December training

Riding out to Camarthen Bay
There’s a lot of comment kicking around about our mild autumn and winter. I’m not sure if people are complaining, wishing there was snow for Christmas, or just doing the British thing of commenting on all aspects of the weather. I’m very happy with the mild weather. It went cold last week which brought out the big gloves for the bike but in the week before Christmas it’s back to mild and damp, and I can live with that.
I did 4 hours on the bike today with the last 2 hours on the flat back into a 20mph headwind (I knew it was going to be there but it was still a suffertime) with a short bricked run afterwards. The legs are doing pretty well especially as this ride was a little early in the week to avoid Christmas Day, and a couple of tubes of GlucoTabs was all they needed to get home. Now I’m talking about the weather. Cyclists and runners are probably worse than most for this.
I’m midway through my second block of training and I can see and feel my fitness slowly developing. I can also feel the fatigue building, and this week got tough as I squeezed in a bunch of sessions without the usual easy days to get them done before Christmas Day. Christmas Day and Boxing Day will be easy days before the third week in this block. Load and recover, load and recover.

Back to normalish

The world is less wobby now. I was diagnosed with BPPV by many people, including the second year students as they had just had a week on the ear. That’s benign paroxysmal positional vertigo to you. Clinicans love abbreviations.
I missed a couple of sessions because I couldn’t move my head or walk unaided, but later the next day life was a bit better as long as I avoided certain head positions (looking up or down) and quick head movements. Working on a laptop was mostly ok, as you keep your head naturally still. Training in the following week got done, and the only real trouble was in the gym. I found that looking down at the deadlift bar and then lifting a heavy lift made me really dizzy, as did looking up at the pull up bar and then pulling. Once I’d sussed that out I stopped looking up or down and set my hands in place by feel.
I’ve just completed another week of training after that, and I’ve done a little tumble turning in the pool and a tiny amount of backstroke and that was ok. I can also lie on my back again to stretch, and that’s really helpful. Moving me head quickly still gives me a weird sensation, so doing things like maneuvering the car into a parking spot has to be done steadily as you flip your head to look back and forward rapidly.
At this time of year missing a little training isn’t a huge problem, and I didn’t miss much. I just hope it doesn’t recur again sometime important.

Wobbly world

Dodgy inner ear
The world was a bit wobbly once it had started spinning last week, but it wasn’t too bad. I had to skip a lifting and a swim session, but I was able to make up the missed running session (working hard to complete my goal of 3 runs a week until Christmas without hurting myself as it has been going very well) and, most importantly, make the all day swim clinic with TheTriLife on Sunday.
I was a bit apprehensive about getting in the water because if I put my head in the wrong position the spinning comes back. That would be no fun in 2 metres of water in a 50m pool. It was all a bit wobbly getting in but after a few lengths I felt ok. No tumble turns or backstroke allowed. It was a great day too. I learnt a lot about my stroke and about the ‘ideal’ stroke, and with the video footage I can better visualise what I’m doing and what I want to do. Great stuff. Gonnagetfaster!
I’m very glad that this isn’t an infection or (hopefully) anything nasty. I know that people with vestibulitis suffer much worse with pain, constant vertigo and nausea. Full on vertigo is horrible and completely debilitating. It’s hard to move your head, to look up or down, let alone walk. Try eating a plate of food when you get nauseous looking down. Tricky!
Sitting at a computer screen working is ok, and my head is nice and still. Chatting to people is difficult, and I’m learning to minimise my movements and probably to limit my body language which might be a bit weird. Nodding and shaking my head is not nice at times. Sleep is interrupted because the room starts spinning when I change sides, waking me up. Cycling is pretty good, the balance is there, and your head is nice and straight and still. Running can feel a little wooly, but it’s ok. Swimming is still a bit of a worry, and I’ll wait until all the symptoms have subsided before I tumble turn again. This week is an easy week, so I’m not doing so much anyway.


Riding at dawn
I woke up yesterday morning and the room was spinning. Fast. Although not an entirely new experience for me I’d only experienced this before after drinking quite a lot of alcohol, and when going to bed, not waking up. Oh dear.
The spinning subsided a little after swapping sides, but I wasn’t about to get up and out on my bike early. A slow start to the day, a little wobbly work on the laptop, and I started to feel a little better. I thought I’d try out the bike, and once I got going I didn’t feel too bad. I felt pretty good in fact. I was a bit sore from yesterday’s long ride, and it was a chilly morning, but the wind had died down and from the Crofty salt marsh flats I could see flocks of starlings coming together and growing into huge swarms of birds swaying over the Loughor estuary and Pembrey. I also saw a grey heron and (I think) a little egret or maybe a great white egret. I did some force reps on the hill and rode home, feeling fine.
The rest of the day was ok. A bit wobbly, and bending over was a no-no. I got ready for a run later in the day and lay on the floor to stretch out those gluteal muscles that had been causing discomfort on the bike. The spinning came back, hard. I did the stretches, stood up, and sat down again. The world was very, very wobbly, and I was getting seasick in my living room. No run today then. Oh great, I’ve got an all day swim camp on Sunday too.
The rest of the evening was pretty unpleasant, but it all eased up enough to let me go to sleep. I slept in this morning as the world was all a bit Mr Soft when I first woke up. I scrubbed the gym and the swim from today’s training, and rearranged work plans to take a sick day. I don’t fancy getting in the pool feeling like this.
I sorted out the cleats on my winter cycling boots as it’s now December and has been very chilly for a couple of days. Testing these out on the bike felt ok. Not so wobbly. Off the bike the world was swaying again. Maybe cycling is good for the vestibular system in this case. Your head stays nice and level and mostly forward.
I hope this doesn’t last too long. I’ve built up a nice training load over the last 3 weeks though and have a fair bit of fatigue to shift (especially as I did this week’s long ride on Wednesday) so next week is an easy week anyway. It’s just starting a little early. If I keep a level head (ha!) I should be able to cycle, and maybe run. It’s the swimming that may be troublesome.


