Thursday, 21 November 2013

Ladies and Gentlemen, listen up.

Every time I hear the term “ladies’ sport” it makes me cringe.  I have always insisted on female athletes being referred to as women, or girls if the athletes in question are aged under 18.  My stance has baffled some people, including the athletes themselves, who think “ladies” is simply a nice and polite way to refer to women.  I feel I need to explain myself, so listen up because this is important.

There are a number of options you can choose when differentiating between genders.  Male and female are neutral terms, and can be applied widely, across age groups, even across species.  Humans, animals, and even plants can be referred to as male and female.  Boys and girls, and men and women, are human terms that are age specific.  The age at which a person can be referred to in the adult form is open to interpretation, but so long as it is consistent across both genders, it doesn’t really matter.  There is no emotion attached to these terms, they are simply a reference to gender and age.

The words ladies and gentlemen are different.  They imply not just gender, but social context, and an expectation of conduct.  When we address people as ladies and gentlemen, we are asking them to adhere to certain social stereotypes of appearance, conduct and demeanour.  We are asking them to be gentle, well-presented, courteous and polite.  So what’s wrong with that?  Nothing at all, of course.  Except that we expect men to behave this this way only sometimes, depending on the situation, whereas we expect women to behave this way all the time.

Which brings me to sport.  Some sports are more gentile than others, but there are very few in which gentlemanly or ladylike conduct would provide a significant competitive advantage.  “Now get out there and behave like a gentleman” said no coach, ever.  That’s why we never refer to “gentleman athletes”.  We expect male athletes to compete in an honourable way and adhere to the rules of the sport, but that is not the same as being a gentleman.  We neither want nor expect men to be gentlemanly on the sportsfield.  Hell no, we want to see passion and guts and glory.  We want to see them strain and grunt and sweat.  We want them to “leave it all out there”.  Anything less would be boring to watch, and frankly disappointing.  Male athletes are men.  They may be gentlemen at home, or at the after-match function, but on the sportsfield, or on the racetrack, they are men.

Why then, do we insist on referring to female athletes as ladies?  The traditional expectations of how a lady should look, behave, and be treated, are of no use at all to an athlete.  Is it too much to ask that women be allowed to cast off those ladylike expectations, and just be athletes?  To strain and grunt and sweat?  To leave it all out there? 

Time and again I hear people (men and women) try to justify the huge disparity in pay rates and career opportunities between male and female athletes by arguing that “ladies” sport is boring.  It is not as aggressive, as exciting, or as competitive as men’s sport.  Yet at the same time we continue to hold women up to ideals that are not conducive to competitive sport.  We want them to be ladylike, then we complain that they are boring to watch.  

I am not trying to argue that women should abandon all effort to behave in a ladylike manner, or that being a lady is a bad thing.  All I’m asking is that while female athletes may be expected to be ladies at home, or at the after-match function, they may be women on the sportsfield, or on the racetrack.  All I’m asking is equality. 

Female athletes may still be a long way from achieving equality in pay rates and career opportunities, but if that gap is ever to be bridged, then achieving equality in our expectations of conduct in sport is an honourable goal.  Sportsmanlike and honourable behaviour in competition?  Yes, definitely.  Ladylike demeanour?  Not so much.  It’s boring, after all.

That’s why, whenever I hear people refer to “lady athletes” or “ladies’ sport” I feel compelled to correct them.  It’s not because I enjoy being a ball-busting bitch.  It’s not because I think that all the people who use these terms are misogynist wankers; on the contrary, they are, for the most part, perfectly lovely people who are just trying to be nice.  I challenge them because I believe that the only way we can improve the prospects for women in sport, and in all walks of life, is to question the way we think and speak about women.   

One word at a time.  

Monday, 10 October 2011

Scarlett and Other Projects

Andy and I now have a beautiful baby daughter, Scarlett Dawn Patterson. She was born a little late on 21 July, weighing 3.6kg (7lb 15oz) and is now nearly three months old. She is growing bigger each day and is already very long for her age, so no doubt she will be tall like her Daddy. She is a fit and healthy little girl and we are feeling truly blessed (and just a bit smug!).

