July 2016Eclectic Cake: July 2016

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Speedo – Fuelling Fast

Psychology is a funny thing. You could have done all the training in the world, be performing at your absolute best and already have wins under your belt but if you don’t feel fast, you’re not likely to be your fastest.

That’s why Speedo have spent the last four years working with 330 top athletes across 26 countries to create a race suit that actually makes the wearer feel faster. The olympic swimmers who line up in Rio wearing the Speedo Fastskin LZR X, will look and feel fast and hopefully the times on the board will reflect that.

credit: Speedo

Tiny details have been added to offer performance gains. The one-way stretch fabric offers optimum compression but the vertical stretch needed for full movement; the seams on the side of the legs follow the muscles and encourage them to hold the correct position in the water; the women’s suit has extra panels in the body to help turn on the core muscles.

credit: Speedo

There’s no underestimation in having the psychological edge. The suits have coloured fabric for the first time. This changes the property of the material and adds an incredibly complicated process to the manufacturing of the suits but finally having a fashion element makes the swimmer feel individual from the starting line.

To further fuel fast, every suit used in the olympics has an individual motivational message sewn into it. So when the suit is being put on, the athlete will already be thinking fast.

credit: Speedo

There is nothing fast about putting on a second aquatic skin. 

I was measured up by the expert who fits all the Speedo athletes but 15-minutes into trying to pull the thing on over my hips, I wondered whether they were having me on. It took over 30-minutes and two sets of hands to haul my ass into a suit, then I was told that actually, if I was racing, I’d be in a suit two sizes smaller!

credit: Speedo

Once in, I started to walk differently. My core was switched on and ready to work. I’ve never stood taller. In the water, I felt like a mini torpedo but there was only one sure way to test it – a race.

We lined up in our teams and, after a 5-second diving lesson from 2012 Olympic medalist, Michael Jamieson, I splashed out our third of four legs. Either MJ is a great teacher or the suit really worked its magic because that was my best dive and best sprint.

credit: Speedo

Of course, as a recreational swimmer, I’m unlikely to spend 30-minutes contorting into a suit that can’t compensate for my not-so-perfect technique. (I’m pretty sure none of my friends would be willing to help dress me, either!) Good news, then. The technology of Speedo’s race suit will filter down to their other suits.

The brand’s mission is to inspire people to swim, from the elite to infants. All the advances they’ve made for the development of the Fastskin LZR X can be translated into fitness swimwear. Where quicker drying suits create less drag for athletes, it makes getting out of the pool more comfortable for fitness swimmers. Where flat straps help with aerodynamics and marginal gain for the elite, the recreational swimmer will feel more comfort. Soon, we’ll all be feeling faster in the water.

credit: Speedo

For now, I’m looking forward to seeing how fast our GB athletes feel in Rio!

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

My New Run Club... Seriously!

It’s taken four years of running, two different towns and a lot of Facebook stalking but I’ve finally found a local run club that suits me! They only run on trails, they like a social pace and they always have snacks. Oh…and they’re a canicross group…and I don’t own a dog.

The first thing I did when we decided Welwyn Garden City was the town for us, was to find local running groups. There’s a club right on my doorstep and they even embrace the trails! 

I did the appropriate amount of internet stalking – about a year of looking at pictures of their sessions, going to the same races to see how accepting they are of slower runners, deciding if their club colours complimented my eyes… Then they blew it.

“If you don’t join the club within two days, we’ll delete you from the Facebook group.”


This meant they were throwing out over 100 people who were interested in running, almost certainly local, just a little shy or short of time to take the plunge just yet. All potential future members! After weeks of talking about how to increase numbers at the club, this was clearly a frustrated last resort but it did make me think they’d most likely be unaccepting of the timid newbie to, what now felt like, a serious, no messing around club. 

My search continued…

And then I met a group of Hertfordshire-based canicross runners at a #neverstoplondon trail run event. They added me on Facebook immediately and are so accepting, they don’t mind I’ve never owned a furry friend, they’re just happy to have more people to run with.

As the members of the group are spread out across the county and half of them can’t run very far on pavement because it makes their paws sore, they’re a fountain of knowledge when it comes to trails. Through them, I’ve discovered new places to get lost as well as new local races.

You know when you’ve found a supportive lot when they’re willing to offer you kit to borrow. Next time I run with them, they’re going to lend me a harness and a lead…oh yeah…and a dog!

Monday, 18 July 2016

Race Report: Midsummer Race Series, Hatfield House

WHAT: 5-mile run
WHERE: Hatfield House, Hertfordshire
WHEN: 7th July 2015

Eventually, three miles into the five-mile race, I found a reason for that feeling of familiarity. I’d been here before! The back gates of Hatfield House hadn’t been open when I went on my previous little adventure in this area, so I settled for getting lost in the surrounding fields, hunting for the entrance. I never found it but I did find some nice trails. And this is where I found myself now.

As the sun was starting to lower, the small crowd gathered for the first leg of the Midsummer Series was turned around from optimistically facing downhill to the uphill start and we were off. I started absolute last (with my new canicross friends*) assuming that’s also where I’d finish. All faith in my running had been long lost and I’d already made room for photos on my phone, preempting tactical stops that would double as rest to catch my breath.

Ahead, the small field was made up of club vests, charity shirts and even fancy dress. I’ve learned to never judge a runner by their costume and automatically assumed everyone was far faster than me. After all, why would anyone spend a sunny, summer weekday evening racing rather than in a beer garden?!

“Because running is awesome!”

I laughed at myself, as the initial jerk on my lungs had calmed down and my legs started to spin past some of the slower runners. This wasn’t about beating others, though, this was about chasing down some confidence in my running.

My lazy body hadn’t been pushed for a long while. I’ve enjoyed a laid back take on trail running – run a bit, take a picture, run a bit, have some food – whilst being acutely aware that any fitness I gained last year was melting as quickly as the mini cheeses I insist on taking on every run.

Three miles in, not only did the venue send me ripples of déja vu but the feeling of racing began to feel familiar. That fire in your belly and lungs; constantly flicking the little devil off your shoulder every time he insists you stop; that grin as you drop the guy who just can’t accept you’re faster than him and speeds up to try and overtake you; hunting down and beating the guy dressed as a caveman against whom you’ve invented a personal vendetta… The wobble of your legs after they’ve sprinted the last few metres to the finish line to leach out every last drop of every you have on the course.

This little local race, simple and small as it was, made running feel fun and familiar once again. What a wonderful way to earn a midweek banana! 

* More about this soon…