The 'Life-Juggler's' Guide to a Sub 3 Marathon continued....

London Marathon Race Week

Nursery Flu.


One can read as much of the scientific and lay press as one likes - and hence apply logic to circumstance - but when it actually happens to you, you never fail to get this - why me why now face!

I upped the mileage in a pre-race mild panic that i wouldn't be able to cover the distance despite having run my fastest ever half marathon in Bath — didn’t down the other stresses and immersed in the viral milieu of babyhood - i got ill, as did everyone else in the environs. 

I don’t do ill very well - as i am sure not many of you readers do either. Taking to bed - admitting that you are not bulletproof is a toughie. I threw everything at it.


exercise pill
  • Lemon/Ginger/Manuka honey/Apple Cider Vinegar combo on waking
  • Oregano and garlic oil capsule three times a day
  • Doubled my probiotic powder (Had just started Dr Grace Liu’s BifidoMaximus)
  • Put turmeric and black pepper on everything
  • Drank rosehip tea like it was vintage pinot
  • Vintage Pinot ;)

3 days of night sweats, drenching the bed and the Friday before the marathon - after a short 20 min ‘test’ run - I followed this by lots of food and an afternoon in bed.. bod went into conservative mode as i battled with the voice in my head saying I really was not well enough to tow the line at a marathon. 

I know the medical director of the London Marathon - Prof Sanjay Sharma and asked his advice. 

The words - viral endocarditis - were mentioned and i was told to be sensible. If you experience a heavy colds with fever in the lead in to a race - medics will advise you not to race. The risk of the virus - even if feel better for race day - there will likely still be virus in the body - travelling to the heart and causing a potentially life threatening condition is real.

Now i am not sensible - never have been - although i have become progressively more and more responsible since having Sophia.
Medical words of caution heeded - but still - these are things that happen to other people?You read about them - but its rare… right?

Not as rare as you think. My friend and prior training buddy Parys Edwards experienced this after toing the line at the Ironman 70.3 Champs in Vegas a few years ago. She was hospitalised and given high dose anti-biotics through a drip for days. She was lucky but it took a long time to recover. 

Still I managed to convince myself that Parys and me were different. I have trained with many people over the years - but aside from Jodie Swallow and Declan Doyle - I have never known anyone who can over-ride their central governor and push themselves past exhaustion - like Parys.

I have never been able to do that - always cautionary - always holding out for that sprint finish. Brett Sutton always told me that this was my downfall - my continual self-analysis - ‘just shut that brain up and race’ .. ‘suicide pace’ always alluded me. Perhaps this is a good thing. 

Saturday morning before the Sunday race.

Still not decided. Eat - go back to bed ( not so easy when you have a 1 year old toddler climbing all over you!)

running hippo

4pm - Go to London and see how you feel.

'You can always run with a hippopotamus'

A Tweet i received which cheered my dour countenance  - you have a get out plan - always have a get out plan even if it does involve a slog with a hippo.

Slept on the train and arrived at my friend Kiri’s place - where a bounty of healthy foods awaited me and my race pack. Thanks chick! A positive sign for my recovery came out of the fact i was constantly hungry in these last two days and allowed myself to eat freely and increased the amount of carbs in my diet.

Although i am well fat adapted - as in i can burn fat to a relatively high heart rate - i still do have carbohydrates to maintain some metabolic flexibility. I just need less off them to maintain steady energy levels in an event.

 I think i ate almost whole loaf of home-made Deliciously Ella Seed Bread (gluten fee) with Avocado mash, amongst other delicacies.

More of said supplements above, a himalayan salt bath and bed.

Never sleep well before a race - even if I have low expectations - and I honestly did at this point. Not particularly helped by the fact Kiri lives a stones’ throw from the famous Fabric nightclub.

6.45am Race Day

I will run. 

There is a reason London Marathon is said to be one of the best marathons in the world.

