Team Abingdon Health Rides London to Paris – Introducing Marta

Marta Lasota

I’m 28 years old and live in Birmingham. I have always been a keen sports person with a passion for rowing, team games – basketball, volleyball, football, handball and swimming.

In Dec 2014 I had my first child and I felt that I needed a challenge to bring fitness back into my life. When I found out about the London to Paris event for Myeloma UK I got excited about the vision of doing it but I was worried that I wouldn’t find enough time for training as juggling around full time job, being a mum of 1 year old and training for 500km ride seemed impossible. I didn’t have a bike and haven’t been on the bike for some years which made me question my ability.

I actually wouldn’t class myself as keen cyclist either but I love the challenge and being able to raise money for a fantastic charity at the same time seemed like a one in the lifetime opportunity. Nonetheless my partner encouraged me to take part and I signed up. I have couple of months’ of training now under my belt now and feel more confident that I will be able to complete the challenge. I will need few days off to recover afterwards but I’m sure these 5 days will be some of the best in my life.

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My new chapter……

So its all been quiet for a long time now. I have been very busy working on new and exciting parts of my life including re-training and setting up a business now I am a qualified personal trainer.

Because my business is not taking up a large part of my time, I am using the blog on my business site for keeping people up to date.

Please like my Facebook page on;

https://www.facebook.com/redalertpersonaltraining/?ref=hl

Please let me know what you think of my updates.

Allie

 

Abingdon Health rides London to Paris for Myeloma UK

May 5th 2016 will see the start of an Epic adventure for 5 employees of Abingdon Health as they take on the amazing London to Paris (L2P) cycle ride to raise funds for Myeloma UK.

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Over the coming 6 months the team will be updating the fundraising page with regular blogs of what they are doing and how they are getting on with training. To kick off the first blog, Abingdon Health Global Product Manager (and L2P Abingdon Health Team Captain), Allie Park introduces herself and explains why she is taking on this challenge.

“I am a 39 year old from Northumberland and I have always been quite active but as a real food lover I have always struggled a little with exercise / food balance. A few years ago I decided I needed to make a real effort to drop some weight and get healthier so as a ‘non-swimmer’ I thought entering a triathlon would be a good laugh – sink or swim so to speak! A couple of swimming lessons helped give me some confidence and luckily, on my first triathlon (a very low key ladies only event) I managed to not sink! Albeit I half swam, half doggy paddled, until I got around the 400m open water swim.

Fast forward 4 years and since then I have taken part in countless triathlons from sprint distance to Ironman’s. So why, you may think am I doing a 5 day cycling event for charity? Well, having started out needing a lot of help with my training I realise how important it is for novices to get help and support from other cyclists, and as I’m also coaching and personal training people myself now, I thought it would be great to a part of a team doing an event for such a brilliant cause and be able to offer support and advice along the way.
We have a real mixed team coming together for L2P and that is what makes it so special People that wouldn’t normally consider them as ‘cyclists’ want to take on this challenge to help raise money for a really special cause and improve their fitness and cycling ability in the process.

The event itself takes place over 5 days with 4 days of cycling to cover the 500km distance. The final day culminates with rare and privileged finale, entering Paris is one massive peloton under police escort as we ride up to the Arc de Triomphe and to the final destination of the Eifel tower. I am excited and proud to be captain for such a great team of cyclists from Abingdon and I look forward to introducing them all on the blog one by one over the coming weeks”.

To make a donation online through the following website:
https://www.justgiving.com/Abingdon-Health/

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Race report for Ironman Wales

The lead up to Race week
Ironman Wales has been on my hit list of races to do for quite a while and after an winter of knee and shoulder injuries I decided to swap my planned June race of Ironman Nice for the later race of IM Wales in September. This would give me 3 extra months training to get back to full fitness and build the distances slowly. That was the plan anyway, but as always, even the best laid plans don’t always work out. This year saw me working longer hours than ever before and also going through a very big life style change transitioning from living alone in a 3 bed house all kitted out for training with no one to answer to other than the dog, to a life living with my boyfriend in a house the same size where both of his girls have a bedroom, so goodbye turbo in the front room with the huge flat screen TV and hello cold, dark garage. That being said, I am very happy that my life has taken this turn, but it did mean training took a back seat for most of the year, and hence, I have never felt so under prepared for a race as I did Ironman Wales. Six weeks before the race saw me change jobs too with a fairly substantial career change which was an awesome opportunity but obviously meant that last six weeks training never really happened!

