Friday, 24 April 2015

RACE RUNDOWN: Newbury Duathlon

After months I actually have a race review to post. One I am also very proud to have been a part of.

Entering a duathlon seemed like the natural step to take for triathlon training. A nice double brick session to get the body familiar with transition is much needed and I opted to take part in an event in my home town. For two reasons: a) price point and b) stunning countryside views.

Advance entries for Newbury Duathlon are £20. A decent price for an event that normally comes with a higher price tag. But this one didn't involve road closures which meant it guaranteed a low cost fee. Turning up on the day at Chieveley Town Hall (the main base), there is a huge start and finish point located in the field and just behind is the transition area where you rack the bikes. Numbers are not sent in advance so after collecting mine from inside the hall, I headed over to the racks to position myself under my race number - 20.
I felt so nervous as the whole set up was alien to me. Luckily, I was positioned on the far outside rack which meant I only had bikes in the left aisle to worry about. I opted to line my bike up by the saddle pointing the other side away from the bikes so I had a faster entry & exit, avoiding the mayhem of other competitors running out of transition with their bike. Well at least I hoped.
(just before the race)
Looking around at everyone setting up - the field was very small. 165 entries to be exact. That's less than a regular parkrun! A sudden fear of coming last loomed over me, especially as it was dominated by men in all the fancy gear. But, coming last isn't the be all and end all. I had to do this for myself, regardless of the position so after shaking off my fears of potentially being the last to join the finish party, I lined up at the start with the others acting (and hopefully looking) as confident as them all.

After a few announcements from the race director (the event is organised by athletic club Team Kennet), the start gun was fired and we were off! It all started with a run around a large field on grassy terrain which was followed by exiting the town hall grounds to cheers from friends and relatives who came to watch. I had my best friend and running pal cheering from the side lines, along with her sister. Their screams and shouts of support sure got me through it all!

The 5K run was simply stunning. A trail run through huge open fields, there isn't a whiff of civilisation until the last half mile running through the quaint village of Chieveley back to the transition area. The weather was perfect - sunny but with a breeze and I found the first run fairly comfortable. I was running 7.30s and kept with two other women trying to remain steady.
(on the run!)
Next was the cycle and I did get a small case of butter fingers in transition. It was my first time after all, so I wasn't expecting a speedy change. I was a big jumbled changing my shoes and as I ran out of transition with my bike, my road bike shoes weren't on tight enough so I had to briefly stop to alter them. Still though - I made it out in one piece and was on the saddle cruising out of the village and into the 25K cycle.

The course was tough. It is incredibly undulating with a few steep hills. But it comes with the most incredible countryside views. Lots of men overtook me. I accepted it. Expected it even. I'm not a strong cyclist. But then two women overtook me. That I could not accept. I still managed to keep it steady and paced myself, I think, very well. My friends had driven round in their car to the halfway point to cheer me on which was super motivating. 
(coming into the second transition)
When I came back into transition, I knew I had to be quick to catch the two girls up. I managed to be 15 seconds faster which was great and I stormed out of transition for the final 5K run. My legs were so heavy. It was a strange feeling. Not painful, but neither comfortable. As I entered the fields for the main part of the run, my pace felt really slow. Like 11 minute miles. When my Garmin bleeped after the first mile, I was shocked to see I was at 7.30 pace!

The first girl was up ahead. Got her! The second not much further on. Got her too and a lot of the guys that had bombed it past me on the cycle. This is when I realised that running is by far my strongest discipline. By the last mile I felt like I was sky high and as I came down the road to the village hall, I knew the end was in sight. Crowds had lined the street cheering and I was pushing it.
(on the second run)
When I turned into the entrance of the town hall, I was buzzing and the finish was right there. Sprinting up the slope there was a marshal who was shouting 'there's still the lap around the field to go!'. 'What!? S**t! I didn't realise that.' 

Panic flooded through me. I had bombed it so much down the road that to hear the unexcited news on a lap around the field wasn't the best but I managed it round and felt invincible as I finally crossed the finish line in a time of 1.45 (15 minutes faster than I had predicted).

My friends were there for a big group hug at the end, including another who had come to surprise me at the finish. They really were the best cheering squad ever!

Was I tired? Yes, but not as much as I thought. My adrenaline kept me going and when I went to print off my results (this was handy to get so soon after), it came to my attention that I finished sixth senior female and 88th overall. No where near last. Phewph!

Elate, ecstatic and beaming are just a few words that would describe my feelings this day. It was by far my best race ever and I was smugly proud of myself. 
Overall, Newbury Duathlon will be a fond memory for me. A race I would recommend to anyone, especially as an introduction to duathlon and multi-sport. The only downside is that you don't get a medal or goody bag. But for £20 and the size of the field, I guess the event isn't at a decent size yet to dish this sort of thing out.


Course: 5/5
Scenery: 5/5 
Facilities: 5/5
Water Stations: 5/5
T-Shirt & goody bag: 0/5

My time: 1.45.04 (5K run 22.27, 25K cycle 58.07, 5K run 22.12)


Find out more about Newbury Duathlon here.

Lipstick Runner.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

The time has come to face 26.2 miles

I did it. I've finally mustered up the courage to give a marathon a go. It's been on my bucket list for the last four years and after four failed London Marathon ballot attempts, I have opted for a marathon where entry is guaranteed. 

