Reflecting on 2018

Happy new year! I can’t quite believe it’s 2019, the last three months have gone so quickly. I’m currently writing this post, now 41 weeks pregnant, patiently waiting for baby to make an appearance. I thought I would write a post before the baby’s arrival as I doubt, I will have much time afterwards! I’m going to be reflecting on 2018, exercising whilst pregnant and hopes of returning to fitness post baby.

Reflecting on 2018

It’s been a year of two halves…. first half training for Celtman an extreme long-distance triathlon and second half growing a baby. Looking back on last year I didn’t actually complete most of my goals. I didn’t make it to start line at Celtman or race a triathlon last year, got a DNF (did not finish) at Neptune steps race and I didn’t get more competitive / better at racing (need to race to improve that). I did complete two half marathons, first race was the Livingston half marathon in February but the icy conditions were treacherous so I used it as a training run rather than a race. In May I completed the Edinburgh half marathon with colleagues for Sands charity. The team managed to raise over £24,000 in total! I ran with my friend Kirsty to push her to get a personal best time, which she did! I don’t think she will run with me again.

Team Simpson’s
Going for the sprint finish!

Not all doom and gloom, the positives in the first half of the year include sticking to my training plan, massive improvements on the bike including better power output, being a faster cyclist and lots of long rides. I really did fall in love with cycling last year!

Mallorca team
Kevin and I recce weekend
My new bike for Celtman… trialed on the recce

Highlights included going to Mallorca with my coach and friends, having fun and cycling, swimming and running lots. Also doing a recce of Celtman cycle route on my new bike with Kevin and Sam. I was over an hour quicker than my race time the previous year.

Exercising whilst pregnant

Finding out I was pregnant at the end of May was a shock but also exciting, amazing and scary all at the same time! I genuinely thought I was going be that fit, pregnant women who runs, cycles and swims up to the day she gives birth and bounces back quickly after birth. Sadly, this was not the case.

I decided not to compete at Celtman at 8 weeks pregnant, looking back it seems crazy that I ever contemplated even starting the event. I felt tired, nauseous and had morning sickness throughout the day. Not ideal for long distance racing. I did take part by being a support runner for a friend which I really enjoyed.

Supporting Kevin

I previously wrote in my last blog post, early on in pregnancy, that I felt tired and exhausted. I did continue to run and swim when I felt able. Cycling stopped after I got a scare on a ride due to lack of energy and living in a remote area.

In the second trimester exercise improved as I was energetic again. I took advantage of the warm summer and did lots of open water swims with friends, and regularly running. I tried cycling again but found it uncomfortable even with a small bump.

At 21 weeks I developed Symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) and had a strong pain in my pelvis if I ran. I also had the same pain during other tasks such as putting weight on one leg or rolling over in bed. I went to see a physiotherapist and doing the exercises helped but essentially, I was told not to run until after pregnancy.

Light weights in pregnancy

Initially, I was devastated, no longer was I cycling but now running too! I’ve ran all my life and it was only September and I wasn’t due until January. Once I got over the shock and anger, I decided to focus on swimming, weights and walking, treating the pregnancy like an injury. I concentrated on being active and staying healthy. Accepting not running was hard but I will be able to run again. I will have a beautiful baby, which is worth not running for a few months. I just had to listen to my body rather than comparing myself to the ‘perfect’ social media mums on Instagram.

Pregnancy hill walks

For the rest of my pregnancy I have been swimming two to three times a week and topping up with walking and weight sessions. Surprisingly, I have developed a new love for walking, I am very lucky to live in the Scottish Borders and I am surrounded by many beautiful hills and trails which I’ve now climbed. I have many new routes which I’m excited to run post baby. It’s only in the last couple of weeks that I’m feeling heavy and slow whilst swimming, so I have started to reduce my time in the pool. I have been walking more since starting maternity leave and hopefully this will help in labour and post baby recovery.

Being postnatal and returning to fitness

Firstly, I am going to rest and enjoy time with my baby. Secondly, it depends on what kind of delivery I have and my recovery from it. From a running and cycling perspective I will have to build it up as I haven’t done either in months. Sensibly, I haven’t entered any races this year or given myself any goals. I would like to return to exercise as soon as its physically possible but essentially when I’m ready and want too. I will be able to race and
do triathlons again, I’ve just got to build it up slowly and focus on baby and my family needs first. Hopefully, I will be back doing all things swimming, cycling and running soon.

Jenwaar

Summer Training

Summer Training

 

I’ve been quiet posting on my blog for a few weeks. Apologies for the delay but seeing most of you are family and friends I know you’ll understand and / or guessed why I’ve been so quiet. Since starting my blog, it has developed into my training log and my ups and downs of racing and all things swimming, cycling, running and triathlon. So, when you’re not doing most of those things I didn’t have much to write!

When I made the decision not to compete at Celtman, after 6 months of training, it was a hard one and I didn’t want to explain my reasons publicly at the time. I did, however, still manage to be a part of the event by supporting my friend Kevin during some of the run section. Mission ‘get Kevin a blue t-shirt’ was a success and I ran with Kevin during the first section of the run, 11miles before the mountain. I really enjoyed supporting and still being a part of Celtman. I would support other friends again at similar events.

Supporting Kevin

A month prior to the event I did a recce of the bike course and some of the run section with Kevin and Sam. I was over an hour quicker on the bike and generally much fitter than last year, especially with cycling. It was during this weekend I was feeling very tired (more like drained). I found the running the next day particularly hard after the cycling. That was when I realised I was late…..this thought came to me whilst running up a hill in the rain. Kevin was very encouraging and all I was thinking about was dates and how many days I was late. I kept this to myself and thought maybe it was the long drive the day before and the heavy amount training I was doing over the previous few weeks that was making me so tired (clearly in denial). When we got home, I took a test straight away and it was positive. I don’t think I’ve seen Sam or myself so shocked, but both of us were very pleased.

My new bike for Celtman… used on the recce
Recce run with Kevin

It was a shame I didn’t compete as I felt fitter this year with all the training I had done in the lead up to the race but that’s life. I gave myself a couple of weeks to decide but as soon as I hit 6 weeks of pregnancy I was having morning sickness and felt knackered most of the time. Not ideal for a long-distance extreme triathlon. Supporting my friend meant I was still a part of the race, Thank you Kevin. One day I will return to Celtman for that elusive blue t-shirt!

first scan photos

Now I’m 24 weeks (5 months) pregnant I feel more comfortable saying I’m pregnant. Not that I’ve been hiding it, and like I said before most of you will already know. I think my job as a midwife makes me less naïve about what can happen in pregnancy. I’m not constantly worrying, I’m just aware of the not so nice things that can happen. On a positive note, Sam and I are both very excited and really looking forward to meeting baby Bedford in the new year.

Baby Bedford

Training since finding out I’m pregnant…

I always thought I would continue exercising particularly running throughout my pregnancy. I would love to tell you I’m running, swimming or cycling every day, and that pregnancy hasn’t changed me, and I have a wonderful pregnancy glow. Sadly, this is not the case.

