Addiction is a bad thing, right?

Yet another back spasm, and hamstring niggles at end of last year meant I was off cycling, spinning and long runs for a while. Not wanting to start the new year with a lazy daze, I decided on something different – to run a shorter distance, 5K, every day of January.

It would help me keep in shape without putting too much stress on the back and the hamstring, while also challenging me – mentally instead of physically – to get out and run every single day irrespective of weather, mood, and work.

It worked out brilliantly

I ran more in January, 180Km, than I’d ever run in a month before. And I carried the momentum into February, running a 5K both the day before and after my target Half Marathon at Wokingham. And still improved my Half Marathon PB by almost 15 minutes. The daily runs didn’t just make me better at running, but also made me a happier, generally more upbeat about everything, improved productivity at work, and made me a regular at spinning, swimming and gym too. I loved it!

The plateau

After the consistency of January, and early February, there came a few breaks – fainting episodes that could’ve lead to potential head injuries making me take a few days off. Twice. It disturbed me a bit, but then the outdoor cycling season kicked in with two consecutive 100K+ sportive Sundays, including the very enjoyable Hell of the Ashdowns, and that helped stabilise the mood a little.

Still, there was a bad feeling in the back of the heart that things were plateauing. At 140Km for February, I hadn’t run even close to January’s total despite running a half marathon and a couple of 10K+ runs.

The descent

March began slow. We took a planned mid-week vacation in Cornwall1. Add in a weekend off cycling, and misc chores resulting in a whole week without any running. Things weren’t good, but the 3 days in Cornwall helped keep the spirits up.

Running restarted with the last of trail series runs, the Mudman, and then continued between spinning classes and Sunday cycling. But it never got close to the January levels. Or even February levels. More than missing the occasional daily 5K, what has been disturbing me more is the lack of Saturday long runs. The trail 10K at MudMan is the longest run I’ve done this month

  1. It was amazing! Thanks to everyone at the Scarlett. 
Addiction is a bad thing, right?

Hell of the Ashdowns. Heaven of sticky malt loafs.

It was cold.
Roads were icy.
There were hills aplenty.
It got really windy & rainy near the end.

It was awful.

Loved it! I’ll be back.

Things I learnt this weekend:

  1. Hell is not hot.
    It’s cold, wet and windy. A snowball would do very well in there.

  2. They serve amazing sticky malt loafs in Hell.
    Wonder what all the good bakers do to earn their place in there?
    I may have gorged on half a dozen of them, eating more in calories than I ever hoped to burn over 65 miles of cycling.
    These sticky malt loafs should be mandatory at all cycling events! Make it a rule.

  3. People running Hell are quite a friendly and helpful bunch.
    The devil must be a jolly good fella to have gathered such a chirpy bunch. My kinda guy. Or girl.

  4. I like hills1
    Both, going up and down them. Don’t know when this happened. Maybe after I lost 20 kilos, thus increasing my power-weight ratio by 25%. Or maybe when we moved to this house in Guildford – living on top of the hill means rides back from everywhere are uphill. There’s no escaping at all.
    Whatever the reason, I have changed. From grimacing at the sight of a hill, I’ve gone to smiling at the thought of each one.
    A welcome change given where I live, and what I’ve signed up for.

  5. Big, old2 men can climb too!
    Andy claims to hate hills (wonder why he keeps signing up for hilly sportives?), and specially Kidds Hill (aka The Wall 3). Yet, he climbed it quite comfortably – chatting with me all the way up, so probably never above zone 3! Who said big men can’t climb?

  6. There is a ‘worst’ time to get a flat.
    It is 2 miles from the finish on a 65 mile ride.
    In freezing rain and driving winds.
    Finding the tiny piece of flint on a mud wrapped tyre is excellent training for building concentration under stress. Everyone must give it a go. Regularly!

  7. Surrey drivers aren’t such a bad bunch.
    Not when compared to some of the miserable twats who drive around Kent. One woman in a Land Rover honked continuously for at least a mile, driving way above safe speed across the lanes, almost running off 2 cyclists (hand stretched out to signal a turn) at the end.
    She was the worst I saw, but not the only one. Way more wayward, angry drivers than I meet on equivalent rides in Surrey or Sussex.

