Saturday 29 August 2015

Love is better than knowledge

Not entirely sure what it was, but, following an open water swim I sometimes get a real achey pain in my calves. I don’t think it’s because I have pulled or stretched the muscles (maybe?) but think it’s the after effects of cramp?! Anyone know for sure? Anyways, sure enough my calves were achey breaky big time on Monday. This didn’t stop me from doing a run commute though. I ran 10k interval style following the formula 10 mins warm up; 4 x 1.6k run (with 400m recovery); cool down to finish. My calves were ok during the run, but again were achey breaky following it.

My achey calves stopped me from cycling on Tuesday though.

My achey calves stopped me running on Wednesday too.

Stress stopped me from running on Thursday.

Life prevented me from running on Friday.

On Saturday, I completed my longest run to date. Kinda. Probably wasn't in my best form to tackle such a challenge - what with my sore threat, tired head, lack of sleep and man stress over the past few days. Anyways, I took myself to Edstone Aqueduct (just like my previous long run) and ran along the tow path (in the opposite direction to my last long run). I headed out slow and just ran and ran, on and on, and on. I ran until I covered half my planned distance. I ran 9 miles. Stopped to take a photo and started to run back.

Half-way. Not exactly sure where I was.
Ah, ok, my Strava app showed that half-way was half-way between Kingswood and Hockley Heath.
The whole route was tow path and it started well. The weather was fine - maybe a bit too warm. Post run, I could see the sun had touched me but thankfully I had not burnt. I figured the return run would be easier, being down hill and all, but this was not the case.
Hilliness profile of my route
My first niggle occurred around the 20k mark. Not really sure what was going on but my legs were starting to feel tired and heavy. I tried to distract myself and took some photo's here and there which worked for a while. The next 3k were no real bother.
Imagine living here!
Bet my kiddy-winks would like a play house like this
I must have been suffering because I never noticed the figure in the pics above on my run out and on my return thought it was a real living person until I got much nearer. D'oh! Quite funky I thought.

At 24k I was really hurting. My calf muscles had seized up and running was painful. I walked a little and then remembered a young person with cerebral palsy crossing a finish line. This thought helped me carry on. Carry on until the 26k mark, that was.

Signs and means telling me to stop
Like a big girls blouse, I phoned SJ and moaned and groaned. I told her I was suffering and would have to walk the last 3k back. She offered to pick me up but there was no way my pride would allow that! I walked and ran and walked and ran these following few k and just when I though things couldn't get worse, they did.
Passed this somewhere on route
As I was running along the tow path, a tree branch reached down and grabbed my cap. I swear I heard the birds chuckle as the tree whipped the cap from my head and tossed into the canal. I managed to retrieve my cap but it stunk of pond weed and wasn't going back on my head. Grr. Grumpy, I continued my run and walk strategy.
How pleased I was when Edstone aqueduct came into view. I reckon that was the best thing my eyes had seen all day. Ha! Pleased my 18 mile run was done and dusted!

Am pretty sure Sunday will be a day of rest!

Sunday 23 August 2015

Wot no Cross

This week I mostly dumped my kicks and brought out the SPD's. That should make sense to my duathlon and triathlon buddies and maybe even to those who are pure runners or cyclists. What I'm saying is, I mostly used my bike this week but managed to run a little.

On Monday, I took my road bike out for a short spin - under 20k. I didn't want to run on my poor pins after the huge distance they ran over the weekend. And I didn't want to do nothing. So, I figured a quick spin on the road bike would be great. Wanted to make sure all was working fine before my planned long distance cycle on Wednesday. All was working fine and that was fine with me!

Tuesday was a regular run commute to work. I covered 10k as I (mostly) ran the no.5 bike route into work. I had to stop to take the cute photo below. Pretty awesome, eh?!

