Life is an ultramarathon

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Sunday, May 20 2012

Are ultrarunners slow?

A very good article on Constant Forward Motion shedding a different light on a subject I had previously written about (The tortoise and the Hare).

Ultra slow

Thursday, April 26 2012


I know it might seem odd to some, but despite the frequent overcast London sky, it doesn't rain that much here. So much so that hosepipes are already banned and probably will be for the entire summer, if not until Christmas! It's OK, though, worse comes to worse I can use my purifier to get water straight from the Thames rather than from Thames Water...

But the most paradoxical is probably that following the heavy rain for the last couple of days, flood warnings have been issued in drought areas, which will nevertheless stay in drought...

Ultra lack of rain

Thursday, April 5 2012

RIP Caballo Blanco

Caballo Blanco, ultramarathon runner and philosopher has passed away a week ago whilst on a short run. He will be missed by many.

Read the excellent remembrance BBC article by Chris McDougall, the author of Born to run.

Ultra easy, light, smooth and fast

Wednesday, March 21 2012

Could you run a marathon without training?

I've just read this article on BBC news: Could you run a marathon without training?

And without surprise, the answer is yes if you have a decent level of fitness. In particular, John Brewer, Professor of sports science at the University of Bedfordshire reckons that "if you're a runner and your body is conditioned to running 5k or 10k in distance, as long as you set your goals properly and you run at a very slow pace, you could probably get around".

How many times have I been laughed at when asserting that if you can run 5 km you can run a marathon after some training. This article suggests that you could even do it without training!

Ultra unnecessary training

Tuesday, March 13 2012

Kilometric entry fee, or the marathon anomaly

Following my participation in the Cambridge Boundary Run marathon for an entry fee of a mere £8, I have decided to calculate the kilometric cost, ie. the entry fee per kilometre, of some of the races I completed in the past. All entries fees are for 2012, unless not available yet for late autumn races, in which case 2011 fees are used. EUR to GBP rate: 0.835.

Early bird rate (cheapest entry fee available)
RaceDistanceEntry FeeFee/distance

Cambridge Boundary Run42.28.00.19
Hardmoors 110177.140.00.23
Hardmoors 5588.625.00.28
Hardmoors 6096.630.00.31
Three Forts Marathon43.520.00.46
PTL (3 runners)290.0148.80.51
UfDance half-marathon21.116.00.76
PTL (2 runners)290.0223.20.77
Belfast Marathon42.233.00.78
Marathon des Alpes-Maritimes42.237.60.89
Hyde Park Relays (internal)
Watford Half-Marathon21.120.00.95
Paris Marathon42.254.21.29
Dublin Marathon42.258.41.38
Copenhagen Marathon42.267.41.60
Athens Marathon42.275.11.78

Late entry fee (most expensive entry fee)
RaceDistanceEntry FeeFee/distance

Cambridge Boundary Run42.212.00.28
Hardmoors 5588.630.00.34
Hardmoors 6096.635.00.36
Hardmoors 110177.170.00.40
PTL (3 runners)290.0148.80.51
Three Forts Marathon43.525.00.58
PTL (2 runners)290.0223.20.77
Belfast Marathon42.233.00.78
Hyde Park Relays (internal)
UfDance half-marathon21.120.00.95
Watford Half-Marathon21.120.00.95
Marathon des Alpes-Maritimes42.262.61.48
Copenhagen Marathon42.273.11.73
Dublin Marathon42.275.11.78
Athens Marathon42.275.11.78
Paris Marathon42.279.31.88

It therefore appears that I ran successively my most expensive and cheapest (kilometric-wise) races one after each other :) It also seems that the UTMB and the PTL are not so expensive after all...

But what really dominates these tables is no news: "big city marathons" are expensive, as illustrated in this graph by the anomaly at 42.195km. A result of marathons being fashionable, and market laws doing the rest?

Kilometric race fees

It would be interesting to see what are the statistics on a wider scale, though. For example if runnersworld would be keen on opening up their database...

