Story of a GB age-group triathlete: Ellie Barnes Q&A

April 17, 2012

Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to represent your country at your chosen sport? Or even at one you can’t do, but dream of being good at? Olympic athletes aren’t the only ones who get to pull on a GB vest. What does it take to compete at international level as an age-grouper? I asked my friend Ellie Barnes, a Personal Trainer, to tell us her story – just before she sets of to compete at the European Triathlon Championships this Saturday.

thefitwriter: Ellie, massive congrats on making the GB team for the Europeans. So exciting! Can you give readers some background on your own sporting journey and history?

Ellie Barnes: Sport has always been high on my agenda (not surprising with a mother as a PE Teacher and a father who cycled from London to Paris for fun!) I was a keen netballer but it wasn’t until I moved to Reading in 2006 that I started to get into competitive running. My first race was the Shinfield 10km. My partner at the time put money on me not completing it in under 60 minutes (tfw: Ha ha, I have a similar story behind my first running race!) Much to his wallet’s dismay, I finished in 43 minutes!

I then did the London Marathon in 2007, training with Reading Roadrunners and finishing in 3hrs 38minutes. Marathons became my mainstay for a few years with my PB a few years later in Amsterdam: 3hrs 07minutes. Whilst training for the London Marathon 2010 I got a stress fracture in my metatarsal, which taught my body a lesson about cross training and I mixed my running up with some cycling and swimming.

I was introduced to a competent triathlete and triathlon coach in 2010 (Jo Lewis of Tri50), who has nurtured me to become the GB Age-Group triathlete I am now!

tfw: For how long have you been doing triathlon?

EB: My very first triathlon was whilst marathon training was very much still my main focus so I really didn’t know what I was doing. So much so, that when I was in transition from swim to bike, I put my cycle helmet on first and then tried to get my t-shirt on over the top. Top tip: this doesn’t work!

My next encounter with triathlon was in May 2011 at Dorney Lake. I still didn’t really know what I was doing, swimming in open water with a wetsuit was rather an alien experience and trying to keep track of how many laps I had cycled proved a challenge! Much to my amazement, I actually was the first lady to cross this line, I really wasn’t expecting that at all! That success gave me the bug to learn more about triathlon and do more races.

tfw: When did you realise you might be good enough to challenge for a GB place?

EB: Once I competed in the London Triathlon in August 2011, I realised I may have potential to go further. I finished 6th in my age group (25-30) at this event and really wasn’t that far behind the winning women. I actually had the fastest run time of the whole day. I spoke to my coach, Jo, about trying to qualify for the GB Age Group Squad and she suggested we look at last year’s results from the European Championships to see whether we thought it was realistic. We did, and I decided “why not?”

tfw: What was the process like? How did you have to qualify?

EB: There are three events per year which are “qualifying races” for the GB Age Group Squad, and there was only one left in the season, so I had no choice but to enter “Newbiggin-by-the-Sea Triathlon” on 11 September 2011. I had no idea where Newbiggin was before I entered it. Turns out it is 325 miles from Reading, yes, this is commitment! And the swim was in the North Sea in September. What was I thinking??

tfw: How did your training, nutrition, recovery and general preparation change once you knew you were going for qualification?

EB: Once I knew I was going for qualification I read up a lot about triathlon specific training and sought expert advice from Jo. I trained with the David Lloyd Triathlon Club that Jo coached as well as the Tri20 Club in Reading. I also learnt that I needed to work on my swimming to increase my chances of qualification, so this became my main focus for the next six weeks, swimming 4-5 times per week including a 6am session on a Friday morning!

tfw: Tell us about the qualifying race.

EB: Five hours in a car is not my idea of fun, however my Mum, Dad, brother and partner all came along for the ride. Arriving in Newbiggin-by-the-Sea was like walking back in time: a quintessentially British seaside town, with the traditional fish and chips shops and beach huts.. and what felt like Force 10 gale winds. Just walking through the car-park to registration was a challenge as the wind was howling. The sea was choppy with seven lifeboats on the course, the bike was a two-lap course with some great headwind sections as well as tailwinds downhill, so not all bad. Then the run, where I usually feel strongest, but not today. It was along the sea wall and back and I couldn’t feel my feet by this point. I actually had one of the quickest run times of the day, though.

