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Disappointment in stunning locations

Well what can I say? After a few months of solid training, promising results and a glimpse of confidence, I felt really prepared and excited for Challenge Geraardsbergen and the bonus round of Challenge Heilbronn the following week.

In the week prior to a big race, I tend to feel sick with nerves and fear, but I was genuinely excited. There was a stacked field in both races and I was just excited to see how I would compare.

Race morning in Belgium, I was my usual giggly and annoyingly perky self. I was extra excited knowing it was a non-wetsuit swim as it would be a fair swim, I was looking forward to attempting “the Muur” on the bike, and I have been running pretty well off the bike so was actually looking forward to all three elements.

I had never done a beach start, where the gun goes and you run into the water and begin your swim. I also have never been announced to the crowd before and run down a tunnel high fiving people! That was cool! All these things kept me smiling.

Out of the water first professional female was pretty cool! I had a good battle with a Polish girl, then pulled ahead in the last quarter.

Onto the bike, Canadian superstar Heather Wurtele overtook me in a technical section, but when it straightened out I tried to keep my eye on her in the distance. It was a nice cycle with 3 or 4 real hills where you had to go in the granny gear, and after the 3rd one we were led through a town. Cones narrowed a certain section of the road to maybe two bikes’ width (reason unknown) and didn’t I go right bang into an unmarked pothole?!

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(Heather and I…the only race pic I found! Courtesy of Tri247)

Tyre exploded. Didn’t bring any repair kit. Side of the road for 25mins until I got help. I was in such a rush to get going again I didn’t pump up my tyre anywhere NEAR enough, and I slowly watched my Garmin average speed go from 23+ mph to 21, where then my Garmin gave up on life and turned off for no reason (it now won’t work at all). The Muur was the least of my worries at this point, and in the 2nd lap I knew I was far too far behind to overtake any of the pros.

When I got to T2 I just thought “run a steady effort, don’t kill yourself for next weekend and have a solid training day out there”. 1h29 later, I crossed the line 7th female. Money goes to top 6 and I am sure that if I hadn’t punctured, I would have made that podium.

The days in between were so much fun. Luckily, I am not a professional who is reliant on the prize purse, and I am just fortunate enough that this is my hobby. We travelled, saw some beautiful places, and I supported Kyle in his 105km World Tour race where he placed 4th!

ON THAT NOTE, HE IS NOW RANKED 16TH IN THE WORLD TOUR RANKINGS FOR ULTRA RUNNING!!!! HE IS AMAZING AND I AM SO SO PROUD OF HIM!

Unfortunately, I had a bad crash while riding in Frankfurt. It started to pour with rain and as I was travelling straight on my way out of town, let’s say 16mph, my front wheel latched onto a tram line that was weaving off left. With the rain, I slipped and flew over to the right, bruising and scarring a lot of my right leg, elbow and hand (Mum, I haven’t told you this as I didn’t want you to worry…sorry!). Of course, a tram was coming and had to stop because I was holding him up, and a few cars stopped to see if I was ok. I tried to be brave, and managed to slowly pedal back to our Air BnB.

Since then, my bike wasn’t right. The bearings had gone, it was making a weird noise, and after going to three or four bike service shops, we had zero success (these bike shops catered for standard commuting bikes. A lot didn’t know what a TT bike was). This was really stressful and I ended up getting pretty upset.

Travelling to Germany while Kyle was racing was fine, and as a pro I got picked up from the station (by new friend Robin!) who took my bike box and let me relax and get registered. On top of that, when I gave them the heads up that my bike wasn’t working, they even sorted out an appointment with their bike servicing tent so they could look at it straight away.

Bearings completely gone. They didn’t want me riding.

They were amazing, calling up other local shops (my bike is pretty specialised so no one had them) and after about 3 hours of me sitting in their tent, hoping this disaster and stress would end, we all gave up. They did up the bike best they could, but I knew as soon as I rode it from my Air BnB to the supermarket that evening, I was screwed.

A few other things that day didn’t help (the train from Heilbronn to the next town where I was staying was cancelled, my Air BnB hosts were out for dinner by the time I was ready, so I had to wait for them to get into my accommodation, I hadn’t had real food since breakfast because I thought I’d be eating after I registered at 1pmish…all things that just screwed up my prep), but after pretty much crying down the phone to both my mum and Kyle’s mum (anyone who would answer the phone, really!), they calmed me down and I got my positive head back on!

Noodles called me too as I was alone in my Air BnB eating gnocci and milka (I panicked at the supermarket). It was his 40th birthday and he has just moved from Houston to Pittsburgh so I was hearing all about it, which totally calmed me down, and then he gave me tips for race day (he is handy sometimes).

I then tried to sleep, but was worried about Kyle after hearing he’d been rushed to A&E in an ambulance after his 105km race. I didn’t want to worry him more by telling him about my day, but I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I dozed on and off until he called me at 3am to tell me he was outside…he made it! I was so happy to see him!