Having a new baby changes everything, and I am quite content now to put my full-time training days behind me. She is sleeping through the night, sort of, and I can get out on my bike for a couple of hours if I express a bottle of breast milk and leave Scarlett with her Dad or her Nana. I'm now trying to claw back a bit of fitness, and am getting out on the bike a couple of times a week. I had a bit of a setback a couple of weeks ago, I ran headlong into a Pukeko (native swamp hen) that rushed out from the curb into the front wheel of my carbon Cannondale Synapse road bike at full speed down a country road. It pitched me over the bars and ripped all the spokes out of my Mavic Ksyrium. The bike is a write-off, but luckily I escaped with a sore head and some road rash. Once again, my helmet saved my life.

Andy has a number of projects, the biggest of which is the building of new MTB trails up at Pukeiti. This is a huge native forest reserve, and Andy has convinced the regional council that mountain biking is an ideal recreational use. He is now working with NPMTB club and a bunch of volunteers to cut in a DH run and an XC loop in time for MTB week from 19-27 November. This will be a huge coup for Taranaki if we can pull it off, as it will provide us the ideal platform to start building trails in neighbouring Egmont National Park. To find out more, check out Andy's Facebook page

We'll have some pics and reports up from Pukeiti soon.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, 17 June 2011

The Next Big Endurance Event

Today I pulled out my old Powerbar team bag, and packed it with electrolytes, gels and bars. I cleaned my bottles, packed clean clothes and a towel. For the first time in nearly two years I have an event to prepare for, an event I've been working towards since October last year. There are many unknowns. I don't know exactly when this event will start. I don't know how long it will last for. I know it will be tough - it might just be the longest and toughest event of my life.

Training for my latest adventure has involved more time off the bike than on. In many ways, being pregnant has a lot in common with being in training for mountain bike racing. Taking naps, watching my diet, avoiding alcohol and having plenty of quiet nights in has been no challenge at all for me. The process of gradually getting bigger, slower and clumsier has been harder to get to grips with. Now I'm finally past 37 weeks and into the final days, and I feel like I've been pregnant forever. Our baby girl has dropped into position is ready to join the world. This is our girl at 20 weeks.

I managed to keep mountain biking up to 27 weeks, until my bump got so big that my pedaling form went right out the window. Where my knees used to arc neatly over the top tube, they began to poke out at odd angles. By the time I could no longer see my top tube, I knew I had to call time on the cycling.

I've managed to keep my fitness up with plenty of walking and a bit of yoga. Of course I started out with all the best intentions of keeping up a full training agenda, but the tiredness that comes with pregnancy was something I hadn't counted on. All my good intentions of daily workouts quite often have resulted in a brisk walk followed by a nap. Now even a brisk walk is a chore, as baby has "dropped" and is sitting down low in my pelvis, making my joints creak every time I stand up.

I shouldn't complain. Everything about this pregnancy has been textbook so far, and I'm still working 8:30 - 5:00pm, and will be to the end of week 39. Andy and I are both quite excited now, and looking forward to meeting our little girl. Will she be rangy and strong like her Dad, or small and hardy like her Mum? Or something in between? The next few years will be a real adventure, but for sure she will be a cyclist of some sort!

More on our new family soon. It could be any day now!

Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Mangamahoe Skills session No2

We had a big group out with us on Saturday in clear dry weather for the second skills session focusing on climbing and descending, step ups and drop offs.
The groups abilities ranged from pretty much 16 to 60 years old and novice to expert so we split the group. Half spent the morning with Jenn to focus on Climbing and descending with line selection and trail evaluation. Whilst the other half were with myself learning step ups and drop offs. I had to adapt to the group as a couple of riders were at the novice level with flat pedals so I had to teach bunny hop with flat pedals before we could move onto step ups, something I have not done since my BMX days. They managed to hop the bike after some practice and understood the principle of loading the bike into the ground, and how to grip the bike with their feel even with the flat pedals, which was hard work as I can remember from my youth.

