Monday Morning Motivation: Schuyler Bailar

11 Dec Schuyler Bailar

Schuyler Bailar’s story is inspirational – he gave up the opportunity to be an Olympic medalist to be true to himself. He was recruited to Harvard as a female, but has found peace after transitioning to male. I hope that over the next few years he achieves success in all areas of his life.

In 2016, the International Olympic Committee ruled that transgender athletes could compete without undergoing surgery. This policy made history in the sports world, welcoming a new generation of athletes into the Olympic family.

Schuyler Bailar is an athlete on the men’s swimming and diving team at Harvard University. This is his story.

Schuyler: I’ve just always loved being underwater.

Schuyler: When I jump in, the water’s always cold, and it kind of shocks my system into, like, being quiet for a second. Sometimes I just kind of stay underwater for like a second too long, and it’s always that kind of moment of, “This is the only thing I’m supposed to be doing right now. This is the only place I need to be.” That brings me a lot of peace, I think, that I don’t have in my daily life.

Baltimore, Maryland

Terry Hong, Schuyler’s mother: OK, who wants tea?

Schuler and Gregor Bailar, Schuyler’s father: Tea, I want tea. I’ll have some, please.

Terry: OK.

Gregor: What kind of tea?

Terry: It’s green tea.

Schuyler: That’s when you took my braids out, right?

Terry: That was in West Virginia.

Gregor: Schuyler’s swimming started in the bathtub.

Terry: He was just always so comfortable in the water, and before he learned to walk he was swimming on his own.

Video footage: Go Schuyler!

Schuyler: I don’t know if I’ve ever thought of myself as a talented swimmer. When I was younger, I wasn’t very good. There were a lot of people who were bigger and stronger than me, but I’ve always worked hard.

Schuyler on video, age 12: This is my bird Chico. I’m Schuyler, this is Jinwon…

Gregor: Schuyler was a tomboy. He was much more comfortable in cargo pants and a T-shirt than anything else.

Schuyler: People handed me skirts, and I would throw on basketball shorts. Or, like, people handed me the word “girl”, and I would hand them back “tomboy”. It wasn’t like I thought about it a whole lot, until it became a thing that people said, “Oh, like Schuyler’s different,” or, “Schuyler doesn’t do other things other girls do,” and then it became conscious to me because I was like, “If I do these things, people are going to see me as a boy. OK, I’m going to keep doing them.”

Schuyler: When I was younger and my coach told me I could be good, and my mom and I were watching the Olympics that same year, I watched all of the women swimmers at that point, and their chests were really flat, and this was the point where my breasts had started growing, and I remember being like, “Mom, how come they don’t have any boobs?” and Mom was like, “Well, when you exercise that hard, like a lot of female Olympians don’t have boobs, because they don’t have enough fat in their body,” and I was like, “Oh, my God. This is incredible!”

Schuyler: At that point, that was a huge fear of mine because I knew that my body was about to be kind of taken from me in a way that I didn’t want it to, and so there was definitely a huge point in my thought process where I was like, “OK, I’m going to be good at swimming.”

Gregor: Schuyler’s swimming career kind of took off in high school… and he started breaking records both in the local area as well as at the national level on a relay team.

Schuyler: I think when I was younger I was intent on doing things because I liked them, but I got lost in high school, and started just doing things because I wanted to do well in them.

Gregor: Schuyler broke his back the summer before his junior year, and junior year is recruiting year for swimming, and so it was actually quite emotional.

Schuyler: Up until that point, I had used swimming as my everything. It was my release. It was my pleasure. It was my social life. It was my motivation. It was my… my day. It was definitely a way to block everything else out. Breaking my back broke me. I fell so far into depression, eventually an eating disorder, um, and a lot of it was because I didn’t have another way to release anything, and I didn’t know how to deal with my own feelings. I had never had to sit down and really think about who I was or what I wanted out of the world. I didn’t have any words to explain why I felt so uncomfortable with my body, and the biggest thing was that I did have everything I needed. I was doing really well in school. I had just gotten recruited to swim at Harvard, and I had gotten accepted into Harvard. I had made the National Age Group record. I was swimming fast, and I was like, “What is wrong with me?”

Gregor: There was no gender discussion, by the way, at that time. It was just all about, um, getting to know who he was and getting to fix some of these issues, and we found a facility that seemed to be a match with that.

Terry: He graduated, and then the day after, we went to Florida where we took Schuyler into the facility where he would spend 131 days, and he did a lot of really difficult work there and… started the process of becoming whole.

Schuyler: At treatment you’re not allowed to do any behaviours. They keep a very close watch on you, so I literally had zero ways to cope, and had to talk about my feelings, and had to talk about how I felt and my identity, and that was the first place that I was finally able to say that I was transgender.

Schuyler on video, aged 18: Hey, guys. Um, so I’m Schuyler. I’m about to start my physical transition. Um, FTM, female to male. Er, and I thought that it would be good to document it.

Schuyler: It took me another year until I told most of my friends, and asked them to call me male pronouns, and refer to me as a boy, and kind of solidify the idea of like, “Oh, this has actually always been me, and I’m not actually, you know, changing myself. I’m just presenting the truest part of myself.”

