Run.

On Sunday 6th April I’ll be one of around 5,500 runners taking part in the annual Lincoln 10k road race. This will be my third time, having taken part the 2012 and 2013 events.

When I ran the event for the first time I’d never taken part in a road race before, and I ran just to see what kind of time I could get, finishing the race in a respectable but not earth shattering 00:46:25. Having set this as the benchmark for what I could achieve having put in no running training at all, I made a commitment that I’d train seriously for the 2013 race, and aim to finish in under 40 minutes.

I’d love to be able to say I spent the months leading up to the 2013 race putting in some serious miles on the road to give myself the best possible chance of achieving my aim. However, as I stood on the start line on Sunday 7th April waiting anxiously for the race to start, I couldn’t help feeling I’d let myself down somewhat by once again failing to put in a single session of training for the race.

I set off along Riseholme Road, and after about 1.5km my legs were already feeling like lead. I battled through to the finish line, somehow finishing in a time of 00:42:23, almost exactly four minutes ahead of my 2012 result. This can only have been as a result of my increased levels of fitness from my swimming and cycling, and despite knocking four minutes off my time I was disappointed I hadn’t bothered to put the necessary training in to finish in under 40 minutes.

And so here were are, in mid-January 2014, with just under 12 weeks to go until I compete in my third Lincoln 10k. There will be no repeat of last year’s disappointment, and this time I will cross the finish line in under 40 minutes! For the next 12 weeks I’ll be following Bupa’s advanced 10k training programme, which is designed for people exactly like me, who have run a couple of races in the past and are looking to improve their time.

In the past, if I’ve put in any training at all, I’ve tended to approach it in a pretty haphazard way, by simply going out once every week or so and running a 10k route as fast as I can. This is a pretty poor approach, and is definitely not how to train your body to run a sub-40 minute 10k.

If I’m going to hit my target, and knock those two minutes off last year’s time, I’ll need to complete a structured programme, and run up to six times a week, varying the type of running and the distances I’m covering each day. Bupa’s 12 week programme consists of regular running of distances from 5km up to 18km, tempo running (running at a hard but controlled pace for a set distance), speed and hill work at maximum effort for short distances (this improves aerobic fitness, speed, and strength), and recovery runs. When all of these are built into a training programme, the end result should be a significantly improved overall race pace, and should see me run the race in under 40 minutes.

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It certainly isn’t going to be an easy 12 weeks. I’m going to have to sacrifice my swimming in order to fit the running in, and it’ll be difficult to fit some of the sessions in around my shifts, but I’m going to stay motivated by knowing how disappointed I’ll be if I run a poor time on April 6th knowing that I haven’t done everything I can to prepare myself.

Today was day one of 81, and I ran a nice easy 5km in 24:55. And working to Bupa’s programme, tomorrow is a rest day! I’ve got a nasty feeling it isn’t going to stay this easy…

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Glue.

Well it only took me five days and two cycles before 2014 welcomed me with an almighty thud, and a painful reminder that even when the roads look OK, it only takes a moment to hit a patch of ice and find the road heading towards your face at an alarming rate.

The day didn’t start well. I must have fallen straight to sleep when I got into bed last night, as somehow I’d neglected to set an alarm for work, so was woken by a phone-call just after 7am from my colleagues, who were wondering whether to send out a search party to find me on the ground having crashed… which would turn out to be alarmingly close to what was about to happen.

Although I was going to be pretty late to work, I wasn’t rushing when I left the house – if you’re planning on being late to work, a quiet Sunday morning is a pretty good day to pick. It was a chilly morning, a couple of degrees below freezing, and I took it easy out of the estate cycling over a crisp layer of frost, but as soon as I got out of the estate the roads had been gritted and seemed to be ice free.

Everything was fine as I took my usual route along Riseholme Road, left onto Longdales Road, and left again onto Nettleham Road, and even when I had to brake to stop for a car at a roundabout my tyres had plenty of grip on the road.

