Raise your hand if you’ve ever had the ‘New Year Slump’?! It is when the chilling winter finally drives you crazy, the fact that the next Bank Holiday isn’t until the end of April (for me in the UK, at least), and the only thing lighter after the festive period is your wallet.
*confidently raises hand*
Yep, you’ve read that correctly. What you see on my blog and social medias are only snippets of my life, but a little snippet that I decided to leave out earlier this year was the ‘New Year Slump’. But I am only human, and I feel like I shouldn’t hide the fact that I struggle sometimes!
A few weeks ago, without even realising it, I was in this ‘slump’. I was not motivated to do anything and the thought of the coming year just made me want to hibernate until I felt better. I have no idea how I got into this state of mind and I didn’t even realise it at the time. I think it had been subconsciously building up for a couple of weeks that I didn’t recognise the signs until it was pointed out to me:
It was a cold, overcast (typical England!) Saturday morning, and even though I knew I should be going swimming, my body didn’t want to move. It was like my muscles had been turned to bricks, no matter how hard I willed myself to get up I couldn’t do it.
My mum came into the living room to find a mountain of blankets stacked on top of me, and she said what had probably been on her mind for a little while: “You’ve got to get out of this slump”. Of course, I argued that I wasn’t in a slump and that I was just tired, which just received the trademark ‘mother’s stare’ from her.
But just that one little sentence opened my eyes to what I had been ignoring for a few weeks: I WAS in a slump! My mind had tricked me into thinking that I was just tired, when actually, I had become demotivated and - I hate to admit this - lazy.
It was almost as if a switch flicked off in my head – I instantly felt the motivation come back and felt that I could take on the world! Okay, maybe a slight over-exaggeration, but I did get up and go on to do a very good swimming session that day!
The point I am trying to make is that it is okay to be in a ‘slump’ sometimes. Everyone gets them, maybe not during the New Year, but they would be lying if they said that had never felt demotivated.
The aim is to recognise the state you are in, and get out of it however possible.
A little tip from me, when you are feeling amazing about yourself and your life, write down why you feel that way. Put it in your diary, in the notes on your phone, even plastered all over your house – wherever it is, keep it safe for the times when you need it. When you are feeling demotivated, look at that note to remind yourself of how you usually feel and why. You’ll soon realise that you are just in a slump, and then you can concentrate on getting back to your normal, happy self.
I’m going to write my note on here, so everyone can hold me accountable. I am feeling AMAZING at the moment. My training has taken a sudden, yet long-anticipated, turn for the better, as I feel that my running and swimming are finally getting back to where they used to be before my operation. Kris and I have a plan for the rest of the year, all my competitions are booked in, and I have an amazing group of people supporting me – just in time for the triathlon season!
There we go, I’ve written my note that I can now come back on if I feel I need some motivation from past-Kiera.
Now, time to write yours.
As many of you know, Richardsons Cycles has been one of my sponsors for a year now, and none of you could have missed the beautiful and colourful bike that they gave me?!
What you may not realise is the difference their support has made for me in this past year. After my shoulder operation, I thought there was no way I was going to be able to compete or get back to the speed that I used to be. This is partly true, but not on the bike - I managed to get faster and faster with each race, faster than I could have thought possible! With Kris' coaching and the amazing Trek Speed Concept that Richardsons Cycles gave me, I was able to achieve a lot more than I thought I could!
As a way of saying thank you, I gave them a little gift for their shop. I am so thankful for their support, and cannot wait to see what this year brings!
To make sure I am ready for this year, I had to get both of my bikes serviced. Keeping a bike in good service is like keeping a car in good service - if you don't look after it, it won't run properly. However, it always tends to slip my mind that it needs to be done!
As it is now the winter, my triathlon bike has been retired to the turbo as it is just too nice to take out in this horrible weather! Along with the fact that I only got it last year, it was in pretty good shape anyway.
However, my winter road bike needed some work!
I gave both of my bikes to the amazing team at Richardsons Cycles to get checked over, and I made sure to warn them that the road bike may be a little worse-for-wear as it has been tackling this winter weather for a few months now.
