To Train Inside or Outside?

Writing snuggled up under a fluffy blanket with puppy in full sleep-mode with legs sprawling in the air acting as my hot water bottle, I’m still trying to get my head around what made me think heading out on my bike this morning was a good idea. I felt like I had a long ride in my legs and I was just getting far too restless to not spend my Sunday out on my bike. Indoor training sessions can help keep your fitness topped up, but they just can’t match pedalling outside can they?

People not quite so outdoorsy must think I’m mad. It’s a weird feeling heading out in the wind and rain. With every car that went past, I must have looked like I wasn’t moving much at all, but like in Belgium, deep down I think I was enjoying it to some extent. The headwind was relentless at times, but bearable once back on country lanes and off the main roads. The rain was making it hard to read my Garmin. Roads were flooded and sometimes like rivers. Yet I was still oddly content with being outside in my own headspace.

Country lanes are fab most of the time as a cyclist, but you can end up in the middle of nowhere rather quickly. By this point in the ride you could I wasn’t exactly thinking straight. My kit was soaked through, so the cold wind was starting to take its toll. My only focus was the cafe I was trying to get to, Caffi Florence in Loggerheads near Moel Famau. I was so close, but had a swirling river I was simply on the wrong side of.

Having just descended a rather steep hill I didn’t particularly want to head back up, there was no option but to fall back on my mountain biking skills to get me to the cafe. Luckily, the unsuccessful crossing of the river happened to be right by a footpath I knew ended up right at the cafe I was desperately trying to get to. With some funny looks of Sunday dog walkers as I rode past on muddy trails on my road bike, I finally pulled up outside Caffi Florence.

My Garmin wasn’t a huge fan of the stormy weather, so I think that had given up a long time ago. By this point, with my hands stinging from the cold, I thought it might be wise to try and get picked up. I’d love to say I was hardcore and rode home, but not being able to change gear due to cold hands made that rather difficult. No phone signal made ringing anyone difficult, so I frantically went in search of hot chocolate in the cafe.

Looking probably quite delirious stood in the middle of the cafe freezing cold thanks to wet kit, the other customers must have thought I was completely bonkers. The guy behind the counter must have felt sorry for me as he popped my hot chocolate on the table with extra marshmallows. I don’t think I’ve ever drank a hot chocolate so fast, it must have looked like I hadn’t eaten in weeks. Honestly, writing this it makes me feel like I’ve been on some massive epic, but I’d only ridden 17 miles by this point!

Catching the attention of a little boy who found my cycling helmet rather interesting, I was slowly starting to feel more human as I thawed off. With no phone signal, the only option I had was to start riding and see where it got me. The original route home abandoned having lost all faith in my Garmin, I was just heading home on roads I knew.

Finally getting some phone signal and my inability to change gear thanks to numb fingers, Ryan and Elfyn met me on the way. Elfyn being a permanent fluffy hot water bottle, his cuddles were very much needed.

So I hope this post hasn’t been too depressing to read. I hope you could have a little giggle at my misfortune after thinking I could tackle riding my bike outside today. I’m not even going to start on how the sun came out after being rescued.

I guess all I have left to say is to those who feel guilty for opting for the turbo at the moment. Don’t. Trust me, you’re not missing much outside. Head out for a walk to get your fresh air fix instead. We’ll be back riding the country lanes in no time.

Why I’ve Swapped The Gym for Pilates

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I’ve been thinking about starting Pilates for so long. I tried some classes a few years back, but that was in the middle of downhill racing I think. The result being it didn’t really last with me being hooked on adrenaline…

Despite trying everything to get back into some sort of strength routine recently it felt like I wasn’t getting all that far. Dumbells that previously felt light are now rather heavy and my core strength is pretty much non-existent. I searched Youtube and tried old workout sessions I’d always love doing, but the interest just wasn’t there.

Just after Christmas a beginner’s course for Pilates popped up locally, so I managed to sign up despite it being a course in high demand. Pilates must be the thing to do where I live. London has spin classes and North Wales has Pilates I guess.

Anyway, that was that and I was signed up to a 5 week course of beginner’s Pilates. I’d looked for videos on Youtube for Pilates and Yoga before, but you don’t realise how wrong you’re doing things until you go to a class with an instructor that has years of experience. Youtube fitness videos can sometimes be fab, but then at times I think they can actually do you more harm than good.

