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Playa de Las Americas may not initially spring to mind when you think of an active break, but the party town of Tenerife has more to offer than its reputation suggests. With diving, surfing and cycling all available within minutes of the main strip, Thomas Cook pulled together a team of active bloggers to #ExploreTenerife and put Spanish sport to the test on a three-night trip. I was part of Team Cycle, and here’s how we got on.

Canaries by Bike

Team cycle (Lucy, Donna and I) headed to Canary Bike Tours to pick up our Pinarello Razha Carbon bikes and meet our tour guide for the next two days of cycling, Unai Yus. Unai is an ex-professional cyclist from the Basque Country, but has been living in Tenerife for 2 years and knows it well. The bikes had been set up to our height and with pedals to fit our clip in shoes. This worried me as I hadn’t used cleats for about three years – I definitely didn’t want to be falling over on the Spanish roads!

But apparently it wasn’t the cleats I needed to be worried about; Tenerife is well known for its inclines, nicknamed the “Island of Hell” by Tour de France contenders. Somehow this had passed me by when I’d committed myself to two days of cycling with an ex pro…

Day One (Southern Loop)

Along the Coast

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Our day one route took us out of Los Cristianos and immediately uphill over Montana de Guaza. We quickly discovered that Tenerife doesn’t really do flat and my poor legs complained as they tried to re-acclimatise, not only to the inclines, but to cycling in general – this marked my third time in the saddle in well over a year.

We rode past Sunday markets and the pretty harbour of Las Galletas before heading on to Chiringuito Pirata, a characterful bar and café on Playa de la Tejita, overlooking Montana Roja. The landscape in the south of Tenerife is dry with mostly sandy-brown terrain and cactus plants, but Montana Roja stands out against this and the blue skies with its deep red colour and harsh angles.

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Photo courtesy of Thomas Cook Airlines

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From Playa de la Tejita we headed a little further east, past banana plantations and tomato farms before stopping briefly to look out over El Médano where a surf school teaches surfing, windsurfing and more. The wind and waves are so perfect in this area that the World Kite Surfing Championship takes places here every year.

The Long and Winding Road

We’d followed the coast quite closely so far, but now turned inland and rode up past the airport and towards the Mountains, turning off for an amazing stretch of winding downhill. This was one of my highlights of the ride – one of those roads where you just look at it and think “this is going be fun”.

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Photo courtesy of Thomas Cook Airlines

Still high on the buzz of the last section, we turned off and stopped for lunch at a lovely local pizza restaurant and café, La Tabaiba. The special for the day was paella, one of my favourites, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. We ate outside, despite a sprinkling of light rain for all of five minutes. Tenerife has these unique microclimates, meaning you can experience quite different weather in fairly short distances, but mostly we’d been treated with bright sunshine. The rain was actually quite welcome!

After lunch, well fed but feeling the effects of having cycled a marathon so far, we chose the direct route back to the bike shop, cycling single file along the main roads – thankfully the roads here are cycle-friendly with no kerbs and drivers who give you room when they pass.

Day 1: 34 miles and 2,421 feet of climbing.

Re-fuelling, Tenerife Style

That evening, we all gathered for dinner at El Cine in Los Cristianos harbour, where we sampled an amazing array of fresh octopus (the best in the Island according to locals), cuttlefish, sardines, prawns and papas arrugadas, a traditional dish of salted potatoes. Tales of the day’s adventures were shared, including Team Dive’s encounters with sting rays and ship wrecks, and Team Surf’s bay hopping to try out all the best spots for catching waves.

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Walking back along the sea front to our hotel, the H10 Conquistador in Las Americas (a four star haven in which to rest our tired legs), we talked through our plans for day 2, which for us included one big climb…

Day Two (Northern Climb)

Team cycle reduced to two as Donna went for a stand up paddle-boarding lesson, so Lucy and I made our way up to the bike shop to meet Unai. This time we were heading to the north by car to start our route. The north of the island is very different from the volcanic south, with the bustling capital of Santa Cruz and the more green landscape.

