Spartan Trifecta Tribe

Slightly later than usual for me but it took longer than usual to defrost following the Spartan Beast at Windsor on Saturday!  Man was it cold! Wet and cold, for almost 15 miles and this made it tougher than usual.  The word I have seen across social media repeated over and over is brutal, and it was!

I set out at the beginning of 2018 with my best friend and PT, Emma, to complete my second trifecta and her first.  We had done the Sprint and Super earlier in the year in Kent over one weekend and Beast was the last of the set to complete.

Emma and I do almost all of the OCR events together and we are at different abilities but together it works – she is a better runner and walls and monkey bars are her thing, whereas I am more comfortable with the carries and weight obstacles.

Spartan have some standard obstacles you expect and there will always be one stand out that people end up talking about.  At the super earlier in the year it was the tyre carry which seemed to go on forever and this year was the second sandbag carry.  1.2 miles! 1.2 miles with a pancake shaped sandbag, it seemed there was no end in sight as we passed sandbags that had been discarded, but this was my thing and I got it done. The first and second sandbag, bucket carry, log carry and atlas ball was my domain and all five saw me smiling as I completed them.

Unfortunately for us the rope traverse was closed by the time we got there due to the bad weather for safety but I saw earlier in the day that some got to complete it and better to be safe so totally understandable.

The route had the usual hills that you would expect from a Spartan race – especially those switchbacks going up and down the same steep hill, if you’ve done a Spartan you will know what I am talking about – those hills we all love.

This years Beast at Windsor was longer than last years by almost five miles, which I think was a tad confusing for those who took it on last year to go from just under 10 miles to just under 15 miles but this is what you should expect from these events – they are made to test you and it does say 12 plus miles and just under 15 is over the advertised 12.  The race did become the race of 2 miles left for us though as from just over 8 miles everyone around us kept saying 2 miles left – for almost 7 miles in the wind and rain this went from being frustrating to being funny.  How long left? 2 miles ha ha.  2 miles is a long way when you are cold, wet, tired, have heavy legs and are running on what looks like wet and muddy ground but as I found is actually a waist deep bog (yep that was a surprise that got everyone behind me laughing and subsequently taking a more sensible route).

I am so pleased to have earned my second trifecta and even more pleased that Emma got her trifecta too – couldn’t think of anyone else I would have rather done that with!

It was also so good as usual to see the many familiar faces during the race including finally getting to meet the fab Fitcetera the UK Mudd Queens, Mudd Kings, friends from The PT Barn and many more!  Always super helpful marshals that I cannot fault and the skinny beer at the end was very welcome too – drank that when I got home and would never have been able to tell it wasn’t normal lager!

It was also great to see and hear from two of the competition winners from my blog who won two Super tickets, Cassie and Paul.  Seeing their finish photo was an awesome feeling to know that they got to experience something that I love.  Did they love it?  Different to what they have done before, which is generally road racing, duathlon, triathlon and cross country running. However, the awesome Cassie managed all bar three obstacles (rope climb, twister and monkey bars), which is amazing. Her favourite obstacle was the inverted walls – there were three in a row and after help from her boyfriend Paul she completed the last two on her own! Least favourite for Cassie was Olympus – it’s a hand killer so I totally get that but teamwork makes dream work and as Emma sat on my shoulders for this Cassie did the same with Paul (great minds). Cassie said ‘it was fun, but nothing like I thought it’d be – absolutely loved it though’ and I love that!

Lastly kudos to those who took on the extra challenge of completing the course with a plank of wood, repeating obstacles and completing burpees prior to doing the obstacles – epic!

So who is up for a Spartan race in 2019 and earning your trifecta?

Tough Mudder

At the weekend I flew back from Italy, packed my kit bag and then the following morning got up bright and early to head to Tough Mudder to take on the full.

I had previously done the new 5k event with The PT Barn, which you can read more about here.  I had also completed the Tough Mudder Half, which you can read more about here.  So now it was time for the full!

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I was signed up with my bestie, Emma, and her boyfriend Dan.  Emma and I do all of our obstacle events together but this was the first obstacle run that Dan would be taking part in and between us we were excited!  The signs you see as you enter the event village always make me laugh and you see similar whilst on the course too.