I handed both of the bikes in on Tuesday morning, and no more than 5 hours later received a call to say they were ready to be picked up! The triathlon bike was all fine and just needed a few screws tightened up, but the road bike had a new chain (Kris, you can longer comment on the 'rust-coloured fashion' of my chain!) and new cassette, as well as the gears being realigned. Maybe I'll go even faster n the training rides now?!
Thank you to the guys over at Richardsons Cycles in Leigh-On-Sea for getting this done so quickly, and making sure my equipment is in good working-order for the coming season!
I can’t say that I remember my first ever triathlon, as I don’t remember much from when I was eight years old! However, I do know a lot of people who jumped on the triathlon-bandwagon at a later age and remember every detail of their first race.
If it is anything like how I feel before the race, the most nerve-wracking part is the preparation. With that comes the transition setup, what equipment to use, what to eat the night before and what to wear for the race (dependent on the weather).
I always find it weird when people ask me for advice for their first triathlon, not because it is a weird question but more that they see me as someone who can help them!
However, it does fill me with joy when I am able to help them, even if it just a small bit of advice.
So, in the spirit of the new year and the new triathlon season just around the corner (if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway), I decided to list my top 10 tips for beginners:
Tip #1: Just enjoy the day!
It may seem like the most stupid answer, but this is the most important piece of advice I can give you! It isn’t just about the race, it is also about the atmosphere before and after the race. Yes, it may be too early in the morning for you, but the easy-going, chatty atmosphere before a triathlon is something I am proud to say is one of the best things about this sport.
When everyone is in transition setting up their equipment, strike up a conversation with the people around you – you never know, they might be in the same situation as you!
Tip #2: Practice your transition before the race
Many triathletes will tell you that the transition is the fourth discipline in a triathlon. People can spend as little as 30 seconds or as long as 4 minutes (sometimes longer!) in transition, depending on how much time they have spent practicing it.
You may be asking, “why do I need to practice getting a wetsuit off and putting shoes on?!”, but it sounds easier than it actually is! When you are freezing cold from the water, adrenaline pumping and arms aching, it can be quite hard to get your wetsuit off and steady your hands enough to put your shoes on. Run through your transition process before the race, from getting your wetsuit off all the way through to getting your helmet on BEFORE(!) you grab your bike and exit transition.
Tip #3: Use baby oil or baby gel to get your wetsuit off after the swim
On the subject of getting wetsuits off, every triathlete can tell you how annoying it is when it gets stuck around your knees or ankles! The best thing to prevent this is to smother your arms and legs with either baby oil or baby gel before you put your wetsuit on, as this allows the wetsuit to slide off easily after the swim. I personally use the Johnson Baby Oil Gel, as I find it doesn’t come off when I put my wetsuit on, but whatever works for you.
Also, it adds that extra layer before the cold water gets to you!
Tip #4: Don’t feel like you have to use bike cleats for your first race
You’ll see many triathletes using a cycling-specific shoe called cleats, which allow them to clip into the pedals, so their feet don’t slide off. The main aim for this is to allow them to push down on the pedal and also pull back up, resulting in more force to turn the wheels and therefore a faster speed.
However, these can be extremely hard to get used to, and if you aren’t comfortable wearing them in training then you definitely won’t be comfortable wearing them in a race. When I first tried the shoes, I fell off multiple times as I forgot to unclip them before I stopped. It is not something you want to be worrying about in your first triathlon.
By all means, if you are happy to wear them then go ahead, as it will benefit you! But don’t feel pressured to use them because everyone else is.
Tip #5: Use a safety pin to stop your timing chip falling off
Most races now use the timing chips that go around your ankle. Although they are very helpful in showing you your splits and positioning, it is also something else to think about when you’re racing. If you lose it when on the course, you could be charged to replace it, and it will also be difficult to see how you performed in the race. From experience, it is very annoying!
Since the disastrous race that this happened to me (it was doomed from the beginning after I forgot my goggles!), I have used a safety pin to stop it from undoing. Make sure it is fairly tight around your ankle, then secure the section that can undo to the fabric underneath it (but don’t prick your skin, it hurts!) – if you try to pull the Velcro off, it shouldn’t move.
This will stop the timing chip from falling off in the water or when you’re taking your wetsuit off, and also stop people from trying to pull it off at the swim start (also happened to me).
