Southam sprint triathlon - the final one of the season. A local one to me, which is always well organised by local volunteers and just generally fun to do. It consisted of a 400m pool swim in the newly refurbished leisure centre, then one big 20k loop out into the countryside on the bike - a new route this year with slightly less hills but still testing, and then 5 1k laps on a grassed route around the edges of 2 fields.
The week before, having been diagnosed with sinusitis and given a 5 day course of antibiotics, I almost withdrew my entry and even messaged the organisers to see if that would be possible. However, having not had the best performances at my last two races it did really upset me that I might not be able to race the final one in my calendar and try and finish the season with a good all round consistent performance, and ultimately just enjoy myself! Sounds quite petty, but having put so many hours into training, you just want a race to go well! So I thought, a lot can change in 7 days, and so that week I just took it day by day to see how I was then feeling on Saturday.
Having then done a successful cycle outside and a pool swim on the Saturday, I made the decision to give Southam a go, with the aim of racing to feel and generally just going out to have fun!
I am so pleased that I did... From the word go I felt really good. My tight chest and general fatigue had gone and my legs actually wanted to go! A new PB in the pool, just 2w off a sprint distance bike power PB, and then a course PB on the run! Resulting in the overall ladies win! I had a smile all the way around - even on the run (I usually can find laps a bit boring, but not this time - it seemed to help me break it down into chunks and keep me pushing through).
To top the day off, my mum got her first triathlon trophy winning her age group! So proud of her!
After Valencia I told myself I never wanted to do a triathlon again... I can safely say this has rekindled my love for them 💖
Triathlon season complete - now for some muddy canicross, cross country fun and maybe some adventure cycles over winter!
The European Triathlon Championships – Completed it!!!
(Standard distance: 1500m - 38k - 10.2km)
One of my all-time goals since starting in multi-sport racing 4 years ago, was to qualify for an international triathlon race. I managed to do that unexpectedly at Box End last year just as they started lifting Covid restrictions and letting social distanced races start back up again. It has then been a bit of a roller coaster to get to the champs race itself! Combined with the uncertainty of it even going ahead due to Covid with my multiple silly injuries it was a gamble as to whether I would even be on the start line!
Frustratingly, even with the sacrifices I have made over the last year and hours spent training, I wasn't heading into the race as fit as I would have liked to be due to my inconsistent build up, trying to juggle my social life, injuries, and other commitments (including my wedding!). But I knew I had given it my all and I was just so excited to go out and soak in the atmosphere of an international race and actually get to be abroad surrounded by friends and family for the first time in what feels like ages!
Race morning started off fairly normal. Waking up at silly o clock and forcing down premade rice pudding and then heading down to transition in the dark. Arriving at transition we weren't actually allowed to start setting up until half an hour later than we were supposed to as it was flooded! This happened in Ibiza too but fortunately this time they didn't have to completely move transition to another location!
What it did mean though was that the flood water had left patches of really slimey slippy residue, so me being me slipped over whilst setting up and bashed my bum (my good bum, not the haematoma side) - so I was then super cautious tip toeing around.
After spending what felt like a good half an hour just staring at my stuff thinking I had forgotten something (is it just me who does this!?), we were then called over to the holding pens at the side of the marina and grouped ourselves in our age groups. Due to covid it was a staggered start, so we were set off individually every 3 seconds with a running jump / dive from a 1-2m pontoon. I'm pleased I got to practice jumping off at Eastbourne as otherwise it would have really made me nervous!
We jumped in just as the sun was coming up so it was really beautiful, but at the same time quite annoying as you could barely see where you were swimming with the sun so low. It also didn't help that my goggles steamed up and we also didn't have chance to recce the course, so I didn't entirely know where I was meant to be going so I tried to follow the feet in front of me – hoping they were swimming the right way. Despite all of that, it was actually a really enjoyable swim as the water was really warm and the staggered start meant we were all nicely spaced out so didn’t get kicked at all.
The run out to transition wasn’t too far, and I had walked through the route when I set up pre-race so thought I knew where I was going… well I was wrong… in my head I was halfway down the second row so in the heat of the moment headed down what I thought was my row. Turns out, this was actually the third row and I had mistaken the first rack as the fence as it had no bikes left on it as it was the speedy earlier men’s wave rack. I then got shouted at by the race official to go back up the row I was in and then come back down mine, rather than ducking under… eugh! As I went to quickly turnaround on the spot, my feet completely slipped from underneath me on the residue of the flood waters (you would have thought I had learnt my lesson from earlier!) and I went straight down onto the concrete floor on my hip and ribs, ending up flat out on my tummy, completed winded. I could have burst into tears. Even the official apologised as I peeled myself off the floor. All I could hear was my mum shouting at me to get up. I was so angry, yet so upset at the same time - why do these things always happen to me! From the official results, I came out of the swim 11th and dropped to 15th with my silly slow transition – grr!
