London Triathlon

This weekend saw the 2017 AG Bell London Triathlon take over the streets of London. It’s an event I’ve raced several times, I’m always been drawn to it because of the competitiveness of the racing and the brilliant support you get from the crowds. It’s billed as the largest triathlon in the world! When you arrive at the transition area inside the ExCel Centre in North London you can see why – there are rows upon rows of bikes racked up and ready to go for the vast number of competitors taking part in the triathlon over the weekend.

Us elites were off at 2pm on the Sunday. Weather looked promising; not too cold or hot, dry and calm. 2012 Olympian Lucy Hall and Australian athlete Tamsyn Moana-Veale were among the competitors. The race started in the water at the London docklands, a messy affair with a lot of flailing arms and legs. I got off to a poor start which meant I swam most of the 1500m solo, coming out of the water 60s down on the lead – which meant I had some chasing to do on the bike! Moana-Veale and I joined forces on the first lap of the bike and worked well together to chase down the leader Lucy Hall. By the third lap of four we had caught Hall up, the three of us continued working hard to ensure we were going into the run with a lead on the chasing pack. By the end of the 40km bike leg we had stretched the lead out to 3 minutes on the chase pack, which gave us a nice cushion to start the run with. The wind started to pick up which meant the three of us had to work together to the run, rotating at the front sharing out the work. This didn’t however last long, after running nearly three laps with the girls I decided to push it on with one mile to go and make a break away. I knew by how I felt I could take the win at this point. In training I practice moments like this, so I knew I was capable of it with how I was feeling. Once I went for it I couldn’t hear anyone coming with me, I stayed focussed, ran strong and aimed for the finish. Once I entered the ExCel where you loop round into the finish I could hear the support from the crowd which hugely helped. It was a great day out securing the win in font of home crowds in London.

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Now I plan to get my head down for a solid block of training leading in to the final few races of the season. Next up for me is the World Triathlon Series in Stockholm on August 27th – a really cool city with a challenging course. The swim will be choppy, the bike is technical (covered in cobbles), which finishes with an undulating run – time to get some serious milage banked!

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European Championships Race Report

This year European Triathlon Championships were held in Kitzbuhel, Austria. The most picturesque venue to hold a race, a beautiful alpine lake with 360 degree Instagram worthy views!

I went into the race as defending champion which means I have race start number 1. This gave me first pick of start position on the pontoon along with prime position in transition.
Last year the Europeans was one of my season highlights, I got in a breakaway, thanks to a team effort I was able to stay away and take the win. This year it was my turn to contribute by making sure my team mates had the best chance to secure another win for Great Britain.

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I had a strong swim hitting the water first and coming out in 6th position, just 15seconds down from the chasing group behind my team mate Jess Learmonth. Out on the bike course I was riding with an athlete from Switzerland we had earmarked as one we didn’t want in the front pack due to her running capabilities. After a few attempts to jump across, the Swiss athlete was just about staying with me each time on every lap. I decided to sit in to let the gap grow out to give my two British teammates up the road a cushion on the run.
With me not chasing, the gap grew to over 2 minutes long where my main focus was onto having a strong run. Out of transition 2 I went straight to the front of the chase pack and pushed on to chase down a bronze medal. Feeling good for the first 4K, the wheels came off and I was cooked! Resulting in a lack of consistency in the last couple of months due to a lingering virus really took it’s toll on me in the last part of the race – you can’t get away with racing for 2 hours at this level when not fully fit.
A frustrating day out personally, however I’m proud with the decision I made, proving I can make constructive decisions under pressure. The outcome we wanted happened leading two of my British team mates to podium – first and second… job done!

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The European Championship weekend is always topped off with the Mixed Team Relay. The newest event to be added to the Olympic timetable – a decision made due to the fast and furious nature of the event that keeps the crowd entertained.
In a nutshell the mixed team relay is raced in teams of 4: 2 Men and 2 Women. Each racing in the order of Girl Boy Girl Boy over a mini triathlon. The distances were 250m swim, 5km bike and 1.8km run. Each leg takes a mere 20 minutes, there’s a lot of chopping and changing off the leader and everyone is flat out from the gun.
I was part of the GB team who finished 5th along with Sophie Coldwell, Doug Roberts and James Teagle. Coming away in the position I did two days before from the Elite Senior Women’s race I felt the mixed team relay was another shot to give it my all for GB that weekend. I went off on 3rd leg, we were in the top 15 on my changeover, however with my use of power and speed I came out the water a place up, took 40 seconds out of the bike course, caught the chase group up on my own and ran us down to fourth place on the run through to James Teagle waiting for me on the pontoon. The mixed team relay is such a great fun way of racing, the crowd really gets involved and it’s a great addition to the Olympic program – so look out for it!!

