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.
After Monday’s London run I gardened on Tuesday. Having cut a whole 3 seconds off my 2000m rowing time at my 2nd attempt, at the gym on Wednesday my 3rd attempt took another 28 seconds off (now down to 8m 42s), although still not feeling 100%.
I suppose that’s encouraging but if I’d known it was going so well I might have eased off a bit to keep something in hand for the next attempt. I assume the improvement is just a bit of familiarity with the equipment so perhaps next time will just be consolidation.
I’m still wondering whether the gym will add much to my cycling. I’ve always taken the view that cycling must use all the muscles needed for cycling – but the gym is a nice social diversion from other training (if I were ever to get back to doing some) and, with my focus on the legs and core, it can’t be doing any harm … can it?
In the afternoon I was at a local junior school helping to give cycle training to some 11 year olds. They could all ride but we were also assessing them with a view to taking them out on the road at the start of next term. It was enjoyable and all the children were pretty good on the bikes – although the bikes were a rather motley bunch in terms of style and road worthiness!
Back to Bournemouth on Thursday, continuing to clear the garage and garden. With a fleeting visit, no running (I didn’t even go to the beach to check that the sea is still there) – but back to the gym on Friday morning – I did the 500m rowing machine sprint for the second time and at 1 minute 57 seconds I took 2 seconds off my first time at the distance. My gym companion thinks the machine I used this time is the harder of the two – I’ll check next week.
After the gym, it was up to London for the Chelsea Flower Show. We tend to go every few years to get some inspiration for the garden – but fail to implement much (if any) of it. Still, it’s a good day out. This year was very enjoyable in good weather – even though it was a bit too crowded for my liking. Great show and artisan gardens and outstanding exhibits in the Great Pavilion. I’m not sure if I’m inspired or intimidated – probably both.
Back to Oxfordshire on Saturday after a run early in the morning (about 4.3miles – 7km). It went well to the half way point but then my recent right calf niggle became a current right calf pull. I finished the run at a hobble and well over a minute per km slower than the first half. How do I train for, and run, a marathon in April with no muscle issues, only pull one on a reasonably gentle 4 mile run the following month? It hurts a lot – but at least that takes my mind off the Achilles tendons.
We drove back to Oxfordshire later with our sons who came back for the Bank Holiday weekend which is good compensation for the calf.
No matter how foolish, it seems that I can’t resist running when in London or Bournemouth. After last Saturday’s run in London, it was another 5km (3.1miles) along the Bournemouth seafront on Monday morning in bright sunny weather and a cool breeze.
Last week the knee had been improving but I managed to set that back a bit with the London run – and running in Bournemouth didn’t help either. I decided not to run for the rest of the week and see how the knee recovers. Needless to say, the ATs are pretty rubbish.
I went to the gym on Tuesday, having missed it last week. I tried the 2000m rowing again – a whole 3 seconds faster at 9:10! I assume it will help with the muscles in my back, shoulders and legs – it’s a very hard exercise but it’s another thing to play with that shouldn’t hurt my Achilles’.
The resolve not to run for the rest of the week lasted only two days as my wife wanted company on a run on Wednesday – just 3.5km (2.2miles) in lovely weather that looks reasonably set for a while.
Later we dismantled the playhouse in the garden. It was slowly deteriorating but had been there nearly 25 years so didn’t owe us anything. I’ve never been a very sentimental person but I’m getting worse as I get older and I was sorry to see it go after all these years. Hard to see what is sentimental about a garden playhouse but it brought back memories of our younger son coming to find us to say he’d looked out of the playroom window and seen two nice men building something in the garden.
Carrying on with the theme of poor exercise judgement, Thursday was back to the gym with my normal companion. Not feeling 100% I ducked out of the 2000m on the rowing machine in favour of a 500m rowing sprint. On the basis that took me very nearly 2 minutes of pain, the 8 minute challenge for the 2000m is looking a rather long way off.
Sadly, the increasing sentimentality meant that the playhouse had been stuffed full of the boys old books, games and even some old school exercise books. With yet more proceeds of the decluttering (including my wife’s old school exercise books!), that led to a massive bonfire on Friday – very therapeutic but it’s surprisingly hard work burning thick wads of paper (I think the outer pages burn and the ash then keeps the oxygen from reaching the rest?) so it was a long but satisfying job, mixed with some gardening – rock and roll.
I was too tired to get on the turbo in the evening, so instead I watched highlights of the day’s Giro stage – it was an undulating 185km (115miles) and the winner rode it at an average of 45.1kph (28mph). Astounding!
