With so many uncertaincies – I’ve kept quiet for a year!

But this year things are getting back on track. The World Championship triathlons I qualified for last year are all happening this year and booked.

In the meantime what did I do? Made the most of the wonderful Dorset Country side and the amazing Jurassic coast line. And, for some reason I’ll never know, I entered The Oner, a twenty-four hour 82 mile, 10,000 of elevation, Ultra. Perhaps to give me the incentive to get out and train? My blog on the event follows. Warning – it’s a long one!

82 Miles, 10,000 ft of elevation in 24 hours

There is no way I could have done it without the support and encouragement of chums, all equally crazy. A number of whom have all ready done The Oner. I had been totally in awe of their accomplishment, it being totally outside of my league. But, somehow when surrounded by such inspiring people I decided to have a go. Immediately and without question “Of course we’ll crew for you and you will finish it!” Then the icing on the cake was when Kim Ellis also also decided to enter and we’ve been a great team ever since.

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Myself and Kim at the Start and the Finish

I certainly don’t think I could have pulled it off without her. We really complimented each other, getting out in all weather, each planning training sessions, mine were always conservative, Kim’s always more challenging! One that I planned was from Ferry Bridge to Charmouth and Kim was excited. “A marathon!”

The ‘Marathon’ that wasn’t !

However, on the day I started us off at a different place and when we finished, what was a particularly gruelling trail run, we were short of the 26.2 miles. I think she has now forgiven me, especially as some of her runs, planned on an Ordnance Survey map often lead us into all sorts of dead ends, or barbed wire fences to climb over when we went wrong, or took us through ankle deep mud.

Typical feet after most training runs

Then there is Helen Adams, a Oner finisher who organised some of our Hill Reps and Interval work, mine would be short and easy, hers long and hard!

On the day it was Helen and Kim’s husband Keith who crewed for us, being ready and waiting throughout the twenty-four hours to meet all our needs. In addition they were often joined by other chums and even more were at different places en route to cheer us on along. I daren’t mention them as I am now somewhat confused as to whom I saw and where.

Through the Ironmen series I’ve become used to getting up almost in the middle of the night for an early start. But waking up at 04:30 and catnapping until 6:00 made a very long, frustrating morning till the start at 12 noon. Breakfast at 7:00, registration at 8:30, second breakfast at 10:00 (porridge, honey and banana). Then Nic, my husband, drove me to the start at Studland.

The Start

At last, we were off. Kim was always slightly faster than me and in training would often double back rather than wait for me so we had agreed not to run together. Although, when we started our training I could beat her down hill and in the mud, as initially she looked like Margot out of ‘The Good Life’ trying to tiptoe round the bogs. She soon learned to ‘plough’ through the middle.

So, shortly after the start, she slowly pulled away ahead of me. However, I kept her in sight almost till dark, especially in the deep cuts whether inland or up and down and I’d shout across to her. She was heard to say at one of stops, “Linda keeps catching me up,” Apparently we stayed pretty close until towards the end when she proved stronger than myself.

What do you think as you run along the beach knowing that you’ll be doing this for 24 hours? Just try and enjoy being out, a privilege to be doing something you love with all the support you need. But, it did take me quite a few miles before I settled to that happy frame of mind and a steady rhythm.

Before I knew it I was approaching Old Harry, mentally distances now just don’t phase me at all. Long gone are those days when I started running at 68, and hated it, when found myself wishing to be at the next corner only a few 100m away.

As I passed The Bankes Arms Sam and Mark cheered me on as they supped pints of beer. They then caught me up with their mountain bikes.

Sam

I have to mention Sam as he has a lot to answer for, he and his wife Josie run the Sandsfoot Cafe, they attract an eclectic like minded crowd and somehow everyone gets sucked into all sorts of activities and challenges. Apart from me, Sam has introduced many to Ultra running by setting up the Cafe 50 Single Shot Ultra Challenge, a 50 mile ultra loop around Dorset to be completed between dawn and dusk. The rules? Wave to the cafe security camera as you go and wave upon your return!