In August I had a weeks annual leave and was in Tenby to practice the race course. This has to have been the most emotional training week of my life, I spent several of the long rides and run sessions questioning what I was doing and in tears at how unfit I felt compared to training camps the previous year. The emotions and self-doubt all came to a final peak on a 4hr ride with boyfriend when I wasn’t hitting the targets that had been set. Just as I was crossing the road over the reservoir on the IM Wales bike course I pulled to one side and broke down in floods of tears telling Mark that I was going to withdraw from the race. He was fully supportive as always and told me he would be behind me whatever I decided to do.

That night I felt like a huge weight have been lifted from my shoulders and I drafted an email to my coach to tell him I was withdrawing. As always with big decisions I decided to sleep on it. The next morning, my feelings had not changed so that was that, the email was sent. Decision now made, I waited anxiously for a reply from my coach, and I also informed a good friend of mine that I was withdrawing. However, it seems my coach believes in me more than I do and when he received the email after ‘that’ bike ride to tell him I was withdrawing I was quite surprised when he said I should reconsider and make sure I was making the right choice for me. I genuinely expected him to simply agree with me that I was under prepared and say withdrawing was a good plan. At this point I decided withdrawing was still the best plan so changed my training camp into a lazing around the campervan camp. Being as I didn’t have proper wifi to get online other that the occasional bit of phone signal, I didn’t get around to withdrawing officially.

Two days later I had been thinking about the race a lot and thinking what a failure I would feel not to complete an Ironman this year after having a DNF at the end of last year from medical issues. Just as I was starting to have second thoughts, I got an email on my phone – the Ironman wales start list and athlete info. That was it! If the names had been published and were finalised there was no way I was going to get a DNS the year after my first DNF. I would have to complete this race no matter what! Time to change my goals from getting a respectable time to simply just turning up and crossing the finish before cut offs.

Race week
We went to Tenby on the Thursday before race weekend to give us a day or two to chill out before the race. By now I had enough time to get used to the idea of not ‘racing’ the event but simply going to Tenby to complete the Epic Ironman course and ‘enjoy’ the experience. The forecast leading up to the event was terrible, high winds and torrential rain, however as the days ticked by the forecast slightly improved and I think we had the worst rain on the day before when I went for my final short swim/bike/run session and got absolutely soaked through for an hour.

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Practice swim earlier in week

Race day
Being as Tenby is literally taken over by athletes and spectators for the week or Ironman the only taxi we could to the race venue from the campsite was at 4:40 in the morning, so this meant a 3:30 alarm to get up and prepared for the big day.

Heading into Tenby I felt relaxed but excited, I’m lucky not to suffer race nerves until the last 2 minutes waiting for the gun. We got to transition 15mins before it even opened, not a bad thing being as that with bike issues at Austria last year I needed every minute possible in transition to fix the bike before running to the start line with only minutes to spare.

Sun comes up over Tenby

Sun comes up over Tenby

All racked up and ready we walked over the beach where the start is and decided to stop in a café for a coffee whilst the sun started to slowly rise and light up Tenby. At around 6:30 we walked down to the beach and got set for the rolling swim start. I put myself in the 1:15 time slot as having previously done 1:07 but having the best year I thought this was optimistic.

Wheres 'W'Allie?

Wheres ‘W’Allie?

The Swim (1:21 – 10th in AG)
The swim was amazing. I have fallen in love with sea swimming. The course is 2 laps with an Australian exit on the beach where you get out, run along the beach for around 100m then jump back in for lap 2. The first lap was fairly flat until the first turn buoy then it got a bit bouncy. The swell on the water meant more often than not when you sighted all you could see was the water in front of you, every so often I would sight on the crest of the swell and get an amazing view of everything around me. All in all thought this made sighting difficult but looking at my gps I think I did ok.

