Tag Archives: training

Marathon Training week 5/20: turbo, run, x-train, run, run … and another patented training device

Pre-run Achilles warmer – other brands of kettle are available

After the turbo on Monday and run on Tuesday, Wednesday was a ‘rest’ day – no running, cycling or gym, just four or five hours of pretty hard labour helping a chap do the beech hedges and yew trees. I’ll certainly credit myself with an hour of cross training for that (and so will change the heading to my activity table accordingly).

Thursday was properly a rest day (save for the emotional stress of doing tax returns) and I ran the same windy 6.3 miles (10.15km) on Friday as I had on Tuesday (but a fraction slower).

The Achilles tendons continue to improve, with little discomfort while running and less hobbling afterwards. I can now do proper heel drops with both legs and with just a little pain from the right leg (for weeks I have had to keep the left foot on the step to take some of the weight off the right Achilles).

For now, at least, the only things holding me back are age, lethargy and a lack of talent.

The long slow run for the week was just about fitted in with Alex, early on Sunday – 11.4 miles (18.3km). So, week 5 complete and no missed sessions (but next week will put paid to that record). Alex’s phone app records our runs as longer distances that my Garmin – I hope his is right.

Our sons are now home for Christmas and later on Sunday I collected my father too (a 8 hour round trip in constant rain, but well worth it).

Happy Christmas to everyone. I hope you and yours all have a great holiday.

Week Run Cycle X-train
1 16.1m (25.9 km) 9.8m  (15.8 km)  2:00
2 18.5m (29.8 km) 13.3m  (21.5 km) 2:00
3 20.7m (33.25 km) 65.8m (105.9 km) 1:00
4 22.2m (35.8 km) 13.7m (22.07 km) 1:00
5 24m (38.6 km) 13m (21 km) 1:00
 ‘Running’ totals 101.5m (163.4km) 115.5m (186.3 km)  7:00

Everesting training – one week in and I’ve not failed yet


Lower part of Dragon Hill Road, Uffington

Well, that might not set the cycle training world alight but there was every possibility that I would fail in the first week. I’ll take the fact that I didn’t as a success.

The aim for last week was a ride of 60km and two rides with at least 15 reps of Dragon Hill Road in total. There was also the expectation of two runs with Mrs Omil. As it turned out I did the two runs  for a total of 12km (on Sunday and Wednesday), a ride of 64.5km (Monday) and two hill climb sessions with a total of 16 reps of Dragon Hill Road (6 on Wednesday and 10 on Friday).

In total the rides were about 136km with 2,178m of climbing. The longer ride was done at 30kph for the first 40km but then suffered from a strengthening headwind! It’s a bit worrying that the total rides were less that a quarter of an everesting!

The 10 climbs on Friday felt easier than the 6 on Tuesday – partly because I’d already had a run on Tuesday and partly because I’m still getting over the chest infection. What is clear however is that I’m likely to do the minimum to (just) exceed my targets! I’ll need to keep them challenging!

Naturally, I’m more grinder than spinner when it comes to cadence so I’m working hard to climb in a lower gear than normal. I guess that will help when I come to the real thing but I’m avoiding using bottom gear so as to keep it in reserve for when I really need it.

Another thing I’ve decided is to see if I can lose whatever weight I can now, rather than waiting until July. I don’t know if I’ve ever damaged my power output by weight loss in the past but if I lose it now and then stabilise it, I assume power is less likely to be compromised. Weight this morning 64.4kg.

I don’t want to end up bored with (or hating) Dragon Hill – and nor do I want to become great at just that one hill (fat chance) and rubbish at any others (more likely). Accordingly I’m changing the formulation of next week’s targets to:

– a ride of over 75km,

– at least 12 reps up Dragon Hill and

– a third ride with over 1000m of climbing.

Plus the usual couple of runs, of course.

With some social commitments I can’t miss, it looks like a challenging plan.

Training plans – benefit or burden?


Of course I understand that if you set yourself a significant challenge, you have to train for it. However, I have mixed thoughts about most training plans.

