Tag Archives: challenge

2020 here I come – but how do I train for multiple challenges?

OK, four of the 2020 challenges are set: White Horse Challenge (sportive); Race to The Stones (ultra marathon); a week’s alpine cycling; and a marathon. I hope others will crop up but these are the focus for now.

The next issue is how do I train for them?

Assuming about 10 weeks for the cycling, and perhaps 16 for the marathon (I have no idea at whether a longer training period is better for an ultra marathon but, scarily, I’ve found one for 16 weeks that starts with a 31 mile week!) it could look a bit like this:

2020 J F M A M J J A S O N D
WHC   ccc cccc ccc                
RTTS   rrr rrrr rrrr rrrr  r          
Alps         ccc cccc ccc          
Mar         rr rrrr rrrr rrrr rrr    

Obvious issues are:

  • having to start with the cycling in February (but at least it seems to come after my normal skiing holiday thanks to the absence of a marathon in April)
  • cycle and running training simultaneously in March, April, May and July
  • two lots of running training and cycle training simultaneously in June!

I assume that there is a lot of overlap in the training benefits – no need to do a full training programme for both disciplines at the same time – which is good as I am sure I don’t have the ability to do that anyway.

However, I don’t understand how some cycle training might replace some marathon training without harming the prospects for the marathon. Triathletes manage the juggling act – thank goodness I’m not trying a swimming challenge too (although I do fancy doing another triathlon next year).

Equally, questions like how a taper for the ultra marathon in June affects what should be full cycle training at the same time is quite beyond me. At least triathletes are training for all three disciplines to deliver together.

Ideally, I would like to carry on training now and ‘bank’ it for withdrawal when needed next year. If only it worked like that.

Three things are clear:

  • At 64 I cannot keep any training going at full pelt for 9 months. I wonder how I fit in a few easy weeks for rest and recovery?
  • I cannot afford any time for illness or injury. Thank goodness I have no existing issues with knees or Achilles tendons ……. oh dear.
  • I cannot afford to start from scratch in February – I’ll need to rest over the winter, but not too much.

It looks like the MSU approach will have to be to the fore – when in doubt, Make Stuff Up.

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Back from the alps, back to the running (and the little matter of the cricket World Cup)

The lacets (‘laces’) du Montvernier, Garmin style

The cycling in the alps was as good as ever, even if I was rather off the pace after a few months concentrating on running. Telegraphe and Galibier were the big climb highlights but the lacets du Montvernier were such fun.

Having got back late Sunday, it was up to London on Monday for supper with one son, followed by supper with the other on Tuesday. Tuesday also featured a rather annoying trip back to Oxfordshire once I realised that I had not checked the chickens before we left on Monday – annoying but necessary as I found them with almost no food or water!

Wednesday was my 64th birthday which we celebrated at Nathan Outlaw’s new restaurant venture at a London hotel. I’ve no idea whether he is known outside the UK but his big expertise is fish and the meal was excellent.

Back to Oxfordshire again later on Wednesday and down to Bournemouth Saturday to set up the house for one of my wife’s goddaughters who is using it next week.

Sunday morning I had a gentle run with my wife – my first run since 25th May when I tore my calf muscle. The muscle is fine, of course, but while the Achilles tendons are better, they are still not right. Friends over for supper so it will be into next week with good intentions of doing more running and cycling.

The cricket World Cup has reached its climax. After good performances against New Zealand and India to get into the semi-finals, England handed out a bit of a beating to Australia and went on the meet New Zealand in the final.

New Zealand batted first and scored a decent but beatable 241 from their 50 overs. Their opening bowlers in particular were excellent but England just about stuck in there and needed 2 to win off the final ball (of 300) but scored just one and tied the match. That meant it went to a ‘super over’ – six balls each side to decide the World Cup.

As Oasis might have said, a ‘champagne super over’.

Crazy and rather cruel.

We managed 15 from our six balls. New Zealand also managed 15 runs off theirs. In that case the result is decided, first, on boundaries hit in the match. England hit 26 and New Zealand 17.

So, in perhaps the most dramatic circumstances possible, England defied all of my doubts and actually justified their status as favourites by winning (just)!

That makes England the first country to win the Football, Rugby and Cricket World Cups.

