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

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Becoming a Dambuster finisher finally!

If you had all seen my latest post, you will have been aware that I was intending to fully go out there any enjoy the Dambuster race this year and try to avoid any dramatics like last year. Being at Rutland Water gave me that full home advantage and I wanted to face my demons and race hard and strong with the added bonus that it was a ITU Worlds Qualifier and would be a tough field.
Knowing the course was probably in my best interests as having been following the weather forecasts pretty much hourly, I knew that a Southerly wind would mean that the Rutland Ripple would be doubly hard due to the hills and the headwind.
So the weekend began with my friend Rob Monk arriving from Chester. He has played a large part in my swim coaching for the past couple of years so it was great to be able to see him and show him the route the night before. Driving around the course was a great way of seeing where you needed to be able to push and where you needed to avoid anything in the road- there wasn't that much as our roads around here are really quite good and smooth!
We then registered and were informed that due to the temperature of the water being below 12 degrees BTF rules stated that they needed to cut it down by 500m making it 1000m.  Additionally due to the southerly wind blowing directly into the creek that we were to swim in, if this made it difficult for safety cover, they would cancel the swim entirely, making it a duathlon with a 5km run to begin.
That was not the greatest news I could have heard. I was ignoring the fact that the water was so damned cold, but knew that I would not have covered 15km in training so that would be a bit challenging to say the least. The decision would be made at 6.15am the following morning.
So it was off home to discuss the potential pitfalls for the next day and what our race strategy would be come duathlon or tri. For Will and Rob a shorter swim was really detrimental as they are very strong swimmers this would mean that they had even less time on their main competitors.

The morning dawned windy and slightly drizzly, but I was pleased to see that the rain did manage to hold off and even the sun was trying to say hello.
It was great to be at a race knowing the area, knowing sooooo many people, and to have Stamford Tri supporters out in force to cheer us on. Racking my bike I overheard the commentator announce that a swim was due to take place, and I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief, as swimming is my strongest at the moment. Racked up, I made my way over to the throng of Stamford Tri competitors and we chatted and listened to the race briefing to be told that we needed to watch out for cars etc as the amount of people on bikes would mean that the cars would be slowing down. You weren't to overtake or undertake, and with 8 draft busters on the course, drafting would be definitely caught!
Finally it was time for Will's wave to go, and beach starts would take place- to get as much meterage as they could for the swim and watched the men dive into the water. I managed to clock Will coming out of the water in 7th place around 1:30 down on the leader (he was MILES in front!).

Chatting Ready for the race
Soon enough it was time for the girls. In our yellow hats we made our way into the water. Yes it was pretty cold, and yes I did do what most other athletes do in their wetsuit to keep warm! I had been a bit annoyed and nervous after the commentator had announced that in previous waves there was more than the usual amount of breaststrokers- a bit of scaremongering- GREAT!?! But I got in and tried my best to acclimatise, which wasn't too bad apart from on my head.

Then it was back out and ready with the hooter for the off......
 Beach Start made for interesting swimming or rather fighting- you would have thought ladies were uch more polite!
Off we went!
I can only descorbe that those first few hundred metres as being a bit of a washing machine and fight. I was groped, I groped others, I got hit on the head. It was really manic. I can only imagine that for weaker swimmers it was really quite awful. I stuck my head down and maintained a hard but manageable pace which seemed to get me clearer and nearer the front of the pack. As we made our way towards the end of the creek I was in clearer water but still on top of people and toes. It was only when we turned around (and back into the wind and chop) that I made some headway as I was fairly confident in this choppy water. Having only swallowed a small amount of water, I was pleased to get back to the start with relative ease and exited the water with a couple of others. It seems I placed well in my age group for the swim and exited the water around 25th or so out of a field of 190. Not bad at all! With 15:20 for the 1km swim being announced by the commentator (she did have some good points!) and running the slightly longer path for the ladies and older gentleman's transition, I found my bike and then struggled to get the wetsuit off (thus noting that I needed to practise this a bit more!).

