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Tuesday, 8 September 2020

8 Things That Put Me On The Podium At Triathlon

I’m not the quickest triathlete and I never will be. I train regularly and consistently … and more importantly I follow these simple guidelines ...



1. Know your numbers. 

What is the best pace you can hold and finish? Know your stats. If you go too hard and blow up, it’s going to be a long, sore walk home … so know what your hard numbers are. Also think about your trade-offs … if you slow down on the bike, does that mean a quicker run and quicker overall time for you?  Find out. You’ve got months of training and this is the perfect time to try out your race scenarios. 

Alternatively, if you’re chasing cut offs what can you do to improve your times? Is a run walk quicker than blowing up at the end of the race? A friend and I ended up placing at an ultra by following a 9 min run, 3 min walk on a multi-day event and ended up passing multiple competitors who were following a ‘run the whole way’ tactic but who were running slower and not getting the recoveries that we were. 

Also are your transitions shocking? Find out what it is that is taking up your time? If you’re 5 minutes in transition, how do you cut that down to 2 minutes? That’s 3 free minutes right there. If you knocked 3 minutes off your swim time you’d be ecstatic. 



2. Practise your nutrition. 

Don’t eat too much beforehand … no one wants to have to stop for 3 poos. And when you have under-fuelled, the feeling that you’re going to crash-and-burn is horrific. When you stand on the start line for a race, you need to be confident, that you have done all of this before. You need to know when to take your gels, your pies, whatever works for you but you need to know what it is and that it works for you. Personally, I have a large bowl of porridge and marmalade a few hours before, a snack while I’m setting up in transition and then a flapjack style bar or two on the bike plus jelly shots and gels on the run – 1 every 2.5 miles. That might sound a lot, but I’ve practised with that and know it works for me. 




3. No time or don't want to do it? Don’t overthink it.

Sometimes an attempt at a session or half a session is better than no session at all. You’ll end up surprising how much you can do most of the time ... and you’ll feel better for having done some than having done none. I don’t like training in hot sun … but I do because I know if a race is on a hot day, I’m going to HAVE to race in heat. Better to have practised in it and know how it feels. 

The exception to this is if you’re ill or overtired. 




4. You don’t need the top kit, the top bike but some good essentials will see you through. 

You don’t need a 5 grand bike. Mine cost me about £1400 4 years ago and she’s done plenty of miles and I love her. I know just how she corners in the wet, the dry and the ice and I also get regular bike services so I’m less likely to suffer a mechanical problem in an event. Trust me, this is worth the £35. And on that note, get a decent saddle - it’s a long time on your arse. 

Find a wetsuit that suits you. You’ll probably need to try a few out as they all fit differently and different suits for different folks. Everyone prefers a different one. A lot of the lakes will offer wetsuit hire and it’s worth trying a few out at different sessions to get a feel for which you prefer. They ARE pricey, but they’ll also last a few years if you keep on top of repairs and treat them carefully. 

Don’t skimp on trainers – it took me a while (and a few injuries!) to learn this lesson. it’s worth investing a few quid to get some specifically for running. A good running shop will be able to offer advice and guide you towards the right ones. And once you know which ones suit you, you can always order the same model again. 




5. Don’t rely on the training aids. 

I have fins but don’t need them. I’ve used a tempo trainer but don’t use it regularly. Sometimes simple is easier and forgetting a ‘crutch’ in a race will worry you. If you train with a nose clip and then forget it in a race, all you’re going to be able to think about before the swim is not having that nose clip. Get used to swimming without them.



6. Make life easy for yourself. 

Have some easy training routes nearby. It makes life simpler if you can just head out the door without having to think about routes if you know the 3 miles, 4, mile, 10 mile loops near you. 


7. Remember your mental strength.

Does it hurt? Of course it does. But everyone else is hurting too. Remember you’ve put the training in and you can do this … and you can keep doing it until the end of the race. Believe in your training. 



8. Get a coach. 

You can have the best plan but you need someone on the outside looking in. Are you overtraining? (Easy to miss this if you’re self coaching). A coach can spot what tweaks can make you more efficient, whether it’s time to add more reps or more power to your sessions … and when to drop it down. Also if you are happy to spend a couple of grand on a bike, then surely improving your times by getting a coach is a no-brainer, right? I truly believe that this is the best way to improve your training and racing – and it’s so simple but athletes don’t do it. And then wonder why they burn out, don’t hit the times or aren’t working to their full potential. Trust me on this. Worth it. 