Running in early pregnancy

I am still exercising, it is just very different from what I was doing earlier in the year. I stopped being coached which was very strange. Not having a plan or someone to be accountable to was hard. Training has been a big part of my life for so long and also my relationship with my coach (regular chats, updates on workouts etc). Thank you Barron for all the support and guidance over the last two years.

Only photo I could find with myself and Barron in Mallorca! (too busy cycling ha!)

Up to week 14-15 I was exhausted and had constant nausea / vomiting most days. I did manage to train 2-4 times a week, doing short runs and swim sessions. I generally didn’t have the energy or motivation to train (or do anything) during this period. Sam described me as a ‘dead sloth’. I also got a fright during a ride with a friend as I felt awful due to lack of energy and she kindly escorted me slowly home. I now live in a remote area so don’t feel safe cycling alone just in case it happens again. I initially felt very disheartened and guilty at my lack of training, but I had to listen to my body.

I would also like to state that I’m not complaining I’m pregnant. I am very grateful, happy and very excited! I just have to accept I can’t do things that I can when I’m not pregnant.

Weeks 15-20 I got my bounce back. I was regularly swimming and running and felt very positive about exercising in pregnancy again. I was slowly developing a bump and enjoyed regular training. Swimming hadn’t changed much; my times were a little slower but overall nothing felt different. Over summer I’ve been open water swimming frequently with friends taking full advantage of the good weather.

Open water swimming with Tiff and G
Open water swimming with Blair, Jill and Tiff

Running I was taking it easy and only doing gentle paced runs. Three weeks ago I went for a run prior to night shift, during the run I developed a stabbing pain in the front of my pelvis. When I finished the run the stabbing pain had gone but left a dull ache in the same area which got worse during the night shift. I could only sit up straight, I found it very sore crossing my legs or putting all weight on one leg. As a midwife, I knew I had developed a Symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) and it hasn’t gone away since this run.

Maternity costume

Sadly, no more running at the moment and I’m waiting for my appointment with the physiotherapist. It’s not all doom and gloom exercise wise, swimming is fine so I’m continuing with that and going for long walks and doing light weights instead. As long as I’m moving regularly I’m happy, let’s see how the next few weeks fair as I start to get bigger!

Jenwaar

April Training update 2018

April training update

Training has definitely rammed up and I’m starting to see improvements in the weather and also my fitness. I am finally managing to get out on my bike outdoors regularly, hooray!

muddy face

The start of the month I was in Devon for Easter weekend, visiting family but managed a couple of runs and a 60mile ride from Hatherleigh to Torringdon and along the Tarka trail with my husband Sam.

I was away in Mallorca for training week in April with my coach. I had a great week and did lots of cycling around 400miles in total!  I am now seeing the benefits of this trip, my speed has increased, my bike handling is much better and I am much more confident going downhill. Highlights of the trip include cycling up Sa Calobara and Puig de Major. I also enjoyed swimming in the clear sea at Porte de Pollencsa. See my previous post for the details of the trip.

Coll de Reis
Group shot
Swimming at Port de Pollensa

After Mallorca I was unwell for a few days due to throat viral infection so had a rest week instead of a recovery week as planned. I think my body particularly my legs were pleased, they felt pretty heavy and sore after all the cycling In Mallorca.

April’s mileage

Swim 10.4miles (16.7km)

Bike 651.8miles (1048.9km)

Run 49.1miles (79km)

Swim mileage was similar in March, I’m happy with my pace, just need to get a few longer swim sessions in. In Mallorca I swam in the sea a couple of times, trying out my new wetsuit which I love, great flexibility and fits me well.

Cycling has massively improved since Mallorca. The mileage is much higher than last month, hopefully I can keep it up!

Running… I feel I have been neglecting. I know I haven’t done enough, I should have run more in Mallorca and throughout the month. Running has always been one of my strengths and this year I have been racing less so taken this for granted. Last year I was stronger runner (but a slower cyclist).  I have only a few weeks until Celtman so I am going to focus more on my running and not miss any run sessions (or any training sessions).

I’ve also got a little confession… I started having the occasional alcohol beverage after stating I wouldn’t have any until after Celtman. After a little peer pressure and not much persuading… I’ve had the occasional drink. Overall, I am still not drinking much or any. I did have a few too many drinks at a friend’s wedding in April but that was a one off. I am just going to continue to be sensible and have the occasional drink if I want.

Sometimes we make an effort!

In May the training volume is increasing in all disciplines. Longer brick sessions and practising kit, food and race conditions. At the end of May I am going up North to recce Celtman bike and run the course with fellow Celtman competitors.

Top of Puig de Major

Jenwaar

Livingston Half Marathon Race Report

 Livingston Half Marathon Sunday 11th February

Reading the weather report the night before, I knew it was going to be a cold day. Sub- zero temperatures overnight and freezing at race start. I packed my kit the night before, I was definitely wearing tights just debating on wearing either thermal layer with t-shirt or t-shirt with running jumper. It’s been really cold in Scotland this winter and I am used to a little frost and snow which didn’t put me off for race day. 

 In the morning, the frost didn’t look too bad in Galashiels, so I made my way to Livingston. Once I arrived, I registered and got my race number. It was really frosty and cold. The sun was shining so I was hopeful a lot of the frost would melt before we started. I opted for thermal layer with t-shirt as I knew once I got going I would be warm enough. I stayed in my car as long as possible to stay warm and ten minutes before the start made my way to the start.

I knew today was going to be cold and a little frosty, so I decided to treat the event as a training run rather that a race. I wanted to make it to the end intact rather than in A&E.

The start was up a hill on a tarmac path, I was sliding all over the place as well as many other competitors around me. That’s when I started to worry slightly; I had new-ish trainers on, only a month old, so surely, they still have grip?! I made it to the start still upright and ready to run. We had a brief warning by the start marshal about the frost and ice, including the large icy puddle over the start line. We were told to be careful and some areas were gritted.

A few minutes after the briefing, we started, never have I felt so keen to start as it was so cold! After avoiding the frozen puddle on the start line, the race route started by going down the slippery hill I had just walked up. I took this very easy, slipping but managing to stay upright. After the hill, I managed to ease into the race and get into a comfortable pace.

The race goes along the paths and underpasses of Livingston. None of the race is along roads, making the course quite narrow. This meant the first couple of miles the path was quite congested, but once the field spread out it was much easier to pass others.

 Photo stolen from Livingston Run

Along the first six miles I was able to find some grass verge to run along instead of the tarmac. Pretty much 95% of the course was on tarmac. I usually don’t have a problem with that but with the frost and sub- zero temperatures it made the course like an ice rink.

I did, at some points, have thoughts of stopping but I had started and already decided to use this race as a training run to avoid injury. I was convincing myself the conditions would get better as it was getting later in the day and the sun was shining.

