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Monday, April 13, 2015

Not All Girls Are Made of Sugar and Spice ...

No idea of the source of this but I LOVE it!
Not all girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice ...

Some girls are made of adventure and beer and brains and no fear ...


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Bicester Triathlon: Urine Tide Lines, Biblical Weather & Bulldogs.

Men were passing me on the bike leg of the triathlon. I’d expected to be overtaken, but bizarrely they all seemed to be grinning. Or gurning. How strange. 

Had I got my helmet on back to front? My trisuit had maybe split up the arse?

Then I realised. They weren’t gurning OR grinning. The headwind was so strong, our mouths, open for breathing were being blown around. It was the cycling equivalent of blasting a bulldog with a leafblower. 

This is what a bulldog looks like when it's being blasted by a leaf blower. AMAZING. (Source)
I’d expected the weather to be a bit rainy, but I hadn’t expected the wind to be quite as strong as it was. There were WAVES in the puddles and sideways trees. The course was a great one and was very flat – but unsheltered. Which meant the wind could really have fun trying to blow me backwards while I desperately tried to cycle forwards.  I’d hoped for a bike PB over the 20km with all my turbo training over the last few months, but today I’d be happy with not ending up in the hedge or under a lorry. Actually moving forwards was to be a bonus. 

I’d suspected things weren’t going to go my way when I’d had to stop my bike in traffic within 5 minutes of starting, unable to overtake the stationary line of cars waiting to turn right at the roundabout at the end. The man in front of me whom I’d been trying desperately to catch since we set off turning into a dot in the distance. Bloody traffic.  There was nothing I could do about it though. I waited until I could start moving again, put my head down and started pedalling like a dervish. 

The morning had started so well too ...

There were crème eggs at registration. There were toilets without queues AND with loo roll. I’d even passed a sign to a village called ‘Hardwick’, the surname of my coach which I’d taken as a good omen.

AND I’d made a new friend. This was unintentional and the poor chap didn’t have much choice in the matter. It had been break point. In the car, I’d realised I probably should have popped to the loo before leaving home. 

FORTUNATELY, there were plenty of service stations on my journey ... UNFORTUNATELY I’d forgotten my bike lock and didn’t dare leave the bike unlocked on the back of the car. 

Same dilemma when I got the venue. Transition wasn’t yet open and I didn’t want to leave the bike unlocked on the car in a field or unlocked against the wall outside the loos. 

I had the brief thought about whether I could fit my bike into one of the toilet cubicles. Then decided it would be impossible to actually go to loo with the cubicle filled up with bike.

Then I spotted George. He looked reasonably trustworthy. And he had his own bike. He didn’t need 2, right? (Don’t ask a triathlete this question) I had three options. 1. Take bike into toilet and attempt acrobatic style wee while balancing over bike 2. Leave bike with trustworthy looking stranger.  3.Wet self while trying to decide.  

I took option 2. And New-Friend-George was promoted to Bike Babysitter. 

However I may have peeked back out of door to see whether he was attempting to cycle away on his own bike with mine tucked under his arm. He wasn’t. 

I found the loos and got myself registered – they were giving out FREE crème eggs!!! - and then did my own spot of Bike Babysitting as New Friend discovered he had same lock-less problem.

The children’s triathlon had started so I watched them coming through transition with their bikes and heading out for the run. It was pouring with rain, the wind was blowing trees sideways and the massive heavy metal barriers kept blowing over. And there were small children running in trisuits. Basically in swimsuits with legs. I’d brought my own trisuit but had been planning on putting a couple of layers over the top. 

I spotted a small child shivering.  Dressed in a small red trisuit, he had finished his race and was recovering in a sheltered corner out of the howling wind. “Weren’t you cold in just a trisuit?” I asked sympathetically looking for an excuse for me to wear my nice thick bike jacket over the top. He looked up at me. “Yes” And holding up a MASSIVE medal. “...but I won.” That was me told then.  

Transition opened at 10am. I always feel better when my bike was racked and kit set up, although in this weather it was unlikely to stay set up. The bike were swaying on the racks due to the strong winds and kit boxes were already scattered across the field. I set up my shoes, towel and other bits and pieces inside a bin bag and held it down with my heavy Huub tri bag. If the wind managed to blow my fully laden tri bag away then the bikes would already be in the trees. 

