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!!!

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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.

Some Things From This Week

Slightly different post this wee, I thought I would highlight 5 things I have learnt, rediscovered or just forgotten about.

1 – Press-ups. As many people will have seen there is a 22 day challenge to do 22 press ups each day and post a video of yourself doing this to raise awareness of combat vets. There are apparently 22 vets a day committing suicide and this challenge is to raise public awareness. If I am honest I was hoping to avoid this challenge s I hate press-ups, but I got tagged and rather than ignore it, I have taken on the challenge. So far, so good I have managed 4 days and am actually enjoying it, working some muscles everyday is never a bad thing. If you are tagged, don’t ignore it, give it a go. I have 18 or so days left and that is plenty of time to tag people. so watch out!

2 – Interval training. I have said it many times that interval training is the work of the devil, however you dress it up it hurts regardless of the length of the interval. This week I have had a set on the bike of 1 minutes intervals every 4 minutes for an hour. What surprised me most was just how quickly the 1 minute intervals came round, it seemed no sooner had one finished the next was starting. I was glad when the hour was done and I could just ride home!

3 – Trail running is brilliant. There is no shock to this, I love trail running and I particularly like it in the evenings when after being in the office all day you can get out in the fresh air and the countryside. Being able to head out across fields and woodlands for a run is one of things in life that never gets boring, yes the running is harder but that really doesn’t matter as it is offset by the views and environment.

A short post but I have been not writing much lately and so need to get back on it and hopefully this will be the catalyst.

Shrug, smile sweetly and move on

I wonder if I have upset the sporting gods this week, it seems I was allowed one good session and3 not so good ones.

It started on Monday evening, a run session that was planned to be hard but not impossible, the weather was cold and I even remember to put a waterproof jacket on (more on this later). I headed out along a flat disused railway line which has been converted to a trail and for the first 5 minutes all was well, and then changed.

I felt a spot of rain, and thought well at least I have a waterproof on, and then as if someone turned a tap on, the drop become a deluge of freezing cold rain. In about 5 minutes I was soaked and cold, very cold. I tried to carry on and tough it out, but my leg muscles were so cold I gave in, and let the pace drop down to where I just jogged it in, yes I did the time but no where near the pace.

As for the waterproof jacket, well I have known for some time that it wasn’t really that waterproof but it used to keep a fair amount of the rain out but now it was basically useless, probably down to its age rather than anything else so time to research and buy a new one.

The next session that wasn’t perhaps as planned was the turbo session, this was an interval based assault really. In each interval for about the first of the three minutes I could hold the power and then it was a case of just holding on. It hurt and isn’t one I would be keen to repeat. Whilst I got through this, again the time was right but I never held the average power targets.

The next run I did however, was great, an evening trail run just pushing along not flat out. The sun was out the trails were drying out and it was a pleasure to be running across fields and through the woods. I even enjoyed the hills at the end!

Finally we come to todays bike ride, as my road bike is currently in bits awaiting some replacement parts I decided to head out on the cross bike and ride off road. It started off ok, came to the first interval and the legs went, “you must be joking” there didn’t seem to be much there. I plodded on up the hill and hoped they might return. After the next muddy section, I noticed the rear tyre was flat, not a major disaster, just pop in a new tube and away we go. Out came the rear wheel I put my hand in my bag and no tubes, what a plank I had forgotten to pack them. I never go out without spare tubes, well apparently I do now. Plan B, I had some patches, found the big thorn in the tyre, removed it, patched the tube and pumped it up. I could hear air escaping, found the second hole, patched that, pumped it up and all seemed well. Put the tyre back on and pumped it up again. Once more I could hear air escaping, tyre off again, found the third hole, patched it, tyre back on pumped it up and this time all was ok. However, I now had used all my patched, had no spare tubes and had really lost the enthusiasm so rode home.

I know that in context these are not the tales of real life disasters and there is plenty in the world which is worse, and I accept that but, these types of weeks make me wonder sometimes why I bother.

Next weekend is another race weekend, another duathlon and a chance to have some fun, race hard and remember that I do this for fun and that training weeks that don’t go so well really don’t matter!

One Of Those Weeks

This week has been one of those weeks that happen and you think what did I do to deserve that?

It started on Monday when on an easy paced trail run I basically bonked, had the jelly legs and the odd feeling. Not sure what caused it but it certainly put pay to any chance of a decent run. The only way I got through about 45 minutes was because I stopped for a few minutes and luckily started to feel better. One day in and one dodgy session

Tuesday was a good day, the weights session went well, always good to get a positive in the writing

Wednesday an interval session on the turbo trainer, really tough going got through it in a sweaty mess but the numbers were nothing to write home about. 3 days in and we are back at 2-1 for not great.

Thursday, a run for 75 minutes, simple enough on paper. I went to an old dissed railway that has bene converted into a path, it rained, and it rained hard but no matter I had a waterproof. The running went ok, the factor I forgot was that it gets dark still and so the last 10 minutes were in total darkness, luckily there was no body else on the path but add another one to the not great sessions, 3-1 now.

