Monday Morning Motivation – what’s the hardest step for you?

23 Mar

out the front door

I try to organise all of my clothes, food etc for the follow day in the evening, so that as soon as I wake up, I’m pretty much ready to go. Do you have routines to help make sure that you achieve your goals?

Amazingly, I’ve been chosen to feature on luffit as one of their ‘inspirational people’. I was really suprised when they emailed me. If you don’t already know my story, check it out.

If you’ve got an inspirational story to share, get in touch with the team at luffit.

Winchester Duathlon (aka Hell on the Hills in Hampshire!)

22 Mar

I’ve done Winchester Duathlon twice before:

  • 2013 (sprint) – my first ever multisport event (completed on a hybrid bike)
  • 2014 (sprint) – my second try at this event and a massive PB for me

However, this year the event has moved to the beautiful Lainston House, so it’s a new course. I didn’t really think about this too much in advance, which was my first failure.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am obsessively organised. I have a Googledoc called ‘packing lists for all occasions’, which helps me to get ready quickly. This is coming next:

Anyway, I reviewed my packing list earlier this week and updated it based on the weather conditions and my current kit. Then I spent Saturday afternoon organising my kit and packing it carefully into my transition bag. usually, I try to minimise the decisions that I can make on the day, but the weather was forecast to be overcast with a maximum temperature of 6°C (43°F), with the windchill making it feel like 1°C (34°F), so I packed a few items of clothing that I would be able to put on in transition. This is where I find duathlons difficult – I am happy to run in just a vest and shorts in cold weather as I know that I will heat up quickly and if I wear base layers or gloves I will overheat. However, I can get cold very quickly on a bike, so I didn’t want to just wear my tri tank and shorts. I decided to start the race with calf guards on to help keep my legs a bit warmer.

The standard race was scheduled to start at 8am with race registration between 6am and 7:30am. For most Try Tri events, registration is also offered on a Saturday afternoon, which gives competitors the chance to see the run course, transition and possibly drive the bike course, however that was not on offer today (which I think was a shame). Stuart and I decided to get up at 5:45 this morning, as we only needed to eat breakfast, dress and put our kit in the car.

As I was doing my hair (I have to try to French plait it for events involving cycling as I hate my helmet pressing against a hairband), Stuart said that he would load up the car. I quickly hurried down to meet him and we were on our way. I spent most of the car journey on Facebook as lots of my friends were racing today (at Eastleigh 10k and Reading Half Marathon, mainly). When we arrived at Lainston House, we were surprised that there were only a few bikes in transition. We parked the car, got our bikes out and then disaster struck…

Stuart and I had put our bags in front of the door, but he moved mine onto the sofa when he went to load up the car. I didn’t notice, so there we were in Winchester with two bikes, but only 1 helmet and 1 pair of cycle shoes between us :-(

Fortunately, Ben from Try Tri was nearby, so I spoke to him and asked whether I could register both of us whilst Stu rushed back to Southampton (about 16 to 20 miles away). Ben agreed, so I put on Stu’s rucksack and started heading to the race registration. I am so grateful that I’ve practised running whilst holding my bike’s saddle and that Stu’s bike is very light, otherwise I might not have made it to registration.

The queue for registration was enormous and it was quite cold. As I was holding two bikes, my hands were freezing, but I had no pockets and my gloves were in my bag. Finally, I put our bikes on the grass and moved towards the hall. I had completely forgotten that I needed ID to register, but at that moment, Chris, the Event Director appeared. I had a quick word with him and he said that I should ask the helpers to give him a call, if there were any problems. Chris also complimented me on my  lovely hat (my SOAS beanie) – he thought it made me stand out :-)

When I got to the front of the queue, Ant (my coach from Run Camp) was registering people, so he was happy to sign me in and give me the Team Smith numbers, timing chips and stickers.

