Category Archives: beach

Turbo, hospital (visiting), turbo, gym and a village on high alert

What danger might lurk down the most innocuous of lanes?

Based on a sample of one, I am all in favour of winter holidays to escape the cold weather – the only drawback is that when you get back it feels even colder than it would otherwise.

With a hotel holiday there is also the weight gain of course. Somehow, the week in Barbados only accounted for about an extra kilo – just over 2 pounds – which is more than strange considering the cooked (and continental) breakfasts each day and the 3 course evening meals. Both those issues are a price worth paying, I think.

If the house were a ‘lock up and go’ sort of place we might even be tempted to go away for longer. Potentially, that would be great for the running and cycling if we found somewhere a bit cooler than the Caribbean. Unfortunately, houses over 400 years old are rarely ‘lock up and go’ and the village is on high alert at the moment after apparently being ‘cased’ recently by some unsavoury characters known to the police.

A chap came down the village, house to house and into gardens, while lining up a brood of children in front of properties, ostensibly taking a picture of them but actually photographing the house behind them. We had a house-sitter for the trip to the Caribbean and hope that our alarm system is a good deterrent (not that we have stuff worth stealing – it’s just a requirement of the property insurers). I hope the alarm box came out clearly in the photos he took of our house.

It’s sad to think that we don’t have to make the house absolutely secure (although we do take a lot of care over that), we just have to make it look less attractive than neighbouring properties. Not exactly the community spirit I’d like.

In fact, part of me thinks that we are probably safer than normal for a few months. If I were a burglar, knowing that the casing of the village was spotted and the chap taking the pictures was captured on a few CCTV cameras, I’d expect the village to be on high alert and so I would wait wait for a while until everyone forgets about it and lets their guard down a bit. Our guard is permanently up!

Anyway, back to England, rested and relaxed, and back on the turbo on Tuesday – a very hard 30 minutes but quicker than expected, at an average 32.3kph (20.1mph).

Not quite back to the normal exercise routine yet, as my father was taken ill while we were away (a fairly innocuous cough that became a proper chest infection) so I drove up to Wigan on Wednesday to visit him in hospital. Unfortunately, on Tuesday he was moved from a ward that had pretty well open visiting times to a ward allowing just one. So, seven and a half hours in the car (4.5 hours there and 3 back – oh, the wonders of driving late at night) for an hour’s visit. Happily, he’s improving but that’s not a quick job at 95.

Turbo again on Thursday, not wimping out at 30 minutes like recent times. I pushed it to all of 45 minutes at 30.9kph (19.2mph). Gym on Friday morning – the first time for two weeks and it was suitably hard, although I just managed the normal weights.

For now, no injuries, Achilles tendons behaving and weight under control. Too good to be true – no doubt, it won’t last until next year’s cycling challenges or the ultra marathon in July.

Post-bug – back to the training or off to Barbados? Hmmm, tough call.

An early morning view from the balcony to the first floor suite – spectacular (just before the breeze died down and the sun burnt away the remaining clouds – and it got genuinely hot)

It was good to throw off the bug late last week as we drove up to London on Friday, and flew to Barbados on Saturday. An over 8 hour flight would not have looked good just a few days earlier.

The first time in the Caribbean for both of us and a really terrific experience.

The flight itself was pretty good – I’m not scared of flying but I don’t particularly enjoy it and I’m not too happy about the carbon footprint consequences. However, although the flight was good, the journey was long and became very slow once we landed … my guess is that Bridgetown airport is not the slickest operation known to the aviation industry.

To prove it, on the way back, the screens were showing one gate number while tannoy announcements were saying another and staff on the ground said both. The wrong number of meals was delivered to the plane and the truck bringing fresh water supplies broke down. The assisted boarding people even managed to get a couple onto the wrong plane.

Anyway, once we arrived, we were upgraded to a suite (I’ve no idea why, we just said a very warm thank you and took possession before they changed their mind) which was an unexpected treat and the hotel was easy-going, relaxed and not too smart (I don’t really do ‘smart’ on holiday). We looked straight out onto a lovely beach where we saw some turtles no more 20 yards out to sea. The staff were lovely and the food was great (and I ate too much of it, of course).

We had a few clouds and a few showers but always around 30℃ (in the mid 80’s℉). As much as I don’t like it too cold, I don’t like it too hot so I welcomed the clouds and the rain freshened the air beautifully.

I’d hoped that there would be some decent running routes in the area but the best was along the beach, early in the morning. That was lovely, although it’s a bit weird running near to the water’s edge (to get the firmest sand) while dodging incoming waves, on a beach sloping quite steeply down to the sea,

It was extremely hard running in the heat, on the sand and with the slope. I can’t help but think that it would make for great training. Strangely, few people seemed to agree and I only saw four others running anywhere on the beach during whole week. Perhaps not that strange – most of the guests in our, and the neighbouring, hotels managed to make me look (relatively) young and slim.

I’d not taken the Garmin so, officially, the running never happened, nor did some snorkelling, a lot of swimming in the sea and the pool, nor some exercise on the slightly strange machines in the hotel garden. I can live with that.

