Tag Archives: Pyrenees

Missing in action

5 Dec

I’ve been so busy recently that I’ve failed to post. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to get back on course this weekend, but I’m too tired to post much tonight.

This evening, Stuart and I went to a SUTRI swimming session. It was a 750m time trial. I realised when I got there that I’ve never timed myself over this distance, and I’m not sure I’ve ever swum 750m non-stop in a pool before (I’ve swum further than that in a lake or the sea, but that’s easier as I’ve always had a wetsuit on!)

My PB for 400m is 9:30, which is what Coach Peter timed it as back in April. (We did 400m twice that evening, and I managed 9:30 and 9:32, despite it being the day after Brighton Marathon). I used this as the basis of estimating my time for 750m. I assumed that I should be able to do 750m in just under 19 minutes, which would allow for my fatigue by the end of the session.

We did 200m as a warm up, but I realised that some of the slightly slower people who I’ve seen on previous Friday nights were not at training this evening – eek!

Stuart set off in the first wave of swimmers. The coach, Ollie, said that he expected everyone to finish in about 12 minutes. There are lots of really fit young guys, so even though Stu is a strong swimmer, he was one of the slowest people in his wave. I think he finished in about 11:30. Aaarrggh! It did not bode well for me.

The swimmers who had just finished were chatting to each other by the side of the pool. I could see Stu chatting to Kat, so I went over to them. Kat commented that I looked nervous and I said that I was and that I hoped I would finish before the session was scheduled to finish (9pm).

Everyone lined up, ready to dive in… but there was not way that I was going to subject myself to that (I’ve not dived in since last year), so I got into the water. I decided that I would just have to do the best I could and not stop. After I got in the water, I started my Garmin, so that I would not have to fiddle with it when we were told to start, so the time I recorded isn’t exactly right.

As usual, I set off far too quickly. I knew it was a pace that I could not maintain and I struggled to control my breathing, but I knew I had to otherwise I wouldn’t complete the 30 lengths.

After about 8 lengths, I managed to get into some sort of rhythm, but my breathing was still very ragged. I tried to calm down and think about the advice that Huw would give to me. I knew that he would tell me not to try to inhale as much, and not to move my head as much, so I tried to act on that.

Finally, I knew I only had 4 lengths left to swim. I could hear Kat shouting encouragement, but I tried not to speed up too much as I didn’t have enough energy left. (Last night I did a tough track session with Huw, so I was feeling tired).

When I got to the final 25m, I gave it everything I had left – 28s. My overall time: 16:48 on my Garmin (so a bit faster than that).

Photo of my Garmin data - 750m time trial

It was definitely better than I expected, but not nearly as fast as anyone else. I need to make sure that I swim more often as it is still definitely my weakest discipline ūüė¶ My average pace was 2:14/100m, which is significantly better than the vast majority of my swims, but it’s not good enough. I kept reminding myself that I have done a half iron swim in challenging conditions, but I felt incredibly self-conscious and wished that I didn’t have as many people watching me. Now that things are getting back on track at work, I’ll aim to go to SUTRI swimming sessions on Tuesdays after spinning. That will mean that I swim with STC on Mondays, SUTRI on Tuesdays and SUTRI on Fridays. I will also swim with STC on alternate Saturdays… but I might postpone that until after I’ve got a 5k PB at parkrun!

What I’ve been reading this week:

Day 8 of Pyrenees Tri Camp with Embrace Sports

8 May


It was sad that it was the last day of our holiday, but I was also feeling exhausted through the exercise and lack of sleep. I felt a strange mix of not wanting the holiday to end combined with a desire to curl up in my own bed and sleep for a week.

The final activity was a lake swim. I considered joining in, but my arm was still painful, so I decided not to aggravate it further. I didn’t want to miss out, though, so I went along as a photographer. If I’d been clever, I would have taken a leaf out of Jose’s book and gone for a run around the lake.

The boys were first into the lake whilst everyone else was still adjusting their kit…




It was clear that some people were not keen to get into the lake, but I found the water temperature to be quite pleasant when I was swimming.




Towards the end of the swim, the sun came out and it really started to warm up.


After swimming, we went back to the farmhouse to finish packing before having lunch and then heading to the airport. It was sad saying goodbye to everyone, but maybe one day I’ll return.

Day 6 of Pyrenees Tri Camp with Embrace Sports

6 May

Tuesday started with a ‘fun’ aquathlon. Before my injuries, I had hoped that I might not be last or at least that I might not be last out of the water and that this would spur me on to run as hard as possible, but my painful arm put paid to that.

Originally, the aquathlon was going to be a 1200m swim, but this was amended to just 2 x 400m loops, although to make it more challenging, we had to get out and run around a cone between the two loops. The run was 3×1 mile loops, so before we got into our wetsuits, we went for a test run.

