Tag Archives: ironman training

Perimenopause and Endurance Athletes

Perimenopause and Endurance Athletes

So, after another sleepless night, I think I may be perimenopausal. I’ve noticed a pattern of depression before my period, which is out of sync with how I normally feel. I had noticeable heart palpitations a few months ago, and have been getting hot at night sometimes.

To be honest I don’t really want to admit to it, because, well, the word menopausal has many negative connotations to me. Maybe I just don’t want to admit that I’m getting older, just yet; However I also know that until I accept this part of myself then I’m not going to be feeling more positive any time soon!

During the last few months, I have found that there is information for women out there, but as symptoms can be so different. I could attribute my feelings and symptoms to so many other things. It feels a bit like being in the dark. I have talked to friends about it, and we all feel a little bit confused.

Symptoms of perimenopause can vary but here are a few of them

  • Changing periods – length of cycle, duration of period
  • Hot flushes
  • Night sweats
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue – tiredness or a loss of zest
  • Anxiety, mood swings, irritability and depression
  • A feeling of being invisible and a loss of confidence
  • Decreased libido or sex drive
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Breast tenderness
  • Bloating
  • Increased PMS
  • Urinary leakage or urgency
  • Aches and pains in muscles and joints
  • Heart palpitations

Perimenopause and Endurance Athletes

What to do?

The last few months I have found myself in a very dark place, at times, and its hard to know what to do about it. Standard advice for perimenopausal women is to get your nutrition right, exercise, get enough sleep etc, but there is not much information out there for women who are already doing these things, and who are also training for endurance events. The standard advice of exercising may not be the best option here. If you are training a lot, then your stress levels may be raised, so it might not actually be the best thing for someone who is already pushing themselves close to their limits.

It may be more beneficial to incorporate a bit more recovery, and some strength work at this time in your life.

A lot of information is also for menopausal women, who have already stopped their periods. So what happens in-between? It seems to be a kind of no mans land, possibly because everyone is so different in how they experience this transition. It makes it difficult to study. There is no way of knowing if you are perimenopausal, as the tests that can detect it are based on hormone levels, which fluctuate throughout the month anyway.

Future research

It would be interesting to see some research in this area, but I’m pretty sure that perimenopausal women and endurance are not going to be the focus of many scientific studies in the near future. Talking about it can help us to realise that we are not the only ones going through it, and may help you to feel supported. I’d be interested to hear anyone else’s experience during this time, so feel free to get in touch if you have any ideas or information that you want to share.

If you’re looking for some more resources I have listed a few below, and you can read about my experience at a race when I was suffering with symptoms here

NHS site

Ride strong through the menopause, cycling magazine

The British Menopause Society

Early season racing, what should your aims be?

early season racing

Early season racing

With the early race season getting underway, what are your priorities for some of these races? Its been a while since you’ve worn your race kit, and used your race gear, so you may be a bit rusty going in to your first few races. Its a great idea to do a few low key events to get yourself back in to the practicalities of racing.

Race morningearly season racing

This will be a reminder of how it feels to get up early, and make sure you are adequately fuelled for the days event. Most early season events are on the shorter side, so its a gentle introduction, and there shouldn’t be dire consequences if you don’t get this right. However it is an opportunity to start practising your race morning routine. If there’s anything that didn’t go so well in the past, then now is a good time to change what you do. If you always leave certain jobs until the last minute, resolve to make time to get organised sooner. Remember what goes well and what doesn’t go so well so that you can learn and adapt next time.

Race environment

early season racing

It will probably have been a while since you have competed and felt those race morning nerves. Even if the race is not a priority for you, you will still produce adrenaline, and be in competition mode. You may think about your race tactics, and put these into practice. In my first race last year I realised that I backed off when it mattered, I took that in to my next race, and made sure that I pushed when I needed to.

Post Race

early season racing

Here is your opportunity to learn from the race. I ask my athletes to think about 3 things that went well, and 3 that they can improve on. Be thorough in your analysis, but don’t punish yourself, its your first race after all. Questions that I may ask are; did you feel fatigued going in to the race? How did you feel after? Did you push hard enough? Did you fuel properly? What were transitions like? How were your equipment choices? These are things that can be taken forward to the next event, and worked on in training. They all add up to better performance.