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T1 (11:38)
Wales is famous for the having the longest transition ever, you actually leave trainers at the end of the beach and take your wetsuit off and put trainers on to run into the T1. I took my time to soak up the atmosphere, there are thousands of spectators lining the streets and cheering you along the 1km run to transition.

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Bike (7:44 Still 10th in AG)
The bike course in Wales is amazing, one long lap which is fairly fast and rolling with a couple of hills, then 2 laps of a very hilly course. Even at rural isolated stretches of the course there is great support with farmers families sitting outside the gates of fields to cheer and support, there is even one couple sat in sofa held aloft on a forklift tractor. Having done Bolton and Austria races I have say Wales is my favorite for support and scenery on course, I think only a race in Scotland would top it (Celtman already on the race list)!

The bike went fairly smoothly up until around 100km when I experienced ‘the bonk’. Having never suffered with a ‘bonk’ before I can safely say I now know what it’s all about now. I stopped at two feed stations and grabbed some powerbars even though I knew they weren’t gluten free, I didn’t eat them but put them away for reserves just in case! I managed to chuck down even more carbs than the 55g per hour I was having already using gels and RaceRX energy drink and I seemed to come out the other side of it. The last half hour of each of the 2nd and 3rd laps is amazing, you drop down into Wisemans Bridge and then you face the worst hills of the course, a steep climb out towards Saundersfoot and then a long tight drop into the village before another tough climb out of Saundersfoot. The final climb out is a very steep hill which is lined with supporters in a tour de France fashion so even if you want to overtake someone you can’t as the crowds only allow a single rider through at time, I had a man in a pink tutu chasing me up the hill shouting at me – will never forget that one!

T2 (5:11)
I was very pleased to get of the bike as by the end I had gone numb pretty much everywhere and was looking forward to getting of that saddle.

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Run (5:52 Dropped to 16th in AG)
The run course at Wales is 4 laps of a 10.2km loop, there is not a single bit of flat, it is all either up or down hill so it’s not a fast course. However, I have run a lap of the course several times so at least I knew what to expect. The first lap went well, took it nice to steady to get my HR down and was sipping a bottle of RaceRX I had in my T2 bag. I got around the first 10km lap at a nice steady run only walking the aid stations. At the 10km point, just after I had seen Mark again (the best supporter in world, he did me proud) I started to flag, my stomach started to cramp so I decided to walk up the long climb to New Hedges until I got the portaloos! I had 4 gels with me for the run in my tri suit pockets but unfortunately they fell out of my trisuit on to the floor of the loo – and there is no way I was picking them up, imagine Glastonbury loos at the end of the week and you’ve got an idea of an ironman loo at 15hrs into the race! I decided to try drinking water and flat coke to see if that would settle my stomach, unfortunately it made matters worse and I was now walking longer sections than I was running. As soon as I would run, my stomach would cramp and I would have to walk to the next aid station where the loos were. By lap 3 I was actually just waking, I was managing about 20seconds of running between aid stations/cramps.

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When I saw Mark at the personal needs area before starting lap 4 I got some gluten free oat cakes and my jacket of him from and asked him to join me on my last lap. He walked alongside me for the last lap and I was honestly surprised about how many people were walking. By that point nearly everyone was walking. My walking is actually quite fast and we had a bit of a joke about how I managed to keep up with two people who actually ‘jogging’ albeit mainly on the spot it seemed! Mark was an absolute star and walked at the side of the course for the last lap patiently waiting for me at every aid station loo…. It was a very long last lap. My watch showed I spent 49mins of the marathon stationary, that’s more time In a portaloo than anyone wants to experience.

2km before the end, I threw my jacket back into the personal needs area and thought to myself I am going to run the end of this marathon no matter what. That last 2km was amazing, I am welling up writing about it. The supporters in the streets of Tenby are amazing, they are what make this race so special. Every pub had groups of people outside cheering and hi-fiving you. I had one guy kept coming and walking/running alongside me and each lap he was more and more drunk. A town full of drunk pub goers and every one of them friendly and supportive to the athletes.

I finally saw the magic red carpet and heard Paul Kayes voice on the microhphone. I had my longest ever red carpet moment hi-fiving all the kids (and adults) on the finish line chute, I aero planed my way down that carpet knowing despite all the odds being against me I had a race I will never forget. A final hi-five of the main man himself, the legend that is Paul Kaye. The pain is more than I have endured at any other race, the time is the longest I have been out on a race course, it is 3 hours slower than my IM PB, but it is a race that I did for ME and one which the memories will last forever.

