QE2 Sprint triathlon 2016

The QE2 triathlon is my most local event – only about 30 mins drive away on a quiet Sunday morning and starting in the lake where I’ve been swimming almost every Thursday evening since the middle of May. It’s the first open water event I did back in 2012, on a memorable day, meeting my best buddy Lesley and family, and finishing with with some of my favourite ever triathlon photos. So, yes, I like this triathlon and its happy associations.

When I first got back to open water swimming at the QE2 lake with the Vo2 Max Racing  crew in May this year, the water temperature was about 11C and I didn’t really enjoy my first few swims. I struggled to catch my breath and bullied myself around a couple of laps of the course, doing a lot of self talking and deals about how long I’d stay in or how many laps I’d do.

The most dangerous thought that I had early on in my open water swimming season was ‘I don’t have to do this’. I persisted because I knew I needed the practice and I wanted to be as prepared as possible for the Leeds triathlon.

I wanted to enjoy it. I knew at some level that I have enjoyed open water swims here, and elsewhere, but it felt like a sensation I could no longer grasp.

And then, a few weeks ago, the water had warmed up a little and I spent one session swimming with a new open water swimmer who had plunged in and found herself in a bit of a tizzy with her breathing and confidence, despite being very at home in a pool.

I know that feeling very well, and so I swam my laps in a mixture of breast stroke and very slow front crawl, keeping an eye on her, offering reassurance and open water swimming tips. That was a good swim for me as I forgot about my own swim anxieties and had no expectations of how far or how long I would swim for.

I watched out for her at subsequent sessions but didn’t see her again until she passed me on the bike on Sunday’s triathlon (her first event). I was thrilled to see her as I went to collect my bike after the race and share her joy at becoming a triathlete.

I’ve been less focused on training for any events this year. I figure I’m having a year of just enjoying my sports and taking the pressure off. I appreciate the fact that I have the experience, confidence and fitness to rock up and take on a sprint tri. I wouldn’t have been able to do that before 2009. And I hope I never take that for granted. It’s still a tough ask – even if you’re not racing flat out or in any danger of threatening the sharp end.

Which is all a very long preamble to my race. The only thing I really wanted from it was a good swim. Good being one in which I didn’t stress out and have a mini meltdown and have to do lots of talking to myself to get through it.

I had an excellent swim.

I must have had one or two of these before, but I more easily remember the ones where I’ve really had to battle with my head and felt like I had to take time out to settle down.

I got into the water as soon as I could, and had what felt like a good 10 minutes floating around, getting relaxed and comfortable and doing a few practice strokes. I even lay right back and floated with my eyes closed before positioning myself at the back and out wide of the starting buoys.

I went on the hooter – striking out with a few strokes of heads-up, and then quickly moving into head-down front crawl. It was a bit congested, but I managed to avoid any serious bashing and just struck out towards the first marker. The mass start made the water brownish, silty and churned up for the first few metres, but it soon cleared, although the chop continued for a while.

Shortly before the first buoy I could feel myself starting to thrash my arms a little and boost my heart rate with shallow breathing, so I took a time out, just a few seconds to tread water and reset. While it was hard seeing swimmers pass me, it was the right thing to do, as I struck back out into calmer, clearer water and found a new, more comfortable rhythm in my stroke.

That continued around the rest of the course, momentarily easing up at each turn to sight the next buoy and actually think to myself how much I was enjoying the feel of the water and swimming in the lake.

Towards the finish, as I approached the shallows, I got closer to some feet and legs and almost got swum over by someone striking out for the jetty, but that only slowed me for a fraction of a second and I got up to my feet and out of the water feeling calm but elated with my swim.

During the long run up towards transition, I sneaked a peek at my watch. I’d deliberately avoided checking my overall time for this event, but I knew my best swim time was 18 mins something. So I couldn’t believe it when I saw 15:52 on my watch. Official time, including the run into transition was 17:47, so easily almost a minute faster than I have been before.

Most importantly I felt great. I had enjoyed the swim, hadn’t stressed out and was ready to tackle the bike course.

Picture by Sports Photography Northumberland


The terrain makes this a slightly long sprint course with a 24k bike and just under a 6k run. It was warm, but cloudy on Sunday morning, and there had been an early morning shower that left the road damp. The immediate ride out of the park is a nice downhill, so time to settle in and get my legs turning over.

Out onto the road and the cross wind became more apparent. Not enough of a breeze to disturb my balance on the bike, but maybe enough to make me work a bit harder.

I haven’t done enough cycling. I really struggle to fit it in at any other time other than the weekend. And going out on my own, I tend to do the same routes and don’t really get enough mileage in. But I started off enjoying the cycle, even as, as always, I was quickly and speedily passed and after 10k rarely saw another competitor except when they overtook.

