Karen Jennings

Karen and bike
Until last year I hadn't been on a bicycle since I was a kid and was incredibly unfit to boot. I was 33 yrs old, my BMI informed me that I was 'obese' and my eating had gone way out of control. I genuinely thought that the 10 min walk from the car park to work every day was sufficient exercise.

That all changed as last year I did the most random 8hr bike ride with an all female group of work colleagues. On paper it should have been a disaster. We were on borrowed bikes and our preparation for any incidents consisted of one pump and a family pack of Mars bars. Thankfully, a slow flat that was happy with the occasional pump was our only issue. It was a lovely, sunny day. The route was car free and relatively flat. Visiting pubs and local farm shops, gossiping and laughing throughout made this ride truly epic and something that I wanted to continue afterwards.
I now cycle to work and try to complete 3 cycle rides weekly consisting of a short 1hr sprint, a 3hr random ride and on the weekend, a longer, 5-6hr ride with a friend. 

It's fair to say then that I am passionate about cycling. When I have the time or if the weather is bad I'll also go to the gym and love playing badminton with friends.

To chill out I prefer reading than watching television. However I do enjoy going through box sets and watching episode after episode in one sitting when I find a good series! 

I am so thrilled to be a part of team Spatone. The cycling I've done so far has purely been instinctive or what I've learned from reading cycling magazines. To have the opportunity to work with a cycling coach and nutritionist who will focus on how I can improve is just fantastic and I'm so looking forward to these next few months!

Karen's Final Update - How did the event go?

Turning up and going through the beautiful and vast Losely Park estate. I couldn't help but start feeling a mix of excitement and nerves at what was to come. 

We had to get there early but there was already a constant stream of cars coming in with some serious road bikes on display. As the time crept closer to the start of the event, I loved seeing the inclusive mix of women clearly taking this on as a 'challenge', mixing with women who were out primarily to raise money or enjoying a day out with friends whilst cycling through the beautiful scenery Surrey has to offer.

The night before, I had cleaned and oiled my bike. Pumped up the tyres and sorted out my clothing. I did forget that tiny but very significant detail of setting up my bike with my rider number etc and then forgetting to bring the paperwork on the day. To say I was panicking would be an understatement.Thankfully, the guys at Human Race anticipate muppets like me and helpfully set me up with new numbers at their registration hut. 

Finally sorted. It was then time to meet Victoria Pendleton and catch up with the other winners. I found Victoria to be very engaging and clearly passionate about sport being inclusive for all. She was also keen to discuss how women's cycling still needs exposure and to be more comparable to mens cycling. She also has a wicked sense of humour and was open to any questions being asked, including her experiences on Strictly and Bake off.

It was also lovely to see the other winners and catch up on their progress since we first met in May.

I was feeling in good form for this ride. Whilst the darker evenings and poorer weather had slowed my training down. I was still pretty consistent getting out and cycling and followed Kerry Birchers advice to mix it up with sessions focusing on either hill work, longer distances and shorter, faster sessions.

I really enjoyed the route that we took. Whilst I recognised and cycle on some of the roads, I was also guided through parts of Surrey I hadn't yet explored. Consideration for using quieter roads with beautiful scenery to look at was clearly the priority when organising this route. This is also when these organised events really stand out. Going out on your bike on unfamiliar roads can be intimidating. There were many times during training that I found myself stuck on busy A roads or seeing a pretty country lane but not having the confidence to explore further incase I got lost. To have a well thought out route. With either coloured arrow markers or marshals at junctions etc to ensure you go the right way means you can relax and focus on your cycling without the panic that you'll get lost.

I admit that I took on this event as a challenge and hit it hard. I had chosen the longer 60km route which was just shy of 40miles. This is a shorter distance than what I usually ride on the weekends so tried to keep my pace fast which was helped by some friendly competition along the way. Apart from a misty and chilly start. The weather was perfect for cycling considering the time of year and the downpours we could so easily have experienced. 

I really enjoyed completing this cycletta. The atmosphere and professionalism throughout made it such an enjoyable day and I was really impressed by the huge turnout of female cyclists. As a participant, I've been sent a reminder to register for 2015. This is something I'll definitely do and will look out for other cycletta's that are within driving distance.

To recap on my training over the last 5 months. I've lost weight, my body shape is leaner, I've gained muscle and my stamina has improved. My immunity has been great, I've survived numerous colds that have swept through the family and no longer feel run down. I've also noticed that my mood has improved. I plan to continue my current diet and training regime, including taking Spatone!

My goals are to work on my technique and to increase my average speed. I've tried out a few local cycling clubs. Once I am more confident I will look at committing with one of them.

I've already booked a couple of sportives and registered for a place for RideLondon. Cycling has very much become a way of life for me and I feel so fortunate to have found a sport that keeps me fit and that I genuinely love doing.

June Update 

Well. The first week of June I was on holiday with my family in France. Whilst looking forward to this holiday I had visions of spending my days exploring the local countryside on a hired bike, I even made sure that where we were going had bike hire and local routes available and then hitting it hard in the gym in-between. Somehow, after spending pretty much 24hrs travelling to get there I was so wiped out I went with the flow and spent all week by the pool lazing around, eating far too much food and have absolutely no idea where the gym was let alone going out on a bike.

I therefore had a bit of a shock when I managed to haul my slovenly and now heavier butt back to England and got back on my bike. I use a tracking app to log where I've been and average mph amongst other useful info. I know then that initially, I was significantly slower and for the first hour of the rides my body was so sluggish and resistant to any exertion it really became a battle to persevere and not go home and eat cake instead.

Whilst a bit scary that I could so quickly lose form, by getting back on track exercise wise, being stricter with what I ate and taking iron supplements,  it only took just over a week to undo all the damage I had done and by the end of the month, I've increased my average speed and even managed to complete a 73 mile bike ride on my own.

I've taken a pic of my mid ride treat as it's almost mandatory to stop at a cafe and eat cake. This particular pit stop is at the National Trust cafe on top of Box Hill. On the weekends it is packed with cyclists and I've seen the odd celebrity up there too.

As part of Team Spatone I'm taking their liquid iron supplement. This is the only supplementation I'm taking so far. I'm taking them last thing at night as Spatone works best if you haven't had food for at least 45mins. I don't drink fruit juice / cordial so the first hit of Apple is strong for me but not unpleasant. I also appreciate the convenience of having it in a sachet and no faffing about with mixing it with water etc.

My goals for next month is to try out my newly purchased road bike and go out on a club ride with a local cycling club. I also need to look at my technique so will be working with Kerry on the basics.

And finally, I've found that by wearing just washed skinny jeans whilst cycling to work adds great resistance to your ride! Throw in running late for an important meeting and you're all set for thighs Chris Hoy would be proud of :)

Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.