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

 

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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

The ‘Beaver’ Middle distance race

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The Beaver (Belvoir) middle distance race

The beaver is a middle distance race I’ve heard a lot about over the last couple of years and it’s always gets a good report so I decided to enter this year as an early season warm up race. Friday afternoon we drove to Belvoir castle to check in to the hotel we had booked. We went over the race site and I was instantly taken by how relaxed the whole event seemed.  I took a look at the lake, which is rumored to be the muddiest swim you will ever do in a race but it looked beautiful.  I didn’t have a plan in mind for this race other than to get around it comfortably and hope my knee wouldn’t play up on me being as this would be the longest run I had done since I started rehab for a knee issue 3 months ago.

Race morning was soon here and I had my usual race breakfast of ambrosia cream rice, a very strong coffee and a bottle of RaceRx, we headed over to rack my bike and get ready to race.  Again, the atmosphere at this race was so relaxed and friendly, it was a really nice vibe.  At the race briefing the guy said if anyone gets into trouble in the swim, we normally recommend turning on to your back and raising one arm, however, in this lake we recommend you stand up and walk to the edge, haha, it really is a shallow lake then!

For the swim I was in the second wave and I positioned myself right at the front as usual, I somehow managed to get off on the gun much better than the previous week when I seemed to be overtaken in milli-seconds by loads of athletes.  The swim was fairly uneventful, a 2 lap course, was pretty slow and steady, I went hard for the first 500m or so to stay near the front then relaxed into a comfortable stroke for the rest of the 1.9km.

Out of the swim I was really happy, and started on the long run up the hill to transition – it’s half a km up the hill so the swim times reflect this as the timing mat is part way up the hill (Swim 34:56).  Into T1 (1:42) and I grabbed my helmet and ran of with my bike to do a speedy mount over the mount line, unfortunately I couldn’t get my freezing feet into the shoes on the bike and no matter how many times I tride they would go in so I had to stop, get of my bike, take the shoes of the pedals and out them them on then ride off – I felt a right idiot but needs must!

The bike course is lovely, mostly flat with a long steady climb about half way around, would have been a fast course if it wasn’t for the 20mph winds with 30mph gusts.  First lap I barely used the aero position as was trying to get a sense of how far over the road I would getting blown about, turned out not to be so bad as the wind was more head on, so whilst it made for a hard bike, it felt safer than side on gusts blowing you over so for the 2nd and 3rd laps I maintained a proper aero position for most of the course.   It has to be said I was pleased to get off the bike (2:45), T 2 was smoother and I was out on the run course (2:03).

The run course is 4 laps and I knew what to expect as mark had run it the day before as training so he told me it was basically one long hill up then a turnaround and one long hill down X 4 laps!

First lap I went really slow and steady and drank a bottle of ATF whilst letting my HR come right down, 2lap I turned up the pace a little and kept it pretty constant for the 3rd lap although my mind was playing games with me and I was having so of those dark thoughts you get on the long run legs of races, lap 4 came around and I thought ok, one more lap, let’s smash this.  My knee was feeling good, I had some energy left and I thought lets just go for it, I managed to pass a lot of people on this lap and was really pushing the whole way around. Just coming into the finish arena I sensed another woman behind me so went for a sprint over the finish – which hurt – a lot, but as it happens she looked about my age so I please I pushed that final 100m stretch. (1:50.)

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My initial reaction to the race was that my times were poor. Although I didn’t know what the course was really like or what was classed as a good or bad time, I hade guessed that because of the much shorter bike course than Majorca I would have been on for a 5:00- 5:05 race. I went to the timing tent to see what my splits are as was pretty disappointed looking at my bike and run, but then I saw a number 2 – I asked the guy, ‘what’s that then?’ and he said, ‘you got second place in your AG’! I didn’t believe him and muttered something about thinking I’d been crap, to which he replied, ‘oh well if you were crap, everyone else was more crap’, that really made me smile and made me realize you can’t judge or try and guess your race time, it is what it is on the day and there are so many factors that change even the same course one year to the next.   So whilst I still don’t think it was a great performance, overall I’m happy with my day – 2 early season races now under my belt and a nice trophy to show for it!

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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/)

Dog tags with sentimental value

Dog tags with sentimental value!