We left on Saturday arriving home on Sunday – a 50℉ (28℃) temperature differential between Barbados and the airport carpark where I had to scrape ice off the car.

I don’t tend to recommend books, films, music etc as I do believe in ‘each to his/her own’ but on the first day I started and finished a really charming book called ‘The President’s Hat’ (by Antoine Laurain).

It took me two days to read Khalid Hosseini’s third book ‘And The Mountains Echoed’. Hard to believe he could write a third book as good as ‘The Kite Runner’ and ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ but he did. He really does write wonderfully well.

Sadly, rather unimpressed by my wife’s choice of Sally Rooney’s ‘Normal People’ but reasonably warm about Celeste Ng’s ‘Little Fires Everywhere’.

Run, Gym, a Mini excitement, the rough end of a deal and a 20% crown reduction

Back from Lake District walking and cycling mid-week and then domestic stuff, including collecting my wife’s new (new to her!) car. From BMW Touring to Mini Cooper – fun wins over practicality at last.

It’s not exactly the same as the Mini I had back in the late 1970s (it’s put on weight) but it still has a playful feel to it – a sort of cross between a go-kart and a puppy.

On Saturday we drove down to Bournemouth in terrible traffic, picking up one of my brothers-in-law on the way. Since the death of her mother my wife and her two brothers have made a point of meeting up every year for a lunch in Sandbanks (where they always used to holiday as children). Happily, there is a Rick Stein restaurant there so it’s no hardship.

I did more domestic chores at the house in Bournemouth while they enjoyed some fine dining. The drive meant missing the second half of England’s triumph over Australia in the Rugby Union World Cup quarter final.

I don’t think I got the best end of the deal.

The bonus was a gentle run along the seafront on Sunday, only 4.5 km (2.75 miles) but delightful on a crisp and bright morning.

I’ve noted that in Oxfordshire runners and cyclists acknowledge each other with a friendly nod or ‘morning’ but that runners in London are a breed apart and tend to avoid eye contact completely. I’m pleased to report that Bournemouth runners and walkers are firmly in the ‘acknowledgement and greeting’ camp.

Gym on Monday morning – the first time for 11 days and it felt very hard as a result. Do the walking and cycling in the Lake District, and the run in Bournemouth count for nothing in exercise terms?

The afternoon turned out to be even tougher. One of the chores at the end of last week was getting tree surgeons in to do a 20% crown reduction on the 4 large beech trees at the end of the garden. The £1200 (nearly $1600) I saved by getting them to leave the cuttings for me to deal with seemed like a no-brainer, given the large logs I now have for the wood burner and given that that we are at the end of the village and I enjoy a good bonfire when the wind is in the right direction.

If the Buddhists are right, in a previous life I was probably an arsonist – though not a very good one judging by the way I usually manage to singe my hands and clothes.

As it was, Monday afternoon’s bonfire was a very tough one. Large heavy branches and a fire that didn’t want to get going or keep going once started. It was a problem child throughout – continually attention-seeking and not prepared to play nicely by itself – a very hard few hours. I had to remind myself of the saving made by getting the workmen to leave the cuttings to make the effort feel worth while. At least one more bonfire to come.

I was going to use the turbo trainer in the evening … but to heck with that.

Thinking about marathon training (it’s so much easier than actually training)

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Looking out at the garden on a bright November morning thinking about marathon running – it should have been a good day for a run

I’m not sure that my brain is ever truly in any recognisable state these days but, if anything, it is now in marathon planning mode (if only my legs were too).

I understand the words ‘long’, ‘slow’ and ‘run’ individually but it looks like thinking has changed over the last 20 years – or I simply misunderstood what they meant when put together in a training context. When I last ran marathons in 1998 and 1999 I did my longest runs (20 miles) at marathon pace. Now I see they should be more at a pace that means 20 miles takes about the whole of the intended marathon time.

The more I read, the more I realise that everything I thought I knew about running is wrong!

Next year (assuming I get to do them at all) I could do the longer runs here in the Oxfordshire countryside – but that will mean running on roads without pavements or street lighting. I’m thinking about fitting some of those in with trips to London or Bournemouth – warmer(?), safer and better lit.

The big London parks are really pleasant to run in and the Bournemouth seafront is wonderfully flat and almost completely traffic free – but it can blow a gale up the Channel. I once followed a chap riding a mountain bike who got slower and slower before he actually dismounted and walked – on the flat – such was the headwind.

Being retired I’m lucky that I can run during the day to get the best of the light and the weather. I don’t have to fit in the long runs at the weekends but I will have to fit in a couple of weeks’ skiing (oh dear) which could be a bit of a disaster for the running if the roads are iced or covered in snow.

Certainly, skiing is a bit physical but taking all those lifts rather undermines the true aerobic benefits. Last year I had a day skiing where the Garmin said I’d burnt over 8,000 calories – then I realised that it had assumed I went uphill under my own steam. Perhaps 2019 is the year to try Nordic skiing?

I’m not going to fret unduly if the training does not go to plan. I didn’t keep to a training schedule last time I ran a marathon and that worked out OK. Sure, I might be 20 years older now but just think of all that extra wisdom experience knowledge insight ….. physical deterioration. Damn.

