Picking up the pace

TOTAL MILAGE THIS WEEK: Swim 1 mile | Cycle: 110 miles | Run: 22 miles |
Comment: 110 miles?? Where on earth did that come from??

Ive had an awesome training week this week and have managed to hit some new PBs in all of my training areas…. partly because I have managed my nutrition reasonably well, but mostly because of all of the help I have had from others.

Swimming: This week I managed four open water swims of 400m each and I managed to knock around 90 seconds off my previous best NOWCA swim on Saturday. How did I do it? Well my regular morning serpentine sessions are definitely helping, but also the water was FREEZING. The main thing though was chasing a wet suited friend around the course hoping to finish in a similar time so that neither of us had to wait too long for our post-swim coffee… and it certainly worked so thanks Gaby!

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Cycling: 
I have toyed with the idea of joining a cycling club for a few weeks now, but since I am trying to make sure that my training schedule doesn’t impact too much on the time I get to spend with my husband it has been difficult to find one that suits my schedule. That is until I discovered Dirty WKND. They have regular morning meets, as well as having longer rides on a Saturday and Sunday, the set up is super casual,you register online before the ride then just turn up and go, and the guy who was leading my ride was super friendly and helpful. Seriously if you work in central London and don’t mind an early start, I cannot recommend their morning Regents park laps enough. Fuelled by cereal, oats and lots of peanut butter I managed around 15-18 miles with the Dirty WKND crew, before squeezing in a coffee and heading back to work, combined with my ride to get there I clocked up 29 miles in total. The best bit about doing loops is that we hit all of the Strava segments multiple times, meaning that I managed to clock up 100 trophies!! Cycling in a group is a great way to pass the time and I genuinely had no idea how much distance we had covered when we pulled back into Mile 27 for a post cycle coffee. I absolutely cannot wait for next week!

Running: Finally, the jewel in my training crown this week came this morning. I didn’t do an LSR this week but to keep my distance up I did do two (or 1.5 really) run commutes on consecutive days, as well as a track session*, park run, and then today I had a 3.3 mile (just over 5km) race. It’s so rare for me to just do a 5km run because I usually squeeze in park run at either the end of a long run, or the start of something else like swimming or cycling, but today I had already decided that I was going to cycle down to the start for a bit of a warm up (7 miles that were mostly downhill so nothing too stressful), run the race as fast as I possibly could, and reward myself by taking the overground home so that I had nothing to try and “save my legs” for. I’d mentioned to a couple of members of my running club that were also doing the race that I wanted to really push myself and one of them suggested I try and come in as first woman (thanks again Gaby!) and what do you know… I only went and did it! And I managed my fastest ever 5km at 19:45 according to Strava. That works out at around 6:30 minute miles which is an absolutely incredible pace for me! Suddenly that elusive sub 22 at Crystal Palace Park run feels like it might be within my reach after all.

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Hanging out with some of the CPFR ladies after the run!

*The track session was a pyramid consisting of 2*800m with 1 minute recovery, 4 *400m with 1 minute recovery, followed by 6*200m and 6*100m both with 30 seconds rest. I was “lucky” enough to have the run leader pacing me and a friend so I ended up working harder than I have ever worked at the track before, and although I felt like I was going to throw up by the time the 100m started, afterwards I was absolutely buzzing and felt amazing! I’ve heard people say that track or interval sessions during the week can improve park run times and this one definitely worked for me!

 

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Looking back and moving forward…

TOTAL MILAGE THIS WEEK: Swim 1 mile (!) | Cycle: 50 miles | Run: 20 miles |
Verdict: I made the 1 mile swim mark and got in an LSR!!!!

This week I finally managed to get over my newly found dread of long slow runs with the help of a very good friend who is also an LSR-hating runner. We ran 15 miles at an 8 minute mile pace, although my watch ran out of battery so I only logged 10.5 on Strava so I am not sure if it even counts. I also saw a picture on Facebook from what I think was only my second 10km run just two years ago and it got me thinking about how far I have come since then, and all of the things that have helped me along the way.

  1. Signed up to park run. I started park run in 2013, after a friend from university told me about it. I had just completed a sprint triathlon and absolutely HATED the running part, so it was natural for me to decide that the best way to get around that was to voluntarily run 5km every week. I did my first run in just under 30 minutes, and went back sporadically over the next two years, totting up 33 runs, and using any excuse to avoid dragging myself to the park. Fast forward 4 years and I have just done my 123rd park run, visited 16 courses, and taken my PB down to 21:20. I rarely miss a Saturday, I love running in the rain, and I run every christmas day… so its safe to say I am hooked. Whether you are a runner or a walker, I strongly recommend you to get yourself out of bed on a Saturday morning and give your local park run a go. You can sign up (for free) here.

