Trying track cycling – a velodrome taster

I RODE A BIKE WITH NO BRAKES! And I did not fall off, crash, or generally damage myself. And I sort of want to do it again. If you haven’t already guessed, I’m talking about track cycling. I was lucky enough recently to take a trip out of the office down to Herne Hill Velodrome . Considering I lived in Tooting for two years, I am actually now quite ashamed that I never made it down. And I definitely think that if I was still in Tooting, I would go again.

My parents bought me and my sister a track experience at the Lee Valley Velodrome for Christmas. My dad went a few years ago (ironically, we bought him this as a Christmas present also…) and I had popped along to watch and remember thinking it looked fun – and he had a whale of a time. I think my mum was secretly a bit disappointed that I was giving it a go before using the voucher (and my sister is annoyed because she thinks I now have a headstart and will be better than her) but I could hardly say no.

If you’ve been to either of these velodromes – or seen a picture – you’ll know they are a little different. Herne Hill has been around for decades, and is the last remaining venue from the 1948 Olympics (where apparently, their scheduling was’t too great, meaning that the final races had to be lit with car headlights and the photo finish impossible to see!)

It has an inner circumference of 450m, maxing out around 30 degrees in steepness, whereas your typical Olympic standard velodrome is only 250m, with a max gradient of around 45 degrees. Herne Hill has had stars such as Anquetil, Coppi & Tommy Simpson (I was one of the few people fangirling when we were told this) and is an incredible place, having been maintained and saved from destruction, and is now a key part of the London cycling community. There is an incredible history and they are rightly proud of it – the recently rebuilt clubhouse is full of photos from bygone eras, and has local club jerseys adorning the walls. It’s also where Sir Bradley himself first started racing.

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If you know the people I work with, you’ll know we have several cyclists and LOTS of sporty, competitive people. But it seemed that track cycling was giving a few people the heebie jeebies before the session, and I think a lot of that was down to a) knowing there were no brakes and b) the banking. However, skipping to after – I genuinely haven’t found anyone who didn’t enjoy it. The good thing about track cycling is that there was flexibility to do what you wanted. If you wanted to keep going round at the bottom of the track at your own speed, go for it. If you want to pretend you’re in the Olympics, go for it. Just be safe, respect the rules, and listen to what you’re told.

Firstly, the bike. It has one gear, no brakes, and we were in toe cages (ugh…I felt like a child again)

Gloves, helmets, long sleeves are all key (unsuprising really) Lean your bike against the railing, get in, toe-caged rather than clipped (eek) in and hold on for balance! (Track cycling means you have to pay attention or you fall over) To start, you basically just check for traffic, use the rail to propel yourself forwards, start pedalling and off you go. AND DON’T STOP PEDALLING.

You can’t freewheel (don’t try it) and you brake by resisting against the pedals and slowing down your cadence. And then grabbing hold of the railing again, ensuring you are going slow enough to avoid pulling your arm out of its socket. This was a mildly terrifying concept to get right seeing as I had zero idea how long it would actually take me to slow down. But you suss it out pretty quickly.

The team of coaches were great, and basically gave us a selection of different tasks and activities.

  1. Getting used to the bike – cycle round in a circle, don’t fall off, get used to slowing and stopping and holding onto the rail again at a sensible speed so you don’t fling yourself around and dislocate a shoulder. MAKE SURE YOU ALWAYS LOOK OVER YOUR SHOULDER!
  2. Ride the lines – there are several coloured lines around the track. The aim here was simple – ride one on the white, one on the red, one on the “ghost line” (basically a faded line) and then one between the ghost line and the top of the track. It is surprisingly easy to go high up and no, you don’t slide your way back down, you don’t really feel like you’re about to topple over and yes, it is easier and less scary than it might first appear. The more you pedal, the easier it is.
  3. Make a shape – ride along the white line on the straights, before hitting the bend hard and riding up at the top. Check your line and drop back down to the white for the back straight. Repeat!
  4. Play the animal game. Basically ride in a line, with the distance of a named animal in between you and the rider in front. We started with elephants, then ended up with very dubious rabbits. There was also a lot of discussion about whether it was a labrador or a chihuahua when we were told “dog”. Riding that close together is quite hard, particularly when you are worried about the lack of brakes.
  5. Team pursuit style. One long line, and at each end, the first person peels off, goes up the bank and then drops back in at the end. This definitely challenges your ability to maintain consistent speed relative to the others in your group! It also challenges your ability to pay attention and listen to when you are told to stop (except secretly we just wanted to keep going for another lap)
  6. Pairs changeover. Ride in a line of pairs – then the front pair peel off to the top, keep riding and drop back in on the end. Again, challenging your ability to maintain speed relative to the others!