  8. Running is good for cycling.
    For this time of the year, I’ve cycled less this year than most years. I’ve run way more than any of the last years. And I’m climbing, out of the saddle, better than ever across all sorts of climbs – short and steep, long(!) and steady, short bumps and bridges, and more. So well that I’m climbing better out of the saddle than in it4.

  9. Being good at riding out of the saddle is useful!
    Not just for climbing. It’s a useful get out of jail card.
    Left hamstring started cramping on the up stroke just after I started the climb of Ide Hill. Riding out of the saddle helped stretch it, while still climbing comfortably. The niggle was almost gone by the time I reached the top of that 2 mile climb. I may even have accelerated past a bunch of riders near the top ;)
    Ridin out of the saddle is also very useful, even outside of climbs, as a back-stretcher for heavyset folk like me who frequently end up with lower-back pain. Ask the guy at Woking sportive who I carried back to the finish with a broken back. And me.

  10. Commuter jackets should be kept just for commuting.
    I’m not a jacket guy. The only one I have is a commuting one – very good at keeping dry on not-hard rides, and at keeping me highly visible day and night.
    With the threat of rain looming, I wore it for the ride. It did a great job of saving me from the freezing rain all of the last 30 mins of the ride. Sadly, by then I was thoroughly drenched under the jacket from sweating all through the ride. Doesn’t breathe. At all.
    I think I’ll stick to gilets.

  11. I missed out on a good looking bidon :(
    Turns out there were a few good looking bidons for riders to take away. I saw them lying around when I finished and went to the sign-in area. By the time I returned after swallowing a load of pasta and hot chocolate, they were gone.
    I have often criticized events for passing out characterless bidons in goody bags, but here I am rueing not picking one up this one time. Shallow, two faced me! (Now hand me that bidon)

  1. NEG + well trained volunteers beats all the goodies in the world

  2. Volunteers running Hell, standing around in freezing cold and rain, are way friendlier than the folk who pay to ride through it.
    Cyclists, specially the non-pro, road-riding variety need to lighten the F up.
    It’s not a race. You’re not riding against other riders. You’re riding with them, against the elements, against the terrain, and probably against that extra pint you had last night.
    No one forced you to ride. You volunteered. You even paid for the pleasure. Behave like it’s a pleasure!
    Smile at, and thank the volunteers. Every one of them. Yes, even the one at top of that hard hill you huffed and puffed up.
    Say hello to, and exchange banter with fellow riders. Rode with someone, off and on, along the way? Ask them how their ride went. Maybe share a fist bump. Don’t sit a table in the corner and pass shameful, snide remarks on the humanity of riders trudging in from the freezing cold5.
    Someone hung on to your wheel? Feel good that you helped someone out. Not shout at them, and call them names.
    We cyclists have got a lot to learn from us runners. There are more smiles and shakes at end of a single 10K running race than at end of all cycling, not-a-race sportives I attend in an year!

  3. Not taking a cold shower can have serious consequences
    Had my first episode of lactate suffering last night and today. All because I skipped the ritual, post-exercise cold shower. No, let’s not even talk about the foam roller.
    Feeling better since today’s lunch run, which was promptly followed by a cold shower and compression socks.
    Stupid me!

All in all, the never flat, undulating route, tasty grub and friendly volunteers more than made up for grumpy grimpeurs and crazy Kentish drivers. It was a good day out.

  1. I use the term hill quite liberally here. The hill I live on top of is 140m high. The highest in the region is barely over 250m! The climbs up them are either short and sharp, or not-very-short-but-not-long-either and steady. The best would probably rank as Cat 4 in the Tour. 

