May – if you want to go faster you’ll have to scare yourself

Coming off the back of some disappointing rides in April I’d been doing a lot of thinking.  About training, about nutrition and about how I’ve been racing.  My conclusions included upping my carbohydrate intake and building on the limited VO2Max work I’d already done.  I also listened to a discussion with Joe Beer on the Cycling Time-Trials Podcast during which he mentioned the phrase above in the title.  I started to wonder if I wasn’t “scaring” myself enough i.e. I was always keeping a little something back.

Anyway, the first club 10 of the month was a windy affair and I paced it pretty well, if conservatively, on another sunny yet bitterly cold evening.  3rd from 34 riders

The weekend saw the first 50 of the season – the Dukinfield CC 50 around J4/16.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

I made sure coming into this that I was well fueled and hydrated so I was feeling pretty good.  I had an idea of the power I wanted to ride at and I managed it very consistently, so I was pleased to come in with my best ever 50 mile power.  I was held up a small amount, but often that helps give you a breather in a 50 and is not usually a factor.  And I did have a small mishap when I dropped the gel I’d been carrying as I attempted to consume it, so by the end I was running on fumes.  Despite a few aches and pains I’d say that overall it went very much to plan and that gave me a lot of confidence that I can probably eek out a few more watts in the next one.  9th from 108 riders (£30 1st team)

On the following Monday (and then the next Friday and the next Monday) I took part in some sports science testing at the University of Chester.  You can read about that experience here.

The following club 10 was on a warm and fast night but I was tired and couldn’t take advantage off it.  I did manage to go a little bit faster off slightly less power.  2nd from 38 riders

Then it was back to good old J2/9 for the M&DTTA 25 championship.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

I was aiming to ride at a power PB level on what was a blustery, but dry day.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to hold it but overall it was a decent ride with decent power.  It was a confusing day in many ways – it felt very hard but also reasonably quick.  I managed my fastest time on J2/9 this season so I was happy with my ride.

There were some quick riders out so I was happy to nudge into the top ten and we won the team prize again.  10th from 104 riders (£30, 1st vet 45-49, 1st team)

I missed the midweek club 10 due to a work commitment so next up was the Stone Wheelers 25 on J5/8 – a fast dual-carriageway course on the A50, with the finishing stretch known as the “concrete mountain”!  The weather all week looked sketchy and as I arrived at HQ it was decidedly so!

I was thinking it may be called off but the organisers took a sensible decision to postpone the start by half an hour.  I don’t know what happened to the earlier riders but it meant that I managed to get all the way round without getting wet.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

I’d expected a bit of a cross-tailwind out but somebody in the start queue said it would be on the way back so I was confused.  It felt fast when I started but I was conscious that I wanted to hold something back for coming back up the mountain.  As it was, going out I reached 42mph at a low wattage so I was unsurprised when the first 10 came up in around 19:05 without a significant effort. When it got to the turn the surface was very wet so I went around both roundabouts like I was on a shopping bike.  Back onto the DC and it still felt fast and I was pretty comfortable until I crossed the McDonald’s roundabout and started to make my way up the mountain, in what felt like a cross-headwind.  It was hard work and felt like a battle all the way – if you haven’t done it before it feels relentless.  Nevertheless I thought I was on for a fast time and was doing calculations in my head over the last two miles.  I missed the club 25 record by 13 seconds but I couldn’t be too disappointed as I took 32s off my 25 mile PB and ticked off a “51” – something I’ve been chasing since last season.  To cap it all myself, Alan and Chris won the team prize and set a new club team 25 record.  9th from 119 (£30, 6th on standard, 1st team)

A couple of hard training sessions and I had very heavy legs at the club 10 on a lovely warm evening – surprisingly the lowest turnout of the year.  2nd from 27 riders

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

At the weekend I had entered the Warrington RC 50M TT which also included the VTTA Manchester & NW 50M championship.  The weather forecast was a yellow warning for rain showers, and it was windy.  In fact, on my drive to the HQ down Twemlow Lane it was dry as I turned into the lane, halfway down there was torrential rain and then it was dry again at the end!  The organiser was especially worried about lightning but certainly for my ride it held off, with only a light shower towards the end.  As a ride it was frustrating.  I felt good but there was much more traffic on the roads than usual which meant getting held up – ignore what I said above about it not affecting a 50 too much!  I was held up at Chelford roundabout each pass and I was held up coming out of Gough’s Lane each time too.  In addition, lines of cars waiting to pass riders meant I was held up on some of the fast straights too, especially passing the Egerton Arms.  Also after the first pass over Chelford at 6 miles I hit a pothole and lost my bottle (actual, not metaphorical) which meant I ended up doing the entire 50 in warm, humid conditions without a drink.  By the end I was steadily losing power so I was happy with my time but it could easily have been a fair bit quicker.  10th from 97 riders (£20, 5th on standard, VTTA Manchester & NW – ES Ward Memorial Championship Cup)

What seemed like a good idea at the time I entered, on the Bank Holiday Monday I got up at stupid o’clock to ride the historic Anfield Bicycle Club 100 – possibly the oldest bicycle race in the world, dating back to 1889 I believe.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