The biggest battle for me with Pilates was not falling asleep. Not because the class was boring, but just with how deep you have to breathe to do all of the exercises. Your ribs open just as wide as they would in a session on the Wattbike, yet at a third of the pace. How I find lying on a Pilates mat comfy I don’t know. I’ve obviously got the family trait of being able to sleep just about anywhere…

Pilates has been a rather big eye-opener if I’m honest. There’s obviously a big trend in yoga at the moment and your not part of that yoga ‘cliche’ unless you can get your leg by your head, but I’m actually starting to think Pilates is a better place to start. With a knowledgeable instructor, you’ll actually start to use muscles you didn’t know you had and use them properly.

Being a cyclist I quickly noticed my quads are very quick to take over when I’m meant to be using my core strength for an exercise. Something the instructor told me would go over time the stronger I get with Pilates.

It’s the go-to recommendation for GP’s when people have issues with things like their backs and shoulders. Our daily lives aren’t really beneficial to things like posture and using our bodies as they’re intended. The thing that shocked me was just how deep your core muscles go, something I’ve only noticed from doing Pilates. You can be ‘toned’ like all of the influencers on Instagram, but if there’s actually any strength there is another question.

I’m excited to be coming to the end of my Pilates course and making it part of my training routine each week. Yes, I’m more familiar with things like running and cycling, but it’s good to mix it up I think. Especially when it’s something as beneficial as Pilates. After only a few weeks I’ve noticed I’m using my body differently, from carrying out tasks at work or how I run.

So you’ll probably see Pilates pop up on my blog from time to time now it’s part of my routine again. Who knows, it might even help when I’m on the bike. I’m just waiting for all of these storms to disappear first…

The January Slump

At the start of ‘off-season’ I was raring to go after not really accomplishing much on the bike last year. After the London Marathon, everything else seemed a little mediocre. It didn’t have the ‘wow’ factor of London. Come off-season I was ready to wipe the slate clean and give 2020 a good go. Now with a Wattbike Atom to train on I really have no excuse, but with a Winter plagued by every bug under the sun that perfect off-season hasn’t really gone to plan. Neither has the blog writing…

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Here I am writing again, so that’s got to be a good sign right?

I thought I’d kick things off with a bit of a motivation themed post, as I can imagine I’m not the only one struggling with those New Year’s Resolutions. So I’ve been trawling through the depths of Youtube to find some inspiring videos to get you (and me) back into the swing of things.

  1. Making It Work: The Lizzie Deignan Story

Years spent at the top of the sport on the track and on the road, this video shows Lizzie’s return to the sport after having her gorgeous little daughter, Orla.

 

2. WHAT IT TAKES: One of the boys

Annemiek van Vleuten is a force to be reckoned with to say the least. After a big crash during the Olympic Road Race in 2016 it was questionable whether she would be able to return to the sport. With lumbar spinal fractures (yes multiple fractures) she was back on the podium a month later taking 1st on a stage in the Lotto Belgium Women’s Tour. In this video she joins the boys of Mitchelton Scott on their training camp.

 

3. Rising: No Train No Gain w/ Kate Courtney

A bit of gym inspiration off XC rider Kate Courtney, who is another Scott rider. This video follows her at a gym session at Red Bull HQ.

 

4. Lucy Charles – Road to Kona

Regularly popping up on my Instagram, Lucy Charles-Barclay is one of the biggest names in Ironman. Her laid back persona doesn’t stop her putting her all into training and racing. This video follows her quest to get on the top step at Ironman’s biggest race in Kona, Hawaii.

5. Beyond the Bike – Casey Brown

Now this video is from the archives way back when I was racing downhill. This was a video I watched multiple times the Saturday night before a race. It would be this or mountain bike film ‘Life Cycles‘. This video is a bit different from the ones above, but it’s definitely one to watch to give you a nudge to follow your dreams.

 

So I hope you’ll be leaving  this blog post with the fire in your belly again. I’ve lost it a little this off-season. I’ve even questioned if I want to race anymore, but looking through Youtube’s many pages has helped me get that focus back.

Falling off the wagon is ok, it’s just if you’re going to stay on the ground or brush yourself off and get back on. Even if you fall off again, it’s just important you get back on.

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.