Schuyler on video, aged 18: I’m going to be swimming next year in college. Um, so that makes it complicated because I want to transition as soon as possible, but you can’t swim competitively and take hormones. So what I’m gonna do… ..er, is get top surgery. So I…

Schuyler: When I was allowed to have top surgery, it was probably one of the best days of my life.

Schuyler on video, aged 18: You kind of see that, you know, they’re there. I hate that.

Surgeon: Let’s take a look in the mirror, OK? So, big difference.

Schuyler: Yeah.

Surgeon: You can see…

Schuyler: I thought that it was going to be me transitioning, and being true to being trans, or me being true to me being a swimmer, and that was really hard because I thought, you know, “Both of these are me.”

Terry: It was an agonising decision for Schuyler to consider giving up everything he had worked for his whole life, in terms of his swimming. It was really hard to realise, “Oh, I’m not maybe going to be this champion swimmer that I thought I was going to be, that everyone told me I was going to be.”

Coach Kevin, Harvard Men’s Swimming and Diving: I first heard of Schuyler through Stephanie Morawski. She’s our women’s head coach of swimming and diving. Stephanie and I had been talking about Schuyler, and some of the issues that Schuyler had outside of swimming. Once we got to a point where Schuyler was thinking of transitioning from female to male, Steph kept me in the loop as far as that was concerned. I did work to educate myself as far as NCAA rules. We found out that it was perfectly acceptable for Schuyler to compete for Harvard Men’s Swimming and Diving. I had conversations with the young men on the team, and everybody was open to the idea.

Schuyler: The men’s coach was like, “Well, if Schuyler identifies as male, and I have a men’s team, and he wants to swim, why doesn’t he swim for me?” But I almost said no because I was so scared of the possibility of losing everything, because, yeah, I’d be able to swim, but I would transition, and my body would be different, and I would lose all of my accolades as a female athlete, and all the potential I had as a female athlete. That was really scary to me because I had worked really hard to be successful at swimming. At that point, I decided, “OK, I’ve got to take this risk. I’ve got to try to be myself because maybe that will make me happy.”

Coach: On your mark, go!

Coach: You’re doing a better job not slowing down in your turns, but let’s get a bit wider in the foot placement for both you guys.

Coach: Schuyler is one of the most determined athletes I’ve ever met in my life.

Schuyler: Hey, Matt, will you start me?

Coach: Not only as a swimmer but, more importantly, he’s an exceptional human being and a really good team-mate. The grit and determination that he’s shown is remarkable, and it’s helped me not only become a better coach, but a better parent and hopefully a better educator at Harvard.

Coach: Your best swimmers have that feeling that this is something they can’t live without, and I think Schuyler can’t live without being in the water.

Schuyler: Five years ago, swimming meant 100%, unequivocally, everything to me. I think over time, I’ve learned to have a bit more balance than that. My family has never shown me a lack of love, and that has been what’s kind of kept me alive. When I ended up biting the bullet and telling my very conservative Korean grandma, she said, “Schuyler, you can be a son. You can be a brother. You can be a husband. You can be a boy, a man, but Korean daughters take care of their mothers, and now your mom doesn’t have any daughters so you have to take care of your mother and your parents,” and I was like, “OK. I can definitely do that.” I have those words – take care of your parents – tattooed on my side, under my scar, next to my heart in my grandmother’s handwriting. She wrote it for me for the tattoo, and she was very excited about it. “Thank you for taking this eternal vow for your parents.”

Terry: I don’t remember the Baltimore harbour like this.

Gregor: Let’s get a picture over here.

Schuyler: Picture?

Gregor: Of us three.

Schuyler: Got it.

Gregor: OK, let’s keep walking.

Terry: Let’s keep walking.

Gregor: Keep walking before we freeze.

Schuyler: When I came out as trans, and when I decided to swim for the men’s team, I told people around me, my coaches, my parents, my friends, that I was going to be open about it. When I was younger, I had no role models or people to look up to and say, “Oh, I can do this.”

National Association of Independent Schools Congress

Schuyler: I love motivational speaking because I’m really invested in sharing my story, and sharing the possibility for this kind of happiness and this kind of peace with yourself, especially with something so complicated as being transgender, but also so simple as just wanting to be happy.

Administrator: Hello.

Host: Yeah, um, Schuyler Bailar. He’s a speaker.

Host: In so many ways, Schuyler’s story represents the stories of the remarkable young people whom we all teach on our campuses, but his story has a unique distinction. As the first openly transgender athlete to compete in any sport on an NCAA division one team, he has been willing to share his story globally. His willingness to share his insights are why we are so pleased he is with us today, and I ask you to join me in welcoming Schuyler Bailar.

Schuyler: Thank you so much, everybody. I’m so happy to be here. I’ve spoken at high schools and middle schools, elementary schools, and colleges, but I’ve never actually spoken with just administrators before so this is really cool. Allowing me to be myself at every step of the way from my coaches, my teachers, my parents, has saved my life, and it’s why I’m here today. I want to just take you back to when I was a kid. I was always a water baby. I’ve swum since the time I could walk.

Schuyler: Swimming has been the hugest part of my life since before I can remember, and being true to myself as a trans person is also hugely important to me. When I used to interact with somebody, it was always, “Who are they going to think I am?” And now I just walk into the room, and I’m just myself. If I can be naked in a Speedo and expose my trans-ness to everybody, you can do your thing too.

