Riding along on the crest of a wave

Awoke to sunshine this morning after a good clean sleep, with no timetable to keep but my own. So a gentle getting up and breakfasting and pottering about moving clothes from one place to another (one of my endless weekend jobs) and then finally getting out into the sunshine on my bike.

I headed out on my usual run route, planning to keep heading north past the lighthouse and onto the coastal paths I’d seen on my cycle map. Straight out, keep the sea on your right on the way out, on the left on your way back. Simple directions even I can cope with.

Down to the bottom of the street, turn left and wallop! The wind smacks me in the face and it’s immediately hard work pedalling into the gusts. But at least my toes are toasty. After getting my feet cold and wet last time, I looked out a pair of neoprene socks I used to use when we went sailing at Kielder.

It takes me a while, but I begin to settle into the bike’s rhythm, smooth out my breath and relax. I go for easy gears. Not so easy that I’m free-wheeling, but not constantly hammering down the power. It’s just about clocking up the experience of a 20k ride today. No prizes for being faster, just enjoy it.

Along the sea front I see a gaggle of cyclists heading in the opposite direction and shortly behind them another and another. It looks like a group out for a friendly ride and makes me feel like I’m going in the wrong direction, head down into the wind.

I stand up on the pedals and burn myself out of breath on a short rise up from the promenade. And then the slight incline that I barely notice on my runs pulls away at my quads. But soon I’m properly off road, on the tracks and veering around puddles and walkers out by the dunes.

Straight on and straight out. Further north than I’ve ventured under human power alone before. There are so many lovely paths and walks here, it’s great to see them being used, even if I do have to slow down and give way in some of the narrower sections.

Out onto another tarmac cycle path and there’s a small boy on his bike following his dad. He’s pedalling furiously into the wind to keep up and I don’t want to spook him, but my squeaky brakes make him look around and put another spurt on to reach the next road crossing where I pass them with a smile.

Cycling beside the seagrass tufted dunes, looking out to the windmills at Blyth, it’s a great day to be out. The garmin beeps a halfway warning and I turn back, relishing the chance to put the wind behind me and enjoy some downhill coasting.

The route back is far easier, though not much different to my route out. I pass a trio of ladies out riding and chatting and spook a wee terrier that makes a dash for my wheels.

More confident and settled, I hit the higher gears on the way back and power up the odd rise with more determination. I exchange my now customary Sunday morning greeting with Martyn as he passes near Cullercoats and sail on by heading for home.

I’m flying now, in top gear, wind behind me, on the flat. A couple on lean, mean racing bikes ease on past, their legs barely turning over. But I’m enjoying my own adrenaline rush, like the sprint at the end of a long run and as the watch beeps for the end of the planned session, I decide I’d like a little more.

So bike racked in transition (parked up in the hallway), helmet, jacket and gloves off. Garmin reset and I’m back out for a run. A mile I think, then I realise I’m still counting in kilometres, so I’ll do two of those.

Only I don’t know whose legs these are. But they don’t feel like mine. Soft, furry, unfocused, with no power at all. Like running on cottonwool. I’m puffing and panting back into the headwind and I feel like I’m barely moving. They will not stretch out as I potter along. This fuzzy nothingness does not seem to be shifting.

Once again I turn out of the wind and back along the coastal path. I still feel like I’m running in dream treacle but I’m hoping it’s one of those runs that feels slower than it is. My breathing and effort rate would certainly suggest it. Eventually I pile to a stop, stretch and head home for a hot shower.

Oh I just did my first outdoor brick session, didn’t I? :-)

Stats and stuff:

20.04 km in 1:06:54
2k in 10:36
1. 5:13
2. 5:21

Sunshine and showers

It was great to be back at parkrun again this morning after a slightly more measured week, but I was anxious not to put too much pressure on myself for a repeat of last week’s unexpected course PB.

The rain lashed own as I drove into the city, but was kind enough to keep away for the run. Still, grey and overcast, but not so cold as last week, conditions were about as fair as you can expect on the Town Moor. Dave popped up to say hello as I was getting ready and I caught up with Lesley and Jeff and then got a really nice surprise as Ian, my PT turned up for his first parkrun.

