June 2014Eclectic Cake: June 2014

Monday, 30 June 2014

How to Live Your Life Like Chrissie

Last week, thanks to Runners Need, I had the absolute honour of sitting in a room with the captivating Chrissie Wellington and listen to her talk. She explained how she became four-time world Ironman champion and how almost every time she went into a big race, she wasn’t sure if she would get through it. Before even starting, she had placed limits on what she was capable of. But each time, she came away surprised by her own strength, endurance and determination after smashing her goal. And apparently, us mere mortals are capable of achieving much, much more than we believe, too. 

Chrissie said we were twins, if that doesn't mean I'm headed for triathlon success then nothing does.

This is how to live like Chrissie…

Decide what you want from life. What do you love doing? What’s the one thing that will make you happiest? Now go chase it!

Often, chasing your passion will mean a complete change in direction and go into the unknown. Whatever it is, do it. Yes it’s scary but, as Chrissie puts it, too many people are stuck in their bubble.

Decide exactly what you want to achieve – what are you aiming for? Now work out why. This is the thing you’ll look to when times are tough. That reason needs to be big enough to keep you going.

A plan will help you stay on track to achieving your goal but make sure it’s tailored to your life, your strengths and your weaknesses. Also, build in a bit of flexibility. Select things you must do. Everything else is a ‘nice to have’, if you don’t do it, it doesn’t matter.

Chrissie is a triathlete. She does one sport, not three. If she doesn’t hydrate properly on the bike, she doesn’t get to start a fresh when she gets to transition, her run will suffer. As with life. If something is off balance, it throws the rest off kilter, too.

There will be dark times where you’ll want to quit. Remember them. Because you’ll come out the other side stronger, knowing you can deal with whatever’s thrown at you.

Your mind is your most important weapon. When you want to quit, it will tell you not to. When you’re wondering why you’re doing it all, it will remember. You can also use it to trick yourself into thinking what you’re doing is easier. Your big scary challenge may feel more manageable by cutting it up into smaller chunks – footsteps on the way to success.

Imagine yourself reaching your goal, think about being strong and successful. Now visualise the things that could go wrong. If you’ve already imagined how to deal with bumps in the road, you’ll be far better prepared if you do actually come across any.

Of course, success can be measurable. In these digit-loving days, everything is. But true success is knowing you’ve truly put your heart and soul into something you’ve decided to focus on. When you’ve tried your absolute best, that’s what success feels like.

For more Wellington wisdom, read her brilliantly inspiring book, A Life Without Limits.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Race Report: Run Hackney

WHAT: Half Marathon
WHERE: Hackney, East London
WHEN: 22nd June 2014

“Once more, with feeling.”

I danced around my first half marathon. There was no pressure, no expectation, no time to beat. I just ran. It was the most fun I’d had on my feet and getting a decent time from just running on feeling was a brilliant bonus. But it meant I now had a number I was expected to reduce the next time I ran 13.1 miles.

Hackney Marshes felt more music festival than race village that morning. The sun was out, I knew lots of people taking part and the organisers had promised a party. I decided that morning, I didn’t want to have to focus on time, to push hard and not wave my hands around. I wanted to play. The elements were also against any PB chasing, a sticky 24 degrees is not the most comfortable temperature for a quick half marathon. I decided to ditch the GPS watch and run on feeling once more. I definitely felt relaxed, chatting my way from the pen, slowly forward over the start line and through the first mile. Without really realising, I’d started my second half marathon! 

The route took us mostly through residential areas, all generously lined with supporters. Whether they were there screaming encouragement to their friends or stood in bemusement at why 12,000 people would wake up early on a Sunday to run, they made it feel like a proper ‘event’, an occasion. Spirits were up and so was my speed. The first few miles were comfortably fast. I was sure I wouldn’t be able to keep the pace but it felt good to blast out some quick miles to the sound of steel pans and brass bands.