 

Leeds WTS Race Report

Last weekend the World Triathlon Series stopped off in Leeds for the latest round of fast and furious racing on the world stage.
The atmosphere in Leeds was brilliant, to have the opportunity to race on home soil with that level of support was incredible.
The British girls went into the race with a plan in mind to maximise our ability as a team and hopefully give the crowd something special to watch. Jess Learmonth, Non Stanford and I all lined up knowing we were targeting the same thing and what we needed to do to fulfil that goal in a variety of different scenarios.
Personally I needed to get out of the swim in the front pack if I wanted to have a productive day out. My race in the Madrid World Cup a couple of before suggested I was fully capable of this, however on Sunday I got caught up in some rough moments in the first 100m which ultimately resulted in hyperventilating before the first turn buoy and spending the rest of the swim trying to regain composure and find a way back into the race.
Coming out the water in the second pack, I looked around and realised I was with key athletes we had identified not to work for. This meant my job for the day was now to ‘sit in’ and make them do the work to get back to the front of the race. A frustrating position to be in when the bike is my strongest discipline, but it was necessary for what we were aiming to achieve. That being said the bike course was great to ride- a longish drag of a hill followed by a technical section through narrow streets with high buildings.

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Leeds WTS

On to the run and it was a case of getting to the finish. My chest had tightened up as a result of the hyperventilating on the swim and it became a problem half way through the run. I ended the race in 17th position, my second best World Series result.
Leeds wasn’t my best day out by a long stretch, but there are always positives to take away. I gained confidence the technical bike sessions I’ve been doing are paying off – I felt comfortable through the technical sections of the course.

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Next up is the European Championships on Friday where I’m defending champion. The Championships are being held in Kitzbuhel, Austria which is said to be a beautiful place to spend some time and race a triathlon.

 

A Triathlete’s take on XC

This winter I have taken a slightly different approach to my training. Over the past few years I haven’t done much racing outside triathlon, but this winter season my coach has got me to do some cross country racing as part of my winter training. My local Hampshire league cross country series provides a monthly hard run out, it’s a competitive league, but also gives me the opportunity to race along side the girls I train with throughout the year.

Since taking up triathlon I have found my run fitness and ability has improved as a result of my overall fitness being significantly better. This has given me a lot more confidence to push harder in training and also to put myself on the start line of races.

Racing in a sport that is no longer my primary focus is a nice way to satisfy my competitive instinct throughout the triathlon off season, it has also reminded me how much I love the simplicity of running. There’s very little ‘faff’ at a XC race. You can turn up an hour before the start, go for a jog to warm up, get your spikes on and you’re good to go.

To make up for this lack of physical race preparation I’ve noticed runners like to mentally ‘faff’ an awful lot before a race. Maybe it’s because there’s a lot of processes to focus on before a triathlon, such as checking into the athlete lounge, setting up your bike in transition, getting your wetsuit on etc that means there’s little time to get worked up and lost in your own thought. Or maybe runners are just more neurotic than triathletes? I am often a gal of few words, which means I listen and hear a lot. A warm up jog with a squad of runners before a XC, or even just a training session is brilliant listening. Getting a reason for a sub optimal performance in prior to a race/training session seems to have become a ritual. Woe betide an athlete admits to turning up to a race feeling good, rested and race ready…then there is no reason not to run well!! Why talk yourself out of the race before starting? I just don’t get it – when did it become the ‘done thing’ to let everyone know you feel rubbish before competing against them?

Maybe it’s because I’m focused on the bigger picture of the 2017 triathlon season that I turn up to a XC actually looking forward to racing. It’s a no pressure environment for me, a bit of fun. I’d usually have swam in the morning before going to the race, in my head that means I’m merely well warmed up. It’s a brilliant potential excuse lined up if ever I wanted one – but I would never share it with anyone voluntarily. I don’t care if I’ve swam hard for 2 hours that morning or tapered in to the race, I’m still there to try and win.

