Triathlon training in sunny Scotland

Saturday, sunshine, blue skies and a trip north, over the border to Scotland for the first tri day of the year, hosted excellently as ever by my fab tri buddy Lesley.

These often happen midweek, so despite it being the weekend, I still felt like I was skiving off as I put my bike in the car and drove north on a practically traffic free road, casting admiring glances at the calm blue seas off the coast. I must have had about three complete changes of outfit packed in my huge tri bag, in anticipation of any kind of weather, but it was very kind to us.

Four runners in red tops
On the run with my tri buddies (Photo Bob Marshall)

With me, Lesley, Al, Lucy and Cat  all arrived safely, we headed off for a pool swim at Haddington. With the pool shortened, it was a good chance for me to try out some of my coaching and Swim Smooth tips and to suggest drills that would help improve the efficiency of swimming strokes. It’s amazing what you can learn from watching other people swim and see all the different styles and learning techniques.

I had them doing doggy paddle, sculling, torpedo push offs and swim backs, and I did some 6-1-6 and catch up drills using a High 5 tube, which I passed from hand to hand. It worked very well, but I’d forgotten how hard those drills are. I need to make sure I spend a bit of time doing them.

I did get a bit of a swim in, but no great distance. It was just lovely to be in such a bright, airy pool. And reminds me I do need to make time for my swimming as I do enjoy it.

After a bit of a refuel with flapjack from the cafe, it was back to base and change into cycling gear for the main part of the day. Much faffage and discussion about how many layers and pumping up of tyres, but we were soon on our way out onto the quiet and largely traffic free roads around North Berwick.

Cyclists ready to roll
No one gets dropped on a tri day (Photo Bob Marshall)

The best thing about these rides is that no one gets left behind. We all enjoy a nice cycle, stop and regroup at junctions, push on and fall back when we need too. This time everyone seemed to be at a similar level of cycling and it was very pleasant just moving along, spotting swathes of yellow daffodils, passing a couple of horses and chain-ganging down a lovely smooth stretch of road.

Last time I rode this route, we got hit by a horrendous head wind in the last 3 miles, which was so bad one of our party actually got off and walked. It wasn’t quite so bad this time, but still tricky enough to slow us down and send me rattling down to my lower ring. I can still feel a flush in my cheeks and on my forehead today from the wind burn!

But we all made it back in one piece and us girls did a quick change around for a bit of a run while Bob took some great photos and Al made sure we’d have soup ready for our return. It was great all running together in our Fetch tops and we stuck together for one lap of the trail loop and did our best Runner’s World pose at the end for another photo.

How could 4pm have come round so quickly? It felt like we’d only just got started, but we were all hungry and soon devouring soup, bread, spreads and cake and flapjacks. Yum!

They say time flies when you’re having fun. It certainly did for me. Even cycling, which I usually get bored with in less than an hour, felt relatively easy and carefree. The chat flowed, the sun shone and it was all over too soon. But, as always, it was just one of the best days.

To tri or not to tri – my top 5 reasons to do a triathlon

Are you thinking about doing a triathlon? Or is it something you think you could never do? I’ve recently been talking to a lot of people about the challenge and excitement of taking on triathlon. So here are my top 5 reasons to take up triathlon. Plus, my answers to the top 5 excuses people give to avoid it.

1) It’s a challenge.
Triathlon’s a fairly new event, that started in the 1970s in Hawaii and was first included in the Sydney Olympics in 2000. If you’re already quite sporty, it’s something a bit different from the usual marathon, half marathon or fun run. If you’re not already sporty, it’s a great challenge to train and get fit for and you might find you’re really good at it. Four time Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington did her first triathlon aged 27 and went professional aged 30.

Me and my friends about to head off on a bike ride
Cycle training with friends

2) It’s fun and friendly.
Triathletes know that everyone starts somewhere and are usually keen to encourage others to give it a try. Going from swim to bike to run might seem like it involves a lot of kit and rules and regulations, but actually it’s all pretty straightforward and if it’s your first event, marshals are there to help you. I’ve had shouts of encouragement from competitors and great support from spectators and volunteers at the triathlons I’ve done, and I know I’m not alone in that.

