Category Archives: Tri/cycling

Inspiration in the age of ‘influencers’

Anyone who knows me well will know that telling me to do something means I will probably want to do the opposite. Tell me I can’t do something, and I’ll be hellbent on doing it just to prove you wrong. The same goes for inspiration in life and in sport; tell me who I should find inspiring, and I’ll likely not find them that inspiring after all.

In the culture of social media ‘influencers’, I’m finding it’s becoming increasingly more, for me, about finding my own inspiration. About looking at the women out there who are doing amazing things in their free time, and looking to them for inspiration. For me, inspiration doesn’t come from watching a full-time, heavily sponsored influencer going on ‘adventures’. It comes from looking to those with full-time jobs, or very busy lives, still managing to carve their own path and take on the challenges they want to. Who cram in early mornings and late nights on the path to achievement, when life puts endless hurdles in the way. Who don’t fill their Instagram feeds with laughably fake posed running shots, but photos of them, unfiltered and taking on massive personal challenges in all their glory.

So, I wanted to round up in this post a few women who I genuinely find inspiring, who motivate me when I’m struggling to motivate myself, and whose discipline I definitely need to catch in the run up to next year’s Lakesman iron-distance.

Cathy Drew
Whether it’s her first ironman or a speedy marathon PB, I really admire Cathy’s approach to sport; carefully, thoughtfully selecting a challenge, and then throwing herself in headfirst. She publicly commits, and shows no shame in trying and respecting the distances she races. I can’t think of anybody more disciplined or determined, and seeing her succeed over the past couple of years has really redefined what I feel like is possible for me. I challenge anyone to read her blog and not be a little bit inspired!

Photo taken from Cathy's blog.

Photo taken from Cathy’s blog.

Emily Favret
Like Cathy, Emily well and truly grabbed the bull by the horns training for her first ironman in Austria over winter, and by hard work and dedication alone, has gone from a reluctant swimmer to boss iron lady, having to overcome illness, terrible weather and seemingly a whole winter of headwind on the bike. Another iron lady I’ll be adding to my mental list of role models- and if she ever starts a blog, it’ll be top of my reading list.

Cat Simpson
It’d be hard to write a list of women who inspire me without including Cat. Her amazing running feats like the Atacama Crossing and the SDW100 are obviously hugely inspiring, but more than that, I think she’s a great role model, even for those unlikely to ever run an ultramarathon. In a world of social media that can be a bit ‘up themselves’, Cat is refreshingly honest about the ups and downs of training and racing, and ever-eager to help others through her coaching business and less formally. She’s also a great team-mate for 24 hour relay racing!

Photo taken from Cat's blog.

Photo taken from Cat’s blog.

Rhianon West
I have nothing but respect for Rhianon. After watching Cat conquer the Atacama Crossing, Rhianon signed up, after a couple of years of good running blighted by periods of injury. Even though it terrified her, she signed up a year ago, and committed everything she had to the race, despite a busy full-time job. When there weren’t enough hills in her area, she ran up and down her office stairs for hours on end before work. She ran marathons and ultras in the build up, but everything for a year was focused on Atacama. When the time came, she took herself and her dragon-emblazoned kit over to Chile and absolutely nailed it- even when it was tough, she just ploughed on to an amazing placing.

Photo from Rhianon's Twitter.

Photo from Rhianon’s Twitter.

Claire Shea-Simonds
To succeed in her sport (Ironman racing), Claire shows incredible drive and discipline. Working full-time and doing postgrad study, she also puts in a training volume that would put certain ‘influencers’ to shame, and is not afraid of the graft and the grind. She doesn’t talk herself up or overplay her abilities, and is very funny online and in person- but then goes to some of the most difficult Ironman races on the circuit, performs consistently and now has 3 Kona slots to her name. What a woman!

Photo taken from Claire's Twitter.

Photo taken from Claire’s Twitter.

At the end of the day, what somebody finds inspiring is down to their outlook on life, but I think these women are 100% more inspiring than somebody whose only responsibility is a carefully curated Instagram account and who is handed their opportunities on a plate rather than fighting them. These are the kind of women I choose to surround myself with, and I’m so much the better for it.

Funkita Fit review

There are two truths universally acknowledged when it comes to me and activewear: the first being that if a brand who doesn’t usually make activewear starts, I’m like OH HELL NO THIS WILL BE TERRIBLE (looking at you, Elle Sport). The second, is that if I like a piece of kit, I will literally wear it until it could get to the washer by itself.

