A PB, +50% on a ride and a trip to the velodrome

Last weekend, I had a massive weekend.

It started on Friday with a leaving party for a work colleague, which involved being out late at the pub and some karaoke (but as usual, no alcohol for me, so no singing). It was a fun evening (although sad that Justin was leaving)… but not ideal race preparation as I didn’t really eat properly. A handful of peanuts and some oriental snacks doesn’t really make for a nutritious pre-race dinner!

Saturday morning started with parkrun. I’ve been trying really hard not to over eat and to eat as healthily as possible, so I was feeling quite light. Also, my asthma hasn’t been too bad and my running has generally been going well, so I felt like I could be on good form. I told a couple of friends that I was going for a PB, and as I hadn’t really dressed for cold weather (my favourite SOAS vest and a pair of shorts), I knew I had to run quickly to stay warm!

As usual, I started a little too quickly (running past a friend who is a 22 minute runner). I kept pushing up the first hill, but by the top I was feeling rough – I felt weak from not having eaten much and I was shattered. My friend Teri shouted at me to keep pushing and I complained that I couldn’t do it, but she encouraged me to stick with her.

parkrun 14 March
Thanks to Teri for pushing me © Lauren Lilly


I managed to push a bit on the downhill, but it wasn’t long before I got to the hill again (it’s a two-lap course). I kept pushing, but wasn’t confident that I would be able to get a PB, I was just hoping that I could get close to 25:00.

When I got to the top of the hill again, I decided to give it everything I had on the downhill. When I reached the bottom, I was trying to pace myself as the finish straight is quite long, but at that moment Patrick and Angela (a couple from my running club) went past and said something to me – I can’t remember what, but it motivated me to push and try to keep up with them.

Sprint finish photo
My final sprint © Lauren Lilly

I did the best that I could and put in a massive finishing sprint.


parkrun PB
parkrun PB

My splits were:

  1. 4:51
  2. 4:55
  3. 4:59
  4. 5:06
  5. 4:42 (plus a final sprint at 3:35/km)

I’m frustrated that I didn’t manage to get each kilometre under 5 minutes, but I’m really pleased with my pace for the last km.


This has led to my RunBritain handicap decreasing to an all-time low of 16.6. I am so happy that I am on peak form… and I still feel that I can achieve more.

RunBritain progress graph
RunBritain progress graph

As soon as I finished running, I had to change and get myself up to University of Southampton as I had signed up for a #thisgirlcan / SURC (Southampton University Road Cycling Club) bike ride.

When I arrived, my friend Roelie was already there waiting with another cyclist. I had chosen to wear a new pair of cycling tights that I have never tried before (some 3/4 length Castelli ones).  I had been worried that I would be too cold, but the sun had come out and with a fleecy long-sleeved jersey and a very cosy cycling jacket on I was overheating. Soon 4 other girls turned up and we discussed the planned route. Although the initial idea had been to do 30 miles, a 45 mile route was suggested. I’ve not cycled much recently, but as I’m going to be doing 60-70 miles a day soon, I thought it would be good training.

The weather was slightly strange – the sun disappeared not long after we set off and it was cool and damp. The pace of the ride was faster than I’m used to (~30kph for sections) and combined with my poor nutrition and the effort that I’d put in earlier in the day, I don’t think I was at my best. Roelie and I were both grateful when we had a cake stop at the 30 mile point in Beaulieu. I didn’t take a photo of my giant chunk of carrot cake in The Old Bakehouse Tearooms, so you’ll have to believe me that it was enormous.

Roelie had been struggling with feeling cold, so we swapped jackets for the ride back. I had been finding it a bit hot, so I was grateful to have a lighter jacket on and I think Roelie was pleased to be a bit warmer. It was also my first ride with my new cycle shoes that I got at Christmas. I think they are warmer than my lovely Pearl Izumi tri fly shoes, but I had on lightweight summers socks, so my feet were cold. I put on toe covers to cycle back and felt better.

