Bala Olympic Distance Triathlon 2017

On Sunday 3rd September I completed my first Olympic distance triathlon. The 1.5km swim took place in Bala lake, with the 40km bike and 10km run route taking place along a closed road. I completed it in 3 hours 9 minutes which I was really pleased with.

The conditions weren’t too bad as we set off from Wrexham at 6.30am. My Dad said that the weather was supposed to hold out but about half way en route to Bala the rain started. Once we arrived at Bala rugby club, the rain continued. We arrived in plenty of time and went to register. Once we returned to the car we started to prepare our gear and the wind and rain showed no sign of stopping at this point.

Bala tri is a qualifying event for the European Championships taking place in Estonia in 2018 so there were loads of professional looking athletes there. When I saw people in Team GB tri-suits, I soon began to realise that the quality of athletes in the field would be really high. There were a few less professional looking people there too like myself.

Once our bikes and trainers were in transition we were briefed and the first wave which Stew was in headed over to the starting point. The race was about 15 minutes late to start and as the men’s wave were lining up, the majority of the women’s wave were hopping on the spot trying to keep warm.

Bala lake is one of the largest natural bodies of water in Wales, definitely the biggest lake I’ve ever swum in. As we were waiting for our wave the wind had picked up and the lake looked choppy, it was also still raining. As always there was a bit of chatter among participants on the start line as we all questioned each other why we were putting ourselves through this but eager to start.

When we finally got in the water the lake didn’t feel too cold, helped by the fact it was cold outside of the lake as well. It was a shallow water mass start and I was conscious to stay near the back to avoid being swamped at the start. Once the race was underway, after I sorted some initial issues with leaky goggles I soon got into my rhythm with front crawl. The swimmers stayed relatively close together which made it easy to sight which direction to go in. The waves, however, were pretty choppy in some bits of the swim which made it difficult particularly as I’ve never swum in ways like that before.

One thing I find difficult with swimming is keeping my head down and not disrupting my rhythm. I can be swimming for what feels like 15 minutes, poke my head out of the water and realise I haven’t come far at all. So in the swim I was determined not to look up and just keep going. I kept my mind occupied by singing songs in my head and trying to think of the entire Game of Thrones story line from start to finish as best I could. It worked quite well and soon enough the swim was over.

My first transition was pretty slow. Trying to take a wet suit off quickly after swimming 1.5km is tricky, so is putting socks and bike shoes onto wet feet when you can’t feel your hands. The bike ride was pretty grim with strong side winds and rain. Luckily it was a straight road with not too many corners to steer a wet bike around. I never dried off from the swim and the rain made my handle bars slippery when changing gears which was annoying. It felt like the bike ride went on for a long time. As it was an out then in route the men’s wave were passing us on their way back in which was nice to see. The leaders came flying passed and I eventually saw Stew too. The hairpin bend around a cone at the half way point was a tricky maneuver. Luckily a friend tipped me off and said to make sure I was in a low gear. This old guy came into the turn really quick in a high gear, got half way around the turn then really struggled to get going again. He was swearing at his bike as I overtook him on the corner.

There was one point on the bike where I thought to myself I do not want to do this run at all, do I have to do the run? Soon enough I was back into transition to ditch my bike and swap my shoes and I headed out on the run. It felt good to be off the bike and I soon started to warm up my numb feet. I was running at a decent pace so I just kept it up. Coming back past transition towards the finish line I still felt good and knew I had a bit left in me. I’d been about 10 metres behind a woman for about 5k and I sped up slightly to get past her. I heard my parents and Stew cheering for me as I powered ahead and waved at them, then got confused where the finish line is, came to a stop then realised where I needed to go, about 100 metres further around a corner. I was knackered by this point but managed to push through.

I was so pleased to finish and felt great. My Mum was waiting there with a big coat which I put on straight away then had some water as we started to make our way back to the car. We received our goody bag at the start which included a black Bala Triathlon towel which was quite cool, but no medal sadly. The food and drink in the bag were pretty basic too e.g. no sweets.