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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

I’m Running London Marathon for…

London Marathon

Things have been a little quiet on here lately…I didn’t even do an International Women’s Day post! Some will possibly know already, but we (me and Ryan) didn’t have the start to 2019 we’d hoped for. It started with laughing and memories thanks to our eventful trip up Snowdonia, but swiftly took a sharp turn when Ryan got diagnosed with a heart condition. All of a sudden he had to go from a life of sport to being told he couldn’t do anything more than a gentle game of golf.

He’s been diagnosed with ARVC, Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy.

To most it has been hard to get their head around when Ryan took the titles of RAF Road Champ and RAF TT Champ for 2018, on top of coming 26th in the British Cycling TT National Champs.

Now Ryan’s at home when I’m going out training for the London Marathon when he would have previously had been out on his bike for 3-4 hours.

Now we’re both trying to get to grips with golf again to cut a long story short, a heart screening run by Cardiac Risk in the Young has saved Ryan’s life. More commonly known as C.R.Y., they are a charity focussed on preventing sudden cardiac deaths in the young. They run free screenings across the country that help highlight any heart issues that may have gone unnoticed until it is too late.

Being surrounded by a lot of people with a passion for sport, I’m hoping I can raise awareness of heart conditions in young athletes, as well as encouraging them to attend a C.R.Y. screening. With a screening per person costing £85, I’m hoping money raised from doing the marathon can help C.R.Y. carry on the amazing work they do.

If you’d like to put any money towards this amazing charity, then I’ve set up this Virgin Money Giving page:

Click here to support Cardiac Risk in the Young

The marathon was originally something I was doing to tick off my bucket list, but when we found out the news the reason I was training has drastically changed. I’m training because I still can. So no matter how extreme your training regime is, #trainbecauseyoucan

Half Way There, Running On A Prayer…

It’s been a while hasn’t it? Either way I’m not entirely sure where today came from. A 1.51 Half Marathon.

With the weeks leading up to said Half Marathon being less than ideal due to injuries…going into it there was the main aim of getting round at all with a slight hope for a sub 2 hour time. Sub 2 hours means a sub 4 hour London Marathon time could be in sight.

Getting ready for a local half marathon was rather odd. I needed my race number and trainers as a bare minimum. A lot less faff compared to going to a cycling race! Needless to say I was pretty calm because of this.

There was a dilemma of needing a wee with not long to go to the start. It wasn’t even a nervous wee. I genuinely needed to go! Yikes!

Having to find alternative means to the handful of porta loo’s for 5,000 runners…it was working out where I needed to place myself. I came across the 2 hour pacer, so I’d found my position ready for the start gun.

The gun went but it took me a while to get to the actual start line whilst all of the runners funnelled through it. I kept all of the eagerness at bay and stayed at the 2 hour pace to ease me into it all.

Considering my interrupted training plan, I was hesitant to pick up the pace, but as the miles ticked by and I felt ‘comfortable’ I knew I had room to pick up a little speed. Hovering around the 8.30 pace, my Clif Shot Blocks seemed to keep me fuelled and on target for sub 2 hours.

We couldn’t have had more of a perfect day for it. It didn’t feel like the middle of July obviously, but it was warm enough to run in shorts. A pair of Nike shorts I found in the sale that turned out to be the comfiest pair of shorts I’ve ever ran in! Paired with my compression socks (which have literally saved my marathon training) I was channeling Lucy Charles all the way round, plaits included…just maybe not her pace ha!

There was one point I slipped back into my comfort zone, but quickly snapped myself out of it. After some advice of Ryan’s friends on thinking ‘tummy muscles’ on the way round, I felt like my technique was quite strong for once. No slouching today!

Thanks to my training being fairly hilly and the race route being fairly flat, the hills on course were gladly not too much of an issue. I made sure to power up them. It was just one of those days where I had a kick butt attitude. None of this ooo I’ll play it safe, which was a lot different to how I normally approach things!

In my head I wanted to get to the 10 mile mark then pick up the pace. I only had a Park Run distance left then! And that’s what I did. Then with about a mile and a half to go I put all of my cards on the table. It was my final big push to make sure I got under the 2 hours mark. Managing quite a few minutes quicker than that, it was rather surreal crossing the finish line.

I suppose that’s one thing I like about endurance running. It’s all on me. No tactics or attacks to respond to. Just getting from A to B in a time I’m happy with. Granted if I took it more seriously it wouldn’t be like that, but still…

Thank you to all of the organisers of the Village Bakery Wrexham Half Marathon and all of the marshals cheering around the course. There was such a good vibe out on the course today, so I loved spending my Sunday getting a Welsh Dragon medal.

