Saturday, 30 April 2011

Sensible Stopping

When you have set yourself a challenge, or been set a challenge or even just told a few people what you're planning to do, the pressure is on for you to complete it. Once I have my head set on doing something, I want to see it through to the bitter end and the idea of having to give up - whatever the reason - fills me with dread!

As I have discovered in the last week though, stopping can be the most sensible option. I was feeling massive excitement and slightly nervous anticipation about doing the South Downs Way on mountain bike. A goal of mine for ages, this would be one to tick off the list. I was feeling particularly smug as I managed to cram everything I needed (including a sleeping bag, spare clothes AND vast amounts of food) in an 18 litre sack; small and light enough to make for a very comfortable ride.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Banbury with the Browns - going South

I awoke on day two a bit confused. It must have been either the champagne or just utter fatigue, but I had fallen asleep as soon as I'd sat on the bed. It was still perfectly made. Either that or the compression tights were that good that they had held me completely still. I was actually a bit scared to take them off in case my legs spilled out everywhere. 
Easter treats!

 I decided I would have breakfast first, to build up the strength required to pull the tights from my enormous calves. We indulged in muesli and home-made marmalade on toast and watched the weather with anxious anticipation. Fortunately the wind direction hadn't changed and it looked like we were going to have a tailwind for our homeward journey.

Once Sarah had gotten over her grumpy morning bit and ranted at the birds for "making too much noise", we were away. Five minutes later and we were back in happy cycling mode; enjoying quiet, smooth and mostly traffic-free roads.

I mentioned before the 'phases of cycling' that occur over the course of a long ride. They go something like this:

Monday, 25 April 2011

Banbury with the Browns - going North

Who needs gels when you have quality street?
"Are you up for an adventure Egglet?" Sarah B asked me last week, knowing full well that I would be. This one would entail a trip up to Banbury on the bikes, an evening of compulsory wine drinking in compression tights with Mr and Mrs B and a cycle back the next day. Ideal for me as that would make for two long rides that I didn't have to think up a route for.

We set off from Salisbury in high spirits but quickly realised that we were battling a stiff northerly breeze and that it was going to be a tough ride up. There would be only one thing for it: many, many carbohydrates. Luckily for me Sarah was carrying enough food to feed a small army both of us and was keen to ditch some weight. I was happy to help.

We decided to take the scenic route and discovered some really fantastic country roads in Northern Wiltshire. It was whilst on this journey of discovery that we noticed how enormous Wiltshire actually is. It took us FOREVER to find our way out of this ever-expanding and inescapable county (which Sarah - in some carb-overloaded delirium - put down to Wiltshire-based aliens and something about corn circles and coming in the night and moving county border signs). We cheered heartily as we hit Berkshire and meandered into the Cotswolds.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Loving the Lake

Ellingham Lake is definitely one of the best places you can be at 6:15 on a Saturday morning. Seeing the sun rise over the trees and glisten off the cool, clear water far surpasses any of this laying in bed nonsense. If the early morning exercise or idyllic location doesn't do anything for you then it's worthwhile going just to see buff, neoprene-clad men whimpering as they enter the water past thigh level.

AJ showing the blokes how it should be done
There's something a little bit hardcore about open water swimming in April; it's still cold enough and early enough in the year for some (wussy) people to think that it's an absolutely bonkers idea. I thought I was one of the gnarly ones as I avoided the whole 'dipping the toe in' thing and strolled - nonchalantly - down the ramp. I had, however, forgotten just how slimy the ramp actually was and I stopped looking gnarly the moment I slipped in up to my neck made an exclamation that must have been something along the lines of "gosh, it's jolly chilly isn't it!".

Hannah provided the early morning entertainment with her
dinosaur/centurion impression

After a few minutes of paddling out, that initial cold burst subsided and the water felt lovely. I have a feeling my swimming lull might be over. Swimming just doesn't get better than this!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

A Note About Hills

No matter how much technology advances,
Paint will still be the greatest program ever
I love hills. I love walking up them, I love running up them, I love finding big grassy ones and rolling down them but most of all, I love powering up as fast as my legs and lungs will take me on my bicycle.

Technically, I am not particularly skilled in the act of ascending and descending on the bike. In fact I really need to do a whole lot of improving my hill climbing before I attempt the Tour of Wessex. However, I do think that what I may lack in technique and fitness I make up for in mettle, tenacity and a positive ment-hill attitude!

