Here I would like to have a think and play with some of the things and feelings that go on with me and my two worlds by trying to use each letter of the alphabet (it was the only way I could think of to organise this randomness!). The interesting ones I may pick for further posts.
The French often call Bradley Wiggins “atypique” and whilst that may not always be praiseworthy, also meaning irregular, unusual, deviant and someone who doesn’t conform (not that he would care), there is a certain charm about his exceptionality and uniqueness that appeals to myself and many others. Wiggo is also very honest, vulnerable and will talk about the things that bother and upset him, sometimes immediately and publicly, or sometimes in his own good time. I am not nearly as elegant in carrying out those traits, but I have often been labelled with similar descriptions. If there is a way to do anything unorthodoxly then Charlie does it that way. It is the beginning of that slightly unconventional marriage of being an academic/athlete/Charlie that begins my story. And if you’ve seen the “BW” on my wrist and wondered, you will now perhaps have a better idea of where that comes from, being the eyes that represent Wiggins’ logo.
“Fortune favours the brave”. I’m naturally very shy – if you don’t know me well enough for a hug then there’s a good chance there will be a little bit of me dying inside at first when we meet. That said, bravery drives me forward, it’s that little bit of energy which propels the confidence to do things, it takes a while to prepare that feeling but once launched the daring bravery of a journal submission or a race overtake is ultimately what makes Charlie and it gives way to a sense of exhilaration.
And ‘B’ for Blink 182. My favourite band forever.
Contentious issue amongst athletes (probably because we all have borderline eating disorders) but nonetheless they have important roles to play in both pursuits. I have trained myself to run predominantly on fat and protein as it suits my body type better. I average 50-70g of carbohydrates one side of training daily. This is in conjunction with academic work too as it is almost impossible to write when I have had even a moderate amount of carbs. I have spent quite a bit of time in ketosis in the past and it gave me some of the clearest thinking and writing spaces I’ve had. Any aspiring writers out there I’d recommend giving it a go. I carb load around racing and training over about 3 hours though, my favourites being oats, rice and Soreen Banana Loaf. And so, if I’ll eat cake with you then you are a pretty big deal to me!
Sometimes in both writing, training and racing, it’s not about quantity, it’s about short direct uninterrupted quality. Us cyclists have a few sadist tendencies. One of those is expressed when we say metaphorically that we have been, or are going to our little ‘dark room’. Yep, sounds like torture because it is torture. This room only has space for me and my bike. It is thus very confined, dark and contains no windows for looking out. This is where the real stuff gets done. Those moments in training when you lock yourself away, are at one with your bike and you find new thresholds that you didn’t even know existed. There’s blood, sweat, tears and swearing. Not everyone can take themselves to that place. An ability to tolerate a lot of pain, even if for a short amount of time I believe is one of the determining factors in being a reasonably successful athlete.
The bit I love most about during endurance sports is that at the start there are an awful lot of miles to come, during which a lot of things can go wrong. Nobody knows what will happen at the beginning of an Ironman and 140.6 miles, and I quite like contemplating the risks and finding out. The euphoria comes when one crosses the line they have dreamt of for hours prior to reaching it.
F_Felixstowe /Ferry /Ferry Boat Inn
Every cyclist has their favourite routes I’m sure. Mine is Ipswich to Felixistowe Ferry and it was one of the first routes I learnt when I became a roadie. I wasn’t a driver then so had no clue. It takes just under 90 minutes to get there and back directly, although often on weekends I go a less direct route. A reasonable length ride (30 miles), good amount of calories and enough to blow the cobwebs away. There’s also a few different places to head to before heading back to Ipswich (old ferry, new ferry, sea front etc). Incidentally if I am having a treat meal at the weekends I’ll head to the same area for Fish n Chips (my favourite), but I take the car there though!
