Well it has been quite a couple of weeks! I think the above image sums it up, if I was keen to do more HIIT type activities, then I got that in spades in the past 14 days.
I have been juggling the demands of possibly now too much work, with my usual training, and then the addition of a visit from my parents, down from Aberdeen for the first time since August 2019.
I am embracing the fact that the Serpentine is back open again now after the blue green algae closure and oh my it feels wonderful. I love this time of year, the water feels lovely and calm and there is just the start of a chill in the air. The GoPro I am sure will be making a return next week to capture some of those early morning sunrise swims.
The calm of the water has been contrasted with some HIIT intervals in my cycling. Again, pulling on the knowledge I have picked up from my Menopause for Athletes course, I have been concentrating on some hard, short intervals of 30 secs to 1 minute. But of course still trying to keep my distances up to complete my challenge by the end of the year. The past 2 weeks are looking like this:
With a total distance of just under 6,800km covered, I would now just have passed Santiago in Chile. The thought of that makes me very nostalgic as it is where I completed my actual Andes challenge in 2017. We managed to have two days in this bustling city and certainly celebrated our efforts! Well having navigated not only the scariest winding downhill I have ever witnessed, the last ride into the city took us for about 60km on a major road that I kept hoping the police would stop us from cycling on. It was little wonder we jumped at the chance to indulge in a 'Terremoto' cocktail or three when we arrived to calm our jangled nerves. As the locals explained, the name translates literally as 'earthquake' apparently because of the effect it has on your legs. Oh yes, thankfully there was no cycling the next day...
Continuing the social theme, I believe I may have broken my parents with five days of full on activity that included a trip to Bletchley Park, a tour of Shakespeare's Globe, a boat trip to Greenwich and a fun night at the Comedy Store, not to mention plenty of meals and socialising. I think I sometimes forget my parents are in their lates seventies and eighties, especially as they seemed fair game for a ten hour day out on the Sunday.
They are now back in Aberdeen building up their reserves for the next trip in 12 months.
I must admit I found Bletchley Park fascinating, especially as my mum and dad's neighbour was one of the codebreakers there during the war. Sadly passed now, she was a fascinating woman who was obviously sworn to secrecy at the time so that even her husband didn't know what she did.
And for the rare couple of hours when my folks had a relax back at their hotel, Ian and I had an opportunity to do a bit of sightseeing ourselves and soak up the autumn sun in St James Park. Then it was back into full on mode again as the next week saw a night out with some cycling friends I haven't seem for ages, and then a trip to our favourite Gordon's Wine Bar when my best friend Shirley come down from Aberdeen for a few days with her mum. This was a trip that likewise they usually do every year but had missed in 2020. Some lovely, long awaited moments of normality!
It's been a week of switching things up and starting to change the way I am training a bit following on from the learnings of my 'Menopause for Athletes' course. Contrary to what public expectations might be of that, perhaps along the lines of "oh, getting older, better ease things off a bit" Well far from it, what I have been learning most of all is that during this time we really should be training for power, not endurance. Apparently women over the age of 40 inherently have the ability for endurance, whereas we start to lose our power and ability to build muscle mass. I briefed Javier on what I would like to achieve from a 'heavy lifting session' at Hyde Park and he took me at my word! We were doing sets of no more than 5 reps at a time of squats, deadlifts followed by farmer carries, rows and then single handed overhead presses with a kettlebell whilst seated on the floor. These shots are certainly anything but flattering, but they give a sense of the effort. I didn't include the seated overhead press as it truly is a grimace - I had no idea how much stability we put through our legs and feet when we do these standing up. The seated version is a real challenge of balance and core activation. I could feel the DOMS setting in even early that evening, but definitely felt the benefit of this session.
Its very appropriate that I was doing a power session with Argentinian Javier this week as I would now be in the Cordón de la Ramada region running between Argentina and Chile. This area boasts boasts five peaks over 6000m, including the mammoth Cerro Mercedario, which tops out at 6770m. I would be needing to pull on all of my muscular resources to get through these climbs! The distances this week are looking like this:
Another couple of glimpses of normality came this week, firstly in the form of a site visit for a potential event I may be managing in December. YES an actual meeting with people in London at a REAL in person event. It was a breath of fresh air after being stuck to my two Mac screens running virtual events for such a long time. It also gave me the opportunity to see my great production colleague Duncan in person after working with him via a screen for over 18months.
