Tag Archives: Team SOAS

The Agony of De Feet – Brutal 10 Enduro Race Report

21 Jun

On Saturday night/Sunday morning, Stuart and I took part in the Brutal 10 Enduro, which was held at Minley (near Yateley). It was a 12 hour running event starting at 9pm. Stu decided to enter as a pair with his friend, Rob, so I entered as a pair with Rob’s wife Kim.

Stu and I have done similar events before (although always in much larger groups), so we felt quite well-prepared… however, we had no idea just how tough the cross-country course would be. There were lots of sharp ascents and descents, with a variety of terrain underfoot – the one I hated most was the cushiony layers of pine needles that were inches deep. They provided a soft landed for people who fell, but really sapped your energy.

We arrived at 5pm and decided to set up our tent. We knew there wouldn’t be a lot of time for sleeping, but wanted to have somewhere to shelter whilst our partners were out on the course, as well as a private changing area. We chose an area that wasn’t too far from the start/finish, but was also at the 5k point in the race. There were no other tents nearby, which also meant it was quite quiet.

Stus temporary tattoo

There were some fun touches at the event, including some temporary tattoos.

By 7pm, we had registered and collected our timing chip/radio transmitter, race numbers and free technical t-shirts. We then realised that we had nothing to do for a couple of hours… but as it started to rain heavily and there were a few peals of thunder we decided to just sit in the tent and chat.

Before the start

Stu, Kim and Rob chilling out!

I got changed into the team t-shirt that I had printed earlier in the day:

The design on our team t-shirts

The design on our team t-shirts

With Kim before running

Kim and I getting in the mood whilst the rain was pouring down

By 8:45pm, the rain had died away, so it was time to go to the start. Various events were taking place at approximately the same time: a single lap 10k race; solo runners, pairs and teams of 4 and a cani-cross event. The cani-cross runners were set off first and then about 10 minutes later, we started.

Agony of defeet meme

I was the first runner in my pair, and had the luxury of daylight for half of the lap. I had decided to pace myself and was glad that I did as although the first half of the lap wasn’t too bad, the second half was very technical and I knew that it would be challenging later when it was completely dark.

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 22.42.34

I finished my first lap in about 1:05 and handed over the radio transmitter to Kim. We then alternated until each of us had done three laps, by which point Kim was unable to continue. My first and second laps were uneventful, but my headtorch battery died 2km into my third lap. This threw me into a panic as I knew that I would not be able to do another 8km in the dark. Fortunately, I caught up with a female runner I had chatted with earlier and managed to follow her until I got to a bit of the course that I felt I knew well. At 5km, I left the course, went into my tent, picked up some spare batteries and then rejoined where I had left. It was such a relief to be able to see again.

When I finished my lap, printed results had been displayed on a noticeboard and I could see that Stu and his partner had already built up a sizeable lead. The first placed female pair had completed 6 laps when Kim was out running our 6th lap, but I could only see us as being down for completing two laps, which was a bit of a concern, but I didn’t have enough time to follow it up before Kim arrived at the changeover point.

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 22.42.51

Kim waiting for me at the changeover point

One of the challenging parts of this event was the weather conditions. Although it did not rain during the race, it was incredibly humid. I saw many runners wearing long tights, base layers and jackets, whereas I just wore vests and shorts and felt over-dressed in those. For this reason, the two laps I did that were fully in the dark were my favourite as they were marginally cooler than the others.

My legs were starting to feel tired when I started my 4th lap (probably because I’ve not run over 13 miles since Southampton Half Marathon), but I decided to give it my best shot. I passed a few runners (soloists, I’m assuming) and then heard someone coming up behind me quite quickly at about 2k. I stepped aside, but he was further back than I realised so I continued on. Although the runner sounded like he was gaining on me, it spurred me to keep pushing myself, so I managed to complete a fairly quick lap (*fairly quick for me = about 75 minutes).

I had a small cup of energy drink and then headed out for a consecutive lap, at about 7:15am. It all seemed to be going well until 2km in when I realised that I was feeling very dizzy and faint. I think this was because I hadn’t eaten more than an energy bar since 4pm the previous day and had only slept for 20 minutes. Sleep deprivation always affects me badly and I started to hallucinate a little, which is an unpleasant experience. I realised that I needed to eat something, so at 5km, I called out to Rob, Kim and Stu, but no-one was in our tent. This meant that I had to leave the course again, and rummaged in the tent until I found a piece of flapjack. I then rejoined the course and walked for a while before I started to feel much steadier.

1 hour 45 minutes should have been plenty of time for me to run 10km, but as I had wasted a lot of time, I knew I had to start picking up the pace, otherwise I would miss the 9am cut off and my final lap would not count. By 7km I was feeling much better and managed to start jogging. Eventually, I finished at 8:42am, so I made the cut off.

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 22.42.58

Big smiles just after I’d finished 🙂

I’ve never run 50km within 12 hours before, so I felt quite proud of my achievement. At 9:15am, prizes for the event were given out and I was astonished to find that the female pair who had been in 1st place had stopped after 6 laps, so we had moved into first place. This was a great finish to a really fun event for me.

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 22.42.43

Rob and Stu with their prize

Winning enduro

After we’d received our prize

Winning pairs

Group pose

Brutal Enduro first placed female pair

Brutal Enduro first placed female pair – if only we’d known that we were already in the lead after 6 laps!


My longest ever swim (and a cold dip in the lake)

30 Apr

It has been such a busy week, so far, so I think tomorrow may be a rest day.

