3 years ago today I did my first ‘proper’ endurance challenge, the Scotland Coast to Coast, which feels like a lifetime ago. But good to remind myself that I really haven’t been doing this running thing for very long, before that race I’d run 3 half marathons, a couple of 10k’s, a little dabble in adventure racing and that was pretty much it. But I loved the idea of taking on a challenge and where better to do it than the Scottish Highlands? I roped my little brother into joining me and that was the beginning of both of our journeys into the wonderful world of endurance sport. Since then I’ve run 9 marathons (with no. 10 in November), 2 ultra marathons and 2 half ironman’s. Plus of course multiple shorter races and lots of training adventures.
I’m a structured person, I like plans, lists, goals, meeting minutes, good queuing etiquette. I’ve tried the ‘take it as it comes’ approach and honestly it makes me uncomfortable and stresses me out. I can cope with freedom within a framework as my corporate colleagues would call it, some rules and limits to guide with freedom in between but that’s it. This applies in particular to running and training, I love setting some big goals and then building a plan to try and achieve them. Just drifting along without some structure for when/how far/how fast just makes me feel I’m wasting time and not achieving anything. Sure I have periods of training where I don’t have a training plan and instead just enjoy being out running/cycling/swimming but those periods are planned and designated as ‘holiday’ periods, you see, freedom in a framework!
I’m also not a prolific racer, I like setting a big single goal and then focusing everything on that rather than flitting between races. Setting that s There is something so interesting about the process of developing your fitness in this way, trying different approaches to training to see which gets the best results and fine tuning with each iteration. I think it also helps that a big part of my motivation for training is mental health, this is my time for reflection and de-stressing, so I don’t mind the long periods of training alone.
Nutrition is one of the few areas of endurance sports products that seems to have genuine innovation in it at the moment. Not only that but innovation from small British companies who are delivering some excellent products and who are able to compete with the bigger brands. I’ve never really enjoyed the traditional gels/bars/drinks from Powerbar etc; not something I stomach easily and it didn’t sit well with my approach to eating in general where I try to eat fresh food that is organic/free range. Feels odd to be eating that way during the week and then stuffing sugary gels into my body whenever I run or ride.
That’s where companies like Jersey Pocket come in with products that use quality ingredients with little processing and no preservatives or refined sugars. If I was a Fitspo Instagrammer I’d be tagging all my photos of these bars with #cleaneating or #realfood but that’s just a stupid way of saying eating properly. But whatever you call it these bars are excellent, not all to my taste as you will see but I cannot fault the quality.
Triathlon surely has to be the ultimate sport for gear junkies? Most sports provide an opportunity for you get gear obsessed and be sucked in by marketing pitches that guarantee to improve your sporting performance but triathlon trumps them all with 3 sports and lots of shiny gear. Which means doing triathlon on a budget can appear, from the outside, to be impossible as you look at the gleaming carbon on display in any transition area.
But it is possible with some sensible decisions and use of second hand sites like eBay so I thought I’d share my top tips for doing a triathlon on a budget.
I wore cycling shorts and a cycling top for both my triathlons, don’t assume you have to have a tri-suit, I did a half ironman like this and worked perfectly fine, just make sure you test out running in it of course. Also as recommended by Cathy Drewbies look out for last seasons kit that has been reduced, you can get some real bargains and let’s be honest this seasons colours aren’t going to make you faster no matter what the company tells you.
Thankfully not too much kit needed here; googles are cheap and most races provide a swim hat. For a wetsuit I thoroughly recommend taking a look at eBay, there are plenty of good suits on there that have had little use after people do one race and then lose motivation. I picked up my suit for less than £70 and it’s in near perfect condition and retails for almost £200.
Well ladies and gents I now officially have a DNF on my racing record, not quite the objective for Equaliser triathlon but if I’m honest not altogether surprising. The 3 weeks before the race featured major toothache and then pain due to the removal of said tooth, it didn’t feature much in the way of training. Coupled with very little sleep the night before due to very noisy campsite neighbours and my expectations weren’t high.
So it was that after one lap of the bike course I decided to call it quits, my legs had been cramping from the moment I got out of the swim and I had nothing in my legs on a very hilly course (650m of elevation gain per lap). The build up didn’t help, nor did riding my bike less than 10 times before the race, turns out you can bluff you way around a hilly half ironman. But hey, I got to stand in the sun and watch my friends suffer in the increasing heat rather than drag myself around the run course.
The premise the Equaliser triathlon was men vs. women with the women setting of 32 minutes before the men which apparently is the average time difference between the sexes in a half ironman. There was a decent cash prize for whoever finished first, male or female, and there were some fast people there as a result. This race certainly had a very different feel to it than the Cotswold Classic, a very small field of 90 competitors vs. 500 odd and I’ll be honest I’m not sure I liked it. With the money on offer and the small field it all felt a little serious and there was very little chat with the other competitors.