Guess who’s back! (And where the hell have I been, anyway?)

October 9, 2015

*tap tap* Is this thing on?


I haven’t blogged here since April. In fact, my last post (an event report from a Strongwoman comp) was exactly six months ago.

Yeah, sorry about that. Really no excuse other than getting out of the habit (and being busy).

I’ve got a huge list of blog posts planned. But, before I launch straight into things, I’d better bring you up to date.

I had to kind of guess the questions you lot might like me to answer. Here goes (if there’s still anything you want to know, let me know in the comments!)

Am I competing in bodybuilding this year?

Nope! My last comp was WNBF Amateur Worlds in November last year. Since then, I’ve been “off-season” (not dieting, not “prepping”, trying to be as normal as a bodybuilder can be). I knew I needed a break from the rigours of competition prep (mentally, physically, emotionally, socially…) and so… I took it!

Am I competing in bodybuilding again ever?

Ooh. Good question. Honest answer? I don’t know. Never say never. I still love the sport, I still have goals and target which I’d like to achieve. But, right now, I have no desire to compete. Or perhaps more accurately: I do not have enough desire to compete. Comp prep is intense, and I believe you should only do it if you really, really want to. If I compete again, it will be to look better, to show improvements, with the goal of achieving more than I already have. My life, head, emotions and focus aren’t in that place at the moment. But… never say never.

What does my training look like?

Since I’m not prepping for bodybuilding comps, and since I am well-fed and full of energy (!), I’m enjoying all sorts of training
Weights: the core of my training is still lifting weights in the gym. I tend to go 4-5 times a week and still follow a bodybuilding-type split.
Boxing: I’ve also added boxing sessions (twice a week at my local boxing club) into the mix. I absolutely love it. The first time I went, the warm up was so hard I nearly walked out (and I don’t walk out on things!) But I stuck it out and, although it’s still the hardest training I’ve ever done, I’m now able to push myself rather than just survive! It consists of a 10 min warm up, 30 min partner session on the bags and pads, then a 20 min circuit. It’s proper boxing at an actual boxing club and it’s exactly how you imagine boxing training would be. I adore it.

Road biking: this is something I really missed when I was doing bodybuilding prep, so I’ve reintroduced into my life with joy. I try to get out 2-3 times a week (weather dependent) and like going out for 2 hours or so at the weekend. I’ve done a couple of events since April: a fairly hilly 60-mile sportive and a dead flat 50-mile sportive in July, and a very hilly 55-mile sportive a couple of weeks ago. I’ve entered an 82-miler in November. Eek! But it starts a couple of miles from my house so… I kind of have to, right? (I’m on Strava here if you want to follow my adventures on the bike.)

What’s my diet like at the moment?

Diet? Let’s call it “nutrition”. I have to be honest: diet/nutrition/food has been a struggle since my last bodybuilding comp in November. This is something I will blog about in more detail when I am feeling a bit braver. But I’m sure what I have to say will resonate with plenty of fellow bodybuilders and fitness industry folk, and nothing I’ve experienced will come as a surprise.

Getting back to “normality” after bodybuilding contest prep will challenge even the most balanced of brains. I’m still a work in progress. But it’s all good!

I am trying to eat 3-4 times a day, to listen to my body’s hunger and satiety signals, and to eat mostly healthy, “real food” meals, but not to be worried about eating junk and treats as well. Lots more to say on this topic – you have been warned! 😉

What’s my next goal in sport/in life/in general?

My goals at the moment are mostly to do with life and business, rather than sport or body. I’ll always train, and I’ll always (try to) eat well. But at the moment, my focus is on some exciting (and slightly scary) business plans (I can’t wait to get you involved!) Training will be an important part of my day/week just as it’s always been. But I don’t have any one single, big sporting goal. I’m just staying healthy, getting strong, and enjoying being fit and sporty.

What have I been doing with my time since April?

When you put it like that… um…
– buying a house
– pushing my copywriting business forward
helping my fitness industry clients with ebooks, email marketing, website content, blog posts, books, content marketing, sales pages, newsletter copy and social media
– planning a new business venture which excites me so much I want to cry 😀
– dating (with varying degrees of success, but plenty of LOLZ)
– going on holiday (I’m just back from a week in Croatia with Tara of Sweat Like A Pig fame)
– I did another Strongwoman event at the end of July, which was fun. Highlights included 95kgs deadlift for reps (60 seconds) – Terry Hollands was counting my reps. And I did a truck pull (here’s a video of it)!
– riding my bike, going boxing… and not writing my blog! 😉

How is Frankie thefitdog?

