Cycletta Report

I woke up Sunday morning feeling ready to spew, the usual nervous routine! I choked down a bowl of porridge while trying not to look at Gareth and Gillian's cooked breakfasts… the sight of scrambled eggs and greasy sausages was totally giving me the boak!

Off to lovely Tatton Park. There were over 800 women taking part in Cycletta on all manner of bikes. We started in waves of ten. I did a cheerful "woohoo!' as we whizzed over a cattle grid then down through the park, sunlight streaming through the tree-lined paths. Then out onto the big bad open road!

First two miles were fast and fun, grinning to myself at the visual of chunky me on clunky mountain bike and tiny Gillian on her tiny Brompton folding bike.

Then Gillian says, "We're going pretty fast, don't overdo it now!". Good advice, whoops! I felt awful during Miles 4-6. My rubbish knee burned on every downstroke, I had that shooting pain in my glute and my stomach felt dodgy. I couldn't take my eyes off the bike computer, doing fractions to figure out how far there was to go.

Then a bunch of speedy women whooshed past in the opposite direction, already on their way back to the finish line (part of the course was a loop). They yelled "KEEP GOING!" in such cheery tones I wanted to slap them. Then I got overtaken by a woman on a poncy bike with a freakin' wicker basket!

"Well isn't that just DANDY!" I sputtered to Gillian, feeling really really cranky and lardy.

Then I remembered that I'd vowed to enjoy the moment as it was happening, instead of having to enjoy it retrospectively as I always do with these things! So I had stern talk with self… Dude… you've travelled a stupid long way for this and you have dragged your friend and husband with you, and you trained for ages and people have sponsored you and do you REALLY want to look like a whiny brat… so SUCK IT UP cupcake! Turn this around!

I made a conscious effort to look at the scenery, feel the air on my skin, notice how strong my legs felt, just really ABSORB everything going on… thinking about how good it felt not to be sitting brooding on the couch wishing life could be different.

We got to Mile 9 and I said to Gillian, "Make a note! Mile 9 and I'm enjoying it!"

Mile 10 was a food stop. I really didn't want to stop but I needed the loo. Admired my beetroot face in the port-a-loo mirror. They had lots of crappy chocolate and sweets which I avoided (memories of dodgy stomach at Moonwalk '08!) and had some orange segments instead… lovely!

The remaining 14 miles were BLOODY FANTASTIC. Sure I was dying on some of the hills, I hesitated too long at an intersection and nearly got barrelled by a car, my chain came off at mile 15, I got stung by a wasp at mile 16…

Wasp Sample only. Not actual wasp.

…but I felt so alive and kept thinking, enjoy this enjoy this enjoy this. We rolled past quaint pubs, cottages with thatched roofs and climbing roses, wholesome people on horses… and a dead badger. Poor bugger. Oooh, and I even overtook a few people!

"Make a note!" I yelled to Gillian, "Mile 22 and still loving it!"

Finally we were back in the Park! There was a sneaky bit where we thought it was over but there was another half mile loop to go… my knee was sore and I felt like I'd been kicked in the lady parts, despite padded saddle and padded shorts and a naturally padded arse. But then I saw the finish line! I was woohooing like a deranged woman. FINISHED!

Dr G was waiting nearby. "Soooo?"


He looked absolutely stunned. "Well! Never thought I would ever hear such a positive statement out of you while straddling a velocipede!" Bwahahaaaaa. Smart arse.

I looked at my bike computer: 02:01:39, average 11.8 mph! Sooo much faster than my training… all thanks to lack of Scottish hills + unbridled enthuasism 😉

Then I got a text with my official time: 40km/24miles in 02:10:24 – of course the bike computer paused while I was on loo break/chain fixing/wasp swatting. Still… SO PLEASED with that as the snaily pace of my training rides indicated a 2.5 – 3 hour finish.

Cycletta was a great event, very well organised. It was heartening to see so many women across a wide range of ages, shapes and cycling experience – it was a very welcoming, non-intimidating atmosphere. I'd been really worried after the event lost its closed roads status, but the marshalls made it feel very safe.

But most of all I owe the feeling of safety to The Amazing Gillian. 24 miles is a warmup for her so she just freakin' rocks for coming along and helping me not get run over. Thank you so much comrade! Also have to say a huge thank you to Gareth, for not stabbing me on the training rides. You rawk!

