Week 52 – The End of Things

In Which I Cycle 106k and Run 5k

 

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HAPPY XMAS EVERYONE

My final week. A week of endings. Although the running and swimming targets have already been met, there was still some cycling to do. I finally knocked off the last few kilometres on the 30th December – one day in hand. And so, my objective has been met and the year comes to an end. Any feeling of achievement and elation has been somewhat muted by the recent death of my mother. She was given a natural burial on the 29th of December – the sun was shining warmly and the burial ground was a pleasant rural hillside just outside Loughborough. There was  no music, singing or readings – just a few words from me, my sister and her partner. Then the coffin was lowered into the ground and we all trooped off for tea and sandwiches at my sister’s house. It was short and sweet and, I felt, entirely appropriate – intimate and almost affectionate.

Against that backdrop meeting my last target seems almost irrelevant and trivial. And yet, cycling 10,000 kilometres has taken a huge amount of time and organisation over the year – I will almost be at a loose end next year without all my exercise objectives to meet. I don’t know how much I will do in 2016 or what project I should attempt (if any). For the sake of completeness and consistency here is the cycling ‘Manhattan’:

cycling

A slow build-up to begin with – so much so that I thought I couldn’t possibly achieve my target – then lots of daily circuits and a few long trips leading up to the ‘End-to-end’ fortnight of large daily rides and settling back to a steady daily rhythm. The few gaps in the sequence are mostly due to being on holiday and bike-less.

The number of days for each 1,000k: 95(!), 47, 32, 19, 24, 8, 16, 41, 33, 47.

And here’s the graphic for the year by discipline and week (cycling= blue, running=red, swimming=yellow and units are changed so the disciplines are to scale with each other):

wholeyear

The final totals for the whole year were – cycling: 10,011 km, running: 1,011 km and swimming 100km. Very binary!

And a final graphic, showing how the daily targets varied and were ultimately met:

running targets

Final thoughts: I’m certainly fitter and a little slimmer than I was at the start of the year. I’ll try to keep the Parkruns going but will probably revert to cycling only as a means of transport and swimming will definitely only be a holiday recreation. As I sit here typing this, my heartrate is bumping along at 62bpm – maybe I’ll use that as a benchmark in years to come to see how fit or unfit I may be becoming.

Lastly, thanks to those friends who have read and commented over the year – it was motivating to know you were there.


 

Diary

Thursday 24th December. A somewhat busy and blustery day running last-minute errands before Christmas. Scraped together 17k of cycling, motivated by the fact that I have less than 100k to go now.

Fri. Christmas Day! There’s a seasonal Parkrun – the reverse of the usual course – so I join in the festive exercise at a gentle pace even though I’ve met my running target for the  year, in case I haven’t already made that abundantly clear.parkrun29

Then down to Peckham for Xmas at Cathy’s. Lovely food, games, crackers and the statutory catatonia in front of the television. Cycling = 17k.

Sat. A Boxing Day walk around Nunhead cemetery (cheering!) then cycled home with the bike computer malfunctioning (I suspect the battery is losing its mojo), but 14k of riding estimated.

Sun. A quiet day at home – just a 16k ride in a largely empty park.

Mon. An old friend was in town, so met for a coffee and catch-up in Islington in the morning and in the afternoon cycled to St Pancras and took a train up to my sister’s in Loughborough, leaving the bike at King’s Cross with 13k covered in the day.

Tue. Mum’s funeral – a natural burial with no religious nonsense & with a eulogy from me. A nice wake/buffet afterwards and a train home in the evening – my bike still where I left it yesterday. Only 4k for the ride home.

Wed. A ride and then coffee with John in the park. Later, a trip to Somerset House to see the ‘Tintin’ exhibition and an excuse for more coffee and some cake. 25k cycling logged, which takes me comfortably past the 10,000 km target for the year. 🙂 Challenge now finished. Hurrah!


Week 53!

The 365th day – New Year’s Eve. Just a 3k run.

 

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Week 51 – All Gone Swimmingly

In Which Cycle 141k, Run 3k and Swim 2.2k

This is the week in which I met my swimming target. No more early morning trips to the local pool with its communal showers and municipal changing room. No more repetitive lengths for hour upon hour weaving around, being stuck behind or getting splashed by other swimmers. Many at the early hour I went seemed to be there on medical prescription – perhaps because of obesity, a stroke or just general physical disability. I wasn’t quite fast enough to mix with the serious swimmers with their caps and eye-goggles and mostly swam in the section designated for the lame and the halt. Except for a few sweet-faced girls, the others seemed mostly there in order to annoy me until those very rare occasions when a few words were exchanged and they metamorphosed into ordinary human beings. Now I know I won’t have to ever see them again, they don’t seem so bad.

