Fitness and Lifestyle

The Training Diaries: Ironman Copenhagen - The Final Countdown


"It's the final countdown! Doo doo doo, doo! Doo doo doo doo doo!"

Can you tell I'm excited? It's t-minus 5 days until I get on the start line at KMD Ironman Copenhagen. This time next week, I should be the proud owner of 1 big shiny Ironman medal, 1 finisher t-shirt and 2 very sore legs (because we all know the second day DOMs is when sh*t really gets real). The bags are just about packed, the bikes are tucked up in their boxes and soon we'll be hitting the road for endurance event number 1 - the long drive to Denmark. It's going to be an adventure.

It's all feeling a bit surreal at the moment. It feels like only a nanosecond has passed since I was stood at the finish line of Ironman Bolton in 2015 on support crew duties for G, feeling kind of incredulous that actual human beings had managed to complete 140.6 miles of swimming, cycling and running and were still in one piece. It seemed impossible. I wanted in. "When I grow up, I'm going to be an Ironman!" Now here I am, big girl pants firmly on and ready to go. Everything I've done over the last 2 years has been leading up to this and now it's time to put my tri suit where my mouth is and see what I can do. 

Tapering off this last week or so has been weird and it's made me realise just how much I've loved my training this year. Okay, the big 7 hour training days, the 5 hour turbo stints (thanks, Beast from the East) and the freezing early season lake swims were tough. But getting out there and getting it done, feeling my body getting stronger with every session? It's been awesome and I kind of don't want it to stop. I'm definitely happiest when I've got training to do and a goal to aim for! 

So here it goes - the culmination of 112 hours of running,  146 hours of cycling, 33 hours of swimming. 1,152 km travelled on foot, 4,193km on two wheels and 101,282m spent doing my best mermaid (aka sea cucumber) impression. Blood, sweat, blisters, tears. God knows how many fig rolls and litres of chocolate milk. Obscene amounts of time spent galloping about in fluorescent, stretchy clothing. Now, it all comes down to one day. Obviously I've got a time in mind that I'd like to achieve but the perk of this being my first Ironman is that as long as I finish it's a guaranteed PB! And "just finishing" is a huge achievement in itself. It's a long day and I know from my experience at IM 70.3 Zell am See that anything can happen. Come what may. The plan is to control the controllable, race strong, enjoy the experience and give it everything I've got. Whatever happens, as long as I can come away from it knowing I've done my best I'll be happy. I've got my mantras in my pocket - "things get tough, you get tougher", "suck it up princess", "don't be shit" - and a determined fire in my belly. Add in the promise of Danish pastries and beer once I've finished and I'm good to go. Ironman Copenhagen, I hope you're ready because this little lycra-clad weirdo is coming for you!

See you on the other side...

An Estonian Adventure: AG European Champs Race Report


The day we set off on our journey to Estonia for the ETU age group European standard distance triathlon championships began, as all good adventures do, with a notification from the Easyjet app. Our flight had been delayed. After a few hours of scampering around Gatwick airport, we eventually got up in the air and landed in Tallin just after midnight. Bikes safely retrieved - with a big sigh of relief from me as this was the first time travelling with my shiny new Canyon - we headed down to the hire car place, expecting a quick 5 minute form to fill in before we could head to the nearby hotel we'd booked. No such luck - the guy seemed to want our full life stories and the promise of our first born child before he'd hand the car over. We eventually arrived at our hotel at 2am where we had a short nap before getting up at 5.30am to drive down to Tartu in time for the team briefing. Tired, but excited, we arrived in Tartu at about 8.30am and headed to the conference centre. Despite being surrounded by fellow GB athletes, taking our team photos and getting a full run down of the ins and outs of the race details, it still hadn't sunk in that I was in Estonia, getting ready to race at the European champs.

