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)
I am no means an expert but it did occur to me the other day when I was getting myself ready for the first race of this very strange Covid governed season, having not competed in a multi-sport race for almost 12 months and almost forgetting the scale of things you need to remember, that gearing up for your first multi-sport race (triathlon, duathlon, aquathlon, aquabike – whichever!) can be rather daunting as there is a fair bit to consider across three disciplines – four if you count transitions too!
It would be sad if this actually put someone off doing one too, so I thought I would just note some of the key things I and fellow multisport athletes I know (thank you to Catenary and Spa Striders squads for your input) have learnt that others might want to consider to make it that little bit easier.
Specific equipment / clothing
Get organised - there is nothing worse than disorganisation to add fuel to pre-race nerves, so before you set off for the race, make sure all of your kit is organised. I often write a list of everything I need for each discipline (plus before and after the race, including nutrition and hydration, and even some spares like swim goggles) the night before and lay it all out so I know it is all there and I don’t need to worry about it
Footwear / talcum powder – however well you dry your feet after the swim, they will still be damp, which makes putting on socks difficult, so most people opt to go sockless. If you sprinkle talcum powder into your shoes before the race it will save time struggling in transition – you could also do this to your socks if you did want to wear some too.
Laces – elastic laces are a great help when trying to get your shoes on as fast as possible during T2 – rather than wasting time tying and tightening laves, you can simply push your feet in and you’re off!
Number belts – another great time saver is a number belt. In a tri, you have to wear your number on your back for cycling and then on your front for the run – so rather than swapping number, wearing two numbers or even reversing clothing, with a number belt you can simply swivel your belt around your body in T2 so you are ready to run! Some people even where it under their wetsuits to save time in T1. Just remember to swivel it around to the front before you leave transition onto your final run, as you can get stopped if it isn’t facing the front!
Body glide / Vaseline – removing your wetsuit is difficult at the best of times so to help you can apply body glide or Vaseline to areas such as at the ends of your arms and legs to help your triathlon come off. It is also great to help prevent chafing if applied around the neck and armpit regions!
Open water goggles – if you can, invest in some open water specific goggles that tend to be a bit larger and are tinted and polarised to help with visibility – particularly helpful if you will be swimming directly into low sunlight in the early hours of the morning!
Cold / wet weather – particularly for the spring/autumn events, it can often be pretty chilly, so I would definitely recommend considering additional layers. Depending on what you have available, there are a number of options you could try based on how cold race day will be. For a duathlon, you have the benefit of being able to wear extra layers from the start – so options could be to begin with arm warmers or a base layer under your tri suit and even gloves which can be taken off in T2 if you are too warm. The coldest element will always be the bike, due to the wind chill factor, so you could always consider putting on a jacket or jersey in T1 to go out onto the bike – just try and pick the least baggy one you have to minimise the ‘parachute’ effect!
It is definitely worth spending those additional minute(s) in transition getting additional layers on if it is freezing than wasting time out on the bike and run as you can barely move your muscles faster than a snail as you are too cold.
The equipment you might need to pack:
Specific training considerations
Back to back / BRICK sessions - These sessions are the best way to train your body to cope with the demands of changing from swimming to cycling, running to cycling or cycling to running. They consist of you completing two disciplines directly after each other and practicing bricks in training will help your body adjust to the changes in discipline come triathlon race day. If you are short on time, the key one to factor in would be bike to run to minimise that ‘jelly leg’ feeling as much as you can!
Open water – if your race swim is going to be in open water, definitely try and practice beforehand in a lake or the sea (whichever you will be doing). Open water swimming is very different to pool swimming as your wetsuit, due to its buoyancy, affects your swimming position and there are the other elements thrown in such as reduced visibility and the requirement of sighting to ensure you stay on course!
Don’t try anything new on race day – this goes for equipment, clothing and also nutrition. Make sure you practice using all race day kit and nutrition prior to the race – the last thing you want is a wardrobe malfunction or digestive issues during the race!
Stay calm – easier said than done I know. For mass start races, there can be an element of chaos at the beginning when people try and get ahead of each other so if you aren’t confident, don’t be afraid to take your time and hold back to separate yourself from the main pack a little bit – remember it is your race, forget about everyone else.
