Saturday 29 September 2012


I'm allowed to run now, so I did parkrun this morning.  On an absolutely beautiful and perfect (in my opinion - sunny, bright and about 10ºC) day for running, the intention was to take it gently and trot 'round at a sensible, measured pace.  That didn't quite happen.

Photo taken last week at Wimbledon Common parkrun
by Clive Scammell (representative of today's weather)
MrTOTKat was off at a parkrun a hundred miles away (train for 110 miles, cycle for 1.5 hours, run parkrun for 5km, cycle for 1.5 hours, 110 miles on the train - nutter!), so I walked up to the common for parkrun, trotting a little bit every now and then to warm things up.  As I broke into a jog every now and then, I noticed my heart rate went shooting up pretty quickly, but dropped back again really quickly too.  Of course I expected my fitness to have dropped off quite a bit with 4 weeks of only 1 or 2 longish walks but nothing else to speak of, so I wasn't surprised that I was pushing a higher heart rate for less pace.  Also, it's pretty cold today so it is easier (for me at least) to work at a higher heart rate with less than the usual discomfort for that level of effort.
Ian Higgins

When I got to the common, I had a chat with a couple of people and found out that it was Ian Higgins' 250th run today, so that was a nice co-incidence to be there to celebrate that.  He's the run director for Wimbledon Common parkrun and is incredibly dedicated - in 2007, he directed and ran every single event that year, even the last one of the year when he was ill and put in his all-time personal worst time.  And one parkrun he turned up and announced he'd got married the day before!  I think it's in no small part down to him how successful Wimbledon Common parkrun has got and is now peaking at 380 runners!  It's a really sociable parkrun (as they all are)

Ian Higgins
Ambling down to the start, which is quite narrow, I tried to work out where in the field I should stand at the start in order to protect my shoulder a bit.  I decided that despite not being the quickest runner around, I'd go near the front and off to the left with the aim of having nobody to my left, minimising jostling on that side of me.  I didn't quite manage that, and I'm not sure the kids and parents took in the message Ian gave them in the race briefing of smaller children (i.e. less than teenagers) should start near the back so they don't get mown down as I was surrounded by really small kids.  Because of this, I ended up starting out quicker than intended and then held it.

I felt OK running, if a little ungainly.  At the moment when walking and running I need to consciously move my left arm back and forth as it naturally wants to sit, bent at the elbow, hand in front of my solar plexus.  I was also a bit concerned about tripping and falling or being jostled and my shoulder knocked.  Deciding to attempt a negative split, the chill temperature helped keep my effort level up with minimum discomfort and I didn't look at my watch at all so I had no idea what my heart rate was.  At the mid-point of the course I was pretty sure that I'd hear 13 mins something, and I did indeed (13:20ish as I crossed the mid-point).  On track for a high 26minute overall time if I held that average pace.  Lap two and I kept the pace roughly the same until there was 2km to go, then I turned up the gas as much as I could without going all-out.  All the people who went out too hard at the start were being passed and that always makes me feel better, no matter how bad a run I'm having.

Sociable parkrun - chatting around the water fountain
Having nothing left for a sprint finish, I knew that I'd been maintaining quite high effort all the way 'round and for once I remembered to stop my watch once I was over the finish line.  As it was a very busy parkrun, the finish chute got quite congested and we needed to double-up the queue for tokens (a couple of people got a tiny bit stressy about it, but nothing too bad) but there were 4 token scanners so almost no queueing at all to get the tokens and bar codes read.  Once I'd had my token read, I bothered to look at my watch to see what time I'd managed - 26:24 by my timing.  For the level of effort I'd put in, I'd've expected something in the low 24 minutes range, if I hadn't been doing nothing for the last 4 weeks.  2 minutes slower was a real shock.  What was an even bigger shock was the heart rate data - HRavg 94%, HRmax 99% !

On the way home, I decided to do a bit of an experiment; jogging home maintaining 81% HRmax and see what pace that turned out at.  07:40.  That's 2 minutes/km slower than I would get for 81% HR max 4 weeks ago.  A loss of 35% speed.  I'm absolutely stunned.

My recovery rate hasn't dropped off that much.  A less than scientific check tells me that I recover at >40bpm drop in <1 min after stopping exercise still, so that's not bad at all.

Anyway.  I feel *great* despite the stats on speed.  I know I'll get the speed back and it should take no longer to get it back than it did to lose it.  parkrun today makes me feel like this:-

Running makes you happy, no matter how slow or quick you are!
(All the photos in this articles are taken by me, when I was volunteering on photography duty at parkrun, apart from the one that Clive Scammell took - credited above.)