When I crossed the line I didn’t know where I had finished in my age-group. I knew I had to finish in the top four and, by the time I went to get my results print-out it was confirmed, I had finished 3rd in my age group, and therefore I had qualified! Woohoo!

tfw: What then – how long between qualifier and GB event, and how did things change for you?

EB: Since that race, the date 21 April 2012 has been engraved on my brain! The remainder of 2011 was spent maintaining base level fitness and primarily working on swim technique. On 1 January 2012 it was time to start SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic & Timed) training – I could not have done this without the amazing guidance and support from coach Jo Lewis: our weekly meeting to review my progress from the previous week and look at the next few weeks training has been invaluable. I also sought expert nutrition advice from Janie Perry of Relax to Revive, Strength and Conditioning advice from Aynsley Fry of Gecko Fitness and regular Sports Massage from Diksha of FixMe.

Training became more intense with two sessions most days, six days a week. A lighter week was welcomed every five weeks. A very intense week training in Lanzarote was thrown in the mix as well as various races to test my fitness including the Green Park Triathlon (1st Lady), Oulton Park Duathlon (1st Lady) and monthly parkrun 5km run timetrials.

tfw: How does it feel to be racing with a GB vest? Is it a dream come true? Does it live up to expectations? Is it different to imagined?

EB: When I received my GB trisuit with BARNES, GBR emblazoned across it it seemed a little surreal. Is this really for me? Then when I put it on for the first time I was a little stunned… yes this is me, I have worked hard for this but need to keep focused on 21 April 2012 when the training will be really put to the test.

tfw: What’s next for you and how can readers look out for you/support you?

EB: Saturday 21 April 2012, 7am in Eilat, Israel, the ETU Triathlon European Championships (2hrs ahead of GMT). I will be updating my Facebook and Twitter, but you should also be able to find results here (select 25 – 29 Female AG Sprint).

tfw: Finally, what advice do you have for any amateur triathletes wanting to one day qualify for GB kit?

EB: Do it! Don’t think about it, get yourself entered and believe in yourself….look here for more info.

Best of luck, Ellie! Perhaps you’ll come back and tell us about the race?

Story of a GB age-group triathlete: Ellie Barnes Q&A is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

Story of a first-time triathlete: Auntie Rose’s race report

August 31, 2011

Remember my Auntie Rose’s foray into triathlon (and her training update post?) She did it! And I’m very proud of her. Here’s her recap of her first triathlon – the Dextro Energy London Triathlon earlier this month:

Race day dawned (it couldn’t come soon enough!) At last, all the training was to be put to the test. Hyde Park was ready for us… and us for it! Since this race was being used as a try-out for the London 2012 Olympic triathlon, we were surrounded by all levels of athleticism, and a massive crowd, too. It was quite daunting really, but what a buzz! I felt so honoured to be part of it all.

As we were not due to start until 16.30, we had a nerve-wracking couple of hours marvelling at the super-fit youngsters and going over the race in our heads. We were all very calm, given the size of the event. Bikes racked, cycling and running gear laid out, we were all ready.

As the water temperature was 21*C, the option of wetsuits was ours. I opted to keep mine on, concerned that today was not the day to try without (all our training had been done in wetsuits). I was glad I did as the Serpentine was cold and pretty murky.

The swim was a pontoon start and turned out not to be the washing-machine I’d anticipated. I made the dubious choice to try and support my two friends, neither of whom were confident in the water. That turned out to be a mistake, and I eventually had to leave them to support one another. I swam the second 400m way faster than the first, but felt really mixed emotions as I glanced back to see Sue and Nikki’s furrowed brows as they got further and further behind.

T1 was immensely long and by the time I reached my bike I felt like I had already run the 5k. In fact it took me a whopping 7 minutes from swim to bike, way longer than I wanted it to be.

The cycle was exhilarating and I actually found myself passing quite a few people. My trusty little Giant did me proud and was a joy to ride.

