Category Archives: wales

The Joy of Volunteering

If you read one of my last posts (it has been a while, whoops) you might remember that a new running group had been set up locally to me. I had offered my help and had started to lead a run mid week as I couldn’t make the other group runs. Following on from that though, at the requet of quite a few people, I have found myself coaching total beginners. People who have never run in their lives now want to try it and I am in the priveleged, trusted position of helping them.

For the first few sessions as a running leader I felt tremendously nervous. I would panic over whether a session was too much or not enough. Had I taken in everyone’s individual needs but also addressed the needs of the whole group? Would people feel a bit achy afterwards and not come back? Would it all just die off?

I’m glad to say that five weeks down the line people are still coming to my beginners group and the enthusiasm is still strong within my group of runners. They have been coming in rain, hail, frost and bitter cold which has surprised and amazed me. If one or two can’t come they actually seem disappointed. Last night we did our first ‘interval session’ where I got them to run a bit faster than usual and everyone was smiling. Nobody was discouraged and nobody felt they had to drop out. As we did our walk/run back to our meeting place I got them to take turns in deciding where we would walk to and where we would run from. And while they were doing this I realised I loved volunteering to help this group of non-runners on their journey to become runners. I felt proud last night and I couldn’t stop telling them how they had impressed me and how well they were doing.

I wouldn’t insult a coach with qualifications by saying I’m a coach. I’m a Running Leader volunteering to help others and it’s made me love running more than I ever have before. To see these people develop and improve in front of my eyes is fantastic and I feel humbled that they trust me to help them do it. It’s a time when it’s not about my running, it’s about helping others run and discover a like or a love for running that they didn’t think possible. I don’t want money or favours or things for doing this, I already have a job. Volunteering and helping this beginners group is purely, without a doubt for the love of running.

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Face Your Fears And Good Things Might Happen.

It seems that my eldest son and I have been learning a valuable lesson alongside each other over the past few months.

I faced my fear of swimming in open water.

wpid-img-20150805-wa0010.jpgAnd then eleven days ago I completed my first Olympic distance triathlon which included my first open water 1500m swim in the Royal Victoria Docks.

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A few months ago my 7 year old auditoned to be a mascot in the Rugby World Cup.

wpid-20150704_121108.jpgThis weekend we were able to surprise him with some awesome news from his rugby idol Leigh Halfpenny. Finlay is to be mascot for Wales at Wales’ first game against Uruguay.

wpid-20150815_125732.jpgI am so unbelievably thrilled for him. I’m still thrilled for myself that I completed my first standard distance triathlon at the biggest triathlon event in the UK.

Finlay and I both nearly walked away from these opportunities. Both of us turned back round and faced our fears and we’ve both discovered that sometimes you have to do that to make the good stuff happen. Go and do something that scares you. You never know what might happen.

Summer Running And Rain with Helly Hansen.

A few months ago Beki from Helly Hansen contacted me to enquire as to whether I would like to review their running products. I don’t tend to do a huge number of reviews but I was intrigued to see what their products were like, especially as an alternative to the larger ‘all powerful’ brands more commonly known to runners.

I really had no idea which items to review as everything looked really attractive to be honest. The obvious pinks were there, which for some reason running brands feel obliged to include when making clothes for women, but there was a fair bit of blue, purple and the staple black too. Beki helped me pick out the items and she sent through a few items of clothing and a pair of their running shoes.

As I mentioned I’ve had these items for a few months so that I could give them a decent review.

Loke Jacket £85.00

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I live in Wales. There is a lot of rain. I’m out a great deal with the kids and the dog so I am always in need of a decent rain jacket. I have to say I was pretty pleased with the Loke Jacket. It’s light weight and attractive. It has a nice feminine fit and it didn’t drown me. The colour I was sent is called ‘Pink Glow’ but it doesn’t scream out and out pink to me. It has a bit of a red/orange glow to it.

It’s not massively warm, I would definitely layer up underneath on colder days or if you know you;re going somewhere with a lot of cross winds, like the side of a rugby pitch perhaps! The pockets are nice and deep but there are only your standard two which is fine for a basic rain jacket. If I was going further afield hiking I would like a few more pockets.

If however you end up in a torrential downpour for a fair amount of time expect the rain to start to come through. It’s fine for showers but not the valleys monsoons we sometimes have this way.