It was up to London again on Saturday as my wife had tickets for the Strictly Come Dancing (I think it’s Dancing with the Stars in the USA) Professionals’ show. The TV show is certainly not my thing – I can (just about) take the (surprisingly and happily small) time spent on the dances themselves but the padding around them is too much to bear. My wife has many friends who love the programme but none could make the date so I was the ‘plus one’. It was an experience and they are incredibly skilled – but, as I say, not my thing.
On Sunday morning we did one of my standard 4 mile (6.5km) London runs to Hammersmith and down the Thames Path to Craven Cottage (Fulham FC’s ground).
In the afternoon we went to the re-opening of Court No1 at Wimbledon, with its new roof. I’ve seen quite a bit of tennis at Wimbledon and the Queens tournament but have rather lost interest in recent years because of slow play and incessant shrieking and grunting (Connors and Seles have a lot to answer for). At least getting there from the London flat was easy and there was good music and tennis from, McEnroe, Navratilova, Ivanisevic, Cash, Hewitt, Clijsters, Venus Williams and Jamie Murray.
I might have mentioned that I struggle not to run when staying up in London – and on Monday morning we went for another run, this time over Hammersmith Bridge and down the path on the other side of the river. We’d stayed in London because, in the afternoon, we went to meet our younger son at Heathrow, back from Peru and Bolivia. He had a great time and we can now breathe more easily.
Last week ended with a gentle run with my wife on Sunday – cold enjoyable. Monday was a Bank Holiday, a joy for most people but one of the (very few) drawbacks of being retired, no big deal for me and I ended up doing domestic stuff of little note.
It’s frustrating because I’d like to be out on the bike or running but I’m trying to get the legs sorted, and that seems to mean putting rest and stretching above pretty much everything else. Neither the knees or the Achilles’ were particularly happy after cycling on Saturday and running on Sunday but I’m still really not sure that this ‘being sensible’ lark is going to catch on.
I was off personal trainer duty on Tuesday as my wife ran with a friend. She then went to London – I resisted a visit to the gym as Thursday now promised a ride with 4 of the 5 friends who accompany me to the alps each year. Only Phil (who lives and works in Germany) was missing … no commitment some people (but as he was actually in Provence climbing Ventoux I think he’s forgiven).
Riding with friends
Early in the week, Thursday’s weather looked OK but as the day neared, the forecast deteriorated to fairly continual light rain. We set off at 9 planning to head south so Dave could pick up some more of his ‘British Cycle Quest’ clues (it’s a sort of treasure hunt for bikes without any treasure) with 402 sites to be visited around the whole of the UK. Anyone thinking of picking up the Ramsbury clue look away now ……… the plaques on the wall of the village hall are for ‘Best Kept Village’ competitions.
The forecast was reasonable accurate and the light rain was fairly intermittent – except for the deluge that hit us soon after we started. It was fairly cold too – no more than 10℃ (50℉) until the very end.
We stopped at a cafe for coffee but I then had to dip out a bit early as we had friends coming for supper and staying the night.
In fact, I see I rode only about 8km less than they did with only 40m less climbing. I was surprised that they didn’t go past me later on – which would have been a bit of an irony as I’d left early to get home quicker. I now find that I didn’t valiantly hold them off – it turns out that they had a second food stop (very Hobbit-like). In the end I rode 50 miles with 2762 feet of climbing (80km, 842m) – very enjoyable company but a bit cold and wet.
Of course, the idea that I’d held off the chasing pack is a nonsense – especially as the day proved to me that I’m trailing in a poor last in terms of bike-fitness. There’s a lot of work to be done if I don’t want to be tail-end Charlie in the alps.
Dining in the dark
We had an excellent evening with our friends who left on Friday morning to go to a funeral. We then left to go to a (different) funeral too – then straight off to London to the restaurant Dans Le Noir (‘In the Dark’) where we had an evening meal … in the dark! Not just dark – total blackout, the literal ‘can’t see your hand in front of your face’ blackness. It was an experience given to us by our sons for Christmas.
Whatever the theory, it was a very fine evening and a real experience. The restaurant staff are visually impaired or totally blind so to get a small taste of their world was fascinating by itself, but the food was also good and up in the bar afterwards we were treated to an introduction to sign language by a charming deaf lady.