The course started on the A53, across Espley roundabout to Tern Hill, then A41 to Press Heath and back.  A short diversion up to Muller Island and then back across Tern Hill and Espley for 4 loops of the A53, B5063/2, A442.  It didn’t take long after the start for me to realise I didn’t feel good.  My lower back and glutes were still sore from the 50 I’d done less than 48 hours before and I was struggling to put out the power I was aiming for (around 250W).  I didn’t seem to be making much headway against the cross-headwind.  Things picked up a bit after I crossed Espley and got onto the D25/8e course and with the help of a tailwind to Prees I felt a little better.  The turn back into the headwind put paid to that!  I was also uncomfortable on my saddle and my left arm/shoulder was hurting too.  At some point it started raining too compounding my increasing misery.  Again things picked up with the cross-tailwind all the way down to Shawbury before turning onto the B5063.  The combination of headwind and appalling surface-dressed road nearly finished me as I could see my power and speed drifting down.  Turning onto the A41 brought the delights of the Peplow Pavé to further rattle my fillings and I heard something ping off the bike – I later discovered I lost a bolt holding the saddle on.  A little bit of respite on the A53 and I passed the finish line for the first time.  The thought of 3 more laps and I wanted to cry, with dark thoughts filling my mind as the course passed within a mile or so of the HQ “There’s no shame in climbing off”  “Today’s not your day”  “Shouldn’t have done that 50”.  Instead I decided I would try another lap.  I was just about on 4 hour schedule at 50 miles which meant I wasn’t on schedule as I knew I’d get slower.  Everything was hurting – I was cold, wet and struggling to hold my power and my position.  It was a real fight and I didn’t really enjoy it, which is unusual for me.  Each lap I promised myself the next one would be the last – I’m such a liar!  My 10 mile lap power was dropping.  250W, 249W, 244W, 245W, 243W, 240W, 234W.  I rallied a bit at 70 miles with a double caffeine gel – 242W, 237W and then a final push of 246W.  I finished in just under 4 hours and 5 minutes, which was 5 minutes outside my target time.  It took me an hour afterwards to get warm and stop feeling sick!  (11th from 84 riders, £20, 1st vet 50-59, 6th in VTTA National 100)

The next day I felt okay, if not a bit achey, but two days later I awoke feeling ill and without going into gory details I need to stay close to the lavatory.  I was meant to ride the Seamons 10 mile club championship but I was tired just walking around so I was unable to do so.  It might seem a bit “no shit Sherlock” but it seems that at my age two big efforts inside 48 hours is beyond my body’s capabilities.  I’v had this type of illness before when I’ve overreached and I’m gutted I’ve fallen into the same trap again.  It can take weeks to recover properly so I’ve already cancelled this weekend’s races.  Sometimes, I am still an absolute idiot.

During the month I managed 609 miles outdoors with 19,906ft ascent at around 19.3mph average, which used up around 22,665kcals. I spent 16 hours and 53 minutes on the turbo using a further 12,530kcals. Total for the month was 2,717TSS 

 

Lactate Threshold and Critical Power Testing

 

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Test 1

Over the course of three sessions I’ve been one of many guinea pigs taking part in a study that will essentially assess the effects of recovery on the ability to work at anaerobic levels, and produce a repeatable test to measure it. I think the findings will be published sometime in the future and will undoubtedly contribute to the body of knowledge in Sports Science.  It’s a technical subject but interesting nonetheless and I look forward to seeing the finished article in the future.

From a personal perspective it has given me some up-to-date data carried out in laboratory conditions which I’ll describe here.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

BodPod

At the first session I was measured and weighed and my body composition was analysed. There were a couple of anomalies with this that are worth mentioning. The first is that I appear to have slightly shrunk since the last time I was “formally” measured. Apparently I am now 174.2cm in height, as opposed to the 175cm that I was in 2005 when I last had a proper medical. A bit of research suggests that we can lose up to 1cm every 10 years over the age of 40 so that kind of explains it, but it was a bit of an unwelcome surprise. The second anomaly was the results of the BodPod body composition analyser. It came out with a 24% bodyfat, even after a second go and a calibration. Which suggested I am overweight and that I’m carrying the equivalent of about 16 bags-of-sugar worth of fat!  To put that into some sort of context – if it is correct and I somehow managed to lose that amount of fat to get down to “lean” levels I could have a power-to-weight ratio not dissimilar to a Tour de France rider – not going to happen!  A series of 9 measurements were also taken using calipers and this apparently resulted in a measure closer to 12%. As all previous subjects had shown a close correlation between the BodPod and the calipers something was clearly a bit weird about me, but it’s probably safe to say the answer is somewhere in between (my Tanita bio-impedance scales at home report between 12% and 16% depending on hydration levels – but these are notoriously inaccurate).  I’m a couple of kilos heavier than I was this time last year – I’m currently in the process of shedding some of that!

Then it was time to have my finger pricked and some blood spots taken to analyse normal lactate levels.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

The ergonometer is behind the VDUs – we didn’t use the Wattbike

Onto the bike test, or more correctly, the ergonometer test. The ergonometer is a very accurate static “bike” that strictly controls the resistance of the ramp.  I was given a face mask and hooked up to a gas exchange analyser and off we went. After a warmup the power started at 100W and then slowly ramped up until I could do no more. I topped out at a tad over 410W and 175bpm. Another blood test and then I had to immediatly go as hard as I could for 2 minutes. The ramp was to clear out my anerobic energy systems and then the 2 minute effort would be all about my aerobic capabilities, from which my Critical Power (CP) could be assessed.  At the end of that it was back to a ramp, this time starting at 360W, I didn’t last long beyond that before I couldn’t turn the pedals. After a cooldown that was it.  The power and HR graph at the start of this post is the trace from the test.