My chosen marathon is Brighton April 2016. After seeing all the success stories of this years runners on my Twitter feed and even hearing of some incredible times from fellow club runners, I think I have made the right 'runner up' decision. Everyone tells me of the marathon high you have afterwards and dammit I want to feel it! I already feel ecstatic from just entering.

Now, I will put it out there. Just like the triathlon, I'm entering unknown territories here. The furthest I have run is a half marathon (although have completed three - so not too shabby) and one time I did join a friend on a 15 mile training run. So it's not like I am totally unfamiliar with long distance running but I am totally unfamiliar with 26.2 miles. At the moment, for my triathlon training, I'm running 3/4 miles three times a week. That's nothing!? How I'm going to eventually take on 20 mile training runs is beyond me but hell, I'll give it a bash!

That's the attitude to have for your first marathon right? To go out there, no expectations and simply enjoy the experience? I hope so - I'll lose my mind if I don't adopt this mentality. Mind you, I like to set myself a challenge - or boundary shall we say. I'm going to make it broad as I have no idea how well I will do but I think anything between 3.45-4.15 would just be incredible for me! The closer to 4 hours the better.

Anyone else opting for a Spring marathon next year? Are you also debuting at the distance? Any advice from marathon runners for the road that lays ahead?

Lipstick Runner. 

Friday, 10 April 2015

TRAINING UPDATE: Feeling tired

This post comes with a mixture of feelings. I seemed to have gone from feeling unstoppable and speedy to lethargic, achy and well, quite frankly, a tad moody at times.

The last few weeks have certainly been interesting in terms of my training. Following on from the success of my last update (here), my running went from strength to strength during my training sessions. I found myself tackling more hills and even hurled myself out of bed on a Sunday at 6.30am to fit in a run before work. This is very unusual for me.

In terms of my swimming and cycling, these have been consistent. I'm not any slower but nor am I faster. It has come to my attention that I really struggle to 'push the pace' when swimming. I have reached a point in my training where I have a speed that is comfortable and manageable over longer swim distances. This is the fastest my body wants to go and I am happy to accept it. The swim in my triathlon won't be my shining moment so I just need to concentrate on getting through it with energy to spare.

Cycling has recently been on the back burner, with just my daily commute and the very occasional longer ride at the weekend. Over the Easter break, I did manage to join a fellow training companion for a cycle along the canal to Hertford. We cycled almost 50K in total, which was super good training for me. It was also the first time I tried out my cleats on a long ride and I must say they did feel very comfortable (even if I did fall off 10K in - shh it never happened).
In general, I can't complain with how my training is going. Trying to juggle workouts around work, wedding planning and generally having a life is getting harder, especially as my big day draws closer. I'm the busiest I have even been with hours, days, weeks flying past. I haven't really stopped since coming back from Christmas and I think my body is starting to protest about this. So much so, that this week my energy levels have depleted.

I started to notice a decline in my efforts when I went out for a 10K at the weekend. I went with my partner and we took on a hilly route at a casual pace. What was alarming is that I found this tough and I was running a good minute or so slower than normal. This worried me. I also got the worse stitch at mile five and had to stop for a couple of minutes for it to subside. When I got home, I felt a little upset but decided to shake it off and tried again on Tuesday, this time doing my normal mini brick session (cycle home and then a 5K run). Tuesday was a particularly warm day and I think us Brits are trying to adjust to the hotter weather (goodbye thick leggings and woolly hats!). About half a mile into the run, I began to feel really heady and thirsty. My legs were lifeless and putting one foot in front of another was proving to be a real effort. Two miles in, I had to stop as again I had a really awful stitch.

What on earth is wrong with me? Two runs suffering pain and exhaustion. Something isn't right and with my first ever duathlon only a week away, it is unnerving that I am feeling this way. I guessed I might be really tired in general but the other morning, I did wake up feeling a bit groggy with a scratchy throat and snotty nose. The start of a dreaded cold - which would make sense why I feel so poo.

Despite these symptoms, by Thursday I went out as normal to do my fortnightly speed session. I was going to sweat it out! It was warm again so I opted to take a drink with me which helped a lot. I chose to carry out a pyramid session and ran around Alexandra Palace and surrounding residential areas. By the halfway point I had found a decent pace - still slower than normal but a big improvement from Tuesday. I average exactly seven minute miles, which is just over my ideal 5K pace.
(above: before and after my hot and sweaty speed session)
Talking about 5Ks, I haven't forgotten about my challenge to go sub 21 (see here). It really is still on the agenda and I was close to trying it out the day after my birthday (the original deadline I had set myself). The only thing is that I may have had one too many gins the night before and didn't get up in time for parkrun. I know - I'm useless but it was my birthday after all...

The sub 21 will happen. I am sure of it. All my speed work and hill training is definitely helping me work towards this goal and I'm hoping by the Summer, it will be ticked off my list. I did have great success at my local parkrun ever so recently. It's a tricky course and I managed it in 22.26 so I am super keen to try out a flat 5K to see if I can make the 20s. 

This weekend I am away on wedding business so I will need to fit my training in around venue visits, florist meetings and of course a big fat lunch with the Best Man and Bridesmaid (this is a necessity). I'm hoping to do a brick session on Sunday - using my parents indoor bike and then heading out for a 30 minute run. After this, I will have a quiet week, resting up for my duathlon on the 18th. Judging by how tired and achy I'm feeling, I'm going to need it!

I'll keep you posted!

Lipstick Runner.