Overall though, really nice comfortable rain jacket which I have found perfect for dog walking, summer showers, beach visits and attractive enough to wear day to day. Plus at £85.00 I think it’s a reasonable price to pay for a rain jacket and really good value.

Aspire Flex Hoodie Usually £55. Heather colour now reduced to £33.00

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I LOVE this hoodie. I have practically lived in it since I got it. It’s essentially a training top but I tend to wear it for cool downs. It’s also become my go-to hoodie when I went something to throw on to head down to Porthcawl beach or with a pair of jeans on the school run. In fact I’m wearing it right now. It has become a wardrobe staple for me.

It’s made out of their X-Cool quick dry fabric which I assume means it is a wicking fabric. Whatever it’s made of, it’s soft and comfortable and I love the heather colour that I was sent. It’s also got those thumb holes that you can pop your thumbs through if you’re a bit cold or just feel like snuggling. Will be interesting to see how it fairs for training runs once the weather starts to turn a bit. It washes well and it hasn’t bobbled or become smelly (as I said I’ve worn it A LOT). No pockets though but I can forgive this particular hoodie.

Aspire Jacket Currently reduced to £54.00.

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When I first saw this jacket I wasn’t sure if I like it. It’s not your typical running jacket. The lining is a what I would describe a silver foil lace pattern and the jacket itself is not opaque. Initially I thought it was reversible but it’s not. But when you put your colorful running tops on underneath it, the appearance from the silvery lace lining against the colour is quite effective. It’s definitely a fashion item as much as it’s a running jacket, reminding me a bit of cat walk ‘sports luxe’ clothes.

I’ve had to run in this jacket a few times since summer began due to Welsh rain and I can honestly say it keeps you nice and warm. It definitely kept out a down pour at the track one session.

The drawstring gives it a nice fit but…….there are no pockets. I’m a runner that needs pockets. If you’ve got pockets in your tights or shorts then fine but if that’s not the case I need a handy pocket in my jacket for my phone and keys. That’s the only negative I have about it otherwise it’s really nice, comfortable, attractive to look at and definitely suitable for running in the wind and rain.

Wicked Pace R2 Running Shoe

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I’ve been wearing this running shoe and alternating it with my usual Saucony shoes. Helly Hansen refer to it as having stability and responsiveness. It is definitely light weight and not in the least but bulky. As stability goes I’m not so sure. I find that I get a little bit of foot pain when I’ve been wearing these for distances over 3 miles. I think that is purely down to the fact I’m used to a little bit of lateral stability in my shoes. I have used them for speed sessions though and they are light as feathers. I think if you were used to minimalist shoes then these might be good for you.They’re also not bad to look at and I’ve teamed them with jeans and summer dresses, something I wouldn’t do with my bulky running shoes, so they’re definitely versatile. However if you’re used to a little bit more support I wouldn’t necessarily recommend them. Definitely a shoe for neutral, mid to forefoot runners who are used to minimalist shoes. 

Overall I think Helly Hansen are ones to watch in terms of running gear. It is tough for any company to find a place in that market with the obvious behemoths who monopolise that section in sports wear. However if you’re looking for good quality running clothes with a great variety of colours for women, away from the standard ‘pink’, then it would be definitely be worth visiting the Helly Hansen site for a browse (the hoodie, the hoodie….who said that?)

Helly Hansen are also the extreme weather specialists so I look forward to seeing what they come up with for us runners for the Winter.

Sorry about the lack of ‘real photos’. Struggle with selfies and don’t always get the chance to get family to take pictures.

I was sent all the items above to review. I have not received payment for this review. All opinions are my own and I have been honest in my views about the products. 

The Wisdom of Farmers.

I hadn’t been able to do much over the weekend. Youngest had been ill so most of the time had been spent cleaning up vomit. I didn’t feel able to get out and leave him while he was unwell. So yesterday afternoon came my chance to get out. Although when I had the chance to go the rain was hammering down.

Now I am usually a total fair weather rider. A bit of damp and I would rather run, swim or stay at home. But I decided the time had come for me to head out in the rain. After all I would be sopping wet when I jumped on the bike during the London Triathlon. So really I would just be replicating the conditions of the event. It was also fairly mild so I knew I wouldn’t get cold either. My plan was to ride for roughly 90 minutes and follow that up with a run.

I headed out and was soaked through immediately. I considered going home as it really was hammering down but ‘NO!’ I thought to myself. It is the tough sessions that make you better. I was mindful of the road surfaces and as I made my way through country lanes I was careful on the down hills.