For me, there are little tactics involved in a triathlon run – I will run out of second transition and attempt to hold my tempo for as long as possible, then get to half way and attempt to push on. Very rarely would a pack of athletes find themselves in a tactical affair, jogging round for 9km and waiting for a sprint finish burn up.

Contrast this with the start of a cross country race where, from my perspective at least, it feels like a drag race to the first corner. Honestly, my legs can’t handle it – I’m used to 90 minutes of swimming and cycling to warm up before setting off on foot! So there I am mid pack looking like I’m playing the tactical game. I’m not. I’m just winding my legs up.

A triathlon is almost always raced on road, or at least solid ground. Cross country obviously is not. By this time of year the once solid grass has morphed into a sloppy, muddy puddle-fest and the only way to gain any traction is to don a pair of spikes with 15mm pins sticking out the bottom. Having spent the last 3 years predominately running and racing on tarmac, this has taken a little getting used to. But bloody hell is it good fun!!

Now we’re coming up to Christmas I have to hang my spikes up for the season (by this I mean leaving them in the bag I shoved them into after my final race last Saturday). I’ll be focusing on getting ready for the early season triathlons come the New Year and will switch my attention to a couple of road races.

Falling back in to training.

Being a full time athlete can sometimes appear to be all fun and games. After all I get to ride bikes, run and splash around in pools around the world, all day every day. Pro athlete twitter and Instagram accounts are stacked full of pics from training and racing in what look like glamorous locations with all the latest cool kit. There’s no secret that filters work wonders for ones complexion, and they can do the same for the pro athlete lifestyle too! Without wanting sympathy by any means -I do feel fortunate to be in the position I’m in. However, there are also some elements of being an athlete that are tricky.

When the fun of racing has died down and the dark winter days are drawing in, the glamour is out the window for a few months and it’s all about the damp, cold and muddy grind. Personally, I’ve had a tricky few weeks recently. I’m coming off the best season of my life, seven months of continuously racing, to then nothing to aim for until March. I know March will come around soon enough – but I was struggling to adjust. I felt like I needed something to aim for and a reason for the early mornings and late evenings. I momentarily lost my usual enthusiasm and it scared me.

At the end of each season I have a couple of weeks off – standard. Then as I start training again I’ll have a meet with my coaches and discuss both the season just past and look ahead to next year. My 2016 season exceeded our expectations in terms of winning a World Cup and the European Championships in the first half, however I came away feeling disappointed that I wasn’t able to carry that form on through to the end of the summer.

I achieved two world class performances in the space of a few weeks, for some it was a surprise, which then meant I wanted to prove it wasn’t merely a couple of flukes. However, I wasn’t patient enough and instead of listening to Nick and Richard and having an easy couple of weeks mid season I wanted to push on. I was riding a wave of excitement – I was the fittest I’ve ever been and thought I would be able to hold it for a couple more months. I was wrong. Damn, I hate being wrong!

I’m writing this blog in a coffee shop looking out at grey skies and rain, knowing that I’ve got to get out on my bike and ride a long threshold session. I’ve just finished a squad swim and I’m looking forward to a hard run session this evening. This is Tuesday. My Tuesday follows the same routine pretty much every week of the year – excluding rest weeks. There’s not much of the perceived glamour of being a full time athlete when you’re getting down to the nitty gritty of a big training block. Don’t get me wrong – I love it. There isn’t a better feeling than when you get to the end of the day knowing you have finished working for the day.

For me, I really thrive on routine and a structured training week. From now until the start of the season in March I have a solid 5 months of knowing what my goals are and what I need to do in order to achieve them.  For now I need to focus on getting up each day, keeping my head down and getting on with the work. These are the months where I can make a difference to how I perform next season. Each year I review my training and work out whats been going well and what could be improved. A massive area for improvement for me was my strength and conditioning – this winter I’ve introduced a new more focused program to address this, it’s quite refreshing to have something ‘new’ to focus on throughout the week.

Thank you to SauconyUK for making my training easier by providing me with the best training and racing gear.

Thanks for reading,

Indie

The season so far…

My 2016 season has started well, back in March I travelled out to Florida to race a couple of CAMTRI (U.S. Equivalent of European cup level) races. I was using these races mainly as training and practising race craft – transitions, getting used to the bustle of the swim and reminding my body how it feels to race. I came away happy with two 3rd places and felt I was in a good position at the end of the winter and moving into the main part of the season.

