Late Season Sunshine

What a weekend, the sun has been shining the sky has been really blue and the temperature has been at that just properly cold level where you can easily layer up your clothing to feel comfortable.

For me, Saturday was trail running day, despite some recent rain the trails are still surprisingly dry and the only moisture comes from all the leaves that have fallen from the trees. Running at this time of year is great as you get see the trees changing together with the under foot conditions going from dry to wet. These changes also mean you need to go back to the techniques of winter running, and that means light feet to ensure that if you run over hidden wet roots or holes you don’t twist an ankle or worse, of course early on this is a challenge as you are used to the dry, dusty summer conditions.

The run itself was a very steady paced affair, and I was really using it to try an dale army head after a couple of challenging weeks, normally running does the really well but of some reason there were a few things it just couldn’t shift so that means you don’t get a really relaxed run and so you spend the entire run feeling a bit uptight. Having said that it is always good to get out into the countryside, and as usual I came back with a few paw prints on my jacket even though I don’t own a dog, something I have come to enjoy over the years is being met by friendly dogs whilst running as they are usually accompanied by friendly owners!

Sunday was a spin on the road bike, again layers up against the cold the only “mistake” was not having a dark lens in my sunglasses as the sun was real bright and I ended up squinting when heading towards the sun. A slightly odd experience this late in the year!

Getting out and riding is  one of those simple pleasures that you sort of take for granted and so as I haven’t done it for a while it was a real pleasure to get out again, I had sort of forgotten what it felt like.

Not getting out is something that has become much easier due to smart trainers and Zwift, I know I can’t blame Zwift but it make indoor sessions so much more fun that if the weather is a bit dodgy or I just don’t fancy going out jumping on the trainer is just too easy.

Plenty of other cyclists out today, most seemed friendly, always a few that don’t acknowledge you but hay not everyone can be as cheerful as me!

I didn’t really tackle any big climbs today, just a few medium sized ones, and they felt ok.

The bike on the other hand didn’t seem to want to play ball, as the shifting back from the inner ring to the outer was a real tricky affair, I have had the impression the left shifter has been on the way out for sometime and I think it really is as the inner wire is pretty new and the adjustment is ok, oh well something to explore.

Overall a fun ride in the sun, and it capped off a couple of decent days of steady paced exercise in the outside sunshine which was probably well needed.

Let us hope that the weather holds and it enables some more outside fun, and once the mud returns it will be time for single speeding on the mtb.

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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!

A Beautiful Brutality

The other day I was on the bike leg of a brick session, the sun was trying to break through, the wind was blowing straight into my face, there was snot running from my nose and I was probably dribbling ala Tony Martin (that is the only similarity between me and the Panzerwagen) my head was saying why are you doing this and frankly my legs were in agreement. For someone of my age and ability this is a perfectly sane question,

So what is it apart from stupidity and fear of Iron Mike that makes me carry on? Well it turns out the answer is simple, if you lift your head and look around the countryside is simply beautiful

As I struggled along I was looking for some help, and as performance enhancing drugs aren’t available on the road or legal!, I wondered what would work and then I lifted my head up, stopped concentrating on the road ahead and saw that I was going along a road with woodland on one side and open fields on the other and then I remembered why I go outdoors and not go to the gym, I love the countryside.

For some reason I had lost the ability to enjoy the countryside whilst pedalling hard, I don’t know why, I enjoy it whilst running but on hard bike sessions I seem to forget to enjoy my surroundings.

I went to a talk by Chrissie Wellington the other year and she said to her it is important to smile whilst racing as it helped her and kept her going. I try to remember this at hard moments but as I am miserable it is hard to smile at those times so I try to enjoy my surroundings and then use that to drive me on, perhaps smiling might help I will try it in the future.

