After last week’s soggy ride, I was hopeful for a drier day despite combining Coffeeneuring with swimming again. I headed back to Chippenham, made it into the session with 40 minutes to swim and splashed for 1400 metres which I was very pleased with!
Turning towards town I remembered the steps I encountered last time and set off in a different direction to avoid them. This put me onto the Wiltshire Cycleway for a short distance which meant I cycled through the park (where parkrun is held every Saturday), past a slightly strange statue, and ended up in town right by the bike parking having avoided a busy section of road.
I headed to Caffè Nero, one of my favourite of the coffee chains, because this cafe is less crowded than most others, they always have friendly staff, they have a good range of drinks & food AND they let dogs in. We don’t have a dog, but I love seeing other people’s pets sat in the cafe.
I ordered my now usual soya mocha, and whilst they were sadly already sold out of their tomato, pesto & vegan cheese toasty they had plenty of their (accidentally vegan) mince pies.
I headed for home, back up the busy road, and whilst waiting at the traffic lights to go under the train line through a viaduct designed by Brunel, I suddenly spotted this sign on the pavement:-
Pretty sure of my Highway Code, I turned onto the pavement, safely away from the traffic, and rejoined the road after the junction. I spotted this sign again at another roundabout further up the road, and again managed to safely avoid a busy junction. I was very pleased with myself, but the glares I got from the pedestrians I met on the footpath were of the “if looks could kill” variety. I’m certain they all went home complaining about cyclists on pavements, as I’m pretty sure most people don’t know what the sign means (unless they’re a cyclist!)
Anyway, to recap. Another successful Coffeeneuring trip, to Caffè Nero in Chippenham
10 miles cycled in total
1 soya mocha and 1 mince pie eaten
3 new sneaky (and safe!) shortcuts discovered
6 glares-from-pedestrians received (that I spotted – could have been more!)
In a break between the heavy showers today I thought I’d dash to Corsham, my closest town, for a swim and then a coffee for this week’s Coffeeneuring trip. The swimming pool there is part of a very recently rebuilt centre that now includes the library, a police station, sports centre, climbing wall and of course, a cafe. Sounded perfect.
I waited for the very heavy rain to pause, then dashed out quickly before I saw sense and changed my mind. I hadn’t appreciated that the heavy showers might have stopped, but the water hadn’t had time to drain off the roads yet, and so less than half a mile from home saw me freewheeling through the middle of an enormous puddle, feet as high as they could get off the pedals, and yet I still got wet up to my ankles. The thought of having to put wet socks and trainers back on after swimming nearly had me turning back for home, but the promise of this year’s Coffeeneuring patch kept me going. There were 4 big puddles in total on this lane that I had to cycle through, but once you’re wet, you’re wet, right?
Reaching The Springfield Centre, I was amused that mine would be the only bike outside in the enormous rack (can’t think why), so I chose what I thought was the best spot, in the corner shielded by the roof and two walls.
My swim was good, but as feared it was truly horrible redressing in cold damp socks. I reckoned I’d earned a good mocha. And maybe even a cake. Or lunch. Or … Oh. So turns out the vegan options were somewhat limited in this tiny cafe, with certaintly no vegan sandwiches in the fridge and nothing to show there was anything else available for lunch. Lady appears behind the counter. Conversation goes thus:-
Me “Hi. I’d like a mocha please. Do you have any non-dairy milk?”
Lady Behind Counter “We’ve got soya milk.
Me “Brilliant. Can I have a soya mocha please?”
LBC (firmly) “Well – the chocolate powder’s not dairy free”.
Me (innocently) “Really?”
LBC grabs the catering size tin and squints furiously at the ingredients, desperate to prove her point. After a long pause she says hopefully “cocoa butter???”
Trying not to laugh I politely say “Oh no – that’s from the cocoa, that’s not dairy”.
With a triumphant replacing of the tin firmly at the back of the counter, LBC delivers her knockout blow
“Well we’ve run out of it, anyway.”