I had a couple of mouthfuls of juice and ticked off the sights as I rolled along beside the coastline at Cresswell. There’s a slight inland turn near Lynemouth towards the end of the route. My back was starting to niggle as I cycled along beside the dunes and as I approached a slight long incline, I felt like I had no power in my legs.

I’d tried to keep up my cadence throughout, but from just before 20k onwards, I was definitely dropping, and as I approached Lynemouth I had a distinct loss of energy and power and a bit of a mental dip. I dropped through the gears, moved around to try and stretch out my back and had a gel. It was probably all a bit too late to make any difference, as my back was still a bit troublesome but eased by a bit of coasting downhill.

I managed to get a bit of speed back as I turned into the park, but was soundly overtaken by two or three more riders before I came to a stop. I was worried about jarring my back, so didn’t even attempt a rolling dismount at the line. But as soon as I was out of my cycling position, it felt better. I have had a proper bike fit for this bike, but I would have been considerably lighter at the time. Would that have made a difference?

Picture by Sports Photography Northumberland

Onto the run, and my legs weren’t too wobbly as I struck out on the paths around the lake. With two laps for the sprint and three for the standard distance event, I was frequently passing or being passed by runners on my way round.

I was well supported with parkrun buddies Jules and Claire marshalling near transition and the start of each lap, and just before a little climb around the back of Woodhorn Museum buildings towards the end. I made sure I was relaxed and picking my feet up each time I saw them, but generally I felt I ran okay throughout.

My hamstrings felt tight at the start of the run, but oddly not my quads, and the sensation soon eased off. I knew I wasn’t fast and I wasn’t pushing hard, but felt like my efforts were just a notch down from a fast parkrun.

I ran every step, thanked the marshals and gave a high five to two little girls standing in high viz at the bottom of the lake. I managed to pick up a bit of speed down the last bank and raised my arms for another finish with a smile.

So, another really enjoyable race from VO2 Max Racing. Their swim sessions at the QE2 lake have really helped me this year and they always put on a great race for competitors and Woodhorn Colliery Museum grounds provide a great venue for a top event.

Swim 750m: 17:47
T1: 1:41
Bike 24km: 1:00:51
T2: 1:10
Run 6k: 41:29
TOTAL 2:02:58


Returning to the Great North Run

Ten miles run in training and my race number has arrived. It’s all getting very real as I prepare to run 13.1 miles on the Great North Run, supporting Cancer Research UK and some very special running pals.

Sorry I haven’t bogged much about running and training recently. In fact there are at least two races and one big cycle ride that I never got round to writing about. I’m still very much in training though and enjoying the opportunities that bright summer days give me to get out and run or cycle.

My last triathlon was the QE2 sprint triathlon at Woodhorn Colliery on 17 July. It’s a really good, well organised event. I enjoyed it, even though I knew, coming out of the swim that I wasn’t going to be breaking any records that day. A windy bike course and stopping to pass another girl my spare inner tube slowed me down, but actually helped me get the right mindset, which was about having fun and completing the lovely course.

Collywell Bay
Collywell Bay – half way point on my 10 mile run

Since then I’ve been ramping up my run training as I’m doing the Great North Run, half marathon again this year. I normally give myself about 12 weeks training to pick up from running 10k to running 13.1 miles, but this year, I’ve only allowed myself seven weeks.

So I’ve been running three times a week and doing some strength or body weight training on two days and trying to get a rest day in too. I’m enjoying running early in the mornings again, getting the best of the day as I head out from the coast.

Today I managed 10 miles along the North East coast, with beautiful views over the sea.

I’ve also been fortunate enough to combine my professional and running interests as I’ve been writing lots of content for my company blog, as there’s a large team of us taking part.

My race number arrived this week, so suddenly it all seems very real. But my approach is very much to just get round and enjoy it. It’s not my target race this year and I din’t have a target time. I’d rather not put the pressure on myself and just enjoy the atmosphere of the day.

I hadn’t really intended to run for charity this year, as I feel I’ve been so well supported in previous charity fundraising efforts. But the team is supporting Cancer Research UK and I’ve got got good reasons for supporting their work.

When I was a teenager, my mum’s best friend had cancer. It was very scary at the time to think that someone like my mum could die from the disease and leave a young family behind.

In the past year or so I’ve known three lovely and very active people who have died of cancer. A couple I knew through the online running community Fetch Everyone.

Sue lived in Devon and loved surfing, skiing and ice cream as well as running.

Jane is someone I’ve raced a triathlon with, so I was very sad to hear that her partner Alistair, another triathlete, had cancer.

And then there was Zoe, the wife of Stephen, who I got to know online as we were both fundraising and running for Sands. She was an enthusiastic parkrunner, an Olympic torch bearer and Gamesmaker.

They all leave family and friends who will remember and miss them always.

In the past 40 years, survival rates for cancer have improved enormously, thanks to the work that Cancer Research and other organisations do. But It’s still very hard to accept that it can take such fit, active and outwardly healthy people, so young.