Ok. Those are my top tips right there. You get those right and you’ll be smashing your targets and hopefully standing on that podium. 

Any other top tips, you’d like to add just drop me a comment and let me know how they’ve worked for you. 

Thursday, 3 September 2020

12 Hours on Zwift: Appalling Maths and hating on Central Park

How did you cope with the lockdown? Did you prefer working from home or were you out and about, working as usual?

Pre-Lockdown
Pre-Lockdown ... during it was almost all indoors!

I was lucky enough to be out and about for work. I love my family, but I’m well aware how annoying I can be and with my husband working from home and child off school, I didn’t want to end up falling out with everyone or locking myself in the loo to drink gin in the bath. That’s for weekends.

However, I’m one of the lucky ones. My family unit is fairly stable. But what if it wasn’t?

During lockdown, domestic abuse killings doubled and calls to helplines went up by 49%. That’s a huge increase. With people all stuck inside together and no respite, it was estimated that at least 16 domestic abuse killings of women and children had taken place in the first three weeks of the lockdown. (1)

I work in a role where domestic abuse is often seen and when I found out the stats, my friend Rachel, in a similar role, and I decided to try and help by raising some money for the Crisis Centre in Birmingham.

Now Rachel, as previously mentioned, is my ‘Yes Friend’. An important friend to have, particularly when planning bonkers adventures and madcap ideas and need someone with enthusiasm and a shared delight of cafe stops. But this time, it was my turn to be the yes friend. And there were to be no cafe stops.

Rachel’s crazy idea was to ride for 12 hours … on Zwift. If you’re not familiar with Zwift, it’s basically a computer game which doubles as a training aid. You hook your bike up to it, pedal like mad and Zwift tells you you’re going up mountains. It’s a bit more complex than that, but that’s the gist. 

And she wanted me to spend 12 hours doing that. On my own. In the house. Like a lunatic.

So of course I said yes. 

We planned to start at 0600hrs in the morning and Rachel would plan a ‘meet up’ on Zwift which meant that the program would link our bikes to ride together. The lovely Charley would be joining us for a few hours and we’d all be chatting way on the Discord app to make the time pass faster. 

Ready to Go!

So with my usual perfect timekeeping, I was 7 minutes late in joining. I could blame, Zwift, my bike shoes for hiding or the cats for being irritating little gits … but actually it was my usual appalling sense of time.

As a result, the software wouldn’t let me join the meetup. This is standard, but being new to Zwift I didn’t realise I had to be riding before the start of the meet up to join in. Again … I’d blame the software being awkward … but it was me being incompetent. 

Standard.

Finally after a couple of false starts, we all got our little avatars cycling together in the pixel-perfect world of Watopia at 0625hrs. Perfect. Our little people all cycling around a made-up world while we cycled hundreds of miles apart in our own houses. 

My new favourite thing in the world

We were chatting via Discord which is a free chat app on our phones and it actually made it feel like a proper group ride. But without having to avoid snot rockets, potholes or delivery vans but while still being able to shout at each to take the front so the rest could draft. Perfect. 

My working strategy was to have a break every few hours for snacks when I would stop my clock to ensure I got the full 12 hours in and restart it when I started cycling again. After my snacks had been gobbled. 

We were having a grand old catch up and chatting about various important topics (Does chamois cream go on your arse or the pad of your shorts? Does cider count as fuelling? How many pairs of bib shorts is too many? Should bike shops offer husband receipts?) and collectively decided that a quick snack and drinks bottle refill every couple of hours would be about right and save us getting too exhausted later on in the ride. The first few hours had flown by with the chat and excitement of starting our enthusiastic but static adventure as we got off our collective bikes to scoff our first snacks.

Snack duly gobbled, I climbed back onto my bike to find that my little Zwift cyclist was refusing to move an inch. I was pedalling, the turbo was on, everything was connected but my avatar had clearly gone on strike. What the watt? Power was showing in the menu screen meaning everything was connected and it was recognising I was pedalling but it wasn’t moving my cyclist in Watopia. I could spin my legs as fast as Roadrunner when Wile E Coyote arrived with the Acme Dynamite but without Zwift recognising I was doing it, cartoon Sarah wasn’t going anywhere.