It lives up to the hype. I was in the Club Championships (CC) entry having got a qualifying 1/2 mara time so was lined up metres behind the row of Kenyan Cheetahs. 

tamsin lewis london marathon

For many a common complaint is that it is difficult to run the first few miles of the mara at all as you are barging past aforementioned hippo’s et al. Thankfully being in the CC start meant it was full pace from the start.

I found myself next to Hywel Davies - someone who I usually think of as an endurance nutter - i then reminded myself that to many I myself am an endurance nutter. 

He was aiming for sub 2.30 and blazed into the distance. Steady and Easy were my mantras. I rarely run with heart rate but the cautionary tale from Prof Sharma was ringing in my ears so i watched my heart rate like a hawk. It formed part of my decision to tow the line. Resting HR and HRV normalised in the 48hrs pre race - muscle aching persisted but its common to feel heavy pre race as extra glycogen in the muscles store water alongside. See how you feel. There is always the Hippo.

I generally felt ok during the first miles - i knew my legs were heavy - no real bounce - but i tried to stay in the moment - take in the crowds, keep my leg turnover high and not get carried away running threshold pace like many around me. Pacing is one thing I have always been good at. I prob under-pace rather than anything. It was quite cold at this point and i felt silly for ditching my gloves at the start. Body fine, peripheries not so. I noticed there were many discarded gloves at the side of the road, so i stopped and put some on. Bit cheeky but it took my mind of my cold hands - solvable discomfort - we like that.

At Tower Bridge we approached the half marathon mark and i was still feeling good - and really did draw energy from the crowds at this juncture. I reminded myself running past my medical school Kings College - that running a marathon at that time to me (2003/4) had seemed like an impossible task. Here i was trying to do it at a pace which i could at that time not even run for 5 minutes. 

There were some dark times at medical school - a severe head injury after a skiing accident, binge eating/starving/over-boozing - a story for another time. Suffice to say i felt a mixture of sadness and pride crossing that bridge.

At 13 miles i stopped for a quick pee… then noticed less felt heavy on starting again. Hang on - they didnt feel like this at the end of the Bath Half and i still had over half way to go….hmmm … turned to the guy running next to me - ‘Do your quads hurt?’   (misery loves company)…

“No.. The real pain doesn’t start until mile 22”.. Damn that is 9miles away.. i don’t think my legs will last. 


I am stubborn - often very stubborn - and like the majority of you reading this i do not like to quit. 

When the pain hit - I asked myself

london marathon tamsin

Why am i in pain ? 

Too little mileage ? But i never get quad pain? You’ve only run 27k as your longest run… Shut up coach said didn’t need to run long - must be the post-viral inflammation… muscle contraction less effective. 

Will the pain improve or worsen?

At Ironman UK the last (and only) time I ran a marathon I took paracetamol at the start of the run. Studies shows it can reduced perceived effort - especially in the heat. It wasn’t hot - but at this point i was thinking perhaps i should have considered having some on board. Considered asking a random member of the crowd - maybe a boozehound had some prophylaxis in his pocket. Decided was silly thought. Note I NEVER recommend pain-killers other than paracetamol in endurance events as studies have repeatedly shown they can cause kidney and even heart damage. Chronic use even worse. One of my criticisms of former coach Brett Sutton - used to dish out Voltaren like smarties. 


As a side note - NSAIDS like this can quite easily burn a hole in your stomach esp. when taken whilst exercising which generally increases gut ‘leakiness’ and acidity - As Multiple Ironman Champ Lucy Gossage will tell you from her personal experience of NSAID induced gut bleeding and subsequent anaemia (before she turned pro) - it is NOT worth the risk. Some say - 'well i’ll just take an acid-blocker alongside the painkiller' - we have acid in our stomachs for a reason - it aids digestion and prevents harmful bacteria/viruses/parasites from getting in. Do not recommend. GI Upset in endurance sport is obviously a blog post in its own right. I use activated charcoal - £3 on Amazon.. superb for gas/bloating - and also for mopping up the toxins from booze on a night out :)


The next 13miles went from being cheery/waving and - ‘isn’t this incredible, i am finally running the London marathon’ … to ‘bugger… i may not make this.. the pain in my quads was amplifying.

