Category Archives: marathon

Ride London – a little bit eventful and interesting!

A sea of riders in the early morning light

Well, that was an interesting weekend. Up to London on Friday and registered for the Ride London sportive early Saturday morning …. but that didn’t go well.

I went to the correct ‘kiosk’ and gave my number, they played back to me my name and checked my id. They then put my envelope in a bag and gave it to me. OK, I could have checked it but I rather assumed they might be up to picking out an envelope to match the number I gave them. When I got back to the flat, I discovered that was a bit of an over-estimation as they had given me the adjoining envelope.

I phoned, but the recorded message said there were no staff in the office and emergencies could be notified by email. I sent the email and over 2 hours later got a reply to the effect the query had been passed to the entries team. I heard nothing from that team (and still haven’t today) so I used the wrong stickers and hoped for the best. In the end, my wife used the tracker facility later that day and discovered I had been changed to the number that I’d been given at the registration, rather than my own, original, number. I’d have relaxed more if they’d had told me!

I set off from the flat at 4am on Sunday morning (much too early for me) to cycle across London to the start at the Olympic Park. Even then it was a decent temperature but riding unfamiliar roads in the dark was a bit spooky. I wasn’t sure of the route (and couldn’t see my Garmin in the dark) but followed some other riders who seemed to know where they were going. Eventually more riders joined from all directions and by the time we got near to the start we were probably a couple of hundred strong.

Into the starting pen for yet another wait and off about 6.30am.

Once we sorted ourselves out after the start it all went pretty fast – over 20mph (32kph) through London on closed roads (fighting the instinct to stop at red lights).

The ride continued to go well – at 50km I was averaging 33.1kph (31 miles at 20.5mph).

I gave up some of that speed later but was still over 32kph after 90km (20+mph at 56 miles) despite having lost all my rear gears. Clearly my rear mech cable had snapped leaving me with just the two gears – 50×11 and 34×11. They were some testing kms (!) but then I spotted a roadside cycle mechanic – I think it was his home but he and some friends were offering assistance, water and flapjacks – what heroes!

I lost about 50 minutes while the work was done and remounted gratefully, with a full set of gears.

The run back into London was great although there were a few hold-ups as we got to places where they needed to let other traffic across the route. It got a bit more congested as we neared the end on the Mall (in front of Buckingham Palace) because the various route distances merged but I had a great run to the finish.

I wouldn’t have stopped, but for the mechanical, but the Garmin recorded 99 miles at a moving average of 18.45mph (160km at 29.7kph).With the little cycling I’ve done this year (only about 1470km or 900 miles before this ride) because of April’s marathon rather getting in the way, I’ve just got to be pleased – and I am. Clearly, the running, gym and planks are helping, along with the week cycling out in the alps and even my club’s 35 mile sportive with my wife.

It was enjoyable and good fun and our sons joined my wife to greet me at the finish – how good is that.

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Navvy, run, gym, odd-job man, run, cycle

I barrowed concrete at the cycle park Tuesday and ran with my wife on Wednesday. A gentle run but it underlined the bitter irony of how hard it is to get fit, and how fast the fitness goes.

I’m sure I remember running a marathon in April but based on current performance I don’t know how I might have done that. The concrete shifting was not to the liking of my knees or Achilles tendons but, if the legs hold up, I’ve got to keep going with the regular gym, planks, running and cycling if I want to stay fit and get around the Ride London sportive in reasonable comfort early next month.

I did a gym session on Thursday morning before we headed to Southampton to help one of my brothers-in-law moving into his new place. Sadly, we didn’t have the Guiness Book of Records on hand but I claim a world best of 30 pictures, one clock, one key rack and three clothes racks hung, a bathroom cabinet assembled and hung, a washing machine sorted and four dining chairs re-assembled. He’s a really fine chap but not a diy man.

The three of us ran on Friday and we came back home via Bournemouth to close up the house after it being used by one of my wife’s goddaughters. Judging by the instagram pictures seen by one of our sons (we would not think of intruding on that generation’s Facebook or other social media) she and her friends had a great time in excellent weather.