It was a great experience – we were then informed we had done our taster session and therefore would be welcome at other sessions, and then could move towards becoming accredited. I was particularly interested when i found out that they ran ladies-only sessions, as well as the ASSOSLDN women’s track league.

Seriously, give @HHVWomen a follow on Instagram, they’ve got workshops, training, ladies night and all sorts! Again, as I said, I wish I still lived in Tooting as unfortunately it’s just that bit too far for me to go.

The Women’s Race Workshops are back again this year and better than ever! Each session will focus on an event which features in that month’s @assos_ldn Women’s League, so if you’re unsure or need to brush up, they’re the perfect opportunity to learn or practice skills, techniques and tactics before each race. 🚴🏻‍♀️ The workshops will be held on Sundays during the regular 5-7pm Women’s Session (£10 for adults; £8 for Special Friends of HH; £5 for eligible youths). 🚴🏻‍♀️ Fire up your diary and get the dates locked. Even if you’re not racing they’re still great fun! 🚴🏻‍♀️ #womencycling #womeninsport #trackcycling #womenwhoride #ridelikeagirl #fixedgear #hhvwomen #thisgirlcan #velodrome #fixie #hhvwomensleague #trackbike #assos #assosldnwomensleague #bikeracing #cycling #hernehillvelodrome #hernehill #london 📸 @arpadernyesphotography

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Unfortunately, we then had to go and do some actual work. Booooooo.

But, it’s made me think more about what I want to get from cycling, including some interesting discussions now about crit racing over the summer…very much looking forwards to my trip to Lee Valley!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Easy running and HR training

So, latest running news is that I now have a coach (more about that in another post), my race today was cancelled BUT I am running THE READING HALF (which is quite soon, as the 18th March has snuck up) However, my ultimate A race is the European Duathlon Champs in October. Yes, October is quite a long way away. And yes, the word “European” is scary. Hence the coach.

Therefore, the Reading Half is in my diary, but not necessarily a goal, go for glory, set a new PB race. My current PB is an OK-ish 97 minutes, set in Watford a few years ago. If you know Watford at all, you will know that Watford is NOT FLAT. So much more to be done in comparison to the rest of my distances…

So why I hear you say, are you not going to go all out for a PB at a lovely, fairly flat (and fast) Reading?

Perfectly good question. It just isn’t my goal this year, and I didn’t really fancy a whole load of miles early in the year (this is also why I am not using my deferred marathon place this year)

My current schedule looks something like this (although clearly skiing gets in the way here!) – so we’ve got easy doubles, shorter speedwork and quite a lot of turbo. But not a huge amount of leg mileage 😬 (or any long tempo!) You’ll be happy to know that the next two weeks pre-half marathon include at least 3 double days (run and cycle), so I can’t really say I am tapering…

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I don’t know the race plan yet, but will probably just do it as a long run. Or maybe a “just go out and see how you get on” strategy (I doubt this, I think we all know this would mean I go out far too fast and blow up)

I would not advocate following my training plan/approach if you are going for a PB at the half. Nor if it’s your first half. I’ve got a fair few years of running experience and decent fitness under my belt, meaning that I know that, 99% of the time, I can get round a half even if I haven’t done a huge amount of miles. Anyway, enough of the preamble. I am currently doing a lot more easy running that I used to, and the majority of this is not dictated by pace. Instead, I have now become very good friends with my heart rate monitor (yay)

So, here are some things I have learnt about easy runs and using a heart rate monitor to actually make them easy.

1. OMG IT IS SO NICE NOT TO HAVE “THE HARD SESH” dread. I can wake up, safe in the knowledge that I don’t have to run very hard or fast and just pootle along and it is lovely. And I don’t have to watch the Garmin (as much – see point 4)

2. It means you can run easy depending on how you feel that day. I have quickly learnt that your heart race can increase due to lots of things. The cold. Being hungover (oops). Being tired. Being busy at work. But if you’re trying to always hit the same pace, these can make a session pretty horrible. By using HR, it’s a slightly better representation of your fitness on that specific day.

3. You have another marker to compare progress. You know how sometimes runs just “feel easier” but you aren’t really sure if they were? Well, having your heart rate recorded means you’ve got a different metric to look at than just pace. If you’re running the exact same pace for a loop as you were 3 months ago, but your average HR is 10 BPM slower well, good stuff, you’ve probably made an improvement!

