Sunday 30 September 2018

One day one photo - 30: Ending on a high at Brigg Triathlon

End of September is generally sees the finale of the triathlon season. It's not that I really got into it - I only actually managed to do one other triathlon in Chantilly, France plus a couple of aquathlons in London.

So today's race was the first triathlon of my season in the UK! And I have to say it was a nice way to end the season. As a child I leaved in what is now known as North-East Lincolnshire (in those days it was South Humberside) but for some reason I never had the opportunity to go to Brigg.

Transition at Brigg triathlon - definitely my weakest link!
So today was my first time. The town centre, from what I saw during the run section of the triathlon looked pretty.

The bike course was pan flat, and was a typical time trial profile. I think the route, which was an out and back to Redbourne village, is regularly used for time trials.

I just rode the event on my road bike, as I don't tend to bother with tri bars or disc wheels. It didn't put me at any disadvantage as there were folks on a whole variety of bicycles, including some people on mountain bikes.

What was great was the encouragement given by the other spectators as we passed each other in opposite directions both on the bike and on the run, and the cheers given to us by the spectators along the side of the road. It seemed like this was a big event in Brigg.

I was pleased with the way my race went, as for once I didn't completely mess up the swim - which was in the pool at Ancholme Leisure Centre. The bike and the run also went to form. I wasn't in contention for any prizes but I was just pleased to do a clean race on the three disciplines. The only problem was my fourth discipline. I do need to work on my transitions though. I spent 7 minutes in T1 and 3 minutes in T2.

A woman who I got talking to at the start set off in the same way as me. It was her first ever triathlon and she beat me. She was only marginally quicker than me on the swim, and slower than me on the bike and the run, but she spent a total of 3 minutes in both tranistions where I spent 10 minutes!

Still, I enjoyed my morning, and the goody bag was pretty generous - Clif Bars, drink, medal, T-shirt, and a  Buff. All good value for £15.

I now just need to practice getting shoes on and off very quickly between now and next season! 

Saturday 29 September 2018

One day one photo - 29: Hornsea Beach Race with East Hull Harriers

I seem to collect sports club membership like people collect stamps! I am a member of more than one cycling club, and a member of a hockey club. As for running, I am first claim at Serpentine Running Club, second claim at South London Harriers, and I am now also a member of a running club in Yorkshire which I run with when I visit my family in East Yorkshire. East Hull Harriers are a very friendly club, and they have been very welcoming when I have been up and run with them. I have done their Saturday afternoon Pack Runs, group runs in the rural villages to the north and east of Hull, and I attended their 125th anniversary club dinner earlier this year.

At the back of the pack and enjoying it!
I was really pleased to get out and do the first race of the winter handicap league, the Hornsea Beach race. When doing running races we get to run on a variety of terrains, but I don't know a time when did a race on the beach. The sand was compacted so it wasn't too hard to run through, however the tide was coming in, so there were parts where we just had to run straight through the water.

I did try as much as possible to avoid getting my feet wet, and probably ended up running further than the advertised 6 miles! Also, another small detail was that I missed the start by a few minutes as I couldn't find the steps to get down from the road onto beach. So it was a heartsink moment to hear the whistle go, and see a sea of red running shirts sail off into the distance while I was still on the road! I also felt a bit silly, once I eventually got onto the beach, being a lone runner with a race number on, and no one else around me.

Funnily enough, despite my late start I managed to catch a few of the back markers so I wasn't in last place in the scratch rankings - though I probably am on handicap.

But hey, it was a pleasant afternoon, and as ever it was good to catch up with them for the first time since May.

Friday 28 September 2018

One day one photo - 28: Velovixen at the Cycle Show

As well as browsing round the stands and meeting cycling folks at the Cycle Show at the Birmingham NEC I was also involved in a presentation at the Velovixen/HSBC British Cycling Breeze women's cycling hub.

Phil Bingham, Ishbel Holmes and I after presenting at the Cycle Show
The idea was to have a stand sponsored by two organisations heavily involved in the promotion of women's cycling, and to have presentations from different women throughout the Cycle Show, talking about their cycling and different adventures and experiences that they've had.

Anna Glowinski, the designer behind Annanichoola and Anna's Legs was the anchorwoman and she did a stirling job. She also gave a presentation about her life in cycling, and how she now has had to learn to live with fibromyalgia, a condition which has stopped her from cycling as much as she wants. Presentations were given by folks like Olympic track cyclist Joanna Rowsell, BMX World Champion Shanaze Reade, and Ishbel Holmes, who talked about her round the world cycling expeditions.

I had the privilege of being one of the presenters too, and spoke about my cycling and how I got into it. I think I was the warm-up act for the other folks to follow, so was the first presenter. I didn't have them packed to the rafters where I spoke, but I did get a fair bit of engagement from the folks who were there, and the Breeze champions who were there found my talk interesting.

It was good to be interviewed by Anna, as I've known her for many years so I didn't get that nervous about speaking in front of an audience. In fact it was quite relaxing, convivial experience!

I think a hub like this is a great idea as it gives women a chance to hear about others' experiences, get tips and make contacts. And having it in the middle of a large cycle show means you've got a captive audience.

In fact, the hub was also popular with men too. My 23-year-old nephew came to the Cycle Show too, and he found the presentations on the hub very interesting. 

Thanks to Phil Bingham of Velovixen for giving me the opportunity to speak on their stand.

Thursday 27 September 2018

One day one photo - 27: Cycle Show

I thought I would include two photos for this day.

It's that time of year when cycle shows take place. Some folks will have been at Interbike in Las Vegas, and Eurobike in Friedrichshafen, Germany. This is the UK version of those shows. The thing with the Cycle Show at the NEC Birmingham is that it is still of a manageable size where it is possible to get round and easily meet up with the folks that you would like see.

It was good to catch up with Claire Beaumont, marketing manager at Condor Cycles. The firm hasn't had the easiest of times this summer, with disbanding of the team they were sponsoring, JLT-Condor, and also the passing away of their founder, Monty Young. On the stand at the show there was a memorial garden, which was a nice touch.

Across the way from Condor, were Primal. I have a real penchant for their clothes. I just love the colours. So I had to get some of their socks, to go with the zany arm warmers and jerseys of theirs that I wear.

And while I was at it, why not throw in some food. Clif Bars had out some new flavours based around chocolate and peanut - my two favourite things - so there was no way I could pass on that either.

Of course, I did do other constructive stuff, like meeting with Canyon and Cube about reviewing their bikes, and interviewing Kirsten Wild about her road racing season and her goals for next year.

So it was a productive day, even with the little shopping spree!

Wednesday 26 September 2018

One day one photo - 26: Yoga Rebel

I know it's a clothing brand based in London, but that's the only photo I could find that summed up my experience.

It was one of those days I guess. I am a member of a local gym at Crystal Palace, and as it is part of the Better network of sport centres I can also attend other sport centres within that network.