The Guardian: Schuyler Bailar, Harvard’s transgender swim star: ‘I’m really proud of who I am’

 

Monday Morning Motivation: Ironman 2017

4 Dec Kona podium 2017

Watching the coverage of the Ironman World Championships is inspirational… but most people don’t have 17 hours to spare, so this highlights video that focuses on ‘ordinary people’ may provide motivation for you within 10 minutes.

The island may not care who they are or why they came. Its currents can wash away resolve. Its winds are known to blow away hope. Heat and humidity – they can be a cruel and unforgiving combination. Yet the island provides strength. It is a mystical place where incredible things happen. Where a movement began and the spirit of Ironman was born. It is in this ocean, among these lava fields and along Ali’i Drive that what began as unimaginable has become so much more.

Swim 2.4 miles; bike 112 miles; run 26.2 miles; brag for the rest of your life.

It began with some words. An idea on the back of a napkin. For thousands, it is now a calling.

“The waves may crash upon us, but we will push through.”

“The winds may howl on race day, but so too will we.”

“The sun will beat down upon us, but we will rise up.”

With the spirit of Aloha, they are unified in their belief that anything is possible.

Music: “Be brave. Go face-to-face. What will become of you? Is everything you need beneath the armour and the rivalry inside, I’ll stare it straight in the eye. I’ll rise up above the fight; up above the fight, cause I believe in making dreams come alive. I’ll put up a fight.”

“Go Ironman! Wooo!”

“Awesome! Fantastic swim!”

“Just a little bit left to go!”

180 km/112 miles: this World Championship bike course can be cruel, especially on the long climb to Hawi, where the heat and potent combination of unforgiving winds test your commitment.

“I’m on my honeymoon, so it’s a great place to be!”

“I ride for a charity called Imerman Angels – we match cancer survivors with somebody who was just diagnosed with cancer.”

“I’m riding to find the limits – I think I’m gonna find them!”

“We’re so fortunate and lucky to be here. You just have to be into it and smile the whole day.”

Music by Pinkzebra: “See the light of a new day dawning. Feel the love from a beating heart. You catch a ride to the top of the world. This is where we start. No, we can’t make it last forever. We got to use all the time we have. And you know that we’ll never say never, if we ever get the chance and it’s good to be alive. It’s good to be alive. This feeling’s running high. Life is calling and the world is beautiful. There’s a winding road we’re choosing. Looking for a brand new day. And up ahead there’s an open door. Now we’ll find our way… and it’s good to be alive. It’s good to be alive. This feeling’s running high, life is calling and the world is beautiful.”

Music: “City of Heroes”

There is just one discipline standing in the way: 26.2 miles/42.2 km. Not all will make it, but all will give it everything they have and that is a victory in itself. As always, this is when it becomes mind over matter.

For those who care to dream, anything is possible. For those still on the course, their finishing time is secondary. It is midnight, 17 hours after their race began, that is now their focus.

“You are an Ironman!”

What sporting event inspires you?

Monday Morning Motication – Rick and Dick Hoyt

27 Nov

In 1962, Judy Hoyt gave birth to a son with spastic quadriplegia and cerebral palsy. Judy and her husband Dick were advised to put Rick in an institution, but they decided to fight for his inclusion into a normal life. At 10 years old, they managed to get Rick his first interactive computer, which allowed him to communicate with others.

In 1977, Rick told his father that he wanted to participate in a 5-mile benefit run for a Lacrosse player who had been paralysed in an accident. Dick agreed to push Rick in his wheelchair. That night, Rick told his father, “Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not handicapped.”

Since then “Team Hoyt” have competed in over 1000 races, including 6 Ironman triathlons as well as marathons, duathlons and other triathlons. They also completed a 3735 mile/45 day cycle/run trip across America in 1992.

You can read more about Team Hoyt on their website: http://www.teamhoyt.com/

Monday Morning Motivation: Iron to the Core

20 Nov Sebastian Kienle

Decorated long-distance triathlete Sebastian Kienle gives an inside look at what it takes to be an Ironman. From preparation to race day, it’s a life spent enduring gruelling trials, but every small success makes the arduous journey worth it.

Iron to the Core video

IRONMAN World Champion! The man in the focus right now!

SEBASTIAN: My name is Sebastian Kienle. I am the IRONMAN World Champion 2014. I want to have this title back!

NARRATOR: The Ironman World Championship Hawaii. It is the greatest endurance race on planet earth! A 2.4 mile swim in Kona harbor. The bike track, crossing the lava fields. It’s a 26 mile run. No man ever did it in less than eight hours.

SEBASTIAN: You seem to run against this wall of humidity and heat. It’s raining pretty much every day in Kona. Sometimes I guess the drops don’t even reach the ground. They just turn to steam before that. You have this idea of yourself running and kind of flying, you know, and there you are not flying. You’re not flying. In the race you are sometimes crawling. You think you are super fit. You did all those crazy sessions before you go there and then you arrive there and your heart rate is, like, ten beats up at the same pace. Ten, 15 seconds slower per K.

The bike is definitely my strongest discipline and I just love the speed on the bike. It’s amazing how fast humans can go just by their own power. It just seems like the right amount of speed you need to cover a big distance, a big area, but it’s still slow enough to be able to look around and inhale the atmosphere of the place. I guess that’s why a lot of people ride their bikes, right? Even if they are not able to win IRONMAN Hawaii.