3) It’s honest.
The only person you’re really competing with in triathlon is yourself. Whether your goal is just to get to the finish line, to beat a time limit or qualify for a World Championship race, everyone has their strengths and weaknesses in triathlon. The challenge is to be the best you can be on the day. Often races have staggered start times or lapped courses, so it may not be clear who’s ahead of you. And with the distances involved, you’ll often find you’re out racing on your own. So it’s a mental as well as a physical challenge. At the elite end of the sport, triathlon is trying hard to maintain a clean, no doping image. When drugs cheat Lance Armstrong wanted to play, the authorities said no.

4) It’s great for all round fitness.
A lot of people come to triathlon after injury, particularly runners who are dispatched to the pool or bike to try and maintain fitness without putting pressure on knee and ankle joints. With triathlon, pretty much anything you do counts as training. You need physical and mental fitness, endurance, strength, speed and skill.

5) Three times the sport = three times the buzz.
For an adrenaline junkie like me, a triathlon offers three shots. Each section comes with its own triumphs. A bad swim, doesn’t mean a bad race – make it up on the bike. Tough bike section – hammer the run. And the feeling when you do cross the finish line? It’s amazing.

Excuses people give for not trying triathlon

1) I can’t swim/I only do breaststroke
If you really can’t swim, then learn. It could save your life. Seriously, swimming is a great life skill and it’s great exercise too, easy on the joints but a great workout. And yes, it can be hard to learn, but it’s well worth it. As for those of you who only do breaststroke – there’s no rule that says you have to do front crawl in a tri. Most people do front crawl because it’s faster and less work for your legs which have to cycle and run afterwards, but breaststroke is perfectly acceptable. It’s my chosen stroke if I get into a bit of a fluster in the swim.

Me on my bike at Ashington triathlon
I did my first triathlon on an ancient, heavy mountain bike

2) I don’t have a road bike
Now there are triathletes who will spend a huge amount of money on the latest go faster carbon fibre, streamlined machines that weigh less than a bag of sugar. But you don’t have to. I did my first tris on an ancient old mountain bike. It actually made it really easy for me to ride confidently and I got loads of encouragement from the racers as they sped past. I do now have a lovely road bike, but I guarantee it’ll not be the most expensive piece of kit in transition. My attitude has always been to have a decent bike, but to really put the work in on the engine.

3) It’s expensive
Triathlon can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be. Like all sports there’s always a new fancy bit of kit, gadget or gizmo that promises to shave seconds off your best time, but really you only need a few basics of a bike, helmet, running shoes and something that you’re comfortable to wear to swim, bike and run in. For open water swimming, you may need a wetsuit, but you can often hire these for a day, week or season. I actually hired my wetsuit for a season with an option to buy at the end.

Entries to triathlon races may cost a bit more than your local club’s 10k run, but that’s because they usually need more people and kit to deal with safety, marshals, transition, timing and sometimes even road closures. Most races are a similar price to some of the big organised run events in the UK, so pick a target event and take up the challenge.  Local clubs are always eager for volunteers to help out on race day, which can be a good way to get involved and see what goes on. You may even get free or reduced price entry to another event as a thank you.

4) I’m too fat/too unfit/ too old/ I’ll come last
If you feel fat and unfit, what better way to change that than to add some exercise to your lifestyle and start training? Having a goal or event to aim for is a great motivator to get out there. You don’t have to start with an Ironman, there are triathlons of varying distances, including novice or super sprint events that give you something to aim for, but ease you in gently.

If you’re worried about how you’ll look –  don’t. The truth is, hardly anyone looks their best  in a tri suit. But no one cares about your flabby bits. Everyone’s too focused on swim, bike, run to give it a second thought. And if you don’t fancy a tri suit, you can throw on a T-shirt and shorts before the bike.

