Monday, 30 May 2011

Tour of Wessex - Day 3.. almost

I woke up early this morning and spent a good hour tentatively peering out the window at the grey clouds. The weather report had not been promising but I could see puddles on the ground and it wasn't raining so I thought maybe, just maybe, that huge band of rain had swept past early.

As I waited at the start there was only the slightest hint of moisture in the air and I had a feeling it was going to be my lucky day. Ten minutes later the water was dripping from every part of my face, my jacket was so wet it was completely stuck to me and I couldn't feel my toes.

Ride Plus Chamois Salve Review

Chafe is a bit of a cyclist taboo. It's like talking to men about menstruation, as soon as the topic rears it's head everyone has a sharp intake of breath whilst grimacing and the subject changes very quickly.

I got handed two tubs of freebies whilst on the way to registration at the Jurassic Sportive. The tubs were identical in size and shape. In one tub was a deep heat muscle rub and in the other tub was a 'chamois salve'.. or for the less articulate amongst us, chafe cream. I was too scared to try either of these on the day just in case a freak accident or mislabelling catastrophe caused any sort of mix up with the two products leaving me with either a very well lubricated neck and shoulder area or.. well.. I'll leave that to your imagination.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Tour of Wessex - Day 2

Yesterday had gone so well that I wasn't entirely sure that I hadn't dreamt it. I woke up as fresh as a daisy and checked that it was definitely Sunday, it was.. bonus! Pacing and hydration were definitely the successes of day one (two things I am normally rubbish at) and so today I had planned for more of the same. The plan didn't quite come together...

I started steadily, but was trying to pace a little quicker than yesterday as I was conscious of time and today was a long day mileage-wise. After a good warm-up I hit the first long, draggy hill that was made better by the scenery of some very picturesque Somerset villages and eventually, Sherborne Castle. This led into a brilliant rolling route where I was powering down little country roads and generally loving life.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Tour of Wessex - Day 1

If there is one thing I hate about cycling, it's jacket faff. Stopping to continuously change clothing really infuriates me and I would usually rather just be a bit cold and get on with it than faff about. Today however, much to my disdain, a substantial amount of jacket faff was required.

Fortunately jacket faff was the only thing about the first day of the Tour of Wessex that I didn't enjoy. The route was absolutely cracking! After going through Glastonbury and past Glastonbury Tor, we then shot sharply upwards through Cheddar Gorge. The road kept rising steadily, leading into an awesome descent fuelled by a colossal tailwind. In fact the tailwind was so strong that at one point I terrified myself as I only just slowed down enough to make it around an uphill bend!

Friday, 27 May 2011

Unnecessary Eating

Yesterday I had a bit of a blip. A wonderfully light and crumbly, home-baked scone made by a brilliantly talented office buddy had left a sweet taste in my mouth. I was walking home past Waitrose and decided to go in and torture myself. I started out well; perused the bakery aisle, oogled the cakes and the freshly-baked, chewy, chocolately cookies. I spent some time in the baking aisle and briefly daydreamed, realising I was surrounded by world of limitless, delightful possibilities.

The biscuit and confectionary aisles called out to me. In Waitrose the force in these aisles is stronger than other supermarkets because there are some seriously scrumptious and exclusive products to tantalize the taste buds. I scrutinised the posh biscuits and managed to tear myself away only to be faced with an enormous range of biscuits for cheese! I stood and imagined a smearing a thick layer of Boursain atop a salted and cracked black pepper thin or a slicing a well-softened brie onto a hovis digestive...

More mental agony occured in the frozen section as I ran the tips of my fingers over the cool, frosted tops of many a luring and luscious flavour of ice cream.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

After Alps

The last big day in the Alps was a good one. Another Tour de France climb up wildly unpredictable Col de Saisies finished me off. My heart was so tired from a really solid week of training that it refused to play the game and I puffed and panted my way up very, very steadily. The descent was absolutely fantastic as my confidence at cornering had improved vastly throughout the week. 

I returned home a broken girl, not broken in the usual 'egg fell over and forgot to put her hands out' sort of way, but just completely and utterly exhausted. It's nice to know that I do actually have a physical limit - as I have often thought that so long as I keep eating, I'll be able to keep going.

Speaking of eating.. the food in the Alps was certainly not the healthiest and I blame myself entirely for failing to a) make healthy choices and b) put any sort of limit on portion size. The trick now is to not dwell on the bad choices but to get back on the wagon. A plethora of salads, chunky vegetable soups and protein shakes have had me back on the straight and narrow and there isn't a baguette or a chunk of cheese in sight.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Triathlon Training Camp 2011 - Part 4

It's a well known fact that you never try anything new on race day. Everything from your bike set-up to clothing to what you put in your drinks bottle must be tried and tested. Today was our training camp 'race day', but the difference was that it was a chance to try out anything we wanted to see what would work and what you would never do again.

Whilst the rest of the girls were gearing themselves up for an all out battle on the super sprint, Marie and I were trying to determine how long we would be out for on our extended course and therefore how much food we should bring.

This 'testing race' for me wasn't just about trying out kit and food choices. It was going to be the longest distance I had ever attempted in terms of triathlon and so it was also about testing whether or not I was physically able!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Triathlon Training Camp 2011 - Part 3

When you’re given massive bowls of salted peanuts and a good dose of vienetta with your dinner from the people who are supposed to be ensuring you are well nourished for sport, that’s when you know the next day will be a hard one.

