Triathlon training: Why I love cycling

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My Trek Lexa and I have had some fun lately She’s taken me much further than running ever could…

Cycling is scary, it’s complicated (well, for me it is because I previously hadn’t ridden a bike since 1993) and it hurts your bum. That was my previous assessment of cycling and why I got a bike and did nothing with it for a year. This year, after the marathon, I decided I needed to shake things up a bit and get out there doing other things as well as running. I dragged the boyfriend out with me as moral support and we took to the cycle path (one of the few good things about living in Bicester – sorry, Bicester village doesn’t count for locals) and then ventured out towards quieter roads in the surrounding villages. It took me a little while to get used to the gears (I think I have just cracked them now), mainly anticipating hills, getting the speed up and legs turning over, and getting in the right gear. Apart from at busy junctions where I am still really cautious (and rightly so!), the traffic hasn’t scared me as much as I thought it would.

What I love about cycling is the freedom it gives you – it can take you places much further and faster than running ever could. Yesterday I cycled to my work and back (70k, nearly 44 miles) as a test run. It was the furthest I’ve ever cycled in my life and I felt great. We stopped for a cheeky chocolate fudge cake in the local pub and headed back much faster than on the way there. Looking at the stats, we were flying along at 30k/h at one stage! When we started out yesterday I felt tired and my butt hurt at 3k – it didn’t bode well, but then I just got on and did it! I’m feeling so proud of myself today.

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I wanted to share with you some of the tips I have picked up along the way:

– Familiarise yourself with your bike before heading out – don’t do what I did here.

– Find a friend who is a reasonably confident cyclist and get them to cycle along a quiet road (or better still a cycle path) side by side with you to help you get used to the gears.

– Pick a short circular route to start with.

– Think ahead – drop it down into an ‘easy’ gear (ie, one that you can turn over quickly) when coming up to junctions, traffic, obstacles etc. That way, you can get away quicker and easier if you have to pull away from a standing start.

– If you can’t remember which gear is what, then try to logic it out. On my bike, I know that the easy gear (used on hills or at a junction) wiis the small switch (ie, easier to change), the harder gear (one you use on the flats) is harder to change (mine you have to push the break lever side ways). You don’t have to worry too much about the chain stresses as much with road bikes as they have fewer gears than mountain bikes so can readily switch among all the gears while you learn without consequence.

– If you’re in the wrong gear going up a hill, don’t sweat it – just cycle back down and start again.

– Attend a cycle maintenance course (this is next on my to-do list).

– Just go for it – don’t put it off until tomorrow, cycling is so much fun!

So this week I am putting on my clipless pedals and learning how to use them. 🙂

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I am training for the Tri For Life triathlon in September – a charity triathlon. You can sponsor me here.  I chose the tri for life triathlon as it looks perfect for beginners, it takes place in the stunning grounds of Woburn Abbey, and, as it happens, it’s organised by a small friendly team of people. It’s also a charity triathlon. It’s been ages since I’ve done anything for charity because running is something I just do it seems rude to ask for sponsorship. This, however, is a major challenge for me. I’ll be raising money for charities such as Great Ormond Street Children’s Charity, Rays of Sunshine and the Teenage Cancer Trust.

You can check out how the competition winners, Lucy and Lozza are getting on here and here.

sian

Absolutely Bricking it!

So now that the Oxford half and my stonking PB are out of the way (did I mention that?), it’s back to business as usual and training for my next big thing – the Reading Dinton Duathlon.   I am a total newbie to this whole cycling thing. Even cycling in the gym is something I try and avoid so this is a big challenge for me and a big deal. I’ve been out on my bike, used my exercise bike at home and obviously do a lot of running, but how are my little old legs going to cope having to run/bike/run that’s the question?

I thought I’d test this yesterday in the first of many Brick sessions before the event. What’s a Brick session (glad you asked as I had no clue either?): Bricks refer to training on two disciplines during the same workout.

Given that my poor legs ran a half marathon on Sunday and we were only on Wednesday, I decided to do a mock up of a mini sprint duathlon and try out a 2k run (on the dreadmill) followed by a 12k cycle on the exercise bike and a 2k run outside (that’s more like it!).

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Here’s what I found out:

– Running on fresh legs is OK, but actually running on legs after the first run and the bike was lovely as my legs were nice and warmed up

– Running, biking and then running again uses a lot more energy because you’re using different muscle groups so I will probably need lots of gels on the day and energy drinks

– I STILL hate treadmills even for 2k

sian

Duathlon training: Help! I need stabilisers

“Who’s bright idea was this?!” I could hear my dad saying, only those words weren’t my dad’s, they were mine – as I bumbled my way on the bike up the quiet cycle path. This was of course after the comedic exercise of getting on the thing in the first place where I nearly ended up in a tree! I am not a natural-born cyclist shall we say. I prefer exercising without gadgets favouring running where all you need are the clothes on your back and a vaguely decent pair of trainers.

Any cycling I have done before was as a child on a fixed-gear bike or more recently on a mountain bike, although I’m not sure 2 cycling outings amounting to a total of 15 miles counts for much?

My lovely road bike arrived last week. I’d ordered one the week before, but when I went to pick it up it was far too big for me so I had to order the next size down. Here she is in all her glory – isn’t she a beauty?

