Thursday, 1 February 2018

Winter; do one.

The lurgy’s hit hard, after I did a 60 miler at the weekend. Two days off work feeling sorry for myself but it’s the first time I have beenproperly ill in a long while. The said 60 miles was good fun, low speed, low stress on a Phoenix Sunday club run. I had a couple of friends come out to join us and one has even ended up joining the club as a result.  It never ceases to amaze me, the shear number of cyclists out on the road every weekend. Most look like bunches of mates but with quite a few clubs thrown in the mix too. There’s the whole debate about waving when you see other cyclists. Quite a few don’t, and it’s cool when others do. I am an ardent waver, it just seems a good thing to do, minimal effort and a shared camaraderie. I’d like to think that I would never be ‘too pro to wave.’

I have to say I’m done with Winter.  I don’t mind being cold but the constant low cloud, drizzle or heavy down pours are starting to become a bit of a bore. I can’t wait for some warmer weather and the chance to get rid of snoods, leggings and winter tops. I dream of Majorca and Sa Calobra,  it it’s going to be a while before I see them again.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Pleasantly surprised 2

So Simon and I did the 4th cat. racing training, and despite the absolutely awful weather (2 degrees above zero and persistent rain) it was really useful. It was run by Paul of PB Coaching. He’s a pretty experienced 2nd Cat rider, mainly on the continent. We had a rectangular loop set out on the South of England Showground at Ardingly, which was only a 40 minute drive away. The loop had quite a few hazards; potholes, narrowing of the track, gravel etc although Paul and his assistant Tim had swept the course before. That said, it gave a more realistic feel to what we might encounter on the road rather than it being a completely sterile track with no real hazards.  There were 40 of us, most from clubs but also quite a few BC members. A small handful of the riders had already done some racing but most had not and there were about 10 ladies, which was really good to see.  
We started with a quick briefing, mainly focussing on cornering; correct weight distribution, vision, braking technique etc.  With the weather so bad (it was only just above freezing and incessant, light rain) these points were particularly important and hammered home. 
So out on the bikes for the first time we just orbited the track on our own,  getting used to the hazards and corners. Paul told us we all had to stay in the small chainring to get our legs spinning quickly and to avoid people getting carried away in the first 10 minutes. After that, it was a succession of drills to get us used to riding in larger and larger groups. Basically, the order was as follows;
Ride in pairs, focussing on good vision and awareness through the bends.
As above, but in fours, keeping within 1 meter of the wheel in front. (Closer if confident).
Ride laps with your hand in your partners shoulder, they had there hands on their head, then swap on the next straight.
This next drill was the one that was really good fun and really got you thinking about your positioning but the main focus was on communication, both verbally and by a gentle touch on the back or arm.  We lined up in 10 rows of 4, and the four riders at the back had to come through the three channels and make their way to the front.  It started off quite easily but as you can imagine, after a few minutes it got quite chaotic! It was all about calling your position and letting the rider in front knowing where you were and what your intentions were. I have to say that I really enjoyed it.

after a break to warm up and another quick briefing, we were back out, but this time we were working in groups of 8. We self seeded so there was a faster group going down to a slower group (that said, none of the activities we did were carried out at speed. Tim was always at the front controlling the pace and it was very gentle. The focus for the whole day was safety and enjoyment). This time we learnt about pacelines and chaingang riding and focused on that for half an hour. 
We had a final talk session from Paul in the clubhouse which focussed a little more on race specific tactics and some basic training principles.
Although a fairly experienced rider, probably like a lot of us I like to ride with my mates who I know and importantly, I know how they ride. I have been sat behind Simon for so long, I can often pre-empt what he’s going to do before he does it. As a result, thankfully, we’ve never had a crash. It’s a very different kettle of fish when you are riding with people that you don’t know and I think the big takeaway from this course was that if we are all basically riding the same way with really good communication than our safety is going to be much greater. I went from being very sceptical about the riders around me (and I’m sure they felt the same about me) to trusting them within a very short space of time. How often can we say that about the people we sometimes end up riding with or encountering on the road?

My ego's writing cheques.......

my body can't cash.

Possibly the greatest line from Top Gun, and very pertinent to this post. Last post I was crowing about my very healthy increase to 263 watts from my last ftp test; a personal best. This has proved to be a false positive. I did a couple of TrainerRoad sessions and it was impossible for me to attain the numbers needed in each set. I would get a couple of reps in and my legs would be absolutely shot, with no way back to complete each session. When I took the test I had to use a higher than normal gear as the other gears were slipping so I was working on a much lower cadence. Somehow, this has given me a false result and I have had to suffer the ignominy of lowering my ftp. The good news is though, not by much; down to 256 watts and this has made all the difference.