He’s absolutely fine 😛


Right, that’s quite enough for now. I promise to get back to a regular blogging schedule from now on (twice a week) and will be talking about my training, sports events, diet/nutrition, as well as about copywriting and content topics, and industry trends. If there’s anything else you want from this blog, lemme know!

You can always find me on Facebook (mostly copywriting and marketing stuff), Twitter (work, personal, training and everything in between) and Instagram. Oh and I’m on snapchat too (therealnicjoyce) Come and say hi 🙂

Guess who’s back! (And where the hell have I been, anyway?)t 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 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.

1st place in a bike race!

July 26, 2010

I was down in Kent on Saturday, seeing family at the annual Joyce get together. It just so happened that, on the Sunday, there was a 50-mile bike sportive just a few miles away on the Romney Marsh. So I had to do it, right?

I’ve mentioned a few times that I’m training for the Little Woody, a half-Ironman distance triathlon in…er…a few weeks time. So what I really need to do is some long bike rides, immediately followed by some long runs. The obvious thing to do, then, was this 50-mile sportive and then a long run, back in the direction of my Dad’s house. Easy…!

The one downside of the sportive in terms of Little Woody training is that (being on the Romney Marsh), it was dead flat (more like a 50 mile time trial really). Whereas the Little Woody course is Not Flat.

So, on Saturday, I took it upon myself to eat at least two Joyce-family-members-worth of party food, loading up on pizza, rice salad and, um, cake in readiness for a hard bike and run the next day. I even steered clear of Uncle Chris’s elderflower champagne.

Next day, husband and I drove to St Mary in the Marsh, west of Dymchurch, for the sportive. It’s a low-key affair, more of a charity ride (with a 10-mile route aimed at families), and we had no idea how many riders would have entered. I actually thought we might be the only people doing the 50 miler. But as we drove along the seafront, we saw groups of club riders all kitted out in their matching jerseys, and I actually felt a bit better knowing that I’d have some competition. Sure enough, as we went to get our numbers, a chap riding a Cervelo slipped in behind us, and the two guys in front of us were busy talking about some sportive they were doing soon near Crystal Palace. As ever at a bike event, there weren’t many women, but I did see plenty, including some riding for cycling clubs.

Me demonstrating by the power of arm-gesture how flat the surroundings are

The plan was to finish as close to 2 hours 30 minutes as possible (that’s 20mph). The course really is completely flat, but the wind out on the Romney Marsh can be brutal because the landscape is so open.

Oh – before I go on – want a laugh?

Here’s the profile of last week’s sportive (maximum elevation – 250 metres)

And here’s the profile of this one I’m on about (maximum elevation – 25 metres)

Off we went, following the circular 50-mile route which took us out towards Dymchurch, through Burmarsh and out to West Hythe, back to Newchurch and then out to Ruckinge and Ham Street. Early on in the race, a group came towards us (going the wrong way) and we stopped to ask what was wrong. They told us we were going the wrong way (we weren’t – for one thing, we were following the arrows which had numbers 1-52 on them, and for another thing, we had a map. As did they, presumably!) We carried on the way we were going, annoyed that we’d stopped at all!

It wasn’t a windy day, but even a bit of wind is a real pain out on the marsh because there’s nothing to shelter you. At points in the race, it was a bit of a slog against a headwind, but we just had to hope that it would turn into a tailwind as the circular route progressed.

We saw the group going the wrong way again – they seemed to be doing the route but backwards. I’ve no idea how they’d managed it. And they were club cyclists! (I’d hate to see them try and do an Audax!)

At a couple of points on the route, the organisers sent us over a busy A-road and insisted we got off and walked across with our bikes…bit of a shame but we had no choice.

Other than that (and stopping to talk to the backwards cyclists!), it was head down and push on like a long time trial.
Husband did a grand job of setting off in front to hold our agreed pace, look out for the route signs, tell me about oncoming traffic and point out poor road surfaces. All I had to do was ride. And I loved it! We were holding 34-35kph quite easily for long stretches and it felt great.

