Enjoying The Light

After the last post, which if you haven’t read is available here, things have been taking a more positive direction.

It is true that I as entered into a race which I didn’t do as I didn’t feel comfortable racing with others, and yes even doing ParkRuns have proved tricky as I seem to have lost the confidence in racing with others, it is almost like an anxious feeling. I have done a couple of ParkRuns but haven’t fully enjoyed the experience, but I will go back when I can get out of bed on time!

The biggest pleasure recently has come form cycling, going out on the singlespeed mountain bike is such fun, it takes away all the excuses of the gears weren’t adjusted properly, my suspension is too hard/soft etc. It is just about you and the bike so you get out what you put in. Funnily enough I have set my fastest Strava times on a couple of the climbs.

Running on the other hand seems more of a struggle, for whatever reason I am off the pace. I have been feeling good on trail runs and have set a couple of fastest times on routes when I have gone out to push, but when I get back on the roads I just seem to not be able to do it.  However, I am trying not to let it get to me to try an keep the mind in clean and in the right place.

The mental side of life is something that I am now more than ever aware of and I do find myself constantly monitoring myself and trying to asses how I am feeling. There have been a few times where I find myself slipping and my thoughts heading into the negative. At these times I try and do something to cheer myself up, be it a listen to a song if I’m at work, go outside if possible or ride the motorbike, bicycle or anything else that has two wheels. I am also far more open to talking about it when I start to feel a bit down and this certainly helps, it might be a cliche and it certainly isn’t easy but it is the best thing to do.

I am now working towards the London Duathlon in September and my main aim is to enjoy it and re-find the fun in racing rather than the stress and anxiety that it currently brings.

As a postscript, after the last blog post I did receive some really kind messages and offers of help and support which were very much appreciated and above all it reminded me that people really are good and can provide the inspiration to do almost anything.

 

 

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Some Things From This Week

Slightly different post this wee, I thought I would highlight 5 things I have learnt, rediscovered or just forgotten about.

1 – Press-ups. As many people will have seen there is a 22 day challenge to do 22 press ups each day and post a video of yourself doing this to raise awareness of combat vets. There are apparently 22 vets a day committing suicide and this challenge is to raise public awareness. If I am honest I was hoping to avoid this challenge s I hate press-ups, but I got tagged and rather than ignore it, I have taken on the challenge. So far, so good I have managed 4 days and am actually enjoying it, working some muscles everyday is never a bad thing. If you are tagged, don’t ignore it, give it a go. I have 18 or so days left and that is plenty of time to tag people. so watch out!

2 – Interval training. I have said it many times that interval training is the work of the devil, however you dress it up it hurts regardless of the length of the interval. This week I have had a set on the bike of 1 minutes intervals every 4 minutes for an hour. What surprised me most was just how quickly the 1 minute intervals came round, it seemed no sooner had one finished the next was starting. I was glad when the hour was done and I could just ride home!

3 – Trail running is brilliant. There is no shock to this, I love trail running and I particularly like it in the evenings when after being in the office all day you can get out in the fresh air and the countryside. Being able to head out across fields and woodlands for a run is one of things in life that never gets boring, yes the running is harder but that really doesn’t matter as it is offset by the views and environment.

A short post but I have been not writing much lately and so need to get back on it and hopefully this will be the catalyst.

2 Wheels Are Best

I have spent the last week indulging myself by riding a variety of bikes in different locations but all with one thing in common, it was fun!

Starting last weekend I took part in the Brompton World Championship (BWC) race in London, a crit race around St Jame’s park after the Ride London Women’s pro race. The BWC has some rules, one of which id the dress code, a shirt, tie and jacket must be worn and no lycra. This makes for some wonderful sights with people really going to town to dress up.

For me, I went for a pink jacket to add some colour to the occasion.

Bwc_1

To take part in the race you don’t actually have to race, you are more than welcome to just enjoy the ride around the course. However, a race is a race and the opportunity to have a thrash around is too much to resist for me. In terms of competition there were ex-pros Dave Millar and Dr Michael Hutchinson plus various ex winners so there were some fast people. For me I covered the 17km at an average speed of over 36km/h to finish 68th overall, a result I was more than happy with.

Next up I went for a tour round the Chilterns with the aim of having a mid-ride coffee at some gardens, the route I got from a local cycling club and was around 80km in length. I found I was enjoying the ride on my road bike and so when the Garmin said to go straight across a junction I decided I would add some more distance and went left to add around another 20 odd km. The extra loop allowed me to ride through the countryside and do a couple of hills I haven’t done before. On arrival at the gardens I treated myself to a coffee and large slice of ginger cake, I know I am trying to reduce my sugar in take, but I just couldn’t resist.

cake_coffee_1

The ride home after this felt easy and I reckon I was probably grinning as I was going, even the hills to home seemed enjoyable.