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I took her out for an inaugural test spin and here’s what happened:

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On my mountain bike, the gears are numbered and there’s a front and back lever, but the road bike isn’t quite as user friendly. After reading the utterly useless handbook, which seems to focus on whether or not you are wearing a helmet rather than showing you the features of the bike, I resorted to YouTube and I’m so glad I did. You see on my road bike, after much research, I’ve established there is a tiny switch for going down the gears and you have to push the break levers sideways to change up (totally obvious right?!).

It seems I’m not alone in having no clue about road bike gears – many people are not shown how to use gears properly at all, especially as most of us start out on fixed-gear bikes. Even the chap in the fantastic video I found here admitted that he, rather embarrassingly, had to go back to the shop to be shown how to use the bike. So later today or tomorrow I hope to be back on the saddle and give some of the tips a go!

So what did I learn on my little bike ride?

– Read the manual or failing that have a good look over the bike and check out videos on YouTube if unsure how to use the gears

– Road bikes are not as scary and wobbly as I thought they would be – I have nailed the getting on and off, and breaking to a gentle stop already

– I need to start building my confidence and get out on the road more (once I have got used to the gears that is!)

Never forget how to ride a bike eh? My arse!

I’m taking part in the Lexus Reading Dinton Duathlon on 17th November.

sian

Duathlon training: Road versus mountain bike

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what to do about a bike for the Reading Dinton Duathlon that I’ll be taking part in in November. Do I:

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1) Spend nigh on £1000 on a brand new women’s road bike (women-specific seems to be a license to print money if you ask me!) when who knows if road cycling will even be for me? Or,

2) Trawl ebay in the vain hope that a second hand bike will come up that’s a) my size and b) less than £400 (unlikely). Or

3) Do I go ahead and spend £250 on a men’s road bike – what’s the difference apart from perhaps the seat (do men have different butts?!) and the fact that the bar is higher? I mean, logically you’d think that the bar should be lower for men! 🙂 Or

4) Do I go ahead and just use my mountain bike. I’m not looking to break any course records/in with a chance of winning anyway am I? It’s just a bit of fun right?

I purchased a new helmet last week and I’m now wondering what other bits of kit I might need. I’m thinking some gloves maybe like these ladies Madison Echelon cyclin mitts from Millet Sports?

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I’ve been on the exercise bike building up my legs daily cycling 10k/day and the running is going well, but next I’ll have to venture out on the actual bike and get some proper cycle training in! 🙂 I’m not sure if this whole cycling lark is for me in the long term, but we shall see!

sian

Sprint duathlon training

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The time has come folks – I’m taking part in a duathlon! I decided to start with a sprint duathlon first rather than running before I can walk, so to speak, and entering a full-blown triathlon (maybe next year).

The biggest hurdle I have to overcome is cycling. I’ve been doing lots of cycling on the exercise bike for the Zaggora challenge (10+k a day) so I think my legs are up to it, but it’s the cycling on an actual bike that’s going to a challenge. You see, I haven’t ridden a bike properly since about 1992! About 3 years ago I bought a lovely Ridgeback mountain bike and after about an hour of trying to get on the thing and a scary down hill it never saw the light of day, until this week. It’s now in Halfords having a service as I type.

I’m taking part in the Lexus Reading Dinton Duathlon on 17th November to give myself plenty of time to get myself a road bike and get used to this whole riding a bike malarky. I like the look of this event as 1) it’s a sprint duathlon (5k run/20 k bike/5 k run) so a nice introduction to the sport and 2) the bike section is on road and the running section is cross country.

There is the small matter now of:

Purchasing a road bike – I’m checking out ebay for this. Bikes are ideal second hand purchases. See above’s mountain bike story for an example of why. They usually get bought, used once and spend years collecting dust in garages until one day someone finds them and puts them on ebay.

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– Purchasing a decent cycle helmet – I’m thinking something like this women’s Crossfire helmet from Decathlon – £24.99.

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That should do me for now until I get used to the bike. I’m sure then I’ll need lots of other kit  once I get going – it doesn’t bare thinking about really though!

sian

Sweating like a Diva: The Zaggora challenge

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I was sent some Zaggora HotPants last week and I’ve finally got around to trying them out. I’ve heard lots about them and seen them advertised everywhere. I’m always up for giving anything a go, especially a product that claims it targets fat on my hips, bum and thighs – 3 of my problem areas! The theory behind it is essentially the same theory behind running in a bin liner – the fabric traps your body heat and makes you sweat more and burn more calories.

Over the course of the next 2 weeks I’m taking part in the Zaggora 2-week challenge to see if wearing them whilst exercising for 30 minutes every day will help me lose inches in the target areas. I’m a fairly skeptical person, but I’ll try and keep an open mind and let the results speak for themselves! If nothing else, it will make me focus and be less inclined to have a lazy day festering in front of the TV.

Here are my baseline measurements:

Waist: 28 inches

Thighs: 20 inches

Weight: 9 stone 6 lbs (132 lbs; 59 kgs)

I’ve been wearing them on the bike for the last 2 days as it’s been far too hot to wear them running. I like to cycle whilst watching ‘Secret Eaters‘, ‘Supersize vs Superskinny‘ or ‘Embarrassing Fat Bodies‘ – it’s a great motivator and a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine (my secret is out!). They have certainly been having the desired effect – I have been sweating like a biatch!

The material kind of feels similar to a wetsuit, which is a bit of weird, but they do look quite nice on (quite slimming).

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At the end of the 2 weeks I’ll be giving away a free pair for one lucky reader to try for themselves so watch this space!

sian