Admittedly, not that many countries compete at the top level in all three sports!

… and perhaps we might add Le Tour de France too?

The gym, the Queen and another endurance sport

Representation of the weekend – but no, top hats are not worn for croquet

If this blog’s about anything, it’s about the pleasure to be found in taking on challenges in endurance sports, most notable cycling (eg, an ‘everest’ and a solo ride out to the Alps) and running (most recently April’s Rotterdam Marathon).

Just now, with the running on hold because of the pulled calf and dodgy Achilles tendons, I should be doing more cycling in preparation for this year’s (imminent) trip to the Alps. It looks like weight loss might be my best bet (or perhaps that should be ‘last resort’).

While I’m rather lacking in the cycling for one reason or other, I’ve found a bit of a love for the gym (another hour on Thursday) and a daily plank session. They would be good additions to some serious cycling – but are a poor replacement for it.

Our sons came back for the weekend (one with his girlfriend) and we had a trip to Ascot on Saturday for the Royal race meeting (the Queen is in attendance each day and arrives in a carriage procession down the course). I’m not really a horse person but we tend to go every third year or so – and do it ‘properly’ with morning suit, top hat and a good picnic. No success with the (very modest) betting but an excellent day out.

On Sunday we had a few games of another extreme and rigorous endurance sport that offers thrills and a high-intensity cardio workout – croquet. I don’t know if croquet is a world-wide sport but it was very entertaining, even though the lawn is more suitable for crazy golf.

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.

I ran in London on Saturday 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

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.

Rotterdam Marathon: short review of training, injury, highs and lows – what I learnt in the process

I am a purely recreational runner – and not a particularly good one. I have no great expertise or knowledge so this is certainly not a ‘how to ..’ post – at best it might be a ‘how I ..’ review.

I ran the Rotterdam Marathon on 7th April 2019, aged 63. I’d run two previous marathons (London) in 1998 and 1999, just breaking 4 hours both times. After that I did relatively little in the way of sport until I started road cycling about 10 years ago so, if I’ve been anything it’s been a cyclist and very occasional runner to keep my wife company.

Our younger son ran the Brighton Marathon in 2017 – 4h 06m on a blistering hot day and he decided he wanted to run another to break the 4 hour barrier. He chose the Rotterdam Marathon because it was easy to get a place and it is said to be both a flat and fast course. Foolishly I decided to run it with him.

Training plan

I chose a 20 week plan because of my age, its simplicity and because of the fact that it had two rest days a week. I didn’t want to train more than 5 days a week. Also I knew I’d be unlikely to stick to it over Christmas – and I had nearly three weeks booked for skiing in January. I guessed that, on a longer plan, I’d be better able to cope with the occasional lapse or problem.

It required one long slow run, two normal runs, a session of speed work and a cross-training session per week. I stuck to it better than I’d expected (subject to the issues covered later) – but 20 weeks is a long time and I was certainly pretty weary of it all by the end. I think it was the right choice – but I’d have been attracted by something shorter if I’d been younger.

I ran what seemed to me to be a lot of miles (450 of them – 725km) in training. That was many more than I did for either the 1998 or 1999 marathons. Partly I was able to, being retired, but mainly it was fear that the day itself would be very painful if I didn’t train properly. I did 14 runs over 10 miles (16km) this time (I did only 4 when preparing for each of the previous marathons). My longest training run was 22 miles (35.5km) but I did two others of over 20 miles.

If I ran an average of 10 mins per mile, with the race itself, that’s about 80 hours of running on top of more than 50 hours of cross-training and time on the turbo trainer. You need to be committed to the project and a supportive partner/family will come in handy too.

Injuries and illness

I was very lucky not to be ill during the training and I didn’t get very injured either. The exception was Achilles tendon issues – they had begun to hurt every morning, even before I got to the start of the training. I guess that was just age related but I did aggravate the problem by doing calf raises with too much weight in the gym early on in the training.

Speed and endurance

I kept to the training plan quite well – except for the speed/hill work which I was sure would finish off my Achilles Tendons. Accordingly the endurance was OK but I was always off the pace for speed. The hope at the start had been to run sub 4 hours but it became clear that was not going to happen as I failed to run any significant distance at the required pace for that (5.41min per km or 9.09 per mile).

