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Gullane Beach Triathlon

A bonus race with a bonus result!

After Craggy Island I had three weeks in my plan to get my calf sorted and get well before the next race. It seemed feasible.  At the race, Marie had mentioned she was doing the Gullane Beach Tri, which is almost my most local event, and asked if I was too. I wasn’t, but it made me think maybe I could, and I checked the website. Sold out and too late for the entry list.

I mentioned it to my coach, Scott, then forgot about it. A few days later I got an email.

Turn up on the day early – organiser says you will race.

Sure enough, this is also what the website suggested. Suddenly I was interested again! There was a risk to my calf though … so I waited until my first interval training since the half marathon, to see how it went. I was ‘controlled’ with my efforts, and all was well.

Ten perfectly paced intervals, with a special effort on number 9, just to see if I still could!

Ten perfectly paced intervals, with a special effort on number 9, just to see if I still could!

Next mission – getting a lift to the start early enough to get on-the-line entry. Marie offered to pick me up at 7 … too late I thought. I could camp the night before – but left work far too late on Friday to get sorted and get the train over.  Scott was going the night before to set up the swim course. Friday evening I texted Glen … and got the reply … we can pick you up at 6:30!!

I was (hopefully) going to race!

This coincided with my first full week of feeling well, so on race day I was high as a kite and bouncing off the walls.

A beautiful beach

A beautiful beach

After a high speed dash along the coast, we got there very early, I got a spot no problem, and a great position in transition at the end of a row. It was chilly, but I was confident it would warm up when the sun came out.

Hey! They're all following me!

Hey! They’re all following me!

The swim was really tough! I think I always say that, but this time I really mean it :-D. The waves looked tiny from the beach and there was only a bit of a breeze. This was my first ever beach start – we ran into the sea and it was wall to wall bodies. Then we headed into the wind toward the first buoy and I realised how wavy it really was. It made sighting tricky as it was luck whether I got a view of the orange marker, or the side of a wave. It was even harder on the way back as it was quite a long way between the buoys. I was drinking far too much sea water and completely failing to draft, as always! The course was two laps, and we had to run out, round a flagpole and back in again. I was shocked that I could hardly breathe when I launched myself into lap two.


Heading in for more

Heading in for more

Blackberry-lined transition run

Blackberry-lined transition run

Still, it was soon done and I was running up the sand dune and along a path back to transition. I was tempted to stop for a few juicy blackberries, but resisted.

The bike course takes in some of the country lanes of East Lothian. I passed teammate Louise, who was the fastest female swimmer. Then I was riding up the hill. I concentrated on keeping my speed up and trying to chase down someone in blue up ahead. He turned out to be a great carrot for me – as he’d get away a bit, I’d re-focus, pull him back a bit – until I finally caught him with just a few km to go.

My favourite bit was overtaking a man on a proper time trial bike with a big disc wheel on lap 2. You can have a fancy bike, but you’ve still got to pedal fast and no free wheeling!!


Transition carnage!

Transition carnage!

I hadn’t seen any other girls, but didn’t know what my position was until I started the run. This is when some of the marshals told me I was leading! Yay! My plan had been to have a hard swim and bike, and keep it steady on the run, if I could. This would be a good test of my calf without pushing it too hard. So I kept a decent pace, but took time to thank all the very friendly marshals. I was too out of breath to say much though, so little hand waves had to do.

The course was two laps, with an out and back at one end. I saw the other girls behind. Only one looked close enough to catch me. I kept going and was still in the lead as I set off on the out and back again. There was a little loop in some trees at the far end and as I emerged I couldn’t see ‘the girl in black’ going the other way. Uh-oh, I thought, she’s probably closing in and already on that loop! As I approached the last few hundred metres I looked over my shoulder and could see two people in black approaching. Things were no more defined than that! So I picked the pace up and pushed hard to the end. Good job I did, as Megan Mowbray had a storming run and flew in just 7 seconds behind!

You've been chicked!

You’ve been chicked!

A very exciting finish and a fantastic race for me. Fellow Celtman competitor, Laura Sarkis was third. Full results here. The prize was more than I expected – a £100 voucher for the Tri Centre. The free post race food even included a decent veggie option and I picked up another bottle of speciality beer for Andy.

Lots of the club were out racing and supporting and there was a great atmosphere. Thanks for all the cheers! Whilst we’re on the thanks, Lesley Marshall took some great pictures, Scott always gives good advice, whilst Kirsty works her magic on my legs when I keep abusing them. Finally a special word for Glen and Heili for picking me up so early. Couldn’t have done it without you guys :-).

Next year is nearly here!

It’s time I had some race plans for 2013!

About this time last year I had some vague ideas for 2012. It was then that I decided to enter the Celtman and get myself a coach to make sure I did myself justice.

2012 was a massive year, with the Celtman and the Terrex Sting in Stirling 5-day event. I found it really hard to recover from the Sting. After feeling better, racing and then feeling worse again a couple of times, I had to take a good 6-8 weeks “off”. This meant no hard training.

Celtman Finisher

Celtman Finisher

End of The Sting -little did I know how long it would take to get over this!

End of The Sting – little did I know how long it would take to get over this!

I started thinking … so what did I learn? And what next?

I put my down-time to good use planning for next year. I decided the Celtman was a bit too logistically complex, expensive and time consuming to do two years in a row. One of the biggest adventure races in the UK next year is the Coast to Coast. However, it involves a lot of kayaking and I’m not sure I could dedicate enough training time to do it competitively.

