What happened next?

25 May

Well I didn’t finish my blog last year to update you on the results of my triathlon, but if you followed me on twitter you will know already that I did it! Hurray, so what happened next? Well sadly I’m afraid after achieving the completion of my first triathlon I celebrated it, and aside from a couple of bike rides and a few jogs I carried on celebrating it to the end of the year. This is not exactly the attitude that will get me into the Olympic team for Rio 2016. I need to buck my ideas up. To be honest, given my penchant for a party and lack of swimming finesse I was never going to be a contender for medals, ever.


So what next, well I have an Edinburgh show all based on my first triathlon experience in this year’s festival called Prof’s Olympic Legacy during the first 2 weeks of the Edinburgh Festival. My venue, The Cellar Monkey is just across the Meadows in Marchmont and is part of the Laughing Horse Free Fringe where I will be talking about my first triathlon experience with a few jokes thrown in.

Having completed one triathlon last year, I wondered what I could be my next sporting goal? Inspired by Davina McCall’s immense challenge for this year’s Sport Aid, I decided I could raise more money for Leukaemia and Lymphoma research in memory of my dad, if I just tried harder. Watching Davina (soberly I should add) I had the bright idiotic idea to complete a sprint triathlon before my show, every day for the 15 day run. After managing by the skin of my teeth to complete 1 triathlon last year and with a gaping hole of several of months in any training whatsoever, I intend to do 15 triathlons in 15 days in Edinburgh.

So far plans are being made but Francesca Osowska from Edinburgh Triathletes and Stephanie Hall from Edinburgh Leisure have been incredibly supportive and I owe them a big thank you for helping me try to fulfil crazy dreams. I will be tweeting during the next few months of hard training and healthy living so feel free to follow me on @sarahprofit1 there will be swearing, tears and as with last year’s training, a very good chance of bruises.

If you are a fitness freak, feel free to offer advice on intensive training and nutrition, comedians – any help and support during the festival (this will probably involve hugs and the wiping of tears) or from people reading this to publicise my just-giving page (https://www.justgiving.com/ProfsOlympicLegacy ) as the cause is a good one, would be appreciated. If anyone wants to join me in any of parts of my triathlons, you are more than welcome and in the words of Visit Scotland 2014, “You too can say you were there”

Thank you *hyperventilates at the prospect of the next few months*

Greg Rutherford’s Lucky Escape

28 May

In the final run up to my triathlon, I’ve had a sinus infection. My nose has been in pain and inflamed, putting my last minute training in jeopardy. After waiting for over a week for my immune system to kick in and fight the infection, I was forced to dose myself up with antibiotics to try to get back on track. With the help of a nasal spray I could finally breathe through my nose on Saturday. In fact I felt the best I’d felt in days. I didn’t go training but I did get up early and headed down to Taurus to secure my tickets to the Paradise Factory club’s 20th Anniversary reunion. In the 90s, so many of my weekends were spent dancing nights away on the 3 floors of Paradise Factory. I loved it. Lifelong friends were made and nothing came close to the atmosphere. I met up with my old house mate, Avers and we went down to Village in plenty of time. The queue was already building up over an hour and half before the tickets were available.  You could feel the excitement in the air amongst those queuing, very reminiscent of youthful days gone by but with a few more grey hairs and maybe an extra pound or two.


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The sun was shining on Canal Street and it screamed for a long boozy afternoon in the warmth with good friends. However I had the Manchester 10km the next day and jobs to do, not least picking up my bike from the cycle shop, all nicely serviced in time for the triathlon, so after a couple of soft drinks I said goodbye to the old and new faces.

The next day I still felt ok, not 100% fit yet but the antibiotics had been working, so I set off to do the 10Km with my boyfriend Adam. The sun was glorious, great for a lazy Sunday in the garden, a little too hot for a 10km run. I’d eaten porridge a couple of hours earlier, felt fully hydrated and ready to go. As we set off we managed to high 5 Greg Rutherford as we ran past him, nothing better than an Olympic Gold Medallist to motivate you. I felt great.