Friday 28 September 2012

Recovery update

Yesterday, I had the first hospital check-up and physio appointments since I have my surgery.  The hospital check-up involved an x-ray to see how things were going with the plating and alignment of all of the fragments (shame I didn't get hold of any images, I really must ask at the next appointment 'cause they look really cool!).  A quick trip to radiology for that and then back to the consultant for a chat.  The consultant of the day, Mr Sharif, looked at Mr Pearse's notes from the surgery and laughed at the capitals and underlined; "ABSOLUTELY NO resistance, lifting or weight bearing till week 8 and only after a full range of movement has been obtained."  I don't think anyone expected the improvements I already have on that front, but anyway... next was having the dressing taken off, the butterfly stitches removed and the ends of the dissolvable stitches trimmed so they don't irritate me any more.  I'd been getting quite itchy from those.

The nurse peeled off the dressing and unstuck the butterfly stitches.  It felt pretty weird, to be honest.  I have absolutely no sensation at the end of my shoulder; the nerve serving that area was severed during surgery.  I was warned that it was about 80% likely that I may at least temporarily, if not permanently, lose sensation somewhere around that area, so that wasn't a complete surprise (you can see in the diagram below how many major nerves there are around the clavicle and where the incision would have been made - I am not a doctor, but I can imagine there are a bajillion minor ones around there and it'd be almost impossible not to end up cutting .  What was a surprise is where the sensation loss is and the effect on the surrounding area.

I was expecting the area just below the clavicle to be numb, but it's the end of my shoulder (where the knobbly bit (or, acromion) sticks out,) and below that for about 4 inches, in a rough circle of 4" diameter, that's affected.  What's annoying is that the skin around it is super-sensitive in some kind of compensation for it and the slightest brush against those bits of skin gives an overload of feedback to the point of feeling painful.  Also, when the dressing and butterfly stitches came off, there was a good amount of top layer of skin lifted off where the road rash was, and those bits were a bit weepy.  No matter, I got a clear dressing to get me home from the appointment and an instruction from the nurse to "give it a good scrubbing" and "use your normal moisturiser on it 2-3 times a day" to minimise the scar from the incision.

Anyway, I asked the consultant what I was and wasn't allowed to do, exercise wise, and came out with an understanding of; running (as long as I don't fall over *cough*) is allowed, using a spin bike with no hands is allowed, immersing the wound in water is allowed (as long as I don't lie in the bath for hours), I can swim in a couple of weeks (as long as I don't use that arm - so finning out to the Coffees of Hawaii boat at Kona will be OK :o)).  Still "ABSOLUTELY NO resistance blah blah..." for another 6 weeks and a follow-up appointment in 6 weeks to take another x-ray and assess progress.

So, all good there.  Off to the physio next.

Having been utterly religious with my exercises since I was discharged from hospital, I knew I'd done pretty well with recover of mobility so far.  When I saw the physio, he was amazed at the progress.  He said it was incredibly good at this stage, almost unbelievably good.  Check out this more typical progression.  At exactly 2 weeks from surgery, I already have almost 100% mobility across all of the ranges of motion for the joint; I'm just missing 5% or so in the external rotation.  This is both brilliant and awful.  Brilliant in that I'm recovering so quickly, awful in that I still cannot use that arm for any resistance, lifting or weight bearing of any kind (anything up to and including a cup of tea is fine, more is not fine) and with such great mobility it will be all too easy to absent-mindedly do things (to be honest, the mobility reduction was my most frustrating experience.  I have to be mindful and careful and... well, really careful.  The bone bits may well be held together with a titanium plate and screws, but they still need to stick together and heal and loading up the joint will retard, prevent that process or even make the whole situation worse.

All in all, I'm really happy with the status at the moment.  I'm happy to have had 50 minutes on the spin bike today and I've got parkrun tomorrow.  Looking good!

Readers' questions - I

Prompted by an email from someone who had trouble being able to post a comment, I decided to have a post that answers specific questions I've been asked.  So, thanks The Crawfords and here goes with your questions:-

"Hi Kate

I/we wanted to post a comment but came unstuck when it asked for a google a/c or about 5 other options - perhaps you could advise what we choose at this point?"

 Good question.  As there are a lot of evil bots out on the Internet, trying to pimp dodgy websites usually full of nasty viruses, worms and trojan horse software, I use Blogger's built-in bot and spam protection.  This involves people having to make an attempt to validate that they are a real person.  I chose to allow only people who had one of a number of validated account types, e.g. a Google account or an OpenID (which you may already have without knowing it).  I do also require the use of word verification, which generally protects against non-humans posting comments but not the people who are paid to post comments that link to nasty sites.  I'm happy to try allowing anonymous comment posting for now and see how it goes, so you should now be able to comment without having one of the approved account types.

"Anyway we have really enjoyed reading about your races and achievements this year. You and hubby have done so well. Perhaps you could blog more about your injury and recovery because a lot of us have suffered with broken collarbones. My husband has broken his twice and he was curious that they had plated yours as the plate is usually left in and then becomes a complication should you fall again?"

