Sunday 30 October 2011

BRRR (Bike, run, run, run)

After a whole week of neglecting my bikes, I finally managed a ride on my mountain bike. Ron and I started out on the good old Deer Route, but within seconds the heavens opened. Menace weather hasn't been a particular issue for us in the past but Ron was under-prepared this day. Whereas I was kitted out in my old, torn but trusty waterproof jacket and over-shoes, Ron was only wearing his Aldi best and no shoe covers. We decided not to call it 'complete quits' and instead rode a fast 11 miles cutting out a large chunk of the intended route. A shorter route, but at least I had been on my bike and it was fun all the same.
Completed more running this week and was happy with all runs. SJ got to try out her other new pair of shoes - her Asics road shoes, courtesy of Lin. Our first jog/run was, obviously, a road route and we ran the extended Studley Triangle. Still not entirely sure of the distance - SJ and I both had GPS units on our iphones, but they gave different results. According to Jog Log we ran 3.95 miles, but according to Runkeeper we ran 3.59 miles. Have since researched running apps and Runmeter gets the highest rating, so I will download that app and use it for future running efforts. Maybe Santa will get me a forerunner (hint).

SJ and I took Cody Menace with us on our second run. We jogged/ran a lovely cross country route all over and around fields in Studley and Coughton. This was our long run of the week and it measured 8.23 miles (Runmeter) but 8.53 on Jog Log. I am going to stick with the Runmeter results. An awesome run on a very foggy/misty day. We all returned home with wet feet and paws but were well pleased with our efforts. Beautiful colours emerged as the mist and fog moved away, such a fantastic creation. When we mapped out the route, it looked like a jelly fish.
Our final gentle jog/run of the week was in Worcester. This time I got to try out my new shoes - a pair of Brooks Ghosts (I think). SJ created this route and it was lovely. We ran alongside the river for a way, crossing over bridges including the 'new one' before heading back. The mapped route looked like a tulip and was in actual fact a figure of 8 loop. We finally decided to call this route the '678' because it followed the river Severn, for 6 miles, in a figure of 8!

Weekly Totals: Cycled 11 miles; Ran 17.9 miles.

Saturday 22 October 2011

The Major menace (aka mud and sweat but no gears)

This really was a week of mud and sweat but no gears. Trained relatively hard this week but didn't use my bicycle once. Concentrated all my efforts on running.
Was great to go out for a jog with SJ and Cody at the start of the week. SJ had a lovely new pair of Mizuno kicks to try out (thanks Lin). Lin had also kindly bought me a new pair of Asics kicks too, but they have been returned due to wrong size issues (and will be swapped when correct size comes in). Anyways, this was a great run across the Studley fields, all off-road. We have nic-named this route the 'Handlebar' route because if you were to map the route out it looks like a pair of BMX bars. This route starts at the Studley fields and runs straight down to the river and across it. After the river crossing, the route leads to Studley Castle and returns back to the graveyard. Taking a left at the graveyard, several fields are ran through, a couple bridges crossed over until you follow the river back to the bridge by the Church, then head back to start. A lovely, perfect 5k off-road run.

So great was the Handlebar route that Cody, SJ and I repeated it again the following day. We ran the route this time at a higher intensity and hence quicker speed. SJ is very pleased with her new trainers, she says they have great grip and she loves them.

Cody and I repeated the Handlebar route for a third time in a row. I think this will become a regular route of ours as we train for SJ's marathon. For those that don't know, SJ is running the London 2012 marathon. Please sponsor her here:

All this Handlebar route training was considered good preparation for the event SJ and I completed on Saturday - the Major! The Major is a 10-12k race series, and this is what their website has to say 'The Major is all about character. It's not just a run. It's a major challenge. Smoke. Water. Mud. Obstacles. You mustn't let any of them stand in your way.'
SJ and I met up with 3 of her friends (Karen, Lindsay and Carolyn) at Weston Park in Shropshire, ready to take part in the Major's Midlands challenge. It was initially a cold day, but after a 15 minute warm up, we really were warmed up! Following the warm up, we were off. Over 200 folk competed in this event. SJ, friends and I started off at the back and we treated this event as a challenge and not a race. Within minutes we were wet as we had water crossings to conquer. Then we were muddy as we had to pass through bogs and marshes. Then we were out of puff as we had to run up big hills. Then we were exhausted as obstacles, like fallen tree's and giant hay bales had to be clambered over and under along with muddy netted areas to pass through. The whole challenge followed this patten. One bog was seriously boggy, as soon as it was entered we would drop as far down as our arm pits. A rope was provided to stop us drowning, but even so, SJ and I tasted enough of the stuff. (I found the temptation of pushing SJ a bit further in too difficult to bear). Just before the finish, the last obstacle was like a giant pond. I dived in here and swam across. Then SJ and I ran to the finish, hand in hand and completed the event in 1 hour and 22 minutes. Woo hoo! Karen, Lindsay and Carolyn were right behind and we had great fun completing this event as a team. Though we started out last, by no means did we finish last!
Weekly totals: Ran 15.8 miles.

