Friday, 29 May 2015

One of the best Holidays I've been on- My Triathlon Training Holiday in the Pyrenees with Embrace Sports

My Triathlon Holiday with Embrace Sports in the Pyrenees.


Day 1:

I arrived at the airport at midday and was friendlily greeted by Eric, Neil and Ali from the Embrace team. I was then introduced to the other 15 on the trip, we jumped in the car and drove for just over an hour  to the farmhouse, chatting about our training and forthcoming events on the way.

The farmhouse accommodation is lovely: very vintage, a big kitchen, good sized rooms, a pool and a hot tub to soak our aching muscles in. We arrived in gorgeous weather, those that brought their bikes built them and those renting were set up on our bikes. I was given a great little bike a Planet X full carbon! We then set off on our first introductory ride, there were some very quick and strong riders, but we naturally broke into two groups. The ride was sunny and flat and with only very small hills to warm us up for the mountain the next day. The 18 mile cycle was finished with 4.6k brick run where we all learnt the route so we could do this on our own after each ride. A good afternoon to break us in…



Day 2:

A big day!

We started with breakfast and a bike 101, which I very much needed! Teaching us bike maintenance, how to clean it after sessions, which lubes to use depending on conditions and most importantly how to change a puncture tyre.

We then set off to the lake for my first open water swim session, after a briefing everyone shot off across the lake to the rock and back (370m). I seemed to have a bit of a panic attack. I just couldnt control my breathing, Eric was very good coaching me through it and I finally managed to get my stroke under control. My wetsuit worked well I didnt feel cold even though it was only 13 degrees c, it was just the breathing in the cold water that I struggled to get my breathe under control. The lake was beautifully clean though and I even spotted  few  fish! My first open water swim experience was most interesting! 

Next..The mountain climb Col DAspin. Overall  44.6 miles /75km and 1490m climbed! The mountain climb was 12km at an average of 6.5% with a max of 10%, climbing 779m. It's strange you set out in the heat and then at the top its freezing. We all waited and cheered each one of us up to the top.   I cant believe you churn up a hill for over an hour and it takes less than 20 minutes to get back down!

We then finished the ride with our lap of the brick run and a core class. Then a feast on a homemade bbq!


Day 3:

Bike 202! Over breakfast we learnt the basics of riding in a group and tactics up and down hill.

We then set off to the lake again for some more swimming.  I think I was even worse, it was colder and I was still struggling to breathe. Managed two laps in a mix of front crawl and breast stroke, still finding it hard to put my head under.


Next a woodland run a lovely trail run of 6km laps, I aimed to do two but felt so strong (could be to all the great food provided) I managed to complete 3 laps = 18k in a quick 1 hr 21 on trail.  Not bad and the longest Id run for a while.


We finished the day with some transition practice and an easy 25km cycle. Dinner was at a local restaurant


Day 4 – Col D’Peyresourde 105km Bike Ride.


We left at 9am and the weather was gorgeous. The ride was beautiful through mountains and valleys. We stopped at the famous Tour de France town Luchon at 50km for some coffee. The climb was 15km and we climbed to 1585m. It was hot and tough and took me just over an hour. I also chatted to some French guys as we went up,  as I passed them in the last 2km they shouted “You machine, you machine!”, which gave me the encouragement to do a  little sprint finish. Apparently, they climb that mountain every other week. My cycling could get so strong if I had that option! We then finished the ride by descending the other side of the mountain; totaling 105km in the 26 degree heat. I found it a pretty tough but persevered as to complete the 4.6km brick run. Everyone else was popping on their trainers so I felt obliged!  We returned to the farmhouse about 4pm and chilled by the pool.

We were all pretty knackered by the end of this day, dinner was a lovely feast of homemade thai green curry, vegetable curry, peanut chicken and salad followed by ice cream. Amazing, I must get all their the recipes!


Day 5:

Duathlon Day


A 5km trail run, 24km cycle, 5km trail run. I really enjoyed this fun event, it gave me a chance to practise my transitions and I achieved a  negative split on the run. The bike was a TT course and in the blistering heat it was tough, but I felt my competitive side kick in and over took Sarah on the last run to be the first lady home!


This was followed by a cooling lake swim - with the weather much warmer I managed 4 laps of the lake. I was more relaxed and quite enjoyed it!


