When in doubt, shop…

21 Aug

Yesterday evening I went to a different swimming session run by my tri club. I arrived a little early and couldn’t see anyone around, so I mentioned to the receptionist that I had arrived for the tri club swim. He told me that no-one else was there yet, and then directed me to the changing rooms.

On the way into the changing room, I could see that an aquarobics class was taking place. The changing room was very small and there didn’t seem to be a communal area, just cubicles, which isn’t what I’m used to. I changed quickly and then carried my bags out to the communal locker room. Unfortunately, a special wristband is needed to use the lockers at a cost of £1 from the reception. This was problematic for two reasons: 1. I was only wearing a swimming costume 2. I had no money with me. I decided that I would take my bags poolside.

I’ve never been to this particular pool before and was surprised by how small it felt. It was 25m long, but looked smaller as there was a flume that curled around the room and over the pool.

After a short while, a man arrived, so I asked him about the tri club session. He said that there are only usually 4 or 5 people there and that the coach often arrived late, so we should start warming up.

After 150m, the coach arrived. He explained that we would be doing a lot of drills.

The first set of drills involved wearing fins. Because of the flume, the coach and our kit were at the deep end, which meant that it was harder to put my fins on.

Partway through the set, another swimmer arrived. We did lots of drills to try improve our front crawl, but I felt like I was swimming really badly. I don’t know what has happened since last week, but swimming suddenly feels really difficult.

As there were only three of us, the coach was able to give us a lot of individual help. At the end of the session, the coach asked me how long I had been swimming. I explained that I’ve been swimming for about 2 years. He then (in the nicest possible way) let me know that there are so many problems with my technique that he doesn’t know where to start. Oh dear :-(

Throughout summer, I’ve been swimming in the lake on Thursday evenings, but that will come to an end soon so I think I’ll keep going to these sessions. It’s a little disappointing to feel like I’m back at the start again, but perhaps hearing some different criticisms will help me to improve in the long run.

Anyway, after feeling a little disappointed by how badly my swim had gone, I went online to do a bit of shopping when I got home. I’ve been considering buying a dryrobe ever since I entered the Scilly Swim Challenge, but had been postponing it. In the end, I thought I should just spend the money as I know I will want something warm and cosy to put on between the swims. It’s possible to buy dryrobes in a wide range of colours, but I chose the black and ‘blue’ (turquoise) version, so that it would match my SOAS ambassador kit.

Amazingly, my dryrobe was delivered this afternoon :-)

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I’ve also been spending money elsewhere online today. I’m going to a conference in Germany at the end of September  and have noticed* that there is a 10k race in the town on the day after the conference, so I’ve entered it. (*By ‘noticed’, there may have been a bit of Googling involved!) If there are any differences between races in Germany and elsewhere, please let me know!

Here’s what I’ve been reading today:

What’s the most amazing place you have swum, biked or run (or all three)?

19 Aug

For me it would have to be Japan. I didn’t do a lot of swimming there (I’m not sure that bathing in the onsen [hot springs] counts), but I did plenty of running and cycling.

I travelled there in April with my husband, Stuart and our friend Jez. We spent a few days in Tokyo before travelling to Kanazawa before cycling across the Japanese Alps chasing the cherry blossoms.

It is a truly stunning country with beautiful landscapes, tasty food and friendly people.

Some days were warm, sunny and snow free. This is one of my favourite pics from the holiday. © Jeremy Hollinshead

I was really excited to get started!

Ready to set off from the Shirakawa Go Eco Institute. It was a completely stunning location, but cycling 5km up at 15% incline on an icy road in the dark possibly isn’t be best way to round off your first full day of cycling.

Because we had to carry all of our possessions for over two weeks, I had a limited amount of clothing – 2 SOAS cycling kits, waterproof trousers, jacket, gloves, buff, headband, calf guards, jeans, SOAS hoodie, a couple of t-shirts and a dress. I hadn’t realised that we were going to cycle through the snowy Japanese Alps, so ended up wearing almost everything for a couple of days!

Outside a traditional ryokan before the start of a day’s cycling adventure © Jeremy Hollinshead

Nearing the top of a tough mountain ©Jeremy Hollinshead

Isn’t the scenery stunning? ©Jeremy Hollinshead

Out for a little walk under the sakura ©Jeremy Hollinshead

A little pose on our arrival at the Sanzen-In temple © Jeremy Hollinshead

Carb-loading with yams at Kanazawa Castle

The snow made us a little bit sunburnt!

