Cycling is terrifying. Bikes are fast and your feet are attached. There’s actual mechanical things to learn. Bike snobs exist. It’s a bewildering place! For any other newbies who are thinking of taking up cycling, I have asked some of my favourite cycling and ironman babes for their top tips for newbie cyclists. Enjoy!

Abi Williams – double Ironwoman, who can be found on instagram and twitter @afloralcrown and her blog, also called A Floral Crown (she also takes lovely photos). 

Good kit. I think it’s worth investing in some nice pieces – it doesn’t have to be expensive, but nice kit can make a huge difference to the comfort of your riding when you’re starting out. My first winter I wore the wrong kit and was fairly miserable. But when you have good kit, that you feel comfortable in, and does the job, it makes cycling a lot more pleasurable. Key pieces that will lash are worth the investment, but you don’t need to spend a huge amount on them. Layering is also a good tip. And if you’re doing a long ride – little and often eating. Works for me, but I guess everyone is different!

Sarah Marsden – Ironwoman in training who can be found on twitter at @intrepidsarah and who blogs at Goldilocks Running.

I’d say it’d be to make sure your bike is set up right for you- that the gearing is right for the terrain you’ll be cycling on, the saddle is comfy and you’re in a comfy position to reach the handlebars and brakes. I’m a firm believer being comfy on the bike makes you more confident and in turn enjoy it more!  Usually a local bike shop can advise on gearing and do a bike fit for you, where they measure you up and get you in a comfy riding position, like the right saddle height. Makes a world of difference!

I also asked Sarah about looking after your lady areas…

Saddle choice helps, especially ones with a slot cut out to relieve pressure where you don’t want it. Shorts choice is very personal, but I like Chapeau, and DHB at Wiggle have a lot of choice of bib vs no bib, different lengths etc. It’s worth trying some chamois cream as well!

And Cathy Drew, who can be found on twitter @cathydrewbies and who blogs at Runs like a Dog.

I’d say to beginner cyclists to pick your battles. Cycling can be rough in bad weather, and it can be hard to stay motivated if you’re cold, wet and tackling hills. Choose nice days to go out, pick routes with plenty of variety and not too many bumps (a few though, obviously!). There’ll be plenty of time for rides in the rain once you can’t stay away from your bike at the weekend!

What are your top tips for new cyclists?

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It’s good to push yourself, right?

Recently I’ve been in a bit of a rut with my fitness; no new races to aim for, bored of all my running routes, keen to try something new but with nowhere to start. So, when the team from Halfords got in touch and asked if I would like to give a new model from Boardman Bikes, it seemed like too good an offer to turn down.

To be very clear, cycling terrifies me! I learnt to cycle as an adult (I think I was about 21) on this little beauty:

Dayve refurbished it for me as a gift, and then taught me to ride it. It was tiny! Unfortunately it got stolen when we moved to London together (classic); we did eventually get it back (long story) but it was broken beyond repair.

The next time I rode a bike was back in 2013, when I took part in the Jenson Button Triathlon, and I was lent a road bike a few weeks before race day. I practised on the bike for about three weeks before race day; on race day I rode the bike to the start line, fell off and broke my elbow.

And that is the sum total of my bike experience. So it is pretty exciting/nerve-wracking to be getting back on the bike again! Mainly exciting though. I have always loved the idea of tackling a cycling challenge, and so maybe 2017 is the year I finally pull up my big girl pants and do it!

About the bike…

This is the Boardman Road Team Carbon Women’s bike, which is based around Boardman’s SLR Endurance C7 carbon frame (the super fancy Boardman one). It also has a full carbon fork. For those who this means something to (!) it has 2×10 speed Shimano Tiagra gearing, Tektro R540 dual pivot calliper brakes and mavic rims with 25c Vittoria tyres (which is an all-season wheel set). It is also kitted out with women’s specific geometry and saddle, but I think I’ll be the judge of how lady friendly it is in reality! Also, it might seem obvious, but I can’t get over how light it is. Super light. Less than 9kg light. It’s amazing.

It comes in four different frame sizes – I have the smallest one (48.5cm). When I picked up the bike from Halfords the staff there customised the fit of the bike for me, and helped me learn to adjust it myself. I went to the Chingford store, and the team there were amazing! They set up the bike for me, helped me pick a well-fitting helmet (junior size, which was embarrassing) and some lights, and didn’t laugh once at how inexperienced I was. I also took out their care plan, which covers all labour for repairs during the next year, which I think is going to be well used given how little I currently know about bikes. They also informed me that my local store (Mile End) is pretty much a cycle specific store, so it’s genuinely great to know I’m covered and I have somewhere to go which is local.