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We were starting as a team and we were finishing as a team.  The run was as usual very up and down though didn’t feel as hilly as the course used for the half that Emma and I had completed.  Here we are before and after:

I will repeat what I have said several times before but the thing I love about OCR is the teamwork and everyone helping everyone else out and with Tough Mudder not being chip timed this is one of the areas mentioned in their pledge that ‘Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge’, that ‘teamwork and camaraderie before course time’ plus ‘help my fellow mudders complete the course’ whilst having fun!

As we made our way to the start line we found we were in the same way as a man who was completing his 100th Tough Mudder event that day – and was running with a backpack full of all the headbands he has earned over those events.  This was pretty awesome and he actually helped us on the underwater tunnels obstacle giving a little helping hand push under the tubes.

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There were some obstacles that I had not done before as they were not on the 5k or half courses.  These included:

  • arctic enema – the name gives it away and I was that stupid person that came out of the end and said ‘my god that’s cold’ to which the marshal said ‘the clue is in the name’.  You climb up to a platform, slide through a tube into a container of icy water, the submerge fully under a partition and then climb out the container on the other side.
  • electroshock therapy – I don’t know why I was disappointed not to have done this on the previous events, because now I have done it I can say that it hurt!  A weird pain that is exactly what it says, a shock, but left my two teammates on the floor whilst I froze not knowing whether to help or carry on.  As they started crawling I ran on and got shocked twice more – man that smarts!
  • funky monkey – I can’t do this, enough said!  but kudos to those that did especially those that made it look super easy.
  • underwater tunnels – a large container of cold water with tubes to submerge yourself under and come out the other side then repeat three times.
  • cage crawl – I’d done a very similar obstacle at Nuclear Races and so whilst people were wondering how you tackle this I was straight in there and knew the drill, quite like this one!
  • walk the plank – now I will happily admit I didn’t even try this one.  I knew there was no way I would be able to make myself jump from a height but stood watching people who did it over and over again – maybe one day I could muster the courage?

There were a number of obstacles that I was hoping to be on the course that weren’t including Just The Tip, Prairie Dog, Kong and Kong Infinity but most of all was disappointed that Shawshank was not on the full course as it was my favourite on the half and I was looking forward to doing that one again.  But this just means I have to go back in 2019 for these ones!  You can see more about the obstacles on the Tough Mudder page here.

When doing events such as Tough Mudder people often wonder how you train and think its the craziest thing to do but I am sure the same people would surprise themselves if they gave it a go and most would thoroughly enjoy it as it is heaps of fun!  Tough Mudder also post videos with training ideas on their social media and have a whole section on their website regarding training for one of their events that you can find here.

I had a blast on Sunday and so did my team – I am by far the weakest runner and yet didn’t feel like I was holding anyone back at all and we all worked well together.  It was also great to learn more from Dan about Runarchy that he is part of.  Runarchy have a mission to inspire everyone on the planet to boost their mental fitness through exercise.  They quote:

As a brand our mission is to inspire you to create mental fitness through running & exercise.

To achieve our mission, we promote a rebellious attitude to fitness & life. We want you to run, exercise and keep fit your way.

We value individuality, uniqueness and nonconformity. We want you to be bold, strong, fearless and free.

They are also very much centred around teamwork and so having Dan as part of the team with Emma and I was great and for a first timer he did awesome and smashed Everest too!

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I have been so pleased to be part of the Mudder Women group this year and hope to get more of those headbands in 2019!

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Mental Health and Fitness

Being physically active is so beneficial to not only your physical health but also our overall well-being. It’s something that I have become more aware of and is being spoken about more widely over the past year. I have some very special people in my life who suffer with different forms of mental health issues and whilst I don’t personally, seeing how it affects them makes this something I am keen to understand better. I should note I am not a professional in this area and this post is not intended to offend in any way – something I am very conscious of with it being such a sensitive subject.