4. Uh oh, the HR screen becomes equally as compelling as the pace screen. I would love to say “using HR means you rely less on your Garmin” but that would be a lie. I watch it like a hawk and delight in making it go lower.

5. Sometimes you will swear at the heart rate screen because NO MATTER HOW SLOW YOU RUN IT WON’T GO DOWN. Especially if your interval session is based on HR. I swear my legs don’t actually move that slowly.

6. Hills will be avoided for fear of increasing the average heart race. I live at the top of a hill. In winter, I have to run down it to get to the majority of street lights. This means I have to run back up it (it’s basically nearly a mile uphill) at the end. It’s really hard to keep your HR low running up a hill.

7. You will try to get your heart rate as low as possible. It becomes a super fun challenge (debatable use of the word ‘fun’ here)

8. Deep breathing doesn’t necessarily make your heart rate any slower. Sorry. You can keep trying though!

9. I guarantee that “easy” is actually much slower than you think easy is. My own easy pace is not 8 minute miles. It’s anywhere between 8.30 and 9.30. It took time to learn that. Look at any of the elite runners and their “easy” sessions – and you’ll see what I mean! Easy means well, just that. You should feel like you could continue on forever.

10. Which leads into my main point – easy running is incredibly good for you as part of your training plan. Too much higher intensity work and impact means you don’t fully recover or get the benefit of the rest of your training – roughly 70% of your week should be easy. There are plenty of articles about the benefits and how to define easy. Google and running resources are your friend.

So there you go – I fully advocate trying out some HR training and keeping an eye on your definition of easy. And HR training isn’t just for easy running either, I’ve started using it for my speed work as well, which means I’m less worried about inclines impacting my overall pace. Monitors are generally quite inexpensive and often come part and parcel of your GPS watch. I spent a good 8 years never really using my heart rate monitor (!) and it’s now a key part of my training set up.

Unfortunately, entries are now closed for Reading so no more opportunities to get involved, but I promise you a full debrief post race. (and maybe some mid-race insta stories if I’m running it easy…)

Reading Half Marathon – the training day

So. We’re running The Reading Half.  In about 8 weeks. And a day.  As you might have seen from Kate’s last post, I coerced (read “didn’t give her much choice) her into running it – despite having never run a formal 10k race before, let alone ramping up the distance to more than double that (soz babe)

So what I first have to say is “AWESOME” – there was no long thinking, no “I don’t think I could” – she literally straight up said “OK, fine, I’ll do it – I need to give myself a decent challenge and focus for the first part of the year”

Two weeks ago, we made the trip out to Green Park Conference Centre for the Reading Half training day, along with a host of other runners and bloggers.

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A few gems here – Katherine,Anna & Tamsyn. I’ve known Katherine for a while because we run for the same club, but it was great to meet people I’ve only ever tweeted/instagrammed! Oh, and Tess was there – but behind the camera a lot of the time!

First up was a HIIT workout with The Townsend Twins which was all over Facebook Live (if you watched it, you’ll have seen me panicking about my bum being the first thing people see, and Kate discussing this quite loudly) There was lunging, there were planks, there were jump squats. Certainly got my heart rate up! This was part of Lucozade’s “Made to Move” campaign…so obviously there was Lucozade

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Next up was a session with Ali Galbraith , who heads up the pacing teams for the Reading Half and the Nottingham half and marathon. He took us through a few vital things to help you pace your race and finish feeling fresh (or alive) rather than dead (which I then proceded to fully ignore for my XC race last weekend)

Couple of top tips that we took away:

  • Always know your route – where are the hills, the flats, the water stations (and HELLO the unofficial beer station on the Reading half!) – Reading is pretty flat, particularly when you’re used to living at the top of a hill…which makes me happy
  • Don’t waste energy sprinting around people at the start – what this also means is people, go in the right pen. If you ain’t running that fast, get back to where you belong. Be realistic, not optimistic!
  • Break the race down into bitesize chunks to focus on a different tactic and make it more manageable – I’m likely to be running it as a long tempo so 1-3, 3-11 and 11-13.1 actually works quite well
  • DON’T FORGET TO SMILE!

I also learnt that Reading provides pacers in 5 minute intervals – which a lot of races don’t – this gives you a bit more flexbility in aiming for your goal. To be perfectly honest, I’ve never followed a pacer before, mainly because I trust myself to do it. However, clearly, cross country has shown me I shouldn’t be left to my own devices, so I may hunt one down on the day dependent on how I decide to run it. Find the guy or gal with a flag and stick with them – they know what they’re doing!