Monday 17 October 2011

Run, run, run and don't forget the bike! (Part 2)

On Friday 14 October 2011, 2 brave adventurers decided to leave the mainland. With just a couple of metal horses laden with swag bags they headed for the coast in search of adventure. Adventure was soon found in a little pub in Broughton - the home of the famous buffalo Broughton burger! However, before even reaching the coast they encountered troubles of the road rage variety. Indeed, some butch road hog wound down his window and slapped a butt cheek!
With minor retaliation, our wearied and some-what wounded adventurers continued on. After slogging some 40 miles or so, they spotted a ship and jumped aboard. This ship took them to the mysterious Isle they were in search of. So tired they were after sailing these storm seas, that they found refuge for the night as stow-aways in a floating boat.
So crazy was the Island. Our adventurers found themselves drinking old port in Newport. They found Cowes that could not be milked. The adventure took them post T. Taylors shop, but it didn't belong to him. And, they found an old town in Newtown. How bizarre?!

The Island experience just got weirder and weirder. Freshwater that couldn't be drank was found. Needles that could not be sewn were stumbled upon. And sew on and sew forth.
I would have loved to report that the adventurers had a great time and inform they made it back to the mainland safe, but they didn't. Oh no, not at all. The poor pair were eaten by a T-Rex that lived happily ever after.

The adventurers cycled a total distance of 179 miles during their adventure.

Weekly totals: Ran 6 miles; Cycled 199 miles.

Thursday 13 October 2011

Run, run, run and don't forget the bike! (Part 1)

This blog entry begins with a big shout out and big-up to Sarah Jane (SJ) because she will be running in the 2012 London Marathon! She will be running in memory of her Mum, who passed away in 2010, after a four year battle with cancer. SJ's mother also suffered with ankylosing spondylitis, which is a chronic, inflammatory, arthritic and autoimmune disease often resulting in severe back pain. At age 25, SJ was diagnosed with fused vertebrae in the middle of her back and has found that exercise helps with her pain relief (not to mention her mood and temper!). For these reasons, she has chosen to support the BackCare charity. BackCare play a key role in involving patients in research and dissemination of research findings to make sure that the research really improves the lives of people with back pain. Please help SJ support the BackCare charity by digging deep into your pockets and sponsoring her. SJ will be training very, very hard for this marathon (especially since I have made myself her personal trainer, coach and manager) and all donations will greatly help with her motivation! Thank you! You can sponsor SJ by visiting this link:

As part of SJ's rigorous training schedule, we have signed up for a few races. The first race is quite extreme and is called 'The Major - Midlands' which is to be held on the 22 October 2011. The website states 'Weston Park, home to The Major's Midlands challenge, is a venue he is excited about showing you. From steep hills to muddy off-road tracks and obstacles, this venue will leave all you from the Midlands wet, muddy and exhausted, but with smiles on your faces! This course will be tough, but the Major assures you that it will be an experience to remember'. Following that, we will be taking part in the Threshold 10k Winter Road Race 3 in Stratford, just after Christmas. Have also spotted a 5 or 10k race in November which we may sign up for if our busy schedules allow.

I ran on a few occasions this week. On my first run, Cody and I ran the off road 'Stinky Route'. We covered 2.8 miles in 30 minutes. Cody had her birthday prior to our second run, she is now 4 years old, bless her! Our second run was really a jog. Cody and I jogged over the fields of Studley covering 3.2 miles in 40 minutes.

