Monday, 12 February 2018

Life as a pregnant athlete: the finish line and the best prize ever.

Just a really quick note to say that our beautiful baby boy was born on January 5th at 10.22am weighing 3.3kg. I continued cycling, swimming and walking right up until my waters broke. Keeping active made my whole pregnancy really enjoyable and has certainly helped me to get back on the bike afterwards. I thoroughly enjoyed being pregnant and now I'm looking forward to getting back into shape and returning to racing. Topeak Ergon Racing Team have changed to Canyon Topeak Factory Racing and I'm honoured to be given this opportunity to continue my cycling career (post baby) with them.

I'll write more soon about the birth and postnatal recovery. For now here are some photos and videos:

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Life as a pregnant athlete: third trimester

The changes in pregnancy have been so gradual that I haven't noticed many things. The comments of strangers, or people I've not seen for a while, take me by surprise. I find myself initially thinking "how do they know I'm pregnant!" and then I look down at my watermelon-sized bump and smile. I look at my reflection in shop windows with wonder - is that really me! Since we moved house 2 months ago we haven't had a full-length mirror so when I do catch a glimpse of myself it's quite amusing. I love my baby bump.

So, what's changed since my last blog and what hasn't?

Things that have changed:
  • All of my old clothes are packed away and I wear Dave's cycling clothes. It's neither cool nor a fashion statement but it works and gets me comfortably out on the bike. Squeezing into my old clothes became a wrestling match and started to restrict my breathing. 
  • I've started swimming in preparation of a time towards the end of pregnancy when I might no longer be able to cycle - and also in preparation of bad weather days when cycling might be too hazardous or simply too horrible. The first time back in the pool for years saw me floundering and almost being rescued by the lifeguard. Changes in buoyancy meant my entry into the water was a little less elegant than intended and a poor breathing technique had me clinging to the lane rope spluttering. With perseverance however I can now swim for 45minutes, which is enough for me - it's nowhere near as much fun as cycling. 
  • Slow has been redefined. Weighing 10kg more than pre-pregnancy means that my climbing prowess has been somewhat hampered. It's akin to riding with another bike strapped around my waist. Dave is most definitely faster and has started riding circles around me. How the tables have turned! 
  • I've become familiar with the term 'symphysis pubis dysfunction' which in simple terms means pelvic pain especially when turning and getting in and out of bed, as well as pain standing on one leg and walking. It soon became apparent that this was caused by long hikes and for a short time I thought I might have to stop the hikes completely. However a support belt  has allowed me to resume 3 hour hikes without crippling side-effects. This comes as a relief as I was starting to resemble a centenarian requiring help to prise myself off the sofa and hobble around. 
  • My bedtime routine now involves a complicated procedure involving a huge snake-like maternity pillow which I spend several minutes adjusting into the correct position. I then remain on my left-hand-side for the entire night. Attempting to get out of bed, rearrange the pillow and lie on my right-hand-side is fruitless because Little P doesn't tolerate it for more than a few minutes before he starts inflicting side-swipes with his little, but no less powerful, feet. It seems he's happier when I'm lying on my left-hand side because he can stretch his feet out and practice his rib-tackle (catching his feet under my lower right rib). 

Things that have not changed:
  • I still love being pregnant. I feel great and have loads of energy. Perhaps this is because I've been fortunate enough to be able to continue exercising and eating healthily. Other than the pelvic pain, I have no unpleasant side-effects of pregnancy: no swelling (shoe size is unchanged and I can still wear my wedding ring), no heart burn or other complaints. 
  • Spending time cycling is brilliant. I feel really comfortable on the bike - more so than off it sometimes! I'm very slow and only ride for an average of 2 hours (occasionally a little less or more), nevertheless it's so nice to get outside and breathe in fresh air. It really is amazing therapy for body and mind. Most of the time I'm riding on quiet roads but occasionally on smooth fire roads or fields. No trails or technical stuff. It's all very sedate. I'm still riding according to feel and keeping my heart rate between 130-150bpm. 
  • Pre-natal yoga still feels good and I love to stretch and keep flexible. 
  • I'm not plagued by unusual food craving or aversions, though I still don't drink coffee. This is now more to do with avoiding caffeine rather than a revulsion. On the contrary, I love the smell and I look forward to a post-pregnancy flat white - though breastfeeding would certainly delay this.

