Training As A Female Athlete

Training As A Female Athlete

Navigating fitness as a female can sometimes have its troubles. Especially when we only really ever get taught what will happen on our period and not necessarily how to deal with it. So I decided to put this post together and ask some industry experts on getting the most out of your body as a female who does sport. Every female has to deal with their menstrual cycle and doing sport at some point in their lives, but it’s not something that is openly spoken about.

Who Have I Spoken To

Renee Mcgregor who is a leading Sports and Eating Disorder Specialist Dietician. With 20 years of experience working with every level of athlete up to Olympic level, as she’s a strong believer nutrition is something athletes overlook when it comes to their training. She focuses heavily on over training and REDs in female athletes and how not getting your period from over training is NOT healthy.

Nikki Brammeier is a former professional cyclist who was on the Olympic team in 2016, but is also a 4x Cyclocross Champion. 15 years as a professional cyclist, she now talks openly about dealing with her monthly cycle whilst training and racing around the world. Now a coach through Mudiiita Coaching, she makes sure her past experience results in happy, health athletes.

Bianca Broadbent runs a physio led bike fitting service. With a background in sports physiotherapy spanning 10 years, she is highly experienced in cycling medicine.

Feeling Low Prior To Your Period

When speaking to the ladies above, this was a topic that regularly popped up.

Renee “Firstly, it is completely normal to feel low in energy in the few days prior to and early days of your period. This is due to your levels of oestrogen and progesterone falling. So during this time, it is actually really important to listen to your body and do easier, more gentle sessions. Once you get to the end of your period, you will notice that your ability to train hard goes up significantly and continues to until just after ovulation, where you once again may notice that all training feels more like an effort.

Understanding these patterns means you can tailor your training accordingly which not only helps you to get the most out of your training, but also stops you from beating yourself up when you have those tougher days.”

Nikki “Yep, my periods often affected the way I raced. It was more the PMS (the time before I would get my period, which would cause the most issues).  I had never thought about it, and then once I began using apps like “Flo” and tracking my period, I began seeing patterns of how I would be feeling both on and off the bike in the 7-10 days before I had my period. Usually I would actually feel better once my period had arrived. I always struggled with heavy legs, feeling flat in my riding, tired, not sleeping and feeling light headed and not being able to hit my max in training, it often felt much more of an effort and it would literally be like a light switch, I would go from feeling great one day, to pms hitting and feeling terrible. Once I began seeing these pattens, I could accept it and work with it.”

Adapting Nutrition To Your Cycle

A question put to Renee, this is what she had to say.

Renee “Generally what we notice is that in the 7-10 days prior to our period, when progesterone is rising and reaching a peak, our need for carbohydrate goes up. This is because our body’s metabolic rate increases and the influence of progesterone means your body is more reliant on carbohydrate for fuel than fat. This is why we have cravings and an increased appetite prior to our period.

When we are on our period, it is important to provide your body with food that helps to nourish it, so wholegrains that are high in B vitamins, fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants, foods rich in iron such as red meat and eggs but also essentially fatty acids which can reduce inflammation.”

I’m currently reading Renee’s book ‘Training Food’ to help me get the most out of my training by looking at what I fuel my body with. It’s helped change my view on food by not just seeing it as something that my body uses to repair itself with, but also using it as fuel to get the most out of my training sessions.

 Nikki “Often women would lose periods due to an imbalance with training a lot, and maybe under fuelling. Maybe some women on the pill would skip a period. But I can only speak from my experience. I had a big chunk of my time as a rider without periods, because I was training a lot. I never used birth control pills as I had a really bad experience with them in my teens and never seemed to suit me so I just didn’t want anything like that going in to my body and affecting my hormones in any way.”

A Period Falling On Race Day

It’s something I still dread, even more so when I was at downhill mountain bike races and you had to face the dreaded porta-loos. Here’s what the experts had to say.

Renee “I think understanding why we are more clumsy, feel more tired and generally find training hard just before and those early days of our period can help our mindset as we know there is a physiological reason for this. Also having this awareness means you can be more prepared so knowing how to fuel appropriately to maintain good energy levels as well as preventing blood sugar fluctuations; ensuring good recovery options and enabling sufficient rest around your event will all help. If anxiety is very high, you may find it useful to use an app such as calm or breathe.”

