Friday, January 28, 2011

Not waving but drowning

2011 is well underway and I've set myself two (or is it three) challenges for the first half of the year. The main one is the Etape Du Dales in May, I was supposed to be entering this with Jez and another friend but the event is now full and their names are conspicuous by their absence from the entry list..buggers. So that means lots of grovelling up hills for the next few months, I kind of figure it doesn't matter whether I'm on road or off I just need to get lots of hills in my legs.

Challenge two is to acquire some swimming ability. I signed up for lessons at the beginning of January. I have no real background in swimming, I did all the school stuff, jumping into the water wearing pyjamas and all that gubbins but I was never one for swimming club or such like. I used to love playing in the pool so I'm not scared of the water as such but I am aware I am a poor swimmer. I learned to dive into the deep part of the pool before I could really swim out of it. However, I do have an achievement badge for a 2000m swim somewhere so god knows how I managed that.

The swimming should be complementary to the cycling, especially when the mileage ramps up. I can do it without hammering my legs, unlike running. The lessons started on the 6th January, which was the first time I had set foot in a pool for about six years, prior to that I used to do a few lengths of breastroke before heading into the steam room when I was a gym member.

So far...I have a slow breastroke, arms are actually ok but kick is awful. Front crawl I had never done but am now relaxing and able to string together without stopping four very, very slow lengths together as long as I don't kick too hard (too much oxgen required for that!). A lot of chlorinated water has rinsed my nose and mouth to get to this stage. I've been purposely doing bilateral breathing from the start so that should help things and it now seems almost automatic so I can start thinking about something else instead of counting to three all the time.

However, at last nights lesson I discovered I have a mean backstroke. It was ace, moving through the water at speeds I didn't think I was capable of. Shame it would need quite an empty pool to do outside the lesson, I'd probably hit some poor old dear at ramming speed otherwise. My main focus is the crawl but I am actually quite enjoying doing the other strokes, give me something else to think about when progress on crawl if frustrating, which it will be I have no doubt.

The other driver for the swimming is that St Annes pool reopened last summer, it's only two miles from work and has a good long public/lane swimming session every lunchtime so it's easy to get some practice in. It's also on £83 a year for unlimited off peak swimming which is quite frankly a bargain. I'm currently aiming for two 30/40 min sessions in there and the hour lesson a week. I've been advised to keep sessions on my own short and stop before I get too tired to make sure I don't reinforce sloppy stroke technique.

The third challenge is to shed some of my lard jacket I have been carrying around. Jez bought some scales late last year, I stood on them, it wasn't a nice number (bit of self delusion going on) but it is on the way down thankfully. The EDD is going to be hard enough without too much excess lard. I'm making a big effort now and next month, mixing up training with runs/swims/SSing offroad/turbo/Shorter road rides/climbing wall, once the long rides start I'll need to keep fuelling up so it will get harder.

So..just need to sort out some build up events. Currently thinking Cheshire Cat, 100 mile this year perhaps(Jez not at all keen!) Lakeland Loop and the Brian Robinson Challenge as Jez's sister lives near Huddersfield so we can tie in a visit. Lots of hills in those to be going on with.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


How can we be at the 12th January 2011 already! 2010 had some good stuff in it for me. A fantastic five days in the Cairngorms in March in superb snow and mainly blue skies and low winds (fingers crossed I haven't used up my good Scottish weather quota). Riding the Etape Caledonia on closed roads, riding my first 100 miles on the Trossachs Ton. Riding coast to coast across Scotland was superb, I think I've finally forgotten about the headwind.

The ice and snow at the end of the year put a bit of a dampener on road riding but I got quite a few offroad rides in. On the first ride with ice on the ground (on the 12th of December, marked the date) I even rode over a three or four metre long sheet of ice that boys rode around. The look on their faces was priceless.

I actually did this not through bravery but because my back brake was not working very well so I was faffing with the lever as I was riding and not paying attention and looked up just in time to see the now unavoidable ice but even the big feardy that I am knew that the best bet was just to keep things as straight as possible and ride it out.

It did help things though and I was quite happy to head out in the snow though the first ride in the fluffy stuff saw us take about two hours to cover five miles, was beautiful though:



Some slightly less successful snow rides followed this as I couldn't get my front wheel to behave on anything less than well packed snow. It would just wash out continually. A suggestion from Jez, which I actually paid attention to for once, was to put a lot more weight over the front wheel and shockingly it did help a lot, who knew.

Fingers crossed I stop being quite so pathetically panicky around ice now.

I set some mileage goals for 2010. They were 700 running miles and 2250 bike miles. The scores on the doors are....

Running 342! So less than half, total fail on that one then.

This was partly due to finding running not very relaxing cross training for cycling then being plagued by a persistent calf niggle from the end of June onwards.

Cycling: 3149! That's a bit more like it. Road riding really does boost the mileage totals somewhat.