Category Archives: Tri/cycling

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

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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

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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? 

Christmas Gift Guide: Sporty Types

Realised that it’s the middle of December and you’ve still not thought of Christmas gifts for your sporty loved ones? Oh good, glad it’s not just me… Still, fear no more, for my list is here with some cool suggestions to suit all budgets, whether they’re a swimmer, cyclist, runner or triathlete.

Cyclists

Budget: £50-100
If you’re looking in this price bracket for your loved one, whether they’re male or female, you could do a lot worse than some HOY Vulpine kit. Rather than dropping that money on a tiny square of some naff Team Sky kit that’s eye-wateringly overpriced, why not spend instead on some beautifully made, cosy winter kit?

I’ve written about Chris Hoy’s range for Vulpine here before, and it’s no secret I’m a fan, but their range has some gorgeously cosy winter pieces. My pick? This cosy Roubaix (thermal) long-sleeved winter jersey, available in both men’s and women’s cuts. Both James and I have them and ours are hardly ever off either our bodies or our laundry airer.

HOY Vulpine Long Sleeve Roubaix Jersey, £79.99

Budget: £20-50

Whether you have a hill-climbing King or Queen of the Mountains, a wannabe sprinter or maybe they fancy themselves as the yellow jersey wearer, these Look Mum No Hands! pants would make a great present for a cyclist. Recently launched in female as well as male sets, they’re comfy, nicely made and packaged pants, and props to LMNH for their female campaign using kickass real cyclists to model them!

Look Mum No Hands! Podium Pants, £25 for a 3-pack (available in men’s and women’s)

Budget: Under £20

For under £20 for a cyclist, you cannot go wrong with something to keep their extremities warm on winter rides- they will LOVE you if your gift means they can feel their hands or feet at the end of a ride, and don’t arrive at their cafe stop miserable! Neoprene overshoes are a great bet, because they work like a wetsuit, holding in warmth even when they’re wet. I suffer from Raynaud’s and with good socks and neoprene overshoes, I never suffer dead toes any more! DHB kit from Wiggle is dependable and great value for money, and with speedy delivery too 😉

DHB Neoprene Overshoes, £19, available from Wiggle (unisex)

Runners

Budget: £50-100

If your beloved is out logging miles through winter, maybe training for a spring marathon, chances are they’d value some warm, well-fitting kit, with plenty of pockets for gels, keys and a phone- I know they’re the criteria I look for! For women, look no further than Lululemon’s Speed Tight IV: they’re absolutely perfect. Truly thick and opaque, available in a boat load of colourways, and beautifully fitting, with an abundance of pockets. They’re a joy to run in!

Lululemon Speed Tight IV, £98

For the male runner in your life? If he’s a tights man looking for cosiness this winter, these Lululemon Surge Tights look great!

Lululemon Surge Tight, £88

Budget: £20-50

If they’ve been logging the miles, chances are, I bet your runner has been forgetting to stretch out their hard working muscles. If they’re not a seasoned yogi, Jasyoga videos could be just the key to get them into taking care of their stretching, and if they are, I bet they’ll love Erin’s quick and simple videos, that are easy to slot in around busy days with a minimum of equipment. Hit up this link, and you can pay for a subscription for your loved one for as many months as you fancy-  it’s just $4.99 a month, so for under a fiver, they can have unlimited yoga classes in the comfort of their own home. Score!

Jasyoga Subscription, $4.99/month

Budget: Under £20

For under £20, there’s no gift I love to give to runner friends more than a Believe Training Journal, and there’s even two new colourways out this year. They’re from the US, but available on Amazon with free UK shipping, and they’re a beautiful training journal; more than just a space to write down training, but a book that, with the help of pro Lauren Fleshman, guides you through the process of reflecting on your training, and is filled with gorgeous photos, tips and motivational quotes. I’m on my second! They’re also not dated, so they can be started at any time of year.

Believe Training Journal, £13.99 via Amazon

Triathletes

Budget: £50-100

In my role as an Amphibia Sports ambassador* this season, I’ve been lucky enough to test their gear, from their X2 transition bag, through to accessories like their ring protectors and waterproof phone cases, and they’ve all been SO useful. So, how good is it that for Christmas they’re doing a bundle of ALL these things, in the brilliant X2 bag (reviewed here), 30% off? A great gift!