The day flew by in a blur of rushing around, finding registration, figuring out where transition was and just about managing to catch the start of the elite women's race before heading to our Air BnB. Guess who managed to book a top floor apartment with no lift? Just about managing to avoid dissolving into a puddle of our own sweat, we dragged both bike boxes and our suitcases up 8 flights of stairs and G set about putting the bikes back together. It was soon time for us to head down to check our bikes into transition, meaning that we hadn't had time to recce any of the bike course or even really ride our bikes properly to check they were working. Lesson very much learnt for the next time we race abroad - turning up less than 24hrs before you're due to race is a really bad idea!

After another sleepless night, race morning had arrived and I still hadn't quite got my head around the fact that I was there and about to race. This was only my second ever time racing the standard distance and it was at the European championships. Less than 2 years ago, I could barely ride a road bike and now I was here in GB kit. It all just felt a bit surreal and I was still half expecting someone to tap me on the shoulder and ask what I thought I was playing at!

With only a few weeks until Ironman Copenhagen, this race was all about making the most of the experience but coming home in one piece, ready to take on my final big block of Ironman training. With this in mind, I was having a small internal struggle with the part of me that wanted to go all guns blazing, and the part that knew I needed to race sensibly. We walked down to transition to do a few final bike checks and then walked the mile or so along the river up to the swim start. My wave were due to set off an hour before Graham's and soon it was time to say goodbye and get into the water. The swim was a deep water start and lining up at the buoys you could feel the current trying to pull you along - it was so hard to stay on the spot and wait for the customary heart-beat countdown before the gun went. Non-wetsuit definitely wasn't going to be a problem here. We swam downstream with the current pulling us along. I'd never swum in a river before - it was awesome! It was hard to gauge how fast we were being swept downstream. I spotted a guy from a previous wave up ahead, but figured that I didn't need to worry too much about him just yet. A few strokes later and the next thing I knew I'd managed to beach myself on his back like some sort of pesky river dwelling whale. Awkward. Turns out I was swimming a lot faster than I would in a regular lake. Minor beaching incident aside (sorry, man in the blue hat - at least I'm a fairly small human being!) the swim was great fun. The distance had been extended from the usual 1500m to account for the current and 24 minutes later, with my watch clocking a total of 1800m, I was making my way up the steep exit ramp to T1.

Bike time. Goggles off, helmet on, grab bike - go! The bike course was made up of two loops, taking us out on a long out and back before winding through the town right down by transition and back out again. Other than a few sharp little inclines here and there, the course was pretty flat and the conditions were ace, with very little wind. It was so tempting to go as hard as I could on the out and back, just to see what speed I could get up to! I managed to stay disciplined and stick to my planned power. Go hard, but don't break. With the Ironman in the back of my mind, I was probably a little overcautious round some of the bends in town (I was so paranoid about coming off and wrecking my bike with only weeks until the big day) and lost some time there, but overall I was happy with my bike split and I had a great time out on the course.

Soon I was rolling into T2. You'd think that, having completed two of the three disciplines, it would have sunk in by this point that I was racing at the European champs but nope. Dilly daydream over here was on autopilot. Bike racked, helmet off, trainers on. Time to run. I've been working hard on my running this year, but it's all been about the long slow stuff ready for the Ironman marathon. I knew I needed to be realistic with my pacing - clinging on for dear life works in a sprint but blowing up a few kms into the 10km run of a standard distance wouldn't be a pretty picture. I settled into my pace - go hard, don't break. I overtook a couple of people on the bridge out of town and found myself a little bit in no-man's land for the long out and back section. Usually on the run I like to go into shark mode and choose people ahead of me to try and overtake one by one, but for quite a long section of the run there was no one really around me - only people going in the opposite direction heading for the finish! As much as this was mentally a little tough, I was kind of glad for it as it was good preparation for the inevitable lonely sections that I'm sure I'll encounter during the Ironman marathon. The humidity of the day was starting to make its presence known by this point and I chucked water over my head at each aid station to keep cool. I settled into a good rhythm on the run, but it was here that I really started to feel our less than ideal preparation from the day before - the 20,000+ steps we'd walked, the numerous flights of stairs we'd slogged up and down to drag the bike boxes and suitcases up to our apartment, the major lack of sleep - I could feel the fatigue in my legs. I would have loved to have been able to negative split the run and speed up for the second half (that was the plan!) but, not today satan. I knew realistically that pushing any harder was going to be risky in terms of being able to recover enough for my big Ironman training block. I had a 5 hour bike ride and a 20 mile run to complete just a few days later. Calm your pants, keep it smooth. I held my pace, keeping it consistent until I knew that blue carpet to the finish line was near. With supporters lining the barriers, I managed something vaguely resembling a sprint finish (in reality it was probably more like a shuffle) and crossed the finish line with a new PB for the standard distance. There's still a huge amount of work to be done if I ever want to get competitive at this distance, but all things considered I was happy with how I went on the day.