There was an aid station but we flew through it. I wasn’t going to waste time eating a flapjack if I was only going to be riding for about 2 1/2 hours.

The ‘hill’ was nothing, but it was noticeable, if only because I’d been in the same position (down on my aero-bars) and in the same gear for almost all of the race. So, in a way, it was a nice change of pace to actually have to change down a couple of gears, quickly get up out of the saddle and push on.

Otherwise, it was flat, flat, flat. The organisers set the riders off at intervals, and we’d overtaken a few groups who set off before us within the first 10 miles. We hadn’t seen anyone else for ages and I wondered if we were going to be the first riders home. As it turned out, there were two just ahead of us, but we rolled in in 2 hours 42 and I was told I was first lady “by a million miles!” (Enthusiastic, if not strictly accurate)

Of course, just because I was first lady home, I might not have been first lady over all. A female rider who started after me could still be quicker. But, by the time I set off on my run, no other women had finished. I was first female finisher!

I couldn’t hang around long to revel in my little victory, as I had to run. I changed my top and shoes, put my ipod on and totally forgot to have a drink (!) Then I set off, heading for the seafront, determined to keep my pace slow (and my heart-rate slower) as I know this is what I need to do if I’m going to get through the Little Woody.

And I felt fine! 50 miles of caning it on a time trial bike and my legs felt great. 5kms went by without me even noticing it, and then I was on the sea wall at Dymchurch, heading east towards Hythe, sweating my way through the chip-eating Kent holiday makers.

I passed a lovely hour trotting along at 8:30 minute miling, and then I had to get off the seawall/promenade and run along the main road into Hythe, which wasn’t so great. At this point, I started to feel not so great myself. My heart rate started shooting through the roof, and I made myself walk to get it down each time this happened. I was absolutely soaked with sweat, but my arms were goose-bumpy. I’d told husband I’d try to get “to the icecream van” (gotta have a goal!) in Seabrook, but I knew that was too far.

So I stopped, pulled out the trusty iPhone and called him. “I can’t go on!” I claimed. “Please come and get me from Hythe.”

I trotted on for a bit, and bought a lolly in a newsagents. It was only 20p but I dropped £1 into the big freezer. The newsagent man can have it for being nice and not complaining about me coming into his shop looking such a state.

That 20p lolly was the best thing I’ve ever eaten. Cold, sugary, lemony. I ate a bit, ran a bit, ate a bit, ran a bit. Someone in a car laughed at me and I wondered how funny they’d find a 20p lolly if they won a 50-mile sportive then ran 9 miles. Idiot.

I just finished my lolly and then there was my knight in shining Renault, brandishing a big bottle of orange juice and water, which I put away in about 10 seconds flat. He told me I looked quite pale. “Drive me to the sea!” I wailed. “I have to jump in the sea!”

So I did, had a quick swim, and felt a lot better.

50 mile sportive, 9.5 mile run. That’s some brick!

Anthony Maynard sportive (hills and headwind!)

July 19, 2010

I’m a bit slow to get going this morning. A bit tired, you see. Yesterday husband and I rode the Anthony Maynard sportive bike event – just the “short” route of 110kms. (Got to love a sport in which 110kms is considered short. A bit like a “sprint triathlon”, which still takes me well over an hour.)

I’m ramping up my training now for the Little Woody triathlon, a half-Ironman/middle distance event with a bike leg of 95kms followed by a run leg of 21kms (ish). It’s around the Forest of Dean hilly. So I need to get some long, tough bike rides in, ideally followed by steady runs of up to two hours. Yeah. I know.

So we made a last-minute decision to ride this local sportive, which is held annually to remember Anthony, a talented young club cyclist killed whilst out training on his bike in July 2008. I knew from the profile that the route would be “lumpy”

but had never ridden any of the route, so had no idea what was in store. I didn’t really mind in any case; it’s all training which needs to be done.

So, yes, 6:30am on a Sunday morning and I was eating breakfast and wishing I’d eaten less BBQ (and drunk less rosé) at yesterday’s 40th birthday party. Oh well! We drove to Theale and – hallelujah – were able to register on the day. Met up with a workmate of husband’s (a real die-hard roadie rider) and lined up for the start.

What a popular event. It took ages to get through the start and frankly it was very touching to see so many local riders coming out so early on a Sunday morning to celebrate and remember Anthony Maynard and raise some funds for his favourite charities.

