Monday, 12 August 2013

Life and Death after Half Ironman

This is a belated blog. I wrote many versions of it riding on buses, walking to work, swimming laps etc. It was all about life after half ironman. The more I didn't write it, the more it changed. So here is the journey of this blog post, triathlon related and not.

I was never a natural athlete, so completing any one of the single disciplines of a half ironman was never a given - not even the run. As a result, training consumed my life. The fear of failure was a big driver for this, but also, so was the amount of change in my life. Living Up North as Ms Beardy Gal and step mum, unemployment, a change in work, country living - everything was different and triathlon seemed the one thing that was constant.

The race itself was great. Seven hours of pure fun. I'm glad I am slow - if I was fast I would have had less hours of fun. It was so much fun that I came home and put every 70.3 race in the UK in my calendar. I knew I could do it, I knew I could do it faster, or I could do it with less "fear of god" training. If the first half Iron was a leap of faith, then the second and the next, and the next was a redefining of myself. I was not a One Challenge Pony, I really felt like I loved middle distance triathlon. I returned to training with zeal, especially as Jon had his eye on lots of races that would take him away from home. I needed that constant again so I didn't feel lost at sea.

Then there was Freaky Friday. On Freaky Friday, I learned my dad's wife had cancer. I learned when she was already in surgery as my poor dad had also learned in that same period that his mother had dementia, and had threatened to harm herself and my grand dad. She had been sectioned. It was a lot to take in from a distant phone call and series of text messages. I set about the long distance telethon that is ringing one part of the family to the next to find out what is really going on. If you know a little about me in real life, you'll know that making these phone calls can often be the first contact I've had with family for years at worst, months at best. After one of these 1am calls I sat typing to my mum, musing how these sorts of things make you question your life's priorities, question how much time you give your family, amongst other Big Thoughts. It hit a note with my mother, and when I woke after a few hours sleep, I read an email from her, an outpouring of things I needed to know before it was too late. It's been great to have that honesty and intimacy with her, so fresh after her great support role at the race in Mallorca. But of course revelations like that knock you for six. I spent most of the week reeling with the Big Thoughts in my head. They are louder and bigger when you are in the countryside away from friends and family, I am sure.

On Sunday I attempted to cycle from Mossley to Liverpool. I got lost in Salford for about an hour. While this was happening, I realised that I needed to address some of the things that could make me more happy. I was missing the spontaneity of life, and the finances to do things - be it visit my friends in London or further afield, go to dinner, make a load of long distance phone calls and so on. Saving for a house, while taking part in a very expensive sport was taking a lot of resources - not just time and energy. I decided not to do the Middle Distance triatlon I had entered.

At the same time, as I was pedalling bored towards Merseyside, my grandmother died. I take some comfort that it was quick, that she didn't spend years wondering who the people were around her, that she was at least cleared from the mental health ward. I take little comfort that my granddad was ill-prepared and that my family did not have time to rally itself, that she died alone.

It would be easy for me tomorrow to wake up and choose some gruelling swim-set, disappear in the pool and then do a strength and conditioning session at lunch. That's what Tuesdays are for, right? But I hope that along with the realisation that I am a triathlete (and that won't change no matter what I do and don't do) I am also part of a strange group of disparate people called family, a clan of blood and tree-lines that don't speak much but have common links. And that if I can put as much time and effort into them as I do my attempts at sport, then maybe the next family member won't die by surprise or won't die alone. At the very least, I hope I'm not cycling the estates of Salford when it happens.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Hear for yourself: where your donation went

I've not forgotten how generous you all were with donations for Freedom from Torture North West so I really wanted you to hear first hand about the work they have done and you have funded. 

This interview is with Jude Boyles who greeted me with enormous warmth on 21 May when I returned to the UK to Freedom from Torture's Manchester offices to report on how the half ironman went, and how your support had helped me. 

"It's hard to imagine what someone will look like when they smile... so when you start to see those tiny chinks... like when someone shakes your hand and says thank you when they have never looked you in the eye for months, those are the things you start to celebrate."

You can still support Freedom from Torture here at

Monday, 17 June 2013

Reflections on life after half Ironman

I started writing this post (in my head) to coincide with it being one month after my race. Instead that period got a bit distracted. I applied for a permanent internal promotion at work, the day after I returned from Mallorca, had the interview, thought I had bombed and instead got offered the job exactly one month after my race! In addition, when I got home, the law courts had issued a little bit of oddly worded legalese to confirm that the Beardy one was well and truly single. Cue many tears of joy because the life that had felt so vulnerable and temporary was now on its way to be nice and solid.

And in all of that, choosing  my next race seemed quite insignificant. Of course, racing and challenges has now become a massive part of our lives but there seemed so much more to decide on and act on right now. The last four weeks had really given me a taste not just of what I had been missing since 2009 (when I was first locked in a battle to finish some seemingly insurmountable challenge and have been ever since), but what I had been missing by not fully being embedded in family life, not being able to commit to future plans - and now all that had changed.

So here are some forward musings:

We love Ironman. Yes we love the brand. We love the slick organisation, the color-coded bags. We enjoyed following every rule to a T with paranoia (Jon wouldn't pass me a split time nor an Aussie flag!) because we wanted to feel that taking the start line with Lucy Gossage and Tamsin Lewis et al meant I really was worthy. We loved that I was part of something big. If I am to do another event, it's going to be Ironman branded. So to continue in this tradition, we're going to save up (because I can do that now with a permanent job) for a full Ironman in 2015.

It doesn't mean I am not competing this year. Oh no! I just don't want to compete or challenge myself with the level of intensity I have had to. While I am a very slow person, you may think that I don't need to train much but as I am so naturally unsporty and really not ergonomically structured for sport, I do need to put in lots of work on strength and conditioning and recovery to get where I am today! It's not the training that kills me, it's the planning for the next training and recovering that does!

I have really enjoyed swimming and want to continue open water adventures. I did have my heart set on Coniston 5.67 mile shore to shore but I hear that Buttermere is a bit shorter and that will be a great challenge for this year.

Jon is going to get a bike for commuting and some weekend rides together may teach me some cycling love if ever see a day with sunshine. And over Winter I will see if my heart and body have the energy to return to distance beyond the 26,2 mile mark. I never buy into this "once a runner, always a runner" thing! I think I got into it because it was accessible, not because it's in my DNA!

