What to do on a free weekend?

This weekend my wife has gone to Geneva on a trip to see the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Whilst I have to admit I am extremely jealous of this, it does give rise to a different phenomenon which in itself occurs about as often as the discovery of dark matter: a weekend home alone!


I have to add at this point that I was so pleased at coming up with that opening paragraph that this blog will probably only go downhill from here, but anyway, on with the show…

Now don’t get me wrong, I love my normal weekends and would not swap them for anything, but as all married folks will know, absence makes the heart grow fonder and a few days of freedom once in a while is good for both parties.

So what to do? Oh the possibilities… A six film back-to-back Rocky marathon (a hextology?) Possibly, although I would need to have a siesta during Rocky V to make it through to the final fight.  Alternatively I could cheat and watch the rest of our current Breaking Bad box set, although that would not be worth my life when my wife got back! So it turns out the only real option is of course a gym marathon, and given my recent themes I decided to go for 3 consecutive days of spin classes.

Doing these classes so close together allowed me to compare the teaching styles like a sort of hands-on Ofsted inspector: Friday’s is the most random of the lot, with a mixture of Les Mills tracks combined with recent electronic stuff such as Calvin Harris. Our coach likes to have a theme of the week (which is usually just ‘pain’) but occasionally something more specific such as climbing Mount Everest. The class involves a lot of interval sprints and hill climbs, with a lot of recovery breaks mixed with incredibly high intensity sprints and power climbs.  Sunday’s is similar but being an official Les Mills RPM session follows a set track list, which get you used to the routines and allows you to go harder in some areas when you know a recovery is coming up soon.

Saturday (and Thursday) is with a different instructor, and totally different approach. The music seems to mainly be 90’s house & garage (think Artful Dodger & Craig David!) and the tracks are very closely mixed together with little rest in-between and a consistently high tempo. There is also some upper body focus such as push ups & planks on the handlebars whilst riding, which would be unthinkable on a Friday, but actually adds an all-round element to training. So the two are chalk & cheese as far as bike sessions go, but still equally fun and it is good to mix things up.

Craig David

Another thing about being on your own is the temptation to junk out on food. I am afraid to say I cracked on Day One after Friday’s evening class and hit KFC. In my defence I really needed the protein, but I was devastated to find out that my first ever bargain bucket did not actually come in a bucket at all, nor any sort of a truncated cone-shaped receptacle for that matter, but a normal paper bag. This took the shine off it somewhat (quite literally as all the grease rubbed onto the packaging) but it did do the job it was tasked with. I managed a bit better on Saturday and made a (marginally) healthier pulled pork and sweet potato dish, with plenty of BBQ sauce to replace those electrolytes.


Anyway, back to training. Saturday’s morning class was incredibly busy, and with no little irony the air con seemed to be broken which meant at one point I was sweating faster than I could drink. I mean literally it was like someone had turned on a tap. Apologies to casual readers who find that a bit disturbing, but I am sure those who ride regularly will know exactly what I mean… I had done back to back classes before, but with just over 12 hours recovery since the last ride my legs were still recovering, and it felt tough.

Sunday was an evening class, meaning I was able to fuel up beforehand with scrambled eggs for breakfast and pie, mash & veg for Sunday dinner. Admittedly the latter might have been a bit too close to the training session to the point where at one stage  was worried I was going to see it again, but fortunately I managed to hold it down. I soon discovered that being sick however, was the least of my concerns…

The minute I sat down I remembered why 3 hard bike sessions on consecutive days is a bad idea. Now I wear proper padded bike shorts but this offered little protection from the blinding pain in the saddle region. Too late, the class was starting and I could not face the walk of shame so had to try to power through. All I could think of was how much I needed Will Smith to drop by with that inflatable pillow from Bad Boys 2! In the end I needn’t have worried, as the rest of my body quickly caught up and after 15 minutes I was so sore all over I hardly noticed the pain in my backside. Although I could not maintain my normal pace through the whole session, I still got through to the end and pushed my total to over 2000 Kcals for the 3 hours riding.