My bike is the one with the white saddle. 
I’d already had a narrow squeak thanks to the weather this morning. The registration envelope had got so sodden with the rain that the bottom had fallen out and I’d been unknowingly trailing helmet stickers and fliers all around transition. Luckily someone stopped me and handed me my timing chip “I think you might need this ...”. Ah. I retraced my steps and recollected my damp items. Like a breadcrumb trail but with race information and stickers instead of crumbs.

My bike was racked on the field under the rugby goal posts. There were no rack numbers – it was first come, first served. As soon as transition opened it was like a Next sale. Chaos. What is it with triathletes and elbowing? Seriously guys, calm down! You’re not in the open water now, you know! *Surreptitiously kicks man in ankle for good racking spot* 

As soon as everything was set up, I wandered over to the pool to watch the swimmers. I was really impressed with the spectating area. Loads of space to watch the swimmers and it was warm. Important if you’re hanging around in swim kit. And it was here I had my favourite surprise of the day! My friend Rae had come to cheer me on! I’d come to the triathlon on my own so it was wonderful to have someone cheering for me! Thank you, thank you!

I got changed and got myself down to the pool edge. The triathlon had started at 8:30am but due to the staggered start I didn’t get into the pool until 12:30. Which due to the nervous swimmers was by this point about 90% urine. I’d heard Coca Cola was good for killing water germs, but at this point the only thing likely to save me was neat bleach. I was expecting brown tide lines when I got out of the pool later. 

Pretending I'm not nervous ...
The earlier swimmers had been 2 to a lane and it had looked quite sedate and calm while they swam perfect breastroke. It all looked a bit different now. Swimmers thrashing up and down and a man with bright pink calf guards zipping up and down the nearside lane. Hats hadn’t been supplied at this triathlon so there were multiple coloured heads bobbing around like Christmas baubles.

For once before a race, I didn’t feel nervous. I felt sick, but not nervous. I knew that I might hate every second but unlike my only other pool triathlon I was confident I could actually swim 400m this time and whether armbands would be allowed wasn’t so much of a concern. Before I knew it I was being called up along with 5 others and it was my turn. 

Pic by Rae
I slipped into the pool and took a couple of seconds to adjust my goggles and get my face under the water. Yep. 90% urine.

And we were off. The swim was ... unexpected. I felt comfortable. I could do this. Maybe not gracefully or without a bit of thrashing around, but I could do this. Maybe the wee made the pool easier to swim in. Who knows but as I exited the pool after my 16th lap I remembered to stop my swim watch and looked down to see 7:47 – a new swim PB. 

Pic by Rae

After the nice warm pool area and a run through the leisure centre past the plastic palm trees and kiddie pool, going outside was a nasty surprise. Running over the muddy grass and stony tarmac in bare feet to the transition area, the cold rain and the wind chilled my damp skin.

Pic by Rae

To get to the bikes, we ran around 3 edges of the square transition area and it was very easy to find my bike under the towering goal rugby post. As soon as I got to transition, I sat down to get my socks on and bike shoes on. No point falling over and knocking my own bike off the rack. Besides I’d probably get disqualified for touching my bike without my helmet on. Even if I was lying across it sideways with all my kit underneath me.  The talc in the shoes and socks was a blessing as it meant I didn’t have to waste time drying my feet, but could just roll my socks on (Thanks again Veggie Runners!). Bike jacket on (sorry small child in trisuit but I’m a WIMP), number belt on, helmet on. No sunglasses required today. 

I ran out of transition holding my bike saddle. Or I thought I did but the photos show that I appear to be holding the handlebars as well. How I managed to avoid tripping myself up on the pedals I don’t know. I was probably concentrating on trying to run in bike shoes with rigid soles and 2 lumps of plastic attached while sliding around on wet tarmac. Who knows. The expression on my face in the picture is mainly confusion so maybe I was trying to work out the meaning of life or something. 

Or possibly wondering why the trees were bending sideways and what all this cold wet stuff coming from the sky was. 