Your poor husband - once is bad enough for me!  I'll continue to post about the recovery process, but answer the specific question about the plate here.  The break I had resulted in quite uncomfortable "tenting" of the skin:-

As well as my shoulder dropping quite a bit and the likelihood that the bone would heal pretty much in the position it was in, if it healed by itself at all.  The consensus of a number of people (including my coach and physio) was that it needed to be plated (especially at my age *cough*).  So, rather than wait 3-6 months to see if it healed naturally and with the high risk it would heal very very wonky and lumpy, I took the option for surgery straight away.  After consultation with the orthopaedic surgeon, despite being scared witless about general anaesthesia and surgery and hospitals in general, I went ahead with it.  And the second I woke up from the anaesthetic, it felt better.  The discomfort from the bent bit had been worse than I'd thought and I only realised it once the skin wasn't being dragged over the broken end of bone all the time.

"Would love to know how you are spending your time off work (if that's the case), "

Sort of handily, the crash co-incided with taking a break from work.  I -was- planning to rest, recover and slowly get back into training after Ironman Wales, take a trip to Hawaii for the World Championships in Kona, then look at a new job when I got back.  Some of that had changed and instead of racing Wales and recovering from that, I'm recovering from surgery and spending time looking at new job opportunities already as well as cooking more involved meals than usual as I have a bit more time on my hands.

"what your plans for the rest of 2012 are"

Get to 100% mobility with my left arm, so I can start doing any lifting and/or resistance with it.  Once I'm allowed to run, which should be sooner than the resistance ban is lifted, I'll start up with that again so I can have fun at a half marathon in November.  I wanted to run the marathon distance, but I don't think I'll have time to work up to the distance by then after 3.5 weeks off running at this point already.  It's likely I'll be allowed on a spin bike pretty soon (no hands on the handlebars so I don't lean using my left arm) so I can start using one of those to stave off the drop in fitness.  Must remember to take headphones to the gym with me!  So, October and some of November will be relatively gentle months, then by December I start back on the proper training again.

"and also 2013."

This is the fun bit!  2013 will be the year of getting quicker at shorter distances, so no full iron distance races, no marathons, no ultra distance runs...  more on that to come in another post soonish.

"Do you see yourself racing forever?"

Absolutely!  I fully intend to race in some way or other until I die.  There's nothing more fun than running, cycling, swimming, or some combination of those, with other people whether it's racing, a timed distance or a sportive.  I love it!

"Sorry that's a lot of questions in one email

Kind regards Joyce Crawford and Nick Crawford"

No problem at all - people who blog love the attention really :o)

Thursday 27 September 2012

Recovery and rehabilitation

When I was discharged from hospital; 11 days after crashing at Ironman 70.3 Ireland and breaking my collar-bone, having had a titanium plate and 8 screws put in to pull the bits together, make it all straight and help it to heal properly; I was given some exercises to do (by the hospital physio specialising in orthopaedics) and told "NO RESISTANCE OR LIFTING AT ALL for 8 weeks AND when full ROM regained" (by the orthopaedic surgeon).  I felt a bit stiff and hadn't really tried to do anything with that arm since the crash - it was just natural not to even try.  I didn't realise quite how reduced the range of movement (ROM) was until I tried to do a few simple things.

I couldn't lift my arm more than an inch from hanging without assistance.  I couldn't shrug my shoulder at all. I couldn't grip anything with my left hand.  I couldn't move my arm sideways from my body at all.  I didn't even try moving it backwards.  So, getting dressed, putting my hair into a pony-tail, washing large bits of my back and my right arm and shoulder; none of that was possible.  But I'm a really good girl when it comes to doing as I'm told for my own good with these things.  Religiously, every day, 3 times a day, I did my exercises; pendulum swings of the arm in circles, raising my arm straight out in front of me (initially with the assistance of my right hand), crossing my arm in front of my body to touch my right shoulder and back out straight at shoulder height (initially with assistance from my right hand).  And on the 8th day, I could just about put my hair into a wonky pony-tail at the nape of my neck.  On the 9th day, a straight one actually in the middle of the nape of my neck.  Then on the 11th day, I managed a pony-tail at the usual height on my head and rolled deodorant under my right armpit with my left hand!

Honestly, it's the little things... and it's not a lack of lifting power that is the hard thing (I don't think that's dropped much at all, but I have no idea as I'm not allowed to even try) it's the shocking lack of range of movement/general mobility that you really don't expect with this particular injury.  Though it is coming back quickly.  The surgeon seemed to imply that I may have it all back 8 weeks after surgery, I am confident it'll be back before then once I've got cracking with my normal physiotherapist.

Off to trauma and orthopaedics this morning for a check up and hopefully get the stitches out.  I'll ask about hydrotherapy, using a spin bike and whether/when I can start running again and see what they say.  Then it's physio at the end of the day with the protocol from the surgeon, to get started with him on increasing ROM (and after the 8 weeks is up, start on strength as well).