Golden Sands

Starting in Santa Cruz, we pedaled a flat 10km to Playa de Las Terisitas – one of the only golden beaches of Tenerife (most of the beaches in Tenerife are made up of black, volcanic sand, but the sand here is imported from the Sahara!) – and then climbed to the viewpoint over-looking the bay for the most incredible views back on the beach. Unai reassured me that what we were to tackle next wasn’t as steep as the hill we’d just climbed, though that didn’t comfort me much from the rumours of 20 kilometres of climbing.

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After taking a few photos – after all, this is one of the most photographed views in the whole island – we turned back to start the next stage of our ride. The return downhill was crazy fast and I let my hesitance get the better of me, only letting go of the brakes a couple of times.

Climbing Higher and Higher

Once back to San Andrés, we stopped for a quick drink and then the real work started… 12km of uphill, climbing mount Anaga. The kilometres were marked with signposts from the start of the road, each one a mental checkpoint as we relentlessly pedalled. We stopped to rest about 4 kilometres in, unclipping our shoes as quickly as we could to avoid falling over – you can’t coast to unclip going uphill like you can on the flat!

From here, Unai gave us the occasional push (and I mean physically as well as mentally!) as we made our way further and further up the mountain, winding our way around the many hairpin bends as the mountain got steeper. The climb was tough and I’m not sure I would have have made it to the top unsupported, but Unai seemed pleased with our efforts.

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Photo courtesy of Thomas Cook Airlines

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Photo courtesy of Thomas Cook Airlines

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Photo courtesy of Thomas Cook Airlines

As we reached the final kilometres, the landscape changed and we were suddenly surrounded by a forest of pines and laurels (Tenerife has some of the only laurel forests left in the world) and it was lovely to be shaded by the canopy of trees. A right turn took us to a spectacular viewpoint of El Bailadero, where we posed with our bikes before a final 200m stretch leading to the Albergue de Anaga After for our final stop.

Half a Mile High

Over a delicious Spanish lunch of chick pea and chorizo stew, followed by braised beef and chips, we looked out over the road we had just climbed. I’ve never quite felt a sense of achievement like it. We had the option of tackling another 8 kilometres further into the mountains, but Lucy and I were both spent after climbing over half a mile up in vertical terms and instead we made our way to the very top of the mountains by car for a photo that Unai said we must take before returning – a right of passage of sorts.

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Day 2: 17 miles and 3,153 feet of climbing.

Our Final Meal… Ever?

The group re-assembled in the evening again, this time heading to Meson Castellano for a fantastic tapas feast, washed down with sangria, of course! So far we had only had the evenings together, but we had a group trip planned to round off our Tenerife adventure. Tomorrow we would trek around Teide National Park, 2,000 metres up Mount Teide… amid warnings it was about to erupt.

Check back soon for my post about trekking the rumbling Mount Teide.

Cycling in Tenerife was such a great way to see the sights; we saw and experienced so much more by the power of our own two legs than we would behind the window of a minibus. The cycle hire itself is affordable, as are flights to the Canaries, and the weather is almost guaranteed for us fair-weather cyclists. I’m already thinking about my next adventure, and it may well involve two wheels.

Thank you to Thomas Cook Airlines for the opportunity to #ExploreTenerife.

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Photos taken with my Olympus PEN E-PL7*.

Disclaimer: I was invited to #ExploreTenerife as a guest of Thomas Cook. As always, my opinion is my own and not affected by items or services gifted to me. To find out more about my policy on this and other matters, see my Disclosure page. * Affiliate link. Affiliate links do not affect the price that you pay, but any commission earned helps me to pay the costs of running this site. To find out more about my policy on this and other matters, see my Disclosure page.

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Returning to exercise after a week of nothing can be hard work sometimes, perhaps no more so than with CrossFit as the ache in your muscles after your first session back is like you’ve never trained before. Easing myself back in slowly I only managed three training sessions this week, but each of them was fun and each of them because I wanted to go – no other reason than that – and to me, there’s no better reason.

Two days in Paris with work at the start of the week meant my first session wasn’t until Wednesday, but I felt like I made up for it with a mix of activities. I even cracked my road bike out for (ashamedly) the first time this year.

Week 26: 22nd to 28th June 2015

Monday – Rest day. The 8:15am train from Ebbsfleet meant an early start in the morning to allow plenty of time to get to Paris. We were going to meet up with the team we had worked with to deliver a project I’ve been working on for around 18 months to have a wrap up meeting and celebrate the implementation. Unfortunately our train was delayed due to a broken down Eurotunnel service ahead of us, but we still got to Paris in time for our meeting.

