Tag Archives: Q&A

Ask me anything

27 Dec

I’ve decided to put myself on the line and give you the chance to ask me anything in a completely anonymous way. I’ve not tried anything like this before on my blog, so I’m hoping it works out!

Liebster love

26 May

Wow! It’s another two Liebster nominations, this time from Amanda at A Year in the Life and Cassandra at Powered by Bling – THANK YOU!

New Liebster Award logo

For those of you who haven’t heard of this award, it’s an award given by bloggers to bloggers and was created to recognise relatively new blogs or those with <2000 followers.
There are variants on the rules, so I’m just going to merge the two sets of rules as I’m a little short of time now!

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog.
  2. Answer the 10/11 questions that were posted by the blogger who nominated you
  3. Share 11 facts about yourself
  4. Nominate 10/11 blogs with less than 2000 followers for the award
  5. Create 10/11 questions for your nominees to answer
  6. Go to their blogs and notify the nominees.

So, here we go with my facts and answers to both sets of questions!


The first set of questions that I’m going to answer are from Amanda at A Year in the Life.

A year in the life

A year in the life

Amanda’s blog covers an electic mix of topics, including playlists for running and her efforts to become a professional writer.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?

That’s a tricky question… it would depend on whether it would be a permanent move or just for a year or two. For a long time, I was desperate to work in Japan, but I never made it there. I spent three days in Tokyo in 2008, and am planning to go back there next year for a cycling holiday. However, I think the pace of life in Tokyo would be too hectic for me and I couldn’t cope with the tiny accommodation. I enjoyed visiting my brother and sister in Australia and really liked the laid-back lifestyle in Melbourne. I also really liked Barcelona when I was there. In reality, I hate change, so I’m quite happy where I am in Southampton… but I wouldn’t mind a larger house with a big garden and a swimming pool!

Favourite clothing brand?

Hmmm…. that’s another one that I’m not sure how to answer. I like Brooks shoes for running; and I wouldn’t exchange my TeamSOAS kit for training/racing – their tri shorts are the most comfy ones that I’ve ever worn on my bike. I wear a lot of Gap clothes for work and I love Ted Baker clothes. I also love my two pairs of Corral boots.

My favourite Corral boots

My favourite Corral boots

Favourite movie?
It might take me all night to answer these questions. I used to teach Film and Media Studies, so I’ve seen a lot of films. Films that I like include La Haine, Chungking Express, The Happiness of the Katakuris and Unforgiven. I like most of Clint Eastwood’s movies. I also enjoy musicals, with the exception of Chicago.

Favourite TV show?
I quite like Big Bang Theory and used to love watching Big Love.
Favourite book?
One of the books that had a big influence on me as a teenager was The Outsiders by SE Hinton. It was sent to me by my German exchange partner, Alexandra, and I love it so much that I memorised huge chunks of it.
Favourite physical activity?
I really enjoy a good yoga class and dancing makes me happy.
Favourite song?
If I’m on my turbo trainer, I find Wake me Up by Avicii to be quite motivational, but I’m a huge fan of Luke Bryan (who is relatively unheard of in the UK as most people here don’t listen to country music). I’m torn between choosing Do I and Someone Else calling You Baby. I can often be found singing along to those in my Fiat 500.

Favourite celebrity blog?
At last – a question I can answer. I don’t read any celebrity blogs!
Favourite colour?
Favourite season?
I love summer as I like being able to spend more time outdoors… but I run better in winter, when the air is cold, and I don’t overheat.
Favourite beverage?
I drink more water than anything else, but like to indulge in hot chocolate. I very rarely drink alcohol, but I do like the taste of gin….and now onto the questions posed by Cassandra. Please check out her blog, Powered by Bling. Cassandra is a super-inspirational blogger who has overcome cancer and is now a triathlete – way to go!

Powered by Bling

Powered by Bling

What is the last good book you read?
I’ve just finished The Help by Kathryn Stockett, which had me hooked. I’ve not seen the film.
Why did you start blogging?
I wanted to change my life and thought that writing down my goals and making them public would make me feel more accountable.
What is on your bucket list?
Completing an iron distance triathlon.
What is one of your greatest life or fitness accomplishments?
That a tough question. I’ve achieved quite a lot academically (11 GCSEs; 4 A-levels; HNC; BA (Hons.); MA; PGCE…), but I’ve never found studying particularly difficult. I’ve never been very good at physical activities, so I was hugely proud when I won a progress award at my dance school, and followed it up by getting my highest ever mark in my next tap exam, which was also higher than the rest of the class’s marks! Logically, I should say that it was either competing in the British Team Gymnastics Championships, as I’d only been doing gymnastics for 2 years at the time. Or, it would be one of my karate achievements: winning national tournaments, achieving my black belt or competing internationally.
What is your favorite blog post that you’ve written? (Provide the link so we can check it out!)
I don’t have a favourite blog post, so it’s probably easiest if I say which posts readers have liked best. Unsurprisingly, the About page on my blog is that one that has received the most traffic, with the other pages also being visited fairly frequently. Aside from those This might be the most exciting thing that has ever happened to me is the most popular post that I’ve written. Should I change my name? also received a lot of comments, both on my blog and on Facebook.
Name one thing/item that you could not go a day without.
Aside from oxygen, water and food, that would have to be Stuart, my amazing husband ūüôā

What is your life motto?