Three loops later I was back at T2 for my very least favourite part: the run. As it turned out, the training we had put in paid off as I didn’t feel as leaden-limbed as I anticipated starting the run.

It was very heartening to be cheered on by friends and family, and the supporters of my four fellow “triathloonies”, too. It seemed that no more that five minutes would pass before someone would spur me on by name.

All too soon I was approaching the blue finishing strip, but not before I was passed by several of next year’s Olympic hopefuls vying for selection for the Aquathon event. They were gazelles as they breezed passed me as I lumbered along for my final kilometre. I admit to having a chuckle at my own expense as I compared my performance to theirs. But the overriding thought I had was pride in myself at having actually finished.

My finish time? I managed 2 hours exactly, and know that when I do my next Sprint Triathlon, I will definitely be faster. I know I can do the swim faster, I’m sure I can negotiate T1 way faster, I think I can knock at least five minutes off the cycle, and shave 3 minutes or so off the swim. So my next target is sub 2 hours, and I can’t wait to do it all again!

Mid life crisis? Maybe. But if being fit and cheerful means pushing yourself to succeed, does age matter?

Story of a first-time triathlete: Auntie Rose tells all is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

Story of a first-time triathlete: my Auntie Rose tells all

July 20, 2011

Remember back in February, I told you how my Auntie Rose was about to embark on an adventure? Well, here we are just a few weeks away from her very first triathlon.

I thought it might interest some readers to hear exactly how she’s found training for her first triathlon. What’s been toughest, and easiest? What were the highest highs… and the lowest lows? What are her hopes for the race, and will she do another?

Over to Auntie Rose!

December 31st 2010. It seemed a really good idea to challenge myself physically in 2011. I’d reached my mid 50s and – as ever – was conscious of how my own mother had died at age 63. Because of that, I’ve always been determined to keep fit and active. My latest decision, however, promised to take my activities to a higher level.

What was my starting point prior to triathlon training?

Throughout 2010, my weekly activity had included two swims (usually a mile each time), a trip to the gym, a couple of games of tennis, a twice daily dog walk and the odd cycle. So, although I was far from a couch potato, I was not exercising seriously. Just enough to keep my weight stable and feel fit.

So, when challenged by my exercise buddy Clare to make 2011 the year that I entered a triathlon (something she – at four years my junior – has done twice in the past four years), my resistance weakened. I can swim, I can cycle, I have two strong legs and therefore should be able to run. So, why not, I thought!

We entered the Dextro Hyde Park Sprint Triathlon (London, 6th August 2011) and started to train.

What does the race involve?

First of all, there’s a 750m swim in the Hyde Park Serpentine (“piece of cake”), then a 22km cycle round Hyde Park (“pips”), then a 5km run. Ah, the 5km run. Now we have a problem!

The last time I tried to run was not pretty. Hampered by boobs that risk giving me black eyes, and a feeling that my brain rattles around inside my head when I start to jog, running is something to avoid. Suddenly, however, it became something I had to improve.

I contacted my niece Nic, an accomplished endurance swimmer and triathlete, to ask her for advice, and she came up trumps. One visit to her house later and I was armed with wetsuits to try on, triathlon tips galore, diet advice as well as a swimming session to tweak my stroke. I felt ready to roll.

My husband proved very enthusiastic and lent me his lovely Boardman bike to train on. The only snag was that our heights are massively different (his 6ft to my 5′ 5”). I realised that the frame was too big and my back was taking the strain. So we researched and I got my own Giant Defy road bike.

I’d never ridden drop handlebars before but after 10 seconds I felt at home. We are blessed with living on the edge of the Romney Marsh in Kent, and can leave our house and immediately be on flat country lanes. I built speed and endurance without having to climb hills. That said, we do have some killer hills which I added in to the mix, surprising myself with how much my riding has improved – and with how much I am enjoying it.

Two become five – triathlon trendsetters!

By the end of January, we two became five. Our friends Philippa (62), Nikki (59) and Sue (51) decided that, if we could do it, so could they!

