My Olympics: day one, cycling road race

July 28, 2012

In this blog series, I take inspiration from one of the day’s Olympic events. Today: the cycling men’s road race.

Vinokourov and 136 chums took to the streets of London, Surrey and the North Downs today in a 250km race which included nine laps of the delight that is Box Hill.

Inspired by their efforts, I put some air in my rear tyre’s slow puncture, crossed my fingers and headed out to the somewhat less challenging terrain of Twyford.

Me and my bike (a couple of years ago)

Vinokourov (earlier today)

Vino pelted through 250km in 05:45:57. I was a bit tired. I did, um, 17.5km in 00:38:56. But I also trained chest and triceps earlier, alright?

Hugh Porter: Welcome to today’s coverage of the men’s road race which, somewhat inexplicably, has only one entrant, who is in fact actually a woman.
Chris Boardman: Yes Hugh, the favourite today is Nicola Joyce, a fine athlete who burst onto the cycling scene in 2003.
Hugh: Ah yes, I remember that Chris, in fact didn’t she buy a tri bike from a friend in Crystal Palace, take a bus there from Tulse Hill and then walk the bike all the way back home because she was too scared to ride it downhill?
Chris: That’s right Hugh. And now look at her. What a plucky athlete indeed.
Hugh: We join the race as Nicola navigates the backroads of Wokingham, nimbly avoiding the many potholes and dreadful road surfaces.
Chris: It seems strange that there isn’t more of a crowd gathering, Hugh? It’s almost as if the people of Wokingham didn’t know that this event was happening in their town today?
Hugh: Now look at this. We’re receiving information that Nicola is reaching speeds of 18.2mph on downhills!
Chris: She is way out in the lead here already. In fact if you look at the aerial shots we are receiving from the helicopter, it almost looks as if she is out there on her own.
Hugh: Yes Chris, I think it’s fair to say that she is in a world of her own right now. There are other cyclists on the road but they are so far behind her that they are still actually going in the other direction.
Chris: I don’t think any of them will catch her now.
Hugh: Now Chris not many people will know this, but Nicola was actually in the gym this morning doing some strength work. Apparently she not only worked her chest but also did some tricep work.
Chris: Hugh that is truly staggering. That’s got to hurt. Riding like that, at the kind of intensity we are witnessing here today, puts a lot of strain on the triceps. Nicola is going to be in a lot of pain right now but obviously an athlete of this calibre will not let it show.
Hugh: Ah, look Chris, she has got down on her aerobars, no doubt to take the pressure off those triceps. Now she’s shouting at a motorist! Goodness me, out in front in a race like this and she still has the energy to do that!
Chris: I like that she has matched her sunnies to her helmet, her bar tape, her shoes and the velcro bit on her gloves.
Hugh: Yes Chris, this little lady certainly has style. Do you know, I have even heard that her car is yellow as well.
Chris: Wow Hugh, that is amazing. Athletic and stylish! Who knew there were so many yellow cycling accessories?
Hugh: Interesting that she has chosen not to actually wear the official cycling kit of her country, Chris. Instead she’s just in some old shorts and a top which is riding up at the back. You could be forgiven for thinking she’s not actually in an Olympic road race at all.
Chris: And the crowd roar as Nicola puts in an incredible effort up the hill towards the winery! She’s up out of the saddle, really working hard for this, lungs burning and quads bursting! Surely no-one can catch her now.
Hugh: And that monumental effort has really paid off, she’s way out in front now but she won’t get complacent.
Chris: Look at her rattling through Hurst, Hugh. Even the potholes can’t slow her down!
Hugh: What’s this? No, can it be? Surely not! This is outrageous! She has a slow puncture in her back tyre!
Chris: I think you’re right Hugh, but all credit to this athlete, if she’s noticed she hasn’t lost her focus. In fact it seems to have made her ride faster. I guess that’s because she hasn’t got a pump or spare inner tube on her, and doesn’t fancy walking home in bike shoes.
Hugh: As we watch this race come back into Binfield, Nicola is still dominant. It’s incredible to think that she has led from the outset. That early burst of enthusiasm put her in good stead because, even though she’s tiring now, she still retains the lead.
Chris: Yes Hugh, and now here we are in the finish straight, just a few more motorists to contend with, one more roundabout and that corner with all the pebbles and broken glass.
Hugh: And Nicola is putting in one more final effort as she lunges for the line, yes, yes she’s done it! How about that Chris, have you ever seen anything like it? 17.5km in well under 40 minutes, that’s got to be something like an average of 27kph?
Chris: *shakes head in awe*
Hugh: Ah now look at this reception as she staggers off the bike! Isn’t that lovely?
Chris: Yes, that dog looks very pleased indeed to see her.
Hugh: Perhaps he needs to be let out for a wee.

