Forums and chat As a regular forum user, and competitive female athlete I am often frustrated and upset by comments that are made on forums regarding womens participation in the sports that I enjoy. As a minority in these sports I also feel intimidated to post a response, even when I am offended. This is why I decided to write this post. If you choose to read it hopefully some people will take the time to think about their words and choose them a bit more carefully. One of the reasons that I don’t challenge comments that frustrate me is that I don’t want to upset anyone, but obviously some of the men posting on these forums do not feel the same way as I do. My experience I would consider myself to be a reasonably confident woman, but when starting out at Triathlon I often felt that I was not “good enough” to participate in time trials and I waited until I was at a fairly high standard before I attended one. I know I am not the only one to worry about this, women that I have spoken to are often concerned about coming last or being too slow. I also participate in mountain bike events, which are very poorly attended by women. I am usually faster than men uphill but slower downhill, but instead of just riding in these events at my pace, I will let men go ahead, as I have been conditioned to believe that men are faster and better than me. I have discussed this with friends and they also react in a similar way. In the pool, I worry about getting in peoples way if they are faster, and I frequently see women giving way and jeopardising their session in order to let someone faster go ahead of them. I recently watched a poem being performed called take up space it is about being yourself and allowing yourself to take up space. If I sometimes feel like I can’t take up space then imagine what women with lower self esteem must feel like. Facts Obesity and low self esteem are a growing problem, girls and boys are subjected to stereotypes and social pressures from an early age. I am going to look at this from the female angle, as I am female, and I feel that women are often overlooked and marginalised by sports, we have to fight to get recognition, and equal opportunities, as the world has been run by men for so long. There are systems in place that are unfair to women purely because men are the people who made the rules, and often they do not consider women, for example; the Time Trial scene. A look on their forum reveals some attitudes that, frankly, belong in the dark ages. Usually there are less prizes for women. The reason being that there are less women competing. How this encourages participation is beyond me, when you don’t even get recognised for your efforts, and believe me, the women that compete in these events DO put in the effort. Generally speaking the women who enter these events are highly committed, they have to be, to overcome gender stereotypes. However these women are a different group to the group of women who need to be encouraged in to sport. A Sport England Report identified areas in which women aged 15-19 are dissuaded from participating in sports, and found that what one group disliked about sport and physical activity were “feeling intimidated and self-conscious, and the competition associated with doing sport.” This would support what I have seen in a local time trial where results are not published from the event. I saw more women at this time trial than I have seen at any other time trial in the area. “This research also investigated the role of three main determinants upon participation in sport – the environment, lifestyle transitions, and psychosocial issues. Overall it was found that: Young women did not consider environmental issues, including the provision of facilities, as very important when explaining their current level of sports participation. Transitions, including lifestyle changes for example from school to college or from education to employment, had a negative impact upon sport participation, due to a decrease in levels of spare time, money, and energy. This finding was consistent regardless of current level of participation. Psychosocial issues were very important when explaining levels of sport participation. In particular, family and friends were considered to be the most important factors influencing participation in sport, regardless of participation level. Furthermore, complex psychosocial issues such as self-confidence, and perception of personal ability, were also found to play a significant role in the decision to participate in sport.” What to do There are a lot of good campaigns out there to empower women to participate in sport and break through stereotypes, for example This Girl Can, we just need to bring these attitudes and ideas into clubs at grass roots level and not just pay lip service to “there should be more women participating”. Women will not respond to bullying or male banter, they need acceptance and encouragement. If clubs really care about women participating then they would do well to read the report by Sports England and implement the recommendations. They could also consider the words used on public forums and think about how these may affect other people.
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Wow what amazing weather we have been having. It makes it so easy to train and motivate yourself when there is sunshine, and it also makes it easy to get over enthusiastic and overtrain. Sometimes training gets tiring, and its difficult to know if you should take a break, or keep pushing on. I think most of us know when we need to take a break, but we can also sometimes get attached to our training plans (guilty) and feel that we need to tick off everything that we have set ourselves to do. It is useful to keep track of your training then you can see what you have been doing and there is evidence to show that you may have been overdoing it. I use training peaks which gives me a TSS (training stress score) which is explained here. This explains why I’m feeling tired at the moment, and had to abandon my turbo session! Training is stress that we put on our body, and it is good to do this, if we didn’t then we wouldn’t get faster or fitter, BUT if you don’t rest and recover then the body does not have time to repair itself and your performance either stagnates, declines, or in the worst case scenario you get to the stage when your life is negatively affected by your overtraining. If you need more recovery time your body will let you know, you just need to listen and be observant if you have any of these signs.
