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Scottish Middle Distance Championship Champion

Let’s call Aberfeldy a “learning experience”! Ok so I was always thinking I would rather stay nearer the race just for a longer lie, but as the weeks passed (and hotel prices rocketed to over £150 per night within a 100 mile radius!), I kinda warmed to the idea of being at home for the first weekend in what felt like months, and just doing a ridiculously early Disney-style race morning of getting up around 3am and hitting the road from Alford to Aberfeldy shortly after that.

As the days drew nearer, Kyle told me he should really come with me, and we should go down the night before, but I insisted I would be fine. Well the Thursday before the race, I was on the race website and was it not essential to be at race registration the previous day to pick up your number!? In a mad panic, I begged Robbie to stay at his. He wouldn’t be in but he hid a key for us (love them!), but then I realised it would still be a good 90 mins to get to the start line from there, so I gave in and decided to book a campsite.

We camped before Holkham and, although I didn’t have the best race, I didn’t mind camping so close to the start line. Luckily Kyle agreed to come now (probably after hearing Tom would be there so he’d have friend!) and it meant he could take down our tent (it claims it is a 2 second tent, but it took us probably 2 hours to take it down the first time we used it!).

Anyway, panic averted, we drove down Saturday afternoon after I visited multiple Scottish cycling record holder and all round superstar Jon Entwistle’s house for coffee, cake, catch ups and bike advice. The drive was stunning (over Glenshee), I registered with no issues, and I drove the 12 miles to the campsite, while Kyle ran there as part of his run session – which turned out to be 12 miles uphill into a massive headwind…sorry!! I got my bike sorted and tent set up in that time, and did a wee run to shake out the travel. We met again during the run and both saw a takeaway pizza sign at a nearby hotel so agreed to do dinner there. We got there just as the kitchen closed (not the best prerace prep given it was 9pm and I was only just about to eat dinner, only to get up at 4am for breakfast…) BUT thankfully the owner got us a couple pizzas and we ate them right on the loch with a beer. Loch Tay really is stunning!

…Until it POURED!! All friggin night!!!! We got ZERO sleep, and that isn’t an exaggeration. It started off pretty funny and just how bad it was, but by 2am we were getting pretty angry! Alas, alarm went off (not that it was needed) and off we went to the two transitions (which is complicated with no sleep!) to set up. A shout from Arash cheered me up, but all I could think of at that point was coffee. I was too tired to even be the little bit nervous, which was annoying me. And no coffee was available (Durty Events if you are reading this, I would have paid big bucks for caffeine before the race start!).

I tried to make these into positives. I got over 10 hours sleep on Friday night due to a lazy evening and no alarm set for training on Saturday, so that’s what matters; not the previous night. And the loch will wake me up; caffeine isn’t the be all end all (turns out it is).

No time for a warm up, and a quick catch up with superstars Kirsty, Paul and Doug, we got in the water. It was FREEZING! The last open water swim I’d done was in 23C London which was a Jacuzzi compared to this! Right, try and be nervous, Debs…maybe you could manage to pee? Sorry for the TMI, but just as I decided now was the best time to try and pee, the gun went off!!!!!!!!! Zero time to think (or pee), I was swam over by several bodies and was pretty far back!

I sprinted around a couple of groups that had formed, then found myself in no man’s land.

Again, I turned this into a positive and was always going to be doing the race as a training day, so actually embraced swimming with nobody towing me. It was also a challenge trying to spot, as there were only 3 buoys, nearly 700m apart, and with the mist on the loch it was tough to see!

I exited in 28.40 which is pretty slow but understandably slow, and a few people clocked it as long (probably because you’re never going to swim in the shortest line to the next buoy with them being so far apart!).