  2. If I disappear in the next few weeks, Andy did it – for calling him old. Tell the police! 
  3. There must be a hill climb nicknamed The Wall in every county of the UK! 
  4. I do need to work on seated climbing. Between spinning and running, the quads really haven’t been getting much power training. 
  5. Specifically, the two rich, fully Rapha-clad MAMILs sitting on my table making unmentionable comments about all the men and women they could empty their potty mouths at. 
Hell of the Ashdowns. Heaven of sticky malt loafs.


Butterflies in Stomach

Haven’t had them for a while, not for cycling events at least.

Riding the Hell of the Ashdowns tomorrow. It isn’t really long at sub 110K. Last weekend was marginally longer at 110K. It’s slightly hillier than last weekend, but not by much.

It’s just… new.

I haven’t ridden in those parts before, while I’d ridden most of the last weekend’s route multiple times before. It’s a new organising team, though well known. On the other hand, I’d ridden plenty of events with the Evans Cycles’ Ride It team before, including two from the same venue as last weekend’s.

Then there’s the weather. It’s expected to be quite cold – starting at below zero, and topping up at not much above it. It’s expected to be windy – heading into the wind most of the way out. And, if I get delayed, or the wind picks up – it’ll be raining, possibly even sleet or hail. Despite having run this year in all kinds of weather, I’m not sure I’m up for those kind of elements on the bike yet.

Add to it the 55 min drive all the way to Kent. One way. Not a very happy chappy I am tonight.


V for … ?

Night before the half marathon

Struggling to sleep, tried making a mental note of 3 things I needed to do before the run in the morning. To help recall, made an acronym of their first letters* – CVV.


  • C – do extra Calf stretches before leaving home. Done.
  • V – pre-hydrate by drinking a load of W(V)ater. Done.
  • V – ??? Spent the whole morning wracking my brains on what this one was for, and fearing it may have been something important. Lost.

Post run shower

Soap starts running down the chest. Nipples start burning. Vaseline!

That last V was for Vaseline, to be applied to the nipples before the run to prevent / reduce chafing burns.

V for fucking Vaseline!

V for … ?

The easy week

Breaching the 78kg mark
Breaching the 78kg mark

After a couple of months increasing the frequency and intensity of workouts, the body was starting to show wear. So, decided to make last week the easy week.

May have made it too easy :)

The usual easy run on Monday got cancelled, and due to a mix-up, the Monday evening swim got reduced from 50 lengths to just 30 easy ones.
Tuesday’s spin class was brutal as ever.
Wednesday was completely idle.
Thursday saw an easy 5K, instead of a tempo run or a mid length bike ride.
Friday, just as easy as Wednesday – nada.
Saturday had just a tempo 5 miles with Chewie on the mount, and
Sunday had just a painful ride on the rollers after a long, gluttonous lunch at Bill’s.

So, instead of usual mileage of 25-30K runs, 60-100K road rides, 1200m+ swims, I did just 13K of running, no riding on the road, and 750m swimming. Missed working out on most days, but did come out of the week less tired than before. So, that’s a success.

Highlights of the week:

  1. Finally, after 3 weeks in 78s, broke the 78.0kg barrier and ended the week at 77.5kg. Workout like a dog for weeks, no change. Sit idle for a week, lose 1.1kg!
    Anyway, just 1.5kg to go to end of year target :)
  2. Rode one handed on the rollers1! From barely being able to stay upright, to being able to ride one-handed – it’s probably the biggest improvement in all my sporting abilities :)

Continue reading “The easy week”

The easy week

Running on a hog’s back…

The Route - Hog's Back Race 2014
The Route – Notice the Hog?

The ridge / hill we live on is called Hog’s Back, and there’s an annual running race organised by Guildford & Godalming Athletic Club based around it – The Hog’s Back Road Race.

The race seems to be a big thing amongst local running clubs. I missed it last year – discovered it late, and by then I was already signed up to run my first trail run, the Mud Man, on the same weekend. So, I’d been looking forward to it this year.

It being my last event for the year might also have something to do with why I was looking forward to it ;)

I’ve been in good shape – general fitness and running form wise – recently, so was confident about the run, despite the painful climb up the Mount. There had been a niggle in the old bugger – the right hamstring – but taking a couple of days off all training helped with it. The only handicap was I got barely 3 hours of sleep the previous night. Bad, but nothing that a strong coffee couldn’t cure.