I was wrong! It actually got worse; the route became more residential so there was less and less grass verges and more subways and underpasses. This is when I fell. On my first fall I slid and landed on my bottom, no harm and I was up and away again. My second, and worst fall, was around mile ten; I slipped and fell on my knees.  Before I realised I hit the floor, I was back running after a lovely man running next to me, in a red top, practically caught me and lifted me back up. Thank you man in the red top! All the other competitors around me were all very kind and checking I was ok, even a couple of miles later. I was wearing thick tights so didn’t realise I cut my knees until after the race.

 Photo stolen from Run Livingston. The man in the red top that saved me!

After this fall I did lose my confidence and felt on edge, I slowed my pace and was a lot more cautious. As the course became more undulating with steeper descents it just felt like the ice got worse and worse. I was holding railings and walking down descents so I wouldn’t fall. The last two miles felt like it went on and on. All I wanted to do was finish so I wouldn’t injure myself, I wasn’t enjoying the run.

I was very relieved when I saw the stadium; the finish was inside Livingston Tony Macaroni Football Arena. The finish was disappointing, full of bystanders and rubbish, in and outside the grounds. Only large t-shirts left and marshals were not handing out the t-shirts or drinks to finishers. When I looked down at my watch I had only run 12.8miles, so the route was short. I checked online when I got home and many other runners also thought the race was short.

 Photo stolen from Run Livingston. Usually I keep my eyes open when running. I must work on my photo finish!

This was Livingston’s first half marathon event; I would normally enjoy this race as the route itself was undulating, challenging and interesting. Essentially the whole course was an ice rink, pretty fitting that speed skater Elise Christie is from Livingston after all!

Nobody can predict or help the weather, which isn’t the race organisers fault. People would have been upset if they did or didn’t cancel the race. Many competitors stated online they did not finish as they thought it was too unsafe. I felt the course was very treacherous and dangerous. It should have been gritted and properly inspected beforehand, particularly at the underpasses. Maybe a later start would have been better.

 

Overall it wasn’t my race day. I took the risk of starting the race and the organisers did warn us of the ice.  I’ve never raced in conditions like this before and in the future I may decide not to run. With every new event there are always teething problems, but I would definitely make sure the course was long enough for next year and maybe have a good technical t-shirt rather than a cheap cotton t-shirt and cheap medal. I would run this event again but definitely not in those conditions.

Jenwaar

Edinburgh Ironman 70.3 Race Report

Edinburgh Ironman 70.3 Race Report

I wasn’t in the best condition or well prepared for Ironman 70.3 Edinburgh. Two weeks previously I completed Celtman Extreme Triathlon followed by two weeks of travelling around the west coast of America enjoying myself, eating my weight in food and minimal exercise. Celtman was my focus this year, any other race was an extra and I wanted to enjoy my holiday away after months of solid training. A few friends and family thought I was a little crazy to do them so close together but how could I miss the first Ironman event in Scotland on my door step?!

I arrived back in Scotland on the Friday night after a six-hour flight delay from America, urgh! Registration and bag drop off was the next day so I packed all my triathlon gear, ready for Saturday. My wonderful friend Eilidh washed all my kit post Celtman (as we pretty much drove straight to Manchester airport from finishing Celtman). Thanks, Eilidh!!!

Saturday morning, I got up early to register at Meadowbank stadium. I got my race pack, number 406 and bags to drop off at transition. This triathlon has a split transition, a point to point race. This means there are two transitions, I had to sort my kit into two bags, drop them off in two different places and also rack up my bike. I filled both my bike and run bag with kit, and headed firstly to the swim location at Prestonpans. I saw a few members of Edinburgh triathletes (ET) at transition and had a quick chat. By coincidence I saw Eilidh at the bike rack and she was next to me, number 407. I dropped off my bike and bike bag in transition and collected my timing chip. I drove back to Meadowbank stadium for the mandatory race briefing and dropped my red run bag at the run transition- by Holyrood Palace- afterwards.

Briony, my friend, was visiting this weekend so after dragging her around Ironman transitions in the morning. I spent the rest of the day hanging out with her in Edinburgh and having a big dinner. I went to bed early whilst she and my husband Sam had a few cocktails (not jealous at all).

Everyone competing in the race received an email at 7pm from the race organisers. Potentially the swim may have to be cut short to 0.6miles (instead of 1.2miles) depending on the sea conditions the following day. We would all know at the 6am race start. I was a little disappointed as the swim is my best discipline but our safety is paramount.

Sunday morning I awoke at 4am, Celtman was 2am so practically a lie in! I got ready, made my breakfast and left. I met Eilidh and we walked to Meadowbank for the coaches to transfer us to the swim start at Prestonpans. I ate my lukewarm porridge on the coach. I bumped into Robin on the bus who also completed the Celtman triathlon two weeks before. We all discussed the uncertainty of the swim and the wind speeds. Yesterday morning when I was at transition it didn’t look too bad but apparently the wind was very strong overnight. Once I got off the coach, I felt how strong the winds were and I started to get cold. After a quick loo stop, I checked my bike and got my wetsuit on an hour before the start as I felt so cold! The wind was bracing but once I had my wetsuit on it was fine.

Swim (950metres/ 0.6miles) 20mins 29secs.

At 6am they announced the swim would be cut short, even for the pro athletes. This was no surprise as the conditions were crazy for swimming, waves over a metre high, lots of athletes were happy with this decision. I got a quick group photo with fellow Edinburgh Triathletes, then dropped off my dry clothes and headed for the swim pen. I decided against my pre-swim banana due to the rough conditions. I lined up with fellow athletes based on our swim predicted swim times. Most Ironman events now start with rolling starts. You place yourself into your predicted swim time and each group commence a rolling start based on these times with the fastest athletes first. Each athlete’s race started once they crossed the swim timing mat. The pros started and because the swim was shortened we saw them complete the circuit before I started so I knew exactly where to swim. The buoys were also quite close together so less chance to go off course (which I’m really bad for doing). We were set off in fours, 4 seconds apart and before I knew it, I was running into the sea.

Prior to starting the race Ironman very kindly advised that the hardest part of the swim would be the swim to the first buoy, as we were swimming into the waves. They suggested you kick as hard as you can during this part and after turning past the first buoy the swim would be better. This was now my game plan, however once I was in the water, my plan changed to swimming hard for the whole swim.  I’m a strong swimmer and now a fairly experienced open water swimmer, it was tough and the roughest conditions I’ve ever had in a race. I swam through the waves to the first buoy and decided to bilaterally breath (I usually unilaterally breath) and sight every other stroke. I did not want to swim any extra distance in these conditions! I inhaled a lot of sea water during this part but once I turn after the first buoy I was able to get into a rhythm and feel comfortable swimming. After that I found the swim fine, it was still very wavy, like swimming in a washing machine! Although the conditions were challenging I found no one was drafting each other, so no kicks or hits to the face or legs which I enjoyed and it was not really congested, even at the turning buoys. I think it’s the best I’ve ever sighted during a race, my lines were pretty straight on strava rather than wiggly. I was much more relaxed as I knew I wasn’t going to get a fast time and just wanted to get out in one piece. I didn’t see anyone getting pulled out of the swim but I heard 60-80 athletes were assisted out and a few people decided not to start the race after looking at the sea. Swim time wasn’t great but so was everyone else’s.

