Girls cycling around the world and an overdue book review

Over the summer, as I was reading a big host of cycling books during the Tour de France, I read “the man who cycled around the world by Mark Beaumont. Like the title suggests, he cycled 18,297 miles in 194 days (that’s an average of almost 100 miles a day) around the world, through Europe, Turkey and the Middle East, skirting Helmand Province in Afghanistan, through India, down through Thailand and then across Australia and through New Zealand, from one side of the United States to the other before going back through Europe to Paris. In doing so, he set the Guinness world record by 81 days.

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It is an incredible story, an incredible feat of endurance. Indeed, the physical difficulty of what he does is often glossed over in favour of the practical arrangements, and is only tersely mentioned in short extracts from his log book: “really tough day. So low on energy and left calf really sore. Shit lunch and breakfast. Shouted at police escort.”

The descriptions of his saddle sores had me grimacing and filled with respect – very little complaints throughout until he loses his chamois cream in Australia – “the skin had split at a number of rub points and was deeply bruised. It was also starting to callus around these cuts, on small areas that fad broken and healed repeatedly. All day I could not stay on the bike got more than 20 minutes at a time because of the pain“. And he still cycled 100 miles that day!

He subsists on very little food, pushes through to 150k on horrendously painful saddle sores, suffers from lack of sleep due to noise, rough beds, children throwing stones through an open window. One night in Southern Pakistan he makes some friends and is offered a bed for the night. At 2am he is woken up by the police shining headlights on his face and shouting at him. He is forced to wake up and cycle further in the middle of the night to sleep in a police station.

The police escort through Southern Pakistan appears to be the worst  part of the journey. It was needed due to the risks of kidnapping in the region but seems to have heightened Beaumont’s stress levels and reduced the amount of cycling he could do – subject to the whims of men with a  heightened sense of their own power and with no idea who he is or why he is determined to cycle, no understanding of speeds or distance, of the need for food, and no common language in which to explain.

Another issue throughout all the various countries was finding enough food, both during the day and for his evening meal, due to a scarcity of restaurants on some of the more remote roads. So different from me going off for a few hours with a flapjack, banana and gel tucked into my pockets – Beaumont was setting off for a full day with barely anything, just the knowledge that he had to find a shop or restaurant at some point!

I also found his musings on the difference in countries and cultures so interesting, describing moving from India to Thailand like moving into the western world, “people stop for traffic lights here – that’s not happened since Western Europe“! Indeed, Beaumont felt that Thailand felt more like “home” than eastern Europe, mainly due to recognisable brands such as McDonalds. On a holiday that’s probably not something you’d want to see, but when you’ve been living away from home a long time it’s quite nice to have something so recognisable!

BUT this book got me thinking about whether any women had attempted to cycle the world solo, whether it was even possible due to safety issues in so many countries around the world. A quick google proved me very wrong.

Annie Londonderry was the first woman to cycle around the world in the 1890s, armed with just one change of clothes and a small revolver. She was the true “new woman” – breaking completely with convention by leaving behind her role as wife and mother and swapping her traditional skirts for bloomers that would allow her to ride further and faster. Cycling was a relatively new thing for women at this time – although bikes were still designed to avoid the sexual stimulation that they thought women would get from riding on a traditional saddle! That’s why women had high stems and upright handlebars – to prevent them orgasming over a simple bike ride. Those pesky women. Find out more about Annie here.

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Then there’s Devla Murphy, who travelled the world on her bicycle and has written over 20 books on her experiences – not just about the cultures she visited but also writing about political issues such as apartheid in South Africa, globalisation and the Israel-Palestine crisis. I’m currently reading A month by the sea and am looking forward to reading more of her books!! You can read more about Devla and her books here.

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In 2012, Juliana Buhring became the first woman to cycle around the world in a way approved by the Guiness Book of Records in order to hold the women’s record for Fastest Circumnavigation by Bicycle. She completed her trip in 152 days, pedalling a total of 29,060km – a mindboggling average of 118 miles every day for 152 days. As someone who has only ever cycled 83 miles one day I can barely even imagine….. Her blog, Wanderlust, has more details about this trip and various other endurance cycles including cycling from Istanbul to London in the 2013 Transcontinental Race – a race in which she was the only female racer and she came 9th overall.

