One Foot in the stirrup

There is a saying about getting back on the horse when you have fallen off, this is often applied to accidents or unfortunate incidents or just when something doesn’t go to plan.

For me, I am not back on the horse but have taken my first step towards it, I am about to take a leg up!

This week I did my first longish run for a long time, a decent 8 miles plus backed this up with a a faster, shorter run in the week plus a couple of weekend runs.

More importantly I went climbing, putting the shoulder under some stress, I didn’t push the climbing and certainly was not climbing near my limits but just doing it and getting the feel again was great, during the climb the shoulder felt ok, not 100% but ok.

My long run did throw up an interesting scenario though, I experienced some stomach issues to the point where for the last 20 minutes I thought I was going mohave to do a Paula Radcliffe, and if not use the street my shorts were certainly under threat. This really did hamper the tail end of the run and meant knocking the pace down but the positive was everything stayed in my stomach!

The other interesting thing from the week was at ParkRun on Saturday I went for a more steady run rather than the usual go for broke, and this meant that I ran a steady pace at a fraction over 5 minutes per km but at no point did I ever feel I was pushing and at the end I still felt fresh. My reasoning for this was simply I didn’t feel as sharp as I have previously so decided to run steady and just enjoy the run.

Back to the shoulder, and this morning it did feel slightly sore, not a surprise after a climb plus running. However, after the run today it wasn’t too bad but as I type it is stiff but hopefully nothing more than the after effects of all the above and some gardening!

I am looking forward to keep on moving forward and hopefully getting back in the saddle, the acid test is likely to come with a return to the pool but that is in the future and when that happens the result will be what it will be.

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Coming Along Slowly

After injuring my should I have been recovering slowly. The shoulder has been responding to exercises and is feeling better, still not 100% but the movement is back if not with out some discomfort

One of the things I have noticed is that whilst the shoulder provides some discomfort when training it doesn’t make training impossible and funnily enough on the bike I have beaten a few Strava pr’s without really trying and certainly not going out to intentionally do so.

Running has been coming along too, whilst not as sharp as before certainly I haven’t lost all my fitness and this week I would have been able to test it but for Watford’s home game being moved for tv meaning I couldn’t get to do a ParkRun, which I am currently using as a measure.

Regardless of this I feel I am coming along ok, I know I need to do some more speed work and some longer distances but they will come in time but until then I will continue to enjoy the training and have a go at an easy climbing session this week to test the shoulder.

 

Bits Keep Falling Off!

The last few weeks have really turned into a time of frustration, I seem to be slowly coming apart at the seems.

It started with the shoulder problem, now this at the time seemed like a small set back as I was pretty sure it would be easy to get it back to normal with some simple exercises and not doing anything to really antagonise it. The reality on the other hand has been a little different.

I started on the exercises, and initially it felt like it was progressing, then for what appears to be no reason it regressed, and currently it feels worse than when I started feeling the issue.

Add to that, this week I developed a problem in one of my hips, it simply felt like it was locked up and left me limping around like old man who was in need of a hip replacement.

Once more I have no idea what caused this problem, the only good side is that as I type this it has finally relented and isn’t giving any pain, although it doesn’t feel quite as flexible as the other one.

As you can imagine this has left me feeling somewhat hacked off, I just don’t seem to be able to get fully back to fitness,

When you get in these scenarios it leads to start thinking, “is it time to stop?” or “do I need to focus on one sport only?” and to be honest I have considered both questions but don’t feel able to answer them. I know there are still things I want to do and that they involve multi-sport, yes I could just go back to cycling and I would certainly enjoy it, but the multi-sport part adds some interest to the racing and variety to the training as well as additional load on the body.

I am sure this is just a phase and in a few weeks all will be back to normal and I will wonder why I bothered about it, but on the other hand if it doesn’t what then?

Is It In The Mind?

Whilst racing my last duathlon I noticed that many of the fastest racers were all wearing compression calf guards whilst racing, now I own and use calf guards but only generally for recovery not in races. I consulted “Iron” Mike on this and he said he had raced with them and it was certainly worth a go to try them.

Initially I used them on a couple of training runs, and the only thing I noticed was that the muscles had that “warmed up” feeling from really early on, much sooner than even after a period of warm up. There was no evidence I was going faster or that the muscles weren’t tiring as fast, but that was mainly down to the types of sessions I was doing.

