Tag Archives: Sportive

On yer bike – for the YMCA…

28 May

You may remember that last year I took part in Tour de Y, a charity bike ride from Lake Windermere to London in aid of YMCA. This year, I’m excited to be able to support YMCA again (and I’m looking forward to meeting up with some of the fantastic people I met last year).

At the end of May, I did Tour de Y Norfolk, a small-scale 100 mile event with some of the same people who took part in last year’s event.

Kev Dynes from YMCA Norfolk organised the event route, which headed from Norwich to Great Yarmouth and then followed the coast around to Cley next the Sea before heading back to Norwich.

Tour de Y Norfolk route

I was a little concerned about the event as I’ve not been able to do as much cycling as I’d like this year and my longest ride before this was 50 miles with Roelie and Teri. I figured that as long as I kept myself fuelled and went at a steady pace then I’d be fine. I was also hoping that it wouldn’t be too slow for Stuart who has done lots of long (and fast!) rides in preparation for his Ironman.

Unfortunately, the event started before breakfast was served at our hotel, so we popped out to Greggs for something to eat before going over to meet Kev and Joe at the YMCA accommodation, which was just around the corner. As we were leaving the hotel, we were approached by another cyclist, who asked whether we were doing the YMCA ride – I guess my jersey was a bit of a clue!

I knew Kev had hoped to keep the event quite small, but I was surprised to find that there were only 9 of us… and I was the only woman.

Start of Tour de Y Norfolk

Before the start of the ride – I’m the small one in the centre with the SOAS kit and YMCA jersey. Graham is on my right; Stuart is on my left in yellow and Kev is next to him in the YMCA jersey.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the route. Everyone says that Norfolk is flat, so I wasn’t expecting to have an enormous climb straight out of Norwich. I had started at the front of the group and quickly lost ground on the hill as I need a really good warm up to get going. Luckily, Graham and Kev were true gents, so they stayed back and chatted to me.

Tour de Y Norfolk selfie

One of Kev’s many selfies – I think I was focussed on keeping moving at that point!

Half way to Great Yarmouth

This was half way to Great Yarmouth. I’m on the left, Graham is in the centre and Stu is on the right © Kevin Dynes

The first break was at a YMCA centre in Great Yarmouth. The staff there were very friendly and welcoming and they provided a great spread of fruit, biscuits, flapjacks, hot drinks and other snacks. I knew I hadn’t drunk enough on the first part of the journey, so I did the best I could to drink more whilst I was there.

Tour de Y first stop

Filling up at Great Yarmouth © Kevin Dynes

The second leg took us to the sea-side and the Kingfisher Cafe in Wallcott. By the time that Stuart and I got there, everyone was already tucking into sandwiches, pasta pots and various sweet treats. Joe had remembered that I preferred to have peanut butter rolls than most shop-bought sandwiches, so he had bought a multipack of rolls and a pot of PB just for me – thank you, Joe! After a couple of rolls and a warming cup of tea, I felt much better.

Walcot stop

Knowing that I was slower than the rest of the group, as soon as I had eaten, I asked Kev whether it was OK for me to set off again. That way I managed to get a slight head start, in the hope that the group wouldn’t have to wait too long for me at the third rest stop. It didn’t take them long to catch up with Stu and I. We were passed on a hill where I almost dropped my chain. Unfortunately, I had a moment of panic and ended up stopping as I didn’t want to crash.

As well as some ‘undulations’, I was also surprised by the strength of the wind during this ride. I guess I should have thought about picture postcard images of Norfolk:

Norfolk windmills

Norfolk windmills

There’s a reason why there are so many windmills here!

We travelled through some lovely little towns, but some of them really don’t cope well with sunny weekend traffic and were thoroughly blocked with traffic. I was glad that we were on bikes and could bypass most of the queues.I  wish I had taken some photos as the scenery was lovely.

The third leg of the ride ended at a lovely little YMCA shop that was tucked away in Holt. There was enough time for a comfort break and another peanut butter roll before we set off on the final stretch. I had found the third leg tough, whereas I found thsi section much easier. Perhaps it was because we didn’t have such strong winds, although I suspect that it was the feeling of relief that I knew I would be able to finish!

