FitBits - fitness for fun and wellbeing: May 2018

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Wednesday, 16 May 2018

RACE REVIEW & VIDEO | Wolf Run, Pippingford Park

Spring Wolf Run review - Pippingford Park, East Sussex - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

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Where do I start with this one? The crazed, joyous cackle of a mud-soaked Tess leaping into boggy swamps? The scared, hyperventilating Tess flapping across a lake on her back trying not to drown? (5:44 onwards in the below video if you're interested). Or the screaming, crampy calf that decided to go on the VERY LAST OBSTACLE, mere metres from the finish line? (Didn't record that unfortunately, maybe for the best...)

It's been a long time since I've ran an obstacle race, and I forgot just how much fun they are. If you're a regular follower of this blog, you'll know I'm a sucker for finding the fun in fitness - and let me tell you, the Wolf Run did not disappoint!

So much mud. So many hills. So much FUN. With a bit of swearing along the way (this was the end of April and after the extended winter we had, I can assure you, those lakes were COLD).

Teamwork makes the dream work 

FitBits | Spring Wolf Run Pippingford Park review - Tess Agnew fitness blogger


There's something about OCRs that gives me all the feels. I think it's the camaraderie and team aspect of it, everyone in it together, helping each other over the obstacles to the finish. Everyone smiling and laughing their way around the course, (apart from my occasional panic where deep water or heights were involved).

On April 28 I gathered my Wolf Run team and headed to Pippingford Park for the 10k race. My wolves: Chris, my tree surgeon husband (who leapt his way round the course like Tarzan on speed), and two lovely boxer friends Carla and Darren.


I'm not gonna lie, I was about as prepared for this as I was for the BM10K - i.e. not at all. Don't try this at home, kids. With zero running under my belt over the past few weeks, but lots of weight training with my PT and HIIT at F45 (will blog that soon, promise), I was interested to see if I would get round in one piece.

The answer is, well... sort of. With a little help from my friends!

An impromptu massage

The course itself was stunning actually. If you like the lung-busting, leg-burning feels you get when  trail running you'll love Pippingford Park. LOTS of very steep ups and slippy, slidy downs, stodgy, muddy hills and forests to run through, and plenty of water to swim/flap/panic your way through (delete as appropriate).

It's a perfect location for an obstacle race, although if I did it again I would 100% do a bit of actual running in the lead up as those hills were MEGA. I thought it would be my knees that would be a problem but they were fine - it was my calves that took a right good thrashing going in and out of the freezing cold water!

FitBits | Spring Wolf Run Pippingford Park review - Tess Agnew fitness blogger

I've never had my muscles cramp on me mid-race. Have you? It's really weird. It creeps up on you, with little twinges that turn into big, convulsing spasms. I realise now that these are the warning spasms of muscles saying 'hey, I don't like this, if you don't stop what you're doing, in a bit I'm gonna go batshit crazy and you won't be able to move.'

My calf decided that right on the very last obstacle, while I was climbing to the top, mere metres from the much-anticipated finish line, would be a great place to do that. I had to slide back down the ramp holding onto the rope and get two lovely marshals to massage my muddy, bruised and beaten legs. It was an intimate moment punctured only by my swearing and ominous 'aaaah's and 'ooooh's as other runners passed us. I thought I filmed the whole thing but didn't in the end so I'll spare you the footage.

FitBits | Spring Wolf Run Pippingford Park review - Tess Agnew fitness blogger


I haven't looked at what time we finished because it doesn't matter and it wasn't about a time, but I know it slowed partially due to me hobbling the last mile or so with my calf and various struggles / meltdowns along the way at the big scary wet stuff called water. I need to get back in there and show myself I can swim again.


This girl can't... but she'll have a good try


There were two full swims along the course - one 50m and one 75m, across VERY COLD and muddy lakes. The first one was preceded by a massive water slide which sounds like fun but not if your name's Tess so this was about 8/10 for fear factor! I did it though, mainly because there was a queue of people behind me waiting to go and I didn't have long to think about it.

