Monday, 28 March 2011

Willy Knees

When I was a lad and living in Crewe there was a local heating engineer who went by the name of Willy Knees (pronounced Villee Ker-nays I think).  I seem to remember him being a German PoW who'd settled here after the war to ply his trade.  Anyway, his name sprang to mind about 10 miles into Saturday morning's run of just a tad under 18 miles, because it seemed an apt description of the problems I was having at the time.

I'd decided to do a long run, as the Duathlon's in two weeks and so next weekend I want to do a dress rehearsal (ie run-cycle-run), and that won't involve going too far.  A day out in Manchester was planned, and a train into town was booked for 10.41.  Allowing plenty of time to shower, breakfast etc meant I had to be home by 9 am, so I was up at 5.30 for stretching 'n' stuff before leaving at 6.30 to take the usual route down the Macclesfield Canal towards Congleton. 

The usual theme emerged - a delightful first 9 or 10 miles, followed by increasing amounts of pain in my knees, particularly the right one, which goes away literally the moment I stop running.  It doesn't hurt so much that I can't run, it's just quite uncomfortable.  Willy knees indeed.  It's frustrating - I know I have plenty of aerobic fitness to propel me round a marathon, but the last 10 miles of it are going to be a mighty slog at the current rate.  And I don't mean in time terms - I was actually running on Saturday for 2 hrs 23, which would put me in line for a 3 hr 40 marathon, allowing for water stops and no deterioration in pace (probably quite a big assumption). 

So I've decided to look into the principles of Chi Running a bit more, and Amazon will hopefully supply me with reference materials tomorrow.  I've had a good look round t'interweb on the subject, and I don't think my current technique is disastrous by any means, but I'm sure there are things I can do to improve, and with luck, lessen the impact on the knees.

I also managed a turbo trainer session on the bike yesterday, plus an hour standing round waiting for one of my La Manche buddies (Neil), who was participating in the Cheshire Cat Sportive which trundled through this neck of the woods yesterday.  I'd done it myself in the previous 3 years, but a combination of cost (£32.50) and the familiarity of the route meant that I decided to give it a miss this year.  I'm glad I did too - although the route was good and the weather kind, there were apparently massive queues at the finish for medals, certificates and food - all of which have been paid for.  Neil for one decided that the wait for those things was not tolerable after finishing a long ride when you need to get changed and warm, and so went without.  Sounds like in jumping from 2000 to 3000 participants, the organisers might have over-extended themselves. 

Don't want to finish on a negative note though, so let's toast the arrival of British Summertime, and the opening up of possibilities for evening rides and runs. 

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Monster Prep

A weekend of training to report on, and a key weekend in our journey towards the Monster at the end of April - there was to be a mountain bike ride, a hill walk, a run, and questions to ask of both myself and Bill, my Monster team mate who came down from Edinburgh for the weekend: how are we doing?  Where are our strengths and weaknesses?  Who would crash out first on the sofa in the evening?

In the event I had a cracking training period that extended to a rapid 5 mile run on Friday before Bill arrived, and 90 minutes of turbo trainer hell after he'd left.  That was 5 training sessions in 3 days...not sure I've ever done that before.

We were lucky with the weather on Saturday: we dressed for winter but got spring pretty early in the ride, so there was a serious amount of de-layering at the top of the first climb.  I "treated" Bill to my usual Macclesfield Forest circuit, which comprises long grinding climbs, short, steep climbs, technical climbing (you see a theme emerging), but then bone shaking descents on loose stone, cross-countrying across the moors near England's 2nd highest pub (Cat & Fiddle) and some lovely riding through the evergreens of the Forest.  2.5 hours of country goodness.  I enjoyed it, not having been out on the MTB for 10 months.  I'm not entirely sure Bill did. 