It wasn't until I was back at the finish line, on the other side of the barriers now, waiting to watch Graham and our friend Chris finish that it really sunk in how cool it was just to be here. To go from 'I'd never be caught dead doing a triathlon' to qualifying for the age group European champs is a pretty big step, and I feel so grateful that I had the opportunity to go and race in a really cool city and represent my country. A GB lady who was racing in the 75-79 year old age category (she was quick to point out that she's only 75!) was talking to the commentator at the finish line - this was her 21st time racing at a championship, after taking up triathlon in her 40s. That kind of sums up how special this sport is. You don't have to have been a child sporting prodigy to be able to compete at a high level. There's so much opportunity for anyone to get involved. Give it courage, commitment and maybe just a little bit of madness and triathlon will take you places.

As I type, it's exactly 1 year to the day since my qualification race last August. I've come a long way since then and I feel like I'm only just getting started. Next stop, Ironman Copenhagen - 13 days to go!

10 Things Nobody Warns You About When You Take Up Triathlon


It's Ironman UK this weekend which means it's almost 3 years to the day since I suddenly developed the urge to spend all my free time getting sweaty in Lycra and refreshing my Strava stats. Triathlon is awesome, but addictive. Before you know it what started off as a metaphorical dipping of your toes in the water  - a little running here, a little cycling there - will soon see you plunging head first into a lake at some ungodly hour surrounded by hundreds of other wetsuit clad loons, ready for yet another race with a great big smile on your face. Here's 10 things nobody warns you about when you take up triathlon:

1) You'll never do just one.
Go anywhere near an Ironman finish line and you'll probably hear a chorus of "never again!" as the athletes hobble away to collect their bikes. Give them an hour or so, they'll be planning their next race. I've said it once and I'll say it again, the thing I love about triathlon is there's no such thing as a perfect race, because there's always something you can work on - "if I can just get a little more powerful on the bike"... "if I can just speed up T2"... "next time, I will..." - this, combined with the huge hit of endorphins and the fact that it makes you feel like a total bad ass, is the reason triathlon is so addictive. There's a reason that Tim Don has put himself through an excruciating recovery process to get back on those start lines after suffering a broken neck in Hawaii last year - despite the fact that he already holds the Ironman world record. He knows he's got more to give and he's doing whatever it takes to get there. Sorry friends, family and loved ones - I'm in this triathlon thing for the long run!

2) There's always an excuse to buy more kit
You'll spend your life savings and promise to hand over your first born child in return for various bits of kit and caboodle. Time spent eyeing up new high heels, dresses and handbags has been swapped for drooling over tri shoes - "I know I don't need them, but these ones are pink!" - picking out my next race suit - "no one panic, but Stolen Goat have started doing tri suits..." and blowing my savings account on a new TT bike. Just when you think you've got enough, you'll find a new reason to add to your ever growing collection of Lycra. My word of advice? Don't download the Wiggle app. You'll slip, fall and accidentally order yourself a whole new wardrobe of kit.

