Sunday, 27 March 2011

Downton 10K

I've never raced a 10k before. In actual fact I haven't so much as run a 10k since last summer, pre-knee injury. So of course it makes perfect sense for my first 10k distance in about nine months to be a race. Not only a race either, but a tough, hilly race. I don't do things by half.

Still, with my first triathlon of the season two weeks away and a 10k on the cards, I needed to know I could do the distance. Any sensible person under these circumstances would probably just turn up, do the race, then head home for copious cups of tea and a nice relax. I however, got (very, very easily) talked into making the 10k a 'brick session'. 

My training buddies for this brick session were two ladies who are both extremely comfortable with the 10k distance, and in extremely good shape in general. The pre-run ride was a fairly fast-paced two hours (after I'd just ridden the 9 miles to meet them in the first place) so it was actually good practise for me with the triathlon coming up. We quickly changed, grabbed our race numbers and had time for a quick munch and a short warm up.

The race was hard, within the first mile we were heading up hills and even though the track was dry, it was hard going. The legs were giving up before the lungs and the last mile and a half was tough going as my calves really started to burn. 

I wanted so much to get a sub one hour time and I knew it was going to be close to the mark. The results sheet revealed a time of 1:00:01. Noooooooooooooooooo!!! I couldn't believe I was so close. At least now I have a time to beat anyway and hopefully on an easier course I'll be getting closer to that goal of 52 minutes!

Did I stop for copious cups of tea and a good rest? Nope. I ended up riding another 40 miles with a soup stop in Brockenhurst instead. As the wise Nicky Yevko said earlier today "this isn't Egg Goes Healthy, this is Egg goes bloody bonkers! She's not wrong..

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Aquathlon Amazement

I've always thought that an aquathlon (swim then run) was a completely pointless and rubbish race to do. Mostly because it involves all the things I'm not very good at and I would miss my bike. In a bizarre turn of events today (which is a long story involving vomiting, I won't elaborate too much), I went from planning to do a 100 mile bike ride, to getting a last-minute entry into a local aquathlon. The event entailed a 500m swim and a 5k run. Short enough to go as hard as possible. 

The golden rule in racing is to never try anything new on race day. I decided (with the decision-making help of Tamzin and Claire) to break the rules and try running sock-less and in elastic laces for the first time. The justification for this was that the run was short enough to get away with it... even though really, for me, 5k is not that short.

We arrived at the leisure centre, registered, and went to recce the transition area. I should really put transition area in inverted commas as it was actually a slab of concrete just out the back of the swimming pool fire escape where people had strewn various towels, trainers and miscellaneous items of clothing.

I almost had second thoughts about the sock situation but I decided to wing it and see what happened.

We got ourselves ready by the pool. There were to be three people in each lane, so not too cramped. I barely had time to get nervous as we were in the first wave. The swim started well, I was trying so hard to pace myself and not go out too hard but I do get so over-excited and I just can't help myself. About halfway through I had caught up to Claire in front and was happily drafting her. Then with 100m to go I accidentally swiped her feet so she stopped to let me past at the end of the next length. I ploughed through to the end and breathlessly hauled myself out of the pool using the classic "beached whale-esque knee up and roll" manoeuvre.

Thanks to the elastic laces, the trainers were on in no time at all and I was off. However I realised very quickly that going from swim to run is an absolute killer in terms of being able to breathe. At least when there's a bike involved you get a chance to sit down for a bit! I was gasping to get enough air in and when I'd just about managed to get it under control the run turned uphill. Slowing down of course, was not an option - I could see another girl up ahead and the red mist set in.

The run just kept going uphill until we got to a man with a cone, at which point we turned around and it was alllll down. I tried to pick up the pace on the downhill, which worked quite well until it flattened out at the bottom and I felt myself slow. The last bit of the run then goes across a field which feels even SLOWER, but I tried to hold the pace even though I felt I could be sick at any minute through the sheer intensity of it all.

Considering how small the event was (22 competitors), quite a crowd of supporters had turned up and getting cheered in to the finish was a great boost. The event - though short -had felt really hard. I found out why when the results were put up. I had done the swim in 8:57; an enormous personal best for me and absolutely trashing my goal of swimming an 8 minute 400m. The run had also been a big personal best over that distance (although that was common amongst everyone so I suspect it was slightly shorter than 5k) and I was chuffed to bits. In fact we all had a good race and were super happy with our times.