I was really in need of getting in a yoga class, especially with the increased amount of running I've been doing. It seems that everyone else also is really in need of yoga as the classes get booked up very quickly so I often end up being on the waiting list in case of cancellations. So that was the case today - I was on the waiting list for Hot Yoga at Streatham Ice and Leisure Centre or Yoga at Crystal Palace.

To my luck a place became available at both classes simultaneously, so I had to choose. I generally prefer Hot Yoga, but given that the Yoga class was happening much nearer to my home, and would be starting and therefore finishing earlier in the evening than the Hot Yoga class I plumped for Hot Yoga.

Unfortunately, train delays from London to Crystal Palace occurred and I ended up arriving at the Sport Centre a few minutes late. Then the machines for printing off receipts weren't working, there was a massive queue to get through reception so I consequently arrived at my class almost 10 minutes late.

Understand that I don't like arriving late to classes, but this one couldn't be helped. I entered the room via the back door, and went to pick up a mat at the back of the room. However, the teacher decided I couldn't join in, even though my arrival did not cause a disturbance because I was at the back of the room.

"No you can't join in," she said. "You are bringing negative energy." I was very surprised to be refused entry, particularly as another woman had arrived late a few minutes before me. Often when people are late the instructors are quite accommodating. But this instructor wasn't. "If you don't leave I will stop the class," she ordered. This wasn't reasonable, I thought. I had dashed over in good faith to do the class, I hadn't caused any disruption. Surely it was easier for her to just continue on and ignore me as I wasn't making any noise.

Well, I decided that I had dashed back to do yoga, and that was what I was going to do. So I took my mat, placed it on the ground and lay down.

The instructor was furious and immediately said that she was stopping the class and would call the management. There then ensued a farcical situation where she called the management and then told some trumped up story about how I had burst into the room, making loads of noise and wouldn't leave when asked. Also, because I had unfortunately not been able to get a receipt due to the machines not working she claimed that I had arrived at the class and hadn't paid, so shouldn't be there.

Of course, I had paid - I had membership. But I wasn't going to give my details or even my name because she was asking the management to revoke my membership for disruptive behaviour! So that gave more support to her claim that I was a disruptive freeloader.

The management didn't know who to believe or what to do. Meanwhile, the other participants in the class were getting restive and annoyed. A lot of them took the side of the yoga teacher, saying that I was disturbing their karma and why couldn't I just leave so that they could continue with their class.

Well, we were in a stand-off here as I wanted to do yoga, I was a paying customer, and my belief was that the yoga teacher could have made life easier for everyone all-round if she had just ignored me and continued with the class.

I expressed to the teacher and the centre employee (who was just a receptionist rather than a manager with no powers to do anything) my right to attend my class, and continued to lie on my mat with my eyes closed.

The employee tried to persuade the teacher to resume the class, but she said she didn't feel like it, and was not going to teach while I was there. I think that she was just getting very personal with me, which was uncalled-for. In the end, the employee suggested that she resume the class in another room. So she and the remaining attendees of the class (a number of them decided to leave during the altercation) were obliged to up sticks and go elsewhere, leaving me in the room to continue my meditation and Vinyasa Flow alone.

Now, that was a bit unfortunate. But I've got to say that for someone who you would expect to be laid back, this yoga teacher was very uptight and uncool. And in my opinion her behaviour had backfired because her class was disrupted, she ended up in an angry mood, having to move to another room, and she had lost half her class. Was it really worth it? I think not.

I ended up doing yoga in my own private room, and then went home after half an hour. It wasn't quite in the way that I had expected, but it was something I needed. Yes, I had been a bit of a rebel. I am not proud to say that, but I had to make a stand in the face of an instructor who was being unreasonable.

I probably won't go to one of her classes again, and she won't want me there either. But it's no loss. There are plenty of reasonable yoga instructors around. I guess on a Wednesday night I will just stick to doing Hot Yoga in Streatham - and that's no bad thing!

Tuesday 25 September 2018

One day one photo - 25: Yoga, hot yoga, core stability

Hot yoga Class at Streatham Ice and Leisure Centre
As well as getting regular massages when I up my running miles, I have also been attending classes that help to prevent injury.

The main stay is yoga, which I do at my local sports centre at Crystal Palace. Sometimes I get to do pilates too. Slightly further away from where I live, at Streatham Ice and Sports Centre I attend Hot Yoga classes.

I would really recommend that too. I remember the first time I attended the Hot Yoga classes (aka Bikram Yoga) and did an hour of Vinyasa flow I really struggled to cycle the 5 miles to get back home. The exercises had really taken it out of me. Sure, it was pretty hot at the time and I had to drink a fair bit, and I struggled to hold one or two of the poses. But I didn't feel the tired that I would get after running. So I still found it surprising to realise that I had actually worked quite hard. Something about specifically working on those small group sets of mucles that you don't normally work on in everyday life, does give you fatigue in parts of your body you hadn't realised existed! But it can really make a difference to your all-round strength and core stability.

Talking of core, I have been doing those too. Again, mastering the Swiss Ball is quite an art. I always thought I had decent core stability from regularly doing plank exercises. But in fact this big ball can really sort you out!

I must say that through doing these classes - yoga, pilates, core stability - on a regular basis has kept my body in check, and I have definitely had fewer sports injuries this year than in previous years. Who knows, maybe it is an placebo effect, as many folks may want to say. But I feel good about doing these classes, so I will just carry on, until my theory proven wrong!

Monday 24 September 2018

One day one photo - 24: More running in the South Downs

I am just over a month out from a running challenge I have signed myself up for, the Beachy Head Marathon.

Earlier this year I as supposed to run the Paris Marathon. I did all the preparation, and then a couple of days before I as due to go things went wrong. My orthotics that I had sent in to be reposted arrived back to me late, and the podiatrist had messed up the settings so that they were unusable. So I as left without any orthotics and couldn't do the race.

It was very frustrating. I had toyed with doing New York, but bottled out of signing up for fear that because the money would be a lot to lose if something went wrong again. So I plumped for doing something in the UK. Initially I thought of doing a mountain marathon, but in the end I plumped for Beachy Head - which, being in Eastbourne is comparatively local for me.

It consists of running a marathon - 26 miles (or 42 km) but with loads of hills of the South Downs thrown in, meaning 1200m of climbing. That is not something I have done before, and would be a real challenge.

But thankfully, using the fitness from my Paris Marathon training I have been building on that, but just adding loads of hills. Near to me is of course Crystal Palace, but I have also been running around the North Downs. The real hills are done in the South Downs though.

So that's where I went today. Normally I cycle around these chalky hills, but running them really gives a different perspective, and also the time to notice things that you don't necessarily see when you are focused on bike handling and not falling down!

When running along the trails there's a monument near Ditchling Beacon. It's known as the Chattri Memorial, to commemorate Indians who died during the first World War. Many of them were treated in the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, which served as a hospital, and the site of the Chattri Memorial is where the dead soldiers were cremated. The memorial now has Grade II listed status. It looks great in the middle of Downs, though I have to say it does look a bit random.