As I approached Waitrose, I remembered it was my turn to get milk for work, and realised that the petrol station would be open and I could buy some there. So as I got to the lights, I took a left at about 25km/h. Had I carried straight on I’d have been fine, but as I left Nettleham Road and turned onto Searby Road, I went from a gritted surface straight onto a sheet of ice.

Both wheels instantly slipped out from underneath me, and I left the bike and hit the ground hard. I’m not sure what hit first, but my jaw hit the road hardest and took the brunt of the crash, opening up a nasty gash on my chin which instantly started bleeding over the road, my jacket, and my bike.

I took a couple of moments to work out what, if anything was broken, and once I’d worked out that all my limbs and my jaw were moving properly, dazed and a bit shaken I staggered up and tried to pick my bike up. A woman had been waiting at the lights across the junction and had seen my crash, so when the light changed she drove across and got out of her car and helped me move my bike out of the road. She got some wipes out and gave them to me to try to stop the bleeding, and I thanked her and said I’d take a couple of minutes to sort myself out before continuing to work.

I phoned work to let them know I’d be even later, and then realised it was probably a bad idea to try to cycle the rest of the way in, so someone came out to pick me and the bike up. I’d intended to clean myself up and get on with my work, but it didn’t take long to realise the cut to my chin would need looking at, and I was covered in cuts and bruises from the crash.

I was given a lift home, had a quick shower, and took myself to A&E, where the cut was glued back together. Amazingly, none of my clothing was damaged at all, apart from an inexplicable hole in the back of my thermal base layer, despite there being no rips in the jersey or jacket that were covering it.

And most importantly of all, the bike survived almost unscathed, except for a bit of a rip to the bar tape. I’m back home now, nursing my wounds, waiting for the inevitable pain tomorrow morning, and thanking the cycling Gods that it wasn’t a hell of a lot worse. It could have been.

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Stats.

How could I forget! My 2013 summary should have included the end of year statistics from my beloved, obsessively updated spreadsheet. So here they are, in all their nerdy and pointless glory…

Total distance cycled: 4508.18km

Total time in the saddle: 206hrs 19mins 29secs

Furthest distance in one day: 181.82km (‘Wolds 100’ ride, 04/09/2013)

Top speed: 67.90km/h (‘Wolds 100’ ride, scary descent down Walesby Hill towards Market Rasen)

Adventures.

Here’s a quick round-up of 2013’s adventures on the velocipedes.

On January 1st 2013 I set myself the target of reaching 4,000km by the end of the year, which would mean cycling more or less 333km each month, which is pretty much 11km each day of the year. Which doesn’t sound like much, but for every day of the year I didn’t cycle, I’d have to add another 11km to another day. During January, February, and March, I wasn’t cycling anywhere near the distance I needed to be in order to be on track for my December 31st target, but only had to remind myself that I had some big rides ahead of me over the summer and would easily catch it back up again. Apart from my 4,000km target, my main aims for 2013 were to cycle from London to Paris, to complete the Devon coast to coast twice in two days, and to ride 100 miles in one day.

June saw me complete the first of these rides, and I spent four of the most enjoyable days of my life cycling from central London down to Newhaven, across the Channel to Dieppe by ferry, and then along the Avenue Verte to Paris (click here for my London to Paris blogs). To say that I caught the touring bug would be a huge understatement, and I could quite happily have cycled off across Europe and not come back. A simple twist of fate (name that artist) saw me meet two other cyclists, Megan and Alice, while I was waiting to board the ferry in Newhaven, and we cycled together all the way to Paris. When I left for home, they carried on, spending the rest of the summer on the adventure I’d have loved to have been on myself. They ended up cycling down to Marseille, across the top of Italy and into Slovenia, then Croatia, Hungary, Austria, Germany and back into France. In other words, the cycled around the Alps!