Bad Boys Cushion

As well as biking I managed to get in some pool time after each session, although with hindsight the Saturday morning one might not have been the best idea as two-thirds of the pool were taken up by kids and their parents. Of the two remaining lanes, one was full of heads-up-breaststrokers and the other (no word of a lie) had someone who must have been training for the national team swimming butterfly whilst wearing fins and taking up the other. Now to be fair she was very good, but seriously love, there is a time and place for that sort of thing and it is usually first thing in the morning, and not peak time on a weekend.

Crammed Swimming Pool

The one upside was it did mean I had the jacuzzi to myself (possibly as I was the only one over the age of 10 who was not a parent or attempting to splash all of the water our of the pool) which helped ease some of the leg pain I was feeling. Still, at least I am working from home tomorrow as I have a feeling I might need a while to recover from this one…

New Year, New Training

It has been a strange feeling training this year having finished the Chile Challenge, as I have spent just about all of the last 12 months concentrating entirely on swimming, riding &running, and in the process completing as many miles as possible.

This has been great to build up my basic endurance and was enough (just) to get me through the Avenger Half last summer, but it may have come at the expense of some other things such as speed and hill climbing. Towards the end of the year I started dipping my toe into things such as interval training and spin classes which might involve slightly shorter distances and more intensity, but should be better for my racing in the long run.

One thing I have been able to do in the last few weeks has been some weight training. About 4 or 5 years ago that was all I ever did in the gym, but unbelievably I barely touched a dumbbell or barbell in the whole of last year, so it has been good to rediscover a few muscles which I have been neglecting, although the aches the next day reminded me exactly how long it had been

My gym had a refurb towards the end of last year, so I have managed to try out a few of the new pieces of kit, which include:

Water Rower

Water Rowers – I have always fancied a go on these, as they look great and make that cool swooshing sound. It turns out they do not feel too different from the Concept 2’s and still knacker you pretty quickly, plus you can’t hear the swooshing if you have headphones in, but I love using this as a warm up to get both arms and legs going ahead of a cardio session.


Multi-Gym – Although there were already a few of these in place, with pulleys, lat-pull-downs and the like, the new one of these (Synrgy360) is really cool. It looks more like a big red climbing frame, and as well as all the usual features also incorporates a punch bag, trampoline, and various kit such as heavy bags and medicine balls. The best part though is the monkey bars in the middle, which are set at slightly different heights to add even more challenge. Obviously I had to have a go, and nearly pulled my arm out of its socket trying to reach the top one, but managed to make it first time so it was worth it.

Watt BikeSpin Bike

Lots of bikes! – In the past we had a two types of stationary bikes: normal ones (I can’t think of a better description) which I used most of the time, and those reclined ones which people who are not training property tend to use. Normally whilst on the phone or reading a book…

Now there are loads of different ones, including Power Bikes which measure the wattage you generate (and make a hell of a racket in the process); MTB simulators that lean from side-to-side and have a video screen that simulates riding through mountains or weaving through traffic; and some standalone Spin Bikes which also have a video screen to simulate a class, just in case you cannot make one of the 2 or 3 per day they run in the gym. Actually, the spin bike is my favourite, although I don’t bother with the class mode, as once you get used to the smooth motion these are actually more comfortable than the others for longer distances.

So there you go, lots of fun kit to get used to which I am sure will all help my training this year. That said, I can’t wait to get back outside and on the road again, as let’s face it: that is what it is all about!

The Chile Challenge by Numbers

Just when you thought it was not possible to squeeze anything more out of last year’s posts, they pull me back in with an email from the WordPress admin team with loads of facts and figures on what I have written over the last 12 months. Now I am a sucker for statistics, so I though I would share some of the content of this email with you, along with a few numbers of my own from 2014 (and screenshots of my tracking spreadsheet):

Chile Challenge

  • 4330 – Total distance covered (in kilometres)
  • 176 – Recorded Training Sessions, taking 208 hours
  • 17 – Different activities measured (ranging from Skipping to Scuba Diving)
  • 0 – Units of alcohol consumed in January
  • 5 Days – Before anyone at work noticed I was doing Movember..!



