Brighton Marathon 2018 was my second ever road marathon and I entered it with the goal of running sub 3 hours, knowing that being on “home turf” I would have lots of support. I ran my first ever marathon in early 2017 which was a trail marathon in The New Forest. Shortly after the New Forest Marathon, I developed a tibial stress fracture, most likely due to increasing my mileage too quickly, running too much on road and possibly a Vitamin D deficiency training through winter. Following my stress fracture, I was very careful not to return to distance running too quickly and focused instead on triathlon.
My second marathon, and first road marathon, was very much a last-minute decision. I had entered Amsterdam Half Marathon for a bit of fun, planning on racing off the back of half Ironman training. The day before the race, I somehow convinced the officials to let me upgrade to the full marathon. I had not done the training for sub 3 hours or to run a full marathon, but felt fit so figured I’d give it a go. If I felt awful at halfway I would slow down at that point, before blowing up completely which is exactly what I did, finishing in 3:04:59.
Brighton Marathon was a much more calculated race. I began training around November time and ramped this up after Christmas. I was very focused and all my training was aimed towards running a sub 3 hour marathon in Brighton in April. Race day arrived and my training had all gone to plan. I knew I should be capable of my target, however was also very aware that anything can happen on race day. I was lucky enough to have my boyfriend pacing me so he also had to put up with all my nervous pre-race chatter and stressed mood. After freaking out because I only had 10 minutes to use the porta-loo and get my bag to the bag drop (my boyfriend is a bit too chilled out about these things), I was at the Withdean start line and the gun went off. As with any race, at the beginning I felt great (adrenaline surging, body feeling the effects of a good taper) and I was just conscious of trying not to go out too fast.
The race route heads south from Preston Park towards Brighton Pier and then heads East for a while. This was where I saw a guy who somehow juggled the whole way round the marathon, seriously impressive! It then heads back in to the centre of town where the support and atmosphere is absolutely incredible. It was the crowd and atmosphere at Brighton that made me want to run a marathon in the first place. At halfway I was still feeling good and easily on target to break three hours.
It is just after the halfway point that sticking to target pace became harder, for many reasons… Obviously number one being fatigue starting to kick in. The struggle for me was increased however by the reduction in support as the crowds thin out as you head away from the city centre. This is followed by the infamous section of Brighton Marathon which takes you out to Shoreham harbour which is grey, industrial, has very little support and tends to smell a bit weird. At this point I was very grateful to have my boyfriend running with me reminding me of all the hard work I had put into training and of what I was suffering for. Finally I reached the turnaround point and was heading back towards Brighton City Centre, and more importantly the finish line. I knew I had about 5 kilometres to go with a bit of a headwind but that as long as I kept moving forwards, I was well within my 3-hour target. As I reached the Hove area, I started to see people I knew in the crowds who were cheering me on which definitely gave me a much needed boost. I even had people tell me afterwards that I looked too happy whist running - I think they mistook my painful grimace for a smile…
Finally I saw the finish line approaching and pushed the pace a bit for the last 400m to ensure I held on to my 6th place position. When I saw the timer read 2:57:30 I couldn’t have been more happy! All my hard work in training and during the race had paid off and I had joined the sub-3 club!
About the author: Bethan Male is an Ironman triathlete and Sundried ambassador.
My first Ironman.
3.8km Swim, 180km Bike, 42.4km Run
The build-up to my first Ironman was a mixture of emotions from nerves to excitement and a constant mind full of questions whirring round in my head. The last few weeks training before the taper were the toughest and as my children broke up for the summer holidays, the routine became more difficult to manage. Nevertheless, I made it to the start line having clocked up thousands of miles in training.
My husband and I arrived in Switzerland on the Thursday and already there was an Ironman atmosphere. Zurich was beautiful but extremely hot. On the Friday, we walked down to the event village to register. I suddenly felt in awe by the whole experience. Registration was easy enough and so was spending money in the expo shop. I picked up my bike which had been shipped over by Ship My Tri Bike – a very convenient option and I took it for a pre-race test ride. The roads were amazing but my legs felt like jelly, however, everything with my Argon was in working order which was a relief. Following the ride, I somehow managed a big rookie error turning up to the French rather than English Race Brief – this didn’t help with pre-race jitters. In an attempt to manage my nerves I decided to go for a swim recce of Lake Zurich. The lake, although beautiful, was vast and much choppier than it looked – very different to the lake back home.
Saturday was a fairly chilled morning pottering around Zurich, trying to keep off the feet as much as possible. The afternoon was spent back the event village racking my bike and hanging my red and blue bags in transition ready for race day. Ironman events have a very different way of doing thigs with the various bags. This requires some careful planning and consideration, but works very well on the day. I took pictures in transition to help visualise the entries and exits, and also took note of landmarks to help find my bike – transition was enormous with bikes packed very tightly and close to one another. Next time I was going to be in transition it would be race day – finally time to take on the challenge that had consumed so much time and emotion in the prior months.
