Life in the fast lane

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

August has completely flown by! I had 2 more race weekends right after Ride London. My husband, his brother and fiancĂ©, and I travelled to Ireland where I ran the rock n roll Dublin half. We had a week long road trip and got back to London to I could join fellow UK Fitness Bloggers for Spitfire Scramble, a 24 hour relay race.  Those races tired me out and I came back to work to launch a huge project that I have been working on for nearly 3 years.  It has been a crazy, but rewarding, month.

Check out the shiney wheels!
I want to go back though and tell you about the kit I was given to test during Ride London.  First off, Merlin Cycles were kind enough to send me the Forza Stratos RC23 Road wheelset. At a price point of £149.99, they are a good example of how you can replace certain components on your entry-level bike to make your riding more efficient and enjoyable. My new best friends at Bike Trax kindly squeezed in my wheel swap days before Ride London.  I took my bike to Victoria Park to try them out and I how amazed at how easy it was.  I didn't know if it was the adrenaline or excitement that I might actually be able to go fast enough to ride all 100 miles this year, or just the fact that I had rounder wheels.

The wheels themselves have Shimano hubs and Mach1 spokes. Noah the Wheel Smith was surprised at that quality components were put under a different name as the brands stand for themselves in terms of reputation.

On the day of Ride London, I felt like I was faster than my previous training rides.  You can see my training log, along with Ride London files (segment 1, segment 2, segment 3) over on Strava.  I didn't have much of a chance to draft anyone but feel I did well enough on my own.  After all, I did get all 100 miles in.  :)

Of course I had to get a manicure to match
I can't wait to get out on the bike again once Berlin Marathon is over.  James and I are headed to Cape Town in February and plan on touring on bikes for a few days while we are there.  It will be a good time to break out my Altura cycling kit again. Zyro and Altura sent me some fab pink kit for Ride London, including the Women Peloton Progel Bib Short.  I have never had such padded cycling shorts (all mine are for triathlons and indoor cycling) and what a difference it makes! Holy cow. Plus, I never had to adjust the shorts from riding up on my legs.  They always stayed in place.  I am not a huge fan of bib shorts because going to the loo requires disrobing in a small gross port-a-loo.  But what can you do when nature calls?

I was between sizes on the jersey so I ordered one size up which meant it ended up being too big for me (as compared to a traditional slim fit jersey). It was still able to hold all the food I needed and my wallet without anything falling out of the back pockets.  The zipper was easy to adjust as I rode, which helped me regulate my body temperature.  I was also sent new gloves and a base layer but I received the items too late to try out properly before the big ride.  I tried the shorts, socks, and jersey in a spin class, and also on the test ride for my wheels but felt I was still breaking the 'nothing new on race day' rule.  When I changed out of my bibs at the end of the day (after a tube ride to Olympic Park where we collected our bikes and rode home) I noticed the webbing of the suspenders (braces for you Brits) had left a light impression but the marks were gone the next day.

My husband said the pink made it easy to spot me in a crowd, and it totally goes with my branding. This kit still has plenty of life left and I cannot wait to get back on the road and in the saddle.

Did you try any new kit this year that contributed to your success at Ride London? Leave a comment below and let me know!

Thanks again to Merln Cycles for providing the wheels and Zyco and Altura for the pink kit.  As always, all opinions are honest and my own.

Prudential Ride London 2016 #ScoreSettled

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Kit courtesy of Altura. Review soon!
This year was my third attempt at Prudential Ride London.  I have been very lucky enough to have won the ballot entry for three years in a row.  You can read my review of the inaugural event here.  2014 was the year of the hurricane, in which the entire course was cut short to 86 miles.  I was so waterlogged, I didn't write up a review.  Last year, we moved house so training got pushed aside.  We ended up volunteering at the start line, which was a lot of fun even it was early in the morning. Luckily I was able to defer to this year and I am so glad I did.  Read on!

Registration process & fees:  The event is ballot entry, with plenty of charities offering space in return for fundraising.  I have been lucky enough to win a place every year I entered.  I am not sure if that is because I am a woman, or just lucky.  As I had deferred, my money was not refunded from last year and I had to pay again this year.  While not ideal, I completely understand it must cost a fortune to close down to many roads and having staff for 100+ miles.

