Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Swimmy days

I effectively had a day off Thursday so on Monday I chose to catch up on the weekend swim that I missed.  2km.  It hurt a lot at first because my shoulders had spent all day Saturday poling through the snow.  However, I warmed up, took it steady and before you know it, 80 laps were in the bag and I was able to go off to East Anglia - the North Norfolk coast to be precise.  That took me 6 hours so, by 4pm I was ready for a damn good sleep.

Now, to get on with this week's training.

The Norfolk project had a bit of a setback on Tuesday - largely due to me cancelling a crane lift because it was too windy to lift anything.

No-one liked it which pissed me off.

I very nearly walked away from site I was so angry.  What a waste of my time.  I stewed in my anger until I was able to leave site at 12:00.  This time, at least, it only took me 4.5 hours to get back home and so I headed for the pool of course.   Thank god it's an easy week this week, so 35 hours after my last swim I headed to Ponds Forge and stretched another 30 laps of the 50m pool out of my arms.  

It was blissfully quiet and so I even managed my 800m timetrial that has been on the books for so long.  

800m was a nice milestone to hit because I spent the next few laps calculating that at that speed I could nail the ironman swim distance in 1:03.  A nice dream.

After 1500m I felt so good I was able to haul myself out of the poolside onto the dive platform.  It wasn't pretty and I probably won't do it again but it felt satisfying.

Sofa time.

First Mountain Bike Race in 21 years, a Lovely Man and Wonderful Friends.

The British Cycling National Series Part I was a bit like your average 'cross course.  Snow encrusted,  muddy, single-tracky in places.

I gridded with the vets, eventually - on my own line up because no-one was being disciplined about the start line.  It was a good position from which to avoid the two crashed riders in front of me.

By the treeline I was able to chase someone down but by the first bend they had passed me back and I chomped through the mud, slowly and alone.  The two riders who had crashed soon passed me on  my old-style heavy Specialised Rockhopper.  It was time to start enjoying myself.

I chatted to the marshals and 'had a go' at riding everything.  To my embarrassment  I didn't because I actually hadn't taken the opportunity to recce the course, but I think - given a third lap - I could have done so.

I had so much time on my hands that I stopped to remove my long trousers - which I hadn't dared to take off in the cold until they started to venture into my chain-ring, get destroyed and really start to piss me off.

I could've carried on going for another lap, endurance style.  This race was the one field that let my Forestman training down for this week.  I'm not sure I can claim an 11km MTB race quite equals the training I would have gotten from a 55mile road bike ride but given the skiing on the Saturday, I don't think a 55 mile road ride would have been possible - not in the peak anyway.

Most of all I enjoyed the day because Gen Whitson accompanied me.

She came down from Edinburgh on the train on Saturday and we went to my favourite bike shop - Langsett cycles - to get her bike finished as she was missing some bits!  It's a good job we did because her sponsors got stuck in the snow in Staffordshire and I was able to claim that me and Andrew and the Vanu got Gen to a race when her team didn't.

Gen and I walked home from the bike shop through the snow, hulking gear and flopped out at the house to pasta and gossip and taking the piss out of the cat who responded by demonstrating his manlihood by attacking the carpet.

TSK gave us the space to be girls and swept me off to bed to rest before racetime.  He worked tirelessly to unearth the vanu from its snowy enclave so we could get to the race and was the most lovely team supporter I have, seconded only by Crispin Doyle.

It was great to see Anna Chipullo and her red hair in real life and to cheer for my team mate, Hannah Saville in the girls' race.  I met new people (courtesty of Gen Whitson) in the cafe which means I am officially a groupie.  I also pretended that Gen's superb bike was mine for a little while - by taking it for a spin around the car park.  Unfortunately I couldn't find Nick Craig to show off in front off.  Me don't thinks he would've been impressed though.  Hannah was, momentarily, the brunt of my Tomfoolery but I think even she saw through me.

A day filled with support and laffs with a bit of biking in the snow thrown in for good measure.

I don't believe it gets better than this.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

2013 Ski Touring in Sheffield

It was such an amazing day that in my mind, it doesn't need words 
(this might also be something to do with exhaustion).

