Friday, June 19, 2009

Running versus cycling fun race

On Thursday we had a "fun race". Fun, that is, if you relish the idea of 25 minutes of hard cardio-vascular effort.

The idea for the event came from a race that Ed Altenburger and Alan Chatt had last year. The challenge back then was "Can Alan cycle to along Port Lane to the sign and back on his knobbly-tyred mountain bike TWICE before Ed can run to the sign and back once?" One round trip distance is 3.65 miles and it's flattish, being 30 metres higher at the far end.

Things have changed since last year and now the runners are Andy Perry, Alex Mitchell, Jon Tilt, John Cooper and me, and the cyclists mostly have road bikes, so the nature of the race has changed a little.

For me, the main challenge was to be faster than half Alan's speed - he has a shiny new full carbon monocoque Orbea Onix. I've been doing lots of running over the last few months although the focus has been on distance not speed. We genuinely didn't know how it would turn out.

Pete Siddall also joined us - he commutes literally every day on a knobbly-tyred mountain bike so another sub-competition would be to see if he can beat the fastest road bike.

Each competitor submitted a target speed which represented an aggressive effort - something you would be pleased to achieve. I picked 7:00 min/mile pace given that I've not run much below 7:25 pace before so this is uncharted territory. Alan picked 18mph but thought he might not quite be able to maintain that speed. If that was the case, and I could hit my target pace then we'd be virtually "the same" (technically he'd be twice as fast as me).

I created a spreadsheet that calculated each of our target times and a handicapped start time such that we should all finish at the same time.

I think we were all pretty nervous on the day - it's not often you get to aim for an all-out effort alongside other "athletes".

Dave Lenehan (training for the New Forest Ironman but resting a knee on the day) was officiating and counted us all down to our start times and recorded finishing times.

Earlier in the week I'd revised my target pace down from 7:10 to 7:00 to match John Cooper so we both started at the same time. John's out of training at the moment but in the past has been much quicker than I am.

I started breathing heavily straight away - up the only significant hill of the course. For all I could tell John was holding his breath. He looked very relaxed. After 1/3 of a mile I told him not to wait for me and eased back ever so slightly and he pulled ahead.

He got about a 20 metre lead on me but it didn't continue to grow. My heart rate was at about 175 and breathing was hard work.

After a mile or so I crossed paths with each of the 3 cyclists. They looked to be putting in a decent amount of effort. Pete had already overtaken Phil Willoughby on his new road bike. The handicap system meant that Pete shouldn't catch Phil until the finishing line so he must have been seriously overachieving his estimate.

When I reached the halfway mark John was still 15 metres or so ahead. On the way back I felt like I was maintaining maximal effort - heart rate was up to 183 +/- 2. But I started to catch John, and gradually caught and overtook him at about 2.75 miles. As he'd said at the start, his approach would be to go out hard and try and hang on. Apart from a red face he still looked and sounded like he was comfortable though.

Shortly after Pete came by - he was first to finish by a significant margin (he won't get that much head start next time!) The finishing order shows by how much people exceeded their target speed.

My next goal was to catch Andy Perry. He has what must be an efficient gait since he never seems to be running fast. He didn't look to be that far ahead so I was confident I'd catch him sooner or later - especially since every time I looked at my pace on my watch it was sub-7:00 pace and Andy was aiming for 7:40 pace. But seeing him ahead and actually catching him were two different things. I inched closer over the next mile and finally caught him at about the 3.3 mile mark. He finished 11 seconds after me in the end.

The last couple of hundred metres are downhill. I was checking over my shoulder for the faster runners behind to catch me but I couldn't see them so apart from feeling knackered I was pleased to be finishing ahead of the pack. But then I heard a whooshing sound and Phil came steaming down the hill at 32mph and pipped me to the post by a few seconds.

I managed a final extra sprint for the last few yards and finished, gasping for breath. I looked at my watch to see that my average pace was 6:28 ! Way faster than I'd have dreamed of getting.

Fun race - pace and heart rate

Andy Perry finished just after and lay down on the grass verge while fending off a heart attack. His actual pace was 7:10 which was also much faster than he'd been hoping for.

Then came John Cooper, averaging 6:38 pace, another significant over-achievement.

Jon Tilt was next - he'd caught and passed Alex. Jon had averaged 6:12!

Then came Alan - averaging 18.2mph - almost bang on his target pace and "last" was Alex, averaging 6:45. Alex was the only person to not exceed his target pace which perhaps shows that he was better able to estimate than most of us, but also that he's out of running practice at the moment. Averaging 6:45 when out of practice is no mean feat!


Alan was not twice as quick as me - 18.2 versus 9.3mph. Result!

The fastest cyclist (Pete) was just over twice as quick as the fastest runner (Jon) at 19.47mph versus 9.23 - 10 seconds difference over 22:30 minutes

On the day, the mountain bike was faster than the carbon fibre road bike. Doing 19.5mph on a mountain bike is seriously impressive.

Alan and Alex had the best guess of their speed, Pete had the worst.

For someone who's only had his road bike for a fortnight or so, Phil was impressive at 16.2mph.

John Cooper appeared to be running *very* comfortably but actually went off slightly too fast and paid for it on the way back, although he still overachieved his target by a substantial amount.

Andy Perry can maintain his easy shuffling gait and still run fast at 7:10 pace

5 athletes finished within 1:05 of each other. Excluding Pete the spread of finishing times was only 2:29

Running versus cycling fun race spreadsheet

I'm going to schedule a repeat of the event just before the summer holiday season starts. Whilst it was rewarding to do the "fun race" it was a big effort and not something I'd want to do every week. If you want to join in then let me know.


Phil Willoughby said...

Good to note that I was doing miles on my bike faster than the world record for running a mile (albeit only by 1.13 seconds per mile!)

Anna Finn said...

Fantastic idea - combining sport with extreme geekiness!

Looks like a really tough event and I'm very impressed at your running Russ - with the combination of speed and stamina, you could do great things in the marathon...