I decided to used them on the usual ParkRun to see what happened. Incidentally, there are quite a few runners wearing either guard or long compression socks each week. The result was that I set a new pb by 10 seconds or so, could this be down to the calf guards?

The following week I used the guards again whilst training, this time on a harder intervals session I was struggling to maintain a set pace, it was a pace I can hold but just couldn’t. This led me to wonder if perhaps the guards just were having a placebo effect.

Come the ParkRun, whilst I didn’t run another pb I was only 2 seconds off my previous weeks time, so I was back to thinking is there really something in this?

I know if you look on the companies who make compression clothing websites they will show you studies that suggest better performance etc but in real terms, terms of non-elite athletes do these things really work?

If I am honest I really don’t know, my race times suggest they might, my training times offer no real help, I have another duathlon coming up so will wear them on that to see if they help me there or not.

The only conclusion I have been able to draw is that they don’t seem to make things worse.

For the record I am wearing a pair of calf guards made by Compressport and so I haven’t tried any other makes, as these ones I have found help with recovery post event. IF anyone knows any manufactures who would like me to test theirs then I would be happy to oblige if they wish to send me some!

 

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.

2 Wheels Are Best

I have spent the last week indulging myself by riding a variety of bikes in different locations but all with one thing in common, it was fun!

Starting last weekend I took part in the Brompton World Championship (BWC) race in London, a crit race around St Jame’s park after the Ride London Women’s pro race. The BWC has some rules, one of which id the dress code, a shirt, tie and jacket must be worn and no lycra. This makes for some wonderful sights with people really going to town to dress up.

For me, I went for a pink jacket to add some colour to the occasion.

Bwc_1

To take part in the race you don’t actually have to race, you are more than welcome to just enjoy the ride around the course. However, a race is a race and the opportunity to have a thrash around is too much to resist for me. In terms of competition there were ex-pros Dave Millar and Dr Michael Hutchinson plus various ex winners so there were some fast people. For me I covered the 17km at an average speed of over 36km/h to finish 68th overall, a result I was more than happy with.

Next up I went for a tour round the Chilterns with the aim of having a mid-ride coffee at some gardens, the route I got from a local cycling club and was around 80km in length. I found I was enjoying the ride on my road bike and so when the Garmin said to go straight across a junction I decided I would add some more distance and went left to add around another 20 odd km. The extra loop allowed me to ride through the countryside and do a couple of hills I haven’t done before. On arrival at the gardens I treated myself to a coffee and large slice of ginger cake, I know I am trying to reduce my sugar in take, but I just couldn’t resist.

cake_coffee_1

The ride home after this felt easy and I reckon I was probably grinning as I was going, even the hills to home seemed enjoyable.

Back to the Brompton of army next ride, and this was a couple of hours riding round Silverstone in an event organised by Muscle Help

I did get a few funny looks from some riders when I rolled up to the start on the Brompton, but once we were let loose on the track I think I changed their opinions mainly by riding past them or dropping them out of chain gangs! Some of the more season better riders were complimentary and seemed to enjoy watching me pass people who might have had a nice bike and good gear but no legs!  Riding round Silverstone was interesting as I had never really realised how windy sections of the track could be, and how in real life some of the run off areas are not that big and so stopping an F1 car from ploughing into a face might be tricky. No such issues on the Brompton though!

Brompton_Silverstone

After the fun of racing round a flat motor racing circuit it only seemed right to go and do some hills, so I headed down to Surrey to have a look at some of the famous climbs down there, and also it gave me a chance to recce Boxhill prior to the Ballbuster later in the year.

Now, I do not know the Surrey area at all, and this became apparent when I went came to Dorking and the Garmin seemed to be trying to send me down a way I couldn’t go and I couldn’t see how to get to the road I needed so I ended up following a sign that said Leith Hill, and this turned out to be a great decision as it took me up Coldharbour Lane which was a good climb, although the road was really greasy due to overnight rain and so if you got out of the saddle the rear wheel started to spin, or it could just be I was laying down tremendous amount of power! The countryside was great with some lovely views and I have to say drivers who all seemed happy to give me space so perhaps the stories of all drivers in Surrey hating cyclists isn’t true?

The final part of the ride was the climb back up Boxhill, having only seen this for the first time when I drove to the car park at the top in the morning I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, it didn’t look too steep but did it have some hidden traps? The early part of the climb was easy to get into a rhythm and I had the added advantage of being able to see another cyclist further up the climb who I was able to aim at. The other cyclist I thought initially was going quite quick but i soon gained and passed him leaving me on my own. The hairpins actually enable you to pick up some speed and so it wasn’t long before the climb was done. It seemed fairly easy to keep a steady easy pace and I have to admit to being a little disappointed really I was expecting something a little more, never mind though the views at the top were brilliant and well worth the trip.