Stupid cartoon Sarah. She’s clearly as stubborn and as much of a pain-in-the-arse as real life Sarah.

I paired, unpaired and repaired. I switched things on and off but no luck. Last option. I stopped the Garmin with a beep and restarted Zwift. Sigh. I’d lost the first part of the data in Zwift so was going to have to remember what time I’d done and add that onto the next section.

Well THAT’S going to end well, isn’t it?

Surprising how much this helps!

I started up Zwift but as I’d exited the program, it wouldn’t let me rejoin my cycling buddies. So Rach and Charley were cycling in Watopia and I was cycling in circles in Central Park in the virtual New York. Being new to Zwift, I had no clue how to choose which route I went on so I popped up on the route the program chose for me. 

Gosh. Lucky Central Park is an interesting route, isn’t it? … isn’t it?

It was fantastic for the first 2 hours … but with no clue how to change the route I was on, the short loop of Central Park got boring very quickly. AND I STILL HAD 10 HOURS OF IT TO GO.

I started getting very very sympathetic to the plight of the lonely goldfish circling the bowl.

The girls were chatting away which was lovely and made me feel a bit less as though I was pedalling away for an entire day in my house like a lunatic. Which I was. Charley dropped off the ride at lunchtime as she’d hit her target of longest ride of 5 hours which was absolutely brilliant. It was fantastic to have her along for the ride and her chat and quick wit kept the hours ticking past. We also got some lovely support from JJ who dropped in to say hello.

I can't do THIS on the bike normally!

As the miles ticked onwards, the chat lessened and as we got towards 100 miles, Discord tailed off into silence.

I don’t think my ranting about endless loops of Central Park helped. 

I decided that now was the time to fall back on Plan B and stuck Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade followed by Indiana Jones and The Holy Grail on the TV. Singing the theme tune like a lunatic cheered me up and took my mind off the fact I still had to sit on my now very sore fanny for another couple of hours. I decided monsters would take my mind off it and put on the classic film, Tremors. Who doesn’t like a classic monster film? 

Me. I’ve gone off films and cycling altogether at this point. Lying down I could get on board with. So long as it wasn’t in bloody Central Park.

Central Park could do one. 


I was on the last section now. 2 hours to go and I was joined by the lovely Laura Donald for a section. I spotted her avatar’s name pop up on the board on Zwift and it was lovely having a bit of company. It’s surprising how much quicker the miles go with support. If only it was possible for one of my buddies to actually go into Central park and push that bloody avatar round to save me pedalling, I’d be hugely appreciative. 

My lovely Rugby Tri girls dropped me a message and gave me a boost with some chat on Discord and Dan from Rugby Tri rode with me for the last section giving me the benefit of a bit of a draft – much appreciated! 

I was counting down the minutes now. The girls kept me going with chat … and every now and then would ask how long I had to go. 23 minutes …. 12 minutes … 7 minutes … 3 minutes. 

Nearly there. Just keep talking, girls. So long as you keep talking, I can keep pedalling.

And it takes my mind off how much I bloody hate Central Park right now. 

And done.

I stopped the watch. Finally. It was showing 12 hours 4 seconds. I was done.

HANG ON.

Didn’t I stop the watch when I restarted Zwift when it crashed 2 hours in …? 

WHAT

THE 

ACTUAL


Due to the snack-breaks and toilet-breaks and general fannying-around-breaks, I had completely lost track of time. I’d stopped the watch when I’d got off the bike so wasn’t sure at what time approximately I was due to finish. 

I HAD thought it was taking rather a long time …

Because this absolute twerp had cycled for 2 extra hours as she had forgotten she’d restarted the watch when she restarted Zwift.

2 additional hours of cycling around Central Park. 2 additional hours of resting on my battered fanny. 2 additional hours of abusing my legs on the bike. 

This betwattled idiot could have climbed off her bike 2 hours ago.

BUT £845 raised for Birmingham Crisis Centre. Additional resources and funds to help people in crisis.

Worth it.

Thank you.


Should you feel sorry for my poor legs or just having a chuckle at my appalling maths skills, the Just Giving page is still open here: Just Giving


Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Breca Gower Swim Run: Yes Friends, Seals and Why You Should Always Check Your Fern

I’ve never been a team player. I like the IDEA of working as a team but at school I was the one standing at the end when everyone else has been picked along with the kid who smells funny and has one finger permanently up a nostril and the kid who has has a communicable disease, hates sports and is threatening to lick anyone who picks him. I get distracted too easily. I’d get bored not playing at all times and would be standing there, wondering what was for lunch when the ball smacked me in the face. Or forgot which team I was supposed to be in so passed the ball to the opposite team. I am an appalling team player.



