2012 training – week 1 (w/c 2nd Jan)

Right, happy new year, hello 2012 etc. In May I am running the Belfast marathon. In June I am cycling through the Pyrenees. Inexplicably I have once again scheduled to do a long bike ride and a marathon within a month of each other (last year I did the Edinburgh marathon 3 weeks after finishing the end to end). To try and avoid feeling as awful as I did after the end-to-end I am going to try and get in the best shape possible.

So.

I’m going to do a weekly training diary between now and the summer. Hopefully it’ll end up being part diary, part forces-me-to-do-stuff-so-i-don’t-look-lazy and part it-might-be-useful-to-someone (and also, hopefully, not too boring).

Monday

Sometimes (read: a lot of the time) I have a complete mental block with the gym, it’s not like running or cycling outside, it’s too easy to stop, finish early and go home. Today was one of those days.

The cycle home was impossibly difficult, I thought I must’ve forgotten to eat or the very short gym-ness had taken more out of me than should be possible, however I got home and on closer inspection realised that the huge amount of mud and road-gunk encasing my rear brake (due to my lack of mudguards) meant that it had locked itself ‘on’. So I had cycled home, all the way, with the brake on. Brilliant.

  • Cycle to/from the gym: total 10(ish) miles
  • Gym
    • Warmup (stretching, 10 mins on cross-trainer)
    • Treadmill: 30mins at 13 km/h

Tuesday

On the way back from work I hit an enormous pothole (Abbey Road, near the junction with Hawksworth Road if anyone cares), the impact was horrible and by the time I got home my front tyre was a soggy mess, the inner tube had been completely annihilated by the bump. Got incredibly dirty changing the tube, I really need to clean my bike.

  • Cycle to/from work: total 10(ish) miles
  • Free weights (circuits)

Wednesday

Cleaned my bike, got incredibly filthy doing so.

  • Free weights (circuits)

Thursday

Biblical amounts of rain and standing water, I should invest in some overshoes so my shoes fill up with water slightly slower.

  • Cycle to/from work: total 10(ish) miles
  • 4 mile tempo run (7-min miles)
  • Free weights (circuits)

Friday

  • Cycle to/from work: total 10(ish) miles

Saturday

In hilariously windy conditions I actually got blown sideways, which was simultaneously fun and weird.

  • 10 mile easy run (9-min miles)
  • Free weights (circuits)

Sunday

  • 45 mins turbo trainer

Oh and every week I’m going to total my cycling mileage because…it’s good to have stats. And really, to be ready to cycle in the Pyrenees I need to be up to over 100-150 miles a week by May. This week = 40 miles

Pyrenean coast to coast

So, planning has progressed slightly. The whole Atlantic-Med ride will start on 7th June next year and should take a week.

The route will start in Biarritz and finish in Argeles sur Mer. Along the way we will climb, amongst others, the Aubisque and the Tourmalet (both of which I think feature in the Tour de France next year) which look like this:

Col de Tourmalet

Col d'Aubisque

On to the next stupid idea

After the ride this year I really want to do something similar next year, after a good deal of the last 3 weeks spent watching the tour de france I have decided to do a ride from the Atlantic coast (roughly near Biarritz) to somewhere just south of Perpignon on the Med. In doing so I plan to take in quite a few of the larger mountains in the Pyrenees.

The route profile will look something like this http://www.pyractif.com/cycling-packages/road-c2c-classic.html

And the incredibly detailed routemap currently looks like this:
I think next year I'm going to try and cycle in the Pyre... on Twitpic

End to End

Ever since I supported the Jane Tomlinson Appeal End to End ride in 2008 I’ve thought that it is probably the best way to challenge yourself while seeing some of the best, and most out-of-the-way bits of our country. Unfortunately attempting the ride in 9 and a bit days meant that everything got a bit much. I do want to stress that overall I had an amazing time and am so glad I did it, however there were frequent moments of frustration, tiredness, pain, stress, sunburn and getting very very bored with cycling.

Starting the end to end at John O Groats is a bit more difficult (in my opinion) than starting it at Land’s End. For starters John O’Groats isn’t near anything, at all. The nearest train stations are Thurso and Wick (both 20 miles away). As we were doing the ride unsupported we needed to get up to the start with all our stuff but nothing more, so we hired a car in Leeds, drove to Inverness and dropped the car off. We then wheeled the bikes over to Inverness train station and had a 5 hour train journey up to Thurso.

