Category Archives: Lake District

Turbo, run, walk, ride, walk, walk – head for the hills!

Rydal Water – probably my favourite in the Lake District

I don’t know if it’s widespread but I tend to suffer a bit with ‘post-challenge-slump’ syndrome. Generally it’s a reluctance to get out and exercise – and finding it less enjoyable when I do.

Following a significant physical challenge – like the cycle everesting or the ultra marathon – it’s easy to understand that could have a lot to do with general tiredness and the need to rest muscles. After those challenges and the ride of 550 miles out to the alps there was also an element of ‘what’s the point of a 40 mile ride or a 5k run?’.

But that doesn’t explain why I felt rather flat last week after the Blenheim triathlon. Since the triathlon was only 1hour 37 minutes of activity, and I didn’t feel any stiffness, and there wasn’t anything out of the ordinary in the distances, I guess there must be more to it than just the physical side.

Like most things to do with the mind, I guess it’s a complex issue. For me, I think there is the fact that a challenge takes up a lot of hours a day either consciously or sub-consciously mulling it over and mentally rehearsing – the absence of that must be quite significant. That slightly single-minded focus on the challenge with everything building up to the day itself must create a bit of a vacuum once the event has passed.

It’s noticeable that as soon as a challenge is finished, I start thinking about the next ones. What was interesting last week was that the exercise I found myself enjoying most was the trip to the lake for a swim – that’s the exercise that continues to provide the biggest challenge.

Having retired, I sometimes wonder if I have replaced the stretch and achievement of work with sporting challenges as a means of feeling fulfilled and ‘validated’ … oh, that’s getting a bit deep for me …

Anyway, I have some likely, significant, challenges for next year, in particular the 100km ultra and the olympic distance triathlon, so even though they are some way off I can start to think about them.

I went to the pool midday on Tuesday but it was really busy and it didn’t look like I’d get a decent swim in so I canned that and got on the turbo in the evening – 45 minutes at 29.1kph (18mph). I must try to stop slipping back into 30 minute turbo sessions. I ran with my wife of Wednesday morning – one of our usual loops for just over 7km (4.4miles).

On Thursday we drove the 4+ hours up to the Lake District for a long weekend with the friends we’d been in Bournemouth with last month. We’d all gathered there by Friday mid morning and had a short walk (just under 7km) up Black Crag later in the day.

On Saturday the three men took to the bikes and we had an excellent ride of a little under 80km (50 miles) with nearly 1300m (over 4200 feet) of climbing, heading south west from Ambleside. The trip included a circuit of Coniston Water where Donald Campbell set various speed records before sadly perishing while making another attempt in 1967. A fine ride in excellent company – but it was tough in extremely wet weather and on a relentlessly hilly route.

We all hiked on Sunday, intending to get to Red Screes but (surprise, surprise) the weather turned against us. Although there were times when it was too warm for jackets, eventually we had to turn back before we reached the intended destination as the wind got up, the rain set in and the visibility reduced.

We still walked over 13km (8 miles) climbing nearly 600 metres (almost 2000 feet) – and got completely drenched. Who would have imagined that anywhere called the Lake District could be prone to so much rain???

On Monday we walked for about 16km (10 miles) around Rydal Water and Grasmere in the usual 4 seasons of weather but in the evening we did a ‘meal deal’ at one of the two excellent vegetarian restaurants in Ambleside followed by a film. Although very much a meat eater, the restaurants are so good that I never notice the lack of meat and always enjoy the food.

Some of us chose to watch ‘The Alpinist’ which was terrific – I rarely recommend music, TV or films because everyone’s tastes are so different but the film was a rare delight.

We drove back on Tuesday – it was a great weekend with excellent company.

My one (very minor) regret was that we had taken swimming things (even wetsuits) in the hope that it might be possible to try a bit of wild swimming. It was always a long-shot and the weather and routes we took meant that it didn’t happen. We probably needed a walk to a lake where we could swim and then dry in the autumn sun but much of the time we were as wet at the side of the lake as we would have been in it.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together

2. BBC News website: Fashion house in backlash over ‘racist’ $1,190 sweatpants

High end fashion label Balenciaga is facing a backlash, after critics said that a $1,190 (£860) pair of sweatpants it sells rips off black culture.

The garment features a built-in pair of boxer shorts peeking out from the waistband, mimicking a style popularised by hip hop musicians. A TikTok post which called the pants racist was viewed 1.6m times and black culture experts have raised concerns.

I always thought that racism was about prejudice, oppression, discrimination, or antagonism based on racial differences or perceived superiority. While ‘cultural appropriation’ might be in poor taste and cause annoyance, is it racist?

