Friday, June 26, 2020

Post 214 - 2020 to date has not been quite as planned...

A lot has happened in 2020, much of it not quite as planned...

My plan for 2020 had been to do a good few cross-country races, with a big target being (as usual) the Ulster cross-country championships, which would springboard me nicely into the springtime road running season where I’d hoped to be in shape to have a good go at breaking 32 minutes for the 10K, and also at breaking 9 minutes for the 3K.

This would then transition into full-on, very focused, short-course triathlon training, with a major goal being doing everything I possibly could to put myself into a position to challenge to win my category at the world sprint triathlon championships in Edmonton in Canada in August. I would follow this by using my multi-sport fitness to try to challenge to win my category in the world standard distance duathlon championships in Almere-Amsterdam in September.

Following this, if the spring-time sub-32 10K (and/or sub-9 3K) hadn’t happened, then I would look to try to find a few autumn races at which to try and achieve these times. But the best-laid plans often unravel, and not for lack of desire or trying on my part…

I found getting back into fast running training to be difficult after Kona. Running is tough on the body. My body in particular, with its fairly poor biomechanics, finds running tough. I tried and tried to get back to full running fitness. Sometimes when you try and try, progress just happens. You don’t have to fight anything. It’s great. It’s obviously not effortless, because a lot of effort goes into the training, but it’s “effortless effort”, if that makes any kind of sense.

Sometimes, progress just doesn’t come, and you’re always fighting things, no matter what you do. This was the case over the winter. I turned up to cross-country races in the winter intending to run, before giving in to the sensible (but often more difficult) option of not starting, knowing that racing when not fit and feeling various niggles and strains would do more harm than good. With age has come a little bit of experience and sensibility and an ability (sometimes, anyway) to know when not to train or race…

After my annual Boxing Day trip to the Greencastle 5 mile race (where I unsurprisingly had a disappointing run), my knee started giving me awful trouble. I saw a few people about it, but I couldn’t get a good diagnosis. A stress fracture. Bursitis. Muscle imbalance. Patellar tracking. No-one seemed able to correctly diagnose it. I did so much for it. Nothing worked. It just wouldn’t get better. Running was very, very sore, but I think I know my body well enough and I decided that it wasn’t long-term damaging pain, and that I could continue to train through the pain for the Ulster cross-country championships.

8th year in a row at Greencastle. A super event.
I wasn't particularly keen on being given the number 4, because
I knew I would be nowhere near the top 4 this year.

A bit of Christmas Day slashing and hacking with my brother. 

Ultrasonic probes and frozen peas for the knee, in addition to 
various gels, creams, pills and exercises.

A vibrating massage gun, also used to try to help the knee

The Ulster cross-country championships are very important to me. I don’t often get the chance to race “at home”, and I’ve got a good record at the Ulsters, being on the scoring 6 for my club every year I’ve ran it since 2006. I’m keen to keep the record going. So I gritted through the pain in training, and tried and tried to get fit. I need to be fit if I want to make the scoring 6.

I somehow managed a second place at a local cross-country race in Scotland. That was the third time I’ve been second at the East Lothian cross-country championships race. I’d really love to win a cross-country race. Not this year… even if I’d been fit, I’d never have won it – the winner sprinted off and disappeared off into the woods when the starting gun went, and I never saw him again. He was in a different league to me on the day.

A pretty cool photo, at the East Lothian cross-country. Second place got me two beers.
I still haven't drank them...

I also somehow managed to sneak under 16 minutes at a 5K relay event in Glasgow. That sounds OK, but what would have been a sub-15:30 at halfway turned into a terrible final 2km. But I kept at the training. I just wanted my knee to get better. I made a few tentative enquiries about getting an entry to the Armagh 5K, but when that fell through I wasn’t too bothered. I’ve been there and done that twice. It’s an incredible, high-calibre event but you want to be in tip-top shape to race in such a big event, and I knew I wasn’t.

Finally the Ulsters rolled around. Over the past 5 years they’ve always been held in Lurgan Park. I’ve always enjoyed the trips to Lurgan as I’ve got family there. This year, they moved to where I first ran the Ulsters back in 2006, in Coleraine. It’s a tough, hilly course. It was so mucky. I knew I wasn’t as fit as I wanted to be, but I had done all I could to be fit. It was a horrendous run. It wasn’t a “run”, it was a case of hauling yourself through it as best you could. It was the stickiest mud I’ve ever had to plough through. And the wind as well. I can’t remember whether it was Storm Dennis or Storm Ciara but it was very, very challenging. You couldn’t run. You just had to fight and fight and fight.

