Should you race without training..?

It’s that time of year again.. 90% of my Facebook feed have just run Cardiff Half marathon, the London Marathon magazines are landing on doorsteps and I’m seeing posts on the “Ironman Wales Journey” facebook group which read abit like “So I’ve got a spot for Ironman Wales, I’ve never ridden a bike/done a triathlon/swum a length before – any tips?”

I’m not elitist, far from it infact! I’ve got nothing against people entering events for the first time, (we all have to start somewhere!) or taking up the full amount of allocated time to reach the cut offs etc. Infact I encourage it and love to see newcomers embracing the sport of triathlon.

But I just think that because you “could” do the event without training or building up to it slowly doesn’t mean you “should”.

Here’s why.

  1. You’ll probably end up injured.. Asking your body to run 13.1 miles when the most you’ve run in training is 30 minutes is going to put a strain on those joints! This is a bad thing for a number of reasons.. you’ll be injured, in pain, maybe unable to finish the race or unable to continue your new found love of running for a few weeks afterwards or maybe even longer.
  2. Are you putting others at risk? Cycling in groups is hard enough, it’s even harder if the only cycling you’ve ever done is on your turbo on zwift. The last thing you want to do is crash and potentially take another cyclist out with you.
  3. Could somebody else have had that spot? With Ironman for example you cannot transfer your place. So if you DNS (Do not start) the race that you entered on a whim after spending a day in Tenby on the booze cheering on the Ironmen is somebody else missing out? This year Ironman Wales sold out in record time and as you’re reading this some poor chap is reading his “Sorry, you didn’t make the cut” London Marathon magazine. (I had no intention of entering either of these events before you accuse me of being bitter 😜 )
  4. You wont enjoy it as much as you would have done had you prepared properly. I can’t see there being much fun in reaching half way, struggling and spending the rest of the race berating yourself for not training. The journey – the training, the smaller events leading up to this one is all part of the fun. That feeling of satisfaction of crossing the line knowing that all of the effort you’ve put in to get there was worth it 😊

So by all means get into a new sport, start something new, but ask for help, get some training under your belt, it’ll be far more enjoyable and less painful in the long run. You won’t regret it. My first “big” race was Cardiff half marathon which I completed in two hours on the dot – and I haven’t looked back since.

A summer of racing in West Wales

Things have gone quiet on the blog and in triathlon generally since Ironman Ireland.. I always planned my season this way. I knew I had a busy July and August of hens and weddings and I wanted to enjoy myself without having to force out training for any events. So I suppose I’ve had a bit of a mid season break. I must say I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself! I’ve trained a lot less and haven’t felt at all guilty for having a day off on a Sunday with a sore head. This would not have been something I could have done if I had entered Ironman Wales, as I had last year. One of the reasons why Ireland was chosen as the Ironman this year.

This has not meant that I haven’t raced. Although I’ve had a break from the multi sport events, these were small, local, but thoroughly enjoyable mid week races.

One of the best thing about not doing much training is that I was always fresh for these races and really enjoyed them. Other advantages included being able to sign up on the night, racing with friends and hardly any time spent in the car.

So if you’re local to West Wales – here are some of the smaller races that happen down our end during the summer.

1. Cwm-yr-Eglwys Regatta Swim.

This is a part of the Dinas Cross Summer Regatta and for a week or so they host various sea based events.

On the Monday night the event was an open water swim from Aberfforest to Cwm-yr-Eglwys.

Cwm-yr-Eglwys is a tiny little inlet just North of Dinas Cross. We paid £10 to enter and a number scrawled onto the back of our hands in marker pens before climbing (in a rather awkward and unladylike fashion) into a boat and over to the rather pebbly beach called Aberfforest about a mile away. As we stood on the beach in our wetsuits waiting for the other boat loads of swimmers to arrive we commented that the journey over felt much further than a mile!

The briefing informed us that there would be a corridor of lifeguards on paddle boards showing us the way. We were also warned that this was not a triathlon and there should be no elbows at the start – we should all enjoy a friendly swim….

Off we went and it was like a war with people fighting for spots. So much for “no elbows”. Probably the toughest and roughest open water swim start for me so far. After a manic sprint start I was soon coughing water and a bit disorientated trying to swim into the setting sun.

The bright sunshine made sighting difficult and there was no sign of this “corridor of lifeguard” but I spotted a crowd of flailing arms ahead of me. There seemed to be no one around me, nobody to draft. I convinced myself that everyone else was in the group ahead. I must be last! So I swam as fast as I could to try and catch the group. I seemed to be drawing them in at one point but as soon as we turned back inland towards the finish they put on a sprint and I was left to come into the finish alone. When I got out I was shocked to see that there weren’t many out ahead and I was nowhere near last despite convincing myself that I was. I saw David stood on the ramp and he explained “bloody hell, I’ve only just finished myself” chuffed to learn after that I was the 2nd female. The swim was just short of a mile and I’d swam it in 24min 55sec.. just 30seconds slower than David. In the pool he leaves me in the dust, (or maybe I should say in the bubbles) but put a wetsuit on me and for some reason I seem to be able to stay with him much easier.

A lovely touch afterwards was the free tea for finishers. It was a lovely little event.

2. Poppit 5km Series

Full disclosure – I didn’t actually run any of these races. After Ireland I’d been left with a bit of a dodgy ankle so I had a few weeks off running over the summer and gradually built it back up on the treadmill. This race, which included road, stepping stones across the stream and soft sand would not have done anything to help my ankle but I have done it before and I spectated my other half, David, who ran everyone of the 3 races. They take place 3 times, every other Tuesday during the school holidays. There is a children’s race 1st and every week over a 100 children ran 2km on the sand. This race was then followed by a 5km adults race.

Superbly organised by Cardigan Running club. Relaxed, laid back with awesome prizes. I was especially delighted with the bottle of Prosecco David would bring home after every race.

After the 3rd race we cracked open one of the bottles and drank it with fish and chips that we picked up on the way home- can’t beat it!

3. Cippyn Run

A Friday evening run organised by Rhys Harries Fitness Coaching. Again starting at Poppit but this time instead of running along the beach this run goes inland – to the hills!