Having set off from Leeds at about 5am we arrived at our b & b in Thurso at about 6pm. Thurso is far away.

On looking at the maps for day 1 it immediately became clear that I had miscalculated when I’d worked out that Thurso was ‘quite near’ John O’Groats, it isn’t, it’s 20 miles away. This meant that our 100 mile first day was now going to be at least 120 miles. Not a fantastic start.

Day 1 saw us making a suitably early start and setting off into the fog, wind and drizzle for John O’Groats (not quite the predicted sunshine). After about an hour and a half cycling into an incredibly demoralising headwind we arrived at the derelict hotel, carpark, postcard shop and public toilet that marks the start of the end-to-end. It was at this point that I took the first of many tumbles due to not practising properly with my cleats. I unclipped my left foot, shifted my weight to the right and promptly overbalanced and fell over. Idiot.

The very far north of Scotland

The scenery in the far north of Scotland is pretty stunning but also desolate and hilly, there isn’t much to see apart from lots and lots of heath. The last 10 miles into Lairg at the end of day 1 were fairly miserable, I hadn’t eaten or drunk enough and my body was going on strike. A valuable lesson learned.

Day 2 to Grantown-on-spey was the shortest (apart from the last day) and easiest day by far. Everything seemed really straightforward, I’ve no idea why. We managed to cut a fair few miles off the planned route by going over some hills, but even they weren’t too…hilly.

A “big ‘ill” north of Inverness

Day 3 was by far and away my favourite day, it was mega in every way – mileage, scenery, hills but it was absolutely brilliant. We headed straight over the Cairngorms which was AMAZING, we cycled past 2 ski stations (Lecht and Glenshee), did 5 or 6 big climbs and it was generally unforgettable.

The following day which took as round past Edinburgh and then down and across to Annan was one of the hardest days, I think it’s fairly obvious now that the hills completely took it out of me, I’ve no idea how the Tour de France guys do 3 or 4 mountain stages on the bounce (well, we know how some of them might). The number of wind farms we passed indicated that we were at least lucky not to cycle into yet more headwinds but it wasn’t much fun and was really one of those days when you just get your head down and keep hoping for the end.

The Cairngorms!

The next day took us back into England, everyone we spoke to in Annan referred to the terrors of ‘Shap’ awaiting us, Shap turned out to be a little village near a quarry – my thoughts were ‘what was all the fuss?’ yes there had been a bit of a hill but nothing too bad. Turns out the Shap that everyone was referring to was a big old climb after the village that wasn’t too steep but just went on, and on, and on…and on. It didn’t help that half the road was closed, this meant that trucks, coaches and almost every other vehicles whistled past, not bothering to slow down or even try to give me a bit of space – fun times. Down the other side we hit Penrith at rush hour, which was interesting and resulted in us getting a bit lost. But we eventually made it down into Lancashire and, after getting shit on by a seagull, ended up at Mick’s parent’s house near Lancaster.

The next two days were, in a word, ridiculous. We were just outside Lancaster at the start of day 6, we were aiming for Bath by the end of day 7. This is far. Turns out, it’s too far. The plan was to ride about 120 miles from near Lancaster, down round Chester, into Wales to just outside Welshpool. The following day we would then ride down the border between Wales and England, cross the Severn, skip round Bristol and end the day in Bath, I didn’t have a precise figure on what the intended mileage was on this day but it was further than the day before (i.e. 120 miles). Stupid. Then the sun came out and I got hilariously sunburnt.

Turns out it’s really bloody hilly between Lancaster and Bath. Powys, Shropshire, Herefordshire, Monmothshire, all places I’ve not been to before, these are all places I can now tell you – through experience – have lots of hills.

We made it to Welshpool ok, admittedly we were both very sunburnt and we didn’t finish until it was dark – and I had an interesting encounter with a cattle grid (in case you were wondering, yes a bicycle wheel can slip between the grids) but we made it.

We tried to reroute the following day, originally I’d had us going all round the houses to try and avoid hills and towns and main roads. However we decided to just go for it and head in as straight a line as possible for Bath.

