Sort Me Out

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.

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.

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.

Thank you Ben

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Summer Rush … Making it Count! – Part Five

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Me, my Uncle Luke and Dad, racing in Eastridge

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.

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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.

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Joel and I living out the back of the van

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.

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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.

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Joel and my beautiful little Niece

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.

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The realization I can’t ride, but still hoping there’s a chance.

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.

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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.

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Me and Mum

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.

END OF PART FIVE

Summer Rush … Making it Count! – Part Two

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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.

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.

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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.

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Running in the Lake District – Photo Credit Mike Hopkins

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!

Find out more about this race here … 3 Peaks Yacht Race..

END PART TWO