With our running tour guide, Su-San, in Tokyo

Running by the Imperial Palace in Tokyo

Cycling in Gokayama ©Jeremy Hollinshead

Cycling through a traditional village

Appreciating the stunning foliage ©Jeremy Hollinshead

There are lots of other places that I love, but if I can only choose one country (I can’t even narrow it down to a prefecture, let alone a city), it would have to be Japan. I’d never done a cycling holiday before, but I loved the freedom that it gave us, as well as the opportunity to experience life off the beaten track.

Where’s the most amazing place that you swum/cycled/run?

Reflecting on the forthcoming Scilly Swim Challenge

19 Aug

It’s only 2.5 weeks until my “A-race” (*it’s not a race, it’s a challenge!) and I’m starting to get nervous.

I met with my coach, Olly, today to map out my training for the next two weeks. There are quite a few things that I’d like to do between now and 5th September – including an RR10 (club race), a sprint triathlon and some parkruns – but I need to be sensible and only focus on training that will help me and not doing junk miles that will fatigue me. I’ve scheduled in several swim sessions per week and have cut right back on the running and cycling (although I’ll still be cycling to work every day). I also have a brand new pair of trainers, so I may sneak in a slow jog to try them out.

We’ve received an outline plan for the Scilly Swim weekend, which starts on…

Fri 4 September:

1400 to 1600hrs – Registration for all, Porthmellon Beach, Hugh Town, St Mary’s. Please have identification and sign the disclaimer. You will receive your swim hat, some goodies and entry number, we will mark your number on your ankle and hand.

1800 to 1900hrs – event brief and 1 mile acclimatisation swim from Porthmellon beach (please note this is compulsory and will give you a feel for the water and allows us to confirm pods for each swimmer).

Stu, Roelie and I will already be on the island, so making the registration session shouldn’t be a problem. It’ll also be fun to see the event swimming hat. I’ve got lots of swimming hats from events that I’ve done and I’ve never worked out what to do with them – I’ve got plenty in my training bag and will never get through them all. I’m wondering whether to turn them into bunting for my training room. Anyone got any good suggestions?

ScillySwim hat2014

I’m thinking of taking my old 2XU wetsuit to use for the acclimatisation swim. This will mean that my new wetsuit will be dry for the first swim of the day on Saturday. I have no idea where the acclimatisation swim will go, but I’ll need to make sure that I can complete the mile within 40 minutes.

After the acclimatisation swim on the Friday night everyone will be allocated a swim pod (either Red, Amber or Green) with matching swim cap colour and allocated kayak and safety boat cover. I’m assuming that red will be the slow group, which will be me… but maybe we’ll be green.

Sat 5 September:

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  • 0700hrs –  Meet at Registration point, Porthmellon Beach. 3.5km walk to Bar Point carrying swim equipment.
  • 0830hrs –  Swim Bar Point to  Higher Town (St Martins)  – 2 miles (3.2k). Walk to Lower Town.
  • 1115hrs –  Swim  Lower Town to  Old Grimsby  (Tresco) – 1.8 miles (2.9k). Walk to New Grimsby. (Lunch stop here)
  • 1345hrs –  Swim New Grimsby to  Church Quay ( Bryher) – 1 mile (1.6k).  Walk to Rushy Bay.
  • 1500hrs –  Swim to Samson (800metres). Walk to Stony Ledge.
  • 1515hrs –  Swim to Porth Conger (St Agnes) – 3.3 miles (5.3k).
  • 1800hrs – Swim to Porthcressa (St Mary’s)- 2.2 miles (3.5k).

That’s 10.8 miles/17.3k in total! I know it’s going to be really tough, so I’ll just have to do the best I can. I’ve read several blog posts and forum posts where people said they got picked up last year, so I think it will be surprising if I managed to complete the entire event. I hope this doesn’t sound defeatist – I’m just being realistic. It wasn’t long ago that I’d never done more than 2000m in one day. The toughest section will be the long swim from Samson to St Agnes. Even if I can’t do that, I hope I’ll be able to do the final swim to St. Mary’s.