And so life after Half Iron will, in amongst this, return to the rich variety of things that made me tick: opera by homeless people, theatre by refugees, Freedom from Torture, and street outreach, volunteering and Doing Culture! Cooking and baking and making and writing and taking photos. Catching up with my friends in London and Finland and beyond. And of course my family, not just in Mossley and other places up north but in Malaysia and Australia, who need lots of time to cultivate and update so they are all ready for 2015 where I hope I can get many of them to cheer me at the full 140.6!

PSssstt you can still support the half and the great work of Freedom from Torture by going here.

Monday, 27 May 2013

How your donation has helped Karim

Thank you to everyone who has sponsored my half iron man so far. 
If you're still considering sponsoring, the Just Giving page remains open till August 11.  Donating the cost of a bus fare, a coffee or a pint really does make a difference as torture survivors have no recourse to public funds and the charity, Freedom from Torture receives no government funding to ensure it's neutral. 
If you have already sponsored, then thank you so much. Please read about Karim's story below and take comfort in knowing that you have helped someone like Karim. And if you want to go one step further, post this story to your twitter timeline or facebook. You should be very proud of the part you play in helping a torture survivor find the will to live again. 
At just 5 years old Karim was taken from his home in Iraq one night, imprisoned and forced to watch the most brutal torture.
Karim has been carrying this trauma for more than 40 years. He kept his pain to himself, desperately trying to live a normal life whilst the memories of such inhuman cruelty slowly ate away at him – ruining his education, his relationships, his life.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Best cheer squad ever

You could hear them from the other side of the island:

Short video footage here:

Be a part of the team: - donations for Freedom from Torture are open till August 11. 

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Thank you

How many people does it take to change a non athletic person with limited sporting background into a half ironman? Here's all the people who made it possible, in no order of gratitude! And I will probably have missed so many critical people...

Planting the seed:
Tom Allen, drinking partner and asker of Life's Big Questions.
Chrissie Wellington, who wrote in my book!
Andy Holgate, who wrote a book and made it look easy.

Jonathan Acott, @sfsurvivors - telling my I looked like a worm...
Dan Bullock, Swim for Tri - perserving with my inability to understand him.
Dave Quartermain, Uswim - threatening to tweet to get me into cold water.

Dipak, Popup Bikes - explaining bicycle maintenance 101
Glynis, Sarah Roberts and dozens of others, Team Glow - making me feel confident, capable and pushing harder.

Jon Crooks aka Beardy Guy and Life partner - pacing me through Blackpool half
The Running School - teaching me to run

Healing powers
Galina, Pilates Plus, - osteo and pilates guru
Nick Syrett, City Physio - fast talking healer
Luke, Sportcare mobile physio - local pain inflicter!

Ad hoc advice or coaching, online support and with it confidence:
Siobhan Payne, Nicky, Becs, Sharky, Matt (yaagtri), Andy Sloan, Supergal007, Paul H / Piertown, James Coldicott, Helen Russell, Leekyboy7, Aj Hannah, Becs Owen Gardner, Fat Macca 74, Vicky Robertson, David Butler, Sportiedoc / Dr Tamsin Lewis, Paul Lunn, Nikalas Cook - I know, so many great athletes who took time out with a bit of advice! I am immensely awed and grateful.

Sideline cheers, and with it, belief
Fareena, Katie Tiller, Helene Shaw, Keith Charlton,  Zoe Barton, Rodrigo, Steve Trindade, Phil Matthews, Rowena Davies, tri-ing for Good, Eddie Kaul, Heron under Water - Natasha, Andy Kenyon / Noynek, Dan Running, Running Lass, Viv Slack, Rabbit Sensei / Stephen Wright, Julie Morrow, the Adwan family, the Crooks family.

We're all in this together and emotional support and with it, conviction. 
Fran Harvey, Sharky, Lee Hyde, Mandy Clarke, Helen Michaels, Emily McCaulay

Pre Mallorca banter that kept me amused and occupied:
Felicity Cole, Samantha McCleary, MJ Fisher

Matt and James (Triathlon coaching - Sheffield)
(see also swimming!)

The supporters, clients, volunteers and staff at Freedom from Torture past and present. Sabine, Alice, Laura, Mandy, Helen and more. My family. Pat, Teagan, John and Craig - the best ever cheersquad.


Total partners in crime every step of the way:
My amazing mother and equally amazing partner, Jon. Lord knows what they have had to put up with and sacrifice for this.

This medal is for all of you.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Race report

I feel like I should write a race report for both the tri junkies who love to read it (Hi Nicky!) or for my own memory which will probably fade too too fast. I've tried to think of how to write it a few times but failed to make it interesting so let's just go for a bit dull and satisfy my memory and the tri junkies. If you want the more emotive summary or you've arrived here from the good people of Freedom from Torture then try here.

The start:
Grey skies. What? This is Mallorca! Drops of rain, as I take the rain cover off the bike. In Mallorca! Seize bike pump with little delay. Realise I don't know my PSI. Envious of girls who are asking their competing boyfriends what their PSI is. Fail to attach pump to valve correctly. Jon and Mum watch. Jon and Mum offer advice. Jon and Mum watch. Girl who wants pump after me is enlisted to help. I babble about being useless; she holds bike. Done.

The swim:
One of the first to test the water. Water tested, goggles tested, wetsuit fitted a la Swim for Tri - all the tips. Pee in wetsuit. This sport is glamorous. Pose on beach in wetsuit. Take start position at left (course is a rectangle) about 8 deep of 500 odd girls. Not odd, but odd. Want to wish someone good luck... Don't. Gun fires, am pushed in back. I push back. She pushes. I push. Our feet aren't even wet.  Then into water with head up strokes because it's just limb on limb for about 100m. Then normal breathing. Then bilateral. Just keep swimming. Around me, girls stopping, treading water, breast-stroke, backstroke, floating on back. Just keep swimming. 9 buoys. About 900 metres. Turn. Finally some clear water. Move tighter to buoys. Then BAM. The 18-29 year old men, green caps are on me. Their catch is harder and brings you down. Time to kick, create some white water, send them around me rather than me down. Just keep swimming. Shore in sight. 1500m. Just keep swimming and kicking. BAM. 1900m hands touch sand and I am out in one easy breathless but not quite dizzy movement. Time doesn't feel great but it was more about survival than technique. Amazingly wet suit is down to regulation hip height as I exit. Even over my watch. God bless Tri Glide and the practice with Jon last night. The wetsuit zip, not the TriGlide. Left wrist, downwards or get it wrong. This year, no volunteers to help with wetsuits.