So I tend to do races on my own. Or take friends who already know that I’m a bit of a nightmare when it comes to snacks, navigation, choosing a bathroom spot … and are ok with that. Or tolerate it at least in exchange for the good snacks. 

However, what do I do when I find out that an event that I’ve planned for isn’t a solo event … and I needed a friend to do the event with me as a partner?

I don’t panic. 

I know just who to ask. 

Do you have a ‘Yes Friend’? If not you need to find one. A ‘Yes Friend’ is a friend who whenever you ask them to join in on one of your bonkers adventures, shouts “YES!” very loudly before you’ve even finished asking. And even better, they talk you into their adventures too.

So that’s how Rachel and I entered Breca Gower SwimRun. 
I was incredibly lucky to have this place gifted to us by Breca - thank you!


Rachel and me in Wales!

I arrived in Mumbles the day before the event and was blown away by how stunning the area is. It’s all cliffs and wild beauty and miles of sweeping beaches and coves. The sort of place I couldn’t wait to explore. It looked straight out of a Famous Five story and I was half expecting pirates and smugglers to sail across one of the bays. I couldn’t believe that I was going to run those steep but exciting cliffs and swim across those sparkling waters. It didn’t seem real. It seemed too big an adventure.

You know when you have a big event and you can’t quite imagine yourself afterwards …? It seems so big in your mind that you can’t quite believe that you’ll be the same person. That you’ll be you, but changed. That’s how Breca SwimRun felt to me. 


Photo by Breca

I’d booked a farmhouse to stay in which was a few miles from Mumbles. To get to the house, you had to drive miles and miles up a tiny winding lane which got narrower and narrower and more and more twisty - like a hedged spiral staircase. The farmhouse was large and white and looked beautiful and quaint. And also smelled alarmingly of cat wee. I didn’t spot a cat but judging by the smell it was the size of a mountain lion. However, the bedroom was clean and large and full of character and there was plenty of room to lay my kit out ready for my adventure the next day. 




I had to be at registration at 0800 hours and have my kit inspected to check that I had everything that was required. It wasn’t a huge amount but the mandatory kit per team was:

* Two wetsuits
* Two whistles
* Two reusable cups

Luckily my wetsuit had a pocket to stash the (squashable) cup in and some handy snacks. You don’t realise until you try and race some distance in one, that wetsuits aren’t the easiest things to hide food in. I just tied the whistle onto the wetsuit zip cord.

I got up in plenty of time and picked up my pre-packed bag ready to go. I dropped it all in the car and got to to the carpark I’d sneakily scoped out the day before.




Where I hit a snag. A big snag.

The car park instructions were all in Welsh. Which was understandable as I was in Wales. However, my working knowledge of Welsh was nil. 

Bugger.

My only option was to keep sticking coins in until it beeped at me … or a friendly local came along to assist. Luckily it was the latter and it was soon all sorted out. She even showed me how to turn the machine display into English. **facepalm**

As usual I had arrived really early. I hate being late for things. It’s extra stress and if I can’t find where to park or how to get to registration then it’s extra pressure. I’d rather chill out, scope out where to get a coffee and then have a leisurely wander up to the start.

However, after getting a few odd looks, I realised that not only did I have on my usual morning face [my Oh-My-God-Don’t-Talk-To-Me face], I also was wearing my comfy – yet battered – pre-race joggers, a hoody, my terrifying morning hair (before I’d put in the race plaits) and I was carrying a massive ru cksack (containing my wetsuit, cup and snacks). I realised I was perfectly nailing the ‘mad-and-transient’ look. 

I wasn’t complaining though. I get grumpy if people try to talk to me pre-coffee. I made a mental note to do this look again in the future. It would be ideal if I wanted to get to the front of a race portaloo queue. Certainly no-one would argue with my pre-coffee face.




Registration was in a beautiful green location called Underhill Park in Mumbles. It was surrounded by an old grey stone wall and was bordered by trees. The large white Breca tents stood out sharply on the green grass. This would be where our race would finish today. Our start was 13 miles away in Oxwich Beach. Our goal today was to make it back to Mumbles by swimming the coves and running the land in between. 

