Wednesday, 2 May 2012

On the dole

Well not quite on the dole - but this week I started what could be 11 months of gardening leave.  Lots of my mates have been saying "Take the year off! A year on full pay - it'll be great!".  Two problems with that, lads - firstly a year out of the market means getting back in will be extra tough, and secondly it'd be dead boring.  However, I woke up Monday thinking I'd be having a good few weeks off, and hopefully all the sunny ones.

I got all the way to noon when the phone rang about a potential job.  So I might manage a couple of weeks off...

Anyway - this week of non-work-based activity has been a combination of job hunting, running and today a rather fab bike ride.  The weekend was nothing short of ghastly weatherise, so Herb and I took Izzy the Dog for a very windy, very wet run over the fell.  I've found a new footpath that brings us out in Eastby, giving a nice hour's run.  Must do it when it's not blowing a gale.

Monday and Tuesday saw me taking Izzy up to Halton East for a run - she was decidedly reluctant on Monday, so perhaps she needs a rest day after a hardish run - I certainly did anyway.

I had a meeting about some potential work this afternoon, so I got off early on my (new) bike and headed off over to Wharfedale.  The climb up Halton Heights was ok, but this new bike seems quite twitchy on fast descents so the run down to Barden was scary in the wind.

Up the main road to Kilnsey then a bit of a flog up Littondale.  The clock said 1:28 when I got to Halton Gill and finally turned away from the wind to ride over the shoulder of Pen y Ghent to Stainforth.  The signpost says "Settle 10", so I told myself I'd try and get over to my scheduled coffee stop by two and a quarter hours - 45 mins for the climb up and the uppy-downy bit to Stainforth.

The steep part of the climb went pretty well, as it's only three short ramps, then there's a long undulating section before the drop down into Ribblesdale.  The wind made its presence felt here and I was amazed to find myself doing 25mph over long sections - in the end I hit settle with the clock on 1:58 - an average of 20mph riding over Pen y Ghent.  I think I deserved the extraordinarily expensive cake from the caff in Settle.

The next section was the reason for the ride - I wanted to check out the climb up High Hill Lane, which will feature in the White Rose for the first time.  I've only ever ridden down this, and have memories of desperately gripping the brakes as a accelerate down its vertiginous slopes.  I wasn't looking forward to riding up it...

As it happens it wasn't too bad - definitely not one of the real toughies, although it is steep, and it does go on a bit.  In fact there's more uphill than you think - even though the "steep bit' of my recall is pretty ok.  Anyway - must remember on 17 June as I'm beginning to cry it's 5 minutes of pain - no more.

A lumpy battle over to Hetton, which never gets any easier, then a wind-assisted whizz down from Rylstone to Brackenley Lane saw 48 miles done in a gnat's over 3 hours.

Happy with that.  More on Friday, methinks...

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Winter cycling

As I sadly waved me Cannondale off to its new home, I'm left with just the two bikes at the moment - my Genesis single speed, which got a run out to Gargrave with the kids last weekend, and my Dolan winter bike.

This is now all Ultegra-ed up, as Rick and I moved the group set from the Cannondale onto it, so with shiny new bar tape, a new ebay saddle and posh gears, it's quite a nice ride.  I do feel slightly conspicuous as the only bugger still riding around with mudguards on though.

The last couple of rides I've done have therefore been on the Dolan, as my new bike hasn't arrived yet (it's actually en route as I type, so possibly next weekend I'll be out on it), but in both cases I was rather glad of my mudguards!

The weather really doesn't seem to be able to make its mind up - on Wednesday I went out for a whizz round the Burnsall loop in shorts and sunnies, then twenty minutes after getting back the sky went black and we had the most mahoosive hail storm. Then yesterday, despite promises of dry, cool weather I was in a rain jacket all day.

I went over Langbar to meet Rich at Ilkley.  Since the arrival of little Betty he's hardly been out at all, and has just nine weeks before the White Rose.  We decided to do the first bit of the WRC to see how his climbing legs were - "slow but steady" would be my verdict.  I didn't hammer it up Norwood but felt pretty good all the way - I times myself at ten minutes for the climb.  Rich was three minutes back, not a bad effort for a man who's done no riding all year.

