Well it has been quite a couple of weeks! I think the above image sums it up, if I was keen to do more HIIT type activities, then I got that in spades in the past 14 days.
I have been juggling the demands of possibly now too much work, with my usual training, and then the addition of a visit from my parents, down from Aberdeen for the first time since August 2019.
I am embracing the fact that the Serpentine is back open again now after the blue green algae closure and oh my it feels wonderful. I love this time of year, the water feels lovely and calm and there is just the start of a chill in the air. The GoPro I am sure will be making a return next week to capture some of those early morning sunrise swims.
The calm of the water has been contrasted with some HIIT intervals in my cycling. Again, pulling on the knowledge I have picked up from my Menopause for Athletes course, I have been concentrating on some hard, short intervals of 30 secs to 1 minute. But of course still trying to keep my distances up to complete my challenge by the end of the year. The past 2 weeks are looking like this:
With a total distance of just under 6,800km covered, I would now just have passed Santiago in Chile. The thought of that makes me very nostalgic as it is where I completed my actual Andes challenge in 2017. We managed to have two days in this bustling city and certainly celebrated our efforts! Well having navigated not only the scariest winding downhill I have ever witnessed, the last ride into the city took us for about 60km on a major road that I kept hoping the police would stop us from cycling on. It was little wonder we jumped at the chance to indulge in a 'Terremoto' cocktail or three when we arrived to calm our jangled nerves. As the locals explained, the name translates literally as 'earthquake' apparently because of the effect it has on your legs. Oh yes, thankfully there was no cycling the next day...
Continuing the social theme, I believe I may have broken my parents with five days of full on activity that included a trip to Bletchley Park, a tour of Shakespeare's Globe, a boat trip to Greenwich and a fun night at the Comedy Store, not to mention plenty of meals and socialising. I think I sometimes forget my parents are in their lates seventies and eighties, especially as they seemed fair game for a ten hour day out on the Sunday.
They are now back in Aberdeen building up their reserves for the next trip in 12 months.
I must admit I found Bletchley Park fascinating, especially as my mum and dad's neighbour was one of the codebreakers there during the war. Sadly passed now, she was a fascinating woman who was obviously sworn to secrecy at the time so that even her husband didn't know what she did.
And for the rare couple of hours when my folks had a relax back at their hotel, Ian and I had an opportunity to do a bit of sightseeing ourselves and soak up the autumn sun in St James Park. Then it was back into full on mode again as the next week saw a night out with some cycling friends I haven't seem for ages, and then a trip to our favourite Gordon's Wine Bar when my best friend Shirley come down from Aberdeen for a few days with her mum. This was a trip that likewise they usually do every year but had missed in 2020. Some lovely, long awaited moments of normality!
It's been a week of switching things up and starting to change the way I am training a bit following on from the learnings of my 'Menopause for Athletes' course. Contrary to what public expectations might be of that, perhaps along the lines of "oh, getting older, better ease things off a bit" Well far from it, what I have been learning most of all is that during this time we really should be training for power, not endurance. Apparently women over the age of 40 inherently have the ability for endurance, whereas we start to lose our power and ability to build muscle mass. I briefed Javier on what I would like to achieve from a 'heavy lifting session' at Hyde Park and he took me at my word! We were doing sets of no more than 5 reps at a time of squats, deadlifts followed by farmer carries, rows and then single handed overhead presses with a kettlebell whilst seated on the floor. These shots are certainly anything but flattering, but they give a sense of the effort. I didn't include the seated overhead press as it truly is a grimace - I had no idea how much stability we put through our legs and feet when we do these standing up. The seated version is a real challenge of balance and core activation. I could feel the DOMS setting in even early that evening, but definitely felt the benefit of this session.
