Goal achieved

I’d taken Friday afternoon off work originally intending to use it for a long run. But my cake selling efforts had rather taken it out of me and I really didn’t feel like doing a long run. As I’m usually just twitching to get training, when I feel a bit tired, I do tend to listen to myself and slack off a bit.

After a chat with Kathryn – star baker and fellow runner at work – I decided I would still get out and run, but maybe 6 miles at target race pace, rather than the 12 I’d earmarked for a long run and I still had a long weekend to get the miles in. The rain was lashing down as I drove home, passing another supportive running colleague, heading back to work, soaked through but running strong. It was all the inspiration I needed to get out there.

Damp, grey and drizzly, I set out on my familiar coastal route, paying attention to the pace and trying to stick to 9 minute miles. I struggled at first to find my groove, but as I settled into a rhythm I let my thoughts wander, thinking of the first time I ran 10k on this route at a time when I was angry and needed a sense of release. Of being overjoyed when we hit a certain landmark on the return leg, absolutely knowing that without fail I could do this. And then grinning from ear to ear when we finished.

That confidence, that certainty has come and gone many times between now and then. But I’ve never really looked back from that first significant run that took me with confidence into my first race. That also lead me to thinking of other friends and Fetchies I’ve run with and all the good times I’ve had training and racing.

Still my 6 miles weren’t easy, and a couple of them I dropped off the pace, but I picked it up when I could and towards the end really pushed for the finish in a bid to get a sub 2 hour half marathon prediction on Fetch. I didn’t quite make that, but I enjoyed the run, and the bath and the stretch afterwards. It makes such a difference when I run and don’t have deadlines to meet.

So now I had the option of long running Saturday or Sunday. I was still undecided as I turned up to volunteer at a soggy Newcastle parkrun. It was great to catch up with some of my parkrun buddies including Rob, Sue, Penny and the newly married Mark and Davina.

We had some challenging conditions on the moor. Lots of muddy legs and some soggy barcodes that wouldn’t scan. I hope the paper registration is legible among the raindrops. At the start of the race I was fired up thinking I’d get my long run in, but by the end, getting chilly in the rain, I wasn’t so sure. But Kathryn had turned up and we had a bit of a chat and I said I was thinking of doing some of the Great North Run route. I think she convinced me to get it done today, so it was out of the way.

So I came home, got changed and drove out to the other coast, parking up near the end of the Great North Run route with a plan of running to the Lindisfarne roundabout and back (about 9 miles) and adding a couple more on at the end to take me up to 12 miles and my longest run before race day.

It was grey and damp, but the rain had stopped and it wasn’t cold. Perfect running weather. I set out in the aim of 9:15 min miles. For once, I settled quite quickly. The little aches from yesterday’s run eased out or forgotten and my mind nicely calmed by the long straight strip of road ahead.

Beep – the Garmin showed 09:13 for the first mile. That’ll do nicely. Up the steep bank was a bit of a pull but I dug in and kept going. A couple of roads to negotiate, but nothing to really hold me up. 09:20 for the second mile – good. I dodged the shoppers and street furniture around the Nook and kept on going.

When I checked my pace, just about every mile and occasionally in-between, I noticed it starting to creep into 9min/mile territory. But it felt good. Easier than it had on the previous day. So I told myself to keep it going. it would be good to get some race pace miles in the middle of the run and I could always ease back if I needed to. And I knew when I turned round all the downhill stretches would be up. But I was unlikely to get better conditions to run in.

I’d hoped to get at least 4.5 miles from the run back to the Lindisfarne roundabout and Gerty Garmin beeped 5 just as I got there. So I knew I had to get at least 10 in to get back to my car. A bite of dried mango at the turnaround point and back the way I came, ready to tackle the John Reid Road the right way around this time.

And yes, there’s a long rise, and another one. But I picked my feet up, shortened my stride and kept moving, putting in a little more effort when it was needed. Up to mile 6 and I was starting to feel it, so took another bite of mango and told myself that this really was the half way point and I wasn’t going to drift off at 10. I really wasn’t fretting over the pace. I was running well, in the zone. Not easy, but not too hard. Just rhythmical. One foot in front of the other.