Straight lines, experience now tells me, are rarely flat. We made it across the Severn ok but by then it was about 6 o’clock and we still had to get to Bath which was a way away, not sure exactly how far but far enough that by the time it started getting dark at about 8 we were still about 2 hours ride away. By this point we had two options, finish early or ride, in the gathering gloom, down a main road in the vain hope that Bath would show itself before too long. We chose the first option and decamped to a fairly posh b and b in Chipping Sodbury (I don’t think the owners were hugely impressed with two very dirty, very smelly, very sunburnt cyclists turning up out of the blue).

The next day we set off early in an attempt to make up the miles we’d lost. That morning proved we’d made the right decision, the main road was hilly and incredibly busy – it also had no lighting so in the dark would’ve been lethal. Bath is pretty but, sods law decreed, is also built in a little valley, all downhill to the town centre and all uphill for miles on the way out. GREAT. But we made fairly good time, made up the miles and finished the day in deepest darkest Devon (a few more counties ticked off along the way).

The next day saw us entering the final part of the trip into Cornwall. Now, confession, I love Cornwall but the 1 and 1/2 days I spent cycling there tested my affection to its complete and utter limit. Cornwall is horrible to cycle in, horrible. The roads are a succession of unenjoyable steep uphills and downhills, they are also narrow, busy and poorly maintained. Rubbish. The penultimate day saw us finishing near Redruth.

Every bike ride I’ve done has resulted in me becoming obsessed with the stats that crop up. Unfortunately I managed to break my phone a bit so the only numbers I can share are:
travelling 992.3 miles in 95 hours cycling over 9 and a half days. Throughout the ride we were always trying to keep above an average speed of 10 miles an hour so it’s good to see we managed that.

Related:

End to End – the tweets

Despite giving up the daily blog pretty quickly (after day 4 I was too grumpy every evening to want to tell everyone about anything) I did manage to keep up fairly regular stream of Tweets which may or may not be of any interest. If they are, here they are, if not then…ignore everything that follows…

Up at 5, now heading to inverness. When did it start getting light at 5.15!? #end2end
21 Apr

Just passed a snowplough outside Glasgow. SNOWPLOUGH!? #end2end
21 Apr

@leedsmet thanks guys :) currently in inverness waiting for train to thurso.#end2end
21 Apr

Misty, cold, lots of seagulls. About to have breakfast then set off for john o’groats #end2end
22 Apr

Two facts to shock and disturb, chamois cream is cold and mick doesnt like baked beans.#end2end
22 Apr

Cycled 20 miles, freezing, foggy, windy. Now we are just at john o groats!
22 Apr

At bettyhill, horrible day has turned absolutely amazing.#end2end http://twitpic.com/4nz7wm
22 Apr

Finished day 1, slightly longer than planned at…120 miles! Glorious weather apart from the bloody head wind we had for 50 miles.#end2end
22 Apr

Blog about day 1 at http://ashmannblogs.Wordpress.com #end2end
22 Apr

@emilyjmacaulay thanks! Currently trying to work out if we can make tomorrow shorter without having to go over any more hills. Not possible!
22 Apr

@Mike_Tomlinson ha, my arse is doing alright. Mick has started moaning about his!
23 Apr

On the a9 into inverness, suddenly there is a lot of traffic.#end2end
23 Apr

In inverness, making quite good time. Mick is looking for a pannier, think he’s jealous of mine.#end2end
23 Apr

Finished day 2, currently in grantown on spey.Got our first sight of the massive, snow covered cairngorms, uh-oh.#end2end
23 Apr

Deep heat applied. Put way too much on, it buuurns.#end2end
23 Apr

day 2 post up at http://ashmannblogs.wordpress.com – nothing very interesting to say, brain is all tired. #end2end
23 Apr

Leg spasm, bad
24 Apr

Hard day, everything creaking, bike, shoes, knees. This is where we are #end2end http://twitpic.com/4ov0tm
24 Apr

Finished day 3. Mega. Blog to follow after I’ve made myself stink less.#end2end
24 Apr

Sometimes you’re the hammer and sometimes you’re the nail. Today I’m the nail.
25 Apr

Day 6. Have got to head through Lancaster at rush hour and then down towards Welshpool, its gonna be a long day.#end2end
27 Apr

150km done, 40 to go. A long day, but, we’re in Wales! #end2end
27 Apr

Have just worked out we can cut 20 miles off tomorrow AND get to cross the severn, ace! #end2end
27 Apr