Sunday I was ‘on duty’ for the club’s family ride . My wife came along too (the club sportive is a week away and we have both signed up for it with another friend, but my wife has realised that she hasn’t cycled for many months) and the whole thing was a very enjoyable couple of hours.

To increase the training benefit I took the mountain bike. Not the easiest ride up the hills with the weight and off-road tyres – but the saddle is more comfortable than the carbon fibre on the Rose.

An alpine reality check … Galibier here I come?

Mt Blanc from Le Bettex last year

After a day of hobbling around with the calf pull (or as I like to think of it, ‘calf tear’ which may be the same thing but sounds more dramatic) I did my turn leading the club Sunday ride. Probably not wise as I still couldn’t walk properly but it’s an easy and short ride (this one was 13 miles, 21km) aimed at families, new cyclists and those returning to riding.

I took a mountain bike and made sure I cycled with the pedal under the arch of my right foot to avoid flexing the ankle. Very much a case of do what I say, not what I do – on Wednesday’s training session I’d been telling the school children to ride with the balls of their feet on the pedals.

It worked pretty well – except that I had to take my right foot off the pedal when going over bumps as otherwise the shock through the leg rather hurt. We had a new chap cycling with us – he’s a relatively new cyclist but looks like a really good recruit for the Saturday rides too.

After reading up on matters on the internet, I think I’ve managed a grade one (or possibly one and a half) tear to the right calf muscle as I was able to run (slowly) back to the flat after I did it on Saturday. It was a real shame (to say the least) as I’d just run a 5:05 km before it went, which is quite quick for me.

The calf is both painful and swollen – if both my calf muscles were this size normally, I’d be a proud man.

It’s all a bit stressful – I never seem to injure myself cycling (subject to the very occasional falling off) but the running has given me 6 months of painful Achilles tendons every morning, an unhappy knee ligament and now a pulled muscle. The answer looks like stopping the running and going back to the cycling … but I enjoyed the Marathon last month, I do like running – and want to do another marathon. What should I do?

With our sons home over the weekend they helped in the garden and, once I had progressed from hobbling to limping (and with me wearing a very fetching green surgery-strength compression sock) we went for a couple of great (slow) walks before they went back to London on Monday.

Looking to the mountains

The annual cycling trip out to the alps is starting to loom large on the horizon. This year we are incorporating a night away from the apartment to open up some new climbs. My vote has gone in for the Col du Galibier and Col du Télégraphe duo. It’s a combined climb of 1859 metres over the course of 34.5km (6100 feet in 21.5 miles).

I think Galibier is the 6th highest climb in the alps and features a monument to Henri Desgrange, the man responsible for the creation of Le Tour, so it has to be done. The two Cols together are only just over a fifth of my ‘everest’ climb so how hard can it be … (I rather wish I hadn’t said that).

It’s made me realise that, since the Rotterdam Marathon in early April, I’ve cycled 5 times: 1×13 miles; 1×20 miles; 2x50miles; and 1x70miles. To put in an entry for the understatement of the month, it’s probably not enough!

Backside to saddle time – once the calf is up to it.

Marathon training week 18/20: Run, lots of walking. New York, New York, it’s a wonderful town.

I love Central Park – I always wanted to run in it so that’s another bucket list entry ticked off

After last week’s training we went to London on Sunday where our younger son ran a half marathon in 1h 48m. I’m sure he’ll break 4 hours in Rotterdam, and show me a clean pair of heels.

On the Monday my wife and I did exactly what every training plan (almost) recommends – we went to New York for a few days.

I think it’s a glorious city – right up there with San Francisco, Barcelona, Rome, Paris, Berlin and London in my eyes. I’ve been a couple of times before and both our sons have been …. apparently that is grounds for my wife to insist that she also went for a visit. We walked a lot (I think that’s always the best way to see a city) and managed to take in a lot of stuff, including a Circle Line trip, the High Line, an off-Broadway play, the Empire State building, Ground Zero and the 9/11 museum, Central Park, Chinatown and MoMA.

Although we had a bit of rain on a couple of days it didn’t stop us doing anything and we had a great time in a city I love for its incredible variety and the feeling of general mayhem – not that I think I could live there. I particularly like the people, especially people in positions of any authority – so confident with, often, such little reason for that confidence … but charming with it.