On Monday morning, I had a cross fit session with SUTRI for the first time in a few weeks. There were only 4 of us there and Olly made it quite a relaxed session, with a lot of stretching. I was amazed by how flexible I felt, but I think it may have been down to the super-painful sports massage that I had on Saturday. We did 40 dead lifts (in 10 minutes). I started out with a relatively easy weight and finished at 55kg as I didn’t want to over-exert myself. We also did a lot of wall ball, which I’m terrible at – I think I’ve got a lot of muscle imbalances and throw in a wonky way, which makes me feel self-conscious, which makes me even worse.

I went to STC swimming at 7pm and decided to stay for a double session. A problem with my parking permit meant that I started a bit late, so I was really pleased to be able to swim 3750m. It is by far the furthest I have ever swum (I’ve only swum 2000m or more 12 times, with my longest ever pool swim being 2250m and my longest open water swim being 2.6k. I would have liked to have swum 3800m (as an iron distance swim is 3.8k), but at least I have a goal for another week.

On Tuesday evening, I went to the STC track session, but there was no coach and the others who had turned up decided that it should be a hills session. We did just over 6km with much of it up and down golf course hill, which is a particularly tough hill at the best of times. By the end of the session, I was feeling better, but my legs were tight to start off with. Thanks, Donna for choosing the session!


Lakeside © Try Tri

After coaching yesterday evening, tonight’s session was my first swim in the lake. Unfortunately, a series of accidents and football traffic meant that what can be a 20 minute drive at the right time turned into over an hour and three-quarters 😦 A;though I had been told that the lake was a balmy 17C, I decided to start off wearing my new bootees and orca vest. I have to say that they both worked brilliantly, but my fingers were very cold and my face was freezing. Fortunately, my breathing took much less time to calm down than last year. I did one rubbish lap (mainly doggy paddle!) and then a full lap of front crawl, but the sun was going down and I didn’t want to get colder, so decided that that would be enough for today. Hopefully, the lake will be warmer next time and it won’t take me as long to get there. Stu arrived earlier than me and managed to swim 2 miles!

One good thing about the lake is that the old changing rooms have been demolished, so there are new portacabins, which are really cosy (although the shower temperature still fluctuated between very hot and icy cold). I also felt a bit safer as my NOWCA wristband was scanned in before I started swimming and scanned again when I finished, so hopefully there won’t be any bodies drifting around in the lake!

It’s also been a week when a lot of my friends have been signing up for marathons – Paris, Bournemouth, New Forest and Brighton have been particularly popular choices. I’ll enter the ballot for London next week, but if I don’t get a place, I’m OK with that. I’ve not received any emails about my mysterious free place at Lisbon Rock’n’Roll marathon, but I don’t think it would be sensible for me to add it to my training schedule. It’s really hard being picky about what I will/won’t do. I’m really tempted to do a 5km swim at Stithians Lake in Cornwall on 19th July – it’s the day after I swim around St. Michael’s Mount, so I’ll be in Cornwall, and that seems like a good enough reason to enter!

My first triathlon of the season is on Monday: May Day Tri. Stuart is in the first wave of the day at 8am and I’m in the 4th wave at 8:30am. I’m in a lane with 3 blokes aged 30-45, which seems to be a competitive age, so I’m hoping that I’ll be OK. Some of my friends are much faster than me and they’re in later waves, so I’m not sure how the waves were allocated. In the afternoon, my niece is taking part in her first triathlon, so we’ll stay to cheer her on, which will be fun. She’s a brilliant swimmer and is in her school cross-country team, so I’m sure she’ll be able to hold her own.

What I’ve been reading this week:

Finally, following the perpetuation of unattainable physiques by Protein World, it was refreshing to see this fantastic video by my favourite female endurance sportswear brand SOAS:

We Are SOAS from SOAS_RACING on Vimeo.

If you watch closely, you might see a familiar face at 1:20!

Winchester Duathlon (aka Hell on the Hills in Hampshire!)

22 Mar

I’ve done Winchester Duathlon twice before:

  • 2013 (sprint) – my first ever multisport event (completed on a hybrid bike)
  • 2014 (sprint) – my second try at this event and a massive PB for me

However, this year the event has moved to the beautiful Lainston House, so it’s a new course. I didn’t really think about this too much in advance, which was my first failure.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am obsessively organised. I have a Googledoc called ‘packing lists for all occasions’, which helps me to get ready quickly. This is coming next:

Anyway, I reviewed my packing list earlier this week and updated it based on the weather conditions and my current kit. Then I spent Saturday afternoon organising my kit and packing it carefully into my transition bag. usually, I try to minimise the decisions that I can make on the day, but the weather was forecast to be overcast with a maximum temperature of 6°C (43°F), with the windchill making it feel like 1°C (34°F), so I packed a few items of clothing that I would be able to put on in transition. This is where I find duathlons difficult – I am happy to run in just a vest and shorts in cold weather as I know that I will heat up quickly and if I wear base layers or gloves I will overheat. However, I can get cold very quickly on a bike, so I didn’t want to just wear my tri tank and shorts. I decided to start the race with calf guards on to help keep my legs a bit warmer.

The standard race was scheduled to start at 8am with race registration between 6am and 7:30am. For most Try Tri events, registration is also offered on a Saturday afternoon, which gives competitors the chance to see the run course, transition and possibly drive the bike course, however that was not on offer today (which I think was a shame). Stuart and I decided to get up at 5:45 this morning, as we only needed to eat breakfast, dress and put our kit in the car.