All of us had our strengths and weaknesses. Sue could run forever, but wasn’t a swimmer. Phil was a strong swimmer and keen recreational cyclist, but not keen on running (plagued by a knee problem). Nikki was a spinning fiend, but couldn’t run well, and is scared of “things in the water”!

In late February, whilst on holiday in France, I embarked upon the challenge of beating my running phobia. To my horror, when I did start to jog on the beach, I could do no more that 30 paces before fighting for breath, my chest feeling as though I’d been sat on by a very large beast.

On my return to the UK, I saw my GP who confirmed that I was suffering from asthma.

Two inhalers later and clear instructions on how to improve my lung function, I set about building up the distance I could run.

Sue and Clare were very supportive and before too long I was notching up longer and longer treadmill sessions, and eventually realised I CAN do it. This culminated in my taking part in a 5km run last month – and managing to do the whole thing without a single wheeze!

We all did an open water workshop at Leybourne lake with Mike Russell and Giovanna Richards in late June (, and it was thoroughly excellent. I would advise anyone undertaking a triathlon to do such a course, as it serves to dispel myths, but also makes you realise how different swimming in open water is from a pool.

I am learning to cope better with the restriction of swimming in a wetsuit , (even appreciating how weeing in it warms you up) and can get out of it without falling over and wetting myself. Yes, I’m not proud, I did do that the first time I tried! Fortunately that was at a private pool!

We have been practising transitions, feeling like beached whales in our wetsuits, blundering out of the water and running around to find our bikes, then cycling for 30 minutes before parking our bikes and then running on jelly-like legs. This is hard work!

One month to go: course recce

On July 6th, we all did a recce of the Hyde Park Course (exactly a month before the day!) and frightened ourselves silly at what we saw: goose poo worthy of a Great Dane, algae, steep inclines on the cycle course (steep when compared with Romney Marsh anyway).

But we are now all really gearing up for what is likely to be the most challenging thing any of us have done in a long while. We are loving the camaraderie of sharing our training and loving seeing and sharing one another’s successes. We also love the endorphins that flow after a good run, cycle or swim.

Current training schedule

At the moment, our week consists of something every day for six days then a rest day. It has been a revelation to me that I can fit it in and run a business and a home, and still continue with singing in two choirs and play tennis. I just don’t often sit down. (“Or speak to my husband”, says my husband.)

Now all we have to do is put it all together on the day. Watch this space!

Thanks for letting us know how you’ve been getting on, Auntie Rose! I’ve been quietly watching your Facebook updates and helping out when I can. You have to let us know how you get on – will you do another guest post after the race?

Oh, and you never did answer my question about “will you do another triathlon”?

Please all wish Auntie Rose and her friends the very best of luck with her triathlon. She’s an inspiration to me and I’m so delighted she’s taken on this challenge – and risen to it so admirably. Joyce genes are tough stuff! 😉

Story of a first-time triathlete: Auntie Rose tells all is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

Training update

March 31, 2011

Short and sweet post today. A few people have asked me about my training: what am I doing, is it changing as my first show gets closer? The date of my first show is still – *quick check the calendar* – 12 weeks away, so I’m still eating lots and therefore lifting heavy. I am however starting to add some cardio back into the mix. Partly because the weather’s improving, and getting outside to run with the dog or ride my lovely road bike is good for the mind, and partly because I now want to slowly chip away at my body fat as we creep towards showtime (rather than leaving it til nearer the time but having to do it more quickly).

I posted recently about testing the strength goals I’d set myself, and I reported back about a conditioning session I had (more where that came from, coming soon).

I am enjoying it all – no, scrap that, I’m loving it all. I love love love lifting heavy weights (just as well really!) and my long-time love of weight training is what attracted me to this year’s challenge. But, as an endurance athlete, I naturally have an affinity for cardio, too, and I do like running (particularly with my stripey, brown, hairy running partner), road biking and interval training (track running, hill sprints etc). I’m also enjoying coming up with intervals and HIIT sessions in the gym. They usually revolve around cruel and unusual methods involving a skipping rope, a high step and my weighted vest.

