Great full page article about one of our athletes Joe Webley and his rise to success. Plenty more to come from this athlete. It’s always humbling to get a mention in these pieces.
A good friend of ours, Andy successfully raced the iconic Celtman Scottish Extreme Triathlon this year. The Celtman is part of the Xtri World Tour and takes place in June in Wester Ross, Scotland and is centred around the stunning Torridon Mountains. Make no mistake - when they say this race is extreme they mean it; a 3.4km swim in cold, deep, jellyfish infested water, a 202km ride on the scenic but challenging Scottish roads and to finish a 42km run through an ancient drover pass up and over the Beinn Eighe mountain range. Being fit is only part of the equation for success; slick teamwork; specific preparation and an ability to adapt are all required. Following his success in the race we asked Andy for his top 5 tips for completing The Celtman and these are detailed below.
1. Firstly pick your team carefully and schedule in a training day a few weeks before the event. Andy chose a team of three with different strengths, his fiancé for emotional support, a friend who is a great runner and whom Andy had done most of his Munros with, and a friend who is a long distance kayaker who has bags of experience with extreme events that require support. Two weeks before the race the whole team had a day where they simulated the event in miniature so that the team could practice feeding him, clothing him, helping in transitions etc. This does not have to be at the race venue and indeed in Andy’s case wasn’t. This was a three/four hour session which was purely for the team to practice; Andy threw in on the spot challenges for them throughout the day like changing clothes, pumping up tyres etc. so they were fully prepared. In Andy’s words the first 30 mins were a disaster and if it had been race day he’d have been extremely stressed. By the end of the session they had it totally dialled in and knew exactly how to support me as a team. I can't recommend highly enough doing this session; there were plenty of ill equipped teams on race day!
2. Know the course like the back of your hand. By race day Andy had recced the bike course twice, once riding it and once in a car with a GPS looking for decent feed stops. He'd also been round the whole run course with his support runner. The first section of the run is in extremely rough terrain with the high likelihood of going off track, definitely worth checking it out before the big day.
3. The swim is cold and jellyfish filled. Wetsuit boots, gloves and under vests are allowed and it's worth considering using them. In the race Andy used all three but if he had to do it again he'd ditch the gloves. He practised a lot with them but felt they held him back when actually on the course. His thinking was that they would protect his hands from stings but despite seeing loads of jellyfish, that wouldn't have been an issue. The boots and under vest worked well though, and are well worth thinking about. Despite there being hundreds of jellyfish Andy reported that he didn't actually mind them once I got going; they don't bother you and actually look quite amazing when you're swimming over them. If you can practice swimming at the venue before the race you should, although in Andy’s case he didn't get the chance.
4. Shieldaig is a small place and it's very busy with cars on race day morning. If you're staying in the village this isn't an issue but if you are not, it's worth giving yourself an extra 30 mins to get into the village and parked on your way to transition. Nothing worse than a rushed start to the race!
5. Celtman is not Swim-Bike-Run, it's Swim-Bike-Run-Hike. It's a 3.4km swim and a 202km bike and there's nothing you can do about that. But the run is split between running and hiking and you should take that into consideration. You have 11hrs from the start of the race to get to T2a and the cut-off for the high course, (to be awarded the coveted blue t-shirt) and the low course. That means once off the bike you have to run 16k to get to T2a; after this it's impossible to do anything other than hike up Beinn Eighe, it's too steep to run. So in training after a big ride Andy would focus on a 16k run at a decent speed, rather than a slower 30k run for example. Know your timings and what sort of pace you need to be doing once off the bike.
All in all Celtman is a must do race for every triathlete’s bucket list. It is over subscribed so they run a ballot each year. If you are one of the lucky few that gets a slot then these tips will help you, and your team, be properly prepared.
Having just returned from the fantastic Ironman 70.3 World Championships I have some recent experience of travelling with athletes and seeing the toll on the body that the travel takes. Whilst travelling to a race is a necessary evil, and perhaps many of you are not going as far as SA, there are things to you do to ensure that you arrive in good shape to race.
DURING YOUR TRAVEL
Wear your compression socks. Triathletes love compression gear! So I probably don’t need to encourage them to wear them however during a flight or a long trip, along with for recovery there actually is some science to suggest that they will help blood circulation and minimize swelling of the feet. There is pretty much no science to suggest that compression gear will improve performance however so I’ll save that rant for another post!
Move. If you are flying to your destination race then get up and walk around every 20 minutes and avoid sitting too long. Stretch your calves while seated and standing. If driving or being driven try and stop every hour for a little walk around and stretch off the calves, quads and hip flexors.
Food Choices. I’d bring my own healthy snacks on the trip, good airlines will allow you to book your food choices before you fly with meals being provided for special diets so make sure you do that. Stay hydrated but not overly saturated on the trip and avoid alcohol particularly on flights.
Timing.Depending on the distance of travel I would always advise getting out to the venue early, in our case we flew on Monday and arrived on Tuesday ahead of the Women’s race on the Saturday and Men’s on the Sunday. Clearly for a more local race you don’t need to arrive this early but for the bigger 70.3/Ironman distance type races I do feel this helps.
I was lucky enough to meet six time Ironman World Champion Dave Scott in South Africa and one of the things we chatted about was training after a flight. We had elected to fly through Doha, Qatar which actually has a gym and a pool so our Performance Edge athletes were able to get a little workout there during our 8 hour hold over and we incorporated some of the sets below.
When you book your trip ensuring you either have a pool at the destination or nearby and checking opening times can be a great help before you fly. If you can get a little swim in after arriving
The rationale of this swim set is really to shake off from the flight so keep the session short and keep the reps short. So swim 25s or 50s with a good 15-20s rest in between. Mix up the strokes so as well as freestyle, include some breast stroke and backstroke. Just keep the intensity nice and low and feel the benefit of being in the water after a long travel day.
Once you have build the bike then getting a little ride in after your travel day is also a good way to get rid of some fatigue from the travel
Again this is not a session more it is an opportunity to firstly check your bike mechanicals over and to ensure all is working correctly. If not you have time for yourself, or a local bike shop or expo mechanics to help correct the issue. Secondly it is a chance to blow away some cobwebs from the flight. Again keep the intensity low but I think on the bike including a couple of short pick ups of perhaps 20 – 45s is a good idea and also standing as well as sitting whilst riding to stretch the hip flexors. One thing Dave Scott mentioned was to drop the heel to stretch the Achilles and soleus.
A little shakedown run perhaps the day after a travel day can help to get you race ready. I know Ironman World Champion Peter Reid used to do a run straight off the plane when he got to Hawaii but this could be too much for us mere mortals so I’d advise triathletes to wait a day if they can
Similarly to the swim and the bike the rationale of the run is to get a little stretch in or the major muscle groups that will have tightened on the trip. Like the bike I would add some 20s pick ups into the run but the majority is just a gentle jog. Dave Scott again talked about the Achilles on these runs and felt that walking backwards dynamically stretched the Achilles and hamstrings. During the run don’t be afraid to stop once warned up and have a gentle dynamic stretch of the calves, quads and hip flexors.
Finally when you are at these more major races you will see athletes in the days befor e the race going way too fast in their workouts. Stick to these post travel sessions and you’ll give your body the best chance to recover from the travel. Take it easy, make healthy food choices and you’ll feel more refreshed and ready to go for the next race. Which is the day you have trained to go fast!
For the ambitious athlete with equally ambitious training consideration should be given to their motivation and their specific goal. A solid motivation is to concentrate on the process and not the outcome and aim to be the best that athlete can be and the goal should be whatever target the athlete places the greatest value on. With runners and triathletes I would encourage them not to place too much emphasis however on the goal too early in their athletic career. It takes time to achieve appropriate levels of sport specific excellence and athletes should be allowed this time to develop, grow both physiologically and psychologically and potentially change direction.
In terms of the objective it is key that one should never do more than is necessary to achieve it. So programmes should not just build to a maximal training level and hold an athlete there, rather any programme should take into consideration all aspects of an athletes life, work, family and social commitments and ensure that there is a quality to the training that is fitted in around these aspects such that the athlete develops.
So when one looks into the specifics of training whilst mileage volume at a slower pace is needed to establish the cardiovascular base required by the aerobic sports that most participate in it should be limited to again being just enough to achieve the aim and no more. More is not necessarily better – for the triathletes I am tempted to repeat that! The risk of any over use injury should always be limited. When we conduct anaerobic work or the powerful stimulus of interval training it can quickly bring an athlete on but equally quickly can bring about fatigue and injury so it is monitored and used sparingly – no more than necessary for the individual athlete.
The harder the training or the greater the ambition of the athlete the more a Coach has to consider. Athletes should be encouraged to appropriately discover their limits but this must never be at the risk of pushing an athlete too far and if the mantra of Never Do More than is Necessary is heeded you give the ambitious athlete the greatest chance of reaching their goal.
It's quite common for us to have athletes racing all over the world but when one of my athletes, Jen came up with The Polar Circle Marathon on her event list this was something new and presented a number of challenges. I'm happy to say she overcame all of those and her race report is below.
"I saw this marathon advertised many years ago, and it became my dream. Never once did I think I would be fit or strong enough, physically or mentally to take it on. But one year into being coached by Neil Scholes, my strength and confidence grew to the point I saw it as possible. 2017 saw me on the start line.
The race presents many challenges, mainly due to the unpredictable conditions. For the first time this year, there had been little snow in the preceding week, so what little snow there was had become icy on the gravel road. The ice cap itself was just that, ice! No soft snow to give grip. A recce out on the route the day before showed us all how difficult the ice cap was to stay upright on. Crampons were a necessity. The temperature was unseasonably mild, but the wind chill was unpredictable. The big questions all the runners asked each other and debated were: 'how many layers to wear?' 'Goggles or not?' 'Where to put on crampons?' and 'Will my gels freeze?' I quickly realised this was more than just running a marathon. It was going to be a mental game against the elements and adapting as the game changed.