Wednesday 26 September 2012

Best curry I've ever made (recipe)

Hot damn, this is a good one!  A richly flavoured and spiced lamb curry...

First make your curry paste:-

Ingredients (for 5 portions of curry paste)

Garlic, Raw, Average-27g (approx 5-6 cloves)
Peppers, Chilli, Mixed, Raw -40g (2-3 good sized ones)
Oil, Olive -15ml (1tbsp)
Ginger, Root, Raw, Unprepared -15g (a reasonable chunk, unpeeled)
Tomato Puree, Double Concentrate -70g (approx 3 level tbsp)
Coriander, Seeds, Whole -2 Tsps/3.5g
Cumin, Seeds, Whole -2 Tsps/4g
Paprika, Smoked, Average-2 Tsps/4g
Seeds, Fenugreek, Average-2 Tsps/7.5g

Gently toast all of the seeds in a non-stick pan until you can smell the aroma breaking free.  Crush in a spice grinder or with pestle and mortar with a good pinch of sea salt until you have a fine powder.

Add the powder to a container suitable for your hand blender (or whatever you use to purée stuff) along with the tomato purée, paprika, olive oil, roughly chopped chillies, peeled garlic cloves and unpeeled ginger.  Blend everything to a fine paste and set aside.  Ideally refrigerate overnight to allow the flavours to come out.

Then prepare the curry itself:-

Ingredients (for 5 portions of curry)

Onions, Raw, Average-300g (1 really big onion or 2 smaller ones)
Peppers, Chilli, Mixed, Raw -15g (any colour you like)
Tomatoes, Plum, Tinned -1 Tin/400g (tinned cherry tomatoes are even better)
Courgette, Raw -600g (two large courgettes)
Lamb, Neck Fillet, Lean, Raw-600g
Coconut Oil -15g
Garlic, Raw -30g (6-7 cloves)
Tomatoes, Fresh, Raw -370g (whatever sort you have)
Stock, Lamb, Cubes -2 Cubes (lamb, chicken or veg stock is fine)
Vinegar, Balsamic -2 Tbsps/30ml (the thickest balsamic vinegar you can find)

Slice the onion, garlic and chillies.  Cube the courgette and lamb.  Melt the coconut oil, or heat the same amount of a flavourless oil, in a large frying pan or wok (whichever you have a lid for).  Then add the onion slices and fry gently until the onion has softened.  Add the the lamb pieces and cook until sealed on the outsides.

Add the chillies and garlic and warm through a bit more before adding the curry paste.  Gently stir it all until the paste has softened and coated the lamb pieces.  Add the balsamic vinegar and stir.  Cook for 5 minutes until the lamb cubes are totally coated with everything and browned on the outside.

Add the remaining raw vegetables and cook for another 5 minutes before adding the tinned tomatoes and stock.  Bring to a bubble and then simmer, with a lid on, for at least 40 minutes.

Check the consistency of the sauce. If it is too dry, add a little water (use it to rinse out the tomato tin).  Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.  Remove the lid and simmer for another 5-10 minutes until the sauce is the desired consistency.  Serve with either plain rice, warm peshwari naan, toasted pitta bread or on a bed of cauliflower like this...

Notice the Becks Blue in the background - tastiest fake beer out there!

Chills and freezes very well indeed and tastes even better when re-heated.  So if you can stand it, make a batch and chill at least a day before you want to eat it.

Sunday 23 September 2012

The magnificent seven and me

I was not one of the Ironman 2012 Ultimate Challenge finishers.  But these seven people were:-

(from left to right) Joe Doyle, John Mongan, Tony MacPherson, Norm Driskell (Mr TOTKat), Kate Stannett, Bethan Fowler (Pro) and Paul Hawkins (Pro).  Eimear Mullan also finished all 4 (1st at UK 70.3 and UK and 2nd at Galway 70.3 and Wales), but as she didn't commit at the start was not counted as an Ultimate Challenge finisher.

I am not jealous in any way of these people.  Yes, I did want to complete the challenge, but it was completely outside of my control that I could not start Ironman Wales.  Thanks to a healthy training schedule, a good plan and pretty good attention to detail with the work I'd been given by my coach (Rich from, I was ready to get through all 4 races and have no doubts at all that I would have finished Wales in the time limit allowed.  It would not have been a quick race, maybe 15-25 minutes longer than Bolton due to learning a few things and the Wales course being really rather tough, but I am certain that I would have completed had I started.

The view from the other side shows the floating big chunk much more clearly, but we have no light box...
Not being able to race at Wales, I followed the suggestion of Kevin Stewart (Managing Director of Ironman UK and Ireland) and volunteered for finish line duty to hand out medals (fairly safe with only one working arm).  On the day, I ended up unwrapping a good few hundred individually wrapped medals, handed out a fair few bottles of water and recovery drink but placed only one Ironman Wales medal around a neck...

