#RaphaFestive500

In the run up to Christmas, news and updates about this year’s Rapha Festive 500 started to appear, with the change that this year, virtual miles would be included. My ears pricked up and a thought started to go in my head. I’d pondered it in previous years but actually getting the distance in on the road just seemed unlikely – weather, riding solo, the absolute FAFF that comes with riding outside in winter etc. The inclusion, this year, of virtual miles though, made me wonder if I could actually give it a go.

Que several discussions with friends as I toyed with the idea.

I was working Christmas Eve, but despite early start and a busy morning, somehow managed to get on the turbo and get some miles in. Christmas Day came round and had some time, thought ‘sod it’ – did some more miles. Same thing Boxing Day… well, no I did two turbo sessions – by this time mates had joined in so there were a couple of us putting in some turbo mileage. Next day, I actually went outside on the bike, as well as doing some turbo mileage. Shock to the system to an extent and the company bailed on me. The rest of the week turned into a blur of long turbo sessions, with a bit of swimming and yoga thrown in for good measure but as of this morning, 500km ticked off!

What have I learnt though? Time to be reflective….

  • Group Zwfit rides, with Discord chat app running makes a huge difference to motivation and passing the time. Huge kudos to mates there for that. The ‘bunge’ also helped.
  • Zwift, my online platform of choice for this mission, is just plain strange – how the hell I was managing 45kph on 1.4w/kg is beyond me.
  • Sweat central – not unusual but still – had to make sure I replaced them.
  • Hydration/fluids/fuel – not to be underestimated.
  • 500km of riding in 8 days = increased quad definition – I have some definition that has been missing for the last 18 months.
  • The tiredness is real – but it would have been harder out on the road.
  • With little else to really do (I have made myself chill this week), I have lived the life of a pro – why stand when you can sit? Why sit when you can lie down? I have done some reading this week too.
  • Multiple pairs of bib shorts are incredibly useful – in general anyway – but I have found out quickly, which pairs are the best. Altura – is ain’t yours!
  • Two hour turbo sessions hurt your undercarriage MORE than two hours on the road – less changing of position isnt great.
  • My core strength must be good at the moment – I’ve a mirror positioned in such a way I can see my position – back and hips didn’t rock or move – no so sore shoulders either.
  • Low power/pace on the pedals kept me going without hurting myself.
  • I’ve managed not to over eat as a result….
  • I unlocked a few Zwift badges – always nice.
  • Turbo miles are dull.
  • The Mandalorian on Disney+ is awesome.
  • Decent headphones are worth the money.
  • Women are MORE SUPPORTIVE ON SOCIAL MEDIA GROUPS THAN men*

*I’m on several cycling Facebook pages – all the female only ones – everyone has been so supportive of each others achievements and there has been no judging on virtual/in real life achievements. LOTS of positivity. On the mixed sex groups – a bloke made the mistake of saying it was no longer a proper challenge now it included virtual miles. He has been very quickly called out on this by a lot of people. I’ve seen other scathing comments in the past on the mixed sex pages but do have to say – there are a lot of supportive blokes on those pages – but there is a distinctively different feel about them.

It has been an interesting challenge in that it has given me something to focus on and I’m glad I’ve finally done it but it pales into insignificance when one of my best friends Everested, on foot, for charity. Now that is a challenge and a half! After the crappy year events wise that has been 2020, it has been a nice way to finish of the year, and something I just did on a bit of a whim. Just need to aim to get out more next year!

Decision Made

Long time coming as I’ve been debating it for a while but when you realised you’ve screwed up, you know it’s time you did something about it so tonight I’ve emailed a local counsellor and going to actually seek some help.

I can’t carry on being a grumpy bitter cow bag. It’s not fair on anyone and the amount of time that’s gone by – I really should be in a better place. Covid certainly hasn’t helped. Normally my year would have been filled with mini adventures – I’d be out doing stuff and planning future mini adventures. Distractions perhaps but equally things that contributed to my happiness and well being. Working daft hours but then having more time at home to dwell on stuff too hasn’t helped and things have come to a head so seek help I must.