The evening was spent with too much wine and not enough self-control and I had a moment of panic when I realised I hadn’t stood up for three hours, but that I had been readily provided with glass after glass of wine. Fortunately my legs held out and I managed not to embarrass myself too much… except for pouring wine in my COO’s shoe. Oh lord.

Tuesday – Rest day. In the morning we had a short amount of time to have a quick look in the ground floor of the amazing La Fayette shopping centre, where I snapped this gorgeous roof, before heading back to the station. My phone camera just doesn’t give it justice! Coming back from Paris was a breeze, though it seems we had a lucky trip as shortly after our train arrived in the UK the Channel Tunnel was closed due to the dramas in Calais. It was still quite a long day though, and I definitely needed the evening to sort out my overnight bag and do some bits and pieces round the house.

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Wednesday – CrossFit 6am. I don’t usually mention the warm-ups that we do at CrossFit because they’re fairly standard stuff… but today’s warm-up deserves a mention. We had the choice of doing a 1200m row or, what the coach really wanted us to do, an 800m run. With a wall ball above our heads, and a 5 burpee penalty for each time we cheated. Shoulders burning and your whole body slowing to compensate for the extra weight, this was killer. Needless to say I didn’t make it the whole way around without having to rest my arms – but I questioned the definition of “cheating” and got away without doing burpees. I don’t think I’ll be so lucky next time.

We then worked on kipping, either with toes to bar or pull-ups. I opted for pull-ups as they’ve been my nemesis for longer, and struggled my way through 5 sets of only a couple of reps each time. Next up was front rack lunges, with 12-10-8-8-8-8 reps, increasing the weigh each time. I worked up to 40kg. The WOD was a partner 8 minute AMRAP of:

12 deadlifts (50/30kg)

6 box jumps (24/20″)

6 shoulders to overhead (50/30kg)

I worked with Jo and we managed 11 rounds and 9 reps. My coach noticed my new Nanos and commented on how many pairs I had… so I decided to get them all out for a little Nano circle – isn’t it pretty!

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Thursday – Strength and Power 6am. I haven’t managed to get to the strength and power class for a number of weeks now – in fact, I’m fairly sure I’ve only managed to get to one class from each programme (4 week blocks), which is a little annoying as I haven’t been able to see how I would progress with the programme. This class is always really fun and works on skills we just don’t usually have time to train without doing open gym sessions. We did:

Bridge walk-outs

Sliding lunges

Box jumps

Drop jump to broad jump

Hurdle x 3 to box jump

Partial deadlifts (top phase)

Single arm front squats

Single leg burpees

Towel pull-ups

I’m sure Lee throws some of these movements in just to laugh at us as he takes photos of us mopping the floor with our sliding lunges, and hopping around with single leg burpees. But that’s the cynic in me!

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Friday – Rest day. Lunges on Wednesday absolutely destroyed my legs and by yesterday I was already shuffling around… so much so that Darren was embarrassed to walk with me as we walked in to the cinema on Thursday night. I decided to take a rest day today and let my legs recover. I definitely needed to ease myself back in slowly.

Saturday – Rest day. Today was a mixture of a pamper day and a day of chores. I started the morning getting my nails done (ooh fancy!) but then dived straight into cleaning the kitchen and our bedrooms… probably not the best treatment for my freshly made-up hands, but I did wear gloves! In the evening we went out for a lovely dinner only to forget to call a cab for the journey home and having to walk about a mile and a half back along the main roads with no street lights to the nearest cab point. Whoops! It was a nice end to the summer’s evening though!

Sunday – Cycle-run-cycle 10am. My friend Laura sent me a message earlier in the week asking if I was free to run at the weekend and I’m so glad she did because a) I probably wouldn’t have gone otherwise, and b) we had a great chat and catch up. Though I probably just chewed her ears off the whole time.

Laura and I did a lot of marathon training together in 2012, both completing our first marathons that year, and ever since we’ve remained friends (though not done much running!). She used to live within half a mile of me but has recently moved across town so I decided to pull my bike out of the darkness of our shed and give it a cycle for the 4 miles to her new place for our run, and then back again. I really enjoyed myself and definitely plan on getting on the bike again soon. I also need to get my mountain bike out soon!

