Thursday, 28 April 2011

Well that went quite well

107 miles in 6:14 (official time, including feed station stops), 39th out of 253 people doing the long route. Not bad considering that I've missed a couple of months worth of training, and I've not ridden more than four and a half hours since... let me think... August?

The preparation was pretty much perfect - a week of rest and eating, culminating in a magic pasta followed by rice pudding at Jon's, courtesy of Jem. Staying over gave me the chance to meet little Esme, reaquaint myself with slightly bigger Tom, and meant I didn't have to get up at 6am. Easter Monday morning came and a light breakfast, a gentle roll to the start and we were off...

Light winds, sunshine and Jon and pal pulling on the front for the first ten miles. Then some more pulling on the front by Jon, interspersed with me trying to get him to slow slightly on the flat and hoping he'd wait for me at the top of every climb. This continued for about 50 miles, until the first couple of real climbs... the kind where people were walking... but somehow I wasn't. Somehow, all those intense turbo sessions had done something. Somehow the training had worked.

We rolled through the 100km in about three and a quarter hours. A brief calculation gave me similar to complete the remaining 70km and finish in a Gold standard time. How hard could that be?

Well, then came the hills. The gut busting knee wrenching teeth clenching real hills. Some I remembered from last year, some were new or maybe blanked out. I rode them all though, even though I was sub-walking pace for parts. Being able to trackstand is a handy skill.

And finally - the last 30km. At this point I was confident I'd finish so I was able to put a bit more work in on the front. Handily this coincided with a drop in energy from Jon (who later turned out to be incubating a nasty stomach bug) so I was able to pay back the earlier favours a little. A group gathered behind as we swept up slower people who'd started before us.

Then the last 5km. A main road, flatish and fast. I thought I'd sit on the front and time-trial to the finish, towing the group home. Three others in Performance Cycles jerseys had similar thoughts though, so I ended up four back.

500m to go. A rise in the road - not a hill, just a kicker. So I kicked, sprinting into the climb, breaking away from the group. Then a black a white rocket, who had the same idea, came past me. Ah, Jon's back. One other rider came too, and when I looked back we were 50m ahead of the bunch. Childish I know, but I'm really a big kid.

The finish line. The Easter Egg. The food, coffee, stretch, bimble back to Jon's for more food, water, tea and cake. Home.

Slump on sofa.... a nagging feeling I've forgotten something...

Recovery Tights!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

First event

When I broke myself, one of my thoughts was that I'd wasted all the money used in entering various events. Well, here I am the day before my first scheduled one and I'm tapering and carbo loading in preparation. For those who don't speak cyclish, that means I'm resting and eating.

Tomorrow is the Cotswold Spring Classic, an event so good that they give you an Easter egg at the end. I did it last year - it was tough, but not killer - and it'll be a good test to see how much worse I am after an unexpected couple of months off earlier this year.

Jon claims that he's going to pace me round the 100 mile route (there is a 100km option) but I seriously doubt whether he'll be able to ride as slowly as I'll be going, especially when there are other riders to chase. At least the weather is looking promising - 20C, 9mph winds - so he can work on his cycling tan.

So how do I feel? Legs are... OK. My newly acquired powermeter is giving me a rating of "Cheshire" on the cheese-legs scale. I reckon I may have been at "Double Gloucester" this time last year, so not quite as good. I've certainly not done anywhere near the amount of hill climbing practice - I've missed those weekly 7am trips to the Cotswolds to ride for five hours every Saturday.

All in all, I'm pretty positive. Not that I'll do well, but that I'm actually going to be on the start line. If I complete the 100 mile I'll even be ahead of my "best case scenario". Fingers (and collarbone screws) crossed.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Personal Training Camp Days 4 and 5

Failure. Failure to do the planned 400km/16 hours. The total was about 12 and a half hours, 320km. Not bad, but not great.

Still, I've learnt a couple of things.
  • In the middle of a personal training camp, on the designated "rest day", don't do a set of power intervals and then get taken out by Jon to be "manned up"
  • After being "manned up", the most likely result for the next day will be a bimbling recovery ride, at a pace that a unicycling rhino would call slow
  • Pro-cyclists, on a pro-cyclist training camp, probably don't have to go down the tip
  • It's highly unlikely that they'll go shopping for socks in Winchester either, and end up buying expensive handbag presents
  • And don't get me started on the temptations of hot pastie sellers and free samples in the posh chocolate shop. They don't sell many pasties in Lanzarote.
Essentially, life gets in the way. Which to be fair is no bad thing.

I needed some socks.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Personal Training Camp Days 2 and 3

After the excitement of my longest ride for ages on day one, I eased things back slightly for day two and did a well used loop of 85km. Pace was slightly slower (a good thing) and I clocked up another three hours.

That's all I can remember. Wow, it was only two days ago and already my mind is a blank. I think that's the problem with solo rides on familiar roads - everything blends together. There may have been a dead badger or two but I've seen a lots of dead badgers recently; it must be the season for them.

Day three. This was designated as my "rest day", so I was up early, did a trip to the tip to clear some garage space, visited the bike shop for cables and rim tape and returned home to talk myself into some intervals. After an hour of internal debate I dragged my carcass down to the garage and fired up the turbo. Two sets of 3 x 2 minutes, at a power of "hurty". After the first set I remembered that I'd also arranged another ride with Andy Schlek/Jon that evening. Hmm. Better not do the full second set then. Another hour clocked up.

