10 Things to Tell You About Ironman Training (4-weeks to go)

This week (September 10th to September 16th 2018)  I wanted to tell you about Ironman training and share some surprises,  some facts, and some lessons I’ve learnt over the last seven days from a typical week of Ironman Training…

1. Your immune system gets… confused

I mentioned in last week’s post that I was flagging and on Lemsip-alert, a familiar feeling from my marathon running days. On the day we left for Barcelona, I had the achy, slightly shivery, tired feeling, familiar with the onset of a cold, or as I’ve come to recognise over years of endurance training, a slight imbalance, a tip over the edge, familiar when I train harder. It lingered in Barcleona, but I managed to train. For a week I’d wake up thinking, there’s no way I’ll train today, then I’d be fine, then ill, then fine. (I’m pleased to report I’m currently fine!)

2. Tired all the time (TAT)

I’ve been so tired this week. I had two days off, one for travel, one for exhaustion. I ran on Wednesday night, but it was more like crawling at the end, I could barely put one foot in front of the other, and my body felt like lead I was clocking 11 minute miles and just willing myself to get home. This was closely linked to the point above. But, as I know these feelings pass. By Sunday 9-minute miles for 16 felt totally fine after a bike ride and a big training day on Saturday.

3. Welcome a Rollercoaster of emotions

Ironman training makes me happy, and it makes me sad, angry and chilled, competitive and couldn’t give a sh**e (more of the latter as the weeks have gone by – it’s really about finishing now). Like my immune system my emotional barometer is on freefall one day and the sun is shining the next. No it’s not the menopause – it really is training. One session I’m screaming venom about cycling thinking of nothing but impending doom and going over the handlebars; the next session I’m loving the feeling of the smooth roads, and the sunshine and enjoying that Autumnal feeling of expectation and excitement being just round the corner.

4. It takes up the whole bloody weekend

I’m getting to the point of longing for a Saturday morning when I do a park run, have a croissant and a coffee – and have time to clean the house – and even doing the washing! And maybe even go shopping for winter clothes… I’m getting carried away now. After all, I’ve spent all my money on… whiskey and beer? diamonds and pearls? No – on bikes, races, training, tools, gas canisters, socks, butt shield (yep), nutrition, and lock laces.

5. Enough Already?

You know the 2018 life-coach/counsellor/guru mantra, ‘You are enough’. But with Ironman training, I can sometimes feel like I’m just not doing enough, damn it! There’s always someone knocking out 17, 20, 30 hours a week, as well as working full-time, rustling up whole-food wonders on instagram, and being successful in minimalist and immaculate homes. Meanwhile I rush in and swig a lager (followed by an Erdinger) and hungrily scoff a bag or two of marmite crisps. The dreaded Social media can give you the comparison-wobbles – but as I know, only if you let it! The truth is, enough is really enough… more isn’t always better, and we are all different. Different lives, families, work and different bodies and capabilities. And no one really cares anyway.

6. It makes you hungry, ‘hangry’ & not hungry all in one day!

After a weekend training and surviving for hours on bloks and drinks, Mondays are usually ‘eating all day’ day. On Saturday morning I ate a bagel and a banana and was out the door by 830am and didn’t finish training until about 530pm. The session was a bike ride with a coffee/half a bacon sarnie stop, some protein bars, and a hydration drink; this was followed by a 10K run, with some pre-run chocolate, and then Cliff bar bloks; then a sea swim. We were hungry and talked about food all through training, and quickly consumed post-training coffee and cake, then crisps and a beer and prawn crackers. By the time it came to eating the ‘proper meal’ at around 9pm I didn’t know if I was hungry or not, and only managed half my rice and chicken. The following day on the short ride/long run we ate blocks and drank water from the public toilet taps (forgot the camelback). We ravenously ate M&S egg and tomato sandwiches and crisps, snacked more on chocolate. I fluctuated between starving and too tired to feel hungry. I ordered a pizza, it didn’t arrive, again by the time it did come (without cheese horror) I was eating for the sake of it.  Monday is eating day!

7. It’s a great way to end the week

When the long swim, the long ride and the long bike are complete, the feeling is one of accomplishment. The messy house, the sunburnt nose, and wild hair, the very tardy nails and exhaustion don’t matter. I’m starting to feel fitter.