Its very appropriate that I was doing a power session with Argentinian Javier this week as I would now be in the Cordón de la Ramada region running between Argentina and Chile. This area boasts boasts five peaks over 6000m, including the mammoth Cerro Mercedario, which tops out at 6770m. I would be needing to pull on all of my muscular resources to get through these climbs! The distances this week are looking like this:
Another couple of glimpses of normality came this week, firstly in the form of a site visit for a potential event I may be managing in December. YES an actual meeting with people in London at a REAL in person event. It was a breath of fresh air after being stuck to my two Mac screens running virtual events for such a long time. It also gave me the opportunity to see my great production colleague Duncan in person after working with him via a screen for over 18months.
Then the week rounded off perfectly with another singing opportunity. Singing teacher Matt Thompson had tried to keep our choir going via Zoom for the first few months of lockdown, but it just hadn't been the same with varying wifi strengths and we had stopped even these virtual meet ups around August last year. A close group though, we had kept in touch via a WhatsApp group and were delighted when Matt suggested a get together at a bar in Camden for a singalong around the piano. Apparently it had been requested by the bar owner and we jumped at the opportunity! It was quite emotional to actually see these people in the flesh again after almost 20 months and we embraced the following 2.5 hours of singing. It seemed bizarre after the restrictions to think we could not only be in such close proximity in a bar without a mask but also singing heartily into each others faces. I won't subject you to the video footage but the highlights had to be the renditions of 'Sweet Caroline', 'Living on a Prayer' and to see the whole bar na na na naaaa-ing to 'Hey Jude' at the end of the night. It truly was a night of joy and hopefully a monthly fixture. So make your way to the Lord Stanley in Camden next month to be part of the fun :)
It's been a much needed lower volume week after my long hilly race last weekend.
My swimming was also reduced due to the presence of blue green algae at the Serpentine, shutting the lido down until it clears. Although this initially caused me panic to think of how I felt during Covid closures, it then afforded me the opportunity to return to my initial open water swimming location in London, the mixed ponds at Hampstead Heath. This is a lovely oasis of calm a short bike ride away from my flat. I can see why there has been such a furore that the City of London have doubled the entrance fee to swim here, however, which takes away from its accessibility for so many people. I feel very lucky to have my £20 Serpentine membership which allows me to swim any morning I like (blue green algae aside of course!) Once in the water though, with only another half a dozen swimmers around me I was embracing this change of scenery for my swim.
I also used this week as an opportunity to get some more paddleboarding in with some paddling along the Grand Union Canal. There was another glimpse of nature in action here as I could see the effect the warm weather we did a few weeks back has had on the water - a multiplying of duckweed on the surface. It's a bizarre feeling as you go through this bright green carpet lying on the canal. Apparently back in 2016 the Canal River Trust removed over 70 tonnes of the stuff which deprives wildlife of oxygen.
So the reduced distances look like this:
This distance would now find me at La Serena in Chile. Founded in 1544, it is the second-oldest city after Santiago and the thriving capital of the Coquimbo Region. Blessed with both beautiful architecture and a long golden shoreline, the city absorbs hoards of Chilean holidaymakers in January and February, though it is fairly peaceful outside the summer rush. Sauntering through downtown La Serena reveals dignified stone churches, tree-shaded avenues and some pretty plazas. Some of the city's architecture is from the colonial era, but most is actually neocolonial – the product of Serena-born president Gabriel González Videla's 'Plan Serena' of the late 1940s.
I also completed my 'Menopause for Athletes' course this week.
Delivered by Stacy T. Sims, Ph.D., this course gives the science-based knowledge and research needed to understand the changes happening to your body and give the strategies needed to optimise your performance and health. Prior to her life as a key researcher and author in this area, Stacy served as an exercise physiologist and nutrition scientist at Stanford University where she specialised in sex differences with environmental and nutritional considerations for recovery and performance, specialising in women's health and performance.
There were 57 chapters of enlightening content in this course, covering the science behind these hormonal changes, and how to adapt nutrition and training to work with your body, not against it. I am very much realising that most research on training and nutrition has been created for men and simply scaled down for women. As Stacy sums it up 'Women are not small men'. I will be putting this knowledge into practice not only for my own training, but for women I coach.