Pic by Rae

And then I was being overtaken by the bulldog leafblower cyclists.I didn’t mind being overtaken by the men so much. I’d known I would be overtaken after all. Cycling isn’t my strong point. In fact I don’t think I have a triathlon strong point, but if I had, it wouldn’t be cycling. The first few past whummed past me with their disc wheels and sperm helmets, then the next wave with road bikes and aero bars, then the ones with mountain bikes and baskets ... and then a lady overtook me. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of being a girl. I love being able to wear heels and dresses, to run in pink kit. And I love chicking the blokes to a finishing line. But I don’t like being overtaken by other women. The irritating thing, is that it’s inevitable, I’m just not good enough at cycling to NOT be overtaken. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. I got a bit of a move on and managed to keep her in sight for a bit but not for long. I consoled myself by overtaking everyone else I could see. Including all the girls. The overtaking rule only works one way, you know ...
The cycling was HARD. I dislike running in a strong headwind, but cycling in it was worse. It felt as though I was pushing against an invisible wall, but every time I passed a gateway the sideways gusts blew me across the road. I consoled myself with the fact that everyone had the same conditions. That we were all equalised by the weather. If the trees whipping around hadn’t driven the point home, the waves coming towards me in the puddles was a clue that it might be a bit blowy out. 

It was my bike’s first race but she didn’t seem to be nervous. In fact she behaved like a dream.  I had no problems clipping in and out and after the hill-push-start of the other day, I’d also ensured I’d left the bike in the right gear. If only I could have managed better than what felt like 3mph against the wind.

As it was a looped bike course there was a section on the way back with a tailwind. Sweet. I made the most out of the fact I was finally out of the headwind and started pushing the speed up. The roads weren’t too busy but there were a couple of junctions I had to stop at. It just wasn’t worth risking it. Most of the cars were fairly courteous and I was very impressed with a man driving a silver Mercedes who drove onto the verge in his beautiful car to give the cyclists plenty of room. There were a few incidents though mainly due to the weather conditions but I did what I could to minimise my risk. 

After what felt like only a minute out of the headwind, I was at the roundabout turning left and starting the loop again. This time it felt much faster. Why do the second loops always feel quicker? I pushed round the second time, helped by knowing where I was going this time and within a blink I was heading back into transition.

Transition felt much faster this time. Bike racked, a quick change of shoes, helmet off and out of the run exit. A man ran out about the same time as me and he had a quick sideways glance and sped up. Huh. Trying to race me? I have pent up frustration for not being able to move on the bike! I may not being able to catch speedy bike lady so I’ll overtake you instead! Poor man. He was probably only going to offer me a gel or something. 

The run was 5 laps of a km out and back loop. It was nice being able to see where you had to go at all times but 5 laps felt a LOT. I had a quick check of my pace, but the strong winds meant that it was difficult to judge so I decided to run on effort and concentrate on cracking on. I’d secretly hoped fast-bike-lady would be a slow runner and I could exact revenge by zooming past and doing my evil laugh but no luck.  She was probably a lovely person, but I had fast-bike-riding-envy. I would NOT be sharing my gels with her. 

Pic by Rae
The first 3 kilometre laps took forever. May be exaggerating somewhat but they felt like forever. I felt like I could have done another 20km bike ride in the time it took me to do the first few loops. I decided it was my bike jacket jinxing me so I flung it at poor Rae who had come to cheer me on but instead had been demoted to Stinky-Sweaty-Bike-Jacket babysitter instead. 

The photographer was sitting at the turnaround point, I spotted him on lap 4. As a result my race photos are horrendous up until lap 3 and at laps 4 & 5 I’m gurning away at the photographer and trying to pretend I’m having a wonderful time and 80% of the way through a triathlon is my favourite place to be and I’m not considering walking / hurling or throttling fast lady cyclists AT ALL.  

On lap 4 the icy rain started up again. I’d missed it and it complemented the freezing wind well. 

On lap 5. Finally. One last push. Rae cheered me on (she’d spotted my Eyes of Death look on laps 3 and 4 and had wisely decided to cheer non-verbally for those 2) and I gave it one last push towards the inflatable arch (which must have been tethered with iron cables to stand the winds) and made it over the finish line  with the jubilant commentator announcing the finish of a “Sarah Brooker”.  

Hang on. Who?

Never mind. I’m finished. Where’s that medal?

And as a special treat, here’s the bulldog with a leaf blower video. This is what I think of when I get overtaken by cyclists in a high wind. 

  • Will be a definite PB course if the weather is decent as was so flat. But ... if weather is bad you have no shelter out on the course. Unless you’re in the pool!
  • Great for spectators, especially the pool!
  • Nice friendly race.
  • Parking is close to venue. 
  • Helpful marshals. 