I wore my Nike We Run London vest from the race I was supposed to do last week – I didn’t want it to go to waste as it’s such a nice vest! Can’t wait to wear this in dark runs as the London silhouette is reflective!

What has your week in training been like? Have you done something different to mix it up a bit? As always I love to hear from you!

Mileage Tracker

Weekly Miles: 2.8 miles (the .8 is important!)

Running Total: 188.8 miles

2015 Fitness Goals Progress

Goal Target/Date Progress
Running Twice per week 14 out of 26 weeks
Inversions Unsupported hand/handstand (end Q1) Can hold unsupported… just need to work on confidence
Pullups 5 strict (end Q2) Allllllmost one strict (nose height!)
Squat Depth Below parallel (end Q4) Air squat 3/4 depth
Clean & Jerk Body weight (end Q4) 60/72.5kg… slowly getting there!
Snatch 2/3 body weight 40/47.5kg

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Guest post from Gary Hawkins, Founder of Ride Fit™ and Tilda Loftin, Ride Fit™ Coaching Advisor and Co-Owner of Vital Effort Fitness.

In Part 1 of this article we described some strength building ideas and presented a four-week training plan to help with your final preparation for the upcoming London to Brighton ride and the climb of the notorious Ditchling Beacon Hill.

In the second part of this article we present a few tips that might help you further with the hill climbing challenge that awaits you, perhaps even remove the dread and put a smile on your face.

Relax

While the thought of this hill might fill you with dread, gripping the handlebars, clenching your teeth and riding with rigid arms is not going to get you to the top.  You’ll be wasting valuable energy tensing muscles that don’t need tensing – what you need to do is direct all your energy into your legs.  You do this by relaxing; certain riders describe it as “moving meditation”.  Work on climbing with your back straight, shoulders back and your hands resting on the bar tops. This will open up your diaphragm, making more space for your lungs, which in turn improves your aerobic efficiency.  Breathe deeply – don’t hold your breath or take shallow rapid breaths.

You can practice “relaxing” either out on the road or on your turbo trainer.  If on your turbo trainer, riding along to the Ride Fit title ElliptiGO World Championships or the opening hill in Un Paseo En Bicicleta Perfecta will give you long high-resistance, low cadence, climb conditions.   Practice erasing every ounce of unnecessary tension from your body, staying as light as you can on your pedals, and pedaling with good form in a rhythmic fashion.

Stay In The Saddle

As we’ve mentioned already, the key to getting to the top of a challenging hill is doing it as efficiently as possible.  Staying in the saddle is the most aerobically efficient way to climb.  Make sure you sit back in the saddle.  This will fully engage your glutes, giving the large muscles at the back of your thighs more leverage to pedal.

While standing up on the pedals is more powerful and might be necessary to overcome a nasty increase in grade, you will use your vital glycogen stores faster.  It is estimated you’ll use about 10% more energy while standing and increase your heart rate by 5 to 10%.  As your leg power and muscular endurance improves the gradient at which you are forced to get out of the saddle will increase.

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Climbing Action from Ride Fit’s Smokin’ Joe.

Standing does, however, have the benefit of temporarily relieving saddle soreness, get the circulation going and it varies the muscle groups that are doing all the work.  When you’re out of the saddle, keep your weight over the crank and try to minimize rocking (not more than 3 to 5 inches) since this wastes valuable energy.  Shift-up a gear before standing-up to maintain a steady pace and keep momentum.  Try to maintain a cadence between 65 – 85rpm.

Know Your Limits

Knowing how your body reacts to load is critical for sustained riding.  It’s all too easy to push too hard early on and get yourself into a position where you will struggle to recover.

How do you know how hard and how long to push?  Well, the best way is to strap on a heart rate monitor and determine the threshold above which it’s difficult to recover.  The easiest way to do this is to workout to a video and push a little harder each time.  You’ll soon start to realize at which point you’ve gone too far.  Any of the Ride Fit™ series will work but Local Rollers, Spin Around Madrid or Three Times Up, Three Ways Down might be particularly helpful due to the “rolling hill” type nature of the workout.

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Climbing Action from Ride Fit’s Three Times Up, Three Ways Down.