A hearty lunch of carbohydrate, drizzled with carbohydrate and nestling on a jus of, erm, carbohydrate, and we were ready for an afternoon of hillwalking.  We were out of the door just after 1, to return just before 5.30, and even more impressively only half an hour of that was in the pub.  It was a glorious afternoon, and I covered most of the 12-13 miles clad only in a t-shirt on my top half, even at the peak of The Matterhorn of Cheshire (Shutlingsloe, 506m), unheard of for March.  Our mutual congratulations at the top of that ascent were tempered a bit when we saw a 3 year old up there, who appeared to have made it unaided.  'Nuff respec' to the little 'un.  We were down the hill like mountain goats on the other side (kinda), and after a stroll through the highways and byways of Wildboarclough and Higher Sutton happened upon the St Dunstan's Inn.  A couple of pints of Hannibal's Nectar seemed a Most Appropriate means of rehydration.  With a wholly unnecessary log fire, rugby on the tv, and a cajoling landlord it was tough to leave to do the last couple of miles home, but manfully we achieved it...only to watch rugby, clean up and go back out to a different pub - we had much rehydrating to undertake.

Sunday dawned disappointing - cloudy and cool.  But still, a plan is a plan, so we hit the towpath trail for a 4 and a bit mile run.  I've commented on Bill's relationship with running before, and it doesn't seem like they're going to have a reconciliation any time soon.  That said, there is a short and steep climb in the 2nd half of the flattest circuit I can find round here, and Bill powered up it no problem.  I think we're going to be fine on the Monster in terms of fitness - achieving our goal of 15 hours is going to be down to a combination of pain management and time management.  Pills should sort out the first half, and a resolution to be static as little as possible the second.

Overall, a good weekend showing we're on target, and highlighting a couple of areas we can improve.  Must keep drinking, must keep drinking (and I'm not talking about Hannibal's Nectar).....

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

What's in a name...

Short one tonight, lots to do yet before I hit the hay, but wanted to keep these going.

So, names.  I have various aliases.  On Mendip Rouleur's blog, I'm Bunny.  I think he called me Battery originally, but when he explained the reasons for that the image of the Duracell bunny came more to mind, so Bunny I became.  Those same reasons explain 'Duratorq' on here - it's a kind of diesel engine, which is what my riding style has been likened to; can't accelerate very quickly, a bit smelly if the wind's in the wrong direction, gets upset if filled up with the wrong fuel (principally bananas).  OR, as I prefer, economical, keeps going all day, nearly as quick up the hills as on the flat.   

Training things - ran a half-marathon last Saturday as I was giving myself Sunday off.  I was really in the mood for it too; got out by 7.30 and the canal towpath was deserted save for a good number of ducks and Canadian geese, one of which hissed menacingly as I went by.  I reciprocated, and I don't know which of us was more surprised in the end.  Anyway, the weather was still, the music was loud, the path was reasonably dry, and I finished the 13 or so miles in 1 hr 50.  The right knee moaned for a bit, but kept bending, which is the main thing.

Have been back on the Time-crunched Cyclist's Training Plan since then.  I'll go into it more another time, but it was put togther by Chris Carmichael, Lance Armstrong's ex-coach, and promises to get you "fit, fast and strong" in 6-8 hours a week.  The relatively light training time means high intensity during those hours however, so my thighs feel like there's a bonfire burning deep within most of the time.

That's it for now.  Have my Monster team mate coming down to train with me Saturday & Sunday, so a word on our mountain bike/hike/run after that.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

A Duathlon

Time to get back to explaining the title of the blog.  This edition - the Duathlon.  I've ridden bikes for a few years now, and as the bit on my profile says, I decided around the turn of the year to incorporate some running in 2011 by way of a change.  And there's nothing like an event or competition to focus the mind - and body - on training, so in January I signed up to a duathlon.

Ideally, it would have been a triathlon; how suave, how accomplished, and how Adonis-like do many of those triathletes look.  However, I'm a rubbish swimmer.  Worse than that, I don't like it, and have no motivation to improve, and on the basis that, by and large, leisure activities should be things you enjoy, triathlons are therefore ruled out.  Duathlons aren't however, and in any case I now know that they're three-legged events in any case - a long run, followed by a bike, followed by a short run.  I've entered one that's pretty local to home - the Ashbourne Duathlon on 9th April.  Regrettably, it's a hilly course, at least for the bike (40 km) and the first run (12 km), so it's not going to be easy.  That said, my biggest worry, if that's the right word, is my inexperience - how fast do I need to run?  What are the transitions like?  What do I wear?

