5 TOP TIPS WHEN YOU’RE STRUGGLING IN A RACE

You know that moment in a race where you want to cry, stamp your feet and throw a strop because you can’t possibly continue even another inch? Everything hurts and you’re tired (and possibly hungry) and the finish line is SO FAR AWAY.

Well, I had that for the first time in a long time during l’Etape London, a 49 mile cycle event that I did a few weeks ago. The background of this event is that I did it in it’s inaugural year, 3 years ago, and loved every gloriously sunny second of it. I flew round, indulged in salty potatoes at the feed station and only bonked hard once. I also knew nothing about fuelling and was coming off the back of a triathlon season that included lots of cycle training and generally higher levels of cardiovascular fitness.

When the opportunity arose to take part again in the event I jumped at the chance. It came a gentle 9 weeks after our epic cycling trip from London to Paris (you can read about that here) so I thought ‘great, my residual fitness will carry me over as well as regular training rides every weekend’. In reality, life and a health blip got in the way and I hadn’t cycled properly in about a month by the time l’Etape London came round. Whoops.

Luckily I was doing it with two other friends who are both badass cyclists and I knew I’d be able to make it. I just didn’t know how close to not making it I would get.

The event itself was relatively well-organised. The race village at the Olympic Park Velodrome was bigger than last time with some tasty-looking food trucks, a huge water tank for refills and various other brands who had some cool kit on show. We were registered for the Cycletta wave, a women’s only wave, which when it came down to it consisted of 6 women. Yep, 6 women. Apparently a lot of the Cycletta wave had gone off with earlier waves to cycle with their male friends which kind of defeats the point. I know once you’re out on the course it doesn’t matter so much but we did see those 3 other women out on the course and it felt good knowing that we were kind of like a little team. Next year, they either need to cut that wave altogether or publicise it more so it becomes more special.

The first 30 miles of the race flew by, mostly because Elle and I were nattering away the whole time as we had a lot to catch up on. The hills that forced me to walk last time seemed much more insignificant this time for both of us and although they were tough they weren’t world-endingly tough. The course volunteers were (in the most part) really helpful and they cheered us on the whole way.

It was after the (delicious) feed station that things started to unravel. My legs felt heavy, my hips and glutes hurt and I could feel the tell-tale start of chafe on my undercarriage. From that point it was a slog to the end of the course. 20 miles of slog. To put that into perspective, that’s about 2.5 hours of struggling.

Elle kept pushing me and we took it in turns to go in front and lead the pace. Her constant support and energy kept me going despite wanting to stop with every fibre of my body. With about 3 miles to go she zoomed off for a strong finish and I tried to follow suit. It didn’t really happen but I did get across that finish line in one piece. Just.

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So here are my top tips on getting through a race when you’re struggling:

1) The world isn’t ending

This is something that I always have to remind myself. There was life before this struggle and there will be life after it and looking back on it, it’s never as bad as you think it is in the moment

2) Take your mind off it

Most of the struggle in these situations is mental. I mean, yes it hurts physically, but it’s your brain that wants you to give in to the pain and quit. So do what I do and think your pain away. My favourite game to play is daydreaming about what I would do if I won the lottery. Honestly, before you know it you’ve spent millions of pounds and you’re another 30 minutes down the road

3) Remind yourself you’ve done it before

If you haven’t actually done the exact race before, you’ve definitely hit tough moments in training and pushed through them. You’ve done it once, you can do it again

4) Think about crossing the line

This works for me every time. The draw of adding another medal to my lineup really helps to keep me moving forward. If you don’t finish, you don’t get a medal and if you don’t get a medal then what are you going to post on Instagram that evening?

5) Set mini goals

One of my favourite games to play in the closing stages of a race is to pick out individuals and make it my mission to overtake them. If they overtake you then you have to work harder to get back in front. Yes, it’s petty but my god it keeps you moving

 

Of course, all of these tips are to be used within reason. If you’re injured (including dangerous levels of dehydration) then my advice would be to stop, seek medical attention and come back next year for that medal. It’ll still be there.