There are 3 distances to chose from – 4 miles, 7 miles and a half marathon. Coming back from the dodgy ankle (discussed above!) I did the 4 mile and won the race overall, whilst David won the 7mile and my friend Sian won 1st female in the 7 mile race.

This was a great way to end the summer of local races before thoughts turned back to some races further afield – Cardiff 10KM (where I PB’d with my 1st sub 50 10KM) and Weymouth 70.3 for me and Nice 70.3 World Champs for David.

They also made me realise that it’s not all about these big branded races with tattoos, feed stations and blingy medals. There’s something very enjoyable about just having a blast with your mates. It also made me realise how lucky we are to live where we do and how much we take this glorious coast for granted.

Race Report: Ironman Ireland 2019

The week leading up to the race mainly involved refreshing the Met Office app, BBC weather and the Irish Met Office website on a continuous loop. Unfortunately every time I hit refresh the weather forecast seemed to worsen!

David and I were both racing and Helen and Roger (David’s parents) came with us to support. We caught the ferry from Fishguard to Rosslare Friday afternoon in the glorious sunshine before driving the two hours to Youghal. It was a very easy journey. We had booked to stay in the Old Imperial Hotel and received the warmest of welcomes. The place was buzzing and we immediately spotted our race numbers in the window. In fact the whole town had an excited air about it.

The Old Imperial Hotel, Youghal

On Saturday we headed to the race briefing and greeted with the news that due to the air and water temperature the swim would be shortened. We had predicted this in the week (thanks mainly to my weather app obsession) so we were not surprised. The question was how much shorter?

That afternoon a group of us from our club, West Coast Tri drove the bike route. It consists of two 56 mile loops. The first 20 miles or so seemed very technical along country roads, there was then a steady climb of about 10 miles with a descent in the middle before more technical back roads back to Youghal and Windmill hill. Personally I didn’t think it was as bad as the Ironman Wales course but the boys were concerned and predicted that because of the road conditions, weather forecast and the technical elements it would be just as hard as the Welsh course. I was not looking forward to it especially with the forecast.

When we arrived in Transition on race morning and looked out at the sea it was clear there would be no swim. The waves were crashing onto the shore and there were no buoys in the sea or swim start/exit signs on the beach. We still, however, had to change into our wetsuits (for the swim we knew would never happen) and wait in the wind and rain for a few hours before the decision to cancel the swim was finally announced. We were all by now very frustrated and very cold!

At 8am – after three hours of standing in the wind and rain I started the race. The roads were flooded – in places you couldn’t see what you were cycling through and the water streamed down the descents like rivers. My main priority was to get around safely without taking any risks.

Despite this, I quite enjoyed the bike, even in the most isolated of areas spectators cheered us on, absolutely soaked to the bone. As I cycled through Middleton the cheer from the crowd was so incredible I felt like I was winning the race!

My concentration face!

Windmill hill. Wow. I’ve never cycled anything like it. For those of you who have done Ironman Wales I can only compare it to if you stuck St Brides hill on the top of Wiseman’s hill with no break but made Wiseman’s hill even steeper. Apparently an ambulance stopped on the hill and it was so steep it couldn’t start again without a push from the spectators!

My “omg this is steep” face!

I completed the bike in 7 hours. Half an hour faster than my time in Ironman Wales in much worse conditions. I was really pleased with that as this was my target regardless of the weather. I was looking forward to the marathon. I was convinced I would run faster here than I did in Wales. I’d even told David that morning – we can’t swim, the bike will be slow due to the conditions but one thing we can do is run well! Oh the optimism!

When I arrived in the tent I helped the girl next to me remove her helmet before she did mine, our fingers not really working properly.  I didn’t change my clothing, I took my cycling shorts and jersey off leaving my trisuit and arm warmers on. I did change my socks and it was nice to have dry feet.. for a minute! I don’t know if I should have put more layers on in hindsight. Maybe a dry running coat. Although it wouldn’t have been dry for long.

I started the run shivering and my teeth chattering. The first mile was particularly brutal along the unforgiving beach boardwalk with the rain and wind howling in my face but I soon warmed up and although my first mile was slower than planned I was on track from mile 2 onwards hitting consistent miles of 9.30-9.50 minute/miles for the first three of the four loops, about 17-18 of the 26.2 miles.

I was feeling good. Not only was I on for a Ironman marathon PB but a standalone marathon PB and I had no doubt that even with my pace starting to slow I would achieve this. It helped that Roger told me I was 6th in my age group. I convinced myself I was catching 5th. As I neared the end of the 3rd lap I saw David who had finished his race and high fived him. My spirits high. But oh, how quickly things change.

Before collecting band 3 ( you collect a band at the end of each loop) I stopped for the toilet. In this time, whilst on stop, I just got so cold, so so quickly. Putting my wet tri suit back on was absolutely horrible. I was shivering again. At the next feed station I saw they were handing out foil blankets and grabbed one.  I had completely seized up. My hip flexor in particular was so painful, my right leg wouldn’t move forward.

I saw my friend and training partner, Bryanie, who was spectating and I broke down telling her that I couldn’t do it. Bryanie started to jog beside my shuffle. I could tell that she could have been walking and still able to keep up with me but she was “jogging” to try to make me feel better about my pace. Soon I was walking, in so much pain. I remembered I had painkillers in my pouch but I had to ask Bryanie to open the zip for me and get the capsules out of the packet as my fingers were numb. I watched my marathon PB slip away and I did not care one bit. Finishing would be a mission in itself.

Just after the turn around point I noticed an athlete next to me unzipping his coat – “take it” he said, “you need it more than me.” I gratefully took it. I have since learnt his name is JD Flynn of Kilkenny Tri Club. What a gentleman. He didn’t think I was going to finish, convinced I was heading for the first aid tent.

Back to town and Roger explained David’s chaffing was so bad he couldn’t walk and he’d gone back to the hotel. I knew he must have been bad to leave without seeing me finish. I asked Roger whether he’d removed his bike out of transition?! I wondered how I was going to convince Ironman to let me remove two bikes out of transition and how I was going to get all of the bikes and bags back to the hotel! You know you’ve been completely brainwashed by this triathlon malarky when my first thought wasn’t of David, but for his bike!

Back for my last band and along that horrible boardwalk for the fifth and final time. Bryanie left me at the top of the finish line. I couldn’t even run and slowly walked down to the red carpet wrapped in foil, looking down at the floor.