It was a rare occasion when I was extremely pleased not to be driving – the grid layout with continual traffic lights is great for navigation but must be a real pain in terms of making forward progress (I guess mass stationary traffic is not called ‘gridlock’ for nothing). The city might be a happier place if NY drivers could be reminded that the motor horn is for use in cases of emergency, not cases of annoyance and frustration.

I really like Central Park but it struck me this trip that New York has rather put nearly all its green eggs in the one big basket as there are relatively few other green areas in the central part of the city – another drawback of the grid structure that doesn’t lend itself well to little squares with gardens like you get all across London. I guess it might be just a bit too expensive to flatten some entire blocks to create a few more Bryant Parks!

With luck, the walking will have counted for something in training terms but I did get out for a really enjoyable run on Wednesday: W40th, up 10th Ave, across at 58th, into Central Park, two loops round the ring up to the Lake and back via 9th Ave. Assuming it is permitted to run in kilometres in New York, in all it was about 10.5km (6.5m) in 58 mins. I even overtook more runners than overtook me (just).

Back to the UK on Saturday but (after 12 hours sleep) I decided not to run on Sunday. I’ll do the week’s long run (12 miles) on Monday, together with the week 19 runs.

The timing of the trip was designed to fit into the marathon taper period to miss the least amount of valuable training. That seems to have worked quite well (allowing for a one day shift in the long run) and I even managed to put on only about 1 pound (0.5kg).

Week Run Cycle X-train
1 16m  (26km) 10m  (16 km) 2:00
2 19m  (30km) 13m  (22km) 2:00
3 21m  (33.km) 66m (106km) 1:00
4 22m  (36km) 14m (22km) 1:00
5 24m (39km) 13m  (21km) 1:00
6 (Christmas) 13m (21km)    
7 26m (41km) 63m (101km) 3:00
8 14m (24km) 13m (21km) 7:00
9 (Skiing) 16m (25km)   12:00
10 (Skiing)     12:00
11 (Skiing) 7m (11km)   6:00
12 34m  (55km) 35m (56km) 1:00
13 38m (60km) 14m (22km) 1:00
14 38m (60km) 30m (48km) 1:00
15 39m (63km) 14m (22.km)  
16 42m (67km) 10m (16km) 1:00
17 33m (53km) 9m (15km)  
18 (New York) 6m (10km)    
‘Running’ totals 407m  (656km)   290m (466km)     50:00

Marathon training week 13/20: turbo, run, run, gym, (very long) run, velodrome.

After Sunday’s 17.6 miles, Monday should have been a rest day – but starting a week with a rest feels like a waste, so I treated my tired legs to 45 minutes on the turbo (15 minutes off for good behaviour).

They didn’t seem particularly grateful but managed 22.1km (13.7m).

On Tuesday I went out for the 8.4 miler (13.58km) I ran twice last week. In the spirit of trying new things, I used different shoes and kit – I’ll try various things over the coming weeks so I have a range of tried and tested options to cope with whatever the day itself might throw at me.

Planning and thinking ahead – whatever next.

Although not necessary for 8 miles, I tried some porridge for breakfast – which reminded me how important it is to practice in a way that reflects the likely experience of the event. I don’t normally eat breakfast and it left me feeling unpleasantly full – at least the marathon itself starts at 10 so I’ve time to digest on the day.

The run itself was pretty good – a little faster than the quicker of the two runs last week. Of course, I put that down, entirely, to the fact that these trainers are red.

I checked that running on Valentine’s Day would not prejudice the chances of getting to our 32nd wedding anniversary in June, and took a rest on Wednesday but Thursday was back to the now standard 8.4 miler.

I took off another 10 seconds per km. I’m now within 2 s/km of 4 hour marathon pace – but I’m having to push hard to get even this close for just 8 miles. I’m sure it was easier 20 years ago.

A week ago I was preparing to accept that I couldn’t get beneath 4 hours – now there seems to be the smallest glimmer of hope. It’s the hope that kills you!

An hour in the gym on Friday (all legs and core as the shoulder isn’t quite right yet) and all was set for the long slow run on Saturday ….

