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.

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.

Race Report: #GirlsAtMarshTracks

With a rapid turnaround #GirlsAtMarshTracks took over the closed cycling circuit in Rhyl. Quiet for entries online Lwsi and Lauren took to the track in the Under 16 categories and were pushing hard on the pedals right to the chequered flag.

Then it was time for the busiest race of the day for the U12, U10 and U8. 13 girls took to the track and for many it was their first time. They raced round the shorter version of Marsh Tracks and were getting cheered on by their parents at the side of the track. Girls from Hafren CC and North Cheshire Clarion has a strong presence at the race and definitely represented their clubs well. Many keen to learn more about road racing and tactics used by the pro’s!

North Cheshire Clarion took the top spots in the U10 and 12, but were beaten to the podium in the under 8 category by Hafren CC rider Isobel.

All of the girls did remarkably well and all got round to the chequered flag. I couldn’t be more impressed by them all. They all kept pushing on right to the finish line.

Come half 12 it was time for the senior races to hit the track, with the first being the E123 race. A field of four, it ended up being a photo finish to see if Emily or Jo got the coveted first place. Emily pipped Jo to first by a lunge for the line.

The other two riders in the E123 race actually had MTB XC backgrounds, which is how they gained their 3rd cat licences. Polar opposite to what their use to in the forests, they both rode really strong races.

When the 4th Cat race lined up on the track, we had a mix of riders wanting to gain points for their 3rd Cat licence and complete beginners. Catrin rode a strong race, even for her first Crit race, but just got beaten to first place by Leonie. Again, that had to be decided on photos taken at the finish line!

The biggest part of #GirlsAtMarshTracks for me was seeing girls race for the first time and giving it a go. I think it can be so daunting turning up to a race sometimes, that people listen to the voices in their heads that say they’re not good enough. You won’t be great from the offset. I’ve found this year that racing is just one big learning curve. But I’m hoping events like #GirlsAtMarshTracks break the barrier even if women (and girls!) want to try racing even just the once. They can say they raced and stepped out of their comfort zone.

The most prominent memory will be the smiles on the faces of those in the youth races. That’s what I wanted to do the event for also. To give the opportunity for the youth girls to have the track to themselves. Normally thrown in the mix with the boys, they often end up near the back, but for this race the Under 12’s (and Lottie from the U10 believe it or not!) were at the front. Seeing young girls so passionate about the sport and racing was great to see, especially the friendships they’d formed in their clubs. You can’t go wrong with having friends you can share a sport with.

The first race I’ve ever organised, it was a big learning curve for me too. Even one of the Hafren CC Dad’s was showing me how to do a gear check for the youth riders! I’ve learnt a lot and hopefully I can take it to the next race I organise, which I’m hoping to be next Spring.

I hope all of the riders have a good Winter, whatever training they get up to. If you’d like to hear direct about the future races, then drop me an email and I’ll email any information about dates etc as it becomes available. I really hope I can grow the events next year, especially with how many new racers came to the track.

Maybe a British Cycling race licence will be on your Christmas lists this year!

If you have any questions about the event, or about getting into racing in general. Feel free to drop me a message.

A massive thank you to everyone who helped on the day, especially to Jasmine for coming to be the Commissaire for the race. She definitely had a busy day working out positions for the U8, U10 and U12 race!

#GirlsAtMarshTracks – What You Need To Know

If you’ve been following me on social media you’ll know the next event I’m organising is #GirlsAtMarahTracks. A day of crit racing for women at the North Wales’ closed cycling circuit, Marsh Tracks in Rhyl.

I’ve not been road racing (or road cycling!) long, but it’s clear to see that women’s road races are hard to come by, which can be understandable when they’re not always the easiest of races to fill to make them viable to run. But I’m taking the jump and doing a full day of women’s racing anyway!

For anyone new to road or crit racing, what does this all mean?!?

First off…Criterium Racing,

More commonly known as ‘crit racing’, this is essentially closed circuit racing, whether that be on closed roads or closed circuit. You race for a certain amount of time, then so many laps after that. For example, the 4th Category race is racing for 40 minutes plus 5 laps. So as soon as you reach 40 minutes you know you’ve got 5 laps left! You’ll know you’ve got to the 40 minute mark as a board will appear at the finish line counting down from 5 until the last lap is indicated by a bell!

