Category Archives: running

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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Ultra marathon? – all sorted (oh, apart from starting training and actually running it)

Rotterdam – site of this year’s marathon, and blessedly flat

For my 3 marathons so far, ‘run all the way’ has been target No3, just behind ‘get round safely’ and ‘try to enjoy it’. Having now signed up for an off-road ultra, early research suggests I need a rethink.

Although I’m sure there are many great athletes who run ultra marathons from start to finish, it seems that, for a mere mortal like me, a run/walk approach is recommended. I’ve seen claims that incorporating, say, a minute of walking for every 10 minutes of running can perhaps double an individual’s effective range.

Instinctively, i’m the sort of person who would prefer to run until I could run no more, and then walk the rest. Apparently, that doesn’t work well for an ultra as the walking miles are likely to be something of a death march – the benefit of recovery while walking needs to be taken regularly and before it is too late.

I’ll need to practice the run/walk to see how it works for me but perhaps the walk bit could be used for the steeper uphill sections?

I don’t mean to underestimate the challenge but I can’t help but think that as my ultra is ‘only’ another 8km (5 miles) more than a marathon, I could keep with ‘run all the way’ and just do normal marathon training (plus a bit). However, my occasional lucid moments tell me that those who have completed ultras know much better than me, and I’ll find that ‘just’ those 5 miles, the hills and the absence of a good road surface will make a huge difference.

So, being too far away to start any specific training i’ve been doing the next best thing – researching on the internet. Recognising that internet research is a dangerous thing if I have not been able to separate the wheat from the chaff, more key learning from my reading so far:

  • losing weight is a good idea (well, how did they think that one up)
  • hydration and nutrition are vital (ditto)
  • don’t get injured – who, me?
  • there are 4 feed stations on the route – only 10 km between them so it looks like carrying one bottle will be enough, unless it is very hot
  • that might mean just a running belt to hold the bottle and some snacks?
  • I need to run on the Ridgeway in training – partly for familiarisation, partly for the training benefit and partly it will help decide on appropriate footwear (will running shoes be enough?)
  • I can keep cycling (good cardio exercise and easier on the body than running)
  • I can keep up with the gym (especially good for the core)
  • the 16 week training schedule I found that started with a 31 mile week is not by any means out of the ordinary! Damn
  • back to back long runs seem to be a vital part of the training. Double damn.

It’s just possible that next year could be a bit tough. The training now won’t help with the cardio aspects but I can carry on because I enjoy it – and any strengthening of my core and legs will be a bonus if taken through into the early spring.

How hard can it be …

Alarm-alarm, quad bikes, craft beers, tapas and Glastonbury – not just another weekend

Back to Bournemouth and Hengistbury Head, it was a great weekend

I appreciate the horrible irony that, when so many don’t have the basics, I feel that I have too many things – but as a result, our sons give me ‘experiences’ for birthday and Christmas presents.

On Friday we drove down to Bournemouth for my birthday present. We all gathered in the evening (plus the older boy’s girlfriend) in readiness for the experience on the Saturday afternoon. After a great family meal in the evening, I was looking forward to a good night’s sleep in preparation – but the phone rang just before 6.30 with a message from the alarm company to the effect that power had been lost to the alarm at home in Oxfordshire.

Although heartened by the fact that it wasn’t an intruder alert, something had to be done, and it was a bit early to contact any neighbours.

The result, of course, was that before 7am I was in the car to drive the 100 miles back home. As I got into the village I could see some lights on – but the house had no power. It was simply the trip switch that had (presumably) been activated by a power surge some time after 5am.

Resetting it took about 5 seconds, followed by the 100 mile drive back to Bournemouth. What a great way to start a day.

In the afternoon we drove to Blandford Forum for quad biking. We watched the group ahead of us and got a bit worried as they seemed to be confined to some tracks around a hillside right by the farm – perfectly good tracks, with some very good flooded sections, but for an hour in the same place?