I had breakfast and took a little water (not enough) and some jelly babies with me. I had a run mapped out with a few escape routes if needed. In the end I didn’t use them but found it a real hard slog for the last few kms. I ran through the (psychologically important?) 20 mile barrier – 20.7miles (33.33km) but it wasn’t fast and it wasn’t pretty.

Sunday I spent a few hours being trained as a trainer for the cycle club’s initiative to get children and adults on bikes – then it was the Newport Velodrome in the evening (the Geraint Thomas Velodrome, no less).

I love riding on the track – the single speed has a great simplicity and the lack of any brakes is less of a concern when nobody has them. As always, I had a great time but there was little in my legs at the start and just about nothing two hours later – Geraint would have despaired at me.

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  (33.3km) 65.8m (105.9km) 1:00
4 22.2m  (35.8km) 13.7m (22.1km) 1:00
5 24m (38.6km) 13m  (21km) 1:00
6 (Christmas) 13.2m (21.3km)    
7 25.6m (41.1km) 62.7m (100.9km) 3:00
8 14.6m (23.6km)13.2m (21.2km) 7:00
9 (Skiing) 15.51m (25km)   12:00
10 (Skiing)     12:00
11 (Skiing) 7.1m (11.4km)   6:00
12 34.1m  (55km) 35m (56.4km) 1:00
13 37.5m (60.4km) 13.7m (22.1km) 2:00
‘Running’ totals 249.1m  (401.2km) 240.2m (386.9km)  49:00

Marathon training week 11/20: Ski, ski, run. Snow and Snow Patrol – but not enough running.

As the cars in the car park behind the apartment slowly sink beneath the snow …

We were back out on the slopes Monday and Tuesday – then it was packing up on Wednesday to drive back to the UK on Thursday.

It snowed solidly and, clearly, it was snow chains for the trip down the mountain. That wasn’t too bad as I could put them on in the underground garage – taking them off in the snow in the valley was another matter entirely.

We had about 550 miles to drive through France – and nearly all of it with a good covering of snow either side of the road. Despite that, the roads were excellent and clear. It began to snow as we got west of London and driving along the M4 at about 9pm it started to settle.

We saw one gritting lorry near Ashford (Kent) and not another for the whole 166 mile journey, despite constant claims that gritting was in process. At one point it seemed that we might be using the snow chains again but the snow eased and only started more heavily again as we got home.

A great holiday – 16 days, 1780 miles, a lot of skiing and the advantage of having both sons join us.

Three falls: one while standing still and tripping over my own ski pole (very cool); one on a black mogul field (very expected); and one entirely by surprise (but my wife says someone skied over the back of my skis which might explain it). I went over onto my left shoulder – after 5 days I don’t yet have full movement back.

Three falls is probably OK – too many falls would be depressing: no falls would suggest I’m not pushing hard enough.

In normal life I tend to shy away from potatoes, bread and cheese but those are the main staples of the Haute Savoie diet. Indeed, the wonderful dish ‘Tartiflette’ was actually created to promote sales of the local reblochon cheese. We ate and drank well but I came back still under 70kg which I will treat as a victory.

Some very enjoyable reading too – I managed to finish

  • ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (good but a bit weird in places, almost cartoonish). The cover quoted Salman Rushdie calling it ‘The greatest novel in any language of the last 50 years’ (I certainly couldn’t agree with that)
  • ‘Red Azalea’ by Anchee Min (very interesting, set in the time of the cultural revolution and well worth a read)
  • ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ by Amor Towles (generally excellent but, to a pedantic Brit, having a Russian Count in the 1930s use the word ‘gotten’ sticks out like a sore thumb).

We were supposed to be up to London for a Snow Patrol concert at the Wembley Arena on Saturday and that looked a bit unlikely to be happening as the snow fell for much of Friday – something like 8 inches of the stuff.

If we’d had to head to London then, I doubt we’d have gone, as the UK was again proving incapable of dealing with fairly modest snowfalls. Luckily, by Saturday things had settled a bit and we were just on the edge of the worst of the snow, which was mainly south and west of us.

We decided to give London a go so took the front wheel drive car. The biggest issue was (as ever) getting out of the village but we made it – just – and the rest of the trip was OK, taken cautiously. The rear wheel drive car would not have got out of the village.

