*insert mermaid emoji here*

It is hard to describe the cold shock of open water swimming. Imagine an air temperature of 12-15 degrees. Not that cold, is it? You probably need a hoodie but not a coat…

12-15 degrees (Celsius. Not farenheight, Americans) feels*quite* different in water. 

Growing up in an old house, I’m familiar with how cold the shower goes when someone turns on a hot tap somewhere in the house. This felt like 4-5 degrees at the time. Actually it was probably closer to 12-15.

For those of you lucky enough never to have experienced Showerus Interruptus, I can only liken the shock of the cold against your skin to accidentally planting a bare arse cheek against cold shower glass at 6am on a Tuesday. The “FUCKSAKESTHATSCOLD” dance. Except you can’t escape. Because you’re getting into a Loch to swim for a mile.

So! Fresh from my dismay and subsequent relief of a shortened swim at Aberfeldy Middle Distance two weeks previously, I was very excited to give my wetsuit what will probably be its farewell for 2015. And what better place to celebrate a year of athletic adventure than Loch Lomond.

I’ve always been a fish. I swam competitively from the age of “small” and I have a large box of gold medals, ribbons and certificates somewhere. I guess I was just a natural. Like a wind up toy that starts kicking and pulling as soon as you let it go. I LOVED swimming and then did it so much that the love dwindled and the flame flickered out for 10 years.

A whole 1/3 of my life later, I’ve rekindled the flame. And it’s wonderful.

I have a buddy who’s done the Great Scottish Swim for YEARS (he’s really old) and he’d waxed lyrical about it so much that I promised myself, as a post Feldy present to me from me, I’d enter and swim the mile if I was uninjured. I AM uninjured. Happy days!

You can swim 1/2mile, 1 mile, 2 miles or 5k. I *could* have done 2 miles. But cold. And I’m not insane enough for 5km. 1 mile it was. And I loved every chilly second.

My other half realised at Feldy that if you’re not particularly in to the type of sport you’re watching, waiting 4 hours for your girlfriend to finish is BORING. So I knew he’d probably sooner drink loch water than watch people swim in it for ages. I came up with an idea that he and his dad could take their cyclocrosses up the West Loch Lomond cycle route while I swam and faffed about. This worked out well. They had fun. And although the beastly headwind held them up on the way back (not that I was worried at all…) the scenery was gorgeous. Good plan, Bean.

As I changed in the tent, a girl came in with her friend who hadn’t coped with the cold at all. It took about 4 layers of coats and towels and 3 of us rubbing her feet and back under a hot air blower to make her start to feel human. She was lovely. I hope she’s ok now. That’s what the cold does to some.

Changed and ready, I ditched my bags and headed to the start.

I was in the 11.30 Orange wave. We were called to check-in, numbers written on our hands, chips beeped and let into the starting pen. Cameras filmed us, all rubber clad in our silly hats, the presenter was chatting away to us all. It was calm! Then they announced that Acclimatisation was open. You’re allowed in a bit to get a feel for the cold. Did anyone step forward? Did they fuck. Except Bean.

“Excuse me. Step aside. Thank you”

Ever the pro. I jumped in and it was fine. IT WAS FINE. (It was fucking FREEZING) It’s always a shock. I splash my face and neck first. But the bit where it goes down your back is the WORST. Ok. In. Quick splash. Quick float. Out.

Then 10 minutes of trying not to get cold back in the start pen.

Ross Murdoch and Robbie Renwick started our wave. That was ace. I watched the swimming at the commonwealth games and the Olympics religiously. They were interviewed, wished us luck and fired the air horns to start our wave.

There were some clearly very experienced and speedy looking swimmers in my wave. So I kept wide and to the middle.

This turned out to be shite planning because a lot of the “speedsters” we’re, in fact, total pansies that got to the water and did a weird mini breaststroke thing. I had to pick my way through two dozen or so of them before I found some clear water and got on with the business of swimming.

It was so busy in the start chute that at one point a man stood up and shouted “NO” at someone who’d swum over him.