Tip #6: Don’t panic at the swim start – position yourself where you feel comfortable
The swim start can be like a boxing match if you don’t prepare yourself properly. With arms and legs flailing all over the place, trying desperately to find the speed they need to get to the front, it can quickly become dangerous for the unprepared.
If you don’t like the thought of being hit multiple times, or sometimes swam over, then I would suggest starting on the outside edge of the pack, or at the back. This way you’ll have enough room around you if you wanted to move away from someone, and less likely to be battered than you would in the middle.
Tip #7: Don’t use or try anything new on race day
Many people think it is best to get new running shoes before their first race, but you couldn’t be more wrong! You never know how the new equipment is going to perform on the day, and if the shoes aren't broken in/worn properly they could give you painful blisters that could prevent you from finishing the race.
The same goes for food habits. If you don’t normally have porridge before training, don’t try it on the morning of the race! You don’t know how your body is going to digest it whilst exercising, and you do not want to end up with ‘runner’s stomach’!
Stick to what you know works for you, and trust that the equipment you have used in training will get you around the race – leave all of the testing new things to your training periods!
Tip #8: Give yourself plenty of time before your race
It is easy to underestimate the amount of time you need before a race, especially when they are at a stupid time in the morning. It is also easy to forget everything you will need to do within that time: park your car and get your stuff out, walk to the competition site, register, place your numbers on your equipment, check into transition and set it up, run through it to make sure everything is there, warm up, get changed into your trisuit (if you aren’t already) and into your wetsuit and get to the start at least 10 minutes before. All of this could take at least an hour, and even then, you aren’t giving yourself time to relax and enjoy yourself. You don’t want to be stressed before the start, and like I said in tip #1, you want to enjoy yourself!
Tip #9: Don’t miss your start time!
Most races have multiple start times (aka. ‘waves’) to accommodate for the amount of people there. They usually each have their own colour hat, so the marshals, athletes and spectators know what wave is what, and they normally go off every 5 minutes (but check before you start – you should receive an email a few days before telling you when your start time is).
MAKE SURE YOU ARE IN THE RIGHT WAVE! If you go in a wave too early, you can be disqualified, and if you go in a wave too late from your own, then your time will start from when you should have started (ie. 5 minutes before you actually went off). Neither of these are an ideal situation, so make sure you know your exact start time and be there 10 minutes before anyway.
Tip #10: Know where you are in transition
At some races, the transition is so big that it just becomes a blur of wheels and shoes. It is not a nice feeling running around like a headless chicken trying to find your own stuff! Make sure you know where your transition is in comparison to the swim entry, bike exit, bike entry and run exit, before you start. Practice running from each entry/exit to your position to get the feel of where you are going, and also count which row you are in (sometimes they are numbered for you).
I also, if it is possible, try to find something that I can use as a reference. This could be a tree that your bike is near, a sign, a bike that is at the end of a rack, anything that you can easily spot to remind yourself where you are.
And make sure you put your swim equipment and bike back in the same position you were in before – you can disqualified if you leave it in a different position!
I hope this helps you in your endeavour to your first triathlon, and good luck – I hope you enjoy it!
If this helped you for your first triathlon, I would love to hear about it!
Either get in touch via the contact page on this website, or on my social channels:
I’m sure many of you have heard the varying “new year, new me” quote too many times in the last few days, and I’m also sure most of you are already fed up of it!
Don’t worry, I’m not going to be one of those people – I’m actually here to say, “new year, same me”.
Yes, you heard that right! I don’t want to change from the person who I was last year, as that girl absolutely smashed it! I probably sound rather arrogant, but I’m just really proud of myself – there’s no harm in that, is there?!
So maybe I have changed from last year, as I aim to be prouder of myself and I what I have achieved. This year is going to be a tough one going into a new age group, but whatever the outcome, I will know that I have tried my hardest to get there.
2018, you have been great, but 2019 – you are my year!
If someone had said to me be back in January that this year was going to be my best season ever, I would have thought they were mad! After being told that I was scheduled to undergo a major shoulder operation at the beginning of February, I honestly thought that my 2018 season was over before it had even started. I had prepared myself for a long and frustrating recovery year and then get back to the Triathlon-scene in 2019.
But I guess miracles do happen!
Rewind to the 9th February 2018. I had just come out of the shoulder operation I had been putting off for almost 2 years. My arm was numb, I was still wobbly from the anaesthetic and I had the surgeon telling me not to push myself too soon otherwise I could make everything worse. I think its fair to say that I wasn't feeling good about 2018!
