Adapting Training After A Cycling Accident: Heal, Recover, Regain Fitness

I’ve had a first this week, my first cycling accident.  Monday is the start of my training week and this week it was Xmas Day. I’d started well with a 10-mile run before lunch and was feeling determined and positive about the next 12-week training block.  I was raring to go as in the previous six weeks I’d had a bit of a lull with flu and a big party meaning training had ticked over and not progressed.

Winter Sun

After two good run sets, on Thursday I joined a gang of Brighton Tri Club members, many of whom had committed to the #RaphaFestive500, to complete an unofficial, social 100K ride. The sun was shining and as we cycled along the seafront I took a moment to take in the scene, a clear, crisp, winter’s day. I’m one of the slower cyclists in the group but was constantly helped along by a club-mate, allowing me to sit on their wheel to draft, or just chat and encourage.

Although it was cold, it didn’t seem too icy. But as we headed down a hill in a small village I saw club-mate Gill tumble to the ground, just as I was saying ‘Is Gill okay?’ I was down and as anyone who has been in an accident knows, it all happened very quickly, as it seemed we’d found that one patch of black ice.

Picking up the Pieces

I knew instantly my collar-bone hurt and could feel a broken off piece of tooth in my mouth. Blood was dripping down my face. A lovely woman living in a house nearby came out and started her car for us to sit in – stopping had made us all feel the effect of the elements (freezing). Amazingly, one of our crew, Scott, had packed a foil blanket, which was genius – and something I’ll pack for future rides.

I’m not the most experienced rider, but this was one of those freak things that just happened. When we went out the sun was shining, and the weather the day before mild. So how did I fare? Quick actions from club-mates meant I didn’t have to do anything. They sorted out the ambulance, got us to a safe place to keep warm and Gemma knew that I had to keep my arm raised. Gill was concussed, bruised and shaken. I have broken a collar-bone, and bashed in my face, with half my front tooth going through my lip, resulting in stitches above the lip, and a nice cut above my eye with more stitches there.

Time for Meditation

So… What now? I lay awake last night (propped up by pillows – ow!) thinking and trying to work out the best way to approach this new-found temporary glitch. For years I’ve  talked about doing mediation but realise this could be my opportunity to do it. I live in Brighton so won’t have a problem finding a meditation course/class to sign up to. One website describes it as the ‘mind settling effortlessly into silence, is the most powerful key to unlock your inner potential for self-healing’ That will do for me!

And I’ll use my training energy and hours well. When I was editor of Running Free Magazine, I was lucky enough to interview Jo Pavey, an athlete who’s experienced a number of injuries. And something I never forgot was when she told me how she kept her training routine and replaced her normal sessions with rehab training when injured. My routine has been a little erratic of late, but I had a rough plan to devote 10 hours a week to training from January.

Training to Heal

So, it’s simple, for 10 of the 168 hours in the week, I’ll plan to meditate, do strength work for my legs (single leg squats, calf raises, squats and lunges), aqua jogging/walking, spinning when I can, and leg raises for the core – and I might even add nutrition and reading into the mix, using my training energy for things I’ve been talking about doing but not doing. It’s new year, so a good time to feel resolve. The first six weeks is about healing, the second six about regaining lost fitness. The last week of the first block is skiing, and the last week of the second six-week block is a trip to Mallorca for a club Got To Tri Training Camp.

‘Training’ for healing will kick off once I know if I need surgery to fix the broken, or as one medic said, shattered bones. Either way I’ve been told that now I’ve broken my collar-bone, I’m a true cyclist (but, ssh, I haven’t had a puncture yet)!

I’m always interested to hear about your recovery stories – any tips or advice, share in the box below.



Story of an Age Group Triathlete

Ordinary Women Being Extraordinary

When Michaela Stringer, 44, from Eastbourne divorced in 2010, she decided it was time to try out Triathlon. Three years later she’d qualified as an age group triathlete.

‘Becoming an age group triathlete has been a life long journey. I’ve swum since I was four-years-old, and running competitively since I was nine. My dad was a runner and one of the pioneer triathletes in the 1980s.  Both my parents were team managers for the Brighton and Hove Athletics Club and as a child, we spent our weekends travelling to races around Sussex competing in cross-country and track and field events.  I was also an active member of the Brighton Dolphin Swimming Club.  When I was 14 years old I took my first step into the world of triathlon.  I took part in the Epsom and Ewell triathlon – it was early days for the sport and I remember going into a cubicle to get dry and completely changed after the swim, before carrying on to the rest of the race!