My next race- Quarteria ETU cup didn’t go so well. Several mouthfuls of sea water during a rough swim, seasickness and subsequent vomiting of said sea water a lap into the bike meant I had to stop. Dizzy, dehydrated and frustrated was not the desired outcome.

My coach reminded me that, in the past, I’ve had some of my best performances when I’ve got a point to prove. I got back from Portugal annoyed that I wasn’t able to complete the race with a performance that was indicative of the form I’d been showing in training. Without dwelling on the negatives of a bad race, I used it as motivation.

I went to the ITU World Cup in Cagliari, Italy without any pressure or expectation, so when I got in the race and found myself at the front, I thought I may as well go for it. If I blew up on the run, I blew up, but I was definitely going to give it a crack on that hill. I had a 40s gap by the start of the run- I felt strong and actually enjoyed it. I couldn’t believe it- I won my first World Cup. A moment I will always remember.

Next up was the European Championships in Lisbon, it was my first full Olympic Distance race of the year and having deliberately forgotten how tough they are, it was a shock to the system. I have definitely never pushed the bike as hard as I raced with Lucy in Lisbon. Coming out of the water with a gap to the front group meant I Was chasing the pack for the first two laps, caught up, sat in and recovered a bit for half a lap, then attacked after a technical section. I caught Lucy after half a lap and she jumped straight on my wheel, for the remainder of the bike we worked really well together and built a lead of over 90 seconds going into T2. The run was tough, with the pack closing quickly over the last 4km, it got to the stage where I was literally just counting my steps up to 20, over and over, until I got into the stadium. The support on the course from the GB Age Groupers was amazing! There was hardly a quiet part of the course, it definitely made a difference. There were reports of me crying (lol) as I ran down the blue carpet to the finish, I was actually wiping two hours worth of sweat and gel off my face, not tears. Sorry for killing the romance.

It still feels odd that I won the European Championships, without a doubt the race of my life so far. The best part of my success so far this season is going through it with the support of my coaches and training partners. My coach, Nick Anderson, has coached me since I was 13 – over 15 years. He’s supported and believed in me throughout some tough years of illness in my late teens and disillusionment with running in my early twenties. Then the suggestion of trying a different focus in 2013 was the best decision we made. Having Nick there at both Cagliari and the Europeans makes it extra special -Thanks Boss!

Richard is probably the guy who gets the most grief from me. He’s swam with me pretty much every day for the last 3 years. My swim has improved a lot during that time thanks to Rich’s patience and perseverance with me. Even when I’m grumpy and frustrated by my self perceived lack of progress he is still there, lightening the mood. Sorry for all the abuse, mate.
I’m looking forward to the rest of the season, this weekend I’m racing my first World Triathlon Series race of the year in Stockholm, and in a couple of weeks Hamburg WTS. As I learned last year, WTS is a completely different beast to any of the races I’ve done this year. Last year I had the opportunity to race in Stockholm, Rio and Chicago – it’s fair to say it was a baptism of fire. Although we knew it was going to be tough, and it was – I was no where… we got a lot out of it. The difference between where I was and where I needed to be was made apparent and although we (Nick, Richard and I) didn’t change my training dramatically this winter, we knew that there was plenty of work that needed to be done. I guess I’ll find out this weekend if it’s worked or not.

A year on…

The last time I wrote a blog was over a year ago. I had broken bones and the 2014 season looked like it would be a gloomy one. However after a slow start I achieved most of my pre season (and pre crash) goals, my swim massively improved despite the time off and I was pleased with my overall progress and finishing second in the British Super Series was an indication of my consistency though out the season. My best result was 6th in the Geneva European Cup – something I would never have predicted in the April of last year.
Through the winter I was able to raise my training up another level. I’m stronger and able to cope with a higher volume now I’ve got a couple of seasons under my belt. I stepped the intensity of my swim training up along with biking and running more miles, going into the early season races I was confident in my fitness and was ready to perform well.

