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Entries in commute (3)


Just keep trying

Some days when I run I feel strong, powerful, sleek and elegant. 

Today was not one of those days. 

We'll try again tomorrow. 


Yes, I cycled

My preferred method of commuting is by bike. It's been my preferred method of commuting for a long time now, and I suspect it will be for a long time to come. I enjoy the exercise, I get lots of beautiful sunsets and sunrises, and it's just so much better than driving I can't even begin to explain. In the summer, noone really questions that. It's light, warm, no problems. At this time of year though, I get constant stream of people saying things like "You didn't cycle today, did you?", and "I can't believe you're still cycling, it's dark!".

See, here's the thing. It is possible to prepare for dark (hello, really bright lights and reflective stuff), and dress to make almost every type of weather ok. Yeah, almost. But it's not the rain that causes problems, or even snow (that much, anyway).


It's high winds that cause me most issues. And ice, but in this country it's windy considerably more often than it's icy. There's pretty much nothing I can do to make cycling on narrow roads with lots of traffic safe in gusting winds, so I do drive occasionally. My cut off is usually a forecast of over 20mph during commuting times. (I used to have a cut off of 15mph when I lived in Cambridgeshire, but when I moved to Brighton I discovered that wouldn't let me cycle much. It's breezy by the sea.) I could probably go a bit higher if I didn't have parking at work, but I do, so. 

Still, I cycle more days than not all year round, and there are some tricks I've picked up that make this time of year a lot more bearable. There was an interesting article on the Boston Globe recently called the "Anatomy of a Winter Cyclist", detailing what a cyclist who commutes in massively sub-zero temperatures wears. There were a few differences in what I would consider sensible over here, because we're dealing with different conditions. My big problem isn't extreme cold - we don't get much below freezing, after all - but wet.

(It's worth noting that the outfit in the picture above was taken a couple of years back, when I was cycling with Clarkie on a run. I'd never wear that much in this country if I'm going full speed. I'd get far too sweaty!)

Getting wet at temperatures not far above freezing is deeply uncomfortable, and there are big, unavoidable puddles even on days that it isn't raining. The canvas shoes that the winter rider in that Boston Globe piece used would not work for me, even with the wind covers. I have good, full-length mudguards, and still end up with wet and muddy shoes most days.

Mudguard Fail

(That's an old picture, I have better mudguards now so it doesn't spray up quite as far. Same principle though.)

I wear walking boots in winter for cycling, because they are waterproof. At the current temperatures I wear a fetching pair of ankle gaiters as well, which keeps my trousers (a pair of cheap, baggy, hard-wearing army-surplus combats) out of the chain. I don't bother if I'm wearing shorts, which is most of the year. I wear a waterproof jacket for around three quarters of the year anyway, layering up or down as required underneath - currently a long-sleeve merino base layer and a fleece gilet. I use my Oakleys, but with clear lenses. I have a lovely pair of mittens that I really like, but if it's raining (or below freezing - I'm a wuss) I cover them with a pair of ripstop over-mittens that I made. They look silly, but work, which kind of sums up my headgear too. I'm still wearing the really silly earwarmers that I made back in 2010 because I don't like wearing hats under my helmet but hate getting cold ears. If it's raining I wear my waterproof trousers as well, over the boots but under the gaiters. Chances are I'll turn up looking like a drowned rat, but I'm dry under the waterproof layer! 

I shower and change at work, so I don't have to worry about getting sweaty, and what I look like on the bike really isn't terribly important to me. Being on the bike really is important to me though, so yes, if you ask, I probably did cycle, and yes, I probably will tomorrow too! 


Fast and slow

I had a busy running week last week. Both Clarkie and I ran the Pheonix 10k on Wednesday night. I did this race last year, on a distinctly different evening. This year it was hot and almost perfectly still. Sadly, with Clarkie running as well there were no photos (or there were, but they are of the expensive, official variety). I managed another big PB, taking 3.5 minutes off my previous best with a 51:59. I was pretty pleased, especially since I'd had to stop a few times to sort out a stitch. I think I might want to think about some kind of warm up in future, especially since I still want to go faster (of course!).

