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  • Writer's pictureStars and Spokes

Feb 2020. The dark winter miles.

Updated: Aug 24, 2020

Pascal here. Instagram is seemingly full of pictures of lucky folk getting the bike and running miles done in stunning locations around this beautiful planet of ours, the sun ever present. Meanwhile, back in SW London in February, there is no sun! Instead, the hours and hours of building endurance fitness must be completed in the cold, wet and dark. And so the month has seen me doing exactly that, plenty of long runs and rides, I'd say I'm officially starting to regain pre-Christmas fitness, which is great news. The picture below sums it up pretty well, on the run side:

Building winter running endurance, inevitably involves mud!

On the bike, a good few long rides have been achieved (including a couple of 100 milers), the majority without the benefit of there being a sun in the sky! Turns out it's really hard to see pot holes when riding around the Surrey Hills in total darkness, I've lost track of the number of water bottles that have been bounced out of my bottle cages as I've ploughed into yet another unseen road based abyss - my local Evans is loving it though, I reckon I'm keeping the Clapham High Street store in profit through my water bottle purchases alone. Inevitably my water bottle losses seem to occur in the first hour of my 5-6 hour long rides, which isn't ideal. However, I'm all about the positive mindset, so I've been seeing these rides as perfect preparation for the dehydration we will face in the desert stretches we will encounter when riding across the USA next year.

Part of the problem has been my (now ex!) front light, which I reckon was equivalent to about 3 lumens (i.e. might as well not bother having it on there!). I've since upgraded to a 1000 lumens front light, which is basically like riding around with a mini-sun strapped to the bike handlebars. No more bottle losses for me!

The next training target for me is 'Paris Weekend' in early April, during which I'll be riding from London to Paris in 24 hours (280 km), to be followed by the completion of the Paris Marathon on arrival. I'll be doing this with 5 buddies from my local run club, it just goes to show the type of adventure that can be had in a standard weekend, if you put in a bit of planning and training beforehand. As part of said training, the month included a post work ride from Clapham to Brighton, before then catching the train back into London. The ride was done almost entirely in the dark, and was a really good test of our night bike set ups. The aim was to prepare us for the 'Paris Weekend' ride, several hours of which will be completed in darkness, given the time of year we're doing it in. The picture below, taken in Brighton train station (very glam!), captures our successful completion, just before eating cake on the train all the way home...!

London to Brighton in the dark. Done.

It hasn't all been riding around the the darkness, the occasional daytime weekend ride out to the Surrey Hills has been achieved. Invariably these involve Box Hill at some point, mainly because it has an excellent cafe that sells a range of coffee and cake options, an absolute must on any ride that I'm on! I recently read an article about a couple of guys who rode 73 Box Hill repeats in one day, in order to replicate the height gain of riding up Mount Everest. This bonkers achievement (great effort guys!) gave me an idea for a challenge later in the year, once the sun has returned, but more on that next time.....

Riding up Box Hill. I wonder how many times I could do that in a row....?

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