Judith Manson, the race director was also on hand to tell us a little bit more about the race and a couple of things that made me sit up – firstly, that they are doing water pouches (which is great for the environment and your ankles) and also, that they always ask for smaller bottles to help prevent waste, but they end up getting what they are given as such. It’s great to hear that races are trying to reduce the amount of plastic thrown around – if we can just get runners to stop throwing gel packets wherever they fancy then we’ll be on a roll…

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(Spot me in pink and Kate sorting her hair #priorities)

We then were off to put our pacing into practice after a little warm up (it was still pretty nippy outside)  We ran roughly 5k, taking in the start of the race (somewhere in Green Park) and the end (the Madjeski – except we couldn’t actually go in because Reading were playing at home, but we ran round it which I guess is the next best thing?!)

We did a little bit of hurdling to run round the car park, down some steps, then Anna & I were getting a bit ahead of ourselves despite not knowing the route, took a wrong turn and added on a handful of extra metres, but we got there in the end. Kate was pretty happy that she got round without a struggle, so think it was a decent boost ahead of her training plan.

 

It was then back to the ranch for the final bit of the day. Jim Adkins from Berkshire Physio was on hand to take us through some key pointers. We stretched, we activated, we slid, we bounced – all in the name of good muscle activation and recovery. We also discovered that you don’t need any fancy equipment – a good pair of paper plates is all you need!

(THIS IS REALLY HARD IN REAL LIFE)

My favourite stretch was the slump stretch – which does as its name suggests! You sit on a bench/bed/high chair, slump a bit, and basically swing your leg. This helps to release all down the backs of your legs, as well as ensuring the muscles in your back and shoulders get a chance to relax – perfect for all of us who spend hours sitting at a desk. It’s so easy to just get out of work, chuck your running stuff on and head out to save time, but a quick 5 minutes beforehand can work wonders for your muscles, ligaments and tendons.

Kate even bagged herself a free look at her dodgy hip at the end – and has come away with a good selection of exercises to keep her in good shape come race day, particularly as she’ll be ramping up the miles.

And then that was us done! I took Kate back to the station and headed home, full of ideas and a new motivation that I was going to do all my core and glute activation exercises that my physio has been telling me to do for 6 years. (Note – I have done them…twice. Which is better than normal)

Keep an eye out for some updates on how our training is going (and hopefully at some point I will set a race target or at least a plan of how I’m going to run it!) There are still entries open  (it’s on March 18th) – I’m a Reading newbie but have watched my dad there, and it is fast and flat, so ideal for pushing yourself for that PB. If you enter in January, there’s also a competition to win a little bit more than just your race entry.

Plus, they’ve just released their new medal design!

I literally do not care about Christmas food guilt

Ah, the usual holiday posts are back. “Do 5,000 burpees followed by a 27 mile swim in a lake and then run to Dover and back to burn off your Christmas dinner”, “how many calories are really in the entire box of Lindor truffles you just ate”, “did you know the average person eats 15 times their usual calorie allowance in the 3 days over Christmas”, “if you go shopping for 7 hours you can drink one glass of Baileys” (some of those may be embellished, but you get the gist) – you would think people had suddenly discovered calculators and infographics for the first time.

zzzzzzzzz.

Do.Not.Care

I like food. I like exercise. I don’t always do one to counteract the other. Sometimes, yes, maybe I do think about it – but the countless other benefits far outweigh the extra mince pies I’m going to be eating for the next few days (who am I kidding, I mean the ones I’ve been eating for the last 4 weeks already)

I’m thinking about doing parkrun on Christmas Day. Is it because I’m worried about eating too much and having to get myself into a calorie deficit? No, it’s because I love the idea of getting out to parkrun on Christmas Day! (and if it was, promise me, I’d be running more than 3.1 miles, clearly)

I went for a bike ride (aborted due to double puncture) and then for a run in the 6 inches of snow we had last weekend. Was that because I couldn’t face sitting inside all day? No, it was because I literally had SO.MUCH.FUN.  Have you ever been mountain biking in the snow? If not, you should try it. Ever been running through fields where you can’t hear anything because of the silence of snow, and the fact the closest dual carriageway is closed? You should. It’s incredible. And if it’s proper, fresh snow, it’s really likely to be not that dangerous. (Ice however, is another matter)

Food and exercise are not purely there to balance each other out. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always seem to be the mainstream media case. Did you see the tweet below from Laura Thomas?