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Tenby – I will be back for more in 2017!

The hardest medal ive earned to date The hardest medal ive earned to date [/caption

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Hertfordshire County Standard Distance Triathlon Champs

Another 4am wake up call to get sorted, have breakfast and walk the dog before getting to Stanborough lakes for registration at 6am. 

We had quite a showing this race, myself, Ali, Lucy and Pippa for the girls and Mark, Eugene, Michael, Gerry and Tijil for the guys. The course for this race was exactly the same as the sprint champs had been only double the laps, so a 2 lap swim (1500m), a 40km bike (2laps of 20) and then finally 4 off road laps of a undulating grass course (10km).

As my training has taken a back seat to career, family and niggling injuries this year I knew I wasn’t going to superfast or get a PB but was looking forward to a nice local race.

In the swim – nice and steady and I felt like I as doing well, until the end when I thought we had to go around a long float at the end of the lake but I could see coach Musty shouting and waving at me to get out – oops!  No worries though, a 31:10 swim including the run into transition. 

Off out onto the bike, wondering if my bike would behave itself as I’ve yet to have a race or training camp on my bike where the wheels / bike frame combo hasn’t caused problems. Early sat morning after a short ride my back brake had completely locked up again, but thankfully my local mechanic sorted it for me ready for Sunday morning.  The bike went well, brake was rubbing slightly and was annoying but wouldn’t have changed my time at all, however going over a very big pot hole on lap two my saddle saddle dropped down. Thus made for an uncomfortable second lap.  No woman overtook me on the bike and I passed a couple so I knew I had done ok.   Apart from Tijil who is just ridiculously fast on a bike, none of my squad mates passed me either so I knew they would all have the pleasure of crushing me on the run instead. Happy with a 1:20:29 – its not a flat course and  felt I did well.

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Not the best saddle position

Now for the run – well the run hurt. I had a stich in my side on the first, second and half of the third lap so I wasn’t happy, it eased off near the end so I think I picked up the pace a little for a strong finish. Run time of 48:23 – oh dear!

I wasn’t feeling confident in fitness for this race so it picked up my confidence a little ready for ironman Wales this month to come in 4th female and to win my AG and get a nice trophy for Herts 35-39AG champion.  So now I’m Hertfordshire champ for sprint and standard distance so I am pleased with that and happy for Tijil to also win his AG meaning Squad S4F came third overall in the club championships.   Well done squad, everyone did coach Musty proud.

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Matching pair for sprint and standard distances

Got home to discover I had stepped on glass coming oout of the swim and had a nasty cut on my foot, so a quick visit to minor injuries unit to sort that – oh well its not like I’ve got an ironman in 2 weeks or anything………Ooops!

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Ironman 70.3 Exmoor – the Epic Wimbleball!

Race report for Wimbleball

Wimbleball was my first ever long-distance race back in 2013. Much as I had prepared for it following a 6month plan, I wasn’t from an endurance sport back ground so it has to said, come race day I struggled and it was the hardest thing I had ever done up until that point. After the race I vowed that I would return to compete again once I was fitter and had more racing experience.   So after several more middle distance races and training for 3 Ironman distance races I decided that I would take on the mighty Wimbleball again this year. My 3 objectives in order of importance to me were;

  1. Reap my revenge on Wimbleball – it killed me last time, I had to finish feeling that I was the victor this year!
  2. Do a sub 2hr half marathon
  3. Get a sub 6:30 race time

New Race top complete with RaceRX logo

In the months leading up to Wimbleball I had several niggles, my knee problem had got much better since February but then it went on me again about 5 weeks ago so I hadn’t done much running and I had that in the back of the mind. I also had a toenail fall off 1 week before the race so again I wasn’t sure if that would bother me, however, in the week leading up to the race I was feeling really good, my knee felt stronger and I was very surprised that in the space of only a few days my toe healed so well I couldn’t even feel that I had lost a nail.