My main gripe is that I always feel guilty when I fail to stick to them (which is every time). Once the guilt sets in it’s easy to forget the good bits you are doing and what you are achieving and just focus on the negatives – the parts of the plan you are flunking.

Holidays, injury, bad weather, social commitments, laziness – there are always more reasons not to train than there are to train.

My other gripe is that they always seem to be so over-blown. That’s double-edged. Bad because it makes it even more likely that they can’t be kept to – but good because failure to keep to the plan doesn’t mean you’re bound to fail at the challenge.

I ran the London Marathon twice in the late 1990’s and had sub 4 hour training plans that I failed to keep to – but (just) managed sub 4 hour times on both occasions.

Perhaps it’s not surprising. If I was setting myself up as an expert and advising people on training for a specific event, I’d certainly be taking a cautious approach and building in some contingency to avoid people keeping to the plan and still failing at the challenge.

The thing that’s got me thinking about this is the everesting training. Clearly, it’s a sufficiently ridiculous challenge that I need to train – but how? I’ve found reference to a plan on the internet that seems to be endorsed by the Hell’s 500 people so it’s ‘official’ but they want $66.66 for it and it seems to entail at least 90 hours of cycling over 8 weeks. I’ll bet it’s good but that’s just the sort of plan that I know I’ll flunk.

So, taking the theory from that plan, I’m just going to have to cycle as much as I reasonably can, with much of it being uphill. In particular I’ll embrace the high intensity training model and go for hill reps up Dragon Hill – much as I did earlier in the year training for the White Horse Challenge.

I’ll couple that with weight reduction, where possible. The bike weighs in at about 7kg and I’m too mean to upgrade to Dura Ace to reduce that any further – but perhaps I’ll risk going without taking a spare tube and pump (or rather leaving them in the car).


Weapon of choice

I ride with a carbon saddle and want to keep that for lightness. It’s never been a problem (even for the triple Ventoux in 2015) but this could be a few hours too far for that? It needs thought.


Instrument of torture

As for me, I weighed in at about 65.3kg this morning (not too bad for 177.5m – 5’10” and 10 stone 4 in old money) so I’ll keep an eye on that. I wonder if I could lose a bit more without compromising on what little power I have?


If at first you don’t succeed – try tri again?



A number of cycling friends refer to me as ‘going to the dark side’ when I tell them I’m doing a triathlon – but I have great respect for triathletes. Quite apart from the extra kit required, the additional skills and training time that are needed demand real respect.

With my first sportive out of the way I’ve turned my attention to the triathlon in a couple of week’s time. Not enough time to train properly – but it will be very much a ‘happy to get round’ experience, being my first olympic distance event – and my first open water swim since I was on a seaside holiday in my teens.

It’s not started well. A short run with my wife on Monday, a swim in the pool on Thursday another run on Friday, a gentle cycle on Saturday and a second run with my wife today are all I have to show for the first week’s effort.

The running has left me with painful calf muscles, achilles tendons and a sore heel. I spent an hour after today’s run with freezer blocks tucked inside leg warmers to see if that will help as I can’t afford too many days without a run if I want to get run-fit in time.

As for the swimming – even less encouraging. After the sprint triathlon I did last September I swam every week and got up to 100 lengths in the pool (2.5km) fairly comfortably. I lapsed after Christmas so Thursday was the first swim for 4 months – and felt like it. Not a pretty sight and surprisingly little forward motion for all the effort being expended.

I’ve still got to try on my wetsuit for the first time and fit in a practice open water swim wearing it.

How do triathletes find the time to do all this properly?

This could end in tears.

When quite good is a bit bad


Weapon of choice ROSE X-LITE CRS

Yesterday was the White Horse Challenge, my first sportive of the year. I recorded a distance of just under 145km with 1862m of climbing (but that looks on the high side compared to others).

An enjoyable ride, as always, but I missed out on going sub 5 hours. I managed a PB of 5 hours 5 Minutes – 8 minutes off my previous best and an average of 28.4kph.