I know that being fit, healthy and active and not smoking is about the best insurance I can give myself against cancer. And really it’s a privilege to be able to run and bike and swim and enjoy spending time outdoors as I do.

So I’m running for Auntie Alison, Sue, Alistair and Zoe and all the others who would have loved to have run just one more race.

If you’d like to support me, you can here: Link (roll over me to see where I go)

QE2 sprint triathlon 2013

Me finishing the triathlon
Finishing the 2013 QE2 triathlon. Picture by doubleiphoto

Last year this was my first ever open water triathlon. This year my plan was to really focus on my triathlon training and complete it a lot faster. Well, the plans paid off!

After days of drizzle and temperatures feeling more like October than late May, early June, we’ve finally begun to see some sunshine and heat at the end of this week. And the day was as fine a tri day as you could wish for – sunny, with very little wind and the promise of heat from the sun.

I woke before the alarm and got ready, having set out all my kit the day before. I made some porridge but didn’t feel like eating it, so popped it in a bowl for later and hauled my bike and tri gear down to the car.

The QE2 tri has a great set up in the grounds of Woodhorn Colliery Museum. The old winding wheel from the pit forms a great backdrop, while modern windmills continue generating energy nearby.

I met my PT, Ian and one of his other clients Lee in registration where we got our race numbers and very nice race T-shirts and we made our way to the transition area together.

I don’t know what it is about triathlon set ups, but however early you are, time between arriving and start time seems to speed up. Once I’d got my bike and shoes laid out and run back to the car for my sunglasses, it was time to get the wetsuit on and head for the lake.

I wanted to get in the water early, as I’d been in on Thursday night and it was freezing. I knew I’d need a little time to get used to the temperature, relax and get my face in before the start.  I took some deep slow breaths to calm my nerves as we picked our way across the gravelly path and down to the lake and did some shoulder and arm rolls.

I got in the water and floated quite quickly. It had certainly warmed up since Thursday night. But it took me a couple of goes to put my face in and breathe out. It seemed like there was barely any time before the hooter and we were off!

I started swimming strongly, mixing in with the other swimmers, but well away from the front. But I soon realised I was gasping for air when I turned to breathe and was trying to breathe in and out at the same time.

I slowed down to try and get things under control. I told myself to blow air out when my face was in the water, but I struggled, and choked a little.  I swam a bit of front crawl breathing on every stroke, but I knew that would likely hurt my neck and tire me out.

I kept trying to get my breathing sorted, but after a few strokes each time, I was gasping. When I saw a man ahead of me breaking into breast stroke about half way to the first buoy, I gave in and did the same.

I did a bit of talking to myself in my head, trying to calm myself and bring my heart rate back to normal. I could feel it pounding and the top of my chest hurting as I’d been short breathing. But I kept on moving forwards with a slow swimming, head up breast stroke.

I did little deals with myself, counting strokes and then giving front crawl another go and kept on doing that to the first buoy. Now it was just a case of swimming back towards the lake side, which I thought would be easier, but the damage had been done and failing to find the right rhythm for front crawl, I carried on around with a mixture of strokes, drifting to the back of the field.

It was frustrating as, when I swam front crawl with my head in the water, bilateral breathing, I was swimming well and pulling away from the other swimmers around me. But I just couldn’t sustain it for very long.

At the final buoy I gave a good kick and did some more thrashing, breathing on every stroke crawl until I was in the shallows and able to stand up and gratefully take a hand out of the water. I glanced at my watch 19 mins – a disappointing swim after I have improved this area so much. But I’ve had hardly any open water experience this year and I’m still fighting my body’s natural instinct to hold my breath under water. I know I can overcome this, because I did it last year. I just need a bit more practice.

Anyway, swim done and I didn’t look back to see how many were left in the water, but I knew there wouldn’t be many. I jogged up the slope, catching my breath and unzipping my wetsuit off my shoulders. There’s quite a long run into transition from the swim at this event, but I was grateful of the chance to get my thoughts together for the bike.

Once at my bike, I shuffled the wetsuit down over my knees and off my feet, took off my hat and goggles and got my bike shoes and helmet on. Then it was a quick run out to transition, where Stuart, one of my fetch pals gave me a shout from his marshal position.

Hurrah, on the bike and it’s a sunny day, warming up nicely. I kept in a low gear turning my legs over as I rode out through the entrance to the museum and onto the road. Annoyingly a few bikes went past me early on. More places lost. But I knew I was only really racing myself and tried to keep focused on the course.

It’s a straightforward and flat bike ride, so I focused on turning my legs over, enjoying the sensation of drying out quickly as I rode into a light headwind, counting the roundabouts until the turn that would take me down the coast. I got passed by another couple of riders but kept them in my sights for a long way.

Skimming along beside the sea, remembering landmarks from last year’s race, I really started to relax and enjoy myself. Reminding myself to keep my shoulders relaxed, just looking ahead, down through Cresswell towards Lynemouth, with the power station chimneys and windmills acting as distant markers.