‘The best-laid pans of mice and men often go awry’

The first race of my 2015 season was the European Cup in Quarteria, Portugal. I had been out in Portugal for a training camp 2 weeks prior to the race. On the first day of training camp Richard and I went down to the race site to practice the swim start and exits. Having no experience of racing in the sea I was a little anxious. However, after spending some time each day practicing swim starts and riding the waves etc I felt much more relaxed and prepared for the race.
When race day came around there were giant waves, the sea was very rough and I let myself get distracted. My swim was terrible – seasickness and lack of focus was the problem. Usually I spend the entire swim thinking of my technique, I didn’t consider my catch or pressing the water once. Instead I was considering the size of the waves or that I couldn’t focus on the bouys. All my fault, and the race went away from me. After a strong run, I finished 14th – way off my expectation. Lessons learned and experience gained.

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short and sweet Duathlon season

The British Elite ‘Duathlon’ championships were held on very wet and very very windy day at the end of March. With the bike leg cancelled because of the heinous weather conditions we stood on the line for a 10km run. We ran steady for most of the race then raced the last 2.5k lap. I finished second after a sprint with Emma. The result of that earned me selection for the European Duathlon Championships in Alcobendas.
After another brief training camp I headed out to Spain for the championships, not knowing what to expect. The first run was quick, I wasn’t ready for that – and suffered a lot. I nearly didn’t make it to the end of the first run, but as soon as I got on the bike I had a great time. I made up a lot of lost ground and finished the bike in second place. The final run was tough – a very hilly course and lacking any kind of spring in my step I shuffled across the line to finish 3rd. Cracking!! My first championship medal.

Euro Duathlon Celebration

Euro Duathlon Celebration

Back on the triathlon track

After a brief stop over at home to collect my wetsuit and goggles, I hot footed it over to Antalya, Turkey for the next race of the season. There was a little more on the line though – a place at the Rio test event was up for grabs to the top British medal winner.
It was another sea swim – a chance to bury the demons from Portugal. My swim was solid, but a couple of tactical mistakes meant I missed the feet of the front pack and I exited the water about 20 seconds down. I spent the first 10km of the bike chasing to catch the lead pack, once I got there I kept pushing on the front to drag out the gaps.  I finished with the fastest bike split of the day, sweet!  Onto the run, and knowing I needed a podium finish I didn’t want to work too hard over the first 5km, I moved into 3rd place with about 4km to go and maintained my position into the finish. The whole race felt like a composed and controlled effort, which gives me a lot confidence for the rest of the season.
My result in Antalya earned me selection to the team for the Rio test event. A very exciting prospect, but I’m under no illusion that there is a lot of work to do if I want to be competitive at that level. I’m not interested in going to make up the numbers.

In the mean time there are lots of ITU points to be won, rankings to climb and experiences to gain. I’ll be writing a more regular blog as well as race reports, so watch this space for updates on my progress.

On the Mend…

I’ve got plenty of time on my hands, so thought I would write a quick update.  Unfortunately, or fortunately, British hospitals offer far fewer humor moments.  They are really luxurious and efficient compared to their Portuguese counterparts.

After my visit to the fracture clinic on Friday, where it was deemed I didn’t need surgery, I sort out a second opinion.  Not because I didn’t trust the doctor, but because I wanted to be sure the course of treatment was going to result in the best outcome.  Fortunately a close family friend knew the consultant hand surgeon at Basingstoke Hospital, so a few phone calls later and I had an appointment to see him on Wednesday.  However, on Monday, I was on my way up to London with Mum when I got a call from the hospital to say if I could get there imminently I could see Mr Hobby that morning.  I was there in a flash…

He sent me for an MRI scan and made the decision that he needed to operate.  Scarily he told me that if we had left it to heal in the plaster, my bone would have healed bent…glad I went  for that second opinion!! On Monday evening I went into surgery, it went really well and I now have a plate and screws in my radius and a screw holding my scaphoid in one piece.  Bionic woman.  The only blip was being kept in recovery for 3 hours because my heart rate and breathing rate was so low.  They had to call the doctor in, and in my dazed state I reminded them that I was an elite triathlete, and they finally let me go back up to the ward to sleep.