As I was doing my hair (I have to try to French plait it for events involving cycling as I hate my helmet pressing against a hairband), Stuart said that he would load up the car. I quickly hurried down to meet him and we were on our way. I spent most of the car journey on Facebook as lots of my friends were racing today (at Eastleigh 10k and Reading Half Marathon, mainly). When we arrived at Lainston House, we were surprised that there were only a few bikes in transition. We parked the car, got our bikes out and then disaster struck…

Stuart and I had put our bags in front of the door, but he moved mine onto the sofa when he went to load up the car. I didn’t notice, so there we were in Winchester with two bikes, but only 1 helmet and 1 pair of cycle shoes between us 😦

Fortunately, Ben from Try Tri was nearby, so I spoke to him and asked whether I could register both of us whilst Stu rushed back to Southampton (about 16 to 20 miles away). Ben agreed, so I put on Stu’s rucksack and started heading to the race registration. I am so grateful that I’ve practised running whilst holding my bike’s saddle and that Stu’s bike is very light, otherwise I might not have made it to registration.

The queue for registration was enormous and it was quite cold. As I was holding two bikes, my hands were freezing, but I had no pockets and my gloves were in my bag. Finally, I put our bikes on the grass and moved towards the hall. I had completely forgotten that I needed ID to register, but at that moment, Chris, the Event Director appeared. I had a quick word with him and he said that I should ask the helpers to give him a call, if there were any problems. Chris also complimented me on my  lovely hat (my SOAS beanie) – he thought it made me stand out 🙂

When I got to the front of the queue, Ant (my coach from Run Camp) was registering people, so he was happy to sign me in and give me the Team Smith numbers, timing chips and stickers.

I quickly collected our bikes and started walking down the hill to transition. When I got there, I saw Coach Peter from Southampton Tri Club. he wished me well. Then I went over and spoke to the two ladies who were controlling entry to transition. It is standard for competitors to have to demonstrate that they have an appropriate helmet and that they have working brakes. Unfortunately, I only had Stu’s helmet (which would have to be adjusted a lot to make it fit me). A quick phone call to Chris got me access to transition. I am so grateful to these guys as otherwise my race would have been over before it even started.

I racked our bikes and then started going through Stu’s bag to try to get as much as possible ready for him. I set up his shoes and put his number on his race belt. I also got out his bike helmet. Then I removed my track suit trousers and cycling jacket, but I decided to keep my SOAS hoodie on a little longer as it was far to cold to strip off to a tri tank at that point.

I then checked my phone – a missed call from Stu. he had been trying to tell me that he would be driving past transition, but I was too late and he was in the car park at the top of the site. I have never been so grateful that an event has been running late. As Stuart appeared, the marshals were ushering people out of transition. I quickly got my bike shoes out and put on my race belt. I removed my hoodie and decided that I would try running with arm warmers on, figuring that I could push them down to my wrists if I got too hot. I got my helmet out and decided to put my headband on. As it still felt cold, I left my cycling jacket by my bike. I was a bit thirsty and needed the loo, but there was no time for either of those as we had been told to line up by the start gantry.

I lined up behind Stuart and a couple of guys from SUTRI (Shriram and Peter)… then we were told to turn around. Ooops – I was far too close to the front and didn’t want to hamper anyone else’s race. I then looked up at the view and realised that we were going to have to run up a big hill. I was still feeling optimistic and decided that we must have to run up the hill and then we would do four loops around the house before running back down to the bikes.

I tried to set off at a steady pace, but it was tough from the start. I also realised within 100m of starting that I still had my buff on, but it was too late to do anything about it.


After a while, the path flattened out a bit and we had to head out across the grass, then we turned onto a gravelly path before passing the main building. At this point, the fastest runners started going past in the opposite direction. Finally, I reached the turnaround point and headed back towards the house. We were directed to the right and then I realised that we were going to head down the massive hill and back to where we started :-O

WinchDu1 WinchDu2

The sprint and novice events started just after the standard, so I was being passed by lots of faster runners. At the turnaround point, Jonathan cheered for me and then I started heading back up the hill. Urrghh! My legs always feel far stronger than my lungs (which I always assumed was a sign of how unfit I am – apparently, it’s more likely to be related to my asthma) but even my legs were feeling the hill. When I got out onto the field, I had a good look around and identified a suitable hedge for a ‘comfort break’. This is something that I would NEVER have done before I did cross-country running, but I thought that it might help me to get my head back in the game.

I felt better when I headed off, and tried not to think about the fact that I still had 2.5 laps to do.

The guys from SUTRI were looking very strong. Peter was totally focussed every time he blasted past me. On my third ascent of the hill, I saw and heard Stuart and Shriram. I shouted to them that if they were chatting they weren’t trying hard enough and then carried on.


Finally, I was on my last lap. Before I saw the course, I had been wondering how close to my 10k PB I could get (51:06), and even at the start line, I discussed with Sergio that I thought I might be able to do 55 minutes. On my way down the hill, my only aim was to go as fast as I could to try to get under 1 hour!

Run 1: 10k: 1:00:01 (69/76)

As I headed into transition, I knew I had to put on some more clothes. I was surprised that the sun had come out, so I rummaged in my bag to find my sunglasses. Usually, I am much better organised, so this lost me some time. After putting on my helmet, bike shoes, gloves and jacket, I headed out to transition. There wasn’t a clearly marked mount line, but we were told to head to the road and mount there.

T1: 00:02:09.70 (57/76)

We only cycled a very short distance before there was a left turn and we were straight onto a hill. Partway up, a man passed me and commented that it was cruel to start us on a hill. Unfortunately, at that point he heard a car behind us and decided that he had better to pull over quickly. His back wheel had not passed my front wheel and I had to swerve into the hedge so as not to be knocked off 😦

The route was much flatter for some time after the first hill and I was quite pleased with my pace, which was averaging over 28kph. I felt really happy as I had no idea what the second half of the course was like. I decided to try to take on some nutrition, but my honey stinger waffle was firmly stuck in its packet, so I licked the end of it and put it back into my bento box, praying that 1g of carb/sugar would give me enough energy to finish the race.