Finally it was time to break out the CX bike and do a little off-road riding back in the Chilterns. I have to say I didn’t really push very hard and so the route was easy with a good mix of tarmac and dirt. Possibly the best part was riding along an ancient cart track past a model aircraft club field and seeing them flying some really big planes, impressive things. The rest of this ride was good fun enjoying some climbing and looking forward to that post ride coffee!

The other cycling aspect to the week was visiting both Look Mum No Hands and the Rapha Cafe in London on a trip there, both server excellent coffee and food and are places I will return to when the situation allows.

All in all I feel that I have had a great fun week where I was left to my own devices and so basically just played on bikes. It never ceases to amaze me just how much fun you can have on bikes, regardless of what type, model etc Any bike can go fast it all comes down to your legs, are you able to pedal it. Yes I am lucky in owning several bikes but I enjoy them all and ride them where possible

In conclusion I spent most of the week riding bikes and I loved it!

Here Comes The Summer – Part 2

After writing about the joys etc of the sun I thought I would add a short post to back up my thoughts on the impact the heat has on my performance.

In this past week, where the summer finally decided to visit the UK (there were rumours that summer had already done it’s brexit and left!) , I did a couple of runs and a couple of bike rides.

The first run on the Monday was about 10.5km along the Thames in London, from Hammersmith to Chiswick and back. I thought that by going along the river whilst it was still going to be hot there wold be a breeze. Well I was wrong. Yes it was very hot but there was no breeze, just hot hot air.

With the temperature being so high, I tried to keep a steady pace, but the pace was slow, in fact flat 6 min per km, and that was an effort. Whilst I got through the run it was not that enjoyable and I was glad when it was over. Heat 1 Me 0

Next up was an evening bike ride, again the temperature was high but this time there was wind, a surprisingly large amount of wind. The wind seemed to be a head wind for most of the ride but where as normal the would be a pain on this evening it was strangely enjoyable, not that easy but refreshing. The pace was low and steady but I did manage a couple of Strava PR’s on some hills. Heat 1 Me 1

A paced run was the next item, a session of a warm up, then 25 minutes at 5 min per km, so run 5km, then a warm down. In normal circumstances this is a hard but achievable without going into the red. However, on this occasion the temperature made this seem like a battle, yes I did complete it and hit the numbers but it felt far harder than it should have done. In terms of the running score, that session is a draw. Heat 2 Me 2

Last, and the deciding session was a run on Saturday, planned to be a pro run, but as I didn’t wake up in time it turned into a trail run round my local short circuit. It was hot again, and there are hills on the route. I set off steady, and basically got though the run but not without dripping sweat and the pace seemingly getting slower as I went. Heat 3 Me 2

Overall, then the heat beat me this week, but I still like it and would far rather have it than the winter rain and cold even if I suffer in it. Let’s hope the hot weather continues and I will find a way to cope!

Here Comes The Summer

With the sun having shown it’s face for a couple of days I was reminded of how much difference it makes to training and racing in the heat.

I know that the UK doesn’t get to the temperatures as much of the rest of Europe and certainly parts of the USA etc but, when the sun does come out it always seems to have been preceded by a cold spell making it seem hotter.

I really enjoy it when the sun comes out, it always seems easier to go out and train when the weather is good but, and there is always a but there’re down sides, some of which you can’t do much about.

Firstly, tan lines, when you are out in the sun you obviously have to wear appropriate clothing and certainly the tan left from cycling clothing is pretty easily identified. You get those white patches on the arms, legs and body that just scream cyclist! The use of sun protection cream helps to keep the skin healthy but doesn’t impact those lines!

Next is hydration, the amount of fluid you need to take on in the heat goes up, and sometimes you need to plan how much to carry before starting out or know where to replenish the supply

The biggest one for me though is the actual heat, I know that the hear slows me down and nothing I do ever seems to help. I would love to know how to change this situation, obviously I can’t train in the heat if there isn’t any and I am not going to stick extra layers on as to me that in’t replicating the situation.

So, I guess I will have to put up with a little drop in performance to enjoy the better weather, and yes I am more than happy for that to happen, give me the sunshine and a slightly slower time everyday rather than cold, wet and windy weather!