Ultra fee

Sunday, March 6 2011

Train less, race more

Looking for the word "training" on my blog leads to these disconcerting results for the last couple of years:

Watford Half Marathon (January 2009):

I've not trained much

3 Forts Marathon (April 2009):

given my nearly-inexistent training

Marathon 06 (November 2009):

with a very minimal training!

Hyde Park Relays (February 2010):

given my current general lack of serious training

Thames Source Quest (July 2010):

without much training...

PTL (August 2010):

given the extremely poor training regime I followed

Marathon 06 (November 2010):

given my minimal 3-week training plan

Hyde Park Relays (February 2011):

given my lack of training

Notice a trend here? Looking back at all the events I entered during the same period, I actually found only 4 on which I didn't complain about my training or the lack of it. Therefore in the last 2 years, I didn't train as much as I'd hope to for two third of the events I committed to!

That's for the overall picture. Now if we look more into the details, there are actually two distinct scenarios: events that I took easy on purpose, because they were not main objectives, and events where I didn't have the time and/or the motivation to train.

The former case raises the issue of using races to support my training schedule. It might sound like a good idea, as it combines the motivational and social aspects of a race with a good training session. It's also a good fitness benchmark. But the aim of a training session is not necessarily to push it as hard as possible. So can I really take it easy on such events? I often got caught in the game, and ended up faster than expected. Last year's Hardmoors 55 is a typical example, where I pushed a bit harder to finish quicker than expected. Should I set myself with a minimum finish time, and slow down if I am to finish quicker?

The latter case is slightly more worrying. I sometimes have "good" reasons not to train, but I sometimes don't. Am I getting bored of training and prefer racing or major unofficial events?

What is certain, is that my overall running volume during the 2009-2010 period is no less than during 2007-2008. I've basically trained a bit less and raced more! Meanwhile, I've reduced the number of runs, but increased the average distance. It looks like I can't be bothered to go for short runs :)

Number of events per year.

Looking back at 10 years of racing, the number of DNFs doesn't seem directly linked to the sharp increase in number and distance of races and major unofficial events.

Maximum distance of attempted and finished events.

Ultra training

Monday, May 10 2010

Recurrent questions

I used to be asked "So, how long is this marathon?", to which I'd politely reply "All marathons are 42.195km".

Now I've got "So, how long is an ultramarathon?", to which I'd politely reply "This ultramarathon is 55 miles".

Why do people always get it wrong? :)

Ultra questions

Tuesday, April 20 2010

Hiking boots vs trail running shoes

I've been hill-walking and hiking as far as I can remember, and have been wearing hiking boots for that purpose (nearly) as far as I can remember too. It's always been quite obvious to me: on rough, unstable terrain, you need good ankle support and decent grip. I would believe people hiking in trainers to be unaware of the risks and rather foolish.

But things started to change in my mind after my first UTMB in 2005. Indeed, I came to realise that I had actually covered the entire length of a long-distance alpine hiking path wearing trail running shoes, whereas I would have never hiked it in trainers. The fact I was running as opposed to hiking doesn't change anything to the risks associated with wearing inappropriate footwear. If anything, it's even worse as you go faster, by night and sometimes in extreme fatigue. And what about fell-running on the PTL or in North Wales? Was that foolish? Probably not, it's just a matter of knowing how to use the ground in the mountains: fell running shoes' grip is as good as most hiking boots, and if you're careful on foot placement, there's little risk of injury.

On the other extreme, I saw loads of people wearing hiking boots on the grassy hills of Seven Sisters on the south coast a few weeks ago. It might be slightly hilly, but the ground is really soft and smooth all the way. Ironically, I was walking in trail running shoes on that day :) . So why bother with heavy leather hiking boots if not to be seen as a hiker? Maybe to feel like a hiker?

Indeed, we've already discussed on this blog the fine line between running and hiking, to which I should add mountaineering. I believe this fine line is more a matter of state of mind than actual speed. And it looks like wearing a specific type of shoes has become a way to materialise this state of mind rather than a technical necessity: "I wear hiking boots to show and to convince myself that I'm not 'just' having a Sunday stroll: I'm hiking". L'habit ne fait pas le moine (you can't judge a book by its cover).