Obliviously you have longer in the summer, which is why when I did it I chose close to midsummers day. Would I have ever entered a more formal Ultra – who knows – but the seed was sewn.

Back to the Oner. The first crew stop was at Pevril Point to pick up a peeled banana. I had set myself to eat every 45minutes, either a drink of Tail Wind or dates or jelly sweets from M&S or Helen’s delicious flap jack (checkout her chocolate brownies they are to die for, https://rollysbrownies.co.uk) plus picking up bananas along the way. I really enjoyed the run along the undulating cliffs and before I knew it I was at Check Point 2 at St Aldhelm’s Head about an hour ahead of the cut off time.

Just past St Aldhelm’s head, Chapman’s Pool below and Portland on the horizon

I now had a clear view of Portland almost on the horizon in the far distance, but I wasn’t at all daunted, I knew I wouldn’t be there till after dark, and after all it was only mid-afternoon! Just round the corner, welcome shouts from Helen and Keith and another banana, hardly stopping, grabbing it as I ran past, I was in a good place physically and mentally and enjoying myself, running as much as possible, but disciplining myself not to run up the many inclines and using my poles to save my legs. How lucky were we with the weather? Sun, broken cloud and a bit of a cold, refreshing head wind.

Then one of the big climbs, up the almost vertical stone stairs at Chapman’s pool. I just took it steady and never looked up, as they seem to go on, and on and on! . And, before I knew it Clavells Tower came into view and Kimmeridge, Check Point number 3, still over and hour ahead of time and faster than my calculated time for that point. A quick dive into the loos, inattention meant I went the wrong side an passed a guy at a urinal, but I didn’t mind, hope he didn’t! Grabbed a banana and off but with Helen shouting after me, “You need some water – you need to drink.” I had, as always, hydrated well the day before and the morning of the event, so was happy that I litre of liquid, that I was carrying, would be sufficient for the first ‘marathon’.

Kimmeridge

I’m not sure what happened next, but these events are 80% if not 90% mental attitude, assuming of course, that you’ve done the training and get your nutrition right.

My head definitely went and my body quickly followed!

On reflection I’ve done the stretch from Kimmeridge to Lulworth twice. Once on my own and once with Kim. The first time was on a run from Studland to Lulworth (to see if The Oner was feasible) on a hot summers day. I had anticipated an Ice cream van at Kimmeridge for water and an ice. But there was none. So I had a quick dip in the sea and was on my way. But I had found it difficult and hadn’t enjoy that bit at all. Next time was with Kim when we ran from Swanage. After Kimmeridge there seemed to be many more, and longer hills, than I was expecting and when I thought we had just climbed the last Arish Mell loomed ahead between us and Lulworth. I tried to convince Kim that we didn’t need to climb it, but to no avail. Again, a bad experience.

Soon after Kimmeridge my stomach began to cramp and every hill was a nightmare, no longer a positive challenge, but an ‘obstacle’ in my way. I found I couldn’t eat, just nibbled, knowing I needed regular feeds. The sickness feeling just would not go away. I even found it difficult to run anywhere, even the lovely grassy down hills. Eventually at I descended towards Arish Mell, up came what had been bothering me and I felt a lot better. However, the sickness feeling returned as soon as I started climbing again. “Just slog it out I told myself, Lulworth is the other side of this hill.”

Lulworth, Check Point 4 and had lost a bit of time, now just under the hour ahead and not feeling good. Helen met me to run/walk from the Check Point to Lulworth car park. She suggested I tried Coca Cola and phoned ahead to have it ready, as I had said I wouldn’t need it until at least after Portland. I had visualised them parked right by the entrance to the carpark and was so dismayed when I couldn’t even see it way ahead at the far end. It was only 200m or so – but to me it was ‘miles’. They sat me down, took my bag, emptied it for what I needed for the night section, helped me, as I was hopeless, to change into warmer clothes. I swore and grunted to Kim’s sisters and friend none of whom I had met before whilst my nose was dripping snot, but I was beyond care.

I had no choice but to go on. After all, “One foot was going in front of the other,” and, having so may chums and posting it on social media, I couldn’t loose face. So yes, you have all helped me. Thank you.

