We did it

Shockabsorber Human Race Triathlon – we have completed you. Between the four of us (including honoury member Lyndsay) we completed a

Novice

Super Sprint

Sprint

Challenger.

A total of – 2350m swimming, 84.8km cycling and 20km running.

Not a bad afternoon then.

What can I say about it?

It was hot. Bloody hot. 32 degrees and no cloud cover hot. The run was so painful and so slow but, as ever, the atmosphere at Eton Dorney was immense. Loads of people on the side of the run cheering us on – although not one person responded to my request for a pint!

Every single fitness level was accounted for and the support was equal for everyone. You may think that a triathlon is so far out of reach it isn’t even worth considering. However, if you can ride a bike, swim a length and put one foot in front of the other; it is achieveable.

If I can do it, anyone can!

If I can do it, anyone can.

In our intro Jo describes me as an expert. Can I firstly say I am no expert but I am experienced now, having been playing this game for nearly 4 year. My first was in Sept 2014. The swim was 400m in a pool, I rode my ‘sit-up & beg’ bike and the run , well I ran-ish.

I really had no idea what I was getting myself into and that it would become such a huge part of my life. As I have now managed to persuade 3 friends to join me on this crazy adventure, with us all taking part at the Shock Absorber Ladies Only Tri this weekend, I thought I would answer some of the questions that you might have that might be preventing you giving it a go.

Kit

At first glance most people think that doing a triathlon requires a lot of expensive kit. Don’t get me wrong the possibilities to spend money on kit is endless, but to start you just need the basics.

Swim – Swimming costume or tri suit*, googles, swim hat, ear plugs (optional) and a wetsuit (only for open water).
Ride – Bike, cycling shoes (optional, you can cycle in trainers, we all do) and helmet, which is compulsory.
Run – Trainers, sports bra** (for the girls).

*The Tri Suit. This is an all-in-one or 2 piece lycra get up in which you can swim, bike and run. It has a small padded bottom for riding which doesn’t fill will water when swimming to make it feel like a nappy for running in.

**Sports Bra. I would say that having a decent sports bra is as important as your trainers. Being comfortable in the boob area makes such a difference to running. I am a Shock Absorber girl myself (36D) and I know that Jo doesn’t go anywhere without her Bravissimo beauty (a tad bigger (30G!) And yes we swim with the bra on under our tri suits because although some tri suits do have internal bras they are really not up to much.

The Swim

  • “I can’t even swim front crawl.” You don’t need to, you can swim breast stroke. If you can swim you can do a triathlon. (I do a mixture – Jo)
  • “I’ve never swum in open water.” If you don’t like the idea of getting into open water, there are now so many pool based swim events you can avoid this for as long as you want. However, the feeling of swimming in open water is unbeatable and once you’ve tried it you’ll be hooked.
  • “I can’t swim very far.” Again, there are now so many events with lots of different distances, for example this weekend at Eton Dorney there is a First Timer distance which is a 200m.
  • “I don’t have a wetsuit” You only need one if you’re going to go in open water. They add buoyancy and aid stream lining in the water and obviously keep you warm. To begin with you can hire or borrow a wetsuit. Some lakes where they do open water sessions you can hire a wet suit for as little as £5 a session.

The Ride

  • “I’ve not been on a bike for years.” You’ll soon rediscover that childhood joy of whistling along on a bike.
  • “I’ve only got a basic bike.” As I said I did my first tri on my ‘sit-up & beg’ bike. I did take the basket off the front but I was tempted to keep it on to put some food and drink in to keep me going!
  • “I’m afraid of clipping in (using cleats).” Then don’t! Just ride in trainers, it means faster transitions (more of that in another blog).
  • “I’m afraid of riding on the roads” Again, don’t. There are plenty of places (round the lake you might be swimming in), in the woods, cycle paths etc to be able to get used to riding in a safe and traffic free environment. Also there are lots of closed road events, for example at Eton Dorney.

The Run

  • “I can’t run between lamp-posts” Neither could I so I started with the Couch to 5k app and gradually worked up to running longer distances. Also taking part in your local Parkrun is a great way to build up as you can walk/jog/run that in a great supportive atmosphere. Running is one of those things that we can all do to a certain extent.