Back to the Brompton of army next ride, and this was a couple of hours riding round Silverstone in an event organised by Muscle Help

I did get a few funny looks from some riders when I rolled up to the start on the Brompton, but once we were let loose on the track I think I changed their opinions mainly by riding past them or dropping them out of chain gangs! Some of the more season better riders were complimentary and seemed to enjoy watching me pass people who might have had a nice bike and good gear but no legs!  Riding round Silverstone was interesting as I had never really realised how windy sections of the track could be, and how in real life some of the run off areas are not that big and so stopping an F1 car from ploughing into a face might be tricky. No such issues on the Brompton though!

Brompton_Silverstone

After the fun of racing round a flat motor racing circuit it only seemed right to go and do some hills, so I headed down to Surrey to have a look at some of the famous climbs down there, and also it gave me a chance to recce Boxhill prior to the Ballbuster later in the year.

Now, I do not know the Surrey area at all, and this became apparent when I went came to Dorking and the Garmin seemed to be trying to send me down a way I couldn’t go and I couldn’t see how to get to the road I needed so I ended up following a sign that said Leith Hill, and this turned out to be a great decision as it took me up Coldharbour Lane which was a good climb, although the road was really greasy due to overnight rain and so if you got out of the saddle the rear wheel started to spin, or it could just be I was laying down tremendous amount of power! The countryside was great with some lovely views and I have to say drivers who all seemed happy to give me space so perhaps the stories of all drivers in Surrey hating cyclists isn’t true?

The final part of the ride was the climb back up Boxhill, having only seen this for the first time when I drove to the car park at the top in the morning I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, it didn’t look too steep but did it have some hidden traps? The early part of the climb was easy to get into a rhythm and I had the added advantage of being able to see another cyclist further up the climb who I was able to aim at. The other cyclist I thought initially was going quite quick but i soon gained and passed him leaving me on my own. The hairpins actually enable you to pick up some speed and so it wasn’t long before the climb was done. It seemed fairly easy to keep a steady easy pace and I have to admit to being a little disappointed really I was expecting something a little more, never mind though the views at the top were brilliant and well worth the trip.

Finally it was time to break out the CX bike and do a little off-road riding back in the Chilterns. I have to say I didn’t really push very hard and so the route was easy with a good mix of tarmac and dirt. Possibly the best part was riding along an ancient cart track past a model aircraft club field and seeing them flying some really big planes, impressive things. The rest of this ride was good fun enjoying some climbing and looking forward to that post ride coffee!

The other cycling aspect to the week was visiting both Look Mum No Hands and the Rapha Cafe in London on a trip there, both server excellent coffee and food and are places I will return to when the situation allows.

All in all I feel that I have had a great fun week where I was left to my own devices and so basically just played on bikes. It never ceases to amaze me just how much fun you can have on bikes, regardless of what type, model etc Any bike can go fast it all comes down to your legs, are you able to pedal it. Yes I am lucky in owning several bikes but I enjoy them all and ride them where possible

In conclusion I spent most of the week riding bikes and I loved it!

Here Comes The Summer – Part 2

After writing about the joys etc of the sun I thought I would add a short post to back up my thoughts on the impact the heat has on my performance.

In this past week, where the summer finally decided to visit the UK (there were rumours that summer had already done it’s brexit and left!) , I did a couple of runs and a couple of bike rides.

The first run on the Monday was about 10.5km along the Thames in London, from Hammersmith to Chiswick and back. I thought that by going along the river whilst it was still going to be hot there wold be a breeze. Well I was wrong. Yes it was very hot but there was no breeze, just hot hot air.