My CP (equivalent to 20 minute power) came out at around a very surprising 333W – which means I’m not trying hard enough in 10’s!

The second and third tests followed a similar approach but without the CP test.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Test 2

The tests themselves seem innocuous enough until you are doing them.  In total they last about 33 minutes (for me anyway – if you hold the ramp for longer they will last longer!) and run out at around 40-ish TSS.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Test 3

The ramp itself is reasonably comfortable until you get to the pointy end.  Then I found that I became very aware of the mask and I often had a real desire to scratch my face!  At the point of failure I was gasping for air and my legs were burning, and the guys are shouting to keep going.  The ergononmeter doesn’t let up so my cadence just got slower and slower until I couldn’t really turn the pedals.  It’s a horrible feeling, and then you do it again!  That said, I found the experience very interesting and the data has given me a lot of food for thought.

 

April – Consistently Inconsistent

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

April fool’s day and I was at Goostrey for the Withington Wheelers 25 mile time trial on the challenging J2/9 course.  A full field, including a novice event, and rumours of lots of riders being turned away.  Incredible really for an early season event on a slow course.  April showers were falling as I drove there but thankfully it had stopped by the time I rolled up to the start.  First 25 of the season – probably going to hurt I reckoned.  I was right.  For the first five miles I felt rubbish.  Then I felt good for the next fifteen.  Hanging on for the last five was the best I could do at that point.  My back ached, my neck and shoulders were sore and I’d been fidgety all of the way round.  And it was pretty windy too.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Accelerating just after joining the A50 from Seven Sisters Lane. Courtesy and © Ellen Isherwood

I was, however, quite happy with the power I managed, although the time I recorded was my worst time since 2015, and in the end so was my finishing position – go figure!  15th from 120 riders

I decided I was going to tweak my position again.  Patience is not my thing!  I ordered a switchplate kit from Canyon that offsets the armrest stacks and allowed me to get my armrests into what I hope is the Goldilocks position (not too narrow, not too wide, just right…) and I added a cm or so to the height.  

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

My saddle moved forward a cm in an attempt to stop the fidgeting.

Speaking of position changes, somebody got pinged for a 3cm rule breach which was the cue for another flurry of posting on the time-trial forum.  The fact that the breach was identified via a picture only added to the storm, which threatened to escape the teacup and then some (something I talked about in this post here).  Having seen galleries from my races so far there are quite a few riders who, on the face of it, could have been in trouble, but that was their lookout.  However, it became clear that the CTT were not helping themselves by posting images of race winners in positions that were clearly contravening their own regulation, even if those pictures were old stock images.  And it hadn’t been mentioned once in an HQ, which is the complete opposite to the other regulation change for 2017 (signing out) which had been mentioned every time.  Anyway, to cut an already long story long, the CTT then announced a moratorium on the 3cm rule for 2017, meaning that anyone who had spent time and money on complying had effectively wasted both.  Distinctly not great for all involved.

Back to the racing.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

On Saturday 8th it was the VTTA National 10 mile championship on the J2/1 course.  The weather was absolutely fantastic – sunny and warm.  I didn’t really think I had a chance because the VTTA races are handicapped.  There is a “standard” time for each age from 40 upwards and the actual time is subtracted from the standard to give a “+” or “-” against the standard.  I came 4th overall on actual time but that only translated to 10th on standard.  The winner was, I believe, 86 years old and still doing a 10 miles in less than 30 minutes.  The 2nd place guy was 73 years old and did a 23:30!  Amazing and inspirational to anyone who thinks they are too old for competitive sport!  Frustratingly, myself and two other Manchester & NW Group riders (Darren and Mike) were only 16 seconds away from a Gold Medal for the fastest overall VTTA Section.  4th from 107 riders, 10th place in the Nationals on Standard 

Next up were three consecutive races over the Easter Weekend, starting with a chase for a fast time at the “V”.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

Luckily the rain that was falling as I sat in the car park died down and I managed my warmup and race in the dry.  I was expecting the ride out to the turn to be quick but it wasn’t and it felt harder than expected.  My time at the turn was considerably down on previous efforts although my power was up and I felt decent.  Coming back there were some really fast sections and I was gradually making up time.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Courtesy and © Craig Zadoroznyj

A really big effort and at the end I crossed the Line in 19:49 – 10 seconds down on my PB on what felt like a harder day.  I feel that with the right conditions I can really improve on it so I’ll be back!  37th from 108 riders

The wind was up in Cheshire on Saturday.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

One of the hardest days I can remember on J2/9.  The headwind from Chelford to Ollerton was very much hard work and featured twice, whereas the Twemlow Lane tailwind only featured once – it’s rarely fair!  Of course it’s the same for everyone and the faster riders dealt with it better than I did.  I felt good and my power reflected that but for the second time in a month I’ve recorded my worst time on this course for 2 years.  I’m happy with my position and feel it’s a bit better than last year but I got roundly beaten by a couple of riders who I beat/was close to last year so maybe I’ve stood still relatively speaking.  That said, a very close call with a car that didn’t see me meant I was a) shaken up for a while and b) happy enough to finish in one piece.  Onwards and upwards.  10th from 97 riders (£10 1st team)