Your first triathlon can be at whatever level you want it to be. There you go, seed of thought planted. If I can do it, anyone can.

It was Theresa May’s Fault.

Running every day for a year
It was all Theresa May’s fault.

Let me rewind to 18th April 2017, Theresa May announced that she was going to hold a general election and it was going to be in 50 days –  8th June. This was a bolt of lightening to me as I was signed up for my second Olympic distance Triathlon on 4th June. Less than 50 days! OMG! I was not ready, nowhere near ready; mainly because I wasn’t running. I had every excuse ready to not go out and run. It was too cold, too windy, too wet, I was too tired, I was hungover (one topic), I had my period (another topic). You name it and I had an excuse for it.

I made the decision to run every day from then on; no excuses, no expectations. I had to go out whatever the weather, however I felt, making time in the day for at least 2km.

You see the thing is, I don’t like running. It’s hard and it hurts and to be honest I am not very good at it. I am not a natural runner, if there is such a thing. I am not built like a runner, I’ve got fat thighs, big hips and big boobs; not your ideal runner’s physique. I have had various running coaches help improve my running but consistency was always my down fall. I figured that if I was going to get any better at it, I needed to just suck it up and get on with it. I settled into a routine of running every day, mainly early in the morning before work. Bloody minded determination is one of the things I am good at.

The 4th June arrived and I completed the Olympic Triathlon, it was tough. The 10km run was hot and horrible and I certainly didn’t run it all, but I completed it. Day 42.

Day 44 was ironically my 44th birthday so I kept running. I was so close to 50 days by this point so I kept running, even whilst away with my girlfriends in Barcelona, (which by the way is a beautiful city to run around, especially early in the morning).

My next Triathlon was booked for early July, so I kept running. Sometimes it was great, sometimes it was terrible and sometimes it just was. The only thing I had in my head was ‘No excuses, no expectations.’ I just had to run. I ran through the summer holidays, whilst on holiday, back to work in September and on and on.

Day 100 was a mile stone I never thought I’d reach and it was at this point that I started to think about 6 months of running. Me, running every day for 6 months! My Strava post for 6 months was “6km for 6 months. #hangover #killorcure” which sums up my attitude to running completely. I was doing it but still not loving it. Surely by this point the runner’s high should have kicked it, surely that gazelle fluidity should be mine, surely, I should be a better runner than I was?

Gradually the days increased and I reached 200 days, enjoying some great runs with friends. I reached 1000km in December, in the snow. I was still a reluctant runner, procrastinating all day in my running kit before finally getting out and feeling so much better for it.

I ran on Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, every day.

My year of running was great, friends joined me and my family at our local Parkrun together and then ate bacon butties and cake. I was so happy, it was great to have so many lovely people around me celebrating my year of dedication to running every day. To be honest though that is all I did, run every day. I didn’t actually get any better at running, my average pace hadn’t really got any faster. I just ran every day.

My PT Andy asked if I was going to keep on running and as I had my first Tri of the season coming up, of course the answer was “Yes”. I was doing a Sprint Distance at Eton Dorney and had a great event, knocking a couple of minutes of my PB from last year. What was even more significant was how the run felt. For the first time ever I felt OK on the run. I was able to settle into a rhythm and maintain a constant pace throughout the whole 5km. This was a massive break through for me. I am still no Gwen Jorgenson but I was happy and felt proud that my effort was finally paying off.

Day 400, at the end of May, came and went without me noticing to be honest. I only checked because Andy asked when it was. That in its self says a lot. I had the Windsor Olympic Distance Triathlon looming in my sights and I was worried. My hubby had done it last year and he told me the run was hilly. I hate hills, running or riding them, I hate them. I also had a bit of a niggle in my hip which I couldn’t shake.

Up to this point I have been relatively injury free, despite the doom-laden warnings I was given by most runners who I told that I ran every day. I have also been major illness free as well. It has helped my IBS and I’ve avoid most of the coughs and colds through the year, which as a singing teacher is really important, but this niggle in my hip was bugging me.