As I relaxed slightly on another downhill I came face to face with a tractor with a front loader. I jumped, braked and my wheels skidded. As I headed for the tractor I decided that I didn’t feel like taking on a huge metal object with spikes in front of it. In a split second I opted for the second worst option: the hedgerow.

I had expected just to hit the hedge and fall sideways. But instead I flipped over and somersaulted. Everything went black as I felt my neck and my back whip round. And then I was on the floor with my bike beside me. I sat up and looked down. Everything seemed okay but for a moment I thought I saw white on my shin. ‘Bone?!!’ was the next though that flashed through my mind. The farmer who had been on the tractor was standing over me trying to get me up and I mumbled something about a broken leg. Ridiculous looking back now but I really went into shock.

I felt the blood draining away from my head. The farmer insisted I would feel better if I stood up but I kept pulling myself back down to the floor. Every time he pulled me back up I pushed myself back down again, not wanting to pass out standing up. I knew he meant well but I knew where I would feel safer.

After a while I managed to get up and the farmer, who was called Phil, helped me onto the tractor where I sat beside his Welsh Collie Meggy. Phil placed my bike on his front loader and after a phone call to my husband he insisted on driving me all the way home.

As we weaved through the back lanes of the local villages Phil and I chatted. I bemoaned how daft I was and how stupid I had been for going out in the first place.

‘Shit happens Kath’, was his reply, ‘there’s nothing you could do about it. Bikes get fixed, people not so easily’.

And he was right. I have a tendency to over analyse and judge myself for my decisions when things go wrong. But Phil as right. I couldn’t have predicted what was going to happen and it wasn’t anyone’s fault. It was literally just ‘one of those things’. Yes I was sore and had a bruised ego but I was relatively unscathed. I needed to focus on that and be thankful rather than going over ‘what ifs’.

As we made our way through Pontyclun High Street it must have looked a sight. My bike hanging off the front loader of a tractor. He insisted on taking me all the way to my front door even though I told him to drop me by the high street and I would walk. I couldn’t thank him enough. He had been in the middle of doing his work when I had met him round the corner and I had probably added hours to his day. But again he said ‘Shit happens’.

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My body is fine although it is bruised and a bit sore today. My ego is fine because really I had done nothing untoward, I had just been cycling in a modest manner. My bike seems fine and that’s good too. Sometimes shit does happen and you just have to pick yourself up and carry on. Or get a farmer to give you a lift home. I might give myself a rest day today though. Think I deserve it.

A Novice Triathlete

At 10pm on Sunday evening I finally flopped on the sofa. The boys had been in bed for hours and my husband, who has been really unwell with a tooth abscess had also retired. As I sat on the sofa with a glass of wine in my hand I suddenly thought to myself….

I completed a triathlon today.

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At 6am on Sunday morning I was racking my bike while at the same time thinking did I really want to do this? Could I make some excuse up to withdraw? For some reason doing a triathlon strikes massive amounts of fear inside me but here I was staring triathlon right in the face. After cycling 87 miles in the Velothon a few weeks earlier I decided I really had no decent excuses that would enable me to wimp out. This triathlon was happening.

After a race briefing in the reception of Pencoed Swimming Pool the first wave of swimmers, of which I was one, were ready for the off. When I entered this novice triathlon I firmly believed that it would take me 20 minutes to swim 16 lengths. Turns out the emphasis on swimming I’ve put on training in the last couple of weeks means that I’m a fair bit quicker than I thought. I finished the swim in 10 minutes. As I climbed out to walk along poolside (no running allowed!) I heard clapping from the viewing gallery. A smile flashed over my face as I realised that the most challenging part of the triathlon for me was already over. I could get on with cycling and running.

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Well I thought swimming was the most challenging part. I think the first transition is where I showed myself up to be a true novice. I had opted to wear a swimsuit and sports bra for the swim. This meant trying to get dry cycling shorts and dry t shirt over wet clothes. It was a bit of a fight with lycra as two of the marshalls urged me to hurry up and get going. I cursed myself for not being brave enough to go for it with my Aldi Specials trisuit but this was a learning experience and I know now what I would do differently next time: embrace the gear!

In an aside, am I the only person who loves that you get to do stuff while still being soaking wet? No one, like your mum,  is telling you off for not drying yourself properly and getting your dry things wet. It’s liberating. No, just me. Okay, moving on to the bike ride.

