Jen

Dec 152013
 

dreams

Stories by the fire…

What an idillic winter setting – snuggled under colourful knitted blankets next to the wood burner, reading short stories out load over the cracking and popping of the fire.

I love this scene, and it’s what we aim for in our little country stone cottage on the hill. However, with our cold empty fireplace and no time for knitting blankets, we are a long way off this setting. But we are patiently trying to hold onto our dream as we build it brick by brick as-and-when we can afford to in stages. We have a fireplace now at least!

This is life. I worked weekends/evenings all through my secondary school years in order to earn money. I enjoyed it. I was encouraged to save my money to buy something worthwhile – and not spend it on ‘tat’. Pound notes seemed to have a very distinctive smell in those days – I remember it well – as I used to play ‘banks’ and count out my savings, waiting until there was enough for the thing I really wanted.

This lesson to have less but go for quality (and keep it) has meant I’ve never wanted to ‘make do’ with a cheaper (or different) version. You see I don’t mind working hard and waiting for my dream to be realised. As long as there is progress…

These days it’s all too easy to borrow credit and not have to work or wait for financial things. In sport it’s still like old times: we have to work hard at our fitness, building on it, and be patient for the right time to ‘spend it’.

I’m very lucky to be coached 1:1 by a very knowledgeable and experienced coach. Whilst I have the accountancy skills for sums to know if I can afford to buy something, or when this will be likely, I certainly don’t have this understanding over my fitness. Rob, however, does. Which is very fortunate and reassuring.

This allows for very efficient training – no need to get into fitness debt and we can tailor training to peak for certain events. It’s magical. I feel like I can have the same control over my sport as I do with my finances, and therefore I do have some big cycling goals (big dreams) in mind that I’m working towards, brick by brick, as-and-when I can.

This year we built the fireplace. Next year we hope to get a wood burner. Perhaps the year after we’ll have the knitted blankets and some stories of sporting success to tell too. It’s all in progress.

 Posted by at 8:55 pm
Nov 282013
 

almondorangecake

At 5’7″ I currently weigh about 8.5 stone – this is probably the lightest I’ve been since my early teens. And I’m probably the leanest, and strongest, that I’ve ever been.

52kg has been my target race weight, however I certainly hadn’t expected to achieve it relatively effortlessly after having a baby. If I’m honest I’d convinced myself my figure would never come back, but here I am with a stronger core than ever and slimmer hips by a few inches. It’s most unexpected!

I have wondered if getting back into training quickly, during the body rehabilitating phase, has allowed my body to rebuild accordingly? Of course it could all be down to a proper training plan, weight loss through breast feeding and an improved diet, and strength gain from carrying Meg and the general physical nature of just being a full-tine parent. My ‘break’ is when I usually walk an hour a day with Meg in the pram or backpack, and I also have an hour training on the turbo each evening.

Now, can I maintain this target weight until next race season? I guess it’ll fluctuate along the way but I’m pretty confident that this is where my body has naturally settled. I’d like to improve on my body composition – fat/muscle – so from here that’s what I’ll be concentrating on. Really the number I’m most interested in is my power:weight ratio. I want t do everything possible during this training and development phase so I can have another successful and enjoyable race season next year. I also want to have the strength and endurance to compete over a longer duration next year.

With each week I notice changes to my body – new muscles developing, particularly around my hips and thighs, better tone, flatter tummy. Refining my diet will have a lot to thank for this. I eat very little processed food, and sweet treats are all home-made with more wholesome ingredients where possible. Experimenting has been fun. I certainly need calories, but I try not to eat ’empty calories’ these days. I do love cake though(!) so I’ve been trying to find ways to make delicious and wholesome cakes to satisfy my sweet tooth. And they make a great energy fix straight after exercise.

Here is a recipe I’ve worked on for orange and almond cake.

It’s been adapted from a standard victoria sponge mix and it is beautifully light yet kicking with orange flavour. It doesn’t really need a filling or topping. It’s so easy to make.

