We are Macmillan. Cancer Support
This is where you can find out about all the amazing things going on in the Online Community. It's where you'll find news about events and awareness months; ways to get involved with Macmillan and up-to-date campaigning news from Macmillan HQ.
As you probably know it's just 2 days until the World's Biggest Coffee Morning and we're getting pretty excited about all the cake eating opportunities coming our way in the next few days.
What I wanted to know was how will you be celebrating on Friday? Are you having a few friends over for a cake and a gossip? Maybe you've organised an event in your local area? Maybe you're going to M&S to join in the celebrations there? Have you got a celebrity involved perhaps? Tell me all about it in the comments box.
World's Biggest Coffee Morning is our flagship fundraising event and helped to raise over £8 million last year. With your help we hope to surpass that this year.
Please tell me all about your Coffee Morning and send any pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line COFFEE MORNING 2010 and I'll feature my favourites on the blog next week.
I'll be hosting a coffee morning at home on Saturday (that way I get 2 whole days of cake!) but I'm still to bake anything, oops...
If anyone has any amazing cake or biscuit recipes please leave them in the comments box for me! Here's a picture of my last effort:
Chat to others about Coffee Morning and share tips and recipes at the Worlds Biggest Coffee Morning group or Sign Up to host your own, there's still time!
Happy baking (and eating!) everyone,
our benefits advisers Sarah Presto and Kath Tindall answered your questions in
a live webchat.
lots of benefits available to help support people affected by cancer, but it
can be complicated to work out what you are entitled to and how to apply.
Kath answered questions on topics including Disability Living Allowance,
Employment and Support Allowance, benefits for carers, and help with heating
If you’ve got
a question about benefits, you can speak to an adviser like Sarah or Kath on
freephone 0808 808 0000 (Monday-Friday, 9am-8pm).
My mum had bowel cancer last year, and
has a whole host of health problems with her heart and kidneys, and is diabetic.
She is 74 in March and gets high level Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and
housing benefit. I am her full-time carer, and I get Employment and Support
Allowance (ESA) - is there any other benefits she or I can get without affecting
your mum’s situation, she may be entitled to Pension Credit and may possibly
also be eligible for a Macmillan Grant. You could call our helpline on 0808 808
0000 for a full benefit assessment.
We have some
information on our website about Pension
Credit and the Macmillan
My mum has recently been diagnosed
with breast cancer. She has six months at full pay, then goes down to half pay.
Her husband is self-employed. Would they be able to claim any benefits?
I'm sorry to
hear your mum has been diagnosed with breast cancer. It may be worth contacting
us on the helpline now so that we can do a benefit check based on her current
circumstances. Our helpline number is 0808 808 0000.
when your mum is due to go on to half pay as there is a benefit called Employment
and Support Allowance that she should be able to claim. We could also do a
check to see whether she may qualify for a Macmillan Grant, too.
We have some
information on our website about Employment
and Support Allowance.
husband might also find it helpful to look at our information on working
while caring for someone and self-employment
while caring for someone.
I get ESA. I had chemotherapy all
through 2011, and I am still recovering. How long can I have this benefit for?
Do you know
if you are in the work-related activity group or the support group?
The support group.
claims are limited to 364 days (unless you are in the support group), but there
isn't really a limit on income-related claims. Claimants are normally put
through assessments to assess capability for work. If you are in the support
group then the assessments are less frequent.
encourage you to call us if you are worried that your benefit is going to be
stopped at any point, or if you receive any correspondence from the Jobcentre.
Our web page
and Support Allowance also has some information about time limits.
I get higher rate DLA. If I move in
with my partner, will it change?
DLA is a
non-means tested benefit and would not be affected by income or savings, so
moving in with your partner would not affect entitlement.
has some more information on Disability
I need to take mum away for a short
break. Can you give me some email addresses of people I can write to for help?
your Mum's financial situation, she may be able to apply for a Macmillan Grant
for a convalescent break. Please call the helpline on 0808 808 0000 to discuss
Why do you keep telling people to
phone the number? Can’t you help here?
will need to take a lot of financial details from you to work out what benefits
you are eligible for - this is why we ask you to phone, so we can go through it
in more detail.
I'm not sure what benefits are
available. I get income from my employer via their income protection policy, so
I haven't claimed ESA as it felt too messy. Is there anything else I would be
entitled too - not necessarily income-based?