‘I continued with sport whilst at University, doing Martial Arts, but the usual combination of beer and boys kept me away from my athletic roots. By the 1990s, I’d got into aerobics and step classes and continued to keep fit but no more than a couple of times a week. I went on to marry and have my daughter, Kitty, now 14. Then in 2006 my marriage broke down.

Love Running

‘I felt a little directionless, and my self-confidence had taken a battering. I was in a dark place – depressed, isolated and overweight but I knew that running would help. When I tied up my running shoes and stepped outside for a run, I felt back in control of my body and myself. Running is my first love, so my first step to where I am today, was joining my local running club, Run Wednesdays, run by Eastbourne’s well-known personal trainer and running coach Danny Garbett. I credit Danny with re-igniting my love for running and re-introducing me to the running family.  I felt I belonged somewhere again.

‘Swimming soon followed and as I got fitter, the idea of competing again started to take hold. I started with an Aquathlon – a swim followed by a run – the two things I loved to do. By 2011, triathlon followed, but I had no idea what to do when it came to cycling. I hadn’t been on a bike since my sixth form college days.

The Journey To Age Group Qualification

‘A cyclist friend came with me to help me get the right bike and I started training. I had my sights set on entering my first triathlon.  Shortly after however, I injured my Achilles.  Rather than give up, I focused on improving my swim and bike and although my running was still slow, I entered and completed the Bexhill Triathlon. Although I wasn’t particularly quick, I absolutely loved the occasion and I was hooked.  Soon after I met David, who’s now my husband. He was really encouraging and found that the 2012 British Aquathlon Age Group Championships were being held in Birmingham. He was really knowledgeable about the sport, the training and what I needed to qualify. I entered the race and to my delight, I finished in third place and took home a bronze medal.  This sparked the dream of working towards qualifying for the European Sprint Triathlon Championships taking place in Alanya, Turkey in 2013.  I entered the qualifying race and won my age group. The dream had become a reality.

‘I was lucky to have support from some great local athletes at the Bodyworks Triathlon Club and now that I had earned my GB strip, I started to secure some great local sponsors and was lucky enough to be selected as an ambassador for the wetsuit company Huub. I raced for my life at the championships and came home with a bronze medal. Also later in 2013, by placing third at the British Sprint Championships in Nottingham, I was also lucky enough to earn a place at the ITU World Championships held in Hyde Park, London the following summer.  I finished in 12th place, racing the best of the best. What an amazing experience that was.

‘Through sheer grit and determination and a refusal to give up when times get hard, it had taken just three years to qualify as an age grouper and as a competitive athlete for Team GB. I’ve travelled to great places such as Turkey, Austria and Italy. I’m proud to have represented Great Britain on a National and International Level in Aquathlon and Sprint Triathlon. As I am always looking for the next challenge, in 2014 I switched distance to 70.3 and qualified to represent GBR in the 2015 ETU Middle Distance European Championships in Italy. I completed the qualifying rounds to do so again in Denmark 2017, but unfortunately injury meant I had to pull out a couple of weeks before the event.  This was a massive disappointment as I had worked so hard and was quite possibly in the best shape I had ever been in.  However, injury brings with it other opportunities.  I could still swim and ride and get to the gym. So by focussing on what I could do, I began to see vast improvements in my bike strength, which was my weakest discipline.  I also deferred entry to the Denmark 70.3, so although I won’t be representing my country, I will be settling some unfinished business there in June 2018. If I do well enough, then it could qualify me for the ETU 70.3 champs in 2019, if that is what I choose to do. Injury is your body’s way of telling you to stop, recover and re-assess. It’s so important to listen to that message and re-evaluate your goals. Focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t.

Love Triathlon

‘Triathlon has added so much to my life. With three sports to master, it’s a true leveler for athletes. I’m really passionate about promoting sport for all and have recently qualified as a Level 3 Nutritional Advisor and Personal Trainer.  I do understand how difficult it is to manage training with family life, as when I started I was a single mum with a seven-year old. For me it’s really important to have a routine and to attend regular sessions with like-minded people. I’m also the co-founder of local triathlon club Tri Tempo with local run shop entrepreneur Wes Mechen. I really value the support I get from training with friends at those sessions. I have met some truly amazing and inspiring people at all levels of the sport on my journey.

