July (The road to Kona)

Before, and after a storm, comes calm. I have been preparing myself for the next storm at the end of the month, when Patrick is booked in for his operation. We have been here before though, and have support to get through, so we are feeling pretty positive about this next chapter.

The beginning of July saw us driving up to the Lake district for Patricks dads 70’th birthday. On the way we were passing the spot where I had left my water bottles from the 100mile TT, I asked Patrick if he thought they’d still be there. He thought they would be but I had my doubts, happily I was wrong! I was really excited about reclaiming my bottles. (its the little things)

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In the Lakes I just took my running kit, and was up at 7am to run both mornings. Its always great to run somewhere new, and do a bit of route finding, however on the second day I found myself quite high up, with just shorts and a running vest, thinking that I probably should have had some extra layers. Its easy to forget how exposed you can be in the mountains.

When we got back I continued with quite a heavy training block, still putting out some good numbers. Towards the middle of the month, I travelled up to Loughborough to visit my coach, and get a bit of swim input. We went out on the bike on the day I arrived, and Mark recorded and went through my swim stroke, correcting a few faults in the afternoon/evening, and then continued in to the next day. It was good to have some time away and focus on myself for a few days. I saw some definite improvements in my swim stroke after spending a couple of days swimming and revising drills.

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When I got back to Pembrokeshire, I needed to start a bit of heat prep to find out how I coped. This involved making the bathroom hot and steamy, then setting up the turbo in there, to do some bike sessions. The first session was on a beautiful sunny day, which made me wonder what the hell I was doing! The 2nd session was horrible, 5 lots of 8 minute efforts at FTP building each set, which needless to say, DID NOT HAPPEN!! The 3rd session felt a little easier, probably because it was, and I ended up faffing around with my garmin for half an hour, as it decided to crash, just as I got on the turbo to do the session, which meant that the bathroom lost a bit of heat! This was all done in-between ferrying children to various birthday parties.

The last Saturday in July was The Wales Triathlon (race report here), a good test of where I was physically before Patricks operation on the Monday.

May and June (The road to Kona)

I have combined May and June, because such lot has happened, in these last 2 months at home. At times it has been very stressful and sad, but I’m hoping that we are through the worst of it now.

The month started with an easy week leading in to Llanelli Half marathon. I was planning on doing a local 10km race, but the date was changed to the week after, so I checked to find another local-(ish) race and found Llanelli. I checked with Patrick to see if I could go, and with my coach, they both said yes, so early on Sunday morning I found myself driving to Llanelli. I was feeling pretty fresh,¬†so hoping to go under 1:30, which was a goal last year at the Cardiff half. I didn’t manage it, I’ll blame the weather! The field was quite small and as I set off there was only one woman in front of me, so I stayed ¬†within around 10 meters behind. When I got to around 10 miles I thought I would have to make a move now or not at all, so I started to speed up to catch her. I remembered to put some pace in, as I passed, and hold on to the pace, so that I could open up a good gap, ¬†I managed to get a fairly good lead. The last few miles were painful (I kept reminding myself it was only 5k!) but I held on to 1st place and went under 1:30 which I was very happy about.

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The week after, it was back to it, after a couple of easier days. Patrick had a hospital appointment on the Wednesday so I rode out to meet him at Glangwili. When we finally got in we asked our prepared list of questions, and then the consultant dropped the bombshell, that they had found cancer cells in one of the samples that had been sent off, after Patricks prostate operation in February.

We were pretty shocked and didn’t really ask the questions that we wanted to ask, and were sent away with a leaflet and a phone number. Patrick was put on the list for an MRI scan, and given another appointment with the consultant. Since then we have done a lot of reading, and are hoping for the best (that the cancer is localised and has not spread anywhere else.) Obviously there has been a lot of stress and upset associated with the information that we were given. Until Patrick has had the results of the scan we don’t really know what the future holds. I went in to some training sessions wondering what the hell I was doing, but training has also been a way to forget everything, and focus on something else for a while.

As far as training has been going, I have continued improving and breaking PB’s, but it all feels a bit empty at the moment, until we have some more information I suppose it will be like that, and I’m just going through the motions. It didn’t help that we all got ill at the end of the month, and Patrick came down with a kidney infection. Hopefully next month things should become a bit clearer.