So, I'm really happy with how it went and glad I got over my internal BS and enjoyed it while it was happening!

Three days later I'm still feeling delirious and so fired up to keep going. I want to keep working on my Fear Of The Road and my inability to do hand signals. I also feel a new sense of purpose for getting back in shape – it's hard work hauling so much booty up the hills, I tell you.

It sounds so cheesy and perhaps quite pathetic, but this experience has reminded me that I am worth taking care of. That life is so much better when you treat your mind and body with kindness and respect, not dulling the edges with rubbish food and inactivity. It takes work to feel good, but I'm feeling like I am worth making that effort.

Why has it taken so long to remember this? To really feel it and believe it deep down? I really don't know. But I'm going to roll with it!

Disclosure: I was offered a "media place" on the Cycletta event thus my entry fee was waived. Click here for full details.

ETA: While I added a cheeky link in the post above, I wanted to shout out properly that I raised a few quid for the MS Society. Huge thanks to my family and pals who sponsored! If anyone out there fancies supporting this great cause, here's my link to donate. You can find out more about the work the Society does to provide information and support as well as funds for multiple sclerosis research on their website,

Cycling Tips

If you’re reading this on Sunday, I’m in merry old England slowly pootling along on the Cycletta bike ride. I’m writing this on Thursday but I think we can safely insert – freakout, nausea, buttock-clenching fear – right here as per every adventure I’ve written about over the past decade.

I’ll be riding with my friend Gillian who sent me this hilarious video of cycling tips. Can’t wait to work “about as clever as giving a balloon to a hedgehog” into a conversation!

Hell on wheels

Every now and then it rains in Scotland (cover your ears while the Obvious Siren goes off) so I do indoor spinning workouts instead.

Gareth is a big fan of these downloadable workouts called The Sufferfest. Cyclists really seem to love the word suffer. You hear it on the Tour de France all the time, "so and so really suffered on the Alpe du Humungous today". Which is fair enough, coz those Alps are bloody gigantic. Anyway, there seems to a big market for suffering in the comfort of your own home. Sufferfest titles of torture include: Downward Spiral, Fight Club and The Hunted. I can only manage twenty minutes of Revolver ("best for masochists" according to the workout comparison chart) so have parked the Suffering for now.

Instead I'm going with Coach Troy of the Spinverals series. He looks scary on the DVD title (see below) but in the workout he's a really wholesome and All-American "great job" kinda guy. Which means I don't swear at him too much as he fries my legs.

Spinervals titles include: Enter The Red Zone, Lean and Mean and THE PAIN CAVE.

I have not dared venture into that cave as yet. I mostly stick to Sweating Buckets, which is pretty much the wussiest one. The workout takes place in a room full of Real People. They're not all made up professionally like people in Jillian Michaels or Cathe DVDs, which makes it worse somehow. At least when there's chicks with perfect hair, teeth and abdominals, there's an air of Unobtainium about the workout so you're not bothered if you can't keep up. But with Sweating Buckets, you're working with the likes of this woman, who's real name escapes me but I call her Granny, coz Coach Troy mentions she's a grandmother of 6. Overachiever!

This next guy does Iron Mans (Iron Men?) so I don't worry about him. He's outta my league.

This guy below is my favorite because he Suffers in a melodramatic fashion. He loves to mop his forehead and shake his head ruefully between intervals.

Next up is The Judge. I can't remember his real name but he's a retired judge so we call him The Judge. Gareth likes to wander in when I'm pedalling away and ask, "Are you beating The Judge? You HAVE to beat The Judge! Take him down!".

Alas, I cannot keep up with The Judge. Beneath his kind, grandfatherly features lurks the mind and legs of a competitor.

Really love this guy.

Sweating Buckets was made in 2001 so I often wonder Where Are They Now? I hope The Judge is alive and well and still outpedalling the youths.

Cycletta: 7 weeks to go!

Time flies when you're huffing and puffing up hills in the very lowest gear… only seven weeks til the Cycletta bike ride!

There is now route information on the website:

Cycletta North's 38.5km route is somewhat deceptive. Unlike its sister in the South, Cycletta North is a series of gradual inclines and declines, turns and straights, so you'll have to keep your wits about you and push throughout.

Dagnabbit! I swear I'd read before, "gently undulating hills". It must have been either wishful reading or I'd read the Cycletta South blurb by mistake. Oh well. There's still seven weeks to go. And 38.5km is a whole 1.5km less than originally thought, even if it the route requires wit-keeping and pushing throughout.