Today the sea temperature off St Mary’s is 16.7°C (62°F). It would be good if it stays that warm, as we have been warned that it could be 13-15°C (55-59°F). Not everyone will be wearing wetsuits, but I think I’ll pack my neoprene gloves and booties in case I find the temperature too cold.

We’re expected to finish by 7:30pm. After that there will be a beach reception. I hope I have enough energy left to party!

Sun 6 September:

If the weather is bad on Saturday, the event will be moved to Sunday. In the evening there will be a reception on St Martins.

Then it’ll be back to the mainland on Monday, ready to head back to Southampton before flying to Manchester for a conference. I’ve found out that I’ll be near to the aquatic centre, but by that stage I may never want to swim again!

At the moment, I feel a mixture of nerves and excited anticipation for this event – I want more time to train, but I also just want to get started. Stu and Roelie are both much stronger swimmers than me, but they’re also both battling injuries, so I hope that they are fit and healthy enough to do the event… although if they slow down a bit, that’s fine too.

Monday Morning Motivation – 8 days in 8 minutes

17 Aug

The Absa Cape Epic is an annual two-person MTB team event held in South Africa over 8 days which includes  Time Trial prologue. It has been accredited as hors categorie (beyond categorisation) by the Union Cycliste Internationale. Among other events in world cycling which enjoy this status are the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España. First staged in 2004, the race typically covers more than 700 kilometres (435 miles), and lasts eight days – a prologue and seven stages. The Absa Cape Epic attracts elite professional mountain bikers from around the world, who compete in teams of two. To qualify for a finish, teams have to stay together for the duration of the race. A total of 600 teams take part. The times taken to finish each stage are aggregated to determine the overall winning team in each category at the end of the race. The course changes every year, but the race has always taken place in the Western Cape. The Absa Cape Epic was described by Bart Brentjens, 1996 Olympic gold medallist in mountain biking and a former Absa Cape Epic winner, as the “Tour de France of mountain biking”.

Amateur mountain bikers can gain a slot through a lottery – this amazing video shows the emotions that riders go through during the event.

What’s your favourite piece of kit and why?

16 Aug

What’s the one piece of kit you couldn’t live without?

OK, so there are a few things that I really need as a triathlete, such as my bike (Kuota Kharma Evo), my trainers (Brooks Vapors and Pure Cadence/Flow) and my Garmin, but when it comes to clothing, I can’t tri without my SOAS tri shorts.

Those of you who follow @soasracing on Instagram may have seen the sneak preview of Sunset Cliffs bib shorts recently:

Sunset Cliffs bib shorts

However, I love my SOAS trishorts so much that I don’t need bib shorts. It doesn’t matter how many hours I’ve spent in the saddle, I’ve never had a problem with my SOAS kit. The small fleece chamois is much more comfortable than the huge nappies that some brands feel the need to put in cycling shorts (here’s looking at you, Decathlon!!!)

The wicking fabric means that the shorts dry easily, which is great when wearing them for a triathlon or duathlon, but they’re also good to use as ordinary cycling kit. For me the challenge is which pair of shorts to choose:

Arms aloft

Wearing my SOAS Ambassador 2015 shorts at Winchester triathlon


Wearing my SOAS Racing Black Team Shorts for a visit to the bike fitter


Wearing my SOAS Brand Ambassador 2014 shorts at Weymouth Half


Wearing my SOAS pink peacock shorts as I sprint to the finish at Eastleigh aquathlon


Sunset Cliffs at Eastleigh aquathlon

© Barcelona Nights tri kit… I think I’ve only got selfies wearing this it, which is bizarre as I wear it a lot!

If I could have the whole range, I would, but as I can only choose one pair, it would have to be my 2015 ambassador shorts. They are a size (or two) than the shorts I bought in 2014 , which helps me to feel better about my body, they are super comfy (like all of the others) and they remind me about the awesome community of female triathletes that I belong to!

Salty Sea Dog Long Swim 3.8k

16 Aug

After getting up early to watch the Salty Sea Dog Triathlon and then doing a reasonably quick parkrun, I was feeling a little hungry by the time we had to get ready for the Salty Sea Dog Long Swim, but there was too much to do for me to think about eating.

