With four weeks of no running, cycling or gym sessions, and Christmas over-eating, the only thing that’s moved forward is my weight.
It got to an extra 7 pounds or so – not huge in empirical terms but, for a member of the slightly scrawny brethren, that is getting a bit close to 5% of bodyweight. However, if it goes on quickly it (usually) comes back off a bit quicker and I’m back heading in the right direction.
Getting back to exercise will help, and I managed another half an hour on the turbo on Tuesday for 15.44km @30.88kph (9.6 miles @19.2mph). I’m grateful that it is just the turbo for now – I’d notice the extra weight and the lack of fitness if I was trying to ride up any big hills outside.
The knee now bends, twists and takes lateral pressure without any issues so on Wednesday I ran up to the postbox in the village and back. No great distance but, more importantly, no weakness or pain in the knee – but with a certain amount of wheezing through lost fitness.
The intention is to keep to my plan of not running until February but I needed to know if it was possible now – and it is. I can’t leave it beyond February as I need to be capable of running 31 miles in the first of the 16 weeks of training starting in March.
Back to the gym on Thursday, for the first time in 4 weeks. I managed the whole routine with the usual weights (save for taking 5kg off the leg curls and extensions, and 20kg off the leg press, just to be cautious). It was tough because of the recent inactivity but no adverse reactions from the knee so all is well – and I trust that is the last time I mention it.
Doubling up on exercise for the day I did 30 minutes on the turbo in the evening – 15.44km (9.6 miles). Interestingly, exactly the same as Tuesday when I rode it in one gear lower – purely by chance, the slower cadence perfectly compensated for by further travel with each revolution.
I wonder whether one ride was better for me than the other. I’ve always thought that high cadence was harder on the cardio-vascular system and a higher gear harder on the muscles. I expect the answer as to which is better is the usual ‘It depends’.
Saturday morning’s run was the regular 10 (and a bit) km – about 6.3 miles. A tiny bit slower than the last couple of times but the speed is probably the least important thing about it at this stage.
Both calf muscles were sore after the run, so Sunday’s cold and windy run with my wife was on heavy and slightly painful legs – but that made it about 16.5km (a bit over 10 miles) for the two days.
No such leg problems in Barbados – but those runs were shorter, slower and on more forgiving sand so perhaps that made a difference. It’s a bit of a worry but for now it looks like it’s back to the (deservedly) much-maligned long white compression socks during and after runs – and more attention to warming up before, and stretching afterwards.
Monday morning it was back to the gym and on Tuesday I drove to Bournemouth to prepare for the phone line fitting on Wednesday (including boarding out a part of the loft so the engineer could route the new line through it). Loft boarded and internet now working.
In recent months I’ve been quite good at doing planks daily (the routine is for 5 minutes of plank variants) but I’ve now added press-ups, sit-ups and crunches. In theory it’s to help the core for cycling and running, but I’m sure there’s more than a bit of vanity in it as I try to pursue a flatter stomach. I doubt that a six-pack is within reach – and I think it would be a bit weird on an old bloke in his 60. In the unlikely event that I ever achieve one, I’ll keep it very much to myself.
Gym again on Thursday morning and then up to Kingston-upon-Thames on the edge of London for a Snow Patrol concert – my wife is very keen on them. Another performance in a small night club venue like the one we went to a year ago (and standing in the very front row again).
They were excellent, but that’s four times I’ve been to see them and not one of them has ever bothered to come to watch me run, cycle or work out at the gym. Where is the give and take in that?
To London after the concert, only to be woken up at 2am by another alarm-alarm triggered by a power outage, like the one in October. When we got back it was the mains trip switch again – blasted thing.
No party politics here, but we had another General Election on Thursday. As the years go by I find it more difficult to find one party that offers a total package that I like. The party I tend to think of as being likely to run the economy better is not necessarily one I’d prefer to see spending the money.
The Conservative Party had a significant win which probably highlights two things: first, the all-consuming importance of Brexit; and, secondly, a negative perception of the leader the Labour party and the direction he was taking it. Even the eternally important mantra ‘(it’s) the economy, stupid’ looks to have taken a bit more of a backseat than usual.
The more I see of politics and politicians, the more I wonder if anybody should ever vote for someone who puts themselves forward for high office (although I appreciate that would make elections difficult).
Based on a sample of one, I am all in favour of winter holidays to escape the cold weather – the only drawback is that when you get back it feels even colder than it would otherwise.