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Thank you to Human Race for giving me a space in l’Etape London in return for this review. All opinions are my own

A MOUNTAINOUS ADVENTURE

You know those moments in life where you look around and realize that everything is excellent? Well last weekend I had quite a few of them thanks to the amazing landscape that is the Lake District.

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I ventured way up north from London to climb Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England to help one of my oldest friends, Cat, train for her 3 Peaks challenge. She’s raising money for Great Ormond Street Hospital so give her a hand and donate here if you fancy.

After a 10 hour drive on the hottest afternoon ever (true fact) we arrived at our little pub/hotel which was in a village with one other house. That was it. No phone reception, nothing. Bliss.

After a good night’s sleep and a massive breakfast we left for the short drive to the base of Scafell Pike. Being keen beans we were walking by 10am which gave us a smug sense of satisfaction being able to saunter downhill past all the poor sods trudging upwards at 2pm.

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Scafell Pike is the lowest of the 3 Peaks in the challenge (the others being Ben Nevis in Scotland and Snowdon in Wales) but is known to be the hardest due to the terrain. For 3 hours we walked up without any real flat sections for respite. Most of the uphill sections are made of rough stone steps which after even just 30 minutes was burning into the legs. We kept going, fuelled by sweets and laughter until we finally reached the top.

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Despite it being a whiteout at the top and not being able to see further than 2 metres we celebrated, felt like superwomen, ate a lot of food and set off on the downhill section. I just want to mention at this point how proud I was of my little pup Pip who soldiered all the way to the top without having to be carried (apart from over the river at the beginning). She was full of beans the whole way with a wagging tail. Sometimes I wish I had 4 legs instead of 2.

The downhill section was definitely more pleasant despite being murder on the quads, especially as we knew that we were walking towards a right good cream tea.

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Once we were down and devouring said cream tea we reflected on the achievement and felt even more proud that we’d scaled the highest mountain in England whilst laughing the whole way.

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Let’s just not talk about the DOMs that lasted for 3 days…

 

CONQUERING L’ETAPE LONDON

You know those races that you sign up for and then forget until it’s just round the corner and you realise you haven’t done much specific training?

Well that’s how I felt going into L’Etape London, a 75km cycle sportive starting in Stratford and heading out to deepest darkest Essex before coming all the way back.

In the run up to the race I’d done a couple of longish cycles (55km and 50km) as well as the 40km in the middle of my triathlon in August but that’s about it. I’ve always loved cycling ever since I was young so although I see these long cycles as a challenge it’s certainly not something that I was nervous going into.

The day dawned beautifully clear and sunny so after my normal pre-race breakfast of protein oats I hopped on my bike and gently cycled the 5km down to the Olympic Park velodrome where the start was. There were fewer people doing the race than I thought there would be so the event village was small, uncrowded and friendly. There were no queues for the toilets (shock horror) and there was no wait to have a last minute tyre pressure check.

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The only thing that I noticed at the start and the whole way through the race was the lack of women. I’d say that about 70% of the entrants were men of all ages and the rest were women. In my start wave there were a few older women but I was one of the youngest women there. Come on girls, it’s time to get cycling!

Anyway, off we went into the beautiful morning and before I knew it we had ridden through most of East London and we had hit Epping Forest. This is where the hills started, at this point they were long and gentle which was good to get my head down and pedal steadily to reach the top. Just before Epping we turned off to Theydon Bois and this is when the real pain hit. Between Theydon Bois and Ongar (the turn point) it seemed like we were on one long switchback. The ups and downs were short, sharp and never-ending.