I got down on the drops on a nice smooth piece of road, but more often than not I had to keep my wits about me as there were lots of potholes. And I took the turn back inland a little faster than I expected, but managed to stay in control.

Heading back in, I re-passed the guy in a blue cycle top, realising as I did so that he wasn’t actually racing as he didn’t have a number. Probably just out for a nice ride on the coast. Still he was a good target to chase down and he lead me to my next one, a lady in a pink top who I also overtook.

Coming back towards Woodhorn Village, knowing I’d soon be turning back into the museum grounds there was another cyclist up ahead and I started to power on and chase him down. A cyclist standing watching at the side of the road, shouted “You can catch him,” and I did, just as we turned into the road back to transition.

For once I managed a moving dismount, right on the line and a fast rack of the bike and change of shoes out for the run. The route takes you round two laps of the lake. It’s mostly paved track, with a couple of sections of grassy paths and a loop around the back of the museum that goes up and down over some long grass.

My legs didn’t feel too bad off the bike, but I stuck to little steps and just moving forward as once again my breath was all coming from the top part of my chest and I wanted to get it under control.

The faster runners were coming pounding past and I tried to keep out of their way and give them a clear path t finish their races. Just over half way round, Lee passed, saying Ian was just behind me. That made me focus on my running form. I didn’t want Ian to see me shuffling when he’s worked so hard to get me bounding off my front foot.

A couple more runners went through. Each time I was thinking it was Ian and trying to put on a good show while bringing my breathing down into my lungs and getting it under control. He passed eventually, encouraging me to think of our running drills before bounding off to catch up with Lee.

A couple out walking beside the lake gave me an encouraging shout of “Well done, you’re nearly there,” as I approached the museum area. But I was not quite half way through.

Coming round for a lap and seeing the finish line so close, but having to run past it for another go is hard. But once I was back round by the lake again, I felt more settled. I’d controlled my breathing and was running a bit more freely. I knew I wasn’t fast, but I felt okay.

I was pretty much on my own for the rest of the run. I couldn’t see anyone ahead to chase or hear anyone behind to give me the hurry up. I just had to keep focused and race myself.

The second lap went quickly. I’d expected to fade a bit as it was getting hotter, but my legs stayed strong and after the last rounding of the museum I was able to pick up a bit of speed down the grassy bank and into a sprint and celebratory finish.

Ian and Lee were waiting, and I think a bit surprised at how much it had taken it out of me. But after a few deep breaths and a bit of race analysis I recovered enough to look at my watch and see 1:55:xx

Last year it took me 2:05:xx to do the same course, so that’s a huge personal best. And now the official results are out I can see that I improved in every single area swim, bike run and the transitions. Even though my swim was a lot slower than I have the potential to do, I still shaved 30 seconds off last year’s time.

So, I am really happy with that. I came into 2013 with a definite triathlon focus and all my training has been focused on multi-sport events. Ian has coached me to be a better swimmer, stronger on the cycle and changed my running style, as well as putting together all my training plans that have got me this far, so it’s great to be able to go show him that it’s working.

So, not everything was perfect and there are lots of lessons to learn. But there always are after any race. This is just the start of the season and I’m already looking ahead to my next challenge, my first standard distance event, with confidence.


Swim 750m 0:21:08
T1 0:01:38
Bike 24km 0:54:50
T2 0:00:51
Run 6km 0:36:48

Total: 01:55:17

Race results

Race photos

QE2 sprint triathlon – my first open water tri

When the first people you see as you pitch up in the early hours of the morning to a former colliery site are your best tri buddies down from Scotland for the day, Lesley, Bob and Al, your collywobbles disappear in a mountain of hugs and you know you’re about to have a fantastic day.

I have had this event in my mind for a year. Last year I watched friends and my PT Ian taking part and I thought, “I could do that”. It was once of the first races I entered this year, knowing I wanted to move up in the world of triathlon and to do that I had to tackle the open water and my first true sprint distance event.

In other words, it’s a pretty big deal. As big as my first Great North Run, bigger than my sub 2 half. Basically the only thing that’s been on my mind all week.

And oh boy, do I realise what a step up this was. Like so may wannabe multi-sport athletes, it’s the swim that’s provided my biggest challenge. Getting over the fight or flight response, learning to breathe out under water, building up confidence and endurance and conquering my nerves.

I managed two open water swim sessions before this event and still felt unsure and very nervous.

Lesson 1: Time goes more quickly than you think when you’re setting up

I’d arrived pretty early, registered, got numbered up and set my bike up in a fairly quiet transition. But spotting my PT Ian and one of his other client’s Big Les (about to take part in his first ever triathlon, having done the Edinburgh marathon last week) and having a chat with them, it was suddenly race briefing time and my wetsuit was back at the car.