We then followed the WRC route through Fewston and down the A59, but then we turned left back to Otley rather than heading north towards Greenhow.  Rich managed the climb ok, then we stopped at Dunnies for a "pie dinner".  The mileage (only about 20 or so, but lumpy) hit Rich after the stop, and we were pretty slow back to Ilkley.

I left him there and headed for home up the valley to give a decent 50 miler with a good bit of climbing in it.

I've got just two weeks left at work now, so the focus once I've finished will be on getting lots of miles and climbing in.  I've been invited to do London to Paris in July which is three 100 mile days on the bounce - so stamina and a bombproof arse are the order of the day!

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Back again!

No, not dead, and not actually lying on the sofa eating cake - just distracted and haven't got round to updating this thing.

The India trip pretty much wiped out two and a half weeks of training so I decided pretty early on the Peaks wasn't going to be a goer this year.  I'm sure I could have beaten the cut offs, but that's more or less what I did last year - so the decision I have to make at some point is whether to give the 3P a proper go next year or use my last year of "god for age" to do London marathon again.  Don't need to decide for a while, so in the meantime I shall worry about things bikey.

The big news os I'm changing my job.  The bigger news is I don't know what to - I've agreed with work that the role they have in mind for me later this year isn't really for me, so as from the end of April I'm on garden leave, with the purpose of finding something else to do.  This is less tragic than it sounds as they'll pay me for a year if required, so I think I'll be having a good summer with lots of bike rides and the occasional peruse of the job pages.

I'm also eagerly awaiting the arrival of my new bike - I've sold my Cannondale so I am now "summer bikeless".  I've swapped all the Ultegra bits off my 'Dale onto my Dolan so I have a far posher winter bike, but with the (hopeful) end of the wintry weather I'm itching to get out on something light and carbony.

The new bike is from German internet dealer Rose Bikes, but is a last-year's-model branded Red Bull.  They have an amazing configuration on their website, but this is a pre-specced bike, with full Dura-Ace Di2, Dura-Ace wheels etc etc.  After a fair amount of faffing (paying in euros is soooo tricky) I hope it's being built this week, so should be with me w/c 16 April.  We shall see...

On the activity front I've been running a bit, and cycling a bit.  Today's trip was an Easter Sunday special - couldn't be arsed to get up at 7 to get to Ilkley for the club run, and Herb is sulking cos his best bike's poorly, so we went for something "flat" and easy - which turned out to be anything but.

Basically we rode to Wetherby along the north bank of the Wharfe then came back the other side, but the return proved to a lot lumpier and windier than we expected.  Herb bonked majorly after 40 miles, so despite a stop at Dunnies for sustenance I ended up on the from for pretty much the whole way home.  Apart, of course, for the last mile when a bloke came past us so Herb's competitive instanct kicked in and he was off and chasing.

A good ride, harder than expected, but a metric century (64 miles) and just over 4 hours of riding - roll on May and my new bike!!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

A week of curry

Just back from a few days working in India, so multiple curries and no exercise at all has been the order of the day.  Seems that I may have brought a little intestinal present back with me, so this may be another weekend off - which will be the longest I've done nothing for ages.

Back to it this week hopefully - possibly a quick blast on the bike if my insides'll let me, and maybe a run round the ressie with Lily later.  She's in the N Yorks county xc finals, so needs to be on tip top form by the end of the month.  I like to think that our one lap of the reservoir with the dog last weekend had something to do with her third place in the area finals...

Saturday, 10 March 2012

It's been ages!

Sorry, occasional blog-readers - been a bit busy.  Firstly with sone skiing (it was awesome, apart from the losing Lily bits, which were a bit scary).  M & L proved to be excellent skiers and had a brilliant time.  Both of them managed a series of red runs and on our last day they both got down a black run.  Now given that lots of people spend years getting up the courage to even look over the edge of something with black lollipops down it, I think that the girls done good (even if it was pretty benign).

Me and Arr had some fun on a few steeps and powdery bits, so you could definitely say I'm "keen on skiing" again.

