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! – Final

fullsizeoutput_14Not 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.

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.

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Canadian Themed leaving party

^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.

THE END

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

Summer Rush… Making it Count!

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.

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.

This is my story..

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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…

END OF PART ONE

My top 5 international riding spots

Thinking about it it’s actually pretty hard picking my top 5 riding spots, I’ve been fortunate enough to ride all over the UK, with killer spots in Shropshire, Wales, The Lakes, Scotland, Canada, New Zealand.. I could write a book of hot spots, but here is the short list:
Eastridge: Shrewsbury, England.
How can I not love my back garden, literally stepping out of my front door and into some of the most technical and raw terrained trails in the UK, however amazing an adventure I’ve had somewhere, I always love coming home.
Hopton: Shropshire, England.
This is where my first ever downhill race was, and the tracks are insanely fun, now with a full cross-country loop, where you can link in the downhill tracks, it would be rude not to.
Sunshine Coast: Canada.
I’ve been lucky enough to be guided around by the Coastal Crew boys, and not only do they have a sick bike park (Coast Gravity Park), they know all the hidden gems too, turning a logging road into the fastest playground I’ve ever ridden, riding flat out hopping over fallen trees and through Canada’s great Cedar.
Coronet Peak: Queenstown, New Zealand.
I’ve spent 3 summers in New Zealand and each year I explore the country finding a new favourite place.. But Coronet Peak still holds the ultimate trophy. With the QT crew constantly adding new tracks it’s only getting better, trails deaking off from every angle and being able to descend on some of the funnest tracks you’ll ever ride for a solid 30 minutes.
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Seven Summits: Red Mountain, Rossland, British Columbia, Canada.
35km of pure single track, taking you across Canada’s Alpine through 7 Mountains, and not one fire-road in sight! The climbs are beautiful, exciting, challenging, and then you get to the descents.. You earn every single rad descent. I feel like a kid again. The entire ride is exciting with constant stunning views of Canada, greeted by chipmunks, whilst warning off any bears; there’s also a continuous supply of wooden cabins, welcoming you in with a log fire and matches, take some sausages or cheese sarnies in foil and you’ve got yourself one epic Back-Country feast.

We Have Mountains Too You Know..

North Wales - cred MikeHopkins (2)

Last June Mike Hopkins visited from Canada. He’s one of Canada’s top free-riders, competing in Red Bull Rampage and basically travelling all over the world being pretty badass, showing everyone how cool mountain biking really is, No biggie! So pressure was on to show him what we have to offer in Britain.

To be honest I was pretty confident, expectations of what we had to offer were set fairly low, thanks to his British friends migrating to Canada from Essex and classic shows like EastEnders and of course all those miserable bastards that just like to complain. I’d tried to tell Mike there’s more to Britain than London, I guess he had to see it to believe it.

When I first met Mike I asked him “What do you think of when you think of England?”..

Simple reply; “dodgy teeth.”

How depressing is that?! Sadly, he had a point, as he said it an English guy was on telly with exceptionally awful teeth, all I could do was cringe and smile awkwardly without showing my teeth. I have nice teeth, but suddenly became aware they weren’t perfect, could probably be whiter and straighter.

His idea of Britain in general wasn’t much better either; flat, busy, over crowded, rushed, cold, wet, muddy, miserable.. the list went on.

It’s sad to say a lot of Brits agree with him, which reminds me of how lucky I am to live where I do. Plus, I avoid cities like the plague.

I picked him up from Manchester before heading to Shropshire. Last time I saw Mike was a few months ago in New Zealand, stoked he was actually here in 4D. 2D relationships get rather tedious.

Timer began, 2 weeks to show off Britain in all its glory. I didn’t do anything too different, he just finally got to do it with me, every day doing something new.

SUMMER SOLSTICE

He arrived on the longest weekend, perfect timing if you’re coming to the Chidleys, we like to make the most of the Summer Solstice; riding, BBQ, beers, pump track, disco shed .. yep, disco shed, all in our garden.

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TENS TIME TRIAL

Over the summer on Tuesday nights there’s an event called The Tens, it’s a ten mile time trial just a couple of miles down the road, I do it on my Mountain bike with slick tyres, but there’s a lot of serious riders. Its awesome training, couldn’t wait for Mike to give it a go. He borrowed my brothers tourer and off we pootled. Even the 6 mile ride down to the start he loved, all the little country roads and covering bigger distances quickly was very appealing. He smashed the tens, in 27:55, for your first attempt that’s a good time, sussing out the course and knowing how to pace yourself is the hard bit, he finished barely out of breath. The following day we discovered the brakes had been stuck on the entire time too, ha!

FELL RACE

The following day was another new activity.. a Fell run! Over the summer a Fell Running series takes place somewhere in Shropshire every other Wednesday night, as a keen Fell Runner I try and do them all. They’re crazy fun (hard, depends on your level of “fun”). However, Mike has only ever been for a handful of runs, usually when I drag him out; he’s never had decent shoes to help with the terrain and the last run he went on was over 3 months ago. Although when he comes out with me he makes me feel insanely slow, it’s quite depressing, I destroy him on the descents but on the climbs he makes me feel like a snail, an old one at that. I knew he’d be good at the climb so told him to pace our friend and awesome runner Dico, however, not only did he do that he passed Dico, patted him on the back and said “Well done Dico, keep it going.” Dico could barely breathe let alone encourage someone else on. Mike had borrowed my Dads trainers, so at least he had some grip for the descent (even if they were a little too big). He lost a few places on the descent but maintained a good speed and finished 5th! Which is an outrage, I was proud but not at all surprised, made me feel better about feeling like an old snail when I’m out alone with him. None of my friends could believe it; they asked “how often do you run?” “I don’t.” was the simple response.