So training has had to incorporate both running and cycling, disciplines I've not combined before.  And in the last few weeks I've begun to find it hard, really hard.  In the past I've had problems with my knees when I've run any distance - nothing that's been medically diagnosed, but just pain and discomfort above 10 miles.  I've dealt with it by not running that kind of distance.  I had thought that through a combination of top quality trainers and a slightly different technique (landing toes first when I run), I'd cured the problem - at the end of Jan I ran 17 miles with no problems.  But the last couple of Saturdays, the day of the week when I do my weekly long run, my knees have wrecked after about 6 miles.  The only explanation I have is that this has coincided with higher intensity training on the bike - and higher intensity means more watts, more resistance, and more knee strain. 

My strategy for the moment is to get to and through 9th April by doing 1 long run per week, maybe 1 short run, and a lot of high intensity stuff on the bike, which should serve me reasonably well over a 12 km run.  After then, I'll put the bike aside for a bit and concentrate on the running ready for the marathon in May.  It's a risky strategy, but it seems like the only viable one for the moment.

Apologies for the navel gazing, but it helps clarify my thoughts to write this stuff down.  The next post will probably be into next week, when I might reveal the reason behind my username on here.  Bet you can hardly wait...

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Mad March Hare Sportive

Oo, the pressure, an event where I'm up against recounting the same event as two fellow bloggers.  Still, I'm going to do it blind (I mean without reading their's first rather than closing my eyes whilst I type), and tired, so we'll see what the outcome is. 

Mendip Rouleur and I were discussing the future of sportives on the course today (he, The Cycling Mayor and I trundled round pretty much together, apart from the last couple of miles; more on that story later), and I was expounding my theory that whilst they're mega-popular with the carboned-up, all-the-gear-and-very-little-idea, Sunday-cycling-is-the-new-golf set, I just can't see the current popularity lasting more than another couple of years, 'it' being folk paying upwards of 25 squids to ride on on open roads, albeit with feed stations, timing chips, and so on.  I think there's going to be a move to either/or some combination of: a move to closed roads and higher fees, lower fees and fewer fripperies, or more multi-day/weekend events.  I just think things are going to evolve as people tire of the current format.

Today's sportive hit the middle one of those changes - a small fee (a tenner) but no timing chips (it was old school timing with a clipboard and pen), only one feedstation, though that was stocked just as well as its more expensive sportive cousins, and no sag wagon.  That said, there was free tea and coffee at the start and finish, plus a bacon roll if you could be bothered to queue.  Signage was fine, there was a route sheet, so tell me - what, really, are you getting for an extra £15-20 for the other sportives.  Iconic routes?  In some cases.  Bigger fields?  So what.  Feeling like a racer as you roll over the timing mats?  Please.

This wasn't supposed to be a rant against other sportives - I just wish I could predict with more clarity which way it's going to go, so that I could make some money out of it, but change it will.  Back to today - a nice route through the south midlands and north Cotswolds of Worcs and Warks, very little main road other than to shuttle you to the next lane, pretty good road surfaces all things considered, and, eventually, some lovely early spring sunshine.  I was disappointed to only go past the signs for, rather than through, North Piddle, though this was a minor letdown. 

What turned out not to be a letdown at all was curbing my usual instincts to hop on the back of the first fast-moving pelOton that comes along, and wave goodbye to my cycling buddies till the end - it was most convivial to ride largely together, and have a bit of a chat with the Mayor as well as MR.  In fact, it was quite novel to both drive and arrive home not feeling wiped out.  I like it, but I'm not sure I want to make a habit of it.  Talking of driving home, what a completely chilled experience that was too.  No rush, plenty of sunshine, Radio 3 on the sound system.  Law Number 23 I'm going to make when the masses acclaim their true saviour and sweep me to power - everyone has to drive round with a nice bit of Handel in their ears; I'm convinced it would make a major contribution to no road-rage.

And finally, those last couple of miles.  I went off ahead of my riding colleagues with about 3 miles to go, and had finished, had a coffee, basked in the warmth, and read the first half of War & Peace before the Mayor turned up, sans MR.  He'd broken a chain, or jammed it, never did the full diagnosis, so had to go back down the road as a temporary broomwagon.  Technically a DNF, but I reckon it's like the TdF where if you fall in the last 3 km you get the same time as the group you were in at that point.  See that, me being nice?!

A catch-up on training progress next time.
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