Living life to the full

How I used to look after a 15 minute walk but now look after a 30 minute run

How I used to look after a 15 minute walk but now look after a 30 minute run

This time of year often leads me to reflect on the past year and look forward to the new year. This time of year is a significant anniversary in my life. In December 2009 I became a Gold Weightwatchers member this means I got to my “goal weight” (12st 7lb) and had a health BMI for the first time in my life. I started my journey towards a healthier lifestyle because I was physically unable to live the life I wanted to lead. I wasn’t physically capable of climbing three flights of stairs without being sweaty and out of breath, anything more adventurous was out of the question.  I was detached from the world, I watched from my comfy, yet isolating, throne just watching the world, not participating.

In the last three years I have experienced life, its highs and lows. I have seen the earths natural beauty and have completed challenges I wasn’t sure that I could. I volunteered at the Olympics, achieved my Queen’s Guide, Queen’s Scout and Gold Duke of Edinburgh award. I have completed sea swims and lake swims. I have cycled from London to Brighton, London to Paris,  been Mountain Biking in Morrocco. I have run 5km, 10km and a half marathon. I have even done a triathlon. I have walked around Uluru in 30 degree heat, climbed the O2 and climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge. All this was achieved by small steps.

Up at the O2

Up at the O2

I wrote this blog entry at the beginning of the year in which I stated my main goal for 2012 was the London Triathlon. If I have learnt anything in the last few year it is that life doesn’t always turn out the way that you planned. The Olympic+ distance had a Sunday 6:30am start wave + travel would have meant leaving at 4:30am.  I admit I probably wasn’t as fit as I needed to be but apparently I am determined individual and if I started I would have finished, even if that meant being the last person across the line. Dear friends were getting married on the Saturday afternoon. I seriously considered trying to do both the wedding and triathlon. I could have left the reception early and not drank. However I remembered what motivated me to get off the sofa in the first place was that I wanted to fully experience life, trying to do both would result in not fully experiencing either. As I danced, drank and laughed the night away with friends I was happy. I was living the full life that I wanted and had made the right decision. Triathlon will come and go but friends and family are being present are the important things in life.

I haven’t achieved everything I initially thought I wanted to but equally I have done some that I never thought that I would, climbing Sydney Harbour bridge being one of them. The earlier list of my achievements wasn’t to show off, or be boastful but to remind myself of all that I have achieved. It hasn’t all been positive, along the way I have lost some battles but  I am winning the war. At present I am overweight (94kg 14st 11lb) and not as fit as I would like to be, but these are things that I can change with a little conscious effort. There have been losses and sadness along the way but I am out there living it and experiencing what life has to offer, long may continue.

“Feel the rain on your skin no one else can feel it for you”
Natasha Bedingfield

 
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Train Hard, Race Easy

Ready for action

or rather don’t train and hard race, yesterday I completed the London Duathlon (run 10km, bike 44km, run 5km) around the closed roads of Richmond Park. I learnt a whole lot in the process. I received a much needed kick-up-the-arse as I have become slightly complacent. Training takes consistency, racing is always hard. It is harder when you know that you aren’t performing at your best and you have no-one else to blame, nowhere to hide.  There were no excuses I have been consistently skipping training. In the last 4 weeks, my longest run had been 5km.

My day didn’t start off great after receiving a mosquito bite, thankful Stuart Amory came to my rescue with some bite cream. We were set of in waves of about 10 athletes and the first part of the run was on the road. The camber of the road wasn’t a great surface to run on and I was struggling to find a rhythm. The route turned into the middle of the park I couldn’t believe that I had never ventured into the centre. I tried to take it a km at a time, and kept on being tempted to walk but couldn’t give in.

When I got into transition mine was one of the last bikes to leave. The bike was 4 laps of RP clockwise I knew Broomfield Hill is short and sharp and not one of my favourite hills. The first time I rode up it 2.5 years ago I barely made it and it was also whilst descending the hill that I separated my shoulder. The bike was fun, the wind in my face, no traffic to worry about, no speed limit to be concerned about (on the descents) and the sun was shining, I was thankful I had remembered to put suntan lotion on. They had even thoughtfully put up some crash barriers on some of the corners. I knew I wasn’t going very well but was focused on finishing and not giving up. I started to get cramp in my calves and thought that I could ease it off on some of the decent, it helped somewhat. On the third lap I lost my rhythm totally and got off and walk up the Broomfield. The last lap I was determined to not walk and didn’t.

Pretty medal

 

When I had gotten back from the bike leg some of the guys who started at a similar time and had already finished their final 5km. I am someone who doesn’t give up I just keep trying to plug away. The final 5km was more of a walk than a run, not my fastest 5km by a long shot but I finished, even managing to cross the line with my arms aloft and actually choked up by the support along the finishing shoot, even a call out on the tannoy. The medal is amazing. 

