On Bike Running In Pool
 2014: 1291 km 
2013: 2328 km
2012: 2111 km
2011: 3796 km
2010: 2267 km
 2014: 503 km 
2013: 542 km
2012: 97 km
 2014: 6.5 km 
2013: 18 km

Core planned events for 2014:

  1.  IceMan 10-Mile Trail Run (25 Jan)
  2.  Wokingham Half Marathon (9 Feb) [Event cancelled due to flooding]
  3.  Surrey Half Marathon (9 Mar)
  4.  Ronde van Vlaanderen Sportive (5 Apr)
  5.  Fred Whitton Challenge Sportive (11 May) <<< Main target event for the year!
  6. ✘ Steel Man Olympic-distance Triathlon (12 July) [Haven’t been swimming for 6 months :(]
  7.  Hike Ben Nevis (26 Aug)
  8.  Richmond/Kew Half Marathon (21 Sep)
  9.  Leatherhead Sprint Duathlon (19 Oct)
  10.  Wild Man 15K Trail Run (22 Nov)
  11. Hogs Back Run (7 Dec)

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Dressing for running v/s dressing for cycling

Dressing for running v/s dressing for cycling

I recently noticed the contrast between my dressing philosophy for running and cycling in winter.

For running, I try to wear as little as possible to just keep me from freezing (for lack of a better description).

The goal is to dress up to not feel too hot even at the peak of my run.

I’d rather feel a bit cold at the start – easily remedied by a good warm up before heading out,
than feel too hot during the run – unable to remove any layers, or unwilling to carry them tied around.

For cycling, I attempt to wear as much as possible to feel mildly warm the moment I set out (and potentially sweating inside the house).

The goal here is to dress up for the worst – fast, chilly descents, rather than for warm uphill efforts.

I’d rather feel a bit hot on the ascents – remedied by opening the jersey zipper a bit more,
than freeze my core on the descents – with no more layers handy to cover up.

2 reasons for the difference in approach:

  1. The difference in speeds and effort – my cycling speeds (affecting windchill) are 2-4x the running speeds, while the effort (approximated by HR) is usually similar, or lower. Thus, while the body is producing similar amount of heat, it’s facing a lot more cooling effect.
  2. The range of distance – most runs don’t take me too far from home and civilisation, thus always leaving me the option of returning and layering up if things get too bad. Even a 30-mile bike ride may have me an hour from home at times – too far to leave most things to chance. Thus, the conservative dressing.

This conservatism also comes up in other ways too – the only thing I carry on most sub-20K runs is the house key. No phone, wallet, or cash. On all my bike rides, except commute, I carry the saddle bag with tools and spare tubes, phone, wallet, keys, at least one energy gel, a spare light, and water bottles.

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Mud and flood weekend 1

Mud & Flood part 1 at Wildman Trail Run in Ash Vale

Mud & Flood part 1 at Wildman Trail Run in Ash Vale

It was the a truly autumnal weekend – persistent rain, chill in the air, muddy trails, flooding on the roads, and return of Human Race’s trail run series. It was also the weekend I decided to move into 2nd gear with my preps for next year’s run and ride fiesta.

After our move to Guildford last October, I started taking Chewie along for my runs. Couldn’t let all the trails of Mount/Hogs-Back behind our backyard go waste, after all. As we graduated from our slow, me-pestering-him-to-stop-jumping-at-me runs to the still slow, him-giving-me-the-look-asking-me-to-keep-up runs, Raghi suggested that we try out a canicross trail run. That was the start, last autumn, of our trail running events.

Over the winter, Raghi felt left out, so did the C25K course herself (thanks Laura!), and got hooked into running. Come autumn, she’d registered, before us, for the Human Race’s trail run series. All 3 of them! *brave girl*

Not wanting to let her get all the mud fun alone, Chewie and I too registered for Wildman, which we’d missed last year after I got a back spasm the week before.

Mud & Flood, Part 1 – Wildman

Saturday morning. Temperature was mild, for time of the year. Rain was inconsistent, but enough had fallen over the preceding weeks to leave lots of bogs and floods all over the course. Spirits were high, except in Chewie, who was wondering why on earth were we out in the soggy woods this early on Saturday morning. That was till he saw the dozens of other dogs, and smelled the sausages being grilled.

