Thursday, 1 August 2013

Multi-modal commute

I’ve had a lot of fun in the last couple of years building and modding bikes, both upright and recumbents, trying to work out what goes fast and what doesn’t.  During that time however, my running has been sadly neglected. That needs to change, so in the last 2 months I’ve been trying to ease back into it.  Coming from a base of only cycling, that’s easier said than done.  Cycling may give a reasonable level of lung fitness but the body has evolved to that of a different species; one with hunched shoulders, curved spine, leg muscles in the wrong places and no resistance to stress from impact forces.  All of which means that it’s going to be a slow process to transform back into a normal human.
Not that I’ll be giving up cycling, as it’s still the best commuting option for the 30-mile round trip.  And I’ve only ever been fit when incorporating training into my commute, so that’s here to stay.  One thing I’ve never tried, but am curious to find out, is how beneficial or otherwise a combination of cycling and running might be for running fitness.  The old fashioned view was that the two don’t really mix but triathletes like the Brownlee bro’s are capable of international-class running and hill runners like Rob Jebb are at the top of the tree in cyclocross also.
My feeling is that as long as you do enough running to make the necessary adaptations to allow you to run efficiently, then a combination of the two disciplines will be beneficial, particularly for old gits who may struggle to keep up a reasonable mix of volume and quality running.  But I suspect that the quality part of training would need to focus on running rather than cycling.
So how does cycling mileage equate to running mileage?  In terms of energy expenditure, it’s probably about 3 to 1, so I’ve stuck my finger in the air and come up with the scientific formula of 5 km cycling equals 1 mile running.  Historically, I’ve needed about 60 miles running per week to get reasonably fit, so if I cycle commute 3 days (90 miles), that gives just under 30 miles running equivalent, so running the other two days and say once at the weekend should make that volume achievable.
I find that a 12-week moving average mileage gives a reasonable indicator of basic fitness.  I had a lazy first half of the year but training’s been bumped up in the last month and at the moment, based on the above formula, I’m currently at about 34 mpw running equivalent.  It’s been quite varied too; a fortnight ago, I had a hilly week in Sheffield where, even just running about the streets, 20% gradients are common.  Last week I had the contrast of the pancake-flat Yangtze delta.  I went there full of good intentions training-wise but I chose the hottest week in Shanghai since records began and with temperatures in excess of 400C, the only option was to try and get up at 5 a.m (which I managed once!) and brave the relative chill of 300C.  Bizarrely, at that time Century Park in Pudong was hoaching with oldies performing their daily Tai-chi workouts.  No sign of Chinese youth though. There’s no hope for them - they’re all too busy trying to make a quick buck and becoming fat Americans as fast as possible.  
Now, if I was Peter Buchanan, there would already be a dozen pristine pics in this post (I was wondering how the guy is so fast for a demi-centurion, as all that photography during training must leave precious little time for actual running.  Then I realised that’s why he’s so fast.  Three minutes to get the perfect background and exposure for that lesser-spotted natterjack, then a 5 minute mile is needed to catch up with Mary again.  That's it - all his runs are just one big interval session!).  But I digress and I’m not, so the best I could come up with was a spot of spontaneous line dancing on Nanjing Road.  And a bit of Engrish I spotted on the way to work.  

Hotel Thing Confluence - think I'll give the buffet a miss....
Sadly, Engrish is becoming less common in China these days - perhaps as the quality of translation improves.  Even the subway’s “attention, pinching hand!” (the scourge of busy undergrounds everywhere) has now been replaced with the mundane “beware of the doors”.
It’s 2 years to the day since I started working in Rosyth.  At the time, I was fully intending to run home a couple of times per week but that never happened and it was easier just to get on the bike.  Well, I now have a couple of longish runs under my belt so I decided that yesterday was the day for my first ever multi-modal (human-powered) commute;  in by bike in the morning, then running home via a shortcut straight over the shale bing at Winchburgh.  Another first yesterday; my first ever run over the Forth Road Bridge.  It’s a weird World on top of the bing - a bit like being on the moon, I imagined.  I was a bit of a wus on my descent though.  As I peered over the edge, the nearly 100% gradient seemed impossibly steep and I was mindful of the need not to do a Wellock (a few years back, the unfortunate Trotter charged down a scree slope in the Pentlands and promptly snapped a femur on his first stride onto level ground at the bottom). I ended up running round the rim of the crater to an area where there were a few trees and bushes on the slope, so at least I’d have something to clutch at if it all went pear-shaped.  In the end it was fine - a nice soft scree, the only down-side being the need to empty my shoes at the bottom.

By 12 miles, I was flagging - a combination of lack of fitness, slightly ambitious early pace and maybe still being a bit jet-lagged from the China trip - and the final 3 miles were a bit of a hobble, with my hamstrings cramping badly.  On my return though, a few pints of homebrew later and all was well with the World.

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