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My husband has spoken out the past couple of years about his own struggle with depression, stress and anxiety and so this hits home very close for us and this post was written with those people I mentioned above and includes quotes directly from them.  They all suffer from different forms of mental health issues and fitness and self-care are the main, non-medical, ways in which they help to keep this under control.  Here my husband speaks about this below:

Exercise, for me, is paramount to my overall well-being and without regular sessions I quickly become my own enemy. The daily struggles range from not wanting to get out of bed, talk to anyone, letting personal hygiene lapse to anything as bad as totally shutting myself off from the world for days on end.  I’m not saying this is the answer to a well-balanced mind and something that will get rid of the issues of depression, anxiety or stress but it does help.

I’m extremely lucky to have an amazing wife who took the time to research, understand and got to learn and know the signs of when I’m going into a bad place.  Exercise for me is the key and she is incredibly aware of this and encourages me to do any form to make me feel better and it works.

Having come to terms with the mental health issues I have was the first step I found to really understand and get better, recognising the signs of a re-lapse is paramount to remaining the best you can be.  Having these issues is not a weakness and honestly I think it is the complete opposite, strength within comes from those who know they need help and want to overcome their issues. My daily worries range anything from being body conscious,  doubting myself to not becoming ‘that friend’ who is down again.  I’m lucky to have a great group of friends who have been there for me in the low times as well as the great.

 I’m a very open to talk about my issues and feeling and a big advocate for others to do this as this is the only way the stigma is going to be broken.

 The help is there and I encourage those to seek out the answers they want to make them feel better.  

Mental health has in the past been something people tend not to talk about and is often a taboo subject, however, awareness appears to be on the up with more people talking honestly about different mental health conditions and how they cope with this. Mental health and fitness is often something that comes up time and time again as this is something people find helpful for their mental health and in helping to stop the stigma and overcome barriers that surround this subject.  This can only be a positive thing especially as 1 in 6 people suffer from a mental health illness.

Mental health conditions or diagnoses comes in all different shapes and sizes and I think this is the first misconception by many who haven’t had any such experiences, or know people who do.  All too often you hear comments such as “you look ok?” or “you don’t look depressed?” I want to ask what does mental health look like?  A very close friend of mine who is a mental health professional added this:

I guess I have always been someone who worries about things.  This could be anything from “What should I wear?” “Will I fit in?” “Should I eat this?” to, “am I doing a good job?” “Am I quick enough?”. 

Last year I started to have really bad panic attacks. It started one afternoon at work, out of the blue – or so I thought. Things had been unsettled in my workplace for a while and there were some big changes happening in my personal life. I didn’t put them together or think they could be some of the root of the problem at first. I didn’t like to think of myself as having weaknesses, which if I’m honest is how viewed this.  

I was so worried about what people at work would think if they knew I was having panic attacks, worried the view would be that I couldn’t cope or work to the best of my ability. 

Some key moments I remember is a close friend saying “I didn’t realise panic attacks were a thing for you” and a colleague stating “I never would have known, you were so together at work”. 

My partner noticed that I had stopped exercising regularly, and reflected that I was generally happier/more ‘me’ when I did. I’d been to my GP who gave me the option of medication and talking therapy. I had already found a counsellor online, as I didn’t feel I could wait for NHS services. This helped me hugely over the period of about a year.  

It was a real struggle but I made myself get back to exercising. It wasn’t regular,  or for very long, but it really did help me. I love swimming, and some days all I wanted was to be in the pool. I might only swim for 15-20minutes but it felt good. I started yoga and got back to running, sometimes alone and at others with friends. Some of the friends knew what I had been struggling with,  others didn’t.  It didn’t matter so much, it was being out in the fresh air and moving that was helping me. The social side was an added bonus to that, I love to chat! 

Over time I have really come to value exercise because of how it helps me. I still worry, I get low sometime,  I don’t want to do or see anyone, I don’t always exercise. When I do, it’s good. It doesn’t matter about intensity, length of exercise or what it is. I value it because it’s good for my Mental Health & general well-being. 

I will do my best not to judge myself on my performance, but the movement, according to what I need at the time.  After all, my life is for me, not other people.  