I am currently signed up to do the London Triathlon Olympic plus distance (1.5km swim, 80km bike, 10km run) I know I could do all the disciplines separately but yesterday taught me that combining disciplines is a whole different matter. Racing is always going to be tough mentally and physically, but I think that if I did the London triathlon there is a really strong chance I would break my spirit and that is hard to fix. Also with a 6.30am start + 90 min set-up ie 5am  + a friend’s wedding on the saturday I have decided this year is not my year.

my bike may have been ready, the body not so much

After breaking myself the past two years this is my first full year of training and racing  I think that I was a little over-ambitious. After completing the London to Paris I then went headfirst into gamesmaking at the Olympics . I was working in the morning, then going to velodrome in the evening which was physically demanding in the hot velodrome and also involved a 5 hour round journey. I didn’t really appreciate how much it would take out of me. After the olympics I saw Garry Palmer for a sports test. He gave me two options for my poor numbers, exhaustion or under-training, I took the combination of both. One of the reasons I go to see him is he is someone who I listen to and doesn’t sugar coat the truth, he also described me as a kid in a sweatshop. There are so many things that I want to do, that I know that I am now capable of doing. However this is on the proviso that I train properly for them. You can’t try to do everything at the same time and be succesful at all of them

03:45:47 is not a great performance, but I learnt important lessons and had a smile on my face (for most of it).

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London 2012

Cheesy grin in the velodrome

I was fortunate enough to be a gamesmaker in the velodrome during the London 2012 olympics. I had applied for velodrome tickets but unfortunately didn’t get any, so when I learnt where I would be volunteering I was happily stunned. The whole experience was amazing and one I hope that I won’t forget. I worked in the press tribune which was were the printed press (newspapers) worked from that was on the home straight.

10 things that I hope I will never forget

  1. Getting access to the quiet velodrome before sessions
  2. The dry heat of the velodrome.
  3. The running up and down the stairs in gamesmaker uniform in the dry heat of the velodrome
  4. The feeling when they opened the doors at end of the session. You couldn’t see that the doors had opened but you could feel it.
  5. The mexican wave of clapping that followed the riders around the velodrome
  6. Chris Hoy with his head bowed as he stood behind the podium about to receive his 3rd gold
  7. Cheekily enquiring if they needed extra help for the final track session. I wasn’t scheduled to work and with the gold medals of the men’s keirin, women’s omnion and women’s sprints I knew that it would be a busy session and I wanted to be there. If you don’t ask you don’t get
  8. The do-or-die attitude of the BMX. There were two crashes on the time trails alone, definitely not the sport for me
  9. The people who I met, whether it was my fellow press-ops gamesmakers or the random people on the tube
  10. That I was there

M

x
        

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London to Paris

Lets start with some basic facts

  • Distance from London to Paris: 300 miles
  • Days to get to Paris: 3 days
  • Number of riders: 140 riders
  • Longest training ride: 90km
  • Mission: To get to Paris with all bones and ligaments intact

Harry’s blog about London to Paris inspired me to try a different style to give you a flavour of the trip

Day 1 Part 1:

Allez Wiggo

Allez Wiggo team photoshoot, start in a Team Thomas, get splintered, follow wrong arrows, get lost, cycle to first feed station alone, concern I will cycle solo to Paris, slow down on a hill to allow a car to pass but loose momentum, walk up hill, eventually get to first feed station, sign sheet, eat fig netwons, mechanic looks at bike, join a group, eat up the kms, see feed station sign, eat lots of lunch, get back on the bike, feel on the rivet, see the sea, arrows point up a cheeky hill, descend into Dover, ferries delayed, Costa Coffee shut, wait, queue in the car lanes, Costa Coffee open, drink coffee, cycle onto ferry, get worried about bike getting damaged, eat dinner

French Countryside

Day 1 Part 2:
arrive in France, check bike intact, ride off ferry into dark, drunks in nightclub, turn bike lights on, motor paced peleton, shelter for max drag, see hotel, arrive around 11pm, round of applause, take bike to hotel room, roommate asleep in single bed leaving me massive double bed (thanks Nicola), disjointed sleep

Feed station sign :-)

Day 2:
breakfast, join Team Wiggo, leave hotel, almost go around roundabout twice, find right exit, rolling start to day, smooth tarmac, great visibility, “Hell yeah”, find beautiful lunch stop in square, tempting to sit and drink beer in the sun, eat too much lunch, feel sleepy, each pedal stroke takes an hour, want to get off bike, throw bike into corn fields, curl up and sleep, learn to decend on the drops, see feed station sign, 1 lap of Richmond Park until feed station, get to feed station, eat food, get back on bike, ride up hill, joke with Anna “give us a push”, accelerate rapidly (thanks Anna),  just keep pedalling, just keep pedalling, see signs for Amiens, spend an eternity cycling though Amiens, see finish signs, cycle to Hotel.