No too much to say about this run really. I went out strong but felt a bit uncomfortable with my tummy and breathing in the first kilometre. Settled down in the second and ran well out along the edge of the park. Got a nice shout of encouragement from Stuart just after the first gate and had another little pace battle with a runner between 2 and 3.

Lost my will a little in the usual spot, turning onto the rough ground behind the museum and was overtaken by a runner in an orange club vest who I recognised from him overtaking me in roughly the same spot last week. So I probably eased off a little approaching the last gate and then picked up again for the last kilometre.

I really tried to push from the last turn, gaining ground on a couple of runners ahead. I’d already picked an earlier marker for a longer sprint finish when a runner coming back from the start shouted ‘Just a couple of hundred metres to go’. And that was me, hammer down, full on sprint for the line, taking down a male runner on the way and gaining ground on a lady in front. I thought I’d overblown it, but just managed to find a bit more to get to the line. But boy, that hurt and I felt really dizzy as I stopped.

Saw Jeff at the line as usual spurring me on. Thanks buddy. These sprint finishes are especially for you Mr Speedy – the only time I can match your pace. But I knew, without even looking that I hadn’t repeated last week’s time. Close enough though, with 25:22. And I’ll take consistency at the moment.

Stats and stuff:
5k 25:22
1. 4:58
2. 5:08
3. 5:05
4. 5:35
5. 4:36

Diary of a triathlete part 2 – or the things I do for parkrun

This week has been crazy – even for me. It’s a ramp up week for training, due to culminate in my first brick session (bike and run to non tri-speakers). This was in the plan for Sunday, but Mr S has booked us on a bread making course, so we’ll be busy.

No problem – I can juggle my training. Saturday was the obvious candidate, but that would mean missing parkrun and I’ve already skipped two weeks. I was ready to catch up with some running buddies and blast out a run on the Town Moor.

I talked over the possibilities with Ian. Early morning’s don’t give me enough light yet to fit in a cycle before work and I’m not an experienced enough rider to go out in the dark. And the same is true in an evening. So we agreed that an indoor brick was a suitable alternative.

On Friday morning I got to the gym for 06:45 to hop on the spin bike for a speedy 10k then straight onto the treadmill for a slightly more sedate 5k run. Then I went to work.

Here’s how my crazy week looks:

Mon: weights
Tues: rest (was meant to run but put it off to Weds)
Weds: 10k run am / boxercise pm
Thurs: PT session (kettlebells) am / swim pm
Fri: brick (10k bike/5k run) am/ pilates pm
Sat: parkrun
Sun: REST (nothing more strenuous than kneading dough)

Wednesday through to Friday has been a bit jam packed. And last night there was just a small matter of coming home, cleaning the bathroom, hoovering the flat and preparing an untried butternut squash risotto for a couple of friends we’d invited round for dinner. But I did it and survived. And felt pretty good actually. Tired, but good.

And so to parkrun and waking on Saturday morning to the sounds of rain lashing against the window and wind howling down the chimney. Perfect parkrun weather.

But I went through the motions. Porridge in tummy, running kit and extra layers on, off and out before I really got chance to think about it. I told myself not to expect too much. I’d had a heavy training week and parkrun was more about catching up with some buddies and enjoying a run.

At first the weather only drew out the hardened runners. At about 08:45 I was looking good for a top 40 finish, but as I went for a warm up jog to the start line, the crowds appeared, including Jeff who had been keeping warm and dry in the car until the last minute. Good to see him at the start line and get a spot of encouragement.

As we were getting ready to start, I overheard a girl in a purple hat talking to her friend and saying she’d done a sub 25 last week. And even though I had it in my mind to keep it steady, I thought I’d see how long I could keep her in my sights.

We were off and racing in a flash away over the moor. I zoomed past a few runners onto the long straight across the moor, only to be overtaken shortly afterwards. Pretty quickly before the first kilometre I was out on my own, just clearing my head and thinking of nothing but just running.

The first kilometre beeps and I sneak a glance at Gerty the Garmin – 04:50 – that’s quite tasty for me. Doing my usual thing and going off too fast? I’m soon through the gate with a thank you to Malcolm, the regular gate marshall, and onto my favourite bit of the course. Just hold it there and see how you go, I think to myself.