Transition 1:
A 400m odd run to road. Yes, odd. Huff puff. Toilets are before change tent. It was laboured in briefing that wetsuit must not come below hip height outside of change tent. Decide not to risk it and go straight for change bag. Put timing chip in mouth as I remove wetsuit. Learn later how important a decision this was. Grateful so grateful that I wrote sticky labels and attached them inside  my bag and glasses case with step by step instructions of what to do in transition. No need to think. P20 doesn't apply nicely when you're wet. Slap chamois cream. Use toilet. No queue! Misplace bike shoes in toilet trip. Hobble 500m in shoes to bike. Calmly hobbly extra few hundred metres with bike. Cross my first ever mount line. Deep breath, approach from left, pedals at ten and two just like we taught my step son and notice that all the great and glorious men in front of fumbling with their shoes. Really! Spot Jacobo, give him a shout and vamos! I am off, on my weakest leg.

The bike:
Fuel fuel fuel. The alarm goes every 30 minutes. Stick to 30kph and cycle lane to keep out of everyone's way. Seriously I used a cycle lane in an Ironman event! See first repair on corner outside transition. Ow. Man with one pedal off in first 20km. Ow. Punctures, forlorn faces. I can't help but stare in shock and fear. I pray. The climb, I am fuelled. Head down, take the right tight line. Be grateful there is cloud on the mountains. Push and pull. Hear the men climb past you. First few kms. Find rhythm. Grateful for the encouragement as men pass: the friendly calls, the references to Vegemite, the friendly hand gestures - it all meant so much. As I pass women I offer the same. What? I am passing. Amazing. Use my size and steadiness and climb. In the saddle always, never stop, never unclip. The road is open to civilian cyclists. The worst offenders climb with us. One drafts another female; she talks to him - do they know each other!? Incredulous at possible outside assistance, but then she unclips for a rest. He drafts me. I push on.

First chat with Dana from Bahrain. She asks the course ahead, and I describe it. I am delighted that I am only 800m out in telling her the summit is nearly here.

Col de Femenia. I love you, I have cried and bled here. This time just a punch in the air. Thank you for the spectators there and the graffiti on the roads even if it is all for Colom (so that's two drug users in the field I'm racing in?!) But it's a false summit and we wind upwards more and more.

The descent: more cautious than in training. On first hair pin, a gent kindly but firmly tells me not to cut the corner, behind me are six more. I take the tight tight line so the men can see my road position and keep clear of the novice. It seems to work well. I am down slower than in training but not a foot down. I pass someone off, bleeding. Can't take eyes off the road for long but I am full of sympathy and fear. Then Caimari, little old men sit in the garage under old man caps and watch. Selva - a small climb, Inca, a bit more of a climb. Great words from Brits and Irish as I take them on the climb, they take me on the descents. "This is the last one," we reassure ourselves. No, there is Muro. Not really a hill or an incline just a street at 90 degrees that rises straight out of the road to the sky. It's straight into the highest heart rate zone. I am all over the road (sorry boys) and shouting "I hate this hill". It's over as soon as your vision starts to leave but you can't go back through the gears because your legs are having seizures for a few minutes after.

Then it's the headwinds all the way back up. Struggle for 30kph. Pass girls. Fuel. Somehow somehow I am more than one hour off my expected arrival time. As I beep over the last timing map I hope that these splits reach Jon. A man passes and gives me the greatest gift; he points a hidden 80km marker. All along I have asked myself, if the bike breaks could you run in socks: 50km, 42km, 20km, 10km could you run in socks? When I reach the old factory marked Palace I well up. When I pass my hotel street my eyes are liquid. It is over. The girl who can't cycle can cycle.

Transition two:
The magic round about is chock full of Aussies. And others but I can only hear my Aussies. And the northerner in there! I can barely make eye contact as it's so busy. I slow too early and am encouraged closer to the mount line. Somehow I come off without falling over. Practise in the car park the dat before made perfect. 500m running again, lose sense of direction without marshalls to guide me into third lane of transition. Bike racked. Helmet off. I swear no one studied the rules more than me. No DQ on this race. I see Dana again. She asks me if I will wear calf guards - the mark of all the pros. Inside I am laughing to be mistaken for someone who has appropriate kit!

The run:
Three laps of 7. I don't quite work out where they begin and where they end. I want an arm band. Instead I get sun and the loud chants of my cheer squad - six sets of eyes cheering and shouting and filming. One of them looks particularly amazed at my performance! I run with Dana and have a nice chat. She  distracts me from the massive pins and needles in my feet: the tarsal nerves rear their head. I am aware that I will do serious damage today. And then, after a loop or two, Dana drops me and I walk an aid station and my nerves stop the screaming and I plod on outside of pain. I think. I can't remember. I remember pulling faces at Jon but smiling at everyone else. I remember cheering the ladies still a lap behind me. I remember smiling at Sandra from Italy who descended that mountain so well. I remember cheering for anyone who walked to run again. I put sponges under my tank top, in my bra, on my back, on my hat. I ate oranges and stale coke and powerade and other things it's better not knowing about. I got three arm bands. Does that mean? Wait - the sign for the finish chute is confusing. I'm asking the marshall if I can finish - yes I can finish! And then 75m of sand and beach and I am ecstatic and whooping and skipping. I don't even look for my name on the arch as I cross the line I just know I have finished. And then I stop my sportsband.

The end:
Jon somehow calls out to me, throws me a flag. I walk backwards. There is no medical. I am still walking backwards. I feel like I need medical but I am not sure why. A fellow athlete comes up. Why am I still walking backwards. He takes a photo of me "all the way from Australia". Somehow I get water and I walk backwards for a very long time until I get a medal.

