Goodbye bump…. hello little boy!

Bump's last mtb ride at 37.5 weeks

Bump’s last mtb ride at 37.5 weeks

A friend who has never mountain biked before wanted to give it a try (yay a convert!) so I decided that since I felt good I’d go along with her for a very easy run at Glentress. And so bump had his last ride as a bump at 37.5 weeks gestation. It was a nice day, we drove up to the top carpark and had two leisurely goes round the green route. Then I took the van back down the hill while they rode down the blue back to the Peel cafe. My friend enjoyed herself (or at least said she did) so I am hoping she’ll come back with me after the birth to keep me company while I attempt my first post-pregnancy full climb up from the bottom car park.

Two weeks after that ride, we were overjoyed to be able to meet our wee boy!

Obviously nobody can predict what labour and birth might have in store for them, there are so many factors over which we have absolutely no control, and so much is down to luck. But being active throughout pregnancy and having experience of endurance sports pre-pregnancy certainly felt like it helped me cope with the psychological side of labour and birth. We were fortunate to spend most of the labour at home or in the birthing pool and both recovered from the birth well.

In fact, we were so fortunate in our experience and recovery that last weekend, after just three weeks, I was feeling ready to get back on my bike. The boy is breastfeeding every 1.5-2hrs so I am not planning anything strenuous anytime soon, but cabin-fever was starting to set in after two weeks spent mainly indoors with only gentle walks with the sling or pram to keep me mobile. So, on Saturday my husband took the boy and I headed out on my hardtail for a gentle bike path ride.

I started with the sheer joy of being able to manual up a large kerb… a couple of bunny hops, followed by a descent of a small flight of steps. Oh my goodness it’s good to not be responsible for a permanent passenger any more!!

I blasted up a smooth off-road path for 20km in 1hr20m (a route that took me a good 2hrs when pregnant). Got back in time for the boy’s next feed with a dose of sunshine and the cobwebs blown away…. almost makes it possible to handle the sleep deprivation :)

Categories: mountain biking, pregnancy | Leave a comment

Pregnant mountainbiking: my top tips

I did my last properly tough mountain bike rides when I was 6.5-7.5 weeks pregnant. I wasn’t worried about hurting the embryo as it was so small at that stage and so protected inside my body. But a couple of weeks later I started looking around for tips and advice on mountainbiking when pregnant and all I could find was the advice “don’t do it”. But I also heard people say that about running when pregnant and yet I know many women do it safely and there’s even a book by Runner’s World on Running and Pregnancy.

So, I continued to ride and made adjustments. Every pregnancy is different, but here are my personal top tips on mountain biking in pregnancy if you want to keep riding:

1. Do what YOU feel comfortable and confident doing. Nobody but you knows how you feel on the bike in terms of balance and rough terrain. Pregnancy is supposed to affect your balance but so far I haven’t felt that. I am choosing to stick mostly to double-track, farm tracks, forest roads and well-surfaced ‘all access’ walking paths. I know I could ride my local blue route but for me the temptation to go fast or to jump off the obstacles is just too much so the only blue route I’ve ridden since the second trimester is one I’d never seen before which I was able to ride slowly and conservatively. I have also not used spds, wearing flats and keeping to slow speeds and nothing steep so that if I do have a wobble chances are I’ll be able to put a foot down rather than actually hit the deck.

Bump at 29 weeks on a bike ride near Wooler

Bump at 29 weeks on a bike ride near Wooler

2. Effort. For guidance on effort I used the advice in the pregnancy running book. I have stuck to riding well within myself at a steady pace where I am breathing slightly hard and just starting to sweat but not puffing or getting overheated. I have chosen routes without any steep hills mainly because I cannot comfortably use my core for power so I am sitting in a low gear using my legs only at high cadence. For those in the early stages of pregnancy it is worth knowing that even if you feel out of breath and struggling at 8,9,10 weeks you might still feel absolutely fine at 20+ weeks. My body struggled a lot with the hormonal changes in the first trimester and I was truly exhausted but after 20 weeks I got my energy back and felt far more able to ride again.

3. Water. Drink it. Lots. I have found myself feeling best when I’ve been drinking a HUGE amount more than pre-pregnancy. By the end of the pregnancy you will have increased your blood volume by 50%, not to mention all the other fluids you need in pregnancy so you need to stay hydrated. I’ve been sucking down a litre or more even on a very gentle 20k ride on the flat. I live in a cool country but if you’re somewhere warm make sure you’re taking on enough electrolyte to balance the fluid. This will be more than you needed pre-pregnancy.