I didn’t notice the cold after 100m or so. I got into my rhythm pretty quick. Pull pull pull breathe right, pull pull pull breathe left. Minimal kicking. Save the legs. I was overtaking. Lots of overtaking. I was approaching a neon wetsuit who, when I was to his left about 4 ft behind must have switched to Breastroke as I suddenly received a kick to the chest so violent that I got a lung full of water and had to take a minute to calm the fuck down.

Once over the shock, I battled on. Sighting every 12th breath or so. I spotted what I thought was the turn buoy. I’d been swimming for what felt like eternity. It’s a funny almost rectangular shaped course. 1 lap is all. Easy. But that turn buoy turned out to be just a course marker and I still had the same distance to swim again. Bollocks.

By the time I reached the turn buoy, the waves were making me feel a bit pukey. Id never swum so far out in such a deep loch before. The course at Loch Tay was short and pretty shallow so there wasn’t a swell. The waves weren’t high but you could feel them building. As I turned to swim across the loch to the half way buoy, the waves were hitting my left side. I switched to right side breathing every fourth stroke and that kept me calm and balanced. Breathing every two strokes is too frequent for me. I’m a calm swimmer. Despite my splashy sprints, over long distance I like to slow my stroke down.

The half way buoy appeared and I knew I could finally start to push speed a bit. I kicked a bit more and concentrated on pulling myself through the water with some strength. I had to dodge swimmers who were from two waves previous to mine. And then two kayaks helping someone who’d come into difficulty. When I spotted the finish buoys and timing pontoon I knew it was time to hit the accelerator. I engaged my actually pretty strong kick and overtook 4-5 people before stumbling out of the loch, rather unglamorously to to beep my chip, confirm my name (which I almost forgot through water confusion) and find my finishers pack.

I asked, and was told my time. Which I immediately forgot. And then staggered deliriously to the changing tent in a torrential downpour to get warm and dry.

Once dressed, I checked my phone and discovered that Ironman was about somewhere. @ironpugsley was swimming the 5k (certifiably insane) so I wandered off to find him. Yet again it was the Oakleys I spotted first. Big hug. Lovely catch up. Brilliant. I showed off my bling and let slip that id turned up to an event in my Aberfeldy finishers tshirt WHICH I STILL HATE THAT I CANNOT WEAR TO WORK. After a good laugh and some encouragement for my mental friend, I began the 10 mile hike to the car.

The boys had had a fun adventure and were both pretty shattered which meant I volunteered to drive Mike’s BMW home. Fun!

Everyone got a nap except me, I think. And it’s 6am the following day and I’m STILL buzzing.

Because I wasn’t shit. I checked my time when I got back. 34:42. That’s ok! 115th. Oh. There were only a couple of hundred in my wave.

Wait. It’s out of 1000??? Oh!!! And 20th in my gender age? Out of how many? 187?

Bloody hell.

What if I hadn’t been kicked? Or placed myself further up the pack??!! Or stopped to take in the view?


Best day out. Loved every second. Next year I’ll consider two miles. Maybe.



You are. You can.

As I was stood barefoot in the grass beside Kenmore Marina at 6.45am, Katherine (Queen Sherpa) asked if I was ok.

“It’s actually happening. Bugger” I replied.

“I’ll tell you what I tell Lucy when her legs give up at ParkRun….. You are. You can. You ARE doing it. You CAN do it.”

Those words would echo through my head for the entire 6hrs46minutes. She gifted me a mantra that I will look after forever.

You. Are. Doing it. You. Can. Do it. All the way up Schiehallion. All the way round Loch Rannoch. All the way back up and over Schiehallion…

The thing I’ve taken from all of this training, all those hours spent alone convincing myself that I’m not actually mental, that running at 5am in the snow is normal, that it’ll be worth it, the thing that’s stuck the most is that I CAN do this stuff! I’ve done it all. It wasn’t about that one day, that one race. It was about 12 months of build up, sacrifice, tiredness, SO MUCH FOOD, bruises, physio, tears and laughter. It is a transferable belief, too. If I can commit myself to that level of training, if I can push myself to go hard or go home, I can do anything. I can blast through that order at work. I can get through that particularly stressful meeting or encounter. I can do it.

Anyone can do anything if they want it enough, and work hard enough for it.