By the halfway point, I’d slowed right down. I was uncomfortable and not just ‘in-the-middle-of-a-half-marathon’ uncomfortable but ‘slightly-delirious-from-the-heat’ uncomfortable. People were already suffering – I’ve never seen so many runners passed out on the side of the road – my job now was to look after my body and get it to the finish in one piece. Running by feel wasn’t just about my speed, it was about my health. Thankfully, the water given out on the course was in pouch form, so I could carry it with me to sip until it became so warm, I could bathe in it.

Hackney’s lumps and bumps, twists and turns had kept my legs entertained but it was a joy to see the red of the Orbit tower peek above the houses. I couldn’t wait to run in the newly groomed Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, until I remembered the energy sapping course ahead. I could soon see swamps of people seemingly only walking up a hill. We wiggled around each other, looping out and back, seemingly always up-hill and next to a line of runners ahead going the opposite way. Mentally, it was really tough. Luckily, there were London 2012 souvenirs – the stadium, the velodrome, ‘RUN’ in giant metallic letters – littered along the course for distraction.

This worked. 

I somehow arrived at the finish line with an accidental new PB. It turns out listening to my body, following the feeling in my legs and being inspired by the atmosphere of the crowd works pretty well for me.

Pre-register for Run Hackney Half Marathon 2015 here.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Race Report: Triathlon Pink

WHAT:  200m swim – 6k bike – 2k run
WHERE:  Bath University, Somerset
WHEN:  8th June
WHY:  to raise money for Breakthrough Breast Cancer

They did it!

Of course they did! I had no doubt my friends would ace their first triathlon, and after raising a staggering £826.08 for Breakthrough Breast Cancer, they kind of had to. There were things I wasn't certain of, though – will they enjoy it? Will they hate me for asking them to try? Was it something they'd be proud of doing? But the answers to all my questions came clear as I watched one friend bounce over the finish line, asking which triathlons she could do next. The other flopped on the grass beside her ever-so-slightly-jealous-of-her-achievement boyfriend. Her answer to his suggestion that "we should do one together"? "Err...maybe..." I'd call that success!


The swim almost always feels like the worst part of a triathlon. It's the first leg, the one you wait around for as you get more nervous – you don't have time to think about the others once you've dipped your toes in the water. But even our nervous swimmer, Sally, was made to feel relaxed at this, what I'm calling, the friendliest triathlon ever. The briefing for our small group of middle-distancers was held at the side of the pool by one of the original organisers of the Australian Triathlon Pink. With only women racing, each sat nervously in a bright pink cap, almost all as first time triathletes, now would've been the time (if any) for a bit of patronising chat from a retired ironman. There was absolutely none – not even a hint - only encouraging words and helpful tips with a few jokes in between to lighten the mood.

So with minds put to rest, it was time to (literally) jump in the deep end. Our trio was last in the pool, our supposedly slow swimmer leading the way, me bringing up the rear. She wasn't phased by the unexpectedly long pool (Bath University are spoilt with a 50m indoor one) and had done her homework on how to zig zag across the pool around each buoy. So our convoy casually glided along and, brilliantly, past one of the other swimmers, then another. In total I think we passed six swimmers before hopping out towards transition. First section done.


The transition to bike started a little earlier than planned. All sporting advice, including my own, will tell you to test out your kit before race day – we didn't think to include bike racks. So, of course, the newly borrowed rack began to slip on the M4. A quick stop on the hard shoulder to disassemble all the bikes and put them in the second car saw us safely to the start but with limited time to talk the team through transition tips.

Now, after celebrating being one third through our triathlon, I felt two sets of eyes looking at me, waiting to see how I go about getting ready to cycle. Putting my shorts on backwards (I decided to not wear my trisuit as the others didn't have one) was not the best way of demonstrating my knowledge. Luckily, there was no timing for the event!

On our first of four laps, I also realised my mechanical knowledge was somewhat lacking. Steph was pedalling like crazy without going anywhere but not knowing much about bikes, I couldn't work out what was wrong. A pit stop to seek help from the always-supportive marshals soon revealed that it was a case of not knowing how to use the gears properly. After a quick crash course in bike gears 101, we were back on our way along the winding route and soon clapped and cheered back into transition. Two thirds finished.