Rach and I registered our team and showed the Breca crew our mandatory kit and picked up our rash vests which had our race numbers on. This was it. We were in. Team number 16. 


Sooooo nervous!!

Our team name was ‘No Wheels Today’. Basically we were 2 triathletes who had NO CLUE how to do a swimrun and who weren’t allowed to use our bikes. Despite our training sessions which involved swimming in trainers and running in wetsuits, we really did feel like absolute amateurs who were totally winging it.

Note: Don’t try weeing in a swimrun wetsuit while RUNNING. This was an experiment I have already done so you don’t have to. Sloshing. There’s sloshing.

I saw Elise Downing before registration who had sorted out the entries for me and Rach. I gave her a quick hug and thanked her for sorting our entries. I’m sure you have already heard of Elise but one day in 2015, she set off to run the coastline of the UK. Self supported and carrying her belongings on her back. That’s 5000 miles! And she completed it in 301 days. She’s an inspiration and a genuinely lovely person.


Photo by Breca

Rach and I got ourselves into the registration tent and sat ourselves in the middle of the group. Everyone looked prepared, lean and professional. So what were we doing here? So it was quite a shock when three quarters of the people in the tent raised their hands when asked who was therefor their first swimrun event. Phew! So at least Rach and I weren’t completely out of our depth then! (First swim pun right there – badum-tish!) The registration set our minds at ease. The set up was really professional and the course was fully way-marked plus there were marshalled checkpoints and transitions. There were also to be plenty of boats and safety crew out and about following the progress of the swimrunners. So in theory I wouldn’t even be able to do my usual trick of getting completely lost.

We dropped our bags off and piled onto the 2 coaches  waiting by the trees of the park ready to take us to the start of our adventure.

It was 13 miles to the start … so how long would you estimate it would take a coach? An hour. It took an hour! The twisty roads and tiny lanes made the journey slow but it was amazing to get a look at the beautiful terrain we’d be running across. It was wild and beautiful. Despite my nerves, I couldn’t help feeling how incredibly lucky I was to do this. 

The coach parked up on a beach bordered on each side by steep sheer cliffs. A wide sweep of coastline with a shallow bay was on our left – the direction we were to be running. It was desolate and beautiful. The day was overcast and the clouds were brooding … the perfect set up for an adventure. 


Photo by Breca
And then in complete contrast to the wild beauty, the coaches emptied and all the females immediately made their way to the toilet block … it had been an hours drive and rather a lot of coffee, after all. And is it even an event if you’re not in a toilet queue for 20 minutes beforehand?

We grouped on the wet sand of the beach, the cold water soaking into our trainers and shivering with nerves although not cold. And we were off! The start of our adventure!

The route was split into 5 runs and 4 swims. Basically we were heading from Oxwich Beach back to Underhill Park in Mumbles and doing this by swimming the bays and running across the headlands. Our first section was to run nearly 3km from Oxwich Bay to Great Tor and swim 0.7km to Three Cliffs Bay.


Photo by Breca

The run of 3km along the beach felt a long way and I was looking forward to getting into the sea – but also dreading it. I wasn’t sure how I would feel after running – and setting off far too fast along the sand and shingle – but I still wasn’t going to slow down!


Photo By Breca

Plus I had forgotten just how difficult it is to enter the sea quickly. Do you dive? Do you jump? Or do you do what I do – an undignified waddle-wade and eventually fall over?

As soon as I got into the water, I remembered why I loved sea swimming. It’s so so different to lake and river swimming. The currents move you and you just get to see so much more underwater. I soon got into a rhythm and Rach and I stayed together really well. We hadn’t tethered ourselves for this event (although you could choose to if you wanted to) and our swim speed was evenly matched. 


Photo by Breca

We sighted on the white Breca quill on the beach and was soon out. However, pulling our wetsuits down to our waists and taking our goggles off was a lot more complicated than in training due to the race rash vests that we had to wear at all times with our team number on. We had to take the vests off, take the wetsuits down, put the vests back on and remember to take the goggles off so we could see where we were going! Also my swimrun wetsuit has short sleeves which makes it remarkably difficult to take down in a rush without bending your own shoulder backwards. It’s just awkward as haven’t got the sleeves to pull it down with unlike a normal tri wetsuit. Had to ask Rach for help. 