3) So. Much. Laundry.
With all that kit, and all that training, comes a lot of laundry. Some people choose to decorate their homes with house plants, trendy knick-knacks or snazzy ornaments. Us? We've opted for carefully draped cycling shorts, aptly positioned jerseys and artistically arranged tri suits - all hanging up to dry ready for the next session. I'd say at least once a week I almost scream the house down thinking that there's some sort of miscreant lurking in my shower, only to realise it's just one of our wetsuits hanging up to dry. Oh, and if you're anything like me and G - once it's dry you'll probably just use your intensive training schedule as an excuse to leave the clean stuff to form a small mountain in the spare room. Who has time to fold anyway?

4) Peanut butter will become a major food group. And it will get everywhere
Shove it in a sandwich, pop it on top of your porridge, slip a spoonful inside a cut medjool date with a little sea salt to take out on the bike for your long rides. Peanut butter is life and the god of foods. I frequently accidentally leave the house with peanut butter on my face. My other half is essentially a bear in disguise, so I'm forever finding peanut butter on the light switches. Running out of the good stuff will be classed as a code red situation (only matched by running out of coffee) and the flag will be flown at half mast until another jar has been safely hunter gathered from the shops.

5) Sunday mornings will never be the same again
Sundays are all about long lie ins and breakfast in bed, right? Not if you're a swim-bike-run obsessive! Lazy mornings under the sheets will be traded for 7am lake swims, early morning bike rides and 4am alarm calls to shovel down some porridge before races. And the weirdest part? You'll absolutely love it.

6) You'll master the art of the second breakfast
I already had the whole short stature, weird feet thing down but taking up triathlon really marked my transition into full blown hobbit-hood as I discovered the glorious meal known as second breakfast. All those early starts mean you'll often get to 9.30am having already done more exercise than most people do in a week. You'll develop an appetite not dissimilar to that of an angry bear that just woke up from hibernating. Recovery food is important, and so is any excuse to have extra coffee. Viva la second breakfast!

7) There's a chance you'll lose all sense of decorum
There was a time I wouldn't even go into the shared kitchen at my uni house without make up on, let alone venture into the outside world. I used to go out running even on the hottest of days in full length leggings because I was so worried that a stranger might judge my milk-bottle white pins if I dared to wear shorts. Now? I'll quite happily hop straight out of the lake and mooch into the local supermarket with bits of lake weed accessorising my dripping wet hair, stuff fig rolls into my gob out on long bike rides without a care in the world about what passing motorists might think. And those long running tights? Safely stashed at the back of the wardrobe as soon as Spring turns up to play. It's not the most glamorous of sports, but triathlon has been amazing in helping me to loosen up a little and stop caring so damn much about what other people think. I probably should stop doing snot rockets in public, but when you're busy trying to nab a QOM on a Strava segment a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. Speaking of Strava...

8) You'll turn into a Strava nerd
If you're yet to fall entirely down the rabbit hole, Strava is an app that allows you to record all your workouts, see other people's, give/receive 'kudos' and fight to the death for the top spot on the segment leader boards. Strava is a gateway drug to full blown, number-obsessed nerdiness. A quick check of your average pace and heart rate, will soon turn into scouring through your average strides per minute, your bike power output and whatever other stats you can get your cycling glove clad mits on. One of my clients made the mistake of asking how my training was going the other day and ended up with an ear full about my VO2 max and my FTP. Sorry everyone, I've turned into a numbers geek and I don't care who knows it.

9) You'll meet a whole community of equally crazy, like-minded people
I know we look a little bit weird, strolling about in skin-tight one pieces and donning bike helmets that make us look like we're off on some sort of space voyage - but I promise, triathletes are an incredibly friendly and supportive group of people. The only issue? We're all a big bunch of enablers. "Buy the new bike!" we'll cry, "Of course you should enter another race!", "One more cycling jersey won't hurt..."

10) Your perception of 'impossible' will change - and you'll discover a whole new level of self-belief
Not long ago, I thought being able to run further than 5km felt impossible. In 39 days time, I'll be doing a marathon for the first time on the streets of Copenhagen, having already completed a 2.4 mile swim and a 112 mile bike ride earlier in the day. Triathlon gives you the opportunity to achieve things you may never have thought you were capable of, and each little victory will make you stronger and more determined. It transfers over into everyday life too. You'll find yourself becoming a little bolder, a little braver, a little more ready for adventure. Once you've conquered your first triathlon, you'll start feeling like there's nothing you can't tackle.