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    Lining up for a park run pacing event with my running club
  2. Joined a running club. Well technically I joined two running clubs, and they were without a doubt the most helpful thing for me. I know that the thought of joining a running club can be intimidating, and that a lot of people think that its not for them because they are not fast enough, or can’t run far enough, but those people are 100% wrong. Believe it or not, it was my mother that persuaded me to join my first club, the South Leeds Lakers because a lot of our friends from park run were part of the club, and she wanted to lose weight. Both of us were able to run together because the club has run backs, as well as different paced groups, and neither of us ever felt under any pressure to keep up with the pack when we didn’t have it in us.  It was the lakers that got me through my first 10km run, and onto my first half marathon, so I owe them a lot! I recently moved to London and the first thing I did was join the Crystal Palace Fun Runners. I made a whole bunch of new friends, a lot of whom were marathon runners, and 6 months after joining I too joined the 1% of people who can run a marathon, by completing Barcelona in 3:35. If I hadn’t joined a club back in the days when I couldn’t run I would NEVER be contemplating my first iron man right now!

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    Preparing for a trail run with the lakers
  3. Decided to commute by bike. I’ve owned a bike pretty much my whole life, but I have never been what you would call a cyclist. That is until I started commuting 20 miles each day by bike almost a year ago. When I first started cycling it would take me nearly an hour to get home, but since purchased a nippy little road bike (entry level, of course) I have managed to take 15 minutes off my time! If you are considering commuting I really do think a lighter bike is worth the investment because it really makes all of the difference to me!

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    Even when it’s raining I always prefer to ride home than take the tube!
  4. Discovered open water swimming. I might have mentioned it before (I think it features in every blog post so far) but I LOVE OUTDOOR SWIMMING! My pool at work is 18.3m long, and while its really convenient for getting a few lengths in, the constant turning is soul destroying. As a solution, I found the Serpentine Swim Club who swim every day in the Serpentine between 6 and 9:30am. The serpentine lido is 100x40m, is currently around 16-18 degrees, and is full of swans, and its amazing. Having the opportunity to swim outside every day has revolutionised my swimming experience, and I only signed up 1 short week ago!

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    One of my fave shots from the Serpentine last week
  5. Found friends that will do all of these crazy things with me! Whatever I decide to do, it is always made a lot easier by the kind of friends that don’t think twice about going for a 15 mile run on a Saturday morning or jumping in a lake for a swim because I have asked them to. We all need more people like this in our lives!

I know that not everyone can commute, and that the open water swim thing isn’t for everyone (although I think everyone should at least try it) but everyone can, and should, set a goal to try something new this month. You never know, you might just find out you like it!

Fitting it all in…

TOTAL MILAGE THIS WEEK: Swim 0.8 miles | Cycle: 40 miles | Run: 25 miles |
Verdict: Not too bad for a week where I worked from home.

One of the most common excuses for not going to the gym among my friends and family is simply “I don’t have time” so this week I decided to write about how I fit in all of my training. At the moment I try to get in 5 Ghofitness workouts, a sprint session, a long run, park run, yoga, cycling, and at least two swims a week, alongside my job and spending time with my husband. Yes, this is a lot, and no I am not suggesting that everyone starts doing this much exercise, but I am working towards two not entirely complementary goals at the moment so the training I am doing is a necessity for me. I am not making any recommendations here, I am simply stating what works for me.

The first thing is planning both of my workouts, and my food for the week on a Sunday so that I have a plan to follow and a schedule that I feel guilty if I don’t stick to. Without a doubt this is the most important thing.

I also get up super early, around 4:30am, but I do go to bed at 10pm, and 6 and a half hours is plenty of sleep for me. This wasn’t always the case, but during my PhD I started pushing myself by putting my alarm back by 10-15 minutes a week until I got down to 6 hours sleep, and thats when I started to feel tired during the day, so I decided that 6 hours is my minimum.

Another trick is to go to the gym first thing in the morning, so that I don’t have chance to talk myself out of it during the day. Now I am lucky enough to have reasonably priced gyms both near home and near work, so I am a member of both, and tend to use the work gym on a week day and the home gym on a weekend. I also use my commute as part of my training by either cycling or running to work every day (10 miles each way). I try and run home doing sprints, and throw in a couple of stretches of single leg cycles every few days. Of course there are lots of issues with this (Boris bikes, and slower commuters for example) but generally my commute is pretty stress free, and it gets me to and from the gym/work in a reasonable time.

Finally, I eat A LOT! Its the only way to keep going through all of this training! I always have at least 2 breakfasts, lunch, dinner, and a couple of fruit snacks throughout the day as I absolutely do not believe in letting myself go hungry even if I am trying to lose fat. Check out my instagram page to see my typical days worth of food (although you might have to scroll back a week because I am on a super strict diet at the moment).

