A new challenge – New Forest Middle Distance

Well, last week I entered my first half Ironman, the 70.3 New Forest Middle Distance Triathlon. That’s 1.9km of swimming, 90km of biking and a half marathon at the end.

It’s obviously my biggest challenge to date – much longer than a marathon. Mum and I decided at the beginning of this year that if she didn’t qualify for the Olympic distance World Championships in Chicago, we would do a half ironman together. If she did qualify, I would do an autumn marathon. Well, she didn’t qualify, which means she can go to my cousin’s wedding and that we have to do a half ironman! (argh!)

The bike course cut-off is 5 hours from the race start, which means I will need to compete it in well under 4 and a half hours, probably under 4 hours. That’s 22.5kph. Should be completely fine, in a relatively flat race with no stopping for traffic lights etc … but I have to make sure not to really push myself all-out on the bike so that I can run a half marathon afterwards!

The rules say this:

“On New Forest Roads you will encounter ponies, cows, pigs, deer & Sunday Drivers—all of which have no road sense—watch out for horse riders, shout a warning ahead and give a wide berth when passing.”

I have been trying to find some kind of elevation chart but can’t find any anywhere as there was a new course route in 2014. If anyone comes across this blog that knows of the 2014 elevation I would love to hear it!

Anyway, training began today with a 90km bike ride. I have quite a strong base level of fitness already after training for the last few months for an Olympic distance triathlon, so the goal now is to build that more into endurance, and I quite fancied starting with a shot at the 90km distance, knowing I wouldn’t have to run afterwards, but trying to take it easy and keep my heart rate below 80% of max. Sadly a combination of hills, heat and headwinds (the three ‘h’s!) meant that my heartrate stayed a lot higher than I would have wanted – Strava gave me an “epic” suffer score of 263, with almost 40% of the ride spent above 80% of max. However, my average heart rate for the whole ride was only a few beats above where I wanted it so I’ll take that.IMG_7889

It was the same route I’ve done before, except further. This time I made it out from the bike lane that runs alongside the motorway, through the small town of Soto el Real and up towards Miraflores. There looks to be a great route in the mountains I’d love to try at some point but it will either involve getting a train, or will be a long, hot and hilly 100 miler so I may have to think about that some more.IMG_7898

I was feeling relatively pleased with my progress on the way out, especially knowing that it is overwhelmingly uphill – over 600m of elevation gain on the way out compared to just 300m on the way back. And turning around for the trip home, for the first half of the way I was really enjoying myself. On the way out it’s the kind of rolling uphill that you don’t really realise just how uphill it is, until you are going in the other direction and literally flying by. It was lovely. I was overtaken by a swarm of cyclists in a pace group who beckoned to me to join on the end and that was fantastic as well. As I always ride alone or with just one other person it was a great experience … for all of two minutes until they were turning off to go home to Colmenar Viejo while I continued on the lonely road back to Madrid.IMG_7892

It was atthis point that the full force of the headwind hit me. I wish bike computers had an ability to tell you the strength of the wind but this one was strong. And the heat was over 40 degrees by this point. The wind was like standing right in front of a fan oven. I was not happy. As this was the part of the ride I had done twice before, I knew how I should be feeling – I should be flying! Every little uphill should have been immediately swallowed up in my momentum from the previous downhill. However, the headwind meant that it was just not happening for me – I couldn’t go fast enough downhill and so had to grind up all the little inclines.

Getting home I was exhausted, and fully aware that I would need to cycle faster in order to make the cut-off point, AND run a half marathon at the end. Hmmmmmmmmmmm. But the training has only just begun, this is the starting point, AND the race will be less hilly, and a whole lot cooler. Bring it on!

Valencia

This weekend was one of my few free weekends over the whole summer and for a few weeks I had been toying with the idea of a trip to Valencia – a city I’d never been to, where it would be cooler than Madrid (but still 30 degrees C of course!) and with a beach. Post-triathlon, I spent a few days thinking I probably wouldn’t go, that what I really needed was a quiet weekend at home…. Then I remembered that I have my entire life for a quiet weekend at home and I am only in Spain for another three months. Time to make the most of it :)

So on Friday I left work at 2.30pm for a team lunch. By 6pm we were all sat on the terrace outside the restaurant, enjoying gin & tonics (vodka & lemonade for me!) in giant fish-bowl glasses, and it was time to leave for my train to Valencia. So my weekend away started vaguely drunk – the perfect way for a weekend to begin :)

The train is really quick and easy – 1hr40 minutes on the Ave. The fast trains are incredibly,  speeding through the centre of Spain at almost 300km an hour, but they are not cheap. The views are beautiful though – the centre of Spain is really high, flat and dry and the yellow landscape stretches on as far as the eye can see, until it meets the clear, deep blue of the sky. As the train approaches the coast, the mountains rise up around the tracks as it quickly descends through valleys that lead down to Valencia itself – Madrid is the highest city in Europe at an elevation of around 650m, whereas Valencia, right next to the sea, is at only 25m.

