Tag Archives: cycling

The Kingdom by the Sea

“England, of course, resembles a pig, with something on its back. Look at it. It is a hurrying pig; its snout is the south-west in Wales, and its reaching trotters are Cornwall, and its rump is East Anglia. The whole of Britain looks like a witch riding on a pig, and these contours – rump and snout and bonnet, and the scowling face of Western Scotland – were my route.”

Paul Theroux The Kingdom by the Sea 1983.

Bedraggled ten-year-old t-shirt

In 1999, MM and I attempted the most clichéd journey in Britain – the End-to-End. We started at the ‘wrong’ end, John O’ Groats, planning to cycle to Cornwall in time for the Total Eclipse on August 11.

I say ‘planning’, but in reality, our plans were rather poor. I injured my knee on the first day, but we stupidly continued, making it worse day-by-day, until we had to bail out and take the train for large chunks of the route. We did get to see the Eclipse – well, as far as that was possible through the thick black clouds – but have always planned to go back and do the trip ‘properly’.

Carn Brea, Cornwall, England. August 1999.

So ten years on, we’re giving it another bash – starting at Land’s End this time. We haven’t got a date yet, and we’re yet to figure out routes, distances, time-frames etc, but it’ll almost certainly be soon after the end of MM’s summer term.

One thing is certain, we both need to get fit and make some proper weekend cycle trips before then.


10% in 10 weeks?

I’m pleased to have got my first race under my belt. What next?

Well, I’m still a bit on the porky side, and I wasn’t exactly speedy. Unsurprising really, since when I signed up 3 weeks before the event, I’d never run the distance. It was also not a very fast course.

My swimming is also a bit lackadaisical. I know I can swim faster, if I get into the habit of going regularly. My cycling is by far my best discipline – lets leave that for the minute.

So: My aim is to improve by 10% in 10 weeks.

I dieted for about 3 months at the beginning of the year,. My weight has rebounded very slightly since then, though I’m still well within the “healthy” BMI range. So on Tuesday 16th September I was 73kg. A 10% loss would take me to 65.7kg, but I’m not too bothered if I don’t quite make that. I’m aiming for an average of 100g loss per day, but have lost a bit faster than that during the first two weeks. I’ve still got about 5kg to go to make the target.

I think I need to do a bit more than pootle up and down the pool. I also need to get into the habit of going at least twice a week. I didn’t swim between February and July, though I’ve gone quite a few times since then. I found a helpful site (swim4fitness) which has 10-session programmes of varying intensity. I aim to do one relaxed swimming session per week, and one session following the part 3 fitness programme from that site.

I haven’t measured my baseline swim speed yet. I will measure it this week over 800m.

I’ve ordered some new running shoes. Well, I think I have – I haven’t actually received a confirmation e-mail. The next couple of weeks, I just intend to keep the distance up, and to go for regular relaxed runs without my Garmin to put pressure on me.

Then I’m going to try the Runner’s World 8 week 3x per week 10K training plan, targeting a race at Worthing on December 6th. The plan includes all sorts of technical stuff such as interval running, tempo runs etc. If I find it’s too much I may switch to a simpler plan.

I’m targeting a 10% improvement on my Alice Holt race – that would be 56:41. The weight loss should help, but I’m also going to have to get fitter. It should be feasible – The Alice Holt race was only the third time I’d covered the distance, and was a pretty technical course.

London Triathlon 2008 – sprint distance

The London Sprint Triathlon was yesterday: 750m swim, 21km bike, 5.2km run. The Excel Centre was quite a big, daunting venue for my first race of any kind, and my race was last on at 17:00.

It was a horrible day for it – persistent rain and  a bit of a wind. I’d managed a couple of swims in my wetsuit, and it was beginning to feel less like an alien lifeform engulfing me. I knew I could do the distance.

In the event, however, it wasn’t the distance, the wetsuit or the open water that bothered me it was complete inability to deal with swimming with so many people (over 300 in my wave).