Next thing, who did I spot – David was behind the barrier shouting encouragement. “Des ti nôl!” (you came back!) I exclaimed as I hugged him and cried. “Go on you have to run” he said and I ran (shuffled) down the remainder of the red carpet waving my foil blanket behind me in a size large yellow raincoat that was almost down to my knees! Looking good for the camera was the last thing on my mind.

My ugly crying face!!!

“Nia Davies you are an Ironman.” What a relief.

I finished Ironman Ireland in 12hours and 35minutes. A bike PB of 7hours 3minutes. My slowest ever marathon 5hours 22minutes. If I add my Ironman Wales swim and t1 time to my Ironman Ireland time this would have been a PB over Ironman distance of comfortably sub-14 hours. Despite walking the last lap I still finished 10th in my age category. Of the 2500 registered for the race only 1400 finished. Over 1000 people either decided not to start or failed to finish. 37% of the females who started the race did not finish. So I am really proud of my achievement that day despite walking the last lap. I remember watching Ironman Wales in 2017 (which had rain and strong winds on the bike) and knowing I would never be able to cycle in those conditions. Fast forward two years and it never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t be able to do it.

Helen and Roger were absolute troopers spectating, supporting and encouraging us all day in those conditions as were the rest of the WCT family of spectators. By the time we finished Roger’s lips were blue from the cold and they were both soaked to the bone.

The weather the day after the race..!

I also have to thank Bryanie for keeping me going on that last lap. She missed seeing her dad, James and her partner, Rhys finish to stay with me and I am so grateful!

“I’ll find this funny one day..!”

Also, David for coming back out to watch me finish (and help me get the bikes and bags from transition 😉) David finished 21st in the race, including the professionals, which is unbelievably impressive, despite the fact his run didn’t go to plan. He ran so well in training and put himself through so much in the weeks before I’m so disappointed for him that he wasn’t able to show us what he’s capable of but I know one day his Ironman is going to come together and I can’t wait to be at that finish line supporting him when that day comes.

I would recommend this Ironman to anyone who fancies a tough course. The bike is challenging, but not quite as much as Wales. The run is flat-ish(!) On a good day it’s a great place for an Ironman.

By far the best thing about this race has to be the people of Youghal. The support was absolutely incredible. I hope the weather is better next year, the people of Youghal definitely deserve this race to become a success!

Thank you Youghal

P.S. If you want to hear about my training leading up to Ironman Ireland you can do so HERE, HERE and HERE!

Training for Ironman Ireland – Week 3

Here it is – the final installment in this thrilling series! Ha. Week 1 and 2 can be found HERE and HERE.

3rd-9th June

I think it is fair to say that by this point in my training I was starting to tyre and counting down the days to taper.

MONDAY – Pyramid swim session. I forgot my watch and the feedback I gave to David on Xhale for this session reads as follows – “I’m glad I didn’t have my watch as I’m sure my stats would be shit.” Ha. Cheerful as always.

Followed up with some glute exercises. I had a big run week ahead and really didn’t want to have any last minute injuries.

TUESDAY – Wattbike. The title of the session David gave me was “Killer Session”. I’m not sure if he was just trying to finish me off at this point. Pleasantly surprised to hit all of the watts as prescribed.

More glute exercises and back stretches.

WEDNESDAY – Easy treadmill run before work then that evening was my 1st British open water swim of the year. I was nervous before hand. David had been in on Saturday and told me it was FREEZING. I walked in and walked straight back out, my feet on fire. I slowly made my way back in. I had already told David to start his swim without me, it always takes me a bit of time to acclimatise and get my heart rate back down before I can start swimming the first few times I go into the sea but to be honest it didn’t take me too long before I was swimming and it wasn’t as cold as I thought it was going to be. The temperature was roughly 12degrees, so a bit cooler than they are predicting for Youghal.

When we made our way out we saw one of our fellow triathletes in the carpark and he explained he’d been trying to get a photo of us swimming as there had been a dolphin swimming right beside us. Quite glad I didn’t spot the dolphin whilst in the water as I’m pretty sure I would have panicked.

THURSDAY – Started the day with a morning swim and my feedback afterwards was that I was swimming “like a brick.” I didn’t do half of the prescribed session!

After work I then ran half a marathon. I ended up choosing quite a hilly route simply because it’s prettier.

I listened to a few podcasts during my run including Fearne Cotton’s The Happy Place. During the podcast one of the guests quoted a phrase – “Pain is pain but suffering is optional” I stopped to make a note of this on my phone, I want to try and keep this in mind during the Ironman.

I also listened to Joanne Murphy’s new podcast, Tri Talking Sport. For those who don’t know Joanne is one of the Ironman announcers . If you’ve heard an Irish female over the mic at an Ironman – that’s probably her. Hearing the Irish accents on the show started to get me excited for our visit in 2 weeks time.

It was a 13.5 mile run in total which will be my longest run before the Ironman. I am very susceptible to injury so I don’t want to overdo it. I made sure to do my stretches after my run. If I don’t stretch I get lower back pain, which then turns into hip pain, which then turns to hamstring and knee pain so I’m really trying to concentrate on the back stretches as they really help. I honestly feel like a new woman after doing them! I usually do these, from Runner’s World.

FRIDAY – Just an easy endurance wattbike before work today.

I had no training planned for the evening as it was one of my longest friend’s hen party on Saturday so I spent the evening helping her sister decorate the venue.

SATURDAY – Bike to Run brick session. The run was another 12 miles and I hit all of my splits faster than prescribed whilst still remaining consistent. Absolutely delighted with how my running is going at this stage. During IMW training it would have been unheard of for me to have run so many miles in a week and they were definitely much slower then too!

In the afternoon I headed to the hen party. No-one in the hen party really knows anything about triathlon and it was really lovely to switch off – although a bit too much wine was consumed considering I still had training to do tomorrow!

SUNDAY – Due to last night’s activities I didn’t make it to the pool in time to swim so my swim-bike session turned into just a bike. A hilly, rainy, solo ride in the rain whilst hungover was not exactly pleasent but I feel like it will be good practice for Ironman. Especially considering the weather forcast.