The morning of the race came and still no snow. The big 4x4 truck buses were ready at 7.00am to transport us to the start. It was dark and cold. Most of us sat in silence for the hour and a half journey. At the start we left our drop bags with spare clothes/food etc to be transported to the various aid stations. They didn’t keep us hanging around for long. Dawn broke, and we were off.
The first few kilometres of the race were up a steep hill (not my favourite way to start a race! ) I had planned to wear three layers on my top: base/fleece/windproof and two on the bottom: base/windproof along with a buff and goggles. I struggled to breathe through my buff, but without it pulled up, my lips and nose became SO cold. The goggles protected my eyes completely from the wind thankfully.
Running on the ice was actually SUCH fun. The crunch of crampons in the otherwise beautiful silence was unique. I have never been anywhere so barren and exotic. I felt so happy and privileged to be there. My core strength kept me upright on the ice as others around me fell (Thank you Motion Health! ) I was having a ball.
Coming off the ice cap and getting onto the gravel road was great, it was downhill! But very soon I realised how much I had sweated on the ice, and I was way too hot. At the 10k station I removed my soaking midlayer and just kept the base and windproof. Goggles came off, thin gloves went on. Unwanted items went in a labelled bag to be taken back to the finish line.
At this point I suddenly felt lightheaded and a bit nauseous, but an electrolyte gel soon righted that. Setting off again I was full of doubt as to if I’d made the right garment choices. I worried the weather would turn, or I’d get cold if for any reason I had to slow to a walk. Neil’s race advice rung in my ears, ‘Run the bit of race that you are in’. Probably the best bit of race advice I have ever been given. This advice fits so well with the Inuit language and culture where there is only a present tense. What is past doesn’t matter now, what is in front you can't yet control. All you can do is live in the moment. I switched my attention to the scenery, the amazing freedom and silence around me, and I did what I love. I ran.
It was slow, or rather, I was slow, but every minute of that race I was running grateful. Occasionally I caught up with other runners, ran alongside for a while or walked up a hill together. The friendliness was above anything I’d experienced before. Runners from 26 countries were represented. The language of running was the same for us all.
Regulating temperature was the hardest part. I got way too hot in two top layers, but too cold in just one. I also didn’t get the fuelling quite right. I sweated a lot more than I expected, and I didn’t take on enough, so energy levels dipped a few times. However, I was honestly sad to see the 41k marker as I realised my race was almost over. Many locals had come out to see the finish, and the cheering and flag waving was really appreciated. Crossing that finish line gave me the best feeling ever... a dream realised.
As an adventure marathon I’d recommend it. It was extremely well organised. The support from the marshals along the route was amazing. Warm drinks and snacks were available frequently. Standing out for those hours in zero temperatures can’t have been easy. Medics were available on the ice cap itself. I can’t fault the encouragement they gave. It was very welcome, as needless to say, there were no supporters along the route! From flights to accommodation, transport around, optional tours, Albatross Adventures had it all covered."
We'd love to hear about your races in far off climes so don't hesitate to contact us here
Last month it was my privilege to crew at The Starman Triathlon, an event that my neighbours Andy and Caz from True Grit Events were putting on. The Starman is a unique triathlon in the Scottish Highlands as it starts at midnight with a 1.2 mile swim in Loch Morlich; which for those unfamiliar with the location is about 10 miles east of Aviemore – where you will find the nearest street light. The 56 mile bike that follows takes you through Speyside and finishes with a tough climb up to the ski station car park at the base of Cairn Gorm where you start the final leg a 13.1 mile run. This run is no less challenging than the previous two disciplines as not only do you start by running up Windy Ridge to the exposed summit of Cairn Gorm you then have to run down and finally up and over Meall a’ Bhuachaille to finish at Loch Morlich.
As a Coach, crewing at this event gave me not only the distinctive advantage of viewing the rigours of completing a middle distance triathlon at night but also how each of the competitors adapted and coped (or didn’t) with the nuances of the event thus allowing me to form some advice for participants in not only the 2018 version of the event but also events such as this that take place when the sun goes down.
I think the first most obvious aspect of the race is that start time of midnight. Questions will arise in athletes’ minds as to whether they should, if possible, alter their daily schedule prior to the race and go nocturnal. I think a close second will be questions about eating and how to plan meal times around the race.
Looking at nutrition first, I would aim to eat 4 times on the day of the race making my last ‘meal’ around 21:00, i.e. 3 hours before the start, and I would make this my normal pre race breakfast. So if you were to race a marathon or a normal middle distance triathlon and you would usually have say a bowl of porridge and a banana for breakfast before it then that is what I would aim to eat at around 21:00. I would then work backwards through the day and perhaps eat my dinner slightly earlier knowing I’d be eating at 21:00 and also lunch and breakfast. One aspect to consider for this particular race is the venue and how you are going to make that bowl of porridge or whatever you are going to eat at night beside Loch Morlich. The majority of competitors were in tents so not too much of an issue but worth considering if your normal pre race meal was steak, eggs and broccoli.
With regards to the midnight start it is only one night so I definitely wouldn’t try and alter my life to try and be nocturnal. Anyone who has worked shifts, or has had children or even remembers back to their clubbing days knows that you can cope with one night with no sleep. Having said that I would look to perhaps trying to get a nap maybe in the afternoon or post dinner then get up for the 21:00 “breakfast”/Last Supper and then stay up.
I think the next and again obvious thing about the race is the darkness. It’s called the Starman, there is a clue there, and you see the stars when it’s dark. However living in rural Perthshire as I do we are perhaps more used to and accustomed to the dark. I have a head torch in my van for example so I can walk from it to the house at night, as our nearest streetlight is 3 miles away. The race venue is, as I have said is an even greater distance from artificial light - so when it’s dark it’s really dark. This leads to a number of aspects that need consideration: how will you cope mentally not only swimming in a Scottish Loch but out on a bike course in the pitch black potentially on your own; how will you cope practically in terms what lights will you utilise in order to see and be seen, and how aspects like looking at your bike computer which in the daylight are simple all of a sudden become a more awkward evolution.
Like many things in racing this comes down to practice. In the swim the competitors were issued with 3 cyalume light sticks, one on either side of their swim caps and one on the back of the wetsuit and each buoy was beautifully lit up. But if possible getting a few open water swims in the dark or even fading light would be useful but if not even just shutting your eyes for a few strokes in your local pool can help. Kitting your bike out with some great lights that give you great vision is paramount but also putting a light on your helmet works well as you then have vision where you turn your head. This is important to spot race and road signage, to look at bike computers and also if you glance to the side you illuminate there. Racing with lights in the dark can lead to a tunnel vision effect and this in itself can lead to feelings of motion sickness and nausea and a few competitors certainly reported this. However having some good lights and also trialling these if possible under similar conditions can eliminate it. Of course lastly, as with any triathlon, it is the responsibility of the competitor to know the route so if possible get to know the path the race takes and therefore when visibility is low you at least will have some recollection of where you are. At least one of the competitors had actually cycled the route at night - go to the top of the Coach’s class for perfect preparation!
There is definitely a discomfort element to racing at night. Your mind can and will play tricks on you and innocent shadows take on new forms. Keeping your mind quiet and in check is definitely part of night racing. It is very typical in races to have negative thoughts that you should have stayed at home and I think these are amplified when it’s at night. So yes there is a warm bed you could get into but you still can once you have finished and have that finishers medal! Again getting out for a few training sessions in the dark will bring some familiarity to the effects and allow you to stay focussed as you become more comfortable with the environment. There is also a beauty and stillness to racing at night and that feeling of dawn, especially as you descend Cairn Gorm, stirs something primeval in all of us.
I think lastly from a coaching perspective one aspect that often goes awry in any race is pacing and this is simply more difficult at night. Athletes these days are very accustomed to reading metrics such as heart rate, power, speed, pace, average pace etc from a multitude of devices but of course you may not be able to read them in the dark. Couple this with your visual perception being altered often leads to thinking you are moving quicker than you actually are. At night with the reduced vision, objects appear very quickly and it is this that leads to the assumption that you are travelling quickly. The answer, as in during day races is to get used to ‘feeling’ what a particular pace of effort feels like internally. So rather than relying on visual cues or even cues from devices that at night you may not be able to read well, practice instead getting in tune with your body and understanding what efforts feel like. Like everything practice, practice, practice.
Overall The Starman 2017 was a phenomenal inaugural event, I’m only sorry that I was crewing and not competing (although with a dislocated collar bone I didn’t have much option) and it is one that should be on every triathletes bucket list.
Triathlon is a global sport and here at Performance Edge we have athletes racing throughout the year in a variety of locations. This week is no exception with father and daughter Chris and Katie H racing Ironman Wales, Chris R is also racing Ironman Wales for the 6th time, Faye is looking to put down another PB at the Clapham 10k having PB’d in 5k, 10k, Half Marathon and Marathon this year and Rosie is across in Chattanooga, Tennessee racing the Ironman 70.3 World Championships.
So an assortment of races this weekend in a variety of locations and I’ll be pacing around like an expectant father checking various trackers; however despite the multiplicity there are actually many similarities in some of the advice I offer up prior to these events. I discuss specifics with the athletes but in general the advice below will stand you in good stead.
First up is to relax. Not just say it to actually physically practice it. I want my athletes to try and still their thoughts. Six-time Ironman World Champion Mark Allen used to talk about having a quiet mind and American fighter pilots in WW2 were trained to relax in the heat of battle. They got it so effective that they could relax in a room and even sleep when someone was firing a machine gun. So don’t let negative thoughts creep in and in your own races just relax and perform.
As a Coach I place no outward expectations on the athletes, I know they will do their best and work hard. They have already worked hard to get to race day and the actual race is merely an expression and a celebration of that hard work. That is all I ask so we don’t talk about times or placing or aspects we have no control over, we concentrate on the things we can control.
