Sunday, 20 October 2013

If your dreams don't scare you, they're not big enough

  I again apologise for the lateness of this update, working days again and fitting training in has yet again been the priority - something I vowed it would do. I can however justify sitting on my arse and writing this now as I did a duathlon earlier and wasn't easy on myself. But I'm not writing about that in this post, that will be in the one to follow, there is too much to include in this one.

Our perfect house
  So, since my last blog I did get some good luck as the four leaf clover I found superstitiously promised. On the 5th October Dan and I viewed three properties (bearing in mind we had been waiting patiently for something to view this was luck in itself). Given the current market around Buckinghamshire and our small search radius due to Dan's job as a firefighter we knew we would have to move quickly on one in particular - a 2 bed Victorian house in Bourne End. Even looking at the pictures online we knew we would love it and we weren't disappointed - it was perfect. By this point however it had had eight viewings, it was not going to be there much longer. We arranged a second viewing for the day after but as we were looking around our third property of the day (a huge three bedroom new build) we were told that the perfect Victorian house had an asking price offer. I knew from that moment that we could not lose it, even though we were considering the new build beforehand because of its size and practicality of having a garage. Sometimes being under pressure is a good thing as it showed the emotion we had attached to the house. We saw the property again that night with my mum and then it was a waiting game. At 11.55am on Saturday 6th October our offer was accepted on our dream house. Rosie truly was watching over us.

  On the subject of Rosie, I have decided to raise money for SUDEP (Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy) whilst on my quest to get to the Ironman World Championships. I have to say that I don't like asking for money even though I know it is going to an amazing cause and I don't have an exact figure I would like to raise, but I believe that raising money for a cause so close to my heart will help the charity as well as give me the much needed motivational boost. This charity does invaluable research into Epilepsy related deaths as well as offer much needed support to the families and friends affected by such a tragic death (people like me). Since setting up my justgiving page - - I have received just under £410. This to me is just amazing and I cannot express my gratitude in words. Some people who have donated have been friends of Rosie, myself and my sister. As well as that I have had donations from strangers who have read my story in the local newspaper - this to me is so humbling and again highlights the kindness of strangers. My article went in a few newspapers around the area - this is one from an online site; This type of coverage is great for what I am trying to achieve and I shall continue to try and gain more of this in order to raise awareness of Rosie's death and raise money in her memory. I hope the total continues to rise and if anyone reads this and is kind enough to donate I would be so incredibly grateful - as you will all know it means so much to me and my family as this charity is so close to our hearts.

  Back to training. The first week after my last blog I did a fair bit of training with the goal of maintaining my fitness until the time was right to start stepping the intensity up to peak at Ironman Wales in September 2014. Before I do the big reveal (not that big to some who already know) I'll briefly explain what I got up to and what my plans were during this week. I had made it my focus until March 2014 to do a lot base training - this would involve keeping my fitness at the level I have gained but more importantly focussing on resistance training. This basically means strengthening my body which will ultimately make me stronger in each discipline. So I began a training plan which included weight and specific muscle training for everyday of the week. For example I would do 2 hours before work at the gym doing my cardio and core work. This involved a brick session of a hard spin and then a tough treadmill run. My new favourite toy that my gym has is the Wattbike (this is what I spin on) and for anyone who has a spare £1600 and doesn't like turbo's (like me) I cannot recommend these enough. (In fact I did recommend it and someone from the Tri Club actually did buy one - jealous much?). They are more worthwhile in my eyes than a turbo and a perfect for an endurance training bike as they are comfortable - definitely a positive for a stationary bike especially if training for an Ironman as you will need to be on there awhile. They are also technical something I love and break down your workout. I find this a great way to assess myself as I can record how far I did and see my improvement from week to week. I come off the machine dripping with sweat but know I have put in a good workout. After this I'll do some core and abdominal work and then go to work until lunchtime. During my lunch break I would do an hour of weight training, this is an example of what I do during lunch in the week;

Monday: Legs
Tuesday: Chest and Triceps
Wednesday: (off)
Thursday: (off)
Friday: Back and Biceps
Saturday: Shoulders
Sunday: Legs