Fitness can have such a positive impact on not just your body but also your mind. It can help with stress relief, increase energy levels, reduce anxiety, increase confidence, self-esteem, help with sleep and provide an overall boost to mind and body.  A qualified personal trainer with exercise referral and client psychology quoted the below.

Exercise has massively helped and continues to help my mental health. The gym or the outdoors never judges you or makes you feel bad. When I’ve been at my lowest in the past getting out and exercising whether it’s in a gym or outside has really helped me and is the reason why I retrained and joined the fitness industry. Now whilst I’m maintaining my mental health I also get to help others improve theirs. You always hear about the endorphins that are released when you exercise but it doesn’t have to be that scientific, what about the social side of the gym, or the ‘you time’ away from life’s stressed and worries. No matter the duration of the workout!

An amazing man I met from OCR, Stuart Amory, recently completed his ‘Run of Gratitude‘ for Mind charity.  This run started from his house in South West London to his girlfriends house in Aberdeenshire, which meant Stuart covered approximately 50km per day for 17 days.  To quote Stuart the reason for the run ‘I am running to my girlfriend to show gratitude for what I have in life…legs that work, support from friends, family and some major companies.’ On Stuarts website you can see his blog posts as he recounts the run and his mental account of it here.

You can find a lot more information available on this subject from many different resources including:

  • mental health charity, Mind
  • Mental Health Foundation who explain the link between mental health and movement here and also have a publication to download on how to look after your mental health using exercise that you can find here
  • Rethink who provide help and support for those affected by mental illness
  • Heads Together a mental health initiative spearheaded by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex
  • Calm (charity focusing on mental health in men) are also great resources
  • NHS have a large amount of resource with regards to mental health including a Moodzone discussing common problems, tips and advice and real stories

I would also recommend The Mental Health Podcast and to quote the two awesome ladies behind this ‘aims to break the stigma around mental health. Bethan and Laureen know a bit about mental health, they both live with mental illnesses. In one episode they discuss why we shouldn’t confuse a common condition with something that’s normal. ‘

You can read more from Bethan on her blog at A Pretty Place to Play, one of my favourite blogs to follow and refreshingly honest in her accounts of keeping both physically and mentally fit.

My biggest take away from being around people who are suffering with their mental health is that it is ok not to be ok.  According to the Mental Health Foundation 1 in 6 adults experience a mental health problem and 1 in 5 adults have considered taking their own life at some point due to the daily struggles they live with and so it is important to break the stigma and talk about it.

Why I choose to wear a helmet when cycling

I feel like this is an age old question debated by many including myself and as it is International Helmet Awareness Day today and tomorrow (admittedly this is more in the equine area) I figured why not ask the question again from a cycling perspective.

I cycle a reasonable amount and ever since I started I have worn a helmet – why would I not as it can save your life so in my mind is an essential part of my cycling kit that I would not be without.  I am a part of a cycling club and we have a rule – no helmet, no ride – this is not uncommon for clubs to insist on and the same is said for most sportives/events also.  We follow the rules of British Cycling and although it is not a legal requirement they do quote:

‘British Cycling recommends wearing a correctly fitted helmet while cycling however we also support the right of each individual to choose whether or not to accept this recommendation and recognise the limit to the protection that helmets provide.’

This is a similar position to that of The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) who quote:

‘There continues to be much debate regarding the effectiveness of cycle helmets and whether the wearing of them should be made compulsory. RoSPA’s position is that we strongly recommend that cyclists wear a cycle helmet. However, it is important to remember that cycle helmets do not prevent crashes from happening. It is therefore vital that through infrastructure improvements, supported by education and training that we reduce the primary risk factors.’

When I first got kitted out in my cycling gear I admit I felt like a bit of an idiot head to toe in lycra, which is not the best look for most, finished off with a dashing helmet.  Does anyone look good in a helmet?  Probably not, but does it matter?  Is the main intention of wearing a helmet to look good or to increase your safety?  For me, I appreciate that it is down to the individual whether or not they choose to wear a helmet though I choose not to cycle without one.

I have been involved in two incidents where I can say with certainty that without wearing a helmet my injuries would have undoubtedly been far worse than they were.  I know others who feel the same also from personal experience.

I see people with those material cycle caps – how will they help you should you have an accident?

