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Wednesday 23 July 2014

Am I just revoltingly sweaty?

I was having a conversation with a couple of other girls in the gym at lunchtime. A nice normal post-workout out chat but all of a sudden they dropped a bombshell. Apparently they don't wash their gym kit after every use. I couldn’t quite believe this so double-checked and they confirmed that they kept the same kit and washed it every 2 or 3 workouts.

I looked at myself. Post-workout, sweat dripping off my elbows, rat-tail hair and couldn’t imagine having to put this kit back on without giving it a really good wash. Or possibly burning it.

So question. Am I just a REALLY Sweaty Betty? Do you wash yours every time or do you try and make it last for a few sessions? The kind of person who ‘glows’ instead?

And yes ... I probably am that minging person next to you at the spin class who drips sweat on the floor and looks as though they’ve been dipped in oil. No. Don’t come and choose the bike next to me unless you REALLY like having other people’s sweat on you. What can I say? I have limited gym time, I try and make it count.

Yep. I bet the cleaners at the gym HATE me.

So … wash every time … or not?

Take my quick survey - I need to know I'm not the only sweaty girl out there!!



Results so far!!

Go Push a Cyclist in the Hedge

You know those people who say in a cocky tone; “You never forget how to ride a bike”? Can you go and push them off their bikes for me, please? Preferably into a spiky hedge. With bees in it.

My helmet is strapped firmly to my head, my bell is within reach on the handlebars - or it would be if I dared take a hand off the handlebars – and I am wearing lycra. I heard a saying recently that was used to describe someone on a bike. It was “All of the gear ... no idea”. That pretty much sums me up.

Or maybe the slightly longer but possibly more accurate; “What the hell am I doing on a bike I can’t ride one of these.”

I’m lucky, my hometown of Rugby has a brilliant cycle network which meant I could try out my cycling skills – or lack thereof – with very little riding on the roads. I’d be able to pedal along safely on the specially designated path sharing it with pedestrians (lucky, lucky them) but without having to compete with the cars and lorries for my much-needed wobble space. Luckily there weren’t many pedestrians around (maybe they saw me coming) and the small amount of road cycling went smoothly and was incident - and mainly wobble -free.

I’d chosen Cycle Route 41 - which was familiar to me as a marathon training route - and while I enjoy running through mud, cycling through mud was a revelation. I’d forgotten the ‘whizzzz’ noise of tyres through puddles and the joy of trying to keep up speed through extremely sticky mud without putting a foot down in the muck. I’d forgotten the fun of cycling the trails, of ducking low branches and of the breeze that you don’t get when you run. I’d even forgotten the Cyclist’s Badge – the stripe of mud up your arse which identifies you immediately as being a cyclist – and worse - one unable to resist a muddy puddle.

I’d promised to be back within an hour, but the temptation was too much and after finding myself a little further away from home than expected, I decided to make my way home along the Oxford Canal Path where I could admire the pretty narrowboats while pedalling along.

It was lucky I did really. (If I completely ignore the fact that the puncture happened BECAUSE I was on the canal path and passing newly clipped hedges.) If I hadn’t been on the canal path, what were the chances of getting a puncture RIGHT OUTSIDE THE PUB?

Pretty low, right? See – a stroke of luck. It happening outside a convenient pub, I mean. Not the puncture. Terrible how these things happen. Tut tut. Must have a cider to steady my nerves.

Nope. Definitely NOT at the pub. 

Luckily I was far enough away from home and it took my husband quite a while to shepherd the 5 year old into her car seat. Long enough for me to finish my pint and resume my position complete with stricken look and helpless posture next to my bike with the conveniently flat tyre. And hide the pointy stick.

You Lookin' at ME?

Not really. I’m not the desperate for a pint. Cough.

Trying to get a bike into the back of a Ford Fiesta while keeping one of the back seats up for a child seat was like those strange metal puzzles you get in Christmas crackers. You know there’s a way to do it, but there aren’t any instructions and you have to resist the urge to resort to brute force. There was also the ‘big box of crap’ which seems to reside in the boot of every car to navigate around.