The Coca Cola had gone down well, and I was on ‘home’ territory with lovely little hills between Lulworth and Weymouth. Some may not agree with me but mentally, to me, they were just a series of ‘mole’ hills! I tried to nibble some food, or sip my Trail Wind, but was finding it very difficult, if not impossible to do so. This was concerning as I knew it was important to continually take on carbs. As I neared Osmington someone appeared and said, “I’m looking for Linda.” It was Sarah Kerslake , with Mike, her husband not far ahead. We hadn’t recognised each other.

By the time I arrived at Check Point 5 I was now only 45 minutes ahead. But, was surprised to see Helen and Keith as I had not expected them there. I was still having difficulty eating so more Coca Cola went down a treat and I took one on my mini peanut choc bars which I had in reserve. I managed to eat it, albeit very slowly.

At Bowlease a shoe change and put on some warm leggings plus change watches so mine could be charged. Mike and Sarah were also there to run with me, and they concocted a plan so one or the other, ran with me all the way to Portland.

Oh! I love my shoes. First Vivobare foot Primus SG (but so difficult to put on, that once off I’d not get them back on). Next my super squishy, bouncy Nike Vaporfly to make the most of the tarmac, and give my feet a treat. Then at the base of Portland, changed into my Altra Lone Peak, still zero drop and a wide toe box, but with a bit of cushioning. The trail shoes with waterproof socks have proved to be so comfy. However, panic with the Vaporflys as I realised I needed sports socks as no way would I get them on in my thick waterproof ones. But, Helen came to the rescue and gave me some of hers.

Helen had set her watch to Average Pace in minute/kilometres not minute/miles. My fault, as I really wanted current pace plus average pace in minute/miles. But, in hindsight it was probably a good thing. I may well have pushed too hard. Apart from using the time for feeds and checking against cut off times, I didn’t use my watch at all. I had been, and continued, to go on ‘feel’ (RPE, Rate of Perceived Exertion) and was happy walking whenever I felt like it for the six miles on tarmac across Weymouth to Portland.

At Portland, swap watches again, put on my Altra trail shoes, grab another choc bar, ditch the Tail Wind for water and take another glug of Coca Cola. I was on my own until the early hours, but had three Check Points on Portland if I needed anything.

Scrabble up the muddy slope and to Check Point 6 (HQ) and was happy to be back to over hour ahead. I was so happy, I’d made it to Portland, my legs were good, stomach no so good, but hadn’t been sick again and could just about nibble the choc bar. I’d run into the sunset and now was blessed with the most amazing night sky. It was just a ‘skip and a hop’ down to the Bill and a power walk back to HQ.

Fortunately the previous week Kim had wanted to re-do part of the rocky path on the East Side of the Bill in the dark. I didn’t think I needed to but went along. Oh! Yes I did! Got muddled in a couple of places which I sorted out so was totally confident when joined by two blokes, “Do you know the way?” They asked, and I lead them to the Bill. Claire had said we didn’t need to go around the Lighthouse, so we didn’t, but at the checkpoint in the car park we were quickly advised that was not the case and sent us back around it.

At Check Point 6 on the car park I picked up a choc bar and had another swig of Coca Cola. Fabulous moon reflecting on the sea and Chesil Beach – magical! Interesting that the temperature definitely dropped at about 2am, but I was quite warm enough. Slightly cold fingers, perhaps.

Check Point 7 and now an hour and a quarter ahead.

My chum Nancy was amused that I just went into the hall, saying “Dibber Dibber, dabber,” so they’d be ready for me to register my time and was off. Along the route I did this at each Check Point as they were generally by the coastal path and I could be checked in within milliseconds.

I ran/walked along the causeway to Helen and Keith at Ferry Bridge, change of water bottles, more choc bars, more Coca Cola and a cup of black coffee that I took with me, threw the cup over my shoulder and shouted back for Keith to pick it up! No way was I going to ‘litter’, nor back track!

Helen came with me for this stretch and I was grateful as she helped me maintain a good pace, mainly walking but a gentle jog from time to time.

