Monthly Archives: June 2019

Perfectly trained, well prepared, all systems go, all pigs flying

Ready or not, mountains, here I come

No cycling for 10 days, so with the trip to the alps looming I’m tempted to make up for lost time. However, with marathon training, trying to cram in too much too late is likely to be counter-productive. I guess the same is true of cycling?

On Tuesday I did the daily plank exercises and then an hour at the gym. Almost at the desperation stage I was tempted to use the turbo in the evening but, happily, my legs talked me out of it.

Planks again on Wednesday (I’ll stop mentioning them as they are a daily feature) followed by another enjoyable cycle training session at the local junior school. It was back to the gym on Thursday and lunch out with friends, with another hour in the gym on Friday.

No great success with the weight either – currently about 68 kg – more than I’d like and a lot more than I need to have.

I’m going to have to accept that I’m hopelessly under-cooked for the trip and live with that, without doing anything now to make it worse. I suppose someone has to be the red lantern. On the bright side I might find out how useful planks and the gym are by way of cycle training, in the absence of actually getting on a bike.

As the final refuge of the scoundrel, I’ve started to think about excuses.

True, my Achilles are still painful (even after a month without running because of the calf muscle I tore), my left knee protests frequently – and (one reason for not riding this week) I made a real mess of the middle finger on my right hand last week with a sledge hammer and fence post, while working at the cycle park.

Perhaps I won’t be able to hold the handlebars.

Oh yes, the cricket One Day World Cup continues to frustrate if you are an England supporter – defeats by Sri Lanka and Australia (the most painful defeat as it comes from our oldest cricketing foes) have put English qualification for the semi-finals in doubt. Situation normal.

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The gym, the Queen and another endurance sport

Representation of the weekend – but no, top hats are not worn for croquet

If this blog’s about anything, it’s about the pleasure to be found in taking on challenges in endurance sports, most notable cycling (eg, an ‘everest’ and a solo ride out to the Alps) and running (most recently April’s Rotterdam Marathon).

Just now, with the running on hold because of the pulled calf and dodgy Achilles tendons, I should be doing more cycling in preparation for this year’s (imminent) trip to the Alps. It looks like weight loss might be my best bet (or perhaps that should be ‘last resort’).

While I’m rather lacking in the cycling for one reason or other, I’ve found a bit of a love for the gym (another hour on Thursday) and a daily plank session. They would be good additions to some serious cycling – but are a poor replacement for it.

Our sons came back for the weekend (one with his girlfriend) and we had a trip to Ascot on Saturday for the Royal race meeting (the Queen is in attendance each day and arrives in a carriage procession down the course). I’m not really a horse person but we tend to go every third year or so – and do it ‘properly’ with morning suit, top hat and a good picnic. No success with the (very modest) betting but an excellent day out.

On Sunday we had a few games of another extreme and rigorous endurance sport that offers thrills and a high-intensity cardio workout – croquet. I don’t know if croquet is a world-wide sport but it was very entertaining, even though the lawn is more suitable for crazy golf.

As thick as a plank (or is that as fit as a plank?)

Part of the opening of the cycle park

Sunday was Father’s Day in the UK so I was treated to lunch in London, which was great. We stayed overnight but I still resisted running on the Monday morning. The calf muscle feels much better but the Achilles’ …

One thing I have started is doing a set of plank exercises with my wife each morning.

It’s a minute in front plank with straight arms, 30 seconds on elbows, then 30 seconds with each foot lifted in turn, 30 seconds side plank, each side, and then a minute front plank with straight arms (I think it should actually be 30 seconds but I like to suffer) and a minute on the elbows. A total of 5 and a half minutes in one plank position or another – but the recorded programme takes nearer 10 minutes with the bit of spiel between positions.

I have no idea how useful it is but can’t be doing any harm – and strengthening the core has to be a real benefit for cycling.

I tried to do more exercises on Monday, particularly lunges with weights but couldn’t manage those because they put too much strain on the Achilles’.

Tuesday morning, plank routine again. This time I did it without the recorded programme and it took just 5 minutes 46 seconds, allowing just a few seconds for moving between positions. Just 16 seconds out of the plank position in a total of 5m 46s makes for a surprisingly tough exercise (even though the world record for holding a plank position is said to be just over 8 hours).

It was wet so I canned the planned afternoon ride and went to the gym for an hour instead, fitting it in around four ‘dog duties’ on behalf of two different neighbours.

Wednesday was another cycle training session at the local junior school but I started the day with the plank exercises again, and again on Thursday, before an hour in the gym. Later I was working up at the cycling park my cycling group has built at the nearby sports ground – it’s tied in with our work at the local schools to get children (and adults) on their bikes, and eventually to see them safely and confidently on the roads.

The cycling trip to the Alps is coming up all too quickly. I’m going to have to hope that the marathon training, the gym, the turbo and the planks are going to help as the cycling training itself (or rather the absence of it) out on the roads has been a disaster.

Turbo, gym, pink pigeons, a terrific women’s cycle race, Chris Froome (and some more cricket)

Women’s Tour of Britain coming through Faringdon. It was ultimately won by Lizzie Deignan, 9 months after having a daughter. Magnificent.

