It all went flat

Today was my first attempt at a 10 mile time trial, after having a go at a 25 a few weeks back. The day started ok, then weather was sunny and dry and i turned up on time.

After pinning on my numbers it was time for a warm up, i am still working out what works but I go it my heart rate up and i felt ok.

After returning to the car for a last minute drink it was off to start.

Sat inline chatting to the guy who was due off in front of me, i was nervous but was looking forward to the impending pain!

Then it was time, the countdown hit 5 then go, and off i went. Initially sprinting to get up to speed and then settling into what felt like a good rhythm.

Initially the course has a slight uphill drag and there felt like a slight headwind but i was still going at what seemed like a good pace.

After about 4km i could see my minute man, i appeared to be gaining on him and as i raced onwards i was certainly catching him.

I approached the first roundabout with him clearly in my sights, and i heard the sound of rushing air followed by a loss of speed and that dragging sound only made by a flat tyre. I had a rear wheel puncture.

So there i was at the side of the road 5km from the start with a flat and no way of repairing it. My options appeared to be two fold, ride back slowly hoping not to damage my Zipp wheel or walk.

However, the Marshall on the roundabout had another idea, as i was one of the last to start off, he said once the last rider had gone through he had a spare wheel in the back of his car i could borrow to ride back on.

Well, this was an offer i could not refuse, and shortly after I had replaced the punctured Zipp with a Mavic cosmic. I rode back to then HQ trying not to get too upset although i was gutted.

On my return, i swapped wheels with the heroic Marshall and asked for his favourite charity so i could make a donation to express my gratitude.

Needless to say i have made the donation and also written to the organiser to thank the marshall again.

It’s funny though to him it did not seem a big deal, but to me it was an act of extreme kindness and one i was so grateful for.

What next then? Well no more TT’s planned although i am off to Silverstone in a few weeks for some timed laps so that should be fun, after that i am considering getting a bike fit on the TT bike to sort out my position.

The first time

Today i did something i have never done before, a time trial, a proper organised time trial.

An advantage of having joined a cycling club is that they have access to give you entries into time trials, in this case the West London Combined organised by one of the affiliated clubs.

The course had the usual mystery designation, H25/4 which time trial OST’s seem to love, basically it was a route along the road from Missenden to send over then back to Amersham, so a lot of fast a roads. From what i can gather the course is relatively “sporting” as it has several long rises.

The signing on process was simple, you go into the hall, find yourself on the signing on sheet, sign it and from the table pick up your number, which comes ready pinned with pins.

The pinning of numbers is something not to be taken lightly, you don’t want it flapping around and you want it as flat as possible, pretty sure I didn’t’ have the perfect set up!

Once you have attached your number it’s time for a warm up. This did pose me a slight problem as I didn’t really know the best way to do it, i opted for riding a couple of laps starting slowly and building in some speed before dropping it down again. My heart rate went up and i felt warm, so that served a purpose.

Off to the start, and joining the line you can hear the countdown as the starter holds the next rider ready to start, then it was my turn. I rolled up, the starter held my bike i clipped in and the countdown began, and then it was go!

Setting off hard i soon settled into a pace, it was a balancing act between going hard but not too hard. The 25 miles seemed to come and go quite quickly although I’m sure at the time I wasn’t thinking that.

I flashed past the finish line, eventually, and recorded a time of 69 minutes 20 seconds with an average speed of 21.7mph (or 40km @ 35 km/h). I was pleased with this as it was the first one and I haven’t trained specifically for it.

I had an interesting conversation post race with an experience racer about what makes the most difference to going faster, obviously fitness, position on the bike, clothing, helmet etc etc.

A sport of real marginal gains!!

Will i do another one? Oh yes in fact i have entered a 10 miler already.

Overall time trialling is hard, but fun and when combined with my love of cycling tech and kit look to provide the opportunity for an going project.

Back To Racing

Last weekend i did my first duathlon for nearly a year, and the quick summary of the race was it was hot, in fact on what was the hottest day of the year deciding to race could have been seen as a ,intake.

However, the truth is that getting back to racing was not an easy decision to make, i seem to have recently lost the enthusiasm for it. This year i have done three trail races, all with Maverick, and all of increasing distances. These were all enjoyable and started to make me reconsider doing more.

The odd thing is that what made up my mind to do the duathlon was going and doing a park run, for probably the same reason I haven’t done any park runs for ages mainly i lost interest in doing events with others, it was a bit like losing the confidence to do it and just thinking everyone else would be better. A mindset that didn’t really make sense but once in it it was was hard to escape.

The duathlon itself was part of the Banana Man event at Dorney Lake, and it was hot. The first run was 5km, and was obviously slower than normal, the bike around 22km this was reasonable fun although the headwind on the back half of the course made things a little tough. The final run of 2.5km seemed to go on for ages, well in terms of time it did but i eventually finished.

