Needless to say Plans are forever changing!

The ‘Oner’ (83 mile 24 hour Ultra) was cancelled, unfortunately it was planned one day before the first relaxation due to Covid.

Never mind, Kim (my running buddy) and I ran the Cafe One Short 50 mile Ultra, a challenge set by local Cafe owners Sam and Josie at Sandsfoot Castle. Weather was awful, had to put on hats, gloves and muffs!! But towards the end the sun came out and made it back in good humour. Then had a great welcome when we finished!

A warm welcome!

We also entered a marathon. Thought it would be ‘easy’, but four loops round a boating lake at Eton was anything but! We decided that Ultra training did not prepare you for a flat, boring, road marathon! We had had enough by the first loop, but carried on to the end, albeit, rather slower than our target pace.

My Latest Challenge

A number of triathlons from sprint to Ironman booked for next year but my main concentration, until April, will be training for The Oner, a twenty-four hour eighty-three mile Ultra along the Dorset Coast line, including over three thousand metres elevation. I will be setting of at twelve noon on Saturday April 10th from Studland and hope to be at Charmouth before twelve noon on Sunday 11th April.

1st November

Entered the Dorset Hillfort Ultra, a round trip of thirty-five miles. Looked interesting, and after all I had already completed a fifty mile Ultra in June. Conditions weren’t great, overcast and trying to rain. Shame as it spoilt all the fabulous views we should have had.

I was expecting mud and have invested in a pair of Vivobarefoot trail shoes for soft ground plus a pair of waterproof socks. They were brilliant, especially in the ankle deep mud in places, could have easily lost a shoe it was so deep and unavoidable.

Started off well, ran with a couple of guys for a mile or so until they went ahead but caught them up after a particularly muddy path. Bounded down a hill or two, overtook a number of runners in the muddy bits, but less than half way, my legs (or was it my head?) didn’t want to know. By now EVERYONE was passing, and I was obviously not on form as they all asked, “You OK?” as they sprinted past.

I nearly skipped home as we passed the path down to Friar Wadden, only two miles from home! But was determined to finish.

Looked forward to every hill as it meant I would walk, then I started walking on the flat as well. Had to resort to ‘tabbing’. Talked myself into running to a distant tree or the gate at the end of the field. So I made it, poor husband hadn’t been able to track me and was at the finish really early and I eventually arrived well over an hour later than my predicted slowest time!

In the meantime cycling friend Kim Ellis had also signed up for The Oner, and Helen Adams became our coach, having completed it a couple of years ago.

So Kim and I had a few longish runs and Helen was in charge of interval work. No way would I have the discipline to do the intervals on my own.

2020!!!!!!!!!

What a year, one for all of us to remember.

Started well having completed a number of running events that I had entered at the beginning of the year prior to the triathlon season.  I just squeezed in Bath Half a few days before ‘Lockdown’.  A bit gutted as I was aiming for 9:10 minute miles my goal being  sub 4 hours in the London Marathon, and I  ran comfortable 8:49 minute miles  in appalling condition giving a time of 1:55.  Not sure I’ll ever have the chance of that sub 4 again..It was a foul day

Rest of the year was  planned with more running events plus two sprint triathlons, two Olympic distance triathlons and an Ironman.  The idea was to qualify for the Worlds in all four disciplines in 2021.

Needless to say none of that happened so………lets start again.  Now aiming for Worlds in 2022 which should take place in Abu Dhabi, Kona and New Zealand.   Next year 2021 will be all the qualifying events, but who knows, one can but dream !!!!!

ULTRA RUNNING

In the meantime I’ve grown a love for trail running.  We are so lucky living in Dorset, surround by countryside and hills and with the Jurassic Coastline. I have certainly made the most of in the the past few months.

I had a go at the  Cafe 50 Single Ultra Shot, a 50 miles circular route taking in Portland Bill with 1500m of climb and descent.   It’s a challenge dreamt up by Sam & Josie,  the owners of Sandsfoot Cafe, who are enthusiastic athletes whether, Ironman, running, cycling, gravelling, paddle boarding or winter sea swimming and as a result the Cafe has become a magnet for all like minded folk.