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There is something quite exciting about entering a new city by yourself for the first time. Stepping from the air conditioned train into the heart of the city, a weekend entirely my own – a strange skyline laid out in front of me. I could smell the sea in the air, feel the moist, salty humidity settle on my skin, enjoy the coolness of the breeze – even the air was so different to Madrid that I knew immediately I was in a different place. I almost skipped the 15 minutes or so from the station to my hostel, Pension Alicante, so excited was I about seeing the sea and exploring this new place.

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The hostel was nice enough, above a wide, pedestrianised street, with beautiful tiling on the floors. I had booked a double room with a private bathroom and it was perfect for one night, although I have to admit if I was spending longer in Valencia I would rather have paid more money and stayed somewhere slightly more luxurious! But the guy at reception was very friendly and helpful, giving me a map of Valencia, pointing out where to go and suggesting restaurants.

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I quickly changed and headed out. The streets were quietening down as it was well after 9pm by this time and I found myself wandering around a maze of tiny, cobbled streets as the sun set. Valencia old town seemed to be a strange mixture of beautiful old buildings, brightly coloured facades in blue and yellow, and falling-down buildings, empty spaces where something had been demolished, concrete walls covered in graffiti. Loud and bustling squares were just one turn away from a completely empty and dark street.

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I found my way to the Plaza Negrita, where I had been recommended a restaurant – Bodega de los Gatos. Sadly it was full, or at least it was full outside, which was where I wanted to eat. So I sat down at a table in the busy square and decided I would just eat whatever and enjoy the atmosphere. When the waiter came over I ordered an “agua de Valencia” – the Valencian drink, made of orange juice, vodka, gin and cava. As it was only served in a small jarra rather than a glass, I had a bit of a joke with the waiter about whether it would be too much alcohol for one person, and how strong it was. Then I asked about food. NO FOOD! I had forgotten I was no longer in Madrid where pretty much every single place serving alcohol also has something to eat.

Being too awkward to now cancel my drinks order, I sat back and finishing my book while drinking the agua de Valencia. It’s delicious, by the way, and the book was brilliant (review coming soon-ish). By the time I finished it was 11pm, I was pretty drunk and also starving. I wandered towards the hostel, stopping at a nice restaurant on the way for a plate of manchego and some bread with alioli. Not a healthy meal at any stretch but I keep really craving manchego…..

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I was awake relatively early the next morning, surprisingly without a hangover! I popped downstairs for a cafe con leche and tostada con tomate at a cafe in the street below the hotel, enjoying the relative coolness of the morning. After checking out of the hostel, it was back to the centre of town for more exploring.

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First I walked up the El Micalete tower, looming high above the cathedral – over 200 steps hewn into the stone, so narrow that my foot wouldn’t fit straight on each step.

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The views from the top were beautiful but I had been hoping for a view of the sea which was turned out to be slightly far away. My favourite views are either those of complete countryside, or, like in Antequera, of a small town followed by the countryside.

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I gingerly picked my way down the stairs and walked through the old streets towards the market. I love Spain first thing in the morning (i.e. before 11am). The shops just opening their shutters, shopkeepers catching up, in no rush to begin their day. The streets just being cleaned from the night before, and only a few keen tourists out already. All that was to change though when I reached the Mercado Central – it was now nearing 12 and the place was heaving both with tourists snapping photos and getting in the way (I hold my hands up to this) and locals trying to do their weekly shop.

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It was incredible. Rows upon rows of stalls selling fresh fruit, veg and fruit juices, rows of spice sellers, nuts, herbs, and then of course the fish and meat stalls. I wandered around for ages in amazement, wishing there were things I needed to buy or a way to carry things back to Madrid.