So here are the pictures...

My beautiful wooden skis

Me, tentatively skiing up the road at 8:15am. Streetlights still on! When I went to bed on Friday night to the promise of snow, I resolved to be out early enough to beat the road-clearing public and the traffic
A snow-bunny at a farm on the edge of Sheffield.  Not great clarity but it is clutching a sprig of grass in its paw - Beatrix Potter style.
The descent from the A57 Bell Hagg pub to the "beer garden".  SUCH a shame this pub is closed.  Sheffield's best "green run".  I've noted the snowiness of this track on a number of running and mountain biking outings.  It was lots of fun on skis.
Sheffield's best blue run. In the field below the Bell Hagg pub.
White geese in a white field.

Finally found some passers-by to record the event.  They'd been dropped off at Rivelin and were hiking into Sheffield.  I've had these skis and boots 4 years now and used them 5 days in the UK.  In another 4 years they'll have paid for themselves (based on the cost of your average ski holiday).  Of course, I know that they've already paid for themselves in fun-points.

After a few epic fails involving a lot of descending and re-climbing, encroaching exhaustion and a lost path, found again, I was very relieved to reach the A57.  I wanted to take a picture of the Rivelin Dam crossing but the snow had been compacted into chattery ice by vehicles and the wind kept blowing me sideways into the stone wall.
I had a celebratory cup of coffee before heading downhill back to Sheffield

Snow drift in a doorway to a walled garden

At the Rivelin carpark I stopped in a bus shelter to chat to a couple out for a walk and drink more coffee.  The descent down the A57 was tough where the snow was slushy from the gritty spray off vehicles on the road.  I skied close to the wall to get as much good snow as possible and managed to glide a bit.  The couple advised me that there was good snow cover on the Rivelin path despite my concerns that the trees would have sheltered it.  They also warned me of the fallen trees!  Eek.  The trees were all passble.  I was entertained by these two ducks, sitting in the "warm" spot on the millpond.

The pretty pussy cat on my skis keeps me company when I'm out on my own.  I was looking forwards to the "easy" flat ski along the Rivelin Path.  I didn't realised how enjoyable it would be as it had been "pisted" by walkers.  I hardly had to make an effort.

Once at the bottom of the Rivelin Path I put the skins back on my skis and started the long haul up Walkley Bank Road to the house.  By this point I knew I'd given myself a heel blister and my middle two toes on my left foot were too tightly crammed together leading to dead-spots in the nerves.  I was cheered up to find that 5 of my neighbours had built an igloo at the top of the street.
   And here is the route

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Have to swim... have to.

Too cold and too out-of-bed-too-late to swim. Cycled yesterday. Hate the shuttle bus to site from the car park. Solution - drive, run, take swim stuff.

On the drive I peered down each street to figure out which to take for the beach access. My plan was to run to the site then overshoot to do the extra 5.6kms I needed to make up 11km.

Of course I couldn't resist turning off the first lane to get off-road. It stretched out straight ahead for 500m then turned 90° the wrong way. When I reached the zag that went with the zig there were signs forbidding my entry into what looked like an old RAF base that had been ruthlessly occupied by old ladies.  The only thing that kept me going was the tempting church and lighthouse on the horizon.

I reluctantly followed the footpath markers instead of following my intended direction. The lighthouse obliged, getting closer until I was able to use the luxurious facilities before continuing.  Aged tourist population is obviously good for something.

I hoped I would be able to access the beach by now but instead I had to continue along the top of the cliffs as they were steep and crumbling.  A person sat in a shack called "The Happisburgh Coastal Lookout", peering between a monocular and a laptop screen.  I dared not wave in case I still wasn't supposed to be there.

Perhaps the caravan park would offer a route onto the beach? Unfortunately, it seemed that many of the caravan pitches had followed the cliffs seaward and I ended up running up the camp site road to put clearance between me and the crumbling tarmac edge. I followed a dog walkers path through the touring site and finally found a sign for beach access.

I checked the Garmin. 4.85km!  I still had to make ground along the beach just to get parallel with where I'd left Maurice the Audi.  Then do the extra 4km to site.