So that’s how I ended up drinking a Butterscotch Soya latte, smelling of chlorine, with damp feet. I didn’t dare ask about vegan cake, so chose some ready salted crisps. This may be my least impressive photo from this year’s Coffeeneuring campaign.
Coming back out, I discovered that even with my carefully selected parking spot, I still had to ride home on this:-
The ride home was uneventful, as the puddles had mostly drained away, but was completed with damp feet, trainers, hair and backside.
Springfield Centre cafe
5.1 miles ridden
1 butterscotch soya latte (tasted nicer than it sounds, but sadly served in disposable cup)
1 packet ready salted crisps
1 irritated cafe employee
2 unexpectedly damp parts of me (feet and backside!)
Autumn arrives, and with it – Coffeeneuring! Two years ago I managed to complete the Coffeeneuring challenge and achieved my badge. Last year I miscounted my weeks and sadly failed. This year? Well – it’s another year, another start and I’m keen to be successful again. I’m so keen I actually got my dates wrong and went Coffeeneuring last weekend before the official 7 weeks had even started. I chalked it up as a warm-up ride, and set off for my real first Coffeeneuring trip today.
In case you’re wondering, Coffeeneuring was devised as a way to encourage people out on their bikes for pleasure, particularly after the long “randonneuring” rides over the summer. The full rules, regulations, and guidelines are given here. Actually that makes it sound very official, and it’s not really. Very roughly rides must be at least 2 miles, you should visit a coffee shop (or similar), drink coffee (or similar), and repeat 6 times over what’s roughly a 7 week period. What you must not repeat is the cafe, have no more than 2 trips per week, no more than 1 per day, and your ride mustn’t be part of an organised ride. Oh, and organising your rides with a “theme” is encouraged as well.
With all that in mind, I decided this year I would try to find vegan treats at every cafe stop. On my premature Coffeeneuring trip, an enquiry about vegan cakes was met with a very short “No!”, so I was interested to see how I’d get on elsewhere. Oh – and I’ve named my challenge “Veganeuring “, just to be annoying.
So today, my day off in the week, was the perfect time to start. I had a number of other things I needed to do in town so I decided to go for it and combine everything into one big event. It made for an eventful trip.
Heading into town I stopped to help a lost looking man with a map – a proper paper OS map. I showed him where he was, pointed him in the right direction and set off again, feeling very virtuous. Moments later this veritable Good Samaritan was nearly knocked off her bike at a mini roundabout. Apparently a bright turquoise reflective cycling jacket in broad daylight makes you invisible. Without wanting to dull my halo at all, I should confess that hand gestures were exchanged at this point, but none of them vulgar. That incident made my heart rate spike I can tell you!
I eventually made it to the Leisure centre for a short swim, and then on down into town to a cafe called “Grounded” for my official Coffeeneuring stop. This is a really lovely cafe, with seating both inside and out. It overlooks the river, and has very handy railings outside that I locked my bike to.
I had a very nice almond milk mocha, but sadly they had no vegan cakes. Remembering they serve a Vegan breakfast I was surprisingly restrained and only ordered toast with vegan margarine and jam. I had to laugh -as the waiter brought my order over, he loudly declared “Vegan toast!” I could almost hear the thoughts of the people around me “what’s in normal toast that isn’t vegan??!!”
Then I walked my bike up through town to meet my parents. The bike parking on the town bridge was full, which was pleasing but annoying, so I found a good place further up the high street. As I was locking my bike up, I noticed the man I’d helped with his map again. He thanked me once again, confirmed he’d found the wood he was looking for, and asked my opinion on the local coffee shops. I was so pleased to see he was having a successful day out!
Stopping to retrieve a baby’s dropped sock I also met a lady I’ve been seeing around Chippenham for 20 years, but never spoken to. We used to get the same train every morning to work, but being British had never actually talked to each other. We were finally having a lovely chat, stood on the pedestrianised area outside The Angel Hotel, when I was nearly run over by a Range Rover screeching to a halt inches away from me. I was beginning to think I had a target painted on me!
After a cup of tea and lovely catch up with my parents I mounted my bike once again, and made it safely home.
