Monday, 30 July 2012

On and off track

Training got back on track last week and was then promptly derailled. I've been sticking to my 3 bikes, a swim and a paddle, and particularly on the bike I was starting to feel a little like my old self. This was confirmed on wednesday night when I cycled down to Dorking for another Kingston Phoenix evening 10. My first two 10s of the year had been dire but Wednesday was a float night and I ended up with a long 25, which in the circumstances I was really pleased with. Simon was starting off, 30 seconds behind me so although I knew that he would overtake me at some point I was hoping to hold him off until the turn at Beare Greene. With 150 metres to go to the roundabout he went past;  if I'd had a stick to put through his front wheel I would have used it; the joys of friendly rivalry. ;-)  He didn't pull out too much ahead initially but there are a couple of slightly sharper hills at about 8 miles and he put some more distance between us. I finished strongly and felt that I had paced it well overall. The ride to the start and back home gave me a useful 30 mile training ride and I had a good gawp at the BMC, Rabobank and USA team vans that I saw at the Burford Bridge Hotel at the bottom of Box Hill on the way back. I just need to keep my power moving up and my weight moving down; simples.

I was derailled later that evening when a nice snotty cold developed. I was able to go for a very gentle swim on Thursday, just doing some easy drills and technique work but I had to scrub my scheduled rides over the weekend. I feel a bit better today so will aim to do an easy hour this evening and see how I go.

That meant that on saturday and sunday we were able to catch the Olympic cycle road races. With Simon's family we headed to the A24 in Leatherhead, a familiar part of my cycling routes and watched the first 4 laps of the men's race, before my 2 started fighting with their foam hands. It's amazing how children can turn almost anything into weaponry.

big crowds on the A24
Chalking up some support for Cav and the boys

Show us those hands.

 It was a great atmosphere up there and I sincerely hope it helps to change people's attitudes towards cycling and cyclists. Only time will tell regarding the legacy of that one but by no means was it all hardcore cycling fans cheering the team on. After watching TeamGB drag the rest of the peloton around for 5 laps  we walked back to Simon's house for a barbie and to watch the rest of the race on the tv. It was so strange watching so many familiar places on there as they raced back to London. "Oh look, I lived there." "Oh look, mum and dad got married in that church." "Oh look, I worked in that building." And so it went on.... I blogged last time about how exotic previous Olympic venues had looked, however I have to say that Surrey looked absolutely stunning on the tv.

The next day, after doing my fair share of man jobs, we bundled into the car as the ladies race came off of Box Hill and drove down to Hampton Court Way to see them head back into London.  While there had been lots of attacks there had been no significant breaks and it was really exciting to see Lizzie Armitstead in the breakaway some 20 minutes later and they were working well together to make it count. As soon as the peloton had gone we were back in the car to watch the finish at home with a cup of tea and watch her get GB's first medal f the Games. WAY. TOO. COOL.  It was a most civilised way of watching the Olympics. Shame about the weather, but hey, it is Britain afterall.

The best news for me is that next week is my first appointment with the muscular skeletal clinic to start investigating my foot injury properly. I sincerely hope that I may be given the green light to start doing some gentle running and to finally find out what's going on in there. At the weekend I also have to learn how to pddle an open canoe. That could be rather interesting.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The Olympics are coming to town

I absolutely love the Olympics. It's probably the event that has kept me interested in sport all these years. It's no coincidence that at the same time that Coe and Ovett were thrashing it out around the race tracks of the world was also the first time my dad took me down to Ranelagh Harriers to begin running. I wasn't very good, although I flirted with mid-pack mediocrity for a while. However, I had a poster of Seb Coe on my bedroom wall and wanted to be an 800 metre runner like him. The important thing was I enjoyed running, I enjoyed spinning round Richmond Park with the adult and junior members of the club and I enjoyed the racing. That experience set me up for life and I still enjoy all of those things which have helped me to enjoy a heatlthy and active lifestyle. I have Seb Coe and more importantly, my Dad to thank for that.

The Olympics have always been 'another world' kind of experience, just coming through my television set showing seemingly imposible feats of athletic endeavour and endurance from an exotic foreign location. I remember faintly the 1980 Moscow Olympics but it was as a 13 year old watching the LA games that remain vividly in my mind, and they will always be covered with a Spandau Ballet soundtrack.

As well as Coe, Cram, Ovett and Thompson there are many other names that remain indelibly etched on my mind; Mary-Lou Retton, Malcolm Cooper, Mary Decker, Ed Moses, Carl Lewis, Zola Budd, Tessa Sanderson. (How can anyone forget Mitch Gaylord III, inventor of 'The Gaylord'? Your avergae 13 year old boy would remember that one fairly easily). The list goes on.

