Back on the road

The most pleasing thing about my Friday bike is how quickly I recovered. Some might say that means I didn’t push it hard enough, but I prefer to think of it as conservation of energy for the rest of the weekend ahead, which as it turns out I needed to do.

Parkrun on saturday looked like it was going to be sunny but then it was pretty chilly down at the track. I didn’t really have a plan other than to pootle round, but when Mike turned up and said he was happy to run round with me I thought I would go for it and try and get him to pace me under 27 mins for the first time since November. He was up for the challenge and since I had forgotten my Garmin (ARGH) I left myself in his hands. He was really good actually, he didn’t expect me to talk all the way round and kept me updated when I needed to push on. Near the end I thought I’d blown it but found some effort from somewhere and finished in 26:55. Still nowhere near the heady heights of sub-25 but the fastest all year and it felt pretty good. I don’t have my splits but Mike reckoned we’d done the tricky middle mile the fastest, so I was pretty chuffed with that.

The rest of Saturday passed in a haze of cleaning, the sunshine is lovely but it doesn’t half show up the dust so we topped and tailed the place between us and it looked much better by the end of it. I also got a bit of baking in – a second attempt at Tiger Bread, this turned out really well and tasted AMAZING. I made it by hand rather than in the Breadmaker and used my new proving basket and both worked out really well. Will definitely be doing that again (after the wedding though, the temptation to eat the whole thing warm drenched in butter is too strong).

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Sunday saw my first 10k of the year – the North Tyneside 10k. I’ve not done it before but it is popular as witnessed by the large number of clubmates also taking part. The race starts in North Shields and heads up the coast before finishing in Whitley Bay. Rather unusually for a race of this magnitude there is no chip timing, so the start was a bit of a scrum. The beginning bit is downhill but then it climbs quite steeply up to the coastal path by Tynemouth Priory (I walked up that!) and then never really flattens out before you get to the end. My aim was to get round in under an hour, but my parkrun yesterday had spurred me on a bit, and apart from a niggle in my upper thigh (caused by cycling I think) I felt ok, so pushed on and came home in about 55 and a half mins. Again like parkrun it is some way off my best but represents an improvement on recent times so I was happy.

Or mostly happy anyway since if I thought the start had been a scrum then that was nothing compared to the finish where people were barging in the queue left right and centre. I don’t know if they just didn’t understand funnel etiquette or wanted to boost their finishing place but it was rude and made me quite cross, and coupled with a 45 min wait for the bus back to the start I think the organisers could think a bit more carefully about next years race. The nice t-shirt and socks helped though, as did some easter cakes baked by some clubmates and it was hard to be cross for very long.

After all this excitement there was still more to come on Easter Monday which saw a very pleasant round of golf in the sunshine and then back on the bike again (this time my hybrid which has yet to be named…) for 22 miles along the trail with some clubmates.

This leaves the last week or so with the following:

Sun: 12 mile fell race
Mon: 4 mile recovery run
Tues: 4 mile lunchtime run, strength and conditioning training in the evening
Weds: track session (4.5 mile total)
Thurs: 1 mile swim
Fri: 53 mile bike ride
Sat: parkrun
Sun: 10k race
Mon: golf and 22 mile bike ride

I make that nearly 110 miles of activity – not bad at all. Unfortunately this equated to a 5lb loss by Friday, and a 4lb gain from Fri to Monday so my diet needs some work this week, but that I can do.

This week is:

Tues: possible run (colleagues have wimped out though) and strength and conditioning
Weds: Relay race
Thurs: Swim

Then away for the weekend which scuppers most plans except maybe parkrun on saturday. Better go out for a run today I think…

Over the hills and far away

Good Friday was an excellent day in many respects. Firstly, no work, secondly, sunshine and thirdly it was time for my long awaited Pinky outing (yes, I name my bikes. In fact I name pretty much everything. It’s a thing). J had been promising for ages to take me out into the Pennines and with our first free day in about three years the time had come. I was a bit scared if I’m honest, there are some pretty big hills out there and there was also the added pressure that we had to be back in time for J’s optician appointment at 3pm, so it was no surprise that I woke up rather early and we were breakfasted and on the road by 8am. Fortunately the sun was out in force but there was a bit of a nip in the air and still some frost on the ground so I was pleased I had been sensible enough to layer up with thermals, gloves and several buffs.