We didn’t know whether we’d be put with others to make up a group – but we weren’t. With just the three of us (sons and me) the first instruction ‘no overtaking’ wasn’t such a disappointment, but it did occur to me that we might not have the most exciting hour ahead of us.

Happily, I was very wrong. The instructor explained that we would start on the nearby hillside but, depending how we got on, there were more tracks he could take us to a few fields away.

We were on the first hill for only about 15 minutes and we must have convinced him that we weren’t complete no-hopers and he took us to the further field where there were some more difficult tracks.

‘Gnarly’ would be the word in mountain biking circles, I think.

That seemed really good and it was enormous fun. With the three of us the no overtaking was not an issue – the track was sufficiently demanding by itself.

After a while he led us off again and I was thinking that the time had gone incredibly quickly but instead of returning to the farm, he took us to a third site. My wife had been talking to one of the other instructors who explained there was a third site that they rarely took people to because it was very difficult – apparently that’s where we were.

I thought we’d already hit lucky on the fun stakes – but the third site was even better. In and out of some trees, up some very steep hills with drops that fell away so sharply that you couldn’t see the track beneath you as you come over the top, deep ruts, adverse cambers and sharp bends in front of rather solid-looking trees. It was very hard but such a buzz.

In the early evening we went to a local micro-brewery and sampled some really excellent craft beers. After that it was off to a tapas restaurant for some terrific food (after a slightly long wait for our table – with they handled very well, with a sincere apology and a free round of drinks – all credit to them).

On the Sunday morning the older son and his girlfriend were devoted to applying for tickets for the 2020 Glastonbury music festival. To get better internet reception we went to a local cafe/bisto on the seafront where they set up a row of four laptops and two mobile phons on the wall outside (the cafe not quite being open yet).

By chance, the Bournemouth half and full marathons were taking place, passing right in front of the cafe. I suspect that many runners though they were passing either a timing checkpoint or a press centre – certainly several waved and posed for non-existent cameras. Sorry, it was just an attempt at ticket application.

In fact, their attempts failed to get through the queues to the ticket purchase stage – but friends who were also applying did get tickets for them all so it ended well.

After a brunch and a walk around the Hengistbury Head area, everyone headed back home in the afternoon – us to Oxfordshire and the boys to London. What a great weekend – and not a run, a cycle or the gym in sight. No exercise for three days, unless I can include the quad biking (I did ache a bit on the Sunday morning), or clapping the Bournemouth runners – congratulations to all of them.

I was thinking of the Bournemouth marathon as an event for late 2020 but the route winds back on itself several times in different places (would that mess with the mind?) and although I like running along the promenade, on Sunday there was a nasty little headwind blowing west to east along the Channel. I need to think about this …

Run, cycle training, gym, gym, run, gym

Back to hitting the mean streets of Little Coxwell

The training continues – I’ve been to the gym, run or used the turbo trainer on 11 of the last 12 days – but with no challenges until next year, I wonder about its use. I think it’s just ‘enjoy it for what it is’.

It rained heavily through Saturday night but we ran on Sunday morning – 6.2km (a bit under 4 miles). The light rain at the start was very pleasant but we ended in rather heavier rain which was a bit less so.

Later we went to the cycle path to do some more training – despite the weather we had a lot of children on the balance bikes, some more of whom, I think, will be cycling properly next week.

A bit of the afternoon was spent watching the men’s road race at the world championships in Yorkshire. The weather was foul and led to a shortening of the route; they cut out the Buttertubs and Grinton Moor climbs that I remember so fondly from our visit to Yorkshire for the early stages of Le Tour back in 2014. It was a seriously tough day for riding a bike – with 75km still to go, more than half the field had abandoned in the pouring rain and with temperatures down around 12ā„ƒ (low 50’sā„‰).