When we got back into Southampton, I decided to continue along on the cycle path on my own as I was already running late and didn’t want to continue back up to the University with the others. The whole ride had been 71.25km

When I got in, Stuart and Jez were waiting. They had loaded up my Giant Defy with my panniers, so I had a quick drink and then headed out with them for a test ride. Jez is a very experienced cyclist, but he is also happy to chat to friends and enjoy the scenery, which was a relief as I don’t want to be holding him up on our trip.

As it was a grey day and I hadn’t eaten properly all day, we decided just to cycle out to Beaulieu and back. We took it at a steady pace of about 21kph. When we got to Beaulieu, we stopped at the Old Bakehouse (again), but this time I just had a pot of jasmine tea and a bit of Stu’s cake. Then we turned around and headed back. Overall, the trip was 37.17km, so I think it was my longest ever day of cycling 🙂

On Sunday morning, I had signed up for another SURC/ #thisgirlcan activity: cycling at Calshot velodrome. Unfortunately, Roelie had too much work to do and had to pull out and I was feeling nervous before I went. When I got there, everyone seemed very confident. We were each told to choose a bike that was the right size. I chose a 52cm and managed to find a pair of shoes in my size.

I put on the shoes and then needed to adjust the saddle to my height. This was my first disaster of the day – someone tried to help me, but I clipped in and then managed to fall over – oops! In my defence, I’ve not used Look KEO pedals/cleats before and they’re just not like speedplay.

The first nerve-wracking part of track cycling is the realisation that there are no brakes on the bikes. I knew this in advance, but hadn’t really thought about it. We were told to cycle around on the flat and then get used to stopping by gradually slowing down and unclipping – at last a skill that I could manage.

Along with the other novice cyclists, there were quite a few girls who regularly ride with SURC. They were bustling around the track whilst we were learning the basics. They were then asked to come off the track, so that we could individually have a go. We were told to cycle around the grey part of the track a couple of time to help get our speed up and then to head onto the boards.

A couple of the novices had tried track cycling before, so they started first. I was the last one to go. By the time I started pedalling, I was shaking with fear.  Calshot is a 142m oval, so it is only 4m longer than the world’s shortest velodrome. As a consequence, it has especially steep banking: 48° and gets a special mention on Wikipedia because of this.

I cycled around on the grey part of the track, and encountered my first challenge when I realised that I couldn’t freewheel around the bends. This is what I naturally always do and I found it unnatural to keep pedalling. I completed two loops and the coach called to me to head up onto the boards, but I was feeling sick with fear and couldn’t do it, so I went around another time before slowing to a stop. I was told that I could have another go later, but I was so stressed and fearful by that point that I couldn’t do it. I felt frustrated with myself, but I was also having flashbacks to my crash in the Pyrenees, so I decided to call it a day. One day, I would like to have another go at track cycling and I’m proud that I didn’t wimp out before even going to the track, but on the day it was a case of #thisgirlcant

For some videos showing how steep the banking is at Calshot, visit: http://www.velodrome.co.uk/Calshot-Velodrome

Have you done any track cycling before? What tips can you offer to help me overcome my fear of crashing?

Diagram showing all of teh bicycles you might need

3 Replies to “A PB, +50% on a ride and a trip to the velodrome”

  • I had my first trip to the Chris Hoy velodrome this year and was equally terrified but as long as you keep your speed up it is actually terrific fun. We went up in small stages and on the straight to start with but honestly once you get going you don’t really realise that you are on a bank and it is easy to come down and slow down if you want to. Definitely give it another shot

    • Thanks, Tina. I’m currently trying to renovate my dad’s old road bike and am thinking that I might turn it into a flip-flop fixie (partly because it means that I don’t have to try to set up gears). I think that a bit of experience of riding a fixie might give me more confidence when I go back to the track – I’m determined that it won’t beat me, so I’m going to work on anything that might help. I’m wondering whether some practice on rollers also might make me feel more confident on a bike.

I'd love to hear your thoughts...

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