Tuesday, 22 July 2014

British Heart Foundation South Downs 100 and the end of being ridiculous

It is Summer time in the world of teaching (at least in England it is). Which brings longer, warmer and curiously wetter days. It brings aborted sports days, or ones that run in the full glare of an afternoon Sun. It brings a reduced (by literally mm's) workload due to 'gain time' following school leavers going off to do exams.

It also brings a chance to take stock and do some serious training.


Teaching in a core subject means that even when I loose an examination class (such as year 11) my gain time has always been minimal. For those who don't know gain time is the allocated time on your teaching timetable where you would see a class who has left. So if you teach mostly 6th form when they go on study leave you end up with a fairly empty timetable. For me I have about 6 extra 'free periods' a week due to my year 11's having finished school. The upshot of this is that I have been able to get a lot of my work based tasks done during my actual working day. Which has freed up a lot of time to hit the school gym after work. For longer. More times a week.

Now I am very much of the opinion that the best way to improve at something is to do it. For instance you want to be a good runner? Then go run. Simple really. However this ideology/training program will only go so far. You will (I know I have) see big improvements at the beginning as you go from being a complete novice to a fairly decent middle standard and then a plateau.

Now this makes sense, if you are doing an activity you haven't done before or in a long time you will naturally see big improvements in the first few months of doing that activity. Once however you plateau then it is time to change your training - whether this is seeking the help of people who have more experience than you or trying different training methods totally is up to the individual but if you wish to continue to improve then you have to change what you are doing.

Which brings me to the gym (don't worry I am going to get to the point).

So I initially started going to the school gym as a substitute to longer runs after work. I got a training plan put in place to help aid my endurance and strength on a bike - all with one eye on the BHF 100.

Here is where it all goes a bit awry though. I have never been a fan of the gym, I find it pretty tedious and to be honest there are aspects of it that I still do find annoying. However I have also started to enjoy it. Especially the weight work. There is a very sinister clip from Pumping Iron of Schwarzenegger describing 'the pump'.  However I can kind of see what he means.

What has this to do with anything?

Good question, the short answer is I feel less on an endurance 'athlete' now and more of a shorter burst one.

I don't want to be doing multi-hour events anymore as I just seem to loose focus and get bored of the activity.

A half marathon now is as far as I wish to run anymore. Purely because I am not sure my body really can cope with longer events. I had a really good run of not getting injured but since I started picking up a few niggles it has gotten worse and worse. Maybe this is due to stepping up to quickly or maybe its just that I am not designed for ultra-endurance after all?

All which brings me to the South Downs 100.

Helpfully it rained on the night before and the morning of the event. Now the area of England where the downs is located is mostly chalk rock. This made the chalk very slick and wet - I heard it described as being like glass more than once.

I do not know how many people completed the race but I was at the finish for about an hour after the first few finishers came in (from both the 100 and 35 mile events) and there was less than a dozen people crossing the line.

Anyway back to my event.

I started fairly strongly, the climbs were not too bad and it was hard but fun.

Unfortunately after 10 miles I binned the bike pretty hard on a slick chalk descent. Which was a shame because I had just climbed a hill pretty strongly and was feeling very confident. That is not to say on the descent I was over confident, what happened was there was two routes down the hill. The first was smoother but took a higher and faster line, the second was more bumpy but a flatter slower line. Naturally I took the latter. Naturally the bike went one way and I the other.

My knee following the crash.

I hit the ground pretty hard and didn't really skid, always an indication of being planted on the floor. To be honest I don't remember much of the crash, there was no real 'oh sh*t' moment. Just the ground rushing up to meet me and the sense of foreboding that I was about to hit the deck. I took a few moments out, took on some food and inched my way down the descent. 

Unfortunately the damage was done. Aside from my confidence being shook my knee was pretty sore from the impact. What didn't help was then starting to struggle to put power into the peddles for the climbs and falling off slowly a few more times. This coupled with fatigue and rain coupled together to make the ride pretty miserable. Added to the fact that there was no flat made the whole endeavor pretty horrendous to be honest. 

Climb with no power and in pain, descend gripping the brakes and feeling terrified.  

I made it to the second aid station (about 33 miles in) and I couldn't go on. I was defeated, just under a third of the event done and I had to abandon. Since then the swelling on my knee has gone down a bit and I can walk more freely however my collar bone and shoulder have started to ache more and more. As of today (Tuesday so 4 days after the event) my shoulder is much better but still not 100%. It could have been worse though, the nice man in the injury van with me (much more experienced rider) did exactly the same as me - bin it on the chalk - but had to go have an x-ray on a suspected broken knee cap. 

My Strava of the event can be found here. 

So, what does the second part of the title mean? Well, I have decided that the more mental challenges are to be given up. This year I have gone from training for a 5 mile race to completing a 35 mile ultra event. I have managed to alter my running style and have become much more competent on the bike. However the long endurance events are starting to run thin. I am picking up injuries more frequently and to be honest not enjoying things as much as I used to. 

Well most things.

I love going up the Downs near where I live and smashing some of the trails up there on a mountain bike. We still have our mountain biking holiday planned for the first week on the summer holiday which I can't wait for. 

I also am still absolutely loving being on the road bike - much more than the mountain bike as well. 

From my last long road bike ride.

I have also started trying to restore some old road bikes (see below). Which is fun, and hopefully will be a bit of an earner towards a new bike.

Oh and talking of new bike. One last interesting point to make (I think it is interesting).

When I was last up my parents I borrowed my cousins new ish road bike for a ride. Carbon forks, improved wheels etc it was a very nice bike (and I think my dad might be buying one). However I really could not get on with it. I found it quite twitchy and not as poised as my vintage Raleigh. I think there is something to be said for old school frames - something the man I was chatting to on the train to Leeds raised.

Which leads me to the final point. You Ridiculous Man will be no more as a blog. I aim to set up a new blog on biking - specifically a shorter blog that might be updated more readily.

However that is a task for another day.

Until then thank you for reading - all 3 of you.

(no longer as ridiculous as I was).

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