Race morning I woke up, and for the first time in a long time, I didn’t have that feeling “why do I do this?” as the alarm went off at 3am. I actually sprung out of bed raring to go and really excited for the race, even though it was forecast for heavy rain all day.   We got to Wimbleball lake and did the usual pre-race bike checks and before I knew it, it was 6:30am and I was standing in line in my wetsuit in the rain waiting for the official march down to the lake.

Swim (34:56)

My swim went well – I felt relaxed the whole way through, got a bit battered at the first turn buoy but continued with a nice easy rhythm. The time wasn’t anything amazing and far from a PB for the distance but it was an improvement of 7 minutes over my 2013 time. Happy with the swim, I ran up the hill to transition (it’s a long run) and spent some time wrapping up as it was by now raining very heavily so opted so a waterproof, arm warmers and a jersey.

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T1 (5:17)

Bike (03:45:11)

Heading out on the bike was chaos, it is very narrow single track roads around Wimbleball lake so that paired the large puddles and usual mount line chaos meant it was a slow start but I was soon peddling away on the route and I took my time, having ridden this course once before in a race and twice on a training weekend with my friend Claire (all 3 times in the rain might I add) I knew what was to come so I was in no hurry to power off up that first hill. The first lap was pretty much constant heavy rain, my boyfriend Mark had waited for me to get out of the swim then headed out onto his own training session riding part of the course in reverse so it was nice to see him when I was around 2/3 way around the first lap. On the second lap I felt great, I was still smiling and thanking all the marshals and generally having a lovely day out in the countryside in the best of British summer weather. I think having had quite a few training rides in the rain this year had toughened me up to the elements, knowing nothing would ever be as bad as hitting the top of the Le Col der Fer in an electric storm and having a treacherous 30km descent in torrential rain with my training squad buddies only a month before this seemed to make the rain almost non existent. I was a little annoyed at one point that my chain dropped off the chain ring just before hitting a hill so I had to dismount to sort that but other than that a fairly uneventful bike leg. Once I hit the end of the second lap and knew It was a fairly flat 7 or 8km to home so I put the power down a little bit and passed loads of people in that last stretch all of who looked like they had overcooked the hills and were suffering. Into T2 looked at my watch and knew I hadn’t pushed it hard enough as my time was pretty similar to the last time I raced, albeit I raced on a triple chainset last time and now ride a 56,39 chain set with a 26 cassette so not the ideal hill set up I have to admit! Still, I was a minute faster, and improvement is improvement and means my coach and I know now we can push my HR levels much higher in coming races.

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Run (1:58:27)

This year, I seemed to have learnt to push harder on runs than I have been able to previously. Not sure how much of that is learning to suffer and how much is due to the fact that since being diagnosed with autoimmune disease and going gluten free I now don’t have any gastric distress. That said, my plan as always was come out of T2 (03:51) at a slow jog to allow my HR drop and take on some fluid and fuel (a bottle of RaceRx), however the pacing part of the plan didn’t seem to work, I went slow but my HR would not drop to the level it was meant to. At this point I felt really good, my legs were killing me but I knew that feeling would pass, mentally I felt good and physically I knew I had a strong run in me. I made the bold choice to ignore my HR plan, this was a tough call as in Majorca I ran to plan exactly and had an amazing run….however, something felt different and I made the decision to use the plan but instead of HR levels used perceived exertion. I am pleased to say I nailed it – lap one was steady, lap 2 I surged a bit and powered away feeling amazing, lap 3 I had a slight lull early on but spent the majority of it feeling great again and it was my fastest lap. Stupidly I thought a half distance was a 20km run so at 18km put my final gear into action and then at 19.5km saw a sign saying 1 mile to go – I wasn’t sure if I could hold the pace for another full mile but I did, and ended up crossing the finish line with a huge smile on my face knowing I had, had an amazing race ad taken a good 12 minutes of my previous run time and achieved my 3 objectives for the race.

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 18.29.04Overall (06:27:42) 10th in my AG, and 25mins better than in 2013

So was it the race of my life?? No, I didn’t push hard enough on the swim or the bike but I am 100% happy with the outcome and really pleased with the progress I am making. This race was up there with Majorca 70.3 in terms of how I felt I performed, now I need to work on pushing harder on the bike to improve my times but not to the detriment of my run. Hopefully this has set me up well for IM Wales in 10weeks from now, it has done my confidence a lot of good and I am genuinely excited to see what happens in Wales.

