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 http://www.justgiving.com/halfirongirl 

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. 

Monday, 22 April 2013

One of those down dog moments that I am allowed to have as it's my blog right?!

I'm not sure what the limits on painkillers are but today I'm testing them. They are making me sleepy. Or at least I am sleepy. I'm writing this while waiting for the microwave at work. I originally wrote that I am waiting for the photocopier. I can't concentrate till I eat, but I can't eat till I get to the photocopier.

Today, as well as dozy and dizzy I am mostly overwhelmed. I thought we had moved through that phase already. I feel very alone. And small.

While I am totally gutted for them, I really miss that I have lost a twitter partner in crime in training, someone who works as hard as I do to motivate themselves into the pool onto the bike. None of this rah rah smash it 24.7 just a real person also trying desperately hard to be a real triathlete. It makes me a kind of awful person that in some one else's misfortune I can think of myself.

Jon did marvellously at his ultra despite having low training in the last three weeks. I could never imagine doing lighter training than intended and finishing such a big endurance event where a lot of people DNF or DNS and come 18th! He is amazing. I am very proud. But also daunted. You know, someone who is that strong naturally isn't going to understand why you hyperventilate when you miss 3 training sessions in a row. Again, it makes me a kind of awful person that in someone else's glory I can think of myself.

So continuing the theme of my self obsession, this morning I am dog tired - no bed till after 11pm when I should have got myself at least 8 hours sleep. I am very sore; I fell down the stairs after my ride and run yesterday compounding back pain to create a pull muscle, hence ibuprofen high. I am not able to focus well at work but I am able to focus acutely on:
  • not having the kit I want to race in
  • not having my fuel plan
  • having to think of a way to record my online training plan so I can focus on what I have achieved and save it for posterity
  • wondering if I have booked post race accommodation.
  • Spending time reviewing all the to do lists to see what I have forgotten
  • fundraising plans
  • making spectator plans
  • getting into contact with mum - my support and benefactor
  • and a million other things that make the plan come together.

Anyway I think the microwave is free now. I might go stick my head in it.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Going for a swim

On January 1st I decided to do a Polar Swim with Uswim - a sort of welcome in the new year by immersing yourself in freezing cold water experience. It was a great thing to be part of - lots of people joined in, hot bodies in bikinis, large bodies with Channel swimming protection and everyone in between. There were "skins" (people just in bathers) and "suits" taking to the FOUR degree water. 

I was pretty scared but in good company as old hands gave tips on getting in, controlling your breathing and giving it a go. Unfortunately I couldn't even make the first buoy as the pain in my head was too intense but as witnessed by Jon, I gave it a decent go and I can't think of a better thing to do on a New Year's morning. 

So here we are at the end of April and the "Summer" open water season has commenced. You need to be a bit flexible with descriptions here in the North. I wanted to get as much open water practice as I could before Mallorca, even though I will be in a warm and salty sea. I felt that weaning myself off lines in the pool and ends of the pool could only be a good thing but if I wanted to get the most out of the Summer season, I needed to start acclimatising as soon as it opened. 

So even though the official temp was only 4 degrees warmer than new year I tried to leap in this morning. It felt like my feet were burning. I could get my whole body in but the burn in my feet was awful. Then my hands, and oh my jaw, my ears, my head. Encouraged by Jon (and the wit of the Uswim crew) I kept making myself try a little harder each swim out to a buoy only 20 metres away. It took a while to get my  breathing under control, then to get my bilateral breathing going, then to stop my jaw from screaming. 

I was actually grateful to the bad traffic we had getting into Salford, which meant I only had 30 minutes of painful attempts before they closed. Box ticked on acclimitisation, I still need to do some serious miles for training. Perhaps Wednesday it will be 9 degrees and I can do a proper loop of the Quay. 
Above: being a big wuss. But I got in!