Bianca “Hormonal changes that occur pre/during menstruation may affect pain tolerances. In addition to this we may experience pain in our lower back that is not musculoskeletal in origin – it is in fact referred from our abdomen – so managing symptoms here is key e.g. heat, oral pain relief if required.

Some individuals may also report particularly strong cramping sensations along with heavy bleeding, it’s important in these cases to consider the wider impact on your health and whether or not you need to seek professional support, like Elinor Barker did.”

Back in 2019 news stories were released about Elinor Barker suffering for years with Endometriosis. You can read more about that here.

Want More Info

Something I asked Nikki about, as it can often be the norm that coaches feel one size fits all when it comes to coaching.

Nikki “I think that a lot of male coaches don’t approach the subject of menstrual cycles, maybe they just don’t have the information to know what kind of a huge impact it has on female athletes, and its always been a bit of a taboo subject. I only know all I do, because I’m a female, I’ve been through these situations so I can relate to other female athletes and I like to be open and have these conversations when I’m coaching riders. It’s part of our make up and our physiology, we are not small men and so shouldn’t be treated that way.

I’m not sure whether it has anything to do with girls dropping out of sport, maybe they just lose interest and find other passions. But I do think that having more open conversations about these things from a young age would help both young males and females stay in cycling longer. Between the ages of 12-20 our bodies are all changing so much, you can be in one body one week and then a couple of months layer, you’re in another. Hormones are fluctuating, there’s a lot of changes going on. If young riders know this, they accept it and work with it. It could be you’re more tired from a growth spurt, or for females it could be their period. There is so much going on with young athletes. The most important thing is them having knowledge about their own body, they enjoy what they do, and they have good support around them.”

Want More Info

Flo App – mentioned by Nikki which she used to track her cycle, it is the #1 mobile product for women’s health.

Training Food by Renee McGregor – with no fads or diets to follow, it’s about seeing food as fuel for your training.

The Female Athlete Training Diary by Renee McGregor – if you want to learn more about your cycle and those pesky hormones.

You can also find Renee, Nikki and Bianca on Instagram:

Renee Mcgregor

Nikki Brammeier

Bianca Broadbent

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Following New Paths

TulipWaking up with a bit more ‘go’ in me this morning, the thought of doing a 2 hour session on my Wattbike seemed like a good idea. I had a bad case of cabin fever yesterday and I just couldn’t get it out of my system. It was definitely an occasion for Lucy to disappear into Wales and sprint up some hills, but I can’t do that right now so we adapt don’t we.

It’s a weird scenario right now where I crave human interaction, but when I go out I’m avoiding people at all costs. It’s definitely made me realise how much I thrive on being able to go outside, which luckily right now is what the daily dog walk is allowing.

And that is where this blog post has come from I guess. Don’t worry the Elfyn Antics will resume shortly…

On my regular scrolling through Insta Stories to see what everyones doing to occupy themselves, Cara Hammond’s Instagram popped up. A female artist from my hometown who’s living it large in London. Cara’s live sessions on Instagram are a good way to spend Wednesday lunchtimes at the moment and this week she was doing a 24 hour song writing challenge and was asking fans to send ideas in. So I sent an idea in:

Following New Paths

I’d started the day getting a bit carried away walking Elfyn. Lucky enough to live near a good loop of country lanes, this was where I was heading. You might have to deal with the smell of cow poo (which Elfyn loves…) but walking past all the fields takes me back to my childhood every time. When I use to watch the lambs run around the pond in the field behind my parent’s house as a kid. Watching them try to figure out they could actually run all the way around it, not just half way. When I used to go and feed the calves in the calving shed at my Nain and Grandad’s farm. The closer I am to a farming environment, the more at ease I am.

So walking along to pause near a gate to a field full of fluffy little lambs, it was enough to put a smile on face. Especially as I watch Elfyn weighing them all up in his little head. He was on the lead obviously as we were still stood on the road. Lambs are just such lively little things the way they prance around the fields then snuggle up next to each other to sleep. They’re coats so pure and clean. They’re always a sign Spring has come for me and I wasn’t sure I was going to see any this year.