Coffee drunk, standard pre-race meal of toast and Eat Natural bar consumed, lots of wrangling to get the race number on the new running belt done, it was time to run.

The start was unexpectedly fast. I’d planned for a 6:00/km pace avg, with a 5:30 avg on the flats. The first 4 km, with small hills, went 4:32, 5:14, 4:29, 5:14. Something had to give. And it did. Midway through the big climb of the day, I was forced into the walk of shame. Just a few 10s of meters, but a walk it was. Km 5 took 6:50. The next K involved recovery, saying hello to Coco, and running on familiar ground of the Hogs Back. 5:23. 4:51. 4:27. 4:46. 4:37. The 10K took 50 min 23 sec. Just 50 secs off my PB, and it included a hill and a half! If only I hadn’t walked the hill :(

Hogs Back Road Race, 07 Dec 2014
Running tall… maybe fast too

The 11th Km included the tiny, surprise ascent back to Loseley park. It hurt more than the big hill had. I walked again. Just about 10m, but a shameful walk it was! 5:11. That last 5K went in 23:52 – just 6 secs off my PB! If only I hadn’t walked those 10m :(

Hogs Back Race - Profile
There’s a tiny bump in the final incline. It hurt!

Sprinted, as much as those mulching leg muscles would allow, the last 700m. Finished in 57:45 (official time 57:59). About 12 mins faster than the race plan! I was, obviously, smiling for rest of the day :)

Hogs Back Road Race 2014 Medal
Ran my fastest 11.7Km, just to get my hands on this Hog!

My hypothesis on possible reason behind the surprisingly fast run: Either, or more, of these work – sleep less, drink coffee, race on the road (all my training runs are on soft trail), get partner to drive you to the run. Or possible the lure of that Hog-shaped medal :)

Met Chewie and her caretaker, hugged Chewie, kissed the caretaker. Received medal, gave it to Chewie for safekeeping. Got a banana, shared it with Chewie. Drank water. Lots of water. And headed back home after a quick photo op with Chewie, sans the caretaker.

Post Race Recovery Photo Op
Post Race Recovery Photo Op

The caretaker, also known as my partner Rags, took off for her weekend run soon after we reached home*, while I stretched and went for the ritual ice-cold shower.

I’d considered going for a short, 20-mile ride after the run, but lethargy took over, and warm bed won out. Sorry bike!

Continue reading “Running on a hog’s back…”


Back to the park. Richmond Park :)

Richmond Park Run 1 +  BITSAA 2014 Run
Priyank, Rags, Me & Chewie, Aruna, Ashish

Rags is a BITS Pilani alumna , and this last weekend was their annual run – students and alumni of BITS run a distance (usually 5K) wherever in the world they are. She decided to run on Saturday, instead of Sunday like everyone else, and I and Chewie decided to pile on. Since I was bored with running on The Mount, and Wimbledon Common and Frensham Ponds were expected to be boggy, we decided to run in our old favourite haunt – the ever so beautiful, Richmond Park.

Priyank, apparently the only other BITS alumnus in the London region crazy enough to run on an autumn morning joined us, as did our friends the A’s.

The run plan was simple. We start from Roehampton gate cafe. Everyone runs whatever distance, route, speed they’re comfortable with. We meet before the start and, if possible, at the end. And Chewie runs with me.

Aruna planned to run the small loop, clockwise, via White lodge, c 5K, and Priyank decided on the same route.
Ashish ran the outer loop, clockwise – brave enough to take on the Broomfield hill early on – totalling little over 10K.
I was planning to run 15K – the outer loop anti-clockwise, and the small loop via White lodge.
Rags had planned the longest run – 15 to 20K including at least one full outer loop, anti-clockwise.

The sun was out, temperatures were mild, wind non-existent. It was beautiful weather for end November, we were in beautiful Richmond Park, and everyone wanted to get started.