The route had been described to me as an ok first third, then a big long but not so steep climb and a final downhill third. The roads were reasonably quiet, no surprise as it was a bank holiday, and after the first few miles we were able to ride next to each other without too much trouble, which was nice. I don’t think I would describe the first third (out to Hamsterly) as “ok”, you climb pretty much steadily the whole way but there aren’t (m)any huge hills to speak of, so it was a case of just pressing on. About 2hrs in I was feeling a little weary so was very pleased when J suggested stopping and we found a lovely bench to sit on and chow banana bread.

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After that the hard work begins and the landscape turns from green rolling hills into the lunar landscape with no trees for miles. The scenery is utterly spectacular and it was hard to keep my eyes on the road when there was so much to look around at. Fairly soon we were heading out of the Tees Valley in the direction of the Wear valley and into the climb though. It was long – a good few miles – but not as steep as I had feared and despite missing my lowest gear it was possible to keep my legs turning over at a reasonable speed (I count anything over 5mph as reasonable in this regard!) and we wended our way happily to the top. The plan had been to stop at the top for banana bread round 2, but the wind was a bit whistly and it was cold, so we stopped, had a look about and took some photos and then went to head off.

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Unfortunately J’s clippy pedals got the better of him just as we were about to set off and he had a rather nasty fall while looking round to see where I was. For a moment I thought he was in real trouble and I’d have to head off in search of an ambulance to rescue him from a broken knee-cap but fortunately it was superficial and after a bit of hopping around swearing loudly he proclaimed himself to be fine and off we went. The downhill bit was FUN, but the wind was whistling and my face nearly froze off which was a bit less fun, but buoyed by the fact that I had been led to believe that it was downhill all the way home I was feeling rather good (bad plan!).

We stopped at the bottom of the hill where it was a bit warmer for some more grub and a second look at the lime kilns we had walked around a few weeks before. They are amazing structures and well worth a visit if you are around that way, we might take the kids back later in the year when it is a bit warmer for a picnic and a play in the river.

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Where we stopped is somewhere near a place called Hill End, badly named since it didn’t seem to me like the hill ended. In fact it is at this point that I start to dispute the “last bit is all downhill” that I had been told, as it really wasn’t. We climbed back up from where we had stopped, that hill went on for quite a while longer than I had wanted it to, but the downhill afterwards was quite nice again. After this bit you are back on busy roads which is a bit of a shame, but Frosterley and Wolsingham are beautiful villages and it was fun to have a nosy. On our way out of Wolsingham we came across some friends of ours out on their bikes and stopped for a brief chat, or rather yelled at each other across a busy road. They mentioned having a near miss on the big downhill they had just been down and at this point I was like hmmmmm I thought it was all downhill. Apparently J had forgotten to mention that it was all downhill “except a couple of uphills” and after waving goodbye to our friends we proceeded to the first of these uphills, which after 40 miles of cycling seemed a bit like Everest.

The nasty hill up to Crook has three stages, separated by a roundabout and a bit of flat but it just goes up and up and up and up. I thought about getting off and pushing but my pride won over and I managed to keep going despite the fact that I am missing my lowest gear (did I mention that already?!). After the mammoth hill it still wasn’t what I would class as downhill all the way, but was at least familiar territory and nothing too major apart from some very potholey roads, which on a rather painful posterior was not nice.