My Ultimate Ironman
...along with an Ironman UK 70.3, an Ironman UK and an Ironman 70.3 Ireland as well!  Despite there being a fanatically over-enthusiastic volunteer on the finish line, who got right in almost every athlete's face as they came through the finishing arch (she drove me nuts all evening and clearly had no understanding of the athletes' situation whether first timer or seasoned Ironman, but her intentions were almost certainly good), a couple of the Ironman UK staff (thanks Laura and Allie for looking after me!) grabbed me as they heard Paul Kaye announce MrTOTKat coming down the finishing chute ("Norm Driskell... you are The Ultimate Ironman!") and propelled me right forward to present the medals and put them around his neck before anyone else got anywhere near him.  Almost all of the other athletes in the race had the Mayor of Tenby (Trevor Hallett) present their Wales medal (and, in fact, he did give another one to MrTOTKat before taking it off again when we told him there was already one on there).

I was actually crying a bit at this point
Ironman 70.3 Ireland (Galway) was quite a turning point and is instrumental in my decision of what to focus on for 2013.  Rich had already passingly suggested that 70.3 might be more fun and productive for next year (more speed work during the week, more focusing on drills and technique) before I set off for Ireland and I had started thinking about it with the beginnings of a plan forming.  After Galway and looking at the stats, taking into account racing and training defensively to get through 4 IM races in my first year of going longer than Olympic distance and the crash and ensuing tricky run, the numbers seemed promising enough to decide to focus on 70.3 with aspiration to execute a top-notch race at Galway in 2013.

Definitely must wear glasses in a race - stinging sand blowing around *hurts* when it gets in your eyes!
So, the plan for now is to focus on rehabilitation of my left arm and shoulder after the surgery to fix a titanium plate in my collar-bone to put all the pieces back in place and together so it heals straight and properly.  Then, we have a triathlon training camp in February at Club La Santa with Joe Beer and crew, followed by Hell of The Ashdown towards the end of February, then a couple of Thames Turbo sprint races up to Ironman UK 70.3 in June, then a bit of a break before Ironman Ireland 70.3 in September, then another big old break before Ironman Lanzarote 70.3 to finish off the season in November.  A really nice spread throughout the year, aiming to peak at Galway for a strong race on a course that seems to suit my strengths.

Monday 10 September 2012

Just something I threw together (recipe)

I was a bit bored by the thought of salad for lunch today and we had a couple of tins of cherry tomatoes in the house so I decided to make a "rustic" soup.

You will need the following for two generous servings with the stats as above:-
  • 1 tin mixed beans (I used Morrisons mexican bean salad)
  • 1 tin cherry tomatoes in juice
  • 1 largeish courgette
  • 1 medium/large red pepper
  • 10g Coconut oil (or 10ml any plain oil otherwise)
  • 1 good quality vegetable stock cube
  • 120g good chorizo - this will make or break it

De-stalk and remove the seeds from the pepper.  Chop the courgette and pepper into chunks you'd be happy eating in a mouthful of soup.  Drop the chunks into a non-stick soup pan with the coconut oil and fry a little.

Courgette and pepper bathing in warm coconut oil
 While the veggies are frying, remove any skin and chop the chorizo into chunks.

First, you gotta do the truffle shuffle!
Add the chorizo to the veggies and toss until glossy and you can clearly smell the paprika aroma from the sausage.

Add the tomatoes and break them up a bit, top up with a little water if need be and add the stock cube.  Cook for 5-10 minutes to reduce a little.  You want the courgette and pepper to retain their bite, so don't over-cook at this stage.

Shiny, red, globes of juicy, delicious joy.

Add the beans and heat through thoroughly.

Serve and enjoy!

By god, this is delicious!

Sunday 9 September 2012

The call of the next season...

Galway has been a pivotal race for more reasons than stopping me from completing the Ultimate Challenge.

I thought I'd be devastated not to finish the challenge but I'm just disappointed.  I deserved to have finished all 4 races, I'd put in the work, I had the fitness and the determination.  I have no doubt I would have finished Wales to complete the set had I not broken my collar bone.  Yes, it means I don't get to tick that box, yes it means I don't get the cool special jacket, medal and t-shirt and I don't get to tell people I did it.  But, I did deserve to and that's pretty darned good.  I'll always know that even if other people won't and won't understand it.

The other reason for it being a pivotal race is what it showed me about what I could possibly achieve.  Given the close proximity to the final race of the challenge, with Wales only 2 weeks afterwards, my coach and I agreed I needed to conserve my body and limit damage as far as possible to allow for a comfortable day in Tenby.  This meant I could have a bit of a go in the swim and bike but, as Rich said, "doss the run".