Quite often when I race I take my Mum along with me. She particularly enjoys the full distance races and 3am starts (not!). Anyway, we brought her a fetching green baseball hat the weekend of my first Ironman in 2014 in Bolton. It was biblical and being the classy lady that she is she was concerned about her hair, although how her immaculate appearance would be protected by a baseball hat I’ll never quite know. However, little did she realise that I’d become very sentimental and superstitious about this accessory. It comes with us everywhere and I can spot my number one fan a mile off in a crowd even racing past at 25mph. It’s getting tatty, grubby, probably smells, but I won’t let it be washed. An early marker of our journey.
H_Heart rate and headphones
During racing season my resting heart rate sits at 38 beats per minute, in the off season it may sometimes reach the mighty heights of 42 beats per minute. There’s something very special thats get me about feeling my heart beat very slow and powerfully whilst I sit at my desk. It reminds me of my other little world and how physically fit it keeps me for academia. I also find it hilarious when a nurse does not know I am an athlete and takes my blood pressure, notices my heart rate and then says: “Are you for real?”
And yep, headphones, always headphones. They will either be cancelling noise or breaking my ear drums with punk rock or training music. In different ways they are my rhythm.
One of the most enjoyable things I find about academia and being an athlete outside of my usual routines and training. I’ll never stop cherishing those moments when one bashes out a few hundred words without ever intending to or when I jump on my bike or grab my trainers and just head outside in the sun. Freedom is a wonderful thing and I am lucky enough to be fit and well to do both.
J_Jaffa cakes and Jammie Dodgers
Just like I enjoy cake, I’m also a massive biscuit fan. These are my favourites. I know the labelling of the former is a very serious and contentious issue. However, JCs for a pick me up whilst riding (because they contain less fat and thus convert to energy better) and JDs for a good treat post ride (as they contain more fat and thus need to be earned).
The last bike I brought. It’s a Look 765 endurance road bike with disc brakes sized extra small, 49cm. I tested this beauty in Tenerife up Mount Teide and it was the most comfortable bike I have ridden owing to its shorter stem and slightly more upright position. I decided to make such a purchase as I really want to develop my climbing skills.
When a triathlete completes their first full-distance Ironman it has become a tradition to get the ‘M-dot’ of the Ironman corporation tattooed on their calf. For most the tattoo is a symbol of being a full-distance athlete rather than showing off the brand. That’s definitely the case for me. I have an ‘M-Dot’ tattoo on my left wrist rather than calf because I wanted to be able to see it when I am on my tri bars. Also my first tattoo.
To say the very least, I am incredibly noise sensitive and that includes when working, when in public places and spaces, anywhere. Bose make a fortune out of me and noise cancelling headphones.
Q_Qualitative researcher/ Quantification
I am primarily a qualitative researcher and learnt that way of doing research during my PhD. In short, a social scientist interested in people’s (including studying my own) thoughts, feelings, behaviours and interpretations. However, naturally I quantify anything and everything in my more athletically minded world. At a mundane level I live and train to numbers.
Favourite colour! Also the colour of a London football team I am particularly fond of. I own every Home shirt of said team for over the past 15 years. In royal blue of course.
When time allows I spend time in Southern Spain. It’s a different way of life, better training and writing. It also has a lot more light and sun which really improves my health. In short, its my happy place. Currently learning Spanish.
I don’t really watch it unless its football or interesting sport. Don’t receive it well and can’t sit still long enough.
U_Unique selling point (USP)
When I think back, I have done some quite gruelling things, bordering the margins of normality. I am also not really a standard triathlete. I will unpick the reasons in more depth later but essentially I barely swim train despite being a very strong swimmer, I have a very strong upper body and carry an awful lot of muscle of my legs, more like a cyclist. If I wanted to think about the parts that allowed me to complete Ironmans and ride for GB etc. its my heart and lung capacity. I am not necessarily a speed machine over short distances but I do have a big engine so to speak that powers a strong frame. A bit different from your ‘skinny fat’ triathlete.
Let’s not talk about the weather. Mega bad sufferer of Seasonal Affective Disorder. If it’s not bright or sunny, my life isn’t either.