Despite the weather I really enjoyed the triathlon. I’d bought a triathlon wet suit (£112) and a tri-suit (£55) both Speedo, for the event which both were really comfortable. I’ve had a lot of use out of my wet suit this summer so I’m pleased I invested in a decent one.

I would like to do another Olmypic distance tri at some point and definitely a couple more sprints. I’ve really enjoyed my open water swim training too so will be looking to keep that up next year. But for now as we begin to move into Autumn I think it’s time to get back into running.

Times:

Swim: 37 mins

T1: 4 mins

Cycle: 1 hr 29 mins

T2: 2 mins

Run: 54 mins

Thoughts from this week:

  • I completed my bike ride from Wrexham to Abersoch with my Dad a few months ago and really enjoyed it. Will be looking to do it again next summer.
  • I’ve been doing a lot of classes at the gym recently which I’ve been enjoying.
  • I also now have a beautiful new niece called Imogen.
  • Going on a family holiday to Spain in a couple of weeks for a final bit of sunshine, hooray!

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Bala Olympic triathlon training

There are now two months to go until the Bala Olympic triathlon and training so far is going well. Unlike previous big sporting challenges I haven’t been following a strict training plan but I have been running, swimming and cycling as regularly as possible.

I finished my third Chester half marathon back in May (finishing time 2 hours 4 mins) which wasn’t a PB but was a time I was pleased with considering the amount of training I had done. Going away on a two week long trip around the North West of America was probably not the best for my training plan, despite getting in a couple of runs whilst we were there.

This weekend I will also be cycling the 84 miles from Wrexham to Abersoch with my Dad which I’m really looking forward to. Dad has done the ride a couple of times before and I’ve always wanted to tick it off my to do list. I’ve enjoyed training for it and it has acted as great motivation to get my out on my road bike.

I’m still doing as many Parkruns as I can, although holidays and weekends away have meant I’ve missed a few. I’m currently on Parkrun number 30 and with 25 weeks left in the year so completing my 50 Parkruns in 2017  might have to be extended to early 2018.

A combination of the half marathon, the Abersoch ride and Parkrun’s has been keeping my cycling and running at a good level. However it does always feel like when I’m spending more time running or on the bike, like I am at the moment with the Abersoch ride, I worry about losing strength in the other disciplines. The problems of triathlon training!

Swimming has been one thing I’ve been focusing on as this is my weakest discipline. I’ve been trying to swim the 1.5 distance once a week and as of last weekend I have progressed to doing the distance in open water.

For my first open water swim we went to Boundary Water Park in Cheshire. I paid £112 for my Speedo wet suit from Newitts online which I’m really pleased with. The lake was perfect for open water swimming, costing £8, and the entrance to the lake is nice and sandy but the rest of the lake was fairly weedy.

When I first started swimming I couldn’t believe how dark it was underwater. Going from a sunny day above the water to a dark green lake underneath was quite disorientating between breaths. It took me about 10 minutes to get used to that sensation then I needed to get used to swimming through weeds which I did after a bit more swimming.

Prior to our trip to the water park I’d watched a couple of YouTube videos on how to sight and direct yourself in open water. This was also quite challenging as at one point I found myself completely off course, swimming in the wrong direction. I got better at this towards the end which I was pleased about, as I kept thinking if this happened in a triathlon event swim, it would waste a huge amount of essential energy. Overall I really enjoyed swimming in the open water.

Also as part of Bala training my boyfriend and I are going to the mid week Capernwray  Sprint Tri events which include an open water swim which look like really nice events.

Thoughts from this week:

  • Looking forward to watching Wimbledon and the Tour de France over the next couple of weeks
  • Went to Glastonbury again for the third time this year and it did not disappoint
  • Going to see Blink 182 in Manchester in a couple of weeks
  • Also turn 26 in a few weeks
  • Excited to jump in the sea after a long bike ride on Saturday

 

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Return to training and a return to blogging

It’s four weeks since I signed up for Bala Olympic Distance Triathlon and three months since my last blog post. I find it easy writing blogs when I’m training for something. Feels like when I write down my plan and how my training’s going, it keeps me on track.