I see people with the straps undone – really?

I see people with helmets attached to their back packs or their handle bars – not really serving the purpose is it?

Some tips for helmet wearing:

  • they come in different sizes so you will need to make sure you have checked this depending on the brand and have the correct size.
  • when you put your helmet on it should be positioned correctly – be careful not to have it so low it obstructs your view or so far back it is not covering your whole head.
  • the straps should sit under the ears and be secured in place under the chin – you should not be able to fit more than two fingers between the strap and your chin, if you can then it is too loose.
  • handy tip for making sure your helmet is secure is to put it on and adjust as necessary but before you do the straps up you should be able to bend forward without the helmet coming off.
    • only buy a helmet which is CE approved. CE marking is a certification mark that indicates conformity with health, safety, and environmental protection standards for products sold within the European Economic Area.
  • Helmets also have a lifespan – different retailers quote different time frames but these are generally between 3 and 5 years.

    A lot of retailers also offer a crash replacement discount.  Now I know the intention is not to crash but should this happen and the integrity of the helmet has been compromised by an impact this is a great way of ensuring that the manufacturer can review how the helmet handled the impact for future improvements.  Different retailers will offer different discounts but I have always used Kask helmets and they offer a 50% discount when your damaged helmet is returned (with necessary paperwork).

    There are arguments that there is no scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of a cycling helmet and it is very true that simply by wearing a helmet will not make the act of cycling any safer and I think that often this is the misconception of the argument.  I wouldn’t argue that a helmet would stop the chances of you having an accident, however, if you were to have an accident I would say from an injury prevention perspective it is really hard to argue that a helmet does not assist.  There are lots of studies that can be found online relating to this and the results show that on average there is roughly 65% reduction of serious/fatal head injuries when wearing a helmet.

    The debate will long continue I am sure and Cycling UK make a good point when they say:

    ‘The evidence on this question is complex and contradictory, providing as much support for those who are deeply sceptical of helmets as for those who swear by them.’

    There are lots of websites online that offer advice on choosing a helmet and you can find a blog post here by the awesome Paddle Pedal Pace where she discusses this.

    Bikes and Beauty with Bianchi

    You will know I love all things bike and so having the opportunity to attend an evening with Bianchi Dama to try some of their bikes and find out more about their collaboration with Charles James was something I was quite excited about.

    Arriving at the venue, with my friend Helen from 1 Vision 2 Girls, we were two of the first and so had a chance to admire the bikes they had with them. Helen and I are both keen cyclists and have several bikes each but the rule is always n plus one right so no technically always on the look out for the next. Especially true for me as I am actually looking for my next bike and could it be a Bianchi?

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    It was an interesting opportunity for both of us as I mentioned we are both keen cyclists but neither of us wear a lot of make up and don’t have a skin care regime either (I know shock horror) so mostly we use water in the shower on our skin so finding out more about the active skin care range was going to be good for us both.

    Once we got the right size bike and had helmets on we set off in a small group with Tasha, Bethany and Becky, three of the ladies from the Bianchi Dama women’s performance cycling team. It was a short easy spin around the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and gave the opportunity to talk to the ladies about their recent trip completing the Tour of Belgium and what they really thought of the bikes. I think when venturing into cycling it’s easy to be swayed by those around you when it comes to picking a bike for example I have always had the same brand as it is the preferred one of my husband who is a keen cyclist and cycling coach. I am open to others as I search for the next one and the ladies were saying how they’ve tried many over the years and genuinely found the Bianchi bikes to be super comfortable from the start. This was good news and whilst I can’t give a full review based on a 10/15 minute ride the bike was light, smooth, easy to change gear and really comfortable – it’s a good start!

    When we got back there was a short straight stretch which gave the opportunity to test the bikes a little more and have some fun.

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    After mingling for a while there was a talk, which again as a keen female cyclist I found really interesting. I mean it started with the comment ‘Women’s cycling is the place to be’ and that got my attention as I am biased but of course agree wholeheartedly!