Friday, 19 April 2013

Three weeks to go

Three weeks of to do lists, meal planning, getting bags with the right kit, changing my timetable for open water sessions, having run stuff for wherever my bike ride ends. Three weeks of travel logistics,bike handling practise, making sure I have enough fuel ordered, that my race clothes work (why no tri laces for Kinvara 2!), that I have prescriptions (yes doctor I need an inhaler for each transition). Three weeks of training - including two weeks of taper madness.
Thankfully something echoes from the words of wise triathletes on twitter (cheers traight talkers Viv Slack and James Coldicott).
In these three weeks I will attempt to deliver:
  • one perfectly focussed mentally perfect brick (30 + 10) this Sunday - dropping the Sportive down to a 30. Maybe.
  • one more hard yet fun group cycle with Team Glow - next Sunday's D ride
  • one mentally awesome pool swim - Swimathon weekend next Friday
  • lots of open water fun - starting this Saturday for water temperature acclimisation and ending with race distance perfectly executed before swimming back in Mallorca's clear seas
  • fun runs on trails - preferably with Jon
  • lots of bike handling practise - through the cones, pick up drink bottles!
  • really energised strength and conditioning sessions: put the effort into the final rep, set and core rip!
  • hot pilates for stretch, relaxation and heat acclimitisation
  • lots of time into eating well, beefing up the immune system
  • and even more time into mental prep, typing up my visualisation plans, getting my spectator plans prepared, logistics and of course getting the very important fundraising started. Yes I haven't actually started!
That should keep me busy then!?

Sunday, 14 April 2013

What I learned in Mallorca

I've just come back from Mallorca where I spent 5 days self coaching myself through a training camp style scenario to prepare for my first half ironman in THREE weeks and SIX days. As a novice I learned a lot out there, so if any of these tips can be use to you, or someone as crazy as me, then share the wisdom. Or the obvious!

For those doing Mallorca 70.3

  • There are geek pics of the bike route here and a small bit of video (best watched with the volume down, sorry!)
  • The ascent really didn't feel that awful. It's 7.7km of a 5.5% climb. I climbed Cragg Vale a few days before and it didn't feel that much different. [Postcript: apparently analysing statistics, Cragg Vale is way gentler, though same length and my local climb (front door to Saddleworth Moors) is steeper though a tad shorter.] Having said that, it will be hot. I think that the climb won't get people who have trained on hills. But the heat will. My approach was to stay calm, steady, even heart rate and not ever stop. This meant I never topped 10km/h (bear in mind I am a total novice). 
  • The descent is awful not that awful. I am worse at descents than climbing and I once pulled a finger knuckle from gripping the brakes so hard! The descent is fairly open when steep or flatter as a hairpin, the hairpin is a natural chicane. That said, a chicane feels a little technical for someone new like me, and if the roads are shared to traffic, you'd need to bear that in mind. 
  • The heat. It was only 21c on one of my passings of the hill, the heat totally saps your energy if you don't have fuel ready in time for it. 
  • The bike course is very flat and fast at the beginning meaning you have enough time to recover from the swim, get the salt out of your mouth, eat a cheeseburger if you wish and be ready for the hill. The course is then fast and flat again after the descent so technically if you prefer not to fuel on a descent, you can do so after. 
  • There is shade on the climb and descent of the bike course from roadside trees. There are some exposed places too. The start of the ride is most exposed. 
  • There are cross and head winds in Mallorca. I felt them: once on the climb (embrace them as something to cool you down), on the long straight back to the finish (shout at it) and in the reeds back to the finish (shout again). The cross winds did move me about a bit (I'm about 52kg and on a standard bike). 
  • There are quite a lot of bugs near Alcudia, as there's nearby swamp land. Get used to running and biking through bugs! They are small enough to inhale and worth wearing glasses for. When they were really bad I put my head down and let them bounce of my helmet like gunfire! One bug exploded across my glasses. A bug in the face at 40kph hurts!
  • On the run, the section along the beach is hot and full of glare. The sand is white, and the path is white. Consider sun glasses and a visor. The path on this section is a little rough and it's possible to stumble on tired legs and eyes.
  • The sea swim should be calm in the morning. One afternoon when there was a lot of wind, it was really choppy and so I swam into the waves out and with them back. Otherwise it's calm, clear, you can see seaweed, small to medium sized fish. There are baby rays and hermit crabs but I reckon they will move out for the race! The sun is in front of you for the swim out and in your eye line. The shore curves, on the short edge of the rectangle so be wary of curving if you use it alone to navigate. 
For general tri / bike fun in Mallorca:
  • Learn to handle a hairpain with traffic - it's a fright to come up across a coach on the same side of the road as you!
  • If it's been a while since hot weather training, don't get wind or sun burnt then jump into the sea - it stings!
  • Brace yourself for cross winds getting even worse when being overtaken by a big truck - my bike practically flew. 
  • Navigating is easy in Mallorca as the roads are very well signposted. I used other people's map my ride routes and a road map, then jotted towns or route numbers on a sticky label which was posted on my handlebars. 
For total newbies:
  • Mallorca is a great place to build your cycling skill. It has some great roads, with specialist cycle lanes, slip roads and very well sign posted traffic junctions. Generally traffic is sympathetic to cyclists especially solo meek ones! 
  • I hired from Max Huerzler who had me at hello with their Swiss efficiency. I loved my bike. It made my Decathlon £299 special feel £2.99. I was able to trust the brakes, tyres and pedals so much more. It did cost me a pretty penny to hire but the peace of mind I got from knowing it had just been looked over by experts was priceless. 
  • I need to practice my handling so much more to be able to emergency fuel on the climbs and descents. I'll be doing this on the track from now on. On the flats in Mallorca, I decreased speed and focussed on three separate movements: remove fuel, consume fuel, return fuel. 
  • You can never do enough brick sessions. I'm considering a few stretches before my run as my calf muscles burned after a few rides. 
  • My wetsuit removal sucks and takes four minutes! I need to come up with a quick system! 
  • My pedal / cleat arrangement is as loose as possible. This really helped me gain confidence and use them for the first time! I also unclipped very early at junctions and when really nervous, spun the pedal so I knew I couldn't accidentally clip in. I had one big fall and it was mostly because I forgot that turning right was turning right! 
If there's anything else people want to ask, let me know. I'm going to do a blog post on DIY training camps and training alongside a family holiday too. And of course some Mallorcan bike rambles and photos. 