 

 

If you want to read what other coaches say there is a link to another article here

 

 

 

Creating helpful habits, for success in triathlon.

Creating helpful habits, for success in triathlon

We all have habits and routines in our lives. Some of them are helpful, and some of them, are not so helpful. Becoming more aware of your actions can help you to identify which habits are helping or harming you. As an athlete you will have habits to make sure that you get your training done.

If you need to get up early for a swim you may get your equipment ready the night before, and then set an alarm to wake you up. You then complete your swim session, and may reward yourself with a cup of coffee, or similar.

All habits follow this pattern. First of all there is a trigger, in this case your alarm going off, and seeing your swim kit prepared. then your routine, which is completing the swim session, then your reward which is a cup of coffee. If we take a closer look at the “habit loop” you can see how to implement good habits in your life.

TriggerCreating helpful habits, for success in triathlon

This is something that reminds you to do something. It may be something that you are not aware of, for example every time you open the fridge at a certain time of day you snack. Examples of triggers are; time, a visual reminder, an alarm, or it could be a feeling. Once you identify your trigger then you can change or add on to your habit. You can also create triggers to start a new habit, for example when you put your running kit on you do some core exercises before your run.

Routine

Creating helpful habits, for success in triathlon

This is what you do after the trigger. It could be going to the pool, having a second helping of dinner, drinking a glass of wine, doing strength exercises. This is the bit that you can change, once you identify your trigger.

If you know, that when you finish your dinner you always go for a second helping, even though you are not hungry then you could replace this routine with making a cup of tea. If you want to fit some strength exercise in to your day then you can add this on to an existing routine.

Reward

This is your way of giving yourself a pat on the back, and can vary depending on what your habit is. If its getting out training, then the reward can be knowing that you are one step closer to your goal. Sometimes you may need a bit more than that, and the reward may be a chat with friends and cup of coffee after a group training session. If you substitute your habit for a healthier alternative then you know that it is creating a healthier you, for example substituting your second helping of food for a hot drink.

Putting it all together

So to create helpful habits, first you need to actually want to create that habit. No amount of positive talk is going to help you if you don’t really want to change! Think about if there are any barriers to creating the habit. For example, when I wanted to add core work to my day, I realised that I sometimes wasn’t wearing the right clothing for it. By doing the core work before a workout then I was already dressed in comfortable clothing. Next identify your trigger. If you have a good habit in place already, then you can add on to it, as with the core work example above. It can be helpful to write down what you want to do and how you’re going to make sure that you do it!

If you want to find out more about habits then click here

creating-helpful-habits-for-success-in-triathlon

 

 

 

Tapering and what to expect

A lot of athletes are tapering or will be tapering for an event round about now. This is arguably one of the most mentally challenging parts of your training so far. You may feel a variety of conflicting emotions. I will run through some of these below, and hopefully put any last minute anxieties to rest.

You may feel you have not done enough training

Look at your training plan, did you complete most of the sessions? Have you remained consistent? If the answer is yes then well done, you have no reason to be worried about what you have done. If you haven’t then it is beyond your control now. Let go of any fear you may have about not doing enough training, you did what you could do at the time, and that is enough to get you through your event. Don’t try and cram in extra workouts now, you will not gain fitness by training hard in the last few weeks before the event, your work here is done! Screenshot 2015-07-09 17.20.49 You may have niggles/heavy legs

As race day approaches it is common to notice every twinge and become concerned. It is more than likely your mind is playing tricks on you. Your legs may feel heavy and tired, this is normal, and you are not alone. It can be down to your muscle tissue rebuilding so think of it as a good sign, and make sure you rest enough to allow your body to do what it needs to do (Recover) Stretch, and massage. Make sure you don’t massage too close to an event as sometimes it can move things around and cause problems to flare up. There is a stretching routine here which may help you to calm down and relax.

Screenshot 2015-07-09 17.30.10

Trigger point therapy with a tennis ball!

You may have specific fears about the race

For example one of my worries at every race I go to is being late. I have never been late for a race, so this fear is unfounded. Make sure that you write a plan that covers all eventualities, e.g. what time you will wake up, what you will eat, what you will wear, any equipment that you need etc etc. This will set your mind at rest. Think about your specific fears, is there anything you can do about them? If you can do something to ease those fears then do it. Now is the time to put those fears to rest and have strategies in place to help you cope with race day nerves. I find myself writing lots of lists which helps me cope with my anxiety.