But what do all the race categories mean?

I’m not going to lie, the race categories alone can be enough to put you off giving racing a go! The senior women’s races are either the E/1/2/3 or the 4th Cat.

E/1/2/3

How road racing works with British Cycling is you buy a licence and depending on where you come in race you can get points, eg you win a race and get 10 points. Over the course of the year these points can build up and a certain amount of points will mean you move up at category. For example, I’ve been chasing 12 points this year to go from 4th Category to 3rd Category. I’m nowhere near, but you get the picture!

To put it all into context, I’m a 4th Category rider and I’ve just started road racing. The women racing in the OVO Energy Women’s Tour are in the Elite category, so ‘E’.

4th Category

If you’re new to racing then the 4th Category race is the one for you! You can enter with a day licence and give racing a go! 4th Cat is also for those chasing those 12 points to get to bumped up to 3rd Category if you already have a British Cycling race licence.

So, how do you go about entering the 4th Cat race if you don’t have a British Cycling race licence? To put it simply, you need to enter on the day by paying for the entry to the race and for a day licence.

Day Licence Fees

The 4th Cat race is a Regional C+ categorised race. If you’re a:

– Bronze British Cycling Member, Ride British Cycling Member or not a member of British Cycling, a day licence will cost £10.

– Silver or Gold British Cycling Member, a day licence will cost £5.

Obviously if you have a British Cycling race licence you won’t need a day licence, you just need to check what race category you are and enter the correct race accordingly.

For Junior and Youth riders it works slightly differently. If you’re child is under the age of 16 they will be a Youth rider and therefore a day licence will only cost £1.50.

Over the age of 16 will class them as a Junior rider and they can race in the 4th Category race with a day licence. These will follow the same guidelines as the adult prices, but be half the price. So:

– Bronze British Cycling Member, Ride British Cycling Member or not a member of British Cycling, a day licence will cost £5.

– Silver or Gold British Cycling Member, a day licence will cost £2.50.

You won’t be able to sign up online if you need a day licence, so just drop me a message if you’re planning on racing so I can get an idea on numbers! Drop me an email at lifeandbikesblog@gmail.com.

What bike can you ride?

For various safety reasons, British Cycling stipulate what bikes can and can’t be used in road and circuit racing. For the senior races, so 4th Cat and E/1/2/3, a drop-bar road bike will only be allowed to be ridden in the races. Working gears and brakes are a must too! Don’t forget to check the tyre pressures, high tyre pressures make pedallig so much easier!

A drop bar road bike looks something like this…

These rules apply for the Under 16 and Under 14 races also, but allow cyclocross bikes to. Drop bars are a necessity though.

When it comes to the Under 12’s, 10’s and 8’s, British Cycling allow any type of bike to make it easier for younger riders to have a go! I must say these bikes have obviously got to have working brakes and be in good working order. Again, for safety during the races.

What category will my child race in?

Have a look at the details below,

Under 16 if born in 2002 or 2003

Under 14 if born 2004 or 2005

Under 12 if born 2006 or 2007

Under 10 if born 2008 or 2009

Under 8 if born 2010 onwards

The obvious need for the Under 8 category is that your child can confidently ride a bike. British Cycling also stipulate gearing restrictions to protect young riders from using big gears that could be harmful to them. (ie too strenuous!) If you have any queries on gearing restriction or if your child can race, have a read of this document by following the link, or contact British Cycling via the details in this link:

Youth Gear Restrictions: A Guide for Riders and Parents

Facilities

From racing various cycling disciplines, I know facilities at cycling races can sometimes be an issue, so I just wanted to highlight Marsh Tracks has toilets and changing facilities.

For more information about #GirlsAtMarshTracks keep monitoring my social media pages and website for more blog posts! Thank you to everyone who has helped with the event so far, especially Cyced for designing the poster! You’ll be able to find out more about Cyced with a blog post that will be posted in the next few days.

