Back To Racing

Last weekend i did my first duathlon for nearly a year, and the quick summary of the race was it was hot, in fact on what was the hottest day of the year deciding to race could have been seen as a ,intake.

However, the truth is that getting back to racing was not an easy decision to make, i seem to have recently lost the enthusiasm for it. This year i have done three trail races, all with Maverick, and all of increasing distances. These were all enjoyable and started to make me reconsider doing more.

The odd thing is that what made up my mind to do the duathlon was going and doing a park run, for probably the same reason I haven’t done any park runs for ages mainly i lost interest in doing events with others, it was a bit like losing the confidence to do it and just thinking everyone else would be better. A mindset that didn’t really make sense but once in it it was was hard to escape.

The duathlon itself was part of the Banana Man event at Dorney Lake, and it was hot. The first run was 5km, and was obviously slower than normal, the bike around 22km this was reasonable fun although the headwind on the back half of the course made things a little tough. The final run of 2.5km seemed to go on for ages, well in terms of time it did but i eventually finished.

The time was not important as the heat made it no where near possible to produce a good time but i enjoyed the experience of racing again, it boosts your confidence to no you can still pass a few people.

In conclusion it is safe to say that looking back on the race it was good to do it and get back on the horse and it has made me now want to find some more races and get back into it again.

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The Maverick Silva Dark Series Oxfordshire Trail Run

This was the first time I have either entered this event or done an event hosted by Maverick, and so on Saturday I was going to achieve two firsts.

A trail run in the dark was always going to be fun, and when it is hosted on a.private estate with plenty of hills then you know it should be good.

The race hq was set in a field in the shadow of some Woodland Hills, which as the darkness fell gave a lovely vista.

Registration was well organised and quick to get your race number and glow stick wrist band, what a combination glow sticks and head torches.

Once start time arrived it was on with the head torch and off. The first hill seemed to arrive almost at once, and this pretty much set the tone for the rest of the race.

It is always difficult to give a detailed course review when you are involved in the race asI find it hard to remember the exact details. This course had a heady mix of uphill, uphill and more uphill, frankly as discussed with another runner it seemed that almost the entire course was uphill! Now as we all know it can’t all be uphill and whilst some of the hills were steep, to the point where walking was quicker than running,, The downhills were often muddy slippery and immense fun as you fought to keep control, rest and pick up some time, A combination which is tricky at the best of time. Running through woodland in the dark with you way lit by a head torch is great fun and something that everyone should do at some point, it heightens your senses and makes you concentrate, it seems the more you concentrate the more fun it becomes.

The finish came and I thought the fun would be over, but I was wrong, on crossing the line I was asked the best question I can remember being asked on crossing a line. “Would you like a beer?” What a question, “Yes please” came my instant response, “Would you like me to open it for you?” Came the reply “yes please” again I replied. The beer tasted really good. They also gave me an iced coffee and a Tribe bar, both of which were also tasty.

In terms of the time it took me 66 minutes 28 seconds and I finished 43rd. To put into context only 23 people went sub 60 minutes, which when you have nearly 300 metres of elevation it is not surprising.

By completing this event it means I have now done as many this year as I did in the entire of last year, and the best part was I really enjoyed this and it has given me the confidence to do more, mentally I feel I have taken a step forward, at no point did I find myself looking for excuses not to turn up or to even pull out of the race at any point.. For me that was the most important thing, rediscovering the fun element.

I am booked in for a couple more Maverick events this year and based on my experience with this one I am looking forward to them.

It is good to feel like I am back in the game again!

Isn’t it ironic

Sang Alanis Morissette some time ago, although for her I doubt she was referring to the likely hood of being injured by a piece of equipment twice that you don’t really like!

The equipment in question is the treadmill we have at home, when we first got it I sliced my big toe open on it and then this week I caught a toe on it and it seemed to break it or at least fracture it based on the colour, swelling and pain.

The irony is that I prefer running outdoors and the treadmill is very much the domain of the wife, maybe it is her way of inflicting pain in me for something I have done?

So, the outcome of this was that I lost a few days training as luckily by Thursday I was able to try running again. Guess where I tried the run, yep that is correct the treadmill. The circle is complete.

I was either very lucky or my pain threshold is super high as I was able to run reasonably comfortably on the treadmill. I started off steady and gradually wound it up until I was doing a couple of Km’s at a good pace.