Fast forward to 2 weeks later and I had decided to start walking on the treadmill to get a bit of my fitness back. Obviously it was nowhere near the level of exercise I was used to, but it felt good to be doing something!
Another 4 weeks go by and I am finally running again, with the help of a sling to keep my arm from moving too much. I was definitely the slowest I had ever been, and running with only one useful arm was hard! But having that time off from training and racing made me realise just how much I loved this sport, and ultimately gave me the confidence I needed for the rest of the year.
Now we skip to about June time, when I had my first race. At this point, I was still unsure if I was going to be competing in the Europeans in July, but I decided to concentrate on the present rather than the future. I had only been able to get back on my bike about 2 weeks before this race so I had no idea what to expect! It also didn't help that the first race back was the British Triathlon Championships! It obviously wasn't my best race, but it was a start!
After that, my coach, Kris, decided it was time to start prepping for the Europeans, just in case I was able to do it. I have no idea how he put up with my moaning and impatient urge to cycle faster or run further, but somehow he managed to stay calm and get me ready for the race.
I had decided that the Europeans would be a good practice run for the World Champs in September, even if I didn't perform too well in this race. With the lack of swimming, I was able to train more on the bike and run than I ever had, so I felt confident that if I could get through the swim I would be able to complete the rest!
The 21st July had finally arrived, and it was race day. Weirdly enough, I didn't feel nervous on the day. I didn't know if that was a good or bad thing, but I didn't have time to concentrate on that.
The swim was as hard as I was expecting it to be, both with my fitness and my shoulder. I managed to get to the end and that is when the real race started for me. If you have read my blog for the Europeans, you could probably tell how much I loved this bike course! I won't go into loads of detail, but let's just say that Estonia is the best bike course I have ever cycled on! Coming away with a PB on the course after the start of the year I had was a real shock.
But not as much of a shock as becoming the European Triathlon Champion! From seeing the race as a 'practice' for the Worlds to then becoming the Champion was crazy to me, and it is still crazy to think about now!
Realising how well I had done in that race spurred me on to train harder for the World Champs. I had 2 month before leaving for Australia, so it was 2 months of intense training. I could feel myself getting fitter and faster, faster than I had been for a couple of years, and that alone gave me to urge to get better. I stopped moaning about everything (well, I think I did at least!) and just got on with it. It quickly became apparent that the cycling was going to be my strongest discipline that year, so we decided to push that as much as we could in order to give myself the best chance at the Worlds.
Flying to Australia was a weird experience for me. I had never been to the country before so I had no idea what to expect from the journey - I admire anyone who does that horribly long 23 hour flight multiple times a year!
It didn't really become real for me until I saw the competition site that I was actually about to compete in the World Championships in the beautiful country of Australia. Every athlete can relate to the overwhelming feeling of seeing the area you are about to race in and realising just how crazy your life is!
I never go into a race expecting anything, so even though only a couple of months before I had become the European Champion, I didn't take that as a likelihood of doing well in this race. As any triathlete will know, every race is different and you cannot predict what is going to happen during your race, you can only prepare yourself to the best of your ability.
Therefore, I made sure I enjoyed the whole race as what an experience it was! The course, the spectators, the weather, everything was absolutely perfect! I'm sure most of you already know that Australia has stolen my heart!
Coming away as 6th in the World was a complete shock to me! I have always doubted my own ability, probably to my detriment sometimes, but after finishing that race I felt for the first time that I could do anything I set my mind to! My mum has always told me that nothing is impossible if we set our mind to it, and I finally see what she means!
Going from a pretty crappy beginning of the year to finishing the season as the European Champion and 6th in the World is beyond my comprehension and something I never want to forget.
And just to round off the whole year, we have just found out that our team, Whitty's Sport Therapy, has joined the Team Zoot 2019! Next year is going to be amazing!
I wouldn't be writing this blog if it wasn't for my coach, Kris Whitmarsh. Like I said above, I have never really believed in my own ability but to have a coach that can see exactly what I could be and pushes me to that level is beyond anything I could have asked for. I definitely wouldn't have achieved everything I have without him, so thank you so much Kris for believing in me, even when I didn't! And I can't believe I am saying this, but thank you for giving me all of those horrible sessions, as I think we can easily say that they worked! Bring on the next season!