You’re never too old to tri. The world’s oldest triathlete is Arthur Gilbert, still going strong at 91 and showing it’s a great way to stay healthy. There are often a great range of age categories at races and some will even award prizes for different age groups, so getting older doesn’t have to mean you’re at a disadvantage.

If you think you’ll be way behind the rest of the field, remember, the only person you’re really racing in triathlon is yourself. For races with staggered or wave starts, you may not even realise you’re flat last, and even if you are, I can guarantee you’ll get a bigger cheer that the racing snake who came through in first place. So give it a go, what do you have to lose?

5) I’ll ruin my hair/make up/ get dirty
In triathlon, no one cares what you look like (see point 4 above). If you’re a slave to your appearance, and never seen without your hair out of place, then maybe this isn’t the sport for you. But ask yourself this. Would you rather look great or be great? Triathlon is a great way to shape a fit and healthy body from the inside out. You can build speed, stamina and self esteem from challenging yourself to do something amazing and unforgettable.

Thanks to new and wannabe triathletes  HannahGareth and Carrie who inspired me to write this blog post.

Find out more about triathlon events and clubs in the UK

Triathlon England
Triathlon Scotland
Welsh Triathlon
Triathlon Ireland

The world’s best tri club

The very best and most unexpected benefit of my decision to get fit five years ago is the friends I have made through races, social runs and through the online forum of Fetch Everyone. Like all online communities, it has its ups and downs and it isn’t right for everyone, but generally I’ve found it very friendly, supportive and useful. And the Fetchies I’ve met in real life are some of the loveliest people I know.

Me and my friends in our Fetch running gear
Ready for a ‘club’ run – pic by Bob Marshall

It’s how I got to know Lesley, my fabulous tri buddy who lives in Scotland. We hit it off instantly, exchanging messages about our swimming progress and keeping track of each other’s training. We eventually met up with a massive hug at Edinburgh parkrun and  have been firm friends ever since.

She very kindly hosts a few tri training days every year, where a few of us meet up at her house and go swim, cycle and run in the lovely countryside around North Berwick. It’s a two hour drive for me, but when you know you’re going to have the best fun and a decent training day, it’s really nothing to make the journey.

I loaded up my car with bike, wetsuit and an assortment of kit for all weathers. My Polo is great for getting in all my tri gear in. I just drop the back seats and take the front wheel off my bike and it all fits perfectly. And yes, I did choose the colour of my car to match my bike! I’d just had it serviced the day before, so we purred along nicely.

The sun was shining and it grew brighter and brighter as I headed north, singing along with the radio, glancing at blue skies, blue seas and bright yellow fields as I escaped to the borders.

Soon I was welcomed with hugs and jaffa cakes and talking ten to the dozen, with Lesley, her son Al, his girlfriend Michelle and Charlie who was about to take the plunge on her first open water swim as we headed to the beach.

Now, I’m spoiled for beaches. I have three beautiful sandy stretches within walking distance of my house, and even more a short bike or car ride away. I got married by the most beautiful beach in the world and can still hear the roar of the waves on the moonlit night before if I close my eyes and listen.

But Gullane is up there in my top ten and after we’d donned wetsuits and posed for a photo to prove how crazy we were, we dived, plodged or just fell into the waves. The shock of the cold took my breath away, but I was laughing and exhilarated, rather than scared and anxious. A few minutes bobbing around, getting used to the movement of the water and I was soon off and swimming.

It was a headfreeze the first couple of times I put my head in and I was thankful of the shallow sandy bay that meant we could stop and gather our breath and regroup at regular intervals. But gradually there was more and more swimming and I was loving it.

Buoyed up by the salt water, buffeted into the shallows, there was no thought of technique or pickiness over swim style, I just felt natural joy moving through the water, aware of the sea playing with me, tossing me back into the shallows or walloping me with a big wave and filling my throat with salt water when I got too cocky.