So, when Funkita, makers of the really nice swimming costumes, got in touch to say that they were launching a range of activewear (Funkita Fit) I was, naturally, deeply sceptical. I plumped for trying the Bondage Crop Top and the Electric Runner 7/8 tights from the Funkita Fit range.

And you know what? I’m more than pleasantly surprised.

Funkita Fit

The crop top is a super comfy, medium support bra, I’d say, that I’ve been wearing for yoga, cycling and y’know, under scrubs on night shifts where comfort is the order of the day. It’s got a beautifully detailed back, and what can I say? I’ve hardly taken it off. Soft, comfy straps and no irritating seams or chafing. Not a bra to run in for me, but a firm favourite for everything else.

Funkita Fit

 

 

The tights, despite my reservations they wouldn’t be great for running in, are great. I’ve been wearing them for short runs, yoga and just about all of my chilling time around the house- they’re a handy 7/8 length, with a drop-in key pocket in a wide, soft waistband, and the fabric could not actually be softer.

Big thumbs up, Funkita!

Funkita kindly sent me the kit to try out, and these are my unbiased opinions after a period of extensive testing.

Pilates with Pink Lady Core

Strength and conditioning is something I will openly admit to being very bad at being bothered to do. When I’m short of time, I end up prioritising fitting the miles in over keeping myself strong for the miles, and tend to avoid injuries more by luck and rest than good management!

That needs to change with the Lakesman on the horizon, but I want to make sure what I’m doing is tailored to, and appropriate for me, so when Pink Lady, official apple of the London Marathon, got in touch and offered me a one-to-one Pilates class as part of their Pink Lady Core project (I love a good pun, me), I snatched their hand off.

My class was held at the swanky L1 Performance in Leeds, where I was paired up with the lovely Ria. To get the most out of my session, I filled in a questionnaire before the class, so it could be prepared personally for me, with me hoping it would be a good way to learn how to work on my postural stability and functional core strength without adding unnecessary bulk to my frame.

Pink Lady CoreAfter some initial mobility exercises so Ria could assess my body’s patterns of movement, we went through some Pilates exercises that were most likely to be relevant to me, with a focus on how they would be useful for triathlon, and focusing on performing the exercises with correct posture and muscle engagement- a focus that I’ve never had in group classes, and something I really liked about having a one-to-one class.

Pink Lady Core

I then received my ‘homework’ from Ria- a really detailed set of exercises, with personal cues for how to keep my form correct. I’m hoping that by incorporating a regular Pilates session in my routine during training, I’ll see my functional and core strength improve, as well as my posture during long days on my feet at work- I’m keen to develop better posture and protect my back, as well as develop strength for sport.

Pink Lady CoreIf you’re keen to do some Pilates for yourself that might help your running, Pink Lady Core have a Youtube channel with easy videos to do at home.

Pink Lady Core provided me with my one-to-one class with Ria free of charge and reimbursed me for my time in attending the class and writing this post. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

Race recap: Sundowner Middle triathlon 2016

It’s apparently widely acknowledged in life that the two things you should try out before your race are your kit and nutrition. I inadvertently broke both of those rules for my longest tri to date, the Sundowner Middle distance on Saturday, and not only did I surprisingly survive, but this happened!IMG_4158

Swim
Owing to being a bit chubby hench for my beloved wetsuit, it sadly sustained a big rip to the shoulder. Wetsuits are bloody expensive, so I was over the moon when blogger babe Sophie pretty much saved the day by sending me her wetsuit that she no longer uses. I didn’t end up with time to swim in it before the race, but I tried to stay chilled and not worry too much about it.

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Extra lolz for when the lake mud gives you a beard.

By some bizarre happening, I got put in the fastest wave of the day for the 4 lap swim course in Allerthorpe’s dinky little lake, so the swim leg kind of felt like being beaten up in a washing machine, with one bloke deciding to pick me up by the shoulders and throw me out of the way. I tried to stay relaxed through it though, and put into practice the work I’ve done on my swim lately, and despite feeling like it was going EXTREMELY badly surrounded by speedsters, I overtook two blokes on the finishing straight and came out quicker than I did for last year’s Olympic swim leg at Castle Howard. Progress!

46:01 (although 43 minutes on my Garmin!)