Mile 7 to 8 felt tougher. I planned my fuelling strategy – bites of mango at 8 miles and 10. Another dodge through the shoppers and the worst part of the course was behind me. Onto Prince Edward Road and the usual welcome shelter of the trees and happy memories of the good folks out with their trestle tables and cups of water for thirsty runners.

Down the steep bank and feeling it pull on my stomach, leaning into the run and picking up some speed. Then turning onto the seafront, empty today, for a long straight mile. The adrenaline kicked in and a little voice said “You’re running well. What if you do it today? What if you go for sub 2?”.

I told it to be quiet. That wasn’t the plan. I’d already gone a bit faster than planned and would probably pay for it. I’d rather do the 12 miles I planned than push for a time and crash out at 10. It was a sensible conversation and shortly afterwards I was glad I’d had it as my legs began to ache, calves tightening and hips churning.

But I had faith my run would come back to me. This was just a blip. Passing my car I was pleased I’d accurately plotted out a 10 mile route and had another bite of mango. Just a mile out and a mile back now. I could do that.

Ease into cruise control, just keep on moving. But there was a gorgeous downhill as I headed for the roundabout near Gypsies green and I picked up the pace again. I’m going to have to run back up that in the last mile, I thought. But at the same time the little adrenaline beastie said – you could make it a mile and a half out to make it 13…

I tamed the beastie and stuck to the plan, turning around at the signs for Sandhaven beach. And oh yes, that last mile. That last pull back up the incline wrenched at my calves and sent stabbing pains through my shoulder. But I don’t care about pace now. I just have to finish this. Keep going. Pain is temporary, glory is forever. This is going to be a wonderful run.

Once back on the flat I stretch out again. The end is in sight and I can’t help it. I start picking mental landmarks for the finish line – a lamppost, a bus stop. And recklessly, foolishly, I pick up the pace again, imagining that glorious final mile on race day, borne along by the crowd. When the Garmin bleeps I stop and stop the watch. It feels like I’ve been running for hours.

01:48:xx Even in my run befuddled state I can work out that that gives me more than 10 minutes to run 1.1 miles to go for that cherished sub 2 hour half marathon. So I start the clock again and I run.

And I’m sorry, really sorry to anyone reading this thinking ‘I wish I could just throw together a 10 minute mile so lightly’. I have been there. I remember that. I haven’t always been able to do this. I still read other blogs and think ‘I wish I could run 7 min miles, or just find a sub 4 min kilometre at the end of a race’. Believe me, I do. And one day, if you really want to, you will get there. But right now, for me, a 10 minute mile shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

So what a glorious feeling. To be running, further than I planned, and faster than I’d hoped for. Knowing that if I could just keep going at a relatively easy pace, I would achieve a target I’ve been chasing ever since I first got serious about running a half marathon.

As Gerty beeped 13 I was grinning. I didn’t launch into a semi-sprint as I had when I was stopping at 12, instead I just kept my eyes on the numbers until they said 13.1 miles and 01:58:58 :-)

And I know it doesn’t really count because it’s not an official race. And I stopped and started again. And once, on a road crossing, the auto pause kicked in on the Garmin. But I don’t care. It’s good enough for me. Good enough to give me all the confidence I could ask for ahead of my next target race.

Recently I’ve had some comments on my performance in training from runners who I admire and people I trust. Not the kind of people who say ‘Well done’ to make you feel better, but who say it when it’s deserved. That’s given me a massive amount of confidence.

And success breeds success. I’ve already achieved far more this year than I set out to do. I’ve had a blast at my triathlons, surprised myself with my performances and pulled a couple of PBs out of the bag. And I think I’ve got better at managing my competitive spirit with the need to relax and enjoy and mix things up occasionally.

So I just need to do it all over again in 3 weeks time on a course full of great runners, dodging the water bottles, the fancy dress costumes and coping with the crowds and the adrenaline – never mind what the weather might do.

Have I peaked too soon? Maybe. I’ve been here before, well prepared and in fine form only to be hit by a cold and have my legs fall off to leave me running a 10:30 minute mile somewhere between Fetchpoint and the finish.

