Category Archives: London

Row, run, cycle – but taking time to smell the roses

Chelsea Flower Show

After Monday’s London run I gardened on Tuesday. Having cut a whole 3 seconds off my 2000m rowing time at my 2nd attempt, at the gym on Wednesday my 3rd attempt took another 28 seconds off (now down to 8m 42s), although still not feeling 100%.

I suppose that’s encouraging but if I’d known it was going so well I might have eased off a bit to keep something in hand for the next attempt. I assume the improvement is just a bit of familiarity with the equipment so perhaps next time will just be consolidation.

I’m still wondering whether the gym will add much to my cycling. I’ve always taken the view that cycling must use all the muscles needed for cycling – but the gym is a nice social diversion from other training (if I were ever to get back to doing some) and, with my focus on the legs and core, it can’t be doing any harm … can it?

In the afternoon I was at a local junior school helping to give cycle training to some 11 year olds. They could all ride but we were also assessing them with a view to taking them out on the road at the start of next term. It was enjoyable and all the children were pretty good on the bikes – although the bikes were a rather motley bunch in terms of style and road worthiness!

Back to Bournemouth on Thursday, continuing to clear the garage and garden. With a fleeting visit, no running (I didn’t even go to the beach to check that the sea is still there) – but back to the gym on Friday morning – I did the 500m rowing machine sprint for the second time and at 1 minute 57 seconds I took 2 seconds off my first time at the distance. My gym companion thinks the machine I used this time is the harder of the two – I’ll check next week.

After the gym, it was up to London for the Chelsea Flower Show. We tend to go every few years to get some inspiration for the garden – but fail to implement much (if any) of it. Still, it’s a good day out. This year was very enjoyable in good weather – even though it was a bit too crowded for my liking. Great show and artisan gardens and outstanding exhibits in the Great Pavilion. I’m not sure if I’m inspired or intimidated – probably both.

Back to Oxfordshire on Saturday after a run early in the morning (about 4.3miles – 7km). It went well to the half way point but then my recent right calf niggle became a current right calf pull. I finished the run at a hobble and well over a minute per km slower than the first half. How do I train for, and run, a marathon in April with no muscle issues, only pull one on a reasonably gentle 4 mile run the following month? It hurts a lot – but at least that takes my mind off the Achilles tendons.

We drove back to Oxfordshire later with our sons who came back for the Bank Holiday weekend which is good compensation for the calf.

  Indoor rowing  
Attempt No. 500 metres 2000 metres
1 1minute 59 seconds 9 minutes 13 seconds
2 1:57 9:10
3   8:42
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Run, run, gym, run, gym, run, run (good job I’m running less and cycling more) and ‘Strictly come Wimbledon’

Back to the Bournemouth promenade

No matter how foolish, it seems that I can’t resist running when in London or Bournemouth. After last Saturday’s run in London, it was another 5km (3.1miles) along the Bournemouth seafront on Monday morning in bright sunny weather and a cool breeze.

Last week the knee had been improving but I managed to set that back a bit with the London run – and running in Bournemouth didn’t help either. I decided not to run for the rest of the week and see how the knee recovers. Needless to say, the ATs are pretty rubbish.

I went to the gym on Tuesday, having missed it last week. I tried the 2000m rowing again – a whole 3 seconds faster at 9:10! I assume it will help with the muscles in my back, shoulders and legs – it’s a very hard exercise but it’s another thing to play with that shouldn’t hurt my Achilles’.

The resolve not to run for the rest of the week lasted only two days as my wife wanted company on a run on Wednesday – just 3.5km (2.2miles) in lovely weather that looks reasonably set for a while.

Later we dismantled the playhouse in the garden. It was slowly deteriorating but had been there nearly 25 years so didn’t owe us anything. I’ve never been a very sentimental person but I’m getting worse as I get older and I was sorry to see it go after all these years. Hard to see what is sentimental about a garden playhouse but it brought back memories of our younger son coming to find us to say he’d looked out of the playroom window and seen two nice men building something in the garden.

Carrying on with the theme of poor exercise judgement, Thursday was back to the gym with my normal companion. Not feeling 100% I ducked out of the 2000m on the rowing machine in favour of a 500m rowing sprint. On the basis that took me very nearly 2 minutes of pain, the 8 minute challenge for the 2000m is looking a rather long way off.

