This is it.

The big one.

After my one and only olympic/standard distance triathlon in March 2015, I decided I would go back to enjoying my sprint distance races. I’m just not fast enough to fit in the amount of training required for longer distance races. Trying to fit in two exercise sessions in one day along with all my other commitments was impossible. I pulled out of everything else I was involved in for a few months leading up to the race so I could get it done.

July 2015 was also my one and only half marathon. I never had any intention to run a half marathon but some of my running buddies had signed up so I figured if I was ever going to do it, I should do it with them. I finished but was forced to walk the second half with what I later found to be an ITB injury. I didn’t meet my (secret) time goal of 2:30.

Fast forward to 2016. I have signed up for a re-match on the half marathon. I’ve chosen a different course (Sydney) for this one. I’ve had my eye on the 9km Bridge Run at the Sydney Running Festival for a few years now. Who wouldn’t want to run over the Sydney Harbour Bridge once in their life? Instead, I registered for the half marathon. I have 13.5 weeks to go. The goals this time are to finish uninjured and hopefully under 2:30.

And, I’ve paid an insane amount of money to enter a half ironman-distance triathlon (but not the ironman brand) four weeks after the half marathon. This will be a 1.9km swim and a 90km bike ride followed by a 21.1km run. My thought pattern went something like:

I know I can swim 1.9km – I did that in October for a team event. I will be “half marathon fit” for the race in September. This race is only 4 weeks later. The “only” thing I need to work on is the bike. I’ve never ridden further than 45km in one go. Ever. Then I just have to put it all together and run a half marathon AFTER the 90km ride.

After a chat with my coach to confirm that it is theoretically do-able, I registered for the Forster Ultimate race.

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And what have I done since registering? Not a lot. Lost a small amount of weight over several months. Gained it all back and then some over the last two weeks while on holidays in Broome (lovely place but I had to survive two weekends with no parkrun). Skipped most of my long runs. Skipped most of my strength sessions.

I did clamber down then up this pile of boulders looking for dinosaur footprints (which we found so it was worth it).

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And I took my running gear away on the holiday with me and managed three 5km runs. Part of one was on this stunning stretch of the 22km long Cable Beach.

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I didn’t swim here but I did admire the view. At low tide, you have to walk 1.5km across the mudflats to get to the deeper water. Broome has one of the biggest tide differences in the world! Town Beach, Broome.

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ASIDE: The holiday ticked off three bucket list items for me – Visit Broome, ride a camel, ride in a sea plane. All in all, it was a wonderful trip, especially since we did it with immediate and extended family members.

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View from the seaplane over the Dampier Peninsula where we camped for two nights (near the lighthouse).

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And now back to my triathlon journey…

I had planned to keep my registration a secret until the last minute thinking I would put less pressure on myself. There are less than 10 people who know I registered. It’s at an event where I have done the sprint distance race for the last two years so I could talk about going without mentioning that I’ve registered for the longer distance race. I’m looking down the barrel of a 6 or 7 hour race.

Right now, I’m doubting my ability to push myself for that long. Somewhere in amongst all the other thoughts, I imagined that if I could learn to push myself for longer, then I could transpose this into my shorter distance training and races to push harder in those sessions.

note to self

(from facebook some time ago)

Therefore, I decided to get it out there. Make myself accountable to the cyber-world. This is the biggest athletic goal I have set since I started this journey. For the past few weeks I’ve been thinking it’s too big (what have I done?) but in the last couple of days I’ve caught up on some blog-reading and have been inspired to get my act together. I WILL do this. Besides, it’s a lot of money to throw away if I don’t.

Some of the blogs and instagram posts that have given me a much needed lift this week were:

Annie at Unsporty Women Can Run nailed it (me) when she wrote

Delicate Runner Syndrome (as I call it) frequently stops me from pushing too hard.  I’d rather run slow and for a long way than fast and pop a valve that might stop me from running.  But I take this too far and use it as an excuse to go slow.”

Teresa wrote about the pitfalls of comparing ourselves to others here.