In the military we talked about the six P’s; Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance so plan everything. Plan what you will bring to the race and plan for every eventuality, consider how a perfect race would look and visualise that, plan the “action on” in other words what you would do if you had a puncture, if your goggles get knocked off in the swim, if you feel sick on the run. Consider it, make a plan, make an alternate plan and then race to those plans. If you were undertaking a long drive today you would actually plan it, you would make sure your car was full of diesel or petrol, you would buy some healthy snacks, you would plan a route or set the sat nav and I can tell you that the plan would change! You’d hit traffic, or be diverted so you’d have to adapt the plan. Same when you are racing in endurance sport, you’ll be out there for a considerable time and things happen. So plan for the unexpected.
Those of you who race know there is a lot of pre race posturing at the race venue, particularly in triathlon! Other athletes always look fitter and stronger than me when I race but I know it all counts for nothing when the gun goes off. Other athletes will look more muscular, more lean, have better kit a better bike an aero helmet, a disc wheel than you but it means nothing. In fact staying out of this environment if it stresses you out a bit is always worthwhile. I encourage my athletes to spend as little time around others that are racing as they can. They go to register, they wander round the expo once, they go to any compulsory brief and check out the course, in triathlon they look at the flow through transitions and all aspects we need to know but we do all of that efficiently. I want them to keep themselves in their own world. In your own races resist expending any physical or mental energy that you don’t need to. Perhaps even listening to a Yoga Nidra podcast or soothing music might help - not heavy metal or the theme from Rocky! You don’t need to be amped up!
During the race itself concentrate on the process and not the outcome. Try and maintain that quiet mind and never give up. Just live in the moment, the moment is now. I emphasise this in training, I encourage athletes not to stress about a run on the Thursday when it is only Tuesday. Likewise in triathlon don’t worry about the bike when you are swimming, or worry about the run when you are cycling. Just be the best you can be in that moment.
In an endurance event, nutrition wise you must keep the intake of carbs up. You need the energy to run and most people run out of energy on the run due to lack of nutrition and/or hydration. If you feel bad then go to water, for 20 mins and let your stomach settle. If you run out of energy go very easy for 5 mins and eat everything and you'll come good in about 20 mins. Better to lose 5 mins than 25 mins due to feeling bad.
Lastly I wish my athletes good luck; I always wish it because we all need it. Concentrate on the process and only the process and enjoy the finish line.
One of the staple events now on the UKs multi sport calendar is the Long Course Weekend where every July since 2010, Tenby in Pembrokeshire, Wales plays host to what was a unique 3 day event, but now with the addition of LCW Mallorca and Jervis Bay is a growing family. It has grown from humble beginnings to now accommodate 8500 athletes over the weekend across all 3 disciplines and many utilising it as the perfect preparation and build up to the Ironman Wales event in September.
Beth has completed the event three years on the trot and this was my second time at LCW.. There are a number of options for each discipline but to qualify for the Long Course and that elusive fourth medal you clearly have to do the full distance in each event. The weekend kicks-off on the Friday evening with The Wales Swim. There are two options a 1.2 mile and a 2.4 mile swim and it takes place on Tenby’s North Beach. The Long Course athletes have to complete 2.4 mile swim. Whilst busy coaching one thing I have been doing in recent months is swimming and the weather was perfect for the swim this year. The course is a two-lap swim, for the full distance, with a so called “Aussie exit” and goes in a clockwise direction. The first buoy was reportedly 800m away but it seemed to take forever to reach it as the current was against us. However having turned at the buoy you could really lengthen the stroke and feel a slight push “downstream. This event feels different to an Ironman branded event, with very little of the testosterone fuelled hype at the start and a much friendlier atmosphere. So straight away I liked it when I first did it. We had stayed in the same B&B in Tenby that we stayed at last year so we just walked down to the start in our wetsuit and used the bag drop for a change afterwards which was all very efficient. It was also quite nice to just do the swim and go back to the B&B rather than the thought of getting straight onto the bike.
On Saturday the attention turns to The Wales Sportive, and 112 miles of “undulating” Welsh countryside lined in parts with enthusiastic crowds. There are also shorter route options. This ride is extremely tough and some of the “undulations” are full blown hills. The weather this year was great and no sign of the rain we had last year and that made the descents much less sketchy. I rode my road bike as opposed to my Tri bike as we are off for some cycling in France after the event but there are certainly large parts where you can get nice and aero on the tri bars.
To finish the weekend, the athletes have the small task of completing the 26.2 miles of The Wales Marathon, which is quickly establishing itself as a fantastic event in its own right. There are 5k, 10k and Half Marathon options with the latter two starting after the marathon. The Half for example starts 2 hours after the marathon start so if you are quick enough you will be cheered on by those runners waiting to start the half. I had a great run last year but not so this year, the weather was warm and sunny but I just did not have the run legs and I was not alone in this. You can tell which event runners are doing by their bib colour and both spectators and other runners alike were appreciative of the Long Course athletes.
All in all I can thoroughly recommend the Long Course Weekend. It is challenging but more than that it is a well-run event with none of the drama that goes with the Ironman events, so no huge race briefing, no racking of bike or dropping of bags and it is conducted in an inclusive and friendly atmosphere. As long as the organisers keep a cap on numbers it will remain so. With the pick and choose nature of each discipline there is something here for everyone. For those doing an Ironman later in the year you could do the full swim and bike and perhaps just the 10k to save your legs for example. Entries for next year are open and if I was you I’d get on it. Lastly if I haven’t convinced you yet then perhaps the fact you get LCW branded beer in your goody bag might just do it!
If you have any more in depth questions about our experience of the event just contact us.
As a Coach there is one quote out of the many fantastic quotes that Muhammad Ali said that for me sums up the attitude that triathletes and runners should embrace come race day - “The fight is won or lost far away from the witnesses, behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road; long before I dance under those lights.”
For me I think that sums it up well, you think about all the time you have got up early to swim up and down a 25m pool following the black line, you think about the hours on the turbo trainer and out on the road running and riding, you think about the logical hooks you have created, and all the times you have taken in the past to push yourself and not hold back. You put all of this together and when you are standing on the start line looking at the water and around at your other competitors you can tell yourself that you have done everything that you can do. You do not need to feel nervous or anxious about your performance, you have essentially won or lost the “fight” already. ALL you need to do is to be out there and enjoy it and rely on the skills you already have as you are not going to improve on them that day you are merely going to use the skill set that you possess.
So relax and enjoy it! After all it is meant to be fun!
If you train specifically and appropriately in your time “away from witnesses” then one day you might be able to proclaim, as Muhammad Ali did after beating Sonny Liston, “I shook up the World! I shook up the World!”
Having just finished our Performance Edge Triathlon Specific Camp in Mallorca I thought that I would write down some thoughts on training camps in general and why perhaps our camps are different to others and how we expedite the training.
The first aspect of the camp we have to address is the endemic overtraining that age group triathletes seem to embrace and then publicise that overtraining on various social media outlets. Conversely the dichotomy here is that camps actually are a vehicle to embrace greater volume of training. However it is the downtime that facilitates this. The first instruction the athletes are given is that the camp is about Eating, Sleeping and Training ….. in that order. It is the former two that allow the recovery and adaptation necessary to enable the latter. So whilst the athletes on the camp will train more than at home, the reason they can is that we have taken them away from work, family duties, social occasions and placed them in an environment where the down time, the eating and resting allows the recovery, adaptation and ability to go again.
With the swim we primarily look to increase the athletes frequency of swimming. In fact in our 6 day camp the athletes actually touched the water on 6 separate occasions. However these were not 6 eye balls out swim sessions. They comprised a mix of 3 early morning swim sessions to get the athletes used to the early morning start of triathlon and to get that discipline installed in them however at all times we were working on giving advice on timing and rhythm to give the athletes a nice, efficient, triathlon specific stroke. Once they had that their stroke was not altered and we just got them swimming and used to tapping out the rhythm over the given set. On other days we utilised the swim as recovery post bike session and these sessions are there to keep the frequency up in terms of touching the water but also to start the recovery process prior to the next day.
We schedule our programme to achieve a good equilibrium of hard work and easy sessions. Primarily this can be attained in our bike rides where a simple way of achieving this is to follow a hilly bike day with a more flatter ride or even a shorter recovery type ride. This protocol allowed us to ride 350 miles in the 6 days but without it really taking too much out of the athletes. Cycling on good, quiet roads in great weather is a very safe way of achieving a good volume of training and our athletes often comment that they couldn’t or wouldn’t get those rides in at home. In fact one of our campers, a medical Doctor, decided on returning home after the camp to extend her 8 mile cycle commute to 30 miles. She would not have been able to achieve that had we over trained the athletes!
Lastly we keep running to an appropriate level, with some recovery runs off the bike and other run sessions. The run days are typically separated by a non run day as on a camp any over running is certainly a recipe to smoke yourself. As with the bike and the swim sessions we mix up slower shorter sessions with faster shorter sessions with longer sessions and it is the mix that brings results.
So the take home message is that if you go on a training camp or do your own at home then yes do an appropriate level of training and remember that it is the recovery that facilitates the adaptation and allows for the increased level of work so your mantra should be Eating and Sleeping Ain’t Cheating!
One of our athletes, Ian Jones has written a nice piece about his thoughts on what it takes to stand on the start line of an Ironman and has linked it to how competitors must have felt on the show Mastermind. So without further ado over to Ian for his general knowledge round.
For 25 years Magnus Magnusson struck fear into the heart of any competitor that dared to sit in the black leather chair. I’m talking about the popular BBC game show called Mastermind where competitors battled to answer questions on specialist subjects such as ‘The history and genealogy of European royalty’. There could only be one winner in a season and they would be the one adorned with the title of Mastermind.