But I’ve never run a sub 2 hour half in training before. And now I’ve done it, I know I can. I’m just looking at that sentence and I still can’t quite take it in. I just did it. I just achieved something I’ve been chasing for a long time. Wow! That feels good :-)

Stats and stuff:
13.1 miles 01:58:58
1) – 1m – 9:14(9:14/m) – 102cal
2) – 1m – 9:21(9:21/m) – 103cal
3) – 1m – 8:56(8:56/m) – 104cal
4) – 1m – 8:57(8:57/m) – 105cal
5) – 1m – 8:43(8:43/m) – 103cal
6) – 1m – 9:14(9:14/m) – 102cal
7) – 1m – 8:57(8:57/m) – 104cal
8) – 1m – 9:11(9:11/m) – 103cal
9) – 1m – 8:56(8:56/m) – 105cal
10) – 1m – 9:06(9:06/m) – 104cal
11) – 1m – 8:58(8:58/m) – 104cal
12) – 1m – 9:10(9:10/m) – 105cal
13) – 1m – 9:26(9:26/m) – 103cal
14) – 0.1m – 50(8:09/m) – 10cal


On Wednesday night I dashed home from work dodging the rain showers, stopping off to pick up a load of cupcakes from Erika ready for my charity cake sale at work the next day. Erika had done her usual fabulous job despite only just coming out of hospital that day after a very painful sounding operation.

After a sweaty boxercise session at the gym, I came home and got to work in the kitchen, finishing off my offerings of brownies, cookies and cakes. Sticky with icing, on a sugar high, I finally stumbled into bed just after 11pm and not surprisingly, had trouble winding down.

When my eager body clock bounced me awake at 5am before my early alarm call, I figured I’d just go with it and prepare myself for a crash later in the day. But I survived, even after Ian threw a tough training session at me on the beach in the rain. I think that’s my wettest training session ever, including the one where the sea almost swept me away. I dislodged a small beach from my hair into the shower tray.

cakes for sale
A feast of treats

Madcap, manic mayhem was the order of the rest of the day as I piled a spare desk at work with cakes and goodies. Thankfully, some of my more artistically minded colleagues helped out and there were some gorgeous looking creations from Lisa and Kathryn.

The smell was amazing and by the time of the morning coffee run most of my team had been past to reserve their favourites.

At lunchtime I took a tray of tempting treats down to the central area where people eat their lunches and sold dozens more cakes, my plastic donation tub rattling with pound coins. And at 3pm I trawled our IS floor. Nothing like a bunch of hungry geeks to boost sales!

It was tiring, but fun. One of the advantages of working in a large workplace means I have plenty of potential customers. And people were amazingly kind, generous and hungry. When I totted up the donations at the end of the day I’d made £138 for my charity, Sands. That takes me well over my target for Great North Run fundraising.

Lovely long weekend

Four women with road bikes
The North Berwick Ladies tri-day team

I’d snuck in a day off work on Friday so was thrilled to see that Lesley was planning one of her tri training days. Directions in the sat-nav, bike in the back, shades on and I was away up the coast to sunny Scotland. A glorious drive along beside the sea, only getting a bit stuck behind some slow moving traffic near Holy Island and overshooting the road in the village and there I was, ready for a fun filled chat filled day with Lesley, Ann and new friend Lucy.

Soon we were off to the lovely light and airy pool which we had almost to ourselves. I watched our resident mermaid swim a couple of lengths and then dived in. It was so nice to have natural light coming in and swimming in a 25m pool felt so much easier. I was about to turn for length number 5 when i realised the longer distance meant I’d already done 100m.

A bit more rest and chat than I’d normally enjoy in a swim session, but it helped me relax and remember how far I’ve come with my swimming. A few more sets and then I just set off intending to do 400m. But I got into the flow and thought 20 lengths sounded better than 16. And then from 20, it didn’t feel too much to do 30. So with a kick and an adrenaline filled spurt I completed my first continuous 750m set. I’ve come a long way from two lengths at a time.

We enjoyed a leisurely transition, getting changed and driving back to Lesley’s house for soup and bread and cake, fuelling for our bike ride and photo shoot, with some gorgeous new speed machines on show. Then off riding on smooth country roads with very little trafffic. Just the sunshine and a slight breeze – perfect riding weather.

18 miles and almost an hour and a half on the bike has never gone by so quickly. I powered up a couple of hills and chased Lesley right up into top gear on the flats, thoroughly enjoying my bike and getting the thrill of it again. Just shows how much more I can push it if I try. And once I get the hang of cornering, maybe I’ll not use my brakes so much.