During the drop off practice the group progressed from a small section of wooden Vancouver style boardwalk step up and drop off I made, to a 2 foot dirt drop off I built into the trail, to correctly dropping off a 2 foot wooden drop built in the trail directly into a steep 5-6 feet down hill landing, with their front wheel level with the real wheel when it leaves the lip. They also practiced pitching the bike in the air for flat and down hill landings.

Jenn worked hard evaluating climbing styles and techniques, running through the pros and cons of each method and on different terrain. There were questions about bike set up and bike types and how this effects chosen climbing and descending styles all great valid questions which we shed some light upon.

For myself it was a great coaching day, all the group learned a significant technique that they either thought they were doing correctly and were not or learned and completed a technique that they previously thought was way out of their comfort zone. The challenge now for me as a coach is to find more interesting methods of delivery to keep both the novice and the expert riders motivated to learn and progress.

A couple of video clips here of the drop off that the group progressed to and the step up/drop off I built

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Mangamahoe skills session No1

I would like to thank all those who attended for being great participants and working hard in tough slippery wet condition. We had a few offs, but hey thats the nature of MTB training. Knee and elbow pads go a long way to give that exra confidence which allows riders to work a technique little bit more aggressively than they normally would, so bring em if you've got em.

We had a little time trial through 3 sweeping flat corners along the Kiwi trail as a bit of fun and to evaluate the before trainng and after training speed. My trackside maths is pants so I went through the times in detail after a shower and a brew and the results are as follows.

Graeme due to a technical hitch had to borrow a bike (Cheers Matt) so increased his time from 35 seconds to 36 seconds, but his position and cornering skills were good, I'll put the extra second on to unfamiliar hardwear.

Kathy managed to take a second off completing the trial in 43 seconds using good form with which to gradually add speed.

Wayne was our biggest improver clipping 7 seconds off his time to complete the final run in 34 seconds, well done Wayne (Think what you could do with riser bars)

Caitie also did very well knocking 4 seconds of her time to 43 seconds, noticing the speed gain when she got a corner right.

Carol matched Kathy in taking a second off but with a slightly faster second run time of 41 seconds, more practice will mean more confidence and more speed.

Jolene and Alun did not stay for the second session. Alun crashed on a drop in which left him battered and bruised and unable to complete the second half of the day. Both riders showed good learning and enthusiasm with Jolene showing a very quick grasp of body position and balance.

Here is a quick clip of the technique session on the gravel road. The aim of this part of the session was to practice body position for the turn. Lowering the upper body, steer the bike round the cones with the outside elbow up and inside arm straight increasing the lean angle of the bike keeping the centre of mass over the tyre contact patch with level cranks.

I make a rubbish film maker, the camera drops as I watch the riders. I'll remember to look through the camera next time.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

The Intermontane Challenge Rip Off

Just a quick reminder that the Intermontane Challenge MTB stage race in Kamloops is once again running this year to take big entry fees of us MTB racers and provide absolutely nothing in return.

Will there be adequate course marking?....Nope.

Will there be feed zones?....Nope.

Will there be accurate course maps?....Not a chance.

Will the organiser lie about the prize fund?....Absolutely

Will he make the race up each day and blame every one else but himself for the potentially dangerous incidents, such as lost riders, feed zones not being where they are supposed to be, no course sweep and the list goes on and on? Of course he will because the race is a con.

There are two other great races on in Canada at the same time The BC Bike race and the Test of Metal. Enter these races and you are guaranteed to ride some of the best trails in the world with some of the best race management you could hope for.

If you choose to ride the Intermontane Challenge you risk a very big disappointment both financially and emotionally. In the 25 years I have been travelling the world racing mountain bikes I have never seen such a shambles. And to add insult to injury the organiser, some idiot who claimed to be new to race organisation and expected us to put up with the disaster would not even return our emails requesting a refund after we pulled out after stage 3.

A quick recap of how bad it was

Course marking was so bad only about 2 percent of the field made it home without getting lost on day 1 rendering the race practically null and void on the first stage.

40 + degrees and only 1 feed zone over a marathon distance

The back markers were dropped and lost during the neutral start before they even reached the course proper.

The race organiser led the lead group the wrong way then neutralised the stage when riders who were lost on stage 1 were getting time back, there were riders literally crying at the track side.

