Sunday, 17 May 2015

TRAINING UPDATE: Open Water Swimming

(West Reservoir, Stoke Newington. North London)
I am in the last month of triathlon training. Question is - do I pump it up and work extra hard or shall I keep it steady and controlled?

When I last trained for an event (for me it was a half marathon), I was a classic example of an 'over trainer'. I started way too early, peaked six weeks prior to the race and come the big day, I was exhausted. I messed it up well and truly and finished 31 seconds from my target time. I was gutted.

So with this in mind, I have been keeping training in its simplest form. Just making sure I swim, cycle and run regularly. I'm not trying out any fancy tailored sessions (although HIIT is something I try to do for running) but I am familiarising myself with triathlon scenarios, in particular, open water swimming.

Now, I will be honest. I did hesitate over booking some open water sessions. They can be costly and I did wonder if I could wing it. So basically avoid this triathlon territory and make my actual triathlon my open water debut. However, after encouragement from a fellow training companion, I found myself signing up for a induction at Stoke Newington West Reservoir through Capital Tri.

I hadn't thought much about what it would entail. I just knew it would be a great chance to try out my wetsuit. Until the actual day arrived and I dipped my toe in the water did I realise how different open water swimming would be. Here's why:

1. First up, the water is much colder. My debut was a temperature of 12 degrees
2. The cold takes your breath away and it can take time to relax and adjust to this climate
3. Swimming in groups is actually really quite daunting
4. Not having the comfort of the side of the pool to push off from means you are swimming solid for much longer distances

This first training session was a huge wake up call for me. After much panicking and swearing as I tried to cut through the ice cold waters, I managed to complete 1.2K worth of swimming. I learnt how to deal with group swimming, sighting and exiting the water. I even learnt the trick of letting a little bit of water into your wetsuit before exiting the water. This allows for a quick undressing of the wetsuit in T1.
(surviving my fist open water swim - and feeling super happy for it!)
I felt really proud of myself for overcoming my fear of open water and giving this session a go. Next up, a timed 750m sprint distance the following week. After receiving a call time of 7.40am a few days before the event, my automatic reaction was the fear of the water being colder than 12 degrees. I seriously could not go any lower than that! I was also worried about starting in a pen and battling through the waters with lots of people. However, I am going to face 100 other competitors at Blenheim Palace so I really needed to do this in order to get over this concern.

So when the 750m race came (this is part of the Splash! series with Capital Tri), I arrived half hour before my wave started, signed in, got in my wetsuit and marched straight outside. After a quick five minute briefing, we were all lining up on the jetty waiting to enter the water. Once we were given the all clear to swim to the start line, I didn't even hesitate in getting in. I walked straight down the slope into the waters and pulled my whole body under. I straight away swam over to the starting buoy and felt geared up to go. 'I've just got to go for it and not stop!' was all I could think.
(my training buddy and I getting prepped for the race!)
The siren went and we were off! My sighting was a bit off to start with and I did end up going a bit wide in the first 200m. I found myself grouped with two other girls and made my strategy to be remaining by their side at all times. We were all in the same swimming caps so it was hard to spot my friend but I had a feeling she was one of these girls. It felt reassuring to know she was nearby. By the halfway point, I felt brilliant! My pace picked up slightly and I felt light and agile as I cut through the water. By the last 100m I pushed it as hard as I could back to the jetty to finish in a time of 15.26 and securing 5th female.
(fellow swimmers for the 3000m course cutting through the water)
15.26 and 5th place. Are you kidding me!? My target was 20 minutes so to learn this was mind boggling. Maybe I'm not too shabby with my swimming after all. Hurrah!

As I write this post, I am still beaming with this result. By far one of my proudest moments in my fitness journey. Now I know I can swim open water, for 750m in what I think is a pretty decent time. This is the assurance I need for the triathlon and with it being only a month away, I need to keep up training to ensure I keep this pace and strength for the big day.