T1
Putting on arm warmers, it has to be said, is not easy when you’re soaked, they’re soaked from the heavy rain, and your hands aren’t working particularly well. Neither is posting your Stoats bars for on the bike into the pockets of your trisuit. Otherwise, without incident, I was safely out onto the bike leg!

2:17

Bike
I set off really optimistic on the bike, feeling great. The course is a super flat, 2 loop course, which was well marshalled. I soon realised a few things, however:

  1. The week before your race, however nice they feel on a quick spin, is not the time for TT bars you’ve barely ridden on or a new saddle that alters the fit of your bike.
  2. A flat course in a headwind and heavy rain is one of the most miserable cycling experiences known to human kind.
  3. Stoats bars may be delicious but they are bloody hard to open when your hands are no longer working.
  4. A driver offering you a can of Coke is a kind gesture, unless he tries to pass it out of the passenger side window and nearly kills you.
  5. Blokes will take almost any excuse to draft and cheat when people aren’t there to see them.

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After a freezing, miserable grind of a ride in which I saw my vague bike target go out of the window, my shoulders seize up completely and my feet go completely numb, it was finally time to get off the bike. AT LAST.

3:19:36

T2
If I thought putting arm warmers on whilst cold and wet was difficult, I clearly hadn’t contemplated the practicalities of removing my helmet and putting on my running shoes. Much to James’s amusement, I had to get a marshall to do them for me. NOT my finest hour.

4:24

Run
Wow, I thought I’d run through wobbly legs before, but nothing quite prepared me for how they’d feel on the run leg. I staggered out of T2 and despite feeling pretty terrible, set a reasonably good pace and rhythm for the first two laps, picking off runners in front of me, and hitting my pace target.

The 3rd lap was somewhat different.

Now, I’m loathed to criticise the organisers for doing a largely brilliant job in difficult weather, BUT, on a 3 lap run course for the half marathon, with a mostly out and back route, by the 3rd lap as a slower racer of the final wave, I ended up pretty much alone, with only a handful of other runners out on the course.

Every time I passed a marshal, they were radio’ing about how the ‘last competitor had gone through’ or ‘slowest woman (!) was on the way’. How utterly demoralising. Between that and the route signs being taken down around me, it was really tough to find any motivation to keep going, and I’m ashamed to say, I pretty much gave up. The walks through the water stations got longer, the bounce went from my step and it was a death shuffle to the finish, despite the fact I was still on to break 6 hours 20.

2:05:19
IMG_4143

I crossed the line with mixed emotions. I’d tried so, so hard for most of the race, but missed the 6 hour target I’d secretly had in mind. That was mixed with pride at having completed my longest race to date, a strong swim and a run where I had wanted to sack it off a few times.

The best bit?
Upon crossing the line, and receiving a gorgeous medal, I printed out my results to learn that I’d come top (out of 3) in the 20-24 age group and won a trophy! Which nearly made up for the fact that despite ordering a small on entry, all the small race shirts had been taken and I was gruffly handed a medium with a shrug. Us women can dream, eh?

All in all, after seeing the saga of the Rubicon Middle unfold the following day in Yorkshire, I had a good time at the Sundowner Middle, which was well-organised, and aside from the few small niggles about morale on the last lap (don’t diss someone that’s actually busy winning a trophy guys!) and the shirt, I couldn’t be happier to have a solid 70.3 in the bank, a raft of lessons learned and things to work on over winter, and a big ol’ confidence boost ahead of the Lakesman!

The one bit of kit I was really glad I wore was my new Threo trisuit– again, not tested before the race but it was perfect (and I paid for it!). It was comfortable, and solved so many trisuit problems I’ve had before- no sausage leg, pockets for snacks, and a well-designed race belt that doesn’t constantly jiggle around. Full marks!

 

 

 

Summer adventures and Ironboy prep

My mum rightly asked me the other day if an iron-distance triathlon was an Ironman, was a 70.3 an Ironboy and shorter races Ironbabies? I still don’t fully know the answer, but since running the relay at The Lakesman, I’ve been enjoying the summer sunshine, chipping away at training for my Ironboy on September 3rd- so here’s what I’ve been up to…

Becoming an FY2

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One unavoidable part of summer as a doctor is the chaos of August changeover. For me that meant stepping up in seniority, and my August has featured two weekends at work, one on long days and one on nights. I love the new hospital I’m working in, but the step up in responsibility is a challenge, and the hospital being smaller doesn’t make it less busy on call- about 20 minutes after taking this selfie, a patient very much tried to bleed to death on me- though fortunately didn’t manage it!