I suddenly realised today that it s round about 10 years since I started running. Not continuously, obviously, have you read my last post?!)
Back in 2008 myself and my family travelled to Alberta, in Canada. We were visiting our very good friends who had emigrated there the year before. We also managed to fit in some skiing (we were in driving dstance of the Rocky mountains – we couldn’t not!)
As with every other time I’ve been skiing, for a few weeks beforehand I made a desperate attempt to gain even a little fitness before I had to encase my feet in the plastic prison of ski boots again. This usually involved very short runs which were swiftly abandoned when my face turned puce and I could no longer breathe.
Our holiday was amazing It was so good to catch up with our friends again, and the wide, open beautifully groomed pistes were a joy to ski on.
When we returned home and recovered from our jetlag, my husband and myself bth comented on how fit we felt. It was obviously all of the high altitude training we’d been doing. Buoyed up by the rush of oxygen to the head, I decided to pop out for a little trot around the block.
I was amazed. It didn’t feel quite as had as I remembered, I didn’t feel like I was dying, and I actually quite enjoyed it. I started popping out several times a week, making sure I was avoiding neighbours and the bin men as much as possible. I should point out that at this point I was running in a T-shirt and jeans, so as not to look like I was actually running. I had a cheap pair of trainers bought from a high street sports shop, and a pedometer. All the gear!
It was only when a neighbour commented that she’d seen me “dressed so I didn’t look like I was going running” that I realised my cover was blown, comfort would win out over shame, and I bought my first lycra.
Sore knees nearly brought me to a halt, but online advice took me to my local running shop to get some “proper” trainers. I felt like a total fraud, compounded by the fact that I nearly fell off the treadmill (I’d never been on one before) and the assistant had to stand with her arm behind my back to stop me doing it again. Red faced, I left the shop with a large bag of the most expensive shoes I’d ever bought, and life was never the same again.
10 years on, I have lost count of the number of races I’ve run , except for the marathons – there was definitely 3 of those. I’ve been awarded a County award (I might have mentioned that once or twice), and I’ve had weeks when I simply haven’t made it out of the door with running shoes on. I’ve been bought a road bike, and learnt to swim proper front crawl (face in the water and everything!).
A few months ago I realised that I simply wasn’t getting out running (or cycling, or swimming for that matter). A combination of bad weather, dark evenings, and simply feeling like I’d had enough by the time I arrived home after a day at work meant that it just wasn’t happening.
I consulted the oracle (A.K.A. my running friends on Facebook) who gave me various ideas of how to fit exercise into my day. They also wisely told me not to beat myself up if I didn’t manage it – life is too short for any extra stress.
Now I may have taken this advice a little too much to heart, to the extent that I rarely seemed to make it out. The weather warmed up, the days lengthened, but still I found excuses not to run (usually that hungry teenage boy who greeted me as I arrive home with a look that said “Hi Mum, how was your day, what’s for tea and how long will it be?”)
Last weekend I decided that enough was enough. Work is menial but stressful, and I need my exercise as something positive to help my mental health and to feel good about myself. I needed to pull my finger out, give myself a good talking to, and not take any nonsense. Tough self-love!
Duly admonished, over the next week I managed to fit in a swim (600m of gasping and flailing), a cycle (20 miles of whinging and moaning) and a run (4 1/2 miles of gasping, flailing, whinging and moaning. I’m nothing if not a multi-tasker).
I felt ridiculously stiff after each of these, it was really quite depressing. I suddenly realised it felt like being a beginner again, and there’s no shame in that. I just need to remember to take it slowly, and Keep Going!
Don’t worry, I’m not going to do a huge “My 2017 – a review” post, complete with Powerpoint presentation and Strava stats (my stats are rather half-hearted for 2017, but that’s not why I’m not doing it. Honest.)
I think there’s just time for a squinty-eyed short-sighted peer at the year ahead. I really need to be more organised in order to find time for running, swimming, cycling, my allotment, the house, my family (apologies to my family for putting them last in that list!) Having decided to stay on in my what-was-meant-to-be-temporary job, my life needs to become more regulated (boo!) in order to find time for the stuff I want to do (hooray!). As this job is quite stressful and unrewarding, it’s actually essential that I manage to find time for any stress-relieving activities that I can.