8. It includes a lot of cycling

I knew doing an Ironman was going to include a lot of cycling. I hadn’t appreciated how much – and how six hours on the bike was going to impact on my social life! I haven’t done enough (but enough for me – see point five). I’ve broken two collarbones, I’ve loathed the bike, and loved it, and I’ve learnt loads about the roads and good/bad driving. I read somewhere that an Ironman is bike race with a swim and a run added on. I tend to agree.

9. Marathons will never be the same again

As anyone who has read my blog will know, I love running. But, my body was starting to give me warning signs, more niggles, stiffness, aches and pains. I would run 50-70 miles per week and always tried to do 60 miles a week for six weeks before tapering for three weeks. For the Ironman I’ve done about 25 miles a week. I will never complain about a long run again, six hours on a bike is a lot harder than three hours on the run (I think mainly because I’m not very patient). Is a marathon going to seem easy after this? One thing is for sure my body is thanking me. Swimming strengthens the core and keeps me flexible, and it’s good for the mind and soul. Cycling makes me strong. On Saturday I did feel strong running. The triathletes were right, cycling does help your running (well, I’ll have to see what I do park run in come November).

10. I’ll miss Ironman training when it’s gone…

With all my moaning and groaning, my anxiety and negativity (there’s been a lot), I have also had an equal measure of loving it – all. I’m proud of myself for getting back on the bike and learning two new sports. I’m now part of Zwift and wear long lycra shorts – I’ve even got a ‘twat hat’, and I wake up on Monday morning with bike oil on my legs! Bring it on… well almost, it’s an Ironman, I’m not tapering yet, there’s another week of hard training to go before that happens.

 

12 week countdown – The week that ended with another broken collarbone

The week: A long trip back from Ireland; working and interviewing; my son’s graduation from Newcastle university; hills on the TT; easy running; some great swim sets; and then falling off my bike at the Sussex CU 100-mile Time Trial and ending up with a broken collarbone. The twists and turns of my Ironman Journey!

A week is a long time in triathlon training! I finished last week’s blog on Monday as the boat pulled into Fishguard. We’d got up at 630am and were by home by 630pm, and I was determined to start the week with training and have no more days off so we headed out for a three and a half mile run, which I described on Strava as ‘sore legs, grumpy, tired’ – but I was glad I had done it.

On Tuesday I was up at 630am for a bike ride with Rachael and Catherine, I was still post-half IM weary and a bit behind the girls, and somehow managed to not attach my Garmin Edge properly so it flew off onto the grass verge! Another first on the TT, I managed to climb the hill to Devil’s Dyke – a demon dealt with but more bike demons to come!

On Wednesday I met Tori for a run. A fellow endurance woman, she had got up at 430am to go for a pre-run sea swim, I’d been tempted, but I knew I was too tired. We had a fantastic seafront easy 11.3 mile run and injected some pace from just beyond the pier, keeping around about 7.40 pace for just short of two miles. In the afternoon I went to the pool and was pleased to tick off my 3150M swim set, 5 x 400 varying paces, with 150 using paddles, and 200 warm up and cool down. After this I was tired!

Early starts and Spa

On Thursday I had 530am start and very slow 10K jog, then a trip to Newcastle for my son’s graduation (2.1 in History and Politics from Newcastle University – proud mother moment!). Again, I was tried but managed to keep going til 1230am. I had decided to let myself lie in at the hotel but did think I might run, but as it was I took the planned day off, other than swimming two lengths under water and racing Ciara my 17 year old daughter in the  10M ‘spa’ pool (she won)…. it’s a thing we like to do at a relaxing spa!

On Saturday, back in Brighton, it was the perfect day for a pre-race long swim. I met with Tori and two new friends and after much faffing with parking on my part we got in. One with a hangover, one sans wetsuit, me faffed… and off we went, once in the water we were flowing brilliantly, and we were all a similar pace – synchronised swimmers. It was a beautiful swim that covered the entire IM distance, including going quite far out and joining a group of stand up paddle boarders, around the West Pier. Thanks to Nicki for the fantastic pictures!

TIME TRIAL COURSE – G100/61: the next demon

I signed up for the  Southern Counties CU 100-mile Time Trial and had a sense trepidation and gut feeling that maybe it wasn’t right for me – or was that fear? I knew this was going to be way out of my comfort zone, but I wanted to try out the TT bike on a long ride, and to do the distance in race conditions without chats and stops for coffee. I did lots of research* but couldn’t get the course to download onto Garmin Edge (note if you’re doing it and find this I have a the course on Strava). Having spoken to the organiser I thought I could just make the cut off of six hours and decided that if I had to be pulled out /timing stop at 80 miles I could just add on the extra 20 myself. But having the time pressure was the thing that made me feel nervous about the whole event which had just 40 fast riders on the start sheet. I’d checked out results and knew I’d be last.