That might be the worst of all results: if I’d broken 5 hours I might be able to decide that’s me done with the WHC because I won’t improve on that and sub 5 has been a target for a while now. Equally, if I’d done 5.5 hours I’d probably walk away knowing that sub 5 is beyond me. As it is I know that, come the end of the year, I’ll be signing up again, wondering where the extra 6 minutes are going to come from.

Lots of ‘mights’ and ‘what ifs’ but although it went well I probably spent too much time cycling solo hoping for a good train to join – and I just didn’t have enough in my legs for a big finish.

The training went well through March – the hill reps look to have been a real success – but stalled a bit in April as real life (quite rightly) took precedence.

So, not sure whether to be pleased or disappointed but not too bad for an over 60.


Bluebells, chocolate and cycling


I have many faults and failings – one is an inability to resist chocolate. Normally, the solution is not to have it in the house but, of course, an enjoyable and social Easter (including a trip to see the bluebells at Badbury Clump) put paid to that.

Two outcomes this morning were that I tipped the scales at 68kg and really didn’t want to go out for a training ride.

On the basis that the weight went on quickly, I assume it might be reasonably easy to lose. The training ride was a bit more of an issue with the White Horse Challenge 5 days away and training having slightly stalled over the last couple of weeks. Perhaps it was a day or two later than textbook – but it was certainly the last opportunity.

Eventually I managed to get the enthusiasm to get out – but not to change the tyres to the 25mms that I plan to use for the WHC. The ride was tough but OK – 100km with 1255m of climbing in 3h 41m. Clearly, if I can’t be good I’m going to be consistent – the ride was 0.1kph faster than I did it last week.

Those wider tyres had better be good!

It’s not about the bike (tyres) … or is it?

In my teens, I remember the aim was very much to have the thinnest tyres and push the highest possible gear – that was manly cycling! I still have to remind myself sometimes to knock down a gear or two and get the legs spinning – but now I’m also told that I should also be forsaking my skinny tyres.

The science is a bit baffling (not helped by not being entirely consistent) but the consensus seems to be that wider tyres have generally lower rolling resistance at the same pressure, compared to narrower tyres. I’ve seen a suggestion that a 25mm Continental GP4000 s2 tyre at 109psi has about 1.4 watts advantage over its 23mm brother. A lot of pro teams have gone to 25mm tyres and that tends to suggest the science is good.

I don’t have a power meter but Strava estimates my maximum output to be about 320 watts. That is about 5 watts/kg which is certainly OK – and would be positively good if I could maintain it for more than a few minutes … which I can’t.

Assuming the power is in the right ballpark, for a pair of tyres the power saving it is the best part of 1% of my maximum output. If the saving is constant (I don’t suppose it is) it would be closer to 2% of my average output on a more gentle ride. Some of the power saving can be traded in for a smoother ride by taking out some air form the fatter tyres (a smoother ride itself almost certainly being a faster ride) so the options are certainly attractive.

Although there are small weight and aero disadvantages they would be trivial in comparison – so switching to 25mm tyres seems to fall squarely into the category SNT (silly not to). Indeed, it is probably the category FSNT.

The tyres on my sportive bike are nearly down to the wear indicators and I have a slow puncture in the front so now looks like a good time to change. I have new 25s (Continental GP4000 S2s) so here we go to another silver bullet of faster cycling!

Un-training, Chris Froome and reality

In the relatively few years I’ve been cycling I’ve got a lot out of it. Fitness, weight control, great memories and good friends, to name but a few. But (rather obviously) I am not Chris Froome. Sky do not pay me a few million each year to ride for them and I have no sponsors and no team back-up. Although I’m sure Chris still manages to be a fine husband and father, no doubt cycling is to the forefront of his life and pretty well everything else revolves around it.

For me, it has to be the other way round. Cycling has to fit into real life – it is not ‘real life’ by itself.