I also wouldn't have gotten where I am today without Richardsons Cycles. At the end of last year, they gave me a bike that I never believed that I could have! I kept on having to ask myself why they trusted my ability so much that they would give me the beauty that is the Rocket (that's what I call it, as it has a rocket-logo underneath the frame!) but vowed that I would try as hard as I could to make them proud. I definitely wouldn't have gone as fast I have this year without it! And don't worry, it is now safely on the turbo and out of this horrible English weather for the winter!
And of course, the continued support of Glynn and his company, Rippleside Metalworks. I met Glynn a few years ago at our local open water swimming club, Chalkwell Redcaps. I don't even remember telling him about what I do and what I had achieved (and at that point, it wasn't much as I was only just going into the adult triathlon series). But for some reason that I still do not know today, he believed that I was going to go far in the Triathlon world and decided to help me in that pursuit. Glynn, I cannot put into words how grateful I am of your continued support, and I can only hope that I am reaching the level that you believed that I could be!
And last, but most certainly not least, my parents. This is the first time I have stopped typing on this blog as I want to make sure this message is the best that I can make it.
Nearly 20 years ago now, you brought me into this world without a clue as to how much I was going to control your lives (sorry!). Since I started this journey of Triathlon at the age of 8, you have been there every step of the way, through the hard times and the good. From standing on the side of the course in the pouring rain cheering me on, to picking me up and believing in me when I felt that I couldn't do it anymore. You have been the quiet confidence I have needed all my life, and I know I don't say it enough but I am eternally grateful for your love and support on this crazy journey of life I have chosen. I can only wish to be half the person that you both are when I am older!
Thank you to everyone who has followed my journey so far, and I hope you follow me into the next year as I go into the next age category.
Merry Christmas everyone, and have a fantastic New Year! See you in 2019!
After 3 1/2 weeks down under, I can finally write this end of season blog. I was going to do it yesterday, but after the flight from hell and no sleep, all I could think about was sleep. What was meant to be a short nap before dinner turned into a 15 hour sleep!
So before the jetlag hits me again, I am going to condense the last 3 weeks into this short blog!
Australia, you have stolen my heart! I'm barely 24 hours back in the UK and I already want to go back! It all started in Burleigh Heads, Gold Coast. I am never going to forget the view we had from our apartment and pictures do not do it justice (see below). I spent some time in this area before moving up the coast and took in some amazing sights whilst cycle training with a local triathlon club. We even had a kangaroo bouncing alongside us during one ride! Amazing.
A few days before the race, we moved to an apartment directly next to the competition site, and that was when the nerves started! As my race was on the last day of a 4-day race schedule, I could watch everything from my apartment balcony, so there was no escaping the atmosphere of it. Although I love the atmosphere of a race, having the cheers of the crowd, the sound of the official's motorcycle going past, and the view of everyone else's race happening all day everyday can be quite annoying in the build up to your own race!
After the 3 days of registration, team briefing and bike check-in, it was finally race day. I have raced at all sorts of hours, from early morning to late afternoon, however, this was a whole new experience for me! We were up at 3am to get ready for this day, with a 4:30am transition check-in. It was still pitch black outside, and the floodlights over transition that were meant to help us see our bike area only cast everything in an even darker shadow. I have never had to set up my transition with a torch light before!
Although the circumstances were not ideal, it did bring out a whole new level of comradery between the countries. I had a fellow Brit on my right, and a Mexican competitor I had made friends with a few days before on my left, with a New Zealander on her other side. Although we were all competing against each other, we held torches whilst the other sorted their wheels, held bikes whiles pumping up the tires, and offered words of encouragement when the nerves got too much! It was the nicest and most relaxed ambience I have felt before a Triathlon, and I wish I could have stayed and chatted with the girls for a lot longer.
Nevertheless, we had a competition to get through. Once transition was set up and the sun decided to rise (typical it was after I had finished setting up transition!), it was time to head down to the competition start. Just like the European Championships, the swim was a straight 1500m swim with no turns which I prefer. It did mean a long walk to the start line, but at least the walk was on part of the run course!