Having my family out on course pushed me on no end too. So hopefully all of this means marathon training is back on track.

Major Milestones for 2018

I often get to this time of year and feel a bit deflated thinking I haven’t done a great deal throughout the year. So I’ve made myself sit down and write this blog post to summarise all of things I’ve done that I may have forgotten about!

The first exciting trip for Lucy’s Life and Bikes in 2018 was a trip to British Cycling HQ. We got to hear about British Cycling’s plans for the year and watch the National Track Champs. Nothing major really happened but it was a good way to kick off the year. It was quite odd meeting other cycling bloggers really with how rare we seem to be!

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Gosh…it’s been a #busy week! Rushing to get an assignment done so I could really chill out in #Manchester this #weekend . Cramming in the #gym to get myself back into a #training regime and have a day at British Cycling yesterday! _____________________________________ Watching the National Track Champs yesterday was mental. The tension of who’s going to cross the line first is intense 🙉 If you see local track races popping up near you, I definitely recommend you go and watch. The #power the #athletes produce is mind-boggling 🙈 _____________________________________ #cycling #BritishCycling #TrackChamps #ukcyclechat #ukblogger #activelife #ootd #anotheroutfitpost

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One memory I do want to take away from 2018 is when me and Ryan pulled a route map out of a magazine and walked up Cadair Berwyn. The walk wasn’t exactly up a mountain, but we still took in some amazing views that day. I think Ryan just wanted to get me out of the house really with #GirlsAtLlandegla coming up the following weekend!

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So then came #GirlsAtLlandegla. I’m not as mountain bike focussed as I use to be, but I still love heading to the forest on my bike every now and then. I’m not exactly sure where the idea for #GirlsAtLlandegla came from, but all of a sudden Manon Carpenter was coming up from South Wales to attend the event. Due to snow, the brave 30 girls who attended the event got to follow Manon around the trails. Still to this day I think about all of the girls who rode that day and were completely amazing. As were One Planet Adventure, Llandegla who made sure the girls could quickly warm up when they got back! We also ended up raising nearly £300 for Help for Heroes!

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It didn’t take me too long to defrost after #GirlsAtLlandegla, but the thought of getting to the beach in Majorca the following week got me round those snow-covered trails! My first cycling holiday, I had the best time cycling roads that dreams were made of. The climbs went on forever, but the views took your mind off the pain in your legs. Despite only being out there for a few days, quite a few blog posts came out of it!

Sa Calobra, Mallorca

Sa Calobra, Mallorca

One of my big goals for 2018 was to race more on my Liv, so post-Majorca a lot of my time was spent ‘attempting’ to train. Paired with wanting to gain more confidence with open-water swimming, I was either on my road bike or in a lake! I also had to chuck some running in there after going back to Oulton Park at the end of April for their Spring Duathlon.

Oulton Park Duathlon 2018

When we started to enter the road racing season, that’s when I ended up making an appearance in Cycling Weekly for a ‘Training Makeover’. They looked at my training and gave me some pointers on how to tackle it during the Summer.

Unfinished Business

The closer we got to the Summer, the more my confidence with open-water swimming came, meaning I wanted to tackle the unfinished business I had in the lake at the top of Cadair Idris. I don’t know why I felt I needed to return to the lake and actually swim in it, but I went back and somehow managed it. It may have taken me a while, but I got there. This was quite a major milestone for me, because, anyone who knows me will know the mental battles I’m sometimes up against. Getting to the point I’m at now has been a long road, back to before Chirk Triathlon even. Some might say I should have gone to the Doctors, but when their only response was to put me on medication, I knew it was getting out of my comfort zone that was going to help me. I’d often feel anxious sitting in a classroom, but now I’ll talk to anyone. I don’t think I’ll ever be ‘cured’, but it certainly doesn’t seem to control me anymore. Unfinished Business was the biggest blog post for me this year. Letting my mind stop me from doing something as simple as swim in a lake had been a weight on my shoulders I had finally lifted. For 2019 I’m hoping I can find some sort of open-water swimming event to enter.

After Cadair I had a busy few weekends getting to concerts. Thankfully Stereophonics was local, but I also travelled to Manchester to see Taylor Swift with Georgia. Taylor Swift was something that was completely spontaneous and booked last minute, so maybe the getting out of my comfort zone was starting to pay off!