5. Positioning on the bike. This became an issue for me around 18 weeks. I didn’t have much of a bump by then really but even still the angle of my pelvis had changed as well as the ligaments in my pelvis relaxing with the hormones meaning that after 1.5-2hrs in the saddle I was feeling sore and needing to sit upright to relieve the stiffness. I solved this with three adjustments…

Stem

Stem

First I swapped the stem on my bike for a shorter one. The stem is the bit that goes between the vertical steering tube and the horizontal handlebars (see photo). Stems come in various lengths; 50mm, 70mm, 100mm… the shorter the stem, the closer your handlebars will be to you and the more upright your body position will be.

Second was looking at the saddle….

Saddle adjustment

Saddle adjustment

If you loosen both the bolts that face down towards the ground you can slide the saddle back and forward on the metal runners you see in this photo to bring it closer or further away from the handlebars. Again, the closer to the handlebars, the more upright you will be, I moved mine forward about 1.5cms.

The third adjustment happens when tightening those same bolts again; the balance between the tightness of each of them will control the angle of the saddle, you can see in this picture that the front of my saddle is a little bit lower than the back, this keeps the majority of my weight on my actual sitting bones rather than anywhere more delicate!

For the two adjustments of the saddle, I took an allen key out with me on a 2.5hr ride and stopped 3-4 times to adjust a bit forward, a bit back, a bit up, a bit down, till I got the balance just right. This has lasted me so far from 18 weeks to 29 weeks in comfort.

6. Clothes. I’ve posted this already but I bought a set of cycling clothes from a cheap supermarket (Aldi) – shorts (knee-length, ladies size 16), a men’s large t-shirt and a men’s large jacket with zip-off sleeves – all for £30 total. The kit is a bit nasty (shorts very thin, jacket gets a bit sweaty) but I’ll only be wearing it for six months or so.

All for £30!!

All for £30!!

For a waterproof, I’ve been stealing my husband’s but it’s getting tight now too so I’m just using the softshell in the rain or just getting wet.

7. Frustration. I’ve struggled a bit with the frustration of sticking to easy trails and avoiding exertion and adrenaline (two key elements of mountainbiking normally) but I have found that even though I may be very un-inspired by the route I’ve got planned I ALWAYS feel better after I’ve been out. Also, I’m trying to think of these pregnant rides as scouting rides for routes that will work when the bump is a baby in a trailer or bike seat.

8. Knowing when to stop…. well, I now have less than seven weeks to D-day and haven’t stopped yet.. I’ll let you know…

Categories: mountain biking, pregnancy | 4 Comments

Wooler and Kielder blue route riding

Bump at 29 weeks on a bike ride near Wooler

Bump at 29 weeks on a bike ride near Wooler

With bigger things on our mind this year, we didn’t really want to spend a lot of money on our summer holidays this year. We also wanted to go before I got to the stage where I couldn’t really do much…. not that we knew (or know) when that stage would/will come.

So we took a week off in June 29 weeks into the pregnancy to go off in our campervan. We chose to head south to the northern part of Northumberland and the very southern part of the Scottish Borders where I hoped the less extreme landscape would mean more walking and cycling opportunities I could still handle.

In the end it worked out very well. I did two big bike rides during the week. Both of about 25km… the first was a ride around Wooler which we found in a leaflet in Wooler tourist info. As a lot of the ride was on National Cycle Network (NCN) 68 I assumed it would be all on tarmac or surfaced path, but I was wrong.. it was far more interesting :) It was 24km in total with 370m of climbing and took just under 2 1/2 hours:

NCN routes aren't all tarmac it turns out!

NCN routes aren’t all tarmac it turns out!

Who knew a NCN route could be this interesting?

Who knew a NCN route could be this interesting?

Made me laugh

Made me laugh

So many great routes in the area around Wooler

So many great routes in the area around Wooler

The second ride I managed was a couple of days later. We were in Kielder where there are man-made mountain bike routes and we planned to do the blue ‘Osprey’ route together then Si would add the red route afterwards.

mtb-map

The first half of the route has one nice bit of singletrack but is mainly on forest road. When we got halfway round I was quite tired and we considered stopping where the route splits and one option goes back to the start, but…. there’s a map by the trail side at that point and it showed that almost all the second half of the ride would be on singletrack… I couldn’t resist!

By the time we got back I’d covered almost 27km and climbed over 400m and it had taken 3 1/2 hours. The last 5km into a screaming headwind. I felt utterly exhausted. But a couple of hours later and after some food I felt absolutely fine again and had no aches at all then or the next day.

