Monthly Archives: October 2018

Run, ride, shiver


Back to the cold weather, back to sharing the conservatory with the some of the less hardy contents of the garden

After something dangerously bordering on culture at the weekend (the Royal Academy, no less), it was back to the exercise on Monday.

The morning saw our first hard frost of the year. Early on I took a car in to the garage for its MoT (the UK’s annual ‘roadworthiness’ test) and ran back with the temperature hovering just above freezing.

It was just over 5km (3.1 miles) and I ran at 5m 30s per km (8min 50sec miles). The best thing is that I’m now running regularly at sub 4 hour marathon pace (although I’m only doing short distances before starting ‘proper’ marathon training) and enjoying it.

The famous Greg LeMond ‘It never gets easier; you just go faster’ quote certainly applies as much to running as cycling.

I ran back to the garage later to collect the car – a handful of seconds per km slower, despite feeling faster.

Tuesday was also cold but Mrs O and I ran our Puddleduck Lane route – a gentle 4.54km (2.8m).

On Wednesday Mrs O went up to London so I got on the turbo, surrounded by geraniums and a couple of olive trees that have taken up residence in the conservatory, seeking sanctuary from the cold. I managed 16.45km in 30 minutes (32.9kph or 20.44mph) but it is still really hard work for both the quads and cardio vascular system. I guess I should click down a gear or two and accept going a little slower with the aim of building back to the hour’s session.

The big news of the week (for me at least) is that I’m actually going to ride the bike outside on Saturday.

Last weekend I found myself in London when I was down to lead the club blue ride (particularly embarrassing as I’d compiled the rota) and the friend I go to the gym with very kindly stood in for me. On Tuesday, he put out the plea for someone to cover his ‘red ride’ sweep duty on Saturday – I couldn’t not volunteer, could I? It will be about 50 miles including the ride to and from the start – only the fifth time out on the road since the alps and by far the most I’ll have done on the road since July.

The weather is supposed to have improved a bit by then – perhaps to the low 50s℉ (around 10-12℃) so I’m now in ‘hope for the best’ mode. As I get older I feel the cold more. I have noticed recently that running in the cold is a great deal better than cycling in the cold – much less wind chill and I work up more of a sweat running than I do cycling.


Psycho and the Pacific in Piccadilly


‘PsychoBarn’ by Cornelia Parker – a rather nice contrast to the Neoclassical surroundings of the Royal Academy, London

We stayed in London for the rest of the week. The plan was to run on Sunday morning with Mrs O – but it was cold and raining. Happily, I’m not yet at the point of having to train in bad weather …. so we didn’t.

Friday was full of domestic duties but on Saturday we went to the Royal Academy. It was pot luck as to what exhibition they might have on but we were lucky a they had one called ‘Oceania’ – showcasing art from the South Pacific islands, including New Zealand. Although we might not have put this one down as a ‘must visit’ we were very pleased to have stumbled across it and it was excellent.

There was also a small gallery with English watercolours which was lovely too. Mrs O can trace her family tree back to the sister of Thomas Gainsborough, the famous 18th C English artist and there was a watercolour by Gainsborough in the exhibition. We were tempted to take it with us on the basis that, surely, it was ours but decided the Academy might not understand.

We carried on into Piccadilly, Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square where we came across ‘Africa on the square’ – a festival of music and arts with pop-up food stalls and a African market – very good entertainment.

I think it’s those sorts of thing that show the benefits of city life – and we are particularly lucky to be able to enjoy both London and Bournemouth – but I was still happy to get back to rural Oxfordshire on Sunday afternoon.

If we are going to spend more time in Bournemouth and London I’ll have to think about leaving bikes there. With space at a premium in London, perhaps there’s an excuse for the purchase of a Brompton?

So, a decent week returning from 3 week’s rest for the Achilles tendons – about 19.5km (12 miles) of running and a very rare week without any time on a bike. I’ll put that right in the next few days.

To be honest, I can’t wait for the start of my 20 weeks training programme leading up to the Rotterdam Marathon.

The route for the 2019 Tour de France was released last week. It doesn’t come very close to Les Carroz so it may be a year that we give a miss to viewing a stage. I love the tour but have seen enough stages over the years (about 15, I think) that I’m happy to give it a miss if it takes too much time from my own cycling in the alps.