    The three ladies we cycled with from the team were on the panel and as mentioned earlier they have recently returned from the Tour of Belgium which is a female pro race over ending up in Flanders after four days riding. There are 9 on the team and they spoke of how they are all great friends and real friendships too, which makes a massive difference and sees great retention within the team which speaks volumes and they always look like they’re enjoying it. I am more than aware that being part of a cycle club you join with a common interest and goal but these people end up like an extended family and friendships are soon forged and that makes the sport even more enjoyable.

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    These are ladies who all work full time and so being at the level they are have to fit in training to their busy lives. They spoke about how they run off that energy level and it becomes a habit, often seeing them scratching the walls when resting, which is something that I think a lot of people, myself included, can relate to as it is always a balancing act. On average these ladies train for 15/20 hours per week on the bike with one member of the team who has covered 20,000km per year for the previous three years – and is a full time vet too!

    Having to fit in such rigorous training alongside full time jobs requires a certain level of dedication and the ladies spoke about how their typical week is comprised. It is no surprise that longer rides take place at the weekend and are often 4/5 hours with the aim of completing around 3 sessions during the week, often being early morning, but making these count with some focused structure ie including efforts.  There are always tired with achey legs but the fun that comes with this makes you want to do again and all whilst still smiling. Through the winter there is an increased focus in the gym with strength and core work, which sees many benefits in cycling; if your core is strong it really helps for sprints and climbing. Some add running, which is difficult as different fitness to cycling but does allows for fitness in all weather outside which cycling doesn’t always lend itself to.  Cyclocross is something that some of the ladies also take part in through the winter and really takes on the extremes of weather and mud – I love mud so maybe this is something I might explore in future?

    The team are keen to use the heritage of Bianchi to represent in an honourable and exciting way and the trademark turquoise kit and bikes was seen throughout the event. The girls spoke of the collaboration with Charles James and how cycling can be semi glamorous, being equally surprised that until now no one has got involved in this area previously with most not making skincare regime a priority (that would include me!) but how they genuinely feel the new range is fab. When cycling your skin really comes into contact with all the elements often finishing a ride or training session with skin that can be covered in mud, dust, grit, wet, and sweat and naturally this all affects your skin. The range includes two products with one being an active cleanse and the second a cream to enhance and protect. It absorbs easily, contains spf which sounds amazing as sun cream whilst cycling and sweating is not the best mix, it can be worn with make up over it, and is light enough to wear on a daily basis, so is a massive help as a product for sportspeople and those with an active lifestyle.

    A huge positive for me to hear was how this innovative sponsorship with Charles James and Bianchi has been developed for the team and with the team and I quote ‘is a partnership that works’. Leading an active lifestyle and cycling several times a week I’ve admitted I don’t have a strict skincare regime, however, I have noticed how the elements can leave my skin feeling very dry and when products like these are developed actually involving the very people who they are aimed for my interest naturally peaks. The ladies tested the products during the Tour of Belgium ride with positive results, taken to protect their skin whilst cycling.

    Caroline, the mechanic for the team, was also present and I found her parts of the talk really interesting to learn more about the behind the scenes elements that being part of the pro team involves.  She spoke about how technology is important for the bikes especially with regards to lightness and strength amongst other things. One of the key things in Bianchi bikes is countervail (membrane in carbon) reduces the vibration you can experience on some carbon bikes. All of the Bianchi bikes are entirely Shimano equipped, some with di2 and some with mechanical gearing, which Caroline noted is easier to fix. The team experienced a Di2 failure at a national championship this but managed to rectify even though you cannot see the issue with di2. Caroline also spoke of how it is harder to find bad kit now but the benefits of this is that you don’t have to go to the very top end to get the benefits, for example the last iteration of Shimano 105 and Ultegra have under a 200g difference but a £600 price difference.

    I was really impressed to hear that the entire list of mechanicals for the team over the season was limited to:

    • 1 di2
    • 3 punctures
    • 1 skipped chain

    Awesome work Caroline!

    When it comes to cycling the race that most know is of course Tour de France and unfortunately there is not one halo event that stands above everything else to showcase women’s cycling.  The main events to note are:

    Whilst the above is great it shows that women’s cycling is not yet at the same level as the mens.  Getting live coverage of cycling is a big thing and there is a need to make the good women’s races better and have more media coverage and more money to be invested. This is an area that is growing but it is a long slow process, which is unfortunate as women’s cycling is exciting and less predictable. Caroline mentioned that the women’s races tend to be far more attacking.