As an open air cafe it’s been a real  live saver once restrictions were eased a bit.

The run has to be completed within daylight hours, so I chose close to midsummers day and set off at 5:30 in the morning to give myself ample time.  Managed to get back well before dusk in just over 13 hours, and thus I became ‘hooked’ on yet another discipline.

I immediately entered The Oner for April 2021, a gruelling 24 hour 83 mile Ultra along the Jurassic Coast.  So guess what I’ll be doing all winter?

Fractured my Pelvis In September – Now back to full fitness

‘The Beast’ (Ribble gravel e-bike) – 4 weeks after a fractured pelvis!

I was swimming within 7 days – crutches to the pool side and no push offs! Then at four weeks, with a lowered seat and ordinary peddles I found I could get on and ride my brand new e-bike (The Beast). Bought for some winter off-roading, but serendipity, ideal.

Trying to run at 3 months

At six weeks I was able to fit my cleats and raise the seat. It was great. I already had a planned cycling trip to Lanzarotte at the end of November and decided to take my TT bike.

Boy was I surprised at how strong I felt. Three months of ‘pottering’ on my e-bike. Putting in the power when I chose to do so, seemingly paid off dividends.

Needless to say now in March and I am still riding my ‘The Beast’. I’ll have to get back on the road and TT bike prior to some events, but am happy with the training I can do. I have a power meter so know exactly what I am putting out at any point.

I started some gentle three mile runs each day whilst in Lanzarote and started in earnest when I got back. Wow, I felt I needed a corset to hold in all my pelvic floor muscles!!

Jump forward to March and with a 1/4 and a 1/2 marathon, an Inter-county Cross Country (surprise, surprise, got on the podium for that) and a few Park Runs under my belt am looking forward to the 2020 season.

Bit disappointed with a 10k trail run today, had hoped for a better time. But have Bath Half next week and I didn’t taper so will for that and hope for a better performance out of my legs.

Catch Up Since June

Lots of cycling, lots of running, not a lot of swimming !

At my peak and probably fittest ever ready for the 70.3 World Championships in Nice. BUT…………………………………………

Cycling along a cycle path with Paul Mason an on coming cyclist just clipped my back wheel and my hip made contact with a concrete kerb. Fractured Pelvis. Two weeks from the World Championships and three weeks from my weeks cycling holiday in the Basque country.

I took Paul with me who damaged his elbow that need surgery, which is not what Kate Mason needed as she was ready for the Arch to Arc Challenge http://www.enduroman.com . Walk/run from Marble Arch to Dover, 81 miles, swim the Channel 21 miles, then cycle to Paris and the Arc de Triumph 187 miles. Paul was supposed to be Kate’s support driver. I’m pleased to say despite this Kate completed her challenge in 98 hours.

Cycling

Several times a week, often with numerous coffee stops.

Two main events, The Jurassic Beast a one hundred mile sportive around Dorset encompassing many hills, total of 7257 feet of elevation, rated at 9/10 with many hills some of which were 20%. Glad I did it, good bit of training, but not sure the word ‘enjoyed’ is appropriate.

The second was Ride London, again a 100 mile sportive from the East End, through London to the Surrey Hills and back to Pall Mall and Buckingham Palace. Which I thoroughly enjoyed. Completely closed roads, both carriageways, really well marshalled. Averaged over twenty miles an hour until I hit the Surrey Hills. Box Hill, what a disappointment, no great challenge just a steady climb on excellent tarmac. Leith Hill was more of a challenge which I was not expecting. Excellent stops and refreshments, but I did avail myself of any of them and was pleased to complete it sub six hours (well only just 5 hours 58 minutes!)

The Amstel tent beckoned at the end to meet up with fellow cyclists and following three pints, we only just made it back to our friend’s house in Fulham.