Through the muddy gate back onto the moor and I sense a tall male runner in black pulling close up behind me. He’s not crowding me or breathing down my neck, but I sense he’s there. And part of me says ‘He’s a bloke and he’s taller than you – he’s bound to be faster.’ Then my competitive instinct kicks in and I think ‘Not necessarily’.

I stick to my pace as he draws level and maybe a pace ahead. Sorry mate, if you want to go past me, you have to work for it. I won’t make it easy. I lengthen out my strides and keep pushing on. He draws level again, then I’m half a pace ahead. He matches me and I pull away again. Not consciously increasing my speed, just keeping it going. He drops a little way behind until we’re past the 3km marker and heading back towards the 4k gate and then he smoothes on past.

Whether it’s the distraction of this mini race, or just because I’m feeling strong, I sense I’ve run a decent 3-4 km. It’s cold and damp, but there’s very little wind today and that’s helping. At the 4k gate, Flip yells out “Kick from the turn. Looking strong. That’ll be the kettlebells”. I show him my guns and try easing out another centimetre from each stride.

The sub 25 girl in the purple hat is still in sight. Too far to take down in a sprint finish. Maybe she’s not having such a good day today I think as I start pondering what would be a good time for me. 28 minutes I tell myself, 28 would be acceptable, 26 would be better, but we’re not pushing it, remember. And then I tell myself to just shut up and run.

There’s no one close enough to chase down on the final straight, so it’s just about me seeing how well I can do. I’ve picked up a gear already in the last half kilometre. Now I choose my spot and go for the sprint finish all the way through the line.

Take my token from Penny and stop my watch, bent over to catch my breath – 25:01 – you beauty! That’s a course PB. Penny sees it and says that I was easily a second less than that. I don’t even care if it’s under or over that magical 25. It’s a course PB and my fastest 5k since Edinburgh parkrun in October. And all the better because I really wasn’t expecting that after a tough week’s training.

At the finish before a few of us go for coffee, I see Eric putting on his wet gear, ready to cycle back home after his race. Eric’s one of my running heroes. He’s 78 and cycles to every parkrun from the coast, then cycles back. And he’s a canny runner, one of the best in his day. He tells me his fastest 5k time was 16 minutes something and he did that in his 50s. I tell him I want to be just like him, still running in my 70s. What an inspiration. And a great way to round off a fantastic week’s training

That’s much better, thank you

On Tuesday I planned to run 10k after work. But by the time I finished a little later than usual, it was dark, blowing a gale, and quite frankly, I just didn’t feel like going for a run.

And that’s not like me, so I knew that I wasn’t feeling like my usual self. I was tired. Mental tired, rather than physical tired and that always makes me a bit grumpy.
So, time to rest. To eat a second helping of home-made cottage pie and enjoy some chocolate marmalade cake for pudding, then tuck myself up nice and early for a good sleep. Not forgetting to set the alarm for an early wake up.

Because a very kind and thoughtful online running pal suggested a little motivation and encouragement for an early morning run. Knowing there would probably be someone else heading out early before work was a great incentive to delve into the darkness armed with my high viz.

I still wasn’t completely sure of myself and what I was expecting from this run. I set out telling myself a minimum of 6k, but that 8k could be deemed a good run if I was still feeling a bit grumbly. And it would give me a chance to break in my new orthotics.

Almost immediately I set off I had to stop and extract a stone from my shoe. Once I got going again I took some time to find a rhythm. A light smattering of rain and plenty of puddles for unwary feet. But a still, calm quietness in the lightening morning that encouraged me to breathe, relax and ease my thoughts and body into the day.

A couple of other runners and a solitary dog walker passing by, but I do not feel lonely. Like an invisible, silent companion, I imagine those other runners on other shores, in other landscapes who are breathing in this quiet solitude.

At 3k, I know I can do 4. I’m settled now and enjoying this. At 4, it takes no convincing to make it 5 – just a run to the bus stop and back. It’s an out and back route, so distance out is the distance I return.

It’s really raining now, bouncing from the pavement and splashing around my feet. For once I’m glad of my jacket which I’d worn for visibility, but which usually makes me feel over warm; and my cap, grabbed at the last minute to keep water droplets off my glasses.

The wind bites a little as I turn towards the sunrise. The dark clouds hide the brightening morning, but there’s really no choice now but to run back. My right leg starts to niggle a little and feels cold, but that could just be the breeze, and I push on through it, making more effort to push off my left leg.