  • 10,200 – Lengths swum (in equivalent 25m pool)
  • 104 – Hours spent in a bike saddle (with average speed 27.5 kph)
  • 800,000 – Strides completed (average stride length of 90 cm)
  • 63.02 – 30 km bike PB in January                   53.19 – 30 km bike PB in December
  • 65 BPM – Resting Heart Rate in January     50 BPM – Resting Heart Rate in December


  • 5 – Number of distance races completed in the 4 years before 2014…
  • 5 – Number of races completed in 2014 alone!
  • 66 – Race number in the Stratford Triathlon (clickety-click)
  • 7.54.57 – Finishing time for the Avenger Triathlon, the main event of the year
  • 8,500m – Continuous of the hill climb in the Peak Triathlon
  • 8,055 out of 20,000 – Finishing place in Birmingham Half Marathon

Spreadsheet 2


  • 95 – Posts written
  • 870 – Website hits from…
  • 22 different countries around the world
  • 33 – Subscribers to blog (to prove it is not just my Mum reading it!)
  • 317 – Pictures included (thank you to everyone who donated via Google Images)


  • £1750 – Amount raised for Bobby Moore Fund Charity (including Gift Aid & Fund Matching)
  • 27 – Sponsors from family, friends and colleagues
  • http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/JamesUren if you want to add to this

On that note thank you so much again to everyone who sponsored me, it has really meant a lot and helped me get through the Challenge!

2014 Highs & Lows

As with all good media stories at the moment it is time for my review of 2014 and of course the Chile Challenge!

I can still remember the moment I came up with the Challenge, whilst driving home on New Year’s Day and trying to work out how on earth I was going to be ready for the half-iron distance race in June that I had daftly signed up for one evening over the Christmas period. I knew there would be a lot of training to do, and I loved Chile, and somehow the two just came together: a challenging yet attainable distance that could solve everything for me, whilst creating a different way to raise a bit of money for charity.

Map of Chile

The blog came later when I realised I wanted a way to keep myself and my sponsors up to date with my progress. Initially it was just going to be some training notes, but it turned out that I enjoyed it so much it almost took over the whole shebang. On the plus side, it has made it a lot easier to look back and review how things progressed last year, so rather than a long, drawn-out review, I thought I would add a few highs and lows from the last 12 months:

January – Cape Horn to Punta Arenas (292 km)

  • High Point – Starting the Chile Challenge of course!
  • Low Point – My ‘Dryathlon’ (no alcohol) being severely tested during a week working on London

February – Punta Arenas to Torres del Paine (373 km)

  • High – Six Nations Rugby: the perfect time for some long bike sessions
  • Low – Gym Fever – No outdoor training this month

March – Torres to Coyhaique (as seen on the Top Gear Patagonia Special) (438 km)

  • High – Setting up the Turbo Trainer and inventing Cycle-to-Work-from-Home
  • Low – Still no races yet this year…


April- Coyhaique to Puerto Varas (447 km)

  • High – Finally some outdoor training!
  • Low – Huge earthquake in Northern Chile

May – Puerto Varas to Maipo Valley (360 km)

  • High – First race of the year (Stratford triathlon)
  • Low – Disappointing lack of scenery on the bike & run courses

HSBC Wetsuit

June – Maipo Valley to Santiago (484 km)

  • High – Finishing the Avenger Triathlon of course!
  • Low – Being unable to climb the stairs the day after the Avenger…

Avenger Finish Line

July – Santiago to Valparaiso (375 km)

  • High – Watching a fantastic Team GB triathlon performance in the Commonwealth Games
  • Low – A massive Tour-de-France style hill climb during the Peak Triathlon

August – Vina to Pisco (126 km)

  • High – Being in Chile and able to see many of the landmarks from this challenge
  • Low – Very little training due to being on the road most of the month

Welcome to Chile

September – Pisco to Antofagasta (421 km)

  • High – A new PB in the Dorney Triathlon
  • Low – Last open water swim of the year

Bham Run Soreen

October – Anto to San Pedro de Atacama (367 km)

  • High – A week in a hotel with an on-site gym – 6 am starts never felt so good!
  • Low – Another hill of pain in the Birmingham Half Marathon

November – San Pedro to Calama (367 km)

  • High – ‘Tache aided training during Movember!
  • Low – Increasingly cold weather on those outdoor runs

Winter Training Run

December – Calama to Arica (280 km)

  • High – Finishing the 4,270 km Chile Challenge
  • Low – Not knowing what to do next…