The Trans Alp Bike Race claims to be the toughest amateur Mountain Bike stage race in Europe. Six hundred teams, each made up of two riders, set out from Imst in Austria on a seven-day epic that ended this year in Arco, Italy. Of the six hundred teams 16 were women’s teams.
The race is an ultimate test of mountain bike endurance and skill. My teammate, Michelle and I, spent seven days doing battle up mountain passes, riding along valley floors, passing through tunnels and dropping down breath-taking descents as we crossed from Austria to Italy. We passed through 3 countries and climbed over 17,000mts – that’s the equivalence of climbing Mount Everest twice over – and rode 521km. As a team, we burnt around 70,000 calories, went through 4 sets of brake pads, ate a lot of watermelon at the rest stops, consumed 36 energy gels from High5 and SIS, 12 bananas, drank around 4.5L a day and spent 44 hours in the saddle!
I recently spent 4 weeks trekking with my 3-month-old baby on the GR11 route across the Pyrenees. It was (mostly) an incredible experience seeing the mountains through new eyes and also allowing us to travel even more slowly and mindfully. Getting outside with a baby is fantastic!
Submitted by an anonymous but wonderful woman in adventure.
No matter your shape or size do not ever let this hold you back or prevent you trying an outdoor sport/activity.
Your only limits will be those imposed by your mind. Never let the negative chimp win! After completing a run, ride or route you will feel fantastic. Don’t let fear or perceived weakness/inadequacy stop you.
Finally, remember, no one will be looking at you and judging you anything like as harshly as you judge yourself!!
Submitted by Kath Goodey – follow her on Instagram.
I celebrated my year of turning 50 with a year of training for two massive goals – a 32-mile marathon swim and a 10K swim with a 4-hour time limit. I did both in August 2017.
For my marathon swim, I needed to train for months – I swam 100 miles in July alone. I also needed a support crew, and was able to gather 7 members of Team 32 to guide and support me during what turned into 28 hours and 6 minutes of continuous swimming. I had two boat pilots and five kayakers in a rotation. Nobody had been part of a marathon swim like this before. I’m the oldest woman to swim Lake George – and I plan to use what I learned to do it again.
Since my swim, I have met other fabulous women in open water and marathon swimming. We mainly communicate online, but it is so incredible to be part of the group. Someday, we will inspire everyone to wear diaper cream on special occasions!
How yoga enhancement has helped my quadrathlon training?
I got talked into going to my first Ashtanga Yoga class by my daughter Lucy. She hadn’t passed her driving test, was home from University and she was missing her weekly yoga fix. I am a fit Quadrathlete (swim, kayak, bike run) who trains hard, a keen gym goer, regular to Pilates and Stretch classes, plus a coach in fitness classes, triathlon and kayaking. I thought it would be easy and that I would be quite good at it… How wrong I was!
I was humbled to find myself struggling with the poses and not as flexible as I thought, couldn’t balance and I wasn’t even sure this was going to be enjoyable every week! However my daughter (completely hooked) convinced me, I would improve and it would help my training if I continued. As a veteran athlete, any small gains are worth it, and she did need a lift every week so I decided to persevere!
It was after about 6 weeks I started to notice how yoga had begun to enhance my training. My body felt more flexible, loosening tight muscles after intense training sessions allowing my body to move more smoothly in my four disciplines.
Practicing the postures encourages me to use full range of motion, which again helps with my flexibility. The standing poses are especially good for strengthening and stabilizing the muscles of the lower leg whilst stretching the hip muscles, this combination will hopefully lead to greater power and strength. I still struggle with the single leg standing poses, but I hope to improve my breathing and use my breath to find my inner strength to enable me to balance better.
I have a strong core due to years of training, but since starting yoga I certainly now feel I have a much greater awareness of how important it is, to engage these muscles whilst performing in my various disciplines. I feel my swimming has become much stronger as I’m flatter, smoother and longer enabling my body to glide through the water more efficiently. Whilst kayaking, I hold my core strong and back straight, improving my rotation giving me more power as I pull the paddle through the water. Whilst in an aero position on the bike, drawing my shoulders down my back and engaging the core, enables me to keep strong in a horizontal position. This lets me push more power through the glutes and quad muscles giving me a strong fluid bike ride. The final discipline is the run, where flexibility and strength in the hamstrings and hip flexors are key to a good performance. Engaging and releasing the hamstring muscles through concentric and eccentric contractions, which we do in many of our poses has certainly helped fire my hamstrings to perform better. I’ve noticed these improvements whilst running up and down hills when they are under much more stress. All these are big positives from my Ashtanga class, which I can feel in my body, posture and performance.
I still have many more steps to improve beyond the physical flexibility and strength. The aspect I still find difficult is the breathing, the letting go, the visualization and the concentration of the mind. Being an endurance athlete you need all these mental strengths, I am hoping to be able to improve these, so it will help me focus more and keep calm in the long challenging events where my body is pushed beyond its limits.
My daughter Lucy has now passed her driving test and doesn’t need a lift, but I feel it has now become an important part of my training regime. I feel the gains are already enhancing my training and with my race season about to start any improvements have got to be a bonus, especially as a veteran athlete!
I am an advantaged girl from a working-class background attempting to sea kayak around Ireland! I would love you to read about the challenges I faced and the people I met. It has taught me so much about myself and life.
As a busy working Mum, flying solo with my two sons and also wanting to support my Dad, life can be demanding to say the least. Like many women in their 40s and 50s, throw in the impact of the menopause and I can easily feel like I’m running on empty, physically, emotionally and mentally.
One of the simplest yet most effective ways to refill is to make time for tiny, joyful adventures. Running through the hills on a chilly winter morning, bodyboarding in the North Sea watching the sunrise or paddleboarding on a summer’s afternoon refill my soul and self-confidence.
Running or snorkelling make me slow down my breathing which in turn quietens the To Do list whirling through my head. Watching the waves and judging when to launch onto my bodyboard so that I fly to the shore means nothing else can distract me. I am fully living in the present, not worrying what I coulda, shoulda, mighta done at work or at home.
Falling off my paddleboard, spotting a seal as it pops up to say hello or simply splashing through the waves give me a huge, spontaneous smile. Laughing at my mistakes and not worrying what anyone thinks bring a glorious sense of freedom and play.
These adventures may last less than an hour – believe me, an hour in the North Sea in November is a long time! – but can feel like a world away from the pressures of the everyday. I return renewed, refreshed, revived. I’m often exhausted and exhilarated in equal measure. Calmer and yet more alive. My body is tingling, my heart full and my mind soothed. I sleep deeply. Oh so deeply!
They may be the tiniest of adventures, yet they gift the greatest of joys, which sustain me over the days and challenges ahead.
In our 50s we go into the world, working so hard to be the best mothers, daughters, sisters, friends and colleagues we can be. Tiny adventures allow us that rare and joyful opportunity to simply be ourselves. They gently bring us home again.