Kev and Joe in Holt

Finally, we regrouped just outside of Norwich, so that we could have a triumphant group finish. I was feeling a little tired, but pleased that I had completed the distance. I hoped that no-one minded that I had been the slowest in the group – if they did mind, no-one said 🙂

I had had a truly lovely day. Not only had I cycled with friends, but I also knew that I was supporting a great cause. My only frustration was that although I had followed the route on my Garmin, I had failed to record my progress, so I don’t have any Garmin evidence that I did it 😦

If you’d like to sponsor me, please visit: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/TourdeYMCAN16

Oli is currently doing research into event photography. If you’d like to help with Oli’s research, please complete his short survey.










Wiltshire (Ups and) Downs Sportive

25 Oct

As the weather was forecast to be nice on Sunday (and the clock change made it feel like I’d had a lie in), I decided to squeeze in a ride at the Wiltshire Downs Sportive. There were 4 distances on offer:

  • ‘Fun’: 15 miles / 24 km
  • Short: 34 miles / 54 km
  • Med: 62 miles / 99 km
  • Long: 80 miles 128 km

I chose long as I wanted to get another long ride in before heading to Portugal for some training.

It was about a 90 minute drive to the start of the ride, but I didn’t mind – my car is too small to transport a bike, so I was riding in style in Stuart’s car. It has my favourite luxury – heated seats 🙂

My new SOAS aquarius kit

My new SOAS aquarius kit

Unfortunately, I hadn’t read the detailed weather forecast and had just assumed that it would be as warm as Saturday (13°C/55°F when I got to parkrun)… it turned out to be 3/4°C [37°F] and I was underdressed. Several times recently, I’ve worn full length tights and have been too warm, so I assumed that I would be fine in my lovely new SOAS shorts and jersey. I had put on some plain black knee warmers and arm warmers. I also had the forethought to put on a buff to keep my neck warm. I joined the start queue and realised that I was immediately behind Ian from Southampton Tri Club, who told me that he was doing the medium route.

In the queue, I put on my waterproof jacket in the hope that it would keep the wind chill off. I didn’t want to get hot and sweaty, but I was chilly. We set off and after about 5 minutes I had lost all feeling in my fingers and toes. I was freezing.

In about 30 minutes, I had warmed up a bit and removed my jacket, which was a relief. I had been worried that I’d need to get the latex gloves out of my saddle bag and put them on!

I got to the first feed station and glanced about to see whether Ian was filling up, but he was nowhere to be seen. This didn’t surprise me as Ian is a much faster cyclist than I am. I had the first of my peanut butter sandwiches and headed off again.

Shortly afterwards, I heard someone behind me and realised that it was Ian who had taken a wrong turn somewhere. We cycled along together for a while, which was lovely as I’d not been riding at the same pace as anyone else and hadn’t had any other opportunities to talk. It wasn’t long until we got to the medium and long split and said goodbye.

The next section of the route was ‘gently undulating’, by which I mean it was relentlessly hilly. At one point a couple of men came past and asked me how far we had gone. My new Garmin 810 was misbehaving and had turned itself off, so I’d had to restart it, but my Forerunner was still giving me accurate data. I decided to try to stick with the chaps for a while, as the route was a little lonely. It turned out that one of the men was a strong cyclist, whereas the other was a little more like me – he was finding the hills tougher. For quite a long way, we played a game of cat and mouse where I would gradually catch up with the slower chap on the hills and then he recovered more quickly than me and went past again.

I asked one of the men whether he knew where the next feed station was. It turned out to be at least 12 miles away. Although I’d been doing my best to drink every 15 minutes and eat something every 20 minutes, I was starting to flag. I commented to the man that I was going to stop at the top of the hill and have a sandwich. Just as I was about to pull over, the chap pointed to a sign – the feed station had been relocated to the top of the hill 🙂 I ate my sandwich, had a couple of jelly beans and refilled my electrolyte bottle with an orange drink.

