Category Archives: Transcontinental Race

Run, gym and (minor) bike mechanics

After the sportive it was London on Sunday to take our sons for lunch to celebrate the older boy’s birthday. On Monday morning I ran down the Thames Path, 7km (4.3 miles), surprisingly at sub 4 hour marathon pace.

It was a very good run in warm, but not stupidly hot, weather. The only down-sides are a slightly sore left knee and painful calf muscles. I guess that I’ve not been exercising them very much while I’ve been protecting the Achilles tendons. I’m sure it will all improve.

I am continuing my one-man attempt to bring to London the habit of saying ‘hello’ to other runners as you pass by. On this run I got a response from 5 out of the 13 runners I saw. Admittedly, a lot were wearing headphones or earpieces of one sort or another and might not have heard me, but I’ll keep at it.

Gym on Tuesday for a bit over an hour. It was very good apart from the chap who insisted on singing along (rather tunelessly) to the music on his headphones. I don’t mean to be a miserable old git but if I wanted karaoke …

As part of the gym exercises I did the planks routine and then decided to see if I could do a straight 5 minutes of plank as well. The good news is that I can, the bad news is that my lower back was sore for the rest of the day so I missed the evening’s planned turbo session. I suppose the other bit of good news is that my painful back took my mind off my painful calf muscles.

They say that people perform better if the ‘package’ feels good – decent kit, nicely maintained and presented equipment. I don’t know if it’s true but I washed and oiled the bike and put new bar tape on it on Wednesday. The old tape was the original from when I bought the bike 4 years ago and was tatty beyond words. More workman-like than expert, I replaced it like-for-like with black tape. I’m sure it will make the bike go faster (though not as fast as if it had red tape, of course).

I’m going to need all the help I can get on the Ride London sportive, surely the new tape will help?

My heartfelt congratulations to:

  • Egan Bernal for his Tour win (the first of many, all being well),
  • Geraint Thomas for his immensely graceful acceptance of second place
  • Juilan Alaphilippe for lighting up the whole race
  • the Irish cricket team for giving England plenty to worry about in the early stages of their recent test match
  • Fiona Kolbinger, the first woman ever to be in the lead of the Transcontinental Race. 4 days 7 hours in, she is in front by 35km having stopped for less than 20 hours in total.
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Making an ass of myself?

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Thinking about it, to compare myself to any type of horse is unfair to horses. This is closer.

If I were a racehorse I would be a ‘one-paced stayer’. Running the London Marathon in 1998 and 1999, I was lucky that my one pace was enough (just) to get me round in under 4 hours. The subsequent 20 years do not appear to have been kind in that respect.

As I remember it, running the required 9min 9sec per mile (6min 38sec per km) was OK – it never felt very fast and the real challenge then was running it for 26 miles 385 yards. Almost the whole focus then was on endurance.

Now the required pace feels very quick to me – my two 10 km runs on a sensible flattish route (running up the alp last week doesn’t qualify) have both been under an hour but have both been a little outside the required pace. Sadly, if I am going to run sub 4 hours next year, both pace and endurance are going to need to be addressed. I could easily end up looking very foolish.

Damn.

On the plus side, I’ll be going into proper training fitter than I was when I started 20 years ago – and half a stone lighter than I was when I actually ran. It’s just those 20 years that are going to be the problem.

I made the mistake of looking at the time I would have to achieve in order to enter the London marathon as ‘good for age’. It is 3 hours 45 minutes for the 60-64 category. If that is the target for regular, good standard runners, it suggests that my aim of breaking the 4 hour barrier is very optimistic, rather foolish and probably doomed already! Still, there are 7 months before the run so surprising things might happen.

I’m taking a holistic approach and have resumed the sit-ups, press-ups, lunges and crunches. More importantly, the Achilles tendons felt better so I went running with Mrs O on Sunday morning for 3.85 miles (6.2km).

We were then out for an excellent lunch at The Vineyard, a really good restaurant with a fine wine cellar, as guests at the magnificent 70th birthday celebration of a friend and ex-work colleague.