Do you mind
me asking how old you are, please?
I’m 45. I'm off work on long-term sick
and my side effects mean I'm effectively house bound for a week.
There is a
benefit called Disability Living Allowance which isn't means-tested. There is
some basic information about this benefit here: www.gov.uk/dla-disability-living-allowance-benefit/overview. If, after reading it , you think it
may apply to you, then please phone us on 0808 8080000 for a chat. We could
also help you explore whether it would be worth claiming ESA too. Admittedly
the benefit claiming process isn't always straightforward, but we can help as
much as possible with it.
There are two
ways of claiming the benefit - one way is based on care and/or mobility
problems, which you must have had for three months as result of an illness.
also some special rules under which the benefit can be claimed, but this is for
people with a poor prognosis. Does this sound like something that may apply to
Would that link include information on
Carers Allowance? Husband is self-employed but he’s the only one who looks
after me and my eight-year-old daughter. Is he entitled to anything?
government’s information about Carers Allowance is here: www.gov.uk/carers-allowance/overview.
for Carers Allowance, though, the claimant must be caring for someone in
receipt of DLA at the middle or higher rate of the care component. Their
earnings must be less than £100 each week - so it is possible to work and claim
This page on self-employment
might have useful info for your husband, as might the section on working
while caring and the page on Carers
I have secondary breast cancer with
spread to the bones, womb and ovary. I am about to start a new job but, after
having a bit of a panic attack when asked a simple question on the phone yesterday,
I am wondering if I am unable to work, whether I could claim any benefits. I
have worked all my life and I am in receipt of a small pension. I am 55.
If you are
not able to work due to sickness and have to give up your job, you may be
entitled to claim Employment & Support Allowance and, depending on
household income and savings, there may be other means tested benefits which
you could access. I would encourage you to call the helpline on 0808 808 0000
for a full benefit check and for advice on Disability Living Allowance.
Can I get help with my gas bill?
We have some
advice online about keeping
warm including grants, funds and dealing with energy suppliers.
have a grant which can help toward fuel bills if there is an increase due to a
cancer diagnosis. In order to check whether you would be eligible for a grant,
and for other benefit advice please call the helpline on 0808 808 0000.
Who is your
gas and electric supplier? It may be worth letting them know you have cancer,
just in case there is any assistance they can give you such as a cheaper
Why have I got a letter telling me
that my ESA is being reduced from April 2013, and is there anything I could do
about preventing this please?
having any treatment at the moment? Please would you mind telling me what type
of cancer you have? Have they said how much your ESA will reduce to? And did
you recently undergo an assessment? Sorry for all the questions - just trying
to work out the likely reason as to why they are reducing your money.
I have just finished six months of
chemotherapy (Jun-Dec'12), following surgery for colorectal cancer (Apr'12) and
six weeks of radio and chemotherapy (Nov'11-Jan'12). I am due to have surgery
to reverse my loop ileostomy at end of March 2013. They did say I needed to
have an assessment but then told me I was being placed in a Support Group, I
think? Then I heard nothing more.
I think you
may benefit from phoning our team so that we can help you with this as it
sounds as if they may be putting you into the work-related activity group.
You may have
grounds to appeal against this, and we can help you to identify whether it
would be worth doing this - particularly in respect of your impending surgery.
Our number is 0808 808 0000 if you want to call us.
you are in the support group then this means that you do not have to undertake
any work-related activity and face fewer assessments. The amount in the support
group is also higher.
I was also meant to complete another
extensive form which I had been putting off. The initial forms were so
convoluted for my chemo-brain that I got a bit stressed out.
I know that
form! We can help you with that over the phone - it may just take some of the
pressure off you.
I am waiting for my extra benefit from
Atos for my Employment Support Allowance. I have been waiting three months now.
It sounds as
though you are clearly missing out on money you are entitled to. Give us a call
on 0808 808 0000, and we can advise you on this.
If Atos call you for a face-to-face
interview and say they think you’re fit for work, what can you do if you feel
you’re not ready?
You have the
right of appeal if you disagree with this decision. Ideally, I would encourage
you to call us so that we can discuss your problems at length and see if you
have a case to appeal with.