I went to see my amazing sports masseur Hannah, who has the most incredible, strong hands. However, it wasn’t the massage that made the difference that day. She looked me straight in the eye and told me I needed to rest before Windsor. She also saw the look in my face which said, “If I stop then it’ll all disappear, all my hard work will vanish, and I will be the 17 stone miserable person I was”. She saw that look and told me it wouldn’t, that I could still run, that a rest day wouldn’t make me gain all the weight back and that it would be OK.

Sometimes we need to listen to other people and accept their help, and by doing that we can become stronger for it. Friday 14th June 2018 was the first day in 418 days that I rested. Do you know what? I didn’t gain back all the weight I lost, I didn’t lose all my fitness. In fact, I went onto smash 15 minutes off my Olympic distance Triathlon. I was so amazed at the time as I crossed the finish line I burst into tears and hugged everyone.

So now I run when I want to, when I feel like it, when Jo says we’re going out at 6am and I am enjoying each run more for it. I am still not much better at it; some days are still rubbish and it’s like I’ve never run before; but I do with pleasure.

Training smarter not harder is my new motto. I am going to  need it as Sam and I have signed up to do a half marathon in October. (and no Jo isn’t joining in from Jo).

Sam the Superhero

A real life superhero, a NHS superhero, looking after sick people for 12 hour shifts at time whilst being a mum, partner and triathlete. No we don’t know how she does it either.

Jess stalked Sam on Strava (see previous posts for this habit of Jess) and then they met at a parkrun. Sam is bonkers, energetic and did I mention bonkers? Full of energy, smiles and encouragement. She is also about to complete her second triathlon this year, with me, in two weeks times. Have I mentioned bonkers?

Sam is a critical care nurse in the HDU and has been for 9 years; prior to that she was a ward nurse. Like Jess and me she thought PE at school was crap; although unlike me she could play hockey. I don’t know about the flirting at sports day as she hasn’t mentioned it; this ommision possibly speaks for itself!

After baby number 3 and gaining a considerable amount of weight, she got diagnosed with hypothyroidism and so a daily medication regime began, as did her desire to go from “fat to fit fucker”. However, her plans were scuppered when as she was losing weight, she noticed a breast and neck lump. Last year she had it removed and was given the all clear.

Add to all this her beloved nan dying, lots of alcohol was consumed until a need to get fitter took over. See, it isn’t about looking a certain way for us but about being the strongest and fittest we can be.

People don’t come in perfect packages, we are diverse and unique; we need to celebrate this by being the best that we can be. I (Jo) often think (to be fair just before wine) that we wouldn’t put petrol in a diesal car because it would break down. We also know, that if we left our car on the drive without moving it for a month or so, we may have difficulties getting it to move when we try. Yet our bodies, which unlike cars cannot be replaced, we treat like crap.

Sam made the decision to change this and she went from being stones overweight to being a fit, badass lady.

So, that is the three of us. A teacher, a singer and a nurse. Two brunettes and a redhead. Three ladies pushing ourselves to complete the ridiculous. Jess will smash it in a record time, Sam will swim ridicuously quickly, I will need help getting out of my wetsuit. The time isn’t the thing, the getting off the sofa and having a go is the thing.

I am reading an ace book at the moment called “Eat, Drink and Run” and when the author, Bryony Gordon, talks about running, she discusses women that will not call themselves runners. But what they are saying is that they, in their own mind, do not fit the image portrayed of runners and so refrain from using the term. The image we know so well used by all the big brands and on the walls in sports shops – the high ponytail swishing behind as they run up a hill with no sign of redness or sweat. This picture is not a real ideal. You are a runner if you are out there trying. “Think not of what you aren’t but what you are”. (seriously buy this book it is flipping awesome)

This is Me – the story as told by Jess

“This is me!”
The title line from an amazing song which encapsulates everything about me.
I am a singer, singing teacher, mother of 2, wife and life partner for 27 years; I am also a triathlete. It’s been really hard to call myself this as until recently I was the least athletic person on this earth.