Age Grouper Training

‘At peak training I’ll do between 10 and 14 hours a week, but off-peak, during the winter, I’ll probably do between eight and 10 hours per week. My weekly schedule at peak is usually made up of three swims (two coached and one with a team-mate),  two to three cycles – a combination of long group rides and shorter interval based turbo sessions and three runs which are a long, a speed and a tempo or brick session (i.e. a bike followed by a run).  I also go to the gym twice a week. It’s a lot so I also make sure I include rest, usually one clear day a week, and then every three weeks I’ll ease off training.

‘To make sure I’m on track with the gym, I also try to see a personal trainer periodically to help me measure my progress and plan strength and conditioning work. This has made a big difference to my performance on the bike and I hope will help to keep further injury at bay.

‘I keep motivated by continually re-setting goals.  It’s so important to know what you want to achieve and why you want to achieve it. And although I have a long-term goal, I also take small steps. And of course, it’s great to keep trying new things. Next year I’m making my debut in the world of OTILLO swim/run on the Gower peninsula. It’s tough, but exciting and a whole new event for me. I always love a challenge.’


Week 12 of 52: Training at Xmas

Training at Xmas is challenging, and if you’re like me it’s the weeks building up with parties, shopping, and routines out the window which make it harder to stick to plans. So, for me, the best thing is not to plan too much and ‘just do it’ when I have the time.

Last week the plan for training at Xmas was to ‘get out most days, train by feel and keep things ticking over… and I added, ‘I want to also include a long run, a park run, a swim and a bike.’ I didn’t swim or park run, but I did get out on the bike after a long break and I managed a medium long run with some speedy bits.

Here’s the detail of my training at Xmas week: On Monday I finally got back to the club for a track session, but a frozen track stopped play and we set off for an easy 30-minute jog. On Tuesday I got bogged down in pre-Christmas work and then a long Xmas shop. On Wednesday I got out for a 12 mile run. I decided to run the seafront as a tempo run, but my stomach got involved and that ground to a halt. However, it eased so I then managed to run 10 x 30 second strides with 2 minute recoveries for the last third of the run (this is a regular marathon training session). On Thursday, I managed a pre-party interval session, of 6 x 1K. The intervals were slow, and felt more like tempo pace, than intervals, but it was what I could do on the day. On Friday  post-party sluggishness meant I missed my early morning slot and then got caught up in Xmas shopping and – preparations. On Saturday I chose to go for a bike ride with club mate Rachel instead of doing a parkrun. The roads were clear as it was the Saturday before Xmas Eve and the weather was just right. We had coffee and breakfast after the ride. And on Xmas Eve I was up at 6am but still didn’t have time to run with packing and tidying to organise, before heading off to visit friends and relations.


Week 11 of 52

The week started frustratingly as I missed my early morning run and then a closed road at night, left me driving around in circles and missing the FTP Cycle test.  It seems a very long time ago. Like the rest of the world I’m whirling around, working, shopping and partying.

With routine out the window, trips to London, shopping and decorating my house, it was easier to not think too much or worry about what I did, or didn’t do, and rather just try to get out consistently. So this week was an easy week, a just do it, but not just do so much week, a week of getting fresh air and fuelling my spirit not rigidly sticking to my schedule and I was happy to run almost 26 miles spread out over five runs.

Not every week can be like this if I want to achieve my Ironman goals, but partying and Xmas and friends visiting from far and wide has a place and can still be part of the plan.

The plan for week 12, the last before Xmas, will be similar – get out most days, train by feel and keep things ticking over. But this week I want to also include a long run, a park run, a swim and a bike… come back next week to see if I did it!


Violist Cycling Round the World

Ordinary Women Being Extraordinary

Violist and fiddle player, Iona Hassan, 39, from Pewsey is planning to cycle across the globe over the next two years to raise £10,000 for Inspire Malawi, who are building classrooms for kids; and to help raise awareness and funds for Networks of Wellbeing (NoW), a mental health charity supporting young people.