This recipe uses less butter and sugar than a normal vicky sponge mix but you’d never know.  The ground almonds and olive oil make it beautifully moist and it’s surprisingly light and fresh. The almonds and orange bring some nutritional value to this cake that feels like a real treat to eat. If you want to enhance this I guess you could increase the almond quantity, but in doing so reduce the butter and the flour. It’ll make a heavier cake that may need a longer bake. Caster sugar could be totally replaced with the GI friendly agave nectar, or even honey.
I hope you give it a go…
Jen’s orange and almond cake
2 oz real butter
1 tbsp olive oil
2 oz agave nectar
1 oz caster sugar
finely grated zest from 1 large orange
1 oz (generous) ground almonds
3 1/2 oz self raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 large free range eggs
Flaked almonds to scatter

  1. Pre-heat oven to 170degC.
  2. Put everything but the flaked almonds in large bowl and whisk with an electric hand whisk until smooth and the colour of the batter lightens (~2-3mins).
  3. Scrape batter into a round cake tin (~ 8 inch). I always line mine with re-useable silicone baking paper.
  4. Level the mix and then scatter the flaked almonds over the top.
  5. Bake in centre if oven for 15-20 mins. The smell will direct you as you should be able to detect when it smells sweet and delicious, which is a great time to check your cake.  When cakes start to over bake the smell turns bitter, which I guess is the sugar burning.

Definitely check your cake before 15 mins – if it looks cooked touch surface to see if it bounces back. 
Once cooked take out of oven and leave in tin for a few mins before turning out.
You could serve this warm with cream or yoghurt for a pudding, but I leave it to cool completely and finish with a dusting of icing sugar. Any excuse to use my sugar duster (best thing ever).

 
I’ve also been getting really into my casseroles and curries (from scratch) recently and can’t get over how delicious the results have been, for very little work and expense. I’ll share one of these winter warmers with you soon. The only trouble is that they do need a few hours to cook – which is fine for me being at home with Meg – but for most people it’ll have to be cooked the night before. They actually taste even better done this way, so it’s worth giving it a go if you can get organised.
 Posted by at 2:56 pm
Nov 142013
 
yoga

Such an awful term that is too commonly used in the cycle scene. I’m sure I don’t need to explain to anyone reading this that it’s a derogatory reference for those of us who prefer road cycling, and the often rigid cycling style this brings. I apologise to anyone who is reading this and is offended – this is not my intention at all as I hope you will understand if you read on…

So, I’m the stiff-pole roadie of the team, worse than that I’m into all that hippy stuff too – you know: organic food, fair trade, meditation, yoga. What kind of a cyclist am I?!  What am I doing on The Bike Picture, a predominately male mountain bike team into hard-core endurance suffering in the wilderness?

Well, team mate and friend Endurance Oliver tops me on the moon-child front, but cycling for me (and I assume the rest of the team) definitely goes beyond the physical. I use cycling – any discipline of it – as a means to let go of my conscious and then connect to my raw feelings, to experience my lungs at full capacity and put myself under a level of physical demand and fatigue that our bodies were designed for, but these days are rarely used.

I think this is why a lot of us find sport, or dance, or meditation. They take us to a place that our evolutionary expectation wants met. We want to push ourselves, we want to find our limits and broaden them. We want to let go of conscious thought and move into that place that is instinct. Something our internal dialog does a good job of taking over… I question if ‘language’ has boxed our ability to think beyond what we can verbally communicate.

Yoga and cycling have always run hand in hand for me. Initially both done for hobby, I’ve found as I developed to become a cyclist I’ve wanted to develop my yoga too. Initially I expected the yoga to benefit my cycling in terms of flexibility – I’d naively overlooked the spiritual and mental focus that is also required and it is this that has been most valuable and transferable to the bike, in particular for my timetrials.

I practice Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. This form of yoga requires stamina and focus to perform a fluid sequence of poses (vinyasa) which are linked with breathing. The practice starts with a chant, then goes into a sequence of Sun Salutations, followed by static standing poses, meditation and relaxation. My practice currently takes about an hour. As I get stronger this will take longer due to an increase the length of my breath, and hopefully I’ll be able to take on more advanced steps and stages within my Sun Salutations and standing postures. What I aim for is to practice with total concentration.

You may have already noticed the pattern here… a yoga practice is much like that for cycling: For racing I start with a clear focus of what I’m going to achieve, followed by a warm up, then the event which involves total concentration and the ability to maintain a relatively uncomfortable position for a period of time, then there is a reflection on my performance and a warm down. Yoga has taught me to transfer my conscious away from my body and into my mind, to reconsider physical pain/fatigue as a positive feeling, to resist the urge to fidget and not to relax into a more comfortable position; an essential practice for timetrial where maintaining an aerodynamic position is so critical.

I’d encourage every cyclist to give yoga a go for these reasons alone. If you are too embarrassed to go to a class, there are some great DVDs available.

So, whilst I hope my riding style isn’t too ‘stiff-pole’, I’m pretty confident that my general flexibility is way beyond that of the average rider.