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I then crossed the street to the Llotja de la Seda – the old silk exchange. To be honest, I wasn’t blown away, especially as I had to pay €2 to wander around a few not particularly impressive views. From there, I walked towards the main gate that had been the entrance to the town in centuries past.

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This gate is right by the banks of what used to be the River Turia. Back in the 1950s, a high tide and huge storm caused the river to burst its banks, the whole of Valencia was severely flooded and almost 100 people died. As a result, its route down from the mountains that flank Valencia was diverted to ensure such a flood never happened again. The river bed became an absolutely huge park, with beautiful plants, trees and greenery. There are cafes, parks for kids, water features, the futuristic City of Arts & Sciences, and, of course, a bike path.

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I decided to rent one of the Valencia Bicis – a bit like Boris bikes in London in that you take the bike from one of the many spots around the city, and you can drop it off wherever you like. Although it would have been cheaper for me to rent a bike for one day, my plan was to cycle to the beach and then get a taxi back to the station later on, so being able to go just one way really suited me. You pay just over €13 for a pass for 7 days. Then the first half an hour of usage is free. It would therefore be well worth it if you were in the city for three days or so (to rent a bike for the day from a bikeshop costs around €8 in the shops I walked past). They are super heavy but it was a really good way of seeing the park and reaching the beach.

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I hadn’t expected the beach to be so wide, a good five minutes walk from the top of the sand down to the sea.

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It’s topped by a boulevard lined with restaurants and small shops, some selling the usual tourist tat, others selling more locally made, artisan goods. I parked up my bike and walked down to the beach, taking a beach chair and asking two mothers playing with a baby if I could leave my bag with them for a moment while I swam. I figured with the three children, one just a baby, and all the stuff they had with them, there was no way they were going to pack up and run off with my bag in just two minutes!

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My faith was well-placed and I had a lovely swim in the cool, salty water, before returning for some sunbathing and reading my book.

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Lunch was two glasses of chilled white wine and a ginormous paella at a beach-side restaurant before getting a taxi to the station and the train home, hot, salty, slightly sunburnt, slightly drunk, tired but very, very happy.

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June recap – sun, socialising and exhaustion

That pretty much sums up this month! It sped by ridiculously quickly with barely a moment to draw breath – three weekends of visitors and one at home. I started almost every week feeling exhausted, ramped up the training towards the end of the week, and then overdid it with training and fun at the weekend. Not that I’m in the slightest bit regretful – I have years to concentrate on triathlon and resting and only six months of my life in Madrid!

Having said that… let’s hope the first weekend in July is slightly quieter! :)

So in June I…….

Swam: 10.3km – not bad going although over 3km shorter than May…. I missed one week of swimming twice a week so am now 11 swims down on my goal of swimming consistently throughout the year…..

Cycled: 235.6km – I think on a non-cycling holiday month I am happy with being up over the 200km mark so I am pleased with that! It included a couple of mid-week spin classes, a few rides in the Casa de Campo pre-work, 2 long weekend rides and a triathlon!

Ran: 35km …. I did NO long runs in the whole of June. In fact, my longest run was the 10km of my triathlon! I ran well over double this last month………………. Not so good! Although having said that, I wouldn’t have run any faster in my triathlon with any more running – I felt my run was strong when I actually started running! It was just the dehydration from the bike that affected me at first.

Plus 2 yoga sessions, 1 long hike and 6 strength & conditioning sessions varying from 5 minutes of planks and leg raises to 30 minutes, the month evened out at around just over 23 hours of training (13 down on last month but then it did include a week of taper).

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I only read 2 books….  What was wrong with me this month?! Too many visitors, too many restaurants, too much tinto de verano. Okay, nothing was wrong with me this month :)

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Those books were:

Ghosts of Spain by Giles Tremlett – which I have already lent to my colleague, and recommended to several friends living out here. A must-read if you are living in Spain and very much recommended even if you are just coming here on holiday.

Madrid: the history by Jules Stewart  – a fascinating history of Madrid from its birth during the Reconquista through to the modern day. As the capital of Spain, it’s also a bit of a political history of the whole country.madrid

On the blog there were….

loads and loads of posts as it was juneathon! Although I didn’t manage to blog and exercise every day I have to admit……

– restaurant reviews, from Berber and Q in Shoreditch, to a new and exciting tapas restaurant in Madrid, Sala de Despiece, and including a 2 michelin starred meal at La Terraza del Casino.

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– and then a whole round-up of all the restaurants I would recommend you visit if you come to Madrid!