Rags started her 10K with the big group of humans 20 mins before Chewie started dragging me around the course. That’s how most of our runs are – 2K of him dragging me while I attempt to stay on my feet, 4-5K of him running just comfortably ahead of me, 2-5K of him running next to me, and thereafter me dragging, cajoling, carrying him to the finish. Thankfully, we caught Raghi before the finish, and Chewie decided he wanted to run with her. Running with them slowed me down while I escorted them both to the finish, but with Chewie gone to the finish with her, I was free to run the final 5K loop at my own pace :)

The first 10K loop was easier than what I remember my last run – Iceman – to be. It still had climbs, and loads of mud / bogs, but it also had long sections of flat and false-flat tracks. Running on the not-so-flat terrain of the mount had me well prepared for that, and I could pace myself comfortably through it. The 2nd 5K loop was more like what I remember the trail runs to be. Still not as crazy as the 2nd loop at Iceman, but a lot more frequent climbs, narrow, muddy paths, and the beloved water hazard! Boy, would Chewie have loved the water hazard, had he still be running with me. Raghi, might have had to swim across ;)

The story of 1st loop was – start fast, leaving behind a lot of fellow canicrossers, followed by a long steady leg of keeping a comfortable pace, ending with a slow-ing finish where many of those canicrossers, and a whole horde of fast duathletes overtook us. The 2nd loop, on the other hand, was a lot more even – me overtaking a decent number of tail-enders from the non-canicross 15K runners. Last year, I was *the* tail-ender. This year, I was running past a few of them. Experience definitely counts in this trail running malarkey ;)

The run finished, just as it’d started – fast. Felt good to still have spare energy in the legs after the run. The plans for a sub-1:50 HM at Wokingham are looking good :)

After a tiny bit of stretching, and drinking a couple of bottles of water + VitaCoco (each!), it was time to head for the final trail running ritual – Sausages!
Rags and I got ours with the bun, ketchup and mayo on top, while Chewie got his clean. 10K in the mud, warm sausage in the stomach – he was ready to sleep for rest of the day.

Mud & Flood, Part Deux – The Rain Ride

While Chewie and Rags decided to take the Sunday off, to recover from their first trail run of the season, I had miles to go before I could sle…

Training for Fred Whitton 2015 means, I’ve got to (learn to love to) ride in all weathers. This Sunday, it meant a 50K ride in non-stop rain, on roads that were either flooded, or layered with mud. Or both.

My wuss’ plan as I headed out was an easy 25K ride: Home – Compton – Wonersh – Black Heath – St. Martha – Compton – Home.

Once on the road, I discovered an unexpected side-benefit of riding in crappy weather on Sunday afternoons – no traffic on the roads!
The ride plan soon changed into: Home – Compton – Wonersh – Black Heath (from Wonersh) – Shamley Green – Framley Green – Shere – Up Coombe Lane – Down Coombe Lane – Albury – Up Guildford Lane – Down St. Martha – Black Heath (from Chilworth) – Wonersh – Compton – Home.

Mud & Flood - Part 2

Mud & Flood – Part 2

3 easy climbs turned into 6, and then some. However, there wasn’t one moment when I didn’t enjoy the ride.

Not when, in the middle of a descent I was suddenly faced with a 50m long, flooded section of a single-track road. The car on the other side patiently waited for me to slowly, and carefully ride across the middle.
Not when, climbing hard out-of-the-saddle, I take a corner to see the whole road covered in an inch-thick layer of mud. My skills staying upright almost convinced me to take up cyclocross.
Not even when, the mountain biker standing around at St. Martha – first other cyclist I saw on the whole ride – didn’t return my hello!
Not when the boy racer overtook me dangerously closely while I was climbing up Guildford Ln. It helped that the car behind him kept his respectful distance and waited for me to slow down into a passing place, and then thanked me for giving him space.
And definitely not the innumerable times when the chain refused to shift into the large chainring. Even stopped and did it by hand a couple of times.

It helped that while it was wet, the temperatures weren’t really low – hovering in low double digits for most of my ride. Climbing half a dozen hills also meant that the body got enough opportunity to keep the boiler running, and keep me warm.

