Triathlon adventures :)

tri swimTriathlon. Quite a daunting word. I’m not sure what it is, but the thought of doing a triathlon always scared me- far more than entering a marathon ever did. However, I’ve recently started dabbling with it as a sport and all I can say to those people debating it- stop debating and start doing- its brilliant! I did my first sprint distance event last September after approx. 2x bike rides and a little bit of swimming in the 4 months prior. I had debated joining a club, but that was even more terrifying a thought and so I figured I’d just have a go! What is great is that there are loads of people doing the exact same thing. Sure, there are the super athletes in teensy tiny lycra suits and space style bike helmets; but there are also men and women of all shapes, sizes and ages. In the pool there are a wide range of swim styles on show and the bikes range from top end carbon numbers to mountain bikes and commuter hybrids. The atmosphere tends to be laid back and there is a real sense of camaraderie between competitors. I’m sure it gets a bit more serious amongst the racing snakes, but at the level I am at its very welcoming and more friendly than most average running events.

After my Tri-debut (which I loved!) I decided to join a club and I am SO glad I did. I am very lucky to have a super friendly club on my doorstep, with great members and coaches who have been very encouraging and open to all of my stupid questions about (especially) the bike! My 400m swim time has reduced by over a minute and I am definitely stronger and more confident on the bike. Although I do admit to being a bit half-hearted about the bike element of training. It still frightens me a bit (well the cars on the roads do) and I struggle to fit everything in with all of my ultra running training, but I’m getting better! What I most enjoy is having a break from pure running, especially if I have any niggles- I can just swap to swimming and biking and at least retain some cardio fitness.

Today was my second sprint triathlon event. I’ve had a rubbish week at work, picked up a cold and also found out that the Manchester Marathon that I ran in 2014 was measured 380m too short! This means that my marathon PB of 03:58:00 now doesn’t count. On the positive side my PB is now 04:24:09 which is infinitely more beatable, but I have to admit that I’m a bit gutted. My aim when I started running marathons was to run a sub-4 and I was so chuffed to have achieved it… and now it appears I’ll have to do all the training to try and do it again! So, I was really glad that this weekend was about anything other than running! The event today was the ‘Milltown to Moors’ Oldham Triathlon: a sprint distance event, which was billed as a ‘tough one’. Well, that was the understatement of the century: both the run and the bike routes involved some serious climbing and some steep descents! As an ultra-runner you’d think I’d be good at hills, but I’m better at walking them whilst stuffing my face with cake rather than trying to run them on post-bike rubber legs!

run elevation

‘that’ hill

I thoroughly enjoyed the event. The swim went pretty well- I clocked 08:41 on my watch and 08:52 on the official chip (which involved a little run out of the pool area)- either way this was a minute or so faster than in September, a great improvement. I still need to work on my breathing pattern during faster work as it gets a little rough around the edges, but it’s definitely better than it was. I lost loads of time in transition faffing with my jacket and shoes, but finally I made it out onto the bike leg of the course. This was very, er, “undulating” and bloody freezing (it was actually snowing at the top of some of the hills- I now know why triathlon is a summer sport!), especially on the downhills. I was very glad I’d bothered faffing with my jacket as those in just wet trisuits must have been like ice cubes! Setting off on the run (after another bout of faffing with my shoes- must get some elastic laces!) I couldn’t feel my hands or feet, but my jelly legs seemed to be behaving at least. What I was NOT expecting was an absolutely epic mile-long climb. I had to resort to the ultra-runner’s favourite: run walking and gasping for breath. The view at the top was lovely and the downhill was great fun and (almost) worth the climb! My final time was 1:44:37 which put me 24th out of 51 ladies 🙂

tri finish2

Finished! 🙂

I’m now back home, I’ve thawed out with a boiling hot bath (with Epsom salts to help with recovery) and I’m settling down to watch the amazing exploits from the London marathon with a giant slice of cake and a bottle of cider!

Hope you have a lovely week and if anyone has any triathlon tips for me, please send them over!

 

Stuff I can’t live without!

Wow…it’s Friday and I’m sitting here with a strange feeling- I’ve a weekend ahead of me involving no races or massive plans. Recently these have been like unicorn poo and I’m not sure what I’m going to do with myself! My options involve work (a necessary evil but hopefully I’ll keep it to a bare minimum!), lots of time with my lovely hounds and some training. The plan is a ‘double’ on Saturday (Park Run and BMF) and then a bike ride on Sunday- I have my second ever triathlon next weekend and to say that I’m terrified is an understatement!

