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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Triathlon Training

For the past few month’s my sister and I have been training for our first sprint triathlon which takes place tomorrow in Nantwich. The distances are 500m swim, 12 mile bike and three mile run. I’m feeling quite prepared for it but it definitely feels like there’s more stuff to organise for race day, three times as much stuff as a running race in fact.

I’m looking forward to trying something new and the excitement of transitioning from one stage to the next. Of all of the stages the swim is what I’m most concerned about, not that I’m worried about it but I’ll be glad once it’s over. Once the swim is over I’ll be looking forward to the cycle and the run as we’ve trained for those stages a few times and done more than the distance required on race day.

Weatherwise we could be faced with a few showers throughout the day but as long as it’s not windy we should be fine. There’s been a couple of training sessions where my feet have got really cold when cycling in my SPDs and when it’s come to the run they’ve been numb which made the run feel really weird so hopefully it won’t be too cold tomorrow.

I haven’t got a time in mind that I’d like to complete the triathlon but I will be pushing myself so shall see how I will get on. One of the best things about training for the triathlon has definitely been training with my sister. I’m hoping she will enjoy the experience of an organised race as much as I do and really feel the buzz when she crosses the finish line. And hopefully she’ll still want to train with me this time tomorrow for future events.

Thoughts from this week:

  • My road bike and commuter bike need some maintenance
  • Going to Holland for the first time next week
  • Cycled in the train a lot this week
  • Horrendously far behind with Grey’s Anatomy
  • Climbed up Snowdon last week and it was awesome
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West Coast vacation

My two school friends and I recently returned from an amazing two week trip to the west coast of America. We spent one week travelling up the coast then across to Las Vegas and the second week in Los Angeles. When people asked what I liked most about I trip I would say it was the combination of places we visited that made it for me. Although we could’ve done with an extra day or so in a couple of places it was great moving around for the first week and then have the second week to relax.

The first week saw us fly into Los Angeles and head off in our hire car after a few hours of sleep to Monterey Bay, but a flat tire one hour into our drive on the 101 at 4am provided us with a slight set back. Luckily the highway patrol in the US were very friendly and changed our tire for us. Then after swapping our small Ford for a eight seater Dodge ‘Caravan’ we were back on our way with a lot more leg room. We made it to Monterey Bay but had missed our whale watching slot so we rearranged for the next day. We then headed to our Airbnb accommodation in Santa Cruz and headed to the board walk to ride the big dipper and try our first corndog.

Heading back to Monterey Bay the next morning we had our first experience of the Pacific Ocean as we boarded the boat in the sunshine and headed out to see some whales. We were told there was a 10% chance that we would see Orca whales and about an hour into our trip we were moving close towards some visible splashing in the distance. When we were close enough to work our what the splashing was we discovered that it was a half a dozen Orcas of mixed sizes and a couple of grey whales, a mother and a calf. Soon humpbacks also appeared. Our knowledgeable guide informed us that what we were witnessing was the killer whales trying to sink the grey whale calf but swimming over the top of it. It was like watching a David Attenborough documentary as we saw these amazing whales in action. We were told that the humpbacks had come to try and help the grey whale calf after it’s mother abandoned it which the guide had never seen before. In the end the orca’s succeeded and killed the grey calf whale. After witnessing such dramatic scenes on our whale watching tour we forgave the Ford for giving us the flat tire as we might not have been so lucky the day before.

Next on our list was San Francisco where we checked into another Airbnb and literally squeezed the Dodge into a tiny garage with a couple of inches between the garage and the car. I really liked San Francisco. Cycling across the Golden Gate bridge was amazing and we had some of the best Mexican food I had ever seen. We were staying close to the Tenderloin area which we were told was a bit dodgy. I don’t know if it was due to the location of our accommodation or if it’s just San Francisco in general but I couldn’t believe how many homeless people there were.  After walking around Manchester on my lunch break today I can’t help feel more sorry for the homeless people in San Francisco. It was clear that a lot of the people was saw in SF were in need of mental help but with no medical insurance they receive no help at all.

After San Francisco we had another long drive in the Dodge to Yosemite National Park which was breathtaking. One thing that definitely took our breath away was when we realized the road we needed to take to get to Mammoth Mountain where our next accommodation was booked, was closed during the winter months and not open until May. Our two hour trip from Yosemite to Mammoth suddenly turned into seven hours. We stayed long enough to see the amazing scenery and get some pictures with some giant trees then we were onto our next location. Mammoth was nice and I didn’t realise that it was a ski resort. We had a good breakfast here and I picked up a piste map to try and claim that I’d been skiing here.

After Mammoth was Las Vegas. Picking up an In n Out burger on our way into Sin City we checked into our hotel just off the strip by Circus Circus. I was really intrigued to see what Vegas would be like and I would say that I was pleasantly surprised how much I liked it. I was expecting it to be full of really strange people and for everything to be pretty tacky. In reality there were some strange people there but no more than SF or LA. I loved all of the casinos, looking around outside felt like you were in a constant Times Square surrounded by lights. And inside the casinos were even more fascinating. They were endless buildings that seemed to go on forever. Strange to see people smoking inside and with no natural light in any of the well list casino floors you can easily lose track of the time. I can easily see how people can spend thousands on nights out in Vegas as my small gambling budget didn’t last very long. Surprisingly in Vegas, which is in the desert, it rained for 75% of our time in Vegas including during our Steve Aoki pool party at the MGM but it didn’t dampen our spirits. I really wish Vegas was closer to the UK as it would be great to go back for more celebratory weekends as I think the weekend in Vegas is enough.

After Vegas it was back to Los Angeles. It was nice remaining in one place longer than a couple of days after a week of moving around. Highlights in LA were witnessing a movie premier for The Huntsman, Warner Bros studio tour, walk of fame, amazing views from the hilltops, Venice Beach and Malibu.

It really was the trip of a lifetime. Here are some other things I liked about America:

  1. Food portions were amazing and if we couldn’t finish the meal everywhere had take out boxes
  2. Drinks were also bigger
  3. Really good Mexican food
  4. The weather (most of the time) is a lot better
  5. Friendly American people, beats anyone who has served me in the UK everyone was really helpful and nice
  6. The streets generally seemed cleaner than in the UK, not sure if that’s because it was sunnier
  7. The beaches, but not necessarily the sea as it was pretty choppy for swimming
  8. Everywhere looks like a film set


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