I quickly collected our bikes and started walking down the hill to transition. When I got there, I saw Coach Peter from Southampton Tri Club. he wished me well. Then I went over and spoke to the two ladies who were controlling entry to transition. It is standard for competitors to have to demonstrate that they have an appropriate helmet and that they have working brakes. Unfortunately, I only had Stu’s helmet (which would have to be adjusted a lot to make it fit me). A quick phone call to Chris got me access to transition. I am so grateful to these guys as otherwise my race would have been over before it even started.

I racked our bikes and then started going through Stu’s bag to try to get as much as possible ready for him. I set up his shoes and put his number on his race belt. I also got out his bike helmet. Then I removed my track suit trousers and cycling jacket, but I decided to keep my SOAS hoodie on a little longer as it was far to cold to strip off to a tri tank at that point.

I then checked my phone – a missed call from Stu. he had been trying to tell me that he would be driving past transition, but I was too late and he was in the car park at the top of the site. I have never been so grateful that an event has been running late. As Stuart appeared, the marshals were ushering people out of transition. I quickly got my bike shoes out and put on my race belt. I removed my hoodie and decided that I would try running with arm warmers on, figuring that I could push them down to my wrists if I got too hot. I got my helmet out and decided to put my headband on. As it still felt cold, I left my cycling jacket by my bike. I was a bit thirsty and needed the loo, but there was no time for either of those as we had been told to line up by the start gantry.

I lined up behind Stuart and a couple of guys from SUTRI (Shriram and Peter)… then we were told to turn around. Ooops – I was far too close to the front and didn’t want to hamper anyone else’s race. I then looked up at the view and realised that we were going to have to run up a big hill. I was still feeling optimistic and decided that we must have to run up the hill and then we would do four loops around the house before running back down to the bikes.

I tried to set off at a steady pace, but it was tough from the start. I also realised within 100m of starting that I still had my buff on, but it was too late to do anything about it. After a while, the path flattened out a bit and we had to head out across the grass, then we turned onto a gravelly path before passing the main building. At this point, the fastest runners started going past in the opposite direction. Finally, I reached the turnaround point and headed back towards the house. We were directed to the right and then I realised that we were going to head down the massive hill and back to where we started :-O

The sprint and novice events started just after the standard, so I was being passed by lots of faster runners. At the turnaround point, Jonathan cheered for me and then I started heading back up the hill. Urrghh! My legs always feel far stronger than my lungs (which I always assumed was a sign of how unfit I am – apparently, it’s more likely to be related to my asthma) but even my legs were feeling the hill. When I got out onto the field, I had a good look around and identified a suitable hedge for a ‘comfort break’. This is something that I would NEVER have done before I did cross-country running, but I thought that it might help me to get my head back in the game.

I felt better when I headed off, and tried not to think about the fact that I still had 2.5 laps to do.

The guys from SUTRI were looking very strong. Peter was totally focussed every time he blasted past me. On my third ascent of the hill, I saw and heard Stuart and Shriram. I shouted to them that if they were chatting they weren’t trying hard enough and then carried on.

Finally, I was on my last lap. Before I saw the course, I had been wondering how close to my 10k PB I could get (51:06), and even at the start line, I discussed with Sergio that I thought I might be able to do 55 minutes. On my way down the hill, my only aim was to go as fast as I could to try to get under 1 hour!

Run 1: 10k: 1:00:01 (69/76)

As I headed into transition, I knew I had to put on some more clothes. I was surprised that the sun had come out, so I rummaged in my bag to find my sunglasses. Usually, I am much better organised, so this lost me some time. After putting on my helmet, bike shoes, gloves and jacket, I headed out to transition. There wasn’t a clearly marked mount line, but we were told to head to the road and mount there.

T1: 00:02:09.70 (57/76)

We only cycled a very short distance before there was a left turn and we were straight onto a hill. Partway up, a man passed me and commented that it was cruel to start us on a hill. Unfortunately, at that point he heard a car behind us and decided that he had better to pull over quickly. His back wheel had not passed my front wheel and I had to swerve into the hedge so as not to be knocked off :-(

The route was much flatter for some time after the first hill and I was quite pleased with my pace, which was averaging over 28kph. I felt really happy as I had no idea what the second half of the course was like. I decided to try to take on some nutrition, but my honey stinger waffle was firmly stuck in its packet, so I licked the end of it and put it back into my bento box, praying that 1g of carb/sugar would give me enough energy to finish the race.