On the subject of certification, I stumbled upon this other little gem below 'awarded' to me by my creative friend Moz, after he and Dawn were my support boat crew in one of my loch swims in Scotland back in 2001. As I sent a shot of it to him he mused "nothing much changes, does it?"
This week also saw the welcome return of some activities that had been affected by Covid restrictions. I had my first sports massage in over 6 months, which was heaven after last week. Not only Covid, but mostly financial resources had prevented me from having regular massages, and I definitely felt the benefit after this one. It was made all the sweeter by the fact that my lovely friend Martin had surprised me by booking in two credits for me for massages after my recent race. Cheers Martin!
But the highlight of my week had to be my first face to face singing lesson in over 18 months. Prior to that I had been going to singing teacher Matt Thompson at least twice a month, and to his choir every week. My friend Tracey and I went to Matt to indulge our love of singing and managed a duet of 'Everybody's Talking' within the hour. And oh it felt wonderful! There is also a choir get together and singalong planned for next week and I can't wait. I have such fond memories of when we performed some songs as part of my 50th party back in 2018. As someone commented looking at this photo recently "Wow, look how close together we are there!" Bring it on!
This was a monthly wildcard challenge and a half! Putting my strong cycling and swimming training to good use I entered a middle distance aquabike event called 'Conquer the Chilterns'. This event was certainly to live up to it's hilly name, which is all very fitting given the nature of my virtual challenge this year.
Difficult though the 6am arrival at the start at Henley felt, we were rewarded with some rather lovely, misty landscapes to take my mind off the task ahead. This mist was to prove a bit troublesome for the race organisers though who had to delay the start of the swim as it was making it too difficult to see the turning buoy further up the river Thames. All this hanging about just escalates the anxiety levels so I was glad to get in and get started. This was the first race in 'Covid times' that I have been in where they did a mass swim start and it was as frenetic as I remembered, people clambering over each other for position. Something I didn't do particularly well as I found myself veered off course too far to the right and having to work hard to track back in at the first turn. My watch in fact recorded 2.1km rather than the 1.9km we were supposed to do, so I was pretty happy to get complete it in just under 38mins.
It was a significant run up to the bike transition and then I was out on the road. It took me a while to get into my stride here as I wasn't familiar with the short loop that had been added into the start and was just thinking about the hills ahead that I knew about from my mountain bike outings. Although the first 15 minutes of the hill climb section is quite steady, it actually felt like more of a slog than the final 10 minute steep section that I had been practicing. It felt energy sapping on my thighs on this first lap...and there were two more repeats of this to come! By the top of this first 300m climb though I was happy to see that the downhill wasn't as scary as I had anticipated and in fact was quite short. Pros and cons to that though, it meant that I had to get into 'speed mode' to try and push for the next 30 minutes until the second climb was upon me. By this time the people who were doing the shorter versions of this race (the standard and sprint distances) were starting to join the pack, but I was pleased to see that I was still able to pass people on the final climb, by which point some people were actually even walking! Oh wow though my lower back was screaming as there seemed to be no let up in the effort with such a short downhill respite, and I found myself doing a sort of back stretch with funny hip movement whilst I cycled every now and then to try and ease it.
I had a finish time in mind on the bike of around 3:20 having looked at previous results and the profile of the 78km course and so had been frantically calculating in my head as I completed each lap to see if I was on track for this. As I reached the top of the third climb I felt like I could do a lot better than this and so started to do my usual internal mantra of "15km to go, that's only 3 laps of Regents Park....10km to go, that's only 2 laps..." and so on. By the time I was at 5km to the end I was shouting "push, push" to myself in my head and was averaging about 35-36km per hour on the flat section. I was SO pleased to see Ian waving at me at the end of the bike course and shouting at me which way to go. Yes, you may think this would be obvious, but the thing about Aquabike events is that it never seems to be completely clear where your finish line will be. In fact at the start of the race one of the marshals was trying to do a shout out to tell us that she had changed her mind about where the clock would stop for our race. So as I arrived at the bike finish line bang on 3 hours, it was a bit disheartening to see that I still had to run about 500m with my bike uphill to actually finish. All taken in good spirits though with Ian shouting "keep running, don't you dare start walking" at me. Ah, he is the best support crew, and as we joke 'Officer in Charge of Photography'. He did a great job on both counts.