Running

Boy have I enjoyed running. Joined Egdon Heath Harriers a year or so ago, but really joined in with them this year. Every Tuesday meet at a Pub in Dorset, a cross country run of about six or eight miles ending back at the pub.Thursdays are interval training days at the Park and Ride in Weymouth. Lots of short sprints with rest or jogging in between. Typical could be 1 minute fast, 1 minute recovery, then 2, then 3 then 4 then 5 then 4 then 3 then 2 then 1 with appropriate warm up and cool down. Even cracked under a 6 minute mile on some of the short sprints. Not bad for someone who have NEVER been able to sprint.

Signed up for a couple of races, both 10k, and really enjoyed them. For one I cycled there and back, a round trip of about 50 miles.

Holidays

Two weeks in Scotland for our usual annual holidays, first year not to take my diving gear but did take my bike, some lovely rides over The Lamures and some walk/runs along the coast, both north and south of St Abbs.

Did do some swimming though. Short ones without a wet suit, about 12 degrees and some longer ones with. Had my swim float so swam from the beach to the only safe landing places further up the coast. Also did a 20k TT race with my chum Rachel Crowe.

Had a days cycling on the Yorkshire Moors on may to a motorcycling event (hubby took my cycle in the car). Was horrified to find a sign 30% – but it never materialised, but did demoralise me as I was expecting it round every bend.

Ironman 70.3 Sables d’Olonne

 

Feeling much fresher, went out on the bike the day before the event and the legs were turning over nicely, up to nineteen/twenty miles per hour easily.  (Couldn’t even make eighteen up in Leeds last week.)

Swim went well, albeit I was conscious that my stroke count was down and it was difficult to find anyone to draft behind.

Found my bike, amongst two thousand five hundred of them.  No problem in transition and at the mount line and off I went.   Maintained just over nineteen miles an hour for the first half.  Thought the rest would be easier, long smooth roads, but they weren’t, worn chipping, very rattly.   Also some long flat stretches, as well as undulating roads and I started to loose the edge.  This together with a head wind brought me down to an average of eighteen miles per hour and then slowly decreased to seventeen and a half. Not easy to keep the legs pushing hard when there’s no respite.

Said to myself “I prefer mountains,” but I might change my mind after the World Championships in Nice.

Off the bike and onto the run along the sea front.  I wanted to maintain ten minute miles, first one nine minutes twenty seconds – whoops, then hit the sand, only a short section to do once, but it destroyed me.  I just couldn’t (or was it wouldn’t?) get my pace back.  It has to be in my head, as my legs allowed me to speed up and then sprint at the finish to ensure I got under six thirty.

A good experience and given me lots of ‘food for thought’ about my training programme.

Athletes get injuries!

That’s true, but usually not self inflicted and nothing to do with training.  How about spilling a super hot mug of coffee over your feet?

Two weeks before the ITU Standard Distance Triathlon in Leeds and just three weeks to another 70.3 in France.

Feet were very ‘raw’, and my goodness at time so painful, but fortunately that came but then went for no apparent reason.  Given crutches, “I don’t need those,” I said – oh yes I did.   But wiggled my toes when ever I thought of it, took vitamin C and zinc, and Collagen and had my feet re-dressed every forty eight hours.  Can’t fault the NHS,  especially the Nurse Practitioners, they came up trumps despite being rather negative about doing triathlons within three weeks, let alone two!

Ten days and my cycle shoes were the only ones that were comfortable, so a couple of trial bike rides,  plus my feet were improving day by day, so decided to go to Leeds.   Wrapped them up well (self adhesive cling film dressing) and went for it.

Swim went well, made a hash of transition and felt sluggish on the bike (too much inactivity).   Thought the run was down hill then flat – it wasn’t – mostly down hill for five kilometres then up and down for the next five – a hundred metres elevation in total.  I ran it all and managed a sprint at the end, and was surprised upon unfurling my dressings that my feet had further improved.  They obviously liked the increased circulation due to running.

I came second to secure my place in the Worlds in Canada for 2020.   BUT ………………. I’ve been thinking about going for ALL the World titles in 2021″…………………….

 

 

 

The Next Step ?

2017: 70-74 AG Record time 13 hours 42 minutes

Ironman World Champion 70-74 AG

2018: Oldest Woman to swim the English Channel

2019 ?

Aiming for Ironman 70.3 World Champion.