I suffer from Reynaud’s pretty bad, and I struggled getting my wetsuit off, so I decided to amateurly put my cleats on before mounting the bike, as it could be dangerous doing it while riding. I saw Kirsty come in and cheered her on but quickly changed that to complaining that I couldn’t get my (ski) gloves on! Finally off I went and within a minute I see Paul on the side of the road having gone through a huge puddle and over a pothole. The roads were treacherous!

This scared me quite a bit (it’s no surprise I have issues regarding coming off my bike!), so I think subconsciously I rode slower and definitely more cautiously. I also significantly lowered my tire pressure which I think hindered my performance. I didn’t check it race morning (epic fail) but after the race it was well under 80. Oops!

Another fail was knowing there was an extra prize for fastest time up the Schiehallion KOM, but not knowing it wasn’t actually on the way from transition, but instead the steep part about 45 miles in. Oops again! I nailed it up, but I did wonder why I didn’t see a time system anywhere….idiot! When I got on the flattish part around Loch Rannoch, I was trying to stay hydrated but I was too cold, the rain was the same if not stronger, people kept passing me and I couldn’t even take in the views I was too cold! At about the half way point, Kirsty passed me and shouted some encouragement (she smashed the bike!) and I just said I was a bit cold! I couldn’t have stayed with her if I tried.

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(lonely, cold and wet!)

As I approached the end of the loch, I had words with myself to give it my all on the REAL Schiehallion KOM and then at least I might win one prize that day. It was a tough climb, where you think you’ve reached the top but then you turn and there’s more. I just kept pushing as I was riding angry.

Then it was pretty much all downhill for 5 miles to T2. After overtaking a couple of people on that climb, they overtook me again on the descent, due to my fear of coming off (which I know quite a few people did…). At the dismount line (bike split was 2.41 I think), I saw Tom who just happened to be on his long run, but he wasn’t with Kyle (Kyle was exhausted from a sleepless night and went back to the site for a nap). Again, not having feeling in my hands or feet, I couldn’t put on my running shoes (I had planned on socks but that would be another 10mins struggling…another fail proven by all the blisters I got!). The announcer on the speaker made me laugh by saying my pre-run ritual was this spiritual jig ie me hopping around trying to get my trainers on and failing miserably. That joke actually put me in good spirits and I went on to the run course in a better mood.

My aim was to catch Kirsty, but I had no idea how I would hold up, given my lack of fuelling, but within a kilometre I could feel my feet again and began to warm up. I actually felt pretty good! The route was 3 laps with a mixture of trails, road and a medium hill in each lap. It was good for cheering and to see where your competitors are! And there were loads of marshals who were so supportive, and aid stations which I needed as the sun finally decided to come out!

About 4 miles in, I caught Kirsty right back at transition and we swapped some encouraging words (I LOVE this between competitors…I have mentioned before that we do this for fun, so I don’t understand the anger in people sometimes). At this point, I just kept reminding myself to stay fuelled and maintain a sustainable effort. I tried to keep picking people off who were a lap behind, and hearing so many people cheering fellow competitors on made me so positive and I think it made me run faster!

I even had a sprint finish in me, so I was happy with how strong I felt on the run (1.29.05 I think it was), despite the swim and bike being some of my worst performances.

A quick change, and I was back out on the course with Kyle for some more running miles (told you it was a training day!). I did 7 miles to make it 20 for the day, cheering athletes and encouraging Kyle to keep up (he does not do well with sleep deprivation…9 minute miles were a struggle for both of us!).

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Unfortunately, even after all this, we still had to wait another 2 hours before they started prize giving, and the weather was back to pouring rain. Next time, I think we’d head for lunch and come back as I think it made us both a little ill waiting around in the cold.

At prize giving, I found out I won the hill climb – I think I was 6.40 and Doug won the men’s crown just over 30 seconds quicker, so I was thrilled with that!

Fraser Cartmell won the overall men’s race and we had a beer shower after prize giving…I was so glad I didn’t have a shower!

