Sorry you’re not in

That was the message on the front of the magazine that landed on my doorstep this week.

It was from the organisers of the Virgin Money London Marathon and it is quite a nice way to be told bad news.  Obviously, I didn’t even open the cellophane before slinging it in the bin in dismay.

To be honest, when I found out that my brother-in-law had been unsuccessful in the ballot too, I wasn’t overly disappointed to miss out.  (Well, at least when I got over the indignity of being rejected!).  The biggest appeal to me was for the event to be a big family day out to once again celebrate the fantastic event.  I’d have been happy if Matt had got in because I could have taken the kids down and had a terrific time supporting him to complete such a great challenge.

So we have quickly returned to the drawing board and Paris is an attractive option.  Me and Mrs G love the city and the prospect of doing the marathon would be great …. but would start to get pricey with hotels and travel on top of the 100 Euro entry fee.  It remains a good second option but this evenings thinking is that the Brighton Marathon becomes Plan A.  It looks like there may still be plenty of charity places left but Heart UK, which is my usual charity, is not represented.  But I think a different charity has found me this time.

A few years ago, my best mate committed suicide.  It was completely out of the blue and he left a beautiful young family behind.  I don’t feel like I have ever dealt with what happened, I’ll never understand it, and I don’t think anybody else will.  I have learnt that people carrying a mental illness aren’t always as easily identifiable as people with other illnesses.  You can never truly tell what is going on in someones head.   But there is work that can be done to raise awareness and provide support for people struggling to cope with any worries that are getting difficult to deal with.  The moment I saw that Mind was on the charity list, I felt the rush of emotion that I’d need to train and complete another marathon.

I’ll give it another day or two to sink in and make sure that any decision I make is the right one.  But as it stands, maybe missing London will be a good thing and, perhaps I’ll be doing the Brighton Marathon for my friend and his family.

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Not quite an Indian Summer but not bad

How often do you get days like this in September?

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I sense that today will be the last time a few things happen for the year.  Probably the last day that the thermometer hits over 20 degrees, the last BBQ of the summer ….. and maybe the last time cycling in shorts!

So I’m off for a steady 50 miler whilst the kids head off to the Harvest Festival at Sunday school.

Getting fit for the Standalone 10k

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Dad and Me doing stuff at an early Standalone 10K race

Each year I run the Standalone 10k race that my Dad used to organise.  I started running it when my sister had the idea that I run the 20th anniversary race (cheers Sis).  In hindsight taking part in that event, and being honoured by the North Herts Road Runners with handing out the winners prizes, has spurred me on to all of the sporting challenges I have completed since.

I think that first race took me about 53 minutes. The following year I entered my first three half marathons, eventually smashing the 2 hour barrier in the inaugural Birmingham Half. A few months later I was full of emotion whilst standing on the start line of the London Marathon and facing the biggest physical challenge of my life. So I owe a lot to my sisters idea and to the Standalone 10k.

This years race takes place on 6 October and is probably full with 1200 entries by now. My brother-in-law has been training hard to compete in his first ever road race after a knee injury prevented him from taking part last year.  My best friend from my school years is “competing to complete” after his training plan stalled in July but it’ll be great to see him there. It was a special occasion when my wifes brother ran with me, and every year my good friends Jim & Leanne have been there with us, running when they’ve been able to and this year will be no different.

My initial reason for writing this blog is because each of us has been on a different training journey to get fit for it.  So I thought a bit of a best practice review would be interesting because I’m not sure if my cycling led approach is worth recommending or if Matts stamina training might be a better idea.  However, after a very quick Google search, it appears that we are all doing just fine according to one plan or another.   For those of us who need to get fit quick, there are even 2 week training plans around …. I like that idea.  My only bit of advice (to myself a much as anyone else) is to take it steady and run at a sensible pace for the first 5k.  You can speed up if you feel good but, if your lungs and legs are dead after 7k, it’s a seriously unpleasant last 2 miles!

It is only 10k.  Which is 6.2 miles.  If the worst come to the worst you can walk that in less than an hour and a half.