Since we've got back I've eased myself back into stuff - a few runs each week, the occasional bike commute, and a desperately cold 50 miler with the club last weekend.  Tomorrow's my "putting something back" day when I'm going to lead the C group - but all the way I shall be thinking of my new bike that I've ordered from Germany that I'll be riding this summer.

Roll on April...

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Well that was January (and a bit of February)

A month on from my new year resolution to get fit, and what's happened.

Well I've stuck with it.  I've only had one rest day a week, if that, and have cycled into work once a week.  I've been to the track and I've started running off road (a bit).  I've hardly drunk any beer and I've eaten properly.  And I've eaten tons of fruit.  Oh the fruit...

I ran for 88 miles and I cycled for 270.  I did three spin classes.  Like a girl.

Not sure if I've actually lost any weight but whatever weight I am has moved about - trousers that were a tad tight are now a perfect fit.  I feel far fitter on the bike, and have toasted The Herb up some hills a few times.

I'm starting to enjoy feeling fitter again, which is a good sign - but as I said last time February's going to be a challenge.  Edinburgh this weekend to see Stuart Lancaster's new look England take on the Scots, where pies and beer will be consumed.  The back to it next week, but two nights away including dinner with some journalists (finishes at 9 though, so hopefully a sober night).  Then off to Morzine - given how much your legs hurt when skiing I'm assuming it does you some good, but I think I'm going to take my spiky things and maybe get at least one run in, if only a couple of miles.  But again - beer will be drunk.

Then it's back home and back to work, but the following weekend K and I are off to Keswick for our anniversary.  I have a pass out for a run up Skiddaw (which I've never been up) and I'm wondering if I might manage a swift ride up Whinlatter and back, but that might be pushing it.

Key objectives for the opportunities I do have will be to get a longer run in each week.  Once I'm back from France I should hopefully be able to do something longer after work - maybe a run home once in a while.  Bike miles will also be tricky, so I might have to try and get the motivation to add a few extras in on the way home from work once it gets a bit lighter too.

I started Feb with a very steady four miler after work in the dark last night, then tonight, despite a few cry offs (Hinsley, The Herb and Sue) Rob T and his daughter Sophie came along.  Rob took over Sue's mantle by kicking my arse, but he did spur me on to a slightly quicker pace than of late.  We did 6x800m off 200m recoveries - my reps were 3:01, 2:58, 2:58, 3:00, 2:59 and 2:53 - pretty happy with those despite Rob disappearing further into the distance every lap!

And soon it'll be March!  I have entered the Coniston 14 in March, so whilst I won't expect to set the world on fire respectability might be nice.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Another chilly week

It seems to have been blimmin' chilly for about a week now, but to be honest give me cold and still over warm and windy any day.

Last week panned out pretty much as planned - firstly a bimble round Hyde Park, which turned out to be decidedly brisk.  There was some sort of time trial/race going on, so all the usual iPod laden joggers had been replaced by gnarly looking dudes, some of whom were in vests and shorts.  I was miling at low 7's (and below 7's by the end) and was overtaken by about half a dozen guys all looking steely eyed and determined.  Still, got me back in time for the footy.

The Thursday saw me and the Herb, along with our new training bud Sue, at the track for a slightly longer efforts session than of late.  A decent warm up then 5x1k off 200's.  Sue's first time on the track, and as expected she gave us a mild kicking - lapping probably 3-5 seconds quicker than me (and a lot quicker than Herb who was suffering a bit and looked even more Forrest Gump than usual).  My reps were all between 3:45 and 3:50, which is respectable, but not the 3:35's I was running a couple of years ago - still, not bad and there's more to come I'm sure.

Steady 4m Friday, then Saturday saw me and the girls at Cas for our last practice session in the big fridge before Morzine in a couple of weeks.  It's great to see how far they've come, especially Lily who had effectively never skied before.  She's verging on the "overconfident" so it'll be interesting to see how she goes over there.  Maisie is more in control, so I think she'll cope better when it steepens up.

Sunday I'd planned to go out with the club on the long training ride, so drove down to Ilkley instead of riding, but a change of plan (well a lack of a clear one, really) meant I went with the usual group instead.  Having driven down, of course I'd managed to forget helmet and battery, so a helmet less, lightless ride was had over to Kirby Overblow and back via Castley - a nice 40 miles in perfect, if slightly icy conditions.