Swim to Bike transition (T1) 5 minutes 39 seconds

Surprisingly, the sea wasn’t that cold so running out of the water into transition I felt warm. I grabbed my bag, sat down and got the rest of my wetsuit off and bike kit on. I saw a couple of people vomiting, I was so glad I didn’t eat that banana! I felt a little disoriented but once I was on my bike I was fine, a couple of others around me fell off their bikes after mounting them.

Bike (91kms /56miles) 3 hours 24minutes 22 seconds

Initially, I felt strong on the bike- a tailwind does that! Along the east coast trail, I was in my TT bars and overtaking others. I was making sure I was eating, I didn’t want to bonk on the upcoming hills and the challenging Gifford/Garvald loop. I had the advantage of being a local, completing most of the course a few times before and practising the hills. On the first big hill, just before Haddington, I was powering through and enjoyed the long hill down into Haddington. Out of Haddington the head wind was strong and my lack of training between events was evident. I just didn’t have the power in my legs to keep up with the others around me so I kept eating and dug deep. The rest of the bike was just a battle with either cross or head winds: when I could I pushed. You would think I would be accustomed to the wind after Celtman and living in Scotland but today was particularly bad. The bike course was quite technical in parts, I took them safely. I’m glad I did the course before as I saw the results of a couple of crashes, a few athletes receiving aid from ambulance crews.

Some of the bike course is a “there and back with a loop” which was great as I saw so many of the club members and everyone was cheering each other on. On the last big hill to Cousland I got a second wind and it’s more inland so the wind didn’t feel as bad. There was a sign in Cousland stating this was “the last hill” which was is a cheeky lie! After Cousland it’s a windy course back to Edinburgh through Dalkeith county park; Bonnyrigg; and then a cycle around Arthur’s seat; a nice short steep hill to finish your legs before the run. The views coming back down to transition are worth it. Again, not a great time but my legs just didn’t have the power or energy since Celtman.

Still smiling after climbing up Arthurs seat!

Bike to run transition 2 minutes 39 seconds  Transition two was unremarkable: in and out pretty quick and grabbed my energy gel for later.

Run (Half marathon 21kms/ 13.1miles) 1 hour 53mins 43 secs

Out on the run, the sun came out and it was warm. The run course is the usual Ironman three lap course, starting with a run up Arthur’s seat (900ft ascent), with a few turn and backs with gentle inclines and a run up and down the innocent railway tunnel.  Not the easiest half marathon I’ve ever done. Lap one was fine, I was elated with the support from club members, volunteers and other supporters, wearing club kit in a home race was so much fun. I, stupidly, didn’t take on any fluids on the first lap and paid for it in the second, so drank at every feed station thereafter: Edinburgh was surprisingly hot for once. Energy levels were low as I started the third lap so had my energy gel and pushed on to the finish. I managed a sprint finish in the last 500m and down the red carpet to finish.

Finishing time- 5hours 46mins 70.3miles (69.7)

Hands down, this was the hardest 70.3, well technically 69.7 middle distance triathlon, I’ve ever done. It makes Staffordshire Ironman 70.3 last year seem much easier in comparison. The course is brutal; rough sea swim; hilly, windy, technical bike; and hilly run. Despite the harsh conditions and gruelling course, I still had a great time. Plus my legs hadn’t full recovered from Celtman and also the none existent training over the previous two weeks didn’t help. The support during the race was immense throughout the race and especially on the run! Being a home race, wearing club kit meant I was cheered all the way to the finish. I wouldn’t recommend this race as a first 70.3 middle distance race or for a personal best time but more for the challenge in the beautiful Edinburgh and East Lothian surroundings.

Thank to Sam my wonderful husband for supporting me. Also thanks to Aisling, Alex and Briony for cheering me on at the end and post-race treats!

My next race is Aberfeldy middle distance race in two weeks.

Jenwaar

Celtman Extreme Scottish Triathlon 2017

 

Celtman Extreme Scottish Triathlon 2017

Photo credit: Colin Henderson Photography

Friday morning my support crew Sam and Eilidh, and I drove to Sheildaig in preparation for Celtman. We headed straight to registration at Torridon Community Centre to register, had a quick lunch and then back to the community centre for race briefing. I saw a few friendly faces, we caught up and talked about our excitement for Celtman the following day.

Race briefing commenced with a short film of last year’s race, with a musician playing music that inspired him during his race at Celtman in 2015. It was inspiring and emotive, I nearly had a tear in my eye watching the film! This was followed by the Torridon Mountain Rescue Team, who support athletes during the mountainous part of the course. They are currently fundraising for new facilities, they are a vital volunteer team that save lives in the mountains in and around Torridon (including 17 Munro’s!). Please donate: http://www.torridonmrt.org.uk/

The rest of the race briefing was the usual do’s and don’ts as per the race pack. After leaving the race briefing my nerves well and truly kicked in! We arrived at the accommodation: I checked my bike over; had a quick spin and short run. I made up all my food ready for the race. We all had dinner and I was in bed by nine. Eating dinner was a real struggle, I was extremely nervous and quiet (very out of character). I don’t think I’ve ever been nervous the night before for a triathlon before. This race had such a big build up, seven months of training and sacrifices all for one day. I wasn’t even this nervous before my own wedding! I knew I could complete it but that didn’t settle my nerves. I was also a little worried about the weather, it was forecast for strong winds and rain all day.

I awoke at two, got ready and slowly forced myself to eat my bowl of porridge. I double checked, then tripled checked I had everything ready for transition. I was convinced I had forgotten something. Sam and I made it to transition, leaving Eilidh to sleep. I collected my GPS tracker and set up my bike and bag at transition. I stupidly forgot my midge spray (I was right) and got bitten lots in transition. I had about twenty fluid filled blisters a few days later! Sheildaig was a little windy and warm so I was optimistic about the weather. Once I got acquainted with my surroundings and my kit in transition, I got my wetsuit on and walked over to the swim pick up point on the other side of Sheildaig.

celtman

I saw Kevin who I did a recce of the bike course a few weeks earlier by the coaches and boarded the coach with him to the swim start. Sam waved us off. I was so lucky to sit by Kevin, he was chatting away, whilst I was so nervously thinking about the race. He was a great distraction, and put me at ease, thanks Kevin! The journey was short but once we were off the coach I felt an instant relief. I had a quick toilet stop, donned my neon pink Celtman swim cap and had a group hug from Andrew, Kevin and Robin (Celtman recce crew). Before I knew it… the Celtman sign was lit, bagpipes and drummers started playing, followed by a group photo before heading into the sea. The majestic start to Celtman that everyone sees on the videos and clips I didn’t really absorb or enjoy, I was too focused on getting in the water for the start on time. It all seemed like a blur looking back.