How have the London 2012 Olympic Games inspired you today?

My Olympics: day one, cycling road race is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

How do others see you? 8 year olds on sport and fitness.

July 1, 2012

We all influence other people. Perhaps your job puts you in a position of power, or maybe you’re in the public eye. It could simply be that one person sees you as an inspiration. Whatever the reason, each one of us influences those around us. Hopefully in a positive way!

Have you ever wondered how other people see you?

When my friend Katherine – who’s a school teacher – approached me recently to ask if I’d help out with a school project, I said sure! I didn’t know what she had in mind but I’m always keen to help out with anything which informs or inspires kids about sport, healthier eating and activity.

So, “year 3” (for the clueless – like me – this means boys and girls of eight and nine years old) sent me a load of questions about the sports I’ve done.

Hi Nicola,

We have learnt a bit about you today and some of the sports that you have done. We have some questions to ask you about the things that you have done, and Miss Palmer says you have very kindly agreed to answer them! We loved your photographs on your blog, you must work really hard when you are doing all your sports. Here are our questions:

Some of the questions were hilarious, some were cute and some really made me think. Here are just some of them:

Do you enjoy being an athlete?
Do you have to work hard to do your sports?
Have you ever coached anybody else in any sports?
What did you see when you swam in the sea? Did you see any animals?
Were you cold in the ocean?
Were you exhausted afterwards?
Why did you enter the triathlon?
Is bodybuilding easy?
How did you grow such big muscles?
What exercises do you have to do to be a bodybuilder?
Do you have to eat healthy food to make your muscles bigger?
Do you go on the treadmill? Do you go on the exercise bike?
Do you have to eat different sorts of food when you are bodybuilding to when you are channel swimming?

I love their curiosity and imagination! I also think it’s really interesting that the “top three” questions for Channel swimming (goosefat, sharks and water temperature) didn’t crop up at all, and nor did anything about tan for bodybuilding. I wonder why adults tend have such a limited range of questions to ask (at least at first) whereas these kids presumably either understood why we wear tan, or just thought it was too boring a thing to ask – a waste of a perfectly good question 😉

So, I answered all their questions, unsure of what the project was or what would be done with my replies. I felt quite a lot of pressure suddenly! For all I knew, this could be the first time some of these children had ever learned about or thought about nutrition, being active, body image. I didn’t want to patronise, but nor did I want to pitch it too high and risk them switching off or feeling overwhelmed. I really wanted to encourage them, to spark some interest, perhaps even to encourage a dream of their own. (As I told them, I was exactly their age when I first thought about swimming the Channel.) Here was a great opportunity to get these children to realise that they have the power to achieve anything they want to, and that dreams should be dreamed big! I didn’t want to mess it up!

A few days later, my inbox was full of the most wonderful pictures and stories. They are just about the best thing I’ve ever seen. I’ve printed them all out and will keep them in my kit bag. I can only hope that I inspired and motivated at least some of Year 3. They have certainly inspired me.

Thank you, Year 3!

Read on for some of the pictures they sent me, as well as a few choice quotes from the stories they wrote.