However, after finally managing the difficult task of dressing myself (now I know why my child used to complain so much), we got out to run the 7.7km to Brandy Cove. This was the longest run and checkpoint 1 was during this section. I was surprised just how thirsty the swimming and running combination made me. However in order to get to the drinks and snacks, I had to climb a sand dune … and a cliff. And then do some actual running. 


Photo By Breca
You remember, when as a kid, you tried to run in fine sand? It takes ages … and it’s EXHAUSTING. I finally made it up the side of the cliff, where I got to laugh at Rach giving me her ‘how do I even do this’ face. However, we both made it up the cliff, unscathed and enjoyed the trot along the top on the rabbit-nibbled grass. And the views were AMAZING. The sun had finally come out and the swim caps were off and the sea glittered blue in the Welsh sunshine. We had a view across the sea to our right and the bays and coves were laid out on either side. It was the most amazing thing. Running along salty and damp from the sea, warm in the sunshine and knowing we had miles to enjoy this. 




The run along the top of the cliffs was divine. The trails crossed in and out of gorse and ferns and the clouds scudded across the sky with sunshine one moment and grey clouds the next. It was ideal for this event as it was a nice temperature to run in and the sea felt glorious after hot runs. 




We were running along a stony path where we were chatting to another team and were told by 2 Breca marshals about the seals in the sea below us. We stopped to have a look and could clearly see them playing like puppies in the water. It was a real treat to see them and encapsulated what a very special event we were part of. 

How many events do you do where you get to swim near seals?

We clambered down the rocky cliff and I dropped on down and while waiting for our turn to go into the water, I started chatting to one of the marshals. There was only one place to get into the water safely with the rocks and the swell and the Breca team were amazing at ensuring everyone was safe and secure. I chatted away and looked up, to realise Rach was still halfway up the cliff. I’m a crap friend. I’d been so busy chatting, I hadn’t realised Rach wasn’t too keen on heights and was stuck. Climbed up to check on her and she came down with company. She’s super-brave. Worried about heights and hadn’t even mentioned it in her enthusiasm to do the event. 


Photo by Breca

We climbed down towards the sea and set off swimming through the clear water towards our next checkpoint and the white Breca quill flag we could see on the far shore. The current was stronger here and we were swimming towards the shore but not making much progress. The seabed didn’t look far below me and I could see the seaweed swaying with the current and swells as we were swimming, rocked by the waves. You feel quite protected in a wetsuit and goggles and with a friend swimming beside me, it was quite surreal. However, we didn’t seem to be making much progress towards the shore, the tide was moving us further along than we wanted and we weren’t getting closer to the shore. We decided to swim parallel to the beach and then try and strike inwards. That finally worked, but what we expected to be a short swim turned out to take a lot longer than expected. 


Photo by Breca

We ran up onto the beach, did the gymnastics with the kit change and set out onto the run. Rach had mentioned a couple of times how her stomach didn’t feel quite right and she was looking a bit green. Not a great situation to be in in the middle of an event and while wearing a wetsuit. However … we were surrounded by tall ferns. Rach stepped off the path and found a clump of bushy ferns and I stayed on the path and dreamed of the enormous ice cream I’d be eating at the end of our adventure.

Eventually Rachel appeared. Her stomach was much better … but she was a bit wriggly. “You ok?” I asked. She hesitated. Apparently ferns are great for wiping your bottom on as they’re nice and soft. BUT it’s always a good idea to check for ants first.

Lesson. 

The last run section is past a coastguard station lookout and is through scratchy gorse bordered by a high cliff. Rach was super happy about her choice to wear calf sleeves but I looked as though I had been wading through feral cats. This section was quite hilly but it was so beautiful. We were both a little sad that we were coming towards the end of our Wales adventure. It had been such a journey and something so different to anything I’d done before. As we came over the brow of the hill and down a narrow little alley, we heard the event loudspeakers echoing through the trees and it gave us an extra boost of enthusiasm and our legs winged us down the field and onto the grass of Underhill Park towards the Breca Gower finish line. 




WHAT AN ADVENTURE!




I have never done anything like it before but as soon as we passed the finish line, exhausted though we were, Rach and I looked at each other exhilarated and asked “When can we do this again?”




So our choice for next time is not whether to do one again, but whether or not to go long!

Thank you Breca! You were amazing!




