May 2013Eclectic Cake: May 2013

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The Trouble with Cycling: Mountain Biking

I originally got a bike for fun. My husband and I could go out and do something active together, get some fresh air and sample a few country pubs on the way. Everyone’s happy. But I really don’t feel very happy.

Perhaps getting a bit carried away with the idea of races before even doing one, I committed to doing a super-sprint triathlon (200m swim–12.5k cycle–2.5k run) next month and a super-sprint duathlon (5k run–10k cycle–5k run) in September. This was all before I realised that I’m awful at cycling! My legs just can’t cope, especially when they hit a hill. I feel like I’m trying to drag an elephant through treacle!


THE MOUNTAIN BIKE SOCIAL
What better way to train up my legs, I thought, than with a group of women who all enjoy cycling. People that could offer advice and give me a push (I mean this figuratively and, it turns out, literally) when things get tough. I’ve got a mountain bike and love a bit of mud, so thought I’d join Total Women’s Cycling for their first Mountain Bike social – three hours of trails for all abilities in the beautiful Surrey hills.

There was the guest pro (good, in safe hands), the road cyclist/first time trail rider, the self-confessed experienced but slow rider, and a group that already knew the area well and had all the kit (some bike comparison talk helped confirm this).

I was quick to declare myself as a complete novice. There was no point in hiding it. The group had already spotted my Tesco bike, suggesting that after the session I'd probably be hooked and want to buy a 'real bike' whilst they tinkered on it, making my seat the right height and checking my inferior tyres.

We finally got moving but not before I demonstrated my skills on my newly heightened saddle by wobbling around and almost falling off – we hadn't even left the car park! I soon wished I never had. 

A few of the kitted-up cyclists zoomed off whilst the rest comfortably peddled along whilst chatting. I was chugging and gasping for air just on the entrance to the park. Then we hit a hill. My legs kept moving but my bike refused to move! As everyone started to disappear, the pro noticed I was struggling and suggested more tinkering. But this meant my saddle was so high I couldn't get stable enough to hop on. More bike tinkering and my seat was back down to a slightly more comfortable height but the rest of the group were nowhere to be seen, and inbetween us and them lay an even bigger hill. Ever stubborn I started up this mountain with a push from the pro but a wobble sent me toppling, not just physically but emotionally. Yes, I cried!


I was frustrated and embarrassed that I  couldn't even tackle the first hill. And that I was actually crying about cycling! Gutted that I had to admit defeat and quit – I hate quitting! And I was worried – if this was an 'all abilities' group, then I clearly had NO ability! How on earth was I going to complete a triathlon! 
There is much work to be done.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Race Report: We Own The Night

I am incredibly proud to introduce my first ever race report!

RACE:  Nike We Own The Night
DESCRIPTION:  A women only 10k at night
LOCATION:  Victoria Park, East London
DATE:  18th May 2013

Although injured, I'd been 'training' for my very first 10k race for two months. But the fact that I'd only managed to get one proper run in (a very casual 7k) before hand was making me nervous. I knew I'd be able to finish but I definitely didn't want to have to crawl over the finish line!

My race day nails

The race day butterflies kicked in around 4.30am! I was excited and scared, and just couldn't sleep. I managed one more hour before giving up and finishing my race day nails - the brightest orange I could find with some purple sparkles to match our luminous orange shirts.

Nails done, I still had the whole day to potter around and get even more jittery about the night race. Of course, number one on my list was taking a photo of my first ever race kit laid out. I baked some energy laden flapjacks. Then watched the clock.

The compulsory 'kit laid out pre race' shot
Finally, time to travel in. And as we got closer and closer, each orange-shirted person that climbed aboard made me smile. This was a women only race that actively encouraged first time runners, we were in team colours (wearing the orange shirt was compulsory) and were all in it together.

A sea of orange getting ready to run

The atmosphere was bursting at the seams with energy and soon enough it was time to put it to good use. First the warm up, then we were hearded into our waves. I went into the second wave, hoping to complete in under an hour. Unfortunately the great mass of wave-twoers was a mixed bag. We filed in way behind the 65 minute pacer so found ourselves weaving in and out of slower runners, onto grass embankments and around cones to get to our right pace.

Lining up, ready to run!