Anyway, I managed to get out onto my bike and just reminded myself that this was the fun part and to make the most of being out in the awesome sunshine with the constant cheer of ‘Go GB’ – it is honestly such an amazing experience! My legs felt good so pushed to try and make up the time I lost on the floor in transition and use my anger as a motivator! It was a fairly technical but flat course made up of lots of out and backs along the Valencian roads, so I really tried to corner well and push hard out of the corners and get aero on the straights. It seemed to have worked as I managed to climb back up to 9th position after the bike and get a power PB for Olympic distance bike. Maybe I need to be angry for future races!
Out onto the run, which was 3 out and backs alongside the marina, I set off with intent and at my planned pace, but this slowly dwindled. My ribs were sore, so breathing was difficult, and my hip was tight. I tried to run through it, but my pace just got slower and slower. All I could think about was the jug of Sangria I would be enjoying when I finished! The crowds as always though were amazing which really did keep my spirits up – hearing your name being shouted is just so cool! Sadly due to Covid, the finish line didn’t have any crowds so it was slightly surreal being almost silent, but I was soon reunited with my friends and family who had come out to support me when I walked around the corner – sweaty hugs!
Overall I finished 16th (15th if you discount a lady who apparently cut the run route short right in-front of where my friends and family were supporting from) – which I guess in an International race against the rest of Europe isn’t too shabby! I am frustrated that I trained so hard to then not be able to perform at my best on the day due to my fall, but to even be at the event was my original goal so to me that’s an achievement in itself – a lifelong dream ticked off!
So finally, big shout outs to firstly Clive the most patient husband putting up with the many hours I have spent training in the build up to this race and supporting me throughout; also to my mum, Amy and Marcus who came out to Valencia to support me – I couldn’t have done it without your cheers; all the others from Team GB who shouted my name on course – it really did give me a massive boost; and also Fran my coach who has helped me get me to some sort of race fitness despite my numerous injuries!
Next for me are a couple of local triathlons, then off season to enjoy some downtime and prioritise fun runs with my furry run buddy Ellie 😊
It was always on my plan to have a warm-up race before Valencia, to finalise nutrition and pacing, and generally just give me a little confidence boost. The tricky thing was finding the time to fit one in as Covid had helpfully crammed everything I wanted to do in both 2020 and 2021 into the same few months – my hen do, triathlon coaching qualification, planning my wedding, actually having my wedding and then my minimoon! All whilst juggling training for the European Triathlon Championships. Oh and trying to actually have a social life and see friends and family seen as we actually are able to now!
So, despite it not being the best timing I decided to do the Cotswolds End of Season triathlon which was a week after my wedding as I didn’t really have many other options! I knew I wouldn’t have the best build up to it, having had effectively 2 full days off the previous weekend for the wedding itself, and then 3 further days will little training whilst on my minimoon – which of course I wanted to enjoy with lots of champagne and time with the new hubby seen as you only get to do it once (hopefully anyway!).
With that in mind, I knew my legs would most likely asleep come race day so it took the pressure off a little bit, but I still made sure to replicate everything I would do on the ‘A’ race day – same tea the night before (trusted lentil pasta, with quorn chunks and tomato sauce), same breakfast (homemade rice pudding with almond milk and coconut sugar), and same fuelling strategy (a Torq gel 20 mins pre-swim, and one every 30 mins thereafter, plus Torq electrolytes in my drinks bottle on the bike).
Although, I then took this ‘replication’ a little too far – in hindsight it was a silly idea. We were told during race registration that it was optional wetsuits as the water temperature was 20.5 degrees. I knew that there is a strong possibility that Valencia will be mandatory non-wetsuit, so thought this could be a good opportunity to practice open water swimming without the comfort of a wetsuit. In theory a good idea. In reality, the water and air temperature in the Cotswolds that day weren’t exactly the lovely warm conditions you would expect in Spain.
As soon as I jumped into the water to set off on my 1500m swim, it felt as though someone was squeezing my chest so hard. The shock of the water stopped me from being able to breathe properly for a good minute or so. After a while, I did manage to stop hyperventilating and get into a normal rhythm and at the time felt OK – I was overtaking people from previous waves and even people in my own wave. However, once I had finished the race and checked my times, I realised my pace was at least 10 seconds per 100m slower than recent open water swims – clearly I am faster with my wetsuit if it is cold ish!