More welcome hospitality, and snuggles from Lesley’s gorgeous labradors Jed and Finn who were perfectly behaved as we scoffed luscious light lemon sponge and chocolate brownies. All that talking is calorie burning you know!

Too soon I had to go, but I enjoyed a great drive back home and slept like a log after my outdoors adventures. Can I come back again soon?

Saturday I took a rest day and felt a bit twitchy, not really knowing what to do with myself other than get on with jobs around the house and wander into the village for a look around the farmer’s market. I took my other bike to get the gear cable adjusted and then used it to do a couple of errands nearby, dropping off some cards and picking up some milk, but the mileage wasn’t worth logging.

Sunday I woke early, made my porridge, then settled back for a snooze and to let it settle before my long run. I was looking forward to this. And even though the day threatened heat, I wanted to be out there, clocking up the miles. I’d planned a nice route out along from my house, then around the Run for Bob route over trails and through the woods, with the option of catching the metro home at the finish.

I’d estimated it would be about 11 miles, but in the end it was more like 10, so I ran a lap of the promenade to complete my planned mileage. The rougher trails and little rises in the Dene and along the coastal paths were a good test of my legs and helped me keep the pace to something sensible.

I had a couple of little walks to take on a mouthful of water or snatch a bite of dried mango, but pretty much kept on moving the whole time. The welcome shade of the trees and the soft ground were good choices on a hot day. And as I emerged back onto the roads and the coastal sunshine I felt strong and smooth in my running, telling myself not to fret the pace over the last couple of miles, just to turn the cruise control on and enjoy it.

It wasn’t easy, and by the time I got to 11 miles I was glad to finish and reward myself with a post run ’99 with monkey’s blood. But it wasn’t too hard either and I felt in good condition to walk back to the station and make my way home. Hitting a slightly faster pace and sustaining it on race day won’t be easy either. But I am starting to believe that if I can push it a bit more, live with the pain when it hurts – then I might just be in the best shape to give that sub 2 hour half another shot.

There are still 4 weeks to go until race day, so we shall see. It is more important to have a good day. But it would be great to have a fast one too.

Stats and stuff
11 miles 01:43:47

1) – 1m – 9:07(9:07/m) – 104cal
2) – 1m – 9:10(9:10/m) – 104cal
3) – 1m – 9:34(9:34/m) – 107cal
4) – 1m – 9:11(9:11/m) – 104cal
5) – 1m – 9:27(9:27/m) – 103cal
6) – 1m – 9:58(9:58/m) – 105cal
7) – 1m – 9:51(9:51/m) – 105cal
8) – 1m – 9:33(9:33/m) – 103cal
9) – 1m – 9:20(9:20/m) – 107cal
10) – 1m – 9:06(9:06/m) – 103cal
11) – 1m – 9:20(9:20/m) – 104cal


That was my favourite word on Tuesday. It sounds like a tree full of chimpanzees with a bowl of trifle.

A perfect word for a day of travelling north on the train. Watching the waves and the rain through the window. Arriving in Edinburgh to the skirl of the pipes and a bustle of excitement at visiting the Book Festival.

Meeting Lesley in a whirl of a hug and setting off walking, talking ten to the dozen. Drifting through the street theatre, finding a warm café and settling down with cake and coffee and more chat.

Dodging the raindrops and ducking into the gallery in search of art and landscapes and portraits that looked freshly painted. Smiling at Vincent’s silver trees and light shadows between the clouds on a hillside.

Parting with plans ready made for another meeting. And then solo, finding my way through the street magic to a quiet enclave of tents, books and stories.

My favourite writer greeted with affection by an appreciative crowd. Remembering the last time we were together in this place when two mischievous authors tested the skills of the sign language interpreter.  Mr Gaiman tells his enraptured gathering of short stories that won’t stay short. Of the old country over the duckpond. Of the older country that sank and the even older one that blew up.

Speaking with affection for one of his best loved characters and how she came about. Mixing the inherent sexism of language, with the essence of a myth of the beauty of death. “It’s a great job. It gets you out and about. You get to meet people. You get to meet everyone.”

Of the unprompted applause when he speaks of The Doctor’s Wife and the best ever answer to the question, “What’s your favourite book?”