I had decided to try out my Team SOAS kit. I’ve worn the tri shorts lots as they are the most comfortable cycling shorts that I’ve ever tried, but I’ve never worn the tri top before. It was really comfortable, although perhaps I need a slightly smaller size.

After the run, I managed to put on my wetsuit, but because of my arm, it took a while, so I didn’t have long to get acclimatised to the water. I also spent some time faffing with my goggles. I haven’t quite worked out how to adjust the strap on them yet.

We were set off at 15 second intervals. I think if I hadn’t been injured, I might not have been set off first, but I know that I’m a weaker runner than all of the others.

I did just a few strokes before I realised that my goggles were filling up with water – doh! I stopped to empty and adjust them. My breathing was also bad as I hadn’t had much time to get used to having my face in the water. My arm was very painful and by the time I got to the rocks, I think I had been passed by everyone. As I rounded the corner, I realised that I had to make a decision – I could either quit after one lap or continue and complete the event. My arm was in pain, but it I figured that it couldn’t get any worse and my breathing was improving. As I neared the bank, I could see runners who were already on their second laps.

End of lap 1

End of lap 1

Helen made the most of the photo opportunity

Helen made the most of the photo opportunity

Neil asked whether I wanted to continue, but I decided that I needed to, so that I wouldn’t feel like I had quit everything on the holiday. I got back in the water and started swimming as well as I possibly could, but my arm was really hampering me, so it was mainly front crawl with just one arm.

Eventually, I got out of the water, ready for transition. Jose came over and helped me to remove my bad arm from my wetsuit, and I knelt down to put my contact lenses in. To save time, I decided to run without socks, but I didn’t dry my feet very well.

Whilst I was in transition, I saw Stu and Helen run past and 200m into my run, Jonno caught up with me. He was desperately trying to chase down Stu, who had passed him in the swim. I kept moving and soon completed my first loop.

Elena enjoying the run ©Embrace Sports

Elena enjoying the run ©Embrace Sports

On the second lap, I realised that my shorts are quite big for me and when they’re wet, they start to hang down a little bit, so I may invest in some smaller ones! I also noticed a patch on my left foot where my shoes was rubbing it. They are designed to be seam free, but something was definitely rubbing my foot. I kept going and when I got back to the start, people started clapping and I heard Bernie shouting to me about where I needed to finish the run, but I knew that I still had a third lap to do. I kept moving, but was aware that I was slowing down. As I reached the turn, I put in a big effort to improve my pace, so my final kilometre was my fastest one in the event. It wasn’t the kind of pace that I’d been hoping for, but at least it wasn’t terrible.

Overall, I finished last in the event, but even with my slow transition, it wasn’t the slowest one of the event. Coach Alan finished first, but Stu was the first triathlete over the line because of his strong swim and good run. Go Stuey!

The sun was out when we got back, so there was some time to go in the hot tub and also time to lounge in the sun with the lizards.


In the afternoon, Kat took us into the local village to explore the chocolatier. It was a small shop, but it smelled wonderful!


Stu and I just treated ourselves to a tiny bag of assorted chocolate pieces.

When we got back, I had time to get changed before the masseur, Peter, arrived. He was a nice chap who was originally from Dorset, but who had also raced in Cornwall, so there were quite a few events that we were both familiar with. Peter helped to loosen up my tight calves, but I don’t think that he really managed to do anything to my neck and shoulders, which were still aching.

Later on, there was a nutritional chat with Alan and Graeme. Graeme also talked about lots of different ways that people can trim their race times (including investing in race wheels and an aero helmet), but I don’t think I’m at that level yet. He also discussed the importance of practising transitions. I think that if I have laser eye surgery then that should help to speed up T1!

What are the best tips that you’ve heard to minimise your race times (apart from training!)?

Day 3 of Pyrenees Tri Camp with Embrace Sports

3 May

There was a slight change to the original schedule as we had already visited the sports shop, so the core class was moved to Saturday.

Saturday's plan

Saturday’s plan

After eating some porridge, some of the group decided to cycle to the lake. I was still injured, so I made the sensible decision to go to the lake in the minibus and I didn’t swim as I knew I would be unable to put my wetsuit on. I was bitterly disappointed as I really wanted to be able to show how much my swimming had improved since November.

The lake looked beautiful: calm and clear. About 200m out were some rocks, which made a convenient turning point.

The lake

The lake

I watched everyone get into the water and do some laps. I had been told that the lake was quite shallow, but was surprised when I was able to see Graeme standing near to the rocks.

Alan and Stu at the lake

Alan and Stu at the lake


Jonno, Neill and Bernadette


Helen and Louise

I went for a walk around the lake and was amused by the signs prohibiting swimming. The coaches had already mentioned that we would see these and that as part of an organised group, we would be perfectly safe and that there was no reason why we shouldn’t swim.