I decided to run with my friend Vicky who had run plenty of races before and wasn't too worried about gaining a PB. Around 3k my brain started to try and psych me out, Vicky had set a much faster pace than I would have chosen and I wasn't sure I could maintain it. But I managed to silence that little negative voice and carried on. Then around the 7k mark, I really started to tire. I did a body scan and tried to motivate the parts of me that needed encouragement but that little voice came in again - how was my ankle doing? should I slow down? should I let my still energetic pacer carry on without me?

NO! 

DJ stages pumping out music and groups of noisy well wishers were dotted around the course, which really helped to push us round the last few kilometres. But the biggest motivation came from Vicky. Still able to talk and joke, she shouted back the perfect balance of encouragement, updates of our progress and promises of letting me punch her! 


A great big encouraging smile from Vicky saw me over the finish line in under an hour! My official time was 52.59, making me 584th out of 3386! After not being able to train conventionally, I'm pretty proud of that. I shall wear my finishers friendship bracelet (no medal for my trophy cabinet yet) with pride!

My official result!

Nike know how to throw a party. The post race celebrations were full of proseco*** and DJ sets to match the adrenaline. Coupled with our radio controlled flashing LED wristbands, we were ready to rave away until our tired legs gave out!

My light-up band kept me celebrating

I absolutely loved my first race experience! Roll on the next...!

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Recipe: Soya Yoghurt Waffles

Like so many people, I enjoy a naughty treat now and again. But wouldn't it be nice if it was a little less guilt inducing? After experimenting in the kitchen one Sunday morning, I served this up for breakfast. I adapted this waffle recipe to replace over half the flour with soya yoghurt – adding in some welcome goodness and stopping it from being too stodgy.

A delicious weekend breakfast treat!

INGREDIENTS

125g plain flour
250ml soya yoghurt
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
1 medium egg
50g unsalted butter
A drop of oil for frying


METHOD

1.  Gently melt the butter in a pan and allow to cool.

2.  Sift the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl.

3.  Beat the egg, then add the yoghurt and melted butter.

4.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix gently until the ingredients are combined. Try not to over-mix. You'll end up with a thick mixture.

5.  Put a small drop of oil in a griddle pan and warm over a medium heat.

6.  Spread the mixture into the pan, covering the whole surface for a lovely square waffle.

7.  This is where patience is rewarded. Leave your waffle to cook until the top starts to cook, this will be around 5-10 minutes.

8.  Using a spatula, gently lift your waffle to check the bottom is cooked – it will be golden brown with darker griddle pan lines. If this has happened, gently flip the waffle to brown the other side. Again, this will take a few minutes. But it's worth it, I promise!

9.  Your waffle is ready when both sides are golden brown and firm. Dust with a touch of naughty icing sugar and serve with a few plump blueberries.

Enjoy!

Circus Status: F.U.N

No analysing, no complaining, no judging my progress. Today I was taught to have fun (by the scariest instructor I've ever had)!

She was another stand-in as our normal instructor was away. Instantly, her Eastern European-ness pointed out exactly where we needed to improve. As my first swing didn't go as well as I knew it could, I inevitably got lots of (albeit helpful) pointers on how to improve. I also felt that my second swing went badly and I became a bit disheartened.

Seeing this, our instructor pointed out that I'm learning. This is not the same as achieving. And anyway, when you're uptight, you'll never do well up there.

*DOINK*

The penny dropped. I'm not a professional athlete or a professional circus performer. I'm doing trapeze purely for fun and to learn something really cool. The moment I put pressure on myself I get frustrated when I can't do things. And, given the 500 strong waiting list for my place in a class, I should be enjoying this unique experience. I only get to do it for 2 hours a week!

The Nike Supercharge run was all about F.U.N!

This in mind, and feeling happier and more relaxed, I decided to take on a new trick. The French name constantly avoids memory but we called it a Tempo Turn. A Tempo is where you kick your legs in a way that gives you extra height just before you let go of the bar to give you more air time for a catch. In this case, the plan was to let go and turn around to catch the bar again.