Within 5 minutes of running, my other half and his incredibly small bladder had to stop for a comfort break just after the first kilometre. I knew with the sun, my infection and his bladder, a personal best was looking unlikely. However, we got running again and were keeping a nice pace, the support was loud, generous and appreciated. At about 6km my stomach started to feel a bit dodgy, I carried on but slowed my pace. I felt sick. The heat was becoming a real problem and there were no more water stations. Adam decided that I was slacking and started screaming at me to put more effort in at 7km. There were jelly babies and he offered me an energy gel but the thought of it made me feel even more nauseous so I said no to both. At 8km he decided that if Jillian Michaels was screaming at me I’d put in the effort and would have increased my pace.  He did his best to motivate me by being tough, but as he was my other half and I wasn’t feeling good, he got a few choice words. I had run out of energy and was just hoping to get to the end of the race without being sick. The last 200m is up a slight incline with crowds on either side. I felt like I was running through treacle. As the finishing line got closer, I remember thinking “thank god I can stop and get some water.” My body must have realised we were finally at the end and my stomach retched. I tried to moved to the side as a consideration to the runners behind and if it wasn’t for the quick actions of a St John’s Ambulance woman at the line rushing to give me a plastic bag, I would have puked on the feet of…Greg Rutherford. Hardly the Olympic Legacy I’d had in mind.

My time wasn’t my best, in fact it was my worst time over 10km at 1hour 5 minutes but I finished it without killing my boyfriend in the process, so we’ll mark it down as a win.

I always have admiration for the mad folk who dress in crazy outfits but even more so on this sweltering, hot day. I caught up with my friend Mike who is a vicar and ran in his full cassock, raising money for the early years’ department at the local primary school where we are both governors. Towards the end of the race, he stopped to help give first aid to a woman, who had collapsed around the 8km mark. I’m not sure how she felt about being given first aid by a vicar in his full clerical garb, she might have panicked about how serious her condition was.

After catching up with Mike, I popped across to the Roman fort where my sister and her family were relaxing after the race. Here we are together proudly wearing our medals.

Well done Manchester for putting on another fabulous race, well done runners for your sporting achievements and an even bigger well done for all the fundraisers collecting money for a plethora of deserving causes.


A Nice Day Out

11 May

It occurred to me today that I have 5 weeks until my triathlon. I had to take a moment after writing that to stop hyper-ventilating. When I started training over 6 months ago, the triathlon was ages away, training had started, everything was sweet, I had plenty of time. With a triathlon there are 3 disciplines to train in. Add one fun runner who has never learnt front crawl and lacks confidence on a bike and it soon becomes apparent that there’s a LOT of training involved. Although I’m not going to set the athletic world alive, I’ve managed to keep it up with varying degrees of enthusiasm from week to week and now I’m fitter and might just make it through the swim. Drowning would be a bit of a bummer as the swim is the first bit of the race so making it through alive is the aim of the game.


So in April, Manchester Triathlon club ran a Novice Day for similar fools to go through all the things we needed to know to compete in our first triathlon. It was fantastic, there was a really wide range of people, some were members I had met at training sessions, most weren’t but it was a diverse group. The morning session was in the pool at Moss Side. We had to grade ourselves so the fastest went first and the trainers could put us in the right ability group. I knew I was at the back, I’m sure I mumbled something about just learning front crawl as I shuffled to the back of the queue. Then we had to swim 300m, one after the other without stopping. I was terrified but I did it! I didn’t drown. That was the warm up. Another hour of improving technique, learning how to spot so you can swim in the right direction in open water, how to swim around a buoy in a group and getting used to feet in your face, we were ready for the bikes.