By also understanding how your body reacts to load you’ll likely find a “sweet spot” cadence.  This will be your cadence where you feel most comfortable.  If you can maintain this cadence on a hill in a sustainable gear this will be the ideal situation.  If you can’t, you’re going to head towards your highest gearing and then you must concentrate on maintaining rhythm.  Changing down to a slow crank speed puts a lot of pressure on mechanicals and your pedaling efficiency will invariably fall.

Pace, Don’t Race

As we mentioned earlier you need to know your limits and this translates on the actual climb to pacing yourself, not racing.  If you go too hard at the beginning there’s every chance you’ll blow before the top, and even if you don’t, digging too deep into your muscle glycogen reserves may irreparably damage the rest of your ride.  Also, remember there’s no shame in tucking in behind someone and getting a tow!  If you’re matched riders then share the load.  If the other rider is stronger resist the temptation to help out, better to drop off their tail and ride with someone more equal.

If you’re alone and nearing your red line on a hill, slow slightly, breathe deeply and try to continue at a speed within your ability.

In one simple word, “Conserve”. You can always pick it up later.

Practice In High Gear

Working out in big gears strengthens your legs.  Thus, when you’re on that hill you’ll be able to put more power into every pedal stroke and your legs will be less likely to fatigue.  To build your pedal force, practice intervals in high gear and low cadence (50 to 65 rpm).  Try and maintain a smooth pedal stroke and ride this way for one to two minutes.  Then shift back into an easier gear and recover for a while.  You can either do this on a long hill in your community or use a Ride Fit title like Elliptical World Championships that offers 60mins of climbing that you can break into suitable intervals.

Practice On The Road

While we’d love to think you could do all your training on a turbo trainer, the best training is a combination of working both outdoors and in.  To hone your hill climbing skills get out on the road and practice.  Apps like MapMyRide/Strava simplify finding suitable routes and allow you to compare and contrast your performance while trying/modifying technique.

About Ride Fit™

Making exercise enjoyable, entertaining and goal-oriented is essential to keep people coming back for more. Ride Fit™ (http://www.ride-fit.com), an exciting series of virtual indoor cycle and elliptical training videos, provides just such an environment for two of the best types of cardio workouts available – indoor cycling and elliptical exercise. To provide the most realistic virtual workout experience possible, Ride Fit™ videos are shot from the first person perspective using bike-mounted video cameras. Users will experience, as closely as can be achieved in an indoor environment, actually being there on the road.

MTB Guide Small

MTB GuideA must have for any keen mountain biker, The Great British Mountain Bike Trail Guide gives a thorough review of the best trails from across England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

Put together by mountain bike racer and trainer Clive Forth, the guide covers every aspect of trails and centres from the well ridden, to the hidden gems. The book is split into sections for each of the country, with a further breakdown by locality in alphabetical order. This makes it very easy to find the trail you are looking for.

Starting with key information about the facilities, including car parking, whether or not there are showers and bike wash facilities, and even how far the nearest bike shop is, the book ensures you’ll never be caught short! Each centre, and each trail within the centre, is given an “Enjoyment for Skill Level” rating, with a mark out of 10 for Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced.

The trails are introduced with the onsite grading (from green to orange, the standard grading system for mountain bike (MTB) trails), Clive’s own equivalent grading from his experience of the trail, and also the distance, technicality and ascent. Complete with a route map, you really won’t need anything else to plan your ride.

Clive then goes on to provide a step by step description of each trail within the centre, including pointers for riding technique and directions to help you out in cases where the routes might not be well sign-posted. This thorough ride-through helps set the scene and prepare you for what to expect from your visit to the trails.  Also helping to set the scene, the book is well illustrated with photos of the rides.

As well as the individual trail reviews, the book also includes a section early on about planning your MTB trips, from checking you have all of the correct equipment, to factoring in weather conditions, trail conditions and how long your planned routes may take. Clive also touches on trail etiquette, and how to keep safe.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced mountain biker, The Great British Mountain Bike Trail Guide is all you should need to plan a great trip, from a fun day out hitting the trails to longer holidays packed with MTB exploration. It really is the perfect guide to Britain’s fantastic mountain bike routes.

Available from today, you can order your copy directly from Bloomsbury Publishing here.