About half way, the route turned left and then became extremely hilly. About 4km from the end of the lap, I saw another cyclist ahead and could see I was making progress, which spurred me on.

I pushed hard to the end of the lap and felt quite confident that I could achieve an acceptable time.

Half way around, I saw Shriram with his bicycle by the side of the road. I asked if he was Ok, but didn’t quite hear the answer, so I offered him an inner-tube. (Later he confirmed that he had broken his rear mech hanger). This wasn’t any help, so i confirmed that I would let the next marshal know he had a problem.

At this pont, the girl I had passed seized the opportunity to pass me. I was unable to catch her again and a few kilometres further on, I was passed by another woman.

I was so pleased after I had climbed the final hill. I knew I had to start planning my dismount and T2. I undid my shoes and slipped my feet out

Bike: 01:55:15.40 (68/74)

I managed a reasonable flying dismount and then had to start running, which felt odd as my toes were very cold. I was surprised by how far the run was from the mount/dismount to the transition area. I was hoping that I wasn’t picking up too much debris on my socks. I was also a bit disoriented and nearly ran through the finish funnel, rather than into transition!

I brushed my socks off, slipped my trainers on, removed my helmet, jacket, buff and arm warmers and started running.

When I checked my splits later, I was pleased to see that T2 continues to be my best discipline. Even if I’m terrible at everything else, Graeme has made me good at this aspect!

T2: 00:01:16.50 (33/73)

It was quite a relief to see that there were still runners on the course, even if they were finishing their second lap.

This run felt tough. By the time I was nearing the top of the first hill, I was wheezing, so I got my inhaler out and had a couple of puffs. I was passed by a chap who asked me whether I was on my last lap. I misheard what he said and replied ‘yes’. By the time I had properly processed this, the runner had gone.

I was glad when I started descending. I could hear the cheers from SUTRI and ‘bike gang’ (Liz, Katherine, Stuart and Jenny).

I passed Jonathan at the bottom turnaround and then started heading back up the hill. When I had passed the supporters, I decided that I needed a walking break. However, I mistimed it and Coach Peter saw me walking. he shouted out that he thought I was better than that, which made me feel really guilty, so I started running again.

By now, most people had finished, so I had to dodge lots of people taking their equipment back to their cars, which was a little frustrating.

By the time I got to the flatter area on the field, I felt really rough. The only person who I was aware of being behind me, caught up with me and then passed me. I tried to keep up, but my calves were cramping and I had no energy left.

Eventually, I reached the final downhill. I mustered up as much energy as I could for a final sprint. I even planned how I would finish so that I wouldn’t have a dodgy finishing photo, but there wasn’t a photographer at the end 😦

I was passed a bottle of water and a medal and I was done.

I congratulated the lady who had passed me on her run and had a chat with her and her friends about my awesome kit as they had commented that they liked it when I was running.

Run 2: 5k: 00:36:02.75 (68/71)

I was 3rd in my age category (podium!) and 10th out of 12 female finishers.

I think the results may change and that some athletes may be disqualified as there are some pretty amazing 5k times there.

Final results: 03:34:44.95 (68/71)

Winchester Duathlon medal

Today I felt like I earned my medal.

Overall, I think Winchester Duathlon was the most brutal event I have ever done. I did the Dorset Endurance Life Coastal Half Marathon back in December 2012 – it was over 16 miles of going up and down the cliffs around Durdle Door/Lulworth Cove in Dorset, however, I was prepared for that.

The Try Tri Events guys organised a fantastic race (and I’m really grateful to them for helping with my disaster this morning), but I think I preferred the old run course because the route around Lainston House was like running up a mountain. The total elevation gain for the standard event was 809m (in comparison with Embrace Sports ‘Hell on the Hills’ which is “only” 471m!!!)

I enjoyed doing my first race with friends from SUTRI, most of whom achieving awesome results including winning the sprint and standard races – it’s fab to have loads of people cheering you on during a tough race. It was also great to give my new Team SOAS 2015 kit its first airing. I know everyone says that you should never try anything new on race day, but I’ve never had a problem with any of my SOAS kit, so I had complete faith it would be just as awesome today.

Selfie Liz Winch Du

How was your weekend? Did you race?

There was even a race report in 220 Triathlon: http://www.220triathlon.com/news/winchester-duathlon-2015-race-report/9933.html

Preparing for my first duathlon of 2015

22 Mar

My weekend started with a lie in. I dithered about whether or not to do parkrun as I’ve got Winchester Duathlon tomorrow, but the lure of my new kit was too much, so I got up, got dressed, admired my outfit in the mirror and then headed off to parkrun with Stu.

When I arrived, I chatted with a few friends, including Teri and Becky and then spotted Liz. Liz is the cheeriest athlete I know – every event that she does is a ‘super adventure’, so I knew that if I ran with Liz I would be able to maintain a steady pace and have fun.

We lined up, just behind Rikki and soon we were off. Unfortunately, I realised that my new shorts are a little too big as every step with my inhaler in my pocket pulled my shorts down. I swiftly retrieved my inhaler, tucked it into my crop top and got moving.

parkrun 21 March 15 1

© Teri Pragnell

Doing the run at a very different pace from last week made for a fun and sociable experience. Liz and I chatted all of the way round and had a great time. We waved to all of the marshals and posed a little bit for Teri and Kim who were marshalling at the bottom of the hill.

