Posts Tagged ‘Dunwich Dynamo


jack of two trades

Longer evenings and a more temperate climate of late has meant that I could ramp up the training a little bit. The purchase of a new bike a few months back has also made me split my time between running and cycling.

Which means it would be sensible to split my planned events throughout the year into a combination of separate cycling and running events… So I have.

Last year, a cyclist friend and I found out too late about the Ellis 50 Miler so decided to schedule a long ride on the same day and aim to get to the Ellis 50 finish line as the main chunk of the field should begin to finish. Embarrassingly, a few bystanders mistook us for entrants and “clapped us home” as we were cycling towards the finish to cheer the real competitors home. There will be no such mistake this year as we got our entries in early and we can hopefully accept the spectators applause without guilt.

There is also the Dunwich Dynamo – one of my most favourite events – and Hauling My Carcass and I will once again tackle this overnight monster of a ride. Unusually, this year will be the first that either of us has had the luxury of a geared bike as all previous attempts have been on our single speeds. It will be interesting to see how the addition of gears alters the experience.

Running wise, I was disappointed to see that this year, my home race, the Hertford 10k isn’t being run. I love this race and was sniffing around for something else to do. My boss suggested that the next best thing to a home town race is a race local to your place of work so I have signed up for the Ealing Half Marathon at the end of September. I am hoping that the combination of a summer of running coupled with my cycling training will mean that I will get super skinny and super fast in time for this…?!?!

There is also the annual ridiculous European Adventure that HMC & I do every year. Regular readers will know that last year was a cycle trip to the Maas Half Marathon – this year is a little less ambitious although I suspect just as much fun as HMC, his wife and I head to Jersey to run a 5k on the Friday, a 10k Saturday and a Half Marathon on Sunday before flying home Sunday night.

And if that lot doesn’t get me motivated, I don’t know what will! It’s nice coming out of Winter and into Spring with a bunch of different events to aim for. To get me started, HMC have planned a 75km cycling jaunt across the South Downs next week which I am very much looking forward to. So it’s all go once again – exciting and a little daunting: just how I like it.



dunwich dynamo

It’s that time of year again. The night were Hauling My Carcass and I forego a night’s sleep to cycle from Hackney to Dunwich on the Suffolk coast. Regular readers will know that this is the 3rd time we have done this although for the uninitiated, I shall briefly explain…

Dunwich Dynamo takes place on the Saturday nearest the full moon in July (for maximum overnight visibility). It is free to take part, is organised (by The Southwark Cyclists)  but not supported or marshalled. A group of like minded cyclist congregate in London Fields and a little before 8pm on Saturday, begin to head off through Hackney and then out through Epping and into the shires on their overnight cycle to the seaside.

It’s not a race and although there are some hardcore lycra clad clans desperate to get to the other end (Dulwich Paragon have got themselves a bit of a reputation), it is mostly a mixture of happy cyclists up for a bit of a challenge and an adventure. Lots of road bikes, some mountain bikes, fixies, singlespeeds (including myself and HMC), at least one penny farthing, one participant with his 2 dogs in a purpose built box and (last year at least) one person on a Boris Bike.

The procession of red flashing lights snakes off in front of you for most of the ride and it is the view that  comes to sum up the ride. People stop at pubs and lay-bys on their way to Dunwich to rest, refuel and, in some cases, sleep.

HMC and I have come to adopt a fairly regimented ritual – 3 stops en route at approximately 50km intervals and experience has taught us that plenty of food, plenty of liquid and a change of warm, dry clothes at the halfway point are the best way to tackle it. This year I had a mini panic at about 110kms when I ran out of water. I have never run out before and the thought of about 80km in the dark with no liquid did scare me a bit. Fortunately, a few kms later, we came across a wheelbarrow at the side of the road full of bottles of lucozade sport and an honesty box to pay for it. I don’t know who you are, but the person who placed it there gets my thanks – you helped me through the remainder of the ride in relative comfort. And that, in essence, is why I like the DD – someone thinks to put some emergency lucozade at the side of the road. With an honesty box. And cyclists stop, are grateful for the gesture, buy Lucozade and put the money in the box – even though it would be easy not to. Or to take some Lucozade and the box of money. But they don’t. It is a mutually understood and reciprocated gesture.