Note: Registration is now open for 2017.  I am not sure when the ballot will close (either a date or limited number of entries).  Registration for 2017 is £58.

Standstill at Mile 38
Location:  The course has remained the same since the first event.  The start line is in Queen Elizabeth Park in Stratford, from there the course goes out to Surrey, and it ends on the Mall just before Buckingham Palace. This year you could have your bike brought back to Copper Box Arena for £5 after your race.  It was a bit hard to find the truck at the end of the race, but it was really convenient for us otherwise as a way to get our bikes back home after a long day.

Course & bogs:  It is still amazing to ride through London streets without traffic or red lights.  You go passed many iconic sights before heading out to the country with the first food hub at Hampton Court.  The big hills to worry about are Leith Hill and Box Hill, with a few other ups and downs.  Be sure to train for these inclines!  Declines are still a hazard, so please ride responsibly.  Remember, other riders around you might be less experienced.

Numerous portaloos at start area and also at every hub.  I barely had to wait and there was always loo roll.  Good work organisers!

Fuel was provided by Clif Bar and hydration by ORS tablets.  There was also rice cakes, bananas, Haribos, malt loaf, etc at the food hubs.  Drinks hubs had a limited selection of food.

THIS YEAR I RODE THE ENTIRE COURSE!  I have been working towards this for 4 years and felt such relief as I crossed the finish line.  True, it wasn't my fault in 2014 that I didn't ride 100 miles, but now I can proudly say I have.  Would I have been able to without my 1 hour rest?  I would like to think so, as I limited my rest stops otherwise.

Atmosphere:  Even though it was an un-Godly hour on a Sunday morning, everyone was excited for the event.  Along the way, there was friendly chatter between friends and strangers.  When I was held up for an hour at Mile 38 after a bad crash, folks were still talking to one another and although they were frustrated, they always got out of the way for police and ambulance without any negative words about the victim.
Drinks Hub at top of Box Hill

Bling/goody bags:  Another big shiny medal with the course on it.  Goody bag included the usual flyers and a few snacks.

Tips if you decide to take part next time:  Read the guidance provided on how to cycle safely and share the road.  I recommend checking out my blog posts tagged 'Ride London' for training and kit tips.  You need to take the training seriously to make it around the course.  It took me 8 hours (one of which was waiting for crash to clear) and I feel like I spent a lot of time in the saddle.  Don't forget to add in strength training to complement your cycling.  Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the ride!

Will I take part again?  I am going to skip the ballot for 2017 and let someone else give it a try.  I really enjoyed the training aspect and will continue to keep it up after the Berlin Marathon in September.  Using cycling as cross training has really benefited my running too.

Thanks to Altura and Zyro for the cycling kit and Merlin Cycles for the new wheels.  Honest reviews on these products up soon.

I did it!

Rio 2016 Interview with Team Canada's Kim Gaucher

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Back in 2012, Kim Gaucher (nee: Smith) was kind enough to spend a few minutes with me for an impromptu interview, which you can read here.  Gaucher is back at the Rio Olympics as Team Canada Basketball captain.  Before the games got underway, she was able to email with me for a quick interview.

How did you cope after 2012 Olympics ended as it had been a goal for so long?
It was the best two weeks ever!!! There have been a lot of experiences over my basketball career that I have built up in my head, then when you get there/achieve something, it never quite lives up to the buildup. Well London and it’s Olympics surpassed every wild fantasy and was better than could have been expected. Nothing to cope with, just an amazing life experience that I will always have with me.

Image source: Edmonton Journal
Looks like you have been on the court a lot in the last 4 years. When did you decide to aim for Rio?
After the games, my career was sort of at a crossroads. In the couple of months following the games I told myself I was done with basketball and it was time to move on. However our team and myself sort of exceeded expectations. I took one of the many opportunities presented to me and played that following year in Southern France. Turns out I could still play, I’ve always enjoyed playing and I love representing Canada. So I guess once I got a ball back in my hand after a month off I knew I was ready for another Olympic cycle. People never realise how much work it takes to get to a point like this, but once you get to a level like this you realise just how much fun it is!