Despite the fact that I'm supposed to train SJ, she has kept making me participate in her sit-up and press-up routines, remarking that they too are challenges. She wasn't wrong. Early in the week, SJ performed 100 sit-ups with a big grin, whilst I performed 36 and pulled a muscle in my back. I don't think this blog will be recording any more sit-up and press-up challenges....
On to the cycling side of things... Finally got awarded with my AUK points for the Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) randonneur I completed in August and scored a whopping 12! No AAA points were awarded for PBP, though the AUK website acknowledged that 11,000 metres of the event were climbs - that's some 2,700 metres of climbing more than the feared Bryan Chapman!

The first cycle of the week was with Ron and Sarah M. We took out mountain bikes over routes that Ron and I cycled last year. However, we added a new found stretch of bridleway not far from the Portway. Was a nice cycle and we covered about 20 miles.

This blog has been published early because the author has gone on an adventure around the Isle of Wight, with his buddy Chris Hodge, and their awesome bikes!

Saturday 8 October 2011

The Poor Student, Gold Rush and other short stories

Started this week's training with an audax event. This event was The Poor Student 200, a 200k permanent event run under Audax UK regulations. These regulations basically meant that I had to complete this distance, on a bicycle, in under 14 hours. I attempted this ride prior to PBP but had to abandon or 'pack' after my rear wheel collapsed. This event would determine if my American Classics wheel set was a good investment...
Started the event at the Peartree park and ride in Oxford. Only recently have they started to charge for parking. Not to worry, this receipt could be used as my first control proof (the fare was £1.50). This first leg (of 3) to the control at Malmesbury was 80k. The route was mostly flat, quiet and lanesy. Was hard to judge if this was a fast section though, as my bike computer had packed up. I felt I was going quite slow and battled a head wind all the way to control. It rained at times too, but when the rain cleared, blue skies formed. In the distance I had a great view of Uffington white horse. The control was a cafe I had used on a previous audax with Ron (the one where I swear he winked at the waitress and got extra sized cake). I had a breakfast of bacon, scrambled egg, beans and toast and washed said down with a cup of tea.
Leaving Malmesbury was initially a breeze on nice fast roads. After reaching Cirencestor though, the route became distinctly hilly. No major hills, there were no AAA points on these route, but hilly none-the-less. At about the 100k mark, I stopped to take a picture of what I can best describe as arches. Pretty, eh?!
After leaving the arches and all those hills behind, a fast descent took me into Chipping Campden, the next control. Like the a-fore mentioned arches, more arches were found here too. Pretty, huh?! The bike that appears at the top of the blog was found here too. Most unlike myself, I didn't indulge in tea or cake at any tea room. Instead I admired the town and just devoured an apple and banana with a bottle of water before starting the final leg.
Leaving Chipping Campden it started to rain again but the rain was not heavy and it never lasted too long. Autumnal colours were seen everywhere which was very pretty. The route from here was undulating but downhill mostly. Once I had reached Shipton, it was clear that it was no longer summer - the night was drawing in and I had to use my lights. All route was fairly pleased with the route sheet and now it had taken me safely back to the control in Oxford.

Cycled a total distance of 206k during audax, in approximately 10 hours.

A trip to Tintern took place the day after the audax. SJ and I put on our walking boots and took Cody past Tintern Abbey to a sign that read '365 steps'. We followed these steps (I don't think there really was 365 of them) up a steep slippery climb, through woodland, mystical trees and rock faces until we got high into the sky. Once at the top we were rewarded with a great view and it felt like we were in an eagles nest. The weather was awful and we abandoned plans of walking any further.
Midweek, my cousin's wife 'Jas' tempted SJ and myself with Gold. This gold was in the form of gold bond places for the London Marathon 2012. These little nuggets of gold allow folk to run in the marathon providing they make a pledge to donate a certain amount of money to charity. Several charities have a number of these gold nuggets and one has to make an application. SJ and I thought it sounded like a good, golden if you like, idea. In the gold rush SJ tried to stake gold by offering to support a cancer charity - her application got turned down. SJ made another application for the BackCare charity and woo hoo, she struck gold. SJ has a confirmed place to run in the London 2012 marathon! I made a stake at running for the charity formerly known as the RNIB who are at time of this entry considering my application. I won't be running in this marathon though, as fundraising is an issue. I have gone for bronze and will be running in the Bath Beat marathon the week before (which is actually a walking event...). I plan to support SJ, become her coach and help her fund raise for her chosen charity. SJ has to raise about £1,500. As for Jas, I think she struck gold too.
Without further a-do SJ, Cody and I went for a training run. We ran an off road track from near Karen's house (my ex running partner) to Coughton Ford and Back via the Blue-bell woods. This was a good run and we all broke out into a sweat. This run was just under 3.5 miles. I plan to record all SJ's training efforts now and help her prepare for her marathon.
Researched some training plans that I plan to implement for SJ's big run. This research helped me to distinguish between a jog and a run. Basically a jog is where one's heart rate is beating between 60-70% of maximum heart rate (MHR) and a run is where the heart is beating at 70-80% MHR. Therefore, a run is a more intensive workout than a jog. With this new knowledge, I went out for a 30 minute jog with Cody. We jogged over the fields of Studley and covered about 2.5 miles.
A lovely website has been created so that folk can support SJ on her big run and sponsor her efforts. When SJ permits, I will put a link to her website on this blog. SJ is supporting BackCare the charity for healthier backs that helps people manage and prevent back pain by providing information and promoting self help through their website, helpline and publications. 
Maybe I should get SJ back on her bike too ...