Onto the bike and I knew something wasn’t quite right as my chest still felt tight and it took me a while again to settle into a nice rhythm, and my legs just didn’t have the power. Despite that, I really enjoyed the ride as the route took us on a big loop through lovely Cotswolds villages – it was a really nice course. I also managed to overtake quite a few people which is always a nice feeling, although two people I had to overtake twice as I turned left rather than right at a crossroads – doh! Overall I finished second fastest lady for the bike element, so not a bad result.
The into the dreaded run. In my head I had a pace I wanted to run which I have been hitting in training, but sadly my body had other ideas. Twice I had to stop to walk as I just couldn’t breath – all I can think is my core temperature had dropped too much during the swim and hadn’t recovered so couldn’t function very well. I also started getting horrid blisters about 4k in, which in the end took 4 days to heal stopping me running for a bit post-race…). And I then had a panic at the finish line as I wasn’t sure I had done the 6 laps I was supposed to, so wasted a good 30-40 seconds trying to work it out. oops! In the end I had done enough thankfully and crossed the line to be greeted with a pop ice – haven’t had one of those in ages and it felt like the best thing post-race!
So lesson learnt – don’t try something new on race day, even if you are trying to replicate a future race. Try it during training, or maybe just never go non-wetsuit in the UK, it is far too cold lol!
But also, lots of positives to take away – no issues with my fuelling, transitions were smooth and my bike leg wasn’t too shabby. I also somehow finished 6th lady and 2nd in my AG too (and as the winner of my age group was the overall winner, I also got awarded the AG winner trophy)!
A very late race report for the Ironbourne Middle Distance Aquabike race in Eastbourne - wedding preparations, training, work and everything else getting in the way at the moment!)
So Ironbourne in Eastbourne was supposed to be my first 70.3 race (1900m swim, 90k bike, half marathon run), an A race in my 2021 calendar, but frustratingly 2 weeks out I came off my bike at speed and sustained road rash on my legs and arms, a bruised pelvis and a haematoma on my left buttock…
People have asked how, and I am not entirely sure! All I know is I was travelling at 44kmh when I came off, according to my Garmin, and just remember flipping and ending up on the other side of the road. I think I must have hit some uneven road surface, and being unstable on my TT bars, just lost control. Fortunately, nothing was coming the other way, so I am incredibly lucky it wasn’t worse. My phone and new sunglasses ended up in the middle of the road, and they were ok too! A big concern, which any other fellow cyclist would understand, was if my bike was ok.. fortunately, it just needed the gear shifters straightening as they must have been stuffed into the floor, and that was it other than a few scratches (some on my new power pedals which was a bit sad).
So, having visited the amazing Jon at Shires physiotherapy a couple of days later, it seemed as though I probably wouldn’t be racing Eastbourne as I could barely even walk without pain. I can also confirm that having a haematoma on your bum is an extremely annoying place as you can’t even sit down comfortably, resulting in me spending the first couple of days after the accident just laid on my side!
After a couple of days of rest, I began gently cycling on the turbo again just to get the blood flowing and legs moving to encourage healing, soon followed by swimming (pull only) and aqua jogging when the road rash had healed. Gradually, as the days went on, I was able to go a bit longer in the pool and on the turbo, and I started wondering whether I could I do the aqua bike version (swim-bike only) of the race?? Before I made this decision, I knew I needed to get back outside on the bike and make sure I had no fears following the accident. So following on from that I went out twice, the first I was pretty slow. Initially every corner, bit of gravel or uneven road made me tense up but gradually this wore off and I ended the ride with much more confidence. A couple of days out from the race I was able to get out for 90 mins and felt much more confident that I could actually give the aqua bike a go, albeit potentially slower than I would want to.
So that was that, and I headed down to Eastbourne on the Saturday with fellow participant and friend Izzy. We did a familiarisation swim that afternoon and wow I am glad I did – it just reminded me how underprepared I was for a sea swim! A last-minute crash course on how to sight and breathe in waves and how to contend with a strong current (thanks Izzy!) and I felt a little more confident for the race and that I might not end up in the next bay…
Race day we were up at a ridiculous time of the morning, the same time people would be coming home from a night out, but it meant we got to head over to transition watching the sun rise over the sea – so beautiful.
The swim itself was interesting. To begin with we had to jump off the actual pier! Well, down some steps, but still a good few metres above water level, which instantly filled my goggles with water as I made contact with the water. We were really lucky that the sea was pancake flat so I didn’t have waves to contend with unlike the previous day, but I certainly underestimated the current. Although it sounded as though most people had a similar problem and I wasn’t the only one to be taken off course, despite trying to compensate by swimming in a slightly different direction to where you were headed. The main thing was I had no pain throughout.