Today's run went nearer to Trudleigh Hill and Edburton Hill and Devil's Dyke. That was a pretty long run, and by the time I got back to my car at Portslade and Southwick 15 miles later, my legs were like jelly! I like to think it's all miles in the bank, and hopefully it will make me stronger.

Related Posts
Running along the South Downs

Sunday 23 September 2018

One day one photo - 23: Southern Relay Championships

The start of the Southern Road Relay Championships at Crystal Palace. This is not actually from this year because the weather was not quite so sunny. In fact it was pretty wet. Apart from the atmospheric conditions everything else was the same - the same wide array of running clubs, the same size field, the same officials making sure everything ran smoothly. It all did, and it was fun.

I ran for my first-claim club, Serpentine. It was nice to catch up with some of them after quite a long time.
For all the running and improvements I have made, I always seem to be one of the slowest runners in the squad. I am quite happy to put down that this year I'm taking 22 minutes to run 5km, but the fact is that when there are folks doing the distance in under 19 minutes and the next slowest person from me is doing just over 20 minutes it still makes you feel like a slow coach! And bear in mind that those taking 20 minutes are vets - as in women into their 40s, even 50s!

But the great thing is that at Serpentine they don't seem to be judgmental at all about your ability. They are just happy that you are taking part and giving it a go. And if the team wins prizes their attitude is "fancy that - that's nice isn't it?" Their ethos hasn't changed since when I joined back in 2001. So for that reason I will continue to be a Serpie member, and hopefully I will get to a point where I can run 20 minutes for 5km.

Saturday 22 September 2018

One day one photo - 22: Swim Serpentine over and out

I was meant to do Swim Serpentine, hopefully to improve on my performance from last year. But in the end I didn't go.

Last year I did two open water swims - an 800m swim at the Royal Victoria Docks and Swim Serpentine. At both events I went there with an open mind, though a little nervous because I had not covered the distances in the recent time prior to the event. So my attitude was that I would be happy to just complete the distances regardless of time. I was especially pleased to have gotten through the Swim Serpentine 1-mile race, as it was sheer mind over matter meant that helped me through.

At Henley-on-Thames for Club to Pub swim. After that it was all downhill!
This year was slightly different because I went into the year wanting to do well. I signed myself up for some summer races - Club to Pub race in Henley on Thames, and also the 1-mile 1500m dock to dock race, once again in Royal Victoria. I was regularly getting down to the pool and doing swimming drills, and by May I had already swum 1 mile.

So when it was time to do the famous Club to Pub race I was confident about my ability to cover the distance, even if I was slightly dubious about swimming in the River Thames. The race went well, and I did a time that was slightly quicker than my Swim Serpentine time from last year - even if I was still at the back-end of the field.

Unfortunately, things went downhill from there as other open water races I did just didn't go well. At the Dock to Dock race the choppy waters meant that I spent over an hour swimming 1500m. I was second-last out of the water, a long way behind the third last swimmer. A para-athlete with one leg finished behind me. I did an aquathlon in the Serpentine and that was a disaster as the organiser, for reasons best known to himself, decided 10 minutes before the start that this would be a wetsuit banned race and I struggled to get through the 500m swim - taking about 25 minutes. I also did the Chantilly triathlon, which was a nightmare given the very murky conditions. I took around 50 minutes to do 800m. For all the drills I was doing and the visits to the different open water swim venues my swim times were a lot worse than last year when I wasn't doing much training. It was really bizarre. Or maybe it's not bizzare. I am just officially rubbish at swimming!

So, by the time Swim Serpentine came round I just wasn't in the mood to put myself through more rubbish swimming. So I didn't go. I had had it in mind to go right up until the day and I had my things all prepared and ready to go. But when I woke up that morning I just though, hmm hmm, it's just not happening for me today. That is how my swim season ended - with a dns.

I have had to face the fact that I am in serious need of coaching. The will is there to swim, but it just isn't great going to races and being one of the last out of the water. I would love to be able to swim 2 miles or 4 miles like I have seen some of my peers do. But really that is just not going to happen unless I get some proper instruction on my front crawl. So the hunt for a coach begins.

Friday 21 September 2018

One day one photo - 21: Fastest cyclist in the world

Imagine, having your bike strapped to a car travelling at 100 miles per hour and then the cord is cut and you free wheel along in the slipstream of the car at.....183.9 miles per hour! Scary! That's what Denise Korenek-Mueller has just done - and she's only gone and broken the land speed record on a bike in the process.

Denise Mueller (right) with her driver, Shea Holbrook
Apparently this 45-year-old American is a speed junky and has always been into speed. She's a bit like a female equivalent of Guy Martin.

Prior to breaking this record she set the women's landspeed record on a bike (147 miles per hour) in 2016, and in her younger days she had been a multiple US National Road Race Champion and a downhill mountain bike racer.
So going fast, was definitely in her genes. Fast living is not just confined to bike riding though. In 2017, after having set the women's landspeed record she broke her shoulder blade and rib during a training accident, went on to run the Great Wall of China Marathon, got married, and got shot in the leg during a firearms competition, and still managed to be ready to make her historical attempt on September 16th. 

Now she's back to her regular activity of being a mum and running the family business.

Interestingly, the pace car driver was Shea Holbrook, a woman who specialises in dragster racing and is a 7-time Pirelli Challenge racing driver, having raced at speeds of 278 miles per hour.

Now that's what I call girl power!

Denise Korenek-Mueller clearly likes to sail close to the wind in her activities, but what she did could well have had her sailing out of this world if things had gone wrong. In her own words "there is a fine line between living as if it is your last day on earth, and planning for your future. I choose to dance, sing and play on that fine line and live without regrets."

I would never have the balls to do anything like what she did, though I really tip my hat to her, and I definitely find her an inspiration to live without regrets.

Thursday 20 September 2018

One day one photo - 20: Cycle Superhighway Extended

Another section of the Cycle Superhighway in London was opened. This was the last part of  CS6, which starts at Elephant and Castle.
I used to ride this superhighway when I worked at Clerkenwell Green. It was a great path to ride - I would join it at Elephant and Castle on this lane, completely segregated from motorised traffic, ride up through Southwark, over Blackfriars Bridge and then zoom up through Ludgate Circus, only to be dumped onto the main carriageway again at Farringdon and then have fun and games squeezing between vehicles on the part up to Clerkenwell Bridge.

With the new CS6 extension cycling through Farringdon should be safer
So it was good news to hear that a new section of segregated cycle path was opened today by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. We can now ride from Farringdon right up to Kings Cross on our own cycle lane, and with a short section of quiet roads around the back of Mount Pleasant post office sorting office.

I haven't yet ridden that route. I don't work there anymore, so I guess it would be for the next time I catch a train up north, from King's Cross, or if I want to go out for a drink in trendy Upper Street. I might even use a trip to the Thursday night crochet group at Loop in Islington as an excuse to go up that way.

Anyway, whatever my reason is for going up to North London it is great to know that we have a new cycle lane that will improve safety on the roads, thanks to cooperation of Islington and Camden Councils. I hope that other councils are as amenable to cyclists as these two councils have been.