Today was back to work, and all the systems conked out, so The Newmanator and Bobby T set off for a Reverse Tomes.  The problem with Rob is that even though he's not at his fittest, he can't seem to stop pushing, so the result was a (for me) very fast run up the hill to Morton, then a PB time overall of just under 40 minutes for the 5.25 miles.

Spin class tonight, which is definitely feeling easier.

My main challenge now after a good January is to keep it up through Feb.  Rugby this weekend, then two weekends of skiing and then a trip to Keswick with K for our anniversary means that cycling opportunities will be limited to commuting, unless I can scab a ride on the Saturday before skiing.  Running at weekends will be equally limited, along with doing nothing when we're skiing for a week.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012


Did the hilly five miler from work yesterday with the Newmanator and its inventor and inspiration, Chris Tomes.  The route, henceforth known as The Reverse Tomes, is the run up through the Mortons to the top of the moor, then back down through Riddlesden to a flat couple of miles on the canal.  It's a Reverse Tomes as the first time I ran it we went the other way round, which is a flat couple of miles then a stupidly steep climb up and then a ridiculously easy run back down to work.  The Reverse Tomes gives a long climb with a few steep bits, then a short steep descent, good for leg speed, then a flat finish that you can run hard or easy.

Anyway... the three of us set off after a bit of a debate about clothing.  I went for pertex, Tomes went for a gilet and The Newmanator went for a t-shirt.  Win to me - sleet and a stinking headwind on the way up left me slightly concerned for Tim's welfare.  Nevertheless the little trooper made it and we enjoyed a speedy descent and a reasonably brisk couple of miles back.  A good, but chilly lunchtime.

Then today it was that perfect combination for a ride into work - wet AND cold.  Obviously there's just a touch of irony in my use of the word "perfect" - it was bloody awful.  The Herb and I distracted ourselves by alternately talking about how "it's much worse when it's windy" and trying to make each other fall off by not paying attention and swerving into each other's way.

Separate rides home, and I was quite pleased with how strong I felt considering I've only had two days off running or biking in the last 20.  I suspect there was some wind assistance but I actually got home quicker than we went in - a very unusual "negative split" for a bike commute.

London tomorrow - hopefully a pootle round a park or two, then track Thursday if I can get back in time.

Sunday, 22 January 2012


I'm in a bit of a quandary, me.  I've recently become a tad weather obsessed - not because of the effect on short-term running and cycling activities, but because of the effect on our forthcoming ski trip to Morzine.

Just prior to Christmas, following the driest November in living memory, even the relatively high slopes of Avoriaz (just above Morzine) were green, brown, grey - everything but white.  This got me interested in the forum on the Snowheads website, and particularly this thread.  There's links to various weather models posted, and I've got quite knowledgeable about low pressure areas dipping down from the arctic and bringing storms 9and lots of snow) to the Alps.  The good news is that after the snow-drought of the autumn the winter so far looks amazing - nearly 3m of snow up top and Morzine's got plenty too.

However, these low pressure areas that are bringing snow to the Haute Savoie are also bringing westerly winds across Embsay, which is making it a right bugger to get out and do anything.  I've decided that Saturdays are my long(ish) off road run day, so yesterday I set off to do my 8m circuit of the moor, finishing past Embsay Crag.  I felt pretty good on the way up to Halton Heights, but then when I hit the moor and turned to start the climb up to the summit the wind hit me - it was absolutely brutal.  I've never felt so much resistance when running - you expect it on a bike, but this made me feel like I was running through treacle.

It was worth a full 90 seconds a mile on the two mile climb up to the top, and even reduced me to walking  for a few yards on the steepest bit.

Eventually I turned left again and "only" had a gale force side wind, which made for easier going but still tricky running on the narrow single-track. My legs were absolutely battered when I got home, which made the fact it was a minute slower than last week even harder to take!