Watching The Weight Drop on instagram posted this

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There were others as well – it’s like I was bombarded with posts to challenge and motivate me. So that’s it. Time to knuckle down, eat healthily and do focussed training. And get to bed earlier (since it’s now 1.20am and I’m supposed to be swimming before work tomorrow).

 

What will I be saying this time next year when I look back at my doubts and fears?

What are you working on/toward at the moment?

Have you recently achieved a goal you set?

 

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(from facebook some time ago)

Indoor Cycling

I’ve finally started doing more cycling. From the comfort of my own lounge room. In summary, it’s an online “game” called Zwift which uses the data from your own bike trainer and sensors to move an animated you around an island called Watopia. People from all over the world log in whenever. Or you can prearrange a time to meet friends for a group ride. It costs $10 USD per month but if it means I’m riding my bike, then it’s worth it.

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Let’s face it – where else will I ever get to wear a green sprinter’s jersey??? (Either I’m Lightning McQueen over a 400m distance, or there aren’t many females using Zwift yet at the times that I’ve been online.)

These are some of the reasons I enjoy using Zwift.

  • It’s easy to get caught up in the “race” to not let the person behind catch you (and you don’t have to look over your shoulder to see them), or to catch the person in front of you, or see how long you can draft off someone.
  • I work harder in this game than I do on the road. I think it’s because I don’t have to worry about traffic, potholes, magpies etc. Or being stranded too far from home if I absolutely run out of puff. I can give it all I’ve got.
  • I also work harder in Zwift than I do just cycling on my trainer because if I stop pedalling or slow down, the animated character on screen unclips or sips her drink. It’s a visual reminder that I’ve lost focus whereas on the trainer I find I just drift off and then realise I’ve stopped pedalling and have no idea how long I’ve been off with the fairies.
  • King/Queen of the mountain, green jerseys, yellow jerseys, this game has it all – instant updates and comparisons of PBs on some segments (don’t have to wait for strava upload🙂 )
  • Group rides are great – it’s not often I get to feel like I can keep up with everyone else. It does wonders for the self esteem. I don’t have to know whether they’re slacking off, I can imagine that they’re sweating and panting as much as I am!
  • The graphics are great, the concept is even better. Seeing where the many different riders online are from (country) and seeing messages flying in French or Spanish makes you feel like  you’re part of something so much bigger than just my lounge room.
  • No cars
  • No helmets
  • No crashes (and even if someone cuts you off you just go through them like a hologram)
  • Fast looking bikes and snazzy cycling clothing
  • Cycling with dolphins, sting rays, whales – where else can you cycle under the ocean?
  • Estimated calories burned are counted as a number of pizza slices!
  • It’s the best excuse for playing computer games and not feeling guilty.
  • It makes me feel like a real cyclist.

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In an hour online it’ll go from day to night with beautiful sunrises, long shadows and spectacular scenery.

My coach told me that getting my cycling done will also help my running. She might be onto something there.

In my previous post (late February), I wrote that “I haven’t run a 30min 5km yet and don’t seem to be getting any closer but my training has been rather erratic.”

I realised today that I haven’t skipped a session on my training program since 3rd March! That’s a whole month with all planned training completed. If only I was that dedicated to my food intake.

Recently, 1km intervals were added to my program – to be done weekly. 6 x 1km run at effort (preferably sub 6:00 pace) with a 2 minute complete rest/stop between each one.

The first time I attempted this, I managed sub 6:00 for one of the six only (5:51 – a new PB). The second time, I had two under 6 minutes. Last weekend had a huge training load due to the public holidays and being able to get some longer sets in. I managed a 10km run/walk (planned 8 minute run/1 minute walk repeated for the whole distance) and averaged 7:10 pace even with the walks. I was over the moon with this. I had another 1km interval set two and FOUR of them were under 6 minutes! A 5:59, 5:47 (new 1km PB), 5:57 and 5:58. The other two were 6:34 and 6:19 – not too shabby either. Considering the first two were done in the dark with a headlamp on unfamiliar paths near my parents’ house, I was thrilled.