It’s a relief to know that my wrist is now, essentially, fixed.  It’s just a matter of waiting for the wound to heal, and the scaphoid needs to pull itself together.  This week is dedicated to sleeping, and mending myself.  I’ll be able to turbo and start running again next week when I get my temporary cast fitted.  Swimming has been strictly forbidden until my surgery wound is healed – the risk of getting an infection in my bones is just not worth having an extra week or so on dry land.   Having done no training for two weeks, I’m desperate to get back on it. I’m having a new cast fitted tomorrow, so I will then be able to ride my bike – on the turbo – and hopefully be given the green card to run.  Fingers crossed (because I can almost do that now) driving will be allowed too, so I can get out and meet training partners. I’m lucky to have to support of the team at St Mary’s Clinic, and Dr Charlie Pedlar – so even though I’m restricted to the turbo, I’ll be able to get in the lab there and get some solid, effective bike sessions in over the 4 weeks I’ll be in plaster.

I’m determined not to let a broken arm get the better of me.  Once I’m given the all clear to start training again, doing all my rehab, biking and running as much as possible.  By doing my dry land swimming drills I hope to be in the best shape possible when I can get back in the water.  My swimming coach Richard Stannard had a very similar injury last summer, and he managed to finish 5th at the World Aquathlon Championships just a few weeks later.  So I know it’s possible – I’ve seen it be done!!

The most annoying thing is that I haven’t been able to put my bike back together yet.  I really enjoy bike maintenance (weird, I know), and take great care of my bike, so am looking forward to getting it spruced up again.  Even if it is going to be on the trainer for a while.

My brother asked if I will be able to play the guitar when I get my cast removed.  I told him I didn’t see why not.  His response was ‘Good, because you couldn’t before you broke your wrist.’  Thanks Eddy…constructive humor….

Here’s to making the most out of a crappy situation.

A day in the life of a Triathlete.

I’ve been struggling with what to write about in another blog post. I’ve just been training all winter, so nothing interesting to report really. Until Monday. I was 5days into a 2 1/2 week camp in Portugal, coming to the end of a 3 hour ride in the hills around Vilamora, when BANG… my rear tyre blew up on a decent. The wheel locked up and I went over the handlebars, landing on my left wrist, then rolled and skidded along the tarmac on my hip. Lucky really, seeing as 15m away from my final stopping point was a 50m sheer drop. It could have been worse. I’m definitely not writing about this for they sympathy vote, but because the rest of the day was full of moments of comedy, weirdness and all too good not to share.

So, there I am, lying in the road in a tiny Portuguese village. I was riding with fellow cyclist John, who was excellently calm in the situation and called everyone necessary- Thank you!! After a couple of minutes some of local villagers appeared – probably because a bike inner tube blowing up sounds like a gun shot- followed by my screams of ‘oooo ouch, that hurts a bit.’ Must have sounded like someone had been shot. One lady very kindly thought it appropriate to protect my face from the glorious sun beaming into my eyes – so she popped her sun hat over my face. Just to recap – I’m lying in the middle of the road, obviously been involved in a crash, and now my face is now being covered. To anyone passing by it must have looked like I had died!! Classic.

As soon as I stopped my slide along the ground I knew my wrist was broken – it was zig zag shaped. John, in an effort to keep spirits up, tried to reassure that it could just be a bad sprain and really swollen. Only to be corrected by the local Portuguese lady who said ‘no, no it’s definitely broken – look at it.’ Tactful…

I don’t know how long it took, but eventually the Ambulance arrived. They went though all the usual spinal/neck injury checks. Fortunately I managed not to hit my head during my crash, so all ok there. I was picked up and carried/walked to the Ambulance, apparently – I can’t remember the walk, I just remember waking up lying on the ground next to the ambulance. Faint #1 of the day.

On the way to the hospital it was established that I was an elite triathlete, and that my left hip had been scrapped raw, and that I had a hole in my new bike shorts. Yeah – I’d ruined my new bike shorts. Annoying.

I arrived at Faro A and E, was checked in- and transferred from the bed into a wheel chair, given a pair of slippers (seriously…) and left in a waiting room where I must have been the youngest by 30 years. I was in there for nearly 2 hours, not allowed any food or drink and still not given any pain killers. I nearly reached Faint #2 but managed to breath my way through it, before being called for an X-ray. So, rather pathetically I wheeled myself single handedly (quite literally) to the next waiting room.

I should mention that I hadn’t been abandoned by my friends – they had gone back to the hotel to collect my passport and insurance documents etc and were on their way.

