Wednesday, 30 January 2013


It's time to blog so I thought I would fill you all in on my coaching. It's going very well. They have a great online system that I log into, and get all my training plans and I can move activities around within a week, log my feedback and click a few drop downs on some key information including how much of the session I completed. I love the ease of the website use.

The sessions themselves are pretty easy to follow. The running is dead easy to understand. The swimming is probably a little more easy than some other plans I have tried. Though a few swim sets have typos which require me to check the maths! The strength and conditioning section is well laid out though a little fiddly in practise when you have to look at what you're doing, watch the video then do it. They do include written instructions and videos for nearly all exercises which include plyometrics, stretching and small weight work. The cycling is easy to understand as well and that and the run are tailored to your specific heart rate, which is set through some threshold tests.

This is the closest I've come to official coaching before and I am quite pleased. It was good when I got to meet them the other weekend as I could chat informally (does everyone they coach do every session 100% perfectly?) and get some additional information on why things like heart rate matters so much.
So far I would heartily recommend them to anyone, they are very good at coming back to you quickly across a range of subjects (nutrition, tiredness, equipment) though of course like any paranoid woman I'd love more feedback (or is that reassurance?!).

In person, James and Matt are very personable and impressed both Beardy Guy and myself with their knowledge. And we are very hard to impress.

Oh and money - we know that triathletes never have enough money so it's £12.50 per week on silver service with a £75 set up fee. There are different prices for base training and build training too. Definitely worth checking out though I suspect you will want to see my race results first!

Read all about 'em here.

Monday, 28 January 2013

The stats are in

I had a watt bike test on the weekend - more about that later - but I know some stats geek want to look at my stats. I'm not sure why these are exciting, as I have only been riding since mid November but you know triathletes, a little bit obsessed with detail!

So to power: Average power output achieved in final minute:  183 watts. I'm sure I could have done more if they didn't make me do lots of cycling for the 59 minutes prior!

Power to Weight Ratio: 3.3w/kg

So I'm not quite a Bradley Wiggins in pure power, but my power to weight ratio isn't that bad...

Here's the science:
The basic science of power to weight ratio [P/Kg]
The best explanation is to consider hill cycling ability. Assume two cyclists of equal ability and identical equipment riding uphill side-by-side. The first cyclist weighs 85 Kgs and has an average power on the climb of 450 watts. The second cyclist weighs 65 Kgs and has an average power on the climb of 380 watts.
Looking at pure absolute power the natural assumption is that the first cyclist would easily beat the second cyclist on this climb because of the 70 watt power difference.
However, power is not the only variable that cyclists have to contend with whilst climbing. Part of a cyclist’s climbing power is used to move horizontally in a forward direction and part to overcome the influence of gravity in moving in an uphill direction (i.e. climbing the hill).
When weight is taken into account in addition to absolute climbing power the result for each cyclist is:
• Cyclist 1 P/Kg= 5.29 W/Kg (450/85)
• Cyclist 2 P/Kg = 5.85 (380/65)
Cyclist 2 in most circumstances would get to the top of the hill first even though cyclist 1 is producing 18% more absolute power than cyclist 2.

There's also this stat, that I am yet to understand!
20min Threshold Power Min 137 watts to 147 watts but apparently for a half iron I need to cycle at100 to 113 watts. I'll try that for four hours before I make a judgement on that.
Oh and my predicted VO2Max: 40.8ml/kg which is how many blowfish I can pull faces at while underwater on a bike.

Finally my leg power split is 49/51 % even so I'm not as fussed about that yet while I concentrate on drawing peanut shapes while I cycle.

More on what it's like on a watt test and our day trip to Sheffield to come.

Friday, 25 January 2013


My regular readers will remember that I often run a long run with the word "smile" scrawled onto my hand. It's called my race strategy and I write it there to remember that if I just smile, I will get to the end and achieve my race aim (which is scribbled on the other hand and is quite simply to "enjoy".)

Such a simple method, works wonders for me, smile when it gets hard. When it gets harder, turn the smile right up and it becomes a manic laugh as it strangles any yelp of pain or sob. So simple, so taken for granted, the ability to smile. We do it when we bump into someone in the hallway at work, when someone waves a camera in front of us. We don't realise how important a gesture that is.