70.3 is half the distance of an Ironman

1.2 mile swim

56 mile bike

13.1 mile run (half a marathon)

Total, unsurprisingly is 70.3 miles!

Qualified for the 70.3 World Championships

I went to Mallorca in May for the 70.3.  Bit of competition, two other women in my age group.  But despite being just a tad worried – no problem.  Fifty-two minutes in front of my nearest rival and the other woman didn’t make the cut of at the end of the bike ride.

I enjoyed the swim in my new wet suit.  Since I started triathlons in 2014 I have been looking for a sleeved wet suit, but they have all interfered with the way I swim and uncomfortable, so I have been wearing a 2mm Speedo, sleevless wet suit.  THEN this year I found the new Zone3 Vanquish wet suit.  Paper thin arms, thin shoulders, thick and sumptuously padded on the tummy and quads for buoyancy where you need it.  Doesn’t choke you round the neck, doesn’t gape at the back flooding you with water.  Easy to get on, and so quick to get off.  BUT, it holds you in perfect form in the water so it’s FAST!

I haven’t enjoyed swimming since the Channel, often not even making a swim once a week with Weymouth Swimmers and when I did go rarely completed the whole one hour session.  I had to force myself to swim twice a week building up to Mallorca.  My times have been really slow in the pool so wasn’t expecting any miracles and was a bit dumbfounded to find I had done a PB!  Has to be the suit!

The bike went well on my Cannondale Dura-Ace Di2 Slice from TRI UK.   I had hoped to gain more time coming down the mountain as I am so so slow up the hills, but all the downhills were technical, either hair pin bends or through narrow streets in the towns.  In addition I needed to keep an eye out for fellow ‘kamikaze’ competitors!  So 16.1mph average was OK.

It didn’t help when I overtook some back markers of a peloton grouped together on a straight road against the wind (drafting?).   I chose to go over the white line just as a Marshall on a motorcycle was passing.  Blue card, “Qui moi?” “Yes,  5 minute penalty!”

Was pleased that my elastic bands on the shoes worked well at the start of the bike, and wondered how I’d cope, when tired at the end.  But took my feet out of the shoes just like a professional – well not quite, but so much easier than unclipping and running in shoes. Looked forward to the five minutes complete rest in the Penalty tent!  But it didn’t help as I left transition without my race belt on – whoops – disqualification if not rectified – so quick dash back – extra 3/4 mile and 8 minutes.  Could have done without that as my legs just didn’t want to work, but managed a fairly consistent pace of 11:11 minute miles.  Everyone was complaining about the heat – what heat?  You should race in Kona, Hawaii – now that IS hot!

 

 

The Swim – I made it – 16 hours 22 minutes

AGE IS JUST A NUMBER

It’s our heads that tell us we can’t achieve and as as we grow older this becomes a reality if we don’t continue to challenge our bodies.

71 years  and 305 days a World Record !

Over £4000 raised for Cancer Research UK

Walking onto French sand at Sangatte 21/08/18

I think I could write a book just about the swim, but I will try to keep it brief.

Agreed with my pilot, window weather looked good Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Confirmed anytime 1600-1900 Tuesday evening to beat the bad spell coming in late Wednesday.

Forecast changed, he re-arranged things an now meet at Dover Marina 0600 Tuesday morning.  On our way to Dover Monday night, message, “Can we make it 0430?”   That’s good, with a bit of luck I’ll be in France in the daylight.  So only five hours sleep.

My crew, Kate Mason, Graeme my son and Julia Aston – brilliant they kept me going

Lanolin & Vaseline to stop salt water sores – no it doesn’t keep you warm

Arrived at the marina and it looked good, but as we motored out it looked a bit ‘lumpy’ to me.  But this was the weather window and I’d hate to put it off till September.

I’ve had very mixed feelings about this swim.  It was a childhood dream when I was 60 and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and I always said I’d do it again. But, in reality I never would had I not  been diagnosed with breast cancer.   “Life after cancer,” I said to myself and  immediately I set myself the challenge with Cancer Research UK as my charity.  A second purpose also evolved which was the reason the oldest man, at 73, swam it.  That is to inspire people that our bodies can amaze us as we age providing we keep active.