Bear that and the crash in mind and look at the performance differences between Wimbleball and Galway.  Yes, Wimbleball is a tougher course, but look at the improvement vs the rest of the field (rank by that stage of the race) and my age category (cat rank for that leg of the race)...

 A minor improvement vs the field in the swim and a bit of learning in T1.  Then I've jumped almost 34% up my age category and almost 25% up the whole field in the bike *including a crash*!  Not completely going balls-out and then 5 minutes on my back/arse at the side of the road and then the last 9km at a gentler pace overall (I think) and still I moved from 60% down the age category to the top 25%. That's really very very encouraging.  Yes, the run was not as good as Wimbleball (quicker, but lower down the field - the courses have quite different profiles), but I had two pee stops of about a minute each ('s hard to get your shorts on and off with one hand) and I was trying not to jar my shoulder too much the rest of the time.  I also had an extra 11 minutes in T2 being seen to by the medics which wouldn't be normal.

The race itself felt great and had I not crashed so badly, I think I might have been fighting for 3rd place in my age category.  Not quite enough for a 70.3 World Championships slot without a lucky roll down - I'd need 2nd place for that - but I have to think it might be possible if that had been an A race.  So, in any case, 70.3 might just be my Goldilocks distance.

Right now, next year looks like the year of 70.3 and trying to qualify for the World Championships at Lake Las Vegas either in 2013 or 2014, depending on what races look possible to make A races in 2013.  Current thinking is Wimbleball, Galway and Lanzarote for a nice spread through the season and finishing somewhere warm in November.  It also means I can do some sprints (hello Blenheim! :o)) and maybe olympics as well through the year as it won't interfere with my overall training, so I can have a lot more fun with that.

Thursday 6 September 2012

IM 70.3 Galway 2012 (@ironmanireland)

And this is where I spoke too soon...

4 days before Galway, I fell off my bike and got battered and scraped.  At the time I was grateful it hadn't happened 4 days before IM Wales.  Little did I know what was to come.

The day before IM 70.3 Ireland, the weather wasn't great.  Rain, winds, swell in the sea.  MrTOTKat (you can find his race report here) and I went for a little jog in the morning and then tried out the sea.  There were volunteers and safety staff from Galway Tri (I think) checking people in and out of the sea and kayakers checking on people and giving handy tips.  To be honest, it wasn't too bad, but the waves were plenty big enough to make sighting of the little orange buoys not easy and to force a large mouthful of water into my throat.  That was pretty unpleasant and I struggled not to throw up immediately.  We trundled 'round the buoys twice and then got out to sort out bikes and bags into transition.

As we got my bike together, MrTOTKat  noticed that the gear cable going into my rear mech was dinked.  On closer inspection, it was completely mashed, almost totally sheared off with only a couple of strands still intact. Argh!  Thank god for on site bike mechanics - a cheerful, silver-haired chap replaced the cable and shroud and sorted out the gear alignment problem that the Planet X has suffered since I first rode it.  All for the princely sum of €10 which he was happy to wait a couple of hours for me to go and get as we had no cash on us.  Lovely chap!

All racked up next to the pros, thanks to our Ultimate Challenge athlete numbers that stay with us through the 4 races, I decided to leave my nutrition bars (opened and cut in half) in the bento box on the bike so I didn't forget them in the morning.  It rained overnight...

A quiet, early dinner in the pub with the Stannetts (Kate and Charlie, also doing the challenge though Charlie had a horrible race at Bolton and didn't finish but is still doing the other races anyway) and in bed by 8pm.

Race morning and we have that down to a tee.  Tea, Ready Brek (you never know what will be available and at what time, so we take something that works with just hot water) with Nutella and banana in it and time to make up the race drinks.  We've been training with what's available in the races even though we should be able to be self-sufficient in this race, so we have Gatorade.  And then we discovered an error.  We had only enough to make up 2 litres of mix and we needed 3 litres between us.  Ah well, upping the solid fuel (I had planned on bagel as well as bars and gels) and taking a weak mix with mostly water in the second of our bottles would work fine.

A nice short stroll from our (absolutely gorgeous!) B&B, the Sea Breeze Lodge, we went to transition to put bottles and bagel on our bikes (and I found that my bars, although sticky on one end, had not turned into porridge in the overnight rain) and trot off to the swim start.

Unlike Wimbleball, there was a multi-wave start here, with the pros off at 7am; M18-24, M25-29 and M30-34 at 07:05; M35-29 and M50-54 at 07:20; M55-59 and all female athletes at 07:35; M40-49 at 07:50; and finally the relay teams at 08:00.

Some of the pros ran into some confusion with the first buoy location, resulting in some adding a good 3-4 minutes to their swim, so the next wave were given information on which buoy to aim for and the erroneous one was soon deflated and removed.