Signing up for events definitely kick starts my training efforts. Once I paid the £71 for the Bala Tri it made it real. I also then signed up for Chester half marathon (it was an expensive day) which I’ll be doing in May for the third time. My time in 2014 was 2 hrs 7 and 1hr 58 in 2015 which remains my half marathon PB. I will aim to run this half in under 1 hr 55, so need to start upping my mileage over the next month.

The Bala Triathlon is on the 3rd September so I have a good amount of time to train. My biggest concern at the moment is the 1.5km open water swim. Doing two sprint tris last year was great fun but my swim wasn’t that strong and it was in a pool which made it easier. Bala Tri swim is in the lake and almost three times as far. I’ve realised that when training for something you just have to do it as much as possible and swimming is no different. Since I signed up for the tri I’ve been aiming to swim the 1.5km distance twice a week.

I found it quite difficult to find a decent pool that wasn’t really busy. I was given a seven day pass to a Nuffield Health gym in the Printworks and that pool was really nice. Over looking the city and not busy, it was perfect but when my 7 days ran out I wasn’t willing to pay the £53 a month fee just to use a nice pool when I get my gym membership through work.

“There must be other pools to try” I thought to myself. Stew and I have been to Hough End a few times and it’s always busy there. We went to the Aquatics Centre in Manchester after work and that was pretty busy. However, on Tuesday and Thursday mornings the Aquatics Centre has 50m lane swimming in the 2 metre deep pool. I’ve been going before work on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the past couple of weeks and I feel like it’s really helping with my training. The long and deep pool is better to simulate open water so when the open water swimming venues such as Salford Quays (ew) start in the Summer my swimming will be at a good standard.

I can now comfortably swim the 1.5km doing front crawl. It’s currently taking me about 40 mins. Just need to buy a wet suit and brave the open water swimming when it gets a bit warmer.

I’m still doing a bit of running. I’m working towards my 50 Parkruns t-shirt, I’m currently on number 37. I feel like I’m getting faster but I need to start upping my distance for the half marathon and for the triathlon. Going to try running double park runs this weekend so will see how I find that. Then I guess I could do three Parkruns as it gets closer to the half. Or I could just work out longer routes, I  still haven’t really discovered good running routes from the new house.

Definitely enjoying the training at the minute, feel like I’m starting to get into a routine. I will need to start cycling on my road bike at some point, I’ll start that in the summer.

Thoughts from this week:

  • So excited for Whistler ski trip in a couple of weeks, going to get my very own ski boots woo
  • Been planning other holidays for the year such as Amsterdam and Spain
  • Played squash for the first time in years the other week and I was aching from it
  • Can’t wait for the weather to improve
  • Went to a great wedding last weekend and have another one to look forward to in a few months

 

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The past three months in one post

It’s been a few months since I last blogged which is bad even by my standards. There’s a few reasons why; we’ve moved house, work has been busy, my laptop is on it’s last legs etc. but it’s better late than never.

What really surprised me is that I didn’t even write about completing my fourth marathon. On the 2nd October Stew and I completed the Chester marathon and I did it in 4 hours 8 minutes, 14 minutes quicker than my previous marathon PB from London which I was so happy with. It makes me feel achieving a sub 4 hour marathon would be possible, as every time I’ve done a marathon I’ve knocked off at least 10 minutes (except Snowdonia). I really enjoyed Chester marathon and the conditions were perfect, if anything it was too warm even in October!