While on the ride, I realised how much I love running-riding-hiking in wet, mildly-cold weather. On the other hand, for a fella who grew up in 45°C heat, I wither surprisingly fast in even 28°C summers we have here.

I wonder if I’ll still love these wet rides once the temperature drops into low single digits, and the wind starts howling? Getting the miles in then could make-or-break my FW2015 plans.

And, that was the first mud, flood, and fun weekend of the autumn. Time to gird up for the next one. 

PS

When I say experience counts in trail running, I mean it. Last year, like most leading-edge runners and most newbies, I was trying to run up every hill, sprint down every descent, and reaching the finish crawling on all fours. Lesson learnt. This year, I was walking up (as fast as I could) most of those short-steep climbs, jogging up the long-steady ones, and using all the saved energy to put in a much better time on the remaining 80% of the course.

Rags, on the other hand, despite my advice, was running up all the climbs. Or as many as she could, and then shattering to pieces on top of each one, unable to use the descents or flats to get anywhere.

The other bit where experience helped was in communication with Chewie. Last year, he used to pull me up-hill, down-hill, off-trail, on-trail, and then just sit up once knackered, demanding to be carried home.

Running, and walking, together over the year has helped us both get a few bits drilled out. He pulls uphill, on command, and goes downhill gently, on command. When he starts getting tired, instead of pulling himself to collapse, he starts running an easier pace – my pace. He also has a lot more stamina, so that helps too.

Where he still hasn’t changed is in his urge to run as fast as possible on the start, to keep up with (or be) the *first* dog on the course. Frankly, I don’t mind that part in him one bit :)

That, and our shared love of hot dogs!

Sunday run

22K late evening run middle of this summer. Started slow and easy down the steep Mount, went slightly faster as I turned on to the riverside, passing couples out for evening stroll, and ducks returning for a kip.

7K mark, said hello to a lovely couple sat by their boat reading books in evening sunlight.

10K mark, time to turn around at the neighbouring town of Godalming. Time for a stretch and a gel.

12K mark, dad and 2 daughters on a kayak, in the river. Brief chat as I run the bend. The elder daughter prepares to go for a dip in the river.

14K mark, the couple by the boat have lit a small fire, and a wine bottle has replaced the books. They offer a glass. Alas, I have to pass!

17K mark, the swans and ducks are gone for the night, legs are getting heavy, and the steep Mount is nearing.

Hit the mount. Breathing quickens, steps shorten.

Finish the mount. The sunset view draws a smile, the watch hits 20K, and the end (home!) is almost in sight.

1 hour, 58 mins after I started, am home. Greeted by a girl with beer in her hand, my salty face licked clean by Chewie, and the chicken roast smell filling the house. Time to stretch, cold shower, and feast. Another Sunday has come to an end.

C&I-IceMan

Chewie & Me after a 10 mile trail run

I like to let my thoughts wander while on long, easy runs. Makes the run easy when the focus isn’t on distance. Or speed.

On yesterday’s run, the wandering, jaywalking brain came back with an interesting thought (observation) on running, and cycling:

When running down an easy descent, legs work as wheels on a bike – lightly ticking over with little effort, tapping the momentum generated by body’s weight and gravity for motion.

When running down a steep descent, legs work as brakes on a bike – slowing down the body to prevent falling over due to its own momentum.

 

Fred Whitton 2014 – In Numbers

Clare-Fogden-on-the-Hardknott-Pass-630x419

With 10 major climbs, including the gear-shattering Honister and Hardknott passes, almost 4000m of climbing, and 180km of beautiful lake country roads, Fred Whitton is the hardest cycle sportive in the UK. To add to the route, the early May date practically guarantees an (un?)healthy mix of constant rain, strong winds and cold weather.

I had registered for, and won, a ballot entry for the 2014 event, but chickened out had to pull out because of logistical+financial reasons.

While checking if registrations for FW2015 had opened yet, I came across the results data from 2014 event. Here’s a quick look at those numbers.
(Data source: http://www.fredwhittonchallenge.co.uk/2014-results/)

Time & Speed Distribution

Average time taken to finish the course was 8 hours 51 mins (avg speed: 20.69 km/h), close to the median of times taken at 8 hours 49 min (median speed was 20.4 km/h).