In the early hours of the morning, the tiredness and psychological demons take hold and, if you are prepared for it, can be easily combatted. HMC seems to hit his Black Spot before me, so we chat whilst he concentrates on staying awake and positive. Just after the sun comes up, it is my turn to struggle, questioning why I do this each year and struggling to keep going. Motivation from HMC and a Mars Bar gets me back on track in no time and the last 10-15kms are torn up as we both know the finish is in sight.

A brief stop at the beach to soak up the atmosphere and then we get changed and sort the bikes in readiness for the home journey. Southwark Cyclists lay on coaches but HMC and I have, for 2 years running, driven to Dunwich on the Saturday, left the car overnight and then driven home on the Sunday morning. This is, arguably, the toughest bit as you have stopped the physical exertion and are in the relative comfort of a car. And you have not slept for something like 29 solid hours. The drive back to mine is a little under 2 and a half hours but in that short time I had 2 cans of Red Bull, one double espresso and a cake to keep me going and focussed. Of course the upside is that I was back home by 10am and the rest of the day can be used for a shower, eating and catching up on some sleep.

It is not easy but the effort is definitely worth it as it leaves you with a lasting sense of acheivement and the urge to grin everytime the Dunwich Dynamo is metioned.

Same time next year then…


moving target


I was feeling a little paranoid last week. I can go for months and months without incident on the pushbike and then…


Last Saturday, I was up early for a brisk 12km run. There is something quite satisfying about arriving back home knowing that your run for the day is complete before most people have had breakfast. Sunday morning was similar except that, with the Dunwich Dynamo in just a few weeks, I decided to head out early on the bike, get about 50km done and be home in time for a cappuccino and some toast when the rest of the family decided to surface. About 20km in, I narrowly avoid being mown down by a bronze coloured 4×4 that came hurtling onto the roundabout that I was already on. A split second decision on my behalf, on whether to try and stop or just keep going as fast as I could, meant that the fast moving hunk of metal missed my back wheel by a few centimetres. About a minute later, the rush of adrenaline kicked in and I trembled my way through the next few kms. A few lovely, sweeping countryside kilometres later and I am back in town where another car narrowly misses me – this time by overtaking me and then turning immediately left in front of me.


I arrived home feeling a little shaken and incredibly lucky. After recounting the incidents to Mrs Eatingtrees and being told to “be careful”, I smugly enjoyed the rest of the day knowing that my exercise for the weekend was in the bag. Incredibly, the next day on the way to work, a car decided to slowly drift across the road and into the side of me whilst I was on the motorbike. Luckily, I managed to manouvre myself out of the way but not before his hubcap had worn a hole in my overtrousers. Another near miss and another upping of the paranoia quota.


Playing it safe, I decided that this week I would just concentrate on running – a quick 10k one evening after work and then 12km first thing Saturday before it got too hot. I was out by 8am but even then it was beginning to warm up. By the time I was nearing the end I was choosing which side of the path to run on based solely on which would offer the most shade. It seems that the weather has gone from Early Spring to High Summer in the space of a week and I find the transition from around 10 degrees to nearly 30 degrees saps my energy and turns runs into slogs. I am sure in another few weeks I will be used to running in these sorts of temperatures just as an Early Autumn sets in…



headwind / headache


As part of the planned training for the Dunwich Dynamo, Hauling My Carcass and I always undertake at least one long(ish) training ride. Looking back at the training rides that we have done, every single one has caused us some problems – the first year, HMC was struggling. Last year we got a little, ahem, mis-routed and ended up not only cycling further than we had planned (144kms) but also called it a day at one point and caught the train back. This year, we had planned a round trip to Cambridge – 120kms in total that had been whittled down from a 140km+ route that I had devised. Hauling My Carcass had been eyeing the weather forecast and there was a headwind that we would be riding into for the whole of the return leg so we erred on the side of caution.