With a hotel holiday there is also the weight gain of course. Somehow, the week in Barbados only accounted for about an extra kilo – just over 2 pounds – which is more than strange considering the cooked (and continental) breakfasts each day and the 3 course evening meals. Both those issues are a price worth paying, I think.
If the house were a ‘lock up and go’ sort of place we might even be tempted to go away for longer. Potentially, that would be great for the running and cycling if we found somewhere a bit cooler than the Caribbean. Unfortunately, houses over 400 years old are rarely ‘lock up and go’ and the village is on high alert at the moment after apparently being ‘cased’ recently by some unsavoury characters known to the police.
A chap came down the village, house to house and into gardens, while lining up a brood of children in front of properties, ostensibly taking a picture of them but actually photographing the house behind them. We had a house-sitter for the trip to the Caribbean and hope that our alarm system is a good deterrent (not that we have stuff worth stealing – it’s just a requirement of the property insurers). I hope the alarm box came out clearly in the photos he took of our house.
It’s sad to think that we don’t have to make the house absolutely secure (although we do take a lot of care over that), we just have to make it look less attractive than neighbouring properties. Not exactly the community spirit I’d like.
In fact, part of me thinks that we are probably safer than normal for a few months. If I were a burglar, knowing that the casing of the village was spotted and the chap taking the pictures was captured on a few CCTV cameras, I’d expect the village to be on high alert and so I would wait wait for a while until everyone forgets about it and lets their guard down a bit. Our guard is permanently up!
Anyway, back to England, rested and relaxed, and back on the turbo on Tuesday – a very hard 30 minutes but quicker than expected, at an average 32.3kph (20.1mph).
Not quite back to the normal exercise routine yet, as my father was taken ill while we were away (a fairly innocuous cough that became a proper chest infection) so I drove up to Wigan on Wednesday to visit him in hospital. Unfortunately, on Tuesday he was moved from a ward that had pretty well open visiting times to a ward allowing just one. So, seven and a half hours in the car (4.5 hours there and 3 back – oh, the wonders of driving late at night) for an hour’s visit. Happily, he’s improving but that’s not a quick job at 95.
Turbo again on Thursday, not wimping out at 30 minutes like recent times. I pushed it to all of 45 minutes at 30.9kph (19.2mph). Gym on Friday morning – the first time for two weeks and it was suitably hard, although I just managed the normal weights.
For now, no injuries, Achilles tendons behaving and weight under control. Too good to be true – no doubt, it won’t last until next year’s cycling challenges or the ultra marathon in July.
Gym on Thursday and Friday – and some bike fettling to continue sorting out the bikes awaiting attention at a friend’s house (which looks a bit like a bike graveyard). A number can now be used to ride properly and some more have been stripped down for use as balance bikes for larger children and adults.
I used the turbo for 30 minutes on Saturday evening @ 20.4mph (32.95kph). I think I’m getting stronger through the gym but the cardio aspect was hard at that speed, showing my lack of real cycling recently. However, it was certainly faster than recent attempts on the turbo so that’s encouraging.
We ran early on Sunday morning (just under 3 miles in very pleasant weather) and then both went to the cycle park to give some more training to children – in fairly heavy rain. All credit to the children (and their parents) for coming out in it. One family had driven 28 miles (45km) to come.
The week’s highlight
During last Sunday’s training session, I spent much of the hour with a delightful little girl who was making progress but hadn’t quite cracked the balance. Her father told me they had previously found it hard to get her interested in cycling but that she had been keen to come back again.
In just 10 or 15 minutes this week her balance clicked and she spent the rest of the time cycling round the track.
I am so pleased – that’s what makes it worthwhile!
After the gym and some mass mowing on Tuesday, on Wednesday I had to drive up to London for an errand – I took my running kit but it didn’t stop raining and I wimped out.
As penance, I got on the turbo in the evening for half an hour @ 31.6kph. A short ride but so much faster than the two sessions at 24/25kph that I managed a couple of weeks ago. Not necessarily wise as I’d arranged a Thursday morning ride with a friend (one of those I go out to the alps with each year).
He’s been a friend for 20 years or so and is probably the person who was most instrumental in getting me into cycling in the first place. He’s cycled all his life and the two of us went out to the alps in 2003 for my first taste of Le Tour. I took a mountain bike (the only bike I owned) and was totally unable to ride it up any significant climbs – but we saw the tour on the côte d’Arâches and (at the bottom of) Alpe d’Huez, and I’ve not looked back since.
