Beryl Burton – Cycling Legend

The chances are you have never heard of Beryl Burton – arguably one of the greatest female cyclists ever. Her achievements were phenomenal and, despite having died in 1996, her 12 hour distance record still stands.

On Friday night, a few friends and I went to see the play, ‘Beryl’ – a play written by Maxine Peak, originally for the West Yorkshire Playhouse. It tells the story of her life and her achievements – not only on the road or time trialling but also on the track in pursuit.

She is still relatively unknown by so many people – yet even with today’s modern technology and bike, knowledge of training and nutrition, she still holds the record, as I mentioned, for distance travelled in 12 hours (277.7 miles if I remember rightly!). At the time, she even took the men’s record – which took another two years to be beaten.

The play itself was fantastic and I thoroughly recommend going to see it if you ever get the chance. Having read the screenplay while away on holiday, I knew the play but to see if performed live was really special. I also had a bit of a heads up on my friends so it was a pleasure from my point of view to see their reactions to her, and introduce them to the wonder that was Beryl Burton. A wee bit of a cycling heroine in my eyes – with an absolute compulsion to compete and win!

She wouldn’t believe it!

This post has been flitting through my mind without even realising it until today. I’ve partly categorised this under ‘Matters of the heart’ because it is a subject that is close to my heart – education…

Random thoughts this morning while heading to the gym to swim included the thought that one day I would like to write a book. I’m not sure if I ever will but if I do it will probably be related in some way shape or form to triathlon. I say random thought but I think it was triggered after seeing that Sean Conway’s new book is available for pre-order. This then got me thinking about who I would dedicate it to – which links in with a random tweet from someone the other day about school PE and former PE teachers.

To put this into a bit more context. The tweet in question was something along the lines of how being a chubby (fat) child, people presume you would be bad at sports – yet there she was having running an ultra as an adult. I was a chubby child, more academic than sporty. Sorry. Academic and non-sporty. I was rubbish at sports and dreaded PE. I had this the other day with some lad over on POF when I announced my dislike of team sports, he presumed that it was because I was rubbish at sport – not an uncommon assumption. He carried on to say that it didn’t matter if I was the slowest etc – I could still train and play – or words to that effect. I clearly put him in his place (don’t get me wrong, I’m not the fastest but I’m definitely a competent swimmer and reasonable cyclist). I just don’t like team sports such as netball (or football etc).

So all these thoughts and things coming together – if I wrote a book that was sports related – I would dedicate it to Mrs Houlston – one of my PE teachers from secondary school.

As you’ve probably guessed, I really did despise the majority of PE in school. Most of all team sports. Netball topping the list. Being picked last is demoralising. I hated most of it. Although ironically, considering my love hate relationship with running, I never minded XC and I loved badminton (the only sport I ever played as extra curricula at school – we were just allowed to play, it was run by the male DT teacher and with hindsight was probably rather dodgy!). That’s about it. You may have already noted – these are usually solo events. Even now I hate team sports or anything like that – although relays are fine. I put it down to school mostly but when its a solo sport, you’ve only yourself to upset/let down really, anyway this is going off point a little.

Where does Mrs H come in in all of this? Why would I dedicate a book to her?

By the time I was in Y11, I was walking a lot more, being generally more active and I’d started to lose the puppy fat that had plagued me for as long as I remember. No-one ever said I was fat or anything like that but I wasn’t slim and my mum always just called it puppy fat. There was a complete transformation in my appearance – when I show people my Y7/9/11 school pics they don’t believe its the same person.