I heard another cyclist explaining that there was a steep downhill with hairpins coming up, so I decided to take it gently – hairpin bends are not my friends!

After the steep downhill, the countryside was more rolling and I was feeling exhausted. I had a ‘flu injection on Saturday and my left arm was really stiff, which was making it harder. I pulled over for another sandwich and a quick text to Stu.

The last 20 miles felt like a slog, and I just had one aim: get home before it gets dark! I managed it, but it definitely wasn’t a quick time!

Yesterday, I did the first of three sessions with Brightside Cycling. I had no idea what to expect, so I did my best to be early… but I don’t usually ride my road bike in the dark, so I spent about 5 minutes attaching as many lights as possible – I think I ended up with three white lights and three red lights, so no-one could say they didn’t see me coming! Also, after Sunday’s experience, I put on winter gloves and a cosy jacket for the short ride, but I wasn’t too worried about my legs, after all, how cold can legs get in a <5 minute bike ride?

When I arrived at Brightside, I realised that my tyres were a little soft. I intended to inflate them when I got in, but then completely forgot about it – doh! In the car park, Graham was helping a man and a woman with their bikes. I assumed that they were a couple, but when we got inside, I realised this wasn’t correct. I knew where I was going as Vankru bike fitting used to be based at Brightside… and I also knew that the first test would be carrying my bike up a spiral staircase whilst wearing cleats. The studio is in a nice location, but that’s definitely a disadvantage.

After answering a few questions, Graham got the three of us onto our bikes which were rigged up to trainers. I’m not a fan of cycling inside as it’s usually quite warm and unless there’s something to watch, there’s not a lot to distract me, so it gets boring. At least this time, there was a screen to look at. It took me a while to understand exactly what I was meant to be doing, which is why my graph is so wonky. (I’ve also had a good look at the data and see that my weight was incorrectly entered, so maybe this data will change – I’d be devastated if I weighed 77kgs/170lbs after all of my hard work!!!)

Pre FTP cycle

We then did a Functional Threshold Power (FTP) test. It was a little off-putting to be sandwiched between two very able cyclists, but at least I’m doing something to try to get better.

FTP test

Finally, as the clocks have now changed and it’s dark in the evenings, I thought it would be timely to share this video:


Wiggle New Forest 100 Sportive

19 Sep
Whilst on the Isles of Scilly, I noticed a post on a Breeze facebook group looking for a ride leader with a first aid certificate to support a 4 day charity bike ride from Ulverston to London (about 360 miles/580km). ‘How convenient that I’ve just completed my first aid certificate’, I thought. It was only after I completed the Scilly Swim Challenge that I realised I had under 3 weeks to train for an event that would be tough. Oops.

I heard that a sportive was taking place on Saturday and that volunteers were required, so I agreed to help with registration in exchange for a free place. I arrived at Matchams at 6:40am, ready for registration to open at 6:45am. There were three events taking place: short (around 40 miles); standard (62 miles); epic (100 miles). It was interesting to see the range of riders and their bikes – several people with rucksacks on old mountain bikes were doing the epic. It was also great to see lots of dads out witheir young sons doing the short route… but I didn’t see a single young girl in registration, which seems rather sad.

When I’d got up at 5:15am, it was cold and misty, so I decided that it would be a good opportunity to try out the thermal tights and matching jersey that I bought last winter. This seemed like a good idea as I was cold on my last cycling excursion. At 9:45am, I was released from registration and I realised that I had made a mistake – it was really hot – oops!

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The majority of the riders had started significantly earlier, but for the first part of the ride, there were still a few cyclists around. However, when I reached the split in the route, I started to wonder whether it would be a lonely ride.

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I discovered quite a crowd of riders at the first aid station (40k), so I decided not to dally too long in the hope of having a bit of company on the next section. It was indeed a busy section, but I was surprised when we came to the second aid station at only 60k. I turned off the main road, realised that I had only turned off for an aid station and got straight back out again.