I start listening to the briefing, doing some deep breathing and roll downs to calm my nerves. But all around me, people are half in wet suits and I start to get anxious. So I have a quick warm up jog back to the car and get into my suit.

Me about to enter the lake for the open water swim
Looking a bit dubious about the swim

As I run back, the crowds are disappearing towards the lake. I tag along with Ian, grateful to see a reassuring face as I wrestle my shoulders into my suit and wriggle into my swim hat. It’s a massed swim start with over 200 competitors taking to the lake at once.

As I make my way to the water, Gary spots me and wishes me good luck. I was so happy to see him. I start training him up as my tri sherpa, passing him the aqua shoes I should have left in transition.

The colour coded caps we’re given are thin and Ian rips his to shreds trying to put it on. I have my regular red swim hat beneath my yellow one and offer it to him. But he goes without.

At the pontoon, the nerves really kick in as I sense this is all going to happen very quickly. I’m not going to have time to get in and calm myself down. Indeed, as I potter about princess-like, they call back those who have started to swim in the warm up area.

Lesson two:
Next time swim more front crawl

I spot Al who makes me feel a bit safer, so I get in and into the water quickly. It’s not cold at all, but it’s murky and dark here with a petrol like sheen on the surface. I spit in my goggles and get set, splashing water on my face, in the hope it will encourage me to get my head it and swim properly.

The hooter goes and we’re off. I’m well to the back and my mission is basically to stay out of the way as much as possible, not to get kicked, punched or pulled. I strike out with a strong heads up front crawl.

The fear quickly strikes me. Those buoys look a long way out and I’m heading for deeper water. My hands brush aside tendrils of weed  and I bump against another swimmer.

Keep the bouys to your right and just swim. I try to calm myself and swim some breast stroke to give myself a breather and make some space. It turns into quite a lot of breast stroke as I seek to calm my breathing and keep moving.

There’s another swimmer just to my left who is breathing heavily and that makes me anxious, so I try some front crawl with my head down and start to make up some ground.

Around the first buoy I allow myself a breast stroke break again and see swimmers nearer the bank who look like they are standing in the shallows and one man getting out and peeling down his wetsuit to give his number to the marshall.

I mustn’t let this get to me. I swim some more heads up front crawl, but still manage to splutter on a mouthful of water. The nearby safety canoe advises me to take a glass of gin tonight to get rid of the taste.

But in truth, the water here is somewhat clearer and less weed-ridden. I am not cold, my legs are still moving and I am keeping my head above the surface. I round the top buoy and make an effort to but my head in and swim. Long slow strokes and give myself time to breathe. I manage it for a while, then take another breast stroke breather and try again.

To the right of the last buoy and just striking for the lakeside now, two sighting markers ahead and I’m finally starting to think I can make it. I’m aiming for the right hand side of these markers just in case, but I see swimmers heading through on either side. One has a very familiar pair of goggles on and I realise it’s Lesley.

I suddenly think I must be having an amazing swim to have caught her up and strike out in full front crawl again, hoping to make it all the way to the shallows. Only the dirty water forces me into a safer stroke as I find my feet and stumble zombie like up the bank.

Helping hands out of the water, finding my legs rather jelly like, and a push and a shove in the right direction. Up the bank and a good long run into transition. I peel down my wetsuit and remove my hat and goggles. My feet are covered in dirt and bits of weeds. Off the grass and into the car park area, they protest at the hard ground.

Lesson 3:
Don’t hang about in transition

Me on the bike course at QE2 sprint triathlon
Heading out on the bike course

I take my usual ‘I don’t care how long I take’ approach to transition, peeling off my suit easily and giving my feet a quick wipe and dry on the corner of my towel. Then it’s a bottom up approach to getting my kit on. Shoes, number belt, helmet, a quick swig of water and a faff to put my Garmin on. Lesley has already gone, by the time I’m finally off clicking over the concrete in my bike shoes.

I don’t even bother with a fancy mount, just get on and go, happy to have swum the swim and feeling right at home on my bike. More water from my bottle as I click up through the gears over the smooth road out of the museum entrance.

And then it’s just me and my bike and the road. I’m feeling good, feeling strong, elated at conquering the swim. I start to turn over quickly and make the most of the adrenaline rush. I am in buoyant mood, imagining I’m Chrissie Wellington out ahead on the bike at Kona.

This really is a lovely bike course on wide flat roads through the former pit and mining areas, where now you’re more likely to see fields of vibrant yellow oil seed rape. I try to keep up a decent cadence, but also enjoy the landscape around me.

We pass through Cresswell, a seaside village with a famous ice-cream shop. A string of pretty coastal cottages where a wagtail flits across my flight path. And to the right a bomber squadron of geese in perfect V formation.  A small hill and you’re out over the top of the cliffs. Black cows on green grass farmed by the blue sea and below and on the road, yellow sand.