I hope my baby sister reads this and realises she is already DOING vet nursing. And that she CAN do it.

And I hope my mummy is reading this and thinking about how she CAN do the things she wants to be able to do.

I often read retrospective blogs by people who’ve got over the post-race buzz and picked apart their day, searching for ways to improve. I could do that. I could think about developing my stroke in the pool, or getting faster at running, or getting more confident on the bike. But those are things I want to do anyway. I won’t be negative in any way about Feldy. It was, without a doubt, the single best experience of my entire life. Better than passing my driving test. Better than graduating. Better than all of that. And the fact that my nearest and dearest were there to watch me complete it made it even more special.

It was the beginning. The Benchmark. It’ll be hard to top, buzz-wise. I literally loved every sodding second.

My race pic shall be treasured eternally. 6.5km into a 7km hill climb, leaving those people behind me (yeah, they may have caught me on the descent but so what…) THIS was my race face…


I harp on about doing stuff that you’re scared of quite a lot, but I can’t stress enough how amazing it feels to achieve something like this…. DAE IT! Do the thing that scares you! Push a bit! Push more than a bit if you want to! Just. Bloody. Do it.

I believed I could, so I did.

Today I lived a dream. 365 days after I promised myself, and the social media world, that I’d take part in the Aberfeldy Middle Distance Triathlon, I flipping well did it.

Good Morning

I awoke at 4am. 45 minutes before my alarm. Feeling *quite* sick. I had to force porridge and a protein shake down at 4.45 and then check and recheck kit. For the 15,000th time. We left the lodge at the Kenmore Club around 5.45 and walked the mile to the start.

Racking was easy. I was way up in the back corner so it wasn’t too cramped or busy. I set everything out, faffed a bit, and then cracked on with peeling myself into my wetsuit.

The Swim

On the Friday, LiveActive had emailed to advise that, due to lack of Summer and therefore, one FREEZING Loch, the swim would be shortened to 750m. This sent the lads immediately to the BTF rules on swim distances, and they pointed out that actually for 12 degrees, it only needs to be shortened to between 1000-1500m. Anyway. They kept it at 750m in a weird clockwise route which bottlenecked. At 0720, Pink Wave 1 was led to the freezing cold Loch. Which actually wasn’t that bloody bad. I’ve swam in much colder water! I toed the edge and wished the boys good luck, before dousing myself in Loch Tay’s “icy” waters and jumping in.

It’s a treading-water start. Which was tremendous in 12 degrees. The race organiser fired the klaxon and we were off. I tried to go wide to keep away from the carnage, but the kayakers had other ideas and kettled us tight into the buoys. This made it pretty frightening. I was punched, kicked and pushed and then some utter bell-end started full on grabbing my ankles. I have no idea why but one launch backwards of my foot and it stopped. I was out of the skirmish and into the main stretch before long. I will forever remember the scent of two-stroke from the out-board motors zipping about the Loch. I thought a boat must have been very close by at one stage, this made me panic so I took a minute to compose myself and still came out at 14mins. Didn’t even fall over.

The Bike. 

Having only really been road-biking since May, this was the scariest part of the entire experience for me. I was worried about the climbs (over 750m of climbing over Schiehallion and back) and I was even more scared of the steep, fast, twisting descents.

Sean and I recce’d the route a few weeks back, so I knew I had the climbs in my legs. Once you reach the bottom of the ‘hill’ (I’d probably prefer to call it a mountain…) it’s 7km of solid, hard climbing. On the way back, you face the same elevation in under 5km. I knew I’d have that to look forward to as well. When we tried the route before, my quads seized on the initial climb. I was so worried this would happen. What ACTUALLY happened was that I fucking nailed the bastard. And over took a lot of people who’d gone out too fast. I took the descents with a little less braking than normal, and allowed a bit of crouched aero-coasting to get some time back. I knew the next bit would be a mental challenge. I then had 30 miles of “gentle undulation”. And I REALLY needed to pee. I tried to pee on stella, but thankfully I got stage fright. I can’t soil my beautiful bike. Happily, they let me nip behind a tent at an aid station so I didn’t have to violate poor, shiny Stella.