But now, 'The greatest show on Earth' is in my backyard, literally in my backyard, and I can't quite get my head around it. My one hour bike loop from my house, which I have been riding regulalry for the last 4 or 5 years takes in about 10 kilometers on the men's and women's time trial course as well as a couple of kilometres of the road race. I went out for a gentle spin last might after doing a lumpy 60 miles on Sunday and more barriers, signage and Olympic stuff is going up everytime. Speaking of that 60 miles, I went out with Simon and we hit most of the hills in Surrey, which the road race will be going nowhere near, but we finished off with our usual climb up Boxhill. Even on a busy Sunday I would probably see no more than 2 or 3 other riders, but on this morning it was mental. The Olympics and the Wiggins effect are really kicking in and as we climbed there must have been 40-50 riders going up with us with that again at the top having a coffee. There was even another bloke on a Van Nic. It was really good to see.

The next day I took Wheezy Junior to Boxhill to have a look. We parked at the bottom near Ryker's cafe and walked up to the top and had a look at the Olympic rings. It's hard to believe that during this weekend millions of people will be watching this little patch of Surrey that I know so well from working nearby, commuting to and from and living in. All through Cobham, Oxshott and Esher they've been sprucing, tidying and painting in preparation for the world to descend. It's not exactly an untidy place anyway but the effort that's gone into putting on a good event is plain to see.

Decorated bicycles along the road and tt routes

Wheezy junior on top of Box Hill.

The next day, we had the Torch relay go past the end of or road. It was started by James Cracknell, a former Kingston Grammar schoolboy and where he started his rowing career. Thousands of people turned out to watch it go past and got the area buzzing.

We made an Olympic day of it, so after watching the torch go through we hopped onto the bus to see Wenlock the mascot in John Lewis. I've never quite understood thewhole mascot thing until now. Yes, you can argue it's just a method of commercialisation to help sell merchandise but I have to say that it's really helped my two understand a bit more about the Olympics. We bought them a cuddly Wenlock and Mandeville and the checkout lady stated  "What funny looking aliens."  This prompted little wheezy to then give her a long lecture on who they were and why they were called Wenlock and Mandeville. Not bad for a 6 year old.

We've been lucky enough to get tickets to a few events as well as watching the road races and time trials. Already, Wheezy Junior has stated thst he wants 'a proper racing bike like Bradley Wiggins'. That's fine. As long as I can borrow it now and again.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Training with Strava

The last couple of weeks have gone pretty well with me getting back to some regular, if unspectacular training. I'm sticking to my 3 bikes per week, a swim and a paddle. On the bike I have started to use the Strava website and app to record and log my rides. I had heard of this software before but up until now I had no way of recording and uploading my rides. The segments that each ride can be split into means that I can push hard to move further up the league tables for each segment. It's good fun but more importantly it's already making me work harder on rides. I have always been rather one paced on the bike and then that's meant that when I have pushed harder in races it has caused me to suffer later on in the race. I'll need to be careful that I do not turn every ride into an eyeballs out effort, but it's brought a new dimension to my cycling that I can only see helping me. I have yet to become a 'King of the Mountain' but currently I'm lying in second in one segment near home. You'd have thought I'd won an Olympic medal I was so pleased. Bike fitness is returning well as a result and I guess that the commuting that I have done on the bike has kept some background fitness. I can now ride rolling hills with a bit more gusto and my foot is letting me push a bigger gear. When the hills kick up to a steeper gradient then that reveals my deeper lack of fitness and 5kgs excess baggage around my middle, but I'm getting there.

I've tried to keep the swimming fairly relaxed and stress free, with me focussing on drills and 100 metre reps off 2.15 mins. This is a long way down on where I should be but I already feel better for it, despite having terrible pool sniffles for a few days after. Short reps and a long rest seems to be working well and I'll stick with it for a while. I have no reason to hit the open water at the moment but Simon's got a tri at the end of the season so I when I feel that  have a bit more endurance then I'll get along to Heron Lake for some long ones.

I stated a few posts ago that I had reached a stalemate in the Ranger. That's no longer true and since then I have spent a lot of time swimming and I have flat-lined very badly. I wish I could say that I had improved significantly but I honestly have not and it's going to take a lot more hours before I am going to be comfortable in the Ranger. I think it's mainly a technical / core strength issue rather than anything else but sometimes I just know I'm going in, so I need a few more positive paddles to get my head in the right place. The fact that the river's been up on red boards for the last few weeks has not helped. The Hampton Court swim was cancelled last weekend because of this so I did not get the opportunity to be a safety kayaker, which I had been looking forward to. Nevermind, next time.

Thoughts are turning to next season, and as ever it's hinging around what my foot will let me do and the diagnosis that I hope is coming soon. A sub 3 marathon is still top of the list and I'm working on Mrs Wheezy to do something a bit more exciting afterwards. Watch this space.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

An interesting evening on the A24

Another 10 mile tt on the G10/42 course. I knew that I would be slow but I also knew that I needed to do some faster cycling and a 10 mile tt is a perfect way of flooding your muscles with lactic acid. It took me over an hour to get there due to a tree coming down and a motorist going off the road so the start was delayed. I did a quick warm up which tok in about 200 metres of the A24, which this course runs on only to hear an enormous bang. Looked around and there was a beehive box bouncing along the road next to me, which had somehow fallen out of a trailer as the car towing it went past. Missed me by inches. It got my heart rate up at any rate.

