Posts Tagged With: training

Rising to Another Challenge (or hill reps until you’re ill)

Having only managed to complete 500 miles in a month once, what I obviously needed was another challenge to add to it. This one came ready made from the lovely people at Strava. I have been carefully giving them all my personal information since the beginning of the year and in return they give me graphs and numbers. Every month they also give challenges which you can join, and then watch as your achievements are made to look insignificant by one of the nutters who ride 5,000 km a month.

As part of the 100th tour celebrations, they made two challenges. The first was to cover half the distance of the (1680km) during the month, the second was to climb the combined height of four of the major climbs (Peyresourde, Ventoux, Sarenne and Alpe d’Huez – 7235m) during the final week of the tour (to coincide with the week they’re in the Alps). Continue reading

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Categories: Cycling, Training | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Are you getting better?

I was asked recently by someone who knew I was trying to train more and ride 500miles/month, whether I was getting better. At the time I thought I must have been but in no way that I could measure. My response was along the lines of “possibly, the times aren’t changing but the wind does”. Coming from rowing with its ergs and constant quantitative measuring of fitness, moving to cycling where gains are much harder to measure it was more than a little disconcerting to realise that, while you felt and thought you were fitter than before, you still hadn’t equalled a record set nearly two years ago.

Continue reading

Categories: Cycling, Training | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

I’m Gonna Be (500 miles)

I’ve been reading Murakami’s “What I talk about when I talk about running” (as shown by my last post) and the guy is crazy. He runs for the enjoyment of running for starters, but even when you get over that minor peculiarity, he runs a lot. I used to think I rode a lot. Before uni I used to ride five or six times a week. During uni I rowed about as often. This guy runs, almost without fail, six days a week, sometimes covering in excess of 200 miles each month. I don’t think I’ve often bettered that counting both cycling and rowing. I’ve run further this month than in any other month of my life (a fact my legs seem keen to remind me of each time I stand up) and have barely covered a tenth of that amount.

At this point I have to remind myself that my sporting aspirations are somewhat higher than his (in no way implying that my achievements to date are anything close) and that just sitting in awe of the distance he runs isn’t going to get me anywhere. As well as the often quoted 10,000 hours level, I remember reading that tour riders often ride tens of thousands of miles a year and rowers often cover 100+ miles a week to get to any appreciable level. I am in no place to row any distance at all at the minute but what I do have is time and a bike.

As such I am instigating a new training plan for myself. I am no longer going to focus on anything other than actually doing training. Of any sort and at any level of effort. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is the distance.

I originally planned to try and mimic Murikami’s 200 miles a months but considering I don’t plan on running any more often than possible and cycling is a fair bit faster, I am going to change the (non-existant) rules a bit.

I will now endeavour to cover a minimum of 500 miles per month. This can be run or cycled (or rowed if I ever find myself in reach of a river). Time spent on the turbo will count and will be measured as if it had been at 15mph for UT2 and 18mph for UT1. These seem to equate to speeds on the road for such efforts while also working out nicely considering most of my turbo sessions are 40 minutes.

This works out at just under 17 miles a day. My usual training routes range from ~14-21. Turbo sessions would most likely be 10 or 12. On paper, this challenge seems doable. The most important aspect, and the one I would most like to take away from this, is the routine of riding every day. Murakami has a rule that he never has two days off in a row. If I can replicate this I will be more than happy.

In practice I imagine I will struggle to achieve the 500 mile target, at least for the first couple of months. So far this month I have only covered 31 miles. This isn’t looking good already.

Categories: Cycling, Training | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

What I think about when I think about running

In case you’d got the wrong idea from the title, this is not a book review. I enjoy writing book reviews as much as I enjoy reading them although I will go as far as to say if you’re at all interested in either the life of an author or in running, give it a try.

...and when I write about thinking about writing about...

And this is what I think about when I write about  what I talk about when I talk about running.

So what is this instead? This is an account of my own descent into insanity. I’m not a fan of running. Continue reading

Categories: Everyday Happenings, Running | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

What’s one size down from taking baby steps?

I did the same ride again yesterday and it turns out there is something more uncomfortable than 20 miles on a bike for the first time in months. It’s getting back on and doing it again the day after.

This time it was even windier but a different direction of windiness. The last three miles were some of the least pleasant that I’ve ridden. That effort was far too great for the speed achieved. Until that final turn onto the climb to home I was quite comfortably up on the previous attempt. The tail wind on the ‘back-straight’ section was more so and the main climb was as sheltered. When I did finally cross the line I was still up.

By six seconds.

That still counts, right? That’s an improvement. Just think, in 130 rides time I’ll be on for a record. If I wanted to make it any time soon I’ll be dizzy.

