If it’s not on Strava, it didn’t happen

If its not on strava

 

It’s one of Worry Less Design’s most popular Greetings Cards and the phrase pops up on Google and Pinterest anytime you are minded to search for Funny and Cycling at the same time. But it was only while I was sitting in my full running kit at the bottom of my stairs waiting for Strava to download onto my new phone before I would even consider leaving the house that I truly understood what it meant and why people are so passionate about it.

Strava, Garmin, Fitbit, whatever your tracker of choice, for some reason it adds a little something to your effort in getting out of the door. Whether it be at the crack of dawn or after a hard day at work or when you have finally managed to barricade the toddler terrorists into their bedrooms and their father has appeared home from work. You feel like someone out there CARES that you are going for a run and not only that but will tell you how far you went, how fast (or slow) you went and sometimes even congratulates you.

And then, in the case of Strava at least (sorry other types of tracker users, maybe they do too but I don’t know), people who follow you on Strava can also congratulate you by giving you a Kudos. I remember saying that to my friends at school a million years ago and we thought we were the coolest (but then I also said Brillsie a lot instead of Brilliant), so yay for Strava being all retro.

Then you get a weekly summary of Km covered, you can monitor your speed per Km, elevations of your route and brilliantly (or brillsiantly as my 13 year old self would have said) you can see where you rank for certain stretches/segments against other Strava users.

I recently discovered one long 1.8km uphill stretch near my house which has been named the Winslade Road Climb on Strava (curiously the road isn’t called Winslade Road but it is definitely a climb). So far this year I have run it 14 times and not thought anything of it other than “bloody hell will this hill never end?” Then last week, Strava tells me I have done it in my fastest time yet (I even got a virtual trophy – love you Strava) and as I read through the stats I saw that I am also the 19th fastest person EVER up this hill. Well, there was the gauntlet, right there.  2 more attempts later, I recruited my sister and we’ve climbed the leader board to 17th and we’ve only got to improve it by another 7 secs to get to 15th.  We’re having another go today. Competitive much?

As our cycling training kicks in and we are doing longer distances and Sportives and whatnot, the Strava record of your ride is a badge of honour, not of the speed (although it is important) but a chest beating record of how far you went this time and a spur to go further next time.

If it’s not on Strava, it definitely didn’t happen. Fact.

Try Tri – First Triathlon

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We did our first Triathlon. We are officially Triathletes!

It was a baking hot Sunday a few weeks ago. We picked the novice baby distances – a Super Sprint- 200m swim, 10k bike ride, 2.5k run.

The venue was a local school with its own indoor swimming pool, then the ride was out and about on local lanes and then a 2.5km route around the school grounds. The fear was very real that morning, packing and repacking my stuff.

I want to describe exactly what happened and how it was set up because the night before I was Googling and Pinteresting trying to find info on how it was all going to work so I could stop worrying about it and I wish I could have found something like this to calm my nerves, or make it worse? Who knows….

We arrived, faffed about a bit and jigged on the spot and chatted. Then ambled off to get changed into our Tri suits and ambled back. All of which meant we left it very late to get set up in Transition so it was a bit of a stress getting a space. There was a steward helping people out but eventually we had to just shift some people’s stuff over from earlier waves so we could get a spot. Let alone worry about Transition area location strategy. Remember for next time: don’t hang about, get set up early.

Then a briefing by the organisers, we were assigned a specific time/wave to start in – because of the pool swim they were restricted to numbers in each wave so no mass start – but this meant the briefings were very personal and you could ask questions which was great. Everyone was very friendly, there were lots of newbies there and we didn’t feel intimidated at all.

Then over to the Swimming Pool to be briefed again and given our timing ankle bands (which you wear for the whole event). We had managed to book in as a Team so there were just the 3 of us in our lane. Any fear about my swimming capability was allayed after watching the wave before us, there were people of all levels of swimming, some even breaststroking. We had decided to wait for each other so we would transition together, my sisters only had to wait for a length and a half for me to catch them up (Go me) and we jogged to Transition together.

I’d researched layout of kit in Transition obsessively but on the day (and for my level of competition) you just need to lay your stuff out logically and neatly. A small towel to dry your feet with and stand on when you are putting your shoes on was my win of the day.

Jogging along with your bike (the iconic mental image of transition) is actually a bit hard, you have to kind of trot – Christie was so worried about it before the event, she was practising (check out our Instagram page for video here). It was a nice ride, a couple of big hills but nothing too bad. The Tri-suit dried out really fast too. Then back into Transition, shed the bike and the helmet, change shoes and put on a cap (my secondary win of the day, not having to faff about with a hair band) to run the 2.5k. Legs felt a bit heavy by this point and the whole body a little bit jelly at first but soon eased into it. Our family supporters were all there hollering and cheering for the last ½k and I ended up running across the line carrying my youngest so it wasn’t exactly a sprint finish!

It was an amazing feeling though and the adrenaline high lasted for a good couple of hours. Then a crash later on in the day and an extended lie down with demands for things to be brought to me was required.

We’ve already signed up for another one, a Sprint (double the distances) and this one has an outdoor swim so wet suits and a mass swim start. Bring it on.

