Exercise for fun?

As i currently have no idea of what event/race i fancy doing i am trying just to exercise for fun, no pace targets, no mileage targets and no intervals, just go out and do what i feel like.

The idea of exercising for fun and not for a specific purpose is a little but strange to me now having trained for a reason for so long. I have in the past struggled to exercise for no specific reason as i am really good at finding reasons not to do something!

I’m now a week into this experiment and I have to admit i am enjoying it. I have been out for a couple of bike rides, a couple of runs, yes running is back and then some indoor Zwift rides.

Running without having to go at a set pace or for a set time is making it easier to build back into running, so far I’ve just done a couple of laps of the village, which are just under 5km, so no big distances and certainly at no pace. The pace element of running is the piece i am finding a little tricky as i am nowhere near fit enough to run a t the pace i did previously although in my head i feel like i want to. I do know the only way i will get back to or close to those levels is time out running and some interval sessions. Interval sessions may be the work of the devil but they are very effective if not a little painful.

It remains to be seen how long the exercise for fun vide will last and whether i do find something i want to do, but in the meantime let us hope it continues to be fun and helps bring back the full motivation.

The right direction

The last few weeks have been a case of doing some training as and when i have felt like it. My list of excuses for not doing some have ranged from, “can’t be arsed” to “still working” to “I’m playing FIFA”.

So. A range of “reasons” only one of which has any real merit but currently that is how it has been going. The funny thing is, that when i do do some training I’m enjoying it,be it a Zwift ride or a proper outside ride.

The other day o broke out the winter bike, well it is really my CX bike with mudguards and road tyres, and went for a gentle shakedown ride. It was a grey day and looking like it might rain, but despite that i enjoyed my slow paced ride.

I think i may have turned a corner in that i am enjoying the riding i am doing, next step is to get running again. I keep putting it off but unless i start now i won’t have enough miles to even think about doing any duathlons next year due to my long break from running. I am considering finding a running group to give me some motivation to get going as i think without it i might still be writing that i need to start next year.

Not much else to say currently other than that i am in the market for a new winter cycling jacket my Gabba 2 is past its best so look for a possible review if i find one!

Still looking for a direction

This last week started with.me being given some good advice from a variety of people in what might help me find some direction for my training, and I have to admit i have read it all but haven’t actually put any of it into practice, yet.

On the other hand i did do three sessions on Zwift which totalled 120km in 4 hours, so it does seem that even without my usual motivation too train i still find a way of at least do something. As an example i do a 70km route this morning, i thought about bailing out at various points but the thought of ticking off another Zwift route provided enough motivation for me to finish it. It also reminded me that eating when riding indoors is as important as when you are outdoors, i was very hungry when i finished. I also realised the saddle on my TT bike is not very comfortable anymore, time for a new one i think!

In terms of what to aim for, i am thinking of making some short term goals, that if they are not achieved won’t be devastating as they will provide a good base for any future activities. To that end I’m thinking that the Rapha festive 500 might be a fun challenge. You have to cycle 500km between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, a harder than average winter challenge but could be fun!

Next on my list of things to do is to get out and start running again, something that since having stopped seems far harder than it ever did before. Perhaps it is one of those things that once started will come back, i hope so but don’t know. The funny thing is that now the evenings have become dark i feel a bit more likely to go out as i like running with a head torch one, especially off road as it adds a toil hole of adventure to what would be an otherwise normal run. Let’s see what happens this week.

What’s next?

Well it has been a very long time since i wrote anything on this blog, and to be honest that has been mainly because i haven’t had much too say. I’m pretty sure there was no need for people to read my take on a global pandemic!

So what has changed since i last wrote anything? Well i haven’t done a race in probably 2 years and i am no longer a coached athlete. During the lockdown i couldn’t decide in what direction i wanted to go in and Iron Mike was looking to cut back on coaching, so we decided to go our own ways. It was very amicable and without Mike’s coaching over the years i doubt i would have achieved so much. In our time together i did an ultra marathon, a couple of triathlons any number of duathlons, cycle sportives, cx races and running events. I really enjoyed being coached and now that i have been left to fend for myself i realise just how beneficial being coached is, from the structured training plans to person to seek advice from, having a coach just works so well for me.

As for now, i am sort of looking for a new coach, so if anyone knows someone let me know.

As for what i am intending to do now, that is very much up in the air as i can’t decide what i want to do, i have toyed with the idea of LeJog and also how far could i cycle in a day, 200km, 250km or even further. Perhaps that might be fun aim to ride to somewhere a long way away in a day. Running is on the back burner currently, i took over 5 months off and i have tried to ease myself back into it but i am not enjoying it, so currently i am doing 3 or 4 easy’ bike sessions a week, but i find training without purpose so difficult and also most pointless.

In the near future the intention is find a direction for training and to start writin g this blog again, if nothing else it helps me out and if no one else reads it then that’s fine!!!

Inside out

Over the past few years i, like many other cyclists, have enjoyed the ability to ride indoors using Zwift.

Zwift, if you are not aware, is basically a virtual world where you can ride a myriad of routes where the software control the resistance on your smart trainer. There is an added feature to Zwift, you can also use it on a treadmill for running.

