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.

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!

 

The Man With The Halo

This is a different post to those I would normally do, This is the story of a pro athlete who on the verge of possibly his best world championship performance nearly had everything taken away from him.

The film is around 25 minutes, but trust me it is worth the watch, if you feel you need some inspiration then this might just provide it or it might make you realise what you have

Enjoy it, share it

Click on this link to watch it The Man With The Halo

Can I Find The Right Direction?

This year I have really struggled to find the same level of motivation that I have had previous years for training. For much of this year I have pondered what the reason is for this, and I haven’t yet figured out.

When I consider what the causes could be, I have been able to eliminated certain things, firstly my training plan supplied by “Iron” Mike as he is tailoring it to the feedback I give him, and to be fair the sessions on paper are fine. Secondly, support from the wife, she is as ever very supportive and offering help whenever possible.

To compound things, we recently lost a family member and rather than making me realise ho lucky I am to be in a position to not only be alive but also fit enough to train etc it has had almost the opposite impact..

With the help, of Mike, I have been trying to find activities that rekindle the fire, I think that is why singlespeed mountain biking has helped, it’s something new, a challenge that doesn’t really make any sense. I have been doing some trail running which is easier on the mind than road running and that is helping, I think.

I was supposed to have raced a couple of time already this year, the first one I missed due to being simply too tired, and the second was postponed due to snow. The next one I doubt I will do as I just don’t feel mentally in the right place, physically I am not too far off.

The one overriding thing I have lost is the sense of fun, I am not a pro athlete, I do all this for fun, something to provide a level of challenge but ultimately because I enjoy it and so to be in this position of not really enjoying it is hard. I am not defined by my results, and as a person I am not defined by exercise and so perhaps I just need to find the fun again.

I do realise that I am in a good position in life, and that to some people the fact that I am not enjoying training is probably seen as a “so what”, but when you stop enjoying something  you have loved for years it is an issue to me.

The “what next” question is still there, but I think that if I keep on the mountain bike and throw in some trail running I will eventually find the right path.

Will I race again? I honestly don’t know at the moment, racing takes a lot out of you both physically and mentally and the thought of it currently is something that does not excite me.

I hope that something will provide the spark, it might just take a ParkRun with other people where I don’t worry about the time and just run and enjoy it, or perhaps a good bike ride, who knows. The one thing is though I really don’t want to quit and don’t intend to quit I just need to re-find the fun!

It’s been a slow start to 2018

As the title suggests, it has been a very slow start to 2018, and the cause of that is entirely down to my own stupidity.

What did I do then? Well I broke a toe on my right foot. Ok so now you are starting to feel some sympathy for me, I can sense it, well if I was you I would surpress that feeling and prepare to laugh and think why!

Picture the scene, it’s almost like an Attenborough documentary, the young male (Sam) is challenging the alpha male (me) by means of mock boxing, all flat of the hand stuff. The young male is not doing well and is on the back foot, so he decides that boxing is too old school and the MMA is the way forward. As he moves in the experienced male, steps to the side grabs hold of him and prepares a perfect hip throw to down the young one. At this point the plan is perfect, however, it fails when I don’t move my foot out of the way, life him and as go for the throw he lands heal first with all his weight straight on my second from last toe. There is no pain, and I go for the throw again, this time succeeding and pinning him to the floor, at which point he submits. Triumph for the older, alpha male! I can hear Sir Richard speaking those words!!!

Later in the day I was out for a walk and could feel my toe becoming very hot in my boot, and when I got home and removed my sock, it looked horrible, swollen, bruised (various colours) and it started to hurt.

The pain lasted for a few days meaning certainly no running, and it was a while before I could get my foot into a cycling shoe to get on the turbo.

There you have it, my own fault, why do I feel the need to show I am still stronger than a 6 foot 21 year old? Well, it’s because I am stupid and can’t resist a challenge!

Luckily for me I am now able to run and can get on with training and ready for the coming race season. However,  when he challenges me again I certainly won’t be backing down I’m not that old and past it just yet!

That Wasn’t So Bad

It is the time of year when you sit down and write your review of the previous 12 months and then look to the next year with hope and skip in your step!

When I started to think about the year, my initial thoughts were it was a failure, the one thing I wanted to do in the year I didn’t achieve, so a failure.

However, the reality is somewhat different. Whilst it is certainly true I didn’t achieve the triathlon I set my mind on, after getting back into swimming on further reflection the earlier and later parts of the year were actually quite successful.

The early part of the year, was once again dominated by duathlons and I beat my pb twice this year, certainly a decent feat as they never seem to get any easier.

After that I beat my fastest park run times a few times, for anyone who ever does park runs you will know how that going faster is never that easy as for some reason your performance can vary a reasonable amount week on week, well mine does!

Then in the last part of the year, I did better in the cyclocross races I completed, I finished further up the field and also did more laps, again another success.

So, whilst my initial thoughts were that 2017 wasn’t great, it was intact a good year, I achieved more in reflection than I thought.

Finally a couple of thank you’s for those that have helped this year, firstly “Iron” Mike Shaw for the coaching, somehow he keeps the session interesting and also doesn’t mind, well at least doesn’t say anything to me!, when I change my mind about what my focus for the year is! Secondly, as ever to my wife, who not only puts up with me training etc but always comes and watch and supports me at races, as we all know there isn’t anything better than having a friendly face whilst you are suffering!

Farewell to 2017, and lets hope 2018 is at least as good if not better.

Never Too Old To Learn A Lesson

Today was meant to mark my first cycle cross race of the season. The sun was shining, the bike was prep’d and the rider was ready, well probably not full race fit but looking forward to it!

I arrived at the venue, signed on, watched a bit of the race that was on at the time and was looking forward to getting gout in a bit to warm up and then race.

Back to the car, pinned on the race number, timing chip on the shoe and all seemed ready to go.

Walking back to the course with the bike chatting to my wife, I suddenly realised I didn’t have my helmet on, and then it struck me like a truck, I hadn’t bought it with me! What an idiot!

We carried on to the start area, as sometimes they have stands selling kit and so my last hope was that there would be one, and I could get a helmet of some sort. However, on this occasion there wasn’t one.

That was that, no helmet no race. The walk back to the car was punctuated with me asking how I could be so stupid, well words to that effect anyhow.

I packed up the car, went back to registration and crossed m name off the start list. The day was done.

In all the years I have raced this is the first time I have ever forgotten anything fundamental to race, the question is how did I forget it?

Well, I think the only answer is I packed my kit bag differently to normal. For a cross race I normally put both my pairs of shoes in the bottom of my bag, clothing on top and finally the helmet on top of that. This time I left my shoes out of my back in their shoe bags and for whatever reason I just never picked up my helmet, I can’t blame anyone but myself and I know that next week I will be writing a kit list and ticking off the items as they go into my bag.

I appreciate this is a first world problem and certainly when put in context isn’t really a big deal, but, when you are looking forward to a race and then not be able to take part due to your own stupidity it is disappointing to say the least. As a punishment I did a long turbo session, that will teach me!