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!

 

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Enjoying The Light

After the last post, which if you haven’t read is available here, things have been taking a more positive direction.

It is true that I as entered into a race which I didn’t do as I didn’t feel comfortable racing with others, and yes even doing ParkRuns have proved tricky as I seem to have lost the confidence in racing with others, it is almost like an anxious feeling. I have done a couple of ParkRuns but haven’t fully enjoyed the experience, but I will go back when I can get out of bed on time!

The biggest pleasure recently has come form cycling, going out on the singlespeed mountain bike is such fun, it takes away all the excuses of the gears weren’t adjusted properly, my suspension is too hard/soft etc. It is just about you and the bike so you get out what you put in. Funnily enough I have set my fastest Strava times on a couple of the climbs.

Running on the other hand seems more of a struggle, for whatever reason I am off the pace. I have been feeling good on trail runs and have set a couple of fastest times on routes when I have gone out to push, but when I get back on the roads I just seem to not be able to do it.  However, I am trying not to let it get to me to try an keep the mind in clean and in the right place.

The mental side of life is something that I am now more than ever aware of and I do find myself constantly monitoring myself and trying to asses how I am feeling. There have been a few times where I find myself slipping and my thoughts heading into the negative. At these times I try and do something to cheer myself up, be it a listen to a song if I’m at work, go outside if possible or ride the motorbike, bicycle or anything else that has two wheels. I am also far more open to talking about it when I start to feel a bit down and this certainly helps, it might be a cliche and it certainly isn’t easy but it is the best thing to do.

I am now working towards the London Duathlon in September and my main aim is to enjoy it and re-find the fun in racing rather than the stress and anxiety that it currently brings.

As a postscript, after the last blog post I did receive some really kind messages and offers of help and support which were very much appreciated and above all it reminded me that people really are good and can provide the inspiration to do almost anything.

 

 

The Man With The Halo

This is a different post to those I would normally do, This is the story of a pro athlete who on the verge of possibly his best world championship performance nearly had everything taken away from him.

The film is around 25 minutes, but trust me it is worth the watch, if you feel you need some inspiration then this might just provide it or it might make you realise what you have

Enjoy it, share it

Click on this link to watch it The Man With The Halo

That Wasn’t So Bad

It is the time of year when you sit down and write your review of the previous 12 months and then look to the next year with hope and skip in your step!

When I started to think about the year, my initial thoughts were it was a failure, the one thing I wanted to do in the year I didn’t achieve, so a failure.

However, the reality is somewhat different. Whilst it is certainly true I didn’t achieve the triathlon I set my mind on, after getting back into swimming on further reflection the earlier and later parts of the year were actually quite successful.

The early part of the year, was once again dominated by duathlons and I beat my pb twice this year, certainly a decent feat as they never seem to get any easier.

After that I beat my fastest park run times a few times, for anyone who ever does park runs you will know how that going faster is never that easy as for some reason your performance can vary a reasonable amount week on week, well mine does!

Then in the last part of the year, I did better in the cyclocross races I completed, I finished further up the field and also did more laps, again another success.

So, whilst my initial thoughts were that 2017 wasn’t great, it was intact a good year, I achieved more in reflection than I thought.

Finally a couple of thank you’s for those that have helped this year, firstly “Iron” Mike Shaw for the coaching, somehow he keeps the session interesting and also doesn’t mind, well at least doesn’t say anything to me!, when I change my mind about what my focus for the year is! Secondly, as ever to my wife, who not only puts up with me training etc but always comes and watch and supports me at races, as we all know there isn’t anything better than having a friendly face whilst you are suffering!

Farewell to 2017, and lets hope 2018 is at least as good if not better.

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?

 

To Do Or Not To Do

The question of whether to do something for not is one that we all face every single day in some form or another, be it shall I have cake with my coffee or buy that new pair of wheels.

In my world I am currently trying to work out what is my sporting targets for this year, in the past I have usually found something easily but for whatever reason this year I just can’t find something that really inspires me.

I will do some duathlons again, as I enjoy them but as they are done by the end of spring it does leave a large hole in my summer schedule.

I have tried to ask myself a few questions to try and help, and whilst these have helped to the point where I know they have to involve bikes and also running is welcome. I could do some long off road mountain biking events or try some time trialling but whilst these appeal they just don’t fill the gap.

For anyone who has read my ramblings before will know there is an elephant in the room, and that is swimming, if I added swimming to cycling and running then i would have the chance to do more triathlons. Now, I have done a couple of these in the past but I have issues with swimming and that I find it stressful, and thats not just on the race day it includes the training as well. I did think about going to the pool to try to and see how swimming was, but the mere thought of it just meant I couldn’t bring myself to go and do it.

Could there be a “cure” for my issues with swimming, well I am sure there is but I am not sure if I really want to go through the struggle of trying to overcome it, as it is not the physical side but the mental side, perhaps I am just too weak.

So, currently I am in a bit of a state of flux regarding what to do and I will continue to look for something and hopefully inspiration will strike.

The Ballbuster Duathlon

The Ballbuster Duathlon one of the UK’s most iconic duathlons held at Boxhill in Surrey and is said to be one of the most epic events on the calendar.

