April 2014Eclectic Cake: April 2014

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Behold My Aquathlon Shoes

As the multi-sport season begins, it's time to stock up on essential kit. These will be the first thing I pack. When my weary swimmer arms feel like lead, I'll still be able to pick up these ultra lightweight Hi-Tec Harakas and head off for the run. And they won't weigh down my wobbly jelly legs. Instead, these babies will float me over a fast 5km. In fact they could probably handle further - they took me on a few blister-free miles along the Thames on their first outing!

With less material on these shoes, they won't soak up all the water that drips down after the swim of an aquathlon. This, plus pools of sweat, makes for pretty offensive odour-filled trainers, so the less sponge-like my kicks, the better. 

When the inevitable aquathlon puddle does finally start to clear the transition area with my trainer stench, there'll be no guilt with replacing them. At only £35, the bank balance friendly price tag means you can swiftly grab another pair (or two), so you won't feel obliged to keep them until other competitors begin to pass out.

Best of all, my new aquathlon trainers look pretty awesome. I'll be able to spot those bright colours in transition within milliseconds. They'll also look great training on the track or in the gym working on my strength or even whilst shopping for the rest of my kit.

How many multi-sport races will these great value shoes accompany me on? Only time will tell. But I'm certainly going to enjoy finding out.

If you fancy getting yourself a pair of aquathlon trainers or indeed anything from the Hi-Tec, there're offering Eclectic Cake readers 20% off footwear, apparel and accessories. Simply shop here and use the code BLOG20 at the checkout until 30th June.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Board Games

Fear catches up with you as you age. Throwing yourself down a hill on a plank of wood with wheels screwed to it seems like a brilliant idea when you're young but as you develop sensible, grown-up reasoning, these pursuits start to feel rather risky. So for my first time on a skateboard at the Selfridges pop-up skatepark, I had to channel my inner kid. Preferably a fearless one that bounces.

The indoor skatepark was built on an entire floor of the Old Selfridges Holtel to celebrate the launch of the HTC One M8, supposedly the perfect phone to record proof of your excellently executed tricks. Unfortunately, the only record of my newly found skateboard skills may prove I didn't fall off but the video fails to show any of the speed and finesse I achieved during the one hour lesson (honestly, I did!).

I'd like to say my progression from scaredy cat to comfortable competence was down to a natural hidden talent but it's far more likely it was down to the expert tuition – you know they're the real deal when one of them is called Brad! The guys from Skates & Ladders led us from our first step on the board to getting the right foot position as we moved. Most of us mastered a quicker (and cooler) way to mount to board, which eventually led to a direction-changing stomp at the top of a miniature ramp.

Although I may need to work on my boarding vernacular, I came away from the session feeling like I had some proper base skills. Most importantly, I came away with absolutely no bruises! Although I'm going to have to prepare myself for the inevitable few in the future, I'm completely hooked. Once I get kitted up with safety gear (I definitely still need the reassurance from the pads that I'm not going to die) and my very own skateboard, I'll be ready to take on the streets. 

If you fancy giving skateboarding a go, find out how to book lessons here.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Back to Hockey

When I was in primary school, after the tiny outdoor swimming pool was thick with algae and finally deemed unfit for use, I really didn't look forward to P.E. classes. The options were country dancing, where I was always paired with Daniel who had creepily sweaty hands, or netball. I enjoyed neither.

Then, for just one day, we were introduced to hockey. Suddenly, this girl – who always tried hard but rarely excelled with physical activity – was actually displaying some kind of sporting skill! For the first time I felt comfortable using my body – it somehow felt natural to chase a ball around with a hooked stick – and I thoroughly enjoyed the feeling. 

Hockey was the first organised physical activity I did out of choice. It taught me how to move, revealed what it felt like to be strong and, perhaps most importantly, showed what it meant to be part of a team. But after playing through secondary school and the first year of university, the novelty had worn off and my eyes began to wonder...lacrosse, cheerleading, canoeing...I guess that's where Eclectic Cake really began.