And it all started so well… HMC arriving at mine just before 8am, a quick espresso and we were off – up the first hill and out of my home town. The first 10kms or so were on fairly busy roads and the world was beginning to wake up so we rode single file. As we got further off the main roads we could ride side by side and chat. A constant side wind from the left made the route tougher than expected but before long, we were arriving in Cambridge. We stopped in a park for lunch and got chatting to an old guy on a hybrid / mountain bike who stopped to ask us for directions before launching into long tales of his years of riding bikes across the UK and abroad.


Once we had finished lunch, we were off again and on our way back out of Cambridge. Before very long it was evident that HMC’s prediction of a strong headwind all the way home was horribly accurate. A nasty constant headwind with quite violent gusts saw us slow to a crawl and all the banter and chat of the mornings ride soon dissipated. We realised what we were up against when we found ourselves having to pedal downhill…


Meanwhile, what was making things worse (for me) was a creeping headache and feeling of nausea that was slowly getting worse. I began to drop behind. I felt awful and thought I was going to be sick. Another 30km and it began to rain – we discussed cutting the ride short. I was still riding slowly, taking deep breaths and trying not to throw up. It was all I could do to keep the pedals turning. HMC would ride ahead and then have to wait for me to catch up. With about 20kms still to go, the headache and nausea began to retreat just as the heavens opened and it absolutely bucketed down. Thunder was rumbling around and we were both covered in mud that was being thrown up from the track that we were cycling on. A final check of the route and we were back at mine just as the rain began to ease. Without the inclement weather and me feeling unwell it would have been a great route to cycle but the combination of headwind and sickness took all of the fun out of it.


And then a run on Sunday morning instigated a full blown Migraine and I suspect it was the early stages of this that had caused me to feel so wretched on the ride the day before. I resigned myself to it and went to bed.


So a big thank you to HMC who, even in the pissing rain, waited for me as I dragged my sorry self 60 odd kilometres back from Cambridge. And, now at least I have experienced the truly unpleasant whilst on a training ride – which hopefully is good preparation should it happen again.



Seasons Greetings

Without wishing to jinx anything, it appears Spring might have just about arrived in the UK. Waking up, squinting out of the window again this year. We have a 150km training ride planned for 2 weeks time and breaking into a grin is a sure sign that things are looking up weather wise. Saturday and Sunday were both just about perfect for a run and a cycle and I was able, as I got up and out of the house early enough, to squeeze in both this weekend.

Saturday’s morning of sunny spells was perfect for a run and I completed 16.6km – certainly not at a pace that would set the world alight, but steady. I had had an odd “injury” after a few of my previous runs – the day after a run, my foot would “creak” when I flexed my toes. It wasn’t especially painful but it is quite worrying when your foot feels like a rusty hinge. A quick bit of Googling informed me that the cause was usually mild tendon inflammation – so wanted to see if slowing down and concentrating on my form would help. Which it appeared to do. Sunday came around and there was no pain and no creaking. Hurrah!

So, creak free on Sunday morning, I jumped on the singlespeed and just headed off. I planned to cycle for 2 hours – basically one hour in one direction chosen at random and then turn round and head back. I set off through the Hertfordshire countryside and managed to pick out and unusually hilly route to Barnet along country roads. I love my singlespeed and have never suffered “gear envy” before but on Sunday I found myself up out of the saddle and grinding my way up hills only to be passed by roadies in lycra calmly overtaking me, legs spinning and looking relaxed. One even informed me as he passed that he “wouldn’t want to be riding a singlespeed up this hill”. Thanks.

Still, it is all good training for when Hauling My Carcass once again tackle the Dunwich Dynamo but for now, this ride would blow some of the cobwebs away.