Sadly, Westminster, for instance has been quite obstructive when it comes to improving infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians. A plan to develop a Cycle Superhighway from Portland Place (near Oxford Circus) north to Swiss Cottage (CS11) was blocked by Westminster. This comes after plans to pedestrianise Oxford Street were shelved. It's quite a shame, given that air pollution has become a real concern in London, with a few places, including Oxford Street and Marylebone Road significantly exceeding EU limits for the number of particulates in the air. Okay, rant over.
Laura Laker talks about this in detail on the Guardian Blog.
More information about the CS6 can be found on the Transport for London website.

I still feel positive about the improvements that have been made to cycling infrastructure in London over the last 15 years, and look forward to cycling along the latest addition to the Cycle Superhighway network.

52 Cycling Voices - 21: Judith Worrall

Judith Worrall is one half of the dynamic duo that founded the Yorkshire Lass Cycling Club, an all women's cycling club based in North Yorkshire. Along with Kate Horsfall, she formed the club in 2015 and have inspired hundreds of women in Yorkshire to get out and ride, particularly at their cyclosportive that takes place in the North York Moors in early August.

Through bike riding Yorkshire Lass CC have also managed to raise tens of thousands of pounds for Women V Cancer, as well as other local charities.

I met Judith and the Yorkshire Lasses last year when I wrote a feature about them for Cycling Weekly magazine. They were a very cheery and slightly boisterous bunch, and I could see why anyone who cycles with this group of ladies is likely to get the bug for cycling pretty quickly. Judith's and Kate's enthusiasm is infectious.

Judith Worrall, aged 53

From: Bradford

Lives: Thirsk

Occupation: Facilities Manager at Carlton Lodge Outdoor Centre

As a youngster I didn’t ride bikes, but I used to ride horses. I got into cycling in 2011 when I was trying to lose weight. I started with Slimming World, and my husband said to me to do cycling as part of it. 

On my first ride I did 5 miles and thought I was absolutely gonna die. Then I signed up to do my first challenge, in India in 2012, so then I was committed so I had to carry on cycling!

My husband was very supportive, but I did get a bit of negativity from people. Fortunately it wasn’t a lot, and I would just smile and ignore them.

I really caught the cycling bug and have since gone all over the world doing bike rides in India, Cuba, Tanzania, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Brazil, raising money for Women V Cancer, and meeting lots of different people.

I do love cycling in Yorkshire though. The countryside is beautiful, and the scenery is amazing once you’ve climbed the hills. My favourite place is the Thirsk area near where I live, as well as Brazil.

Fund-raising through cycling is very important to me. Me and my clubmates do a lot of fund-raising for Women V Cancer. Three of us from the club did a ride around Brazil with nearly 100 ladies last year. We also did London to Paris, and Ride the Night, in London, for Women V Cancer. So we’ve always been fund-raising. Through my challenge rides I’ve met a lot of women who have been affected by cancer – either directly or indirectly.  My mum was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year and passed away.

I met Kate, the co-founder of Yorkshire Lass Cycling Club (YLCC), through our husbands, who are both very keen cyclists and they used to both work together. They would have a Christmas do at the Lakes, so we would see each other then. My husband’s retired now but we thought we would carry on doing the weekend in the Lakes, just the four of us, and we took our bikes.

When we started cycling together the conversation came up about starting a club. We’d both been members of other clubs, done a lot of things and seen how other people organise clubs, and thought, actually we can do this. We can organise a ladies only club. So Kate came up with the idea of doing it, and asked if I fancied giving her a hand. I said, yeah all right then and the YLCC was formed.

It was Tony Booth from All Terrain Cycles who Kate approached and asked if he could help us. He paid for the British Cycling membership for the first year and he also supplied the shop for us, to use as our base.

Kate and I put a message on Facebook inviting women to come on a ride, and our first club run was on March 13th 2015. We were panicking thinking, what happens if we don’t have anyone turn up? So I enrolled my friends, saying they had to turn up even if nobody else came.   

We must have had 30 people turn up, which was great. The club grew, and now we have over 100 members. We meet at Wetherby for our rides, though we’ve got members from all over Yorkshire. 

I’m about a half-hour drive away, but we’ve also got people from the Yorkshire Wolds in East Yorkshire, and from near Leeds. So our rides go to various parts of Yorkshire. Someone puts a message on the facebook group about ideas for sportives and rides and a lot of people will just reply and join in.

I think the thing that attracts a lot of people to YLCC is the fact it’s ladies only. A lot of ladies don’t always like riding with men – just because they’re physically stronger than us, and it’s nice to have a good old natter. We have some good old random conversations about all sorts of things. So it’s just nice as ladies to go out on a bike ride with other like-minded people without trying to break a Strava record, and maybe get away from everyday stuff at home, or work.

It’s not being sexist, it’s just a lot of women don’t have a lot of confidence in themselves and their riding. We’ve got different groups – a steady, a moderate, and leisurely group, and also a “twixt” ride which is in between a steady and a moderate. We’ve found a lot of members on the steady rides are getting faster and stronger, but not quite ready for the moderate ride. So what we’ve done is just put another group in between. 

On the moderate ride you’ve got to be pretty self-sufficient, know the route, and be able to ride at a certain pace. 

But with the “twixt” group we always make sure people wait at the top of hills and nobody gets dropped – not that anyone gets dropped on any ride, but the “twixt” group makes it a bit more of a confidence builder for the ladies wanting to go that bit faster.

In Yorkshire there’s our club, and also the Queensbury Queens ladies only club. I don’t think we have too many ladies-only clubs at the moment, as I think we need to be encouraging ladies to get out on their bikes more. These clubs and the Breeze rides are very helpful as there can be too much testosterone in mixed clubs, and it can put novice riders off.

I also think more could be done for women over 40. For instance in clothing we could do with bigger sizes and a bit of a slacker cut on ladies’ tops for those who have a more ample size.

At our charity sportive we had over 500 ladies take part, and between this year’s and last year’s event we have raised over £50,000 for Women V Cancer, Yorkshire Ambulance, Carlton Lodge Bursary Fund, and PSPA (a charity that supports people living with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy and Cortico Basal Degeneration).
It’s the third year we were doing this, and we had support from All Terrain Bikes and Carlton Lodge Activity Centre. There was a choice of 3 routes – the “Ow do”, 30 miles; “Enjoy thissen”, 60 miles; and “Flippin ‘eck”, 103 miles. The routes went through the North York Moors, with the long route having quite a few more challenging climbs than previous years. 

We had lots of ladies signing up for the 100 as their first 100-miler. And then also on the 30-miler we had lots of ladies turning up on normal bikes so it wasn’t all about road bikes, it was about getting ladies on bikes.

We had a lot of positive feedback, from women who had done the sportive saying that it was their first one and that they’d really enjoyed it. And the encouragement they got was absolutely brilliant.

As ever, we are immensely grateful to all our sponsors and supporters especially All Terrain Cycles who have supported us again this year. We also had sponsorship from Mountain Fuel, Cycle Retreats, OTE, and Big Bobble hats.