After the meal you can also find out exactly what you’ve eaten, either by looking down the front of your shirt (actually we were splash-free) or from the menu you are then given. My taste buds are not too bad as I identified the pork belly, the savoy cabbage, the fennel, carrot, potato etc although I thought the quince was apple sauce and I couldn’t be sure that the venison wasn’t a good beef steak of some description.
A strangely challenging experience, but one we were very pleased to have had.
More London running
On Saturday morning I celebrated (nothing in particular) by having a run to Hammersmith and down the Thames Path – about 5 miles (8km) at a reasonable pace and thoroughly enjoyable.
One strange thing – around home in Oxfordshire just about every runner I pass when out running says hello. In London, they nearly all deliberately avoid even eye contact. Is that a London thing, or just a city thing?
I’ve started saying hello to everyone I pass – I might start a trend or get arrested as a wierdo.
I’m the first to admit that this is not the place to find earth-shattering news or insights – until now. After extensive research I can reveal ……. that challenges go better if you’ve put in the training.
Yes, I know it’s horribly obvious but it’s easy to overlook the obvious in favour of the fashionable or easy – assuming that more expensive kit or other ‘tricks’ will do the job.
Thinking about my White Horse Challenge performances it dawned on me (I’m quick like this) that my best result was in April 2017 when I’d already started training for my ‘everest’ in the July. By the time of the WHC, I’d ridden about 800km in the previous four months, including many reps of the hill to the local White Horse at Uffington.
That led to a time of 5:05 for the WHC – less than 2% off breaking the 5 hour target. In contrast, this year’s attempt was off the back of just 20 miles of riding and 6 hours on the turbo in nearly 4 months. Of course, the marathon training helped (and the marathon itself went OK thanks to the training) but it didn’t replace lost riding – no great surprise this year’s WHC didn’t go as well.
That’s got to be a bit encouraging so – if fit and healthy – I’m going to give it a real go next year to see if I can break the 5 hour barrier. Either I’ll break the barrier, or accept that I can’t, and move on.
The plan will be to ride at least 1600km (1000 miles) to include at least 40 reps up to the Uffington White Horse and lots on intervals, before the WHC in late April 2020. Longer rides and hills on the road and intensity on the turbo? Although that doesn’t sound much, with skiing and the (almost) guarantee of bad weather in January and February, I think that’s a real challenge in itself …. but will it be enough?
Perhaps a trip to the mediterranean in March or early April might help – we’ve talked about it in the past in order to do some running and cycling in better weather, but 2020 might be the year to do it. What else …….. new wheels and other bike upgrades are always tempting but real progress must be through ‘me upgrades’. In the past I’ve tried to rely on minor improvements to scrape through but perhaps I need a more radical approach to raise my level significantly.
Then, if I’m in any fit state (with the ATs in particular) I’ll return to marathon training to have a go at a sub 4 hour run in Autumn 2020, aged 65. I’ll base this on the training plan I used for Rotterdam last month but increase the mileage and do hill and interval sessions in addition. In between, I’ll have the usual week in the alps in July but I’d also like to find a way of fitting in a trip to Ventoux to try the bicinglette and I’m struggling to see how that fits in.
This year, it’s now back to the cycling to train, first, for the week of cycling in the alps in July. The aim is to perform better than I have in the last two years which suffered from doing the ‘everest’ in 2017 and riding out there last year. There is no overt competition (of course) but when you ride up big hills with friends each day, you know where you stand in the pecking order!
Then it’s the club sportive in late July (I’ll ride it unless needed for admin duties) followed by the Prudential Ride London 100 miler in early August. If I carry off the alps OK, those should pretty much take care of themselves.
Subject to the injuries, I’ll carry on running later in the summer and try to get to a few Park Runs with an aim of getting below 25 minutes – I have no idea if that will be possible. I’ll also carry on with the gym and the rowing machine – I’d like to get under 8 minutes for 2000m but whether that is achievable is another a mystery.
I appreciate that no one should be very interested in all this – I set it out merely to cement my commitment. Well, that’s the commitment, now for the doing …
I ran a very gentle 2.7m (4.5km) with my wife on Monday, testing the progress of the muscle pull that was giving her ITB issues. I wonder if my Achilles rehabilitation requires no running, or whether easy runs are OK?
As the tendons weren’t getting any worse with all the marathon training, I’ll carry on running gently (even if that slows down their recovery a bit) – with a lot of stretches and heel drops.
Garden and bonfire on Tuesday (lovely, as the birds are out in force and the woodpecker is back); Bournemouth on Wednesday doing the (almost) proper fix on the fence that blew down and which I bodged a couple of weeks ago; gym on Thursday followed by a very enjoyable lunch with friends.