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

A week in the life

A lot of people I know rightly can't understand why or how I train so much so here's a week in a day of me with some commentary on the side. Now in a perfect world this week's routine would replicate week after week but anything from being ill, closing times, bank holidays to a missed train can throw a schedule out of whack. Which throws me out of whack, not to mention, partner, step son, life rountine and so on.

Monday: a rest day. You'll see why I need it at the end of the week. It usually involves catching up at work (I don't have time for overtime) by starting early and then pilates in the evening in a local church. To make pilates, I have to race from work, to home, (remembering to eat something on the train), spend 15 mins with Jon and Jnr then scoot off. An hour of relaxation and elongation and my stomach makes sure I’m home for bedtime where I’ll sit on the floor during reading time, scoffing leftovers. Then it’s plan the week ahead, printing training schedules, meals, transport and time to cross over with the family!

Tuesday - take the first train into Salford at 6:54 to swim for 1:15hr. At the moment I am swimming 3km including warm up, cool down and drills. Scurry to work ravenous and with goggle marks on my head. Leave work at 430pm for a train back to Mossley and a session on a spin bike in a former power station. Pedal to a set program from my coach for one hour watching the same video over and over for motivation. Remove clothing, grimace like an animal, drop sweat on floor. Repeat. Wipe gym floor clean of sweat, stretch and return home for food around 730pm.

Weds - first train into town again, then a tram to another gym that does early opening for 45mins to an hour of strength and conditioning, vital weights, plyometrics and other such marvellous stuff to hold the body together. This again is given by my coach so it’s vital on Monday I check the program and learn any new exercises that I need to do on these days. Then after a relaxing day at work eating over my keyboard, it’s home as usual to run up to 8 miles at 8-9min mile pace. If I am lucky, Jon runs with me. If not I whimper alone. Though I’ve recently tested the excellent Saddleworth Runners group.