No swimming!

No swimming!

Kat, Graeme and Neil

Kat, Graeme and Neil

Some people said they thought the lake was very cold, but when I dipped my hand in, I thought it felt significantly warmer than Lakeside.

When we got back, some people used the hot tub. It was suggested that it might help my arm, but I couldn’t face trying to get changed again as it was painful.

hot tub party

Helen, Poppy, Alex, Kat, Jonno and Elena

After lunch, Neil went through some basic bike maintenance with us. I’ve watched people demonstrate how to replace an inner tube on many occasions now, but I’ve never had to do it myself (and hope that I never have to!) Neil also explained about how to ensure that your brakes are set up correctly.

Bike maintenance 101 with Neil

Bike maintenance 101 with Neil

In the afternoon, everyone went out for a 35km bike ride to visit the larger lake in the vicinity. Unfortunately, my arm was too painful for me to join them, so I just stayed at the farmhouse. After everyone had gone, I realised that I should have asked for my bike to be put on the turbo trainer. Instead, I took the opportunity to organise some of my possessions and laundry as well as reading some emails.

Trip to the lake without me

Trip to the lake without me

I felt quite sad that I was missing out on the fun, but hoped that some rest would mean that I could join in with everything the next day.

I changed into my running clothes, so that I would be able to join in with the brick run, but it wasn’t easy as my arm throbbed with every step. It was a 50 minute session:

  • 15 minute warm up
  • 10×1 minute hard with equal recovery
  • 15 minute warm down

We then had a core session with Kat. I was unable to do a plank, as I couldn’t put weight on my arm, but I was able to join in with most of the class, which helped to make me feel like I was part of the group again.

Core Pyrenees

In the evening we went out for dinner in a French restaurant. As expected, there wasn’t really a choice for vegetarians – fortunately, I now eat omelettes, so I was OK. I was also good and resisted dessert as I didn’t feel that I had earned it.

French restaurant

French restaurant 2

I enjoyed getting to know Elena and Alex, the Russian couple, a bit more. It was really interesting to learn that they are Event Directors of Moscow parkrun and that parkrun has changed their lives in the same way that it has changed mine!

Day 1 of Pyrenees Tri Camp with Embrace Sports

1 May

It’s been a while since I’ve had a break, so I was really looking forward to our second Tri Camp with Embrace Sports. The day before, Tobie from BikeGuy came over to help Stu and I disassemble our bikes and pack them in our cases. As we’ve both had bike fits, we had to mark settings very carefully… you can just about see my handlebar marks on the image below.

Bike in a box

Bike in a box

After packing our cases, we travelled up to Gatwick, to spend the night at a hotel there before getting an early flight the next day.

We arrived at the airport quite early and after checking in our oversized cases, we ate breakfast before heading to the departure lounge. I was busy answering work emails, when Stu noticed a girl carrying an Ironman branded rucksack chatting to a sporty looking guy. He guessed that they might be on our holiday, so he went over and spoke to them. Stu’s guess was correct: Bernadette and Jose were also going to be on our holiday.

After a short flight to Toulouse, we gathered our luggage and headed towards the meeting point where Neil and Graeme were waiting for us. Poppy, who we know from our last triathlon holiday, was also there. We then headed to the minibuses for the 90 minute drive to the farmhouse. Stu ended up in the newer minibus whereas I was in ‘Van Rouge’ with Bernadette, Lou, Elena, Alex and Jose.

When we arrived at the farmhouse, we put our cases in our rooms and then prepared a hearty lunch with some delicious French bread. We also had time to look at the schedule for the week…

Pyrenees Tri Schedule

…as well as the more detailed plan for the day.

Embrace plan for Thursday

Embrace plan for Thursday

After eating, we all headed out to a covered area to set up our bikes. I managed to put most of my bike together, but I needed a little help from Stu to attach the back wheel. I then got Graeme to have a look at my bike. He swiftly realised that I had failed to tighten almost every part sufficiently, so he got out his torque wrench and sorted everything out for me.

It was then time for our first ride – a trip up Col de Coupe. I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to manage my first climb of the trip, although I wasn’t quite as fast as some of the others when I was descending. I was aware that I wasn’t as fast as some of the others, but I was relieved that I wasn’t a long way behind everyone ūüôā

As soon as we got back to the farm-house, we went out for a 5km brick run. I didn’t quite manage to maintain the pace I had hoped to keep up, but it wasn’t too bad.

When I got back, there was time for a shower and some photos of the beautiful scenery before Alan served his spaghetti Bolognese.

View from the Farmhouse

View from the Farmhouse

Overall, it was a fantastic first day, but after the early start, I felt exhausted and was grateful to get into bed!