Book review: This Girl Ran – Tales of a Party Girl Turned Triathlete

20 Feb This Girl Ran
One of the things that I’ve been missing most about my pre-baby life is the ability to sit down and read a book when I need some down time. I’ve realised that I’m spending too much time staring at a screen, so I’ve been avoiding the TV in the evening and spending more time reading.
This Girl Ran
One of the books that I’ve just finished reading is This Girl Ran. This book was only released on February 8th, so it’s hot off the press! I was keen to read this memoir as parts of Helen Croydon‘s experiences resonated with me, in the sense that she went from a relatively sedentary life to becoming an athlete. However, one of the most impressive facet’s of Helen’s story is that she went from being somewhat of a socialite to an age group Team GB triathlete in just two years!
“Four years ago I was a glamorous city girl who wouldn’t even walk to the tube in the rain in case I ruined my hair. Two years later I’d qualified as a Team GB age-group triathlete and was fixing punctures in hailstorms.”
The writing style and narrative really drew me in. I was completely hooked and read the entire book in the space of 4 sittings (and would probably have devoured it whole if I didn’t have a tiny human to look after!)
Helen’s story starts when she joins a local running club after the end of a relationship. Previously, her social life had revolved around boozy nights out with friends, but she realised that something was missing from her life and set about trying to correct the balance. 
A key difference between my story and Helen’s narrative is that despite her initial propensity for late nights and alcohol, her journey started at a much fitter point than mine. She admits that although she’d never done cross country, she did frequent the gym… however, this brings its own challenges as she describes wearing her designer gym kit with gold quilted coat to her first mud-fest. Something that I could empathise with was Helen’s struggles as a novice cyclist – who hasn’t had to deal with a puncture in the rain, or getting lost on a long ride?
Helen tells her story with great humour. The speed with which she took on challenges is impressive with a huge range of single and multisport events in her first two years, culminating in the World Championships triathlon in Chicago.
Helen Croydon competing at London Triathlon

Helen Croydon competing at London Triathlon

The backdrop of Helen’s story is her encounters with other athletes and a ‘will they, won’t they?’ friendship. 

Until I read this book, I was unaware that Helen had written two other books:

I really enjoyed Helen’s witty style, so I think I’m likely to read these two books, even though they’re not the kind of thing that I would usually read.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a novice triathlete, if you’ve got any interest in multisport events then you are likely to enjoy this book.

I’ve got an exclusive article by Helen Croydon coming up very soon, so make sure you keep checking back (or subscribe), so that you don’t miss it.

Getting back on track for Reading Half Marathon

19 Feb

It was really nice to be back running at Southampton parkrun. I’m feeling stiff, tired and unfit, so I decided to do my best to enjoy my run as I know my fitness will come back when I get into a more regular programme of exercise.

About 500m in, I caught up with my friend Sergio who was running with his daughter in a buggy. We’ve known each other for several years and got to talk quite a lot when we were in Wales for Long Course Weekend. We’ve not spoken much recently, so I took the opportunity to settle into a conversational pace. We had a great time chatting and I didn’t look at my watch, so I was OK with my time:

Southampton parkrun 17 Feb 2018

After running, we headed over to the Bellemoor for a cuppa before running home.

As you can see, I was running with a different buggy. Last year I blogged about using Thule Chariot Lite, and I have to say that after using it at least twice daily 4 times a week for 5 months, I’m still enjoying using it. It is easy to convert, although I invested in a Thule Axle- Mount EZ Hitch, as I was having problems with my quick release undoing every time I removed the trailer. We also bought a second one, so that Stu could have one on his bike. We also bought the Thule baby supporter, which just gives M a little bit more padding. I couldn’t afford the Thule footmuff, which looks really cosy (it has a hood), but I had a spare cosytoes, so we put that in. It’s not the easiest to do up as M sits in a more upright position than in her buggy, but it helps to keep her cosy as it’s been icy in the mornings recently.

M’s nursery is next to my workplace, so I cycle with her every morning. Unfortunately, it’s really awkward for me to get into the bike shed with the trailer, so I go to the nursery and detach the trailer outside. I then store the trailer in the nursery’s buggy park. I could convert it, but as it’s just a short walk through the building, I save time and leave it as a bike trailer. This also saves Stuart time as he collects M in the afternoon, so he’s able to hitch the trailer straight back onto his bike.

Anyway… we’ve enjoyed being able to cycle somewhere with M and then convert the trailer into a stroller, but really we’d like to get back to cycling to parkrun, so we bought the jogging kit. It uses the VersaWing system, so is really easy to install. The only minor frustration that I have is that the documentation all shows the Thule Chariot Cross, so it shows how the jogging kit can be stored. The Chariot Lite is slightly different and I haven’t yet work out how to store the jogging kit when using it as a bike trailer – if anyone knows the answer, please let me know!