Rags started off first, considering she was planning to take the longest – she’d warned me I’d have to wait up to an hour for hour. I’d barely started changing out of my driving clothes when she took off. The A’s and Priyank started off next, while I stretched. After a bit of stretching, warming up walks, Chewie’s morning poo, and a return to the car to get my knee band, I and Chewie started off as well… a usual 18 mins after Rags.

The 1st km or so was easy, warmup jog, with a handful of stops as Chewie stopped to stay sm-ello to fello quadrupeds – dogs, squirrels, rabbits. Thankfully, no deer yet. That 1st 1.2Km was also what it took for my brain to warm up and tell me that the watch was still on bike mode. Stop. Reset. Change Mode. Start.

RP Run 1 Part 1
RP Run 1 Part 1

Started again, paused again (many, many times) for Chewie’s sm-ellos, but still managed a good pace. Sawyer’s Hill didn’t feel as much of a hill as it feels on the bike. Richmond Gate went past quickly. Met some lovely mutts near Pembroke Lodge, including a beautiful 18mo Great Dane. Wondered if I could borrow her for some of the hillier trail runs.

Running down from Pembroke Lodge towards the Ham gate intersection, saw Priyank running towards me. He was either way lost, or decided to take the longer route. I was hoping for ‘chose the longer route’. He was lost. He’d missed the left turn at Robinhood gate, following Ashish up Broomfield hill, taking a shortcut through the Coronation plantation, had reached me. Asked him to join me.

Wanting to get Priyank back via the shortest, simplest, easiest route, decided to take the left off Ham intersection. Dropped him near Spankers Hill car park with directions to get down to the Robinhood Gate, and take the left trail back to Roehampton gate. Crossed my fingers and headed left, down the beautiful Pen ponds.

This was a big positive from helping him out. Instead of running the not-so-interesting small loop, I could now run the trail from Spankers, via Pen Ponds to Richmond Gate, and then back on the outer loop.

Chewie met, and played with a young Border terrier near the ponds, while I cursed myself for not carrying the phone. The views towards, both across the ponds as well as towards White lodge, were amazing. Across the ponds, halfway up the Sawyer’s Hill climb, Chewie was off lead again, trying to catch a beautiful, young, greyhound, while I trundled up to the top. Play done, Chewie was back on the lead (disheartened at never having gotten even close to catching), and we headed back on the outer loop.

Aside: I think I saw Smernicki running in the opposite direction as we approached the Pembroke lodge. Wasn’t sure, so didn’t bother him. Confirmed later, on Twitter, that it was indeed him. More importantly, he too was running with his dog (which I missed), so Chewie would’ve loved to say smello as well. Next time.

Took a quick break at the Pembroke lodge. A gel, some water, unsuccessfully coaxing Chewie to drink some water, throwing some cold water on Chewie’s head to bug him, Chewie getting fawning attention from a couple of ladies. And we were off.

The so far uneventful run was just about to change.

Despite running for almost an hour, we still hadn’t seen a single deer in the park. It ended now. Just as I was picking the pace up on the long steady descent towards Ham intersection, out of the bushes on the right came sprinting a couple of (what Aruna called) cow-sized deer on our either side. Another dozen paused just a few metres away on seeing Chewie – making up their mind on which way to go. A herd of deer trampling me wasn’t what I’d considered when I was thinking about the risk of running with Chewie in the park. We stopped. Rather I stopped, and Chewie started pulling. The deer, better than me, made up their mind quickly, and ran past us in two groups – ahead and behind – chased shortly by 2 whippets (I think). Good luck, to whoever owns those whippets, getting them back.

If you see a spike in my HR chart for the run, it isn’t a climb, or a sprint. It’s those deer.

Deer past, a couple of ladies calmed, we continued on the run. Ham Gate. Kingston Gate. F*%%^ing Dark Hill. Lovely descent of Broomfield hill.