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But these women are incredible anomalies, right? Very few women would go off all by themselves into the remote corners of the world, with just their bikes to hold all their worldly goods and possessions, right? Nope! All wrong!

It turns out there are LOADS of incredible women exploring the world by themselves. In fact there is a whole blog dedicated to them, Skalatitude. The author cycled around the world herself and documented it in a very interesting blog with wonderful pictures, and while doing so, met and heard of so many solo female cyclists that she has dedicated a page of her blog to them – the Women on Wheels Wall with pictures and a blurb about so many different women on solo cycling adventures. It’s really, really inspiring especially for anyone who ever thought “I want to do x but I probably can’t because……” It also gave me some other blogs to follow including the beautiful A Wandering Nomad (incredible photos) and Anna at WishFishBe warned: you may get lost in these blogs.

Read them and be inspired!

Detaining Asylum Seekers

I have started a new job and I absolutely love it. Sadly it is only for three months on a secondment from my main job but I am determined to absolutely throw myself in and make the most of these three months.

I am working for a human rights charity and campaigning organisation. My current task involves a lot of research into immigration detention centres in the UK for asylum seekers and I know its not reading, running or cycling (although I have been doing a lot of reading on it!) but I wanted to specifically talk about this as I genuinely believe that if more people knew what goes on in these centres, there would be more an uproar. I’ll start off with a bit of background and then answer some of the questions I’ve been asked time and time again since I started this.

Asylum seekers are often placed into detention centres while they wait for their asylum claim to be heard. What goes on in these detention centres is horrendous. Yarls Wood is a women-only detention centre run by Serco. Over 85% of the women seeking asylum there have escaped their country due to torture or sexual violence (including rape). Rape is routinely used as a weapon of war and so it is no surprise that many female asylum seekers are escaping from sexual violence. Although people with mental health problems are not meant to be detained, numerous studies have shown that detention in itself has a severe effect on mental health – essentially you are putting innocent people in a prison. Around 30% of Yarl’s Wood inhabitants are on suicide watch at any one time and over 20% have attempted to commit suicide.

These women on suicide watch are some of the most vulnerable in Britain. And what does suicide watch entail? It means constant surveillance by the guards at Yarl’s Wood. It means these guards (mainly men) watch the women dress, wash, use the toilet. Some have reported the guards laughing at them and making inappropriate comments about the size of their breasts. The constant surveillance does its job in preventing the women from committing suicide whilst within Yarls Wood. However, for those who have suffered being locked up, tortured and raped, as many of the women have, this is nothing more than a horrific reminder of their experiences.

Have a look at this report by the wonderful Women for Refugee Women if you would like to know some more.

It is not just the women – recently a man died in a detention centre. The death was reported to his family as suicide. However, when other detainees heard about this they were shocked. The man had been complaining of severe chest pains and asking to see a doctor. For the last hour before his death he had been banging on the doors of his cell, screaming in agony and begging for help. No doctor was called. This does not sound like suicide to me.

There appears to be a pretty macho environment amongst the guards, and very little respect for these women as people – human just like the rest of us with families, fears, hopes for the future. A whistleblower has claimed that sexual abuse is rife there and staff have been dismissed for sexual assault. Women are told that they will be more likely to have a favourable result in their asylum claim if they give the guard a blow-job. Aside from all of this, can we just remember that these are humans who have committed no crime but who have gone through horrific experiences that mean they deserve our compassion and our help. They come to Britain as we have a reputation for our wonderful democracy, rule of law, and respecting human rights. They believe they will be safe from unlawful persecution in Britain.

Instead they are locked up, with absolutely no knowledge of how long for. Criminals have limitations on how long they can be detained without charge; asylum seekers in the UK do not. The rest of Europe place time limits on detention, but the majority of western European countries do not detain asylum seekers. In Britain, some women are locked up for over two years with no knowledge of when they can get out. This is an exercise blog – these women are not given the right to go for a long run exploring new places, to feel the wind on your face and the freedom that cycling a bike, fast, down an empty straight road brings. They may have been lawyers, entrepreneurs, runners in their home country. In the UK they are treated worse than prisoners.