I’m a strong biker, I have definitely some talent with biking, but I take progress in biking for a given, you know. It gives you so much when you make this little progress. It’s just very rewarding when you have to work very hard for a very small progress and you finally make this progress.

Swimming is definitely not my strongest discipline and I have to invest a lot of time. Lubos is always with me the whole time. We spend pretty much six weeks there, prior to the race. It definitely takes a lot of trust in each other. Lubos is not only my coach, but he has to be the psychologist and friend and everything in one person.

SEBASTIAN: It’s a pretty intense time there. It has some really, really tough days where you doubt everything. Lubos is pretty good in shifting these roles as a friend and as a coach. He has no mercy when it comes to hard training sessions.

SEBASTIAN: He also knows me well enough to see when it’s too much and that’s very important because at a certain point you lose the feeling of how hard you have to go and how hard is too hard. So, you need somebody that is able to realize what the limit is and we are working at the limit there. I have 100% trust in him and that’s very important. In the early morning, before the race, we have our routines. My coach Lubos, Christine and me, we are a great small team. Of course a lot of focus is always on the guy that wears the number one.

ANNOUNCER: Race day at the 2015 IRONMAN World Championships in Kona, Hawaii! This is the dawn we’ve been waiting for.

SEBASTIAN: You work so long and so hard and now you have to show the world what you have got.
(EXCITED CHATTERING)

ANNOUNCER: The battle between reigning champ, Sebastian Kienle, and fellow countryman, Jan Frodeno!

SEBASTIAN: The iron war, that was what everybody was hoping for.

ANNOUNCER: And off they go!

SEBASTIAN: My swim was absolutely great, coming out just a little bit under two minutes behind the leaders. That was what we were dreaming of.

ANNOUNCER: Sebastian Kienle, on his bike now!

SEBASTIAN: I was so excited after this great swim. It just set this positive mindset at the beginning of the race, which is absolutely important. That could make or break your race! I was really aggressive at the start of the bike. I wanted to close the gap as fast as possible!

ANNOUNCER: Kienle is flying through the field!
SEBASTIAN: You could definitely break the other guys on the bike, dominate the race, dictate the others your race.

ANNOUNCER: Kienle passes Frodeno, he leads the field!

SEBASTIAN: If it’s hurting me, it’s killing them.

ANNOUNCER: Such an intense race!

SEBASTIAN: Usually that’s the way it is on the bike! Not this time. I probably killed myself this time.

Sebastian Kienle

Yeah. And I was trying and I was attacking and I was prepared for the fight against him. The iron war. That’s what I was trying. It was this small doubt at the end… especially at the end of the bike. It started to get bigger and bigger. There already I realized that I probably don’t have the day I need to beat a guy like Jan. When your body is weak, you can’t fight against these negative thoughts any more and then it’s game over. Every step is just pure pain and it’s so difficult not to quit. When you have the goal of winning the race and you start to realize that this is probably not going to happen, then it’s very difficult to find reasons why you should keep going. But yeah, I am absolutely happy that I finished the race, because I know the relief only stays there for a couple of minutes and then it’s the worst thing in life for the next month.

ANNOUNCER: Kienle crosses the finish line, 8th place for the German. One hell of a day for last year’s champion!

SEBASTIAN: For me often it’s better to have this sensation of losing. It motivates me way more than the sensation of winning.
(SOUNDTRACK DROWNS THEM OUT)

So, I try to keep that as a positive thing from the race and that I was still able to finish the race. Even when I didn’t win a race, and I’m a professional, so I have to win races, I have the feeling of… I’ve done it, you know? I succeeded, I crossed the line, I finished the race. And that already gives you the sensation of a great achievement and that’s what separates this sport from a lot of other sports.

Sebastian Kienle

Fuerteventura, Las Playitas. This is probably my third home. I guess it’s definitely one of the best places for me for training. Where I put in all the base miles you need to get into race shape later in the year.

Even if triathlon might be a very self-centered sport and you have to race for yourself, training in a group is always way better. You have to use the sort of competition you have in a race, also push yourself in hard training sessions. I like to surround myself not only with good athletes, but also good people, of course. It’s great to call most of them friends. Those are the guys that push me to the limit.
(DISTANT ROAR OF CROWD)

ANNOUNCER: The IRONMAN European Championships! The biggest race in Europe.

SEBASTIAN: The whole race was just a rush. Messed up the swim and came back on the bike. I wanted the victory so badly.

ANNOUNCER: Sebastian Kienle makes it! He wins the race! A true IRONMAN!

SEBASTIAN: The pain is over, there’s like an explosion in your head. It’s pretty emotional. (CHUCKLES) Yeah.
(CHEERING)
Lubos and I, we are on track. The goal is Ironman Hawaii. It’s this spark that starts the fire, you know, this positive thought that gets bigger and bigger and it’s getting better and better. You start to do things you are… you don’t think you are capable of. That’s where the greatness happens. I hope for greatness this year.


In 2016, Kienle came 2nd behind Jan Frodeno and in 2017, Kienle came 4th. Maybe 2018 will be his year again.


Thank you to everyone who’s voted for Fat Girl to Ironman so far – there’s still time to cast your vote in The 2018 Running Awards.

Nominated for The 2018 Running Awards. Please vote for me.

