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.

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.

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.

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.

The Virtual Ride London

Today I did the Ride London 46 mile ride on Swift, so rather than having to go out in the rain and cold I got to ride round London from the “comfort” of my garage.

I am not new to Zwift and the group rides and races it provides but today felt slightly different as it was an event tied into a real ride, although it turned out the courses were completely different.

I didn’t start this ride alone, it was intended to ride with G, and we started off but unfortunately after a while it became clear to G that he wasn’t on a good day, and the first time up Boxhill really hit him hard, this is unusual as he is pretty strong normally. We agreed to go our separate ways after the first lap and so I was left to my own devices.

So off I went onto lap2 of 4, the course Swift were using was a mix of central London roads and a bit of Surrey including Boxhill. It wasn’t until afterwards I found out that this route and the actual Ride 46 route were very different, I guess I should have realised as they wouldn’t send riders up the hill 4 times!

It is interesting on these virtual rides as I am not sure if the turbo makes it easier or not. I use a Tacx Neo which reacts to the changes in gradient and also road surface but without the outside influence of wind etc it is easier to hold a sustained effort. Also when on these rides you have no idea what other riders are using, some could be using a normal turbo that Zwift doesn’t control so they are effectively riding on the flat all the time which you could view as cheating if you were that competitive!

Whilst out on my own I tried to ride at an even tempo and tried to work my way up through the field, I was about 220 when I started on my own and by the end was 143, I seemed to pick off riders mainly on the climb of Boxhill, and I certainly wasn’t posting blindingly fast times, just a constant speed all the way up. Every so often you catch a few riders and then stick together for a while until one of you goes a bit faster and breaks the tow of the other, but for me it was mostly 3 laps on my own!

Something that I often under estimate on longer turbo sessions is the feeding aspect, so today I started with 3 bottles and a couple of gels and one caffeine gel, I ended up getting through 2 gels and 2 and a bit bottles, but never felt hungry or thirsty so I guess I got that about right.

One outstanding question is would it have been better to have been able to ride the entire route with G and or others? Well as much as I enjoyed it on my own it would have been fun together as you get that little bit of banter, even if done via messaging and it often drives you on to give a little more.

Overall it was a fun event, does without getting rained on, although I was very sweaty afterwards and I think my kit was probably drier in the washing machine than when I took it off. If you haven’t tried Zwift I would say give it a go, it has changed turbo trainer sessions, there are good courses on there, the group rides are fun  and even the races whilst hard make for a proper session, also they have the cycling world championship course in Austria coming shortly for some added fun and the chance to spot some pros on the course!