After some sleep and a lot of awake, the alarm went off at 4am. There was a nervous atmosphere at the hotel during breakfast. Lots of acknowledging each other but very little conversation. After coffee and some food, we walked the 30 minutes to transition. I couldn’t believe I had made it to race day. Walking down was eerie and the streets were a mixture of Lycra clad triathletes and the last of the revellers from the night before.
Arriving at transition, I quickly heard that it had been confirmed as non-wetsuit. The size of the challenge ahead suddenly became very real and it took all my efforts to control my emotions at this time. My husband and I walked to the swim start where the atmosphere was surreal. One thing that was very noticeable was the ratio of men to women – I suddenly felt very small. I seeded myself towards the back of the normal swim pen, adding an extra 10 mins to my expected time to reflect the non-wet suit swim. My goal for this event was to complete (not compete); and being non-wetsuit I wanted to find my own space. The race quickly started as the athletes were allowed in the water 8 at a time at 5-second intervals. Off I went into the water. I broke the swim down into the individual marker buoys and soon I settled into a rhythm. It was a one lap course and the back straight seemed to go on forever. As I made the final turn I have never felt more relieved – I had almost made it out of the water!
3.8km swim time: 01:31:43
As I exited the water, I ran into T1, changed into my bike stuff, found my bike, oh dear the chain was hanging off…. It had obviously been knocked as someone had taken their bike. I managed to get it back on and off I went. I had been looking forward to the bike the most in the build-up. The course was 2 laps and started off flat before taking on some climbs in some of the most stunning and picturesque scenery I have seen.
Unfortunately for me, I just couldn’t settle into my usual zone and I quickly became very uncomfortable. I was struggling to stay aero as my chest felt restricted and my neck was very tense. This wasn’t going to plan. The support on the course was fantastic – especially on Heartbreak Hill which was like cycling through a section of the Tour de France. It was also where my hubby was giving me a much needed boost.
As I entered onto the second lap, the temperature was rising (35 degrees); and it became more of a mental battle than physical. I felt nauseous and was having to force nutrition down to try and stick to the plan. The next couple of hours were brutal and after 6 hours and 18 minutes on the bike I made it back to T2 feeling pretty awful.
180km bike time: 06:19:46
I am not 100% sure what took so long but after 8 minutes in T2 I set off for the marathon. Up until recently, the run has always been my favourite and strongest discipline. This was not the case on race day. Every time I ran I felt sick, not helped at all by the heat. The support at the aid stations was superb and they were 100% geared up for the blistering temperatures, giving out ice and cold sponges. Despite this, my body had different ideas and I was sick every few minutes making it very difficult to settle into any rhythm.
I knew now it was going to be a very long afternoon, but there was no way I was giving up – I needed to revert to a different strategy. Walking in a race was alien to me but I knew that I had to find some strategy to get me round, so I settled into running for as long as could and then walking for 3 minutes (whilst throwing up)!
Eventually I made it round the first of the 4 laps which rather cruelly takes you past the red carpet and the finish line. Seeing that and the atmosphere at the end gave me the motivation to keep going. My husband was incredible on the run and kept surprising me by appearing in places which kept me going.
Finally, after a very long and painful few hours, I made it to lap 4 and the end was in sight.. Off I set for my final lap of Zurich… the last couple of kms felt like they took forever but in the distance I could hear the finish line music and being able to collect my fourth band was an amazing feeling. I managed to run the last few kilometres and as I entered into the finish shoot the emotions came flooding in. I saw my hubby in the crowd and heard those famous words – Leanne James – YOU ARE AN IRONMAN.
42.4km run time: 05:26:42
I had made it, finishing in 13:32:46. It was a long way from where I had hoped to finish but I didn’t care. I burst into tears as I met hubby while the events of the day sank in. We then enjoyed the finish line party and it was extremely emotional watching everyone finish their race… all with their own stories and experiences.
A couple of weeks on and it has been great spending time with family and friends with only light training before starting the next block in the build up to IM Weymouth 70.3 and also the ETU Duathlon Championships in Ibiza.
Would I do another Ironman? Absolutely. I learned so much from this race, especially as I am still relatively new to the sport, but for now I will stick to the 70.3s.
Sunday 29th July 2018 was the day of the annual Prudential Ride London - Surrey 100 mile sportive. I had entered it months ago and was adamant I would still take part even though I was due to go into hospital the following day for a procedure.
An early start time of 7am meant I had to be in Stratford at the start by 6:15am. Leading up to this day, the weather was scorching hot with temperatures exceeding 30 degrees Celsius, however race morning saw the most rainfall the country had had in months!
