Tag Archives: challenges

Turbo, gym, pink pigeons, a terrific women’s cycle race, Chris Froome (and some more cricket)

Women’s Tour of Britain coming through Faringdon. It was ultimately won by Lizzie Deignan, 9 months after having a daughter. Magnificent.

An almost decent week of getting back into some sort of training rhythm.

On Monday it was the turbo for 22.2 km in 45 minutes @ 29.6kph (13.8 miles @ 18.4mph) and on Tuesday an hour in the gym (various weights machines for the legs, front and side planks, 110 sit-ups, some chest presses, bicep curls and a lot of stretching).

Wednesday saw the Women’s Tour of Britain cycle race come through Faringdon, our nearest town so I went to support that – and the incredible efforts of some of the cycle group to decorate the town pink. Pink pigeons is a Faringdon ‘thing’ after Lord Berners – Faringdon’s eccentric aristocrat – used to have the pigeons at his house in the town dyed pastel colours in the middle of the last century. There were about 50 bikes put about the town, all pimped pink.

A second hour in the gym on Thursday before heading off to Southampton to stay with one of my brothers-in-law in order to go to the cricket on Friday. I was lucky that I was going with my brother-in-law as otherwise my absence on our 32nd wedding anniversary would have been rather frowned upon.

In keeping with my life’s work of bringing cricket to the corners of the world that hasn’t yet reached, after I watched them win their first world cup game, England batted and bowled reasonably in their second match – but fielded poorly and managed to lose to Pakistan (who they had just beaten 4-0 in a pre-tournament series). Back to winning ways in match three against Bangladesh and then (the match I was at in Southampton) winning surprisingly easily against the West Indies. Whisper it, but qualification for the semi-finals looks possible, with New Zealand, Australia and India also looking good so far.

I stayed over on Friday night too and then back home via Bournemouth (still managing to resist a run while I rest the Achilles’ and torn calf) to collect the bed linen and towels used by the friends who had used the house the previous week. Yet more glitz and glamour to my lifestyle.

Turbo again on Saturday evening – 15.64km in 30 minutes (19.4mph average). Hard, hard, hard.

…. and above everything else, my very best wishes to Chris Froome for a swift and full recovery from the severe injuries (a fracture to his neck, a fractured right femur, elbow and ribs, plus a broken hip) he suffered as a result of his terrible crash on Wednesday.

It’s a good reminder that this cycling lark can be dangerous – stay safe folks.

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A lesson learnt (and quickly forgotten)

Back to the turbo

I am not a gardener. I lack skill and knowledge and I’m too impatient to get the right tools, or a decent pair of gloves. I go at it like a madman, I’m exhausted in 2 hours, and that’s me finished.

A proper gardener rarely seems to move very quickly but, equally, rarely seems to stop moving. It’s all about pacing I guess – not entirely unlike any other form of exercise – for me, cycling and running in particular.

As I sat on Wednesday afternoon, bathed in sweat and with hands and arms tingling unpleasantly from brambles and stinging nettles, I learned the lesson for the thousandth time (knowing I will also forget it for the thousandth time).

I proved myself correct that evening. With my wife in London for a Dior exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum, I moved the turbo trainer to another room and went for a gentle 30 minute session to ease myself back into it, having not used it since February.

It was very hot but, stupidly, I carried on for 45 minutes in a pool of sweat at an average 29.3kph (18.2mph).

Of course, I paid for it on Thursday at the gym – the 500m rowing was really tough and I was slower by 4 seconds and it was all hard work.

The good weather seemed to break on Friday but we drove down to Bournemouth in the evening to miss potential weekend traffic. We spent the weekend working on the house as friends are using it next week.

Of course, staying down there usually means running – but in a rare outbreak of common sense I resisted as it’s only 2 weeks since I tore my calf muscle and the Achilles tendons are still not playing nicely.

Cycling stocktake (and I find myself rather short of stock)

Enough of this ‘why aren’t I cycling?’ and ‘I’ve got to get the bum on the saddle’ – on Monday I actually did get on the bike and go for a ride.

The Achilles tendons still aren’t great and the torn calf probably isn’t fully healed but they were all good enough for cycling and I’ve been prevaricating for too long.

Foolishly, I did my usual test route – the one I do every now and again to gauge how fit I am and how the cycling is going. I always push fairly hard on this route which is about 28 miles (c.45km) and flattish (280m or 920 feet). The last time I did it was back in September 2017 and I clocked a p.b. of 1 hour 28 minutes at 30.9 kph (19.2mph). This time I managed 1 hour 33 minutes at 29.2kph (18.1mph).

It was an unfair test given how little I’ve cycled this year, and considering that September 2017 was just 2 months after I ‘everested’, but it puts down a marker. It also suggests:

  • the training for the marathon in April has helped,
  • the gym has helped,
  • I haven’t forgotten how to ride a bike,
  • but there’s a lot of hard work to do before the trip to the alps

More importantly, I really enjoyed it.