I learned today that Davide, a survivor who is being counselled through Freedom from Torture, did not proffer a smile for months. I looked at the photos of him they had sent me and yes, there he was, at a performance by the music therapy group, looking somber, at a poetry reading, again somber. Around him, others had that "the camera is pointed my way, I had best smile" smile. But not Davide. I cannot imagine what dreadful events could happen in your life that your default would be to not smile. What is wounded in your soul that a smile would be unfathomable?

Alice, the superb regional fundraiser at the Manchester office told me it was months before she had seen Davide smile. And it was when a guitar was donated to the charity's music group for him to use. Yesterday Davide was told that I had donated him a laptop to help him learn English. His response was beyond a smile - he actually laughed!

When the hill climb at Mallorca feels bigger than it is, or the salt of the sea swim makes me feel sick, when the run is hot and I just want to walk, I will resort to my race strategy, look at the scrawled word on my hand, think of Davide, and smile.

About Freedom from Torture. Donate to support people like Davide.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

The long cold bike ride

I started writing this blog post because one of my few readers requested it - they know how to keep a fundraising blog going! But as I started writing it, I realised that I was indeed Very Proud of Myself and so this ride indeed meritted a blog.

Last Sunday the mercury dipped under zero. According to the Met Office the conditions were "like minus five" due to the wind. The roads were wet and lined with snow but they looked rideable. It was two hours 50 minutes on the spin bike at the local high testosterone gym or out on the road. So open road it was.

The Beardy Guy had put together a route the other night that consisted or pure left hand turns but it did go down a particularly large hill which I wasn't keen to tackle till I had seen the state of the roads, so I went in the reverse direction (Mossley to Stalybridge first) trusting my ability to now know the road rules. That was to be shortlived as I forgot to give way to a truck in Stalybridge and I am not sure who was more scared as I swept towards it.

Of course, the flip side of avoiding a big down hill is going uphill but in such cold weather, an uphill effort is a real joy as it warms you up. Unlike running, you just don't get warmth in your feet cycling and your hands become more and more frosty as the cycle progresses. However the promise of warmth from an uphill exertion was limited; the hill was nothing compared to the Mossley - Holmfirth inclines and my calf was still sore from a swimming cramp so speed was just slow and steady.

The top of the hill brought me to Harts Head Pike which is a nice thing to look at as an incentive to the top. The land around was lovely and white and I would have loved to have taken a photo if it wasn't so cold that I couldn't stop.

(Taken from the car afterwards)

The route then went across top Mossley to Greenfield through Grasscroft and it was there that the wind hit me. I was going downhill and pedalling and barely getting anywhere. When the bike jumped on a corner I realised I was winding my way through a cross wind / head wind. While I had thought about reversing the route for my second lap, I decided to stay on the same direction as the thought of facing a cross wind on the big descent was less than favourable. The Grasscroft descent seemed to take forever and especially taunting was that this section of the route passed my house twice. I rounded into Mossley from Greenfield on the section of road I knew best - that took me again past the house and prepared for the second lap.

Reaching StalyVegas for the second time, I realised that icicles were on my jacket and by the time I reached Grasscroft again, there was a sob stuck somewhere in my throat. As a 21km route, I should have been able to fit 2.5 loops in 3 hours but in this weather I was happy to end with two laps in 2.5 hours and called it a day. I passed a local landmark and realised I didn't even know where I was, so I didn't feel comfortable making up a half lap in that state. My drink was freezing and it was too cold to fuel.

My feet and hands were solid when I got home and Beardy had to pick me up off the floor as I couldn't quite stand on them. I knew I was feeling normal once I started shivering but that took a great deal of time to come on.

I wasn't at all fast on that ride and I don't think I even cycled well given that one calf would have been compensating, but what I lacked in speed, strength and technique I gained in mental toughness on that ride. I know that Mallorca will be the opposite weather wise, but sitting under a persistent sun, crawling up a hill with sweat in your eyes can be as unpleasant as the bitter cold. Doing a ride when everyone else was using snow as an excuse or using their indoor turbos was a choice, a tough choice but one that I feel gave me an edge for race day. Some days you have to do things you don't want to do but it's so rewarding once you have done it.  As the saying goes "Today I will do what others won't so tomorrow I can do what others can't".