We were sat having tea the other night and I said that by looks of things, I was probably going to end up forever single – not unlikely to be honest. And probably childless too. The body clock will run out and even though I’m sat on the fence about having children – my fear is that I will decide one day that that’s what I really want.

The 18 year old me thought that by time she was my age, I’d have settled down, got married, had children – career etc etc. None of which has happened. To be honest – it’s probably not that uncommon that plans/thoughts at 18 don’t happen but still. There’s still a part of me that just wants to settle down and have babies but I don’t know if that in itself is actually what I want.

I do know though that I would like to stop feeling angry and pissed off. I’d also like to lose the fear of being hurt again. Hopefully – just hopefully – counselling/therapy might help. We shall see.

Feeling fitter

I am actually starting to feel genuinely fitter and less bloated than I have done for a while. I am not complaining but I think it’s worth considering why and how I am feeling fitter so that when I am feeling unfit I can go back and check!

My last post, I outlined some of the things I was planning on doing – and they appear to be helping/working.

Planning out my week ahead on a Sunday is helping – using Training Peaks alongside my diary. My focus at the moment is getting my run fitness back and developing my strength. So far so good. I am also trying to maintain my cycling fitness (though my endurance is probably a bit shot at the moment) and in terms of swim – I’m fairly happy with that as I am training with my friend and he’s training for an Ironman, he has also changed coach which has mixed things up so it’s all good.

Not putting the pressure on to do longer sessions but keeping things short and sweet as well as feeling the gains, has helped my feel fitter – and that in turn is motivation for keeping going on. I’m probably thinking more about my run sessions in particular and following a plan to an extent too.

I am also trying to cut down on sugar in my tea – I’m trying not eat two hours before bed and I am attempting to eat more ‘whole’ food/less processed food. Trying to eat better is helping, along with keeping well hydrated and trying to develop better sleep habits. Hopefully a combination of these will become more habit.

All the little things are helping I think – although might not be losing weight as such, I am definitely getting fitter! Even TP says so….

Retiring From OW Swimming*

*but not yet. Well, for the next six or seven months…

Swim, Sleep, Eat, Repeat.

The actual mantra from this time last weekend. All my own doing of course, and all my fault that I dragged some of my favourite people along for the ride too!

It was a weekend that was put simply. We were supposed to be swimming the End to End at Ullswater – then, due to COVID-19, we all changed to the 3-mile event, to be held on the same day and essentially following the same course but starting half way up. Then I discovered that there was the Ullswater Epic Swim the day after…. So the plan was – Camp, swim, eat, sleep, swim, eat, home.

HA!

Yeah that didn’t quite go to plan. Obviously being the back end of summer/start of autumn, the Lakes wasn’t going to be kind. A very windy forecast resulted in the Chillswim (End to End/3 Mile event) was essentially cancelled and changed to a 1-mile lap at the Pooley Bridge end – of which we could do as many as we liked.

One mate managed three laps. My other mate and myself managed one and then called it quits. Honestly the choppiest water I have ever swam in – and almost enough to have me permanently hanging up my wetsuit. Slow being an understatement – my usual mile swim time in OW is about 36 minutes – 1900m and 59 minutes later…. Sighting just didn’t exist – my starva file for the swim is hilariously wiggly!

Roll on Sunday and the illusion of flatter water – the first 300m were fairly calm – we were at Glenridding end of the lake this time – and slightly more sheltered. Further out into the lake it got a bit choppier but not a patch on Saturday. 1600m in a slightly more respectable 40min.

To be fair – the weekend overall was pretty awesome – I’ve just about recovered enough to have blocked out JUST how grumpy I was about the swim to decide NOT to give up open water swimming but I can happily say, without guilt that’s me done for the year. All pool based from now until probably May!

