June 2013Eclectic Cake: June 2013

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Race Report: Hillingdon Triathletes Duathlon

RACE:  Hillingdon Triathletes Series Duathlon
DESCRIPTION:  1 mile run – 10 mile bike – 2 mile run
LOCATION:  Minet County Park, Hayes
DATE:  3rd June

I finally succumbed to the constant invites to club races by each and every Hillingdon Triathlete I've met. Figuring a closed road circuit would be the best start for a novice and knowing the distances were manageable, this race had the honour of being my first duathlon. It would be the perfect chance to have a go at transitions in preparation for my very first triathlon this month.

After a cheeky visit to the track the weekend before and a quick scan of last year's results, I knew I'd be at least 10 minutes behind the slowest person. With completely the wrong type of bike – a mountain bike that sticks to the road rather than glide along it – this was a race I'd have to go on alone, turn off the competitive voice in my head and just focus on finishing. But that didn't bother me, I'd be proud enough to just finish the thing. However, I never really started the race!

The cycle circuit test run and my time with two laps still to go!

I arrived early at an empty car park. As I waited for people to turn up, I worked on redirecting my nerves – a few (billion) kit checks, reattaching my front wheel, mentally preparing myself to 'be the ball' or whatever inanimate object is suitable for a duathlon...

...As the race got closer, not a single car had joined mine so I thought I'd better go to the track. Then a little sign enlightened me as to why the car park was empty – it was due to close as the race began! Crap! 

*Leave bike – jump in car – tear down road to park – run back to get bike – hop on bike – ride to the track* 

Just as I reached the track, everyone else was lining up to start! No time for nerves I was racing to start racing. It was already too late, everyone was beginning the one mile run and I didn't even have my number! Disqualified, obviously! But those organising the race were still trying to shepherd me onto the track to run. I begrudgingly abandoned my bike and joined the only other woman I could see 20 meters away from the start line. I would now never finish the race because I never even started it! But as I began to overtake a few runners I perked up and decided that I'd make up my lots metres at the end. I will finish my first duathlon!

My cheeky test run on the track – I almost reached 30mph!

First run done, I grabbed my bike (kindly put in the transition area for me) and was met by another mountain bike! Someone I'd met at a training session offered to ride with me so I wouldn't be the only one on the wrong bike but I thought I'd discouraged her. I was so touched, knowing that she'd basically thrown her race to make a newbie feel more comfortable! With that I hopped on and began ignoring the people passing by. That is, until my fellow mountain biker passed me – the idea was that she was going to draft me so I get a slightly easier ride but I couldn't even catch her for a second – no more blaming the bike, I'm obviously not quite cut out to cycle.

To make it worse, my poor little bike gave up five laps in. The chain jammed, my pedals stopped moving and I was stranded with absolutely no mechanical knowledge. This was not my day! Someone from the club noticed my despair and got me going again but I'd lost another ten minutes and the use of the easier gears. People were finishing and I wasn't even half way round! Luckily my stubbornness got me round another lap before my hero on the other mountain bike arrived by my side to keep me going for the rest of the way.

We ignored offers to stop at seven laps – I was still intent on finishing the full race, even if everyone else had gone home! And actually, when we started our run, most people had. Feeling sorry for those that stayed behind, I cut our final run to just one mile rather than two. I didn't finish the race.

Embarrassed and feeling defeated, I took my 'wooden spoon' prize (I was reassured it was for being the third female to finish but seeing as there were only three of us and I didn't actually finish, I couldn't find much victory in that) and hid in a jar of peanut butter.

My gift from the club

I deliberately waited a while to write this review because, although I'm still disappointed that I didn't complete the race and am still not a duathlete, I wanted to make sure I took away some positives from my bad race experience. There are, in fact, many!

1.  I've met a lot of great people from the club who have given me a lot of encouragement and support. I'm very lucky that I could attempt to race in a welcoming environment where I knew no one would (openly) laugh at me 'racing' on my squeaky mountain bike.

2.  Before my next race, I'm doing a bike maintenance course. If my bike decides to give up again, I want to know how to fix it. Next time, I might to be so lucky to have people around to bail me out of trouble.

3.  I've had offers to borrow a road bike for my triathlon this month. I still may struggle round the bike leg of the race but at least I'll have the right equipment.

4.  I managed to run with 'jelly legs'. Although my post-cycling legs felt weird, I quickly shook them off and managed to run at a relatively decent pace.

5.  My running pace is fairly good.

6.  I got a nice hat from the club – a souvenir seeing as I didn't manage to collect my race number.

7.  I'm not put off, if anything I'm more determined. One day, I will be a duathlete.

8.  Surely now, things can only get better?! With such a bad race, the next HAS to be better?

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Fitness Freak Rave

An underground rave with fat 'choonz' that counts as training? Er, yes please! Fitness Freak, the fantastic know them all class finder, partnered up with Time Out to bring a party to the masses. A one-hour ravercise class in the The Old Vic Tunnels, Waterloo.

Glow sticks at the ready!

Glow sticks a-plenty and neon everywhere, the masses did indeed come. Piled into a tunnel, things were about to get very sweaty – which made the setting even more authentic! As soon as the live DJ's 90s-tastic set started, the crowd began to bounce, more or less in the same direction, as our instructors on stage took us through our moves.