Besides, there is a refreshment stop half way round the course. It's not the Olympics! It is a fun and friendly event. And so far the training is doing exactly what I was hoping it would do – making me not dread getting on the bike. It can be quite exhilarating at times… the wind in my hair, the pollen up my nose; eyes blurry with hayfever tears…

Aside from being unable to get up a hill without using all the gears, the descending also needs work. Braking the entire way down can't be doing the brakes any favours. And my right calf is forever streaked with grease as I seem to press it into the chain on the way down, as if that will stop me flying over the handlebars. No matter how many times Gareth tells me this will not happen ("You are not above the laws of physics!") I can't let go!

New Years Goals Check-in: July

I'm doing monthly updates on my New Year Goals.

July highlights

  • Exercise consistency – giddyup! July's initial motivation was a slight SHAME JOB! feeling – the Summer Up & Runners have been busting their arses 3x week and I didn't want to feel slack! But the motivation is now, "coz it feels good and it makes me less grumpy". Can't go wrong with that.
  • Cycletta training – I had a few weekends away so alas it was mostly on the spinning bike, but I was consistent and I can feel my fitness improving.
  • Seeing a lovely osteopath about my dodgy knee and lower back – after "working around" the pain for about five years. Good to finally understand what's going on.

July lowlights

  • Feeling rotten after the first osteopath visit due to these humbling realisations:
    • the obesity/weight loss/regain rollercoaster has taken its toll on the bod
    • denial/"working around" the problem for years made the knee so much bloody worse than it had to be
    • kickboxing is off the cards for now.

But I got past the gloom pretty quick, and now focusing on what I CAN do. It doth suck that kickboxing and kettlebells are out for the momemnt (all the squat-esque kettlebell moves anyway)… but Pilates, cycling and upper body weights are IN, baby!

I might look into a punching bag to help with the kickboxing withdrawals. Or just gently clobber Gareth to save money. Not really. Don't call the cops!

August plans: Cleaner eating. There's no getting round the fact that my joints would be happier if I was 20 kilos lighter. I've held steady the past two months and I'd like to make some more progress now. No crazy schemes, just making sure I check in with those portion sizes and hunger signals. I slackened off with that a bit in July.

New Years Goals Check-in: June

I'm doing monthly updates on my New Year Goals.

We're 50% done with 2011! 

June highlights

  • Kettlebell Love. Wow that weird lump of iron makes you feel like such a badass. But a lot of the love is for lazy reasons. There's only one item to deal with: no faffing around switching plates on a barbell or putting dumbbells away afterwards. Makes it easier to get past the "I don't wanna" tantrums!
  • Bike Non-Hate. I cycled up my very first hill without stopping this month. I know most people achieve this when they're 8 years old, but one must celebrate the victories. I had to use the very lowest gear but at least I got up the bloody thing. I attribute the attitude improvement to this wee cycling computer. Now I can geek out on how fast (okay, how slow) I am going and how far I've been.
  • Six months of Food Mood Journal Spreadsheet completeness. Nerdgasms ahoy!
  • Six months of not gaining weight and actually very slowly losing, without being an obsessed dieting crazy lady. That feels great after steadily expanding for so long.

June lowlight

  • I completely unravelled for about ten days. There have been some challenging times lately and I managed to carry on with the mindful habits for a good while, but for awhile this month I lost it. It started innocently with running out of yogurt for breakfast leading to me deciding to buy a pastry from Starbucks, then a chocolate after lunch, then skipping a few workouts, then feeling really crap then just wallowing that feeling. And while being aware of exactly why I felt crap (which is progress in some ways), I decided to continue feeling crap by making poor choices, not planning meals, ignoring hunger signals and not pausing to think before I ate.

The positives: I've returned to the healthy habits so much faster than previous setbacks. I'm back to Tuning In and the meal planning is sorted so July is looking better.

Mid-Term Review
It's been a modest kind of year so far. But when I think about my mental state and the inability to breathe in my jeans back on January 1, it feels like real progress.

July plans

  • Improved consistency with strength training – twice a week minimum. Need to remember how much I enjoy it when thinking of ditching it for a cuppa and a book!
  • Cycling cycling and more cycling. There's only three months til Cycletta, eep.