The trick is to not fear the hill. Don't go into it thinking you won't get up it. Don't even think "Gah.. I hate this but I know it's good training". Think of the hill as your sworn enemy; whom you must strike down with every centimetre of black, rubbery weapon at your disposal. Attack each fiendish lump of tarmac with the intention of riding your noble steed over it's fallen body and enjoying the exhilarating rush of speed as you depart the hilly battlefield.

What's that? Don't have your carb drink at lunchtime Egg you loon?

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Egg's (and Mike's) First Time Trial

I've wanted to do a proper time trial for ages, so when I saw that the New Forest Cycling Club were running a series of 10 mile time trials I knew I had to go along and try it out.

Me and Mike full of excitement at the start
Fortunately I had Mike for company, who had never done a proper one either so I knew I wouldn't be the only newbie out on the course. We arrived at "Race HQ", which was actually a woman sat in the boot of her car in Ringwood Market Place car park. In fact we probably wouldn't have found her had it not been for the crowd of brightly coloured cyclists mingling in the vicinity, some of whom were so aerodynamic it's a wonder they can stop to talk at all. There were a lot of seriously nice sets of wheels around; I think it’s fair to say that my bike probably weighed more than several of these carbon beasts put together.

A few of the very professional-looking time-triallers were in full on one-piece lycra suits with those special sperm-shaped helmets and tight covers around their shoes, because imagine how bad it would be to put all that effort in whilst wearing a silly looking hat and then find out your shoes have slowed you down, I would be aghast!

We warmed up a bit by going for a spin around the first part of the route, but we were back at the start to see the first cyclists go off. As everyone was set off at one minute intervals, it actually turned out to be quite a long time to wait (we were number 28 and 29). So here’s the question: do you a) do a very, very long warm-up and use up some of your energy reserve or b) save energy but stand around getting cold? After standing around debating this, Mike decided that next time the answer would be to register, then get a Burger King and sit in the warm car until you have five minutes to go. This time however, we stood about getting cold, which could have put me at an aerodynamic advantage as I’m sure my nipples were ready to cut through the air faster than most of the men’s.

I struggled to trust a man I'd never met to hold me up on the bike for about 40 seconds whilst both feet were clipped to the pedals and had visions of being pushed off and immediately falling into the kerb in front of all the seasoned pros.. luckily the whole push-off thing worked successfully and before I knew it I was pedalling my little heart out.

My bike computer is broken so I had no idea what speed I was doing but my tactic was just to go as hard as possible. I was feeling pretty strong for the first ten minutes or so and then I pulled back a little bit to ensure I didn't burn out before the end. The out and back loop was great as you see all the other cyclists coming back in the other direction and you get to see that everyone else is in pain too!

I hit the Sopley turn around quicker than expected, only Mike and one other bloke had whizzed past me and I was feeling good, I was just over halfway. I made the most out of the wonderfully smooth tarmac and flew around the little circular one-way system, cornering like a fiend and building the momentum in readiness for a super fast second half. Then as soon as I exited the last corner the headwind smacked me in the chest. I tried to maintain the speed but I just couldn't do it. 

In the second half I was really running out of steam. Each time another pair of chiselled calves overtook me I got a little burst of enthusiasm but I couldn't hang on the back of anybody. I was pushing hard but my body just wouldn't go full throttle. 

I came into the finish where Mike was waiting. I don't think I've ever been more happy to drop the gears and spin my legs, the half a mile back to the car park was a joy! 

There was a buzz in the air when we got back; the woman with the board was receiving real-time updates as people were coming through the finish line and was writing them up as everybody crowded around to see what times they had done. I came in at 32:05 which works out at just under a 19mph average, I had wanted to get to 20mph but for my first one, I was pleased. More importantly, now I have a time to try and beat!

I very much enjoyed Mike's analogy of it all, he said he "went through a whole range of emotions" which involved firstly feeling really good, then feeling a bit sick, then totally knackered, then a sudden burst of energy at the end before finishing and feeling like you could have pushed harder. An excellent summary of the whole experience I think!

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Challenge 5000

To be honest I started this blog so that my family could keep updated with my antics and so that I could indirectly inform them when I've fallen off the wagon and am lying face down in a ditch covered in cake.