This might mean forcing myself out for a run after work, even if I don’t feel like it. I’ve hit the “it’s too dark to run” nail squarely on the head by buying an “Ironman” style chest torch which should illuminate most of the village as I run by. I have entered the tough “Slaughterford 9” race at the end of the month which will act as quite an incentive to get out and train! My son bought me a lovely insulated cup that is meant to fit into the bottle holder of my bike, which hopefully will persuade me to get out for even short rides (in a “Coffeeneuring stylee) . I haven’t been swimming for weeks and weeks, and the worry that I might have forgotten how is enough to have me checking the timetables for a suitable session (just as soon as my “sniffing my way into 2018” cold clears up).
A few weeks ago I asked my Facebook friends how on earth they fitted everything in. I was especially asking a lovely lady, who is a mum of 3, a full time dentist and runs Ultras (not simultaneously). Responses from everyone were basically along the lines of “just get out and do it!”, but also, and perhaps more surprisingly, “don’t beat yourself up if you don’t manage it”. This made me feel much better for the last few weeks of the year, and means that the thought I’m taking into 2018 is “Be kind”. I always try to be kind to the people around me, but maybe I need to focus a little more on being kind to myself. Let’s see how it goes!
I wonder what thought other people are taking forward into 2018?
I am a triathlete! No, really I am, I completed Portishead Sprint Triathlon this morning and am still all in one piece (and still wearing my medal, truth be told). After training for my first Tri earlier this year but then having to miss it through illness I knew this was an itch that was going to have to be scratched. I needed to justify having the bike and 18 months of swimming lessons apart from anything else.
Rather than take you through a blow by blow account of the day I’ll give you some lessons as learnt by a first time triathlete.
Triathlon needs serious amounts of stuff. As I was getting everything together the night before I commented that it was like packing for a fortnight away.
Once you arrive at the race venue, all this stuff has to be sorted out and put in your transition area. Not just put, but laid out in the precise order you’ll need it, cycle stuff separate from running stuff, bike correctly racked (i.e. hanging precariously), helmet ready to put on BEFORE YOU EVEN TOUCH YOUR BIKE.
Then you have to find the toilets. Then you have to escape from your trisuit in order to use the toilet, and then get back into it again. Leave yourself plenty of time to get poolside for your race briefing, and whatever you do, don’t at that point realise you are still wearing your non-waterproof Garmin watch which you were meant to leave with your cycling stuff. If you do, make sure you sprint really fast back UP the hill to transition, and then back down again thus arriving just as your race briefing starts already panting and out of breath.
Do not get your tattoo wet until it is on the part of the body it is meant to go on. If you do, you’ll have to join the queue of similarly foolish people waiting to use the special “tattoo pen”. My pre-race prep included having a strange man holding my leg and writing on me, followed by me doing the same to him. How to make friends and influence people.
Swim – 400m
This is seriously confusing. Each person has to start at EXACTLY the right time, which in my case was 8:44:10 am. The swim was in Portishead Lido, which is a lovely 1960’s 33m pool with 5 lanes. Each swim start had about 6 – 7 people in each lane, all with a different coloured hat* so they could start in the right order, 10 seconds apart.
* I was special, I was “No Hat”. They ran out of colours.
Do not get emotional whilst swimming, even if you often get emotional in races. It is impossible to blub and swim and breathe simultaneously. It is okay if you immediately catch up with the swimmer in front of you, who is doing slow breast stroke, meaning you also have to do slow breast stroke so you can give yourself a quick talking to.
It is perfectly acceptable to feel surprised that you are enjoying the swim and even passing people. Just remember to tell your swimming teacher next time you see her.
If you have laid your transition area out in an orderly fashion, and practised changing from one sport to another, then transition is a breeze and will save you minutes of time. However if you are too full of adrenaline you will end up standing in bare wet feet in the middle of a field, struggling to pull on your brand new cycling jersey with very tight arm elastic over wet arms whilst simultaneously putting on your helmet because you MUST have it on your head before you even think of touching your bike. 4 minutes and 11 seconds is a long time to faff about in transition, but as long as you finally leave with the correct stuff then its fine.