We had originally intended to cycle to parkrun this weekend as there are major roadworks and road closures near to where we lives, but then we remembered that we had offered to transport various bits of parkrun kit. It would have been awkward to put take the kit on our bikes, but with a bit of juggling (and some tolerance from M who had a couple of bits stored in with her!) we were able to run down to parkrun. This had the added advantage of adding to my training miles as I’ve really not been doing enough running for Reading Half Marathon recently.

Stu and I took it in turns to run with the Chariot. It feels significantly different from running with the OutNAbout Nipper Sport. An advantage is that it’s easy to see the front wheel, but a disadvantage is that I can’t see M at all when running. She seems very happy in it as the side windows give her a better view, and also there is plenty of room for her soft toys and a couple of books as well as snacks and a drink… and with the front flyscreen down, she is unable to jettison anything!

The large wheels mean that it rolls smoothly and the adjustable handle height meant that Stu and I were both able to find comfortable positions, although we agreed that the shape of the handle meant that we weren’t quite sure where to place our hands. The Chariot is heavier than the Nipper, which is an advantage when going downhill (as long as it’s not too steep), but makes going uphill a more challenging workout. I’d love to have a go with a Thule Glide as that’s often recommended as the best running buggy on the market, so I’d like to know how it compares with these two.

You can also see that I was wearing the GearBunch leggings that I mentioned recently. I’ve now run in them a few times and have been really pleased with them. I absolutely love the colours and am pleased that I can wear almost any t-shirt with them as there are so many hues in them. I slightly prefer the colours on the back (the front is more lime greens and blues), but each leg is made of a single piece of fabric, so although there is an inside thigh seam, there is no seam on the outside.

The fabric is soft and silky. It’s fairly lightweight, but feels reasonably supportive. I think they are fine for spring/autumn activities, but think they probably wouldn’t be warm enough for really cold weather (although I tend to run in shorts all year round). I didn’t think my legs looked too bad in them, but I think that if you have bad cellulite then it might be visible in these leggings. There is no drawstring, but I found that the elasticated waist was enough to hold these tights up. I also thought the length was perfect for me (I’m 5’5″/166cm). These tights have a front seam and no gusset, which has the potential for ‘camel toe’,  but they have a reasonably long body, so shouldn’t need to be pulled up too high.

GearBunch have an amazing selection of designs and colours. If you’re interested in skulls/Day of the Dead imagery, then there is plenty to whet your appetite. There are also lots of themed leggings for events such as Valentine’s Day, St Patrick’s Day, Christmas, Chinese New Year and so on. There are also some realistic human muscles leggings. I’ve seen these in ‘the flesh’ and was a little freaked out by them! Here are some of my favourite designs:

colourful splash leggings Jellyfish leggings Lightning leggings neon stripe leggings

Some of the designs made me feel a little uncomfortable, such as the religious ones (Christian and Hindu). Wearing religious icons on sportswear just doesn’t seem right to me:

Mother Mary leggings Lord Ganesha leggings Jesus leggings

I’m also not keen on political allegiance and lycra and I’m guessing that’s common with Brits as there were no Corbyn/May leggings, but there were various American political figures such as George Washington, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. There didn’t seem to be the option to buy Obama tights!

Ronald Reagan leggings Donald Trump leggings George Washington leggings Bill Clinton leggings

What are the most unusual leggings you’ve seen?

After running 11km on Saturday, I met up with Liz for a run on Sunday. Liz is known as Queen of Selfies, but we both failed to take any photos on our run – probably because we were too busy chatting. I ran down to The Common to meet Liz and had M in her buggy. We meandered around the Common and its environs, managing to cover 14km (8.7 miles). It wasn’t as far or as fast as I’d hoped to be managing at this point in my training, but I have this week off work, so as well as catching up with blogging, I’ll be aiming to rest, eat well and get some quality training in. I’ve managed 25km in the past couple of days, so that doesn’t seem too bad.

What are your plans for this week?

Monday Morning Motivation: Mica McNeill & Mica Moore

19 Feb

Hands up if you’ve been watching any of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang…

Assuming I’ve read the schedule correctly then the women’s bobsleigh starts tomorrow and it’s inspiring to hear that Mica McNeill and Mica Moore will be taking part.

Winter-Youth-Olympic-Games-Day-Ten

Mica McNeill has been part of the British Bobsleigh programme since 2010, but even though she has been consistently competing at a high level last year the British Bobsliegh and Skeleton Association withdrew funding for McNeill and Moore. The women managed to crowdfund enough money to compete during the 2017-18 Bobsleigh season. The results earned them a place in Pyeongchang.