I went to register, which is where a problem occurred. One the day bookings had been so popular that there were no timing chips left. The assistant explained that we could enter at a discounted rate, but that we would not get an official time. I needed to do the swim as I have the Scilly Swim Challenge coming up… but it would be gutting to have my second longest swim as another unofficial swim, even if I were allowed to wear a Garmin this time.

Fortunately, after a short wait, it was decided that some of the timing chips that had been used earlier could be reset – excellent! Onto the next problem – payment. Card payments are usually accepted at this event, but the event director who manages the transactions was currently out on a boat, rescuing some buoys that were floating towards France – darn! The events team were very trusting and told me that I could come back and pay later.

I went over and had a quick chat with some other members of STC and former member, Mike, who had cycled down to Boscombe and then it was time to get ready.

In theory, if I’ve swum 5km in 2:05, it shouldn’t be too hard to swim 3.8km in 1:50… but the 5km was in a calm lake and I didn’t have to sight much.

I headed down to the beach with Donna and Jamie, another STC member. Donna and I went for a quick dip in the sea and I was pleased to find that it was a lot warmer than the water in Dun Laoghaire last weekend. We then headed back to the start area where each person’s chip needed to be checked. My chip didn’t work, so I was asked to wait on one side whilst it was reset.

After my chip was reset, I headed over so that the first two buoys of the rectangular course were lined up in front of me. The tide had turned and had started to go out and the current was going to the east, so the first two sides of the rectangle should be the easiest ones to swim.

In the pre race briefing, we had been told that the 2.4km race would be 2 laps and that the 3.8km race would be 3 laps… but that if anyone who had entered the 3.8km event wanted to finish after 2.4km that would be fine. It’s the kind of comment that I don’t need to hear as I knew it would be easy to bail, but I can’t afford to quit right now.

Soon, the horn sounded and we were off. I waded out as deep as I could before I started swimming. It didn’t take too many strokes for me to get into a rhythm. the sun was shining and the sky seemed beautifully clear blue. However, it wasn’t long before I saw my first jellyfish.

When I did my first sea swim (at Weymouth last year), there were lots of enormous barrel jellyfish and I freaked out whenever I saw one and would start swimming away from it. At Fowey harbour swim last summer, there were lots of compass jellyfish, which can deliver a nasty sting, and around the back of St Michael’s Mount there were smacks of tiny moon jellyfish, so I’ve managed to get a bit accustomed to them. I keep reminding myself that if I have a wetsuit on, only small parts of my face, my hands and my feet are exposed, so I should be OK.

There were a lot of jellyfish at Boscombe, but I did my best to swim over them. I reasoned that if I were not going to hit them with my face then as long as I kept my arms moving for a couple fo stroke and didn’t flail my legs, I would be OK.

When I got to the first turn buoy, my sighting had been a bit too accurate and I got clobbered around the head by a lot of other swimmers who were trying to take the racing line – ouch!

I got into a pack of swimmers who were moving at about the same speed of me, which helped me to feel comfortable and confident. We stayed together until we turned onto the last side of the rectangle. At that point, I decided that they were heading for the wrong buoy, so I thought it would be stupid to follow them blindly. I struck out on my own and realised too late that I was heading for the buoy that signalled the swim exit – oops. I swam hard to catch up with the pack, but it tired me a little.

Part way around the second lap, I decided that I needed to rinse my goggles. The sun had started to go behind clouds, it wasn’t as warm and the wind was getting up, so the sea was a little choppier. I was finding it difficult to sight and thought rinsing my goggles would help. It was such a big mistake. I took off my goggles an started treading water, which gave me cramp in my calf. I put my goggles back on and had to swim with my arms only for a couple of minutes to ease my leg off.

Soon my leg felt better again and I was able to catch up with some of the other swimmers.

When we passed the exit buoy, everyone who was around me turned off and I was a little tempted, but I know I’m capable of swimming 3.8km, so I kept going. I had to tread water for a little bit as I tried to get my bearings, but soon I headed off again. I had glanced at my watch when the others turned off and saw that the time was about 1:05, so I felt confident that I could complete the swim in time.