About half way, the route turned left and then became extremely hilly. About 4km from the end of the lap, I saw another cyclist ahead and could see I was making progress, which spurred me on.

I pushed hard to the end of the lap and felt quite confident that I could achieve an acceptable time.

Half way around, I saw Shriram with his bicycle by the side of the road. I asked if he was Ok, but didn’t quite hear the answer, so I offered him an inner-tube. (Later he confirmed that he had broken his rear mech hanger). This wasn’t any help, so i confirmed that I would let the next marshal know he had a problem.

At this pont, the girl I had passed seized the opportunity to pass me. I was unable to catch her again and a few kilometres further on, I was passed by another woman.

I was so pleased after I had climbed the final hill. I knew I had to start planning my dismount and T2. I undid my shoes and slipped my feet out

Bike: 01:55:15.40 (68/74)

I managed a reasonable flying dismount and then had to start running, which felt odd as my toes were very cold. I was surprised by how far the run was from the mount/dismount to the transition area. I was hoping that I wasn’t picking up too much debris on my socks. I was also a bit disoriented and nearly ran through the finish funnel, rather than into transition!

I brushed my socks off, slipped my trainers on, removed my helmet, jacket, buff and arm warmers and started running.

When I checked my splits later, I was pleased to see that T2 continues to be my best discipline. Even if I’m terrible at everything else, Graeme has made me good at this aspect!

T2: 00:01:16.50 (33/73)

It was quite a relief to see that there were still runners on the course, even if they were finishing their second lap.

This run felt tough. By the time I was nearing the top of the first hill, I was wheezing, so I got my inhaler out and had a couple of puffs. I was passed by a chap who asked me whether I was on my last lap. I misheard what he said and replied ‘yes’. By the time I had properly processed this, the runner had gone.

I was glad when I started descending. I could hear the cheers from SUTRI and ‘bike gang’ (Liz, Katherine, Stuart and Jenny).

I passed Jonathan at the bottom turnaround and then started heading back up the hill. When I had passed the supporters, I decided that I needed a walking break. However, I mistimed it and Coach Peter saw me walking. he shouted out that he thought I was better than that, which made me feel really guilty, so I started running again.

By now, most people had finished, so I had to dodge lots of people taking their equipment back to their cars, which was a little frustrating.

By the time I got to the flatter area on the field, I felt really rough. The only person who I was aware of being behind me, caught up with me and then passed me. I tried to keep up, but my calves were cramping and I had no energy left.

Eventually, I reached the final downhill. I mustered up as much energy as I could for a final sprint. I even planned how I would finish so that I wouldn’t have a dodgy finishing photo, but there wasn’t a photographer at the end :-(

I was passed a bottle of water and a medal and I was done.

I congratulated the lady who had passed me on her run and had a chat with her and her friends about my awesome kit as they had commented that they liked it when I was running.

Run 2: 5k: 00:36:02.75 (68/71)

I was 3rd in my age category (podium!) and 10th out of 12 female finishers.

I think the results may change and that some athletes may be disqualified as there are some pretty amazing 5k times there.

Final results: 03:34:44.95 (68/71)

Winchester Duathlon medal

Today I felt like I earned my medal.

Overall, I think Winchester Duathlon was the most brutal event I have ever done. I did the Dorset Endurance Life Coastal Half Marathon back in December 2012 – it was over 16 miles of going up and down the cliffs around Durdle Door/Lulworth Cove in Dorset, however, I was prepared for that.

The Try Tri Events guys organised a fantastic race (and I’m really grateful to them for helping with my disaster this morning), but I think I preferred the old run course because the route around Lainston House was like running up a mountain. The total elevation gain for the standard event was 809m (in comparison with Embrace Sports ‘Hell on the Hills’ which is “only” 471m!!!)