We have some
information on our website about appeals
Our number is
0808 808 0000, if you they do make that decision and you're not happy with it.
Understandably, lots of people worry about this. It may not be the case, though.
I'm in receipt of Disability Living
Allowance. When do I have to apply for the new benefit that will take over?
Independent Payment, which replaces Disability Living Allowance, is being introduced for new claims in April 2013. Those
already in receipt of DLA will not be affected in the first phase of benefit
We have some
information on our website about changes
I was late sending back my DLA
renewal. They are saying that they haven’t received it and that I need to start
again and be a new applicant, which means waiting another maybe eight weeks and
no back pay! Can I do anything about it? I hate those forms, please help!
Did you take
a copy of the form?
Yes I did – well, most pages.
You could try
sending them a copy of this to prove that you did complete it. How long ago was
it that you sent it back, and when was due to be in for?
I sent it back almost five weeks ago.
My claim stopped at the end of January, about a week after I sent it back. I’ve
been in hospital in the meantime, so I didn’t contact them sooner.
I would try
and send them a copy of this with a covering letter to explain what has
happened. If you want any help with this, then please phone us on 0808 808 0000.
If they refuse this, then unfortunately it would be a new claim, but we could
help you with this too if you meet the qualifying criteria.
I have finished work to look after my
husband and I. I’m claiming Carers Allowance. I am 49, my husband is 65, and
getting a pension and Attendance Allowance, and worried about my stamp.
Don't worry -
while you are claiming Carers Allowance, you are credited with Class 1 National
Jellytot83 is an Online Community member who posts
regularly in the Breast Cancer group.
She also has her own blog: http://thelittlestjojo.blogspot.co.uk
I was diagnosed with breast cancer aged 28. To say it was something of a
shock would be a massive understatement. I’m part way through my treatment now having just completed 6 cycles
of FEC-T chemotherapy and I have surgery, radiotherapy and tamoxifen still to
go. When Macmillan asked me to do a guest blog post, I thought about what I
would have liked to have read at the start of my journey. I decided that some
tips and hints ahead of starting chemotherapy, to alleviate my fears and
prepare me, would have been invaluable, so please see my musings below.
If possible, visit your chemo ward before you start treatment. I was
able to go to the chemo ward before I had FEC which helped put me at ease, as I
really knew what to expect. When I switched to the T at a new hospital, I didn’t
know what to expect, and so was absolutely terrified. I had read so many scary
stories about T, so I felt as if the chemo nurse was leading me to the electric
chair. I had no clue what was going to happen and how I was going to feel
afterwards. I know that if I had been to the ward beforehand, it definitely
would have helped me.
First of all, have a read of this
helpful link on mouth care and chemo
from Macmillan. Chemotherapy kills off the fast-growing cells inside
your mouth, so make sure you visit the dentist before you start to check you
don’t have any underlying
issues that may become worse during your treatment. Chemo is really a time to
listen to your mouth.
Use a mild, dry toothpaste (I used something called Biotene) and a mild
alcohol-free mouthwash. I also used a child’s soft toothbrush and changed the brush every chemo
cycle. During the T part of my chemo I developed oral thrush every time I had
treatment. It shows itself as a white furry carpet on your tongue, makes
everything taste creamy, metallic and disgusting and makes your tongue feel
flabby. If you develop these symptoms, speak to your GP, they will likely
prescribe Nystatin and/or Fluconazole. I also had a toothbrush set aside (again
changed every cycle) specifically to brush my tongue with.
The other thing that I found that helped was pineapple ice lollies. Ice
lollies are great because they help soothe sore mouths, and also pineapple is a
natural cure for oral thrush so you’re getting two benefits with the one lolly.
One of the side effects I had on T was that the inside of my mouth
peeled, I mentioned this to my chemo nurses who suggested Difflam mouthwash, it
works by reducing inflammation and also acts as a local anesthetic, causing
numbness and so pain relief.
It seems logical to say, but eat right, eat healthily. Have a look at this
helpful link on eating well from
Macmillan. After you’ve had
chemo, don’t eat anything you like. It sounds silly, as
you might really be craving a certain type of food, but after chemo is
finished, you will forever associate said food with chemo and nausea. Your appetite will be peculiar during
chemotherapy, some days you will want to eat everything and the next day you
will barely feel like eating anything. Some people gain weight, I lost weight.