I wonder how long the sunshine will last?

A Different Kind Of Struggle

I wrote at the start of the year about issues I was having with my weight, the truth was I weighed far more than I should have, and the fact was I needed to shed some weight in order to be able to race, or for that matter train properly.

Since then my weight did come back under control to the point where whilst not as low as I would have liked it was certainly under control. This then led to another issue, those being stomach issues, properly more correctly referred to as gut health.

I have long suffered with issues in that region, the exact details I will spare you but let’s just say the song Ring of Fire was very apt!

The cause of these issues has also long been known to me, it is nothing more complicated than sugar. This ingredient is found in very many foods and is particularly prevalent in my favourite food of cake. I have a sweet tooth, I love the cake, chocolate, biscuits, a full fat coke, I think you get the idea.

Now, the simple idea is that you can just stop eating all of those foods and all will be well, but it is not as simple as that. I am sure I am not alone in that feeling of craving something sweet to eat particularly when you want a quick snack, yes I know there are other options but are they as satisfying? Ask yourself.

So cutting these foods out wasn’t that straight forward, but I knew action had to be taken as the issues with my gut were causing problems when racing and just in general life.

I can be quite driven when I want to be, it isn’t a natural state for me, but I can do it and so I decided the only option was to cut out the puddings, cake etc I didn’t believe I could do it gradually I just needed to do it all or nothing.

The first week I did this it was so hard, I often found myself getting the biscuit tin opening it and just staring at the contents, I felt like an addict I was scared one biscuit would lead to another, another and so on. I got to the end of the first week and felt ok. The second week went ok, a little less hard but still not easy, and at the end of that week I had a small pudding, I didn’t suddenly want another or anything after it but never felt like I had cracked it.

Another week went by, and no sweet stuff or desert, then another week, this time I had another small desert. The count of deserts was still less than the number of weeks I was trying this.

My gut health improved a lot and I was feeling better generally.

However, an second issue raised it’s head, the number of calories in all the sweet stuff is quite high and I found I was now struggling to eat the required number in a day as salad, fruit etc are much lower. This has now led me to keeping track of my calorie in take so I can ensure I eat the right amount, and now having an extra meal in the evening is quite common or even just a bowl of chips (I know but you can’t cut out all treats!)

Overall, I am now feeling much better, my weight has come down again I am eating a better diet and generally feel I have taken a good step forward. I haven’t really got rid of the feeling of being a sugar addict and only have the occasional ice cream, but I think I will eventually be able to have a dessert or something sweet more regularly without impact, but until I feel I have reached that point I will carry on my sweet way (pun intended!)

I know that there has been a lot of press around sugar and how much you should have etc and I am certainly not going to preach to someone how you should eat, but for me this is working and if it stops working I will only have one person to blame, myself.

 

 

Simply Fun

What is better on a sunny Sunday morning than a bike ride, possibly nothing.

This Sunday morning was sunny and offered the perfect excuse to head on the cross bike and ride through the Chilterns using the Ridgeway as the central point.

Now I have to admit I haven’t ridden a huge amount of the Ridgeway I don’t know why, in fact I have probably run more of it than I have ridden, so today was the perfect excuse to use a portion of it.

The Ridgeway is an ancient track that has a variety of different surfaces, gravel, grass, chalk and a bit of mud, all of which make for good fun on a cross bike.

So today I headed along the ridgeway, it has some short sharp climbs, and headed off towards Aston Hill. This route was great, and on reaching the hill I headed up the rode to the top as I knew there was another bridleway at the top. Going up the road I passed one guy, but equally was passed by a pair although they didn’t really distance me!

The bridleway at the top turned out to be steep and stony steep downhills on a cross bike are a little tricky, particularly when the route is very rutted and has a good covering of slimy slippery mud. No need to say I went down it like Bambi on ice, I could have gone faster but I wasn’t feeling brave or stupid!

Once down it was out onto a wide track which I flew along, and headed back in the general direction home. However, I had one more section of Ridgeway to do, and actually dropped of it early to take in an extra road hill to keep stretching the legs!

After the “joy” of a steep climb back towards home it was a case of crossing a field, which I mashed, and back home for a coffee.

Cycling in the sun is a simple pleasure, and I enjoy it even more when I only have a general idea of my route, like today, the idea of a bit of exploring is great.

There you have it a simple pleasure, the weather is improving so go out and ride bikes, and do some running as well for variety!