– travel posts about hiking from Manzanares el Real and cycling from Madrid to Colmenar Viejo

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– a book review of Jan Morris’ Spain

– and there were actually some exercise posts …. one about the ups & downs of swimming, some recommendations for running in the heat, a running quiz and a post about how hard it is to do cycling time trials when you live in a city.

– and finally, a race report from the Madrid Villa de Triatlon triathlon!

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My best moment in June was finding out I had my job! I didn’t stop shaking for around an hour afterwards, all that nervous energy and tension leaving my body. I had fantastic weekends every weekend, entertaining my Dad by taking him to a michelin starred restaurant, seeing James and friends back home, showing two school friends around Madrid and finally the triathlon weekend with mum. I couldn’t pick one fun moment out of all of those so what really stands out is the relief when I got my job at the beginning of the month. Now I am getting very close to being a qualified lawyer…!

Right now I am….

Reading: I just last night finished Madrid: The History so haven’t yet started another book. But lined up is The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett. I started it on my kindle on the spin bike the other day as I can’t read a paperback book on the spin bike and it looks really good so far – I am excited about getting into it!

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Nervous about: literally nothing right now! How lovely is that? July is going to be a busy month (what’s new?) but a great month.

Listening to: the More or Less podcast -a BBC Radio 4 podcast all about statistics. Turns out the majority of statistics you read in the news or on the TV are just plain wrong / not given enough context, and so this podcast aims to break them down, look into the studies to give more detail on how they were done, and find out the true position. i.e. one I listened to recently went into that study that said “too much jogging is harmful“. Firstly, as the podcast said – there’s an issue with the English language there as “too much” of anything implies that it is bad! Secondly – the most active groups in the study were much smaller. The study showed that light or non-strenous joggers had lower mortality than sedentary people (nothing new there) but what was over-reported was that the strenous joggers (I hate that phrase) had higher mortality than light joggers. There were only THIRTY SIX people in the whole study classified as strenous joggers, and only TWO of these died. AND there was absolutely no evidence whatsoever that they died as a result of jogging (or running, can we just call it running?) They could have died in a car accident, for example. Conclusion: question everything. And listen to More or Less.

Enjoying: a quiet week at work!

Excited about: going to Greece with James! We are going to a wedding on Spetses and then having one night in Athens. There are of course slight(!) concerns about Greece leaving the EU … but the country needs tourism so we are doing our bit to help by going, plus I am sure everything will be fine for our holiday even if Greece does default.

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Madrid Skoda Triatlón Villa de Madrid

TL; DR: 40 degrees of blazing sunshine, a swim without wetsuits, a cycle course with no shade, and a lovely run. Long and hot and hard – the achievement being actually finishing! And the main issue was nutrition really….

So this Sunday mum and I took part in the Skoda Villa de Madrid triathlon in Casa de Campo. I knew I wanted to do a triathlon while living in Spain over the summer and when I discovered there was one right by the centre of Madrid… it seemed fantastic.

It started to seem slightly less fantastic as I looked at the weather forecast in the run up to the race. The hottest day of the year so far was to fall on Saturday – the day of the triathlon. It was also slightly nervewracking as it was an afternoon race, starting at 5.10pm – I’d never done an afternoon race before and so was slightly concerned as to how that would work out.

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Pre-race

I met mum after work on Friday afternoon and we caught the metro to Casa de Campo for packet pick-up. It was very smoothly run, with no queues whatsoever to pick up our numbers and then a bag with a waterbottle and a t-shirt. They didn’t ask for our ID which we had expected but thought no more of it.

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We had a quick peer into transition and wandered around to see the swim out and bike in/out so we would at least have some idea of where to go on Saturday! Then it was time for a tinto de verano and a wander to a restaurant for dinner. I was drinking a LOT of water, had been all week, and had been putting extra salt on all my food.

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We had a lie-in Saturday morning, then a huge breakfast with lots of carbs. Back to the flat to pack up our stuff into rucksacks, and then we popped to the restaurant across the road for a quick lunch. Still with time to kill, we slowly got changed in my air-conditioned flat before taking our bikes downstairs. The cycle to the park is all downhill so we thought it would be a good opportunity for mum to check she had put her bike together properly after flying it over.