Swimming
It’s no secret that swimming is by far my weakest triathlon discipline, but I feel like I’ve made huge leaps in progress with it, just by doing the work this summer. I’ve sought feedback on my stroke from coach Rach and at club swimming sessions (a special kind of arm-deadening hell), and really got comfortable in open water, with gorgeous swims at Salford Quays with pals in the sunshine, and, the highlight of swimming to date, swimming in this gorgoeous loch (Loch an Eilein) at the foot of the Cairngorms- having an entire loch to myself was pretty special!

I still might not be the fastest by a long chalk, but I’m swimming faster and more confidently than before, and feel happy in open water now, which I’m hoping will all add up to a smooth swim and a time I can be proud of in my Ironboy.

IMG_4103 IMG_3975

Biking
When you live within a stone’s throw of the Yorkshire Dales, motivating yourself to go cycling is something you very rarely need to do, but I’d got all too comfortable with just going on my club’s Sunday C ride, pootling out for coffee and cake, and not really pushing myself. So this summer, I’ve done what can only be described as heat training with some short, sharp turbo sessions, gone on a fair few solo rides into the Dales, spun round the beautiful Scottish coast in the sunshine with James on holiday, and my personal favourite, ridden my first century ride, from Ilkley to Scarborough. I’ve not followed a set plan on the bike, but I’ve tried, like with swimming, to do things in training that will boost my confidence for race day and leave me feeling mentally strong- which I’m discovering is most of the battle with long-distance racing!

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Running

Of the three disciplines, this is probably the one I’ve worked on the least, but whilst I know I’m lacking in speed at the moment, I’ve got a big endurance base, and the two marathons I’ve run this year have 100% taught me how to suffer through when the going gets tough. That said, as my last brick session for the race, I did a tough turbo session into a 10 mile run with the first 5 miles of it at target race pace, and was pleasantly surprised to find that whilst I still have a suspiciously high heart rate, my running legs are very much still there!

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Holidaying

I couldn’t post up a summer recap without mentioning our gorgeous little trip to Scotland. Time off together is pretty hard come by, so we were happy to get a week off together, and not just that, a week in Scotland during a heatwave!

nevis

We kicked off the week by heading up to Fort William and after a stay at the Ben Nevis Inn bunkhouse, did the wonderfully scenic but very tough hike up Ben Nevis- an experience we both underestimated and which left our legs ruined for days! We had absolutely beautiful weather for it, so could see for miles from the top- and even got sunburnt…

From there we headed up into Moray, better known as the whisky country, and stayed in one of Braehead Glamping‘s super cute camping pods. We went for the deluxe one and it was perfect, with a proper comfy bed, an all important kettle and a TV so at the end of the day’s adventures, we could watch the Olympics action from the day.

podThe pod was a perfect base for a week’s adventures. We went cycling together around parts of the beautiful coastline, James went on the attack cycling up Cairngorm Mountain whilst I explored some of the lush running trails, and I went loch swimming whilst some of the locals pondered whether or not to try and rescue the mad English girl diving into a secluded loch.

Despite all that activity, it was a wonderfully relaxing week away. James and I are both hugely guilty of spending time glued to our phones and Strava, so staying somewhere with no 4G coverage was the dream- we actually spent proper time together and appreciated each other, away from the usual cycle at home of work-eat-train-eat-sleep-laundry that can dominate our household. We enjoyed a BBQ and toasted marshmallows over our campfire, al fresco breakfasts and a few wee drams on a tour of the Glenfiddich whisky distillery and, I think it would be fair to say, generally fell in love with Scotland just a little bit!

whiskey cycling firePhoto credits: other than those taken by myself, James took a lot of these, and I borrowed the phrase about keeping going from Oiselle.

 

Doing the work

The few triathlons I’ve done so far, and in fact, races in general, have taught me that knowing the theory of how they should work isn’t enough. Endless time spent poring over footage of elite athletes, reading endless articles and blogs, and spending money on lovely new kit and gadgets are all very well, but they won’t necessarily make me perform better.

CastleTriSwim

There’s a lot of talk around how we should only do exercise and training sessions that we actually want to do. To an extent, I agree. The thing is though, I really love the feeling of swimming quickly, gliding smoothly through the water. Without putting in the work though, it doesn’t happen and I’m left aimlessly windmilling my arms, tiring myself out and going absolutely nowhere. If I relied purely on motivation to improve my performance in sport, I wouldn’t get very far: I’m only human, and motivation waxes and wanes like the weather varies throughout a British summer.