The bike also comes fitted with pedals (cages), which is perfect for me as I’m going to have a hard time just staying on – let alone battling with cleats! I definitely want to make the move to cleats though, so I’m hoping to upgrade later in the year.

So – time for a cycling adventure! If you’re also a total beginner (or just interested in laughing at my incompetence) keep an eye out for my cycling blog series, where I’m going to document the highs and lows of getting to grips with an amazing road bike like this one. If you’re an experienced cyclist – I would love to hear from you! Please let me know if you have any tips for beginner cyclists, or any leads on friendly groups to ride with in London!

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This Boardman bike was generously provided by Halfords, in exchange for a feature on my blog. All opinions are my own. All of the extras (accessories, care plan etc.) are funded by me.

Well. That didn’t go to plan.

I think that it’s quite something to say “that didn’t go to plan” when the only plan was to have fun. I’ve never really enjoyed a marathon before, and given that sub-4 was off the menu I decided to take all the pressure off and just try and enjoy 26.2 for once. I haven’t managed to do all the training I wanted to do, but felt that I was in relatively good shape to cover the distance. I made the decision to take it slow, take in the sights, high five all the kids, and generally just enjoy running around Berlin.

The day before the marathon I realised that I needed a bit of a “no-plan plan”. I tend to get caught up in the excitement at the beginning of the race and run too fast (in all races, not just marathons!), and then struggle to keep running at the end of a marathon. To try and address this, I thought I’d see if I could tag on to a 4:30 pacer. I figured this was a manageable pace, which would let me enjoy the race and hopefully I’d have a gang of other runners to keep pace with!

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Pre-race jitters at the adidas runbase the day before the race, after the shake out run with adidas runners London!

As far as my other preparations, I felt they went pretty well. Dayve has been in Alaska for three months this summer and he got back to London last week, so it was lovely for us to go to Berlin together and spend some quality time together. We explored the city, with some walking but not too much walking, plenty of carbs and water, and lots of sleep. I joined the adidas runners London shake out run on Saturday, mooched around the adidas RunBase and had a generally lovely time in sunny Berlin. On the Saturday afternoon we went to cheer at the finish line of the inline marathon, and I felt so excited imagining myself crossing the finish line in the sun the next day.

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Unfortunately, on the morning of the race, I couldn’t find a pacer. Anywhere. So I reassessed the plan while waiting to cross the start line. For the new plan, I settled on using my watch to run between a 10 and 10:30 minute mile. I’ve been running with shot bloks (little chewing gummy cubes made by Clif Bar, in case you haven’t seen them), but they’ve been a bit hit and miss, so to make sure I didn’t encounter any stomach issues I decided to walk through each water station, sip some water and take on one or two shot bloks. I wanted to take in all of the music being played (there are so many musicians around the course!) and thank all the marshals and generally have a good time. I started running, and I felt really good. I just felt like everything was coming together.

I continued feeling good up until 22km. Dayve had popped up quite a few times on the course, and I bounced over to see him at the 22km marker feeling really happy. The race plan had been going well! I felt like I’d been nailing my carbs and my water, walking through all the water stops as planned. It was hot, and I usually struggle to take on enough water, so I was happy this seemed to be working for me. My bad shoulder had been killing me, so I stopped off at this amazing massage station around 20km and had a shoulder massage! Because why not? I’d been trying to stick to 10 minute miles but often found my watch showing around 9:30 (even though it felt much slower than that) but it didn’t worry me too much given that I felt very comfortable and relaxed. So far, so happy.

Some inspirational art that Dayve made me.

Some inspirational art that Dayve made me.

As I carried on my way, I checked through the different stats on my watch as a sort of half way check in. This was when I realised that my watch had been leading me on a bit of a goose chase. It said that I’d run around 16 miles, whereas I knew I’d only run about 13 and a half. This meant that my minute per mile was going to be way off, and I was in fact running much slower than I’d realised and it had taken me over 2 and a half hours to cover the half marathon distance. It now made sense why a “9:30 minute mile” had felt so slow! I know I wasn’t running for time, but it did annoy me that my watch had been so inaccurate. I just felt thrown that I was so far off from where I thought I’d been.

I told myself that it didn’t matter, and that I wasn’t running for time, and that I should just be pleased that I felt relaxed and comfortable. I was still smiling.