  • Organisation: Swim times weren’t streamed until about 1 week beforehand. Transition opening times changed last minute (I would have had to have been at transition racking bike at 7:30am for a race that started at 12:30 which would have meant a 5:30am start). Great that these changed but better if it wasn’t last minute.
  • Some unusual results particularly on the run, the downfall of 5 laps is people lose count. 
  • No results on the day. 
  • If you’re going to shout people’s names out when they cross the line (a lovely touch!) please get them right. *huff*

6th lady 
2nd in AG

P.S. Fast-Cycling-Lady? You’re AWESOME. Please will you teach me to go as fast as you?

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Running a Beer Mile: Belching & Impersonating a Police Officer

I’m not much for celebrity culture. People famous for not doing a lot? Nah ... not interested thanks. But athletics stars ... they’re different.

And I’ve finally found an athlete I want to emulate. 

A recent world record holder whose dedication, determination and hard training had no doubt led to this worthy record. 

Did I mention the record was the beer mile? And James Nielsen ran it in 5:17 ... and that includes beer drinking time. FOUR beers.

Reasons I should be awesome at this:
  • Sitting in a pub drinking counts as training.
  • Downing pints counts as training. 
  • There’s running involved which I’ve been known to do a bit of occasionally. 
  • I’ve run to the kebab shop after a night out. That practically counts as a beer run. Right?

However, I hit a problem.  There seemed to be NO beer miles scheduled. AT ALL.


How am I supposed to break the beer world record  - or at least the Rugby drink beer, run in circles and vomit in a park mile record if there isn’t one planned anywhere in the UK?

I was just going to have to organise one myself. 

Having taken part in the beer mile at ‘Equinox-24’, ‘The Whale Ale Relay’ and ‘The 12 miles – and mulled wines - of Christmas’, I decided I knew the main ingredients of a successful beer run.

  1. Beer.
  2. Running.
  3. Trophy.

Easy, right? 

Not quite. I’d also decided to do it in fancy dress.

Fancy dress is huge amounts of fun when there’s a group of you but when you’re trying to get changed at the side of a road because gypsies have taken over the car park and it’s freezing cold and you’ve got bare legs and you’re doing a beer mile in a public park and you’re worried you’re going to have to explain either a or b to the police and c you’re dressed as a police officer. I was wondering whether I was going to actually get to finish the beer mile before I was arrested for drinking in public or impersonating a police officer. Or public nudity while getting changed into said police officer’s uniform in my car while attempting to hide under a coat.

(Can I find a ‘insert face in mugshot photo style app?)

It was all getting a bit confusing. And this was even before the alcohol was opened ...

I was timer and beer distributor for the first run. My job was to do the timing, cheer extra loudly, take the tops off the beers, pass them over and hide the empties in a carrier bag before one of the old ladies walking their poodles should complain about the park being taken over by fast-moving drunken louts. In lycra. 

Dressed in a police officer outfit, chugging beers, burping and running in circles around a park might be a difficult one to explain to law enforcement should they turn up and demand an explanation. And it wouldn’t be much of a beer mile if the beers got confiscated.

I did some superb beer opening, cheering and standing around timing. And then it was my turn to run.

My 1st beer was drunk in 22 seconds. And I set off around the park, sounding like an inebriated frog and running as fast as I could. It was like running a bit too soon after eating with that slightly too full feeling but every time I burped, the pressure was relieved slightly and I deflated a bit. If I could keep up the burping, I might be ok ...

I flew onwards overtaking bemused grannies pushing be-prammed grandchildren around the park. In true fancy dress style, I ran my first lap holding my police officer’s truncheon but after putting the Fear of S&M into one Granny, I realised it looked as though I was running at her brandishing a massive black d1ld0 and ditched it at the end of lap one. 

After I’d lost the truncheon I was handed my 2nd beer. Ugh. This one was downed a LOT slower. And this is where I realised that the running was the easy part.

Do you realise how much beer you have to drink for a beer mile? 4 x 440ml cans – that’s almost 4 pints. I don’t drink 4 pints when I’m NOT going for a run. 

I set off unsteadily and decided I REALLY should have had a wee before I started this run. I could hear the beer sloshing around in my stomach –  which didn’t bode well. Especially not when I had 3 more laps to run including this one. 

