Monday, 17 April 2017

TrailX Cross-Duathlon

Billed as the sprint round of the series, Checkendon was set up as a 3.5k run - 13k bike - 3.5k run and without a hill in sight it should be perfect for some fast racing. And that's exactly what we got!  From the gun the pace was ridiculously high as we sprinted off through the farmers fields and up to the first wooded section. I knew I couldn't hold that pace for long so eased it back slightly and settled into my on rhythm- trying not to worry about those disappearing ahead, I was sure I'd see most of them again. 

Lots of empty racks in T1 meant it was time to get to work on the bike again. With lots of dry, dusty and tight singletrack the bike course was great fun and I was soon making up places. I definitely got my sprint training in too launching out of the corners as fast as I could. 

Out into the second run and focusing on a quick turnover I soon found my rhythm and tried to maintain the good form whilst giving it what I had left. I finished up in 10th place and happy with another good days training, but boy those top boys are quick!!

Thursday, 13 April 2017

The season is up and running

Last year to me felt like I put in a lot of hard work in training but I didn't get to test myself as much as I'd like in races. This year I've decided to change that and get out to as many races as I can (within reason of course) and make the effort to travel further afield within the UK and support as many cross du's and tri's as possible.

Although the cross scene is building, unfortunately our races took a hit early on when it was announced the hugely popular Human Race cross duathlon series were cancelled due to land usage....bummer! This meant that there was quite a large gap in events that we could race and get the season started early. Fortunately for us, the great people behind the Southern XC mountain bike events stepped in to provide cross-du's on the Saturdays before their standard Sunday xc races in the form of their TrailX series....happy days!

The first in the series was in Wasing on 11th March set around a cracking mtb course which made for some awesome but tough racing. The run through the impressive grounds was really quite beautiful (had to remind myself I was racing at one point) and with a stonking, muddy hill straight out of transition it was a true reminder of how hard duathlons can be. By using the mtb course set for the next day, minus a few of the A lines, it was great to see a challenging bike course where you needed your wits about you at all times in a multi sport event, more of that please! Overall I finished in 10th fairly happy with my bike but wanting to work on the run legs a little. The next in the series is this weekend and is being billed as their sprint event, so I'm looking to a solid hit out.

Next up was the Hole Park cross duathlon on the 2nd April, the previous setting of the national cross-du championships and a fair trek out to the middle of Kent. Coming into the race I was feeling fresh and ready so see what I could do. I really wanted to put a good marker down and have a good hard race, and that's just what I got! On paper the course looked fairly flat, but in reality there were plenty of ups and soft sections to sap the energy. Knowing that the bike is still my strongest section I aimed to set off steady on the first run, nail it on the bike and then keep going as long as I could for the final run. The only thing was, the first half of the run lap was all down hill and a real challenge to gauge your effort and not get tempted into letting rip and flying off from the gun. It also means most of the rest of the lap must be back up hill!

I came out of T1 and immediately put the hammer down to try and catch up to those in front and managed to take 2 places on the first of 3 laps- I was feeling good. As I finished my first lap and heard over the tannoy (cheers for the hype Rich!) that I was in 2nd place I dug in even more to try and get that 1st spot. But no, as I was making my way back up to T2, Nick Collins was already on his way out and had quite a lead as he had done for most of the race. I still gave it my all on that second run, pushed as hard as I could up the hill and managed a fairly comfortable 2nd place, 1st in my age group and a first podium for the year. All in a good day out.

So the season has started nicely, still a tad fresh out for me to venture into the water yet but there's plenty of du's coming to keep me happy at the moment.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Consistency is King

At work I often get asked: "What is the quickest way to… get fitter…  lose weight… get hench, etc?  A lot of the time, my response isn't the golden ticket that was hoped for in the first place. This is because my answer to all of the above - and often more - is always - consistency. There are no magic workouts, no magic diets and no magic pills to do all the work for you. Obviously each of the above have their own different workouts and strategies to get to the desired goal. But when it comes down to it you have to be prepared to put the effort in to get to the gym or head out the door for your session and get it done.

Some days this will feel like the easiest thing in the world to do and you'll fly through your session feeling like you could go pro tomorrow. Other days you'll spend more time than the session itself would've actually taken you, thinking up reasons why you shouldn't do it. Then your brain wins and tricks you into just sitting back on the sofa (and then dealing with the associated guilt that comes with it!). Quite often the hardest part of the workout is that first step out the door or that first set. Then you remember why you're training, why you started in the first place. The joy of movement kicks in and it all makes sense again.