In many ways, the Ironman triathlon is exactly the same as Mastermind. Each and every competitor stood on the start line is struggling to breathe, not from their overly tight neoprene wetsuit but from fear. Fear of the challenge ahead, fear of failure, fear of Magnus appearing and telling them that their time is up. Everybody seems to know someone who has completed an Ironman and they all have varying tales of torture ready to distil, mostly revolving around the swim - “My friend Joe had 5 teeth knocked out during the swim.” Despite these stories, completing an Ironman is still a ‘bucket list’ item for a lot of people. Unfortunately for most, the ‘bucket list’ is where it will remain as the prospect of swimming 2.4 miles, cycling 112 miles and running 26.2 miles in under 17 hours seems ludicrous, a challenge too big, too daunting and one where failure feels very real. The feeling of the spotlight being on them is too much and they don’t have the luxury of a nice black leather chair to sit in!
In reality, the single hardest part of completing an Ironman is not sitting in the chair waiting for the start, it’s the preparation involved in getting there. If you can stand on the start line fit and healthy then barring a mechanical issue or just plain bad luck, there is nothing to stop you crossing that finish line and hearing the sweetest four words in triathlon – “You. Are. An. Ironman!” I appreciate you may be thinking that my comments are flippant or that I have lost my mind but there is a solid reason behind this argument. If you are stood on the start line of an Ironman, you have gone through the training, you've regularly set your alarm to wake you up at a time you didn't think existed and done numerous early morning swims. You've cycled in every type of weather condition possible and had parts of your body you weren't aware of go numb. You've ran like Forest Gump and done numerous 'brick runs' – this is just a fancy term for running 'off the bike' with very wobbly legs. You've spent hours trawling through the internet learning how to swim like Phelps, cycle like Froome, run like Farrah and have spent more money than credit card 1, 2 and 3 can cover. All in all you've become a finely tuned early bird with no money, ready to tackle and complete the long course.
In 2016, there were 2,094 athletes entered into Ironman UK. While that's not at the levels of perhaps a big city marathon such as London or New York, it is awe inspiring to see so many individuals who have gone through a tough, demanding training program. Completing an Ironman is most certainly not a walk in the park, it’s tough and extremely challenging. You may not have a specialist subject and you could be worrying about what happens next but just remember, the beeping you can hear is not time up, it’s most likely your Garmin reminding you that you’ve started so you might as well finish.
Performance in the majority of endurance events is in the main determined by the maximal sustained production of power over the set competition distance. So to achieve a performance of running a sub 40 minute 10k you need not only to be able to be able to run sub 4 minute km pace but you need the trained energy systems in place to maintain that pace and power over 10km. At the end of the day it is the athlete that covers the set distance in the shortest time possible that wins the race. To achieve the best result requires an athlete to be in the best physical condition for the event and indeed many studies conclude that this it is this pure physical conditioning that is of primary importance.
To achieve this level many aerobic endurance athletes look to copy programmes from other successful endurance athletes or to select a generic plan from a magazine. This may actually be successful, if you are lucky and if your strengths and weaknesses exactly match the successful athlete’s programme you are copying. A better strategy would be to have a specifically designed programme constructed that is based on solid training practices and the principles that will bring about success. I further discussed Specificity of Session in this article.
The first part of any plan when it comes to physical conditioning for Endurance Events involves building that very endurance that the athlete needs. This concept has been utilised I suspect by about 95% of the most successful athletes. Working daily with athletes I see the need to emphasise this endurance prior to working the speed endurance but this is not a new phenomenon. Indeed this approach was used by Walter George – who I hear you ask? – well Walter George was the world mile record holder back in 1896, but, as reported by Steve Ovett’s Coach it is an approach that has been used successfully through the agesfrom Sydney Wooderson (world 880 yard and mile record holder in the 1930s) through to Arthur Lydiard’s group in the 60s and 70s and indeed by Ovett himself.
It takes a long time to develop endurance which is why we stress it first and foremost and recommend a long, gradual build up in the first stage or a training plan. It is no good being fast in April or May if you can not hold that pace because you are short of endurance. The first priority in any endurance race is the ability to last the distance at a good pace. By working your endurance you will improve your oxygen uptake and this factor alone will mean you are better equipped to tackle the speed/endurance phase so particularly at this time of year in late January don’t forget that endurance aerobic work.
 Astrand, P.O., K. Rodahl, H.A. Dahl and S.B. Stromme. Textbook of Work Physiology 2003.
 Wells, C.L., and R.R. Pate. Training for Performance of Prolonged Exercise. In Perspectives in Exercise Science and Sports Medicine. 1995
When we are working with athletes we use a number of metrics to designate their sessions. With new runners we always start with describing the session in terms of the words: Easy; Steady; Tempo and Fast. These are to get an athlete to feel how they run; the actual pace will be determined by how the runner is feeling that day. If they’ve had a bad day at work or they are tired from an overload of social, family or work commitments and it’s cold and raining then a tempo run is potentially going to be slower than if they have just had a pay raise, the sun is shining and they are full of the joys of spring. However both are tempo runs in terms of effort it is merely pace that is different. As a Coach utilising these words is useful because when athletes are tired we don’t need to make things worse by showing the runner that they are going slowly.
To explain the above runs in terms of effort Easy runs allow the runner to see improvement without breaking down. These should feel relaxed with easy breathing and the ability to hold a conversation whereas a Fast runs need no explanation and we will use these over short intervals or repeats. Tempo runs are where runners start to stretch their physical boundaries. They are often described as controlled discomfort and require concentration. You can utter a word or two but no more! As you get fitter and stronger you constantly will push the envelope on these runs - they never get easy you just get faster!
Perhaps the most difficult runs to get to grip with are the Steady runs. These are the bread and butter sessions, the "miles in the bank". These runs build your aerobic base that acts as the foundation for the rest of your training and are usually found to be on or around marathon pace. Conversations are possible in short sentences rather than a long conversation. One thing with these runs I believe is not to go too slowly but the idea is to FEEL what steady is.
As a runner progresses and looks to achieve a certain goal however then of course accurate pace sessions will come into the equation. After all if a marathon runner is looking to break 3 hours 30 mins then they need to understand what 8:00 min per mile pace feels like, and to train at and around that exact pace. Here we would look to ensure that whilst some of the steady runs are to feel some of the long steady runs are not conducted too slowly and are to pace. For meaningful Steady Runs a useful metric I find is to take the time per 400m of the runners best 1500 metre time and add 20 seconds. So to explain; if we take our 3 hours 30 mins marathon runner I would expect them to have a best mile time of around 6 mins 30s or 98 seconds per 400m. Thus 98 + 20 secs = 118 secs = 7 mins 52 secs per mile as a steady pace in those meaningful shorter steady runs which is not a million miles away from their marathon pace of 8 mins per mile. As a coaching tool it is a good ready reckoner to use in some of these shorter steady sessions.
By incorporating easy, steady, tempo and fast running into your own training whilst mixing up the use of feel and actual pace no energy system is ever neglected. Throughout the year almost every system, whether it's aerobic, anaerobic, or neuromuscular, is worked on and we do this with our athletes from middle distance athletes to those running ultra marathons. We do however emphasise different elements during different phases of training. So why not calculate your own steady pace using the formula above and give it a go and let us know how you get on.
Jess: So you’ve just finished Ironman Wales how are you feeling now? Are you still buzzing and how is recovery going?
Kate: Recovery is going well but surprisingly this one took it out of me more than normal. After Ironman Bolton in July I was straight back to training a couple days later. Wales I really needed time out after. I did Chester marathon a couple of weeks later as a recovery run and even when I did my final 100 mile this weekend I could tell my legs were still not 100%.
Jess: As a vegan what are your nutritional choices to promote recovery?
Kate: I really keep it simple. Loads of veggies and simple proteins. I actually love Tofu, but straight after a race I usually down a hell of a lot of chocolate soya milk! My next meal usually involves mostly protein such as tofu or beans and carbs. I usually have what I fancy after a big race.
Jess: On average how much sleep do you get and do you think this helps or do you have any other speedy recovery tips for us.
Kate: I always make sure I get my 8 hrs. I've never had an injury and I put it largely down to this as well as efficient running form and good food.
Jess: What would you say was a key session that prepared you for Ironman Wales physically / mentally that made you feel like "you got this"?
Kate: It helped having done Ironman UK two months before, but being petrified of the sea, the key for me was getting in the sea with my friend several times and my final sea swim a few weeks before really helped mentally. I also cycled London to Paris over 3 days for my birthday 5 weeks before and then again sub 24hrs 3 weeks before Ironman Wales. It really helped me realise distance was no issue. I wouldn't recommend so many events and neither would my Coach, Neil but I came to Ironman having already planned some events this year and I'm very much used to crazy levels of endurance events now and seem to thrive on it.
Jess: If you feel comfortable can you recap on your decision to raise funds for the mental health charity, Mind and your history of anxiety attacks?
Kate: I decided to fund raise for a mental health charity called Mind this year. This was because originally I was supposed to be going for a great PB at Bolton in July but I really struggled with panic attacks which became quite debilitating at times, looking like seizures and fits at their worst. Suddenly my goals of a PB looked bleak and I was just seeing my fitness and improvements I'd start making falling away. I had to take medication to help keep these under control. Beta-blockers cap the heart rate though which raises when adrenaline is released. A side effect of this was that in my fast runs I struggled, as I couldn’t reach my normally higher heart rates, instead it stayed lower than normal. I decided to be open about the depression and anxiety and the panic attacks I faced. I decided that there was only one way to tackle Ironman and it was to simply turn it into a positive. I decided that maybe it would help others to see that I wasn’t just some invincible warrior and that I was facing a very real struggle but still getting on with it and hopefully with a positive attitude. I decided to raise some funds to help others facing similar scenarios by raising charity funds. www.justgiving.com/ironjayden
Jess: Over the past few years you have completed a huge number of events. How do you pick your next challenge and how do you fit in your training and racing schedule around work?