This one is quite simply immense. The power! That triangle-me is owning that stage! I can only hope to be this large and in charge when I next compete 🙂

Crazy separation I’ve got going on there! As well as the most muscley shins I’ve ever seen. I think I need to work on my quads a bit more, though 😉

I’m so happy in this one! With good reason – I appear to be shoulder pressing two 80kg dumbbells overhead. I’m not sure what I’m wearing. I love that I am training outside on a beautiful sunny day, and also love that one of the podiums (?) says “well done” on it.

Just me and some crazy-cute seals hanging out together. Check out the whiskers on those seals! Adorable!

Hi! I’m swimming the Channel and there’s a really big tanker and I’m really happy about it all! 😀

Now for the words of wisdom. I should point out that these are not my words, they’re written by Year 3. They presumably read my replies to their initial questions and then let their imaginations go… Quite right, too. That’s the best way to write sometimes: just get going and start writing, then see what came out.

If you want sporting success, Musfirah tells us to “look insid, start being healthy!”

Imaan tells us that, to build muscle, you must “lift really heavy weights or small, digit number weights. Then you can enter the competition, but you will have to show off your muscals to the jujes.” He also reminds us of the importance of safety when cycling. “..she had to were a helmet for safety just in case she falls off.” What are you saying, Imaan? 😉

Jasmine has a few words to say about diet. “…lots of eggs, meat, fish and even kangoo – but it is meat, it keeps you fit. When you are a body builder you can’t eat cakes or choclett!”

Adeed has the impression that I am a “musly millionair”, love him. Perhaps he has had some sort of premonition? Fingers crossed. He chronicles my 2011 season by saying that “on her first day she won a trophy and she was proud of her self.” Well, yes, I suppose I was, and should be more often! “Eat meat, fresh eggs, kangaroos, healthy food and sports drink,” advises Adeed (as opposed to rotten eggs, I assume!)

Elliot keeps it real. “If you want to be a body builder, get to that gym!”

I’ll leave you with these simple truths from Haiden and Joshua W:

“Give it a go!”
“Always remmember, don’t give up.”

They said it!

What did you dream of doing when you were eight or nine years old? Have you done it yet?

How do others see you? 8 year olds on sport and fitness. is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

Peripheral vision

March 31, 2012

My most recent blog post (last week – sorry for going AWOL) saw me reunited with a friend from my previous life as an endurance athlete. My triathlon bike and I have been out several times this week, making the most of a beautifully sunny March.

Sport brings us a lot of lessons. Exercise, working out, training: whatever you call it, if you’ve done it even once, I guarantee it opened your eyes to thoughts and feelings you hadn’t had before. Perhaps it was that first endorphin rush (it’s true! exercise really does make you feel good!), the realisation that you’re stronger than you think, the joy of finding something, some time, some space just for you.

This week, whilst out on my bike, I realised how different sports teach us different things, all of them important at different times. As yet another car passed by me so close that I could see my reflection in the bonnet and then see the items on the passenger seat, I got to thinking about peripheral vision.

Training in the gym, lifting weights, we tend to focus on one spot. Staring straight ahead (usually into the mirror, if you’re a bodybuilder), we shut out distractions, noises, movements at the edge of our vision. We need to focus.

This focus is no good out cycling on the road. Stare ahead with laser-beam vision and you’re likely to miss that car coming up behind you, the squirrel in the verge, or that pothole to your left.

Different sports, different ways of seeing.

Tapping into your peripheral vision is actually quite calming. When we’re stressed or anxious, we tend to stare straight ahead, unblinking, focused on one spot, ready to run. When we open up our vision to 180* (or more – you need eyes in the back of your head as a cyclist), we feel somehow calmer, shutting off internal dialogue and just enjoying the moment.

Of course, there is a time and a place for that narrow focus. Like when you’re getting ready to lift weights, standing on the start line of a race, preparing to compete. It’s just nice to open up our eyes from time to time and take a look around.

If you’re interested in this kind of thing, a great book to read is “Mental Mastery” by sports psychologist Ken Way. I mentioned it here and you can get hold of it here.