In general, when people get "serious" into some kind of activity, they tend to go a bit over the top in terms of gear (sport equipment brands do help). Hiking/mountaineering boots were invented at a time when sport shoes were non-existant by people requiring extra grip and protection to progress in truly tough environments. But with the range of lighter trail shoes available nowadays, I'm not convinced hiking boots provide any significant advantage on easy-going paths, might they be long-distance such as the Tour du Mont Blanc, let alone Seven Sisters.

Now that I've got a range of running shoes for every situation (road, trail, fell) on top of my hiking boots, I'm tempted to re-evaluate what footwear is really adapted for each outing, based strictly on the actual route technicality and not on the denomination of the event (stroll, marathon, hike, trail run, ...). That said, I'm not sure in what sort of context I should wear my hiking boots any more. Apart from bogs and snow, I don't see much scope for them. Fell running shoes are much lighter and will do as well otherwise.

Has wearing a specific type of shoe become a (self-)statement more than a necessity?

Ultra shoes

Thursday, February 11 2010

What does 'unsupported' mean?

As I start to plan more carefully the Thames Source Quest (TSQ), I'm wondering what approach to take in terms of support. Interesting definitions of 'unsupported' are provided on [1] and Fastest Known Time [2]. The main disagreement seems to be related to water supply.

This really means no external support at all from any human being and therefore carrying all the supplies the whole way, except what can be obtained from natural sources. Water should only be obtained from natural sources according to [2], but could be supplied externally according to [1]. That said, the definition of a 'natural source' of water is not as obvious as it seems. If a spring in the mountains is natural and a free tap next to a river lock is not, what about a pipe draining the water out of a spring? I would say natural, but I can understand some would disagree. Food could potentially be harvested from natural sources too [1].
[1] prohibits the usage of phone calls, but surprisingly reckons that being offered a shelter and water is acceptable. The position of [1] here lacks a bit of coherence and seems biased towards classifying the Marathon des Sables as unsupported, which I cannot agree with. With all due respect to the toughness of this race, I can hardly consider unsupported an event where tents, water and medical crew are waiting for you every night.
Furthermore, a valid issue pointed out by [1] is how to react to local by-passers offering water, food, shelter or whatever else. It would be rude to refuse...

This means that no support team is following the runner. However, it is possible to grab whatever is on the way, including buying in stores or hide supplies in advance [2] (as at least one team did during the PTL last year). This is what I've done (for the water only) during my solo London to Brighton run, and this is also the spirit of the PTL. Because nothing is black and white, [1] also differentiates between several forms of self-support, the most permissive one including a crew following loosely the runner. I'm not too interested in that, so I won't discuss it in more details.

A team is following the runner the whole way to provide food, drink, spare clothing and all other needs.

As a summary, I would consider 'unsupported' the following:
  • Water can be obtained from natural sources only, like [2].
  • Food must be carried or obtained from natural sources only, like [1].
  • Shelter must be carried (tent) or natural shelters must be used.
  • Phone calls are prohibited as they offer mental support, but sending out SMS about your progress is acceptable... as long as you don't read the answers :) .
In one sentence: take everything you want from the nature and give back everything you want to whomever you want. Now, this is only my definition. I'm not saying I'm going to run the TSQ unsupported as yet :) .

Open for debate.

Ultra unsupported

Friday, October 30 2009

Barney 2:15

In a bit more than a week, I'll take part in the Marathon des Alpes-Maritimes. For various reasons I'm not running much at the moment and I don't feel generally very fit. My longest run lately was a modest 25km, that I finished with my head rather than my legs. Although the split times and slowing-down coefficient would suggest a 3:31 time on the marathon, it doesn't leave me über-confident for the actual race.

I think I'll try to enjoy the seafront while meditating on Barney 2:15
You don't train for a marathon, you just run it!
This passage of the scriptures is summarised here.