Yeah. That says a lot. Katie’s (Cake Vs Scales) post earlier this year said a lot around this – if you pick up a men’s health and fitness magazine, the focus is completely different. Yes, there will still be a focus on becoming healthier – but it’s not purely about weighing less, or eating 1,200 calories a day.

Remember – it’s OK to take some time for yourself. You don’t have to be perfect every day. Heck, you don’t have to be perfect ever. And you would have thought that this time of year would be a great opportunity to embrace that. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, this time at the end of the year is a good opportunity to recharge your batteries, take a break (if you want) and just do what you feel like doing. If I want to spend three hours on my bike, that’s fine. If I want to spend a day in my pyjamas sleeping on the sofa, that is also fine. I’m not going to beat myself up about it. See friends, see family – and if you don’t want to, you don’t have to please everyone.

There’s a lot of pressure to be “always on” and you know what, sometimes you don’t have to have a reason to say no. If you don’t fancy going out for Christmas drinks 6 days in a row, don’t force it. It takes a bit of guts first time round (and you’ll always be questioning that people think you are boring) but rejoice in making your own decisions. It’s taken a while, but I’m at an age now (god that makes me feel old) that I know what I like doing and I’m perfectly fine with that – and don’t feel the need to be trying to keep everyone else happy.

You also don’t have to give an excuse. I used to be full of “I’m sorry I can’t make it because of xyz” when really, I just meant “I actually don’t feel like coming”. So now, I’ll just say “sorry I can’t make it” and that is totally fine. And now, I will stop being negative and telling you all to avoid any social engagements or activities of any form – do what makes you happy and remember it’s OK to be a little bit selfish, whatever time of year!

Look after yourselves and have a good end of year break.

From clueless to qualified – my short duathlon career 

I’m currently on a two week break at the end of what feels like a pretty lengthy season. And it’s been a good one. A few highlights include wins at Hawridge and Stewartby duathlons, knocking my 5k PB down to 19.38, 2nd at the Berkhamsted 5 miler, 3rd at the Windsor 10k and I’ve nicely wrapped up my season with a qualifying spot for the European sprint duathlon champs next year (insert little cheer from me!)

Anyway, I thought it would be a nice time to look back on my potted career in the sport…and why it’s so much fun.

5 years ago, I spent my 23rd birthday up at 6am to compete in my first duathlon. Someone at my then running club had suggested the races at Box End Park, just west of Bedford – and I spotted they had an off-road duathlon. I wasn’t doing much cycling (pre buying a road bike or two) other than the odd MTB session around the Chiltern Hills at the weekend. However I was doing a fair amount of running, I’d done a 3.41 in my first crack at the marathon earlier that year and was in semi-decent run shape ahead of cross country season.

Mum and I got up at the crack of dawn, turned up and quickly realised we didn’t really have a huge idea what we were doing. Luckily, the nice man in the car next to us was very helpful (and turned out to be the winner and British #1) and quelled my fears somewhat. This was pre being comfy with cleats at all times so literally all I had to remember was helmet. I remember 3 main things about this race:

1. It was BLOODY FREEZING

2. It was BLOODY WINDY

3. I was first woman. But, there were only 7 of us.

I think (judging by my times) it was a 5k run, a something k bike and then a 5k run again at the end.


And that was that. I think I then got sent a trophy in the post! My first win – how exciting.

My next one, which I was reminded of by Timehop recently, was the Grim Challenge in Aldershot the following October – again a cross duathlon – which I did with my parents! We entered ourselves as a team and decided to do it all together. Basically what happened is we waited for my mum on the run and then for me on the bike. The main thing I remember about the bike was having to cycle through what was practically a lake of mud and getting off a couple of times to run the bike down sand/mud banks (it’s where they test the tanks which says a lot!) I think it was 5k-20k-5k. You can see from transition what the ground was like…

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We won first mixed team (LOL) although again, I think there were only two mixed teams. The prize here was a giant duffel bag each (I mean, so giant that I literally could fit into it)

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The main thing about this was spending the afternoon in A&E because mum came off her bike on a hill – and was helped up by a kind man that was not her husband. Luckily nothing broken just a super bad wrist sprain which was given a support and a significant number of painkillers.

I think by this point I may have bought myself a road bike, so 2014 came with my foray into road duathlon with the Jekyll & Hyde in Hyde Park (clearly October is the right month for duathlons for me)I also did a Women’s only duathlon at the Velopark in Stratford…and that didn’t go too badly.

img_4324My duathlon career then continued into 2015 (also the year of my first triathlon) with another J&H and ANOTHER women’s only Velopark and then in 2016 I started to do a little bit more…My running was going well, I was getting a fair amount of commute bike miles in, OH and I had bought a new aero bike that really needed some more mileage. I raced Hawridge and St Albans, getting on the podium in both and realised I was doing alright at the smaller local stuff.