Looked at my watch - i had averaged 6.30 mile pace for the first half and was capable of talking all this time - felt easy .. then the leg pain - so CV discomfort (why would there be i was well below threshold).. energy felt constant.

Mile 19 - Do you legs hurt more now than they did at mile 15?

Not really.

Great … Its therefore not pathological .. they will not give way..  

Heart rate?  Steady not going over 150bpm.

pace had dropped to 4.30 pace for a couple of miles - i couldn't seem to keep my cadence up. Coming back past Tower Bridge I had another word myself. Its now or never.. you may not be in top shape but you have come here to run a sub 3hr marathon and if you want to do that - then its time to up your game. 

You play these games with yourself which in reflection seem a bit silly.

For me i was picturing my daughter Sophia (just 14months) and the tenacity she now shows lifting and walking with things.. what would she say to Mummy? You didn’t make your goal because you couldn't stand the pain? I pictured my Mum and Sophia watching the marathon on TV willing me on - they weren’t - they were on Bournemouth beach - but it is what i chose to believe at that time and it worked. Why do you run? 

I had my second gel - Torq Rhubarb/Custard and sipped it slowly - all the time practicing the psychological tip of externalising. I thought of my summers with my beloved Grandpa - eating freshly rhubarb - topped with steaming homemade custard. 

The Tunnel - at this point you only have a few miles left - a friend had told me the BlackFriars tunnel was a lonely place - but i welcomed the sensory change and felt somewhat energised by heavy based music. 

The Embankment - I saw a man collapsed just ahead. He looked in a bad way. I had to resist urges to go over and help as medical aid had just arrived. I learnt later he died. RIP David Seath.  You just never know when you card is up. This thought pressed me for a few minutes. Prof Sharma had told me that is should not race if i was ill in race week, yet i felt confident enough in my self awareness/physiology that i could at least start.

Heart Rate 152.

Those final miles were painful. I had imagined trotting along the embankment smiling at the crowds and taking in the atmosphere but all i was looking at was the clock fast approaching 3 hours. Now or never its just a bit of pain. I had to do a bit of elbowing past folks in the final mile as from somewhere i found some leg speed and finished with a sub 6.20mile. Always like a sprint finish me. 2.58 (which in my head is infinitely better than 2.59). Semantics.


marathon tamsin

I did my own personal high five and then had a few tears. Boxed ticked… you can be a little bit proud of this one. 

Yes my predicted time based on half mara performance was around 5 minutes faster - but all things considered - i am happy - and i’m ok. Heart rate dropped into normal range relatively quickly - and i didn’t feel unwell. I’d like to say i put my feet up with some of my wonderful friends who came to watch me (Kiri, Arianna - thank you for the fuel and massage) - I did - but only for an hour - as back to the mommy role… race to get home to see Sophia before she went to bed. I’ll pretend she is proud of me for now.. and maybe one day we can run a marathon together.

Key Take Away Points.


1.” It Doesn’t Have to be fecking Hard - But it Does have to be Consistent - which in turn makes it fecking hard. “    Thanks Sutto.

2. Long Slow Steady Runs in my opinion are not the pinnacle of marathon training.

3. Functional Strength training pays dividends.

4. Mental Resilience cannot be under-estimated.

5. Knowing that your Blood biomarkers are optimised is important - esp. if you are not feeling as ship-shape as you once have done. 


My (Historical) Issues


  1. Low Iron (Ferritin <20)
  2. Inappropriate Vitamin B12/Folate metabolism (MTHFR mutation - 23andMe > Genetic Genie)
  3. Low Progesterone ( Agnus Cactus and appropriately timed natural progesterone helped with this).
  4. Low free/available Testosterone (from years of being on the contraceptive pill which increases binding protein)

5. Low Magnesium

6. Too much Omega 6 compared to Omega 3 - measured as red cell Omega 3: 6 ratio.

7. Low Thyroid

My GP gave me ferrous sulphate which upset my gut (causes inflammation which as an athlete already predisposed to leaky gut is the last thing you need)

Floradix 2 full capfuls/day is my preferred effective option - although ferrous gluconate/bisglycinate with vit C is effective & tolerated well.