Ultra unprepared

Thursday, July 2 2009

Safety, responsibility and freedom

As you probably already know, three runners died [fr] about ten days ago on the Grand Raid du Mercantour (82km +6,600m in the Alps). The preliminary survey suggests that they've died of hypothermia after taking a fall and/or getting lost at 2,300m. Beyond the pain, this adverse event raises a number of questions about the safety and responsibility on mountain trail races.

At this point, it's not clear whether this could have been avoided [fr]. The organisers decided to stop the race when the weather conditions went suddenly wrong, but was the decision taken too late? Did the runners have the compulsory equipment, and was it checked? Is the compulsory equipment simply enough to handle a snow storm high in the mountains anyway? Is it just bad luck?

1. When should the organisers decide to stop the race?

As often, people not related the race suggest the organisers could have avoided that by stopping the race earlier because of the bad weather. A row that looks somehow similar to the Original Mountain Marathon (OMM) 2008. The runners on the OMM happened to be generally much better equipped and shelters/escape routes were probably more accessible than in the Alps, and therefore nothing dramatic happened there. It's also interesting to note that the media made the OMM organisers appear very irresponsible (in a sensationalistic way, hoping to sell more), whereas later comments from the runners on this subject were rather positive. In events organised in the mountainous, there is always a fine line between safe and unsafe conditions. After all, even in good weather, there is a risk of fatal fall. Moreover, a number of people entering mountain ultra expect to deal with bad weather and that's part of the game.
Similarly, there is also sometimes a need to stop individual runners (rather than the entire event), if not deemed fit enough to carry on. This is not a easy issue to deal with, as this would involve checking every single individual for symptoms that might not be very obvious. In this respect, the UTMB organisers recently decided to stop providing light paramedical treatments (blisters, tendinitis, ...) and to focus their medical teams on the more severe cases. Every single medical intervention can now potentially send you off race if the staff decides so. Again, it's not an easy decision, as from a medical perspective, most doctors wouldn't recommend the majority of runners to even start the race anyway...

2. What is the ideal compulsory equipment list?

Following last year's minimalist yet legal compulsory equipment carried by the UTMB winner Kílian Jornet, the UTMB organisers are getting tougher on compulsory gear specifications. In particular, the total equipment weight has to be higher than 2kg when getting out of an aid station. But nevertheless, this list is really the bare minimum, and I don't think you'd survive very long with a pair of long tights and a light poncho by -10°C with a bit of wind, should you be unable to move.
This is somehow related to the previous question, as the quality of equipment carried by the runners will influence greatly their survival capabilities.

3. Who is responsible for what?

This is actually the main underlying question. Two families have decided to sue the organisers [fr], arguing that the race should have been stopped and the alert given earlier.
By entering the race as a runner, do you assume that everything is done for you to finish in safe conditions? Or do you feel responsible enough to decide when you should stop? In particular, is it fair enough to consider as responsible a runner who hasn't slept in 40 hours?
When should you, as a runner, withdraw from the race? When you know a priori that the organiser will stop the race if necessary, you will naturally assume that you can carry on in the current conditions. In other words, you leave the responsibility to the organisers. If you were alone, you couldn't make such assumptions and would have to take your own, good or bad, decisions.
Even if the organisers try more and more to "responsibilise" the runners, they nevertheless have a role to play with your safety. If they were not here for your safety, why would they be here for then? This is particularly obvious on the PTL, where only a GPS tracking service is offered (no food, no shelters, no official rankings). In these conditions, you might as well go on your own if not for safety reasons, shouldn't you?

What do you think?

Ultra questions...

