2016, where did you go?!?

So, the end of December is typically time to look back at the year, what has happened, what ridiculous resolutions or goals I will set myself for 2017 etc etc. Rather than going at it month by month…I’m going to dip around a bit between sports just to confuse you all!

TLDR – fewer miles, more PBs, less frantic exercising because I felt I had to, more rest days, few niggles, still don’t like swimming, must go cycling more.

Swimming

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Swimming was basically a necessary evil this year. I did the Henley Swim Club to Pub in July and that is basically the only reason I did any swim training at all. However, I did it in just over 30 minutes, dropping 4 off my time at Hever 9 months previously. They gave me a beer 10 seconds after I exited the water and that was brilliant.  I did quite a lot of open water practice with my boyfriend (we also ate a lot of cake) and can safely say, my confidence has improved massively, as has my breathing and ability to not have to stop and tread water. I’m probably going to enter at least one swim and one triathlon this year, so it makes sense to keep it on my agenda. But I don’t think it will ever be “the one”

There is a lot of talk about doing the Henley Marathon next summer in the office, but quite frankly, I think 14km is probably a bit too far when I don’t even really like swimming that much. I swam in a lake in the Pyrenees where I survived some super weedy patches (I basically didn’t bother with the swimming area and just hopped in, leaving some bemused looking fishermen…but it got a good photo). A year previously, I would never have even considered doing this – and the weeds would have probably drowned me in panic (and don’t even mention what creatures probably lived in there)

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Cycling

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No real big rides this year at all actually. To be brutally honest with myself, 90% of my bike miles were commuting, which isn’t great. But this was partially planned when I realised that to do my marathon training justice, I needed to drop back on the extra miles I was putting in my legs elsewhere. I tailed off my commuting at the end of 2015, and there was a noticeable change – I PB’d at pretty much every distance –  as well as jumping up around 100 places in my usual Surrey XC league standings. So as much as I hate to admit it, cycling all the time and a “running + cross-training = OK” formula doesn’t always work.

A few noticeable exceptions – my trip to Brighton in November and an un-Garminned 2k stretch as part of the RBC V Series but to be quite honest, A VERY BORING YEAR ON THE BIKE. Must do better. Must do more MTB.

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Running

I look back to 2012 and 2013 and wonder WTF I was doing with 180 mile months. This year I managed to run a much more consistent pattern over the first 4 months of the year, and as you can see, there have been no zero miles months so far this year.

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This year was a year for PBs and most of them came just from a byproduct of more miles.  I started with the Winter Run in April – which, unfortunately as a non UKA licensed course, doesn’t quite count…but it was a 10k PB anyway (41:32), especially in horrendous rain and being the day after a cross-country mudbath at Parliament Hill.

Another PB came about at the Watford Half the following weekend which was totally unexpected. If you’ve run Watford, you will know it ain’t flat. I think my half PB is currently pretty soft, and to be perfectly honest, the last time I trained for a half itself that wasn’t during a marathon block was Maidenhead in 2012…which is flat. In an ideal world, I reckon I should be running around a 1:31/1:32. So maybe one for this year.

I would love to say that VLM was dreamy, but it wasn’t. It was a cold hard slog for the last 6 miles, and the reason for that is well…I never really did much over 20. So I don’t know what I expected. But, I broke the magical 3.30, got another GFA & BQ and all in all, happy days.

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Had a week off and then decided to just “see how it went” at a local 5 miler the following Bank Holiday weekend, and it went swimmingly.  I placed 2nd at my first duathlon of the season…and 1st at my second. I won a 2 mile ran in Battersea Park (and I won a mango!) and my team placed 3rd ladies in the 3 x 1 mile relay. We won the cross country league. I spent 4 days running and napping by the pool in the Pyrenees (altitude training and cheese for the win)

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I ran along the beach on the Basque coast. We came 2nd in the Great Team Relay (I got to finish in the Olympic Stadium) I ran up the Madeloc…again. I got another trophy for a 2nd place in a 10k trail race. I ran over the Millau Bridge in May with my parents & uncles. It was spectacular (and breezy as anything!)

I did a few more parkruns – and was 1st woman 4 times out of 4 at Colchester #humblebrag. Tooting Common became an easy “1 mile run to the start line” option. I amassed many, many contributions to the “ugly running photos” album.

I took a bit of a break from running in November because of a niggly Achilles – I’m still not 100% “in the zone” but I’m getting there. More rest days, more chill out time, more sleep and a few more reality checks from the important people in my life have contributed to a bit more balance and mental stability…and I’ve learnt a lot about myself, my attitude and what my body and mind respond best to. I understand why people say peak years come during your 30s – a solid base and appreciation of training, focus and what makes you tick only come with time, so don’t rush it.

…and all the other stuff

I got back down to City Strongman classes at The Foundry (which, if you haven’t been to, you need to) I played in 2 7s tournaments this summer, getting tries AND scoring a conversion (highlight of the year). I practised line-outs in the back garden.