Kate: Two weeks after Ironman Wales I ran the Chester marathon just as a slow recovery run and to socialise with friends. I then had autumn 100 mile run with Centurion Events on 16th October. It was the finale of the grand slam, which are 4x100 mile non-stop run events in 5.5 months. I finished and got my belt buckle for finishing the race as well as the series! I started with a marathon 5 years ago pretty much to the date and that was Chester marathon. I just loved it and saw it as quite social. I found I loved the way it changed my outlook on things and helped keep me focused on the positive recovery I'd made from an Eating Disorder. I never looked back after that. In 2012 I ran 14 marathons, 2013 I ended up doing 69 and broke the British record at the time for marathons ran in a year by a female. The following year I broke the same record again with 79 marathons and my first 70-mile ultra. I then ended up doing a 24hr run in the September 2014 and accidentally won. I never thought it possible but when I realised I was winning I ran my heart out and carried on to run 100 miles. That was the start of the ultra running that I now love.
Now I have a good few weeks off to spend time with loved ones, friends, family and a few trips here and there too. On my longer weeks I trained 10 x per week including shorter sessions of 40 - 60 mins right up to a long 3hr run, 4hr ride or long swim potentially and on some weekends Coach Neil sets me all three. It's nice to have a few weeks down time now and with a full time job it becomes hard to balance everything. I sometimes work away form home and when I was at the start of this season I was living a few hours away from home in the week so training was actually easier to fit in as there was so little else to do after work being away from home. Now I work closer to home on a new project and I commute by train an hour each way to work in addition to the walk either side. I'm trying to use the time constructively to start writing a book! So far I managed to write the first chapter and accidentally delete it. Yes I'm that quality at IT!
Jess: Wow that is a lot of events. Were you sporty as a child?
Kate: I fell into it all really by doing a bike ride to Paris August 2011 on a vintage 5 speed bike complete with wicker basket. It was so heavy I couldn't lift the thing! That was for charity. I then agreed last minute to do Chester marathon in the October, with 3 weeks to go and I'd never run in my life. I was terrible! The most sport I ever did was tag rugby at age 14. However I should have realised I'd be a triathlete when on a caravan holiday and had a bike accident whilst cycling to the pool in my swimming costume! Perhaps I should have realised I'd be an ultra runner when one time in primary school age around 9 or 10 they set up a route for us to run in PE and I was the last kid to want to come in. I wasn't naturally sporty but had always been very mentally strong. That had been built into me at a young age through various life events. It would be that element that would push me into endurance events really in the long run. I've never really stopped in the last 5 years. I've always set myself a new challenge each year, largely something that seems ridiculous or impossible. I try and push myself and always seek out my boundaries. I'm a big believer that you don't know how far too far is until you go there. This is my life. It's my social life and where I get my enjoyment and see friends. It does take up almost all of my spare money and I don’t get paid holiday days in work due to being essentially self employed. I honestly don't feel I miss out on anything, in fact I feel like others are missing out on so much! I always make sure I eat well, sleep well and make time for other things too, especially important people in my life so I keep a balance to my life.
Jess: How do you go about picking the event you do and what are you looking for in an event? Does the being signed up for an event motivate you to get out there and train when you are tired and the weather is grim?
Kate: It's simple for me. I set myself a challenge so big I'm not sure I can achieve it, and that is so big that I have no choice but to train for it. There's only so far mental strength will get you - even if that is most of the way! “Most of the way” is a DNF; “all of the way” is a finish! So when it rains or snows I just see it as winter miles make summer smiles! I knew I'd stand on the start line knowing I'd done my training well and deserved my place there. In an event I always look for a new challenge and to find my boundaries. I do a lot of events as often I see some of them as just part of training. Let's be honest if you're running 100 miles the marathon suddenly seems like a training run! I take holidays that often revolve around cycling, running or triathlon, but I did just do a beach holiday for 8 days. I failed miserably and managed a day at the beach, two days snorkeling, a day on a boat, a day out quad biking and a day in Cairo and Luxor, so ended up quite active still but I didn't pack my running shoes! Break through!
Jess: Do you have any tips to get out there when you really don't feel like it i.e. do you knock back a coffee and get some pumped up music in your ear phones? What is it that makes you keep going when you really don't feel like it and as you write in your Ironman Wales Race Report "your mates are down the pub"?
Kate: My tip is always to have a goal so big that you have to grow into it. A goal so big it scares you off the sofa and out the door. I actually gave away my TV recently as I wasn’t using it enough and it's too much of a waste of time and distraction. I'm less inclined to melt into the sofa then although I don't suggest you give way your TV of course haha! Always have a goal and focus though, a reason to want to get out there. I have a favourite playlist and will try new routes to keep me entertained.
Jess: Do you have a magic snack or meal before key sessions and races?
Kate: Ironically I often have no breakfast at all before events and simply go straight into nutrition in race. Sometimes I will have vegan yoghurt and breakfast bar or something like that. Usually an espresso works well for me too and I do use caffeine in races at key distances or timings too. I have many various weird and wonderful favourite snacks for running in ultras or Ironman, including vegan salami, vegan sausages, vegan cheese, cereal bars, nuts, dark chocolate and dried fruit. I tend to fuel early on with carbs (alternating between complex and simple carbs having high and low GI) and later on switch to more fat based fuels in ultras. When it all goes wrong though sometimes you have to eat what you can.
Jess: What has been your favourite event?
Kate: I love 24hr runs specifically as I find I complete in those instead of simply completing. I love the buzz of competition with other runners, trying for a place on the podium, but equally I love the events where I’m simple grateful to finish such as Ironman Wales, so I'd say Equinox 24hr run and Ironman Wales as well as Thames Path 100 as it was my first point to point 100 miler.
Jess: Have you had a race when everything went wrong and it was miserable? Ever thought hmm I need a bit of a break from this and some time to do something else, as it's a huge time commitment to put in all these hours?
Kate: Oh indeed I did Thunder Run 2014 as my first attempt at a 24hr event and ended up with severe heatstroke, and lost all liquids and solids through sickness and the other end too! I had to sleep for a good two or three hours, which meant I lost my plan and eventually did get up and carried on but did 80 miles in the event which was a struggle. I do find time for other things though such as music, photography, painting and the odd pint!
Jess: What made you sign up for coaching with Performance Edge and in what way has it helped you on your incredible journey?
Kate: I decided to ask Neil to become my coach when I needed some focus. My problem is I'll try anything and am a little fearless at times in terms of challenges. I wanted to really improve my Ironman time and Neil managed to help me do that despite us facing hurdles that my anxiety kept throwing at me as well as some life challenges. We decided Ironman UK was my A race. The grand slam of 100 milers was not my A race and he agreed to me doing them simply because I couldn't realistically cancel them and I couldn’t commit to doing them again the following year as it was such a big commitment. I didn’t have the long runs to train up to these but had a background of running these kind of events the year before so we knew I could just go and complete them rather than competing for good times. A lot of the events we treated as long training days. For 2016 we targeted a spring marathon during my Ironman training leading up to Ironman UK as my A race with Ironman Wales as my B race. I do feel I have compromised my Ironman potential by doing the ultras this year but I knew I had to do that this year, so Ironman was the priority and Neil trained me for that over and above all else. I don't train with a Tri club as I have specific sets for swims, runs and cycling that Neil sets me, but sometimes I have company on runs or rides if they are similar speed. I have a friend who often shares long rides with me which helped.
Jess: So what’s left on the bucket list?
Kate: I have a few events I’d like to do but I tend not to have a bucket list as such but just do things as I feel and when I get chance. Some dream events are Everest marathon, Great Wall of China marathon, Ironman Kona (but I'd want to qualify instead of just going), Boston marathon (because I’d love to qualify for it), the Inca Trail ultra marathon and a whole heap of others mostly revolving around travel since that’s the only limiting factor. I have a Florida road trip planned in January which will take in a few marathons including Miami marathon, the Bahamas marathon and a skydive marathon starting with a 12,500 ft. sky dive! I tend to just decide I’m going to do something and find a way!
Jess: What would you say is the greatest thing you have learnt and got from this journey?
Kate: Friendships and self-confidence as well as the ability to show others that the impossible really isn’t all that impossible. I've done a lot of things that most people scratch their heads at and say but how? When they see I'm a typical ordinary Northern lass who works full time and has a beer and eats cake, they realise maybe the things I do aren't so crazy.
Jess: Do you think the journey has changed you as a person?
Kate: Yes it's changed me for sure. I've learnt so much about myself. I've learnt I'm so much stronger than I ever knew and I'd always said I was a very strong determined person. It's also taught me I'm committed and focused as well as fun loving and happy!
Jess: Any funny or otherwise interesting story to tell us?
Kate: I ran my first marathon after agreeing to it after a few cocktails with a mate at the time. I'd never run in my life!
Jess: You clearly never sit still so what is next for you?
Kate: I've just ran my final 100 mile of the year which completed the grand slam (4x100 milers in 5.5 months May to October) which is the end of the season for me. Rest next and do the housework I neglected for 10 months and then back to training. Next year is mostly about ultra running for me. My main race will be TR250 a 250 mile non stop run, or more likely a long walk between buffet stations haha! I have a few other plans for ultras and a DIY challenge, which is 1000km London/Paris/London by bike and running. I'll probably do another Ironman but treat it as a holiday rather than competing or going for a massive PB.
Jess: Lastly what is one thing about you almost none knows?
Kate: I actually love to sing, but funnily enough people are really surprised when they hear me singing full pelt at about 3am on the trails in 100 mile events, especially if it's a song I can hold a tune to whilst running too! Other runners sometimes remember me as that one who was singing and smiling
I think it was Richard Askwith who said that there was ‘more to running than staring at a GPS and NOT eating cream cakes’ and I agree with the sentiment in that there are far greater aspects to running than merely worrying about losing weight and being a slave to watches. One of those greater aspects I feel is getting out into the countryside and running in some inspirational scenery. We are lucky here in Scotland that we can run by rivers and coastlines, go up hills and through glens, cross barren Highlands and weave between Lowland trees and the Winter is a great time to get out and do this type of running.
Just getting out on the trails is extremely accessible and great runs can be found almost anywhere and everywhere. You can combine the speed and ease of road running with the fresh air and open spaces enjoyed by hill runners. You can either just get out on a trail yourself or enter a Trail, Fell or Cross Country type race. Next week that’s exactly what we are doing as we are entering the Illuminator Run, a 15-mile trail race at night through the ancient pine forest at Glen Tanar in the Scottish Highlands. This is a beautiful run and without any light pollution it is pitch black and therefore good head torches, along with the mandatory emergency clothing, are absolutely essential pieces of kit!
