2 weekends, 2 very different races

A brief (as brief as possible!) update of my thoughts from the last 2 weekends of racing, how times change!

Race 1 – IM 70.3 St Polten

Arrived in Vienna and picked up our wheels for the 4 day stay. Just the 2 of us, but we’ve got our very own van. Bazza the Beast.

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Staying in Vienna near the cathedral, beautiful city. Chilled few days before the race driving the bike course – stunning – relaxing in the event village eating pretzels – standard lunch for the 3 days – and relaxing in our hotel suite day room – posh! yep, the hotel room had a hallway…

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Swim. Head off at my normal race pace, turns out people go out slower in a 70.3! 100m in and “I’m leading, OMG, i’m leading” calm it down, actually focus on my stroke for the first time ever in a race. get to end of first lake, being a tad competitive decide i want to be first into lake 2, sprint the 90sec or so to lake 2 and yay, still leading, dive in….. “oh my god i’m knackered!” lose the other 2 girls and take about 400m to recover and then pick it up again. 3rd female out the swim. happy with that start!

Bike. All going well, hit the first descent, and uh oh, I discover my carbon rim race wheels don’t brake so well. Anyone that knows me knows i am rubbish at descending at the best of times, add in brakes that don’t work so well, and someone crashing on the bend in front of me, and freak out number 1 of the day happens. come to a stop on the descent. gather myself, push off gingerly. reach the bottom of the hill…. 40mins later i think the adrenalin has stopped being pumped out and i’m about recovered, but i know there is an 8% and a 14% descent to come. Overtake most people up the climb. Descend like a scared granny and lose all those places and more. survive. head for home annoyed with myself!

Run. Here we go. i’ve run a max of 14k about 3 times in the past year so 13-14k before i blow up is my target. dodgy tummy. people are running faster than me. keep running. oh, i’m passing some people too actually, this isnt so bad, i’m not the worst, keep running. dodgy tummy finally passes by about 11k. oh, i’m on the 2nd lap already and not feeling too bad. less than 1 lap to go. oh wow, only 5k to go and i actually feel alright. yay, start upping the pace with 3k to go, this is amazing. ouch, 2k to go, i’m really tired, went a bit early. there it is, the stadium and i can hear the music. sprint finish past the cheerleaders (why aren’t there any half naked men lining the finishing shoot too i wonder?) finish. woohoo. 5.19.33 and not feeling too bad, although my feet hurt a bit. ooohhh, food tent :0)

So, all in all i’m super happy with the 5.19.33, 8th in AG and a 1.40 half marathon off the back of what has not been any targeted training and I know i definitely have not done the run mileage. Maybe this is a better distance for me…. who’d had ever thought i’d say that!

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Race 2, 1 week later – Nottingham Sprint

My target was to qualify for Europeans next year in Geneva. Been feeling a bit run down the few days before the race – chest cold. Not in the mood to do a sprint race but looking forward to seeing friends at the race so head up to Nottingham.

Swim. wow there is a lot of people in here, someone is on my back at the start, i don’t think this is going to be fun, gun goes, fight starts. Breathe to the right, get a hand in my face, breathe the left, lose my stroke, someone’s on my feet, i’m on top of someone’s legs – WHERE IS THE CLEAR WATER?! – things haven’t changed all that much by last 200m. Finally there’s the end.

T1. Run up the wrong row, twice.

Bike. Keep it steady to keep breathing ok and not have any chest issues. A few kamikaze geese and chicks crossing the road back and forth keep things interesting, otherwise, 4 pretty standard laps of the lake. no heroics, nothing spectacular.

T2. can’t get my foot in the shoe… always happens when a crowd are watching!

Run. eurgh. not running much faster than last weekend, chest is tight, speedy people are all overtaking me. maybe i’ll walk, no way, i ran 21k last weekend i can defo run 5k this weekend. I hate running round this lake, why doesn’t the end seem to be getting any closer. yay, there’s the finish gantry. damn someone is sprinting behind me, i try to sprint, she takes me 5m from the line. Eurgh, that was horrible.

I ended up coming 4th in my AG so I qualified for Worlds and Euros, but the rose tinted glasses are on and i’m sure St Polten didn’t hurt half as much as that sprint!

What next?

It’s 2 weeks till the European Champs now, back to Austria, which means uphills …. and downhills, so i’m not too sure how it will go, but it will be a fun few days. Road trip (yes Rob Q and I are driving… his idea!) and a chance to catch up with friends from around the country. Then i’m looking forward to getting back into training for a while as i’ve been on taper/recovery for about 4 weeks now!

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Starting over

It’s been a while since i’ve written anything, and since i’ve posted anything that isn’t a recipe! The recipe posts themselves only really happened as i found the kitchen a good place to distract myself from all the thinking that was overwhelming me. But i’m back :0)

So what was so distracting? Work going’s on. But the end result is that i’ve decided to make an about turn, change career, potentially take myself to the bottom of the ladder again and follow a dream to become a personal trainer. Daunting? – yes. Scary? – defintely. Risky? – massively! But, exciting? – and use of these 3 letters is justified this one time – OMG yes!! I could not be more excited about the future and what might happen, at times i’m terrified but if i don’t give it a go i know i’ll regret it. I already wish i’d done it years ago; better late then never right?!

