Altitude training in the Pyrenees

So I wrote last week about being stuck in a rut and how I was hoping that a little trip away with my running crew might do the trick.

We decided over a post parkrun brunch a few months ago that we should follow in the footsteps of Mo, Paula et al and give altitude training a go where the best of them train – Font Romeu in the French Pyrenees.

We flew to Toulouse, rented cars and headed up to an airbnb in Saillagouse, a few miles away from Font Romeu. By the time we arrived it was gone 2am, so we quickly shotgunned beds and headed to sleep.

The house we rented had the most AMAZING shutters on every window. Meaning that, despite the long drive, I woke at 9.30 thinking that it was still the middle of the night! We wandered down to the boulangerie to explore the village, returning with armfuls of almond pain au chocolats and begun the bread binge…(a repetitive feature of the trip) and headed down to the pool…and stayed there.


In the afternoon, we finally dragged ourselves off  the piles of outdoor cushions and drove up past Mont Louis, stopping at a parking spot just off the main road (by the déchèterie if you want the precise location) and headed out onto the trails. People aimed for a variety of distances – we had spotted an 8k loop but we never really found it, instead ending up with an out and back through forest, across fields and along track, totally about 6 miles, hitting the dizzying heights of 1800m altitude.


Bang on 6 miles with an average pace of 9.04. Wrapped it up with a few planks and stretchning, before heading back to chicken and roasted vegetables. And obviously bread.

On the subject of altitude – I don’t think it made a huge amount of difference in terms of feeling impossible. Things felt marginally harder – mainly I noticed my breathing feeling a bit more laboured, but that was only when we had got to pretty much 1800m and we were still going on a steady uphill. Fingers crossed I’ve now got 1000000 extra red blood cells without the use of EPO and I will smash a 1 minute parkrun PB at the weekend….I WISH!

By the end of the day, we were ready to crash, and again, I slept brilliantly with the help of the shutters!  We ran to Spain on Saturday morning – well, sort of Spain. Llívia is a Spanish exclave, made so by a technicality in a decree years and years ago with regards to what was handed over to the French.But did a few faster miles out and then a tiny bit of a push for 5 and 6 (made a lot harder by the fact the route there was all downhill and the route back was all uphill…)

capture

In the afternoon we headed up to Lac de Matemale for a mixture of activities. It’s about a 5 mile loop (10k if you ‘add a bit extra’) all the way round, but I wasn’t in the mood for a run, so walked for a bit and then decided to brave a swim across the edge.Apparently there is a supervised swimming area somewhere but I chose to take a gamble. NOTE – I’m not advising just throwing yourself in a lake. The girls were walking round the lake pretty close by and I stuck to a distance out from the shore that was safe. Advice-giving over.

I mean I basically only swam about 250m but that did the job – cleared my head, got me over my fear of weeds (aka avoided getting tangled up) and got me back in the water properly for the first time in six weeks.

On Sunday, we drove (about 5 minutes) up to Vedrignans, with the aim of doing a LOT of climbing . Unfortunately, after about 2 miles, I knew my niggly calf wasn’t going to cut i so I headed down again, varying my route to meander through a field of hay bales and through the sleepy town of Err before looping back up to the car, leaving the rest of the guys to do their thang and go up up and up! Which they did. With various experiences such as gorse bushes, cows and galloping horses. But all came back alive.


On Monday, I headed off with the rest of the group, but to be honest, I fancied a run by myself. I wasn’t sure how my calf would hold out and I was quite happy to have a bit of a potter and explore a few unknown routes with only my own thoughts for company.

And what lovely places I found! Took a guess at a route, which went up and up (as I expected), but got to a point where I thought I should probably turn round…however when I got back the others were still out, so I totally would have had the time to add on a few extra 000ms to my climb over about 2k! The trails were dead quiet which was just what I wanted. I think my quads have just about recovered from the somewhat technical descent…I don’t really think I noticed any impact of altitude on this run, despite the climb – but that’s probably because the climb was hard enough as it is so I was expecting to go slowly and have to take walking breaks!

In the afternoon we finally took a trip up to Font Romeu itself to see the hallowed training grounds of the elite. But no track session for me this time. The town was surprisingly quiet, the French children being back at school and the majority of the holidaymakers having gone home.