Kick it out – a lot of people, myself included, often feel dizzy and sometimes weak legged getting out of the water, simply due to being horizontal and having reduced blood flow to your legs. To try and overcome this, as you approach the end of the swim, try and kick your legs a little stronger to help get the blood flowing into your legs again.
Check your bike – before the race make sure you check over your bike. Check the tyre pressure and make sure it is in the correct gear to leave transition – have a look at the road following the mount line, if you go straight into a hill you don’t want to be in a super hard gear!
Low gear, high cadence cycling – jelly legs on the run following the bike element is a common occurrence within a triathlon and duathlons, but to make the change over easier, in the last mile of the bike course select a lower gear and spin your legs at a higher cadence to help your legs adjust to the running section. It is also important not to cycle in too high a gear for the whole of your bike leg i.e. feeling like you are really grinding the gears at a slow cadence – think about ‘spinning’ and if you can, the optimal cadence is ~90rpm.
Energy conservation – sounds simple, but save energy for the run coming up after your bike leg. It is always better to start a little slower, and push harder in the second half of the bike leg if you are feeling strong (effectively doing a ‘negative split’) than realising halfway that you have used up all the fuel in the tank and you have nothing left for the run.
Drafting - drafting is when you ride very closely to a cyclist (or motor vehicle) in front giving you an advantage as it cuts down your wind resistance and therefore the energy that you expend. However, for most races (unless stated a draft legal race) this is against the rules and can lead to disqualification or time penalties. Be mindful of this and check the rules of your event as it can the zones can vary depending on the distance of race you are competing in – you will be required to leave a gap between you and the rider in front, and if you need to overtake, you need to do it within a certain amount of time. Generally, for sprint and standard distance events, the drafting zone is 10m and you must overtake within 20 seconds – if you cannot pass then you must drop back. Latest British Triathlon rules are here, but do check as some events have their own more specific rules.
Short strides – to help with the jelly legs after coming off the bike and onto the run, you can start off with a slightly shorter stride length to normal to get your body adjusted to the new discipline. Once they have loosened off you can return back to normal length
Energy conservation in duathlons – as you are running twice, it is always worth trying to hold back a little bit on the first run to save energy for the second run. This is easier said than done when you are excited at the beginning of a race, so I personally try and work out a target pace prior to the race which is slightly slower than my normal 10k or 5k ‘race pace’ depending on the first run distance in the duathlon I am racing in. This also helps you to focus on your own race – don’t be put off by the crazy pace some set off at for the first run – stick to your plan. On the second run, just go for it – generally it will be 5k or less so aim to empty the tank!
Transition - the 4th discipline!
Transition times count too, so consider the following to try and make them as smooth and swift as you can:
Transition practice – make sure you include transition practice into your training leading up to the race – by having a strategy in your head you can save a lot of time and stress during the race (often can be minutes). This is definitely an easier way to save time than on the bike or the run!
This can simply be in your garden, practicing getting in and out of your wetsuit (to save time, you can undo it and get it down to your waist as you run from the lake/sea before you even get to transition) and then into your bike gear, and then into your run gear - with it all laid out as it would be in transition.
Practice running in your cycling shoes too if you aren’t doing ‘flying mounts or dismounts’ – sometimes there is quite a distance from the mount/dismount line and cycling shoes can be pretty slippy to run in!
Visually ‘marking’ your bike - Finding your bike amongst what could be hundreds of others when you’re n a hurry can be pretty tricky and you can easily lose valuable time if you end up down the wrong aisle. Physically marking your bike is against the rules, so the best thing you can do is when racking up before the race, take note of any landmarks/objects/aisle numbers close to your bike to make it easier to find in the mayhem of the race itself.
Transition route – before the race, walk through transition, focussing on the entrance and exit to transition (swim in, bike in and out, run out) so you know exactly where you going in both T1 and T2. Knowing the route can save wrong turns and wasted time. As part of this, also walk out to the mount and dismount line. It is really useful to know where they are as you can’t get on your bike until you have crossed the mount line, and similarly you must be off your bike before crossing the dismount line on your way back into transition – and you can receive penalties if you do not do this!
Preparing in transition – when racking your bike, make sure you carefully lay out your kit in the order that you will be putting it on, so that changing is easy when you’re rushing between disciplines. I personally leave my helmet so it is one of the first things I will touch as you can be disqualified for touching your bike and taking it off the rack before putting it on.
Finally - enjoy it!