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Two people put my current state of mind a lot more eloquently than i can:

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.” JK Rowling

“Believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path.” Steve Jobs

I just hope they’re right! Without wishing time away, I can’t wait to get going down this new road. Here’s to the future and all it’s unknown, scary, exciting and new potential.

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Coconut loving

I have an admission to make. This morning I found myself agreeing with an article in the Daily Mail… but before you think worse of me, it was on the nutritional benefits of coconuts.

I’ve been incorporating coconut oil into my cooking recently – in my bakes and energy bites, when cooking stirfrys rather than using other oils, even in coffee (although I am still getting accustomed to that!) – and today I made some delicious ‘Bounty’ bars, recipe below, but first, why?

Briefly, extra virgin coconut oil is rich in (good) MCTs (medium chain triglycerides) and does not contain (bad) trans-fatty acids, and has many benefits such as supporting a healthy metabolism and supporting immunity.

But more relevant to athletes in training, MCTs are sent directly to the liver where they are immediately converted into an energy source, rather than being stored as fat. This makes coconut oil a source of instant energy, energy that we usually get from simple carbohydrates (glucose, fructose). But although coconut oil and simple carbs can both provide quick energy for your body, they differ in that coconut oil does not produce a spike in your insulin levels. Without going into too much science detail and getting to the recipe quicker, just know this is a good thing.

So, MCTs are easily digested, help stimulate the metabolism and can be turned into energy for the body, and are not stored as fat… sounds too good to be true! Whenever you need to cook with oil, try replacing it with coconut oil and start getting some of the benefits.

I made these bars and i’ll test them out on next weekend’s long ride. The chocolate would melt in summer, but I think they will work well as a winter ride fuel. Let me know what you think.

Bounty

Homemade bounty bars

  • 2 cups desiccated coconut
  • 1 cup of coconut milk
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp of 100% pure maple syrup/honey
  • For the chocolate coating: 250g 85% dark chocolate
  1. In a saucepan mix the coconut milk, coconut oil & maple syrup/honey. Heat gently over a low element, stirring until it is well blended and dissolved.
  2. Off the heat stir in the desiccated coconut.
  3. Pour the mixture into a container lined with baking paper.
  4. Cool in the freezer until it becomes firm. When set, cut into bars and then place back in freezer to completely harden.
  5. Melt the chocolate over hot steaming water.
  6. Cover your cold coconut squares with melted chocolate – too make it easier try sticking a toothpick in the bar and then dip in chocolate. I used my fingers and it did get a bit messy! Keep the chocolate over heat while doing this to keep it runny
  7. Place bars on a sheet of baking paper and put back in freezer until the chocolate sets. Store in fridge.
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Pumpkin spice protein bakes

I can confirm that these bakes work well as a pudding, or for breakfast post training session!

protein bakes

Ingredients
1/2 cup GF flour (could use normal flour, but I’m experimenting cutting out gluten)
1/4 cup almond flour
1 scoop vanilla protein powder (could leave this out, but adds to protein)
1 tbsp. ground flax
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp ginger – I like spice so I always up the spice amounts!
1 tsp baking powder
1 large egg
6 tbsp. almond milk (unsweetened)
1/3 cup pumpkin puree (I buy tins in tescos)
1 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tbsp. coconut oil melted (I only had a block of creamed coconut tonight, it melted fine)
1 tsp vanilla extract

  • mix together dry ingredients
  • in a different bowl mix together melted coconut oil, egg, milk, pumpkin, vanilla and maple syrup
  • add dry to wet and fold till combined
  • pour into greased ramekins – or cake tins etc but might change bake time
  • bake for 30-35mins at 180 degrees C

protein bake 1

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Not a diet, a way of life

You can’t seem to go a day without reading about how obesity levels are rising and what the latest diet to go on to lose weight is. But I just don’t believe diets are the solution, I want to lose a few kgs but I don’t want to do it by depriving myself of any one food group as I don’t believe it’s sustainable, or healthy, and it’s definitely not enjoyable!

Recently I’ve been taking a much greater interest in what I eat and from now on I will be aiming to eat cleanly, with a diet full of healthy, wholesome, natural food, that includes fat and sugars and carbs – all food groups that have been given pariah status recently. But it’s not the food groups that are the problem, it’s where those foodstuffs come from. I’ll be dining on good fats, natural fruit-based sugars and veg-based starchy carbs, and consuming them at the right times. What I won’t be doing is cutting out any one of those food groups though.

However, I will be trying to eliminate completely refined sugar, gluten, artificial sweeteners, preservatives and chemicals.

I’ve started reducing my sugar intake the last couple of weeks (my downfall is dried fruit) and already I am finding fresh fruit tastes sweeter. I’ve been experimenting with baking (pumpkin spice protein bakes and sweet potato loaf – with some cheeky dark choc chunks in) which so far have turned out well (I think!). You can find the recipes on their own posts. I’ve been making my own energy balls for a while now and these are going down well as energy boosts pre-session and as snacks on long rides – some of my favourite recipes are on my last blog.