Without any mad ideas like cycling out there next year I’m going to see if I can take on my friends Phil and Philip for our own king of the mountains title. This year the ride out to the alps had rather taken the edge off my legs’ performance by the time I arrived!

Yet again, it looks like the Tour’s organisers are trying to set an ‘anti-Sky domination’ route. What’s the chance that Sky will again thwart their attempts?


Beach, bombshell and beast of burden


Bournemouth seafront looking East. The mound on the left is Hengistbury Head. The land in the distance looks to be mainland but is actually the Isle of Wight (with ‘The Needles’ off the right hand end – sadly, the rock that looked most like a needle collapsed in 1764).

We went down to Bournemouth on Sunday night after supper with friends (including our two medical consultant friends who seemed happy with my Achilles’ progress!) arriving at about 1am.

Monday morning was cool but clear and bright so I ran along the promenade. It was so good for running that I was overcome with (youthful?) exuberance that I ran further and faster than planned – in all 8.57km @10.99kph (5m 27sec per km). I make that 5.3 miles @ 6.8mph – about 8m 48 sec per mile. Comfortably inside 4 hour marathon pace and really enjoyable.

Just doing the maths (‘math’ the other side of the Atlantic?) for that run made me notice a bit of a bombshell – well perhaps something almost slightly interesting – over the difference between running and cycling (apart from the fact that one involves a bike the the other doesn’t). It’s how speed is measured.

When I cycle I may ride at 20 mph (or 32 kph). I don’t ever think of the fact that I am doing 3 minute miles. When I run, I may run 9 minute miles (or 5:37 per km) but I don’t think of myself as running at 6.65 mph.

I don’t remember hearing about Roger Bannister being famous for being the first to run a mile at just over 15mph.

I wonder why. Is it that cycling is more usually done on a scale that makes counting several miles a realistic proposition, whereas running is more usually at a scale where providing a measure for each mile is more meaningful?

Anyway, not running for 3 weeks to see if that would sort out the Achilles’ means that I was badly slacking in my role as unpaid personal trainer for Mrs O. To start to remedy that we ran for just a couple of miles on Tuesday.

We drove up to London on Wednesday night and early Thursday I ran to our younger son’s flat to sit in and wait for a workman who was due to replace the non-functioning front door closer. Just 3.89km (2.4miles) of vague navigation – and not very fast as I was carrying a heavy and cumbersome laptop bag. It’s a fairly trivial encumbrance in comparison but one that makes me wonder how on earth people manage to run marathons in rhino outfits and the like.

After yet more wasted hours waiting for workmen who don’t arrive because management are incapable of getting the materials delivered, I ran back again. I still don’t like running with the laptop bag but at least I welcome the reinforcement of the view that I don’t want to be carrying any unnecessary extra weight in body fat for the Rotterdam Marathon.

Back on the treadmill (literally)


Tools of the trade (or, at least, the trade of the next 6 months)

I didn’t run to the gym on Friday – I decided that if the tendons were going to be troublesome, it would be better to find that out in a more controlled environment, so the car seemed a safer bet.

As it was, I did half an hour of weights and then went on the treadmill. The thinking was that it would be slightly more cushioned than the road and easier to abandon if it wasn’t going well.

I only ran 5km (3.1 miles) in 27:12 but the legs felt pretty good considering that I’d not run for 3 weeks. With the compression socks back on (putting them on is good exercise in itself) the test was going to be how the legs were on Saturday ….

… and they weren’t too bad at all. They felt stiff immediately I put foot to floor but they eased quickly and within 10 minutes of moving about there was only a little residual soreness. It will be good if they recover completely – but if that’s as bad as it gets, that’s OK with me.

I weighed in at 68.2kg Saturday morning – about 150 pounds. That’s around 1.5kg (3.3 pounds) more than normal – probably due to the reduced exercise over the last three weeks, and my father’s visit (mainly through keeping him company in his love for very sweet deserts). I inherited his sweet tooth but, at 63, I try to resist it more than he needs to at 94.

While my father was staying with us we spoke a bit about the family tree – I’m not sure one has ever been done but he has given me an outline of the previous couple of generations so I’d have somewhere to start.

Apart from his 94 not out, my mother lived to nearly 87, my paternal grandmother to 90 and my paternal great great grandmother to 101 (pretty impressive for someone born in the 1830s). Encouraging, but to my mind it’s not only the length of the life but also the quality that matters.

