What's it all about?

I decided to write a blog following my training and triathlon season. For me, I have always participated in sports for as along as I can remember, whether it was being one of the only girls playing football with the boys, playing hockey at numerous clubs or running around cross country circuits in the pouring rain. This year I plan to work hard on my swimming, cycling and running in an effort to qualify for the World Championships in Triathlon and represent my age group. I hope that you enjoy my blog or rather my ramblings and feel free to comment.

Kerry X

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Final race of the year: Auckland World Triathlon Championships 2012

Grab yourself a cup of tea...... this will be lengthy!
Having qualified for the World Triathlon Championships back in July at the Deva Triathlon and deciding to go, I worked hard in those last couple of months with regards to training (apart from going to South Africa of course!) to the point where not only was my body at breaking point, but my mind as well. I had been making very regular visits to the physio up until I went to NZ with problems with my back, with the physio keeping me going. I was also making quite a few visits to my sports therapist as well! Anyway the point being that I was literally waiting like a coiled spring ready to race, with the race being on 22nd October, making my season exceptionally longer than most other triathletes. The pros also had this to content with having the grand final race in Auckland on the 20th/21st October.
Having packed my bike up and finally getting to the airport on the Monday morning in the M25 rush hour traffic, I was on my way! It was to be a mammoth journey via Kuala Lumpur with the usual anxiety and nerves about the bike making it there safely.
Arriving into Auckland on the other side of the world, I was lucky enough to have a few others that I knew racing there and we kept each other company for the rest of the time there. The first day I decided to check out the race expo and the race HQ which was down on the waterfront. With sunshine but harsh gusts of wind, it was very similar weather to what the UK had been experiencing a few weeks earlier.
Meeting my friends, (some of whom I hadn't seen in a long while) was really great and we settled down to watch Kenny compete in the Aquathlon.
Below shows Kenny in action out of T1.

This picture shows how the swim was sheltered between two piers. For the Olympic distance triathlon, we swam far beyond the shelter of these wharfs into the swell beyond!
With the chance for a bike recce on Thursday, Kenny, Dean and myself took to our trusty steeds to try out a lap of the bike course. We soon found it to be fairly testing with three pretty sharp hills and descents along with one of the fiercest head winds as you came back into the city. It was a case of put your head down and get on with it!

Thursday was the Parade of Nations, and after a LOT of hanging around, we were walking along the waterfront into the Cloud (built specifically for the Rugby world cup 2011) to have a dinner of pasta and salad. Luckily my friend Sara who had just landed managed to find us and we scoffed the dinner and it was early to bed for the both of us, with jet lag looming.

Friday's plan was to give the swim course a bit of a try and having managed to get our wetsuits on, Sara and I made our way to the swim pontoon to give it a go. The water temperature was really not that bad, but it was the waves that began to hit you as you swam beyond the piers. Anyway, we gave it one lap before deciding that we had tried our best. By this point I had started to sneeze quite a bit and my nose was running on an almost permanent basis, it was then that I realised that I had caught a cold. Be it the long flight with an ill person, or the air conditioning on the plane, or simply that my immune system was low due to the fact I had been training so much, I simply didn't feel all that great! Saturday for me was to be a bit of a day of rest. After initially planning to do another swim down at Mission bay (the turn around point on the bike course), I decided that it would be better for me to rest and get better. Sunday was to be a similar affair although the weather had taken a real turn for the worse. Saturday involved sunshine and burnt foreheads watching the elite women battle it out, with Lisa Norden winning the champs and a stirling performance from Jodie Stimpson coming 5th in the race and Annie Haug putting the pedal down in the closing kilometres to take the win. Sunday for the men was a real battle through the elements and this was to be one of the closest races yet for Brownlee (Johnny) and Gomez. Sara and I found shelter in the Cloud to watch the race on one of the big screens. As you can see from the photo the conditions were really awful and I was glad to be sat inside rather than out on the streets!
The organisers had decided to plan that all GB athletes were to rack bikes on the Sunday. This was fine, however being from 3-4pm, at the end of the elite men's race was to cause quite a bit of traffic with all the closed roads and specific crossing points! Racked and ready to race, but with a huge thunderstorm that night, all I kept thinking about was the poor bike sat on the pier getting blown about!
Monday morning dawned and the weather had improved although the wind was still quite gusty. We made our way through the HUGE transition, which by the way added around 1km total to our running from swim to bike and bike to run, and sorted out bits out ready to rock and roll. Wetsuit donned and three toilet trips later it was time to get in the holding pen. Unfortunately I then decided that I needed the loo yet again, but already in the waiting area for the swim it was too late and I would have to wait until the swim to do my business!
Getting onto the pontoon and then into the water, we were literally elbow to elbow and this was really going to get tough. The hooter went off and I held back for a brief moment before setting off. I really managed to swim quite well initially and held my own, drafting from many feet before edging my way forwards. Then it hit............ after the shelter of the wharf we soon had to turn left. We basically swam in the formation of a capital T but withe the 3 metre swell, the buoys became impossible to sight, and it was a case of fight against the crashing waves and try my hardest. The swim across the top was absolutely shocking. I sat up a couple of times to sight and literally swam into a couple of lifeguards who proceeded to tell me I was going the wrong was. I was about to tell him what for, and looked across to around 10-15 other girls in red hats all next to me, grumbling I set off again for the tiny red buoy in the distance. It was an absolute fight to the very end with the buoy seeming to get further and further away not matter how hard I swam. Finally coming back into the sheltered water, green hats of the next wave began to pass us. It was then that my heart sank, as they had set off a full 10 minutes later. Finally making my way out, I was wobbly as anything and my heart sank even further when I noted my achingly slow time of over 32 minutes. Running the 400m or so into T1, wetsuit off pretty much, I had a couple of other girls come through with me into T1 and all I heard was, 'that was totally awful- we were well off course!', and believe you and me, I was then relieved to see so many bikes still racked next to mine!

