• Couch To Triathlon (13) - Looking Ahead To 2018

    Race season really is over for 2017

    I completed my last race for the year at the weekend, which was the Windsor Duathlon at Dorney Lake and it was a fantastic race for me (you can read more about it here.) I went on holiday for 2 weeks at the beginning of November and did zero training while I was away. I also wasn't able to eat well as we were in Egypt which meant I had the dreaded holiday tummy most of the time! As such, when I got home and went for my first run back after holiday, I was horrified at how difficult it was! It's pretty unreal how much fitness you can lose in a relatively short space of time, but having the race in a few days I knew I had to just dig deep and get the training done. I got back to training on the Monday and had the race that Saturday so I trained hard to get my fitness back up. Thankfully, on the day, I performed better than I expected and was really happy with my result.

    This was my second duathlon (my first being Bowood House in October which you can read about here) and I chose to do the sprint distance which is a 5k run - 20k bike - 5k run. At Bowood, I did the super-sprint distance so I decided to up the ante and go for a slightly longer distance. I've found that I really enjoy doing duathlon so I'll be sure to do some more next autumn and winter after my main races of the year.

    Racing in 2018

    With my heart set on an Ironman (!) in 2019, I am planning out my races for 2018. The biggest event for me will be Paris Marathon in April. I have never run a marathon before and in fact I never thought I'd be able to run one full stop. I'm not naturally good at running at all and I've always been very slow. Most people's 5k pace is what I consider a full pelt sprint! Therefore, running a marathon will be a huge accomplishment for me and I am taking my training very seriously. I've entered the Thorpe Park half marathon in February and the Lydd 20 Mile in March as preparation for the marathon. The farthest I've run to date is 13.1 miles (I've done 2 half marathons) so I'm looking forward to seeing what happens when I start running longer distances! I've also entered the London Triathlon which is in August so I'll be keeping up my triathlon training too. I'll be doing Hanningfield Triathlon in May as my first ever triathlon and a stepping stone for London. I'm really excited for all these races, especially as each one will be a big achievement for me. 

    I think the most important thing is to stay realistic and remember where I started. I read a lot about people who turned up at their first ever triathlon with no experience and ended up placing 2nd or 3rd in their age group. For me, just trying not to come last is the main goal! I have to keep reminding myself that everyone has different abilities and that just taking part at all is something to be really proud of. I've had a great year this year which the London To Southend Bike Ride, Bearbrook 10k, Garmin Ride Out, Kent Coastal Half Marathon, Bowood House Duathlon, and Windsor Duathlon. I've entered into new territory with both my running and cycling, and putting them together into multi-sport! I've learnt to swim front crawl and by next year I'll be doing a triathlon. That's pretty good going if you ask me.

    Read the next instalment - Couch To Triathlon (14) - Bike Envie

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Couch To Triathlon (7) - Feeling Inspired

    Sundried Southend Triathlon Open Water Swim Essex

    Last weekend Sundried hosted the inaugural Southend Triathlon at which I was swim director! It was my job to stay on the beach and count all the athletes as they safely exited the water. It was an incredible day and the atmosphere was amazing. It was my first time experiencing a triathlon and it really was very special. I've taken part in numerous 10ks and half marathons, which always have a great buzz, but this something entirely different and we had nearly 3000 spectators out to watch and cheer people on! It has really inspired and motivated me to up my game with my training for my triathlon and I am looking to enter one sooner than I thought!

    After editing the content for all the events that Sundried will be sponsoring this year, I came across the Louth Triathlon in Lincolnshire. It is a beginner-friendly event with a 400m pool swim and easy bike and run course. I must say I'm really tempted to enter! It takes place on Sunday the 3rd of September which is only 2 months way. Will I be ready by then?

    I think that my fitness is certainly up to finishing a triathlon at this point, especially a shortened course featuring a pool swim, but I still need to have swimming lessons! I haven't even attempted the front crawl since I was 10 years old. Eek! I also need to step up my cycle training, but I am being left frustrated as it's so hard to get up any speed in Southend due to pedestrians walking out in front of me on the cycle path and angry motorists interrupting any cycling I do on the roads. I shall power on though. 