The race got worse as it went on, a rider was hurt after a bad crash where there was no medical support and his team mates and competitors including Tinker Juarez had to go to get help. He also got lost and ended up getting a lift home in a truck.

On the final stage Tinker went fishing instead of racing.

If you have entered this bullshit excuse for a race I hope it has some better organisation and that you are not as disappointed as we were. If you are thinking about a last minute entry, please don’t. Do anything else in Canada, ride the trails of Whistler or take a trip to Squamish and pop in to the great Corsa Cycles where you can find out about the local group rides. Chuck Brennan the organiser although he comes across as a simple “I tried my best” type is a calculated con man and his actions in the race last year were dangerous and unlawful he should not have been given a second chance to run this event

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Use it or lose it

It’s been far too long since my last blog but that doesn't mean I have given up cycling for fishing, although I am enjoying my fly fishing. I have had an issue with my left hip for some years. I initially thought that it was due to wear and tear as a result of a life of MTB racing separated by 14 years running and jumping about with a big back pack on, then compounded by a further 10 years of bike racing.

An X ray a couple of years ago didn't show any problems, so I embarked on one of my epic training programmes. This was specifically designed for an XC skiing trip I was going on in Norway and the subsequent training routine was a hip and core, strength and stability focused plan which incorporated roller ski work around a local running track (where I did actually manage to tear most tendons in my wrist) along with a couple of hard circuit sessions each week which also helped with my hip stability.

What was noticeable during this time was that my hip pain vanished and my strength in the gym and power on the bike was huge. Now it doesn't take a genius to realise that strong core muscles and a good global fitness is essential for most sports. What was surprising this year at is the age of 38 and with a disrupted year due to our move, even riding on and off road for at least 10 hours during any week and the odd circuit session, how quickly my strength and condition reversed. It got to the point where my hip stability one again gave way to incorrect muscle firing patterns, muscle imbalance, muscle weakness and the dreaded hip pain.

I have given myself a full sports injury evaluation and had a few sessions with a physio to confirm my thoughts on the cause. After a couple of weeks getting back on top of the hip stability and core exercises I am well on the way to recovery, and now I live in a country where I can XC ski so a trip down to the South Island may be on the cards.

I managed to get out on the bike again last week and do some big rides at low intensity and my hip was fine. The picture below shows that winter has caught up with New Zealand and the Mountain is covered in snow and the ski field is open. Winter is very different here compared to Manchester, it pours down for the odd day or two then a high pressure will roll over and it’s like riding on a rare still early spring UK day. Except they come around every week and the temperature will hold around 10-15 degrees it’s just perfect for getting the miles in.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

The Good Life

Where to start? It's been so long...

It's been absolutely ages since we've posted anything on our blog, and I've no doubt that many of our regular followers will have long since given up on us. Apologies, and we will try harder.

We touched down in Auckland on December 7th, and had a great Christmas and New Year with the family, all together for the first time in five years. New Year's was spent in the classic Kiwi way - camping at the beach. We drove all the way up to Taupo Bay in the Bay of Islands (not in Taupo as I'd originally thought) with my brother Rod and sister-in-law Jess, and it was everything a beach holiday is supposed to be. New Year's eve was spent in deck chairs on the lawn at somebody's bach, playing guitar, singing (badly in my case) and eating crayfish and snapper that had been caught that day. Good friends, good times and an endless starry sky. I've never felt so profoundly happy to be home.
The Patterson Training team tent, put to good use in the Taupo Bay campground.

Rod (left) and Andy somewhere we rode out to on our bikes in the Bay of Islands.

Back home in Taranaki, Andy's also found the fishing bug. It's taken him a fair few goes at it, but he's started catching a few Kahawai, an ocean fish he's caught by surfcasting on the beach. Last week we sat down to a 100% home grown meal - sweetcorn, peas, cabbage and new potatoes from out of our garden and Kahawai from Andy's line. We had a good joke about living "The Good Life". Andy's now turned his hand to fly fishing, which hasn't been such a huge success. So far he's hooked up a hole in his Gore-Tex jacket, and last night caught the fly hook in the back of his own neck. So we spent the rest of the evening in A&E with the gout-ridden obese people and the kids with pots on their heads waiting to cut Andy free of his line. Hopefully he'll get his casting technique a bit slicker before he loses an eye.

