Pre Welsh Champs Nerves

Pre Welsh Champs Nerves

Well, it’s finally here! The weekend of Welsh Champs…only 5 weeks after I was making my way round London on two feet. Whether I think I’m ready for it or not, I’ve got a Time Trial and Road Race to get around.

And if the start sheet is anything to go by, it’s not going to be an easy ride either! One of four 4th Cats in a field of 33 women spread across three age categories, I’m definitely at the tail end of the field! Not to mention the Storey Racing girls in amongst the start list too who’ve recently been competing in the Tour Series. The Ruthin hills are going to be nothing to them!

The fact Welsh Champs is so local is one of the reasons I popped an entry in whilst I was in the middle of all of my Marathon training. I’d just received my race kit from Velotik, so I was itching to get back on my bike. So I gave myself ANOTHER big event to aim for…you know because I thought the marathon wasn’t enough for 2019…

If Welsh Champs had been down in South Wales, I probably wouldn’t have entered. It’s a long way to go for a race if you don’t feel 100% ready for it.

I say I don’t feel ready for it, yet I did manage to pedal out a 50 mile solo ride last weekend. Obviously nothing in comparison to the pro’s, or what most cyclists do, but I was completely ruined by a 50 mile solo ride I did last year. Granted there were some lengthy downhills en route, but I’m trying to think positively here…

The road race is what I’m mostly looking forward to this weekend. Without a TT bike and ALL of the aero kit that goes with it, I’m already at a disadvantage. And besides, road racing is what I get the biggest buzz off. If I can hold on long enough to be in the action, I’ll be happy.

So, my main goals for this weekend?

⁃ Keep in the bunch longer than the 5 miles I lasted in 2018

⁃ Actually finish the race instead of thinking the broom car has ended my race!

⁃ Descend the Nant y Garth like the downhiller I am for the TT.

Lining up on the start line with 33 women is a massive step up on the amount of girls who raced last year. Showing that North Wales has quite a few local cyclists with a competitive edge hiding away!

So if you’re in the Ruthin area around midday, why not come and cheer the girls on as we make our way round the road race?

Getting your foot out of the door…

Getting your foot out of the door

Anyone else take FOREVER to get out of the house for a ride on their bike?

Nope? Just me then…

My longer ride this weekend was certainly not something I’d planned. My coach may have asked me to do it, but it wasn’t something my legs were warming to.

I always prefer to get up early to go out on my bike. It’s quieter and means I can get out and do other stuff too. Rolling over and seeing my clock showing 8:40 was a bit of a shock, especially when Ryan was already out on the golf course by this point! Safe to say my early ride had gone straight out of the window. Regardless, my body must of needed a good sleep as I’m not really one to have a lie in anymore!

I may have got up, but there was still the task of actually getting out of the house. Mainly due to the task of actually deciding where I was going to go on my bike. I sat at my computer to plot out the Welsh Champs route, as I though that would be good to do. Yet, deep down I wasn’t really a fan of going on the roads it uses on a bank holiday weekend…

In the end I realised I just needed to get out of the house. Part of me thought it was so late what was even the point of going out at all (in the grand scheme of things it wasn’t that late, I just knew the roads  would be busy). Meaning I very nearly went out at all.

3 and a half hours and 50 miles later I’m sat here writing this post.

Some days can be complete rollercoasters can’t they?

A soon as I got into the Welsh hills the confidence in my climbing legs came back. I wasn’t sprinting up them, but I was just like an engine ticking away until I got to the top. As much as I was loving the Welsh hills, I tackled some steep ones then reverted back to the Cheshire lanes. Bank holiday weekends are not the time to be on busy roads in North Wales…

The Cheshire lanes however were the complete opposite. All of a sudden I hit 40 miles, so stopped at one of my favourite cafes before rounding my ride up to 50 miles. This post might not be the most eventful, but today’s route is definitely one to remember as I actually quite enjoyed it!

Even when everything seems against you in just getting a foot out the door, sometimes it’s worth it.

Any rides you’ve nearly bailed on, but enjoyed in the end?