Just when I entered the cold water the shock came and that was it - couldn't breathe, couldn't touch the floor (short person problems), couldn't do anything except flap at the lovely kayaker to come and save my life while the others swam to the other side.


The second swim was entered in a much calmer way, by lowering ourselves into the lake. I felt I could do it this time but only if on my back so that's what I did. Thank the bloody lord for the helpful marshals who promised to look out for me and my teammate Carla who swam beside me calming me down as I panicked my way across.

I cannot tell you how scary it was about half way across when all I could think about was how far out we were, how deep we were, how far away the kayaker now might be, how I can't swim in my shoes, how heavy my kit is, how much the GoPro is slipping off my head, how long it's taking to get to the other side, how I still can't catch my breath - you get the idea.

Longest 75m EVER. But the feeling at the other end - AMAZING!

But despite the fear on some of the obstacles, the cramp and pain at various points in the race, The Wolf Run was basically just one big laugh and I'd 100% do it again. I want to do it again just to do that first swim and also that first high climbing frame.

The race village was really well stocked, including some low calorie beer, along with other food stalls, changing areas and a feck load of power hoses to jet wash ourselves down with after! There was also a bouncy castle and face painting for kids which was great as we had our very own cheerleader join us for the day.

If you fancy a laugh check out my GoPro video below and let me know what you think! Also, don't forget to subscribe to my YouTube Channel as I'm making a lot more of these now :) 





For more information on the Wolf Run and to take on the ‘Autumn Wolf’ back at Pippingford Park on 29/30th September, visit - https://thewolfrun.com/autumnwolf/

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Have you ever done an obstacle race? 
Any tips?
  

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Saturday, 5 May 2018

7 ways to get into mountain biking on International Women's Mountain Biking Day


There's a special kind of freedom that comes with being on two wheels in a wide open expanse of green. A special type of joy that comes with throwing your bike down a fast, flowy piece of singletrack. A lovely dose of adrenalin when you conquer that scary drop or rooty section that's been terrorising you for months. And a lung-busting sense of pride when you reach the top of that bloody great big hill you've been dreading on your ride.

It's no secret that I absolutely LOVE mountain biking, and cycling in general. It's a love that's burned inside of me since I first got on one as a kid (thanks Dad), razzing my BMX around the pump track and in the woods, being late home for dinner for just one more ride.

Even when I broke my leg showing off to my mates at seven years old, I got back on the bike. When I broke my collarbone and wrist in 2016 pumping too hard and getting air before remembering I can't jump, I got back on the bike. (Scared AF but back on it nonetheless).

This is my calling, and I want you to join me.

International Women's Mountain Biking Day! 


Today is the inaugural International Women's Mountain Biking Day! (Thanks Mara for the tag on Insta!) Created by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA), IWMBD is to be held on the first Saturday of May each year starting this year, and is a celebration of all things mountain biking for women.

It's a PERFECT day to celebrate for a number of reasons: 1) it's the start of a Bank Holiday weekend, 2) it's BLOODY SUNNY GUYS, GET ON YOUR BIKES, and 3) IT'S BLOODY SUNNY GUYS, GET ON YOUR BIKES!!!

If you're looking for inspiration to get into mountain biking, I've shared some resources and a few of my posts below, and you can follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook over the weekend where I'll be sharing my mountain bike adventures with you. Also don't forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel as I share more of my bike-shaped shenanegins over there too!

If you do get out on your bike today, share your stories using #womensmtbday and don't forget to tag me so I can join the conversation!


How to get into mountain biking 

 

1. Join a Breeze ride 


For those not in the know, Breeze is a fantastic initiative from British Cycling and Sport England to encourage more women on wheels. There are hundreds of rides across the country led by qualified leaders (Breeze Champions), aimed at all levels from beginner to experienced. These women-only groups offer an inclusive, welcoming and fun group to ride with, where you'll learn new skills, meet new friends and eat a lot of cake whilst building your confidence on the bike.

They do road and mountain bike rides, check the Let's Ride website to find your local one, and read this Beginner's Guide to Mountain Biking from British Cycling. 