‘You’re funding the men, not the women? What? Why?’

Bobsledder Mica McNeill: ‘We hit the crowdfunding target . . . I was in tears’

Fingers crossed these inspirational young women achieve a personal best!

Need a last minute Valentine’s gift?

13 Feb

It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow, which doesn’t leave you much time to find the perfect present for your loved one/Galentine/running buddy. Why not buy them a race entry?

Anyone who buys a Valentine’s gift entry to Reading Half Marathon will be entered into a prize draw to win £50 Sweatshop vouchers. That’s got to be worth a shot!

Monday Morning Motivation: Unleash your inner beginner

12 Feb This Girl Can photo

At this time of year, I start thinking about my impending birthday. It was 5 years ago that I started my journey to becoming a swimmer (and a triathlete).

This year, my journey continues, with various goals, including becoming a Personal Trainer.

Unleash your inner beginner

What are you doing to unleash your inner beginner?

A week where I managed to swim, cycle and run (at last!)

11 Feb

Wow – what a week!

On Monday, I wasn’t feeling motivated to get in the pool. I think M knew that Stu was out with his friends watching the Superbowl on Sunday night, so she decided that she’d also like to be up partying. I got very little sleep and did not feel like going swimming, but I know that ‘you only regret the workouts you didn’t do’, so I agreed with myself that I would go to the pool and then see how I felt.

Don't mistake my cutness for weakness. I will terrorise you and turn this house upside down like the tiny tornado that I am.

This perfectly describes M!

When I got in the pool, I decided to do a 20 minute time trial. I swam at a steady pace and was pleased to see that I covered 850m in that time. As long as I can sustain that pace then I should meet my goal of 2.5k in an hour 🙂

Strive for progress, not perfection

This sign on the gym wall seemed perfect

On Wednesday, I was going to run with a work colleague, but we both had a lot of meetings on, so it just didn’t work out in the end.

I’m so excited to have learnt that I’ve got a place in RideLondon again this year. It should tie in nicely with the other challenges that I’ve got lined up.

RideLondon 2018

I’ve also been trying out a few new products, so there will be some reviews posted soon.

I’ve received a couple of products from New Wave Swim Buoy – a supersoft towel and a ‘launchpad’ – a neoprene mat that can be used for triathlons and on pool changing room floors.

New wave products

I’ve also been trying to squeeze in some reading around the training that I’ve been doing…

This Girl Ran Run Mummy Run book

Plus I’ve been trying out some gorgeous new leggings from GearBunch

Gearbox leggings

On Friday, I went out for a run with Rachel and her baby. It was great to have a full day to myself. Whenever I get a day without M, I start getting on top of things, but she’s been ill so often that I never seem to catch up.

Trying out my new Gearbox leggings

I ran from my house to The Common and was disappointed by my pace, but I decided to ignore it as I know I’m not as fit as I’d like to be. My training for Reading Half definitely isn’t going the way that I’d planned. This time last year, I was so much fitter. I had originally hoped to be aiming for a PB (sub 1:52:19), but now I’m desperately hoping I’ll be fit enough to run sub 2:00.

I ran around The Common with Rachel and F. We went down every side path to try to make the distance as much as possible. When we stopped, I was horrified to find that I’d only run 5.5km in 55 minutes. I’ve never been that slow before. It just didn’t seem right as I’ve walked parkrun (5km) in 40 minutes.

I then ran home. When I got back, the final distance was 12.5km, which is the longest I’ve run for many months. I had a look at my Garmin data online and was relieved to find that somehow my watch settings had changed and the distance shown was miles, not km. Phew!

I’m now starting to feel like I can get myself back on track and can at least finish Reading Half.  Have you entered yet?

reading fc comp

There is currently a fantastic competition on:

Enter Reading Half before 13 Feb to win a great hospitality package for one of Reading FC’s remaining games this season:

Prize includes:

  • VIP match seating on the North West corner
  • One course gourmet burger menu
  • Cash bar facility available
  • Matchday programme and team sheet
  • Place at a shared table
  • Matchday entertainment

I didn’t manage to get a run in this weekend as I was Run Directing at parkrun again. It’s a role that I really enjoy, but I wish that I could be in two places at once as I also love running.

If you’ve ever wondered how difficult your nearest parkrun is, you might be interested to have a look at the Run Britain Rankings. Southampton is a relatively easy run at #38 and Penrose (my local run when I go home to Cornwall) is at #340. How does your local parkrun compare?