Balancing my pace, I hold it where I can sustain it without too much of a struggle, but without slowing so much the cold will catch me. Just easy running this morning. No fretting, no worrying, no over-thinking. I make an effort to ease a little more length from each stride. Imagining my tendons like chewing gum – warming up and stretching just a little further.

Edging towards home and the buses go past more regularly as cars start to rumble on journeys to work and school. And I’m Dumbledore, snuffing out the illumination of the lampposts as I pass. Pushing on and picking up the pace a little for the last half kilometre until a breathless stop by the shelter for a stretch.

The calm satisfaction of another run completed sits easily with me all day, although my legs prompted me to take a little stretch now and again.

My company may have been imaginary. But the right words at the right time and a good rest made a morning run feel all the better.

Stats and stuff:
10k 56:00
avg pace 5.35/km
km splits
1. 05.08
2. 05.37
3. 05.32
4. 05.34
5. 05.37
6. 05.42
7. 05.43
8. 05.48
9. 05.38
10. 05.30

A soaking and some satisfaction

I got soaked to the skin on my bike ride yesterday. And no, it wasn’t raining. Last time I went out on my bike, I picked a route that took me off road and once away from the traffic I had the confidence to really get pedalling. At the time I thought that I wouldn’t like the paths to be much muddier as I’d risk a slide. I wish I’d remembered that this weekend.

The forecast was for better weather Saturday and rain on Sunday and I needed to fit in a 20k bike and a 10k run, so opted to bike Saturday and run Sunday. It meant missing parkrun, which I was sad about, but I’m really not going to do my best at my triathlon if I don’t get the bike miles in. So high vizzed up and off, planning to take in the same route as last time and hoping to go a little faster.

Spits and spots of rain, but nothing too bad and immediately I feel more confident, bike in a higher gear and feet to the pedals, pushing hard. The roads are pretty quiet and the drivers considerate. At Churchill Playing fields I pause for a minute to wipe my glasses free of raindrops and then turn onto the waggon ways and it’s puddles ahoy.

The pathways are reasonably grippy and I skirt the edges, but pretty soon there’s no avoiding splashing on through. I feel a drop on my face and think it’s rain again, but the mud splatters on my glasses tell a different story. A glance down at my arms and my sleeves are smattered with brown splots. Ah well, it’s only dirt, it never hurt anyone. But I haven’t taken into account how the muddy water is soaking up into my trainers and within minutes my feet are stone cold.

Ahead there’s the demon puddle. One I cannot see to the other side of. Still in kamikaze mode, I plough on through, hoping to goodness I don’t get stuck and have to put my feet down. Although in truth, I don’t think they could get any wetter. A plume of water rises up behind me, soaking me to the skin.

Despite the grey outlook and the chill breeze, the path is busy with walkers and dog walkers. Lots of puppies out today. And I don’t think they’d take too kindly to being liberally splattered by a demented cyclist, so I slow down as I pass and they’re kind enough to keep their pets out of my way.

I reach the line of pylons and want to continue on a little further to reach the road, but the path ahead is really too boggy to risk it. So I have no option but to turn and retrace my tracks back through the puddles.

The demon puddle lurks smirking, awaiting my return. Ahead are an older couple out walking, skirting the muddy edges. He’s holding her by the hand. I slow down, waiting for them to clear it, but they’re taking their time. I have no choice but to stop. And rather than risk splashing them, I walk my bike around the muddy edges. “It’s dreadful isn’t it,” the lady smiles. “Look at the state of you!” exclaims her partner as I pass. “Straight in the shower when I get home,” I reply. “You might want to keep your clothes on,” he shouts as I carry on back towards the sports track.

My feet are like ice now I’ve turned into the wind. My mind starts drifting to the book I’m reading and tales of frostbitten toes. But I can still feel mine, so I know they haven’t gone that far. A glance at my watch tells me I’m not going to beat my time and I briefly consider cutting short my run as I pass the bottom of my road. But no – I set out to do 20k, so I’ll complete the last little loop, including the hill, before dragging my dripping bike and self into the shelter of my hallway.

