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Pre-Race Top Tips with Endurance Athlete Fiona Bugler

Fiona Bugler is a qualified coach and content consultant and the founder of the online community endurance women. Fiona has run more than 20 marathons, five in under 3.15, and in October 2018 takes on her first Ironman. 

We chat to her about endurance sport, pre-race tips and her favourite way to relax after a tough race – with a cold glass of Erdinger Alkoholfrei!

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How was Endurance Women born?

Endurance Woman was born when I was. I’ve always had a desire to see how far I can go, to push the limits, from swimming 100 lengths when I was six, to diving off the top board at eight years old. I started marathon running later in life and loved it, completing 20 marathons between the ages of 35 and 48. As a self-employed single mum, I was also driven to share what I see as the empowering effect on women by taking part in endurance sport.

In recent years women have been given a new voice and rather than burning bras and marching, women are making themselves heard with their entrepreneurial efforts.

With my 50th birthday looming, I decided to act now and enter an Ironman and to work on building endurance women as an online community and a hub for me to share my story. I wanted to share stories about ordinary women being extraordinary, and I also wanted to blog about my Ironman training.

Endurance women was also born from my passion for content and communications. I understand the importance of getting ‘known’ and being heard above the noise. And of being true to yourself and your voice. With the digital revolution we have a chance to be heard and to share our expertise and passion. I had the skills learnt as an editor and freelance journalist, and with the death of print I saw an opportunity to communicate owing my publication and marketing my brand at the same time.

Why do you think we needed a community like this?

Women need to be reminded that limits are often self-imposed. Endurance training and racing can focus a woman and as I’ve shown makes ordinary women extraordinary. This community is for women who are working hard – whether it’s in the office or in the home raising a family (or both) and who are training hard, too.

We’re women who are showing it can be done.

We stretch ourselves through sport. Sport has the power to express the best of a woman’s energy and strength coming from the inside out. We’ve shed the self-imposed limitations (and excuses) of age, time, family, work and are just doing it. We compete and push boundaries but are driven to inspire others.

As a coach of both men and women in running groups, I witnessed the transformative power of endurance sport. When I set up my running club in Eastbourne in 2004, I watched as women left marriages, started new business and raised kids – and stayed strong by running. The running group I started in 2004 was packed with people going through big life changes. I fact 2012 was the year I got divorced, left behind all toxic relationships, and ran a PB of 3.09 at the Berlin Marathon, aged 46.

I chose endurance, and not just running because I, like many others, I had evolved. I’d reached a peak with running. I hadn’t gone sub-three and my body was getting tired, it was time to move onto something new, so from 2013, I started to dabble in triathlon, and now I’m three weeks off doing my first Ironman (Barcelona, October 7th).

Where did the tagline come from: ‘ordinary women being extraordinary’?

The tagline was simple, the more I interviewed ordinary women, the more I realised how extraordinary they were.

How do you support women in the community?

When I coached ‘in the field’ I led the groups and planned the sessions, but the women supported each other. I offered practical help for example, setting training sessions that were suitable for all abilities and easy to adapt.

As my business evolved, endurance women emerged. I realised how much more training and racing offers to women and subsequently to the community as a whole. Stronger and happier women contribute! My new online coaching package reflects my own evolution and promises more than simply a medal at the finish.

I aim to show how enriching endurance training is when you’re conscious of all the gains, and grateful for progress.

I also work with entrepreneurial fitness and health professionals who want to get their business known. Many women are self-employed/business owners and I believe we can offer services to each other with a common goal of supporting each other. I’ve recently set up as a group leader for DrivenWoman, a life-working group where we meet monthly and share our dreams and goals and aim for a bigger life!

I also hope that sharing my own story – fit at 50, racing Ironman after two broken collarbones, balancing life, work and training – will go some way to inspire others.

A particular story from the women that stood out for you?

I know it’s a predictable answer, but all the women impress me and it’s hard to choose. Mum of three, Malini Mehr, 50, challenged herself to swim 500K across the globe, in 2018, and decided to raise awareness of our changing climate and the plight of young women who drown because they can’t swim, creating the Teach A Girl to Swim campaign. Joanne Smith took on Ironman a year after a blood cancer diagnosis (she went on to complete the race in July 2018), and Shelley, showed focus and persistence to find a way to overcome injury. There’s also the Kona champs, Jane Hansom, and Celia Boothman and the sub three-hour marathoner, Kate Carter – training like pros and holding down full-time jobs, and bringing up families.

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How can someone prepare efficiently for a race?

First set a goal – in other words choose the race that’s right for you and your lifestyle. Then look at the year, the six months, the three-month block of time and break it down into smaller six-week blocks (what’s known in the trade as periodisation). For endurance the early part of training is about building a base of endurance fitness.

Aerobic fitness isn’t about busting your gut every time you go out, it’s about building that foundation of fitness and resilience to training.

In the second block, I’ll add in strength work, and longer intervals, and races. As a race gets near, I sharpen up with shorter reps and intervals, and in the final section, I taper, easing back without stopping, and really focussing on what I eat and drink, and on staying injury-free.

How can community and accountability support training and pre-race preparation?

A community of like-minded individuals is vital to help you keep going, stay motivated and enjoy the journey – it’s why apps like Strava and Zwift are so successful. Research has shown that group exercise works because of accountability. Physically training with others is an excellent way to make sure you do it, but with busy lives, it’s sometimes impossible to arrange to meet someone, setting virtual targets and arranging to run at the same time is a simple way we can help each other. I’ve also recently set up an Endurance Women Strava Group, https://www.strava.com/clubs/473363.

What are the 3 things you swear by on race day?

All this training usually leads to a race, and first comes race day preparation it can help make it a brilliant day. If it’s a big key event, like the Ironman, I try to get everything in place to make sure nothing can go wrong. As the saying goes, prepare to fail, prepare to fail. So, in the week or so before I’ll get plenty of early nights, eat really well and drink lots of water. I’ll have practised at race pace in my training gear and tried out nutrition. I won’t plan anything too strenuous. If you’re travelling it makes sense to give yourself time to recover. I have a very simple morning routine, porridge and honey, tea and coffee, banana, and 500ML of an energy drink half an hour before. I remind myself nerves are just excitement and try to absorb all the good stuff around me, staying in the moment and taking it all in, the smiling faces, the fancy dress in bigger events, the camaraderie, even the loo queues – it’s all going into the memory bank. The experience counts more than the time.

James Mitchell

How does Erdinger support you throughout your race season?

Edrdinger has been a godsend for me. I do like to drink! And when I’m thirsty it’s very tempting to come in and have a beer – but not necessarily brilliant for my training, especially for Ironman. Erdinger is isotonic and I like the fact that it’s keeping me hydrated as well as stopping me from reaching for 1.7 units, just when I’m thirsty.

I first stumbled across it at the Berlin Marathon in 2012. I’d run a PB of 3.09 and couldn’t believe how many elite runners who’d come in before me were knocking back the beer.

I decided if you can’t beat them join them. I loved the taste, fresh and chemical-free.

I soon realised it was alcohol-free, but it had done the trick, a tasty isotonic drink that quenched my thirst and felt like a treat.

For more from Fiona, see her website and content and communications mentoring service. 

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