Bike Section – 25K
Getting on a bike straight from swimming is not as soggy and awful as it sounds. I was convinced this was going to be a dreadful, cold and squelchy experience, but it wasn’t. A tri suit is designed to dry quickly, and even my Aldi bargain did this magnificently.
If it’s a hilly course, then practice cycling up hills. This course had 3 long hills that I only got up because I was too stubborn to stop. My legs are saying “We told you so!” each time I try to go upstairs tonight. Enjoy the downhills, smile at the photographer but if you must cry “woo hoo!” make sure no other cyclists are too close by.
Your legs will feel like lead as you start running after cycling, and the conventional wisdom is to “spin” your legs before you get off the bike to minimise this. Conventional wisdom doesn’t say what to do what the final 50m of the bike course is up a short, steep hill that you have to struggle up.
This changeover should be quicker – just shoes and moving your number (on your tri-belt) from back to front. I wish I’d taken my cycling jersey off, but I was trying to be quick, and I feel self-conscious in my tight fitting trisuit. There was such a huge variety of ages, shapes and sizes I really shouldn’t have worried.
As soon as you’re ready, locate the “Run” exit and plod your heavy legs towards it. Feel encouraged that the other athletes around you are staggering as well.
The Run – 5K
As a novice triathaloner, you will of course have researched the run course as well as the bike route. You won’t have chosen a run with a big hill in it, nor an Off Road section whose uneven surface is really hard work on tired legs. Scoffing 3 Shotbloks as you set off for energy is a good idea but be prepared to have a totally gummed together mouth afterwards (and face if I’m honest). Fortunately there was a drinks station at 1K which we passed again at 4K, although they didn’t have gin & tonic. I even offered to make it easier for them and just have gin, but no luck. Maybe next year.
As you head back to the race HQ, smile at the photographer, swear at the steps and hill up to the finish line, then sob quietly at the top as you see you have to run past the finish line further up the hill and around a tree before finally heading towards the finish line. Don’t forget your sprint finish!
Smile as you cross the finish line, and try not to buckle under the weight of the medal they distract you with as they remove your timing tab.
Make sure you retire to the nearest cafe for post race nourishment. Medal wearing is compulsory. Remember to thank your faithful significant other who drove you to the tri, helped with your stuff, and has waited patiently to take photos of you as you head back to transition and the finish. Try not to feel emotional in the cafe as you realise you DID IT!!! – there is cake waiting to be eaten, dammit!
Notes for the future, my actual timings were:- swim 12:54, T1 4:11, Bike 1:20:34, T2 1:58.8, Run 29:57. Total time 2:09:36 🙂
Happy New Year to you all! Hopefully everyone is happy and healthy, and raring to go in 2017. Now don’t worry, I’m not going to do a long “Review of 2016” (I think the moment for that has passed), but I am going to have a quick backward glance over my shouder, and then blow my own trumpet just briefly.
I started the year injured and grumpy. I spent half the year still injured and grumpy. By the autumn I began entering off road races because I love them (and they’re easier on my foot), met up with lots of other Chippenham Harriers and rediscovered my love of running. I learnt how to swim front crawl, and now need to work on completing more than a length at a time. I got out more on my road bike, and completed the Coffeeneuring Challenge of 2016.
Brace yourself – here comes the trumpet blowing.
As at the end of 2016, after running in 4 races in the Wiltshire Athletic Association Off Road League I found myself currently 3rd in the ladies league (out of 90 runners), and first in my age group! This is glossing over the fact I actually came last in the tri-counties XC race – that was a hard slog! Just two more races in the league to go, so keep your fingers crossed for me. I’m dreaming of trophies (no idea if they actually give out trophies, but don’t shatter my dreams just yet). Oh, and Chippenham Harriers are leading both the Mens and Ladies Team competitions as well. Toot toot!
