A new look at training

Last year, on 21 August, I managed to complete a half iron distance triathlon. That’s a 1.9km swim, followed by a 90km cycle, followed by a half marathon run. It was fantastic fun, but with the year having been exhausting on many other fronts, the race was followed by zero training until last week. I couldn’t bear to even touch my running shoes, gave my beloved bicycle a wide berth. Why? I love exercise. I enjoy it. My mind started drifting to a different idea: body-centred, rather than event-centred, training.

Usually, you pick a few major races to aim for during a coming year. You, or usually your trainer, then plan your training so that your body peaks at the time of the race. Now, I’m training for training’s sake. My programme consists of suggestions, not requirements. There is also scope for making note of days I didn’t train, but got a lot of exercise. For instance, last week Thursday I missed my planned swim, but I walked at least 8km in the course of the day. The space for recording what I did that day is filled with a W for Epic Walk.

So will I not race again? I plan to. However, instead of picking a race and getting my body ready for it, I am going to train for the love of it, and enter events I feel ready for at the time, at short notice.

Will this work? I don’t know. People aim for races to help motivate them. I’m weird that way, though: I just love exercise. Getting fit enough to be able to run or cycle a certain distance is enough motivation for me. I think I won’t perform as well as I would if I trained ‘properly’. That just isn’t important to me, though. I find myself left cold by the idea of aiming to complete a half iron in a faster time. Being fit enough to complete another one and feeling good when I’m done with it is a more attractive goal, and if I do it slower than my first I can’t say it really bothers me.

Watch this space then to see if this body-centred approach will yield good results. I’ll keep you updated.


Delightful little jaunt

At last I am able to go out cycling again, after hurting a tendon in early December. Yesterday, I headed out into the Cooleys, and boy, was I overwhelmed with gratitude for the wonderful privilege I have of living where I do.


This hill is one of my favourite sights. I can see it from my bedroom window, and usually it’s the most wonderful contrast of dark green against the lighter greens and browns of the mountains behind it. Winter’s brush, however, has added a silvery touch to my hill that made it look contemplative and wise.

I must have posted photos of this path loads of times before, but I just can’t help it, I take a photo everytime I come by here with the camera.

What struck me yesterday was that while the sum of the things to see around me was beautiful,


every little separate component was beautiful to me, too.


I love – love – looking at damp soil rich with bits of leaves and bark.

I love looking at moss softening the lines of rocks and trees. I just so love everything around me.

How can anyone not love this place? I’m so often asked if I don’t miss South Africa’s sunshine – how can I, if I have this instead?

I stopped for lunch at Ravensdale Park. There’s a small car park there, surrounded by trees, and a few wooden tables with benches. And now I did the first thing that is probably not very serious-cyclist-like: I pulled out my lunch box and, yes, my flask of nice warm tea.

I felt a tiny bit silly when two other cyclists, also on hybrids like Ronan, whirred into the car park. They looked very cycle-ish, and did serious cycley stuff once they’d stopped like drinking water from their water bottles (not tea from a flask) and talking seriously with each other, probably about serious cycling stuff.

Then… well then things got worse. Whirrrrrrrrr-thwack! I heard behind me. A woman on a mountain bike had cycled past, flew onto the tarred surface over the last dip and skidded to a halt. Whirrrrrrrrrr-thwack! another mountain biker, a guy this time, followed and pulled up beside her. They were clad in proper mountain biking gear: mountain bike shorts over winter tights, mountain bike tops, enough logos to cover a sports car between them. They pulled off their full face helmets and started excitedly discussing the route they just did while more of them whirred and thwacked past me until there were eight of them gathered in the little parking lot.

There was enough coolness beside me to power an air conditioning system for the entire Burj Khalifa (Dubai Tower). And I was about to do something really, really terrible. You see, I usually take my netbook along to spend an hour or two writing when I stop for lunch on a cycling trip. This time, I hadn’t felt like it, so I’d grabbed the other project I’m working on at the moment. Yes, I was clad in sort of semi-cool cycling tights. Yes, I wore cycling cleats, which I suppose are also cool, though I’m more concerned about the fact that they’re really practical. But what I was about to indulge in, in sight of these ultra-cool cyclists, would cancel out any coolness I myself might have scraped together. It was worse than the lunchbox. It was worse than the flask of tea. It was…

Yes, I sat in Ravensdale Forest Park and worked on my crochet project. To crown it all, I thought of how ridiculous that was and kept laughing my head off while stitching, so I don’t suppose that made it any better. But most probably the cool mountain bikers didn’t even notice me.

Once my fingers got too cold to keep stitching, I packed everything away and headed home. It felt so good to cycle like this again that I was sorely tempted to go farther than the 30km I had determined I would do. However, that is precisely how I got hurt in the first place, so I disciplined myself to not overdo it.


Distance: 31.42km
Average: 19.0km/h
Max: 37.0km/h
Pedalling time: 1h38.41