I thought I had a route in mind for the daily dog walk. I was doing the longer walk to tire the crazy pup out. However, getting to a certain point where I could carry on using a route I’d done quite a lot recently or turn left to carry on along a bridleway I wasn’t sure which way to turn. It wasn’t a life changing decision obviously, but my indecisiveness took over. The turning left option was a path I’d never bothered to explore before. I thought it was a long drive to a posh house. There was no cattle in it as the field had been ploughed. With the sun shining and the ground solid underfoot I thought today was as good of a day as any to try it out.

I’ll admit there was a slight hint of guilt that took over me as I was passing through. Farmers must be working on overdrive right now doing all they can to get food on our tables. There’s no ‘calling in sick’ for them. If their cattle go into labour, it’s on them to help deliver them. Field’s don’t get tended to without someone driving the tractor. So getting to any gates I made sure I covered my hands with hand sanitiser before and after touching them to open (and close!) them. Luckily there was only one gate to deal with.

Wandering through the fields I wasn’t all that far from home, but it was enough to feel like an escape. To take a deep breathe in for the first time in what felt like forever. A pair of buzzards had caught Elfyn’s eye as I saw his nose following them round as they hovered in the sky. A sky that was blue and cloudless. Random trees in the middle of fields breaking the line of the horizon. So many scents filling up his brain as his tail wagged at a million miles an hour.

Yes it’s fab to say I was in Mallorca not too long ago, but you can’t beat the British countryside can you?

Exploring just a tiny bit of the world I’d not seen before just brought a sense of relief that I’d needed for so long. This was where the idea I sent to Cara came from, following new paths. It’s funny how words to one person can mean something completely different to someone else. I may have just followed a new path with my dog that day, but it matches everything going through my head right now. Where us as a human race are so vulnerable right now, so how we spend our time becomes so much more valuable. Our whole lives have been flipped upside down, so you start to reassess how you’ve been spending your time up to now.

Was what you’ve been working towards actually what you want?

Or are you just scared to do something else because of the leap of faith it requires?

Are you just going to stick to somewhere where you don’t really slot it?

What do you regularly waste your energy on? Worry. Stress. Jealousy.

Do you just want to plod on and live the path laid out in front of you, or deep down is time to switch it up and take the jump?

All those ‘quotes’ that hit you hard suddenly start running round in your head and you’re wondering who the hell you’re suppose to be listening to. Or does the grass just seem greener because cabin fever has set in?

So when Cara’s live session was playing when I started writing this post, I loved hearing her take on the idea I’d sent over. The session is still over on her Facebook page if you fancy a listen.

The whole thing about how people interpret a collection of words got me thinking as well. Would a 24 hour blog writing challenge work? So this might be something I try whilst there isn’t much cycling to write about.

This is probably a bit of a random blog post to put out there, but despite having all the time in the world to write right now, I just haven’t had the lightbulb moment. Until now. Which is why I’ve interrupted the Elfyn Antics post series.

So whilst we try to work our way around all the problems the world is throwing at us right now, just know we’re in this together.

If you need to chat, drop me a message.

If you just need a good rant, that’s cool too.

We’ll get there. Eventually.

If you want to listen to Cara’s Live Session, you can have a listen here

 

Wrexham Running Festival 20 Mile Race

Another building block for London Marathon training, I ran the Wrexham Running Festival 20 Mile race.

Title Photo

I’m not going to lie…I could have had more enthusiasm when my alarm went off at 6.30am on a Sunday in aid of a running race. I was expecting to be running in rain and sleet, so it could have turned out to be an emotional day. However, waking up and being able to see the sun starting to rise, I was slightly pleased I wasn’t going to be battling Mother Nature at least. I still had a 20 mile run to tackle, but the improved weather was a small positive to hold on to.

It was a fairly early start in comparison to other running events I’ve been doing to prepare for London. 9am and the start buzzer was going off. I was running in a mix of people where some were doing marathon distance, half-marathon, or like me doing 20 miles. So I needed to keep telling myself to run my own race as I could end up following someone who’s running 7 miles less that me and go off too quick.

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Regardless of being conscious about not going off too quick, I was still around the 8 minute miling mark to begin with. A pace that gave me a slight boost in confidence that I was doing ok. Yet somehow it still felt like I was struggling 3 miles in. So if it’s not already obvious…my chimp was putting up quite a fight whilst I made my way around the course today!