The Titan checklist

You may think you are getting your taper wrong

This is similar to thinking you have not done enough training. Just as there are many different ways of training and racing, there are also many different ways of tapering. Hopefully you have followed a plan that has been designed by someone who has knowledge of endurance sports and is aware of the science and research behind tapering. You may feel like you have tapered for too long or not enough. Put trust in your programme. If you believe that what you are doing is the right thing then you will benefit mentally as well as physically. If you spend your taper worrying if you have got it right you will waste a lot of energy. Let go of your worries it doesn’t matter what others are doing, it matters what you are doing. If you have followed a plan so far don’t deviate from it now or you will risk jeopardising your race. Stick to the plan.

You may feel grumpy and or depressed

You have built up your training to such a level that when you taper you may feel like there is something missing. There may be a gap in your life that you think needs filling. Don’t try to cram more stressful activities into your life now. Relax and enjoy the rest, eat healthily, and enjoy just being. Read in the sunshine or just chill out. Make the most of your spare time by mentally preparing for the race. Fill your head with positive imagery and words. You need to minimise any negative energy. You can do this by repeating a phrase that means something to you, for example “I am the best that I can be”, or by visualising parts of the race course and imagining yourself feeling strong, and enjoying yourself. Smile and remember how lucky you are to be able to do this! 2015-07-09 18.43.44Race day

Remember, on race day everyone will be feeling nervous. Find a way of coping with your nerves, become aware of your breathing, listen to music, whatever gets you through. Once you start you will get in to your rhythm. You have practised for this day 100’s of times during training, and it will all come together. If you can do these things you will have a great race.

What is an endurance ride?

Or, riding in Zone 2

An endurance ride or run means different things to different people, and it’s something that a lot of people get wrong, so I thought I’d try and clear up a few misunderstandings and misconceptions.

When I describe an endurance ride I ask someone to ride in Zone 2 for an extended period of time. The way that training works is that your body adapts to the training load that you place on it, so it is important to increase the distance that you ride, and make sure that you plan this well. If you increase your long rides/runs too early you will be at risk of burnout and reach your peak fitness too early. If you don’t increase your long rides/runs enough then your endurance will be compromised.

It is also important to make sure you pace the ride correctly, some mistakes that people make are:

  • Riding too hard on hills, and then recovering on the flats and downs.
  • Not riding consistently on the flats and downs.

If you are using a power meter it is easy to see if you are in the right zone, and I have found I ride more consistently when I use my power meter. If you are using heart rate then you can see from your heart rate graph how consistent you are. If your heart rate graph looks like the one below, then you may not be getting the benefit of an endurance ride.

Heart rate dips and peaks a lot.

Heart rate dips and peaks a lot.

Shown below is a more consistently paced ride where the heart rate remains fairly steady

Heart rate does not dip and peak as much.

Heart rate does not dip and peak as much.

People’s heart rates don’t tend to dip as much when they are running, but it is still important to be aware of your effort level and keep a constant pace. Don’t forget, triathlons are steady state events and you need to be able to swim, bike and run at a steady pace for an extended amount of time.

Kicking back, and relaxing

Transition and the off season

Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 20.58.22

No data has been entered for 5 weeks!

Since ironman Wales I have been pretty busy, and I had a cold for about 2 weeks. Its taken a while but I have relaxed into the minimal activity that I have been doing! I have started planning next season, I’m feeling pretty relaxed about next year though. Meanwhile here are some of the things that I have been up to and enjoying again in the last 5 weeks;

Going to a wedding

I had a cold unfortunately but enjoyed eating, drinking and camping in the New Forest, beautiful…

Surfing

Or attempting to, not ideal conditions the times I’ve been out, but have had fun splashing about in the sea.

1375649_642790949093833_960344058_n

Windy and cold in my ancient wetsuit!

Cycling with my husband

My husband has bought a road bike, so I have been showing him a few routes.

Cooking, cooking, and more cooking

Lots of baking, and experimenting has been going on in my kitchen.