On Monday morning it was back to the gym for an hour. I’ve increased some of the weights again. I tend to do 3 sets of 12 reps until that gets comfortable, then I increase the weights and reduce the reps to 3 sets of 8 (if I can) , before building them back up again. I’ve no idea whether that’s a good way to do it …

I’m now on the machines’ maximum weights for leg press (200kg), abductors and adductors (both 60kg). On the leg curl and leg extension machines I’m at 55kg … again, no idea if that’s good, bad or indifferent – but it really doesn’t matter, I’m enjoying it.

I had planned on running on Tuesday but it was raining heavily so I went to the gym again and I ran with my wife on Wednesday morning – just under 4 miles on a cool, clear and crisp morning – and faster than we have run together for a year. I know that the gym is no replacement for running or cycling but I’m looking forward to a ‘proper’ run or cycle to see how I shape up at the moment.

Gym on Thursday and a day off on Friday to rest the tired muscles – and a very good weekend in prospect.

Congratulations to Katarina Johnson-Thompson for gold in the world heptathlon. Great athletics – dismal crowds in the stadium.

Gym, turbo, run, turbo, gym (lost old friends and ‘grate’ expectations)

Hidden away since 1953!

On Wednesday I said goodbye to two old friends – the cars we bought for our sons for learning to drive, and that they used for over 10 years, went to the great car park in the sky. Both blue VW Polos, they have been at the house for so many years that they were rather like members of the family – but both failed their MOTs and were beyond economic repair so we bowed to the inevitable. I was surprisingly sad about it.

On a happier note we decided to open up some fireplaces in the house that have been boarded over for many years. Inside two of them we found newspapers from 1952 and 1953 so I do mean many years. Two have splendid grates intact, so that’s an unexpected bonus – sometimes you get lucky.

For activity, the week started – as many do – with a trip to the gym on Monday morning for 50 minutes on the weights. Although my back felt a bit sore during my daily planks routine on Wednesday, I was on the turbo in the evening, with no back problems.

Recently, I’ve been hitting the turbo fairly hard but doing only 30 minutes. This time I went a bit slower and managed a fairly comfortable 45 minutes (but in a proper pool in sweat) – @29.6kph (18.4mph). On Thursday morning I ran with my wife (a bit short of 3 miles). It’s turning autumnal (a lovely word, in my opinion) here but was really good to be out in the early morning sun.

Just out of interest, if ‘autumnal’ is the word for ‘like autumn’ here in the UK, what is the word for ‘like the fall’ in the USA or Canada?

It was back to the turbo again in the evening – 45 minutes @29.5kph (18.3mph – almost exactly the same as the previous day, despite a bit of cumulative fatigue). Another 50 minutes in the gym on Friday finished the weeks main exertions.

A good week in many ways but it tells me that 5 sessions of training in 5 days (even with none of them being particularly long) is plenty. With no challenges in the diary for the rest of this year I’m still wondering why I’m pushing myself reasonably hard – probably the thought that next year’s ultra marathon training starts with a week of 31 miles.

On the professional sport front, congratulations to Essex County Cricket Club for winning the County Championship (after an unnecessarily sweaty last day), in addition to winning the T20 Cup last weekend. I’m particularly happy as Essex has been the team I’ve followed for over 50 years, having lived in the county between the ages of 5 and 15.

Congratulations too to the the English rugby team who have won their first two games in the Rugby World Cup. A decent performance by the USA on Thursday – apart from a nasty shot by John Quill that thoroughly deserved the red card that it got – but out-gunned (although managing to score right at the end with only 14 on the pitch). England looking OK so far but with a citing for Piers Francis for a high tackle as a bit of a blight on the performance.

Happily we don’t play the USA at American Football (but, sadly, I’m not sure the LA Raiders are playing it either).

Gym, gym, turbo, run and a big success (best of all, not my success)

The cycle track at its opening in the summer – sadly nothing but rain this week

Gym on Thursday and Friday – and some bike fettling to continue sorting out the bikes awaiting attention at a friend’s house (which looks a bit like a bike graveyard). A number can now be used to ride properly and some more have been stripped down for use as balance bikes for larger children and adults.