When I turned out onto the long back straight, I had a glance around and couldn’t see anyone, but I pressed on. However, I was starting to get really nervous. It felt like I was a long way from shore on my own and I wondered whether anyone knew I was still out there, even though we had been counted into the water. In previous events, when I have been at the back, I have always been accompanied by a kayaker, but I couldn’t see any of the event support staff. The buoy also felt further away – was I tiring, or had the buoy started drifting? Then I heard a boat. Unfortunately, I have an over-active imagination and can be relied upon to fear the worst in any situation. Having tackled my fear of jellyfish, I am still afraid that I am going to be run over by a powerboat like Kirsty MacColl. I looked around and could see the boat, so I started treading water and waving. The boat started coming slowly towards me and the crew asked if I were OK, or whether I wanted to hang onto their boat for a bit. I said that I had panicked a bit, but that I was Ok now. They then asked me what lap I was on. Instead of sensibly replying that I was on my third lap, I said, “The last one!” I then set off swimming again.

The boat followed me at a distance to the far buoy and then sped off, so I was alone again… fortunately, a kayaker soon started paddling over. I decided that if the kayaker were paddling by me then they would probably let me know if I were swimming in completely the wrong direction, so I decided to focus on trying to swim as quickly as I could against the current, so that I wouldn’t miss the cut off.

Finally, I got to the turn buoy and swam as quickly as I could towards the shore. The water seemed a bit churned up and murky, but I knew I had to ignore it and press on.

I waded out of teh water and checked my Garmin. My official time for the 3.8km swim was 1:49:04. It was slower than I’d hoped for, but at least I finished before the 1:50:00 cut off (and I wasn’t last!)

Crazy Garmin swim data

Crazy Garmin swim data

My Garmin came up with some completely crazy data today – I swam for < 2 hours, but allegedly I took 58, 773 strokes – my arms must have been whizzing around like propellers!

This was a really good event, but I think I need to speed up if I intend to race this distance again.



Bournemouth parkrun

16 Aug

This morning, Donna and I went down to Boscombe to watch some clubmates taking part in the VOTwo Salty Sea Dog triathlon. The water looked a bit choppy and at 7am the air temperature was fairly cool.

Two events were taking place – a sprint race and a super sprint.

© Donna Lovelock

© Donna Lovelock

After we saw our club mates exit the water, we stopped to support the slower swimmers coming into T1, before heading over to watch people on the two-lap bike course.


Paul at the end of the bike section.

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Mark heading towards T2

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Halfway through the run, Mark had managed to take the lead.

After our colleagues had finished, Donna and I cycled back up to Bournemouth parkrun. My feet are still feeling a little bruised from Dublin, and I wasn’t sure that I had recovered, so I was aiming for a time of 26-30 minutes, although I wasn’t sure whether even that would be possible. I knew that I had a tough swim coming up later in the day, so I decided that I wouldn’t push too hard and if my breathing became laboured then I would slow down.

The last time that I did Bournemouth parkrun was in October 2013, when I managed 27:31… however, when I started the run, I had no idea of what my previous time was.

Donna and I both started at the back of the pack, which was probably a mistake – somewhere in the middle would have been more appropriate. We both set off fairly quickly and I decided to stick with Donna for as long as possible.

The course wasn’t exactly the same as I remembered: it’s a lap of the field and then two laps that go on a short trail section and out along past the athletics track.

I managed to stay with Donna for nearly 2.5km, but it was much warmer than I had expected and my breathing had started to be affected. I kept going and was pleasantly surprised to find that I finished in just over 26 minutes, so a course PB!

Bournemouth parkrun Aug 2015

Donna also got a new Bournemouth parkrun PB, which is great.

My run splits were not very even:

  1. 4:54
  2. 4:56
  3. 5:26
  4. 5:09
  5. 5:26
  6. 4:42

…but it was nice to find that my legs will still allow me to run faster than 6:30/km! I was also in teh top 50% of finshers as 396 runners completed the event.

Ironman Dublin 70.3 – The Run

10 Aug

I looked at my watch as I headed out and was shocked to see that it said about 4:30. I was confident that I could do the run in under 3 hours, so it would be a new PB for me, as long as I didn’t fall apart. There was also a faint hope that if I ran well, I might be able to take an hour off my previous PB.

The run was 20.1km as the transitions had been very long. I figured that if I could maintain 6:00/km then I would finish in about 2 hours.