Mushroom hunting

My oldest boy has developed an obsession with identifying mushrooms, which has meant lots of foraging in the woods.

 

P1060070

Not edible, but interesting.

The big smoke

As a surprise for my husbands “special” birthday I took him to London. We had a great time wandering around Brick Lane, eating and drinking, and made a special visit to Nopi, which was fantastic, I even saw Ottolenghi at the bar and got a bit star struck. I wanted to go and say hi but by the time I had decided to go over he was leaving, (let that be a lesson!) We spent the next evening watching 3 back to back surf films at The London Surf Film Festival which was a real treat for us.

A bit more bike maintenance

I have been meaning to get my mountain bike gear cables changed, so I did that and then went out on my road bike. The gear cable snapped for the rear derailed, and I had to cycle home in a very hard gear, ouch (luckily it happened at the end of the ride). I investigated and have bought a new derailler, and shifters 🙁 It is now in quarantine in the garage! I am suddenly desperate to get out on my bike, so I had to go off road this week, which is no bad thing!

My lovely bike, needing repair

My lovely bike, needing repair

 Launching my website

I have spent far too much time in front of a computer setting up my website, but I think its looking good, here is a link, and take the time to like my Facebook page if you haven’t already 🙂

 

 

 

Letting the dust settle

A week of relaxing and contemplating

Ironman Wales 2014

(To skip straight to my Ironman Wales race report click here)

It has been a week since I completed Ironman Wales, and I have spent the week doing gentle walking, and a couple of swims. I haven’t really considered next year yet, but I have learned a few lessons from the race. The race itself was a fabulous day, the weather was perfect, the support on the course was incredible, and I would love to experience it again.

Ironman Wales 2014

Sams amazing banner, thanks 🙂

One of my pre race mantras was “through my race I learn”, so here I go… Overall I was really pleased with my result. The swim was hard work, I knew I would be slower than hoped but I still came out in an OK time. I pushed myself on the bike, and stayed in the right power zones.

Ironman Wales 2014

What the book says!

 

Ironman Wales 2014

What my power looked like.

I still think my Variability index was a bit high, there were a few instances when I went way over threshold, but it was so hard to keep a lid on it when everyone was cheering and you are going uphill, however my V.I. was 1.08 compared to 1.11 at Wimbleball last year so I’m pleased with that. My intensity factor on the bike was .73, and it should be between .70 and .76 so that was spot on.

Ironman Wales 2014

Power graph, power dropped off towards the end, but not too much!

The run was OK, I had wanted to run about an 8:30 min mile, and thought I may be able to go quicker. You can see that I sustained it for the first 2 laps then didn’t manage to keep up the pace, my heart rate dropped, and I was just trying to keep going.

Ironman Wales 2014

Pace and heart rate dropping

Ironman Wales 2014

Pace dropping from halfway

 

When I finished I wandered around for a bit before realising that all I wanted to do was lie down.

Feeling rough

Feeling rough

I ended up in the medical tent and had 2 drips. Looking back now I started to get a headache on  the second lap of the bike from Carew to Cross Hands. I thought it must have been because I was tired, as I was still drinking and peeing. (I peed 4-5 times on the bike) I had calculated the liquids that I needed and I had enough water (7 bottles). I used electrolyte tablets in my water, but after a bit of research I may have lost too much salt. Next time I will pay attention to any headaches! And carry salt tablets.

Saying all that I still had a brilliant day and was within my goal time, I did my best, and next time…..well I will learn from my experience!

Ironman Wales 2014

My plan

 

 

A week to go.

Last minute anxieties

A few weeks before a race I start thinking “If I had……. it would make my life better” Cue ordering unnecessary stuff. I have so far accumulated energy drink, gels, tyres, and new gloves. The energy drink I won’t use as I haven’t used it in training, the gels I will use, as I have had them before (but I accidentally ordered 3 lots!) and the gloves are not as nice as my old ones. However I did need new tyres.

Moral of the story, “new things will not make me faster”, (repeat, repeat, repeat)

Crazy cooking woman

I also get obsessed with cooking, and have started making yummy things to take on the bike, which I have blogged about here. I did just read in Tri220 that Chrissie only has energy gels, drink, and some dark chocolate on the bike and can’t understand how anyone can eat sandwiches etc on rides, as she is working too hard. “Must try harder on the bike”, (repeat, repeat, repeat) Anyway I made the most of the fantastic weather and sat out on the lawn to calculate my intake of food for the bike leg, and have now planned out what I am taking.

