MCR Marathon Blog W7/20: mechanicals and il fait mauvais

Il fait mauvais et aussi trop froid.

After a first week of decent cycling commuting, week seven of my training for the Manchester marathon took a turn for the awful. The Monday morning commute was horrible – cold, wet and windy – and then I got a puncture seven miles in, half way-ish from work. I’m rubbish at changing tubes at the worst of times, but I was cold, wet and shivering, and was obviously going to be late for work. With not much pressure in my rear tyre (I really need to upgrade my mini-pump) I set off again, and whether it was another puncture or just not putting enough air in, I had a flat again 2 miles from work. I wasn’t bothered to try and replace it, so rode the final two miles in on a flat.

I’d bought a new track pump to keep at work a week ago, but hadn’t bought it in yet. I got the train home, as I still couldn’t get enough pressure in the rear tyre for that journey.

Day two was interesting in different ways. My gear shifting had been a bit funny – probably as I don’t clean/lubricate my drivetrain enough. On the way home something happened – only 2 miles in – there was a loud clunk and my rear cassette shifted into the highest gear and wouldn’t shift. This meant I had to do the entire journey home, and quite a hilly one, in the highest gear. I just about managed it, but was then off the bike for the next two days for a simple repair job – the cable connecting the rear derailleur to the shifter had shorn straight off.

I got through all of the scheduled running miles this week, but it was very cold, sometimes snowy and rainy, and sometimes very icy. Saturday’s Parkrun put this all together in one place. Heading off up there it began snowing, and the pavements up there was slippy all over the place.

I got there only just in time for the pre-race briefing, being told that the route had been changed slightly due to slushy icy paths, and warnings to take it easy. To be honest we didn’t really need the warning, as it was almost impossible to find any part of the route that was dry enough to run fast, and all of the corners had to be taken carefully.

The weather meant that quite a few of the faster guys that usually turned up skipped the run. Around the first lap I realised I was in third, and the two guys in the lead were a short bit ahead of me. I knew one of them from running club and, modesty aside, knew that I was faster than him. The rest of the race was annoying, as I could never find any dry path to close that gap, and to be honest just shouldn’t have let them get away at the start. In the end I finished 3rd – my best finish in a Parkrun and I think in any race. Although it was one of the worse 5K times I’ve run for a while, 19:51, it was great to get a ‘podium finish’.

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So another week down, and trying to make sure that I rest properly as well as train properly…

This week:
51.6 miles running.
93.1 miles cycling.

Happy running,

MCR Marathon Blog W6/20: shit gets real

Last week was slightly unremarkable. This week, shit just got real.

Last week I was bemoaning not really being up to heavy mileage weeks and therefore not really feeling as though I was training all that hard, and not knowing where my form was at. This week really stepped that up, as it was the first week back to work proper and the start of the cycling commute.

Thanks to the advice of some friends from Alba Rosa, mainly James Ward and Simon Owen, I felt fairly prepared. They regularly commute 15 miles each way, so I first of all knew it was possible. They’d given me some help on the logistics, from simple things like leaving a pair of shoes to work, to more practical physical issues like ‘not smashing it’, and taking the commute really easy.

The first thing about my commute is that it is quite hilly – three biggish climbs along the way (obviously both there and back). I suffered a few teething issues with the first weeks commute – not having worked out the best time to leave the house with the traffic varying by a good 10 minutes when I arrived at the office. I got through the week without suffering any drivers attempting to kill me, and not having any mechanicals or punctures on my bike – which was all good. Through most of the week, despite being layered up I was neither cold nor wet on any of my rides.

And then came Friday. To put it into context, the moving time of my ride to work averaged 1h10m-1h15m. I started off on my ride the earliest that I had the whole week, pedalling before 7:20. I soon realised this wasn’t going to be an easy ride, struggling through a strong wind blowing me back, and almost being blown over standing at some of the lights. Heading up the first climb I got blown over so strongly to the right that I had to stop and unclip. Riding was to be honest, a bit dicey. I had to ride in a gear a few lower than I would normally so that I would be able to spin against a sudden gust, and ride a line slightly further into the middle of the road so that I could cope with being blown toward the kerb or into the road. The entire ride was quite a big effort, and ended up taking me almost 1h30m of moving time.

