This Girl Can Tri…

I’m walking towards the swim start. My wet suit is round my waist just waiting for the final zip to be done up. 

My heart is racing. My head is too. “I can’t do this. I’m not good enough. I can’t.”

The tears are rolling down my face in sheer terror and self doubt. 

And there’s the start line. 

My phone buzzes. A tweet. 


Deep breath. Ok. One step at a time. 

Wet suit on. Cap and goggles on. 

“Excuse me, can you zip me in please”

“SARAH”

I look up. And there they are. My friends. Waving and smiling. 


“Right ladies – big smile for the camera!”


“Ok. Can you swim to the start line please”

A klaxon

And I’m away….

How did I get there?

After 8 months of injury, I get the all clear. After lots of people telling me I should try a triathlon because I swim, cycle and run, I find out Liverpool Tri is a closed road bike Tri (quite rare and after a couple of falls off the bike I’m very nervy!) I sign up in a whirlwind of ‘wahoo I’m not injured anymore!’

Fast forward a couple of weeks and the long time out injured results in a recovery injury. 

Fast forward 3 months and I’m running. Biking a bit – still wobbly and slowly. And loving the open water swimming – even managing a placing at an event. 

Two weeks before the event, I get an email asking if I’d like to be a ‘This Girl Can’ ambassador as I’m taking part in the female only wave they’re sponsoring. (In case You’ve not heard of this, it’s a UK based campaign using real women to encourage women to get active in any way that makes them happy, regardless of ability). I think ‘why not?’ And say yes!

I’m selected and invited to attend a briefing the day before at registration to answer my questions about the event as a beginner. I’m also given a Tech t-shirt to wear if I’d like. 

The briefing did lots to settle my nerves. Phew!


Chris was with me as he’d offered his services as a Tri-maker for the Sunday, and I took the organisers advice to rack my bike up and have a look round transition. And take some daft pictures too. 


I got home and checked my kit. (We’ll gloss over the forgotten run kit bag and only one insole packed!)


The next morning, Chris left at stupid o’clock to go and man transition and do some impressive pointing. 


I followed shortly afterwards. My wave was starting at 12:15, but transition was closing at 8:30. So I decided to go in, get set up and go and watch the different bits of the event – particularly swim exit. As transition was inside, to minimise the slippy floor problem of thousands of dripping swimmers, the rules were that your wetsuit had to be off and bagged before entering the hall. In the briefing on Saturday this led to one lady declaring ‘I’m glad you said that, I wasn’t planning on wearing anything under my wetsuit!’  


I bumped into the lovely Leeny off Twitter (we always find each other at races in Liverpool!) and also caught sight of Jason Bradbury filming for Channel 4 (highlights on Saturday 27th 7am – autographs available at Walsall parkrun from 9am for a small fee). 


I spent most of the morning at the finish line, cheering and enjoying the atmosphere. Chatting with other supporters and bumping into to Tour of Merseyside and Twitter friends. 

At 11:30, I got into the bottom half of my wetsuit. And the panic arrived. By now, Glover should have been there (my awesome friend who was coming to cheer me on and, I hoped, calm me down!). I messaged him, and he was running late, so I began my walk to swim start, in a mental mess. 

But as you know from the intro, he made it as did my Shabbasister Lozza (best surprise ever!) and I got into the water, knowing no matter what, I wasn’t alone. 

The swim began. I deliberately started at the back as I’m not used to mass starts, and gradually just found my pace, and a rhythm and swam. Occasionally a jelly fish bobbed by, and I could see coloured swim caps all around me. 

Before I knew it, I was out the water and bagging my wetsuit. And then into transition. 


It was slippy, so I walked it, and thanks to Chris, super marshal, he cleared the path and snapped me coming through. 

Transition. Remember. Helmet on first. Then number. Then every thing else. Eat. Drink. Go. 

Out on the bike. And the overtaking began. 10k of ‘zooooooom’ as the fast boys over took. And the fast girls. And the slow boys. And the slow girls. And the granny with the shopping basket. 

But there were my cheering squad! 


Now. Let’s do that again. 

But not quite. 

Whereas on the first lap I was surrounded by overtaking and people going back the other way, now there were no other cyclists in sight. 

I pass a marshal point. The radio buzzes. “Can you check if this cyclist is last please?”  

A motorbike engine revs. “I’ll ride behind in case I need to sweep her up.”

No. Please no. Please tell me I’m not going to get cut off. Please tell me I’m not going to get asked to remove myself from the course – because the elites are about to come through and it’ll be dangerous for me to carry on. No. No. No. 

Here come the tears. 

And then he was gone. I carried on. And I’m not sure how. 