Lap 3 – 3rd beer.  The running wasn’t getting harder, it was the drinking that was getting more difficult. The sheer volume of liquid. Maybe I should have suggested a VODKA mile instead ... 

I bent down to re-tie my shoelaces and the bending was not good. I didn’t feel nauseous when upright but bending over made me light headed and feel sick. Then my shoelaces came undone AGAIN. I tied them up and kept my mouth firmly shut. Vomiting meant a penalty lap.

Just keep running, just keep running. 

Lap 3 finished ... just one more lap. And one more sodding beer. Ugh. I was sloshing like a washing machine now and was genuinely struggling to drink more liquid. My running pace didn’t change much, but the beer downing had turned into beer sipping. I was drinking my lager like an old lady sips her cup of tea. But in fancy dress. And with alcohol. 

I was still burping, but every time I burped my beer handler took a step backwards. I tried to reassure him that I wasn’t going to throw up but I wasn’t too convinced either.

Right. Fourth and final beer in. Go! I sloshed my way around the last lap, punctuating my footsteps with belches, weaving around the grannies and finished triumphantly. Arms in the air, beer in the stomach, belches in the mouth.

And trophy in my hand. Despite my appallingly slow drinking times, I’d still managed a 6:30 min/mile pace for the running and that was enough to net me the trophy. Just don’t fill it with beer for me.

Would I do one of these again?

Yes. It was good fun but a LOT harder than I’d expected. The running part was fine, but the drinking was immensely hard. Might be worth practising with pints of water beforehand as 4 pints is a LOT! Especially when you aren’t allowed to stop to go to the loo!!

We’re thinking about doing another one of these in a few months and maybe make them a regular thing. Like parkrun ... but with beer. 

And instead of Don’t Forget Your Barcode we’d have Don’t Forget Your Beer.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Dambuster triathlon recce: How To Embarrass Yourself On a Bike

I’ve finally got comfortable on the turbo trainer. In one sense anyway.

There has been a distinct lack of adventures. No falling off it, no breaking it, no kicking it, no throwing it into a cupboard, padlocking the door and eating the key. There has been a distinct lack of adventures. ACTUAL comfort is a completely different issue and one which I’m using padded shorts for. But I hadn’t attempted a group ride. 

Cue dramatic music ...

I may have accidentally entered a half iron triathlonWhich will involve riding a bike. *gasp* With other people *bigger gasp*. 

So when I was offered the chance of a recce of the bike section of the race I jumped at itA ride on the race route with experienced cyclists? Heck yes! Would I be a liability and downright danger? Same answer. 

I was still feeling a bit under the weather but would try to avoid throwing up on any expensive looking bikes and try not to cough on anyone who mentioned they had an important race coming upI’m kind like that. 

Due to the trusty Ford blowing up its turbo, I had a borrowed car – a little Peugeot. A REALLY little Peugeot. My first crisis was discovering that the bike rack didn’t fit on this miniature motor

However, by putting all the seats down, removing the headrests and moving all the seats forward, I could fit the bike in the back without having to remove bike wheels (important as I’m likely to forget to reconnect brakes). I can drive fine with my knees under my chin. Honest. It’s actually incredibly comfortable. Who needs to be able to change gear, anyway?

I took everything I could think of including floor pump, 2 sets of clothes, sunglasses with multiple lenses, trainers, bike shoes, drink bottles, hydration tablets and snacks. 

Arrived at the car park and discovered 15 different people each with their own floor pump, multiple changes of clothes, sunglasses, trainers, bike shoes, drink bottles and nutrition and other assorted kit. Maybe I hadn’t over packed after all.The sound of bumpers dragging the road was obviously the norm among triathletes. 

There were more bikes in that car park than at the bottom of a Dutch canal. Lots of bikes. I can’t tell the difference between an expensive bike and a cheap one. So I just avoided touching ANY of them.

Everyone else looked a bit serious and as though they knew exactly what they were doing. All expensive kit and shiny bikes. And they all knew each other. They didn’t look at all as though they fell over at major roundabouts because they couldn’t get their foot unclippedNo one else was dressed head to toe in budget kit or wearing their padded shorts over their running tights. I got the sinking feeling that I wasn’t going to fit in ...

