In tandem

Pearl Izumi Champion Team

This blog takes a different form, with us both giving our perspective of our PI Champion Team adventure!

Ann
This adventure started at the beginning of December last year when an email dropped in to say my application to be a Pearl Izumi Champion had been successful. This news was surprising as a) I’d have thought I’m a little long in the tooth to be chosen to represent a stylish cycling apparel brand and b) I wasn’t quite sure what being a PI Champion would entail.

What followed was PI setting up a Facebook group so the champions could engage with one another and arranging a launch day in March to give us full details of the programme.

From the outset, there was great camaraderie on the Facebook group; accomplishments were applauded, bikes were envied, humour was shared, and as the launch event grew closer, questions were answered, travel and rooming arrangements were made, with champions travelling miles out of their way to share transport. It was heart-warming, but more than a little scary.

From reading everyone’s training and exploits on Facebook and Instagram I’d built up a picture that this was a team of strong cyclists, performing at the highest level and cycling huge mileage on a regular basis. So with trepidation, we set out on Friday evening for our road trip (by train!), having arranged to meet another PI Champ, Nicola, en route. Nicola is a breath of fresh air; enthusiastic, positive, funny. Just the type of person Louise and I try to surround ourselves with, as they make life so much more enjoyable. The weekend was already taking shape.

We arrived at the hotel in Milton Keynes, travel weary and wary of how these other champs would perceive two women from Bolton who are just ‘having fun’. What we found was a group of like-minded, fun loving, passionate individuals all mad keen on promoting the benefits and enjoyment of cycling, and some who were suffering confidence issues like us. The PI team had clearly done an amazing job in the recruitment of the team. We gelled quickly, over a drink in the bar and then over breakfast, before we headed to Madison HQ for the official launch event. When the presentations had concluded (with us knowing more about PI’s expectations of us for the coming year; PI’s vision and mission statement being communicated; and a rather bizarre and bewildering talk on nutrition!) and the free kit had been handed out, we chatted and bonded more. Advice was shared, (about random topics such as which arm warmers to buy, which events to try, and the sizing of the kit) over the buffet before the team set out in various groups for the rides, either at the mountain bike trials at Woburn or around the roads of Milton Keynes.

The day then came to a close as we all headed home for our various, far-flung destinations, only for circumstances to further highlight the spirit of the team. When a helmet was dropped at the station, it was found, collected and posted back to the PI Champ by two other Champs in shining armour!

This year is going to be such fun, watching everyone’s exploits in their kit, and I just hope we can meet up again soon.

Photo courtesy of Pearl Izumi UK
Louise

It’s safe to say I was incredibly nervous ahead of the event but within minutes of meeting Nicola on the train, Emma and Laura over a quick lager on arrival at the hotel and Jude and Linzi at breakfast nerves were settled and I was keen to get to the event.

The thing that really struck me was that it wasn’t about being a fabulous cyclist. Don’t get me wrong I’d followed people on FB and Instagram beforehand and was absolutely in awe of their achievements in speed and distance of rides, countries visited, races and challenges completed, but on the day I can’t remember a conversation about any of those things. What we did talk about was going from zero to regular cyclist, setting up of cycling clubs, surviving cancer and charity fundraising with seemingly impossible challenges, coaching of children and adults.

I could go on and on, but I definitely sensed a theme of using cycling to give to the community, by helping and supporting others and being determined to make things happen.

I adore the kit we were provided with; elite top, bib shorts and shoes, not just because I’m human and love a freebie but because it gives a sense of belonging, being part of a team.

The Pearl Izumi vision is ‘To be the brand of choice for cyclists. We aspire to elevate the sports we love, and empower more people to become cyclists’. The group of people in that room on Saturday totally embodied that ethos and whilst I’m humbled by their achievements I can also associate with them. My biggest joys since starting to run then cycle have been when we’ve been doing community/ support events, volunteering and run directing at parkrun, leading Breeze rides and running our ladies cycling events.

So we’ve got the ambassador title and strip and for the next nine months or so are tasked with regular social media posts using Pearl Izumi hashtags showing off our lovely apparel. My hope is to cycle more, lead more Breeze rides and throw in the odd personal challenge or two!