Amphibia Sport Race Pack, £79.50

Budget: £20-50

In this price range, I think one of the best gifts you can buy a triathlete is a really good-quality foam roller like this Trigger Point one. I’ve had mine for 3 years now, and have used it religiously, with no signs of wear and tear, and it’s even easy to take with you because it’s hollow, so you can fill it with stuff inside a suitcase. Whether it’s sore legs from all that riding and running, or an achy back from too many swim sessions, a good foam roller is a great gift for any triathlete- even if they don’t thank you when they’re actually using it!

Trigger Point The Grid Foam Roller, £27.95 via Wiggle

Budget: Under £20

Again, I know I’m probably biased because I now test products for Science in Sport*, but I’ve used them for a long time and they taste great, are easy on the stomach and not too expensive. If your loved one has yet to try them out, why not give one of their Christmas gift boxes? Available in either running or cycling specific boxes for £14.99, they’re a great way to try out a selection!

Science in Sport Cycling/Running Nutrition Kits, £14.99 each

*Apart from where clearly stated, I have included products here that I have bought myself, tested rigorously and really really loved. I receive Amphibia and Science in Sport products to test in my role as an ambassador for them, but I was not paid to include them here, and my opinions come after a full season of testing their products. 

 

Blank pages and fresh starts

There’s something about a new notebook. The stiff spine with its slight creak as you crack it open. The crisp, unmarked pages ready to be filled; with hopes, dreams, lists, notes, doodles, stories yet to be told. I feel the same about a new training journal.

IMG_3224

 

After the recent disaster of the Snowdonia Marathon, I’ve taken some time to recover- time I definitely needed, as proven by the virus I came down with a day later, and the bike ride a week later where I felt as weak as a kitten on roads I’d normally be whizzing along. I’ve taken time to reflect and allow my body to recover as best as I can during a fortnight where I worked 115 hours- adding a load of training into that fortnight would not have been a sensible plan, it turns out.

But now the recovery time is done, the familiar itch is returning. To bookend the days at work with my familiar form of stress relief- the quiet sound of my feet on the road, and my breathing as I stretch my legs and run out the day. Or the smooth spin of my legs as I take my bike out to see the world. I’ve missed it. Nothing quite just works the same when I’m not training; my body feels unfamiliarly heavy, and slow. Like it’s been unloved. The familiar ache of muscles that have worked hard is missing, and in its absence, only a weariness that comes from too much time under strip lighting, hunched over computer screens and patients’ bedsides, organising and treating.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, but I’m excited to get some balance back. To take a step back from the ridiculous rota I’ve been on and have time for me again. To rebuild my running and my fitness from scratch with patience; to finally fix my running form like I’ve been meaning to with a trip to see Tom at Trimechanics. To build a stronger, healthier body from the ground upwards that’s ready come Christmas to start a more focused assault on training for the London Marathon. And what the hell, whilst I’m at it, to shed those extra ‘stress pounds’ that have taken up residence since I started work, visible probably only to me, but weighing heavy on every hill I climb by foot or bike.

Blank pages and fresh starts. The best thing about the off-season and winter training.

Picking your battles & DNSing

As I sit and write this post, it’s exactly a month since I started my first job as a junior doctor, on a surgical job in a huge, busy teaching hospital. I knew it was never going to be an easy ride, confirmed by the consultant saying in induction ‘we’ll work you incredibly hard, reward you well and make you into bloody good doctors’.

Most of my day-to-day work is admin-related. If it’s a daytime shift, we start with a ward round with the registrars and consultants, and I accompany them, writing in the patient’s notes for the day, and keeping a jobs list for everybody. Then, I spend the day steadily working through the jobs list, organising scans and tests, taking blood samples and inserting IV drips, and writing discharge letters to send people home. I carry a bleep as well, and I’m the first port of call if any of my patients become unwell: it’s my job to see and assess them, start some basic management and investigations, and call for senior help if I need it. I’ve also covered night shifts, where the focus is less on routine admin, and more dealing with any emergencies that crop up overnight.