I think that it is very important to enjoy the area you are training in not just train hard, if you don’t enjoy it then the question is what the point? The answer to that question can only be answered by each individual but for me I train outdoors as much as possible as I work indoors and I would rather be outside in the fresh air and as long as I remember to look around then the pain is reduced.

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!

 

A New Experience

Today I did something that I thought I would never do, as it always seemed like making a tough situation even harder, I went singlespeed mountain biking. Yep that’s right one gear off road in the mud etc

The history behind this is all really down to an old friend of mine, Neil Dingle, yes I will name and shame!! He has been into this odd pursuit for years and keep extolling it’s virtues to the point where he is a successful racer in it. I often said yeah I would try it, never really meaning it, but then over christmas I was offered a very heavily discounted single speed frame, and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to build another bike sI decided to go in,

The bike building has been fun, and I have built it using parts that if I decide the one cog stuff isn’t for me I can remove all the parts and put them onto a frame accepting of gears, I like to think that is almost like planning.

So, how was the one gear experience? Well it was interesting, I am currently running a 32 x 18 set up, which might be slightly over geared for thick mud, but I reckon will be ok in the dry, dusty summer months, however, it was different to what I expected.

I had really thought it was going to be purgatory as I was never going to be in the correct gear, and whilst that it true, what you discover is that if you try and smooth out your peddling style you can actually make reasonable progress.

I did a couple of hills, not super steep, but ones that I know I normally have to change down the gears on, and got up them, I did some descending, which with a fully rigid set up was just like riding the cross bike but with a bit more give in the tyres.

The downsides, well I had two punctures, it might be time to go to the tubeless set up as I’m sure those little thorn punctures would have been avoided, but punctures are not the fault of the bike, and so other than that it was actually ok.

Now, I am a realist and so one ride doesn’t make me an expert or a convert, but it means I have the door slightly ajar into a new world, and one which I understand is populated by a variety of characters who are all slightly barmy (well I might have made the last bit up but it wouldn’t surprise me)

Will I do it again, oh yes, will this become my offroaf bike of choice, not sure as I love riding my cross bike, but I did find something very satisfying in plodding around never having to change gear even if I did try to change them a few times.

So, thank you to Nev for introducing me to this world and offering me a lot of good advice and I will be back for me, I might even write about it.

Some Things From This Week

Slightly different post this wee, I thought I would highlight 5 things I have learnt, rediscovered or just forgotten about.

1 – Press-ups. As many people will have seen there is a 22 day challenge to do 22 press ups each day and post a video of yourself doing this to raise awareness of combat vets. There are apparently 22 vets a day committing suicide and this challenge is to raise public awareness. If I am honest I was hoping to avoid this challenge s I hate press-ups, but I got tagged and rather than ignore it, I have taken on the challenge. So far, so good I have managed 4 days and am actually enjoying it, working some muscles everyday is never a bad thing. If you are tagged, don’t ignore it, give it a go. I have 18 or so days left and that is plenty of time to tag people. so watch out!

2 – Interval training. I have said it many times that interval training is the work of the devil, however you dress it up it hurts regardless of the length of the interval. This week I have had a set on the bike of 1 minutes intervals every 4 minutes for an hour. What surprised me most was just how quickly the 1 minute intervals came round, it seemed no sooner had one finished the next was starting. I was glad when the hour was done and I could just ride home!

3 – Trail running is brilliant. There is no shock to this, I love trail running and I particularly like it in the evenings when after being in the office all day you can get out in the fresh air and the countryside. Being able to head out across fields and woodlands for a run is one of things in life that never gets boring, yes the running is harder but that really doesn’t matter as it is offset by the views and environment.

A short post but I have been not writing much lately and so need to get back on it and hopefully this will be the catalyst.

2 Wheels Are Best

I have spent the last week indulging myself by riding a variety of bikes in different locations but all with one thing in common, it was fun!