Sadly, the increasing sentimentality meant that the playhouse had been stuffed full of the boys old books, games and even some old school exercise books. With yet more proceeds of the decluttering (including my wife’s old school exercise books!), that led to a massive bonfire on Friday – very therapeutic but it’s surprisingly hard work burning thick wads of paper (I think the outer pages burn and the ash then keeps the oxygen from reaching the rest?) so it was a long but satisfying job, mixed with some gardening – rock and roll.

I was too tired to get on the turbo in the evening, so instead I watched highlights of the day’s Giro stage – it was an undulating 185km (115miles) and the winner rode it at an average of 45.1kph (28mph). Astounding!

It was up to London again on Saturday as my wife had tickets for the Strictly Come Dancing (I think it’s Dancing with the Stars in the USA) Professionals’ show. The TV show is certainly not my thing – I can (just about) take the (surprisingly and happily small) time spent on the dances themselves but the padding around them is too much to bear. My wife has many friends who love the programme but none could make the date so I was the ‘plus one’. It was an experience and they are incredibly skilled – but, as I say, not my thing.

On Sunday morning we did one of my standard 4 mile (6.5km) London runs to Hammersmith and down the Thames Path to Craven Cottage (Fulham FC’s ground).

In the afternoon we went to the re-opening of Court No1 at Wimbledon, with its new roof. I’ve seen quite a bit of tennis at Wimbledon and the Queens tournament but have rather lost interest in recent years because of slow play and incessant shrieking and grunting (Connors and Seles have a lot to answer for). At least getting there from the London flat was easy and there was good music and tennis from, McEnroe, Navratilova, Ivanisevic, Cash, Hewitt, Clijsters, Venus Williams and Jamie Murray.

I might have mentioned that I struggle not to run when staying up in London – and on Monday morning we went for another run, this time over Hammersmith Bridge and down the path on the other side of the river. We’d stayed in London because, in the afternoon, we went to meet our younger son at Heathrow, back from Peru and Bolivia. He had a great time and we can now breathe more easily.

This gun’s for hire, even if we’re just dining in the dark

Hmm, looks like a perfect day for a ride

Last week ended with a gentle run with my wife on Sunday – cold enjoyable. Monday was a Bank Holiday, a joy for most people but one of the (very few) drawbacks of being retired, no big deal for me and I ended up doing domestic stuff of little note.

It’s frustrating because I’d like to be out on the bike or running but I’m trying to get the legs sorted, and that seems to mean putting rest and stretching above pretty much everything else. Neither the knees or the Achilles’ were particularly happy after cycling on Saturday and running on Sunday but I’m still really not sure that this ‘being sensible’ lark is going to catch on.

I was off personal trainer duty on Tuesday as my wife ran with a friend. She then went to London – I resisted a visit to the gym as Thursday now promised a ride with 4 of the 5 friends who accompany me to the alps each year. Only Phil (who lives and works in Germany) was missing … no commitment some people (but as he was actually in Provence climbing Ventoux I think he’s forgiven).

Riding with friends

Early in the week, Thursday’s weather looked OK but as the day neared, the forecast deteriorated to fairly continual light rain. We set off at 9 planning to head south so Dave could pick up some more of his ‘British Cycle Quest’ clues (it’s a sort of treasure hunt for bikes without any treasure) with 402 sites to be visited around the whole of the UK. Anyone thinking of picking up the Ramsbury clue look away now ……… the plaques on the wall of the village hall are for ‘Best Kept Village’ competitions.

The forecast was reasonable accurate and the light rain was fairly intermittent – except for the deluge that hit us soon after we started. It was fairly cold too – no more than 10℃ (50℉) until the very end.

We stopped at a cafe for coffee but I then had to dip out a bit early as we had friends coming for supper and staying the night.

In fact, I see I rode only about 8km less than they did with only 40m less climbing. I was surprised that they didn’t go past me later on – which would have been a bit of an irony as I’d left early to get home quicker. I now find that I didn’t valiantly hold them off – it turns out that they had a second food stop (very Hobbit-like). In the end I rode 50 miles with 2762 feet of climbing (80km, 842m) – very enjoyable company but a bit cold and wet.