I drank and ate according to my plan and felt good. I was averaging 16mph which I knew was fast for me, so on the return round the far side of Loch Rannoch, i dropped down to an easier gear and spun my legs in prep for CLIMB OF DEATH.

Other things to note here:

  • TT bikes are very beautiful, but I’m faster up a hill.
  • I CAN grab a banana from a feed station and peel it with my teeth
  • I CANNOT put a tablet in a water bottle on the move
  • I do not enjoy being on my own for long periods of time.
  • I LOVE the sound of disc wheels. He caught me up at 24 miles. Shit swimmer.

I took on some Soreen and Electrolyte juice about 10 minutes before CLIMB OF DEATH. What a fucking ace idea. Surprisingly not as fast as the last time I tackled it, but I was overtaking all the way up. And I stayed in my saddle. I did have to grit my teeth, and I’m very sorry to the lovely marshal I managed to ignore when he said “c’mon hen, you love it really…” Who puts drafting marshals on a steep hill climb anyway?!!?!?!?!

I ‘skipped’ up the steep climb and then the slow, winding ascent back up to the junction with the main road. 20km to go. I was going to do this. I WAS DOING THIS.

I may or may not have had a little cry at this point. I’ve worked so damned hard on the bike. In a ridiculously short time. My previously useless legs were kicking serious arse and I was actually loving it.

With 10k to go, and still 3 miles of steep, swooshing descent to go before the seemingly never fucking ending ‘sprint’ back to Feldy for T2, I went for it. No brakes, aero, the lot. I was fucking terrified.

I switched Garmin off at 56 miles but still had 1 to go. That’ll make up for the short swim. I have DEFINITELY covered 70.3 miles today!!!

As I wobbled into T2, I finally saw my family and friends for the first time. I look pretty fresh!


By this point, my arse was in tatters and my neck was getting sore, so I just cracked on with getting ready to… RUN A HALF MARATHON.

Oh fabulous. Just what I want.


Looking Energetic… (It didn’t last)

route Untitledbike

The Run

It started to well. And so steep! They changed the run route to take out the dangerous cross roads and instead opted to take us up what can only be described as Mt Everest. It sucked. So bad. I walked it. And still managed a 5min KM. No idea how. Must’ve rolled down the other side.

In my head, I wanted to run to 10k. I made it to 9km before I visited The Dark Place for the first time. I felt sick, tired and wanted to get to the fucking turn. If you’ve read my Edinburgh Marathon blog, you’ll know my hatred of out-and-back routes… While I LOVED seeing, cheering and getting encouragement from all the other athletes, it was soul destroying not knowing exactly where the turn was. I’d looked on the map and I’d driven it, but it took FUCKING FOREVER to materialise. That and the fact that the “gently undulating” run was actually, in fact, MOUNTAINOUS, made me cry. Quite hard. Until a guy patted me on the back and told me I was nails. That was lovely. Thank you, strange man in tri-suit.

I took on coca-cola at the 10k aid station and immediately perked up. I knew gels wouldn’t work after that, and to be honest they were turning my stomach anyway. So I bashed on and looked for Sean, my bro in law, who I’d forced (not really) to enter this with me. We’d been at each transition just minutes apart so I wanted to see him on the run. Turns out he was just behind me. So the last 11.1km were spent walking the hills and running the flats and downhills with my bro. Perfect.

We reached the last aid station at 12 miles and then I got emotional again. It was so hard. SO HARD. I don’t know how I’ll EVER get to Ironman levels of awesome. That is serious shit. I literally had nothing left.

The most annoying thing about the run is that you have to detour about 50 meters down a hill then back up to make up the distance. I cursed having to do this. I WANTED TO FINISH.

And finish we did. In style.

“let’s hold hands”

*holds Sean’s hand for 4 seconds*

“nah fuck it, RACE YOU”


And there we are.

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Split times – DELIGHTED with the bike. That’s 14 mins off my previous effort. The run is only 6 minutes slower than my slowest half marathon. Back when I just ran and ate kebabs.

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Sean, Me and Greig, who finished in 5hrs 5mins. Machine.