 

Feet First

Sore feet!
It’s not the most sympathy-evoking injury to have as a runner/triathlete. Why could I not have something with a fancy name or an injury that other athletes wanted to give you all their thoughts and advice on! But no, I’ve got sore feet.

I’ve had copious investigations to find the reason; X-Rays, ultrasound scans, and more podiatry and chiropodist appointments than you can shake a stick at, but all to no avail. The pain is even there when I’m sat at my desk, so there’s not a chance that I’m letting it stop my training.

I’d seen a number of posts on Facebook about a podiatrist, biomechanics & orthotics service supporting an athlete who sometimes trained with my son, and I’d considered getting a fifteenth opinion on my troublesome trotters, when in the Triathlon Club presentation night raffle there on offer was a voucher for said service. It was snatched off the table in double quick time and an appointment booked for the next available clinic.

I arrived with no expectations for a result but how wrong could I be. From the first moment I knew that Lindsay (Dr Lindsay Hill) understood feet, and being a runner herself knew exactly how miserable ‘sore feet’ can be.

She specialises in ‘treating sports injuries with the prescribing of othoses (insoles made specifically for your feet), using a Gaitscan for diagnosis and prescription design’. The Gaitscan was a large plate, attached to a computer that I walked across a number of times. This then produced an image of how my foot hit the floor, identifying to Lindsay what was causing my pain. It was quite an emotional process, that someone was not only sympathetic but felt they could do something to help.

Photo courtesy of Axis Podiatry
Lindsay then gave me advice on new running shoes, using all the information she’d compiled during the session and off I went with the make and model of shoes she felt would help.

Tonight was the first outing for the new shoes, (which I have to admit look very strange with being not only longer but considerably wider than my previous shoes), at a track session with the Tri Club and what a revelation they were. Not only extremely comfortable and cushioned whilst running, but the usual after-run pain did not materialise; more my feet felt relaxed and soothed.

I’ve not managed to make the leap from my current ‘off the shelf’ orthotics to purchase the custom made ones (having two kids at university makes my sore feet a low financial priority at the present time) but I will definitely be investing. I feel they will not only allow me to run without pain but will keep my feet in good order for the future.

Dr Lindsay Hill can be found at Axis Podiatry, which is conveniently located behind Frederick’s ice cream parlour (it’d be rude not to!) on the A6 in Adlington. http://www.axis-podiatry.co.uk

N + 1

 Its two years this month since I got my first Cyclescheme bike certificate on their cycle to work scheme. How that little piece of paper has changed my life!

I got a bike originally to participate in triathlons (THAT decision is for another blog!) and proudly stated to the man in the bike shop, when I went clutching my Cyclescheme certificate, that I didn’t want a bike with ‘curly handlebars as there was no way I was road biking!’ Oh, the naiveté!

That first bike was a lovely hybrid from Decathlon; a light, beautiful specimen and I at once felt at home on it. I entered my first triathlon and it turned out to be a fun partnership. However, I’d then found a love of cycling in its own right, and trying to do lots of miles on the hybrid was proving to be difficult.

So a new road bike, which would take me on my biggest adventure so far, 328 miles from London to Paris raising money for the Alzheimer’s Society, and a chunky mountain bike for leading off road Breeze rides, were the next two purchases.

That’s it! I thought! Oh, there’s that naiveté again.

 I then heard of the cycling equation for the number of bikes a person NEEDS:

N+1, where N is the current number of bikes you own 

This equation gave me all the excuses I needed to have more than one bike.

Fast forward to October 2016, when, on a trip with Louise to Green Machine Bike Shop in Horwich, I spotted a stunning Colnago road bike, pleading to be found a new home. John, the owner, knew I was smitten but the bike in the shop was slightly too big for me (John has such integrity, he would only sell a bike that was the perfect fit for you), so he set about sourcing me one the right size.

And that’s when Cyclescheme certificate number two was applied for, to buy this beauty, which lives in my dining room and is a work of art.

Most workplaces have a cycle to work scheme and the savings on the cost of the bike can be anything from 25% to 42%, with the employer also saving 13% on national insurance costs. I can highly recommend Cyclescheme if you have a choice or need to encourage your employer to offer this benefit. http://www.cyclescheme.co.uk

If you haven’t visited John at Green Machine in Horwich, I can highly recommend his services too. You’ll get good, honest advice and support for any aspect of your cycling.

