Gill: less is more

For the past 4 or 5 years, I have considered myself a runner.  I usually run a spring marathon and over the recent years I have started to push myself to improve my times across 5km to marathon distances.  I have completed a few triathlons but my swimming is weak and my bike strength comes from my running fitness.  More often than not, I come out of the swim and my bike is the only one left in T1.  I am very slow in transition and slowly warm up on the bike overtake people as I go.  Once on the run I come into my own, the harder the run course in a triathlon the more places I overtake.  I only ever do these things to complete and manage to blag it on running fitness alone.  A very good friend gave me some polite advice and said if I trained for the other two like I did for running then I would surprise myself.

On the South Downs Way Relay - athlete and coach

On the South Downs Way Relay - athlete and coach

On the back of this year's London marathon I ended up with a suspected stress fracture. I took some time off training and enjoyed the finer things in life, wine and pizza.  Once my foot felt better there was still a place in Brighton Triathlon Club's South Downs Way relay team.  This was a 100 mile relay race and I would need to run 3 stages totalling 18.5 miles.  I had lost lots of fitness but had a fear of missing out so decided to go anyway.  To recover from this and a half ironman which I hadn't trained for meant I decided to enjoy life again and take some rest. 

In the back of my mind I knew I had the Chilham Castle sprint duathlon booked for the middle of October.  Also I remembered Santi's pep talk telling me if I trained properly I could surprise myself so I went to Mike at ZigZag Alive for some training.  At the first session Mike and I discussed my lack of current training, the key sessions I wished to continue within the plan and also my goals for the race.  At this point I boldly told Mike I wanted to win the event.  This was possibly a tough challenge as we only had 11 weeks left.  Mike explained the plan would not have as many intense running sessions as I was doing and the plan would have more rest incorporated into it than I was used to.

A few days later and the plan turned up.  The plan was considerably different to what I am used to.  Initially, I decided it was not for me and I would use aspects of it but not very much at all.  My husband had stern words and explained if someone will offer you advice you should take it.  With this in mind I looked again.  The plan was based on time and not distance, I decided I would convert the allocated time into miles and train towards that target.  I was happy to drop one intervals session at the start, as it came back 3 weeks later.  I also decided I would still do parkrun every week (this was definitely not in the plan) and my long run would be 13 miles and not 80 minutes.  With all this decided I sent an email back saying, this looks great no problems.  A few white lies don't hurt, do they?

I then started to train, the beginning of the week was Brighton & Hove AC training session.  I enjoy this session a lot so Mike ensured it stayed put.  I then enjoyed getting out on my bike and it was so nice having my longest ride as 2 hours.  This was perfect.  Then Saturday morning came around and through guilt and having weekly feedback sessions I realised it wouldn't hurt volunteering at parkrun instead.  Once Sunday morning came around I started my 13 mile run but from a complete lack of fitness I got to 80 minutes and realised I was shattered so decided to walk home instead.  Week 1: Mike 1 - 0 Gill.  Around came week 2 and the same routine happened, I argued the plan in my head and eventually did what Mike suggested.  The third week was a recovery week, which didn't feel necessary as compared to previous training as I hadn't really done much.  However, I stuck to the plan.  Well I sort of did, I went to the same sessions without a watch so I ran on feel.  This continued weekly. I respect Mike a lot and as much as I thought I would be happy to lie to him and sneak off to Hove Park parkrun, however in practice the weekly catch up on training had to be truthful.  Then an opportunity came around to switch Tuesday's session to the last Friday of the month 5k in Hyde park.  Yippee, a parkrun which was allowed.  I think the built up excitement, the one lap course and improved training meant a 1 minute course PB and a 5k PB in 20:19.  I was then sold, do what Mike tells you. 

The rest of the training plan until the last three weeks followed suit.  I scrapped parkrun and did some intense bike rides taking in Ditchling Beacon.  These were usually at a much harder intensity as I was missing a session I enjoyed.  I would cycle into the park to report back to Mike on the weekly session whilst everyone else ran.  I incorporated some hard turbo sessions and found the reduction in distance meant I was faster for the key sessions which matter.  I made sure the long bike ride stayed as the plan and I could possibly have deviated a touch with the long run.  All was well and I felt confident.  Then sadly work happened.  I had to spend the last three weeks living in hotels for 6 nights out of 7.  I tried to train in the gym but everything became junk training so I gave in to my excuses.  I ditched most sport and took up eating and drinking. I think I gained half a stone and the wheels well and truly fell off.  I was honest on my weekly catch ups and Mike gave good advice.  I explained I would follow this but knew there was slim chance.  Another week would roll by and I decided I would do parkrun and my Sunday run and that would be it.  I hadn't riden a bike for 2 weeks before the race.  Then there was a realisation that race day was here.  I decided I no longer minded the result. I know I can finish, it's a good training day with friends and I would have fun and probably wouldn't come last so what did it matter.

First woman by 4 minutes, Chilham Castle Sprint Duathlon champion and new course record holder. Photo courtesy of  Tri Spirits Events

First woman by 4 minutes, Chilham Castle Sprint Duathlon champion and new course record holder. Photo courtesy of Tri Spirits Events

It was an early start and we had racked and got chatting to fellow competitors.  I wasn't nervous, I didn't feel sick and had no adrenalin at all.  After a quick race briefing we wished each other well and we were off.  The first run can only be described as undulating and muddy.  The start is an uphill 1km mud bath, this is usually what my Sunday's are made of so I counted back from 100 and just kept going.  Mike's advice was pace the first run and my pace was too quick.  I tried to adjust this for the next 4k and I tried to keep my heart rate low for the forthcoming hills.  As I took on the incline to T1 I heard a spectator tell her friend I was the first lady.  I hadn't at this point realised she meant out of the duathletes and 5k runners, oops maybe I was a bit off with my pacing.  After a quick T1, which luckily I found my bike as for once most people were still racked, I was off.  The bike course starts with a long climb and I took it easy and rehydrated.  At the roundabout the marshal confirmed I was 1st and doing a 180 degree turn I saw second place.   A combination of this and a fast borrowed bike I knew I had to get a move on.  A very fast downhill and flat section enabled this bike to move.  Mike assures me that my legs were powering it but I wasn't telling myself this at the time.  I had been drinking copious amount of wine in the two week build up.  In no time at all and after racing the same 5 blokes who refused to let me beat them, the long climb into T2 happened.  Then the final run which is the majority of the same course, minus the mud.  This was a joy as it was only 2.5km.  I kept telling myself I better carry on as I told Mike at the start I wanted to win.  The finish is at the top of a long hill and I crossed the line in first place. This training combined with perfect racing conditions also helped break the course record.