And Finally…

Every time I set myself a goal, I do so with consideration. I knew I wanted to enter the world of triathlon, and I was determined to do so with some serious nails. Aberfeldy is not for the faint hearted. The climbs are tough. The swim is cold. But my word, it’s just the most beautiful, incredible place to realise this ambition of mine.

How do I feel now? A damned sight less fucked than after the Marathon. Knees are a bit iffy, neck is killing me etc… but I am so so proud. That took serious grit. Especially the half marathon at the end. I dug deep. I had to shout spaghetti ALOT in my head to get round.

When I crossed the line, I heard a voice that sounded VERY like my mum. But her and dad were on holiday! They weren’t coming to see me! We were sad about this!

Except they were HERE!!!!!!!!! I crossed the line, saw them, shouted “MUMMY!!!” and then cried like a child. Standard.

Today, I became a triathlete. The journey only started with Aberfeldy. I have fallen in love with this sport, the people and the journey. One day, I hope to reach full Iron status. But I know after today, that will take serious determination.

I worked my butt off. But it could not have been possible without the support and patience of my friends, family and twitter buddies. Especially @ironpugsley who repeatedly kept me focused, and gave me specific training rides that would prepare me for the climbs. And my coach, Jonathan Pain, who made me eat vegetables and lift heavy things to make me strong and fit.

The most important lesson I have learnt, is that you can do ANYTHING that you want to do. It’s not easy. It’s actually very shit sometimes. And cold and damp and dark. And there’s sometimes tears and tantrums and pain and tiredness like nothing I have ever experienced. But never let that put you off. Nothing is impossible. Not if you want it enough.

I am a lucky, tired, elated girl.

I am a triathlete. #HalfIronBean

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Seven. Days. To. Go.

If I think back to when I started this journey, I don’t think I’d ever have seen myself sitting in a hotel, with 7 days to go until my first tri, writing lists of things to remember to take with me.

I’ve changed so much that I’m almost unrecognisable to myself now. I mean, I’ve always liked lists, but physically and psychologically I feel like I’m a different person. Stronger in both respects. Hardier. More of a “doer” than a “nah. It’s cool. I can’t be arsed” type.

Endurance has completely changed me. It’s given me self-belief and the ability to shed renewed perspective on stressful situations. “Honestly this is not as shit as cycling in hail into a headwind”… I still freak the fuck out every now and then, but it’s easier for me to cope at work, where my workload has grown exponentially in the last 2 years.

I’ll never claim to be an expert in this stuff, I’m really only trying to get by and have fun, but I’ve learnt a lot about how *not* to do things. And that if things go tits up it’s ok, really.

I’ve stopped worrying about DNF and technical failures. Sort of. I know I can change a tube. I know I can fix basic problems on the bike. I know the run will suck. I know I’ll punch myself in the face at least twice while removing my wet suit. And I’m ok with all of that.

Now it’s just me, 7 full-on days of work and then a half iron distance swim-bike-run next Sunday.

Easy, right?

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. If I had to be completely truthful, I am largely shitting myself. Everyone keeps telling me not to worry, but I’d rather be nervous than not. This MEANS something to me. This is MY fight. MY time spent running in the snow, cycling into permanent gale-force head winds and swimming in 11 degree lochs full of Tesco trolleys. This is MY sacrificed social life. MY “sorry I’m bloody training AGAIN” texts to my VERY patient friends and family. I’ll be a bit pissed off if I don’t finish it. Purely because WHAT A WASTE OF A YEAR… Even though I’m at least 80% more ace than I was last year… So there’s that I suppose.

If I wasn’t nervous I’d question why I’d done all this hard work.

I’ve had the opportunity to raise some funds for a really brilliant charity  and I’ve met the most amazing people. I’d not change ANYTHING about this adventure.

Well. Maybe less falling off stuff.

I keep being asked what’s next? I’d kind of like to say I want to get this one out of the way first, but plans are forming in my head. I have loved triathlon training. Really truly. Well. Ok maybe less 5am sessions would be nice, but honestly I have loved watching my body change and the improvements in speed and agility have been amazing.

I remember back when I started training for the marathon, my buddy told me “it doesn’t get easier, you just get faster” and I’m starting to feel that happen now.

What was “race pace” over a 10k before is now a gentle effort. That’s huge for me.

