Monday, 31 July 2017

52 Cycling Voices - 13: Peggy Crome

I met Peggy Crome about 15 years ago, when I was a keen triathlete. We were on a Robin Brew swimming course in Devon. I didn't know how old she was, but I she was a vet (!) and I had a lot of admiration for her, as even then she had quite a lot of triathlons under her belt - more than I could imagine doing!

All those years later she has gone on and taken part in even more racing, representing Britain at the age-group worlds, and also doing Ironman triathlons. She may be coming to a triathlon near you!

Peggy Crome, aged 74

From: Chulmleigh, Devon

Lives: Bideford, Devon

Occupation: Retired maths and physical education teacher

I only got into cycling because it was a triathlon discipline. I had cycled as a kid, though we had very old rickety-rackety bikes at home on the farm.  Those bikes had no brakes and we used to put our feet up on to the back wheel to stop!! Riding around was okay in my childhood as there was hardly any traffic where we lived. Then I left cycling behind till I was about 40 years old when I started triathlons.

I rate cycling second out of the three disciplines, as I came into triathlon from running and that’s what I do best at.
 I do love the speed you can get with cycling around though. It’s far more physical than standing around waiting for buses and trains!

My first experience of being on a road bike was when I borrowed a bike from one of my sons.  I found it quite scary.  Then I had a bit of a nasty experience, with an impatient lorry driver behind me.  I thought I had stopped to let him go by, but I hadn't quite stopped.  

I found myself looking up under the lorry - lucky for me I JUST escaped, and the lorry carried on without stopping. My heart was racing! 
Thankfully nothing like that has happened since.

I have my own bike now, a Specialized Shiv, and it’s quite good. As I have got older, I have had more money to spend, and we old folks need every bit of help we can get from technology to go faster!

Since 2003, I have qualified for 23 age group multisport championships, and have had 19 podium finishes, including nine wins. My golds were at the European Triathlon Championships in Kitzbuhel, Austria (2014), Athlone, Ireland, (2010); at the World Championships in London - Aquathlon (2013), Eilat, Israel - Triathlon (2012), Gold Coast, Australia (Aquathlon and Triathlon) (2009), Vancouver, Canada -Triathlon (2008), Queenstown, New Zealand - Triathlon (2003). I also won gold in the Powerman Long Distance Duathlon (10k-60k 10k run) in Copenhagen, Denmark last year, and bronze at the 70.3 Ironman in Zel am See, Austria, in 2015. 

As I get older I find I have to work harder to stay fitter and free from illness!  I think the worst thing about getting older is that you have to accept slower times and that you are not going to do any more all-time PBs [personal bests]. I get around this problem by setting new targets on January 1st each year. My goal this year is to compete in the World Age-Group champioinships in Rotterdam in September. I doubt that I will do really well there, because I will be the oldest in my age group. But I hope to do well enough to qualify for next year's championships in Australia.

When it comes to bike courses I say the hillier the better! Although I hate hills, Devon is quite hilly and I find that I have an advantage over those who don’t have hills near where they live.
During the bike leg I never get tempted to draft, as I am rubbish at drafting. I like to see where I am going and can never trust the rider in front not to stop suddenly.

When do the 112-bike ride during an Ironman I make use of the three positions you can get into with tri-bars - hands on the bars, on the hubs and on the drops.  I keep changing hand position and shuffle my bottom around to keep comfortable.  If the course is flat, I change up a gear and stand on the pedals - this helps to stretch the legs out.

I train a fair bit on the bike but I don’t do a lot of cycling outside of training. However, right now my campervan is in the garage for major repairs, so it is good that I can still travel around on my old bike.

I do take part in local 10-mile and 25-mile time trials as I find cycling in races with the 'purists' helps to keep me focused, and stops me thinking about putting the rubbish out or what I am going to have for tea!

Last year I did cycle from John O'Groats to Land's End with my granddaughter.  I was 73 years old, and she was 13! That was quite a fun trip.

When I go out riding I never go out without my helmet. It’s the most important thing for me. I also take a stopwatch – no Garmin as I’m not a tecky person!

I use a turbo trainer for when the weather is really bad - like icy, though I try to do as much outdoor cycling as possible. It is good to experience different weather conditions on the bike because you never know what the heavens are going to throw at you on race day.

I find that in my age group, although the number of people racing is fewer the people that take part are very, very serious, especially the Americans. Also, because they are, mostly, retired they have more time to follow their schedules and most importantly, more time to rest and recover.

I mainly do Ironman 70.3 races [1.2-mile swim; 56-mile bike; 21.1-mile run) rather full Ironman races [2.4-mile swim; 112-mile bike; 26.2-mile run]. My family used to be amazed at what I was doing, but now they are used to it and I can no longer 'wow' them. Friends, however, often say, "I want to be like Peggy when I grow up!"...even though they are in their 40s, 50s and 60s!

I have had a few tricky situations to deal with in triathlons. Once, I had a bad crash on the bike leg during a race in Cleveland, America.  However I was able to recover and straighten the handlebars of my bike and after checking my major bones I found the adrenaline kept me going. The day after I discovered I had 14 major bruises on my body and a broken wrist bone!