Friday, a rest day, even I couldn’t mess that up this week! 3-2

Saturday, and my first attempt at a Park Run, now I have been signed up to Park Run for ages but have just never got round to doing one. So, 5k as fast as possible.

Well, I ran 5K but have to say the end result was a disappointment , yes the grass was soft and muddy and there a set of steps on the back of the course but even so to record a time of 24:15 was disappointing. 4-2 to the downside and only one day to go.

Finally on Sunday a bike session that went to plan and was fun to do, it might have been helped by the sunshine or something else but it went to plan and so pulled one back.

After adding up the scores it was 4-3 to the downsides and frankly it was a fair reflection especially when one of the positive days was a rest day!

Despite all of these things next week is the last duathlon race I have booked in and hopefully it will be decent, but based on this week who knows!

Relaxing In The Mud

After a week where I have found the training hard and haven’t felt as tired at the end of it for ages, it was good today to go out and run the trails with no pressure of time or pace.

I know to some, the idea of running off road in the mud, up and down the hills with the ever changing terrain and levels of grip, isn’t their idea of a relaxing run, but to me it is.

There is nothing better than going and spending time running the trails, you are away from traffic, and the only people you see are also out enjoying the countryside, be that on foot, bikes or horses.

The Chilterns are not the biggest of hills, but they do provide some excellent running and often you are treated to great views across the valley’s. You have companions in the red kites flying over head adding a little more variety.

Today, the sun was out, it might have only been 4C but that was enough to allow just a base layer & t-shirt combined with hat and gloves for the perfect attire to enjoy the mud.

The condition of the trails today is best described as muddy and wet, but if you are running off-road yo have to expect mud, after all you can’t make a cake without breaking a few eggs!

Sometimes I wonder that if I stopped doing races and just decided to run when I felt like it and ride my bike the rest of the time would I be any worse off? I might miss the competitive side of it all but also there wouldn’t be really hard weeks of training. A question of another time I think.

Back to the run today, and basically it was the best part of an hour and a half spent out in the fresh air enjoying the countryside and feeling good about life, when you are out like that there are no stresses or pressures, you leave them at home.

Next weekend is the first duathlon race of the year, and I am hoping to use it as a benchmark for the other ones, the main aim is to enjoy it, but everyone knows what happens when the gun goes and the race is on, all rationale thinking goes out of the window and race mode takes over!

I Dream of Sunshine

On my run tonight it was dark and cold again. Infant it seems to have been like that for months. Overtime I go for an evening run I need a head torch, hi viz vest, hat, gloves and layers and I have had enough of it.

I cannot wait of those light evenings where the toughest choice is which lens to put in the sunglasses but those times seem so far away.

Running fast in the dark and cold is hard, especially when your only light is from your head torch, as we have no street lighting where I live, and so those sessions often produce results that on paper look a bit disappointing.

Every year I think that around this time of year I should really arrange to go away somewhere sunny for a week, take my bike, running shoes and probably the wife and go and enjoy some warm weather somewhere.

I have never done this, but I can’t help but think it must give you a boost on a couple of fronts, firstly you can train during the day in warm weather in a new environment, and secondly I think it would give you a mental boost. You would come back invigorated and looking forward to the race season, rather than seemingly plodding your way into it as I feel I am doing currently.

But, as I haven’t booked a trip this year then I will have to put up with it, and put some new batteries in the head torch and get back out on the road again later this week.

I can dream of the sunshine in the meantime!

Misery

This week has been different for two very contrasting reasons, and just to be clear whilst those that know I can on be a little grumpy, the title isn’t about me this time!

Firstly, I have suffered something I have never had before, a blister or more exactly as it is now a big hole in my left heel. This was caused by a new of shoes worn at work, it seems they rubbed and formed a blister, and then not content with that the blister burst and the shoe decided to see how much skin it could remove. And in fairness to the shoe it did a good job, it removed plenty skin.

Having never had this before I was a little unsure exactly what to do, so I decided to put antiseptic cream on the or more exactly in the hole and then when I needed to run put a plaster on. To those who have experienced this before I am sure there are other treatments that work better. The only real problem is that the hole hurts and so when running it is a little uncomfortable, but having said that, I have still managed 5 hours of running this week. The only really bad time was on Thursday when it was pouring with rain and I had wet feet and the plaster came off, obviously not waterproof plaster. It is only a bit of pain and I am sure it will go eventually!

The second thing this week, is why are runners in London so bloody miserable? Where I live, you see another runner and the minimum you get is the nod of the head, more often than not it is “good morning”, “alright” etc, not in London. I am sure they are only aware of your existence as they tend to run straight at you snd see who moves first. If this was elite looking runners I might be able to accept it, but when it is fat plodding people it just doesn’t make any sense. In fact on Tuesday on my out and back run I saw a runner near the end of the first leg said “hi”, got no response from a bloke who was wearing all the matching Nike gear and flash looking shoes. So, when I turn dot come back I made sure I roared past him, looked at him squarely in the eye and left him for dead. A bit of cheerfulness doesn’t cost anything, lakers all said “hello” so what is with the London runners? Are they all so good they can’t speak to anyone or is it simply the same fact that London is the most unfriendly place in the known world?