At this point I realise I'm far better at the freestyle sections, with pretty much no coordination or memory to follow the or remember the moves. But with some repetition I slowly began to pick up the routine. This of course all fell apart as soon as a classic track came on – I'm not talented enough to screech lyrics at the top of my voice whilst recalling dance moves in the right order.

A few flashback tracks took me to memories of bouncing around my childhood bedroom like a loon - that's pretty much the style I adopted at the Fitness Freak Rave! Only this party included squats, lots of them! Feeling the burn it was a relief to go back to our routine - now built up to 6, 7(?) different moves, including of course the classics 'Big fish, little fish, cardboard box' and 'The Carlton' – before we cooled down to a Spice Girls track!

Post-rave sweat! 
Whilst this was a one-off event, you can get your glow on at regular classes at Gymbox, where the classes happen on trampolines!


Book through Fitness Freak here.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Spikes + Heels Bad Ass Class

You know the feeling when you take on your first set of stairs straight after a tough class and you know the pain is going to get so much worse in a day or two? Yeah, that!

If you're not aware of the bad ass chick that is Bangs, founder of Spikes + Heels, then I'll give you time to catch up. "The fitness site for badass women" is spreading the good word about true fitness for fierce females, who don't mind getting sweaty in exchange for that rush of adrenaline you get when pushing yourself to reach your goals.

Photo by Simon Wisbey

I jumped at the chance to take part in the very first Spikes + Heels class with a group of like-minded ladies. But once I got there, I realised I had no idea what we were in for! Whatever it was, I suspected it would hurt. In fact, that bit was guaranteed. 

Our instructor, Pavlina, was introduced as the woman who is going to ruin us! This was promptly done after a 10 minute warm up of squat holds and walking lunges. My thighs were screaming! If this was just the warm up, what was coming next?!

Photo from Spikes + Heels

That is the point we were introduced to 'Man Makers' – you grab a set of dumbbells, press them above your head then drop straight down for plank rows before jumping up again for another press! We were told that these were an 'easy' version of this punishing move – normally there's a press-up included!

Photo from Spikes + Heels

This move was combined with others just as tough to create our set. Half way through the 10th, 12th...set, that little rational part of my brain kicked in. "This hurts, maybe you should stop?" But Pavlina's perfectly crafted playlist kicked in..."this time I'm not giving in..." Rudimental kept me pushing. Almost as if the speakers knew I was struggling, those little motivational words worked.

Survivors photo from Spikes + Heels

And with that push, I got my second wind. Ready to take on the rest of the class, which went way too quickly. I LOVED this all over workout. It had the perfect balance of tough yet achievable sets with a comfortable atmosphere where you could giggle or scream! Trust me, when Bangs organises another one of these bad boys, I'll be there!

Monday, 3 June 2013

Hillingdon Triathletes Swim Training

"Do one thing everyday that scares you". That's what Eleanor Roosevelt and in fact Baz Lurman said. And deciding to train with actual triathletes certainly gives me a big tick for Monday. I was terrified! Not counting swimming lessons when I was 8, I've never swam with a group before and certainly not whilst doing an hour of drills. I'd seen swim clubs before, pelting up and down the lanes, and it always looked pretty full on. I'm not even sure I ever saw them breathe!

As soon as I nervously approached the side of the pool where the group from Hillingdon Triathletes were gathering, sheets of paper were thrust into my hands. "Ah, a welcome pack", I thought. On closer inspection, I noticed that in fact, before I'd even completed a minute of training, I was holding details of the next lot of races! This turned my fear level up a notch. I wasn't ready to race yet!

As the coach lead me to the not-so-scary lane 3 (the lanes increase in difficulty, 1 for beginner swimmers, up to 8 where the pros live), I was reassured that just turning up was the hard part. Watching everyone jump in and bomb up and down the pool just for a warm up, I wasn't convinced.

Luckily, I shared a lane with just one other person who was kind enough to show me the ropes as we started our first lot of drills – 3 x 150m (6 lengths) with 4-5 seconds rest between each set, which would be "plenty of rest"(!!!). Amazingly, I managed to cope quite well. Possibly a little too well – after the first drill, I found myself waiting around for everyone else to finish. Convinced I must have miscounted lengths, I didn't even have time to protest before I was ordered to go into lane 5 ready to start some sprint training.

I may have found an excuse to upgrade to this Speedo swimsuit!

Lining up behind the seven other people in my new lane, I just hoped that I wouldn't fall behind too much. They were all used to going at this pace as regulars at the club and I'd not sprinted in a pool for years! The pace was fast but I managed to keep up, even on set five when I thought I may throw up – please don't let me be 'that' girl! – I kept up with them.

We worked on improving our arm technique – getting high elbows above the water and a long reach for the pull. It was great to have coaching on technique and I immediately felt the benefits as I almost glided through the water. It also dawned on me that the drills we did previously – one arm held out for 12 kicks, pull with just arms, then hold the other arm stretched out – all built up to improving technique. Rather than considering them as simple strengthening exercises that focus on arms or legs, I realised that you can learn from these sets too.

I actually really enjoyed the session. The whole team seemed friendly and welcoming, and I felt that just a bit of coaching could help me go a long way.