It wasn't my best swim but enough to come out in 12th position. It was then time for my favourite part of the race, the bike!
I had already been around the course on the bike recce with the GB team so I knew what to expect, and I liked it! The majority of the course was flat and fast, which meant a lot of time on the TT bars. The roads in Australia are amazingly wide and the surface smooth, so along with them being closed even going round the corners were fast!
There was no time for rest on this course as I knew everyone else would be going fast as well, because of this I managed to clock my fastest time ever on the bike section! I got the third fastest bike time in my age group and I managed to make up enough places to 6th position.
And then came the run. I will not hesitate to say that the run hasn't worked for me this year, but ask any Triathlete and they will tell you that it is nearly impossible to keep all 3 disciplines at a good level at the same time plus this is the end of a long season for us Brits (Australians are just starting their season so fresh legs!) That is why I made sure my bike was as fast as I could as I knew the run wouldn't be as good.
I had put so much effort into the bike that my legs were not having it for the run and I felt like they were extremely heavy, but I managed to keep my 6th position all the way to the end with help from family members who had travelled up from Melbourne to see me and shout me in all the way to the finish! I knew when I crossed that line that I had given everything I could and couldn't have done any better this year, so I am so proud of myself!
AND... I'm 6TH IN THE WORLD!!!!
It has been a very long year with many ups and downs, but what a year! From my shoulder operation in February and thinking I wasn't going to be able to compete this year at all , to becoming European Champion in July and now 6th in the World!
Now that I have had my 2 week break from all training - spent travelling up and down the East Coast of Australia and having eaten a year's worth of chocolate and TimTams in that time, it is time to get stuck into my winter training to prepare for next year and get my strength up in this shoulder.
This 'short' blog has now turned into quite a long one, so I think I will leave my down-time blog to another time!
Thank you everyone for the lovely words of encouragement and congratulations I have received not just for this race, but for this whole year! I love you all!!
I just want to say a huge THANKYOU to my sponsors for your continued support this season to Richardsons Cycles, Sovereign Play Equipment, Rippleside Metalworks, plus help with funding from Essex & Southend Sports Fund/Annabel and Gerald Malton Fund... and of course Kris Whitmarsh, for all of your help with my coaching this year - I seriously doubt I would have been able to achieve everything I have without all of your help and support! Thankyou all for still believing in me.
This has been my many attempts of writing this blog since my race nearly two weeks ago. I would like to say I am normally quite good with the introduction of the blog, but this one has me stumped. I just don’t know how else to say it…
I AM THE EUROPEAN CHAMPION!!
It still seems crazy to say, and I don’t think I will ever get used to it – actually, I don’t want to get used to it! I want it to feel this fresh and crazy every time someone mentions it. I want to remember that surreal feeling crossing the line knowing I had just won the European Championships. I want to remember how it felt to phone my dad after the race and tell him the news - and how excited my coach was (he phoned me within 2 minutes of finishing he was so excited!).
My mum said I would forget the details if I didn’t write it down, but she’s wrong: I will remember this race for the rest of my life. And what makes it even more special is that I was close to cancelling this race thinking I wouldn't be fit or ready in time for it. Thank goodness I didn't!
One of the reasons for the above statement is the fact that this was probably one of my favourite bike courses I have raced on. It was as flat as a pancake, so obviously I was already excited for it. It was a simple out and back loop on wide, open roads with nothing but the trees and fields as company. Although I have never been there, the roads in Canada came to mind, being able to see everything before the horizon with nothing obstructing the view. It felt amazing to simply get on my TT bars and power out the 40k in a personal record time. Kris, my coach, said I could do it, and although I had my doubts before seeing the course, he was right!
Another positive of this race was the swim. This was a new experience for me for two reasons. Number 1: the start area was like a mini triathlete party! It was on a small, man-made beach next to the river, with music, drink (non-alcoholic obviously!), changing and seating areas – it was a really nice way to relax before the race. Every nation from Europe and every age group was there mingling and chatting. It made for a really relaxing start to a race.
Number 2: The swim was a straight down river swim, with no loops or turn buoys. They extended it from the traditional 1500m to 1750m (something I would have panicked about just a month ago because of my shoulder) but because of the river current, it made it far too easy to do just 1500m and my shoulder held out really well knocking a couple of minutes off last years appalling swim times due to the dislocated shoulder!