UK GRAVITY ENDURO

Over the weekend Mike came with me and my brother to a National Gravity Enduro in the Lake District, personally never having been to The Lakes I was stoked to share it with Mike.

Now Mike was very much in pain after the run, I guess if you don’t ever run, you better ache after destroying everyone. So he skipped riding on the Friday and had dinner ready when we got back to the camp site about 4 hours later. To be honest, Mike did not enjoy this weekend, and if anything it put him off riding all together, let alone trying out a race. The conditions were miserable and the tracks were less than fun, a bit silly really but hey. So I’m going to skip this weekend..

He did however take a couple of beauties from the weekend..

The weather hadn’t been bad, but week 2 was a little slice of tropical heaven, we had about 3 BBQs in one week.

TENS “Two up”

It was time for the Tens again, but this week was a “two up” event, new for us both we teamed up. Using the same course, we had to work together and ‘slip stream’. We decided, seeing as Mike had the faster bike (and Legs) he’d lead the entire course. Neither of us had ever done any kind of slip streaming, if we ride on the road it was always solo.

Mike set the pace, which was bloody fast for me and my little mountain bike. He kept looking over his shoulder to make sure I was there; I was there, however, most of the time you could fit a bus between us! Throughout the entire route I probably managed to slip stream him for a total of 20 seconds! It was torture, even as I write this my fingers are tapping more aggressively thinking back to how painful and infuriating it was!! I have never.. EVER pushed myself that hard before, EVER! I spent the entire time just trying to catch up with him, it doesn’t count as slip streaming someone if you can fit a bus, or a car or even another bike between you. Mike didn’t realise till afterwards that it’s only effective when the person slip streaming is right on your ass, basically touching your wheel. Every time Mike thought I was close enough he looked back and sped off again. Thankfully he couldn’t hear me, but man alive I was rude. I like a challenge but this was another level. I was lifting the front of the bike forward making it hop off the ground to try and catch him, shouting to him ”WHAT’S THE POINT?!!” With just a couple of miles to the finish he kept shouting back saying “come on Harn, nearly there you’re doing awesome.” I, on the other hand was not in the mood for his positivity and at this point struggling to even breath, was very much hating him.. now hate is a strong word which I only use if it’s necessary.. so it’s staying in.

Enduro World Series - cred Trevor Worsey (2)

As we crossed the finish I kept riding, I have never been so out of breath in my entire life, with each breath I gasped for air as if someone had just tried to drown me in an ocean surrounded by icebergs, and each gasp brought floods of tears to my eyes. However, as soon as I crossed that finish line, the hatred disappeared as if it had never happened, and I was overwhelmed with emotion. Bringing me to my favourite quote “It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun.” It’s a hard one to explain, I was in a world of pain hating life, but my god did I love it. Mike and I agreed we need to work on our slip streaming technique, and he should have the slower bike next time.

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TRYFAN, NORTH WALES 

Mikes visit was sadly coming to an end, I’d tried to do as much as possible with him, but one thing I HAD to do was scramble up Tryfan, It’s one of my favourite hikes but I’ve only ever done it in the pouring rain with close to zero visibility.

So with a tropical clear day ahead of us we took off with plenty of water and our stoke on. One thing we have here that’s undeniable and I totally take for granted, is our history. My house is older than Canada itself. Mike loved all the little towns, the old buildings, the stone walls, the castle ruins, he couldn’t get his head round them. It certainly made me look at everything in a different light, and really appreciate what we’re surrounded by and what it all represents. I like to picture myself going back in time and imagine how it would’ve been back then, which is a pretty cool feeling.

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On route to North Wales Mike was in his element, stone walls for days, castle ruins with mountains forming. We stopped in the beautiful town of Betws-y-Coed for a gander and a coffee and then trucked on. As Tryfan came in to sight I pointed it out and told Mike that’s what we’re going up. He was another level stoked, it looked awesome. I kept reminding Mike that this is where the inspiration came from for Lord of the Rings .. and The Shire is Shropshire. I’ve told him many-a-times, but he finally saw it for himself. We headed up in to the mountain, it was so fricking cool; I love that mountain, its proper scrambling. We made our way up finding the hardest and most exciting route to the top.

North Wales - cred MikeHopkins (3)CLIFBAR break - cred MikeHopkins

Half way up we heard some crazy loud fighter jets come towards us, I’d seen them before so looked up at Mike to catch his reaction as he was frantically searching for them in the sky. Just as he thought he’d missed it, Mike looked down and there they were, two fighter jets speeding through the valley beneath us. They even turned completely sideways as they meandered through the mountains. Mike looked like a little kid at Christmas, so excited, never having seen anything like it. They came by again about 2 hours later and then another cool fighter plane came through, it was much bigger, looked like it was going half the speed and was almost silent, pretty cool.

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Once we reached the summit greeted by Adam and Eve we took some classic tourist pictures before a group of Canadians got to the top too. What are the chances they’d be Mikes fellow Countrymen, I was out numbered on my own turf.. and, it gets better. Apparently it was Canada day (Mike forgot), they’d carried a big Canadian flag with them to the top of the mountain.. So we borrowed it for a couple of rad snaps.

We rushed home for another BBQ which sadly brings Mikes journey to an end.

Everyone loved having him here, he fits right in with the Shropshire Mons. It’s great to see my home through his eyes, I’ve always appreciated it, but now I notice and think about things I just took for granted. It’s safe to say, Mikes impression of Britain has somewhat changed.

Until next time my furry Canadian friend .. I have much more to show you.

Cheerio old chap, See you on skype..

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