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

I am so excited

It's something like five weeks and four days to go.. not that I am counting. I've had a rest day and used it to organise the home gym, the inspiration wall and read pages of the fab book Iron Planner. I've started looking at what tshirts I want my family and support crew to wear. I am going to meet my coach on the weekend and I am going to have my first watt bike test. I am more obsessed than usual - yes it's possible - and I completely forgot to compose a blog while swimming. Instead I wrote a list of things I want to blog about but won't get time to.

So as a note to myself I want to blog about:
  • my winter bike ride - as requested by Bart
  • being coached
  • my swim camp
  • strength training and my opinionated opinions
  • why I love pilates
  • the fab Team Glow
  • learning to cycle: cycling for dummies
  • Kielder duathlon
  • riding to Holmfirth
  • how to put together a blessed Thule bike rack
  • making the transition from Grover to Red - my hybrid and road bike
  • my first long night ride
  • the importance of support
  • Freedom from Torture in the North West and why they matter
  • Ennderdale 25k trail race and Jon's ultra
  • New Year's Day open water swim
Phew. Exhausted thinking about it all! I'll have to add blogging into my training schedule. Actually I have a separate wall planner (you can never have too many eh My Sharky?!) that is for non-training related training stuff. Yes that makes sense to me. Like testing the wetsuit on a long swim, testing my fuel, practising a tyre change mid long ride, printing out my paperwork, setting all my watches, writing out my visualisation etc. Fortunately the IronPlanner creates lists of all these things so I can tick them off. I'm so excited I don't know where this post is going now so I will end here. Feel free to vote for which blog posts I should tackle first as motivation to do them!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Not tri related!

But I wanted to tell you what I did in a spare lunch break - one where I wasn't stretching, doing pilates, on the stationary bike or going for a run or squeezing in a dropped swim set. I went to visit Freedom from Torture (who I am doing the half ironman for), with an old laptop. It's heavy enough to do weights training with and you can go make a cuppa while waiting for it to start up. But apparently it's still useful to someone. That someone is Davide, a survivor at Freedom from Torture who wants to improve his English. He's also a keen musician and a poet. I'm delighted that my laptop has found a home and also a use and I look forward to finding out more about Davide to share with you.

Here's a poem Davide wrote called: Do you know my beautiful village?

He says he regrets he will never see it again.

Connais-tu mon beau village
Qui se mire au clair ruisseau
Encadré dans le feuillage
On dirait un nid d’oiseau
Ma maison parmi l’ombrage
Me sourit comme un berceau
Le coq chante, le jour parait
Tout s’éveille dans le village
Pour que le bon couscous soit prêt
Femme debout et du courage (du cœur a l’ouvrage)
Pilons, pom-pom, Pilons gaiement
Pilons, pom-pom, Pilons gaiement
Connais-tu mon beau village
Qui se mire au clair ruisseau…


Friday, 11 January 2013

Why am I doing this?

Every now and then we like to remind ourselves of the purpose of our existance on this planet. If we fail to answer that question, we sometimes end up owning a sportscar. Or entering ironman events...

I like to test myself. I love new challenges. Sport for me is definitely a challenge, as anyone who ever went to high school with me can testify. I love fighting for social justice and raising awareness of how the world can be a better place. So I thought, what if I join this community of run swim bikers and talk to them about chaffing but also talk to them about the things that I really care about...

And so my blog and twitter feed was borne. Last year, I was touched by the dozens of strangers who supported Freedom from Torture because they followed my London Ultra journey. This year, my social media stalkers are moving into Half Ironman territory, again for the same charity.

Why Freedom from Torture? Ok, there's all the obvious stuff like, they do a bloody excellent job, there is no one else that does what they do, their fundraising ratio is excellent, they can demonstrate impact, they don't duplicate statutory services, they have real values that they stick by, their overheads are low etc etc. Believe me, a lot of charity's can't pass the exam on those issues and I know as I've worked for or with them!