Your taste buds will change. Chemo affects them, and for me the result
was that things tasted metallic. Bland food was what I wanted, especially when
I felt nauseous. My top cravings were mashed potato, rice, ice lollies and
apple purée. I also really wanted pineapple (fresh/chunks/drinks/lollies) – it was one of the foods I could
definitely taste. Some people find they like more strong tasting foods like chilli, curry
& highly spiced foods because they can actually taste it. In the end, it
all comes down to what your body is asking for.
I was advised to avoid certain foods (soft cheeses, pâté,
shellfish, cured meats, bagged salads, live yoghurts and buffet food) and
follow a “pregnancy diet” during my chemo. This is due to your immune system being
compromised and therefore your risk of infection being greater. Other people I
met were not told to avoid anything, so my advice is just to be sensible.
Can be a very common problem. Some people say milk is a good cure,
others say it can make it worse; I found it helped me, as did mini milk
lollies. I also spoke to my chemo nurses about it and got prescribed
Can be a massive pain in the b*m (ha ha!). Your BCNs can prescribe meds
for this or there are natural remedies such as prune juice and kiwi
Water, water, water. This may sounds boring but it makes such a difference
to recovery time. Drink plenty of water before, during and after chemo
treatment. It will help to flush the chemo through your system, and will help
to keep the bladder from becoming irritated.
Write down how you feel on each day, that way when you have your next
cycle, you can look back in your diary and see how you felt last time and you
will know what to expect. Plan nice things – using the diary you should know when your body is
bouncing back - see friends, go to the
cinema, just be you.
If you have Epirubicin, don't be frightened if your urine is
red or pink tinged, for 1-2 days post administration. This is normal and is due to the red colour of the Epirubicin.
Have a look at this
helpful link about hairloss from Macmillan. If you can, try and
get your wig ahead of chemo. I also got my long hair cut short pre-chemo ready
for the inevitable hair loss, as it was a kind of halfway stage between my long
hair and total loss.
Your hair tends to start shedding around days 14-19 after your first
chemo and can be pretty distressing. There are however plenty of good websites
out there for buying hats and bandanas. Your eyebrows and eyelashes will also
dramatically thin (or you may have total loss). The good news is that my head
hair has already started to grow back and now, 5 weeks after my last chemo, it’s about 2cm long all over.
Take all the anti-nausea medications that you are given as directed - do
not wait until you feel sick as by then it will be too late. I did exactly this
and was only sick a few times throughout my whole chemo experience. If you do
have nausea though, have bland food, little and often. Ginger is good for
nausea, ginger biscuits, crystallised ginger, ginger ale, arrowroot biscuits – all helped me. It is very important
to eat something (no matter what) and keep hydrated.
Some people choose to work during their chemotherapy and others don’t, it really is a personal decision.
I’m very lucky in that my work fully supported me
throughout my chemo. I was able to be off sick, work from home or go in to work
depending on how I felt and that was a massive anxiety lifted off my shoulders.
Macmillan provides some very helpful information
for both employees and employers.
When you’re first diagnosed it
is so totally overwhelming that you don’t know what to
do. I joined a couple of forums: Breast Cancer Care, Macmillan
and a Young Woman’s group on Facebook and they have
been a massive lifeline for me. If you can find a support group in your area,
then please join one. I go to a young women’s group
once a month which is great because I felt so young when I was first diagnosed
and knowing that others of a similar age are out there is a massive help.
Help yourself to deal with this. Try not to look at the whole picture.
Take it one step at a time. Focus on each day at a time; then move to the next
day and then the next day. Before you know it, your treatments will be over. I
still can’t quite believe my chemo
One major point though, please remember that everybody is different.
Although you can read blogs, join forums etc, you need to remember that the
person you are reading about is not you. You need to really take the time to
listen to your own body and do what feels right for you.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so last week, cancer information nurses Josie and Ellen joined us in the chatroom for a breast cancer webchat.
They answered questions about topics including checking your breasts, family history and breast cancer, side effects of treatment and the cold cap.
Here are all the questions and answers from the chat.
If you’ve got a question, you can speak to a nurse like Josie or Ellen by calling our free Support Line on 0808 808 0000 (Monday-Friday, 9am-8pm).
