Training Solo

I’ve finished at uni (for good!) and am now back at home for the summer. The move back to Coventry has also meant that I can’t train with the amazing guys and girls at UoN Triathlon Club. I originally planned to join the Coventry Triathlon Club, but their training timetable isn’t as convenient as I thought it would be. Some of the sessions are across the other side of the city and with my summer jobs, I can’t always make these. So I’ve resorted to training solo.

I’ve posted before about the benefits of practicing an individual sport as part of a team and it is difficult coming out of that environment. It’s easy to fall into the trap of not going to training sessions and believing that with one cycle and one run a week, you’re doing enough. It’s one I started to fall into, as I started some part time summer jobs and lost motivation to train.

Until I got Strava.

Strava is an app which tracks your movements (cycling and running), you can follow your friends/team mates and see the efforts of other athletes. There are also segments of road where you can race against other users to be King (or Queen) of the Mountain. Since getting more involved with Strava, I’ve been more motivated to get out and train, even if I don’t have much time on my hands.

I’ve got two triathlons coming up, City of Birmingham and Paignton, so I still need to keep in shape and work on my mileage on the bike and out running – especially as they’re both Olympic distance! I’m not sure how I’ll perform at these next two triathlons, but I’m keen to enjoy myself and races are a lot easier when you’ve put in lots of training effort beforehand.

Last week, I did two runs, a small 5k one and a longer 12.5k one too. I also did a quick cycle to the betting shop, where I won the prize of Queen of the Mountain on The Drive (a steep hill where my primary school is) as well as a long 60km cycle this morning. Next week I’ve got more free time, and I’m hoping for a couple of mid-distance rides and aiming to run every other day.

Training on your own can be hard, but I think when you put your mind to it and see what other people are up to, through apps like Strava (which also help you to track your pace, distance and elevation) training without a team isn’t a barrier.

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The Freedom of Cycling

Over the past month or so, I’ve started to really enjoy cycling. It’s so refreshing being out in the country roads and on two wheels. You’re always alert and looking out for potholes, listening for cars, watching out for flying insects and other cyclists. But at the same time, I find myself switching off from the world and not really thinking about anything in particular. It’s living in the moment and enjoying the minutes as they pass by.

Each ride is different. Even if you go out for a three lap circuit, on each lap there will be different drivers, obstacles, birds singing and smells in the air. Cycling through the British countryside may seem monotonous to some, but I’ve found it’s really got a lot to offer and racing against others through the Strava app really makes it fun as I compete to win the QOM (Queen of the Mountain) achievement on certain stretches of road.

When I started triathlon, I never thought I’d like cycling, as it was my weakest discipline. I’m still not as speedy as others are on two wheels, but I’m definitely improving and liking it more each week. Last week, I cycled 80km in one day, which would have made me cry at the beginning of the year, but I just got on and did it. And the best part of that day? It was FUN!

I’m trying to do longer rides in the build up to my upcoming triathlons but this week I’m doing school talks all around the West Midlands, so am not sure how much free time I’ll have, but I know when I get on my bike, I’ll enjoy going new places, seeing new things and building up strength to go further faster!

Sunday Rides

Cycling is the main part of the triathlon, it’s the middle section and the longest – distance and time wise. It’s also my least favourite discipline of the sport. The triathlon club does long rides each Sunday, with three or four different routes, based on ability and during my first semester I did everything I could to get out of them. First, I didn’t have a bike, which was my best excuse because nobody at uni has a tandem. Then when I did get a bike, it was a bit on the large size for me, I couldn’t figure out the gears very well and was totally overwhelmed by the idea of going on a long (over 30km) ride on it. I’d never been on a bike for longer than an hour, never really ridden on roads, couldn’t signal, didn’t have cycling shorts, was mentally unprepared… I had all the excuses and didn’t get out for a club bike ride until February.

I’d just swapped bikes with another girl in the club and felt the size of the new bike (I call him Eddy) was better for me. Riding Eddy to meet the team at the Tennis Centre, he felt hard to ride, but just assumed since I had like 20 gears now, I was in the wrong one. So fiddled a bit and didn’t manage to work it out. I set off with the steady group and was immediately behind them, no matter which way I flicked the switches, I just couldn’t get Eddy in gear and felt so useless. Luckily, the group noticed I’d fallen behind and stopped to wait for me. Emma took one look and told me my chain wasn’t on properly so wouldn’t have got much further. She put it back on and we cycled for another 5 minutes when it became clear that I wouldn’t keep up as I didn’t know my way around the bike and wasn’t confident riding him either.