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 16.49.14 Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 16.45.00

By this stage, I felt like I was melting – I’d already drunk two full bottles and was seriously considering removing my jersey – so I was grateful when we got to a shady section.

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I had hoped to finish in a good time, but the heat was too much for me, so I decided just to aim for a ‘gold’ time, which I thought would be 4:15. After the clock ticked past that, I thought I’d aim for <4:30, which I managed… however, I was frustrated to find out that the ‘gold’ time for women was 4:24 and I just missed it.

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 16.48.51 Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 16.45.53 Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 16.45.15

Overall, it was a good event, and I hoped it would stand me in good stead for the next week’s adventures.


Evans Rideit! Sportive

12 Feb

My first big cycling event of the year was scheduled to be Evans RideIt! Sportive in Newbury. Three distances were offered:

  • Short: 30 miles/48km
  • Medium: 50 miles/80km
  • Long: 70 miles/112km

I’ve not been doing a lot of cycle training, but the plan was to do the long course with Stuart, Suzanne, Donna and Jules, whilst Liz was going to cycle part way with us before splitting off for a shorter distance… and then we were all going to go to the pub afterwards to celebrate our achievements and Liz’s birthday.

Unfortunately, the day didn’t start as planned – just five miles away from our house, Stuart’s new car flashed on a warning light to alert us to a flat tyre. We pulled off the motorway and stopped on a garage forecourt to call the AA.

We had to wait a while for a mechanic to come to our aid, and realised at that point that we would not arrive in time to start the long course, which had a final start time of 9:45am. This was a real disappointment as I had psyched myself up for that distance.

The mechanic was a jolly chap who clearly thought we were mad to go out cycling on such a cold day with just some lycra clothing on. He soon discovered the cause of our woes – a large nail embedded in the rear tyre – and was able to fix it, so that we could be on our way.

Finally, we arrived at the school where the event was due to start. There were still a few cyclists milling around, including a large contingent from Oxford University.

We found our way to registration, which is where the second problem occurred – I was not on the list of entrants. This meant that I had to fill in some additional paperwork and also further delayed our start.

We then made our way to the start arch where we were able to start immediately as there were no other cyclists around by that point. We passed an older chap and his grandson (who I’m guessing had received his road bike as a Christmas present). We then saw another cyclist returning to the school who waved at us and warned us that there was ice on the first turn.

We cautiously proceeded around the bend and realised that there was plenty of ice (and slush), as well as quite a broken road surface… and a reasonably steep descent. Aaarrgghh! All of the things that make me nervous at once. I was also in a grumpy mood, so this did not cheer me up.

After descending very slowly, there was an incline, where some more cyclists had stopped to repair a puncture.

It wasn’t long before we were on a more attractive country road… and we even managed to start [passing a few people. We then came to a pretty village, and our ride came very close to finishing there, thanks to a female driver who decide that she only needed to look left before pulling out for a side road. Stuart and I both braked sharply and managed to avoid going into the driver, who just gave us a smile and a wave. Why is it that drivers do this?!

I started to warm up and the road surfaces improved, so my mood started to lighten. It was a crisp day, but there wasn’t a lot of wind and there was no rain.

We went down a hill and towards the bottom, I saw a sign pointing off to our right. I called to Stuart, but we had both passed it and were nearly up the next hill. Stu was sure we were going the right way, so we kept cycling until we came to a main road. We were then convinced we had gone the wrong way, so we retraced our pedal-strokes and, sure enough, there was a sign just tucked down a side road. We followed it for a while and encountered a few other cyclists.

After a while, we came to a T-junction and noticed a sign off to our left pointing down a country lane. It was quite gravelly, but seemed quiet and wasn’t too much of a steep descent, so I thought it would be OK.

Part-way down, Stuart shouted to me that he had a puncture. We pulled over and whilst Stuart replaced his inner tube, I helpfully took a photo and had a snack break.


One of the reasons why I was looking forward to this event was that I had decided it would be when I would try out some new training fuel: honey stinger strawberry waffle.