Ten and a half months later and I have a core reading group of family, friends and random people from 45 different countries! Who on earth my readers are in Ecuador,The Philippines and South Korea I may never know.. but I really appreciate the support and the kind and funny comments that people send me either directly on the blog or on facebook, twitter, email and text.

On Sunday I was absolutely astounded to reach the 5000 hit marker, and promptly decided that 5000 hits calls for a celebration. To celebrate a whole lot of going healthy, I thought that a challenge might be in order! I put this idea out to the masses and recieved some excellent, some wildly outrageous and some utterly ridiculous ideas!

One that kept coming up again and again was to "eat 5000 calories".. not exactly in the spirit of Egg Goes Healthy methinks but even more importantly, not really a challenge either. I could easily do that accidentally at an all you can eat buffet or at one of my mum's Sunday roasts!

I had to veto "wing walking at 5000ft" on the grounds that I'm trying to stick to my New Year's Resolution of staying out of A+E. My sister came up with an inspired idea that for every 50 portions of fruit and veg I have to have 0 bars of chocolate and 0 cookies (but at every 50 I would be allowed a treat), but I would need to come up with some sort of counting system for fruit and veg.. this may be something I take forward at a later date!

However, a few people suggested a 5000m swim. I love this idea as it would indeed be a bit of a challenge and something I would have to put in a bit of training for. Another idea was to ascend 5000 steps; and to give you a bit of an idea of how many that is, there are 1860 steps up the Empire State Building!

As I really like these ideas, I'm going to do both.. in one weekend epic. I need to locate a 5k organised swim and figure out the best way of climbing 5000 steps. Time for a bit of research!

I'd be very happy for any (sensible!!) suggestions.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Epic Lent Fail

At the moment weight loss is not one of my official goals. I keep an eye on it and so long as I stay a few pounds below my 9 stone limit, I am happy. Obviously I would love be closer to 8 stone but I'm not going to go on a crazy diet to make this happen. I actually started to get closer in the last couple of weeks without even really trying; my weight plateau was broken a remarkably simple combination of sensible eating and sensible training - it really does work!

So on Friday last week I hit a new lowest weight ever and was sitting at just under 8 and a half stone, I felt fantastic! Then, I began the "carb-loading" for the race. Sadly all my sensibleness went out the window and I used this as an excuse to satisfy my inner gluttonous instincts.

I won't tell you everything I ate because there is a limit as to how many words a person can read before they fall asleep, but believe me when I say it was really quite a lot. I visited relatives on Friday night and it would have been rude to say no to cake and biscuits. I could have stopped at one portion of cake, or one biscuit.. but I didn't.

On Saturday I ate not one, but two easter eggs (massive fail!) and all the associated yummies that come with it. In my head I justified this with it being fuel for race day, but in reality I know I slipped up. I ate pizza and ice creams (note; plural) because this is pretty much all I ate before my first triathlon and it seemed to really work for me. 

Basically out of everything I gave up for Lent, I pretty much managed to have a bit.. or a lot.. of all of them!

What a lot of people would do now is to say "Right, I've failed, it's over!", but this is where you should take your inspiration from and start afresh. It's very easy to get back into old habits but the real trick is just accepting that you messed up, letting it go, and getting yourself back on the straight and narrow.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Ringwood Triathlon 2011

I felt almost serene when I woke up this morning. I'd packed everything and sorted all my food and drink last night so all that was left was to enjoy my breakfast and use the toilet as many times as is physically possible in the space of about forty minutes.

I thought I would have a quick hop on the scales and see how much affect my 36-hour carb-loading epic had had... on Friday morning I weighed in at 53.8kgs. This morning I tipped the scales at 55.9kgs! That is a fairly impressive 4.5lbs, I figured (and hoped) it must just be water weight. I also hoped that the extra energy given by all that food would outweigh the extra effort required to haul those extra pounds uphill on the bike!

My very minimalist transition set up
Suffice to say once I'd arrived, registered, been drawn on in permanent ink and set up my transition I shared what must have been a fairly good portion of all that food with the Ringwood Leisure Centre sewage system in what can only be described as an extremely explosive manner.