Hope you're all well… thank you gazillions for reading. Apologies for the cobwebs on the blog lately!

Cycletta: A chat with Victoria Pendleton

As mentioned in the last post I'll be taking part in the Cycletta North cycling event in October. Woohoo!

I was offered a "media place" on the ride and I'm usually funny about accepting free things (remember I fartarsed around with those Zumba DVDs last year?). I feel uncomfortable blogging about something for any reason other than "this thought popped into my head today". So why yes to Cycletta?

  • It's a cool idea to encourage women to try cycling
  • It's in a part of England I've never visited before – good excuse to explore!
  • It's on closed roads with "gently undulating hills"… perfect for a fraidy cat!
  • It's been bugging the hell out of me that after five years of ownership my bike has actual cobwebs on it.
  • Gareth is a mad keen cyclist, as are many of our good mates. Last weekend they all pedalled from Edinburgh to St Andrews and back together. I don't aspire to that level of prowess, but it would nice to:
    • know what the hell when they're on about when they talk about various bike parts
    • perhaps go for a casual pootle around the countryside with them one day
    • instead of wanting to spew at the very idea.

So the plan is to give cycling a proper bash, and if I absolutely hate it after training for and taking part in Cycletta, then I will put the bike on Freecycle (near mint condition!).

. . .

I recently took part in a bloggers' conference call with World & Olympic Cycling champion Victoria Pendleton, who is the Cycletta ambassador. It was very cool to be able to pick the brains of a proper champion cyclist!

She was quizzed on everything from cycling tips to cycling fashion so once it was my turn all the good questions had been covered. I present you with my pair of "Move Over Jeremy Paxman" enquiries:

Do you have any advice for anyone who
a) can barely ride up hills, and
b) is shitscared of coming back down them?

Here is the sage advice of World and Olympic champ Victoria Pendleton:

Going up…

  • Make use of your whole gear range. "Lots of people stick to the same couple of gears – you need to be using all of them and know how they feel and when to engage them. Earlier rather than later is best!"
  • Alternate sitting and getting out of the saddle to give different muscles in your legs a rest
  • Go at your own pace – if you're tempted to go faster than you're capable of or try to keep up with faster rides you'll conk out. She said, "I do suffer from a bit of that riding with the boys sometimes – I have tendency to try and keep up with them then I die a horrible death before I get to the top!"
  • Going slower than you're capable of "will make you suffer too", so stick to your natural pace.

Coming down…

  • Scan the road ahead of you – "look out for obstacles, potholes and potential hazards"
  • Keep your head up – "it's very tempting to just look down when you're descending but it can make you more nervous"
  • Using too much brakes can, "make it worse and more dangerous so you have to be able to relax and let the brakes go a little bit"
  • If it's very steep it's really helpful to put your weight back over the back of the saddle… so get out of the saddle and move your weight backwards towards the the back of the seat – "distributing your weight that way might make you feel more control on your descent".

I wish I could say I'm looking forward to putting Victoria's advice to the test 😉

Now here's the second question, which was contributed by Dr G:

What's the top speed you've ever reached on the track?

Her fastest ever speed at the velodrome is 78km per hour (48.5 miles per hour): "Riding behind the motorbike on the track gives you a slipstream and you get the chance to go faster than you could on your own. You can't really see much at that speed but it's really good!"


There are two Cycletta events scheduled for 2011:

Cycletta South: Whipsnade Park on Sunday 11th September

Cycletta North: Tatton Park on Sunday 2nd October

Entry price is £45 per event and the deadline for entry is 31 July 2011. For registration and full event information, visit 

Image from Cycletta.

Friday Link Feast #15

What do you mean, it's Saturday?!

  • The Baby-Sitters Club Changed My Life
    Loved this post by a bloke called Stu about how Stacey The Well-Dressed Diabetic From New York helped the girls in his life understand his Type 1 diabetes.
  • Cycletta – Cycling events for women
    Any UK cycling ladies out there? I'll be taking part in the Cycletta North bike ride on October 2 in Tatton Park, Cheshire. Cycletta events are women only bike rides on safe, traffic free roads for complete novices and experienced riders alike.

    I was offered a media place and my first reaction when I saw the email was to scream/delete – not coz of the distance (can hear my hardcore cycling pals snorting at 40km 😉 but because five years after buying my bike I'm still too shitscared to ride it! Once or twice a year is pretty rubbish Cost Per Ride economics.