Finally after a lot of (muffled) swearing, a lot of shoving and clanking and giggles we got a pushbike, a child seat, a 5 year old, 2 adults and a cardboard box of crap into a small family car.

It was like oily, muddy magic. But in a Fiesta.  

Monday 21 July 2014

Cycling Problems: So Where Do I Carry The Wine?

I wheeled the bike out of the garage. It didn’t look very happy. If a bike could look grumpy, then it did.

It had had a long rest since I’d last used it around 5 years ago and it hadn’t been very impressed with the addition of a child seat then. It had been miffed about the basket, but had calmed down when I said it was for carrying wine, but putting a child seat onto what the bike thought of as a Serious Mountain Bike (it put on its serious face when it said this) was akin to painting a Model-T red. The bike does have a very high opinion of itself.

I propped it against the wall of the house and assessed the size of the job.

There were two flat tyres, the seat and frame were covered in cobwebs and dust and looked like a Halloween prop, orange rust had flowered on the once-shiny bits, the bright yellow baby seat had dulled and it made a strange squeaking noise. Basically, if Miss Havisham had owned a bike it would have looked like this.

Ironically, the basket on the front was the best bit. And this was the part that was to be removed. After deciding I was going to have a try at triathlon to give my Plantar Fasciitis plagued foot a rest, I had been told that I would have to remove my bike basket.

“But how would I carry my wine?” I’d asked, a bit perplexed.

This had worried me a bit until I remembered that I still had the child seat on the bike. Relieved I reasoned that the baby on the back could carry the wine during the triathlon.

Needing a bike rack, two new tubes and two tyres, I’d been advised to visit the local bike shop to support local businesses. Obviously sensing a lost cause, they told me to go to Halfords.

I did. 2 tyres, 2 tubes and a bike rack later I was back home wondering where £120 had gone.

Sulking somewhat I removed the basket and the child seat. I have to admit I had visions of being awesome and overtaking everyone on a bike with a basket full of wine and a child seat full of ... well, wine too ... but quite frankly I’m going to need all the help I can get on a bike. If taking off the basket and child seat and leaving the wine until AFTER the triathlon is going to help then I’m all for it. All for everything apart from the lack of wine, that is.

But I was putting my foot down on one thing. The bell was STAYING.

After a lot of fairy liquid, legions of unhappy, homeless spiders and a bit of squabbling with 5year old about who got the yellow sponge, we ended up with a bright, shiny, rust-free bike.

And my bike looked rather clean too.

However, I was still left with the problem of 2 flat tyres.

How exactly do you fix a tyre?

I remembered that the bike had to be upside down. Turned bike upside down. It promptly fell over again nearly flattening 5 year old. Removed child from vicinity of bike, straightened handlebars and tried again. Ok. The child has been dusted off and the bike is now upside down. What now?

A vague memory stirred about needing sandpaper and plasters and a bowl of soapy water but I wasn’t sure that this would work on bikes more recent than the 1950s. Besides I had been given 2 new tubes by the enthusiastic young man in Halfords. Who had assumed I knew what to do with them. I didn't like to disappoint his confidence in me and had accepted them with good grace. And confusion.

Pulling them out of the packets, they looked just like 2 deflated rubber rings. Toying briefly with the idea of putting the bike back into the garage and making balloon animals out of the tubes, (“A toy poodle!”) I turned to the No-Hoper’s last resort: YouTube.

Searching for “How to fix a puncture”, I soon found a helpful video and despite a brief moment of panic where I caught my finger between tyre and wheel rim, I was soon looking at my bike.

Clean, shiny and standing on two new tyres.

A working bike! I dinged the bell in satisfaction.

Now how do I actually go about actually riding one of these things?

Thursday 3 July 2014

Dear Running, I'm Breaking Up With You ...

Dear Running ... It’s Not You, It’s Me ...

Running I’m not breaking up with you. We’re just ON a break. It’s not you ... it’s me.

Well actually it’s Plantar Fasciitis ...

We were so happy, you and I, Running. We’d spend hours together, in the sunshine, in the rain, in the mud and occasionally in the snow. We had our ups and downs (in Yorkshire and Beacon Hill were the main ones) but we were happy. I fed you trainers, you gave me the ability to eat inhuman amounts of food. It was a good partnership.