I just couldn’t get any rhythm, with feet and arms and heads everywhere. So I panicked and hyperventilated. The unfamiliarity of the open water, and of my first race obviously contributed, but the main problem was swimming in a crowd.

Once I was away from other swimmers, I got into some rhythm, but every time I caught up with a group, I’d start to panic again and lose the plot. The kayak marshals were great, but I nearly gave up there and then. In the end, I completed the swim leg in over 28 minutes.

I walked slowly through transition 1, and used it to regroup, but felt much better once I was on my bike and starting to overtake people. I’d always known this would be my best discipline, and was reasonably pleased with my time of 46:29 in persistent rain and wind.

By the time I got to the run, I just decided to treat it as a jog in the park, and make sure I got home in one piece, without walking. It took me 31:37, and I finished in 1:55:23.

I felt pretty good afterwards, and just have slightly tired legs today. I’d do it again, but I’d try to pick an event with fewer competitors, and sort out my open water swimming, so that I have more in reserve to deal with the splashing crowds.

Long overdue update

old and new

I’m crap at blogging, aren’t I? I’ve got a few things I want to say, but I don’t want to make this post too long, so I’ll probably post again later.

I haven’t been as organised in my training as I intended, but I’ve been doing quite a bit of running and cycling. And, as you see, I have new running shoes. Now I must go and get them dirty.

I got out of the habit of swimming when my skin got really sore in the cold weather earlier this year. The chlorine and wetness seemed to make it much worse, and I haven’t got back into the habit since then. I intend to start swimming again this week. 750m is minimal in terms of distance, but I do need to work on my technique.

Likewise, I haven’t been keeping to a diet for a while now. My weight has been stable since I stopped dieting, but I should make a final push to lose this last half a stone – I’m sure it would help my fitness level.

In exciting personal news – I now have a niecelet to add to my collection of 5 nephews. Born at 4:17 this morning. My mother is delerious that she finally has a granddaughter.

Triathlon goals

State of play, end of February.

There have been a few disturbances to my intended schedule:

Firstly, my bike was stolen. This also affected my swimming, as the pool is at least a couple of miles away, with no easy public transport link. Having to walk there and back makes the exercise very time-consuming.

Secondly, I haven’t been very well in the second half of February. I had fairly severe skin soreness in the cold weather, followed by stomach upsets, apparently caused by coffee intolerance, followed by caffeine withdrawal headaches when I tried to sort that out. Ho hum.

Taking this into account, I’m reasonably happy with where I’ve got to so far:

Have run max of 45 minutes continuously. Have run two or three times per week. Can run 5km in 32:48 at comfortable speed (measured a couple of weeks ago before I got poorly).

Have swum < two times per week on average. Have recently suffered a bout of very sore, dry skin, and haven’t wanted to risk the chlorine followed by a walk home in the cold.

Can easily swim 750m in front crawl. Can swim 30s lengths for couple of lengths, but I have to slow down a bit to swim 750m.

SPL (average): 22

SPL (minimum): 17

Was cycling until my bike got stolen. Have just received my new bike, and bought a cycle computer to log progress.

Have averaged 1660 kcal per day since 21st January. Have lost 6.2kg since that date. Am now within “healthy” range, but I need to lose quite a lot more to be race fit.

General health and fitness:
Quite good until the last couple of weeks. No migraines or fainting. No colds or flu.

Done masses of walking (well, with no bike, I have little choice).

My arms and legs are becoming noticeably more toned, but I have no abs to speak of.

Goals for March:

Run 3x per week (2 short, 1 long, or 1 short, 1 medium, 1 long). Increase duration of long run conservatively. Be able to run 60 minutes continuously by 31st March. Try to include some gentle speedwork on some of the shorter runs.

Maybe buy some new running shoes. I’m currently running in *ahem* “Aldi Technical Jogging Shoes”. They don’t seem to have caused me any problem, and I’m not sure whether the whole running shoe industry is largely a con, but since I’ll be increasing my volume of running, it might be better to be safe than sorry.