The event simply wouldn’t be possible without the help of the hundred plus lasses, the Yorkshire Lads Carl and Ian, who are the brains behind the route management, and who are mine and Kate’s husbands. Thanks go too to the YLCC club members and their families and friends who came along to marshal and run the feed stations.

Cycling plays a massive part in my life. I ride my bike when I can, and when I’m not riding I’m busy organising the sportive. When I ride I never go out without a bottle of juice, bar and phone. But I do go out without my knickers and with padded shorts!

What I like about cycling is the way you get out and meet nice people. I like the freedom that it gives you. Not that I’m the bravest going downhill, but when I’m going downhill it’s like being a child again.

It takes you away from work things, and everything else you’ve been doing. I don’t always like going up hills, but there’s something to be said about when you get to the top of a hill and you’ve managed to do it. We did the Maserati ride as part of the Tour de Yorkshire and that was like hill after hill after hill all day. It was hard, but once we’d done it it was absolutely fantastic.

To any older women who would like to get into cycling I’d say find a friendly club and give it a go. Don't worry too much about it as everyone has the same worries and issues at some part of their life. You need to find a club you enjoy riding with and don't push yourself out of your comfort zone too much at the beginning. Get confident first.

The Yorkshire Lass CC Charity Cyclosportive takes place on Sunday 28th July 2019.


Judith's social media
Facebook: JudeWorrallylcc
Twitter: @Judriles
Instagram: @rudyjudy65

Other Cycling Voices

Alex Davis

Rochelle Gilmore

Rebecca Charlton

Annia Modlinsky

Peggy Crome

Geraldine Glowinski

Hannah Bussey

Maria David

Wednesday 19 September 2018

One day one photo - 19: Hockey goes Pete Tong!

So I have a new hobby for this autumn and winter - hockey. As mentioned before, it was mainly to give me a different focus in sport, and have a bit of a break from the whole cycle (excuse the pun) of bike training and racing etc.

It's going a bit slow, as I have a lot to learn given that I haven't done hockey since I was at school. I am still trying to remember the rules - even how to hold the stick! Sometimes I get a touch of the ball when we do a mini match. A lot of the time I don't. It is not that people don't want to involve me, but more that when the ball comes my way I try and hit it but miss, or I run away from this fast approaching solid object on the relatively smooth astroturf.

I can't get no satisfaction with this gum shield
When I was at school we played on grass and without any form of protection. I remember being hit on the bridge of my nose by a girl when she meant to strike the ball but missed and hit my face instead. She apologised, I said it was okay and we just played on like nothing had happened.

In this day and age of health and safety everyone wears shin pads and a mouth guard, and is a fast game on astroturf. You also get 3-D shots, i.e. people lobbing the ball high into the air and could easily land on your head if you were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Fortunately I haven't had the chance to "head" a hockey ball. Unfortunately, I have not done well in finding the obligatory shin and tooth protection (only the goalie wears a helmet). I couldn't manage to mould the gum shield into the right shape for my mouth. So when I wear it it doesn't stay properly in place, and when I try to force it into position it just presses at the back of my throat and almost makes me want to vomit. So I haven't been able to wear it.

I always thought there was something a bit odd about my shin pads, and now I have found the problem. They really are odd. When I thought I was buying a pair of size XS shin pads from Lillywhites in Piccadilly Circus, I had actually been given one XS pad, and a medium sized pad. And that's why there was something a bit silly looking about the fit. I was once told by an orthopaedic surgeon that I had different sized legs, so had attributed the imbalanced look to that. But in fact the label confirmed that the sizes were not the same. 

So as well as me needing to find another mouth guard, I need to also find a new pair of shin pads as it was more than a month ago when I bought them and I have worn the pads a number of times.

I haven't actually played that much hockey, but this hobby is already beginning to get expensive. Hopefully, over the coming weeks I will find my hockey nirvana.

Tuesday 18 September 2018

One day one photo - 18: Picasso

As I am going to Bankside these days I thought I would write about the exhibition I recently saw. With my Tate members card, which costs about £70, I get free entry to all exhibitions across the different Tate galleries in the UK. I find it's good value as one exhibition may cost around £20, and being in London I can easily get to two museums - Tate Modern and Tate Britain.

Notable exhibtions I have been to have been David Hockney last year, as well as Modigliani. Recently, I saw Picasso - and by jove was it crowded. It was a very interesting exhibition and worth the trip. The collection, entitled Love, Fame, Tragedy focused on the year 1932 when Pablo Picasso was living in Paris and had found global fame.

Marie-Therese Walter (apparently!) in Girl Before a Mirror
There were some works I recognised such as Nude Woman in a Red Armchair and Girl Before a Mirror plus stuff that was the precursor to his later massive anti-war piece, Guernica. A lot of the works were influences from his Cubism period.

I couldn't help thinking about the way he depicted the women in his life. If I were Marie-Therese Walter being presented with a portrait my boyfriend had painted of me I wouldn't be that impressed!

From what I know he didn't treat the women in his life that well, given that he was constantly unfaithful to his first wife, Olga Khokhlova. In addition, he forced his family into submission, and intimidated and regularly insulted certain members of his family. He didn't seem to have much time for his grandchildren either - to the point that his grandson Pablito killed himself shortly after the artist's own death, and his father Paulo (Picasso's son) drank himself to death.

A lot of this is documented in the autobiography of one of the grandchildren, Marina who described a life of misery within the Picasso family as a result of the artist's behaviour.

While the book was a little controversial and came under a lot of criticism, I can't help thinking there's no smoke without fire. After all, there's no question about his adultery and how he picked up and dropped his various girlfriends (as well as painting unflattering portraits of them)!

So even though I, along with millions of others go and see exhibitions of his works and buy books about his art and his life I have to hold back from saying he was that great. After all, in this modern era of me-too and where psychological bullying of women is high in the public consciousness, such behaviour by Picasso would be held in contempt.

Maybe people don't mind lauding over Picasso - maybe because he's been dead for over 45 years - but I still think a brute is a brute so I will reserve my praise for him, even if his works are of seminal importance. 

Monday 17 September 2018

One day one photo - 17: Freelancing

In my new life as a freelancer I am learning to deal with the variety that it brings. Every day and every week is different. Hell, learning!? There's nothing to learn. Variety is what I have always wanted, and have always strived for. That has been one of the things that has excited me most about going freelance.

Really honing that multi-tasking, multi-faceted, multi-disciplinary aspect of myself and challenging myself to be in the driving seat and to think outside the box.

A few healthcare communications agencies in London
Venues change - working in different parts of London, be it on-site, hot-desking or just being at home. I get to have a leisurely breakfast but I refuse to work in my pyjamas though!
Then of course on those light days I can always go for a bike-ride or run, or do other bits of reading - or even get out my crochet.

Sure, like most other things freelancing involves doing a few humdrum things like the billings, the monitoring (and sometimes chasing) for payment, as well as pitching for business.