Another worry was that I’d be knackered, but I was really pleased when I woke up at 430am to feel fine. Chris and Tori decided to join me and do some laps, as well as manning the ‘fuel’ stop.

I had that feeling of being part of a different tribe at the start: lots of pointy helmets, and disc wheels, aero shoes and long socks! As I said I was out of my comfort zone and although I was vocalising how nervous I felt, I also had a knowing that as always I was actually fine, and I believed I would complete it and reminded myself how good that would feel. I followed the example of a woman ahead of me and chose not bother with the push off start. I didn’t think it would make much difference to me.

As expected the aero-dynamically dressed riders behind me soon overtook, but I was happy with the ride, and relaxed and the course which I’d been told was ‘horrific’ wasn’t at all bad, undulating and an A road, but with great weather and relatively empty roads, all was good. After two hours I had settled in to the pace of 17.5mph. I reckoned I was now last on the lap but didn’t mind and as I started the second lap I was confident I’d keep the pace for the whole distance which would get me comfortably under six hours. I felt good in the tuck position and started to relax thinking how good this was for Barcelona, and for practising nutrition etc… I managed to eat a cliff bar and drink. I was needing the loo and try as I might I have yet to master going on the bike! But I decided to wait until I had done three hours at 17.5mph before stopping.

Chris had leant me his aero helmet and it kept sliding to the front. It was large and I have a big head – but not hat big! I hadn’t put the visor down because I wanted to see where I was going on the first lap, but when I fly hit my eyeball I knew when the loo stop happened the visor would go down. I did decide adjusting the back dial to stop it sliding to the front was important and managed to get it fitting properly on the move. Thanks goodness I did!


Being new on the TT bike I was making sure I concentrated and didn’t get lost in working out sums about pace. I took care over potholes, and focussed ahead, but for what must have been seconds, I lost my concentration. As I headed down the A283 towards the  left turn I realised I’d over-reached. I saw the two yellow jackets of the  time-keepers who were pointing left and in a split second decided to try to take the corner, in the next split I knew I wasn’t going to make it and was now out of control, and fearful of what I might hit if I went too wide, in what was left of the second I made a decision to head for the grass (and the two timekeepers). I hadn’t see the gravel on the road, or the kerb, and of course it was all too late! Over the handlebars I went landing on my left side. The pain didn’t kick in at first but I instantly knew this wasn’t ‘a get back on my bike’ situation. I lay head down lamenting the fact that I was out of Barcelona, that I’ve spent so much money on it: race entry, travel, flights, reccey trip, new bike, coaching, new gym new clothes! On top of that there’s all the training and progress made. As I lay there one of the time-keepers asked if my collarbone was okay and I said, yes fine.  A few seconds later I moved and the pain kicked in. Ah, no it wasn’t okay! I knew it was broken having broken the right side back in December. I asked the guys to call an ambulance. I had some confusion at first wondering when I had broken my other collarbone – I couldn’t remember. But soon after I felt (relatively) normal. The paramedics could see straight way it was broken.

So, that’s it. I’m off for the operation tomorrow for another plate, completing the full Metal jacket! My ironman journey isn’t going to be as smooth as I hoped, but as someone on social media and my very wise 17 year old daughter simply said, everything happens for a reason.

Next steps

The positives are, that Chris is going to lend me his turbo, and I think I might get bike strong using that. I will get to run again, last time I ran after three days. My swimming had improved but that is obviously the biggest worry with just 11 weeks to go to Barcelona it’s going to be hard to get that back.

Patience is not one of my virtues, so it may be that I have to learn to have some, hold back and not push so hard? I’m inspired by Tim Don who came back to victory six months after breaking his neck, and Chrissie Wellington who was back on her turbo a day after breaking her collar bone but as a friend reminded me, we have very different lives and priorities. Setbacks will bring interesting lessons. I look forward to seeing what unravels.

 

*Check out this report: https://ridewriterepeat.com/2015/07/26/100-mile-time-trial-doing-things-i-thought-i-couldnt/

20 week countdown: week one

May 28th to Sunday June 2nd: ending with The South Downs Relay

I started this training blog with a 52-week countdown, then 40 and here I am with 20 weeks to go. This feels real! I’m writing this retrospectively, but week one of 20 started on the UK Bank Holiday, and my holiday in Portugal with my kids and friend from school, Celia (she’s lived in the US for half her life now but we’re still as connected now as we were from seven to 25 when she left). The focus for the end of the week was the South Downs Relay.