Langton Check Point 7 and still a good time and more Coca Cola.

There was a heavy frost, which was good in some ways as although I had waterproof socks, wet grass would have meant cold feet. I did skid on one tuff of grass and land on my butt. However, this was the only fall, amazing! I had to concentrate for 24hours, “Pick up your feet, toes up,” for every stride. I used to have a competition with my grandchildren, who had the worse grazed knees. They gave up when I won hands down!! Then there were the styles, an endless number of them. I’m nervous of them at the best, fearing an injury, but these were icy and my flexibility seemed to have disappeared. The poor guy behind us, who was slower, kept catching us up as I tried to negotiate each one.

Although confident with my time I was moving outside of my comfort zone. It was cold, but little wind and up until then was warm enough. But as we neared dawn, the temperature seem to drop considerably. In addition my eyesight is not good in full day light and suddenly found I was struggling. I’d had enough and wanted dawn. Just as I said this to Helen, I began to get very cold. Even the dawn chorus didn’t cheer me up. Helen had noticed I’d stopped chatting and produced another jacket (Sam’s apparently now doing it’s fourth Oner!) Funnily enough it was just at a point on the route that I didn’t like, it’s when you go inland just before Abbotsbury. Coincidence? Or just the ‘head’ taking control again.

At last – Dawn – I was happy again!

Abbotsbury, “I’m here!” My legs were working, nothing like they had been towards the end on my previous two fifty mile ultras. I had expected to be struggling at this point, and I was ahead of time.

Abbotsbury for some Coca Cola, Coffee or both?

Nic my husband surprised me by being there and then at every beach through to the end.

I was disappointed I couldn’t run at I headed for West Bexington and West Bay (It was always my ambition to get at least that far – but hardly dared think I would). I later learned that Kim had ‘Power Walked’ with poles all the way from Portland to the end and made good time. In hindsight I should have too rather than trying to run..

I had got over my dread of the pebbles at West Bexington on a previous run, and once on the marshy ground behind the beach I took off my gloves, beanie and buff and carefully put them in my bag without putting anything on the ground, as firstly it was so soggy and secondly I couldn’t bend down! However, on finishing someone handed me my Ironman beanie, I had obviously dropped it.

Just before Burton Bradstock Sarah and Mike came to meet me, and again they hatched a plot to accompany me all the way to the finish. In addition to Nic, Graeme, my son and his identical triplet sons, Henry, Jake and Charlie were there as well. They also had a great day, visiting each beach along the route and at the finish.

Jake, Henry and Charlie (Jake later said, “I’m NEVER going to run as far a Nana!”)
The Boys enjoyed visiting the various beaches whilst they waited for me.

I was dreading the climb down to West Bay, but in reality it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I could hear shouts and cheers, but daren’t look down, as it really is steep. I’d made it – and within the cut off time. Nothing mattered I could finish, but so far within the cut off time, I could actually finish within 24 hours. Two and a half hours to do five miles, says Helen. A quick calculation gives me 30 minute/miles. Ridiculously slow if you are a runner, but I was walking, and there were many hills and obstacles between me and the finish.

Last ‘glug’ of Coca Cola

However, I was now determined to make it. I wasn’t running, but decided to take two paracetamols. Don’t know if it was them or me, but I then managed to jog some of the grassy downhill sections, couldn’t risk the gravel or rocky ones for fear of tripping.

Sarah was a great help as we just chatted away inanely, which distracted me from any weariness and weakness I was feeling.

Mike joined us at Seaton, and I was grateful at the end for those last few confusing fields, where the path goes though little gaps in the hedges, and there always seemed to be another field when I thought that was the last. The poor guy behind me went the wrong way. I was lucky but was fretting for the last part whether I would make it on time.

The finish in sight – I think? – Will I make it in time?

I had said I’d be 23hours 59 minutes and 59 seconds and in the end I was 23 hours 49 minutes and 38 seconds!

53rd out of 54 finishers, 4 more finished outside of 24 hours and a further 38 did not finish.

The finish

Boy was I chuffed and still am. A memory and achievement I will cherish forever.

I did it !!

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.