The final piece in my Easter racing jigsaw was a stupid o’clock start to get to Tilstock.  I wasn’t expecting much and accepted wisdom is not to do two races consecutively, let alone three, but I enjoy racing much more than training so there you have it!  It was a cold morning with a stiff breeze but nowhere near as bad as Saturday.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

I was expecting to feel the effects of Friday and Saturday but it soon became apparent that I wasn’t.  In fact I felt strong and was happily maintaining a very decent power output.  Normally, if I do two 25’s consecutively I am at least 10W down during the second.  Today my power was higher.  My minute man was a DNS but after about 10 minutes I could see the lady who had started two minutes ahead of me.  A couple of HGVs went past me on a straight section, followed by a couple of cars, but then we were quickly into a fairly twisty section and on the narrow A road they inevitably struggled to get past the rider in front.  When I analysed my data file for power and cadence I started to ease off at about 00:11:50.  By 00:12:00 my cadence and power drop to zero and apart from one spike in the middle it was 00:12:23 before I start pedalling again!  I missed the podium by 8 seconds and 1st on standard by 20 seconds, but who’s to say that the breather I got didn’t spur me on to better efforts afterwards, so you just put it down to experience.  The wind made the section from Tern Hill to Emsley hard going (but easy back) but then again after the turn back for home at Tern Hill there were long sections where 350W was getting me just under 25mph – very hard work indeed.  At the end I equalled my best time for this course on a day when many other riders struggled, and I beat a few that I didn’t expect to (i.e. the complete opposite of the day before).  A final word on the winner who tabled a 49, which I understand to be not just a course record but a county record!  That’s 30mph average over this course – ridiculous and awesome in equal measures!  4th from 111 riders (£20, 2nd on standard)

Club 10’s also started after Easter.  I made a bit of a hash of the first one, missing my start time due to some faulty overshoes delaying me, so when I set off I went off like a complete idiot and faded badly near the end meaning I was well beaten.  3rd from 37 riders

Leigh Premier’s 10 at D10/1 was the following Saturday.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

There was a delay to the start as the local council had decided to cut the grass verges – who knew local councils worked at the weekend?  The weather was sunny but a stiff breeze meant that most of the ride would be either tailwind or headwind.  I managed to get my pacing just right – going harder on the headwind (and uphill) sections and easing back fractionally with the wind at my back, so I was really happy with my ride.  You heard it here first – a tester happy with a ride and not making excuses!  4th from 74 riders (£20, 1st on standard)

The next club 10 was FREEZING!  On the back of a block of hard training sessions and a -ve Training Stress Balance (TSB) I expected to be tired and struggle so I took it easy at the start.  As it was I felt okay so ended up with a bit in hand at the end but was in the bizarre situation of having sweat dripping off me whilst simultaneously not being able to feel my fingers or toes!  More importantly the marshalls and volunteers deserve special thanks for standing around in that!   2nd from 29 riders

I’m not sure if the hard week and some issues with sleep caught up with me but after two decent races it all came down to earth with a bump!

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

The East Lancs Road Club 10 was a re-run of the J2/1 course earlier in the month.  This time the wind was giving a bit of a shove on the way out and a bit of a smack on the way back.  I didn’t really have a clue that it would be a bad day for me until riding to the start when I felt a little queasy.  After the start I felt very queasy but put it out of my mind as I thought it would go – it’s not unusual to feel bad in some way at the start of a TT until your body adjusts to the effort.  Unfortunately mine didn’t on this occasion and I felt bad all through the ride and I simply could not sustain any level of power.  At the end I’d lost nearly a minute on my time from 3 weeks earlier which was unsurprising as my power was 17W less, and even less than my last 25 mile race.  Consequently I lost a lot of ground to many of my peers in the overall standings.  18th from 105 riders

The next morning I was hoping I felt better as it was the VTTA National 15 Mile Championship on V728 in Hull.  I had never ridden a 15 before so was looking forward to it.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

The wind was really blowing when I arrived.  It was blowing such that the outbound leg would be a block headwind and the return would be a tailwind.  Riding to the start was a crosswind and it was flicking my deep section front wheel continually.  When I started the force of the headwind was quite staggering.  But it was also swirling which meant the front wheel was catching it again.  It was pretty sketchy and meant that my speed was dropping as low as 18mph on sections and by the time I took the turn and rejoined the return leg I’d done the first 8 miles in 20 minutes.  By complete contrast the return leg was how I imagine Brad Wiggins or Alex Dowsett feels – super-fast and relatively effortless!  I think I changed out of 56-11 only once, my speed (on the flat) peaked just over 40mph and I completed the second 7 miles in just under 13 minutes.  My power was still a bit down and I still didn’t feel 100% but I was happy enough in those conditions. 22nd from 129 riders

So how do I assess the season so far.  Well, it hasn’t been what I wanted it to be.  My power is all over the place, which I can’t explain given how well (I thought) my training had been going.  And other people have improved beyond me.  On the positive side I’ve ridden my course best times on J2/1, J2/3, D10/1 and D25/8e.  I’ve also had some times on courses that are my worst for several years!  I’ve had some rides I’m really pleased with and then some that were just horror shows.  I can’t explain it, let alone try to fix it, but I need to try to get some consistency because next month the longer races start.