"Why can't the run be first?!"

I did feel for Steph. She'd had the whole event to worry about the running and her bargaining had been unsuccessful – unfortunately, we couldn't do triathlon the other way round, nor could we replace the two lap run with more cycling. The only way to finish would be by putting one foot in front of the other to keep moving until we reached the pink carpeted finish line.

She was tired but still managed to smile her way round, perhaps slightly more so when she realised the water station gave her a welcome excuse to walk. Despite going slower, we never stopped moving, and Steph's determination was clear then we reached the short but steep hill for the second time. She said she'd run up to it then walk the incline but she didn't stop! It was brilliant to see her determination to do her very best and even though it was hurting, she gave it her all.

As we crossed the line, a rush of pride filled my eyes. I was so proud to see friends take on this challenge and I was honoured to have been able to tackle it with them, side by side.

There are still three more events in the Triathlon Pink series this year in Sunderland, Leeds and Basildon. If you fancy a friendly introduction to triathlon or just a brilliant day out for a good cause, sign up here.

Monday, 23 June 2014

#Team14: Challenge Glasgow

In exactly a month today, Glasgow will be welcoming thousands of elite athletes, volunteers and spectators from all over the world for an amazing celebration of sport and culture at the XX Commonwealth Games. I for one can't wait to see what kind of party Glasgow will put on, so I'm travelling over 400 miles this week to get a sneak preview of the host city. I'm hoping for an equally warm welcome.

But with only 24 hours to play with, I want to make sure I see the absolute best bits of Glasgow – the reasons why it was chosen to host such a massive event. I want to eat the best food, run the most scenic routes and see the most iconic sites. I want to peer up at the Commonwealth venues, learn the best hidden secrets and meet the most interesting locals. And I want to call upon the friendliness of Glaswegians to do so.

So I challenge you, Glasgow, to show me exactly why all eyes should be on you this summer and beyond.

I'll be collecting suggestions all week and will be live tweeting my 24 hours in Glasgow from Friday 27th June at @SlaterJen using the hashtags #Team14 and #1MTG.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Spogo Finds: Open Water Swimming

I've been using the brilliant Spogo.co.uk site to find a long list of sports, classes and venues to try when I finally move to my new home town of Welwyn Garden City. Some of them sound so great, I can't resist giving them a go before I even collect the keys! 

The first thing to get a hammering of DIY will be the bathroom, leaving us without a bath for a couple of weeks, so I thought I'd seek watery alternatives. And just a short walk away from my new front door is Stanborough Lake – host to sailing, canoeing and my first open water swim of the year. 

Irrational nerves and reluctance to be woken up by cold water made me stall getting in but one whiff of my rubber suit and the memories of last year's swimming adventures came flooding back. The whole lake can be seen from the water's edge and there were crew on SUP boards, canoes and boats, so safety was fully covered. The lake was a balmy(ish) 17 degrees but immersing myself in it at 6:30am would be quite a shock to the system. Luckily, the nicest guy in the world was manning the entry. He chirpily told me it was just a big bath, to take it slowly and enjoy. 

And enjoy I did!

The cold did steal my breath but a few minutes of breast-stroke and some controlled breathing soon made me comfortable enough to take on a few laps. With each one I became more relaxed and began to discover my stride and enjoy the wonderful water. It was predictably a little green but completely clear of floaty plants, algae and duck poo, leaving nothing else to worry about but how long I could while away in this oversized bath. The few rests I took were, embarrassingly, long enough for the attentive safety crew to check I was OK – it's a good job the lake will be local to me, I may need to work on my swim fitness!

The Stanborough Lake open water swim sessions are held on Saturday mornings by Hercules Events until 13th September. You can find out more about the sessions here.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

On the Move

After five years of living in West London, I'm on the move. I'm packing up my trainers, bikes and race souvenirs and taking them to Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire. There, I'll have more storage for Lycra, more room for foam rollers and more space to swing a downward dog. I'm excited!