I’d somewhat randomly pinned my hopes on a silver-standard finishing time of under 4:22 for the 110kms. That would mean holding an average of 25.5kph (I think?) – not tricky. Or so I thought!

Once on our way, the route almost immediately threw us up some draggy hills. It was a really cold morning – I was wearing a stupid choice of jersey which is a bit too short, and my lower back was feeling the wind. I’d put arm-warmers in the car as a last-minute decision, and I was very glad to have them.

Husband’s work-mate, bless him, took it upon himself to be “Team Nic” (as he put it) and try to drag me up the hills by positioning himself in front of me and inviting me to stick onto his backwheel. But I just couldn’t do it – I’m not used to riding in a bunch (age-group triathletes aren’t allowed to draft, so I never get to do it), my legs were sore from yesterday’s run, and I simply don’t have the skills to stay on the wheel of another rider. If you can do it, drafting off someone else (particularly up a hill) really does work. But I just couldn’t. He was only trying to help but I found it increasingly stressful to try and stick with him as well as wake up/breathe/look at the road ahead/eat my Primula sandwiches, so I told husband and work-colleague to do their own thing and leave me to it. What can I say, I like my own company.

The first 40kms of the ride were not nice. I actually started to think that I regretted doing the event at all, and that’s saying something. There seemed to be no breaks between the hills, and the headwind was vicious. There were plenty of downhills, but the headwind made them slow and the sidewind made them risky. I was not enjoying myself.

Just after Wantage, at the 40km rest stop (amazingly well stocked, by the way, with a fantastic range of goodies!), I was ready to drop. I felt like crying. I wasn’t actually that far behind husband and work colleague (or so they said!) but I’d been grinding along at around 12kph at times and just felt demoralised. On the climb up to the rest stop, the views across the ridgeway had been spectacular but I hadn’t been able to get a good look as I was too busy hanging my head and grinding my knees (and teeth).

However, it’s amazing what a flapjack or two can do. After the rest stop, I took off like it was a new day. In fact, I managed to stay with husband and work-colleague for a decent amount of time.

The next stretch of the route went through an area near Lambourn called “Valley of the Racehorse” (because of the sheer amount of training stables in the area) and I was in my element looking at all the beautiful horses out in the fields. The wind seemed to have dropped a (tiny) bit – enough to make a difference – and the hills seemed to flatten out a little bit. It was still a tough ride, but the food station and chance to stretch my legs had given me a second wind.

Before too long, I’d reached the halfway point and, from here, the kms ticked by at a steady rate. Skirting Hungerford, we went through a lot of pretty villages and a rainshower freshened us up. The road surfaces were varied (I think recent rain had washed quite a bit of gravel into the roads) but traffic was quiet and – best of all – courteous. I didn’t encounter or see so much as a near-miss.

The second and final feed stop on this short route was west of Newbury, at a woodland burial ground near Enborne where Anthony Maynard is laid to rest. The feed stop was manned by his family and there was a great atmosphere. Not sad nor sombre, but peaceful and respectful.

From there it was under 40kms to the finish, but the course designers hadn’t finished with us yet. If the first 40kms of the course had almost constantly rolling, draggy hills, this final 40kms had a series of short, sharp climbs which really sapped any energy our legs had left. They were lowest gear, out-of-the-saddle type climbs, the type where you actually wonder if you’ll get up it or if you’ll end up coming to a halt and just toppling over, still clipped in. I tried to remember the profile map (which had hill names on it) and asked one Reading CC rider if this was the final hill. He actually laughed as he said “no” (and cycled past me up the hill). Oh well.

With about 20kms to go I fell in alongside a rider who, being a tall chap, looked to be a good windbreak. We ended up chatting about work (how?!) and he told me he does Slash’s PR. How cool! How on earth I ended up riding the final 20kms of a sportive with Slash’s PR I don’t know, but there you go. Being nosy a journalist, I’ve since googled him and he was actually hiding his light under a bushel – he’s also in a band himself. I didn’t have my autograph-book on me I’m afraid.

Slash’s PR and I bowled along the final 20kms together (it was downhill) chatting and agreeing that the course had been pretty tough. “5km to go!” I shouted when I saw the 5km-to-go sign. “…all uphill!” I added, as a joke. Surely, with just 3 miles to go, they wouldn’t throw any more hills in now? Wouldn’t they’d just let us spin our legs out?