Sea Swim

20130517-090039.jpgBack in 2009 I spluttered, wobbled, and hobbled my way round my first Sprint distance triathlon.

A slightly podgy ex-smoker, I had already embarked on the complete overhaul of trying to get fit and lose weight, and having taken up spinning and running I’d already lost a couple of dress sizes. But my weight was kind of stable, and 5 and 10km races just weren’t ticking my competitive box any more. So there I was, at the start line of the Bedford Autumn Sprint, borrowed goggles in hand, the number “8” written in permanent marker on my upper arm. I was crapping myself.

This may not sound like the most inspirational story, and you’re probably wondering why I’m telling it. Hell, I’m wondering why I’m telling it. But there is a purpose… all will become clear.

So, as Maria says “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start”.

The Decision to Try a Tri

As I’ve already mentioned, I had been a “spinner” and a runner for a little while by the time I decided to try a tri. It was actually one of the friends I had made through this new “fit” life, Wendy, that sparked the desire for me to do a triathlon. It’s amazing what kind of crazy exercise-induced, endorphin-fuelled ideas come out when you exercise with friends. But, triathlons involve swimming. The dreaded swimming. My kryptonite. I hadn’t swum for years, bar the odd splash around with a lilo on holiday. So I was going to have to change that. *Groan*

Wendy and I talked about races, and she pointed me in the direction of a Sprint distance race in Bedford that she was competing in. The race, a pool-based triathlon, consisted of a 400m swim, 24km bike, followed by a 5km run. I booked up, took a deep breath, steadied my shaking hands and started “training”.

The Training

Off I went onto the internet and bought myself a Shock Absorber tankini, not wanting to don a full on tri suit, which promised to support my ta-tas from swim to bike to run. Armed with my new kit and more determination than one of Lord Sugar’s Apprentices trying to sell a “Tidy-Side-y” to an unsuspecting retailer I hit the pool. Let’s just say that my swim training wasn’t exactly focused. I had never been able to swim properly: that is, with my face in the water; and I knew I wouldn’t have time to try and learn. But that aside, I put in the effort and built up from a fairly relaxed “I-can-do-this-forever” breast stroke, to a rather laboured head-above-the-water freestyle stroke. Soon enough, I was able to cover the 400m distance (16 lengths of a standard 25m pool) without incident.

So that was the swim training down.

I was fairly confident that my spinning attendance over the past year or so would give me a good base to work from, but from some Googling I figured out that I would also have to incorporate some “brick” sessions – training on going from the bike to the run element. I had tackled many 5k runs in the last year, but had never run after doing a bike ride!

On my non-swim days I either took my bike out for a spin, went to my running club’s run sessions, or hit the gym and practised going from stationary bike to treadmill. “Well this is fine” I thought, “I’ll be flying through!”

Oh how wrong I could be…

Race Day

This was it – race day. I arrived with plenty of time to spare so had a good opportunity to pick where I would rack my bike and set up my transition. Wendy arrived, with her partner Gary, and we headed to the changing rooms to get ready for the race. In my nervous state I managed to leave my swim goggles in the car (I know – you’re wondering why I needed goggles when I didn’t swim with my face in the water, but they still help!). Luckily a lovely fellow participant had a spare pair which she lent me. And there I was, 8th in line in the queue, waiting to start.

Unlike the London Marathon, where the lower numbers are reserved for the best of the best, the elite runners, the lower numbers at the Bedford Autumn Sprint were for the slowest swimmers, and therefore the first to start! One by one, the participants entered the pool and started their race.

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Open water swims tend to start in a slightly more hectic manner!

The swim went better than anticipated and I exited the pool in just over 11 minutes, must better than my predicted 15 mins. From there I had to run out of the pool house and into the outdoor transition area. I managed to spend a SHOCKING three minutes in transition (anyone who’s done a triathlon before will know that that is a shameful amount of time to spend in transition). That was my first deadly sin of triathlon committed.

Finally ready to start the ride I wheeled my bike outta there and hit the road. Onto my second deadly sin of triathlon… my steed. A steel framed, clunky mountain bike. I know, I know. It’s all I had!

