2018 flew by! From April to September, I blinked and it was gone. Lots of training and racing at weekends meant that I have definitely enjoyed the off season a bit too much!
I wasn’t sure 2017 could be topped (granted I got married, but I had a pretty good racing season too, and a few fun holidays thrown in there!) but 2018 took me to beautiful parts of the world, I got to race as a professional, and against superstars I recognised from TV, I surpassed expectation in my first non-car crash (literally) iron distance, and I got a national record for cycling!
Month by month looked something like this…
This was my highest training month as I was base building over Christmas and preparing (mainly in my garage due to weather!) for Challenge Wanaka the following month. I had some of my best sessions to date, and felt like I was in great shape!
(winter training – Zwift, an amazing present from Kyle, and Kyle as a training buddy himself!)
I also had a fun girls’ trip to London to see Dream Girls in the West End, and drink copious amounts of prosecco and cocktails!
In February, the majority of the month was spent galavanting around New Zealand! We started off travelling around Rotorua, where Kyle absolutely smashed the UTWT Tarawera, then we headed to Freyja and Aki’s wedding on Waiheke Island, and then we flew to the south island for me to race Challenge Wanaka and travel around Queenstown.
Unfortunately, the weather sucked! It was really warm but poured with rain 99% of our trip. Apart from the day of the wedding! My race was pretty heart wrenching for me. I was in the shape of my life, was out of the water in 4th (Aussies and Kiwis can swim), but then I suffered a technical as soon as I got on my bike, was at the side of the road for minutes, and started the bike in last place. I made up some time, but had picked up a virus in the days beforehand and had nothing to give on the run, and therefore had my first and only DNF of my triathlon career.
I also wasn’t going to the Commonwealth Games, so from a sporting perspective, for me it was pretty sucky but it made me realise sport isn’t everything. We saw some of the most beautiful parts of the world and made so many memories, along with drinking the best coffee and pies I will ever consume in my life. I miss you, NZ!
(Rain didn’t ruin our trip! The middle pic is after I won the Rotorua parkrun…drenched!)
March was my 30th birthday month! Kyle treated me to a spa weekend on a loch, and we went on some stunning trail runs, cycled to a pub where we cooked our own steak and watched the rugby, and had some great treatments and me time! It even snowed when we woke up for Sunday long run, where I immediately slipped and badly hurt my back. It meant I missed about a week of training, but I managed to pull it together for the Scottish duathlon champs, where I took the title.
They were held in Stirling and I went down with Mum and Emma and we did some shopping and they were amazing cheerleaders! I wasn’t happy with my speed, but I was careful with my back, and just wanted to finish after my NZ drama.
We also had another trip to London for a family 40th! We acted like tourists for a change and did some speakeasy bars, Brixton, and shopping of course!
(being blindfolded to my secret getaway made it more fun….I recommend!)
In April, my own race was the Balmoral 15 miler at their famous running festival. I had continued to train well in the running discipline, but surprised myself by taking the win and being only a couple of seconds off of the record held by a hill running international. I trained through this race, but it would have been nice to do it rested, with some hill runs thrown in as training, to see what I could really do in it.
Also, Kyle won the Scottish ultra champs at the Highland Fling, which I loved supporting! Driving to some of Scotland’s best locations to cheer was so
stressful and inspiring!
May was a training month. More cycling could be done outside, so I could see my fitness come out from the speed I was managing. I also travelled to Bergen for a big negotiation, and had one of my favourite runs of the year (up Fløyen)!
June saw me entering my first TT race. I was SO intimidated, because I know how sole cyclists can do some serious hours and power on those bikes, and seem to know all about their bikes and aerodynamics. Not me! As we know, I have all the gear and no idea!
The day prior, we did a Highland Games race (I took it super easy!) and refuelled with ice cream from Portsoy. It relaxed me because I hate racing Sundays…you think about it all weekend!
Anyway, I had entered a pretty poor time for my 25mile TT as I had no idea how I would get on. I ended up going off in 3rd, and overtaking the 1st two pretty early on in the race. That meant I led the whole championship field for about 20 miles, with noone to aim for, nor know how anyone behind me was getting on. I was really proud of how I executed the race – I was focused the whole way and even managed to negative split, finishing as 2nd fastest female in Scotland in 58.04ish, comfortably breaking the hour barrier!
Roll on the following week, where we headed for a European adventure! Starting in Brussels for a couple of days to be a tourist, then me having a 70.3 in Geraardsbergen, then to Munich and Frankfurt for some recovery tourism, Salzburg for Kyle to do amazing in another UTWT race, then Heilbronn (German wine country) for my 2nd race in a week.