Keep on chasing yourself
Personally I find that consistency is the hardest part of training. We all know how hard that interval is or how tough it can be to turn around and sprint back up the hill. But to do it day after day, that’s where the true effort comes in. In the lead up to my wedding I found it particularly hard as I was very aware of this big event looming round the corner for which I couldn’t train for. My soon to be wife, family and friends put in a massive shift though and the day was amazing. As were my coaches, who eased off the pressure and let me train when it worked for me. I could see my performance levels had taken a hit but it was needed and meant I could focus on what really mattered. After the big day it was a struggle to get back into the routine of it all. Then there was the mild panic – which led me to question myself about whether those levels were ever going to come back? Again, the coaches stepped in and reassured me that it would return, or gave me the occasional kick up the arse if I was being a bit soft! But by plugging away and doing what I could consistently, the good feelings have returned and it’s all starting to make sense again. Now I am thankfully in a place where I am looking forward to each session.

If it all seems a bit daunting and you feel that urge to suddenly go and sit down on the sofa again, why not break the session down? See how you go for the first 10-20 minutes and if it really is a bad as your brain told you it would be and you're not recovered/hating it/dying, then you can stop and re-evaluate. If, however, the more than likely second option occurs, you actually start enjoying the session, kick on and get the rest done. Either way you'll feel a hell of a lot better than your other self, sitting on the sofa, watching Sons of Anarchy for the third time and eating your body weight in chocolate.

This is where your consistency streak begins. If you can keep completing your sessions on a consistent basis, then fitness, weight loss or even getting hench will come. But not before the hard work

So get out there, enjoy the process and the fitness that follows

Monday, 23 May 2016

And so it begins!

The triathlon season has well and truly begun again and spring is in full effect, what a great time of year this is! I used the Nuffield Health Eton SuperSprints to kick off my year and to help iron out any early season wrinkles before my 'A' races next month, and to also introduce a friend to the wonderful world of triathlon.

As a Nuffield Health employee it was great to see them as the Title partner of a tri with Human Race, so when the offer of a place came up I Jumped at the chance. We also all have that friend too who has mentioned that they'd love to give tri a go but haven't quite taken the final leap of faith and entered, so I did it for him! Marty is a rugby player so not quite the standard triathlete shape (is there even a standard triathlete shape anymore??), but he teaches a lot of classes and can run pretty well to be fair to him so I knew once he got out of the water he'd be fine. He SMASHED it and has well and truly got the bug and is already asking when his next one is. You should've seen the smile on both of our faces when he finished :D

My race had the standard 1st race errors, not quite giving enough time to get ready and set-up before the start and a couple of rusty transitions but overall I'm happy with how it went. Starting from the back of the pack in the swim meant I had to go round/through a lot of small groups but meant that I could also use a few for drafting. I felt really strong on the bike and was able to keep a good cadence ticking over in a higher gear than last year, only really loosing out to the guys on aero bikes. The best bit of the whole day though was the run. I've worked hard on my running through the winter (not to say I've not done so on the swim or bike) and I really felt the difference. Being able to start quick and get quicker was amazing and the feeling of being able to reel in the guys and finish with a sprint to grab another place on the line, incredible. 27th overall and 3rd in age group, I'll take that as a cross triathlete masquerading as a roadie. Have to say a big thanks to ashmei too, the tri-suit had its first outing and it performed faultlessly. I didn't really notice I had it on at any point during the day it was that comfortable, I think that is really the best thing you can ask for from a suit 10/10.

The countdown is now on for my big races and I couldn't be happier with where I currently am with my training. I still can't sing the praises of my coaches highly enough (thanks Jacqui & Ben) and would recommend anyone who wants to improve their times/enjoyment of the sport to go ahead and get booked in with a coach- what's the worst that could happen?? We're just 18 days out from Xterra Belgium and 32 days from the ETU European Cross Champs at Xterra Switzerland, June is going to be a busy month! My swim is coming along nicely and I don't really see it as my weak link anymore. I'm feeling stronger than ever on the bike being able to push the pace and then recover quickly and as mentioned earlier I've never enjoyed running so much. So lets see what we can do this year, it's going to be a BIG one!