Finally, the run took us around the local paths and lakes of beautiful Tartu, I can’t really describe the route because there were so many turns and bends that I lost track of where I was! The one stand-out feature of this run was the sprinkler bridge halfway through! The weather was an uncomfortable 28 degrees Celsius, so running under the water felt like heaven! I’m also happy to report that I didn’t throw a cup of sports drink on my head thinking it was plain water to cool me down, so double achievement in this race!
After a week of recovery training (I needed it after this race!), I am starting my next block of training, in preparation for the World Champs next month! I can’t believe how quickly this has come around, but just get me to Australia now as I am on a high after the Europeans!
Working in London, I often hear a lot of comments of ‘I can’t believe it’s July!’ (sometimes happy as the summer is FINALLY here, but the majority because they know it is almost time for the empty-pocket month of December), and I told myself I would not be one of them. However…
....I CANNOT BELIEVE IT IS JULY ALREADY! It feels like only yesterday I was sitting in a hospital bed, wondering if I was going to be able to do the European Championships. To that Kiera, it felt like a lifetime before she could get back to that level of training, let alone actually racing. But for this Kiera, the one that is flying to Estonia tomorrow for the race this weekend, it feels like nothing could stop her!
My second Triathlon of the year, and just so happened to be my last before the Euros, was the Southend Triathlon. When you think of a Triathlon, you probably imagine a cold and very early morning, huddled in transition with as many layers your body can allow. I HATE being cold. But unusually it must have been my lucky weekend, as this race was both local AND an afternoon race and nice and warm, which any Triathlete knows is practically unheard of in the world of multisport!
The sea swim was very choppy, so much so that I couldn’t see any other competitor for several strokes before the waves dropped and I had a split second of seeing the buoys and other competitors, before it was just me in a cavern of water again. Several people didn’t even get 50 metres before they pulled out as they were terrified. In fact, the last couple of waves of competitors never got to swim as they cancelled the swim section of the race due to safety reasons! Luckily I was in wave one.
I previously had my reservations of the bike course (6 out-and-back loops, all self-counted, with over 100 people on the course at a time = recipe for disaster!), but it was a surprisingly a nice race and my bike responded really well to the course and the turns - and so did my body.
My arm held well on that swim surprisingly and it did well on the bike even though I had to do a lot of gearing and turning so I think all the hard work with the physio, exercises and swim training has been worth it.
Final preparations are underway, bags are being packed, and flights are being checked in. Pretty soon it'll be time for the hard part: trying to put my wonderfully-packed bike by Richardson’s back together! t.
Before the sun had even risen from behind the horizon, I was in transition setting up my bike, shoes and helmet for the approaching race. I would say the one downfall of this race is the transition - although it is so big that it can easily fit all of the competitors in, they decided to put the entrance and exit (for the people who hadn't started their race yet) in the same corner as the bike in and out, which made for some close collisions between cycles and people!
Soon enough, the swim was upon me. All of the men's waves went off before mine, and it was only then, watching them go off, that I realised that this is what I was so nervous about, having not done a full 1500m in training since my op without stopping before this I was unsure whether I would make it round! So you can imagine my relief when they announced that the swim would be reduced to 750m due to the amount of mist over the lake!
But of course, as usual, luck wasn't on my side - I was the first female wave after the men, and just happened to be the first wave that had the swim put back up to 1500m! In a way though, this was better, because I now know that I can do that distance This was my only Standard distance Triathlon before the Europeans, so at least I have actually done the correct distance before having to compete abroad.
After finding my racking spot back at transition it was time for the run, the section I probably felt most comfortable as there was no pressure on my shoulder.
For anyone following my blogs, you probably know that the running was the easiest discipline to get back to after the operation, so naturally I felt quite confident during this race. The first 5.4km of the 10km race run, I felt amazing. I had a really good rhythm, long strides, breathing easy, and honestly felt like I was on for a PB.
You are probably wondering why I was so precise about the 5.4km - it's because at that exact distance (I looked at my watch!), the whole lower half of my body cramped. I don't mean the slight pulling of the muscles, I mean the type of cramp where you can't bend your legs and you feel like someone has poured fire in your muscles. Yeah, you know what I mean! PAIN!