The only downside was that both my Achilles’ tightened up while I was sitting. I think I hurt them with the weights on Thursday (foolish calf raises with 170kg on the quads machine) rather than with the running – but that has aggravated the problem.

A valuable lesson learned – I am not as young as I was and cannot take too many liberties with my body. The training might turn into an exercise in injury prevention and management as much as anything else.

The Achilles’ eased during Monday so we ran again on Tuesday morning – just 4.5km (2.8miles). Then the turbo in the evening – 40 km in 50.42mins @ 47.3kph (25 miles @ 29.4mph) – hard!

It’s too early for any training schedule (and I hate them anyway as I feel guilty when I, inevitably, fail to keep to them) so for now the aim is just to cycle at least twice and run at least three times a week, body permitting.

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Although I’m delighted that the American Football season has started (I’ve been a fan of the game – and the Raiders – ever since I saw Marcus Allen run 74 yards for that touchdown in Super Bowl XVIII), a word on cricketer Alastair Cook. Apologies that most people in the world will not know who he is – and are not interested in cricket (but how could anyone fail to love a game where you can play for 5 days and not end up with a winner?). Happily we did win this one, and the series.

Alastair Cook is a former captain, playing his final game for England – and yesterday scored 147 in his final England innings. He is retiring as the country’s highest run scorer, with a host of other records.

In an era when so many sports people are most notable for their on-pitch (or dare I say it, on-court!) misdemeanours, he has been a real gentleman and a proper role-model. Chapeau Alastair.

Credit too to England’s James Anderson who became the leading wicket taker, for a fast bowler, in Test cricket.

On an altogether sadder note, my very best wishes to Kristina Vogel, the German double Olympic sprint champion in the velodrome, who was involved in a crash in training and looks to be confined to a wheelchair as a result. She was fantastic to watch on the track and I hope that her determination and fighting spirit pull her through this too.

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PS Neil Matthews made a liar out of me and actually finished the Transcontinental Race on Saturday (not Friday) – just the 41 days after he started and just 32 days after the winner, making 157 finishers and 97 scratched.

Vuelta starts, Transcontinental Race finishes, I run and wonder what next

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OK – this is the TdF but you get my point?

The start of La Vuelta has been steady if not explosive but it’s always a great race so I have high expectations.

This year, it’s a high quality field with some big names (like Quintana, Pinot, Nibali, Porte and Aru) looking to rescue – for a variety of reasons – slightly disappointing years. The absence of Froome and Thomas is a shame (but understandable) but I suppose the highlight so far was the second stage win by home favourite, Alejandro Valverde, at the age of 38.

At the time of writing, there is only one of the 254 Transcontinental Race starters out on the course (except that there is no set course). Neil Matthews is a Brit and is over 560km (c.350 miles) from the final checkpoint – which itself is probably 500km (c.310 miles) from the finish. He’s been going for over 4 weeks now – an effort of legendary proportions.

Related to the Transcontinental Race, I’ve been reading a bit about post challenge blues. It seems that it’s a common thing to feel listless, directionless and even depressed after major challenges. I guess it’s to do with the fact that the preparation is pretty all-consuming and the event itself is full-on and both mentally and physically demanding – and then when it finishes there is a big gap where all that was.

My ride to the alps was only 84 hours of elapsed time and my training was not exactly all-consuming (I realised that my longest training ride was 121km – 76 miles – and I then did three days with an average of more than twice that). However, I certainly spent a lot of time thinking about it and have noticed that there’s been something missing since I got back from France.

I’m wondering if I’m actually more of a challenge junkie that I’d realised.

Having promised Mrs O that there will be no silly solo challenges in 2019, the most likely event to focus on seems to be the Rotterdam Marathon in April next year, with the aim of running it with our younger son (and with our older son also showing interest).

A marathon is never easy but it’s not quite at the very extreme end of the challenge spectrum partly, I guess, because it’s just a one day event and is only going to last for around 4 hours (all being well).