The ride that week was probably going to be over four hours long as the groups were stepping up training ahead of the Easter Mallorca training camp and poor Emma had the joy of telling me to ‘get on my bike’ as it were and go home. I was pretty devastated, so decided to stick to the static Watt bike training sessions until I improved.

I was sent back

Three months later and I’m glad to say today I did my second consecutive Sunday bike ride in the steady group. Last week, we did about 50km on country roads (and a little stretch on the A52) around Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, this week we did 60km in about 2.5hrs, the route we did is below (in miles).

Cycle route 17/05/2015
Cycle route 17/05/2015

They’ve been tough, scary in places and physically challenging, but getting home, looking at the map and seeing how far I actually went is so rewarding. As always, with the UoN triathlon club, despite it being an individual sport, there is such a great team spirit. When cycling, we often pair up and cycle together, as girls do, we chat about uni, sport, summer, guys, chafing issues, the weather etc. As there are probably 100 more hazards on the road for a cyclist than a motorist, we work together to make sure things run smoothly – we shout out to each other directions, point out potholes, warn each other when there are cars or horses and if someone drops behind.

Now I’m regretting not going out on the rides before as it’s a much better way to improve my strength, stamina and bike confidence than watt bike sessions. Hopefully the miles I’ve racked up in the last couple of weeks will help me in my next two triathlons over the next two weekends. Watch this space to find out!

Motivational Posters

This quote has been coming up a lot on my instagram feed lately and it couldn’t be truer to me at the moment. In regards to my triathlon training, I now feel stronger and better than ever, I feel I’ve made progress in each of the three disciplines and my bike confidence has increased tenfold. Before, when a car would zoom past me, I’d tense up and panic, but now I’ve learnt to keep my cool and carry on.

The poster is true when it comes to endurance sports like triathlon because as you increase the distances, intensity and type of training, some parts get do get easier. For example, at the beginning of term, my CSS speed for swimming (the time I should be aiming to swim each 100m at – it’s a fast pace that should be maintained for a while) was 1.47/100m. A few months later, it’s decreased to 1.34/100m. In swimming, a 13 second difference is huge, so I can clearly see my gains there.

Sometimes, if I’m really not in the mood to listen to them, I can find motivational posters patronising. You know when you just don’t want somebody telling you how to act, feel or do? So I scroll past them and find pictures of food or great landscapes. Motivational posters can be really good at other times though, like above when they ring true, or like the ones our coach posts on a Tuesday night to encourage us to get up for the 6.30am swim on Wednesday.

Do you like motivational posters?

A Swimmer’s Apologies

I’ve been swimming semi-competitively for the past nine years or so, on and off. I used to swim for my city, training 4/5 times a week and I specialised in freestyle sprints and IM. Now I’m in the uni triathlon team and it’s the Easter holidays but my training hasn’t stopped. I’ve got a month membership to my old swimming pool and would like to apologise for a few things, as going from a club training session to ‘public swimming’ is very different. Here are some of my apologies to the different people I encounter in these sessions.

Sorry to the swimmers in my lane

  • I’m sorry for making you stick to the clockwise swimming rule, even if you think it’s better swimming one up, one down, it really isn’t for several reasons.
  • I’m sorry for touching your foot and freaking you out, it’s not a game of mine, I’m just letting you know that I’m going to overtake you.
Please!
  • I’m sorry for swimming faster than you in the ‘fast lane’, there wasn’t a ‘super fast lane’ available.
  • Sorry I don’t have time to chit chat at the end of the pool, I get 10 seconds rest which isn’t enough time to tell you the ins and outs of my set.
  • Sorry if the only things you hear me say are numbers – “1.37, black 15, 1.34, 4 100s plus 15”
  • Sorry for tumble-turning and both ends of the pool, I know at the shallow end you expect people to do a touch turn, but I’ve done tens of thousands of tumble turns and can do them in shallow water too.
  • Sorry you thought I’d kick you when I tumble-turn (I saw you squidge up to the lane rope)….again, I’ve done thousands of them and won’t hurt you.