Earlier this year, having spied a lot of other Clapham Chasers doing AG champs, I decided I might as well have a crack at it. Criteria is straightforwards, give intent to qualify, enter one of the qualifying races, finish top 4 in your AG. After careful studying of previous times, I decided it was doable. I chose Oulton Park and Bedford (a week apart) to give myself two cracks at it. If Oulton Park went well, Bedford was good practice and a nice end to the season, if it didn’t, I had a second opportunity.

I had some good practice over the summer, giving the Ashridge duathlon series a go, going back to Hawridge, racing Stanborough tri and being super happy that the lake at Stewartby had algae so it was turned into a duathlon!

Oulton Park meant an overnight stay in a Premier Inn but a pleasant 7.30 start. It’s not a flat course by any means and the distances are based on a lap of the track and therefore a bit off the usual distances. And this was pretty serious. This was the biggest duathlon I’ve entered and it felt it at the start. Gulp. This is qualifying territory. This is proper racing. There is a man (several of them!) checking I don’t break any rules. There are penalties if I do something wrong. AAAAAAAH.

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However, to cut a long story short, Oulton Park went exceptionally well! Finished 3rd AG (the pain of waiting in the queue for your result to print is INSANE) so rewarded myself with a fishfinger wrap, a McFlurry and then A NEW PAIR OF WHEELS! (If I’m being honest, this is probably the hardest I’ve raced all season. It really meant something and I wanted to finish strong – mainly so I didn’t lose my AG spot in the final 500m but, looking at it, I was a good 90 seconds ahead of the girl behind)


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Which therefore meant Bedford was a bit more relaxed. I could play a full game of netball the day before, I wasn’t overly stressed, I could give my new wheels a whizz, I didn’t mind getting up at 6am… In contrast to OP, Bedford is dead flat. And was windy. Which is awful if you’re trying out your new 60 deep sections, you still aren’t 100% comfy on your tri bars and your bike handling skills on 180 degree turns aren’t great…so yeah. I’ve had better bikes.

However, head down, corners conquered…set a new sprint distance PB, finished 14th F, (3rd AG so qualified again technically!) and ran the second run at the same mile splits as my first (I NEVER do this!) and crossing the line in 1:08:07 (19:47-0:46-36:05-0:43-10:44)

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So…a good end to a busy year. And a great end to 5 years of “just giving this duathlon business a go!”

A few thank yous to wrap this up – my parents, for frequently driving me when I’m too tired after a race, standing in the cold, cheering me, buying me food, listening to me run through my checklist for the nth time – specifically then my dad for fixing my bike 90% of the time, my mum for ringing a cowbell and having the loudest voice ever…my sister for literally being dragged to 75% of races despite hating running, my boyfriend for his motivational pep talks, buying me cycling presents and accepting that our life mainly revolves around me…hey DW for training with me and sometimes beating me in races …anyone at Clapham Chasers who has been a helping hand along the way…there is a lot of thanks!

And, just because I have to say it “woah I’m going to Ibiza”

I hope you all now have the Vengaboys stuck in your head. Over and out.

Let’s hear it for the girls – Windsor Women’s 10k review 

On top of the world! Still buzzing from the Windsor Women’s 10k on Saturday and for more reasons than one.


Firstly, just to say I was given a press place for this race – but my mum entered off her own back, but I am, as usual, 100% honest in my review. Pre-race info was thorough – and we left home at about quarter to 8, taking heed of the advice of avoiding Windsor town centre so coming through Datchet instead…and we arrived at 8.25, no traffic and were about the 10th car there #keen

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Age is nothing but a number

I’m running the Boudavida 10k TOMORROW. My mum is also running it. She’s at the higher end of mid 50s (she’ll hate me for saying that) Is that a big deal that she’s running?  Is it a big deal that she’s out at boot camp three times a week? Or mountain biking, horse riding or skiing? Some people think it is…purely because of her age.

My parents being active is very much the norm in my family. I think how you grow up and your family have a significant influence on your attitudes towards health, fitness and exercise in later life (as well as on your life in general, obviously!) and I’m lucky that mine have always been pretty positive. To be perfectly honest, I feel like my parents have got MORE active as they’ve got older – which often isn’t the case.