When I’m hating a run (i.e. when body and mind and fitness levels are not working together), my head dips a bit. Sometimes in races, it doesn’t dip at all – this is when body and mind work together and the pace is well-judged. Sometimes it’ll dip in the final third or quarter of a race if I’ve gone out too hard. In the Ulsters this year, my head was down in every single one of the photos I saw, right from the start. I remember someone shouting at me from the sidelines “Head up John!” I tried to lift my head in response and it nearly fell off. All my energy was going into keeping my legs moving. There wasn't much left to hold my head up. It was a brutal day. I had been a decent seventh the previous year. I was fourteenth this year. I managed to be fourth scorer on the team, but we “only” managed team silver on the day.

Now a balding MAMIL

My last race as we know it for some time...

I tried to kick on after this, and I got a run for Scotland East at the UK inter-county cross-country championships in Loughborough. But I wasn't kicking on at all. The Ulsters had been a huge effort and my running just seemed to be going backwards afterwards. I had a terrible run in Loughborough. My knee needed to get better. I went to see an old-school cash-in-hand part-time physio, and by whatever miracle, whatever he did, my knee suddenly became almost completely better. I was genuinely gobsmacked.

I started planning for Edmonton. I’d missed out on the gold medal in Lausanne last year by 70 seconds. I dissected everything about it, and came up with a list of 18 things I could improve on:

1.       Specific swim training: Training last year (which was dominated by Ironman, with Lausanne almost being on a whim) had been one long swim per week. A sprint triathlon would need much more high-intensity sprint-focused swim training, which I knew I could implement.

2.       Swim technique: I’ve never been coached. Over the winter I asked a couple of coaches for pointers on my technique. I read a few books on swim technique. Better swim efficiency and technique would mean I’d be faster. I also got my head round needing to swim 2-3 times per week, which I’d have to implement.

3.       Swim the race more aggressively: I’d need to swim hard, fast, and aggressively to get with the faster swimmers, get their draft, and get out of the water in a better position. My swim in Lausanne was quite conservative. I started away off to the right hand side, and swam wide (and therefore longer lines) to avoid the scrum. I would need to be more aggressive in Edmonton.

4.       Specific bike training: In Lausanne in 2019, I went there with Ironman training in my legs. Proper, focused, high-powered, high-intensity, shorter-duration bike training would definitely make a difference. I knew what I’d do in training. I’d need to get my FTP up to over 330 watts on the bike, and my weight down to 62kg. I was confident I could do that. I’d seen 70kg+ on the scales just before Christmas, as heavy as I’ve been for years, but I could soon lose it.

5.       An aero helmet: I raced in Lausanne with an old, cheap, standard road helmet. It didn’t help my cause. A good aero road helmet with a visor (to avoid wasting time in transition with sunglasses) would be worth a good few seconds. I found a bargain on ebay and with the help of some green stickers, I did a nice job on it. What looks cool must be fast:

6.       A better aero bike: I raced Lausanne on a second hand Boardman road bike, which I bought in 2013 for £500. It’s probably a 2011 model. Old technology now. It’s not very aero. A new, stiff, light, aero bike would make such a difference. This was the only change that I deemed to be expensive enough to have to really think twice about. I did look though. I looked at new frames, discounted frames, second hand frames, at all the options and permutations, and in the end coronavirus (more on that later) put paid to this whole idea, for now anyway.

7.       A lower front end on the bike: I remember when I got my first Ironman bike (a fairly basic Giant Defy), I kept lowering and lowering the front end, and being surprised how much faster it got with every incremental lowering. I seem to be able to hold contorted positions quite well. The bike I raced on in Lausanne was my road bike, and for the Ironman training rides I’d done, for comfort, I’d got quite a high front end on it. I could “slam” the stem, drop the whole front end by about 3cm, and it would give me good speed gains.

8.       An aero bottle: Marginal gains indeed, but I’d raced in Lausanne with a big chunky standard bottle on my down tube. Getting a smaller aero bottle would help.