Starting last weekend I took part in the Brompton World Championship (BWC) race in London, a crit race around St Jame’s park after the Ride London Women’s pro race. The BWC has some rules, one of which id the dress code, a shirt, tie and jacket must be worn and no lycra. This makes for some wonderful sights with people really going to town to dress up.

For me, I went for a pink jacket to add some colour to the occasion.

Bwc_1

To take part in the race you don’t actually have to race, you are more than welcome to just enjoy the ride around the course. However, a race is a race and the opportunity to have a thrash around is too much to resist for me. In terms of competition there were ex-pros Dave Millar and Dr Michael Hutchinson plus various ex winners so there were some fast people. For me I covered the 17km at an average speed of over 36km/h to finish 68th overall, a result I was more than happy with.

Next up I went for a tour round the Chilterns with the aim of having a mid-ride coffee at some gardens, the route I got from a local cycling club and was around 80km in length. I found I was enjoying the ride on my road bike and so when the Garmin said to go straight across a junction I decided I would add some more distance and went left to add around another 20 odd km. The extra loop allowed me to ride through the countryside and do a couple of hills I haven’t done before. On arrival at the gardens I treated myself to a coffee and large slice of ginger cake, I know I am trying to reduce my sugar in take, but I just couldn’t resist.

cake_coffee_1

The ride home after this felt easy and I reckon I was probably grinning as I was going, even the hills to home seemed enjoyable.

Back to the Brompton of army next ride, and this was a couple of hours riding round Silverstone in an event organised by Muscle Help

I did get a few funny looks from some riders when I rolled up to the start on the Brompton, but once we were let loose on the track I think I changed their opinions mainly by riding past them or dropping them out of chain gangs! Some of the more season better riders were complimentary and seemed to enjoy watching me pass people who might have had a nice bike and good gear but no legs!  Riding round Silverstone was interesting as I had never really realised how windy sections of the track could be, and how in real life some of the run off areas are not that big and so stopping an F1 car from ploughing into a face might be tricky. No such issues on the Brompton though!

Brompton_Silverstone

After the fun of racing round a flat motor racing circuit it only seemed right to go and do some hills, so I headed down to Surrey to have a look at some of the famous climbs down there, and also it gave me a chance to recce Boxhill prior to the Ballbuster later in the year.

Now, I do not know the Surrey area at all, and this became apparent when I went came to Dorking and the Garmin seemed to be trying to send me down a way I couldn’t go and I couldn’t see how to get to the road I needed so I ended up following a sign that said Leith Hill, and this turned out to be a great decision as it took me up Coldharbour Lane which was a good climb, although the road was really greasy due to overnight rain and so if you got out of the saddle the rear wheel started to spin, or it could just be I was laying down tremendous amount of power! The countryside was great with some lovely views and I have to say drivers who all seemed happy to give me space so perhaps the stories of all drivers in Surrey hating cyclists isn’t true?

The final part of the ride was the climb back up Boxhill, having only seen this for the first time when I drove to the car park at the top in the morning I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, it didn’t look too steep but did it have some hidden traps? The early part of the climb was easy to get into a rhythm and I had the added advantage of being able to see another cyclist further up the climb who I was able to aim at. The other cyclist I thought initially was going quite quick but i soon gained and passed him leaving me on my own. The hairpins actually enable you to pick up some speed and so it wasn’t long before the climb was done. It seemed fairly easy to keep a steady easy pace and I have to admit to being a little disappointed really I was expecting something a little more, never mind though the views at the top were brilliant and well worth the trip.

Finally it was time to break out the CX bike and do a little off-road riding back in the Chilterns. I have to say I didn’t really push very hard and so the route was easy with a good mix of tarmac and dirt. Possibly the best part was riding along an ancient cart track past a model aircraft club field and seeing them flying some really big planes, impressive things. The rest of this ride was good fun enjoying some climbing and looking forward to that post ride coffee!

The other cycling aspect to the week was visiting both Look Mum No Hands and the Rapha Cafe in London on a trip there, both server excellent coffee and food and are places I will return to when the situation allows.