What struck me with the bike part of the triathlon is how you have to consciously change the way you’re breathing. Breathing for swimming is, to me, completely different to breathing on the bike or on a run. It took me a little while to settle in and find my rhythm. There were plenty of marshalls out on the route but I had to remind myself I wasn’t on closed roads and I had to abide by normal traffic rules. But at just after 7am on a Sunday in semi rural South Wales the streets were deserted and I don’t think I was passed by a car once on the 17km route. There were also no supporters so the triathletes were cheering and waving to each other.

As I racked my bike and started to get myself ready to run a marshall stood over me and shouted ‘double knot? You don’t need a double knot, get out and run’. So I did as I was told. A marshall stood on a little ramp that lead us onto a set of rugby pitches. Two laps of that field and back over the ramp and I’d be finished. As I ran past him I told him I couldn’t believe how much fun I was having.

‘You’re absolutely smashing it babes’, was his reply.

I’m not sure I was smashing it but his little compliment made me smile all the more and I picked up my cycle tired legs and ran like a banshee.

As I came into the finish someone with a microphone was calling my name so I raised my hands in the air and waved to about four spectators. My novice triathlon of 400m swim, 17km bike and 3km run had taken me 1 hour and 9 minutes. But hang on, I thought as I looked at my print out, my first transition was 12 minutes. Longer than it had taken me to swim 400m. Surely that can’t have been right? Had I really faffed for 12 minutes? It hadn’t felt like that but maybe time moves differently in triathlon world. Yesterday was not about being competitive but when I realised that if my first transition had been just a few minutes faster I would have come second in my wave instead of third I heard Dave my Competitive Shoulder Monkey shout ‘DAMMIT!’.

I had no idea what the time was. I stood around by the transition area for a bit and then realised I was actually cold and wet. And then I also realised that instead of using a locker for my dry stuff and useful things like my phone I had left them under my bike in transition. I sneaked into transition while it was quiet which resulted in a jokey but kinda’ not telling off but I was shivering and I needed a towel. I phoned home and everyone was still in bed. My husband still sounded ill and my youngest shouted hello before shouting about needing a poo. My eldest was still asleep and for a little bit I felt a bit sad that they were only up the road and my little supporters were all tucked up still.

So I threw myself into supporter mode myself and started to cheer the people coming into the transition area and whooped and clapped the runners coming into the finish. I heard someome mention ‘Elite wave’ and I did wonder how you can have an elite wave in a novice event? Can you be an elite novice?

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Eventually, as the final wave left transition on their bikes the marshall allowed us to grab our bikes and gear in small groups. On the 10 minute drive back home I cheered the triathletes out on their bike leg from my car and waved to the marshalls, even though they would probably have no idea who I was.

As I got in the door my eldest was leaving for rugby training with his dad, whose face still resembled the elephant man. I took the puppy on a long walk with our youngest. Then it was the usual business of cracking on with normal Sunday business: dinner, swimming lessons, make sure uniforms were ready and bug husband about going back to get more antibiotics as he was clearly very unwell.

When I sat down that evening with my wine I gave myself a celebratory pat on the back. I had almost made the morning’s triathlon part of my daily ritual: pop out, do a quick tri, back in time for second breakfast. I couldn’t get over how much I had enjoyed it and how I would look forward to doing Sunday’s event again. I learnt a huge amount from my first triathlon and many aspects of the event have been demystified for me. There is so much I can take away from it and I can be cheered by the fact that the swim wasn’t as awful as I thought and that I can in fact cope with doing one after the other without my legs falling off.

Then I realised that it was nearly 10.30pm, half a bottle of wine had gone down far too easily. I had been up since 5am that morning and I needed to sleep. I went to bed that night a triathlete. A novice one perhaps, but still a triathlete.

Facing Fears

We were down at Barry Island for the Cardiff Blues beach rugby event which was a fantastic event arranged by the marketing team at the Blues. The beach was transformed into two pitches and teams of men’s and women’s sides were signed up for a tournament. Our eldest boy who is 7 is absolutely rugby and Cardiff Blues mad so in exchange for him tidying his room the whole family headed to Barry Island (we would have gone anyway but I love a bit of leverage).

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We wandered up and down the promenade taking in the activities and enjoying the dry but windy weather. Then we came across the team from Land Rover who had a Rugby World Cup 2015 branded car on show. And beside that a sign promoting auditions for kids between 7 and 13 years to become a Rugby World Cup mascot. The kids had 3 choices for their audition: sing a national anthem, give advice to a rugby world cup team captain or welcoming words for a team travelling to the UK.