Almost precisely 2 hours later, I was back home, just shy of 50km in the bank. It was not even 11a.m. Which left me with that fabulous smug feeling that you get when you know you have done what you needed to do and have the rest of the day to relax in the sun.


marathon training – weeks 3 & 4

Ah, where to begin…
Another couple of weeks of marathon training which have, if I am honest, been a bit of a mixed bag.
The plan for week 3 was to follow the schedule but sacrifice my long run of 21kms in order to take part in the Dunwich Dynamo. For those of you that are unfamiliar, the DD is an overnight cycle ride from London Fields to Dunwich in Suffolk. It is organised (by the very lovely people at Southwark Cyclists) but not marshalled so it is very much a case of turn up, meet a few thousand other cyclists and head off overnight to the seaside. It is brilliant and a little bit scary and a little bit tiring but worth doing if you fancy a brisk 190km overnight cycle ride. Hauling My Carcass and I had completed it last year and had made a few improvements to our preparation for this year. It did not, however, quite go according to plan. Head over here to read HMC’s account of our ill-fated overnight adventure.
The rest of the week 3 marathon prep consisted of one session of 6 x 800m intervals and a short tempo run of 11km. Both passed without too much incident although the 800m sprints were tough.
Week 4 was 3 x 1600m sprints (very tough, especially as the one moment it decided to stop raining and be hot and sunny was as I was doing these!), a 5k tempo run and then a 16km long run at the end of the week. The 16km run felt laboured and tough, perhaps because I hadn’t done a long run for almost 2 weeks because of the Dunwich Dynamo, so I decided to look back to week 1 when I had previously done a 16km run, to see how I had faired. Incredibly, I had run exactly the same time TO THE SECOND. It had felt a lot slower and a lot tougher but I was genuinely surprised that I could be so consistent.
In general, I am not interested in stats and times and technicalities (which is probably why I am such an average runner… I try not to get too bogged down in times and distances preferring to gauge the quality of the run by how I feel) but following a training regime quite closely forces you to pay attention to your pace and distance and I have found it quite interesting how my performance will alter over a series of intervals. The first few are generally fast, the next slower as I try to modify my speed and then the last few are close to the target speed but definitely slower than when I began as I begin to tire.
So with 4 weeks complete and 12 to go, it feels a little odd to think that I will actually be able to complete 42.2kms come the end of September. Improvements are slow, sometimes imperceptible, but I am feeling stronger and physically better than I have in a while… even if my 16km time has not budged.

Soundtrack to this post: Neneh Cherry & The Thing – Dirt


seconds out – marathon training week 2

Into the second week of marathon training and I have been feeling quite good after week 1. The training follows the same structure each week with the distances varying. This week I was to tackle 4 x 1200m intervals on Monday, an 8km run on Wednesday and a 19km run on Saturday.
Mondays session was fine although intervals are surely the work of the Devil. Oddly, I find the shorter intervals more taxing than the longer ones. The 4 x 1200m sprints were supposed to take 6mins and 6 seconds each and I completed them in 5.49, 5.49, 5.58 and 6.10 respectively. Tough, but not uncomfortably so.
Wednesday’s 8km was planned to be 45.12 and was completed in 44.04… again I have come in slightly quicker but am not too worried. It is tricky to gauge your speed over the distance of a run – even with a Garmin and split times marker-penned onto my hand, it is tough to attempt as even a slight variation in effort can yield quite drastic variations in pace over a long-ish distance.
Sunday is normally “long-run day” but owing to a packed weekend, I shunted my long run to early on Saturday morning completing 19k in 1.53.36… not a speed that is going to set the running community alight but still almost 6 minutes faster than was planned.
This weeks schedule is being “modified” owing to myself and Hauling My Carcass riding the Dunwich Dynamo on Saturday night. For the uninitiated it is a 200km overnight cycle ride from Hackney to Dunwich on the Suffolk Coast. Last year, with quite a lot of training and almost perfect overnight cycling weather, we arrived in Suffolk just before 7am. This year I have done so little training that it is practically non-existent so think it may hurt. And if that’s not a good reason to forego a 21km “long run” on Sunday of week 3, then I don’t know what is.

Soundtrack to this post: The Putney – Butch Cassidy Sound System

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