Friday, 1 May 2020

Nutrition: The Alternative to Eating Your Bodyweight in Chocolate and Cheese during Lockdown

I have FOMO. That’s fear of missing out. Whether it’s an exciting sounding new event, a party with friends or trying out a new restaurant. I have to be there. I have to do it. Or I sulk. 

Unfortunately this also extends to food whether that’s ‘other people’s cheese’, a new coffee or chocolate in the fridge. Side note: I don’t truly believe that cheese can belong to other people. It’s mine. It’s all mine. And chocolate in the fridge has a rule in our house: if it’s been in there for over 24hrs whoever put it in there can’t REALLY want it. So it’s fair game. 

And during lockdown this can be dangerous. Especially when the fridge is what’s full of what is technically other people’s snacks. And I have FOMO. What if it’s REALLY GOOD chocolate and I never try it and then I miss my chance and I will NEVER find out how it tasted? 

That's MY cake. Not yours. MINE.

As you imagine, living with me is a delight. Particularly if you expect to store things in the fridge. 

I therefore have a few strategies to cope with FOMO or as my husband calls it my ‘kleptomania around other people’s food’. 


  1. Be vegan. Chocolate AND cheese is now off limits. 
  2. Never ever open the fridge again. NOTE: But how will you get at the hummus and carrot sticks?
  3. Persuade your family never to keep stuff in the fridge unless they’re ok with it being eaten by you. 
  4. Work out how far you’d actually have to move to work off that Easter egg. Run HOW FAR? Not so tempting now is it?
  5. Tell everyone to get you a pot plant for Easter instead. Congrats you now have a house full of plants instead of tasty tasty chocolate. NOTE: Check for triffids.
  6. Every time someone offers you a snack do a lap of the back garden. You’ll get your miles in despite the lockdown AND you won’t have to worry about extra pounds. Note: husband may take advantage of this to take control of the remote control and keep you running while he relaxes with a beer and an episode of WWE. 

Here. Have some manky bananas.

But seriously I do feel better when I eat healthier.  And I tend to move a bit quicker too. Particularly useful when I want to beat my husband and child to the fridge. And for racing too of course.

Strategies: 

  1. I track my food. It makes me more accountable. I use MyFitnessPal but there are plenty of decent apps out there. It makes me a bit more mindful of what I’m eating and I’m less likely to treat the fridge as a buffet when I’m going to have to write everything down.
  2. I did ACTUALLY go vegan. It’s a lot harder to eat the cheese and chocolate when you’re morally not supposed to … I’d like to say I went vegan for the animals but actually my little sister dared me to do it and I found my recovery times were really improved when training so I stuck with it. 
  3. I feel much better when I eat food which is better for my body. There will always be a place in my heart (and hand!) for chocolate but I know I’ll feel better if I eat a few squares of dark chocolate rather than an entire box of Celebrations. 
  4. Be kind to yourself. Lockdown is new to us all. Does it really matter if we have a few treats and don’t get to train as well as usual? Not at all. It’s strange times. So long as you and your family are healthy and happy, training can wait. There will be other things to try if you fancy them - online yoga has been interesting, Zwift has been a revelation and homeschooling has been a challenge … but we’re coping. 


I hope you’ve enjoyed the article. Clearly it’s a bit tongue in cheek but don’t forget to smile and try something new if you get the chance!


Thursday, 12 March 2020

Sundose Supplements: Sunshine in a glass or placebo?

Sundose contacted me to see whether I wanted to try their supplements. As a rule I try to avoid supplements as I want to get everything I need through my food, plus as I race so often I don’t want to have to worry about anything nasty ending up in a test should I be tested (in the slim chance that all the really fast ladies fall off their bikes and I somehow end up at the front and eligible for a test!). 

However, I also eat plant-based only foods which means that I do need to be aware of what I could potentially be missing out on. I believe that I should be able to get virtually everything I need from my food … but do I actually get it? I’m sometimes lazy … like most people I juggle, family work and training and sometimes it’s easier to eat the same thing for breakfast, lunch and dinners as it’s one less thing to have to think about in a busy lifestyle.

I take an off-the-shelf multivitamin I picked up off the shelf at my local supermarket but does this really contain everything I need? You know what? I’m not sure it does.