Getting onto the bike was a bit of an effort but once the shoes were on (left them on the bike this time with elastics) I was off down the driveway and out onto the main road.
Here would be a slight crosswind which I used to my advantage and worked my way on the bike, I was fully expecting to be passed quite a bit on these early stages, which did happen, although I managed to pass a couple myself and made my way to the first roundabout without too much trouble. I could however see the cars being problematic as one car passed me and then couldn't pass anyone else so braked heavily meaning that I had to slow, as did two other ladies, and then on the roundabout he managed to squeeze one of these poor ladies onto the pavement! Not good at all. I also clocked a large group of ladies in front of me who were clearly drafting, but it wasn't long before I saw a draft buster coming along and clocking them! I also happened to see a lady whose number wasn't facing the right way, and the draft buster signalled this to her, and after he had rode off, she blatantly left it facing forward- there is just no justice sometimes.
The next section was to be straight into the wind and my gosh it was tough hard work. Approaching the Ripple I knew that it would be tough, but managed to get my head down and work up those hills as hard as I had done in training... and some! It was great to see so many people cheering us on at specific points as well. The only weird thing I experienced was a real feeling of jittering in my legs on all of the hills. I don't know whether it was anxiety or nervousness or even weakness, but any ideas or thoughts are greatly recommended!
Having conquered the Ripple, it was down onto the fastest part of the course. It was brilliant! Tailwind and smooth flat roads meant that I beat my target of getting to the final hill in Ketton. i wanted to be there in an hour which I did. I was pleased as punch. I did manage to pass a few more people (probably around 10-12 in total) which isn't many but considering the field I took it all in my stride and enjoyed it.

Heading back into Whitwell would be another tough old drag, but I clocked my time and realised that my aim of 1:30 for the bike was a very realistic goal and making my way back into T2 (with a very slick dismount according to Will) I was pleased to have ridden a 29.2kph average (1:26:06). AWESOME!
The run would be my absolute worst part of the day, although setting out of T2 I was pleasantly surprised that my legs felt ok. Heading out to the Dam I realised soon enough that I probably would need to remove my trusty cap and went across the dam into a huge headwind that wanted to blow me away! The run was a steady run and although I knew that it was slow, I just wanted to finish strong and not have any stomach problems. I had taken a gel 20 minutes before the swim and at 45 minutes into the bike and only sipped a bit on the bike. I did not want to vomit again or to have a stitch. I was unfortunate enough to get a slight stitch initially on the run, but this soon went off. I ran as hard as my legs would go, and it was a relief to get the wind on my back turning around on the dam.
On my final leg I was quite pleased that there was a steady stream of people after me, meaning that I would not be last and far from it!
The last mile I tried to push slightly harder, and with it came the stupid heaving again (need to sort this out) and it was a huge case of mind over matter to stop me from being ill over the finish line which would not have been a pleasant look! Lots of cheering from Stamford Tri all the way to the finish and some great photos (courtesy of Darren Kelly and Steve Meynell- thank you guys!) showed that I really did enjoy my day out on the Dambuster.

Finish line- Yes I had done it!
What a race! It was then to find everyone and congratulate everyone else and see what my final times were.
I had managed to finish in 2:35:17 which even with a full swim would have seen me finish in under 2:45 (my target time). I was elated! I felt great and it was great to see Will had finished in 2 hours dead, even with a full swim would have been fastest Olympic Distance ever for him so a massive PB. Photo below shows him fully going for it at the finish!
Rob did really well as well and finished strong in his age group. I managed to come 14th out of 22 girls in my age group, which was a real achievement and I managed to come 91st out of the ladies field (190ish). I was really chuffed for one of my good friends Michelle Wright coming 5th lady overall and the 3rd fastest times for the swim and bike. Awesome stuff! It was a first time race for a couple of Stamford Tri guys too, so a massive well done to those guys!
I wanted to thank everyone for their support on such a fantastic race, I really really went for it and really enjoyed the race. I have now set myself a benchmark, and even though I didn't qualify at this race, I know that it wasn't my first priority. My only real goal was to finish and to finish well. I think it's safe to say that this race has shown my improvements and I definitely achieved those goals.

So today it's a recovery ride and let those legs feel better!

Happy Training!


Friday, 15 June 2012

Summer........ What Summer?

Well haven't we all been having fun in the sun??? No? Well that's been the story of my life and everyone else I know who has been training. Wind, rain and cold. We have had it all. And the timing couldn't have been worse!