Like Jo I hated ‘sports’ at school, I think mainly because I do not have a competitive bone in my body;I still don’t. I have no interest in being better than anyone else, an opinion that proved to be in the minority amongst my peers, who were all competitive. The end result was that I didn’t try at all.

I grew up in the middle of the Devon countryside with a large, loud, music and drama filled family. We were spectators of sport, but it wasn’t something we took part in. We watched the tennis, the rugby, the cricket etc but didn’t play. I swam during the summer in an open-air swimming pool in our village of Chagford (check it out here, it really is a piece of heaven), but, because of the occasional dislocation of my shoulders I wasn’t able to swim front crawl; so didn’t take it any further. I rode my bike to work because it was the only way to get there. Running however, was avoided at all costs; cross country at school generally involved snogging my boyfriend under the viaduct in the park! snogg

I was and am a music nerd through and through. I love music and I am blessed to share this passion daily, when I teach both kids and adults to sing. However, as a kid, being a classical music nerd wasn’t cool. I was not stick thin and when I look at pictures of me at 14 or so (when I started to be really conscious of my body), I see a perfectly normal 14 year olds body. However, it wasn’t the same as my friends; I wasn’t like my friends.

The solution?  I ate and ate and ate. As my body grew bigger and bigger so any inclination to exercise disappeared.  I did occasionally do something other than drinking and eating (students are very good at that), but I was happy to develop my career as a singer rather than focus on my body.  However, throughout my 20s I still rode my bike in London-as it was free transport- and I still swam in the summer. This was until a horrific cycling accident in London put paid to my cycling for a very long time. Years.

Fast forward to 2001 and  after 10 years of being with my now husband, we got engaged. We both decided to lose some weight for the wedding and found that bizarrely, if you eat a take away on the way home from the gym you won’t lose any weight! After becoming happily married we quickly got on with having our children. It turns out I was absolutely  marvellous at eating for 2 and exercise was still on the back burner – apart from my annual summer swimming.

The big “momemt’ came, when nine months after having my son – the younger of my two children – I saw a photo of myself weighing more than I did when I was pregnant. It  gave me the shock I needed. I was 17 and a half stone. I loved being a mum and a wife but I wasn’t fulfilling any other part of my life; there wasn’t any other part of my life.

I signed up for the Moonwalk, to walk 26.2 miles through London at night in my bra! My friend Fran and I strapped our baby boys in their buggies and we walked and we talked and we walked and we talked. I still maintain it was one of the hardest things I have ever done; 10 hours battling every demon in my head but we did it.

That was the start I needed. The realisation hit that if I signed up and paid for something, no matter how huge the challenge, I had to train for it and do it. After the Moonwalk came the Sports Relief Mile. HUGE! Me, running, blimey. It felt like the biggest hurdle. However, I reasoned that at the most it would take me 20 minutes so it was something I COULD do. My husband was worried when I crossed the line that I was about to pass out, but again I did it.

Couch to 5k followed, with a hiatus of moving, gaining back much of the weight I had lost, couch to 5km again and again and again. So, I took another big leap and with it a commitment to train by signing up for a 10km! OMG it was so hard. Why would you run for that amount of time! But again, I did it.

By now I am used to rising to a challenge, so when my husband and his friends on a drunken New Year’s Eve decided they would do a triathlon, I decided to join them (after a few months of being a triathlon widow). As I have said, I’ve always swum and I’ve always ridden my bike. At the time, I figured I didn’t want to run further than 10km so in a weird, warped kind of logic a triathlon seemed like a good idea. And again, I did it.

And that started this journey into a sport which I love. There I said it. I LOVE TRIATHLONS. And here is the reason I do. It’s because I am not a competitive person. The race is a race against yourself. Yes, there are podium places and there are age category winners. Yes, for some people, like my husband and his buddies, it is about being faster than the next man or woman. For me, it’s about proving to myself that through grit and determination, I can conquer something which most people think is insane.

 

THIS IS ME

Who are we and why do we try to tri?

Firstly, have I just made up a cool hashtag? #try2tri? First cool thing I have ever done if that is the case, just ask my kids (both at home and in the classroom).