Er, no. Rounding a corner, we faced yet another hill. Only short, but very steep. I honestly wasn’t sure if I’d get up it. There were people at the top clapping and one of them said “final hill!” At last! Slash’s PR let out a loud “ouch!” as he pedalled up and I knew exactly how he felt.

From there it really was a short spin to the finish and I rolled over the line in an over all time (including feed stops) of 4:49:94 – bronze finishing standard! My bike computer says 4:29:18.

Anthony Maynard sportive
110km/68.75 miles
Elevation gain: 1,350m

Pedalling through Berks, Bucks and Oxon

June 6, 2010

So yesterday as I was getting ready to start my brick workout, husband’s friend came round and said he was thinking of doing the “3 Counties” bike ride today. Sounds like fun, husband and I said. Let me see how I feel after my brick.

Well, I felt a bit tired (doing a brick session in the kind of heat we had yesterday is a killer) but, really, how can you pass up the opportunity to do an organised 50-mile ride which starts and finishes four miles from your front door? You can’t.

So at 8:30 this morning our long-legged friend was at our front door and, not long after, all three of us were in the delightful surroundings of Bracknell town centre, signing on for the annual 3 Counties bike ride.

It’s not a sportive, it’s not a race..I’m not sure what you’d call it really. It’s a mass-participation ride, organised by the local Rotary, open to everyone from kids and families to enthusiasts. There are three distances on offer: 13 miles, 33 miles and 50 miles.

We were doing the 50 miles, natch. If I can bang out 50+ mile rides on a regular basis between now and the Little Woody long course triathlon in August, I’ll be happy. (I’ll also need to start running 8-12 miles straight afterwards, but let’s gloss over that for the moment, shall we?)

The route of the 3 Counties ride today took us through…er…three counties. Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. I didn’t really notice going through Buckinghamshire but I take their word for it. Here’s the route. Isn’t it nice? For those of you who know the area: we went through Dunsden, Sonning Common, Cookley Green, Nettlebed, Russell’s Water, Middle/Lower Assendon, Warren Row, White Waltham… It was a really lovely route with very few bits of busy road. Some nasty little climbs but also some fab downhills (the best one ruined for me by a motorist who seemed oblivious to the fact that cyclists can’t vanish into thin air, nor can they jump into hedges….) Very well marshalled throughout by cheery Rotarians. I can’t comment on the rest stops as we didn’t stop at them, but plenty of people seemed to be enjoying them!

After my bike-chain battles in last week’s sportive, I was pleased that my chain only came off once today. Hooray!

Despite doing a brick session yesterday, I was pleased not to feel too sore or knackered. I pledged to stick with husband and long-legged friend today and did just that (although I’m sure they held back a bit for me!)

Here’s me and long-legged friend. Please just compare the lengths of our legs. Then congratulate me for being able to keep anywhere near him on a bike ride.

However, as husband said at the finish, I wasn’t “sucking anyone’s wheel” so I didn’t make it easier on myself by riding with faster people. I could definitely tell I was pushing the pace more than I would have done if I’d been by myself.

My time was 3:03:00 for the 50 miles – I’m pleased with that, particularly as I know it would have been quicker if it wasn’t for red traffic lights, going through towns like Henley, and getting stuck behind slower riders (or – worse – getting stuck behind caravans who are stuck behind slower riders going up a hill….)

This was the first ‘race’ I’ve done in years with husband – it was great to do an event together again 😀

How was your weekend? Good training/racing?

65 sportive miles

May 31, 2010

2010 is the year of the bike. I’ve been using my training bike on long commutes, and my husband recently gave me his tri bike (a beautiful and light Quintana Roo Lucero – full carbon frame) since he doesn’t do tri any more.

I’ve never done a standalone bike event before. It’s been some time since I’ve done any sport event which is new to me. So, last week, I entered a sportive as a Bank Holiday challenge: a bit outside my comfort zone and good training for the Little Woody long course triathlon.

Never mind the fact that I’ve only ridden “Venus” (as I call the Lucero – husband used to call her “The Widow-maker”…I wasn’t keen on keeping that name) twice before. Never mind the fact that husband got a bit keen and put a tri-spoke wheel on her the day before the race. Never mind that the race was “approximately” 63 miles – a good 10 miles more than I’ve ever ridden in one go before. It’s only training, and it’s all good!