I managed a sprint tri in the space of a week

13 Nov Fitness instructor course materials

I really thought that I was going to get back into a routine of work, training and blogging with M starting nursery… but three weeks in and her attendance is 25% 😦 The poor thing has picked up every illness going and shared it with the household, so I’ve not had a lot of free time.

One thing I have been doing is getting out on my bike. I’m really enjoying my cycle commute – I had forgotten how much I love my quick trip to work, although it’s definitely more challenging with a trailer – and the logistics of adding it on and removing it have taken a bit of getting used to.

I’ve got back to doing a bit of swimming, starting off with a lunchtime swimming session with Liz and then a week later, I did a 1 hour swim set on my own. I really need to plan my swimming sessions more carefully (and ideally swim more than once a week). Hopefully, I’ll soon be able to swim at the weekend as Stu and I are planning to take M to the pool on Sundays. It would be good to also schedule a midweek swim session.

Last week we went to Southampton parkrun, where I had a steady run. I spoke to a few people on the way around and was pleased that my time wasn’t terrible.

parkrun 04 Nov 2017

This week it was my turn to run with the buggy, so I joined Rachel, Phil and Felix. We started off at a slow pace because of the congestion, but definitely picked it up by the end of the run. I’m not as fit as I was, so it felt really difficult.

parkrun results 11 Nov 2017

I love the chance to talk to so many friends at parkrun. I had a quick catch up with my friend, Teri, and we agreed that we need to schedule in some social runs. We discussed perhaps going for a run on Sunday morning, but I decided to have a lie in instead. It was the right decision as I felt shattered.

On Saturday afternoon, we drove down to Bournemouth to go to the Primera Cycle Expo at the BIC. I’ve been a couple of times before and have picked up some real bargains. This time, there was a lot of Sugoi kit for sale at bargain prices (£5 per cycle jersey and £10 for shorts!)… but everything was in enormous sizes, which was disappointing. Maybe we needed to go earlier in the day. After checking out the reduced kit, Stu, M and I walked around and had a look at the bikes. I still really like the look of Kuota bikes and the paintwork on some of the Specialized bikes was gorgeous… but what really caught my eye were the adorable Cannondale Lefty balance bikes. A sales assistant kindly got out an Allen key and put the saddle down so that M could have a go. She is still a tiny bit short, but I think by Easter, it may be possible for her to have a balance bike. (However, I can’t afford to fork out £200, so it’s more likely to be a bike from Decathlon than a new Cannondale!)

Cannondale Lefty balance bike

One of the most exciting parts of my weekend was visiting Bournemouth University to pick up some course materials. Next weekend, I  take the first step on a new career path (although I love my job as a learning designer and can’t see me quitting that any time soon!) I’m going to be doing a course to become a Fitness Instructor, so I’ve been busy studying anatomy and physiology in preparation for the course. It’s a bit challenging as I haven’t studied any biology since the age of 13, but I’m really motivated and excited to be learning.

Fitness instructor course materials

On Sunday afternoon, Reena and Mike came over to collect the Mountain Buggy running buggy that we took to Australia. I hope they enjoy running with it as much as we did. Like me, Reena has a place in London Landmarks Half.

Afterwards, we went and watched some of the cyclocross at Southampton Outdoor Sports Centre. I had planned to watch the event a year ago, but ended up back in hospital that afternoon instead, so I was pleased that I got to see some of the action as well as meeting friends.

In the evening, I read that there will be a new route for Southampton 10k, half marathon and marathon in 2018, which sounds exciting. I loved running the marathon this year, but I think I’ll drop back to the half in 2018 as I’ll be running a marathon in July and don’t want to have to sustain the training for that long.

Hopefully, things will settle down a bit for me in the new few weeks and I’ll be able to get into the swing of regular swimming, cycling and running with a yoga class thrown in for good measure. It’s not going to be easy fitting in blogging and studying, but I’m sure I’ll find a way!


Because of baby M’s illness, I’ve not been online much this week, so I was late to visit Rafflecopter to draw the winners of Haseeb Ahmad’s book From Blind Man to Ironman – apologies! The lucky winners who will each receive a copy of the book are:

Sarah Wakely

Michelle Dorrington

Congratulations, ladies! The books will be in the post to you very soon 🙂

 

Monday Morning Motivation: Island House Triathlon

13 Nov Island House Triathlon

The 2017 Island House Invitational Triathlon will take place at Highbourne Cay in the Bahamas on 17th – 18th November. It will be staged as three events over the course of two days, awarding $500,000 in prize money.

There are four British women taking part: Leanda Cave, Rachel Joyce, Holly Lawrence and Emma Pallant. Sadly, the only British male entrant, Tim Don, has had to withdraw following an accident a short while ago.

The format of this event is really interesting with a super sprint time trial and an enduro race (run, swim, bike, run, swim, bike, run) on the first day and a sprint pursuit on the second day.

I think it’ll be really inspiring to watch… does anyone know if it will be possible to see it live in the UK?


Thank you to everyone who’s voted for Fat Girl to Ironman so far – there’s still time to cast your vote in The 2018 Running Awards.

Nominated for The 2018 Running Awards. Please vote for me.