Just before the factory at Lynemouth, I’m startled by a noise and a movement in the trees as a huge tethered shire horse comes charging out from the trees beside the main road. I’m glad here’s no traffic here as I instinctively move out of its way.

My scenic admiration is cut short as soon after another small rise, I’m passed by another rider. It’s not the first time I’ve been passed on this course, but the others have had the decency to look like skinny whippet triathletes, and this bloke doesn’t. I wake up and put some effort in, catching and passing him just as another bloke goes by.

In transition, I’d noticed some tasty looking bikes. This really wasn’t a tri for the shopper or the mountain bike. But this guy’s bike looks like it’s just come out of the lake with him. It’s either been stripped back for a respray or is as old and rusty as your favourite park bench. I resolve to try and keep him in my sights and his blue shirt is a marker for the rest of the ride.

A couple of speedy straights and a chance to dip down onto the drops. A couple of nifty corners at roundabouts and I am feeling so at home on my bike. My feet are still a little cramped or cold and I try at times to curl my toes to get some life into them. It proves a useful distraction on any small rises, but really there’s nothing you can’t ride on the big ring here.

I’m back round and heading into the museum again, bumping over the speed reminders in the road and spinning to get the blood flowing into my legs.  And I’m off the bike before the dismount line, running clipped and wobbly legged over the grass and then concrete into transition. Quicker this time to slip out of bike and into running shoes, lose the helmet and go.

Legs and feet protest as I try to shake the bike off. Just keep moving and the feeling will fade I tell myself. Up ahead on the path is Mr Rusty Bike in the blue shirt. Bye, bye fella – you just got chicked on the run!

Lesson four:
Your friends are always there for you

Here I am at home, running in lovely surroundings on a path beneath the trees around a lake. But still it is hard to keep moving as my feet and calves feel stiff and I feel the force of every step.

I had some great messages last night and this morning from my friends, so as my mind starts to fret over the thought there are two laps of this to get through, I draw strength from their support.

‘Relax and enjoy.’ Scotty’s mantra is truly one I am taking to heart for this race. It soothes my fretfulness and reminds me that today, the result really does not matter. It is about the experience and meeting the challenge.

Another Scottish Fetch pal , Katy  said ‘you rock’ and you’d have to be braver than me to let Katy down. So I run for her and her determination to face things head on.

I’m all smiles as I pass by Gary and see Al, finished already as I approach the end of the last lap. A naughty little rise up the tarmac and then a down over some grass and back round towards the colliery museum.  I hear Barry, who ran the  tri training I did earlier this year calling out my name as I pass through and nearly take the turn for the finish instead of heading through for another lap.

A quick dose of support and it’s off along the lonely lanes again. More runners though and I try to offer some encouragement as I pass. I feel like I’ve found my legs a little and can stretch out and run freely, but it’s still hard work. How will I ever be able to face a 10k run for a standard after double that swim and bike?  I’ll just have to get hellish fit for next year won’t I?

me crossing the finish line at the QE2 sprint triathlon
The moment I felt like Chrissie Wellington. Thanks to Bob Marshall for the best finish photo I’ve ever had.

The sun is making an appearance and I am actually starting to enjoy this. It is a lovely place to run, flat and easy underfoot. Back round to my support crew again and the smiles are on, even though I know there’s that ugly little hill and back of the buildings bit to go.

In my head I’ve been saying there’ll be no sprint finish today. My legs have worked hard. But as I hit the last few hundred metres of pale, clean, hard surface, they rocket into action. Race face on, arms working like the pumping pistons. I don’t know where it comes from.

I hear Barry calling my name and Tyne tri club as I cross the line and fall into Lesley and a big hug from her and Al. I could not be happier.

I have barely looked at my watch. Mrs pace and stats took a break today and just went with the flow. No targets, no expectations, just relax and enjoy. And I did. Oh how I did.

But you want to know don’t you? Here are the provisional timings:

Swim 750m (and a decent transition run) 21:27
T1: 03:03
Bike 26k: 1:01:15
T2: 01:14
Run 6k: 38:20
Total 2:05:19

Post tri cake score = 2

I finished 194 out of 201 finishers and 13 out of 15 in my category. Full race results from V02 Max Racing who did a fantastic job of organising, marshalling and supporting this great event.

And I got the best ever race finish photo thanks to Bob Marshall. There’s a full set of race pictures on his Picasa site: https://picasaweb.google.com/113562417702657933373/QE2TRI2012

Triathlon is an amazing challenge and an incredible buzz. I’d encourage anyone to give it a go. It’s friendly and helpful and encouraging. All the marshalls had a ‘well done’ or a ‘looking strong’ or a name check for us. Competitors shared wry groans and encouragement as they went by. And that’s what it’s always like.