Today I decided against fighting the elements and chose instead to sit on the turbo for a while. In the end I watch two episodes of 24. That’s 90 minutes after warming up/stretching etc. I feel that’s more than equivalent though I’m not sure it justified the amount I’ve just eaten. I’m now going to lie in a darkened room for a while and be a snake.

Categories: Cycling | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Climbing back on the bike

Having spent yesterday getting the bike back on the road it was only fitting that today I should actually ride it. An unusual thing to do these days given that I’ve not ridden more than three miles since July. I’ve not rowed since the end of November and only been on the turbo once since then. I think this is called letting oneself go.

Over the last three years of rowing I have come to the conclusion that rowing is a sport that involves an inordinate amount of faffing around time. We would regularly have sessions of maybe 90 minutes of time spent on the water that would take five hours door to door. The 15 minute commute to the boathouse didn’t do much to justify it either. I think the problem is centred around the ‘trying to get many people to be in the same place at the same time’ issue that coincides nicely with the ‘hoping they’re ready when they get there’ one. Over time this was taken as normal and the time was planned for. You knew for a 7am pick-up that you would be lucky to be home before midday.

Given the causes of this time wasting, you’d have thought a sport one did alone, from their own house would be free from such constraints. Alas no. I woke up with the single aim for the day of going for a ride. This is a ride that takes, fitness and weather depending, somewhere just the other side of an hour to complete. So what time did I get back from said ride? 10 am? Midday? No. 4pm. I woke up at just before nine. That means there were approximately six hours of me being awake and preparing to cycle. It wasn’t even a long ride that I needed to prepare for. It was the standard training ride I must have done countless times.

Granted I had to refit the chain and dry the helmet from its bleachy swim, but neither of these should take more than half an hour and the drying could be happening while I was chain-fitting.

So what was I doing? I honestly have no idea. I didn’t even turn the computer on.

But anyway, after the minimal amount of fighting stubborn powerlinks, I was ready. Having been on the cold side of comfortable all morning I proceeded to climb into more layers of lycra than any one man should own never mind wear at once. I re-accustomed myself to the heel down hobble that road shoes ask of you and sauntered to the bike to actually get under way.

Within two minutes I started regretting how much I was wearing. Within three minutes I could feel the lack of anything I’d done in the last two months. The wind didn’t help much either. Stretches that are level and straight, felt instead like the brakes were on constantly. The upside of this though was that on the other side of the circuit, with the wind on my side, I could pretend I wasn’t actually unfit. The fact I was still only doing to speed I’d normally be doing on a still day doesn’t need to be mentioned. The biggest hill of the route (half a mile at ~1:6) almost killed me. Where I’m usually spinning in fourth or fifth at ~8-9mph I was grinding away in first trying to keep on the better side of 4mph.

The final climb to home is usually one where I am racing against the clock sitting at ~15mph pushing towards 16. Today I didn’t even bother checking the time. With the lack of anything to power me and the headwind, I was pushing hard to stay in double figures.

The final time when I’d stopped was abysmal. A jaunty 13:35 behind my PB. Even accounting for the wind that’s a poor time.

A better turnout for the day is the discovery through a friend of the MapMyRide/Run website and associated app. Now not only do I get an overall time and speed from the bike computer, a time for each of the five splits I record on my watch and HR for each, I now get splits for each km and a graph of speed vs elevation and a little map that shows me how fast each section was. It even times the hill climb separately. I think I could become obsessed without too much effort. Think of the stats I can collect and compare.

Still I made it. Since I’m no closer to finding a new rowing club, this is likely to return to being my main training, so it looks like grinning and bearing may be in order. After hopefully not too many more attempts I should be back to a level where I once was. The idea of racing in a fortnight is looking more and more to be on the crazier side of sensible.

Categories: Cycling | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Success on the bad days

I can’t remember who said it, maybe Mike Spracklen (ex-GB and now ex-Canadian rowing coach) but one line, however clichéd and cheesy it may be, has stuck with me from the moment I heard it.

We don’t train to win with our best performances. We train to win on our worst

(or words to that effect) While the amount of winning I have had so far is disappointingly small, the idea that you shouldn’t have to rely on having one of your best sessions come race day to win, is one that makes a huge amount of sense. Going into races with the confidence of knowing you are fast and don’t need luck or good fortune is something that can bring a whole load of calm that would otherwise be missing and prevent you from having your good row anyway. The races I have won are the ones I knew we were fast enough to win beforehand. Only once have I won thinking we were outclassed.

What I do have experience of, is being in crews that thought they weren’t too bad and should be alright on a good day only to find that during the race it’d all fall apart because the other crews were close to us.

Taking this to the lowest extreme, we had our weekly erg today and as I sat down I was not hopeful. I’d done the 40min UT2 session this morning without meaning to. Careless I know but it didn’t dawn on me until I was midway through that I don’t usually train on the morning of the erg.