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The Training Diaries: Countdown to the European AG Standard Distance Championships



It's somehow July already (is it just me or did someone hit fast forward on 2018?) which means I'm officially counting down the days until I fly out to Estonia for the European Age-Group Standard Distance Championships on the 21st. Team kit has been delivered and tried on. A giddy little freak out about my actual name being on actual GB kit has been completed (it involved my finger-pointing, butt shaking dance which I'm pretty sure I'm going to do myself an injury with one of these days) and I'm currently in the midst of a short block of speed-work focused training to get race ready. This has involved a drop in volume and a ramp up of intensity - up and at 'em legs, it's rocket time!

Ironman Copenhagen is the main focus this year which means that a large proportion of my training since December has been centred around building endurance, going long and using my diesel engine. In contrast, these last few weeks have been all about cranking up the speed a little to help me cope with the more fast and furious style of racing required for the standard distance. It's safe to say that my legs weren't quite sure what was going on when I started asking them to run fast again, but it's amazing how quickly the body can adapt and over the last couple of weeks I've started seeing big improvements. I've hit my fastest ever average swim pace in the lake (I honestly think my new Zone 3 Align wetsuit might have magic powers, it's awesome!), my bike pace is moving on up and my running is feeling stronger than ever.

On Sunday, I returned to the scene of my home town sprint triathlon which gave me an opportunity to really see where I'm at under race conditions. I had a great time out on the bike course, taking my new Canyon TT out for his inaugural race. I'd decided to ride at my FTP power so I could see how my legs felt on the run - a new PB for 5km off the bike was a nice little confidence booster that I can maintain that kind of effort during the bike split and still run strong. Taking the age-group win and getting a snazzy new trophy to add to the shelf was the cherry on top of a great morning out. It was so much fun racing in my home town and seeing so many familiar faces out on the course - both racing and marshalling.

As gritty as the higher intensity speed-work has been, I've enjoyed the switch up in my training schedule. The last couple of months have seen me average between 18-20 hours of training a week, tackling several big 6-7 hour swim-bike-run days, along with a 30km run pretty much every Saturday (apologies to any Hitchin/Letchworth dwellers who may have seen me out on one of these long runs - Ironman training seems to take away any sense of decorum, so I've probably been spotted pulling my shorts out of my butt crack and blasting out snot rockets in public a few too many times). Don't get me wrong, I love the big training days. There's something special about looking at your plan, thinking 'oh crap how the hell am I going to do all of that!?' only to get home several hours later knowing you've conquered it. But it does get a bit relentless, so having a few weeks of lower volume, higher intensity training has given me that extra little bit of down time that I needed. Mind and body are feeling good and I'm excited to feel the benefits of all this speed work when I get my teeth into the last big endurance block after Estonia. 

With 11 days to go until the ETU champs, everything seems to be coming together quite nicely so that I can go out and enjoy racing a shorter distance without it being a total shock to the system! The championship will only be my second time racing the standard distance so my main aim for the race is just to get out there, push hard and see what I can do. I'm not expecting to be massively competitive up against all the experienced short distance racers, but as long as I can come away knowing I've given it my all and made the most of the opportunity I'll be happy. Tartu looks beautiful as well and I love that Triathlon is taking me there - the adventure continues!


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How Running Changed My Life


I'm not one to be over dramatic (actually, I totally am), but taking up running in 2014 completely changed my life. My boyfriend, my dog, my house, my job. The fact that I spend 99.9% of my time doing something triathlon related. It all comes back to running. Which kind of freaked me out when I had a bit of a 'sliding doors' moment the other day, wondering what I'd be doing if I'd taken up some other slightly less sweaty hobby.