Having managed to overtake a couple of people on the swim I had another fellow competitor in my sights. After a couple of kilometres I went past her and put my head down for the rest of the ride. The bike leg was nice, a quiet road route with just a couple of hills to tackle. It was a little soul-sapping being overtaken by so many people; because of the order of the race all the fast people had started after me! But I sucked it up and took my own challenge in my hands.

When I reached the end of the bike route I could see the “dismount” sign and got ready to go through to transition. I stopped and got off my bike and… woah! What the…?! My legs? They felt like the wobbliest jelly you’ve ever seen. I felt like I was barely putting one leg in front of the other, but I was getting closer to my transition space so I knew that couldn’t be true.

Bike racked back up I left the transition area and started the run. It took a good couple of hundred metres before I felt like I was actually going anywhere and the feeling started to return to my confused legs, but I still felt really slow compared to my usual running pace. After what felt like ages I completed the 2.5 lap running route and reached the finish line.

I’d done it! I’d finished my very first triathlon! I was a (kinda) TRIATHLETE!

The Aftermath

The next few days I felt great, I’d completed what was, to me, the ultimate challenge. And to top it off – when the results came through I’d knocked 3 seconds off of my 5k PB! Could this be the start of a love affair with triathlon?

I told you at the start of this post that the story had a purpose, and it does. Sometimes we do things in our lives that make us feel amazing, on top of the world, but then another challenge comes along and all of a sudden our achievements become hidden in the shadows. Since this race, I have completed two more triathlons – one another Sprint distance but this time in open water, and the other an Olympic distance. I have also completed a Marathon. But these things have been ruined by too-high expectations, and dashed hopes of achieving certain times. Time to strip it all back, and start again.

So here I am, remembering my very first triathlon, and starting a new journey… from scratch. As the Clumsy Triathlete. And if I can do it, I’m sure as hell anyone can. I hope you’ll join me.

Credits

CC Image “51-365 Triathlon start in Navegantes” courtesy of Arcadius on Flickr.

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Starting Torrey Pines Hill, Southern CA.

Guest post from Gary Hawkins, Founder of Ride Fit™ and Tilda Loftin, Ride Fit™ Coaching Advisor and Co-Owner of Vital Effort Fitness.

While the Ride Fit™ (http://www.ride-fit.com) team members spend much of their riding time perched on a turbo trainer testing our virtual indoor cycle training videos, occasionally we do venture out on the road.  It was during one such outdoor adventure, as we climbed Scripps Poway Parkway (a well ridden Strava segment in Southern California) that the group conversation turned away from things local and several of us reminisced about our riding days back in England.  One of the group mentioned the upcoming London to Brighton ride and his trepidation before his first attempt at climbing the notorious Ditchling Beacon Hill, the only really difficult climb on the ride.  Perhaps, as you read this you’re in the same position.  It’s four weeks to go, your entry is confirmed, you’re a half decent rider and you’ve been training but the thought of that hill still fills you with dread.

While the hill is just shy of a mile in length, with an average grade of 9% it represents a real challenge.  A profile of the climb can be found on Strava, http://www.strava.com/segments/ditchling-beacon-770191.  Assuming you don’t walk up, and many will, this 440ft climb is going to take between 7 to 14 minutes depending on your ability.  Elite athletes will be aiming for around 5 to 7 minutes.

In Part 1 of this article we address strength training and a four-week training plan targeted at final preparation for the London to Brighton ride and a successful ascent of Ditchling Beacon Hill.

Strength Training

Strength training will not only benefit your general health but it will also increase your cycling performance.  Strength training will increase your muscle mass and more muscle mass will generate more power and get you up that feared hill faster. Another good reason to do some strength training is that cycling is a non-weight bearing sport and strength training has been shown to prevent osteoporosis in later life.

We recommend you do weight training 2 – 3 times a week for 20 – 30 min.  Do 8 – 15 repetitions in 2 – 3 sets all year around. Target fewer repetitions and heavier weight if you need to build primarily strength and the more repetitions and less weight if you want to build primarily endurance.

The main focus should be on your lower body and core but a few upper body exercises for general fitness can also be added.  Our favorite exercises include:

  • Lower body exercises – Squats, lunges, heel raises, hip adduction/abduction;
  • Core exercises – Plank, side plank, crunches, back extensions, hip raises;
  • Upper body exercises – Seated row, lat pull-down, chest press, biceps/triceps.