Depending on COVID of course.

Only issue now is – with no events to focus on – and general lethargy – I have no motivation to train…. if anyone wants to send some my way, please feel free!

Swim Love and Soul Food

It’s no secret that my biggest sporting love is swimming. It’s something I’m reasonably good at and have no qualms about going training – in fact, its one of the few things that can get me out of bed at 5.30 to go train. Lockdown was a bit rubbish in terms of 3 months of no swimming and what with swim events pencilled in, I was like a child at Christmas when I got back in a pool – despite OW swimming for several weeks in the run up to it!

Anyway, last few weeks I’ve been a bit, well, not so much in love with swim as normal. Don’t get me wrong, I have been loving training and being back but there has been a sense of something not being quite there – missing the challenge/goal – not sure, but that changed this morning.

Background first though because it has been an epic weekend overall… Three or four weeks ago, one of my also-keen-swimmer/triathlete mates asked if I was doing Coniston Epic Swim again. Five minutes later, ‘Yes!’. This then resulted in me texting another mate to see if he was in too. ‘Yep, count me in!’. This is what happens. Like a snowball. Accommodation was sorted. Work was sorted. All systems go.

Arrived in the Lakes, in Coniston to be precise, sometimes on Friday evening. Alcoholic beverages were consumed (much to my mates amusement and my lack of a proper tea….), cake was eaten and many laughs were had. Saturday arrived and with it the most glorious, sunny, hot day. I sat nursing a hangover while the others planned. Which then resulted in a walk up a very large hill in the sweltering heat but equalling in some good quality soul food and some stunning views!  ‘Pasta party’ tea and a wander down to the lakeside to check just how still the water water and how warm before nightcaps and finally bed – for which I was more than ready! Shattered but happy!

I slept right through to my alarm after yesterday’s efforts, not waking at 5 as per usual. Snooze. Reset alarm. Made myself get up and eat. I am not really a fan of porridge but it was quick and easy. I sat, very quietly and tried to eat. Coupled with some pre-race/event nerves… while the others milled about quite happily. The weather wasn’t a great (rain!) but considering we would be wet anyway, it didn’t really matter!

On to the swim though – Epic Events Coniston Swim – 3.8k of glorious OW Lake swimming. My swim time was at 8.30, a bit later than the others. We had decided best bet was to actually drive across to the start rather than walk – which turned out to be a very wise one. It was still mild despite spots of rain and slowly we got changed and headed to the start. We had separate waves, based on swim times so I was the last to wander down. ‘Covid-secure’ is now the buzz word for events and kudos where it’s due, Epic Events had done a good job with the organisation. Wandering over at the set time meant that we could stay spaced out easily and the briefing had been on Facebook, which we had actually watched, the night before. Swim cap and timing chip collected, flip-flops deposited – time to swim and nerves disappearing and the lake looking ever so inviting.

OMG – the water! For the Lakes – it was truly topical – 19 degrees. No need to acclimatise – and as still as a mill pond. It was better than expected and unlike anything I’d swam in up there before.

This is where the love came flowing back!

Lap 1 – First few buoys/straight seemed to take forever, the first lap even. Obviously turned out to be the fastest but still. I spent the first lap thinking, ‘well, this really is lovely but…’ and thoughts that went through my head included, ‘argh, I’m not going to find my mojo and I’ll get bored’/’I am so hungry (normal swim response)’/’how am I going to do three laps?’/’This is going to take forever’/’OWWWWW MY SUNBURN’ – Yep, epic sunburn on my shoulders.

Lap 2/3 – Mojo well and truly back. My longest swim recently had been 2.7km, the distance didn’t worry me so much this morning, I knew I could do it and was stubborn enough but by lap 2 and 3 I was on a roll. Still having the thoughts about wanting food, but my pace and stroke seemed to just flow and work. Thoughts now changed to food and what I was going to eat later and ‘oooo might actually beat last years time’ as well as ‘oooo the S&C work with Ben is really paying off!’