So without further ado (and without any pictures), here is my current training schedule. I expect it will change pretty soon.

1 – Session 1: Weights – Legs, session 2: postural work (usually at home)
2 – Session 1: Weights – Back, triceps and abs, session 2: intervals/HIIT
3 – Session 1: Cardio, session 2: yoga (erm, I don’t always get round to this it has to be said!)
4 – Session 1: Weights – Chest, biceps and calves, session 2: posing practice (at home!) (harder than it sounds!)
5 – Session 1: Weights – Legs, session 2: postural work (usually at home)
6 – Session 1: Cardio, session 2: yoga and/or posing practice
7 – Session 1: Weights – Shoulders, more back and abs, session 2: HIIT
8 – OFF or if I simply must do something, yoga or posing. Or a long walk with the dog. Am loving our walks recently: podcast or audio book on the iPod and off we go.

I also try and throw at least a few minutes of posing in at home most days. It’s really hard to get it right and learn it all so it becomes second nature. It’s not a matter of throwing a few shapes, or “posing” as in styling it out in front of the mirror. You have to really engage your brain/muscle connection and get your muscles to understand how you’re asking them to move – and then you have to hold the pose for a while (and it’s not always comfortable). I have particular problems, for instance, with my traps (trapezius muscle). After swimming so much and for so long, they are pretty strong and over-active. It’s like whenever I ask my body to do anything, my traps stick their hand up and say “ooh Miss, Miss! Me Miss, pick me! I know the answer Miss!” I have to try and teach them to stay down, be quiet and let some of the other muscles have their say, but it’s not easy because – for some reason – my brain doesn’t connect to them very well.

Today was day 7 in the cycle, so this morning after breakfast (or as we bodybuilders call it “meal one”) I was in the gym for 45 minutes or so of weights focusing on my shoulders, some back stuff and a little bit of core work. Then I’m just back from my second session of the day (blogging in my running kit). I took myself off to the local running track and did short intervals as fast as I could (which isn’t very fast, but it’s all relative). I wouldn’t always do a track session for intervals but Starbucks had a “free bag of coffee” offer on and track is on the way back.

Hey, whatever motivates you to get out the door 😉

Actually, I lied about no pictures. There was only one other person on the track today. He was small, fast and lean, a little powerhouse. …he was also wearing school uniform…because he was a 5-year-old boy. I’m not sure what he was doing but he was enjoying it, so I stayed to cheer him on over the line before I drove home.

I hope your training is going well.

Training update is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Giving it a tri

February 27, 2011

I hope you’ve had a nice weekend. I had lots of family over today, including my Auntie Rose, who has decided to take up triathlon. Now, it’s terribly rude to talk about a lady’s age but, if I tell you that I’m 33, you can probably work out for yourself that my Auntie is not quite a teenager. So I think it is fantastic that she is training for her first triathlon.

Auntie Rose and my little sister 20+ years ago yesterday 😉 – sorry both of you, ha ha!

Auntie Rose is no couch potato – she’s a good swimmer and plays tennis (very well, I’m told) regularly. But triathlon is quite a challenge for anyone.

Before lunch, she picked a few products from my cardboard boxes of items I’ve kit tested for magazines (PRs, if you want them back, please just ask – Auntie Rose has only borrowed them). And, over lunch, she picked my brains about the mysteries of brick sessions, transitions, race belts and lock laces.

I’m thrilled to be able to help her out and can’t wait to cheer her on in her first race. And I’m delighted to have someone else sporty in the family!

I’ve asked her if she’ll do a few guests posts on this blog as her training progresses. If there’s any part of the learning curve you’d like her to write about, please let me know.

Did you take up a particular sport later on in life? Would you ever consider doing a triathlon?

I’ve got an exciting day lined up tomorrow with one big bit of kit to test and a talk to give at an industry event. I also owe you a blog post about fitness kit I’ve tested this week – some interesting stuff! I’ll blog again soon…

Giving it a tri is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Guest post: Nicky at Run To Live on Ironman training

February 7, 2011

Today’s guest post is from Nicky at Run To Live. Nicky started running with her Dad when she was 10 and has never really stopped. She’s completed 14 marathons and one Ironman triathlon to date and is training for a few more this year. She manages fibromyalgia, which she says sometimes hampers training but never enthusiasm!