Slightly Cliche but I don’t care because I did it, I actually did it!

Day 3:
search for bike, walk to other hotel, find bike, start cycling, feel like Tony is guiding me to Paris, start a climb, whoa we are at the top, turn a corner, poo road goes up, carry on climbing, flattens out, stop for a natural break, encounter aggressive driver, get going again, road goes up again, climb again, stop for lunch in beautiful forest, eat too much, find a convenient bush, collective groan as we get back on the bikes, eat up the km in a well drilled peloton (thanks V), car stops on roundabout to let us through even though his right of way, legs either want to coast or sprint, sprint between traffic lights, encounter a crazy Parisian roundabout, look up, see Eiffel Tower, cycle to finish line, recieve a round of applause, shakily manage to give Rachael a high-5, get off bike, take cliche picture, collapse on the ground, hand over bike, “so-long bike”, shower, celebratory dinner, drink amazing champagne, bed

Day 4:
Walk across Paris, hand signal pot-holes whilst walking, coffee stop, get a blister, go to the Team Sky fanzone, wear Allez Wiggo t-shirt, drink champagne, make friends with guy watching race on phone, attempt to listen to french commentary, assume Cav won,  cheer, wait as the phone buffers, see Cav win, cheer, Wiggins winner, get sunburnt, go out for steak and chips, try snails, pulsating feet, collapse into bed, leave hotel back for England as others are just rolling in.

I don’t think that it has all sinked in, much thanks to the mechanics, the support crew so that all I had to think about was handing over my bag, get on my bike and pedal.

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Pier to Pier

On Sunday I lined up, neoprene clad, along with hundreds of others to swims the British Heart Foundation’s Bournemouth Pier to Boscombe Pier. It was amazing seeing the range of people lined up, large, small, old, young, a guy on crutches, neoprene clad and non-neoprene. I grew up just along the coast in Poole. I loved going down to the beach after it had warmed up and all the tourists had gone, my brother and I had the beach to ourselves.

That is me in the middle, taken by my mum

That is me in the middle, taken by my mum

I have done a couple of lake swims but no sea swims. There are no tides or waves to contend with in a lake. It is 1.4 miles from pier to pier, being a metric girl my mum and I were trying to work out what this was in km, we eventually decided it was approximately 2.2km. The further open water swim I had done was 1.5km. I had struggled through the 1.5km swim with cramp. I knew my escape route if things got tough, turn left and head up to the beach. I knew that I would only do this if I was really in trouble but I still needed an escape route.

I joked with my mum before I started that I would rather run to Boscombe pier. I know that I can easily run that distance without much problems. The funny thing was that 5 years ago I did the Race for Life in Bournemouth which was between the piers and I couldn’t run that distance.

I learnt several very useful things during the swim

ok ok this wetsuit hickey looks pathetic but it really stung…

  • The sea tastes salty, a bit obvious, but if you are swimming for an hour it is horrid
  • wetsuit hickeys sting
  • I don’t look like the massive beached whale in a wetsuit that I think that I do
  • Swells means that you can’t always see where you are going, even if it is a massive pier
  • Getting “I know a song that will get on your nerves” stuck in your head isn’t ideal
  • Thinking of Find Nemo’s Dory “Just keep swimming” is helpful
  • Open water swimming is mentally hard

Me, taken by my mum

I have discovered that swimming is mentally the hardest of the triathlon disciplines for me. When the visibility is poor (as it frequently is) you can see as far as the end of your black neoprene-clad arm. You can’t see anyone around you although you can occasionally feel them after you receive a bash to part of your anatomy. There are no distractions,  no vista to look at, this means that you are totally in your head. I often get into a negative headspace but am working on it. Sometimes being in your head can be a really scary place and can play tricks on you. I was pretty convinced for a good 5 minutes that I wasn’t getting any closer but I knew that if I just kept swimming eventually I would get there.

Once I finished I went and gave my mum a wet hug :D

M
xxx

Me with my medal

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The one where I think about Ironman

Me at my first triathlon

There are many questions I ask myself when I think about Ironman (the triathlon variety, not the Robert Downey Jnr variety). These questions generally revolve around what, where, when, how and why. The most important question is why I want to do it. An Ironman triathlon consists of a 3.8km (2.4-mile) swim, 180km (112-mile) bike ride followed by a marathon, a flipping marathon. Not only that but there is a completion cut off time of 17 hours, along with discipline cut-offs. Ironman is one of the mentally and physically toughest one day events that you could put yourself through.