My science brain has been reignited after reading some posts on the biochemistry of food metabolism and energy production recently, so I’ve got a lot of learning to do, but that also means lots of experimenting in the kitchen! Next up is going to be homemade Bounty bars. I’m hoping these make a good energy bar for out on rides – maxing the benefits of coconut as a good healthy fat for fuel, with a bit of high quality dark chocolate for sweetness (or antioxidants if you want some science justification!)

Any recipes I find that work i’ll be sure to share :0)

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Tasty balls… of energy

I’ve been getting busy in the kitchen lately making my own energy balls to take out on rides, eat before early morning training sessions or have as an afternoon boost before evening training. I like that they are bite size so they take the edge off any hunger but don’t leave you feeling too full before that hard swim set, or with cake legs as you leave the café stop mid-ride. They don’t have any of the preservatives and rubbish in them that many of the mass market bars do, are packed with fiber, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids, satisfy sugar cravings (without actually having too much sugar in them), and are cheaper than the bars that are ‘ all natural’ (but cost £1+ a pop). They are so easy to make and don’t require any cooking. Result!

But the best thing about these is that you can really put in whatever you want, which works for me as I’m not known to follow a recipe – sometimes they are amazing, sometimes only OK – but that’s the fun in experimenting! (nb, I use cup measurements as they make easy recipes even easier, no weighing!)

Here are a few of my favourite combinations. Enjoy ♥

Peanut butter oat bites

  • 1 cup oats (I use gluten free but not essential)
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (or almond butter if preferred)
  • 1 tbsp melted coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup ground flaxseed or wheatgerm
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips or cacao nibs (optional)
  • 1 tbsp. chia seeds (optional)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Optional: desiccated coconut /chopped nuts/seeds/raisins/chopped dried fruit, ½ tsp cinnamon
  • Optional: to make them chocolatey, add 2-3 tblsp cocoa powder

Method

  • Melt honey, peanut butter and coconut oil in the microwave – give it a stir every 10s.
  • Add oats, flaxseed, vanilla extract, choc chips (if using) and any additional extras to peanut butter and stir until thoroughly mixed. If they look too dry, add in extra melted honey or peanut butter, too moist then add more oats.
  • Roll into balls of ~1 inch diameter.
  • You can roll the finished balls in cocoa, or in coconut for extra texture.
  • Store in an airtight container in fridge, mine last ~2 weeks.

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Chocolate, nut & coconut energy balls

  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1/2 cup dessicated coconut
  • 2 tblsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tblsp coconut oil
  • 1 tblsp honey
  • pinch of salt (optional)

Method

  • In food processor blend almonds until they are a fine crumble.
  • Add coconut, cocoa powder, coconut oil and honey. Blend until it forms a crumbly paste.
  • Roll the mixture into balls, if not sticking add a bit more honey
  • You can then roll in cocoa powder if you want.
  • Store in fridge.

Vanilla choc-chip protein balls

  • 1/2 cup vanilla protein powder
  • 2 tbsp coconut flour
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil – melted
  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • 2 tbsp almond milk (or water)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • Chocolate chips

Method

  • Mix protein powder and coconut flour.
  • Add coconut oil, almond butter, almond milk, vanilla extract, pinch salt and choc chips.
  • Make into balls.
  • Set in fridge.
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“If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough”

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Setting goals, should be easy right? Just decide what you want to achieve and say it. However, I’ve been finding it difficult to set my 2014 goals. Last year there was only one goal – to qualify for London World Champs, no specifics, just qualify. This year there is less of an obvious goal in mind so I’m trying to decide on individual specific goals, and this is where I’m hesitating. I want them to be challenging to push me, but then what if I set them too high and don’t achieve them? But then what if I set them too low? I won’t feel a sense of accomplishment as I’ll know I took the easy option.

I’ve been thinking about this the past week and this cheesy quote keeps coming into my head “shoot for the moon, even if you miss you’ll land among the stars”. Corny I know, but true. So this year, along with goals I’m confident I think I can hit, I’m going to step outside my comfort zone and face the fear of failure by setting some goals that I honestly don’t know if I’m capable of achieving. To get near to being able to tick them off I’ll need to consistently train harder, and smarter.

There is a possibility I won’t be ticking these goals off at the end of the season, but I’m hoping that even if I don’t, when I look back on 2014 I’ll be able to say that as a result of aiming higher than I’m capable of I’ve improved and I’m a better athlete than when I started the year, and as a result I’ll still be proud of whatever I have achieved.

So here they are, 2014 goals in writing, no going back now!

  • Top 10 in AG at St. Polten 70.3 (or top 20%) – TT: 5hr 22
  • Top 5 in AG at European champs
  • Top 3 in AG at Chicago triathlon
  • Top 3 in AG at an English champs event
  • Overall female winner at a sprint and olympic triathlon
  • Qualify for Europeans 2015
  • Swim: 5.20 400m; low 21min 1500m; 27.30 1900m
  • Bike: *edit 30Watt* 10Watt increase in my bike FTP score based on CP20
  • Run: sub 21min 5k; *edit 43min* 42min 10k
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