Here’s Nicky on Ironman training. (For those of you who don’t know, Ironman refers to a long distance triathlon: 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and marathon (26.2 mile) run.)

Training for an Ironman isn’t something you do overnight. It takes months and sometimes even years of preparation for something that will last a maximum of 16 hours. Outside of that cut off time, you cannot call yourself an Ironman even if you finish the course.

“You’ve done an Ironman!”, friends and colleagues exclaim. It sounds grand, but often it only takes an extra dose of ignorance (of what to expect) or stubbornness to complete it. There is no doubt that Ironman triathlon uses all of your emotional tools against you, sometimes at your weakest moments. But my friends at Run To Live and I have learned that all you need is courage, determination and a little bit of luck to get to the finish line.

I mention this as we have again just embarked on an Ironman journey, this time with friends in tow. On the first weekend in August we’ll all be toeing the start line in Regenburg, Germany for the second running of the event. It’s been really interesting to watch their approach to training and compare.

(photo by Laurie King)

That’s Jules. She’s our ring leader. She’s always there, never shirks and doesn’t rely on rubbish excuses that some of us throw in when we can’t be arsed. She’s the one who borrowed her Dad’s climbing helmet to cycle in when she forgot to take her own. She’s the one who will get in and do her 100 lengths without the chit chat. Determined, focussed, capable.

Phil is our panicker. He does every training session, adds extra and thinks he’s still isn’t doing enough. Everything is 100%, which results in some amazing improvements but is also the same highway to burnout. We’re keeping an eye on him. 😉

Laurie is the frustrating beginner who picks everything up so quickly (he’ll be blushing when he reads this). The one who threw himself into the lake last year not being able to swim (Note: cheap wetsuits from Sainsbury do not help you to float!) Now he can comfortably do 100 laps in an hour while we are still struggling. He can cycle for hours at a really fast pace. Fast is fun to Laurie. Running is his achilles heel at the moment. A stress fracture and sprained ankle have hampered his plans to go long right now. But he’ll be fine, we don’t worry about him at all.

If you have the guts and determination to have a go, which one would you be? In the meantime, you can follow our progress to the start line at Run To Live.

Thanks Nicky, and best of luck to all of you! My husband did Ironman Switzerland some years ago and I was there as a spectator and supporter – completing the course (regardless of speed) is no mean feat and I take my hat off to all of you. I’ll be keeping an eye on your progress via your blog!

Guest post: Nicky at Run To Live on Ironman training is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Things like this make me love cycling

September 5, 2010

There are loads of reasons to love road biking.

The opportunity to combine training with catching a few rays (even if a cyclist’s tan does come with some pretty silly tan-lines. Cycling gloves, anyone?)

The thrill of careering down hills at 40mph balancing on two 23mm tyres.

The chance to ride a small, light, beautiful bike, the cycling equivalent of a Lotus Elise.

The peculiar rush you get every time you emerge victorious (ie alive) from the…er…attentions of a motorist.

And, of course, the sights you see from the vantage point of a bike. One of my favourite sights on my local little training loop is this.

I sometimes feel like stopping and asking for a “cockral”. Not just any old one, mind. Only the fattest will do.

Things like this make me love cycling is a post from The Fit Writer blog

Countdown to the Little Woody

August 23, 2010

And so Little Woody week has arrived. I’ve done my last long ride, my last long off-road run. I’ve even been to the swimming pool! And yesterday:

This happened

Uh oh


It looks like we’re camping on site the night before the race…

How to train any time, anywhere

August 18, 2010

As I might possibly have mentioned, you know, once or twice 😉 I became an Auntie for the first time on Friday. My sister lives in Kent, where we grew up, but I live a couple of hours’ drive away now. Therefore, when I got the call that my nephew was on his way, I packed the car knowing I wouldn’t be back for a few days. Babies being babies, I had no idea how long he’d take to arrive or how long I’d be needed for. (As it turns out, I was right to pack for longer than expected!) But I did know that I was going to be away, and running on a very odd schedule, during my last key training week for the Little Woody.