On Wednesday I completed my 111th audax to date. This was a 200k (plus) audax event that I had created myself, known as a ‘DIY perm’. I entitled this event as ‘Wot no Cross’, simply because I stole some controls from the Banbury Cross audax but never took this adventure near Banbury Cross itself. For ease, I started off from my abode in Studley. I had checked the weather forecast and it promised no rain – bonus. With a smile on my face and a happy heart, I collected my first POP from HSBC bank and off I went. Straightway I diverted from my planned route and chose to cycle up to Astwood Bank and then head to Broadway – by so doing, I avoided a busy main road but added about 10k. Nice cycling from Astwood Bank and into Bidford. The road was closed to traffic but I was able to get through on a bike. Lots of roads were closed today but my bike was able to get through every time. Pleased my route never took me up Saintbury or Fish Hill to reach the control in Broadway.
My 'Wot no Cross' audax route, 221k
Cleeve Hill soon followed the Broadway control, but no worries here. After not cycling a hill for so long, I figured I would struggle but this was a breeze. Once at the summit, I reached speeds of 70kph as I flew down and made my way intoCheltenham. From Cheltenham my route was quite ‘different’ and roads were left for a spell as I cycled cycle lanes through park grounds and the like. My post event memory is quite awful and I can’t remember whether I stopped in Cirencester or Cricklade for some tasty grub. I remember what I ate though and delicious it was!
Some of my route from Cheltenham to Cricklade was just ridiculous. My route followed some serious off-road style bridleway that just wasn’t rideable on my skinny 23mm tyres. My buddy Ron had ridden this route I created a few weeks back. He commented it would be good on a horse but said track was rideable on a bike! Pah! If he wasn’t cycling PBP we would be having words right now! I know Ron deviated from my planned route to get from Cricklade to Witney and I did too. Am not sure which route Ron followed but my route was pretty awesome.

From Cricklade, I followed my planned route across cycle paths following an old rail line. This was beautiful and it felt great to be on a bike. However, the roads would have been much faster and would be my choice on a re-run. In fact, I would use all the same controls but ride a completely alternate route if I were to cycle this event again. Once I reached Witney, I realised the weather folk had lied and sure enough I was very wet as the heavens opened big time. I took refuge in McDonald’s for a while but the rain was not going to relent. After queuing for ages, the McD’s folk informed they had no milk-shakes. Grr! I settled for burger and then headed home.
Would not have viewed these sights if I had stuck to the road ...
I did not have any controls except the finish to reach on leaving Witney. I didn’t follow my planned route, I just typed my address into my Garmin as I wanted the quickest route home, which was about 70k away. Wet return home. This event was hillier than I remembered creating it – maybe because I followed a different route. Below is a representation of the hilliness of the route I followed. To be fair, it was quite a nice cycle home and would have been great if the weather was right. Just as I reached my village I saw Rachel and Nigel (from my fellowship) running in the rain. Once home, I headed straight for the bath and was real pleased I managed to complete a 200k (220) event after a relatively long break from cycling long distance.
Hilliness profile of Wot no Cross audax
Following day, Ron completed his PBP experience! So too did my buddy Gary! Well done lads! Chapau! I rested this day as I felt a tad whacked. Wonder how the lads were feeling?
Ron doing the PBP thang ...
Friday was a chaotic day. I decided I would cycle to work using my single-speed road bike. I didn't get too far before I realised I had forgotten my bag. I returned home, having cycled about 21k. I decided to take the car and get the train into work. Grr!

Saturday was a funny kind of day. Sadly, I had to work. Instead of running to work, I took a short run from work and reluctantly back to work. I ran about 6k.
Work run, 6.4k
Finished my week with a swim. First swim in ages and an open water swim to boot! I swam at Ragley Lake which had been closed for a number of weeks. I found this swim hard, had the usual cramp and my technique was disturbing. Still, I swam 3 x 400m which was better than nowt. Better yet, all 3 triathlon disciplines were tackled this week.
3 x 400m OW swim

Sunday 16 August 2015

Speak only if you can improve upon the silence.

Monday: Duathlon day. Brick style. 27k bike followed by a 2.5k run.

Tuesday: Run commute. Followed the number 5 cycle route (mostly) as opposed to my usual canal run. 10k.

Wednesday: Rest.

Thursday: Run commute. Interval style. Followed the formula 10 mins warm up; 5 x 1k Run (with 400m recovery); cool down to finish. 10k.