We then finished the day with a Q and A on triathlon and a core class with Kat which was a great end to a fab day.  Dinner  was then a delicious homemade  French beef stew, salad and potatoes (a healthy version of the dolpinaise potatoes  with crรจme fresh, asparagus, spices and carrots). Yum!


Day 6:

Aquathon Day

Not my favourite day, we started with a sunny 15k ride down to the lake and pulled our partners out a hat. I was glad to be paired with Millie a strong swimmer and runner, the event was a tag style, person 1 swims 400m and then changes out their wetsuit as quick as possible, puts on their running shoes and runs a mile lap before tagging their partner. This is then repeated so we both go twice.  I opted to go first thinking its best to get it done! For some reason in the rush and swim, I just completely lost my breathe couldn’t breathe and thought I was going to drown! As the others speed off I panicked, I just couldn’t get my breathe. Luckily one of the coaches spotted me waving in panic and charged into the lake (no wetsuit!) and calmed me down. I pulled it together and managed to swim the rest of the lap. I then pulled the wetsuit off as quick as possible and charged off onto the run which felt strange in my swimsuit! I managed to catch a few and tagged Millie who caught the rest of the group! Second round went was much better, I was slow but didn’t stop, progress!



We then cycled the next 15km back to the farm house for some well needed R and R and a trip to the chocolatier. We cycled their without our lycra! The chocolates were amazing and it was very interesting to see how they were made. Buying a few treats, we then headed back for some sun, reading and writing by the pool as well as getting our bikes ready for a mammoth ride tomorrow!



Day 7:

Two mountains 1200ft elevation, 125km covered and a 4.7km brick run after….

This was an epic last day, we set off bright and early in the hope that the weather wouldnt be too hot when we climbed Tourmalet. The ride planned consisted of the epic Col du Touramlet famous in the Tour de France, a 17.5km climb with an average gradient of 9.9% eek! With an added climb up the other side of Col dAspin and a valley ride home.   The first 30k of the ride wasnt the flattest going over  a couple of 2-3km climbs, then 10km with a 1% up hill gradient to the bottom of Tourmalet. From what I remember the climb itself was tough but with beautiful views and scenery. I followed a very hairy wild donkey for a while at the start which distracted me! We cycled through the French ski resort La Mongie without a stop before the last 5km to the top. The group had opened out and it was just you grinding up the hill against the mountain at a depressingly slow average pace of 6mph. The climb took me 1:47 minutes and its funny how you completely zone out and think about random things like old jokes, the words of a song and I tried to calculate random sums concerning speeds and the minutes left I would be climbing in my head! As you climb higher, you start to see snow at the side of the roads which is surreal considering your body heat is so hot, I was tempted to rock off the side of my bike and fly in the snow piles, I had to take a gel half way through the climb my legs were drained, it made such a difference and I felt quite strong up the last km, reading all the names of the famous cyclists in the road is pretty cool, someone had written “shut up legs” in the last km which made me chuckle! Upon reaching the top the views were astounding and it was such a great feeling of accomplishment. You then suddenly feel rather cold and after a few quick photos, I layered up and started the challenge of the steep and long descent!


The rest of the ride consisted of another hard climb up Cold Aspin, our legs were really feeling it now but the coaches were so encouraging. We also stopped at some shops to refuel, I grabbed a bounty bar and some Haribo, nom nom… 

Its crazy how much you need to eat on these rides!   The valley ride home was flat and the coaches were great letting us draft during the tough head winds. Once returning we all went for the routine brick run and collapsed back at the farm house. Time for a quick shower, some well-earned bubbly and a slide show to laugh at a collection of photos the guys had taken during the week.

Dinner was a elegant 3 course meal and wine at a restaurant down the road. It was sad, we were all saying our goodbyes, yet celebrating our amazing achievement of the day. Everyone in the group got on so well and we all had good banter between us. I absolutely loved the holiday and encourage anyone, whatever training level to go. As well as great training, it was relaxing and fun. As soon as I can I will be booking next years with Embrace sports and cannot wait for the season to start….


Monday, 25 May 2015

My First Triathlon - from duathlete to wannabe triathlete! The Mini-Marshman..

After an awesome triathlon training holiday in the Pyrenees last week with Embrace Sport(Blog coming), I thought it was time to jump straight into my first triathlon, conquer my open water fear and convert myself from a Duathlete to a Triathlete!