Transition was a good 800m or so away from the beach, so I was slightly worried running would be uncomfortable but in the heat of the race and not wanting to waste time I started running as soon as I got out of the water and was surprised it was ok – I think the tight wetsuit was acting as compression clothing on my bum!
Then out onto the fun bit, the bike. I had no idea what to expect as I had only ever done 40k in a race for the standard distance duathlon and triathlons I usually race, so 90k was a fair bit further. I also had no idea how my injuries would cope having only done 90 minutes outside on the bike since the crash, so I just set out to feel and as it was a hot day, really focused on my hydration and fuelling (trying to eat or drink every 15 mins – i.e. sip of electrolyte drink, a gel, energy drink, gel, electrolyte drink etc). Within the first ~15 minutes I had already passed a few girls which filled me with confidence and I soon found myself with another 2 guys, which ended up being really fun as we yo-yo’d for most of the course having some banter as we passed each other (whilst obviously trying to maintain our drafting distances :p) 40k passed and it was strange thinking I would normally be done, but I felt great, fuelling must have been working and my injuries were behaving so I pushed on.
The course itself was quite technical, with a fast start on dual carriageways, then into country lanes with lots of wiggly corners to navigate, and then just to finish your legs off, two big long climbs up onto Beachy Head. The climbs were worth it though as it was stunning up there. As I headed back down into town, I felt so happy that I’d made it (and maybe relieved as I knew I was almost done and didn’t have to run … maybe aqua bikes are the way forwards lol). As I ran into transition the marshals shouted that I was 3rd lady and that 2nd lady was only just out and onto the run (they obviously didn’t know I was only doing the aqua bike and not the full triathlon). I couldn’t believe it! I had managed to get myself into 3rd place, which surely meant in the aqua bike competition I must be currently in a top position!
I didn’t have much time to think about that though as to get my medal I had to rack my bike and then make my way down the finish straight and over the finish line. My time had stopped as I went into T2, so I didn’t have to rush, but I was still encouraged to run down the finish straight as I got onto the blue carpet – very strange! But as I crossed the line, they confirmed I was first of the women to finish in the aqua bike – I couldn’t believe it! And then to top it off, Izzy won the 70.3 so we brought home two winners’ trophies! Perfect weekend!
Moral of the story – don’t give up. We might be faced with obstacles, but you might be surprised by what you can actually achieve – keep strong and keep pushing.
A massive thank you to Jon at Shires Physio for helping me with my recovery and to coach Fran for believing in me and shaping my training plan to get back to some form of race state!
Now to get back running!!
I have been looking forward to this race for a long time - in my home town, sharing the venue with the pro World Series race and finishing on the blue carpet and having my family there to support.
The day didn't quite start to plan and ended up pretty stressful, with us arriving miles later than I would have liked at the venue due to the road closures preventing us from getting to the official car park, resulting in us abandoning the car on the side of a random road and walking the rest of the way (not to self... Check the road closures map before setting off next time... 🙈) This then meant I had little time to get through the extra Covid queues, register, set up transition and get down to the swim start. I ended up basically running straight from a porta loo (needing that inevitable last minute wee), whilst pulling up my wetsuit, into the water to start the race (with a staggered start, with ladies off every few seconds), just remembering to start my watch. It did mean I had no time to overthink what was to come and worry about it though!
One benefit of starting at the back of my wave was that I had a few people to overtake, which gave me confidence and people to chase down. I'm not the fastest swimmer, but felt strong and controlled even during the scramble around the buoys. I was about 1 minute slower than last time I did this route in 2019, but considering I've broken my elbow since then and only swam in a lake twice in the lead up this time around (too much of a wuss to face the freezing lake temps recently), I was quite pleased.
T1 at Leeds is always tough - it feels an awful long way to run up to transition from the lake (I think once you have run to the mount line too it's about 1k!), and my legs as always didn't want to work having been horizontal! But overall, also considering as I was getting my bike off the rack I caught my lower shin on my pedal which snapped my rubber band holding my shoe in place and took a chunk out of my leg which bled for the rest of the race, I was happy with my flying mount - having only practiced a few times the day before 🙈
The bike was super fun as always. It's a technical and hilly course but really does test you. I think I knocked off about 4 mins from 2019 on pretty much a similar course, so really pleased with that - thank you Catenary Coach Tim! Although on numerous occasions I did get frustrated with slower people holding me up and not keeping left! Lots of 'on your right' being shouted from competitors, not just me! Looking at the results afterwards, I was going into the run 6th in my age group, which I am super happy with.