The group of cyclists. I'm skulking at the back. This is PRE pushing-up-the-hill. (Source: Inspire2Tri

The organiser gave a briefing of the route and safety instructions and checked that everyone had done a group ride before. I tentatively raised my hand and was immediately outed as ‘person-not-to-ride-next-to-in-case-they-fell-off-and-scratched-my-expensive-bike-on-the-way-down.  

In fact at least one person looked as though they were probably wondering whether it would be good form to send me off in a group on my own.

I was relieved when they announced the faster groups were going first. Good. The ones with the most expensive bikes and the shiniest gear would go off first and there would be less people to watch me attempt to start but fall off / drop my bike / hit the kerb / embarrass selfAs I undoubtedly would.

Then they decided the slow group would go first. 

Bugger. Despite having spent the last 2 months pedalling furiously and going precisely nowhere on the turbo and most up my childhood years cycling to whichever pub the parents had decided would make a good bike ride destination, I am NOT a confident road cyclist. Especially not when trying to balance on a road bike with tyres the width of a chipolata sausage and with my feet attached to the pedals.

I also really, really hadn’t helped myself by leaving the bike in the hardest gear. Sigh. I clipped right foot into pedal, prepared to push off ... and didn’t go anywhere at all thanks to the start being up a steep hill and my bike being in completely the wrong gear.

had a flashback to the time I’d jammed the spin bike in a class by spinning the resistance dial the wrong way and couldn’t remember which way to turn the knob to get it back to the able-to-turn-pedals-by-human-force-setting and had to creep off the bike in the middle of the class and find a different oneThere wasn’t the option to nab someone else’s bike this time. They were all standing over them looking disapproving. 

But one of the ride leaders took pity on me and actually PUSHED ME UP THE HILL.

The shame.

Was completely unable to clip feet into pedals due to mortification of being pushed up hill and waved them around in the air in my attempts to find the pedals, change into an easier gear and keep the momentum up. I am SO smooth at this cycling. 


I finally got my feet clipped in and was so relieved to actually be moving and clipped in that in attempt to join rest of cycle group, I zipped across road andalmost threw myself under the wheels of a Volvo

So to recap so far: 

  • NOT wearing proper gear instead a strange medley of running and cycle gear culminating in the padded cycling shorts on top of leggings look.
  • NOT being able to actually get bike to go and having to be pushed up a hill.
  • NOT able to actually pedal bike.
  • NOT able to clip in without waving legs around.
  • Attempting to kill self by throwing self –and bike – under passing car.

Decided only way to redeem self was by keeping up with rest of group and keeping quiet. And not getting pushed up any more hills. 

Kept quiet, kept head down and kept pedalling. 

But all of a sudden the road seemed to disappear and we were at the crest of what would be called in a kids playground a death slideAmazing.

Was extremely disappointed that the rest of the group didn’t cycle as fast as they could down the massive hill as I did look slightly odd doing that and shouting “Wheeeeeee!” on my own. Maybe they didn’t understand how to do downhills.  

I was relieved I did give it a bit of welly on the downhill as it gave me momentum to inch up what appeared to be an even bigger mountain on the other side. It was definitely a mountain and it all but had snow at the top and people with crampons and ropes.

While I appreciate that the midlands aren’t particularly mountainous, this hill didn’t seem to be stopping. It was the hill that kept on giving. I’d run out of gears a fair way back and I was running out of available breath and I was already at what felt like max heart rate. In fact I felt as though I was exceeding that by some way. I was EXPECTING a mountain goat or a Sherpa at any moment. But I was HOPING for a St Bernard with a flask of brandy around its neck. 

On the plus side I wasn’t stopping ... but only because I couldn’t unclip my feet to get off and walk because there wasn’t anyone around to push me off the hill to get me going again.

Just as my legs were about to give out and my breathing hit 0906 caller volume, I arrived at the peak. Well. Top.

The group stopped at the top to wait for everyone. Thank goodness. A chance to try and regain composure and get breathing down to normal volume or at least down to ‘barking sea lion volume level.

Sea Lion Volume ... Source

I checked my watch. Yep. I’d almost hit max heart rate ... and we’d gone 0.81 of a mile. Oh. Only 24.19 miles to go then. *Screams inside head*.

Legs suggested slyly that it might hurt less if I didn’t go as fast as I could downhill and maybe saved my breath for actually breathing rather than shouting “Wheeeeeee!”. Especially as it had been scientifically proven that shouting Wheeeeeee!”doesn’t actually make you go any faster. 