Do you notice things around you more when you do certain types of exercise?

Peripheral vision is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

Cardio with an old friend

March 24, 2012

Today’s cardio session saw me reunited with an old friend.

Aloha Friday and I go way back. She’s my old triathlon training bike (the blacker, lighter and altogether more terrifying “Venus” is/was my race bike). Goodness knows how many miles we’ve ridden together, from training rides to triathlons and long sportifs.

It’s been at least a year since I last rode her. Today, the weather here is just stunning: more like June than March. So, after recovering and refuelling after this morning’s chest and triceps session, I unhooked Aloha from the wall, brushed the cobwebs (!) off her, pumped her tyres up and gingerly clipped in.

Success! We had a wonderful 55-minute ride and covered just a touch over 15 miles, which I’m really chuffed with given the amount of riding I’ve done in the past 12 months or so (…none) and the change in training, diet and body composition. And I didn’t feel rubbish! 🙂

I do hope this lovely weather sticks around for a bit so Aloha and I can revisit some more of our old stomping grounds.

This gives me an idea for a series of blog posts, and I thought I’d ask if it’s something you’d be interested in reading. Over the years, I’ve trained (at varying levels of seriousness and with varying levels of success!) at running, cycling, swimming, triathlon, open-water swimming, channel swimming and bodybuilding. I thought a “Training sessions from the archives” idea might be fun, looking at what I was doing on “this day…..1 year ago/2 years ago/4 years ago” etc. I’ve always keep some form of journal, so I’ve got it all logged, warts and all. Let me know if you think that would be fun(ny) to read.

Have you switched sports? Do you miss any of your old sports? Do you ever revisit training sessions, venues or methods?

Cardio with an old friend is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

A cautionary tale (why runners and bikers should always carry emergency ID)

February 17, 2012

Just one day after he was merrily giving you his opinion on rye bread, my husband came off his bike on a busy town-centre roundabout.

He’s (relatively) OK and in one piece. We’re both shocked, he’s in huge amounts of pain, but the main thing is – of course – that he is still here to tell the tale. He has one dislocated shoulder and several torn ligaments, but things could have been so much worse.

So, today’s blog post is a short but serious one. If you run, or ride a road or mountain bike, whether it’s every day to and from work like my husband or whether it’s once in a blue moon, my question to you is:

Do you wear some kind of emergency ID?

Happily, my husband was still conscious and just about with it enough to remember our phone number. And the person in the car behind him, who stopped to help, was a qualified First Aider. And he was (ironically) just moments from his work building. What if all of this hadn’t have been the case?

Who would emergency services – or that good Samaritan – call, if you slipped or were knocked down whilst biking or running? How would they know who to call?

Please, get some kind of ID tag which carries emergency contact details and other important information. It’s easy. Just click here for Road ID, or here for Cram Alert. Make it your Friday Thing To Do.

Happily, sandwiches can be eaten one-handed, so I think my husband will survive this latest scrape. But next time he gets on that bike, he’ll be wearing emergency ID. I’ll insist on it.

A cautionary tale (why runners and bikers should always carry emergency ID) is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

The Fit Writer’s pick of 2010

December 31, 2010

Me and Richard of Richard’s Transrockies 2011 blogging amidst the New Year beer…and wine….and Bailey’s…and whatever else you can spot there in the background 😉

How was your 2010? I’m not hugely into resolutions (I prefer to make them as I go along, regardless of the date) but, as it’s the final day of the year, I wanted to look back at 2010 and pick out some highlights for you. A kind of a New Year’s Honours list, if you will. Without the royalty.