So….on to the statistics. The final total comprised 30 pool sessions, a swim in the river Wey, 3 swims in a lake and many short swims in the sea off Crete. The week-by-week bar chart (y-axis units are in tens of metres) looks like this:Swimming

A slow first few weeks, then a regular weekly swim with a few absences and a huge increase when in Crete in May. This was followed by a rather lazy period in the summer but which included two pool swims in the same week and a few missed weeks when I was on cycling holiday. Then a regular weekly swim again each week, with some larger totals when I was in Crete, but less than in the early summer as the water was rougher (though warmer). With the onset of winter the schedule slowed down, partly because I was so ahead of the game that the pressure was off, although it was hard to motivate myself to polish off those last few swims.

Breaking the swum distance down into 10k stages the times taken were (in days): 69, 20, 41, 16, 12, 64, 28, 18, 17 and 52. Quite uneven.


Diary

Thursday 17th Dec. I’m struggling to remember anything other than meeting my park friends for a coffee (al fresco, as the weather is so mild) but my log tells me I covered 22k by bike.

Fri. To King’s Cross to get tickets for the funeral (train tickets, that is) and the Buddhist Centre in the afternoon. 18k cycled. Apparently it’s the warmest December day EVER! I like it.

Sat. Parkrun; this week I’m giving out the finishing tokens and letting others do the running – because I don’t have to 🙂 Lost a bet of a cup of coffee to my neighbour David, who reckoned he’d seen Ed Balls on the run. My scepticism was rebutted when we saw him in the cafe afterwards. A bit of a bike ride and another to Euston to see friends near Milton Keynes. 22k in all.

Sun. A lazy day -just 15k on the bike to keep me on track. Winding down now.

Mon. A last pre-dawn ride to the pool, which opened an hour late “because it’s Xmas”. It meant I put in some extra cycling as well as the 88 lengths needed to complete my goal of 100 kilometres for the year. 🙂 The day’s riding came to 21 k.

Tue. A storm-tossed last day of the cafe before Xmas closure and a few laps in the park to work up an appetite for my Tuesday treat – eggs on toast. Somehow totalled 22k for the day by bike.

Wed. The calm after yesterday’s gales – clear and sunny, and finally, the days start getting longer. 21k by bike – a mixture of shopping and training runs, and an additional 3k run to keep in shape.

Week 50 – Are We Nearly There Yet?

In Which I Cycle 170k, Swim 2.5k and don’t have to run.

 

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My new reading spot

I think it’s been grey and wet all week. If the sun has ever been out I can’t remember it. It’s a shame, because it’s also the darkest time of year in terms of day length and I need what little comforts I can get. With the work this summer on turning a window into a door I now have a lot more light and, it being west-facing, afternoon sun on the top landing. I’ve squeezed a little chair in there, although it’s not strictly practical. I’m the only person who uses the top floor of the house so I don’t have to think of the inconvenience or danger to others. On a sunny afternoon I can bask in tepid sunlight and read without my glasses even now. In summer I’ll be able to open the door and sit outside on the flat roof of the bathroom – I’m really looking forward to it. Obviously, I have a bit of tidying and redecorating to do as well.

One feature of this ‘featureless’ week is that even though it has been consistently grey and wet there are almost always enough gaps in the rain to be able to fit my running and cycling in. Apart from a handful of times where I’ve had to go out in the rain to attend events or meetings on my bike I have pretty much avoided getting wet. Once this week I found myself cycling park-laps in drizzle and had to dry off in the cafe afterwards, and it made me think how lucky I have been in that that was the only time I remember getting wet on my bike apart from one day in the summer when a thunder-shower overtook me unawares. Once or twice I went running in light rain rather than put it off for another day. It has surprised me that in what we consider a fairly damp country I have managed to exercise outdoors for between one and two hours a day consistently over the year and only get more than slightly damp on perhaps four or five occasions. I think it illustrates how we magnify the inconveniences of our climate. Of course there really are days when it is so windy or wet that going out is an act of masochism, but that on close to 99 times out of 100 it’s possible to find some window somewhere in the day when things are not so bad that getting out for a run and a ride are not feats of endurance. Of course, thick snow could put the kibosh on everything, but that’s becoming a rarity now in London.


 

Diary.

Thursday 10th December. At last I make it down to the pool for 100 lengths (2.5k) – only one swim left to go now. Afterwards, went by public transport to see my father in Morden to break the news about my mother. Only managed a mere 19k on the bike as a result.

