Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Lauren Bradshaw's busy summer of fun =)

I have to say what a cracking summer we have been blessed with this year. Delightful sunshine makes training so much more enjoyable plus the fact you can build up a lovely suntan =) It has been a rather manic couple of months with some big challenges and personal achievements so here is a run-down on what has been going on in my quest of sporting glory….!

Cambridge Triathlon (15.6.14) – Based at Mepal Outdoor Centre on a drizzly Sunday morning I competed in my very first Olympic distance triathlon. As someone who has predominantly been concentrating on sprint distance races for the last couple of years the step up to Olympic seemed a little daunting (even though I have completed 3 half iron distance races which are even longer). But for some reason I have had a little bit of a stigma for this distance and on race day I was actually quite nervous. Swimming is definitely not my strong point and so I know I will never be first out of the water but rely on my strengths on the bike and then on the run to come into my own. I managed to place 4th female overall and won my age group so was pretty pleased with that for a first time effort – but I think Olympic is probably not my distance as I do not have enough miles to hunt people down on the bike and then the run!

Great Nottinghamshire 100 Mile Bike Ride (22.6.14) – This was my first attempt at a 100 mile sportive and so again was incredibly nervous at what may or may not happen! I have ridden a few 100 mile club rides in the past but they have always been interrupted with a rather lovely cafĂ© stop for some cake and tea and therefore to ride 100 miles straight would be a whole new ball game. Fortunately my Ironman boyfriend who can ride 100 miles flat out in his sleep joined me and suggested that I ‘sit on his wheel’! I was a little dubious about my ability to ‘sit on his wheel’ at 35kmh for 100 miles but was up for the challenge. He gave me advice to take on an energy gel every 30 minutes along with regular sipping from my energy fuelled sports drink and the odd Haribo or 2 and I stuck to this plan religiously. At the 65 mile point I was just about clinging on to his wheel when he unfortunately (or maybe fortunately for me) had a rear puncture and had to stop to fix it. We agreed that I would continue without him and he would catch me up. I was very surprised that for the remainder of the 35 miles I actually rode solo as he never caught me up but he finished not too far behind me and so in hindsight the puncture actually benefitted me as I dropped my speed a little to average 33kmh which probably allowed me to finish the ride as I think I may have struggled to keep the 35kmh with Tom but who knows – we’ll have to try another one and find out! I completed the ride in 4 hours and 54 minutes and was the first lady to cross the finish line. I was over the moon with my time and crushed Tom’s optimistic expectations of me finishing within the 5 hour mark =)

Gog Magog Gran Fondo 80 Mile Sportive (29.6.14) – After finishing the 100 miler I thought an 80 miler would be a breeze but it is a lot different to ride individually than sitting in the draft of someone else. Tom and his super cyclist friends had decided to try and ‘smash’ the course so went off in a pack and worked together at a speed that I would have no chance of maintaining and so I went off alone. All was going swimmingly averaging just under 30kmh on a very hilly course until 60 kms into the ride I hit a pothole and my rear wheel exploded. I ended up having a double tyre blow out and had to abandon the ride as my tyres were ruined and was rescued by the support team and driven home. I was so disappointed that I didn’t get a chance to finish this event but I guess these things happen in our sport and I have to take the rough with the smooth.

Carnival Tour 50 Mile Sportive (6.7.14) – So the Tour de France came to town – how exciting! As part of the build-up celebrations for the Tour coming to Cambridge, Saffron Walden Velo hosted a ride that would encompass part of the actual route the professional cyclists would ride on the following day in Stage 3 of the tour. The weather was actually atrocious the morning of the ride and it was torrential rain for pretty much the entire 50 miles. I managed to overcome the rain and finished as the first lady which again I was delighted with and felt as though I was building on my confidence with each and every ride. A special well done to my dear friends Aimee and Nick who also completed the sportive and helped make the day a lot more enjoyable.