Wikipedia has more detailed information on Ashtanga Yoga if you’d like to read more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashtanga_Vinyasa_Yoga

My yoga DVD collection includes tuition by Tara Lee, Nicki Doane and Rodney Yee.

 Posted by at 1:10 am
Nov 082013
 

coffee

‘Milk of Death’ is the rather unaffectionate nickname my husband has allocated to the bottle of raw milk he discovered in our fridge.

Modbury Farm, a local dairy where I purchased it from, has more positive things to say!

Raw milk is said to have many benefits to your health such as:

  • beneficial bacteria is contained within raw milk that is destroyed when it undergoes the pasteurisation process.
  • a high level of Omega 3 which is good for your heart.
  • It also tastes great with a rich and full bodied flavour.

It is basically unprocessed – straight from the cow – which fits into my ‘eat simple and with thought’ ethos. It comes with many health benefits, but having avoided the usual safety measures of the pasteurisation process it does also carry some risks.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) and other official health bodies warn against the consumption of raw milk. I noticed on the bottle I purchased that it has to carry a cigarette-style health warning, and though most experts agree that it has nutritional benefits, many argue that the risks of drinking unpasteurised milk outweigh them. The official line is that pasteurisation might destroy a few vitamins, but it also destroys harmful – even potentially fatal – bacteria such as listeria, salmonella and E coli.

Due to the risks mentioned, I don’t advise anyone else to drink it, but with the research I’ve taken on board I personally feel happy to try it. I’m curious to find out what a difference the pasturisation process can make to a product that we generally feel is ‘natural’ and ‘unprocessed’.

Now, this is a strange thing for me to take on because I don’t actually like milk, or dairy food in general, but I do enjoy a really good flat white coffee. I don’t know how this happened as five years ago I would have only drunk espresso, but I guess I got sucked in with the fashion for sipping on milky lattes and frothy cappuccinos. I want to find an alternative milk for my coffee; I want to find something more palatable, but more importantly something that’ll offer better nutritional benefit and doesn’t have such a hidden dark side in terms of animal welfare. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that a cow must be kept in calf to keep producing milk.

I struggle with dairy in all sorts of ways and I don’t really want to be a part of it, unless of course I can feel happy with the whole picture. I don’t really want to be needlessly omitting things from my diet which is why I’m looking for a better option. On visiting Modbury Farm and briefly meeting the owners and the handsome small herd of jersey cows, I was blown away by what I saw – they clearly have the cow’s welfare in mind and not just for financial reasons.

If you want to read more about Modbury farm, their raw milk and jersey herd you can visit www.modburyfarm.co.uk

I took my carton of raw milk to Amid Giants and Idols (my very favourite very independent and artisan coffee shop) today and we had great fun doing a private testing session. With the UK’s #11 barista making the coffee, you know it’s always going to taste good! But would I know which was raw and which was pasteurised? Would it affect the flavour of the coffee?

It was surprisingly easy to tell the difference. The raw milk does indeed have a distinctive flavour and is noticeably sweeter and creamier than the pasteurised whole milk. I didn’t like it. The others loved it.

Rob will no doubt be pleased to hear that there’ll be no more Milk of Death lurking in our fridge, but I will be back to Modbury to purchase the pasteurised milk from their happy jersey cows.

I will try some of the nut milks next, and have also been given the nod towards goats milk. Just the idea of it throws my stomach, but I will give it a go. I’ve been assured that after two cups of tea I wont remember the difference. We’ll have to see.

For more info on Amid Giants and Idols coffee house in Lyme Regis please visit www.amidgiantsandidols.co.uk. I can’t tell you how good their coffee is – you’ll just have to try it!

For more info on suppliers of raw milk you can check out www.naturalfoodfinder.co.uk. Long-held safety concerns over pathogens found in unpasteurised milk mean that it is banned in Scotland, and banned from shops and supermarkets in England, Northern Ireland and Wales. But producers can sell directly to local consumers through farm shops, farmers’ markets and deliveries.

 

 Posted by at 12:16 am
Nov 012013
 

toasty-1

Just thought I’d share a very simple recipe. I’ve been trying to make my diet more wholesome; more nutritional. My mission is to eat clean and with thought. I hope by working towards a more optimal diet I’ll see some gains in my riding performance next year.

A few things have triggered this change, but mostly it’s come from realising that what I think our daughter should be eating isn’t necessarily what I’d been choosing for myself. It’s been an interesting observation.