And that’s all there is to it. Get up earlier, try and incorporate cardio into your commute, and eat as much food as you burn off!

Next week I will be reviewing my diet plan since I will be 2 full weeks in by then. I wanted to do it this week but didn’t think it was really fair after 7 (long) days.

 

L-S-ARGH!!!!!

TOTAL MILAGE THIS WEEK: Swim 0.5miles | Cycle: 60 miles | Run: 16 miles |
Verdict: Must try harder.

So after last week’s wonderful adventure you’d be forgiven for thinking I would be pretty tired on Sunday morning, but you would be wrong. I woke up bright and early, and had my trainers not been drenched from the previous days soaking I would have taken myself off for a long slow run (or LSR).

 

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Absolutely loving life at last weeks park run.

However, as running in wet trainers is not a desirable option I donned my gym trainers, that I definitely can’t run in (incase you were wondering) and finished the last workout on this weeks Ghofitness plan. Its always handy to finish on a Sunday so that I can start a new cycle on a Monday morning and my week tends to run much smoother that way. Unfortunately this week was just not one of those weeks and I had a total fitness/food fail on so many levels. I know many people who read this blog are training for their own events or working towards their own (probably more sensible) goal, so I will take you through my week day by day and highlight all of the things I did wrong to hopefully stop you (and me) from making these mistakes again.

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    The offending breakfast

    Monday: My plan for today was to do a legs workout before work and then go to the track and put in a really good track session with the Crystal Palace Fun Runners. For this to work I needed to do two things: 1) eat a sensible high-carb, low-fat, breakfast. 2) Have a mid-afternoon snack with some healthy fats to keep me full until after running club. What actually happened was that I made a super sickly banana and data pancake for breakfast that I covered in maple syrup resulting in a huge sugar rush that had just about gone before I even walking in the gym, resulting in a half-hearted workout that took twice as long as usual with only half the benefit. Then I came home, ate half a packet of dates, picked at the food I was cooking for my husband, and ended up giving myself a stitch when I got down to the track. Both of these things are more annoying because they were self inflicted. Oh and then I went home and armed with a tablespoon proceeded to eat peanut butter out of the jar.

  • Tuesday: Actually despite my terrible diet on Monday evening, I made a pretty good start on Tuesday. I cycled to work and then did a good arms session in the gym, finishing with an abs blast. I had a healthy breakfast, then I went to yoga at lunch time and had a really strong class. And then in the afternoon a colleague pulled out some biscuits he brought back from France (that were DELICIOUS, obviously), so I ate about 1000 calories in french pastry biscuits, but then I did cycle home and play tennis so there was at least a little bit of damage limitation… until the peanut butter somehow came out of the cupboard again and demanded I eat it right before bed.
  • Wednesday: Today I intended to swim for a mile just to prove to myself that I can… It turns out I can’t. In my defence I lost count somewhere around so did 50/88 lengths and just got out, but in that time I swallowed a lot of water and realised that my swimming style is just so inefficient that if I ever want to complete even a half-iron man in the near future I need to do something about it right now. The moral of the story here is don’t just expect to be able to do something big, start smaller (say with half a mile), and build up gradually. Oh and it was cake club so I ate SO MUCH CAKE… and also more peanut butter obviously.

  • Thursday: I had to work from home today because I couldn’t go into the office but I still got up early to go to the gym and ate a sensible high-carb breakfast… and then sat around in my PJs until I forced myself to go workout and run some errands at lunch time. I actually ended up having a pretty good workout with minimal snacks today. It was probably the best day of the week.
  • Friday: Working from home again so the plan was to get up early, go for a run, and throw in a gym session later on. But I did none of those things… Went to the gym for a free PT session that I had won a while back and learned some interesting things about my wonky legs, did some deep stretching, and then came home and ate a cheat meal (you know, cos I had really earned it).
  • Saturday: Finished my gym plan but missed park run because we were too short on volunteers so I ended up scanning barcodes (which is actually my favourite volunteer role), and I couldn’t swim because there was a race on that I am nowhere near fit enough to enter. Oh and I ate aaaaaaall the carbs, but I did have relatives visiting so you can’t blame me for letting go a little today.
  • Sunday: Today I got up all ready to go for an LSR of around 18 miles before volunteering at junior park run… but I just couldn’t. I ended up doing 4 miles and going home because I just didn’t have it in me. I do kind of think the draw of having my mum and my auntie sitting in my flat and making me cups of tea probably contributed to todays lack of effort though.

Anyway… to combat this terrible week I have made several changes, and every single one of them involves a plan. I am starting a new diet plan, I have ordered a swimming guide book, and unlike last week I have carefully written out my exercise/food plan ready to start a new week. I really can’t stress enough the importance of a good plan to help stay on track. This week is a prime example of that but its important for me to share these times as I am obviously going to hit some stumbling blocks on my way to an iron man.  Hopefully my next blog post will be about how sticking to a plan helped me to be more organised (but it will probably be a “How to eat a whole bunch of egg whites every day for a week without wanting to vomit” post).