I am currently in hospital with a suspected infection in my reconstruction breast. Why have they taken a biopsy? I am afraid they are looking for a return of cancer.
Ellen: Sorry to read that you are in hospital with a suspected infection. Sometimes doctors take swabs to confirm that it is an infection rather than a biopsy perhaps you could ask the doctors if that is what they have taken
My mum and sister have had breast cancer and I am enrolled on the breast cancer screening programme. I keep getting what I think is a milk spot on my breast and I don't know if I should bother my GP with it or not.
Josie: If you are at all worried, I would speak to your GP.
We’ve got some more information about breast cancer and family history on our website.
I had a delayed left TRAM flap reconstruction on 6 August. Over the last week, I've started to get pain under my arm and it feels like there is a swelling or a lump there, or could it be part of the tummy tissue that hasn't softened yet?
Josie: I wonder if you have a breast care nurse you can speak to, or maybe speak to your GP?
I don't have a breast care nurse I can get hold of at the moment, as I had diagnosis and mastectomy in Lincolnshire and I’m now in Cornwall, where I had the reconstruction. I’ve been told to speak to the recon nurse if I have a problem, but being only one in a large area I don't want to waste her time. I’m seeing the doctor in a few weeks, so I will ask him.
Josie: I don't think you are wasting their time. If you feel this is bothering you then I would speak to them.
I am being treated for breast cancer. I have HER2 positive and I’m undergoing chemotherapy. I have had four rounds of FEC and now have four rounds of Taxotere. But I have had a bad reaction to my first round of Taxotere, and I’ve been told I will have to go back to FEC for my last three rounds. My question is, will this have a good or negative effect on fighting the cancer?
Josie: I think, if the doctors think this is the right treatment at the moment, then they will hope this will have a good effect on you. The doctors will have weighed up all the different factors, and they must feel this is the best treatment for you.
We have a whole section on our website about treatment for breast cancer.
How can I do some sort of self assessment to verify that my breast is ok?
Ellen: Here are the common symptoms of breast cancer. Although it is important to say that most breast symptoms are not cancerous, it is important that everyone is breast aware.
Breast Cancer Care has some information on being breast aware.
It is important to know your own breasts and how they feel. If you notice any changes, or are concerned about your breast health, you should make an appointment to see your GP.
I had a mastectomy on 18 September, along with four nodes removed due to grade 2 breast cancer (2 tumours) both HER2+. I have been for a CT scan today and fingers crossed it is nowhere else. I am now waiting for my chemotherapy to start (no date as yet). I feel extremely apprehensive about the whole thing but think I am coping quite well. I wanted to ask about the cold cap, as I have the opportunity of having it. Is it worth it? Or shall I just face up to losing hair now and deal with it?
Josie: It’s quite an individual thing. A lot of people do find benefit from using the cold cap, although lots of women do struggle with iy. Maybe try and go to the Online Community Breast Cancer group and see what other ladies think, this could maybe help with your decision.
We have a useful section on our website for anyone worried about hair loss due to treatment.
Is a full node clearance as bad as mastectomy? I am just getting back my feeling under my arm. Some days still feel like I have a tennis ball under my arm. I feel quite sad that I’ve got to go through all this again. Will I have another drain when I come out of hospital?
Josie: The doctors usually decide what is the best treatment for you. You might have another drain and be discharged with this. I hope it goes well for you.
We’ve got some information on our website to help you cope with all the emotions you might be feeling.
I had chemotherapy, a mastectomy and 15 sessions of radiotherapy, finishing in April. Should I still be getting swollen feelings and discomfort in the wound area?
Ellen: Sorry that you are still experiencing a swollen area after you have had your radiotherapy at your wound area. It is not uncommon to have these feelings for many months after treatment has stopped. It may be better if you could speak to your breast care nurse or doctor to check it for you.
I know the answer will be we have a website for emotional support, and everyone us unbelievably supportive on this site. But, I just don't know how you get through this: damaged body, poison chemicals and live in hope it all works. Yet so many people are doing this. How do we survive?
Ellen: I’m sorry to read that you are having such a tough time. It is not uncommon that to feel emotional at times.
I’m glad to hear you’ve had good support on our Online Community – it can be a really good way to get emotional support from others who are in a similar situation.
Breast Cancer Care also have an online community that you can join for support and they also provide peer support were you can talk directly to someone who has had a similar experience.