He was a trooper in the morning too. My alarm went off at 6am and he got up and helped me as I cried (again) about being so tired. Usually if I get no sleep before a race, I have had enough sleep the previous night and the adrenaline keeps me going. On the contrary, if I have too much sleep I feel really sluggish and heavy. But today I had nothing. Porridge was a struggle, but I put on the playlist Kenny made me for me (we have the same psych up taste!) and I aimed to “fake it to make it”.

Over at the start, I met a couple of triathlon superstars but could barely string a sentence together. Then, as the gun went off, I fought and fought only to exit the water in 4th.

On the bike, I overtook a girl and thought this slump might end soon, but then my bike made some funny noises, my back was in excruciating pain, and I could feel my power slowly deteriorate.

With about an hour to go, I had nothing but a sore back, and got off the bike barely able to bend down to put my shoes on. The run would have totally suited me had I been well, but today was not my day.

I finished in 7th and had to be taken away in a medical tent from dehydration and back pain.

It is really frustrating that I KNOW I have the performance in me; former national squad swimmer, 2nd at the national cycling champs, and I’m not too shabby a runner, but I just had really bad luck and didn’t know how to fix them.

The following few days, I stayed positive (I couldn’t be sad in such a beautiful place!!) but since we have come home my mojo has gone a little. But watching Kyle on Austrian TV, and how phenomenal he did has brought me back to life again! I just need to link the three together and I’ll have a great performance sometime!

Watch this space 🙂

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(Thanks Bike Box Online for the support…and attention everywhere we went!)

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(Our Air BnB host took us on a tour around Frankfurt)

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(Swimming in one of the most beautiful places in the world at Mondsee)

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(At the dinner for the Mozart race favourites in Salzburg…delicious food and even better beer!)

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(Trying to get a bike session in, in our Munich hotel)

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(Stuttgart was a gem! Made better by being 33C!)

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(I cycled from Salzburg to Mondsee as part of my DIY Sound of Music tour…Kyle came on the bus and met me!)

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(Frankfurt Opera House)

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(post race bandages from the IV drips)

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(Sunset in Salzburg)

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(My favourite place!)

 

 

 

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April to June update and another Scottish podium!

Where do I start? It has certainly been a whirlwind year so far..how the HECK is it June?!

I had the intention of writing a post after the Balmoral races, but then Kyle went and SMASHED the Highland Fling the following weekend, which kinda trumped my wee hill race victory. However, winning that race meant so much more to me than you would expect, because of what it represents. Three years ago, that’s where I was heading on my bike when I got hit. That race broke me that day. And every year since, when everyone is talking about how they conquered that hill on the 10k, or how they suffered all seasons in one race (Balmoral has a weird climate like that!), I was reminded of that horrible day.

When I was asked if I fancied racing it this year, I was VERY apprehensive. You all know what happened 3 years ago, but 4 years ago I was actually in A&E after the Balmoral races! That race hates me! I basically entered both the 5km and 10km for the company I worked for at the time, ConocoPhillips. I was in the corporate tent and had quite a lot of prosecco (I blame Mum and Emma!). That, combined with 2 races sandwiching the bubbles, I fell down the stairs of my flat on my way to a birthday party!

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(Emma was my carer/baywatch wannabe that day!)

So, yeah, this would be my 3rd time ATTEMPTING the races…don’t bad things come in threes?!?!?

Well I was bubble wrapped that weekend. Kyle insisted coming with me on my cycle that Saturday (as long as we stopped for cake), and he got my home safe, and he also insisted on driving me to the race on Sunday (despite me thinking I could cycle there…I was clearly getting cocky!).

Anyway, it was a glorious day, I met some new friends, and felt great for most of the race!! I am a MASSIVE FAIRY on trails, but I think I only lost time on the final “sting in the tail” which, but the way, I thought would be a wee speed bump but was like a half mile climb! My legs were gone by that point, which then was followed by some technical steep descending and I only managed an 8.08 mile there, which I later found out cost me the record, set by famous hill runner Angela Mudge! 15miles in 1.38 so I couldn’t be too disappointed on that terrain!

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(Geez that final “sprint” was so painful after that last descent!)

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(And straight away the pain is forgotten about and you wanna do it all again!)

Since then, it was just training mode. Lots of miles and sessions in prep for my 2xhalf iron distance races in June, Challenge Geraardsbergen and Challenge Heilbronn.

I did get cocky and, against coach’s wishes, I entered the Scottish 5km running champs in Edinburgh on a Friday night. I thought that even in heavy training, I would get a PB (my 18.10 or whatever is from a parkrun 2.5years ago). Well, I got sick in the preceding days which I just considered a “forced taper”, and that combined with me getting excited and clocking a 5.20 first mile (which I am NOT fit enough to pull off in a 5km!), I completely died and went 18.30 (yes the last mile was slower than half marathon pace and no I’m not proud of myself and should have listened to coach). Luckily, 5kms don’t take too much out of you, so I still managed to get over the bug and train hard pretty much straight away.

