On Bike Running In Pool
 2014: 1240 km 
2013: 2328 km
2012: 2111 km
2011: 3796 km
2010: 2267 km
 2014: 492 km 
2013: 542 km
2012: 97 km
 2014: 5.3 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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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.


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


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.


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:
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).


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*

Run Done: Surrey Half Marathon

Surrey Half Marathon 2014 Logo

Ran my first half marathon this weekend at Surrey Half . Clocked 2:08:57 for little over 13 miles – not as bad as I’d feared, but not as good as I wanted either.

The pre-season.

I’d initially signed up to run the Wokingham Half exactly a month ago, and the prep for it had been really good. The whole winter running season had been tailored for that, with a target time of sub-2 hours. After a long, wet winter of hilly, muddy base miles, I’d run 10 mile trail runs the previous two weekends, and shorter tempo/interval runs mid-weeks. The hamstring injury from autumn had finally disappeared, as had the ITB pain that’d plagued me on the trail all winter. With a week-long taper, I was ready to hit the road in Wokingham in my best running shape for a while. Then, just 2 days before the race, it was cancelled due to flooding on the route. That darned UK weather, again!

Disappointed, but still wanting to run a half-marathon before the cycling season began, I signed up for Surrey Half, and hoped to keep the form. The only issues hanging in between were an India trip (read: lots of tasty, unhealthy food with no exercise whatsoever), and beginning of my cycling season (couldn’t postpone it any further with Ronde and Fred Whitton drawing every so closer). Nevertheless, it had to be done, and so ahead we went.

The prep.

It hadn’t been good.

While I had gathered good, quality, base miles through the winter, February had been a whitewash. There was a 10 mile run on 2nd, a couple of 15 mile hilly bike rides, two 5K tempo runs aborted after 3.5K each (once weather intervened, other time my un-fitness). So, essentially, I went into the run with a month-long taper. At least I didn’t have any injuries to cope with :)

The run.

It wasn’t half bad.

Got up early to have a bit of food – a banana, a toast with butter, half energy bar, and some energy drink and water. Rags dropped me off at Stoke park, and a bit of roaming around and warm up later, the run began.

Bright, warm & sunny - not the typical March morning in the UK

Bright, warm & sunny – not the typical March morning in the UK

It was sunny. Warm & sunny. 15°C and sunny is not weather one expects in early March in the UK. We had it. Having trained all winter in barely-single-digit temperatures with wind, rain, or both for company, this was unnatural for me. I’d been debating last two days whether to wear the tight shorts I’d been training all winter, or the baggy distance shorts I ran in the previous summer. Looking around at the start, seemed like I’d made the right choice by wearing the tight shorts. There were even people running in full tights!

3 miles in, I knew I’d made the wrong choice. Should have worn the summer running shorts, hydrated more, put some sun screen on back of the neck. Probably even carried a water bottle.

3 miles in, I was hot, and dry. I passed the first feed station, picking up a water bottle. Slowed down to a walk, swallowed down a Clif shot gel, and gulped down the water. Still, there was good news. I was averaging 8:30 min/mile, and the legs were feeling good.

6 miles in, and it got bad. The relief from water bottle at first feed station had passed, heat had picked up, and the road turned up ever so slightly (nothing I would even notice on the trail runs). I kept going – the pace suffered slightly dropping to 10:15 min/mile, but the body was suffering badly.

10K in, suffering badly but recovery’s on. Took 55:14 to finish the first 10K leg. Despite technically being on target to finish within 2 hour target, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. I needed to cool down, and hydrate if I was to finish without troubling the good folk of St. John’s Ambulance service. Snapped up 2 water bottles and a Gu gel. Half the bottle went in, then the gel, followed by another quarter of bottle in, and the final quarter on head. Walked almost half a kilometre. Carried the 2nd bottle carried along for another 1.5 miles for hydration and showering. Legs were still good, body was cooling down, water was getting into the system. Started running again. Speed was slower, but manageable – clocking around 9:30/mile.

8 miles in, and what a boost! The miles and heat of first half started catching up with the legs as I approached the 8 mile mark. It was still 2 miles to the feed station. Opposite the St. Marks church in Westfield, outside Woking, were one of the many bands en-route. As I approached them, I recognised the encouraging tune they were playing. Eye of the Tiger. Just the thing I needed. Smile back on the face, energy back in the legs, off I went again. Huge thanks to that band! (Sad I didn’t have the wits around to take a photo of them then).

9.5 miles, final feed stop done, heading to the finish. Picked up another 2 bottles, swallowed my 2nd Clif shot gel, and walked 200m. The wind had picked up so heat wasn’t as much of a problem now. Head wind was. Legs were also tiring, probably crying about the lack of running last month or so. The pace suffered a bit – just above 10 min/mile for all but the last mile.

Still sunny at the finish

The Finish.

Finish. I’d seen the route briefings but forgotten by the time I got to the finish that the finish was on the running track at the Spectrum. Gotta say, it was fun to run on the smooth, supportive track after 13 miles on the rough road. That there was a finish sign 3/4th way around the track might’ve even helped the pace. A fast last kilometre has been a trait for me on the trail runs all through winter, irrespective if it was a 5K tempo run on the Mount, or a 10 mile Ice Man in Frimley. Maybe I need to stop saving energy for a fast finish, and start consuming it over the previous miles. The last mile here, like the first mile, was sub 9 min/mile. 9:48 min/mile for the distance. Targeting sub 1:45 for Wokingham half next Feb.

Faux #sufferselfie at the finish

Faux #sufferselfie at the finish

Received the medal. Picked another 2 bottles of water. Sunned & stretched in the track green. Took a faux #sufferselfie for @blacklinelondon gang (suffering was happening between 5 & 8 mile marks, now I was fresh as a daisy). Got a quick massage, bought a £10 ‘technical’ tee, and after wandering around for a little bit, called in the pick-up.

Was slightly disappointed at not having made it under the 2-hour mark. Was super relieved at having finished without any injuries.

Was slightly disappointed at not seeing a single familiar face in the 5000+ runners or the equally large number of supporters on roads and the finish. Was quite hopeful of that changing, with Rags having picked up running over this winter. I think she’s secretly planning to run a half as well :)

My finisher medal

My finisher medal


Up Next.

With the half marathon completed, my running season is at an end. I’ll still keep running 1-2 runs a week, and might run another half marathon in autumn, but the focus now shifts completely to cycling.

It’s under 4 weeks to de Ronde sportive, and little over a month after that to the big one – the Fred Whitton challenge up in the lakes. Need to put in a lot of long rides under the belt. And a lot of climbing. In March. And then, in April, need to put in a few good long rides with lots of climbing in them. All this while fighting with, and encouraging, Rags to keep her cycling training up – she’s riding the short Ronde sportive as well this year. As big a challenge for her as the Fred is for me.

May the force be with us!

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