Category Archives: gym

2020 here I come – but how do I train for multiple challenges?

OK, four of the 2020 challenges are set: White Horse Challenge (sportive); Race to The Stones (ultra marathon); a week’s alpine cycling; and a marathon. I hope others will crop up but these are the focus for now.

The next issue is how do I train for them?

Assuming about 10 weeks for the cycling, and perhaps 16 for the marathon (I have no idea at whether a longer training period is better for an ultra marathon but, scarily, I’ve found one for 16 weeks that starts with a 31 mile week!) it could look a bit like this:

2020 J F M A M J J A S O N D
WHC   ccc cccc ccc                
RTTS   rrr rrrr rrrr rrrr  r          
Alps         ccc cccc ccc          
Mar         rr rrrr rrrr rrrr rrr    

Obvious issues are:

  • having to start with the cycling in February (but at least it seems to come after my normal skiing holiday thanks to the absence of a marathon in April)
  • cycle and running training simultaneously in March, April, May and July
  • two lots of running training and cycle training simultaneously in June!

I assume that there is a lot of overlap in the training benefits – no need to do a full training programme for both disciplines at the same time – which is good as I am sure I don’t have the ability to do that anyway.

However, I don’t understand how some cycle training might replace some marathon training without harming the prospects for the marathon. Triathletes manage the juggling act – thank goodness I’m not trying a swimming challenge too (although I do fancy doing another triathlon next year).

Equally, questions like how a taper for the ultra marathon in June affects what should be full cycle training at the same time is quite beyond me. At least triathletes are training for all three disciplines to deliver together.

Ideally, I would like to carry on training now and ‘bank’ it for withdrawal when needed next year. If only it worked like that.

Three things are clear:

  • At 64 I cannot keep any training going at full pelt for 9 months. I wonder how I fit in a few easy weeks for rest and recovery?
  • I cannot afford any time for illness or injury. Thank goodness I have no existing issues with knees or Achilles tendons ……. oh dear.
  • I cannot afford to start from scratch in February – I’ll need to rest over the winter, but not too much.

It looks like the MSU approach will have to be to the fore – when in doubt, Make Stuff Up.

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Challenges for 2020 – madder than usual

The Ridgeway – route of The Race to the Stones

After the cycle ‘everest’ in 2017 and last year’s solo ride out to the alps, I promised to do no silly solo challenges in 2019. I’ve kept to it, neither the Rotterdam Marathon nor the Ride London were solo.

However, I am completely sure that the promise was limited to 2019 so all bets are off for 2020 so ‘silly’ is permissible – possibly even ‘mad’ is allowable.

The current thinking revolves around cycling, a marathon, a triathlon and an ultra marathon. Specifically:

  • to give the White Horse Challenge a real go in April, with the aim of finally breaking 5 hours for the 150km ride. That takes care of the early part of the year as it will require some proper training of the sort I rarely do in the first few months (being a cold weather wimp). The plan is to ride at least 1000 miles before mid-April and perhaps a trip out to an early season training camp?
  • to have a go at the ‘Race to the Stones’ in July. I was tempted by the full 100km route but doing ‘just’ the second day of the event (50km starting from near Wantage and finishing in Avebury) seemed slightly less mad, given that this will be my first ultra marathon, and it being along the Ridgeway and not on nice flat tarmac. My usual gym companion had mentioned doing this but seems to have decided not to – shame. I have entered although I don’t see how I can get a full training plan in around the White Horse Challenge so I think this will be less of a race for me, more an extended run/jog/walk
  • I’ll try to be fitter for my weeks cycling in the alps to be closer to the front up the mountains than I was this year (not that we are competitive, of course). The focus on running for the Race to the Stones might not help much
  • I’ll do a marathon later in the year – possibly Bournemouth (where we have a house) or Abingdon, (near to us in Oxfordshire) or (more exotically and harder to get into) Berlin – but the aim will be to go under 4 hours, aged 65. With luck, both sons will run with me this time (‘with’ being a word to describe being in the same race, not denoting running together for very far)
  • I’ll get back in the pool and see if I can fit in a sprint triathlon in 2020 and improve my swimming sufficiently to go for an olympic distance triathlon in 2021.