Friday, November 21 2008

Cyclists revolution

A rather strange scene happened this morning as I walked in. On busy High Street Kensington, a SUV (these things seem to always involve SUV) started to turn right to take a small side road. A cyclist riding at decent speed came in the opposite direction. Apparently not a good enough reason for the car driver to wait, who carried on crossing the opposite lane. As the bike didn't appear to be willing to slow down and give away his right, the SUV eventually stopped, completely engaged in the opposite lane. But with enough space for a bike to pass in front of it.
The cyclist started to pull slightly to his left to go around the front of the car. But oddly straightened up at the last second and went straight into the SUV's front wheel, from its side. I was a bit confused by what had just occurred. The cyclist could have gone around the front of the car. Maybe he thought the car wasn't stopping and tried to pass it from the back? The cyclist shouted at the driver, who was probably happy to be secure in her big SUV, a window away from all troubles: cyclists crashing, people shouting, ... The cyclist eventually cleared the road and went a bit further to check his bike. Everything looked fine, and when I asked him whether he was alright he answered positively with a big smile! He had clearly headed straight into the car to show the driver that she was wrong.

A couple of years ago, as I was working in Grenoble over the summer, I used to cycle to work every day. I had a mountain bike, which means high position, good breaks and decent stability. That allows you to ride fast, as you can take quick decisions. The trouble being that car drivers don't realise you ride as fast as them if not faster. Or they just don't care. Many times I got my priority denied. Several times I shouted at the drivers, but this hasn't obviously the slightest effect. My frustration grew higher and higher every day. At the end, I thought that the next time I was denied the priority in a roundabout I would ignore the car and just go straight into its side and break its mirror. This never happened, but today I noticed I wasn't the only one which such thoughts.

At the end of the day, many drivers don't care about cyclists or at least don't realise how fast bikes can be. There is no easy way to change that, shouting and lecturing is useless. When people simply don't care, a bit of physical contact (even if it's only between two vehicles) helps them remembering there are other human beings out there. That's why bumping into the car seems a decent solution, if not actually the only option. Eventually careless drivers will realise. If not because they feel guilty, at least because they'll have to pay for their mirror and/or scratches. Which will be much more expensive than the average commuter bike (*). The essence of an individual revolution...

Ultra radical cycling style

* And as they were legally guilty, their compulsory third-party insurance must pay for the damage on your bike.

Thursday, November 13 2008

Dreamers abuse

Warning: flaming entry!

It's been a couple of years since I've been "thinking" about swimming the Channel or even attempting the gruelling Arch to Arc triathlon challenge. It consists of running from Marble Arch in London to Dover (140km), then swimming the Channel (35km) and finish by cycling to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris (290km). Only very few people managed it (five apparently). By "thinking", I really mean just having thoughts, not planning or anything. Yet.

Let's face it: on the paper this challenge looks amazing. Swimming the Channel is on its own a great challenge. But the whole symbolic aspect of the journey from one arch to another, in between two big European capital cities is simply perfect, let alone the ideally consistent split distances for the three stages.

Now let's have a closer look at the challenge organisation. At first glance it looks great: the boat is booked for you, that's one less thing to worry about. But then the registration fee for 2009 is £1800. Ouch! This doesn't include the boat pilot fee (add another £2000), it doesn't include any hotel or travel neither. Much worse: it doesn't even include the food and accommodation for the official representative that follows you during the event! Unbelievable!

So what the hell do you get from your £1800 then? You get a boat booked (but not payed for) for you on a neap tide, that's cool. You also get the some sort of official certification of your feat. But that's all! I hope you didn't expect any more logistics sorted out for you, that would be asking too much. According to the website, "it is your responsibility to make the necessary application to your boat pilot to authenticate your Channel swim/crossing" and "it is [your] responsibility to ensure that the Enduroman Rep is returned to Dover asap". I guess he has better things to do with your money than wasting time in Paris. Truly outrageous!

If we take the perspective of the "representative" aforementioned however, things are pretty smooth. With two neap tides a month, that's £3600 per month for 8 to 14 days work and a couple of phone calls. Not bad, there are worse jobs out there.

No wonder then why the guy protects his business with teeth and claws with ridiculous contractual clauses such as "you [...] will not attempt to take athletes on a London to Paris Challenge" or "if you do not succeed with the first Arch to Arc attempt and decide to make any other attempt you will make it through Enduroman Ltd". That's completely crazy: why should you be bound to this organisation for life if you fail? No one would accept such a deal on any other race: "if you do not finish your first London Marathon, then your next marathon attempt must be in London"... Simply silly. And just to ease the pain the website dares to precise "the Enduroman Arch to Arc is a major financial commitment. Expect to pay in the region of £5000 for all your expenses". Well more than a third is for your pocket money my friend!