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I asked my son if he fancied it and the lady from Land Rover asked him if he wanted a go. He said no and became really shy which is just not like him. I tried to persuade him ‘no one was watching, nobody would laugh at him, it’s good to have a go, nothing bad will happen’ etc etc. Still the answer was no. He didn’t want to speak in front of crowds of people on camera. Fair enough I thought.

An hour of so later, as we made noises about leaving he changed his mind and asked to go back. So we turned back and found the nice lady who took her details and he stood to wait his turn.

As I looked at him I noticed how forlorn and worried he looked.

‘You really don’t have to do this. We can just go home. Nobody is making you and it’s not important’.

‘I’m just nervous and I’m trying to think of what I should say’ he replied.

When his turn came though he didn’t fall over his words and even smiled for the camera. His advice for a rugby team captain? Play well and enjoy the game. I think as advice goes in sport that’s pretty good!

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He had done it. It was a small thing to me but a huge thing for him. He had pushed his nerves to one side and auditioned.

How is this relevant to me and running/triathlon/sport?

Tomorrow I am doing my first triathlon, a novice one being held at a swimming pool. I feel very nervous and for some reason I feel a bit silly. But then I remember how as an adult I tried to persuade my son to do something he was nervous and fearful of.

No one is going to laugh at me.

People might be watching but they are there to be supportive.

No one cares if I come last.

It’s good to have a go.

Nothing bad will happen to me.

I’m so good at dishing out this advice to my kids but then I can forget about applying it to myself. I am nervous but I think those nerves are of the ‘good’ variety. I have always avoided triathlon because of my fears about it. But now I’m going to face those head on for my first tri, just like my boy did today.

Tidy.

P.S We missed out on seeing the Webb Ellis trophy this afternoon. Gutted!

Bricking It

In all sports we have to practice the elements that make up our chosen sport. Turns out practicing swimming, cycling and running isn’t enough. Specificity principles of training mean that we need to practice everything that occurs during an event s that the right adaptations can occur. And it occurred to me that even though I have been training in the three triathlon sports I haven’t actually practiced the bike to run transition. With my first novice triathlon this Sunday I really needed to know what was going to feel like when I swapped my cleats for trainers.

Yesterday I did my first brick session. I got out early on the hottest day of the year and cycled 11.6 miles. Instead of pacing myself my legs seemed to whizz round my route and when I checked later I discovered I had taken 3 minutes off the time it takes me to do that route usually. Where were those legs for Velothon? I had meant to make it a conservative effort as I was mindful that I wasn’t going to be finished after the cycle. But I felt good so I just went with it, accepting that I would probably make the running bit more difficult.

After my cycle I did my own version of transition. Unclip, helmet off, check phone, text message from school, shit are the kids alright, oh it’s just about lost property, no need to panic, sip of water, change into trainers, ugh do I really want to do this?

Yes. Yes I do.

Off I went on a loop that I knew was somewhere between 3 and 4km. The sensation in my legs was like nothing I had felt before. My legs were moving because my brain was telling them to and yet they didn’t feel like they were my legs. I felt a bit like I had been sawn in half. I felt a bit numb below the waist. Or now that I’m thinking about it I am reminded of my legs coming back to life after having a spinal block when I was in hospital having my kids. I realised that instead of battling the sensations I had to go with them and be guided by them. Worrying about form was out the window as was being concerned about pace. The priority was to keep moving even though parts of my brain were screaming at me ‘ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND’. I then thought about people who ride 112 miles on their bikes immediately followed by a marathon and decided they are definitely a bit unhinged but then that probably helps a bit. After all, it’s just physical discomfort isn’t it? I’m not bleeding, I’m not in agony. My limbs aren’t falling off. It just feels a bit weird.

As I ran I contemplated why it is called a brick session. Is it to do with building the bricks and foundations of triathlon? Is it to do with principles of training and specificity? Is it a term coined by sports scientists? I looked it up and apparently it is named after a New Zealand multi-sport champion called Matt Brick, which makes sense. I have another suggestion. Brick sessions are so called because once you start running your legs feel like they’ve been battered by a bag of bricks. True story. Next time I will be doing this will be in my first triathlon, the Pencoed Novice Triathlon on Sunday. Fingers crossed my legs remember what to do!