This week has been like the above, only it’s been 8am-8pm, 5 days in a row. It’s been largely straightforward, but as I’m covering a team rather than a particular ward, our patients are scattered to the four winds, and I spend all day on my feet racing around the hospital to finish all the jobs- one junior wore a pedometer on call and estimated that she walked between 8 and 9 miles on one shift! Then, on Thursday evening, I dealt with my first very unwell patient. I did everything I could for her, and made the decision to pull my team out of the operating theatre to come and see her, as well as involving Intensive Care.

The details of the case are obviously not up for sharing, but it rattled me. I drove home in tears, a hundred ‘what if?’ scenarios racing around my brain, despite knowing I did everything I could, and I hardly slept for worrying about her that night. Friday morning came around, and I nervously drove back in, wondering how she was doing. The sheer relief when I saw her sitting up and eating breakfast, looking miles better, was incredible. I nearly cried again.

Today, I was due to be racing the Sundowner Middle Triathlon. I went to bed last night feeling delicate- I had a sore throat and a headache, and whether from a tough week or something more, my whole body ached. I took on plenty of water and paracetamol, went to bed and hoped for the best, but when I woke up feeling worse on race day, I think in my heart I knew the answer. James pointed out that I felt far too hot, and even the effort of making a cuppa and some toast tired me out.

On a day like that, I’d have few qualms about wrapping up warm and doing perhaps a gentle parkrun, or an easy short bike ride, but to race 70.3 miles in the water, on the road and by foot, is a different matter entirely. Yes, my race entry was expensive and I’ve trained for a long time for it, but I don’t personally think it’s sensible to toe the line for these big events any less than properly fit and prepared. My heart told me to race and to try, but my head told me that you have to pick your battles, and that this was perhaps not my day for battle. If I raced and made myself more ill by my own stupidity, I’d be letting patients and colleagues down; I’ve seen how hard the team has to work to pick up the slack if someone is absent, and it’s hardly fair to cause that by being an idiot. I could have started, but I’m not sure I could have finished, and to risk needing medical help by being an idiot isn’t something I could justify- the medics are there for emergencies, not for people being unwell by their own stupidity. Lastly, and selfishly, I know that I’m stubborn, and once I’d started, I’d all but race myself into an early grave rather than give up and DNF.

So here I am, huddled on the sofa feeling sorry for myself with a lot of tea and some crap TV, feeling like a flake, but trying to remind myself that I’m only human, and that being a doctor is new, and bound to take it out of me. When I’m friends with people I think of as real life superheroes, it can be hard not to feel like I have to match up- to complete crazy feats of endurance whilst juggling a pressured, busy job. It’s time to see out this last bit of crazy rota before it settles a little, and once I’m better, enjoy preparing for the Snowdonia Marathon in October. Did someone say hill reps?

HOY Vulpine kit review

When sports kit is designed by someone who actually does the sport, it’s usually good, I find- the attention to detail, the practicalities and comfort, and even the looks. So, when Vulpine announced a collection designed by Chris Hoy a while back, I knew it was likely to be a winner.

I bought some of the El Toro bib shorts, a Valldemossa race jersey and the Sprint socks a while back, and have lived and died in them since, especially the bib shorts. Whilst comfort on a bike as a woman is a very personal thing, these shorts really do get it right in my eyes- a plush but not too huge chamois, a flattering fit with sensibly proportioned grippers (printed in small circles to avoid ‘sausage leg’) and a design of the top half that I’ve not seen before- like a well ventilated tri suit!

HOY Vulpine kit review

Like items I’ve had from Vulpine before, the over-arching impression the kit gives is that the person who designed it cares- it features practical little details, and the design and branding is stylish rather than garish- it’s kit I don’t actually mind popping to the shops in post ride!

Since I bought the kit, I’ve ridden in it week in, week out, so it’s had plenty of abuse, from a fast and furious chaingang, to leisurely cafe rides and a tough, hilly ride at the HOY100 Sportive in the Yorkshire Dales- and it’s washed and worn like a dream. For the price point it sits at, I’m genuinely impressed by the quality and design that’s gone into it!

HOY Vulpine kit review

At the HOY100 Sportive over the weekend, I had a sneak peak at the new Autumn/Winter kit collection which launches next week, and it’s a cracker- from speaking to the designer himself (see above photo!), it’s good to see feedback from the first range has gone into the new, expanded range that’ll be keeping me toasty this winter now I’ve started getting a salary at last 😉

I paid for and have ridden many miles in the kit I’ve reviewed here, before being invited to ride the sportive at the weekend and gifted some of the new kit. This has not influenced my opinions & this is not a sponsored post. Both of the photos used are courtesy of James.