No doubt the lack of interval and speed sessions didn’t help – but I’m sure that was also down to age which shortens the stride, and a general lack of athletic ability.

Weight

I’m 5 feet 10 (just under 178cm) and when I’ve done silly cycling challenges in the past I’ve not found it too hard to get under 65kg (143 lbs). This time, my weight was more resistant and stuck around the 68-69kg for much of the training. eventually I got it down to nearer 66.5kg (147 lbs). I don’t know if that was due to putting on some muscle (unlikely as it’s hard to put on muscle as you get older) or me being less disciplined with the food intake. Happily, running is a less sensitive to extra weight than cycling up mountains.

General preparation

Marathon wisdom is that everything you do on the run itself should have been well tried and tested in advance. I tried to do that as far as possible but with a run abroad there is a limit – I did not know what breakfast would be available in the hotel and discovered that the energy drink served on the course was not available in the UK (so I stuck to water on the run). I took some breakfast oat bars, energy bars and gels with me to Rotterdam and stuck with them.

The weather throughout the training was pretty poor so I hadn’t tested warm weather running gear as well as I’d have liked. Right at the last minute, it turned on its head and we got a very warm day for the race itself, such that I got tan lines in just a few hours. I’d only worn the lycra shorts once in training – they were fine on the day but proper running shorts would have been a good idea if I’d been able to test them in advance.

I thoroughly enjoyed the trip to Rotterdam and the experience of running a marathon abroad but the travel does make things a little more complicated – not a reason to avoid a run abroad but certainly something to think about.

The run itself

I went out with the 4 hour pacers and kept with them beyond half way before dropping off the pace and finishing in 4h 11m. More importantly, our son beat his 4 hour target. We didn’t try to run together which was a good decision – it could have ruined both our runs.

It is important to remember to enjoy the day itself. If you train, and choose your marathon well, it should be a great experience and the crowds can make a big difference. You may be lucky (or gifted) and sail around without any problem but I guess that would put you in a small minority. Despite the training, I found a few miles around the 22-25 mile marks (35-40km) to be pretty tough. At this point a lot of it is in the head – it would be easy to give up but sheer bloody-mindedness is a useful attribute.

The future

I remember the ‘never again’ feeling at the toughest point in the run but now, a few days later, I haven’t ruled out another. Our older son would have run this time but for being a passenger in a motor accident last summer – if he decides to give a marathon a go, how could I resist the chance to run with him?

It would be great (ridiculous?) to see if I could go under 4 hours at 65 – perhaps there is an appropriate race late in 2020? The main factor will be the state of the Achilles’ – after 6 months of soreness every morning, I need to find a way to keep them happier.

So, I’ll carry on running which will be a good addition to getting back to cycling – and who knows, if the shoulder I hurt skiing gets back to 100%, perhaps I can improve my swimming enough to have a go at something more than a sprint triathlon?

This week

I went to the gym on Thursday – light weights and a 2km run (just over a mile). Strangely, I didn’t feel the need to do the other 40kms (25miles).

Rotterdam Marathon 7 April 2019: denouemont

Rotterdam Marathon. Been there, done that, got the T shirt

Small Spoiler Alert: we survived the Rotterdam Marathon, despite the surprising heat.

After I completed the training, my wife and I drove to London on Thursday to make the trip to the channel tunnel shorter on Friday.

Alex, our younger son, came to the flat and we left at about 8.30am – the drive out of London to the M25 was a bit of an unknown but worked well. Even the M25 behaved reasonably (for those who don’t know it, the M25 is, allegedly, a motorway encircling London – sadly, with road works, accidents and volume of traffic it often makes a passible impersonation of an orbital car park).

Having made good time to the tunnel we were put on an earlier crossing and then appear to have been sneaked on to the train before that. It was helpful as the drive to Rotterdam involved a few slow bits but we still arrived late afternoon (their time). We unpacked and went to the marathon Expo where we registered and collected our bibs.

The textbooks say stay off your feet on the day before a marathon but none of us had ever been to Rotterdam before so we spent much of Saturday wandering round a really lovely city. It doesn’t have the quaint old buildings of Amsterdam (the city was largely flattened in WWII) but has a really nice relaxed feel to it and it seems to be full of hospitable and charming people. There were also a number of runs for children and a ‘city run’ in the centre of the city – they were great to watch and contributed to the ‘running festival’ feel of the whole weekend.