The sign at the top of the path warned that "A lot of concrete and metalwork had been removed from the beach.  More will become exposed over time and removed from time to time".  Need to keep my eyes open then.

For a moment I thought I was going to be foiled by more excessive boudler-works to protect the sea.  There was, however, a clear route along the bottom of the cliffs - exposed steelwork, concrete (what looked like the remains of outfall pumping stations) and brickwork - remains of houses washed away by the ocean? - all in abundance.

I finally picked my way through all the debris onto open sand with only the sea crashing against the breakwater to keep me company.

Stones lodged in the breakwaters - above: new (Wooden) and below: old (rusty steel tubes filled with concrete)

This continued for all of the 4 miles back to Walcott where I joined the concrete sea wall and continued to run through Bacton village along the breakwater despite the sploosh of the ocean every 100m or so.  I was only getting a little bit wet.

Finally I reached the next run of caravan parks with all steps leading to (more) "PRIVATE" signs on gates so I dropped of the sea wall, safe in the knowledge that we don't yet have much privatisation of beaches in the UK.
Finally, my off-ramp to start my working day
At the end of my working day (shit - but thanks for asking) I decided to go swimming in North Walsham.  Unfortunately the swim club had monopolised the pool and there was no public swimming for another 2 hours.  So I took my hotel up on the offer of using the pool at their sister chain.  After 20 seamless minutes of never-ending lane changeovers (12m pool) I discovered my watch had only counted 9 laps so I threw a pissy and went to eat my dinner.  The changing rooms were freezing and I nearly ran naked back to the pool area to change my clothes.

Only one thing finished off the day as well as it started.  This, spotted on the back of a street sign in Cromer.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Yesterday's day was full of optimism but the day that was born the day after the day after is full of woe, anxiety and lactic acid.

5.30 was too early and so was 6 so I settled for a recovery ride to work with full panniers and enjoyed every low sun, silvery sea moment of it.

Heading home I dreaded the ride on account of the drizzle that had been consistently falling all afternoon and the fact I couldn't get warm in my office no matter how high I set the heater.

I finally left with the last rush to catch the shuttle bus that all the poor plebs without management positions or bikes have to use. I expected the traffic to be busy.

I had a chat with the cute lady MPO outside site. We talked cycle touring and swimming.

Then I joined the road, higher in spirit after a friendly conversation and immediately overcome by the quiet road. It was like the fog cast the same blanket of quiet as a good coverage of fresh snow.

I passed the MPO range rover parked in its obs position then continued on narrow lanes seeing only 3 more vehicles in 40 minutes.

Once I had shaken the blood down into the tips of my fingers, I enjoyed the whole thing rather a lot.    

Monday, March 18, 2013

First race of 2013 tri season

I wasn't going to bother with racing this year and instead focus on the distance training I need to just complete the Ironman, never mind do it with any finesse. I'm just not good at letting racing lie. I don't pretend to be fast or competitive, (if I was I would train harder), but you stick a number on my back and put me next to another competitor and I am the most competitive person there is and I thrive on it. A season without racing for Trep would be a bumpy miserable one and like Margaret Thatcher without a handbag or the queen without a hat.
So a number of tester events have been organised including the inaugural Derwent Duathlon, both on my home turf and with an off-road twist which appealed.

The problem with the DD, (it could have been a bonus really) was it was on my usual summer training ground. No accommodation or travel to book weeks in advance, just get out of bed and roll to the course. I didn't even clean my bike and only thought about my crumbly nipple and the fact I hadn't pumped the tyres up when I got to transition. There were lots of Sheffield Triathlon team mates out so we had quite the huddle going on with Matt, Bob, Glyn, Sylvia, Sal, Dave and Rob.

With two laps of the bike course there were lots of opportunities to cheer each other on, which we did with gusto. Varying from "go on Trep" to "go on Sheffield" to "bleureughagagaghhh" or " ble ble ble" (pronounced with a higher-pitched voice), all shouts were appreciated.