My confidence, shaky to begin with was gone. 

I can’t do this. 

I’m going to stop. 

What will I tell the children though? 

It’s one thing to to be asked to stop because I could be putting myself or other riders at risk. It’s another to quit. 

Do I want my daughter and son to think that if things get difficult that the right thing to do is give up?

Or do I want them to know that they can do anything they want if they work hard and believe things are possible?

Ok. I can do this. My goal was to finish. 

At the turn around point I can see at least 2 riders behind me, so I get a grip. No sign of the sweeper. Let’s do this!

Back into the city and there are my biggest fans again. 


Back into transition. Remember, rack bike before you take the helmet off. There’s Chris. “Ok?” “Knackered, but yes.”

Drink

“SARAH!” “What?” “Turn your number round!” Oops. Swish and I’m off. 

Or am I?

My legs feel like led. I’m pretty sure my feet aren’t coming off the floor. 

Just keep moving. It’s only 5k. Just a parkrun and that’s it. You’re done. 

“GO ON TUCKSHOP!” 

My cheerleaders working hard again. Although I might have sworn at them. (Sorry!)


The run route is quite nice, weaving in and out of the waterfront. Although, by now, pedestrians are drifting across the route as its deserted apart from me. I might have shouted at some of them.

Mile 2. Legs are feeling better. I have a laugh with the people on the drinks station and keep plodding on. 

The elites are now out on the bike, I run past two riders being treated on the floor – nothing serious, but a bit of blood and they’d obviously got too close to each other. 

Mile 3. The elite youth are starting to lap me on the run route. They are utterly amazing to watch. It was a privelege to be overtaken by kids out there being the best they can be.

Legs feeling even better (looking back afterwards, mile 3 was my fastest mile and I negative split the whole run!)

And there was the finish. 

And there was Glover and Lozza screaming and cheering me home. 


And as I cross the line, I hear my name over the loud speaker, and the MC talking about me and This Girl Can. And all I can think is:

“I did it. I did it. I’m done.”

And I was across the line and a volunteer puts her arm round me and congratulates me and I burst into tears. 

I get my medal, and make my way outside. 

A figure runs towards me. 

My son. Hugging me sobbing, garbling something about me going to the Olympics and how proud he was, and refusing to let me go. And there was my mum, dad and daughter all hugging me and smiling. 

My parents and children had made it in time to see me finish. And I was so glad it toughed it out. 


I found Chris and Glover and Lozza (eventually!) and we went off to celebrate and cool off 

Will I do anther Tri? 

Right now, I doubt it. My bike needs more work than I think I can commit to, or want to at the moment. I’ll continue to commute to work and ride for pleasure, but the pressure of a bike event isn’t for me. 

Also – people who do Olympic, half iron and full iron triathlons – I salute you and am in awe of what you do – you are incredible. 

Swimming has always been part of my life and running is where my heart lies. 

I think I’ll look into aquathon (splash and dashes) and I’ll always love road racing and open water events. 

I could not be prouder of what I achieved and I’m happy with my over all result. 

Someone has to come last, and on this occasion it was me. But I did not quit.

If you take anything from my story – it’s this: 

This Girl Can. 

And This Girl Did. 

And That Girl over there? 

You can too. 


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A year in review.

How do I sum up a year of changing my life?

How do I sum up personal achievements that I could never imagined possible?

How do I sum up friendships & family that have supported me through thick & thin?

Like this:

Market Drayton! Mixed Results! Much fun!

So.

11th May 2014. Market Drayton 10k. This was supposed to have been my first ever race. In typical Sarah style though, I’d jumped the gun, and already done Action Heart 5 and Fradley 10k in February.

So, you’d think that I’d be calm, relaxed and ready to enjoy the run, having had the chance to experience a race atmosphere.

Yeah. Right.

I was awake at 5am. Between 5am and 10am I must have visited the loo about 15 times.

Nervous? Moi?

Ridiculous really. The day was going to be great fun. The race has a great reputation for atmosphere, and about 15 Shabbarunners were going to be there.

Anyhow, me & Chris got ready, said goodbye to the children & my parents & hit the road.

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We soon found our fellow Shabbas, and I finally met Nikki in person. She’s just as loopy as she is on Twitter!

After a warm up jog round the field with Ian, Lee & Greg, it was time to find our starting positions.

I found the 60minute plus area. At Fradley, I ran the 10k in 1:06:20, and in training I’d got down to about 1:04, so had no illusions about being quicker than an hour. This is where I bumped into our West Brom Harrier pals, Jo, Wai & Lee. Chris was in the same start line up as me, as although he’s a lot speedier than me, he’s got a painful ankle, and had decided to just run a slow 10k, and not risk injuring himself before his Rock ‘N’ Roll half marathon in a couple of weeks. Fellow Shabba Marissa was with me as well, fresh from her honeymoon.