After some sad news about someone I use to race Downhill MTB with, I soon found myself booking an uplift day at Revolution Bike Park with my brother. It was funny going on a road trip with my downhill bike again, especially with my brother. He took me to a few of my races, mostly thanks to my bike fitting into his car a lot easier than anyone else’s! It would normally mean a trip to Chirk McDonald’s after college on a Friday with a packed car heading to the Ludlow area for a Pearce DH race. The good old days that I miss massively and all the people I use to ride with too. I wasn’t as quick as I used to be, but I don’t think I ever will be…

Mountain biking aside, I was soon back on my road bike leading the Women’s Tour out of Dolgellau as a Breeze Champion. Ryan even gave me a taste of how much pain the pro’s would have been in after taking me up the Bwlch Y Groes…

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The aftermath of the Bwlch Y Groes 😰 •••• Head to my Instastory to hear what I thought after I got my breath back 😂 •••• I’ve never ridden a climb like it…I can’t compare it to anything 🙈 Sa Calobra was longer, but the Bwlch Y Groes felt so much harder 😂 My chest hurts from breathing so hard 😂 Ryan shows me some pretty epic places 🙈 •••• This is my entry for @hayleyjanewarnes competition to win a spot on the #OakleyCyclingTour 😍 •••• #womencycling #LivCyclingUK #ukcyclechat #100climbs #roadielife #digdeep #wildernessculture #adventurevisuals #goexplore #outdooradventures #outdooradventurephotos #SheAdventures #fromwhereiride #outdoorbloggers #ukblogger #ASSOSofSwitzerland #HaveAGoodRide #shareyourkask #RideLife #RideGiant #lovecycling #ridelikeagirl #roadslikethese #bikeridewithaview #knackered #jellylegs

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Following that soon came the time I started road/crit racing. There were some rookie errors (like the major one of miscalculating how many laps we’d done) but then there were some bonkers moves I made by accident that completely changed the race. I never placed very well in the races, but I just loved the buzz of being in the action for once rather than just ‘getting round’. I’d finally got an adrenaline buzz from road racing…ha!

Getting such a buzz from racing again soon saw me organising a day of racing at Marsh Tracks in Rhyl, which I somehow even managed to interview Coryn Rivera as a result of organising it too. Whilst I didn’t get the entries I’d hoped for, I still won’t forget that day of racing seeing so many under 12 riders racing round Marsh Tracks. Stay tuned whilst I finalise the date(s!!!) for 2019. I’m not going to lie, the event was a massive learning curve, so I’m hoping I can fine tune it slightly for 2019.

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I sort of wound everything down after Marsh Tracks. I’d put so much time into the event like making the trophies and understanding the logistics of it all, I didn’t really have much energy left for racing! I started running Breeze rides instead, which is how I met Lucy…who happens to have the exact same Liv Envie as me…ha! From our first Breeze rides, 7 days later I had managed to persuade Lucy to do the local hillclimb up the Horseshoe Pass! She did an amazing job and I can’t wait to organise more Breeze rides for 2019.

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To finish off the year I found myself skiing in France with my brother. I’d done my normal thing of being hesitant to book it. So my brother took the deciding out of my hands and booked it for me. It was pretty much a week of eat, sleep, ski, repeat so I was knackered by the end of it!

So looking back, 2018 has been pretty jam packed! I’d like to thank everyone who has helped me this year with events. They couldn’t have happened without you! I really do appreciate it!

What would you like to see from Lucy’s Life and Bikes in 2019? I’d love to hear, so don’t hesitate to drop me a message!

What To Take On A Winter Breeze Ride

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

Breeze Poppy Ride

Breeze Poppy Ride bpMeeting up with Lucy for the start of the ride at Alf Jones Cycles, we were pretty swift to get out on the roads. With a ride planned just short of 20 miles, it was a relaxed ride on country lanes and a lot flatter than the rides Lucy was use to doing. Setting off at half 11, it gave us chance to take part in the 2 minutes silence for Remembrance Sunday.

For mid-November it was surprisingly warm, so I didn’t need to pull out my thick Winter Mavic gloves like I did on our last ride over towards Llangollen.