It’s Thursday so it must be swimming, as above. One day is usually slower and another has more faster sets. A set is like a description of what you’re going to swim, written in a sort of mathematical short hand. If you’re a novice like me, then it’s important to sit down and make sure you understand the swim set, know how many laps of the pool is in 400m and what 10 seconds rest for every 100 means. I usually do this over breakfast.

Friday - more strength and conditioning in the early morning. By the evening I am starting to fall apart so it’s rest and eat time before the big weekend...

Saturday - a medium ride of about two hours. Medium as in, not too much huffing and puffing. Two hours should be about 40kms. Around Mossley it never is...  A longer run follows if I have not had the presence of mind to do it on Friday. I usually play around based on how awful I feel doing sessions after work.

Sunday - a long hard ride of 4 to 6 hours either alone or with a group. Followed by a thirty minute run straight off the bike. Then an afternoon nap. Unless we have to visit the inlaws, go shopping or do something else, then I have been trying to fit training around that. Not now though as it's making me lose my mind...

And then I start getting ready for Monday all over again. Mondays are good though because I don’t have to pack and carry a massive back pack full of kit for all these training sessions. I didn’t mention how important carrying kit and doing laundry on the right day is did I? It’s not the sport that’ll kill you, it’s the logistics!

Disclaimer: This post was scheduled to publish when I'm away training in Mallorca, so if the world ends in between, or a Dictator dies, or your cat runs away and this post hasn't taken that into consideration then apologies. No animals were harmed in the writing of this post. May contain nuts. 

Monday, 8 April 2013

What I did on the weekend

It didn't snow...! So an ace training weekend was had.

When I say ace it is all relative. It means I came out the other side wiser and with minimal injury. It was still hard as hell.

For example on Saturday I went riding with a local from Team Glow. At this point of my cycling career this is like saying I went riding with one of the lovable rascals of the 1960s Tour de France. A bunch of friends who are a good laugh, fuelled on foreign liquor, innocent looking but wow, can this lot cycle.

I had not gone two miles with them - remember two Mossley miles is straight up in the air - and I wanted to bail. I knew where I was and home was so close. I knew I was exhausted physically, I could feel it, I'd only had a rest period of 12 hours rather than a rest day for the last fortnight. Emotionally things were taking their toll too - Jon and I were doing a dance around 'the bloody Ironman' and I felt obliged to be a domestic goddess during the week while doing double training sessions so my weekend collapse would be forgiveable  We'd almost got the balance right and for once I wanted to stay home and just hang with him and tackle our domestic live together in person rather than emails and notes...

So I pulled up at the end of a series of short and sharp climbs with an excuse to leave the group in my throat...but the smiles of these girls are infectious and they actually looked like they were enjoying themselves. I had a feeling they would talk me from departing like a Samaritan talking down a jumper. I ended up trapped beneath the blue sky the snow bank, and the spinning lycra and wheels of the Bad Girls peleton..

We descended Cragg Vale - not that scary actually - and ascended it too - not half as bad as a Mossley climb. We baked on short sharp climbs and I had to walk one series of hamstring-popping ascents. A big fail and my first ever walk. It was so tough I didn't even lose that much speed walking - just pride!

On the moors before Denshaw i knew only nine miles remained. And yet still I wanted to call Jon to collect me. I don't work well when I can see the road winding up into the distance ahead of me.

Some how I made it home. I meant to run after but it was much late than I thought. I had also not taken on any fuel for the last three hours and had a spectacular meltdown in the kitchen trying to get food into me.

Cue lots of rest overnight, a 1am toast making episode, several breakfasts and we were taking the start line at Blackpool half marathon. Jon had checked the weather last week so we were dressed for a different day but actually cut a fine pair racing down the prom in summer gear past ice rinks, pleasure beaches with no sand, water parks and hotels advertising a heated swimming poo (sic) before gloriously finishing in 1:54. Dead chuffed as it didn't feel hard, we both came back in one piece, chatted and had fun and worked as an awesome team. My only issue was I was still starving from the day before and as I write this Monday morning, I still am!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

And breathe...

Today is April 2. On May 2 I will be flying out to Mallorca to prepare a few days ahead of Jon and later my mother arriving. I can now see today's date, and the date of my departure on the same calendar page (it's a google calendar, not a wall calendar with kittens).