My quads and hamstrings were really starting to protest when we hit the feed station, a total blessing. There was a table laden with pain au chocolat, biscuits, sweets, bananas and boiled salted potatoes. Potatoes?! I know, they were amazing… I didn’t want to spike my blood sugar at this point (34km in, not even halfway) because I knew that the sugar crash would hit me before the end of the race and I would really struggle. All I needed was some carbohydrates to replace all of the glucose that I had used up in my muscles.

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After scoffing 4 potatoes, refilling my water bottle and stretching my legs I hopped back on my bike and set off through the cobbles of Ongar. From this point to the end of the race the pack was much more strung out as people spent different lengths of time at the feed station. I spent quite a few stretches all by myself which was amazing.

The sunshine, countryside and sense of freedom that cycling brings all added up to one happy little lady. I was actually smiling to myself at various points of the race because I was just so happy to be out in the sunshine cycling as fast as I could.

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Eventually I made it to Epping where I waved at my in-laws’ house and sped back through the forest down those hills. With about 15km to go I hit the wall. Everything was sore and my legs just didn’t want to work anymore. I stopped for a couple of minutes, had a gel and a swig of water and stretched my legs. It did the trick because a couple of minutes after I got back on my bike I felt strong again and I flew down through East London back to Stratford.

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The final km was on the road track at the velodrome with a sprint finish and I gave it everything I had left, crossing the line in just under 3.5 hours. I picked up my medal and pretty much kept cycling! The 5km home felt like a luxury cool down as I took it at a nice slow pace.

The biggest shock and biggest pat on my back was when I checked the results later that night and found out that I came 8th in my age category! Bloody hell! I’m normally that one plodding in at the back but not this time.

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Overall I would massively recommend this race and I’ll definitely be doing it next year! Maybe even the longer route… Plus how sexy is this medal?!

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COMPLETING MY FIRST OLYMPIC TRIATHLON

Last Saturday I completed my first ever Olympic triathlon. Now that’s a sentence I never thought I would say…

After my first Sprint triathlon back in 2012 I swore never to do another one and especially never do an Olympic triathlon. These people must be mad to consider the Olympic distances.

Fast forward 3 years and with one more Sprint distance under my belt I was arriving at the London Triathlon with a hell of a lot of sweat and pain in front of me.

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Note the superhero pants… I was channeling Wonder Woman

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TIPS FOR COMPLETING YOUR FIRST TRIATHLON

Anyone who knew me a few years ago would be literally gobsmacked that I’ve now completed two sprint distance triathlons (750m swim, 20km cycle, 5k run) and as of Saturday evening, an Olympic triathlon (1500m swim, 40km cycle, 10k run). I’ve never been much of an endurance athlete but this is precisely why I’ve pushed myself to do these, just to prove that I can and stop making excuses.

Triathlons can be seriously intimidating and before my first one I spent ages scouring the internet for tips and tricks to take the fear out of the experience. Now that I’m gearing up for the Olympic distance and feeling much more relaxed I wanted to share some of the tips that I’ve picked up to help anyone thinking of doing one:

1) It doesn’t have to cost a bomb

I bought an ex-rental wetsuit at first for about £65 and it kept me admirably warm & safe throughout the two sprint distances. However it now feels a bit tight so I’ve rented a new one for £59 for the rest of the season from Wetsuits For Hire. Equally, my bike was a treat to myself but I hunted around and found a great one in the sale. There’s no need to pay full price if you go for a model that’s a season or two old

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PLAYING TENNIS WITH MARTINA HINGIS AND MAUI JIM

Sometimes there are events that can entice even me out of East London which is how I found myself at The Wimbledon Club on the middle Sunday of the Wimbledon tennis tournament. Yep, my first time at Wimbledon and I was going to not only meet Martina Hingis but also get the opportunity to go through a clinic with her and learn some of her tricks. Wow.

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I met some of the other lovely blogger girls outside the station and we all piled into taxis over to The Wimbledon Club where we were welcomed by the Maui Jim team and their lovely sunglasses.

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