Monday Morning Motivation: Flatline to Finishline

6 Nov Flatline to finish line

One in three people will suffer from heart disease in their lifetime, but only one in a million will thrive from it. HEART: Flatline to Finish Line® is the raw and emotional journey of six individuals from hospital beds to the finish line of one of the world’s most grueling endurance events, the IRONMAN® triathlon.

Director David Watkins flatlined on the operating table- his heart stopped for 5 minutes. For an otherwise healthy man in his thirties, a congenital heart defect nearly proved fatal. After being revived and surviving a subsequent stroke, he became determined to do something with his second lease on life.

Heart surgery is an all too common event. Before long David was meeting people from around the world with similar stories. All had something to prove. This is the story of 6 survivors daring to take on an improbable feat and prove to the world they still have the heart to overcome any obstacle that gets in their way.

This feature-length documentary will take you on a journey of despair and triumph, of sacrifice and glory. Featuring original music by indie darling Cloud Cult, and interviews with some of the biggest names in endurance sport and cardiology, it will inspire you to examine your own life and encourage you to fill it full of HEART.


Thank you to everyone who’s voted for Fat Girl to Ironman so far – there’s still time to cast your vote in The 2018 Running Awards.

Nominated for The 2018 Running Awards. Please vote for me.

Monday Morning Motivation: Joe Skipper – Getting the work done

30 Oct Joe Skipper

Joe Skipper is the fastest British long distance triathlete, having finished Challenge Roth in under 8 hours, so I thought it might be useful to hear about his training schedule in this video that was released in February 2016.