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I went skiing twice. I’ve been back playing netball – and we won our league. I’ve been doing a hell of a lot more lifting and I don’t know the last time I went to a class at the gym or used a treadmill, spin bike or cross-trainer. I realised I like hanging upside down on rings and ropes. I feel pretty happy in my body right now (well, not after 7 days of solid Christmas eating and wine) but this year has finally seen me settle down in myself and relax a bit more. I know what my happy weight is and where it is easy to maintain it without setting restrictions. My clothes still fit me. I’m still breaking belt loops on jeans because they aren’t designed for quads and glutes that match my waist size. I’ve bought 3 pairs of trainers and I don’t want to count how many pairs of leggings and new tops I acquired without throwing anything out :/

I don’t know what 2017 is going to bring and I haven’t really set my goals yet. I’ve got a rough idea, but I would prefer to see how January goes before making any big claims. But you’ll hear about them…

And with that, over and out 2016! Have a good one!!

 

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London to Brighton bike ride

A few weeks ago, I had a day off.  And, like any normal person would, I chose to cycle down to Brighton (cue eye roll) so I thought I would tell you lovely people aaaaaallllll about it plus some top tips!

The route

I pretty much followed the route that the official BHF ride takes – which I found on Bikely by Googling it. It practically goes past my front door so I cut a couple of miles off #winningbeforeievenstarted

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It is nice basically once you are out of zone 6!  And fairly quiet really until you get to Brighton, bar a busy fast stretch round where you cross the M25. If anyone tells you it is flat, it is not. Just FYI, just because you are cycling “down to the coast” does not mean you are cycling downhill, but in general, it is nothing horrendous.

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Couple to point out if you like to know what you are getting yourself in for.

  • How Lane, Chipstead. Here, I got caught up by a man on an electric bike who said “I wish I was as fit as you”. Note, at this point, I was practically cycling backwards so I don’t really think I was giving off a great impression of the benefits of cycling up hills.
  • Church Hill, Nutfield – that’s the little spike at 15 miles!
  • Turners Hill. Less of a spike but just a long, continual drag (aka about 7 miles of drag!)
  • And the final one, Ditchling Beacon. It’s actually not *that* bad if you had fresh legs, and probably would be easier if it didn’t come 45 miles into the ride. It is also very windy at the top, but, you know once you are there, you can see the sea and it is basically all downhill.

Navigation

I did not use any GPS. My iPhone has diabolical battery life (it’s over 2 years old, which we all know is the turning point) so I didn’t want to risk relying on it, and I haven’t got a bike computer, just my trusty 920XT, which is great for telling you how far you’ve gone, but less so if it’s in the right direction.

So, I WROTE IT ON A PIECE OF PAPER. I know, daring! Actually, it’s not really that hard a route – there is lots of “keep going along the road for ages until you hit a t-junction” and I just used Google maps every so often when I thought I had missed a turning. And I didn’t miss any.

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Food and nutrition

I realised I should probably take some snacks with me rather than just rely on breakfast getting me through. And like the true pro I am, I took a cereal bar and 4 gels taken from my “gel supply”. Point here is that lots of things in my “gel supply” are probably (definitely) out of date, lots of them have been race freebies and lots of them I know I don’t like the taste of but I keep them anyway.

  • I like Go ahead cereal bars (but not as much as the yoghurt coated Eat Natural ones)
  • Putting a gel that you thought was just an empty wrapper in your back pocket is risky
  • I had a REALLY gross French apple flavoured gel (can’t remember where I acquired it), it was bleurgh so never again.
  • I can actually only handle two gels in a period of about 3 hours because the taste is just too sickly
  • I should probably put more than one bottle holder on this bike because I definitely ran out of water

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I decided to ride the Liv, mainly because it won’t get much use during the winter (because white winter bikes are not a good idea) plus, it’s lighter and a stiffer frame. This is the furthest I’ve ridden on it and I have to admit I was a bit worried about the long distance on an aero frame when I’m not reeeeeally used to it…but it was super comfy!

Wore some bog standard full length Shimano tights, my NEW SHOES (also Liv, colour scheme matches my bike – may have been on purpose), overshoes, Canterbury base layer, jersey (from Lidl and still going strong), buff, headband and Sealskinz gloves. I took a jacket with me if I needed it, but it was generally not too windy, nor too cold, which was a relief because it would have been a misery. Unfortunately i have no “outfit of the day” photo, mainly because I was so wrapped up you could only really see my eyes, plus, I just couldn’t be bothered.

Safety, niceness of roads & traffic

It is relatively traffic free once you get out of London (and obviously, it picks up again when you get into Brighton). Yes, lots of country lanes, but wasn’t harassed by many 60mph+ drivers which is great. The roads typically were in pretty good condition (I can imagine having a regular charity bike ride on this route helps with this) and it is always a good change to get away from traffic and traffic lights and loads of other cyclists.