The last day of 2016 started with parkrun. A lovely atmosphere there, despite the drizzle and slippy mud. The new year started with volunteering at the same parkrun, not easy in torrential rain and with more runners than I’ve ever seen there (but not quite a record apparently!) My first lesson of 2017 was that the bar code scanners don’t work well in the cold and wet. My second was that some people don’t deserve a free run totally staffed by volunteers. I mean, we were all getting cold, wet and frustrated that the scanners weren’t working, but to throw your soggy paper bar code and finisher’s token at me shouting “Oh just take it then!” isn’t on really, is it?
Anyway, enough wandering down memory lane. Today I’ve run* my first parkrun of the year, last week I made it to my first ‘Efforts’ session of the year (probably my first since 2015), and I’m planning on going to my first swimming lesson of 2017 on Monday. Bring it on, 2017, I’m ready for you!
This Christmas, Swimming Nature are offering you the chance to help someone rediscover the joy of swimming, no matter how old they are. Swimming Nature gift vouchers are available at the special rate £139 (in London) or £109 (outside of London) for a three-lesson adult package. As children, we all loved swimming, but as we grow up and our lives get busier and we seem to do less and less of it – let alone consider taking up lessons. It’s easy to feel that swimming is something only kids learn and, by the time you’ve grown up, it’s too late to improve.
Swimming Nature lessons can have tremendous benefits, no matter if you’re an accomplished swimmer or starting from scratch. It’s a great way to keep in shape, you can improve technique and fix any bad habits picked up over the years, and it’s low-impact so it’s easy on the body.
To treat someone (or yourself!) to the gift of swimming. Call Swimming Nature now on 03445 04 05 06 and quote “Christmas gift” and we’ll pop a voucher in the post. We can send it either direct to your recipient or straight to you, so you can present it to them on Christmas Day. Just make sure you order before 18th December so we can guarantee delivery before the 25th”
Contact them if you have any questions. I can really, really recommend this approach to swimming, and am wondering if I can treat myself for Christmas, or persuade a loved one to buy me a special present…!
I am sitting here trying to write this post, with my head still buzzing from a swimming lesson I had. I try and go every week to a swimming lesson, so what was so different about this one? Well, I received an invitation from a company called Swimming Nature to come along and have a free lesson from one of their qualified teachers and see how I got on. I read their website, was intrigued, and arranged a session at Fitness First in Bath.*
Meeting someone for the first time is often a slightly anxious moment, so you can only imagine doing this in a swimming costume on the side of a pool. Fortunately Paul, my teacher, was friendly and professional and put me at my ease. We had a chat about my swimming experience so far and what I was hoping to get out of the session. Due to the water being a little cool at the moment due to some technical problems, I was offered a swimming hat to help keep my head warm. I give you exhibit A:-
It actually did keep my head warm, so I won’t complain too much about it. Also due to a lack of mirrors I didn’t have to look at myself wearing it.
Paul went on to explain that the Shaw method of swimming, which is what they teach, is based on principles used in the Alexander Technique. I know very little about this, only that it involves having good posture from your head, down through your neck and into your spine. One of the first things we practised was how to glide and then stop. Sounds easy, but doing it without sticking your head up is difficult. Easier when your teacher is holding your head – oh yes – it’s very hands on, this teaching method. Holding my wrists to make sure I had floppy, relaxed arms; holding my head to keep it in the right alignment; having me hold his hips to feel the rotation – it sounds strange but if I didn’t think about it and just went with how it felt then it all made sense. My brain was buzzing, as it tried to understand what I was being told and reconcile it with how my body was moving. I have never had a swimming lesson like it – and I’ve been going to lessons all year!
When I got home, I jotted down what I remembered. I wrote “gliding – moving with the water. Power from arms, legs for balancing. Relaxed. Two stages to each movement – power and release, e.g. legs, breathing. Head / neck position”. Probably doesn’t make much sense to anyone else, but hopefully this will help me think about what I should be doing next time I’m in the water.
Another way to remind me, is to watch one of several videos that are available. Watch this one to the end, and just see how easy and relaxed this swimming looks:-