Runner and Writer Fiona Bugler, has taken baby steps into triathlon over the last few years. Now she’s going in head first and taking the plunge by signing up for the Braveheart Tri

 “Always fit, but a late starter to running, (aged 34) I’ve been training hard since 2002, and have completed around 20 marathons, 10 in under 3.30, and five under 3.15 (achieved whilst in my 40s), with a marathon PB of 3.09, plus a number of sub 20 5Ks, one sub 40 10K, and a string of sub 1.30 half marathons. Every Spring and Autumn for over a decade I’ve flung myself into marathon training.

“I’ve also thrown myself into other challenges, a 39-mile hilly ultra-run in 2003 and the five day 100 mile multi stage relay event in the Himalayas in 2013. I love to see what I can do, and push boundaries, but over the last two years, my marathon times have slowed down – my last ‘good’ time was 3.12 in April 2014. I followed this with a 3.27 in October 2014 and a 3.29 in New York in 2015. My 5K time has remained at between 20.40 and 21.15. More importantly, I felt stuck on the marathon treadmill, and a bit weary. I knew it was time for something different.

“My limited triathlon experience has included three completed sprint triathlons at Windsor (completed between 1.22 and 1.26), one event at Bexhill (sans chip), and a DNF after a panicky start in a choppy sea. For each event, I’ve hopped on the bike the week before, and relied on my post marathon running fitness and three months of once a week swimming to get me round the very straightforward courses. I’ve learnt a few things about transition and open water swimming… but I’ve got a lot still to learn!

The Swim

“I’ve kicked off the Braveheart training with some open water swimming in the sea, first in Corfu over the Bank Holiday (got up to 1500M and a 600M in one day), then last week, I took the plunge in the channel (I’m lucky enough to live on the South Coast). For anyone, who like me is relatively new to tri, it’s never a good idea to under estimate the demons that can join you in the open water. A GB Age Group triathlete told me that it’s just like off road running in terms of effort and that even she has moments when she wonders what’s lurking beneath and has had a panic as she’s felt the pull of a rip current, the hard breathing and ice cream headaches.

“For me the biggest issue is the cold. As a typical runner, my body has got used to cooling itself down when I exercise, not warming itself up and for the last decade I’ve made sure I’ve kept lean, which means not so much insulation! I’ve been hypothermic after swimming in the sea on the South Coast in July, so I’m very tuned into the dangers of a shutting down body! And of course, cold is going to be a big challenge at Braveheart, so I’m putting swimming in open water up there as a priority and building up slowly. And I’m being realistic. If I cannot swim in the sea on the South Coast for 45 minutes by the end of the July, I may have to reconsider and be part of a relay team. I’m also going to be meeting Mark Kleanthous at his secret lake for some expert tips – watch this space!

The Bike

“With 15 weeks to go I’ve still to get on the bike! But my bike has been serviced and put back into shape but a triathlete friend, and this week, I’ll be on it. Cleats, gears and anything technical are beyond me. I haven’t fixed a puncture since I owned my brother’s Raleigh in the 70s! It’s a very steep learning curve from now until September (never mind the steep hills to prepare for!), and the plan for next week is to recce the local club’s Time Trial (gulp!).

The Running

As for running, at my peak I was running 60 to 70 miles per week, every week. In recent times, I’ve been running half that, however, I have been doing about seven hours training a week. And for the last couple of months I’ve been preparing for a 100-mile relay event on the South Downs which I ran on Saturday (three laps of six miles in one day with lots of climbing). I’m confident this has given me a good start for the run: specific with off road, trails, cliffs to climb – great mental and physical preparation for Ben Nevis.

Here’s my plan for this week, with 15 weeks to go:

*Stretches and Strengthening exercises: hip openers, step ups, press ups, plank, general mobility

Monday: OFF

Tuesday: AM: Exercises*, Track session with the Running Club (1.5 hours)

Wednesday: AM: Exercises*, easy off road run, Pool Swim (2 hours)

Thursday: AM Bike 1 hour; PM Yoga (2 hours)

Friday: Sea swim (goal 1000M – I did 700 last week); Bike 1 hour; Personal Training

(2.5 hours)

Saturday: Park run (goal 21.15 – off road); and easy sea swim (2 hours)

Sunday: Exercises*, long bike ride 3 hours (dip in the sea!) (3.5 hours)