I've achieved fame on the Team SOAS website!

I’ve achieved fame on the Team SOAS website!

What goals do you have for the remainder of 2014?
To finish Challenge Weymouth 70.3
If you could go on an all-expense paid travel for a month, what would you do?
I think I’d probably have to put my private jet to use, as there are so many places that I’d like to visit. I’d want to visit my brother and sister in Australia and would hope that my mum and my husband could come along. I’d also like to spend a few days in Japan as well as relaxing in the Caribbean for a few days. I like country music, so I’d want to visit Nashville. It would also be good to pop over to Geneva to visit a school-friend. I’d like to see Moscow and would hope to be able to take in a local parkrun and catch up with Elena and Alex, who I met on my last triathlon holiday. It would definitely take me a lot of planning!

Tell us something we might not already know about you that you would like your followers to know about you.
I try to be completely honest in my blog posts, but negativity is never motivational, so if I’m feeling down, I tend not to post.

Facts about me (some of these may be repeats, but I’ll try to share some things you may not already know):

  1. I love pugs, but don’t have any pets.
  2. My parents bought their house in 1975, just after my older sister was born and my mum still lives there, so I never moved house when I was growing up.
  3. I’m a Professional Specialist in Learning Design.
  4. I did karate for five years and reached black belt level.
  5. Both of my siblings have emigrated to Australia.
  6. I don’t have any children, but have 4 nephews, 2 nieces and a god-daughter.
  7. I never have baths as there’s too much of a risk that I’ll faint and drown!
  8. I was recently diagnosed as asthmatic.
  9. I wear Brooks shoes for most of my running (PureFlow, PureCadence or Vapors), but wear Salomons for trail/cross-country running.
  10. I’ve run 5 marathons.
  11. I had dancing lessons from 5-21 and was particularly proficient at tap dancing.

OK, so here are my questions for my nominees:

  1. What advice would you give to your sixteen year old self and why?
  2. What’s the best fitness hack/training tip that anyone’s ever shared with you?
  3. What’s your most annoying habit?
  4. What one thing would you change about your job and why?
  5. What’s your favourite recipe?
  6. Are you an early bird or a night owl?
  7. Are there any sports that you’ve tried and hated?
  8. What are you afraid of?
  9. If you had £1million to donate to charity, which one would you choose and why?
  10. Do you make and keep New Year’s resolutions?

Drum roll, please… here are my nominees for the Liebster Award:

Please check out these awesome blogs and follow them if you like what you see ūüôā


Embrace Sports Algarve Triathlon Holiday – Day 6

7 Nov
Day 6 schedule

Day 6 schedule

After the previous day’s failure, I hoped that I’d be able to pull myself together for the triathlon, but I knew that it would be a challenge – I was the slowest runner in the group and one of the weakest swimmers. Because I was worried, I asked Graeme who my partner would be. He told me that I would be partnered with Stu, which had pros and cons. I know that Stu is one of the stronger swimmers and runners, but I felt sad that he had to be saddled with me just because I am his wife. I told him that, but he said he didn’t mind… however, I know that he is competitive at heart.

I dithered about whether I should do the aquathlon, or whether I would be better off joining the runners for a session at the track, so I spoke to Graeme about my doubts. Another of my fears was that I don’t like running in glasses. I’ve only done it twice: at an aquathlon in Eastleigh and at an aquathlon in Penzance – both times it felt odd and I felt queasy. Graeme agreed that if I would be happier putting in contact lenses in transition, then that’s what I should do. (I’ve been considering having laser eye surgery, but I save my thoughts on that for another post!)

Before the aquathlon

Before the aquathlon © Embrace Sports

We went to the beach and the route was explained. We set up our transition area on the deck of a cafe, and Graeme drew out a box to show the handover point for each team.

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Stu swam first for us and made a fairly speedy transition from the sea swim to the run.

Stu's transition

Stu’s transition

I managed to take quite a few photographs of the first wave of swimmers coming into transition.