Take this week for example. Tuesday’s ride was tough and I took it easy on Wednesday recovering. Thursday would have been good for another ride but was spent preparing for a dinner party we hosted that evening. It was excellent – great company, and too much food and drink. Yesterday would have been good for a ride but we drove to take my father out for lunch. Terrific to see him looking so well at 93 – and he still loves his food and has a great appetite so I probably ate more than I otherwise would, but it was a lovely occasion.

The result, I’ve put on 2kg since Tuesday and have had no cycling. That probably happens to Chris very rarely, if ever.

This is where the compromises come in. I’m not going to nibble on a lettuce leaf at social occasions – I’m going to join in with the food and drink. I’m not going to miss out on friends and family because of cycling – they are real life and, in the main, cycling has to fit in.

Today I’m off to Sheffield with our younger son to watch a session at the Snooker World Championships . Our older son is coming home for Sunday and Monday with his girlfriend – we are looking forward to it enormously but again it will mean no (or perhaps little) cycling.

So, it looks like trying to be as sensible as possible while enjoying Easter and a ride on Tuesday. True, it’s bit close to the White Horse Challenge on Sunday 23rd but, hey, the world press won’t be there to record my time, Sky won’t be re-evaluating my contract and the sponsors won’t be worrying about whether they are getting the necessary bang for their buck.

Perhaps Chris doesn’t have it all plain sailing after all.

‘It never gets easier, you just get faster’ – Greg LeMond (‘if you’re lucky’ – The Omil)

Wise words from Greg LeMond – and horribly true … when I ride alone I always seem to end up pushing myself hard. It’s strange – I can do social cycling in a group but on my own it’s always full gas (or at least leaving insufficient gas in the tank to boil an egg).

On a good day I go faster but occasionally the quote should just be ‘It just doesn’t get easier’.

Today I went out for 100 km with 1294 m of climbing up 3 White Horse hills (Broad Town, Hackpen and Uffington) and what, in comparison, must have been several ponies (Purton, Snap, Rockley etc). A bit breezy and relentlessly hard despite only being at an average of 26.6 kph. True, that’s faster than I might have ridden it last year but I was hoping for better, given how hard it felt I was working.

Perhaps it was the breeze, possibly it was just one of those days when you ‘don’t have the legs’. Maybe it was the legacy of walking about 10 miles on Sunday watching my younger son running his first marathon in Brighton (4h 06m on an unseasonably hot day so a really fine performance), or perhaps just a lack of stamina after most of my training being hill reps this year.

Who knows? I just hope I can get another longish ride in before the White Horse Challenge on 23rd April (and pray that, on the day, I get into some good trains to share the work).

Cycling to get fitter – or getting fitter to cycle?

When I started cycling, it was partly for social reasons and partly to get fit. If more friends had been golfers, runners, or squash players I might never have taken up cycling.

Ten years later, I feel like a committed cyclist. I still enjoy the social side but my original aims don’t account for me hauling myself up Dragon Hill Road (up to the Uffington White Horse, about 1km with a climb of over 90m) 68 times in the last 4 weeks.

What has happened, of course, is that I no longer ride to get fit – I now work hard to get fitter in order to cycle better. It’s a strange reverse – I don’t remember consciously taking that decision and by way of irony, the extra training I now do is done alone so I’ve lost some of the other reason for cycling in the first place.

I was wondering why and when this happened. It wasn’t when I did my first sportive – that was just 50 miles and the only extra training I did with that was one ride by way of route recce with the friend with whom I did the actual sportive.

Clearly, the competitive instincts cut in after that ride when it occurred to me that I could have done a better time with some training. It was that which made cycling and not fitness the reason for getting on the bike. After that, the competitive instinct means I continued to want to get better – going faster, going further and riding up bigger hills and that has required the extra training.

I’ve loved it and don’t regret it for a moment but there is a word of warning – make sure you know what is the tail and which is the dog out of your sport and keeping fit. It might start out with the fitness as the dog but once the sport takes over you can’t tell where it might lead. Beware, it might lead to an everesting attempt like I plan for July.