I'm curious to see how things will change during the finals weeks of pregnancy but I hope to stay active throughout (and during labour, though I'll not be taking the indoor trainer to the hospital. Hahaha!). 

Stay active. Have fun.
Sal :)

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Second trimester: Adapting to an ever growing belly

It’s odd, on the one hand it seems like so much has changed since my last blog, but on the other it feels like little has. Starting with the things that have changed during the second trimester:

  • My diet is pretty much back to pre-pregnancy. I can think about, and even eat, green foods without turning green and I’ve not touched a cornflake for months! The only exception is that I’m still off coffee, but it’s definitely sounding, as well as smelling, more appetising so perhaps soon I’ll be ordering cappuccinos with my cake once again. Let’s hope so.
  • My bib-short straps will not reach up and over ‘Bump’ so I simply wear them around my waist. It works.
  • My belly engages in involuntary night-time ‘belly dancing’. Very odd but also quite amusing.
  • My growing belly means I am welcomed into almost any establishment (as a non-customer) and granted use of the public conveniences with a knowing, happy smile. This is actually pretty useful because I seem to be frequenting the bathroom more often than normal and especially when ‘Bump’ kicks me in the bladder!
  • I have one speed and that’s pretty slow. Sadly, I’ve had to concede that Dave is now faster than I am. Every day is different, some days I feel strong and other days I feel like a snail. I just listen to my body and adapt accordingly
  • My growing belly occasionally makes me ride like John Wayne walked, especially when ‘Bump’ wakes up and starts wriggling around. Raising the handlebars and flipping the stem from a negative to a positive rise has helped somewhat with this unusual looking gait.
  • I have gained about 7-8kg
  • Bumpy trails make me need to pee. I spend my time cycling on quiet roads or smooth trails, always on the MTB.

Things that have not changed:
  • I still love being pregnant.
  • I am cycling 3-4 times per week for between 2 to 3 hours and typically climbing 1000m each ride, though I have had to become content with anything over 700m per ride since moving back to the south coast of England. My rides are not what I’d call training as such, but more a means of getting outdoors and keeping some fitness. Although my pace is slower and power is massively reduced, I am riding between 130-150bpm. This is simply because it is what feels right rather than some stipulated guideline. Apparently, as pregnant women we have 50% more blood and consequently our hearts have to work harder to pump all of that extra blood around. So while I’m riding slower than pre-pregnancy, I am still working reasonably hard. Medical advice from various midwifes and doctors has been pretty consistent: continue doing what you did pre-pregnancy but avoid becoming exhausted and dehydrated.
  • On days I don’t cycle I like to hike for anywhere from 1 hour to 3-4 hours. Mountain hikes have now given way to the footpaths along the Jurassic Coast which involve less altitude gain but no less beauty.
  • I am enjoying pre-natal yoga. At the beginning of my pregnancy I started doing a 1hour pre-natal session guided by Tara Stiles (you can buy it online). Starting with this session from the beginning means I can be conscious of how my body is changing and adapt to each pose as the pregnancy progresses, this is especially important as the hormone relaxin starts to affect me. If I suddenly become super flexible then I know it’s probably time to ease out of a pose!
  • I am not eating for two; in fact, since I stopped structured interval training I am eating less. Apart from my growing belly I am still pretty lean. However, I must stress that I am not in the least bit concerned about weight gain and I am not making any effort whatsoever to lose weight.
  • Other than a growing belly that moves on its own volition, I have no other symptoms of pregnancy: no heart burn (except when I indulged in traditional seaside fish and chips), no sickness, no swelling etc etc. I do occasionally get some ligament discomfort as everything stretches but that’s about it.