I have to disagree with the second part of Michael Caine’s (excellent) line in Goldmember when he said “There are only two things I can’t stand in this world. People who are intolerant of other people’s cultures… and the Dutch”.

The Dutch are very nice people (my only complaint is that the indigenous Dutch are a bit too tall – reportedly the world’s tallest nation).

The weather had been forecast to be fairly cool – about 9℃ at the start and 13℃ at the finish (48 and 57℉) and that was how the weather was right up to Saturday. However, on Friday we’d started to receive messages from the organisers warning about very warm weather for the marathon itself on Sunday. Suddenly the temperature range had shifted to around 15℃ at the start and 20℃ at the finish (59 and 68℉). Not stupidly hot but way beyond anything we’d trained in.

After pasta for lunch and supper on Saturday we had a reasonably early night – I didn’t sleep particularly well (typical for the night before a marathon) but I was at least well rested by 7am when the alarm rang for breakfast, followed by another 45 minutes snooze before having to get up. The Marathon starts at a civilised 10am so we walked in to the city centre and found our starting pen very easily.

It was clear that the warm weather warnings were right and so we were pleased that we’d adjusted our clothing choices – I ran in lycra shorts and a fairly lightweight long sleeved running shirt (sleeves pushed up within a few miles).

Our wave was away by about 10.14 and I tucked in behind the 4 hour pacers (Alex went on ahead). The course is pretty flat – the ‘hills’ were really only the Erasmus Bridge (twice) and two underpasses – and I hit a fairly comfortable rhythm as the pacers did a great job taking us through the half way mark in exactly 2 hours.

The whole event was very well supported with good crowds all the way around and the usual array of bands and music. The whole event had a very good feel to it.

By just after half way I began to feel the pace a bit as that was a good 5 minutes faster than any half marathon distance I’d run throughout my training. The predictors available on the internet suggest that a 2:05 half marathon indicates a marathon of over 4:30 and although I hung on for another few kms I knew that I wasn’t going to run the second half in two hours in the increasing heat.

At around 28km (18 miles) the route went close to the finish area but then veered off for a loop towards the north east – that’s always a bit disheartening but I saw my wife just before that point which was really good and she was able to confirm that Alex was still running strongly about a kilometre ahead of me.

I never hit anything like ‘the wall’ – I had kept reasonably hydrated, had used the three gels I’d taken with me and and had made the most of the cooling sponges that were available – but it got harder from there. By 35km (c. 22 miles) I most certainly had a bit of the ‘running in treacle’ syndrome when the breathing is fine, none of the muscles hurts particularly but the legs simply don’t take you as fast as they did previously.

I resisted the temptation to walk (a surprising number were walking by now) and eventually everything improved and I felt reasonably good coming into the finish (but no, I did not manage anything resembling a sprint to the line). What I did manage in just a few hours was tan lines on my legs and arms – it was much warmer than expected.

So, I hit my C goal of a safe marathon, running all the way. I hit my B goal of going under 4:30 and managed a time of 4hours 11minutes which was inside my A goal of 4:15. In the male 60+ category I came 98th out of 326. I was inside the top half of finishers too.

More significantly, our son Alex ran sub 4 hours (a finely judged 3:58) – which was the most important goal of the whole weekend.

Apart from the usual transient twinges while running, I had relatively few problems (other than the distance and the heat) but the Achilles tendons were very unhappy as soon as I stopped running.

We met up and walked back to the hotel (as a cool down) and found a lovely little restaurant in a (happily nearby) back street alongside a canal where we sat outside for supper.

The knees were a little sore that night but by Monday morning both Alex and I were surprisingly mobile – and my Achilles’ were probably better than most mornings over the last 5 months, which is quite beyond me. I drove us back to London by mid afternoon, in cool weather (both in the UK and Holland) that would have been very suitable for running a marathon!

So, a really excellent experience and a thoroughly enjoyable long weekend. I’d certainly recommend the Rotterdam Marathon to anyone.

I’m sure I’ll reflect on it all over the next few days – in the meantime, remind me what I used to do before marathon training …