Minutes before my wave started, the heavens opened. I was cold and miserable before I even started! Thankfully, once we started the camaraderie amongst the riders and the shouts from the very committed supporters really got me in a positive mood. I actually started to really enjoy myself and was pushing an easy, steady rhythm at 19/20mph. I made a decision early on that I would try not to stop due to the weather. I knew fuel-wise I was okay, but water-wise I may not be, I would just have to see how things went.
Leading up towards the hills of Surrey, I started cycling with a lad from Leeds who was holding a similar pace to me. This really helped as we could work together to hold onto the back of packs of other riders. Before I knew it, we had cruised through the 50-mile mark at an average speed of 19.5mph.
Then we started hitting the hills! Leith Hill was first and by far the hardest. There were a few nasty accidents and as we heard in the press later, a fatality at Leith Hill. It was easy to see how and why accidents happen: the roads were wet, gritty, slippy due to the lack of rain and there were 100s of cyclists - some more experienced and patient than others - all trying to get from point A to B in the quickest time. They say it’s not a race, but every cyclist out there had their own target, so it becomes a race against the clock or your own goals in some respect.
Descending down from Leith Hill I lost my ride partner as I was more comfortable descending at speed than he was, so I held on to a few new riders as we approached Box Hill, the last of the big climbs in the Surrey countryside.
Although my legs were hurting, I was loving it! My love for cycling has really come out over the winter when I started cycling with the lads from Essex Roads CC. They really push me over 3-4 hour rides and I literally get home and fall into a heap exhausted but the fitness improvements have been huge from this weekly ride!
Coming back into London, the rain was still falling and the roads were starting to get busier as we approached the meeting point on the course for the merging of the 19, 46, and 100-mile courses. There were lots of stop/starting at this point and lots of nasty accidents where people had cycled into bollards or curb-sides etc. The rhythm started to get interrupted a bit at this point and the legs were starting to feel heavy! The last few miles went past in a daze and before I knew it, I could see the finishing arch on the Mall. I pushed on and found I finished in a time of 5 hours 34 minutes, which smashed my own target of 6 hours! I was so chuffed but now I suddenly realised I had to cycle back to the car in Stratford...those 7 miles really hurt!
About the author: Louise Douglass is a Team GB Age Group triathlete and Sundried ambassador.
Not every triathlon is a race, not every triathlon allows for PBs; sometimes a very special challenge can leave behind ripples with those who take part. Caderman, set in the stunning Snowdonia National Park, Wales, is one of those special challenges. How I feel about it now is so different to how I did before competing and I’d like to share how it all changed.
It all started a year ago
My wife, Kate, saw an advert for the Caderman Triathlon and with a “you should do that” I clicked the link. 600m sea swim, yep can do that; 36km bike, can do that too although sounds hilly; 5km run to summit Cadair Idris…. wow, I'm out!
However, it didn’t escape my mind; something about it all drew me in. Luckily, to save face, it clashed with a pre-booked holiday. Fast forward to earlier this year, I was making the crucial selection of which events I was aiming for and Caderman was there. I didn’t hesitate, I just booked it.
Having competed in triathlons for a few years I have always felt it was unjustified to use it as a charity fund-raising reason. Caderman once again is different - this is obviously a challenge not a race, and one that I would say "not normal people" find enticing. This was my introduction to Bloodwise, a blood cancer charity, and the work they do. I am not affected by blood cancer directly in any way but seeing the responsibilities Bloodwise take on I was committed to the cause.
So, as the season progressed, race day of the 4th August came ever closer. I should have been tailoring my training to be at my strongest with 5 weeks to go to race day, but things don't always work out. Performing a cartwheel over a speed bump on a bike took training down to zero. The month before the challenge became recovery, rest, ice and worrying that the commitment couldn't be followed through. I had visions of being removed from the mountain by helicopter, sucking up emergency service resources because of my persistence to go ahead against common sense!
Two weeks before the race, I managed to swim, run and cycle with post-workout swelling but not much more; "I'm going to do it" I announced, but first, more rest. I hadn't gone into a triathlon so physically unprepared before; I turned hopes of a sub 3 hour time to hopes of completion.
I was travelling with my supportive family-and-friends entourage; as we neared Dolgellau the mountain peaks were hidden in cloud. The event registration was not anywhere near the start or finish, as odd as this may seem it provided a well-organised, relaxed location; great facilities to get ready for the day.
All athletes had their bikes transported to T1 and racked whilst we were moved by coach and subjected to one of the most cheery and comical race briefings I've heard by Geraint (more about him later on).
With the coach navigating the narrow country hill road that I would be tackling by bike in less than an hour's time, it gave me a chance to visualise most of the course, checking signage on the way. The sun had pushed its way through, burning off the cloud and fog; standing at T1 in the seaside town of Tywyn at 9am I was boiling, trying to leave donning the wetsuit until the last minute.
