reason 1001 to enter a race?)  In any event, it felt great to run a strong steady race, a negative split, and to have a bit of a kick at the end for the last two kilometres.

We ran pretty much the entire race together and finished with a new PB for us both of 1:33 and placed 3rd and 4th woman, 17th and 19th overall (out of nearly 500 runners).


Crossing the finish line just behind orange day-glo man

We both are aiming to get to sub 90 minutes eventually, but at this stage in the game, an even paced, negative split race feels awesome and a new PB never hurts!

What’s your strategy for races?


Weekly Round Up

This was obviously a bit of a strange week for me in that I was coming off the Half Ironman last Saturday, and preparing for the Half Marathon the following Saturday.  This isn’t the first time I’ve done back-to-back races so I wasn’t too worried about it, focusing on one short speed session and one longer run.  And zero cycling!

I am truly pathetic when it comes to making time for things like strength training, foam rolling, and core work (ok, so like 98% of runners out there).  So I am now logging that time onto my Garmin account as well so that I can see it from week to week.  If you don’t see it logged, I’m not doing it – please feel free to yell at me.

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 19.45.55

Total time:  7:38

Swim:  1000 yards, 25 min

Bike: 0!

Run:  52km; 4:38

How was your week training?


Why do we race?

I haven’t figured it out yet, really.  I feel awful in the days leading up to a race and I don’t sleep at all the night before.  The morning of the race, it’s the last thing I want to do.  And often during the race, I repeat to myself “I am never racing again.  Ever.  This time I mean it.”

Yet inevitably I sign up for another race.  Another, another, with hopes of going faster, longer, harder.

With my Half Ironman this past weekend, I really was adamant that I was done.  No more!  But by Wednesday I had already signed up for another race…. on Saturday.  Yup, I really don’t know what’s wrong with me.

I’m racing the Sunshine State Half Marathon on Saturday.

I don’t feel particularly fast or strong at the moment for this type of race, but I have the London Marathon in April and if I do a half now, I’ll know where my fitness stands as I get into marathon training properly.  I know it’s going to hurt, and I probably won’t get a PB, since I haven’t been focusing on speed.  But I’ll give it my best shot.

But wait, I’m not done.  I’ve signed up for something else.  Something hugely scary and massively exciting:

The Laugavegur Ultra Marathon, in Iceland.  I know I previously mentioned I was planning on it, but now it’s truly happening.  If you have a look at photos from the route, you’ll understand why I want to do this (or perhaps you’ll just think I’m crazy).  Here is a taster:


The ultra marathon is 55 km with nearly 2000m elevation.  I expect this will be one of the hardest events I’ve ever done, but also the most rewarding.  We will go up through mountains, across glaciers, down into valleys, and will ford rivers.  Yes, that is snow and ice in July.

Who wants to come do this with me???  I’m so excited!

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.


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.


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.


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

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 21.01.06


Total time:  10:28

Swim:  3km, 53 min

Bike: 124 km, 3:55

Run:  38km, 3:10



08. January 2015 · 2 comments · Categories: Food · Tags:

When I wrote about the quasi cookie-crusted sweet potato mash we had at our very first American Thanksgiving this year, there was quite a reaction from our UK friends.  Mostly flabbergasted.

I have to say that I prefer to leave dessert to the last course, but we’ve found it to be a stumbling block here in the USA.  It seems that dessert is lurking everywhere.  Coffee-flavour iced coffees, for example, are actually coffee ICE CREAM flavoured iced coffees – big difference.  We’ve taken to calling it Beware the Lurking Cookie.  The Lurking Cookie hides where you least expect it.

This week’s Lurking Cookie caught us by surprise. I’d bought some butternut squash ravioli at Trader Joe’s.  Sounds innocuous enough, no?  Cooked it up, served it with a bit of butter, a sprinkling of parmesan cheese and a dash of black pepper.  Tucked in….

Spat it out!   The Lurking Cookie wins again!

I checked the ingredients.  Would you believe the ravioli filling was butternut squash and amaretti biscuits?!

Is this a time-saving device to eat your main and dessert in one go?

Savoury and sweet: yay or nay?

This is an update to my recent post on fast = sexy when it comes to male cyclists (scientific fact, apparently!).

My friend Daniel (who is also a very fast cyclist), pictured below zooming along at top speed, has suggested a sexy cyclist:

Daniel Russell = fast

No, he wasn’t nominating himself (we will wait for his wife to forward that suggestion), but MARIO CIPOLLINI as a sexy cyclist, going against the grain of my words that male cyclists aren’t identified as sexy.