Running in an event like this you can become extremely in tune with your running and can sense intensity levels and increase self-awareness and proprioception, sense niggles and how hard to push rather than trying to fulfill what a piece of paper or your GPS is telling you. We’ll let you know how we get on!
So this winter why not get out on the trails for a run; the most novice of runner can tackle many routes whilst others can provide challenges for the most experienced of runners. Trail, Fell or Cross Country running are activities that will hone the skill set and increase the practical strength of all runners and when you’ve finished the run why not have a cream cake!
Ironman Wales 2016. Disclaimer: it may take you as long to read this report as it took me to finish the raceWorth a read though!
The race report as told by a loud Northern girl who was cocky enough to think she may stand a chance!
"One does not simply hope so much for a calm sea. One prays. Much"
As I stood there down at the start line with the other athletes awaiting the Welsh national anthem just as I'd watched and heard the year before (as a spectator) I listened to a guy say "yeah I hoped so much it would be a calm sea. Been hoping the last few days it would stay calm" I simply replied with....oh I am glad you hoped. I prayed!!! My stomach was churning and it was almost unbearable. You see....I was stood face to face with my biggest fear. I'd faced it a couple of times but this was for real now. I didn't have my dear friend Kim there keeping me calm. I had to do this myself. I stood at the start with Christopher but this was my own race. when that timing mat got crossed i was there facing this battle, fighting alone with only the strength of God on my shoulders and the months of training to tell me I can do this. But you can't train a fear away aside from facing it again and again. I'd sat on that very beach on Friday afternoon and sobbed. It took me ages to get my wetsuit on and in swimming but glad I did as it helped me get a feel for the sea again. There were no tears this morning though. Not even any rain amazingly. In fact the only water falling of any kind was from the guy next to me out of his wetsuit as he clearly couldn't wait a few more minutes and decided to piss down his own leg in his wetsuit. He wasn't the only guy either. Something slightly surreal and creepy about being surrounded largely by men in rubber suits lubed up to their eyeballs pissing their pants. As I looked out as the anthem played the sun was rising over the sea. The golden warmth and light reflected over the small waves in the serene sea. It almost looked appealing. Gun gone and the pro men were in. 5 mins later the pro women. Then they start the rest of us mere mortals out. I edged closer to the line and off I went. Now was the time. The clock was ticking. The jellyfish don't give a shit if you're scared, neither does the sea, nor the timing clock. Crack on Jayden your time is now!!! I approached my entry to the sea with a few steps until deep enough to swim. A bit of breast stroke. Enough for the RNLI lifeguard to ask if I was ok. Sake man, I can swim, I'm just acclimatising!!! "Yes I'm fine" I replied. Best get on with some actual swimming I thought to myself. Started with my approach of head out of water front crawl to the point I gave in and started swimming properly. Breathing was pretty tough between panic but I HAD to keep this under control. Losing control was not an option. I learnt on Friday that if I look forward while in the sea I simply see bubbles and feet in front and less likely to see what lies beneath. Got a third of the way round and a bit crowded around the first buoy. Some kind hearted ray of sunshine decided to try swim over me and I proceeded to swallow half the bloody Irish Sea. Nothing a quick vomit couldn't sort out. I grabbed the edge of the lifeguard's board and chucked up. Stay classy Jayden. "Are you ok?" He says. "Yeah yeah I'm *dry heaves and gags* fine" I reply. It got a little choppier at this point and come across to the other side the swim back felt much easier going with the current. It had taken me 21 mins to get to that first buoy and I worried if that was 1/3 way round lap 1 I'd be pushing cut offs. Swim. Come on. Swim!!! I got to lap one time in 41 mins by watch. A PB was on at this rate. No major drama either. On to lap two felt much easier on the swimming but half way round and I made the error of looking down and BAM the bloody jelly fish was below. Luckily far enough below to be of no concern but enough that classic horror film sound goes in the head. A bit further in and another of the over friendly little buggers appears. A bit further on and another one. Shit. Swim for your life. I think I must credit them for finishing with a 3 minute swim PB 1h26. I got out and fist pumped the air. I now stood a chance at cracking what is well rumoured to be probably the hardest official Ironman course going. Now onto transition. Simple right? No you'd be wrong thinking that. Out the beach. Up what felt like a mountain of zig zag path to collect a bag with shoes, pack the wetsuit into a bag along with goggles and hat. Then a casual saunter through the town of 1km looking like a bag lady just to even get to transition. Belter. Get changed into bike gear. Remember I've put my socks on the bike this morning as I forgot to put them in my transition bag. 16 mins later and I'm out of t1. I ended up cycling barefoot in my bike shoes. I'd heard about this course but hadn't had chance to recce it. I knew I expect every last hill in Wales to be thrown into it and I know I'm terrible at climbing hills. Let's face it with an arse with its own gravitational field I was never designed to go against gravity. Hills have never been my thing. However I knew I believed in my training. My coach Neil Scholes had me doing lots of specific sessions even in winter using the turbo trainer on big gears. While my mates were in the pub I was dreaming of hitting the road on two wheels with the wind blowing my hair. Bolton ironman had been my main aim for the year but a few months ago i decided to add Wales. I remembered at the start of Bolton training season dreaming about what it must be like to go to the world champs in Kona and thinking oh no there's a sea swim what would you do? I remember saying to myself it would be a once in a lifetime chance so I'd just face it and get over it somehow. I'm realist and knew it was a long time before i'd have a garland round my neck and booking a trip to Kona, Hawaii. So I decided I had to face this fear. It had been around since i was 14, when on a boat in the Mediterranean and had been pushed when i hesitated about getting in and panicked in the waves. I had never really been in the sea much since then and definitely not to swim. With that thought process I found myself training for two ironman races. I knew i had the legs for the hills. Not only had i done a few thousand miles but I'd done long rides and hills a plenty. Before I knew it I was largely through the first lap of approx 30 or 40 something miles and the scenery had blown me away. I realised early on this was single handedly the most epic bike ride I'd ever been on. I had planned for around 8hrs knowing I did Bolton in 7:04 and that was around 5,000ft versus 7,500ft. I'd Planned up to around 2hrs to get out of swim so knew cut offs were a very real thing. I'd heard from various people to add 60/90 mins into your normal ironman time which would give me around 15:30-16hrs. My priority was simply a finish. No real time but knew I would be thrilled if under 16hrs. With the struggles that i had faced in the lead up to Bolton I lost a lot of my run fitness due to side effects of medication I had been taking. It had been three months to the date since my last panic attack as I stood on that start line of my third ironman and I'd been mainly medication free for around 3 weeks. I liked that set of numbers. 3rd ironman, 3rd month panic attack free and 3rd week meds free. I was finding myself surprised at how easy the ride felt and had been trying not to get carried away so by around 100k I'd averaged 16.5mph and knew I needed only to hit around 14mph. I decided to save some energy in the tank. I continued my nutrition plan of high GI carbs and low GI carbs alternated every 30/40 mins which saw me through well. I had a couple of emergency gels and a bag of chocolate raisins, cherries and pecans too for a change of flavour. Around the second lap coming up to mile 70 came a hill which was 16% but after that many miles it hurt. I stayed in the bike determined not to get off and shortly after that came saundersfoot. I knew this spot from spectating last year and it didn't disappoint. Aptly named heartbreak hill it was a longish drag but packed with spectators all willing you on. I simply smiled like a lunatic knowing I was soon to be an ironman Wales medal owner. The more I smiled the more they made noise and cheered! It was a smile of pride. Just at the top and over the brim to see my favourite guy there with his camera! He'd travelled from Paris the night before as a surprise to tell me I could do this. It's amazing the difference it makes knowing there's someone out on course really wanting to see your face and see you succeed. I have had my mum and Godmum out there before which is great but this felt different! We'd been for a walk the night before when he arrived and one of the hashtags I've been adding to my Tenby pictures was #faceyourfears which, when we looked up and saw on the side of a building. I'd never noticed it before but the side of this building had the words "face your fears" painted on it in big letters with spiders. It's funny. I'd described my fear of the sea to someone who was scared of spiders as the equivalent to them choosing to walk into a room full of spiders. It was like a simple reminder to me that this wasn't just any old ironman this weekend but far more challenging and that there was this awesome person there with me too who would be waiting at the end. So as he waited he just realised it was me as I passed on the bike. I knew I only had another 40 miles approx to get back there again! That did however mean doing both those hills again but sheer determination and gear grinding got me up and over and back again. He saw me a mile off grinning like a fool and as ever I smiled with that classic proud of myself smile! With that I knew the bike was in the bag. I had a couple of miles to roll into town and even with a mechanical I could probably still run the rest and get there in time. I ran into transition after grabbing my socks I had carried around the bike course. I didn't know my exact bike time but knew it was under 8hrs as the garmin died about 101 miles. I'm an idiot and only half charged it. You couldn't expect everything to go smoothly could you?' This is me after all!!! I did a 7:35 ride. Not bad on a course that brutal for a hike rubbsih a true hill climbing. I now headed out on to the run with no watch. I knew I had made the cut offs which at worst case scenario left 6.5hrs to knock out a marathon. I knew it was quite a tough old course so thought of I could do around 5:30 at a guess that would probably finish me around 15:30. I hadn't been sure of my transition times or bike course time as using my old Garmin but knew that within a marathon I'd be a proud owner of three ironman medals earned in just 14 months. That got out of hand quickly considering I was never doing one again!!! The run was 4 laps of basically a long uphill, a long down hill, a short up hill, a short down hill, a run through town for an ego boost and to see all the drunk spectators by this point and past the finish line. Repeat another three times. I could sense the crowds every time I passed cheering louder the more I smiled. The last lap I smiled pretty much all the way round, thanking the volunteers as I had done all day and smiling and thanking the spectators as I had done all day. There it was, that gloriously magnificent red carpet. It was mine. I wasn't having anyone else in my finisher picture this year so I bounced done that carpet arms in the air rejoicing for this was my day. This was the day I feared, doubted yet believed could happen. The day I faced my fears and the day where once again I was completely overwhelmed by the support and encouragement of family and friends. Those famous words rang loud "JOCELYN you are an ironman". Wait? Who the sod is JOCELYN??? I heard the poor woman try and read "Jayden" but I was so excited she misread it. It's fair cop really I honestly thought it was hilarious and I got to hear those words. I made sure I didn't cross at the same time as anyone else. I knew that was my line she'd said. I turned back to see my time.... 14:34!!! I did 6 mins in t2 and a 5:09 run. It was only 30 mins slower than my fastest pb set in Bolton exactly 2 months earlier. I turned forward again and there was the mayor with my medal to hang around my neck. I told him I thought his medal was much nicer and he replied with "yes but yours was well earned". With that I funnelled through to baggage to see my favourite guy again. It was rather lovely to have a massive hug and smile at a finish line. I'd done it. Three ironman medals. What's next you ask? Well I have a trip to Paris and then Chester marathon but I'm having a holiday in The sunshine before my last race of the year; Autumn 100 mile run which is the last in the grand slam series. Then I focus on training over winter, time to refine, improve, refocus and look forward to the next challenges that lie ahead because yes I think I can top even this. I can and I will. It's a long old rambling about essentially a day out swimming, cycling and running but I hope you take away one thing. I approached Ironman Wales thinking yes "It's a monster but monsters only scare you as much as you allow them to". This applies to anything because the simple fac is that success wan't found in your comfort zones and you don't know where your boundaries are until you try and cross them. The sense of pride I have now is pretty unreal, along perhaps with the sense of shame I have knowing I threw up over railings whilst trying not to fall over backwards whilst a handsome chap held my bags and bike. Just keeping it real! A huge well done to everybody who stepped that start line because I know now it takes guts and a gutsy effort to finish. If you found some entertainment in all of this and you'd like to throw some cash in for the mental health charity I've been raising for (Mind) the link is below. Heartfelt thanks to everybody who played a part in my journey even if I haven't named you all. From the haters to the lovers, the encouragers, inspirers and the web patient coach, friends and family this one's for you
In 2015 I entered Ironman UK. As part of the build-up I did the Outlaw Half triathlon and managed to come 4th in my age-group. I was 3 minutes off a podium. The hard work that I had been putting in over the last couple of years was starting to pay off! Off the back of this result I wondered whether another winter of consistent training and specifically targeting the 70.3 distance would enable me to actually make the podium. Being so close gave me a hunger and motivation to really push every session. I also thought that I’d enter the Vitruvian – the English National middle distance triathlon Championships to see how I stacked up against the best people in the country.