Having had a total race goal of just over 4 hours in my head I was delighted to complete it in 3:46 and to be first female in my age group.
And of course all of this adds into my overall challenge goal for this year with the distances looking like this for the week (balancing tapering with distance!):
With just over 5,650km completed to date I would now be at the small town of Copiapó in Chile. This is a location that had been on the original route of my actual South American adventure in 2017, but extreme conditions in the Atacama Desert had meant we had to reroute, which is a shame as it was a location that I, like many people had an interest in.
Copiapó lies about 800km north of Santiago by the Copiapó River, in the valley of the same name. In the early 21st century, the river has dried up in response to climate change and more severe droughts. The town is surrounded by the Atacama Desert and receives just 12 mm of rain per year.
What most of us remember this location for though is that on 5 August 2010, the San José Copper Mine collapsed, trapping 33 miners underground. The mine was about 45km north of the city. The miners were 700 meters deep and 5km from the mine's entrance via spiralling underground ramps. Private, local, national and international resources cooperated in their rescue. The miners survived underground for 69 days until all were brought to the surface on 13 October 2010, a record period of time. I still vividly remember this news story as it captured the hearts of nations across the world who collectively held their breath hoping for a successful outcome.
And so here is to a celebratory week personally, and remembering successes from the past.
It might have been a 'download week' for training, but it certainly hasn't been a quiet one in terms of work!
After a challenging 18 months with little in the way of events contracts coming in I certainly can't complain that I now have three large events to deliver in two months. This is something I wouldn't have thought would be feasible in the pre pandemic world, but it is definitely a case of making hay whilst the sun shines at the moment, and I am sure I can make anything work.
Although clients are still erring on the side of caution and keeping things virtual, I have learned over the past year that this certainly doesn't make things easier for events! I find myself constantly learning new skills and platforms to try and offer extra functionality like one-to-one networking and other nice interaction experiences to make what I offer more attractive than run of the mill virtual events. The platform I am working with at the moment can be branded so uniquely to each client that the 95 layers of 'deep branding' available have driven me to distraction at times.
This week I ran what was supposed to be a 'small demo' for a team of five people which turned into a full blown event in itself. But I have always been complimented on my ability to keep calm under pressure and boy have I been harnessing that swan like persona this week! Yes these serene Serpentine swimming sessions like the one above are part of my morning ritual that keep me sane for the rest of the day.
So, onto the (shorter) distances this week...
I am still just keeping the running ticking over whilst I focus on swimming and cycling for the next week or two, but I can't wait to get back to the paddleboard and kayak!
Having now covered a distance of 5,486km to date would find me at the tiny village of Antofalla in north western Argentina, close to the border of Chile. So small in fact that this village only has around 45 residents. Its most famous claim to fame is the nearby volcano, part of the volcanic segment of the Andes in Argentina. With the grit roads and remote location, this is an area that I definitely haven't been to on my real South American trip, but I am intrigued!
Back in the real world, I might have been reducing my distance this week, but I have still been trying to keep the hill training up. Very poignant given that I would now be in the Andes region of Argentina. My hills aren't quite up to that standard, but being in the heart of the Chilterns on my weekends at Ian's place, I decided to do some hill reps. Turns out there are some cracking climbs just a two minute ride from his flat. One thing I realised about signage is that you only get warning of steep descents, not ascents on roads as I glanced back at this 20% one which explained why I my thighs felt like Chris Hoys' by the end of this session! Kudos again to the 'old jalopy' (weekend) mountain bike.