With the temperature being so high, I tried to keep a steady pace, but the pace was slow, in fact flat 6 min per km, and that was an effort. Whilst I got through the run it was not that enjoyable and I was glad when it was over. Heat 1 Me 0

Next up was an evening bike ride, again the temperature was high but this time there was wind, a surprisingly large amount of wind. The wind seemed to be a head wind for most of the ride but where as normal the would be a pain on this evening it was strangely enjoyable, not that easy but refreshing. The pace was low and steady but I did manage a couple of Strava PR’s on some hills. Heat 1 Me 1

A paced run was the next item, a session of a warm up, then 25 minutes at 5 min per km, so run 5km, then a warm down. In normal circumstances this is a hard but achievable without going into the red. However, on this occasion the temperature made this seem like a battle, yes I did complete it and hit the numbers but it felt far harder than it should have done. In terms of the running score, that session is a draw. Heat 2 Me 2

Last, and the deciding session was a run on Saturday, planned to be a pro run, but as I didn’t wake up in time it turned into a trail run round my local short circuit. It was hot again, and there are hills on the route. I set off steady, and basically got though the run but not without dripping sweat and the pace seemingly getting slower as I went. Heat 3 Me 2

Overall, then the heat beat me this week, but I still like it and would far rather have it than the winter rain and cold even if I suffer in it. Let’s hope the hot weather continues and I will find a way to cope!

Here Comes The Summer

With the sun having shown it’s face for a couple of days I was reminded of how much difference it makes to training and racing in the heat.

I know that the UK doesn’t get to the temperatures as much of the rest of Europe and certainly parts of the USA etc but, when the sun does come out it always seems to have been preceded by a cold spell making it seem hotter.

I really enjoy it when the sun comes out, it always seems easier to go out and train when the weather is good but, and there is always a but there’re down sides, some of which you can’t do much about.

Firstly, tan lines, when you are out in the sun you obviously have to wear appropriate clothing and certainly the tan left from cycling clothing is pretty easily identified. You get those white patches on the arms, legs and body that just scream cyclist! The use of sun protection cream helps to keep the skin healthy but doesn’t impact those lines!

Next is hydration, the amount of fluid you need to take on in the heat goes up, and sometimes you need to plan how much to carry before starting out or know where to replenish the supply

The biggest one for me though is the actual heat, I know that the hear slows me down and nothing I do ever seems to help. I would love to know how to change this situation, obviously I can’t train in the heat if there isn’t any and I am not going to stick extra layers on as to me that in’t replicating the situation.

So, I guess I will have to put up with a little drop in performance to enjoy the better weather, and yes I am more than happy for that to happen, give me the sunshine and a slightly slower time everyday rather than cold, wet and windy weather!

I wonder how long the sunshine will last?

A Different Kind Of Struggle

I wrote at the start of the year about issues I was having with my weight, the truth was I weighed far more than I should have, and the fact was I needed to shed some weight in order to be able to race, or for that matter train properly.

Since then my weight did come back under control to the point where whilst not as low as I would have liked it was certainly under control. This then led to another issue, those being stomach issues, properly more correctly referred to as gut health.

I have long suffered with issues in that region, the exact details I will spare you but let’s just say the song Ring of Fire was very apt!

The cause of these issues has also long been known to me, it is nothing more complicated than sugar. This ingredient is found in very many foods and is particularly prevalent in my favourite food of cake. I have a sweet tooth, I love the cake, chocolate, biscuits, a full fat coke, I think you get the idea.

Now, the simple idea is that you can just stop eating all of those foods and all will be well, but it is not as simple as that. I am sure I am not alone in that feeling of craving something sweet to eat particularly when you want a quick snack, yes I know there are other options but are they as satisfying? Ask yourself.

So cutting these foods out wasn’t that straight forward, but I knew action had to be taken as the issues with my gut were causing problems when racing and just in general life.

I can be quite driven when I want to be, it isn’t a natural state for me, but I can do it and so I decided the only option was to cut out the puddings, cake etc I didn’t believe I could do it gradually I just needed to do it all or nothing.

The first week I did this it was so hard, I often found myself getting the biscuit tin opening it and just staring at the contents, I felt like an addict I was scared one biscuit would lead to another, another and so on. I got to the end of the first week and felt ok. The second week went ok, a little less hard but still not easy, and at the end of that week I had a small pudding, I didn’t suddenly want another or anything after it but never felt like I had cracked it.

Another week went by, and no sweet stuff or desert, then another week, this time I had another small desert. The count of deserts was still less than the number of weeks I was trying this.

My gut health improved a lot and I was feeling better generally.

However, an second issue raised it’s head, the number of calories in all the sweet stuff is quite high and I found I was now struggling to eat the required number in a day as salad, fruit etc are much lower. This has now led me to keeping track of my calorie in take so I can ensure I eat the right amount, and now having an extra meal in the evening is quite common or even just a bowl of chips (I know but you can’t cut out all treats!)

Overall, I am now feeling much better, my weight has come down again I am eating a better diet and generally feel I have taken a good step forward. I haven’t really got rid of the feeling of being a sugar addict and only have the occasional ice cream, but I think I will eventually be able to have a dessert or something sweet more regularly without impact, but until I feel I have reached that point I will carry on my sweet way (pun intended!)