So on Saturday, I'm trying something new.  I'm heading off to Ardingly to do a 4th category training session so that I can take part in the Surrey League Road Racing events.  To be honest, I'm actually pretty nervous. I have managed to get to 47 years of age without breaking any bones (despite coming off a motorbike (twice) and falling out the sky in a hang glider) I have therefore led a fairly charmed life. However, it seems that putting 30 or so MAMILS in very close proximity to each other, all thinking they might be the next Cav, could well end up in shattered carbon, aluminium and bones. Because of this, the Surrey League, very wisely, introduced compulsory training, which all riders have to attend. It basically ensures that all riders understand basic group riding skills so that they can be as safe as possible and it also covers racing techniques. My hope is that even if I don't race it will improve my personal skills when Group riding. Simon and I are riding down, doing the session then riding back. It could be a very long day in the saddle.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Pleasantly surprised

Despite the January and back to work blues, this is usually an exciting time of the year as I'm formulating the racing season to come and starting to get into some more meaty training.  I have some very good news. Yesterday I did another ftp test after completing the latest Trainerroad sweet spot base training block.  My last test was a little disappointing with a very modest 4 watt increase, and it was partly due to this that I decided to complete two base blocks.  I really went for it and I was a blubbering mess at the end. So my ftp result was 263 watts; a new power pb and some 30+ watts more than this time last year. This is a significant improvement and I'm thrilled that I have this power base to work from. That said, I also weighed myself on January 1st and that's an all time high too. 77kgs, which is the heaviest I have been in a very long time. So the plan is to get this down to 70kg by June and that should see my power/weight ratio get within striking reach of the magical 4w/kg.

I've started entering a few events, most notably the Gill Jessop Sporting 14 time trial organised by the Kingston Wheelers. It's in February so it's always a cold one but it's a good, no nonsense season opener, with excellent cake. (Although that's currently banned from my diet). I have also entered the National 12 hour TT on the same course as my failed 12 hour last year. The aim here is to hit 240 miles minimum and if Simon and Dale enter, which they probably will, and the day is a good one, I am sure we will have a crack at the Phoenix 12hr team record.

However, for the next month it's all about the turbo, with a long ride at the weekend.  I've got an ftp value to improve on.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Next year

As I write, I am 8 miles from having ridden 6000 miles this year; by some distance the most I have ever ridden. To the purists, the fact that a big chunk of this has been done on the turbo may be a problem, but I'm pretty chuffed with having done this. I just need to tick off those 8 miles, or a few more within the next six days.  Also as I write, I have a streaming head cold, which is my first for quite a while. Just in time for Christmas; magic! So maybe a bit more miles next year would be good. 7000 miles would mean 135 miles per week. Which just means one slightly extended commute each week. I reckon I can do that.

Next season is starting to take a bit of shape.  My aim is to mix it up a little bit more. The Kingston Wheelers Audax series will give me some long distance events to focus on as a practice for qualifying for Paris-Brest-Paris in 2019, but I'm going to have a little dabble with some closed circuit road racing.  To be honest, I feel like I will be far too long in the tooth for it but there are some training days next month which I have booked up for which are compulsory for novices and 4th cat. riders to race in the local cycle league. If nothing else, it will give me some VO2 max workouts which will be useful sessions for the shorter time trials. I am either going to really enjoy it or really hate it. We shall see.  The other target that would be awesome is a sub 4 hour 100. I'm not sure that I've got it in me but maybe on a good course on a good day I might be able to get close.

Kingston Phoenix stuff has kept me very busy lately. Trying to ensure that we have a club run out every Sunday has been hard work. I have always been used to meeting Simon and getting a ride done by 10am, but the needs of the club has meant a later start.  It's been good to ride in a group and we are putting together a great little training group, which we hope will help to encourage new riders and develop the club.  That said, I do miss the solitude of riding sometimes, just being on my own or with one or two close friends, chewing the cudd, talking arse and taking in the scenery.

I'm also promoting my first Open time trial at the end of the season which is quite a large responsibility as we are using it to raise money for charity in light of the deaths of three of my club mates. I want to make sure that I do it right.

Sunday, 10 December 2017


I'm trying to get some serious turbo action at the moment. I spent a bit of time looking back at my TrainerRoad history and the obvious thing is that if I maintain 250/300 TSS consistently, then my ftp takes a nice lurch upwards. With the weather being cold and icy it's making it easier to focus on my turbo work.  I want to try to get my ftp up and over 260 watts by the time we get to May, as that should set me up for some good performances. The Kingston Wheelers have their Audax series which will be my aerobic events to focus on next season. At the moment, it's turbo and coffee drinking at the weekend.

I've also treated my self to a Garmin 800 to help me plan and discover some new routes in the Surrey Hills and beyond. Looking forward to it.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

A bit of Ballbuster

I had entered the Human Race Ballbuster a few months ago and almost immediately got injured. I was only going to ride out and spectate but I ended up being drafted into one of the Epsom Tri Club teams as their bike rider. We had Phil running the first leg, who had competed in Kona just the month before and Gary running the glory leg; a pretty decent runner. I had the Van Nic with full mudguards and winter gear on, so not exactly in race mode.

It was actually quite a lot of fun as most competitors were doing the full event so were saving themselves on the bike and was able to go past quite a few. I didn't really hammer it but kept a pretty good tempo throughout and was only overtaken by 2 other relay teams. We ended up as 7th overall with a combined time of 3:07. Most importantly, I got one of the infamous Ballbuster hoodies.

Gary, Kona Phil, yours truly.
I've finished my first TrainerRoad block and just about to start to repeat it as I am planning to get a bigger base for next year. My weeks have been bulked out with a couple of rides of 20 miles on the way home, which are just steady recovery rides. I haven't started the really hurty stuff yet. That's next month.