So here are The Fit Writer’s picks of the year gone by:

Favourite commission
Ooh, well. Most of my commissions are favourites (how’s that for diplomacy?), because I just love writing. But some stand out for being a little more unusual. How about a week in Croyde in August, training with the RNLI Beach Lifeguards to get a taste of what their qualifications consist of? (Hint: really hard work) That was for an article which appeared in Coast magazine. I also thoroughly enjoyed meeting, swimming with and getting some swimming advice from Liam Tancock later in the year. Judging by the search terms which lead to this blog, it would seem that many of you would like to do the same! You can find Liam on Twitter and he’s a jolly good sort of chap. Did I tell you that I tweeted I was on the way to meet him, and someone who follows me on Twitter said how much of a fan his daughter was. I told Liam, who was happy to pose for a photo for the guy’s daughter, and then said hello to her on Twitter. Nice guy 🙂

Favourite race
Another tough one. I really enjoyed getting into road cycling this year, completing several sportives having never done one before. But I think the Favourite Race gong has to go to the Folkestone Half Marathon: it’s in my home town, I was cheered on by my new nephew and I got a PB. What’s not to like?

Favourite event
Speaking of new nephews, event of 2010 has to go to the birth of my nephew Henry. Nothing to do with sport, I realise (although, a few weeks later when I was struggling through the Little Woody half Ironman triathlon, I did draw on the strength I’d seen my sister demonstrate during labour!) Nephews rock, particularly mine.

Favourite bit of fitness kit
Although I’ve been asked to review lots of lovely bits of kit and gadgetry this year, the award for favourite bit of fitness kit has to go to my kettlebells. You saw me using them during my 10,000 swing kettlebell challenge, and I use them regularly for both strength and CV work. So handy!

Favourite training session
I’m a bit of a hermit. So it takes someone fun to persuade me to give up training solo for once. And when I end up crying with laughter, I know I’ve found a good training partner. So props to Kat Millar, PT and now a good friend, with whom I trained a month or so ago. Second place goes to one of the many beautiful road bike rides I did back when it was burning hot and sunny: just lovely.

Favourite sporting moment
I watched as much of the Commonwealths as I could, and cheered as loud as any of you when Rebecca Adlington won both the 400m and 800m freestyle. Whadda woman!

Well, that’s it. I can’t bear this super-slow internet connection any longer! I will bid you a very happy New Year’s Eve, a great evening and a fantastic start to 2011 – and I’ll see you on the other side. Thanks for reading!

The Fit Writer’s Pick of 2010 is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Away for New Year? Keep training!

December 30, 2010

Every year, we go away with a group of friends to a big old house somewhere for New Year week. In many ways, it’s a bigger deal than Christmas (there’s certainly more food and drink!) In the face of all the beer, wine, port (and cheese), nibbles and massive portions of dinner, you could be forgiven for thinking we might give up on exercise altogether for the week. Not us!

Amongst our party, we have two mountain bikers, one runner-turned-mountain biker and one Personal Trainer. Oh, and me. So I thought it might be useful to show you how we keep a balance (a kind of “detox/retox”, if you will) and keep training whilst we’re away from our respective gyms and out of our routine.

1: Bring bikes, running kit and other outdoorsy stuff

Even if all you want to do is go on long walks with the dogs, make the most of the fact that you’re somewhere different. We always end up somewhere pretty remote and very beautiful, and running/cycling/walking is a pleasure. So it would be a shame to find yourself with no kit. Pack the running shoes!

2: Pack indoors exercise kit

I brought my kettlebells, Personal Trainer friend Jo brought her Z-Trainer (a suspension trainer – review to come soon) and more kettlebells, and Gliders. I put a few exercise DVDs in my bag I’d been asked to review. It’s all stuff we’d rarely use at home, but being away from the gym and running a totally different routine is the perfect time to experiment with other bits of kit. And, of course, having a Personal Trainer on hand is too good an opportunity to pass up!

3: Plan your exercise

I know, this sounds terribly dull. After all, we’re away for the week with friends and meant to be enjoying ourselves. But our group of friends do enjoy training, so it’s no hardship. We have all day to do whatever we want whilst we’re here, so 30 minutes here and there making up a new routine with kettlebells is all part of the fun. The rules are there are no rules, just the opportunity to train if you want. Two of our party don’t exercise and really aren’t interested. That’s OK, we still love them 😉 Every day, one or more of us will be heading out for a run or a bike ride, or heading to one of the larger rooms to do some indoor training. Anyone can join in, but no-one has to. It works for us! (And it makes that first beer of the evening taste all the better….)