    One thing the ladies were surprised in Belgium about was that there are genuine fans and at present women’s cycling is also more accessible than the men’s racing, often working out of the back of cars so fans have access to the riders for autographs and photos.

    Today is the first day of me using the new active skincare products and I walked to the station noticing how nice the scent was.  I am looking forward to carrying on using it whilst I train and will follow up with how I found it.

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    In the meantime I have been online and fully customised the Bianchi bike that is on my wish list – it’s Christmas soon right?

    Essex 100 mile bike ride with the Specialized ladies

    One of my best friends is a Specialized ambassador.  Specialized are a bike brand and Laura leads rides for the Essex area from the Chelmsford concept store.

    On Sunday there was an Action Medical Research event that she had signed up to with a group of her ladies from these rides and they were doing the champion route of 101 miles.  I was asked to join and so went along – what is not to like?  An event for a worthwhile cause, being on my bike with a group of awesome ladies and spending a day in the sun.

    The ride started from Chelmsford and headed out to Suffolk and back.  It was 100 miles of undulating road, but nothing too challenging, that was full of chatting and laughter and the occasional shout from Laura for me to power up a hill which is very often her just cycling up next to me shouting to attack it (it is these times I rethink my friend choices).

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    One of the best things about the events from Action Medical Research are the rest stops.  not just some water and electrolytes but proper food including tea, coffee, juice, sandwiches, crisps, cakes, fruit, sweets and jaffa cakes!  I mean jaffa cakes are essential you know.  And the super friendly marshalls and volunteers at the stops too – much appreciated and they all help to make these events what they are.

    There was also one rest stop with the best playground – not a necessity for a bike ride I grant you but a lot of fun that neither Laura or I could resist.  We care not what we look like in full lycra, cleats, helmets and zipping along a swing or climbing up a huge tyre.  Its a fun day outside in every sense.

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    It was a really gorgeous route along lots of country roads so relatively low on traffic and busy junctions were minimal.  So many new places I want to go back and cycle to and one pub I will definitely be visiting, the Henny Swan.

    We found funny named roads that made us giggle (yes we are that immature).

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    I have never seen so many thatched houses either – one lady in our group commented on one being a lovely thatch.  Who knew that was a thing – sadly no further thatched houses compared.

    A shout out to these ladies who were awesome.  One lady is about to embark on Lands End to John O’Groats next weekend.  Another only started cycling two months ago and this was her fifth ride with her furthest distance up until this point being 58 miles.  Such a massive achievement even if post the ride she lost the use of her hands and was unable to cut up her Nandos chicken (I’m not being mean it was just very funny to watch).

    We started together, we rode the whole way together and we finished together.  And some of us even have matching cycling tans naturally.

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    If you are interested in joining one of these rides with Laura you can contact her on laura.specializedambassador@gmail.com or on her Instagram @lalalawson

    #thesegirlsdid

    Don’t let a DNS or DNF define you

    This past weekend I was in France, Chantilly to be specific, and it was gorgeous.

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    My husband and I were there for the Castle Triathlon weekend being held at Chataeu du Chantilly.  I was signed up for the 10km run and my husband was signed up for Le Gauntlet which is a middle distance triathlon.  Let’s just say our weekend did not go to plan.

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    The day before we were due to go I had a hospital appointment following a fall a couple of weeks before on my bike.  I have a haematoma on my left thigh that is giving me problems and until I have an ultrasound I was advised not to run – the conversation went something like this:

    Me: so I have a 10km run on sunday, can I still do it?

    Doctor: yes if you want to potentially make it worse but if you want it to get better then no.

    Me: fair enough

    That pretty much told me and I knew it would be stupid to run – it was very unlikely I would be able to run and that it would be more of a long walk to the finish, probably seeing me finish in the same time it would take some of those taking on the half marathon route.  And so I had my first did not start (DNS) and I am fine with that as it was the sensible option.