I jumped into the water and swam to Samphire Hoe to start my swim.   “I’ll be alright once I’m in the water and swimming,” I said to myself.

I started swimming and that ‘lumpy’ sea was horrible.  I’ve swim in seas like it many times on fighting the ‘drift’ in Weymouth Bay, but not for a whole swim, and, “Please  not my Channel swim.”   I assumed it would ease off, but if anything it worsened right to the other side. Standing on the beach waiting for the signal to start  my heart was thumping like it never has before.

My mental state was in a turmoil, “Relax, stroke the water, just get to feed one in an hour.”  I was having to talk myself for the first two hours – they were horrendous.

Feeds were 250ml tasteless carbohydrates with warm water and cordial, in a small plastic milk bottle tied to a bit of cord. Not allowed to touch the boat.

After my second feed, “I’m coping, I feel cold, but am not cold, and I can’t let all those people supporting and cheering me on down.”  So mentally I began to be  in a much better place. But I wasn’t enjoying it one bit.

My right arm kept catching the water.  I breath every other stroke on my left side, frequently it had to be every forth or even sixth and when I did breath salt water would spray into my mouth.   Not too much of a problem on the swim, except the one that shot straight to the back of my throat.  But after a swim, you can have salt sores for days, if not weeks.

Oh and the jelly fish, I was stung during the first hour and the last. But they are just like a nettle sting, not like the Lion’s Main I had encountered in Scotland.  The jellies were dotted around all the way across and at one point there was an enormous swarm of hundreds in every direction.  Normally I would have enjoyed the distraction as the are beautiful to watch – but in the mood I was in, “Let’s get it over and done with.”

I counted the time by the feeds which were hourly for the first three then every forty five minutes.  Towards the end they went down to every thirty minutes, not because I needed more carbs, but you swim from feed to feed and mentally it was reassuring to have them closer together. I had promised myself not to look for France until twelve hours into the swim.   But I saw France at ten and a half hours, so I calculated it must be about 1530,  and was overjoyed, but little did I realise that the wind was effecting the already weak ebb flow. Normally swimming bang in the middle of a neap  tide should be good, less movement of water, but I needed the ebb tide to get me towards the best landing point, Cap Gris Nez.

As time went on I realised that I wasn’t going to make it in daylight as I headed up towards Calais, away from Cap Gris Nez, and  was resigned to accept my clear goggles with a flashing green light attached.  But seeing the land did give me the impedance  to do it for myself.  I didn’t care how much my arms ached, I was going to make it, even if I had to resort to breast stroke, which, thankfully I didn’t otherwise I’d still be swimming! Your muscle are given instructions from your head, they are not fatigued, you think they are so they stop working.  I had some serious talking to myself to do.  “How badly did I want it?”  I would regret it for the rest of my life if I bailed out now so close to my goal and just keep imagining myself walking onto a French beach. “Get those arms turning over,” I said to myself.

As the sun set behind me I didn’t even turn my head to glance at it.

 

The rest is history, and a World Record, but hopefully it will inspire others to go out and challenge themselves – perhaps not a Channel Swim.  But in particular  us women, of mine and subsequent generations, who were discouraged or not even allowed to do many things together with society in general that often implied not the sort of thing women should or could do.

RECOVERY!

We had hoped to finish the swim in daylight and head home that evening.  Once back on board I suggested back to the Premier Inn, a meal and a bed for the night.  We got back to Dover at 2am and set our alarms for a 6:30 get away that morning, both Julia and Graeme had to be back at work.

I actually slept, unusual for me after an endurance event, I had down loaded a box set to watch all night.  However, sleep proved a problem for the next week, either not getting to sleep, waking every hour or so, and/or often not getting back to sleep for a couple of hours.  Glad of my box set!

Once home on Wednesday I spent most of that and the next day horizontal, resting.

A short cycle ride Friday morning for coffee with my cycling chums.  No problem until I tried to do arm signals.  My arms still did not want to lift up.