No real idea if any of that’s achievable and there is a huge amount that could go wrong and ruin it all – but it’s good to have some targets in mind.

Gym, gym, run, turbo, cycle training, gym, run. A cornucopia of delights.

Bournemouth, with the Isle of Wight in the distance

A benefit of retirement is the lack of pressure to cram in exercise at the weekend. I was creaking by the end of last week, we were out for supper on Friday and Saturday, and so exercise took a back seat.

On Sunday we had a trip to Bournemouth to pick up the bedding and towels used by our friends over the previous week and a walk down the seafront to a cafe was about as vigorous as it got. The really strong wind we were walking into on the way reminded me that if I ever run the Bournemouth marathon I may need to find someone big to shelter behind along the promenade.

All that meant I was more than ready to get back to the gym for an hour on Monday morning – and back again on Tuesday. I’m enjoying the gym more than I expected. It’s partly the convenience in that I can set aside about 90 minutes and that covers the travel, the getting ready and changed after and an hours decent exercise. It’s probably also the variety that it offers and the strange satisfaction to be gained by lifting heavy bits of metal. I must be careful to remember that I go to help with my fitness for cycling and running, but for the gym itself!

I ran with my wife on Wednesday morning and later did a hard 30 minutes on the turbo, at just over 32kph (20mph).

Thursday was back to the cycle park for more training sessions. The first round of sessions was so successful that we’ve done a second week – great feedback from the children and their parents. It’s very rewarding to see children who arrive with little confidence and unable to ride, leave feeling good about themselves and confident on two wheels.

It’s odd how approaches to relatively simple things change over time. I remember learning to ride a bike with steady wheels, and our sons learned the same way. Now, the approach is to use balance bikes (no steady wheels and no pedals) that are scooted along and promote balance. It seems an obvious improvement as steady wheels actually remove the need for balance.

I know that the basic balance bike design was invented in the late 1700s but I wonder where the idea of using it as a learning tool for children came from. I think it may be the founder of Strider Bikes back in the early 2000s? Brilliant.

I spent the afternoon sorting out one of the bikes we provide for older children to practice on, which was stuck in top gear.

I went through a reasonably tough exercise routine on Thursday evening, I was back the gym on Friday morning and ran with my wife early on Saturday morning. While she did hill reps I was kinder to my Achilles’ and ran around the ancient Badbury hill fort – in all just over 6km (3.75m). I enjoyed it a great deal but could feel the week’s accumulated fatigue.

That’s it for the week’s exertions. Seven sessions in 6 days is plenty for me. Overdoing it is bad news at any time but, as you get older, it feels even more important to allow for recovery.

Current physical stocktake: around 67kg (148lbs); resting pulse just under 50; Achilles tendons, better than they have been; knees, not too bad; shoulder hurt skiing, much better.

Transcontinental Race

My congratulations to everyone who took part in the Transcontinental Race. 160 riders finished and 101 scratched (including the one who is still shown at the start). Particular credit to two intrepid ladies, not in their first flush of youth and riding as a pair, who arrived at the finish on Thursday, some 3 days after the previous finisher crossed the line and 16 and a half days after the winner (the winner took only 10 days). Remarkable resilience and determination.

Riding like the wind – or, more accurately, riding in the wind.

The Great Coxwell Tithe Barn (an older picture as I don’t have the tri-bars on the bike at the moment

After the gym and some mass mowing on Tuesday, on Wednesday I had to drive up to London for an errand – I took my running kit but it didn’t stop raining and I wimped out.

As penance, I got on the turbo in the evening for half an hour @ 31.6kph. A short ride but so much faster than the two sessions at 24/25kph that I managed a couple of weeks ago. Not necessarily wise as I’d arranged a Thursday morning ride with a friend (one of those I go out to the alps with each year).