Was it cold? After the first few minutes, I didn’t feel it. With the sunshine and blue sky, I was buoyant and giddy. With friends around me, I felt safe and happy. I couldn’t have had a better start to my open water season.

After about half an hour in the water we dried off and enjoyed a lengthy transition back to at Lesley’s house to meet Ann and Les, change into cycle gear, eat bananas and jaffa cakes and pose for another group photo with our bikes before the magnificent seven rode out into the sunshine. Lesley’s husband Bob is a fantastic photographer, so it was great to have him capture our sunny day. You can see some pictures on his facebook page.

For once, the bike felt easy, flying through the country lanes, clicking through the gears. Even into the wind, I felt strong, not sapped and defeated. Towards the end of the ride, there was a busier bit of road (though nothing like the traffic I face at home) and we decided to split into two groups to ride single file. I was delighted to be put in the lead group with Al and Ann. I’ve never been in the fast group on the bike before! We got a mini chain-gang going with a few blasts of speed.

A mini sprint for a flying finish and back in for another quick change of shoes and out for a little run around the fields. My legs had already done a good bit of running this week, so I wanted to go easy, but it felt good to be out in shorts and sunglasses, running side by side with Lesley.

As I eased into the change from bike to run, I felt free and easy and without a word we seemed to pick up the pace. Looking at the splits much later, we managed a sub 5 min km – so we were by not dawdling! Lesley’s had a bit of trouble with her achilles recently, so I was really happy that she could run so well without injury.

The short run done,  we turned indoors and descended on bowls of soup, bread and a magnificent choice of cakes like a hoard of hungry triathletes, with plenty of second helpings. Even three or more conversations at once didn’t stop us clearing the table in alarmingly short order.

Too soon, it was time to go and I drove back into darkening clouds and rain showers. But my head was full of happy memories from the best tri club in the world.

The best days are tri days

A week day off work is a pretty good start. When the forecast predicts fair weather, no snow or wind and you drive north under spring blue skies with the radio on, you know it’s going to be good. When you hear the new David Bowie track, it feels pretty special. And when you’re spending it doing tri stuff with Lesley and Al it’s a great day.

Brownies baked and bike loaded along with kit for all weathers, it was a relaxed drive up the A1 and I was soon at Lesley’s place ready for a catch up, jaffa cakes and then meeting Al and his friend, Michelle.

First stop was the pool for a swim and we commandeered a lane to ourselves. After an initial couple of lengths where I set off too fast, I chilled out, relaxed and pretty much stopped counting, just going with the flow, stopping and starting after 100m or so, trying out a couple of drills and watching the swim styles.

It was nice to take advantage of a 25m pool though (I usually swim in a 20m) and I did at least one 400m set, but it was a decidedly leisurely swim and I was surprised at the distance recorded on my Garmin, even allowing for a couple of discrepancies where I didn’t touch the wall because the lane was busy.

My stomach had been rumbling in the pool and it seemed a long time since breakfast, so a quick bite of cake, and a banana scoffed as we were getting bike ready filled the gap for a short cycle round to see Lesley’s lovely mum for more cake and chat.

Refreshed, we set out again for a longer ride this time. A mercifully flat route for those of us lacking bike miles this year and an easy pace along the country roads, past a wood full of snow drops and in the distance the blue sea and the big rock.

Easy chat and taking it in turns to ride up front, together and in different groups. It didn’t matter that I fell behind on anything like an incline, I was never too far away and as the ride went on I felt very happy to be on my lovely road bike, clicking easily through the gears and enjoying the experience.

When the question about carrying on a bit further or heading home came up, we all made noises to keep going, it felt so nice to be out. But at the turn around, I began to regret it slightly as we faced into the wind and hit a couple of uphills. With shoulders and back tensing and the back of my knees tightening, I was starting to feel weary on this, my longest bike ride of the year to date. But there really wasn’t too much further to go and the up was rewarded with some down and a nice little burst of speed towards the end.