Morzine (10.7.14-17.7.14) – SUPER MORZINE!!!! Training camp/holiday. This was my very first trip to the French Alps and I can certainly say that it will not be my last. What a place. I cannot describe how beautiful it is to wake up surrounded by beautiful scenery like that. Simply breathe taking. Anyway the plan was to use the week to train at higher altitude and also to train on the mountains. The weather on arrival was pretty dismal – grey cloud and A LOT of rain! This persisted for the first 4 days (rather depressing) but we did not let it bother us and so front loaded the week with more running sessions. Running around the stunning Lake Montriond and along the fast flowing mountain rivers and waterfalls makes for some of the best run spots you could imagine and some tough hills too! The sunshine decided to come out and play for the latter half of the week which enabled us to do some great climbs on the bike as descending on wet roads is not advisable as my friend Nick discovered when he had a nasty crash down one of the Cols and shredded a significant amount of skin off his hip (fortunately nothing more sinister than road rash though). The first big climb we did was roughly for 7-8K at 9% gradient and that was my first taster of opening the lungs! The climbs got longer and steeper as the week progressed but I can definitely feel the benefits as my regular Tuesday Chain gang friends have nicknamed me the mountain goat since my return as I can easily accelerate up the Cambridge hills (or lumps) now and leave them for dust!!! We also managed to squeeze in a few swim sessions in the amazing 50m outdoor pool and in the lake (which is fed by the melting snow off the mountains – so yes incredibly cold!) Even with my wetsuit and swim cap I felt like I was developing brain freeze so only managed a 2k swim until I had to get out and warm myself up. Morzine is definitely the place to be to improve your training and I hope that I can make annual visits to further enhance my mountain goatness!

BIG Swim (26.7.14) – Considering swimming is my weakest discipline as a triathlete, I decided I should try to conquer my fears and delve into some murky waters and swim the farthest I’ve ever swam in my life. Therefore I entered the 5K BIG swim at Holme Pierrepont in Nottingham along with my boyfriends’ housemates James and Kathryn (who I must add are MEGA swimmers and could outswim a shark). Once again I was very anxious pre-race partly because I had never swam more than 4 kms in one go before and was unsure about nutrition and whether or not I would cramp in my calves which I have a tendency of doing when I swim for a long period of time. We had to do 2 x 2.5km loops which included a little run between 2 points and thankfully the ability to take a gulp of some fluids before diving back in off the pontoon (my favourite bit!). I had estimated that it would take me 1 hr. 45 minutes to complete and if I achieved that time I would be pleased. I came in at 1 hr. 44 minutes!! Super chuffed and not only that my Garmin computer read that I actually swam 0.5 kms further than I should have (probably because I am not so great at swimming in a straight line) – Bonus time!! I felt very satisfied to have achieved that time but not only that just the feat of actually completing the swim in the first place and it also makes the dreaded ironman swim seem less of a struggle to one day tackle. A huge congratulations to James and Kathryn who both placed 3rd.

Outlaw (27.7.14) – So here I am going to talk about an iron distance race which comprises of a 3.8km swim/180km bike/42 km run… yep that’s right! Also taking place at the National Water Sports centre in Nottingham we had made a weekend of mega racing. Tom had entered himself into his second iron distance race of the year and was hoping for a podium finish and so we had to be there to support him. Ironman distance is not only about the physical strength and stamina required to complete the distance but equally importantly is your mental strength. Having a support team around you can make a huge difference in a race that has a marathon at the end of it and so I intended on being the best support crew any athlete could ever wish for! We made flags, bashed bangers, bells and rattles and we literally chased Tom around the course for a full 9 hrs. and 13 mins until he crossed the finish line in an impressive 3rd place! An immensely proud girlfriend with a potentially celebrity boyfriend who will soon be making his channel 4 debut when he was interviewed as ‘one to watch’!!! (Look out for the highlights show end of August on Channel 4!)

Owler (3.8.14) – After the inspiration I gained from watching Tom finish his race I felt like I needed to up my game a little. I made a rather last minute decision and entered a half iron distance race called the Owler held in Ashford, Kent with less than 2 weeks to prepare for it. Though I know with all the training I had been doing it should not be too much of an issue. However, as seems to be the case this year with any big race I aim for I developed an awful tooth infection that left me with many sleepless nights and A LOT of pain on the run up to the race. So much so that I almost withdrew. However, the determined part of me decided to give it a go and try to tackle each section as I came to it. Funnily enough as soon as the horn went to start the swim my tooth pain disappeared and the adrenalin kicked in and so I was able to complete the entire event – yey! Even better when I finished in 5 hrs. and 8 minutes as 2nd lady overall and won my age group. Even better still I won a medal and a mug and a t-shirt with an owl on – and anyone that knows me well knows that I LOVE owls! Lesson learned from this event: DO NOT GIVE IN. Pain is temporary =)