Category Archives: triathlon

Next challenges – mountains, marathons and a cunning plan

Ventoux. One of three ascents in 2015 – could it be one of six in 2020?

Spring has arrived. In fact, perhaps we’ve gone straight into summer. After months of complaining about training in the cold and wind, how long should I wait before complaining about the heat?

Since I turned 60, nearly 4 years ago, I’ve become a bit of a challenge junkie. ‘Old enough to know better’ comes to mind but while I can do these things, I will continue to do just that.

In that time I’ve joined the Club des Cinglés du Mont-Ventoux (ride up Ventoux three times in a day), ‘Everested’ (ride up and down one hill, in one ride, until you climb the height of Everest), ridden 550 miles (880km) out to the alps, solo and unsupported in 84 elapsed hours, and run a marathon (Rotterdam, 7th April 2019).

With the running shoes barely cooled down, I’ve turned my thoughts to ‘what next?’

I’ve got the White Horse Challenge later this month (but I don’t think the elusive sub 5 hours for the c.90 miles is in me this year and I’m lacking a bit of motivation at the moment), I have the yearly trip out to ride in the alps in July and I have a place in the Prudential ‘Ride London’ 100 mile sportive in August. All very good and I’m looking forward to them – but not quite what I need to focus on as a major challenge.

So, here’s the plan:

As marathon running is physically tough and the training is so time consuming, I don’t plan to do another this year but will try to get into the Berlin Marathon in September 2020 and will have a real go at running under 4 hours. As the race in Berlin takes place late in the year, I’ll be 65 by the time that comes round so that would be sort of cool. I think I’ll go for a place in the London marathon too but I’ve never been lucky in the ballot before.

Of course, having failed to run sub 4 at the age of 63, sub 4 at 64 or 65 might be a bit of a stretch but I have a cunning plan for this ………. I will run faster.

OK, not very cunning but if I can do it, I have high hopes that it will work.

I’ll train harder, with speed, interval and hill sessions. The main things that will be key to putting the plan into action are my Achilles tendons which have been sore every morning for about 6 months and prevented the intervals and hills this time around. I need to get them sorted but I hope rest and stretching will do the trick. I’ve rather abused them this year and perhaps need to be a bit kinder to them if they are going to last me into my (even more) old age.

If I can’t get a place for London or Berlin (quite likely), I will go for one of the Abingdon, Bournemouth or Richmond Marathons – they are all in September or October, it should be possible to get in to any of them and they are all very accessible for me. Admittedly, they are all events on a rather different scale to Berlin but, supposedly, all have fairly fast courses.

If the shoulder that I hurt skiing (more tendon issues) mends completely, I will get back in the pool and see if I can improve my swimming enough to take on more than another triathlon. If it holds me back I’ll do a duathlon.

On the bike, I want to have a crack at the Bicinglette (two Cinglés – six times up Ventoux in a day) or the Galerian (four times up, including once by the forest road). The biggest problem with these is that they can only be done in Provence – at least the everesting could be done anywhere. To date, fewer than 256 people have done the bicinglette – and none over 65 so there’s a real challenge. Logistics are my real enemy here, coupled with the fact that, having failed to persuade any of my friends of the wisdom of the everest or the ride out to the alps, my chances of getting any company are slim.

More domestically, there is the Fred Whitton challenge in the Lake District in May next year – it’s now a sportive with 114 miles and 3,900m (12,795feet) of climbing. One to consider perhaps but possibly too much of a challenge?

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Tanks, bladders, lawns, running and the bike

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The bike is an ‘Eastman’ – Indian, I think. Goodness knows why anyone would have brought it back to the UK. Next year the plan is to attach a rack and a basket and fill them with flowers.

The Achilles’ have continued to niggle but, foolishly I’m sure, I’ve ignored them and kept on with some reasonably light exercise. Mrs O and I ran for 5km (3miles) on Thursday and I did my now regular run to the gym and back with a friend on Friday – with 30 minutes of weights in between.

I avoided the calf raises which I think caused the problem with the Achilles tendons last week and have been keeping up the stretches, the sit-ups, press-ups and crunches. I suppose I should have stopped the running until they were properly better, but they are improving in spite of it so I guess it’s doing no serious harm. I’m rarely accused of being sensible these days but at least I’m avoiding any longer runs until the tendons settle down again.