Punctured slime inner tube
I punctured my front tyre on the bike this morning going through a lane that had just had its hedgerow heavily trimmed by the farmer. The slime really wanted to seal it but a thorn stuck in the tyre wouldn’t let it. I changed tubes but by the time I tried to roll the slime tube up it had sealed so well that I struggled to squeeze any more air out of it. They’re good, these things. Possibly my first puncture of 2011 too (so will probably be followed by 2 more).

A Windy Friend

The wind can be your training friend you know, and not just in the tailwind variety.
If you train on the bike with a power meter you learn to ride at the power and effort that you want for the planned session. It becomes easier to ride with a steadier heart rate over rolling terrain, and to keep your heart rate and rating of perceived exertion where you want them. You find that you’re no longer that interested in the “speed” line of your bike computer.
On a windy day you can get blown around on the bike, toil for miles out against it, and struggle to keep yourself pushing into it. But if you’re riding with a power meter a head wind makes it simpler to settle into the effort that gives you the numbers on the power line that you want. Often your heart rate is a little low, but the power numbers tell the truth. You can temper your effort, you don’t worry about the slow speed, and you tick off minutes and hours spent riding in your target power zone. In fact, you get so used to the pace and effort that when you turn around and pick up the tailwind you find you have to raise the effort and really think about what you’re doing to get the watts up to where you want them while zipping home at 40kph.
Riding with a power meter for the last couple of years has changed how I feel about the wind. I used to hate it, and nowadays if it’s gusty I can still lament having to go out in it. But most of the time it’s a fairly steady, predictable wind, and I know I’ll get a good workout from it and I’ll get the time, effort and mileage done solo.

Goodbye, Stu

We said goodbye to our friend Stuart MacCormac today. A sad day, and we all learnt something, I hope. We are the sum of our experiences, and I hope that Stu’s drive, cheerfulness and enthusiasm for fun has rubbed off on all of us.

Coincidentally today is the first day of my training programme for next season. Next year’s for you, Stu.



Cycling is a great thing. You can travel large distances, get in the lanes and see the countryside, up to the hills, and out to the coast seeing places that others don’t get into. You can see the world at a pace that others miss.


The best way to add to this is to stick a roof rack on the top or back of your car. If you’re a triathlete (like I’m trying to be at the moment) taking your running shoes and a pair of shorts wherever you go is simple and keeps you running. Taking your bike away with you needs a little more planning, with bike shoes, helmet, Lycra and all the other kit we pull out without thinking too much when we’re at home needing to go with us. Having a rack always on the roof of the car makes it all a little simpler. Grab your bike, stick it on the top.

You can also take your bike away with you on the train of course. I used to do that twice a day when commuting between Cardiff & Swansea.

By giving yourself the chance of taking your bike away with you the countryside opens up even further, and your biking range becomes vast. You get to explore new places (even easier now we all have smartphones with GPS and online mapping – in the olden days I used to run off in one direction for 30 minutes or so, turn around and try to retrace my path – sometimes even finding my way back successfully).

Wherever you plan to visit for whatever reason you find yourself looking at maps of hills and lanes beforehand, imagining long climbs and vistas on the bike. It stops you getting bored of biking and training, and gives you something else to look forward to when you travel. It’s easy to get out of bed and on the bike early if you have a new route planned with new sights to see.

Tips I’d add to this would be to also stick your track pump in the boot (proper tyre pressures are nice) and keep a carrier bag in the garage with a spare tube, tyre levers, Allen keys, insulating tape, a multi tool, cleanish rag & maybe a can of spray oil to grab and take with you if you take the bike away. It makes problem solving and fixing things a lot easier away from home.

I expect that at this time of year you’re looking forward to getting out on the bike & logging some big mileage through the winter. But consider that you might start to get bored or weary early next year, and how taking your bike away with you might help keep you going.


Ponies on Gower
I’m into a second week of preparation work before training begins in earnest next week. All this means is that I’m “training” again after a period of 6 weeks of mucking about and doing what I felt like.
What I felt like turned out to be almost no swimming, bugger all cycling other than commuting to work and back, and slowly building up my three-times-a-week running back to 2 hours/week (and hopefully working out what biomechanical faults have been causing my running troubles). I’ve been in the gym regularly, which after the first week of delayed onset muscle soreness has been very pleasant. Mornings are definitely better in a university gym, as students have never been early starters.
I’m feeling more relaxed on the bike again, and enjoying the view (like the picture above). Getting back in the pool was, surprisingly, fine and my break away from it for the first time in probably 18 months has done me no harm. I’m moving through the water ok, and pace for effort is good.
Next week I begin building my endurance again and developing motor skills in the first of three largely aerobic base training blocks. I hope the cold of winter holds off for a bit.