This recipe is for toasted breakfast oats. I tested this out as wanted to experiment with coconut oil and agave nectar and was looking for a quick nutritional breakfast to make a change from my usual omelette. I can honestly say, having made this, that I’ll never buy a luxury (or any) cereal again as this is so delicious and so simple to make. I can bake a small batch each evening and can easily change the flavour combinations so it doesn’t get boring.

We have this twice a week as a sweet treat – it’s so incredibly tasty!

For a small (single baking tray) batch:
Turn oven to 160 degC. In a saucepan, melt one spoon of coconut oil with a spoon each of olive oil, agave nectar and soft brown sugar. Take off the heat once all melted and combined. Add a tiny pinch of salt and enough jumbo oats to soak up the mixture. I also add a generous portion of flaked almonds and sultanas and a light sprinkle of cinnamon. Scatter onto a baking tray and place in oven. I check every few minutes and give the oats a mix-up for a more even bake. Once they start to show a little colour they are probably done. Take out and leave to cool on the tray then transfer to an airtight container.

Tonight I think I’ll try with grated orange zest and then shave in some dark orange chocolate once it has cooled. Can be served with yoghurt for breakfast or ice cream for a pudding. I eat mine dry with a big mug of Dorset tea – yum.

Hope you enjoy your toasty oats…

 Posted by at 6:59 pm
Aug 222013
 

DearDiary3 DearDiary1

Dear diary,

I’m writing with a confession. I’ve been misled recently – lured in by a summer fling with the sea. Memories of past sport and passion for the ocean have blurred my cycle racing focus.

Lack of consistent training has led to a lack of confidence to be able to match or exceed my early season performance: two new club records and the winners trophy for the Wessex inter-club 10 mile TT series sat on our windowsill. It was mental and fun turning myself inside out for these, and I recall the pure emotion and taste of an escaping tear on going over the line for one of them, but perhaps I burnt out? Since these it has been too easy to turn to idillic summer days and evenings playing on the beach and paddling in and on the sea.

The washing line, once always dressed in cycle kit, is now more often a gallery for various swimwear and beach towels. It looks unusual but not out of place. The sea-salty swim kit has a familiar and comforting smell and washing it through is an old ritual for me that provides time to recall and embed memories from the day.

I type this from my turbo trainer so all is not lost! The training is becoming more regular again. The visits to the beach less frequent. My biggest confession is that it’s been an incredible summer – the best – and I don’t regret the family time I’ve indulged in, the ice cream I’ve eaten or the rediscovery of my childhood love of the sea.

With Rob returning to his youthful passion of skateboarding, I wonder if it’s something to do with having children that makes us regress and remember?

I aim to end the season on a high and it’s enjoyable to regather and streamline my dreams and goals again. Some recent gentle evening rides (and some furious strava KOM bashing) has reminded me of my long standing love of the bike and also my potential. The rhythm of the turning wheels is not so different from that of the bobbing waves. I’ll continue to enjoy the sea for a couple more months, but realistically it will be too cold for swimming and SUP by end of October – just in time to start serious work on the bike for 2014  🙂

Follow me on instagram @moxiecycle

 

DearDiary6 DearDiary4 DearDiary5 DearDiary12 DearDiary11 DearDiary9 DearDiary10 DearDiary2

 Posted by at 9:43 pm
Jul 212013
 

The summer sun beats through me like an extra heart
Makes me stronger
Put power to pedal for longer
It heightens my adrenalin from the start
It brightens my view all along the way
Warm summer sun, I’ve chased you to the very end of this day

SummerSunA SummerSunBSummerSunC SummerSunDSummerSunE SummerSunF

 Posted by at 4:13 pm
Jun 272013
 

Clouds

We have a rule in our household – there are a couple of words (and any derivatives) that we are only allowed to say once each day. These are ‘hungry’ and ‘tired’. Meg is excused from this, however, I’m sure she is the best fed and slept out of the three of us.

It got to a stage where I think the only thing I was ever saying to Rob was how tired I am. The fact is, of course, that I do feel utterly exhausted. Juggling full time mum, part time work, and training/racing is a choice I’ve made though, and on the whole it’s been achievable.

However, it does all fall down when Meg gets a bit under-the-weather, and this is what happens when she’s teething. We’ve just seen the pattern for the sixth time now, and it basically involves Meg needing Mummy 100% of the day. It’s hard on me, and on Rob too as his giggling little companion doesn’t want to play. It’s lovely to know that just being held provides such comfort for her, but carrying around over 10kg all day is very wearing physically, and knowing she’s in pain is emotionally wearing too.

All-in-all a two week stint of teething for Meg means no training or racing for me, and a real struggle to meet work demands. It passes though, Meg starts giggling again and all resumes to the careful balance we’d originally equated: mum/work/bike.