Setting off on the bike and trying to make up lost time, it was off onto the course with grit and steely determination. Or so I thought! I was making quite good progress with the wind behind me. It was on the turn around that the full force of the wind stopped you in your tracks. I had been going at a steady 44kmph with the wind behind me on the flattish parts. The support on the hills was phenomenal, parents had their kids out on the streets in their PJs, the hills were covered in chalk names, and having your name on your trisuit meant that people were calling out your name. Coming back into the city against the wind was tough, and on the start of lap 2, I called out to the crowds for some cheers, they were mainly there for the Kiwis and Aussies, so I tried to rally them up! Coming back into T2 was a bit of a relief, I had not began to even try to go in the swim for my 'toilet break' and therefore the entire bike ride became a race against myself trying to get back into transition to relive myself. I honestly didn't know whether I would make it! My T2 time was abysmal, luckily having the long run into T2 meant my time wasn't too bad, but I had to dash into one of the conveniently placed portaloos. I was then very glad that they were there as I doubt I would have made it around the run course without stomach cramps! The pancake flat run course was 2 laps of 5km.
I thought initially that I was OK on the run, however the bonk and fatigue kicked in around 4km into the twisty turning run course. Lots of dead turns and it never seemed like you ran further than around 100m without turning a corner which really broke up your rhythm!
It was all going so well until nearer the end when I really struggled to make it back.
I finished the race well down on my expectations but was immensely relieved to have it finished and done and dusted!
Having time to reflect on my efforts now post-race, I was able to see that my preparation running into the race was not the best, with a 2 1/2 week holiday 4 weeks prior to the event and also coming down with a cold a couple of days before. Also having the tightness in my back and not really functioning properly was another blow. However these are all excuses that I should try to see past and really I should be pleased that I was there in the first place! Which I honestly am! I think that it was a great event, although honestly speaking it was possibly the worst event I have ever done with regards to conditions, and that is speaking from someone who has competed in 9 events this year with our British Summer!

On the whole a really worthwhile trip and something that I think I may want to try and repeat for years to come, but not next year with London being the final race. I have entered the Vitruvian Middle Distance event held on my home turf here in Rutland on the 31st August 2013, and have just entered the Dambuster Triathlon (22 June 2013) as a warm up.
For now it is R & R (Rest and recovery) as well as my upcoming birthday to enjoy some time away from training, get my body back to a good base and begin my London Marathon 2013 training. I have downloaded a very handy training plan that begins in the middle of November, so that will mean lots of running, lots of core work and the occasional swim/bike to break up the monotony of running. I plan to still blog about my training, but it might take on a slightly different format of documenting my actual runs. The plan is really to build up slowly and surely with mileage not really exceeding half marathon until January when I begin to increase my long runs. I have also entered the Silverstone Half marathon on the 3rd March so that will be a good gauge of how I am doing in my prep.

So for now, get back into that winter gear and happy training everyone!