Fri. A ride in the park and breakfast there. It’s really rather marvellous that I don’t have to think about going for a run any more. Afternoon tea at the Buddhist Centre to thank all us volunteers for our work over the year. 29k biked.

Sat. Parkrun time, but I have the luxury of just volunteering to be a marshal, directing, cheering and clapping the runners as they go round. Still time for the social afterwards and another in the evening, bringing up 29k cycled.

Sun. Grim & wet. Can I take a day off? Better not – it only makes the next one harder. A dour 23k of cycling

Mon. Another soggy day – 24k cycle and met my friend John in the caff afterwards.

Tue. Grey day dittos. God is cloning the weather this week. Just 28k a-biking.

Wed. 23k cycled today. Otherwise – forgettable.

Weeks 48 & 49 – Out of the Running

One Week in Which I Cycle 196k and Run 13k

…and One in Which I Cycle 171k and Run 15k

Two modest weekly totals without a single swim, but in which I finally meet my running target for the year, 23 days ahead of schedule. Now analysed in nerdish detail:

Running Manhattan

Above is my running “Manhattan” for the year, showing the shortest runs of 2k and the longest one of 10k. The big blanks represent man-flu in February, two conservation holidays and the long end-to-end cycle ride in August. Otherwise the running was pretty consistent over the year with the biggest effort around March and April and falling off a bit in the second half of the year as I was ahead of my target.

As for performance levels:

2015runs

Apart from one very slow week when I was volunteering as tail-runner a rise in my performance is evident up to about the middle of the year, doubtless as a result of all the training I was putting in. After that it pretty much levels off, showing that it took me about three months to get up to close to maximum fitness but that there was not much improvement after that. Maybe a combination of increasing age, fatigue, decreased motivation and less training  led to the plateau of the latter half of the year.

Time taken for each 100km (in days): 39, 25, 21, 27, 31, 32, 39, 48, 33, 47 (total = 342 days).

Even though I will almost certainly put some more runs in before the year ends it’s nice to have ticked off my target in one of the three disciplines and be able to concentrate on the remainder – only 4.6k of swimming and 406k of cycling left to go.

On a sad and personal note, my mother, Joyce, died on the 9th December. Rest in peace mum.


 

Diary

Thursday 26th November. A dreaded day because I have a dental appointment. Tried to cycle off my stress by cycling in the park and stopped for coffee with some friends who happened to be there. In the end all I needed was a good clean – I’m such a worrier! 30k off my cycle target.

Friday. An early 3k run before the gasman cometh to service the boiler. I was his first appointment of the day so he was finished by 9.30 and so I managed a cycle as well. Buddhist centre volunteering in the afternoon brought up 32k in the day for the cycling.

Sat. Parkrun and a cold, crisp, sunny morning. As I haven’t trained very much in the last two weeks I decided just to enjoy the scene and took it very easy in a slow time. The usual post-run coffee & cake and a trip to the Tate Modern to meet Cathy for even more coffee & cake in the afternoon. A mere 21k of cycling altogether.

Parkrun 27

Sun. A windy day with rain forecast, so did my daily cycle quota in 1hr 13m before it got too bad and went to Islington for a meal in the evening, racking up 32k for the day.

Mon. Fierce winds & lots of small shopping trips on the bike – 26k in all, and a 3k run in the evening to round the day off.

Tue. Coffee/chats in the park, 28k ridden and a nice little 2k run after dinner.

Wed. Thanks to my early efforts, could afford to treat myself to an easy day – just 29k atop the bike.

Thursday 3rd December. A new week and probably the last one in which I have to run. Pleasant weather for a 4k run and 23k cycle in the park.

Fri. I don’t usually run on a Friday but did my daily cycle in 1hr 2mins and with a trip to the Buddhist Centre, clocked 29k for the day

Sat. Parkrun, of course – possibly my last one this year so I tried a little bit harder than last week’s pottle and got back to a regular sort of time. Storm ‘Desmond’ has arrived and strong winds make both running and cycling rather trying at times but managed a weary 23k of cycling.Parkrun28Sun. A morning on the Parkland Walk, but only as a volunteer ‘scrub-basher’ helping to keep a stretch of it bramble-free. As I’ve had so much use out of it this year I thought I ought to put something back.  A tiring few hours which meant I only cycled 21k this day.

Mon. I wanted to go swimming but got up too late. Then I wanted to put in a run on the Parkland Walk but it was too wet and muddy, so in the end I had to settle for just a 3k run and 26k of cycling.