The thoughts:
I never raced for a time. I always raced for a finish. I knew I wanted the swim to be done in an hour and that any gain was made for the bike. I knew I had to make the bike cut off. I had no other maths calculated than the cut offs, which were on my bike to remind me. I swam 41 minutes, which was a wee bit faster than predicted. I rode in 3:59 - a full hour and then some quicker than predicted. I ran 2:10 which I was happy to settle for. In terms of how the day went and preparation I could not have done a single thing better. My only "if only" was, if only I ran faster. And that was only once I started looking at my results! But I had deliberately not set a run pace.  I wanted to finish, strong, happy, and having done everything as well as I could. I felt I did that. I didn't rush blindly (see my transition times!) and I didn't do anything that bothered or panicked me. I raced my own race. Yes - some 2600 people were quicker than me - but there was at least 400 slower. And there were the DNFs and DQs - I had seen my first withdrawal as early as T1. I could not have asked for a better start to triathlon. I feel confident strong and capable. I have learned so much, been incredibly humbled but also so thrilled. Bring on the next one.

And you can still support Freedom from Torture via my Justgiving site here - no amount is too small. Thank you.

Monday, 13 May 2013

I did it

I swam cycled and ran a total of 70.3 miles for 7 hours and 7 minutes (including a loo stop, shoe change and sun screen slapping!)

I fought for space over 1,2 miles of sea with 500 other girls and again as the 18-29 year old men caught me in the last 0.2 miles. I avoided chest and face kicks and managed, like a pro, to unzip my wetsuit and correctly lower it to its permitted hip height as I exited the water in 41 minutes - ahead of the 1:10hr cut off.

I rode 55 miles without falling off at the mount and the dismount. I rode up 7.7km of incline without ever putting a foot down and even overtaking a few other women. I took more than a dozen hairpin corners and descended (at the fastest point I would take my eyes off the road) at around 41kph and confidently kept a tight right line while more than 6 other cyclists attacked the same corners at double the speed. I crushed the insect that got stuck in my cycling top and kept stinging me! I pushed hard to reach 30kph in relentless headwinds in the final 30kms as other female competitors began to drop. I took 1:15hrs off my expected finish time.

And I ran 13.1 miles of loops in the sun while my arches got pins and needles and at the finish my hamstrings started to cramp. I completed the run only 10 mins slower than I have done on fresh legs. 

I was cheered by the best support crew ever: my mum and her 5 closest friends, Jon who had a might of logistics and maths to track me. And the men on the bike who passed me, reading my shirt and my name and calling it out to offer encouragement, humour, camraderie and respect.
I got my head round every rule and followed them to the T; no overtaking on the inside, no drafting within 10 metres, no outside assistance, where to pee and how to wear a race number...

And I smiled. A lot. Out of the water with a mouth numb with salt, coming off the bike, though with a forehead full of dismount concentration. Past locals sitting in their driveways calling "Vamos chica" and at small children on the run willing to high five a hand sticky with salt, sweat, gel, and snot. 

That day, I reached a milestone in my journey of learning what I can do with my body, how training can dramatically change its shape and abilities. And how strong the mind is to make a physical effort possible but also to prepare for success. 

I learned that no man is an island ' that I could not have done this without the practical financial support of my mum, as well as her love, that of Jon´s and of the sacrifices he made too. I learned that I needed the belief of my supporters that enveloped me 24-7 - some of my closest friends and some who are friends I have not yet met!

Most of all I learned how all of this can come together to creare an amazing fundraising opportunity for a cause I have been long associated with. How together we can spread the word about Freedom from Torture, how together we were able to put at least one life back together. Their dedication to torture survivors affects me to inspire you to support them too.

I return to the UK on the 21 May where I will attend the Freedom from Torture meeting that evening to report back on success. I know what we have already achieved - can we do more? Thank you for your support. If you know someone who would like to be part of this journey please share this email, my blog, or tell them about what we have achieved. Tell them what inspires you, and see if we can spread it just a little further.

Thank you.
Half Iron Woman

Freedrom from Torture fundraiser

Friday, 3 May 2013

How to follow me on the race

We have purchased wifitogo so that Jon can update y'all. 

For brevity we will use the hashtag #IronRo - yes yes I know it should be half iron Ro pedants! But we only have 140 characters. 

If you're using any tracking remotely, spotted something from my spectator crew on facebook or waving from the Mallorcan sidelines, please take a moment to tweet using this hashtag

I am competitor 271 - Rowena Harding, age 35-39 Female (not pro!) Nationality Australia. Of course. 

You can get me on @rowenanews but anyone could be using it on race day and likewise Jon is on @thebeardyguy. 

If there's live tracking we will post the link here or some kind soul who finds it will post in the comments. 

See you there!

Transition plans

I'm no master of this bit so thought I would write down what I think I need to do... 

Transition 1:
Ask if I have made cut off in absolute disbelief. Pump fist in air that I have. Woop and celebrate then remember I have a long way to go. 
Walk from sea to transition – remember you can’t see well!
Dislocate shoulder attempting to undo wet suit at top. After third attempt,unzip wetsuit
Remove watch and insert watch into mouth.
Rinse in showers as you walk through. 
Peel off one arm from wetsuit. Put watch on again.
Peel off other arm.
Remove wetsuit to waist.
Arrive at transition and find glasses.
Remove goggles and swim hat and put glasses on.
Rinse chaffy bits with water bottle or wipes
Quaff sports drink. Shove muesli bar in mouth. Repeat as dressing. 
Put chamois cream on everything likely to chaff get dry or itchy. 
Sit down: Shove on socks and shoes. Stand up.
Put on top full of food.
Put on race no belt.
Put on helmet.
Waddle to bike. Do up helmet. Walk to mount line. Walk over mount line.
Attempt to get on bike without wobbling as I am prone to do. Warn people I am about to wobble into them. 
Stay calm. Do not fear. Smile at fear. 

Transition 2:
Do not get emotional that your weakest section is over. Remain calm
Unclip well ahead of dismount line.
Warn anyone near me I am rubbish at dismounting or about to stop.
Dismount well clear of the dismount line.
Breathe. Hold bike steady and walk calmly to dismount line.
Throw bike into heap never to look at it again.
Remove shoes. Shove food into face. Drink. Remember where bag is.
Put cream on chaffy bits. 
Spray knees calves and feet with biofreeze.
Stretch calves, quads and wrinkle up feet.
Change top.
Move race no belt to other side.
Put on running shoes and sunvisor.
Pump fist into air, the bike is freaking over baby. 
Get out there and run. You can do this bit. Taste that medal. 

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Best moments

Hello. We're back typing up instructed visualisation notes from Ironplanner again. Why you ask? Well because my mind is the strongest muscle I've got, for one but also because it makes for a great diary. And also because when I am in Mallorca by myself till Jon gets there, I don't stand a chance of freaking out in the excitement of race week because I have all my mental prep written down, printed out and on my phone to remind me. 