My friend Jo (one of the group I’m away with for New Year) is a Personal Trainer. Here’s her advice on training whilst you’re away from home (she’s the PT):

“Keep it simple: you really don’t need a lot of time, space or kit to stick to an exercise routine whilst you’re away. Don’t forget that you carry the best bit of gym with you all the time – your body! Put together a routine of simple, compound bodyweight exercises (any kind of full or modified squats, lunges, press ups, planks, triceps dips, step ups) and work hard – job done!

“Write down what you want to do every day so you have a plan to stick to which can become part of your day. That way you’re less likely to find that the day has flown past without you getting your exercise session in.

“If you’re training for something, don’t panic that you might not be able to get your regular training session done. You won’t lose any fitness or strength in just one week. It’s far better to do something than nothing at all, however short and however different to your normal training it might be.”

I’ll do reviews of the various bits of kit and DVDs we do whilst we’re away this week.

Oh, and a note to all the burglars reading: yes, we’re away from home but neighbours are keeping an eye on the house and popping in from time to time! 😉

Away for New Year? Keep Training! is a post from The Fit Writer blog

The Southern Sportive (did someone mention hills?)

September 13, 2010

I am hungry like the wolf today. Yesterday I was on my bike for over 4.5 hours and I missed my lunch, you see.

Just before I did Little Woody, my husband said that his colleague Pete was planning on doing the Southern Sportive and did we want to do it with him? So I entered it. Then Pete ended up being on holiday, and my husband ended up doing his back in. So muggins here woke up at 6am yesterday, drove to Petersfield and did the sportive. Yes, I did ask myself “why?” at several points before and during.

The Southern Sportive is renowned for being a hilly ‘un, but it wasn’t til the night before that I actually looked at the course profile and worked out that it would be a) the furthest I’d ever ridden, b) the most amount of climbing I’d done in one ride and c) almost the maximum incline I’d ever ridden up. And only 14 days since Little Woody.

In a moment of blazing inspiration, I went to the gym this week and did a relatively heavy legs session (having not done any free weights for ages). In a second moment of blazing inspiration, I did it again a few days later. Consequently, my legs were screaming just from, er, walking downstairs and kneeling down and stuff like that. “It’s only my quads which hurt!” I told my husband, and I desperately rolled around on our foam roller on Saturday night. “That’s a shame,” he said, “since it’s your quads you’ll need on the sportive.”

Hey ho.

So, I got to the sportive, was directed to carpark C which was nowhere near the start and had to ride to registration.

I was doing the medium route, an advertised 112kms/70 miles (with 1443m of climbing) through the climbs of the South Downs. For those who know the area, it started in Petersfield and went…oh, loads of places. Here’s a map. And the profile.

The standard times had been tweaked from those on the website and were now longer, which was a bit ominous. To be perfectly honest, I consider my season officially over now, and I was just doing this ride for fun (!) I didn’t even bother to write the standard times on my hand, nor did I set my bike computer to show average speed. I just wanted to have a nice day out on my bike.

The route went up a bitch of a hill (about 14%) within the first couple of miles. I instantly regretted not having chosen to ride Venus, with her big gears. I barely got up it, and my HR was around 180. At the top, I popped a couple of Jaffa Cakes and pedalled onwards. I rode for a while with a jolly group of chaps from a rowing club (one of the nice things about biking is that, even when you’re pushing quite hard, you can still chat, unlike running) and tried to actually ride in a group to get the benefits. At one point, we all scooted round a corner to be faced with a stretch of road completely covered in sand and stones. We all got off, shouldered our bikes and walked over the (deep!) sand. And I thought hike-a-bike sections were just for mountain bikers! In the end, my rowing friends were just a little too fast for me, though, and I never could get up the front to take my turn, so I let myself drop off the back.