He’s been a friend for 20 years or so and is probably the person who was most instrumental in getting me into cycling in the first place. He’s cycled all his life and the two of us went out to the alps in 2003 for my first taste of Le Tour. I took a mountain bike (the only bike I owned) and was totally unable to ride it up any significant climbs – but we saw the tour on the côte d’Arâches and (at the bottom of) Alpe d’Huez, and I’ve not looked back since.

Happily, it was dry when we got away at just after 9am but it was very windy. It was all a bit unstructured as we hadn’t discussed a route – or even a distance. Perhaps that’s a good thing as we weren’t training for anything – just going out on the bikes for the pleasure of the trip, or so I thought.

However, Philip is a strong cyclist and was soon setting a fast pace with me hanging on grimly – grateful that I had the Ride London miles in my legs. We rode for 73.5km at 27.3kph (45.6miles at 17mph). I ended up with 25 Strava achievements, including 15 PRs and a 6th overall.

So much for the ‘just going out on the bikes for the pleasure of the trip’ – although it certainly was enjoyable, and it suggests that I’ve not ruined the fit of the bike by changing the stem earlier in the week.

I drove to the gym on Friday morning – I don’t mind cycling in a bit of rain but I don’t want to arrive wet for an hour’s workout. I stuck with the usual weights and a short run on the treadmill to finish with but it was very hard. Not too surprising perhaps as that’s two gym sessions, a turbo session and a ‘proper’ bike ride in four days.

If age means anything, it seems to mean slower recovery from an accumulation of days of exercise. At the moment the exercise doesn’t seem to have any better purpose than keeping fit. I’ve been thinking about the next challenges (probably for 2020 now as I am still in the year of my promise of ‘no stupid solo challenges’) and will see if I can firm up on those soon. It will be good to have some more focus.

That’s made two bikes better – or two bikes worse?

Peas in a pod. Black is the new ….. black?

Early in the year, my usual gym companion and I ran to the gym. After he hurt his foot we started to drive. Friday we cycled – it’s about 2 miles – why on earth haven’t we been doing that all summer?

It’s odd, but I guess I think of the bike as a hobby and not as an everyday means of transport. How stupid of me. It was a really good hour at the gym – and very enjoyable.

We went to Bournemouth later on Friday – we are ‘lending’ the house to some friends and needed to make sure it was clean and ready for them. A tough couple of days but there is something about the sea that makes you feel like you’ve had a holiday, even if it’s been spent cleaning. It was windy and wet but we had a great time, not least finding a restaurant we’d not tried before – a Spanish Tapas bar – which was brilliant.

Back home on Sunday (without even time for a run down the promenade) and I couldn’t wind myself up sufficiently to get on the turbo that evening – and felt all the better for that. I thoroughly enjoy exercise – running, cycling, gym or otherwise – but there are time when not exercising is even better. In fact, it was so good I ended up doing nothing on Monday either. It’s rare that I don’t exercise for four days but perhaps I needed it?

On Tuesday I cycled to the gym and spent a happy 50 minutes there. With a decently quick cycle there I can focus on the weights rather than the cardio. Mainly, I use the leg machines but am incorporating sit-ups, the plank regime, some machines for the arms and some stretches (just for show, of course).

In the afternoon, I tinkered – a word to strike terror into anything tinkered with. This time it was both my carbon bikes – the Rose X Lite and the Giant TCR2.

I bought the Giant from ebay and got a M/L size. It had a 130mm stem on the bars – too much of a stretch for me, but I didn’t know any better.

When I bought the Rose, I was between frame sizes – the UK rep said go a size up, the German advice was to go a size down. I followed the German advice but bought a longer stem to compensate, if necessary.

Four years later I got around to fitting the new stem. I’d measured the two bikes, saddle tip to bars, and found that there was about 6cm difference between them (the Giant being the bigger). Swapping the Giant’s 130mm stem for the Rose’s 90cm and putting the new 110cm stem on the Rose means that measurement is now the same for them both.