And you know – we CAN do something. It was not too long ago that children were locked up in Yarls Wood, but a campaign begun by the wonderful Meltem Avcil who was locked up at 13 years old helped to change all of that. She now has a new campaign to get detention centres closed for good and I would urge you to take a look and sign her petition. I strongly believe that one of the reasons this goes on is that people just don’t know what happens, they don’t know how people are treated in these places. Raising awareness of the horror of these detention centres can only help end this stain on Britain.

Why shouldn’t they be detained? They’ve broken loads of immigration laws to get here.

That’s actually not true – the UN Convention on the Rights of the Refugee states that a person has the right to cross national borders if they are seeking asylum from political repression or various other forms of communication. So asylum seekers truly are innocent people that we are locking up.

Why do they come to the UK anyway? Are there not other places closer to home?

Often the countries closest to home are still not safe as much of the violence, especially in Africa, spills across national borders. A really interesting report by the Refugee Council ‘Chance or Choice shows that the majority of asylum seekers don’t actually choose to come to the UK. Occasionally they might not even know what country they are in when they first arrive! Stricter board controls has led to a rising use in agents organising escape from a country of persecution. The agents will control what country the asylum seeker goes to.

Is the purpose of detention not to stop them going underground?

Yes and no. They can be detained if there are reasonable grounds to believe the person will abscond – go underground and hide from the immigration authorities. However, over half of Yarl’s Wood detainees are ultimately re-released back into the community and around 90% do not go underground. So very, very few women actually go underground (despite what the Daily Mail might have you believe!) The other reason to detain asylum seekers is if they are assigned to the Fast Track system – as the name suggests, to fast track detention claims. A court judgement this summer found this system to be unlawful and there is currently a government enquiry into this as it is believed to be an inhumane practice which does not allow asylum seekers to adequately plead their case.

What other options are there?

Many asylum seekers have their claims processed while they live ‘in the community’. This means they live in community-organised housing, for example in a hostel or shared house. The housing standards are generally very bad as asylum seekers tend to get the housing that nobody else wants. They receive just over £5 a day to live off while their case is being heard as asylum seekers are not allowed to work.

But its all about the economics! We’re in a recession, we can’t afford this!

Firstly, most asylum seekers want to work in the UK, they want to pay taxes, they want to get their lives back to a semblance of normality. Asylum seekers come from all walks of life and may be highly educated / skilled in their home countries.

Secondly, they don’t get huge amounts of benefits etc, as said above, if they are not detained they receive around £36 a week to live off.

Thirdly, detention is the most expensive way of processing an asylum claim. Roughly, detaining a woman for one night costs £120. This is compared to £12.66 for the cost of housing and her £5 daily allowance if she was not detained. Detention centres do not make economic sense.

The problem is, that in a context of immigration quotas and rising anti-immigration feeling, the government need / want to cut down on the numbers of immigrants. Thus they approach all asylum claims with an immediate ‘they’re lying’ attitude. It is much easier to return people to their home country, even if that means certain / likely death, if you take as your starting point the fact that they are lying.

Treating refugees as lying immigrants allows you to treat them as criminals, it allows you to lock them up, refuse to listen to them and it allows you to completely forget about their horrendous experiences, in their home countries and now at the hands of detention officials in the UK.

A change is as good as a rest – week in review

It’s been a funny old week with a completely new routine – or so different that I haven’t actually got a routine. Absolutely ideal for the first week post-triathlon and at the end of the season where I need to give my body a rest.

The change came about because I started a new job – I’ve been seconded to a human rights charity for three months! Fantastically interesting work which I am absolutely loving. On top of all my work days being brilliant, the working day starts at 9.30 and ends at 5.30 which is kind of ridiculous. Added to this the fact that my new offices are less than a 15 minute cycle from my house and I can easily be home by 6pm…. I have evenings! So I’ve spent the week settling in and working out when is best to work out. I can now go for a swim in the evening, I don’t have to get up quite so early for a morning workout but lunch times are harder. Also the fact that my cycle commute is now so short it’s not really useful for anything.

I managed only 6 hours of training / exercise this week – I’m not training for anything for the first time since the beginning of this year – it feels slightly odd! That was three days of cycle commuting, 1 strength workout and 1 long cycle.