Tonight we're looking at the best moments of my life Well some of them. the idea is that when things are going bad, these are the great things that will lift me. 

So here goes... 

  • Running my first solo 26.2 miles outside of an actual event. 
  • Running 20 miles on the final training run dehydrated for both Athens and Berlin within the 3 hour mark. 
  • Finishing my first open water swim at Eton and being stunned when I actually had a time under 20 minutes!
  • Finishing the final race in the lagoon at Swim for Tri's Lanza swim camp. 
  • Swimming part of the Ironman Lanzarote swim course with fish. 
  • Running my first sub 60 10k with Jon and getting all emotional on his t shirt. 
  • My 5km run in Leigh, Jon's home town, after a 50 mile solo ride. 
  • Jon, never giving up on us, after all we have had to go through. 
  • Being in the Power Station gym in winter hammering out two hours on the spin bike then a run on the treadmill until it closed. 
  • The first time I climbed the Col de Femenia: slow, steady and sure. Even if I fell over on the dismount! 
  • My mum phoning from her fundraising party in Australia then forgetting to hang up and feeling like I was in the room with everyone. 
  • Knowing I could wave to Jon during swimathon to get more support and then getting it. Knowing that I could count on that and how emotional it made me to be that lucky. 
  • Not being scared on the descent from Lluc. 
  • Finishing Blackpool Half feeling strong despite my biggest ever bike ride the day before and wondering how I'd even move again hours earlier. 
  • Cycling in cleats on the right hand side of the road in Mallorca like a natural!
  • Running negative splits with Jon and him telling me to slow down or that I was picking up speed! 
  • Being told that I am in vibrant color and other girls are in black and white by the man I love. 
  • Swimathon - sprinting those last two laps to make sure it wasn't over 60 minutes. 
  • Swimming 1900m at race pace in taper week to make sure my time wasn't a fluke!
  • Cycling the Mallorca bike course again - and Jon didn't even know I was out there! 