Our MTC trainer, Tony took us through various facts and rules of triathlon whilst we had a snack and then it was onto our bikes. We started doing bike checks, maintenance and safety information that you need to know if you are competing. Then we were taught the dismount and mount. Tony made it look so easy as he sailed past the group comfortably on his bike, waving his right leg high behind the seat and bringing it round in a sweeping movement to the floor, where with timed precision and ease he was suddenly jogging gently to the left of his bike. Our turn. Now I was a bit embarrassed to be seen on my bike. It’s a nice bike but I’m not a great rider …yet. I really struggled. The mount was even harder, some of the lads were jumping on their bikes at a run yet I just had a fear and couldn’t trust my balance to get it right. We were put in groups of 4 and set to run to our bikes as if we had just completed our swim and were out of wet-suits ready to go. I had a minor panic attack at this point because I suddenly pictured myself doing a triathlon and realised what that actually meant. I was in the last group so got the chance to see what putting confident bike riders in a hint of race conditions does to ability. Everyone was trying to remember to get their helmets on before touching their bike, not to mount before the line, all racing against everyone else. People were careering off in the wrong direction, others were in the wrong gear, the most confident rider put the wrong foot on the pedal, it was carnage. At this point I decided I was going to have a nice day out and was not going to injure myself trying to be fancy – a tactic I plan for the race. If you messed up, it definitely cost you more time. When we had lunch Tony shared this video with us of the Women’s T1 World Championship race in Hyde Park in 2011. They definitely made us feel better about our abilities. I love it.


Finally we did some running. I was dreading this. As an ex-smoker but occasional fun runner I am a slow runner and some of these people were serious runners. They hadn’t got up hungover, one Olympic morning, lit a fag and thought you know what I want to do, I want to do a triathlon. To hell that I can’t swim properly or that I am a bit wobbly on a bike and don’t like going too fast, I can run a bit for charity occasionally, when I’m not having a cheeky pint and a fag. No they were “I’ve run a marathon or 2, what next?” So again I shuffle to the back and off we go counting our steps. I don’t know why and I just run at my usual pace, ignoring the gazelles ahead of me and a couple of slow folk behind me. When Nick gives us the number we should have to indicate a good running cadence, a couple of the gazelles were too low, shame. I was bang on the number with 45. I was so chuffed. In some small way I felt like I had beaten the gazelles even though they ran at twice my pace. I actually shouted yes out loud, wondering why I’d turned into Napoleon Dynamite and slightly embarrassed that at 42 I still have that school geeky joy in being right in class.


Warm Weather Training!

7 May

Well I finally did some warm weather training. Just like a real athlete in a warm weather training camp, apart from the fact it was one run in the sun on a weekend in Spain for a friend’s birthday. Yes I am lucky that I have a friend who lives in Barcelona and organised the party of all parties for her 40th. We booked ourselves into a hotel in Sitges, south of Barcelona in March. It was on the seafront and our room had a wonderful seaview. I had the idea that in addition to running along the gorgeous coast, I would be able to attempt some open water swimming in the sea. I knew it would be cold but I wanted to test my new found swimming skills. When we arrived it became clear that we would have to have the strength of Atlas to make through the waves. They were fierce. During the whole weekend we saw a lone surfer brave the breakers, and one night they were crashing so loud it sounded like we were next to the M60 as opposed to by the sea in a chic resort like Sitges. Even though we already know that I have excellent floatability, I feared I would have been tossed around like a departed goldfish in a flushing toilet never to see the surface again.

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So instead, early one morning we donned our trainers and ran along the seafront admiring the beautiful houses that you needed a lottery win to even look at. Sitges has some of the highest property prices in Europe and is known as the San Tropez of Spain. Even though a lottery win is near impossible, especially if you factor in not buying lottery tickets, we still imagined living in one of the seafront mansions and having this Mediterranean paradise to train in as opposed to running up and down hills in Boggart Hole Clough. Runners in Sitges were serious. They did not say “hola”, did not smile at fellow runners and looked like they had just got off a catwalk in Milan; basically they were miserable sods. Still it was a very pleasant run even though my other half has much longer legs than me and found it hard to slow down to my snail pace. After the run we got the train to Barcelona and went for a pleasant, sunny walk around Parc Montjuic taking in the views. There’s a lot of steps in the park and we took on each of them as if we were in a Rocky montage. Suffice it to say that the next morning our legs were suffering. There were no more runs but we dined, danced and got drunk with very good friends. Alcohol does not help muscle recovery so training was abandoned for the rest of stay.