I have carried my dads wedding ring with me for 19 years now as a good luck charm and I’ve worn it for all major events in my life.  As I race ironman triathlon, carrying a chunky wedding ring around my neck was not always comfortable so I decided to have the ring made into something smaller.  As the ring is important to me I did not just want to give this to any jewellers in London where I now work and live and decided to ask Jo from Clusters what she recommend.  I’ve known Jo since she moved to the North East and trusted her to come up with some way of me able to carry my dads ring with me at all times. 

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What she suggested to do was to keep the metal intact rather than melting it down. Her idea was just simply cutting, shaping and polishing the gold ring into dog tags.  She also said this way, the original hallmark of the ring would remain intact on the back of one of the tags.  The hallmark tag was kept as the full width of the ring and engraved on the front with the word ‘Believe’. My dad also told me you can do anything you want with your life if you Believe in yourself, and training for Ironman has given that a whole new meaning.  The second half of the ring was split into to two narrow tags – one of these has been engraved with IMUK 2013, the first ironman race i took part in and it has my finishers time on the reverse.  The third tag is currently blank waiting for my next memorable date to be engraved, whether that be an important qualifying race time or a significant life event.

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I am over the moon with the dog tags and Jo also supplied me with the best chain for such valuable charms.  She recommended a chain made of palladium as this metal is incredibly strong meaning I could have a thin / light chain that was strong enough to take such charms.    

The overall result is perfect. I am very happy and would certainly recommend Jo’s services to anyone wanting some custom jewellery making.  Check out her website for more info.

http://www.clusters-jewellery.co.uk/

Thank Jo and the team at Clusters.

 x

The fourth discipline of triathlon….

The Fourth Discipline of Triathlon

I have heard many times as recovery being termed the fourth discipline of triathlon.  Many people talk about recovery runs, swims, rides, stretching, consumption of protein shakes etc. as recovery but what i’m going to discuss here is just plain recovery – i.e., rest and things we can do to speed up the recovery process (although obviously low intensity recovery training does that also).

I decided to write this blog whilst sitting in my cold bath cooling my legs after my long run on Saturday morning. I haven’t partaken in ice baths for about a year, but did so a lot during training for my first marathon and for some reason stopped it during the peak of my ironman training last year and i cant fathom why?  So anyway, after a couple of very hard run sessions in the last week and a couple of very poor sessions on the bike due to unrecovered leg muscles, I decided on Friday night I was going to give ice baths a try again for a couple months and see how it helps my recovery.

What Happens to your Body During Recovery?

Most coaches would say that building recovery time into a training program is crucial because it is in this time that the body adapts to the stress of exercise and the real training effect takes place. Recovery can also allow the body to replenish energy stores and thus repair some tissue damage. Any form of exercise can causes changes in the body such as muscle tissue breakdown and the depletion of energy stores in the muscle as well as fluid loss. For these stores to be replenished sufficiently and to allow tissue repair to occur, the body must be allowed to recover. Problems from overtraining can often occur from a lack of recovery time. Signs of overtraining which most of us will have experiences at some point can also include an increased risk of injury, among others.  For me personally, reducing this risk of injury is or prime importance – hence my new found interest in speeding up recovery in any way possible.

So the question / focus of this blog;

Does a post-exercise ice bath help recovery?

I'm sure this is good for us!!

I’m sure this is good for us!!

 

My latest ‘google’ research shows that;

Taking an after exercise plunge in an ice water bath (12 to 15 degrees ice water) is a common practice among many elite athletes as a way to recover faster, and reduce muscle pain and soreness after intense training sessions or competitions. From elite runners like Paula Radcliff to nearly all professional rugby players, the ice bath is a standard routine. In addition to the ice bath, some athletes use and contrast water therapy (alternating between cold water and warmer water) to get the same effect.

So, what’s behind the ice bath and does it really work?

The Science Bit! 

The theory behind ice baths is related the fact that intense exercise actually causes microtrauma, or tiny tears in muscle fibres. This muscle damage not only stimulates muscle cell activity and helps repair the damage and strengthen the muscles but it is also linked with DOMS (delayed onset muscle pain and soreness) which occurs between 24 and 72 hours after exercise.