This morning after a good breakfast we set off for the hills. We had a good hour or so on the flat, valley floor to warm up the legs for the thrashing they were about to receive.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Triathlon Training Camp 2011 - Part 2

If from this day forward every cycle I ever did was an alpine climb I think I would be a very, very happy girl. The little bits of ascending I’ve done over the last couple of days have been absolutely superb; perfect gradients for a banging cardio workout but just gentle enough that you feel like (with enough fuel) you could keep going forever. Of course for every bit of up there also comes a down and descending is a whole lot of fun too on lovely, smooth French tarmac.

We were practising our swim to bike transitions today. There is something very unusual about finishing a swim and starting to run upright out of a lake. With ears full of water and the sudden rush of a blood in a whole new direction, you end up looking like a neoprene-clad drunk emerging from the depths. As you stumble out of the water doing the whole “ooh, ahh, foot on stones” thing, it’s very difficult to regain your composure, let alone start running to your bike. If that isn’t bad enough you then need to attempt a speedy exit from your wetsuit, which of course you bought at least at size too small to be “more streamlined”.  It was an entertaining session to say the least.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Triathlon Training Camp 2011 - Part 1

I arrived at Geneva airport and anxiously awaited the arrival of my enormous, gaffa-taped bike box (which I had been generously leant by My Dan Brunton, thank you very much!). The brilliantly efficient Swiss came through without fail and I had what was by far the quickest airport transition of my life.

I littered Jon with questions as he drove me very patiently back to the chalets: How big is the lake? When’s our first mega alpine cycle climb? How many sessions a day are we doing? Am I ridiculously unfit compared to the others? And then most importantly: How many times  a day do we get fed?

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Shocker at Salisbury Tri

With around a year of racing under my elasticated belt, I was ready to take on my local triathlon: Salisbury.

I did the classic triathlete thing that we all do but pretend we don't do.. I trawled through some results for previous years and picked out people that I thought I could beat and people I knew I'd get nowhere near.

From these results and my own, optimistic ideas about my abilities I created a series of mini goals: sub 8 minute 400 for the swim, an hour for the 19 mile bike and a 32 minute run. Of course they were all best case scenario times and I knew it was unlikely I would hit any of them. Factoring in a bit of extra time for each one and the transitions, I was aiming for anything under 2 hours, but secretly I wanted to go under 1:50.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Jurassic Sportive 2011

After weeks of being spoilt with glorious sunshine, the heavens opened and torrents of rain stormed down, washing vast amounts of muck into the roads just in time for a blinkin' hard 100 miler. As a result, there were more punctures than there is in our bathroom after Liz has been having a DIY session. This meant that each downhill and potential speed gain was scuppered by fear of blowouts or just losing grip on all the mud and gravel that was littering the tarmac. 

Whilst I can't complain too much about the weather - as we didn't see a drop of rain for the whole ride - the breeze was something else. Every now and again in moments of sheer brilliance the wind would get behind you and you'd have a mile or two of pure tailwind utopia, then out of nowhere an enormous gust would take you by surprise, thrusting you into the middle of the road or into the nearest hedge. The vast majority of the ride was spent fighting some sort of angle of wind, but you were so busy panting your way up really big hills that you are beyond caring.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

How Not To Parkrun

Parkrun is a brilliant scheme that sees free 5k runs organised and run by volunteers every Saturday morning in various parks all over the country. I had been keen to try one for ages and whilst arranging a bit of a girls night in Basingstoke the idea was thrown out to have a few drinks on Friday and then do the Basingstoke Parkrun at 9am on Saturday morning. Ideal. 

Well, it would have been ideal had it not been for some hefty Pimms consumption followed up with a good dose of sparkly stuff. I had set the alarm for 07:45 and awoke - ever so slightly fuzzily - to the sound of bucketing rain and thunder. I cheerily woke up the girls with cups of tea but they definitely weren't as keen as I was to go ahead with the run.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Schwalbe Ultremo R.1 Review

I am not a girly girl. I don't care if my hair is a mess, I am not excited by things that sparkle and I wouldn't have a clue what belt to wear to match my shoes. In fact I don't even own any shoes.. except for the cycling variety. Imagine then my surprise when somewhere from deep within my feminine subconscious came a squeal of sheer delight as I realised I'd found a road/race tyre that not only came in different colours, but came in a shade that was a perfect match to my bar tape. Now THAT is accessorising!

However, apart from coming in a spectacular array of fun colours, these tyres do have some other pluses..

Monday, 2 May 2011

Bank Holiday Bail

In exactly four weeks time I will (hopefully) be sweating my way up Dunkery Beacon and be over halfway to completing the last day of the Tour of Wessex. I am having a few concerns with a niggling knee and hoping that this will be sorted by the end of the month and that all I'll have to worry about will be my fitness and ability to cram enough calories in!

Discussions with all sorts of other cyclists, triathletes, coaches and anybody vaguely sport-related have left me with a whole wealth of different reasons that the knee is playing up from overuse to cleat-position. One of the interesting discussions I had was about the fact that the knee that is playing up is the one that always pushes off whenever I start cycling. The outcome of this chat was basically that I should just use the other foot for a while when I cleat and uncleat and see if it makes a difference. Simple.