So what’s more reliable than motivation? Discipline.

The friends I have who succeed in sport (looking at you, Cat and Cathy) aren’t necessarily the most motivated ones: they’re the most disciplined ones. Whether or not they want to do the session that day, they are disciplined enough to know that it’s necessary to produce the performance they’d like.

So that’s how I’m working on my swimming at the moment. I want to be gliding smoothly and quickly through the water in my next race. I currently do swim like an arthritic frog with panicky arms. So I’m being disciplined and doing the things I don’t always want to- doing the work.

WharfeSwim

I assumed swimming club sessions wouldn’t be for me, that I’d be laughed out of there, but I’ve been to two now, amongst a lot of solo sets to work on my weaknesses and I’ve loved them; they’ve been jovial and welcoming, but seriously hard work, with technically challenging drills, all-out sprints and long sets to push me right out of my comfort zone. And you know what? It works. I’ve made bigger leaps in the past month with my swimming than I have done in a couple of years, and it’s not down to reading about technique or buying new kit.

It’s about consistently doing the work. Food for thought there.

 

Stepping stones to your dreams

As I alluded to in my last post, I’ve set myself a fairly lofty goal for next June- to race the iron-distance Lakesman triathlon. At the moment, it’s in equal measures terrifying and exciting, because I know I’m a long way from where I’ll need to be, and I have a lot of hard work to do to make sure I not only complete the race, but actually enjoy doing it.

Lakesman

Laura Fountain wrote a piece recently on base building for marathon training, which really chimed with me- I’m guilty of thinking the shiny training plan stuck to the wall will take care of everything for my goal race, and not always putting in the prep to hit the ground running, so to speak.

Training for the Lakesman is going to require a lot of good habits, and they aren’t going to magically embed themselves by January, so here’s a little of what I’m planning as the stepping stones to my A goal. The B goals along the way that will motivate me, give me confidence and allow me to learn the craft before I dive straight in.

Stepping stone races

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A couple of pals of mine recently raced  iron-distance triathlons as their first triathlons, and both absolutely nailed them, but I know diving straight in the deep end isn’t the thing that would give me confidence. 140.6 miles of swim, bike, run is a big, big question mark for me, so stepping stones in the form of Olympic distance triathlons at Allerthorpe Classic and Jorvik Olympic and a 70.3 at the Rubicon will build my confidence at longer triathlons.  To keep me interested in running I’ve also got a couple of local half marathons and the Paris marathon pencilled in for 2017. I might even chuck a swim race in to make all those lengths worth it. Smaller goals to break up a long slog of training.

Getting some helpWharfeSwim
I’m very, very aware that in particular my swim, but also my bike and run have technique flaws that need addressing to be efficient over that distance of race, so I’ll be calling upon people much more learned than me to help me. I’m off to see Tom at Trimechanics this week to start working on making my running form more efficient and ditching the big clunky stability running shoes, will be calling on Mother Mermaid Rach to help sort out my inefficient swim stroke over the summer, and nearer the time, will find a coach to help me write a training plan well-suited to my life, my goals and where I’m at now.

Being realistic
One of the ways I spent a fair bit of the Lakesman last weekend was grilling both athletes and their nearest and dearest that I knew, about how much training they’d had to do, how they’d managed it around life commitments, and how their races worked out for them off the training they’d put in, before I signed up- I wanted to be confident I could put in the work that would be needed.

Fuelling it properly
I’ve been quietly chipping away at getting my body composition in a better place for endurance sport with the help of fitnaturally, and am making reasonable progress. Learning to think about what I’m eating and why, and how much of it, has helped me to shave off over 3kg of unnecessary ballast, so I’ll be keeping going whilst I get ready for ironman training, because that training volume will need me healthy, and with a strong engine in a light body, not carrying around lots of extra cake weight 😉

Relay recap: The Lakesman Triathlon 2016

If you know me at all, you’re probably familiar with the fact by now that if you promise me endurance sport somewhere pretty, with good company, I’ll be there like a shot. So when Team Bear pal Rach needed a pair of running legs for her relay team for The Lakesman Triathlon (Keswick’s brand new iron-distance triathlon), I snatched her hand off for a place.

Before the race
Unlike from WTS Leeds last weekend, the communication from the Lakesman organisers couldn’t have been better in the run up to the event. From the small participant numbers (limited so they could get it right for the first year) to their engagement with social media and answering athletes’ questions, the overall impression was that this was an event team who really cared.