Unfortunately we then had to hotfoot it back to Toulouse airport where our flight was delayed….Ever been in an airport that is practically shutting down around you? And the food is awful? Yep that was us.

All in all, it was a great few days. It made me realise how much I love getting out onto the trails – and how much I needed a few days to reset my brain, recharge my batteries and get my mojo back. (I mean I haven’t been for a run since, but it’s only been a couple of days right?) We’re already planning 2017!

Ever been training at altitude or on a running holiday?

*Photo credits mainly Katie K, Ellie & Alice W

Footnote – key things I learnt from my holiday:

  • Not to feel guilty about not doing anything on holiday
  • I drink more than other runners (or at least, I want to)
  • Runners eat an insane amount of bread
  • Own brand chocolate spread is actually really good. Especially on a spoon.
  • Driving a French car is fine once you’ve stopped trying to change gear with the door handle
  • I really like bread. But mainly French bread.
  • Mountains are fun to run up. But more fun to run down
  • Having all day to run, eat, read and sleep is dreamy and I must do it more often!
  • Foam rolling is good for you (ugh)
  • I LOVE like running again

I’m stuck in a rut…

Mini Recipe Book: Healthy, nutritious meals from Body FX

We were delighted when Body FX approached us to make a couple of contributions to their recipe book designed to “help you understand the principles of eating for optimal health and supporting cellular function for targeted fat loss or muscle building gains”. This ain’t no diet plan, y’all, it’s a 45 page book of tasty, nutrient-dense recipes that are easy to follow and prevent you falling into the “chicken and broccoli trap”. Because man cannot live on broccoli alone, y’hear!

Click here to get access to the ebook (which, by the way, is FREE)

A whole bunch of awesome fitness enthusiasts and fitness bloggers such as Richard Scrivener, Danielle (Take the Lunge),  Amanda Bootes, Kara Godfrey, Jennifer Helen, Laura White, Stephanie Grace and Emma Campbell have provided recipes, as well as us. But you, our awesome followers, can find a little sneak peek of what the book has to offer below… Continue reading

People who shouldn’t be allowed on cycle superhighways in London…

London has been a hive of bike lane related activity recently and I have to say, it’s made a difference now that things are finally up and running and the roadworks are out of the way. I regularly use the now (nearly!) fully segregated lanes that have been built into CS7  and its offshoots (that’s the main drag from Clapham to the City), especially around Stockwell and on Blackfriars Road, and I have to say, for someone who was fed up of weaving in and out of traffic and getting everywhere at a snail’s pace, I now don’t have to! It’s also made it a heck of a lot safer for less confident riders and as long as people use them properly, they will (hopefully) continue to flourish and encourage more people to get on their bikes.

But as with all these things, there are people who still don’t use them correctly and it is time for me to have a bit of a rant about who should get out of my bike lane! Continue reading

Sweating it out – are you replacing your minerals?

The sun is finally out and I (and everyone else, don’t lie) am SWEATING a lot. Especially if you are doing any kind of sport. I sacked off track partway through the session last night because a) it was the hardest sessions EVER (6 x 1 mile) and b) it was the hottest day ever.

Now, I obviously know when you sweat, you lose electrolytes and that is a bad thing. You don’t perform as well, you don’t recover as well, you get cramp. That is why companies are constantly peddling electrolyte drinks, vitamin water (I drink it because I like the taste rather than any nutritional benefits), protein coconut water (still tastes as bad as normal coconut water vom) to get you to replace lost salts and minerals.

So that is a form of supplementation – but supplements as a whole, I’ve never really felt the need to delve into…It’s a combination of

  1. thinking I don’t need to (and I know best obviously)
  2. remembering a nutrition module in my degree with the conclusion of you don’t really need to if your diet is sufficient
  3. every study showing the benefits having an opposite study that refukes the claim (again, side effects of a sports science degree)
  4. I always forget to take them.

Pharma Nord got in contact a few months back to ask if we would like to try out their Bio-Magnesium tablets, and I have to say, I was easily convinced by the claims of magnesium in reducing DOMS and aiding recovery. I rarely feel like I’m not in a state of DOMS (to the point that my legs always hurt walking up stairs.end of) so this was a BRILLIANT way of convincing me.