The time was not important as the heat made it no where near possible to produce a good time but i enjoyed the experience of racing again, it boosts your confidence to no you can still pass a few people.

In conclusion it is safe to say that looking back on the race it was good to do it and get back on the horse and it has made me now want to find some more races and get back into it again.

The Maverick Silva Dark Series Oxfordshire Trail Run

This was the first time I have either entered this event or done an event hosted by Maverick, and so on Saturday I was going to achieve two firsts.

A trail run in the dark was always going to be fun, and when it is hosted on a.private estate with plenty of hills then you know it should be good.

The race hq was set in a field in the shadow of some Woodland Hills, which as the darkness fell gave a lovely vista.

Registration was well organised and quick to get your race number and glow stick wrist band, what a combination glow sticks and head torches.

Once start time arrived it was on with the head torch and off. The first hill seemed to arrive almost at once, and this pretty much set the tone for the rest of the race.

It is always difficult to give a detailed course review when you are involved in the race asI find it hard to remember the exact details. This course had a heady mix of uphill, uphill and more uphill, frankly as discussed with another runner it seemed that almost the entire course was uphill! Now as we all know it can’t all be uphill and whilst some of the hills were steep, to the point where walking was quicker than running,, The downhills were often muddy slippery and immense fun as you fought to keep control, rest and pick up some time, A combination which is tricky at the best of time. Running through woodland in the dark with you way lit by a head torch is great fun and something that everyone should do at some point, it heightens your senses and makes you concentrate, it seems the more you concentrate the more fun it becomes.

The finish came and I thought the fun would be over, but I was wrong, on crossing the line I was asked the best question I can remember being asked on crossing a line. “Would you like a beer?” What a question, “Yes please” came my instant response, “Would you like me to open it for you?” Came the reply “yes please” again I replied. The beer tasted really good. They also gave me an iced coffee and a Tribe bar, both of which were also tasty.

In terms of the time it took me 66 minutes 28 seconds and I finished 43rd. To put into context only 23 people went sub 60 minutes, which when you have nearly 300 metres of elevation it is not surprising.

By completing this event it means I have now done as many this year as I did in the entire of last year, and the best part was I really enjoyed this and it has given me the confidence to do more, mentally I feel I have taken a step forward, at no point did I find myself looking for excuses not to turn up or to even pull out of the race at any point.. For me that was the most important thing, rediscovering the fun element.

I am booked in for a couple more Maverick events this year and based on my experience with this one I am looking forward to them.

It is good to feel like I am back in the game again!

The London Duathlon or Cramp Fest

There are sometimes when you are doing events when you wonder why you do it, for me it’s normally when I am struggling along, but today it was different, it was during one of many bouts of cramp!

If you have never had cramp in your calf muscle or hamstring then you are lucky, if you have ever had them when you need to continue either cycling or running then you will appreciate the pain it gives.

The London Duathlon is apparently the biggest duathlon in the country and there were a lot of people, it also turns out to be one of the best organised as well. The marshals on course were great, often singing and dancing offering as much encouragement as they could, these event can’r run without them and so their efforts were much appreciated.

So what about the race I hear you ask, well the first 10k run went quite well, I ran a pace that was comfortable, ending up with just over 53 minutes, which whilst not close to my pb was decent I thought for this event.

Next onto the bike, I normally love the cycling leg and this is where I make up some time that I lose on the run, but not today! After about 1.5km I started to feel my calf tightening and this was the tell tale signs of impending cramp. I wondered how I could have cramp so early on, the short steep climb didn’t really help but I pushed on and hoped it would go away. On lap two disaster nearly struck, on one  of the tight right hand bends I approached it too fast and I was struggling to scrub speed off, I eventually stopped next to a straw bale, but then my calf went totally tight with cramp, after some emergency stretching I got it free and carried on. Luckily the last two laps went ahead without too much of note happening. The time was just over 1 hour 30 minutes which was disappointing but there was still a run to go and I thought I might be able to finish strongly.

It is amazing how wrong you can be about your own body, on the last run I cramped within the first km, which I stretched out and then going up the hill the hamstring cramped, this took a little walking, stretching and sheer bloody mindedness to get over. I eventually go going again and dragged myself round in 30 minutes, which is a horrible time

The upside was that even though I was no where near the time I wanted I did come in under 3 hours but I have to be honest and say I was disappointed how it went down really.

Will I do another duathlon of this distance, I don’t know, currently I hurt too much but there is unfinished business I think so I guess watch this space.

I would say if you get the chance then do have a go at this event, well organised you get a decent cycling jersey to justify the cost and Richmond Park is a beautiful place to go round, I even saw a load of deer which made me smile a t a tough point.