Like summer again!

Like summer again!

Time to take stock

So its time now to reflect on what I have done up to this point and hope that I have a good day next week. I feel ready, but also still wondering if I have planned my peak and taper right, (need to get rid of a few gremlins here!), We will see on race day. I will give it my best.

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 14.51.31

 

 

 

 

A long week and feeling it

Getting to the taper

There comes a point in your training when there is nothing more you can do to increase your fitness and you need to accept that you have done all that you can. Whatever happens on the day will happen, I got back off a long ride feeling pretty negative as my power and speed were low, but thinking about it rationally I had done a 10km (running) Time Trial the night before, and had been building for a while, only having a short recovery after the 100 mile TT, so not surprising really! There is a great post about tapering here which I found helpful and inspiring.

I have been looking at last years taper for Wimbleball and comparing it to my training this year, I had some feedback that my taper may have been a bit drastic, this was because I was ill after a race and then started tapering after I had recovered. This years will not be so drastic and I’ll be nice and ready to race!

This years Performance management chart

This years Performance management chart

Last years Performance management chart. a sharp drop after Slateman

Last years Performance management chart. a sharp drop after Slateman

Time trials and tribulations (garmin data is here, full results here)

I went along to the 10km Time trial organised by Pembrokeshire Triathlon club on Tuesday evening, hoping to better my time from 6 years ago!! I can’t believe how long ago that was. My time in 2008 was 43.23. When I arrived Ian, the timekeeper, decided that I would be fastest and put me last. I was not so sure, but went along with it anyway! Ellie (the only other woman) went off 1 minute ahead of me and I tried to keep her in sight. It soon became apparent that she was flying, as I counted the time from her passing a lamppost, she was already more than a minute ahead within the first few miles. , it was a lovely evening, and nice to have a chat. I got a time of 41.14, so 2 minutes faster than last time. I should be happy with that, but maybe have been feeling a bit negative this week.

The long ride

I decided to ride the whole Ironman course the day after, and was pretty dissapointed in my speed. I may have been tired, and also lacking motivation doing the route on my own. I’m not sure that I really wanted to do it, because I knew that if I was slow it would make me depressed, but Patrick suggested it and I thought the pro’s would outweigh the con’s. Anyway I borrowed his go pro which was quite fun, although I have now spent hours editing the ******* thing.

A bit of geekiness

After I had recovered from the ride, digested my stats, done some more research, and generally got slightly obsessive about numbers, I spotted that my Intensity factor for the ride was based on my old FTP, so with a few calculations I realised that I will be able to go faster on race day, (of course some other factors will come into play too) but if the maths is right then I’m happy !!

Calculating power

Calculating power

 

Bertha and 100 mile TT

 Welsh 100 mile Time Trial Championship 2014

Last year I rode the 50 mile national Time Trial Championship in Abergavenny, and at the end I swore I would never, ever do it again. About 6 months later, and after signing up for Ironman Wales I decided that it would be a good idea to do another long Time Trial as part of my training in the lead up to Ironman. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) the only long TT that I could do was the 100. I entered online, thinking I don’t actually have to do it. Aber01 My mum agreed to support me, and we drove up the night before, after checking the weather we decided not to camp. I booked the Premier Inn in Pontypool. My mum was still optimistic about the weather, thinking that it would rain overnight and then be clear for the morning. I was not so optimistic after checking my phone. At least it didn’t look windy!

Rain, and more rain

Rain, and more rain

At 5:30am the alarm went off, and I had a cup of tea, dressed and applied liberal amounts of Sudocrem and Hoo Ha glide to my posterior, (thanks girls for the tips!) Unfortuatley I forgot that I then had to sit in the car. The sudocrem had already seeped through, so I sat on my coat to protect my mums upholstery, ( must remember next time to apply cream at last minute!)

a magical combination

a magical combination

As we drove somberly towards the start in the torrential rain I had mixed feelings, I was really looking forward to doing the TT as I have never ridden 100miles before, but the weather was horrendous, and I could tell my mum was a bit worried, as she asked whether I would be riding along the dual carriageway, and if there would be cars on it. I was also worried that they would cancel, because as we got nearer to HQ there was not the usual hubbub of riders warming up and riding to the start.