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It was lovely to catch up with people (some we haven’t seen in ages!), and then off we went to Aberfeldy (the race was actually 6 miles from there in Kenmore!) for some of the best coffee I’ve had in months, a quick catch up with Tom and Fiona, and a stop in Ballater for fish and chips (that was an anti-climax…they were rubbish!).

The following day I had a run session to learn to cope with running fast on tired legs, but I felt like a zombie! 2x2miles barely getting under 6.30, but it was the effort that counted!

The following weekend was a BIG SURPRISE at the National 100 mile cycling championships, so update on that soon!

Interview and Triathlon Scotland recap here

Beer shower video here

 

 

 

 

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racing, Training, travel, Triathlon, Uncategorized

London Triathlon & Mixed Relay Cup

When Triathlon Scotland invited me to be on the Scottish Stirling Team (there is only the one performance centre in Scotland!) for the Mixed Relay Cup after I won the national sprint champs, I was in two minds. I was very thankful they wanted me on their team, it would be really fun to compete against some of the best triathletes in the world, but I would have an iron distance triathlon 5 weeks later and should probably be training for a 10 hour race as opposed to a 20 minuter.

I decided to do it, provided I got into the elite individual race the following day, and use it as some speed training!

I’ve still got a couple lingering injuries, but training has been relatively consistent, and I had no idea how I would get on in a 300m swim, 6km bike and 1500m run! I was terrified of the transitions too.

Flying down after work on Friday was fun (although Flybe you need to make your mind up whether you can pre-book bike onto London City flights), flying over the centre of London (I haven’t flown into that airport before!). I was actually next to a lovely guy who tweeted me later on, after finding out who I was and wishing me luck! Great detective skills, if you are reading this!

I met the rest of the team, who were already at dinner, and built my bike around 10pm with a couple of the guys. Because I am the granny of the group, it is so refreshing observing the youngsters, and I remember my swimming days and how hyperactive and sociable I was(am!). They are always so fun and don’t make fun of me too much for being old!

The race wasn’t until 6pm the following day, but I never realised how much faffing media commitments, briefings, route recces, warm ups, registering, UCI checks etc there would be! So we actually had to be ready for 1pm! For a 20min race!

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My roomie, fellow relay teammate, and new friend, Hannah and I spent the day together, doing a wee jog, grabbing breakfast and coffee and sitting in the sun (36C people!!) and she was lovely! She didn’t race as well as she’d hoped, but she’ll smash the next one!

At the briefing, seeing several Olympians was pretty intimidating (and there was definitely a clique-ness environment…no one wanted to mingle until the race was over interestingly enough) but I saw it all as some fun (I guess it is most of their careers and speciality). Being introduced to the crowd and on BBC was cool, and soon enough the gun went off for the 1st female in each team to go.

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Unfortunately, we handed over at the back of the pack to Cam who managed to work his way up a couple of places. I was in the pen waiting for him, when I saw Vicky, Rob and the kids, which gave me a buzz!

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(my cheerleaders!)

I got tapped, ran towards the ramp down to the Thames, and really enjoyed my running dive into the water! I kicked for an entire 300m (swim friends be impressed…you know I love a 2 beat kick!), and exited with the girl ahead of me.

Terrified of transition (after there were multiple falls in leg 1 on the slippery red carpet), I was dropped again however I time trialled my way back up to the girl in front within a couple of minutes (it was fun trying to hunt people down, like in the national time trial champs a few weeks ago!). Again, coming off the bike I was apprehensive, so took my time and would call it more of a falling dismount than flying dismount, but I did it, then struggled to get my trainers on! I didn’t get my right heel properly in my shoe, but I’m a bit of a toe-y runner so it actually didn’t bother me!

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The run was over so quickly! I just remember breathing hard, aiming for the girl in front, and getting her at the last second, and handing over to Luca! I remember a lot of Scottish accents cheering me which was awesome, but even more exciting was finding out it was McDOOGZ!!! He moved to London about 3 years ago and it was so nice to see him, as well as the Smiths! We spent the following day after the race together catching up 🙂

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Luca was awesome, but we ended up finishing 13th ish out of 15. We weren’t last, but there were definitely improvements that could be made. On my part, more run speed training and transitions, transitions, transitions!