The other tests are not available through the NHS so we did them through my company - alongside a host of other integrative health testing (, Metabolic/Organic Acids Testing, and Gut Function Testing.

Its only in the last few weeks after a few tweaks to my supplement regime based on the results of the above and through the help of incredible and infinitely humble Dr Tommy Wood that I have started to feel like a million dollars.  

Despite juggling of all the plates commonly known to fit, full time working, mums.

My house is not tidy, however.  I’m looking to out-source this one   :)

I recently presented with pal Ben Greenfield at The Biohacker Summitt and at The Public Health Collaboration event. 

Exciting, Busy Times.

I recently heard a term coined - "productivity addict" - anyone else like to put their hand up to this one? ;) Must Forest Bathe more.

Next Up I will be part of the Expert Panel with Dr Kelly Brogan and Dr Rangan Chatterjee (BBC Doctor in The House) at

This Event  in July.

Sure will be interesting. 


ben greenfield tamsin lewis








Talent V. Work - Genes and Sport

Below is an extended transcript of a magazine interview i did on the role of genes in sport.

My views, opinion and a bit of background. 


In your opinion, how much of triathlon performance could be attributed to genetics? Do you feel everyone has the same genetic potential to be as fast or committed as each other? 


First thing that comes to mind is :

“Hard work beats talent, if talent doesn’t work hard”

Brett Sutton - my first coach as a professional athlete used to beat this into the squad on a daily basis.

There is without doubt a genetic component to being a top triathlon performer. 

However it is a complex issue as the very nature of the sport of triathlon is that it is multifactorial. 

It is a strength endurance sport which requires a certain muscle make-up.  The mental side of the sport is massive - especially as the distance of the event increases. Mental toughness and resilience is in part inherited and also learnt/developed through early life experiences. 


Someone with a super genetic make-up may not know about this and not get into triathlon or a similar sport until later in their life. They will still be at an advantage, in that their VO2Max may be genetically higher and they make tend to higher natural testosterone levels, allowing them to develop muscle and a lean body mass more easily. However, some genes need a ’stimulus’ in order to be expressed in the individual. Early participation in sport when the body is developing - especially pre and peri pubertal times  when hormone levels are high- can have a strong impact of muscle development, motor patterns (e.g development of skills needed to perform a certain sport).  If you spent your teenage years eating popcorn and drinking alcopops and not playing sport - you will be at a disadvantage when taking up sport later in life - whether you have sport related genes or not.

The concept of the 10,000 hours of practice is something that is talked about in sport, and is expanded about in great detail in David Epstein’s book - the Sports Gene. 

My view is that 10,000 hours of practice can make you damn good at your chosen sport/hobby - but without the right genetic mix - being ‘Great’ at something is far less likely.

So no - I do not think everyone has the same genetic potential, but early life experiences (this is includes personality development) can mould a person’s likelihood of being faster or more committed than the next person. 


Did you have any physical traits that lent themselves to being a good triathlete? Do you know what your figures were for physical parameters like VO2max and power output? 

I was a sporty child from an early age - but only certain types of sport. I was thrown into the 800 and 1500m at every school sports day as far back as I can remember because (despite no training commitment) I always did well. I was useless at the more skill based sports like javelin or shooting in hockey… but put me in a sport than required any level of endurance and i thrived. 

I was also a chubby kid because I loved my food a little bit more than I did running. I also used food throughout my teens as a comfort blanket as my parents were going through a difficult divorce. 


I was a regional level runner and swimmer until I developed glandular fever and a related illness at the age of 13 and stopped doing any competitive sport until later on at medical school. 

I didn’t get in a swimming pool for more than 5 minutes on holidays for nearly 10 years.

I took up triathlon in 2007  ‘training’ maybe 6 hours a week maximum at the gym.