As I come towards the end of my course on 'Menopause for Athletes' I am also learning the importance of balancing out the hard training with recovery, or to put it more accurately, to ensure that there is sufficient time spent in the parasympathetic state to balance off the cortisol that is triggered in high intensity training. I have been so grateful to my friend Dawn for her weekly online Yin Yoga sessions which have done me the world of good in the absence of the sports massages that I used to have the luxury of affording most weeks. This week I also finally signed up to the Headspace app and am really feeling the benefit of the many practices and features they offer, from early morning wake ups and breathing exercises, to meditations, playlists, and my personal favourite, the sleepcasts.
Another thing I am trying to do more of is taking the time to notice things around me, and to not just rush around. This meant that on my way through Wembley Park on Saturday I was rewarded with seeing such a lovely, inspirational wall of poetry. Apparently at the start of the year Wembley Park and, coincidentally again, the children's mental health charity Place2Be ran an art competition to raise awareness of Children's Mental Health Awareness Week. Children in Place2Be schools in Brent were invited to submit poetry along with an illustration under the theme of Bravery. This is a word that I really find very emotive and I found myself reading around 25 of the submissions that were pinned along the wall. I could see many people hurrying past, but others, like me stood quite taken aback by some of the wonderful poems and illustrations by these children.
With a total of just over 5,400km now completed in my virtual challenge, I would be continuing my path through northern Argentina and once again covering ground that my trusty hybrid bike and I have actually been across.
The distances this week split down like this:
This would have me arriving at the town of Cafayate, an important tourist centre for exploring the Calchaquíes valleys, and renowned for the quality and originality of the wines produced in the area. I remember the bike ride across this arid region well for the searing heat and challenging hills, but also the stunning landscape with features like La Garganta del Diablo (Devils Throat).
In fact this region is so passionate about it's wine production that I remember taking this photo on the left below almost in disbelief that in the middle of nowhere (and desperately thirsty) the only refreshments available from this little outlet was yes, you guessed it, wine! Probably one of the few times in my life I have turned down a glass of red...
Unlike back in the real world where I felt it was only fitting that I have a steak and glass of Malbec to celebrate my entry to Argentina! (Ok, most of the plate seems on reflection to be taken over by chips and onion rings, but there was actually a big bike ride ahead of me the next day, honest).
Speaking of food (never far from my mind). Ian introduced me this week to what might become one of my favourite breakfasts. Both being fans of overnight oats and porridge, he had ordered some oats from a new company who had a range of naturally flavoured oats with themes like Maple and Pecan, or Cinnamon Bun. The breakfast choice for this day was Cherry Bakewell flavour and the manufacturers also suggest a baked oats recipe. Something I hadn't tried before but it involved soaking the oats in yoghurt and an egg and then baking in the oven. Sounded healthy! Ian pimped it up with some flaked almonds and a spoon of cherry conserve.....mmmm...possibly now slightly resembling a dessert but definitely fuelled me up for a hilly ride in the Chilterns!
And just to prove it, see below for a snippet of a certain Cat 4 hill that I have been practicing on Ian's 'old jalopy' mountain bike ahead of an event I am going to do. This you will be glad to hear is just over a minute of the footage of the 15min climb that features three times on the event course, eek. But I still attempt to channel a bit of
M People. Oh and the angle is because the GoPro is on my wrist, I am not actually falling off the bike...