The holiday also involved a couple of short walks…

Nature walk on Lindisfarne

Nature walk on Lindisfarne

Short walk in Craik forest

Short walk in Craik forest

Categories: mountain biking, outdoors, pregnancy | Leave a comment

Tweedlove.. with a bump

This past week has been the annual Tweedlove bike festival in the Tweed Valley. Last year during Tweedlove I took part in the Glentress 7 (a seven hour race for solos, pairs or threes), and Natural Tweed (a 50km natural ride out), the year before I did Natural Tweed and this year my husband was signed up for the King and Queen of the Hill Enduro.

So what is a girl with a nearly-six-months-pregnant bump to do during a biking festival?

There was a big risk of me feeling a bit left out and resentful from being unable to ride, so since we were down for the Enduro anyway I thought I’d sign up to marshall. Luckily the weather was kind and it was a decent day for sitting out for six hours helping competitors ‘dip’ at the start of timed stage 3 then taking down the tape on that stage after the last rider.

My spot for the day

My spot for the day

Timed stage 3 start

Timed stage 3 start

We picked up our new campervan on the Friday before the Enduro weekend so we stayed down overnight on the Saturday between practice day and race day. It was a glorious day on the Saturday and a pleasant evening so I’m really glad we did. By Sunday night though after two days on my feet and a bit of steep hiking to clear tape off the course, I would say I was about as physically tired as my husband who had raced the course! Still it was a nice tired; sun and wind blasted and although achey not suffering any particular pregnancy pains.

Thursday night was Hervélo pub night so I went along after my pregnancy yoga class to catch up with some riding friends, then this Friday afternoon I got tired of reading tweets and hearing about other people’s riding fun so I took myself on my bike up to the Pentland hills in glorious weather. It was about 27km of gentle riding which felt pretty good even if it wasn’t particularly exciting.  I had aimed to make it back down to Glentress watch the Dual Slalom on Friday night but work conspired against us until it was too late. I’m really sorry I missed one of the Hervélos getting a podium place! Lots of Hervélo  riders also podium-ed at the GT7 which is brilliant! I wouldn’t have had any chance of a podium if I’d entered but oh, I wish I could have ridden anyway…. next summer…… :)

Categories: mountain biking, outdoors, pregnancy, Scotland, Tweed Valley | Leave a comment

Cycling to halfway… and beyond…

It’s been ten weeks since our ski holiday and it’s gone pretty quickly really. I am now 22.5 weeks pregnant so well over the half way mark. Pregnancy is always measured in weeks, before I was pregnant this meant nothing to me, so for those in that position – pregnancy is counted (in the UK anyway) as 40 weeks long which is more than 9 months.. closer to 10 really. Half way is obviously the 20 week point when there is a very detailed scan. Our 20 week scan showed a very healthy little boy measuring perfectly for his due date despite me not having very much of a bump to show and not feeling much movement yet.

After I got back from skiing, I got a cold which really knocked me in terms of energy. I was utterly exhausted and felt awful for a good couple of weeks. Pregnancy apparently narrows the sinuses anyway due to increased blood volume and the wonderful news is that almost all decongestants are banned in pregnancy as they contain stimulants. The weather also conspired against me, it snowed on and off for most of March! Very unusual for Scotland. The snow turning to ice on the paths prevented me from doing any running or cycling for a while so I ordered a couple of pregnancy fitness dvds to do at home along with my weekly yoga class.

After my cold finally shifted, the snow began to melt at lower levels. I went out for a 23km cycle with the ‘leisure ride’ group of my cycling club. It was really good fun. The ride was gentle, even for me in my current condition :) but it was nice to be out with a really friendly group of women who are all building their fitness and confidence on the bike and enjoying a social ride.

I kept promising myself that I would get out for a walk more often with the ideal of turning some into a walk/jog but my energy levels at that stage were just so low overall that working and attending the occasional social event was about all I could manage between needing to sleep… In early April I was needing around 10-12hrs sleep a day!!!!

For the last month I have managed to get out for a bike ride each weekend. A couple with the Hervelo ‘leisure’ group and a fe on my own. I have found some nice 20-25k loops from my house and although they don’t really excite me much I’m always glad I’ve gone once I’m out. I had a bit of a wobble about a week and a half ago at 21.5 weeks as the weather finally warmed and spring came and my energy returned. I felt really constrained and like I wasn’t allowed or able to do anything really fun anymore. I was very down that Saturday morning but I picked up my bike and headed out and rode 25km up into the foot of the hills on farm tracks and came back feeling 100% better. Partly it was the sunshine and fresh air and exercise and partly it was the realisation that I can do 25km if it’s steady.