Photo credit: Alligin Photography

Once I was submerged in the water, I was pleasantly surprised how warm the water felt, in May on the recce it felt so cold. The water was still only 12-13 degrees but having a heat vest under the wetsuit and gloves on definitely helped or maybe it was also the adrenaline pumping through me. I made it to the start line between the canoes just in time and we were off. I was a little too wide at the start so initially felt quite far away from the front pack. For once I didn’t have my usual panicky start in the swim, I kept my cool and swam at a comfortable pace. I didn’t want to overdo it on the swim as I had a long day ahead. I was able to pick people off one by one, I could see the fast swimmers ahead so I was sighting them and the White House on the hill (as per race briefing instructions).

Photo credit: Steve Carter (I’m on the left looking at the rock/ tree with blue goggles)

The jellyfish appeared about 20-30minutes into the swim. There were so many however I was fortunate that they were about a metre below me, apart from one that touched my face, yuck! I actually found it quite fascinating watching hundreds of them swim below me, the water was so clear. I was mesmerised by the volume of jellyfish dancing beneath me, it was a great distraction. I found I was breathing every five so I could observe them all flout in the water. It was like they were performing and I would have been disappointed if I didn’t see them. They have become such an iconic part of the swim in the race.

Towards the end of the swim at Sheildaig the water got a little choppy but I managed a fast finish. I was assisted (yanked) out the water by one of the volunteers, thanks! I always get a dizzy feeling after a long swim from horizontal to vertical. Sam met me by the water, kept me steady and held my hand going up the ramp. Swim time one hour, twenty five seconds, I was aiming for under an hour but pleased as I felt really fresh for the bike and what’s a few seconds in a fifteen hour race?

Photo credit: Alligin Photography

Both Eilidh and Sam helped me out my wetsuit and into my cycling gear, I had a quick sip of hot chocolate, and was ready to go. Suddenly I started feeling this burning feeling on my neck. I had crazy neck burn which developed the following day into what looked like ligature marks around my neck and proceeded to scab over. Maybe I forgot to use my bodyglide? Luckily I had a long bike ride to distract me! Transition was 6 minutes, 17 seconds and whilst getting changed I was interviewed by one of the camera crews. It had started raining so started the bike with the waterproof on.

Neck burn!

Photo credit: Meg Jones (Just out of transition and on the bike)

Out of transition and onto the bike, the course starts with a short steep hill. The first twenty miles, to Kinlochewe, were quite challenging- the rain was lashing down with strong cross winds, I was barely on my TT bars even downhill as it felt so unstable and unsafe. Some parts I was clinging onto the bike, praying I wouldn’t fall off. A few competitors overtook me during this period but I couldn’t have gone any faster. I did manage to eat and drink well. My watch was only showing me my overall time but not my distance and pace. When my support crew appeared, I was getting them to work out my pace. As I had previously done on recce of the course I did have a fair idea of what distance I had done so I had a vague idea what pace I was doing. It wasn’t until I started the run I noticed I must have pressed my watch twice so my transition two time was actually my bike time, pants! When I first saw Sam and Eilidh it was about two hours into the cycle. I got them to pull over, I had drunk two bottles in 90 minutes, so had a quick toilet stop and swapped my bottles. The rain had stopped so took the waterproof off, as I was hot. The wind was an absolute killer, and the roads wet. I tried to go as fast as I could when it felt safe to do so.

Photo credit: Ross Millar

Just after Gairloch I caught up with American Parker, we were chatting prior to the race. I got him on the hills and he would pass me on the way down or flats. We had a little chit chat about the great Scottish weather and encouraged each other on. I didn’t see Parker after seeing the seals on the rocky beach by Little Gruinard. I also have to mention Parker’s partner she was full of cheer and support on the bike course thanks!

Photo Credit: Ross Millar

Second quick stop, for the loo and topped up my food and drink. I was feeling a little tetchy, I hadn’t eaten enough so after a talking to by the team, I ate as much as I could stomach. It really helped and I felt good going over the last of the big hills. From mile 70 the pace slowed down, the cross winds were strong, I just kept peddling and eating when I could. I stopped for a third time, kept needing the loo, I was drinking lots as I did really struggle eating. Both Sam and Eilidh were great at giving me updates, encouragement and making me eat during a pee stop. My stops only lasted 1-2minutes so I was speedy and back on the bike quickly.

Photo credit: Ross Millar

After mile 100 I had well and truly bonked. It was raining again and the head wind was so strong (20mph). I had my emergency cheese twist and thought I was going to be sick. I got lots of support from my team and other support crews as they drove past. I kept drinking, having gels and eating when I could. I had Eilidh’s voice going round my head, “you have to keep eating and drinking”. Bananas went down easily so kept eating them. I was genuinely worried I couldn’t finish the race and felt awful, cold and was in a ‘dark place’. I loathed my bike at this point. I didn’t want to stop as I thought I wouldn’t get back on my bike. It felt like other athletes were flying pass me, when I was almost at a standstill. The last twenty miles were tough and more about survival. I knew at this point, it was unlikely I would get to the check point for the blue t-shirt time. Surprisingly, in the last 3-4miles on the bike I got a second wind, felt alright and went as fast as I could towards transition.

Photo credit: Alligin Photography

When I got to transition cars were turning around and blocking the road, I had to go between cars and cycled up the ramp to finish. My bike time was 8hrs 25mins, I was disappointed and I know I could have gone quicker but the conditions were horrid and I should have eaten more on the bike. My goal was 8 hours. I’ve also got to stop being so harsh on myself, only a few weeks before I cycled my first hundred miles on the bike and last year I hadn’t cycled more than sixty miles. I am still relatively new to triathlon and this was my first long distance event. I met Eilidh in transition two, had a quick change of shoes, toilet stop and we commenced running together. I spotted other athletes with fold up chairs, changing. I was pretty jealous, whilst I looked and felt like Bambi on ice changing my shoes.

The heavens had well and truly opened, the rain was lashing down. It felt amazing to be off the bike and running. Eilidh informed me that no one was going across the mountain because the conditions weren’t safe so everyone was doing the lower course. The run starts with a long hill up Coulin pass, I was picking off people up the hill and was the only competitor running all the way to the top of the hill. That was down to Eilidh pushing me and distracting me from my groin pain, that settled after a couple of miles.

Down the hill the path was a mud bath, I was so glad I had trail shoes on. Eilidh kept me going and telling me to eat and drink. I was having small sips if water and gels when told. We both knew after the hill it was unlikely I was able to run a personal best run time to make the blue t-shirt cut off of 11 hours to Transition 2A(T2A). I felt alright so kept a steady pace to T2A, so my race plan changed to trying to get the best white t-shirt time and enjoying the race. I got to T2A in 11hours 14mins 55secs, 15mins short! I had my mandatory stop for two minutes for a kit check and I ate a banana. A few of the volunteers for Celtman were from Edinburgh triathletes and I had a quick chat before I set off for the second part of the run.