I enjoyed doing my first race with friends from SUTRI, most of whom achieving awesome results including winning the sprint and standard races – it’s fab to have loads of people cheering you on during a tough race. It was also great to give my new Team SOAS 2015 kit its first airing. I know everyone says that you should never try anything new on race day, but I’ve never had a problem with any of my SOAS kit, so I had complete faith it would be just as awesome today.

How was your weekend? Did you race?

Scilly Swim Challenge preparations

21 Mar

Scilly Swim Challenge

Stuart and I are very excited that we have booked our accommodation for the Scilly Swim Challenge – now we just need to book our travel over (probably via the Scillonian, a trusty little ferry that is older than me).

We have been issued with an outline plan for the weekend:

Friday 4th September:
1400 to 1600hrs – Registration for all, Portmellon Beach, Hugh Town, St Marys.
1800 to 1900hrs – brief and 1 mile acclimatisation swim from Porthmellon beach.

Saturday 5th September: (times may change)
0600hrs –  Meet at Registration point, Porthmellon Beach. Walk to Bar point (3.5km.)
0830hrs –  Swim Bar Point to  Higher Town (St Martins)  – 2 miles. Walk to Lower Town.
1115hrs –  Swim  Lower Town to Old Grimsby (Tresco) – 1.8 miles. Walk to New Grimsby.
1400hrs –  Swim New Grimsby to Church Quay ( Bryher) – 1 mile.  Walk to Rushy Bay.
1500hrs –  Swim to Samson (800metres). Walk to Stony Ledge.
1530hrs –  Swim to Porth Conger (St Agnes) – 3.3 miles.
1800hrs – Swim to Porthcressa (St Mary’s)- 2.2 miles.
Beach Reception/Free night.

Sunday 6th September
Contingency Day/Day off.  Evening Reception on Karma Hotel St Martins from 1700hrs (tbc) and awards.

I’ve added the mileage up (2 miles + 1.8 miles + 1 mile + 800m + 3.3 miles + 2.2 miles = 10.8 miles/17.4km) and as far as I can tell it is slightly longer than the listed 15km – hey ho, better value for money!

At the moment, the whole event still seems slightly unreal to me. My plan is to start training in earnest in May, after I’ve done Southampton half marathon, but I’ll need to combine my traning with a schedule that also prepares me for a half ironman. If I were just doing HIM, I’d be confident that I could manage my own training, but as I’ve never done a swimming evnet like this before, I’m hoping to get a bespoke training plan sorted.

Have you ever done a crazy long swim? What sort of training did you do? Do you have any tips that you can share with me?


I’m so excited…

20 Mar

…my 2015 Team SOAS kit has finally arrived:




I have my first multisport event of the year on Sunday (Winchester Duathlon), so the kit has definitely arrived at the right time… but I want to wear it all now. (I’m wearing the new hoodie as I type). I was going to be sensible and have a rest day tomorrow, but now I’m very tempted to go to Southampton parkrun tomorrow. If I take it steady, it’ll be OK, won’t it? Plus, if I’m slower people will have more time to admire my gorgeous clothes ;-)

Monday Morning Motivation – With a piece of chalk

16 Mar

3 minutes of inspiration.

A PB, +50% on a ride and a trip to the velodrome

15 Mar

Last weekend, I had a massive weekend.

It started on Friday with a leaving party for a work colleague, which involved being out late at the pub and some karaoke (but as usual, no alcohol for me, so no singing). It was a fun evening (although sad that Justin was leaving)… but not ideal race preparation as I didn’t really eat properly. A handful of peanuts and some oriental snacks doesn’t really make for a nutritious pre-race dinner!

Saturday morning started with parkrun. I’ve been trying really hard not to over eat and to eat as healthily as possible, so I was feeling quite light. Also, my asthma hasn’t been too bad and my running has generally been going well, so I felt like I could be on good form. I told a couple of friends that I was going for a PB, and as I hadn’t really dressed for cold weather (my favourite SOAS vest and a pair of shorts), I knew I had to run quickly to stay warm!