After a hard winter of training I achieved a 2nd in my age-group at the Outlaw Half triathlon, 10 mins quicker than 2015, and started to believe that I could give a competitive showing at the English National Championships, although I thought a podium was possibly a stretch too far at the moment!
The days leading up to the Vitruvian had been quite hot and I was getting a bit worried as I find heat really affects my performance. However, this is England and the weather can change in an instant! So it was that at 3:30am on race-day I awoke to a very wet although not too chilly morning! Could have done with a bit less rain but the temperature in the teens was just about perfect for me! Due to the 3:30am start I got a coffee down me but couldn’t face any solid food. A banana and a gel half an hour before the start would have to do!
Leading up to the start the atmosphere was buzzing with nearly 1000 nervous triathletes champing at the bit to get started. Soon enough it was time to go. We lined up on the beach, and when the hooter went off, charged into the lake. I am a bit nervous of swim starts so started near the front, off to the right. This was a good tactic as I found space relatively quickly, swimming with a group of only about 3 or 4 other athletes. We stayed together as a group for pretty much the entire swim. The swim was remarkably uneventful and I was pleased to get out of the water in 32:50, a PB by nearly a minute.
So it was onto the bike. The water was cascading down the road and I thought I needed to be careful not to come off. Would be awful to end the race like that! However, I wasn’t going to let the rain dampen my spirits - so got stuck in. The Vitruvian is a rolling course so it’s difficult to judge how you’re doing based on average speed. I just concentrated on trying to put an even effort in throughout the race regardless of terrain and tried to stay controlled but strong. I passed a few women and a few women passed me so I thought I must be doing OK. And as it turned out I was. Going out of T2 I was informed by the announcer and my husband that I was 3rd in my age-group. Let’s see if I can hang on to this - I thought.
In previous races my run has been, relatively, my weakest leg and I have slipped out of podium positions as I have been overtaken by faster women. I have been working on my run recently, however, with some tough, structured long run sessions so I hoped this would make a difference. At the start of the run my legs didn’t feel great – definitely some jelly legs going on! However, they soon settled into a rhythm and I started to feel strong. Looking at my watch my pace was about 7:45 – 7:50 and although I was passed by a few women I felt like I was holding my own. I slowed a bit on the 2nd lap and a few more people came past me. I tried to respond but had nothing more. I just had to hope that they weren’t in my age-group. Soon enough the finish line was in sight and I crossed the line in 5:07 to find I was still 3rd in my age-group. Couldn’t believe I had got an age-group podium at a National Championship - by far my biggest sporting achievement! Actually got 2nd in British Championship as the winner wasn’t affiliated to triathlon England so was ineligible for a Championship medal!
I had a few tears as the emotion that all the hard-work that I had put in had come to fruition. Thanks to Performance Edge for all your advice and support – I couldn’t have done it without you!
Often I will hear athletes saying that they had a “bad” training session with the implication being that something is going wrong with their training. Sometimes this will ultimately lead to them changing their training or coach and very often, just like when football teams change the manager, the change makes little to no difference. The two mistakes that are made is that they are putting too much emphasis on individual sessions rather than looking holistically at the bigger training picture and they are confusing correlation with causation.
Correlation and causation are terms not often used by athletic coaches and more often likely to be used by statisticians or scientists. They relate to the fact that events that coincide are not necessarily causally related. A fun example of this is illustrated in the "Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster” that global warming is caused by a lack of swashbuckling pirates sailing the oceans. You can draw a graph correlating increasing temperatures on the surface of earth with a drop in the buccaneer population. Clearly nothing rational connects these two trends; there is correlation but no causation.
So we need to look at the whole picture when we consider the session that went awry. We need to look at all the variables that are present and consider which are relevant, which are controllable, which are uncontrollable, which ones are merely correlated and what was the cause. The athlete and coach need to consider what phase of the training cycle they are in, what sessions were completed that week, what was the aim of the session, athletes mental state and stress level, what were the weather conditions: wind, rain, heat, cold all will change the way we run; nutritional status, the “wrong” shoes, iron levels …..to just name a few. There are so many variables and so much background noise that we can not simply draw a causal relationship.
So unless you have ALL the data points then don’t stress on the fact that in one particular run your rep pace was X seconds slower than the last time. I have never met any athlete, from Parkrunners to Olympians that has “good” sessions 100% of the time and “success” is extremely often a squiggly line! So if you completed a session that didn’t go strictly to plan just remember that you finished the session or workout and will have gained benefit from it. You will have a session to do tomorrow and that is the one to focus on.
Right, in the name of saving the planet I’m off to gather a motley crew and sail the seven seas.
In her first interview of what is going to be a regular feature, Coach Jess interviews Coach Beth following her Ultra distance triathlon.
Jess: What made you choose to undertake this challenge?
Beth: First of all, let me say that I am honoured to have a double Olympian asking me questions about my weekend! So, here goes - I had been doing Ironman for a few years and was growing a bit bored, so I decided to take a year off from long distance to do more fun events... then I read a book that changed my mind. The Race Within by Jim Gourley that describes the world of Ultraman and it altered the course of my life.
Jess: Haha I might have raced the Olympics but I've never raced an Ultra distance triathlon! So in terms of the training what in general did you do? Did you start from a good base and how did your Taper week look?
Beth: Having an active life combined with the consistent training from years before, I felt like I had a pretty good base to build up to the distances – and I am built more for endurance than speed. Training was a lot of swimming (pull buoy and paddles) gradually building to one big session and 3-4 smaller sessions / week, tons of cycling, a lot was done on turbo because of bad weather this year, but fortunately I had 1 week in Mallorca for the Performance Edge Tri Camp and another 10 days Performance Edge Tri Camp in Annecy, France really hitting specific long rides with plenty of climbs on the bike. Running was a bit hit or miss with knee issues and hip issues, but keeping the physio and massage work up along with good technique when I did run helped get me to the start line. My longest swim was 10km in the pool, 112-mile cycle at Long Course Weekend and marathon at Long Course Weekend. Taper week consisted ofboxing up and moving house, 7 hour drive to Scotland, a few turbos and runs – then a 6 hour drive to the race. But I did get some swimming and a turbo inThe main thing was to remain focussed and positive, I know I put in the hours and training – meditating on the good things put everything into perspective.
Jess: What were your biggest concerns going into the race
Beth: Swimming in a wetsuit and cycling 180 miles. Apart from that – no worries haha!
Jess: How did you plan to mitigate those concerns?
Beth: When I say I swam a lot, I swam A LOT. Ask Neil, I was in the pool almost every day and those sessions were getting my body ready to swim 10 km in a wetsuit. I felt so confident by race day – I felt that I could have kept going for another 10k. Prepared for the cold with a neoprene swim cap with chin strap, which I wore in the pool (nerd) and wore around the house to get comfortable with it (NERD).
I lived on my bike. I got very comfortable in the saddle – I 'only' cycled 112 miles but it was in Wales for the LCW so it was plenty hard and I felt ok with that.
Jess: I know you are vegan, Beth so how did you plan your nutrition strategy and how did that plan work out?