I suppose sometimes going out of your comfort zone can yield good results.. The elastic laces did the trick, but I probably wouldn't go for anything longer without socks, I missed all the padded comfort!

Bianca wasn't happy, she barely spoke to me on the way home..

Moors Valley Singletrack

The word singletrack strikes fear into my very soul. I struggle staying straight and upright on a lovely spacious byway let alone weaving in and out of trees on a track that is only just wider my handlebar. However, as is customary in my general life, excitement comes before fear, so I always agree to these things and just have to deal with the consequences.

Lyndal had said there was a great little loop of singletrack at the nearby Moors Valley Country Park. I had gotten excited and agreed before I realised I have absolutely no singletrack skills, but she reassured me and promised me it was "not technical at all, just flowing and nice". I wasn't sure whether to believe her or not. However, the loop itself is only 3 miles so I figured I could bail out after one loop if it was too scary.

We headed over from Ringwood on some great, wide forest tracks. Then when we were inside the country park she pointed out a little blue sign leading into a bit of track that looked like it had been made by a small deer that had gotten lost. 

I gripped the handlebars and immediately failed to keep up with the others as I cautiously teetered along. The trail was built quite recently and whilst the ground is in good shape (i.e. free of ruts and other nasties) the people who have built the trails are definitely not mountain bikers; most of it is lined with big slabs of rock to trip over, who thought that up?! Not only that but there are some sharp bends on the course, ideal for practising those handling skills.. but almost every one is around some sort of tree so leaning into it is out of the question!

Weaving around the trees
Nonetheless, after the first lap my confidence started to build and I started to push a little harder. By the third lap I knew that I was improving because I was almost hitting more stuff (and therefore must have been going much faster) and scaring myself a bit more.

Despite the trees and the huge rocks, it's a great little trail to whizz around on and once I'd gotten used to the narrowness of the thing I found it thoroughly enjoyable.

The highlight of the day however, came as we sat down to eat some lunch. The place was packed full of families and people out for the day, enjoying the sunshine. From where we were sat we had a great viewpoint of a tiny little humpback bridge. We happily munched our sandwiches and watched countless children ride over the bridge and fall over, or fall over on the little dip just next to the bridge. It was the best lunchtime entertainment one could wish for in a country park.

As we headed off for our final loop, we decided to tackle the tiny bridge. Lyndal went first. It was as she went through that I realised how tiny it actually was, her handlebars only just squeezed through the gap and she had a minor moment of imbalance, but managed to recover nicely off the other side. I was already giggling at her little stumble as I attempted the humpback of hell. I did a much worse job than she had done, and very nearly fell off as my handlebars bumped against the sides. By this point though I was laughing so much that as I came off the bridge I was completely off balance, hit a tree and hit the deck.

Jim, who was behind me, saw the whole thing and was wetting himself. Every child in the vicinity got their revenge.

Jim showing his hardcore extreme skills

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Stuck in a Rut

I had a little chuckle to myself this morning as we set off on our mountain bikes. All of about four seconds had passed and Mike announced that he had a puncture. I didn't chuckle because I am mean, I chuckled in a happy way because the first mountain bike fail of the day was out of the way and it had fallen to somebody else!

It definitely wasn't Mike's first flat; a very speedy change later and we were on our way. The sun was shining this morning, Spring is definitely in the air and it felt great to be back out after I've been holed up all week with a cold.

Another brilliant moment came from Jo, who had been struggling to drop into a smaller gear   as we climbed our first hill. In fact we'd climbed about three hills before she realised that you need to press the other lever to change down. Genius.

We were being led out of Salisbury by Pip on some great (and incredibly, dry) trails that I had never ridden. Before I knew it, we had popped out over the top of a hill and were rewarded with a cracking view of Stonehenge. After stopping for a quick munch and enjoying the view, we headed off down the hill.