We thought it would be useful to introduce ourselves just in case anyone reads this page. If you do read it, leave a comment and say hello. It can be a lonely thing reaching out to the cyberspace void.

I am going first (I am the oldest of the three after all).

I am Jo, a teacher, mother of two and married to a non-sport playing husband. He insists that golf is sport; I maintain that if you can eat a bacon sarnie whilst playing, it most certainly is not. I hated PE at school, with a passion. I could not get up onto the horse in gym class, even with a bloody spring board. High jump was all kinds of trauma and I managed to throw the javelin backwards in athletics. Sports day in secondary school was spent trying to chat up the year 11s (with varying degress of success) and I didn’t make it on to the hockey team (when I actually tried to take part) even though they did not have enough players. My swimming teacher was constantly criticising my body in each lesson (my body was fine) and so the only exercise I enjoyed during the 80s, was pacing the village chatting to my mates whilst munching on Marathons. Oh and of course, the Jane Fonda Workout – performed behind the sofa with my best mate who lived opposite. It is still impossible to listen to “Can You Feel It?” by the Jackson Five without hearing Jane shout out “Flat back straight legs”.jane fonda

Through the 90s I was aerobic queen whilst living and working in London; I even had the thong leatard worn on top of the lycra shorts. Thank goodness no photos. I have been really big, a size 8 and varying shades of grey in between.

However, in 2006 I became ill with a very rare form of pneumonia called cavitating pneumonia. It nearly killed me and occurred just a week after giving birth to my gorgeous daughter; so all in all not a great time. But, I am here. Retrained into a career which brings laughter and immense stress in equal measures and I’m healthy. I want to push myself, I am touching 50 and I honestly want to be the fittest I can be.

If you asked me what my passion outside of family is, I would answer yoga. Yoga, always yoga. But, due to where I live and the fact that my yoga refuge is too far for me to get to now I am working full time, I now swim, cycle and stumble. It cannot ever replace yoga for me; yoga is in everything. However, when swimming, if you are not in the moment and mindful of your every breath, you will swallow water and choke. Swimming is all about the breath, the inhalation and exhalation; it is meditative. It calms my mind and makes me a decent person to be around after a stressful day. When cycling I chat to sheep and we won’t mention the running part. I will leave the joy of that to Sam and Jess.

What power does exercise give you? How do you fit it in? Say hi if you tri.

Hello

Blimey, hello. My name is Jo and on Sunday, when my mate Jess was swimming, cycling and running ridiculous distances around Windsor and achieving brilliance, I decided to start a blog. A daft undertaking really when you think about how many marvellous blogs there are around. Indeed, you may be wishing that you are reading one of them now.

To encapsulate what I would like the blog to be about is quite tricky but I shall try my best. I am 46, a full-time teacher and a mother of two who doesn’t believe her life starts and ends there. Thankfully, I live just houses away from a nutter; otherwise known as Jess. She is a singer, teacher, mother who also doesn’t believe that she is defined by these different titles; albeit bloody brilliant roles.  Being a mother is the best part of both of us, but there is more.

Jess, is what I would term a Strava stalker. If you are female and run, cycle or swim; chances are Jess is aware of you. This is how she met Sam, who is  a full-time, life-saving hero nurse and mother. Sam is  the type of nutter that swims the Serpentine. I KNOW!

Thanks to Jess, both Sam and I have completed triathlons. Me – a beginner and Sam a sprint. All three of us are competing again in 3 weeks (vomit) and I wanted to journal our training, procrastinating and (definitely in my case) moaning.

I have often searched for inspirational blogs; words that will get me running when I really don’t want to (every time I am planning a run). The problem is, they are generally written by accomplished runners, fast runners who worry if their time per mile is over nine minutes. I want someone nursing a strong coffee, eying the toaster whilst salivating and wondering if climbing up and down the stairs 5 times is enough to log on Strava. So I have started one.

So this is our musing, mutterings and meanderings. We are Jess the inspirational one, Jo the procrastinator and Sam the lunatic (and superhero). A singer, teacher and a nurse just pushing ourselves that little bit further. We all have daughters; maybe just maybe they can push themselves too.