The following day my husband was heading to a mountain bike trail centre near us but luckily after posting on facebook I found out a friend who is also pregnant was planning on heading down for a walk and a coffee while her partner and friends rode so we went down and had a really nice forest walk for an hour or so.

I think the wobble was caused by the return of my energy levels. I’m pleased to say that I now feel close to ‘normal’ in terms of energy and have since about 20 weeks. I know every pregnancy is different but it would have been nice to know from 6weeks onwards that it can get so much easier – I think I imagined it would only get harder!

This week, after the success of last weekend, I went out and bought myself some cheap and big bike gear. A cut-price supermarket was doing a cycling deal so I bought a pair of large ladies padded shorts which feel like they’ll last me as long as I want to keep riding. I also got a large mens cycling t-shirt and a jacket with zip off sleeves – all for £30!!! It’s not high quality stuff but it’ll get me through this summer still riding.

All for £30!!

All for £30!!

Yesterday, my husband and some friends were taking part in an event. The Perthshire Enduro at Dunkeld. It’s a lovely part of the world so I headed up there with a map plans for maybe a gentle ride or a walk while they were out. One of my friends there also decided not to enter as she’s saving money so she came with me and we rode a really pretty route on landrover tracks for a couple of hours and then went to the last downhill section to support the racers which was fun. It was great to just be outside all day again.

milldamsign

Tracks on the Atholl estate made gentle riding

mill dam 1

Mill Dam

I’m still not running, and I don’t think I will start again until after. After a talk by an ante-natal physio I am too worried about my knees and feet as I know my alignment is all out with a wider pelvis and loser ligaments meaning all pregnant women are prone to dropped arches (I overpronted before pregnancy anyway). I am really enjoying the bike riding and feeling comfortable with it and happy to say that so far I am not suffering any of the ‘normal’ pregnancy aches and pains yet so I will stick with what I know is working for me.

Categories: mountain biking, mountains, outdoors, pregnancy, Scotland | Leave a comment

Skiing, France… at 12 weeks pregnant.

This year’s ski holiday was in Val Thorens in the Three Valleys in France. It was booked long before I got pregnant or we even knew it was likely, and to be honest the highest ski resort in Europe at 2300m (7546 ft) was probably not the best choice for a pregnant woman but with snow like this who can complain?

View from our chalet balcony

View from our chalet balcony

The snow was fantastic, and the weather was so kind to us all week – with bright sunshine every day except the final morning. And with more than 600 km (370 mi) of piste in the ski area we barely scratched the surface.

IMG_1055

Perfect snow, perfect sun.

Skiing at 12weeks pregnant was fine once I’d persuaded my husband to swap salopettes - on the first day in my own salopettes I discovered I couldn’t bend at the waist at all, luckily he’s lost a bit of weight lately and could fit into mine when I commandeered his!

I had to finish up earlier than the rest of the group each day and have a nap before dinner but I still skied from 9:30am to about 3pm (sometimes 4). I took it slowly and carefully but not so slowly I couldn’t keep up with the group. Thankfully I have a very relaxed ski style (some instructors have called it a ‘lazy’ style) and I generally ski with little effort and no aggression anyway. I skipped the moguls which I usually enjoy but still had a great week.

IMG_1059

The rest of the group weren’t complaining about the extra chocolat chaud breaks!

 It’ll be a while now till we next get to the slopes, or the Alps anyway. The 2014 season is unlikely as our new addition will only be 3-5 months old. The couple of years after that we may have to make do with short trips to the Scottish slopes where we can share childcare and ski passes. But we’ve got our eye firmly set on Austria for our first family ski trip when the little one is old enough to have their first try on skis… and I fully expect him or her to be leaving both his or her parents behind in no time at all.

Categories: mountains, outdoors, pregnancy, skiing | 1 Comment

Bowhill Winter Duathlon 1

Sunday 2nd December dawned cold and frosty. It was the first (and shortest) of the Bowhill Winter off-road Duathlon series and my first ever Duathlon. I’ve done a few trail runs and a few mountain bike events so I thought I’d give this a go.