My toughest race was The World Ironman 70.3 finals at Zell am See-Kaprun, Austria. I like hilly bike courses but this was mad!! There was a 10-mile climb followed by a one-and-a-half-mile 20% gradient at the top of the mountain. My reward was third prize at the end when a couple of others in my age group didn't make the cut off times.

My favourite race in the UK has to be the Ellesmere triathlon in Shropshire – at least once I’ve waded through the duck and goose poo that squelches up between your toes at the start of the lake swim! The rest of the course is good!

The most interesting person I’ve met in triathlon is Tim Don. He has always been very helpful to us age groupers. I remember him advising us how to push a bike up a steep cobbled road once, and telling us how to take advantage of leaning on the bike as well as pushing it. I had the privilege of sharing a taxi with him from Munich airport to Zell am See. I also find Chrissie Wellington a very interesting person. She came down to meet the North Devon Triathlon Club and did a Park Run in Barnstaple with us, then followed us up to Woolacombe Bay for a sea swim.  She was really helpful with the triathletes who were apprehensive about sea swimming.

Triathlon has led me to do a lot of travelling. I have been to New Zealand twice, Australia twice, Beijing, Honolulu, America and lots of other places. I always travel with NIRVANA UK. Although it might work out a little more expensive than travelling independently, it is well worth the extra. All I have to do is put most of my stuff in a bike box and case and get to the nearest airport.
For all the travelling I do, my favourite place to ride is along the Tarka Trail, in North Devon, which I would ride more if I wasn’t racing or training.

My advice to older people who may wish to do endurance sports is to just have a go. Train to cover the distance. Only ever compete against yourself and your own times. It’s best to do an event for your favourite charity first, then the only pressure is to finish the event. The next step is to do it again...quicker!

For me, cycling means three things – freedom; speed; friendship.


Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Biking, running and swimming too!

My blog is about cycling, but some of you may know that I also run - something I have done since childhood. I am a member of the Serpentine Running Club, and also run second claim for South London Harriers. Earlier this year I did a 10k race around London, and hope to get out and do a few more running events (as well as the informal Park runs).

Many people don't know that I even swim, albeit not massively well!

My sporting story goes like this - I got into cycling when I realised I needed to know how to ride a bike to get through a triathlon, back when I was doing them in the early noughties.

Once I had a taste of cycling through multi-sports I got lured away by all that the two-wheeled sport has to offer, and now I do more cycling than anything else.

I found the training for the three disciplines of a triathlon difficult to juggle with a normal life. I don;t know how people do it. In fact the people that I have met who do well in age group triathlons just don't live a normal life. Call me boring, but maybe I like just doing normal!

So regular triathloning went out of the window about 12 years ago, and as much as I like watching the exploits of the Brownlee brothers and Non Stanford, I don't really miss doing it myself! However, I still do get a wobble and do one or two cheap, local triathlons a year.

What I do like enjoy though is doing the individual disciplines one at a time. So I do cycling races (which you, dear reader, may already know about), I take part in running races, and now I've discovered swimming races in the open water.

There is something quite refreshing about swimming in the open water. I am not a particularly strong swimmer. In fact I was regularly one of the last  people out of the pool in a triathlon!

But putting on a wetsuit and being in the open air just feels fun. I am not confident enough to just swim anywhere, like the folks from the Outdoor Swimming Society, so I go to one of the various organised sessions and races that take place around London and the home counties - or wherever I happen to be.

There are lots of places to go to. Recently I was at Shepperton, in South-West London, and on a trip to Cheshire I went to Boundary Park, near Joddrell Bank. In all cases the atmosphere was nice and relaxed with changing area, cafe/lounge area, music, and because there were a lot of regulars it was a good place to meet people. I hope to get to other venues in London - West Reservoir in Stoke Newington, Hampstead Ponds, Divers Cove near Redhill, Surrey. I have swum in the Serpentine in Hyde Park as part of an Aquathlon, but hope to go there at a more leisurely pace.

A couple of weeks ago I did the Great London Swim at Royal Victoria docks. I swam 800m and it was fun, if a little salty! The great thing about these swims is the level is so varied, and has ordinary people, not just hard core triathletes, so my result didn't look that bad! I took more than 20 minutes to complete the distance, but I still finished mid-pack! In a triathlon I would have been one of the slowest swimmers!

So that has given me the motivation to carry on with open water swimming events. I hope to do the Great Scottish Swim in Loch Lomond at the end of August, and then Swim Serpentine in September.

And of course I will carry on cycling and running too.

Monday, 3 July 2017

52 Cycling Voices - 12: Gema Fernandez Hernando

52 Cycling Voices has been on  holiday for a short while and is now back refreshed, and with a sun tan after the heatwave in London!

Resuming the series, we hear from a lovely lady I met a few years ago, and hope to see in the not distance future. I met Gema Fernandez Hernando when a group of us went to Menorca to do a cyclosportive there. It was organised by Arturo Sintes Lluch, a guy who knows everyone in Spanish cycling, and in the professional peloton.