Andy's Kahawai. Tasted good too. Still waiting for the trout.

Taranaki is one of the few places in the world with black sand beaches. The sand has a high iron content and is super fine and velvety soft. It gets really hot though.

Our biggest task since coming home has been clearing out the basement in my parent's old house, which is where Andy and I are now living. Mum and Dad have moved into their newly built home on the other side of town, and the upstairs stuff has been successfully shifted over, and our stuff moved out of the container and into what is now our new home. The basement is taking a little longer. My Dad is an engineer, car builder, bike builder and tinkerer of the highest realm, and his basement is 30 years' worth of tools, machinery, jems and junk. Getting it all shifted across into the new (much bigger) basement is a work in progress, and everything had fallen into disarry over the past year, but we have our bikes in now and it's looking a lot better than it does in this pic.

Andy and Dad spent four hours cleaning up so they could clear a path to the lathe and make a space for my Scalpel.

And what about riding bikes? We haven't been neglecting our bikes either, in fact I raced on January 31st in the Round the Mountain, which is a local race and this year was part of the Elite National Road Series. It's a bit of an odd setup, whereby the main field of non-elite riders goes out at 8am, and the Elite women go off at 10am. The Elite men then set of 15 minutes after the women, so for us it was a matter of keeping things ticking over until the men came past, and then trying to hang on for dear life. There were only about 15 women and 20 men, so it was touch and go.
I got in with the very lead men's group and hung with them for a bit, but when they started to attack I got spat out. I tried so hard to get back in with the group that when the next bunch came through, both men and women, I didn't have the legs to jump in with them. It was bad timing on my part, and I ended up having to work with a bunch of five women off the back of the bunch, who were working hard, but simply couldn't keep up the pace. I made a break from them with one other girl, and we had a two-person break working for the rest of the 175km race, but there was no chance of catching back up with the boys. I had a good ride but finished out of the podium placings, and I was kicking myself as I knew I was strong. Road racing is all about timing though, and I just didn't get it right this time.

We're also enjoying being part of the local MTB club, and took a women's skills day in the local forest, Mangamahoe, a couple of weeks ago. About 30 women turned up, which was a great turnout for a local event, and some of them were really keen and great riders. We spent the day working the trails at Mangamahoe, including some freshly dug switchbacks and berms, then had a barbeque in the middle of the forest with sausages paid for by Sport Taranaki. All good.
There's a race on this weekend with the club, it's a 3-hour team or solo event. Andy's thinking about going solo, whilst I'm planning on turning up on the day and teaming up with whoever needs an extra rider. You could say I'm taking it easy for a bit.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

2 Days to push

The fact that I am leaving the UK to start another chapter in my life in sunny New Zealand is beginning to sink in. I changed a few simple lines on the website to state we are now a New Zealand based company, a simple task that doesn't give the full picture of how hard I will have to work to build my business in a new country.
Jenn has been getting as far away from the damp Macclesfield climate as much as she can, enjoying a break from work visiting her team mate Ruth in Brighton, and its just as well as we have had rain every day since we packed the flat up over 6 weeks ago. She did manage to get out on a short ride with Danni Rider who was up getting tested, and the rain did stay away for Jenns last ride in the Peak. She told me the other night she went to church with Ruth for what she thought was a fun carol service but turned out to be a full on sermon. As we are not religious folk she had trouble not cracking up, it is a load of nonsense that makes no sense.

I too have been staying off the bike as much as I can, running for an hour 2 times a week and have done some good gym sessions on the rower which I should have chosen as a sport instead of trying to compete against 65kg whippets in a power to weight critical sport. I always like doing power lifting exercises as they use my whole body and with a light weight I can do quite a few reps and get some high heart rates.

The next time I blog will be on my way to NZ or once I am there. Wish us luck and stay tuned to see how Patterson Training evolves.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

The Marathonists

Dave Hayward and Mike Powell are the most dedicated athletes I know
but someone is lying on their food diary.