Then out onto the run. Having plotted the route on strava prior to the race I knew it was going to be tough with essentially a big hill to climb 3 times and then finishing with a mini mountain to get onto the finish line platform! And I was not wrong... Ouch! Running up the hills I just felt as though I was going backwards, it wasn't pleasant, and then when you got to the descents your legs wouldn't turn over quick enough to try and make up any time lost on the hills! The crowds were one of the main things keeping me going - they were epic! Such an awesome atmosphere. My time was pretty slow, and having put work in over the last few months to build up my run fitness, I was quite disappointed. It also didn't help my feet started to sting with blisters on the first lap (and now I can't put socks or shoes on!) from both my shoes and my timing chip anklet (this doesn't usually happen so not sure why it did on this occasion!) However, reviewing footage my family took of me whilst running I can tell that I am a much stronger runner as I didn't lose my form throughout (no classic Hels dying head bob in sight!).
Despite my run time, I still finished in a faster overall time than 2019 and a better placing in my age category (12th) so I am still really pleased.
Another element I finally nailed was my pre race nutrition, thanks to Jade at PFA. I have really suffered with GI distress in both training and racing and we have been working hard to find a combination that gives me energy but doesn't make me need the loo! This time my premade rice pudding (pudding rice, almond milk and cinnamon) with banana, which I ate 2.5 hours before my swim, followed by a gel 15 mins before I set off seemed to perfect! Yay! Plus minimising fibre and high fat foods the day before (no peanut butter boo!) - so a super simple Quorn and rice dish for tea.
All in all, it was so awesome to be back racing with crowds and alongside friends too! Let's hope we get a few more this season too!
Moreton Morrell 11th April 2021
It has been a while since I have been able to write up one of these! Wahoo, racing is back!
Less than two weeks ago, it was announced that Tempo events would be able to put on their duathlon at Moreton Morrell College (very local to me!). It was one of the last events to take place in 2020 pre-Lockdown 1.0, which sadly I had to miss due to my fractured elbow at the time, and this time it was one of the first post-Lockdown 3.0! When I saw the announcement, I was in two minds – 1) sheer excitement that I may actually be able to race again but 2) oh no I am really not race fit having had only about 3 weeks of consistent training due to various periods of time off with a few niggles since the beginning of the year… but ultimately the excitement to just be racing again won, and I entered!
Coach Tim as always was fantastic and amended my plan last minute to account for the new race on the horizon and we managed to squeeze in one brick session in the build-up – which actually was on that super-hot day (remember our two days of summer before it then returned to winter…!). It actually went better than expected, which filled me with a bit more confidence for the race.
The weather forecast for race day though was a stark contrast – freezing temperatures. Brilliant… and as we were all arriving at the race venue it started to properly snow! If I wasn’t already faffing in transition to set up my stuff enough already, as I felt so out of practice and thought I was going to forget something, the snow then caused a last-minute panic about what layers I now needed to wear and additional alterations to all of my kit in transition so it didn’t get soaked! But miraculously, as I started to warm up the sunshine came out and it turned out to be pretty lovely (cue another quick dash to transition before the race started to grab my sunglasses for the run..)
The race itself was really well organised, with a great balance of covid secure measures plus elements to try and replicate the normal pre-covid race atmosphere such as music and tonnoys – a big thank you to Tempo Events! One of the covid measures was setting us all off on waves, which has its pro’s and con’s – obviously not knowing where you are in a race and effectively racing it as a time trial makes it much harder, but it did mean a much more relaxed start! We had 10 minutes to set off when we liked – which meant I could wander to the start line, stretch and set off when I was ready – lovely!
The run route itself was a particularly challenging one, made up of a 2-mile loop with a big hill you had to climb to get back to the start – we had to do this loop three times for the first run, and then another two times on the second run – ouch! If you have any underlying niggles, this course is certainly one to bring them out – which it did two years ago when I last raced here and had to drop out before the last run as I was suffering with super tight calves. Fortunately, this time around I kept my pace comfortably hard and got through unscathed – it still felt extremely tough climbing up the hill for the fifth and final time, although I am sure it never gets easier!
The bike course was one big 36km loop around the local countryside, with some punchy short climbs, but frustratingly quite a few sets of roadworks with traffic lights (obviously couldn’t be avoided) which lost a bit of momentum – we did have time deducted if we had to stop at any (and at least I didn't topple over unlike the unlucky person pictured below!)