 With Dan's personal training knowledge and love of weight training I am confident in what I am doing.
  When out on a 40mile bike ride with Jane from the Tri Club she agreed with all I was doing in regards to resistance training. It was on that bike ride that a seed was planted (by Jane) which may have led to the most outrageous plan of mine (and that's saying something). Jane suggested that I look into other Ironman events around the world and analyse how many of my age group enter, how many slots are available and on record how many times the slots have rolled down (i.e. if the first person doesn't accept they're place how long until someone does) in order to help me tactfully qualify for Kona. It is widely known in the Ironman world that Wales, Lanzarote and Nice are regarded as the hardest courses (I was once told you have to be a mountain goat to do Nice). This therefore makes them the least popular with my age group and sex. I toyed with this for a while and then two days after the seed had been planted I began to look into Nice and Lanzarote for 2015 if I was not successful in Wales. The beautiful location of France's Ironman in Nice and flat run course appeals to many athletes despite a hard bike leg so the previous results were quite competitive. Lanzarote however got me excited. This year there was only one competitor in my age and sex group - meaning instant qualification - and the year before there were no entries at all in my group. I therefore thought I would tell my dad these facts explaining that if I do not qualify in Wales 2014 this could well be a consideration for 2015. My dads reply was, "Let's go for it!" (for 2014), he even said at one point it was a no brainer! I replied very sceptically, I had thought I was mad for applying for Wales with just 3 months of focussed endurance training, but at least I was in my own country. I replied, "Well my heart it racing with nerves and excitement already. I'm sure I could do it. I would need to step up training now and need some warm weather training. So six months of hard training does seem possible - I had less for not not think it seems a bit mad?". Dad came back with, "No! Not at all! It's easier than Wales just the temperature problem. It'll give you two shots at it in 2014". This had me thinking, I had put all my eggs in one basket with Wales and you couldn't mistake the logic in giving another qualification chance a miss. However, although Wales is regarded as the hardest in the world and I spoke to people during Wales who had done Lanzarote who said Wales was harder it is not to be taken lightly at all. The heat is obviously a major factor when in Lanzarote and that is just something in the UK we cannot train for unless we train out there. However, on top of that the bike course climbs 2551 metres and if the heat and climbing volcanoes isn't enough to contend with, you have the harsh island winds to battle with. All in all this is no easy Ironman and due to the climate could be argued as harder than Wales for us Brits. However, Lanzarote has always been one I want to tick off as I want to be able to say I have done the most feared. The debate in my head started. The one thing that really played with me is that I didn't want to let anyone down - so if I went to Lanzarote with my parents and Dan which was the plan and didn't get a slot I would feel so deflated for myself and my supporters. I then began looking at the start list to see if anyone in my age group had applied. In fact two had, one from the US and another from the UK. I then began researching them - had they done an Ironman before? If so what time had they got? Are they going for qualification too? I did this until I had a headache. That's when I decided to ask the advice of my Ironman Twitter followers. Two who have previously competed wrote, "DO IT! It is hilly, hot and windy, but it's a race that's earned and rewarding", "Hardest day of my life. Totally amazing experience. So few women race. A must do event". This is how another responded when I explained I about my research into the competition, "Trust in your ability and forget the opposition! Train harder, race faster. Believe and you will get there!". I have to say this one was probably the one tweet that made my decision that much easier. After about 4 hours since my dads text I had decided - I was going for Ironman Lanzarote and it reminded me of a quote I had recently seen which has since become my favourite, 'If your dreams don't scare you, they're not big enough'. After announcing my seemingly crazy decision I got so much support on Twitter;

    "You've certainly got all my support and others too. You'll be awesome. Inspirational too"
    "Belief is everything! You will achieve"
    "Remember one thing, you have something that none of the others have. The very reason you want  
      to win!"
    "Proud to be a supporter of #Hollie4Kona"

 So on 17th May 2014 I shall be competing in Ironman Lanzarote and aiming for a Kona place. I have already stepped up the training - pushing myself when swimming, spinning and running until I feel on the verge of sickness. When that does happen and I want to stop I just think of Rose and why I am doing what I am doing. Rose gives me the strength to carry on. I have also looked into hints and tips from coaches who have done Lanzarote. Mark Kleanthous an endurance athlete in his own right and a triathlon author and coach says, "A training camp 12-8 weeks before with hills like Italy or Spain will help a lot". He also recommends doing a weighted leg workout (as I have been doing) twice a week to build endurance for the tough bike course. I would love to do a training camp abroad in order for me to try and deal with the heat but again time and money are restrictive especially when some training camps can go easily go into the thousands with a well known coach and flights included.
  It is going to be a selfish year but I have  a focus and a goal I have to achieve. Dean Karnazes, ultramarathon man writes, "Endurance sports will either strengthen a relationship or destroy it. There's no middle ground. I have witnessed relationships and families grow stronger when one partner, or even on sibling, takes up running, cycling, or triathlon. On the flip side I have seen relationships torn apart". Fingers crossed with my amazing support network in Dan, my parents, family, friends and followers I'm not the latter!

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