This is the actual third stone I brought down from the summit – no stunt doubles here. Not as big as it might look – about 2x1x1 cm!
Joining the Club des Cinglés du Mont-Ventoux in 2015 was one of the best things I’ve ever done on a bike. I completed the three ascents (each non-stop) with a friend, didn’t suffer very much (apart from freezing on the first half of each descents) and fell in love with a very special mountain which even had the decency to be cloud-free at the summit for the third and final ascent.
One thing I remembered to do, when at the top for the last time, was to pick up three small stones. I had two particular friends who, I knew, would want to climb Ventoux themselves so on returning to England I sent them each a stone, with a request that they return it to the top of the mountain.
Philip returned his stone this summer and Dave has just told me that he and his wife are taking a road trip next year to include Provence (with his bike and stone in the car).
I don’t take any credit for their ascents but there is something good about others getting to experience the enjoyment I got from climbing such a great mountain.
The third stone?
That’s either for me on my next trip up Ventoux (or perhaps for Mrs Omil if I can ever persuade her to take on the climb from Sault).
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.
Funny how sorting out some challenges seems to focus the mind on training. Sadly, so far I’m doing more thinking about it than doing it but that’s probably due to English winters and the fact that turbo in the conservatory is out of commission due to loads of mother-in-laws things being stuffed in there with all of our own.
Anyway, the schedule of key dates seems to be:
- White Horse Challenge: 23 April, 150km with 1400m of ascent. It will be my 6th entry, best time so far 5h 13min – I dream of breaking 5 hours.
- Olympic distance triathlon at South Cerney: 14 May. I’ve done a sprint triathlon in each of the last two years and enjoyed them – but have not done any open water swimming. So far, the swimming has been poor, the cycling quite good and the running OK. Currently scared, but the aim is just to get around.
- Everesting attempt: July, 8848m. Even scarier.
- Farcycles sportive: 29 July. My club’s event, I will probably do the 100 mile route.
- Swimming training – back to the local leisure centre to see if I can develop anything other than a stroke to be ashamed of. Before Christmas I got up to 2.5km in a session but, hell, it’s boring in a 25m pool. I must practice getting the wetsuit on and off (I’ve never tried it since I bought it) and try some open water swims.
- Running – I run a couple of times a week with Libby although that’s not too far or too fast. I guess this need to figure more in April and May.
- Cycling – I must do some! It will be a combination of distance and hills. – the more the better?
- Weights – out of my comfort zone but I read that lunges with weights is good for cycling so I’ve started that already. I have two 12.1kg dumbbells and am doing at least 3 sets of 16 reps (eight with each leg) with the two weights, daily. I’ve always felt a bit under-powered so that might help. I’ll also do sit-ups and crunches to help the core.
I just hope that is right enough and that I do enough of it. I’ll log progress (or lack of it) here.