During the month I managed 453 miles outdoors with 18,146ft ascent at around 18.4mph average, which used up around 16,364kcals. I spent 20 hours and 33 minutes on the turbo using a further 15,435kcals. Total for the month was 2,571TSS

And we’re off – sort of…

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

The race season starts in March – for me anyway.  After a winter holed-up training indoors it always feels like the light at the end of the tunnel when the first race comes around.  Cue the stirring music.

Excited.

Ready.

(Sound of needle scratching across vinyl…)

Disappointment.

The M&DTTA 10 on Saturday 11th was moved from J4/17 to J2/3 due to roadworks.  Earlier in the week the forecast was for strong winds and rain but it was dry with relatively light winds on the day.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

It was good to catch up with folks again and just be around an HQ again.  Hearing about their winter training.  Looking at shiny new kit.  Chewing the fat.

Down to business and everything went fine in my warmup and I felt okay.  I’d not trained in my new position over the winter but didn’t think that would be a big deal – I’ve never done that in any previous winter.  What I have done in the past though, which weather and time didn’t permit me this year, was take the TT bike out and ride at full speed for a few practice 10’s.  Riding to the start in position I started to realise I didn’t feel comfortable at all, a sensation that worsened as I set off.  My new-for-this-season Aerocoach armrests really dig in at the sides so they’ll take some getting used to, and my new lower front end and extended neck position were very uncomfortable.  A few miles in I was struggling to maintain the power output and by the time I reached the turn I was well down on where I thought I should be power-wise. I tried to push on hard, trying to use the discomfort as a motivator, which worked until I was held up by a queue of traffic trying to pass a slower rider and had to back off.  The breather I got meant I could attack the last mile so I recovered a bit but still finished nearly 20W down on the same ride last year, albeit only 1s slower.  It was a big disappointment because it’s the first time I’ve started the season with a worse performance than the previous season.  I knew I’d feel bad in the first race, I always do.  But not this bad.  With a couple of days hindsight I decided it wasn’t as bad as I first thought and I suspected it was down to the position and being race-rusty having not been out for a practice run – after all my average power increased in the second half of the race, even with a big drop due to being held up by traffic.  8th from 63 riders (£10 3rd veteran on standard, £10 1st team)

So I decided to bite the bullet and try training in position the following week.  I also swapped turbo trainers to a smart trainer that arrived after several months on back-order.  All I can say is wow!  It was (is) much harder and being in position definitely elevated my heartrate and made my legs hurt in all new ways!  By the weekend I was feeling more confident but realised it probably wouldn’t be a quick fix.  On a related note I’ve also been playing about with Zwift on the days when I’m supposed to be doing “easy” sessions – unfortunately it does somewhat draw you into going a bit harder than you should!  It is very clever though, especially the simulated road effect when you are riding over virtual cobbles or gravel, and the noticeable effects of inclines and drafting!

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

The weather forecast  for the next Saturday race was pretty awful and it was spot on!

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

I was much more comfortable when I set off but it didn’t take long to realise that I was still struggling to maintain my power.  What I realised was that everything felt compressed and I think that was affecting my breathing in some way.  Mentally I just ignored it and tried to push harder which worked a little bit (my power after the turn into the headwind wasn’t so bad but nowhere near the gains I’d seen on the turbo).  As per usual on this course I was held up a little bit, but I was also pretty wet and towards the end the visor of my helmet was steaming up.  I shaved a couple of seconds off and moved up a couple of places.  6th from 78 riders (£15, 1st veteran on standard)

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Left – 2107, Right – 2016

Looking at my bike afterwards I realised that the Aerocoach armrests were really clamping my elbows much closer together than my previous stock armrests – it’s quite noticeable in the picture above, drawing my shoulders in and compressing my chest.  I wondered if this may have something to do with the power drop, so when I got home I moved the rests one bolt hole wider – effectively an inch on each side.  Time for an experiment with the next race, but during the week I also tried it on the turbo.  During a flat warmup of 200W my HR was static at around 117bpm.  As soon as I clamped my elbows together (simulating the position on the left in the picture) my HR went up 10bpm at the same power.  Back to the original (right) position and my HR went down again.  This was repeated several times with the same results.

The race on Saturday was with the armrests in the “wide” position.  At the start it was a bit of a shock to the system because the sun was shining and the wind wasn’t blowing!

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

I felt much more comfortable and pushed hard but was still well down on power – although I posted my best time on this course.  Still it was a lovely day and I enjoyed the race.  7th from 62 riders (£7.50 Joint 3rd on standard, £15 1st team)

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Courtesy and © Ellen Isherwood

It’s a hard course on which to maintain a pedalling rhythm, due to the narrow lanes and traffic slowing riders, but as I’ve done it before I doubt that is the reason.  As I can push big numbers out of position on the turbo I can only suspect that it is something to do with my new position overall and hope that I adapt to it over the coming weeks.  Here’s a comparison of my last 5 rides on J2/3.