This week I’ve been out running 5 of the last 6 days for about 32km (c. 20 miles) and done a gym session. I’m not yet quite running at 4 hour marathon pace but it’s early days.

More running and back on the turbo trainer this week – enough of moping around!

What, no cleats?

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A short run with Mrs O on Tuesday perked me up so I went out again on Wednesday (probably a bad idea) and ran for 10km (certainly a bad idea). It felt hard but I did it in 58 minutes – 4 hour 7minute marathon pace.

So, If I’m going to try to get into the Rotterdam Marathon and run sub 4 hours, I’ll need to be doing just over 4 times that distance and each of the 10kms will have to be 2 minutes faster.

That sounds tough but it’s early days. I’ll have to get the running shoes on more frequently to know for sure whether it’s a possibility before the applications open in late September. If I’m going to run, I want to run well – my ‘good for age’ time to get entry into the London Marathon would be 3hours 45minutes. That’s a little faster than I ran in my 40s – is that remotely possible?

The comforting thing is that (in November 1997) my first training run for my first marathon was about a mile and a half – and I thought I was going to die. I’m lighter and fitter (cycling fit, at least) than I was then but somehow I do appear to be over 20 years older. I demand a recount.

We went down Bournemouth on Thursday and were joined by friends for a really excellent long weekend. On Saturday we took a trip to Brownsea Island (an island in Poole Harbour which is a nature reserve owned by the National Trust). We walked for over 3 miles but didn’t see any of the red squirrels for which it’s famous (there are very few places in the UK where they haven’t been driven out by grey ones).

On Sunday 4 of us cycled to Burley in the New Forest (sadly, David, who rode L’Eroica and the¬†Cingl√© du Mont-Ventoux with me in 2015 is still using a crutch after his broken hip from a fall on a descent in the Pyrenees last month). It was a very gentle 20 miles round trip (I took my mountain bike) with a circular walk around the village for 4.5 miles when we got there.

So, two runs, two long walks and a cycle – back to a bit of exercise, and not a cleat in sight.

As I write, the Transcontinental Race is into its 23rd day. I think there have been 155 finishers, 97 retirements and two riders are still on the road battling illness, mechanical problems, terrible roads and ridiculous extremes of weather.

All credit and the very best of luck to Lionel Bobb (over 500km – 310 miles – to the finish) and Neil Matthews (possibly closer to 2000km to the finish!). Truly epic performances.

Le Tour – wonderful. Transcontinental Race – more phenomenal cycling

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More from stage 10 of Le Tour

I have never been mistaken for Mick Jagger – nor do we apparently have anything in common. However, having finished my ride to the alps, I can at least get some small sense of what it must be to try to come down from the high of a big performance.

The point is that the ride was quite all-consuming and, I’ve already said, that was one of the great things about it – the glorious simplification of life down to ‘eat, sleep, ride’.

Once I got to the alps I was occupied by the cycling with my friends and following Le Tour but having returned to what passes for normal life, it’s difficult not to think about the next challenges.

My promise to Mrs O that I won’t go for a solo challenge next year means I’ve got to recruit a fellow idiot or accept that I’ve got quite a while to ponder the issue – the main thing that might come off in the meantime being a marathon with our younger son in April 2019.

Happily, I can get the challenge experience second hand by following the Transcontinental Race that started on Sunday. I know it’s well beyond me but I can dream ….

As I write, the leader has ridden for 1 day 18 hours and 30 minutes and been stopped for only 4 hours 18 minutes. His average moving speed is 28.4kph (17.65mph). Quite phenomenal.

Of course, if I can’t exactly plan the next trip, I can think about cycling kit. Sometimes even that can be oddly entertaining. On the Chain Reaction Cycles website there is a Kask Rapido Road Helmet for sale. Apparently, they think one of its great attractions is the ‘Expanded polystyrene shell that optimises crash impacts’

Not sure about you but I’d go for a helmet than minimises crash impacts.