The ‘rough and ready’ guide that when cycling up on the handlebars, the bars themselves should block out the front axle is now satisfied on both bikes (having been satisfied on neither before). But have I improved both or just messed them both up?

As I refine the angle of the bars, and find out if any consequential changes are needed, I’ll find out. I’m a bit nervous, I must admit.

Run, gym and (minor) bike mechanics

After the sportive it was London on Sunday to take our sons for lunch to celebrate the older boy’s birthday. On Monday morning I ran down the Thames Path, 7km (4.3 miles), surprisingly at sub 4 hour marathon pace.

It was a very good run in warm, but not stupidly hot, weather. The only down-sides are a slightly sore left knee and painful calf muscles. I guess that I’ve not been exercising them very much while I’ve been protecting the Achilles tendons. I’m sure it will all improve.

I am continuing my one-man attempt to bring to London the habit of saying ‘hello’ to other runners as you pass by. On this run I got a response from 5 out of the 13 runners I saw. Admittedly, a lot were wearing headphones or earpieces of one sort or another and might not have heard me, but I’ll keep at it.

Gym on Tuesday for a bit over an hour. It was very good apart from the chap who insisted on singing along (rather tunelessly) to the music on his headphones. I don’t mean to be a miserable old git but if I wanted karaoke …

As part of the gym exercises I did the planks routine and then decided to see if I could do a straight 5 minutes of plank as well. The good news is that I can, the bad news is that my lower back was sore for the rest of the day so I missed the evening’s planned turbo session. I suppose the other bit of good news is that my painful back took my mind off my painful calf muscles.

They say that people perform better if the ‘package’ feels good – decent kit, nicely maintained and presented equipment. I don’t know if it’s true but I washed and oiled the bike and put new bar tape on it on Wednesday. The old tape was the original from when I bought the bike 4 years ago and was tatty beyond words. More workman-like than expert, I replaced it like-for-like with black tape. I’m sure it will make the bike go faster (though not as fast as if it had red tape, of course).

I’m going to need all the help I can get on the Ride London sportive, surely the new tape will help?

My heartfelt congratulations to:

  • Egan Bernal for his Tour win (the first of many, all being well),
  • Geraint Thomas for his immensely graceful acceptance of second place
  • Juilan Alaphilippe for lighting up the whole race
  • the Irish cricket team for giving England plenty to worry about in the early stages of their recent test match
  • Fiona Kolbinger, the first woman ever to be in the lead of the Transcontinental Race. 4 days 7 hours in, she is in front by 35km having stopped for less than 20 hours in total.

Gym, gym and the club’s sportive. Back in the swing of cycling?

A sportive with some great countryside and lovely views

My usual gym buddy couldn’t do this week so I went alone Thursday. His plans then changed so I went with him on Friday. The afternoon was spent putting out route markers for the club sportive on Saturday.

We were looking after the 30 mile pre-loop for the 100 mile distance (it then joins the 70 mile ride) but it still took quite some time and effort. It’s surprising how much pressure you feel doing something like that which (although I expect most riders doing the long route will have their own satellite navigation) could make a big difference to someone’s enjoyment of the day.

The whole event went really well – and still features the best food I’ve ever seen at a UK sportive (admittedly the wine and stew on the Tuscany L’Eroica might run it close for the European title).

I rode the 35 mile route (turned out to be 36.6 miles – 59km) with my wife and another friend, acting as pacer. We had a very pleasant temperature with light rain on and off (the sort that is actually quite welcome and hardly seems enough to get you very wet) and the whole ride was really enjoyable. With the trip to and back from the start we rode a bit over 41 miles at a steady pace – which is pretty impressive as my wife had only done one ride of 13 miles (about 21km) since last summer.

… and all the route markers were still there, in the right places, and visible!

So, a very good few days, and I only have to do three times the sportive distance to complete the Ride London next Sunday. How hard can that be …?