Rest Days are just as important as training days, you need to give your body the time it needs to recover and rebuild, if not, your muscles never get the opportunity to fully recover, making them weaker and weaker.
Now there are lots of different ways to have a “rest day”, so long as the muscles needing the recovery get to rest, then it doesn’t have to be the typical ‘couch potato’ day.
Mike and I went to Washington at the weekend and decided to hike up a super cool mountain, with 4000 feet of elevation… but what we tend to do on the way back down is, RUN! It’s so much fun, I’ve been running for years and my knees are well accustomed to downhill running, but I haven’t descended that much, that quickly in a long time! So, as you may have guessed we couldn’t walk straight for the next few days. I constantly looked like John Wayne or like I’d poohed myself… I hadn’t, I swear.
However, the more you sit still, the stiffer and more ridiculous you become… Therefore, we decided the best thing to do was keep our legs moving, get out into the gorgeous sunshine and take our DiamondBack Haanjo Cyclocross/road bikes to Rossland’s local lake, Nancy Green.
Although I’m obviously still using my quads, the focus is on a different part of them and the pressure is much easier to manage.
So off we went for a 60kilometre pedal to Nancy Green Lake…
I grew up in a beautiful, quaint, typical English village, deep in the hills of Shropshire, the gateway to the mountains of North Wales. I’ve always appreciated where I was brought up, but the appreciation bumped up a fair few notches over the last 7 years, as I started running and mountain biking, I truly saw every aspect this tiny village, full of heart and soul had to offer.
My passion for biking started like an explosion.Thanks to encouragement from my brother, my life changed dramatically. For years I was trapped in an abusive relationship, constantly walking on eggshells fearing for my life. Mountain biking gave me the strength I’d lacked for years. With each new day, each pedal stroke, every crash, fall, bruise, came with another smile; until I finally saw myself stepping out of my own shadows. Before I knew it, I was strong enough to break through the barrier I’d been trapped behind for years, and it’s been full speed ahead ever since.
There was a lot of lost time to make up for, life’s goal had one purpose, be happy, love and be loved. The mountains, family and friends came first; I’d been riding a downhill mountain bike for one week, and felt it was time to enter my first race… I instantly became hooked. Within a year I ranked number one in the UK in the 18-30’s UCI downhill category, and moved into the elite category. My life was unrecognisable from my previous self, I was me again. That’s when I took off to New Zealand, skipping a British winter to have a Southern Hemisphere summer, full of mountains, bikes, sun and fun.
I found my home away from home, riding the bike park every day, slotting in to the Queenstown biking community. New Zealand was incredible, I’d drastically improved on the bike after just a few weeks, and there was no doubt about who I was, or what I was about. During my last 2 months in NZ I happened to meet a nice Canadian boy called Mike… The rest is history.
Mike and I continued seeing each other, carrying on with the peaks and valleys of a long distance relationship for 4 years; it was a combination of the most romantic love story and a god damn emotional rollercoaster. At times we would spend up to 5 months with the Ocean between us, until I made the move to live in Canada. I moved there in October 2016 and had not only the first winter for years but the longest winter ever. We lived in Revelstoke, the gateway to the Rocky Mountains, and when the snow was good, the place was insane, powder and tree skiing for days; I was a beginner skier but picked it up fairly quickly and loved how similar it felt to biking.
Then spring hit town… After growing up in the country hill side of Britain, whenever I think of Spring; I think of lambs, bluebells, bright yellow fields, lighter days, sunshine with the smell of flowers and freshly cut grass. However, Revelstoke had another idea for spring; the only thing blossoming was all the dog poop that hadn’t been picked up over winter, the snow was starting to melt, good ski days were over, still too much snow for biking, lots of rain, and lots of poop. My job was seasonal and finished in April, so I got a ticket back to the UK for a couple of months.
I know us Brits are renowned for complaining about the weather, but I’ve never been more appreciative of the blossoming weather the UK offers. I feel lucky to be torn between two beautiful countries, Canada has extreme seasons, awesome skiing and looks magical over Christmas, and in Britain we have mild seasons, which never stop you getting out on your bike.