Could you tell me how long I can expect to have aches and stiffness from Taxotere treatment? I had my last treatment at the end of June and my legs and feet are still very stiff and painful.
Josie: With chemotherapy, you can sometimes find the side effects of treatment can be with you for at least six months, but they should hopefully easing off.
If anyone would find it helpful to read more specific info on Taxotere treatment, it's on our website.
Is it recommended to keep creaming and exercising every day as a matter of routine for all the foreseeable future? Sometimes it seems the more I do, the more discomfort I feel. I was at follow-up last week and all seems ok.
Josie: I think if they are recommending to cream and exercise then, yes, keep doing it for now. Once you have good movement then there would be no need to exercise as much.
I am on FEC, and I’ve not had the best of times. I had four cycles so far and I’ve been admitted to hospital after each due to side effects. After the third cycle, I was found to have steroid-induced diabetes and I am now on insulin to try to control it. I’m ok but, after the fourth cycle, I have found that I am extremely light headed all the time. Can you tell me, is this a normal side effect?
Ellen: I'm sorry to read that you have experienced such a tough time with your chemotherapy. If your blood count is low, sometimes that can cause you to feel light headed, but I would suggest that you contact your chemotherapy unit and let them know that you're having this symptom.
We have information about FEC treatment and side effects of our website.
We also have some information on how physical activity can help with side effects.
Do you have any information on the use of the mirena coil and breast cancer? My mum and sister have both had breast cancer and, at the family history clinic, they said they didn't recommend using the mirena coil as it has a trace of hormones in it but they didn't suggest anything else I could use. I was a little confused by the information I was given as prior to having the coil fitted, I bled for 2-3 weeks each month and my understanding was that the coil (which has stopped the bleeding) would even things out with my hormones, which would be better then having the constant fluctuations in hormones. When I spoke to my GP about it, they'd not heard anything about this and the mirena and couldn't provide any more information.
Ellen: We have a little bit of information about the mirena coil on our website.
There are alternatives to the mirena coil. There is a non-hormonal coil IUD device that can be used .Female condoms and spermicidal lubricants can be used, or alternatively male condoms. Perhaps making an appointment at a family planning clinic will help. Alternatively, you can call our helpline on 0808 808 0000 (Monday-Friday, 9am-8pm).
On Thursday 19 July, we hosted a live webchat with
Great British duathlete and Macmillan Supporter Catriona Morrison. Cat has
represented Great Britain in both duathlons and triathlons and has brought home
lots of medals, including a gold medal at the 2010 Duathlon World Championships
Lots of people came along to ask questions, including many
fundraisers planning to do the London
Duathlon for Macmillan. Cat answered questions on triathlons, duathlons
and Ironman competitions, sharing her tips on training, equipment and mental
Many thanks to Cat for her answers, and good luck to all our
London duathlon participants!
You can read more
duathlon tips from Cat on our website, or visit her own website at www.catmorrison.com.
signed up for the London Duathlon in September and I’m in hearing any tips.
It's my first one so mostly I'm wondering how hard to push the initial run.
You should run so that you are comfortable, probably
not as fast as in an all-out running race. You need to find a pace where you
know that you have more in the tank.
sense. Is the course quite flat?
I’m not too sure but, given the location, I imagine
that it is flat.
told me that cycling can actually be bad for you if you're a runner - unless
you train the right way. Is this true?
No at all; cycling provides excellent cross-training
benefits and can enhance your running. You just need to make sure that you have
a well-fitting bike to start with!
soon before a race can you eat? For example, if it starts in the morning, would
it still be OK to have breakfast?
I would have breakfast in the morning - try this
out in training. Have your normal breakkie and then see how long it feels for
you to be good for exercise. You should always make sure that you have enough
energy in the tank - even if you have to get up earlier!
breakfast would you typically have before a race?
I tend to have toast and a banana and some honey;
coffee and a sports drink. Everyone is different and this is why you should try
things out in training.
been trawling the internet for duathlon training plans for a beginner. I'm doing the Classic 55k distance at the
London Duathlon. Can you recommend any
websites that might be a good place to look?
There are lots of good resources - tri247 often has
links and the publication Triathlon 220 has good links too.
just wondered if there is an essential equipment/clothing that you couldn't do
without for your training and also for the events?