The warm water and stillness of the lake really was joyous. I was heading for the last corner of the swim course and I could feel that I was actually quite sad that it was finishing – but as I neared the finish line, a quick glance of my watch told me that I wasn’t far off beating my time from last year. I still felt quite strong as I neared the finish – and that felt the wave of disappointment wash over me… but then as I finished, got out, and wandered back to meet my mates, I was grinning from ear to ear. Nothing beats a good OW swim like that. Swim mojo and OW Swim mojo back firmly in place.

And confirmation that I can still swim a reasonable distance in a decent time.

Just as important though – plan was in place for bacon sandwiches for second breakfast.

In my eyes – everything this morning was just a winner.

Roll on Ullswater 3 mile!

Swim Shock!

It’s back!

Swimming is back!

The joys of COVID-19 has meant three months of no swimming. The last time I had a break from swimming was after a shoulder injury a few years ago – some time around back end of 2017 looking back of my statistics.

ANYWAY – last Sunday I donned my wetsuit and went for my first OW swim since September 2019 and my first swim since March 20th.

Now I will admit – I hate the first OW swim of the year, I hate the faff, putting on a wetsuit, the lack of wall to push off – though its just the shock of cooler water usually. Each year it usually gets a bit easier but after 3 months off I was a bit unsure about how poor my swim fitness would be.

Coupled with a good group of mates, we met up to swim at a lake a bit of a way off from home, at North Yorkshire Water Park. It wasn’t as bad as expected but driving in I could feel the usual first swim nerves – but actually this is no bad thing and a good reminder of some of the nerves/anxiety that new swimmers feel about OW.

1400m later, a chat and food – it felt good to be back.

I haven’t forgotten how to swim – and after today’s swim, I still have a bit of speed when I put the effort in.

Today’s swim was shorter – chopper (wind!) and done with no watch or tracking – which, in itself, was quite liberating. I swam alongside a mate who hasn’t swam regularly for a while, chatted with some mates and was reminded why I love swimming – and why its better with mates.

So I’m off back on Tuesday!

 

Lockdown Cycle Commuting

Lockdown has had an impact on everyone. Racing on hold, training sessions with friends on hold, life in general, somewhat on hold…. nothing new there really!

It has been a bit of a strange time – my own hectic life has slowed down massively, with some positive side effects!

I’ve turned back to some of my old hobbies – in particular sewing, and I’ve been indulging my love of history researching women cyclists from the mid-20th Century.

More impressively though (no I haven’t started running), I have been cycling to work as opposed to driving. I will admit that it has partly because the weather has been so good but even on the not so great days I’ve cycled in. I have barely driven my car in the last few months compared to normal. I am hoping that it will be a habit that sticks actually – although will change when I start tutoring face to face again.  Advantage is that it’s only an extra 10 minutes travel time as there are road works – one that I can cut through on a bike but have a 5/6 mile detour in the car and I get in some miles on the much neglected winter bike. Admittedly though, it does mean a bit more faff getting changed and risking rain but so far so good. My routine is even getting quicker in terms of having what I need for work packed and layering up on the bike – I’m managed to get it about right recently. A skill in itself. It has made me more paranoid about checking weather forecasts – which comes in handy when discussing the weather at work…. (customers – it happens a lot!).

The biggest benefit though I’ve found is how much more awake I am at the end of the day. This week is a prime example. Cycled in Monday (and came home the long way) and Tuesday and Tuesday was a really busy day at work – got home, full of energy. Wednesday drove, as I had to bring home quite a bit of stuff that I would never have got on the bike, got home, really tired! Rode in Friday – tailwind home, which was awesome, and not shattered. Some correlation I think, but I have always been more awake when I’ve got to work when I have done an early morning swim, so shouldn’t be surprising. Although I have found that it takes longer to get to work usually than to get home – it takes me ages for my legs to get going on a morning!