Today I was proud to represent Tyne tri club who have helped me improve my swimming a lot. And also to be part of the more informal Team Inspire. My PT, Ian and four of his clients took part in today’s event. It’s thanks to him that I even thought about doing triathlons and also thanks to Ian that I’m fit and ready to give them my best shot. I may be at the back of the field, but that doesn’t dent my enthusiasm or love of triathlon and how I feel to be this fit and healthy and blessed with friends.

So that’s me, fully converted to triathlon. I have a lot of work to do to get to where I’d like to be. But I shall relish that. Just as I relish days like that spent in the best company of the best friends.

Living in and loving every moment

You know how it was gloriously sunny and warm on Friday, and it felt like a waste of a day to be at work? I don’t care if the clouds were grey at the weekend, I’ve had another brilliant one.


Me in fancy dress for Newcastle parkrun
Bringing a touch of the tropical to the Town Moor

Saturday and a special parkrun, including an option for fancy dress. I picked out an outfit I last wore on the evening of my wedding day, to bring some sunny Aloha spirit to the blustery Town Moor. My training plan had a 3 mile run on Friday, so I shuffled it to Saturday to give me a chance to catch up with some of my buddies.

Fab to see Jeff although I’m sorry he’s had to break his parkrun streak due to injury. But he knows it’s the right thing to do and volunteering is good fun too.

There was our Sue, race director keeping us all in check with the clipboard and appointing Lesley and Finn Bobs as cake monitors for the end of race goodies. Thanks to Mark for returning my hoodie from the Pier to Pier (sorry didn’t get chance to chat). I did say hello to Mick again. And then caught up with the lovely Steve over from Liverpool for a visit. thank you for your very kind words about my training.

So to the start. I was a wee bit hyper. It feels like weeks since my last parkrun and I was chomping at the bit to be off and away. A bit too eager as it turned out. I bounced off, chasing down some runners dressed as school girls and off into a rather stiff headwind over the moor.

Lots of runners said afterwards that they struggled with that section of the course into the wind and so did I. But I was pushing on, working hard and struggling to catch my breath when I realised who I was running with. The thing about parkrun is that you start to recognise some of the regular runners. And I was up with those who are a good 2-3 minutes faster than I am.

But I shouldn’t have been there. The pace really was too fast for me, especially given the conditions. So I eased it back, told myself not to worry about PBs and to just enjoy the run. I think it worked as I settled into a more sustainable rhythm.

Little pocket rocket Pam nipped past me through the first gate as I said “Easy Tiger,” to Malcolm in his furry tiger suit. I managed to overtake her again out under the trees and then she nipped back through at Tove’s gate back onto the moor.

Pam kept me digging in and fighting all the way through to somewhere around the 3k marker. I caught her, she dropped back. Then pulled level and I pushed on. We kept cat and mousing like this, unspoken until she finally made it stick. But I kept her in sight as I turned at the back of the museum.

I caught up with another girl on the rough ground and gave her some encouragement as I passed. I felt good, running hard but not straining at my limits. Today was just about a good run, enjoying it.

Through the 4k gate and I could hear a jingling coming along behind. It was a runner dressed as Noddy who joked with me as he passed and pointed to another regular runner dressed as an American Indian today.

Into the last section and for me, the home run. Trying to ease out a little more from my legs, Pam just in focus a little ahead, but I know I have that sprint finish. At the last turn I passed a runner in an orange club vest – another one I recognise who normally overtakes me at around 3-4k. Today it was my turn. I could hear him and his mate encouraging each other on over the last few hundred metres or so, but I was determined they weren’t coming past me and I kicked on.

Powering down the final straight, not quite at my full sprint, but attacking from a lot further past, I sensed a couple of runners were trying to keep with me. But my focus was on the finish and a little dot in pale blue that was Pam. I overtook her in the last few metres and was able to give a traditional Hawaiian shaka wave over the finish line. I stopped my watch at 25:30 and suspected I was a bit slow in hitting the buttons.

The official line: 25:28 – so very consistent and I wasn’t absolutely going guns out. So I am very happy with that. I was 24th lady out of a field of 227 and 1st in my age category! And best of all there was a huge spread of cakes and goodies to enjoy afterwards.

Suitably refreshed and after a quick change in the car, I went back to Edinburgh Bikes. I spent over an hour and a half going over my choices and took a couple of the bikes out for a longer ride, trying to bear in mind all the advice my friends had given me. I had a three-way text conversation going on with Peter, Lesley and Al at one point.

That’s real friendship – when someone buts into your Saturday afternoon to ask about bikes and you answer. Thanks guys – you’ve been brilliant.

New bikeTo cut a lengthy process short – I bought the red one. The racier one. So there’s absolutely no truth in the rumour that I bought the one that matches my tri suit.

But she’s a beauty and road ready with clippy pedals. I just need to buy myself some clippy shoes to go with them. Oh and a very strong lock. Because she’s stolen my heart already and I’m just longing to take her on our first adventure.