Once off the bike and changed into running shoes, any aches and pains were forgotten in the pleasure of trotting up the road beside Lesley. We’d said nice easy pace and kept chatting throughout, but managed 9 min mile pace, which is a bit more than easy, especially after a long bike ride,

The day had galloped away with us and it was half past four by the time we sat down to refuel with soup and bread and the most glorious light and moist chocolate and beetroot cake. What a feast!

I didn’t want to leave, but time marching on and a call from Gary to check I was okay prompted me to pack up. Under darkening skies, a bounteous moon rise lit the way along the coastal roads and back home after a brilliant day.

Recovering and reviewing plans

I’m happy to say that after a couple of days of treating my ankle with ice and wearing a compression bandage, the swelling has almost gone and I’ve been able to walk around on it quite easily, although I’ve done my best to keep of it as much as I can.

But managing to get from my car to my desk and from my desk to where I need to be at work without too much of a limp is a long way from the kind of active lifestyle I normally enjoy. So it’s been a bit of a week off from training.

And that’s been hard at times, particularly on Thursday morning when I had to cancel my regular PT session. It’s been part of my life for so long and I so enjoy doing it, that I felt a bit bereft without my usual dose of exercise induced endorphins and encouragement from Ian. I’m afraid I was a bit sulky and low that day.

I am trying to be sensible and not make the mistake of rushing back into my usual activities too quickly and risking compounding an injury that I hope will clear up in a couple of weeks. But it feels like a waste of these splendid autumn days, and so I’m looking at things I can do.

I tried walking on the treadmill at the gym and a short swim on Wednesday night, not really enough effort to raise my heart rate, but I felt the effect enough to know that I shouldn’t push it to do any more.

Even swimming put a bit of a pull on my ankle, so when I went back to the pool on Friday morning, I took my pull buoy with me so I could eliminate my legs and swim mainly with my arms. A pull buoy is just a kind of float. In this case I stuck it sort of between my knees to keep my legs up without the need to kick with them. It’s a good tool to use to help you concentrate on parts of your swim technique, so I used it to focus on my head position in the water.

As I can’t run so much at the moment, it will be good to work on my swimming for the next triathlon season. A very good swimmer on Fetch Everyone has sent me some ideas for exercises I can practise in the pool to improve my stroke.

It may sound strange, but I am missing the hot sweaty buzz that I get from a good cardio session such as a fast paced interval run. Particularly as before I hurt my ankle I was just starting a new programme with a lot of this kind of activity in it. And if I want to keep my fitness up, I need to do something that will get my heart rate up. So I’m going to go back to doing some sessions on the indoor rowing machine and bike. They should also fit in well with next year’s triathlon plans.

Today I volunteered at parkrun and enjoyed meeting up with my friends, shouting encouragement and taking photos of the runners on Newcastle’s Town Moor. It’s such a friendly and social event and today was simply a lovely day to be outdoors.

I also picked up an exercise that I haven’t done since the beginning of the year, trying out a pilates class at my gym. It was a good test of my flexibility and core strength, so I’ll try to make time to continue some of those exercises at home too.

I’ve been making progress with my Level 2 gym qualification too. I’ve now worked my way through all the anatomy and physiology sections and am starting to learn about working with clients. It’s really interesting stuff. Luckily I’ve had such great experience with my PT, Ian from Inspire Fitness that a lot of it seems like second nature or common sense to me and it would just be the way I’d do things. But I want to take my time to take it all in and not take anything for granted.

I need to do a bit of revising, but I hope to take my first assessment in anatomy and physiology in the next few weeks.

All this is helping me keep a positive note on my injury as it’s really not the end of the world and people have far worse to deal with. But when you love what you do, like I do, you miss it when things change. Reading the notes on changing behaviours and setting goals for clients as part of my studying today made me realise I need to do a few of these things myself . And actually changing the way I do things could be good in the long term, as working on my cycling and swimming skills will really help me improve my performance during next year’s triathlon season.