Overall, I finished 4th lady which I was pretty pleased about having not really had much of a build-up due to my recent injury. But one thing it has reminded me of, is how much I love racing and can’t wait for some more – motivation to train and improve has now been elevated a notch! Bring on the 2021 season and fingers crossed for no more cancellations!!
It does feel as though Instagram can sometimes just be a highlight reel of people's lives. The smiley faces, amazing places, awesome achievements blah blah blah... Which can really give people false representations of life... I think it's really important that we share both the good and the bad - the real life.
So here you go... I've always thought that running is my weakest triathlon discipline, so I have tried so hard to improve over the last couple of years and as a result, subconsciously, put immense pressure on myself to do better.
A couple of Fridays ago I was attempting to record a time for the Spa Striders virtual winter series (an amazing imitative to get people back running and give the club members something to focus on over what is going to be a pretty challenging winter) - this race being the Warwick Parkrun route which I have done numerous times. I set off on my own and within minutes I was suffering from dizziness, stomach pains, a tight chest and I just couldn't run... at all. This happened to me a few weeks previous too when I was attempting to do a fitness test (essentially just benchmarking my current level), and I really couldn't understand what was wrong - why couldn't I run the paces I normally can during training? It really got to me. After chatting it through with coach Tim, we came to the conclusion that it could be a form of performance anxiety that seems to be triggered when I have a goal in mind, like an individual running time trial, rather than everyday training runs. I'm generally a super chilled out person, never normally suffer with stress or anxiety in non sporting life, so this did come as a surprise.
I still don't fully know how to properly manage mine yet, but having done a bit of reading I have found few tips that I am going to try.
Performance anxiety in sports, sometimes referred to as "choking," is described as a decrease in athletic performance due to too much-perceived stress. Perceived stress often increases in athletes on game day because they have an audience and they have extremely high expectations of their success. This type of stress is often based on the way the athletes interpret the situation. It is rarely the external situation that causes stress, but rather the way the athlete's self-talk describes the situation that creates feelings of stress, anxiety, and fear.
The following are hopefully some ways to reduce performance anxiety:
1. Deep breathing
If we're anxious, our breathing becomes shallow. Breathing deeply from our belly has a calming effect and it can also prevent side stitches. Work on belly breathing during your training runs and, by race day, you’ll do it without even having to think about it.
2. Reframing negative thoughts - using positive affirmations
When we think or talk about our racing and training, we can make shifts in our language that will emphasise how we want to feel in the moment. Shifting our thoughts from specific time goals, speeds or paces.
Rather than telling yourself that you’re so nervous and afraid, keep repeating, “I’m so excited!” If someone asks you how you’re feeling about your upcoming race, just say, “I’m excited!” And tell yourself, “I feel good preparing myself for this challenge.”
Just calling your pre-race anxiety and its physical sensations something positive can completely reframe your anxiety and make you see it as an enhancing, motivating force rather than a debilitating one. Your “excitement” will make you feel sharp, pumped, and ready to take on your race.
3. Focusing on the process and not the end outcome - control the controllable
When we focus on end goals, we are doing an activity simply as a means to an end. Our behaviours are motivated by achieving a particular outcome, and research suggests you are more likely to experience anxiety. We can only control our actions, not the outcome. Goals are good to have, but when goals become emphasised over the process of achieving these goals it could lead to anxiety.
However, by emphasising the process we are more likely to revel in the activity that helps us to propel to our goals, and we are more likely to be motivated by an enjoyment of the process - having an ability to stay focussed in the present moment, and enjoying the process.
Stay present in the moment and avoid thinking too far into the event or thinking about the finish. If you find yourself thinking negative thoughts or negative self-talk, stop and focus only on your breathing. Focusing on your breathing rhythm will automatically pull you back into the present.
4. Racing like you don't care about the outcome
If you find yourself caught up in negative thoughts and find that you suddenly expect the worst it will be impossible to perform at your peak. If you begin to race like you don't care about the outcome, you may relax and enjoy the event for what it is - another day in your life. Not the most important thing in your life - taking away the pressure.
5. Protective Framing - visualisation
When we have an experience of anxiety, but the perceived danger is overcome, we can create what is called a 'protective frame' i.e. next time, your reflection on this positive experience could prevent you from being anxious about it. Therefore it is really important to build upon these positive experiences, reminding ourselves of moments we have overcome barriers despite how small they may seem - they all build up.
Visualisation can also fortify and build confidence too - visualising how we want to feel during a race or activity, and then the outcome of a successful performance - believe in yourself and your abilities. Before your race or activity, begin visualizing yourself starting, racing, and finishing. Envision your race plan and how you’ll want to feel. Think positively about your training and tell yourself that you’ll feel confident and ready. If you keep using these visualization techniques, that positive mind-set will become second nature on race day.