Peet's transition

Peet’s transition

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Jenny 2


Jenny at the aquathlon

Jenny at the aquathlon

After I finished taking photos, I thought I should have a quick dip in the sea to get acclimatised, but as I got to the water’s edge, I realised that Stu was heading back down the cliff path, so I had to dash back up to the transition box. I then ran back down to the sea and threw myself in. Unfortunately, the water was much colder than I was expecting it to be, so I found it difficult to swim. One of the best tips that I was given by my running/tri coach was to spend some time floating face down when getting into open water, as this helps me to acclimatise quickly, but there was no time for that. I realised that I was breathing raggedly, but I didn’t want to let Stu down, so I pressed on.

When I got near to the edge, I started to unzip my wetsuit, so that I could flood it with water to make it easier to take off. I then ran up the beach with my hat and goggles still on. In transition, I put in my contact lenses, removed my wetsuit and hat and put on my trainers. I then started on the run.

I knew that I would be breathless, as I’ve struggled to run after swimming in the other aquathlons that I’ve done, but this was compounded by having to run up the cliff path. Hills are not my friend. There was a brief respite before another longer hill. the path then flattened a bit, but it was a gradual uphill until the turnaround point. All of the time, I was struggling to breathe and then I looked at my watch and saw just how slowly I was running. I felt such a sense of shame and disappointment that yet again, I was doing about 8 minutes per km. I never run that slowly at home and I had hoped that I would be doing much better. This made me feel upset and my ragged breathing got worse when I couldn’t stop myself from bursting into tears. That annoyed me even more as I had no real reason to cry, but I couldn’t stop myself. I finally reached the turnaround point and the run started to get better, but it still felt bad. I then made it back to the steps by the cliff and knew that Stu would be waiting for me on the beach.

After I tagged Stu, I spoke to Kat and said that I wasn’t sure that I could do another lap. She suggested that Alan could swim for me, but it wasn’t the swim that had bothered me. We agreed that I would swim with Alan and that he would then do the run. This made me feel slightly better, although I was still very angry with myself for being so useless. I had a think about my options and decided that perhaps if Alan were able to ‘run’ with me then perhaps I would be able to hold myself together a bit better and it wouldn’t be as bad. I then approached Graeme and suggested my new plan to him. He agreed that it would be OK, so I felt a bit better, although I was still annoyed with myself that I wasn’t mentally strong enough to run a few kilometres without someone else.

One of the lessons that I learned at the aquathlon is that getting a wet (and slightly sandy) wetsuit on is not an easy task. It took almost all of the time that Stu was swimming and running for me to reclothe myself! I then went down onto the beach in a slightly happier frame of mind. It wasn’t long before I had to set off on my swim. the water temperature seemed warmer and I was more relaxed, so it felt good… however, there were other swimmers who started quite a long time after me and almost all of them finished before me.YlJW6ghIZJXs2iVpsrHFVrMrcH-LGzTauOAmieSafws

My transition was much slower than it had been the previous time, but I was focussing on calming my breathing down, so that the run would not feel so bad. Alan was ready and waiting by the time I had my contact lenses in, and we set off up the cliff path together. It felt easier the second time and my Garmin showed that I was moving at a much better pace. By the time we got to the top of the hill, I was managing 5-something per kilometre, which made me feel much happier and I felt able to maintain the pace. Although Alan was ‘pacing’ me, he didn’t really have to say or do too much – I just felt so much more relaxed.

In the end, I was the last person to finish the aquathlon, so team Smith was last overall, but I was proud that I managed to pull myself together to finish the event. My run splits show that I did the second 3km almost 3 minutes faster than the first one, so it was a negative split to be proud of.

First run of the aquathlon: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/402161312

First run of the aquathlon

First run of the aquathlon

Second run of the aquathlon: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/402161323

Second run of the aquathlon

Second run of the aquathlon

In the afternoon, we went to a beautiful 50m outdoor pool for a swimming technique session. I’ve never seen a 50m pool before, let alone swum in one, so I was quite excited. As November is most definitely the off-season in the Algarve, the entire complex was deserted, which gave it quite an eerie and abandoned feel.


We all got into the pool, which was surprisingly cold. It always seems strange to me that the sea can be so much¬†colder than a small still body of water. Our first drill was to practise sighting, using a technique called ‘crocodile eyes’. Coach Ant taught me to sight by looking forwards after taking a breath and before putting my head back in the water, so I found this really difficult to do. I usually breathe every three strokes and if I’m not going too fast then every 5 strokes, but I found it difficult to raise my head without taking a breath, so I don’t think I managed the drill very successfully. I should probably have asked what the timing should have been with sighting and breathing, but I didn’t think of that until much later!