I was having a little think to myself this week, what could I write about given that I have no race to write up? I haven’t even really trained that hard this week as I’ve been recovering from the Manchester Marathon. Having a trainee-sports massage therapist for a husband has been as absolute Godsend as my quads are now feeling normal again. Work on Monday was decidedly unpleasant (an inability to go down stairs combined with a post-race celebration induced hangover is never a good combo). My main activity seems to have been stuffing my face with anything I can find. After the process of carb loading for a marathon and the shock to the system of the actual race, I always think that my body goes into survival mode, not trusting that I won’t do something horrible to it again!

quads

That post-marathon feeling!

Anyway, I was chatting to a friend who is new to running this week about kit and various things, so I decided to write a little blog about the products I absolutely could not manage without. Clearly trainers are a prerequisite (although I’m not sure my current tally of 14 different pairs is entirely necessary?)… but I’m going to focus on the smaller items, things that might get overlooked but that I’m so glad I’ve found. Hopefully it might save someone reading this a little trial and error! As a disclaimer I have no financial vested interest in any of these companies or products- they are simply things I use and would recommend wholeheartedly!

So from the top:

  1.  Tailwind. I know, I know, this sounds like some sort of affliction caused by too many fig rolls. However, I can honestly say that this is the single most useful product that I have discovered. I have a rather delicate gut and, despite playing around with volume, different makes and types, I just do not get on with gels and sports type drinks in races/runs longer than 2-2.5 hours. For a half marathon I can happily run the whole thing using just water, with maybe a single gel around 10 miles to perk me up a little for the last few miles of the race… but in a marathon the only thing gels will achieve is me having to sprint as fast as possible for the nearest *portaloo/*pub/*clump of hedgerow (*delete as appropriate). toilet.jpgTailwind is a magical product which has stopped all of my issues and anxieties about this! It looks alarmingly like a Class A drug (I really hope my race bag never gets raided) and mixes into water. The taste is pleasant and non-sickly AND, importantly, provides electrolytes and calories. This means that you don’t need to take on anything else, so long as you keep sipping on your Tailwind, you are good to go for the day. I have a ridiculously high sweat rate (something I’d actually like to get tested) and so without some sort of electrolytes I will cramp- since using Tailwind I’ve had zero issues on this front. I’ve completed races of well over 12 hours with no food at all, I’ve just kept my water supply topped up with Tailwind. The best place to find out more is probably to check out the UK site.
  2. Epsom Salts. DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) is something that all runners (or indeed exercisers) are familiar with…The magic way to lessen the effect is to invest in some magnesium. This is a vital mineral which helps us in a multitude of ways (this blog has some useful further info- runnerunleashed blog), including relieving muscle soreness and helping with a restful night’s sleep. Epsom salts are jam-packed full of magnesium and so a relaxing post run bath can kill two birds with one stone. If you don’t have a bath then I’d recommend a transdermal magnsium product (like this one ). I get my Epsom Salts online in bulk from epsomsalts.co.uk
  3. Toe socks. I’m not really someone who suffers with blisters as a general rule- I think all my time wandering around the house with no shoes or socks on has paid off! However, on very long runs over marathon distance I do have a tendency to get rather painful blisters in between my toes. The solution has been Injinji toe socks. Now I hate feet, and I’m really quite freaked out by shoes and socks that look like gloves, which is why I resisted buying any toe socks for ages, despite reading lots of positive reviews… however, in the end, I caved in as comfort has to be a priority, and I’m so glad that I did. It’s like running with little fluffy clouds on your feet- and once they are in your trainers, there’s no need to look at them. You can buy these online, I’ve used feetus.com to get mine. As you can see below, manky feet vs. happy feet! 🙂
  4. Arm warmers. As I mentioned above, I sweat a lot. This is bad in summer, but I find the colder months more difficult. In summer dressing for running is easy- a vest and shorts and I’m good to go. However, in winter it might be raining or the cold weather might convince me to add more layers than I really need. Arm warmers have been an absolute revelation- I can keep my arms warm, without my torso overheating. Even better, they are easy to pull off once I’m warmed up- which isn’t as convenient when wearing a baselayer! Most sports clothing lines include arm warmers, but mine were an absolute bargain- £2 from Aldi’s cycling range!
  5. Kinesiology tape. Watch most televised sporting events and you’ll see the athletes wearing a garish range of brightly coloured tape covering various parts of their anatomy. This is a relatively ‘new’ technology- Kinesiology tape. A quick internet search should provide you with the scientific blurb (e.g. Rock Tape Website), but I can say from my own experience that this stuff works! I have taped various bits of my body before long runs and big races and I find that any pain is dispersed and the joints and muscles feel more supported. I have a long standing back injury and my back can get very stiff and sore after long races (especially on the road). I now tape as a precaution and the after effects have definitely lessened. I like to use Rock Tape H2O as I have found it the most durable. I swim and have several baths a week and I find that the tape lasts well over 7 days, despite being soaked regularly in water. Rock Tape also comes in a range of snazzy colours. I believe that the Chinese even ascribe different healing properties to the different colours available!