 

In at the deep end

 

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Had my kit all ready to go at 7am

Anyone that knows me well knows that I don’t do things by halves, I either commit 100% or don’t bother in the first place. This means that when I decided to “get into” triathlons a week ago, instead of starting small and building up my distance gradually I planned a route that would allow me to cycle from Crystal Palace to Southwark park (~12km) , run a park run (5km for those of you that don’t know), cycle to the Royal London Docks (~10km, without getting lost), swim the NOWCA open water course (400m), then cycle back to Crystal Palace (~20km). I will make this easy and do the maths for you but that makes a total of 400m swim, 42km ride, and 5km run… without any specific training or nutrition plan. A regular Olympic triathlon is a 1.5km swim, 40km ride, and 10km run, and apparently should be done in that order.

My adventure started out well, the sun was shining while I ate my breakfast (see my instagram page for my food diary) and I couldn’t wait to get on my bike and start which was good because I was running late so I needed to get a move on. The journey to Southwark was great, it rained a tiny bit but no more than a drizzle and I got to the park with about 7 minutes to spare before the run started. It turned out today was Southwark’s 200th park run (congratulations guys!!!) so it was pretty busy but we still started on time and I ran my fastest ever 5km in 21:40! I am pretty sure I could improve on this time next time I go if I start nearer to the front too.

Then it was time to cycle to the docks. Cycling around East London is the worst at the best of times but add in a triathlon closing the roads, google maps trying to send me through multiple construction sites, and a very strong headwind, and I was pretty close to tears when I arrived. Luckily as I walked my bike over to where I thought the start might be (apparently google maps doesn’t know where the open water swim centre actually is) I saw a familiar face from my running club, and my mood instantly picked up. She will probably read this so massive thanks GD! Anyway, after a super quick change into my costume (I decided to brave the cold and not bother with the wetsuit this time), I went down to the start line, dipped my toes into the freezing cold water, and then we were off! Now after feeling pretty apprehensive at the start of my first ever open water swim I have to say that this was without a doubt the best swim I have ever done, and I can’t wait to go back next week.

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Post swim smiles all around

After a quick coffee and a couple of oranges I was back on my bike and heading to Crystal Palace. With only 30% battery left to power both google maps and Strava I was feeling slightly worried about my journey home but luckily I have cycled this route once before so I managed to figure out where I was going when the inevitable happened and my phone went flat 3-4 miles away from home. And its a good job I did because by the time that happened it was absolutely siling it down with rain drops and I was soaked.

So in summary I ended up having a really good trip today and it is definitely something I will do again, maybe just once a month as it takes up so much time but its definitely worth it.  I’ll finish with a few highlights/lowlights from today:

Highlights

  1. All time PB at Southwark park run.
  2. Being in the water with the cable cars and planes overhead.
  3. Cycling home in the rain (I know its weird but I actually really enjoy running/cycling in the rain as long as it’s not too cold).

Lowlights

  1. Having to cycle around the wharfs and use the greenwich foot tunnel.
  2. Falling fowl of the “Strava or it doesn’t count” rule that all serious athletes live by because my Garmin Forerunner 10 is only capable of recording a single sport (a multi-sport watch is on my list… advice in the comments would be much appreciated)
  3. Trying to remove the smell of river weeds from my skin.

Overall I would call it a pretty successful morning!

Tri-ing something new

Hi, I’m Steph, and this is my first ever blog post.

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Its exactly 839 days until I turn 30, and I have decided that before that happens I am going to finish an iron man. Now, I am reasonably fit, I workout in the gym 5 times a week following my GHOFitness plan, commute to work by bike, and recently qualified for a good for age place at the London Marathon. However I can’t swim. Well technically that’s not true. I can swim about a mile in a pool doing breast stroke if I am not in a rush, but I’m certainly not going to be winning any swimming races. However, all that is about to change because I have ordered my NOWCA wrist band and arranged to meet a friend at Royal London Docks for my first ever outdoor swim on Saturday.

I intend to use this blog to document my journey towards an iron man along many other fitness goals that I have set for myself that I will reveal along the way. Most importantly I am going to try out a whole variety of training/nutritional tips that catch my eye (fuelling an LSR with baby food is definitely near the top of the list), as well as reviewing any new gadgets or attire I come by, and maybe sharing a few recipes that feature on my instagram page.

So, that’s my introduction to blogging, and your introduction to, well me! Providing I don’t drown or get eaten by a river shark or whatever else might be lurking in the East London waters I will update you all on my swim next week!

Steph