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    When we arrived on Friday we made our way to the Chataeu and got Brett registered.  The grounds were simply stunning and I could see why it would attract so many taking part in the Castle Triathlon series.

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    On the Saturday we headed to the Chataeu once again to support two friends from our cycling club who were taking part in the Super Sprint triathlon – well done to both Joel and Mo who were superb and loved the event.

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    We then got our bikes ready and took them for a short spin to check everything was ok for Brett’s race the following day.  One of the great things about travelling to different countries is experiencing cycling in each of them.

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    I should note that four weeks ago my husband was in hospital with a recurring leg issue and on IV antibiotics for six days and for a while we had assumed that this weekend would not even take place but Brett felt that he could still participate and that his strategy would just be amended and instead of racing this would be a training event.

    The Le Gauntlet event started on Sunday at 7am and the plan was for me to drive the short distance to the start and Brett to cycle though neither of us had been expecting it to be so dark.  I mean it was early but it was pitch black so last minute change and both of us in the car we set off.

    Brett racked his bike and left his cycling and run kit in transition and headed out to put his wetsuit on.  Yes, there was an awkward moment avoiding eye contact as sudo cream was applied to avoid chaffing on the bike (yes you can guess where), though most people who take part in triathlons or cycling would not bat an eyelid at this.  The briefing was held and after a good luck kiss he was in the water, which was a large T shaped pond in the grounds, and they were off.  He took longer to finish than he usually would for this distance but the pond is more shallow with most being able to stand and there are a lot of reeds, which caused quite a problem for some.  I saw him heading towards transition in his wetsuit and he stopped and spoke to me commenting that he felt it was a tough swim but I was confident that once on his bike he would be in his happy place.

    I saw him leave transition on his bike and with a mouthful of food he didn’t say anything but was on his way and I went for a walk in the grounds.  Lucky I did as I came across a swimmer who had cramp and got out of the water dazed and confused with the onset of hypothermia.  I took off my dry robe and gave it to him and walked him to the medical tent where the staff there were taking care of those who were in similar states.  Don’t get me wrong the water was not cold and wetsuits were optional so many were opting not to swim in one.  I waited to locate this mans girlfriend and was on my way.

    Some time later I decided to head to bike in to see Brett return for the run leg but as I walked up the stairs I noticed the striking Havering Tri kit walking towards me to see my husband.  I could see from his face he was devastated and knew in that moment that his race was over.  He said he didn’t know what had happened but something was not right and he had pulled out of the race.  He was extremely cold, with purple hands and lips and I think had the onset of hypothermia but being the stubborn old goat that he is refused to go to the medical tent.  I know you are probably thinking why didn’t I make him go – I get that, but you don’t know Brett and those reading this who do will completely understand.

    We got his bike and kit after he had sat down and composed himself and left the grounds, heading back to our apartment.  He could not remember talking to me after the swim, seeing me before the bike and another cyclist had pulled up to his side to ask if he was ok as his speed was decreasing and we think he was swerving on the road, which could have been dangerous to himself and others.  On further investigation we can see from his ride stats that at the 10 mile point his heart rate plummets for the remaining 18 miles, as does his speed and power.  In his swim out pics he looks a bit dazed (though this is not unusual for some coming out of the swim), and his helmet is not on properly, which is extremely odd for him as he is usually so anal about things like that for himself and others (at a recent race he was supporting and actually shouted to a friend that their helmet was not on right).

    He was understandably upset and it took a huge amount to withdraw but I am 100% confident this was the correct decision and have the upmost respect for him for doing so.  I know it would have been a hard thing for him to decide to do but health comes first and in this instance was necessary.  And so he got his first did not finish (DNF).

    So our weekend started with a DNS and finished with a DNF – not the best weekend for the Thake household but undeniably the correct decisions.

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    Thank you Castle Triathlon for the opportunity to take part in your events, as always the venue was stunning, the staff were amazingly helpful and we will be back.

    We’ve both learned a lot from the weekend and neither of us will let it define us, we can look at what went wrong and learn from it.  It’s true what they say ‘don’t be afraid to fail, be afraid not to try.’