All in all I feel that I have had a great fun week where I was left to my own devices and so basically just played on bikes. It never ceases to amaze me just how much fun you can have on bikes, regardless of what type, model etc Any bike can go fast it all comes down to your legs, are you able to pedal it. Yes I am lucky in owning several bikes but I enjoy them all and ride them where possible

In conclusion I spent most of the week riding bikes and I loved it!

My Take On The Lapierre White Roads Classic

Last weekend I took part in the White Roads Classic a ride that has it’s roots very firmly based on the Strade Bianche  a pro race that is raced on the white roads of Tuscany, Italy. The ride was 138km, slightly extended due to a course change, and uses both sections of road and off-road. The off-road is on the ridgeway, and the road sed every hill they could find!

For a ride like this the choice of equipment seems to be very important, The blurb says you can use a road bike but recommends wider tyres as the likelihood of punctures was high. I have to admit I spent a fair amount of time considering what bike and tyres to use, and in the end I went for my CX bike and some Conti speed cross tyres, a combination which turned out to be a winner!

The route started from the very pretty setting of Basildon Park, a National Trust property that looks like it would be worth a visit as it had a set of gardens, I think.

Once out on the road the route was very well marked and soon the first off road section appeared, the first of 17 sections, which were counted down Paris Roubaix style.

I saw someone with a puncture on this section an they were certainly not the last!

The route consisted of some memorable climbs, including White Horse Hill, a climb I have never done before and to be honest I won’t be rushing back as it was steep! I am not sure how they did the route design but it did seem to go up a lot more than it ever went down, infant there were sections where you went up , a little flat and then up again.

For me, one of the highlights of the route was riding through Lambourn, the Valley of the Race Horse, riding between the gallops was great and the views across the valley were stunning and even took some of the pain of a long uphill drag.

As the weather was good, the sun was shining the off-road sections were all dry and actually dusty which meant that a good speed could be held on the sections and where there was a down hill the speed went up and so was a good test of the handling skills.

As the day went on the distance went up, so did the road, and the enjoyment continued to increase.

I won’t say the ride was over all too soon as that would be a lie, but I did enjoy it. The biggest problem I had was that as I have been racing duathlons this year I have only really been doing 2 hour rides and so suddenly doing a 6 hour ride meant some pain was involved. I will certainly admit to under-estimating the ride, their website says it was hard, but I didn’t think it was going to be quite as tough as it was. However, saying that I finished it and there were more people behind me than in front plus I didn’t have any punctures!

On finishing the ride you are given a glass of prosecco and there was a table of nice Italian bread etc which was a good way to end the ride

Would I recommend this? Yes, Is it a proper challenge? Yes, Is it well organised? Yes and the most important question, is it fun? YES

Go and check out their website and have a look at the event and start to prepare for next year. The company have a couple of other events which I am sure are equally hard or possibly harder that might interest you.

All in all I had a great time, the route was excellent, very well marked and I am so glad I did it.

Simply Fun

What is better on a sunny Sunday morning than a bike ride, possibly nothing.

This Sunday morning was sunny and offered the perfect excuse to head on the cross bike and ride through the Chilterns using the Ridgeway as the central point.

Now I have to admit I haven’t ridden a huge amount of the Ridgeway I don’t know why, in fact I have probably run more of it than I have ridden, so today was the perfect excuse to use a portion of it.

The Ridgeway is an ancient track that has a variety of different surfaces, gravel, grass, chalk and a bit of mud, all of which make for good fun on a cross bike.

So today I headed along the ridgeway, it has some short sharp climbs, and headed off towards Aston Hill. This route was great, and on reaching the hill I headed up the rode to the top as I knew there was another bridleway at the top. Going up the road I passed one guy, but equally was passed by a pair although they didn’t really distance me!