The first battle I had was with a grey-haired lady who insisted on passing me on the run... just. She would lurk, just ahead of me, taunting me to pass her back... which I did. I'm not sure if she relaxed after passing me or if I upped my game every time she passed but after the third embarrassing time, I decided to take the opportunity to pace myself (conscious decision and yet, being honest - I knew I didn't have the energy to go after her again). Still, I knew I would get her back on the bike.

TSK was waiting for me at the bottom of the last hill so I said, "let's get this party started and gimme a bike."

I had to steady my spinning head in transition, especially as Sal and Sylvia appeared just behind me but I managed to change my shoes without wobbling too much. I could hear Nancy cheering on Trep but was so much in the zone (not sure which one) I was only able to recognise her, not really acknowledge her. Sorry Nance, it was good to see you.

Cyclo-cross riders always recce their starts and this was no exception. The chance to leap on the bike in the perfect gear and get going, even on a hill... especially on a hill. Yes please. The opportunity to do a 180 turn on a single track road without dabbing was a very particular skill worth showing off on this course. Thanks John Staniforth for the encouragement.

We haven't got the split times so I don't know how many I passed on the bike but I reckon around 20 based on my 30th position on the road run and my final placing minus 3 who took me back on the fell run. No one passed me except one girl who underestimated the value of slipstream and quickly succumbed again.

The ride was two laps of a course I usually only do once. I had to remind myself of that but I quickly forgot and did too much, leaving me little to put into the fell run. That is a skill I'll need to perfect for Forestman.

Although I bounced out of transition, I soon found myself in company. Far from turning it into a death battle, I sated myself with chatting to the bloke behind, saving myself for my next session and enjoying the view. I let him go on the downhill realising there was nothing left in my legs.

I wasn't massively impressed with any of my times but I was very satisfied with my placing. I beat people I didn't expect to and was 2 percentage points out of the top 50% when I usually aim for 66%.

Comparing it to previous Derwent Duathlon training with the club, it's no surprise the ride was the slowest with twice the distance and poor, early season road and weather conditions. The road run was, however the fastest with me getting my heart rate under control after 12:30, by which point I am usually done with running at our club sessions.

Whilst the legs suffered from the speed and were still lagged with fatigue on the start line, I really enjoyed myself and bounced back enough for a recovery run today.

Very glad I entered a race. Perhaps it and its friends will make up for the resounding lack of enthusiasm for independent speed training in my sessions. Perhaps I will just have a really good season, in spite of or as well as a really good Forestman race.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Monday and Tuesday in tweets

  • Monday

    • Well that wasn't too bad... as shit days go. Mind you, haven't had the estimate for the #Vanu yet.

      ... on leaving my helmet and shoes at home on a cold and icy day when I *had* to drop the vanu in at the garage; forgetting my wallet, phone and keys so I couldn't recover my bike; getting a lift to tescos to discover I have no money; going to the shops to find TSK had already done shopping and finding out the ballet class I bought shoes for is no longer running.

    Tuesday Morning

    First 1800m swim scheduled. Swim schwang rediscovered so I carried on to 1900 to check my speed. 1 minute faster than last year's lake race pace. I call that a good day.

    Tuesday Evening

    New skill - going full out on the rollers. Greenday for the motivation. Wake me up when September ends. Sentimental for the' cross season.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A long run

Today's run was serendipity on a full scale. I set out in fleece leggings, really not wanting to get too cold after last night.  I carried a spare lycra pair to change to when I got too hot. I 're-traced our Christmas day ride up the Rivelin (fine running) then up onto the top road.

Snow line

The sun came up as I entered the snow line and for a moment it all felt very spring Alpine. Spin drift blew off the field and flurried in the road. It looked pretty but I knew it was going to hurt. It stung the side of my face as I was forced to walk past because of the verglass forming on the broken tarmac.

Despite the return of the sun, the top path was slithery, a real slog to run.  I'd done 8km by the time I got there. Bang on target. Time to head home but after the struggle, I was glad to drop back down to the A57 and onto the Rivelin /Redmires Dam trail. I forgot myself and headed for the farthest reservoir to home leaving me a long slog back. My decision making sloshed between "direct and easy" and "the path less trodden".