Have you prepared any differently in terms of training or mental prep for Rio vs London,  now that you have experienced the Olympics once?
I’m very lucky in that I really love my job. Not just saying that cause we are down here in Rio. When I go a day without some type of basketball it just doesn’t feel right. I’m competitive, I love to work out, I love being part of team – I am very lucky.

When you get a little older, now being in my 30’s the workouts are structured a bit differently. Physically it can be a bit tougher, day after day month after month, but with age also comes wisdom and maturity. My coaches rely on my decision making and leadership now more than ever. I’ll take whatever role they give me as long as I get to compete.

Has being married changed your ability to train or play at all? Are you worried about the Zika virus?
I was with Ben for along time before we even got married, maybe 7-8 years. He knew what he was in for. It has never been easy, and long distance never works well, but we’ve always managed to make it work. I think if anything it’s easier now having the same last name so he isn’t seen as a groupie or distraction.

Yes Zika is something all the athletes are worried about. As an adult my two biggest goals in life were to become an Olympian and a mother. Maybe not at the same time, but still both. In the lead-up to Rio, all of us athletes are so focused on the present that we sometimes forget about the future. There are so many different messages out there it's hard to know what information to trust.

It has changed our plans. At one point we were hoping of conceiving just before or right after Rio, however it just does not seem smart or prudent to do at this point.  I’ve resigned with my club team in France for next season as a result and will take things as they come after that.

What tips are you giving your teammates who haven't been to the Olympics before?
As we say in Canada “ Just give’er”!! Having failed to make 2 Olympics before London, some of our younger player don’t realise how difficult it is to get here. Take it all in, it’s an unbelievable experience to have so early in life, but once that ball goes up its the same game just a bigger stage!

Have you learned any Portuguese for this trip? Are you concerned about Brazil being ready for such a big event?
I’ve been to Brazil now on 5 different occasions for basketball. An amazing country with amazing people and they LOVE and really appreciate womens' sports here. We want to put on a good show. But having said that, it’s kind of like going to another couples house for game night. You love the couple, but they are having a terrible fight just before you arrive. It’s a bit awkward. You know they’ll get through it, but they need to figure some things out before you arrive.

But these are the Olympics. They are what most athletes dream about competing in. I’ve dedicated most of my adult life to getting here and not much right now is going to stop me. If I have to wear long sleeves, not drink the water, go through a couple protests and not go swimming to compete for Canada- Well then that’s what Ive got to do!

Not sure if you met Bolt in 2012, but any other athletes you hope to see? Do you have tickets to any events?
Would have loved to meet Bolt in London but missed my chance. However when I am back in Utah training I always run into elite distance runners who are out there training. I’ve watched Mo Farah train and Canada’s Mohammed Ahmed get ready for the 10000m. Inspiring!!

I love watching the track and field along with the swimmers. And with the games in Rio, volleyball will be the hot ticket with everyone watching, so will I. I just love getting know the athletes, particularly the Canadian ones. Many of us seem to have similar backgrounds and face many of the same struggles with sport in our country.

With the games only being 2 weeks long and basketball playing games every other day, it’s tough to get out and explore. The organisers leave room for athletes to attend any event on a first come first serve basis. But unlike some of the other events where the competition has come and gone in one day, we will hopefully be playing for the entire two weeks, deep in medal contention!

What is your nutrition strategy leading up to Rio and during the games?
Whew where to begin. It’s amazing how much science there is out there. It also does not help playing in France when you’re attempting to be fit for an Olympics.

Basically I never limit myself on fruits and vegetables. I have a couple fruit smoothies a day and never have a problem getting those in. I’ve tried to not go the supplement route. More yougurt and chocolate milk seem to get the job done.

No red meat, and have tried to eat more fish than poultry lately. I’ve always eaten very clean and I think that’s why I’ve been able to stay at this level for such a long time.

Thanks so much to Gaucher for putting aside some time for me.  Tune in to watch Team Canada vs Team USA on Friday 12 August.