Luca, Hannah and I then went for a very late Saturday night dinner at a very romantic pizza place on a balcony overlooking the Thames! Luca and I had the individual race the next day, while Hannah was done and was looking forward to meeting her girlfriends the next day.


 

The following morning, I wasn’t too sore, but I was drained from all the focus that comes with such a short race. We did a slow shake out and strides in the morning, I packed everything up to check out, and I headed to the Excel (a 2min bike ride from the hotel). Although I was there with a team, Luca and I went to my race ourselves because there was more focus on the juniors who were racing a couple hours later. I liked this, because it meant I could do my own thing (which ended up being talking to Mum about Amsterdam car hire!), but it was weird! I usually have Kyle, or friends I know competing, but I was Debbie nae mates, and Luca went off after me and was warming up!

I got speaking to double world duathlon champ, Felicity Sheedy-Ryan, who was really nice, and we were both last minute prepping! We got to the briefing, was informed it would be full Olympic distance, but the run was being reduced to 5km (!), and there was a gasp from the girls! I had found out that morning it may be the case, but I must say we weren’t emailed about it, nor was it on the website, so if that were my “A” race I would be very disappointed.

We were announced to the crowd and, as a late entry, I was last to dive into the water. I picked a position and the gun went off after a couple minutes of sculling. I thought I could get on the feet of some of the names I recognised but my swimming shoulders didn’t get the memo that I was racing two days in a row, and I was dropped after about 50m! I genuinely thought I was in last place (the field was amazing), that all I could think about was how embarrassing getting out of the water would be. UNTIL, about 300m in I finally felt someone behind me hit my feet! Yass I didn’t even care that I was leading the chase pack and not drafting…someone was behind me!

And then a boat came towards me and shoved a camera in my face for what seemed like minutes! Do I look up more for air time (look for the green goggles when it gets televised!). No Debbie stop being so distracted and swim!

I kept my group lead the whole way and exited with a Czech girl and Sheedy-Ryan. They ran super fast to their bikes (I was sprinting!) and we took off together.

Within about 5mins, we caught an American who was in no man’s land (she told me later she got dropped in the swim at about half way and she too thought she was last and considered stopping!).

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(no big deal…I’m just leading a pack with a Czech national champ, a USA athlete and an Ozzie world champ!)

I learned some real lessons here. I can ride with the best of them, but when it comes to corners, I am horrendous. Getting off and walking around the corners would probably be faster. So I had to play catch up every.single.deadturn. And there were quite a few! This lasted about 30km. Then at the last deadturn on the 3rd lap, I did something which made my brakes rub right onto my front wheel.

I made the stupid decision to just push harder after trying to fix it while riding to no avail, but really I should have stopped and started. I lost 3minutes in 10km and I was now in no man’s land. Hearing McDoogz and the Scottish team made me go from feeling like I was in a great position, to feeling utterly humiliated.

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(I wasn’t a happy camper triathlete here…)

Rolling into T2, I got my shoes on this time, and it was a pretty uneventful run to the finish. Although I didn’t know how many laps I was doing! I guessed each lap was a mile, but could it be a couple of km, and then a longer run once in the Excel? The latter was true, and to be honest I wasn’t pushing anyway. I didn’t want to aggravate my injury, I was never catching the group I was with on the bike, and the group behind us were pretty far back.

So, after seeing Doogz entering the arena, I apologised to him then jogged into 10th place.

Last year I was 5th and had a way better race, but this year the field was even more stacked, plus it was definitely good training with my TT effort for 10km 😉

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(Protip: ALWAYS race for beer and cuddles!)

Next up is the Scottish middle distance champs, then the 100 mile TT champs.

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