Sundose is quite pricey compared to an off-the-shelf multi-vitamin but the reason for this was that my daily supplement is tailored to me, my lifestyle and my desired result. I had to answer a health survey which asked me basic biological details, whether I excluded any food from my diet, fluid and caffeine intake, diet including sugar intake, how man meals I eat and whether I make these, general immune system, lifestyle including sports and intensity, alcohol consumption, stress and whether I suffer from ‘odorous gases and plenty of other questions and finally my health goal. I chose I wanted to have more energy. The questionnaire is in-depth and it took me around 5 – 10 minutes to complete. 

… and then I just had to sit back and wait for my order which was scheduled to arrive within the week.

When the parcel arrived, it was well packaged and the supplements were in a box with a flip up lid which made them easy to store as I wasn’t dealing with 30 days worth of individual packets. The supplements came in a daily sachet, one half was powder which I mixed into water (I’d chosen the orange flavoured option) and took as a drink and the other half of the sachet contained 4 pills. There was also a list on the bottom of the box specifying what was in the powder and what was in each capsule.




The powder which was white in the packet turned grey when I first mixed into the water but after stirring, it went bright orange and looked like fresh orange juice. I was a bit dubious but it tasted how I’d expect fresh orange juice to taste if it was made from a powder. There was a slight aftertaste but it wasn’t bad and it was smooth - there was no unpleasant texture. It did however take a second stir to mix the powder that had settled to the bottom of the glass. I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to drink. 




I had 4 daily pills in my supplement packet and I don’t have any problems taking pills but they were a decent size, around the size of a large capsule.





So How Did I Get On?

Same as you, I have a busy life trying to juggle family, full-time job and commute and training and trying to remember something in addition can be difficult even if it’s something small like remembering to take a supplement! The first few days I set a reminder on my phone and then I fell into the habit of having the supplement when I had my breakfast so one reminded me of the other which was handy. Doing it this way meant I had an additional drink as well as my coffee (which is good as I know I don’t drink enough!) and also meant I didn’t have to remember to take different pills from my cupboard. I also took a handful of the supplement packets with me to work for the days I had a silly early start at work, so I could have one with my breakfast there. I found I had to try and make new habits to remember.






Week 1
I remembered to take the supplements every day. I did notice that my training was going really well and it was nice not to have to even think about the multivitamins in the cupboard as I knew I was getting what I needed from these supplements. Not sure I can say that the good training relates directly to the supplements at this early stage but if the placebo effect works then I’m happy to take it! 




Week 2
I’ve have taken a handful of sachets to work as they’re easy to stick in my bag. I work shifts so it can be difficult to take the supplements the same time every day. Training still going well. Feeling pretty good about it all. Missed a day by mistake but didn’t take a double dose the next day – just skipped that day. 




Week 3
I’ve caught a cold – or at least I have that stuffy blocked up feeling. I’m blaming a day of being out on the bike in a hailstone storm. I’d hoped that being so good with my supplements would stave off the inevitable British winter-time cold but maybe not to be! Took a few training sessions off the schedule and gave my body a bit of a rest. At least I know I’m getting the vitamins I need … as well as all the coffee I’m drinking! Actually quite look forward to the orange drink in the morning now. Guess I must usually have been a bit dehydrated without realising it. 




Week 4
The cold disappeared a lot quicker than I’d expected and I’m back training normally. Not sure I can thank the supplements for such a quick recovery but they seem to have helped. I’ve been pretty good at taking them every day (although I missed a couple of days when I had to dash to work early) which probably also helped. Coming to the end of my 30 days trial and very tempted to carry on, particularly as a vegan and with all the training I do it’s been nice not to have to think about what supplements I need and when I need them.




In Summary

I liked not having to think about what supplements I needed to take and work out what days I needed what vitamins and which minerals – that was all worked out for me and taken out of my hands. The drink tasted decent and although the pills are a fair size, I didn’t have any problems with either of them. I did find that my training was going really well and my cold cleared up really quickly although this could of course have been a placebo effect or me looking out to see whether I could see any effects of the supplements. However, whether placebo or not – it was a definite benefit! A downside of the supplements is that they are quite pricey but if your health and training are important to you then it’s a serious decision to consider!


Sundose have given me a code to share which gives £20 off your first order: ‘sarahb’
You can visit the Sundose website here



Note: Sundose didn’t pay me for this blog, they just offered to send me a 30-day trial and asked me to write impartially about my experience. I was curious so accepted! :)