So, it’s back to the cycling now – it will be kinder on the Achilles tendons and I’ll see a bit more of the countryside than by running my usual routes. I’ll miss the running but it will be interesting to see if a break from it (other than shorter, gentler runs as my wife’s unpaid personal trainer) will sort the ATs out.

Back to the turbo trainer (nearly) and, for something completely different, cricket

The Pavilion at The Oval cricket ground, South London

One of the (many) things I’m bad at is taking time to recover from illness or injury. Partly it’s just that I like exercise but it’s also fear that delay means I won’t be ready for the next challenge, whatever that might be.

Of course, that’s daft. Fretting about it won’t help and training too soon is likely to be entirely counter-productive and actually slow down the whole process.

Admittedly, having torn the right calf on Saturday, cycling on Sunday and going for two long walks (two long limps) over the weekend might not have been wise but the ride was short and gentle and I don’t get the chance to walk with both of our sons too often so I wasn’t going to turn those down.

Since then I’ve tried to be better. It was Bournemouth on Wednesday (no running) and from there straight to London in the evening to be ready to go to the cricket on Thursday.

Apologies to those in parts of the world that don’t have any knowledge of cricket (and to the millions who do know about it but still don’t like or understand it) – but I really like it. How can you not admire a game that can finish without any positive result at the end of 5 days of play?

This was the first game of the Cricket World Cup – a tournament of one day games, each of just 50 overs per side, meaning a match with a playing time of a mere 7 hours or so. This opening match was England v South Africa. Purists might look down on one day cricket as ‘cricket for those who don’t like cricket’ but it’s hard to know where the game would be without its shorter forms of as they are the main draws of big crowds.

Following England in just about any sport is an agony of optimism, disappointment and frustration. This time it is possibly worse than usual because of high expectations, England being the favourites for the tournament.

We batted first and posted a very decent, but not unbeatable, 311 runs for the loss of 8 wickets. The South Africans were in the hunt for the first half of their reply but faded in the face of some brilliant English fielding and catching, and were all out for 207. A very good day and a very good result against the side ranked 3rd in the world in one day cricket.

Perhaps above all else, we avoided the three words that strike despair into the heart of cricket fans – “Rain Stopped Play”.

By Friday the calf was feeling better and the Achilles seemed to be improving slowly so I was thinking I would get on the turbo trainer for the first time since early March. However, as the bike on the turbo has clipless pedals it would have meant a good deal of calf involvement – so I thought better of it. Signs of common sense, perhaps.

I don’t really understand why I’ve done so little cycling for such a long time. It was logical while I was marathon training but why so little since? I hope I haven’t fallen out of love with it.

We are visiting different friends for lunch on Saturday and Sunday which will mean a full 8 days after hurting the calf without any significant exercise. Is next week the one I start to get my act together?

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.

This gun’s for hire, even if we’re just dining in the dark

Hmm, looks like a perfect day for a ride

Last week ended with a gentle run with my wife on Sunday – cold enjoyable. Monday was a Bank Holiday, a joy for most people but one of the (very few) drawbacks of being retired, no big deal for me and I ended up doing domestic stuff of little note.

It’s frustrating because I’d like to be out on the bike or running but I’m trying to get the legs sorted, and that seems to mean putting rest and stretching above pretty much everything else. Neither the knees or the Achilles’ were particularly happy after cycling on Saturday and running on Sunday but I’m still really not sure that this ‘being sensible’ lark is going to catch on.

I was off personal trainer duty on Tuesday as my wife ran with a friend. She then went to London – I resisted a visit to the gym as Thursday now promised a ride with 4 of the 5 friends who accompany me to the alps each year. Only Phil (who lives and works in Germany) was missing … no commitment some people (but as he was actually in Provence climbing Ventoux I think he’s forgiven).

Riding with friends

Early in the week, Thursday’s weather looked OK but as the day neared, the forecast deteriorated to fairly continual light rain. We set off at 9 planning to head south so Dave could pick up some more of his ‘British Cycle Quest’ clues (it’s a sort of treasure hunt for bikes without any treasure) with 402 sites to be visited around the whole of the UK. Anyone thinking of picking up the Ramsbury clue look away now ……… the plaques on the wall of the village hall are for ‘Best Kept Village’ competitions.

The forecast was reasonable accurate and the light rain was fairly intermittent – except for the deluge that hit us soon after we started. It was fairly cold too – no more than 10℃ (50℉) until the very end.

We stopped at a cafe for coffee but I then had to dip out a bit early as we had friends coming for supper and staying the night.

In fact, I see I rode only about 8km less than they did with only 40m less climbing. I was surprised that they didn’t go past me later on – which would have been a bit of an irony as I’d left early to get home quicker. I now find that I didn’t valiantly hold them off – it turns out that they had a second food stop (very Hobbit-like). In the end I rode 50 miles with 2762 feet of climbing (80km, 842m) – very enjoyable company but a bit cold and wet.

