Wednesday, 24 June 2009

It all comes together

Firstly Mayhem: Mleh. Quieter than last year, course was a bit dull too. Still, good company, pleasant BBQ, some drinking, some piss taking, and enough riding to counter the drinking and BBQ.

Secondly, a fitness test. The Monday after Mayhem, Caroline, Elliot and I went to visit Matt and Anth at Torq Fitness to have ourselves assessed. Somehow, we managed to spend ten hours there - blood lactate testing, threshold test (basically riding up a big hill at the point of vomiting) results discussion and lots of time to be reminded of training theory and ask lots and lots of questions. I really enjoyed the day and I can recommend it to anyone who is vaguely serious about training properly. I'd also improved my watts/kg by 30% since the last test, which I was quite pleased about.

Anyway, the real purpose of this post. This evening I went on a normal mountain bike ride on dry, dusty, local trails. I even found a section of flowy wooded singletrack that I just had to ride twice. Rides like this remind me why I've always thought mountain biking better than road biking. It's not better though, just different. I think road biking is more consistent, but mountain biking has more extremes - nailing some swoopy singletrack is a brilliant feeling, but trudging through the mud because your bike is clogged and you're cold and wet is worse than a road ride can ever be.

I've decided that July is mountain bike month, and August will be fun month. I've got a 12 hour solo at the end of each of them, but the August one will have less specific training ahead of it, and more specific enjoyment.

Roll on Summer.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Friday, 19 June 2009

Mmm, atmosphere.

Old school lighting for the mountain mayhem campsite.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

New phone

I've got a new phone, so sending a picture of my newly acquired pez collection to associate it to the blog.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Slaying the Dragon

(Title nicked from Phill!)

All done. All 117 miles. There's a bit of debate over the amount of climbing, but it was quite a lot - somewhere between 2600 and 3000m. No damage, to me or the bike.

So, that's the headlines. Now the story.

I was very relaxed about this ride, much more so than I usually am before an event. I think it was down to the amount of preparation, particularly all the hilly stuff we did in the Cotswolds. Doing 100 mile rides every weekend meant that 117 miles was just a normal training distance, with a little bit more added on. I can ride a little bit more, so how hard could it be? It was another long ride, this time in Wales. I've been to Wales before, so I'd got over my fear of that one too.

We travelled down on the Saturday afternoon, after topping up with flapjack and TdF DVDs at Jon's. We'd booked into a Travelodge at Cardiff services, about 10 miles form the start. The Travelodge was... um... like a secure unit? Not quite as bad as a prison, but not exactly pleasant. We entertained ourselves with the service station facilities - shop, terrible food outlet, Costa Coffee (closed). That burnt ten minutes. Then it was back to the room, grasping our exciting new possessions - Soleros and water - for a couple of hours reading porn. Bike porn, obviously. Dinner came and went (the less said the better), then it was only a case of waiting for latercomer Darren, who'd been doing the Microsoft Challenger Adventure Race all week. Then sleepy time, ready for an early start.

0630 is normal for me now. Breakfast of dry bagels and instant coffee is a poor parody of my usual fare. Still, it was that or grease in a bun.

We got prepared, cleared the room, loaded the cars and set off towards the start. Once we'd negotiated the mile long queue to get to the event car park it was a short ride to the start. Thankfully the weather was forecast to be fine, so it was full Euro-roadie gear - super tight logoed up white jersey, bib shorts, white helmet and not much else. Six Torq bars, two Torq gels, two bottles of Torq drink and two spare lots of powder. Stick with what you know.

So, we set off just after nine. I started quickly, wanting to get into my riding pace early on. For some reason we seemed to be overtaking lots of people. Hmm... good sign. There were cyclists everywhere, marshalls, police, motorbikes, ambulances (unfortunately several with wailing sirens and flashing lights) and even spectators shouting encouragement (or it could have been abuse, my Welsh is poor). And... and...

The Mavic support vehicles.

These were my very favourite things of the whole event.

Forget the challenging climbs, the sweeping descents, the strings of riders blasting across the moors, the awesome, breathtaking scenery.

I liked the yellow Mavic van, the yellow Mavic Skoda Octavia with complicated roof rack, and especially the yellow motorbike with SPARE WHEELS ON IT! The SPARE WHEEL MOTORBIKE! I'd seen this many many times watching the Tour, the Giro, the classics. The yellow motorbike. And not a rubbish British one - it had French plates!

Every time I saw these I grinned. It all felt real - here I was, on a posh road bike, in full Euro-cyclist roadie gear, riding with 100s of others, being supported by the Mavic neutral support vehicles. Wow. If I'd thought about this before, it would be a lifetime ambition achieved.


So, the ride. Fabulous course, although the hills didn't seem steep compared to the Cotswolds. 14%? That was never 14%. They were obviously much much longer - proper alpine style climbs and descents, with draggy, hairpiny climbs over the mountains (probably mountains). Fabulous weather - not too hot, never really cold, and pretty much sunny all the way. Great descents, 50mph clocked on occasions.