Tue. Meant to put in a swim but misread my bedside watch, got up too early, went back to bed, and then overslept. The usual Tuesday meet-up at the cafe and 26k of cycling. A 3k run in the evening brought up the 1,00k mark 🙂 Yay! Friends Phil and Rosie from rain-lashed Cumbria came down to stay the night – en route to the climate-change protests in Paris.

Wed. An unexpected call from my sister to tell me that our mother had died, unexpectedly, during the night. After seeing Rosie and Phil off on the Eurostar, decided that a bike-ride would probably help occupy my mind and rode a weary, slightly teary 23k.

 

Weeks 46 & 47 – Comings and Goings

One week in which I Cycle 151k and Run 3k and another

In which I Cycle 144k, Run 12k and Swim 2.5k

It’s another two-weeks-rolled-into-one episode as I spent 9 days travelling and on another National Trust working holiday as the team leader. I’ve discussed these before in an earlier post, so I won’t repeat myself except to add that this working week was spent in Sussex, mainly on Cissbury Ring. On this iron-age hill fort we were doing the job that sheep used to perform in removing scrub and small trees that would otherwise obliterate the surface features. Sheep can’t tolerate the area now as there are too many dog-walkers. I’m sure the views would have been spectacular but we had a week of wind, rain and poor visibility. Even the great bonfires we built to dispose of the brash (see photo) couldn’t really cheer the scene up. After three days of that we were glad of a day off to explore Chichester and the surrounding countryside. Then we had two days of making play features for children on nearby Worsham Common, such as this den in the woods :-

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Sadly, there wasn’t enough time or daylight for my exercise activities, so apart from the long cycle ride down there and a few days of my regular routine after I got back, it wasn’t a very productive fortnight in chasing down my targets. On the day I came home winter at last arrived on my heels and FINALLY, on the 21st November, I had to put the central heating on in earnest.


Diary

Thursday 12th November. Still amazingly warm – I haven’t needed the central heating yet this winter. 8k of shopping trips by bike in the morning.

Fri. Off to Sussex again to stay the night at Tony’s. 3k run first, then cycled from Richmond to Stedham, arriving in the dark 98k later.

Sat. First day of the holiday. Cycled to the basecamp in Slindon through light rain – 29k.

Sunday-Friday. Conservation working – no runs or rides.

Saturday 21st November. End of holiday and I rode to Pulborough Station in high winds which had brought down a tree on the railway line. Finally got to London Victoria after an hour and a half and rode home to log 29k for the day. Rounded off the day with a 3k run in the dark and cold – my first in eight days.

Sun. Winter has really arrived with a vengeance. Dry weather at last, but COOOLD! A morning ride with icy puddles and freezing fingers and another to get something for my empty larder – another 29k day. 3k run in the evening.

Mon. Still cold. Another 29k day on the bike and another 3k run in the evening.

Tue. The weather has turned warmer but wetter. Only one thing to do when it’s too wet to run – go swimming. Put in another 100 lengths in what should be my ante-penultimate swim, then treated myself to breakfast in the park cafe. 23k of cycling and no run.

Wed. Late out of bed but managed 34k of cycling over the day and a 3k run in the evening.

 

 

Week 45 – On My Knees

In Which I Cycle 192k, Run 20k and Swim 2.6k

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Two of my long-suffering joints

Something I never contemplated when I started this themed blog is that the weekly blog might be almost as  much work as the physical exercise. Especially on a slow news week like this one. The weather has been unseasonally mild and undramatic, and my exercise schedule has been almost identical for the last several weeks. Nothing is new and nothing much changes, so I am scratchling around for anything worth talking about. Fifty weeks is a long time to sustain an interest in what is essentially a hamster running around in a wheel. But weeks that are identical in physical aspect are often quite different at the subjective level. Some days it’s easy to put in a long run, but on others it feels like a gargantuan effort for no obvious, observable reason. This week I have been noticing a dull ache in both knees when I run. Maybe it’s always been there but my mind has been elsewhere, or maybe it’s a result of extended, repeated exercise or something more sinister and long-term to do with the ageing process and mortality. In any event, it reminds me that every component of my body has a ‘sell-by’ and a ‘best-before’ date and in strengthening my heart I may be weakening my joints. There’s no doubt in my mind that I’ve been a net beneficiary overall from this year’s challenge, but it’s still nice to think that after the year’s end I can move on to something else. Already I’m musing on a challenge for next year – a chess rating of 1800? visiting every European country? writing a novel? That’s my trouble – I’m always dreaming about the future instead of getting on with what needs to be done here and now – some 670 miles of cycling, 27 miles of running and 5 miles of swimming.