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Keep Calm and Carry on Training

1 Mar

Unlike Cameron’s cronies I don’t have the luxury of my own pool so I am training in a number of public pools around Manchester, sometimes with Manchester Triathlon Club and other times during public lane swimming sessions. Recently I went to my local pool for an evening swimming session. I’ll be honest there are many times I don’t want to go and have to drag my sorry arse to the pool. This was one of those sessions. I’m still not confident in my ability and as I slowly swam up and down the middle “medium speed” lane, I noticed a bit of kerfuffle over at the edge of the fast lane. A lifeguard had donned some swimming goggles and was putting his head under the water at the edge of the fast lane where a couple of candidates for Harpurhey’s answer to Michael Phelps powered up and down the pool. I realised something was awry when another lifeguard put on goggles and had a look. There was a bit of a conference when I heard the words “we’re going to have to close early.” Less than 15 minutes in the water and we were being ushered out of the pool much to my delight. I had been “forced” to cut my training short. I couldn’t feel guilty, it was out of my control. I asked the lifeguards what the problem had been. Their response was “because there’s something in the pool that shouldn’t be there.” Before our session some younger children had been having swimming lessons and it appeared I’m not the only one who is shitting themselves when it comes to learning to swim.                                                                   mr hankey


I went down to London for a big show at the Xcel but unfortunately for me I think we were in the only hotel nearby without a pool. This meant I had to experience the joys of the local pool at Newham Leisure Centre. I didn’t know exactly where it was and no one would let me walk there at night on my own so I was forced to get a cab. I ordered my taxi with the Hailo app and got the cheeriest cockney driver called Phil who kept me entertained for the short journey up the road. Hailo is brilliant, someone tell me when we can have it in Manchester! Or if not Hailo, cheery taxi drivers would be good. To go swimming in Manchester costs me £2.40 a session, in Newham it was £5.15! I couldn’t afford to do a triathlon if I lived there. I count my northern blessings. The pool was a bit grim but the staff were helpful and friendly. I had gone down for the women only session only to find I was a day late and I ended up being the only woman in the pool. I ignored all the blokes and swum 1250m before calling a cab home. I’m glad I still kept up the training away from home but I think at over £15 (£10 in taxi fares) it counts as the most expensive training session I’ve done to date.

I’ve got a bike, you can ride it if you like

24 Feb

As I lose one friend in training to the joys of pregnancy I did manage to catch up with my good friend Denise and we cycled out into the Cheshire countryside on a sunny Sunday morning. I explained to Denise that I was still getting used to my clipless (or clip-in) pedals. Just after I finished telling her how I had fallen off the first time I had used them, I then gave her an unplanned repeat performance. If you want to get an idea how this happens watch this clip on Youtube.

I got my bike at Christmas, it is my first new bike ever aged 42. It is shiny and purple and I like to touch it gently as I walk past it in the hall. My first bike in the seventies was a second hand Raleigh bike. It had had a recent paint job, a nice turquoise gloss paint job. I had wanted a Chopper because they oozed cool, but I loved it because it was mine and it came with a bell, cue

The first time I got on my new road bike and clipped myself into the pedals I was terrified about falling over but once I had disappeared behind a parked car to the hysterics of my other half, I was ready to take on roads and traffic. Now if like me you have never been on a new modern road bike, the first thing that strikes you is how fast they are. I was whizzing up the road with such little effort I thought I was Liz Armitstead. It felt amazing, I highly recommend it to anyone else having a midlife crisis. It’s cheaper than a Porsche and the bruises heal.

