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!)

Rumblings and Grumblings!

“Cycling isn’t a game, it’s a sport. Tough, hard and unpitying, and it requires great sacrifices. One plays football, or tennis, or hockey. One doesn’t play at cycling” – Jean de Gribaldy

I often let myself get talked into some daft ideas. Last weekend was no exception.

Last Friday I got talked into cycling the Ryedale Rumble two days following. One of the lads who comes in to work had been roped in via work and was not happy about it and in all honesty, I was a bit worried about him doing it. He was supposed to be doing the 100 miler but had decided he was doing the shorter 50 miler. Wise choice I thought, but in it being a wiser choice, I was still a bit nervous about him doing it, and after a brief conversation and failure on my part to look at the weather forecast, I agreed to go do it with him.

That’s the reason I ended up, on a very wet and windy morning at Ryedale School.

I spend all of Saturday grumbling to anyone and everyone about how horrific this ride was going to be and how if I didn’t turn up to work on Monday we would all know why. Turns out the weather was as rubbish as expected and that Boltby Bank really is that step. I was warm enough but even my waterproofs didn’t last the long haul. I should have been miserable.

It’s turned out to be one of the best rides ever – yes it was slow, yes it was wet, yes the wind was howling (literally getting blown sideways), but some how, I spend most of the ride grinning. How much of that had to do with knowing that I had put some miles in my legs, as well as just accepting I was going to be wet, I don’t know. Part of my does know, however, that I actually proved to myself that I can ride in pretty awful conditions and survive! Think it has definitely done my mental strength some good!

Actually beginning to feel rather excited about next year’s racing and what I might actually be able to achieve – coupled with this year’s TTs and the temptation to go play at cyclocross……

Getting things off my chest and moving forward.

“One day they’ll realize they lost a diamond while playing with worthless stones.” – Turcois Ominek

Today has felt a bit like a turning point in some respects. I emailed him about sorting out holiday (again) and got a reply saying he was going to sort it this week. Hopefully I won’t have to chase it. I also made a point of telling him a few of the club things that I will and won’t be doing – and in my final reply to his email, I got off my chest a few feelings and observation. It took me a while to write the said email. It had to be right, and I felt that it was probably best to do that then for it all to come out in some spiteful way in public and not get across what I was trying to say.

I found the quote above the other day, I don’t think he will ever come back and admit he screwed up in any way. I think his pride will get in the way, or maybe this other woman is better than me, but if he isn’t worthy of me, is he worthy of any female? I used to think she was a good sort – think events have screwed that perception a little and I am at the point where I  do hope it all blows up in their faces.

I’d love to say I’ve stopped caring but this would be a lie. I also know that I will have some more bad days before I’m over it. There maybe a few more blog posts along those lines but…. I am, however, making future plans. I have spoken to my friends about it, given things quite a lot of thought and started trying to work out how I can make all these things a reality. If it comes off, there will be little time for a bloke, but plenty of time to do some pretty awesome things and quite honestly, I am starting to feel quite excited. I am in a great position to actually take some risks and look forward.

How many people can say that?