Honey stinger strawberry waffle

The lovely people at ProBikeKit sent me some samples earlier this year and I’ve been eager to try them out. I’ve read a lot of positive reviews of honey stinger products, but they’ve mostly been on American blogs and I’ve not seen honey stinger products in any UK shops, so it’s great to find a supplier.

I have several simple criteria for training food:

  • It needs to be easy to carry and eat on the go
  • It needs to be a reasonable price
  • It needs to taste good

So, my first criteria. It’s a flat package that is about 8cmx10cm, so it will easily fit in a jersey pocket or a bento box. It is also easy to rip open. (This might seem like a strange criteria, but it’s based on my experience with a PowerBar product that tasted great, but was so sticky after an hour in a jersey pocket that I could barely peel the wrapping off it, which is not ideal when you’re trying to fuel on the go!)

Honey Stinger waffles come in a box of 16 from ProBikeKit and the cost per box is £18.99, so each waffle is just under £1.19 each. This seems to me to be a reasonable price when compared with similar nutrition products.

So, the product was winning on two counts, but the make or break criteria is tasting good. I will admit that I have a bit of a weakness for stroopwafels, you know those delicious Dutch waffles that are sandwiched together with caramel:



So, how did the honey stinger waffle measure up to a stroopwafel? It was surprisingly similar. It was a lovely, slightly crumbly waffle that was held together by a delicious strawberry honey centre. It smelled quite sweet, but was neither too sweet nor too chewy. I was also pleasantly surprised that the centre of the waffle was a natural colour – I had expected it to be pink like the wrapper! There is also clear nutritional information on the wrapper, which explained a key selling point of the product: most of the ingredients are organic.

So, my final verdict was that I LOVE THIS PRODUCT! If you’re out cycling, hiking or ultrarunning, I think it would be the ideal product to take with you.

So, back to the ride. Whilst I was munching, Stu was busy replacing his innertube. At one point, a group of cyclists came up the hill towards us. They explained that they had followed the signs, but at the bottom of the long hill, there were three possible routes and they couldn’t identify where they should be going. They realised that they had gone the wrong way and were turning back.

A cyclo cross guy then came down the hill, so we stopped him and explained the problem, so he turned back. Finally, the older chap and his grandson came down the hill. We said that we thought we had gone the wrong way. The older man said that they were just ahead of the tail cyclist who was removing signs. We cycled up the hill together and encountered the back marker who was removing signs. He acknowledge that the sign was pointing the wrong way… and seemed to believe that it had been set up wrongly that way, rather than being sabotaged by someone.

It wasn’t long before we were at the feed station. I ate a couple of pieces of flap jack and had a bit of my water and then we were ready to go again. Although we were on the short route by this time, we had the option of the short or the medium route back, with one being about 5 miles longer than the other. I figured that we might as well do the medium route, so that the event was slightly better value for money.

It didn’t take long before we were on a fast and flat open road. My mood had lightened and I started to pick the pace up a bit. I could see a group of three cyclists up ahead and felt a little frustrated as they were spread out across the road. Fortunately, they pulled in a bit, so that Stu and I were able to pass them.

It didn’t take long before we could see where the event had started, and there, waiting in the gateway, was Liz. I shouted and waved, but it took her a few seconds (minutes?) to recognise Stu and I. She explained that it wouldn’t be long before Suzanne, Donna and Jules arrived. Soon we spotted them – oops, they were the cyclists that I had struggled to pass on the open road.

Despite the rubbish start to the day, this is how I’m feeling about cycling right now:

hrm bike

I’m working hard on being more positive this year. I’m not doing brilliantly, but I’m trying to bear this in mind:

Cycling motivation

I’ve been reading some interesting things online this month, including:

I’ve also learned that I’ve been rejected (yet again) for the Prudential London Ride 100 :’-( (Actually, I’ve got so many challenges on this year, that it’s not a bad thing!)

New Year’s Resolutions – is it worth making any?

27 Dec

In 2015, I will be:

  • spending more time with my family (whilst also making new friends and expanding my social circle)
  • rekindling my passion for an old hobby (and trying my hand at something new)
  • shifting that extra stone/14lbs/6kg and not giving into any unhealthy temptations whatsoever.