And then we were off.

With over 2000 runners, the first mile was very congested, and it was quite hard to find space to settle into a pace, but about the half mile mark, I spotted someone from work cheering on, and managed to catch his eye, and exchange waves.

From there on it was a case of finding a rhythm, and trying not to get swept along too quickly.

The course was pleasant going through the town centre and housing estates, it was lovely to see the local residents sitting in their gardens cheering us on, even when the rain started.

About the 2.5 mile mark, there was a water station, so I grabbed a bottle of water. After taking a few mouthfuls, I decided I couldn’t run with the bottle, so got rid, as a lot if people were doing.

And then I got a stitch.

No problem, slow breathing down, slow feet down. It’ll pass.

It did.

For 5 minutes.

Then it was back, on the other side.

Repeat for the rest of the 4 miles.

Yes. I ran 4 miles with a recurring stitch.

After a while I just forgot about it. I was aware of it, but not hindering me.

I was keeping an eye on my pace at this point too. I covered the first 5k at bang on 30 minutes, I realised if I was sensible I was on for a good PB time, even if I did slow down for the second half.

This was when the course got a little more undulating too.

I don’t mind hills, going uphill. But I’m wary going down hill. I’m so clumsy I have visions of losing control and tripping going down hill. It’s not happened – yet!

There were a group behind me, obviously running as a team who we’re doing shout outs at the mile points, and every now and then calling to other runners “give me a yeah if you’re running for fun!” – I managed a thumbs up! It they kept me smiling!

I was following a guy in an Ironman morph suit, and although he’s not as special as the Shabba’s Morphman, his suit was well designed for *ahem* accentuating his rear view , so I enjoyed the view and kept on going!

Then around mile 5, there was a short(ish) sharp hill. It was totally energy draining, but I ran it all. Hills are my friend!

Then it was back onto the school grounds for the finish. The change from concrete to grass was very heavy on my legs, and I’d decided that as I was on for a PB regardless that if I couldn’t sprint finish, then I’d still be happy.

Yeah right.

I saw the Shabba flag near the finish.

That was it.

I kicked it up and managed a sprint finish.

I stopped my watch at 1:01:28. Just under 5 minutes off my Fradley time.

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Thank you Jonnie for taking this picture. It may not be the most flattering picture, but my face says it all!

I met up with the Shabbas, delighted with my PB. With our enormous goodie bags and yoghurt stash, we went to spend our free beer vouchers. It was a great few hours, chilling, giggling, rehashing the race, and just generally being together.

Unfortunately, from about 5 minutes after I’d finished I’d been experiencing awful stomach cramps.

These continued for the rest of the day, leaving me curled up in agony with a hot water bottle, and 24 hours later, I’m still not right.

After a long chat with the Tron of Lozza, a Shabba sister, and more experienced runner, we think we’ve pinned it down to dehydration. My nervous loo trips obviously didn’t help, and despite me drinking plenty, before hand, it obviously wasn’t timed right. But she has given me some good tips, and I think I can fix it before my next race on 1st June.

I’m delighted with my run, and enjoyed my day enormously. Can’t wait for next year!

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Parkrun, PBs, Pelsall & Perhaps?

It’s been a funny old weekend.

Full of happiness & excitement, hope and suspense.

It started at Walsall parkrun on Saturday morning.

I’ve been frustrated with my recent parkruns, as I’ve lost the ability to pace myself over three laps, going out too hard, dying on the second lap, and then having to work on the third.

So I decided to try an experiment, with a music playlist with a set tempo, to see if my musician side would react to having a metronome and regulate my pace. Forget time, forget PBS, just balance over three laps.

After the first lap, I was a bit surprised that I was running sub 10 minute miles – this is quick for me. But decided to ignore the pace still, I felt comfortable, and just decided to go with it.

As I passed the finish funnel, Chris shouted “keep going Sarah!”

Unfortunately, I couldn’t resist yelling “Na! Thought I’d stop!”

At which point, I could hear all the volunteers laughing and saying “that told you!”

The second lap, was as consistent as the the first, and then the third lap started. I still felt good, and was still going at the steady pace I was working at, and started to overtake people who I’d had in mind as people to aim for – but not yet, I wasn’t ready! Just shows what I know!

For the last hill incline, I was joined by Daz and Chris C for their cool down. It’s good to have company, when you’re tiring, it gives you a massive boost. This felt different though, I still had legs in me and was pushing myself. As we turned into the downhill, they were both egging me on, and then on the final straight, I could hear Daz yelling at me to go for it, and another runner on my shoulder shouting “don’t let me overtake you!”