I then went climbing, if anyone has ever been climbing then you know that climbing shoes are not the most comfy things ever invented and that climbing involves putting a lot of weight on your toes. The weight on the toes was a little tricky I was not fully comfy doing it, but I still knocked out ten or so routes and didn’t seem to suffer.

The next test was a trail run to see how it reacted outside, and surprisingly two things happened, firstly the toe felt good and secondly I ran at a good pace in the mud. Nothing like getting a pleasant surprise.

All in all a week that started so badly but finished quite strong, I’m now looking forward to a more normal week with some good training.

Dry January – Slight Variation

With the new year now upon us, and many people embarking on their resolutions I have decided to follow the example of my good friend Gary and do dry January.

Dry January is normally where you decide not to drink anything alcoholic for the month, for Gary that will be a a challenge (sorry G!). For me however, not drinking wouldn’t really make much difference as I don’t don’t drink much so instead my dry will be no cake, chocolate or biscuits.

To be clear here, I love cake, I have a very sweet tooth and given the choice I would eat cake all day long. If anyone has ever seen my Instagram posts whenever I go climbing I post a photo of my pre-climb slice of home made cake from which ever climbing gym I am at, as they always have magnificent cakes. When it comes to chocolate bars, I am more than happy to tuck into a couple a day and as for biscuits, well a drink is simply too wet without one (or three).

Will giving up cake make any difference to my life, well honestly I don’t know but it can’t do any harm and if nothing else should shed a few pounds plus making up the calories with proper food should be healthier even if not as enjoyable.

So if you are giving up something for January or longer then good luck but in the end just remember the choice of whether to have it is yours and yours alone and should you crack it doesn’t really matter but let’s try an stick it out!

So Was That 2018?

It is the time of the year when we sit down and reflect on what has gone before and usually y make some wild resolutions for the coming year.

2018 didn’t start that well, I broke a toe messing around and this put me behind with training, however, at this point I didn’t see it as a problem.

The main aim for 2018 was the London Duathlon, this was going to be backed up via the usual Winter Duathlon Series at Dorney Lake. As a plan it was good, the reality was to be somewhat different.

I could sit and go through all the events that led to the missing of the various events, but it turned out to be all linked to the bout of depression I went through. To read more about this go here, and you can read my account of it.

The London Duathlon itself was a cramp get but a reasonably enjoyable event set in a great venue.

When I look back at the year and think I only raced once, didn’t really achieve much athletically but on the other hand I probably learnt more about myself that at any time. I am sure many people have heard the phrase, “it helps to talk about it” but trust me it is so true, if you tell someone something isn’t right then you can start to try and make it right. I am lucky I had a good support network and came through, but if you see someone who isn’t their normal selves, ask them if they are ok, tell them it is ok not to be ok and if nothing else just listen to them, that might just be enough.

Am I going to make some wild resolutions for 2019, no, do I have some idea what I might do yes, am I going to tell you now, no! (if I did then what would I write about next?)

What I will say is I am looking forward to trying to achieve some things.

No review is complete without the list of thank you’s to those people who help me make it happen, firstly to the wife, her support and understanding basically gets me through everything, “Iron” Mike still catches me and sets sessions that are not only challenging at times but enjoyable plus he puts up with me often having no idea what I want to do which can make his job tricky! After these two I just thank anyone I have been cycling, running with as even if we only spoke briefly it would have made me smile!

Enjoy the rest of 2018 and I hope 2019 is good, and now I’m off for a glass of wine and a mince pie.

 

It’s better outside

This is the time of year when it can be a real struggle to motivate yourself to go outside and train, you know you should be the combination of dark, cold and probably rain make it a pretty tough ask.

I am in the very fortunate position of owning both a smart trainer and a decent treadmill so I have the option of training indoors and being able to do my sessions, and I have to say that recently I have noticed that I am tending to do more indoors, where as previously I went outside, especially for runs,.

This weekend I decided that both my sessions would be done outside, it didn’t matter what the weather was doing I was going to go outside.

Saturday morning arrived, I looked out of the window and it was throwing it down with rain and it was windy and it was misty, almost the holy trinity! I started to think if it would really matter if I didn’t go outside, after all I hadn’t actually told anyone what I was planning.