The steps of a typical IM trip

Thanks to @piertown for sharing

1. Arrive in town. 
2. Find over-priced accommodations you are staying a minimum of four nights at
3. Unpack bicycle, spread gear around room randomly.
4. Attempt to reassemble bicycle, realize you forgot to mark your seat and handlebar position before disassembly. Guess position and tell yourself it won’t make a big difference.
5. Drive bike course at slow speeds while making wrong turns. Annoy locals.
6. Find swim venue. Put wetsuit on, stand around for 15 minutes. Swim 10 minutes, take wetsuit off. Look around to see if you impressed anyone.
7. Walk around expo looking for free stuff.
8. Go to registration tent, stand in line, get bag, check bag for goodies.
9. Go back to hotel, arrange energy products into different piles. Stare at piles.
10. Spend 2 hours preparing for bike ride with race wheels and drink systems. Go for 30 minute ride. Go back to hotel.
11. Decide that this would be a great opportunity to learn how to rebuild your rear hub to fix the play in it. Disassemble hub.
12. Drive to house where your club mate, the bicycle mechanic, is staying. Show him the pieces of your rear wheel. Beg for help.
13. Go to swim start Friday morning. Look for tell-tale wrist-bands on other competitors; look condescendingly at all those swimming who aren’t participating in the race.
14. Go back to hotel, spend 4 hours attaching numbers to your bicycle, helmet, and race outfit. Panic that you don’t have 8 pieces of reflective tape for your run outfit, even though IM has never been known to enforce the rule.
15. Drive down to expo at the last minute, stand in line, pay $10 for a strip of reflective tape.
16. Drive back to hotel, place energy products into various bags.
17. Pack transition bags.
18. Unpack transition bags.
19. Repack transition bags.
20. Drive to Carbo-dinner. Stand in line, proceed through buffet with poor food selection, sit at crowded table, remember you paid an extra $20 each so your family could enjoy this food. Listen to IM personnel tell same jokes as last year. Realize that Dave Scott has apparently discovered the fountain of youth. Stand in line to leave.
21. Prep bike to drop off on Saturday, discover your tire has a slow leak. Drive to expo, stand in line, pay $80 for tubular tire. Get back to hotel, realize you don’t know how to glue on a tubular, drive back to expo and have them do it for you.
22. Drop bike off, spend time covering bike with various plastic bags because everyone else is doing it.
23. Drop off your transition bags, realize you forgot your salt tablets, drive back to hotel to get them.
24. Drive back to hotel again, arrange race gear for tomorrow morning.
25. Pack special needs bags.
26. Unpack special needs bags.
27. Repack special needs bags.
28. Realize there is nothing more you can do to get ready. Sit down and relax.
29. Panic.
30. Eat early dinner
31. Go to bed, lie there in a cold sweat.
32. Wake up at 2:00 am for 1000 calorie bottle of nasty-tasting concoction, “because the pros do it”.
33. Lie awake listening to horrible weather move into town.
34. Wake up at 4:00 am, listen to spouse complain.
35. Get in car, drive to start. Stand in line to enter the transition area.
36. Check transition bags.
37. Stand in line to get body marked.
38. Check bike, stand in line to get tires pumped up.
39. Stand in line for porta-loo
40. Realize you left your water bottles with special nutrition needs in the fridge at the hotel. Drive back madly to get them.
41. Get back to start, wait in line for parking spot.
42. Stand in line for porta-loo
43. Get wetsuit on, stand in line to enter swim area.
44. Realize it’s too late for a warm up. Stand in line to enter water.
45. Stand in water with 2000 other people while sun comes up and national anthem is sung by local high school girl. Realize that few moments of your life have been this beautiful.
46. Gun goes off, 2000 people attempt to swim on top of you, realize that you are in mortal danger or drowning and few moments of your life have been this dangerous.
47. Get kicked in face, goggles come off, panic and tread water trying to get them back on while people hit you. Remember you paid good money to do this.
48. Exit swim, stand in line to get into transition.
49. Stand in line to get out of change tent. Get bike, stand in line to get out of transition.
50. Start bike, realize that there is no way 1000 people can pack onto a course within 20 minutes without massive drafting problems. Hope that poor bike handlers don’t crash in front of you.
51. Ride bike.
52. Panic that you’ve already fallen off your nutrition plan that your coach gave you.
53. Make up for lost calories and fluids in the next 15 minutes. Feel ill.
54. Ride bike.
55. Get saddle-sore.
56. Ride bike
57. Decide to piss while riding to save time.
58. Spend the next 30 minutes soft-pedaling, coasting, and practicing mental imagery trying to relax enough to let it go.
59. Give up, get off at aid station and spend 30 seconds in porta-john, get back on bike.
60. Ride bike, feel queasy and bloated, take 3 salt tablets at once to make sure you’re not low on electrolytes. Throw up.
61. Get off bike, sit in change tent wondering why you are doing this. Listen in disbelief to volunteer telling you you’re almost done. Proceed to marathon course.
62. Realize that you should have practiced the 1000 calorie drink at 2:00 am before race day.
63. Throw up, walk, jog, repeat for 26 miles.
64. Start gagging at the thought of another energy gel.
65. Sample the variety of food at aid stations. Discover Oreos, the food of the Gods.
66. Invent the form of locomotion called the ‘ironman shuffle’. Feel proud that your 12 minute mile is technically not walking.
67. Pass your spouse. Make them swear to never let you do another one of these.
68. See finishing chute. Sprint madly down the road high-fiving people and cheering while announcer screams your name. Realize it was all worth it.
69. Get to finishing chute, wait in line while a man takes his extended family over it with him.
70. Cross line, collapse into arms of patient voluneteers.
71. Spend next two hours in med tent realizing that you should have drunk more fluids when it got hot.
72. Go to massage tent, eat cold pizza and wander around in a daze while wearing an aluminum foil blanket.
73. Stick around finish line until midnight to share in “the ironman spirit”. Beat off 12-year-old to grab free socks thrown into crowd.
74. Look in disbelief at fresh and bouncy professional athletes dancing at the finish line.
75. Cheer last few athletes into the finish before midnight. Ask your spouse if you looked that bad. Be amazed that they spent 17 hours out there moving the whole time.
76. Go back to hotel, collapse in bed.
77. Wake up, go to bathroom, collapse back into bed. Repeat all night until the 6 IV’s the med tent gave you are through your system.
78. Wake up at 4:00 because your legs hurt so much.
79. Eat first breakfast.
80. Sit around until spouse wakes up, eat second breakfast.
81. Shuffle around town Monday morning wearing finishers T-shirt and medal. Smile knowingly at other fellow shufflers. Graciously accept congratulations from locals thankful you came to their town to spend money.
82. Eat third breakfast at all you can eat buffet.
83. Go to Official Finishers merchandise tent. Stand in line. Pick out $200 worth of clothing with prominent logos on it. Stand in line, pay $600 for clothes. Contemplate getting a tattoo to immortalize your achievement.
84. Fall prey to peer-pressure and marketing techniques. Cough up $450 to sign up for the race next year - since it will sell out today, and this is your only chance to sign up!
85. Proceed to IM Hawaii role-down. Hold out hope that, even though you finished 80th in your age-group, this will be the year everyone leaves early and you get the last spot.
86. Eat first lunch.
87. Go back to hotel, stare at the disgusting, sticky, smelly mess that is your bicycle and race clothes. Start packing things up to fly home
88. Eat second lunch.
89. Go to awards dinner, stand in line. Get poor food from buffet, remember you spent $20 a head so your family could enjoy this magical moment with you.
90. Watch hastily-produced race video. Closely examine each frame hoping they caught a glimpse of you on the course. Be disappointed.
91. Watch age-group athletes get their awards. Wonder how many of them actually work for a living, and where you can get some of the performance enhancing drugs they appear to be on.
92. Realize that you have to go all the way up to women’s 70+ age group before you find an age-group your time would have won.
93. Listen to long, excruciatingly boring thank-you speeches from various professional athletes.
94. Stand in line to get out of awards dinner.
95. Go to Airport, stand in line. Deliver $5000 bike to Neanderthal-like baggage handler. Pray. Reluctantly take finishers medal off to pass through metal detector. Proudly tell TSA personnel what you did on your weekend.
96. Get home, contemplate unpacking disgusting bicycle, decide to leave it until tomorrow.
97. Eat chocolate and watch TV. Contemplate unpacking your bicycle and training again, decide to leave it until tomorrow.
98. Repeat above step for 2-10 weeks. Step on scale. Look at your fat, disgusting self in a mirror and remember you signed up for next year’s race. Unpack bike, chip mold off of seat tube. Show up at swim practice again.
99. Get ready to do it all again next year

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Mallorca: the maths

So the observant and regular reader amongst you will note there has been a lot of mental prep blogging from Ironplanner. Continuing in this vein is The Maths. This is particularly important for me as I am trying to learn the Spanish for "have I made the cut off?"

So here it is in black and white for me to focus on next week when I am in Mallorca and in my final days. 

The swim. She starts for the females at 08:05 with a cut off 1hr and 10 minutes after my start. Last weekend I completed 2.5km Swimathon (25m pool no wetsuit) in 59 mins. I feel confident of completing the 1.9km (1.2 miles) within the cut off allowing for tackling crowds, drift and sighting. Inshallah. 

Transition: Allow 5-7 minutes. I must leave T1 within 1:20 of my swim start. Real time: approx 9:05am

The bike: In training, it took me 56 minutes to get to the start of the climb. I'm not truncating that time to take traffic navigation etc away because I am going to use the flat start to fuel well. I then reached the top, where the next cut off is (at 13:00h), in 42 minutes. In race real time, I therefore expect to make this cut off at 10:43am. Plenty of time right...? (I've done this maths 100 times!)

I then took another 20mins to make the petrol station at Lluc / Sa Calobra turnoff and another 40 minutes to get to Inca. It then seemed to take me 2.5hrs to tackle the final 30miles in a headwind. That's a total of 5+ hours of cycling - making me the slowest women BUT back to T2 at 14:35pm. The cut off time for entry to T2 is 15:30. 

The run: on a good day I can do in sub two hours. Let's give me twenty minutes for transition and slowness and I should still make the event cut off of 1730, walking. Inshallah. 

So breathe. The idea behind writing this down is 1) to check it and 2) to give myself confidence that I can make it and so just focus on a calm and capable finish. Of course it has made me rather anxious that my swim is not strong enough. That's motivation for an unbroken 1900 at race pace tomorrow then!