June

June started, with a race. The Deva Middle distance Triathlon. You can read the race report here. It was touch and go as to whether I would race or not, as the week leading in was so stressful. Patrick had a kidney infection on Tuesday and was very ill with a high temperature in bed for 2 days. This was during half term, so the kids were off school and everything was a bit harder. Thankfully my mum lives down the road, and has been very supportive, so I could carry on with my planned training, which was a bit lighter anyway. I spent quite a bit of time crying and feeling pretty low during the week.

The week after Deva, Patrick had an MRI scan, followed by an appointment with the urology consultant in Glangwili. We were told that the cancer was T2, and his PSA scores are low which means that it is a low risk prostate cancer. This was a big relief for us. The week after, we had an appointment with a consultant in Cardiff, to discuss this, and a possible operation on Patricks bladder, which may mean that he can stop having to self catheterise. The consultant confirmed our thoughts about the prostate cancer, which is that the cancer cells were found by chance, and that they are no immediate risk, so Patrick has opted for¬†active surveillance.¬†However he will be having abdominal surgery for his bladder problems at the end of July which means that he can’t drive for 4 weeks during the school holidays! Its good to have some positive things happening though and I hope that the operation improves his quality of life. Its been pretty hard for the past few years.

After a couple of easy weeks I travelled up to Llanwrda for the West Wales Cyclists league 100 mile TT. It was looking to be a hot day, so the night before I made up 5 bottles of Skratch labs hydration and put them in the fridge. In the morning I dropped them off in a lay-by near Llandovery for pick up later. After about 10 miles I was already in pain from saddle pressure, which wasn’t a good sign, and for the rest of the ride I was shifting about trying to find a comfortable spot (there wasn’t one!) I pushed fairly hard up to Brecon, then there was a bit more ascending before some great downhill into Llandovery, where I tried to keep up power, but not too much! From Llandovery I know the course, and this was the bit I was dreading, the road surface is horrible in places, and I kept having to lift myself off my saddle to relieve the pain, my head was in bits really, not giving myself very positive self talk! And I just rode it out as best I could to the finish. I came in in a pretty decent time of 4:48:59 and picked up 2nd female. My ¬£20 cash prize was quickly spent on new water bottles, as I left my spares in the lay-by, oops!

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The week after was an easier week, and we had another appointment with another consultant in Swansea, cue, waiting for 2 hours in hospital to be told what we already knew. It was good to go though, as we have more confirmation that we are making the right descision for Patrick.

So next month is the last month before the school holidays, with only 15 weeks until Kona, I’m looking forward to getting a good block of training in.

 

April (The road to Kona)

April started with an FTP test, and a park run in the first week, double fun! and then the Easter holidays started.

My FTP on test day was lower than I thought it should be, but I was feeling a little down on that morning. I redeemed myself, with a  20 minute best power, the week after, at the Redberth 10 mile TT, organised by Milford Tritons. At the weekend I did Colby park run and had a PB, so everything seemed to be going pretty well.

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On the first Sunday of the holidays we travelled over to Northern Ireland to visit my grandad again. We stayed in Coleraine, and luckily there was a pool near the hotel so I was up early both days for a swim. I enjoy visiting different pools¬†as they all have different atmosphere’s! I emailed before we went, to check if I could use fins etc, but they said no. I arrived the first morning for the hour long lane swimming session, and there was a queue of people waiting and only 2 lanes. The rest of the pool was open with people swimming lengths. I decided to go in the lane that looked faster, but it had 4 people in it already, and I was catching one of them up every 50m, so I decided to move into the open part of the pool, and managed to finish my set next to the wall.

The next day I was politely asked if I wanted to join in with the tri club who were using the lane. I finished the set against the wall again! I was too tired and ran out of time to run in the afternoon, as we were spending time with my grandad, which was lovely, and Northern Ireland was a great place to visit with the kids.

When we got back to Pembrokeshire I still had quite heavy training weeks,¬†we¬†managed to plan things to fit in with family time, and what I needed to do. Holidays are difficult because I want to spend time with everyone, but also want to do my training. I don’t get the balance right, but I know that this is a temporary state to be in, so everyone pulls together and I had a great block of training where I felt like I was making really good progress. Patrick took the boys away camping for 1 night so I could do a long ride and so that he could see his brother.

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My last session before going away, and a recovery week.