This was the first marathon I had ran wearing a Garmin which I think contributed to my PB. It’s easy to keep an eye on your pace and make a conscious effort to not let a PB time slip away. I also stayed with the 4 hour pacers until mile 13 which was nice. The pacers were a really nice group of people and the buzz of the other potential 4 hour marathon runners was great to keep me going. When we hit mile 13 I started to flag a bit and decided to leave the group, but I only finished 8 minutes behind them in the end. Unfortunately for Stew his first marathon was a painful one, enduring an injury at mile 20 left him hobbling for the finish line for the last 6 miles but he still did it about 45 minutes quicker than me.

This marathon was still as hard as all of the previous ones. When you know exactly what you’re in for, mentally it makes it harder. I’m determined to get a sub 4 hour marathon time at some point, whether that will happen in 2017 I’m not sure. I said I would have a year off marathons this year but didn’t so will have to wait and see what 2017 brings.

Over the past couple of months I’ve also been on a family holiday to Spain which was really nice. It was the perfect retreat after completing the marathon and great to spend time with the family.

After the marathon we also moved into our new house which was finally completed a couple of days before the marathon. We are now all set up and awaiting the arrival of our first Christmas tree this weekend. There are still a few finishing touches to do but we’re both really pleased with the house. It was tiring moving everything in and knocking the partition wall down between the kitchen and living room to make it open plan. We found it tiring moving into a brand new house so I can’t imagine how people feel when they move into a house which needs fixing up before they can live in it.

I will also be partaking in the Wilmslow 10k this weekend. This will be around the 7th 10k race I’ve done and I will be aiming to beat my PB time of 54 mins. I’ve done a fair bit of training and hope that the Chester marathon training will also help. It is a flat route so should be doable so fingers crossed it’ll get sub 54 mins.

Thoughts from this week:

  • I went skiing this week which made me very exciting to ski in Canada next year
  • After the 10k I think I will have a break from running for a while
  • Watched Allied last weekend which is a great film
  • Looking forward to the Christmas count down
  • I want to start doing more yoga in 2017

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Wilderness Festival and training continued

A few weeks ago (4th August) my ski season pal and I headed to Oxfordshire for Wilderness Festival at Cornbury Park. The weather absolutely made the weekend and the surroundings of the festival were amazing. Walking around the site felt like you were on holiday and as we spent three house sat by the lake nursing our hangovers on Saturday it sure felt like that in the 25 degree heat. Some highlights of the weekend include Roy Ayers, the Valley, Bring your own bass at the Carousel venue, watching a nuts version of musical benches and swimming in the lake.

I had never felt so safe at a festival with to quote the security guys ‘such an affluent crowd’ so it definitely was a festival experience unlike a festival I’ve been to before. We managed to keep spending to a minimum by sneaking our beers in and munching in Aldi crisps for most of the weekend. Apart from an amazing bacon and (duck) egg sandwich on Sunday morning the food scene was a bit too affluent for my liking. The prices for food were really expensive and with no typical greasy chip van we all know and love at a festival we were left to deliberate which food stand would be the best value for money. We really didn’t want to spend £8 on a gourmet burger to discover it wasn’t that great, so we stuck to £3 portions of chips from different vans as we tried to discover who made the best chips.

I must’ve seen about four or five runners trotting around Wilderness festival but I didn’t take my running gear. Since then however, I have been continuing with my marathon training plan and I am now in my race simulation phase.

I have done 11, 12, 13 and 17 mile runs over the past month as well as a couple of 3 and 6 milers mid week. I have a 20 mile run planned for this weekend and that will be the further I will run before the marathon on the 2nd October. I feel like I should do a 15 mile run so will try and fit one of those in, maybe as part of the tapering process but once I’ve done that apart from a few shorter runs in the run up to the marathon that will pretty much be it. And I will have to wait for the day to arrive and see how I get on.

I’m feeling positive about the marathon. Reading Usain Bolt’s autobiography and watching the Olympics over the summer has helped to keep me motivated and helped me out of bed during the early mornings whilst thinking ‘this is what all of those Olympic athletes would’ve had to do but a millions times more effort so I can do this’. This will be the first marathon I will run with my Garmin watch so I’m keen to use it to keep an eye on my pace and aim for a marathon PB.