Finally home arrived though and a welcome sight it was. We’d been out for just under 5hrs – I had forgotten to stop and start both my Garmin and bike computer at various points, and hence the actual time taken is a bit unclear, but I’d say around 4hr 45. I was quite impressed by this until J looked at his history and had done the same route in 3hr 30 last summer, but I’m still a novice and actually just pleased to get round in one piece, and still enjoy it!

Vital stats as follows:

Time: 5:21:57
Moving Time: 4:54:17
Elapsed Time: 5:38:23
Avg Speed: 9.9 mph
Avg Moving Speed: 10.8 mph
Max Speed: 41.7 mph

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I’ll take an 11mph or so average quite happily, and also say that the max speed is not a mistake, that was down one of the big hills and I needed to change my underwear after that, I’m not such a big fan of speeds like that!

Probably the best thing was that I felt fine afterwards, we pootled happily into town with no leg issues and then spent the rest of the afternoon on sunbeds on the patio before heading out to a rather nice dinner at our local italian place where I took full advantage of the fact that I had burned nearly 2000 calories. God love refuelling! And God love my bike as well, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it nearly so much without him. Pinky is off at the bikeshop at the moment to get his gears looked at and hopefully fixed so I can get to the lowest one, and I hope he is back soon as I miss him 😦 (note I am not one of those objectophile people, I don’t want to marry my bike, just use it to take me nice places and have fun).

Mostly I like Easter though, and it was still only Friday. Wheeeee!

Duathlon – Done!

I actually held to my exercise routine last week which looked like:

Weds – 6 mile club run (~1 hour)
Thurs – 1 mile swim (~43 mins)
Fri – 25 mile bike ride (~2 hours)
Sat – parkrun (~30 mins)
Sun – Duathlon (~2hr 10)

After 17 hilly miles last saturday followed by a bike ride and strength and conditioning on tuesday that makes for a full on week. I had also been sensible with my diet, so you can imagine my utter joy on Saturday when I realised that I had lost a measly 1lb all week, and I managed to put that back on this weekend so am now exactly the same as I was a week ago. And am currently eating a chocolate bar just to cap it all off. ARGH.

Anyway, club run wednesday was lovely, out on some trails and so nice to be off-road after the long dark winter of the soul. Good swim on thurs in a rather more crowded pool that I would like, but it certainly helped stretch my muscles. I didn’t want to go for a bike ride on Friday, I was tired, grumpy, and on the back of an upsetting exchange of words but dragged myself out with J and enjoyed the ride in the end, despite having to walk up my nemesis. Saturday’s parkrun was a celebratory affair with some clubmates reaching their coveted 50 and 100th parkruns, some other friends were helping pace a running colleague to 30 mins, that didn’t quite go to plan but I sneaked in just over 30 and the lady in question got a new PB so all good. New PB for J too – agonisingly just 5s or so off the magic PB but not bad when he wasn’t expecting anything! The rest of Saturday was sorting out wedding stuff, buying a new telephone and some plants, and watching about 14 zillion episodes of Masterchef New Zealand.

Sunday was the Duathlon, a local event (10 mins cycle from RunBakeSleepRepeat HQ, quite a nice change after last weekend’s 3hr journeys) and my first ever multi-sport event. The logistics of multi-sport events are quite a bewildering change from just putting on your shoes, strapping your Garmin on (unless you forget it like I did at the GNR last year, ARGH) and going. The transition from run to bike is littered with time penalties just waiting to happen; make sure you touch your helmet before your bike on the way out, but put your bike away before you touch your helmet on the way back; rack your bike up so the number is the right way round; make sure your number is on your front for the run but on your back for the bike, and so on). The number issue was particularly vexing since I only had safety pins and I wasn’t sure whether I would need to either repin the number halfway through (!) or some other such contortion, but it turns out that in the absence of a number belt (#1 on my Christmas list, especially as it comes in pink and will therefore match Pinky) simply pinning your number on your back and leaving it there was fine, phew.