The bike gets a quick hose down before I do. Trainers dumped in a bucket to be dealt with later. It’s a good job I went out in the daylight as there’s not a spot of yellow visible on the back of my jacket. Kit stripped off and straight into the washing machine, leaving globs of mud all over the kitchen floor. I get weird pins and needles sensations in my fingers as I warm up under the shower.

Sunday morning and a bit of a lie in. Eating porridge and reading another chapter of my book. The wind is howling around outside and for once I’m really not feeling the urge to go for a run.

Cue maximum faffage. Getting ready. Changing my mind about where to run and what to wear. Picking more layers than usual and indulging myself in the luxury of headphones and ipod. Re-lacing my dried out trainers, fussing over the tension in the crossover and the length of the laces. Finally, finally getting out of the door and on my way.

I head inland for a change, opting for a loop around North Shields and the Fish Quay for a bit of variety. I want to trick my body out of the familiar and avoid knowing exactly how far I’ve come at each checkpoint. But it’s a dull and uninspiring start and I sense I don’t have much speed in my legs today.

Down through the industrial units to the fishquay and then following the route of the North Tyneside 10k along the windy promenade and up the sequence of rises to the Priory. The steep hills are taxing and tough, but I keep going and pick up some speed once I know the hard part is out of the way.

Along the familiar course beside the sea. Plenty of runners to smile wave and say good morning to today.

My face is burning hot and I’m feeling like I’m wearing a layer too many. My music is annoying me now, so I stop the track and ditch the headphones as a guy comes chasing on my heels accompanied by a very cheerful spaniel.

Immediately I cool down a little and calm down. My thoughts I realise have been as hot and fragmented as the driving rhythms of my music. Now I welcome the salty breeze and the sounds of the white churned waves and find my own running peace.

I opt to run as far as the sandcastles near Whitley Bay and then turn back. But as I make this decision and approach the landmark, I’m plagued by a twitch of pain in my left leg. I ignore it and try to run through, but it’s not budging. At the self appointed marker I stop my watch and myself for a stretch. It feels like a touch of cramp and soon eases away.

But I find it less easy to pick up the rhythm and pace again once I return to my run. This is always a danger for me when I stop. I stop fighting the feeling that I want to go faster and just keep moving forward. I’ve covered around 8k, if the last two are slower paced, so be it.

The scheduled run finishes short enough of home to allow me a jog to warm down along the beach. Hard work after the road pounding, but I welcome the softness underfoot and even push on up the slope to the finish. Despite my misgivings, I’ve managed 10k in 55:56 and my friends are kind enough to comment favourably on my efforts. And I’ve completed another week of triathlon training.

Triathlon training week 2:
Monday – weights
Tuesday – interval run
Wednesday – spinning and treadmill run
Thursday – PT session and swim
Friday – Rest day (pilates)
Saturday – 20k cyle
Sunday 10k run.

A voice of inspiration

I’m currently reading ‘A Day to Die for’ by Graham Ratcliffe, the story of a May night in 1996 when eight climbers died on Mount Everest.

It was my privilege to meet Graham when I worked as a journalist. Breaking the news that he’d succeeded in becoming the first British climber to reach the summit of Everest twice was the proudest moment in my journalism career.

This story about a previous summit attempt is absolutely gripping. I started reading it as I was waiting for an appointment and I was really sorry when I had to put it down. I’ve been devouring chapters during my lunch break and cannot wait to get back to it.

It is a hard story for Graham to tell. He was on the mountain that night, preparing for his own summit attempt and feels that with a little more knowledge of what was happening, he and his team mates could have saved some lives.

I’m only part way through, but I know that the events of that night, the worst disaster of Everest’s history, raised a lot of questions and it’s taken a long time for the facts to be made public. Questions around the commercial aspect of Everest expeditions; about decisions taken by the other team leaders and what was known about the storm that cost so many lives.

Knowing one of the people who was there does give me a real interest in the story, but I think it goes far beyond that. It’s certainly well written and takes you right into the heart of this amazing, beautiful and treacherous place. I don’t pretend to understand the world of extreme climbing, although I’ve been known to shimmy up a climbing wall or two. But I do begin to have a feeling for the drive and commitment that such a challenge involves.

I liked Graham instantly I met him. And I found him very inspirational. Climbing Everest requires the same dogged focus and dedication that he’s applied to tracking down the facts about that tragic night. I was a very minor part in his story, but I’ve often thought about his calm determination and drive as I’ve taken on my own physical challenges.  It’s good to know he’s still out there, dreaming of mountains. 