The ice bath is thought to:

• Constrict blood vessels and flush waste products, like lactic acid out of the muscles

• Decrease metabolic activity and slow down physiological processes

• Reduce swelling/inflammation and tissue breakdown

Although there is no current protocol regarding the ideal time and temperature for cold immersion routines, most athletes or trainers who use them recommend a water temperature between 12 to 15 degrees Celsius and immersion times of 5 to 10 and sometimes up to 20 minutes.  Again – my personal preference is cold water – not iced water (although I did try using old 2 litre milk bottles of frozen water to chill the bath prior to getting in, I found this was so cold I could barely stay in 2 mins, so my own protocol involves water closer to 8-12degrees (depending on time of year, its pretty chilly at the mo!), and i stay in for 10 minutes (after having a hot shower first to wash)

The Scientific Research

There are loads of peer reviewed studies out there that have tried and tested the hypotheses, a few are listed below in references but I’m not going to bog this blog down in the details – for me, it seems to work, and the evidence shows it does work for a lot of people, some it doesn’t.  The evidence un-equivocally shows there is certainly no negative effects from using cold water therapy, so even if there is only a placebo effect – it it works for me, it works!

Cold Water Therapy – How to Do It

Cold Water Immersion

If you are going to try cool or cold water immersion after exercise, don’t overdo it. Ten minutes immersed in 15 degree Celsius water should be enough time to get the benefit and avoid the risks. I find that getting showered first then wrapping your upper body in a very arm fleece you can sit in a cold bath covering your legs quite comfortably for 10mins. I usually take a hot coffee in with me and my iPhone and before you’ve even finished a couple of emails and looking at twitter, bingo, 10 mins is up!

Whether the science supports the ice bath theory or not, many athletes swear that an ice bath after intense training helps them recover faster, prevent injury and just feel better – and I’m one of them (if you can cal me an athlete) so I’m going to give it the the next few months and see how I get on!

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References

Vaile, J.; Halson, S.; Gill, N.; Dawson, B., Effect of Hydrotherapy on Recovery from Fatigue. Int’l J. Sports Medicine, July 2008.

Kylie Louise Sellwood, et al. Ice-water immersion and delayed-onset muscle soreness: a randomized controlled trial Br. J. Sports Med., Jun 2007.

Vaile JM, Gill ND, Blazevich AJ. The effect of contrast water therapy on symptoms of delayed onset muscle soreness. J Strength Cond Res. 2007 Aug;21(3):697-702.

Step by Step

One small step at a time……

So it appears that most blogs I have read in the past few days are either about the last year or the coming year – thoughts, achievements, aspirations etc. All very thought inspiring stuff and very interesting to read but as way of doing something a little different myself, I thought I would reflect back on the little steps that I’ve taken over the last couple years to get me to where I am today in terms of my triathlon achievements and ambitions.

These are the 10 most important steps that have got me to where I am today (in triathlon terms not all my life) – many, many more small steps are still to be taken, but life is an on ongoing project and you have to the enjoy it one day at a time without trying to jump to complete your goals too quickly

Step 1 – Move 300 miles away from home to start a new life ‘Down South’

Back in 2011 I decided to change jobs and move down south to have a new life away from the NE and to be with my then partner, who was from the London area.  With this move I joined a new gym and I decided it would be a good idea to mix up my usual gym based routine with attempting to swim.  A couple of months of doggy paddle and weird ‘head above the water’ breast stroke later I decided this wasn’t going anywhere fast.

Step 2 – Sink or swim

By way of giving myself a reason to learn to swim, I booked onto a woman’s only triathlon with my good mate Lisa. I booked 3 swim lesson at my local gym, which gave me enough confidence to put my head underwater and start to do something resembling front crawl.  I managed to get around the 400m swim on the triathlon half as FC and half as doggy paddle/ breast stroke.  This was a massive achievement for me, and both Lisa and I were over the moon at completing our first triathlon together.  A day I will never forget, the emotion of crossing the crossing the fish line with our hands held together up high, a personal and joint Triumph for us both.

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Step 3 – Join a Tri club

Immediately after crossing the finish line with my friend – I knew | had to do more of this Triathlon thing!  I got home and started looking up triathlon clubs. That’s when I found out about Shires Triers and joined them for help and advice (http://www.shirestriers.co.uk). Through this club I have met some amazing people and the majority of my friends down in the South of the country I have met through the club – some of which I now class as my closest circle of friends.