I used the turbo for 30 minutes on Saturday evening @ 20.4mph (32.95kph). I think I’m getting stronger through the gym but the cardio aspect was hard at that speed, showing my lack of real cycling recently. However, it was certainly faster than recent attempts on the turbo so that’s encouraging.

We ran early on Sunday morning (just under 3 miles in very pleasant weather) and then both went to the cycle park to give some more training to children – in fairly heavy rain. All credit to the children (and their parents) for coming out in it. One family had driven 28 miles (45km) to come.

The week’s highlight

During last Sunday’s training session, I spent much of the hour with a delightful little girl who was making progress but hadn’t quite cracked the balance. Her father told me they had previously found it hard to get her interested in cycling but that she had been keen to come back again.

In just 10 or 15 minutes this week her balance clicked and she spent the rest of the time cycling round the track.

I am so pleased – that’s what makes it worthwhile!

Elderly relations, cycle training, gym, run, (+ cricket and the Rugby World Cup).

The Thames from the east bank. It was much brighter on Tuesday but I didn’t have a camera to capture it.

We drove the 7 hour round trip to take my father out for lunch on Saturday, together with our younger son who came back for the weekend. My father is still in very good shape for 95, and long may that continue.

I spent a couple of hours at the cycle park on Sunday, helping to run more training classes for children still on balance bikes, and some just moving on to pedals. With a good deal of pedal removal and saddle height and brake adjustments, it was a rewarding session, but hard work in unseasonal sunshine.

A long walk Sunday afternoon was a great way to finish the weekend and a visit to the gym early on Monday morning for a hard 50 minutes was a good way to start the new week. I’m a bit worried that I’m enjoying the gym too much and have even caught myself looking in the mirrors (happily, my physique does not justify any vanity on my part).

Later on Monday we drove up to London to take our son back, check the older boy’s flat and collect my wife’s (ridiculously expensive) watch from its (ridiculously expensive) battery change and service. Still, she gets great pleasure from it so it’s well worthwhile.

On Tuesday morning we ran from the flat and did the usual run into Hammersmith, down the Thames Path and back. In all, 7 km (4.3 miles) and very enjoyable in more good weather. Nearly a seventh of next year’s the ultra marathon distance – not sure if I’m encouraged or daunted.

My crusade to make contact with fellow runners in London was not going well until one very nice lady runner not only smiled but engaged in a brief conversation. From such small beginnings ….

On Wednesday I spent some time going through the bike graveyard that has accumulated in association with the Woman’s tour coming through Faringdon, and the cycle training and cycle park. The aim is to produce some workable bikes for use in the training.

After that I mowed. The willow tree succeeded in taking the ear defenders off my head and has a new tactic – it managed to sweep the lever that operates the blades into the off position so I mowed a certain amount beneath the willow without cutting any grass at all. I hate to admit it but that’s 2-0 to the willow …. outsmarted by a tree.

To paraphrase ‘Chicken Run’, those willows are organised.

On a rather more professional sporting note, a classic cricket ‘Ashes’* series against Australia has finished – a 2 wins each from the 5 matches (one match drawn), the series is tied, but Australia retain the Ashes (boo).

Now on to the Rugby World Cup. I wish the best of luck to everyone competing and look forward to a great tournament – but I hope that all but England are fighting for the runners-up spot.

*Australian cricket had its first series win in England in 1882-3. A mock obituary to the death of English cricket appeared in a newspaper, stating that the body would be burnt and the ashes taken to Australia. After wins on the next tour in Australia, the English team were presented with a small urn said to contain the ashes of a burnt bail (one of the bits of wood that sits on the top of the stumps) described as the ashes of Australian cricket – a symbol of what the English team had come to retake. The urn takes pride of place at Lord’s cricket ground in London, the ‘home of cricket’.