3. Public Information (a repeat): How many lakes are there in the English Lake District?

Officially only one (Bassenthwaite Lake) as the other 15 are ‘Meres’ or ‘Waters’, (plus there are many other – generally smaller – bodies of water referred to as ‘tarns’).

4. BBC News website: Glastonbury Festival – Traces of drugs found in river at site

Environmentally damaging levels of MDMA and cocaine have been found in the river running through the Glastonbury Festival site. It is suspected that public urination on the site finds its way into the river. Festival goers are being urged to use the toilets provided.

Anyone reading this nonsense might recall last week’s reference to German scientists training cows to use a ‘Moo Loo.’ Perhaps festival going should be restricted to well trained cattle?

Gym, gym, run, gym – and rides and walks in the Lake District

The ‘lake’ bit of the Lake District is obvious – it could just as easily be called the Hill District

After a great weekend, uninterrupted by any exercise (beyond the quad biking, lifting a glass or fork to my mouth, and some walking) it was the gym on Monday morning to start losing the extra pounds.

Same again on Wednesday for 50 minutes of weights followed by 3km on the treadmill in 15m 57sec. That’s around the pace for a 3h 45min marathon – but even on the treadmill there was no way I’d have been keeping that pace up for any great distance. I’m a long way off being able to do any decent running – happily, there is a long time before I really have to try.

Gym again on Thursday morning for 50 minutes – tough on the back of the previous day’s visit but, on the plus side, the Achilles tendons seem to be in reasonable shape after the treadmill run.

On Saturday we drove the 250 miles up to the Lake District for a weekend with the friends we hosted in France in the summer. It rains a lot up there (could that have some link to the fact that it’s the lake district?) but we were pretty lucky this year.

Our host forgot his cycling shoes so I got a call on Saturday morning to see if I had any with mountain bike cleats to take up for him. I didn’t but was able to collect the forgotten shoes from his house.

Tricked into thinking that he was going to use his mountain bike, I took mine, only to find he was using a road bike for a ride in constant rain on Sunday. It was hard: only 24.48km but with 424m of climbing (15.2 miles and nearly 1400 feet). Particularly hard on me battling (and failing) to keep pace on my 18 year old mountain bike.

On Monday we walked the Fairfield Horseshoe – according to my Garmin, we walked for 20.27km with over 1000m of climbing (12.6 miles and 3340 feet). Quite a tough hike for a non-walker but very nice views and a real feeling of success. It wasn’t deserted but there was just a trickle of people coming from the other direction (we did it anti-clockwise, starting climbing from Ambleside).

On Tuesday the three men rode (all on mountain bikes and largely off-road) to meet our wives at the start of a walk up Holme Fell, and back again after it. Over 28km and 660 metres of climbing by bike (over 17.5 miles and 2200 feet) and a short walk of about 4.3km with 202m of ascent (2.7 miles and 660 feet) sandwiched in between. This off-road mountain biking stuff is seriously tough. The legs weren’t too bad thanks to the gym (I guess) but the cardio vascular bit was rather lacking.

It was a terrific few days with great friends and excellent hospitality, in a magnificent part of the country.

I’ve got to get up on the Ridgeway to make sure it is not anything like the fell walking. If it is, I’m in trouble for the trail ultra marathon up there next year.

Climbing the Joux Plane, bikes, walking in the alps and Golden Eagles.

Walking in the alps in the Haute Savoie. I can think of worse things to do

Normally, the White Horse Challenge, my club sportive and my week in the alps would be the year’s cycling highlights – but I’ve already had the Ride London as a bonus in 2019. Equally, the lake district in January would be the focus of the walking – but now another week in the alps and more of both!

For a few years some friends have, very kindly, invited us to their place in the Lake District in January for some walking. We’ve reciprocated by having them and another couple (who are mutual friends) to stay in Bournemouth. This year we decided to try something different and it was ‘Bournemouth in the alps’.

So it was that, at silly o’clock on a Sunday morning, we left home in a well loaded car, heading for the channel tunnel and the Haute Savoie.

We had many things to take out, plus three bikes. The ladies (although all very competent cyclists) had decided that cycling back to a ski resort at 1150m each day might be a bit much so just the men decided to do some riding along with the walking that we would all do. We took all the bikes and some of our friends’ extra luggage so they could fly out with just hand baggage.

Our thinking was to get to the tunnel early in the hope that the almost inevitable delays might not have built up too badly by the early hours – and to give us a good chance of arriving in the light. It worked and the 710 miles (almost) flew past – and we were at the apartment (somewhat knackered) by late afternoon.

The first two days were hot and we prepared for the arrival of our friends, and relaxed, other than for a quick walk up the mountain to check which walking paths were open. Some are completely shut in the summer in favour of cyclists who have exclusive use of part of what is the ski area in the winter. VTT (vélo tout-terrain) is quite a big thing out there – but I am a little disappointed that so many are electric assist. To me, the hard-core appearance of riders with all the body armour should mean self-propulsion (although, personally, I’d want to take the telecabine up to the top, and I have to acknowledge that they are focused on the descent, not the climb).