At the end of the month, (bank holiday weekend) Patrick and I went away for a much needed break to Liverpool, which I had booked as a Christmas present. It was good to get away for a couple of days and we did a lot of talking which we don’t get the opportunity to do with kids around! On the way up we drove past Chester which is where my first race of the season will be. We drove over the river Dee which I will be swimming in, in a few weeks time!¬†We came back refreshed and ready for the next training block.

Eating to train.

If you are an endurance athlete then the chances are, you have found yourself losing weight through training. Is this a good thing? Well, as with most questions, the answer is “it depends”.

There is an optimal weight for everyone, and finding it can take a bit of trial and error. When I first started endurance sports I was happy to be losing weight and lost several kilos. I went in to my first Ironman not really having fuelled myself properly after workouts, and not eating enough during long sessions. I did fairly well, but when I started fuelling properly I gained a kilo, or 2, felt stronger, had more energy to train, and recovered a lot better. Ensuring that you fuel properly can have a big impact on how you perform and it is worth taking seriously if you want to take your training to the next level.

There have been some studies done on how people lose weight, recently, and whether it is sustainable. This article in particular is interesting as it looked at people who had lost a large amount of weight in a short amount of time.

You may not want to lose weight but you can still tweak your diet to ensure that you gain the optimal benefit from training. I have outlined some general advice below for anyone participating in endurance sports. I hope you find it useful, and if you are looking for specific advice then I offer a range of nutrition packages to suit your needs.

Losing weight

If you were overweight when you started to train then one of the benefits of training and being more active is weight loss. But it needs to be a controlled weight loss. If you lose too much weight, too quickly, then it becomes unsustainable. Everyone has a RMR (resting metabolic rate) which is the amount of calories required for your body and brain to go about its day normally. If you add extreme exercise into the equation and you don’t put the right amount of calories and balance of nutrients back in, then you will feel unable to continue training, and you may even start to store more fat as your body goes in to starvation mode. It is better to try and lose any excess weight at the beginning of the season when you are not doing a high volume of training so that you are not restricting calories during peak training time.

Maintaining weight

If your BMI (body mass index) is in the healthy range then you would want to maintain your current weight. but possibly to lose fat to gain muscle. This is done by eating the correct balance of nutrients and ensuring that post workout you consume protein and an amount of carbohydrate. Good choices include;

  • Yogurt and Fresh Berries/banana
  • Peanut Butter on rice cakes.
  • Hummus and Pita.
  • Protein Shake or smoothie with peanut butter.
  • Cottage cheese with fruit.
  • Egg on toast

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There are many more options, the key is to make sure that you have something in the 30 minutes after you finish an intense workout, or session that is longer than 90 minutes. At this time your body is primed to repair muscle, and needs protein and carbohydrate to do this. If you don’t supply these 2 nutrients then the body will start to use its own stores to do the job, which can lead to poor recovery or even injury.

Gaining weight

If your BMI is low then you may need to gain weight in order to be healthy. To do this you will need to increase your food intake. You can follow the above guidelines and also ensure that you don’t go in to sessions hungry, so have a pre-workout snack. Make sure that you follow a balanced diet and do not cut any nutrients out of your diet. You may also want to snack more often to increase calorie intake, and remember, as with losing weight, it is healthier to gain weight slowly and sustainably.

If you follow these guidelines most of the time then you will definitely see a difference. It is hard, sometimes, to get it right, but as with many things, something, is better than nothing, and making small changes, can add up to big changes in the long run. If you want any specific advice about any of the information provided, then please contact me here

 

March (The road to Kona)

After I had written my last blog I had started back up with some easy training, but after 3 days I started sneezing again so had to rest again, I found this very hard and felt like all the fitness that I had was going out the window, even though I know it is not the case.

The last 2 weeks of February were very stressful at home, and on top of any training stress must have pushed my immune system over the edge. If you want to read more about stress and how it affects you then there is a useful article about it here. At least I have still been able to get to my weekly yoga class, which is invaluable, and on 1st March I felt ready to start training again with just under 4 weeks until the Mumbles Duathlon

I entered the Daffodil ride that week and was planning on riding, but issues at home again stopped me from riding. It was a tiring and emotional day, however I tried to look on the positive side and thought that there must be a reason that I didn’t do the ride!! (Not easy)

Going in to the Duathlon things settled down a lot and I managed to get a decent months training under my belt. My swim and bike are still generally tracking higher than this time last year so I’m still making improvements which is great!