Getting Back on the Bike

Getting back on the Bike

It was pretty much a straight swap after the Marathon when it came to my running shoes and cycling shoes. Both pink…of course! I had a week off hobbling round trying to function to some sort of extent. I probably only needed a basket, but had to use a trolley to get me round the supermarket! Running 26.2 miles definitely has a lasting effect on you…!

I was almost scared to get back on my bike to tell you the truth. How much bike fitness had I lost? Would I remember my old favourite routes? Finding all of my cycling kit was the first hurdle!

Ryan pushed me out the door so I couldn’t procrastinate anymore and I followed a route I’d followed many a time the year before. It was a route I could roll round, or a route I could ride hard round. The Cheshire lanes are good for routes like that. You just have to make sure the tail winds don’t lure you into riding too hard before you have to turn around and ride back into the head wind!

It was definitely an odd feeling being back on my bike. Odd being on my Liv too. It felt like I’d missed the off season. I think I rode my winter bike once. Thinking about it, I should probably check it hasn’t seized up, but that’s just something to add to my to-do list.

No sooner has I got back on my bike, I was back on a start line racing the chequered flag at Darley Moor Motor Circuit. A circuit I quite enjoyed racing at. The track isn’t anything special, but it’s the group of girls you end up racing with. There’s enough for it to feel like a race! It was also a 3/4 race, so I was hopefully not too out of my depth. My head was mush by the time I’d got there. Was my number on right? Would I get dropped? What tactics would everyone else be running?

Getting back on the Bike

Luckily Ryan stopped me from completely losing my head.

When the gun went the girls shot off like rockets, so my legs were pedalling frantically to not get left for dust. (Must remember to not start in my easiest gear…that only really works at road junctions on normal rides!)

Getting back on the Bike

When I managed to settle my chimp I just focussed on relying on the good ‘engine’ I had from running the marathon. I might not have been on my bike all winter, but I was determined not to let that winter training to go to waste. There were a few games played on the way round, but I just decided to sit at the back. I might have a good engine, but I had no idea what my sprint was like. I just needed to not get dropped. And that’s what I kept telling myself.

I kept spinning and spinning. I did feel anxious not getting involved in doing a turn on the front, but it was my first race of the year. I’m sure that’s allowed to get myself use to things…

Getting back on the Bike

Unfortunately being at the back for the sprint finish (which is a common occurrence at Darley Moor) meant me having the longest sprint out of everyone just to keep up with the girls. In all the chaos that unfolded in that final race, I somehow grabbed 8th. This hopefully means some points on my BC license, but the results haven’t been put online yet so fingers crossed!

Getting back on the Bike

Granted I’d not been heavily involved in the race, but I was happy coming away having been able to battle it out at the finish. That’s what I always hope for in races, that I can get involved in the action! Even if I mess up, sprints or other events in the race give me such a buzz!

Less can be said when I crossed the line of the longest Time Trial I’ve ever done on the weekend just passed. A 30 Mile TT not far from Market Drayton. Sometimes I like the idea of TT. In the end, all it is is pushing as hard as you can for the duration of the course. And that’s exactly what I did…for 30 miles! I was chucking out a stupid amounts of watts and I was only 5 miles in. I was going harder than my FTP, but instead of toning it back I my chimp decided well you’re in it for the long haul now. This would have been fine if there wasn’t new tarmac that felt like I was cycling through treacle and going nowhere!

Getting back on the Bike

Needless to say I didn’t exactly feel myself at the end! That TT did mean I got a stern look from my coach when I’d managed to increase my FTP by 18 watts…maybe I didn’t try as hard in my FTP test the other week as I initially thought…

(Thanks to Ryan for taking all these amazing photos!)

Reflecting on London Marathon 2019

London Marathon 2019

Well I’m still getting use to the idea it’s all done and dusted to be honest. My legs well and truly know the big event has been and gone, but when I don’t have a run to do each day I just don’t know what to do with myself. I know some of you might be thinking ‘get out on your bike!’, but I know my body needs a good rest before I get back into training. So this week, whether I do some sort of sport or not, it will purely be for fun. No number chasing, just moving and taking the world in as I do it.