But after years of seeking out the best local swimming pool, triathlon club and run routes, I have to start all over again in my new area. Luckily for me, there's a whole website designed exactly for this purpose. Spogo.co.uk was developed by ukactive using a Sport England lottery grant, to encourage people all over the country to get moving. At a time when the nation is becoming unhealthier and more obese, it's a welcome tool that makes finding the perfect class as easy as entering your postcode. And with over 112,000 listed venues, clubs and classes, it's sure to have enough activities to keep even me occupied for months!

At a glance, it looks like spogo will have me sailing and swimming in the local lake, playing two types of tennis (lawn and table) with Welwyn Garden City clubs and speedily cycling to the town's ski centre...Yes, I think I'll be happy here.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Learner Driver

Once my body started to accept the shock of being taken out for a run – the ear ache subsided and the coughing was less frequent – I started measuring my little outings. I'd record the distance my new runner legs took me and how often they agreed to this strange new activity. The result is a very geeky looking love story. Increasingly tall pillars in the graph show each time I decided to push for another lap of the field; the fact that there's a forest of them shows I began running almost every other day. I'd fallen for this new pursuit and almost three years later, I'm still head-over-heels.

Running at lunch = "Runch"
Now, as my love story continues, I've somehow been invited to be a part of someone else's. A friend at work asked me to help her train from non-runner to half marathoner. What an incredible honour! So for the past six weeks, on Wednesday lunchtimes, we've been escaping the office in trainers and walk/jog/running around parks, along paths and across bridges. She's gone from openly hating running and struggling for breath, to declaring a session "awesome" and chatting through a non-stop 7k. 

A wonderful running patch from Carl Partridge
The pride in watching her progress can probably only be likened to the feeling of a parent when they witness their child stand and walk for the first time. But, just like new parents, I feel the weight of responsibility. I'm not a qualified coach. I plan out each run but, really I'm completely winging it and am conscious that these first few sessions could make or break a new relationship between someone and their running legs. I worry that I might be pushing her too hard or not hard enough; I don't want to teach her any bad habits or give her any wrong information; and I desperately want her to fall in love!

But most of all, I want her to see the progress that I'm seeing. So I'm doing my best to record every step with my TomTom Runner. I'm normally a forgetful GPS watch driver – sometimes forgetting to un-pause for a few kilometres after crossing at traffic lights – but, with someone else's journey in my hands, I'm going to have to be more careful. Nothing beats running on feeling – noting how long you can go without getting out of breath – but the graphs and numbers are proof of literally how far you've come. 

Hopefully, this relationship blossoms into a full blown love affair. For now, though, I'm enjoying being part of the ride...providing I can keep a record.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Blue Cow Rooftop Yoga

It's before 8am on a Wednesday morning, I'm twisted on the floor of a rooftop bar facing St. Paul's Cathedral and I've just been asked to make my hip stretch feel 'juicy'. Life feels a little surreal right now!

But it's not surprising, yoga is a bizarre activity. You contort your body to supposedly look like all sorts of animals, whilst making silly noises and breathing in unison. And on this occasion, it was made even more ridiculous with the location – the rooftop bar of One New Change. We were on top of the world, overlooking the city as it slowly woke up to a gloriously sunny day, whilst pretending to be dogs and becoming all zen. It was wonderful!

As my focus seems to have rested on running for the past few weeks, my toes have become further out of reach as my flexibility goes out the window. Coupled with a pretty stressful month, I was feeling up-tight and stiff. This session with Blue Cow Yoga seemed the perfect remedy for body and soul.

Our instructor – equally energising as calming – began our session with a spot of sunbathing. It was bonkers but I was with her from the start. The class did, of course, progress from lying on our backs in the sun to progressively harder poses. We were challenged but I didn't once feel out of my depth or inept for choosing an easier version. It was made clear very early on that this was our own session for our own bodies, we could do what we wanted and any instruction was a guide. And a good job, too. Although, weirdly, I knew exactly what was meant, the idea of 'juicy' hips made me giggle and wobble. My yoga session was certainly lighthearted and fun.