And stories, stories, stories. Those told and loved. Those waiting for the right moment. The rare one that came dream bound and perfect. Going to Hell in a hot air balloon. Vikings sailing to Jerusalem. A wild head full of dark, bright imaginings and always the promise of more.

And later still, more writers, more words from Dark Angels Jamie Jauncey and John Simmons. Words loved and hated. Words mangled out of meaning. And the clear sharp minds that cut through like a skater on a lake. A reminder that writing should be kind, human. That being a writer is about simply being. Right now in the moment.

When I return home, much later and more weary, a million shades and colours dance in my dreams.

First Durham parkrun

What do you know…there’s a new parkrun in town! Well here in the North East of England, in Durham to be precise. And despite ramping up the mileage already this week and planning a long run for tomorrow, I couldn’t resist the chance to say I’d been at the first official event.

I arrived at the Graham Sports Centre, Maiden Castle to sunshine and smiles. A really good turn out of friends and fellow parkrunners today, including my running buddies Jeff, Penny, Rob and Tove. Some I don’t see as often like Dave, who has just returned from Christchurch New Zealand, helping with the restoration after the earthquake there. And there was a great turn out from Elvet Striders (which must be one of the friendliest running clubs in the North East), including my good tri and bike buddy Peter.

So we were all excited and keen to give the new course a try. There were around 150 runners in total and plenty of enthusiastic applause for the efforts of the volunteers and marshalls as we assembled on the track for the race briefing. It was great to see so many parkrun first timers giving it a try too.

The run starts with a lap of the running track then ventures out along the grassy edges of the sports pitches. The field soon thins out to get through the gate onto the fields, but there’s always space to run. I had told myself to take it easy, but it felt good to be bouncing along the rack and over the damp grass in the sunshine. Dave skipped ahead of me early on, but I resolved to try and keep him in my sights.

Around the rugby pitches and I managed to overtake a couple of runners whilst settling into a nice pace that I felt I could hold. Not pushing for a PB run, but still enjoying a good blast in the sunshine. Piling over a wooden bridge was a new experience and made me laugh as it  changed my running rhythm.

The sun was making it rather sweaty work, so it was a relief to turn onto the riverside path and the shelter of the trees. I’d been gaining on Dave for a while and managed to work my way past him coming into the last kilometre or so.

That’s when I got into a great mini race with another Elvet Strider. I’d drawn level with him and he put a spurt on so I couldn’t get pass. I reeled him in again and he had another go. For once I actually felt strong in the last kilometre and seeing the line of runners heading for the finish on the other side of the river spurred me on. So I edged up on the Strider and as we turned over the bridge, put on my own burst of speed and made it stick.

Now it was just the home straight into the sun. The bandstand and the blue flag ahead marking the end of the run, I picked my spot and went for the sprint finish and crossed the line in 25:45. Not my fastest 5k, but probably a bit faster that I’d intended to run. I got a ‘Nice racing’ from my Elvet Strider friend too. A bit of friendly competition can certainly help get the best of you in a race.

A bit more catching up with friends and comparing race notes at the finish, then a nice warm down walk back to the track. I think Durham has a great new event and hope it gets the loyal support and volunteers that have made Newcastle and all the other parkruns so successful. I’ll more likely be back on home ground for my next one, but it was great to be there for their first run. Well done to the Durham parkrun team.

Stats and stuff:
5k 25:45
kilometre splits:
1. 5:07
2. 5:22
3. 5:22
4. 5:18
5. 4:37

I finished in 81st place and was the 11th lady out of a field of 157 parkrunners, coming 5th in my age category.

Now that’s what I call a triathlon!

Me on my bike at Hebburn triathlon
Enjoying the ride at Hebburn triathlon (photo by Simon Barclay)

I’m buzzing and boinging and full of leaping endorphins. High on adrenaline and fun. That’s what triathlon does for you.

I managed to sleep well, soothing my body into a good rest with a warm bath and an early night. The alarm buzzed and I was up and getting ready. No time to faff this morning. Dressed and all my kit ready, I didn’t much feel like eating my porridge. I still had to load the bike on the car and wanted to be away. But I forced down half a bowlful with banana and honey – fuel for the day.

I lugged my gear down the stairs and came back for my bike, loaded up the car and was away. I reminded myself to take some deep breaths to calm the nerves as I drove to Hebburn. Quiet roads meant I was there in plenty of time to register and get to the briefing.