We arrived at 6:30, (the first rider was off at 7:09am) I joined the huddle of freaks, sheltering outside HQ who had decided that come rain or shine they were riding 100 miles today. The organiser had not arrived yet so there was some speculation as to whether it was cancelled.  Suddenly the doors were opened and signing on sheets signed. I committed my signature to paper and organised myself, giving my 2 bottles to my mum and explaining where and when to wait. I went out to the car and slung my bag over my shoulder and felt a sharp pain across my back. Now my mind really started playing up, and as I rode to the start my power meter started dropping out, and I could hear a clicking on my front derailler. I was starting to wonder if the gods were trying to tell me something, but I moved my garmin to my handlebars, and realised that the clicking was only the cable knocking against the crank arm, and my back was fine in the TT position.

The ride

I set off behind Tanis Hand (ex Tenby Aces, and the only other woman to ride) The route is 3 laps of the dual carriageway up to Monmouth and back to Abergavenny. At the first turnaround I saw Tanis and she looked a way ahead of me so I just stuck to my plan. When I got out on the second lap I did a quick bit of maths and realised that I was going to be at the lay-by that I told my mum to wait at about 15 minutes before I told her to get there. Happily I spotted her car as I approached ( she likes to be early thankfully) and I stopped to fill up my aero bottle and grab the other bottle from her. I said I was feeling good and got on my way. The photographer was at the next lay-by as globules of snot, spit, and rain dribbled down my chin. I couldn’t really muster a smile!

SIS_6298

Next I saw Jill Coleman who cheered me on, I was averaging 20.8mph so was feeling amazing as I was aiming for 19-20mph. I sang a lovely rendition of Chesney Hawkes I am the one and only (where did that come from?!!) as I was overtaken by one of many men, and I had one of several manic laughing fits as I realised that, yes, I really was doing this, and doing a good time. I had done 50 miles in 2h20 which was faster than I did the 50 mile TT in last year. The rest of the second and third lap was a blur of feeling sorry for lonely, and sodden supporters holding out drinks bottles, marshals waving frantically and pointing, and looking forward to the tunnel near Monmouth for a couple of minutes shelter.

SIS_6119

On the second and third lap I started to pass a few people, including Tanis, and Jill told me that I was on the team now, as Paul had to pull out. About 20 miles from the end I started to watch my power dropping, and had to talk to myself a few times to keep focussed, the last few miles seemed the longest ever. I shouted my number out to the clapping timekeepers and with comedic timing the rain stopped and the sun started to come out.

P1050879

When I got back to HQ my mum told me that there was only 1 other woman who completed the race, so I jokingly said “I may be Welsh Champion then”, to which she replied “you are!” This seemed pretty funny to me and I got inside where Jill, Paul, Dan and Rob told me that we’d won the team prize too. 3 cups of tea later I had warmed up and was presented with my Championship cap, and we had a team photo.

The winning team

The winning team

Race Analysis

A word from the organiser

A word from the organiser

Garmin data here, full results here, more photo’s of bedraggled competitors here

If you are not interested in data look away now 😉

Out of 71 riders 26 started 7 DNF, and 39 DNS

My aim was to keep above 150 watts, and below 180, I had set some alerts on the garmin, but couldn’t really hear them. I also had an auto lap set for 25 miles, but again didn’t hear the first lap. My power did go down at the end, but in comparison to last years 50 mile TT it was not so extreme, so I was happy with my pacing. I could probably have held back more in the beginning, as my average power for each lap shows.

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 11.56.03

Below is a comparison between last years 50 and this years 100, you can see how I started way too hard in the 50, and suffered about halfway through! This year I had also prepared myself psychologically and knew what to expect.

Screen Shot 2014-08-10 at 20.21.57

100 mile TT 2014

 

Couldn't take it!

Couldn’t take it!

So overall, I was amazed with my result, I rode about 15-30 minutes quicker than I thought I would, so with some great performances under my belt I feel ready for Ironman Wales!

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 10.41.11

1 2 3