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At Mumbles I had a pretty good race, coming in 2nd overall and 1st FV, race report is here. Then it was an easier week and back to it, in time for the Easter holidays which will be interesting!

The road to Kona, February.

Well its around 9 months until the Ironman World Championships in Kona, about the same length as a pregnancy, and since training for Ironman is a bit like having a baby, I thought I would start a month by month account of how training is going!

Ups and downs

Its been a tough few months since November. My husband was meant to be having an operation around December time, this changed to January, which then turned into February. This has been hard on us as a family as we haven’t been able to plan too much in advance, and emotionally it has been draining. I also got ill before and after Christmas, which meant missing quite a bit of training but nothing too significant, as there is still a long way to go.

In January I also had news that my grand-dad had been put into a nursing home and was declining rapidly, so I flew over to Belfast to visit him for the day. It was good to see him, as I haven’t seen him for a long while but also I found it hard afterwards emotionally and hearing other bad news about him has been difficult, although he seems to be a bit better now.

When Patrick did finally get the date for his op they told him that they would actually be doing a different operation on him (this was on the morning of the op) so all my plans for dropping him off, going swimming, then visiting and getting my run session done went out the window, I ended up sitting in the hospital waiting room, supporting him emotionally for 7 hours instead. Then went back in the evening to visit with Milo. The  next day was spent driving to and from Carmarthen to visit him, and fitting in training around that. Not an ideal situation but I managed to do most of what I needed to do, although I was feeling tired from the driving.

The day I picked Patrick up from hospital I cut my sessions short and then got home to a sneezing child, I also started sneezing in the night and the beginnings of another cold started. The next day I was meant to do a long ride but I started up the hill from my house and wasn’t feeling great so headed back home after 10 minutes. Obviously I was feeling pretty frustrated and upset.

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A mixed bag of training ūüė¶

On the plus side I have been putting out my best¬†power numbers and ¬†my swimming is better than ever before, but¬†I always find it hard to miss sessions. I haven’t managed to finish a block of training without getting ill since November. I know it won’t impact too much in the long term as long as it isn’t too regular an occurrence, but all the same its hard to let those sessions go. We also don’t know what the future outcome of the op is. It may mean more trips to the hospital and more stress, but it could also go the other way and make things a lot better too, heres hoping for the best outcome! Patrick has been so supportive of my training and is such a huge part of me qualifying for Kona that we need to work as a team on this too.

Change, nobody said it was easy

I was in the pool today and I overheard 2 people having a conversation about somebody who they had been out on a ride with. I didn’t catch the whole of the conversation but I got the gist of it, which was as follows; The person they were riding with was trying to follow a set session and the person that they were riding with wasn’t happy about it. They just wanted to ride as they always did.¬†As I was leaving, I started to think about why this person was unhappy or berating the other person, and it comes down to one thing, change, or fear of change.
When you hire a coach or follow a training plan you are taking the first step towards making a change. You are committing to becoming faster, and fitter, and this can scare people as it can make them look at themselves and start asking questions.

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One of the hardest things about making a change is making your environment fit that change. For example you will find it hard to eat more healthily if your cupboard is full of unhealthy food, and you will find it hard to cut back on drinking if you have a routine of going to the pub every night and drinking with your friends. You either need to replace the habit with another (better habit) or ditch the habit altogether.
The same goes for your training. If you really want to get faster and fitter then you need to follow a plan. You can’t expect to improve, by doing the same as you have always done, which brings me back to the group ride being discussed at the pool.
Group training sessions have their place, and can be incorporated into your training, especially if they are progressive and aimed at the event that you are training for. But often they are not and this is when you may need to do something different.

As far as group rides go, if you were a pure cyclist they would be a lot more useful, as you would need to ride in a group, but as a triathlete you should be aiming to sustain power without drafting, which is difficult to do in a group setting. You can try to follow a planned session but in my experience you don’t get the quality that you do when you are on your own or with someone who is a similar ability to you.

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As I said earlier to make a change you need to change your environment and this may mean ditching some of your group sessions, especially if the group is not supportive of your training goals. Its not easy, and thats why not everyone is willing to do it. You can carry on “just getting it done” as my friend at the pool advocated or you can focus on being the best that you can be, at the end of the day its your choice.