And that, for me, is what made such a strange class so completely relaxing – being comfortable enough to enjoy the sillyness whilst still working hard enough to sweat, all rewarded with incredible views.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Beyond Football

I have nothing against 'the beautiful game' – it's often the first sport to get kids moving in the playground (in my school, the boys kicked the ball and the girls ran away from the stray head-height shots) – but what I don't enjoy is the absolute saturation when a big football event is on. This year's World Cup is of course no different. All adverts feature players, packaged food is now nearly always spherical and flags decorate everything! But, despite what TV may tell you, there's far more happening in the next four weeks than just football. Here's a little taste of things to come...

QUEEN'S BATON RELAY, 14th June to 23rd July 

After travelling the commonwealth for 248 days, the Queen's Baton is about to return to Scotland for the start of the XX Commonwealth Games. On Saturday it will cross the borders to start its final journey through all 32 local authorities, starting with a procession towards the beautiful city of Edinburgh. Along the way there'll be plenty of opportunities to take part in sporting and cultural events, and even a chance to spot a few sporting heroes as they complete a leg of the relay. Click here to see where and when the Queen's baton will be next.

WIMBLEDON, 26th June to 6th July 

With no football last summer, the famous tennis tournament was centre stage. And rightly so, Britain watched from the edge of their seats as Andy Murray became the first man to win a singles title in 77 years. But who says he can't win it again this year? Either way, Wimbledon always promises great action from the world's top players. Have a look at the match schedule here.

TOUR DE FRANCE, UK STAGES, 5th July to 7th July 

This year Le Tour comes to the UK for the first few stages of speedy cycling. We'll have the chance to line the streets from Yorkshire to London and watch for milliseconds as the group of colour whizzes by. For something that lasts a little longer, soak up the excitement at the Festival of Cycling, where campers can take part in a long list of events from time trials to movies powered by bikes. You can book tickets here.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Race Report: Run the Rock

WHAT:  10k trail run
WHERE:  Stokenchurch, Buckinghamshire
WHEN:  7th June 2014

When someone's happily stood in torrential rain, cheering you on as they point you towards the next hill, there's nothing more you can do than muster the strength to do the incline justice.

It's safe to say my first off-road race was a baptism of fire. Although the thunder had stopped by the time we set off, the rain was nothing but persistent, only clearing after the last runner was long finished. With around two-hundred pairs of feet trampling through the trails, this of course meant mud. And lots of it! I'd not factored in the slowing, glue-like properties of mud to my already challenging hilly run. This was not the day to be checking my pace.

I thought I'd be taking in eyefuls of green country and pausing to steal lungs of fresh air but in reality, my attention was focused on my feet. Even being one of only a few runners in trail shoes – me adding a fresh coating of mud to my deliciously comfortable new Salomon Speedcross 3s – I found it hard to trust my feet on the always changing terrain. Rocky roads threatened to turn my ankles, mud slides tried to slip me down the hills, and uneven paths hid fallen branches that were ready to trip me up.

It was all feeling quite difficult. But the second lap gave me a chance to find my trail legs – I'd already survived the first 5k so logic said I could do it again. The countless smiles and cheers from each marshal I passed lifted my spirits and gave me the push to continue exploring. Yes I was tired, soaked through and covered in mud but, given the choice, I'd much rather the interest of wading through country-side than the boredom of plodding on grey pavement. Despite being hard, running these lumps and bumps was exciting and so, so rewarding.

Emerging from the course, toward the finish line, I'd never felt so satisfied. I'd Run the Rock and couldn't help thinking that doing it in the middle of a storm only meant I'd done it properly. Trail running is beautifully tough but I absolutely love it!

Saturday, 7 June 2014


I can't ever remember feeling as proud and inspired as I did soaking up the atmosphere and glory of London 2012. It must have made an impact – two years on and I'm still reminiscing... But it's time to move on. In 46 days, all sporting eyes will be on Glasgow for the XX Commonwealth Games, where the athletes will compete in 17 different sports, from aquatics to boxing, gymnastics to judo, lawn bowls to wrestling.

Whilst the 70 nations will be after the honour of taking home a clutch of medals, I've been given the very special honour of joining thirteen brilliant bloggers to cover all the goings on of Glasgow 2014. I am a very proud member of #Team14.