    But I ended up saying YES coz Cycletta seems like a great way to give cycling a proper go, once and for all. More on this soon – including a wee interview with Olympic Gold medallist Victoria Pendleton (woo!) – but thought I'd mention the event now in case anyone out there was up for it too!

  • Medicinal Marzipan – Body Lovin' Homework
    I met Mara at Fitbloggin and she was smart, hilarious and charismatic as heck. As soon as I got home I stalked casually perused her blog and discovered Body Lovin' Homework, a series of writing prompts "created with the express intention of bettering our relationships with our bodies through creative means". I tried out some of the exercises and it was powerful stuff.
  • Zen Habits – The Spiral of Successful Habits
    I know I've banged on about baby steps around here far too often but this post reiterates how small actions can grow into honking huge changes!
  • Green Gourmet Girafe – Why does food history matter?
    You could spend a week reading this amazing post from Johanna – it's packed with fantastic links and insights about food history and memory and meaning. A must for food nerds!

New Year Goals Check-In: February

I'm doing monthly updates on my New Year Goals. 1/6th of 2011 is gone. Yikes.

Once again I'm late with the monthly update. Aside from feeling lame talking about this stuff with earthquakes and tsunamis going on, I've also been in the kind of overly emotional mood where it's best to steer clear of blogging. The kind of mood where one says or does ill-advised things, as per this hilarious tweet I saw from writer Sali Hughes:

February was a good month with some nice small victories.

  • I spent a long weekend in Paris with Dr G (my birthday gift to him – "Here, have an Easyjet ticket! Yeah, I'm coming too!" Everyone's a winner.) and I didn't put on any weight. Blow me down with a feather, I ate mindfully in the land of pastry and cheese.
  • I started a Pilates class! For the past four years I've pined for the weekly class we had when I worked at the House of Sport. I finally found a place on a Beginners course (yep, back to Beginner level, d'oh) and really loving it.
  • I lost a couple of pounds.
  • Food diary still going strong.

Things that didn't go as well:

  • Very inconsistent with exercise in the early part of the month.
  • Got sloppy with meal planning post Paris. It really helps to buy some bloody groceries!

I am happy with my glacial progress. I'm working more on the exercise and planning this month, but overall it feels like I'm devoting the right level of brain power to the task. There are still the PMS-y moments of I should do more panic, but I know that would mean taking away time and energy from other parts of my life and would no doubt trigger nutty behaviour and serious overeating. So I'll keep plodding along.

It felt like amazing progress to walk around in Paris and not have my guts knotted with regret for stuffing my face nor fear that I'd blown a diet. Instead, somehow I was able to switch off the lard-related chatter in my brain and focus on being there. It sounds cheesy but for the past few years I've not properly savoured some really cool moments because I was too caught up in angstypants thoughts.

This time I tried to focus on all five senses, not just taste. The tiny details of the Notre Dame. The echo of our voices when the river boat went under a bridge. The bright smell of a Vietnamese dinner. The flaky pastry of a chausson aux pommes dissolving on my tongue. The icy night air in my lungs as I raced Gareth around the Louvre pyramids on our bike tour. Gareth's yelp of pain when I accidentally rode too close and stabbed him with my handlebar. The unfortunate stink of that dog poo I failed to ride around.

Good times, people. Good times!

This photo is rubbish but you get the idea!

The Bike Shed

We have successfully wedged our worldly possessions into Cow Poo Manor. There's no garage this time so I'm not quite sure how this pantry/bike shed hybrid is going to work out.


I've had Valentino the Bike for three years now and I reckon I still have enough fingers and toes to count the amount of times we've been out together. The cost per ride is still about £20! Whoops.

I really want to love cycling, so Gareth and I have something in common… but I never think yay, cycling! the way I instantly thought yay, kickboxing! I'm going to have to work a little harder at this one. I did enjoy the ride from the old house to the new, and didn't run out of gears coming up the little hill… so that's a good start, isn't it?

Meanwhile BT stuffed up yesterday so we're not getting the phone on until next week, and I can't sort out the internet until that's installed. We're stuck in the Dark Ages but it gives me more time to enjoy the view from the window. Aside from the Pile o' Poo there are pheasants, robins and sparrows galore… even a freakin' deer lopes past now and then. It is impossible to hold on to gloom with nature poncing around in your face like that. Life is good.