There is one PE lesson, or rather snippet at the end of a lesson, that really stuck in my head. It was summer, we were playing rounders. Yes I’d been picked last again but as I wasn’t carrying the weight any more suddenly I was managing to run and get half/full rounders. We were walking back to the changing rooms and Mrs Houlston was walking beside me and just happened to say something along the lines of how well I’d played or compliment me on how much faster I was/fitter I seemed. I told her about the walking, she seemed impressed. I don’t quite remember the words, but I remember the feeling. I’d had a compliment/praise from a PE teacher! I was secretly proud as punch – praise was less meaningful in other subjects as I was pretty good academically. The other thing to note about Mrs H, especially compared to my other PE teacher, Mrs P, Mrs H was always more understanding of us less sporty girls – encouraging yes but never berating us for thinking we weren’t putting the effort in or make us feel awful. It’s like she knew how much we despised it and tried to make it tolerable (she did know, I’m sure of it!). Mrs P always seemed full of over-enthusiasm and had obvious favourites – the sporty ones. We always copped it.

That feeling that I got from the quiet praise and the fact she had noticed, means that Mrs H will always be a bit of a hero when I look back. Its been the comment thats stuck with me more than anything at school. It’s probably inspired me more than I realise too as I often wonder what she would make of what I get up to now! I’d like to think that she would be a little bit proud. She will have no idea just how much of a lasting impression her words have had and I would love to just bump into her one day and tell her. My inner teacher is reminded that teachers hold more sway than they realise sometimes and sometimes its the littlest things than make the biggest impact.

So if and when I do write that book… I will dedicate it to Mrs Houlston, with a massive thank you for recognising that I maybe wasn’t quite as rubbish as I thought and for just making my last term of school PE ok.

 

(I’m starting a triathlon coaching course this weekend. I don’t think she’d believe it!)

 

Mirror Mirror

‘Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing but of reflection.’ Winston Churchill

Wise words from Churchill himself.

I have actually done some reflecting, not quite intentionally, as a result of a random dream and random recent events that I won’t go into too much detail about. This year has been one of many ups and downs.

Well, I say many ups and downs, it started up, then went down majorly, then improved – more than I thought it would. In all honesty, I am in a far better place than I thought I would be and I am really excited about 2019 (my credit card isn’t so happy). I genuinely cant believe I’m sat here, six months post break up, in such a better place.

It is the first time I have been single for twelve years. Written down, that looks more tragic than I feel it is. I am starting to enjoy being single and as cliche as it sounds, finding out what makes me tick and makes me me again. A friend said to me the other day that she thought it was a good thing that I was still single and finding my feet. Clearly my ex wasn’t actually good enough for me (or good enough for any woman? or just not right for me? Not sure). I’m at the point where his new girlfriend is most welcome to him as when I sat and thought about it, I think I was too laid back and actually, I’ve realised quite a few things that again, for various reasons, were just not normal/right in a relationship that lasted that long. I suppose after the former boyfriend, things seemed more normal. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and I do believe things happen and people come into your life (and out) for a reason – even if it isn’t clear at the time. The fog and confusion of a major break up is just about clear (some things still hurt occasionally but for the most part, the voodoo doll is away).

Anyway, on a more positive note…

As daft as it sounds, I feel like I’m reverting back to the teenage me, or rather, the 17 year old me – and I quite like her! Although I hope I am somewhat wiser than the 17 year old me. The flirting, having fun, no commitment, no considering other people’s plans – another mate asked me how I seem to be attracting blokes, but in all honesty, I like blokes, and even though the last one eventually showed his true colours, I know not all men are the same. In the same breath, I am also more aware that not all men are knights in shinning armour/have honest intentions – but so long as the intentions are clear – I am rather enjoying being single.

I am really looking forward to 2019 – I’ve so many things I want to do and develop – I’ve a new business that I want to build up and expand on, exciting races planned, training penciled in, a holiday booked and so many other things I want to do – I feel the world is at my feet. It’s just up to me to embrace it and see what happens.

So while I have been reflective – I am also rejoicing – the love of family and friends has got me through so much and I am eternally grateful for that. I am rejoicing that I am stronger than I thought and emotionally in such a better place.

2018/19, I think, may prove to be the making of me.

 

I am just a little bit excited!

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!

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.