I can't live without a good pair of cycling shorts to
protect my bum in training. For the race, a good pair of tri shorts that you
can run and cycle in are great. And a rain jacket this summer...
have a hybrid bike, so nothing like a top-of-the-range road bike. Am I putting
myself at a big disadvantage by using it for my first triathlon? Should I get a
was just going to ask something similar! I did my first tri last year with a
mountain bike and felt like every man and his dog was whizzing by on super sleek
No bling required! Just a bike that is roadworthy
and fits you - if you enjoy the experience you can always think about pimping
up your ride later. The best investment is some "slick" non knobbly
tires - these will make you go faster! Slicks are a good way of increasing
speed for little investment - ask a bike shop, they’ll be able to help.
you also recommend a service before a race?
Yes, you want to be safe and to be safe for the
others in the race too - and to prevent a "mechanical" that would out
a dampener on your day.
tips for readying the muscles groups for the transition?
Move the bike into an easier gear a few minutes
before transition to get some more blood flowing and the legs moving faster.
tips to reduce the wobbly legs effect after the transition?
I'm afraid wobbly legs happen to the very best -
the only way to get better is to do some bike-running in training. You may not
get better but you will get used to the feeling.
both disciplines in the same training session as often as possible?
Yes, both disciplines in same training session - at
least once per week.
would love to know how to get more confidence on the bike with descents; I slow
down too much.
Practice makes perfect for confidence on the bike -
I think that asking a more skilled friend to let you follow them on the bike
and learn by doing is a great way to get better.
you spend an equal amount of time training for running and cycling?
I spend more time cycling at the moment, for Ironman,
but for duathlon, I also prefer to spend a little more time on the bike, as I
can do more without being so beaten as I would get in running.
less technical question - what has been your favourite course or location?
I love any course with hills - I loved triathlon
Alpe d’Huez last year and St Croix, where there is a mighty steep hill about half
way through the bike section.
suits? Are they really beneficial to wear? I'm too scared to even try one
because of what I might look like!
The thing is that everyone goes through the same
thing with the tri suit. I would say have a good pair of shorts with a light
pad and a close-fitting top. Only invest in a tri suit if you start to take the
sport more seriously.
there any other form of exercise that you would recommend to help prepare for a
duathlon that doesn't involve running or cycling? I'm just wondering whether swimming or
Pilates would be beneficial to help mix up training. I'm already getting a bit
bored of continuously running/cycling and there's still a long way to go!
Mixing training is always good to prevent injury.
Pilates is good for injury prevention, too, and swimming for cardio
benefit. I also use the cross trainer in
the gym for a good cardio workout without pounding the legs.
you have a preference over triathlons and duathlons?
I like them both, although I have to say that I
like any event where I am successful! So it depends when you ask me...
a triathlon, do you just pull your riding shorts over wet swimmers and let the
wind dry you down?
I wear a suit that I can run and swim in - so no
change required. You can pull on your shorts - it can be tricky when you are
wet. The key is that you are happy and confident in what you are wearing.
have done a triathlon (Olympic) before and marathons; I feel it's time to
attempt an Ironman but I fear the training will take over my life.
Realistically, does it?
The training for Ironman does take more time away
from your "life" but you may develop a new kind of social life
through Ironman. Like everything, keeping to good schedules will help maintain
it be advisable to try a half Ironman first and build up, or just go for it and
do a full Ironman? There's certainly a lot more half Ironman events out there
I have seen people thrive on the challenge of
attempting Ironman from not much triathlon experience, but also there are those
that gradually build up. The truth is that, as long as the training is in the bank,
you can do it either way - some like to take the plunge!
you remind us what the Ironman distance is?
It’s a 3.8km swim, an 180km bike ride, a marathon,
and a long sleep and a beer afterwards!
How do you keep going mentally with all that lot?
It’s all about focusing on the moment and what you
can do in that moment - the trick is one step at a time and not to fixate on how
far away the finish line is.
am doing a duathlon in September. Any tips for completing the 10k run?
Make sure that you have at least a couple of
training runs at 10k distance in the bag already. I like to attack the run in
bite size stages, and tick off the kilometres as I go. Start conservatively and,
if you feel strong, build the pace up as you go.
swimming element I find the hardest. I'm a weak swimmer - do you have tips of getting
Technique, technique, technique. Find a lesson or a
coach or a friend to help you with how you swim
- this will give you the best return on training investment.
your next race?