The news story I wrote and the award winning website I worked on at the time have long since disappeared into the ether. Other people I also had the pleasure of working with, including Alastair Leithead and Olwyn Hocking played a far greater part in spreading the news of his successful expedition. But here’s what the good old internet looked like in 1999 when he finally succeeded in his amazing quest.

The Screaming Quads

Good name for a band don’t you think? A four piece with a old punk/rock sound and a kicking bass.

Anyway, back to this running and training stuff. I did a weights session last night in my luxury home gym (back yard by the bins) and I found it pretty tough. It’s the same session I’ve been doing for a while, I just alternate between using a barbell at the gym and my kettlebell at home. Sometimes it’s easier than others.

Last night my legs were finding it hard going and I actually cut my last set of shoulder presses short because I could feel my back tensing up. But hey, a good old stretch, plenty of zeds and I was ready for another day.

Intervals on the plan and a chance to escape work at lunchtime for a run in the winter sunshine. My legs did let me know I had already worked them pretty hard, particularly when I was climbing or descending the stairs today. But my kit bag threw up an unexpected jelly baby and a blister plaster for a fellow runner in need, so I headed out with a smile, and just resolved to see how the set would take me.

There’s a casual sort of running group arrangement on a Tuesday lunchtime. One of the instructors from the gym has been coming out to encourage people who want to run and some of the regular runners will hit the road for around 40-45 minutes.

I started off with them for my warm up, but made it clear I was doing my own thing today, unless anyone wanted to run intervals with me. After clearing a couple of roads, I chose to start my first run up a bit of an incline and powered off a little ahead of the group. Two of the faster guys caught me towards the end of my first run and I pushed on to stay ahead of them before settling down to a recovery pace. Competitive? Me?

I knew it was a bit fast, even with a wee bit of downhill after the initial up and resolved to just run my own way. But I caught them again on the next rep and tried to stay at their pace until the end of it, at which point I turned right and they turned left and the rest of the intervals I ran on my own.

Last time I ran this set, I managed 4 intervals at target 10k pace and said I’d like to make it 6 next time. I sensed that wasn’t in my weary legs today and was just content to do the set as planned. And it was good to be out in the bright sunshine, even if the wind was biting and stinging my cheeks.

So I’m calling it a good session. Even if I didn’t manage as many fast reps as last time, my overall pace was the same. I want to be in great shape for my triathlon, and that means doing everything on the plan; not worrying about a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ session. So I’ll go for consistency every time.

Session completed and a warm down run back to the office and some stretches by the back door, encountering some other rather muddy runners who’d gone off road. In the shower, my face was burning from the sudden contrast of hot to cold and I emerged looking rather more like a beetroot than I usually do after a run. Reminder to self, the purple jumper is not a great choice for the office on a run day when it clashes with your face.

The legs grumbled at the stairs again this afternoon, but in truth, they haven’t really been screaming. I’m just taking it as a sign that those muscle fibres are building themselves up to take me onwards ever faster and stronger. And I’ve just treated them to a nice bath, so I think they may have forgiven me. Just don’t tell them I’m on the reserve list for Ema’s killer spin session tomorrow night.

Stats and stuff
6.11 km in 33:34
3 min run : 1 min recovery x 6 reps
avg pace 05:30/km

Grey training

I seem to have spent the last three days chasing the wet, grey and windy weather across the country. Friday afternoon’s drive over to the Fylde coast took longer than usual and was very bleak. Seeing two overturned lorries on the A66 was proof that conditions were less than perfect. Still all safe and sound and worth the trip to celebrate my Dad’s birthday.

It was a long day for me as I got up at 6am to fit in a quick bike session before a half day at work. Given the weather, I opted for an indoor static cycle and blasted out some tunes and sprints to notch up 10k in just over 15 mins.

Saturday I missed my usual parkrun and was thinking of my buddies out on the Town Moor. We took a walk out to the nature reserve near my Dad’s house to see the bench they’ve set up there as memorial to Ava. It overlooks a big lake and reed bed that attracts all sorts of birds and wildlife.