‘The idea to do something worthwhile, and to get fit had been brewing for quite some time. Then in October 2016, I spent a month in Malawi. I was invited over by a friend who had set up a small charity there and was helping local communities to improve the education facilities for the children. We stayed in a little village in the middle of nowhere, where the people had very little, and there was no running water or electricity. But what they lacked materially they more than made up for in warmth and kindness.  The school in Mlanda, rebuilt by Inspire Malawi, was incredible and I wanted to help other communities rebuild their schools too, so when I saw the roof of a school in a neighbouring village which was leaking and the children, who were all enthusiastic about their education, were sitting on the floor on small rocks I decided to do something about it.

‘Children walk long distances to get to school but there are some charities, including Buffalo Bikes (World Bicycle Relief), who are supplying bikes so they can cycle instead of walk. Currently the boys are much more likely to cycle than the girls, so I thought me cycling might inspire some more of the girls to also cycle to school.

‘I’d been cycling for about a year when I had the idea to cycle the whole of Malawi, then that idea developed into cycling across the world. When I got home I went to my local cycling shop, Pewsey Velo, who had supported me to get started on cycling in the first place. I asked them if they could get my bike road-worthy and promised that if they did I’d find a way to buy a road bike. By January 2017 I had bought my road bike.

‘I did need some help to get started.  Although I’d always been active and outdoorsy, my passion for music meant I’d focused on that and so work often got in the way, or I just was tired and became unmotivated. I’ve been teaching at a local schools for years and that lifestyle can become quite sedentary, so I often struggled keeping my weight in check.

‘I started small, cycling just 5K to 10K. I’m very lucky to have found the the guys and girls at the shop who also run cycling groups – they are all experienced cyclists and have a wealth of useful advice and great tips. From going out on my bike once or twice a week, once I’d committed to the challenge, I started cycling everywhere I went, getting up to 50K to 60K four to five times a week. I’d had a taste of what I needed to do in May 2017 as I’d gone on a nine day cycling tour, covering the North Coast of Scotland 500 miles  (pretty hilly), stopping over to camp for the night – but what I’d planned was a way bigger challenge!

‘I started the tour in July 2017, cycling from Roscoff, in the north west of France, through Switzerland (Swiss Cycle route three) to Venice. I cycled across the mountainous Gotthard Pass, which was tough, but just amazing. I’ve got no sense of direction but somehow managed with Google Maps and cycle path maps to find my way to Venice in 25 days.

‘The next part of the route is to cycle from Kenya to Cape Town then, in September, then from Kathmandu, Nepal to Mandalay, Myanmar (making up the India/China miles by cycling as many miles across Britain and other famous UK routes as possible in Summer 2018).  After that it’s a quick hop across Australia from Perth to Sydney in 2019, and then it’s the final stint across the USA the same year. Sometimes on the road alone and sometimes with friends, old and new.

‘This year my twin sister, Sharon, has been raising money for an organisation called Networks of Wellbeing in the North East of Scotland.  It’s a mental health charity based in Huntly, near to where we grew up. Lots of young people suffer from a mental illness and it’s very difficult, currently, for them to get the support that they need.’

Follow Iona’s journey here

Iona’s Justgiving page: 

Thanks to my sponsors, Pewsey Velo, for their continued support in my crazy quest!

Talking Age & Running With Ju from Soles Journey

In 2018 I plan to add vlogs and podcasts to the endurance women community as I build channels and conversation about endurance, being a woman, love, life, and hopefully some laughter!

Here’s my first conversation, with my very good friend Julia Chi Taylor. Julia’s an expert at Vlogging. I’m not! So excuse the lighting and lack of editing…

Find Julia at

Follow her Vlog at Soles Journey

Week 10 of 52

I can’t believe I’m 10 weeks in. I really can’t! I have to be honest and say that being off ill for two weeks did throw me and I’m feeling a little unfit right now. Last week I decided to focus on running as I get panicky when I feel my running fitness slipping away and I love to be running fit – I’ve got a bit of a way to go, but  I was happy to compete 40 miles and get out and run five times. You can see what I set out to do – and what I did here.

This week is party week, so I’ve got to train every day in the week, because the weekend is going to be difficult as I have a house full of guests, and my party on Saturday night. It’s a busy time of year and I just plan to get out and train, ideally running every day and also swimming twice and getting in a turbo session tonight on the bike. If I get another bike set in I’ll be pleased.