Having not seen Lucy since the Horseshoe Hill Climb a few weeks ago, it was good to catch up and hear if she’s managed to get back on the bike since and how she felt after her first Hill Climb. With an exam looming on Monday, the ride out was a well-deserved break from all of her Maths revision.

After a quick coffee at Cleopatra’s Coffee Shop, the country lanes soon brought us back to Alf Jones Cycles. A relaxed ride in the Winter sun is the perfect way to clear your head for the following week.

I’m going to be making these rides, which are aimed at 16-20 year olds, a regular thing, so if you want to hear about future rides just drop me a message. Otherwise, you can follow me on social media to keep up with what rides are coming up next.

Oulton Park Spring Duathlon 2018

Oulton Park Duathlon 2018

My never ending habit of entering races last minute came about again recently. Less than two weeks prior to Oulton Park Duathlon I put in an entry. I was getting restless not competing, so I just thought I’d wing it as per normal. People train months for these things…I just chuck myself in at the deep end ha!

The closer the Duathlon got the more I wondered what the hell I was doing. I massively upped my training and managed to get a lot of running in. I felt guilty not getting out on my bike much, so I knew I’d rely on my ability to dig deep on my bike.

Feeling rather lethargic throughout the week I was praying that I wasn’t coming down with an illness. Luckily I felt a lot better come race day, but those nerves were still there questioning if I’d even complete it.

Arriving at Oulton Park, I (we including Ryan) were actually on time for once. I have a habit of making race mornings stressful because I’m running late.

I got my numbers all sorted and jumped on the turbo trainer. Most people were running up and down the paddock to warm up, but I was in the mood for sitting on the turbo spinning my legs with my headphones on. And when some of my favourite Stereophonics songs came on I switched off from what everyone else was doing and focussed on beating my last time at Oulton Park of one hour 28 minutes. Out of all the years I’ve spent racing, from downhill to road cycling races, this was the first time I managed to not let my nerves get the better of me. This came as quite a shock to me to be honest.

Oulton Park Duathlon 2018

Following race briefing we were soon lining up on the pit straight waiting for the whistle.  Now last time at Oulton Park I ended up getting a PB for 1 mile in the first mile of the race, so I was trying to pace myself…nope I ended up running a 7:22 which is by far quicker than what I run in training! I thought, one lap is just over two miles and I’m use to running longer than that now, so I just got on with it. Not going to lie though, Oulton Park does lure you in with a fairly easy start, but chucks hills in at the end.

Oulton Park Duathlon 2018Oulton Park Duathlon 2018Oulton Park Duathlon 2018

I come back in from the first run feeling fairly ok. I thought I’d be struggling with my non existent training plan prior, but I hopped on my bike avoiding slipping in my road cycling shoes running through transition. Thankfully the marshals reminded me to move my number round to the back!

Oulton Park Duathlon 2018

I exited the pits where transition was and onto the race track, again surprised by how much power I had in my legs. I settled into the bike leg rather quick. I’m not sure whether I just find it easier to get into a rhythm on the bike. I loved being back on my Liv, as I’ve not ridden it since Mallorca. That also reminds me…the 70 mile ride from Mallorca possibly became more useful than I first thought as I was use to my legs hurting a lot more after Sa Calobra!

Oulton Park Duathlon 2018

Oulton Park Duathlon 2018img_0796Oulton Park Duathlon 2018

Unsure on what lap I was on, I was lucky I didn’t do one too many laps! Making sure I got off my bike before the dismount line I swapped back over to my running trainers. My legs feeling like jelly going straight from bike to run. I was looking down at my watch trying to figure out what time I had left to beat 1:28.

Oulton Park Duathlon 2018

I wanted to up the pace, but knew the short climbs were still to come. So I stuck to my pace until I got the hills out of the way. Then it was a sprint finish to make sure I beat that time. If I hadn’t of sprinted and been a few seconds over 1:28, I would have been gutted.

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I completely forgot to grab my time at the end. I must have looked a right mess because the girl handing out the medals asked if I was ok…ha! I’d dug deep…

Going back to the gazebo to get my time I somehow managed to get confused by the system to get it. The Duathlon really messed with my head ha! Either way, I printed my little slip out revealing I’d done 1:23…thank god! I could be in a good mood for the rest of the day…ha! I came 20th overall in the women and second (out of three…) in my age group.

Whatever way I look at it, I can somehow still push myself despite not having the winter I wanted. I just want to find another event to enter now!

Oulton Park Duathlon 2018