I also will be doing my second sprint triathlon a week on Sunday so fingers crossed for good weather. I will also be aiming for a PB for that. Although it’s still a sprint triathlon the distances change slightly, this time with a 400 m swim, 15 mile bike and 3.9 mile swim. I suppose a slightly shorter swim and a longer bike ride works in my favour but there is basically an extra mile at the end of the race so will see how I get on.

Thoughts from this week:

  • On my 17 mile run I started listening to Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince audiobook – I swear by audiobooks to make long runs more exciting
  • Hoping that marathon training will also pair up as good triathlon training as well
  • Cannot wait to go on holiday two days after the marathon
  • Been having a bit of trouble with my knee, strengthening quad exercises seem to help
  • Desperately need to go swimming

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Returning to running

Now that we’ve reached July I have started my three month marathon training plan for the Chester Marathon on the 2nd October. Although I never really stopped running, after the Snowdonia marathon last October I haven’t been doing park run or running with the Chorlton runners much at all. This was mainly due to triathlon training, holidays etc.

I did park run this morning for the first time in about six months and I felt like I chose the wettest one to make my return. I felt like a few people there were thinking ‘haven’t seen her around in ages’ (although they were probably just thinking about how wet they were rather than me) and it did make me feel a bit like shouting to everyone that I’d been triathlon training for a few months and not just sitting on my bum. Not that it would’ve mattered if that was what I was doing or if anyone would care about what I’ve been doing but I feel like sometimes returning to anything park run, club running, exercise in general can be daunting for some people.

Despite the rain I’m glad I went today as if I’d been waiting for a dry sunny morning to return I could’ve been waiting a while. I did four miles before park run to make up a 7.5 mile run but by the time I’d ran home to avoid hanging around in the rain it was 8 miles which I was pleased with as it’s the furthest I’ve ran in a long time. I used my secret weapon song of the moment to overtake three people during the last 400 meters of park run which felt great. Taylor Swift -You belong with me is the weapon and I don’t know why but it makes me run fast and those three people couldn’t beat me and Taylor this morning.

I’m enjoying the return to more running. This will be my first marathon at my new job so it will be interesting to see how I manage the training. I’ve got a 5k run and a couple of other runners to tick of my mid week lunch runs and I will try to go to a Tuesday night club run next time I can. As I generally feel busier than the last time I’ve trained for marathons, going home to run in the lovely countryside may be more difficult so I might try and work out some better runs around here for when I need to do longer ones maybe using bits of cycling routes I have or driving out to Tatton Park.

I’ve also bought a new pair of Mizuno Wave Enigma trainers, think I am now on my 5th pair and I really like the as they’re bright green with cool laces.

Thoughts from this week:

  • Felt very proud to be half Welsh through the Euros and enjoyed watching football for once
  • Went to see Stereophonics and Catfish and the bottlemen which were really good
  • Bought my first sofa this week as we start to buy furniture for the house
  • Wish the summer would be warmer
  • Fingers crossed for Andy Murray in the Wimbledon final tomorrow

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My first sprint triathlon

A couple of weeks ago my sister and I both completed our first sprint triathlon. We took part in the Nantwich triathlon which was a 500 meter swim, 12 mile bike ride and three mile run. We got to the venue nice and early and realised first of all that we were at the wrong place for registration so drove to the the second transition stage where we picked up our numbers after asking a woman at the first transition stage where we register. She asked if we wanted to sign up today to do the triathlon, assessing my sister and I as if we were in the completely wrong place in terms of where to register and what felt like questioning our whole presence at a triathlon event which was a bit unnerving.

Once we found where we needed to be, applied various stickers to various body and bike parts we headed back to the first transition close to the swimming pool it was soon time for us to start. We ditch our cycling gear in the transition area and found ourselves waiting in our swimming suits and goggles in front of a swimming pool. When we first arrived there were people already swimming, mainly men and mainly all doing front crawl quite comfortably. By the time it was for my sister and I to start it was mainly women and there were quite a few first timers as we were briefed on the pool side.