9.       Quicker tyres and tubes: I’d used standard butyl tubes and Continental GP 5000 tyres in Lausanne. Ideally they’d be 25mm, but then they wouldn’t fit my time trial bike (I’ve only got one set of race wheels which are interchangeable between bikes). I could run latex tubes (lighter and faster) and also faster tyres (which are less puncture resistant). I thought a lot about this. It’s high-risk. You put everything into training and getting fit – do you run faster tyres and tubes which mean you’re more likely to puncture? If you puncture, it’s game over, you’ll be winning nothing… in the end I bought latex tubes and Vittoria Corsa Speed tyres (which do indeed feel very thin), but I haven’t installed them yet…

10.   Shoe covers: I can cover my bike shoes to make them more aerodynamic. I bought aero shoe covers on a trip to the Tour of Flanders in 2014 and was mocked. A couple of months later I did 3:59:39 for a 100 mile time trial, wearing the shoe covers. I don’t think I’d have broken 4 hours if I hadn’t been wearing them… mock all you like but I’ll take the sub-4…

11.   A waxed racing chain: You really can buy speed. I usually install a new chain just before any big races. You can buy specially-treated racing chains which are proven to be faster.

12.   Shimano kit: I’d been using Sram stuff on my road bike. Over the winter, a shifter snapped off. I’ve got a friend who’s a bike mechanic. He offered me an old set of Shimano Ultegra stuff for a good price. He said it would be compatible, and indeed it was. It’s probably slightly better equipment, slightly lighter, and the brake hoods are much better in terms of being able to grab onto them and get down in an aerodynamic position.

13.   Shaved legs and arms: I never thought I’d do this. Specialized, a major player in the world of bikes, did a wind tunnel test which showed that shaved legs save 60-80 seconds per hour on the bike. You’re probably also faster in the swim with shaved legs (assuming of course it’s a non-wetsuit swim).

14.   Specific run training: Last year I went to Lausanne with Ironman run training in my legs. If I had specific short-course run training in my legs, I am sure I could run faster.

15.   Nike Vaporflies: The miracle shoes. I disagree with the way running shoes are going now – super-expensive, super-bouncy, carbon fibre soles, huge thick soles. If I ever break 32 minutes for a 10K, I can say for sure I will not be wearing Vaporflies or anything like them. But for a race where positions rather than times are the end goal, then I’ll wear them because they are legal to wear, everyone else will be wearing them, and they are undoubtedly faster. I even had the chance to trial a pair over the winter and I can confirm that they feel unreal and very fast…

16.   “Back not wrecked”: When flying out to Lausanne last year, carrying my luggage down the stairs, I pulled something in my back. I had recruited a friend to carry the heavy stuff. I did the damage when carrying a fairly light case. Bah. Then I had to drive for hours to Liverpool airport, sit on the flight, carry everything on the train, carry everything to the accommodation etc etc. My back was a mess. If it wasn’t a mess, I’d be faster.

17.   A non-strenuous race week: Race week was stressful. Travelling on public transport in Switzerland was not ideal. I should have rented a car. The accommodation was down several flights of steep steps, which I had to ascend and descend so many times, often with heavy luggage. I ended up walking too much, and the day before the race I walked from the lake up to the accommodation, probably a mile and a half up a 25% gradient, carrying shopping from the supermarket. If I hadn’t had to do any of this, I would have been faster.

18.   Not having done an Ironman 6 weeks previously. This speaks for itself… I remember trying to do the 1-mile relay race in Edinburgh about 2 weeks after the Ironman. Usually I’d be thinking I’d break 5 minutes for a mile. In this case I literally hobbled round in just under 7 minutes. That’s the state of the shape I was in, just 4 weeks before Lausanne.

I calculated what I thought were the maximum and minimum times I would save by implementing each of these 18 things. It involved some reading, some research, and some educated guesswork, but I reckoned the minimum time I’d save would be around 90 seconds, but I also reckoned in the best case, I could save over 3 minutes. So, it was realistic to think that I could challenge to become a world champion in Edmonton.

Then I started thinking, how much time I would save in an Ironman if I made these changes… Admittedly not all of the 18 items could be applied to an Ironman, but of those that could, and the additional one of having a new, tight, crease-free “second skin” tri-suit (duly bought – the limited edition Huub DS green tri-suit obviously wasn’t selling well and was reduced from something like £200 to about £60), I reckoned I could save somewhere between 6-12 minutes. I also reckon the experience of having been to Kona, knowing what to expect, and knowing how not to mess up my transitions would be worth another few minutes. So breaking 10 hours at Kona should be possible. Breaking 9:50 should be possible. But actually qualifying to get back there would be the problem…

Upgraded aero brakes on my tri bike

A horribly un-aero stem faceplate. How could I improve this? Aero stems can cost anything up to £300. 
A new integrated front end including stem, bars etc, can cost over £1000. Could I improvise?
What do I have lying around that would be a good shape to cover the stem faceplate? An eggshell? 
Certainly the right shape. Can I buy a plastic eggshell shape and tape it on...?