About to set off for bath. Day 7 #end2end http://twitpic.com/4qf9in
28 Apr

@calebdorey our detour is to avoid gloucestershire, too many hills!
28 Apr

@calebdorey currently discovering that herefordshire isn’t exactly flat!
28 Apr

Didn’t make it to bath, ran out of legs and light. In chipping sodbury at a very swanky b and b. Today was still 110 miles tho.#end2end
28 Apr

Made up the miles lost yesterday. Just past bath.#end2end
29 Apr

The mendips, now who thought that was a good idea…#end2end
29 Apr

At taunton, hip has just seized up. Painful! #end2end
29 Apr

Near tiverton. Stopped at a garden centre for coffee and to use the facilities #end2end
29 Apr

Lovely couple at local chippy donated cost of our meal to @janesappeal, ace!
29 Apr

Bloody hell, we seem to have found cornwall’s hilliest road. Imagine a series of w’s as the profile, for 16 miles.#end2end
30 Apr

John o’groats to land’s end is a very long way. But we’ve just FINISHED! #end2end
1 May

900-odd miles cycled, knees and ankles ruined, sponsor me please WWW.justgiving.com/ashley-mann #end2end
1 May

just tallied up our mileage.992.8 miles in 95 hours of cycling #end2end
1 May

day 2: Lairg to Grantown-on-Spey

Today went incredibly well, we managed to shave about 10 miles off the route by taking a bit of an anti-detour that involved a slightly scary run down the A9 into Inverness.

So far we’ve avoided anything that could be called a real hill, especially compared to what we’ve got to look forward to tomorrow, 110 miles and a run over the Cairngorms. We got our first sight of them (Cairngorms) today, they’re huge and covered in snow – intimidating to say the least.

There were a huge amount of slugs over all the smaller roads we went down today and signs that it had been raining heavily, something that we managed to miss completely (hurray!).

So, probably about time for bed, we’ve got things to look forward to tomorrow like ‘the devils elbow’ and the ‘spittle of glenshee’, neither of which sound huge fun (they may be the same thing).

Wish us luck!

Day 1: thurso to john o’groats to lairg

Today was the longest I’ve ever spent on a bike. We cycled just shy of 120 miles and it took us about 10 hours. It was hard.

The day started with breakfast at 7 and then we set of for what I has been told was a shortish ride to john o’groats. Shortish turned out to be 20 miles and instead of the forecast sun we had thick fog, freezing temperatures and a vicious head wind, it was not a very fun start to the day.

Once we got to the start/finish line in front of the derelict john o’groats hotel I showed my complete lack of coordination and, thanks to my new and largely untested, cleats took a heavy and graceless tumble. What a brilliant way to start the ride! However once we got started the wind dropped and eventually the sun came out to turn what had been a miserable day into an absolutely glorious one and we covered the 60 miles to bettyhill relatively quickly, unfortunately here we turned and were again heading straight into the wind, even going down a quite steep hill required us to pedal, demoralising in the extreme.

We reached altnaharra, apparently where the coldest ever temperature in the UK was recorded, and by now were only about 40 miles from lairg. With about 15 miles to go I completely ran out of energy, I’ve never ridden more than 100 miles so was in completely uncharted territory, I couldn’t appreciate the weather or the scenery, I just wanted a large meal, a sit down, and the toilet. In no particular order.

So now we are in a very nice b and b south of lairg.

Tomorrow we head for grantown on spey which is just on the edge of the cairngorms. A ride of about 95 miles, I think its going to rain. Hopeful there aren’t too many hills.

Some stats:
Top speed: 63 kmh
Total ascent: 1630 m
Total distance: 189.2 km

Day -1: bags (almost) packed

Have spent a fairly frantic morning trying to locate everything I need for the ride, that done I then tried to force it all into one pannier….which was never gonna happen. So, for the first time ever I’ll be riding with two panniers. and cleats. wiser people than i would say this is probably not the time to try so many things for the first time. it’ll keep things interesting at least!

Off to pick up the hire car that’ll get us up to Inverness later, I think the last time I drove anything was last summer to/from Istanbul. Fingers crossed the roads are better than Bulgaria.