The event is made up of 8 mile laps, each which finish with a climb up Boxhill, remembered by many for it’s appearance in the 2012 Olympic cycling road race, Each competitor completes a run lap, 3 bike laps and finishes with a run lap giving a total of 40 miles and 5 ascents of the hill.

For an event held in November there is an added ingredient which nobody has control of (unless the organisers have a special hotline!), and that is the weather, there are stories of gales, snow fog and probably plagues of locusts all impacting the race. This year the weather decided it would give us heavy rain, strong winds and cold which when you think that the day before was bright blue sky and sunshine as was the day after seems like someone was really having a laugh.

I have never done this event before, and like many others wanted to tick it off the list and get my hands on one of the limited edition hoodies, which I have to say really are good.

Unfortunately for Boxhill is not just round the corner so after a very early 4:30 alarm call it was time to eat, pack the car and hit the road. The journey down was uneventful and I was soon parked up and signed on. With the weather being so horrible and the fact that they give you the hoodie when you sign on did make me wonder if I should just wait in the car and pretend I did it!

The rain decided it was time to fall harder once the first run got under way just to make it a bit more difficult. As i don’t know the area of the race it was interesting to run along and see the sights, although the main road section was a little dodgy with cars not really being bothered if they gave you any room to run or not. Luckily other than that section the rest of the route was ok and if you did meet traffic is was more than happy to give you room to run.

My main aim on the first run was to ensure I didn’t go off too fast else there was a good chance of blowing up before the end. I seemed to be being passed by a lot of runners but I kept to my plan and eventually arrived at the foot of Boxhill for the first climb, I went steady and was soon at the top and off into transition.

For the bike I leg I swapped gloves and put on a waterproof jacket to try and keep some of the rain out. The cold was starting to have an impact on the bike as once I was up to speed I really noticed how cold it was especially on my legs muscles, as my leg warmers were soaked.

The other problem the weather gave was that it had washed loads of leaves onto the road and these seemed to always form piles on exactly the line you wanted to take especially on the downhill sections. I did back off a bit on the descents on the first lap  as I didn’t want to crash. Once I got to the first climb of Boxhill, I just cruised up it, with several gears left to go and was able to pass people and so it was out onto lap 2.

Lap 2 was where I decided I would take a few chances on the downhills in oder to try and gain some more time, it seemed to work and despite being very wet I was moving ok, the second climb up the hill was again uneventful, gears to spare and passing people.

The final lap and I decided after lap 2 that I could keep pushing on a bit on the descents, however,this is where it very nearly all went wrong. On one downhill left hander the pile of leaves had moved out from where they were on the previous lap and as I came round the bend I was on top of them in a two wheel slide heading towards the other side of the road and the oncoming traffic. I managed to run out to the white line off the leaves and then re-tip the bike into the bend thus avoiding the accident. I have to say the marshall on the other side of the road looked worried for a while, I’m just glad I didn’t panic and grab a big handful of brakes or else that would have been it, instead I just trusted my bike handling ability and it saw me through, just!

Final climb of the hill on the bike and still had gears to use if needed and I was still passing people, back into transition and off on the final run.

I have to say I was dreading the last run a bit, another 8 miles in the rain and cold after having worked hard so far, it was never going to be easy. I started off and realised I couldn’t really feel my feet due to them being cold and wet, this lasted for about the first 10 minutes or so until they were warmed up and then felt normal again. For the final run I ditched any sort of jacket just put my running gloves back on as I was now soaked and a jacket would just have given me that boil in a bag feeling.

The run itself went ok, I got passed by runners along the way but unusually for me I also passed some. Coming into the last climb of the hill I was still feeling reasonable and said to myself that I wasn’t going to walk on the hill no matter what. I got into a rhythm and found that I was catching some people and moving past them, especially those that were walking.

Before you came round the final bend you could hear the people by the finish cheering all the finishers and that gave a little boost, on crossing the line and stopping I realised just how tired I was and how much of a hard time it had been.

I was a little disappointed in my time of 4 hours 1 minute and 20 seconds as I wanted to go sub 4 but I don’t think on the day in those conditions I could have gone any faster. I only dropped 2 minutes between my two runs which I think showed that my initial pacing was pretty good, and the conditions on the bike meant that I couldn’t make up as much time on the downhills as I would have normally.

Did I enjoy it? I think I did, I think it is an achievement to finish it as it certainly is no easy event. Would I do it again? Probably not as at the moment I don’t see a reason to do it again, but that might change.

Finally a couple of thank you’s, firstly to “iron” Mike Shaw at Triperformance.co.uk for the coaching to get me through this, as ever the plan was spot on. Also to my wife,Suzanne, who got out of bed at a stupidly early time on a Saturday to come and stand in the lashing rain to watch me flog myself, I know any one who races will appreciate how much it helps having someone there to support you and how much it helps when you are hurting and you go by them and hear them encouraging you.

A special mention should be made to all the marshall’s out on the course and those volunteers who run the event as they did a great job. I did thank all the marshall’s on my final run as I think that is the least you can do when they give up their time so you can do something you want to.

If you have never done the Ballbuster then I would say try it, you will see that it is an epic event and you get the chance to properly test yourself.