On the negative side, if you get into trouble (in my case, this would be something more than a puncture) you would be a long, lonely walk from any train stations. Which isn’t ideal. When I rang my dad on Brighton beach to tell him I had arrived, his first instinct was that he was going to have to come and pick me up!

Have to say,  one of the best things was the cycle lane when I picked up the A270 through Brighton – mainly because at bus stops, they took the cycle lane behind the bus stop (i.e. the bus stop is on its own little island) rather than it spitting you back out into traffic whenever there is a bus in the way. London take note! (although don’t think there is enough space)

Post-ride recovery

I wish I had a great story about having fish and chips on Brighton beach but…I didn’t. I sat down,  rang my dad and boyfriend, cycled to the station, got paranoid about locking up my bike with only one lock, bought my ticket and went to M&S whilst ice-skating my way round in my cycling shoes (not quite yet used to cleats that aren’t recessed like MTB ones)

I bought apple juice, a cheese & onion sandwich, chocolate flapjack (my favourite) and chocolate milk (which I didn’t even drink until I was in bed that evening)

I got back to Clapham J, cycled (slowly) back to mine and had a bath. I was then so tired that I bought a pizza, and drank 2 small (large) glasses of red (maybe in the bath and/or in bed) and watched rubbish tv all evening before falling asleep at about 9pm. #trainlikeanathlete

Now I’ve ticked that off the list, my next thought is to do the offroad route...which looks incredible (75 miles of fun)

Ever cycled down to Brighton?

Where should I aim for next?

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10 things that unnecessarily annoy me at the gym

Yes, I know gyms are inclusive and anyone is allowed to do what they want, wear what they want and enjoy their workout sessions doing their own thang, but there are certain things that really wind me up. So here is a short and sweet list (note, about 10 things on the list and, I’m not actually being that sweet about anyone or anything, don’t say I didn’t warn you)

  • Anyone who is wearing a vest  WITH A HOOD. I mean, when was this ever cool. Literally never is the answer so please don’t do it again.
  • Anyone who spends more time looking in the mirror than they do actually doing any work. Or sitting on their phone. There is ‘using a phone for looking at your workouts’ and then there is ‘you could just do that in your living room don’t take up my space’. Same with ‘using the mirror to check form’ and ‘I think I am absolutely bangin’, don’t you agree?’
  • Floppy fringes. There was a guy yesterday who literally spent the entire time swishing his hair around.I don’t even know how he could see anything. Wear a flipping headband if it’s getting in your face.Or get a hair cut.  GAH. (Sub-point here…girls who exercise with their hair down. How do you even do that?!)
  • People who put the treadmills on really high inclines and then hold onto the handrails the.whole.time. You are literally doing half the work you think you are doing.
  • Facial expressions. I mean, I know people can’t really help what they look like when at the gym, but sometimes people should just calm it down. No-one needs to see you gurn (but now I’ve noticed I can’t stop looking)
  • People who cheat. Yes, I mean you who is on the leg press with his mate “spotting” (aka pushing) and also pushing your thighs with your hands. NO THAT DOES NOT COUNT as 200KG. You are as bad as people holding onto the handrails of a treadmill. Do it properly. You’re only kidding yourself (eyeroll)
  • Ladies only sections. Basically, I know I’m toeing the line here, people will disagree and this (and gender-specific races) merits its own post, but if I was suddenly not allowed in a specific section of the gym that was always quieter than the rest, I’d probably kick off. Also, why can’t we have the ladies only section full of squat racks and benches so we can use them to our hearts content, rather than just treadmill after treadmill. Riddle me that.
  • Really low gym ceilings. Basically, at Virgin Active at Barbican there is nowhere you can do box jumps because you are in danger of hitting your head. Sort it out. Oh, whilst I’m on it, those Grid classes that basically take up the only free floor space there really is in the gym and use about 15 kettlebells and all the TRXs. I get that the class needs to take place, but everyone is trying to work out at 7.30am and I can’t wait 30 minutes please thank you.
  • People who have really bad form but think they don’t. I’m all for giving things a go, getting some help and braving things like weights for the first time – everyone has to start somewhere and no one is perfect. But what really bugs me is people who think they are super pro, are doing things appallingly (ridiculously swinging your arms during bicep curls is cheating, duh) and it’s like nah bro calm down. (Note, these people would also probably refer to themselves as ‘bro; so it is totally legit for me to do so)
  • People who bring their entire makeup kit and have time to put hair extensions in after working out in the morning. I mean I literally blow dry the sweat out of my hair and do my make up in about 2 minutes. It’s less that these people irritate me, more that they just make me realise I am really not putting much effort into life.

I would like to open this up – what’s your personal gym bugbear?

(Note – I am not a mean person in real life, just intolerant xoxo)