As I headed out on a grass path towards the road, I felt great. My legs didn’t have that leaden feeling that so many people describe and I felt good. I could see Annabelle up ahead with her iPad and somewhere behind her were Claire and Stu. I gave them a big smile and some thumbs up and asked how Suzanne and Steve were doing. They said they were out on the run which was great.


Steve enjoying his run

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We had been told that the run course was really flat, but when you’re tired, every little incline feels like a mountain. There were crowds on some parts of the course, but much of it was fairly deserted (unlike Weymouth which seemed to have spectators everywhere). My favourite parts were the out and back sections, where I kept my eyes peeled in case I saw Suzanne or Steve, but we didn’t pass each other. I also did some SOAS spotting – one lady was wearing coral lummi and another had on the Barcelona kit, which is one of my favourites. I think she confused my husband as when he saw the kit he assumed it was me, at first!

After a while, I started to feel fatigued. I knew I hadn’t eaten enough on the bike, but the aid stations didn’t really have much. I’m not sure whether some of them had bananas, but most of them only had gels to eat. I had some water, and tried some powerade, but the flavour wasn’t appetising, so I had some flat Pepsi, washed down with water as I care about my teeth!

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The course was three laps long. The toughest part of the course was towards the start of each new lap – we had to run downhill with crowds cheering on either side. Halfway down was a turn around point, so finishers continued, but the rest of us with more laps to do had to turn around and slog our way back up the hill past the spectators. It felt tough. A few times, my breathing got ragged, but when I tried to use my inhaler at Weymouth, I dropped it and it fell apart. Bending over to pick it up really broke my stride, so I didn’t want to risk that again, which was probably a bit silly.

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Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 20.31.37I was really struggling at this point. My back was painful and I have had bruises on the tops of my feet since my ‘unplanned dismount’ last week. I stopped and stretched very briefly before carrying on. Then I heard a shout. Lots of people had been calling my name (or ‘Tasmin’ as my name is just too uncommon for most people to be able to read it at a quick glance), but this person genuinely sounded like they knew me. I looked up and was really surprised to see Amie from our Embrace Sports holiday on her bike. It really gave me a lift and I managed to pick up the pace a little.

There was some good camaraderie out on the run course and lots of people made comments as they passed each other. I was also really impressed by the grit and determination shown by a large South African guy, who was really finding it hard but pushing on. I also liked the witty signs that a group of supporters had at the side of the road, with my favourite being: ‘Smile if you pee’d on the swim course’ – it made me laugh :-)

On my second lap, an American runner, Rebecca, caught up with me and asked if we could run together. It was her first tri and I think she wanted some company. I was so grateful as our conversation helped to distract me from the fact that the miles were ticking away very slowly. Whilst we were running together we managed to pick up the pace. I was a little disappointed when I saw 6:27 tick past on my watch, but I was still confident that I could finish in under 7 hours.

Running towards the finish line with Rebecca © Claire Cooke

Running towards the finish line with Rebecca © Claire Cooke

Rebecca and I continued down the red carpet together. We saw her husband and she called out to him. I managed a little sprint at the end of the red carpet and tried to look happy instead of looking at my Garmin.

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After we’d crossed the line, Rebecca and I embraced as I think we were both grateful of each other’s support.

I collected my tshirt, medal and bottle of water, had my chip removed and then exited the finish area. Amie was there waiting – it was lovely to see her, I really appreciated it. I then went out and found Steve, Suzanne, Stu and the other supporters.

Overall, this was my best discipline. This shouldn’t surprise me as I was a runner before I became a triathlete and I am most confident about my running, but I found it such a struggle that I thought I would slip right down in the rankings! Because I had such a cracking run at Weymouth Classic recently, I thought that I might be able to maintain a pace of under 6:00/km, but that turned out to be totally unrealistic.

Weymouth run time: 2:26:38
Dublin run time: 2:17:13
Division rank: 64/107
Average pace: 6:30/km

Weymouth overall time: 7:27:54
Dublin overall time: 6:45:38
I know that it’s not possible to compare two different triathlons, with entirely different terrains, weather conditions and transitions, but I think that a 42:16  time difference must signal some improvement on my part. At the end of the swim, I assessed how I felt and was confident that I could do it again; at the end of the bike, I felt a little tied, but was sure that I could keep going; however, by the time I was 5km into the run, I felt shattered and just wanted it to be over. I definitely need to work on my cycling strength, bike handling skills and ability to fuel on my bike next year if an ironman attempt is ever going to be successful!


