Race Report: Oysterman Triathlon

How would I sum up my performance in the Oysterman Triathlon? Sloooooooow. Really slow.

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I didn’t go into this race in the best condition unfortunately. After my last big race I developed a chest infection which lingered for 3 weeks, and as an asthmatic that sort of thing really does hinder me when it comes to training. I then had one week before Oysterman to enjoy training sans chest infection, however became ill in other ways during that week and was hit with the very sad news that my grandfather had passed away. Add to that mix the fact that my bad feet (I was diagnosed with hyperextension in early summer and spend most days in pain) flared up three days before the race, and involved me trying to force my toes to dislocate so I could re-set them on race-mas eve, and well, you pretty much have a race that shouldn’t happen.

But it did happen, and boy am I glad it did, because…I got to race with my family! Whilst my uncle was off running an ultramarathon nearby (he’s a modern-day superman), Bex and Sam tackled the triathlon with me. I liked to think that Bex and I were the female version of the Brownlee brothers. However in reality, whilst Bex is very hardcore, I am far less focussed and spent most of the race just enjoying the scenery.

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I think the swim was my favourite part of the race, although I really did enjoy all elements of it. Sea swimming is one of my favourite activities in life and although I consciously recognise that my technique becomes pretty poor when swimming in the sea I find it incredibly soothing (perhaps not quite the feeling you’re aiming for when racing…). Despite the fact that there was a really strong tide on the day and some rolling waves forcing us back on the longest stretch of the swim, my time was actually quicker than in the aquathlon – and it was 100m further too. On the whole I was rather pleased with the swim however the one annoying part for me was that just as I had broken away from the group I had been comfortably swimming with and headed towards the last buoy before swimming back into the beach, that group were told they no longer had to swim around the buoy. Whilst I am really pleased that I swam the entire course, I was annoyed that at least 10 people left the water having swam approximately 75m less than me. I did still leave the water before them though so I guess I shouldn’t complain too much.

Unfortunately de-wetsuiting became a bit of an ordeal. I had been distracted in transition when preparing for the swim so didn’t vaseline my wrists and ankles properly and so inevitably I got stuck. I’ve only included one photo of me exiting the water whilst struggling with my arms as there are already far too many photos in this post, however trust me when I say I have a whole sequence of me pulling weird faces whilst my monkey limbs were flailing about. Still, I eventually managed to free my arms on the run up to transition, and then had the exact same problem with my legs. Unfortunately this meant transition 1 was still a good 4 minutes for me but soon enough I was out on the bike.IMG_2577IMG_2604IMG_2606IMG_2614IMG_2623IMG_2633IMG_2650IMG_2654

The bike was 20K out into the surrounding countryside plus a busy carriageway. My method of fuelling for this race was to have two sachets of baby food whilst on the bike as I can’t really stomach gels and thought baby food would be better than nothing. I actually only ended up picking up one sachet in transition though and soon realised I hadn’t actually secured it properly in the pocket of my tri suit. I heard something hit the ground about 7K into the cycle and looked behind me hoping it wasn’t something falling off my bike, only to see that lone sachet on the floor. I wasn’t prepared to stop and pick it back up as I knew my legs would struggle to get going again if I stopped, so I chose to carry on and forget about fuelling.

Again, I really enjoyed myself on the bike. There were strong headwinds for approximately 60% of it which is something I really struggle with as I don’t have the same power behind me that other athletes do (something I’m determined to work on for next year) but I spent the whole time smiling and not once did I allow anything negative to creep into my mind. The only thing I was worried about was encountering any mechanical issues or a puncture as I had deliberately left my tools at home and knew that if I did get a puncture it would be game over for me. There was one stretch of road which we had to cycle twice and had smashed glass in a few spots at the side, so I became very paranoid about this and made sure I cycled towards the middle of the road whenever passing it. By the time we were on the bikes it was about 7.45am and so the roads, despite being open, were relatively traffic-free and easy to cycle on.

I do recall having multiple conversations with my bike on the route – I really like to talk to myself when cycling. Anyone else do that? IMG_2682IMG_2691IMG_2699IMG_2700

Unfortunately the run for me really let me down. I knew that I would be struggling by this point because of my feet, but had no idea just how much pain I would end up in. The run route was one I was fairly familiar with as it was almost identical to the Whitstable Park Run which I occasionally do. But even being able to visualise the route did nothing to help me get through the run. I had to really dig deep in order to finish as I didn’t want a DNF in this race…plus despite the pain, I was having a really good time.

Eventually I crossed the finish line with my usual sprint finish and heaved a sigh of relief whilst giving high fives and hugs to my husband, Bex and Sam. I had told everyone the evening beforehand that I wanted to come in under 2 hours. My time? 1 hour 59 minutes and 27 seconds. So whilst this really wasn’t my perfect race, I managed to achieve my time goal and left feeling satisfied in the knowledge that I had given all I could possibly give on that day, despite the fact that it wasn’t my best.

Hever Castle Triathlon is my next race in three weeks and after that I will be hanging up my running shoes for 5 weeks to try and fix my feet properly. But until then, training resumes at full pace because Hever is my A race of the season and I have high hopes for my performance.

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I should also say a huge thank you to my wonderful husband who wakes up at 5am to take me to my races and then spends hours stood up taking photographs of us all. He’s a hero!