My weekend began with the long cycle – most of which was horrible. I was more tired and sore than I’d thought from the strength workout the previous day (lots and lots and lots of squats and lunges) and quite quickly my old knee pain came back with a vengeance. The skies started off grey and uninviting and I just really didn’t feel like it. Once in the countryside, there is a long false flat along some twisty country lanes with high hedges and therefore no view. James dropped me and didn’t hear my shouts so for about 20 minutes I was cycling along by myself, getting more and more bad tempered and occasionally whimpering at the sharp pain above my left kneecap. It’s like having a bruise that someone is permanently pressing on.

James finally stopped and waited for me and this coincided with the end of the false flat – my spirits picked up and then promptly dropped again as we reached a long climb. Several cyclists zoomed past us, not even saying hello which I thought was very rude! As I grumbled and whimpered my way up. The sun then came out, the longest of the hills was done, and I managed to enjoy myself for the rest of the cycle, hobbling off the bike and straight into bed for a nap once home.

We had friends round for dinner, ordered Dalila takeaway and drank far too much and so I spent all of Sunday morning in bed reading the newspapers. Weekly shop done and then it was off to Angel for dinner with three of my school friends. Friends for almost fifteen years now and even though we don’t see each other than often it’s always lovely when we do.

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Almost eight years ago now…

Monday morning has started with huge delays on the tube but I have a routine planned in my head for the beginning of the offseason and I’m looking forward to getting started on it – as long as that knee behaves itself!

Triathlon!!!!

So Sunday was my first ever Olympic distance triathlon … the event I have been building up to all summer, all year really. And how was it? IT WAS AWESOME. I’m so happy I still can’t really believe I finished it, and especially with the times I managed … I couldn’t stop smiling afterwards and still can’t really whenever I think about it … and when I talk about it … which I seem to be doing quite a bit!!! So here we go…

As regular readers of the blog may know, I kind of fell off the rails a little bit in the last few weeks, missing workouts for lie-ins in bed (so many mornings of various excuses to James as to why I was still in bed at 8am and not in the pool), missing runs due to an aching hip, losing the mental ability to believe in myself and the mental motivation to train. As a result I decided to forget about my goals and have my goal just to finish. Having not run 10k due to hip pain for the last few weeks I decided getting round would be challenge enough.

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This meant that I strangely wasn’t nervous in the days approaching the triathlon, I almost kept forgetting that it was coming up in just three days … two days … oh shit it’s tomorrow.

The short version…..

Swim: 28.53
Bike:  1 hr 39.35
Run: 56.40

On Saturday my mum and I had a little wander around Chichester, watched the Vuelta on TV, pre-registration for the event, and pasta with stir-fried veg for dinner, following by an incredible hot chocolate brownie with salted caramel ice-cream. And two little glasses of white wine. I doubt this is what the pros do but it made me happy. More appropriately, my bags were packed and the lights were out by 10pm.

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The alarm went of at 6am for a quick cereal breakfast and the short drive to the lake, about 15 minutes away. We set up in transition, right next to each other, used the toilets and then went down for our briefing. The half ironman wave were already off, spreading across the lake due to big disparities in their speeds. I couldn’t wait to get in – there wasn’t a breath of wind and the sun was starting to shine, the lake looked beautiful. Flip-flops meant I didn’t have to gingerly and slowly pick my way over the stones and I was straight in the lake as soon as possible. It was a lovely temperature, slight intake of breath as it first went down the neck of my wetsuit then I was perfectly happy. I had over enough time to duck my head under, swim a little bit, and tread water with my mum before lining up on the right hand side near the front.

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And we were off! I went out hard in the first ten strokes and felt really good. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming. A recurrent theme for the first lap was realising that despite sighting often, I was on the right hand side of the wave of swimmers by a long way – basically out in the middle of the lake by myself. I resolved to sight more often but this didn’t seem to help! Onto the second lap and I felt in a pretty strong position as I rounded the penultimate buoy at the top with a bunch of men. I decided to stick slightly to the left of one of them so I couldn’t do my usual drifting to the right tactic. This seemed to work quite well!