Step 4 – Lose weight, get Healthy

Some of my new friends from the triathlon club had been commenting on getting leaner and losing weight by using a nutritionist’s advice.  I wanted to know more about who this ‘Sally’ was and what the plan involved, so I asked about the plan and emailed Sally myself to register.  Sally runs a business called Fitnaturally, the whole ethos of Fitnaturally is built on the foundations of eating delicious, natural foods and using the natural environment for training and exercise (http://www.fitnaturally.co.uk)

Through using Sal’s plans and advice I managed to lose a whopping 2 stone and shave off 9% body fat, I truly believe this weight loss is responsible for a lot of the extra speed I gained in running and cycling over the last 2 years.

The Before and After results from FitNaturally

The Before and After results from FitNaturally

Step 5 – First ‘Races’

In Spring of 2012 I entered the local RAF Halton Sprint triathlon. This was a pool based swim with an open road cycle and mainly off road/trail but flat run around the base of RAF Halton. This was to be the first triathlon I had ‘raced’ because during my first ladies only tri, me and my friend waited for each other after the swim and then cycled and ran together as a pair, back then we we wanted to simply survive a triathlon regardless of time.  Admittedly the Halton event was a very small local event and not a ‘high calibre athlete’ event, but I was over the moon with winning a £50 voucher as 3rd female and being 1st in my AG. In 2012 I also competed in my first Olympic distance races and a road marathon – in all of which I was very proud of my achievements and times.

My first (and only so far) triathlon prize - £50!

My first (and only so far) triathlon prize – £50!

Step 6 – Go Long…..

Most of the people in my Tri Club have done, or plan to do Ironman distance races, so it was only a matter of time before this rubbed off on me, so having completed 2 Sprints and 2 Olympic distances in 2012 I decided 2013 would be the year to go long!  I entered Wimbleball Ironman70.3 with a promise to myself that if I got around it relatively unscathed, I would go full distance and book Ironman Austria for 2014.  A few weeks before doing Wimbleball, I won a competition by Sport Pursuit (http://www.sportpursuit.com), where the prize was a place at IMUK!  This kind of threw a spanner in the works as it meant I couldn’t ‘race’ Wimbleball full out, as It wouldn’t give me time to taper enough for IMUK.  So at this point I enlisted the help of a coach and he recommended using Wimbleball as a long training day and practice for IMUK.  I successfully got around Wimbleball – although it hurt and I’ve promised to go back another year as I can say for sure that Wimbleball got the better of me that day; so I owe that race an ass kicking when I’m faster! None the less, I came 12th in AG and was 56th female, which I was quite pleased with for my first long race.  A few weeks later came IMUK; I was really looking forward to this as it gave me a practice at full IM distance before doing Austria next year in 2014. Again, I got around the race, learnt many, many valuable lessons that day and am still very proud of myself when i think about crossing the finish line.

IM UK finish line picture

IM UK finish line picture

I am fortunate enough to have this memory filmed by Sport pursuit so I never forget that crossing the finish line feeling. I again came 12th in my AG and was 44th female so was very pleased with my performance that day.

(http://www.sportpursuit.com/blog/tag/team-sportpursuit-ironman)

Step 7 – Get a coach

So as mentioned in step 6, I decided that if I didn’t have someone structuring my training and looking over me and guiding me, I was en-route to blowing up!  My training ethos had previously just been the more hours, the better! No structure, some hill reps but limited interval work and definitely not enough rest; one of the more experienced guys at my club is a qualified coach and has done many Ironmans himself.  He had previously given me some advice for my first marathon so he was an obvious choice and kindly agreed to be my coach. I trusted him 100% and he helped me get PBs and massive technical improvements in all 3 disciplines. I am very appreciative of the help and support and he gives me and respect him for the knowledge imparts on me.

Step 8 – Race, Rest and Recover

An important part of what my coach (Musty) has taught me is that recovery and rest are crucially important to endurance training. I now have a rest day almost every week and having had some injuries coming out of the 2013 race season, I now know that sometimes you have to bite the bullet and pull out of races if you don’t feel in perfect health. Aiding my rest and recovery now is also a great sports masseuse and physiotherapist – Claire Doherty, MD of back on track physio.  She sponsors me by providing regular spots massage and advice. (http://backontrack-physio.co.uk)

A much needed treatment from Claire

A much needed treatment from Claire

Step 9 – Enjoy the off-season

Like everything in life – ‘all work and no play, makes Allie a very dull girl’.