I had a quick chat with Penny, doing her first tri today and went and got numbered up. The lady marking my leg made me laugh, saying “Imagine all the lovely legs I get hold of today”. And that really set the tone for the whole event.

Everywhere you looked there was a marshal with a yellow T-shirt. Shouting the way out of transition, keeping an eye on the traffic at the road crossings, shouting out encouragement or giving a quick rendition of ‘My Way’ over the microphone. Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue service do a fantastic job of putting on a very friendly and well organised event.

Into the best race briefing I’ve been to. More laughs, but clear instructions and a chance to look at the pool. All good and not too many swim flutters. Time just seemed to speed up as I went to rack my bike and lay out all my kit, then get changed and ready in between a few nervous toilet stops.

I bumped into my PT, Ian and another client Lee and had a chat about the race then took a few minutes to myself to do some breathing and roll downs to make sure I was as relaxed as I could be before the swim.

Back on the pool side, I saw Penny getting ready to start her first triathlon. And any last minute nerves were completely calmed by having Ian standing beside me, due to start just after my swim.

So into the pool and just three people in each nice wide lane staring at regular intervals. There were plenty swimming breast stroke or taking their time with front crawl and getting a breather at the end of a length or two.

Since my Friday night swim, I’ve felt much more confident about the swim and soon it was my time to go. Just 20 seconds to get into the pool, goggles on and take a couple of sinking out breaths, and I was off. Smooth and steady, slow and easy, breathing every third stroke.

There was absolutely no sign of the panicky, adrenaline-fuelled breathing that marred my last aquathlon. I was calm and in control and actually enjoying myself. I caught up to another couple of swimmers in my lane quite quickly and overtook them at the end of the length.

When a new swimmer entered the pool I let them go ahead of me and took a quick in and out breath, but basically I swam just like I have swum in training. Found my rhythm and stuck to it, then kicked out for the last two lengths and hauled myself out of the water with a smile. How great it was to be in the outside lane and take advantage of the steps.

Me on my bike at Hebbur triathlon
Zooming past on my road bike

Out of the pool and into transition. Trainers on, helmet on, a swig of water and unrack my beautiful bike for her first race outing. Round out over the grass and a gentle start, getting a shout out from Jill from work as I passed, then off into the unknown of a sprint on a road bike.

Despite telling myself to take it easy, I was away and flying, enjoying the thrill of being on the bike. Quickly up and onto the big ring and making progress. I didn’t pass many cyclists, but there was almost always someone in sight. I saw Penny and gave her a shout of encouragement and spotted Ian go past me approaching the only slight uphill on the course.

On the second lap I had a mini battle with a rider in a red T-shirt who passed me, then slowed down on a bit of a gradient, where I got my place back by putting on the power for a bit of a spurt. The wind was buffeting quite strongly and it made sections of the course quite tough. The rider in red and I continued to change places until his superior handling skills caught me on a turn and I wasn’t able to catch him again. But it made me put a bit more effort into the second lap.

The last section of the bike route was into the wind and quite hard work. I hoped I’d left enough in my legs as I dropped down the gears and spun the wheels ready to dismount into T2.

Off the bike and the legs are like leg. Round onto the grass to rack the bike and lose the helmet, not thinking about anything other than getting out on the run.

Wow, it was tough. Straight out into the wind and a deceiving incline. My steps felt small and stumbly, calves stiff. I just hoped they’d come back to me. An encouraging shout from Peter as he passed lifted my spirits and I kept pushing, hoping I’d ease into it eventually.

I passed a girl, saying “This wind isn’t helping is it?”
“Wait until we get round the corner,” she replied, “It’ll get easier.” Something that was confirmed by the marshal at the turn, reassuring us that the worst part of the run was over. They were right. Whether it was my legs coming back to me, a drop in the wind, or just a flatter section, I was able to stretch out my legs and pick up the pace a little.

Relax and enjoy I told myself. This is your run. This is your last triathlon of the year, make the most of it. And I did. Breathless thank yous to all the marshalls and just keeping one foot in front of the other, moving forwards.

I never really did get my head around the route or any useful landmarks. I had started to wonder if I’d gone out a bit too hard on the bike as I didn’t seem to be able to find another gear in my legs. So it was almost a surprise to realise I was crossing the road back round to the pool and the finish.