The fastest rider flew around in a time of just 6 hours 8 mins, with an average speed of 29.35 km/h.
The slowest rider bravely hung on to finish in a time of 13 hours 28 mins, averaging 13.37 km/h.

cumuRidersUnderHoursThe surprising bit for me here was that more than 80% of the riders finished in under 10 hours. Must be some light and fast riders taking on this challenge!

My planned time of 11 hours would’ve put me in the bottom 5% of finishers. If I’d finished at all.

Segments

Fred Whitton Section1
Looking at the three segments, the first one, from Grasmere to Braithwaite had the most climbing – 1607m – including the Kirkstone, Honister, and Newlands passes.

Fred Whitton Section2
Segment 2 started with Whinlatter Pass, but the only other key climb on it was the smallest of them all – Cold Fell. In total climbing (725m) and ascent-ratio (17.26m/km), it sure looks like the easiest segment.

Fred Whitton Section3
Segment 3 looks mostly flat but comes at end of a long day. And has the hardest climb of them all – the Hardknott pass! Combined with an ascent of Wrynose, this gives this segment 947m of climbing with the highest ascent-ratio at 18.94 m/km. That ascent ratio doesn’t matter much (as visible on profile graph) since all of it is clustered in those 2 climbs with flat miles before and after.

My assumption was that the 2nd section would be the fastest, with 1st and 3rd close together in avg speed. There was a surprise in the results:
SegmentSpeeds
The fastest segment was the first, the hilliest one – averaging 22.61 km/h.
The middle segment, the supposedly easiest one, was the slowest of the three – averaging just 18.10 km/h!! Experienced Fred Whitton riders warn about this segment all the time. The timing results showed the warnings were not off!

In fact, there were just 63 riders, out of 1738 finishers, who were faster in the 2nd segment than either of the other two. 96%+ riders were slowest in the middle segment!

Age Group & Gender

The data also helpfully provides the age group & gender of riders. So, next looking at the participation ratios, and speeds across these divides.
Gender-ParticipantsAG-ParticipationAs with most cycle sportives around the country, an overwhelming majority of participants in this sportive as well are men.

Surprisingly, the M40-59 age group outnumbers the M20-39 AG. I had expected it to be the other way around. For women, the rate declines with age (though the numbers are too small to be taken as a trend).

AG-Gender-SpeedComparing speeds, the fastest group is, as expected, M20-39, though M40-49 isn’t far behind. Those two AGs also constituted ~73% of riders, thus pushing the average speed to above 20km/h, despite *all* other AGs being slower than that mark.

Standout performers for me were 4 tandem finishers – faster than 3 other AGs despite lugging 2 people’s weight and those heavy bikes around. They mustn’t have ridden them the way some couples do, right? #freeriding

Gender-SpeedAverage speed for female riders was more than 2km/h slower than that for males. However, the slowest rider defied both gender and age stereotypes – it was someone from M50-59 AG.

Mountain goats

We also have timing data for the Newlands pass climb. The easiest thing to do with this is to calculate VAMs (using a roughly estimated vertical ascent of 210m).

NewlandsVAMdistribution

Don’t you love it when real life data actually fits closely to a bell curve? I do! :)

Average VAM was 989 Vm/h (median: 985.66 Vm/h). Fastest climber had a Vm/h comparable to a top pro at 1,521 Vm/h, while the slowest climber (apart from me, if I’d ridden) went at 448.6 Vm/h. Both were from the M40-49 AG.

Stretching the reality a bit further, and comparing the VAMs to those of professional cyclists, we have:

  • 2 riders who’d rank in top 20 of an average TdF mountain stage,
  • 38 who’d finish in the peloton on that stage,
  • 392 who’d finish in the grupetto, and
  • 1331 who’d get relegated for finishing outside the time cut-off :)

This wayward classification is based on these estimates.

Wherever you rank on that VAM calculation, I’m sure the long descent into the beautiful Newlands valley made the pain worth it!

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Ups and Downs

Upside Down

Upside Down

That’s how it’s been since spring, my favourite activity period, ended and a sordid (though beautiful) summer started.