What role does magnesium play in the body?

Magnesium regulates A LOT of reactions in the body (over 300 enzymatic reactions!), from protein synthesis to blood pressure regulation. It is also probably fairly low in the list of “top things you would think about supplementing” – with iron and sodium tending to be near the top of the list for endurance athletes, but its role must not be ignored.

Continue reading

10 Problems Sporty Girls Will Understand

RE-POST! 10 Problems Sporty Girls Will Understand #sportygirlproblems

These Girls Do

Here’s a popular one from the archives for you peeps – still as true as ever! We’d love to hear your #sportygirlproblems in the comments below or on Twitter

1. Your bedroom is perpetually in need of hoovering.

Especially if you play anything that involves wearing studded or moulded boots… Why is it so damn hard to get rid of every last bit of mud / grass / dirt? Or worst of all, these little blighters:

artificial turf

Whoever thought 3G pitches were a good idea has CLEARLY never spent entire weeks, post-training session, picking rubber pellets out of crevasses they hadn’t realised they had.

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Ditch the matchsticks. Get some sleep.

I love my sleep. I mean I really love my sleep. This isn’t even the first time I’ve blogged about it. The only problem is that I’m not very good at it.

Once, when on an expedition trip to Borneo as a wide-eyed fifteen year old, I was told off by our tour leader for falling asleep on a bus ride through a city – “You’re missing out on all the sights!”. I turned my head and went right on sleeping. We’d been in the jungle for a week, ‘sleeping’ on hideously uncomfortable canvass hammocks and hiking for miles every day. I was exhausted.

Sure, I probably missed a couple of spectacular buildings and some exotic goods being touted on street-side market stalls, but frankly I’m not one of those people who subscribes to the idea that “you can sleep when your dead”. Rather, if I’m operating in a sleep deprived state, I feel dead. I can’t concentrate. I feel unwell. I can’t function. And that just won’t do.

We all know that a lack of sleep is bad for us – at best we end up grouchy and at worst a regular lack of sleep can lead to heightened risk of serious medical conditions such as heart disease and diabetes – so how can we make sure that we’re getting more of this precious luxury?

Our friends at Casper have sent us simple but effective tips and set us the challenge of pledging to make a change to our bedtime habits for a month to see how much of a difference it makes. Casper knows first hand that a lot goes into your sleep and your sleep routine but something as simple as heading to bed 30 mins early or even looking into a new bed, can drastically benefit your nights rest (and wellbeing)!

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For me the problem is no longer the discomfort of rainforest sleeping arrangements, but rather having a lot of thoughts buzzing around in my head, so I am pledging to put my phone down an hour before going to sleep and reading, rather than looking at a screen, before bed.

We’d love to hear any more tips you guys have for getting a good night sleep too – leave us comment below.

Good night!

10 things j’adore about Le Tour

It’s every cyclist’s (and wannabee’s) favourite 3 weeks of the year again…Le Tour is back in full swing and we are all trying our best to be in the breakaway group on London’s cycle superhighways and wondering why the person on a Boris bike (sorry, Santander cycle) behind you isn’t responding to when you flick your elbow to get them to take the lead (just me then?)

Today is the first rest day (and by rest day, I mean they will just go out and do a casual 1-2 hour ride rather than say, 5 or 6 hours) and we have already have TONNES of drama. From Cavendish becoming the 2nd highest stage winner of all time, to Steve Cumming’s second solo breakaway win in as many years (WHY is he not in the Olympic team?), to Froome’s mental descending technique (that did the job) and the loss of Contador yesterday, it’s been a rollercoaster thus far. THREE BRITS IN JERSEYS!

So, without much further ado, here are some reasons why I love it…

  1. How easy it is to go and watch! I’ve been brought up taking little excursions to random locations in France where you can literally turn up at the side of the road and see them all go past…which is a brilliant (and free) introduction to cycling as you can just sense the speed. Obviously, the more popular locations such as the big climbs such as Alpe D’Huez have people turning up days in advance, but if you know there is a stage near you, you can pretty much always find somewhere to watch it. Key tip – take a radio or stand next to someone who has one to keep up with what is happening.