  Time Average Power Air Pressure
19 March 2016 22:30 314W 1.272
12 April 2016 22:22 308W 1.229
11 March 2017 22:31 295W 1.232
18 March 2017 22:29 298W 1.228
25 March 2017 22:12 301W 1.24

Maybe I’m just getting old and it’s downhill for my power from here!  I hope not.

April will be a busy month, with 8 races all in including the first 25s of the season.  It will be interested to see what power I can maintain on those – last year it was about 95% of my 10 power.  If I haven’t adapted to my position at the end of that lot I never will!

In the meantime I’ve reduced my FTP in the various training packages I use, in recognition that I need to train more in position where my power is clearly lower.  It’s also still worth me remembering that I have not finished my training plan yet.  I need to do some more VO2Max intervals which I will be doing over the next couple of months.  I keep forgetting that I deliberately built my plan around peaking towards May and not March like last year.

For interest, here’s the training software I use

  • TrainingPeaks online – overall training plan and recording of TSS, CTL etc.
  • TrainerRoad – individual specific training plans and workouts
  • Zwift – still looking at this for workouts, recovery rides
  • Rubitrack (stored locally) – complete ride history
  • Strava – used as a hub for synchronisation
  • Garmin Connect – used as a hub for synchronisation

It’s a pain that some things will sync with Connect whereas others will only sync with Strava but it’s all set up and working so I’m loath to mess about with it now – they’re both free and I rarely look at them anyway.  TrainingPeaks is my go-to recording software and TrainerRoad my go-to workout software.

That’s it for this month.  During March I managed 358 miles outdoors with 17,700ft ascent at around 16mph average, which used up around 12,852kcals. I spent 28 hours and 42 minutes on the turbo using a further 23,626kcals. Total for the month was 2,887TSS

Coming Soon… Season 5!

Early in February I attended the Seamons 68th Annual Prize Presentation Dinner.  It was a wonderful evening, brilliantly hosted by Nigel and Maria.  I thought it hit a perfect note, combining both the traditional aspects of a club presentation dinner with a modern feel, and I came away with this little lot above.  It includes the BAR Champion George Arstall Trophy, the Club Timetrial Champion D K Hartley Trophy, the Veterans BAR Champion Shield, Veterans Timetrial Champion Trophy, 10 Miles Series Champion R W Chapman Trophy, the 50 Mile Club Champion Trophy and the 12 Hour Club Champion Trophy.  I’m very proud to be part of a roll of distinguished winners over the decades including (sat at my table) a former National BAR winner.  I was quite nervous because I had to say a few words on behalf of the prizewinners but I think I got away with it.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Racing starts next month.  The bike is raring to go and hopefully, so am I despite suffering from a mild cold at the moment.  Although I did one event in 2010, and a few events in 2012, my first real season was 2013 – with the bike, pointy hat and skinsuit.  So 2017 will be my 5th season.  I go into it, as ever, with a feeling of excitement but also trepidation – wondering if I will have improved at all, and just how much everyone else has improved.  I’ve been looking back over my training for last year and over the winter of 2015/16 I’d racked up just over 12,000TSS by the end of February.  This year for the same period it is around 13,400TSS albeit I’ve followed a different plan that was quite a bit more structured and specific.  It would have been easy to stick with what worked last year but you have to try different things if you want to keep improving.

After the disappointment of last month’s power test I was scheduled to take another; the last one before the start of the season.  It was a much more positive result and I’ll be starting next season at least 10W better off than the start of last season, and those watts have been pretty hard to come by.  That said, I’ll be 50 this year so I suppose I shouldn’t be expecting big gains.  I’m hoping my new position will also add a bit of speed but it all comes down to a simple question.  Can I translate the power and position to the road under race conditions?  If I can, I’m looking at decent time gains.

This time of year is always unpredictable in terms of the weather (although I guess in the UK it’s unpredictable at any time of the year!)  March is usually cold, a bit damp and often windy, but will see me ride three races which I class as “openers”.  That is to say they are races to blow off the cobwebs, get back into the race routine and test out the new position and equipment.  The real fun will start in April, but more about that nearer the time.

On the subject of weather I very much recommend checking out mywindsock.com which is a website that enables you to check the wind direction on TT courses and/or Strava segments.  And it’s got a few more new features that I’m yet to play with but they look great.  It’s already an incredibly useful tool for planning your race strategy and understanding where you need to go hard and where you need to be aware of crosswinds, and it gets regular updates too.  It’s produced by one of the local area riders, Ben, and so is worth supporting.

Anyway, during February I managed 334 miles outdoors with 18,143ft ascent at around 15.1mph average, which used up around 12,698kcals. I spent 25 hours and 40 minutes on the turbo using a further 20,629kcals. Total for the month was 2,637TSS

Audax

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Audax bikes outside the café

I’ve not done an audax for some time but I have noticed that I’m getting a lot of hits to this site looking for specific audaxes.  I’m sure visitors already know this but all my audax rides are tagged, so you can click on the menu to the top right of this screen, scroll down to the tags section which is under my Instagram pics, and then select “audax”.  Alternatively, click on the following link for the same result

https://ade2010lejog.wordpress.com/category/audax/

I hope people find these useful although they aren’t meant to be detailed guides.  One of the main reasons I started writing this blog was because I knew I would forget rides and places I’d visited.  It’s been great fun reading some of the older posts again, and I hope they are in some way useful to others.