Of course, the idea that I’d held off the chasing pack is a nonsense – especially as the day proved to me that I’m trailing in a poor last in terms of bike-fitness. There’s a lot of work to be done if I don’t want to be tail-end Charlie in the alps.

Dining in the dark

We had an excellent evening with our friends who left on Friday morning to go to a funeral. We then left to go to a (different) funeral too – then straight off to London to the restaurant Dans Le Noir (‘In the Dark’) where we had an evening meal … in the dark! Not just dark – total blackout, the literal ‘can’t see your hand in front of your face’ blackness. It was an experience given to us by our sons for Christmas.

Whatever the theory, it was a very fine evening and a real experience. The restaurant staff are visually impaired or totally blind so to get a small taste of their world was fascinating by itself, but the food was also good and up in the bar afterwards we were treated to an introduction to sign language by a charming deaf lady.

After the meal you can also find out exactly what you’ve eaten, either by looking down the front of your shirt (actually we were splash-free) or from the menu you are then given. My taste buds are not too bad as I identified the pork belly, the savoy cabbage, the fennel, carrot, potato etc although I thought the quince was apple sauce and I couldn’t be sure that the venison wasn’t a good beef steak of some description.

A strangely challenging experience, but one we were very pleased to have had.

More London running

On Saturday morning I celebrated (nothing in particular) by having a run to Hammersmith and down the Thames Path – about 5 miles (8km) at a reasonable pace and thoroughly enjoyable.

One strange thing – around home in Oxfordshire just about every runner I pass when out running says hello. In London, they nearly all deliberately avoid even eye contact. Is that a London thing, or just a city thing?

I’ve started saying hello to everyone I pass – I might start a trend or get arrested as a wierdo.

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.

 

A week until marathon training begins and it’s going OK (except for the running)

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Running for the over 60’s: the key tools of the trade

To be honest, when I signed up for the Rotterdam Marathon I was expecting to be thinking about running shorts, shirts and trainers – not compression socks, ankle supports and ice packs.

Welcome to marathon running for the over 60’s!

On Thursday, my gym companion, Ian, and I drove to the gym instead of running as both of us are protecting injuries. To compensate we did 50 minutes, which is a bit more than usual on the weights and rowing machines. I’m concentrating on leg exercises but am doing a bit of everything to keep some balance.

Friends came over for supper that evening and although the injuries felt a bit better on Friday morning I decided not to run, partly to rest the tendons, partly because Mrs O has generously shared her cold/flu with me and partly so I could fully enjoy the delight that is clearing out gutters (I just love this rock and roll lifestyle).

Instead it was back to the turbo in the evening for 15km in 30 minutes (18.6mph).

On Saturday we went to Bicester Village – a very stylishly done designer outlet shopping centre, with an impressive array of brands (if you’re impressed by such things). It has its own mainline railway station – the only one I’ve come across in the UK where announcements are made in Chinese and Arabic – such is the tourist pull of the place.

Definitely outlet shopping on steroids.

In general, that sort of thing is my idea of hell but I’ve not been for years and they do have a Rapha shop. In fact, I discovered that they also have an Asics shop (very down-market beside Stella McCartney, Lacoste, Armani, Gucci etc) where I managed to get a pair of their top range cushioned running shoes for 36% of the RRP. If I can’t run injury-free in those, I can’t run injury-free in anything.

In the afternoon I was back on the turbo for 23.27km in 45 minutes @31kph (14.45 miles @ 19.26mph) while watching the first half of Scotland v Fiji (Rugby Union). It was hard – I’d clicked up a gear towards the end of Thursday’s session and forgot to click it back down.

A strange thing happened this (Sunday) morning – the Achilles felt pretty good so I put on some kit and went for a run. I believe this is quite permissible as part of marathon training.

It wasn’t too dramatic – the same as Monday: 6.8km (4.2miles) at almost exactly 4 hour marathon pace. I could just feel both Achilles’ for the first mile but the left then eased. The right stayed at nothing more than a slightly nagging level of discomfort … but we’ll see how they are tomorrow.

So, some exercise all 7 days this week – 120km on the bike (74.5miles), 13.6km running (8.4 miles) and 50 minutes in the gym – and exercise for 13 of the last 14 days.

Once I start to increase the intensity of effort on specific days I’ll certainly enjoy the days off – currently I’m very tired before 9.30pm most evenings and that’s a whole 30 minutes earlier than normal!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.