Coupled with that was the lack of food I’d had during the day. Lack of time and lack of food in the house meant I had a banana. I managed to get a piece of toast in the evening after work and before heading to the boathouse but not enough and at the wrong time to be helpful.

Setting off I settled onto the split I got last time on the premise that by rights I should be able to make it. By half way I was floundering but still fighting for the split. From there I was giving pretty much all I had every stroke to hold the split but slowly, it did start to drop again. I finished 0.4s better than last time. PB+1.9 and Target+4.4

This will happen by next year.

Categories: No NaNoWriMo, Rowing | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Second Double Single Outing

My second day in the single was much better. I still wouldn’t say it was good but I’d moved off the ‘slowest-boat-on-the-water’ position again. It had been a bit of a shock going from fastest boat at the club in the double to being overtaken by things, even if they were doubles and fours.

I’d like to think this progression wasn’t entirely due to the juniors being training.

From the start I was still a bit shaky round the edges and my navigation still left a fair bit to be desired.

By the end of the session though, I was only having to stop for juniors and increasingly rare encounters with unruly trees. The sort that jump out at you from around corners and steal your sunglasses.

I have a new found respect for bowmen and coxes

I’m still not confident for the race I’ve agreed to do in it in four weeks time. That is going to be either agonising or hilarious (if you are me or watching me, respectively).

Categories: No NaNoWriMo, Rowing | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Far too competitive by half a third

As part of our new training plan, we have one hard erg a week to use as a fitness marker. The erg we’ve chosen (or uni chose last year – I copied the training plan almost session for session) is the 30min r20. Another couple of guys from the club have also joined in with the plan and do the ergs with us and occasionally follow our outing plans as well. It works quite well and it’s better to have a group of people (albeit a fairly small one) to train with.

Taking two months out of training over the summer to let a torn hamstring heal, lost me a lot of fitness. When we restarted in September, I was covering about 300m less (~4s off on the split) than my PB over 30 minutes. I’m still a long way off now and given that the target I’ve given myself for the middle of next year was 2.5s/500m better than my PB. I have a long way to go. The mornings sitting on a bike in the shed are paying off though; the distances are creeping up and the split is falling. The gains are coming in fits and starts though, depending on how I feel on the day of the erg each week. PB+4, +3.6, +2.8, +2.4, +2.3.

I’m getting there slowly. Give it until Christmas and I’ll be back in PB territory. I know I can do it, I’ve been there before, it’s just frustrating when my legs don’t agree.

This evening was supposed to be this week’s erg although it was plagued with problems from the start. My back has been playing up since our race last week (a whole sorry story in its own right. It may have to have its own post) and I wasn’t looking forward to a hard session. Erring on the side of caution I decided I wouldn’t do it but I would go to the boat house and do a UT2 session on an erg, just for a change from the turbo if nothing else. The bowman had his own problems as well. Apparently he’d damaged his shoulder over the weekend while training in the masters 4x. A good combination really.

Since I’d said I wouldn’t be doing the normal session I arrived to find them doing a weights circuit. I joined in on a couple of the less back dependent lifts (bench, bench pull etc). For the first time lifting anything heavier than the boat for a long time, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. It still wasn’t good.

When they’d decided they’d finished the idea of an erg was floated. An interesting, shorter one instead of the usual. A relay with two pairs was suggested. It’s worth noting here that I have an unfair advantage over the other three in terms of fitness. I benefited from three years of regular, planned training that we were expected to both attend and push ourselves in. They’d learnt to row and rowed a few evenings a week for a year or two. As far as I can tell there hasn’t been an official training plan as such, only an evening a week of circuit training run through the winter season. In the half hour ergs, this translates to around 7-8 seconds on the average split. When this was pointed out (by them not me) the pairs idea was vetoed and a 3 vs 1 race was suggested instead.

This is the point I should have laughed and told them to bugger off. My back needed resting. What actually happened was that I laughed and took them up on it. Where the original plan was going to be alternating 500m pieces, the new idea was for them to still do this and for me to do 1500m. As a slight help to me, they’d have to change over twice in the middle missing 4 or five strokes each time. As a slight help to them, there were three of them and they’d only have to sprint 500m.

With two ergs set for 1500m, and me and the first of them lined up, we went off. This was the first high rate erg I’d done since June and I had no idea how it would go. I ended up settling about 3s slower than my 2k PB pace and about the same behind the first of the competition. By the first switch over I was down but not a huge amount, maybe 30m. By the end of the switch I was up again, maybe 20m. It’s hard to tell when both numbers are changing quickly.