- You feel sluggish and tired for consecutive days
- You lack motivation to complete workouts
- You can’t sleep even though you are tired
- You get ill more often
There are a lot more symptoms of overtraining which can easily be found if you google them, remember though that everyone is unique. We all have different tolerances for training loads and recovery times, so what might work for your friend will not necessarily work for you. There are ways to monitor how recovered you are by checking your heart rate in the morning, amongst other things. I will leave it for the experts to explain here. Don’t underestimate the power of good quality sleep, and staying hydrated. Recovery is taking care of yourself. Sometimes we can be our own worst critics, if you catch yourself beating yourself up about missing a session or feeling tired then listen to what you are telling yourself and ask if you would talk to someone else in that way? It is important to nourish yourself with positive words and by allowing yourself recovery time. It is not a weakness, and can make you stronger in the long run.
February and March
We have been away twice in the last month, and it is beginning to take its toll! Much as I love visiting friends and family it can also be tiring, and my immune system has taken a battering. During half term we went to visit family in Sheffield, I was looking forward to visiting Ponds Forge, and having a swim in the 50m pool, but there was a gala on so I had to sneak out early in the morning and go to the nearest pool at Graves leisure centre. I enjoyed it anyway, I used to work in the school next to the centre, so it was good to be in familiar surroundings. The next morning I managed a run, and bagged a QOM.
I have discovered that its quite easy to get out first thing and do a workout if you are visiting people, they don’t even notice you are gone, especially if you have small children who wake up early! This is also who I blame for the run of colds that I’ve had, 2 days after returning from Sheffield I came down with a cold, and I am now suffering again after going away to visit friends in Cheddar at the weekend. I have come to the conclusion that disruptions to my sleeping, weaken my immune system, it could also be the 15 mile off road race that I did with Rachel on Sunday, called The Big Cheese, read more about it here.
This video was posted on my clubs cycling forum, and it brings up some really good points
I think one of the points that it brings up, about knowing why you are doing a workout is really important. If you have a good reason to do a session then it will be beneficial, for your mind as well as your body. If you are just doing it just to get the miles in then it may be the wrong reason.
You need to know what your goal is and work towards that.
It is important to have a focus for each session, and when I plan workouts for my athletes I always describe the focus of the session. This works in 2 ways, firstly you go in to your session with a focussed plan, and you are also programming your mind to believe in what you are doing, so that when it comes to race day you will know that you have done what it takes to prepare your mind and body, remembering this will make you a better athlete.
It is a good idea to visualise your race whilst you are training too, think about how you will feel when you are racing. All of this will help prepare you for the big day.
There is no doubt that High intensity sessions will increase your fitness, but you must also do race appropriate workouts too, and in the study that is quoted the participants did high intensity (that means all out efforts) for 30 seconds until exhaustion, or worked at 80% until exhaustion.
I am believer in balance and variability. If you do the same sessions week in week out then you will not improve as much as you will if you progress, and work in different intensities, the more time you have to train, the more you can mix it up. You also need to know when to back off. Ask yourself, what benefit am I getting from this session? Sometimes its better to recover and try again another day.
Illness and injury can happen at any time, so it is useful to know what to do if you can’t train.
If you have an injury then you need to get professional help as soon as possible. Don’t think it will go away, admit to yourself that there is an issue and start managing it. If you don’t intervene early then it could turn into something worse. You may need to do rehabilitation, make sure that you listen to advice and act accordingly.
It is now the season for colds and flu, if you do succumb to “the lurgy” then make sure you hydrate well and eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, avoid dairy produce if you can, as dairy can increase mucous. This tweak of your diet will help your immune system get back on track.
As far as training goes:
“A neck check is a way to determine your level of activity during a respiratory illness,” says Neil Schachter, MD, medical director of respiratory care at Mount Sinai Medical Centre in New York. “If your symptoms are above the neck, including a sore throat, nasal congestion, sneezing, and tearing eyes, then it’s OK to exercise,” he says. “If your symptoms are below the neck, such as coughing, body aches, fever, and fatigue, then it’s time to hang up the running shoes until these symptoms subside.”
I would still be cautious about exercising when ill, your immune system is taking a battering, and you may find that exercising makes you feel worse. If in doubt go out, but take it easy. You really need to use your own judgment on this, sometimes going out when you are not recovered can set you back more than resting and allowing your body to balance itself.