Despite feeling enormously fresher and lighter after the gastronomical explosion, the pre-race nerves had started to kick in and my stomach was fluttering more and more with every minute that passed. I watched friends in the earlier waves complete their swims and get out on the bike course. When I eventually got to poolside I felt a huge relief as loads of people looked just about as nervous as I was! 

The swim started well and I felt that I paced myself without trying to sprint the first 100m. The other two men in my lane lapped me somewhere around the 350-400m mark and as much as I tried to stay on their feet and draft, I couldn't keep up. It all went wrong in the last 150m as my nose clip kept sliding off and I had to keep stopping to readjust it at the end of the lengths. I tried to swim whilst holding it for one length which was a ridiculous thing to do as it threw my breathing off completely and meant I was swimming with a fist instead of an open hand - what a plonker!

I could see other swimmers in my peripheral vision as I jumped out of the pool, not being the last one out made me very happy indeed but I realised I'd forgotten to start my watch so I had absolutely no idea what my time was. Into transition and I was trying to be quick but I knew I was being a bit faffy; in between hopping about getting my socks on, having issues with the buckle on the race belt and dropping my glove I definitely wasn't as quick as I could have been, but it wasn't too bad an effort!

When I started running with the bike my glasses steamed up and I nearly ran into the race official. I veered to the right, found my way out and immediately began to have all sorts of issues that I've never had before with my cleats. I don't know if it was nerves, excitement, adrenaline or what but it took me ages to clip in and once I'd finally managed to, my race belt (which apparently I hadn't buckled fully) fell off so I had to stop and put it back on. To make matters worse I got overtaken whilst I was messing about with it. Basically from T1 to about a mile into the bike was one massive, faffy fail! 

However, I then got my head down and pushed hard on the bike, really hard. I kept that little blighter that had overtaken me in my sights; on every hill I got closer and on every flat he got away again. For over half of the whole course I didn't see anybody else at all and whilst I was happy I wasn't being overtaken I felt a bit disconcerted that I wasn't catching anybody up either. At one point a random cyclist started tucked in behind me, he stayed on my wheel for a couple of miles which was very bizarre but good to know I was going fast enough that someone wanted to draft me!

After a very brief stint on the A35 I turned off into Bolderwood Ornamental Drive. Normally I love slogging up this hill but today it felt especially hard as the legs were starting to tire. Just as I started to slow, a couple of guys shot past me. That was the kick up the backside I needed and I started to push again. With just under ten miles to go, the legs were starting to hurt and I was getting hunger pains. I was gutted to find that the gel I had stuck on my handlebars had fallen off somewhere (note: use tape and not elastic bands next time!). I tried to chug down as much water as possible to stave off the grumbly belly and I just kept pushing. 

Coming into the finish
I flew through the last, flat five miles and with a rush of overkeen-ness nearly skidded past the dismount point at T2! I pulled the trainers on (elastic here was the right option!), grabbed a couple of sweets and tottered off. My legs were heavy from the bike and I felt like I was running really slowly. I was being overtaken by loads of men and I figured I must have been running at about 4mph. Breathing was easy but I just couldn't make my legs go any faster.

I hit the final stretch and tried to stride out, speeding up for the last half mile or so. After finishing I tucked into melon and orange chunks and enjoyed a free sports massage, massive bonus!

We hung around for the results ceremony as we suspected that a couple of clubmates had won some age group prizes. I was completely astounded when my name was called out as an age group winner for 20-29. Not a bad result for my second ever triathlon! 

We celebrated by heading to the pub where I indulged in a Sunday roast - lovely. However, as I type I'm munching on carrot sticks because I really need to lose that carb-loading weight! Moral of the story: 1. don't be a glutton and use carb-loading as an excuse 2. do affix gels properly to the bike 3. this tapering business actually does work! 
A few of us after the race, showing off the trophies!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

First Triathlon of 2011

Tomorrow will be my first triathlon of the year, and second proper one ever. Bizarrely, it sort of feels like I've done loads before as I've been hanging out, training with and chatting loads with actual experienced triathletes. As a result I am feeling much calmer today than I felt on the eve of my first ever tri last year.

However I have not evaded the pre-race jitters completely. Whilst I am very excited and have definitely put the training in, I may have been a little optimistic with regards to the swim time I put down on the registration form. Having seen the start times, I have somehow been placed in a wave of people whom I consider to be really rather good athletes (read: very bloody quick). 