Tour De France London 2014

  1. The commentary. Watching it live is often up there with TMS in that commentators like to go a bit off topic…chateaus being top of the list of distractions. The ITV commentary team has changed up a bit though, which means probably less chateaus but more actual insight into what the peloton is going to do (thanks David Millar)
  1. The cliches. Seriously, if you pay attention to the Tour for any period of time, you quickly learn which rider does what, and key commentary terms to describe them. You can then start doing impressions (Chris Froome looking at stems is probably one of my favourite Tumblrs) and talking knowledgeably about Contador ‘dancing on the pedals’.
  1. The characters. I’m not just talking about the riders, but the people who come to watch. In particular, the man below. Didi is a long term fan favourite at both the Tour and the Giro d’Italia since 1993 and even has his own Wikipedia page. 

Didi the Devil Tour de France

  1. The welcome from any town/village/hamlet/field that the riders pass through. There have been some amazing spectacles at the side of the road and artwork in fields. “Tour de France field art” is a legit Google search term.
  1. The DRAMA! See my point above. People fall off, favourites give up, people attack when others have mechanicals, it rains, it hails, it’s sunny, there are cobbles, spectators get punched in the face, people do drugs, people cycle across fields, people crash into telegraph poles and break their favourite sunglasses…this happens
  1. The speed of technical changes. If, whenever I got a puncture, someone could just get me a new wheel and change it in 10 seconds, it would be great. I tried to put a wheel back on without turning the bike upside down the other day and it was the most frustrating thing in the world! (I add to this that I would really like a support car to follow me on any bike ride from now on because it would save me a whooooole lot of trouble)
  1. The ability of the riders to ride on through pretty much anything. There are some hard crashes in the Tour. There is a lot of skin lost. Yet people manage to get back up, continue on and have their wounds cleaned by a doctor hanging out of the team car WHILST STILL CYCLING. Take that footballers. People GET THROWN INTO BARBED WIRE BECAUSE OF BAD DRIVING.
  1. The speed and distance. The speed is something you truly appreciate when you see it in person, because on TV they actually look kind of casual. I did Mt Ventoux a few years ago and it was absolutely exhausting and I only did the 21km climb…they are starting in Montpellier and finishing at the top of Ventoux, a total of 185km. Mental. They probably won’t stop for chips and sweets at the top either. Imagine averaging 30mph whilst being within an elbow distance of over a hundred people…or hitting 122kph on a downhill…actually, is that even possible?
  1. My final reason for loving the Tour is how much my family love it…This is what we have done (list non exhaustive…)
  • Made Top Trumps cards (the categories were dubious, as were the answers, but the pictures were great and we should probably trademark them)
  • Nicknamed a lot of riders
  • Had the ITV coverage theme song as ring tones
  • Sung the theme song multiple times
  • Made up our own TdF song
  • Done impressions of the majority of cyclists whilst riding
  • Held intermediate sprints in the middle of our rides
  • Played TdF drinking games
  • Got upset when we’ve seen the result before the highlights show
  • Been to watch it in numerous places
  • Caught water bottles from riders
  • Read literally every cycling autobiography
  • Seen the caravane on the autoroute going the opposite way around France
  • Cycled the wrong way around a XC MTB trail to get caught in torrential rain, hide in a cow shed and give up trying to get to our viewing location and stop to eat chips instead…
  • …to then go and watch the time trial the next day

So, closet cycling fans….what do you love about it? Any weird TdF traditions in your family?

Open Water Swimming for Beginners – Hints & Tips

As I have previously testified, swimming is not one of my favourite activities, HOWEVER, sensible me decided giving into peer pressure at work to take part in the Henley Swim Club to Pub in July was a good idea.

Which meant one thing…I had to get back in the water. For me, swimming in a pool is a bit like running on a treadmill – boredom factor 100. Plus, the event is in the Thames, which is not a pool…therefore, I should not do all my training in the pool. Go figure.