In the end after some consideration, I put on a waterproof jacket, an Endure cycling jacket as I don’t own a running specific one (if any running gear company reads this and would like to let me have one to review please contact me!!) and headed for the trails.

After the amount of rain the trails had gone from the dust of the summer to the soft wet mud of winter, and I have to say It was good to run on these wet paths. The weather decided it hadn’t rained enough and gave me a proper soaking, the wind blew and crossing a field on top of a hill the mist rolled in, yet despite these factors the chilterns still looked beautiful, sometimes you need days like these to remind you how lucky you are to live in the countryside.

What about today I hear you ask, well you might if you are still reading, today I headed out on the mountain bike. Obviously there was plenty of mud and this soon covered both me and the bike in it. One of the advantages of a singlespeed bike is that you don’t have to worry about mud clogging up the gears and making it hard to shift, the other side is that for 98% of the time you are in the wrong gear! However, the simplicity of it combined with the enjoyment of being outside again meant that the whole ride was enjoyable, even the uphill parts.

So then, have I learnt anything from this weekend? Well not really I have always known I prefer training outside and especially when running, Zwift makes turbo sessions much more enjoyable, but it has shown me that I still have the motivation to go out when the weather is shocking and enjoy myself. This I think I may have slightly forgotten over recent times.

So if in doubt go outside, once you are wet you are wet, once you are muddy you are muddy but when you finish and you see the state of yourself it does remind you of being a kid and playing gin the mud except now I don’t have anyone telling me off for doing it!!!

Late Season Sunshine

What a weekend, the sun has been shining the sky has been really blue and the temperature has been at that just properly cold level where you can easily layer up your clothing to feel comfortable.

For me, Saturday was trail running day, despite some recent rain the trails are still surprisingly dry and the only moisture comes from all the leaves that have fallen from the trees. Running at this time of year is great as you get see the trees changing together with the under foot conditions going from dry to wet. These changes also mean you need to go back to the techniques of winter running, and that means light feet to ensure that if you run over hidden wet roots or holes you don’t twist an ankle or worse, of course early on this is a challenge as you are used to the dry, dusty summer conditions.

The run itself was a very steady paced affair, and I was really using it to try an dale army head after a couple of challenging weeks, normally running does the really well but of some reason there were a few things it just couldn’t shift so that means you don’t get a really relaxed run and so you spend the entire run feeling a bit uptight. Having said that it is always good to get out into the countryside, and as usual I came back with a few paw prints on my jacket even though I don’t own a dog, something I have come to enjoy over the years is being met by friendly dogs whilst running as they are usually accompanied by friendly owners!

Sunday was a spin on the road bike, again layers up against the cold the only “mistake” was not having a dark lens in my sunglasses as the sun was real bright and I ended up squinting when heading towards the sun. A slightly odd experience this late in the year!

Getting out and riding is  one of those simple pleasures that you sort of take for granted and so as I haven’t done it for a while it was a real pleasure to get out again, I had sort of forgotten what it felt like.

Not getting out is something that has become much easier due to smart trainers and Zwift, I know I can’t blame Zwift but it make indoor sessions so much more fun that if the weather is a bit dodgy or I just don’t fancy going out jumping on the trainer is just too easy.

Plenty of other cyclists out today, most seemed friendly, always a few that don’t acknowledge you but hay not everyone can be as cheerful as me!

I didn’t really tackle any big climbs today, just a few medium sized ones, and they felt ok.

The bike on the other hand didn’t seem to want to play ball, as the shifting back from the inner ring to the outer was a real tricky affair, I have had the impression the left shifter has been on the way out for sometime and I think it really is as the inner wire is pretty new and the adjustment is ok, oh well something to explore.

Overall a fun ride in the sun, and it capped off a couple of decent days of steady paced exercise in the outside sunshine which was probably well needed.

Let us hope that the weather holds and it enables some more outside fun, and once the mud returns it will be time for single speeding on the mtb.

Poor Poor Pitiful Me

I was going to write a post bemoaning the fact that I am on my second cold in about 3 weeks, that the Central Cycle Cross league is in round 7 and I haven’t raced once due to my colds, and how my colds are keeping me from training.

Then I stopped, and thought, what does it really matter? So I can’t do a few races, can’t go training it doesn’t really matter.