Four Week Training Program

The program below is a four week program developed for your lead in to the London to Brighton ride.  The program requires that you have a good base already, can ride about 3 hours and have done some form of speed work and hill repeats.

The program includes a long ride, hill repeats, speed work and a steady ride. The workouts can be done on any day but make sure you are well rested before the speed workout and the hill repeats. If you can, avoid doing the hill workout and the speed workout on consecutive days.

Week 4 is a taper week in which the intensity and distances are lowered to prepare you for ride day.

Workout 1 Workout 2 Workout 3 Workout 4
Week 1 Speed workout10 x 90sec, Effort 8-9

30sec rest between segments

Hill Workout4 x 3min seated, Effort 8-9

2 min rest

Steady Ride45min, Effort 7 Long Ride3 hours Easy, Effort 6

2 x 5min Hill, Effort 8

Week 2 Speed workout8 x 2min, Effort 8-9

60sec rest between segments

Hill Workout3 x 3min seated, Effort 8-9

3 x 3min standing, Effort 8-9

2 min rest between segments

Steady Ride60min, Effort 7 Long Ride3hours Easy, Effort 6

3 x 5min Hill, Effort 8

Week 3 Speed workout8 x 2min, Effort 8-9

60sec rest between segments

Hill Workout3 x 4min seated, Effort 8-9

2 x 3min standing, Effort 8-9

2 min rest between segments

Steady Ride60min, Effort 7 Long Ride3hours Easy, Effort 6

2 x 5min Hill, Effort 8

Week 4 Speed workout8 x 90sec, Effort 8-9

30sec rest between segments

Hill Workout2 x 2min seat, Effort 8-9

2 x 2min standing, Effort 8-9

3 min rest between segments

East Steady Ride60min, Effort 5 RIDE DAY

Below are further details regarding each workout.

Effort Levels:
  • 5 – nice and easy;
  • 6 – working but very comfortable.  Easy to hold a conversation;
  • 7 – Effort you could sustain for about one hour or more. Also, commonly known as Functional Threshold Power (FTP) – the maximum power you can maintain through an hour’s effort. You can comfortably hold a conversation;
  • 8 – Pushing Hard, difficult to hold a conversation;
  • 9 – You’re really working hard, extremely difficult to hold a conversation.
Speed Workout:
  • Warm up 20 min and cool down for at least 20 min;
  • This is a hard workout and your legs will scream.  Listen to your body’s signals and stop if you experience any joint pain;
  • Make sure you actively recover between the intervals;
  • Best done on a flat road or on your turbo trainer.
Hill Workout:
  • Warm up 20 min and cool down for at least 20 min;
  • Best done on moderately steep hill outside – get the feeling of being on the road;
  • Make sure you keep good form (see above);
  • Actively rest between the repetitions;
  • Pick a gear that allows you to keep 65-85 rpm.
Steady Ride:
  • Warm up 10 min and cool down at least 10 min;
  • Keep a good steady pace;
  • Best done inside on a turbo trainer.  Perhaps, use a suitably timed Ride Fit workout like Hola Madrid, Spin Around Madrid, Alpine Challenge or Un Paseo En Bicicleta Perfecta to provide a variety and make your workout time go faster.
Long Ride
  • Keep an easy, yet steady pace;
  • Make sure you hydrate and eat similar to race day;
  • Multiple loops around a lakeside (flat) bike path are excellent.  Simulate the hill climb by selecting significantly higher gearing, maintain your cadence and sprinting;
  • Do a full body stretch after the ride.

Look out for the second part of this article, where we will present a few tips that might help you further with the hill climbing challenge that awaits you, perhaps even remove the dread and put a smile on your face.

 About Ride Fit™

Making exercise enjoyable, entertaining and goal-oriented is essential to keep people coming back for more. Ride Fit™ (http://www.ride-fit.com), an exciting series of virtual indoor cycle and elliptical training videos, provides just such an environment for two of the best types of cardio workouts available – indoor cycling and elliptical exercise. To provide the most realistic virtual workout experience possible, Ride Fit™ videos are shot from the first person perspective using bike-mounted video cameras. Users will experience, as closely as can be achieved in an indoor environment, actually being there on the road.