Time to jump back into my pink glittery time machine and time travel back to September 2014... I'd recently graduated from the University of Leeds and moved back into my childhood bedroom, armed with an English Lit degree certificate and a tower of books and anthologies. Life consisted of an endless, dreary cycle of graduate job applications and I found myself having to revise GCSE maths for marketing graduate schemes. The horror. Having moved away from all my uni friends, gone through a break up and realised that my visions of strutting straight out of my graduation ceremony into a swanky job (sporting Jimmy Choos and a Prada bag, naturally) had been over optimistic, I was a bit of a miserable little creature.

Thankfully, spotting my downward spiral into Netflix zombiehood, my Mum dragged me out of my bedroom and got me to join the Hitchin Hares running club with her. I'd done the odd bit of running before and had completed the Cambridge Race for Life 5km in just under half an hour earlier in the summer. But this was a whole new ball game. Running with other people, having to - god forbid - talk whilst running!? I was bloody terrified and I'm pretty sure my Mum was too. But we went, and we did it anyway. And it's one of the best decisions I've ever made. We kept going back each week, graduating up from the beginners group up into the big kids 1 hour run group. My fitness improved and so did my confidence - I don't think it's a coincidence that soon after joining I was able to land my first graduate PR internship. There were some rather speedy types at the running club, most of whom I only knew by the backs of their heads as they galloped off into the distance. Until one week when the speedy guy with the Very Blue Eyes decided to come and start talking to me as we made our way up one of Hitchin's pointier inclines. I don't know if you've ever tried to act cool, hold a conversation and pretend that your lungs aren't on fire at the same time, but if you have you'll understand my difficulty! Spotting that I was struggling, Mr Very Blue Eyes promised that this would be the last hill on that evening's run. This was a lie as we rounded the corner only to be faced with another incline, but that small indiscretion aside, I decided he seemed like a pretty good guy.

A few days later we met up for a drink, and Mr VBE - otherwise known as Graham - told me that he was planning to do 2 Ironman races the next year. "What's an Ironman?" I asked, envisaging him gallivanting around in some sort of Marvel costume. It turned out he was actually talking about a long distance triathlon event, comprising a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike and a marathon. Really, I should have realised he was an absolute loon then and turned on my heel - but instead I was kind of intrigued. Fast forward a few months and we'd bought a house, moved in, decided on a name for the metaphorical dog we didn't yet own (he's called Rizzo, he arrived in January 2016 and completely rules the roost) and I'd entered my first ever half marathon. I was really starting to enjoy this running malarkey. Fast forward another couple of months and there I was, standing by a lake in Bolton at the crack of dawn, soaked through to my undies thanks to the Great British weather, watching Graham as he made his way through the swim section of Ironman UK. Earlier in the year, I'd stood by the lake at the Bedford Middle Distance Tri and adamantly declared that I would "never be caught dead doing a triathlon". I hated cycling, and - "have you seen how disgusting that water looks?" Nope, no, not happening. Ironman UK changed all of that. I didn't want to be spectating. I wanted to be out there, Lycra-clad and kicking some arse.

The rest, as they say, is history. Later that year I did an aquathlon. The following year I did a few sprint races. I left the PR job that was slowly grinding me down and re-trained as a Personal Trainer. This gave me the flexibility I needed to really be able to commit to training. Last year I completed my first half Ironman and now I'm all set to race at the European standard distance championships and Ironman Copenhagen. That sad, shy girl with no self-belief from 2014? She's gone. I'm stronger physically and mentally than I ever have been, with a renewed sense of purpose and this determined little fire in my belly. If I'm not triathlon training, I'm triathlon daydreaming. I dream of Kona, of one day being able to call this swim-bike-run thing my job. Far-fetched and wildly unrealistic? Probably. But you've got to aim high. Triathlon has become a huge part of my life, a huge part of me and I wouldn't want it any other way. I bloody love this sport.

And really, I've got running to thank for all of this. It was the spark that lit the flame, the small change that lead to some pretty huge leaps. So - thanks Mum, for dragging me out to that first Hitchin Hares session. I may still space out in front of Netflix, but at least now it's while I'm on the turbo trainer! Thanks to the Hitchin Hares for pushing me out of my comfort zone and introducing me to my now-boyfriend and sausage dog co-parent. And thank you running, for helping me to start believing in myself and being the catalyst that would completely overhaul my life in the best kind of way.