For all fellow debut triathletes out there. If your race involves an open water swim, get yourself down to your local swimming pond/reservoir asap! It is, I think, a necessity for training. Open water and pools are two very different things and it should not be assumed they are the same. 

Anyway, to celebrate I'm off for a gin! If you want to learn more about Capital Tri and training sessions they have coming up, visit the website here

Lipstick Runner. 

Sunday, 10 May 2015

FUEL FOR THOUGHT: Deliciously Ella's Sweet Potato Brownies

This week I have converted to clean eating. If you read my latest Operation Bridal Bod (here), you will see my body is in need of a food overhaul. I have actually been well behaved. Very good in fact! Planning my meals in advance has helped hugely and to aid my habit of sweet cravings, I opted to make Deliciously Ella's Sweet Potato Brownies, which are vegan and free from processed sugar. Thumbs up!

These brownies are super-duper easy to make and take so scrummy - guilt free yumminess!
INGREDIENTS (to make 10 brownies)

2 sweet potatoes
80g ground almonds
100g spelt flour (Ella suggests rice flour but all I had was spelt which works just as well)
Two handfuls of dates
4 tbsps cacoa powder
3 tablespoons of honey (Ella suggest maple syrup but, again, I didn't have this so opted for honey)

1. Chop the sweet potatoes into chunks and cook in the oven set to 180 degrees. Bake until soft and squidgy.
2. Once cooked through, blend with the dates. Then in a separate bowl, mix together the flour, cacoa powder and ground almonds.
3. Mix the sweet potato and dates with the dry mixture, adding in the honey to allow it all to bind together. 
4. Place into a brownie baking dish (or like I have used here - loaf tins) and bake at 180 degrees for 20 minutes. Once cooked, place on a cooling rack before serving with a nice cup of tea.
How easy can you get!? It took me around 40 minutes to prepare once the sweet potato was cooked. The cacoa powder relieves the sweet tooth but the mixture alone is very rich so a little slice is all you need to feel satisfied. 

What other clean eating recipes would you suggest? I'm definitely on the hunt for more.

Lipstick Runner. 

Monday, 4 May 2015


I am a pig. A disgusting, junk food loading pig.

There I said. Hands up and confessing to a sin I have been carrying around with me for around six weeks yet cannot seem to budge it. My name is Sarah and I am an over indulger.

This binge has now led to a food hangover, which has been caused by weeks of eating out, drinking lots, turning to processed foods and impractical supermarket visits. My body is flooded with toxins.

It all started with my birthday weekend - the first weekend of April. I celebrated with dinner at Meat Mission in Shoreditch. We indulged in chicken burgers, fries, buffalo wings and beer. This was then followed the next day (Easter Sunday) with chocolate, afternoon tea and mojitos in the evening.
By the following weekend, I was spending time with members of the wedding party doing bridal things. We had lunch at a nearby pub where I consumed a burger which was taller than a pint of beer. Oh and then the next day, my family and I overate the wedding cake sample Mum kindly made for the weekend.

All this is just the start. It snowballed into eating out, binge drinking and takeaways. My birthday weekend was my slip up which has been hard to curb. My lack of attention with my diet has also etched into my training regime a bit and I have seen my focus swayed by working more hours or socialising with friends.

I'm ok about this dent in my plan. I have never been one to manage a smooth ride from start to finish for anything, so this is just a detour and more importantly, I HAVE A PLAN!
In comes James Duigan and his 'Clean & Lean' lifestyle. A concept where you listen to your body and provide it with the fuel it needs and not what the mind wants. I just so happen to have this way of living in a guide on my bookshelf and it has been sat there the past five years. I took it off the shelf this afternoon and after flicking through, felt really inspired by James story and his meal plans. He explains that to be fit and healthy, you need to cut the C.R.A.P (caffeine, refined sugars, alcohol and processed foods). The book itself seems pretty straightforward and so I am going to give it a go!

June is my body update and keeping this at the forefront of my mind will keep me focussed on giving this new way of eating a good old bosh. I'm hoping it might make my running times a bit faster too. *thumbs up*.

Lipstick Runner.