Hmmmm maybe not this one. Far too big and it seems you can't buy black ones. 
I'll keep an eye out for a second-hand 3T Integra stem - that's the one I want.

"Weight weenie-ing" to the extreme. My road bike seat post is too far set back, so I needed one with no offset,
in order that the saddle could be mounted in the middle of the saddle rails, to avoid it flexing too much and breaking.

I got a £100 zero-offset seatpost for £19.99 and a new version of the original (basic) saddle.
17g heavier...

I also got a heavily discounted carbon stem, which combined with a spare "good" saddle, 
saves 130g. Almost as much as two energy gels...

I’m very glad I had the year I had last year. I’ve watched all the videos and highlights from Kona. It was absolutely fantastic. The whole year was brilliant. Had I planned to try and qualify this year it would have been a disaster with all the races being cancelled. As I predicted, about 4-5 months after Kona, Ironman started selling off all the Kona merchandise at hugely reduced prices. I confess I indulged a little bit. I picked up a couple of $30 baseball caps for $5. $100-plus tops for $20. Ironman must make a huge amount of money in the merchandise tents if the mark-ups are so big…

Anyway. Coronavirus came, and with it came lockdown. Life as we know it changed. One by one, races were postponed or cancelled. Edmonton didn’t immediately cancel, but eventually they did. It became clear that there wouldn’t be much happening in terms of racing over the summer. Triathlon Ireland said they hoped to have a few races later in the season. I had thought I would try to race the Irish sprint triathlon championships in June, which have been provisionally delayed until September. Even now there is still a question mark over this for me in terms of will I be able to travel, or will I want to travel? Will entry numbers in races be reduced to accommodate social distancing? Will costs therefore go up? Will races be like time trials now with racers starting individually at set time intervals? Who knows...

I went to see the British Universities cross-country championships on the iconic 
Holyrood Park course. How long before we see scenes like this again...?

Virtual racing took off in a big way. This is where you run or cycle by yourself, whether indoors or outdoors, recording your activity with a GPS device, and then you upload your results to a central online platform. There were too many virtual races coming from all angles on social media: Running club virtual races, Scottish Athletics virtual races, Ironman virtual races, Cycling Ireland virtual races, Triathlon Ireland virtual races. Some dubiously fast times were recorded. Wind assisted. Downhill. I did a couple of the running virtual races but it wasn’t the same. My running still wasn’t going well, and when my ankle got really sore I decided to have a break from running, and focus on cycling. I was pretty demotivated for a week or two, but then I decided that my “thing” to focus on, my target, would be trying to break 330 watts for 20 minutes on the turbo trainer. This was the highest I’d seen during my time in London, and I didn’t think I’d ever get to that level of intensity again.

With so many literally incredible (or un-credible) times being posted, the rules around virtual racing tightened up, increasing credibility somewhat. Ironman offered qualifying slots for the half-Ironman world championships, by means of competing in a virtual series consisting of run-bike-run races. I wasn’t interested in trying to qualify for a slot, because the world championships are due to be held in New Zealand – a long way away, with no certainty on when they can actually happen. But I would have been keen to have competed in the virtual races, and see how I measured up. But you needed a smart turbo trainer for this, and I don’t have a smart turbo trainer. You can pay anything from £700-1500 for a smart turbo trainer. You also need running fitness, which I don't have... And there are still ways to artificially enhance performance, which is a shame.

It’s probably only a matter of time before a “machine” is available which will allow you, from your home, to “swim” on a bench with resistance cords, to cycle on a bike which is hooked up to virtual reality on your TV, and to run on a treadmill, while recording yourself doing it, while having your weight and heart rate monitored, and while your position on the bike is monitored by a camera which will calculate your coefficient of drag and which will use this, along with power and gradient, to determine your virtual speed. And a fan will blow air on you at this speed to make the speed seem realistic.