It was odd running through the centre of the town where I’ve grown up. People were still looking at us like we were crazy but still ha!

If I’m completely honest, a lot of the course is a blur really. Apart from the times I may have had to try very hard not to get distracted by Shetland Ponies or Spring Lambs…

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One part of the course I will not forget is having to wade through thigh deep water thanks to Storm Gareth! I know ice baths are suppose to be good for athletes, but I’m not so sure it’s good in the middle of a run! Luckily it was just below my shorts, but it was definitely a good day to not wear leggings!

I did panic a little bit at having to run through the cold water. As a Raynaud’s sufferer it wasn’t ideal, but somehow it didn’t affect me all that much apart from being a little uncomfortable to run when we managed to get out of it. My legs felt like they did transitioning from bike to run in Chirk Triathlon! Character building I guess…!

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Surprisingly I seem to get through the first 10 miles quite strong. I sort of settled into things then. I was like ‘right I’m half way there’ and the next target was making sure I hit my half marathon PB of 1:51. If I hit that I knew my pace was good, especially as I wanted to do the 20 miles in under 3 hours. That’s the biggest thing about running for me is that it is a massive numbers game. I get times in my head to hit on the way round which gives me something to focus on.

15 miles in I was starting to suffer. My head started to go, but I’d done a 15.5 mile run last weekend, so I got past that by telling myself I’d not even hit unchartered territory yet.

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Despite getting to 17 miles and using the mental aid of it just being one Park Run distance to finish, it was the longest three miles I’ve ever done! Hills galore and my legs were suffering. I don’t know how I pushed on but I did.

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It was particularly tough near the end as the field had spread out a lot by then. I’m not sure whether most had done the half marathon, but I was running mainly alone trying to push on as hard as my legs would let me chasing that three hour mark. When it got really tough I thought back to all of the people who have helped me raise money for Cardiac Risk in the Young. I only had to look down at my vest top to remember that. Ryan can’t train or race anymore, so I need to make sure I put my all into it when I do.

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Crossing the finish line seeing my Mum and Ryan, a few tears started coming out. I’m not sure why, but it probably come from spending the last three hours wondering if I was going to be able to make it or not. Well 2:52 to be exact…

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Snowdon on New Year’s Day

We spent New Year’s Day walking up Wales’ highest peak, Snowdon.

Snowdon on New Year's Day

Boots and a packed lunch in the car, we were following the twisting roads across Wales to the highest peak in the country. It’s not a mountain I am familiar with as the only thing I knew about where we were heading was the car park at the bottom of the Watkin Path. We’d ventured up to one of the first waterfalls on the path last summer, taking a dip to cool off on a hot blue sky day.

The 1st January 2019 obviously looked very different; deciding on how many layers to wear by looking between the seasoned walkers and those less experienced in the car park. I’ve learnt from my mistakes of over-estimating how well my body copes with the cold, so I opt for more layers than less.

Laces tied we cross the road to the stone pillar reading ‘Watkin Path’ that shows the start of our New Year’s Day wander.

The winding roads had already brought us far from any sort of noise that daily life seems to entail these days. Yet, walking up through the trees pushed it all further away.

Snowdon on New Year's Day

We reached the waterfalls that we’d came across last summer. The water still looking just as enticing to jump into. The water so clear, yet it still has a colour you only find from water in the mountains.

Whilst we weren’t expecting to have Snowdon to ourselves, we were glad to have chosen the less popular route to the top. We might not have been able to see much of it with the clouds hanging so low and rain coming down, but it still offered sights to remember. A mountain-side teeming with history and tough work, but now it is something used for leisure.

Snowdon on New Year's Day

At first we were following the river and crossing railway sleeper bridges, but soon we found ourselves ascending steps made up of perfectly placed rocks. We mainly walked alone but did come across other walkers every now and then. Some in two’s, but others in groups with their four-legged friends.

500m.

600m.

700m of elevation.

We were slowly edging closer to the peak.

Fog making visibility difficult and way markers few and far between, we took a turn on what we thought was the path. When walking turned to scrambling, we only then started to think we’d taken a wrong turn. You know, past the point of being able to turn back…not like us at all!