Arriving at the race we had a bit of an issue – now we needed our IDs! But as we had packed very light in order to cycle down to the start, we hadn’t brought any. I had a debit card with my name on it and mum had absolutely nothing. A brief moment of panic as we wondered if we would actually be able to make the race but we played the “stupid English people who don’t understand Spanish races” card and got into transition after a bit of a telling-off. In England you need ID to pick up your number and chip, and then you just need your number in order to get into transition.

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But we were there! We set up and had a nice chat with a couple of the other ladies competing. Out of around 400 competitors there were only around 20 women… incredible.

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With still an hour to kill we walked down to the lake to stand in the shade and watch the start of the first waves. We had worries it might be a dive start which were soon confirmed…. I cannot dive, not in the slightest, so knew it would be a jump in and a slow start for me!

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Finally we put our bags into the bagstore – again very efficient with no queue, went to the toilet, checked everything was set up a final time, and went down to wait for our start. With hindsight, we should have brought a disposable bottle of water so we could have something to sip on for the 20 minutes before our start. Not something I would be particularly worried about in England but I was already feeling thirsty before we even started.

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RACE!

The swim was wonderful. With only 20 women on a pontoon designed for over 50 people, we had plenty of room to dive / jump / lower ourselves into the water, and then we were off! No fighting or being kicked or hit, nothing. No wetsuits but the water was incredibly warm, at some points it was as warm as a bath. There was absolutely none of that cold water shock you get when you first get in. We had two laps, having to get out of the water and jump back in after the first lap – again something completely new to me.

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With hindsight I perhaps enjoyed the swim too much. I did say to myself on the second lap “you’re not going to need your arms again” and started moving them faster, but up until then I was very relaxed, fully enjoying myself. I overtook mum just before the last buoy which was quite fun, and then it was just a swim to the finish. I knew it would be slower than normal due to a lack of a wetsuit – but 35 minutes was quite a lot slower than I had expected!

Transition was frustrating as I had a stone inside my sock …. took my shoe off first of all then tried to continue, but no the stone was still there, so had to stop again and take my entire sock off. Really frustrating but at least meant I got to see mum coming in just as I was leaving.

The bike was almost immediately difficult, with a sharp left turn and then a steep hill. I powered up the first time, no problem. I took a sip of my isotonic drink and almost had to spit it out – the water was boiling hot and as a result it tasted far too sweet and was just horrible. I took a gel, spilling half of it over my hand, but managed to take it. There was a quite technical but not too steep downhill, with lots of bends and a rough road surface. A sharp left at the bottom, followed by a short, flat section, before the hill started. Ugh this was horrific.Its around 3.5km, with a max gradient not much above 5% so it is not steep. But it was fully in the heat of the sun, with no shade whatsoever. And it just felt relentless.

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The course was drafting legal and so on my first lap I managed to get behind someone quite fast. The first time I went up at an average speed of 17.7km which I was quite happy with – I finished that lap in less than 18 minutes which had been my (A) goal. The second lap I managed to switch between being on a slow person’s wheel to being on a much faster person’s wheel and my speed jumped from 13kph to 20kph in a matter of seconds. I couldn’t hold on as we approached the top though and my average speed up the hill was 15.8kph. That lap was less than 20 minutes which was my (B) goal. I enjoyed both those laps….

At the top of the hill there was a tiny flat section, before a short steep descent, followed by a short steep climb. Then you were finally cresting the top for a lovely downhill segment – much steeper than the uphill and quite technical but good for me as I had ridden the hill several times before and so knew which bends I didn’t have to brake on. A small heads-down flat section, and then it was the sharp left and the steep hill again.

The steep hill was quite good fun as it was lined with spectators cheering you on “animo chica!!!”, and a guy with a bottle filled with cold water who would come and tip it down the back of your neck. That was wonderful, every time it gave me a little boost.

By the third lap I was really flagging going up the hill – this time my speed was only 13.9kph. I noticed at the top several people getting off their bikes to grab a drink at the water fountain and promised myself that I could stop at the top of the fourth lap. I was really hoping the water would be ice-cold. I had been really, really struggling to drink from my hot, sweet water bottle. Sips were making me feel sick although I tried to get them down, and I was suffering from tummy cramps, and a really sore back. This made it difficult to take in my nutrition as I was so dehydrated it was just making me feel sick. Others were also struggling and I have never seen so many people in a race walking back towards transition with their bikes. Some with punctures, but many of them looked as if they had just given up.