After 328 miles, we could just manage to lift our medals

International Women’s Day

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Today is International Women’s Day with this year’s theme being #BeBoldForChange

The organisers are asking women to “articulate and explain that exact moment when they themselves took bold action to help improve or develop an aspect of their own livelihood, career or business – or that of another woman’s, or women’s status overall”

I wrote a couple of days ago about my bold moment in 2013 when I decided I wanted to run and joined Burnden Road Runners running club.

That decision has brought so many things to my life. From a running perspective it’s brought structured training, parkrun, races, trophies. But it’s the by products of running that continue to surprise me, other sports such as swimming and cycling, triathlons (me taking part in a triathlon!), volunteering, organising events, inspiring other ladies, fundraising and being part of something.

The biggest thing that being bold brought to my life was friends and friendship.

Never did I think that if I said ‘does anyone fancy a run’ on a cold, dark, often wet ‘school night’ that anyone would say yes! But they do and in fact they are tonight!

I’m lucky to have bonded with a group of ladies as a result of Burnden that I can run and cycle with (swimming is parked at the moment). I can go them with my rants and moans and also to share successes and good news.

My list of Whatsapp groups is endless with Ladies who Cycle, Ladies who Run, Burnden Muppets, Hampton Court Half Ladies (they’re even helping me with a bucket list item!), Longish Run Ladies etc etc lots of groups of ladies (and some where we let the blokes in!) who share the same interests and want to have fun whilst getting fitter and healthier.

People tell me ‘I couldn’t do that’, my reply, neither could I, but I do. What’s the worst that could happen; I might be last in a race – I have been, I might fall off my bike and break my wrist – oops I did, but I survived and I’m still having a go. So be bold, don’t be scared, join in, smile and have fun and you never know what opportunities will come your way.

Ann has written about running and family here https://bellesbikesandrunningshoes.wordpress.com/2017/03/08/runs-in-the-family/

Runs in the family

For the past 27 years, since I first met my hubby, I’ve known that running was part of his psyche. I’ve never quite understood the all-consuming need to run, but I do know it’s part of who he is. For all of these 27 years, Burnden Roadrunners have been a big part of our life, and I’ve spent many years on the side-lines, watching and supporting him in races, on social events and with his weekly training. Our children have grown up spending their Saturdays and Sundays travelling to sometimes obscure places to support him.

Three years ago, this understanding of the benefits of running led hubby to suggest it as a way of supporting our son, George, through his tough A level years, as a means of stress relief. Following a particularly arduous first parkrun outing, where George took around 38 minutes to do the 5K route, complained most of the way round, dressed in two tracksuits and carrying a water bottle, something ‘clicked’ and the running bug bit hard.

The rest, as they say, is history. Both of us joined Burnden, with George not taking many months in being able to beat his dad in races (which dad was more proud of than aggrieved), and we’ve spent some really special moments all running in the same races and enjoying the camaraderie that being part of a fantastic club like Burnden can bring.

Precious memories, at New York 5th Avenue Mile road race 2016

Fast forward three years, and how things have changed. George is off at University, enjoying his running with a new club, and the meeting of like-minded students, has made the transition to living away from home a far easier process. Our daughter, Alice, who has always felt herself immune from the running bug, was asked to join the committee of a new running club, Ramsbottom Running Club, and started running on a regular basis. She has now run her first 10k and 5k races and is loving both the health and social aspects of running. I’ve moved from Burnden to support her at her new club and we are enjoying meeting lots of new friends and exploring new running routes, both on and off road.

Last Sunday was a special moment, when Burnden hosted their annual club race, Trotters 5, and Ramsbottom Running Club had 24 members entering the race, bringing together two fantastic clubs for a few hours on a wet Sunday morning.

New #ramouflag photograph courtesy of Dawn Evans

Running brings more benefits than the increase in fitness for us as a family. It’s a shared interest and a way of spending time together away from the pressures of everyday life. As parents, we have hopefully given our kids a way to stay healthy, both physically and mentally, for life.

If you don’t already run for a club, check out one close to you. It’s not all about the elite, fast runners (although its fantastic to be amongst them too, as their energy is inspirational) but it’s a way of getting fit, meeting new friends, setting yourself goals and exploring new places.