If you do miss training due to illness then these guidelines (from Don Fink) will help you to work out what to do
1 day missed
Just skip your workout. Missing one workout will not matter in the long run.
2-3 days missed
Skip the lost days and rejoin your normal training, but on the first day back do half of your scheduled workout. Resume normal training on the second day back.
4-6 days missed
Rejoin programme skip the missed days. Do 1/3 of your scheduled training on first 2 days back, and 2/3rds on next 2 days back. Resume full training on the fifth day back.
7 or more days missed
You may need to reconsider your goals depending on when this happens. Speak to your coach, if you have one, and modify your training plan.
As I said these are guidelines, and I think that it is more important for you to decide what the best course of action is. Only you really know how well you are recovered.
Getting to the taper
There comes a point in your training when there is nothing more you can do to increase your fitness and you need to accept that you have done all that you can. Whatever happens on the day will happen, I got back off a long ride feeling pretty negative as my power and speed were low, but thinking about it rationally I had done a 10km (running) Time Trial the night before, and had been building for a while, only having a short recovery after the 100 mile TT, so not surprising really! There is a great post about tapering here which I found helpful and inspiring.
I have been looking at last years taper for Wimbleball and comparing it to my training this year, I had some feedback that my taper may have been a bit drastic, this was because I was ill after a race and then started tapering after I had recovered. This years will not be so drastic and I’ll be nice and ready to race!
I went along to the 10km Time trial organised by Pembrokeshire Triathlon club on Tuesday evening, hoping to better my time from 6 years ago!! I can’t believe how long ago that was. My time in 2008 was 43.23. When I arrived Ian, the timekeeper, decided that I would be fastest and put me last. I was not so sure, but went along with it anyway! Ellie (the only other woman) went off 1 minute ahead of me and I tried to keep her in sight. It soon became apparent that she was flying, as I counted the time from her passing a lamppost, she was already more than a minute ahead within the first few miles. , it was a lovely evening, and nice to have a chat. I got a time of 41.14, so 2 minutes faster than last time. I should be happy with that, but maybe have been feeling a bit negative this week.
The long ride
I decided to ride the whole Ironman course the day after, and was pretty dissapointed in my speed. I may have been tired, and also lacking motivation doing the route on my own. I’m not sure that I really wanted to do it, because I knew that if I was slow it would make me depressed, but Patrick suggested it and I thought the pro’s would outweigh the con’s. Anyway I borrowed his go pro which was quite fun, although I have now spent hours editing the ******* thing.
A bit of geekiness
After I had recovered from the ride, digested my stats, done some more research, and generally got slightly obsessive about numbers, I spotted that my Intensity factor for the ride was based on my old FTP, so with a few calculations I realised that I will be able to go faster on race day, (of course some other factors will come into play too) but if the maths is right then I’m happy !!
Welsh 100 mile Time Trial Championship 2014
Last year I rode the 50 mile national Time Trial Championship in Abergavenny, and at the end I swore I would never, ever do it again. About 6 months later, and after signing up for Ironman Wales I decided that it would be a good idea to do another long Time Trial as part of my training in the lead up to Ironman. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) the only long TT that I could do was the 100. I entered online, thinking I don’t actually have to do it. My mum agreed to support me, and we drove up the night before, after checking the weather we decided not to camp. I booked the Premier Inn in Pontypool. My mum was still optimistic about the weather, thinking that it would rain overnight and then be clear for the morning. I was not so optimistic after checking my phone. At least it didn’t look windy!
At 5:30am the alarm went off, and I had a cup of tea, dressed and applied liberal amounts of Sudocrem and Hoo Ha glide to my posterior, (thanks girls for the tips!) Unfortuatley I forgot that I then had to sit in the car. The sudocrem had already seeped through, so I sat on my coat to protect my mums upholstery, ( must remember next time to apply cream at last minute!)
As we drove somberly towards the start in the torrential rain I had mixed feelings, I was really looking forward to doing the TT as I have never ridden 100miles before, but the weather was horrendous, and I could tell my mum was a bit worried, as she asked whether I would be riding along the dual carriageway, and if there would be cars on it. I was also worried that they would cancel, because as we got nearer to HQ there was not the usual hubbub of riders warming up and riding to the start.