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I’m so glad daylight saving has finally ended…IMG_20160325_100231

10km with beautiful coastal scenery

 

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That’s me in the light blue being overtaken by a huge pack of cyclists on Zwift. Would completely freak me out in real life but was strangely pretty cool at the time.

On Easter Saturday I was up at 4.30am to drive 1.5 hours to the nearest parkrun which had a 7.00am start! I was also catching up with a friend I hadn’t seen in ages otherwise I probably wouldn’t have bothered.

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Yesterday was another big day – 45 minutes on the bike (which I did on Zwift) then a 10km run. My plan for this was to run the 5km from home to parkrun, then have a few minutes rest during the briefings and continue with the second 5km. The second 5km was much slower than the first because THIS happened quite unexpectedly!

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So, I STILL haven’t run 5km in under 30 minutes but it’s getting closer! This was almost two minutes faster than my previous 5km PB of 32:28 which I ran in December 2014. I hadn’t even gone out with the intention of going hard or getting a PB, I was just running. The last 500m was tough but I’d seen how close I was to a PB so pushed on. Needless to say, there wasn’t much left in the tank for the second 5km so I walked a lot, chatted with other parkrunners and did a leisurely 38 minutes. It doesn’t seem that long ago that 38 minutes would have been a fast 5km for me. It’s odd how our perspective changes over time.

More zwift screenshots – because I can.

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Cycling related architecture

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Spot the whale?

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And the dolphins?

The creators have an incredible imagination. Wonder if they could develop Zwimt for swimming from the comfort of home?

I’m enjoying being on my bike again. (And swimming and running, so that’s got to be good for my triathlon pursuits!)

What’s next? A three-hour intensive swim training session with Effortless Swimming at the end of April, a triathlon in May, a holiday to Broome in June, Sutherland to Surf (11km) in July, Dubbo Stampede in August and the Sydney Running Festival Half Marathon in September (we run over the Sydney Harbour Bridge – I’m reasonably certain I’ll be stopping for a selfie!). So much for my year of spending more time at home. And in amongst all of this, I am determined to shed my excess weight. Imagine how fast I could run if my legs had 5-10 fewer kilograms to cart around!

Is there a gadget or training technique/tool that has reignited your enthusiasm?

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Where have the last couple of months gone? I haven’t had anything interesting or enlightening to say so I have been using my time being inspired by many other bloggers.

I’ve managed to break my diet coke addiction. I had been drinking 2-3 cans or bottles per day towards the end of 2015. On 1st January I went cold turkey and had none until about a week ago. And even then, I only drank a few mouthfuls because I’ve lost the taste for it. Next step, cutting back on the chocolate intake.

I haven’t run a 30min 5km yet and don’t seem to be getting any closer but my training has been rather erratic.

I did a race on the weekend though, so for those who are interested, here are some photos taken by various friends/family, or stolen from the race organiser’s facebook page.

My goals were pretty much non-existent going into this race. I only decided to go because there was a big group going from my local tri club. There were seven of us staying in a share house and several others staying with family or other small groups.

We even rode TO the race in the morning. I didn’t think about getting home afterwards… One lady who was running for a team drove a car to the race with all our gear bags though which was quite helpful.

The race was a non-standard distance of 500m swim (in a bay, so semi open water and just a bit of swell to deal with), 25km bike with one REALLY (for me) steep hill on a two-lap course, 6km run on trails/road/beach.

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It was nice to be able to chat with people I knew while waiting for the briefing to start.

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Walking 500m along the beach (hidden under high tide) to get to the start of the swim. Then we just swam in a straight line back to this point.

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Made it back to shore! I need to find some sand to practise running on somewhere near home if I’m going to keep entering coastal triathlons.

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Still running on sand – a couple of hundred metres from shore to transition area. The guys in this photo started 4 minutes after my wave…

SWR10At the end of the 25km ride, trying to understand why the dismount line was just after a bend on a downhill slope. In a lot of the other photos, there are kangaroos on the grass near the road.

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Definitely need more practice running on sand.

