Category Archives: Lake District

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.

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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.