I between the first and second aid stations, I rode with a nice chap called Steve who’d come all the way from Dartmoor to ride the sportive for the third time. We were roughly the same speed and took turns pulling each other along for a while.

There's Steve on the right

I wasn’t the only one disappointed at the aid stations – for £25, you expect more than a flapjack and 1/2 a banana (rationed), water and energy drink. Every other sportive I’ve done has had a wide choice of stuff to eat there, or put in your pocket to take with you. That wasn’t possible here (jersey pocket full of crumbled flapjack? No thanks) and I was really glad I’d packed my pockets full of food as usual. At the second and final aid station, there was no water. The marshalls were about to go up the road to refill, but still. It was a blazing hot day, one guy was on the ground with some sort of heat exhaustion and plenty of other riders had resorted to sitting on the ground waiting for water. I still had some, so rode on, but can only imagine how annoying it would be to have to stop and wait for water (the clock doesn’t stop whilst you’re at aid stations). Poor effort, guys.

That was my only complaint. The route was absolutely beautiful, winding its way through chocolate-box villages and climbing (oh how it climbed!) up to the top of the Downs to reveal amazing views right down to Chichester. Or what I assume was Chicester-ish, anyway.

Yep, I got off and walked up this hill. All the better for taking a photo!

The climbs were brutal (I freely admit I got off and walked up bits of two of them – I’m not proud. I did Little Woody two weeks ago) but the downs were fast (even if some of the road surfaces were shocking). We were blessed with a gorgeous day of sunshine (amidst a week of grim weather) and I felt very glad I’d turned up to ride.

Until about 50 miles in.

At that point, my right shin started to hurt. Then my right calf started to hurt. Then I felt very very tired and then shortly after that I felt as if I might cry if the finish line didn’t turn up at some point. The wind had picked up, the road surfaces were sapping my speed and the hills just wouldn’t let up. I was counting down the miles to 70…but when 70 came, we still weren’t home. A mind-crushing loop around Petersfield and finally, finally, I was finished. Actually that’s not true – finally, I was faced with trying to get through the college gates whilst a big truck was coming out, so I had to stop and then squeeze through…a glorious finish!

In true Nicola style, I missed the silver standard time (4 hrs 47) by…..4 seconds. No, I’m not joking. But of course my official time (without stops for aid stations) will be a bit longer, so never mind.

I got my free cup of tea and bit of cake and sat on the ground next to my bike.

I have never been so glad to get off my bike. The Southern Sportive is hard! I suspect I’ll do it again next year 🙂

Before I do, I’m going to work on two things:

– riding in a group. In the short time I rode on the back of a group today, it was obvious how helpful this is. So much less effort for the same speed. I was even freewheeling along on the flat at points, being pulled along by the group. Riding the whole thing by yourself is the nobler way to do it, but undeniably more tiring! But to be a good group rider, I need to learn the techniques and get more confident with it. I also need to get a bit stronger at it so I can take my turn on the front. No-one likes a hanger-on just sucking the wheel of the back rider.

– descending. Honestly, my rubbish descending technique is starting to annoy me now. I lose so much time by descending so poorly, and I’ll overtake a load of people on the flat or on the ups, only to have them whizz past me on the downs. By the end of any long ride, I tend to be better at descending, because I’ve got so annoyed with myself that I just let go of the brakes, or because I just want the ride to be over and I’m too tired to react to a descent with nervousness. Or possibly because my arms are so tired that I can’t be bothered to brake any more. I could really do with improving my descending, even by a fraction.

The Southern Sportive is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Things like this make me love cycling

September 5, 2010

There are loads of reasons to love road biking.

The opportunity to combine training with catching a few rays (even if a cyclist’s tan does come with some pretty silly tan-lines. Cycling gloves, anyone?)

The thrill of careering down hills at 40mph balancing on two 23mm tyres.