Now, in every marathon I’ve ever run I’ve broken down somewhere between 17 and 19 miles. It’s like that’s my body’s limit, and after that it just gives me a big fat “nope” and stops co-operating. Maybe it’s a mental thing? Who knows? I’d hoped that, by running slower than my normal pace, I’d push this back to maybe 22/23 miles, or maybe (in my wildest dreams) it wouldn’t happen at all. Well, silly old me ey? I hit 29km and, like clockwork, I just crashed. All of a sudden, everything was just too much. It was too hot, my feet hurt too much, my shoulder was killing me. And just like that, my head wasn’t in the game anymore. Spell broken.

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Pre-race mugshot. Before the shit hit the fan.

Those last 13km were so hard. It sucked so bad. I felt so upset and angry that I’d done everything “right” – gone slow, taken on my water and carbs, smiled – and I still crashed. It didn’t seem fair. I was still running between water stations but it was taking me longer and longer to get started after the water stations! By way of example, I walked through the 30km water station and, once I’d finished my little cup of water, started psyching myself up to start running again. Said psyching up lasted until I hit the 31km marker…! Everything hurt. I was just so sad and disappointed. I walked a lot.

I’d next planned to meet Dayve at 38km and, by the time I got there, he knew something was up because of how long it had taken me. When I saw him I just burst in to tears. It felt so unfair and I just wanted it to be over. As is tradition, he hopped the fence and started running (walking) next to me, trying to make me smile and encouraging me to keep going. He got kicked off the course around 400m from the finish line, leaving me to finish on my own.

I ran to the end. I wanted to walk so bad. I’d been out on the road for so long, my feet hurt, and I felt disappointed and dejected. I did run though. After I crossed the finish line I didn’t feel happy, or like I’d achieved anything, because I felt like I’d failed. I didn’t even want to wear the medal placed around my neck by a lovely smiling lady. I felt like the worst runner in the history of running. Ever. It was a personal worst time, and I had a horrible time running it.

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This is not the face of a girl having fun (sorry Marathon Foto, but this photo is not worth 50 euros)

It all sounds a bit melodramatic really, but I honestly felt so low. This is in no way meant to be a judgment on marathon finish times – times are relative to your own abilities, but compared to (a) my goal and (b) my previous marathon times, my time did feel very disappointing. Maybe even more so because I hadn’t had fun. I’d enjoyed it up until around 29km, which means that there was nothing fun about the marathon part. I’d have enjoyed a half. In future, I will stick to the half.

So, there we have it. Another disastrous marathon attempt! From now on, I will stick to admiring amazing endurance runners, rather than attempting to be one. I would like to say a huge thank you to all of the support I’ve received while training for the marathon; I have honestly been overwhelmed by all of the lovely supportive comments I’ve received, all for being a terrible runner! I feel like I don’t deserve it, but I appreciate it hugely nonetheless. And if you ever hear me consider signing up for another marathon in the future – please stop me ok?

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Over and out, 26.2.

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I was recently invited by Glaceau Smartwater to a beautiful rooftop yoga class at their HQ with the amazing Jessica Skye of Fat Buddha Yoga. I am one of those people who knows they need to go to yoga more often, but seems completely incapable of actually hauling my butt to a yoga class (I know, we’re the worst), so I grabbed the opportunity for a class with both of my pudgy little hands.

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I also have a bit of a soft spot for Glaceau Smartwater (yes, I can be sentimental about bottled water – bear with me). It first came out around the same time as Dayve and I went on our epic US road trip, and we used to buy freezing cold bottles of it from service stations because it contains electrolytes but tastes just like regular water. No yucky powerade zero or sweetener filled drinks with a weird salty edge; straight up amazing water, which just happens to be even more hydrating than regular water. It’s genius and it always reminds me of the best holiday in the world and so I love it.

It was a beautiful sunny morning and there were some serious tunes along for the class. I did really enjoy the class, but what really struck me was just how good I felt afterwards. As well as carrying marathon stress in my legs, I have permanently tense shoulders thanks to a combination of an ongoing shoulder injury and my permanently desk-bound status. The yoga definitely helped ease those tensions, and also eased off some of the many stresses I have been under recently. I can see why you’re all so in to this yoga thing.

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I felt so good after the class that I decided to get yoga in my life more regularly, especially as a recovery tool to aid both my marathon training and my frazzled brain. Due to my schedule I find it difficult to make it to regular scheduled classes, so I asked Jessica Skye at FBY to give me a rundown of the best yoga moves to counteract all the pavement pounding that comes with training for a marathon. She kindly obliged, and I thought I’d share the love. So, here are six of the best yoga poses for runners!

What can yoga do for those preparing for marathons?