Happily, it was dry when we got away at just after 9am but it was very windy. It was all a bit unstructured as we hadn’t discussed a route – or even a distance. Perhaps that’s a good thing as we weren’t training for anything – just going out on the bikes for the pleasure of the trip, or so I thought.
However, Philip is a strong cyclist and was soon setting a fast pace with me hanging on grimly – grateful that I had the Ride London miles in my legs. We rode for 73.5km at 27.3kph (45.6miles at 17mph). I ended up with 25 Strava achievements, including 15 PRs and a 6th overall.
So much for the ‘just going out on the bikes for the pleasure of the trip’ – although it certainly was enjoyable, and it suggests that I’ve not ruined the fit of the bike by changing the stem earlier in the week.
I drove to the gym on Friday morning – I don’t mind cycling in a bit of rain but I don’t want to arrive wet for an hour’s workout. I stuck with the usual weights and a short run on the treadmill to finish with but it was very hard. Not too surprising perhaps as that’s two gym sessions, a turbo session and a ‘proper’ bike ride in four days.
If age means anything, it seems to mean slower recovery from an accumulation of days of exercise. At the moment the exercise doesn’t seem to have any better purpose than keeping fit. I’ve been thinking about the next challenges (probably for 2020 now as I am still in the year of my promise of ‘no stupid solo challenges’) and will see if I can firm up on those soon. It will be good to have some more focus.
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.
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.
I think the decision to curtail last Sunday’s sportive was a good one judging by the knees and ATs on Monday. They had a rest while mowing on Tuesday and then a gentle run (4.5km – 2.8miles) with my wife early on Wednesday before I headed down to Bournemouth for more mowing and the eternal decluttering.
This time I took a bike to leave down there (a Gary Fisher Advance mountain bike – perfectly OK but not the great man’s finest work!) and am looking forward to using it over the summer.
Gym on Thursday with Ian. I did the 2000m on the rowing machine in 9 minutes 13 seconds – but I don’t suppose that means much as I’m not sure what machine it is. It was set to ‘7’ on the resistance (simply because that’s what it was already on and it means I have some adjustment either way if I discover that I need it).
From the internet, it seems that the resistance (‘the damper setting’) is finessed by a ‘Performance Monitor’ which means that effort is measured regardless of the damper setting. All very clever but I must admit to a little nervousness when I realise that the rowing machine is cleverer than I am.
I’ll leave it on 7 for now as greater resistance, apparently, is more suitable for those of us lacking in fast twitch muscle fibres, even though it can exhaust muscles before the full cardio benefit is achieved.
I read that 8 minutes for 2000m for someone with no experience on a rowing machine is pretty good – but I doubt that was for an over-60 year old – either that or I’m just not ‘pretty good’. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter as I’m only competing with myself to measure progress, not talent (which I anticipate will be sadly lacking). Next time I’ll do the rowing before I start on the weights.
The afternoon was spent following the first stage of the Tour of Yorkshire bike race on TV – Yorkshire showing its true colours by raining pretty much throughout the stage, but with the locals still rising magnificently to the challenge.
With the rest and a lot of of stretching, I was happy to do my turn today as lead/host/sweep for the club’s Saturday ‘red’ ride. It was a cool morning (5℃ which is 41℉) at outset thanks to a fresh northerly breeze but at 75km (47 miles) it looked like a reasonable outing for the decrepit body.
Although I demonstrated my usual wimpish tendencies by wearing about twice as many clothes as anyone else, it was a good ride. I took the role of sweep and rode at the back with three others – but we picked up two more (who had been with the faster group) at the roadside when one (with tubeless tyres) had a puncture that wouldn’t seal. Messy old business fitting a tube into a tubeless set-up but between us we managed it and everyone completed the ride safely.
Proper club ride sweeping! It’s odd how fulfilling it is to do that job when you can actually add something to the enjoyment of the ride for others – either by roadside rescue or by helping pull folks round by taking the lead into the wind.
The group has recently started to incorporate a coffee shop stop (we used to just stop at the roadside for snacks we brought with us – generally referred to as the ‘banana break’) and that was welcome on a day that never really warmed up.
Quite a slow ride with 870m (2850 feet) of climbing but one of those rides that you’re pleased you did, even though you might have been unsure about it at outset.