My first job, to follow the Queen's Baton Relay on its journey to Scotland. And it turns out, for this weekend at least, I won't be travelling far as it's in London this weekend. On 7th–8th June, the baton will be at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and bringing with it over 30 different sports for everyone to try. Test your grace with a bit of dance or your aim with some frisbee. Give mini cricket a go or turn your hand to wheelchair basketball. What better way to get the nation excited for another exciting summer of sport?!

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Run to Work

Elbow your way into an oversized tin can and race to grab the last fabric-ed surface to sit on. Too slow and you're forced to shuffle your toes around suitcases to reach a greasy handrail and wedge your fingers in between other people's clammy fists. Hold on tight and be sure to avoid toe stampers, armpit paraders and wild sneezers.

Ready to run
As if you needed an excuse to abandon a miserable commute in favour of a run, today is the first #run2workday, where Londoners are encouraged to complete their journey to work by foot. All in aid of getting people fitter and saving a bit of money, hundreds of early alarms have been set, backpacks have been stuffed with work clothes and routes have been planned.

14.5 miles from home to work – a little too far before work!
Using the site's route planner, I quickly decided that running the 14.5 miles from Ruislip Gardens to Holborn was quite ambitious before work, so I settled on a tube/run commute – taking transport to Holland park and running 3.8 miles. I figured that I could build up distance in the coming months (possibly more than I bargain for as I notoriously get lost).

A completely manageable distance for a morning run commute 
Whilst it takes some planning (I left clothes and a towel at work last night) and motivation to roll out of bed a little earlier, running even part of the way to work has done wonders for my energy levels – I'm definitely awake this morning. And being out in the open is far more enjoyable than travelling in someone's armpit. It felt like a mini adventure rather than a mission.

You don't get views like this on the tube!

If you fancy joining in with next month's #run2workday, on Thursday 3rd July, here are a few tips to make sure your journey is enjoyable as possible...

1) Leave clothes, a towel and any cosmetics you'll need at work the night before.

2) If you don't have access to a shower at work, take advantage of the free Virgin Active pass you get for signing up to the scheme.

3) Try to carry as little as possible – heavy loads may make it difficult to run.

4) Invest in a good running backpack (my favourite brand is Inov8) for a comfortable journey.

5) Plan your route before you leave. The #run2workday site's route planner can calculate the distance and time it takes to run between any two stations in London.

6) Most of all, enjoy the freedom of getting to work under your own steam and bathe in your smug post-run glow.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Last Minute Tips for your First Triathlon

In under a week, I'll have the privilege of swimming, cycling and running alongside two of my oldest friends in their very first triathlon. They're being eased into the world of multi-sport with what's set to be the most welcoming women's triathlon ever, Triathlon Pink. But whilst Sally and Steph assure me they're excited, they've given me an ever growing list of nervous questions about the day. Here are a few things they wanted to know...

Credit: Trigirl


As we're only doing a very short distance pool race, there's no need to commit to buying a trisuit. A swimsuit, with shorts and a top for the cycle and run, will do just fine. But remember, you'll be putting on the clothes when you're wet, so make sure they're easy to pull on.

You'll probably also want to wear a sports bra underneath your swimsuit for support on the run. Choose a thin, quick-drying style so it doesn't soak up half the pool and drip throughout the rest of the race. You can find a more thorough guide on how to choose a sports bra for triathlon here.

If you're taking on a longer distance or are already planning your second race, it might be a good idea to get a trisuit. Trigirl, one of the Triathlon Pink partners and maker of brilliant triathlon kit, have a great range of one-piece and two-piece suits. You can find more information on how to choose a trisuit here.