So I ended up cycling 5-6 times a week, not doing any running, and using my new swim cords in my flat to try and mimic swimming two or three times a week. Not being able to swim was disappointing, as I’d spent all winter doing swim drills intended to make me a faster swimmer. I had been doing doggy-paddle drills, spear drills, shoulder-touch drills, rolling drills, side-swimming drills, breathing drills, underwater arm recovery drills, all the drills. All designed to try to get my body rotating more, get my stroke driven more from the torso and hips (where the strong powerful muscles are) rather than from the shoulders (which have weaker, smaller muscles). Also designed to get me swimming smoother, and going faster, for less effort. Swimming is a bit paradoxical - smooth and effortless is fast. When you feel like you are making effort, generally you are not as smooth, and so you are slower through the water. I had read a few books on how to swim better. I had done a few swimming time trials and seemed to be swimming as strongly and as smoothly as ever, putting down good times for seemingly less effort. Then when the pools closed, it all stopped. Which was a shame, as I'd been working hard on my swimming.

"Swimming" in the "new normal" in lockdown. Tougher than it looks...

My 20-minute FTP on the bike progressed as follows (all of the FTP tests were done as hard as possible, despite what the average heart rate says):

December 7th –   304 watts, 174bpm (probably at around 70kg)
December 21st – 308 watts, 168bpm
January 15th –     313 watts, 167bpm, 68.1kg, 4.596W/kg
March 18th –        317 watts, 165bpm, 65.6kg, 4.84W/kg
May 8th –             320 watts, 177bpm, 62.8kg, 5.092W/kg
May 23rd –           326 watts, 175bpm, 62.7kg, 5.199W/kg
June 27th –          308 watts, 168bpm, 63.7kg, 4.835W/kg

The first 5 of these were done on the road bike. The penultimate one was done on the tri bike, but in an upright riding position. The last one was done on the tri bike in the aero position. It seems I can produce a bit more power when sitting upright on a tri bike compared with a road bike. It seems that my aero position FTP is around 6% lower than my upright FTP (admittedly I was slightly less tapered for the aero test), and that I can't quite hit the highest heart rates when in the aero position. I think it's easier to maintain higher watts on the TT bike when actually on the road compared with on the turbo. It's probably also easier to maintain the aero position when actually out on the road versus when on the turbo, for whatever reason. I found it tough to maintain the aero position at high intensity for 20 minutes on the turbo - this was the first time I've ever done it. It took me 6 months of hard bike training to gain 22 watts...!

The lowest I've seen this year, down from 70kg at Christmas. Not as low as a very
dehydrated 60.6kg I saw last year...

I enjoyed using my heavy hybrid bike for exercise during the lockdown. I had put clippy pedals on it, and I used it a lot. I didn’t take my road bike out until a couple of days ago. It was a novelty cycling around the quiet city streets, to parts of town I’d never ordinarily have gone to. May was a great month – spring was well and truly springing, the weather was fantastic, and the city looked great in full bloom. I was developing good leg strength and overtaking plenty of road bikes on the Arthur’s Seat climb. Various photos follow:

Plane spotting

The Korean War memorial in the Bathgate Alps.
The site was chosen because the landscape is said to resemble Korea. 
It was indeed quite like Korea. 

Taken on a pre-lockdown trip

Cherry blossoms are spectacular but fleeting

Yellow whin is spectacular

I see these guys a few times a week. They grow quickly!

Fantastic community art project on the old railway tunnel. Also painted on the tunnel walls are
excerpts from the poem "From a Railway Carriage" - one of my favourite poems. 

I did dip my feet in one night thinking I would like to take the plunge. I knew I wouldn't though, I knew
it would be too cold. And it was too cold. I can't cope with it. Plenty of others were in swimming.
Maybe I'll get the thermal wetsuit out and get into one of the lochs or reservoirs which might be a bit warmer...

Summer solstice sunset

This is pretty much the first year in a decade that I haven’t had any summer Ironman (or half Ironman) events. I suppose I have realised that I really enjoy the process of training for and competing in a long-course event. I love putting a plan together. I love getting out on the bike. Swimming. Running. I love feeling the strength coming over months of training. I love being able to race well. That’s what I do. That’s what I want to do. I dabbled in mountain walking in the months after Kona. It just wasn’t the same. I get more of a buzz from a well-executed turbo session than from walking up a mountain.

Just not the same as a turbo...?!

As much as I love long-course (and indeed shorter) training and racing, I don’t love working on bikes. I mentioned having bought fast tyres. I tried to install them. I couldn’t. They are so tight. So tight. I did some research and I bought a couple of special tools to help, but I haven’t yet tried again. If I raced with these tyres and I punctured, that would be it. I wouldn’t be able to change them at the side of the road. Also I very definitely don’t love continually thinking about what I can do with my equipment to make it faster, because it’s just money, money, money. I’d love for money to be no object and for someone to say, “Here’s the fastest possible bike, fitted perfectly for you.” But I’m not good enough or rich enough for that, so I will continue to weigh up the cost of the various upgrades versus the gains they would give.