Friday evening I got back on the turbo for 42km (26miles) in a reasonably gentle hour (without much ankle flexing).

So, that was four runs and two cycles and a gym session in six days – nothing too extreme but enough to keep it all ticking over.

It’s turned a bit autumnal here, colder and with heavy morning dews – but I managed to get the lawns mowed. It’s a bit of a gauntlet at the moment as the willow has decided that it’s main aim in life is to sweep the ear defenders off my head as I drive the mower beneath it and I had to pick up a wheelbarrow load of fallen apples to stop them blocking the grass pick-up system. First world problems, eh?

However, it’s a relief to get it done. I know it’s strange but a newly mown lawn, an empty bladder and a full tank of fuel on a long journey are all disproportionately satisfying.

_ _ __ _ _ _ _

Bravo, Simon Yates for winning the Vuelta (subject only to some disaster on the final, largely ceremonial, stage tomorrow). Another astonishing performance by a British cyclist – and the three Grand Tours won by three different Brits in 2018!

We hadn’t won a single Grand Tour before 2012 and we have won 9 out of the 20 since – and the last five in a row. Wow!

Also, bravo Vicky Holland for winning the triathlon world title and James Cooke for winning the individual world modern pentathlon title (in what must have been one of the great finishes of recent years).

We might be going to hell in a handcart generally – but at least the sport is pretty good.

How (not) to train for a triathlon

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I did a sprint triathlon in 2015 – and another last year. I enjoyed them but learnt that: I swim badly; I cycle reasonably; I am almost adequate at the run (for an old bloke). So, after signing up for an olympic distance triathlon I will have addressed the issues, right? Wrong.

The early year focus has been on my first sportive (90 miles on 23 April) to the exclusion of running and swimming. Since then I’ve cycled less than 45k, been in the water three times and have run three times, gently, with my wife and three times alone – and only once as far as 10k.

At over 60, I should know better and I don’t really have the excuse of insufficient time, given how so many people manage to do much more while sill working.

Worse still, I’ve only tried on my wetsuit twice and will not manage to get in an open water swim before the event itself. Perhaps I have a secret death wish?

I did take a swimming lesson – but just one and only last week. It was good but, at this stage it will probably serve mainly to confuse me as, during the lesson, I was totally unable to practice more than one new thing at a time – and even then several other things (like breathing) went to pieces. I’m sure it will be really helpful once all the advice becomes a natural part of my swimming but perhaps the session I plan tonight isn’t enough for that to happen!

Sunday promises to be interesting.

So: train consistently, work on your weaknesses; taper properly; and don’t let the event introduce new things to you (especially like wearing a wetsuit for the first time).

Oh yes, and do what I say, not what I do.

A second trick in a week. Old dog overload?

After mixed results from the ‘introduction to wetsuits’ experience earlier in the week, last night I tried a swimming lesson. I guess I must have had a rudimentary lesson or two at school as a child when I learned to swim – but certainly nothing in over 50 years.

Two sprint triathlons have largely proved what I already knew – I don’t swim well. The impending olympic distance triathlon had me looking for the swimming silver bullet – the hope that a proper coach would identify the one small thing that would transform me into Michael Phelps overnight.

Of course, it doesn’t work like that. The coach was very good and in just 30 minutes came up with a number of things to work on. Together, in time, I’m sure they will improve my swimming but I think that Michael’s records are safe from me.

So: starting breathing out as soon as my face is under the water; not kicking from the knee; more rotation along the long axis; a longer reach; a straighter pull backwards rather than down; and delaying the start of the next stroke until the other arm passes my head.

It’s all a lot to think about and trying to incorporate all the advice was really hard. I found I could (sort of) do any one of them if I thought about it hard – but then the others went out of the window. With a longer stroke and fewer strokes each length, I take fewer breaths and that messes with my breathing. Eventually, I assume that each stroke should be smoother and more efficient, and so less exerting, but the key there is ‘eventually’.

No silver bullet, no overnight transformation – but lots to work on in the next week or so.  If it all becomes the norm in my swimming I’m sure it will be really beneficial – if I live that long.

It just reinforces the high regard I have for good triathletes – the ability to master the three skills is really something this cyclist admires.