    My running is going amazingly though, and with my new Garmin Forerunner 735XT watch I did a lactate threshold test and have also determined my VO2 max (which is pretty good if I do say so myself!) I'm hoping to achieve a new 5k PB soon, although now that I'm finding running easier I need to make sure I don't sprint off too quick and burn out after a mile!

    I'm hoping to make up my mind about entering the Louth Triathlon soon, with the only thing being it would come before the duathlon I have entered, which was supposed to be a toe-dip into the world of multi-sport competing and give me an idea of how it feels. However, at this point I do feel like I don't really need to ease myself in too much and that I'd manage it okay. That's another feeling of confidence that came from watching all the competitors at the Sundried Southend Triathlon, as we had racers from all walks of life from professional triathletes to people who had never done one before and turned up on a mountain bike!

    I'm guilty of having 'yolo' moments so chances are I will end up entering the triathlon in September, in which case things are about to get intense! Stay tuned for more, it may be time to get the swimsuit out of retirement!

    Read the next instalment - Couch To Triathlon (8) - Training Adventures

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Lauren Steadman Team GB Olympian And Triathlete

    Lauren Steadman Team Garmin Sundried Interview

    Lauren Steadman is a young Paralympian who has a number of incredible achievements under her belt. She competed at the Paralympic Games in Rio in 2016 and is now preparing for Tokyo 2020. I was fortunate enough to be able to interview her at an exclusive Garmin launch event, and she tells me about her inspirations, her motivations, and life as an elite athlete.

    Your journey to becoming a triathlete started at a very young age, did you always know you wanted to be a triathlete?

    I started when I was 11 as a swimmer, and competed at 2 paralympic games as a swimmer. After London 2012, I decided to make the transfer across to triathlon. At that time it wasn’t a paralympic sport so I trained hard for 3 years, then won the 2 World Titles and 4 European titles, then competed in Rio 2016. I never dreamt I’d be a triathlete, but I’ve always been a cross-trainer and good at all 3 sports, so it just all fell into place. And while there’s still a hell of a lot for me to improve on, it’s going alright so far!

    You’ve accomplished some amazing things, what was your proudest moment?

    Out of triathlon probably the first world title. I think the first time you qualify for the paralympic games and your first world champion medal is always the best. You can qualify again but it’ll never be your first one. All my family was there and I won by 3 and a half minutes so it was a really good win. It makes you more determined to win the title and work harder to stay ahead of the rest of the world.

    What’s an unusual fact we might not know about you?

    That I like to dance salsa; I’ve been doing it for about 4 years and I teach now as well. I got into it because my psychologist said that sport is no longer your hobby it’s your career, so you need something outside of that to enjoy. One day when I was walking home from uni I saw salsa dancing advertised every Wednesday, so I gave it a try and the rest is history! It’s a chance not to think about the stress of competing and to just enjoy dancing.

    What piece of advice would you give your younger self?

    I would probably say to get over my fear of open water. I really really don’t like open water, even in a lake I’m pretty damn sure there’s a great white! I’m confident in a pool, I’ve done it my whole life, so just to enjoy being in open water and get it done. If you get eaten, you get eaten!

    Do you follow a specific nutrition plan? If so, what/when do you eat?

    Because I’ve been an elite athlete since I was 11 it’s ingrained for me to eat healthily. I do watch what I eat but as a triathlete, I expend a vast amount of calories so I can enjoy eating lots. I have favourites, I love eggs, avocados, and I do love meat - I actually lived in South Africa when I was younger - so I love my meat.

    What has been your toughest race?

    Probably the toughest race was Rio, purely because I’ve never made a mistake as big as I made then. I was proud of how I came back from that but it was very tough to deal with the fact that I’d been as prepared as I could and something that I could’ve controlled went wrong. I was proud of my reaction to it, but it was tough to deal with the fact it had not gone how it was supposed to.

    What are your goals now? What’s next on the horizon for you?

    So this year was predominantly just to finish my masters, I want a distinction in it. I will race, Europeans and worlds are on the cards, but my main focus was getting my dissertation finished. I’ll give it my best shot, training hasn’t been optimal, but I’ve got 3 years to get back on track.

    Can you talk me through your training regime?