So, 6:30am yesterday saw me forcing down breakfast and compiling a stash of food (most of which I brought back with me – I need to learn to eat on the bike even if I don’t feel hungry):

Oat cakes, gels, sports drink, recovery drink and Joe. The stuff in the plastic bag is banana loaf. This is the only thing I ended up eating.

The sportive – the Sussex/Surrey Scramble hosted by UK Cycling Events and Wiggle – started in Pulborough and took in some lovely roads between the North and South Downs. I did the standard distance (as opposed to epic – 95 miles), billed as 63.5 miles.

The set-up was very laid-back and friendly. There was no set start time (it was chip timed), so I parked up, got ready, asked the man in the car next to me to take a picture (“because it’s my first bike race”…!)


and then I lined up with a group of friendly chaps at the start line.

It was a beautiful day for biking and the route was lovely. There were some climbs, but you wouldn’t call them hills and, anyway, Venus’s gearing and wheel size make both climbing and cruising a breeze.

However, the difference in size between her big and small chain ring make it more difficult to change gear than I am used to. As a result, the chain came off….eight times over the course of the race. Argh! Rather that than a puncture, I suppose… Some of the time, I was so reluctant to attempt changing down, I resorted to climbing in my big chain ring which is good training but not so good for the knees.

Anyway, chain-issues aside, I had a ball. The bike is gorgeous and some day I hope to be a good enough rider to do her justice. It really is something to be bowling along a flat bit of road at 25mph without really trying. And it’s a lovely feeling to “dance” up hills (in the small chainring!), overtaking real roadie riders in some cases! (They were probably doing the longer route and therefore saving themselves, but I don’t need to know that.) And I’ve never descended at nearly 40mph on a road bike before. Eye-watering!

I only stopped at one of the feed stations, but it was a funny moment. True to her name, Venus attracted the stares of many an onlooker, and these two chaps asked to hold her whilst I went to stuff my face with free Swiss-roll refuel on High5 goodies. I came back to this sight:

The rest of the ride continued in much the same vein, with me singing ditties to Venus, cursing rough road surfaces, putting my chain back on and trying to maintain a high-enough average pace to get a Gold-standard finish time (type-A personality, moi?)

By about 40 miles in, I was still having a great time but could tell I was running low on energy. I find it tricky to eat during sport when I’m not hungry but, of course, by the time you are hungry it’s too late. I need to learn to eat in the first half of the ride to survive the second half!

There were a couple of hairy moments, one involving two cars and me…it was more my fault than theirs and if they’re reading this, I really apologise. I couldn’t see you til it was too late and then I couldn’t see a safe way to stop. :-/

At about 53 miles in, the organisers saw fit to send us up a hill (and yes this one was a “hill” rather than an undulation!”) which went on for a couple of miles. It was a single-track road, and the road surface was bad. And, at the top, it was difficult make the most of the descent because the sunlight coming through the tree-cover made it impossible to see what was a pot-hole and what was a shadow. My average time plummeted!

At 62 miles, I started to look for the finish. At 63 miles, my chain came off again. I may have cried a small tear and called Venus a bad name. At 64 miles, I wondered if I’d missed a sign-post and was cycling into the unknown. At 65 miles, HOORAY, I saw the finish and skidded to a halt.

By far the best bit about finishing was seeing my friend Lucy waiting for me at the finish line. Lucy was one of the Tough Titties two-way Channel relay team and, like me, is also a Channel solo swimmer and round-Jersey swimmer. Dressed in white, she looked like an angelic apparition. I wanted to hug her but didn’t want to mess her up, so we asked another finisher to snap our pic. Sorry about the closed eyes. I am Earl Hickey.

Dirty hands, clean mind

After a chat with Lucy, a cup of tea, and a wetwipe from a passer-by, I set off home. All I wanted to do was collapse.

Now I’ve got to learn about my new chainset so I can change gear with confidence every time!

My bike mechanic, tutor and coach 🙂

My time was 4:08:00 for 65 miles (not including those feed/chain stops). I was 68th of the 191 “standard” distance finishers (lots of DNFs) and 7th of the 30 female riders who finished. Whoop!

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