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Thanks as always goes out to our squad sponsors; Triathlon Zone of St Albans, MPG, Bowller and HKR Architects.

And special thanks to my personal sponsors RaceRX for providing me the best ever race fuel to get me through all this training and my races (http://www.goracerx.com/)

The Hertfordshire Triathlon Club Championships

DSCN0121 It was with a bit of a sigh that I set my alarm clock on Saturday evening. A wake up call starting with a 4 is never my best start to a day. My third weekend of racing in a row after an exceptionally busy work week which saw me missing the majority of my planned training sessions – poor planning on my part – but I was looking forward to another sprint race.   Being as I had just done a middle distance race the weekend before I told myself not to think about this weekend as a competitive race but to have a fun race with my squad mates.

We had a team of 6 racing at the event – Cameron, Gerry, Dan, Myself, Lucy and Pippa. In addition to the athletes we had quite a big support squad with wives, children, non-racing squad members, squad sponsors, and 2 canine cheerleaders!

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The swim was a 1 lap 750m swim in Stanborough Lake – my local lake being only 4 miles from home, but I’ve never been there before the race as they don’t hold regular swim sessions anymore. It was cold but I managed a couple of minutes warm up whilst waiting for the start. I seemed to get off on the gun quite quickly from the front row but was quickly swamped and in the middle of a crazy mix of arms, legs and fists again. Luckily I don’t mind getting into the thick of it and until my swimming improves its something I have to stick with, as I like starting at the front. I got out of the swim in decent time and a quick glance behind me made me realize I was quite near the front (13:51).

Onto the bike – and because of the gravel path run out to the mount line and the incident I had with shoes on the bike last weekend I decided to do an old fashioned mount, putting bike my shoes on in transition and just running with my bike in my shoes (51s). The mount area was a bit of a mess, the mount line was at the bottom of a 5m hill with a 90degree left hand turn at the top of the if so the marshals’ were all shouting to make people push bikes to the top then mount, this then meant there was around 10 people trying to mount a bike, on a single bike width section of road – it was chaos! Anyway, away we went and all went smoothly for a round 2mins before I heard a very worrying sound on my bike – I couldn’t work out was it was but it was very clanky and felt like my rear brake was binding again….. As it was a 20km ride only I decided to ignore it. Part way in to the bike Gerry went cruising on by at a point where I was sitting upright trying to work out what was about to fall off my bike, he did say afterwards it was making quite a noise! About ¾ way around the bike the noises all seem to stop and the bike seemed to have settle in so I smashed the last 5km or so overtaking quite a few woman. After finishing the race I realised what the noise has been, one of my brake blocks had been loose and then had fallen of meaning I wasn’t braking pad on disc, I was braking brake fixing on tyre – needless to say my tyre is now ruined.   I was pleased that on the bike course I was only over taken for about 4 or 5 people – all of them men! There is a short out and back turnaround at the end of the bike course and so I saw Cameron and Gerry on this so I gave them both a shout of encouragement (42:51).

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Into T2 and I quickly dumped my bike, got my shoes on and off I went on the run (35s).

The run is a 2.5km lap, which you do 2 laps of, mostly on grass and mainly flat with the exception of one big hill at the end of each lap. I felt like I was going strong on the first lap and passed lots of people but then it was hard to tell if the people were from the sprint race or the Olympic distance athletes that had set off earlier, on the second lap I kept going strong and finished with a hard sprint – it hurt but it wasn’t anything near as tough as the St. Neots sprint where I literally was doubled up in pain afterwards. Run time was 21:48 – not a PB but happy with that considering it was my third race in 3 weeks, last weeks being a hilly middle distance. Overall time was1:19:58 and I was 5th female and 1st in my AG. The results sheets however didn’t tell you your position so I was really surprised when they called my name out as AG winner to pick up a medal and even more surprised when they then called my name out as Hertfordshire 35-39 Champion, and I got a lovely trophy for that. Overall a great race but I am glad that I’m not racing for a couple weekends now – lie in’s beckon!

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