It Was Fun, Honest!

My long run over the weekend highlighted to me the different feelings you can have in one single run.

I knew before I started the run was going to be tough, having been up till 6am watching the boxing and having indulged in a few drinks to celebrate Watford promotion and being short on sleep, are not the ideal company for a good run,

But, I went out the sun was trying to break through and the trails were in decent condition, a little wet from the rain the night before but solid enough. The first long uphill seemed ok, and as ever the view from the top was great across the valley.

In fact, the whole of the first hour and a bit weren’t bad, the sun came out, the hills were steep and generally I was surviving better than anticipated.

The turning point, both literal and metaphorically came as I crossed the path near the Prime Minsters house at Chequers. I looked left and saw a very ominous looking sky, it looks like it might rain i said to a couple of walkers as we passed each other, who knew I was a prophet, let alone a prophet of doom!

It started to rain a bit, I stopped put on my rain jacket and carried on, 30 seconds later I turned to cross an uphill very exposed field and then it happened. The skies opened and down came torrential rain, the wind was howling and just when I thought this is sweet, the thunder and lightning started.

Crossing the field was basically a trial of strength, the rain lashing into my face the wind pushing me backwards and the thunder and lightning crashing and flashing all around. I started to wonder if the world was going to end, and if I am honest had it of done I think I would have been grateful as at least my soaking would have stopped. I got across the field and headed for what I thought was the sanctuary of the woods.

Now, I know that the woods aren’t always ideal when there is lightning around, but it was sheet lightning and I guessed the odds on me being struck were pretty minimal! The one aspect I had failed to factor in, is that when you get torrential rain and you then go into the woods which are on a hill, the water has to run somewhere. Simple physics says what goes up must come down, and so on entering the woods and heading up the hill, I met all the water coming the other way. It is not pushing the point too far to say the trail was flooding as fast as I could go up it.

This delightful weather carried on for the best part of the next hour, I was soaked through, nothing was dry, my rain jacket, a light one for summer use, did a reasonable job of keeping me warm in the wind, or more accurately keeping some of the wind from cutting me in two.

Once the rain stopped, the sun again made an appearance, I kept my jacket one for a while until the sun decided it was out to stay and I started to get a bit warm. Once the jacket was back in the bag I noticed that there was steam rising off me as I ran, something that for some reason amused me for a while.

The run back home got tougher, the cold wind and rain had sapped some energy and my legs started to feel heavy and tired, but this was a near 3 hour run in conditions that went from one extreme to the other.

The strange think about this was, that when the weather turned horrid and the going got really tough, I loved it, I found myself running thinking, “this is trail running”. I know I got some strange looks from people sat in their cars as I ran through a car park by the woods, all I thought was, get out of your cars, the scenery is still good and once you are wet you are wet. They probably thought, idiot.

I know runs like that, the tough ones where it’s hard to go out and really they aren’t pretty are the ones where you bank the most, but in a funny way on reflection they can also be the most enjoyable ones.

No Race Day Motivation

This morning I was due to race another duathlon, my bike was ready all my kit was packed but when I woke up I just didn’t feel like racing, I don’t know why.

Normally when I wake up on the day of race I have that slightly nervous, slightly excited feeling, today it just wasn’t there.

To make up for this I decided to go for a trail run, just go off into the woods no pace target, no distance target, just go and run. So that is what I did, 17km of off road enjoyment, very steady pace, muddy but so relaxing.

Out on my run I had time to wonder why I didn’t feel like racing, and whether I needed a re-think about what I was doing and wanted to do.

I thought about the differences between me and “Iron” Mike, not just that he is a better athlete than me!

Mike, to me, enters events to genuinely race them to try and be competitive, he enters a main race each year and builds to it and then tries to beat his best time. For me, I am much more of a bucket list athlete, I like the challenge of trying to complete an event and move onto the next thing. I have never found something I want to repeat and try to better my times each time.

When I think about this more I realise there are very few events I have done twice and only 1 I have done more than twice.

I thought triathlon was the event that I would really take to, it would always provide the challenge, you can increase the distance and test yourself, however, it just didn’t grab me in the way I hoped. Duathlon is a bit the same. I think that is why of so many years I was just happy going out and cycling, the odd event but nothing much more.

All this thinking has led me to decide to make a couple of changes, firstly I am going to stop the swimming lessons, and just go back to swimming and try to discover the enjoyment for it. Secondly, I think I am going to do more bike events after my main aim for this year, an endurance mountain bike race perhaps. I have always thought I could be reasonable at bike racing, and if not I would enjoy it anyway so maybe that is the future route.

I guess I will see how it all works out, but I don’t think being a bucket list athlete is a way to maintain interest and motivation and so finding the right path is still important.