So that’s it. My 3 biggest weeks of training done. All of them were almost the exact same amount of hours so very consistent and the 3 biggest weeks I’ve had this year whilst working. (I’ve had two bigger weeks but they were while we were away in Mallorca and France). The work is now done. TAPER TIME!

Training for Ironman Ireland – Week 2

If you missed Week 1 you can read that HERE.

So after a solid first week of training there was not to be much recovery at the start of the week as it was Bank Holiday Monday! I also had the Tuesday off work because it’s tradition in our office to be closed on the Tuesday after bank holiday so I had planned that this week would be the biggest week of the three. Unfortunately however, things don’t always go to plan…!

27th May – 2nd June

Monday – As it was a bank holiday Cardigan Swimming Pool was closed so we drove to Carmarthen to meet our friends Scott and Sian at the pool. After the swim Scott and David went off to find some breakfast whilst Sian and myself met up with another of our friends Mel for a social ride which included a lovely lunch stop. My bum was really sore on the saddle after Saturday’s ride but apart from that it was really enjoyable. Both myself and Mel ride Liv Envie’s and before the end of the day Sian had ordered one too! Lush bikes!

Tuesday – Now this was supposed to be my “bonus” day of the week as I had the day off work to do what I wanted. My plan had a swim before a tough bike to run brick session. By this point I was TIRED and my cold was really catching up with me so I went for a little swim before meeting up with my parents and my niece for brunch instead.

I was disappointed that that I hadn’t been able to make the most of my “bonus” day off but I knew that I really needed a quiet day.

Wednesday – Back to work after 4 days off. This was always going to be a rest day after a big bank holiday. I resisted the urge to try and make up for yesterday and kept it as a rest day.

But, us being us, and not being able to keep still we were unable to resist the sunny evening and ended up walking to the estuary (locally known as “Patch”) and back. Just a little 4 mile walk to clear the head after a day behind the desk. Lovely 🙂

Thursday – 2 mile swim before work. When I swim before work I take breakfast with me and eat it at my desk. I also keep a hair dryer in my drawer so I can eat my breakfast and dry my hair before 9am.

Another evening of no training and I’m starting to feel back to myself and ready for another big weekend.

Friday – I started the day with an endurance run before work. After the run I was feeling good and convinced myself I’d make today a double run day to make up for the missed session on Tuesday but by the time I finished work I wasn’t feeling it. Instead, we spent the evening making homemade pizza. Carb loading ready for tomorrow!

Saturday – Swim to Bike brick endurance session. I didn’t bring my bike to the pool but I did bring my kit so I got changed into my cycling kit (putting arm warmers on when still a bit wet is definitely a challenge!) then drove home (2 minute journey) to put on my bike shoes and get on the bike.

Luckily I had bumped into Bryanie the night before in Tesco when I was buying my pizza ingredients and we’d arranged to do the whole session together which was definitely a huge help that day.

That afternoon David and I went for a walk into town to buy both our Dads gifts as both their birthdays were coming up – one thing I’ve noticed writing this blog is that we don’t really like to sit still and we probably need to get better at the “rest and recovery” bit and put our feet up a bit more.

Sunday – Wattbike and treadmill session. Feeling fed up so did all of my session inside watching the Challenge World Champs for inspiration before heading over to David’s parents house to celebrate his Dad’s birthday with lots of food and a little bit of wine.

I’ve made it sound as if I haven’t done as much this week as last week because I missed a session on Tuesday, had a rest day on Wednesday and only did 1 morning session on each of Thursday and Friday but the hours actually worked out very similar to last week. I definitely struggled more this week though and felt like I was barely functioning between sessions but it just shows if you just keep chipping away at it day after day consistently the hours will add up.

2 weeks down, one to go before it’s TAPER TIME!

Training for Ironman Ireland – Week 1

It’s Tuesday today and we are officially into our “taper” for Ironman Ireland. It’s been a big 3 week block of training and I thought I would write a few posts looking back at my biggest training block this year and how I’ve fit it in around work and life generally. If no-one finds it interesting it’ll be something for me to look back on if I ever do another Ironman!

I have worked full time (9-5 as a solicitor) during these 3 weeks. I haven’t taken any annual leave to train – something I did do for Ironman Wales 2018. I have completely neglected seeing my family during this time and most of my friends (unless they can ride a bike.)

Since October 2018 David, my boyfriend, has been coaching me properly and we use the TrainXhale platform to do this. I would recommend trainxhale.com to any triathlete. It allows you and your coach to analyse your sessions in depth and compare them to previous sessions. I hardly use Strava anymore, unless I’ve been training with friends or I’ve got an unexpected QOM! (Guilty!). These days I only compare my training with my own, I don’t even think about segments anymore!

Week1 – 20th-26th May

I had a very quiet week last week (well apart from cycling Sa Calobra on the Monday) as I was travelling home from Mallorca, celebrating my birthday and one of my best friend’s hen party so when Monday arrived I am raring to go.

Monday – 70 min Wattbike including 3x9min intervals. Before the session I look back at my previous sessions to see what I’ve previously managed to hold for these 9 minute intervals and use this as a target. Afterwards I can compare my sessions and I am happy to see that this is the 3rd time I’ve done this session and I have improved everytime. Since October 2018 my average watts for the 3x9mins has gone up by 10 watts with only half the rest between intervals.

Tuesday – easy 45 min run on the treadmill before work. After work involved 3km of sprints in the pool followed by a strength session concentrating on glutes and hamstrings and some lower back stretches.

Wednesday – 90min Wattbike endurance session with 1 hour effort holding 70.3 target power.

Thursday – I was supposed to swim in the morning but could feel a cold coming on. Not enough to stop me swimming but I knew I had a big weekend ahead so I decided to skip the swim and rest. I did do 30 mins of core and balance work in the evening.

Friday – Tipi Run! Our good friend Rhys Harries organises a few races throughout the year and on Friday evening it was the 8 mile Tipi Run. Starting and finishing in the Pizza Tipi in Cardigan. This run is tough as it is really hilly but there was pizza for all the runners afterwards! Win!

So straight after work on Friday I got changed at the office and went on a 5 mile warm up run before doing the race. 13 miles of good running in the bag. It was really enjoyable as there were so many people I knew taking part and a great opportunity to socialise afterwards with pizza and a cheeky little beer!

