Veganeuring 2018 #7

After wimping out of riding this morning because it was sleeting, once the sun peeped out very briefly I thought I’d better get on with it.

Back to Corsham via the Post Office, and then into Previous. This is a new shop, selling vintage stuff, cards, gifts and so on, with a small cafe upstairs.

Bike parking right by the Post Office
Photo of Previous in Corsham
Really cute little building

I headed straight for the cafe, keen to see if it had improved under its new owners. Last time I came here, I was with my family for a quick lunch. We order soup and sandwiches- nothing complicated- but waited about 30 minutes for it to finally appear. If you’ve ever seen the Victoria Wood sketch, featuring Julie Walters, as a very old, very slow waitress, you’ll appreciate our hilarity as our waitress finally brought the food saying “One soup… and … another … soup”. *

Today service was much quicker, and they even had my favourite Almond milk for my mocha. On enquiring about vegan cake I was told they always have 1 vegan option and 1 gluten free option which is great. We both searched all the labels and found the flapjack was marked as Vegan. Like the granola bar from Grounded this was pretty solid, but still pretty good. Photo of cafe

Small but perfectly formed cafe

It was still cold when I came out, but the warmth of knowing I’d finished this year’s Coffeeneuring challenge kept me going all the way home.

Just under 5 miles cycled, almond milk mocha and solid flapjack consumed, warm happy glow achieved.

Recap to come!

* If you haven’t seen it, go google it. It’s worth it!

Veganeuring #6

Sunday dawned, bright and sunny, and still I was reluctant to get my bike out. “It looks a bit chilly”, “It’s nearly lunchtime”, ” Want to come with me???” Honestly I was worse than a whinging toddler. It was only the thought of getting my penultimate Coffeeneuring trip of 2018 safely in the bag with still a week to go that got me out of the door.

I headed back to Corsham, and went into their branch of Grounded.

Never feels very safe leaving my bike here

I was too late for the Vegan breakfast (too much whinging earlier!) but I was delighted when they told me they did have a cake that was vegan. Admittedly it was the healthy (and solid!) looking granola bar, but still a cake.

Coffee + Cake = Coffeeneuring done right!

Despite my misgivings regarding where I parked my bike, of course it was fine when I came back to it. I popped into the Co-Op for a few things whilst I was there and then headed back home.

Corsham was looking extremely photogenic in the autumn sunshine, so I obliged and took a photo. Sadly no peacocks today.

On my way back up Hartham Lane I was struck by the redness of apples against the blue sky – so of course had to stop for another photo. No wonder I’m such a slow cyclist!

Stats:- 5.2 miles cycled, 4 photographs taken, 1 soya mocha, 1 solid (but vegan) granola bar, 1 ride left to do!

Veganeuring #5

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. Photo of The Twister sculpture

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.

Couldn’t wait to start on my mince pie! Sadly no dogs in today

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:- Image of road sign

10 points if you know what this sign means without having to Google it

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!)

Veganeuring #4

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. Photo of solitary bike parked

Optimal parking spot for my “Billy No Mates” bike

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.

Sad times, but still counting as Veganeuring

Coming back out, I discovered that even with my carefully selected parking spot, I still had to ride home on this:-

How??!

The ride home was uneventful, as the puddles had mostly drained away, but was completed with damp feet, trainers, hair and backside.

Autumn, eh?

Stats:-

Springfield Centre cafe

5.1 miles ridden

1km swum

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!)

Veganeuring #3

Apparently today is World Vegan Day – it was news to me, but obviously it made it a highly appropriate day for some veganeuring. I really wasn’t feeling it today, I had a day off but could happily have just gone back to bed. I eventually persuaded myself I’d feel much better if I headed outside to do something, whatever it was! I didn’t feel like heading to a cafe so I made a drink, grabbed a flapjack, stuck my bike helmet on and headed out the door before I could change my mind. “Coffeeneuring without walls” is totally a thing, and was made for trips like this. It was probably intended for slightly more adventurous rides, but hey – we all do what we can.

I stuck to quiet lanes after my recent fright at a roundabout, and yesterday’s incident with a 4×4 whilst out running, and found myself cycling along a lane I used to regularly cycle on. It was the long way home from preschool, and in those days I had my chunky 4 year old son on the back who had demanded the “pretty way home” whilst I wanted the quick route home for lunch. Chunky four year old is now a long, thin nearly 6′ tall 17 year old! The bike was the same one I used to ride though – still going strong!

I stopped in a field just off the road, parked the bike up and had a wander about whilst drinking my mocha and munching my flapjack. The sun came out, the birds were singing, and I felt peaceful and calm.

Just a bike in a field, and not much else. Perfect
Spot the coffee!

Rather than heading into the village and the busier road home, I turned back the way I’d come. I couldn’t resist cycling right around a triangular junction (because I could) and I even took a slight detour in order to incorporate a hill into my route back. On meeting a car on a very narrow lane I was instantly anxious, but then amazed when the driver pulled into a passing place and patiently waited for me to come past. I waved and shouted my thanks, to which the driver pleasantly replied “No problem!”

My faith in human nature has been somewhat restored.

Stats

4.5 miles cycled

1 homemade vegan mocha with Dark chocolate almond milk

1 homemade vegan flapjack with added fruit

1 cycle down memory lane

1 better mood returned

1 faith in human nature restored

Veganeuring #2

2nd Coffeeneuring trip of the season on a sunny, but cold and blustery day. I decided if I didn’t go today, I’d never fit all my rides in in time.

Additional theme for this year’s rides seems to be “rides with tales”. Today’s was “Road Closed -I don’t think so!”

I rode past the sign, with fingers crossed, and although the road was fenced off just before the sneaky shortcut I needed to take, fortunately there was a special way through. Phew!

Can you spot the sneaky way through?
And from this direction?

Today’s ride was a 7.8 miles round trip on my shopping bike to a Costa coffee. Not an exciting option, being part of the largest coffee chain in the UK, but good coffee and a choice of vegan options. Stuck to my “Veganeuring” theme and had a really tasty vegan mince pie (never too early!) and a soya mocha.

Yum

I could also have had a vegan Christmas cake slice, a cookie or a wrap, but I’ll save those for another time! Good bike parking on the other side of the retail park’s car park, so it is out of sight once you’re inside the cafe but it does have a roof in case it rains.

The sturdy steed, with cafe in the background

Maybe next time I’ll have a straightforward ride with no stories or drama??!

Coffeeneuring 2018 #1 Again.

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.

The Coffeeneuring Money Shot

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.

The Stats

9.4 miles cycled

800m swam

1 almond milk mocha

2 slices of “vegan toast” and jam

1 pot of Earl Grey tea

1 map read

1 tourist helped

1 friend made

Celebrating 10 years of running – by starting again

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!).

I am a runner!

Starting Over

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!

Portishead Sprint Tri. A guide for first timers, by a first timer

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.

Faff Time

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.

Stuff!
Stuff!

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.

Tidy transition area
Tidy transition area

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.

Race Tattoos

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.

This is cool
This is cool
This is not
This is not

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.

Do we look like we know what we're doing?
Do we look like we know what we’re doing? The lane marshal is even having to point to the water to show where we should be “IN the water. Start IN the water!”

* 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.​​​

​​​Transition T1

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.

Transition T2

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.

Legs of lead
Legs of lead

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!

This IS my sprint finish
This IS my 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.

Ooh a shiny thing
Ooh a shiny thing

Post Race

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!

Cafe attire
Cafe attire

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 🙂