So what did I do? Write off a week of training? No fear. Give myself a few days off, then promise to cram all the training in when I got back? Erm, no.

I put swim, bike and run kit in the car, along with a coolbag full of necessary eats and drinks, and printed out my training schedule.

And, you know what? Being at my Dad’s for a long weekend, spending lots of time with my sister and nephew at the hospital, and keeping highly questionable hours made for some great R&R. Not rest and relaxation, silly. Running (and riding) and reminiscing.

I didn’t stick to my training plan 100%, I’ll admit. Friday’s morning swim made way for…well, for my nephew actually being born and for me getting to see him at just an hour old. But I got Friday’s evening run in, and it was a good ‘un: high on adrenalin and endorphins, I tackled the Road of Remembrance in Folkestone (it’s a hill) at a good pace. That’s how Aunties roll, you see 😉

Saturday’s long ride made way for a run, because it was pouring with rain. But it turned into one of the nicest runs I’ve done all year.

Devil's Kneading Trough, Wye

I ran from Wye (near the hospital) through beautiful little villages to a village called Stowting where I lived with my sister when we were kids. Then I ran back to Wye, using the North Downs Way byways and paths along which I used to ride my little fat horse when I was younger. Nostalgic doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Sunday was blowing a gale, but I absolutely had to get my 3-hour ride (and short brick) in, so I set off from my Dad’s negotiating some hairy dual carriageway before heading into the Kent countryside and following my nose, led mostly by memories of horse-riding, relative-visiting and pub-lunching of yesteryear. I only got lost once. Hilariously, I ended up popping out at a T-junction, looking around to see where I was and realising I was about 100 yards from the hospital. My nephew must be magnetic ;)!

I missed another swim because I wanted to see my “oldest friend in the world” (we’ve known each other for 30 years…!) and meet her baby. I think that’s a good enough excuse. But, all in all, I don’t think I did too badly. I did all the key training sessions over a long weekend at the peak of my training plan.

Just setting a good example for the kids. I’m an Auntie now, after all 😉

How to stick to your training plan when you’re out of your routine:

  • pack everything you think you might need. You don’t know how long you’ll be away for
  • don’t forget things like bottles of sports drink/powder, and a multi-tool
  • don’t leave one set of kit (swim/bike/run) at home. You’ll kick yourself if you find a great local pool or gorgeous run route
  • even if you’ve only got 30 minutes, you can still get some valuable training in
  • use the time away to explore new (or old) routes, rediscover places you’ve forgotten, and see some new sights
  • see it as a challenge – my bike ride was windy, I knew the roads would be busy, and I had no idea where to go. All the more reason to feel dead chuffed once I’d actually done it
  • make it social. I had every intention of persuading my Dad to come swimming with me, had I actually made it to the pool!

PS I didn’t take any pictures, so I googled for images to illustrate this post. I found this lovely blog post about the bit of the NDW I ran on Saturday – the images are from there. Thank you, blogger!

Riding the Little Woody course (and R2 giveaway)

August 12, 2010

And the Little Woody looms closer. It’s a half-Ironman/middle distance triathlon in the Forest of Dean and I can’t remember when (or why) I signed up to it, but it’s now only a few weeks away. I’ve done a half-Ironman distance triathlon before, so it’s not a first, but I would like to get a better result than at the Vitruvian in 2005. Although, of course, it’s impossible to compare different races.

Little Woody is a 1900m lake swim, 98km bike and 21km (aka half-marathon) run. The bike is renowned for being somewhat hilly, and the run is a mixture of trails, paths and other surfaces. Good-oh!

I’ve been quietly freaking out about the bike course, despite making great improvements in my bike confidence and performance this year. (You can read some of my sportive reports here, here and here). So, this weekend, whilst we were visiting my inlaws in Wiltshire, we decided to drive over to the Forest of Dean and ride the Little Woody bike course.