Fiona and Celia – endurance women 50 going on 5

Cycling was not really going to be an option on holiday so I’d already decided to relax about this and focus on the run and swim.

I didn’t achieve my goal of 4K in the sea, but did manage 2.3K which was fantastic. I loved the clear water with the fish swimming beneath me. I was pleased to get two 10-mile runs on beautiful coastal routes completed over the holiday, as well as some easier, shorter runs.

When people thought the world was flat,  Sagres, which is the last stop before America, was once though to be the end point of the world. If it were, it would have been a good spot to finish. It’s an ideal spot for triathlon training too, and even though I didn’t cycle, I appreciated the long, quiet stretches of road and if I’d had running company I might have ventured a it further along the trails weaving their way through the national park.

Homeward Bound

On Thursday morning I had one last lovely run in Portugal and we flew home late afternoon. So on Friday morning I was back home and woke up early, and decided to go to My Ride. With the South Downs Relay, a 100 mile run across the Downs, as part of a team of six, meant I kept the pace and heart rate low and was pleased to see just eight hours recovery on my Garmin.

The South Downs Relay

With a 530am start looming on Saturday I went to bed early on Friday, but woke up, wide awake at 230am! I decided it wouldn’t affect me as I’ve raced tired lots of times before.

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It did affect me! I was knackered and one minute a mile slower than I’d hoped/expected. However, as I type this on Tuesday June 5th feeling slightly ill, I think might have been harbouring a few bugs. But this was a team event, and my under performance didn’t deter from what was really a fantastic day of running, as part of a great team from Brighton Triathlon Club. This unique, invitation-only event, is very special to me. I’ve taken part five times now (in the past I ran with Hailsham Harriers) and it felt so good to see so many familiar faces – and to be inspired by older runners still able to record super fast time (most notably my running club, Arena 80’s Women’s team, all over 40 and won in super fast time).

For me the South Downs Relay marked the end of my messing about on the bike period and it’s time to really focus on the bike from now on! My road bike has been ‘pimped up’ by the guys at the Tri Store, Eastbourne, with new saddle, gears and bakes, courtesy of Chris and I’ve been measured for a Time Trial bike. I can’t avoid it any more. On your bike Fiona, on your bike!

Week 12 and 13 of 40: Bri Tri Camp & Cycling (& Happy Easter)

March 19th to March April 1st

A good week of training at Triathlon Camp… here’s a piece I wrote for The Bri Tri Club about our week away.

And a good week after it, too. My first 10-hour plus week for a long time and I hope I can stick at this.

As I indicated, training is easy when life doesn’t get in the way. Getting out of bed and running in my swimsuit and dry robe out the door and into the pool, then eating a big breakfast,  and on the days it wasn’t raining, following this with a bike ride, and then a run along the prom, if you fancied… It was fun and do-able – without work, family life, washing, cooking and the general day to day stuff we’re all engaged in.

Being in Mallorca got me back on the bike and in a group of cyclists. And on Saturday I  went out on the bike again – and I hated it. I hate cycling. It takes ages, I’m no good at it and I don’t get fitter by doing it.

Oh dear… maybe I should have thought about this before I entered and paid for an Ironman… But seriously that was a low-blood-sugar-level rant written yesterday when I felt exhausted after my 50-mile jaunt to Eastbourne and back again.

The truth is, I’m very pleased with the last two weeks of training. I’ve managed to keep to my personal baseline for running at 30 miles (it was 50 when I was marathon training). Under 30 miles and I really think I’m no longer a runner – and I know lots of people (most) disagree with me on that one. But having run 20+ marathons I know what works for me when it comes to running (miles) and what doesn’t (less miles). I’ve also done a long bike and a spin session and a swim. But for now I’m off to eat some Easter Eggs, so all that’s left for this update is to say a very Happy Easter – and for anyone who saw my facebook post today, April Fool’s!

 

 

 

 

Week eight and half of nine of 40: Start, stop, snow, go…

Monday 19th February to Wednesday 28th February

Winter Triathlon Training

Week eight’s training was good. I had a busy work week with two London work days, but I was feeling enthusiastic to get going again after skiing. I went back to My Ride and the track at running club on Monday, I swam for the first time in 13 weeks on Tuesday, and I got back on the bike on the road (well the flat prom) for the first time since my accident in bitterly cold wind, but sunshine. Finally, after a busy few days in London including visiting the Tri Show in London I ran the Brighton Half Marathon on Sunday at the goal pace of sub 7.30 (on my Garmin). There are 168 hours in a week and I trained for six hours and 47 minutes and I felt satisfied with a good solid week of training and focus on my goals.