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

A thank you to last year's donors

I've just finished writing and messaging to my donors last year but some of them are on twitter - I know - that's the state of the modern world, I only have @addresses for them! So this is what I'm tweeting to them:

A thank you and an apology :) 


I wanted to thank you all for what we’ve achieved over the last year. We? Yes, you, me and Freedom from Torture! About 12 months ago, you kindly sponsored me to do some crazy running. I wanted to let you know about how that money helped. There’s a list on their website of what your donation can “buy” but I really wanted to let you know about an individual’s story. As you're probably aware it’s never as cut and dry as £10 buys a goat – people’s needs are complex- as this story of a Freedom from Torture’s client illustrates.

I also wanted to apologise in advance if you receive further tweets and emails from me as I’ll be sending out blanket emails to everyone in my inbox ahead of my next fundraising venture, a half Ironman triathlon. I don’t expect any of you to support me again – unless your stocks and shares are doing very well! – but I will point out something about Freedom from Torture. In addition to their excellent work, they have some excellent events, from cooking with famous chefs, classical music, comedy and gigs. They’ve got an e newsletter you can sign up to – and if you did that, I can guarantee the emails are more regular and informative than my own! 

Thank you again for all your support last year and please, take a moment from your busy inbox to read about Malaika – a real woman who has been touched by your donation.

With best wishes

Rowena, swim bike running for Freedom from Torture

In 1999, when she was three months pregnant, Malaika was arrested along with her eight year old son, as a reaction to the political beliefs of her husband, who opposed the government. During her imprisonment, she was kicked, punched and beaten in front of her son, as she was interrogated about her husband’s activities. After her release, Malaika suffered a miscarriage.
She was briefly deported from Ethiopia to a camp in Eritrea before being arrested once more. Again she was beaten, this time by Eritrean police, stripped naked, repeatedly raped and urinated upon. While she was released on bail she saw her opportunity to escape and fled to the UK, but was unable to take her son with her. Her husband, who was also tortured and beaten by both Ethiopian and Eritrean law enforcement officials, later committed suicide.
When Malaika first began her sessions with a Freedom from Torture case worker / counsellor she was in a terrible condition, both physically and psychologically. A lack of secure housing added to her state of insecurity. However thanks to the unstinting efforts of her counsellor and case worker Malaika is began to rediscover a sense of security and hope. In addition to providing counselling, her case worker has also helped to secure her a ground floor local authority flat that meets her mobility needs. The calcium deficiency bone condition she lives with as a result of malnutrition during her years as a prisoner and refugee is now finally being treated, with further medical investigations to follow. She has also commenced studies in ICT at a local college – a sign, as her case worker puts it, that she is “moving on”.
Most significantly, Malaika is now ready to recommence the search for her son. She was involuntarily separated from him when she fled from an Eritrean refugee camp. Believing he is still in Africa, Malaika and her case worker are working with the Red Cross to try to locate him. Malaika had initiated a search for her son before, but found the process unbearably painful and stopped it when she received news of death of her father , who was also in a refugee camp. For some clients, the therapy offered by our skilled clinicians can mean the difference between life and death. Malaika states unequivocally that had she not been in therapy with one of our caseworkers at the time she received news of her father’s death, the grief and guilt she felt would have spurred her to take her own life. She added that her decision to resume the search for her son and her general ability to “move on” are because of her case worker’s committed care and support. Malaika has also spoken of how touched she is by the generosity of Freedom from Torture supporters.
Since Freedom from Torture was established in 1985, over 50,000 individuals like Malaika have been referred to the organisation for help. Thank you for helping them rebuild their lives.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Running a half with the other half.

Back in the day when I started training we assigned Jon as my run coach and pace setter because he was faster than me. We pottered about in the rain and cold and snow and then I entered Blackpool Half Marathon (April 7) with a goal to run sub 2 hours. We drafted up a bit of a training schedule but Jon drafted an entire Ultra running project and so we ran only once a fortnight together. Then he got a calf injury and I ran alone. As the winter nights had seen me run into a jerk that tried to grab me, and another jerk that threatened me, I wasn't keen on running alone so I did one run with the Saddleworth Running group who are very nice and varied and I like the sound of the beers after. Jon and I managed a 10k run after work where I set my sub 60 personal best and he coaxed me through a longer more whingey run one weekend and the next thing we knew, he and his dodgy calf and I were off to Blackpool.

To say I was nervous was no exaggeration. Not of the race, as I'd done lots of half marathons and plenty of more challenging runs, but about whether or not we'd finish the race arguing, or annoyed! Asking your other half to coach you is a big ask and making them responsible for your time ambition when they have their own injury adds to that. Not to mention we had only run together a couple of times - anything could happen.

Fortunately the worst that did happen was that I left Jon in charge of checking the weather and he checked the forecast a week prior so we were dressed for a warm and sunny day whereas everyone else was more prepared for the wind chill and sub 5C temperatures! No worries, his frozen hands came back to life the next day and I didn't really mind running from the car to the start and back again a few times as a warm up!

The day before, I had done my most challenging 55 mile ride wiht a group of faaast Bad Girls and I had not fuelled well. So my biggest dilemma on the race was needing food. This was pretty manageable though because I had been suffering from pins and needles from a bothered tarsal nerve which often meant massage mid run or completely stopping. Or doing serious damage. This only raised it's head once and Jon used the chance to talk me into a quick massage while he had a loo break (I know, you never see marathon pacers have a pee!). 

We finished in 1:54 or something like that with a smile on our faces, breath to talk, and my own burning ambition to pass every other woman in front of me and the finish line. Jon did well to amuse me during the race (not that hard when dodgy hotels offered "heating swimming poos" and nipple-tassled ice skaters adorned advertising billboards) and he says that was his deliberate coaching tactic! I do believe him because I do train a lot with my head, as the rest of my muscles are quite useless! So smiling and laughing through the race was a good way to get the result I wanted. 

Here we are looking beautiful. Jon looks sleepy as this is so easy for him. I look perky because that's what I do when I see a camera! And is it just me or do I have enormous tri thighs now!?

Oh and Jon says to remind you people that I'm not doing this for fun, I'm doing this for Freedom from Torture so please consider buying us a pint at 

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Word of the day: sportive

I cycled in the rain today. I mean spring showers are one thing but we've not even had any spring weather so spare me the torrential Merseyside rain. The closer I got to Liverpool the worse it was. I hear that applies to more than just the weather. Anyway, as my ride was so pitiful (2:30hr) I shall blog about my first sportive. 