Once we were in the pool it was fairly easy to count the 16 lengths we had to do which was one thing I was quite nervous about as I didn’t want to do more or less than I needed to. We had to do four lengths in each lane of the pool and then duck under the rope to the next lane and do two lengths in each lane until it was time to get out and cycle. I did the swim in 12 minutes which I was really pleased with. I would probably say that I did about half front crawl half breast stroke. I think that my technique did slightly go out of the window when it came to the swim as there were a couple of lengths where I swallowed some water from the splashes of the other swimmers, or was behind another swimmer and there were some lengths when I was directly behind my sister which definitely made the swim a lot easier. So I was glad when it was over and keen to get on my bike.

My sister and I came out of the pool at the same time and we dashed to transition 1 and began to put our cycling gear on. Putting lycra on while wet is quite difficult but I got dressed as quick as I could and got on my bike. The cyclists were really spread out and for most of the time I was cycling on my own with more cyclists who weren’t participating in the triathlon passing the other way than seeing any other competitors. The markers were done in km and as I’m fairly used to mile markers while running, the km markers on a bike seemed to pass quite quickly. I felt good on the bike and didn’t notice my wet swimsuit under my clothes or wet hair which I thought might get annoying. I was going at a fair pace and whenever I did catch sight of a bike ahead of me I pushed to pass them. I had planned to keep pushing hard until km 15 as I thought it would be an easy way to make up some time. Once I got to 15km I’d planned to ease off so my legs could recover a bit before the run but once I got there I thought I might as well go hard or go home so carried on pushing.

Soon I came to the second transition area where my parents were waiting for me and waved as I yanked off my cycling shoes and pulling on my running shoes and had a bite of a banana and quite some speed. Then it was time for four laps of the park to finish. The weather had been nice until that point in the day as clouds began to move above us. As I was going around I kept an eye out for my sister and asked my parents if she had come in when I passed them but each lap passed and there was still no sign of her. I was starting to get worried that she’d got a flat tyre or been in an accident. I crossed the finish line attempting to sprint as the rain began to come down, pleased with my effort when I check my garmin which I had turned on once I got out of the pool. The time was 12.30pm and as we started at 11am I knew I’d finished in around 1 hour 30 mins which I was really pleased with.

As my Mum came over to congratulate me she had told my that my sister had just come in and was beginning her run with the rain still pouring down. Mum told me that my sister had taken a wrong turn and accidentally added 10km onto the length of the bike ride. I was glad to see my sister was still going but could imagine her frustration as she was now running in the pouring rain 10km more tired than she should be. I could see she was coming up to finishing her first lap so I decided to run with her. One reason I wanted to was because as she had done a longer bike ride I didn’t want to be out done by my big sister and to see if she was OK and to make sure she would finish, plus it’s a lot easier to run with two people when you’re not just thinking about how tired you are. So I ran two extra laps and left her to finish her final lap by herself. Geo came in at 2 hours 4 minutes which is a great time in itself but the main thing is that we both finished.

It was a really great race and we both really enjoyed it, my sister slightly frustrated that she had turned the wrong way but still please she’d finished it. And much to my delight we’re signing up to do another one in the Autumn to make sure my sister doesn’t get lost this time. Bring on South Manchester sprint tri!

Official times:

Position: 65/206

Category position: 9th

Swim: 00:12:27

T1: 00:04:24

Cycle: 00:46:45

T2: 00:01:06

Run: 00:27:15

Total time: 01:31:57

Thoughts from this week:

  • I really need to get better at changing inner tubes as I think if I had a puncture I wouldn’t really know what to do plus I never carry a puncture repair kit which I should also probably do
  • Think my lack of training has led to a lack of motivation
  • Went to see Coldplay last night who were great
  • I think my sister is hooked on running, hooray
  • Feels like marathon training will be beginning before I know it

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