YES, to get faster you have to work hard, and YES this involves a lot of hours of training, but NO – you don’t have to beast yourself for 12 months of the year, and NO – you don’t have brag about how many hours training you’ve done a week, how hard you ‘smashed yourself today’ and how many miles you ‘thrashed’ out on the turbo….. there is a balance to life and there is enough time to brag about your mileage and how much you can punish yourself once into pre-race season. Why not get some base training in and enjoy the lies in, spending more time with friends and family (or in my case Will and the dogs).  There seem to be too many people afraid to have a drink or a mince pie (or 6) over the festive period because it might affect their performance in 6 months time.  It might, but its very unlikely to, and each to their own, but I actually want to have a life outside of work and triathlon too – at least for a few months of the year ;o)

We all know a 'Jack'

We all know a ‘Jack’

Step 10 – Be thankful

Finally and perhaps most importantly, be thankful; not just for what you have within your triathlon life, but also outside of it.  Within Triathlon, I’ve ben very fortunate to pick up sponsorship this year from the following companies;

Advanced TRI Fuel   http://advancedtrifuel.com

Azione carbon cycles   http://www.azione.cc/

Back on Track Physio   http://backontrack-physio.co.uk

Sports Pursuit   http://www.sportpursuit.com

One more to be announced later in January…

Aside from these companies who are kindly helping me through 2014, I am truly thankful for the friends and family that support me and put up with my moods and tiredness when training and general anti-social nature during race season.  It is your friends and family that are most important in life – if I were to decide to stop Tri tomorrow, they would be still be there for me tomorrow and fill the huge void that would be left if I didn’t train and race.

So here’s to a Happy New Year to one and all – put the negatives behind you, take the positives with you and aim to have the best year that YOU can. It’s your year and your life, aim to be the best person you can be in whatever way is important to you.

Here comes 2014 – its all about being faster than 2013……..

Weekend musings of a ‘sandbagger’

Weekend musings….

The last couple of weeks I have been thinking about races and goals for next season. As I have already stated in my blog, my primary goal in the next 5 years is try and qualify for the Ironman World Champs in Kona, Hawaii. This is a personal goal to me and I may or may not achieve it, but Ill do my best to make sure I know I did everything I could to achieve this dream, and if it doesn’t come to fruition, it wont be for the lack of trying.

It always amazes me that everyone in life has so many different thoughts, dreams, and aspirations but what still surprises me at times is what some will do to try and make false gains and claims in life. I like to think of myself of a humble person that counts my blessings and is very thankful for the things in life others can take for granted. I have always worked hard, and been ambitious but very grounded at the same time and I have never been one to accepts handouts, i paid for my first car, i work hard for my ‘toys’ and believe the old age adage of ‘you don’t get owt for nowt!’.

Within the sporting areas of my life I have been classed as a bit of ‘sandbagger’. This is not an intentional thing but just my nature, I will always talk myself down rather than big myself up, ‘selling myself or talking ‘a good race’ is not something I am comfortable with. In recent years since starting ‘proper’ training, my friends have all come to realise i don’t do this intentionally but as a newbie, to running and Tri i have tried to gauge my estimated race times by my training times, however as a naturally competitive person this doesn’t work for me and I tend to race a lot harder than I train, hence have some surprising results when I race – I am usually the person most surprised at the results!

What I cant understand is the way that other people can make claims of fame and fortune so to speak and ‘sell themselves’ as being something that they very clearly are not. To put oneself forward as being an achiever without evidence does not sit comfortably with me, whilst many it seems do not have such morals. There seems to be the opposite of a ‘sandbagger’, thats is the race ‘bullshitter’. The people that talk about what they are and what they want to be as the same thing. The ‘been there, done that got the T.shirt’ types who celebrate the T.shirt before its even designed let alone earned and worn!

Anyhow – all of this aside, I discovered this weekend I apparently have qualified to race for the 2014 ETU European Long Distance championships. I’m not 100% certain with how all this qualification malarky works, but I’ve been told its all to do with how you close you place to the winner in your age-group – and on those grounds, I’ve qualified! So what I have to do now, is put forward my entry and see if i’m picked to race for Team GB. It all seems a bit of a farce really as I did my first Ironman on a 8 week training program following a last minute prize entry through Sport Pursuit who now sponsor me as one of their Brand ambassadors.