Home and quick shower, change and turnaround before heading out to our friend’s farm for a farm supper. It was a bit of an event with customers from their organic box scheme getting a tour of the farm, to see the animals and learn a bit more about how our friends Lee and Beth raise them and the vegetable crops.

It was lovely to see the cows who were surprisingly chilled out at a field full of people. And I caught up with the little calf I saw take its first steps.

After Lee’s demo in the butchery, Beth dished out a fine feast of roast lamb pork red cabbage, new potatoes and salad. Followed by rhubarb and ginger cake with creme fraiche and homemade rhubarb jam. We eat very well in our house thanks to the hard work on this farm. And Gary just loves spending time there helping out and looking after the animals.


So to Sunday and two very important things to fit in today – going to see my first open water triathlon to cheer on some friends and a long run (the first on my plan as I build up to the Northumberland Coastal and Great North Run) .

It was cold, grey and overcast as I approached a busy field full of cars at the QE2 country park. Anyone competing would have been there way before me. I made my way to the lake to see a group in yellow swim caps about to enter the water, learning that this was the second wave of the swim and the first lot were already over the other side.

I felt that sense of trepidation and ‘oh my goodness, that looks cold’ as they got into the water and wondered how I’d feel if that was me. I’d like it to be one day. But step by step, little by little.

I wanted to see the start. Swimmers bobbing around between two gigantic buoys. A loud horn and they were off. It didn’t look too scrum-like from the banks as the swimmers were well spread out. But it was amazing how quickly and easily they got into the crawl.

On the other side of the lake I could see a line of swimmers in blue caps heading back, far more stretched out. So I walked over to see them starting to come out of the water and spotted a couple of faces I recognised, including my good friend and PT, Ian.

I watched a little longer, watching swimmers peeling off goggles, swim caps and reaching for wet suit zippers as they headed for transition. Then I moved around to see some of them coming out on their bikes. That’s when I caught site of Peter about to head off on his ride. It really helps when you can recognise tri suits!

This was a para-triathlon event too, so there were a couple of tandems and some hand bikes. And one amazing guy who was riding with one arm. Must have incredible balance.

The last lady out on her bike was nearly taken out by the first rider back through and then it was a flurry of activity and varying degrees of flying dismounts as the bikers returned. Clunk the pedals and shoes on the ground, rotate your legs like road runner and try your best not to fall over seemed to be the order of the day as some of them absolutely flew through.

A quick dash round to see riders turn to runners out of the transition area and around the lake for two laps. That gave me a good chance to take a few more photos and spot Stuart also out for the day.

It was cold and chilly to be a spectator, so goodness only knows what it felt like to get out of a cold lake, onto a bike and then head off on a 5k run. But everyone seemed to be enjoying it. There were lots of smiles and shout outs from the spectators and an enthusiastic MC calling out numbers and names as the triathletes came around to finish over the blue timing mats.

It was great to see Ian after his race. He is the reason I first started to consider this crazy sport and the person who’ll help me get in great shape to do it.

And then absolutely amazing to see Peter grinning after completing his first open water triathlon. Real demons battled and beaten today. I had no doubt you could do it. And I feel very privileged to have your support and encouragement for my own efforts.

Suitably inspired, I headed back home and got ready for my own run. The plan said 7 miles at 9 min mile pace and that’s what I did. Steady out on my old familiar route to the lighthouse and back. It was cool and breezy, but I felt quite relaxed and easy, just glancing at my watch to set the pace and checking to see I didn’t drift too far from it.

Once I turned at the half way point the wind seemed to die down and I felt like I had eased into my running groove. I still have more running to do next week and a race I really want to do well in. But today I told myself to keep it simple – just focus on the run I’m on.

And, I know this remark will come back and bite me, but when did it become so easy to breathe at 9 minute mile pace? Is that because I’m more commonly pushing for 8 minute pace over shorter distances? Or just because I was ramped up and ready to go after watching the triathlon? Whatever the reason, it was a lovely reminder of how far I have come and the longer term improvements I work for.

And on my run I had time to think about all my friends who do these amazing things. Wondering how you were getting on in Stirling, on the Hardmoors, at Allendale or just resting and getting well again.

I make no apologies for another epic blog. The dull old office drones may moan about a grey and damp weekend, but mine was full of colour, excitement, friendship (and chocolate brownies). Not a bad way to spend a couple of days.

Stats and stuff:
Parkrun 5k 25:28
1) – 1m – 8:31(8:31/m)
2) – 1m – 8:07(8:07/m)
3) – 1m – 8:23(8:23/m)
4) – 0.07m – 27(7:14/m)

7 mile run 1:02:43
1) – 1m – 9:06(9:06/m)
2) – 1m – 8:54(8:54/m)
3) – 1m – 9:10(9:10/m)
4) – 1m – 8:54(8:54/m)
5) – 1m – 8:47(8:47/m)
6) – 1m – 8:56(8:56/m)
7) – 1m – 8:53(8:53/m)