It was timely then that one of the people I am coaching just now asked me this week "How do you stay so strong, you never seem to have a bad day?" It might seem that way, but I definitely do have days when I feel like it takes me all my effort to do a session. But mainly I remind myself how good I will feel afterwards, and think about a goal I am working towards. My latest session was a good example - tasked with doing a 2km swim followed immediately afterwards by a three and a half hour interval bike ride I was wondering how to logistically do this in central London. Of course my swim would be in the Serpentine, but the bike, how to do that without traffic interfering with it? Well after my swim it seemed obvious, I am no stranger to Regents Park laps, so why not do similar around Hyde Park? There were many combinations there and the added challenge of some more inclines and headwinds, but seeing my favourite lido on the way round definitely kept me going. It's funny the other things that keep you going like "Well I can have a drink in another 15 minutes time...and then a little snack 15 minutes after that". It's the simple things.
Something else that definitely keeps me going is music, I love a power song and some go-to favourite artists have to be the likes of Sia or Pink. But I also remembered a great musical moment from a few years ago that I have shared with a few people this week. This was when I was delivering an awards event for the children's mental health charity Place2Be (in the presence of the Duchess of Cambridge, excuse the major name drop!) They like to have a school choir at their events, but logistically that was going to be difficult at the venue. Enter a suggestion from a school outside Edinburgh, who had been working on a song called 'Stronger'. I challenge you not to be won over by this little troupe - a great message and a definite ear worm! Keep an eye out especially for the wee boy on the far right in the glasses who melts my heart. Over 23,000 YouTube views can't be wrong...
After my real trip up north, I am back on track and managed to rack up the following mileage this week:
This distance of 205.5km would see me arriving at the small town of Chicoana in the Salta Province of Argentina, and again, actually somewhere I HAVE been in real life, what a treat! This had been the first stop off on our Andes adventure in 2017, at the end of my first ride fully laden up with panniers etc in South America. The photo above was taken shortly before I clipped a roundabout with one of my front panniers and fell off, oh dear, it took a bit of getting used to this weight distribution on the bike.
I also wasn't expecting the slight distrust the Argentinians still have to us Brits, as is demonstrated by the mural I am cycling past. I often became the 'spokesperson' for the group in shops etc as it was felt they were warmer to the Scots, though I don't know why. Anyway, the hosts at our overnight accommodation in the tiny town of Chicoana were certainly welcoming. It was here that I was to have my first taste of Argentinian breakfasts, and was soon to realise that pretty much everything they make has sugar in it!
Back in the real world this week I also managed to challenge myself a bit more by borrowing Ian's bike whilst I was at his place to get some Chilterns training in. Using his 'old jalopy' as he calls it certainly made things interesting as the section out from Henley to Turville Heath has some 'nice' Cat 4 climbs to contend with!
I was also feeling it in my muscles from a particularly hard HIIT class on Wednesday. These are always challenging sessions run by Be Fearsome, and as they mix up the instructors from week to week you never really know what you are going to get. I am pleased to know from my 'Menopause for Athletes' course though how important HIIT and weight training is for females at this stage of life, so I am glad I am ahead of the game here.
Well this has been a LONG time coming! I may be 28 weeks into my Latin American Pentathlon but it had been 83 weeks since I had been able to get home to see my family. Covid 19 had thwarted three attempts at a trip back home last year and I couldn't quite believe that it had been Christmas 2019 since I had seen my mum and dad. Facetime can do so much, but I knew they were feeling the passing of time as much as I was. At times it felt like they might as well have been on the other side of the world, like my virtual challenge, for how difficult it was to get there.
It was a lovely sunny day as Ian and I landed in Aberdeen and saw my dad's smiling face waiting to pick us up. I never thought I would be so excited about a 'holiday' to Aberdeen!
There are numerous highlights of our 5 days up north but here are a few..
Obviously seeing my mum and dad - finally being able to hug them and REALLY know they are safe and well.
Seeing my best friend Shirley for the first time in 19 months and hugging her and feeling quite emotional. Walking round a sunny Hazlehead Park with (and her new lockdown addition Barney the dog) finally felt like there was some normality in the world.
I managed to meet up with my brother and his family who I hadn't seen for two years which was a rare treat. Then that night it was up to see Shirley, her family and my good friend Shäron up at Shirley's house, in fact, correction, in her garden! We were so lucky with the weather in Aberdeen spending most of our time outside whilst there were thunderstorms in London. The only time we were reminded of the pandemic was getting our masks on to get a taxi back to our flat, it was bliss.