As usual, I started a little too quickly (running past a friend who is a 22 minute runner). I kept pushing up the first hill, but by the top I was feeling rough – I felt weak from not having eaten much and I was shattered. My friend Teri shouted at me to keep pushing and I complained that I couldn’t do it, but she encouraged me to stick with her.

parkrun 14 March

Thanks to Teri for pushing me © Lauren Lilly


I managed to push a bit on the downhill, but it wasn’t long before I got to the hill again (it’s a two-lap course). I kept pushing, but wasn’t confident that I would be able to get a PB, I was just hoping that I could get close to 25:00.

When I got to the top of the hill again, I decided to give it everything I had on the downhill. When I reached the bottom, I was trying to pace myself as the finish straight is quite long, but at that moment Patrick and Angela (a couple from my running club) went past and said something to me – I can’t remember what, but it motivated me to push and try to keep up with them.

Sprint finish photo

My final sprint © Lauren Lilly

I did the best that I could and put in a massive finishing sprint.


parkrun PB

parkrun PB

My splits were:

  1. 4:51
  2. 4:55
  3. 4:59
  4. 5:06
  5. 4:42 (plus a final sprint at 3:35/km)

I’m frustrated that I didn’t manage to get each kilometre under 5 minutes, but I’m really pleased with my pace for the last km.



This has led to my RunBritain handicap decreasing to an all-time low of 16.6. I am so happy that I am on peak form… and I still feel that I can achieve more.

RunBritain progress graph

RunBritain progress graph

As soon as I finished running, I had to change and get myself up to University of Southampton as I had signed up for a #thisgirlcan / SURC (Southampton University Road Cycling Club) bike ride.

When I arrived, my friend Roelie was already there waiting with another cyclist. I had chosen to wear a new pair of cycling tights that I have never tried before (some 3/4 length Castelli ones).  I had been worried that I would be too cold, but the sun had come out and with a fleecy long-sleeved jersey and a very cosy cycling jacket on I was overheating. Soon 4 other girls turned up and we discussed the planned route. Although the initial idea had been to do 30 miles, a 45 mile route was suggested. I’ve not cycled much recently, but as I’m going to be doing 60-70 miles a day soon, I thought it would be good training.

The weather was slightly strange – the sun disappeared not long after we set off and it was cool and damp. The pace of the ride was faster than I’m used to (~30kph for sections) and combined with my poor nutrition and the effort that I’d put in earlier in the day, I don’t think I was at my best. Roelie and I were both grateful when we had a cake stop at the 30 mile point in Beaulieu. I didn’t take a photo of my giant chunk of carrot cake in The Old Bakehouse Tearooms, so you’ll have to believe me that it was enormous.

Roelie had been struggling with feeling cold, so we swapped jackets for the ride back. I had been finding it a bit hot, so I was grateful to have a lighter jacket on and I think Roelie was pleased to be a bit warmer. It was also my first ride with my new cycle shoes that I got at Christmas. I think they are warmer than my lovely Pearl Izumi tri fly shoes, but I had on lightweight summers socks, so my feet were cold. I put on toe covers to cycle back and felt better.

When we got back into Southampton, I decided to continue along on the cycle path on my own as I was already running late and didn’t want to continue back up to the University with the others. The whole ride had been 71.25km

When I got in, Stuart and Jez were waiting. They had loaded up my Giant Defy with my panniers, so I had a quick drink and then headed out with them for a test ride. Jez is a very experienced cyclist, but he is also happy to chat to friends and enjoy the scenery, which was a relief as I don’t want to be holding him up on our trip.