I find it properly disgusting that people take such a mercantile advantage over day dreamers.

Financial aspects put aside, there is one organisational point I'm not sure about. After touching land at the end of the swim, you must take the boat to Calais to clear customs and sleep. In such a challenge I think I would do my best to avoid travelling by any other mean that my own power. I guess that's just personal.

Am I all wrong there? I somehow wish I am...

Ultra disappointing.

Thursday, April 3 2008

The tortoise and the hare

Some people including myself, suggested that ultrarunning is some sort of extension to hiking. Just as if hikers progressively build up their walking pace and end up running. I think this is actually only partly true. It depends how and why you like hiking.

The hare

I've noticed that during most of my hiking trips, I try to see as much scenery and attractive features as possible in the given time. This leads to walk fast, climb up to the summits and dive down to the gorges and lakes. There are clear spatial and temporal objectives, set more or less consciously. I want to climb up this mountain, I want to sleep at this lake tonight, etc ... To some extend, this is fairly similar to race conditions, where I want to pass this checkpoint at that time, etc ... Everything is planned beforehand and I'm adrenalin-driven towards a set of objectives. I'm not running, but I'm already a hare in my mind.

The tortoise

Another way to hike is not to bother too much about location and time. Just walk and see. Change plans on the way. Add extra detours. Rest somewhere for sometimes. This approach is advocated by many hiking guide books. Believe it or not, this happens to me as well. When I'm depressed and I don't have the mental energy to chase after an objective. Or when I see the end of a multi-day hike approaching and I don't want to rush it anymore, to stay longer. Being the tortoise is not as easy as might look. Because less planning also means more uncertainty that could potentially lead to stress if not well handled.

The tortoise approach is not reserved to hikers, though. Many non-competitive ultra-runners are also tortoises in their mind. This typically happens when you don't have a time objective in mind and want to enjoy the scenery. The race is there, but not considered as such. It's an aid to the run (water stations, route marking, massages, ...) and a nice way to meet like-minded people. It's worth noticing that many hares on the UTMB reduce this event exclusively to a competition and suggest tortoises to run around the Mont-Blanc at another date if they're not happy with it. They completely miss the point and just don't see that the event is much more than a race.
Some event organisers already caught this trend. Many ultra-races are open to tortoises, with a fairly long time limit. Even some marathons now welcome walkers by extending the time limit to 8 hours.

Being hare or tortoise is not so much a matter of physical capabilities in the end, it's mostly a mental state. Hares can hike and tortoises run.

Tortoise and hare
Tortoise and hare in summer 2005

The hare's need for symbols

Whether it's hiking or running, the hare approach often needs strong symbols. Such symbols push people forward by supporting and augmenting the objectives. They add extra motivation on adrenalin-driven races and create virtual objectives on hiking paths. They could be for example running from a city to another, cross a mountain or follow a river. These symbols are one of the reason why races such as the UTMB became so popular so fast: around the highest mountain in Europe, across 3 countries... These same symbols drove lots of attention and admiration to the "Tour du Mont-Blanc" long-distance hiking path before the race was first organised. For example it was described on TF1 (a French populist TV channel) as one of the most famous and hardest hiking path. This is clearly not true. While it's not an easy path, several French long-distance hiking paths are technically harder (GR54 and GR20 to give only 2 names), not even considering the rest of the world... This shows how the symbols can augment the physical reality of a hike or a run in the hare's mind.

A symbol I quite like is to join two places with my feet. Modern transportation methods are more or less a form of teleportation, as you are very little involved in the navigation and certainly not immersed in the environment. And you miss a lot. The world is not continuous anymore, but made of a set of discrete points. Running or hiking makes you feel like you reconnect these points, and gives a very good feeling of belonging to this continuous space. While running from London to Brighton for example, I've seen every meter of ground in between the two cities. Note that this also applies to smaller scales; for example walking in cities instead of taking the tube.