Last week, almost a decade later, I was invited to pick up a stick again to experience a Back to Hockey session. The initiative by England Hockey and sponsored by Berlei Sports Bras has been created for women who, like me, enjoyed playing hockey at some point in their lives but abandoned the sport as they found jobs, had children, generally ran out of time. The sessions, run over the summer, are designed as a refresher course where you can re-learn the basics and brush up on your stick skills without the pressure of league games to prepare for. All abilities are welcome. And don't worry about digging out your old stick from the loft, the equipment you need is provided (although you may want to bring your own mouth guard).

I was warmly welcomed to a session with Hampstead & Westminister Hockey Club at Paddington Recreation Ground by plenty of keen players (old and new) and the promise of post-training brownies (apparently something to look forward to at each session). After discovering I could still at least hold a stick, we started with simply passing the ball between us before moving on to some slightly more complicated drills. One in particular was just as challenging for the brain as it was for the body but this was perfect for getting agile enough for a mini game later – I'd forgotten how quickly you have to think and move. 

Of course, the aim of the game is to score goals, so we tested ourselves against a goalkeeper made of cones. Although she wasn't a great mover, I've never been great at scoring and she certainly kept my balls away from glory. I was even less successful in scoring after we added a real-life defender. I did finally score. It may have been in an empty goal but the thump of the ball hitting the backboard was hugely satisfying.

Finally, we put our refreshed skills to the test in a 5-a-side game. I thought I was fairly fit before agreeing to play midfield in the quarter-pitch mini match but the short sharp bursts in different directions were far more draining than a long plod. It will do wonders for your fitness! I mostly chased after the ball like a loon but the few touches I got made me realise just how much I miss hockey. I shall definitely return...

Over 200 clubs across the country are running sessions from 28th April. Check out the England Hockey site here to find your local participating club.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Never, Probably

Never say never, they say. But the truth is, I'm pretty sure I never want to run a marathon.

London Marathon running superstars

As soon as I finished my first half marathon, there it was. The presumption that, now I'd been there and done that, the next step was to head into the full distance. Perhaps it's because, when something is called 'half' of anything, there's another half that remains unfinished. And it's true! I'm certainly not finished with running – there are many, many more miles I want to run – but I only want to run them 13.1 at a time.

The incredible Mo Farah looking strong in his first marathon
I'd never seriously considered running 26.2 miles until I was asked which marathon I wanted to do. With so many friends running the distance for the first or fiftieth time this year, I've been caught up in daydreams of taking on the beast amongst the past few weeks of marathon madness. Certain I could finish a marathon with proper training, I've found myself crunching numbers trying to work out what my imaginary time would be.

Kiera and Sian with cheering essentials
But, whilst I've proudly (and sometimes tearfully) watched friends wave their hefty medals aloft as entry into a special running club, I've also heard their complaints. It seems marathon training is full of tears, nightmares and boredom. As race day approached, I found it pretty difficult to find any prospective marathoner who still enjoyed running!

For me, running is a way to release stress not create it. I enjoy the freedom of putting one foot in front of the other and seeing where I end up. I also like having a flexible training 'schedule' where I can justify a skateboarding lesson as cross-training. Don't get me wrong, I love a challenge but if that means possibly turning the thing I love into something I loathe, count me out!

There's a surprising number of knicker-less runners out there!

On Sunday, I watched the London Marathon in the flesh for the first time after years of viewing it from my bed. Based just before mile 23 and armed with an amusing sign, we saw a lot of grimaces and hobbles and, very sadly, one collapse out of consciousness. However, we did see some massive smiles. This is partly due to our sign (genius work from Kiera), partly because some people do genuinely love running marathons, especially London where the massive crowds can make any runner feel like a superstar. It was incredible knowing that we could lend a mini boost to someone taking on a massive task as we saw faces of pain crease up into giggles when they heard our cheers and read our request.