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Before I knew it the swim was over – I had really enjoyed it. The swim is weirdly now my favourite part of triathlon. Into T1 – quite a long way away – and mum was just about 30 seconds ahead of me. T1 felt slightly panicky and I almost forgot to put my helmet and race belt on, but all was okay and soon I was off for the cycle!

This would be a wonderful cycle were you not racing. Beginning with some nice straight flats to allow you to get your head down and your legs pumping (I passed someone!), it then takes a turn to the left and begins to climb up the South Downs towards Goodwood. It’s never a particularly steep climb, it’s just long and relentless especially when trying to go as fast as possible. Having taken one gel when I got on the bike, I shoved a [blox] into my mouth just after half way up and chewed on it gradually to get some more energy back into my complaining legs. Then some more flats with beautiful views of the South Downs dropping away to the left. A fast descent on a straight, empty road surrounded by trees. The two guys in front of me got into an aero tuck, but I kept pedalling (hands on the drop bars) and found I could still get some resistance to push the pedals round, meaning they didn’t get any further in front of me. Then some lovely undulating up and downs as we approached Goodwood, absolutely shrouded in mist so thick you could barely see the cyclist in front of you. Lots of TT bikes on the half ironman distance race overtook me, I overtook a few Olympic distance racers. Then a long, loooong lovely speed downhill followed by some more ups and downs (although they felt more like ups and flats). Then the whole thing once again! The second time it felt so long, like each section was taking so much longer than it had taken the first time. But it was almost over and mum and I passed each other just as she was turning into the road towards T2 and I was coming up the other side of the road… not too far behind!

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She was running out of T2 as I ran in – bike racked, helmet off, a quick change of shoes. I actually don’t remember doing any of those things but I do remember running out of T2 and onto the run course. It was quite a nice course – 2 laps with several out & backs on each, over half on footpaths and a little bit along side the road with several supporters cheering. From the very beginning I was thinking “I don’t know if I can do this“. I had put my garmin on so I had an average speed and the time that I’d been running, although I had started it slightly after the starting point on the run. I said to myself I would run for 20 minutes and then I could walk for 30 seconds before running again.

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When it came to 20 minutes though I was feeling good so kept on, made it past the half way point before a short walk break, and then another one 15 minutes later. Another thing that wasn’t helping was the out and backs, I kept seeing my mum for smiles and high fives but at every one I noticed she was slightly further in front of me…. I did not feel like I was running fast. My garmin was also showing an average speed of just over 6km/minute – this would mean just over an hour for the 10k. Once it had settled on this I decided that sub-60 minutes wasn’t going to happen, so just to take it slowly until the end when I could sprint for the finish. The worst part of the whole race was the fact that you had to run PAST the finish line and round a final out and back. Never has such a short distance seemed so far as I ran away from the finish, picking up my speed to fully sprint back towards and across the line.

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Mum was still there, and as I was apparently looking in quite a bad way she made me sit down and gave me a cup of water until I got my breath back, while she went and got my times for me… well as soon as I saw my times I completely recovered! I COULD NOT believe it – both the swim and the run were far better than I had been hoping for, and I was only six seconds slower than mum on the bike which again, was far better than anything I’d ever hoped for. I had wanted 30 minutes on the swim but didn’t think that was possible (I managed under 29 minutes) … I had wanted 1 hour on the run but didn’t think that was possible (I managed just over 56 minutes). It’s actually the fastest 10k I’ve ever run so I am SO HAPPY.

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The triathlon was wonderful. The weather was great, the volunteers were friendly (the guys at one turn-around point absolutely full of positive shouts and cheers), the other competitors were great (lots of calls of “you’re catching your mum” on the run from members of mum’s tri club… which, while untrue, was very kind!), and the supporters were wonderfully vocal. It was really well organised and all in all, incredibly good fun. I’d recommend it for a lovely swim, a challenging but interesting bike course, and a (relatively) flat run. I can’t wait until next year!

Mental strength

I normally ignore blogs about mental strength for athletes. I have a good mental outlook, I tell myself, I am a positive person, my life is great and I’m really happy so I don’t need to learn how to think. No mental training will improve my times.

Well, this may have been true, and it may still be true in the rest of my life. I AM (generally) a ridiculously positive person, and in most areas of my life, especially work, I am able to focus on what I do well, learn from my mistakes, and approach it all with a positive attitude which means I get good appraisals, and more importantly, enjoy my days.