The tortoise's need for simplicity

On the other hand, the tortoise seeks for the simplicity of the journey. Running and walking are simple activities by essence. Simplicity can mean various things depending on the context and person. Hiking with a tent makes things easier, as you are free to sleep wherever you want, thus reducing the need for planning and reaching objectives. Sleeping in refuges also simplifies things, as there is less equipment to carry and you get to meet more people.

The best of both world

And often hikers/runners are tempted by both the hare and the tortoise. I've been thinking of running the whole length of the Thames (300km) in one leg. This is the most extreme option (at one end of the scale) that would probably take between 40 and 50 hours. In order to see more landscape and therefore run during daylight only, I've also thought about splitting the journey into 3 consecutive running days of about 100km. This is a bit of a softer option. But it still involves major milestones and fair daily mileage. It's still a hare option. Lately, and somehow strangely, I've been thinking seriously about walking along the Thames following a day-to-day basis, without real plan. Without really knowing where and how to sleep the next night. My new very-waterproof clothing may have helped this thought, as it would allow to sleep outside anywhere by virtually any weather and without any further equipment (such as sleeping bag and tent) that requires more careful planning.
Note that running in the rain is often perceived as a form of escape: the hare seeks the finish line to get a hot shower. Hiking in the rain shouldn't be seen as an escape. The tortoise feels comfortable in the rain. The hare mentally projects himself towards the next checkpoint whereas the tortoise enjoys the current moment.

The same person can clearly be hare or the tortoise or anything in between at a given time. Now, is it possible to become simultaneously the hare and the tortoise? Get the best of both worlds? I'm actively looking after that. I don't think I've reached this stage yet. This probably requires a bit more experience too ...

Ultra confused.

Thursday, November 16 2006

"Lycra louts face fine"

This is the title of an article published in Hammersmith and Fulham News, the paper of our "zero tolerance" city council. Lycra louts refers to the cyclists riding on the pavements. They may now be fined £60. Hereafter is a transcript of my answer as I feel like it won't be published in the next issue...

Good afternoon,

I would like to give you my opinion about the article on cycling published in H&F News.

I'm mostly a pedestrian and definitely agree that bikes shouldn't be allowed on the pavements. However, giving a fine won't change anything; the cause of this problem must be solved. Cyclists don't ride on the pavements for the sake of annoying pedestrians. Cyclists must be given a chance to ride safely.

When you see how many cars are parked on the cycling lanes such as on Lillie road, and how dangerous it is for cyclists to overtake them, I understand why some may prefer to ride on the pavements. On top of that, these cars often generate congestion because the buses can't pass by easily. Why doesn't the police fine or even remove those cars ? They're a annoyance for other cars, for bus commuters, for cyclists and for pedestrians that have to face those cyclists. "Zero tolerance" seems to be your motto, why this doesn't apply to these cars too ?

I read Cllr Smith says disrespectfully "it is only a matter of time before [someone is] seriously injured by one of these lycra louts". He just proved himself that this has not happened yet. But tens of cyclists die on London's streets every year, and that's a fact, not a vague supposition.

Risking a £60 fine or risking to die under a car ? I think the choice is obvious ... The fine won't change anything. Clear up the cycling lanes, build new ones and cyclists won't ride on the pavements anymore.

Subsidiary question: how do you prove your bike's ownership ? I don't know many people carrying their bike receipt while commuting.

Thank you for your attention if you read so far.

Best regards,

Ultra lycra lout too (when I run ... on the cycling lane because pedestrians are too slow ;) )

Monday, October 2 2006

Trail-running: a new fashion ?

I've been quite surprised and impressed last week-end by the number of trail runners we met while hiking in Lake District. I think we saw about 20 to 30 runners in less than 24 hours. It was clear to me that running in Hyde Park, an I-pod on an arm-strap matching the brand new running T-shirt was a fashionable thing to do. Is it becoming has-been already ? Is trail-running the new fashion ? Have your say !

Ultra fashion.

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