Wonders and delights

Let’s start with a perfect English summer’s day. Blue skies, white fluffy clouds, green fields, golden sands, azure seas and driving north listening to the radio, thrilling to the build up to this magnificent day.

Then add in the bubbly brilliance of a best buddy, who it’s so easy to spend time with, who just fits like we’ve known each other forever.

Give us a van, a packet of jaffa cakes, a couple of bikes, some wetsuits, a fair bit of faffing and a mini road trip to a perfect, crystal clear lake surrounded by trees.

Throw in a swim in the sunshine, a few moments getting tangled in the weeds, then add in a good handful of growing confidence and breathing out underwater and not wanting to get out when we were done.

Swirl in a cycle round country lanes on fast smooth roads, not too hilly, but a good bit gusty until the glorious downhill, wind behind our backs return leg.

Faff about with a lengthy transition to pick up supplies and a brief photoshoot on the lawn before rounding out with a token run through grassy fields with the rain spattering our backs as we neared the finish.

Feed with copious amounts of soup, bread, cake and chat. Load up with books and hugs and send home happy.

I had a brilliant Friday tri training with my good friend Lesley in North Berwick. We always do have the best of times together. And it’s so nice to be able to do all that and it not feel like training – just fun.

I was home in plenty of time to watch the Olympic opening ceremony too. You may have noticed I’m a bit of an Olympics nut, so there was no cynicism here, but it went beyond my expectations.

I sort of thought I might have a tear in my eye, but I didn’t expect to find myself laughing out loud, gasping in wonder and marvelling at the mechanics of all the people, props, films, lighting, dancing, music – the whole shebang.

I loved the story telling and the fact that it wove in literature from Shakespeare to Peter Pan, that it reflected the darkness as well as the razzmataz. I loved the mini story reflecting the digital age and tapping into a juke box of great music. I loved the dancing and the cycling doves and the fact that so many ordinary people took part, that it made it a bit chaotic, and all the more joyous for not being precise and regimented.

I was also touched that it was brave enough to mix in quiet and thoughtful moments, to reflect the people who weren’t there to see this. They always play Abide with Me at the start of the Great North Run and it’s a tear-filled moment. Emile Sande took that melody and words to a new level of grace. So simple, so underplayed.

And I liked the way young people were involved all the way through right up until that final climactic moment of surprise and lighting the flame, which was, for me, absolutely perfect.

The best day off EVER

If you could bottle days, Wednesday would be one for the store cupboard.

At the weekend I heard my Scottish pals were planning some tri training. The weather forecast was excellent, I’ve finished a big project at work and I still have plenty of holiday time to take. So I asked, and I got an indulgent Wednesday off. Yippee!

Ridiculously excited, I woke before the alarm clock. My bags were already packed with a selection of training gear, so I downed my porridge, loaded up my bike and hit the road. Shades on, Beach Boys on the radio, heading north into the sunshine along beside the bright blue sea.

Me and my friends sitting on a giant anchor
Four go triathlon mad in North Berwick

I rocked up, first to arrive and began demolishing the stockpile of jaffa-cakes (well breakfast was over two hours gone by then), talking ten to the dozen with Lesley, making a fuss of Jed and Finn and waiting for Al and Ann to arrive.

It was great to be able to give Ann a massive hug and tell her in person how proud and inspired I was by her amazing run in the London marathon (finish time 3:09:00).  And there were big hugs for Scotty too, dressed for the summer sunshine.

A scramble for swimming kit, and off to the pool with Lesley’s son Al. I’d had a weird kind of nervous swim at tri club on Saturday, so I wanted to get a decent session in. It really is a lovely pool, so bright and until we got there, very quiet. I decided to take advantage of swimming in a 25m pool and get a 750m set in.

A few warm up lengths and I was feeling the effort in my latissmus dorsi. A reminder that I’d done a tough weights session on Monday night. But I warmed up, slowed my stroke down and made my way through 30 lengths. After that I was pretty beat, but still had time to learn how to swim around a buoy with a backstroke turn.