Other stuff I remember: Jon leading a train of about 30 riders (with Darren and I just behind him) for about 20 minutes. The aftermath of a nasty crash on one of the big descents (hope the guy was OK). Drinking 4 litres of liquid and producing treacle-like piss. The final, long climb that went on and on and on. My squealing brakes. The final 5 km that got faster and faster until it hit the last 1 km, and there were only two riders and me left from our group, contesting a balls-out sprint for the line. Coming second in the sprint. Seeing Jon at the finish after he'd dropped Darren and I on the last climb.

We averaged 17mph, ride time was about 6 hours 50mins, total time 7:08.

Happy with that.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Big Sunday

So it's Friday now, two days before the event I've been training for, for five months. The Dragon Ride (I think it deserves capitalisation).

I first posted about it in October 2008, and oddly also mentioned the Orbea Orca in the same post. Well, I've bought the Orca, I just need to complete the event.

I entered in December, and I guess that was when I started to put together (and follow) my training plan. Thinking back there were a lot of early mornings, overshoes, merino, softshell, lights and MP3s involved. I did miles and miles on the Scandal, on the road. As the weather got better and the roads less scary, I did miles and miles on the Allez, on the road.

Six hour solo road rides became "normal".

I'm going to type that again.

Six hour solo road rides became normal.

Next came the hills, and the weekly trips to the Cotswolds to ride with Jon. I was there so often that I'm almost "Unkie Bryan" to his 1-year old, Thomas. When I started going, he was crawling. Now he's running. There's also been a lot of Jem's flapjack consumed (thanks Jem!). Oh, and chocolate biscuit fridge cake. Brilliant cakes.

Looking at my training diary, in the past 6 months I've done:

_________________Total____Week avg.
Training sessions______160________6.2
Duration___________251:14______09:39 hh:mm
Calories___________147888______5688 kcal
Distance____________4912______188.9 km

Holy crap. That's a lot of hours, calories and kilometres. That's more than I drive. Hang on a sec...

There are 9kcals in a gram of fat. That makes... over 16kg of fat burnt.

Wow. Without all the riding I'd be a bloater.

So, roll on Sunday. Fingers crossed. It's just another long road ride, this time in Wales. Should be fun.

Sunday, 7 June 2009


Tapering feels weird. After weeks and weeks of training, cutting back as a race approaches doesn't seem right. My legs are saying "do more, do more". My brain is saying "don't you dare!".

As far as I can figure, I'm in pretty good shape for the ride next Sunday. A restful week (with just a couple of sessions) should have me bouncing with energy. I've even picked out what to wear and bought a super-light waterproof in case the day is plagued with showers.

All that remains is the waiting...

And the eating.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Itchy, itchy (with picture)

Went over to Snelsmore Common for an impromptu birthday party/BBQ/picnic on Tuesday evening. It's been a great English summer week - hot in the day, warm in the evenings and light til about 930pm. Now I usually blast over Snelsmore on a mountain bike, so it was good to hang out, eat burnt things and play volleyball/frisbee/rugby/whatever.

Now, from about 8pm something was eating me. Not in a "mental itch" kind of way, more of a "there are things chewing on me" kind of way. However, they were tiny, tiny things. Not visible to the eye in the half-light, just felt as they chowed down on me. Still, they were tiny, tiny things. How bad could it be?

My left leg has about 35 bites on it. Below the knee. About 10 more above the knee. My right leg has joined in. My arms only have about 8 bites each. My head, just 3 or 4.

I'm on a pint of Anthisan rubbed in every hour. Zirtec, taken daily. And I'm wearing boxing gloves to prevent too much scratching.

Monday, 1 June 2009

That mental thing

People sometimes ask me how I can go and do long rides without my brain melting and dribbling onto my favourite cycling top. Especially during the winter, when it just isn't pleasant. Winter means either uncomfortable outside or staring at a laptop playing DVDs in the garage.

There are a bunch of reasons
  • High boredom threshold. Sort of. When on a bike. Off a bike, my boredom threshold is microbial. My catchphrase as a kid was "I'm bored"
  • Mental chunking. Probably the only reason that has scientific proof. I don't go for 6 hour rides, I ride to the next village. When I'm there, I ride to the next one. Then the next one...
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She helps a lot.
  • Music. Special "bike ride" playlist, at a very low volume.
  • Other people. Whilst they can be distracting (by being faster than me) they can also be motivating (by being slower than me).

Now on Saturday I went out for a solo ride, 4-5 hours or so. About 10 minutes in I realised I'd completely forgotten the MP3 player - all those rides with Jon meant that it wasn't top of my pre-ride checklist any more. I was under a bit of time pressure so I carried on without it. Then I found another thing that helps me deal with long rides. Summer. Sun, warmth, green countryside, general chirpiness in the air. Somehow the novelty of it proved a perfect distraction.

So, to prevent boredom: Summer, or Buffy Summers. You choose.