On Sunday morning the legs were much the same as Saturday even though I’d not done any real exercise. I did another half hour on the turbo in the morning, 16.86km @ 33.7kph (10.5miles @ 21mph). A little faster but no easier.

So, this week just a modest hour on the turbo, a weights session and a 5km run – but the tendons have been tested and are, at least, functioning.

I’m sure the weight will go if I now resume more regular cycling and running, but I’ll increase the running slowly and try to hit the start of my 20 week Rotterdam Marathon countdown doing about 15 miles a week.

I read somewhere that you shouldn’t increase running milage by more than 10% a week. That’s a bit of an issue coming from zero last week but let’s not be too literal on that one.



Visitors – welcome and unwelcome


One of the guilty cows, back in the field. Do guilty cows look sheepish?

In keeping with the aim of making posts uplifting, on Monday we went to the interment of an aunt’s ashes. A sad occasion but at the same time it was good to see several family members I meet up with fairly infrequently.

My sister and brother-in-law brought my father (who lives with them) and he came back with us for a few days while they had a short holiday in the Cotswolds (a large, very attractive area of chalk hills near us, mainly in Gloucestershire).

It was great to have him – he’s terrific and in great shape for a man of 94. With him living in the north of the country we drive up for the day a few times a year but I don’t see him for very long.

I hope that the success of this trip means he’ll be happy to make the journey again soon – even though it does interrupt his routine somewhat (and routine is very important at that age). So is heat – he really feels the cold. If the police had used thermal imaging on the house, they would have raided us as a probable cannabis farm.

While he was a very welcome guest, on Monday night we had visitors of an entirely different type.

I was woken just after 1am by a feeling that someone or something was moving about in the small courtyard area by the back door. I got up and looked out of the window – sure enough the security lighting had come on – but it wasn’t just a fox or cat as I’d suspected, indeed it wasn’t just one moving body …. it was a small herd of cows.

By the time I dressed there was nothing to be seen. I had one of those ‘did I really see that?’ moments but I was sure I had.

I found the number of the nearest farm that I know has a herd and dialled. Nothing but an answering machine – but I left a message anyway.

I wasn’t sure what to do. I was inclined to leave it at that and go back to bed – but realised that there could be real problems if the cows wandered onto a road, so I decided to drive over to the farm and rouse the farmer, if he hadn’t been woken by my earlier call.

I was leaving the house as a car shot down the road and into the lane beyond. Guessing that had to be to do with the cows I set off on foot after it.

He wasn’t the farmer I’d phoned – it was the herdsman who had been alerted by another village resident who had also come across the cows. We tracked down the bulk of his herd and managed to get them back into the field by the light of mobile phones (ours, not the cows’) but he then announced that he was 8 short.

It dawned on me that we’d probably been hosting the missing 8. I eventually followed a trail of cow pats and tracked them to the end of our garden where they had settled for the night. We managed to herd them out of the garden and into the field behind the house.

When I say ‘we’ herded the cows, he – of course – did the real work and I just stood in the way to try to stop them turning in the wrong direction and made what I hoped were encouraging cow noises.

Back to bed some time well after 2am. I’m not sure whether Strava has a ‘cow herding’ category of activity. If it does I’ll be really upset as I didn’t think to pick up the Garmin.

They knocked quite a lot of stuff over (pots, urns, a bench, a bird bath) but surprisingly nothing broken. The lawns are a bit of a mess in one way or another …

So, lots of words here but not much in the way of cycling or running – sorry.

I reunited my father with my sister and brother-in-law on Thursday so I got on the turbo in the early evening – 16.1km in 30 minutes @32.1kph (10 miles @20mph).

I’m on my own again at the gym on Friday – my normal companion who missed out last week with a sore back now has a twisted ankle which is strapped and sore. Tough on him as he’s in good running form after a 1:47 half marathon a couple of weeks ago.

Do I run to the gym, or do I drive? Decisions, decisions ….


It’s style, Jim, but not as we know it


Back to the turbo on Friday, I did 24.4 km @ 32.5kph in 45mins (15.16 miles @ 20.2mph). It’s not getting any easier.