I completely get the attraction to commuting to work by bike at the moment – not so sure id be as keen in winter, with a lot less light. Even with quieter roads, there is some awful driving going on and I am seriously debating investing in a camera for the bike.

Anyway, my love of data and statistics is happy – when I upload rides – I can see my miles clocking up – by the end of this week, I will have cycled more in the last 6 months than I did in the whole of last year! Which makes up to an extent, the depressing sight of my swim stats!

Hopefully soon I shall be back in the water….

Lil’bit of Turbo love in…

Seeing as I can’t swim – the bike has been getting all the attention. This week though – well – I thought doing two spin sessions, a virtual TT and a 50km virtual club ride was an excellent idea….

The two spin sessions – Monday and Thursday – went well – really enjoying them and loving the fact that I am getting my cycling legs back. These have become weekly staples in my week where everything else is a bit up in the air. I’ve even managed to tag along to some Zwift group rides too. More on this later.

But on Friday, sporting DOMS, I decided that doing a virtual club TT on Zwift was a wise idea. I love time trials. I love the feeling after putting the effort in. I love the single mindedness of the effort. I love the fact that its just you against the clock, it takes the pressure off thinking about what everyone else is doing. I had also forgotten JUST HOW HARD they are. In fact, I think turbo based TTs are actually harder. It also reminded me how rubbish I am at warming up before hand. It wasn’t even that long an effort! But a race mind set kicked in, in a way that it doesn’t if you are just training or riding (proving that as soon as it’s a ‘race’ mindset and effort changes). It still hurt! By the end I was wondering how the planned Saturday morning ride was going to go!

The weather on Saturday mooning, although cooler than last weekend, was almost nice enough to tempt me to sack off the virtual club ride with chat over discord so I could ride outside. I resisted though. I often work Saturdays and I miss group rides – I miss riding with people! So just before 10am this morning, set up with two water bottles, discord app up and running with headphones and sat on the turbo, so began 2 hours 13 minutes of staring at a screen and turning my legs. Longest turbo session to date and only manageable due to the virtual and distance company of knowing that six fellow club members and mates were doing exactly the same thing.

Major kudos to anyone doing longer sessions and the 24 hour challenges! The same times and distance is certainly easier outside – if only because my backside hurts less! I mean, I was happy to finish but seriously – roll on being able to go out on actual group rides!

So now I am sat here, Sunday morning, with a wee bit of a to do list and still tired legs. I was debating actually going for a run today and having a bit of a go at the IM virtual race as it’s a sprint distance this weekend however, I think I really just need to chill and stretch out! So yoga and stretch is penciled in for later on and I am going to potter through my To Do list and rest.

(And MAYBE run tomorrow….)

Whose idea was this anyway?

Mine unfortunately!

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This chainring was even more caked up that this originally!

A couple of years ago, if not longer, my dad was having a bit of a sort out under the sheds at the farm and had put his old Raleigh Traveller on the junk heap with the intention of getting rid. He’d been given it by a neighbour years ago when I was a little girl – maybe 7 or 8? I remember it simply as I’ve quite a good memory and remember bike rides around local parts and him buying new whitewall tyres and a new saddle for it from the local bike shop – not that he was much of a cyclist himself. At all. Anyway, it got to the point where, even for quite a short lass, I used to take it and potter around on it as it was a lot easier to ride than my old hybrid. For sentimental reasons and also for the fact that I cannot bare seeing bikes go to waste – well, classics like this, being scrapped, I vowed to save it.

So it sat, back under the sheds. Then it moved. To outside of the shed. Where it has stood for the last year or two, within sight of the kitchen at home. Looking sorry for itself – it has spend the past decade neglected, unloved and gradually gathering more and more dust and muck. Until today.