I was wibbling before we even got on the bikes. I don’t know why. It was horrible, reminding me of the bad old days when I’d send myself spiralling down into a whirl of negative thought processes about road-riding even on simple sunny jaunts around my local roads. Just outside the carpark, cars were flying past on an A-road, and I remembered some of the hills our car had groaned her way up to get here. I honestly nearly said “let’s not bother”, but then I got over myself.

We set off, joining the course at what will be about the 20km point on the actual race. The busy A-road road almost immediately pitched steeply, sending me careering downhill at more than 25mph before I’d had time to settle into the ride. As a car passed too close, my bike started wobbling crazily. I skidded to a halt, shouted my husband’s name until my throat hurt, and started to walk. Surely there was something wrong with the bike? Maybe I hadn’t put the wheels on properly? That wobbling was terrifying.

Husband arrived back (having had to come all the way back up the hill) and checked my bike carefully, even riding it up and down the hill himself. No wobbles. I must have hit the rumblestrip, or…something. I don’t know. 6 minutes into the ride and I was already close to crying with nerves. So far, so 2003. I had to get on with it.

Once we were off that A-road, things got a thousand times better. A good road surface, much fewer cars and stunning scenery. I was even down on my aero-bars.

From Five Acres, near Coleford, the route took us through Park End and Bream before joining the A48 at Alvington. Then it was a long stretch of the A48, through Blakeney and Newnham, before turning off for Micheldean. I nibbled my jam sandwiches in Nibley and we were buzzed by two buzzards near Flaxley Abbey. I reached 33mph going down a hill.

We got caught in a couple of heavy rainstorms which flooded the roads and filled my shoes with water in a matter of seconds. Passing cars sent waves of water over me, one of which soaked me to the waist, and conditions got a bit hairy.

The final third of the route was a beautiful stretch along the River Wye before a cruel climb up to English Bicknor. I’d heard this was the toughest climb on the course (we have to do it twice in the race!) so I was feeling pretty pleased with myself when I got up it feeling great. Then I realised there was another bit to do. A sneaky sharp bit, just when you think you’ve done it all.

Just over 75kms of riding, with 841m of climbing and a max elevation of 239m.

I was really glad to have ridden (most of) the course. It wasn’t as tough as I’d imagined, and I coped well, which gave me a massive confidence boost. It’s a hard, hilly course – hardly any of it’s flat – but nothing I can’t do. I’m not sure I could have said the same a few months ago!

Of course, this being triathlon training, I couldn’t stop once I got off the bike. A quick change in the leisure centre (big up Forest Leisure for letting us use the car park and changing rooms) and then I was off on a (very short!) run. I had no idea where the Little Woody run course was so didn’t bother trying to find it. I just ran round the field for a bit, and threw in a couple of chin-ups on the school equipment just for the hell of it.

I arrived back at the car just as husband was laughing his head off at my bike wheels. The rear one had filled with water during the rainstorms and was hugely heavier than the other one. I hadn’t even noticed. I’d just assumed I was getting tired. Training with a wheel full of water: perhaps some new resistance technique that British Cycling could adopt?!

Here’s me stuffing my face after a long ride and a short run. My mother-in-law made us a breakfast cake which was perfect for after a ride (and, er, before it too). Here’s the recipe.


That bottle of drink next to me is grapefruit and orange R2. R2 is a nice choice for rehydrating because it helps replace vitamins, minerals and electrolytes as well as fluid. I wouldn’t rely on it for energy during exercise (although I have used it during pool sessions, and I have used it on the bike – one bottle of R2, one bottle of energy drink), but it’s great for afterwards. I prefer to water it down a bit (R2, please don’t now tell me I’m wrecking the electrolyte balance!), but that’s just how I roll.

The goodly folk at R2 have sent me a nice taster pack of the three R2 flavours (full size bottles, in a nice presentation box). They’re yours for the taking. Just reply in the comments, or send me a message on Twitter (@thefitwriter) using the hashtag #r2comp telling me: what’s your favourite thing to eat or drink during exercise?

Entry closes midnight UK time, Friday 13th August. I’ll number the entries and pick a winner at random. 🙂

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