Saturday – 100 miles on the bike with Bryanie. We decided we would cycle from Cardigan to Narberth where we would start the hilliest of the Ironman Wales loops. We bumped into a group of boys we knew – including both our boyfriends, David and Rhys, who were also doing the loop. We drafted them for a while which was good but when we reached the hill in Templeton I was at the back of the pack. Being the lightest there and I think the only one on a road bike I flew past everyone on the climb. David soon caught me up and told me off for showing off! We were only 60 miles in at this point! Haha. I did enjoy overtaking him though 😉

The 100 miles was hard, especially mentally as the route we had planned came up short and we had to take a detour to make it up. Still, 100 miles in the bag and the 4 of us went out for a meal that night as a reward.

Sunday – 3km swim, run with strides on the treadmill, back stretches. Sofa.

Job done. A really good first week. I am feeling tired and I’ve still got that cold but it’s not stopping or affecting my training.

Week 2 to follow…

Race Report: Mallorca 70.3

It’s hard to know where to start with this blog post… I’m writing this on the runway of Mallorca airport and it’s quite tough to get my thoughts in order, my brain and body are absolutely frazzled! I am also very sad to be leaving. I absolutely love Mallorca. This is where I properly fell in love with cycling and now, 70.3s or half Ironmans as they are also known.

The journey here was stressful. We arrived in Mallorca over 16 hours later than planned after Ryan Air cancelled our flight. Our only alternative was to leave Bristol airport and drive to Birmingham where we caught a flight to Menorca before flying from Menorca to Mallorca. All with our bike boxes in tow! We just made it in time to register and rack our bikes in transition. We had lost a night’s sleep and were stressed out to the max!

Sitting at the buffet at our hotel that night I felt a bit dazed from the sleeplessness and the amazement that we’d made it. I honestly couldn’t give a monkeys how the race went anymore, just glad I was able to start it. David was able to talk me back into focussing on the race however telling me to forget what had happened and now to turn all thoughts to tomorrow morning. Using the frustration at Ryan Air and the extra hundreds of pounds of expense we’d spent in getting here as motivation to push for every second of the race. We could have easily decided to cut our losses and stay at home, it was almost a miracle that we’d managed it. We had to now make all the effort worth it.

The next morning we got into our kit and went down to the breakfast buffet. I had coffee, orange juice, toast and pancakes with banana and chocolate sauce.

We walked to transition to check our stuff and by some miracle we had both managed to pack everything in the right bags the night before! Wetsuits on and to the beach where we met some of West Coast Triathlon before meeting Mark (David’s coach) and his wife Caroline. Caroline reassured us that despite the stress the training and fitness was still there and also reminded us to keep ourselves cool during the run.

Mark and David made their way to the front of the swim start whilst I found the rest of the swimmers in the green swim caps, we were the athletes hoping to swim the 1.2 mile swim in 30-35 minutes. My PB was 35mins and I’d achieved this during the 1st lap of my Ironman Wales swim so I was hopeful of going quicker.

The swim started and despite the fact they sent us off in 6 second gaps I was immediately surrounded and found it hard to get into rhythm with people constantly swimming directly in front, behind and to either side.

When I got to the 1st buoy I was a bit disappointed to see 15 mins, but found some more space and concentrated on my stroke and trying not to sight too often which I was doing on the way out. Unfortunately no feet to draft but I kept going. Pleased, surprised and happy to see 32 mins on watch. I had resigned myself to 35min+ at the first buoy.

Unzipped wetsuit and the zip came straight off the bottom and straight into the sea! I didn’t stop to fish it out. Ran to transition and took my time to make sure I had everything. Big bite of a protein Mars Bar as I was getting my shoes on. I took on a gel as I ran through the extremely long transition with my bike.

I put my head down asap and was straight onto the tri bars. I knew the 1st 15 miles or so were flat and I wanted to take full advantage of every part of the bike course which was extremely busy. I overtook loads spending most of the time out in the overtaking “lane” pulling in occasionally to let the fastest men pass. Not one female overtook me during this flat section and I was enjoying it. My legs were here!

We passed through Pollensa and to the bottom of the climb. I couldn’t believe my average after 15 miles of 21mph. Being light my strength has always been climbing but David has been giving me specific sessions on the Wattbike to work on holding power for sustained periods and blinking heck, it was paying off. Those “power hour” sessions were all worth it!

Now for the climb. It’s a 7km ish gradual climb. Nothing steep. My plan had been to hit this climb as hard as possible and hope to recover but after holding the watts on the way out I wanted to do the same on way back to Alcudia too so I didn’t kill myself on the climb. Just took it fairly easy. My peak heart rate for the whole bike was 168bpm – about threshold. Exactly where I wanted to be.

Towards the top of the climb the first female rider passed me. She had a beautiful black and blue canyon tri bike, one I’ve been eyeing up myself and I commented “nice bike” she replied with her thanks but then bam – her chain came off! Oops I thought. I’d jinxed her. Saw lots with chains off so was careful with the changes into the big ring and backdown to small. Towards the top of the climb this happened a lot as we would start descending before climbing again 2 or 3 times before reaching the left turn at Lluc. By now my average was 16mph. My target was 17mph for the whole bike so I was delighted with this. I knew I’d be able to get backup to 17mph at least. Telling myself positive thoughts “that’s the last time your average is going to be that slow today”

This is where the “fun” starts. The descent. It’s technical, lots of hairpins and I am not a confident descender but after cycling in Mallorca in February and in the Alps in April I had improved and was more confident. That is until the 2nd hairpin when some Spaniard behind me came far too fast into the bend, he was panicking and shouting at me to move as he almost crashed into me. He was apologetic but the damage was done. I was hanging on to my brakes the whole way down after this and everyone was overtaking me. There was not one person around me descending at the same speed as me. Never mind. I was down in one piece.

Through the gorgeous Mallorca villages of Caimari, Moscari and finally my favourite, Campanet where there was also an aid station and I took my first bottle. I was loving life. Flat now all the way home and watching the average slowly creep up. At the next aid station I was going too fast and had a huge wobble as I took a bottle from a small mallorcan child. Oops. Slowed right down to take the next bottle – water to tip over myself as the day started to heat up.