Diary

Thursday 5th November. Bonfire night, but no great fireworks in my training schedule – out for a 6k run and 26k cycle on a day of dodging rain squalls.

Fri.  The pool for a swim – 104 lengths/2.6k. More rain, which made cycling a bore. Had a day of dizziness – food poisoning? lack of sleep? brain tumour? Only time will tell, but although fine on the bike, the legs felt a bit unsteady for running. Didn’t feel well enough for my usual Buddhist Centre volunteering.

Sat. Parklife – I mean Parkrun. On a rainy day I dressed for autumn, but what I got was summer in disguise; wet and grey but rather humid and uncomfortably hot going up the hills. A pretty standard time though. Afternoon tea with a friend and a bit of a rush getting my cycling in before darkness at around 5pm (23k).

Parkrun26

Sun. I’ve no recollection of this day at all. All I know from my training log is that I cycled 30k.

Mon. An early 6k on the Parkland Walk – a mistake as it was very muddy after the recent rain. 24k on the bike – some circuits and a couple of shopping/bank trips.

Tue. It’s double-stamp day on loyalty cards at the park cafe, so I rode my daily target in a rather casual 1hr 16m and tucked in to scrambled eggs on toast, with coffee. All-in-all, 30k cycled in the day and a 3k run around dusk – a mere 43k left now to run.

Wed. For no reason at all, my left ankle has decided to swell and ache – it started before I even got out of bed! Maybe it’s asking for a day off from running. I’ll give it one. Just 30k cycled.

Week 44 – The Passage of Time

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Warm enough to grow bananas in Islington now.

In Which I Cycle 201k, Run 23k and Swim 2.6k

I’ve already blogged how I mentally break up my runs, swims and cycles into fractions as they progress and continually calculate proportions and percentages to occupy my mind and, maybe not coincidentally, dissociate from any discomfort or fatigue I may be feeling. However, on bike rides of between one and two hours each day, often on a repetitive circuit, this actually has the effect of making the exercise drag and seem interminable. I find it’s much better if I can hook my mind onto some subject that interests me – my legs just mindlessly complete their task of pedalling while my musings make me unaware of time passing and one or two miles can easily just fly by without effort. Some days this happens naturally if I have been stimulated by a thought-provoking book or YouTube clip but on other days nothing presents itself and I’m left with only the mind-numbing occupation of watching my computer log the wheel revolutions. Today, for example, I was thinking of a short clip I watched last night of Deepak Chopra in debate with Sam Harris. Chopra struck me as a smug, slippery con-artist full of meaningless pseudo-profound waffle and I was rehearsing as I rode the rebuttals I would confront him with if we ever met in argument. While doing so, several miles passed under my wheels unnoticed and apparently effortlessly. For the first, and possibly the last, time, I found reason to be grateful to Mr Chopra.


Diary

Thursday 29th October. Fine days are not to be wasted at this time of year and we are enjoying an incredibly mild October – it’s 15C already by mid-morning. Up and out early to put in a 6k run and 28k of cycling.

Fri. As if in confirmation of my wise words of yesterday, a horrid, rainy morning. I figured if I was going to get wet I may as well go swimming and managed 2.6k – and in doing so passed the 90% mark :). As often seems to happen, a solid start is let down by a bout of laziness, and I barely managed to crank out 24k of cycling before the light went.

Sat. It’s 9am on Saturday so it’s Parkrun. Not a spectacular time, but 5secs slower than on my stopwatch – there seemed anyway to be a bit of confusion around the finish tunnel so I wouldn’t be surprised to get the person-behind-me’s time. A beautiful day for painting my new terrace door but it was only with effort that I found time for 24k of biking.Parkrun25Sun. Cold and foggy morning, but it turns into what is, apparently, the warmest November day on record. Nice enough for a 29k cycle and a late 3k run, at least. Bump into, and exchange civilities with, the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition at the cafe in the park.

Mon. More fog, with fog warnings on the weather forecast. Slept badly and had a dizzy moment on getting up – so this is what old age feels like. Feelings of apathy and anxiety appeared from nowhere. Gave myself a break – just 30k in the day of cycling.

Tue. After yesterday’s poor showing, I determined to put some effort in today. Went for a 6k run and cycled my daily target first thing in the morning, and as it was a dry afternoon, went for another ride to clock up 34k for the day and whittle one-fortieth off the remaining mileage.

Wed, A dismerable morning (new word – copyright pending). Dodged the rainclouds enough to post 29k of cycling with the slowly-diminishing daily target of 22.2k met in 1 hour 10mins. A late, 3k run in darkness – because the end is near!