My iron weekend began on the Saturday morning, when I packed up my little car and headed off to Keswick, via Skipton parkrun for a little leg loosening jog since it was en-route. I checked in nice and early (top marks) to my lovely B&B Skiddaw Croft in Portinscale, which I was very happy to discover a) had a room for me with an incredible view of Derwentwater and b) was practically on the run route and only a short walk from Keswick. Perfect!

I then met up with Team Bear, donned my wetsuit and went for a little dip in Derwentwater, which has to be one of the nicest lakes I’ve swum in- clean, warm and calm. Run done, splash in the lake done, and later on that evening, carbing up with a yummy pizza done, time to set a very early alarm to be able to watch Rach out of the swim onto the bike, and head to bed!

Race day
Being in an iron relay is a strange experience; you wake up super early and excited, but still know if you’re doing the run that you have a long day ahead of you. Still, I excitedly got down to the lakeside to watch the first swimmers emerge, with Rach heading out of the water well-placed in the women with a 1:09 swim.

After giddily cheering on just about everybody onto the bike (I LOVE iron cheerleading), I headed off to Wetherspoons for a classy and expensive pre-race brunch of £2.47 Nutella toast and coffee, and before I knew it, it was time to head back down to transition and be ready for Rach arriving. Our plan was for me to take the timing chip and Rach join me for lap 1 of 5, as a brick run for her. However, as my favourite ball of ginger magic arrived in T2, her hips didn’t want to play, so I grabbed the timing chip and skipped out onto the run to wrap up this Team Bear relay- and beat the other Bear relay team!

A lapped run course was never going to be easy, much less given that I hadn’t run over 6 miles since London, but that’s not to say it wasn’t fun. It’s impossible to be out on the run course of an ironman like the Lakesman and not be inspired; from regularly seeing the male leader to briefly running with the female leader on her last lap (both incredibly gracious, lovely athletes), to seeing people battle their toughest demons to drag themselves to the finish, there’s a lot of inspiration to be had.

My race got chewy at about 18 miles, as I’d expected it to, and I no longer bounced through the aid stations; I walked through, taking the chance to guzzle much-needed sugar to keep me going. It was tough, especially mentally, but I take great pride in finding my limits and overcoming them, so I did just that.Lakesman

As I ran down the slip road towards the lake one last time, past the last aid station, I grabbed Rach by the hand and before I knew it, we were running down the red carpet towards that magical archway, hands reaching for the finishers’ tape the marshals were holding across for us (an excellent touch that makes us all feel pretty pro), and nailing that 11:49:34 finish.

Lakesman

 

Post-finish

Lakesman

I thought I’d been well looked-after at the finish of a race before but this was nothing compared to the Lakesman. We were immediately ushered into a marquee filled with tables and chairs and a veritable banquet of food to go at, from a yummy giant cheeseboard, to proper baked potatoes with chilli or curry, Lancashire hotpot (I knew this was the better side of the Pennines for a reason) and endless supplies of hot drinks to warm us up after the rainy run.

The marshals and volunteers were incredible too. No sooner had I wondered if my legs would work to go get pudding, than a bowl of Cartmel sticky toffee pud (the Lakes’ best secret) was delivered to me! Northern hospitality doesn’t get better than that…

Sure, there are bits of feedback we’ll all be giving the organisers, but they’re minor blips in a fantastic race, run by athletes, for athletes- the thing that shone through all day was how much the organisers had lived and breathed the race for years, and wanted their baby to be a much-deserved success!

The aftermath

As I sit and write this, my body is in Yorkshire, after a dreary day back at work. My heart is still in Keswick though, and my brain is full of dreams, after watching both teammates and complete strangers push themselves past limits I never even thought were possible.

So, if you know me at all, you’ll know I’m pretty impressionable. One of the reasons I went along to the Lakesman was to find something to put me off racing; a rough swim, or horribly hilly bike leg, or terrible organisation… But I’m sure you can tell I didn’t. Not one thing to put me off.

