I spent this past weekend in London and had a great time visiting with friends (new and old) as well as combining a good whack of training with a little bit of business.
Who knew that London was a winter training Mecca? I’m fortunate in that the Epic-Network is extending its global reach and I’m able to get a training fix in my main business centers.
I caught the Thursday afternoon flight down from Edinburgh. Flying into Heathrow late in the day is often subject to delays but it was smooth sailing and less than 45 minutes after touch down I met up with Michael at Ealing Broadway.
I lived in London from 1990 to 1993. In the “old” days, we had a standing booking at the Thai restaurant at the Churchill Arms on Kensington Church Street. Every week, for close to two years, at 7pm. Back then, if I was free early on the Thursday then I would have headed to the pub a bit early and called Stu to sneak off for a few early beers. The standard night was four or five pints and a big night would see us into the high single figures. The nice thing about closing time back then was that it happened bang on 11pm so I could be asleep by 11:30 and, while feeling slow, I’d be able to bluff my way through Friday.
This past Thursday was quite a bit different and the contrast, as always, made me smile on the inside. Michael took me to a pool somewhere in West London. He had a couple of mates that worked at the club. They were Ironman guys and keen to meet me. I find a growing amount of goodwill around the world when I travel. There is a lot of kindness reflected back upon me and I enjoy playing a role in that virtuous cycle.
After the swim we headed off to a local pub/restaurant for dinner and I gave a chat to the Serpentine Tri Club. Man-o-man can I talk! Thankfully, it was well received. Two hours passed and if I wasn’t a half hour late for my homestay then I just might have kept talking. It was a great group of people, who reminded me that one of the best things about living in a truly international city is the caliber of the people you are constantly exposed to.
I have lived and worked in two of the largest business hubs in the world – London & Hong Kong. While they present some unique challenges to my current quality of life, I don’t know any other cities that can compete when it comes to quality of work opportunities. London for the volume of business, real-world educational opportunities and depth of experience. Hong Kong for the upward mobility created when rapid growth meets a shortage of work experience in the home market.
So that was Thursday. Friday was a day off training for me. A morning meeting down at Canary Wharf and lunch time spent writing an update report for a key investor. I was really tired on Friday and made the tactical error of a nap late in the day. As a result, I didn’t sleep much. The one bit of upside was that I had a chance to chat with M in the middle of my night.
Saturday was an entertaining ride. The lads equipped me with a very upscale commuter bike, shoes, clothes, helmet, gloves – the only things that were mine on the ride were my wedding ring and a pair of undershorts.
I had a pre-ride flat so we were underway slightly late. I followed my pre-ride flat with another about a half hour in. Already, I was the “new guy” holding the group back.
After my flat, we headed into the hills and I was working seriously hard to stay with the lads. Oh No! I’d been on these kill-the-pro rides before. However, this one was different, the entire group was rolling forward and I was going straight out the back.
Sweat was pouring off me and I was putting in a big effort. Still, I kept falling behind. The lactate refusing to clear from my legs even going downhill. Even sitting in, I wasn’t getting any draft and had to work extremely hard. It was really strange to be that shelled.
After 30 minutes of getting dropped, I could tell that there was a quiet discussion going on up the road. I was at a total loss. It was a shame to have been invited as a guest rider only to hold the entire pack up. They couldn’t even leave me for dead as I didn’t know where I was (and they were English). The Poms have a great sense of fair play. They’ll only shellac you within reason.
Toby dropped back and (ever so nicely) enquired how the bike was. I pointed out that the bike was doing great. The problem appeared to be the rider!
At 45 minutes we passed a massive peacock on the road and Michael dropped back for a chat. I must have been quite the sight – by this stage, I was white as a sheet, totally soaked in sweat and beyond speaking. The guys were rolling easy at conversational pace. I couldn’t figure it out.
I started to check the rear brake… not rubbing
Feel for friction in the pedals… a little sticky
Sense the hubs… perhaps a bit of friction in there
At one level I was scared to stop because if there wasn’t a bike problem then this was going to be highly embarrassing… “he sucked so bad that he even checked the bike…”
Then I simply had to stop, I was totally whipped. So I pulled over and tried to spin the rear wheel… nothing… not a bit of movement. I looked at the tire and I had just about worn through the sidewall from friction…
Needless-to-say my mood improved markedly from that point onwards. However, my legs never really were the same!
So it ended up being five hours of rolling hills around Southern England. Why do they call them “downs” if you’re always riding up? I don’t know. Suppose that they invented the language so I should just accept it like a good colonial.
The pacing on the ride continued as per standard age-group-global-protocol… i.e. the strongest guy on the ride smacks each assent. However, there was plenty of regrouping, lots of small talk and the delays due to the g-man were socially acceptable.
One of the lads on the ride (Lawrence, one of my favourite English names) – is a 51 minute TT guy. He was telling me that he really likes the training protocols of AC. Not sure if I pointed out, or merely thought, that it was rather logical that he’d fine common ground with a cyclist with similar skills. I pointed out that lifting his FT might be fun but, given that he’s already riding faster than most of the pro field, he should consider swimming and running a bit more.
The best protocol not always being the best protocol – thanks to Dr. T.
Towards the end of the ride Michael got a bit tired. He waits until his A races to leave his training pals shaking their heads. I probably take more pride in being the fastest “slow guy” than Michael but we share a lot of common ground.
Saturday ended with a drive back into London, a chat with Monica and early to bed. Sunday had more fun planned.
I woke up before six on Sunday morning. I had another back-in-the day moment when I realised that I would have only been asleep for a couple of hours (if at all) had this been the old days. One of our most popular weekend events in the 90s was a dinner party at my place in Hammersmith. There would be eight to twelve of us, in the basement, candle chandelier, eating around an old pine table. Dinner would typically include a case of wine. Dessert would be a large bottle of vodka and/or Cuervo Gold passed around the table. We wouldn’t head out clubbing until 1 or 2 am.
My brain wouldn’t re-engage until Tuesday morning.
So this Sunday morning was a little different and we hit the pool at 7:30am – they even had a “fast” freestyle only lane! Any pool where I am the fastest swimmer is alright with me.
The Tour de Parcs started at 9am – like my last run in London, we hit the Thames River trail, Richmond Park, Wimbledon Common and Putney Common. Perhaps a few other places, I wasn’t really sure.
Russ-the-dentist (uber-50 year old – fast guys are everywhere) and I… well, we hit it a bit at the end. Michael started giving us directions and, when I do that, it normally means that it’s time to head off. So Russell and I trotted down the Thames trail at a fair old rate and he got to see my definition of Iron-speedwork. I was a bit fired up when we arrived at Chiswick Bridge so he was also subjected to a few minutes of run form, training protocol and main set tips.
The run rounded my weekend out to about 8.5 hours of training. Not bad and, aside from the wheel rubbing incident, I think that I’m OK following Epic.
After all the training, I met up with a friend and her family. She has the unique position of being my only “peer” that I’ve been in continuous contact with for twenty years. I was only 17 when I met her. I think that her kids are 9/8/7 now and it was a lot of fun to have lunch with the entire crew. It had been five years since I last saw the kids.
It seems so long ago now but that day ended by getting on this plane and starting my five week trip to the Southern Hemisphere. Visiting with M and a two week vacation in Tasmania. I’m looking forward to a bit of training.