Ironman Texas 2015

So, here’s the big news following on from my post yesterday………

Leyla and I have signed up for the full Ironman in Texas next year!


What have we let ourselves in for?!  For those not familiar with the distance, it’s a 3.8k swim, a 180k bike ride and a 42.2k run – yes, that’s a full marathon at the end of all the other stuff!

Oh well, you only live once and I don’t want to have any regrets.  I plan to enjoy the experience, not kill myself to finish in any particular time, so bring on the fun – IMTX 2015, here we come!

http://www.ironman.com/triathlon/events/americas/ironman/texas.aspx#axzz35MDBX5J5

Ironman Eagleman 70.3 – 8 June 2014

My US racing adventure began in Washington DC, where I met up with Leyla who had driven up from her new home in North Carolina.  We spent a few days wandering around looking at monuments, doing a spot of shopping, drinking copious amounts of coffee and even indulging in a cocktail or two……

View from the Lincoln Memorial, looking across the Reflecting Pool to the Washington Monument

View from Lincoln Memorial, across the Reflecting Pool to the Washington Monument

A few days before the race we drove up to the little town of Cambridge, Maryland, and checked into our beautiful hotel right on the Choptank River.  Registration and check in formalities were easy, allowing for plenty of relaxation before the race.

Race day came, and despite nearly missing the shuttle bus due to a toilet call (sorry Leyla!), we made it to transition in plenty of time to set up our gear.  I was feeling extremely calm until I heard it had been called a no wetsuit swim, then panic set in!  My stomach churned at the thought of swimming bare in the river, which had no salt water buoyancy.  Not much I could do though, except stay positive.

The view from our hotel of the Choptank River at sunrise, on race morning

The Choptank River at sunrise on race morning

The next hour passed quickly, chatting to fellow race goers – one thing I noticed was how relaxed and friendly the whole race was – it had a lovely community feel to it.  Then we were off, bang on time.  Our age group was large but it was easy to find space and avoid being hit and kicked, and the course was marked every hundred metres, which helped with sighting.  The water was murky and choppy, but I felt like I was swimming well and didn’t get into any difficulties.  When I stood up at the end to wade out of the river I was surprised to see how slow I was – I had been hoping for around 45m, but I came out in 50m.

T1 was smooth, and I was soon on the bike.  The course was completely flat, which I found unexpectedly hard – I hadn’t realised how the lack of freewheeling or cruising would tire my legs.  I also had some issues with my bike set up, and wasn’t comfortable throughout the ride.  However, on the plus side, the course was beautiful, winding through national parks and across rivers – plenty to take my mind off the pain.

Serious riding!

Serious concentration!

T2 was a little slow as my hips completely seized up when I got off the bike and I had to sit down to put on my runners, something I’ve never had to do before.  While I was sat I took my time to put on sunscreen, not that it helped as I still came away from the race with burnt shoulders – the sun was blazing.  Thankfully training in Abu Dhabi had prepared me for the heat.

I started out on the run with frozen hips, fearing I wouldn’t make it further than a few hundred metres, but amazingly I loosened up and I soon found my stride.  The support along the first part of the run through the town was fabulous, cowbells aplenty and tons of folk in their front yards cheering us on.  The middle stretch took us out and back into the countryside, and it got pretty hot and lonely out there, but I kept going and made the most of the aid stations, taking sips of coke to keep my energy up and pouring iced water on my head.

One foot in front of the other, must not stop.....

One foot in front of the other, must not stop…..

I felt pretty good until the half way turn point, when I could feel myself slowing down.  But I was determined not to walk at any cost, and kept telling myself to keep moving, one foot in front of the other.  Soon I was a couple of kilometres out, and I realised not only was I going to make my goal of sub 7hrs, but my stretch goal of 6hrs 45 was in reach.

As I turned the corner with the finish line in sight, I dug deep to find any energy I had left, absorbing the cheers along the finishing chute.  Looking down to see my time, I couldn’t stop myself from leaping into the air as I crossed the line – I had done it, I finished in 6hrs 40, I couldn’t believe it!

Whoopie!

I did it!