I was quite dreading the way home, as it had started raining, and was sweating over the weather report of continued high winds. On the cycling club Facebook group many had talked about abandoning cycle commuting that day and getting the train – to be honest, if this wasn’t my first week and I didn’t want to be seen to be wussing out I probably would have too. Luckily due to misreading the report it wasn’t as bad home as I thought as the wind was behind me and it was one of my faster rides home, although the rain meant easy on the descents, and there were still the odd gust to watch out for. But the first week was succesfully completed, and the weather and light in the mornings and evenings can only get better, and soon it should be routine – so it probably won’t be mentioned in as much detail again as in this post!

(Although I mentioned no drivers trying to kill me, it was noticeable that although I didn’t see any red light jumping cyclists I sawa  lot of red light jumping drivers. They follow a predictable pattern – a not dangerous but urgent overtake of the cyclist, an assumption that I’ve held them up, and then them diving through the just turned red that I have supposedly stopped them from catching on an amber. Well there you go).

This week I haven’t made any changes to my run schedule. I missed Tuesday run club (but ran the alternative session on the schedule) – I may ask to change my Tuesday working hours so I can get home in time in the future – but all of the miles on the planner were done, and in addition Parkrun and a utility ride on Saturday. This means that all told I was almost up to 19 hours of activity this week.

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I’ve tried a lot of marathon training strategies. Loch Ness, haphazard training, London and Dublin, to the letter training, Milton Keynes, heavier mileage with double session days. This is just the next attempt – low intensity cycling base with the running on top. I have felt very weary this week, with some of the speedwork sessions being a big effort. Is this sustainable? I’ll just have to wait and see and be prepared to readjust if not.

This week:
48.1 miles running.
166.6 miles cycling.

Happy running,

MCR Marathon Blog W5/20: starting the commute

So another – somewhat unremarkable – week of training done, and it’s scary to think that I am already a quarter of a way through this 20 mile training block for the Manchester marathon. I was back up from the family home to Leeds on Tuesday, running in the morning instead of going for run cub back up at Leeds.

Being a quarter of the way through I feel like I should be getting into good form, or at least have some idea where I’m at. To be honest, I really have no idea. Looking at my mileage, I know I still have a long way to go in this block before I should be hitting top form but I look at it and think I should be doing more miles. I shouldn’t, but I’m still eager for the 50 miles + weeks. The one main speedwork session I did this week was fairly good – 7 miles continuous with 3 mile efforts with mile active recoveries, and I averaged 6:10 for the efforts, despite the ground still being very icy. (The cold is a continuing issue – this morning I headed out for a 13 mile run along the canal in just shorts and long sleeved tops, no gloves, and regretted it running next to a frozen canal!) Parkrun was no great shakes, with legs feeling very tired from the off, although I was able to take a few places on the last lap.

The only other thing of note this week, was heading back to work on the 2nd January. The day after running a distinctly bleargh feeling five miles on New Year’s Day, I was starting cycle commuting to work. This is partly practical – minus maintenance costs to my bike and a few other purchases, I’ll be saving roughly £1,300 this year. It’s also as I’ll be able to fit in more training without losing any free time that isn’t currently taken up by running or cycling.

Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 16.29.39Heading to and from Ilkley for New Year’s Eve I tested out some of my new kit for the commute – a new Bontranger jacket to keep me toasty warm (with the added benefit of being able to convert into a gilet in the spring), and a Deuter Race X Pack to give me 12 litres of storage with a built in rain cover. On my first day of the commute I was taking over a few things to leave at work – a pair of shoes and a washbag to begin with, so I started off with a heavy-ish bag. I quickly remembered that my commute isn’t the flattest – 1,500 ft of climbing in 15 miles, and I seemed to be riding straight into a headwind. The way back in the dark was the one that I was really worried about, but it really wasn’t all that bad. I had a Knog blinder set on – a set of ‘be seen’ lights, but good enough on a fairly well lit road. I’m looking forward to doing this full time next week. I know 15 miles is a lot for some people, but cycling is a brilliant option for journeys of less than 10 miles. The risk does put some people off, and although we can do a lot more to make cycling safer in this country, the health risks of being inactive do far outweight the physical risks of cycling. My route doesn’t involve any that much roundabouts, junctions or getting in lane (where most crashes happen and cycling infrastructure is most needed), and is just straight along the A62. So not too much navigation – and bonus training, taking me up to 11 hours of activity this week. With commuting all next week, I’ll probably be getting up to 16 hours of activity a week.

This week:
48.1 miles running.
71.8 miles cycling.

Happy running,