Swim 3x per week. Make one of these a 1-hour session. Try to get to pool a bit earlier to maximise lane-swimming time. Incorporate drills, rather than just ploughing up and down. Aim to reduce SPL. Visit Command Baths (50m pool) when I go home.

Ride regularly, now that I have a bike again. Try to get at least one long ride in per week. Do a bit of Fartlek. Get gear to build racing wheels onto my MA2s.

Continue on 1600-1700kcal per day if possible. Aim to lose 3kg in the month.

I really should try to do some core exercises and stretching. And limit the coffee.

Triathlon training plans

I have 207 days, or nearly 30 weeks until the race. I don’t expect to record a spectacular time, but I don’t want to be struggling home in the last few. I wasn’t very well at the end of last year and haven’t exercised at all since October, so I’m starting from a low level of fitness.

Last year there were 602 entrants and 585 finishers. If I can complete the course in under 2 hours, I will be among the main pack, rather than the stragglers.

Triathlon results
Finishing times in the 2007 London Triathlon

30 weeks should be plenty of time, but I’ve started looking at a few triathlon training plans, and they’re quite bewildering in their variety, although similar in fundamentals. The ones I’ve looked at have varied from 8 -20 weeks in duration. I fancy leaving it as late as possible before getting locked into a program that will make me anxious if I deviate much from it, so I’ll probably be opting for a very short program, but I want to be as fit as possible when I start it.

In the short term, I guess that my goals are to get back to a reasonable level of fitness, to lose some weight and to get to the point where I can comfortably do the distance for each individual discpline.

Current state and short-term goals:

Swimming: I haven’t swum since summer 2000, but used to be quite good. Short term aim: swim 750m without breaks by end of February.

Plan: Join local pool, try to swim 3 x per week.

Cycling: I cycled for first time since October last Thursday, and have cycled twice more since then. It has been satisfyingly easy to get back into, and I have no doubt I could do 20km without breaks already. My spuds broke last autumn, and I’m using toe-clips, but I really want to get back into cleats.

Plan: use cycling as default mode of transport, get new pedals.

Running: I ran for first time for 6 months last Friday, and again today. I’m taking it slowly, as I think this is the discipline in which it would be easiest to injure myself if I try too much too soon. Assuming that the swim goes to plan, I’m fairly sure that running will be my weakest discipline, but as the last leg, I don’t need to leave anything in the tank at the end of it.

Plan: Gradually increase duration of run and eliminate walk breaks until I can run about 35 minutes without breaks by end of February. Try to run 3 x per week.

Weight: I’m fat.

Plan: Try to eat sensibly, a bit less, and at more regular times. Cut out sweets. Only drink at weekends, and not too much. Aim to lose 3 kg by end of February.

Elmley Marshes

Yesterday, we went to Elmley Marshes to look at birds, which involved about 17 miles cycling and a fair amount of walking.

The last leg of the ride to the reserve was down a semi-made-up track, and required quite a lot of care. So it wasn’t particularly energy-sapping, but it was tough on the hands and arms, and by the end of it, my backside felt like an endangered species, although there appears to be plenty of it.

It was a beautiful day, and we saw all sorts of birds, but the highlight was a short-eared owl, hunting among the long grasses and reeds, just before twilight. Then it settled on a post, and one of the other birders trained a spotting scope on it, and gave us a look. It was really a splendid bird, and so clear and easy to see with the scope. It made me hanker after a spotting scope, but I guess it’s too early to start making up this year’s Christmas wishlist already.


View from one of the hides at Elmley

So an enjoyable, if tiring day, but marred at the end by my neighbours’ decision to throw a party, in a terraced house, with a DJ and bass cranked up until it caused the pictures on my wall to vibrate, even in the rear wing of my house that has no party wall with their house. The music went on until about 4:30 this morning, and pretty much wiped out today for both Molecule Man and myself. Bastards.