Told legs to shut up and keep pedalling. But decided to keep shouts of “Wheeeeeee!” inside head from now on.

I don’t think I was the only person to overcook it on that uphill and when we reached the next peak in the range (read: hill) we were all going a bit slower than on the first one. It certainly felt easier anyway. Maybe having a chance to warm up a bit and get a few miles done made the difference. This hill was the 2nd in a group of 3 big hills (we’d go over the 1stin the set on the last part of the loop) called The Rutland Ripple. 

We were on a main road and appeared to have left the hills behind us and I’d noticed that I was getting passed by cyclist after cyclist. This was a bit worrying. I had no idea of the route we were riding and probably only a 50% chance of making it back to the car if I turned around and tried to remember the way I’d come. 

I was very relieved when I realised that I’d been caught up by the fast cyclist group rather than being dropped by the slow cyclists. I know I have to be pushed up hills, but I do have my pride. 

Well, maybe not pride but my car is in a car park 10 miles away and if I get lost I may never find my way back to it again. Or more importantly find my way to the cake we’d been promised at the end of the ride. 

We stopped to regroup a few times as the groups were getting a bit mixed up now and we took it as an opportunity to have a drink and a chat. I was relieved that I wasn’t at the back of the group. Training on the turbo is brilliant, but it meant that I had no idea of the speed I ride at on the roads. 

One thing that the ride highlighted was that it wastime to get the bike serviced. In the last 5 miles, it had developed a squeak in the right pedal and the gears were very clicky. Apparently there was more to looking after your bike than a quick wash and a liberal application of WD40 every now and then.However nothing actually fell off the bike which was a bonus. Especially as I’d be unable to stop to retrieve it due to being clipped in and having no handy chap to push start me up the hill.  

The bike ride was only just over an hour long, but it was interesting to see the difference in other road users. We started out about 9:30am on a Sunday morning so the majority of people on the road were probably driving for leisure rather than rushing to work but there were some huge variances in the amount of safe distance they gave us. 

Most people were brilliant, but one old lady overtook me on a busy main road, only to screech to a halt directly in front of me to turn left into a farm gateway. It was a bit of a close call. She just didn’t seem to get the idea that there might be other people on the road. She was beeped at by a couple of the cars behind her and it was good to know that not ALL road users are out to get the cyclists. Just apparently little old ladies.

Beware this behind the wheel of a car. Source 
The last section of the ride was mainly flat with enough small undulations to keep it interesting and it was fast with a good quality road. I’d been fairly reasonable on the uphills but I didn’t have much power on the flats so had to work much harder to keep up with the others at the front. Which was good. I want to make sure I improve on these rides. If I’m going to nearly end up under the wheels of an old lady’s Nissan Micra every time I venture out I want it at least to be a good ride up to that point

It was a good ride. Stopping for the chats every now and then gave us a chance to get to know the others and to reassure me that I wasn’t a pariah for my earlier misdemeanours and choice of kit. We were all going to be doing the Dambuster triathlon so it didn’t take long for the race chat to start.  "Have you been cycling long?” (Are you competition), “How long have you been training? (Are you competition), “What other races have you got coming up?” (Can I hobble you in these so you aren’t competition) and more importantly the discreet detective work of some of the others trying to work out how old people were. (Are you in my age group?) But it was all friendly and nice to know I wasn’t the only one there new to triathlon. (We can be nice to her, she’s not competition)

We were back to our starting point within 90 minutes and it was reassuring that I needed no help to stop, despite my less than salubrious start. 

However, there was a catch. We weren’t allowed cake until we’d run 4km. This was the 2nd part of the training and a test to see how well our legs did after a bike ride. The triathlon test.

I decided to keep myself going by spotting runners in the distance and trying to catch them up. Plus the quicker I got back to Mary’s studio, the quicker I could get at the food

I stumped along the path, like a stiff-legged scarecrow in thermals and trainers and concentrated on the cake. It was a nice surprise that the garden centre was a lot closer than I’d expected and because it’s nice to be neat – it was exactly at the 1 mile mark. The backwards section of an out and back always feels so much quicker than the way there so I kept running and ignored the coldness of the wind on my face.

It was done in a blink. Then I was in the warm of the studio, surrounded by cake and with a steaming cup of coffee in my hand. 

Cake, coffee and cycling. AND I didn’t fall offThings were definitely looking up.