Always look gorgeous coming out of a swim!
MrTOTKat was off at 07:20 and I was soon after at 07:35, in the same wave as Kate and Charlie.  As I waited to get into the sea for the deep water start, I couldn't help dancing along to the great tunes and reminding myself of how bouncy and perky Lucy Gossage was before Wimbleball with the same tunes pumping.  The sea was much calmer than the day before and the swim felt pretty good.  I had no problem sighting on the first buoy, but the second was very far away and I couldn't see it for a long time, relying on other athletes and the feel of the swell of the sea to work out the direction.  I'm pretty sure I didn't take the best line and I know I didn't put in a lot of effort (looking at the HR trace afterwards :o)).  The third buoy I definitely took way too wide and only just heard the safety kayakers shouting at us to go between the last two yellow buoys for the exit.

The swim exit was up the beach, up a concrete ramp and then down the road on the same green carpet as the finish chute (nice on the feet!), across the road and into the field for transition.  I overtook quite a few people on that little trot, once I'd got my wet-suit off my arms and shoulders and down to waist level.

A reasonably quick transition with finding my blue bag quickly, dumping out the contents onto a chair, putting my (inside-out, bah!) cycling socks on, discarding my cycling jersey (forgetting it had the second spare inner tube in the pocket), jamming the all-important race belt and cycling helmet on, followed by bike shoes I trotted out to get my bike.  That lovely new Adamo seat is not only the most comfortable seat ever, but it's quite distinctive in its Union Flag colours so it's easy to spot hooked over the bike rails.  The one thing I had forgotten, which I only noticed as I approached the bike mount line, was my sunglasses.  I'd said only the day before that no matter how tempted to not bother with them, glasses would be essential on the course with the wind blowing sand all around.  A split second temptation to turn back and get them was crushed; the wind was much weaker today and I was going to risk it.

The bike course is an almost flat out and back, but the first section goes through the university and has some tight twists and turns, speed bumps and shortly afterwards a bit of rough road surface.  I found out later that Bethan Fowler (one of the pros doing the Ultimate Challenge too) crashed in that bit of the course and damaged her rear derailleur.  I again lost my front bottle over a rough bit of road, so jammed on the brakes and stopped to get it.  A kind old gent had picked it up and was walking towards me.  Noooo!  This was right in front of a race marshal, so I asked the man to put the bottle down on the ground as I couldn't accept outside assistance.  I had to speak slowly and deliberately as he was so pleased to help someone that he wasn't listening or comprehending what I was saying.  He was only trying to help but didn't know he could get me disqualified.  It was important that I got the message over, or I'd have to leave the bottle with him confused and pick one up at the aid station.  He finally got it and I picked up the bottle from the pavement, slotted it in place and headed off thanking him a few more times so he didn't think I was a total cow.

Having got loads of mud and grass wedged into my cleats in transition, I had trouble getting clipped back in and nearly had a bit of an accident with my left shoe skittering hard off the pedal, under it and bending my ankle the wrong way briefly.  At this point I was convinced I was going to have a really rubbish and slow bike leg, but finally clipped in and tried to settle down.  A chunk of bagel and some glugs of Gatorade to start the fuelling and I started to ramp up the power.

As the km started ticking away, I turned up the dial until I started to fly past people.  Overtaking people from the start wave before me, I started to feel pretty good.  No burning thighs, so definitely not putting down too much power into the pedals the distance was being eaten up on this new set-up of TT bike, aero helmet and comfortable TT seat.  The support out on the course was really warm and lovely and every group of people I passed cheered, clapped, clanged cow bells and I waved at them and smiled.

Under normal circumstances, I would have been pleased with these stats. As it is, I'm actually very very pleased indeed.

For the next 40km I played over-take with the woman who ended up third in my age category before finally making it stick. Coming into the last 15km I was feeling great and still reeling in other athletes when I came to this road...

A two way road with what looks like passing lanes on the sides - demarcated by painted lines and cats eyes (which you can clearly see in the Google street view image above).  Shortly before this part of the road I think I came to a slower cyclist from an earlier wave, who I pulled out from inside the yellow lines into the main lane to overtake.  I remember hitting and going over a cats eye. 

One of these type...

I think I shouted something.  I know I fish-tailed 5 or 6 times trying to regain control of the bike, thinking "when is this going to stabilise" before finally losing the bike out from underneath me.  I was doing 34.5 km/h at the time.

I remember being on my back, shouting "help, oh god, someone help please".  Then there were people.  A man with a mountain bike and maybe some others.  I remember lying on my back saying "please don't make me stop, I have to finish, I have four of these to do".  I remember being briefly worried I'd broken my leg and then seeing a small cut on my thumb and thinking that was the only injury.  Then I remember someone pushing me on the back of my seat to get me started.  I have no idea how I got on my bike.  You can see from the Garmin stats that I was stopped for about 5 minutes and 20 seconds or so (time vs. moving time).