The event had a briefing beforehand which contained another set of bemusing rules about putting your feet down at junctions, but fortunately it was a very friendly event and I knew a number of the marshalls who all reassured me that there would be help on the course where needed so not to worry. All that remained therefore to be worried about was actually doing the 5k run, 25k bike and 5k run and not coming last.

Things did not start well, I was plum last by the first corner and also realising that I really should have worn trail shoes as the ground was quite muddy and I was sliding everywhere in my road shoes. The course was three laps of a loop around the transition point, the first bit was muddy and hilly, the second on track but into a headwind before a blissful third bit that was downhill and not too muddy. There was a killer hill at the beginning of the lap which I did not like one little bit, especially when I realised that I actually had to go up it six times in total, since the first and last runs were on the same course. I managed to overtake someone on the hill the first time round but everyone else remained way out of sight until I started to get lapped by the frontrunners (only 5 in total got past me and not anyone I knew fortunately!). It was a bit demoralising since I knew I would be unlikely to make up many places on the bike ride, but I kept going and reached the transition point after lap 3 – around 30 min for the 5k I think.

First transition was ok. No shoe swapping required since me and clippy pedals do not get on, so it was a case of put helmet on, grab bike (from deserted transition area since everyone else bar one person had gone!), run with bike to mount point, chat to marshall about how 30 mins for an XC course wasn’t too bad, then set off. After the pounding of legs on the hill the bike was a blessed relief and I enjoyed the first 2 min coast down to the first hill. The chap who had been behind me in the run overtook me just after the first hill, so I was back to being last which was not ideal, but I could see a couple of people in the distance so got my head down and went after them. The bike course is nice but requires nearly all of the effort in the first half, so it was uphill most of the way for the first 6 or 7 miles, then you hit the hill (below).

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It might not look like much, and in actual fact it is better than it sounds, it isn’t vertical steep by any stretch of the imagination but it does go on, and on, and on. I’d managed to catch and pass one person on a downhill part before the hill and was quite pleased to see someone else in front of me walking up the hill as I knew that if I just stayed on my bike I could get past them. Very slowly (I was doing <4mph!) I caught up and hurrah! went past them into third from last. I was determined that they wouldn’t catch me so pushed on through the next much smaller climb until hitting the joy that is the downhill section. There is nothing quite like the high from pedalling along at 30mph and I really enjoyed the downhill bit. I was also mindful of some advice I’d been given about keeping your legs moving so tried to keep them pedalling even in the downhill bits.

All too soon the hills were over and it was back to the transition point. I got off my bike rather gingerly and after stowing it back in its slot and taking off my helmet I rejoined the run course. I reckoned I’d knocked a few minutes off my bike time from the week before, coming in around 1:08 but that combined with a 30 min 5k meant that the majority of people had already finished by the time I started running again (the top 10 all finished in under 90 mins) so it was again a bit lonely out on the running course, but one of the rather nice marshals I know pointed out a couple of guys ahead of me who were struggling and told me to go and catch them. My legs were a bit odd at this point, the blood had pooled while cycling and they felt like lead weights, whereas my upper body felt as light as a bird, it was most odd. I ran as hard as I could though and caught and passed the two chaps on the second lap. There was a veritable cheer squad assembled by the third lap (club mates who had finished plus a spectator or two) which was nice, and I finally finished in around 2hr 08 (Garmin). Slightly disappointingly I have somehow managed to not appear on the results so have no idea what my final times were, but I had wanted to get somewhere near my recent half marathon time so can’t be too upset. J had a great debut finishing in just over 1hr 40 and his last 5k was only about 30s slower than his first, which is pretty impressive if you ask me.

Otherwise though I was pleased to knock a chunk off my bike time and still be sprightly enough to cycle back home up the hill. The rest of the afternoon passed in a tv induced haze as we watched the women’s T20 final (won by Australia, bah), Catching Fire and the remainder of Homeland 2 while eating snacks and congratulating ourselves on a job well done.

