Thursday, May 16, 2013

Back to life, back to reality

Like a newly released prisoner who prefers not to venture outside his house, as a "free man" I sometimes end up training harder than when I am following a specific training plan. Monday was no exception as I decided to "commute" to work running, only the day after my 5K race. My legs felt pretty good all things considering but the 26 kilometers there and back definitely took their toll. On the way back home I conspired to pass by the Decathlon store to pick up race numbers for all the family a bike "race" that will take place in Pozuelo on the 26th of May. When I came out of the shop, a man asked me for money and then, to my surprise, he asked me where I got my Vibram Five Fingers from. As it happened, the shop was within pointing distance of where we were standing. When he asked me how much they cost though, he was a bit disappointed as he had expected them to be around the 15 euro mark.

The 5K race on Sunday reminded me how much I enjoy taking part in shorter races, for which you don't have to (necessarily) spend months preparing for, so I signed up for a couple more races. One is a 10K race through the centre of Madrid this coming Sunday, in which at least 7,000 participate. I ran in the first two editions and it is always a pleassure to be able to run on wide roads that are closed to traffic, something that happens in Madrid with surprising frequency compared to other major capital cities (even the London Marathon avoids the most emblematic parts). The other race I entered is the Santander Carrera Solidaria which, this year, is held in Madrid, Seville and (of course) Santander in parallel. Last year, I actually made it on to the podium, not for being third in my age group but for being the fastest employee of Banco Santander. In case any fellow work colleagues are reading this and take this as the gauntlet being thrown, I will not reveal which distance or indeed in which city I will be defending "my title"...

On Tuesday I decided to give myself a little treat. At lunchtime I went on my Mountain Bike cross country to Villaviciosa de Odón, a small but picturesque village near my work. One of the best things about Villa is that, thanks to the local university (Universad Europea de Madrid) - where, in fact, I used to train - it benefits from a disproportionately large number of bars and restaurants, even for Spain. I had a lovely lunch of goat's cheese salad and "chopitos" (baby squid) before heading back to work.

El Castillo de Villaviciosa de Odón
That evening I went for a run with the dog. We've been going for a 15-20 minute run every other day but Emma (a boxer) still has trouble pacing herself and before long switches from bounding ahead to shuffling with her tongue hanging out. I suspect that as it gets hotter I will have to find some way to give her something to drink. After a bit of investigation on the internet turned up that there is quite an active circuit of dog-human running races that go by the collective name of cani-cross. Unfortunately, the end of cani-cross season coincides with the end of my season for much the same reason: the heat.

They say a good workman never blames his tools but it is also true that a good workman never has bad tools. It seemed a bit ridiculous to be working on a fantastic carbon fibre triathlon bike with a fancy torque wrench and a set of allen keys from an everything for 1 euro shop. The only thing worse than your allen keys rounding off is having them round of your bolts. I decided to invest in some serious allen keys. These babies are made of nylon(?) and are hard as nails. They also have a round end which is incredibly useful if you are not able to get directly at the bolt, which is the case of those pesky little bolts inside the nose cone of my tri bike. They arrived just in perfect time for the Bank Holiday on Wednesday - being San Isidro, the patron Saint of Madrid, it meant I got the day of work but that the shops in my village on the outskirts were still open. Which was just as well, as you'll see in a moment.

You call that an allen key? This is an allen key!
What better way to start of the Bank Holiday than to do a bit of DIY? I had been waiting for this moment to put my tri bike back together after its journey to Lisbon a couple of weeks ago. What a delight it was to use my new tools! I almost wanted to take it to bits again just to be able to put it back together again! And how much more confident I feel now about those bolts in the nose cone and, in particular, those holding the seat post which worked loose during my triathlon. I was just admiring my work when I noticed that one of the bar end shifters had worked itself slightly loose. Not to worry, another chance to use my allen keys! To get at the tightening bolt, you have to disassemble the whole mechanism and then turn the bolt counter-clockwise. The only bolt on the whole bike (other than the one fixing the seat to the seat post) that is not an allen bolt is the one holding the shifter together: it requires a flat headed screwdriver (or a small coin, I suppose). Somehow I managed to cross thread the bloody little shit and, as a result, could no longer get it to tighten sufficiently to hold the shifter together. I kept relatively calm. I took the other shifter to pieces to see whether it was a problem with the bolt or the nut or both and then had trouble putting that one back together. It was remeniscent of some kind of fiendish puzzle like the Lament Configuration from Hellraiser: lots of tiny pieces that could only be put together in exactly one way.

Only the Japanese could invent something like this. Still, I was grateful at least that there was only one way to put it back together, which with patience I finally managed. I was left then, with the screwed screw so I took it down to my local bike shop, Mr Schmid, where I was met with not with ridicule but the sympathy that only fellow cyclists can offer and they promised to do everything in their power to convince Shimano to provide me with a replacement. In the worse case I may have to buy a whole new set. This is where triathlon helps you see the positive side of things: something breaking is always a good excuse to upgrade... Just as well this didn't happen when I put the bike together in Lisbon.

To blow off a bit of steam after hours of wrestling with a small piece of highly custom metal, I jumped on the treadmill to do 8 series of 4 minutes at 3:40 pace (16.5 kph). By now this feels quite easy but it was enough to make me feel like I "deserved" the massive meat feast that a friend prepared for us at lunchtime.

Today I did a "spinning class" and for once I actually did as the depilated instructor bade me do, which meant spending most of the time standing up out of the seat. I've never been much of a fan of Bonnie Tyler (in fact I am shocked that I even knew that "I need a hero" was sung by her) but I really wanted that awful turbo charged version of the song to end as soon as possible. The only small mercy was that the instructor refrained from singing along, something which he is prone to do. The rest of the week I will take relativley easy so that I can run on fresh legs in my 10K race on Sunday.

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