The most obvious outstanding question is why did I cramp so much, so far I don’t know my nutrition was as normal, I used the same calf guards and so the only possible thing I can think of is the massage I had on Tuesday at the spa where we were staying, perhaps I wasn’t over it? Who knows and frankly it probably doesn’t matter now but at least I have finally raced this year, and I did enjoy it and I think I might just put off retiring for a little bit!

The Virtual Ride London

Today I did the Ride London 46 mile ride on Swift, so rather than having to go out in the rain and cold I got to ride round London from the “comfort” of my garage.

I am not new to Zwift and the group rides and races it provides but today felt slightly different as it was an event tied into a real ride, although it turned out the courses were completely different.

I didn’t start this ride alone, it was intended to ride with G, and we started off but unfortunately after a while it became clear to G that he wasn’t on a good day, and the first time up Boxhill really hit him hard, this is unusual as he is pretty strong normally. We agreed to go our separate ways after the first lap and so I was left to my own devices.

So off I went onto lap2 of 4, the course Swift were using was a mix of central London roads and a bit of Surrey including Boxhill. It wasn’t until afterwards I found out that this route and the actual Ride 46 route were very different, I guess I should have realised as they wouldn’t send riders up the hill 4 times!

It is interesting on these virtual rides as I am not sure if the turbo makes it easier or not. I use a Tacx Neo which reacts to the changes in gradient and also road surface but without the outside influence of wind etc it is easier to hold a sustained effort. Also when on these rides you have no idea what other riders are using, some could be using a normal turbo that Zwift doesn’t control so they are effectively riding on the flat all the time which you could view as cheating if you were that competitive!

Whilst out on my own I tried to ride at an even tempo and tried to work my way up through the field, I was about 220 when I started on my own and by the end was 143, I seemed to pick off riders mainly on the climb of Boxhill, and I certainly wasn’t posting blindingly fast times, just a constant speed all the way up. Every so often you catch a few riders and then stick together for a while until one of you goes a bit faster and breaks the tow of the other, but for me it was mostly 3 laps on my own!

Something that I often under estimate on longer turbo sessions is the feeding aspect, so today I started with 3 bottles and a couple of gels and one caffeine gel, I ended up getting through 2 gels and 2 and a bit bottles, but never felt hungry or thirsty so I guess I got that about right.

One outstanding question is would it have been better to have been able to ride the entire route with G and or others? Well as much as I enjoyed it on my own it would have been fun together as you get that little bit of banter, even if done via messaging and it often drives you on to give a little more.

Overall it was a fun event, does without getting rained on, although I was very sweaty afterwards and I think my kit was probably drier in the washing machine than when I took it off. If you haven’t tried Zwift I would say give it a go, it has changed turbo trainer sessions, there are good courses on there, the group rides are fun  and even the races whilst hard make for a proper session, also they have the cycling world championship course in Austria coming shortly for some added fun and the chance to spot some pros on the course!

 

Never Too Old To Learn A Lesson

Today was meant to mark my first cycle cross race of the season. The sun was shining, the bike was prep’d and the rider was ready, well probably not full race fit but looking forward to it!

I arrived at the venue, signed on, watched a bit of the race that was on at the time and was looking forward to getting gout in a bit to warm up and then race.

Back to the car, pinned on the race number, timing chip on the shoe and all seemed ready to go.

Walking back to the course with the bike chatting to my wife, I suddenly realised I didn’t have my helmet on, and then it struck me like a truck, I hadn’t bought it with me! What an idiot!

We carried on to the start area, as sometimes they have stands selling kit and so my last hope was that there would be one, and I could get a helmet of some sort. However, on this occasion there wasn’t one.

That was that, no helmet no race. The walk back to the car was punctuated with me asking how I could be so stupid, well words to that effect anyhow.

I packed up the car, went back to registration and crossed m name off the start list. The day was done.

In all the years I have raced this is the first time I have ever forgotten anything fundamental to race, the question is how did I forget it?

Well, I think the only answer is I packed my kit bag differently to normal. For a cross race I normally put both my pairs of shoes in the bottom of my bag, clothing on top and finally the helmet on top of that. This time I left my shoes out of my back in their shoe bags and for whatever reason I just never picked up my helmet, I can’t blame anyone but myself and I know that next week I will be writing a kit list and ticking off the items as they go into my bag.

I appreciate this is a first world problem and certainly when put in context isn’t really a big deal, but, when you are looking forward to a race and then not be able to take part due to your own stupidity it is disappointing to say the least. As a punishment I did a long turbo session, that will teach me!

A Good Day At The Office

The last of the F3 Events Windsor Duathlon series races has been and gone for me now, and it was a good day for me.