The week ahead looks like:

Tonight: hopefully 5k recovery run if I get home in time
Tues: lunchtime run ( no strength and conditioning, out for dinner and a show in the evening)
Weds: nothing (Eldest’s birthday so out for dinner then home hopefully in time for Man Utd v Bayern)
Thurs: nothing (going to visit a friend’s new baby after work so late back)
Fri: swim (maybe swim training…?)
Sat: parkrun
Sun: 12.5 mile fell race

So, a pretty light exercise week with lots of eating out – uh-oh. However if this week is anything to go by it probably means I’ll be 2 stone lighter come next Monday – one can hope.

Back in the saddle

I finally made it back out on my bike!

Due to attending a meeting near to where I live, as opposed to where I work, I thought I would get up early on Tuesday morning and go out for a bike ride before heading to my meeting. This meant that I still got to get up an hour later than usual (yesssss) but as I sprang out of bed and opened the curtains it was clear that there would be no bikey since it was chucking with rain. This unfortunately meant that I had to go back to bed for another half an hour and then had to have a leisurely breakfast with J, I was very upset as you can imagine but the forecast was set to clear up and hence I figured I would go after my meeting instead. The weather did indeed clear up and the meeting was actually really interesting, plus I got a lead on an owl dress (obsession #45) so all good. The not so good part was that I accidentally fell in a big muddy puddle on the way home when I tried to jump over it forgetting that my boots have no grip so I just slid gracefully over and ended up sat in the puddle. Fortunately no-one was around to see either when it happened or see the state of me when I got home so public humiliation was mostly averted. It was pretty funny to be fair and no harm done except me having to wash everything that I was wearing including my coat and bag. Next time I am going by road!

Anyway, after that excitement I donned cycling clothes and set off. I wanted to do the duathlon route to make sure I knew what I was letting myself in for on Sunday. The first part is a route I know quite well which is a bit undulating but nothing too severe in either the up or down direction. The main issue was lorries and buses whizzing past but I managed not to get minced despite a few close calls. There is then a left turn and up THE HILL. I am putting it in capitals since it is the only category climb on the route and golly is it a big one. 3 stages of steepness with a bit of a respite in between, I did not go fast (3mph on average I think) but I did get to the top intact albeit panting rather heavily. From there it is pretty much downhill all the way and mindful of J’s advice not to brake I hit 30mph on one section despite a headwind! Finally back to the start in just over 1:11 (~16 miles), better than I expected but it would still put me pretty much last on the bike compared to the duathlon results from last year, and since I’m also about 4 mins slower than everyone else on both run legs I suspect I will finish bottom on Sunday. Not fun but at least I am not trying to kid myself, and I just hope they haven’t started packing up the course before I arrive!

It was nice to be back out on pinky though – I rather impulsively bought him last year just before the Great North Bike Ride. I couldn’t wait long enough to set up the cycle to work scheme so just bought him on sight and I don’t regret it, he’s lovely (as the picture below shows) and a joy to ride. Note I have not graduated to clippy pedals yet, I am nowhere near experienced enough to do that so am sticking with these for the moment and at least it will be easier to transition.

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After cycling I changed and then headed out to Strength and Conditioning. Lots of balance work this week which was fun but could also be renamed “Death by Shoulders”. We did get taught about how beneficial rolling a tennis ball under your foot could be and I definitely saw benefits with just a few mins of massage as well as it feeling absolutely amazing so I must go and purchase a couple forthwith. There are only three weeks of the course left which I am sad about, I’ve really enjoyed it and think it has made a difference to my fitness so I will have to look for something similar elsewhere.

Tonight is running night (5-6 miles at a medium pace), swim tomorrow then back out on the bike (this time with J) on Friday before parkrun on Saturday and I have to fit some wedding stuff in there too, it’s going to be a busy few days!