© Teri Pragnell

© Teri Pragnell

parkrun 21 March 15 3 parkrun 21 March 15 2

Liz had expected to complete the event in about 35 minutes and she was right:

My parkrun result email from 21 March 2015

Selfie Liz Winch Du


I’m so excited…

20 Mar

…my 2015 Team SOAS kit has finally arrived:




I have my first multisport event of the year on Sunday (Winchester Duathlon), so the kit has definitely arrived at the right time… but I want to wear it all now. (I’m wearing the new hoodie as I type). I was going to be sensible and have a rest day tomorrow, but now I’m very tempted to go to Southampton parkrun tomorrow. If I take it steady, it’ll be OK, won’t it? Plus, if I’m slower people will have more time to admire my gorgeous clothes 😉


13 Feb

I’m currently off work as I’m ill and the lack of exercise is making me grumpy and impatient, as well as providing me with the time to browse online, which is never a good thing.I’ve seen a few humorous videos this morning, such as

but mostly, I’ve been reading other people’s blogs, which make me want things, and then I turn into Veruca Salt:

“I want it now!”

This is how I feel about the new SOAS team kit. I love the 2014 kit, but now I’ve had a glimpse of the 2015 kit, I am desperate to have it

Preview of 2015 Team SOAS kit

I also want all of the new winter running kit.

Which one’s your favourite?

Preview of the 2015 SOAS racing Brand Ambassador kit

15 Dec

I’ve absolutely loved wearing the 2014 SOAS Brand Ambassador kit (and have to admit that my workout wardrobe is significantly more turquoise as a consequence… I even refused to buy a new pair of Brooks PureFlows until my local shop agreed to get them in turquoise), so I’ve been waiting with bated breath to find out what the 2015 kit would be like.

The first hint was the ‘team kit’ that was previewed at Interbike, back in September.

SOAS 2015 sale

We had another hint back in November when we saw the exclusive Kona kits, which were in the trademark turquoise with fluorescent accents:

Kona 4 SOASKona 1 SOASKona 2 SOAS Kona 3 SOASKona Gina SOAS

Then finally, we got the first glimpse of the awesome kit that I’ll be wearing in 2015:

New SOAS kit

Fortunately, there’s still some turquoise, so I don’t need to replace my shoes etc. I really like the look of this design, and am so excited about receiving another super box full of goodies from SOAS.

I am also really happy to know that some of the awesome triathletes I met this year are going to be on the team, including:

  • Kat Marshall, who coaches on the Embrace Sports camps that I love
  • Elena Nikitina, who I met when cycling in the Pyrenees in May
  • Rosie Wild, who I met at a triathlon training camp in Portugal

As soon as the new SOAS kits are available, I’m going to be stocking up as I LOVE the new designs. Which one is your favourite?


Update – December 2015
I have loved wearing this kit this year and am just as excited about the 2016 kit. I’ve recently blogged about the sneak previews that we’ve had.

Gosport Half Marathon

16 Nov

Today was my last ‘proper’* race of the year, and although I knew I hadn’t prepared adequately for it, I was actually feeling quite good. I ran 10 miles a couple of times when I was on holiday in Portugal, did a 10 mile training run on 2nd November and a 15k run last weekend, none of which were at the pace I wanted to run at, but they were better than I’ve managed for a long time.

As part of my final preparations for Gosport, I went out to Liz’s flat for a party last night. I didn’t drink any alcohol, but I did have a bit of chocolate cake. I’m not sure that’s how the elites roll, but it was good!

I got up at 7am today, dressed for the race and ate a bowl of porridge with dried mango, before heading off to pick up Justin at 8:15am.

We arrived at race HQ fairly early and were able to get our race numbers and chips. As usual, there was a long queue for the toilets, but at least they were real loos and not just portaloos. After I came out, I saw a few people I know, so I stopped to chat to them. I think it was a good move as I realised that it was raining hard outside. Last year, the weather was cold when this race took place, but I overheated at 8 miles, so I was hoping that it would be cold again and that I wouldn’t have similar issues.

Soon it was time to line up at the start. I was with Jenny and Helena, who were both hoping to finish in under 2 hours. I knew that I needed to keep my pace at <5:40/km, but I didn’t want to go off too quickly, which is one of my bad habits. Last year, I resolved not to check my watch until I had run two miles and I decided that would be a sensible option again this year. I could see several LRRs up ahead, and Jenny went speeding off, but I decided to hold back a little.

Jon shared this video of the start of the race – I can be seen in the centre of the picture at 4:23 onwards!

At the two-mile marker, I could see that I was running at about 5:15/km, but I was feeling good. I decided to slow slightly, but that I wouldn’t slow right down to 5:40/km. A little while later, I saw my husband, Stu, who had cycled over from Southampton to cheer runners on. It was lovely to see a friendly face.

I continued on, but at six miles, i started to wonder why I had entered the race – there just seemed to be so much further to run and I was already feeling a little bit tired. Fortunately, there were quite a few LRR supporters at the 10km turnaround point, which helped to motivate me. It was also good to see John, one of Stu’s training partners, and his son. The turnaround helped to motivate me as I was able to see quite a few LRRs. First there was Kelly, then Paul and then I saw Elaine, Aurelio, Rachel and Luana… but I can’t remember what order they were in. I also saw Becky from STC… and I could see that James wasn’t too far ahead. I also heard a familiar voice – I couldn’t see him, but I saw teh front wheel of the lead bike announcing that the first finisher was on his way. My buddy Jules is currently on the road to recovery from a foot/ankle injury, so he decided to use teh opportunity to take his new wheels out for a spin!

I thought that I might be able to catch up with james who was also targeting sub 2 hours, but I didn’t want to pick up my pace too much to catch up with him as I knew I would pay for it later. I decided that a more sensible tactic would be to slowly reel him in. Unfortunately, James was not having a happy race and had started to slow. It wasn’t long before Kelly ran past me. We did our first ever half marathon together, but Kelly is on great form know, so I expected her to beat me. Then Lisa ran past. I hadn’t noticed her at the turnaround, but she was moving at a great pace. I saw her slow a little to chat to James before heading off into the distance.

