Cycling is addictive and the euphoria always leaves you wanting more.We speak to Debbie Bradley, full-time mum, business woman and devoted Duathlete, who recently found the saddle after running the London Marathon and hasn’t looked back since!
I suppose my journey started in 2006 when I ran the London Marathon for fun… After that, me being me, I knew I could run faster, so I joined a running club. Over the years I improved a lot but was plagued with injuries so I never really peaked as a runner. The first time I rode a bike was in 2011 or 2012. The guy I did most of my run training with was a triathlete, so he encouraged me to give it a go as a way of cross training. We started mountain biking which was fun but it was that first time I got out onto the road that I thought wow, this is me, and I knew I wanted to ride as fast as I could!
Being new to cycling its only now I’m getting to grips with riders but even before I’d ever ridden a bike, I remember being in awe watching Victoria Pendleton win gold at the Beijing Olympics and crying when she then cupped her hand into the shape of a heart on the podium at London 2012. I have so much respect for what she has achieved. Her book had a massive impact on me; I related to so much in there about her emotional journey. And it sounds daft but there’s one line from it I used to repeat when I was sat on the turbo in the shed at 5.30am on a winters morning. Without a doubt the person that inspires me most today is my coach Matt Bottrill. His success didn’t come overnight, balancing work and family life, he worked his butt off for many years to achieve what he has and it’s fair to say every time I race I want to make Matt proud.
Well, I realised that cross training was really helping me so decided to put the two together in 2013 and set myself the challenge of 4 Duathlon races for my 40th Birthday… As you do. I was in half decent shape on the start line of that first race but nothing prepared me for the feeling of running out of T2 (transition) after a hard bike leg so my 3 words would be … ‘pain’, ‘satisfaction’ (once I’d finished), and even after that first race a sense of ‘belonging’… I knew this was just the start of something for me.
For big races I avoid getting caught up in the hype and too much chat. Firstly, I like quiet time on my own. I never think about my competition just about my own race. Secondly, I like a set routine even down to how I lay my kit out and finally I remind myself how hard I’ve worked and what I’ve sacrificed to get to the start line.
To relax and enjoy! I put a lot of pressure on myself in the early days and as a result crashed in my first GB race in 2014. I’ve since learnt to trust the processes that get me to the start line. My goal now is always to have a relaxed, confident, well-paced race. If I do that, I know I’m capable of winning.
This is the biggest challenge I face day in day out! I work long hours and I travel a lot, plus I have a 5-year-old daughter, so I have to be creative at times!
1. Get a coach – A coach will help you set realistic but stretching goals and give you structure to what you do and that really takes the pressure off. I prefer not having to think about what session I’m going to do, just how I’m going to fit it in!!
2. Plan ahead – I pretty much take my kit everywhere with me and I’ve been known to take my bike and turbo to hotels so I don’t miss a session when I work away. It’s a standing joke amongst friends that I’m often on the turbo at 10pm as it’s the only time I can fit a session in… but needs must sometimes!
3. Quality over quantity - This has probably been my biggest lesson to learn. It will depend on the goals you set for yourself, but for me every session I do has a purpose even if it’s just a recovery ride.
Being a woman I used to hate going into bike shops but the guys at my local independent bike shop are great. Not only do they sell some amazing stuff, they also know exactly what they’re talking about, so they can recommend the right products for exactly the right occasion. I also love looking at brands on instagram, there’s some amazing kit out there! Being a woman I do like to buy knowing that I can return if it doesn’t feel right at home. It’s fair to say I’m quite fond of kit and a flattering fit is so important. Probably the biggest mistake I’ve made is getting stuff too big. It’s cycling kit so it’s meant to be tight! My new motto is… can never be too tight or too bright! As with my non-lycra attire I do tend to buy more of one thing I like in different colours! For me it’s about finding what works for you, does the job but also makes you feel good about yourself! Half the battle if you ask me.
I love the challenge of multi sport and for whatever reason I run and ride better when I put the two together. There’s still more I want to achieve in Duathlon but I’m definitely up for some road racing in the future.
My advice to anyone starting out is to find a club and surround yourself with likeminded people who will not only help and support you, but also inspire you. Also pop into your local independent bike shop, as they will know about clubs, local training groups and rides. My local bike shop has a coffee shop out the back, which is like a cyclist community hub; I often pop in just for coffee and a chat!
A big thank you to Debbie for sharing these experiences with us. Debbie has some fantastic and challenging plans for next season, which we can’t wait to see.