Beth: Well, you can plan all you want – but come race day ANYTHING can and will happen! I had planned on water and Xendurance Fuel 5 to drink. And ClifBars, Clif Builder Bars, Clif Shots and Clif Bloks for the bike ... Yes, I was sponsored and Yes I consumed boxes upon boxes during training. For the run, I basically filled a plastic tub with any kind of food that I thought I would fancy... veg crisps, pea snaps, chocolate bourbons, Clif bars, chocolate, miso soup. Pretty much anything I thought I might like to eat on a long run.
Jess: Day One consists of a 6 mile swim at Bala which I know from my triathlon days is cold followed by a mountainous 90 mile bike ride; how did Day One go?
Beth: Day One began with me starting my period at 3 AM. GREAT. I downed the paracetamol and hoped for the best! The lake was almost perfect – just small choppy waves and not too cold (I started to feel the cold at about 7k – I tried to pee more and make sure to get the soup every 2k).
I got out behind Marco and Mikel in 3rd place and had a 20 minute transition trying to warm up. Meanwhile, Iñigo got out in 4th and on the bike while I was sitting in transition (a special van for the woman) drinking soup and trying to get my kit on. Once on the bike, cramps were debilitating and couldn't take food or drink. I knew I had a cushion of time to get the bike done so I wasn't too stressed out. My crew were stressed out though! Trying to get me to take something other than a sip of Coke must have been frustrating as hell! They did a great job of getting me to the finish line. Carlos and Toni both caught up to me and passed me around mile 45. So I finished Day One in 6th place.
Jess: I saw the photos from Day Two, the 170 mile bike and the weather looked truly atrocious! How did you mentally keep going on that day and what kept you positive and driving to keep going?
Beth: The forecast was for heavy rain from 11 AM through the afternoon, so I was prepared for at least half of day 2 to be in the wet. When they say heavy rain in North Wales they mean HEAVY RAIN. I thought there was something up when I showed up at the start and it was already raining! I then mentally prepared for being wet all day. I had put an entire change of kit and extra jacket in the vehicle (hindsight I would have put a lot more in). Mileage management in my head was to get to 100 miles, then ride like it was an Ironman race... easier said than done! To be honest, I tried not to focus too much on the elements – I started counting my pedal strokes, singing songs – although I could only remember 2 songs... 2 songs! how ridiculous. And waiting for those glorious times I could see the high viz vests of my crew waiting for me.
Jess: Was that a looped course on Day Two?
Beth: Yes, one big ass loop haha... We all started at 7 AM in order of completion of day 1 – I stayed with the group for a couple of miles before they shot off – I then caught up with Carlos and we passed back and forth for a while before the wheels came off (figuratively) for me.
Jess: How did you recover from those sessions prior to the 52 mile run on Day Three?
Beth: I cannot stress the importance of a great crew enough. All I had to do was swim, bike and run – these guys took care of everything else... Made sure I was eating and drinking during the event – marched me to a warm bath and protein/carb shake upon finishing – so I didn't have to think or do anything else.
Jess: I saw a photo with you doubled over at the start of Day Three; it didn’t look like the way to start a 52 mile run!
Beth: I woke up feeling absolutely sick – I couldn’t eat my porridge, I did manage a peppermint tea, but was not feeling like running 1 mile, let alone 52! If you look closely at the race photos I will be clinging on to a couple of rice cakes for dear life.
Jess: Were there any surprises during the race that you didn’t expect?
Beth: Each day there was a special obstacle – or as Neil calls them, opportunities. So each day I took the opportunity to rise above and overcome.
Jess: What did it feel like to finish? How were the celebrations?
Beth: As with every other day, the guys who had long finished all came out to welcome me to the finish line... I just felt relieved it was over and I could lie down now. I was hugged and congratulated by everyone... all the other racers, their crews, their families, the race organizers. I was handed a big glass of beer and that was that! After a quick bath we were off to the finishers ceremony- many beers and lots of food later we exchanged speeches and t shirts, compared stiffness of legs (I think I won... or lost, I'm not sure). We were invited to Barcelona, Bilbao and Milan – Long live UMUK family
Jess: How are you feeling now?
Beth: Surprisingly good! I was in the pool three days after finishing. My feet and ankles are a bit swollen – I'm a bit sore all over, but really not as bad as I would have thought. The key is compression, warm baths, hydration and moving around. Training the rest of this week will be: 20 minute walks, some floating around in a pool, and MAYBE some 30 minute easy biking.
Jess: Finally I guess the question is, what next?
Beth: The big question! I was looking forward to a few weeks off for some R&R and not thinking about what is next... although I have thought about doing UMUK again. I am super excited to be helping out in our run camps in Spain early in 2017 and more run and tri camps in France and Mallorca later in 2017. If anyone is interested in UMUK, I strongly recommend it as an experience – and am more than happy to give pointers and tips to anyone who is looking to do it next year. Just contact us at www.performance-edge.me.
Having qualified at Dublin 70.3 to race the World Championships in Australia I thought my 2016 racing season was set and would culminate in Mooloolaba and the World Championships. That was until I read The Race Within by Jim Gourley and my Ultra Triathlon fate was sealed. Having entered and got on with the training I found myself in Betws-y-Coed in North Wales instead of the eastern coast of Australia and more than a few times this weekend I questioned my decision to do UMUK in Wales rather than take my place in World Champs in Australia!
This is my take on the weekend. Out of 25 interested competitors, 9 signed up, 7 made it to the start line.
Day One: 10k swim and 90 mile bike
Swim -(5 x 2k loops, feed station off a jetty for each loop) the Lake at Bala is renowned for being cold and unpredictable. On Friday the conditions were near perfect/ small choppy annoying waves and not too cold (until about 7k into the swim ). A few people had an extra layer under the wetsuit which I would try out if I did this again and everyone had a neoprene cap*lifesaver*. I stopped every loop for some miso soup and Clif Bloks I got out of swim 3rd place having swum a 3:34, Marco and Mikel were about 20 minutes ahead - I was pretty frozen and had a 15-20 minute transition to warm up, meanwhile Iñigo who had got out in 4th place swimmer got on his bike ahead of me. One competitor, Javier, dnf'd (6 competitors remain)
90 mile Bike- after warming up completely and putting in a lot of clothes, I set out at a comfortable pace- I knew I had plenty of time to finish and wanted to conserve something for days 2-3. I had bad cramps and could only stomach drinks of coke and Xendurance Fuel 5 to start off then started eating Clifbars/ Builders Bars and Clif Bloks to keep my energy up - and a well timed Clif Gel (double espresso) to get me through the last 20 miles. Meanwhile Toni and Carlos passed me around mile 45 - nice thing is, they were all at the finish line to welcome me home! I always knew I would be last and had come to terms- but it still sucks!
Day 2 170 mile bike
What can I say- the weather started out bad and just continually got worse. It was a matter of head down and pedal. Pedal. Pedal some more. The rain was relentless-thank goodness for my support crew (Neil and Gideon) who found a pub with hand dryers!!! Gideon tried to dry out my jackets while I did a full kit change and felt halfway human again. Neil gave me his 2 shirts off his back and I put on both jackets- off I went into the pouring rain. At some point I think mile 80 Toni came off his bike on railway tracks and broke his collarbone. (Then there were 5)
I was confident in my ability to finish within 12 hours- until about mile 145. I had been soaked through for about 10 hours and the run in to the finish still had plenty of climbs, the wind was picking up and was great when it was behind- but pretty much stopped you in your tracks or blew you across the road otherwise. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of a good crew!!! They got me to the finish with 3 minutes to spare ( the cutoff was extended for safety reasons- but I still made it!) I've been told this was the worst weather they've had in 5 years- as if the 170 miles wasn't bad enough! I ate as much as I could on the bike, Clifbar, Builder Bars, Bloks, chocolate, miso soup, crisps, and the all important espresso gels toward the end...I like to call them rocket fuel. Once again everyone and their crew were at the finish line. I used this opportunity to cry like a baby. And thank God it was all over.
Day 3 52.4 mile run
My crew shrunk by one today, so it was up to Neil to get me through...
I woke up feeling sick! Like throw up sick. Couldn't eat and didn't have any coffee (a sure sign that I am feeling unwell!)
I grabbed some rice cakes and headed to the start line- 12 hours to do 2 marathons, I can do this! I stuck to the Xendurance Fuel 5 and rice cakes to about mile 20 when I thought maybe I was feeling sick because I'm running 20 miles and haven't eaten anything!! So 2 Welsh cakes - started feeling better- 2 more Welsh cakes and I actually felt OK ... From then on I tried to eat a little bit every time I saw Neil. I was keeping an eye on time and the way I was feeling, and the amount I was walking, I was going to come in before 12 hours- the fly in the ointment was Neil urging me to keep jogging because if I walked I wouldn't make the cut off... My brain wasn't working very well, so with constant reminders to keep running I kept running- and ran 11:18. (Neil was working off the worng cut off time off by 30 minutes and was panicking- but it showed me that I actually could and can keep running even when I think I can't)
And everyone was at the finish line again to cheer me in!
There was a nice ceremony and buffet at the end, by day 3 everyone is like familia (my Spanish is picking up haha) with speeches and everyone gets a little prize.
UMUK is a fantastic event, family run (very popular with the Spanish!) I don't know why it isn't more popular with the endurance crowd here in the UK... It's a long way, the weather is iffy but other than that, it's a beautiful part of the world- the run course especially is amazing. It's a hard weekend- the guys at the front were racing which looking at the videos was a completely different experience than my solo race against the clock. Tips for future competitors: CREW get yourself a couple of positive up beat friends who can read a map and will take care of you. Prepare for any kind of weather, if you think you have enough kit- throw in some more. Prepare for any whim of appetite - it's nice to have know you've got it if you start to crave it. Swim swim swim swim . Get comfy on your bike- real comfy... live on your bike, get used to sitting in that saddle for days.
One of the many things I've taken away from this is to eat- and train your body to eat and absorb the nutrition - and train at the same time of day that your event is... Sounds logical if sometimes impractical, but I would have worked on this aspect a lot if I realised just how important it is.