Last year the main concern was just physically being able to swim the 440m, this year the main concern is not being the big loser who drags herself out of the pool about two minutes after everybody else. Hopefully a flash of awesome swimming technique will wash over me or I'll be able to draft a good swimmer for the 600m swim. At the very least least I'm hoping than swimming in a fast wave will make me up my game and rise to the challenge. Either way I know as soon as I'm out of the pool I'll be breathing a massive sigh of relief!

So if everybody could just cross their fingers for me and pray that there is a) a couple of really slow swimmers in my wave that I can beat out and b) no terrible transition fails like falling off the bike as I mount/dismount etc.

Now you must excuse me whilst I continue to "carb load".. where did I put those scones?

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Totally Tapering

If you know me at all or follow my blog regularly you will be well aware that I'm not a massive fan of anything relating to rest and/or recovery. Whilst I plan 'rest' days with good intentions it usually ends up with "just a gentle swim" or "just a deadlift and squat set" or sometimes "sod it, let's do an 80 miler".

As much as my training buddies, triathlon club coaches and running group leaders keep telling me to have a rest and let the body heal, I just don't want to stop. To be honest, I'm so pleased about my fitness improvement in the last year that I am actually too scared to stop. It's almost as if one whole day of no exercise will cause mass fatness and cardio meltdown! 

However, with my first triathlon of the year (and second proper one ever) coming up this weekend, I have decided that now would be a good time to really try this tapering business. As of Monday I have done no weight training whatsoever, because apparently you should let your muscles rest and not keep breaking them down. In fact if you have seen me in the gym at all this week that will probably explain the wistful, nostalgic stare in the direction of the dumbbells. 

Today I have done absolutely nothing. Even in the glorious sunshine I got a lift to work. It feels very peculiar indeed, I thought doing one workout a day felt peculiar but this.. this is almost like I'm in some twilight zone where time goes on forever and I have a proper chance to sit down and have two cups of coffee without rushing off for my next activity. 

I'm not about to have some sort of rest epiphany where I decide that all this recovery business is brilliant, but it is quite pleasant to have some downtime. Plus, if anybody questions me I can confidently say that "I'm not being lazy, no, I am tapering". 

I must say I'm really not entirely convinced by it at all but the proof will be in the pudding (so long as I don't gorge on actual pudding during all this rest time), either I will have turned into a big, relaxed, floppy mess and it will all go horribly wrong or I'll be able to race harder than ever before with all my untorn, rested muscles. Let's hope it's the latter.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

The Wondrous Timed Brick

I've been indulging in the joy of brick sessions since the moment I was back running in January. Even with my arm in a sling I would leap off the turbo and go for a little run get get used to that wobbly, off-the-bike sensation.

Last week the Downton 10k was good brick practise too as we put in a solid bike ride before the run. Personally I find running is often easier off the bike as your legs are properly warmed up and still ticking over nicely.

Last night was the first official Tri Club brick session of the year. It just so happened that as it was the first Friday of the month, it would also be a timed one. Timed bricks are great as you can really see your progression as you get faster on the same course, an ideal training tool really. However, put the word 'timed' into anything and I hear 'race'. A sensible idea would be to do the first one at a steadier pace to gauge your time and then build over the course of the summer. It appears I'm not very good at sensible though and from the word GO, I was determined to go as fast as possible.

I could feel my legs burning within five minutes as I tried desperately to catch Pete who was in front of me (never gona happen!). I was hammering it on the course and having a bit of a back and forth tussle with the only other female, we must have passed each other four or five times; great fun and it just made me even more determined to keep pushing. 

I came into 'transition' (a patch of grass on the side of the road) maybe 10 or 15 seconds before my female rival. I had to get changed a bit, get the gloves off and tie up my shoelaces properly (should have gone with the elastics!) etc. In fact I'd faffed so much that she'd completely overtaken me and try as I did, I just couldn't catch her on the run.

I came in, red-faced, sweating and absolutely buzzing. Knowing you're being timed and a bit of healthy competition really makes you push yourself. I was pleased to learn that (not including the whole transition bit) I'd knocked a good two and a half minutes at least off my run time from last year and the bike was easily my fastest average speed EVER. Chuffed!

Bring on the bricks!!