Don’t forget to just embrace your first race and enjoy it. Don’t let the other participants put you off with their fancy bikes and kit – focus on your own race and remember everyone started somewhere and there will be plenty of people in your exact position racing alongside you.
An absolutely lovely example showcasing that everyone starts somewhere, is from fellow Catenary Coaching athlete Amie Buttle who kindly shared her story (thank you!):
“I did my first triathlon on a mountain bike with trainers (makes for a super quick T2!). it was also a pool swim which they tend to put the faster swimmers last. I ended up last out on the course with the sweeper bike having a chat (no surprises there!) and waving enthusiastically to my family as I cycled past them (still happens now, photo evidence below!). Multiple triathlons like this I never saw anyone else on the bike, except the sweeper!
But I still went back for more!! I now get super excited on any bike leg that I overtake people on”
Amie has since qualified for the GB age group triathlon team!
I hope you have found this useful! Do let me know how you get on if you are racing your first triathlon/duathlons!
Last year me and Ellie just did one of the Canicross Midlands series races as a little taster to see what it was all about - fair to say we both loved it and so I decided we would join the club for the 20/21 season and try to race the full series.
The series itself is made up of 6 weekends across 6 different venues, with a race on both the Saturday and Sunday. You gain points based on your finishing position at each race, and to qualify for the series you need to complete 8 races in the same class (we do the 5k single dog one).
This weekend was the first of the 20/21 series at Marston Lodge, and as soon as we arrived you could see just how excited Ellie was to be back racing (I think this has been exaggerated by a lack of park runs too!)
The course at Marston Lodge was mainly on gravel tracks, weaving their way through a forest and up and down some pretty steep climbs (not that we knew this before we set off!). Just before your start time you make your way over to the start line and line up (socially distanced of course atm) and this point you realise just how much the dogs love it - the sound of dogs barking and howling is mad, and Ellie of course decided to join in (sounding like some crazy deranged dinosaur...). You then get set off in 30 second intervals so you always have someone in the distance to try and track down - which is great for Ellie as she is so competitive (out on training runs she often stops pulling as I don't think she can see the point, whereas she doesn't stop pulling when we are chasing down our competitors during a race!)
The first day went really well, Ellie ran brilliantly and we finished in 8th position behind some super quick (and big) dogs, some of which race for the GB canicross team! She was enthusiastic the entire way, except up the giant hill when she actually turned around mid run as if to be saying 'are you being serious'...
The second day was on the exact same course, so we had the benefit of knowing the route, and where to push hard. As a result, I knew that the final 1km was all downhill to the finish, so if I could expend the majority of my energy getting up to the highest point on the course I could then just use gravity to get me back to the finish line (in theory anyway!). I set off with this in mind, and I was surprised at how well Ellie remembered the course - I didn't need to direct her at all which meant we had much quicker turns and she was generally more confident throughout.
Considering we both had tired legs from the previous day, my race plans must have worked as we managed to finish 50 seconds quicker on the second day! Ellie was a super star. Sadly that didn't bring us up in the finishers placings, but we still finished a solid 8th in our race.
Can't wait for the next one!
Hels (and Ellie) x
Box End Triathlon (standard distance), run by Active Training World, the first (and probably last) triathlon of the very strange season we have found ourselves in this year!
I only entered the race a few weeks ago as a few other Catenary team mates had entered, and I had a severe case of FOMO and a massive need to race having been consistently training throughout the summer following my elbow injury but having every race to date cancelled. I was really lucky to get a last-minute place after contacting the race organisers – thank you Active Training World!
In line with the Covid-19 guidelines, the race was being run in a socially distanced TT format with little spectators, no prize giving, and all participants encouraged to not hang around after they had finished the race – so it was certainly going to have a very different look and feel to a normal race but I was just super excited to get back racing regardless.
Registration and Transition
Aside from having to bring your own pen to write on your race number onto your hand, and the obvious social distancing rules applied around the event, registration didn’t feel too different to normal. In transition we had more space than normal between bikes on the racks which was good!
For the swim we had to wait in a holding pen just outside of transition and were gradually called over to queue to enter the lake. We were then set off in 20-30 second intervals, fastest to slowest, based on our predicted times we gave when we entered. I personally loved this – it meant there wasn’t a washing machine start or any fighting to get around the buoys on the turns. I guess the only downside is you do lose the ability to draft and potentially get a faster swim time.