As soon as we started heading East back towards the coast there was a slight headwind which stalled the increase in average but I still tried to hold 19-20 mph and stayed as low as I could on my clip on tri bars. I concentrated on nutrition and drinking enough. I took on 3 Wattnutrion energy balls during the bike, one for each hour. I’d taken 750ml of Torq energy drink with me and took a further 2 500ml of the isotonic Enervit they were handing out on course. Disgusting stuff but it does the job.

During the flat section into the headwind my shoulders were starting to ache not being used to spending so much time on the bars but I forced myself not to sit up. I took great pleasure in overtaking the tri bikes and disk wheels on the flats on my £1500 road Bike! Looking at the men with the £10,000+ top of the range kit sitting up into the wind and realising it doesn’t matter what kit you have if you don’t know how to ride it.

What was frustrating however was the packs of riders flying passed working together and drafting. Mainly men which didn’t really bother me as I’m not racing against the men but sometimes there was a woman hanging on to the back of the pack. Annoying.

Back to Alcudia. 18.3mph average and absolutely chuffed to bits. As we neared transition there was a section where the runners were running towards us on the other side of the road and I really wanted to sit up and slow down to see if I could spot David but I didnt, I kept my head down and pushed right to the dismount line, passing many who chose to do some spectating on the way into t2.

Another long run with the bike so I took on my 1st gel of the run course during this time. Treyners on and away. I started tipping water on myself at the very first aid station and did this every single time thinking of Caroline’s advice from earlier in the day.

Before I’d had a chance to settle into the run properly I heard a familiar voice behind me. David. He told me he was on his last lap and 5th or 6th in his age group. I shouted encouragement at him and told him to keep pushing but inside my head I was thinking “last lap? I haven’t even done half a mile yet!!” Haha. Saw him again at the turn around point. He looked good and I knew he had less than 2 miles to go.

It was great to see Scott and Sian at mile 6. They had missed the start of the race thanks to the flight cancellations so it was so good to see them there!

Overall I’m happy with my run. In hindsight I started too fast and slowed a lot but it’s really hard for me to predict a run these days as my hips and hamstrings are so unpredictable. I’ve run better in training but in training I hadn’t held an 18.3 mph bike before hand and it wasn’t in the Mallorcan sunshine. Delighted with 1.56 half marathon. I’ve only ever run one half marathon faster than this and that was standalone so even though I think I could have done better I cannot complain at all.

Before the race I wanted to go sub 6 hours. The very best case scenario I had predicted was 5.45 I thought so when I saw 5.42 on my watch as I crossed the finish line I was so delighted I broke down into tears. A combination of happiness with my time and relief after the immense stress of the last 48 hours. I’d smashed it! 14th in my age group out of over 60 starters. I am actually holding back tears on the plane typing this! This was my 1st ever 70.3 and I had worked so hard in the lead up.. it was all worth it and I loved every second!

A Marshall came over and asked if I needed assistance! No thanks I replied, I’m just so happy! Haha. I was a wreck. Soon sorted myself out in the food tent. Started with the watermelon and water whilst queuing. The choice was unbelievable with pasta, chips, chicken, all sorts! Absolutely elated and in my element when David came to meet me as I tucked into a plate of crisps and half a pint of lager!! Standard ND!

To top off an already great event David qualified for the 70.3 World Champs by coming 6th in his age group. I am very much looking forward to a trip to Nice and doing some “pro spotting.”! (And supporting David of course!).

We finished off our holiday by taking Scott and Sian on their first bike ride in Mallorca. We took them around the 70.3 route with a very small detour to Sa Calobra 😆 .

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Mallorca and I’m really glad I chose this venue for my first 70.3. I’m really looking forward to some more races at that distance and Mallorca is definitely at the top of that list!

Race Report – Amman Valley Sprint Triathlon 2019.

I wouldn’t normally enter a sprint event anymore. I enjoy “plodding” much more than running quickly. I also tend to get injured when I try to run quickly, which for me is anything sub 7.30min/mile. I had entered another of the Healthy Life Activities’ events last year, Sospan Sizzler, which was unfortunately cancelled due to bad weather. Instead of deferring to this year’s Sospan Sizzler (a middle distance event) I chose to do two smaller events instead. The timing of this meant it would be a good sharpener for Mallorca 70.3. As such it was a “C” race for me, a training event with no taper in the week leading up to it.

We all had to enter out predicted 400m swim times when we registered for the event and about a week before hand we were given start times based on these. Although the event started about 7am my start wasn’t until 10.10am. An extra bonus was that transition was “open” throughout the morning so I could rack whenever I arrived, no need to rack before the first swimmers started at 7am. A few extra hours in bed is always a bonus!

David and Roger came with me as my spectators. It was a cold morning, they were probably glad it was only a sprint event. Registration was straight forward and I was told that the event was running half an hour ahead of schedule, so I could start half an hour ahead of my swim time if I wanted to. I decided against this as I preferred to wait until swimmers of the same ability as myself had started so that I wasn’t holding anyone up in my lane, or being held up by slower swimmers.

Racking also went smoothly and it was nice to see the familiar faces of Dylan and Claire of Cycle Specific volunteering in transition. I placed my bike right next to bike exit, easy to find and less time running with the bike.

Soon enough I was joining the queue on the side of the pool, chatting to others in the queue. For the guy next to me this was his first ever Triathlon. He was anxious that the other men looked like pros and that he was the only one in swimming shorts, no tri-suit. I urged him not to worry and just because someone had “all the gear” it did not mean they were better athletes. I’m sure we’ve all seen the “all the gear no idea” athletes in many sports.

Three of us soon realised we would be the three sharing a lane and talk turned to our 400m swim times. We were all aiming for about the seven minute mark. I was in the middle of the three. The pace for the first 100m was rapid. I was flagging behind the guy in front, no chance of drafting and the guy behind (the newbie) was almost tickling my toes. 1.36 for the first 100m. I kept going and all of a sudden I was seeing bubbles, the swimmer in front of me had slowed drastically. I swam to his toes and briefly considered staying there and drafting him but he had slowed so much I went straight past. By the end I had made quite a gap on the other two. I’m glad I stuck to my own pace for the first 100m and hadn’t tried to keep their pace.