For now though
Take it easy

Monday, 4 April 2016

Swings and Roundabouts

I was hoping to be writing this post about my first race back of the season, the Hole Park Cross-Duathlon. However that plan was scuppered by catching the office bug that had been threatening to take hold for the last month or so, that hit with perfect timing to drag me into a grumpy snotty mess for the Easter Bank Holiday weekend.
Any athlete who is training alongside a full time job always has that thought in the back/front/whole of their mind of how far could they go if they had the chance to train full time. What could they do if they got the chance to wholly focus on training and racing without fitting it around the precious time that they have outside of work, their free time for which they can dedicate to whatever they want, whilst still of course reminding your family of what you look like. This is why our weekends are cherished so dearly as we get to decide when, where and how to train without worrying if we'll get to work on time or if we'll be able to miss the traffic and make it to the pool/track/wilderness before it closes/gets dark. Even better are long Bank Holiday weekends like the one just gone by for Easter, where we get the chance to have 4 whole days in a row of solid back to back training days with the added incentive of eating (more) chocolate. It's fair to say that I always look forward to the Easter break.

For the past few weeks I have been feeling a little under the weather, a little bit off but nothing too major to throw much of my training off. A couple of days here and there where I couldn't quite hit the reps, sets or times wanted but still able to get some quality sessions in. I didn't think much of this until the Wednesday before Easter when it all got a bit worse; sore throat, blocked up head and a bit spaced out. I knew I had finally succumbed to the office bug. A coldy/fluish bug that's made it's way through pretty much every department at one point and had hit a few colleagues in the weeks before. By Thursday it had officially hit and I retreated home early from work to collapse on the sofa and a 3 hour sleep followed, just in time to scupper those weekend plans of miles and smiles.
Now from here this post could quite easily have descended into self pity and cursing at cyclist I saw riding past my window enjoying the early spring sunshine (this might have happened). But instead to my surprise, I quickly found a new perspective on the enforced rest. I had the chance to veg out on the sofa, watch some films and eat chocolate whilst my better half looked after me (she did pretty well to put up with me to be honest). Yes I was still thoroughly hacked off to be ill and not able to do what I wanted, but for the first time I think ever, I was able to accept it and just get on with recovering. I must be getting old!
Hannah's form of sympathy...
This led me to look back at my recent training and how happy I am with how far I've come on since teaming up with B&J Racing. Coaching really does work and if you're thinking about signing up with a coach, be it long or short term, I would really recommend that you jump in and commit fully to it. It's not an automatic ticket to improvement, you still have to put in the hard work, but knowing with every session that you're ticking off that you are moving in the right direction, at the right pace and with the right recovery. It's a great feeling.
Now looking forward I have a few xc mountain bike races in the next few weeks and then I'll be travelling to some local and then some not so local cross-triathlons in Europe. With 4 days of very light training under my belt since starting to feel human again, fingers crossed I'm out the other side of this bug. I cannot wait to get going again with training properly and now that the days are getting longer, warmer and brighter, it's going to be a great season.

But for now ladies and gents do like have been, take it easy :)

Friday, 18 March 2016

Exciting times


Sooo it's been a while since my last post, I've decided as a late New Years resolution (it still counts right??) that I will be keeping on top of this blog and updating it as regularly as possible.

First thing first lets have a look at last year. My aims were to carry on improving my swim, bike and run, travel to as many Xterra/mountain bike/running races as possible and to continue loving the sport so that it never becomes a chore. I can quite easily say I've ticked off all three of those goals. My fitness has jumped massively (mainly due to working with a couple of the best Xterra athletes/coaches in the world) most noticeably in the swim which has gone from back of the pack straggler to mixing it up in the middle of the bunch and I'm still gaining huge chunks of time in training. Travelling firstly to the ETU Cross European champs and then the ITU Cross World champs as a Team GB age grouper was incredible and has started new friendships and opened my eyes as to where I want to be as an athlete. Last of all I love my sport, I love the training and I love the people meaning you can't help but have fun. This is hugely important to me as if I didn't enjoy any part of the training or racing, it just would not happen.

Heading to T1 of ITU Cross WC, Sardinia
Also I am thrilled to have been selected by the lovely people of ashmei (and I'm not just saying that, they really are nice) to be an ambassador for 2016. This is some of the nicest gear I have ever seen, with a mixture of style and performance in every garment you can really tell that they care about everything they make. The main attraction is in the property of the material they use, merino wool, which works to keep you warm in the cold and cool in the hot whilst not stinking once you warm up, what more could an athlete ask for?? Plus with a tag line of 'Outperform the best' you know they've got the idea. Keep an eye out in later posts for reviews and updates as my relationship with ashmei develops and go have a look at their stuff, it really is top notch.