On my ride out into the countryside with Denise, we had a nice easy flat course and perfect weather. In my head I imagined myself tackling Snake Pass in the summer. I have a very fertile imagination. I gained in confidence with my clipless pedals and after 26 miles I thought I had finally got it. In triathlon training as in life, pride comes before a fall. I fell again and grazed my ankle. At this point I wonder if I’ll actually make it to race day.

Chorlton Water Park2

Not quite a mermaid

21 Feb

Shock news, my friend Sarah, you know the one who got me into this situation sent me a message with some NEWS. She was so desperate to get out of the triathlon that she managed to persuade her husband to get her pregnant, what a flake. Although I’ll be honest, as a parent of a young adult, a triathlon is by far the easier, cheaper more painless option, however I feel at 5.30 in the morning going to train. I’ve actually stopped crying now on the way to the swimming on a Wednesday morning and look forward to my early swimming session. I eagerly asked Tony if he thought I’d improved, he watched me swim a few lengths and said yeah it was good that I could now swim more than 25m without dying, my stamina had improved and then he let me know what I still had to work on, basically everything else.

Prof’s Olympic Legacy

13 Jan

I’m sure many of you were like me during London 2012, feeling the same excitement and exhilaration watching our fine Olympians achieving their goals. All their dedicated hard work and years of training, culminating in the joy of being on the podium, receiving their medals.

Before the games started I was a stereotypical English cynic, expecting nothing less than the biggest cock up ever on an international stage. The opening ceremony started, the wine was opened and by the end of Danny Boyle’s extravaganza and a few glasses of wine I was in tears at the sheer magnificence of it all. The ensuing hangover the next morning meant I was sofa bound and overwhelmed by the 20+ channels of sports I knew nothing about on offer. I became addicted for 2 whole weeks switching between fencing, rowing, cycling, archery, beach volleyball, swimming and the list continued. I became an expert in it all. It wasn’t long before as a nation we started clocking up the medals. Moved by the emotions of the athletes I started to think “I want one of those”, ruminating from my sofa what sport could a 41 year old woman hope to get a medal in if they were to start training now for Rio 2016. Something that relied on skill, where age was not a hindrance, it was clear to me – archery.

The next day I set about watching the archery to size up my rivals for Rio. My goodness they had steady hands and nerves of steel. As I watched the commentator casually announced that the South Korean women’s team had won every single team event since 1988 and most of the individual medals. I felt beaten before I’d started, my Rio medal hopes were dashed. Hardly the mentality of an Olympian I grant you, but I knew I couldn’t compete with their cool, calm, robot-like performance. I had to find another sport.

Now I’m not sure how it happened but at some point during that day I caught up in the heady exuberance of the sporting achievements of others and tweeted Sarah, a friend of many years since University. Within hours we had both signed up to do our first triathlon!


Now I understand that it isn’t very likely that either of us will be heading over to Rio in anything other than a spectator role but I was now signed up to the Blenheim triathlon 2013. This was an unusual choice, not least because I can’t swim front crawl and haven’t been on a bike for years. Add to that decades of smoking and drinking and I’m hardly your prime specimen. Unfortunately we had boldly announced it in the twittersphere and so there was no going back. So in October I joined the Manchester Triathlon Club to get some much needed coaching.

My first session was swimming. The coach Tony was welcoming and listened as I explained what a pickle I was in and begged him to help me get to the basic level I would need to avoid humiliation and drowning. He wanted to see my front crawl I said “I can’t do front crawl” he said “Have a go show me what you can do” I hadn’t been in a public swimming baths since my son was a child (he is now 21) I got in and bashed about imagining that I somehow was mirroring Rebecca Adlington, gliding through the water with the grace of an dolphin. I got out of the pool and Tony concluded that I was “a bit Thunderbirds”. I have a long way to go.