London Marathon kit lay out

So for now, certainly for the long foreseeable future, the only thing I'll be doing during a marathon is screaming my head off whilst waving pom pons and a slightly inappropriate sign whilst sneakily eating jelly babies meant to fuel runners.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Wheely Positive

The other night I spent the entire night complaining about how rubbish I am at cycling. Not only is this incredibly boring conversation but, with that attitude, no wonder I'm finding it difficult!

I'm going to ride like a superstar!

It's surprising how powerful your thoughts are when doing something physical. If the going gets tough it's your mind, not your body, that hovers over the 'stop' button. Let negative thoughts slip through and they'll press that big red button, finishing your extra set, whole training session or even race when your body still has fuel in the tank. By telling myself I can't cycle, the breaks are already on before my legs have a chance to give it a go.

The hands of someone who changed a fake puncture

So as of now, I'm only thinking positively about my two-wheeled pursuits. There are obviously areas I need to work on but surely that's the joy of the journey? If everything was easy, I'd never get to feel that sense of achievement when finishing my furthest cycle or quickest mile or racking up at T2 of a triathlon.

To kick off my new outlook on bicycling adventures, here are five good things I've learned about cycling:

1.  Under the instruction of my triathlon club, I've changed a fake puncture.

2.  I am no longer scared of spin classes, in fact I love them!

3.  I've discovered padded saddle covers.

4.  My legs have discovered the push/pull motion, much more efficient than just pushing.

5.  There are plenty of novice-friendly cycle events to book as motivation to train.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

To The Very Top

Yesterday I accidentally ran up a mountain.

It was my last day in Malvern with family and I wanted to pop out to suck in as much of the clean country air as possible before heading back home to smoggy London. I'd planned for a quick run round the block but it transformed into two and a half hours of epic hill training all by mistake!

Just a couple of miles took me to the town and gardens. Already fairly high up, gaps between the buildings revealed the potential for an incredible view over the valley, so I continued upwards in search of a better beauty spot. But each time I ascended, the view improved. I found myself following an upward path that seemed to never end, each step rewarded with an eyeful of natural beauty.

So I ran a bit more and the town below continued to shrink and melt into the vista. I was soon so far up that the highest point of the hills was closer than my starting point and, as a walker pointed out, I couldn't turn back having come so far. 

The last mile was the steepest but I forced my legs to the top with the Rocky theme tube playing in my head. I was exstatic that I could just 'accidentally' find myself on top of a hill - no training, no planning, just adventure! I was so loopy on endorphins, in fact, that I waved in the next few walkers to the Beacon - much to their bemusement.

This is the type of running that's truly great for the soul. Setting off with no agenda or expectations, just packing legs that are willing to find adventure.

So get me some trail shoes because I'm doing that again and again!

Tuesday, 1 April 2014


I think anyone who takes part in a race has at least a few drops of competitiveness in them. They may not be eyeing up first place but there's always a way to win – beat the silly costumed person in front, better that long standing PB or perhaps battle against a friend to the finish line. A little friendly competition can do wonders for motivation!

Proving the theory this summer are Olympic cyclist Victoria Pendleton and Sporty Spice Melanie C, who will be taking each other on at the Shock Absorber WomenOnly Triathlon. But they're after a little help. Each will be captaining a relay team in the super-sprint distance on Sunday 13th July and two of you can win a place!

Choose to swim or cycle for Team Victoria (that's right, you'll be taking over the bike from a World champion). Or become Team Melanie's cyclist or runner for the race that consists of a 400m swim, 21.1km bike and 5km run. Both captains are no stranger to dealing with nerves and delivering a World class performance, so I'm sure they'll each be giving their dream team plenty of tips.

This Women Only event, hosted by Human Race, is perfect for any novice dipping their toes into triathlon for the first time. So if you're not lucky enough to win a spot on one of these special teams, you can still enter the relay with friends or complete each discipline by yourself and enjoy the brilliantly supportive atmosphere. For more experienced triathletes, there are different distances as well as a faster group for the very competitive.

Supporting this celebration of women and sport are Shock Absorber, who will be there on the day cheering you on. They are also offering 5 runners-up one of their sports bras – a great consolation prize. Good luck!

Enter the competition here.