Soon I’ll enter the third trimester. It’ll be interesting to see what changes are in store! I’ll keep you posted.

Spend a little time each day outdoors exercising - it’s medicine for body and mind 😃  

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Life as a pregnant athlete

Maternity leave before the baby is born!

One thing that's really odd - though there are many things! - is that I'm taking my "maternity leave" before our baby is born. I'm not racing and I'm also not training in the sense of structured interval type stuff. My only aim at the moment is to stay active everyday so I've been cycling, hiking and doing prenatal yoga. I'm riding both my road bike and my MTB on quiet roads and nontechnical trails, each time it's just an easy endurance pace (I get out of breath quite easily!) for between 2-3 hours and I always try to climb at least 1000m (just a strange habit I've fallen into!!!). I generally hike for around 3-4 hours with a lunch stop. That's just what seems right for me. There aren't really any clear-cut guidelines. Perhaps I was overcautious during the first trimester but after previous miscarriages I didn't want to take any risks, though I've been told time and time again that the miscarriages were not caused by exercise.

A break from racing and hard training is good for me after so many years. Now I'm exercising for personal well-being. I'm an athlete and I don't think I could ever stop excising outdoors! If I did then I don't think I'd be very nice to be around!!!! It's my release, my way of clearing my head and coming home feeling mentally and physically relaxed. If I can stay as fit as possible then hopefully it'll help me in childbirth and make returning to racing next year a little easier. This will be my next big challenge but I'm excited about training and racing again.

Getting bigger

I'm now almost 17 weeks and another scan yesterday showed our little baby kicking and moving around. I can also occasionally feel him now too. I'm already wearing maternity clothes which I wasn't expecting so soon! Fortunately lycra is forgiving and my team cycling clothes still fit but I've had to pack away a lot of my favourite clothes.

Nausea and food aversions

I also wasn't expecting the weird change in appetite and diet. I didn't think it'd happen to me. Anyone who knows me knows I love to eat vegetables, salad and lots of healthy stuff. I'm also normally pretty grumpy without my morning coffee and an afternoon cappuccino. At about 6 weeks I couldn't stand even the thought of coffee (though I'd been drinking decaffeinated since before we conceived). Any food green in colour was off the menu and any white/yellow food was most definitely on, including milk, omelettes, cheese, salty chips, salt and vinegar crisps, cornflakes (1kg per day usually consumed between 1am-3am!) and pancakes. Oddly the only fruit I could eat were bananas! All very, very weird and totally out of character. I even wanted to go to McDonalds (somewhere I haven't eaten for over 20 years) for chips and chocolate milkshake, though I did resist this temptation!

Fortunately the nausea (which I had almost all day, everyday) eased at about 12-13 weeks but I still can't eat courgettes or broccoli!!!! Coffee remains off the menu! I proudly ate spinach the other day. I no longer consume bumper packs of cornflakes.

16 weeks

13 weeks


Friday, 7 July 2017

We're very excited to share our news with you. I'm sorry it's taken so long to tell you but it's not been a straight forward journey -  I'll tell you more about that soon. I won't be racing this year but we have an amazing support network and I plan to return to reduced race schedule next year with a big focus on the 2019 season. 

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Perfect end to a great season!

Here's a short update and a brief 'over and out' for the 2016 season:.......

Last week I set my alarm for 5.30am and pinned on my final race number for the 2016 season. Roc D'Azur is a massive festival with a party atmosphere but there's also some serious racing on technically challenging and fun trails. For the last two years I've missed this season finale - last year because of a fractured hip and the year before because of vascular surgery for Iliac Artery Endofibrosis. Spending a week with the team in the sunny South of France was a perfect way to celebrate a year that's been filled with many highlights, including becoming European Champion, Vice World Champion and winning 4 UCI World Series races as well as the Transalp and Leadville 100. Winning the Roc Marathon - making this my 5th victory - made the mojitos taste a little sweeter and has given me a positive feeling going into the off-season.