I decided to go wild and celebrate with an alcoholic beverage!

Post Dublin

The calm after the storm!


Wearing my new medal with pride


Ironman Dublin 70.3 finisher certificate


Ironman Dublin 70.3 – The Bike

10 Aug

I grabbed my bike as quickly as possible, attached my Garmin and ran towards the mount line. I was surprised to see that almost everyone else was holding onto their handlebars or bars and saddle – I may not be quick, but at least funny and pushing my bike whilst holding onto the saddle is something that I can do!

The race briefing and endless information about possible infringements had really out the fear into me. We had been warned that crossing the centre line could result in disqualification, so I was really torn about what to do. Lots of people seemed to be struggling to clip in and were weaving all over the road. In the end I decided that as there were already plenty of cyclists on the right hand side and that it was a closed road, I would probably be OK.

It was quite a fun heading out of Dun Laoghaire, as I recognised the road. I was feeling confident, but started to get a bit worried when I was passing people with aero helmets and disc wheels on  tri bikes… Did they know something I didn’t know? I wondered whether I had started out far too quickly. (Having driven along the same road this morning, I’ve realised that it was on a slight incline), but I’m surprised that some of the people I passed never passed me again, and the ones who did, too nearly 70km to do it!

At the bottom of the first hill

That’s me in the background © Action Photography


Starting to tackle the hill ©Action Photography

bottom of hill 2

Ready to go for it © Action Photography

Cycling up a hill

Tackling the hill – and still down on the drops :-) © Action Photography

I was very conscious that I shouldn’t draft, but quickly realised that if people passed me I didn’t need to freewheel as they were well out of range by the time I had counted to 10 (5 in most cases!)

I was surprised at how quickly I was in Dublin by the Liffey – a journey that had taken an hour in the car took a matter of minutes on a fast bike on a clear road (and by going via the toll bridge).

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 20.29.34

I decided to change my Garmin screen to a screen that I was more familiar with, but I couldn’t find a cycling distance or average speed, so I decided that I would just have to aim to get each km split at 25kph.

I really miss the distance markers that are the norm at running races, but rare at triathlons. It’s really nice to be able to see the distance ticking off. There were pockets of support out on the course and despite my terrible bike handling skills, I was able to wave or give a thumbs up to some of the groups of children who were waving and cheering. (I know most of you won’t approve of this, but I’m sure Liz would think it was OK). A lot if the supporters seemed to be particularly encouraging to female triathletes, which I thought was really nice.

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 20.29.43

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 20.29.56

About 15km in, I noticed something on my front tyre. My tyres have been on my road bike for just over two years, and although I don’t cycle as often as I should, it’s probably nearly time to change them. They have been incredibly reliable and I have only had one puncture (last summer in Cornwall on a horrible road), but I know they are starting to get worn, so I was really worried that it was a flap of rubber :-( (My car tyre has a loose flap on the side, but the local mechanic has told me that it’s fine for now). I started to envision having a blow out whilst going at speed, which made me feel quite nervous. Many people will probably ask why I didn’t stop to investigate my tyre, but if it was damaged, what could I do? There were mobile mechanics on the course, but I had no idea where they might be and I didn’t have a spare tyre with me… And I only had one inner tube. I am also a lousy bike mechanic and dread to think about how long it would take me to replace an innertube in a race scenario. (*I checked my tyre after the race and found that it was a piece of black tape that had attached itself to my tyre – grrrr!)

Most of the roads were really smooth and well maintained, but the manhole covers made me a bit wary. As I got into Dublin, it started to rain – not hard, more of what I’d call ‘mizzle’, a misty drizzle that made it hard to see out of my sunglasses and made the roads feel greasy. Anyway, the manhole covers seemed to come in groups of 8, so I had to make sure that I aimed through the middle of them.