Burnden Roadrunners (burndenroadrunners.co.uk) meet at 7pm every Monday night at Smithills Sports Centre and have sessions to suit all abilities.

Ramsbottom Running Club (ramsbottomrunningclub.co.uk) meet at 7pm every Tuesday night at Irwell Brewery, Ramsbottom, and usually have three routes to choose from, to suit all paces of runner.

Good company

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So yesterday my train home after a meeting in Edinburgh was horribly delayed due to an issue near Lockerbie. I ended up sat on return trains for almost six hours.

There is only so much time I could bear to read my tiny Blackberry screen and type on its minute keyboard so this book (and my MP3 player) kept me company.

I’ve not finished it yet, but I’m really enjoying it. Just as the music on my MP3 is ‘easy listening’ this book is ‘easy reading’. So far it’s a fun, interesting look back on his career, the people he’s met and worked with and places he’s been.

In fact it’s all been very ‘nice’ up to now so I’m waiting with interest to see if G dishes any dirt or brings up the subject of drug use in the second half of the book. Definitely an area of great interest at the moment!  I’ll report back after a few (hopefully shorter) train commutes!

 

parkrun, serious running stuff?

Three years ago I made the incredibly scary, but ultimately brilliant decision to try out the New Starter Group at a local running club. The aim of the group, to get us to run a continuous 5k over a ten week course.

After a couple of weeks Sue our coach told us we should try parkrun, a weekly, timed, 5k run round Leverhulme Park.

My friend Susan and I laughed at the suggestion and told Sue we’d wait until the end of the course when we were sure we’d make it round.  But Sue continued to push us; telling us it didn’t matter how slow we were and it would give us a base line time which we’d see improve over the 10 week NSG course.

So we registered at http://www.parkrun.org.uk and on 5 October 2013 Susan and I turned up at Leverhulme Park with our barcodes printed and ready to have a go.

I can’t remember a lot about the run only how horrified we were at having to run (walk) up the aptly named Cruella de Hill TWICE and on seeing the finish line we were sent away from it by the marshal for a final out and back stretch.

One thing I do remember is how social and friendly it seemed, people warming up together, groups stood chatting (who needs a warm up?), dogs (on short leads obviously 😉), children and adults of all ages shapes and sizes milling about. The scary bit, everyone knew everyone else! Well that’s how it seemed to us, how would we ever fit in?

Fast forward to March 2017 and the world of parkrun is a completely different place. Between us Susan and I have now taken part in 135 parkrun events, the majority at Bolton but we’ve had the odd spot of tourism at Burnley, Delamere, Worsley to name a few. Our first time of 35:33 has been reduced with both of us having a PB in the 28/29 minute region.

Most importantly we found our feet.  We know more people, we have our group of buddies to stand with, warm up with and run with. Sometimes we push ourselves and each other for a good time, sometimes we take a more leisurely approach (check out my time from yesterday as an example!).

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A spot of parkrun tourism
After a period of falling out of love with early Saturday alarm calls I made an effort last year to get back to regular appearances at parkrun both in a running and volunteering capacity and I couldn’t believe it when a few weeks later my co-blog author Ann and I were asked by the event directors to join the core team as run directors. Of course we said yes (or rather Ann said yes for both of us!) and in the last six months or so we’ve conquered public speaking fears (standing on a blue plastic step, holding a clip board speaking through a megaphone), we’ve made events happen in all kinds of weather and even mapped an alternative route when our beloved Cruella was out of action.

We’re now members of another fab group of folk,  although I think the musings of these two looney old women on the RD Whatsapp group have the rest of the RD team bemused!

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Some of the RD team and our loyal volunteers
I look back to October 2013 with a smile and like Sue Booth would encourage anyone to come down to parkrun. Don’t wait until you can run 5k, come and walk run if you need to, you won’t be last as we always have a lovely tailrunner

So is parkrun serious running stuff? Yes,to many it is (sometimes, even for me).  I’ve results processed and know from post event e-mails how important seconds can be but it’s not all about times and PBs, it’s not even all about running, for me it’s all about friendship, being part of something good and just having a great time on a Saturday morning.

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Never blow your nose when there’s a photographer around. Courtesy of Ali McArthur Bolton parkrun