Cyced: Where rides become cycling art

I’m also working with Andy from SDS Graphics on some stickers you’ll be able to take home with you! SDS Graphics have been supplying vinyl graphics and designs in the motorsport industry for 25 years. His vinyl graphics can be seen on Formula 1 cars, British Touring Cars and many others. So you’ll have F1 standard stickers you can put on your bike, to remember that time you took part in a day full of women’s crit racing.

I’ll drop some other useful links below, but if you feel like you can’t keep up to date on social media with the event drop me an email at lifeandbikesblog@gmail.com and I’ll email you any updates!

Facebook Event Page

British Cycling Event Page (you can enter via this link!)

Marsh Tracks Website

If you’re a company who fancies getting involved with the event, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Scarpa R-Evolution Pro GTX Walking Boots

Scarpa R-Evolution Pro GTX Walking Boots

On our trip around North Wales last weekend I finally managed to pick up some new walking boots. I’ve been looking for some for so long now, I’m just glad I’ve found some!

I’ve had some Salomon boots for a few years now, and they’ve been good enough for the walks I was doing. They’re just starting to show their age a bit now. Letting water in and a well used sole having been battered by plenty of dog walking miles with Jenson.

Looking for a new pair of boots, I knew I’d need to spend a little bit more this time. (Well my Dad actually bought my last pair but that’s another story!) If I want the boots to last and look after my feet, cheap boots just wouldn’t make the cut. I also want to be a little more adventurous this year with the routes I’m keen to try, so it’s important I have the right kit.

Scarpa R-Evolution Pro GTX Walking Boots

I did actually buy some Mammut boots last year from Go Outdoors, but they only lasted two weeks before one of the eyelets came off.

To avoid disappointment with another pair of boots, I went to where the knowledge of walking kit would be…Betws Y Coed. I spent so much time there as a kid, I always love going back there.

Scarpa R-Evolution Pro GTX Walking Boots

Me and my Dad went round a few shops, but it was only in Cunningham’s where the staff filled me with confidence in what they were saying. Grant, one of the staff, was extremely helpful and wasn’t just about selling me the most expensive boots.

Scarpa R-Evolution Pro GTX Walking BootsScarpa R-Evolution Pro GTX Walking Boots

I tried on a few pairs just see what different styles felt like, but took a liking to these Scarpa boots fairly quickly. A firm sole and they really hugged my feet. I’ve not been able to wear Scarpa in the past due to having wide feet, but I’m getting on with these really well.

What do you get from the boot?

– When I get a little more adventurous next Winter, I can fit crampons to them to go exploring in the snow!

– Anti-Abrasion rubber in high wear areas of the boot

– Memory foam padding for a better fit

– Gore-Tex for a breathable but waterproof boot

– Stiff sole for stability on more rugged terrain

I’ve done this post as a little first look I guess. I’ve not tried them in the vast Welsh mountains yet, just Bulkeley Hill Woods in Cheshire. But the 6 mile loop we did was enough to break them in!

Looking Down On Llandudno Bay

Llandudno Bay

Looking Down On Llandudno Bay

I recently watched the film Wild, which is based on the book by Cheryl Strayed. I much preferred the book to the film, but in both there’s a quote:

“There’s a sunrise and sunset everyday and you can choose to be there or not. You can put yourself in the way of beauty.” – Cheryl Strayed

Granted if it’s pouring down with rain those dramatic sun rays and colours may not make an appearance. And on British soil, those colours are more likely to stay hidden above the clouds than reveal themselves.

But when they do make themselves visible, they can be rather special.

Nestled away in amongst a housing estate was some steps leading to Penrhyn Bay. Following a grassy path, the bay reveals itself with the odd seal resting on the beach. If they weren’t on the beach, their little black heads were popping out from under the waves.

The light was turning golden casting shadows on the waves. Whilst my Dad was taking photos of the seals I kept looking up to the large hill on my left. I look from the bay to the sun and back to the bay.

The curiosity of what the view was like at the top chipping away at me. From that high up it had to be impressive right?

I just had to go up and find out.

Soon enough I was finding my way up the hill whilst battling the wind. I even had to crouch down at one point to wait for the wind to die down so I could cross a particularly open section on the path.

The path began to split and turn in different ways, so I questioned if I’d find my way back to the car again. But I kept following the paths which would lead me to the top.

Making my way over the brow of the hill Llandudno bay came into view. Rays of golden light streaking over the bay and waves.