The bridleway at the top turned out to be steep and stony steep downhills on a cross bike are a little tricky, particularly when the route is very rutted and has a good covering of slimy slippery mud. No need to say I went down it like Bambi on ice, I could have gone faster but I wasn’t feeling brave or stupid!

Once down it was out onto a wide track which I flew along, and headed back in the general direction home. However, I had one more section of Ridgeway to do, and actually dropped of it early to take in an extra road hill to keep stretching the legs!

After the “joy” of a steep climb back towards home it was a case of crossing a field, which I mashed, and back home for a coffee.

Cycling in the sun is a simple pleasure, and I enjoy it even more when I only have a general idea of my route, like today, the idea of a bit of exploring is great.

There you have it a simple pleasure, the weather is improving so go out and ride bikes, and do some running as well for variety!

Just Let Me Quit!

Yesterday was a race day and a day when I probably learnt a few things that I didn’t already know.

The duathlon at Dorney Lake was my 4th visit this year and came only 3 weeks after my last race. Training for this one had not been going brilliantly, see my last post, and so I went to this race thinking I would enjoy it and see what happened.

At this point I should admit that, the idea of turning up at a race and just seeing what happens and me are not good bed fellows, as when the gun goes the race mentality takes over and it is go as hard as possible. But, I did try an did myself that I would see what happened.

The weather was brilliant, it was actually hot and there wasn’t a massive head wind, perfect conditions for a pb but I was in realistic mood I was tired and speed probably wasn’t going to be there.

The gun went and off we went, and as usual I try and run the first km in a relaxed manner and then see what the pace is after that first one. At the 1km marker the pace wasn’t too bad but my legs didn’t feel great, no worry I thought I will keep this pace and see what happens. Next km the pace dropped a bit and the same the for the 3rd one, it did pick up a bit towards the end but I was not feeling too sharp.

At this point, I thought right, take it easy through the transition area and then cruise the first lap on the bike and see if the legs come back. Good plan that!

I strolled through T1, in no hurry went onto he bike course and realised there wasn’t the usual power in my bike legs, I carried on and after about half way picked up a bit. At the end of the first lap I decided to give it one more lap and then if nothing felt better to quit as I wasn’t doing myself justice. The second lap I passed a few more people but was not comfortable in my aero position, felt like I was constantly shifting in the saddle, and kept thinking I will stop in a minute, just get to the end of the lap and quit. End of the 2nd lap I thought I may as well do another one, got about half way round the lap thinking why didn’t I stop? I was going to quit. 3 laps became 4 and then the bike leg was nearly over, still wanted to stop!

Coming into T2 I wasn’t concentrating and went to dismount the bike at speed and hadn’t taken my feet out of my cycling shoes so I dismounted and landed on the cleats, skidded forward and nearly crashed into the barriers, what an idiot. Good lesson to remember there, if you don’t take your feet out of your shoes slow right down before getting off!

Into T2 and back on with the running shoes, after about 50m I realised my legs were not moving well, I thought give it the first lap then stop, it doesn’t matter. At the end of the first run lap I took a drink and thought might as well carry on for a bit as you could stop easily on the run loop. Got halfway through the run loop and thought, right stop now, but I didn’t, I carried on. I knew I was getting slower and slower, I didn’t walk but might as well had done, and finally finished the run, it took 28 minutes to run 5km, my worst ever 5km time in a race.

The question I am left with, is why didn’t I stop, I felt rubbish, didn’t look ever like doing a decent time (it was my 2nd slowest of the year) there was no reason not to stop. In my head I had the conversation constantly, the voice saying just stop it doesn’t matter.

I didn’t stop, I am glad in some ways I didn’t as having a bad race is probably good for me as I think recently I have started to think I am a bit better at racing than I probably am and so a bit of humbling is good and a reminder not to take things for granted.

I will now take a bit of a rest from racing and decide what to build for next.

As they say, pain is temporary, quitting lasts for ever!