Talk to your body before the event. Tell your body how it will feel and how you will deal with those feelings. You will begin to believe in yourself. You know you can do it. See it, feel it and believe it!
Ultimately, I think what I am trying to say is that everyone struggles from time to time. It's not all rainbows and sunshine. Just some people are probably doing a good job in covering it up. So don't put pressure on yourself and try to enjoy what you do 💖
My final multi-sport race of the (small but fun) 2020 season was the Tough Runner Cotswolds Sprint Duathlon, taking place at Sudeley Castle where we were fortunate enough to have fantastic weather – bonus! I never actually got to see the castle, but from Google Images it looked lovely… and its grounds and surrounding countryside and villages were beautiful.
This duathlon had slightly strange distances: 5k run, 18k bike, 5k run (compared to the usual sprint distances of 5k run, 20k bike, 2.5k run) – so on paper it didn’t really play to my strengths being predominantly running, but it was another chance to race and lot’s of fellow Spa Striders were also taking part, so I couldn’t really resist missing out!
As with all the recent races, there were lots of Covid measures in place to keep everyone safe including a rolling start with an automated (and extremely loud) beep going off every 30 seconds – a noise which seemed to stick with me throughout the race! Plus, transition was a ‘no time zone’ to allow people to properly social distance without any time pressures. Which meant it wouldn’t be added to your overall time, so you could literally spend as much time as you wanted in there which was going to be strange!
Leading up to the race, there were so many discussions amongst fellow striders about footwear choice – with the route being a mix of trail and road, and the recent wet weather adding in a risk of mud - should we wear trail or road shoes!? I eventually decided to go with road shoes with the justification being that I need the additional support on the road and I can manage slip sliding through the small muddy patch, but I would take the trail shoes just in case. Well… whilst listening to the commentator pre-race (who was extremely Welsh – which made us all think about Gavin and Stacey quotes whilst there!), she kept drawing attention to the fact that we were all going to get muddy… queue a quick last minute shoe change minutes before my start time (thank goodness it was a duathlon, otherwise my shoes would have been in transition!).
The route itself was a really tough double lapper - undulating and yes there was mud and lots of squidgy grass sections which really sapped your energy. It was also definitely longer than 5k! However, the constant variety meant I was never ‘bored’ and it kept me going when it got tough - I had forgotten how hard duathlons were… and why I had recently moved to triathlons to remove one of the runs! I really tried my hardest to keep my form and not let my cadence drop too much, and I came back fairly pleased with my average pace considering the lumps and bumps.
The bike course, apart from a steep climb out from the castle access road, was a fast and furious out and back route which I loved. As we started in waves based on alphabetical ordered surnames, I was one of the last to start which meant I had lots of people to chase down (if only I was this competitive when I was running…). I just focused on gradually picking people off one by one and keeping my power up. I later found out I had the third fastest female bike split, so pretty pleased with that!
The final run was tough, my legs felt like lead and my pace frustratingly dropped – but the main thing going through my mind was foot. Having sprained it during the triathlon last Sunday, I had taken the whole week off to let it recover in the hope it would be OK for today. So I was relieved that I managed to get through most of the race with it only starting to become sore in the last ~2km.
Overall, I finished 8th female and 2nd in my age group – if only my running was as strong as my cycling! To be fair, it was only a few years ago I was targeting a sub 25min 5k and my first park run back after returning to running following my elbow fracture I did in 30mins… so improvements have been made – I just need to make even more!!
All in all, a well organised race (if a little pricey… but racing is racing in this Covid world!) and made even better being able to see fellow Striders for the first time in what feels like forever!
The soggiest race I have ever done!
Warwickshire Sprint Triathlon, organised by UK Triathlon and taking place at Stratford Leisure Centre, was going to be my (and my mums!) final triathlon of the (very short) season. However, the day before the race I was doubtful it would even be going ahead!
As the race was taking place just down the road, we had the opportunity to go and register the day before to enable us to get our numbers and stickers etc. ready and reduce the stress on race morning. However, on the way there as we drove along sections of the bike route the impact Storm Alex was having on the area became apparent - flooded roads, debris everywhere.... not really ideal conditions for a triathlon! We registered regardless, and that evening I kept checking my emails and on social media expecting to see 'Race Cancelled' - but to my surprise it never appeared.
Throughout the night, the rain continued, and it didn't show any signs of stopping as we arrived on site on race morning. It was going to be a soggy one that was guaranteed, but it wasn't quite the only element of excitement that was going to happen...