Although the pedalling movement does involve some stress on the Achilles’, I’m guessing that the lack of body weight to support, and the lack of impact, should mean that it’s OK to carry on with that.

Desperate for any ‘edge’ in this running and fitness lark, I bought myself some new running shoes (red, so they’ll certainly go faster) and some compression socks. They are supposed to help with blood circulation and can be worn before, during or after exercise. I like them during exercise (they are also supposed to help to stop muscle vibration) and afterwards where they, allegedly, help recovery.

I don’t know if they really do anything useful but they do feel pretty good. Since they are knee length and white, they are not exactly a fashion statement – but my days as a style guru are long behind me (if they ever existed) so that doesn’t seem too much of an issue.

I felt pretty good on Saturday morning so, with Mrs O out shopping, I nearly went for a run. In the end I think common sense got the better of and I didn’t.

It was very much like my bike ‘everest’ last year – towards the end of that I was descending fairly slowly as I’d invested too much effort in the previous climbing to want to throw it away on a crash (‘everesting’).

This time, I’ve invested too much in not running to want to throw that away by running too soon.

So that was the end of the week’s training activities (such as they were) as we were out for lunch with friends on Sunday. Our hostess is a personal trainer and sports massage superstar. Amanda sorted out my knotted quads before my first marathon in 1998. It’s the only time I’ve ever had any sort of massage but it was absolutely invaluable as I doubt that, without her help, I’d have made it to the start line let alone to the finish.

Never one to turn down an opportunity for free advice, I’m happy to say that Amanda endorsed the current plan.

My father is visiting for a few days next week so exercise is likely to be on the back burner. I’m guessing his morning routine does not involve much running, cycling or gym work – but there again, at 94, why should it?

I’m planning to run again late next week by which time I’ll have not run for two weeks –  I can’t wait to find out if my legs are going to play nicely.

Today’s top tip: if the washing machine and tumble drier both stop, don’t automatically assume they have finished their cycles and that it is safe to unload the washing machine. It could be a blown fuse and the locking mechanism that stops the door of the washing machine being opened when it is full of water might not operate in those circumstances. Wish I’d known that an hour ago.

Bonfire and the vanities



I can almost hear my late father-in-law saying ‘Edges into middles’. He was a fine man who loved a good bonfire.

Having, reluctantly, given up the vanity kph that came from the old, under-resistant, turbo trainer, on Wednesday I decided to treat myself to not one, but two ……….. bonfires.

I don’t know if it’s a primal thing about fire but I do like a good bonfire. Living in a village means we are lucky enough to be able to have bonfires but they do need careful timing as the prevailing wind would share the smoke with a couple of hundred people.

The first was the normal garden affair, the second was in the paddock and resulted from cutting back a hedge to put in a new fence.

Although I know that bonfires tend to be hot (not much gets past me) I was marvelling at just how hot the first was (I couldn’t go within 12 feet comfortably) when one of the next door neighbour’s dogs arrived and lay down within inches of it. That reminded me of our (late, lamented) dog falling asleep in front of an open fire and having to be woken and moved when his fur started to smoke.

Singed cocker spaniel is not a good smell.

Anyway, all that was a surprisingly good workout – and no dogs were harmed in the burning of these bonfires.

In the afternoon I went back on the new turbo for another very hard 30 minutes for 16.76km @ 33.5kph (10.4 miles @ 20.8mph). I changed up a gear for a while but noticed that meant I was turning the pedals at under 80rpm – so I clicked it back down and will keep it there for now.

The old turbo gave a good cardio vascular workout because , with little resistance from it, I went for speed – but the proper resistance this one has works the muscles a good deal harder. I guess the new one will help, if I survive the extra degree of difficulty.

On Thursday, Ian, my usual run-to-the-gym companion, couldn’t make it. Without his good influence I drove – but did an hour on the weights to compensate.

It’s now over a week since I last ran and the tendons seem to be improving as a result. My main concern is that the problem will recur once I resume running – and that will be a bit if a blow to the Rotterdam Marathon target, to say the least. In the meantime, I’ve decided to stick to the turbo, the stretches, the exercises and the gym while I ponder on when to run again.

I’ve discovered why Achilles tendons heal slowly – it’s because they have a relatively poor blood supply. This leads me to this week’s top tip: when considering which part of your body to hurt next, choose one with a strong blood supply.