A shout out from an unseen Peter (can I hire you as my regular tri cheerleader?) and I picked my feet up for a last blast. Splashing through the puddle and over the magic blue timing mat. I finished and I felt amazing.

A marshal thrust a bottle of water in my hand while another took my chip off my ankle. This is such a well organised race. With the results car right by the finish, I soon picked up my times:

Swim 09:34 (400m)
T1 01:50
Cycle 46:38 (20k?)
T2 00:45
Run 25:29 (advertised as 5k, but more likely 3 miles)
Total 01:24:16

And a new PB for a sprint tri, taking almost 4 minutes off my time for a similar distance at Ashington.

Just amazing! What a buzz. I am in no doubt that this is my event. Three shots of adrenaline. Three sports to improve at. And there are lots of improvements I can make to do even better next year.

I’d really wanted to beat my Ashington time. I felt I owed it to my lovely new bike. But equally I didn’t want to put myself under that time pressure and fail to enjoy the race. I don’t have another triathlon lined up this year, so it was great to go out on a high. But I will be back. And I’ll do this one again. It’s a really good event and one I’d recommend to anyone dipping their toe into triathlon.

I’d like to say a big thank you to some smashing Fetchies including Al, Lesley (doing her own racing today), Penny and Peter. Knowing you’re there to ask questions, offer advice, sending an encouraging message or just a friendly face on the day, just makes it all so special. I forget that I’ve only known you for a couple of years and I’m as happy to have such wonderful friends as I am to complete an amazing race.

And to everyone who has tweeted, facebooked or sent me a text to see how I got on, thank you too. I have a fantastic support crew! And I know I’ve already said it, but it bears repeating. Thanks to the brilliant Ian Turrell for starting me off on this long road to fitness, fun and new challenges and for sticking with me, whatever I want to do.

Just one thing before I sign off. I’ve been following this guy @rungeordierun on twitter for some time. His name is Mark Allison and he’s currently got less than 100 miles to go to complete an awe-inspiring run across the USA. He’s raised a huge amount of money for two local charities in doing so. And I know he’s really put himself through the wringer to do it. Check out his website and read his amazing story. And cheer him on the final straight.


I’ve had a lovely end to my week. Thursday morning was glorious at the coast. The sun a bright ball of orange in a misty sky, scattering silvery ripples on an almost glass-like sea. You couldn’t tell where the sky ended and the water began.

As the cool grey of the clouds was burned away by the heat of the sun, it was like the middle of a fine summer’s day and I was enjoying my usual PT session on the sands. Lucky old me and Ian, getting the very best of the day.

As I drove into work the greyness descended and didn’t lift until later in the evening. As I watched the rain hammering down mid-afternoon, I though plans for a bike ride might be a bit ambitious. But we managed to get a clear window and so I met up with Peter, some of his tri club and Penny at Hebburn pool for a recce of the triathlon course.

Now, I can’t say that I’ll be able to remember the route, but just cycling around, not particularly pushing hard but enjoying the sensation of the speedy flats and downhills reminded me of just how much I enjoy time on my bike. I think I’d forgotten some of that in my frustration at getting to grips with the clipless pedals. It was fun cycling in a group too. Although there’s not much chance to chat, it feels like safety in numbers. And my bike, newly tweaked and tightened, felt fantastic.

Friday was a quiet day. A regular morning start, rather than an early one. I realised I was feeling a lot more comfortable in my own skin after a week of making an effort to be ‘good’ with my diet, cutting out the chocolate and cakes that had begun to creep in and watching that boredom didn’t translate into snacking.

I escaped the hometime rush in time to enjoy a sunny drive back to the coast and off to the pool for a quick confidence boosting swim. I really haven’t been in the pool much recently and the swim has been a bit of a pressure point for me in races, although not so much in training. So I just pitched up, jumped in, did three sinking and breathing out breaths and then started to swim front crawl.

Smooth, slow and steady I told myself. Giving myself plenty of time to breathe. There were some other decent swimmers in the pool and I had to tell myself to ignore them, not to try and race them, just swim nice and easy and relaxed. And it worked.

My technique still has plenty of things to work on, but just by concentrating on my breathing I clocked up a nice 400m set, giving it a bit of a kick on the last couple of lengths to notch up 9:05 – which is either very close to or is my fastest 400m swim time.