After crossing the Robinhood gate, I took the boggy path next to Beverly brook, so Chewie could enjoy the water. Bad choice. Waiting near the water was an (otherwise lovely) local staffie who was determined to own the stream. Barely had he started jumping around in the brook that she attacked him and pushed him out of the water. He hasn’t run back to me as fast even when I’ve got a sausage dripping in salmon oil.

Took him another couple of hundred meters before he got comfortable, and went back in the water. Never really enjoyed it though. I don’t like that staffie! :/

As we approached the cafe, the watch was reading 15.5Km, so I took a small extra jog towards the Roehampton gate just to make sure I got over the 10 mile mark – 16.15Km.

RP Run 1 Part 1
Rest of our RP Run route

The A’s were waiting at the car for us, having finished long back. Priyank had already left. Rags finished soon after, having run her 16K, but bugged at me for running more than her, again. Chewie was so knackered by now that he curled up and dozed off on the parking tarmac while we stretched and changed. The warm sun must’ve been helping him as well.

Changed, and stretched, we moved to the cafe for lunch in the bright sunshine. Lovely atmosphere, not so lovely food. For the prices. I made up for it by admiring some of the really special bikes around – both steel and carbon. Don’t think the others even cared – all of them had done distance PBs: Rags 16K (prev 13K), Aruna ~8K (prev ~7K), Ashish 11K (prev 10K).

Quick drive back, and cold showers later, it was time to head out to the Guildford high street for Saturday shopping (and loitering).

The Sunday Ride

Sunday came, as it always does, and it was time to head out for the ride. Important matters were to be dealt with before that, though. Went to Surrey Sports Park to sign up for annual membership, making use of their Black Friday discounts, and then to Harris + Hoole for coffee and a light brunch. Add to these a late wake up, and it was already half past 2 by the time I left for my ride.

The plan was to do the usual route (a.k.a. last weekend’s route) with the addition of Staple lane. The intent was also to ride 60K+. Sadly, adding 5K of Staple lane (2.5K each way), didn’t take the previous total of 50 to the desired 60. Result was a discovery of route back via Godalming & Farncombe, in pitch darkness!

SW Guildford Ride 62K
Loved Staple lane, not so much return via Godalming

Still, it was better than last weekend’s ride – no constant rain, no floods, a lot more returned hellos from fellow cyclists, seeing an MTB’r ride up St. Martha with his dog on lead running alongside, and the steady climb of Staple lane. The country lanes were still covered in mud and grime, but that isn’t going to change anytime till next summer (at best), so no point even considering that as a factor anymore.

The only really bad bit of the ride came when I hit 2 deep potholes on the way into Shamley Green from Blackheath, in the dark. It’s a tricky section of single-lane road with mud and potholes leaving just a single, winding clear path through. Additionally, it comes at the bottom of a small descent. 2 powerful lights, and a decent memory of the road helped me negotiate almost all the potholes and the mud patches, but forgot about these last two, and got the jolt of my life. Had to stop immediately after to check if the wheels were still true, and the fork wasn’t cracked. Thankfully, the only disturbed bit (other than me) was one of the rear lights, which was dangling from its loop. Fixed it, and carried onwards. Crisis averted.

Reached home tired, mostly from previous day’s run, and cold. Got the usual scolding from Rags about riding after dark, and the flood of licks from Chewie for coming back to play with him. Another cold shower, and it was time to cook :)

Looking forward

I’m running the Hogs Back Race coming Sunday (mainly for the medal). This means the weekend schedule of long runs on Saturday, and bike rides on Sunday will be disturbed. I’ve already attended a 1 hour, quad-killer spin class this week, and ridden a 45K bike ride, so the ride wouldn’t be such a big loss. Still, thinking of going for a 20-something Km ride after the run, if the legs have any energy left.

It’s been a hectic 1.5 months since I started kicking up the training schedule, so planning to take the training down a notch next week. 2 easy runs, instead of 1 easy and 1 tempo run. No mid-week bike ride, but will still go for the spin class. Monday evening swim, and 2 full rest days. Will decide next weekend’s plans based on how the legs feel on Friday.

Till next update (hopefully with a photo of the interesting medal I’m running 12K this Sunday for),