The chance to ride a small, light, beautiful bike, the cycling equivalent of a Lotus Elise.

The peculiar rush you get every time you emerge victorious (ie alive) from the…er…attentions of a motorist.

And, of course, the sights you see from the vantage point of a bike. One of my favourite sights on my local little training loop is this.

I sometimes feel like stopping and asking for a “cockral”. Not just any old one, mind. Only the fattest will do.

Things like this make me love cycling is a post from The Fit Writer blog

How to train any time, anywhere

August 18, 2010

As I might possibly have mentioned, you know, once or twice 😉 I became an Auntie for the first time on Friday. My sister lives in Kent, where we grew up, but I live a couple of hours’ drive away now. Therefore, when I got the call that my nephew was on his way, I packed the car knowing I wouldn’t be back for a few days. Babies being babies, I had no idea how long he’d take to arrive or how long I’d be needed for. (As it turns out, I was right to pack for longer than expected!) But I did know that I was going to be away, and running on a very odd schedule, during my last key training week for the Little Woody.

So what did I do? Write off a week of training? No fear. Give myself a few days off, then promise to cram all the training in when I got back? Erm, no.

I put swim, bike and run kit in the car, along with a coolbag full of necessary eats and drinks, and printed out my training schedule.

And, you know what? Being at my Dad’s for a long weekend, spending lots of time with my sister and nephew at the hospital, and keeping highly questionable hours made for some great R&R. Not rest and relaxation, silly. Running (and riding) and reminiscing.

I didn’t stick to my training plan 100%, I’ll admit. Friday’s morning swim made way for…well, for my nephew actually being born and for me getting to see him at just an hour old. But I got Friday’s evening run in, and it was a good ‘un: high on adrenalin and endorphins, I tackled the Road of Remembrance in Folkestone (it’s a hill) at a good pace. That’s how Aunties roll, you see 😉

Saturday’s long ride made way for a run, because it was pouring with rain. But it turned into one of the nicest runs I’ve done all year.

Devil's Kneading Trough, Wye

I ran from Wye (near the hospital) through beautiful little villages to a village called Stowting where I lived with my sister when we were kids. Then I ran back to Wye, using the North Downs Way byways and paths along which I used to ride my little fat horse when I was younger. Nostalgic doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Sunday was blowing a gale, but I absolutely had to get my 3-hour ride (and short brick) in, so I set off from my Dad’s negotiating some hairy dual carriageway before heading into the Kent countryside and following my nose, led mostly by memories of horse-riding, relative-visiting and pub-lunching of yesteryear. I only got lost once. Hilariously, I ended up popping out at a T-junction, looking around to see where I was and realising I was about 100 yards from the hospital. My nephew must be magnetic ;)!

I missed another swim because I wanted to see my “oldest friend in the world” (we’ve known each other for 30 years…!) and meet her baby. I think that’s a good enough excuse. But, all in all, I don’t think I did too badly. I did all the key training sessions over a long weekend at the peak of my training plan.

Just setting a good example for the kids. I’m an Auntie now, after all 😉

How to stick to your training plan when you’re out of your routine:

  • pack everything you think you might need. You don’t know how long you’ll be away for
  • don’t forget things like bottles of sports drink/powder, and a multi-tool
  • don’t leave one set of kit (swim/bike/run) at home. You’ll kick yourself if you find a great local pool or gorgeous run route
  • even if you’ve only got 30 minutes, you can still get some valuable training in
  • use the time away to explore new (or old) routes, rediscover places you’ve forgotten, and see some new sights
  • see it as a challenge – my bike ride was windy, I knew the roads would be busy, and I had no idea where to go. All the more reason to feel dead chuffed once I’d actually done it
  • make it social. I had every intention of persuading my Dad to come swimming with me, had I actually made it to the pool!

PS I didn’t take any pictures, so I googled for images to illustrate this post. I found this lovely blog post about the bit of the NDW I ran on Saturday – the images are from there. Thank you, blogger!

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