I’d never seen anything like it. The bay stretched out before me, it had been a long time since I’d seen a view travel so far. I was battling the wind to stay standing upright, but I just didn’t want to leave. I wanted to sit there until the sun disappeared. But with the sunset two hours away…I thought I’d get rather cold!

Forests Not Yet Explored

Thanks to Wonderful You‘s post on Instagram, I heard it was #LoveYourPetDay . So that makes it the perfect opportunity to write about my favourite chocolate beat right?

Due to some back issues I could only manage some hill walking last weekend. I was gutted to not be able to ride my bike, but I was content enough just to be in the hills and the great outdoors. Sometimes exploring by foot means you see that little bit more than you would if you were on a bike.

I spotted the forest on an Instagram post and was intrigued I’d never heard of it before. Coed Llangwyfan nestles itself in amongst the hills near the likes of Moel Arthur. Along a narrow country lane with a ribbon of moss up the centre of it, going in and out of overhanging trees waiting for Spring to come around again, you find a car park surprisingly full. Walkers, from young families to couples alike, passing through the car park as they go from the forest to head up Moel Arthur. Little ones in their wellies racing eachother down the hill.

Jenson eagerly waiting in the back of my car to be let loose in the Welsh hills. He’s soon dragging Ryan around the car park whilst I change into my walking boots. The wind has a slight chill, but the sun meant my big thick winter coat wasn’t required. I let the sun hit my skin whilst filling my lungs with the crisp, clean air as we headed up a muddy track to explore Coed Llangwyfan.

Jenson’s nose taking him in every direction but straight up the path.

The higher we climbed the more the trees began to thin out opening to views of rolling green hills and down into Ruthin.

We only managed a quick loop round the forest as we went over to Moel Arthur to meet Ryan’s family. Moel Arthur made up of rolling fields with the hill top covered in heather. Traipsing through narrow heather lined sheep tracks whilst Jenson constantly going from the back to the front of the group checking everyone was still together. Nancy hopping through the heather like a little rabbit let out of a cage.

We start to descend back down the sometimes slippy path to the car park with Jenson unable to resist fully submerging himself in the muddiest of puddles. Although once back in the car it’s not long till he’s fast asleep as we drive home.

Going walking without a chocolate bear to constantly watch what mischief he’s going to get up to next always feels rather odd. If you’ve ever had a four-legged friend I guess you’ll know exactly what I mean.

So Happy #LoveYourPetDay !

Trail Running and Labradors

I was suppose to be meeting Ffion at Llandegla, but after waking up with a sore upper body after going a little too hard in the gym, for some reason I thought I’d go running at Llandegla instead. I don’t get to see/walk Jenson much these days, so I brought him along too.

We parked up in Llandegla and went to see where the running trails started. It felt weird seeing the #GirlsAtLlandegla posters up! I can’t wait to see everyone riding the trails!

I eventually found the start of the running trails and could let Jenson off the lead. His tail was up and wagging. He loves it in the forest and I’m pretty sure it’s because of all the muddy puddles.

I’ve not been running for a while and it felt good to do it again really. It’s just simple. Chuck your running trainers in the car (possibly a dog too if there’s one available) and find a forest to go and run around.

I desperately wanted to go and ride my mountain bike, but the downpours forecast on the weather didn’t fill me with confidence.

There’s two 10km running trails at Llandegla, the red or the blue. As much as I’d like to think I could get round the red, the vertical inclines up a boggy bank that the red entailed meant I’d leave it for another day. The blue was enough really. There were plenty of hills for me and Jenson to get up to get my glutes burning…and that they did!

I’m not going to be the ‘hero’ and say I ran all the way round. I had to have a few breaks and I couldn’t not take a few photos right?

When the running trails went away from the mountain bike ones, the forest was so quiet. Seeing all of the mountain bikers ride past with mud splattered faces, part of me did feel a little jealous. But I couldn’t have brought Jenson if I was mountain biking.

On one part where the running trail runs near the start of the long climb on the red MTB trail, I just assumed Jenson had followed a scent into the bushes.

“Oh hello”

He decided to go and say hello to the mountain bikers…

Thankfully they were happy mountain bikers and didn’t bother too much! Ha!