Then it was back to change into shorts and T-shirts and pose for photos with the dogs, ready for our bike ride. But not before I’d nearly come a cropper, sliding down the stone steps on my cleats. I thought for a moment I might have bumped my back, but I landed on my well padded behind and was none the worse for my muppet moment.

A scoot onto the bike and off down the country roads, skimming by yellow fields, dashing through dappled sunlight on tree lined lanes. Pushing up a steep hill and feeling much more confident about dropping down the gears. Finding my place at the back of the pack, but just happy to be staying in range of cyclists with far more miles in their legs.

Me and my friends about to head off on a bike ride
Cycles at the ready

Catching and talking to Lesley and Ann at times on the ride. Realising I’m keeping up the pace and it’s not too hard. Ann planting some inspirational thoughts in my head as I realise our thought processes about races and goals are really very similar even if her turn of speed seems supersonic to me. And loving the sound effects as we drop and float down hill, faster than I’ve ever been on my road bike.

A couple of sprints and a big silly grin on my face, cycling in the sunshine, powering through the pedals. Then I fall back for a while and emerge at a junction to see Ann down in the middle of the road laughing. A bit of a scrape, but no big harm done.

I’m not content with my pre-ride cleat slide and suffer a similar moment of unclipping left and falling right at another junction. Though it has to be said, my fall is not quite so dramatic as Ann’s. But like her, I’ve cramped the top of my right calf as I’ve stuck to a pedal. And my bike has another scrape. Sorry, Alice, but you knew the score when we got together. Adventures with me scratch the surfaces and get deep under your skin.

Thankfully we avoid any more muppet moments, even as we climb aboard a 6 foot anchor for more silly photos.

Cautious of my twingy calf, I drop down the gears and spin towards the back of the pack. My usual rides are around 20-25k and this will be more like 30, but it’s never felt less like training and more like fun.

Me and my friends in our Fetch running gear
Ready for a ‘club’ run

Another transition scramble into trainers and we’re off away up the road for a run. Al at first beside me could probably walk faster than the pace I’m managing with little steps, nursing a twitchy leg up the slight incline. Lesley encourages him to join speedy Ann and they soon kick up their heels ahead.

I struggle to find my feet with the little steps that ease off the bike aches. When we turn off road through the fields I even walk a little. It is a glorious, hot day and the green shoots refresh my legs even as I struggle to keep them moving. It’s been a long time since breakfast.

I pick up the run again and catch up as we scoot down hill through the grass. A couple more walking breaks, but I do keep on moving and even find my legs for a while back on the road again.

We inhale the usual delicious spread of soup, bread, spreads and cakes, talking ten to the dozen, laughing, sharing stories, plans and thinking of other friends we’d love to have with us today.

The day is passing in a blur. Scotty has to go and I know I have a drive ahead of me, so freshen up with a quick shower before I too hit the road for a sunlit drive home.

I don’t think I’ve ever managed so much training in one day. But how can you call a day in the sunshine, enjoying adventures with friends training? It was just fantastic fun and I thank the lifestyle that I’ve grown into that allows me to do all that.

I have been longing to blog this fabulous day. But the truth is that I don’t have to pin it down in words to hold it in my mind forever. I have always loved my tri days with my Scottish pals, but that really was a jewel of a day. I drove home, happy and fulfilled, full of joy and confidence.

Thankful once again of the steps and pathways that have brought me to where I am right now. Of the catalyst that got me running, of the mad ideas placed in my head that become reality, of the challenges taken and achieved.

It got me thinking about other days in my store cupboard. There’s the big jar at the back that holds the moon over the ocean on the night before my wedding. There’s a voice I know as well as my own, singing my name. There are crowds, and high fives, and sweat and rain and orange segments and red and white streamers in the sky.

And in the past four years there are many new friends. People I would never have met if I hadn’t started running.  People who have been part of moments I treasure. People I consider my best friends. People I hope will always be in my life now.