I managed to reacquaint Ian with some childhood memories he had of a school trip from Glasgow to Aberdeen (no such things as extravagant overseas trips in our day!). It always makes me laugh that the things he associates with Aberdeen are the Maze at Hazlehead Park and the statue of Rob Roy that stands amongst the trees overlooking the River Dee. I promise Aberdeen does actually have more going for it than that!
We also shared some comedy moments during our trip like accidentally locking ourselves INTO the flat we were staying in. All I am saying is I am glad we were on the ground floor when I was pushed out of the half open window to try and open the door. Then my 'jumping on the bed like a 4 year old' which shifted half of the slats so that the mattress ended up through the frame on the floor. Oops.
Then there were the things that I remember about this lovely coastline from when
I lived up here. Just along from Aberdeen is the small harbour town of Stonehaven.
I love the ruggedness of the location of Dunnotar Castle, a ruined cliff top fortress which was the home of the Earls Marischal, once one of the most powerful families in Scotland. It's a great walk down the cliffside to this castle, and seems to also be a popular stair running location now too. If only I had thought to wear my running kit...but no, better training opportunities lay ahead...
Then what better way to finish off my trip but with a swim in the North Sea! Well, Adam Peaty had just won Team GB their first gold olympic medal that morning so it seemed only fitting that I meet my former swimming training partner Allison for a dip. I hadn't quite factored in that the tide would be coming in and also that it was a pebbly beach, which made for a comedic entry to the water a bit like Victoria Wood's channel swim sketch. We turned around to see that quite an audience had gathered on the beach front to watch us so we had to try and look a bit professional. Not that these two short clips show that, but there was a lot of swimming too once we had stopped messing about, honest.
And I have decided that the 'bravery' of that dip has counted as this month's 'wildcard challenge' ;)
Of course in amongst all this I am supposed to be doing my distance challenge, and having given myself permission to have some time off training, I have still racked up the following over the last two weeks:
This would see me having left Bolivia and entering the northern part of Argentina. In fact this is where I can share a REAL photo, as the city of Salta was where I actually started my Andes cycling adventure in 2017. Ah, fond memories
So it's been a week of nostalgia in many ways, but plans have already been made for return visits of my friends and family to come to London and that makes me happy!
It's a bit of a milestone, 26 weeks in and I have covered a total of 4,713km. That averages out at just over 180km a week, and puts me very much on track to complete my challenge by the end of the year.
After an easy post race week last week, this week I was back on form and managed to rack up the following:
I had a look back over some of the moments from the past 26 weeks and find it really validating to see that I have managed to train through all conditions.
In the first week I was cycling through snow and swimming in 3deg water. I am loving the current heatwave but still miss the post swim shivering.
This distance would now see me approaching El Palmar reserve, located in the Sudanes province of Chuquisaca. It has a surface of (595km2)with an altitude between 1,000 and 3,200 meters. The region is typically mountainous with deep canyons. In the Area there are 270 species of large plants, and 24 species of mammals - six of which are on the list of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). These are the eyeglass bear, puma, Andean cat or of scrubland or titi, mount k' uchi or mountain pig. There are a further 112 registered species of birds belonging to 30 families. The most important are the condor, mountain turkey, Ipicua, the woodpeckers (5 species) and eight species of parrots. Moreover, six species of amphibians, five of lizards and seven of snakes were identified. There are also 42 species of registered butterflies. The Area is sparsely settled by small communities of the Quechua that inhabit the valleys.
The closest I actually got to wildlife this week was being held at Richmond Park when I was cycling over to my Teddington swim on Friday. I am used to the level crossing at Mortlake, but this one was much more interesting. A group of us waited a good ten minutes whilst at the final count around 45 deer crossed the road.....just as you thought the last one had gone another group appeared and did a slow meander over. Another reminder to take the time to appreciate nature.