Image copyright: Iain Linton Photography

Transition at Bowhill House tearooms

For this one in the series it was run first then bike. It was so icy though that the running leg was more of an ice skating leg, starting out on black ice on tarmac estate road. By the time we started climbing the track I was pretty near the back. I puffed and panted my way up the hill struggling with the underfoot conditions – it was so rough, one foot could be sunk into mud up to the ankle while the other is on solid ice and on the next step it could be the other way round, much of the run was off-piste through the forest without even a path to follow. On the way down the hill the ice got too much for me at one point where the road had flooded then frozen and I went flying!

BowhillDuathShort

Image: Iain Linton

I landed full body in the mud on a section where we passed from flooded and then iced-over road onto wet mud. Under the full-body mud-pack I felt my right hand stinging but didn’t really stop to think about it… Into transition I was third from last, pulled my gloves over my sore hand and my helmet on and was out again faster than anybody else…

On the bike I felt far better and started to reel in other competitors, I enjoyed the bike leg and in total I passed 12 people one by one by being able to stay on the bike the whole time despite having the wrong tyres on. I finished 123 out of 132 but looking at the bike times I was about another 20 places up the field in the bike part. After finishing I peeled off my gloves to reveal a huge slice up the inside of my wrist and onto the palm of my hand which took a LOT of very painful scrubbing to get the mud out of!

For some crazy reason I have already signed up to the next (medium) one in late January but that one is bike first so I will be more in the mix and between now and then I have plans to really practice my off-piste running.

Run: 00:30:26
Transition: 00:01:56
Bike: 00:36:42
Total: 01:09:04

Categories: outdoors, Scotland, trail running | Leave a comment

A wrong turn

The last ride of our camper van holiday last month started promising, descended into a hike-a-bike across peat bog with no path, and ended with a beautiful late afternoon finish only about two and a half hours after we should have finished.

We set out from the Ardveckie Estate near Loch Laggan famous as ‘Glenbogle House’ from the TV series Monarch of the Glen.

Wobbly bridge

Somewhere after this wobbly bridge we missed a turn-off and headed up the wrong glen following the wrong stream. The path which had been a gorgeous ribbon of single-track eventually petered out and we had pushed for a couple of kms before we realised how we’d gone wrong and by then it was ‘easier’ to hike a bike across 2km of bog at the headwaters to the top of another stream we could follow down the next glen back to the estate track. The less said about that section the better.

‘Glenbogle’ House

Thankfully in the final few kms, the scenery was gorgeous enough to make up for the fact we were starving hungry and exhausted (and two and a half hours late returning the hired camper van!!)

Stunning Loch Laggan

Duration 6h 50min

Distance 44.74 km

Ascent 487m

Categories: mountain biking, mountains, outdoors, Scotland | 1 Comment

Glenlivet

The Glenlivet Estate lies off the infamous ‘Tomintoul’ road between Braemar and Grantown-on-Spey –  Infamous for being the road in Scotland most often closed due to snow.

Basecamp in the Glenlivet Estate

From the village of Tomintoul itself you head North East up either the B9008 or the B9136 towards the village of Glenlivet. This is the upper Spey valley – a world of fertile valleys, upland heather moor and whisky distilleries, lots and lots of whisky distilleries (about 15 just within this small area).

Miles of estate tracks

There are also bike trails on the Glenlivet Estate. Apparently they are building some singletrack mountain bike trails there but for now it’s just waymarked loops on estate roads with small touches of singletrack path - the riding is not very exciting but it’s the best way of exploring the landscape (as the paths would be really dull to walk). We choose a 20km route which had a bit of climbing and the highest % of off-road.

Braes of Glenlivet distillery

Mid-way though the ride there was a ‘spur’ marked to the ‘Scalan Seminary’. We had no idea what that was but the weather was good and the riding easy so we went to explore.

Scalan Seminary

It was the strangest place. Totally off the road network, surrounded by grazing sheep, and not a person to be found, but a sign saying ‘Scalan College 1716-1799′ and ‘open’. We looked inside and found a whole little exhibition about the place with leaflets for sale… in the absolute middle of nowhere. You can read all about it here, it’s a fascinating place with an amazing history – what a hidden gem!

Catholic Church – Our Lady of Perpetual Succour

Categories: Cairngorms, mountain biking, mountains, outdoors | Leave a comment

Linn of Dee

Giving our legs a rest from cycling, the day after the Morven Killer Loop, we drove to the Linn of Dee on the Mar Lodge estate and went for a walk in the rain.

And THIS is why it’s worth going for a walk on a dreich and miserable rainy day:

Categories: outdoors, Scotland | Leave a comment

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