It doesn’t matter that none of us have followed proper training plans.  It means the world to me that my friends and family take part with me and that we continue to celebrate the race that my Dad built. Thankyou.

I’ll get you next time!

On Saturday I decided it was time to join up with a local cycling club.

This is my third year of cycling “properly” so have been thinking about a club for a little while.  My regular cycling mates are suffering from knee, shoulder and collar bone injuries, so I’m faced with the prospect of long hours in the saddle on my own and while I love cycling, the social element is a big selling factor to me.

I’ve toyed with setting up a club for the village I live in but can’t really imagine where I’d find the time to coordinate it.  Even a brief foray in to a little cycling group on Facebook was uncomfortable earlier in the year when lots of people joined but I didn’t want to take responsibility for leading a group out and making sure everyone was OK …. I just want to ride my bike in the few hours I get each weekend.  So joining a club seems sensible.  I’d like to build out the social elements of riding and incorporate the kids in to activities if possible too.

I’ve been looking in to this over the last week or so and Leicester Forest Cycling Club seem to be as local as any to me.  They market themselves with the strap line of being the friendliest cycling club around and, as a cycling club virgin, that is exactly what I’m looking for.

A check on their website and I was able to see that they set off at 8.30 on a Saturday, which couldn’t be more perfect for me so I wrapped up against the elements and set off to a village called Desford to meet them.  As usual, I didn’t leave myself enough time so it was hard work to get the the village (town?) centre when cycling in to a decent head wind, but by 8.30 I had cut my way through the damp and grey morning to get to the crossroads.  I’d noted that the groups were setting off from a pub and recalled one that fitted the description (well, it had a car park) but when I arrived at the pub on the crossroads alarm bells began to ring… I as at The Blue Bell, but looking for the Bulls Head.

Feeling hopeful that I might still catch the “moderate” group (the fast group had discussed on Facebook about their plans to cover 140k at a 20mph average which is well out of my league) I set off around the village to find this other pub.  After several u-turns and confused moments, the time came when I had to chuck in the towel because it was 8.45, I couldn’t find the groups starting point and didn’t know their route.  No cycling club for me!

Heading back home (my enthusiasm was well and truly drained) I cruised up to some traffic lights as the penny finally dropped.  Desford crossroads is a crossing on the A47 (or A447) and not actually in Desford.  When the lights turned green, I could see a pub on the right hand side of the road and new instantly that it was the place where the cyclists would have met up.  Of course Leicester Forest Cycling Club was long gone so it was with heavy legs that I miserably pottered home realising that I’d have been around in plenty of time if I’d have just looked at the map on the clubs website!

Maybe next week.

A great day on the bike

If any day can epitomise my interests and motivation behind this blog, it was Friday.
After a nightmare of a week at work, I had a day of working at home instead of going in to the office. I’d barely seen the kids all week so it was a pleasure to do the school run… especially after turning it in to the school ride.
For the first time ever, I shared the simple pleasure of cycling to school with my kids. The big one on her own bike and the youngest on the back of mine. They loved it and so did I. The freedom that my daughter feels on her bike is visible and seeing such a big grin on her face going to school makes our summer of cycling all the more special (especially when a lot of her friends are still on stabilisers).

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After dropping them off and clearing a mountainous backlog of emails it was time for a lunchtime ride. Time was tight so it was a short and fast ride, scooping up two K.O.M.s on the way!
For any Strava virgins a K.O.M. (King of the Mountains) accolade is what you earn when riding one of the segments of your ride quicker than anyone in the world…ever. A brilliant way of spicing up shorter rides and adding a bit of local (and virtual) rivalry with other cyclists. Holding a K.O.M. in our village is similar, and as close as we’re going to get to, holding a rainbow or yellow jersey.
Anyway, back to my great day on the bike.  after picking up the girls from the school, we cycled back, I wrapped up work for the day and we had a cross country ride to Stanton Lakes to enjoy a pint of Peroni and a basket of scampi and chips looking out of the lakes while the sun went down. Does family cycling get any better than that?