We arrived at 6:30, (the first rider was off at 7:09am) I joined the huddle of freaks, sheltering outside HQ who had decided that come rain or shine they were riding 100 miles today. The organiser had not arrived yet so there was some speculation as to whether it was cancelled. Suddenly the doors were opened and signing on sheets signed. I committed my signature to paper and organised myself, giving my 2 bottles to my mum and explaining where and when to wait. I went out to the car and slung my bag over my shoulder and felt a sharp pain across my back. Now my mind really started playing up, and as I rode to the start my power meter started dropping out, and I could hear a clicking on my front derailler. I was starting to wonder if the gods were trying to tell me something, but I moved my garmin to my handlebars, and realised that the clicking was only the cable knocking against the crank arm, and my back was fine in the TT position.
I set off behind Tanis Hand (ex Tenby Aces, and the only other woman to ride) The route is 3 laps of the dual carriageway up to Monmouth and back to Abergavenny. At the first turnaround I saw Tanis and she looked a way ahead of me so I just stuck to my plan. When I got out on the second lap I did a quick bit of maths and realised that I was going to be at the lay-by that I told my mum to wait at about 15 minutes before I told her to get there. Happily I spotted her car as I approached ( she likes to be early thankfully) and I stopped to fill up my aero bottle and grab the other bottle from her. I said I was feeling good and got on my way. The photographer was at the next lay-by as globules of snot, spit, and rain dribbled down my chin. I couldn’t really muster a smile!
Next I saw Jill Coleman who cheered me on, I was averaging 20.8mph so was feeling amazing as I was aiming for 19-20mph. I sang a lovely rendition of Chesney Hawkes I am the one and only (where did that come from?!!) as I was overtaken by one of many men, and I had one of several manic laughing fits as I realised that, yes, I really was doing this, and doing a good time. I had done 50 miles in 2h20 which was faster than I did the 50 mile TT in last year. The rest of the second and third lap was a blur of feeling sorry for lonely, and sodden supporters holding out drinks bottles, marshals waving frantically and pointing, and looking forward to the tunnel near Monmouth for a couple of minutes shelter.
On the second and third lap I started to pass a few people, including Tanis, and Jill told me that I was on the team now, as Paul had to pull out. About 20 miles from the end I started to watch my power dropping, and had to talk to myself a few times to keep focussed, the last few miles seemed the longest ever. I shouted my number out to the clapping timekeepers and with comedic timing the rain stopped and the sun started to come out.
When I got back to HQ my mum told me that there was only 1 other woman who completed the race, so I jokingly said “I may be Welsh Champion then”, to which she replied “you are!” This seemed pretty funny to me and I got inside where Jill, Paul, Dan and Rob told me that we’d won the team prize too. 3 cups of tea later I had warmed up and was presented with my Championship cap, and we had a team photo.
A word from the organiser
If you are not interested in data look away now 😉
Out of 71 riders 26 started 7 DNF, and 39 DNS
My aim was to keep above 150 watts, and below 180, I had set some alerts on the garmin, but couldn’t really hear them. I also had an auto lap set for 25 miles, but again didn’t hear the first lap. My power did go down at the end, but in comparison to last years 50 mile TT it was not so extreme, so I was happy with my pacing. I could probably have held back more in the beginning, as my average power for each lap shows.
Below is a comparison between last years 50 and this years 100, you can see how I started way too hard in the 50, and suffered about halfway through! This year I had also prepared myself psychologically and knew what to expect.
So overall, I was amazed with my result, I rode about 15-30 minutes quicker than I thought I would, so with some great performances under my belt I feel ready for Ironman Wales!
An easy week
After last weeks mini holiday, it was back to it. Luckily I had an easy week planned as there was the washing, shopping, and general catch up that you need after going away. I had also entered Pembrokeshire coast Triathlon at Broadhaven at the weekend so it meant I would have a bit of a rest before the race.
I had a great bike session on Tuesday. I had been thinking on my previous long ride that I tend to get a bit lazy towards the end of a ride and start dropping the watts, so when I was at the side of the road checking my bike for creaks, and a man flew past asking if I was OK I thought I would see if I could catch him!
I was near the end of my ride so it was ideal for me to push a bit more than usual. It became apparent that I was catching him on the ups and then he was pulling away slightly on the downs. I managed to reel him in after Yerbeston, on the Ironman course, we got chatting and it was someone whose name I had seen on strava (Dave Swan if you’re curious!) I turned off at Molleston and left him to complete the rest of the Ironman loop.
Still getting the power dropouts, but have sent my power meter back, again…I may write a post about that bit of kit someday! Had a long run on Thursday and was surprised to see that my running has improved again!
Cancelled my swim session on Friday, as I was feeling a bit fed up with the pool and I didn’t want to do another session for the sake of it. On Saturday I raced Broadhaven and won! That was a real surprise, I knocked 5 minutes of my previous time, so I was obviously very pleased with that! Full race report is here.