But there's a certain amount of adrenaline that I get from my new function - almost like doing competitive sport. The planning, the training, the execution, winning and losing, and ultimately learning to get up the next day to do it all again, possibly with tweaks so you can do it better.

So as we enter another week I have a new place to work, funnily enough on Bankside - right where I was for the first time in ages just a few days ago, on a visit to Tate Modern. This time I will be at a healthcare advertising agency, as opposed to a medical education agency. To a layperson there's probably no difference in these places - just writing about healthcare and pharmaceutical drugs, but to us on the inside, there are different slants on the same thing, so different mindsets are needed. You also get a different ambiance when on-site in the agency. One is definitely more creative and slightly zany (no prizes for guessing which).

So yes, as the weeks go by I am finding new places, new challenges and new people. And that's what continues to drive me and help me enjoy my work.

Sunday 16 September 2018

One day one photo - 16: Cyclocross is boss at Crystal Palace

Cyclocross is back for the 2018/9 season (in case you hadn't noticed), and the second round of the London and SE cyclocross league was held at Crystal Palace. Yes, Crystal Palace Park in South London, close to where I live. We are accustomed to seeing road racing on the tarmacced paths there on Tuesday evenings during the summer. But cyclocross on the Crystal Palace turf is something else. I had never thought I'd see the day that Bromley Council would allow this!

Crystal Palace was the site of cyclocross racing in years gone by, right up to the mid-1980s. In fact the World Cyclocross championships were held there in 1973 and you can find vintage footage of it on You Tube.

Addiscombe Cycling Club had attempted to revive the venue for cyclocross racing about 10 years ago. Bromley initially granted permission, probably thinking it would be just another road race like the Tuesday night criterium races, or even the Tour of Britain professional race, which was held there one year. But then when someone in their parks and leisure department looked up what cyclocross actually is, they changed their minds and asked for a huge amount of bond money that the club could not afford to pay. So the plans for a cyclocross race at Crystal Palace were abandoned and venue for the league round was moved back to Penshurst Off-Road Centre, in Kent.

So when we heard that Max and Caroline Reuter had managed to secure the venue this was met with much excitement and anticipation. And the race did not fail to disappoint.

Firstly, the sun came out for us, which is always a good start - even if it's not proper cyclocross weather! But that meant that there were quite a lot of spectators who had picnics while cheering, jeering and heckling us on the tough sections!

Negotiating a tricky corner at Crystal Palace (Photo: Phil Jones)
The course was long, and a real merry-go-round. There were a few series of off-camber zigzags to negotiate, plus a spiral of doom which at times made me slightly dizzy.

The long straight sections where you could bash the pedals hard and get up some speed were pretty bumpy and threw me about a bit.

As with most cyclocross races there were hurdles to run over, but these ones were especially high to stop the showboaters from bunnyhopping them.

One have-a-go-hero did attempt to jump over the hurdles while in the saddle, but embarrassingly faceplanted right in front of some Dulwich Paragon spectators - much to their amusement.

Another section had a steep descent followed by a sharp right-hand turn at the bottom, and a steep climb which all had to be done all on foot. It's not uncommon to run up a hill with your bike, but I don't know of a time when I have had to run downhill with my bike.

It was tough work, and a bit of a balancing act, as well as taxing on the knees. Then the uphill was even tougher work. This area was known as Penge CC corner, where my non-cyclocross racing club-mates took pleasure in shouting at us, sometimes cheering, but just generally willing us along as we crawled and heaved our way up the hill before tackling and another technical descent on a camber. Oh, and did I mention that we also had a flight of steps to run up as well?

Yes, this round of the cyclocross was not boring! Funnily enough, I didn't crash at all. I had a few moments of brushing up against other riders and somehow managed to hold my space even if it meant leaning into them to keep my balance!

My race progressed in the usual way - starting off pretty much at the back, despite being gridded further up the field, using the first couple of laps to get into my stride, while riding around with an anxious face, and then half way through I become emboldened and begin to catch people, finally finishing mid-pack.

The same thing happened today, except that I caught Les Filles rider Tracy Corbett, aka TC, and just couldn't get passed her. TC seemed to have that 6th or 7th gear, to put on a spurt and stay ahead of me. Perhaps, deep down I had a thing about overtaking her, and psychologically I didn't feel comfortable about passing this rider I have known for many years and have a lot of respect for.

Every time I got close to TC I would make a mistake in my gearing or something and that would set me back. So in the end she managed to use her explosive power to get ahead of me on the straight section in the closing stages of the race, and that was me done. But it had been a nice sparring match. (Mental note to work on my psychology for next time.)

It was a good day out though. London cycling legend and cyclocross aficionado John Mullineaux was there and he captured the day's events in his write-up. Lots of folks were out photographing us too, and I like this one that Phil Jones took of me just when I was negotiating a deceptively tricky spot, on which I am proud to say I didn't stack it! Thanks Phil!

Thanks also go to Caroline and Max Reuter, plus the guys from London Phoenix and all the other volunteers who helped to put on this event, as well as ID Verde and Bromley Council for granting permission to hold this momentous event.

Saturday 15 September 2018

One day one photo - 15: One day two running races

Saturday was a busy day for me. I left my house by bike and rode over to Wimbledon Park where I raced in the Surrey Road Relay Championships. Then I rode across London to Sparrows Den fields near West Wickham, and raced in the Will Bolton Cross Country Relays. Both races were roughly 4.5km and undulating, both were with my second-claim club, South London Harriers. One was on-road, one was off-road. Then I had a quick drink with my team-mates and rode home.

I slept well! As you can see from the photo, which is of our team at the Will Bolton Relays, I am not fully dressed to race. I had just arrived from Wimbledon at the time. There was only one other person as crazy as me to do the double - that was Ruth Hutton, pictured next to me. She had the good sense to drive across though, so was able to preserve her legs and do two very fast runs.

Why did I do two races in one day? I just saw it as a challenge. I have recently ramped up my run training, wanting to take it up a gear, so I thought that doing these two races would be a good challenge and also a way of making me stronger for future challenges, such as the Beachy Head marathon, which I am hoping to do next month.

The other thing is part of the mid-life crisis. I am conscious of the fact that in less than 6 months I will be 50 years old. I can hardly believe I have come this far! Things do get harder physically as you get older - you are more prone to lifestyle problems such as high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. You also need time to recover from physical efforts. About 10 or 15 years ago doing two races in a day would have been no big deal for me. But with age I had grown to feel this was possible any more. About a year ago, if I did a fast time at the 5km Park run on a Saturday I would need the whole day to recover! I was having to realise that I am no longer the athlete that I used to be. 

So with the sustained run training I have been doing this year I wanted to see if it really was still possible to do two fast 5km running races in a day with bike riding in between. And in fact, I seem to have passed the test. The time I did for the Wimbledon race was faster than what I did last year as well. So it is reassuring to think that maybe my fitness levels may not have declined as much as I thought. But I probably will sleep a lot longer, and I guess my legs will need a deeper and longer massage! 

