Friday, 16 January 2015

Winter Wonders and Woes

Winter, a time to wrap up warm, tick off the training, plan the race diary for the upcoming season and stay fit and healthy. Straight forward. Well, it's not been quite that straight forward for me lately.
As the title suggests, so far Winter has been one of Ups and Downs or as I like to say Wonders and Woes!
Here are my top Winter Wonders and Woes!

Winter Wonder: Hot Homemade food
"You are what you eat" apparently! With many hours of winter training, comes much eating. The best way to keep training in winter is to fill the belly with warmth and great food! The slow cooker has been getting a good work out in our house. Now I am no Nigella, but my philosophy is: 1) you can never have too many eggs in a quiche 2) You can never have too many bananas in a smoothie 3) Home made rice pudding is great fuel pre and post swimming (Nice one Adam!) 4) Heaps of greens a day keep the doctor away.

This time of year is all about cups of tea and homemade soups to keep you warm. Even better with home grown leek thrown in. Leeks are super hardy vegetable, this fella, has been surviving the winter chill outdoors in our garden before we remembered him and dug him up, if he is that hardy he has got to be packed full of goodness

Winter Woe: Grumbling Achilles
From July 2014 onwards I was suffering with a grumbling achilles, I made a decision to keep racing and training as much as I could, I knew it was risky. A holiday in the Caribbean and riding a crest of good form persuaded me it was worth going through the pain barrier for. I knew my battered achilles would need time to heal. Rest I gave it, 8 weeks from the last race on Oct 5th. 8 weeks, surely thats enough rest? No it grumbled on. Only now, Mid January, am I starting to run again, it's been frustrating, ive done exercises, seen physio's and stretched my way into oblivion. Ive swapped running for Aqua Jogging, been fed up and frustrated. But fingers crossed there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel as I saw the sunrise yesterday while running, pain free on the muddy trails. What a beautiful feeling. 

Winter Wonder: Body Knowledge 
The flip side to an injury is increased knowledge of my body, it's weaknesses, gaining patience (ok not much but a little) getting it wrong and learning from it. So from an injury woe, emerges a wonder. A new appreciation for my body, so much new knowledge of it's biomechanics and understanding of my strengths and weaknesses.
One top tip I have learnt; If it hurts, something is wrong, resting it won't fix it, you need to actively do something. If you don't know what, seek out the professionals who do. Sorting out tight hips, hip flexors and gluts has been my big learning from the last few months.

Winter Woe: Winter Weather. Punctures and Dirty Bikes
Saturday, 5am, I am cycling to the pool (swim gala means it's an early start for the Leeds Masters group, whom I regularly swim with) it's dark, it's cold, it's raining. I get a puncture. Turn around, I push,run,freewheel back home, change bikes, try again. No mud guard on the new bike. Bugger, wet trousers. Wet trousers are not nice to put back on again post swim.
Mud guards are essential winter gear, on all bikes! Adam extended our mudguards with home made flaps, aka converted pound store place mats to prevent us eating too much grit that flies up from each others rear wheels. Washing bikes is a constant activity in our house, demoralising when you know It will just get dirty the next day. At least it looks sparkly for the first few km of each ride!
After yet another puncture, I purchased some robust winter tyres from the mid ride cafe/bike shop. Kept me warm for the final 20mile ride home. 

Winter Wonder: Cold but Beautiful out there. 
Winter can produce some stunning scenery. In Yorkshire and further afield. We decided to test out what the Peak District had to offer. With tooth brushes and a spare pair of knickers in the cycle jersey back pocket, we jumped on the train form Leeds to Edale, checked into Edale Youth Hostel, feasted on a 3 course evening meal and bedded down in the bunks for the night. Sunday morning, fuelled by a cooked breakfast, we left Edale and cycled back to Leeds. Looked at the map, only 60miles, wind direction was a south westerly, perfect, tailwind all the way home! One error was not looking at the contours closely enough, hilly, understatement!       
Edale to Leeds, not too far, just a few hills. Well,1932meters worth, thats one and a quarter times up Ben Nevis. One way to keep warm!

Out riding with Tor, Aaron and Adam during the festive break, time off work means more time to enjoy the winter wonderland. You can watch a short video of our ride here

Winter Woe and a Wonder!
Winter means training, a fair bit of it! Sometimes it is a woe, sometimes a wonder. Often type 2 fun, fun you only realise you have had, after it has been done, once you are warm, fed and recovering on the sofa! Recently training has been hurting my head more than my body. Trying to improve my swim technique in the pool, has me doing doggy paddle up and down the pool at the speed of a snail. Technique on the rollers has me pedalling one legged and trying to stay upright and technique on the run has seen me being overtaken by a dad pushing a double buggy! Rollers, what are they? I hear you cry.Think of it as cycling on ice, ice that moves! OK, so actually its cylinders that rotate as you cycle, its good for pedal stroke technique and working on cadence, otherwise known as spinning your legs so fast, you think they will fly off! Our landlord obviously knew I would be using the kitchen for roller training so he designed the lighting to creating a awesome roller disco effect! Just one way I spice up my training!
Winter training, presents a few obstacles, British weather, road blocks, flooding and if you draw your route on a piece of paper and stuff it in your leggings, it will probably blow away at some point!

As I enjoy the Winter weather my attention is turning to racing in 2015. 2014 was a decent year for me, 5 race wins, a World Age Group Championship title. So what to target in 2015? 
My main target is Ironman UK, July 19th followed by heading back to North Wales to defend my Slateman, Sandman and Snowman titles. 

Ironman UK 
 3.86km swim, 180.25km biking and 42.2km running

 A challenge that makes heading out in the British winter weather seem worth while! Yes it's a big gamble with my recent achilles woes, yes I should probably start with a half iron distance race first, yes it probably isn't sensible. But. Yes it excites me, it inspires me and yes I believe I can do well, if my body stays in one shape. Lets begin the journey...

Happy winter training and enjoy the journey towards your own goals in 2015.


  1. Guess tight glutes etc may be partly hereditary - blame me. Good luck for 2015 19th July is in the diary. Mumx

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