On the fourth lap, a girl overtook me half way up the hill “venga, chica!” she smiled, and I tried in vain to stick on her wheel but didn’t manage. Then my mum came past! She was suffering too with back cramps and I managed to stay on her wheel, but at the top of the hill I had promised myself that ice-cold water, so I stopped.

Not the best idea – the water was just more boiling hot stuff that didn’t help at all. It did give me a chance to exchange a smile and a “hace calor!” gasp with a guy I had been criss-crossing throughout the race – a pretty big guy, he slowed considerably up the hills but was very fast on the flats and we had been powering past several men at one stage. We kept on helping each other around the last, horrendous, lap. I hated everything. I was wishing I would faint and fall off my bike because at least then I would have a reason to give up. “This is worse than the marathon” I kept repeating to myself, over and over again, and analysing whether it was in fact worse than the marathon (answer: it was less painful, but still worse as just nothing about it was enjoyable whatsoever). I was fantasising about diet coke with ice and lemon (my go-to I’m dehydrated fantasy drink!)

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I barely pedalled on the downhills and limped into transition, exhausted. How on earth was I to run 10k? More importantly… was I going to be able to do it without pooing myself given I was still having a lot of tummy cramps?! And there were no toilets directly on the course….. There was a girl lying by transition in agony with leg cramps, both legs shaking as she moaned in pain and three guys around her trying to massage her leg and calm her down. That gave me a bit of a shock and I realised that, as hard as it had been for me, at least I was still moving. I felt really sorry for her as she had been one of the front-runners amongst the women.

I walked all the way through transition, not understanding the volunteers shouting at me in Spanish to turn my race belt round until one of them made the signal with their hands and I got the message. “Soy de Inglaterra, lo siento!” I gasped. As I started the run, I heard over the loudspeaker that the first woman was finishing…. I felt AWFUL.

The run was an out & back course, repeated four times. All of it in the shade. On the way out it was ever so slightly uphill, but only so you’d notice you were going faster, easier, on the way back. Almost immediately after starting I caught up with mum, also walking, and almost cried with relief. We walked a bit, drank some of the cold water handed out to us, tried to run and quickly walked again. My stomach was still cramping and mum’s back was horrendously sore. “Let’s just do it together,” I said, “Walk a bit, run a bit, and finish together?” Mum agreed and we walked on. After almost a km though, we tried to run again and her back was still so sore that she was contemplating giving up all together. She told me to run on and from that point I was on my own.

I started aiming for a 5 minute run, 1 minute walk routine. Two minutes into my first run I had to stop, now I had a severe stitch in my side that was distracting all thoughts away from the tummy cramp and I could barely breathe. I was a mess. I kept going, gradually increasing the run times to 5 minutes, and then to 10 minutes, and then I was over halfway there. By the 5km point I was feeling more like a human being again and felt like I was running strong and well. I was actually enjoying myself again!

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The out and back loops were wonderful as they made the race really social. I kept running past the guy I’d been swapping places with on the bike, now about half a lap ahead of me, and every time we would cheer each other on. There were a few ladies behind me still, one of whom gave me a huge but exhausted smile every time we ran past each other. And various other competitors telling me to “venga chica!” when they or I ran past. That’s my favourite thing about triathlon, how supportive and friendly everyone is. I met several people at the end, as we were all packing up to leave, who called out to me to say “enhorabuena” (congratulations). All we knew of each other was that we had all suffered for the last however many hours and we had seen that suffering on our faces as we struggled to get to the finish line.

There were still a few scary moments to come, such as the guy with extreme heatstroke wavering all over the course. When I passed that section of the course next, he was lying by the side of the road with an ambulance next to him, screaming in agony.

I finished in just 50 seconds over the hour and was really annoyed at myself for not pushing harder for the last 5k. I felt like a proper human being again by that point and definitely had it in me to push harder – indeed, I felt better after finishing the whole thing than I had after finishing the bike! A 10km cool-down :)

Mum crossed the line just a few minutes behind me. She walked almost 2km but then ran non-stop the rest of the way so we both had our different methods of getting going.

We packed up, took some pictures and wobbily headed home, stopping on the way for a cream cheese bagel (well it was 9.30pm by this point!). We showered quickly and then headed out for a celebratory cocktail and tapas dinner – at 11.30pm. Needless to say our eyes began to close as we finished our meal so we quickly headed / hobbled home.

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Lessons learnt:

Don’t triathlon in Madrid!!

