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!

 

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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

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.

Today went swimmingly

Training has been a bit up and down lately, and definitely more down, as that’s how my mood has been! I’m not sure whether it’s the winter blues or an age thing, but this little black cloud that keeps following me around is getting a little bit tiresome.
So today I was on a mission to lift the spirits once again, and what better way than a parkrun with all the joy that a Saturday morning run with a couple of hundred like-minded people can bring. Meeting up early with Louise and Diane added a few extra miles beforehand, so completing our weekend ‘long run’ in the most pleasant of ways.

Early afternoon saw an impromptu organising meeting for our upcoming Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM)Women on Wheels event in our local Costa after collecting the very generous goodie bags donated by the Bolton Decathlon store.

If you haven’t checked out TfGM website, it really should be on your ‘to do’ list. There’s a whole host of different cycling courses, from beginners cycling and maintenance courses, to an intermediate course I went on a few weeks ago which taught me how to replace my brake cables and fit a new gear cassette and chain! And to think it was all considered a Dark Art this time last year.

Saturday ended with me pulling my big girl pants up and finally getting in the pool for the first time since last September. It had become a massive issue, with me almost feeling scared of getting back in the water. Swimming is the weakest of the three disciplines for me, but bizarrely my favourite! I’m still not ready for the intense Tri club sessions but it felt so good to get back in the water and not have to resort to arm bands ( which was my fear!). Swimming somehow feels even more therapeutic than cycling or running; you’re just alone in the water with your thoughts, concentrating on tweaks to your stroke to make it easier to pass through the water. It’s almost mindfulness whilst training.

Saturday drew to a close with my black cloud, whilst not having disappeared completely, having definitely been shown who’s the boss.

Organising, with our honorary belle

Check out TfGM here http://cycling.tfgm.com/Pages/default.aspx

And just in case you’re in the market for something cycling related, do check out the lovely folk at Decathlon Bolton. All their products have lengthy warranties, money back options and are great value for money. You’ll get some really top notch advice too.

On t’telly!

ITV

Transport for Greater Manchester have played a huge part in our lives as cyclists. But we never thought it would get us on the telly!

Their free courses helped us become road ready (lots of laps of the fire station forecourt), learn how to ride on the roads (including navigating a roundabout the size of a small Caribbean island), taught me how to use cleats (and gave me my first experience of the dreaded cleat fall, very impressively at a main junction!), and gave us the knowledge of how to maintain our bikes (even pumping our tyres up was a dark art in the beginning).

So it was with huge excitement that Louise and I put in an application, early in 2016, to their Women on Wheels initiative, which was offering to fund projects aimed at getting women on their bikes. We were lucky enough to be selected for funding and our event was a huge success (no one was more surprised than us two) and so when the fund opened to applications again for 2017, we were sharply onto it, submitting an application with the vision of a bigger and better event.

What we didn’t envisage was the publicity (and for two girls just making it up as we go along, this was very unexpected) we would generate. Getting an email last week asking if we would ‘do a piece for ITV’ was too good an adventure to turn down.

So it transpired that we, along with a group of our lovely WoW ladies, turned up at Leverhulme Park on the bitterly cold first Tuesday morning of 2017 to meet the journalist and photographer from the evening news programme.

Two hours later, after a few pieces ‘to camera’ by a couple of our success stories and a lot of riding round the park in a variety of directions, we decamped to the park cafe to thaw out and digest our morning. A cafe always features in our rides, so despite us having probably only cycled 500 metres, it seemed churlish not to partake of a brew, cheese on toast and excitement at ‘being on the telly!’

I can safely say that the following evening, waiting for the piece to air on the news, was more nerve wracking than any job interview. However the nerves disappeared once we had watched it (and rewatched for the umpteenth time) and appreciated the scale of the interest in women’s cycling.

The Facebook pages were inundated with enquiries and in her truly interminable style, Lou spent the evening replying to each and every one, encouraging and advising in equal measure.

Whatever the outcome of our application for this year’s funding, I’m humbled to think that our excitement and enthusiasm for cycling has helped even a few ladies get on their bikes!

Push it real good…

Training takes a different form in the new year, with the triathlon club sessions having been revamped by our new head coach. It was with some trepidation that I turned up for the first evening of the new regime (only finding the energy after encouraging text messages from a couple of friends – we were all struggling with feeling the training love on a cold, wet Monday evening!).

We opted for a spin session followed by circuits and I have to admit it was a revelation that we could giggle so much yet still have a great workout. The playlist during the cycle session had our toes tapping almost as quickly as our feet were spinning and the circuit session highlighted how much work I need to do on upper arm strength!

It did make me think, however,

A) where would we be without the encouragement and support of our friends and training buddies.

B) how easy it is to keep doing the same training, and, although the training is never easy, it’s familiar to us and maybe doesn’t stretch us as much as we need.

I’m determined to keep mixing my training up but continue to remember that I do all of this, not so I will ever win a trophy or accolade, but so I can be as fit and healthy as I can and have the most fun whilst doing it.

 

Bolton Tri Club is filled with supportive, encouraging coaches, and athletes enjoying their training. If you have ever felt a spark of interest in triathlon, check out the website at http://www.boltontri.com, which lists all the training sessions taking place over the week. Come on down; who knows what new skill you could learn or old skill you could develop.

Festive fun

On the eve of the first day back to work of 2017, I wanted to reflect on the last two weeks which I’ve spent as a staycation with family and friends. As I coughed, spluttered and swallowed the antibiotics towards the end of last term, I vowed I was going to spend a part of every day over the festive break having fun! In Louise and Ann world, this fun usually takes the form of running, cycling, walking, or parkrun.

The break started on the Friday night, when at 7pm I met a hardy group of 10 fellow Tri-clubbers on an unlit reservoir car park, bedecked with Santa hats and headtorches for a festive 10k darkrun, finished off with coffee and mince pies from the boot of the organisers car.

What then followed was:

Five trail runs

Four parkruns, including Christmas Day and ‘the double’ on New Years Day

Three cycle rides

Two baking sessions of flapjacks for post-run refuelling

One filming adventure for ITV

All spent with our positive and like-minded group of friends.

Photo courtesy of Bolton parkrun

My home isn’t as clean as I’d like, I know we both have ironing mountains that would take an intrepid explorer much effort to scale, and the work I brought home still lies in my bag unread. But I can safely say that I haven’t any qualms or dread at going back to work tomorrow. Rather I will spend the next six weeks to the half term break planning our next staycation full of fun.