The others arrived on Wednesday and the hot weather continued. On Thursday we walked from the apartment (at about 1150m), up to and along a ridge above the village at about 1700m – around 8.5km with 800m of ascent (5.2miles and 2620 feet). It never ceases to surprise me how ski runs that I know so well, look so different in the summer. It’s not just the colours but also the contours and the existence of roads that you’d never guess were there.

Friday was a cycling day. We decided to go for broke early on and we so rode over to Samoëns … and up the Joux Plane. It’s a tough (HC) climb – 11.6km, 989m of ascent at an average of 8.5% (7.2miles and 3250m) – it gave Lance Armstrong (by his own admission) his hardest day riding a bike as he nearly cracked in 2000 under a Jan Ulrich attack. It is also rather infamous as being part of the stage that resulted in Floyd Landis’ expulsion from the 2006 Tour. I believe that it’s been featured on the Tour 11 times.

I must admit that I like the climb which is picturesque and fairly quiet, even though it is very hard.

Our wives drove out to meet us for lunch at the top of the col. I have happy memories of this place as the only one where I have been mistaken for a proper cyclist … a few years ago the lady in charge of the restaurant offered me a newspaper to put under my shirt as I left for the descent in cold weather!

After lunch, we did the return trip with the inevitable climb back up to the apartment. In all, it was a 71km day with 1860m of ascent – a fine day on the bike.

Back to walking on Saturday – we drove about 5km to Les Moliets and walked a 10km loop with another 630m of climbing (6 miles and 2100 feet). Undoubtedly, the highlight was seeing two golden eagles circling low overhead as we sat at the Tête du Pré des Saix at 2100m (c 7000 feet).

We cycled 72km with 1260m of ascent to and back from the cirque at Sixt-fer-a-Cheval on Sunday – the ‘meet wives for lunch’ arrangement again – a beautiful setting I’ve visited many times and never grow tired of.

The main problem with the mountains is the unpredictability of the weather – for my cycling week I’ve been incredibly lucky over the years and if the rain has come in, it’s come in late in the afternoon/early evening. We were chased back from the cirque by the rain – and got caught just minutes before we reached the apartment.

It was a bit wet and murky on Monday too – but we cycled up the Col du Pierre Carree (my everesting hill – how did I ever do that 12 times?), over the top and down into Flaine. It is a purpose built ski resort created in the 1960s with a great snow record but little in the way of summer season – and it was almost completely shut at the very beginning of September.

We did not find a single shop open but managed to track down the one restaurant serving food (almost exclusively to resort maintenance staff) and had a very good lunch. We had an abbreviated walk in the drizzle before riding back – a total ride of 32km with 1045m of climbing (20 miles and 3400 feet), with a 4.2km walk sandwiched in between.

Our friends left on Tuesday and we drove back to England on Wednesday.

A 1500 mile round trip in the car and about 175km of cycling with 4166m of ascent (110 miles and 13700 feet) and 22.6km of walking with 1550m of ascent (14 miles and 5100 feet). No running – but that would simply have been too much. As it was, I returned fitter (but heavier) than I went out.

A great trip in almost exclusively good weather, with good friends, good cycling and good walking. It takes a lot of beating.

Marathon training week 8: turbo, run, fell walk, long walk. Quite tough – but of what training value?

Grasmere from Loughrigg Fell

After hard exercise on Friday, Saturday and Sunday it was back on the turbo for 45 minutes on Monday to avoid starting week 8 of the training with a rest day. A slightly gentler 21.2km (13.2m) but still finishing in a pool of sweat.

Tuesday was blown out of the water for training by a combination of waiting for deliveries, a service for the alarm and a quick trip down to Bournemouth late on. The rest was probably a good thing after 4 fairly hard days of exercise.

On Wednesday I got out for the week’s long slow run – 14.63 miles (23.55km). It was cold and felt very hard, run at 30 seconds a km outside 4 hour marathon pace.

I don’t know why it was so tough but I’ve ruled out a Samson-syndrome, despite getting my hair cut in the morning. Perhaps it was being only 5 days after the last long run – but perhaps I’ve got to start taking nutrition and hydration more seriously. All my morning runs to date (including the 12 and 13 milers) have been done on just a cup of coffee.

This one, starting just after midday, was done on three cups of coffee, a small glass of water, a banana and a Nature Valley oat bar. I don’t take any food or water out with me. Perhaps that’s not enough for a later start and longer runs?