I must keep the fun of the circus in my sessions

I chickened out every time at the point where both hands are meant to lift off the bar for you to turn. But I did manage to turn! Not very elegantly, granted. But I still technically turned, so it counts. And now I have a great move to add to my repertoire, which hasn't really grown in a long time. So I can look forward to actually ENJOYING next week's class and trying out my new trick.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Trying a Tri

All throughout my injury I've complained that I can't run. But as I finally begin to run again (nine weeks later), I'm starting to feel a bit reluctant to go back. My sprained ankle has forced me to try new sports in search of low-impact cardio workouts and it seems I've grown rather attached. Swimming and then cycling have become part of my routine and I don't really want to give them up. So I made a crazy spur-of-the-moment decision to combine the three. I'm going to do a triathlon! The combination of a swim, then cycle, then run would marry all three activities together – perfect!

I started researching short distance (super-sprint) triathlons, found a local club – the Hillingdon Triathletes – and realised that they were holding one the next morning! This was a fun introduction to triathloning for novices – the perfect race for me. But after gearing myself up for the 300m indoor (!!!) swim, 5 miles cycle and 1 mile run, I found out I was too late for entry. Gutted, I decided to go and watch instead and maybe on the off chance they'd let me join in.

I'm SO glad they didn't! Don't be fooled by the low mileage, super-sprint triathlons are tough! I just cycled from home to the sports ground and almost died! The last part of my journey ran alongside the race route, where I could see warriors pedalling hard up the hill. They were on grass and I was on pavement, meaning their four laps of the field were made even harder, yet they were all still far speedier than me!

My trainers are definitely getting some mileage!

At the track, red-faced, sweat-dripping athletes crossed the finish line. All I could feel was relief. I was relieved that everyone still seemed alive, and relieved that I didn't enter in time. Terrified, I wrestled with my first instinct to go home and hide, and went for a swift splash in the pool.

The swim felt really good and totally lifted my spirits. I'm definitely getting faster and stronger in the water... So then, that's the first part of a triathlon that I'm feeling more confident about. And once my ankle is fully healed I should be able to get back to a reasonable level in running. Cycling then, the longest section in most triathlons, is where I'm going to struggle the most.

I do love cycling and I'm fine on flat roads but add a slight incline and I'm pedalling through treacle! It doesn't help that I have a mountain bike that grips to the road like it would on sticky mud-covered tracks – effectively I've already made it harder for myself. It means that I need to work harder to get the speed that road bikes can achieve. So, whilst I shall work on improving all three areas, it's cycling that needs the most attention – squats here I come!

I'm going to get to know this view very well!

I've found the perfect first race, this time allowing myself some proper training time. The Henley-on-Thames super-sprint triathlon, billed for anyone who wants to try a tri, is on 23rd June – under two months away! Just the thought of the 200m (indoor!!!) swim, 12.5k cycle and 2.5k run, has made me nervous!

There is another stress that's been added to my first-race nerves – my husband has volunteered to do the race with me! I was shocked! Normally even a slight suggestion that he join me in swimming or running gets laughed at, so I didn't even ask him. Of course, racing and training are different things, as are our approaches – I am currently planning out my training, he is going to "bring it on the day"! Surely my hard work beats his "sofa training" any day... my inner competitive loon really hopes so!

Always comparing things – he wins on shoe size!

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Circus Status: Pain!

As I suspected, having a new instructor would be good and bad. Introductions over, I had to get used to how she does things (especially with my ever-so-not-hot-non-dismount dismount). But, it's great to have fresh eyes look at your swing and a new voice explain a move you've been trying to nail.

In just 15 minutes, my swing had already improved massively under fresh tuition. This meant that, yet again, I can get higher swings that allow more time for tricks. Things like returning to the platform are made so much easier and they look so much better with just a bit more height.

Having a new instructor also means that bad habits, which my old instructor got used to, are beginning to be stamped out. Things that I maybe didn't realise I was doing are being questioned and then addressed.

It turns out I have quite a lot to address. And there was a lot of information to take on board for just one session, so inevitably my mind began to tire. My body too – I'm still not used to the extra long class. And I began doing weird things in tricks I could do perfectly well before – for instance, whilst rolling back down to swing from roulet, I got stuck and couldn't push myself off the bar.

Whether it was information overload on a tired brain or trying to apply said information with a tired body, things were just not falling into place. So maybe it was convenient that my hand decided it was game over when the skin on my palm ripped open. Welcome to the glamorous world of circus!

blood, sweat but no tears

Hopefully with a healed hand, next week shall be mostly spent focusing on one part of my swing at a time. Rather than trying to change everything at once, I'm going for the slow yet steady approach. Hideously callused fingers crossed, that all silly mistakes will be banished next week.