But I noticed things weren’t the same. We’d go out together and SHE would be there. Plantar Fasciitis – getting between us. Making our time together not quite so much fun. We started to spend less time on the road, we even switched to trails and hidden footpaths but she’d still find us.

I guess I could always hop, but it wouldn’t be the same. It wouldn’t be you. It wouldn’t be Running.

I know people have mentioned Triathlon, but I’d never do that to you, Running. There IS no-one else. I know you saw a cycle helmet the other day and a carelessly discarded pair of goggles, but they weren’t mine (cough, avoids eye contact) they must have been my roommates’ ...

Anyway, let’s not apportion blame. Plantar Fasciitis did this to us. Not me, not triathlon.

I’m sure I’ll see you around. I mean, I’ve got races booked, ultra marathons even ... but I think it’sjust best we have a break for a bit.

(Slams door, footsteps and muffled sobbing is heard)

Tuesday 1 July 2014

Trotting out the Excuses and Exploding Bladders: 2 Castles Race

This race promised a lot. There were blue skies, warm sunshine and no PB pressures. I’d met up with my running club, Northbrook AC and we’d posed for a photo with the castle in background. We looked confident and slick and like serious athletes and quite different to the devoted cake-aholics we actually are.

Northbrook AC (Pic taken from here)

The start of the 2 Castles race was on the ancient cobblestones in the courtyard of Warwick Castle and it was the most beautiful setting for a race start. Or it would have been if there wasn’t a massive great loo queue stretching across half of it.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how old the cobblestones are or how beautiful the castle is if the one thought repeating through your mind is “Bloody hurry up, Person-In-The-Portaloo. I am in danger of dampening my lycra.” And hopping from leg to leg like you’re starring in some strange crouchy aerobics class video. But with gurning.

I was standing in the longest toilet queue since the London Marathon and worryingly, at the end of this gargantuan line were only 5 portaloos, huddled together as though supporting each against this influx of incontinent runners. Maybe they were ALL occupied by people with extremely nervous tummies or the organisers had forgotten to unlock them as the queue didn’t seem to be getting any shorter.

There are many benefits of being a girl – pretty shoes, being able to chick blokes to finishing lines, being first to leave sinking shops - but I was conscious that this was a queue of females only. The chaps were looking at the length of the queue, weighing up the wait and strolling casually off to find a secluded spot to water the gardens. I imagined families walking round the castle later on in the day wondering why the whole area smelled faintly of urine. “Maybe it’s to simulate the smells of the olden days, Tarquin. So clever these historians ...”

It was a few minutes to 9am and although Bladder Alert had moved from orange to red, in terms of actual space, I estimated I’d moved approximately 10ft despite being in the queue 20 minutes. Unless I was prepared to ignore the starters horn, wait for my turn in the plastic cube of poo and then sprint to catch up the rest of the runners then I needed to find my place in the starting pen. I desperately accepted that I’d have to find a bushy hedge along the first mile of the route. I know I wasn’t going for a PB, but I was pretty sure that wouldn’t do my race time any good. I’d be the only person finishing the race with wet trainers on a hot day, leaves in my hair and with a really good negative split.

I had no choice – it was time to get into the start pen. I dropped out of the queue and prepared for a really uncomfortable race. Possibly with hopping until I spotted a nice bushy bush. At least I’d remembered my hayfever tablet. Sneezing could be really bad right about now. My trainers could do with a wash but preferably not in urine.

I saw Lozza and Helen briefly in the courtyard of Warwick Castle on my way to the pen. Helen mentioned later that I looked “a bit peed off”. Nope. If the portaloo queue had moved quicker and I’d peed off, I’d have looked a LOT happier.

However, my look of panic and distinctive gurn was spotted by some club mates and they gave me the best news possible ... there were some deserted toilets in a far part of the castle. I lurched off as fast as my crossed legs would carry me. Empty loos ... and loo roll. It was a race loo dream.