The Dambuster Triathlon is less than 24 hours away and I have been constantly checking the weather with every click hoping that by some miracle the weather forecasters have got it wrong and that the heavy gusts and gales predicted will not materialise! Oh well, it can only make you stronger I suppose, but having raced Woodhall in the pouring rain, and Lincoln pretty much, it has been a rather varied race season so far.
Being only my second ever Olympic distance event, the Dambuster for me is pretty much my main race of the season, some call it their A race, others might call it the one above all others. For me it is simply the one where I wanted to perform my best with over 6 months of hard training, weight loss and strength gain all under my belt. I say wanted as with the predicted weather I am certain that this will have a great effect on my performance. Not so much with the swim (although there are rumours of a shorter swim due to temperature) but more so on the bike. If I decide to don a jacket, that will be the 3rd time racing in a jacket, and I pray to god that the wind is favourable for a majority of the bike, although I am probably wishful thinking!

The Dambuster for me in 2011 has some awful memories and for me it was all about being strong and at least trying to finish. Last year I had the worst preparation for an Olympic distance event ever. I was firstly injured with those awful shin splints and therefore was not fully race fit, but I wasn't prepared to lose my race fee (remember also that I had only just come out of a splint for my wrist two months earlier!). Also I was pretty tired having driven up to Sunderland and back down to Essex before finishing the week off in Glasgow for work and flying back on the Friday night before the race- again not ideal race preparation. It was to be my second ever Olympic distance, so you would have thought I would have been fitter, but having only completed a small number of training sessions, I was well and truly over estimating my capabilities.
Anyway, race morning dawned and after a hectic start, I was pleased to come out of the water with a half decent swim time. I then began to run into T1 with Will cheering me on. I glanced over and shouted had he finished, to which he replied that he had pulled out. So there again the mindset took a tumble. Knowing that Will had pulled out, having not run anything over 2 miles in the run up to the event, and having some very dark clouds appear overhead, I was already beginning to crumble.
No matter I thought, onwards and to the bike. After starting off pretty well, I began to get passed, and more people began to pass me, and even more, until I thought I must be the last person on the bike here. I was it was safe to say pretty demoralised, and even began to cry. My thoughts were an absolute mess and my mind was set on getting back to T2 and pulling out. Having seen Will pull out, I then thought that not finishing was a serious option for me. It didn't help matters when 3/4s of the way through the bike the heavens opened and I got hail and rain thrown down on top of me stinging my face and arms. Such a relief it was to get back into T2 and rack my bike. Again though my mind was racing between "run run run" and "stop stop stop". Racking my bike, I then thought it's all over............ until I thought no carry on you silly twit. Putting on my shoes and running out of T2 I felt OK, until literally the first gate about 300m away. I was really feeling pretty bad and the marshal there at the gate asked me if I was OK and I just about burst into tears. I DID NOT feel OK, I was miserable. Triathlon was meant to be about enjoyment, and I almost wanted to drop down I felt so bad. The lovely man gave me some sweets and told me to try for another 100m, which I eventually did, but knowing the torturous run back and forth over the dam, I decided to call it a day. What an event, my mind was in pieces, my body was screaming at me and I was totally gutted.
Anyway, enough moping, on reflection afterwards and with hindsight it was easy to see that I was under prepared through and through and it would have been better to have not even started, despite losing the entry fee. This year that is all going to be a far distant memory. I AM stronger, fitter, leaner and faster than I have EVER been before and even though the weather gods have decided to be mean and play havoc with us all, I am going to give it my best shot.
Being a Worlds Qualifier means that the competition at this event will be fierce, but I know what to expect and I am ready to fight my demons and destroy the race that almost destroyed me.

Good luck to all of those racing this event this weekend, I know many of you reading this will be taking part or watching (thanks in advance!).

Happy training and Racing!

Kerry X

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

A Lovely Jubilee Weekend and Woodball Shower triathlon more like!