I didn’t, that last sprint felt hard, but I loved it.

And when I looked at my watch, I couldn’t believe it. I’d taken 35 seconds off my PB for that course and 2 seconds off my full PB.

My goal for this year is to get a sub-30 minute 5k.

On Saturday, I ran 30:42.

I may need to set a new goal soon!

I made sure I thanked the runner who’d been chasing me down, and Daz and Chris for helping me through that last section.

And grinned for the rest of the day.

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Then on Sunday, it was over to Chris, who was running the Pelsall 10k. There was a mass turnout of Shabbas as it’s a local race for a lot of us, and the first one run there for many years.

It didn’t quite go to plan, starting with us being at the front of a three car rear ender right in front of the common where the start line was.

The damage to my car is minor, and no one was hurt, so once we’d exchanged info with everyone, we joined our friends.

It was a good run for everyone, a little chat about the course being a little short, but even with that, everyone was pleased with their times, and the gang always have fun together!

I was cheerleading & photographer for the day, and got papped a couple of times, while if was papping!

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Then it was home, to find out how our friends got on in the London Marathon.

I took over the Shabba twitter feed, to provide live updates to all our friends.

That was a privilege, as we shared excitement and hope for our friends, we managed to video a couple of them crossing the line. One of our friends dropped off the tracker, which gave us an hour of anxiety, until he crossed another tracking point.

By the end of the evening, this joy at their achievements changed to silliness, and we started on some cracking egg puns, after one of the lads ate 11, yes 11, cream eggs in one sitting!

All of this left me and Chris talking about the future, and I’m pretty sure one or both of us will be putting our names in the ballot for next year!

Stellian’s Superb Saturday! (Warning! Includes a swimsuit shot!)

So this Saturday was always going to be manic, but I was really looking forward to it.

The plan:

Whole family to Wolverhampton parkrun
Chris swim Sport Relief Swimathon – 5k at Wolverhampton Leisure Centre, while we cheer him on.
Parents arrive lunch time.
Me and daughter swim Sport Relief Swimathon 1.5k team relay at Halesowen Leisure Centre
Big family meal out.

For the most part, the plan happened, but a few extra things happened to make it even better!

A mid week chat on twitter with Lozza led to a suggested Tweet Up at Wolverhampton parkrun, along with a new twitter friend Cara.

The run was great fun, I was aiming to keep Lozza in sight, as she aimed for a sub-30 PB, to see if I could run as well as I did the other week with Marissa and Jonnie. I kept her in sight for a lap and a half, but she was flying round (I now know she was chasing a nice bottom!) and she smashed her goal of sub-30! It was great turning into the final straight with her yelling me on!

I’m really pleased with my time at wolves, 31:01 by my watch, 31:05 official time, as I did it all by myself, and my first mile was 10:02, so I’m making good progress towards my own sub-30.

Also really proud of my 6 year old son, who after a half the first lap in full on tantrum mode as he wanted to run with mummy, not daddy, finished the full 5k in 34:35 – I’m going to have to watch him!

The Tweet Up was brilliant, it’s always lovely to meet twitter pals in the flesh, especially when they are as inspiring as Lozza and Cara, both have worked hard to change their lives through running, and are now branching off into triathlons etc.

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It was fabulous to chill out after the run over a coffee and just relax. This did mean that Chris didn’t have his cheerleading at his swim, but he did brilliantly and I’m proud of him.

Then after all the excitement of the morning, it was scoot home to meet up with my parents. They’d brought daughter’s birthday presents, as she turned 10 this week, so there was much excitement from both children.

Then the best bit of my day happened. Me and daughter set off for Halesowen Leisure Centre to do our 1.5k relay. We’d deliberately joined as a team as she was desperate to take part, but had only swum 800m before, so the plan was she’d swim as far as she could, then I would finish whatever she couldn’t, therefore no matter what we’d be a successful team.

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What can I say, she was incredible! She swam beautifully and strongly, she was overtaking adult swimmers and with a bit of pool side encouragement from me, she swam the first kilometre all by herself, only leaving me 500m to finish off.

I swam my 14 lengths at full on full pace, just because I could! And when we got out to be presented with our medals, I realised we were the first to finish! We’d finished ahead of adults swimming in teams, and solo at the same distance! Not that I’m discovering a competitive side to myself or anything.

She’s followed our family rule to the letter and hasn’t yet taken off her medal, think she’s chuffed, and so she should be.

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We then went out and ate our way around the world at our local world food buffet. Perfect end to a fantastic day!

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