In the second part of the run, I was feeling good, running up the trail and walking only at steep or rocky parts. The trail was really water logged and felt like we were gorge walking and river crossing rather than running. I started to get cold at this point as I couldn’t run due to nature of the course and we were completely soaked. We both swapped our wet tops for dry tops and put on our waterproofs, hat and gloves (I was so glad of my mandatory kit!). I didn’t think we realised how cold we were until we did this!

Photo credit: Alligin Photography (looking tired)

Along the ‘trail’ we regularly passed the Torridon mountain rescue teams, cheering us on and providing us with homemade cakes and gummy bears thank you! We also passed a bag piper playing in the pouring rain which kept my spirits up, thanks!

Photo credit: Alligin Photography

My pace slowed but when we got closer to the road the trail became a path so started running again. Back on the road I was overtaking the runners that overtook me on the rocky parts of the path, most were walking and I ran all the way to the finish. The rain finally stopped during the last couple of miles and Torridon looked beautiful.

When I saw the finish after the last hill I sprinted to the finish. I was so elated and sore, and so very glad to have finished! I hugged Eilidh, then John (race organiser and Edinburgh Triathletes coach) and Mandy (fellow ET member and John’s wife). It was wonderful seeing friendly faces at the finish. Sadly, Sam missed my finish. I received my beer from John- I completed Celtman!! Overall time 14hours 37minutes, 47secsonds, little disheartened I didn’t make the cut off for the blue t-shirt but I wasn’t far off. This was my first long distance and extreme triathlon in awful conditions. It didn’t go to race plan but I kept going and finished.

Post Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Post-race, we all had a meal at the community centre-macaroni cheese- and caught up with other finishers and volunteers. I was even talking about doing the race again to get the elusive blue t-shirt! We headed back shortly afterwards for a shower and set off back to Edinburgh. I was going on holiday the next day. Sadly, I couldn’t go to the ceremony the next day but received my white Celtman finishers top before I left. Celtman was a truly amazing experience. This race is a community of friendly like-minded nutters, like no other. I’ve enjoyed the whole journey from training, to the organisng and the race itself. It really did live up to expectation despite the weather, typical Scotland!

Me and Andrew post Celtman

I honestly couldn’t have done it without Sam and Eilidh, they kept my spirits up and supported me amazingly throughout the day.  I need to thank my coach Barron for his support and training plans. My friends and family, I have to thank you for all your encouragement and understanding this year. A special mention for Sam who has supported me during these last seven months of training, including lots of early 5am alarm starts and mood swings from hunger after training. I can’t thank you enough, I’m a lucky lady!

Dream Team!

 

Now a month on from the race, I definitely want to return, surely it can’t be bad weather two years on the trot?

Go pro Video of my Celtman race coming soon.

Jenwaar

 

 

 

 

 

May Training update

May Training Update 

May has been a busy month! Big birthday, big training sessions and weekends away! I’ve been a very lucky and busy lady.


Big Birthday….So a few days ago I turned the big 3 0! I’m excited to be in my thirties, just worried
 how quickly the last few years have gone! I’ve been spoiled rotten with a surprise trip to Copenhagen with one of my close friends Naomi, trip to Las Vegas, LA and San Francisco in June, meals out and my birthday party at Musselburgh races last week. I’m so lucky to have such wonderful friends, family and husband. Thank you for all your love and generosity!!

Big tra
ining sessions… less than two weeks to Celtman, I feel ready to race, I think training has gone well, my fitness has vastly improved over the last few months and I just want to complete it now!

Over the last few weeks, once a week I have a long brick session usually consists of a bike ride followed by a run. Progressively over the weeks the distance and time has got longer and longer. During the longer rides and runs I have been asking friends to come along with me for support. A few members of the triathlon club also have upcoming Ironman or long-distance events and have been keen to join me, thankfully! Although on the race day I will be by myself, during training it helps to have a friend to keep moral and make the training more fun. Thanks for th
e support everyone especially Sam, Zoe, Laura and Carrie!

At the start of May, I finally got time trial (TT) bars on my bike and a bike fit with Edinburgh Bike Fitting. I don’t know why I was ever scared of getting TT bars, I find the position comfortable and not as unstable as I thought. I feel I am faster on the bike especially with a head wind. I may even buy a TT bike in the future. 

In May, I have been trying to focus on doing my long runs on trails and hills and at least one open water swim a week. I have been running mostly on the Pentland hills or up Arthur’s seat to try and mimic race conditions. I’ve also managed to keep up my open water swims every week, even on holiday in Copenhagen without a wetsuit in fourteen degrees sea dock water (it wasn’t a long swim)!

Early May I went up to the north of Scotland to Sheildaig, to recce some of the Celtman course with my husband Sam. I met up with other competitors over the weekend, Robin, Kevin and Andrew. On the Saturday, we cycled the bike route (plus a little more), my longest bike ride to date 135miles! On race day, it will be 127miles. Sam joined us for the first hundred miles, and Robin for the first forty due to work commitments.

We were very lucky with the weather with only a sprinkle of rain but mostly a cloudy dry day.  The first part of the route takes you along the west coast, it’s a beautiful coast, and we even spotted seals sunbathing on the beach! After mile 75-80mile the route takes you back inland, it is less hilly but we were hit with a brutal head wind for about 20-25miles. Kevin’s wife Louise was practising supporting Kevin driving the course and stopping at lay bays. We were fortunate to be able to give our drinks and food to Louise, and top up when we stopped. I was able to practice eating and drinking regularly on the bike. We stopped three times in total to refuel, it took us just over eight hours in total. 

On Sunday early morning, I had a quick dip in the sea at Sheildaig with Andrew and Kevin. This is where we will be coming out of the water on race day. The water was cold but once I was fully submerged and swimming I warmed up. The water temper
ature was cold but living in Scotland I’m used to it, so not too shocking for me. I have been told about jellyfish during the race. That morning there were no jellyfish but I have been warned they come in June. I will definitely be wearing gloves, I really don’t want to touch their slimy bodies!

After breakfast, we headed over to transition two (T2) to complete part of the run course. The first section of the run is called Coulin Pass, its 18km. This section starts with a gradual hill for the first few kilometres, followed by a downhill and fairly flat to Transition 2A (T2A). From T2A the run starts climbing up Be
inn Eighe. Unusually, there are two transitions on the run T2 and T2A. The second transition you are checked to see if you’re fit enough to go over the mountain and also a time limit cut off for the race. The first limit is 11 hours (blue t-shirt) from race start to completion of the full mountain course and 13 hours (white t-shirt) for the lower mountain course. After 13 hours, you have to stop the race. We took the run fairly leisurely, my legs were very tired from the ride the day before. After the run, we headed home. Ideally, I would have gone up Beinn Eighe to get an idea for race day but didn’t have enough time. Thankfully I have a support runner to help read the map and guide us up the mountain on race day.

It was a successful weekend and it was great meeting fellow competitors, Celtman triathlon has a real family feel to it, supportive rather than competitive. It gave me a real confidence boost, I now know I can complete the bike course (my biggest worry). Being faced with Beinn Eighe Mountain however, looked very daunting! I am fully aware I will be walking some of the marathon on the climb up the mountain.