Their second leg was faster and though I was still holding the same average as before I was now 5-6s slower on the split and the advantage I’d gained, slowing thinned and vanished. By their second switch I was back down to 40m or so behind. Gaining a similar amount on this switch I found myself slightly ahead again as I went into the final 500m.

Starting to feel the effect of the first fast erg in a while I should have held the pace I’d settled at and seen where I finished against them. It turns out being beaten isn’t something I much approve of so pushed harder and harder as the distance fell. I was looking at their screen as much as mine by this point and I still couldn’t tell who was ahead.

At 200m to go I upped the rate as their final leg slowed up. I think the last few strokes we were on the same split. Falling off the erg at the end onto a stretching mat trying to catch my breath I almost immediately wondered why I’d done it. I’m sure it’s not a recommended treatment for aching back muscles and I had nothing to prove. We all know who’s faster than who amongst the four of us. I could have lost and had the perfect excuse. Three perfect excuses even. After a while though someone flicked through the monitors and found the times we’d actually done it in. I had managed it. By 0.3 seconds.

That was why I’d done it. That third of a second against three people who are racing for the same club as me mattered much more than I care to admit. I didn’t even care that they would have been faster had they had slightly better changeovers, that they’d actually been faster for the time that they’d been rowing. It was somehow still justification for going flat out and giving everything when I’m supposed to be resting. I sometimes wonder if I’d be better off not caring. I seem to manage at the rest of life.

Categories: No NaNoWriMo, Rowing | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Day the Second

And I’ve already run into that unsurprising block that comes with having done very little other than stare blankly at an unchanging (it is changing really, I generally feel I ought to do something) screen of code all day.

The trouble is my life has set into much more of a routine than I ever expected and rather than make everything seem boring and slow as I’d have thought it would, it makes time fly past. This must be what having fun is.

I’m generally awake at six. I have to wake up at six so that by the time I have thumped the alarm and rolled over for another cycle of the sleep timer, I still have time to get some training done before work.

I have a turbo trainer that I bought about four years ago during the time that I used to race XC for training. Although I was training then, I didn’t have a plan as such and therefore never really used it. I then went to uni and rowed for three years, getting used to following training plans fairly religiously in the process. Since I don’t yet have an erg I turned to the turbo as a handy way of preventing me having to drive 40 miles a day to the boat club or pay a gym subscription to train. The outcome of this is me sitting in the garage for 50 minutes every morning steaming gently the whine of a flywheel and the soundtrack to the latest episode of whichever series I’m working through.

It didn’t take long for me to realise that staring at a wall for an hour gets boring pretty quickly so I now watch TV shows instead. This has two benefits. Firstly, I don’t notice the time going so never get that “I must be more than half way through now, surely” feeling, and secondly, I’m not letting myself watch any of it while not cycling so I have the added motivation of wanting to watch more to get out in the morning. So far it’s working well and I’ve surprised myself by how often I’m managing it. I’ve now worked my way through both series of Green Wing (highly recommended if you enjoy fairly unintellectual sitcoms) and now have the second series of 24 on the go (also recommended (crime drama) and for the bargain price of £3.80 on Play, I couldn’t find a better alternative).

This generally takes until twenty past 7, give or take. If it’s earlier I relax into the “I’ve got plenty of time – I don’t need to hurry” mentality and don’t get anything done. If it’s later than that I get into the “oh no, I’m late” mentality and run around in a rush and still don’t get anything done. It’s a bit like one of those ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ stories where whichever path you choose you always end on page 247 where I’m ready about two minutes after I needed to be and, if anyone is around, can be seen running out of the house in a flurry of untied shoes, undone bags and assorted items of clothing and lunch paraphernalia.

What follows is nine hours of me sitting at a desk (in a box, in a barn – but that’s a whole new story) trying to understand why things don’t have the attributes I feel they ought to and how best to wallpaper over the exceptions that are being thrown at me by the evil Lord Python Interpreter.

The evening has eating involved as its main focus along with the general time passing that takes place when one has three hours and isn’t quite sure of the task to which one should devote it. There are plenty of things I should do but since none is of higher priority than the next, they are all settling, quite comfortably, into the to-do list. Occasionally they are joined by another job that needs doing but as yet, being evicted from their new home is a risk that I doubt most of them are even aware of.

Then at about twenty minutes after I planned to, I crash in the slightly unimpressed mood that comes whenever I see my phone say “alarm set for 7hours 32minutes”*. Why would they put that there? It’s just cruel.

PS. I’m currently hoping as much as you are that this weekend brings fun and frivolities that will entertain and amuse us all for days to come. I’m not sure how much of today’s level of excitement I could take.

*I’m aware this isn’t a bad amount of sleep but it is considerably less than I would choose without the alarm being there

Categories: Everyday Happenings, No NaNoWriMo | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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