Snow Patrol were excellent, but they had set the bar supremely high at the more ‘intimate’ concert we went to last November.

Luckily, in snow terms, London was much clearer than Oxfordshire so I took my running kit but only just managed to force myself out on Sunday morning – my first run for three weeks because of the skiing.

It was hovering just above freezing but was bright and clear I ran from West Kensington around the Serpentine (the lake in Hyde Park) and back. Altogether 11.4 km in under 1 hour 3 minutes at 5.30 min/km (7.1 miles @ about 8:52 per mile), despite the road junctions and the sore left shoulder. To my surprise, inside 4 hour marathon pace and it felt pretty good. Clearly, I should be doing more skiing and less running in my training ….

It will be interesting to see how the Achilles tendons react – they had better behave as there is a lot of running to be done between now and the Rotterdam marathon on 7th April (once the snow clears).

So, the training week ended with some skiing but only one run – a fairly dismal effort over the last 4 weeks as life has got in the way of the training. If someone were paying me to do the running perhaps I’d adjust the priorities but I can’t help but think that life first and running second is the right way round for a – very – amateur runner like me.

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) 62.68m (100.86km) 3:00
8 14.63m (23.55km) 13.2m (21.2km) 7.00
9 (Skiing) 15.51m (24.97km)   12.00
10 (Skiing)     12.00
11 (Skiing) 7.1m (11.4km)   6.00
‘Running’ totals 137.3m  (221.1km) 178.2m (286.3km)    47:00

Marathon training week 10/20: Ski, ski, long walk, ski, ski. Am I supposed to do some running?

Lots of snow but not as much in some parts of the world – stay safe people

I took our older son and his girlfriend back to Geneva airport on Monday 21st January (after skiing in the day) and collected our younger son, Alex, who arrived a couple of hours later. The three of us skied on Tuesday (still terrific conditions) but I had to drop out on Wednesday and Thursday feeling very rough with a cold/flu bug. On Thursday Alex and I went for a long walk around the village in the snow – he missed skiing last year so was pleased to catch up with developments in a place he’s known for most of his life.

Friday and Saturday were spent skiing again, before taking Alex back to the airport for a Saturday afternoon flight back to the UK.

Both our sons ski extremely well. We started them at 4 and they cannot remember not being able to ski. I started just before I was 30 and I think that the later you start caps how good you can get (or, at least that’s my excuse).

I get by reasonably well but tend to do ‘proper’ English skiing: stylish on blue runs, competent on red runs, significant collapse of technique on black runs. I put that to good effect skiing with Alex on the Friday.

There is a black run in the resort which used to be beneath a chairlift so it was possible to see how difficult it looked before deciding whether to tackle it. In recent years that chairlift has been replaced with another starting from a different place so now only the top part of the run is visible.

Foolishly I agreed to ski it with him – the top bit was tough, as expected, but the bulk of it that had been out of sight was just a large and steep mogul field – very much at the extreme edge of my abilities. I only fell once which I regard as a minor victory but it was tough and I was happy to escape intact.

Sadly, we could not fit in a run during the week because the pavements were not clear enough of snow to provide a safe footing. That was a particular shame as Alex is the son with whom I’ll be running the marathon in April.

After a great time with our sons (and a girlfriend), and having dispatched them back to the UK, we took Sunday off skiing – not a bad decision as it snowed heavily. That is one of the great things about going skiing for a couple of weeks – you don’t feel guilty at taking a day off like you would if you were just out there for a week.

So, half way through the training for Rotterdam and three compromised weeks because of the trips to the Lakes and the Alps. On the plus side, I’ve still been physically active and have got in the long runs in all except the one for this week.

People say that if you cannot train for three weeks because of illness or injury, you should consider postponing the marathon. As my weeks have not been complete failures, I don’t intend to take that route but I’d better get back to the programme soon.

But (Sunday 27 January) I’m still in the Alps as I write this …

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) 62.68m (100.86km) 3:00
8 14.63m (23.55km) 13.2m (21.2km) 7.00
9 (Skiing) 15.51m (24.97km)   12.00
10 (skiing)     14.00
‘Running’ totals 130.2m  (209.7km) 178.2m (286.3km)  43:00