Just before the 8 mile water station, I caught up with James, but I was starting to feel fatigued and was not breathing as well as I wanted to, so I was unable to speak to him. I had my inhaler zipped into my pocket, but I’m not good at using it whilst moving, so I was hoping that I wouldn’t need it.

I was very concerned that I would overheat like last year, so I decided to try to take on a mouthful of water at every drinks station and to throw the rest of the cup over me. Although this helped a little, I was still starting to overheat. I think my pace dropped a little, so I had to tell myself to harden up and ick up the pace. I knew how disappointed I would feel if i finished just outside of my goal time again.

Although I was feeling warm, it wasn’t as bad as last year and my legs and lungs seemed to be doing OK, so I pushed on. It seemed to take a long time before I got to the loop at the far end of the course, but eventually I made it and  a lovely little downhill section took me on to the long home straight.

A small section of the race was on shingle, which is one of the surfaces that I hate to run on most as I always get pebbles in my shoes, but fortune was smiling on me today, and I managed not to pick up any gravel!

Quite a few LRRs were out supporting on the course, which was great. Having my name on my club shirt means that quite a few people shout encouragement, but it’s even better when it’s someone you know. Lawrence and Mike had cycled out to cheer us on and had positioned themselves on opposite sides of the path: Lawrence had a camera on my left and Mike was on the shingle to my right. I was so happy when I saw them that I gave a big cheer!

Pleased to see Lawrence and Mike out cheering on runners © Lawrence Chen

Pleased to see Lawrence and Mike out cheering on runners © Lawrence Chen

Smiling at Mike who was on my right © Lawrence Chen

Smiling at Mike who was on my right © Lawrence Chen

I knew that the next supporter I saw would be Stu, just at the top of a ramp. I was so happy to see him, but I also warned him that I was feeling unwell and asked him to go to the finish.

I found the final mile really difficult. It was windy and I was feeling very hot and tired, but I was so desperate to achieve my goal and knew that as long as I didn’t slow down too much I would make it. A lovely older chap from Winchester tried to encourage me – he said that he had been following me for quite a long time. I said that I was struggling to breathe, so he very kindly counted for a little bit in the hope that it would get me back into a rhythm. I couldn’t stick with him, but knew that the final turn would be coming up soon.

As I turned the final corner, I knew I had about 400m left to go. Quite a few people were passing me, but I was too focused on my own personal goal to care about taking them on. Eventually, I saw the 13 mile sign, and then saw Kim cheering people on. I was so happy to see her and knew I was going to reach my target. I shouted, “I’m going to do it” and sprinted for the line, passing the chap from Winchester.

I could see the time on the clock (gun time) was 1:58:43. I had achieved my goal! I felt so elated… but knew that I couldn’t just stop as I was feeling dehydrated and really shaky. I’ve fainted after several races and wanted to cool down a bit. LRR Captain Emily came over to me and helped me to get a cup of water before I had my chip removed and was presented with a medal and a goody bag.

The goody bag at Gosport Half Marathon is always packed with lovely stuff:

  • Finger of fudge
  • Wagon wheel
  • Hula hoops
  • Slice of carrot cake
  • Pen
  • Banana

It’s also a reusable drawstring cotton bag, which is handy.

I had a look at my watch and could see that it said 1:57, but could not find out where the seconds were displayed until I got home. My chip time and my Garmin time were identical: 1:57:37 – I had smashed my goal 😀 Frustratingly, I was 59/117 in my category (F35-39), so not quite in the top half, but that’s not too bad. I’ve been so desperate to run a half marathon in under 2 hours. Amongst my running friends, I don’t think it’s a terribly impressive achievement, so I was surprised when one friend told me that only 15% of female half marathoners manage to finish in under 2 hours! http://www.runnersgoal.com/how-to-run-a-half-marathon-in-under-2-hours/ I think this race is different as it’s part of the Hampshire Road Race League and is therefore very popular with club runners (rather than ‘ordinary’ people). The race’s popularity is such that it even featured on the local news: http://www.itv.com/news/meridian/story/2014-11-16/runners-gather-for-gosport-half-marathon/

I still need to take another 5:30 off my time before Southampton Half Marathon in April, but if I can maintain my confidence and my training as well as eat well and lose weight, I’m genuinely starting to think it could be possible 🙂 This result has been a long time coming and there are several people who have helped me to get to this point this year: Stu for always looking after me; Ant for helping me at Run Camp; all of the Embrace Sports guys, but especially Graeme; all of my amazing team-mates from SOAS racing – when the race felt bleak I thought of you all and didn’t want to let you down! – and Huw for pushing me at Tri Club track sessions – THANK YOU! It also seems fitting that this has happened on the same weekend when I’ve found out that I am going to be a brand ambassador for SOAS in 2015 – I am so proud of ths and feel honoured to join so many inspirational women who are achieving at levels that I can only dream of!

At the end of the race, I caught up with quite a few fellow club runners and friends from Southampton Tri Club. Many of them got PBs and the ones who didn’t generally had good races, which was great. It was also lovely to catch up with Sam who I met on my last Embrace Sports holiday.

Posing with Sam after Gosport Half Marathon

Posing with Sam after Gosport Half Marathon

Sadly, Sam has a foot injury, so her race didn’t turn out as planned, but I know that as soon as it’s fixed she’ll be back out there getting PBs (and celebrating with bubbly) again!

Full results for Gosport Half Marathon.