Friday 14 September 2018

One day one photo - 14: The Frontline Club

I had the priviledge to attend a course at this esteemed institution in Paddington, London. It was run by journalist, Jenny Kleeman, who is known for making documentaries for Channel 4's Unreported World and BBC's Panorama. She is particularly renown for her stories on revenge porn, and her book on sex robots has made her quite a thought leader on this subject matter!

I attended Jenny's course on surviving as a freelance journalist because I saw it as a chance to gain some more tips on getting by in this walk of life, as well as a way to give myself an injection of motivation through networking with others on the course.

It was a full day of presenting from Jenny, not really a classroom set-up, but more like her telling us about her experiences, and how we could approach certain things like pitching, trying to get through to the decision-maker, following up and how to capitalise on a story that you have had published.
All useful information.

For me, it was a good day and I got to meet a few journalists, notably Joanne, a healthcare writer, and Portia Crowe, journalist and daughter of the late Canadian film and television producer, Bob Crowe.

As for the Frontline Club, this seems quite a dynamic place. There are various courses and workshops to get involved in as a budding journalist, or fully fledged journalists. A lot of their patrons are high profile documentary and current affairs broadcasters, presenters, print journalists, and writers.

The club, which also has a restaurant and a few rooms for over night stays, famously put up Julian "Wikileaks" Assange for several weeks when he was arrested in 2010, prior to him going to the Ecuadorian Embassy.

I like the feel of this place, and see it as a place where you could learn a lot of inspiration when reporting stories. Although they specialise more investigative and conflict journalism, there are still a lot of principles that can be applied to less contentious stories.

I hope to get back there soon, whether it's to do another course or just to go in and meet up with other journos over a drink I think it will be good for me.

Thursday 13 September 2018

One day one photo - 13: The strength of Kristina Vogel

World Champion: Vogel in her prime (@KristinaVogel)
Kristina Vogel has been a real force to be reckoned with in women’s cycle racing for more than ten years, reaching the pinnacle of sprint track cycling at the London and Rio Olympics. 

The 27-year old two-time Olympic champion, and 11-time world champion is also a popular athlete both in her native Germany, and on the international women's cycle racing circuit.
On 26th June we learned of a nasty crash she was involved in with another rider during a training session on an outdoor velodrome in Cottbus, near Berlin.

Apparently she collided with another rider who was doing a standing start, and crashed at 38 miles per hour onto the concrete while putting the finishing touches to her preparation for the German Grand Prix. I knew that her injuries were serious enough to put her out of action for a number of weeks if not a few months. But it was a real shock to discover that she has suffered paralysis.

So it transpires that the mighty speedy Kristina Vogel severed her 7th cervical vertebra in the crash and is now confined to a wheelchair. That must be so devastating for this athlete who may well have been eyeing the Tokyo Olympics.

I feel so terrible for Kristina.
What I have admired about her though is her strength - not only her strength in the velodrome, but also her mental strength to deal with this life-altering situation.

In a recent interview on BBC radio she said that she knew of her paralysis minutes after the crash when she could see people removing her shoes but she could not actually feel any sensation in her feet or her legs. Learning of her fate so quickly helped her come to terms with her situation. Also, having come through another serious accident in 2009 in which she had been in an induced coma, that also gave her the coping mechanisms and the strength to deal with this latest trauma.

Kristina says she still loves life, and she plans to continue to enjoy things, but from her wheelchair.
I am really impressed at how philosophical she has been, and how she is determined to move forward with her life.

Fellow German track racer, Max Levy, who witnessed the incident in the Cottbus velodrome, has started an initiative to raise funds for Kristina, under the name of #StayStrongKristina. Already 120,000 euros have been raised thanks to donations from cycle racers and cycling fans all over the world.

I can't help thinking this is such a sad story, and hearing Kristina speak about it brought a tear to my eye. But really, her optimism and strength is so inspirational and uplifting. I really wish her all the best.

Wednesday 12 September 2018

One day one photo - 12: My other vehicle is a Qashqai

I haven't owned a car since 2006. In fact for a time I even had two cars, after I took a job as a medical sales rep and had to take a company car even though I already had a car of my own.

So these days I am car-less. I had considered buying some wheels, but to be honest, as a single person with no children, living in London, I can't really justify having one. If I worked somewhere that wasn't easy to reach on public transport, and if it didn't cost me £10 to drive into Central London during the week, and if I knew I could get into Central London quicker than if I were on a train or a bicycle, and I could park my car for free then maybe I would consider it worthwhile to have my own car.

Owning a car would mean that most of the time it would be sitting in my driveway depreciating while I pay insurance on it, as well as the car loan. So these days I just use Zip Car or Enterprise, which has a branch less than a mile from where I live. It works out well when I need to go somewhere outside of London, or if I have large items to carry.

Quite a lot of the running and cycling races I do are easily reached by train or just by cycling there, so at times I go for a few months without driving. I do go through phases when I hire quite frequently - that has been be the case over the summer as I have been training to do a marathon, so that has involved me going to remote places to do trail running, and it's handy anyway to be able to get into a warm car after getting drenched and muddy on the trails. But in a few weeks that will all die down, and I probably won't drive much again.

That works well for me. I drive often enough to still keep my skills up, and qualify me as a London driver as opposed to a nervous weekend driver, but not so much that it makes hiring too expensive. My car hire budget is probably around £2,000 a year. For me, that's okay because I don't have the other costs associated with owning a car, and I get to drive brand new cars - usually a Ford Fiesta or Renault Clio, but also, quite often a Nissan Qashqai. None of those cars would cost me less than £2,000, so I think its worth it, and it also feels good to know I am doing my bit to help the environment.

Tuesday 11 September 2018

Styling it out in Compiegne, Chantilly and Senlis

It was nice to be in Compiegne and have the chance to look around a stylish town. Riding around with a ton of luggage on my bike was beginning to get on my nerves, and I worked out that I could get up early and go for a ride sans luggage, up to Pierrefonds and back, before then loading up and riding across to Chantilly.

Very quickly after leaving the town of Compiegne the landscape changed from urban to the woodland of the Forest of Compiegne, and other forested zones. It was that time of day when those with jobs would already be at work, while those who would be taking things leisurely had not yet got up.

Pierrefonds Castle
So that meant I practically had these roads to myself. Pierrefonds village came around very quickly - it was only seven miles away on a flat road. At the castle things were fairly quiet, but I could see more and more coaches and cars turning up. This definitely seemed a popular place.

The first time I visited this area by bike, years ago, while trying to find Pierrefonds Castle, I bumped into an old local bloke. Even though he had lived in the area for over 30 years, he spoke about the castle with such passion and emotion like he was seeing it for the first time, and it was the most amazing thing.

He described how this wonderful sight just rises from the ground, suddenly towering over you in spectacular style. At the time I didn't know what all the fuss was about. But at this moment when riding there I understood exactly what he meant. One minute I was on a a narrow road with a few houses, then the next minute the turrets of this massive fantasy-like castle suddenly came into view, completely dominating the landscape in the distance.