Saturday and Sunday quiet days, Monday walking round the Great Dorset Steam Fair.  Tuesday out on my bike.  My new TT one, so trying our aero position.  Not too comfortable, my arms still aching.  Otherwise felt good going out,  about 30k, but tired and steady on the way back.  Absolutely whacked once I got back and an hour and a half afternoon snooze.  Quiet day Wednesday with Yoga in the evening.  Much easier than I expected, but no ‘planks’, felt much better after it.

Thursday, feel ‘human’ again!  Probably not fully recovered but feel back to normal.

Weight went up to 10stone 10 after the swim,  pounds falling off after, lost half a stone in a week.

Ready To Go!

18th August

Been doing a bit of swimming, a bit of cycling a bit of running.  Not sure how much to do,  just ‘ticking’ over.

As with all endurance, or in fact anything, if you say, “I can or I can’t,” you are probably right.  I have learned just how powerful the mind is.  Generally speaking I am a positive person and always assume ‘I can.’  But, this waiting for the weather has been playing havoc with my mind.  It’s difficult to keep focused to image and visualise the swim, because it’s that which will get me to the other side, not my arms, they will just do what my head tells them they ‘want’ to do.

Good news.  Hope to be going on the 21st.  Will start late afternoon or early evening.  Night swim – poo!  But not really, sea is usually calmer with no sea breezes caused by the land warming up during the day.

Excellent tides, ride bang in the middle of neaps – when there is less tidal movement.

12th August

Was going to do one ‘lap’ of the bay, approx 5 miles but a bit rough and wind surfers to the north so a 2 mile swim via the Tower and the red stick.  Flew back, 28 minute mile, but could hardly make it back to the hut from the red stick. Then a bit of fun in the waves body surfing.

 

11th August – still waiting for the weather

Having put on weight and really looking forward to getting back to my racing weight.   Not knowing when  the swim will be,  anxious for it to happen but with some trepidation.  Somehow it all reminds me of being pregnant!!!!!

7th August – So frustrating !!

I’ve been following the posts on the Dover Swimmers facebook page and the conditions have been ideal with so many swimmers being succesful.   Frustrating in not going and with the inactivity – how much should I be doing ?  Normally I’m used to training hard almost every day.

Went for a 60 mile social cycle ride on Sunday, but tried not to push myself too hard.  Will go for a swim this afternoon.

Hoping to set off next week, Springs Tides ( mean stronger currents) so hopefully towards the end of the week as we get near to the Neap Tides and fingers crossed this wonderful weather lasts.

2nd August – News Flash !!!!!!

Was due to be in the water at Dover at midnight tonight.  On phoning to confirm details found that my boat has broken down.  They had been working on it all day and had hoped to get it going.  Looks like it may be a long job, so the swim is postponed until at least next week, or more probably to weeks time.

I was so geared up and ready to go – really wanting to get it behind me.  C’est la vie !  Qu’est sera, sera !

A roller coaster of emotions, firstly almost sh….ng myself at the thought of actually going, then looking ahead to when it was all over, then completely gutted at the delay.

Out for a 40 mile cycle ride to Portland Bill at 5:45 this morning to clear my head………………………………………..

1st August

This is the worst bit, just like packing for a holiday, only you are usually looking forward to the holiday and I have mixed feelings about my swim. Give me an Ironman any day !  I don’t quit easily but this time round is going to be hard both physically and mentally.

I’ve started my packing list and getting my bag ready.  Just like pregnancy – I’ve put on weight and have a bag packed ready to go at a moments notice!

Well not just a bag.  I have a long list of things that are needed.

Feeding will be done via a 1 pint plastic milk bottle attached to a cord – you are not allowed to touch the boat.

I will have one feed every hour for the first three, then every 45 minutes.  Last time I had a variety of feeds, but this time I have stuck to ProFuel, a tastless carbohydrate powder with no electrolytes with Summer Fruits cordial.  I’ll mix it up double strength and my crew will top it up with hot water.  175ml of drink and 75ml of hot water.

I’m hoping for 15 hours or less, but could be 20 so that’s

Current world record holders are:

Male: South African Otto Thaning age 73 (2014)

Female:American Pat Gallant-Charette age 67 (2017)