Geraardsbergen was beautiful and everyone was so friendly. I was up against big names, but I felt excited as opposed to terrified to race them. Exiting the water in 1st place (yay!), I led for about half an hour until I was overtaken, but had a good lead on 3rd. And then, after a decent climb and descent, I went right through a pothole and punctured. 25 minutes later (I didn’t take anything with me), I was back on the road, and gave my all on little PSI. I had a tired sub90 to run into 7th but I was hugely disappointed.
I didn’t feel too broken from the race, so in Frankfurt I wanted to go out and explore on the bike. Half way into the ride it started pouring, I went over a tram line, and off I skidded along a main road with, of course, a tram coming behind me. My back hurt again (from my March fall) and my breathing wasn’t great afterwards. I went to a few bike shops to try and fix it, but none specialised in TT bikes, nor spoke English, so I had to get it fixed the afternoon before my 2nd race, where I stayed for about 4 hours (not great prep, especially when ill).
That being said, Heilbronn also didn’t go well (funny that!). I exited the water 4th (disappointing), the bike seemed to take forever (turns out the brakes were rubbing), and I came off the bike in 7th. I felt too ill to run, so finished in another disappointing 7th place.
Again, the places we saw and memories we made were unforgettable, but it did deflate me, thinking I just blew my year. A couple of weeks later, I regained some fire in my belly, and decided to enter a full iron distance.
Now I was also carrying a foot niggle. I wasn’t really able to push off the ground with my left foot, and had some soft and deep tissue damage. Running on grass and trails weren’t too bad, but sessions were a no no.
I stupidly still raced the Stonehaven half marathon. It was one of year’s hottest days with us, and I bonked big style! The race goes up for 7+ miles, then down pretty steep for the remaining 6. It’s a tough one! I thought, with some of it on trail, it would be ok on my foot and sheltered but, alas, I was limping by mile 10 and walked through the finish. I luckily still took the win, but puked in a bush afterwards (before cycling 50 miles home…I really am an idiot sometimes). Kyle took the win too so meant for a fun fish and chips evening!
I also won the Scottish sprint champs. The run there is all on grass, and is only a 5km, so I was hoping that I could get a lead on the bike (no drafting which I like!) and just hold on. The swim I was out in the front pack (I was happy because there were a few sub-60 100m swimmers in field!), took the lead on the bike straight away, and even gained a little bit on the run. It was SUCH a painful race (I had not trained at all for that sort of distance!) so it was nice to defend my title!
I had also entered another 70.3 (told you it was a busy summer!) to try and feel better after my European downer, so Castle Howard in York it was! I was pretty relaxed for this, although a couple athletes from the Leeds performance centre were doing it and surely if you train with the Brownlees you’ll be tough to beat.
The area had some pretty nasty roads (I lost a bottle in a pothole) and super steep climbs that thankfully don’t last long, but was a really beautiful setting! It hadn’t rained for weeks and was really hot, so the lake was so shallow and murky, but I just laughed my way out of the water (everyone started together) 1st female and 2nd overall (woop woop), had a pretty average bike, and a solid run on grass and trail to finish first and in the 2nd fastest time posted on the course!
Oh, and I was also invited to be on the Stirling Team as part of the Mixed Relay Cup held in London. It was a 20minute relay race with lots of tactics and really took me out of my comfort zone. I took a lot away from that race and learned a lot!
August was a big training month. Challenge Almere was my A race the following month, so I wanted some good numbers this month. I entered the Scottish middle distance champs in Kenmore last minute as a good training day, but never realised accommodation would be sold out, so we tented it in the pouring rain, which not only meant zero sleep, but also zero facilities for caffeine the following morning and a VERY sleepy Debbie at the start line. It was an early start for a Scottish race, and the loch was so cold! I was first female out of the water, but my Reynauds and poor breathing gave me no power on the bike. I was overtaken and was miserable. It was really pretty but I was just so cold!
The last climb on the bike (Schiehallion) was a KOM and therefore there was an additional prize for fastest up. That was my one goal on the bike, and I gave it my all on that climb. I got off the bike and ran really hard to try and catch 1st, and managed at the end of lap 1. The next 2 laps I was just sticking to a tempo pace and not pushing it to get ill…I had another 8 mile run to do after I finished! I took the win, and the Schiehallion KOM, so I was glad it wasn’t a wasted day!