Videos to Watch on the Turbo

If like me you find it riding the turbo a deadly dull experience, even if you are following a structured plan, you’ll probably try to entertain yourself by watching videos or listening to music.  I follow TrainerRoad on my  mac but have an iPad mini showing videos at the side.  Some people I know like watching cycling videos whilst they train and there is a lot of choice on YouTube.  Over the years I’ve taken a few videos whilst out on my bike so I’ve put a set of links below if anyone is interested in using them.  They aren’t in anyway professionally produced and you’ll probably have to put your own music on in the background but there are a few interesting ones in there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smarter Training – Joe Beer on the Cycling Time Trial Podcast

@markflorence11

@markflorence11

I listen to a few podcasts related to cycling.  Amongst them is one about time-trialling by a chap called Mark Florence and it’s called the Cycling Time Trial Podcast by Mark Florence.  You can subscribe to it through a few different sources – I use iTunes here.  Anyway, it’s a great podcast and he usually has guests who provide insight and information on a range of subjects, all related to time-trialling.  If you’re reading this blog for that reason, you should listen to this guy.

So his last episode introduced a coach named Joe Beer.  I have to say I’d not really heard of him but he’s been coaching endurance sports for a very long time – not just cycling.  He has a white-paper available for download from his website (until 11/2) called Smarter Training – here.  The crux of this paper, and his talk on the podcast, was about training “smarter” and was based on many years of accumulated evidence and data.  I’m not going to reproduce the report here – read it yourself – but I was interested to compare my training approach to the rules that he lists.  As an example, his rule 1 is that 75-90% of your total training time should be in what he terms zone 1.  He defines this as “low lactate” or working at an intensity of 55-80% of your maximum heart rate, so it isn’t the same as, for example, Coggan zones.  Now when I heard this on the podcast, I didn’t quite catch the definition of zone 1 so I thought it was very odd and certainly not something I do.  However, when I looked on TrainingPeaks I realised that his definition of zone 1 encompasses zones 1-3 on the scale I use (80% of my HRmax is around 146bpm and zone 3 tops out for me at 151bpm).  When I added those up I was surprised to find that since I started training at the end of September to now, I’ve spent 76.5% of the time in Joe Beer’s zone 1.  Who am I to argue with that!

Like I say, listen to the podcast and check out the website/white paper.  Very much worth your time in my opinion.

January – a stumble is not a fall

© Sylvia Duckworth

© Sylvia Duckworth

I think there are too many memes in circulation.  They are usually trite nonsense designed to make the sharer look clever and therefore unsurprisingly Facebook and LinkedIn are both full of them.  So it’s very rare for one to actually capture my attention and resonate with me  This one does (btw click on the image to go to the authors website – very talented).  As I wrote last month, being ill set me back.  And somewhat disappointingly I find myself at exactly the same level at the end of January as I was at the end of November.  But that is a reason to continue working hard and putting the effort in.  Especially as it is now only 6 weeks to the start of the racing season and training really counts now.  However, it’s also at this time of the year that I begin to have doubts about whether I have done enough, whether it is the right training and whether it will translate into actual speed on the bike.  So this graphic was a timely reminder to keep perspective and keep doing the things I have been doing and hopefully it will pay off.

So I started the New Year with a hard session on New Year’s day and spent most of the month completing the rest of TrainerRoad’s Sweetspot Base High Volume II plan.  It had taken me several weeks longer than planned as I restarted it after my illness but I finally finished it a week or so ago.  I’m now moving on to the Sustained Power Build plan, which started with a new power test.  This ended up with an FTP basically the same as my last test at the end of November.  I had to dig pretty deep for that too – feeling physically sick at the end of the session, so as I say, I was disappointed.  This is where keeping a training diary comes in useful.  I looked up my last test and I can see that I came into it after a rest day and with a positive training stress balance (TSB) – the equivalent of form.  Due to family commitments I had rearranged January’s test so that I was without a rest day before and so had a negative TSB.  My average and normalised power had increased by a small amount.  So I suppose it wasn’t as bad as I thought – probably a slight improvement, but as I’m my own worst critic I struggled to take it as a positive.  Maybe writing it here will help!  Of course, I may be bumping against the upper limit of what my ageing body is capable of so I will take another test towards the end of February to see.  However, if I go into the season with my current FTP it will still be better than last season so again, take the positive Ade, take the positive!

During the month I managed to get outside a few times but the weather has been typically cold and I’m looking forward to it warming up a bit.  I’m also still a bit heavy, which makes going up hills a bit harder but shouldn’t be an issue for time-trialling.  In addition to eating anything and everything over Christmas, I’ve been trying to eat a bit more since then in a (so far futile) attempt to increase my power.  Still time yet but I think I need to lose a kilo or so of bodyfat before the season starts.  I’m sticking with my aero kit from 2016 but took the opportunity to try some new gear on recently!

Trying out new aero lids…

The final weekend of January was also the Manchester & District Time Trials Association Annual Luncheon & Prize Presentation.  I came 2nd in the Cheshire Points Series and 3rd in the Best All-Rounder (BAR) but was part of a Seamons trio that won both of the same team trophies as well as the South Lancashire Shield 100 mile team trophy – which is literally massive!  Seamons also won one of the other team prizes that I wasn’t part of but that is one of the great things about being part of this club.  There is a strong and talented bunch of riders and even if you don’t win yourself there is usually a chance of a team prize.  Other strong riders make for a great incentive and motivation.  The medals were very nice too, so thanks to all the volunteers and organisers who made the events and the competition possible, as well as organised the lunch and presentation.