Exciting the swim and entering T1

I carefully made my way out of the slippery swimming pool and down the steps to my bike. David asked whether I’d managed a 6.50 swim. 6.54 I replied, delighted with a solo sub 7. T1 went smoothly and I carefully made my way down a down hill section in my cleats to the mount line. Big thank you to the martial who reminded me to lap my watch as I clipped into my pedals.

Leaving T1

The bike route is more or less an out and back and it started straight into a headwind and a slight incline. I had hoped to hold about 17-18mph for the 10 mile bike but the conditions meant I was only averaging about 15mph on the turnaround point. It was a good road to choose for the event because even though there was traffic on the road it was fairly wide with plenty of room for cars to overtake.

Unsurprisingly I really enjoyed the second half of the bike course with the tailwind and downhill sections. Got the speed up to 18.5mph average at its most and I think 18.2mph by the time I had made it back to the mount line through the residential section. Happy with that. Saw David and Roger towards the end of the bike and Roger called over that I was “on target”. With the staggered race start you cannot race against other athletes per se, but I did have target times for every discipline that I had discussed with them both in the car on the way up.

Running through transition and my recurring hamstring injury reared its head. Gutted, I was concerned, the run hadn’t even started yet! I got back to my spot and three Welsh Triathlon officials were standing in my way chatting!! A firm “excuse me” and I racked my bike. As I changed shoes Claire, who was one of the marshals, leant over and pointed me in the direction of run exit. She had correctly predicted that I was about to try and run out of the bike exit! Thanks Claire!

Not looking happy leaving T2!

1st mile went slowly, although the hamstring pain had eased I was cautious and felt my stride was very short compared to usual.

Trying to get into the run

As the miles went on though I eased into it with every mile quicker than the last. 8min/mile average overall was slightly disappointing but I was still happy overall. I had done a fair bit of running in training that week and I hadn’t done much fast run training, my main events being a 70.3 and full Ironman this year.

Looking happier now that the end is in sight!

That finish line feeling

It was a really nice surprise when I heard my name being called at the presentation as the 3rd open female.

I must praise Healthy Life Activities for putting on another successful event. It had something for everyone – whether it was your 1st or 100th Triathlon. It ran smoothly despite the open transition, staggered start and windy and cold morning. Healthy Life Activities arrange a number of events in the Carmarthenshire area all of which are consistently well organised and friendly. The team are extremely experienced having arranged over 130 events over the last 18 years. The communication before the events are second to none. If an event is cancelled, like Sospan Sizzler last year, we were offered a large number of alternative options.

Healthy Life Activities do not make a profit from running these event with all of the profits made being given back to the community. Since 2011 they have raised £92,627 for various local charitable causes and local organisations. Last year (2018) they shared £17,500 between groups such as Celtic Tri Juniors, Johnstown Girls Football Team, Amman Valley Paddlers, RNLI Burry Port to name a few!

This company genuinely care for every athlete, wanting them to have the best event possible. Unlike other companies their aim is not to try to cram as many athletes out onto the course to maximise profits! They take great pride in organising events from the perspective of the athlete. I cannot recommend these events enough. You can check out their website here for their other upcoming events. Be quick, as they normally sell out.

Diolch Noelwyn, Sharon and the rest of the team, along with all the marshals and Cycle Specific for a great morning. Not forgetting my spectators and photographers, David & Roger!

With Dylan of Cycle Specific

Race Report – Ironman Wales 2018

Ironman Wales 2018 Race Report by Nia Davies.

I hadn’t been nervous at all in the days leading up to the race. I just felt ready. I had done the training and now wanted to get it over with. David, my boyfriend and coach, kept telling me not to have a time in mind but I had worked out that I was capable of a 15 hour Ironman. I had even said to David that if everything went my way “best case scenario” I might sneak in under the 15 hour and he told me off and warned me that Ironman is a long day, no one knows what will happen and I should just enjoy it. I listened to him and realised he was right. I didn’t want to finish disappointed. So race day I would have been happy with anything between 15-17 hours.

Race morning came around quickly and eating breakfast of porridge and toast at 4am was surprisingly easy, I was expecting to have to force it down. Off to transition to check the bike. It was definitely an unique experience walking through the dark streets of Tenby with hundreds of other athletes, silenced by nerves. Everything was fine with the bike and DC and I found a quiet corner to change into our wetsuits. I must say that I think we had a very calming effect on each other and it was a good idea finding a quiet corner and getting out of the way of the hustle and bustle.

We bumped into my training partner, Bryanie, who was also doing her first Ironman and walked together to the swim start – separating to find our own swim start times. I stopped at the 1.15 sign having swum 1.17 at Tenby Long Course Weekend.

Being Welsh the anthem was emotional and nerves were really jangling by this point but soon we were off!

1st lap went perfectly – no punches or kicks or shoves from fellow athletes and no jellies! Sore shoulder but no problems – 35 min 1st lap. Delighted!

Back in for the 2nd lap and decided I needed to concentrate more on my sighting, I felt I had been slightly wide the 1st time and this is where the fun began. Punches, kicks – being pulled down by my legs and people just trying to swim straight over the top of me. One guy was trying to swim straight over the top of me, pulling my legs down with every stroke. This was a bit ridiculous as we were now thinned out on the second lap so I stopped and whacked him one as he passed!

Then worst still, at the 1st buoy I spotted the biggest jelly fish I’ve ever seen and along the top of the loop I was constantly swimming through them and felt like I was getting handfuls of jelly with each pull.

I absolutely hate jellyfish. I don’t know why but as soon as I see one I panic and have to get out of the sea as soon as possible. Obviously I couldn’t do this today and managed to somehow control the panic and keep going.

Out of the water soon enough and saw 1.14 on the watch! 3 min PB. A good start to the day.

Running up the zig zag and through tenby with the pink bag to transition feeling like a celebrity. My name was being shouted from all directions I couldn’t stop smiling. Realised I was probably running way too fast and told myself to take it easy.

Into transition and who do I see but Bryanie. Few words – both happy with our swims. Bryanie asked me: “do you want me to wait for you?” “No no, you go!” Off she went. 2 pancakes (Aldi lemon and raisin to be specific) shoved in the gob and away! They didn’t taste as good as usual with my mouth so dry and salty after over an hour in the sea.