As it was a grey day and I hadn’t eaten properly all day, we decided just to cycle out to Beaulieu and back. We took it at a steady pace of about 21kph. When we got to Beaulieu, we stopped at the Old Bakehouse (again), but this time I just had a pot of jasmine tea and a bit of Stu’s cake. Then we turned around and headed back. Overall, the trip was 37.17km, so I think it was my longest ever day of cycling :-)

On Sunday morning, I had signed up for another SURC/ #thisgirlcan activity: cycling at Calshot velodrome. Unfortunately, Roelie had too much work to do and had to pull out and I was feeling nervous before I went. When I got there, everyone seemed very confident. We were each told to choose a bike that was the right size. I chose a 52cm and managed to find a pair of shoes in my size.

I put on the shoes and then needed to adjust the saddle to my height. This was my first disaster of the day – someone tried to help me, but I clipped in and then managed to fall over – oops! In my defence, I’ve not used Look KEO pedals/cleats before and they’re just not like speedplay.

The first nerve-wracking part of track cycling is the realisation that there are no brakes on the bikes. I knew this in advance, but hadn’t really thought about it. We were told to cycle around on the flat and then get used to stopping by gradually slowing down and unclipping – at last a skill that I could manage.

Along with the other novice cyclists, there were quite a few girls who regularly ride with SURC. They were bustling around the track whilst we were learning the basics. They were then asked to come off the track, so that we could individually have a go. We were told to cycle around the grey part of the track a couple of time to help get our speed up and then to head onto the boards.

A couple of the novices had tried track cycling before, so they started first. I was the last one to go. By the time I started pedalling, I was shaking with fear.  Calshot is a 142m oval, so it is only 4m longer than the world’s shortest velodrome. As a consequence, it has especially steep banking: 48° and gets a special mention on Wikipedia because of this.

I cycled around on the grey part of the track, and encountered my first challenge when I realised that I couldn’t freewheel around the bends. This is what I naturally always do and I found it unnatural to keep pedalling. I completed two loops and the coach called to me to head up onto the boards, but I was feeling sick with fear and couldn’t do it, so I went around another time before slowing to a stop. I was told that I could have another go later, but I was so stressed and fearful by that point that I couldn’t do it. I felt frustrated with myself, but I was also having flashbacks to my crash in the Pyrenees, so I decided to call it a day. One day, I would like to have another go at track cycling and I’m proud that I didn’t wimp out before even going to the track, but on the day it was a case of #thisgirlcant

For some videos showing how steep the banking is at Calshot, visit:

Have you done any track cycling before? What tips can you offer to help me overcome my fear of crashing?

Diagram showing all of teh bicycles you might need


12 Mar


In the last couple of weeks, images such as this have appeared on the pavements. The first time I spotted one, I was on my bike (on the road, not on the pavement!) and passed by too quickly to read what it said, so as soon as I went out for a walk, I kept my eyes peeled to try to find one and read it.

Over the next week, I saw various new stencilled designs appearing on the pavements and guessed that they were part of the “My Journey” campaign.

Stencil saying "I love cycling because it makes me feel alive"

Stencil on pavement saying "I love cycling because it saves me money"

A quick google revealed that the images were part of a campaign to raise awareness of local travel options. As a keen cycle commuter, I’d love it if more people were to get on their bikes… I hope that this would then mean that more people put pressure on the local council to improve the cycling infrastructure.

Over several days a group of artists collected the quotes from cyclists and turned them into an inspirational mural:

Love cycling mural being painted

Love cycling mural being painted

Love cycling mural

The finished design looks great.

Read more in this news story: Mural lets Southampton bike rides show their love of cycling.

Monday Morning Motivation – World’s Top 25 triathlons

9 Mar

Have you planned your races for this season yet?

Worlds Top 25 Triathlons

Explore more visuals like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

What criteria do you use to make your decision?

Monday Morning Motivation – Life is a thrill – seek it!

2 Mar

“The only thing that lasts forever is quitting”.

“I may not be there yet, but I’m closer than yesterday.”

Scotty Boxa posts his own motivational messages every Monday.

Monday Morning Motivation – running is simple…

23 Feb


This helpful advice can also be used by cyclists and swimmers :-)

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