So, eventually, my friend Tom arrived with all necessary documentation and talked his way past the ogre-esque security guard. Then the fun really began. We were told to go for an X-ray, guessing our way round the hospital corridors we eventually found it. In I went. I needed to move from wheelchair to X-ray stool. Faint #2. They arranged my arm for X-rays, seemingly with little regard that I needed the X-ray because it was broken and so ‘flipping’ hurt. An inability to manoeuvre was not taken into account until Faint #3 happened mid way through setting up. Eventually got through that and was wheeled into the X-ray results waiting room. Still not allowed any food or drink. However, Tom had smuggled in some contraband water, and ensured I was adequately rehydrated.

This waiting room was like a scene from a comedy/horror/war movie. About 15 injured people with bandages stapled around different parts of their anatomy. Ranging from a guy laid down on a gurney with blood covered face and banged hand. To an Everton fan (I know this due to his attire), with a bandaged foot. Then a lady with the comedic bandage round the forehead. This room was home for another couple of hours, where almost experiencing Faint #4 of the day. I was now definitely hypoglycaemic – it was 5 pm, Id only eaten half a cereal bar since breakfast at 8.30am and I’d done a near 3 hour ride. Not ideal. But then the most surreal moment happened. A nurse (who looked like a cliche of a nurse) appeared at the doorway, announced my name- I identified myself, she walked over to me pointed to my arm and just said “’tis broken.” In a very drool, emotionless way, then just walked out again. What a way to deliver such a bombshell.

Eventually I was taken into the plaster room, here I finally spoke to a doctor about what I had actually done. His diagnosis was a broken Scaphoid, fractured Radius (on the bad side- his words) and a bit chipped off the end of my ulna. Brilliant. Triple whammy. If you’re going to do something, do it well.

So, 6 hours after crashing, still without a sniff of painkillers or, more importantly sugar, I was laid on a bed in the plaster room (which can only be described as a messy school art studio, with plaster of Paris on the floor and walls.). Finally a local anaesthetic was administered, and three doctors started pulling my wrist into the right shape. Then a fourth, and fifth arrived. Each of them grabbing a finger each. Mean while, my whole body is shaking (literally), and I’m being told to relax by the junior doctor. Then he leans over and says “this is definitely going to hurt.”. Bed side manner, just amazing. Tom, meanwhile is trying to distract me by pointing out the meat hook hanging from the ceiling (really), and describing the scene outside the window.

On my way out of getting plastered, a young doctor appeared from nowhere. He asked me if I was ‘the professional triathlete’ and if he could take my pulse. With no energy to question his motives I obliged. I sat there in the wheelchair, while he sat there opposite me, taking my pulse, asking what my testing heart rate was. ’44’ I replied, this obviously impressed him as i got an approving grin and nod. Having taken my pulse, he gave me my arm back with another approving nod, a wink and smile, and disappeared. I’m sure he maybe hadn’t considered I had just exited the torture chamber having had 5 men pulling my broken bones into the right place. Again, couldn’t make it up!

I went back to X-ray, greeted by the same team as before. They were a little kinder with me this time. No more fainting incidents. Just a few jokes that injuries such as mine were a good reason why they didn’t ride bikes. Fair enough. The X-rays showed the plaster and splint were doing their job.

I was free to be discharged- after a visit to the vending machine. Where I downed two cans of coke, a cereal bar and family bag of chewy sweets. THE most well balanced meal I’ve ever eaten… NOT. I was sorry to be parting company with my wheel chair, but beyond happy to be heading back to my hotel and friends. Tom had done a great job of packing warm clothes, food and drinks for me. He was also brilliant at distraction throughout the whole hospital ordeal. Thank you Tom!

Eventually we found our way out of Faro hospital, then negotiated Faro city rush hour and made it back to the hotel, after another stop off for sugary drinks. I checked by bike over, its ok on the surface – apart from a buckled rear wheel. Everyone on the camp reacted with kindness and offers of help. The best part of the whole thing was my coach of 12 years, Nick Anderson, doing my hair each morning. That’s dedication to your athletes needs and should be part of the coaching manual!!

I’ve flown home already, been to hospital over here and am getting fixed up. Initial thoughts are that I don’t need surgery, however I’m being monitored closely and if my bones shift from their current position in the cast, then I will. Fingers crossed. I’m not the kind of person to wallow in self pity, as you can probably tell by the humor employed in this blog. I’ll be honest, I was in great shape, aiming to qualify for the elite World Duathlon Championships. Obviously that’s now out the window. So, I’ll readjust my goals. There are plenty of races throughout the season. Short term goals are to do anything and everything possible to mend, recover and rehab. I’ve already spoken to various people to help with this, including my nutritionist, physio and coaches. There’s a lot to be done. I’ve never broken a bone before, I’ve also never had a serious injury. I’m looking forward to seeing how I react to this new situation, how I’ll learn from it, and how I will take what I learn about my character and apply it to improve my overall training in the future.