Today I was hoping for a bit of a break in the fog and bouncing rain for a run. I pottered about doing chores and tidying up, keeping one eye on the weather, until it was driving me mad and I just decided to go for it. There’s a nice warm, dry gym just down the road, but I don’t feel like a proper runner on a treadmill. So I layered up, stuck my hat on, and set out along the coast.

Don’t ask me what the scenery was like. I couldn’t even see the sea for the layer of fog and low cloud. But it wasn’t that cold and the rain on my face made me feel wide awake. A few other runners out today – everyone with a wave and a greeting. It’s not so bad being caught in the rain, but deliberately setting out in the murk takes some dedication, so good on the girl I passed digging in up the small incline and fighting to keep her hood up against the rain.

On the way back I thought of my buddy Jeff out running across the other side of the river in very similar conditions. And of my cousin Hayley who just posted on her facebook status that she managed to run 4 miles yesterday. Ages ago she asked me for some advice about starting up running and she’s come on leaps and bounds. It really made my day to hear how pleased she was with her achievements.

I don’t usually run outside with music, but I treated myself to some tunes today and I think they helped me stick to a good pace. As I was coming to the end of my run, Wham’s ‘Wake me up before you go go’ came on and made me smile. Such a sunny song on such a dreary day. Its cheesy bounce kept me pushing on for the last kilometre.

The target today was 9k with as much as possible at 5.15/km. I managed an overall average of 5.26/km, so am pretty pleased with that given the conditions. I’m trying to push my speed a little at the moment and get used to running at a slighly uncomfortable pace. It was an unexpectedly good run today, and a good way to round up my first week of triathlon training.

Stats and stuff:
9k 48:56
km splits:
1. 05.15
2. 05.31
3. 05.14
4. 05.35
5. 05.24
6. 05.33
7. 05.25
8. 05.31

Diary of a wannabe triathlete

Triathlon training day 1 – Weights and swim

The plan says weights, so weights I do. This is already a pretty regular part of my training. Sometimes I go and swing a kettlebell around in my backyard, other times I hit the barbell at the gym. It’s designed to be a short session that’s easy to fit in, just strengthening and toning key muscles and adding a bit of variety to my cross training.

I got into it quite smoothly after a 10 minute warm up on the static bike (every little helps – right?). I’ve been bitten before thinking this is an easy workout at the start and finding myself flaking out at the end. But I managed a good, honest session and it felt good.

A quick change and I was off into the pool. I left my watch at home, so no timings other than clocking the time I got in and out of the water. It’s probably no bad thing as I went into a 400m set of front crawl and I’m still trying to rush through my stroke. It’s like every move is a move towards taking my next breath. I realised I was stressing and wearing myself out too quickly and managed to slow it down and take it easy. And rewarded my efforts with a two length blast of speed to finish the set.

Another 100m of crawl focused on technique and some warm down lengths of breast stroke and I was done in 20 minutes. And for once, I didn’t feel totally zonked out by my swim. Time to head home for some well-earned food, more stretches and a good sleep.

Triathlon training day 2 – Speedwork

It’s been ages since I ran any intervals and they are not my favourite type run ( are they anyone’s?). But if I want to get faster for parkrun, 10ks and the 5k at the end of my triathlon, I need to get the speedwork in.

For those of you who don’t know, intervals are short bursts of speed followed by running at a more measured, recovery pace. The length of the interval depends on the kind of run you’re aiming for, so short for shorter distances, longer for longer. You can base intervals on distance, or as, I do, time. I have my watch programmed to beep to warn me when a change of pace is due, but I don’t look at it during the run, preferring to judge me pace on how I feel and how out of breath I am.

With some welcome sunshine and warmer temperatures, I ventured out in short sleeves for the first time this year. And although the gusty wind didn’t make ideal conditions, I just got on and gave it a go.

I didn’t really choose the most inspiring route, sticking to largely traffic free roads near where I work and dodging a digger or two around the nearby housing estate. It was hard to pick the pace I could sustain for the run reps, and a couple were definitely into the wind. But I completed the set and enjoyed a gentle warm down after about 30 minutes, leaving me just enough time to get showered and changed and back to the office.

I’m pretty pleased that I managed 4 out of the 6 run reps at target 5k/10k pace and happy that the two I missed were on runs where I had to pause to cross a lane or was battling a headwind. But next time I’d like to make it six out of six.