It's not surprising I'll never beat any of my friends' half marathon times with route-planning like this.
I had a major sense of humour fail after the second time following foot prints down a dead end route. When I got back on track I considered phoning TSK for a pick-up but the brain resisted, figuring I could always walk the last 4k.

My plan had been to put on the fleece leggings I set out in. I didn't factor a complete inability to untie my shoelaces.

So after my 10 miles session was complete, I walk /ran the last 4k through more snow and mud thinking how enjoyable it can be to go beyond limits and how great it is to complain about it. I can't say I loved every minute and I am far too knackered to swim tonight now but I managed the downhill to my door, took pride in the house that we don't yet own (on my way past) and really do feel better for having gone out with a rucksack and needed every item of clothing in it.

Epic weekend

This may lead to some discomfort!

It has been a long time since I've come in from a Saturday "night" "out" to the sound of the heating coming on.  Back then it was for very different reasons.  Last night I drove home from Oxford, setting out at midnight.  We stopped every hour or so for me to sleep for 2 hours before pressing on. TSK drove the last leg as I just couldn't wake up.

Still, after a lie-in till 11am, I'm ready for today's 10 mile run and possibly the swim that follows.

I'm not sure I am ready for the epic pile of yesterday's stinking laundry.

In other news, on reflecting the last two weeks efforts, I am proud that in a week when I contracted salmonella I still manged 48% of my Ironman training plan.  I'm not sure that bimbling about town on my touring bike doing shopping counts but I am claiming it regardless.  FTW.

Forestman Bike Recce

Thngs that went wrong

  • Got up too late
  • Decided it was a good idea to true my wheels in the hotel
  • Decided it was a good idea to write out the instructions in Audax language, not realising they would still be unintelligible on the road
  • One nipple crumbled to dust
  • Long drive to Fordingbridge
  • Didn't bring a map and had to buy one
  • Ate half my lunch and forgot to carry any food.
  • Looked at the sky and thought "it will just be the odd spot of rain"
  • Light weight waterproof and No mudguards.
  • Got too wet to stop and make use of the heavy lock I packed Eg. Tea stop, beer, pub dinner, cry into pint
  • Following the instructions. Not following the instructions
  • Leaving my Garmin balanced on the bike rack whilst I drove up to Oxford (considering the state of Britain's roads, it's a miracle it stayed put to be rescued 2 hours later)

Things that went right

  • County lanes
  • Trepid-friendly technical course                                        
  • Ponies every where
  • Herd of donkeys
  • Retired policeman who rode and chatted with me when I most needed it - when I was soaking, cold, unable to read the soggy toilet paper that was my directions and ready to give up and go home
  • The misty sunset over the New Forest national park

  • Still finding the motivation to ride 100m up the road to trip the distance over to 80km
  • Having a Vanu to change and get warm in
  • Getting to know the area and the terrain, even if I wasn't on the right roads.
  • Finding Sandy Balls unusually pleasant for a family holiday resort and looking forward to returning

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The Beast and Friends

"I love the beast. I actually look forward to the beast showing up because every time he does, I handle him better. I get him more under control." Lisa Smith-Batchen on fatigue.

I woke up. I stared at the wall. I still felt sleepy but no matter what I did, I couldn't go back to sleep. My tummy rumbled. The clock said 3.45. If I got up to eat there would be little point in returning to bed. I had to leave for Norfolk at 5am.  I tried to pretend I wasn't hungry.

I pretended to snooze. My brain started to think about work so I thought of something nice. Running. I got excited. I thought about my favourite bits of my favourite book and those words went through my head.

"The only way to truly conquer something is to love it."

I swung my feet out of the bed.  To hell with sleep.
I was going in search of the beast.  

I  At 4.15 I said goodbye to TSK and set off to Norfolk.

For 2 hours I drove through fog listening to Sarah Cox et all ranting it was going to be warmer than Spain, Greece, barmy!

Eventually Mr Sun made his big red appearance.

Suddenly distracted and invigorated, it was a wonder that I even saw the Tawny Owl sweep across the road right before me and settle on a fence post.