I was still hobbling on Thursday but we drove the 245 miles up to the Lake District for an excellent few days with friends, in Ambleside. We stopped on the way to see my father, a few days before his 95th birthday on the 13th.

On Friday we walked from Ambleside to Grasmere over Loughrigg Fell – about 6 miles with a maximum height of just over 1000 feet. Another 7 miles on Saturday but flatter in a circuit near Far Sawrey (if that makes sense) towards the south west corner of Windermere. No sign of Wordsworth and too early for daffodils but I wandered lamely as a cloud.

One good outcome is that the Achilles tendons held up well to the hills and might have benefitted from the rest from running for a few days.

Back south on Sunday.

I have no idea what the factor is for equating miles walking with miles of running – still less how that works for hill walking. So, I really don’t know if that has been good or bad training – or any sort of replacement for the running and cross-training I missed. Perhaps I’ll just count it as cross-training, accept it as ‘different’, and move on.

Week Run Cycle X-train
1 16.1m  (25.9km) 9.8m  (15.8 km)  2:00
2 18.5m  (29.8km) 13.3m  (21.5km) 2:00
3 20.7m  (33.25km) 65.8m (105.9km) 1:00
4 22.2m  (35.8km) 13.7m (22.07km) 1:00
5 24m (38.6km) 13m  (21km) 1:00
6 (Christmas) 13.2m (21.3km)    
7 25.56m (41.14km)62.7m (100.9km) 3:00
814.63m (23.55km)  13.2m (21.2km) 7.00
‘Running’ totals 129.3m (208.3km) 191.4m (307.5km) 17:00

I wandered lamely as a cloud (apologies to Wordsworth)

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Possibly Low Pike, looking down from High Pike, with Windermere in the background – or possibly somewhere entirely different

After shifting the sciatica I brought on myself back in November, the drive down to the alps went well on Boxing Day, the skiing went well but the return journey brought the sciatica back. Goodness knows how – same length of journey, same car, same seat, same seat settings … it just did.

I was taking it easy but had gone up to nearly 72kg and was suffering with a good dose of what they are calling an epidemic of Australian flu (generous people the Australians, not only were they happy to give us a beating in the cricket but they send over their flu – thanks guys).

It all meant that I was rather tired of doing nothing and after a week I decided I’d been idle for long enough and thought I’d see what exercise I could do without hurting it more.

Lunges and sit-ups were out but crunches, press-ups and ‘from sitting to standing, using just one leg (arms folded so no impetus to be gained from swinging them)’ worked with both legs. So I did a few of those.

Unfortunately, although I could do the exercises, I paid for them the following day with worse sciatica. ‘Old enough to know better’ comes to mind.

Clearly, long car journeys and vigorous exercise were completely ruled out – so we did the only sensible thing and drove four and a half hours to the Lake District to do some fell walking.

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An experienced hill walker – a Herdwick sheep, I believe

It was a long weekend that had been arranged months previously with three other couples – the third time we’ve done the trip and not one we’d ever want to miss. It also gave us the opportunity to stop off at my sister’s to see my father who moved in with her a while ago. It was just two days before his 94th birthday so that trip was even more essential.

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The sun is (almost) seen in the Lake District in January (Rydal Water or Grasmere?)

We were in Ambleside and the trip was great and, as ever, the Lake District was spectacular. We walked, ate, and I nearly cycled (I just took a mountain bike but some of the others had road bikes so I gave it a miss). As it was, the closest that I did get to cycling was working on a communal jigsaw of a stage of Le Tour in (I think) 2012.

The walking was fantastic (but very cold) although I spent the whole time not knowing where I was, where we’d come from or where we were going. In two walks we did well over 13 miles and 6400 ft of ascent – not record breaking but OK for a non-walker.

[If you like pointless trivia, how many lakes are there in the Lake District? Altogether there are over 30 bodies of water over 0.1 sq km, and more than 80 bodies of water in all, including reservoirs, but there is only one lake.

The lake is Bassenthwaite Lake – the others are ‘meres’ (eg Windermere – so ‘Lake Windermere’ is both wrong and tautologous), ‘waters’ (eg Ullswater) or tarns.]

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It was cold – even without the fierce wind chill

Returning on Sunday, we just had time to get things turned around before getting ready to head off for me to deliver the eulogy at an Aunt’s funeral the Monday. RIP my Aunt Joy.

So, sort of active – but a world away from the cycle training I’d want to be doing at this stage.

However, it would be churlish not to appreciate what I can do – it’s remarkable that I could do the pretty strenuous walking when it still hurts to get up out of a chair. Two of my friends on the trip are a Consultant Rheumatologist and a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon – both very talented and eminent in their fields – and neither is sure what I’ve done. Two of the others are Vets – they thought it best simply to put me out of everyone’s misery.

All in all, I can’t help but think that this getting old business is over-rated.