We’ve stayed in touch, and towards the end of October I visited London and met Megan and Alice in The Chandos just off Trafalgar Square. Despite having only got to know eachother for four days way back at the start of the summer, it was like meeting up with old friends. I hope we’ll stay in touch, and I’d love to be able to join them on another European adventure in the future. Had we met under any other set of circumstances, we almost certainly wouldn’t have become friends, but the common ground of a cycling tour united us, and it wouldn’t have been the same without them. And best of all, after meeting me their often-used acronym A.C.A.B (look it up) is now N.A.C.A.B, or even S.A.C.A.B, which doesn’t really make sense but made us laugh.

Just a couple of weeks after I got back from my London to Paris adventure, I was back on the road for another tour. I put the bike on the back of the car and headed down to the south-west, to attempt the Devon coast to coast. Handily my younger sister Rosie currently pitches her tent in a little place called Down Thomas on the south coast of Devon, which is right at the start point of the coast to coast route. So after spending a couple of days at Rosie’s, I headed off north, taking in Drake’s Trail, the Granite Way, and the Tarka Trail, on an incredible almost entirely traffic free 109 miles. The first day of the trip happened to be one of the hottest days of the year, and the heat combined with some ridiculously steep and seemingly never-ending hills, made for the toughest single day of riding I’ve ever completed.

I’d achieved my goal of cycling over 100 miles in a single day, but arrived at the campsite in Ilfracombe completely exhausted and accepted that there was no way I’d make it back down to the south coast in one go the following day. Instead, I enjoyed a far more sedate two-day ride back to Down Thomas, and overall it was a fantastic three days of cycling and camping that I’ll never forget, and would love to do again. Just not as quickly and not in 30 degree heat.

Clearly having failed to learn the lessons of the gruelling first day of the Devon coast to coast ride, I attempted another century ride early in September, which turned out to be the last really big ride of 2013. My friend Bret had never cycled 100 miles, so I devised a scenic route taking in the best of the Lincolnshire Wolds, and named it the ‘Wolds 100’. We’d originally planned to complete the ride one day late in August, but an illness which kept me in bed for three days ruined that plan. So early on the morning of September 4th Bret and I set off on what turned out to be a amazingly scenic 113 mile (182km) route around and across the Lincolnshire Wolds. We were treated to perfect cycling conditions, both in terms of the weather and the quiet, rural lanes with great views of the countryside, and Bret was over the moon to complete his first 100 mile ride.

And so, what lies ahead in 2014?

Well, I’ve got plenty more things I’d love to achieve on the bike, and have already got some adventures lined up in spring and summer in order to start ticking them off the list. 2014’s main trip will be a 1000km+ trip in June, from Caen on the north coast of France all the way down to Perpignan on the Mediterranean coast, followed by a week in the Pyrenees with the rest of the family, and then perhaps a  bit more cycling up to Montpellier before catching a train back home.

I’m also hoping to cycle some of the North Sea Cycle Route, which is a 6000km route taking in the whole of the east coast of Great Britain, as well as Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Norway. Conveniently the route passes straight through Lincoln, so I’m going to complete the sections within a 4-day cycle north and south of here in preparation for my Mediterranean adventure.

Then there’s the traditional coast to coast route, which is a 140 mile route across the country from Whitehaven to Tynemouth, crossing both the Lake District and the Pennines. Also, having passed the magic 100 mile mark twice in 2013, I’m going to go all metric (the way things should be) and plan a 200km route, and try to cram that in somewhere between all the other cycling I’ve got planned.

And finally, I decided there was a big gap in my bike repairing knowledge when it came to straightening buckled wheels and replacing broken spokes, which would undoubtedly come to haunt me if I did nothing to fill the gap between now and my trip to France in June. So I’m in the process of building a new set of wheels for the tourer, and have just about finished the front wheel. It’s been a steep learning curve, but I’m now confident I’ve got the skills to repair my wheels if I knock one of them out of line or break a spoke in France, which is exactly what happened during my London to Paris ride.  And here’s the (almost) finished product…

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Roll on 2014. This year’s target? No idea! Given that I’ll cover 1000km in ten days in June alone, maybe 5000 or more by the end of the year. Watch this space…