The next bit of trail we hit was really rutted. Rutted trails are the worst. They lure you into a false sense of security as they start off shallow and flat and smooth and make you think that you've made the best route choice. Then gradually they get deeper and before you know it you can't get out, then you have to try SO hard to keep pedalling in a straight line because even the slightest deviation will result in one of your pedals hitting the side and that will be game over. I think it must have been a mountain biker who actually coined the phrase "stuck in a rut".

Nothing like a cold compress to soothe
a bump on the head. We should be more worried
about the lack of a left leg though..
I realised fairly early on in this cruel rutted game that I was going to get stuck in a deep one, so I made a break for it and tried to get out over the left lip. My tyre skidded against the side and the bike dropped. I managed - in true Egg style - to hit nothing but my head. In fact, I even managed to hit a bit of rock at such a perfect angle that the point of impact was just below where my helmet sat. 

My fellow riders were on hand immediately with plenty of reassurance and a water-soaked-buff to apply to my sore head (yet another brilliant use for a Buff!). Once I'd recovered a bit and realised that I knew what day of the week it was, we set off again at a nice, easy pace.

Suffice to say I did my best to stay out of all the ruts for the remainder of the ride. For the record (and before I get a call from my mum in a panic), I'm pleased to report that an A&E trip wasn't necessary. 2011 could still be the year of no hospital visits. Fingers crossed people! 

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Ode to Lent (for health, not for Jesus)

With so many of us out here watching our weight,
This day can save us from our unhealthy fate.

Now is the the time to give up the treats,
For a whole forty days it is quite a feat.

But choose something naughty, give it up, take the leap,
In forty days time, what benefits you'll reap!

Be it chocolate or booze or smoking or cake,
Whatever it is, what a difference it'll make.

Get your friends to support you or make them join in,
Hell, throw a party and chuck the treats in the bin!

Don't leave it 'til tomorrow or 'after the weekend'
Stop now, today, that's what I recommend!

Challenge your willpower, challenge yourself,
Think of your body, think of your health.

Okay so we shouldn't need an excuse like Lent to make us give up stuff, we shouldn't need New Year to make new resolutions either but these events are there and they do help inspire us to make a change. 

Loads of my friends and colleagues are taking on 'Challenge Lent' this year, so I'm officially wishing everyone good luck and happy willpower. Don't give up, you'll feel awesome in forty days time!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Coughing Up Ideas For Lent

Mid-morning snackage
Resting when you're ill is so bloomin' boring! I've been keeping myself entertained in between sleeping and coughing fits with power watching Glee and copious trips to the kitchen; feed a cold and all that. 

Even though I have probably eaten marginally more than I would have on a normal day, I have actually - surprisingly - made some very good, healthy choices. After a porridge and prune breakfast, I made a cracking fruit salad to munch on throughout the rest of the morning. 

I think possibly the main reason I made such healthy choices could be something to do with the fact that I ate all the chocolate and sweets I had in the house on Sunday and since then I've felt too poorly to leave the house, so I've had to be more inventive. Nonetheless I felt extremely righteous with my fruit salad and this inspired me to start thinking about Lent and  how I can use it in the war against unhealthiness!

I did say at the start of the year that I was going to veto giving up stuff in favour of taking the "everything in moderation" approach, but it's the challenge of Lent that I love. It's also a great excuse for a major detox! 

So in true 'Egg Goes Healthy' fashion (i.e. if you're gona do it, do it all guns blazing..) I am going to give up a whole host of unhealthy stuff from tomorrow until Easter Sunday:

Cake - I haven't been too bad recently but with lots of long rides coming up, tea shop breaks with be inevitable.
Biscuits and Cookies - My classic gorging items, and by having biscuits, cookies and cakes that means that I can't get away with Jaffa Cakes either, however I choose to define them!
Takeaways - Again not something I have very often at all but I'm going to throw it in the mix to encourage more home-cooking.
Wine - Yes family, that's right. Stop coercing me you tinkers!
Sweets (except Jelly Babies on the bike) - I have to include sweets because if I give up all the other treats I have loads of then sweets become the naughty, sneaky back-up. But Jelly Babies are absolutely necessary for long bike rides.
Chocolate bars and eggs - I feel like I always eat more chocolate eggs on the lead up to Easter than I do at Easter itself. What is it about chocolate in an egg shape that makes it so much more appealing?! I have specified bars and eggs because on the last 'all chocolate products' ban I didn't like not having my chocolatey protein recovery shakes and I feel that the healthiness of those outweighs the unhealthiness of the chocolate. Not that I need to justify myself. Not at all.