So instead of me moaning on, here is the late great Warren Zevon, singing Poor poor pitiful me, a much better use of your new few minutes, sit back and enjoy Warren and I will also be back with something more positive and interesting soon.

The London Duathlon or Cramp Fest

There are sometimes when you are doing events when you wonder why you do it, for me it’s normally when I am struggling along, but today it was different, it was during one of many bouts of cramp!

If you have never had cramp in your calf muscle or hamstring then you are lucky, if you have ever had them when you need to continue either cycling or running then you will appreciate the pain it gives.

The London Duathlon is apparently the biggest duathlon in the country and there were a lot of people, it also turns out to be one of the best organised as well. The marshals on course were great, often singing and dancing offering as much encouragement as they could, these event can’r run without them and so their efforts were much appreciated.

So what about the race I hear you ask, well the first 10k run went quite well, I ran a pace that was comfortable, ending up with just over 53 minutes, which whilst not close to my pb was decent I thought for this event.

Next onto the bike, I normally love the cycling leg and this is where I make up some time that I lose on the run, but not today! After about 1.5km I started to feel my calf tightening and this was the tell tale signs of impending cramp. I wondered how I could have cramp so early on, the short steep climb didn’t really help but I pushed on and hoped it would go away. On lap two disaster nearly struck, on one  of the tight right hand bends I approached it too fast and I was struggling to scrub speed off, I eventually stopped next to a straw bale, but then my calf went totally tight with cramp, after some emergency stretching I got it free and carried on. Luckily the last two laps went ahead without too much of note happening. The time was just over 1 hour 30 minutes which was disappointing but there was still a run to go and I thought I might be able to finish strongly.

It is amazing how wrong you can be about your own body, on the last run I cramped within the first km, which I stretched out and then going up the hill the hamstring cramped, this took a little walking, stretching and sheer bloody mindedness to get over. I eventually go going again and dragged myself round in 30 minutes, which is a horrible time

The upside was that even though I was no where near the time I wanted I did come in under 3 hours but I have to be honest and say I was disappointed how it went down really.

Will I do another duathlon of this distance, I don’t know, currently I hurt too much but there is unfinished business I think so I guess watch this space.

I would say if you get the chance then do have a go at this event, well organised you get a decent cycling jersey to justify the cost and Richmond Park is a beautiful place to go round, I even saw a load of deer which made me smile a t a tough point.

The most obvious outstanding question is why did I cramp so much, so far I don’t know my nutrition was as normal, I used the same calf guards and so the only possible thing I can think of is the massage I had on Tuesday at the spa where we were staying, perhaps I wasn’t over it? Who knows and frankly it probably doesn’t matter now but at least I have finally raced this year, and I did enjoy it and I think I might just put off retiring for a little bit!

A Beautiful Brutality

The other day I was on the bike leg of a brick session, the sun was trying to break through, the wind was blowing straight into my face, there was snot running from my nose and I was probably dribbling ala Tony Martin (that is the only similarity between me and the Panzerwagen) my head was saying why are you doing this and frankly my legs were in agreement. For someone of my age and ability this is a perfectly sane question,

So what is it apart from stupidity and fear of Iron Mike that makes me carry on? Well it turns out the answer is simple, if you lift your head and look around the countryside is simply beautiful

As I struggled along I was looking for some help, and as performance enhancing drugs aren’t available on the road or legal!, I wondered what would work and then I lifted my head up, stopped concentrating on the road ahead and saw that I was going along a road with woodland on one side and open fields on the other and then I remembered why I go outdoors and not go to the gym, I love the countryside.

For some reason I had lost the ability to enjoy the countryside whilst pedalling hard, I don’t know why, I enjoy it whilst running but on hard bike sessions I seem to forget to enjoy my surroundings.

I went to a talk by Chrissie Wellington the other year and she said to her it is important to smile whilst racing as it helped her and kept her going. I try to remember this at hard moments but as I am miserable it is hard to smile at those times so I try to enjoy my surroundings and then use that to drive me on, perhaps smiling might help I will try it in the future.

I think that it is very important to enjoy the area you are training in not just train hard, if you don’t enjoy it then the question is what the point? The answer to that question can only be answered by each individual but for me I train outdoors as much as possible as I work indoors and I would rather be outside in the fresh air and as long as I remember to look around then the pain is reduced.