With only two weeks left, I’ve now started my taper before the race. Tapering is basically when you reduce your training load over a period of time leading up to a race. Aiming to recover from training fatigue and maximise race day freshness.The key is to cut back your mileage, but to maintain training intensity (not to stop or relax). I am actually finding it strange reducing training but enjoying the extra time. However, that is being filled with race preparation, ha!

Overall, I am excited about the race and looking forward to putting the last seven months of training to good use!

My next blog post should hopefully be me celebrating finishing the race. Not long now, eeeeekkkkkkk!!!

Jenwaar

Great Edinburgh Run Race Report 2017

Great Edinburgh Run Report 2017

The Great Edinburgh Run is one of my favourite races. It’s my fourth consecutive year completing the run.  I may be a little biased, as I live in Edinburgh, but the route is a scenic hilly run through the heart of this wonderful city.

Sunday, I woke up feeling fresh after a good night’s sleep. I had my usual pre-race breakfast (porridge, blueberries and golden syrup / honey) and left the house. I’m fortunate to live close to the race and walked to the start line, meeting my friend Tiffany along the way. The sun was shining and I then realised I forgot my sunglasses. It was too late to go home to retrieve them, the same error I made last year!

We managed to get to the start line with a few minutes to spare and joined in the group warm up. We were in separate waves and parted ways. This year the run had a shorter five-mile route as well as the usual ten-miler. The short run had an earlier start at 9.30am and 10.10am for the longer route.  We were penned in our waves on the grass and when the start was ready, moved onto the road. I found this difficult to work out how to get near to the front and ended up nearly at the back.

I had no plan or time in mind for this race… my training has been focused towards long distance, keeping heart rate low and slower pace for Celtman (think Duracell bunny). I decided I would just run how I felt on the day, practice pacing and try and get close to last years’ time.

My start wasn’t great, the first couple of miles I was running around other competitors. The roads and paths in this section are quite narrow and it was hard to pass. Once I got to the first hill up the royal mile from the Scottish Parliament building, many runners started to space out and slow pace so I was able to get pass and settle into my own race.

After the first hill, I was so relieved that I decided to wear shorts instead of tights, the sun was shining and I was already feeling hot. The course no longer goes along Princes Street up the mound. Instead you go up Market Street, a steep hill by the mound. To make up the extra distance, the race now has loop through the meadows. My friend Eilidh was cheering me on at this stage, it was great to see a friendly face.

The half way point mile five goes through Grassmarket, lots of supporters and bemused tourist were cheering and clapping everyone on. I felt really good at this point, I looked down at my watch and I was keeping 7min 15secs pace I decided to try and keep this pace. I knew the next hill would be tough, it’s a steep start followed by a long incline up The Pleasance to the Royal Commonwealth pool. I got to the mile six sign and looked at my watch 44minutes.

After the long incline of mile six, you are rewarded with couple of miles downhill along the railway path to Duddingston village. I kept my pace steady, ready for the last hill of the course. From Duddingston village, the hill commences with wonderful views across South Edinburgh. At this point a few fellow runners around me started flagging and I encouraged them to keep going.

The last mile is downhill with a short flat dash to the finish. I just let my legs go and ran my fastest mile on my Strava! I finished strong with a sprint finish to the line.

My time; 1 hour 12minutes 5seconds, a personal best, 1min 35secs quicker than last year. Not much difference but last year I really pushed it and felt it! This year I finished feeling fresh, comfortable and I felt I could have run further after the race. I was pleasantly surprised I was 11th Female overall and 8th in my female age group.

Tiffany also did really well, with a personal best. We celebrated after by having a roast dinner and a catch up!

The Great Edinburgh run again this year was well organised, with a good atmosphere and well supported along most of the course. This year I noticed they stopped the iconic bagpipers at each mile, I missed them and also the finisher’s bag didn’t have any solid food just water and a yoghurt breakfast drink. I need some sort of substance after a race. Overall I would definitely recommend this race, hopefully next year I can get below 1 hour 10mins.

Jenwaar

East Fife Sprint Triathlon

East Fife Sprint Triathlon

I woke up Sunday morning feeling tired, and with a sore tummy, not a great start for a race! After breakfast, I did feel a little better, I worked Friday night and I hadn’t quite caught up on sleep. My husband Sam wasn’t feeling great either but that could be down to race day nerves. It was his first ever triathlon!

We arrived in Cupar early, registered and racked up in transition. This was a pool based swim, unusually the swim heats were not in the traditional slowest swimmers first to the fastest in the final heat. They changed the format, the fastest two heats went first followed by the two slowest and then the two heats in between. Sadly, this meant I wouldn’t see Sam swim but I would see him finish the race.

Photo credit; Mac Images Active Lifestyle Photography

After race briefing, I went straight to the pool as I was in the first heat. Pool side nerves kicked in especially when everyone else about you is wearing Scotland and Great Britain age group team tri suits! Once I started I felt fine, the lanes were pretty crowded with 6 in each lane. The swim was a bit of a disaster, I was third in my lane it took a few lengths before I was in front. The swimmer behind me touching my leg and I moved over (as per race instructions) but then she would swim slower after that, basically kept swapping between 3-4 of us. Some of the athletes got a bit vicious with the leg pulling and I didn’t want to go all out on the swim so dropped to second or third in the lane and drafted. In hindsight, I should have gone a bit faster to begin with, then settled into the swim rather than swim at my long-distance pace in preparation for Celtman. Swim time 11mins 50secs but I was aiming for 11mins, but considering what happened I was pleasantly surprised it wasn’t slower.

  Photo credit: Chris Wallard Photography

Out of the pool and into transition when it got was a pretty heated between two athletes in my swim lane. I kept my cool and got out of transition as soon as I could. T1 time, 1min 35secs.

Photo credit; Mac Images Active Lifestyle Photography

I felt pretty fresh after the swim, and jumped on my bike out of Duffus park. The first part of the bike race was on a gravely path before getting onto the road and straight up a long steep hill. The course has a two loop around Moonzie and then back down the big hill at the start. I really enjoyed the course, mixture of hills and flat sections, apart from the strong head wind on the A92! I passed a couple of people cycling up the hill and kept my pace. No one overtook me, which is really unusual! I definitely feel I have made vast improvements on the bike and managed an 18.9mph average! My bike time 47mins 54secs- super pleased. Transition two was uneventful, T2 time 52secs.

Photo credit; Mac Images Active Lifestyle Photography

The run course was one lap, 4.7km. Out of the car park and up a long hill for the first couple of kilometres. Surprisingly, it was sunny in Scotland and I actually felt hot in just my tri suit! The run route took us through a farm and along a closed road back to Duffus park to the finish. My legs were pretty tired, one of my club members overtook me towards the end and I couldn’t keep up with him. Run time 20minutes 55secs.

Photo credit: Rose Campbell

After the race I got to see Sam finish his bike leg and cheer him on during the run and finish. He did really well and I’m super proud, however I don’t think I can convince him yet to compete in another triathlon anytime soon.