I’ve been having a clear out and have been trying to decide what to do with all of my old race t-shirts… I used to wear some of them at the gym, but I do fewer classes now and have plenty of technical t-shirts, so I don’t use them any more. I think I’ll probably make a quilt out of them. Here are some other ideas: http://blog.walkjogrun.net/2014/11/13/race-t-shirt-overload-here-are-8-ways-to-repurpose-them/

Another article that I’ve read this afternoon is Human body: the ‘ultra-athletes’ aged 60+ It’s a really interesting article that suggests that people shouldn’t just ‘give up’ when they retire.

*I’m planning to do several more parkruns and a ‘Santa dash’ before December 31st, but there are no more cross-country races for me to do until January, and I haven’t paid to enter any more running events.

Embrace Sports 07/10/14 Hell on the hills.

7 Oct

Tuesday 7th October


Tuesday morning meant ‘hell on the hills’. 9.6km isn’t a long run, but when you realise that all of it was either uphill or downhill then you know what a challenge that is. Fortunately, it was a bit overcast, so it wasn’t as hot as it had been on some other days. I’ve done this session before, but my last attempt at running the first hill was as part of a duathlon last year. It didn’t go well, so I was a bit nervous.

Some of the other runners had quite a few beers the previous evening, so they weren’t feeling on top form, whereas I was feeling good, so I hoped that it would all go well for me. My first boost came when I managed to pass a few people on the downhill. I knew that I wouldn’t stay ahead of them, but it made me feel positive.


© Coach Andy leading the way. Not bad for a V50 😉


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Dan.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Amie impressed everyone with her speed and tenacity.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Jen.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Rachel.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Ed was doing well, despite his hangover.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Keith.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Rachel.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Jan.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Holly was injured and unable to run, so she was challenged to cycle the hills.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. George had managed to shake off her Bristolian pursuer…


© Embrace Sports, 2014. But Darren wasn’t going to give up without a fight.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Anna.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Neil.

When I was running up the first hill, I saw Kat on her way down. She is such a hugely inspirational athlete (and also a fellow Team SOS brand ambassador). On my way back towards the starting point, I could see Graeme cheering people on. He is one of the key influences who started me on this journey, so I was really happy to see him.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. I wasn’t trying to avoid the camera – I was getting rid of my sunglasses!


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Super Kat!


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Pamela.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Bernadette.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Ruth.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Anna in pursuit of Nadine.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Sally.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Sam.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Stu did really well 🙂


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Paul.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Holly.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Jen.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Lou.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Super-speedy Gaby.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. It was really great to see Graeme fresh from Ironman Barcelona.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Marcus.


© Embrace Sports, 2014.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Nico.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. I think this is a great photo of Ian – he looked so focussed, every time that we passed each other.

IMG_20141007_095953 IMG_20141007_100024

I completed the event in 1:01:21, so I’ve got a great target for next time – I want to finish in under an hour 🙂 My average pace was 6:26/km, so I think I should be able to do better than that!

My Garmin stats.

My Garmin stats.

After we had finished running, we headed down to Praia de Porto de Mos, the nearby beach, where we took over the cafe.


Some of the others were interested in getting daiquiris, but Amie, Stuart and I were more interested in sampling the local pastel de nata (custard tarts).


I ordered a fruit juice, and managed to finish off all of my nuun before the juice arrived.

In the evening, we went to Vlad’s restaurant, Atalaia. Stu and I have been here before with Embrace Sports, so we knew what to expect: huge amounts of food. I ordered the vegetarian pasta and was quite relieved that the portion size wasn’t as large as on some previous visits!


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Caroline and Jen.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Pamela, Paula and Marcus.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Our super-smiley flat-mate, Rachel.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Holly, Anna, Marcus and Gaby.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. The girls loved posing for the camera!

When we got back to our apartment, I was amused to get the following notification from RunKeeper:

New PB for running 7th October

That’s what happens when you record each rep as a separate run! 🙂


I wasn’t last, even though there was some swimming involved!

26 Jun

Although I’m still tired from last Sunday’s swim, I had already entered tonight’s aquathlon (hosted by the lovely TryTri chaps), so I figured that I’d better just get on with it. We left home a bit late, and I didn’t do a great job of getting myself organised. I thought that I had picked up everything necessary for transition, but realised that I had left my inhaler and contact lenses in my bag, so I missed the briefing (and hat distribution) to go and get them. Fortunately, Stu was there to get a hat for me. I didn’t really have enough time to worry and just went straight into the water, which actually felt like a pleasant temperature.

After a quick wave at the camera, we were off. I had carefully positioned myself near the back of the pack, so I wasn’t squished in the initial brawl. We soon spread out and I was pleased to realise that I was breathing quite well. Unfortunately, my goggles were not doing as well, as I had to stop and empty them three times, which broke my rhythm.

My terrible breathing! © Paul A. Hammond

My terrible breathing! © Paul A. Hammond

I'm still not sure why my head is in this position © Paul A. Hammond

I’m still not sure why my head is in this position © Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

The route was meant to be 750m, but my sighting wasn’t great, so I swam 980m… I really must work on that as I wasted quite a lot of time.

The course is 2.5 laps, so by the time I had swum 1.5 laps, it was starting to thin out a bit and I was pleased to realise that I wasn’t the very last person. Unfortunately, I was also aware that my arms were very tired from Sunday’s exertions, so I wasn’t able to pick the pace up. I pushed as hard as I could, but I know I was passed by at least 3 people in the final lap.