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Ermahgerd Werter

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I have been open water swimming 3 times plus a quick dip in a very chilly Devon sea back in June. Every time it has been very different and not just in terms of location.

The first time was just terrifying and cold! I wrote about it here.

The second time was at an open water swim seminar run by Human Race events which was a structured session with lots of other novices, really interesting and useful (separate post to come).

The third and most recent time was a Tri-sistas trip to Ellingham lakes at the butt-early (a technical term) time of 6am.

The lake is beautiful, surrounded by trees, the sun was shining and the water warm enough that really we could have done without our wetsuits.

So it should have been easy right? All my swimming lessons, all the crack of dawn mornings in the pool.

We all sauntered in (after all we are pro’s now right?) and my sisters immediately started swimming like fishes. I, on the other hand, almost immediately completely forgot how to swim. I couldn’t remember how to breathe, I couldn’t put my face in the water, I doggy paddled and I panicked.

Our plan to swim the entire lake loop of 1200m seemed impossible and I very nearly turned around and got out. Luckily I have the best sisters in the world and they cajoled and coaxed me to at least try to swim to the first buoy, 20 strokes at a time.  It was so hard.  Every time I got into a semi rhythm, some thought or thing, like seeing how far we still had to go, or a duck, or another swimmer powering by, would pop me out of it and I would panic and stop and have to hyperventilate for a bit. Both sisters would then stop as well and we’d have a little chat while I calmed down and then we set off again.

It must have been  torture for them, stopping and starting, but they were incredibly patient. I can’t say I ever completely got my mojo back but I made it all the way around. I only really felt confident in my swimming ability at the very end ( when the pier was in sight and that was possibly because the pier was in sight).

I don’t really know what happened, perhaps I was overconfident,  perhaps too much wine the night before (can you sense a theme of drinking slightly too much in these posts?) perhaps too little sleep. But it’s knocked my confidence a bit.  I just need to get back out there, be better prepared mentally and WORRY less swim more.

Also as an aside, I was physically knackered that whole day and the next and couldn’t work out why until I realised 1200m is the equivalent of 48 lengths, further than I’ve ever swam before. So that’s something.

And another aside, the wetsuit chafing really got me this time, super painful rubbing on the back of my neck. The verdict: I’m not twisting my body enough and I need some lube…

Sportive

It’s been a while since last writing and a lot has happened in that time (part of the reason for not posting, catch 22…..well yes)

We’ve done our first big cycle ride (the Sportive, more below), an open water swim seminar, bought wetsuits and tri suits and individually swum an open water endurance race (totally wasn’t me), freaked out during a lake swim (totally was me), done a cycle/run, and signed up for our first super sprint triathlon (now only than 2 days away, only mediumly terrified ). I’m exhausted just writing about it.

The Sportive was a family affair. A sportive, for those who might not know (i.e. me) is a short, medium or long distance (i.e. you can pick which one you want to do) mass-participation cycling event. The tri-brother and sister in law and tri-brother nephew are super keen cyclists and suggested we might want to form a peloton, basically we could hide behind them and hope no one noticed we weren’t really cyclists.

It wasn’t much different from signing up to a running race, there were different distances to choose from (we were doing the 27 miler but there were options all the way up to 122 miles, which seems ridiculously far but apparently popular and evidently achievable in less than a day), it started stupid early on a Saturday morning somewhere far away and you really shouldn’t drink too much wine or eat a curry the night before (almost universally ignored by the family peloton).

But the differences did begin to become apparent on the morning of the event. There is an awful lot more faffing required to get 6 cyclists and more importantly their bikes on the road. And apparently it’s ok to stop for a big breakfast on the way there, at least according to the tri-brother, something I would never dream of doing before a running race. And then there’s the very relaxed approach to start times, no “synchronise your watches” mass start here. You are given a window of time and you can basically set off whenever you like within that window.

The ride was great fun, we did the Wiggle Sussex Gran Fondo,  lovely views, big hills. It’s tricky keeping track of where everyone in your group is but we managed to stay together for most of it. I found sharing the road with car drivers quite stressful, especially on some of the fast roads. And I was also conscious that not long ago I would have been one of those car drivers and would have been middling to extremely grumpy about being held up by a “stupid” cycling race. A weird dichotomy.  Half way round there was a feed station stocked with bananas and energy drinks and cakes and jelly beans. Everyone stops, eats, chats.  It doesn’t feel like a race. Odd feeling for a runner where usually you are trying to drink a cup of water while actually running (and mostly missing your mouth too).

We finished in around 2 hours (once it didn’t seem like a race I stopped really paying attention). And it was hard! Especially the last half an hour. Having only cycled for maximum an hour before, there were muscles in my legs, torsos and arms that were quite unhappy but thankfully my gel padded shorts did most of the trick in the groin department.
When we got off our bikes, the 3 of us attempted a small jog which was a weird feeling. Very numb rubbery legs. A taste of the brick training we really should have done some of before the Triathlon in a couple of days…..ho hum

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The family peloton post race (check out the Tri-sister in laws cycle jersey!)