I’ve got my bike set up on the turbo already, as soon as I’m given the go ahead I’ll be on it as much as possible.

Enjoy your runs, swims and bike rides…

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade ay?!

First Blog

I’ve been meaning to start a blog for a long time.  Now seems like a good time to start.  We’re well into the new year, so it’s not so much a ‘New Year resolution’ blog merely a convenient time to take stock of what happened last year and where I want to get to this year.
Last year was full of new experiences and lessons.  I don’t want to go back over everything I did as that would probably be boring for me writing and anybody who is reading it.  I will give a brief run down of what happened, just to put things into context.
This time last year I decided to turn my attention to training for Triathlon full time.  This was a risk – mainly because I had never competed in a multi discipline sport, and hadn’t swam competitively for 10 years.  With the help of my long time coach Nick Anderson, I devised a plan that could take me from runner to triathlete in the short space of 6 months.  This obviously involved learning how to ride a bike, well not quite that extreme, but learning how to ride a proper road bike quickly and competitively.  It turned out that I picked that up like a duck takes to water  – that was two out of three disciplines cracked, now I just had to learn how to swim.
I realised that coaching myself in my weakest discipline was going to get me know where, so I signed up to a ‘Swim Technique Masterclass’ hosted by Richard Stannard.  The best outcome of the day was Richard asking if I would like to go and train with him on occasion, an offer I would have been mad to turn down seeing that he has a reputation of being the fastest swimmer in triathlon.  So along I went one Tuesday evening, he told me “You’re more that welcome to come and train with me, but I will just set the session and you’ll have to get on with it yourself as I have my own session to do.”  I thought that sounded like a good deal, so I dived in and got on with my warm up, only to be stopped 2 lengths in to be stopped by Richard to correct my stroke – ‘get on with it myself’ my arse!!  After that session I swim trained with him virtually everyday for 7 months.  My stroke was transformed – and I improved quickly, but was no where near ready for the nightmare that is an open water mass start.
The races I did last season – ranging from my first ever multi sport race a Duathlon to my first World Cup event all provided me with different lessons and experiences to take away and improve on.  Top of the list is obviously to be a stronger swimmer – not only to be quicker, but also to be able to cope with the open water starts where everyone swims on top of you and concentration is key to maintaining good technique.  It is obvious that transitions are vital to get right and not loose time, missing the group on the bike can mean your race is quickly over, especially in a drafting event.  Maintaining concentration on the run is also key to finishing strongly.  As things get strung out, with the stronger swimmers coming back to the stronger runners, the race truly isn’t over until it’s over and that is important to remember!!
This coming season I need to build on last years experiences, the good and bad, in order to improve.  I want to be more competitive in races and be in a position to use my strengths, then hopefully the results will follow.
Well, I hope my future blogs will be more engaging, less cliche filled and hopefully amusing.  I felt I needed to write a brief update of my first year before I got into the witty anecdotes about training experiences.  I will sneak one in now though.  As I have said (yada yada yada….) this was a year of firsts (another cliche…), one of which was my first bike crash.  I like calling it a crash because it sounds more dramatic than a mere moment of directional impairment.  I was on a morning ride with the Man Machine and cycling geek (sorry…) World  Duathlon Champion Alan Murchison.  As we were bombing it down a steep hill and around a sharp bend, I swerved to avoid a pothole, and ended up taking an excursion onto the wide grass verge.  Enjoying my first taste of Cyclocross, I bumped along for several meters before thumping into a fence post, doing a flip (still clipped in) and finally landing on my back, wheels in the air on a bed of lovely and soft stinging nettles.  All the while Alan is still chatting away to me 200 meters down the road.  Don’t worry, he isn’t heartless, he checked I hadn’t broken anything before he laughed at me…for the rest of the ride.  I’m yet to experience road rash, but if its anything like having both legs covered in nettle rash – I’ll stay away from it thanks!!
That’s all I have to say for my first post.  Thanks for taking the time to read.