No, seriously … I don’t regret doing it in Madrid for a minute. It was so lovely to compete so near my home, to find that the triathlon community is the same in Spain as in England (ridiculously friendly and supportive), to swim in a lake that was like a warm bath with people sunbathing beside it (probably wondering what the fuck we were all doing!) and to run on a beautiful shaded path, high-fiving other runners as they passed again, and again and again, and getting hosed down with icy water every 2km or so.

I should have put more ice in my water bottles in the hope they would hold onto their coldness a little longer. They probably wouldn’t have done. I should have had a bottle of water with me before the start. I should have had two water bottles on my bike, one with water, and one with isotonic, and I should have had a different isotonic drink. One that was less sweet. Maybe then I would have been able to drink more of it, which might have meant I was able to eat more of my nutrition, which might have allowed my legs to keep pushing up those hills. Or maybe the heat would have gotten to me nonetheless!

I should have pushed a little harder on the swim, I could have pushed a little harder. I should have pushed harder in the last 5km of the run and then I would have managed a sub-hour run.

Those little disappointments aside, I am really pleased I finished in what felt like the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It would have been so easy to just not begin that run, but I’m so pleased that I did, and ended up enjoying it!

Triathlon training – race week!

Just a very quick sum-up of what I got up to this week… race recap will come as soon as I have some energy back because I am still wiped out!

This week saw 6 hours of exercise including:

– two 15 min yoga sessions – one in the morning before work, and the second on Sunday evening to stretch out some tired post-race muscles

one spin bike session – Only 25 minutes, with a nice warm-up and then some short, fast efforts in the middle.

– one 20 min run – in the heat of the day, running slow but with 5 x 30 second pick-ups in the middle portion. An attempt to get some practice at running in 30 degree heat!

– one pool swim – involving 4 x 25m sprints (22.1s, 23.7s, 22.6s, 23.6s) and a 400m swim that I didn’t manage to record the time for.

– one warm-up cycle down to the triathlon….

– ONE TRIATHLON! More on that later. Lets just say it was the biking in the heat that I really needed to practice.

Other than that I basically spent most of the week working really hard, getting home, eating dinner and going straight to bed. By Thursday I had no food in the house and didn’t finish work until 10.30pm when all the supermarkets were shut. So I stopped off at a little restaurant just round the corner from my flat and had a huge plate of manchego cheese with my first glass of wine all week. Awesome.
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I also bought myself an iPhone 6 as a “you got the job!” treat and so have been taking hundreds of photos with its beautiful camera. No longer do I need to instagram EVERYTHING.

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Mum and I had a little wander around Madrid on Friday evening, getting the metro into Casa de Campo for the packet pick-up (very smooth and easy) and then walking back towards the river, up to the palace and through the centre of town to Chueca for dinner.IMG_7660

Saturday was triathlon day so we spent the morning eating a huge breakfast and reading back in the air-conditioned flat. Post triathlon we went out for cocktails and dinner – not sitting down to eat dinner until after 11.30pm!!IMG_7658

Needless to say we were exhausted this morning so we had the most ginormous breakfast imaginable including a lemon meringue tart at about 11.30am before wandering around Madrid a bit more, ending up at the roof terrace of Bellas des Artes where we lay in the sun with a diet coke and admired the view. It was stunning. But now it’s 9.45pm and my eyes are closing …. this girl needs to sleep for about a week but sadly has a very busy work week ahead :(

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Juneathon

Ooops. It’s been a while since I blogged. An explosion of work has meant I’ve had absolutely no time to put together blogs as all I want to do when I get home is fall into bed! Such as last night when I wasn’t even home until after bed-time. Plus manic working days means no time for blogging during the day. Or at least …. no time that I choose to spend blogging.

One thing that annoys me is when people say they have “no time” to do anything. They do. There is always time. It is just that it might not be time that you want to spend doing a certain thing. Like I prioritised going for a run at lunch time, or for lunch with my colleagues, or going to bed to read my book before I fell asleep…. I definitely could have blogged but there just wasn’t time with everything else I wanted to do instead!

But I haven’t been slacking on the juneathon exercise.

Wednesday:  a 30 minute hard bike work out in the morning, followed by a 20 minute easy run, with 30 second pick-ups in the heat of the day as practice for Saturday.

Thursday: a final swim! With some 25m sprints and a steady 400m plus other reps.

Friday: 10 minutes of yoga and strength exercises in the morning.

Here’s the weather forecast for race day…..

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