The heatwave lent itself nicely to an impromptu paddleboarding session on Sunday, organised by Ian as a way to put the 'Stand Up' element into SUP after his first go at this last month. And he did well, as this photo demonstrates - despite wake being caused by a speed boat that was circling past us. Only one dip in the water this time, hooray!
Well, I am on a roll this week! After a few months of intensive studying I was delighted on Friday to receive confirmation that I had passed the second part of my Ironman Coaching Certification and am now a certified coach!
In my true style I had kept the fact that I was studying for this on the low down.
So how did this all come about?
Well all credit to my cycling friend Giovanna for approaching me a few months ago to ask if I would consider coaching her in her endurance cycling pursuits (plus some running and swimming). Despite my passion for developing people as part of my nnoodl business, my initial reaction was a mix of excitement coupled with self doubt.
I recognised that I have extensive experience in endurance sports from my own years of running marathons, taking part in long distance triathlons, open water swimming competitions, and of course my Andes challenge, but the fact that I wasn't 'qualified' didn't sit easily with me. However, seeing myself as an 'aspirational coach' and with a very good understanding of the science of coaching from my own experience, we set off on our coach/athlete journey. The next person I have to give credit to is Tom Frearson, my own triathlon coach, who suggested I might like to take undertake the Ironman coaching programme to solidify my credibility. Huge thanks to Tom for being so encouraging in this area, it really made me think I could do this.
The programme is seen as the gold standard in endurance sports education. Designed and developed by best triathlon coaches in the world, it is made up of some really intensive content covering the science of coaching, the kinematics of the swim, bike and run, sports nutrition, strength and conditioning, creation of training plans and more. I felt like I was back at school! There are scenarios and questions as you go along. but the first part of the certification process was a 50 question exam which you have to get over 75% in to progress to the second part. It felt hard, but I managed to get 94% and was delighted to be able to progress. This was where the hard work really began though.
I had to review a 27 page athlete questionnaire and do an assignment which essentially planned all of the factors for her to complete a full Ironman event. This was 14 pages of setting the overall volume and intensity of training for a 25 week plan, including the finer details of sessions, nutrition, hydration and strength and training plans. Scenarios were thrown in for good measure to assess how you could adapt and communicate around your athletes changing demands. I felt like 'Jane from Texas' was a real person and found myself waking up thinking about how to change her training microcycles to accommodate her 'B' race and ensure she didn't aggravate an old running injury. It felt all consuming for a while and I procrastinated and went back and forth changing things.
For this element you have to achieve at least 80% to pass, and it is common for the assessment to be sent back to the student to make corrections. Well, can you imagine my delight to receive my 'Congratulations' email from Ironman University to say I had achieved 93% !!
I think my school days biology teacher Mr Coates would be equally surprised given that my friend Shirley and I were notorious for 'having a right carry on' in his class, leading to me not doing so well in my biology O Grade. Ah but these are changed days!
I am particularly keen to develop my knowledge around working with females and understanding how our hormonal changes affect our muscles and ligaments and all manner of other things which can affect performance. There is in fact another course on this area in progress, but that is for another blog!
All of that and I haven't even given an update on my 'Latin American Pentathlon' progress. Well, understandably after last weekend, I was on an easy week, with instruction to just 'do things I enjoyed'. It turns out that pretty much is swimming and cycling, as I still managed to rack up 125km on the bike and 4k swimming.
This would have me at the small city of Camiri in Bolivia where the 65,897 inhabitants are known as "Camireños." Camiri is situated on the banks of the Parapeti River in a small valley surrounded by rolling hills on the east, north, and south, and by the Aguarague mountain range on the west.
But for me this week, it was mostly about kicking back in the Serpentine and enjoying some downtime!
Denise Yeats is an events director, communications consultant, endurance athlete and avid adventurer.