    I tend to work with my coach Sam Warriner, and we train in a 4-week split with 1 week swimming, 1 week cycling, 1 week running, then 1 week resting; when the intensity drops but the volume doesn’t. I also do 3 gym sessions a week. I have a good level of swimming from being a swimmer but I still swim 3 times a week and do a long bike ride every 2 weeks, which is anything up to 4 hours.

    You’re studying for a master's in business, how do you balance training and a social life?

    It was something that I had to learn; leading up to London 2012 I didn’t do it very well, I prioritised training but I now believe happy Lauren equals happy athlete. You have to make sacrifices but you have to be around people who understand and are supportive which I am.

    What’s the ultimate goal for you?

    Probably just to be happy. Just because so many things bring me happiness but I really want to feel a sense of achievement in myself. Maybe to regain titles that I let slip last year with my crash and swimming the wrong way, but mostly just happiness.

    Who is your biggest inspiration?

    Lots of people have inspired me at different stages in my career; when I was younger I was at a caravan park with my grandparents and I watched Dame Kelly Holmes win her two golds, and then last year when I got back from Rio, her and I were put together on a panel for a question and answer session and I was just like “wow, I watched you all those years ago in 2004 thinking I can be like that, I can be like her, and here I am sat here with you with an Olympic medal from Rio!”

    What would you say to someone considering entering triathlon for the first time?

    To enjoy it, to work on your weaknesses as well as your strengths, and to find a coach who you get on well with.

    Why choose Garmin?

    Garmin for me have always been the secure and safe option; they're reliable, their products have everything I need, and they sponsor triathlon so everything I need is in one place. My coach can see my stats all the way from New Zealand where she is based, and I like things to look nice and their latest watch looks great!

    From all at Team Sundried, good luck Lauren and we look forward to seeing you succeed in all that you do!

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Couch To Triathlon (3) - How On Earth Do You Ride A Road Bike?

    Boardman Women's Road Bike Cycling Triathlon Sundried

    So I've completed week 2 of training for the triathlon! The biggest challenge this week has definitely been getting used to riding a road bike. I'd never ridden one before at all, with the closest I had ever come to riding one being when a friend let me try theirs; I tried to give it a ride around a car park but I couldn't even get on it! It was farcical but hilarious. Becuase of this I knew it would take some getting used to, but I didn't quite realise just how different it would be!

    For a start, the saddle on a road bike is a lot higher than the handlebars, which means my body position is totally different to when I was riding around on my old banger of a bike. My shoulders started to ache a little where I was leaning forwards over the handlebars, but after relaxing them it wasn't so bad.

    I found that the gears and the brakes are the most different to a regular bike. The handlebars are a completely different shape and so the brakes are at the front as well as the gears. When I first took it for a spin I didn't even successfully change gears, but there are lots of useful guides online about how to change gear on a road bike, and the fact that this is such a well-covered subject made me feel better as it means I'm not the only one who struggled!

    The other big difference is that the frame of the bike is a different shape, with the bar between the saddle and the handlebars being a lot higher than on my old bike. This was something I found out the hard way when I tried to dismount! I usually just pull my leg through the middle and hop off, but on the road bike with the higher bar this wasn't as easy! In fact, I pretty much just fell off the first time I tried to dismount!

    These are all quite trivial things, but they're issues that you would never think about before you actually try riding a road bike for yourself. After I finally managed to get going, I was flying! This bike is so much faster than my old one, with my Garmin Forerunner 735XT Triathlon watch telling me that I was doing 15mph (as opposed to 10mph on my old bike).

    Garmin Forerunner 735XT Triathlon Sports Watch Sundried 

    The only thing I have yet to conquer with this bike is the pedals. Your feet strap in exactly like on a spin bike, so if you have ever done a spin class you'll know how that works. However, a spin bike is set in place and you won't go toppling over if you lean down to strap your feet... something I am yet to master on the road bike! But I will get there, it seems to be a confidence thing more than anything, and I need to remember that I've literally only ridden it a couple of times and that after months of experience all these little things will come naturally (that's the hope anyway!)

    My running has been ticking over nicely as I go running at lunchtime with my colleague, and I have yet to take some swimming lessons so that will be the next challenge! Stay tuned for more next week!

    Read the next instalment - Couch To Triathlon (4) - The Running Bug

    Posted by Alexandra Parren