I'd intended to get out with the club today, but given the sound of the wind and rain, Herb and I decided to sack it off for this morning and see what the afternoon brings - probably more wind and rain, but on the bright side, more snow in Morzine!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Gently bumbling with ma bros

The hitherto non-cyclist transformed.  Note fat git back right (not my mum...)

Very, very cold ride into work yesterday, and a still chilly ride home for an early finish.  We had family round in the shape of my mum, Rick (cycling bro), Kath (cycling bro's cycling wife), Keith (hitherto non-cycling bro) and Annie ((hitherto non-cycling bro's wife) - clear?

A splendid repast (though I say so myself) of pasta and stuff, no beer (get me!) and a bit of pudding (sorry, belly) and much talk of Mallorca cycling trips - which the hitherto non-cycling bro has agreed to come on.  Not entirely sure he knows what he's letting himself in for, as even with a few months to get ready the big mountains ride might be a bit much - mind you I'm expecting it might be a bit much for some rather more experienced cyclists amongst us.

Anyway - the hitherto non-cycling bro has been given a hybrid bike - indeterminate brand, 26" wheels and knobbly tyres, but no boingy bits and a decidedly racy looking saddle was transformed in our utility room into a road speed machine by the addition of some slick tyres.  The hitherto non-cycling bro, size 7 feet and lots of boingy bits, was similarly transformed by the addition of some groovy white cycling shoes and an unused Marmite thermal jacket.

We met Rick, who'd heroically cycled the 17 miles or so from home, in Clitheroe and set off, via a bike shop to adjust Keith's saddle, for an enjoyable wimble round some pleasant lanes.  I think we went to Whalley, I'm certain we went to Waddington and I suspect we nearly went to Grindleton.  We also met the ladies at a nice caff where our mam bought us some coffee.

Just 20 miles or so, and hardly earth shattering pace-wise, but a lovely day (when it stopped drizzling) to be out with your big brothers and filling the hitherto non-cyclist's head with Stuff You Must Have (think GPS, summer bike, winter bike, posh glasses etc etc).  The other thing we decide he Must Have is a dinky little baker's cap to wear under his helmet - so on our return to the car I duly presented Keith with the daft headgear in the photo above - no longer a hitherto non-cycling bro - in the space of a morning I now have two bros of the cycling variety!

Roll on Mallorca...

Sunday, 15 January 2012

A great weekend

Well that's the weekend almost done and I'm still sticking to my plan - no beer, better diet and get on it as far as exercise goes.

Thursday was my rest day, and I was ready for it after 10 days of doing something, then Friday saw me and Herb out at lunch in lovely weather running up through East Morton and down through Riddlesden.  It's the reverse of a daft run Chris Tomes took me on a few months ago, where we went along the canal for a couple of miles then a ludicrously steep climb for a mile then a gentle, fast (and no effort) downhill back to work.  This way you get a good two miles of uphill before a silly downhill and a flat run back.  Felt reasonably strong on the up, which is good, as between now and April I've got to get quite good at up.

Then yesterday I took Izzy out for what will become my "long run" day, normally off road.  We went along to Halton east then up the green lane to Halton Heights, which felt ok, instead of the usual lung-bursting grovel.  We then crossed over onto the moor and began the climb up to the top, pausing for a quick snap for Izz:

The cunning plan was that Izzy would haul me up the climb to the top, but she decided that she'd rather run alongside me, so all the effort was my own.  As with Friday I felt ok most of the way up the climb, so despite the fact I seem to be staying resolutely hefty perhaps I'm getting a bit stronger.

At the top we turned left to head back down via Eastby and the church - 8 miles, about 70 minutes and tired legs.  I've got about twelve weeks to be able to do that distance three times over.  Blimey...

A really cold night last night, so I was quietly hoping Herb would declare it too sloppy to cycle - no such luck.  Even my feeble excuse that I couldn't get my bike out because the shed lock was frozen fell on deaf ears, so just after half nine we were off over Halton Heights, wheezing and blowing like the old blokes we  are.

We decided to stick to main roads, so at the Wharfedale road we turned last and followed our noses.  It was absolutely beautiful, with half the valley in shade and so still frosty, and the other half green(ish).  At Grassington we decided to keep heading up the valley and add in the climb up to Kidstones, the watershed between Wharfedale and Bishopdale.