I’m very fortunate. It’s not always easy to remember this when sat up in bed, neck crooked and desperately trying not to give in to my tired eyes because I’m holding our baby – it’s the only way she’ll fall and stay asleep when she’s feeling poorly. I’m fortunate because I have this amazing family where there is support and a shared vision for what we can achieve; I can be more than a mum, and Rob can be more than a provider. We both work part time, we both get to be a large part of Megan’s upbringing, and we are both getting out on our bikes for rides and events. It’s all done through taking in turns, but we also put a priority on ‘family time’ to enjoy this magical time as new parents. It’s no wonder we are exhausted, money is tight and the house could look better, but it’s right that moaning about being tired or being hungry shouldn’t be the topic of conversation… there is so much else that’s positive going on, and let’s face it, who ISN’T tired?

 

 

 

 

 Posted by at 9:19 pm
May 212013
 
I can’t believe it. Meg will be turning one very soon, and it’s made me reflect a bit on the past couple of years.
This time last year I looked like this:
JenBump
Pregnancy felt like a prison sentence for me… I can’t say I enjoyed it too much! There are obviously magical moments as all mothers will tell you, but on the whole I struggled to let go of control over my body… my figure in particular. I missed being agile and I missed feeling light. I missed riding my bike outdoors and the freedom that comes with it. I missed my pretty clothes. I missed being pretty! I did love the shock on people’s faces when I’d turn to the side and they’d see that I was massively pregnant, but hadn’t been able to tell from the back. I missed feeling small when my husband hugged me, or tried to at least. I just had to watch as my belly grew and grew, and my hips and boobs with it. I never felt comfortable. My energetic step rapidly turned into a waddle and the lack of space left in my body meant I was always short of breath. I really worried about my fitness as I’d already been off the bike for a season due to a nasty crash on my road bike.
A year previous I looked like this:
JenCrash
It’s a funny old thing. If I hadn’t had that crash I don’t think we’d have started a family yet. I completely snapped my collar bone, amongst other injuries, but it took ages to heal and being forced off the bike for such a long stint meant that Rob and I did lots of other fun stuff. We went on cliff-side picnics and when I was a bit more mobile we went on lots of walks. I really fell in love with walking again and we regularly walked sections of the south coast path. The views are stunning and provided a bit of that freedom in the outdoors that I so often crave. I realised that I could cope with being off the bike for a while and I think the shift of focus away from my riding allowed the broodiness to set in!
MegWalk
So here we are, year three living in Somerset and we have a beautiful baby girl who has just learnt to crawl, but really wants to walk. I’ve been back on my bike for almost nine months – training properly for six with Rob coaching me. I have already surpassed my Season’s target on our local five mile TT, taking the Yeovil women’s club record now well below 13 minutes and also set a new 30 mile club record. It feels great to be racing regularly, and my results have provided great reassurance that it is possible to take time out to have a family and return to decent form in a relatively short space of time. We know I’m not quite back where I was prior to my crash, but I’m having a very successful season so far and it’s a lot of fun to be doing something new like time trials. I think I’m addicted!
JenTT-kit  JenTT-hill
 Posted by at 3:37 pm
Apr 142013
 

…you’ve done something wrong.

And it’s a case of working out what before you do it again!

tt-jen

Rob’s method of coaching is very scientific; it’s heavily based on numbers and algorithms and quadrants and smart stuff like that, as well as personal intuition and understanding of the athlete. I don’t ask him to explain it as it’d require condensing over twenty years of experience and huge volumes of reading materials into something I might just about comprehend. I just know that what he tells me works, so, with the aid of a power meter I try to stick to it as best I can. First event this season was an enjoyable win (with a little prize money for Megan’s piggy bank) and I set a very comfortable PB on my second event. Proof that The Training Experiment has paid off.

But, when I repeated the local time trial last week and put out more watts and in better conditions, why did I get a slower time? Surely this should have been another PB?

Rob spent a good couple of hours analysing the race data from peak power outputs to air temperatures and declared it a “perfectly paced race – you must have had your head stuck up in the air”.

Simple as that. I threw away 10 seconds because I wasn’t concentrating enough on my position. I bothered to push myself harder but was too lazy to pull my neck in. It’s very frustrating to loose time like this.

So, now the quest is on to work on my position. With something like 70% of resistance coming from drag (and I believe this goes up exponentially with speed) it’s really worth getting this right. The next few events will be experimental. I can’t wait to see what sort of difference it makes.

 Posted by at 9:51 pm