Stu and M watching the ducks

As I wasn’t able to go running today, I figured that time on my feet would be a good compromise. I had the most amazing lie in this morning (after several nights of very poor sleep), which has helped me to feel much better. In the afternoon, Stu, M and I went for a walk down to the university and around the campus. M was fascinated by the ducks.

Overall, this week started off badly, but I managed to turn it around an am now feeling totally inspired ready for a new week 🙂

Basics of bike maintenance

7 Feb Jose helping to fix my bike

One of the things that puts many people off cycling is fear of having a mechanical issue. However, it is easy to learn the basics of bicycle maintenance. I’ve rounded up a few key videos that will help you to learn the skills that you need.

    • fixing a puncture
    • how to do an M check etc
    • checking tyre pressure
    • replacing brake pads
    • wrapping bar tape
    • replacing a broken rear mech hanger
    • adjusting derailleurs
    • fixing a broken spoke
    • repairing a broken chain
    • replacing a brake cable

What’s the best bicycle maintenance tip that anyone has given you?

Planning for 2018

6 Feb Planner with the words 'Make it happen'

Planner with the words 'Make it happen'

I usually spend some time on New Year’s Eve planning my races for the following season, but of course I start thinking about what I want to achieve before then. This year was no different, but I’ve been so busy that it’s taken until now for me to write down my plans…

Swimming

  • Swimathon – swim 2.5km in under an hour.
  • Get in the pool at least once a week for the whole year and to make it to some open water swimming sessions.
  • Take Baby M swimming once a week

Cycling

  • I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll get a place in RideLondon again this year
  • Get involved in cyclocross this year

Running

  • Reading Half
  • London Landmarks Half
  • Southampton Half
  • Do my 250th parkrun

Multisport

  • Long Course Weekend – do the full event

Other

  • Qualify as a Personal Trainer

 

I’m trying to be realistic about what I can achieve as I’m really busy at work and M is a high-maintenance tiny human. I’m sure there will be some other B & C goals that will come along throughout the season, so watch this space!

 

Monday Morning Motivation: Killian Jornet

5 Feb

Do you have a head for heights? This inspirational video is by Spanish ultrarunner Killian Jornet:

I’m scared of heights, but this video has inspired me to get out of my comfort zone this week.

The pox, parkrun, Swimathon and cancer

4 Feb Swimathon 2018 logo

I had such great plans for the last couple of weeks, with intentions of getting my training for Reading Half Marathon and Swimathon back on track, but chicken pox (combined with teething, because one lot of pain isn’t enough for my tiny masochist!) decided that was not to be. Poor M has been off nursery for over a week and she hasn’t been sleeping at all well.

I agreed with Stu that I would take M for parkrun on 27th January as I had left him to Run Direct alone the previous week. I’d been under the weather with sinusitis and figured that running with M would make me go slowly. I also chose to start at the back, knowing that the congestion of a thousand or so runners would ensure that I didn’t start too quickly.

Southampton parkrun 27 Jan 18

After the run, we headed to the Bellemoor for a hot drink as the usual post-parkrun hangout is currently closed.

I had hoped to swim on Monday, but I was exhausted after being awake with M for most of the night, so I thought that it would be better to rest. I was conflicted about whether this was the right thing to do, but I knew that I had a lot to catch up on as I had spent most of the weekend holding M and I needed to reply to some emails.

On Wednesday, I went out running with Sarah. We did just over 5km. I had hoped that we would run further as I feel that I’m really falling behind with my half marathon training, but I have to admit that I wasn’t feeling the love for running and it was threatening to pour down.

Yesterday, I was Run Director at parkrun. It’s really nice getting to interact with so many runners, but with the size of Southampton parkrun (over 1000 runners), there are invariably lots of trivial incidents to be dealt with (have you seen my keys; I think I’ve dropped my barcode; where should I leave my jacket etc etc etc) so it can be quite hectic.

Volunteer Soton parkrun 03 Feb 2018

I’m gradually closing in on my 250th parkrun – just 8 to go. Next week, I’ll be Run Directing again, so (all being well), I should hit my 250th just before Easter (early April). I’m really hoping that I’ll be able to persuade lots of friends to come along and to join me for a hot drink afterwards.

We’ve been planning to take M swimming every weekend since we got back from Australia. She’s still spotty because of chicken pox, so we thought we’d better not take her this weekend. As a consequence, I spent a lot of the weekend at home doing housework and cuddling a grumpy tiny human. I also went outside and did some vigorous raking for an hour or so, which I guess counts as exercise.

Rake against a shed

Photo by Marina Khrapova on Unsplash

Did you know that it’s World Cancer Day today? Swimathon is raising money for two charities: Cancer Research and Marie Curie (who provide care and support through terminal illness). These are great charities, so why not sign up to Swimathon and help raise money?