Advent Running: The Finale

Who would have thought that 25 days ago when we were all so eager to get out there and take on the challenge of #AdventRunning that we would actually make it through to the end? Because I had my own 100K challenge running alongside #AdventRunning I started the month thinking that I cared more for my 100K and therefore wouldn’t need to run every day. My gosh, how wrong I was. As soon as you start getting involved in the AR community, you are hooked. There is no escaping. It is simply brilliant seeing the posts from all the other runners, swimmers, yogis, walkers – everyone keen to give themselves a little festive competition, and so you end up not wanting to let everyone else down – you feel compelled to post your daily photo or update, because the response you get from those people you may not have ever met before, who are just so keen to cheer you on, is overwhelming. Although I have loved every minute of it (even the super challenging bits), I am glad to have made it to the end…

Day 22 – The last few days of Advent Running were pretty non-eventful. After an early morning doctor’s appointment to check on my general health I headed out for my daily run. It was torrential weather – blustery winds, torrential rain…miserable, really. But I had no choice, I had to get out there, and so I did.

Day 23 – This was another tough day, my legs felt like lead and my lungs were hurting. My whole body was tired of running by this point, however the weather was wonderful – I think it was about 14 degrees, brilliant sunshine and clear blue skies. I really hadn’t expected such a mild December, but what a treat for us all. Despite how tired I was, the conditions of the day meant it was a fantastic run for head space.

Day 24 – My favourite run of #AdventRunning by far. I went out just as the sun was setting, it was fairly windy but dry and warm, and it was my fastest 5K for a while. There was something very calming about running on Christmas Eve, I saw hardly anyone else whilst out and I just loved every single second of it. If I could capture all of my emotions on this run and store them in a little jar forevermore, I would.

Day 25 – My final run, Christmas Day! I won’t lie, this run was tough. And was more of a slow plod. I have never been a fan of running early in the morning so made the choice to run post-dinner, big mistake. I was so full and uncomfortable, and had really overdressed, but I was so proud of myself whilst running my final Advent Run. My family were out for their evening walk at the same time, and walked the reverse of my route so we all crossed paths at a certain point so they could take a quick photo of me and cheer me on. I couldn’t be happier to have made it to the end of my 25 days of running.

Lessons learnt this week: Running every day is just not for me, but being part of the #AdventRunning community is wonderful and is one I fully intend to stay involved in all year. I won a pair of Adidas trail shoes on Day 13 of AR and am excited to take on more trail runs in the new year. I’ve had an awful lot of time to listen to, and reason with, my own internal dialogue throughout December and have learnt a lot about myself and made a few important decisions about how 2016 will pan out – I’m excited for the challenges that come with a new year and a ‘new me’. Bring it on, 2016.

Distance Target: Throughout #AdventRunning I meticulously tracked my distance and stats, and am incredibly proud to say that I covered 114.4K throughout those 25 days. My husband ran a good part of that distance too, which was pretty special as we’re newly-weds and it was fun to start the challenge together. Although I am now planning on dropping down to three or four runs per week (because I’m just about to start my triathlon training, hooray!), they will hopefully be good quality sessions and I am planning on tracking as much of my activity throughout the year.

To all those who completed all or part of #AdventRunning, a huge well done. To Claudi and James who are the most fabulous organisers of this great challenge – a heartfelt thank you! And to everyone else, I hope to see you #AdventRunning next year!

Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year!

Review: Runderwear

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Here’s the thing: I won’t run commando. I know plenty of people who choose to, and these same people are fairly vocal in trying to convince others to run commando too. But it just isn’t for me.

Sports clothing technology has really advanced in recent years and I guess it was only a matter of time before that extended to underwear. There are a few brands out there who are developing products for this market, but Runderwear is the only one that I have invested in so far – so whilst my review does not take into account other brands who sell exercise-specific underwear, I can compare my Runderwear experience to my regular underwear.

Now, I can easily see how most people would assume that underwear made specifically for running is a little bit indulgent, and at £16 for one pair of my choice; the low-rise hipster, I can definitely see your point. But start running in Runderwear and you will soon see what all the fuss is about. These really are remarkably comfortable with their seamless technology and breathable fabric. There really is nothing worse than having your underwear cut into your waist whilst running, which is an all too frequent occurrence. In fact, and this may be a bit ‘TMI’, I actually developed little cuts on my hips from my underwear this summer. I can guarantee that this will not be an issue with Runderwear, though. And whilst I am not someone who tackles long distances at the moment, I can see that these would provide a chafe-free long run for those that do.

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Despite how unimportant the aesthetics of underwear is in sport, for some reason it really is quite important to me. And so I am happy that I don’t have to deviate from my underwear colour of choice, black. And I even like the strip of turquoise on the waistband. They do have one other colour choice at the moment, a pale blue, which really isn’t my kind of thing but I am sure would appeal to others. And I keep hearing that they are in the process of developing other colours too.

I will also add that the customer service at Runderwear is absolutely superb. I had only ordered one pair, but due to an error in their system my order was originally missed – I hadn’t realised this and just assumed that delivery was slow and decided to wait patiently. However, 6 days after placing my order the co-founder of Runderwear, Richard, contacted me directly explaining the situation and sent me an extra pair for free. For me, a customer service experience like that really highlights how the company values and understands its customer – and it certainly encourages me to purchase from them again.

All in all, a really great product that I would highly recommend to anyone who runs. Runderwear often has special offers for those signed up to their website, so it’s worth registering your email address with them and waiting for a good discount to come up.