As soon as I arrived home it was exactly what I imagined, early wakeup call from the singing birds, sun was up till 9pm, biking trails were in prime conditions, coated with beautiful bluebells, baby lambs everywhere, every other field was full of bright yellow flowers. I was happy to be home, so decided to capture the beauty of everything I love about a proper British Spring. With my new DiamondBack Haanjo Carbon Cyclocross Bike, which allowed me to travel on and off road capturing as many aspects of spring as possible.
So here it is, a short and sweet edit showing my favourite parts of a British spring.
I am LOVING Spring!!!!! I’m back visiting the UK after a loooong winter in Canada, and what a beautiful time to come home.
After visiting Ben Calder at the Centre for Integral Healthlast week, I felt much better, I really looked forward to visiting Ben all winter.
The first thing I’d noticed after our Bowen session, was my lower back pain had decreased, still there but just lingering with certain movements rather than constantly. That’s one thing I’ve noticed with the Bowen Technique, the movements are subtle, but extremely effective; the more time you give it, the more benefits you start to notice.
This week, I wasn’t sure what to focus on with Ben, there seemed to be many areas he could help with … but which ones first, what was more important? Ben decided he was going to find out what my body needed, seeing as I didn’t have a clue. Now this is what I find fascinating: I lie there silently while Ben hold’s up my arm, muttering all sorts of questions and solutions that I don’t really understand, but as Ben asks certain questions my body reacts giving him the answer he needs. It’s like watching magic, how can my body answer something that I don’t even understand. It’s just proof that what we do, see, say, smell, touch, is a tiny percentage of what’s actually going on in our bodies and mind.
Baz Luhrman say’s it well…
“Enjoy your body, use it every way you can, don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it… It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.”
Our bodies really are the greatest tools we’ll ever own, if we treat it well, it will look after us. Kinesiology is a fascinating and bizarrely accurate way of finding out what our bodies truly need. More often than not we end up giving our bodies something because it’s healthy and society says that’s what we should do, but every single person is different, and a diet/lifestyle suitable for one person isn’t necessarily best for another.
In my first Kinesiology session with Ben last year, I discovered I was a Red Body Type. There are just 3 body types which every single one of us fit in to, this doesn’t change from the day you’re born, the more sessions you have, the deeper the Kinesiologist will go with your personal requirements, but once you know you’re body type you can instantly start improving the quality of your life. Within minutes Ben could tell me which sleep patterns suit me, when I should eat, what I should eat, what I shouldn’t eat, how much I should eat. Once we’re aware of what our bodies need, we can start functioning at our best. Although I technically had a very healthy diet, my body was only receiving 40% of the nutrients from the food I ate, there were certain foods restricting the abstraction of nutrients. I discovered my body works best on a low carb, high protein and moderate fat diet, I need breakfast first thing in the morning, an early nights sleep and an early wake up, I should be avoiding wheat and gluten and surprisingly, broccoli.
I’ve always thought I was more of a night Owl, regularly falling asleep after midnight, but on those occasions where I’d gone to sleep around 10pm, the following day would be far more productive and less of an effort. I feel happier within myself if I have an early morning with a good nights sleep; I had already started cutting back on wheat and carbs as I’d discovered they made me feel bloated and lethargic, but I never really liked eating breakfast too early.
When Ben told me all of the basic traits along with my body type, it instantly made sense; I became stricter with cutting out gluten, my sleep patterns and breakfast times. Within a week I had far more energy, I no longer felt sleepy throughout the day and the bloated feeling had gone. I was fascinated by the entire kinesiology process and raved about it to anyone and everyone who would listen.
My mum was very interested, and like myself, there were no specific issues she went in to fix, she was just curious. She was rather devastated to discover her body type should avoid all the night shade foods… Chilis, peppers, cheese, tomatoes, potatoes, aubergines etc. These were Mums absolute favourite foods, but, she gave it a go, for 6 weeks she did what was advised, if there were no changes, she’d just go back to eating her favourite foods.
However, after a couple of weeks, the difference was incredible. None of us knew, but mum had been suffering with chronic joint pain, she’d learnt to live with it and suffered in silence for years. She’d had an operation on her Achilles tendon years ago and we knew the op didn’t work, which meant she had to stretch every morning before she could walk, but all throughout the day she was stiff and uncomfortable. Every night she’d call for my Dad to pull her off the sofa; she’s in her mid 40’s, full of life and a bit of a drama queen, so we just put it to Mum being a bit dramatic, lazy, and tired. However, after a few weeks on her new diet, she started jumping off the sofa to go to bed. Me and Dad just looked at each other wondering what was happening, then Mum told us how she’d been suffering with constant joint pain and it had now gone.