How much longer I will be able to continue with high-end competition is another question, but for now that’s what I want to do. I would love to do another Ironman. I have found a formula that seems to work now. I could tweak it a little to make it more effective and efficient. I’d love to go back to Kona… but I could do everything right, and do two Ironmans per year for the next ten years, and never qualify again. But I'd love to try at least once though. And if ever they offered qualifying slots for Kona in virtual races, then I’d be very tempted.

I recently did my first run for 2 months. An easy 30 minute run, at 7 minute per mile pace. It was as part of the club’s summer solstice longest day relay from dusk to dawn, to raise money for a local charity. It was a great day, watching it all unfold on social media. But oh dear, even though it was an easy run (or should have been an easy run), my legs were in pieces the next day. They were so deconditioned for running. And worse, after 2 months of non-impact exercise, the ankle trouble I had been having was no better. I get sharp stabs of pain down the front and top of my ankle. I can’t see or feel anything wrong. I don’t know what to do. I’ll have to see about getting it seen to, but that’s not easy in these times.

I also became a journalist. Of sorts, anyway. I wrote a little bit about this this in a previous blog post, and I hope to continue with it in future. I'll shortly be writing an article about the longest day relay. I quite enjoy it. I also received quite a nice compliment from a fellow triathlete: I had been discussing my Kona qualification and what I had done to make it possible (outlined in Post 210). The principles aren't just for Kona-seekers, I think they would work for all levels of Ironman racing. A guy had read it all and told me I should be a coach, and he hadn't said that to anyone in (if I remember right) 30-odd years. I'd love to be a coach. But that will have to wait until I move on from competing. "You can do anything you want, but you can't do everything." If I am going to do something, I will give it everything and do it as well as I possibly can. So there is a limit to the amount of stuff I am willing to take on, because I know that taking on too much and not having the time or energy to give it my best will just frustrate me. "If something is worth doing, do it well..."

And finally...
The droplets represent blood, sweat and tears...

“Everesting” has become very popular in recent weeks, as cyclists/triathletes/endurance athletes started looking for a challenge in the absence of races. Many years ago, before it was ever popularised, I had thought it would be cool to try and climb the height of Everest on a bike (8848m, or nearly 30,000 feet, the height of a jet aircraft in flight). I’d never done anything about this idea other than keep it in the back of my mind. There was never a good time to do it anyway, because I was always training for something, and doing an “Everest” would have been detrimental to the goal race. But now there isn’t really a goal race this year, and so I’m thinking about Everesting.

I saw the stats from a girl who broke the British record – she had climbed Alpe d’Huez in 50 minutes (as have I – 50 minutes and 3 seconds – raging not to break 50, but I was carrying 2 litres of drink and 2 extra kilos make a big difference). This girl did her "Everest" in around 10 hours. So I thought great, 10 hours, a long day but not ridiculously long.

I started looking for a possible hill on which I might make my attempt. You need a steep, straight hill with a consistent gradient. This is so you can descend quickly, and gain altitude quickly on the climb. I found a hill I thought might do it, and headed out to have a look (on the road bike). Blitzing the climb at 360 watts meant a 4:30 ascent, with a 2:30 descent (I simply do not have the bravery, or foolhardiness to hammer down the descent at 50mph – I know what it’s like to crash a bike and I know that serious damage can be done).

Taking the climb “as slowly as possible”, as would probably be the case on an Everest attempt, at just under 200 watts, meant a 7-8 minute ascent. So I'd maybe manage 7 ascents per hour. On this particular hill, I’d need 100 ascents. I’d be looking at around 14 hours. But I don’t know. That’s why it’s exciting. Maybe I’d be faster. Maybe not. Maybe I should embrace the “dead stop” at the bottom rather than extending the descent round the roundabout to save a big stop each time (I’d save 10-20 seconds each time, which adds up to about 30 minutes…) Maybe I should only ride 80% of the way up, and avoid the flat section before the final kick to the crest – the flat section obviously gains no altitude, so you’d save another 20-odd seconds per interval.

"Everesting" is intriguing… I have reasonable bike fitness just now, but I probably lack a bit of endurance fitness. I can't swim at the minute and haven't been able to for months, and I have done pretty much no running. And I have no races to train for. If ever I am going to do an "Everest" surely now would be the time... Watch this space…