It was a good old weekend. I remember meeting Pedro Delgado, Carlos Sastre, and even one of Lance Armstrong's old henchmen, Jose Luis "Chechu" Rubiera. Aside from all that, we had a good time and I got to know Gema. So I am really pleased that she is one of the cycling voices.

Gema Fernandez Hernando, aged 43

From: Torrejón de Ardoz, near Madrid

Occupation: Administrator

"I have been cycling seriously for 12 years. I used to love watching the riders in the Vuelta a Espana when I was young, and really admired them.

My early days in cycling were not very easy. I bought my first racing bike when I was 14 years old, but my family didn´t want me to take up cycle racing because my mum found it scary, and other people thought that I would develop muscles that would make me look like a man! 

Then I joined Torrejón Cycling Club, which I enjoyed. But at the age of 17, I had an accident in which I was hit by a truck. The accident could have been extremely serious, but I escaped with a broken left leg. However, both my tibia and my fibula were broken and I needed a steel pin in my leg for one month. After that my mum forbade me from cycling. 

I did get a mountain bike six years later, and when I started riding it I was so afraid. But I overcame my fear after some time. It wasn’t until 2002, after my mum passed away, that I got a road bike. I find it difficult to ride alone on the road, and the area near where I live is dangerous. I feel a lot better when I am riding with friends.

Most of my friends cycle, including many women, with some of them racing professionally. I have met a lot of interesting people in cycling. The most interesting people have been Miguel Indurain [five-time Tour de France winner] and Leire Olabberia [2008 Beijing Olympic track cycling medallist], but even just my not-so-famous friends inspire me with their constant effort, courage, hard work, and how they struggle to realise their dreams.

No one in my family cycles though, apart from my brother who did just a little bit of mountain biking for a few months. I am seen as the bike crazy one in the family! On a bike I feel free, and I love the sensations cycling brings.

I don’t race but I enjoy doing cyclosportives like Bilbao-Bilabo, Pedro Delgado, La Indurain, Tour of Menorca, plus triathlons and duathlons.

Cycling in my region is a bit dangerous because motorists are not educated about sharing the road. Also, as it’s an industrial area there are a lot of trucks.

The local authorities are getting more involved, thanks to a campaign called #porunaleyjusta, led by Anna Gonzalez. She began the campaign after her husband was killed in a hit-and-run collision with a truck. When the driver was arrested he was judged to have been slightly reckless, and walked free without any sentence. She started a petition to the National Congress to change the law on sentencing reckless drivers, and gained 200,000 signatures.

Nowadays there are more cycle lanes around Madrid, and on the roads up to the mountains. But more still needs to be done. Many drivers don’t know about the 1m 50 safety distance when overtaking cyclists.

Some regions are very good at providing a structure for people who want to take up cycling. For example, in the Basque Country facilities are better and there are a lot more cyclists. Catalunya, Valencia and Andalucia are also good areas for cycling. In Madrid things are getting better and there are women’s and girl’s cycling groups starting up where you can do road and mountain bike training rides.  

Of course places like the Canary Islands, the Balearic Islands, Costa Blanca and Andalucia are very popular areas for cycling holidays. But you can also go to Costa Brava, Asturias and the Basque Country where the landscape in those areas is spectacular. 

In Asturias there are some well-known climbs – Lagos de Covadonga, Angliru, La Farrapona, El fito, San Lorenzo, to name a few. 

In the Basque Country there are lots of little mountains, but the terrain is tough, particularly in Bizkaia or between Guipuzcoa and Navarra, near the French border. The food there is fantastic, so you eat well, and the cycling fans are so crazy! Going there makes me love life, and I have a smile on my face for at least a week afterwards!

My most memorable cycling events have been the Mallorca 167 cyclosportive a few years ago when we rode most of the route in heavy pouring rain; the “Perico” Delgado because it was so tough with four categorised climbs, the Indurain because there were crowds of spectators excitedly cheering me along the way; the Juan Martinez Oliver because many of my friends are there; and the Tour of Menorca. These have all been special events for me.

I am a national commissaire for all categories and disciplines of cycle racing – road, mountain bike, track, cyclocross etc). I love the work but it is very intense as I have to concentrate hard and make very important decisions quickly, as well as record the times correctly.

I never go out without my water bottle. It is obvious, but I have been known to forget it. The first time I did Mallorca 167 I left my water bottle at the hotel and I spent the ride asking for water from other riders who had more than one bottle! Finally, an old guy who was racing gave me one of his bottles. God Bless Him!

Cycling is a very big part of my life. What I do in cycling is like taking the most important vitamin of the day!"

Twitter: @gfhtortu         Instagram:@mgemafh

Other Cycling Voices

Giorgia Bronzini

Tracy Moseley

Geraldine Glowinski

Emily Chappell

Michelle Webster

Grace and Lucy Garner

Hannah Bussey

Carolyn Hewett-Maessen

Caroline Martinez

Niusha Doyom

Maria David