Hmm ……. that says it all really, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with normal but, let’s be honest, it doesn’t exactly set the pulse racing with excitement.
Last year the big challenge was riding to the alps – a solo, unsupported, 550 miles (880km) in 84 elapsed hours. I loved it but it meant that the challenge highlight of the year was over in July. I certainly suffered a bit of a post-event dip – I’m coming to realise that I’ve become a bit of a challenge junkie in my old age.
This year, the big challenge was the Rotterdam marathon – and that was on 7th April so the dip merely starts earlier.
Already I’m struggling to get myself motivated for the White Horse Challenge next weekend. It’s 90 miles (c150km) around Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire visiting the White Horses at Broad Town, Hackpen, Cherill and Uffington with climbing anywhere between 1400m and 1750m (4600-5750ft depending who you believe). Sure, the cardio side should be OK but the leg muscles work a bit differently cycling compared to running – just think of the amount of extra flex at the hip and knee when cycling – and I’ve had just the one ride outside in over 3 months.
I promised my wife no crazy solo challenges this year and a promise is a promise, so I’ll have to deal with it (and it’s time to build up the brownie points again by playing my part in the de-cluttering process that’s been going on around me for a few months).
For a bit of a vicarious challenge, I’m looking forward to following some other folks on their challenges this summer but mainly I’ll have to entertain myself with some planning for next year.
I’ll be 65 in July 2020 so that might have a bit of a potential ….
Muscles: modest in amount but all working as they should, no issues in the training for, or running of, the marathon
Achilles tendons (ATs): Improving slowly
Left shoulder: a bit sore still after the fall (I was knocked over, honestly) skiing in January
Left knee: a bit sore – no issues in the training for, or running of, the marathon but a bit painful since
Resting heart rate: 49 (odd as it was mid 50s during marathon training and low 40s last year during cycle training)
That’s it for the training. Three runs this week: Monday, Tuesday (with gloves, hat and stinging hailstones) and Wednesday (wait for the hailstones to finish, go out and get caught in more of them).
In all, only 10 miles (16km) but getting faster – Tuesday’s was a p.b. at 5.23 per km (8.37 per mile). Wednesday’s was faster still at 5.13 per km (8.24 per mile).
I seem to have managed not to twist an ankle, break a leg, pull a muscle or tear a cartilage in these last few days so it’s off to Rotterdam to see what awaits on the run itself.
It feels like I’ve done a lot of training over the 20 weeks – exactly 450 miles of running (a pleasingly round number) with – I think – 14 runs over 10 miles, including 3 over 20 miles. I have missed out on what would have been really helpful interval and hill sessions because I’m pretty sure my Achilles tendons would not have been able to withstand the extra stresses those would have caused. If I’d have done them I might now be more hopeful of a decent time – but I’d have risked not being able to run at all.
I’ve been a little tempted to go out for one more longer run – but I appreciate that is likely to be counter-productive so I’ll resist. Instead I’ll just go through the normal process of worrying if I’ve done enough training. Happily there are plenty of other things to agonise over too – what do I wear, what do I eat the night before, what do I have for breakfast, what do I eat on the run, do I try to go with the 4 hour pacemaker? It’s an angst-fest.
The rest of the preparation hasn’t been too difficult so far – I don’t drink alcohol Monday to Thursday (and will go very easy on Friday and Saturday this week, if I have any at all) and eat a lot of fruit and vegetables anyway. I’ve cut down on the coffee a little in favour of water and green tea and always sleep more than 8 hours so I’ve not had to change too much.
Without trying to diet, my weight is down to 66.5kg (a fraction under 147 pounds, 10.5 stone) but I won’t track that from here – it’s more important to eat the right stuff in the last few days than think about weight.
The weather forecasts started to to converge and are now diverging again. On average, Sunday in Rotterdam looks likely to be dry, not too windy and reasonably cool – perhaps around 9℃ (48℉) at the start, warming to about 13℃ (55℉) by a likely finish time. I’ll settle for that.
Although I’m now running faster, it’s over short distances and I don’t see any reason to assume I can now run under 4 hours (I think 4 hours would be my qualifying time for this year’s Chicago Marathon so it’s not surprising that it’s tough). Conventional wisdom says a sub 4 hour marathoner should post a 1h 50 half in the training – my best has been 2h 05.
For me, the most important outcome from the marathon is for my son, Alex, to break 4 hours.
After that, in ascending order of ambition, my targets are to get around: