Without going into too much detail, running is not really progressing. I can manage 2-3 5k runs a week, but any more and my knee starts locking out. If you read my last post, I would say I teeter between ‘Anger’ and ‘Acceptance’ on any given day. I’m choosing to ignore this for now.
So to quote 4 Non-blondes, “What’s going on?”
Well, apart from making myself one of the most unpopular people in Scotland during the Rugby World Cup (Go Wallabies!) I finished (and passed) my first assignment for my Sport & Exercise Psychology course, I submitted (and passed) my Body Pump instructor assessment video, and at work I have thus far survived the new Higher curriculum (and all of the onerous added internal assessments) without completely losing my mind.
I’ve also been joining a local cycling group for some winter social rides, and have attempted (with very limited success) to acclimatize to cycling in the Scottish winter. The first few rides were cold, but enjoyable, but a hypothermic jaunt two weeks ago knelled the death toll on my enthusiasm.
A group of us (four, there were only four of us willing to face it), met up in Stonehaven, aiming to cycle an undulating 45 mile loop. At 10:00, we were bundled up against the elements. At 10:05, we set off. At 10:07, the first raindrops began to obscure my vision.
Some may argue that we could have abandoned our plans after warnings of ‘Storm Clodagh’ dominated the news, but we were stubborn (translation: idiotic), and the forecast suggested we had a fair-weather window until about 1pm. Well, the forecast in Scotland is about as reliable as Patrick Bateman is as a narrator, so there’ll be no prizes for guessing how our experience went.
At 10:23 the rain morphed from a steady mist into corpulent rain drops with no sign of easing off. None of us wanted to be that person who says they want to turn back, so we kept our heads down and our wheels spinning. After about 20 minutes of steady, heavy precipitation – and at just the moment I was marveling at how well my waterproofs were living up to their name – I felt an ominous wetness envelope my fingers. The barriers had been breached.
The dampness spread quickly from there, and soon every item of clothing I had on was waterlogged and cold. The rain changed to sleet, and less than an hour after we had set off, mammoth tufts of fluffy snow were soaring past us, scratching our faces, and settling on our thighs like patches of white felt. We were all actively seeking out hills in an attempt to generate a bit of warmth. At this point we realized that prolonging this experience was ridiculous, and we opted to cut a 15 miles loop off of our ride. It would have made no difference if we turned back the way we came or continued with the amended route, so we decided to continue on the more ‘coastal’ route, figuring the sea air would be less accommodating for the now-lying snowfall.
Well, we were wrong. It’s a miracle that only one of us came off our bike (not me for a change!) considering we were cycling with very limited control on ice/slush/snow (a bit farcical when attempting to climb even the most gentle of inclines). Even on flat road, we were maxing out at around 11mph thanks to the drag of the snow. We laughed because there was nothing else to do, and I think I can safely say that we were all thrilled to glimpse the coast and the war memorial atop Black Hill, signalling the final descent into Stonehaven.
By the end our gears were pretty much frozen, so we were stuck in single-gear mode until chunks of ice fell with a thud from our frames. Once back to the car park in the town square, we wasted no time packing everything into the cars, abandoning any ideas of a social hot drink and opting instead to get home – and into a hot shower – as quickly as possible.
In the car, Roz ramped up the heating and once I started thawing out I began shivering, which alarmingly kept up for the next couple of hours. I got dropped off and hauled my bike into my vestibule before beginning the agonizingly slow process of peeling cold, wet layers of clothing off in the hallway to avoid leaving puddles all over my carpet. I could wring a substantial amount of water out of both pairs of socks I had been wearing – so much for my overshoes being waterproof!
Leaving a sodden pile of cycle gear on the floor, I jumped into the shower and, ignoring all advice about slowly re-warming the body, whacked it onto the hottest setting I could bear and enjoyed about 30 seconds of pure bliss – before my feet began to burn. It was a slow, rising burn – like eating a chili and thinking it wasn’t too bad before the real heat kicks in – and before long I was maneuvering myself (unsuccessfully) into any position that kept my feet out of the way of the water, before eventually giving up, opening the shower door, and sitting pathetically on the floor with my feet lying on the shower mat outside.
Minutes later I was curled up in bed, tucking the duvet in around me, and clutching my burning feet hatching a plan about how a repeat of this experience could be avoided next weekend.
After getting in touch with the manager at a gym I teach spin at, we decided to book out the studio on Sunday for a couple of hours and do an hour of heart rate training followed by an hour long spin class. Interest from the group was high, as we had experienced sub-optimal cycling weather for the past 2 weekends, and in the end about 10 of us turned up ready to ride – indoors. On a glorious, sunny, Sunday morning. Typical.
The heart rate training was led by Kerry, the manager at the Warehouse, and we were encouraged by footage of lycra-clad professional cyclists illuminating the screen in front of us, as well as a box displaying everyone’s heart rate zones. We all had to input our name, date of birth, weight, and e-mail address, and were sent a report of our workout once we had finished. After that, about 8 of us stayed on and I led a 1 hour spin class, regretting every second of the second half as I had already taught a spin class and Body Pump earlier in the morning. To everyone’s delight, the gym happened to have a charity bake sale on, so they did remarkably well by us, especially as they kindly waived the charge of the studio hire as a one-off.
I really enjoyed the HR training, and the hour actually went by pretty quickly. It definitely isn’t the kind of interval training you get in a spin class, but it’s probably a lot more beneficial as an alternative to actually getting out on the road bike as it mimics the kind of effort you’d be putting in. You also get a report emailed out to you after the class. Kerry runs a HR class on a Friday night, and though I couldn’t make it this week (staff Christmas night out), I hope to go to the next one, and input my max HR at 198 where I would have put it had I not already taught 2 classes.
Despite having options just now as an alternative for outdoor cycling, I won’t really have any escape in 6 weeks time when, if all goes well, I’ll be recovering from 24 hours on a mountain bike just north of Inverness. Yet another case of ‘it-seemed-like-a-good-idea-when-I-signed-up’. You’d think I’d learn…