Of course, the idea that I’d held off the chasing pack is a nonsense – especially as the day proved to me that I’m trailing in a poor last in terms of bike-fitness. There’s a lot of work to be done if I don’t want to be tail-end Charlie in the alps.

Dining in the dark

We had an excellent evening with our friends who left on Friday morning to go to a funeral. We then left to go to a (different) funeral too – then straight off to London to the restaurant Dans Le Noir (‘In the Dark’) where we had an evening meal … in the dark! Not just dark – total blackout, the literal ‘can’t see your hand in front of your face’ blackness. It was an experience given to us by our sons for Christmas.

Whatever the theory, it was a very fine evening and a real experience. The restaurant staff are visually impaired or totally blind so to get a small taste of their world was fascinating by itself, but the food was also good and up in the bar afterwards we were treated to an introduction to sign language by a charming deaf lady.

After the meal you can also find out exactly what you’ve eaten, either by looking down the front of your shirt (actually we were splash-free) or from the menu you are then given. My taste buds are not too bad as I identified the pork belly, the savoy cabbage, the fennel, carrot, potato etc although I thought the quince was apple sauce and I couldn’t be sure that the venison wasn’t a good beef steak of some description.

A strangely challenging experience, but one we were very pleased to have had.

More London running

On Saturday morning I celebrated (nothing in particular) by having a run to Hammersmith and down the Thames Path – about 5 miles (8km) at a reasonable pace and thoroughly enjoyable.

One strange thing – around home in Oxfordshire just about every runner I pass when out running says hello. In London, they nearly all deliberately avoid even eye contact. Is that a London thing, or just a city thing?

I’ve started saying hello to everyone I pass – I might start a trend or get arrested as a wierdo.

The ‘secret’ of success? (Not my secret, probably not my success)

My guess is that they have all put in the training

I’m the first to admit that this is not the place to find earth-shattering news or insights – until now. After extensive research I can reveal ……. that challenges go better if you’ve put in the training.

Yes, I know it’s horribly obvious but it’s easy to overlook the obvious in favour of the fashionable or easy – assuming that more expensive kit or other ‘tricks’ will do the job.

Thinking about my White Horse Challenge performances it dawned on me (I’m quick like this) that my best result was in April 2017 when I’d already started training for my ‘everest’ in the July. By the time of the WHC, I’d ridden about 800km in the previous four months, including many reps of the hill to the local White Horse at Uffington.

That led to a time of 5:05 for the WHC – less than 2% off breaking the 5 hour target. In contrast, this year’s attempt was off the back of just 20 miles of riding and 6 hours on the turbo in nearly 4 months. Of course, the marathon training helped (and the marathon itself went OK thanks to the training) but it didn’t replace lost riding – no great surprise this year’s WHC didn’t go as well.

That’s got to be a bit encouraging so – if fit and healthy – I’m going to give it a real go next year to see if I can break the 5 hour barrier. Either I’ll break the barrier, or accept that I can’t, and move on.

The plan will be to ride at least 1600km (1000 miles) to include at least 40 reps up to the Uffington White Horse and lots on intervals, before the WHC in late April 2020. Longer rides and hills on the road and intensity on the turbo? Although that doesn’t sound much, with skiing and the (almost) guarantee of bad weather in January and February, I think that’s a real challenge in itself …. but will it be enough?

Perhaps a trip to the mediterranean in March or early April might help – we’ve talked about it in the past in order to do some running and cycling in better weather, but 2020 might be the year to do it. What else …….. new wheels and other bike upgrades are always tempting but real progress must be through ‘me upgrades’. In the past I’ve tried to rely on minor improvements to scrape through but perhaps I need a more radical approach to raise my level significantly.

Then, if I’m in any fit state (with the ATs in particular) I’ll return to marathon training to have a go at a sub 4 hour run in Autumn 2020, aged 65. I’ll base this on the training plan I used for Rotterdam last month but increase the mileage and do hill and interval sessions in addition. In between, I’ll have the usual week in the alps in July but I’d also like to find a way of fitting in a trip to Ventoux to try the bicinglette and I’m struggling to see how that fits in.

This year, it’s now back to the cycling to train, first, for the week of cycling in the alps in July. The aim is to perform better than I have in the last two years which suffered from doing the ‘everest’ in 2017 and riding out there last year. There is no overt competition (of course) but when you ride up big hills with friends each day, you know where you stand in the pecking order!

Then it’s the club sportive in late July (I’ll ride it unless needed for admin duties) followed by the Prudential Ride London 100 miler in early August. If I carry off the alps OK, those should pretty much take care of themselves.

Subject to the injuries, I’ll carry on running later in the summer and try to get to a few Park Runs with an aim of getting below 25 minutes – I have no idea if that will be possible. I’ll also carry on with the gym and the rowing machine – I’d like to get under 8 minutes for 2000m but whether that is achievable is another a mystery.

I appreciate that no one should be very interested in all this – I set it out merely to cement my commitment. Well, that’s the commitment, now for the doing …