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But here I am!
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My shoes were quite soggy by the end – I didn’t get out of the way of a rogue wave. (I’m not in this photo if you’re trying to find me – it was included to show the conditions.)

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Post-race icecream treat. Mmmm. Why have I never tried salted caramel before????

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Some of the group from Tamworth Tri club.

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I have no idea who these guys are but I had to look twice to work out that the guy in the cap has a white zipper down the front of his trisuit. I thought it was something else at first… Ewwww.

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Official results. Still plodding away. This race has renewed my determination to lose my excess weight – it’s the only way I’m going to improve. (The bike time includes two long walks to transition and my transition times.)

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At first I thought the medal was a bit boring, but I do like the words.

Swim strong, cycle fast, run to win.

 

I’m not really sure what’s coming next. Part of me still wants to push for my 30min 5km run. A big part of me wants to improve my triathlon performances (although I told my coach that I’d like to focus on increasing run speed and triathlons are “just for fun” for the time being). Another part of me would be happy to just maintain, and be fit and well enough to go for social walks and runs with friends. I’m looking at a number of different races but haven’t entered any yet. My next club race is in two weeks, and I’ve still got parkrun happening most weekends.

It is possible that I’ll reach my 50 parkrun milestone this year, and I created an album on facebook to collate my parkrunning photos. I’ll share some of my favourites next time maybe.

Running for speed

I recently asked my coach to change my program so I can work on getting faster now that I’m running again. Next goal: 30min 5km run. I told her that the races on my calendar would be “just for fun” and not the primary focus of my training.

So – the interval run/walk sets have started in earnest. And what do you know? I can actually run at sub 6:00 pace for a minute at a time! Who would have thought???

I did a 5km fun run on 1st November. Official time 32:55 (although my garmin registered the distance at only 4.87km). I’m finding that while I can’t run for long, I’m running faster than I used to. So even with walk breaks my times are coming down. The faster pace is offsetting the breaks. Win-win.

I also completed my fourth Sprint triathlon last Sunday.

This is what is was like after checking the bike into transition and waiting for my race wave to start (photo from www.facebook.com/challengeforster):

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It was freezing standing in the misty rain and wind in a lycra trisuit! A friend and I hid out of the wind behind the toilet block.

The rain stopped just before our race and the wind died down about halfway through the swim so the chop disappeared too. The roads were still a bit wet for the ride. The sun came out about halfway through my run leg.

This was my first race with a split transition. You get on the bike at a completely different location to where you get off (several kilometres this time). When you register they give you a bag to put your “run” gear in and a second bag for your “swim” gear. You hand in the run bag when you put your bike into transition and they take it to the bike finish area (T2). When you get out of the water you put your swim gear in the other bag and leave it behind when you hop on the bike. At some point they take your swim bag to the finish area. When you get off the bike, your run bag is waiting for you.

PRE-RACE GOAL LIST:

  1. Finish. 
  2. In under 2 hours is weather is good. 
  3. Enjoy all three legs.
  4. Ok to walk SOME of the run. I don’t exactly have a lot of km under my belt at the moment. 
  5. Don’t stress about split transitions.
  6. No real time/pace goals but also going for good cadence on bike even if I’m not fast.

POST-RACE REFLECTION ON GOALS:

  1. DONE
  2. DONE – even with not-so-good weather
  3. DONE – run was “ok” certainly didn’t hate it or “endure” it.
  4. DONE – and was okay with walking while walking.
  5. DONE
  6. DONE – average cadence 81 (aiming for 85, usually around 70).

All race goals achieved, and 6 minutes faster than last year. The course was quite different so difficult to compare. Still last in my age group but that’s okay. 

Do I have any tips for beginner (or not-so-beginner) triathletes?

Learn to swim. I’ve found if I have a good swim then the rest of the race is easier mentally. If the swim is hard, all my energy (physical and mental)has gone by the time I’m out of the water.