PS I hope that you enjoyed reading!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

First day in Auckland

What a great 48 hours, or is that 60? Well whatever the time, so far things have been interesting! My flight to Auckland via Kuala Lumpur was pretty much split over two flights with the first flight trying very hard to sleep with a family of 6, four children, two sets of twins all under the age of 2 right next to me. I felt quite sorry for the parents, up until I saw that they were then getting on the next flight to Auckland, and wondered what they were doing taking four very young children all that way! This was amongst the anxiety of wondering whether my luggage and bike were going to make it to their final destination! 
Arriving at Auckland finally after 24 hours of flying and airplane food, I was relieved to finally collect my bag and bike and transfer to my hotel. It's been a real nice surprise and the hotel is really lovely. We have a kitchenette and rather large room with two beds and plenty of space to build the bike.
After settling down for bed around 2am and waking at 7.30am (body clock is a bit fudged!) then I decided to shower and build the bike before heading out to explore the streets to find some shops. I also had the best ever breakfast at a tiny theatre cafe which I certainly will try and visit again! Then it was time to proceed with my map and awesome navigation skills to try and find the team GB hotel. After only ten minutes walk, I arrived and sought out the info I needed before walking to the waterfront to find the main race HQ. 
Auckland have put on a real show and it is super organised! The expo is ok, and they are charging for grandstand tickets for the elite races, but other than that, the organisation is cracking. 
I have had such a great day as I am fortunate enough that some great friends from Chester triathlon club are also either out here competing, or are travelling and living in Auckland. Reunion over, it was time to support Kenny Begley in the aquathlon. With the wind whipping up and the clouds blowing out, it appeared to be a beautiful, if somewhat fresh day. 

However the blue skies were hiding the ferocious wind, as Kenny reported from his race experience that as soon as you hit the main body of water, the waves were really quite powerful. Something I will have to try out myself on Friday in the swim familiarisation. 
I am excited to race now, but having Dean and his partner Mandy, Kenny and Rachel here has been such an added bonus as I have now got plenty of other things to do and see with a tour guide! 
This evening was finished off at Rachel's home stay with a BBQ and overlooking the fantastic lake on which we are going to go paddle boarding next week after the race! I have also been fortunate enough that Dean and Mandy have a car so were able to drive me about! Tomorrow is a bike recce with Kenny and Dean, and I really must sign out now as tiredness is creeping into my bones! I think I have done pretty well and just hope that the jet lag doesn't catch me too soon! 

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

2013 and going longer

So many of you might know that I am planning to run the London marathon in 2013. But in addition to this, I have been considering longer triathlons and have decided to enter the Vitruvian middle distance triathlon in August 2013. 
Having this race on my own doorstep and having watched many friends competing, including Will, and also having considered what I want my goals to be, I felt that this would be a great natural progression. 
Of course this is early days for making my 2013 season goals, but seeing as the entry opened this evening, and places selling out faster than you can say Vitruvian, you have to be quick to get one of the 1000 places. It was sold out in under 18 hours last year and entries have opened even earlier than usual. 

Anyway for those of you interested, take a look at the promotional video from this year's race http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=S3pTyJgfdRA&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DS3pTyJgfdRA

Pretty impressive stuff! 

Here's to a successful race in Auckland, I will probably blog next week as my final run up into the racea
Let you know how it's going!

Monday, 1 October 2012

Stretching to your limits

With two weeks to go until Auckland (three until race day) I have been trying to keep the motivation going for the final couple of weeks. I have been running and swimming regularly but since coming back to Rutland, my cycling has suffered.
Last weekend (23rd September) saw my second attempt at the London Triathlon after completing it back in 2010 as my first ever Olympic Distance. Race preparation had been far from ideal with the two and a half week break away in South Africa eating and drinking what cannot be said to be all that healthy for a triathlete!
Anyway, the run up into the race was a long busy week of catching up with work and a conference in Leeds before our journey to London on the Saturday.
Arriving with another friend of ours who was also racing on the Sunday we arrived at our hotel in plenty of time with Tom's family and his girlfriend Kelly to support us. After a brief walk around Canary Wharf, we decided to eat at Jamie's Italian early on in the evening to give us plenty of time to sleep, or so we thought! I have since decided that the Travelodge was probably not the best place to sleep as I probably only managed a couple of hours kip before my earlier start time than the boys.
I was up at 6am and breakfasted before creeping out to drive to the Excel.
With all the diversions due to the race, traffic was totally mental and I was late in getting to the centre. The weather wasn't too bad, but not entirely good either with heavy overcast clouds and a slight chill in the air.
The Excel centre is immense with huge arenas for parking and the transition. But I was quite confident as I had done this all before. Annoyingly the boys weren't off until 2.30pm, by which time I would have been long finished and ready for bed!