Countdown

2 days to go and I’ve just fitted SPD pedals to my bike – these are to go with the new cycling shoes I got for my birthday. The process involved lots of getting covered in axel grease and swearing.

The theory is that cleated pedals mean you pedal more efficiently and god knows I need every drop of efficiency I can get my hands on, HOWEVER cleated pedals also mean you are clipped to the bike. I have spent the last hour trying to get the hang of clipping in and out of my pedals, unsurprisingly this has been a fairly spectacular failure so far – I expect to fall over on a daily basis, to anyone who knows me this won’t be a massive shock.

This is a very bad idea…

Oh, weather prediction for Friday and Saturday is currently 14-16 degrees, sunny, hardly any wind. Perfect. Let’s hope it delivers as promised!

Idle hands

To keep my mind off the fact that I was forcing myself to train the other day I decided that I will endeavour to keep a daily blog whilst on the bike ride. I’m not sure if it’ll be of the slightest interest to anyone but I kept a diary when I went to India a couple of years ago and if this serves the same purpose then at least I will find it interesting in the months and years afterwards.

I’m also going to try and harness the over-the-top power of my phone and post videos, photos and gps data. But that may all fail hilariously. Let’s see.

Less than two weeks to go…uh-oh!

So training for the cycling has been going ok, although I’ve not managed to do as many longer rides as I would’ve liked I’m still getting out on the bike every day even if it is just to and from work.

To be completely honest my running training has been absolutely rubbish, in the last fortnight I’ve maybe been for 5 runs. Which, if you’re training for a marathon, isn’t enough!

On Friday I needed to get a lift home from work with a load of video equipment I thought I’d leave my bike at work, get the taxi home then run back to work and finally cycle home. It’s about 6 miles from home to work so an ok distance. The run part was fine however towards the end of the cycle I got hilariously crippling cramp in my left calf and almost fell off my bike. I’m sure I looked completely ridiculous yelping in pain and wobbling along completely unable to straighten my leg and put my foot down.

Tomorrow I’ve got to go for a longer run (12+ miles), I’ve also started lunchtime runs at work – I’m trying to convince other people in the office to come out with me. The knowledge that other people are also going out running means I can’t be a lazy arse and wimp out.

Less than 2 weeks until the end-to-end starts, over the last 2 weeks the highlands have experience 60-80mph gales and temperatures down to minus 6. GREAT! Hopefully it’ll sort itself out before we get up there….

Training, weeks 1-4

Right so apparently I’ve convinced myself that I’ve started training for the list of things I’m doing this year (details: http://www.justgiving.com/ashley-mann/). Annoyingly due to the slightly stupid way that things have worked out I effectively have to train for a 1000-mile bike ride and a marathon at the same time.

I’ve trained for a marathon before (read about it here and here), it’s no fun, it makes you hungry, tired and sore. Let’s see if cycling 100 miles a week helps that – I’ve been informed by a few people that it might actually be a good idea, cross-training n all that.

I’m yet to be convinced…

My training at the moment consists of trying to do at least 1-hour a day on the turbo trainer (bike) combined with trying to get out for a longer weekend ride on the road and trying to get my weekly running mileage up past the 30 mile mark. Which has met with mixed success thus far.

Ah well. 2 months to go…(eek)

end-to-end nonsense

Have started planning for the end-to-end ride I’ll be undertaking in a few months. It’s going to look something like this

1. Friday 22nd April: John o”Groats to Lairg (95 miles)
2. Saturday 23rd April: Lairg to Grantown-on-Spey (90 miles) total 185 miles
3. Sunday 24th April: Grantown-on-Spey to Kinross (110 miles) total 295 miles
4. Monday 25th April: Kinross to Moffat (120 miles) total 415 miles – although the routeplanner took a really odd route round Edinburgh that’s added an unnecessary extra 30 miles by the look of it
5. Tuesday 26th April: Moffat to Kendal (100 miles) total 515 miles
6. Wednesday 27th April: Kendal to Chester (110 miles) total 625 miles
7. Thursday 28th April: Chester to Gloucester (120 miles) total 745 miles
8. Friday 29th April: Gloucester to Tiverton (100 miles) total 845 miles
9. Saturday 30th April: Tiverton to St Austell (80 miles) total 925 miles
10. Sunday 31st April: St Austell to Land’s End (70 miles) total 995 miles