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After Sunday’s run, the Achilles tendons were ‘mixed’ on Monday. The left one (which was hurt a couple of months ago) was not bad at all but the right (also hurt a couple of months ago but re-hurt last Monday) was not quite so good.

The new pain is lower than the original which is good news in that the old injury is healing well – but bad news in that I’ve picked up a new injury despite, I thought, being pretty careful.

So, it will have to be easy on the running this week to see if I can start my 20 week training next week. Looks like it might be a marathon training programme with a difference …. very little running. I wonder what the record is for hopping a marathon?

I had planned to try running on a treadmill in a gym but I’ve read that treadmills can cause more Achilles tendon harm – I’m not sure why, perhaps people tend to up the intensity on the treadmill. It looks like the turbo trainer is the best alternative to running when injured but it’s hard to gauge exactly how minutes on the turbo equate to minutes running.

Not the best possible approach – but perhaps the best approach possible.

In that spirit, I went on the turbo on Monday – a lacklustre 14.83km (9.2miles) in 30 minutes – and again on Tuesday for an interval session with two hard 5 minutes intervals. I suffered much more during the hard bits than I recovered during the others but, in all, 30 minutes for 15.27km (9.5miles) @ 30.5kph average.

That’s 15 days of training in the last 16 – although none have been excessive by themselves, they are adding up and I’m rather jaded and still suffering with the back end of the cold/cough from the weekend.

A day off on Wednesday, I think.

 

Run (✓) ride (✓) lift weights (✓) destroy tyre (✓)

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The second picture of a Continental GP4000S ii with a gash in the side wall that I’ve posted within about 400 miles. Perhaps it’s a new take on inner tube ventilation

On Thursday morning it was raining. I don’t mind running in light rain – up to the point where your trainers start to squelch – and it’s a good idea to experience most conditions as you don’t know what you’ll get on the day of any particular event.

However, running to the gym in the rain is less pleasant as you end up doing weights while wet – either from the rain itself or from sweat if you run in a jacket – and that probably means you get cold as well.

Despite that, I ran to the gym with a friend, did 30 minutes weights (feeling cold and wet) and ran back. In all 5.7km (3.5m) done fairly gently as he is coming back from his twisted ankle and the conditions were poor.

I ran in my ‘London Prepares’ jacket (from the series of test events run in preparation for the London Olympics in 2012 where Mrs O and I were Games Makers). A nice jacket but definitely a bit ‘boil in the bag’.

On Friday I went on the turbo again. It’s been very cold here this week and this was the first time since the start of the year that I’ve had to pre-heat the conservatory – it was only a week ago that I was opening the door to keep cool. I did click down a gear for the first 35 minutes and click it back up for the last 5. In total, 20km (12.5m) in the 40 minutes @ 30kph (18.7mph).

I was very cold to start with, and very hot the end – but it is little consolation that, on average, I must have been enjoying a really comfortable temperature.

The club ride on Saturday was interesting. It wasn’t too cold at the start and although it clouded over and got colder in a strong wind later on (the sort that leaves you pedalling to make forward progress downhill), I was enjoying it. Unfortunately on a fairly quick descent, I heard the ominous noise of a front wheel blow-out.

I was expecting to hit the tarmac but was greatly relieved to bring the bike to a safe stop. I then discovered that whatever caused the puncture had also taken out the side wall of the tyre. I changed the tyre, reinforcing the gash in the side wall with a bit of a crisp packet found nearby but couldn’t get any air into it with my pump.

The chap who had kindly stopped with me had a gas canister but as soon as that inflated the tube, it immediately let the air back out. It wasn’t a pinch in the tube with tyre levers (as I’d changed it with just my hands) so I took it as a sign that the cycling gods had decided that was the end of my ride. Collection by a very kind Mrs O was a rather ignominious end to it.

Just 58.55km (36 miles) with 600m (1970 feet) of climbing (not counting the journey back in the car).

That’s the second tyre I’ve lost to a side wall gash in under 4 months (and 4 months of not much cycling on that bike). I’ve always liked the Continental GP4000S ii tyres but that’s rather undermined my confidence in them – I’ve seen suggestions online doubting them because the side walls are vulnerable. Although I appreciate that any tyre might have failed in this incident, I’m now also in that doubters camp.

When I got it home, I found a large hole in the inner tube, nowhere near the site of the damaged wall. It’s a tube that I bought out in the alps in July (I can tell because the French tubes do not have threaded valve stems). I don’t like to buy into conspiracy theories but it can’t be part of a French response to Brexit, can it?

Sunday morning Mrs O was not feeling too good and I had the start of a sore throat so we are treating it as a day of rest (there is good precedent for that).

So, a decent week with 95km (59 miles) of cycling, 20.28km (12.6m) of running and 30 minutes of weights, with 6 consecutive days of exercise. Two weeks until the start of my 20 week marathon training course.

To date, my achilles tendons have hurt first thing every morning but eased very quickly as I get moving. This morning they don’t hut as much as normal so that’s good(ish).

More running next week.

 

 

 

 

Run, ride, shiver

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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

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‘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?