So… back to my most recent session with Ben, he asked my body what it needed, and after carrying out a handful of tests he found an issue with my Neural repair, which requires B5 to correct itself. He also preformed a reset procedure to help certain hormones and biochemicals to function better.
I was sent home with instructions on where to find the B5 vitamins I needed, and our next appointment was in the diary.
A winter in British Columbia, Canada, is pretty rad; I had an incredible experience with an awesome job and it allowed me to drastically improve my skiing skillz; however, there were a few factors I really missed. Apart from the obvious: my British friends, family and little doglets, it’s been the first time I haven’t been able to ride my bike or run.
Racing on home turf
UK Winter Fell Run
Shropshire Mons out in Force
UK winter Family run
Although I did lots of DH skiing and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) classes, I really missed my cardio workouts. I’ve never felt so restricted and trapped by the weather. I know us Brits love a good moan, and for some reason it’s the weather that gets the brunt of our complaints, however, this winter really made me appreciated UK winters. Yes, it might be wet, muddy, dark, cold, but it never stops you going for a run or riding your bike, in-fact some of the funnest rides I’ve been on, was when the weather was terrible and you come home covered in mud, it’s the closest I get to feeling like a kid again.
I’m used to looking up at mountains, then going there, no questions asked. Please don’t get me wrong, Revelstoke is fantastic, full of badass athletes and professional skiers, with everyone getting out there ski-touring, but I wasn’t a skilled enough skier to head out into the backcountry of the Rocky Mountains, you need to be a good skier who’s confident enough to handle avalanches… I am not!
With only a few short sessions cross country skiing and lots of Down-Hill skiing, It was the least active I’ve been in years, I put on weight, and although I did yoga every single morning, I’ve never been in so much non-injury related pain. Everything started to hurt, but why? Eventually I realized a connection; after having a trampoline accident 15 years ago, I always suffered with back pains, until I started running and biking regularly, then my back pain finally diminished. Stop me doing my regular endurance activities, throw me into a cold Canadian winter… I’m seizing up.
It’s now spring and I’m back home visiting the UK, first things first… I’m booking an appointment with Ben Calder at The Centre for Integral Health in Shrewsbury. I worked with Ben a lot last year and I had the pleasure to experience the effects of Bowen Technique. As a masseuse, I’m used to being very hands on, the deeper the massage, the better I feel, but Bowen Technique is completely different, it uses very subtle movements to reset the fascia in the muscle. I didn’t think I had any problem areas when I went to Ben, at first, I didn’t notice much difference… But as I continued going to Ben, the results were outstanding!
You know that tired feeling in your legs when you first start running or biking, it always takes a few minutes to warm up before your legs stop feeling so heavy… I no longer had that, my legs were full of energy and ready to go, it didn’t matter how much I’d done during the week, after seeing Ben regularly my legs were ready to go 24/7. I noticed I recovered from races a lot quicker; on average, races I competed in were 3-5 days long, 2-3 days practicing with 2-3 days racing. Each day I’d be riding for 7 hours, completing daily loops of 50K, sometimes more, after maintaining this for nearly a week I usually come home feeling hung over, tired and can’t even think about biking for a few days, I just eat copious amounts of food and sleep, but after seeing Ben my recovery time dropped substantially; I’d have one rest day then I’d be back to it, without any tired legs. I also noticed something else; I do a lot of running and when I push myself, it’s the same muscles that ache the next few days, but on one particular day, I entered a Park Run, ran my usual race, pushed myself like I usually do, not only did I get my PB for Shrewsburys course, completing in under 21 minutes, the next day muscles were hurting that I’ve never felt before. I’ve run Mountain Marathons and lots of 5-15mile Mountain races (fell runs) and not once have these muscles hurt. Ben enlightened me, my body was finally working efficiently, muscles have stopped compensating allowing the muscles I truly need to do there job, I was amazed and extremely excited.
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Charging down the stages – Photo credit Mike Hopkins
Needless to say, I’ve really missed my regular appointments with Ben, I walked into Ben’s clinic feeling a wreck, he tested my muscles to see which ones were/weren’t working properly; interestingly he found my glutes and hamstrings were weak, as he started the treatment he found they weren’t firing properly and reset them. I’m looking forward to seeing how they test next time. I’ve struggled with my lower back and hips this winter, but, as soon as I stood up after the treatment, I instantly felt better, I was no longer seized up, I could’ve cried… It’s good to be home.
I’m finally able to train every day; road riding, running and mountain biking, I feel 100% better physically and mentally. Seeing Ben is the final piece to the puzzle, stay tuned to find out what he helps with next week.
Not even home for a week and there was another race, the last race of the season, the last race before I pack up and leave for Canada. At the time we didn’t know it, but it was also the last ever round of the British Enduro Series, at Innerliethen, Scotland. I thought I’d allowed myself to recover from my head injury, I didn’t feel great during practice, but I just put it down to needing to warm up on the bike, as I rode up to my first race run I started to see spots, felt lightheaded and nauseas … I hadn’t recovered. Game over, again. So once again I took the opportunity to spend time with Joel and I rode with him on his stage transitions. Joel did his usual finish on the podium, then we booked it home.
Hanging out with Joel
Racing with Joel
The next day the countdown really began, Mike arrived in Heathrow from Canada, I excitedly booted along the motorway, until … Pfffft, BANG, rattle, Smoke… lots of black smoke. Recorded death of Blueberry (aka, shitty bus) – Monday 10th October 2016, 10:00am. Mike sat waiting for me in the airport, while I posted up on the side of the motorway waiting for AA recovery. Just when I thought I couldn’t be busier, I had less than 2 weeks to plan my leaving/birthday party, fit in all my clients (for my mobile hairdressing, massage and beauty business) one last time, get ready to move to Canada, and get ready for my brother’s wedding! All without my little blue van.
Canadian game of Neglin
Tequila Shot … enough said
Verity’s most beautiful cake making skills!
Only Canadian turned British for the night
Joel sending the Pump track
Avril Lavigne playing Beer Pong
My Anuty keeping warming by the pizza oven
Mike keeping up his Canadian roots and working the fire
Very happy Mum
Shot ski with Dad
The Resemblance is uncanny 😉 #BieberFever
^Photos thanks to – Dan Wyre Photography^
We pulled it off, Joel and Corinna had a beautiful small wedding the day before I left, making for an extremely emotional day with 52 of our family members being there on Joel and Corinnas special day, and saying bye to me and Mike.
It’s been a jam packed year, truly making the most of the British summer, with my friends, family and little pooches. Stay tuned to hear how things shape up in British Columbia, Canada.
There wasn’t time for any catching up when I got home, back just in time to compete in the Welsh Gravity Enduro, in Eastridge… my back garden.
Before I’d unpacked from Canada, it was time to load up the van and head back to Europe. I spent the next three weeks on the road, competing in the final two rounds of the EWS (Enduro World Series) and a regional french race, run by 1001 Sentiers Enduro, which I ended up winning.
Riding blind straight to the podium
Top Spot on 1001 Enduro
My brother, Joel, and I headed to Valberg-Guillaume together, It was an epic week of riding and racing in another quaint town in the French Alps.
After the race I dropped Joel off at the airport so he could get back to his extremely new family, he had a 10 week old baby, 2 hyper dogs and a very patient newly proposed to Fiancé waiting for him in their construction site home.
I spent just over a week on my own in the south of France, I camped, slept in the van, entered random races, won them; my favourite memory was waking up at 6am, sliding the van doors open, and lying there watching the ever changing colours of the backlit mountains as the sun rose into the sky.
After a week of nothing but bliss, alone on a mountain top, with nothing but my bike and the shining sun, I headed back to the rush of the city where I picked up Joel and our Friend Dan from the airport. The three of us cramped into the questionably three seater van (myself being the only one who could really fit in the middle seat) and headed straight to Finale Ligure, Italy, for the final round of the EWS. We met up with our friends Fay and Lee, who hooked us up with a local guy doing shuttles for practice, everyone was on their own program and if you didn’t sort out anything… tough luck! We were very lucky that Fay had done this before and had everything dialled, Joel and I aren’t known for our planning and organisation skills… we have much more of a “wing it and sing it” kind of style, which seems to work, mostly because we have some very organized friends who watch over us like angels (thanks buds).
We were living the dream in Italy; dry, long, technical, fast tracks, guided by a local, he even booked us in to a local restaurant for lunch, it was tucked away in the middle of the mountain, disguised as a locals home… in-fact, I’m pretty sure it couldn’t of been any more of a stereotypical Italian family’s home, a family run restaurant literally from their home, making their own wine, jam, olive oil, pesto, this place was magic. We sat in the patio area eating a 5 course lunch, whilst picking at the juicy grapes hanging over our heads.
Unfortunately things took a turn for the worst, I crashed during practice, it didn’t seem like it was a bad crash, I’ve definitely had worse. I landed straight on my head from a 5ft drop with speed, (suppose it’s not ideal) but I just brushed off the dust and carried on riding, it wasn’t until a few hours later I realised I was loosing my vision. I’ve had concussions before and always knew they were coming, but this one seemed to come from nowhere, as my vision narrowed, I started to feel nauseous with a splitting headache. I rested and drank a boat load of water, I really hoped I’d be ok to ride the following day, I was having so much fun riding with my brother and our friends, I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel.
However, I woke up with the headache and nausea still lingering, the thought of crashing again and hitting my head just wasn’t worth it, Joel then told me he wouldn’t of let me ride anyway, he just hoped I’d figure it out on my own. Head injuries are not something to chance! So for the rest of the trip I became chef cheerleader; my parents were due to arrive, having planned their holiday around this race, which turned me into their guide, we got hold of some bikes and managed to follow Joel in the race by riding to starts and finishes of select stages.
I suppose that’s the silver lining, I couldn’t race, but got to hang out with my parents and show them parts of the race they would never have been able to see without me. On Sunday morning I left early with Joel as he started the two hour climb to stage one of day two, Mum and Dad followed proudly in the car, Dad even got inspired and ran with us for the last few miles.
As soon as Joel finished the race we took our parents to our favourite Italian restaurant for Mums birthday, we were so happy to be able to show them this magical spot. The family showed us where they make their wine and even gifted us with some home made jam and wine for Mums birthday.
Joel and I headed back to the tent and got ready for an early exit, come 5am we were up and on the road, we had a long, cramped, hot and sticky drive back from Italy to Calais, Joel had a great time, but was now on a mission to get home.
Next stop, I jumped on the plane for a quick visit with Mike, and to check out the hustle and bustle of Crankworx, Whistler.
Just as soon as we arrived, we left, I joined Mike and the Diamond Back crew on an epic trip to Tenquille Lake in Pemberton.
All 5 of us got heli lifted to the top of the mountain, and made our way down the insanely beautiful Alpine trails, soon ducking into the trees until we found the lake in time for sunset.
There was a huge cabin right by the lake… it was perfect, that’s where we posted up for the night. As soon as the sun made his appearance the following morning I dived into the lake, pretending to be mermaids with Micayla while Porter and Mike tried to fish. After dancing ourselves dry, we carried on riding to the bottom before heading back to the chaos of Crankworx. Two weeks flew by and it was already time to head home.
The EWS in Ireland was incredible, and to be greeted with Irelands long lost friend, the sun, was a treat. I have never competed in such a positive race; it was a tough day on the bike, 7 different stages, 7 repetitive climbs; with each stage hosting a burly feature, there was no time for switching off. All stages were fun with challenging monster rock gardens, but stage 6 was a personal favourite: flat out, fun, steep and tech. The Irish crowds were beyond positive, only shouting out encouraging heckles; ‘Keep ‘er lit’ stayed ringing in my ears throughout the weekend.
Most postive crowd at a MTB race – Photo credit Mike Hopkins
Charging down the stages – Photo credit Mike Hopkins
Ready to start the daunting rock garden on stage 2 – Photo credit Mike Hopkins
Photo credit Mike Hopkins
Another wild opportunity I couldn’t walk away from; resulted in sailing up the west coast of Britain competing as a runner in the Three Peaks Yacht Race.
Record breaking sailor, Dee Caffari, asked if I’d join her team of 5. Despite never stepping foot on a yacht before, yet alone any kind of sailing, there was no chance I’d be turning down an opportunity like that; with 3 months till the race, the bike season training program promptly switched to a heavy programme of running.