This news flash is warranted mostly because when I googled Mario, like Victoria Pendleton‘s photo in my last post… this came up:

Mario Cipollini


At a time when @FiftyWomenToKona is rallying for support for women in triathlon, I say hurrah for a very small expression of gender equality!


January is, supposedly, a time for New Year’s Resolutions, fresh starts, ending bad habits.  So just to switch it up a bit, what are your guilty pleasures, your indulgences?  A few of mine:

  1. Garmin data.  It’s ridiculous but I love it.  I upload within minutes of getting home from a workout and I study the data meticulously – even if it’s just a silly slow 5km run.  I go nuts when an upload loses my data.  I love the maps, the splits, the weekly tallies, the stats, all of it.  And I love seeing yours, too. (Follow me on Strava!)
  2. Sports kit.  The worst offenders are LululemonSweaty Betty* and Oiselle. During peak Ironman training I calculated I was wearing (and sweating in) 3 sports bras a day, sometimes 4 ((1) morning workout; (2) cycle to and from work; (3) yoga at lunch; (4) evening workout) which means really that I need at least 15 to get through the week.  I probably have double that number…. not to mention everything else.  We do a LOT of sports kit laundry in this house.
  3. Popcorn.  I love the stuff.  In the UK it was all about Tyrrells.  I used to buy about 6 bags in our weekly shop!  If anyone can tell me where to get Tyrrells popcorn in the US, I will be grateful! In the meantime I’m making do with a poor replacement from Fresh Market. (Yes, I make my own too.  But it doesn’t taste as good as Tyrrells).

*Want to try Sweaty Betty? At checkout, click on “been referred by a friend” on the right side of the page, and enter “Julia Kelk” for a cool $20 off your first order.  Alternatively, you can enter your email here to receive a $20 coupon.

What are your guilty pleasures?  As above.  Also, chocolate.  Ice cream.  Corn on the cob (6 cobs being the most I ever ate in one sitting).

Weekly Roundup

New Year’s happened.  I was in bed by 10.  Because I was tired (and happy) after doing a mock tri on New Year’s Eve that consisted of a 2700 m swim, a 30 km bike and a 5 km run.  It pissed it down while we were cycling and it was all a totally awesome way to end a brilliant year of training and racing.


Feeling that chilly December air!

Add in another 2 brick sessions, 3 swims in a week, and even some yoga and strength training and all in all it was a great and exhausting week.  The best type!

Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 19.50.48

Total:  15:34

Swim: 5730 m, 2:14

Bike:  213 km,  7:53

Run: 34.5 km, 2:59


Now for a mini-taper – I have the HITS Half Ironman in Naples on Saturday.


My sister and brother-in-law at the pool with us – new tri recruits?!




02. January 2015 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags:

I stumbled upon a great headline from the BBC from earlier this year:

imageWhen I googled “sexy cyclists”, all the images that came up were of women – and half were of Victoria Pendleton, the Olympic gold women’s cyclist who posed nude for glossy magazines.

Most people don’t think of male cyclists as sexy.  There is no David Beckham equivalent on a bike…nobody doing underwear adverts (unless you know of one, in which case please let me know in the comments!).  Why is it that men strutting around in skin-tight bike lycra isn’t considered as hot as say, the Olympic swimmers?  (Same thing, less lycra?!)

Mark Cavendish strutting his stuff


Ever since I first spotted my husband Tom coming back sweaty and dishevelled in his tight Helly Hansen base layer post-winter cycling, I’ve liked the lycra look.  And it seems that his speedy prowess on the bike may be the reason why.

Tom, sans lycra

Tom, sans lycra


The BBC article tells us of a scientific study that examined the relationship between perceived attractiveness and success in cycling:

Dr Erik Postma, from the Institute of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Zurich, asked people to rate the attractiveness of 80 professional cyclists from the 2012 Tour de France. The cyclists were all of a similar physical stature, were tanned and around the same age.

Around 800 participants were then asked to score the cyclist’s attractiveness based just on their facial appearances. Their scores were excluded if they recognised the athlete.

In brief, it found that women rated the better cyclists as more attractive, even though they didn’t see them cycling.  Apparently this athletic success is written across the very faces of these men.  That’s right:  the winning riders were also winning the ladies.

You can read the full article here.


And the top ten most attractive cyclists*, according to the study?

1.  Amael Moinard

2. Yann Huguet

3. Maxime Monfort

4. Andriy Grivko

5. Michael Schar

6. Martin Velits

7. Christophe Riblon

8. Adam Hansen

9. Rui Alberto Costa

10. Manuel Quinziato

*Mark Cavendish, pictured above, was excluded from the study because he was wearing sunglasses in his team photo.


My fast and attractive husband!

My fast and attractive husband!

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?