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This was broken up with a trip to Bergen, Norway for work. We were in final negotiations with a company in a big deal that we needed to close out, so I didn’t get to see much being in an office for such a long part of the day, but what I did see on my one run was incredible!

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(I was very thankful my director fancied a beer after a tough day’s work too…it meant I had a drinking buddy and never paid the £11 a pint!)

This past weekend was a pretty important “training race”. In preparation for my 70.3s in the next couple of weeks, I entered the Scottish 25mile TT cycling championships. Lewis wanted me to do a solid bike, and go straight into 10km worth of running work and thought this fit in perfectly.

The race is held every year on the A90 dual carriageway early on a Sunday morning. In the couple of days leading up to the event, I wasn’t really nervous; more excited to see just how fast I could go for 25 miles. Going by the speed I’ve done in the 56miles within a 70.3 (22.5mph-ish), I thought a little faster and entered with a 1.05.

Well, that had me seeded as 4th slowest. And I genuinely didn’t know how much faster I could go. I was seriously nervous about coming last!! These were pure cyclists and this was my first time trial! I even struggled being held at the start line while clipped in….mortifying!

Luckily, the marshals were all AMAZING and no one judged me (to my face)! The countdown started and when the started shouted “GO” I got a little push and just went into beast mode! On our road trip down to the start at Forfar, we stopped at McDonalds for coffee (so we drove the full course) and after expecting lots of signs but not seeing too many, I was shivering due to the fears of cars not paying attention on a dual carriageway (I was thinking drink drivers from a Saturday night, or rushing to get home from a weekend away). Well, it turned out I have never felt safer on the roads! There were support vehicles, supporters in all the lay bys, and the majority of cars went to the inside lane, leaving me loads of room (bar one white van man who beeped just to scare us all).

Within 10 minutes, I caught the girl who had set off a minute before me. Had I got excited and gone out too fast? Then, after 18minutes, I caught the other 2 that had started ahead of me.

That meant I was leading the field of senior females and men. I had no one to aim for and was essentially the rabbit for my competitors. I decided since there was nothing I could do, I would just push as hard as a I could and pretend there was someone just in front of me in the distance. At the overpass just past half way, I looked at my watch at saw I was bang on 31minutes. I didn’t look at my watch for too long; I wasn’t using a power meter and I didn’t want to psych myself out with the average speed, but I assumed the distance was around 13 miles, so as long as I sustained the same effort I could probably get a 1.03, which I was quite happy with.

When my watch beeped at 15miles, I was like “hang on”. I didn’t know if I was delirious or not, but at this point I calculated I could perhaps dip under the hour. Well, beast mode activated, I pushed every rolling hill on that course (it wasn’t as flat as you would think from being in the car! Super undulating, but not enough to get out of TT position, which kept it exciting I guess). I was getting tired but I just kept thinking how awesome it would be to say I broke the infamous hour for the 25miler. I looked at my watch with about a mile or so to go until the turn off at that McDonalds exit, and thought I saw a “58”. Oh well, that sub60 dream was out the window, but I just had to keep pushing to get the best time I could.

…that 58 was actually a 54!!!!! When I crossed the line in 58.07, averaging 26.0mph for 25miles, I couldn’t believe it!! Because it was a time trial, you don’t finish with anyone, so I had no one to talk to (imagine how confused I was!!); I didn’t know what to do! I decided to roll back to the campus where registration was, and where I had agreed to meet Kyle (who was doing his long run while I rode). He was at the car earlier that we agreed just because he knew I could go faster that a 1.05, but never expected that time!

Next, I had a run to do! He ran with me for about a mile, then I went off to do 5x7mins@HM effort around Forfar loch. Our friend Phil cycled from Perth to meet us at the car for after we finished our run, so we had coffee and waited for all the other cyclists to come in.

Phil and Kyle had overheard people saying the conditions were really good, so he told me not to get too excited if I don’t get a top 5, but last year was apparently perfect conditions and to get 3rd place you had to break an hour. I thought I would be there or thereabouts, but didn’t want to be disappointed if not.

Turns out I was 2nd fastest female of the day, behind Vicky Smith who is now the Scottish 25mile record holder after yesterday!!! That was the calibre of the field! Again, everyone was really nice and I came home buzzing for the next couple of weeks.

Report here: https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/scotland/article/20180604-scottish-cycling-news-Scottish-National-25-Mile-Time-Trial-Championship–Two-Lane-Blacktop-0

The hay is in the barn…let’s hope I can do well in these pro fields and Kyle can show once again how world class he is at the UTWT Salzburg while we’re over there!!

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