Snowdon on New Year's Day

The only thing I will say is that I feel sorry for the poor guy who followed us thinking we knew where we were going.

Two became three whilst we got ourselves out of the pickle we’d found ourselves in.

A few points of brushing off our bouldering skills later, we all looked at each other when the sound of people reaching the summit came into ear shot.

It was one time I was actually thankful for fog as it meant we had no clue how steep the mountain-side actually was. Although, without the fog maybe we wouldn’t have made the slight navigation error in the first place…

Snowdon on New Year's Day

The thought of being able to have lunch kept me moving up the mountain. We climb the steps to the official summit by doing that typically British thing of forming an orderly queue on the steps and waiting our turn to see the grand total of bugger all. You’ve got to love Wales. Even when the weather’s against you, it can still put a smile on your face.

We head to the side of the closed cafe in order to get out of the howling wind. Our planned lunch stop turned into a quick sandwich break only for us to get moving again.

Our scrambling adventure meant I had to ditch my thick gloves, so the mountain sapped out any sort of warmth my hands had. I was relieved to come across a sign for the Watkin Path that pointed us away from the steep ascent we had just climbed.

This confirmed we had definitely strayed away from the Watkin Path.

We left the swarms of people that had climbed the Pyg track behind and began to feel more human again the warmer we got.

We passed groups on their way up.

We were overtaken by those swiftly on their way down.

But all of a sudden about an hour had passed without us seeing a sole.

Snowdon on New Year's Day

We stopped for a short while as the sun started to burn away the clouds. I threw my arms up in the air and shouted:

“Sun me!”.

The mountain we had just climbed slowly started to reveal itself. The rocks were jagged, but somehow still uniform. Their shadows came and went as the sun tried its hardest to come through.

The further down we got, the more the clouds started to clear. It seems we had quite literally had our heads in the clouds. Still drenched from our 5 hours wandering, we were fairly close to the bottom, only to pass a couple saying:

“We must be over half way now!”

Ryan and I looked at each other and smiled.

Back to the railway sleeper bridges and waterfalls, we breathed a sigh of relief. Then burst out laughing as we followed train of sheep down the path, with one attacking, going for the breakaway.

Then there was a stop Ryan had already anticipated when his eyes fell on a black Labrador who I would soon be giving all of the attention to. We chatted to the family of four, then covered the last stretch back to the car park.

Snowdon on New Year's Day

We got changed out of layers, then stopped at the closest cafe as during the walk Ryan had realised his coat wasn’t exactly waterproof anymore. We sat in the Moel Siabod Cafe with our hands wrapped around cups of coffee desperately trying to warm them up. We were also munching on cake I’d bought after feeling guilty I’d eaten the Mars Bar Ryan was planning on eating…

The cafe was full of friends, families and their woofers in tow. There were no Instagram perfect selfies going on here. It was all wind-swept hair and damp clothes, but it was perfect in the real sense of the word. Everyone was smiling, chatting and completely disconnected from the digital world.

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What To Take On A Winter Breeze Ride

If you’re joining a women’s bicycle ride this Winter, here’s a few tips on what to take with you. 

Winter Breeze Kit

You might be a regular on your local Breeze rides, or you might be thinking of attending your first ride with no idea what to take with you! As a bare minimum all you need is a working bike and a helmet and you’re good to go. This post just contains a few things to make your ride that little bit more comfortable!

  1. Bike & Helmet

As I’ve already covered, a bike and helmet is a good place to start when you’re signing up to your first Breeze ride, but more importantly that they’re both in good condition. Your bike doesn’t have to be the latest model to come out of your local bike shop, it could just be one you’ve dusted the cobwebs off in the garage. Local Breeze Champions will list what bikes are suitable for the ride, so you just need to check on the Let’s Ride website what they’ve said about the ride. If you’re unsure if a ride is suitable for you, look out for a future blog post where I explain how to work the Let’s Ride website! Or drop your local Breeze Champion a message.

The important thing to remember is as Breeze Champions we aren’t trained bike mechanics too! If you’re unsure whether your bike is good to go, book it into your local bike shop so they can check it over. And lastly, as a Breeze Champion myself I wouldn’t let someone attend my rides without a helmet.