The tower was clearly in view when in the distance, but then as I rode through the winding street that climbed uphill, the turrets disappeared out of view, only to become visible again when really close up.

I took the opportunity to photograph this castle before the seriously big crowds arrived. At this time, on a Friday morning, there was only a handful of tourists and the area was populated by local people at the market. It all looked very French and traditional.

Time was marching on, so I had to push on to return to Compiegne. This is such a lovely part of the world - if only I could have stayed longer. The practically empty roads only gently undulated through the woods, and the sun shone brightly. It was my ideal ride. Along the way, I passed an organised group ride of small children. They can't have been older than 7 years old. All of them wore high vis tabards, and there was a support car behind them like you would see in a professional cycle race. What a lovely introduction to cycling for this juvenile troop.

As well as the Pierrefonds Castle there was also the Armistice Memorial, and a museum of the First World War. Unfortunately time ran out on me as my visit was embarrassingly interrupted by a phone call from a panicked Veronique. The landlady of my studio had returned home during her lunch hour to clear out my room (thinking that I had already checked out). Finding my belongings, but no sign of me she rang fretting about where I was!

Once I dashed back she seemed more relaxed and a bit apologetic for making such a fuss. This panic from her was in addition to the fuss she had made the previous day when she dashed home from work, thinking that I would be at hers for 5pm, when in fact I didn't get there until about quarter to nine that evening. She was trying to juggle running the property while holding down her job, so I guess it must be stressful sometimes trying to get everything done on time.

A typical street in Compiegne
After a pleasant chat with Veronique and her son, I bade them good bye and toddled off along my way, headed for Chantilly. 
Before hitting the road for Chantilly I stopped off and took a few photos of around Compiegne town centre and its impressive gothic town hall that dates to the 16th century.

Compiegne Town Hall
This place definitely had an upmarket feel about it, with its timber-fronted architecture made the place look even prettier. It had the feel of somewhere like St Albans or Stratford-on-Avon, and made for a nice start-town for those who have to face the 260-km cobble-strewn classic bike ride from here to Roubaix! If only, I could have stayed longer - but I had to push on to Chantilly.

My ride to the town known as the Captital of the Horse, Chantilly, is highly recommended. Most of it was traffic-free or on quiet roads. The first part of the ride was on a tarmacked path that followed the river Oise. Then at Verberie, near Pont-Sainte-Maxence, I was then on a main road that had a segregated cycle path, and I continued along a rural road full of corn and pumpkins. It reminded me of my allotment, but just a gazillion times bigger! Looking at fields full of crops like this gives me so much admiration for the farmers, especially when I think about how much work I have to do just to maintain a 30sq metre patch of land, and they are responsible for 30 football pitches worth of produce.

Again, this afternoon the roads seemed so empty, to the point that it made me wonder if I hadn't received the memo about something that was going on! In the end I reached a place called Senlis, and I realised that that the memo had been for everyone to go and have coffee in this beautiful ancient town.

Ancient facades in Senlis
This must be one of the best kept secrets in France. I had heard people talk about Compiegne and Chantilly previously, but never Senlis. But in fact, I would say this town had more character than the other places. The buildings date from Roman times, and hark back to ancient times when royalty lived there. The place certainly had a historic with interesting facades, lining cobbled streets. There was a pretty descent smattering of luxury cars parked outside some of the cafes, as well as folks on Harley Davidsons. I was quite happy to people-watch on my old faithful Planet X push bike!

By this time it was around 4pm, the sun had gone in and the sky looked quite threatening, so I quickly made tracks to Chantilly, which was about five miles away. Once again I was on a quiet, woodland lane. Google maps suggested I take a forest trail which followed quite the tributary River Nonette, but it would have been a bit too bumpy for my pannier rack and I didn't want to to take the risk. It turned out to be useful on-road rather than off-road because suddenly I got caught in a massive shower, which could have been a messy affair! Instead, I was able to stop on a recessed part of the road and shelter under the trees for around half an hour.

Once the rain stopped my run in to Chantilly was straight forward as I basically followed the signs on what was the bike route of the triathlon, so the route took me straight into the grounds of Chantilly Castle, where I was able to pick up my race pack and start getting nervous about my challenge for the next day!

Click here for my route from Compiegne to Chantilly.

One day one photo - 11: Sports Massage

I get amazed when I meet some of my fellow amateur athletes who say they have never had a sports massage before. They must be so lucky to be able to train and compete without needing a massage.  But no, wait - when I get into such conversations with these people it is exactly because they've got an injury that has stopped them from running or cycling, and they are looking for treatment.

But still, it does surprise me to know that here they are at the age of 35 or 40, and it is only now that they are leaving "the age of innocence" when they could just run and cycle as much as they liked without getting any overuse or wear and tear soft tissue injuries. My age of innocence finished when I was 26 and ended up with patella syndrome, which kept me out of any proper running for about a year.

It all happened when I was living in Paris and took part in the half-marathon there. I didn't know much about training programmes. I just ran it, based on the fact that I was fit and my weekly runs were 8km, so it wasn't as though I wasn't used to running. Sure, if it was bad for me my legs would hurt and I would stop and get the tube home quite easily. After all, I lived in the 12th arrondissement, and most of the route (at that time) went through the 13th arrondissement, so it would be easy enough to get home.

I managed to get through the 21.1km without any issues, apart from the fact that it was quite a wet day - as it usually is when the Paris Marathon takes place!

Feeling motivated, I then went to join a running club based at the Bois de Vincennes. Sadly I only lasted two or three sessions when I developed severe pains at the side of my knees and on my left patella, to the point that I was limping. One of the coaches there said that I had tendinitis, and I went to see a sports doctor who told me I would be fine within four weeks.

It was a very long four weeks....I spent six months visiting the sports injury department at La Pitie Salpetriere Hospital getting massaged, undergoing ultra-sound treatment and going weights all as part of my rehabilitation. Not being able to do much sport, go to the gym or run in the way I had been accustomed to all my life up to then was very frustrating, and it annoyed me not being able to take part in the various races and sports events around me.

It was only when I returned to the UK about eight months later that I contemplated any form of running, and had to start everything from scratch - running for just five minutes, then ten minutes and only steadily increasing the time on my feet, until six months later when I was in a position to run five kilometres without getting problems.

As a precautionary measure I started going to Crystal Palace Sports Injury Clinic, as it was known back then. They were very good, and have been ever since. I have been going there for over 20 years now, and I swear by them for getting the right treatment and monitoring for my legs and keeping injuries to a minimum. I regularly get massaged - particularly at moments like now when I am doing quite a lot of racing, and preparing for a marathon. Sports massages have definitely helped to keep injuries at bay.

I have not been completely injury free over the last 20 years, and have had Achilles problems along the way, and a recurrence of mild tendinitis, as well as golfer's elbow through mountain biking. But that loss of innocence in 1995 means that I am very conscious of not overdoing things, and  none of my injuries have been as debilitating as what happened after the Paris half-marathon. So as long as I keep on getting massaged I like to think I will generally be okay to carry on my competitive activity - touch wood.