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Long run. In fact, I think this was the furthest I had ever ran, ever! Just 10 miles off marathon distance. My run started at Edstone Aqueduct which just happens to be the longest aqueduct in England.
Having not run this route before, I had little idea of what was in store. I figured the tow path might lead to Stratford at which point I guessed I would turn back if I got there. Stratford was like less than 10k away, so once there I continued to run. Eventually I joined the Greenway and ran a length of that. The picture below marks the half-way point of my run, where I essentially turned around and ran back the way I came.
The Greenway
Didn't run across this bridge but I plan to one time...
As can be seen by my following pictures, I ran along tow path, up steps, down steps, across fields, on tarmac, on grass, on trail, under tunnel, across bridge, up hill, down hill... A mixed bag really. All in all, a great run.
I followed SJ's advice and ran pretty slow. It took me 3 hours and 17 minutes to run this 26k (16 mile) trek. Good news was I achieved it and despite being in a little pain, did not feel crippled or injured. Was a great idea taking my camera with me, perhaps I'll do that again on future long runs.
Long run (16 miles)
Sunday: Day of rest!

Sunday 9 August 2015

Squirrel bait

This week started well. Following the LEL premiere last weekend I felt buzzed up enough to wipe the cobwebs from my bike and commute to work just like I should. The ride out was great - nice to be back on a bike and the weather was kind. So kind was the weather, I was able to wear my cycling sandals (no socks) and short sleeved top. As I was bombing up the canal, a blind lady indicated that I should stop. I have seen this lady many times walking up the canal with her dog - a slightly overweight black Labrador with bells jangling about it's neck. I don't think the dog is a guide dog because he is always a few feet in front or behind and never appears to be on a lead. Anyways, the blind lady asked if I could walk her to the where the tow path forks (recently added path) because she struggles to find her way and said she fallen into the canal on a few occasions! Of course I helped. We chatted as we walked along and she told me her name was Lubna. I felt pleased that I was able to perform a good deed so early in the day. Almost as exciting was a crazy squirrel I crossed paths with in the tunnel. This squirrel ran up the side of the tunnel wall and then jumped into the canal! Horrors! My next thought was 'can squirrels swim'? Apparently they can, because as I looked back I saw him climb out of the canal back onto the towpath. What an exciting commute!

Squirrel's epic swim across lake
Swimming squirrel

Tourists on board a pleasure boat in the Lake District could not believe their eyes when they spotted a red squirrel in the middle of Ullswater. The mammals can swim, but they find it very strenuous, and have been known to drown in water troughs.
But this determined squirrel had swum 300 yards (274m) - or about the length of six swimming pools - from the shore.
Passengers lowered a rope to the mammal and it climbed on board and hitched a lift back to shore.

Robert Benson, chairman of the Penrith and District Red Squirrel Group, said: "I've been involved with the conservation of red squirrels for 15 years and I know they can swim, but I have never seen it.
"This squirrel was swimming strongly and had its tail coiled on its back so it didn't look bedraggled or as if it was struggling.
"I've never seen anything like it before."
Once ashore the squirrel ran along a fence and disappeared, apparently none the worse for its dip.

Red squirrel
My return commute was less exciting. Still great weather though. I spotted some broken slabs that were tipped that might have come in handy but won't go back for them lest I got done for fly tipping.

On Tuesday I faced my demons and went for a 10k run. I was worried how this might go after my last 10k effort last week. Glad to report all was good, despite me running slightly slower than usual. I met Lubna on route but just said 'hi' as I passed.
In the evening, SJ and I decided we would go for a quick jog together. This jog didn't happen. Something slightly disturbing was happening in our village - a whole bunch of police cars were blocking the road and some fella was wanted for firearms...

Wednesday was a multi-sport day. I cycled my old TTT 20 route in the morning and ran into work in the evening. I guess that was duathlon day!

Thursday was a usual cycle commute to work and back. I mostly followed the canal tow path but avoided the long tunnel because the lights weren't working properly. Mojo definitely with me this week.
Friday was the last day of the week that any exercise/training took place. I was real pleased that I managed to complete a 12 mile run without feeling so bad. Sure my feet hurt whilst I was running back but my legs and knee weren't anywhere near as painful compared to my previous long run. I flowed SJ's golden words of advice and started my run real slow. SJ sure makes a great coach. 
12 mile run, oh what fun :)

Sunday 2 August 2015

Mojo yoyo (and the LEL premiere)

Last week I got my mojo back. This week I lost it again. Mojo yoyo!