To that point, they chose to spend their 3 week summer holiday this year on 1) a week in the south of France where we basically went running and cycling every day 2) a week of guided MTB in Italy (and I’m not talking just pootling along trails, I’ve been on bikes with these two and it’s quite frankly terrifying) and 3) a week in Chamonix where they chose not to do the vertical kilometre (because they did it last year) and instead just did more cycling and running. They didn’t suddenly get to 50 and resign themselves to churches and historical monuments.


So what am I trying to say?

I believe age is an excuse that is far too easily dropped in when people aren’t really that old and the root of the problem is something different. Obviously “old” is subjective and I’m not expecting every 85 year old to be cycling every day, but I think far too many people are using cut offs as young as their late 20s to prevent them doing a sport or particular type of activity, where they should be trying their best to extend it as long as possible until they truly can’t do it.

Yes, there are many factors that come with ageing that may impact your ability to exercise (life changes, body changes, career changes) but for a lot of them, there are ways around them. Being “older” does not stop you being able to do whatever sport you want (unless obviously, because of underlying health issues) and it doesn’t mean you suddenly have to stop skiing, weightlifting or doing “young people stuff” – there isn’t a sudden ban on it once you hit the next birthday!

I have limited tolerance for example, for anyone who tells me they are too old for rugby. I think my main problem here is that my dad is still playing rugby and he is 57. Therefore I think saying at 29 you are too old is quite frankly, a shit excuse. Find the real source of the problem. Did anyone watch The Pacemakers on BBC? It was fantastic – a group of men well into their 90s who were still getting out, keeping their bodies and minds active and not letting their age get in the way. If I’m lucky enough to keep running into my 90s, why wouldn’t I try and become a world champion in my age group? What a great idea if you’re lucky enough to be able to do it! And have you seen some of the 5k times of the V70s in Battersea Park?!

Think you are getting the picture now. Gone are the days where the only options were “nifty fifties” and aerobics and gone are the days of growing old gracefully and confining yourself to “old-people activities” – but I think more people need to embrace it. There are sports now that our grandparents could only have dreamt of playing or participating in and the choice is huge. Hitting a milestone doesn’t mean you can’t keep doing what you were doing before.

Keeping active for as long as possible is a real treat and if you’re lucky enough to be able to (and there are so many people who unfortunately can’t) then you should, and do away with all of those who make you think you’re too old to do something. Want to get to 70 and wish you had continued on with a sport more than you did? Not me.


Maybe I’m just in my own world. Maybe it’s because I’m surrounded by parents and family members (and not just my own) who are still running, cycling, skiing, playing rugby, circuit training, tyre flipping, horse riding and doing god knows what else – although my grandma is now down to aqua aerobics rather than badminton. I’ve taken my mum to 10ks with my Chasers crew, I’ve taken her to The Foundry, I play touch with my dad on the regular. Has this distorted my view on the subject? Most probably. But it’s given me the inspiration to do the same.

At the 10k, they’re running a “Generation Game” competition – where you aim to get the lowest combined time between the two of you. So we shall see how that goes (!) but I reckon we could have a decent go at it – my mum is far far better at sticking to a training plan than I am, and to be honest, she probably does more than I do. She has been giving herself smiley faces at the end of each week and has literally done each session to the detail. I love seeing parent and child combinations – ever watched the junior runners at parkrun? Especially the ones outsprinting their parents to the finish. We are basically just a version of that + 20 years.

I however, wrote multiple plans, didn’t do multiple things and I’m just hoping to go on a wing and a prayer and try to remember not to go out hell for leather. (Because, after I had booked this into my diary, I then found out we have Southern road relays on Sunday. So this will very much be a test of me being able to stay sensible, maybe pick it up a bit but not sacrifice the big one. A big night of foam rolling ahead on Saturday! )

What do you really need from a training plan?

I’m running the Boudavida Windsor Women’s 10k on the 23rd September, along with my mum (more on that in another post!) and thought it was time we talked about training and how it should be done (in theory) Unfortunately Kate isn’t able to join, which I know she is GUTTED about as she loves running! 😏

Whether it’s your first 10k or your 40th (I’ve just realised I haven’t raced a 10k since January 2015!) or you’re doing any distance – there are some things that really should be core part of any plan. OBVIOUSLY, you don’t have to do these all in a week because I’ve tried that and it’s really hard. If you’re pretty new to running still, you might want to give yourself more time before bringing in some of the faster paced work.