London Marathon 2019

The closer London got the more difficult it got to concentrate on anything but something running related. What did I need to pack? Would we get down there ok? Would the hotel have anything I liked for breakfast?

A million questions going through my head constantly.

Someone wanted to test me before race day after a long list of things didn’t exactly go to plan. Trains not leaving stations, trains being cancelled, hotel rooms getting trashed so we couldn’t use them. It was just one thing after another.

London Marathon 2019

After working out the maze that is the London Underground, it wasn’t until I had my number in my hand that I relaxed just a little. I was still nervous, but not flapping if I was going to get to the Expo in time or not. That’s one thing I will say about the many emails you get before the marathon, they like to be a little overly cautious. Apparently getting to the Expo at 12 the latest was needed if you were going to get your number by 5pm. Granted getting there the earlier the better, we got there past 12 and were out by 2.

That was something that shocked me to be honest. I went in with the agenda of getting my number and some marathon merchandise. After picking up my number and some New Balance kit, I found the whole thing a little overwhelming. I suppose that’s the competitor in me. I needed my own headspace before race day. I was also conscious at how long I had been on my feet. Although Ryan had already scheduled in our busy day into my taper week.

London Marathon 2019London Marathon 2019London Marathon 2019

Back at the hotel after figuring out how to get to our pre-booked table at a local Italian by Bus, I was praying I’d be able to get some sleep. It’s rather stressful sitting on a bus in London having no idea where you are and having no idea where the bus is going. It felt like the crazy bus off Harry Potter…just not as fast but could turn a corner in the completely wrong direction at any second!

I quite like the night before race day, if I manage to keep the faffing down to a minimum that is. Laying my kit out checking everything is sorted. Pinning my race number on. It helps me get into the right head space. I did put off going to sleep quite a few times, but eventually I forced myself to sleep.

It wasn’t a completely undisrupted sleep thanks to the sirens and cars that come hand in hand with staying in London, but I woke up with the mindset of getting race ready. Food, plaits and kit. Ryan managed to push me out of the room on time and we got downstairs for a proper breakfast that I had to force down me. Race nerves and a big appetite aren’t things that tend to pair up with me. I’d picked up a reserve porridge pot in case I wasn’t a fan of breakfast at the hotel, so I managed that, a banana and then egg on toast.

Along with another runner nervous about relying on another runner’s taxi to get to the start line, we opted for the train which wasn’t too far from the hotel. We also played the system by getting on the train one or two stops before it got rammed. Following the sea of runners it wasn’t hard to work out where the start was.

London Marathon 2019

Walking up the street Greenwich Park opened up in front of us. The bag trucks making up part of the barrier between spectators and the Blue Start Zone, it took me a while to walk in. This was it. Ryan would head off to mile 21 to be part of the Cardiac Risk in the Young support crew and I would soon be making my way around London. Emotions were high. I’ve always been the same. Would I achieve my sub-4 hour goal? Something I found to be quite ambitious for someone’s first marathon. Would I get around at all? I have been riddled with injuries all through training. Could I get round without walking? All of this going through my head making it impossible to go under the blue arch. It felt like the first day of high school all over again. Luckily, like back at the first day of Year 7 when my brother came to see how my first day was going, walking under the blue arch went better than I thought. Everyone was on a high and the general topic of conversation being on deciding whether we actually needed a wee or if it was just nerves.

London Marathon 2019

I wandered round managing to find my bag drop trying not to get drawn into the amount of static stretching going on. Dynamic stretches are always the way to go. I made my way over to the right zone in some of Ryan’s Mum’s old kit over the top of my race kit to keep warm. Packed into the zone like penguins you could feel the buzz and anxiety floating around the group of god knows how many people. By chance I bumped into a cyclist who agreed with me that trying to cycle whilst marathon training didn’t really go hand in hand. I looked at the pacers dotted around, but could only find a 4 hour pacer. Thanks to Ryan’s advice I’d picked up a 3:55 pacing band from the Expo. His opinion was if I had a wobble on the way round I had 5 minutes spare to still get under 4 hours. The cyclist who I’d bumped into also said about not knowing how the pacers get you to the four hours. If it was go slow and speed up at the end…I would have been buggered.