So a sportive is not a cycle race but it is. You are timed and given that time and there is a start and a finish. The roads are open to traffic, and there are points where officials give you an energy gel and a flapjack. This is different from an audax or randonee (a cycling sport in which participants attempt to cycle long distances within a pre-defined time limit. Audax is a non-competitive sport: success in an event is measured by its completion. It has checkpoints, and you navigate your own way to them and at the checkpoint you eat cake.)

Anyway the important thing about this one was it was 60 miles, had sign posts, flapjacks and sausages at the end. 

I ended up meeting with some folk from Team Glow. A couple of people hadn't done the distance before and so met my nerves with their own statements of noviceness but actually when it came to it they were off like jack rabbits while I was still hoping I had clipped my feet in correctly. 

It was my first UK ride with my clip in shoes and I was pleased I didn't fall off, result. I also didn't get lost - despite  a few signs getting waylaid and I almost had a good time! I was ready to come home at the last 10km especially with all the traffic and Cheshire roads need to get their potholes filled. 

The day took me 5:02:28 - if I had known I maybe would have made more of an effort but actually the day was about confidence rather than speed. I was also grateful to end up with the company of Autumn, a rider whose head I had run over in a previous Team Glow escapade who helped me through the last of the traffic. 

A nice final long ride before Mallorca.  Importantly the bratwurst was very good so good I had two massive hot dogs of them filled with boiled onions and then ran 8kms. I know... 

Process goals

Following on from the brilliant Ironplanner race resume, I now present to you the concept of process goals, mantras, themes and magic from the same book. A process goal is a specific rule you make for yourself that address only things you have control of (so nothing to do with weather or time). The aim is to give you things to focus on based on technique... Based on their examples I've come up with these, which will probably be written on my transition bags!

Swim process goals:

  • Calm glide
  • Sit high in water
  • Arms land at shoulders width

Transition 1

  • walk out of water calmly
  • drink and eat
  • Make my skin comfortable
  • Use the loo!


  • calm start
  • Fuel every 30 minutes
  • Be prepared for the climb

For the climb 

  • Patient steady climb, looking down and pedalling
  • don't stop
  • Feed at top

For the descent

  • Light braking with reason
  • Keep right
  • Calm and reasonable - I am in control


  • Be calm, take time and stretch
  • Fuel and drink
  • Make me skin comfortable. 


  • Take food and fuel every 30 minutes
  • Steady first half
  • reason with pain, what's really the problem?
  • Smile

My mantras:

  • Run: Light, easy, smoothe. 
  • Till I collapse
  • Just keep swimming
  • For the descent: I'm confident and in control. 
  • Up hill: I think I can, I know I can
  • Swim: glide, calm
  • Run: tippy tappy tippy tappy
  • Smile. Enjoy. 
Race theme: ironplanner suggests you create a theme for the day which makes it sound enjoyable rather than scary! So.. 
The swim is like a Swimtrek holiday adventure, exploring new Mediterranean islands.  The bike is a climb to the best views and a fun and relaxing descent towards beautiful villages. The run is alongside my loved ones to bask in the crowd's support. At the end is a beginning to a new adventure. 

My magic: (for energy boosts)

  • lungs that can breathe easily and calmy
  • Cool breeze that takes the heat away
  • Laughter that erases pain
  • Lightness so my legs feel nothing. 


I am very very tired. I'm probably on the lowest training I've had for six months and getting the most sleep. Jon's doing literally everything around the house now and I am still SO tired. The tiredest ever, more tired than after a 60mile but a deep in my muscles tired.

I'll never give up on race day ever. I'd walk, carry my bike, all sorts to get home. But gosh these 8 days of "lighter training" feel a chore.

I went out for a 2:45 bike ride and 1 hour run. I was freaked out by traffic and had to come back. I've treated myself to a hot shower as I am a bit stiff after yesterday's ace swim and realised I feel like I am coming down with something. So I ate a pack of minstrels and ecinecea! I'll run and bike this afternoon, even though it means hurtling down the East Lancashire Highway - at least they have a cycle lane.

More cheery posts to follow.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Race resume

The excellent book Ironplanner recommends doing a race resume to total up your experience and keep you calm and focussed when you panic that you have not done enough. 

I've not yet totalled up all my training mileage but here's my Race Resume to date... 

Rowena Harding: Ironman Mallorca 70.3 Race resume

Objective: Finish 70.3 distance before the cut off times

Swim camp in Lanzarote with Swim for Tri: 7 days, 7 swims
Technique lessons with Uswim in open water and 50m pool
Coaching with Ironman Nice finisher
Watt bike training session with Triathlon Online
Bike coaching session with Niklas Cook
Seminars: Chrissie Wellingotn, Andy Mouncey
Running School lessons
19 weeks of coached training

4 marathons: 2 road and 2 off road
1 Ultra of 32+ miles
Can run for more than 6 hours!
Half marathons: road and trail
1 sprint tri
1 duathlon: off road
Eton 750m open water race
60 mile sportive

Personal attributes:

  • Commitment: I stuck to training plans during holidays, personal life, change
  • Mental strength: I won’t give up and  I preserver through physical fatigue and keep smiling
  • My spirit doesn’t tell the time: I focus on what I can achieve
  • I am brave and I have performed outside my comfort zone many times. 
  • I am determined to finish and stubborn
  • I can prove I can do long endurance events. 
  • I can be very positive in the face of adversity. 
  • I don’t panic in open water or mass swim starts. 
  • I run negative splits. 


  • I have rode over nearly all of the Ironman Mallorca bike course twice on roads open to traffic, in warm weather, with little fuel and using clip ins for first time. I have also tackled some of the course with cross winds. 
  • I have swum the Ironman Mallorca swim course and swum in the water whenb cold, and choppy with wind. 
  • I have swum in dark cold open water at Lakeside, Eton (with fog in the morning!) and Salford. 
  • I have run flat hot roads including part of the Ironman Mallorca course, Berlin in 27C and Athens. 

Even if I finish last, I will be a finisher. 
I am one of a small number of women who compete in this sport
Once I have completed the distance, no one can take that way. 
This will be the hardest physical and mental athletic challenge I have completed
I have learned things about myself and I will learn more about myself
I have raised awareness and funds based on my beliefs and values
I have committed to the training thorough a lot of change. 
A lot of people believe in me and have invested in me.