Weekly totals: Cycled 127 miles; Ran 6 miles.

Monday 3 October 2011

Cotswold Porker

Health and fitness is a funny thing. Prior to PBP I tried to reduce my weight (which is ok) but this did not really work despite my efforts. There was also little change in my blood pressure and resting pulse (again, they are ok). I had bloods taken about 1 year ago and my cholesterol level was sky high - it was over 11 mmol/l. A cholesterol level over 5 mmol/l is considered bad news. Further bloods were taken a week ago and I'm pleased to say that my cholesterol level had dropped to 6.4 mmol/l! Cholesterol level could be considered too high, but alongside my triglycerides and HDL-cholesterol results were not considered too bad. My triglyceride level was 1.9 mmol/l (less than 2.3 considered good) and my HDL-cholesterol level was 1.9 mmol/l (more than 1 considered good). So, my question is, does this justify eating a big mac and fries?!
Started my training this week by cycling 'Ron's 1 hour loop' in reverse on my mountain bike. As expected, it took me over an hour. Was good to be out on my bike but I felt a little spooked cycling these dark lanes at night by myself (with only half my Ay-Up light set). My knee's had felt dodgy all week, but strangely enough, after this ride felt fine.
My next venture was with Ron and Sarah M. We trekked a pretty awesome route on our mountain bikes. We started by heading for Burial Lane and continued over the Bridge of Rightness, up Mars Hill, through the Woods of Doom and down Dog Butt lane. We finished our evening by star gazing.
My last cycling adventure of the week saw me complete the 100k Cotswold Corker audax. I have completed this audax before, but not as a permanent. This time round was much harder - this was one of the hottest days England has seen in a while and I forgot just how tough a 1.75 AAA event really is!

The audax started in Bishops Cleeve, which always makes me grin each time I say it. My grin soon became a grimace as I started to climb the first hill. This hill comes at you almost straightaway and is a horror, it has a 25% gradient. This hill has now beat me twice - only managed to climb about a 1/3 of the way up. Grr! Maybe a triple chain set or a mountain bike is the way forward?!
Ride continued in a hilly fashion past the control in Winchcombe and up to Guiting Power. So hot and much sweat. Incredible views along nice roads. Northleach control was situated in a pretty market town and just passed this control I found a nice place name.
Sweet roads continued to take me Daglingworth. I found no suitable control here, so took a picture of my bike against sign instead. Stopped at the Bisley control to eat my first proper meal - bacon and egg sarnie with chips!
Started to hallucinate on route to Andoversford. Was so convinced that I saw a wild pig that I turned my bike around and back tracked a little way. The little pig turned out to be a jack deer. Further on route, I was convinced that I saw another creature and back tracked again. What I thought was a snake actually turned out to be a snake! Horrors!
After Andoversford I was feeling quite whacked. It was real hot and I had just climbed some 288 metres. This climb was now rewarded as I took a super fast descent by Belas Knap and whizzed along. Sadly, at the end of this descent, I was lost. I should have been in Winchcombe, but was about 10 miles away. The finish point was nearer so I headed there instead. I had cycled over 100k and climbed big hills so felt justified that I skipped a control but 'magically' had proof of passage...

Cycled a total of 105.8k during audax.

Weekly totals: Cycled 98 miles.

Yearly total (thus far): Cycled 4,616 miles.

Happy New Year 2022

Happy New Year folks. I wonder what's in store for 2022,  - something crazy, something new? It's a shame Covid is still here and I&#...