Getting ready for the race in transition was interesting as you had no allocated position, and having arrived later than I planned to, chip was collected and I struggled to find a suitable place to rack my bike. The other issue is that with over thousands of bikes and racking, you really have to know where you have placed your bike and bits.
With plenty of first-timers there it was quite obvious really as people had spread all their bits all over the place in front of their bikes or to the side. I had to ask one girl to move her menagerie of materials so that I could place my bike on the rack. Having raced a few times now, I literally only have my running shoes (sometimes my running cap if hot) next to my bike. I have learnt that you don't need all that much really! Anyway after finalising my position, it was over to the swim warm up and briefing where we were informed that we were the largest ladies wave with over 450 people there. I missed my opportunity to get in the first wave of these ladies and ended up in the second wave of swimmers.
Walking out to the water, a guy then came over to interview me with a huge camera! It was quite off putting as I was psyching myself up for the race. But clearly I must have look relaxed!
Getting into the water, it was quite fresh but not as cold as I have swum in, and positioning myself around 2nd row back, I found that I was in the ideal position, or so I thought!
On the starting hooter, it was legs and arms everywhere, but being quite confident, I was able to work my way up through the swimmers quite confidently. It was only really on the turn around that I managed to get into some free space as I had caught up the stragglers of the previous wave.
Exiting the water, I was surprised to see what I considered a slow time of 27:42, however on reflection I was probably in the first wave of swimmers, and after watching Will's swim time of 23:14 later on, I felt a lot better about my swim performance.
Weather forecasts had been predicted the mother of all storms to be approaching the UK on that Sunday and it was to begin with some fairly strong easterly winds. This meant that the out leg of the bike route down to Westminster was fast, however the return leg with the ever increasing winds was getting more and more difficult! Anyway after the second lap and on returning into the Excel centre, you have to go up a fairly sharp ramp into T2. I was a little bit under prepared and changed down gears on the ramp and suddenly my chain was off. I then had to hop off the bike and try to put the chain back on. It was firmly stuck however and I had to take off my shoes and run the extra bit into T2. I felt like such an idiot!
My bike time of 1:16:03 was a slight improvement on 2010, but I felt that with a different route to the last time (i did the Tower Bridge route in 2010) I was a bit stronger and therefore 2 minutes was still an improvement.
By this point the heavens had began to open and I was quite cold, but I knew that I would warm up for sure on the run.
The run is a torturous 4 laps of 2.5km but is effectively out and back so you end up running back on the same path with the hundreds of other competitors. I was trying to focus on a strong core and body, but my back just wasn't playing ball. My left calf also decided to cramp up so it was a case of mind over matter! Time to dig deep and pull out all of the stops. It was also becoming a game of dodge the walker and avoid the elite junior boys who were racing through at top notch speed! It did make me smile though every time I passed the Charity tents with their loud cheers for pretty much every single person running. This is probably what makes this race one of the best really. It is great for spectator support and good when it rains as you can watch the race pretty much under cover.
Other than that though, it is an expensive race and even though you get a medal at the end, you do somehow feel a bit shortchanged, especially given that you have had to stay the night before as well. A goody bag wouldn't go amiss from this event.

All in all a good race, but I don't know if I would go again given the amount of hassle it is as well as having to enter the race a full 10 months or so in advance.

And so it is back onto training. I have started to play hockey again after a break for a time and I find it is really great to supplement my running training as it is like interval or fartlek training with a bit of skill involved! I used to play a lot when I was younger and really enjoyed it so have decided to get back into it. I am coming away from training pretty tired but it is all good fun and I have played a few matches.

This week has also been quite tough on my body. Normally come September and it's time to have a bit of a rest for the body so that you can recover not only physically but also mentally. It can become a bit of a battle of the mind and body when you have raced over the year and want to wind down.
I have visited my physio and sports massage therapist lots over the past week, and therefore I have to give them full credit for keeping my body together at the moment. Although I have been asked that I do rest and recover after the race! I certainly will take their advice on that one.

 My plans are that after the race in New Zealand I will have a few weeks off to eat, drink and do what I like and then get back into some training. My year will be focused on the London Marathon, the ETU Sprint Triathlon in Turkey and possibly thoughts of a middle distance come September 2013.

Hopefully your training/season has been a successful one, and I hope that you are recovering nicely for the winter training to kick off soon!

Happy training! :)