So then – watch this space. From IM newbie to European champs – whatever next, Kona may not just be a pipe dream after all…….

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Patience, patience, patience…….

2 months ago today, I was right in the thick of it on the Ironman UK Bolton course.  The biggest day of my life so far……In 9 months I will be embarking on my second Ironman – Ironman Austria.

After Bolton, I needed a month of rest where I did very little training other than light low intensity stuff during this month I also had the club relays race which was great fun and gave me a PB in the 5km run which was a pleasant and unexpected surprise.  Since the relays I’ve had several issues with a shoulder impingement and a repeatedly locking pelvis – these issues seems to have been resolved now, or at least on the way out so the training is back to plan!

This time around, my ironman has been planned in advance so I actually have 9 months to train properly instead of 8-9 weeks like I had for Bolton.  The first block of this 9 month training plan is the so called ‘patience phase’ and boy, am I going to need patience, let me explain!

My coach uses the lowheartrate training concept.  In a nutshel the theory is that you rarely train at race pace, all your training is either way below your MAHR (max aerobic HR) or way above your FT (functional threshold).  So this means many hours of low heart-rate training (the patience bit) and lots of shorter sessions of absolute pain (Tabbata intervals etc).  This whole concept was practiced and is taught by Ironman legend Mark Allen;

http://www.markallenonline.com/maoArticles.aspx?AID=2

I will write a separate blog on low heart rate training and the published evidence as it really is quite compelling.

Now my coach is very well practiced in these methods and his personal ironman and triathlon results speak for themselves, however, as a scientist, I cant just believe – I need to prove a hypothesis personally to be fully convinced and that is what has changed my mindset this weekend.

Yesterday I had a 2hr low rate run to do and as my low rate levels mean I have to run very slowly to maintain them (at times actually having to walk to keep them low enough), this means I cant run with my club for these sessions – lone running gives you plenty time to think and yesterday that is exactly what I did.

I woke up in a bad frame of mind yesterday, and really didn’t want to do a slow 2hr run, but I dragged myself to the forest where my club runs are based an hour before the meet time so I could get my 2hr run in and at least join the club in the cafe afterwards.  As I set out on the run It became obvious I needed to change my attitude and state of mind very quickly otherwise this was going to be a long run.  I started trying to remember all the peer reviewed journals that I’ve read now on the subject of low heart rate training and how compelling all the evidence is. I also remembered that even though I had done very little speed work, I still managed a 5km PB 3 weeks after completing my ironman so something has made me faster, could it have been the long slow training sessions?  My coach keeps reminding me what an achievement a sub 13hour ironman was after only a short training program leading up to it and I think human nature and my competitive attitude means I am quick to forget this achievement and focus on how much better I want to be rather than how amazing my actual achievement was.

My main goal for the coming years is to qualify for Kona – I’m in no hurry to do this, in fact I would rather it take several years as the stronger I become and the more experienced in racing ironman I get, the higher than chance of then actually do a respectable Kona time will be (by  respectable I simply mean not last in any of the three disciplines – its a very strong field to compete against at Kona so I have no dreams above my ability!). Being as I have a few years to mess about with I have decided that this coming year is my experimental year!

As with everything in life when you want to reap the rewards of something you have to subscribe to it 100%  – this is my plan for the program.  I cant skip sessions or say ‘oh it wont hurt if i go faster today’ or ‘a quick hill session wont affect the program’ if i don’t follow the program it wont work so I will have been wasting not only my time, but more importantly my coaches time.  As a person I have 100% faith and trust in my coach, but as a researcher I cant get my mind around something until I have proven it myself.  The way scientific research works is, you have a hypothesis, you experiment to prove or disprove it, you then challenge those results and further test secondary hypotheses, you then draw your conclusions and publish.  My next year is going to be the same – I will experiment by following the protocol 100%, I will then test the hypothesis by racing and practice races, conclusions can be drawn after Ironman Austria.

If my times haven’t improved, what have I lost? The way I see it – nothing. I will have gained an extra year of endurance training and valuable race experience, and a personal insight into a totally different way of training.

If my times do improve, then this protocol clearly works for me and I will continue onwards and upwards until I can achieve my Kona dream.

So then – tme for a long (and slow) bike session in the sunshine! Happy training all……..

 

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