Once Jenson and I had got back to the car park and had past the 10km finish post I just wandered back to the car.

Only the have a young shredder racing through the car park with his Dad and the BIGGEST grin on his muddy face. You could tell he had love every second of being out on his bike.

Next thing his Dad is saying close to their van…

“Ready…ready…go!”

And they skid round the corner to their van in sync. The young lad must have been about 5 years old. 5 years old and he was skidding in sync with his Dad.

That is what cycling is about…having the BIGGEST grin on your face.

I mentioned about the posters for Girls At Llandegla and I thought I’d post the links again here in case you’ve lost them! So…

Click here for the blog post!

Click here to book on!

Girls, Gossip and Bikes

When you’re a child you always want to be older, but as an adult you’ll often want to be a child again. Keeping in contact with friends was so much simpler back then, but as an adult there’s always something on the to-do list.

With some time off over Christmas I’ve thankfully been able to catch up with friends I’ve not seen for so long! Including Ffion who I’ve been up to Llandegla with today. With both of us having assignments to be handed in, catching up with each other hasn’t been that easy. Yet today both of us has some time to go and ride round Llandegla. We could have maybe gone somewhere a bit different as I ride there so much, but my confidence on the bike lately isn’t great!

Parking up at Llandegla I’d made sure to wrap up warm, although with the 10 degrees temperatures it turned out I didn’t need to. We pedalled our way to the top with conversation in full flow.

Going round the two berms right at the top of the forest we knew we’d both want to stop to take some photos of the view. With even more logging taking place at the top of the forest, it made way for being able to see fog sitting at the bottom of the valley. With all the times I’ve been to Llandegla, I’ve never seen anything similar happen.

With the start of the black closed off we followed the red round, whilst I was forever in the wrong gear. I’ve somehow still not got use to having two chain rings as opposed to 3, or I’m just more familiar with road bike gearing these days…

The forest was rather quiet, so we didn’t see too many people out on the trails, which helped make it a really relaxed ride. We stopped a few times, then quickly started pedalling again after realising we’d been chatting for 20 minutes.

Rolling back down to the trail centre I washed my bike down whilst Ffion tried out the Freeride. I don’t think me or my bike would have coped with that…ha! However, thanks to a revamped section at the top of the red I did actually manage to get my bike off the ground…I think!

With a piece of doorstop toast & cheese on top and an americano (although I was torn between the toast or a cake!), we both refuelled before heading home. I also had a quick chat with the guys at Llandegla about next year’s event ‘Girls at Llandegla‘, which I’m super excited about now! It’s registered with Help For Heroes now, I just need to make a few adjustments to the poster and I can fully get to work on organising it after everyone’s had a great Christmas & New Year.

Maybe you know someone with a New Year’s Resolution of trying a new sport or exercising more…why not bring them to ‘Girls At Llandegla’?

Should we turn around?

A catch up with Ellen was long overdue and we decided to meet at the rather amazing cafe by the reservoir at Llyn Brenig. However I did get an intense feeling of guilt when I couldn’t reply to the lady working behind the till in Welsh…she did speak English too thankfully, but can I even call myself Welsh if I can’t speak a word of the language…ha!

Breakfast butties on the way and hot chocolates in tow, we chatted away as us girls always do.

Ryan had gone off to clock up some miles on his road bike near the reservoir, so Ellen & I went for what I thought would be a quick wander round the reservoir.

How on earth did I manage to forget how big the reservoir was?

We just kept walking…and walking…and walking, up to the point where Ellen mentioned we turn back. But I thought it would be a good idea to carry on. We kept on walking but were slowly questioning whether we where walking round in circles.

Wandering along the path there were so many pre-cut Christmas trees around, which was rather random. They’d been cut down but not taken home to be covered in tinsel and fairy light. Such a waste…ha! The temptation to take on home was so big!

9 miles later I felt incredibly guilty for making Ryan wait for so long, as he’d only been out for 2 hours…we’d been 3. Not to mention the fact Ellen hadn’t got the comfiest of shoes either!

It was good to get away from the chaos that seems to unfold at Christmas though. No busy supermarkets or to-do lists to tick off. Just spending time with friends like Christmas should be.