Not only was it peeing it down, but it was also freezing at 8 in the morning whilst I was racking up. I suffer from mild Reynaud's, so took the decision to put a jacket and gloves (inside a plastic bag) in transition to put on for the bike - I was hoping the jacket would prevent a bit of wind chill and the gloves would keep my hands warm enough so I could actually undo my helmet (an experience I don't want to repeat!).
Having successfully set up my transition area to prevent as much of my kit getting soaked as I could, I then realised I had forgotten a crucial item - my Garmin mount!! I had left it on my road bike, having used it with clip on TT bars, and so I had no way to attach my Garmin to my TT bike.... nightmare. Nothing I could about it, with only 15 mins until I was swimming, so had to bite the bullet and accept I would be riding blind - no data, no concept of speed or power! Tim my coach reassured me by saying it could be a blessing in disguise as the key focus should be staying upright in such wet slippery conditions and not be influenced by target power and speed chasing - very true!
For me, this swim was going to be a real indication of how well my elbow has healed and strengthened since my accident at the beginning of the year, as I knew my time from last years race (at my peak swim fitness) and so could easily compare. Fortunately, with the Covid measures it meant we were set off at bigger intervals than normal (30 seconds) so there was only about 2 people per lane and so I had a fairly decent run, only having to overtake one lady. Only silly error was mishearing the starter say 'Go' so probably cost me about 5 seconds - oops! To my surprise I got the EXACT same time as last year! Wonky elbow is back fighting fit!
Turns out, putting on a jacket and gloves onto a wet body takes longer than you think... looking at finish times, I think I added an extra minute onto my T1 time costing me two places. Was it worth it - I don't know - for all I know I could have cramped up with the cold had I not worn the jacket and gloves.... might test out not wearing layers at my next race just to see how I get on! I won't know unless I try!
The actual bike leg went OK and despite how soggy it was I still really enjoyed it! I managed to stay upright and navigate my way through the various patches of flooded roads, one of which was almost over my feet, which was the primary goal! I also almost wanted to ditch my glasses (worn to try to prevent the wind chill making my eyes water) part way round as without in-built windscreen wipers, they were pretty useless and I could barely see a thing, but decided against it knowing they are quite expensive! I was however slightly disappointed with my overall time, and it has proved how reliant I am on seeing my power and speed in front of me to push me into the pain zone - I clearly just pootle along without my Garmin!
Back into T2 and I realised my 'waterproof' jacket was completely wet through so thought I best ditch it before the run - a stupid mistake that was as it got stuck over my watch and took ages to get off - doh!
Once I had finally got my jacket and gloves off I headed out onto the run course to be greeted by mud and more floods to wade through - it also was still chucking it down! The course itself was an out and back (twice), starting off along a grass/mud track and then onto a tarmac path alongside the river. Sinking into the saturated grass made for tough running, and frustratingly, part way through I managed to roll my foot on some uneven ground in the grassy section (the same one I did earlier on in the year) - I felt it twinge but knew I didn't have long left so tried to ignore it and kept pushing on. In addition, for some reason throughout the run I also just couldn't relax and get my breathing under control - rather than nice deep efficient breaths, I felt as though I was using about 10% of my lung capacity with tiny super fast breaths - almost like hyperventilating! Not at all efficient!
So it was no surprise my run time wasn't quite what I had in mind - but all good things to take away and improve upon for next time!
Despite the conditions, it was still a really enjoyable race and I finished 9th overall lady (out of field of over 100), and 2nd in my age group! It was my first 'cold and wet' race, so there are lots of learning points to take away for next time too.
Also a massive shout out to my mum who also raced and absolutely smashed it to finish 2nd in her age group too! And my friend Verity who had a stonker of a race to finish 1st in our age group (not jealous at all you get the trophy....lol)
And finally, a big shout out to coach Tim (Catenary Coaching) who has been supporting me all year to help get my bike and run fitness back post injury (I don't think I have ever been as fit!), and also Jade (Aura Triathlon Coaching) who has recently helped me improve my swim fitness in a really short space of time! Thank you!
Think it might take another week to fully dry out and warm up!!
Thank you to the race organisers, UK Triathlon, for putting on a great race despite the biblical conditions - particularly the marshals stood out in the freezing rain for hours!
From the response I have had from the teaser of these I shared on my Instagram story earlier this week, it already appears that these might be popular and so I have tried to be speedy in sharing the recipe - so here you go!
(To make 12 small sized balls)
An everyday girl with a love of competition (and nut butter)