So, that is a pretty thorough list I think. Cue more late-night trance-like amblings up and down the supermarket aisles dribbling at all the stuff I can't have! 

Now to just get through the rest of the day without a Chinese, five Easter eggs, a bag of liquorice allsorts, a toffee cheesecake and a triple pack of jaffas...

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Being a Centurion

In the not-too-distant past, if you had mentioned the word 'centurion' to me, I would have gotten wildly excited, pulled out the shot glasses and gotten into competition mode. Many of my good friends from the time of pre-running, pre-cycling and pre-triathlon Egg knew about my competitive streak from this epic drinking game.

100 shots (of anything; beer, cider, wine if you're feeling especially hardcore) in 100 minutes. Usually this is combined with a song change every minute too, until somewhere in the 30s or 40s where everyone is too far gone to remember to change it and full concentration is required on the whole timing bit.

Now I don't want to brag but I was a bit of a centurion champion. I don't ever recall actually getting to one hundred but I remember being the last man standing (or crawling, leaning, gurgling in the corner) and feeling enormously successful and triumphant.

These days I am sure that I would not be beating any of those aforementioned friends as I'm very much out of training. I am also sure that drinking anywhere near that amount of shots would definitely not fill me with feelings of success and triumph. It would be more along the lines of nausea and severe grumpiness of waking up hungover.

So, the new centurion challenge is of course, a much healthier one. The century ride. Commonly thrown with nonchalance into conversations by avid cyclists or triathletes: "So, what did you do this weekend?" "Oh I did some hill repeats on Saturday then a century on Sunday". This time last year I'd overheard such conversations and wondered what on earth I was doing in the company of these clearly completely mental people. 

In May I'm planning to do an event that is 329 miles over 3 days, so I need to be doing 'a century' most weekends. Yesterday was my first foray into the 100 mile world, I was helped along by several different cycling buddies throughout the course of the day and by copious amounts of jelly babies. It was actually far less painful than I had envisaged.

However, on getting home and typing my stats into the training log, I realised (as I had been working in kilometres) that I had come in at 99.2 miles. Noooooooooooooooo! So I can't even call myself a centurion yet. What an epic fail! 

..til next weekend!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Food Diary Fail

Everyone I know that has tried to lose weight has been told "keep a food diary". It does work because if you are actually truthful and write everything down you can see how much rubbish you eat that you would otherwise forget about; like when colleagues bring in biscuits, or you share a bit of chocolate with a friend to help them. The problem is (and this is why my daily food update has failed) is that it is such a massive effort.. and that's why most people manage it for a maximum of a week and then vow to just be healthier because they can't stand all the writing and calorie counting.
Tuesdays Houmous Delight

A lady I work with is currently on a calorie counting mission and I watch every day in amazement as she calculates the calories from all the food she has weighed that morning. It is serious dedication! For one of my salads that would involve weighing about four or five food types, and I spend enough time in the morning faffing about as it is let alone weighing everything I’m going to eat!

I also spend so much time deciding what to eat, preparing it, fitting it like a complex 3D jigsaw into my rucksack and enjoying it that I just can’t be doing with writing it all down as well.


Carrot Consumption
Ants on logs!
However, I will tell you that I have been very healthy since Monday. My daily lunchtime salads have been going down a treat and anybody at work that sees my ‘ants on a log’ snack is always jealous at how yummy it looks (if you missed the ‘ants on a log’ business.. have a look here). Breakfasts have been hearty and healthy; yesterdays effort of porridge with wheat germ and chopped, super-ripe banana was delicious and today I had a poached egg on half a bagel, the other half of which I chowed down on when I got to work after a very frosty ride in.

But here’s the bit you really want to know about. Do I have any chocolate left? As I matter of fact, yes, I do. I have been eating it of course but I have managed to consume it in some form of moderation. The Ferrero Roches and Milk Tray have both been open since Monday and both have considerably over half of their contents left, so I am pleased with my own will power thus far!