Leyla made her way through the crowds, and after celebratory hugs and asking how she got on (as expected she finished in an amazing time, 5hrs 20m – what a superstar!), we both categorically said ‘never again!’.  Funny how you soon forget about all the pain though, remembering only the fun times and the glory of the finish line – we are both about to sign up to our next race which we have been busy plotting – watch this space for the announcement…………. ;-)

Proudly showing off our well deserved medals

Proudly showing off our well deserved medals

Post race we celebrated with a couple of margaritas and local Maryland crab, then the following day made our way slowly down to North Carolina to Leyla’s home.  I had a wonderful few days with her and her beautiful boys, chilling out on Lake Norman.  Thank you for hosting me guys, it made the long journey to the US more than worth it.

Special thanks must go to my Coach, Luis, for preparing me so well for race day and enabling me to knock 53mins off my previous best.  Thanks also to my tri team, ONEndurance Abu Dhabi, who were a huge support to me during the long training weekends.  And of course, thanks to Leyla, for being the best partner in crime a girl could ask for :-)

Race stats:
Swim: 50m 36
T1: 3m 12s
Bike: 3hrs 12m
T2: 4m 39s
Run: 2hrs 29
Overall: 6hrs 40m

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Tri Yas 2014

ONEndurance, featuring my sis!

ONEndurance, featuring my sis!

What a day! My sister flew over from the UK to take part in Tri Yas 2014 with me, and became an honorary member of the ONEndurance team. Tri Yas is unusual in that it starts in the afternoon, because it takes place under the floodlights of the F1 Yas Marina Circuit, so there’s a lot of waiting around to get started. No matter, with team mates around to chat and laugh with, the day soon passed by and before I knew it I was in the water ready to start the Olympic distance.

The gun went off, and despite lots of kicking in front of me I just kept my form and ploughed ahead and soon I had some free space around me. I knew I was swimming well, and despite a little difficulty sighting the far away buoys I was soon on my second lap and exited the water in 32.29. I was delighted with this, 4 minutes faster than last year. Patient coaching from Luis has paid off, thank you Luis!

Luis and his FitChicks

Luis and his FitChicks

T1 involves a pretty long run but I used the time to start taking off my wetsuit and everything else went smoothly. Soon I was on the bike and up the hill out onto the race track. I rode well, pushing up the hill and taking advantage of the down slopes, but towards the end of the ride I realized I may have been going too hard as I started to get a stitch in my right side. Hey ho, too late now. I finished the bike in 1hr 11.11, 7 minutes faster than last year – very happy with that.

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Pink makes you go faster, right?

T2 was as quick as it could be, my runners were on and I was off. Or maybe not. I soon realized that I wasn’t really moving, I couldn’t pick my feet up and my stitch was making breathing difficult. Damn. Nothing I could do but mentally battle to just keep my feet moving, and I kept telling myself not to stop or walk, just keep going. Somehow I made it to the finish, but I was very disappointed in my time – 1hr 01.36, a massive 8 minutes slower than last year.

I crossed the finish line and found Leyla and Luis for congratulatory hugs. Despite the shocking run I managed to finish the race in 2hrs 52.21, 4 minutes faster than last year. Not a bad result overall, and on a bright side, at least there’s plenty of room for improvement on the run next year!

Hugs from Coach

Hugs from Coach

My sister was still out on the sprint run course, so I excitedly waited for her to finish. She has been out of action for some time following a nasty bike accident and subsequent operations on her shoulder, so I was super proud to see her finish in 1hr 50. Next for her is the London Triathlon in August, the Olympic distance, and I can’t wait to support her.

Proud of our FitChick winner!

Proud of our FitChick winner!

Leyla and Syd did ONEndurance proud with their category wins, and after seeing them collect their trophies we headed back to Kim’s for race chat, pizza and bubbles. A fabulous end to a fabulous day – ONEndurance rocks! 

Post race celebrations - striking a pose for our dear Mehdi

Post race celebrations – striking a pose for our dear Mehdi

FitChicks road trip…….

On Friday, Kim (my gorgeous friend and fellow ONEndurance FitChick) and I set off on a road trip to stay at the Jebel Ali Beach Resort & Spa, for a sprint distance triathlon on Saturday morning. The race itself was intended as a practice run for the forthcoming bigger races, the Olympic distance at Tri Yas on 28 Feb and the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon on 15 March. We decided to stay over at the hotel to make the whole experience less stressful and to keep the nerves at bay.