The lake itself was lovely – crystal clear water which also tasted nice! Due to the TT format, the distance had been shortened so we only had to do one lap, which suited me with my wonky elbow! Overall, I was fairly pleased with my swim and came out 3rd in my AG going into T2 (although obviously didn’t know this at the time due to the staggered start) – good wonky elbow behaved!
The bike course was quite technical with lots of turns, junctions, roundabouts and little lumps and bumps so it was quite hard to get the speed and power up and frustratingly I got stuck behind dawdling cars at a mini roundabout on both laps. Overall I was about 20w off my target average power, which at the time I was a bit disappointed with, but talking to other athletes it sounds as though that was fairly common due to the route profile and conditions. But regardless of that, the bike is always my favourite part of a triathlon and it felt so good to be back out whizzing around the roads chasing people down.
Coming off the bike and going into the run I had moved up to 1st in my age group and 6th overall – this is where the staggered start format is possibly not so great as a participant as I had no idea that this was the case as I set off on my merry way onto the run.
Prior to the race I knew the run was going to be slightly harder than any other triathlon run I have done before, as I had been pre-warned that it was all on grass and wiggled through a little wood at the end of the lake. Normally, I love off road runs and do prefer to train out on bridleways and footpaths as I find them much more interesting than plodding along on tarmac.
However, I am not so sure I love off road running on jelly triathlon have not raced for almost 12 months! It was hard. The thick grass sapped any energy I had left, and each hill felt as though it was pushing me closer and closer to calf and hamstring cramp. Definitely not my fastest 10k and frustratingly it pushed me down to 4th overall in my AG and 14th overall.
Would I have pushed faster had I known I was in 1st place coming off the bike… who knows... hindsight is a wonderful thing. But to be honest, with such a strange year so far, I wasn’t really expecting to get in a race at all in 2020 so I am just super grateful to have been given the opportunity and I probably should remind myself that at the beginning of the year I couldn’t even bend my elbow let alone do a triathlon and finish 4th in my AG.
The cherry on top of the cake today was being able to see my fellow Catenary athletes smash their races too, with Megan and Emily finishing 4th and 6th overall respectively, plus coach Tim supporting throughout!
All in all, an ace day out!
Last Tuesday was the final time we had K11/10D course on the season calendar - the dreaded hill climb one!
Although I got a course PB 2 weeks ago on this same route, my pacing wasn't so amazing so I was keen this time around to nail that element and see if it helped me go even quicker.
Having had a lovely cycle over in the sunshine (it was another warm night, but thankfully not quite as warm as Sundays TT where I almost melted!), I knew it could be a quick night.
Pre race my coach Tim (Catenary Coaching) had given me some pace top tips - essentially not to go full beans up the first half of the hill, and then immediately regret that decision, resulting in crawling back to the finish line along the latter flat section of the course with zero energy left. So the plan was to stick to my target power on the flatter section leading up to the climb, then keep a steady constant power approx. 20watts above my target power up the hill to make up for the potential power lost coming down the hill on the way back, and then finally push back towards the finish line at target power or beyond if I had the energy left!
Well I tried to stick to it and it worked - 30secs course PB! I still felt sick at the top of the hill... But less so compared to last week so at least I could push on back to the finish line!
Maybe borrowing Jade's go faster aero socks helped too!
This year I am really lucky to be supported once again by Jade Mottley (Sports Scientist, MSc Human Nutrition Student & Precision Nutrition Coach), and she has kindly written a guest post which I think you will find super useful!
Nutrition for Fitness
The fitness enthusiasts and athletes amongst us are always looking for ways to improve both their performance and achieve their goals1. Does this sound like you? Good nutrition can help your body perform better and recover faster after each workout1. Before we begin, what are your current training goals? Are you exercising for general health and fitness with modest goals or are you exercising for competition or like some of my current clients do you have more scaled up goals like a 100-mile challenge?
If you are exercising for general health, you probably do not need a particular nutrition plan for your fitness. If you are a healthy person who exercises regularly by eating a healthy, well-considered meal 1-2 hours before exercise and one 1-2 hours after exercise, most people can meet their needs without adding anything else1. If you are in this camp then take a look at my blog on “What Is Good Nutrition and Why Is It Important?”2 for information’ it includes recommendations from the World Health Organisation3 on what a day to day healthy diet should contain.
However, athletes have special needs when it comes to nutrition for fitness1. Let’s explore..