5pm, and it looks like Jon this time, instead of that Andy fella. Jon in his full shop team kit including matching silly shorts. We set off and I soon realised that wha looked like Jon's Wilier (that's a bike) was in fact some kind of lightweight motorcycle. That's all I could conclude as I just about hung on behind him as we cruised along at a steady 45kph. There were also "vroom-vroom" noises and exhaust fumes but I'd rather not talk about them.

Another 35km notched up, and another hour and a quarter (there were some hills where the pace dropped a little). I limped up the stairs, fed Jon coffee and a hot cross bun, then collapsed on the the sofa.

So much for a "rest day".

The score after three days - 9 hours 45 minutes riding, 257km. Oh, and the start of a saddle sore...

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Personal Training Camp Day 1

Ow. My legs really shouldn't hurt this much. 114km, 4hr 30mins, a few hills in there. Probably a bit more intense than I should have been riding but I seem to be doing that a lot recently. I'm sure tomorrow will be different.

I was up on time, coffee'd on time and out on time. I'd found a route called "Magnificat Stage 1 Plus" buried on my laptop, which I thought was the first chunk of last year's event with a loop back. Almost right. It was obviously something I'd drawn last year after the event, as the first 30km and last 40km were from the official route but with a beautiful linking section through some picture perfect Hampshire villages. Honestly, I had a "Isn't this bit of England brilliant" moment and I even saw my shadow a couple of times as the sun bravely tried to make an appearance.

Hell, I even passed the Vitacress watercress place and the entrance to Jody Scheckter's organic farm.

I stopped near Basingstoke for a Snickers and Powerade top-up which just about saved me from some low-sugar wobbliness and I kept up the pace until catching my chain on my front mech (again... really must sort that) which pulled it round and meant I sounded like I was trying to grate a spoon for the last 5km.

In, stretch, recovery drink and a first appearance of the year for the recovery tights.

The next couple of hours were spent slumped on the sofa watching "The Flying Scotsman", continuing the cycling theme.

Now off to a quiz. That's not very training camp but I'll pretend the Directeur Sportif has organised it.

Tomorrow - 3 or so hours, then physio appointment, then maybe another hour. We'll see.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

My own, personal, training camp

For those who spend their lives not obsessed with cycling, training and eating (and I know there are a couple of you left) a training camp is where you go somewhere sunny with other freaks and spend the days riding and eating.

This is not my plan.

I've been to a couple of training camps - semi-public ones - in Southern Spain. The weather was sunny (we'll conveniently gloss over the rain sodden days where we nearly died of exposure), the routes glorious and the food plentiful. Riding with a group adds additional motivation and having a plan and some ride leaders meant that six hours of training a day was done.

This is not my plan either.

I have 5 days. Three in the week, two in the weekend. I'm in drizzly Berkshire. I've no-one to ride with Wednesday and Thursday, the chance of 45 minutes riding with Jon and Friday and no plans for Saturday or Sunday. My endurance fitness is questionable and my motivation marginal. I do however have a fistful of GPS routes, a garage-full of energy products and a fridgeful of milkshakes.

My target: 400km or 16 hours.

Game on.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Hello bike!

Well, that's what the sign said.

I was out for an after-work ride with Jon. Well, that's who I was expecting. Imagine my surprise to find that Andy Schleck had turned up in his place. Weighing 52kgs and putting out 500 watts there was no way I was keeping up. Especially with that motor in his bike too. I managed to cling on to his back wheel on the flat bits and downhill bits, but whenever there was the slightest uphill he dropped me like a red hot hedgehog. Obviously my hard training week had taken things out of me a little, plus my brakes were rubbing. And I'd ridden 80 miles before meeting him. Oh, and I was just recovering from a virus. With two flat tyres.

It was either that, or Jon has been training quite hard. Bastard.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Maybe I like the misery

I've now got the ability to measure the power I generate on my road bikes, thanks to some shiny metal, carbon fibre and lots and lots of electronics. I've done three rides with this ability and can happily report that having another number to watch on my bike computer reduces boredom by 8%.

Is it, however, not enough. I need more things to measure. Training Peaks has a concept of Training Stress Score, calculated from the time and intensity of a ride. TSS is interesting but there is something better I've just invented. I'll start with the basics of what I want to record.
  • The hurt. Either I'm dishing out the hurt, or someone is dishing it out to me. This will work by monitoring the vital signs of riders around to see how hard they are working compared to me. It'll also monitor people going out of range behind me (i.e. I've dropped them) or in front (they've dropped me). Hurt is measured in Voigts.
  • Food in versus energy out. I want to press a button to tell my computer I've just had a bar, a gel or a bottle of energy drink. I also want it to work out how much energy I've burnt, split into fat and carbs. And obviously I want it to tell me when I'm about to run out so I can stop for cake and king size Snickers.
  • Weather. Not just temperature but wind (strength and direction), rain, hail, snow and sun. This will be important later. Weather is measured on a scale from Southern France in July, to Belgium in March.
  • Vibration. Not only will this allow me to complete my classification of the worst roads in Berkshire but it will give me the ability to boast about how hard I am (no, not that kind of hard...)
  • Annoying squeeks. Chain, pedals, knees. Any kind of disconcerting noise really.
  • My outfit. It's important to be coordinated.
Pretty good huh? But that's not the best bit. The best bit is that I want to measure the misery. The misery is a combination of hurt, energy loss, weather, vibration, noise and whether I've got mismatched gloves on.

Misery = Hurt x (energy loss + weather + vibration + noise), with a minor multiplier for bad clothing and a major modifier for bonking (running out of carbs completely).

Forget about coming back from rides saying "I did a TSS of 135". What we all really want to boast about is our Misery Stress Scores.