And it worked a treat! Kim and I had a very relaxed afternoon – lunch by the pool, a few hours on the beach, and then a walk around the race course to familiarise ourselves with the set up. The evening whizzed by, we ate yummy Italian food (and enjoyed a glass of red wine each, shhhh, don’t tell Coach!) and then prepared all our gear for the following morning.

Even on race morning we kept calm, enjoying tea in bed before setting off to the race start to meet fellow ONEndurance team mate Dave, for whom it was his first ever triathlon. We managed to rack our bikes next to each other, and laid out all our transition gear, ate bananas, and of course made the obligatory last minute dash to the bathrooms!

Before we knew it we were being called to the swim start, and only then did panic set in as we wriggled into our wetsuits and donned our blue swim caps. Them BAM, we were off! The swim passed in a blur, arms and legs flying, somehow I made it round the two loops and out on to the long run to T1. I struggled to get my helmet on, but eventually got out on the bike and had a really good ride. I worried I might have burnt my legs out for the run, but somehow pulled myself round at a pace which I was pleasantly surprised at. Crossing the finish line was fantastic, Kim and Dave were there waiting for me. Both of them had an awesome race, Kim finished very close behind Dave, and neither of them had to wait too long for me, I wasn’t far behind, yay.

After returning to transition to pack up our gear we headed to the prize giving. Thank god we didn’t miss it, Kim picked up an award for coming first in her age category – she is totally amazing and I am so proud of her! FitChicks rock!

Super supporter Sarah had been taking photos throughout the race, and she joined us for breakfast at the hotel after – the coffee tasted good! Later, Kim and I relaxed by the pool, reliving the magical morning. We couldn’t wait to tell Coach Luis about the experience, and to thank him for all his fabulous help and advice leading up to the race.

Exhausted and happy, we headed back to Abu Dhabi. We loved every moment of our roadtrip, and can’t wait to race again – bring on Yas and ADIT!

Almost at the finish line.....

Almost at the finish line…..

Happy happy!

Happy happy!

The three ONEndurance musketeers

The three ONEndurance musketeers

Congratulating Kim on her award

Congratulating Kim on her award

Kim's AWESOME run finish!

Kim’s AWESOME run finish!

The not so glamorous side of triathlon……

Triathlon isn’t all fun and games.  It involves tedious chores like bike cleaning…….

Bertie (and Ted!) ready for his shower

Bertie (and Ted!) ready for a shower

(with the little help of my feline friend – can you spot him?!)

And toenails have a bad habit of falling off…….

Gross!

Gross!

But it’s all worth it when you have a fab morning out with team mates, riding a cold & foggy cycle track in the middle of the desert, with luke warm coffee and home made cookies afterwards………

I love ONEndurance

Go on, give triathlon a try – it’s fun, honest……..!  ;-)

Another year begins……

I can’t believe another year has flown by and here we are in 2014 already.  I’m not making any resolutions this year, just to continue leading a healthy lifestyle and be the best I can.  I have several races coming up in the next few months, so training will get tougher, but I feel ready for the challenge.

Looking back on 2013 I racked up 300hrs of training time, covering 4,320km – these figures could be higher for 2014, I’m off to a good start so far.  With the encouragement of coach Luis and the company of my ONEndurance pals it should be easy to keep up the hard work.

My ultimate goal for the first half of the year is the Ironman 70.3 Eagleman race in the US in June – I’ll be taking part with Leyla again, I can’t wait.

So here’s to eating clean, training smart, racing hard and sleeping well.  Live, laugh and love.  Happy New Year to you all!

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Reflections

I’m writing this from Phuket airport, reflecting on the past week. As you know from my previous post, I signed up for the Challenge Laguna Phuket 70.3 a mere 9 days before the race, to honour our friend and team mate Mehdi, who sadly lost his life in a cycling accident. Now, I can’t believe the race is all over.

Leyla and I arrived in Phuket with 48 hours to get organised. On the day we arrived Leyla’s husband William assembled our bikes, and we registered to pick up our race packs. The day was rainy, but also hot and humid, so we were apprehensive about what race day would hold. Hills with rain would be treacherous, and heat on the run would be no fun.