By the time I got to the race pens, I discovered that they weren’t pens as such but a mass, a huddled mass of people all squished into a tiny high walled lane overshadowed by trees so we couldn’t see the sunshine and blue skies we knew were there. I spotted a couple of club friends, Linda and Chris and we chatted the time away until the start of the race. We were a bit too far back for our race times, but we were wearing timing chips on our shoes and I wasn’t going for a PB so it was a lovely relaxed start to a race. Best of all I no longer needed the loo. Life was good.

Not needing a wee = happy (pic source Tim Nunan)

The starting horn blew and everyone applauded and a few moments later we all began to move forwards in anticipation. The first section was all downhill. A lovely downhill, through the castle gates, over a roundabout past some pretty houses and through the town of Warwick before heading out onto the lanes. Pretty scenery, the sun was shining, I longer needed the loo ... all was good, right?

Pre-excuses … (pic source Tim Nunan)

Yep. You would have thought so ... no PB pressures, no bladder pressures, just a nice run in the sunshine. Instead I started trotting out the excuses ...

1/ Everyone had told me this wasn’t a PB course ... so why should I bother running quickly. In fact, why am I running? Why don’t I just stop and walk? It got to the point (at about 5.5km in) where I decided I was actually going to drop out and walk. Then I realised that it was a point to point race, I was already halfway done and I HAD TO KEEP GOING IF I WANTED TO CATCH THE COACH HOME. Yep. I kept running simply because walking was slower. Can everyone say “Lazy cow”??

2/ Apparently at mile 3 there was a MASSIVE HILL and at mile 6 a MASSIVE HILL... And everyone knows Warwickshire is practically mountainous. (Cough, cough, pancake-flat, cough) Besides, it’s absolutely physically impossible to get a PB of any sort if there’s a hill anywhere near where I’m running. Right? Even if I just see one on the horizon.

3/ I’d had a dodgy tummy last night. I don’t want to aggravate the Poo Fairy by running too fast. This never happened. My tummy was fine. I’m not even convinced the Poo Fairy even exists.

4/ It was too hot ... EVERYONE knows your legs fall off if you try to run when it’s too sunny.

5/ I’d already run a 10k PB recently ... I don’t want to be greedy and try and get another one, do I?

6/ I had a marathon in a week – I was conveniently forgetting the 10k PB I’d run the week before London marathon.

7/ I’d started too far back so the course was congested ... it was on roads ... not tightropes. I could overtake if I needed to.

8/ I’d damaged myself due to waiting for a portaloo ... Obviously a bladder rupture was imminent. I didn’t want to run too fast and explode all over everyone.

There we are ... I’d set myself up to fail ... so it wouldn’t matter if I did. What a tit.

It was a lovely course, starting at Warwick Castle and ending in the grounds of Kenilworth Castle. The route weaved through the lanes and villages and the roads were dry and easy to run on. Also because I’d started a little way back, I was seeing more Northbrook club members than usual as I was moving through the crowd rather than staying with the same group of runners. I kept an eye out for my Hampton Magna running buddy but the distinctive orange vest didn’t materialise on the horizon. It was a warm day on a very slightly undulating course and I should have been enjoying the scenery, the running and the sunshine but instead I was going over and over my running excuses in my head.

The expected MASSIVE HILLS didn’t materialise ... the course was undulating but not hilly. It was warm but the organisers had planned well and set up an additional 2 water stations. I’d started a little way back but as it was chip timed, this wasn’t a problem and, needless to say, the massive bladder explosion didn’t happen, people didn’t get drenched with urine and exploded body parts and I didn’t have to get scooped up off the road with a spoon and buried in a shoebox.

Also unsurprisingly I didn’t get a PB. But I’m blaming this entirely on the bloke who PUSHED ME OUT OF THE WAY ON HIS SPRINT TO THE FINISH LINE (What happened to MANNERS Mr.Stampy?) and not at all on the fact that I didn’t pace myself properly and didn’t run at the speed I needed to get one. Yep. Completely his fault.

I also don’t believe in the Poo Fairy.

(Disappears under steaming heap of manure that miraculously appears from nowhere)

A bit of crazy golf post-race. Best way to stop The Sulks.


19th lady / 1345
258th /3490
Garmin Info here