Learning from a tough race: swim sorting

After my race at Castle Howard, it was abundantly clear that one of the areas that needed a lot of work was my swim. That 1500m was one of the most difficult ones I’ve swum in my life, so I thought ahead of the half ironman I’m doing in a couple of weeks’ time, it was important to sit down and think about why.

Reasons I found the swim tough:

  • Lack of wetsuit time in the months leading up to it. I got a new wetsuit for Christmas, and haven’t clocked up many hours swimming in it to be used to how it feels and how tight it is!
  • Lack of focused swim training. I’d been swimming most weeks, but really skived off doing drills, form work and speed work and it showed- my swim was slow and laborious.
  • Lack of open water specific skills- including sighting and staying relaxed swimming around others when there are no lane ropes.

All isn’t lost though!

Okay, so I didn’t have masses of time (about 6 weeks once I’d recovered from Castle Howard), but marathon training and revising for exams have both taught me that there’s a lot you can do in 6 weeks, so I tried to stay focused and do what I could to turn my swim around.

Putting in the hard yards…

Hard graft. It’s unpleasant at times, but it reliably gives results. I got myself a kickboard and a pullbuoy so I couldn’t use a lack of those as an excuse not to do drills, picked up a new cossie as well for motivation, and made sure I hit the pool at least twice each week for a swim set of at least 2km, including technique drills, speed intervals and some steady distance in the warm up and cool down.

It’s not fun or glamorous plodding up and down the pool doing kick drills and stroke drills, but it’s starting to work (I think). Focusing on smaller elements of a good stroke, and then putting them together with short speedy reps of 50m and 100m feels like it’s starting to embed better technique, and I feel more streamlined and powerful in the water.

Open water skills

It can be hard to fit in open water training around work, and having a lack of swim buddies available at all times, but I’ve tried to fit in open water skills in my pool training where I can. So, much to the amusement of the lifeguards, during my drills I’ve been practicing my sighting so I stop swimming quite so wonkily in open water, as well as swimming closer to other people so I get less flustered by it. Time to stop bemoaning lack of open water time and adapt my training to still practice the skills!

Wetsuit comfort

There were a lot of things I was struggling with wetsuit-wise, and I think they’re things every newbie has struggled with too, so I thought I’d share a bit of what’s helped me feel more at home!

  • I cut the legs and arms of my suit. I know, I know! I took a pair of scissors to an RRP £475 Huub wetsuit. I’m not the only one though- do it at your own risk, but cutting the wetsuit back at the ankle and wrist inside the double seams (Google how to do it without trashing your suit) made it MILES easier to get on and off.
  • Lube, lube and more lube. Make sure whatever you want to use, like Bodyglide, is safe for your suit, and then make sure you lube up the back of your neck and your extremities, both to help you in and out of the suit, and to reduce the dreaded chafing on the back of your neck- it hurts!
  • Take your time putting it on. This video from Swim Smooth is ace and has some really helpful tips, including a genius plastic bag trick, that really help get you comfy in your suit. Half of my problem was that I wasn’t working the suit over my shoulders enough, so it all felt uncomfortably tight around my neck and was restricting my stroke.

Putting it all together

I hit the open water with lovely swim coach Rach this morning for a confidence boosting splash. We found a stretch of the River Wharfe near Ilkley that’s both deep, wide and not too strong a current for swimming, and after squealing as we lowered our kidneys in (never gets easier, whether in a wetsuit like me, or without like Rach), we enjoyed a really lovely swim.

I wasn’t too fussed about swimming the distance, because I’ve been doing that in the pool, but I was keen to experience colder water than I will on race day, and swim confidently in it, breathing bilaterally and sighting properly, comfy in my suit.

Coach Rach, once she’d finished shouting at me to just put my bloody face in, was pleased with the notable improvements to my body position and head position in the water, as well as being more comfortable sighting, and I left the water contented, happy, and a little bit more confident about race day. Also may or may not have been wearing a bear wooly hat despite now being 23…