Right that's it for me for now but I promise it won't be as long until the next one :)
Take it easy

Thursday, 13 August 2015

ETU Cross Country European Championships

So my first time representing my country and in GB that felt good!! There really was something special about pulling on that GB Tri-suit on race morning and the feeling of wanting to do it proud. The ETU Cross Champs were in Schluchsee (Germany) and having travelled out a couple of days before the race and had a quick recce of the course, with new buddies Deano and Simon (cheers for looking out for my guys) I was feeling positive about it all and just wanted to get going. Heading down to transition to set up on race morning and it was a little cloudier/cooler/windier than we all wanted but hey that's racing (just to rub it in the following day was perfect sunshine and not even a breeze). A slightly different rack was used than I was used to where you try and wedge your rear wheel in a crate, for some bikes it worked perfectly, unfortunately for the bike next to me, not so great...each time they left their bike, I'm sure you can imagine the sort of domino action that occurred. Very annoying and not to mention a little worrying when you're leaving your pride and joy to be knocked over :( normal racks please next time.
The lake
Transition was a fair way away from the swim so once racked it was time to walk down and have a quick dip in the swimming pool next to the lake, I'm not sure it's owners wanted it but they were going to struggle to stop a few hundred pumped up triathletes from jumping in for a quick paddle. The elites were called down in order and us age groupers had a great view of their start from the bank, 2 minutes later and we'd be off. I've witnessed the heat-beat countdown at the ITU London race in Hyde Park and it was quite nauseating then and I wasn't even racing, but to hear it for your own race really hyped the pressure on even the most relaxed of us. The gun went and we were off; a few stoney steps into the water, a dive and then go. I was very happy with the first half of my swim, I managed to settle into a rhythm quickly, found a few feet to tow along on and was making good ground. However after the 75m beach run and out onto the 2nd lap it all went a bit to pot, I think I pushed a bit too hard on the run trying to make up places and as such was gasping for too much air whilst trying to battle against the choppy water. A couple of near drowning's and bit too much effort later I reached the turn buoy and enjoyed the last leg of the swim down wind and with the flow back into the beach for the 450m long run back to T1, picking up a few places and then off on the bike I went.
Rolling around on practice day
There was a fair amount of climbing straight out of T1 so I was conscious of holding back a bit and let a few guys power off up the hill as I was sure I'd see them again in a bit (most of them I did, fair play to the guys who stuck at that pace!) On my practice lap, the 2 lap bike course seemed a bit tame and with not much going on other a couple of big hills, come race day it felt completely different. Due to the fact there was a lot of fire road there was a real emphasis on trying to lay the power down and hitting 62kmph doesn't happen much on a mtb course and is fine, but really sapping for the legs when trying to spin up the hills afterwards. There was a nice techy downhill section towards the end of the lap that was great fun and made me a lot of time on others and a crowd pleasing log to leap too, sounds like someone got it a bit wrong though and had a bit of a face plant, hope that's healing well bud!
Running that fast...
A swift T2 and out on the run. 4 laps of a tortuous 2.6km lap with the majority being slow and steady fire road uphill's and then short sharp single track descents followed. My running form has been coming along nicely recently and I was feeling really confident going in that I could set a pace and stick to it, on the day my legs had other ideas though. Cramp set in both hamstrings by the end of lap 2 and was always lingering on the edge or sending me to the deck like a sack of spuds at anytime. Grovelling uphill and then praying downhill with a good few kick outs to try and release them led to a funny running style, think ministry of funny walks and you're part way there, but with a bit of a stern talking too and remembering how far I'd come I made it to the finish. A free stein and complimentary alcohol free beer, a currywurst to recover and off to celebrate with the team mates I went.
Giving it the robot :)
Looking back I'm fairly happy with the result, 11th in Age group and 75th in Europe knowing I couldn't have pushed any harder on the day feels pretty good. International fields are always stronger than you think they will be, remembering everyone there had to qualify just to start helps....but I want better and I know I can improve. Training adjusted and new sessions added, its time to get stronger, faster and better.
Current phone screensaver
Until next time xoxo GG.....Oh no wait that's someone else's tagline
Take it easy