No stress, I just had to slow down my pace a bit for the rest of the race, and although it was quite frustrating knowing how good I felt at the beginning, it showed me what I have to work on and how much more I can improve.
I think most of it was down to the fact that cycling on a road bike compared to a TT bike uses totally different muscles, ones I haven't worked before, so it just means getting used to the position of the bike and powering through it. Although comparing with another competition last year I am thinking of ditching the energy gels as this could also be a contributing factor. That's one thing about triathlon, its completely a personal race. What is good for one person is not necessarily the same for another person and over time things change within your own training and body and you have to learn to adapt, or change.
Overall, it was a fairly decent race, and I managed to get 4 minutes quicker compared to last year even with the super slow run and slower swim and not having tapered the training for a race at all beforehand.
However I managed 3rd in my age group and got on the podium - not bad for my first race back and the British Champs!
It is only about a month now until the Europeans, so time to take the training up a gear and ready myself for that!
It's been about 4 months now since I had the operation, and I have finally been able to get on my TT bike on the road!
For the people who aren't as familiar with carbon TT bikes, I will explain why it has taken me so long to get on the road. It is common sense that a steel bike is much heavier than a carbon bike, hence why competitive cyclists or triathletes go for the carbon bike - the heavier the bike, the more weight you are having to push around, the more energy you are using up. so the slower you move.
That, of course, will be very handy in my races as I am cycling 40 kilometres in between a swim and a run.
I have been told many times that a TT bike makes a lot of difference compared to a carbon bike, but I don't think anyone can explain this properly, I think its something that you have to experience yourself. I have also been told that it is a lot more reactive. By this, I mean that one slight twitch of the handlebars and you could be going in a different direction (that is something that no one can prepare you for until you experience it yourself and that is not an exaggeration!). That is why I have made sure my shoulder is definitely ready to support me on this new bike - I wouldn't want to go and crash it on my first ride because I wasn't strong enough to control it!
However even though I was expecting some change once I started riding my TT, I did not think it possible to feel that much faster - and immediately - than when I was on my carbon bike.
The Trek is SO much lighter than my carbon bike, so much so that I feel like I am flying when I have a straight, open road to cycle. I could feel myself going faster and faster and I wasn't even pushing it that much. I could feel the grin on my face and even though my dad came with me to film beside me for a few snaps, I gradually left him behind so he only managed to get a couple of shots.
The aerodynamics make a massive difference and it is so smooth. Yes, it is very reactive, but that is just something I have to get used to and not be such a clumsy rider as I have been for the past few years, because the positives far outweigh the negatives with this bike.
It was also very comfortable, making the 2.5 hour ride feel a lot shorter (normally my arm positioning and butt starts hurting halfway through the ride - not this time!). I think the positioning on TT bikes ie leaning further forward over the front wheel and further forward on the seat means that your quads are stretched out more and therefore less chance of getting leg cramps before or during the next section of the race, the run. I didn't realise what a difference this would make and when I got off the bike after several miles of constant riding I had loads of life left in my legs, with no cramping.
Changing the gears is so smooth that you hardly even realise that it has happened, its like gliding a knife through butter. Leaning on the TT bars is so comfortable that I feel like I could stay there all day and that's a real positive statement to make after having a shoulder operation, and don't even get me started on the beautiful sound the wheels make when they are spinning (thankyou Ros 4 Jon) (Fellow cyclists will know what I mean on that one!)
All in all even though this was my first proper ride on a TT bike and my first ever Trek, I am very impressed and would have no hesitation in recommending anyone to try a Trek TT, but in particular a Speed Concept. For someone who has purposely used road bike for all triathlons and road races in the past, I was a little worried about not having the brakes near the gears incase I needed to get to them quickly and I never liked the position of them before (I always though how awkward I looked on them!) However a proper bike set up made a huge difference as well as a properly measured frame, flight deck and seating and I am surprised how quickly I have adapted to it.
Of course, I wouldn't even be writing this blog about this gorgeous machine if it wasn't for Richardsons Cycles, the amazing people who gave me this bike at the beginning of the year! I'm sorry it has taken so long to get on the bike, but it was definitely worth the wait. I love it even more now I've ridden it properly!!
Now for my first race on it.... this weekend, actually! My first Duathlon in over 2 years, and my first race back this season - no biggy!