A friend (and successful AG triathlete Charlie Pennington ) persuaded me to sign up for Blenheim triathlon. I didn’t even know what an Age-group was - but I won my age-group 25-29 and placed overall and featured in 220 magazine. After that I thought that I might have some potential in this sport and that was how it played out - I qualified for the World AG Champs in my first ever Olympic distance race. 

I had a VO2Max measured in 2008 at that was around 65 - pretty good but not spectacular - I was still very much ‘untrained’ relatively speaking at this time. 

My power output on the bike was good for my weight and height, and perhaps more notably my ‘efficiency’ on the bike measured by friend & Prof Asker Jeukendrup at Gatorade Sports Institute was high… meaning that I was losing less power than others with each pedal stroke. I believe this has a learned component, as I used to ride behind my Dad on a bike from a young age and I would have tried to copy his riding style.

(You can get an idea about your pedal stroke through Wattbike & improve it (so they say) through using ellipitical chain-rings like Rotor)

(Not the bit where he rode down steep narrow roads no hands on the bars putting on a rain jacket though!)


There are a number of medics doing particularly well in triathlon, especially in the Uk at the moment. Lucy Gossage, Catherine Faux to name but a few.

What are your thoughts on why this might be?

I think the mental discipline it takes to be a good triathlete is something that is developed in medics in particular as we have to commit to long intensive study.  We are also competitive and fairly obsessive personality types. Quirky I like to think, but to anyone that isn't the same the difference is obvious. 

One of the traits that allows me to be successful is my ability to suffer - some people just can’t/don't do it like others - the Central Governor in our brain wants us to self-preserve. Some can over-ride the central governor better than others and we can train ability to suffer to some extent.  

It also comes down to motivation/drive to achieve.

Or for some to self-harm. 
Where is the line?


It takes 6 years of study to become a qualified junior doctor and 10 more to specialise, to become a Consultant.

We are in it for the long haul. 

Because with that qualification you have peoples’ lives in your hands .

This is an incredible feeling and one which must be respected, reflected upon and not abused. 

Perhaps because I have been through a number of traumatic events in my early life :

Parental Breakdown, Dysfunctional eating, Depression, Severe head injury with 72 hours in a coma...  and come out the other side:

This has allowed me to push my limits a bit more. The mind says - ‘Hey, i’ve been here before.. its ok, we’ll get through this and things will be better again'. 

What goes up has to come down - as my Dad repeated to me when climbing into a wet headwind on Dartmoor. 


The way many of our lives have become in recent years is one of comfort. Food availability, warmth, instant access etc.. the concept of delayed gratification seems to have been denigrated. 


Ironman is becoming increasingly popular - the ‘new’ marathon running. 

As humans we are not designed to be comfortable - we are designed to evolve and progress, yet the typical american daily life is one of relative ease and instant access.

Will we actually regress as a race if this continues?

Let us seek out danger - in the relative sense - push out of the comfort zones… grow, challenge, meet new people, define new limits. I personally put off doing triathlon for 5 years (after entering the London Triathlon numerous times and just not showing up)…

Why ? 

Because I was afraid to fail. 

Afraid to be uncomfortable in the cold murky waters of the River Thames with hundreds of other flailing limbs.

Afraid of not making it.

Afraid of the pain.

Afraid of the embarrassment of a DNF.



Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway?

I used this as a mantra. 



The perception of fear is often far worse than the emotion actually experienced.


You may try and fail. But it won’t be as bad as you think, and the first hurdle is always the highest. 

We get back up and try again. 

The beauty of triathlon is that there are so many things to work on and to improve from the beginner to the pro.

Perfection is rare.

Although the Brownlees have got pretty close on occasion IMO ;)


Anything else you would like to add about the impact of genetics on triathlon performance?

Going back to the start - Talent and Genes will only get you so far. 

Because of the multi-faceted nature of triathlon you can be very successful if you are very dedicated and cross all the Ts and dot the I’s.