With covid-19 still doing the rounds and showing no signs of abating, today has been the day where I have started to pull the bike apart with not really much idea of what I am doing. I will reiterate now that my mechanical knowledge of bicycles is little and that when it comes to actually pulling a bike to pieces – well. Virgin territory right there. On my regular bikes that I actually use, I’ve only just, in the last year, got comfortable with taking off and changing cassettes – through necessity with turbo trainer and new wheels.

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With the chain guard off so I can clean it and see what I’m dealing with – and surprised at how little wear there is!

First things first though, washing the bike seemed like a good idea – just to see what I’m dealing with (apart from a lot of rust). The sheer amount of muck though on that bike was (and to an extent still is) pretty epic – but the grease and oil had done a pretty good job of preserving some of the chrome work on the hub and chainring – so far, not too bad. Washing it down and scrapping what mud and crud I could first without taking anything off the bike was useful and I was able to start looking properly at how things fit together. From a starting point of taking things off – I was actually starting to enjoy figuring out what to do first that was within my capabilities – although with a little elbow grease/brut force from my Dad managed to make a start.

What have I done this afternoon then? Well, managed to convince myself that this might actually be an achievable project despite my lack of knowledge – and that I might actually be able to rope a few people I know in who are happy browsing/searching the internet for parts etc (I haven’t asked him – I know he’ll probably read this and realise who I’m talking about!). I have also taken off the chain guard so I could get to the front chainring to check it over and clean it. I have, with the help of my dad, taken the kickstand off and the back wheel – unhooking the dynamo (which still works if the light at the front is anything to go by!) and taken off the back light, as well as give it a proper wash. I’ve kept relevant bits together and taken photos to help in the putting it back together stage but I think I need to make a mini to do list for jobs that need doing and research needed in terms of fixing and getting things re-chromed etc!

If nothing else, it will give me something to tinker with rather than looking at screens or bemoaning lack of training/days out! No doubt this will cost me more than the bike is actually worth but seeing as I’m emotionally attached to this bike – I think it’ll be worth it!

…. hello Bike!

After waving swim temporally goodbye I have turned to my bike to fill the gaping hole where swim was.

I am missing swim a lot – to the point that I have, like many other swimmers if Facebook and Twitter are anything to go by, started looking at pools. I have resisted so far from parting with any money though!

With everything being in lockdown – I am home more which has some advantages. I am cycling more (it’s replaced swimming – lets not touch on running though) and travelling less – life in itself is less hectic.

Cycling more and quickly getting back some of that fitness means I am slowly starting to gain some definition in my quads again – sort off. After doing little over winter and not feeling motivated, I have managed to get back on it – I’m even enjoying turbo sessions and making the most of my Zwift subscription. When I’ve actually been out on the bike though, it’s made me miss riding with my mates, despite the fact that most of my riding is solo anyway. I enjoy cycling with mates more. More surprisingly is the fact that I am actually doing spin sessions at home – and enjoying them! Though I have no intentions of letting on how much to my mates. I think part of this is just routine. I’ve put off going and refused point blank all winter but this is partly due to the fact that Monday and Tuesday are my busiest days work wise. Although after all this, this may change and I may have to reassess my workload. The other bonus is, that a combination of following a plan, my mate’s spin sessions and cycling out, I have improved my FTP by 10 watts in three weeks. Apparently. I am a little skeptical about this but I think it just means that I am getting back some of my fitness – my FTP was considerably higher at the end of 2019!

I’ve also had time to read more and self study.  I’ve read and debated starting sewing again, however, I still need to keep things ticking along with the business and looking into that. Theres a few things I want to try but its making me a bit nervous and I’ll admit I’ve been putting it off – but a few Zoom catch ups (via quizzes and murder mystery games – seeing my face on video isnt quite so bad!).

Day to day though, I am still working the day job but being home more is actually quite nice and I am eating better/more regularly – just need to keep healthy and as fit as possible – I may even come out of lockdown bike fit at this rate.

I am very much looking forward to lockdown ending as the more I am at home, the more things I am adding to my bucket list and researching in to random trips…

Well, might as well live life to the full!