I would love to be racing, but I have had an awful 2012
for various reasons! I have bilateral Achilles problems, which look like I may
be racing for surgery in the near future.
the going gets really tough, do you have any kind of motivational mottos you
say to yourself in your head to help you dig deep and keep going?
My mantra is: fitter, faster, stronger. I also like
to think of a time in a previous training session or race where I have pushed
further than I though possible and this pushes me on.
you recommend joining a tri club?
I love my tri club – organised, structured
sessions; great people; misery loves company; and like-minded individuals. Its'
a hot pot of ideas and action and advice - so yes! Join a club.
are your top tips for the Olympic triathlon?
and Nicola Spirig - and then the beauty of the Olympics is
that ANYTHING can happen!
you have rest days? How important are they to have in your training?
Rest days very important. Physically, to allow training
to sink in and your body to adapt to training, and also, mentally, to have a
break. Generally I have a down day every week with light training and a full
day off every two weeks.
you train to music? If you do, what sort
of music would you recommend listening to whilst running?
I have a pretty crap selection of music! There was
a program on the BBC not so long ago that said that 120-140 beats per minute
was the way to go. Mine is cheesy chart music (too young, really, for my age) -
a good beat that you can loose yourself in! I bought a Glee workout album -
very bad but fun to exercise to!
is your best song to train to?
Florence and the Machine, Dog Days - I love that.
do you stop training from becoming boring and monotonous?
Training can sometimes be boring. I try to change
my routes as often as possible and I try to train with others so that there is
some more motivation and a social interaction - even if it is at the end of the
session as you are too busy trying to breathe during!
doing the ultra distance in London. I am a better runner than biker. Should I
give everything on the first run (20k)to get good start on the bike, or save a
Save a bit, as, if you use up too much on the run,
your bike will suffer. The bike is the longer proportionally so you need to
feel stronger there.
bike course is 7 laps of 11k approx. Could you treat every second lap as time
Your body will fare better if you are more even
paced - bursts of speed will wear you down more. Even stephens is the best way
to go and, if you can, build gradually through the bike section if you feel
find pacing myself through the different disciplines hard, too.
Pacing is a matter of practice. You get to know
just how hard you can push one discipoine without endangering the other - its a
bit of give and take
surface is it best to run on when training? I'd love to just use parks/tracks
but usually end up pounding pavements.
All surfaces are good, as variety will help your
proprioception - ability not to fall over! And variety also means strong muscles.
However, it is good to find tracks and grass to run on, and try to limit too
much pavement-pounding where possible.
it excite you how popular triathlons and duathlons are becoming? It really is
an addictive sport.
It's great to see people embracing any sport -
especially kids. But everyone loves their own sport and I think that it is fab
to see tri getting some media coverage and being a really good way to raise
awareness of charities.
you use protein shakes?
I do use protein shakes but, as a rule, only after
long or intense workouts where I may not be able to have a good meal straight afterwards.
A post-training snack with carbs and protein are good for energy replacement
and recovery. If you can't afford expensive supplements, chocolate milk is a
about those gel sachets? Would you use them?
Yes gels are good for providing energy in a
convenient form during training and racing, but it can be a personal preference.
Also, you need to try these things in training before you race with them.
taking part in a team triathlon with Macmillan. Have you got any tips for a
Have a chat to your team mates beforehand - if you
can, have a look at the handover area, perhaps pick a spot and have a practice.
In the actual race, don't get caught up in the adrenaline - slow things down to
80% and do them right and you will not make time costly mistakes
also taking part in the team triathlon. With the swim, where would you position
yourself when entering the water?
Position in the swim very much depends on your
ability and confidence as a swimmer. If you are happy to be in the mix, in the
turbulence, etc then get in the middle - you may get a good group to swim with
and a faster time. If you are not so confident, position yourself at the side
so that you have clear water.
If you could give one piece of advice to Team Macmillan what would it be?
Enjoy the moment – there’s nothing quite like crossing the line and having all your hard work come to fruition.
you’ve been inspired to sign up for a challenge event for Macmillan, find more triathlon
and duathlon events on our website.
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2014
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