To the swimmers in other lanes

  • I’m sorry if I splash you.
  • Sorry if my hand accidentally touches yours when swimming, it’s not intentional.
  • Sorry I don’t have time to talk to you either.
  • Sorry for spreading all my stuff out all over the changing rooms.
  • I’m sorry if my hand crosses into your lane when I’m doing butterfly.
  • Sorry for being angry at the aquafit class for making my lane so choppy.
  • I’m sorry for taking my last two lengths easy and being a bit of a hypocrite, but I’ve deserved it!
That and tiger turns!

To the lifeguard

  • Sorry for causing a scene and overtaking people mid-lane.
  • Sorry for being the last one to get out of the changing rooms and stopping you from going home.
  • I’m (not as) sorry for checking all the lockers and taking any £1 coins that have been left.
  • Sorry for sticking my set to the lane direction sign, if it’s on the floor it gets wet and I can’t read it.
  • Sorry for doubting your lifesaving abilities when you’re wearing socks, trainers and pool shoe covers.

To my coach

  • Sorry for going to the toilet mid-set.
  • I’m sorry for taking 20 seconds break instead of 10.
  • Sorry for skipping a couple of 50’s.

If you’re a good swimmer that comes across difficulties when swimming in public sessions, leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you!

Sport in La Palma

Basketball

Before I came to La Palma, I thought that I would easily be able to join a female basketball team, as it is the second biggest sport in Spain after football. I thought that within a few months I would have many pictures of me posing in my kit with my team members, from the end of each game. But I was very wrong…

I don’t want to generalise or make judgements, but from what I have seen, people in La Palma, well women in La Palma just aren’t into sports that much, much less team sports as there are no female basketball or football teams (to my knowledge) in the whole island. Only school teams where the players are under 18 and play in tournaments against the other schools on the island. 

When I arrived I remember desperately wanting to join some type of sports team/club as without physical activity I could see myself putting on the pounds and getting lazy. The teachers at my school didn’t know about any teams I could train with and when I asked some boys in the street who had a basketball and basketball kit on they pretty much laughed at me when I said I wanted to join an adult female bball team. I still find it hard to believe that on an island with over 80,000 inhabitants there aren’t more than 10 women who want to play basketball. Anyway, I am still involved in basketball refereeing when they call me to table official or referee games.

Walking/Running

There is a long avenue next to the seafront, maybe 3km in total and it is a popular place for people to go to run and walk….yes walk. It is funny to people watch here as you see a whole range of people from La Palma. There are people in sporty gear, shorts, crop tops, caps etc…then you see people in leggings, hoodies, full length tracksuits and jackets. Bearing in mind that the air humidity here is often over 70%. What is stranger is that it’s not unusual to see the people in sporty gear and flashy trainers walking along the avenue with their friends or whatsapping on their mobile and the people in hoodies running. I don’t understand it. 

There are many races here in La Palma, especially mountain races that are often 10, 25 or 40km in distance. I am not brave enough to go running in the mountains as one trip on a rock and I’d have a broken ankle or worse. But last weekend I ran in a 10km road and rocky race in the Military Quarters. My final time was 1 hour 14 minutes, I came 6th in the female “senior” category, which was for people aged 18 – 35. I was so pleased with myself for completing it and at the end of the race I ran with my English flag to the finish line.Image

Next Friday I will be competing in another race, this time a duathlon, with is a 2.5km run, 1km swim (in the sea) and then another 2.5km run. I am really excited about it as my Mum and little sister will be there to watch me and from what I’ve heard, not many people like swimming in the sea, so hopefully as an ex squaddie swimmer I will gain some ground on the competition in the water.

Aldake Extreme

Through a friend I met on couchsurfing I heard about an exercise/running/keep fit group called Aldake Extreme. It is led by a group of young guys and the main activities are crossfit training and ultimate frisbee. They also do running, athletics, hiking and other activities. They are a great group of guys and I’m really happy to have stumbled across them. The training sessions can be brutal and they are often on the beach, meaning I come home covered from head to toe in (black) sand. It is a lot of fun and I have met some great people whilst working out. 

For example, last night’s crossfit session included:

40 wall jumps (climbing up a wall that was at belly-button height)

40 squats 

30 press ups

TWICE! (in round 2 each exercise had 10 less repetitions)

Then a speed exercise, running on the sand through cones.

Followed by 10 minutes of abdominals and different types of sit ups.

It’s hard work, but I love it and during the night I sleep really well and wake up feeling more energised than ever!