After my last tt which saw me put in a personal worst performance I decided to not go out as hard as I usually do as I simply do not have the stamina, endurance or lactic threshold to hit it that hard. After 3 miles we went through the most enormos cloudburst, complete with  thunder and lightning; it wasn't exactly a float night and I got really cold as a result. Felt a bit better on the way home and though I was passed by a couple of Kingston Wheelers I was catching the second one up as I went up the final climb. I think I did a mid 27, so my worst time on that course and my second worst time ever. But there were two positives. My times are moving in the right direction and I had fun, which is why I do it.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Starting to enjoy myself

In the last couple of weeks I have noticed a strange sensation beginning to stir that I have not felt for a good few months. It's the feeling of wanting to be out there, doing some focussed work and training. It's basically come about through training with friends and finding enjoyment in just being outdoors. The weather's been horrific as we all know, but when you're mostly in the Thames anyway after throwing yourself out of a K1, pouring rain hardly matters.

Allied to that I caught up with Simon at the weekend after his great performance in the Outlaw. I had been feeling pretty guilty as I was meant to have done the race with him and then when that was not going to happen I was meant to have helped him train for it, but my foot injury and my resulting slump had not seen that happen either. Simon had some really supportive words for me and spinning around Surrey on Sunday morning with him, despite the atrocious weather, has helped me to start to get back on track. A bit of perspective goes a long way.

My ambition to run a sub-3 marathon in the Spring still seems very remote however. Until I know what's wrong with my foot I am not going to run. I had another GP consultation and now I have at last been referred to a clinic that will hopefully diagnose what's going on. Touch wood, by the end of the summer. With nothing to train for I have to get some kind of structure to my week so I've decided on a few simple steps to get the ball rolling. Firstly, my long weekend bike ride. I have simply got out of the habit of  getting into the Surrey Hills and a 2 to 3 hour bike ride, hitting Crocknorth, Whitedown, Ranmoor Common and Boxhill will go a very long way towards getting me some fitness back. I fully admit that watching 'Le Tour' over the last week has rekindled the desire to get back on my bike and to ride purely for the sake of it rather than training for something. That can come later. Some commute rides or evening tempo rides will hopefully provide a bit of quality to the bike work. 2 rides minimum per week, but hopefully 3. Thursday night is going to become swim night. My favourite pool stays open until 10.30pm so there really is no excuse. I have delayed and then delayed some more getting back into the pool because I have not had a tri to train for, but mostly because I was not looking forward to starting entirely from scratch again and frankly feeling pretty rubbish. I went last Thursday for the first time since July last year and the first few hundred metres were very ouchy. But gradually things started to come back and before I knew it I had a smile on my face. 15 x 100m done mostly as drills (catch up, fists, finger drag) with some full stroke in between. As I left the pool I was kicking myself; why hadn't I done this sooner?

So, 2-3 rides per week, at least 1 swim (2 if time and Mrs Wheezy allow) and 1 paddle. That sounds doable.


Monday, 2 July 2012

Fulfilling the prophecy

If you think to yourself  "I'm going to capsize" the chances are that you will. As I pushed away from the jetty early yesterday morning that was all that I was thinking to myself. I had gone early in the hope that I would be on my own because the day before I had had a bad time in the Ranger, capsizing twice and not settling down at all. So to turn up at the Royal and see Tim Brabants, the current K1 1000m metre Olympic Champion going through his paces was a tad off putting. The contrast between an athlete absolutely at the top of his game and me was particularly stark, especially when I decided to show him how well I could roll a boat and end up upside down in the water, sucking goose poo through my teeth like a blue whale eats plankton. I was not sure that he had seen how well I could capsize so I decided to do it again some 5 metres later. Boy, I was on fire. I've got this capsize thing absolutely nailed.

So last week I paddled 5 times, which for me is an all time record in consistency. That fact that I got consistently worse as the week progressed is vexing. I'm trying to get a handle on what I am doing wrong. It maybe core strength but I actually think that's one thing that I've got a lot of. I think that I have to get my legs cycling more and use my hips while keeping them relaxed. It might be that I have to increase my leg drive in order to become more stable because I'm too tense which means that a roll to one side is not conteracted with a fluid roll to the other. I don't know. Mybe it's just a lot more time in the boat is required.

In other good news, Simon did the Outlaw Triathlon yesterday and took an hour off of his time from the Forestman last year, coming home in 11:15hrs. A great performance and I am convinced that if he sticks together a solid block of training he can get down to sub 10:30. I hope that at some time in the near future I can join him.