2. Puncture Repair Kit

Now when I say puncture repair kit, mine is made up of:

  • Spare Inner Tubes
  • Mini Bike Pump
  • Tyre Levers (to help get the tyre off and back on!)
  • CO2 Gas Canisters (a speedy way to pump up your tyre again!)

I tend to just replace the tube than put a patch over it. Some people still patch their tubes up rather than replace it, which does get more use out of the tube. But when its cold you tend to want to get back pedalling as soon as possible!

A good thing to remember on local Breeze rides is whilst we love what we do, we are volunteers who give up our time to lead the rides. We can’t keep giving out inner tubes as we’ll have bought them ourselves!

Making sure you have the correct spare inner tube is important. Inner tubes come in many different sizes, just like the bikes they go on to! I could list all of the different sizes here, but the blog post would never end! If you’re unsure of which ones to buy, your local bike shop will be more than happy to help.

3. Snacks or Cafe Money

Now your Breeze Ride might not have a cafe stop, which is completely fine. However, from experience I can tell you that there’s nothing worse than being out on your bike without money or snacks when you need them. Especially during the Winter (I’m not selling this Winter Breeze Ride thing very well am I?!?). Even if you’re not stopping at a cafe, having some emergency money in the back of your phone case and a snack of some sort is a good idea when it’s so cold! You never know how your body is going to react to the cold. I can go out on some rides and be completely fine, but others an emergency snack or cafe stop have been life savers! And who doesn’t like a good chat over some coffee and cake?

4. Gloves!!!

This can be something people tend to forget about but I couldn’t recommend a good pair of gloves more! As your riding along the cold air will tend to hit your hands first. Sooner or later you’ll barely be able to uncurl them from the bars. I know…I’ve been there! Standing under the hand dryer at work melting the icicles off my fingers after commuting by bike…and you think I’m exaggerating! I’m really not ha!

5. Warm Jacket & Leggings

For your first Breeze Ride these don’t even have to be cycling specific. I’ve cycled in thermal gym leggings from Matalan before now and a Muddyfox Waterproof Jacket from Sports Direct. All I’ll say is make sure you’re warm, but as well your clothes don’t restrict you whilst riding your bike. Make sure there’s enough flex in the material so you can reach the handlebars! I’d only say ride in leggings too. Whilst sweatpants are warm at home on the sofa watching Christmas films (gasp I said the C word!) they’re not ideal for riding a bike. They’ll probably fall down if it rains and get caught in your chain!

6. Bicycle Lock

Now I’m not saying carry a heavy bicycle chain round with you on your ride. Luckily many brands make small locks that are perfect for a cafe or toilet stop on your way round. They’re small enough to slide into your pocket but happen to be very useful if you need to leave your bike to go and order a coffee!

7. Water Bottle

You wouldn’t go to the gym without one, so make sure you pop one on your bike for your next Breeze Ride!

Like the look of the cycling kit I’ve included in the image at the top of the post? Follow the links below!

Mini Pump

CO2 Canisters

Bicycle Lock

Clif Bar (my favourite flavour!)

Gloves

Cycling Leggings

Cycling Jacket

Helmet

Bottle

Cycling Up The Old Shoe, Llangollen

The Old Shoe

If you know the area around Llandegla and Llangollen well, you’ll know the Horseshoe Pass is the Sa Calobra of the region. With the Ponderosa Cafe at the top, it’s a good climb to conquer with a guaranteed cafe stop at the top!

But then there’s the Old Shoe…

The road that used to take people out of Llangollen, but is lesser known thanks to the Horseshoe Pass being built.

You climb up a road as if you’re going to the Horseshoe Pass, but turn off down a country lane. A country lane that went down way more than I would have liked, only because I knew that would only add to the pending ascent ahead of me.

Through a little village I didn’t even know existed, I passed a few roads I wasn’t sure if I was suppose to turn down.

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Then a straight road going undeniable up appeared in front of me. Locals looking at me in disbelief questioning if I knew what I was letting myself in for.

Certain words came to mind when I realised people had definitely not been over-exaggerating how tough the Old Shoe was.

How I was going to get to the top was still unknown to me.

I was over dressed and my legs instantly felt the burn. Cars were even pulling over behind me rather than make me get off so they could pass! One managed to squeeze past by the un-welcomed cattle grid half way up and beep his horn as if to keep me going…ha!