That was my target for the swim done. I wasn’t even intending to go for a time, but it just came together as the swim was nice and relaxed. As I was in the groove I took a minute’s rest and swam some more. No distance target this time, other than a vague desire to do 200m, but I ended up doing another 400m – this time in 9:09.

I’m so pleased with that. Once again I remembered how I can enjoy a good swim. That’s been missing too recently. I’ve felt for a long time that learning to swim front crawl with bi-lateral breathing and focusing swimming as an exercise session as part of triathlon training did take some of the enjoyment out of it a little. And I’d normally have a few minutes at the end of the swim, just messing about, reminding myself of how much I love being in the water.

On Friday night, I both swam well and enjoyed it. Because I was relaxed and under no pressure. If I can swim like that again on Sunday, I will be very pleased with myself. And really, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t. I know I can cover the distance (twice if I need to!). I just need to make sure I control my nerves and adrenaline rush.

This morning I went to Newcastle parkrun. I hadn’t realised they were short of volunteers, or I would have signed up properly. All the jobs were filled when I got there, but I had my camera with me, so said I’d take some photos. As it was, the battery ran flat after a couple of snaps, so I ended up taking pictures with my phone. Think I got some okay shots. And I did have a nice morning catching up with some of the usual crowd. Volunteering is almost as much fun as running.

But I am saving my legs today, ready for the Hebburn sprint tri tomorrow. I want to wish everyone I know that’s doing this all the best, especially Peter who has helped me so much and Penny (doing her first triathlon with a nicely relaxed approach). And to give a shout out to Lesley who is also swim, bike, running in Scotland tomorrow. I shall be thinking of you and trying to channel some of that red peril spirit!

Plus a special thank you as always to Ian, my personal trainer, who got me into all this in the first place. He has planned all my training to get me fit to meet all my challenges, whether that’s running a half marathon or completing a sprint triathlon. Always happy to answer my endless questions and offer advice. And he didn’t demolish my legs during Thursday’s training 😉

As for me. I’m really looking forward to it. No pressure, no goals, just a reminder of how much I enjoy what I do, and also how I do love a race. So there may very well be another grrrr photo at the finish.

I’m focusing my fundraising efforts on the Great North Run, but if you think that swimming 400m, cycling 20km and then running another 5km is a challenge, then I’d appreciate your support to help Sands meet their even bigger challenge of reducing the number of babies that die at birth or soon after every day here in the UK.  http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/michelleGNR2011

July round up and a sunny brick

A week’s holiday and recovering from my injured finger meant a reduced volume of training this month. But here are the scores on the doors:

Swim 0.7 miles 36 mins (just one session this month)
Bike 65 miles 4:42:00
Run 59 miles 9:27:00
X-train 6:20:00

That includes 3 races, including the fabulous Northumberland Coastal Run.

Today I did my longest ever brick session. I started off with the clipped in pedals and shoes, just heading out intending to get my confidence back and clipping in and out. My wobble came when I decided to stop at some traffic lights and cross the road. I think the combination of stopping and thinking where to go next was too much for my brain and I uncoupled with the left foot and fell over on the right!

Once again, not a bad fall, just a silly one. The bike’s going for its check up tomorrow, so I hope they can fix that and change my pedals over too.

I carried on a bit further and noticed my front tyre was getting a bit soft, so I stopped to put some air in. I struggled with the pump and valve. Sorry if that sounds dim, but I really am mechanically clueless. I seemed to be letting more out than putting it in. Thankfully a group of driving instructors out for a bike ride gave me a hand and got me on my way again.

I decided to turn back for home, where I’d set up a transition in my hallway. But instead of going straight back out for a run, I swapped my bike shoes for my trainers and hopped back on the bike for another 10k. I was much happier with my feet free, feeling more relaxed and consequently faster.

Bike done for the day, I racked up again, ditched the helmet and headed out for a 5k run. It was tough in the heat, but I kept the pace steady and reminded myself that I was just training. There were loads of runners and cyclists out , enjoying the sunshine and saying a cheery hello. It was a good session, and a fine way to spend a Sunday morning.

Next weekend it’s my third and final tri of the year. I’m feeling a bit less well prepared than I was for my first. But it’s all about having fun, and racing with some friends. And after that, I’m actually looking forward to some long runs in preparation for the Great North Run.