Learn to swim without a wetsuit. The water temperature on the Saturday afternoon was measured at about 28°C – no wetsuits allowed. It rained a bit overnight so the temperature dropped enough for the Challenge (long distance) competitors were allowed to wear wetsuits. Sprint, Enforcer and Enticer races were still non-wetsuit swims. This put quite a number of people off. It suited me just fine given my history of wetsuit swims. Much better off without it at this time.

This post needs another photo, so here’s the finish photo for our team at the half ironman the other week. I decided to buy it because when am I ever going to have a chance to get a half ironman finish photo again? I am the shorty – if you couldn’t tell.

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Doing it for the medal

Shock! Horror! Two posts in one week month! Since my previous post I have been doing a lot of soul-searching, trying to work out what it is that is stopping me from swimming in the open water. I’m not fast in the pool either but I can swim the distance.

I haven’t had any real insight into whatever is causing the problems. It’s not a conscious decision to stop swimming – I’ve stopped before I even think about it. At least I’ve got to the point where I can at least do a few little side strokes to keep moving forward instead of staying still.

A friend of mine uses the hash tag #doingitforthemedal to label every post on facebook or instagram that is related to her training, racing, planning etc.

The thought hit me today that I’m going to receive a half ironman finisher’s medal on Sunday even though I’m doing it as part of a team. Who would have thought I would ever own one of those?

It seems unfair to those completing the whole race individually but it sounds like all the members of the teams will receive the same medal.

I know I’ve mentioned before that it’s not about the bling (but it does help). I also know that’s not really motivation in itself. But in this case, if I don’t give that swim everything I’ve got (knowing I don’t need to save any physical or mental energy for the bike or run) then I’m not going to earn the medal.

It will then join the pile of medals (the ones I’ve kept) in my “sports cupboard”.

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I’m certain that every time I open the door, the half ironman medal will be the one I see. It will jump out at me, catch my attention, and mock me: You don’t deserve me. You didn’t even swim the whole way. How could you accept a medal for that pathetic effort?

I don’t think I could handle that for long. Thinking about the unknown strangers trapped in a world of torment after being trafficked doesn’t help. Telling myself to “just keep swimming” doesn’t help. Chanting (silently since my face is in the water) “don’t stop don’t stop don’t stop” doesn’t help.

Maybe Doing it For the Medal, Breathe, with emphasis on the bold words, will work. Or Earn That Medal, Breathe. Yes, I’m still using the “1, 2, 3, breathe” method of swimming. Forget about counting strokes or laps, or anything else other than breathing.

Don’t get me wrong, if I still end up stopping now and then, that’s okay. I will be happy and feel like I earned that medal, as long as I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I left nothing in the tank.

Another friend uses the hash tag #letsdothis2015 so I’ll steal her catch phrase too.

Four more sleeps… Let’s do this!

Dam Swim

Now, if I was a swearing person, that title would read Dam(n) Swim. Yes, I’m old-fashioned, and “damn” is still a swear word in my book.

As of yesterday, so is “dam”, I think.

I went for a training swim at a dam about half an hour away with some other people who are also in the Trifreedom group of athletes competing in the Port Macquarie Half Ironman event next week. Some are doing the whole event while others of us are in teams. You might remember, I decided to do a swim leg. Swimming is my worst leg but I couldn’t imagine trying to ride 90km. A few months ago I would have been able to do the 21.1km run except that it’ll be the middle of the day and I don’t handle the heat well. If I wanted to be part of the Trifreedom crew, it had to be the swim.

I don’t know what my problem is but I can swim 2.5km in the pool pretty much non-stop but stick me in “open water” (even the enclosed dam) with or without a wetsuit, and I can’t swim more than 10 or 15 strokes before I drop my feet and tread water for a bit.

When I last swam at the dam in February, it was without a wetsuit and the weather turned stormy as we got in the water. I took this video after we got out. It doesn’t show it clearly but it wasn’t pleasant.

Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day but the swim was HORRIBLE. Like Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Swim kind of horrible.

I finished in “just over an hour” according to the lady who organised it but I don’t know how nice she was being as I didn’t wear a watch. (It’s a one hour cut-off for the race next week.)


Just to break up all the text, I received this message from my sister today, who had her first baby a month ago.