Yeah, right.

With an estimated 14.5 million adults making New Year’s resolutions that focus on fitness and health, self-improvement (or, at least, the desire for self-improvement) is a national hobby here in the UK. Yet very few of us – some estimates say only around 8% – achieve their New Year’s resolutions. If this is the case, and if the true definition of madness is ‘repeating the same action, over and over, hoping for a different result’, then this year we have to mix it up a little if we’re going to achieve our goals.

I’ve got some huge goals and A races for 2015, but I’ve also planned some fun events and less important races to help keep me motivated (whilst never taking my eye off the ultimate goal of completing an Ironman!)

Get fit and have fun for a good cause

Sometime, it’s helpful to have a little extrinsic motivation to keep you going. It might be that you agree to do something with friends, or perhaps the thought of raising money for charity will spur you on. Several friends have told me how they managed to while away the time whilst running marathons by calculating how much each step/km/mile was worth to their chosen charity in terms of sponsorship.

If the thought of losing the pounds by spending endless hours on a dreadmill makes you worry about losing your mind, then how about the idea of getting your mates together to take part in a Human Race Macmillan Cycletta? These women-only bike rides are set in stunning, family friendly host venues. There is also a range of distance on offer from 50-150km. There are five events around the country featuring spectacular routes between 50km and 150km, taking place in Bedfordshire, Surrey, the New Forest, Cheshire and Scotland.

If you’re not female, or want to take part in a mixed-gender event, why not search for a local sportive? Alternatively, if you visit the website of a charity that you’d like to support, they may have places on events you’d like to enter or might host their own events. If you’re worried that you’re not fit enough to do an event yet, perhaps you could volunteer so that yu witness the wide range of ages, sizes and abilities who participate in most sporting events.

Pick up an old hobby, lose weight and make new friends

Rekindle your high school love of netball, volleyball and dodgeball, or try something completely new like boxfit or Insanity classes with social sports clubs such as GO Mammoth, the UK’s largest social sports and fitness club. These kind of clubs exist simply to make your life more fun and social, without the seriousness and commitment involved in joining a specialist sports club or gym.

If you’re in North American, you might be able to join November Project: http://november-project.com/ It’s a fantastic FREE fitness movement. If you’ve been to  session, please share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you’d like to take part in a free timed 5k run every Saturday morning, then have a look to see whether parkrun is in your country yet, and if so, where the nearest locations are: http://www.parkrun.com/countries/

Try something new with old friends

Why not kill two birds with one very muddy stone – have fun with your friends AND try something new by taking part in a muddy obstacle course run! Bonus if you raise money for charity whilst doing it. Such events have rocketed in popularity during 2014, and look to be even bigger and better in 2015.

I absolutely HATE mud (and will be looking after my ‘new’ eyes), so am unlikely to do an obstacle race in 2015, but I have set myself the challenge of continuing with something new: crossfit. I’m now going to sessions offered by my Uni tri club (SUTRI) every Monday and hope to continue doing so in 2015.

Eat healthy & stay motivated

healthy heart

The problem with deciding to completely overhaul a lifestyle is that it can often be a case of biting off more than you can chew. So, when making dietary changes, start small. Set a few realistic goals – in the long run, the boost of actually sticking to them will up your confidence and self-esteem, helping you to make even better changes.

Gradually switching to a healthy eating style (not dieting!) such as clean eating can make a massive difference to your wellbeing without being overwhelming.

My sister and her fiance bought Stuart and I a Nutribullet blender for Christmas, so we’re hoping to drink lots of heathy smoothies in 2015… and I am planning to lose at least 15lbs, but more on that in another post!

Cut down on alcohol & fizzy drinks. Stay hydrated!



This challenge isn’t so hard for me. I very rarely drink alcohol and try not to drink coke too often. I drink water almost all of the time. Did you know that a big bottle of a juice-based drink can contain 300 calories – and those calories add up. Instead, think about switching to something like nuun, light and refreshing sugar-free hydration tabs which you simply drop into a bottle of water to get a great taste AND stock up on the essential electrolytes you lose during everyday activity. One nuun tube has enough tabs to make twelve 16oz (500ml) hydration drinks. It’s sturdy, waterproof and easily fits into a gym bag, bike jersey, purse, or pocket! Sorted.