I hope these pointers help… I love trying out new products and ideas, so please let me know about your ‘must have’ purchases! Happy running folks 🙂

dreams.jpg

 

 

Post marathon musings

What a difference two years makes! In 2014 I ran my PB at the Manchester marathon- knocking a whopping 26 minutes off my previous time and coming in under the magic 4 hour mark in 3:58. In 2016 I staggered home in 4:34. Now I think this is still a respectable time, but it has led to some pondering about what has changed and why my times have dipped so much. The story from yesterday’s race was one of extremely heavy quads from around 16/17 miles- something that didn’t use to happen to me but has happened on my last few long distance road races. Interestingly I don’t suffer with quad problems on ultras and trail races- possibly because the terrain forces me to activate my glutes/ hamstrings and hips more effectively.

manchester finish

VERY relieved to see the finish!

I’m thinking that the root of the problem might well be that I have a weak hip drive. Last year I had a bad and recurring back/hip injury and I think I have allowed myself to get tighter in the hip area despite the actual injury being fixed. Therefore, my plan moving forwards:

  1. I need to do less pure running. I know, I know, this seems counterintuitive. However, I am a plodder by nature. I find it very hard to push myself and so, when marathon training, I can be guilty of longish plodding runs. The magic year of 2014 (PBs aplenty!) saw me partaking in multiple British Military Fitness classes (‘BMF’) a week alongside maybe one long run every two weeks. More recently this has dipped to once per week at best with more pure running. BMF is probably the best investment I ever made into my health- being pushed way beyond my comfort zone at times helped me to smash all of my race times AND gave me the courage to attempt Ultras in the first place. I also think that all of the squats, lunges, burpees (and a whole host of other delightful exercises- did I mention ‘ninja burpees’?!) help with better glute and hip activation.
  2. I need to actively work on this problem at home. I regularly do Pilates which helps build great core strength and so I now aim to add in some specific exercises to help overcome my hip issues. Any suggestions or advice would be gratefully received!

 

manchester

Pre-race photo with my buddies 🙂

Manchester Marathon- my review

After my second trip to my local marathon I can definitely recommend this as a good one to put on the list. As with all races there are pros and cons.

The pros:

  • A fast and flat course. If you are gunning for a PB you have an excellent chance of achieving it here. The route is (I think) the flattest in the UK.
  • The support. The local communities really come out in force to cheer the runners on, armed with sweets, banners and Vaseline! The best bit of the course is probably around the 9 and 16 mark at Brooklands where there are huge crowds and a great atmosphere. Altrincham (the turnaround point) is also great, with live music and lots going on.
  • A nice finishing area at the Emirates Cricket Ground. As a Man United fan I preferred the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ finish…but you can’t have everything.
  • A brilliant medal (we all know the bling is why we do it), lovely tech tee and a jam packed goody bag.
  • Plenty of aid stations on the course, well stocked with water, SIS gels and lots of smiley volunteers.
  • Free beer at the end. However, this was alcohol free, so maybe that’s a negative!

The cons:

  • Some bits of the route are a little dull- especially the 20 mile area around Carrington. It would be great to maybe get some live music out here or something to help people get over the dreaded ‘Wall’.
  • The baggage situation in 2016 wasn’t great. I was one of the lucky ones who got their bag back speedily, but some friends queued for 2+ hours for theirs, which is obviously not good. However, I think that the organisers have admitted their fault over this and have promised to rectify the problem for 2017, so I’m sure things will be better next year (certainly the organisation of bags was fine in 2014!)
  • The weather for me was a little too warm. I’m from Lancashire so I’m used to more drizzle and wind. I’m currently sporting a multitude of attractive tan lines and a panda face from my sunglasses. However, this being Manchester, it could easily bucket down next year after me saying this!

I’m now off for a sports massage to ease my sore legs and will take a few days off before picking the training back up for the next challenge- a couple of sprint triathlons are on the horizon, along with the Windermere Marathon. Happy running folks 🙂

manchester medal