Credit: Trigirl


Here's a simple kit list and where each bit needs to go when you're setting up:

You'll need to wear these items for the first part of the race.
- Swimsuit/trisuit
- Sports bra
- Goggles
- Swim hat

You'll need to lay these items out in the transition area before you start your race.
- Towel (After your swim, stand on your towel to dry your feet. This will also mark out your transition area, so bring a bright one so you can spot your place easily.)
- Helmet
- Bike
- Shorts and top (if you're not wearing a trisuit)
- Shoes and socks
- Race number (either pre-pinned to your top or attached to a racebelt)
- Drink (transition gives you a chance to hydrate)

Unless you have bike shoes and need to put trainers on, then tack your bike up, take your helmet off and run...!


Probably, yes. But it's a special type of crazy that makes you challenge yourself with not one, not two but three sports because one just wasn't enough!

Visit the Triathlon Pink site for even more helpful hints in how to prepare for your first triathlon.

If you want to sponsor our team with all money going to Breakthrough Breast Cancer, visit our JustGiving page: www.justgiving.com/TriPink

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Race Report: Welwyn Hatfield Festival of Sport Sprint Triathlon

WHAT:  750m swim – 25km cycle – 5km run
WHERE:  Stanborough Park, Welwyn Garden City
WHEN:  25th May

"I don't know why she swallowed a fly, perhaps she'll die."

After nervously pacing up and down the Hercules Events village scouting for places to hide so I didn't have to race, whilst listing all the things that could possibly go wrong, it was almost refreshing to be given a new thing to worry about in the midst of my first triathlon of the year!

I'd already coaxed myself into the chilly lake and placed myself behind the other competitors, trying to remember why I'd enjoyed it so much last year as I kicked myself for being underprepared. But as I began to gain my rhythm (and the feeling in my toes) in the green but clear water, there it was...gliding. The swim felt even better as I passed swimmer after swimmer, pushing my position up the leaderboard after losing so many places to lack of confidence. Despite having to run to transition with my hands stuck inside my wetsuit as I wrestled to pull it off, any worries about the swim had been dispelled. I'd survived. I just hoped that would be the case for the cycle leg – my weakest discipline.

Only a few kilometres in, a fly flew straight to the back of my throat. I swallowed it. It was a rash decision – having eight legs seemed better than two wobbly ones. From then on, I wasn't worried about the swimmers I'd overtaken now whizzing by on the bike, I wasn't worried about the pot-holed country roads the course took us through, and I certainly wasn't worried that I may have followed the wrong route because of the confusing signage catering for super-sprint up to half-iron distances. All my brain power went into worrying what to do with the fly now inside me.

Looking suspiciously like a robotic fly – a drone that filmed the day's events

Unfortunately, rational thought only went as far as realising the fly's six legs weren't going to help much with cycling, so I'd have to keep mind spinning. Beyond that, it was fatigued nonsense – the fly was obviously living somewhere in my oesophagus. I'd ruled out coughing up the mini beast, seeing bits of fly that had come out of my mouth seemed worse than sending it further down. I wasn't carrying a drink with me because reaching for a bottle on a bike would only end in disaster for this novice cyclist, so I decided to wash it down with a gel. Accidentally squirting the last few dribbles all over my handlebars, a thought dawned on me. Flies love a bit of sugar and I'd just fed this one a bucket load – if it was still alive in there, I'd now given it the energy to survive a few days potentially laying its larvae in my innards. Crap!

The only feasible solution was to use all that sugary goodness before the fly did. Forget the triathlon, I was now in an entirely different race. Luckily, the hilly course gave me plenty of opportunities to tire myself out and, even though the roads were still open to traffic, the quiet early Sunday morning roads meant I could speed along without being too worried about cars. All this distraction meant that, before we knew it, my bike, the fly and I were back at transition for the run.

Carrying a little extra weight (how much do flies weigh?!) and zapped of any benefit from the energy gel, I stumbled onto the run course – a pretty trail course around the park. Keeping my mouth firmly shut (I'd learned my lesson), the green views and interesting, lumpy terrain was enough to restore my faith in nature and some sanity. Sensible again and certain the fly was no longer with us (RIP), I was pleased that one of us made it over the finish line safely.

Races tend to bring out many fears, worries and "what ifs" but most of them, as the fly debacle proved, are completely irrational yet somehow absolutely instrumental in finding focus and getting yourself across that finish line!