So…. I’m in. Let 2017 be the year I become a Lakeswoman. *insert terrified emoji here*

NB: I have fully thought through the decision to do this race, unlike previously where I’ve entered on a whim, failed to fit in the training properly and DNS’d/DNF’d/had a really shit race. Cathy wrote a really good blog this week about how you have to respect the distance. No winging it. No half measures. The time in your life has to be right- like where I’m on a GP job for 4 months of the training build to the Lakesman, where I’ll have no evening, weekend or night shifts to get in the way of training- and importantly, resting and recovering from training too. I’m committed to giving it my all, and I have a few months before the build starts to get my swimming in a better place, fix up my run technique and get a good base of endurance on the bike- as well as racing some shorter triathlons as practice.

Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

 

Marathon recovery

Recovery is a very personal thing; that much is obvious to anyone who does endurance sport. Whether it’s the recovery needed between reps on a track, or recovery after an A race, it’s a very personal thing.

After running the London Marathon two weeks ago, I was in massive need of some good recovery time. I raced carrying an illness (FYI, not something I would ever advocate as a doctor, but we do make the worst patients), and had a really tough time of it. Afterwards, my cough came back with a vengeance, I was utterly knackered and absolutely everything hurt.

Fairly soon, my Strava filled up with people going for ‘recovery runs’ with their clubs barely slower than their marathon race pace only days earlier. My Twitter and Instagram was filled with selfies of runners out showing off their race tshirts. Have they all recovered spectacularly quickly?! Are they clearly a lot fitter than me?! These were the thoughts I initially had.

On reflection though, I remembered that recovery is far more important than most people give it credit for, so I focused on doing my own thing. On not running a single step until my body felt ready and I really wanted to; something I think is very underestimated but pretty important in recovery from a big race- not starting training again until you feel the need to train coming back. Until you feel ready.
recovery

So what have the past two weeks involved for me? A full week initially where other than work, I did nothing taxing. I had plenty of hot baths (Radox Muscle Therapy, you are a bath soak of dreams), and gave my legs, particularly my battered quads, some gentle massage. I did some of the easiest Jasyoga videos and really focused on how my body felt during them. I ate well, focusing on balanced meals, with plenty of protein and carbs, and the odd treat in there, because 4 months of training and a marathon is a long slog. I also watched a LOT of TV. Hello new Game of Thrones! As far as I can when working, I prioritised sleep too.

recoveryrecovery

This week, I was itching to get moving again, but I made sure I did it gently. An easy spin on the bike out to my favourite cafe for lunch with James. A 20 minute easy jog around my village, focusing on just enjoying it. A welcome return to my favourite club ride out to Bolton Abbey for coffee. All things I wanted to do (especially with a new bike begging for a test ride), and none of them with any pressure on pace, or distance, or anything but fresh air and enjoyment. And you know what? It’s made me hungry to get out there and back into proper training now.
recovery

All these things are underrated, but reading more into recovery and how elite athletes do it, these are the small things that add up, and keep the fire for training and self-improvement burning, rather than burning out halfway through every season because the athletes have completely overdone it. It’s how other than odd niggles that have required a bit of rest and extra attention, I haven’t had a proper injury for over two years now.

There’s a lot to be said for recovery, and I think it’s an underrated art.

Highs and lows of 2015 & my word for 2016

At the start of 2015, I wrote a post about my word for 2015; try. I was buzzing with anticipation for the year ahead, thinking about all the challenges I had pencilled in, some definite and some possibly coming up. It was to be a year of big change, sitting my final exams and starting work as a doctor, and a year of letting everything finally fall into place.

Looking back, 2015 was a pretty mixed year, with some great highs, but some fairly crashing lows too…

The highs

Passing my final exams and becoming a doctor

Degree Graduation

Without a doubt, this is one of the biggest things to happen in my life so far, let alone just in the past year. I’ve worked pretty hard since the age of 16 to hit my dream of being a doctor, and in May this year, I finished the exams, crossed my fingers and waited… Then got the news and the certificate to go with it- and got to swap Miss for Dr as a title! I never quite believed I’d achieve it or that I was capable, so this was probably one of the sweetest moments of 2016, and to celebrate it with my nearest and dearest around me meant so so much.

Moving in with James and setting up home together

JamesNew home

We started 2015 having only been dating for a month, but we took the leap in July out of convenience, and I moved into James’s flat as a trial of living together. 4 months later things had gone pretty well, so we took the plunge and rented a cottage together. Setting up home with someone supportive, kind and with a similar lifestyle to mine has been a really good idea, not to mention that he gives out excellent hugs and mixes a perfect G&T after a tough day at work. Chapeau to the boyfriend!