We shared a look that said, "I won't tell anyone if you don't".

I had to get out there. I know, I was supposed to be working but  "I won't tell anyone if you don't".
I span out the drive as long as possible balancing temperature rise against the ever dwindling remnants of breakfast stored in my belly. Just as I started to skim Sat nav for a river to follow, I found signs for a wild flower garden.

I hope the pheasant wasn't embarrassed by my nudity as I dressed into running kit. There certainly weren't any dog walkers at 7.15.  Conveniently the paths were well marked.

I thought I was just on for an out and back along this pretty but smelly stream
I thought I was just in for an out and back along a smelly stream in the cold air but then it opened out in to a rewarding Ford (with foot bridge) and crossed the main road, still signed, where I fluffed the ears on a Bassetthound before continuing. That and the owl, together, could have made my day. 

The pigs feasting in the warming Sun, squealing and chasing each other, that made things so much funnier. 

This little piggy was alone in a field
The rolling trail, the woodpecker in the trees, blackbirds pimping their song, the deer I only just caught sight of because she saw me first.

The stately home estate which houses all that glory,...

...the March Hare that I saw first and who posed for a photo before running away...
The stately home estate which houses all that glory, the March Hare that I saw first and who posed for a photo before running away or the exhilaration of arriving back at the car, still fresh, turning around and doing it all again in the opposite direction... any of those things, combined with the tawny owl could have made it the most amazing day.

The Fact that I found a tower for TSK to enjoy.

The fact I found a tower for TSK is one thing...
but what really made my day was the wild boar that crashed out of the bushes RIGHT NEXT TO ME, skittered across my path and bolted into the woods opposite.  Its tail flashed through the trees. It looked back as it departed. It's little tusks were only as big as my own hooked finger but a hell of a lot sharper and tougher.  He probably looked back to make sure I wasn't in pursuit but I'd like to think it was more an expression of "I won't tell anyone if you don't".            

Upright snowdrops next to a slopey bridge

Friday, March 01, 2013

February 2013 Stats

Today's bimble into town on the granny gear doesn't really cut it (and anyway, it's March now).
Swim: 8.5km 2.4kph.  Compares to last month: 8.7km 2.3kph. Compares to 2010: 9.63 km, 2.3km/hr 
Bike: 164.18 mile, 11.9mph, 2770m el.
. Compares to last month: 305.2 km 16.64 kmph, 3370 m.  Compares to 2010: 81.1km, 12km/hr, 1217m el.

Run: 33.73 miles, 5.5 mph, 637m el.  Compares to last month: 33.5 miles, 5.1 mph, 923m el.  Compares to 2010: 25.1mile, 5.25m/hr, 493m el 

Percentages complete: 55%
Week +1: 78%
Week +2: 56%
Week +3: 92%
Week +4: 21%

Time spent in aerobic: 1h 20min of measured 2:48 (47%)

Sofa-bound again.

It's really boring being ill.  After the immediate exhilaration and adrenaline rush of throwing up followed by the sleeping, the restless moments before the next throw-up, the day of waiting for the dehydration headache to go away then building up the courage to take a paracetamol to get rid of the residual caffeine deprivation headache, I am done with being ill.

Problem is, I'm not.  I am weak and pathetic and confined to my sofa.  For company I have a lazy cat and t'interweb

so I have been filling my time with looking at the Patagonia website and getting excited about doing stuff outdoorsy and adventurous again once I come out of this fug.

I have resolved to keep the blog up a bit more and post more pictures more timely.  It's all well and good when you're sofa bound.

Sofa-bound with the blogger
I have also motivated myself to look at some stuff.  TSK is off to Oxford soon to reccie the ride that he organises every year.  I have discovered it is only another 1.5 hours drive to the destination of the Forestman so I will probably pop down with him and tie up my day with some reccie rides and runs and potentially meeting up with some family.

Somehow being ill has given me enough downtime to figure out some important stuff and gain some perspective.  The boss told me to relax a little last week.  Perhaps I'll take him up on that in the meantime my relaxation takes the form of a little walk into town or maybe I'll take the bike to make it even easier.

Happy days.