I panicked a few times on the bike course. I took one corner too quickly, hit some gravel and was lucky to maintain control of my bike, which made my heart beat a little faster. I also went to snack on some nuts when a course bike went to pass me. The motorcyclist said something to me and I was worried that I had inadvertently got too close to the woman in the front. (We had just gone through a feed station and quite a few bikes were in a clump). Luckily, the motorcyclist was just telling me to go ahead and that he would pass when there was more room. Later on, a marshal started waving a hits card at me. I really had no idea what rule I had broken and didn’t know what a white card penalty was. Luckily, I heard the woman behind calling out ‘thank you’ to him and realised that the marshal was simply being friendly and supportive! My last panic was when I tried to get something out of my overfill bento box and my tissues accidentally blew away. It wasn’t intentional littering, but there was no way I could safely stop and go back to retrieve them.

I saw a cyclist who had some kind of mechanical just as we reached the toll bridge in Dublin, another female cyclist who seemed to be having a puncture repair with the mobile van and one poor girl whose rear mech hanger had broken up a short hill after a tight corner, but I didn’t see anyone at the side of the road fixing a puncture on their own. However, I did see a huge numbers of items in the road: bottles, gels, bottle holders, bike bags, pumps and lots of high end sports sunglasses. I don’t think any of these were intentionally discarded.

There were a couple of km in the middle of the ride where I struggled to maintain a pace over 24kph and I found it tough to do well on the final hill, but my strategy of doing each km at over 25km/h paid off. Despite not having done very much cycling this year, my final average was 26.59km/h. I know the course was flatter than most, but I rarely ride for so long with no breaks at all.

I didn’t eat or drink as much as I should have done on the bike; I had two shot bloks, a dozen nuts, about 250ml of nuun Kona cola and 125ml water. I had packed a bottle of strawberry protein shake in my back pocket, but when I took it out to drink it, I realised that over half of it had gone – some had been spilled earlier in the day, but I think the rest was up my back :-( I think I need to find a better way of packing things into my bento box, without my inhaler getting in the way.

We had been warned about a hill at about 85km and were told that the pub next to it (The Anglers’ Rest), would be a hotspot for spectators. Sadly, this was not to be – there were a few locals in the beer garden, but none of them seemed particularly interested in the spectacle on the road. One poor Irish lad had got off his bike and was pushing it. I called out some words of encouragement, but he explained that his legs had cramped up and he just couldn’t do it. The hill wasn’t nearly as bad as I had expected. There was then a flat section before another hill that took me by surprise. We then had a lovely smooth downhill section that took us to T2.

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 20.30.05

IMG_6070 IMG_6071 IMG_6074

Usually, I do a flying dismount, but I had absolutely no idea where the dismount line was (there was no indication at all about where it might be, and a 400m out sign might also have helped). I was also still stressed about what the rules were. It wasn’t clear whether we could leave our shoes on our bikes and I didn’t want to catch one on the grass and lose it (or be charged with littering!) Admittedly, as I have quite small feet, this isn’t that likely to happen, but there is a slim chance.

I was really pleased to learn that my bike splits improved as the race went on, although perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised by this as the second half of the ride was a net downhill, in comparison with the first half which was a net uphill. My average pace was 26.63km/h which is better than I’ve ever managed before.

Weymouth bike time: 3:47:02
Dublin bike time: 3:23:05
Division rank: 71

As I arrived on my bike, I saw Stuart, which was nice. I dismounted and immediately started running whilst holding my saddle. I found it very odd that most of the cyclists who were near me were merely walking with their bicycles – did they not know they were in a race?!!


My bike needed to be racked at the far end of the field, so I ran quite a long way, and then as I got to numbers near mine I slowed down to look for the right spot. Bikes seemed to have been racked in all directions and I was too tired to think of the correct way. I hung my bike up as best I could, prayed that it wasn’t some sort of violation and grabbed my Garmin before heading into the change tent.

Yet again, my bag was easy to locate. I picked it up and went over to the chairs. I hadn’t planned to change my socks and have never done that before, but my socks were very wet and I thought dry socks might help me to run faster without any risk of blisters. I changed socks and shoes, decided that I didn’t need sunglasses or a visor and had a swig of water. Time to go!

T2: 4:22

(Weymouth: 2:26)

Ironman Dublin 70.3 – The swim

10 Aug

We got up early and got ready quickly. Breakfast was just a Fuel protein porridge pot, but I was feeling so nervous that I didn’t think I could eat any more. We had agreed to meet Steve in the lobby at 6am, but we there ready and waiting by 5:50am. I was glad that we hadn’t stayed in central Dublin as we would have needed to get the shuttle bus out to Dun Laoghaire.

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