I managed to pull an 18mph ave speed out of the bag over an hours ride last night. That’s a massive improvement (that’s NOT my Feldy pace… I’d die)

So it’s all coming together nicely. I’m actually enjoying “taper”. I’ve only really thrown one strop so far. And it was justified (I don’t even WANT to get into it).

I’m so goal orientated that it makes sense to give myself targets for the next year. I struggle without a Plan A. So once Feldy is done and dusted, I’ll start researching my next moves. (I’ve already decided but shhhh….)

So. 7 days to go. Bring it.

Do Rabbits Have Nipples?

Today I completed my last long ride before Aberfeldy and now I can officially say I’m tapering. I’m sure I’ll be going nuts by the weekend but I can honestly say I’ve never been happier to relax a bit and cut down on training.


It’s been a stressful few weeks. And days. Last week, having owned an iPhone for over 6 years, dropped them countless times with no problems, I managed to smash my screen. It went in to get replaced and all was fine. Until Saturday morning, that is. Imagine my horror when mid bus journey to work, my phone screen filled with lines and went black. The music was playing, but no one was home.

Fuck. No. No it’s ok. I’m flying to London today and I have my personal laptop with me so I can just plug it in to iTunes when I get to work and restore it. *tries soft restart* *tries again* *tries hard restart* *tries recovery mode*

nothing. Not a thing.

Imagine my FURTHER horror when I eventually got to work, plugged it in and it recognised the device but I could not access it. Merde. Triple Merde. We were scheduled to leave for London at 2. How the merry fuck would I cope in LONDON without a phone? I wouldn’t. That’s how.

Very luckily, the shop had 1 single screen left. And replaced it. It’s a bit chipped but it works. Honestly, imagine not having a phone for 5 minutes. IMAGINE. I am surgically attached!!! I mean, what does anyone look at when they’re not in conversation with a real human? I dunno…

I flew home from London last night and today is my last day off before the weekend of Aberfeldy in 12 days time. Work is crazy right now, so I’m hoping it distracts me enough to allow me to enjoy tapering a bit more this time. Last time I tapered was for the Marathon and things are a big bit different these days.

I’ve learnt a lot about myself over the last year. I’m more resilient than I thought, infinitely more focused and I’m surprised at my ability to JFDI (Just Fucking Do It) when the going gets shit. I have also started to really enjoy my time spent training over distance. No phones. No one asking me questions. Just me, my thoughts and I.

And I’ve started to ask myself life’s difficult questions.

Am I really happy?

What do I want to achieve next?

What would happen if I swallowed a fly but it wasn’t dead? Would it lay eggs in my tummy?

Do rabbits have nipples?

Deep, right? Today, after I’d come out of Glenfarg for the first time (2 laps – one at high cadence, low resistance, second at 60rpm high gear) the biggest fucking spider I have ever seen ever ran across the road in front of me. Took me at least 10 miles to get over the experience if I’m honest.

Also, how bad is life that you’ve gone looking for a new car and decided on a Citroen Cactus? I mean really. These are probably the people who pass at steaks and genuinely prefer quorn. These are the things I think about. That, the fucking shocking state of the roads, and the fucking shocking driving that occurs.

I also have a much more colourful vocabulary that I ever thought! There is nothing like a road so riddled with pot holes that you may as well be on sodding cattle grids for the entire two mile stretch of teeth-shattering, soul-destroying juddering, to test your mettle. And your ability to create new swear-words at the drop of a hat. “Cocktwat” was today’s highlight. And “IF I LOSE A SHITFUCKING SPOKE I WILL SHOVE IT IN A ROAD-PLANNERS EYE”

And I’m usually ever so polite… (Sorry dad… )

Anyway. I digress. So now I sit and wait for Taper Madness to take hold. Typically, my tonsils have already shot to the size of tennis balls. I’m told this is normal. I shall continue to take every vitamin known to man anyway…

There shall be some easy swimming, easy jogging and easy biking over the next 10 days. And lots of working 😦

Having spent the last year saying “ach, it’s not till August. I’ve LOADS of time”. It’s now almost single figure days.

Aberfeldy is coming to get me. And, rather surprisingly, I’m READY.