Initial reservations about open water swimming often include “it’s not that easy to get to”, “it’s more difficult” and “it’s less safe than a pool”…and I can imagine “open water swimming for beginners” is a heavily Googled term! So, this post is here to quash some of those fears and streamline your introduction – it was written with the help of Henley Swim who have years of experience in this sort of thing, unlike my relative newbiness.

  1. Find a good location for your ability

There are a large number of lakes that run managed open water swimming sessions. These are safe places to start your open water career, and learn the basic skills, before becoming more adventurous and heading off into the rivers and sea. This list on 220 seems fairly up to date, but lakes have a tendency to open and close (!) so make sure you check the website before turning up.

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Shepperton (above) is convenient if you are in SW London but it is also often very busy and can be full of people who seem very fast – but one of best things about OW is how friendly and willing to help people are. The majority of reputable lakes will give a full safety briefing before allowing you to swim, as well as making you do a small demonstration that you won’t drown (typically a short swim, plus that you are able to perform the safety signal.

It’s often better to find somewhere that is fully focused on swimming (rather than also offering wakeboarding etc), simply because it means there are less obstacles (e.g. buoys) to worry about when you are on your swim, and you’re more likely to get dedicated attention. If you can’t get to a lake, you could always start with a lido – Tooting Bec (one of my despised locations) is 90m long. So it’s practically the same as being in a lake (feels like it anyway) but you don’t have to go as far.

NB Make sure you take into account whether they have cake. I would highly recommend the Victoria sponge at Trifarm.

  1. Never open water swim alone

This applies to both lake swimming (i.e. go during supervised sessions and flag if you are new/less confident) as well as when you are braving it in the more wild locations. There are a number of elements outside your control. Even the most experienced of swimmers can get into trouble, and being on your own can quickly make a bad situation worse.

These days there a large number of open water clubs springing up who can help new open water swimmers and offer coaching sessions which will help you build both your confidence and technique. Most lakes will link to sessions they hold on their websites or social accounts.

  1. Prepare for your open water swim – before and after

Standard kit would include wetsuit, goggles, high visibility swim hat, flip flops, towel, changing mat, and (waterproof!) watch.

After your swim the important thing is to get dry and warm as quickly as possible. A good post swim routine is key, for example: 1 – wetsuit off (and rinse it), 2 – flip flops on, 3 – get dry, 4 – layers on (hats are very welcome early in the season), 5 – hot drink. All fairly self-explanatory, but it’s amazing how many people get it wrong. If you have driven to your swim; get the heating on full blast on your feet (lovely!!)

As mentioned previously, also look for cake (but make sure you wash your hands…) Coke is good for killing pond bugs (true fact – that I don’t have a reference for) and bin-bags are handy to pop your wetsuit in until you can actually dry it out, just don’t leave it in there to go mouldy…Also, embrace pond hair. Gives it nice waves.

  1. Be ready for the temperature

Often, the biggest barrier is the temperature. It’s colder, pure and simple! Most swimming pools have a temperature of between 27-31 degrees centigrade. The warmest water you could hope to swim in (in the UK) would be about 20 degrees, so there is a big difference. When you first experience cold water your body will have a mild shock response and you will gasp. Gradually your body will adapt and you will become more comfortable – but it’s therefore advisable not to start your open water career in March. Most lakes will post the temperature on their website; 15 degrees is generally a good starting point.

Specially designed swimming wetsuits are readily available and not only keep you warm but also afford swimmers greater buoyancy, allowing you to achieve a better position in the water and have a faster and more comfortable swim.

You don’t need to buy a wetsuit to get started – most places allow you to hire them for a fee. Obviously, if you get into it, that fee per session generally warrants buying your own, but it isn’t a necessity. The best thing about wetsuits is the buoyancy – I’m wondering if I can use this as a technique to float 1100m downstream (although I might not finish within the hour unless the Severn Bore transplants itself to the Thames at that specific time)

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Spot Katie (I am the green hat on the left…trying not to drown)

  1. Remember that a lake is not a pool

There are no sides to push off, no steps to get in (well, in most cases!) and you can’t always feel the bottom. Or see it. Or see anything.