Still spaces available for the run if you fancy a blast round Windsor Great Park! (Disclaimer here in that my place is a provided press place – my mum entered all of her own accord. Continue reading

Race report – Herts summer tri, Stanborough Lakes

So, time to fess up – I actually haven’t done a triathlon in nearly two years. Not since Hever Castle. I mean, I’ve done duathlons a plenty, runs a plenty, lots of open water swimming and lots of cycling. But not so much “putting them together” – so, I decided I wanted to get a couple in this season, and the first was last weekend.

The Herts triathlon is run by Active Training World (who organise a lot of races in my local area) – it’s held at Stanborough Park in Welwyn, which was a peachy 32 minute drive from home. Which is nice when you have to leave before 6am. YAWN. Did the usual night before “frantically googling triathlon packing lists to check I don’t forget anything” and set my alarm for 5.30. Obviously then spent the drive there worrying I had forgotten something vital, plagued by stories of people who forget things like cycling shoes and helmets. Continue reading

What did you just say??

So, I am finally on the bandwagon of reading Eat Sweat Play about a year later than most people, and it’s making me think all the things about everything and I could probably write a post on each chapter (!)

 

….finally on the bandwagon! 👌🏼#eatsweatplay #womeninsport

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Firstly and quickly (because this opens up an entirely new kettle of fish) something that reminded me of an earlier piece I wrote, was Tammi Grey-Thompson questioning why children are allowed to skive PE if they don’t like it, but this wouldn’t be accepted in any other subject. THIS IS SO TRUE. You have to do maths, so you do it. Why isn’t PE afforded the same level of respect?

Secondly – read the book!

However, neither of these points are the subject of this post, so here we go.

I was sitting having lunch a few weeks ago when I overheard a little girl with her grandmother – the girl was probably around 4 or 5, and she asked her “Granny, why aren’t you going to have a scone as well” – and the response was “I’m not going to have a scone because it will make me fat”

Cue smoke coming out of my ears. NO WONDER there is a continual struggle with eating, body image and this general health fad if we are hearing that kind of comment from such a young age. A throwaway sentence that can kick start a lifetime of worry. That’s now a simple link between what should be the enjoyment of something delicious and “the fat dread”.

The problem is, it’s a hard habit to break. I call your bluff if you are evangelical about this and say you have never uttered something similar. But at the age of 5, that’s a fairly strong association between food and being fat starting to be imprinted in your mind. Kids aren’t on my horizon in the super immediate future (wondering how much I can wind up my boyfriend here) but it’s really making me think about how I talk about myself, my body and my eating habits to others around me. I want to raise children who understand the difference between food you should eat a lot of vs food that should be more occasional – but not to see it all as “bad” food.

Similarly, as someone who loves to exercise for the sheer fun of it –  the buzz, the views, the mental strength, the camaraderie, the challenge, the competition, the sense of achievement…THAT’S what I want anyone growing up with me to see it as. Exercise isn’t purely a weight management tool, and if you see it that way, you’ll never appreciate all its intricacies. I was raised on cycling on holiday and horse riding and playing badminton with no net and running round the garden just because – and I never want that to change. It’s about fun, enjoyment and the trillions of other benefits, and shouldn’t feel like a constant chore just to justify what you put in your mouth.

I mean, it’s harder than you think – I’d question anyone who says they have never finished a decent ride, run or gym session thinking about pizza and how it’s now that bit more justifiable, but it’s all about balance. See the below picture for example – this was mid way between two fairly tough mountain bike loops last week, but it wasn’t just “because I have exercised I can eat this” it was more “I AM REALLY HUNGRY AND NEED SOMETHING TO KEEP ME GOING”. So I ate it and got on with it. And to be fair, even if I hadn’t been cycling, I probably would have eaten it anyway because it sounded yum. And I’m past caring about it.


So, I implore you – next time you have an inkling of the thought “I’m not going to have it because it will make me fat” – don’t verbalise it in exactly those words. Even “I’m just trying to eat a bit more healthily right now” or “because my body doesn’t do as well as it should if i eat too much cake” or simply “I just don’t fancy it”.

I don’t care if you’re saying it near a 5 year old, a 12 year old or a 59 year old – take some time to think about your words. Eating disorders in any shape or form are often below the surface and you probably have zero idea how your throwaway comment will impact anyone in the vicinity. It’s the same as commenting on what someone else is eating, or if they’ve made a request to order something slightly off menu – 99% of the time it’s really none of your business.

Yes, eating too many scones will make you fat. Eventually. But one scone won’t (and hey, there are worse ways to die than death by scones)

If you’ve got children – ever had to tackle these kinds of subjects? Am I (in my current childless state) picking out something way more easy in theory than in practice?