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……..

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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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An ironman keepsake

Last week I received a parcel that I had to go and pay custom duty on. I didn’t have a clue what it was going to be. Then I remembered – a night after doing my first ironman I decided I wanted a keepsake with my first race time on it. And that is what arrived from America – my first Ironman memories as a lovely necklace.

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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……..

 

heartrate

Come see me at the cycle show this weekend :o)

Come see me at the cycle show this weekend :o)

Azione Carbon Cycles will be at the cycle show all weekend at Birmingham NEC.

Myself, fellow Azione rider Patrick Cutmore and Azione ‘main man’ Dave Anderson will be around on the stand to chat to you about anything bike or triathlon related.  Come along and have a chat – bearers of caffeine will be particularly welcomed :o)

Stand F33.

http://www.cycleshow.co.uk/page.cfm/Action=Exhib/ExhibID=6/loadSearch=115800_7443

Look forward to seeing you there,

Allie