Go in prepared for this – don’t suddenly act surprised that a lake is murky. Some lakes will flag themselves as ‘not having weeds’, which is often something people don’t like, but rest assured, there isn’t much in a lake in the UK that you really need to be afraid of – it’s not Florida! Man up and get in! Supervised lakes will have a lifeguard and/or rescue boat (often a kayak), so you won’t be totally left to your own devices, but this is why it’s key to learn the safety sign. And practice treading water; often, the panic is quickly alleviated with some deep breaths. But this is why you should swim with others and not over-estimate your ability, which moves nicely on to…

  1. Don’t push yourself too early

Always have a plan of what you will be doing, and make sure that it is safe and within your capabilities. Getting tired, cold and cramping are not pleasant if you still have a long swim back to safety.  Most lakes will have both short (200-400m) and long (750+) loops to cater for all, so you don’t have to push further than you are willing – no-one else is counting how far or how long you swim for!

  1. Practise sighting

One of the (if not the) most important skills in open water swimming is sighting (seeing where you are going). Forgetting to regularly check and correct your course can add considerable distance to your swim. This is isn’t just a racing issue, where athletes need to swim the shortest possible distance, but also a safety issue, as it is important to ensure you know where you are and that you are swimming in a safe section of water. A good rule of thumb is to sight your course every 8 strokes. Poor visibility in the lake is also a common initial fear – but rest assured, you aren’t going to come across anything in a lake in the UK that will cause you that much fear.

(NB Sighting is equally important for staying on course and not crashing into buoys as it is for avoiding swans and ducks. Watch out – you have been warned!)

Be aware of who you are sharing the water with if you choose to swim outside supervised lakes (rowers and swimmers do not mix well) Joining a club or contacting the environment agency is a good place to start.

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  1. Relax and enjoy it!

For the first few sessions you will probably be quite tense; for this reason try and keep these sessions short (or even get out and get back in again, a few times). Once you are in, focus on getting a good breathing cycle going. Generally if your breathing is working well, your body will relax.

One of my favourite things about being in the lake is having the sun scatter through the water – or the feeling of being rained on whilst being wet already, such is the weather. For me, it’s like trail running – I can totally tune out and enjoy being outside rather than focusing on hitting times and distances and proving something to myself. Also, you don’t smell of chlorine afterwards…just…nature.

If you’re keen to get involved in an open water event without having to cycle and run afterwards, then Henley Swim offer a multitude of distances, as well as having many resources available like these training plans to help you prepare. (I should probably now start actually preparing as opposed to ‘making up swim sets each time I go’)

And with that, I’m off to don my new goggles and hope they don’t leak!

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What I learnt playing rugby for the SECOND time

As some of you will know, last year I ventured out of the safety of touch rugby and into 7s, taking a trip down to Brighton with some of the girls from work for our FIRST EVER WORK FEMALE RUGBY TEAM (yeap, we are all over gender equality) and you know what, it wasn’t that bad, I didn’t break any bones and I think I kind of enjoyed it. It was sunny, there was beer and I learnt a lot of things – which you can read about here

Well, moving on a year, I’m no longer in the same job, but because I am therefore ‘alumni’, I am allowed to come back and play (plus, there still aren’t really quite enough girls…so I sort of had to)…but this year we kept it closer to home, opting for Summer Social in Richmond instead, which has grown from being a rugby festival to a ‘loads and loads of different sports’ festival. Kate O’C was gutted she couldn’t make it. So I will try not to rub in how much fun it was.
As Summer Social is of a pretty decent size (and because it started as a rugby tournament), there are several levels catering for all – Elite (men’s) , Open, Social and Ultra Social (men’s and women’s). Not entirely sure why the Women’s Open wasn’t just classed as elite, considering it included Scotland, Wales and a GB side…but oh well. On the plus side, this means that for a novice women’s team, you aren’t lumped against people who have been playing for years, which is the case for some tournaments where you can only get enough for one level (or so you think anyway)

Winding back a few hours…an early start was had as we had been at a rugby club ball the night before – surprisingly, my boyfriend choosing not to drink because he had to drive me to a 7s tournament the next morning. I however, did drink, despite having a 7s tournament the next morning. And moving swiftly on…

We arrived at Richmond, parked up and waited for the girls and SHINY NEW KIT! This was fairly exciting considering last year we just used our touch kit, which isn’t actually ideal for contact. Also, an extra gem – it matched my boots!