I was then on to the 100 mile TT champs. It was on my doorstep and coach agreed it was perfect timing for Almere prep. I entered with my 25mile TT time, and was going off in 4th. It was a pretty miserable day, and I can’t say I was looking forward to cycling on the A90 when visibility was low (I threw off my glasses after half an hour because it was too wet and dark!). Alas, when the starter told me to go, all fears were set aside and it was game on for the next 4 hours! With LOTS of lessons learned (aerodynamics being the biggest), I finished 1st female in a new national record of 4.17!! I strongly believe I could have gone a lot faster on a better day, and had no idea how to pace it, so with a specific training plan and aero work, I would love to get close to 4 hours..!
I was hoping I was going in the right direction towards the end of the summer! I wasn’t ill, my injury was going away, and I was full of energy and mojo! This was the one I was aiming for since June; Challenge Almere. A full distance iron triathlon just by Amsterdam. I ran out of holidays at work, so Kyle flew out with the fam the day before and setup my bike (the 1st time I’ve ever really felt like a pro!) so all I had to do was show up!
I arrived Friday afternoon, went to the briefing, and chilled until the following race morning. No time to stress, which was amazing! I got quiet time at the airport, where I focused and relaxed, and woke up confident. I was first out of the water by 3 minutes, held off the Ironman Maastricht winner, along with former world record holder until 30km, then came off the bike in 3rd. The run felt easy until half way, and I was catching 2nd, but I was starting to lag. Realistically, I hadn’t run enough over the summer with my injury, but I had a pace and I was sticking to it. With 5 miles to go, I was overtaken, and walked all aid stations to finish in 9.20 and 4th place. I was over the moon! Initially, top 3 was so close, but at these big races the podium is top 10, so that shows the calibre of the athletes in the pro field!
AND, it being a Saturday race, I got to really enjoy the achievement. We went to the finish line party, had some cocktails, and on Sunday Kyle took me on an all you can drink canal cruise…It really was more than I could have hoped for in a race weekend!
In October, we holidayed to Canada and USA! First up was Toronto, where I met up with a Canadian swimmer I went on a summer camp with, who I hadn’t seen since 2017! Then, we were headed to Buffalo and then Chicago for the Chicago marathon! We were both in the sub-elite field – which was awesome! – but I kinda forgot that this was a big race for Kyle and some fun [with effort] for me, so following him around and asking if he saw the free Gatorade wasn’t helping him! I went out far too excited as usual at 6.10 pace, died at 7 miles after realising I hadn’t trained since Almere, then brought it back in the last 10km to scrape under 3 hours in 2.59! I just loved the experience, and it did make me think what I could actually get if I’d trained.
I then took Kyle to all my favourite American haunts (he’d only ever been to Alaska, whereas the USA was our second home growing up), and he particularly enjoyed Hooters and Coldstone!
Back to Canada we went, where we did a lot of driving and drinking and finished in Niagara Falls, where we met Noodles for the first time since he moved away and raced another marathon a week after Chicago at the Niagara Falls International Marathon. I had to settle for 2nd in 3.03, but Kyle won it and so we ended up getting lots of press! A great way to end our seasons!
Needless to say, November was spent doing zilch! It was amazing! But then when I started back running again, I got a horrible pain in the same place my foot hurt in summer. Back to physio I went and it turns out it was a stress fracture. No running for 7+ weeks for me!
We travelled to Scarborough for Kyle’s 81 miler (a shopping trip for me!) where I got to really chill and not run a step!
For work, I was headed to Gdansk for the dry docking of a vessel, so I had to use my time wisely and visit the Christmas markets!
(when Kyle and I went to Budapest for the markets in 2014, we lived off these cinnamon chimneys!)
Once “race” I DID manage to “run” was the Santa run – a BIG family race in our household: Kyle and Emma are joint race organisers, and Mum, Keith and I ran it!
After a mental year, I kinda lost mojo for training, plus lots of friends were home for the festive season, so I took time to meet them for walks and coffee shops and quality time! I didn’t swim after one morning I went for a paddle and came out blind! My eyes had a horrible reaction to the chlorine, had swollen up and I couldn’t see! So that put me off. I did some good sessions on the bike in the garage, but more just to earn my Roses and Celebrations 😉
If you have read this far, well done! That felt like an Ironman! It has been a crazy year and I have loved every second! I am back running (slowly) now, but won’t decide on races until I am better! As usual, thanks to all readers for your support over the years and I love sharing my journey with you!
Here’s to a great 2019! xoxo