Work-horses rather than Race Horses tend to populate the top of Ironman podiums.

There are of course genetic exceptions - Brownlees, Gomez, Chrissie W, Mel Hauschildt.

(They have the genes AND work hard. )

Obsessive personality types (genetic trait) often succeed at the top level because being highly organised can allow you to train optimally and adapt your nutrition to meet your goals. (I am not one of these people, but I meet many of them in the sport).

Some are highly organised in training and yet live very in messy environments. I wont name names :)

It works for some. 

Brett Sutton would say that the state of your bedroom reflects the state of your mindset. I learnt from this.. although keeping a tidy bedroom with all the ‘stuff’ that a travelling triathlete has still proves difficult!


I have learnt the hard way, than over-training/reaching and injury are a common outcome for those that simply ‘work-hard’ without  good coaching guidance.

Addictive personality types often over-train at the expense of their performance and ultimately their health. Because meeting training targets becomes an obsession in itself. The addiction is to the process and not the outcome.

The triathlon culture is one of overtraining.


Overhear any conversation on a training camp dinner table and it will no doubt involve hours of training done.

You don’t get fitter and stronger from the training itself but from successful adaptation to a given training stimulus.

Not all training stimuli are created equally and different body types respond differently to a given stimuli. Adaptation to training an be maximised by optimal nutrition, sleep and rest. But again, personality types differ. I became quite depressed just training, eating and sleeping, because my personality and mind were missing stimulation. I forgot to laugh and enjoy and taking the foot off the gas sometimes can provide a much needed reboot. 

Consistent training does not necessarily equal year on year improvement.

Training for training sake certainly doesn not hold any guarantees.

It may do initially but the body is highly adaptable and will get used to a unvaried training routine. This is why an experienced coach - who gets to actually SEE you - can change performance parameters. Technique too is important. Economy of movement is everything when it comes to going long. Preservation of energy as well as maximising use of energy available. Both are trainable.

Hours in > Performance Out is not a linear equation.

If you neglect nutrition, supplementation - getting regular blood tests (endurance sport places significant demands/stresses on the body) - and sleep - those 10,000 hours of practice may be all for nothing on race day.  

A Smart approach to your triathlon training and racing - not obsessing about training hours - but looking at the whole picture - health, nutrition, injury prevention, sleep, relationships, work/life balance - will improve your performance. 


post text....

Brett Sutton comments on why he think The Brownlee's aren't triathlon perfection..

"All the outraged brits , goin nuts that i dont think alistar brownlee is perfect , you think sending me a threatening notes gonna change my thinking , hehe .
ive said time after time none of the pussy itu guys racing him at the moment will get near him when he is fit ? why 
he trains hard , and then when trouble strikes unlike the other piece in sporty docs column , he dont run to mummy and say "mummy i must be over trained " i got the feelin by the way mummy kick him right up the arse and say grow up , but a side issue , no , he goes out there and trains like a man with a goal , does that make him perfect? no not in my eyes any way, it means , he does same as what all people should do , they dont , cause they ask a lot of losers who go to uni to find out why they too didnt make it , and they get the answer your not talented enuff or you asked for it 
' u been over trained .'
brownlees are men , they get beat , they go back and train harder , and no gomez cant beat him no matter what he does and he also trains like a man , but he has the same gene problem , only little bigger
they have no kick , simple as that . they have no kick ! genes dictate they wont develop one , so any one there with 400 to go with a kick , and they toast , that is why he rabbits out the transition at 2m45 pace , cause he knows it and is saying , who has got the balls to go with me in a pain fest for 10 klm , he gets his answer in nearly every race , NOt US. look elsewhere!
emma snowsill is a great , just the best itu all time , she too had a gene problem , couldnt beat fat me over 200 ever but like the brownless dont have a problem about training their ring off when things go bad . so she too asked the question to the girls in the first 3m10 klm you got what it takes to beat ?me she too got the same answer NO!

that my take on the article , so stop sending me shit it upsets my day .
fact dont lie 
the doc "