Over the next several weeks I'll be enjoying some downtime as well as some different sports including hiking, running, windsurfing and surfing - and sampling some fine wines and cocktails. This winter were are heading somewhere completely new for our 2017 season preparations, I can't wait to share our adventure with you! Stayed tuned!

Behind every success stands a dedicated and passionate support crew! As riders we depend upon our mechanics, managers, massage therapists and chefs. No job is too great or too small: from spending hours in tech/feed zones, washing clothes, cleaning bikes and even shoes! We cannot thank you enough for your hard work behind the scenes. Big thanks to all of our crew for your awesome support this year! Here are some nice photos of the team behind the riders. Thanks to Olivier Beart, Mojo Mag:

Here's a link to the full article in Mojo mag. If you can read French then you'll enjoy the words but if not then you can just look at the nice images!

Thank you for following. I wish you a great winter season filled with many fun times and new adventures!

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Leadville 100

At 4am on Saturday morning I was struggling to eat a breakfast of oats and gluten free bread forcefully washed down with very strong coffee - I've been intolerant (to gluten as well as eating at 4am) for the last 10 years. It's not easy to eat in the middle of the night but with 100 miles of racing ahead it's essential.  

Warming up on an indoor trainer helped to raise my body temperature in anticipation of the fast downhill start in zero degrees celsius at 06.30am - a chilling experience when wearing only a skin suit and arm warmers. Fancying their chances a number of pro and ex-pro roadies took to the start and it appears that 'full gas' from the line is not a concept that they're used to! Teammate Jeremiah Bishop (JB) initiated an attack almost straight from the shotgun, a pace that the chase group - consisting largely of said roadies - did not want to follow, allowing JB and MTBr Todd Wells (eventual winner) to ride out of sight within minutes! Now if JB had made me privy to his race tactic I'd have been sure to position myself favourably but he kept his cards firmly to his chest! The initial leisurely pace allowed the roadies chance to have a good old natter amongst themselves but it cost me 2 minutes relative to the previous year before the first steep rocky climb of the day up to Carter's Summit.  

Racing 100 miles takes careful preparation and a meticulous nutrition plan which must be adhered to! With an approximate race time of 7 hours and a target of 90g of carbohydrates per hour that's a lot of eating and drinking!

This distance is only one challenge, the biggest hurdle is the altitude: 10,000ft of climbing all an a elevation in excess of 10,000ft commands the greatest respect! Leadville 100 has become a world famous mountain bike race with it's 100 mile out and back course, the turning point is at the highest point: Columbine Mountain at 12,500ft.     

The terrain is pretty mixed with smooth dirt tracks and some long asphalt sections as well as steep rocky climbs, which given the out-and-back nature of the course also become fast, puncture prone descents on the return journey - especially when descending Columbine at high speed whilst dodging a long procession of on-coming riders who are usually gazing at the ground in utter exhaustion! I chose to ride my Canyon Exceed CF SLX (hardtail) with 2.2 Continental Race Kings front (19psi) and rear (20psi) - opting for a lower starting pressure to allow for the increase associated with increasing altitude and air temperature.

With two previous wins (2013, 2014) my aim was undoubtedly to win my third title but at the same time I also had my eye fixed on a sub-7 hour race time. To break 7 hours requires many factors to fall neatly into place including having a good group of riders working together along the flatter sections of the course - although I often had a group not everyone was happy to pull through, which caused group morale to collapse and the pace to slow. At the top of Columbine - the 50 mile turning point - I was on 7 hour pace though I didn't know it because my computer had long stopped working. My legs felt strong back up the notorious Powerline Climb and all the way to the red carpet back in Leadville town centre but alas the big clock showed 7 hours and 5 minutes. Upon seeing the time initial disappointment gradually gave way to pride at having won my third Leadville 100 title while finishing 14th overall of 2000 riders and ahead of some pretty well known roadies 😉

Congrats to JB for his 3rd place (6 hours 28 minutes) and big thanks to Topeak Ergon for top race support!

You can see my finish here (disappointment mixed with fatigue!):

Here's a link to Pinkbike race report.

Full results here.

Photo credit: Eddie Clark