What are Macros?
There are two different types of nutrients that the body needs for correct functioning: micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals and macronutrients such as protein, carbohydrates and fat4. These macronutrients are major sources of energy4 and vital nutrition for fitness and training. For those that have done macro counting or calorie counting they will be aware of the role that macros play and that when you are looking to shed weight or gain muscle mass calorie counting can be beneficial to your various health goals4.
What are the main roles of each macro in exercise?
Pre-workout Nutrition for fitness
Eating a complete meal containing carbohydrates, protein and fat 2-3 hours before you exercise will help maximise the results of your training. For meals 45-60 minutes pre workout choose foods that are simple to digest and mainly contain carbs and protein. Fat can be beneficial to a workout but consume 2 hours before your workout5. For more information on your pre-workout nutrition head over to my blog: “How To Improve Your Pre-Workout Nutrition”6
When selecting a pre-workout meal focus on7:
Post-workout Nutrition for fitness
Once your workout is complete have a whole food meal within an hour or two. The nutrients that you eat after your workouts can improve your body composition, performance and recovery so it is important to get these nutrients in immediately and within 2 hours after your workout8. Choosing easily digested foods will promote faster nutrient absorption: for a list of foods and meal examples after you workout click here9.
I had the honour of sponsoring Helene with her sports nutrition for the European Duathlon Championships in Ibiza when she represented GB as an age group athlete. Since Helene’s recent elbow injury, I have been supporting her rehabilitation program with sponsored access to our Gold membership coaching plan. This includes unlimited access to over 70 pre-recorded workouts to improve both strength and cardio as well as access to our weekly live timetable for group fitness classes. I am super excited to work with Helene for another season and can’t wait to see her come back fitter and stronger! If you want to join Helene and our other members on a free trial class get in touch here.
Author: Jade Mottley - Sports Scientist, MSc Human Nutrition Student & Precision Nutrition Coach
Research: Compiled by Jade Mottley and Della Humphries (Nutrition Intern at Jade Mottley Coaching)
Have you found this article beneficial? I would love to hear your feedback and fitness journey, find me on my socials @Jademottley
RLSCC 10m TT (04/08/20)
Tuesday night was pretty windy to say the least and the course was the quick one that's net downhill, starting at the top of a hill which you never go back up! I set off with the aim of trying to beat my average power from last time on this course, and it all started well until I got speed up on the descent and then cross winds started to come in, shooting my bike sideways. Since my accident my confidence isn't brilliant yet, so this did scare me a bit and so I stopped pedaling and went up onto the base bars for more stability - not where you want to be when you're trying to be fast!
Once I was back on the flat and I had calmed down a bit I knew I had some serious time to make up so pushed on fairly hard.
I got back and I was slightly disappointed as I finished 2s slower than last time and my average power was also lower... However, what I didn't realise until I got home was that I had actually managed to get myself a new 20min power PB (from the section of the course after the downhill)! So ignoring the downhill disaster, it actually turned out to be pretty good! I just hope it isn't windy next time!
Sunday was my first ever open TT and even though it was local, it wasn't a course I had done before, only elements of it so I was looking forward to a change - having done the same 2 courses on a Tuesday for the last few weeks!
To say it was warm though, is an understatement - I was melting before I even got onto my bike in the car park! Having suffered previously from a lack of electrolytes competing in the heat, I made sure that in the lead up to the race I topped them up and didn't make the mistake of over hydrating as I seem to have a habit of doing!
The course itself was a simple out and back with a downhill first half and uphill second half. Funnily enough, everyone after asking friends how they thought it had gone when they had finished had the exact same answer - the first half was great, the second was horrendous.... same here!
A combination of the descent and a slight tailwind, meant the first half was really quick - looking down at my Garmin I was thinking wow this could be a new 10m PB if I keep this up! But no, as soon as I turned around at the roundabout and hit the climb I could see my average speed begin to drop and there was nothing I could do about it - the heat was unbearable to push any harder.
No time or power PBs today, but much to our surprise (considering it was an extremely competitive event, with the National Time Trial Champ present and many other speedy ladies) we won the team competition! So a big shout out to RLSCC ladies Jade Anstis and Francis Lammyman!
I think what this means is I need more heat training - anyone want to send me to Majorca or Lanzarote for a heat training camp :)
An everyday girl with a love of competition (and nut butter)