**Watch a video of my first Breeze ride here - it's a road ride, but the group ethos is the same**


2. Find a mountain bike guide


  

The best way to discover new routes and places to ride is by getting someone to show you. That's what we did for our first taste of the glorious Surrey Hills singletrack mecca last year. We'd heard there were trails nearby to us in Brighton but we didn't know where to start to find them, so we found Sean from Marmalade MTB and got him to show us. 

Throughout year he does weekly guided rides to the Surrey Hills, South Downs and beyond to Wales, Isle of Wight and even Scotland, taking groups of upto eight of all abilities. If you're riding the Surrey Hills and don't have a bike, you can hire one from Pedal and Spoke at Peaslake, and he can also arrange hire for other locations too. 

Check my blog of our first ride with Sean and visit his website at marmarlademtb.com.


3. Visit a trail centre


Ooooooooh yesssss I LOVE a good mountain bike trail centre!! These are the playgrounds of my adulthood. The places I get my kicks, where I whooop, woooooo and weeeeeeeeee! my way down the lovely purpose-built, fast and flowy trails before collapsing in a pile of happy at the trail centre cafe.

This is how I got into trail riding and riding singletrack, and this is where I'm at my happiest on a bike. There are trail centres all over the UK with trails graded from green (easy, family friendly) to black (gnarly, not-Tess-friendly at present!). I ride blues (fast flowy, fun) and reds (fast, flowy, more technical with rocky sections and roots).

I wrote a whole blog about the AWESOME trail centres in Wales that you can read here

4. Join a women's weekend! 


There's no getting away from the fact that mountain biking is still very much a sport dominated by men, BUT times are changing girls! More and more women are riding off road and a great way to find other badass women to ride with is by going on a women's mountain biking weekend!

I did this last September at Coed Y Brenin (an awesome trail centre in North Wales) and had the BEST weekend. It rained the whole bloody time but it was such a laugh and filled my heart with happy to see so many women on the trails. We outnumbered the blokes that weekend and gave them a run for their money on the trails too!

Read what we got up to here and don't forget to sign up to this year's event on 8/9 September!  


5. Follow a National Cycling Route


Thanks to Sustrans, the National Cycle Network is a huge network of cycle-friendly routes on traffic-free paths and quiet roads connecting to every major town and city. They're signposted by blue and white signs along the way and are sure to lead you to cycling joy :)

There are some cracking off road routes like The Downs Link, connecting Surrey and Shoreham along a disused railway line. (Note, railway line means flat, which is lovely).

Enter your postcode or town on the Sustrans map to find your nearest route.


6. Get up on the Downs


I realise this only works if you're down this way but the South Downs is right on my doorstep here in Brighton and the South Downs Way stretches 100 miles from Winchester to Eastbourne with some proper good climbs and gorgeous mountain bike heaven to ride.

Just follow the public bridleway signs with the acorns (not the footpaths or other bridleways) and enjoy the ride!

I've ridden sections of it numerous times, you can catch up with my posts below:

Winchester to Petersfield - my PlusBike Day Out

Birthday bike ride from Brighton to Eastbourne 

Petersfield to Amberley

Amberley to Devil's Dyke

Eastbourne to Brighton

7. Join an event 



Another great way to get into mountain biking is to join an event. I rode the BHF London to Brighton a couple of years ago and LOVED it (as the shaky video above proves - this was my first time using a GoPro, I've got a lot better since then! Subscribe to my YouTube channel to see more vids) 

This event was fully supported with amazing fuel and water stations along the way, as well as first aid tents and break areas etc. so it was great to know we were really being looked after (and raising money for charity too!) 

This July me and Chris are taking on the new BHF South East Coast ride, attempting the 55 mile route across the South Downs which will be a right good challenge with those insane climbs! 




So there you have it. Plenty of ways to get into mountain biking! I know I keep banging on about the joys of cycling but there really is no other way to feel that magic you did as a kid again, that freedom, that JOY.  Get on your bike!


Share your mtb stories on social media using #womensmtbday (and don't forget to tag me at @FitBits_ on Twitter and Insta, and @fitbitsblog on Facebook!) 

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Tell me what makes your heart sing like cycling does to mine?  :)
  

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