The point of this autobiographical, self-indulgent ramble? I guess it's that I've been there on the other side of things - watching the London marathon on TV and wondering if I could ever run further than the end of the road... and taking the leap to find out has been the best thing that could ever have happened to me. So if that's you, if you've ever wondered if you could run, or take on a triathlon, or get out on a bike - you should just go for it. I can't promise that it'll bring you a boyfriend, a new house, a new job and a naughty sausage dog - but it will bring you joy, fitness and self-belief. And who knows? It could be the start of a journey you don't even know exists.

The Training Diaries: ETU Championships and Ironman Copenhagen



Okay so we're almost halfway through 2018 and I'm only just getting round to penning my first blog post of the year. The last five months have passed in a whirlwind of train, work, eat, sleep, repeat - and I'm loving it.

2017 was the year of 'actually, yes I can' as I surpassed my own expectations and tested the waters with the completion of Ironman 70.3 Zell am See. I started 2017 scared and uncertain. I finished it feeling mentally and physically stronger, having achieved more than I believed I was capable of. With that in mind, 2018 has become the year of 'how far can I go?' Of stepping things up a notch and pushing my perceived limits - one swim stroke, one turn of the pedals and one running stride at a time.

I've got my sights set on two main races this year - the European age group standard distance championships in July and Ironman Copenhagen in August. Taking on the latter has been inevitable, ever since I got bitten by the Ironman bug spectating at Ironman UK and Ironman Wales in 2015. The former, the ETU champs in Estonia, was kind of unexpected. I entered the qualification race, which took place at the beginning of August 2017, as a pre-Ironman 70.3 sharpener. I'd only ever raced sprint distances before so I wanted to have a bash at the standard distance just to experience a slightly longer race before I did my half ironman. I threw my name into the hat for qualification with zero expectations - it was more a case of 'may as well, I'm there anyway'. Fast forward a few months and there I was feeling slightly hysterical having just received an email that said I - the girl who used to run away from the ball in school P.E. lessons - was going to have the opportunity to represent the country and go up against Europe's finest age groupers after being awarded a roll down slot. While dreams of getting on the podium may be just that - pipe dreams - I'm so excited to head out to Estonia and experience racing at that level. Plus I get to wear snazzy GB kit.

Ironman (consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and a marathon) is the main goal this year, so a steady build in volume and plenty of endurance work has been a big focus. Training is going really well so far. I'm running further than I've ever been able to, at a pace which less than 4 years ago was my 5km pace. The way the body can adapt and improve never ceases to amaze me and getting to go through that process is one of the things I love about triathlon. After a chilly start to the year, the open water season is finally upon us and I'm so happy to be back out in the lake again, especially now it's warmed up a touch. Sayonara chlorine and lane ropes, bonjour weeds and goose poo! The long winter turbo sessions have paid off (5hrs is my longest stint, involving several episodes of Riverdale and too many fig rolls to mention) and I've been having the best time out on the roads. New challenges justify a new bike, right!? I've been extremely naughty and treated myself to a Canyon Speedmax. I've named him 'the Beast' and we make a pretty good team. I never really thought a TT bike could be comfy, but after a great bike fit I feel stronger, more comfortable and more in control than ever on the new beast. He's speedy too - I repeated a time trial I did on my road bike in April on the new TT a couple of weeks ago and took a good chunk off my time. A good purchase - happy birthday/Christmas to me, love me, for the next 50 years...

I'm enjoying the training process so much this year. Motivation is at an all time high and every tough session ticked off feels like another link in the armour to get me race ready. 61 days until the ETU champs, 90 days until Ironman Copenhagen. But first, support crew duties for my other half at Ironman Lanzarote this weekend! I'll be the one with the annoying cowbells probably getting overly emotional at the finish because if there's one thing that makes me bawl like a baby, it's an Ironman finish line.


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