Finished Ronde in better time than last year, despite getting beaten by @julykatrae to the line. Up.

Moved my Fred Whitton entry to 2015 after stumbling badly on the logistics bit. Down.

Didn’t go for a ride, apart from commutes, for almost 3 months. Down.

Gained almost 4 kilos, almost all around the waist. Down.

Running re-started well in late April, building up to consecutive weekends of 13 mile+ runs in late June. Up.

Running mileage reached 100km in June, a best for me. Up.

Might’ve increased the mileage too fast. Got a nasty ITB injury in left knee, and old left hamstring injury cropped up again. Down.

Almost zero running in 2nd half of July. Down.

Returned to lycra-clad bike riding with 3 consecutive brick sessions. Up.

Avg speeds, climbing speeds have improved despite the break. Up.

Returned to the pool, after 8 months, with two swims in 3 days. Up.

All parts of the upper torso hurting after just 2 swims. Bad, yet good!

Successful,  swim-run brick involving uphill run from home to pool. Up.

Now, looking forward to 2 weeks of hiking in Scotland coming up. Quite scared of it, actually. The munros are higher, and steeper than our usual hills in Lake District. And we’ve both been concentrating on running and cycling this year, so climbing legs may not be there.

A bit concerned about how my 2yo Chewie might take the longer, steeper hikes. Though, I think he may come back from them fresher than we would :) :(

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de Ronde: The Favourites

Ronde van Vlaanderen Logo

While walking Chewie, my thoughts moved ahead to the upcoming annual trip to Flanders for de Ronde. It was more of an imaginary scenario playing out than thoughts, and here’s how it went:

I’m at the Eurostar-EU immigration counter and the officer opposite me is giving me suspicious looks.

Officer: Sir, I see you’ve visited Belgium this same time of the year for 3 years now. May I know the purpose of this visit?

Me: It’s for a cycling event, Tour of Flanders, that happens this time of the year, every year, in Belgium.

Officer (smiling faintly, but suspiciously): Oh, you’re heading for de Ronde? I might be coming to watch it too. Who do you think is going to win it this year?

Me (smiling a bit more): Well, that depends on where you are from.

Officer: Very well, let’s say I’m from Flanders.

Me: In that case, the finishing order would be…

1. Boonen (Flemish)
2. Cancellara (popular, non-Flemish favourite)
3. Tepstra (Dutch, outside favourite, riding for a Belgian team, probably 2nd in line after Boonen)
4. Kwiatkowski (listening a bit to my heart)
5. Chavanel (perennial outside bet)

Officer: Interesting! Now, let’s say I was from Wallonia.

Me: In that case, the finishing order would be…

1. Gilbert (a Walloon, doesn’t matter if he actually rides or saves his legs for the Ardennes classics!)
2. Cancellara (not Flemish)
3. Chavanel (French, and perennial outside bet)
4. Kwiatkowski (listening a bit to my heart)
5. Tepstra (Dutch, outside favourite, riding for a Belgian team)
6. Boonen (Flemish)

Officer: Ok. What if I was an ordinary fella from … *checks my passport* … India?

Me: In that case, the finishing order would be…

1. Sachin Tendulkar (God, and, in India, always wins everything!)
2. Lance Armstrong (probably the most well-known cyclist in non-cycling circles in India. Doesn’t matter that he isn’t riding)
3. Pele (we’re already into the backup list of non-cricket int’l sports people)
4. Maradona (still in the list)
5. Messi (getting to end of the list)
6. Virat Kohli (if you must have another name, I hear he might just be the next cricketing demi-god)

Officer: C’mon! Tell me who do you want really to be in that finishing order?

Me: In that case, the finishing order would be…

1. Cancellara (personal favourite, heart and head)
2. Boonen (2nd personal favourite, plus I want to see a duel between Spartacus and Tommeke)
3. Kwiatkowski (personal favourite from the young bloods, and in not too bad a shape)
4. Tepstra (Dutch, outside favourite, riding for a Belgian team, probably 2nd in line after Boonen)
5. Chavanel (perennial outside bet at Flanders)
6. not-Sagan (anyone whose name is not Peter Sagan)

Officer (smiling again): I’ll take that list! Have a good trip, and see you on the Paterberg! *stamps passport*