Since that realisation, all I can do is just breathe...

Do I feel ready? No. I'm yet to have entered a cycle race and I have only cycled 50 miles but once. I'm only still getting to grips with gears, I'm not used to my pedals and I'm unsure about cadence. I feel like the most naive cyclist that could enter a half ironman. And while I know I have bags of mental grit and stubborn determination, there will be things like tyre changes, technical descents and ascents for which some bike know how and experience would be very useful for.

I have a very practical list of things to do and very practical list of mental preparation to do on top of that. I feel it's achievable. But inevitably I feel like there should be more time. More time to cycle, more time stretching and lengthening my tight pecs, my irritated ulna and tarsal nerves. More time focussing on technique, running a few more miles,  definitely more time on the bike. And so I enter that phase where you cram as much into your days and weeks as you can, eating vitamin C, zinc and beetroot so you don't get sick doing it. This is the time when I really don't have a social life beyond hot yoga and receiving Amazon parcels. This is where I would sell my first born for a magic way to get more time on the bike. It's a good thing I don't have a first born but I do have a pony if anyone has a solution.

I am afraid. Not of what I might learn about myself, or even falling of a particularly scary hairpin which I viewed on the Google Earth map of the bike course last night. I am not scared of being the Last Female Competitor, or crying or soiling myself or even getting face kicked by the 18 year old men who will start in the wave behind me. I am scared of that damn cut off mark and not making it by mere seconds. I am scared of having my race number taken off me because I don't make it through the first 35 km of the bike course on time. I am scared of letting down all those people who have shown their faith in me by donating to Freedom from Torture. I absolutely cannot let them down, not the donors, not the staff, not the volunteers, not the clients.

For the next 30 days, I'll train and train like a teenager approaching their final exams. I'll cram just to feel that tiny bit more confident on the sandy start line. I'll even sleep with copies of Triathlete magazines under my pillow!

To be a part of my tri adventure, please visit www.justgiving.com/halfirongirl - the price of a pint would be very welcome.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Overwhelm Phase

I was going to write a blog post on how overwhelmed I am, but Fran has written an ever better post on this so clearly Overwhelm is a phase that aspirational 70.3 girls go through!

I'll attempt to keep this blog post focussed - unlike my mind - in an attempt at therapy and use bullet pointsd.

Things I am overwhelmed about:

  • How much emotional and moral support I need to get through this training
  • How fast the weekend cyclists are compared to me
  • Whether or not I will make the cut off time on the bike
  • How much emotional and moral support I demand to get through this training
  • Is my training getting in the way of my relationship with my step son?
  • Why have I chosen to do Blackpool Half marathon?
  • How much is training affecting my relationship
  • When am I going to have time to fundraise?
  • The logistics of the next three back to back weeks with Mallorca visit and half marathon race to balance, and a sportive. 
  • How much emotional and moral support I crave to get through this training
  • What does Jon think about this?
  • Is my training getting in the way of my friendships?
  • Will I have a job after October?
  • How can I worry about a stupid triathlon when great people have cancer and IDS is on the loose. 
  • Will I hit my fundraising target
  • What if I don't make the fundraising target. 
  • What is my back up race?
  • Will I use cleats and clip in pedals
  • What will I wear on race day?
  • How will I tackle the descents
  • Will I make Jon proud? Will he show it? Will I think he shows it enough?
  • Does anyone know how hard this is?
  • Does anyone anyone know how hard this is for my puny unathletic body?
  • Does anyone care?
  • Does it matter if someone does care or not?
  • I am so scared of failing.
  • Why am I writing a blog post when I could be doing pilates or strength training?
  • Why did I not do pilates or strength training today?
  • Have I made enough to do lists and what is next on the to do list. 
  • Is it ok to be scared? Does anyone know how scared I am? 
  • Have I packed all my food to get through two training sessions in between work? 
  • When is the next rest day? 
  • Will I be able to run Blackpool Half on these feet? If not, will it matter?
  • What is the point of cycling?
  • What is the point. 
I think you get the idea. And none of that was exaggerated for effect.