I still need to do some work on programming myself to believe that I am a strong swimmer, as it was always my weak sport, so, in my subconscious, I still think I am not good, but the last 2 races I have done I have had pretty good swim times. Must keep that in mind
Look away now if you don’t want to read about hormones, and periods!
One thing men don’t have to worry about too much is how their hormones affect them during races, they pretty much have the same cycle of hormones every day ( high testosterone in the morning, which drops off during the day and is lowest in the evening) This is also affected by their actions, e.g. racing will produce a rise in testosterone, read more about this here.
Women, as you will know have varying hormones throughout the month, so at times all we really want to do is sleep all the time, when at other times of the month we are outgoing and confident, this corresponds to our cycle. I have been doing a bit of research on this, as I find it quite interesting. There is a lot more detail on hormone horoscope, which I find really helps me to deal with moods and how I feel certain times of the month!
The reason I am writing about this is that my period was due on the week of Broadhaven and all week I was worrying about when it would start, and whether I would have to deal with it on race day. I looked at a couple of forums, and found a post by a man who said don’t worry about it, chances are nobody will care, or notice, just wear some black shorts and get on with it. This relaxed me quite a bit, and I also mentioned to Patrick the night before, that the last time I had my period on a race I won!
I didn’t get my period until after the race but I still find it really interesting, as I am about a kilo heavier in the week before I start my period, so you would think that my performance would be worse. You would also think that there would be loads of interesting research on this, but I’m not sure if there is or where to find it. I did read Victoria Pendleton’s book and she mentioned that she always seemed to have her period on competition days. Maybe its time we started taking it into consideration, it is a massive part of women’s lives, but seems like people don’t really want to talk about it, although with online forums maybe people are starting to discuss more topics like this.
I did find some useful information here, which I recommend to anyone interested in how hormones affect your training and performance.
Mary Sage the phantom strava stalker??
I have had notifications in the past that I have lost my QOM to Mary Sage. I have a theory that this is a phantom Stava user, or maybe a pro who doesn’t want to be known, but after some investigation I don’t think that the latter is the case!
Last year I lost some QOM’s on the Ironman Wales course. The time that was posted for the full Ironman loop was the same as the winning bike time on Ironman Wales. Cat Faux won Half Outlaw, and Lucy Gossage won Ironman Wales, and nobody else got the same times as they had on the courses.
When I did an athlete search for Mary Sage, this came up…
ooh mysterious, I should probably request to follow her, that would be the next stage in my stalking 😉
I suppose what people can take away from this is not to become fixated on Strava, and to just enjoy it, while taking it with a pinch of salt!
I have now solved the mystery and posted about it here!
More analysis and some ideas for my next race
The Half Outlaw results are now finalised and have gender and age group positions for all 3 disciplines, which I find really useful. The positions were as follows:
Gender position 31st Category position 10th
Gender position 24th Category position 10th
Gender position 8th Category position 3rd
It shows me that, again, I relied on my strong run to move up some places. I think this is probably something I could learn from. The run is always shorter than the bike so I haven’t got as much time to overtake if people have passed me on the bike, so I think I need to push it more on the bike. This is hard for me psychologically because I still see myself as a runner, and like to do a decent run time.
It is also interesting to see that although I haven’t been doing the run training that I wanted to, my running is still my strength, so I’m not going to worry too much about improving my running! My targets, then, for the next few months are to improve my biking and not hold back as much. Maybe I should have followed those women after all!!
The days leading up to Half Outlaw I learned a few more things about what I end up doing before races.
- Made sure all the lawn was mowed before we went away.
- Had a slight cleaning binge.
- Decided to make bread and pizza on the day that we left.
So expect more baked creations before Ironman Wales, who knows what we’ll end up with, but it was nice to have bread in the freezer when we got home 😉
It was great that it was half term during the same week as Half Outlaw, as it meant we could go and stay a few days in Nottingham, and revisit my old stomping ground! I met up with a friend and took the boys round the castle, and had some lovely meals out (we’ll not include the Pizza Express one, where my vegetarian lasagne was not, and my friends baked pasta was more burnt).
I did have a good few days though and felt a lot more relaxed than I did at Wimbleball, (probably due to me not being woken up by ringing bells every 15 minutes!) I had a great race, which you can read about in my race report which is here.
We got home at about 9pm on Sunday with 2 very tired boys and a mess to tidy up the next day