The ‘Three Peaks Yacht Race’ was the hardest race I’ve ever done, taking 4.5 days to complete, involving: 389 miles of sailing, 57 miles of mountain running, 40 miles of cycling, 26 miles of rowing, 4 mountains, 5 summits, 14,500ft ascending, wobbly sea legs, vomit, diarrhoea, sleepless nights, 4 sunsets, 4 sunrises and one epic experience! I’m a strong advocate for the quote “It doesn’t have to be fun, to be fun.” However, this race was next level; pushing through the crippling stomach cramps whilst running down Scafell Pike, still only half way through the 9 hour excursion, and terrified to consume any form of energy (I’d also ran out of water). Crawling my way up the final mountain, I wished I would just pass out, feeling that was the only way the pain would end. My head was running wild, all the people who’d supported me kept popping up amongst the hallucinations and they honestly got me through, I couldn’t let them down. Once I got to the bike, the 20 miles back to the yacht seemed like nothing, another burst of energy kicked in and I was away, as we reached Whitehaven, finishing the 54 miles in 9 hours 13 minutes, I had the biggest smile and was stoked to do it all over again… Idiot!
Stay tuned, as over the next few days I’ll be posting what I got up to during my last UK summer before moving to Canada…
It’s mid-November; blissfully cocooned, swinging in a technicoloured dream hammock, entranced by the midnight sky above Nicaragua, until annoyingly interrupted by the modern day bleep of my phone, this bleep, however, added to the tranquillity; there it was, sat in my inbox, a long awaited email from Canada immigration: “Congratulations, your visa has been accepted.”
Finally!!! I’d been stuck in transit on the waiting list for over 8 months.
I have one year to activate my visa; with plans for UK and European races already in full swing, the timer was activated to make this summer one to remember!
Combining a jam packed race schedule with a serious case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) certainly makes for an eventful season.
For the first time ever, my brother, Joel and I headed into the season competing on the same team; if anyone would’ve told me six, or even two years ago, I’d be competing with him, I would’ve laughed in their face, hard. He’s an absolute boss on a bike; you don’t come across many 26 year olds who can say they’ve got 20 years of racing under their belt. I have a different tale to my brother, quite the late bloomer in the biking world, not discovering my bike passion until six years ago. So to now be racing with Joel, competing in all four European rounds of the Enduro World Series, all rounds of the British Enduro Series and whatever else we have time for, is pretty wild, I can’t think of a better way to spend my final UK summer.
Racing with Joel
Just as I’d mastered a race schedule for the year, an opportunity arose to work closely with my sponsors, Sealskinz, bringing to life my personal story for their ‘I am Endurance’ campaign. My story focuses on how mountain biking built up my confidence and strength, enabling my escape from a violent relationship. I’d been a shadow of my former self for 5 years, and biking saved me.
My story not only inspired countless people, I’m proud to say it’s changed and saved lives and is being used across the country to help men and women get through abusive and tough situations. I’ve been contacted by ex-marines suffering from PTSD, policemen, Schools, Teachers, Women’s Refuges’, family members, old friends and complete strangers, thanking me for sharing my story and how it’s helped them gain and provide strength and move forward.
After the release of the story I made the finals for Women’s Sport Trust: ‘Be a Game Changer’ Awards. The awards clashed with the Irish round of the Enduro World Series, but this didn’t stop me, I did what had to be done to attend both. Joel drove to Ireland as planned, taxiing my bike; I hopped on the train, wide eyed and bushy tailed, entering the big old city smog of London; attended the awards, feeling a little star struck and out of place, surrounded by Olympians, TV presenters, film stars and journalists. My boyfriend, Mike Hopkins also burst through the door at the final hour; he’d travelled especially from Canada to be there with me, cutting it a touch fine jumping from the plane, navigating straight to the awards. All 300 guests were mesmerised by my video, and applauded me with a standing ovation; safe to say it was an overwhelming and emotional moment, with my parents sitting at the back of the room, taking it all in with me.
Finally, collapsing into bed by midnight, just to be woken by the squawking alarm at 3am ready to catch my flight to Ireland… This appears to have set the tone for the entire year…