I have no idea how I got back the last 9ish km to transition from the crash site.  No memory of it at all.  I remember turning off my bike computer.  I remember sitting in the transition tent in the medical area, a face talking to me, but no idea what he said or who he was, and again I said that I had to finish and begged not to have to stop.  I have no memory otherwise of what happened in transition.  I have no recollection of taking off my helmet or shoes, racking my bike or getting my red bag (I suspect volunteers did a lot of it for me).  I remember putting on my left running shoe with one hand and not understanding why at the time.  I remember deciding not to put on my running cap and thinking it was a shame I didn't have my sun glasses.   I don't remember getting out on to the run course.  Apparently I was in T2 for around 15 minutes.

You can see after 03:20ish, which is a real HR drop off, that I was quite ginger getting back to T2 and was then there
for ~15 minutes before going on the run. (and forgot to turn it off at the end for a while)
Memory returns at some point on the run course when I started to talk to a guy called Jamie (I think), who recognised my name from the programme (all the Ultimate Challenge athletes are named with photos in the race programme in a double page spread) it turned out.  I was being shadowed by the medic bicycles, some of who were happy to chat and told me they'd been sent to watch over me, some hung back trying to be subtle (guys, the free-wheel clicking is a dead give-away :o)).  I knew something wasn't right as my left arm naturally gravitated to sitting with my hand latched onto my heart rate transmitter and as I passed MrTOTKat on his 2nd lap as I was on my first I let him know something was up but that I'd go to the medic tent at the end.

As I passed spectators on the run course, I kept hearing sharp intakes of breath, the odd "oh dear god", and "that's so brave".  All I knew was my arm needed to be at the angle I was holding it at and I could see a bit of a graze on the front of my left shoulder out of the corner of my eye.  What were they seeing that I couldn't?  The chap I was talking to said I had quite a graze down the back which looked nasty, so I guessed that was it.  I actually felt pretty OK as long as I held my arm in place and didn't jar things too much.  Walking the aid stations for water and a glug of energy drink, I knew I'd get to the end and it wouldn't be too shabby either.  No run PB for the distance, but not dawdling for sure.

Charlie and me
On my final lap, I came across Charlie Stannett and we ran together for a bit.  He decided to run just behind my left shoulder to shield me from accidental bumps from other athletes (what a sweetie!) and we stayed together until he finally spotted his Kate (who he'd been worried about to that point as he'd not yet seen her on the run) just as we came to the final funnel either to the finishing chute (where I was then headed) or more run laps (Charlie had another lap to go).

I saw the green carpet and launched myself down the finishing chute.  I could hear Paul Kaye, the race commentator, calling my name in almost disbelief that I was coming for the finish line (turns out I was all over the race radio from the crash onwards) and I knew the race was almost done and I could get sorted by the medics.

As I crossed the line and was handed my medal I was greeted by a medic who said they'd been waiting for me. He led me to the medical area to find a concerned-looking MrTOTKat.  We sat and I was tended to.  I asked MrTOTKat how he'd done.  Having no idea what my time was, I said "it wasn't under 6 was it?"  Little did I know at the time that I'd come in at 06:18 myself (including a 5 minute "rest" on the bike, a 15 minute "nap" in T2 and two wee stops on the run), and he said "05:22" with a big grin on his face.

Damian (or was it Derren?) the medic cleaned up my grazes and got the doctor to come and give me a shot of difene in the bum for the pain.  That took about 20 minutes to kick in and then I felt lovely.  Nobody was too sure whether my collar bone was broken or not at the time but the lack of movement and the pain level was enough to send me to hospital for x-rays to be sure.  MrTOTKat stayed behind to get our race bags, bikes and assorted stuff while I was whisked off in an ambulance to UCHG.

Long story short, I ended up stood in front of the x-ray machine while the radiographer took his x-ray.  We chatted and I was still in denial right up to saying, "I'm racing again in 2 weeks" *click*bzzzzz* (goes the x-ray machine) "No you're not".  And he showed me the x-ray.

Up until this point, and even after, I was convinced I'd be able to carry on with the Ultimate Challenge and that everything would be fine.

I cannot in any way condone doing what I did on this day.  The drain on race safety resources who could have been needed by someone in real trouble was not a good thing to have done.  It was utterly selfish of me, but at the time I was full of adrenaline and had "race head" on.  I am glad for myself that I finished, more on why that is in another post along with the stats and analysis.

The rest is a story for another day.

Forgot to turn the run Garmin off too. But hey, not bad avg. moving pace for having a broken collar bone?
Detailed bike splits. Stopped for dropped bottle in 1st 5km, crash in 17th 5km and not sure what the stop was in the 18th 5km.

Detailed run splits - wee stop in 3rd and 14th km, total bugger to get shorts on and off with one hand!