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Our first game was against Windsor. We lost.But we went in with not much structure or plan, hoping to use it as a warm up and then talk tactics afterwards. Which we kind of did. It was a learning curve – I remembered that tackling isn’t that difficult and falling over doesn’t hurt that much. And that it’s hard to talk with a gumshield!

The problem with there being so many games and general popularity of the tournament (men’s elite, open and the three women’s tournaments are at Richmond Athletic Ground, with men’s social being at Old Deer Park) means that there is a bit of waiting around between games – especially if the opposition never turns up. So our next game (Kingston) wasn’t for a good 3 hours! We took the time out here to indulge in healthy intra-game snacks (chips, pizza and the like) and actually run through some moves, covering the breakdown, defending as a line and a couple of set pieces.

Our next game was against Kingston rugby club and our practice showed! I don’t know what the score was…but we won! Boyfriend was also at this point promoted to subs manager, which took a layer of pressure off us from trying to think about playing and subbing.

Our third game was against the Pink Rinses (one of the well-known Pink Ba-Bas team, who are regularly on the 7s circuit) These women knew their rugby. Discovered afterwards that there were several ladies with MULTIPLE national caps in there, which explains a lot. This game was less ultra social and more stressful. I mean we lost by a chunk, but we played a cracking game considering their level of experience (lots) against ours (not quite as much) – and their coach said we stuck up for ourselves well.

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We finished up against Roehampton Uni, which was a nailbiter, finishing 26-22. Unfortunately to them. But it was a cracker, we won scrums (probably why my neck hurts so much) and everyone really put their all into it.

There is so much offside in this it's unbelievable

There is so much offside in this it’s unbelievable

So then a quick shower and onto the evening! Because we didn’t finish until far gone 6, it was clear the other sports had been at the bar for a good few hours, so we played catch up and ended up in Infernos. Win. Summer Social has a real festival atmosphere, the DJs are awesome and anywhere with a live saxophonist has my vote. Plus, despite the crowds, the bar queues were totally acceptable.

So, what did I learn as an experienced (ha!) 7s player?

  • The fear before a game is much worse than the actual game. I DREADED the 10 minutes pre-match, especially being told I was starting (because #experience), but as soon as I was on…it was OK
  • Do not be intimidated by size. We aren’t a particularly big team, and some of the others were. It’s fine. It’s easier to predict direction. You can run round them.
  • National level players drop the ball – you can watch the women’s elite and there are still dropped catches, bad passes and the odd missed tackle. So if the pros do it, it doesn’t matter so much if you do it.
  • There will be bruises. The bruises will grow and grow and grow. And be blue (coordinated with boots/kit)
  • Accidents happen – having an air ambulance land on the pitch next to you is less than ideal, especially when you are already a tiny bit stressed. But, the majority of rugby games do not result in air ambulances, so do not worry. (Side note – it appears the guy who it was for is recovering well)
  • Being first on the score sheet is a nice little buzz. You will also surprise yourself by backing yourself to score. And then worry EXTENSIVELY about not dropping the ball over the line!
  • No matter how hard you try, your parents will want to come and watch. Your mother may not actually watch that much though due to the stress of watching tackles, despite having put up with it on a weekly basis for 31 years already…also note, your parents will manage to know LOADS of people there.
  • Bank Holiday BBQ line out practice will pay off. This was literally our best moment of the game when it a) worked b) no-one dropped it and c) we scored off it. I am gutted we have no evidence so you will just have to believe me!
  • You will hurt a lot afterwards. Going open water swimming the next day is not advisable. Nor a duathlon 3 days later.
  • You may end up eating 3 portions of chips in one day. And little else. And accidentally forgetting the calories in cider.
  • It is physically possible to get home, have two people showered and dressed within 15 minutes and then be in an Uber.
  • You will ache for days later. To a point where all you can physically do is nap on Wimbledon Common. This is totally acceptable. Apparently ‘you get used to it’
  • 7S IS INCREDIBLY FUN AND YOU SHOULD ALL GO AND PLAY IT!

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