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.

 

Swimmer’s sorrows

I love swimming.

Anyone who knows me, will tell you that out of the three* disciplines of triathlon, swim is my favourite and strongest discipline, although over summer, cycling nearly won out on that. I am happiest near, in or on water (and preferably a mountain/hill or two dotted about). I swear I was a mermaid in a former life. Those same people will also tell you have frustrated I’ve been with my swimming in the last 18 months.

I trained ridiculously hard and consistently over winter 2016/17 on my swim and in the run up to ITU Leeds Standard Triathlon, I was managing 7:30 400m – NOT majorly fast when compared to the speedy club members but a huge improvement from the year previous. I’d moved up the training lanes to sit comfortably in the top half of the club, and even managed to be 4th out of 12 club members racing in the Standard distance tri at Leeds that summer (31 min 1500m swim – it was a novelty overtaking people!). This came with a cost. Not enough S&C work resulted in a rotary cuff issue that put an end to my swimming for quite a while. This, over time and with some enforced rest of sorts, improved but the issue moved to my thoracic spine and lateral muscle area – tightness and soreness, that has made me really weary of swimming and aggravating it – however… I think I’ve got the solution and there is light at the end of the tunnel.

What’s changed?

I’d tried sports massages (which have helped massively and still do) and I’d tried resting it, with no real improvement. I’d tried cupping and other things too but no joy. I joined the gym to try and get on top of my S&C – started to help but I’ll admit I got lazy – I know its a necessary evil really but such is life (I will get back on it, even if its only one or two sessions a week). So what did actually change?

I’m guilty of not stretching enough and I do get so tight! Looking through the gym classes – I’m a big fan of yoga and I’m not really being one of these Les Mills Grit session girls, I signed up for the Pure Stretch classes. Wanting to make the most of my ridiculously expensive gym membership, I decided to give them ago. Well what a revelation they have turned out to be! Stretch classes have massively helped the back/shoulder issue. It’s not completely gone but it has helped so much more than I ever thought. Although at the moment, I’ve been going 3 to 4 times a week – well it is the off season so to speak. I know I am rubbish at doing it on my own so just going to a class and doing what I’m told has really helped. Although it was helping – I decided after bashing it out on a bouldering wall I should really go see a physiotherapist again and self-refereed through the NHS – I got an appointment in two weeks. I suppose it was really for reassurance that I hadn’t done the damage that I thought I might have. I did, and got some new stretches to help and told that muscular issues like mine do seem to take forever to heal but if the stretch and massage was working to keep with it.

This was all I needed and I bashed out a nice 2.5k set on Wednesday and felt that maybe the time was right to start thinking more seriously about building my swim fitness and speed back up – especially as my back didn’t hurt! I also swam with a mate last night which pushed me, simply because I know I’m a generally better swimmer than him and had that reputation to maintain (he whoops me on the run and bike so its my only wee boast), and reminded me that I need to get some speed sets in.

This has all made me a very happy swimmer this week and I have taken the swim sets from IronFit Triathlon Training for Women and typed them up, printed them and am about to laminate them, to help me sort out some sort of training plan for my swimming so it isn’t aimless. I am so excited about the prospect of getting back to swimming three to four times a week again. As one of the swim coaches at the club sessions keeps reminding me, swim 2-3 times to maintain, 4 times or more to improve! I’ve also found some other training sets this morning that I think will be useful. Tied in with a better S&C routine, I feel excited about winter training. I just need to figure out HOW to fit in the running and the cycling now. Maybe some run/swim sessions and maybe swim/bike sessions – just to mix it up!

*four disciplines – lets not forget transition!

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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.

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!

Ellerton Park – Swim little fishes swim!

Swimming has its educational value – mental, moral, and physical – in giving you a sense of mastery over an element, and of power of saving life, and in the development of wind and limb.’ Robert Baden-Powell

Swimming, over the last few months, has been a blessing and a heart saver. A lot of my friends swear by running as cheap therapy but for me, it’s always swimming. My swim set, how much I swim, where I swim, how much effort I put in – the ability to actually swim ‘mastery over an element’ is my therapy. I really can switch off when I swim and focus on the moment and what I am doing. It has helped my mental wellbeing after everything that’s happened and it has helped my physical body get physically fitter. Not so sure about the moral benefits, other than being able to take the moral high ground after an early morning set before work!

As such, I always feel the need to share my love of swimming and finding little gems. Today, myself and seven other club members headed over to Ellerton Park to go and swim. My friend wanted to so we opened it up to the club and in the end eight of us rocked up to swim.

For those who haven”t heard or been to Ellerton Park, it is not far from Scorton, Richmond in North Yorkshire. It really is a hidden little gem! Clean, quiet and open all day – what is not to love?

I really should have asked everyone how far they swam in order to get a grand total – I know that I did four laps (my longest OW swim of the year at 2.3km) and that one mate did 11 laps, and another 5, so theres 20 between three of us. I also heard later on that another club member had gone across in the afternoon and enjoyed it.

It was a bit of a trek to Ellerton Park from home, however, as I think I’ve mentioned before – I think it will become important in next year as I train for my planned A race of the season. Apart from been clean and quiet – it has, as stated above, long opening hours. It is definitely worth a trip.

Quick run down….

Location – Ellerton Park, Scorton, Richmond, North Yorkshire, DL10 6AP

Cost – £5, cash only.

Facilities – Changing/shower room, steps into the water, burger van (varied opening hours – so don’t count on it!), not far from local cafe though, with Tri-ology located above it.

Spotters/lifeguards – no. Definitely worth taking a tow float/mates to spot.

Swim loop – 530m loop around 3 buoys, clockwise, can get a bit choppy.

Opening times – If I remember rightly, the season is usually March to September, and opening hours at rough 9 to 6, give or take an hour. I’ll try to double check next time I’m up there – but regardless – you can swim all day if you want!

Water quality – really highly rated – and you can tell when you get in! No pool/lake fever for me at all. Definitely a major selling point.

Parking – yep – and a decent amount of it too.

Other important info – Can be weedy, going off past experience, spring water fed so although warm when sun has been on it, can be cooler quite quickly. Usually pretty clear. Quite deep – you cannot stand up unless you swim right to the side, and even then it is only a small ledge. You may find yourself swimming over divers and occasionally some boats may be in there. They only accept cash! This is also a venue for a local midweek sprint triathlon too.

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!)