So, what does this all mean, well, for me i have found that training indoors on the bike has become a pleasure and so when the weather is not great i tend to opt for the trainer. Not usual you would think as using an indoor trainer allows you to do very controlled sessions so you can target power, cadence or heart rate. The odd side is that i have also been using it on the treadmill, and I hate indoor running.

For anyone who knows me, also knows that i would probably do a maximum of one runs year indoors and would go out whatever the weather. It seems i have now gone soft as if its raining I will use the treadmill.

The amount of indoor training i now do has started to slightly concern me, as where as i used to go out whatever the weather now i don’t, yes indoor training can be very targeted it also means you are not outside enjoying the real world.

The solution seems easy? Just go outdoors rather than inside, well yes that is the answer but the reality is that during the winter i can justify it by all the reasons above. The downsides are that I don’t go on club rides and don’t get to use the winter kit i own.

Am i going to change? I don’t know, my training through the winter has been consistent and i feel in reasonable shape and have achieved this without getting cold or soaking wet. I did go out over the Christmas period to prove I’ve not lost it completely but more recently its been the trainer.

i am looking forward to getting back out and about but equally i no longer think it is the only way to go.

It all went flat

Today was my first attempt at a 10 mile time trial, after having a go at a 25 a few weeks back. The day started ok, then weather was sunny and dry and i turned up on time.

After pinning on my numbers it was time for a warm up, i am still working out what works but I go it my heart rate up and i felt ok.

After returning to the car for a last minute drink it was off to start.

Sat inline chatting to the guy who was due off in front of me, i was nervous but was looking forward to the impending pain!

Then it was time, the countdown hit 5 then go, and off i went. Initially sprinting to get up to speed and then settling into what felt like a good rhythm.

Initially the course has a slight uphill drag and there felt like a slight headwind but i was still going at what seemed like a good pace.

After about 4km i could see my minute man, i appeared to be gaining on him and as i raced onwards i was certainly catching him.

I approached the first roundabout with him clearly in my sights, and i heard the sound of rushing air followed by a loss of speed and that dragging sound only made by a flat tyre. I had a rear wheel puncture.

So there i was at the side of the road 5km from the start with a flat and no way of repairing it. My options appeared to be two fold, ride back slowly hoping not to damage my Zipp wheel or walk.

However, the Marshall on the roundabout had another idea, as i was one of the last to start off, he said once the last rider had gone through he had a spare wheel in the back of his car i could borrow to ride back on.

Well, this was an offer i could not refuse, and shortly after I had replaced the punctured Zipp with a Mavic cosmic. I rode back to then HQ trying not to get too upset although i was gutted.

On my return, i swapped wheels with the heroic Marshall and asked for his favourite charity so i could make a donation to express my gratitude.

Needless to say i have made the donation and also written to the organiser to thank the marshall again.

It’s funny though to him it did not seem a big deal, but to me it was an act of extreme kindness and one i was so grateful for.

What next then? Well no more TT’s planned although i am off to Silverstone in a few weeks for some timed laps so that should be fun, after that i am considering getting a bike fit on the TT bike to sort out my position.

The first time

Today i did something i have never done before, a time trial, a proper organised time trial.

An advantage of having joined a cycling club is that they have access to give you entries into time trials, in this case the West London Combined organised by one of the affiliated clubs.

The course had the usual mystery designation, H25/4 which time trial OST’s seem to love, basically it was a route along the road from Missenden to send over then back to Amersham, so a lot of fast a roads. From what i can gather the course is relatively “sporting” as it has several long rises.

The signing on process was simple, you go into the hall, find yourself on the signing on sheet, sign it and from the table pick up your number, which comes ready pinned with pins.

The pinning of numbers is something not to be taken lightly, you don’t want it flapping around and you want it as flat as possible, pretty sure I didn’t’ have the perfect set up!

Once you have attached your number it’s time for a warm up. This did pose me a slight problem as I didn’t really know the best way to do it, i opted for riding a couple of laps starting slowly and building in some speed before dropping it down again. My heart rate went up and i felt warm, so that served a purpose.

Off to the start, and joining the line you can hear the countdown as the starter holds the next rider ready to start, then it was my turn. I rolled up, the starter held my bike i clipped in and the countdown began, and then it was go!

Setting off hard i soon settled into a pace, it was a balancing act between going hard but not too hard. The 25 miles seemed to come and go quite quickly although I’m sure at the time I wasn’t thinking that.

I flashed past the finish line, eventually, and recorded a time of 69 minutes 20 seconds with an average speed of 21.7mph (or 40km @ 35 km/h). I was pleased with this as it was the first one and I haven’t trained specifically for it.

I had an interesting conversation post race with an experience racer about what makes the most difference to going faster, obviously fitness, position on the bike, clothing, helmet etc etc.

A sport of real marginal gains!!

Will i do another one? Oh yes in fact i have entered a 10 miler already.

Overall time trialling is hard, but fun and when combined with my love of cycling tech and kit look to provide the opportunity for an going project.

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.

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.