With an additional pre-swim safety briefing and obligatory honours list photo, the flag was dropped and we were free to enter the sea in whatever fashion we felt worked; for me it was to swim from knee-deep water whilst others waded further. Ten minutes and a few loops later in the tropical waters of the Welsh coast and it was time to leave. I noted how everyone I saw were not interested in cutting corners to shore, you'd only be cheating yourself, and made sure they touched the buoy signifying the end of last loop before heading out.
Running to the car park where T1 was based, I had the top of my wetsuit off - something that has taken a lot of practise - before I reached my bike. It was at this point I marvelled that I managed to remove the wetsuit from my legs with speed and ease, which I owe to a top tip from a friend: plastering legs in hair conditioner is not only safe for the suit but very slippery! Helmet and race belt on and I was out on the bike. With numbers kept low for the event I was in a rare situation; there were no other riders to follow, I had to lead, not something I’m accustomed to.
600m swim time: 0:15:07
It didn’t take long as I left Tywyn to sense things weren’t quite right with the bike. The rear brake caliper was bound to the rim, this took some care with a reach to take the caliper lock off. Then there was the tinging… all I could think was I had a loose spoke but it was like this first thing? I had to put it to the back of my mind mind and plough on.
Now, I knew my gear setup was not ideal for climbing but I’ve been using it for over a year; with 25 teeth on the largest cog of the cassette, the climbs were tough, coupling that with my loss in fitness recently I couldn’t even keep up with friends to draft them. Yes you read that right, there are no draft-busters as this is not an ITU race, it’s a challenge and fun.
I thought the pain was nearly ending (or about to transfer to the run) when I entered Dolgellau, but there was one last cheeky climb that didn’t relent until T2.
Transition is set next to the Pony Trail in Snowdonia National Park. Not only was it well laid out but offered lots of fuelling options, from bananas and chocolate to Wild Trail energy bars and gels. One banana and one gel and some water later, I set out on the element that makes this event more than a race.
36km bike time: 1:42:34
I bounded across the road eager to jog up what I could; I rounded a corner, crossed a small footbridge, and made it up the first incline before stopping. This was not going to work; back pain from my 'super aero profile' on the bike was setting in. Revising my plans, I settled for a fast walk and regular rests to keep my heart rate low. The focus now was catching up with friends who were up to 10 minutes ahead and seeing my wife and kids who were camped out halfway.
As I pushed on, I couldn't stop taking in the views at every stop; it wasn't long before I spotted my family, but the first half of Cadair Idris is the steepest and hardest with large boulders to navigate. Every footstep takes mentally exhausting thought to select and physically demanding response by the body to place.
As I rounded the corner, my kids shouted their support. This was a big boost and a chance to rest I thought... Alex and Cari had other ideas, "Keep going Dad, get a fast time". A few jelly babies and water later I was sent packing. From then on, at every stop up the steep zig zag path, my wife and kids would be shouting support; they were not the only ones; bemused hikers going up and down gave words of encouragement along the route. For such a remote location, it was one of the best run legs of a triathlon I've had for on-route support!
With the heat of the sun and the leg-punishing ascent to the halfway point, I was glad of the marshal support. With water supplies and more snacks available, I took a little of both before finding the energy to jog once more. Having passed my family it was time to reel in my friends before the summit. They were in sight and so I grafted with jogging, fast walking and minimal stops to close the now 5-minute divide.
This section of Cadair in many way is easier due to the path being made of smaller stones rather than boulders. Finally catching up with friends, I had no interest in continuing the pace I was setting. We settled to a shared rate of climbing, looking to summit together, mirroring the start we shared together 3 hours earlier. As we made the final climb up a narrow path that was taking a constant flow of descending hikers who moved aside, there were shouts of “who’s going to get there first?”
5km run time: 1:19:34
There was no question, on a count of 3 we placed our hands on the summit trig point at the same time. Pride, achievement, and dizziness sank in as pain floated away. There were no more competitors in sight, making it feel as though the achievement was most definitely our own. With a rest at the summit hut, coats on and photos, we took in the view of the sea and cliff drops meters away. The thought of getting up here under your own steam cannot be taken away.
Diolch guys! Making the way down steadily to avoid last minute slips, I met my family and made for T2 to collect the bike before heading to the registration location from this morning for a well-earned pint.
Geraint was there, holding the fort. It was then I learned of the special link Caderman has with Bloodwise. Caderman is his creation and he did it alone years after recovery from leukaemia during his teens. This became an annual event and opened to others in 2017. Sometimes we need challenges to prove to ourselves we can go beyond limits. Geraint did this, and this year so did I along with 31 other competitors. This event is special and should most definitely be on the cards for 2019.