The event was called the Mini Marshman (Sprint Triathlon), a very well run event by a local company called Velocity Events. There was also the Marshman Standard (Olympic distance)  and for the hard-core, the Marshman (half iron man distance).  It was held in Lydd lakes near Rye.  Landing home Thursday night, I quickly ordered a triathlon suit online which I picked up on Friday for Saturday (thank goodness it fit, though it was pinker than I expected, not the most intimidating colour!).


I rolled out of bed at 5am to have a quick pre-race breakfast though I couldnt stomach coffee yet and with my large bag (you need to take so much more than for a Duathlon; Wetsuit, towel, goggles, dry clothes etc),headed to the event. As I was driving, it was drizzling and only 9 degrees, which was making me dread the lake and the freezing temperature it was going to be. I arrived to a field at 6am to register, thinking maybe I should hop in the car and turn round! I then racked my bike and unenthusiastically set to work taking off layers, applying body glide (to help you quickly take your wet suit on and off) and putting on the wetsuit.  Joining many shivering bodies by the entrance of the lake, we had our race briefing and then plunged into the lake.


Once getting into the lake, I hovered at the back before the horn. I was freezing! Every time I put my head underwater I lost my breath and couldnt breathe. Trying to acclimatise by dunking my head and letting a bit of water into the wet suit to warm up,  the horn went off. Everyone charged off while I panicked and went into a weird front crawl with head out the water/ breast stroke swim. Not the most technical and very slow! There were a couple of others in the water also doing breast stroke so I didnt feel so bad. The swim felt a lot longer than in the pool, probably as you have no wall to push off every 25m! I did feel very safe in the water with a kayak alongside me most of the way (as I was at the back!) Having completed the swim,  I headed to transition with wet feet. The transition was slow I got the wetsuit off fairly quickly but took a while drying my feet and putting on some socks and a jacket! I didnt want to get cold on the bike (as you know from previous experience!).


The bike course was 24km and a lovely flat course heading to Camber and back, there was a slight head wind but I enjoyed it and started overtaking a couple of participants which made up for the swim! T2 was fairly quick (having practiced many bike run transitions!), I think I even overtook a few during this.)



My strength, though I did have strange pins and needles in my feet, maybe from the swim or cold! Anyway I charged off and overtook a few more participants. After a fairly flat 6k through the village I sprinted the last few hundred metres to the finish! Where I was given a medal and some well-earned Jaffa cakes. It was also great that you could get your times there and then and I was super pleased with a 3rd Lady place (bottle of wine and a trophy!), what a surprise! My goal for this race was to just complete it, get round the lake without panicking and get to the end! Done!!

From now on, it's time for some more open water sessions before the Hyde Park Triathlon next weekend. Dan has written me a new programme which I started this week , it includes swimming now; with the main goal still to improve my running and cycling for Worlds. Its great to be training again I have missed the structured sessions. Ive also been to a lake to train this week and managed the regular front crawl so am looking forward to next weekend knowing what to expect, though the field is going to be a lot larger! My goal is to improve my swimming time and not be last out the water…..!


Sunday then consisted of an 8mile trail run with Mango, who was pretty knackered by the end!

Sunday, 3 May 2015

ETU Europeans – A weekend in Spain and the race now known as Alco’ Horrendous!

Where do I start....
I set off on Friday morning with my number one supporter, Mum, to Madrid. The first thing to happen was a full bag search with security as I had forgotten to take my knife (used for peanut butter on rice cakes!) out of my gym bag. That took some explaining but they let me through. After an hour's delay on the flight, we landed in Madrid and arrived at a very strange industrial town called Alcobendas. Not where you would expect to find an international event!

On arrival I grabbed my bike, quickly got changed and joined the bike recce. This was quite an experience, there were about 150 GBers cycling. This was the same time as the Elite recce so we had a police escort to follow! The bike and run course had 96 roundabouts and no flat. With hill climbing being my strength, I quite liked the course  but was concerned with the technicalities of the roundabouts and lines. I completed two laps and then joined a few other Brits for the cycle bike back to the hotel.

 Friday night also consisted of an Opening Ceremony. With the British squad dominating, there was a mayors speech, flamenco dancing and a bit of random Zumba to finish….!

Upon registering I received a large suitcase as a gift; quite strange but very generous though slightly unsure how to take this home on the flight (it went home with the bike in the end!).