Thanks to Ant Bliss from sussexsportphotography.com for sharing this pic with me on Facebook.
A great race photographer and friend.

Snow Go

The first half of week nine however has not been so good. We’ve had the dreaded Beast From The East, the snow and the freezing cold. I don’t usually let weather stop me, and have always chosen to run in the snow, but this time I thought I’d be a bit more cautious, as I didn’t want to risk falling on black, or any other kind of ice. So I gave myself a day off on Monday. However, yesterday, Tuesday was one of those training days that just went wrong from the off, largely due to indecision and procrastination.

I put on my kit first thing intending on running outside, then I saw the snow and decided to do an interval session at the gym later in the day. Then I started work. I had to go to town in the afternoon and decided I’d run after that, but a variety of hold ups and becoming extremely cold (I’d gone out in my running gear and lightweight jacket) meant I simply ran out of time and motivation, and if I’m really honest I gave myself an excuse not to train.

False Start

This morning, I got up early to go to My Ride spin class at the gym, with a plan to follow this with a treadmill run. I arrived at 635am and could see that the gym was closed. A sign on the door said, it was opening at 8am.  As it turned out this was a blessing in disguise as when I got home I got a call from family about a close relative who’d been rushed to hospital, and all training and other plans were put on hold.

I know that running and training makes me feel good and not running and training makes me feel bad – and I also know that consistency is vital for success. I could have run when I got back from London this evening, but I chose not to. Family is more important than Strava logs and sometimes stopping, reflecting and resting is what’s needed.

If you can…Start again

If we’re lucky, every day is a chance to start again and presents us with a blank canvas. Every day my alarm call is Feeling Good  by Nina Simone,  ‘It’s a new dawnIt’s a new dayIt’s a new life. For me. And I’m feeling good.’  So, let’s see what tomorrow brings.

Last week:

 

This week so far:

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.

 

 

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: www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/round-the-world-2017 

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

The Group Ride

Week three – Sunday

Today I got back in the saddle. I loved it. I was apprehensive to start, as I said yesterday, it’s been 12 weeks since my last bike ride (as a Catholic girl, since my last confession is always on the tip of my tongue).

It was my first bike ride with my new club, Brighton Triathlon Club. We met at 8am outside Small Batch Coffee Shop in Seven Dials and for the second time this week I was uncharecteristically early/on time for training. A big group gathered and soon we were off.

As set off up the hill, the rain started to fall – and I fell to the back of the group. My quads were hurting. Yesterday’s 15-mile run on the seafront was making its presence felt, and even though I didn’t have any doubts about completing the ride, I was aware that I may need to work quite hard to keep up.

At the top of the hill the rain stopped,  we stopped and we re-grouped.  I found myself in a splinter group with three other hard-working and very welcoming endurance women. As we kicked off I was lagging behind. The muscles needed to add power to riding a bike – my quads and calves – are very out of bike practise.

But, I was there, and even though I was very conscious that my contribution to the group was, well, not much – and that I was proably holding them back – I was relaxed and could also see that Fiona, Sally and Katie, weren’t going to give me a hard time about it. I also vowed to myself to work hard and catch up so that they don’t have to do the work every week.

Group cycling like this is the perfect way to train. It’s not about one-upmanship, it’s not racing, it’s really about working together as a group: keeping in the rhythm, taking it in turns to lead (although I admit I didn’t do any leading today), encouraging each other on the hard bits, calling out ‘car back’ or ‘car front’, and pointing out potholes and obstacles in the road (I’m a bit out of practise here and found myself pointing to drain covers after we’d cycled past them). Unscripted, unplanned, but when the consensus is to be a group and move and train together, it really does flow. As the new girl to this group (I have joined other group rides before) with zero local knowledge and sub zero sense of direction I was very lucky to have the rest of the team plan and map out the route and find the right road when we got lost. And as a first timer on the infamous hill climb to Ditchling Beacon, I also benefited from loads of advice, tips and encouragement.

As the weeks go by and I get stronger, I hope to contribute more to the group, do my bit of leading, and help any future newcomers. For now, that’s another week of training complete. And tomorrow it all starts again.