But. In the last few days I have begun to think about my attitude towards triathlon. This is a new thing, in the last month or so. Basically since the combination of hot muggy weather and an injured hip decimated my running skills (see, there I go already). Here are a selection of my current thoughts:
I can’t run. I’m so slow, I’m embarrassingly slow, and I’m not enjoying it – why am I not enjoying it anymore? Every step feels really heavy and my hip just starts to hurt. I can’t even do a slow treadmill run. I’m getting better at cycling but I’m still so slow. Thirty minutes is a completely unrealistic swim goal, stupid to think I can swim that fast. I don’t have the mental toughness to make myself do something hard.

The only part of that I should listen to is the last sentence. Last week a post by RUnladylike popped up in my reader. I skim-read it and ignored it…. but something stuck in my mind as I came back to it this week and devoured all the links. One post in particular stuck in mind with a quote that gave me that feeling – you know when you realise you’ve always known something, you just didn’t realise it?  “The one thing that you have absolute control over is your own thoughts”.

And then, while thinking how true and great that was, and reading the rest of the post, my mindset was still stuck in the negative. For example:

trust in your training: I can’t because my training hasn’t been good enough!

I need to snap out of this mindset. Thinking I can’t, and thinking I am going to be slow, means that I won’t be able to, and that I will be slow. I took a few good tips from that Runladylike article that I am going to keep thinking about…..

1. On race day, concentrate on performance goals (that you can control) rather than outcome goals (like time, or overall place).

2. Be aware of your thoughts. What is making you anxious? Do you have to see it that way? Is it worth worrying about? This is linked to a point in another of Runladylike’s blogs – get over the fear of failure. What am I afraid of about this triathlon? Do I really think I won’t finish it? No I don’t, I have full belief in myself that I can finish an Olympic distance tri. So what am I afraid of? Of walking? Of running slowly? Only my mind will make me stop and walk…..

3. Which leads me to the next quote: “my mind controls my body.” I love this and have really taken it to heart. It is short and simple and easy to remember – plus so true but, as I said above, something that I hadn’t fully realised. Leading on from this is “I am in control of my own thinking” and “I am fully capable of achieving the goals I set for myself. They are within my control” Along with mantras about the power of the mind, comes a suggestion to be aware of your thoughts. Notice the negative thoughts and immediately stop yourself. Replace with a positive thought. Remember, my mind controls my body.

4. Visualisation – now I don’t find it particularly useful to visualise myself being successful in the race. I do this quite a lot generally in life and I haven’t found that it’s really changed my mindset, mainly because I can’t focus on the visualisations for long enough. However, one thing that was suggested that I really liked was to hold onto the mental image of a time when you were running strong and feeling happy. For me, that’s running along the top of Richmond Park with the wind at my back and a ginormous smile on my face. Or racing around Brockwell Park to my fastest ever 5k. If I keep thinking about how good those runs felt, how much I enjoyed them, then hopefully I can get over my “can’t do” attitude to running.

5. And finally, for race day - concentrate on the mile you’re in - don’t think about all that is left to come but instead the small, current moments. A mantra for this is I control the step in front of me”.

I am going to be using all of these in the next two days (thanks Jesica!)! I only wish I’d come across this sooner, and no longer am I going to ignore the posts on mental fitness, no longer will I think that’s not for me. I’ve been brought back down to earth with a mental bump and now I need all the help I can get! Does anyone else have any more advice? Or any ideas as to performance goals?! As I can’t seem to get myself off the “I must swim in this time…. I must cycle at this speed….” mindset!

“Every day in some way I am better, wiser, more adaptable, more focussed, more in control

And summer is practically over

August flew by, with a holiday, long hours in the office and a severe drop-off in motivation. Training from FEBRUARY seemed to have finally taken its toll, and just a few weeks out from my triathlon I just could not motivate myself.

So in August I….

Cycled 814.8km (506 miles) – well over double last month although obviously including three long cycles in one week on my cycling holiday. There were a few threshold sessions and one spin class as well.