The whole standard distance Team GB!
Today I took it easy in preparation, with a taper session of a 30 minute bike and 20 minute run with a few bursts at race pace. I set off at 7am and took some of the other ladies onto the bike course as they missed the recce the night before.  I have no idea how but after a few wrong turns we managed to find the course in this confusing town.This was then followed by a very large breakfast and the race briefing from the team managers. Going through rules, penalties and the course – it all seemed very technical which was making me quite nervous!

20-29 year old Womens team!

The afternoon was followed by a quick bike check (loose handlebars not good) and supporting the Paralympic race and the elite athletes.


5:30AM Wake up call, due to the strange organisation of the event you have to rack your bikes between 6:30-8:30am even though my race wasn’t until 12:30pm. I planned to meet Yaz (a fellow participant and incredible doctor and athlete who 12 months ago could hardly walk, let alone run due to a severe slipped disc). We met at 5:50am to get the coach and take our bikes to racking. It was cold, dark and raining heavily, not the conditions I hoped for. After waiting 20 minutes, as the racking opened late, we racked our bikes. My shoes and helmet sat getting wet in the rain for the next 6 hours, we then jumped in the coach back to the hotel for breakfast and a little kip before heading back at 10:30am. Also we had no timing chips yet as the timing chip driver had crashed on route - not the best start...!

The rain was very heavy on arrival at the site. Everybody was huddled into a sports hall to try to stay dry. 45 minutes before the start we were called back into transition. I checked my bike again and my shoes were sodden! I had a warm up here trying to keep warm in a very thin tri suit for this long time wishing I had an underliner. I knew a few of the girls from other races and knew the standard would be extremely high. My aim was to just complete the course in a good time.

The Run - we set off everyone sprinting up the hill. It was a undulating run of 4 x 2.5km laps. The crowds on the run were great and it was amazing to hear everyone shout your name and country. Starting near the back of the field, I seemed to be overtaking people each lap and I felt good and very strong. Coming into the transition 2nd in around 38 minutes felt amazing!

Transition was a bit of a disaster! As soon as I mounted my bike and before I could get my feet into my cycling shoes, an Irish competitor crashed in front of me at the first roundabout! The weather was bad now; very windy and torrential rain. Visibility was horrendous and it started hailing at some points. Barriers were blown into the road and I even saw someone fall off riding in a straight line! His bike got blown in the wind and he slipped on the white line. On the First lap of 10k I saw 4 falls! I was shivering and slow, just concentrating on not falling off but told myself to man up!
Starting the second lap, I didn’t feel right. My jaw kept locking and I couldn’t control my breathing. My only thoughts were get round, grab a jacket from Mum and start the 3rd lap. I don't remember much of the second lap. I was slower, the weather was worse, it was freezing, the road was awash with water, and I saw more falls. My muscles started locking completely and I couldn’t control my bike or breathing anymore, weaving and slowing down. As I got round to the start of the third lap, I didn’t know what was happening at all.  A marshal pulled me to the side. A  man grabbed me off the bike and the next thing I remember was being thrown in a hot shower with all my clothes on! Spanish people were asking where my dry clothes were and a lovely English guy from team GB, who competed in the morning, was giving me a hot chocolate.  Somehow Mum was found and later she said I  was pretty out of it, shivering and blue when she saw me! (She had been sheltering in the cafe after seeing me do the first lap as she was so cold but really couldn't bear to watch the bikes skidding around!).

This picture sums up the weather well at the end of the mens run.

Once warm, it hit me that I hadn’t finished and I just felt cold and devastated. Why had my body let me down ☹. I had trained so hard for this. Looking back, you can’t prepare for the weather. All, I can do is move onwards,use the experience and prepare for Worlds. Many more experienced athletes also had to stop and told me I would never experience conditions like that again! Half my race finished. During the standard distance alone, there was one broken hip (Irish guy), a few broken collar bones and 30 cases of hypothermia. This included 17 men so I wasn’t the only one!
The next race was cancelled….!!

Post Race;
Since the race, I seem to have just been eating a lot! Monday I felt very tired and still keep waking up in the night shivering or sweating but I will get over it.  I just can’t wait to race again and take out my frustration! Now to concentrate on Worlds and compete in some races  this summer….

I would just like to thank Wayne, Claudio and Ron from Team GB for coming to my rescue! Also, congratulations to the athletes who survived the course and those who won medals, I absolutely loved being in team GB and have made some great friends. I can't wait until the next big event with the team in Australia in October.