Graeme explaining the session

Graeme explaining the session © Embrace Sports

We then practised drafting, which required people to get into their swimming pace groups. I was partnered up with Andy and Jennie, but it didn’t work very well as¬†we all swim at different speeds. We had to practice drafting off someone’s feet first of all, before practising drafting off someone’s hip. It felt quite intrusive swimming so close to someone’s side and I’m not sure that I could feel the¬†benefit, so I think that I would be more likely to try to draft off someone’s feet… if there’s ever anyone swimming at about the right speed for me!!!

Next, Graeme got out an inflatable buoy to get Andy to demonstrate how to turn. unfortunately, the buoy had other plans, so in the end, Andy moved it out of the way and demonstrated the technique without it. It involved swimming up to the point and then rolling onto your back for a second before moving off again at a right angle. At the time, I thought I’d got it, but thinking about it now, I’m not sure that it’s fully lodged in my brain. I’ll have to get Stuart to practise it with me in the pool.

It was then my turn to be filmed swimming by Kat. She said that I could do half a length and turn around, but I wanted to prove to myself that I could swim 50m with a reasonable stroke. I realised that I started too quickly, but pushed on and finished the first length. On the way back, I tried to slow down and think about all of the things that Chris (my swimming instructor) has told me about not raising my head¬† when breathing, as well as remembering to use my legs, rather than just letting them trail behind me. I thought I’d done OK, but now I’ve seen the video, I can really see where I need to work on my technique.

When I returned to the others, they were involved in some handicapped races. I was the first to set off in the second wave, and I was quite pleased that I wasn’t last to finish, until I realised that this meant that I would have to go again. We did a couple more until there were just three of us left: Claire, Peet and I. Graeme came over and spoke to me and told me to swim a few strokes and then get out. I was a bit confused, but agreed to do so. I set off with Claire and Peet starting after me. When I went to get out, I realised that the side of the pool was quite high, so Graeme had to pull me out and I was then told to run to the other end of the pool and get in again. I got in a little bit too far from the end and had to swim very hard to ensure that I wasn’t beaten by Peet. Meanwhile, Claire had done the same on the other side. Peet had been swimming in the centre of the pool so he didn’t notice a thing and thought that he had been beaten fairly. It wasn’t until our evening meal that he was told what had happened! It was so funny!

Kiwi BBQ

Kiwi BBQ © Embrace Sports

The evening’s meal was a Kiwi BBQ, prepared by Graeme and Kat. The runners had had a talk/Q&A session about planning the training, which I had intended to go along to, but I was busy prepping veg and I think the rest did me good. As an alternative, the triathletes got to ‘Grill Graeme whilst grilling’. It was a relatively informal chat in the twilight by the barbeque where Graeme gave honest answers to anything we threw at him. I took notes as I thought it would be helpful for me to be able to refer back to Graeme’s pearls of wisdom:

  • Snack little and often.
  • Porridge is a good low GI carb for breakfast.
  • White bread, banana and honey¬†is a good combination if you need to eat something, but are running late for training.
  • If doing a 40-50k ride + brick, avoid high heart rate zones and just have water and salt tablets. This will help to train your body to burn fat.
  • Ensure¬†chocolate milk might be easier calories for you to absorb, if you have digestive problems whilst running.
  • Plan your food 10 days out from an event. Graeme finds it best to avoid fruit for three days before a race. It can be helpful to stock up on salt tablets before an event and ensure that you don’t over hydrate.
  • Malt loaf is good as a snack.
  • Brown rice is ideal the night before race. Suitable vegetables are peas and¬†carrots. A salad made of¬†¬†tomatoes, avocado and feta with good quality olive oil is also a good option. It is sensible to eat early the day before a big event.
  • Most people consume 250-350 calories per hour on the run, so it is important to replenish your supplies.
  • Remember to do speed work, intervals, hills, tempo etc for all disciplines.
  • The ideal training base is 9 sessions a week: 3 each of speed, strength and endurance – one for each discipline
  • If you plan well, it is possible to do two sessions a day, and this can be especially good training as you will get used to performing well when tired.
  • If training for a marathon¬†as well as¬†triathlons, it is essential to continue with speed work and long runs, but it is possible to¬†get benefits from other sports, so some workouts can be adapted or dropped.
  • Alan also shared some advice about how he improved his cycling by using a power meter. A lot of people use too much energy in the cycle leg of a triathlon and then struggle during the run. Alan works at 70-75% of power for an¬†ironman, with¬†80% being OK for a 70.3.
  • It is also important to work out your training speed¬†according to your¬†heart rate.
Graeme recommended one book as being a useful companion: Triathlon Science edited by Joe Friel and Jim Vance.
I found it a really informative session, although I’m sure that many more questions will come up as I start to train more and more and gain experience.