On Saturday, we went to the race start on the beach for a gentle swim, hopped on our bikes to test the set up, and went for a little jog. Later in the day we checked our bikes in, after getting them looked at by the bike mechanics. The highlight of our day was meeting Chris ‘Macca’ McCormack, a really nice guy who couldn’t resist my sad pleas for a groupie photo with him!

The night before the race we were surprisingly calm. We ate well and kept drinking our electrolytes, and packed up our bags for race day. Bed come early, but sleep remained elusive.

Finally the big day was here. Transition at 5.30am was a strangely eerie place, dark but buzzing with nervous chatter and excitement. After laying out our T1 and T2 gear under bin bags to keep dry, and loading the bikes with electrolytes and nutrition, we made our way to the swim start, on a ferry across the lagoon. A pretty cool start that not many races can boast!

Pink caps and googles were on, and we joined the throngs of athletes and spectators, and soaked up the atmosphere. Soon the pros were in the water, then the male age groupers, and finally it was our turn – argh! I felt like I had a good swim, my pull felt strong, I was following the buoys, and I even overtook a few people, including guys with yellow caps from the wave before. When I came out of the sea, I couldn’t understand why my time was so slow, then I realised I had swum 1600m instead of 1300m – damn. This knowledge threw me, and I had a bad swim across the lagoon- I headed towards the ferry pontoon instead of the finish, and as a consequence ended up swimming even further, totalling 2.21k instead of 1.9k. If I had swum on course, my time would have been 49mins, 3 mins faster than last year.

No time to dwell though, I pushed through T1 as fast as I could, and I knocked 4 mins off last year. Then I was on the bike and out on the crazy, scenic, hilly course. And boy was it hilly, way hillier then I remembered – I think my brain had erased the bad memories! I made it through the first 45k and hit the two steepest hills, which I walked up as planned. Coming down I was much braver than last year, and just coasted down pumping my brakes. Then it was back to the other side of the island, dismounting for a second time to cross the bridge over the main highway. The last set of hills were a killer, and once again I had to walk twice. Then the end was in sight, and it was time to hop off and prepare for the next part of the challenge. I didn’t realise until later that my bike time was 2 mins slower than last year – I am still puzzled by this as I am way stronger on the bike now.

I managed to cut my time in T2 by 5 mins, and then I was out on the run course. The heat was unbelievable, and the sun was out, making the run extremely hard. I struggled through the first 5k due to some bladder issues, then found my rhythm a little, but I have to confess the heat got the better of me and I walked far more than I should have. I was mentally done, and I allowed my body to give in. Definitely something I need to work on before my next long race. I struggled from aid station to aid station,taking coke and sponges to cool me down. But eventually I was on the second loop and the end was in sight. I knew Leyla was waiting for me, and I managed to pick my feet up and run the final stretch. I saw Leyla’s face and she handed me Mehdi’s flag, and that was it – I ran through the finish line with his flag high above my head and a beaming smile on my face. I accepted my medal and found Leyla – I collapsed on her and we both cried, a mixture of elation, exhaustion and thoughts of dear Mehdi. I wish he and the rest of ONEndurance could have been there to share the magical moment.

And that was it, it was all over. My final time was slower than last year, but by now I was just glad to be finished, and proud to have crossed the finish line for Mehdi. The rest of the day passed in a blur – we collected our bikes, had a dip in the pool and dressed up for the awards party. A few drinks, and it was early to bed again, too tired for wild partying.

Leyla did fantastically well in her race, finishing in just over 6 hours, coming 6th in our age category. All her hard training over the past 16 weeks really paid off. She is my hero! We have already been plotting our next big race, and Leyla has signed up for the Ironman Eagleman 70.3 next June, in the US. I hope to join her, and this time I will have plenty of time to train and work on the lessons I’ve learnt.

We spent the rest of the week just chilling by the pool and on the beach, having massages and generally relaxing. I need to say a huge thank you to Leyla’s beautiful family for adopting me and making me feel so welcome, and to Leyla herself for making racing together so much fun – I think we made a good team.

I also need to thank Luis, my incredible coach and friend. I had no time for race specific training, but the base training that Luis has prescribed over the last 6 months got me through the difficult race. He was with me every stroke, pedal and step of the way, the little voice in my head pushing me on. Thank you Luis.

And now it’s off to Singspore for some more fun with my dear friends Ruth & Ben, and their little boy Brae who I haven’t met yet. Bring on the next set of adventures!