Let’s get it out there now, I set a pb and I was pretty happy with it. Yes I know that is very self congratulatory but if I don’t mention it nobody else will!

Following on from my last post I did wear my calf guards and yes I think they helped, but I can’t prove it with any quantitive measures.

The thing about them was that during the first run, whilst I did push the pace on I never felt any impact from wearing them, yes they do hold the calf muscle more stable but I can’t show whether that helps or not.

On the bike was where I did feel them, at a point on lap 3 I felt like I was getting a bit of cramp in one of my calves and whilst I didn’t slow down or stretch it I can only conclude that somehow the calf guard helped ward off the cramp, or it could simply have been a feeling and nothing more.

The final run was possibly where they helped, as ever my legs feel a little tight after getting off the bike but they seemed to come back to me sooner than normal and this helped as it meant I could run normally more quickly. I can’t prove the calf guards helped here but in my mind they did and sometimes something that works in your brain is better than anything.

I have done 3 duathlons in this season and I have set 2 pub’s which I think is a very successful season, and this is in no small part due to the coaching provided by Iron Mike, he seems to be able to enable me to produce great results with a training plan that allows me to have a life as well.

I am still planning on what to do next, I have a fairly good idea but am not going to say just yet, for anyone that has read these for a while what I am planning might come as a little surprise!

 

Charting Progress

As we go through training into races it is very easy to forget to think about how you are progressing not just about individual race performances. Progress is really the important factor as if you are progressing it is a key to keeping motivation high and that desire to keep training and to try and race harder.

For me I have been looking at my duathlon times from last year and this, and thanks to the excellent data provided to F3 Events by Stuweb their timing partners I am able to compare my performances to the field averages for my race.

I know that at this point some yawning will be going on as looking a data is not everyone’s idea of fun but it does give you a way of seeing how you are doing.

The chart below shows me against the field averages for each race:

me_v_fieldavg_duathlon

From the chart the obvious things that stand out are that I am well under the field average for the bike leg and that I am slower than average for  the runs, apart from in one race where there must have been some slower runners to push the averages out.

Now the averages are very much dependant on who turns up to race but they do provide a handy indicator of progress, which in my case shows that I need to improve on run 2 significantly and on run 1 by a bit less.

If you are not sure how you are progressing then spend some time either putting your data in Excel or try and use the inbuilt reports available in the various sites used for training metrics and see if you can see an obvious pattern which you can use to direct your training to so you can progress further.

It looks like some running improvement is required so I can look forward to that!

 

The Pain Only Racing Gives

Today was my first race of the year, a duathlon at Dorney Lake (a sprint of 5km run, 20km bike and a final 5km run), and as usual I had forgotten just how much racing hurts.

When you are training you get the odd session which is hard but the pain these give is not the same as racing. Racing is an all out assault, the gun goes and it is a case of going as hard as possible till the finish or for as long as possible and then hang on to the finish, there is none of this I will leave a bit in reserve for tomorrow!

For me I sometimes think I like the idea of racing much more than actually takin part as when you are thinking about it there is no pain and whilst you sort of remember how it feels for some reason you can never quite recall exactly what it is like, perhaps it is like teething and the brain won’t allow you to remember!

Unusually for a race in February today it was not raining or freezing cold or even blowing a gale, although the usual Dorney head wind was there and so whilst it was fresh the conditions were good and so the prospect of a good time was there. Having done several duathlons here before I am used to the course and so have a decent idea what to expect.

For today the run course was two 2.5km loops using the service road and the road that runs alongside the rowing lake, for some reason this is a faster course than when the run is just out and back loops on the service road. The bike course goes out around the back of the venue and up between the two lakes into the now legendary head wind.

Down to the action then, the first run went off and as I hit the end of the first km I looked at my watch and thought oops that was a bit fast but I thought if I try and relax a bit I will try and hold the pace, as it was it did drop a little but still gave me an opening run of 23:44. Out on to the bike and it was full on from the start, 4 laps seems to soon go past and I always enjoy this part, probably because I pass many more people here!

The final run or as I like to refer to it, the final torture in hell, started and my legs had that just off the bike feel, it is hard to describe how they feel but it is enough to say they don’t feel like my legs, however, fortunately the longer I ran and the harder I tried the better they became, although not really good enough to stop a slightly disappointing 25:01 time, they just didn’t come back to me early enough.

Overall I did a 1 hour 23 minutes 14 seconds which was a pb by 5 seconds, and I was surprised by this based on the final run. Perhaps there is a little more to come if I can improve that last run, although getting a pb as I get older is enough for me.

The down side of racing is how my legs feel now, they ache and I feel sleepy but what else do yogurt from going all in?

Rest day tomorrow and then back on it and looking at perhaps racing in April again with the chance of another pb?