Without a mojo, little training took place. I ran a 10k run on Monday but this was a naff effort. This 10k run took me longer than usual and my right leg hurt big time. I don't think I recovered too well after my half marathon run last week. I think this caused my dip in mood and motivation levels. Scared of injury, fed up and generally felt whacked. Didn't touch my bike at all.
Waiting to start LEL 2013
However, all was not bad. I attended the London-Edinburgh-London film premiere at long last. This was a great film documentary made by MadeGood.films. They followed a bunch of cyclists (myself being one of them) on a remarkable feat of endurance, that took them from central London all the way to Edinburgh and back in under 116 hours. Travelling just over 1400k (1500k in my case), they were tested in many ways... The trailer can be viewed here.
The film was pretty great on the whole and it was interesting to hear different accounts and share different stories. The atmosphere was sound. I dunno, maybe 100 people filled a picture house to share this experience including a number of the riders who featured in the film. Better yet, my parents and friends - Chris and Gary were there with me too. I felt the film could have been improved a little - showing each rider finish would have been great (my finish is not shown). I was led to believe my name would appear in the credits, I didn't see that either! Other than that though, the film was great and captured the experience well.
After the film we had an after party which was nice. I spoke with a number of folk and almost all 'bigged me up' and gave wonderful comments. 3 people commented that the scene where I was describing the wonderful things I saw whilst cycling 'made it for them' which was nice to hear. Some folk commented they liked my humility and sarcasm. Really?! I mean really?! What made the film for me, was seeing Pauline support her husband (one of the riders) throughout and sharing her experience, both highs and lows. She reminded me of SJ and how she supported me during PBP. SJ made an appearance in this film too, along with my daughter Lunar which was extra special. I will be interested to hear what my friends and family think once they have all seen this film.
And talking of PBP, wow, that's only 2 weeks away. After watching the LEL premiere I kinda wish I was cycling the event. It will be great following my friends Ron, Jamie, Andy and of course Gary. I wish them well! Gary (and Lin) also cycled the London Prudential 100 ride yesterday, I wonder how they got on?!

Was hoping the LEL premiere would inspire me to ride again and prove a big motivator but Sunday came and I still didn't touch my bike. Neither did I attend my tri-club and swim or run. I only have 10 weeks to go now until my planned marathon, let's hope I get my mojo back!


POST SCRIPT. After publishing my blog, I read a nice 'write up' article about the LEL premiere on the YACF site by Alwyn. With permission, I have included Alwyn's account below.

So, three quarters of the LEL team, a smattering of volunteers, a few stars of the film, some riders and lots of other cycling types descended on Hackney yesterday to watch the first screening of madegood's film about LEL. We were all rather excited to see what they'd made of the event, not least how we'd all look at the end of such a gruelling event.

Madegood have done a fantastic job with what must have been a tiny budget. They started with interviews with about six or seven riders, some British and some foreign. The rest of film switched between some fantastic footage of riders on the road and interviews with them in controls. Very soon the film shifted its focus away from those riders that were finishing with ease, and those who were clearly struggling to finish. It was fascinating to see how different people coped with adversity. Shu, an incredibly strong rider, was clearly rattled by her inability to meet her own incredibly high standards. Toshi looked cool and reserved despite being right on the wire at each control. 

For me the three stars of the film were Tom (I think?), the young chap in the Manchester Wheelers jersey, riding his first event of this distance. They got some great footage of him riding through mist looking utterly miserable and ground down by his aches and pains. In contrast a chap from Saddleworth Clarion (sorry, I forgot everyone's names) seemed jolly despite his aches and pains (he too had only been cycling a few months), but was out-jollied by his wife who has a turn of phrase that had the audience in stitches. A rider from Dunwich Paragon seemed to age 20 years over four days, though I'm pleased to report he looks back to his old self.

Madegood have done a fantastic job on a tiny budget. It's a great film that captures what we're about with warmth and humour. 

I'm told the DVDs will be out "soon", when pressed they said a month or so. If you're desperate to see it before then, you'll be able to see it at the LEL stand at registration at PBP.

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