Having the pacing band actually helped a lot more than I thought it would. Each mile I was chasing time for the next one, not the full 26.2 miles. It broke it up into doable chunks. Being a very numbers orientated person it just worked for me in that sense too. If I have something to follow I’m quite good at being able to dig deep and find the strength from somewhere.

Old clothes dropped in the clothing recycling bin, it was time for us to head under the big red arch that marked the start of my 26.2 miles. I knew round London it would be crazy and there would be people watching on the TV all around the UK hoping to spot their friends and family. But from this point to the finish line would be my experience of the London Marathon.

I was nervous about getting to the first mile and seeing how fast I’d started. At the various races I’d done in the run up to the big event I got into the habit of doing sub-8 minute miling for the first mile or two. When you’ve got 26.2 miles ahead and not a club runner, this isn’t something I wanted to be doing. Somehow it was like my body knew what it needed to do. It just kept ticking away whilst I ticked of the miles ahead of my pacing band. Meanwhile I was waiting for the Tower Bridge to come into view as I knew that would signal somewhere near half way. Right from the start we were running through a tunnel of people cheering their friends and family. I started giving high fives to all the little ones who had been dragged out to cheer, but soon realised I needed to focus on the task in hand.

I kept track of when I needed to take on board some sort of nutrition and looking out for the first Buxton water station. In term of nutrition I stuck to my tried and tested Clif Block and Clif Bar method. I saw people with belts full of SiS gels, but I knew my body would reject them after my experience of one in Majorca

I thought when I was running around London I would be able to take myself somewhere else. Running down the lanes at home. Running with Jenson my chocolate lab. Swimming in Cadair Idris, but it was purely a numbers game that kept me moving. There’s so much going on around you there is a lot to take in. Like looking ahead to see where the course is going so you can find the shortest line round the corner. Looking out for bottles so you don’t end up in A&E with a broken ankle thanks to the many dropped bottles. Whilst I had to drop bottles I was making sure I finished one before getting another. I don’t see the point in picking one up taking a swig and dropping it. It’s just a waste. For your average runner anyway. The club runners sort of have a reason when they’re running sub-6 minute miles (probably quicker).

Sooner or later Tower Bridge came into view, but the finish line still felt like it was a long way away. I think it was mainly the uncertainty of if I could keep my pace up. After 6 months of training I desperately wanted to run sub-4. I naturally seemed to run at 8:30 to 9 minute miling, so I knew it was possible. It’s just if I was mentally strong enough to carry it off.

I say I could naturally run at that pace, way back in October 2 miles was a struggle for me. It wasn’t until Ryan bought me some Endura compression socks that I managed to up my distance and pace. It took me a while to get into my Marathon training, possibly down to the fact I didn’t know what I was capable of when it came to running. I was quite happy remaining in the unknown. Eventually 2 miles lead to 3, 3 to 6 etc. It wasn’t until I booked a 10km, half marathon and 20 mile race that I really got into it when I had milestones to hit.

Those first few runs around the village seem so long ago now.

If you asked me where I actually ran in London, I don’t think I’d be able to tell you. I don’t even remember running past Big Ben because of all the people. You only notice the Tower Bridge because of how vast it is. It was all about putting one foot in front of the other and ticking the miles off on my pacing band.

I guess it’s time to bring up how my reason for running the marathon changed. You’d think the only thing that happened over the past 6 months would have been completely running related, but life has to carry on I guess. Whether that’s positive or negative. Carrying the Cardiac Risk in the Young vest round London was certainly an emotional thing to do. It signified what had happened over the past 6 months. Ryan had come to terms with his Mum being diagnosed with a heart condition, only for him to find out he had one too at the start of 2019 after a free CRY screening. The cycling stopped for him and I turned to running to come to terms with it all. Something that hit me like a ton of bricks. I may have turned to running, but I still carried the guilt of still being able to exercise. So now I won’t be taking that privilege for granted.