That is just the day of the event but what this doesn’t capture is the training and commitment involved in the days, weeks, months, years leading up to the event. It isn’t something that you can do half-hearted it would involve sacrifices, many hours of training, missing social events. Although you complete the day alone you need a support network of people who are understanding and are patient. It would test my determination to the limit and if my resolve isn’t strong enough I will crumble.

Run run run

Concerns

  1. Injuries
  2. Cost
  3. Time
  4. Do I have the required support network?

Why I want to do it

  1. I entered my 20s fat and unfit and I want to enter my 30s strong and fit
  2. No-one could ever take it away from me or belittle my achievements. When Bear Grylls was giving the address at the Queen’s Scout award he said to not belittle your achievements and I am very guilty of doing this. 
  3. I want to know where my limits are, rather than where I think that they are
  4. If I don’t even attempt it I will always wonder what if
  5. It will motivate me to get off the sofa and out the front door when I can’t be bothered
  6. When I was sat at home watching the Tour de France nursing my broken collarbone I felt so low and was dreaming of the most horrific day possible on the bike. It got me wondering what I could achieve.
  7. Possibly inspire others, I remember reading an article when I was about 17 about someone who had been overweight and had lost it through diet and exercise and then done an marathon. I just remember thinking that if he can do then one day maybe I could.
  8. Motivation to keep the weight off and eat healthily
  9. Because it is completely mad and there is just something about it that captures my imagination and attention

I am still mulling it over and my darling Dad has suggested waiting until after the London Triathlon which is in 11 weeks time and is only a baby in comparison to an Ironman. I am doing Olympic Plus distance of 1.5km swim, 90km bike, 10km run.

Any thoughts or comments welcome.

M
x

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The one where I do my first Tri

When my alarm went off at 5am I felt ready to take on a new challenge. Ready to try a triathlon I didn’t freak out like I did with the Bath Half marathon. I knew that I could complete all the individual distances but hadn’t previously combined all three is one session. This blog entry may be too detailed but I want to remember as much of it as possible.

Yesterday I cycled in the rain to the pool to register and give my legs a little stretch. Cycling down I felt really comfortable on the bike, which I haven’t felt for a while. I felt content, although I did one heart-in-mouth moment when I came very close to coming off at the entrance to the pool car park on the wet gravel. One thing I realised I don’t like about triathlons is the organisation for 3 different discipline, being the girl that I am I was envisaging coming into T2 (transition from bike to run) to realise I had left my running shoes at home.

New Tattoo?

The weather wasn’t ideal but it didn’t put me off. My cycling shoes hadn’t dried overnight so before I had even entered the water for the swim my feet and socks were wet. With bike racked and race briefing over next was “body marking”. Here I got very confused, my left and rights aren’t good at the best of times and it was a little girl writing the number and she wasn’t sure which calf it should go on. Timing chip-left ankle, wrist band-right wrist, left calf-number, right arm-number. One very surreal moment came waiting for the start, I often struggle to place people when they are in swim caps or bike helmets so when I got chatting to someone it was completely out of context to realise that I have been to school with them 10 years ago and over 100 miles away.

The swim was ok. The triathletes are set off in number order, 10 seconds apart. I was soon caught by the guy behind me so let him pass at the end only to find he wasn’t that much faster than me. I decided to draft him (since in the swim this is legal) only for a marshall to tell them to let me pass :-( As I came out the pool Mike (who had taught a lot of the novice course) shouted some encouragement, although it would have been better if he got my name right. On the novice course there was myself and another who had a purple swim cap and he kept confusing the two of us. As I ran into transition I retorted with “I’m Mary” and heard him laugh.

A little bit of inspiration for the bike, look on twitter for #fitteam12 for inspiration

In the transition from swim to run I had a nice little conversation with the guy next to me, slightly surreal but triathletes seem like a friendly bunch. The bike was good – although the roads were rough with gravel and lots of standing water. Owing to no mudguards on my roadie my arse was getting wetter and wetter. I got overtaken a couple of times but also overtook some people. It is hard to gauge whether you are doing well or not with a staggered start.

I started the run with a numb patch on the pull of my foot and as the blood slowly returned I still couldn’t feel them fully. I was soon aware of an odd sensation on my bike, what a muppet I had left my bike pump in mg back pocket. The run was ok, I find after being on the bike my legs don’t hurt so much as I just can’t feel them, I try and push the pace and there is nothing there.

I am content with my performance, I don’t yet know the times but that wasn’t what mattered. Today was about completing it, of getting back on the horse (or bike). I find it difficult knowing if I could have gone faster, pushed harder, trained more. I know I tried and that I could have easily staying in bed.

Big thanks to the Marshalls and their encouragement and to Thames Turbo for putting on the novice course. In order to celebebrate my success I bought some new shoes, but being the girl that I am they are cycling shoes :-)

M
x

New Shoes

 

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