Category Archives: beach

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.

 

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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?

 

Beach, bombshell and beast of burden

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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.

Failing to prepare …

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Now that’s what I call a sandcastle. Short on refinement and detail – but admirable in terms of quantity.

The misery of the wind and the puncture on Monday rather put out of my mind the fact that I’d had no top gear – but lots of grinding and jumping half gears to make up for it. To get over the trauma, I took the bike in to the local LBS and went down to Bournemouth in the sun.

Suddenly, after a winter that has gone into late April, the weather has decided to skip spring and go straight into summer. Apparently it got into the 80s℉ (late 20s℃). A national newspaper I saw the following day had a picture of a very attractive young lady sunbathing on Bournemouth beach. I’d not seen her when I went for a short walk on the promenade – clearly I’d been at the wrong part of the bay.

With the sportive on Sunday I’d decided to take it easy this week – but it did occur to me that I should give the bike a short spin to see if I could remember what it feels like to expose legs and arms to the elements, and to make sure the gear adjustments had worked.

As it turns out, that was a good idea as everything was working nicely, other than the fact that I still couldn’t get into top. I’ve  never fully understood why gears that work properly on a stand don’t always do the same on the road but it brought to mind the old ‘failure to prepare means preparing to fail’ adage.

A minor adjustment on the appropriate rear derailleur limit screw has sorted the gears.  If only my abject lack of adequate training could be remedied as easily.

Another thing I’ve struggled to understand (among many) is how, on a little spin to test the bike before a bigger ride, my legs always feel like jelly and something starts to hurt.  This time it was a niggle in my left knee but I’m going to treat it with the respect it deserves – and ignore it completely.

Tomorrow I am leading the club’s blue ride – probably not a great idea the day before the sportive. I was going to complain to the idiot who compiled the rota – but I’ve remembered that was me. Still, it’s only a bit over a pretty flat 22 miles (36km) and will be taken at a leisurely pace so it might not be a terrible idea – but I’ll not tempt fate and so won’t be taking my sportive bike.

Putting it into perspective

The tragic death of Michael Goolaerts and the broken jaw of Stefan Küng in this year’s Paris-Roubaix put my training, weight and foolish wittering into proper perspective.

RIP, Michael and swift recovery, Stefan.

Congratulations to Peter Sagan for winning the race. Although that was rather overshadowed by the other sad events, what a rider that man is.

Returning to the mundane, more swings and roundabouts last week, with a great trip to the seaside for a long weekend with friends. It’s a tough schedule but someone has to do it.

I’d lost about 5lbs in the first three days last week, and then most of it went back on courtesy of the very good weekend in Bournemouth. Monday was more positive as driving up to (and around) London helping our older son move kept me away from food – so an overall loss of just over 2.5lbs for the week.

A very sociable ride on Saturday along the seafront ticked off the week’s 200km target. We cycled from Hengistbury Head (where a beach hut sold for £275,000 [about $390,000] a couple of years ago) to Sandbanks (once said to be the 4th most expensive place to buy property in the world) but avoided buying anything other than lunch.

At 33km (20.5 miles) in just over 3 hours it was not exactly a white knuckle ride – in fact it rivals a ride in March last year as my slowest ever (and that was accompanying our younger son on a long training run as part of his marathon preparation).

In my defence, if it were needed, the speed limit along the promenade is 10mph and pedestrians have priority. To be honest, it was just great to get out on a bike in a lovely setting, with good friends.

With less than two weeks to go before the WHC sportive, I’m just aiming to get in whatever miles I can this week – and lose whatever weight will come off. Over 200km (125 miles) and over 2kg (4.5lbs) are the rough targets.

The sportive is about 144km with 1862m of climbing, (as I recorded it last year – 89.5 miles and 6,100 feet) so the weight loss is not absolutely crucial, but every little helps.

Today on the turbo – 65km in 1:28:38 at 44kph (40.4 miles at 27.3 mph).