Another reason I've chosen FfT again is because they really engage with their supporters. They made me feel like my money made a difference, well actually, they made me feel like I was a bloody superhero! Anyone who raises money for charity is lying if they say they don't get a kick out of it and it does help you come back to engage with the charity again and again. And I do. I've been to fundraising functions, open days, lectures and more. And I've also volunteered in their offices.

The Freedom from Torture North West office kindly let me kick around while I was being unemployed to help promote their fundraising running challenges. I sort of bumped into clients in the waiting areas. Sometimes, their eyes darted away from you, and you quietly went about getting your cup of tea or photocopying. The staff told me that you noticed as clients would continue to come in for the charity's unique pyschosocial support and counselling that they would eventually lift their head, eventually look you in the eye, eventually maybe one day, smile.

If that wasn't enough to stiffen my resolve to raise a tonne for FfT, there was the children's room. That a children's room has to exist in a place that supports survivors of torture is incomprehendable. That you can try and decorate a room with bright cushions, books and toys amongst the ubiquitous boxes of tissues to somehow soften the damage of torture. It's those bloody tissue boxes everywhere in every room that choke me.

And then there is the unseen. One day volunteering, there was a noise, like an animal, hurt and trapped. A wail, that even now as I type this, gives me goosebumps. I can't describe to you the noise, and what was most harrowing. Was it the pain and anguish evident in that client's cry or the relief that finally, that client had a safe place, and someone to trust so they could let that cry out?

This is why I will swim 1.2 miles, ride 55 miles, run 13.1 miles and raise as much as I can for Freedom from Torture. And as I cross the finish line, I will remember that noise, that cry and know that the money we raise together will allow more people to make that awful yet important release of suffering commence.

You are very welcome to donate here.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Listen to coach

So I bought myself a coach for Christmas. Well actually my fabulous mum who is sponsoring my triathlon endeavours from a far, bought me a coach for Christmas. Thanks Ma. 

So first of all, why a coach? Well, living Oop North while a fertile training ground of rolling hills and challenging peaks, is far away from, well anywhere. And until I get a license to drive , training with Manchester Tri Club or indeed anywhere in the city, was starting to get logistically challenging, despite The Beardy Guy's excellent chauffeuring. I was also feeling a bit like I had reached a plateau in swimming - actually I felt I wasn't going anywhere in the water! And the whole thing was getting a bit lonely. I'd always envisaged having a partner in crime who lived and breathed my every split time and that just wasn't possible. So on a whim on Christmas eve, I stumbled on a coach via google and sent them a message along the lines of "so how good are you, really?" That they called back immediately to answer the question led me to believe they had the right level of efficiency I was after. So I snaffled up 20 weeks of coaching on Christmas day to start on New Year's Eve. Oh yes, no rest for the wicked. 

They met my deadlines and emailed me on Christmas Day itself which goes to show that they are just as tri-obsessed as I am, which is a good start when looking for a coach no?!

I guess I should answer the question of how to choose a coach but as the above vignette shows, I wasn't particularly scientific. Yes location, experience, all good but there has to be that click of what you want personally, whether it's personality or in my case ruthless efficiency!

I absolutely love having a training plan at the moment so I am going to post a bit about that in the future as well as a good solid feedback of my experience with Triathlon Coaching. But for now, I've got to get my stats and training report logs to get over to my coach! Ah the beauty of now being accountable!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Nag me nag me nag me.

Hello reader. I need you to help me. Don't need no messages of lovely training support (though they are always welcome) and you don't have to give me money for my charity of choice (though of course that will always be welcome!) but I need you to make sure I blog!

Last year, running the London Ultra for Freedom from Torture raised awareness of this fabulous charity to hundreds of people who probably would have never heard of their work. This year I'll be tackling a half ironman for them so I need you to nag me to start blogging. You don't even need to commit to reading my posts, just poke, tweet, shout, mither (see how northern I am) or comment if I am not posting stuff online.

I want to tell you all about my experience as a volunteer and supporter of Freedom of Torture and why that's motivation enough to swim 1.2 miles, ride 55 and run 13.1. So give me a push if there isn't an update by the end of this week please.

This post was drafted in my head while doing the easy portion of a 2km swim set. Get me. Not just a triathlete in training but a multi tasking one at that. Ooh.