Clarkie also ran a PB by a similar amount. She was a bit worried going into the race, because she hasn't run that far since the Cambridge Half. The conditions were a bit different from the sleet! She made it in 1:02:44, so she's got the hour mark in her sights for the next one. She also kicks my arse in a sprint!

Then we headed up to Cambridge for a dual-purpose trip. We were house-sitting and wedding-attending! But since we were there, we thought we'd do Cambridge Parkrun too. Turns out a mid-week 10k may not be entirely the best preparation, so I didn't get a PB on that one. In fact, the mile pace wasn't too far off the 10k pace, wih a 25:11 time recorded. All good though.

That meant that out of the 18.5 miles I ran last week, about half were run at race pace. At the moment that's around a minute per mile faster than my gentle a-to-b pace. Seems to have left me a little tired! So I skipped Monday's run altogether, and let myself do the run into work with my camera again. I've had to change my route a little, because they are digging up the path. The first mile through the houses is the same, but then instead of heading down along here...


I get to head up here for a chunk instead.

Onwards and upwards

The path is rather different, so instead of a narrow strip of chalk with flint sticking through

Through the undergrowth

I get to run on chunky gravel and embedded rocks.


And actually, that was a good section. That's quite testing in minimalist shoes, but I'm getting better at it. First time I did it I thought I'd bruised my foot spectacularly! I've still got some way to go before it's really comfy though. We'll see. (And ooh look! Tan!)

The route I'm using is part of the Jugg's Way between Brighton and Lewes, on the South Downs Way. It runs along a pretty exposed ridge. 

South Downs Panorama

(Might be worth clicking through to flickr for that one, see it large!)

I've run it in some pretty foul weather before, all the way to Kingston, but today was a good day. I don't follow it particuarly far either, before heading down off the ridge back towards work.

Downhill time

You can tell it's been dry and hot recently. The hills have gone that shade of yellow. 

The work I was trying to avoid has started to spill down the rest of the route - I'm not sure how much longer I can keep going this way! This is a picture of what the new path will look like. I'm actually a little underwhelmed - the surface (if this is the finished surface) is very loosely packed. It's ok to run on, but you can already see the bike tracks in it and it's not officially open yet. 

New path

Still, it will be better than what was there before. I think. The cows don't seem overly impressed...


The rest of the route (for now) is the same as previously. The other route was 3.6 miles. This one is 4.9 miles, more or less. The elevation profile is a bit different, going up higher and having more breaks between the downhill sections.

I'll admit that I've been cheating at hometime and running along the flat into town rather than up and home again. That gives me a combined total of 9.1 miles for the day, which is more than enough for now! It means that at the moment I'm doing more miles but less elevation, so that's a mixed thing. Maybe eventually I'll do both ways. We'll see. 

People occasionally ask me what I'm training for, and at the moment I'm not really on any sort of training plan. What I'm actually doing is training in preparation for my marathon training plan! I'm hoping that by slowly increasing my weekly mileage now, the jump in mileage for the plan won't be so much of a strain. It is still going to be a jump I think, but we'll see. June I ran four weeks increasing from 14.8 miles to 16.5 miles. This month I've been increasing from 18 miles and aiming to hit 20 miles before cricket week. Then a couple of weeks higher than that, before DiGRA at the end of August. And a couple more big (for me) weeks in September before the training plan kicks in. 

I should point out that these are still not impressive distances - most beginner plans reckon on 30-40 miles per week for marathon training, something I have never achieved. But it is a more consistently high mileage than I've ever managed before, and I'm managing better speeds than I've managed in the past. I'm really hoping this will mean marathon training goes more smoothly and puts less strain on my body this time around. 

Well, a girl can dream!