Overall my race went well… I was fifth female and second senior female! My first ever podium and most likely last, total surprise! My total time was 1 hour 23minutes 7secs. The race was well organised, the volunteers and marshals very friendly. I have a few areas for me to improve on but overall the race was a success. My next race is Edinburgh Great run on 23rd April.

Jenwaar

Australia – Sydney

 

Australia- Sydney

Our Australian adventure started in Sydney.   We arrived on Saturday evening, had a quick bite to eat and headed out to Newtown, King Street to stretch out our legs and have a few drinks.

We stayed at Meriton serviced apartments in Mascot, close to the airport, the train station was a 2 minute walk away from the apartment with regular trains into Sydney. Mascot is only two train stops into the city centre. The apartment was clean, spacious and had air conditioning (essential in summer!)

On Sunday we had a leisurely start to the day, with late Aussie breakfast (avocado and poached eggs) and headed to Bondi beach. To get around Sydney we chose public transport using Opal cards, similar to London’s Oyster card for trains, buses and ferries. The Opal card gives you cheaper travel and sets a limit of cost per day $15. The card itself is free, all you need to do is top it up to pay your fare. Bondi beach isn’t next to any train stations, so we travelled to Bondi Junction and got a bus to Bondi beach. We sunbathed all afternoon, and had a dip in the sea. Bondi beach has good waves, strong rifts and most of the beach is used for surfers, one section of the beach is flagged for swimming and the life savers and lifeguards monitor this area from 7am to 6pm every day. This beach is where the famous TV programme Bondi rescue is filmed; lucky we didn’t see any rescues whilst we were there.

In the evening we stayed in Bondi for a few drinks and nibbles at Mamasan, the cocktails were good and the Asia fusion tapas was delicious, we would highly recommend it. We went on for a few more drinks at Beach Road Hotel outdoor area and then Bondi Hotel.

I was still training whilst on holiday (less than normal but enough to not hinder the last few weeks of training). Monday morning, I headed over to North Sydney Olympic pool, it’s a very picturesque pool with amazing views of Sydney harbour bridge. The outdoor pool uses seawater, but is cleaned so the water is clear. Great facilities, big pool and sun loungers. Make sure you apply sun cream prior to swimming; I totally forgot and got a burnt back afterwards!

The rest of the day we fully embraced being a Sydney tourist. We walked over the Sydney harbour bridge, and walked to the Sydney Opera house. We had lunch at one of the outdoor  restaurants at Sydney Opera house overlooking the harbour bridge, called Opera Kitchen. The Food was nice, a little more expensive but worth it for the views. I had chicken laksa and dumplings and the portion was massive, I couldn’t finish it!

In the afternoon we got a ferry to Manly beach from the harbour. The slow ferry takes 30 minutes and use can use your Opal card. There is a quicker ferry which takes 16 minutes but costs more and you cannot use the Opal card. We took the slower ferry, it operates every 30mins and you can take bikes with you at no extra cost.

Once you’re off the ferry it’s a short walk to the beach, Manly is a vibrant town with many shops and restaurants. Manly beach is much bigger than Bondi but personally I preferred Bondi. We spent the rest of the day on the beach, soaking up the sun. On the way, home we had a cheeky doughnut from Doughnut time, I had the salted caramel one. I found it quite doughy, the filling is put in the top of the doughnut (instead of the side) so it wasn’t evenly spread but still enjoyable. Maybe I just chose the wrong one.

Tuesday, we got up early, 4.45am and not for a flight! We got early tickets to climb Sydney harbour bridge at 6am. Prior to traveling to Australia I was contemplating whether or not to pay so much to climb the bridge (it was $565 for two adults). All my friends who have been before raved about it so I kind of thought-would I get this chance again? I chose the early slot as we had plans later in the day but it was also the cheapest time to go. When we arrived, we were put in groups, had a full safety briefing and changed into ‘jazzy’ boiler suits and caps. Our group had ten people in and we were guided up the bridge by Chris our climb leader.  The climb isn’t too strenuous, it’s a slow pace and we stopped a few times during the climb for photos taken by Chris. There are even water fountains to have sips of water during the climb. We were given headphones prior to the climb and Chris describes the climb, bridge and local landmarks with a few jokes for good measure. The climb up and back down took about 2hr 30mins in total (about 3 hours from entering to leaving). I really enjoyed it, the views were amazing, going early meant it wasn’t too hot and we had the rest of the day to do other things. I would definitely recommend this to anyone, thanks to Fiona for encouraging me to book it!

After our climb, we went to FairPlay cafe by the harbour for breakfast, it did not disappoint. I had breakfast bruschetta, we shared corn fritters and Sam had a chicken sandwich, all very scrumptious, I particularly enjoyed the corn fritters.

For that day we hired road bikes from Livelo Sydney, good quality bikes with all the extras (bottles, puncture repair kit, helmet), all we needed was our bike shoes and they put on the appropriate pedals prior to our arrival. The staff were friendly and very accommodating. We headed north through Sydney and over the harbour bridge. Initially, we cycled on the A8 but the road was very busy, so we went along the coast line, stopping at most of the beaches to top up our water bottles. We ended up at Newport Beach and stopped there for lunch. Afterwards we cycled to Manly beach and got the ferry back to Sydney, 46miles in total. It was 34-36 degrees, very hot, so we took the ride easy and enjoyed the scenery. Ideally we should have cycled in the early morning when the temperatures are lower and less traffic on the roads. I’m at freshwater beach in this photo, sadly my phone battery died so didn’t take many photos that day.

Wednesday, we dropped the bikes off and I ran back to the apartment. We headed back to Bondi, I had a swim at Icebergs, outdoor Olympic pool by Bondi beach. The pool is filled with sea water and every Thursday they empty the pool to clean it. Swimming on Wednesday meant the water was quite murky, I couldn’t see the bottom of the pool and much in front. This was good practice for the open water conditions I require during open water swimming in triathlons. Being so close to the sea, occasionally you may feel the waves crashing over the sides into the pool as you swim. I was at Icebergs late morning, early afternoon and the pool lanes were not marked by ability but lucky the lanes are wide enough to overtake with ease. The swim was an experience in a beautiful setting.

From Bondi we walked to Coogee beach with my little brother James and Sam’s friend Jordan. The coastal walk takes you along seven beaches before getting to Coogee. It took us all about an hour and a half to walk at a leisurely pace in the heat.  At Coogee beach we stopped off at the Pavilion for a few drinks and food. The pavilion has spectacular rooftop bar, with views over Coogee beach. The pizzas were delicious and very good value, although you had to go downstairs to order and eat them.

James and I, with Bondi beach in the background.

Tamarama beach

Gordon’s Bay

Coogee Beach

In the evening we went to Sydney festival, a music, art and performance festival across Sydney. The festival is free and many of the acts you don’t require tickets in advance. We watched a few cabaret acts, pole dancing, singing and aerial hoop at Hyde park.

Thursday, we continued our holiday to Melbourne.