I know that there has been a lot of press around sugar and how much you should have etc and I am certainly not going to preach to someone how you should eat, but for me this is working and if it stops working I will only have one person to blame, myself.

 

 

DNF

The three dreaded letters, DNF, did not finish, something that you go out of your way to avoid and something you never wish on anybody.

Well for me yesterday it finally happened and I got my first DNF. There were however, some positives to take from this, firstly it happened during a Park Run, so it was a free race  and secondly it meant I finally listened to my body after a few weeks of ignoring it.

I have had a problem for a few weeks, and this happened at the same time as I switched running shoe brands and models, I went back to a newer version of shoes I had used in the past. The problem I have is that I have done something to my a nerve or tendon that goes down from my lower back to my foot. The issue manifests itself firstly as back pain, then once I am moving it goes to my hip and then works its way down to stiffen up my calf and finally to tighten the achilles. These don’t all occur at once but one after the other!

Over the last couple of weeks, the pain when running has never really got beyond pain in the hip but yesterday it went straight from the hip  to tightening the achilles to the point I wasn’t sure if I carried I might snap it. I know that is an unlikely outcome but the stiffness was painful and a Park Run is not the place to risk it.

I have now found some exercises that seem to be making some difference and loosening things up, I am hopeful that this is not something serious and it is just something caught up or tweaked, I know I will be taking it a bit easy for a few days until I feel good again, and I have also ordered a pair of the shoes I have used recently to go back to the trusted ones incase the shoes did contribute.

Simply Fun

What is better on a sunny Sunday morning than a bike ride, possibly nothing.

This Sunday morning was sunny and offered the perfect excuse to head on the cross bike and ride through the Chilterns using the Ridgeway as the central point.

Now I have to admit I haven’t ridden a huge amount of the Ridgeway I don’t know why, in fact I have probably run more of it than I have ridden, so today was the perfect excuse to use a portion of it.

The Ridgeway is an ancient track that has a variety of different surfaces, gravel, grass, chalk and a bit of mud, all of which make for good fun on a cross bike.

So today I headed along the ridgeway, it has some short sharp climbs, and headed off towards Aston Hill. This route was great, and on reaching the hill I headed up the rode to the top as I knew there was another bridleway at the top. Going up the road I passed one guy, but equally was passed by a pair although they didn’t really distance me!

The bridleway at the top turned out to be steep and stony steep downhills on a cross bike are a little tricky, particularly when the route is very rutted and has a good covering of slimy slippery mud. No need to say I went down it like Bambi on ice, I could have gone faster but I wasn’t feeling brave or stupid!

Once down it was out onto a wide track which I flew along, and headed back in the general direction home. However, I had one more section of Ridgeway to do, and actually dropped of it early to take in an extra road hill to keep stretching the legs!

After the “joy” of a steep climb back towards home it was a case of crossing a field, which I mashed, and back home for a coffee.

Cycling in the sun is a simple pleasure, and I enjoy it even more when I only have a general idea of my route, like today, the idea of a bit of exploring is great.

There you have it a simple pleasure, the weather is improving so go out and ride bikes, and do some running as well for variety!

Just Let Me Quit!

Yesterday was a race day and a day when I probably learnt a few things that I didn’t already know.

The duathlon at Dorney Lake was my 4th visit this year and came only 3 weeks after my last race. Training for this one had not been going brilliantly, see my last post, and so I went to this race thinking I would enjoy it and see what happened.

At this point I should admit that, the idea of turning up at a race and just seeing what happens and me are not good bed fellows, as when the gun goes the race mentality takes over and it is go as hard as possible. But, I did try an did myself that I would see what happened.

The weather was brilliant, it was actually hot and there wasn’t a massive head wind, perfect conditions for a pb but I was in realistic mood I was tired and speed probably wasn’t going to be there.

The gun went and off we went, and as usual I try and run the first km in a relaxed manner and then see what the pace is after that first one. At the 1km marker the pace wasn’t too bad but my legs didn’t feel great, no worry I thought I will keep this pace and see what happens. Next km the pace dropped a bit and the same the for the 3rd one, it did pick up a bit towards the end but I was not feeling too sharp.

At this point, I thought right, take it easy through the transition area and then cruise the first lap on the bike and see if the legs come back. Good plan that!