What a weekend! It was glorious to have 4 whole days off work to train, race and to have a really good time with friends and family to enjoy and celebrate such a momentous occasion.
The weekend kicked off for me by attending a ball with some great friends Alex and Michelle also from Stamford Tri Club.
Saturday ended up being a complete rest day for me with Woodhall Spa Sprint Triathlon on the Sunday so I spent much of the day cleaning the house before having dinner at Will's Mum's house.
I had been trawling the weather websites all day looking at the forecast for Sunday which was to be cold, wet, windy and pretty miserable. It would be a Stamford Tri takeover with around 15 or so of us racing in Woodhall Spa. This would be great knowing that there was plenty of familiar faces on race day. After waking up at a lovely sociable hour, I picked up a fellow triathlete from Stamford (Andrea) and drove on up through the awful rain and wind, willing the temperature on my dashboard to rise above 9 degrees with no such luck.
After finally parking the car (on the field past the run course!) we debated about our options before finally taking everything with us from the car due to the 15 minute walk to the main race HQ. We were totally soaked before we arrived at the registration tent and then having registered, it was time for as minimal transition as possible. I decided to leave my shoes off the bike again and cover them over with a towel as well as leave a jacket to wear on the bike.
We then made our way into the pool centre and slowly stripped off our layers to try and acclimatise to the appalling conditions and cold temperatures outside.
those of you that have been following my blog will have seen that I have had a few stomach issues on the run, and having met with Mary on the Saturday morning, i followed her advice of having a pretty big breakfast and then a gel around 20 minutes before the start of the race in order to allow my stomach to be ok for the run. I also was to sip a drink on the bike course. In my haste I had however forgotten my drinks bottle in the car and decided against walking back through the rain to get it, and decided to purchase a sports drink and leave this on my bike. In the end I only took a couple of sips just for good measure whilst on the bike course.
Anyway I didn't get hungry and managed to have my gel whilst waiting around in the changing rooms ready for the start.
It was a pretty miserable start to the race, however there was plenty of support from fellow Stamford Tri Club people which was great to see and hear!
Once called for the swim start into the water we went, and I relaxed at the lovely balmy temperature of the water- thinking to myself that I better enjoy this as the next bit would be mightlilty cold!
I exited the water after 400m (12 laps of a 33m pool) and headed into the mudbath that was transition. Locating my bike, I made a slight error in putting my race belt on upside down and then after finally pulling my my rain jacket, had to negotiate the HUGE muddy puddle that was on the exit of transition.
The bike was the worst part of the race for me. I just couldn't warm up at all! I had no feeling in my fingers or toes and the rain was belting down and the wind was pretty much in my face for most of the first half of the course. I was overtaken by a few people and managed to claw back a couple of places, but all in all it was a pretty dire result coming in at 51:13 for 24km. After my success on the bike in Nantwich I was pretty disappointed when I clocked my time coming back into T2, but there again the conditions were pretty shocking and it was only on the 2nd part of the course that i managed to get moving after the legs had warmed up!
Heading into T2 I felt pretty good, but the legs were moving and after heading out of the run exit (through the horrendous muddy puddle again) I was up on my toes and running strong. I felt pretty good and managed to pass 3 people heading out over the course. At the halfway mark (or so we were informed) I checked that I was on 10:30- and took a second look. I couldn't be running that fast surely?!
Anyway the run was a lovely flat square and therefore I knew where the final part would be and where to put the hammer down.
Coming in for a total time of 1:23:51 wasn't my best effort, but the run split of 22:28 certainly was a PB not only in a race but ever! I was chuffed to bits with that run split and was looking around like a deranged woman at the end to confirm that the run was indeed 5km to confirm my PB.
It was certainly a great event and race, and I must again thank the supporters for coming out on such an awful day to cheer us on in the pouring rain!
I have been having a good block of training recently with my hill rep session each week and increasing reps each time. I really am starting to feel much more confident about Dambuster in 11 days time, which is basically one of my key races of the year.
I am less nervous than I was about the bike, although running along 2 miles of the run route today has filled me with a sense of dread about that!
I am feeling really fit and much better than I ever have in triathlon and feel that I will probably do quite well as long as everything sticks and I don't get any niggles or injuries ahead of race day.
Next on the agenda is a pretty full week of training, with lots of work on the bike ready for next week's taper and journey to Glasgow for a few days with work. I will probably take the old trainers and do a couple of short runs just to to keep things ticking over. My next blog will likely be from after the Dambuster and will be a full run down of how it went.

What a weekend though, it was great to get a race in, some time with good friends and also to attend my first ever street party in Langham. It was really good fun to see everyone out enjoying themselves and celebrating the Queen's reign. I feel immensely proud to be British and part of her empire. Long live the Queen!