As a high impact sport, running is known to cause tightness in the main muscle groups of the legs (quads, glutes, hamstring and calves). Tight muscles will pull at other parts of the body and can also create knee issues, joint pain and lower back issues – not to mention simple strains. Yoga is a key activity to compliment running, as it will keep the body balanced, train your breath work and increase lung capacity. Practicing yoga will also teach you how to channel your focus, get in the zone and learn to breathe efficiently… all essential tools to nailing the big race. A pretty important part of any sport or even just your day-to-day is to drink more water. Whether you gulp or sip – staying hydrated is a pretty smart thing to do.

Jess’ 6 post-run yoga moves  

I have added links to photos/videos of the poses described, in case you’re a yoga newbie like me!

1)   Uttanasasa Intense forward fold – Fold forward, tip tailbone up, but soften knees if this is too intense. To go deeper, grab opposite elbows behind your legs. Not only will this lengthen the backs of your legs but will also stretch out your back.

2)   Parsvottanasana Pyramid – Take a step forward, bringing your stance to around two-thirds. Press both heels into the floor to lengthen lower calves. Square hips, slowly fold over your front leg, bringing your nose towards your knee. Keep squaring the hips level with each other so as not to twist the lower back. To open the chest, grab opposite elbows behind your back. This will open the calves and hamstrings, it will also lengthen the spine and open your chest.

3)   Parivrtta Trikonasana Reversed triangle Maintain same footing as pyramid, bring both hands either side of your front foot, get long in the spine, slowly raise the hand on the outside of your front foot onto your hip. Slowly turn your chest in the same direction, maintain the press in both heels as well as squaring the hips. This will get a gentle twist in the spine, open the calves and IT band.

4)   Anjaneyasana Variation – Reversed low lunge variation with foot grab – Opening the hips, lengthening the hips flexors, gently twisting the spine, and opening the chest. The foot grab will create an intense stretch in the quads.

5)   Ardha Kapotasana – Half pigeon pose – Opening the hips and getting into the glutes. Make sure you line your knee up with your wrist and your shin is diagonal across your body – for more intensity, bring your shin parallel with the top of your mat. Make sure your hips are level, and if you want to go deeper, keep lowering your chest towards the ground.

6)   Ardha Supta Virasana Reclining hero pose – This reclining position will intensely stretch the lateral part quads. After bending at the knee and bringing your heel to the outside of your hip, allow the knees to fall where feels best and slowly walk yourself back with your hands until you find your edge. To go deeper, lean all the way back or do both legs at the same time.

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I don’t normally post about events I go to, for various reasons, but this one was so awesome that I really wanted to share a few photos and thoughts on it. Honestly, it was the coolest workout I have ever done. I have just never seen anything like it.

This weekend, Nike are hosting “Unlimited You” in the Truman Brewery in Brick Lane, which they’re describing as an immersive workout experience. You can choose between a workout with Barry’s Bootcamp (this is a treadmill based workout, so no floor segment for those who are familiar with Barry’s!) and Kobox (boxing!).

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I did the Barry’s workout – a sneaky speed session in disguise, I’m telling myself it was good marathon training – and it was incredible. There are amazing light installations (from United Visual Artists) that run across all the walls of the huge warehouse space its set in, made even more dramatic by smoke machines and an intense soundtrack. It’s nuts.

After your first workout, everyone comes together for a Nike Training Club (NTC) workout. If you did Barry’s first you do a floor based workout on one side of the room, and if you chose Kobox then you’ll do a treadmill workout on the other side of the room. You face the other group while doing your second workout, with Nike trainers down the middle of the room leading the workout. This is all set to the sounds of Hot Chip and the Heritage Orchestra, who are situated in the centre of the room playing a live set! Hot Chip composed the music especially for Unlimited You, and it’s an incredible experience. I did feel sorry for them though, playing a live set in the middle of a room of 100 smelly sweaty people. Although added workout bonus: there’s a bearded cello playing babe.

After the workout bonanza you head to the roof for food. There’s salad from Maple and Fitz, pancakes from Pip & Nut, and shakes from Barry’s Bootcamp! All so delicious.

 

With lovely RDC babe Orsii

 

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Dreamy LunarEpic

As part of the experience you get to road-test two pairs of Nike shoes. You get to try the LunarEpic Low Flyknit ULTD for the running sections (which, on first impressions, I loved), and then the Free TR Focus Flyknit ULTD for Kobox/NTC (which, on first impressions, I didn’t like). It was cool to get to try them, and I was sad to hand back the LunarEpics!

All in all it’s awesome. I think last tickets went on sale last night, so if you’re in London this weekend and you fancy an amazing workout (with food and t-shirt included), I’d definitely recommend registering.

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I was invited as a guest of Nike London to this event. I was not asked to write about it, and all opinions are obviously my own!