Velodrome Fun

I’ve been on a mission to do and try new things and so when the Velodrome at The National Cycling Centre was mentioned – there was no chance I was going to miss that!

I had debated staying in Manchester last night and having a mooch around but decided a 6am alarm and picking up friends for a road trip was a better idea. The car was backed – cycling kit, helmet, bottle of water, baking (obviously!) and said friends picked up – the velodrome awaited.

It was eerily quiet there actually. We were early but not quite the first there – hiring shoes and waiting for everyone to turn up, chat turned to nerves. We got changed and headed to get our bikes and as we walked up in to the middle of the velodrome nerves really hit as I saw how steep the banking was. The same nerves as I get before a race. We all got track bikes, put our shoes on and headed up on the the side of the track, lined up along the grab rail and were given an introduction to track cycling.

I was starting to wonder if I would remember everything. We set off, one by one. Pushing ourselves off with our left hand and turning the pedals. Its the first time I’ve been on a track bike but also the first time on a single, fixed speed bike with no brakes. Bit of a shock to the system. Two laps on the concrete later and we stopped again – next bit of knowledge before being allowed on to the boards.

I did a couple of laps on the light blue boards at the bottom and slowly ventured up, moving up on the straights. Oh my! You are convinced when you look at the banking that you will never be able to get round or that you’ll have enough grip, but the more you go round, the braver you get. It actually didn’t take long for me to start sneaking up the banking – I even made it to the top – it was so much fun. Hard work but fun.

The nerves went and I spent the whole session wishing I was as fit as I was at the end of TT season. Flying round the track knowing I was no where near as fast as the pros has given me a new found respect for the professional track cyclists. The space of the velodrome and what we were doing just seemed so special – especially when doing it with a bunch of mates. One friend, who was so nervous, spent quite a lot of time on the light blue boards at the bottom but eventually braved moving above the black line and towards the red and blue – I was so proud!

‘I’m off to the gym’

‘I’m off to the gym’ are words, that once upon a time, I’d never dreamt of saying. Even when I first started running/swimming/cycling regularly. I didn’t see the point. I could cycle at home or outside for free, and run outside for free. I caved eventually and tried out one of the local small gym’s on a three month membership, and in all honesty, started off fairly consistently but then I came down with cold/ongoing illness that I couldn’t shift and didn’t go enough to warrant it so never renewed it. It also lacked a pool. Lesson learnt.

After this I was still a bit reluctant and put it off again for a bit. Until summer, when I started to debate that actually, it might be wise to join. I was spending £50 a month give or take just to swim – that’s a gym membership without the benefits of classes! Still I put it off, remembering my last experience but knowing full well I would need a gym with a pool if I did go back.

Then he left me.

I didn’t want to risk bumping into him while I was swimming (even though I knew he’d likely swim at the same pool as his new girlfriend) and I debated long and hard about what I wanted to do for me. There were three realistic options for me:

  • Local county leisure centre – some advantages and very reasonable price, but wrong direction and too many public/open sessions in the pool.  (£30ish/month)
  • The local university sports village – again, reasonable price, especially with corperate membership through the club, but too much public sessions in pool – which is often closed as well. And equally, too many students. It’s also the closest to home and work but wasn’t really a place I wanted to spend time. Too clinical. (£42/month)
  • The most expensive option – the private club/gym, further up the road. Dearest by far (£77/month!). I had more close friends here, it’s got two pools, including an outside pool – no issues with it being closed for gala’s or any club sessions. A lot of choice in terms of classes, a good cafe/restaurant and places to work if I’ve time to kill and work to do. And a place I actually want to be.

I chose the most expensive option. Naturally. Initially I signed up for the three month trial which was more expensive but meant I could drop out without being tied into a 12 month contract. I wasn’t sure how consistent I would be in going and how well it would work with work and like but I’ve been so much better at going and making the most of the stretch classes (See my post on swimming for why!)

When I joined, I will be honest and say I wasn’t sure how it was going to go but it’s gone so much better that I thought it would that I’ve signed a 12 month contract. Why? There are various reasons I think why joining the gym now, and this particular gym have worked for me now.

  • I’ve mates that are members – so often we go together, especially as we are both entered for the same races next year!
  • There are some really good classes! At times that fit in with work/life.
  • Its a place I actually like to be, from the lounge and business hub – which I have used several times, to the restaurant/ lounge area.
  • The staff are good – welcoming and friendly.
  • It’s clean and rarely so busy that you can’t get in/feel packed in.
  • It’s still close to work and has decent opening times. #6amclub anyone?

So yes I forked out, yes I do generally feel I get my money’s worth out of it, and yes I did it for me and love it!

Next season I shall be coming back to racing stronger, fitter and a lot happier.

 

Ultra inspiring!

If you haven’t heard of Nicky Spinks – go look her up. She is amazing and inspiring and ever so modest about her achievements.

I recently went to see a talk given by her at a local running club event. This is the second time I’ve seen her, and I had an idea of what to expect. There was the usual background story of her childhood and how she ended up running, as well as more recent stories relating to her more recent triumphs such as the Double Bob Graham in 2016. She also won The Ultra Tour Month Rosa this year.