Overall, during the month I managed 343 miles outdoors with 19,799ft ascent at around 15.5mph average, which used up around 14,009kcals. I spent 28 hours and 25 minutes on the turbo using a further 23,469kcals. Total for the month was 2,882TSS

 

Opening a can of worms… 3cm rule

I’m sure there are many people who ride time trials in the UK who have a level of ignorance of all of the rules involved.  I know I don’t know them all and I really should.  Over the years I’ve picked up all the important ones (I think) but I haven’t read all of them cover to cover.  For many, though, I expect that they have never been particularly familiar with the 3cm rule which has been in force, I’m told, for many, many (20+ ?) years.  It’s tucked away in Regulation 14 (d) and the 2017 update states
(d)  Machines fitted with triathlon handlebars and derivations thereof which have forearm supports, or Spinacci type handlebars without forearm supports, may be used provided that when the rider adopts a competitive position on these bars:
    (i)  The wrists are no lower than the elbows.
    (ii)  The point of the elbow (olecranon) is no more than 3 centimetres in front of the steering axis when measured perpendicular (at right angles) to that axis.  This measurement is illustrated by the following diagram:
Ade's Road Cycling Blog

CTT diagram – “3cm rule”

Now it’s been there for a quite a while and was introduced, I understand, to ensure that the “superman” positions being tried by riders such as Chris Boardman and Graham Obree were not dangerously introduced to British roads (although this is based on conjecture because nobody seems to recall exactly why this rule was introduced).  Recently, though, more and more people have been adopting aero positions that take their elbows quite a bit further forward of the steering axis and hence for 2017 the clarification (including the diagram) was passed into regulation.  This has caused an absolute sh*tstorm on the main timetrialling forum.  The last time I looked there were over 100 pages, much of it accusation and recrimination.
As far as I can see there are a number of objections including the arbitrary nature of the rule and the enforceability of it.  I’m not going to get into an opinion piece on this blog other than to say a couple of things
  1. It’s a rule, however arbitrary, and therefore I need to comply with it
  2. As with many rules simply having it may well be enough to encourage the majority of people to comply (which is the main point of a rule)
  3. However, for those that don’t, it appears that to enforce it will rely on other people “reporting” riders using  either witnesses or photographs as evidence – which doesn’t really encourage the kind of community I want to be part of (or think I’m currently part of)
  4. Simply witnessing it is almost impossible.  Indeed, the measurement from a photograph is fraught with difficulty for a number of reasons.  So enforceability will be an issue.
I’m going to attempt to illustrate this using pictures and videos of me racing and in my new position.  My new position is, I believe, compliant as shown below.  However, if I over-reach during a gear change, which can easily happen when you’ve been riding at the edge of fatigue for several hours, it might just drift out.  So do I change position to account for that or not?  So let’s get into the problems
Identifying the steering axis
Now this seems like the least of our problems.  On a bike with a standard headset (see the CTT diagram above) it’s fairly straightforward.  On a lot of modern TT bikes the cockpit at the front is fully integrated.  So on my Canyon to work out where the actual steering axis is you have to look very closely.  On the pictures below I’ve marked it with yellow sticker on the bike
Ade's Road Cycling Blog
Ade's Road Cycling Blog
Ade's Road Cycling Blog
Identifying the problem as a witness
Here’s a video of me at the velodrome.  It’s helpful because it’s slowed down at points. Freeze it at 00:12s to see my position in motion.  Try to see whether I’m complying at full speed from 00:18s onwards.  It’s pretty difficult.  You can see slow motion again around 01:15s
Identifying the problem from a photo

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

That’s still quite tough but obviously we can blow digital photos up.  Luckily, in this picture, the photographer caught me virtually side on, meaning there are no real issues with perspective or angle.  Of course then you get into the issues with telephoto lenses, depth of field and other such complexities that make an accurate measurement even harder.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

But even now we still don’t have my helpful yellow steering axis line there.  And my bike is unhelpfully matt black, making it a bit harder still.  Not impossible, but hard. So it’s going to be interesting to see how this pans out.  I intend to keep the following pictures because to my mind they show that my position (albeit in a static position) is compliant with the regulation.  I think that’s all everyone can do.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog Ade's Road Cycling Blog Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Conclusion
I wonder how many people really knew about and understood this rule?  I also wonder if the timetrialling forum is representative of the overall community and whether there will be the problems in 2017 that are being furiously discussed on there?  I suspect there may well be a couple of early season “reports” made by individuals to hammer home their points.  There are some very, very vociferous people who seem hellbent on proving their point.  So worst case and we could end up with some sort of trial by internet.  If you are getting ready for the season, my advice is to take the opportunity now to make sure you are compliant, as best you can in a static environment.  Doing the photos above was a pain and quite difficult to do on my own.  I know they aren’t completely accurate but I think they are enough to set my mind at rest that I am compliant, being aware as I am that once riding, the dynamic nature of it during a 20min, 1hr, 2hr, 4hr, 12hr timeframe will almost certainly change my position on the pads at points during the ride.
Here’s hoping it’s a storm in a teacup.