Thinking back to it now I still don’t know how I reached the top. My body and mind were completely done. It felt like my chest was going to explode, yet somehow I couldn’t bring myself to unclip my pedals and stop. Thanks to my Winter gloves it was a battle to keep my hands on the bars and three layers on top meant I desperately wanted to de-layer.

I was waiting for the section where I’d done my photo-shoot with Cycling Weekly, at least then I knew I’d be somewhere near the top at least.

By this point, it definitely felt like I couldn’t get enough air in my lungs.

LucyBulkeley 54

Thankfully I managed to keep my pedals turning just enough to stop me having to get off! I sat on the wall outside the Ponderosa wondering what the hell I had just done. I certainly didn’t look like I did in these photos…more red faced and just generally knackered!

That being said, I’d already been up the Horseshoe Pass that morning after taking another rider, also called Lucy, who happens to have a same bike as me too, on a Breeze ride. I’d delved into Ryan’s route knowledge and took Lucy on a loop from Llangollen that followed country lanes to Corwen and back. Hopefully I’ll be able to share the loop with you all soon!

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Finding People To Cycle With

Finding People to Cycle With

Starting something new, like cycling, or getting the motivation to go out and ride can be difficult sometimes. There’s always something to tick off the to-do list, or you haven’t got enough time. Whatever the scenario, sometimes organising to go out with other people can be just the ticket to get you out. Whether you go 5 miles or 50, on the road or on the trail.

1.Find a cycling group to join.

Some of you might have ‘training’ rides you need to go on, and others may just cycle for the social side of it. Either way, riding with others is always more fun, or at least having the option to ride with others is. I totally relate to those day you just want to spend with yourself on the road or in the mountains. Anyway, my first top tip is to set aside days you can go on rides to meet new people. Find a Facebook group to organise a group of cyclists together and meet up to ride with no agenda or intentions. You don’t need to get back by a certain time, or obtain a certain amount of PB’s. All you need to do is get to know the new people you’re riding with. You’ll be able to gauge their ability against yours and if they go at a social pace for you to keep up with. Who knows, maybe you’ll find a new cycling buddy, and if not you’ve met someone new and had a good day on your bike.

There will be a post coming out next week on good Facebook groups to join!

2.Go to cycling events local or further afield.

The best thing about Girls At Llandegla was so many of the girls managed to find new people to go cycling with. Some had only ridden with men before, so now they have a group of girls to go out with. To stop and take those all important Instagram snaps with and enjoy what’s around them.

3.Join a Breeze ride.

A few years ago British Cycling set up the Breeze initiative to encourage more women to ride bikes. With rides both on the road and trails, whatever you fancy doing you can head over to the British Cycling website to search for a ride in your area. Breeze rides are risk assessed roots graded on their difficulty, and mean you’ve got guaranteed riding buddies if you fancy riding somewhere new or local.

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Things You Learn from Cycling with Your Other Half: From Ryan’s Point of View

Cycling is on the rise, but that might mean cycling with your other half. If you or they are an experienced cyclist, it’s always worth considering they might not be as quick as you!

Since meeting Lucy, we’ve been on loads of bike rides. From the Cheshire plains to the hills of North Wales, as well as some off road stuff too. Our first ride together was one of the early dates and now it’s almost a weekly event.

Through our numerous rides, I’ve learnt a fair few things…

1. We’re both out of our comfort zones.

When you first start riding together, it’s likely to be a new experience for the pair of you, and we were no different. The pressure of navigating; trying not to get lost or make the ride longer than planned. Trying to set a pace that she can cope with and not run out of energy miles from home. It all adds up to a decent bit of pressure.

“Trying to set a pace that she can cope with…”

Conversely she’s going to be thinking the same sort of things; how far are we going, will I be able to keep up. The key thing is to communicate (which sounds simple I know) but if you talk and plan things out it can be a much more enjoyable ride.

Cycling with your other half

 

2. It’s not the same as riding with my normal riding buddies (but that’s not a bad thing)

Riding buddies tend to all be of similar abilities and you can all ride at a pace that requires effort, but everyone still manages to stay together (sometimes only just!). This isn’t the case when riding with your partner. There is going to be a difference in your abilities plain and simple, but this isn’t a bad thing.