Then the week rounded off perfectly with another singing opportunity. Singing teacher Matt Thompson had tried to keep our choir going via Zoom for the first few months of lockdown, but it just hadn't been the same with varying wifi strengths and we had stopped even these virtual meet ups around August last year. A close group though, we had kept in touch via a WhatsApp group and were delighted when Matt suggested a get together at a bar in Camden for a singalong around the piano. Apparently it had been requested by the bar owner and we jumped at the opportunity! It was quite emotional to actually see these people in the flesh again after almost 20 months and we embraced the following 2.5 hours of singing. It seemed bizarre after the restrictions to think we could not only be in such close proximity in a bar without a mask but also singing heartily into each others faces. I won't subject you to the video footage but the highlights had to be the renditions of 'Sweet Caroline', 'Living on a Prayer' and to see the whole bar na na na naaaa-ing to 'Hey Jude' at the end of the night. It truly was a night of joy and hopefully a monthly fixture. So make your way to the Lord Stanley in Camden next month to be part of the fun :)
It's been a much needed lower volume week after my long hilly race last weekend.
My swimming was also reduced due to the presence of blue green algae at the Serpentine, shutting the lido down until it clears. Although this initially caused me panic to think of how I felt during Covid closures, it then afforded me the opportunity to return to my initial open water swimming location in London, the mixed ponds at Hampstead Heath. This is a lovely oasis of calm a short bike ride away from my flat. I can see why there has been such a furore that the City of London have doubled the entrance fee to swim here, however, which takes away from its accessibility for so many people. I feel very lucky to have my £20 Serpentine membership which allows me to swim any morning I like (blue green algae aside of course!) Once in the water though, with only another half a dozen swimmers around me I was embracing this change of scenery for my swim.
I also used this week as an opportunity to get some more paddleboarding in with some paddling along the Grand Union Canal. There was another glimpse of nature in action here as I could see the effect the warm weather we did a few weeks back has had on the water - a multiplying of duckweed on the surface. It's a bizarre feeling as you go through this bright green carpet lying on the canal. Apparently back in 2016 the Canal River Trust removed over 70 tonnes of the stuff which deprives wildlife of oxygen.
So the reduced distances look like this:
This distance would now find me at La Serena in Chile. Founded in 1544, it is the second-oldest city after Santiago and the thriving capital of the Coquimbo Region. Blessed with both beautiful architecture and a long golden shoreline, the city absorbs hoards of Chilean holidaymakers in January and February, though it is fairly peaceful outside the summer rush. Sauntering through downtown La Serena reveals dignified stone churches, tree-shaded avenues and some pretty plazas. Some of the city's architecture is from the colonial era, but most is actually neocolonial – the product of Serena-born president Gabriel González Videla's 'Plan Serena' of the late 1940s.
I also completed my 'Menopause for Athletes' course this week.
Delivered by Stacy T. Sims, Ph.D., this course gives the science-based knowledge and research needed to understand the changes happening to your body and give the strategies needed to optimise your performance and health. Prior to her life as a key researcher and author in this area, Stacy served as an exercise physiologist and nutrition scientist at Stanford University where she specialised in sex differences with environmental and nutritional considerations for recovery and performance, specialising in women's health and performance.
There were 57 chapters of enlightening content in this course, covering the science behind these hormonal changes, and how to adapt nutrition and training to work with your body, not against it. I am very much realising that most research on training and nutrition has been created for men and simply scaled down for women. As Stacy sums it up 'Women are not small men'. I will be putting this knowledge into practice not only for my own training, but for women I coach.
On the subject of certification, I stumbled upon this other little gem below 'awarded' to me by my creative friend Moz, after he and Dawn were my support boat crew in one of my loch swims in Scotland back in 2001. As I sent a shot of it to him he mused "nothing much changes, does it?"
This week also saw the welcome return of some activities that had been affected by Covid restrictions. I had my first sports massage in over 6 months, which was heaven after last week. Not only Covid, but mostly financial resources had prevented me from having regular massages, and I definitely felt the benefit after this one. It was made all the sweeter by the fact that my lovely friend Martin had surprised me by booking in two credits for me for massages after my recent race. Cheers Martin!
But the highlight of my week had to be my first face to face singing lesson in over 18 months. Prior to that I had been going to singing teacher Matt Thompson at least twice a month, and to his choir every week. My friend Tracey and I went to Matt to indulge our love of singing and managed a duet of 'Everybody's Talking' within the hour. And oh it felt wonderful! There is also a choir get together and singalong planned for next week and I can't wait. I have such fond memories of when we performed some songs as part of my 50th party back in 2018. As someone commented looking at this photo recently "Wow, look how close together we are there!" Bring it on!
Denise Yeats is an events director, communications consultant, endurance athlete and avid adventurer.