An almost decent week of getting back into some sort of training rhythm.

On Monday it was the turbo for 22.2 km in 45 minutes @ 29.6kph (13.8 miles @ 18.4mph) and on Tuesday an hour in the gym (various weights machines for the legs, front and side planks, 110 sit-ups, some chest presses, bicep curls and a lot of stretching).

Wednesday saw the Women’s Tour of Britain cycle race come through Faringdon, our nearest town so I went to support that – and the incredible efforts of some of the cycle group to decorate the town pink. Pink pigeons is a Faringdon ‘thing’ after Lord Berners – Faringdon’s eccentric aristocrat – used to have the pigeons at his house in the town dyed pastel colours in the middle of the last century. There were about 50 bikes put about the town, all pimped pink.

A second hour in the gym on Thursday before heading off to Southampton to stay with one of my brothers-in-law in order to go to the cricket on Friday. I was lucky that I was going with my brother-in-law as otherwise my absence on our 32nd wedding anniversary would have been rather frowned upon.

In keeping with my life’s work of bringing cricket to the corners of the world that hasn’t yet reached, after I watched them win their first world cup game, England batted and bowled reasonably in their second match – but fielded poorly and managed to lose to Pakistan (who they had just beaten 4-0 in a pre-tournament series). Back to winning ways in match three against Bangladesh and then (the match I was at in Southampton) winning surprisingly easily against the West Indies. Whisper it, but qualification for the semi-finals looks possible, with New Zealand, Australia and India also looking good so far.

I stayed over on Friday night too and then back home via Bournemouth (still managing to resist a run while I rest the Achilles’ and torn calf) to collect the bed linen and towels used by the friends who had used the house the previous week. Yet more glitz and glamour to my lifestyle.

Turbo again on Saturday evening – 15.64km in 30 minutes (19.4mph average). Hard, hard, hard.

…. and above everything else, my very best wishes to Chris Froome for a swift and full recovery from the severe injuries (a fracture to his neck, a fractured right femur, elbow and ribs, plus a broken hip) he suffered as a result of his terrible crash on Wednesday.

It’s a good reminder that this cycling lark can be dangerous – stay safe folks.

A lesson learnt (and quickly forgotten)

Back to the turbo

I am not a gardener. I lack skill and knowledge and I’m too impatient to get the right tools, or a decent pair of gloves. I go at it like a madman, I’m exhausted in 2 hours, and that’s me finished.

A proper gardener rarely seems to move very quickly but, equally, rarely seems to stop moving. It’s all about pacing I guess – not entirely unlike any other form of exercise – for me, cycling and running in particular.

As I sat on Wednesday afternoon, bathed in sweat and with hands and arms tingling unpleasantly from brambles and stinging nettles, I learned the lesson for the thousandth time (knowing I will also forget it for the thousandth time).

I proved myself correct that evening. With my wife in London for a Dior exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum, I moved the turbo trainer to another room and went for a gentle 30 minute session to ease myself back into it, having not used it since February.

It was very hot but, stupidly, I carried on for 45 minutes in a pool of sweat at an average 29.3kph (18.2mph).

Of course, I paid for it on Thursday at the gym – the 500m rowing was really tough and I was slower by 4 seconds and it was all hard work.

The good weather seemed to break on Friday but we drove down to Bournemouth in the evening to miss potential weekend traffic. We spent the weekend working on the house as friends are using it next week.

Of course, staying down there usually means running – but in a rare outbreak of common sense I resisted as it’s only 2 weeks since I tore my calf muscle and the Achilles tendons are still not playing nicely.

Cycling stocktake (and I find myself rather short of stock)

Enough of this ‘why aren’t I cycling?’ and ‘I’ve got to get the bum on the saddle’ – on Monday I actually did get on the bike and go for a ride.

The Achilles tendons still aren’t great and the torn calf probably isn’t fully healed but they were all good enough for cycling and I’ve been prevaricating for too long.

Foolishly, I did my usual test route – the one I do every now and again to gauge how fit I am and how the cycling is going. I always push fairly hard on this route which is about 28 miles (c.45km) and flattish (280m or 920 feet). The last time I did it was back in September 2017 and I clocked a p.b. of 1 hour 28 minutes at 30.9 kph (19.2mph). This time I managed 1 hour 33 minutes at 29.2kph (18.1mph).

It was an unfair test given how little I’ve cycled this year, and considering that September 2017 was just 2 months after I ‘everested’, but it puts down a marker. It also suggests:

  • the training for the marathon in April has helped,
  • the gym has helped,
  • I haven’t forgotten how to ride a bike,
  • but there’s a lot of hard work to do before the trip to the alps

More importantly, I really enjoyed it.

So, it’s back to the cycling now – it will be kinder on the Achilles tendons and I’ll see a bit more of the countryside than by running my usual routes. I’ll miss the running but it will be interesting to see if a break from it (other than shorter, gentler runs as my wife’s unpaid personal trainer) will sort the ATs out.