Getting to grips with cycling at last

Cycling

One of my main goals of 2015 was to get to grips with cycling as a sport, and I think I very much did that this year. From becoming a regular on cycling club rides, to riding my first chaingangs, sportive and TT racing, 2015 was definitely the year of becoming at home on a bike, dealing with the mansplaining and generally starting to enjoy cycling. There have been minor mishaps, like getting hit by a van in May, and needing a new bike, but I can’t wait for Bella and I to have more adventures in 2016!

Doing the things I wanted to do in my free time

Brecon

For most of 2015 before starting work, I was on a tight budget and activities had to be carefully planned, but with some lateral thinking I managed to enjoy some really nice getaways with James, including our excellent trip to the Brecon Beacons on a shoestring. Definitely something I want to do more of in 2016, for sure!

Finishing my first Olympic distance triathlon

Triathlon

After being hit by a van, sitting my finals and all of the busy times that happened in the run up to the Castle Howard triathlon, odds weren’t on for me to have a speedy race, and it certainly wasn’t a smooth ride on the day either, but I’m really proud to have finished my first Olympic distance triathlon, when I started 2014 unable to swim at all.

Joining the masses of #juniordoctors and staging a successful protest

Protests

Less relevant to this blog about sport, but I’m very proud to have been one of the masses of junior doctors involved in protesting against the changes to doctors’ contracts that Jeremy Hunt is trying to impose in his ill-informed quest for a ‘7 day NHS’, which FYI, already exists- I work in it! From the social media campaigns to the protests in cities up and down the UK, it was amazing to be part of such a huge campaign and successfully get 75% of the UK’s doctors to vote in the ballot to go on strike. Let’s see if it makes a difference now!

Doing my bit to help others at last; giving blood!

Giving blood

I’ve always been either anaemic or post-piercing/tattoo in the past and not donated before, but now I’m healthy enough (cheers, broccoli and red meat!) and haven’t been needled recently, I was really excited to start donating blood, and it’s something I’m going to try and do regularly. In my opinion, if you can, everyone should donate blood and be signed up to the Organ Donor Register. You never know when the worst might happen, and if you’d take an organ transplant or a blood transfusion, you should be willing to give them too!

The lows

Struggling hugely with work-life balance

Badge

My first 4 month rotation as a junior doctor was through a job widely regarded as a truly awful post. It featured masses of night shifts, 12 hour days, 7 day stretches without a day off, and on the ‘standard day’ shifts, regularly working up to 3 hours of unpaid overtime each day. The post I wrote here demonstrated just how hard it can be, but over 4 months it ground me down, left me exhausted and demotivated, and my training and racing took a huge hit. From waking up too ill to even attempt racing the Sundowner Middle Triathlon, to getting hypothermia and not finishing the Snowdonia Marathon, it was a pretty bad year for racing where I’m concerned. Never before have I appreciated so much that the rest of what goes on in your life really affects your training!

The downsides of cycling

photo 3 (6)

There are only two main negative things to come out of my year becoming a cyclist. The first was being knocked off my bike by a van in May, which really dented my confidence, as well as leaving me with a nasty, niggly shoulder and neck that still aren’t back to normal yet. The charming insurance company I’m dealing with have yet to pay me a single penny in damages, so all in all I didn’t come out of the accident in great shape! Here’s to hopefully getting it sorted out soon. The other main downside is the sexist and mansplaining element of being a woman in a cycling club; my club (AlbaRosa CC) has a large and strong female contingent, but it doesn’t always stop the male contingent treating us like idiots, behaving badly on social rides and making cycling a less fun place for women on the road!

Majorly slacking off with swim training and S&C

photo 3

The two parts of training for triathlon I am really bad at are swimming and strength and conditioning. I mainly just forget about S&C, and then swimming is so at the mercy of pool timetables and opening hours, and there’s so much faffing and hair washing, it’s easy to slack off it in favour of running or riding instead. Once I’ve run the London Marathon it’s time to get organised and actually do some swimming!

2016’s word

I’m fairly happy with my word for 2015; it was both an excellent and a really tough year, but I feel like I tried my best in most areas of it, and really made progress. As always, a crisp new year awaits, with some challenges lined up, some that will go well, some that I’ll probably fail, but I’m excited for all that 2016 has to offer; my lucky first-try entry to the London Marathon and training for it the Hansons way, hopefully some more triathlons including the WTS Leeds race, and finally finding that work-life balance.

And that’s going to be my word for 2016: balance.

What’s your word for 2016 going to be?