So rough plan again is:

Monday: AM: off; PM: 3 miles easy run; FTP Cycle test with Bri Tri

Tuesday: AM intervals; PM swim

Wednesday: AM Long run; PM Xmas party

Thursday: AM easy run; PM swim

Friday: AM: intervals; PM party


Week nine of 52

It’s my birthday week! And it’s going to be a busy one. I’m having my house decorated and playing catch up on work. I’ve been prescribed one more week of antibiotics, but feel almost normal. It’s all about baby steps but I need to start think ‘Marathon’  – with just over 19 weeks to go to Brighton Marathon. So here’s my rough plan for the week:

Monday pm: Turbo set with the Tri Club

Tuesday am: Birthday easy run

Weds: Long run/long swim

Thursday: Run DIY Intervals/threshold

Friday: Long run/long swim

Saturday: Velodrome and park run

Sunday: Long bike

Monday 11th December

And here’s the update, and what I did.

I was still feeling as if I was in recovery mode, with an extra week of antibiotics required, but I was definitely well enough to train. And, it was my birthday week, and… I had my whole house painted, so routine was a little bit thrown (not that I’m a big routine person with the demands of ever changing work projects and clients).

On Monday I went to the Bri Tri Watt Bike Session. It was great fun. As always in spinning, sweat is guaranteed. We were in a studio with a screen so we could see where we were in comparison to the rest of the group. I do know that my power on the bike needs a lot of work, so I’m hoping this will help.

On Tuesday, my birthday, I did exactly as planned, an easy seafront run. I was very, very slow. I do train slowly a lot of the time, but I couldn’t have gone quicker if I’d wanted to. On Wednesday I didn’t train, so no swimming or long running. I was very tired after a lovely birthday lunch with Julia (post and video coming soon) and dinner with my daughter, Ciara. On Thursday I was busy in the morning and went for intervals at 10am, keeping them at ‘comfortably hard’ rather than flat out, I stuck with an old marathon training favourite of 6 x 1K.

On Friday I stayed in my happy zone of running and did an easy 11 miler on the seafront. Saturday was busy and as I was meeting a friend for lunch I went for the 6 x 1K session again. I have to confess to feeling very unfit, and unfit for running, so I had made the decision to focus on my first love this week.

Yesterday was all about the bad weather! It snowed, it seemed, across the entire country, except here in Brighton where the wind was ferocious and the rain relentless. I managed just short of 12 miles and finished the week with five runs, 40 miles and one spin session completed, but no swimming.

Blood Cancer Diagnosis didn’t stop Joanne entering an Ironman

Ordinary Women Being Extraordinary

Joanne Smith, 48, from Eastbourne East Sussex, is married, to Mark. She’s a mum of three children, Darien aged 21, Isabella, 11, and Oliver, eight. This year she was diagnosed with blood cancer, since then she’s completed Ride London, taken on a half Ironman and ran a marathon (the super-tough Beachy Head Marathon, with 4000ft of hills). In 2018 she’ll take on the Ironman. She only started cycling when she was 45.

‘I was born with a congenitally small and sensitive bladder, which meant exercise was impossible as I was always needing the loo. Then, three years ago, I was offered botox in the area which I now have twice a year, this was life-changing. I joined the David Lloyd and enjoyed spinning classes. It was here I heard someone talking about triathlon, it captured my imagination, and at 45 I bought the children and myself our first bikes – cross bikes so we could go off-road and on.

‘I also signed the kids up to the local triathlon club and the more the kids got involved in swimming, running and cycling, the more I wanted to. They are now better swimmers and runners than me but I can still out-cycle them. Mark has always run and training became a family thing.

‘I have tried to run in the past but always failed due to my knees hurting and injury. But this time with a new found enthusiasm I went out and did a mile, and thought again – maybe I can? As for swimming, I hadn’t done that either, especially not open water – the extent of my swimming was dangling my feet in the water or a splash with the kids. But, I still entered the Seaford triathlon. To my astonishment I won my age group, age 46. But best of all I loved it!

‘When I was 13 I had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and so it was no surprise when my knees started to cause me problems as I’d already had two rounds of knee surgery to repair tears.