So – there are some of my basic thoughts about New Year’s Resolutions… but as I mentioned, I have some very clear goals that I will be sharing in the next couple of weeks.

What are your goals, plans and dreams for 2015?

Best bike ride ever!

16 Apr

After all of my training recently, my lovely husband bought me a beautiful bouquet of Oriental lilies, which are my favourite flowers.

The flowers that my wonderful husband bought for me.

The flowers that my wonderful husband bought for me.

On Saturday morning, I decided to go swimming instead of running. I’ve only been swimming with the Tri Club on a Saturday morning once before. That was a session during the Christmas break, so it was not necessarily the usual mix of people and Darryl gave me quite a lot of attention as I was clearly a different ability from everyone else who was there. As the swimming pool isn’t far from my house, I decided to cycle there, which was a nice start to the day.

I think the turn out on Saturday was probably the usual mix of people. The first thing I noticed was that the ability level was much higher than the usual Lane 1 crew from Monday evenings. We had to count our strokes per length for 400m. I didn’t manage to keep this even for the 16 lengths, but it fluctuated between 21 and 26 for the section that I was counting. I think that when I’m not focussing on reaching at the end of each stroke then I don’t make as much effort as I should.

We then moved onto my favourite part of the session: 200m of kicking. I like kicking as I don’t need to worry about breathing or what my arms are doing. I started as the last person in lane 1, but by the end of the 200m, I had passed all but one person. Unfortunately, we also had to do some backstroke and I failed to keep in a straight line, veering up into the wrong side of the lane, which made one of the ladies in the lane very angry – oops!

New swimming PB

After swimming, Liz and I collected our bikes and walked to Boulangerie Victor Hugo, a new French bakery, with Sonia and Suzanne. Stuart and Katherine had been to parkrun so they were already there waiting for us. The breakfast deal there is very good: half a demi baguette, a croissant, butter, jam and a hot chocolate for under £5.

After breakfast, we set off on our bikes for a bike shop, as I’ve broken the bell on my hybrid bike and wanted a replacement part. unfortunately, the shop didn’t have a replacement part in, but they fitted a replacement bell for me – thank you CycleWorld! We then set off on a scenic ride home. Katherine and Stu both had road bikes, whereas I had a heavy bike with full panniers, so we didn’t go too fast… and all three of us were wearing jeans. We ended up cycling about 10 miles.

In the afternoon, I decided to try out a ‘recipe’ that my cousin’s partner Lauren had shared on Facebook. I say ‘recipe’ as it’s a pizza base made of just two ingredients: Greek yoghurt and self-raising flour. I had two different pots of 0% fat Greek yoghurt in my fridge and a bag of plain flour, but I decided to give it a go anyway. I mixed the yoghurt with flour and added some baking powder. Of the two yoghurts that I tried, it was easier to make the dough using the Fage yoghurt, but the Tesco yoghurt dough was wetter and actually came out better. I also made my own tomato sauce for the pizzas. I don’t think they turned out too badly!

My homemade pizza

My homemade pizza (Fage yoghurt dough)

Stuart's homemade pizza

Stuart’s homemade pizza (Tesco yoghurt dough)

On Sunday morning, we got up early to go to the Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive. 2000 riders take part in this two-day event. There is a choice of two routes: 62 miles or 84 miles. We chose the 62 mile option as I’ve only cycled 100km once and haven’t been on my bike much this year.

When we arrived, we had to register with our helmets. We were given time chips on our helmets as well as a High-5 bottle filled with gels and energy drinks.

My number

There had been quite a lot of traffic getting to the start, so the first riders were leaving the site as we arrived.

Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive 2014

My only other experience of a sportive type event was the Garmin Sharp Ride Out last year, which was a much smaller scale event. I was amazed by just how many riders were here and was also hugely relieved to notice that there were plenty of women who were taking part. I also had time to look around at other people’s bikes – there were plenty of mountain bikes and hybrids, as well as some top-end road bikes.

The weather conditions were perfect – it was quite warm and sunny with very little breeze. I set off fairly quickly and decided to see how long I was able to maintain that pace. I’ve not really fiddled with the settings on my Garmin, so it measures my cycling in 5 mile laps – I did the first lap in a pace of 27.4 kmph, which is a lot faster than I’ve ever managed before and I wondered how long I would be able to maintain that sort of pace. My best previous pace was 21.1kmph (although I have managed an hour at 25.5kmph on a turbo trainer). I kept going and really enjoyed being able to pass a few people. We had to stop for a short while when we got to Burley as there was a Palm Sunday procession to church, which was fine, although it meant that I had very little momentum to climb the hill out of the town!

I knew that a ‘cake stop’ was planned at the half way point. I had tried to drink whilst cycling, but I’m not very coordinated and am still a bit nervous that I might crash, so I hadn’t drunk very much. At 50km, I really started to look forward to a break, but I was pleased that we hit that distance in 1:59.

It wasn’t long before we got to the rest stop. After finding a bike rack where we could park our bikes, we joined the queue for sampling the goodies: flapjack, oreos, Tuck biscuits, jelly beans, pistachios etc Stuart was very helpful – he retrieved my drink bottle from my bike and also held his hand out to catch my pistachio shells!

Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive 2014


Although there were bike racks, there just wasn’t enough room for everyone’s bikes. Bikes were leaning against fences and walls as well as being placed in ditches!

Cyclists arriving at the rest stop

Cyclists arriving at the rest stop

I enjoyed people-watching. There were lots of interesting jerseys and bikes.

The stampede for flapjack

The stampede for flapjack

We had passed lots of ponies, donkeys, cows and pigs and there were even a few New Forest ponies at the rest stop.

Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive 2014

After I’d eaten a bit and had a drink, I felt better and was ready to tackle the final section. I wanted to maintain the pace that I had set, but it was a long uphill drag for several miles. After we got to 75km, it was downhill or flat all of the way back. There were a couple of scary moments, including when a man stopped dead in front of me as one of his friends had dropped something, but I felt more confident than I have done before. I kept pushing as I wanted a good average pace overall, and was really surprised to find that people were slowing down in the last 10km… but it was nice to pass them. Stuart had stayed with me for the whole day, but when we got to the entrance of the event site, Stuart sprinted off. It was a reasonable slope, so I just continued at a steady pace.

Finally, we crossed the line, and I was surprised that we were interviewed by a member of the event crew. I don’t think I really said very much, so Stu and I didn’t end up on the video, but our photo was one of 50 that appear on the main website:

Wiggle screen shot

Finishing Wiggle Ride

Finished! Being interviewed at the end…

We were then given medals and t-shirts.

Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive 2014

I stopped my Garmin at the rest stop, but not for the Palm Sunday parade, so my cycling time was 4:08, however, this is not my start to finish chip time.

Garmin data for Wiggle Sportive

Wow – they’re impressive stats for me 🙂

My official time was 4:41:04.

Tamsyn Smith Certificate


I’m a little frustrated that we stopped for over half an hour at the rest stop… if I’d finished in <4:16 then I would have been a gold finisher!


Finish pose with bike

Yay! I did it 😀

Happy pose with medal

Happy pose with medal

I really enjoyed this event and am now feeling slightly less stressed about cycling in the Pyrenees, although when I see those mountains, the panic will probably resurface!!!

There were some nice photos taken of Stuart and I during this event, so we’ve ordered some – I’ll upload them here when they arrive 🙂

Finishers' t-shirt and medal

Finishers’ t-shirt and medal

The finisher t-shirt is quite attractive, and as it’s a technical top, I will probably wear it.

After the event, we decided not to hang around for hot drinks, but instead we headed to Ringwood to get lunch and some hot drinks:

Post-event hot chocolate

Post-event hot chocolate

What a great day! 😀