Eventually, I was at the end of the swim. Maybe I should have swum a little bit closer to the exit, but I was ready to stand up, and was relieved that I didn’t feel as dizzy as I normally do. Result! 🙂

Some people might blame the wetsuit for being unflattering; I blame my love of food! © Paul A. Hammond

Some people might blame the wetsuit for being unflattering; I blame my love of food! © Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

This shows just how close the next competitor was © Paul A. Hammond

This shows just how close the next competitor was © Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

I should pin this horrible photo of my double chins up in the kitchen! © Paul A. Hammond

I should pin this horrible photo of my double chins up in the kitchen! © Paul A. Hammond

I finished the swim in 20:01.8 (35/37)

It was then onto transition, which I know is a terrible discipline for me. If I could just strip off my wetsuit/hat/goggles, throw on some shoes and run, I’d be fine, but I’ve had blisters when I tried running without socks before, and so close to a triathlon, I didn’t want to risk it, so I put socks on. Then came the real time-wasting part: contact lenses. I hate running with my glasses on as they make me feel ill. This is partly because they’re not quite the right prescription, but at nearly £300 a pair, I can’t afford to waste money on something that I rarely wear. I put in my contact lenses as fast as possible and was off.

Heading into transition © Paul A. Hammond

Heading into transition © Paul A. Hammond

An entire sequence of me stripping! © Paul A. Hammond

An entire sequence of me stripping! © Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

I’m amused by this shot, which looks like I’m weeing myself – I’m not, honest! © Paul A. Hammond

I managed not to battle my watch this time – I took the face of it off, removed my wetsuit and then clipped it back on again 🙂

T1 2:00.20 (36/37)

At this point, I was unaware that I was not the last person. I thought someone had exited the lake just after me (which they did) and I assumed that he was the very last person in the event… and I knew he would have left transition before me.

I always find the breathing hard when I first start running after swimming, but I just told myself to relax and enjoy it, which seemed to work. I’ve mumbled recently about feeling like I’ve only got one speed – slow – as a consequence of doing some long, slow runs, but I surprised myself by being able to move at a reasonable pace. I think the intervals with Coach Ant (Run Camp) and Huw/Steve (Southampton Tri Club) are finally starting to pay off.

I could hear a speedy runner coming up behind me, but I thought that there was no point in looking around as they would pass me soon enough. I was quite surprised when they spoke to me, and then realised that it was Stuart, who was clearly running very well. I had decided to wear my SOAS pink peacock tri kit as I’ve got a busy couple of days ahead of me and I want to wear my team SOAS kit on Sunday. It’s really comfortable to wear and has the added advantage of standing out really well. Stuart said that he recognised me from quite a long way off as my kit is so distinctive!

I like the run route for Eastleigh aquathlon as it’s essentially the same as the first parkrun that I used to attend, which is where I found my love for running. It’s a two lap course that I know inside out. A third of the way around is a slight incline, before a shady tree-lined section, followed by a (miniature) railway crossing and then an open path. There’s then a grassy section around a ‘bowl’ followed by a sharp down and up, before a gentler slope leading back across the railway line. There’s then one more steep up and over the railway line, before heading to the second lap/finish.

By the time I got to the first incline, I could see a runner ahead of me in distinctive green calf guards. It looked like he was slowing down, so I thought there might be a chance that I could catch him. This, and the enthusiastic encouragement from Becky who was marshalling, encouraged me to push on. I took a while for me to catch up with the chap, but I finally managed it at the bowl. I then headed back towards the start/finish, where the lovely Paul was waiting

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

This shot shows just how great I was feeling! © Paul A. Hammond

This shot shows just how great I was feeling! © Paul A. Hammond

Still smiling and both feet off the ground! © Paul A. Hammond

Still smiling and both feet off the ground! © Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

Getting ready... © Paul A. Hammond

Getting ready… © Paul A. Hammond

...to blow a kiss at Paul! © Paul A. Hammond

…to blow a kiss at Paul! © Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

I kept pushing on the second lap as I didn’t want to be overtaken. As I crossed the railway line, I realised that there were some competitors ahead. I started to push on, but realised that I probably wasn’t going to catch up with them, which frustrated me, but I didn’t want to push too hard as I want to save some energy for Sunday’s triathlon.

Towards the end of the race, I heard someone running behind me. It was a man with a fluorescent yellow shirt on. I didn’t think he was part of the aquathlon, so I wondered whether he was just someone out enjoying a run… but just in case, I started to pick up the pace a little more. This was a lucky guess, as it turned out that he was in the event!

Feeling determined as I could see the finish line! © Paul A. Hammond

Feeling determined as I could see the finish line! © Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

Look at that heel lift! I hope Coach Ant feels proud! © Paul A. Hammond

Look at that heel lift! I hope Coach Ant feels proud! © Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

Action shot! © Paul A. Hammond

Action shot! © Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

Although I look tired in these photos, I was actually feeling really good and would have been happy to carry on and run another 5k. It turns out that my run was the best part of the event for me as I beat 4 people!

Run: 26:38.75 (33/37)

Total: 48:40.75 (34/37)

© Paul A. Hammond

© Paul A. Hammond

I really enjoyed tonight’s event. My super husband did brilliantly, finishing in 3rd place in a time of 31:11.10! Awesome result, Stu! The TryTri lads work well to make each event a success and they also put in a lot of effort to make ech competitor feel valued. The aquathlons are reasonably priced, with chip timing for each event meaning that the results were online by the time that I arrived home, and there was also a bottle of water for each entrant.

I now feel as well prepared as possible for Eastleigh Open Water Triathlon on Sunday. As usual, my aim is to finish, but I’m also hoping not to be last. My T2 is likely to be significantly faster than T1, and I’m hoping that my bike segment will compare favourably with others (probably more because of my fab Kuota Kharma than for my ability).

Have you got any races coming up? Which discipline do you think you need to practise the most?