I’d normally get up around eight o’clock, sometimes a bit earlier. To be honest, since I’ve had my injury I’ve actually been getting up a little bit later and it’s made a big difference because I find I’ve recovered a lot better, so even when I get back training I’ll probably get up around eight o’clock, half eight.
Normally the first session of the day is around half nine, nine o’clock maybe as late as 10, but the earliest would generally be nine o’clock and the latest would be 10. It’s pretty consistent every day.
Session One [Four mile run]
The first session is an easy four mile run. I did a big session last night where it was a bike-run brick session where we were pushing the pace hard. I take Maisie out with me on my easy runs, if she’s up for it. Sometimes she doesn’t want to come. She sees me putting my trainers on and getting the dog belt and she’ll just walk the other way, but today she was up for it, so she came out and joined me for my four mile run.
I live on the outskirts of Norwich. It’s a fantastic area for training. A mile away I’ve got the University, which has a 50 metre swimming pool, a 400 metre running track (which you can use any time you want) and also on my doorstep I’ve got the trails which go around the university and the lake and there’s eight miles if you run around the perimeter, so you’ve got eight miles of off-road running.
A typical track set we would start off at the early winter where we do more volume, so we would do 10-11ks on the track and that might be – just picking a session here now – might be 4x1k with a minute rest and then 4×800 with a minute rest as well then going into 8x400s. So it was quite shortish rests with trying to run pretty hard, whereas now we’ve kind of changed it for the next six weeks, so this Monday on the track we did 4x1k and then we had three minutes rest and then we did 4x600m and we had two minutes rest. So there’s more recovery. We’re training running pretty hard.
My long run progresses as the winter goes on. So at the start of the winter, when I’m not as fit, I might run 13/14 miles, but it will just be a steady pace. Then each week, I’ll try and build on it, so it might be 14 miles, 15, 16 and then the intensity will go up as well. So last year, when I was at my fittest, before the ITU Worlds, I did seven miles steady and then 13 miles at a decent intensity where I was running hard and then a mile warm down and that was a 21 mile run. There’s a saying isn’t there, “You can turn the miler into a marathoner, but you can’t turn the marathoner into a miler!”
Session Two [Bike Drills] [3:50]
The next session of the day, after the run, is about an hour on the bike. This is quite an easy pace, but I try and do some drills in this one, so I’ll do single leg drills: five minute sets on my right leg; five minutes on my left leg and then I’ll do five minutes high cadence work, followed by five minutes of low cadence work. And then to finish it off I’ll do another five-minute drills on my right leg and then five minutes on the left leg. Yeah, it’s a pretty standard session and that finishes the second one of the day off.
The key hard sets at the moment on the bike are I’ll do a VO2 max session. So, for instance, yesterday we did one where we did 8×1 minute efforts with one minute rest, which was really hard. Then we did a set afterwards with a 2 minute effort, 2×1 minute efforts and 2×30 second efforts and we repeated that twice, that second bit. So that was one of the sessions.
Another one might be a tempo sweet spot session, where you’re doing 30-40 minutes at 90-95% of FTP – that would be another one. I’ll either go tempo generally, where I’m going 85-95% of threshold or I’ll go well above like 110 or 120% of FTP or higher. I won’t generally spend hardly any time at threshold.
I’ve been doing a lot of drills. I’ve been doing single leg drills where I’ll do maybe 30 seconds my right leg, 30 seconds with both legs and I’ll be five minutes like that and then I’ll swap to the other leg and do 30 seconds. I’ve built it up, so one session a week I’ll do a minute of each. So a minute right leg, minute off, minute right leg, five times on each leg.
Another type of drill that I’m doing is high cadence stuff, so where I’m trying to spin at 120/130 rpm or above for 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off. Sometimes I’ll do about 110/120 cadence, but for a five-minute block and also big gear work where it’s 55-60 rpm. Previous to doing all this, I’ve never believed in doing any of the one-legged drills or even high cadence efforts. I would just go out on the bike and just ride and just look at the power numbers and just stick to certain percentages of threshold, but since I’ve actually been doing that over the last three weeks, I’ve seen a huge increase in what my powers are, what I’m holding for certain intervals and I feel better on the bike, so I’m definitely going to keep it up. Even after just three weeks, I’ve noticed some big improvements.
I’m trying to do the drills on the TT-bars, because what I found is you can do the one-legged drills on the road bike holding the bars and it’s very easy, whereas trying to do them on the TT bike you really do get a lot of dead spots, so I kind of feel like you race on the time trial bars why not practice the drills and get your pedaling efficiency better in the position that you race in, so I’ve been doing a lot more on the TT bike for that reason.
Nutrition and recovery [7:21]
Rest and recovery between the sessions is absolutely massive for optimal performance. I know personally I’ve done a hard session in the morning if I literally don’t put my feet up, don’t have a kip or something during the day, then I just can’t get through the evening session – I’ll just blow up. I won’t even make it. It makes such a huge difference and getting good nutrition in as well, that makes a big difference, but they’re so important – they’re equally if not more important than doing the sessions.
I don’t have a strict plan where I’ll have a set amount of calories to eat during the day or weigh my food up for every meal, but I’ll just try and eat a well-balanced diet: lots of greens and good sources of carbohydrates and decent sources of protein after sessions. Certain sessions, depending on what I’m doing, I’ve been speaking to a nutritionist from Essex University, I’ll do them in a carb depleted state. I’m not going into massive scientific detail where everything is obsessed with, but it’s just eating a well-balanced diet generally and eating healthy good food when you finish your sessions and fuelling your sessions as well.
Session Three [Swimming/Gym] [8:54]
At the end of December, I had a big crash on my bike and haven’t been able to swim really until this week which we’re on now, so four weeks I’ve been out of the pool. I ruptured my ACJ (acromioclavicular joint) and I’ve been doing a lot of rehab stuff. Today: stretch cords. I’ll do two sets with them, so one set that strengthens up my rotator cuff for when I do get back in the pool and start doing the sessions and the other one is with the bands to try and do something similar, some similar actions to do what I do in the pool so I can try and keep that high elbow, that good technique and also work on the same muscle groups I would be if I was swimming.
On a Monday, I’d normally swim about 4-5km – that would generally be an easier session, because the weekend might have been quite intense. Tuesday would be a harder swim session That’d be VO2 reps. 100m… anything from 100m to 400m, but with decent recovery, so we normally try and take 25% recovery of what we do for how long the interval takes. Wednesday would be an endurance one, so that would probably be around 5k – longer reps – but just at a steady pace. Then on a Friday, I’ll try and do a strength one which might be about 4km, but with paddles that kind of thing. Then on a Saturday again it’d be another harder session where we might do a bit of tempo efforts and some high intensity ones to finish it off like some hundreds which are pretty hard and that would normally be around 4-5km.
Session Four [Bike/Run Brick] [10:37]
The last session of the day is a brick session and so I’ll do a 40-minute tempo effort on the bike, probably working at around 90-95% of FTP. I might do five minute blocks, where I’ll do 5 minutes, just under that and five minutes at the upper end of that and I’ll change it over the course of the 40 minutes and then I’ll do a run afterwards which will probably 10k, but just at a steady pace, see how you feel. I feel good, it’ll be a bit faster, if I feel bad it’s not, but it’s a bit of a social pace that one.
Aerodynamics is becoming a huge part in long distance triathlon, because all it comes down to is how much power you put out and how much drag you produce, so if you can get a 10% increase in aerodynamics, it’s basically the same as increasing 10% of your power output, which is so hard to do.
I want to get into the wind tunnel this year with Boardman and see if I can get some good improvements on the bike, but looking at what my power is and how much it’s improved each year if I can, say, get another 15 watts on the bike this year, if I can get on my position and they save me 15 watts as well, that’s as an extra 30 watts. Even if I did a fast course like Roth, I looked at the data of what Best Bike Split said that Andrew Starykowicz would have needed to break four hours and they reckon he’d need 330 watts. I mean I think I can hold 315/320 if I keep my cycling going as it is and I don’t know if I’d be more aero than him, but if I was then four hours is on the cards, isn’t it?
I’d assess my performance in Kona as average. I don’t think it was good; I don’t think it was bad. My swim was where I would have thought I would have been: on the back of the chase, the third pack in the water. My bike, I was actually surprised that I was so close to the fastest bike split because I did the whole thing completely solo. I was never in a pack for any of it, so I was quite surprised by that, considering the power numbers weren’t very good. And then the run performance, it was a bit of a letdown. I think that was because the heat was so bad on race day because, prior to race day, even when I was training out there, I was hitting some good times. I was running quite fast on some of my runs, so I was fully expecting to do a really good run. I thought I might actually struggle a bit on the bike, so it wasn’t that great but that’s just because I know I can do so much more. So that’s why I would say it was average. I didn’t blow up, so it wasn’t disastrous, but I know there’s so much more to come.
While my ambition has got to be to win it, who would say they want to get finished second? You go there, you give it your all. You aim for the stars and if you fail you lands in the clouds.
Stepping up from the amateur ranks to professional ranks is quite a big jump up and at the start it’s pretty tough because you haven’t got much. You’re not really getting in the prize money and you’re not up there at the top end of the races. You’re not getting the big sponsorship deals and all that kind of thing, but you have to really commit and take a chance and put the work in day in, day out.
I’m motivated by going as fast as I can. Seeing what I can do, how fast you can go on the bike, how fast you can run, trying to break your PBs and just setting records, seeing what you can do.