“There is going to be a difference in your abilities…”

From my point of view it allows more time to chat and take in the views, which is what cycling is supposed to be about right? I can’t believe the number of nice views I’ve noticed on roads that I’ve ridden hundreds of times before, but always been too focused on the road ahead to notice them.

Moel Famau

3. It still counts as training.

As a competitive cyclist I attempt to follow a training plan. While riding with your partner might not be a hard interval session or a mega long endurance ride, it gives you something that is often massively overlooked by cyclists. Recovery. And more specifically active recovery. You might not be pounding the pedals, but going for an easy ride with your partner is a great way to allow your legs to recover from all the hard training and help you reap the benefits later.

“You should’t set off with the expectation of riding at a certain speed, riding with your partner is a time to forget about numbers and just enjoy the ride.”

4. Wear more clothes.

This is one that I’ve got wrong on several occasions and is more pertinent to the colder months. Through years of experience I’ve got to a place where I can open the back door in the morning and almost immediately gauge the amount of kit I need to wear to keep warm, but also not overheat. But when you’re riding with the other half at a lower intensity (getting that all important recovery) your body generates less heat and all that wisdom goes out the window. I now understand to put on more kit than I initially think I’ll need, otherwise I’m going to be in for a cold couple of hours.

Cyclists

5. Always have sweets on standby.

This one comes from one ride in particular. We’d decided to go on an off road adventure through the Denbighshire moors, which was one of my favourite rides of 2016. The ride took much longer than we’d both expected and after running out of food at the halfway point, the last few miles were a right battle, both of us running on empty.

“I had a bag of emergency sweets stowed away in the car.”

Fortunately I had a bag of emergency sweets stowed away in the car. These were a godsend and perked us both up. Since then I’ve always kept some on standby just in case…

Female Mountain Biker

6. There’s always more to talk about.

I’ve never been the most talkative person in the world, but there’s something about being on a bike that makes me turn into Mr Chatterbox. Even if I’ve been with Lucy solidly for the previous week I can always think of something else to talk about. And that’s great, chatting away makes the miles fly by, there’s nothing worse than riding along in silence.  At the end of the day your partner is someone you enjoy spending time with and going for a ride is just an extension of that.

Dolgellau, Wales

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Hidden Gems in London

I’d only been in London 2 minutes and David Beckham walked past abandoning his Bentley on the side of one of the many busy roads in London.

Fashion Photo
With a fashion sample sale to head to first that took up a lot of the day, but didn’t stop me stumbling across Portobello Road. A road I knew had some significance in London, but I was sure what. Walking along it I could see the attraction. Market stalls and every colour in the rainbow filling the street. And lovely people to match just trying to make their way in the world. The shops were like little hidden gems. Full of unique things I wouldn’t find back at home. Everything from edgy urban styling to the pastel coloured garments I love filling my wardrobe with. Appletree Boutique to be precise.
Appletree Boutique London
After photographing Portobello Road from every possible angle it was time to head to Camden Town. A place I didn’t know much about, but was full of cultures from around the world. And people from around the world too. I rarely heard a British accent. Old London is one way I’d describe it. Aged bricks and mortar that was sky high made bright by the cultural items on sale. I didn’t buy much here but it was good to explore the place and fill the film on my Mum’s Canon EOS 500.


Then we found ourselves in Regents Park, which sparked up a memory of some writing I did on my first trip to London. I was just sitting on one of the benches with my notebook and pen in hand. I’d always wanted to write, it just took me a few years to write anything worth reading. I even recognised which bench I was sat on as my shy teenage self. Dodgy haircut and fashion sense to match.


The sun was setting and yet so many people were still out and about. Walking. Running. Socialising face to face and not through a screen. It’s kind of sad these days people spend more time talking via Facebook Messenger rather than face to face. Conversations with people when they’re right in front of you always have more meaning. Work to live and not live to work I suppose. Yes you might be tired after work, but can watching a television screen really have any comparison to seeing friends and family. Or even just being outside?


There was still the rumble of traffic not to far away but it was still peaceful with the birds chirping away. And it was only at this point I heard numerous British accents. Which was quite odd really.

So London might seem an unsociable place to some, but it’s sparked up my thoughts into wanting to be a bit more sociable rather than keeping in touch by typing a message into my phone.

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