I strolled through T1, in no hurry went onto he bike course and realised there wasn’t the usual power in my bike legs, I carried on and after about half way picked up a bit. At the end of the first lap I decided to give it one more lap and then if nothing felt better to quit as I wasn’t doing myself justice. The second lap I passed a few more people but was not comfortable in my aero position, felt like I was constantly shifting in the saddle, and kept thinking I will stop in a minute, just get to the end of the lap and quit. End of the 2nd lap I thought I may as well do another one, got about half way round the lap thinking why didn’t I stop? I was going to quit. 3 laps became 4 and then the bike leg was nearly over, still wanted to stop!

Coming into T2 I wasn’t concentrating and went to dismount the bike at speed and hadn’t taken my feet out of my cycling shoes so I dismounted and landed on the cleats, skidded forward and nearly crashed into the barriers, what an idiot. Good lesson to remember there, if you don’t take your feet out of your shoes slow right down before getting off!

Into T2 and back on with the running shoes, after about 50m I realised my legs were not moving well, I thought give it the first lap then stop, it doesn’t matter. At the end of the first run lap I took a drink and thought might as well carry on for a bit as you could stop easily on the run loop. Got halfway through the run loop and thought, right stop now, but I didn’t, I carried on. I knew I was getting slower and slower, I didn’t walk but might as well had done, and finally finished the run, it took 28 minutes to run 5km, my worst ever 5km time in a race.

The question I am left with, is why didn’t I stop, I felt rubbish, didn’t look ever like doing a decent time (it was my 2nd slowest of the year) there was no reason not to stop. In my head I had the conversation constantly, the voice saying just stop it doesn’t matter.

I didn’t stop, I am glad in some ways I didn’t as having a bad race is probably good for me as I think recently I have started to think I am a bit better at racing than I probably am and so a bit of humbling is good and a reminder not to take things for granted.

I will now take a bit of a rest from racing and decide what to build for next.

As they say, pain is temporary, quitting lasts for ever!

Shrug, smile sweetly and move on

I wonder if I have upset the sporting gods this week, it seems I was allowed one good session and3 not so good ones.

It started on Monday evening, a run session that was planned to be hard but not impossible, the weather was cold and I even remember to put a waterproof jacket on (more on this later). I headed out along a flat disused railway line which has been converted to a trail and for the first 5 minutes all was well, and then changed.

I felt a spot of rain, and thought well at least I have a waterproof on, and then as if someone turned a tap on, the drop become a deluge of freezing cold rain. In about 5 minutes I was soaked and cold, very cold. I tried to carry on and tough it out, but my leg muscles were so cold I gave in, and let the pace drop down to where I just jogged it in, yes I did the time but no where near the pace.

As for the waterproof jacket, well I have known for some time that it wasn’t really that waterproof but it used to keep a fair amount of the rain out but now it was basically useless, probably down to its age rather than anything else so time to research and buy a new one.

The next session that wasn’t perhaps as planned was the turbo session, this was an interval based assault really. In each interval for about the first of the three minutes I could hold the power and then it was a case of just holding on. It hurt and isn’t one I would be keen to repeat. Whilst I got through this, again the time was right but I never held the average power targets.

The next run I did however, was great, an evening trail run just pushing along not flat out. The sun was out the trails were drying out and it was a pleasure to be running across fields and through the woods. I even enjoyed the hills at the end!

Finally we come to todays bike ride, as my road bike is currently in bits awaiting some replacement parts I decided to head out on the cross bike and ride off road. It started off ok, came to the first interval and the legs went, “you must be joking” there didn’t seem to be much there. I plodded on up the hill and hoped they might return. After the next muddy section, I noticed the rear tyre was flat, not a major disaster, just pop in a new tube and away we go. Out came the rear wheel I put my hand in my bag and no tubes, what a plank I had forgotten to pack them. I never go out without spare tubes, well apparently I do now. Plan B, I had some patches, found the big thorn in the tyre, removed it, patched the tube and pumped it up. I could hear air escaping, found the second hole, patched that, pumped it up and all seemed well. Put the tyre back on and pumped it up again. Once more I could hear air escaping, tyre off again, found the third hole, patched it, tyre back on pumped it up and this time all was ok. However, I now had used all my patched, had no spare tubes and had really lost the enthusiasm so rode home.

I know that in context these are not the tales of real life disasters and there is plenty in the world which is worse, and I accept that but, these types of weeks make me wonder sometimes why I bother.

Next weekend is another race weekend, another duathlon and a chance to have some fun, race hard and remember that I do this for fun and that training weeks that don’t go so well really don’t matter!