Thank you to everyone who’s voted for Fat Girl to Ironman so far – there’s still time to cast your vote in The 2018 Running Awards.

Nominated for The 2018 Running Awards. Please vote for me.

Illness stops play

29 Oct London Landmarks Half

My plan for last weekend was to go swimming on Sunday, but M was unwell, so we cancelled that plan and went for a long walk instead. She was ill all week and I also had a cold, which changed my plans.

I cycled to work on Monday and Thursday, which was good, but I didn’t manage to fit in any other running or swimming during the week.

On Saturday, Stuart, M, my mum and I all went to parkrun. It was my turn to run with M, so we decided to run with my mum. My mum has been really unwell recently and has not been able to do her usual exercise, so she found the run harder than usual. I was really impressed that her final time was within a couple of minutes of her PB.

Southampton parkrun 28 Oct 17

Today, we went out for a long walk, which helped me rack up a good number of steps (almost 15 000).

Hopefully, M will have a ore successful start at nursery this week and I’ll be able to start my new exercise programme. I’m planning to swim with Liz tomorrow and to run with Sarah later in the week before putting in a couple of hours of training on Friday.

I had a reminder that the London Landmarks Half is now only 5 months away. I’ve not planned how to get there or anything yet, so that might be a task for the next week.

London Landmarks Half


Thank you to everyone who’s voted for Fat Girl to Ironman so far – there’s still time to cast your vote in The 2018 Running Awards.

Nominated for The 2018 Running Awards. Please vote for me.

Running with a buggy Q&A

25 Oct Eastleigh 10k

I’m regularly asked questions about running with a buggy (and other issues relating to being a running mum), so I thought I’d share some of my insights and some useful links in a single post…

parkrun 14 Oct 17

Do I need a special buggy?

It’s recommended that you only run with a buggy that is designed for running. There are a number of different brands available at different price points and you can also pick them up second-hand. The most popular ones that are available in the UK seem to be Out N About Nipper Sport, Thule Glide and Bugaboo Runner, but you can also buy running buggies by Mountain Buggy and BOB… and Thule Chariots can be used as running buggies (if you buy the conversion kit).

There are a number of specialist sales groups on Facebook where you can find a second-hand running buggy, including:

 

How do you deal with punctures?

Baby M is nearly a year old and her buggy had its first puncture recently. I wasn’t with her at the time, but Stu dealt with the puncture in the same way that he would on a bike – he replaced the inner tube. It is possible to fix the puncture with a patch, but they’re not always reliable.

Some people choose to slime their tyres, but I’ve never done that on a bike and am capable of dealing with a puncture, so don’t intend to go down that route. If you aren’t confident that you can replace an inner tube then it might be the right option for you. Essentially, if your inner tube gets pierced, the slime covers the hole and solidifies, so you don’t need to replace the tube.

 

I’m not a runner, how can I keep fit?

You might want to try Couch to 5k, which is available as podcasts or an app. It is a sensible way of building your running up to 5k (3.1 miles). If it’s been a long time since you’ve exercised, you might want to start off by walking and gradually increase the amount of time or number of times you walk each week.

You might also find a Buggyfit class in your area. There isn’t one in Southampton, but I attended ParkLives Buggy Mums classes, which are similar, whilst I was on maternity leave. If you’re in Hampshire, there’s also BuggyWorkout in the Winchester area and a Buggy Workout class at Fleming Park in Eastleigh.

 

Are there any online support groups that I can join?

There are several Facebook groups for buggy runners:

(There are plenty of other local groups, such as East Midlands, Hereford, Birmingham, Nottingham, Fairway, Brighton and Hove, Poplar, Somerset, Rissington)

 

Can I take part in any races/events?

There is some confusion about what the UKA (UK Athletics rules) state about whether buggies can be used in races, and it seems to be left to each Race Director to make their own judgement.

I’ve found that the best place to look for races is Buggy Friendly Running Events (UK) – a closed Facebook group. You might also want to look at parkrun – buggy and wheelchair friendly courses – a public Facebook group.

 

I’m breastfeeding – is it OK for me to run?

The evidence seems to suggest that there are no detrimental effects relating to breastfeeding and running, but plenty of benefits. (https://kellymom.com/bf/can-i-breastfeed/lifestyle/mom-exercise/ ).

It’s not always easy to find a sports bra that’s suitable for nursing… and to find one that doesn’t break the bank is almost an impossibility. A lot of people like Brooks/Moving Comfort – Juno, but that’s quite expensive and only available in a limited range of sizes. A similar bra that is available in a much wider range of sizes at a lower price point is SYROKAN Women’s High Impact Full Cup Wire Free Lightly Padded Gym Run Sports Bra.

Have you run with a buggy? Do you have any tips that you can share?


Thank you to everyone who’s voted for Fat Girl to Ironman so far – there’s still time to cast your vote in The 2018 Running Awards.

Nominated for The 2018 Running Awards. Please vote for me.