Herb north of Buckden

We had both forgotten what the climb up to Kidstones is like, having only done it once during a sportive from Richmond, but I'd forgotten it slightly less than Herb so had a vague recollection of "uppy bit, pub, another uppy bit, top" - and so it proved.  Both of us found the climb reasonably easy, and were then surprised when we came down it to find it felt quite steep.  Either way, the extra height meant the views were spectacular, and I took the opportunity afforded by getting a slight lead on Herb to take some pictures at the top.  I still surprise myself sometimes with just how stunning the area we live in is - constantly changing, always beautiful.
Looking back down from Kidstones

The ride back down the valley (via a rather splendid egg butty in Kettlewell) took about an hour, with the blast down from Cracoe enlivened by having a lad to chase, who seemed to go faster than us on the flat and a lot slower than us on the hills - we caught him just before the turn off to Brackenley Lane - male pride satisfied.

Herb hitting the heights

The final bit of drama was Herb having a massive blowout about half a mile from his house, so we decided it was better for him to walk home, rather than start messing about mending punctures.

A grand day to end a grand week - about 22 miles of running and 70 miles of biking - not quite the 30 and 100 I'd like to get to, but it's getting easier each time out.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Still at it...

Well today is my first rest day in 10, and if I say so myself I think I've earned it.

Red meat - none
Beer - none
Runs - 6
Spin classes (sorry) - 1
Bike rides - 3

Weight lost?  No idea - but I feel a bit fitter.  Dragged myself to the track on Tuesday on my own, where I did 6x800 with most of the reps being in the 3:05-3:10 space - nowhere near as quick as a couple of years ago when they'd have been 2:50 or so, but it was blowy and being on your own does drag the enthusiasm down a bit, meaning I wasn't busting a gut (not to say it wasn't tough).

Three Peaks entered, so whilst I'm not intending to have the sort of planned schedule I did for my marathon last year I do need to start thinking about getting some long runs in.  I think I'll aim for march though, as February is taken up with skiing, rugby and wedding anniversaries.

Onwards and upwards - back to running tomorrow and hopefully first longish off road run on Saturday (my first of the year, Izzy's first ever).

Monday, 9 January 2012

A double sesh

Not content with the no beer/more running/less meat start to the year today I achieved (for a fat, under-motivated biffa) a bit of a milestone.  Firstly I went for a run at lunchtime - it was lovely - temperate, sunny and still - just the job for a 4 and a bit miler at just under 7:40 pace (which felt comfy, another good sign).  Nothing remarkable in that, you may say - but that meant I've done something every day for a week.  Not high mileage, not fast pace, but I either rode a bike or ran somewhere every day for a week.  Hurrah.

Then later this evening I went with the Herb to Aireville Pool and did a spin class - so a "double" exercise session.  I'm still unconvinced by spinning - even though I try to crank up the resistance there was only one exercise where my legs felt they were getting a good seeing to.  More effort needed or just a bit of a sweaty gym-bunny con-job?  Don't know - but we're going back next week for another go - well, given that The Herb has purchased some skin-tight muscle gear (think gay disco meets speed skater) he needs somewhere to go other than Queens Court in Leeds...

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Happy new year, fatty

Well back in November I said I was going to lose 10lbs by the new year.  You're probably wondering if I managed it.

Did I buggery.

So I hit the new year still pretty unfit (ticking over exercise-wise, but still too much beer and fatty stuff to drop any weight).  But as usual with the new year came resolutions, and I do feel like I've started off better than either of the last two years.

Eat lots more fish - tick
Eat less red meat - tick
Soup at lunch - tick
No beer til Feb - tick
More running - tick
Get out on my bike - tick.

Now I know it's only a week, but the "calendar" view on Rubitrack looks a lot more healthy - 4 runs and two bike rides this week, including a gnarly lump-fest over to Pendle and back today with Herb.

Now just got to stick with it...

I've decided that if I get a stone off by the end of March I can have a new bike - a Rose Bikes carbon jobby with Ultegra Di2 is looking favourite, so I'd better start taking this seriously!