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My goggles leaked when I started to swim and I stopped to adjust them 2 or 3 times (even though I had put my head in the water before we started and they seemed okay). The water was disgusting. I couldn’t see the weeds in the shallows. Then there was grass and stuff floating on the top – I don’t know if that’s normal or if the other, faster swimmers just churned it all up for me. I thought about turning back soooo many times on the way to the first buoy. Once I got there I thought about heading straight back and skipping the rest of the buoys but knew I’d never get in the water next week if I did that. I had to tough it out. The silver stripe on the sleeve of my wetsuit was distracting – because I kept seeing it out of the corner of my eye. The zip strap/cord thing came off the Velcro and was hanging over my upper arm and it took me ages to work out what it was. Then it ended up around the front of my neck.

I stopped and hung onto the water safety person’s board (so glad they’d organised some for us) and asked her to attach it properly. I was all good after that – strapwise anyway. I felt like I was out there for hours – at least an hour and a half. I deliberately didn’t take my garmin because it doesn’t seem very reliable in the open water and I figured I was better off not knowing, and just pushing on. One benefit of stopping so often was that I didn’t have a chance to swim off course.

Even when I got to about 50m from shore I still couldn’t get myself to “just swim the rest of the way”. However, I didn’t freak out about washing over the spillway and down the river so that’s progress over last time. 

When I got home, all I wanted to do was curl up in the foetal position in bed and bawl my eyes out. I didn’t. I bought a slab of chocolate and a can of coke instead. I should have opted for the cry because  the junk food didn’t help either. I only ate one row of chocolate and the can is still unopened in the fridge (that’s sooo not me). I ended up texting the organiser and asking how much over an hour I was, and not to sugar coat it. She said about 1:05 so I’m okay with that. I’m told that in the river at Port it’ll be easier because it’s salt water.

I didn’t actually panic like I did in March at the race even though I stopped and regrouped/refocused several times. 

I always struggled writing essays at school (very rarely reaching the required word count) but I’ve just written over 500 words about a 1 hour swim.

I’m not sure if I want to know what the tides and currents will be doing or not. Part of me wants to know so that if I find it hard at the start I can blame the current but part of me doesn’t want to know in case it’s hard and the current is supposed to be helping me. That’ll do terrible things to my head imagining how much harder the swim back will be…

I didn’t think to take any photos of the lovely views on the way out and at the dam. I came home on a back road and saw camels in a paddock!

Instead, the only bright spot will be the photo of my brightest fluoro orange swim cap which made a special appearance at the dam – I wanted to be visible! And my new polarised swim goggles. I’m hoping they cut down some of the glare during the swim so I can see the buoys more easily.

 

DamSwim

 

On the running front, my physio finally gave me the all-clear to start running again. Yay! I really had no idea how much I would miss it.

I’m almost back to square one again, struggling to run 1km. However, what I’m finding is that when I run, I’m running faster than I used to. I still can’t sustain it for long but if I can gradually increase the distance I might just end up faster overall. The 18 month plateau of sitting on about 7:00 pace might be broken. I was a parkrun tourist at Taree parkrun about a week ago and I was running 200m sections (with walks between) at sub 6:00 pace!!! I could barely do that on my hard effort interval sessions before. All those physio exercises have done something good. So even my injury has a silver lining.

Time to get some sleep before the big race next weekend. I’m determined to come in under that cut-off!

After the Half Ironman swim, my next races are a 5km fun run in Armidale on 1st November and a sprint triathlon at Forster on 8th November. If the weather and conditions are similar to last year, I’d like to think that I can improve on my swim and bike times (new bike since last year) and I’ll just see what happens on the run.

I know many of you have some big races coming up too – so good luck, stay healthy and have fun!

Oh, and here’s a photo of my husband and I at the Tamworth parkrun 1st anniversary celebration on 26th September. It was a “sport theme” dress up day – cheap and easy, and those who didn’t want to go all-out like us could go dressed as “parkrunners” and fit right in. It was so much fun and well supported. We’re in the sumo-suits.

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