First question: What did I enjoy about this year? I really thrived on having a target which I had to work towards. When I entered the Celtman I couldn’t have done the race within the time limits. I also found that I was good at ‘normal’ triathlons. Coming 2nd at the Slateman was a revelation – I really enjoyed the head-to-head racing and the satisfaction of doing well in a competitive field. And having Scott as my coach worked really well, so he’s still on board for 2013 :D.

Turns out I'm quite good at this

Turns out I’m quite good at this

I believe that it’s important to make the most of your strengths. I love mountain biking and always will – but my technical skills will never be the best. From this year’s events I realised that I have the strength and endurance needed to be good on a road bike. I also swim well, especially outdoors. Back in 1999 I stopped running because I got so frustrated with injuries. Running is still hard due to recurrent niggles. But it seems I can produce a half-decent run on not a lot of training!

I can cope with a bit of this ... but I'm often chasing!

I can cope with a bit of this … even if I’m often chasing!

Lastly, I like variety and need to do keep ‘doing different things’ or ‘doing things differently’!

Love this and even do it for recreational purposes!

Love this and even do it for recreational purposes!

Thinking about all this helped me to narrow down my choices.

I decided on my target: a middle distance triathlon. This is 1900m swim, 90km road bike and 21km run. It should take about 5 hours. Why did I choose this?

  • I excel at this race duration.
  • I will use my swimming and road biking strengths.
  • I can still do fun mountain biking and adventure racing as training. This is especially true over the winter.
  • I can recover much more easily from this distance. Weeks rather than months!

But .. I could finish a middle distance triathlon next week if I wanted to. So where’s the challenge?

I’m going to enter the Scottish Middle Distance championships in Aberfeldy. I’ll set myself stretching target times that I couldn’t achieve now.

The next question was – how do I structure my year to achieve that? This was an iterative process. I started with a full list of all the races I fancied doing. There were 47 of them in 12 months!! I talked to Andy about how things fitted together. He is an experienced triathlete and fully qualified cycling coach, so knows a thing or two, even if we don’t always agree ;-).

Of course, I also asked my coach, Scott. My list went back and forth a couple of times. I listened to their advice and reluctantly removed a few races and switched others from off-road to on-road. I also deleted events which looked a bit dull – I still want interesting courses and scenery!

I will need to be quicker. My endurance and pacing are already very good. So my lead up races are mostly shorter on-road triathlons with open water swims. They have similar physiological demands to a middle distance tri, but will help me get faster. I should also recover from them quickly. I need to watch how much travelling I have to do, and think about how I can combine races with family visits!

Before then I will keep doing the Open 5s. The plan is to do them with Lucy in the female pairs category. This will keep things interesting (I did them solo last year). A target once a month through the winter also helps keep me training hard when it’s cold, dark and wet outside.

After Aberfeldy I will just do what I feel like – which may include the Craggy off-road tri and a 24h MTB race – I haven’t done one for so many years!

So here’s the plan … no doubt I will have to change and adjust it as the year unfolds, but at least I have something to start with :-).

2013 plan

Making plans

This time last year I decided to do a few things to try and get faster and better at adventure races. After a couple of average events, I had a fantastic time in a truly wild, wet and windswept event in Kirkby Stephen, which also really inspired me and gave me bags of confidence. So, what did I do?

  • Lost a bit of weight
  • Learnt to run further
  • Trimmed down all the unnecessary kit I was carrying
  • Consistent race practice
  • Lots of map study

I had a brief spell feeling that I could have done better on the run during the Ben Nevis Triathlon a few weeks ago, but then remembered that this time last year I could barely manage 8km, and now I think 20km is about the limit.

Race practice is invaluable – you just can’t get better at strategy and decision making under pressure without actually doing it. Even if it is sometimes a disaster!

With two individual event wins and third in last year’s Open 5 series, plus three podium places out of my four big events this summer, I feel quite happy with how this plan worked out 😀

What next? Well, here are some ideas I have:

  • Get super new bike (start lists with something you can already tick off…)
  • Ride off-road more often
  • Start going to the club running sessions consistently
  • Get more recovery
  • Eat better
  • More map study … well, it’s fun, like curling up with a good book!

It sounds obvious, but it was only at the Trans Wales event that I realised by going mountain biking every day, I was getting better at it. With the new bike there’s no excuse, and anyway, it is such fun to ride that this one isn’t gong to be a chore. Last night I went to Glentress after work with a colleague. We had the trails all to ourselves, the woods echoed to my whoop-de-woops and night riding is great for technique! You’re forced to look round tight corners and I find myself riding trickier stuff because I’m there and going over it before my brain whispers ‘you can’t …’. I’m also finding new people to ride with, like the girls at Hervelo and a fledgling team at Ronde.

As for recovery and eating – in a week’s time I will officially be a part-time employee. Not by much, but every other Monday I will be free to relax after the weekend’s exertions and catch up on everything that currently gets ignored or crammed into the late evenings when I should be going to bed. Things like planning what to eat for the rest of the week and going shopping so I have food in the house. Plus all the boring stuff like ironing and housework, mixed with interesting stuff like writing race reports and doing my Italian homework.

I’m really quite excited by the prospect. My challenge will be to avoid the temptation to fill up the time with new things 😀

Next race: Open 5 at Staveley in the Lake District.

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