‘In 2016 I struggled to run more than two miles due to my IT band so spent 2016 mainly cycling (my happy place) and after three months of focusing on strength and stretching in the gym decided to try running again, but within a month my knees started hurting so I requested an MRI scan. Out the blue one Friday I got a call to say I needed to see the consultant on Monday. The MRI not only confirmed that I had another tear and a cyst but more worryingly that I had a shadow on my right knee (possibly bone cancer). This was referred to the Stanmore Hospital who are still monitoring this via our local hospital with regular MRI’s but they feel it is clumping of my red cells. My very thorough consultant was still concerned and also sent me for blood tests and a referral to the blood department. One night I read my medical notes and saw that the reason was a query in my elevated platelets, I googled this and found out that meant a high risk of cancer.

‘I was then diagnosed with something called Essential Thrombocythemia a form of incurable blood cancer caused by the mutation of the ‘jak 2’ chromosone which means my platelets are elevated and need to be controlled. At the moment I’m fit and healthy and have my bloods taken every couple of months and a meeting with my blood consultant. Hopefully, with regular monitoring and being picked up early I can be treated as needed and live a long life. It could have been a lot worse.

‘But hearing the ‘C’ word does change your perspective and make you face your life head on. Life changes, and life is short. I’ve always worked hard and have been successful in business, but my children are young and I was reminded how important it was to spend time with them.

‘I’m lucky to be in a position to shape my working life and I’ve got a plan to work a little less by the time I reach 50. But I’m also embracing challenges and enjoying sport with my younger two.

‘After the diagnosis in May 17 I completed Ride London raising money for Blood Cancer, Bewl olympic triathlon, Virtruvian Half Ironman and then Beachy Head Marathon. My knees were still very bad, but I did all of these events with minimal run training, and just sheer bloody-mindedness and endurance on my side.

‘The Virturvian half ironman, (held in September 2017) which I only entered six weeks before race date took me out of my comfort zone. I barely did any running due to knee pain and was having regular treatments including acupuncture. I was told to rest in the two weeks before the race but resting made the pain worse and started to affect my cycling. Added to that, a family holiday in August and run training just didn’t get off the ground.

‘On the day the swim was crowded with lots of kicking and I got cold towards the end but was fine; the bike, my strength, was slower and harder than I had anticipated, with hills and wind. On the run (the part that could have broken me), I had my knees strapped, the wind had picked up even more and was howling across the open dam and the rain pelted down. I decided I would adopt a walk-run strategy that started three minutes running, one minute walking, and then would go down to 2:1, 1:1 then walk. But I kept it going at 3:1 and was delighted to run the half marathon in 2.20. And amazingly experienced no pain during the race, except for my IT band at mile 11.

‘I absolutely loved the day, I had the endurance and felt good all the way through. Rather than my hope that doing this would get long distance tri out of my system it did the opposite and triggered a thought, if I can cope with half ironman, then I can also cope with the full distance, and so a few weeks later, I signed up.

‘With the ironman booked and knowing I may have to walk the run leg, one day whilst out walking the dogs on the glorious South Downs, I started to think about the Beachy Head Marathon (an off road marathon with 4000 ft of elevation that takes in the seven sisters (cliffs) at the end) and a thought came into my head: ‘I could do this at the worst I can walk 26 miles’. So I went home and entered, just three weeks before the race date, when most people start to taper. One week later I did my longest walk, a half marathon in just over three hours in my new trail shoes and ended up with dreadful blisters – bringing my one day training to an abrupt halt.

‘I completed the race in 5 hours  37 on a combination of jogging and fast walking and loved every minute of the day although my IT band reared it’s ugly head at mile 11. I loved running the last three miles with my daughter, she kept me going when all I wanted to do was stop.

‘My dad always told me I could do anything and he is right anything is possible. He taught me to be independent, and never fear trying – and failing. I’m really excited about doing the IronMan next year, although worried about my knees which are giving me grief again, and it’s on my tick-list to do before 50 and I want the tattoo (even though I am afraid of needles).

‘I plan to base most of my training on the bike and will do four to five 100 mile plus bike rides, Long fast paced walks but minimal running. I’ve already started doing the iron distance swim of 3.8K. I plan to do that every two months and see if I’m improving. I’m philosophical about it all I have no idea what the future holds for me with my illness and knees but whilst I can I will do everything I want to do and by an inspiration to my children and live life to the full.’