I knew there would be a headwind on the first part of the course to Angle. I just kept my head down, didn’t want to push too hard too early and tried to eat as much as I could but I felt really full. Loads of my friends from my triathlon club West Coast Triathlon passed me with words of encouragement. I was happy with how the day had started.

Soon I had the company of the television camera who were following me, David, my friend Mel and a few other Welsh speakers throughout the day for S4C. They were by my side from Castlemartin to Angle. Tried to go down to the TT bars to “look good” for the camera but the wind was causing a few wobbles especially on the way down to Freshwater and I spent too much time on the hoods and being extra cautious after witnessing a few accidents early on. I witnessed someone go into a corner too fast, break, skid and go straight into a wall. Probably less than 10miles into the bike their day was over. I kept my head down and was cautious, maybe overly, but there was a long way ahead. At least chatting to the cameraman was a distraction in this part. He asked how far ahead David was. I replied “very”. No time for maths.

Good support in Pembroke and at the turn around point I spotted Mel and Sally behind me. I expected to see Mel pass me any minute knowing she is a stronger cyclist than I am and often looked over my shoulder looking for a friendly face.

Glad to see Lamphey and the wind now giving a helpful push. This part of the course went quickly and seeing the David’s family in Templeton, my parents and lots of WCT in Narberth and my sister along with endless friends in Saundersfoot was the highlight of the bike course. Being light I always pass people on the hills but with the crowds too it was definitely hard no to show off too much! I definitely enjoyed this part.

Happy to get back to Tenby and see 15.6mph avg on my Garmin. The fastest I’d ever done the 1st 70 miles.

For those who don’t know the section between Tenby and Lamphey that is then usually a flat section where you can further boost up your average before arriving at the hills again where it would undoubtably drop but that day it wasn’t meant to be. The headwind had picked up again and it was so demoralising to watch the average drop. I think I was down to 15.2mph by Lamphey and I knew that overall my avg speed would end up below 15mph which had been my target.

After showing off in the hills I lost the men that had previously been keeping me company and was now alone. Because of the winds I wasn’t eating much because I was too nervous to take my hands off the handlebars too much. I was telling myself – “Nia you’re fucking this up!”. Lonely now and lots of negative thoughts at this point. Kept looking over my shoulder for Mel, desperate for some company. Up to Narberth and told my parents “dwi di blino” (Welsh for “I’m tired.”) Considered walking Wisemans before telling myself to get a bloody grip. Crowds were now gone. Up Wisemans and Saundersfoot but no familiar faces this time and crowds much quieter.

How am I going to run a marathon? I hadn’t unclipped once on the bike and I was seriously concerned that my legs wouldn’t hold me once I’d got off the bike.

Back to Tenby and as soon as I was coming down New Hedges saw DC running up it. Breaking on the bit I should have been picking up speed so I could have a good look at him! He looked happy and I was so pleased it was going well for him! I definitely missed spectating him on the day. My sister was also on the hill and spirits lifed further. Into town and Roger (David’s Dad) told me Bryanie was 1 min ahead. Great. Some company.

Into t2 – no sign of Bryanie (our pegs were right next to each other) I thought she must be out on the run already. I sat down to change socks and into treyners and who appears still in her helmet – Bryanie. 1st thing she asks “can we run together?!” “OMG yes please”!!

Off we went out of t2. Wow! The cheers were incredible. Both Bryanie and I had discussed before hand how we’d run the marathon by our heartrate. Keeping it in z2 which meant about 10-10.30 min/miles. I laughed so much when few minutes into the run Bryanie said “Nia just to let you know we are doing 7.30 min/miles” 😂🙈 oops. Forced ourselves to slow down. Plan was to walk every feed station which we did. Water and crisps every station for me, with the odd cola. Bryanie was feeling a bit sick so was sticking to the water. I also carried lucozade, sweets and gels. I had 8 gels with me and the boys at the feed stations took the piss – “want a gel love?”🖕🏽Gel every 4 miles with the crisps worked well.

First two laps passed quickly. Ran it all apart from feed stations. Support was immense. Saw David who was on his last lap and another TV interview was a distraction.

Leaving town for the 3rd lap I went over to high5 friends, suddenly one of them grabbed my hand.. I hadn’t noticed David was there too – delighted to see him as was expecting him to go back to shower before supporting. I love the photos of this moment!

For the last 2 laps we adopted a 30 second walk 30 second run for the uphills whilst running the down hills and the flats around town. It worked well. Saw my parents at the top of New Hedges and my sister was at the junction. She even ran (by now it was more of a shuffle) a part with us which again was a nice distraction especially as it was getting darker at this point and the crowds on the hill, thinner.

I can honestly say I enjoyed every moment on the run (funny how much your mood can change from the low on the end of the bike to this!) From seeing so many family, friends and the many randomers (some getting more and more drunk with every lap!!) supporting. I really appreciated the support. I’ve been a spectator and appreciate what a long day it is. I’m lucky that I’m usually spectating David and as he is so quick my days are never as long as the one my supporters were currently experiencing. I lapped it all up, smiling, waving, high fiving. I wanted to take it all in. My first ever Ironman and here I was, doing it. I knew as long as I kept putting one foot in front of the other I would soon be crossing the line.

It was lush too passing fellow athletes. Some teasing us me and Bryanie for being “inseparable” as we’d done a lot of training together and now doing a full Ironman marathon together. It was a morale booster to see the friendly faces knowing they knew exactly what you were going through as they were going through it too.

Soon we were “sprinting” (felt like it but in reality about 10min/mile) through town and to the red carpet. I grabbed Bryanie’s hand as we flew down the red carpet. We heard the famous words over the mic..

“Nicky and Bryan – you are an ironman” 😂😂😂 great!

We hugged, so happy to finish! Bryanie has been a huge part of my Ironman journey – from talking each other into entering to all the training together this was a great ending. I’m sure we’d had a bit more support on the run with being two girls together – “go girls”, “go blondies” we’d definitely got plenty of support from the crowds!!

More camera time before finding DC in the crowds – what was my time?! I’d forgotten to look and forgotten to stop my watch too! 14.16! Way quicker than I’d ever dreamed of. DC had broken his PB too with a 10.26 so a good day all round and all our hard work had paid off!

What a day and what a feeling. I slayed the dragon. I am an Ironman.

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