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Ran 5 times – 2 long runs, 1 brick run, 1 painful run cut short, and 1 short beautiful run with more sightseeing than running. My outdoor mileage was 31.8km (19.7 miles). My longest run was 11.7km and my fastest run was 5.50 min/km. A lot less than last month in runs, distance and speed ….. blaming the sore hip for that then!

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Swam 5320m of pool lengths … about half of last month…. 3 pool swims and one open water swim. Although, thank god, I did a long pool swim on 1st September and I don’t seem to have forgotten yet how to swim! All the good work in July has obviously paid off despite a lack of swimming in August.

I also managed six short strength and running exercise sessions, and three yoga sessions.

On the blog there were….

- restaurant reviews – Cannon & Cannon in Brixton and the wonderful lebanese Dalila in Battersea
– a selection of gym / pool workouts , some tips for cycling in the rain and a description of open water swimming in London
– a recipe for lebanese meatball wraps
– cyles around the Isle of Mull, and Loch Rannoch and Schiehallion
– a summary of a weekend in Bucharest

And so into September.

Right now I am:

Reading: lots and lots of blogs! I read so many books in August and have just finished World War Z for the second time (such a fantastic zombie book) that I currently do not have a book on the go. I’m about to start yet another book about life in the Gaza strip and recently wrote a blog for For Book’s Sake on an introduction to Palestinian literature – check it out here!

Wondering about: when I should buy some more cycling tights…. I only have one pair and soon the weather will turn and I will need a whole lot more!

Aiming for: this bloody triathlon in less than a week’s time now. I so want to get it over and done with. Goals:

B Goal: enjoy the swim, a cycle less than double my previous sprint cycle on that course (should be relatively easy as that means faster than 2 hours 20 minutes….!), a run at a similar time to my mum – less than a hour.

A Goal: 30ish minute swim, 1 hr 45 or less cycle, less than a hour run, beat my mum!!!

excited about:
– a new job for three months. I am going to work for Liberty human rights organisation and I am so happy and excited about this. I cannot WAIT to start work there.

- getting more cycling in as I get ready to cycle my first century (100 miles) in October.

- autumn cooking! Butternut squash and apple soup, mushroom and chestnut risottos, slow cooked stews…………………

Also – how fast is this year going?! Ridiculously flying by.

Weekly review – so little exercise

Hmmmm. This week saw 9 hours 15 exercise managed consisting of….. 2 cycles (and a short strength workout).
It’s not the best preparation for a triathlon next week (argggghhhhh!) that’s ever been done BUT it’s been a fantastically (yep that’s a word) fun week. I just hope the months of training leading up to August have given me a solid enough grounding.

Monday – 83 miles cycled around the Isle of Mull

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Tuesday – planned: rest day.
Executed: rest day with some walking around Iona and over four hours of driving. Personally I think that should be considered exercise because it’s ridiculously tiring!

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Wednesday – 55.7km cycled around Loch Rannoch and Schiehallion. Four hour drive from Aberfeldy to Northumberland

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Thursday – planned: a swim or a short run.
Executed: a six hour drive, a nap and a wonderful burger before packing for Romania. See above for driving being considered exercise.

Friday – flight to Bucharest and exploring Bucharest

Saturday – planned: short run to explore some of Bucharest’s parks.
Executed – a lie-in with a hangover but at least three hours of dancing at a Romanian wedding which is DEFINITELY exercise (probably undone by all the red wine though).

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Sunday – planned: some yoga, a strength work out, a run? All depending on hangover and timing.
Executed – 5 minutes stretching out tight glutes and hamstrings, 15 minutes of a simple and quick strength workout for when you have no time and no equipment.

1. 10 one legged squats on each leg.
2. 10 back lunges (where you step back and lunge on each leg)
3. 15 leg raises on each leg (where you lie on one side with your pelvis neutral, both legs on top of each other slightly off the floor, and raise your top leg up and down. It’s important to do it slowly and controlled).
4. 30 second plank.

Repeat times 3. Or 4. Or 5 – depending on the time. Repeating x 3 took me to 14 minutes 40 sec so I held onto that last plank for an extra 20 seconds to round it up to 15 minutes.

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A short week of exercise and a short post as I ALSO need to write an end of August post… So many blogs. I’ve been putting the end of August blog off to be honest as it will mean I have to add up and fully realise the lack of training I’ve done this month. Oh well :/