That’s one thing that changed in me as a result of training for the Marathon. It taught me discipline. I dragged myself out the door in my running trainers whether I felt up to it or not. Some sort of run was better than no run at all. I eventually decided to raise money for Cardiac Risk in the Young as thanks to them I still have my partner in crime. And if people were willing to sponsor me, I wasn’t going to go into it without having given 100% commitment. If anyone who sponsored me is reading this, from the bottom of my heart I can’t thank you enough. It pushed me on when the going got tough. It helped me come to terms with what was going on, because I had something to focus on. The money raised could potentially save another young person’s life by not letting an underlying heart condition go unnoticed.

London Marathon 2019

When it got to around mile 16 or 17 I was running to Ryan at mile 21. When I ran past Ryan I was running to my Mum and brother at the finish. Despite being riddled with calf injuries throughout training, my legs held up rather well  up to mile 22. I was ticking off the pacing times well and it wasn’t until about mile 22 that my right quadricep started playing up. All I could think of in my head was ‘don’t  give up now’. People were dropping like flies with injuries, toilet stops or just slowing down to walk. I desperately wanted to run the whole thing. I’d got this far matching my pace band well, so I wasn’t going to give up now.

Getting near Big Ben (despite not actually seeing it) was where it got really tough. I was so close. I just needed my body to hold on until then. I was so lost in my own mindset getting to the end I didn’t hear my Mum and Brother shouting me down the Mall. I wanted to pick up the pace but had nothing left. My pace had started to drop, but luckily my legs carried me across the line in 3 hours 57 minutes. The last 6 months caught up with me and I burst into tears.

It was done.

My life had been consumed by running for 6 months. I was one of the lucky ones who got into the ballot on their first attempt, but honestly I couldn’t have been more grateful for getting the chance to do one of the biggest running races in the world. It carried me through a rough patch I don’t think cycling would have carried me through. Running took me away from everything I was use to. It gave me an escape without noticing a space beside me. Running the marathon made me take my body to a level of discipline I’ve never managed before. I had a goal and I wasn’t stopping until I got to that finish line.

I’ve been saying this whole thing was a running race. Granted I wasn’t racing for a finishing position, but I was still racing. I was racing myself. I was giving myself the confidence in what my body could achieve.

London Marathon 2019

I suppose this is where you expect me to say turn to exercise to find piece in yourself, but the reality is that it’s not possible for everyone. All I’m going to say is find something that makes you happy. If you’re blessed with a body that lets you do sport, do it for the enjoyment. If all you can do is a walk in the park, soak up those sunshine rays. The stresses we put on ourselves really aren’t worth it if we’re not happy. If you’ve got exam season coming up, don’t shut yourself away from the world and live in a book for the next few months. Get yourself out, even if its to the park for a picnic. Laugh more than you stress.

If you are a young athlete, for your parent’s piece of mind book onto a local CRY screening if you can find one. I’ve booked onto one in June and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about it. If the worst happens as a result, there’s always something else you can turn your mind to. Even if it takes a little while to adjust.

So I’ve ticked the London Marathon off my bucket list in circumstances I didn’t expect. I got the gold medal with the red ribbon, which is a small consolation for never getting good enough at a sport to go to the Olympics, which I always secretly wanted to do. I did the ‘people’s race’. It won’t be something I forget and I’m incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity. Ryan’s always said everything happens for a reason and I really think me getting into the ballot did happen for a reason.

I need to finish with a million thank you’s to everyone who has helped me along the way. I couldn’t have got to the finish line without you!

This has possibly been one of my longest posts, so I hope you didn’t have to get up and make another brew to get through it all. My posts should be getting back to bikes now Ryan has found his new role as coach. My legs are screaming already…

Want to read about how I prepared for London?

Half Marathon

20 Miles and an Ice Bath

Running for CRY