I’ll admit I would rather do an ultra than a marathon (I think it’s a mindset thing) but I’m not sure I could go this far – I love swimming so much more, but when looking for inspiration, I don’t think that matters – it really is all about mindset, perseverance and everything that goes with it, regardless of the sport. Inspiration can come from anywhere so…..

If you need inspiration – she’s a definite candidate for fulfilling that role. Far be it from me to tell you all about her exploits and amazing achievements – go and look at her website here.

Triathlon X Half Relay Antics

‘Empathy is about finding echos of another person in yourself’ Mohsin Hamid

I’ve rewritten this post more times than I care to remember before publishing. For various reasons – including being too wordy! September was a very busy month – three out of five weekends saw me travelling to the Lake District, all because of some link to the Tri Club, so not all bad.

So, why was I back in the Lakes?

The last Bank Holiday in August, a group of us went open water swimming. Not an usual event considering we’re triathletes, but this time, one of my friends – who doesn’t like swimming at the best of times, had a mini panic attack in the water. This led to a conversation about the fact that she had signed up to Triathlon X half and how she felt she couldn’t do it anymore. Two of us offered to do it for her if she could do it in relay. That turned out to be me. I had planned to come up anyway to cheer her on as I had nothing else on. So a couple of emails back and forth later and I was entered into Triathlon X half to do the swim! Now, TriX has a reputation. It is possibly the hardest triathlon (half and full) in the world. I definitely had the easy part. To put it in perspective, I was done with the swim by 8.44 – she was only finishing at 5pm – and she is an Age-group standard athlete for duathlon. If you want to see the elevation involved, I would just go search it if I were you.

Back to the race planning  – after a few conversations back and forth, I booked my own accommodation. It’s the first time I’ve stayed in a YHA on my own in a dorm room. I wasn’t sure what to expect but it was actually ok. It is nicer having your own room but for £27 and to be located right next to the start line, I wasn’t going to complain. I hadn’t booked breakfast knowing that I would be swimming and up early (6am to be precise). I also didn’t check out when I left for the swim. Knowing I’d be finished before 9am, I decided to wait so after swimming I could go get a shower. This turned out to be the best plan ever – who doesn’t want a warm shower after swimming in a cold lake?!

Drinking coffee and eating some oaty breakfast bar I heading over to transition and met my friends. Dressing in neoprene – literally head to toe – hat, gloves, booties as well as wetsuit was more than novel compared to normal. I had been feeling ok about the swim until the night before. Then nerves started to kick in. Although I’ve been swimming again more regularly, this was going to be my longest continuous swim since Leeds Tri in June (1500m) and the water was a lot colder than I normally like to swim in.

The actual Swim 

I can now say I have a far better understanding of what my mate feels about OW swimming.

Not that I am not empathetic – just that I have a better understanding and wish there was more I could do to help her.

Water temperature was 13.3 degrees. Coldest I’ve been swimming in for a long time, especially any distance! It was definitely warmer than it was in April though. It was a deep water start and there was about 135 of us but there wasn’t too much of a washing machine effect as normal – although I started near the back. I spent the first 3/400m wondering what on earth I was doing? Debated getting out, decided I hated OW swimming, wondered how I was going to make it all the way round etc etc. It was awful. I’m not usually negative when I’m swimming but the first part was just awful. If this is even a fraction of how those who dislike/hate swimming feel – wow. This was bad enough and I am a fairly confident swimmer and love being in the water normally.

I finally found some sort of rhythm after I got past the first triangular buoy at about 800m and started to enjoy it. I was surprisingly warm (thank you neoprene!) and took it steady – to try and save my shoulder. The last 200m were cold and long but I was apparently smiling when I got out. Was a bit annoyed with myself as my time was 44.17 and I know full well I could have done a sub 40. My mini stress at the beginning and have to physically stop a couple of times to sight properly and get my bearings definitely didn’t help. My shoulder still isn’t perfect either but it’s only twinging a bit at the moment. I really need to rest it up I think and make sure I keep stretching it out.

I will point out though, that I was smiling when I got out – and dare I say it, I finally managed to enjoy it!

Racing in relay

Racing in relay was new, but the nature of the race (see comments about about elevation), meant I was actually quite glad I’d finished. I definitely feel I had the easiest part of the race. There was a picture of my friends stood watching the swim looking so worried. It turns out they actually were. A few got out during the swim and DNF’d – that worried them. The temperature worried them. My mates nerves got to her. The picture in question is worthy of a caption competition to be fair!

I got out of the water and hung around long enough to see my friend disappear up the road on her bike and I went and got a shower and changed. It was going to be quite a long day. I wasn’t completely on my own though. My day consisted of eating and drinking and generally wandering about until about 5pm when my friend finished. I do not know how she did it, and I am in genuine awe of her achievements. She is so unassuming, quiet and quite shy – I don’t think she realises her own strength, stubbornness and determination. I suppose that’s why I love her, and was more than happy to jump in a cold lake for her. I’d do it again too!

Broken by Bouldering

‘Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.’ Neale Donald Walsch

I was asked, last week, if I fancied going bouldering.

‘Why not?’

So last night I found myself at Hull’s Rock City, with good company and no clue what I was letting myself in for. I already knew my upper body strength was dire and I knew I would probably end up hurting but I’m usually game for trying something new, and after going and playing at Pines last week, I was even more game.

I turned up, only to be told I looked nervous. Well to be fair, I was probably did look more nervous than I actually felt but either way. In we went, I signed my life away on Bouldering membership, paid up, got my climbing shoes and was lead into the deep beyond of Rock City’s front counter.

Shoes on, chalked hand and glasses off.

Well what can I say? Tried some of the level 2s, they were ok, then I started to realise just how poor my shoulder/arm muscles are. Moved on to some of the level 3s and started to see why it was actually pretty good fun! Don’t get me wrong, my toes and my fingers started to hurt, and even my arms and shoulders by the end, but figuring out routes and actually climbing them – I really can see the attraction of it!

I was definitely feeling out of my comfort zone! Although once I realised that actually I could do some of these climbs and the main issue was my strength (this wasn’t that much of a revelation to be honest), I actually started really enjoying it. After an hour though I really was starting to feel it – I can see some long term advantages of climbing though. My swimming will definitely improve with climbing, and I very much suspect my cycling will benefit too. Definitely want to go back! I very much think that I will end up back there sooner than I think I will – same with Pines too. I do ache this morning though. Worth it though.

This winter will be cross training at it’s best I think…..

I just need to actually go do some running now (so I’m off out on the bike instead!)

 

Oh, and respond to the email/sign up for Holkham Half Triathlon…..

Playing at Pines

‘And at the end of the day, your feet should be dirty, your hair messy and your eyes sparkling.’ Shanti

After waiting a week to have a proper play on the new cyclocross bike (now known as the Ridders), the mudguards came off, the chain was given a quick clean and the brakes given a bit of adjustment – the time had come to actually go and play. The bikes were bundled into the back of the car and the mini road trip to Sherwood Pines was done.

I had been looking forward to this all week. I am not a fan of mountain bikes really, coming from a roadie background, I don’t think this is that surprising. So the cross bike was really a more natural choice. I initially felt a bit out of place – ours were the only CX bikes there and I’ve never ridden in SPD Mountain bike cleats but that passed. Quick. Initial start wasn’t good – one cleat on upside down had resulted in frustration in not being able to clip in, but once rectified, it was time to go and play.

Heading to Sherwood Pines has been on my To Do list for quite a while – but with it being down in Nottinghamshire, I never really got chance to go. Sherwood Pines is a lot flatter than Dalby Forest, and we initially started out on the Blue route – well, my bike handling skills need some work but on the most part – it was so much fun! In my head, it was the cycling equivalent of trail/XC running. I was not really far off. Absolutely loved bombing around the course and not really worrying about speed – so much so I was wishing we’d done two (next time). Even had a bit of a cheeky play on some of the red route sections.

I love my roadies – don’t get me wrong, but this was just so much fun! I’ve got to do some serious practise but for a first attempt, it wasn’t bad! Itchy feet to be back must be a good sign right?

As for having a go at racing – I think it is definitely on the cards – especially after talking to one of the club members this afternoon. I feel this can only be a good thing for my road cycling. I am, however, glad that it hadn’t been awful weather before hand!

Lured to the dark side of cycling

‘You can’t buy happiness but you can buy a bike and that’s pretty close.’ Anonymous

Yesterday was indeed a day of great happiness. For various reasons.

It started with a decent swim (all the best days usually involve swimming) at the gym, and was followed by a very long solo road trip. I say very long, it wasn’t too bad to be honest but the traffic was a bit rubbish. The swim and solo road trip weren’t the cause of the great happiness that washed over me.

It all started over a week ago – a message from a friend regarding a CX bike he’d seen on Facebook and a frantic text to me to tell me about it and persuade me to call about it. I did, and in doing so, I ended up travelling up to Newcastle to go look at a second hand, extra small, Ridley XBow (being a short female, second hand bikes that fit are quite rare!).

I had been debating cyclocross for cross training but it would appear I have been lured to the dark side of cycling after all it would seem as I came home with said bike. I came home poorer but also richer – nothing quite beats N+1 in all honesty. I was grinning from ear to ear all the way home! It helps that I like the paint job on it better than more recent models.

The problem is now, I need to sort out the mudguards – bike hasn’t been raced and used more as a winter hack/commuter and I think I need to tweak a bit with the saddle height. Saying that though, the lady I bought the bike off had a shorted stem put on it – which is what I had to do to my Ridley Liz. I also need to sort out the cleats for the shoes as I’m used to SPD-SL and these aren’t! Regardless….

Seriously excited.

Seriously gutted I won’t get a chance to play until the end of the week!

 

Best get a move on and up my bike handling skills!

 

What have I let myself in for?! (No one mention MTB – I fear the worse!)