November and Season 5 (2017) in Review

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VTTA Manchester & NW 2017 Awards Luncheon

Season 5 Roundup

I raced slightly less this year due to a number of reasons.  I was ill and forced to miss some races, I had a DNS (mechanical) and some races were simply cancelled due to roadworks – probably more than all of my previous seasons combined.  In the end I competed in 33 open races in total.  Doing fewer races probably contributed to me being more competitive at the end of the season in comparison to previous years, where my form and fitness were dropping off a cliff, especially after the 12 hour.  This year the 12 hour seemed to give me a form boost, which was a pleasant surprise.  That all said, I still raced for 1,393 miles at an average speed of 25.7mph, which used around 53,190kcals – a decent wedge of cake!  That’s made up of twelve 10s, one 15, ten 25s, six 50s, three 100s and a 12hr.  (I don’t include club 10’s as I treat them as training – but there were a further 14 of them)

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Freezing cold and wet in August – British Summer! (© Ellen Isherwood)

At the start of the season I’d had my best ever winter training and my numbers on the turbo were better than ever.  I’d also done some testing and had a new position that was pretty aero.  It was disheartening to then find out that I couldn’t transfer either the power numbers or the racing position to where it really mattered – in races!  My times were fine – in fact I posted course bests on many occasions – but the improvement I’d been expecting just wasn’t there.  I struggled on for a bit, adjusting my position to see if that helped, but in the end I realised that I wasn’t going to significantly increase my power in races during the year, and I could only edge towards the aggressive aero position, so the only other option open to me was to better manage my weight.  My thinking was that this would increase my W/Kg figure and my VO2 max but also reduce my frontal area to increase my W/CdA.  It would also hopefully allow me to maintain a more aero position for longer.  So I set about using an app called myfitnesspal to monitor my net nutrient intake.  In previous seasons I’d entered the season at race weight and then not really bothered about it during the year and I’d find that my weight drifted up so that at the end of the season I’d be as much as 3 or 4kg heavier.  I performed some tests in May at the University of Chester (read about it here) and I got a bit of a rude awakening due to my weight and bodyfat %.  Anyway, the results of taking it seriously are there to see

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Weight & Bodyfat % during Season 5 – 2017

I managed to lose a significant amount of weight and bodyfat.  My power dropped a bit as expected but my times and performances improved, and eventually the power returned.  In monitoring my food intake I’ve found I’m eating more – but it is generally better food, although I haven’t been going without treats or feeling deprived.  The net result is I’m now about 5kg lighter than I was earlier in April/May.  For what it’s worth, in April I rode a 10 and averaged 305W at 67.5kg, or 4.52W/Kg.  The last 10 I rode I averaged 304W at 61.2kg, or 4.97W/Kg.  I don’t know what the fastest riders are riding at but I suspect it’s nearer 6W/Kg which at my age is not going to happen!  And I’m not sure if 61kg is taking it too far so I’d be happy to maintain wight at anything around 63kg (10st) going forwards (which is where I am now).

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A rare hot day! Courtesy of and © Ellen Isherwood

In summary it felt like an up and down year.  If I average my results out I probably did slightly worse this season – I certainly only managed 2 podium places versus 1 win and 5 podiums the year before, and my percentage of top ten finishes was about 5% lower.  And I lost the Cheshire Points Series by 6 points rather than 4 – the gap is widening (although Ben must be nearly 20 years younger than me!)  He also beat me into 2nd place in the M&DTTA BAR as well, but at least a bronze medal last year becomes a silver this time.

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Last year 4 points, this year 6!!

I did manage to set personal course bests on most of the courses I’ve ridden this year, and I’ve had a very successful season with the VTTA Manchester & NW group, winning the BAR and a number of other trophies.  It’s always nice to see your name engraved on a trophy that goes back many, many years although I still feel out of place next to many of the names also on them.

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What has been clear is that everyone has moved on and it’s getting harder and harder to keep pace so I guess I should be satisfied, especially given that I’m getting on a bit!

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The dreaded roadworks appeared more than ever!

As mentioned above and frequently this year, roadworks have featured more often than I can remember in any previous season, resulting in changed courses and cancelled events.  The weather has felt worse too.  It’s definitely been wetter than last year and although there haven’t been more very windy days, there have hardly been any days where there was no real wind to speak of.  It seems like wet and windy summers are the new norm so I guess we’ll just have to get used to them.

So what of my targets for the year?  Well, I hit some and I missed some.

  • New PBs at all distances ridden with the exception of 10M – I missed that by 5s
  • I wanted power PBs at all distances.  I only managed those at 50M and 12 hour
  • I wanted to win the M&DTTA Cheshire Points Series – I came 2nd again!
  • I wanted to win one of the VTTA M&NW trophies which I did, including the BAR
  • I wanted to win the main Seamons club competitions – I won the Timetrial and BAR (Best All Rounder) but came 2nd in the Club 10 Series
  • I wanted to set a club record which I duly did and I only narrowly missed a couple of others during the season
  • I wanted to win at least one of the club championships and I managed to win the 25, 50, 100 and 12 hours (which is an improvement on last year when I won the 50 and 12 hour)
  • I wanted to finish top 20 in the UK Best All-Rounder (BAR) competition.  I was 22nd with an average speed of 26.027mph across 50M, 100M and 12 hour (versus 35th in 2016)
  • I wanted to win more prize money than 2016 – I fell slightly short but still won over £700

In addition, I was delighted to be part of a winning team on 11 occasions – I’m very proud to ride for Seamons CC, a club with a long and rich TT history.  I was also part of the teams that broke the club team records for 25M, 50M, 100M and 12 hours.

I don’t get a lot of satisfaction in my professional life these days so I make no apologies for taking pride in the things I’ve managed to achieve, and even in those where I have fallen short – because I know I gave it my best.  The key, as with everything, is hard work, application and effort and as I’ve said before – if I can do it, so can pretty much anyone.


November

My November training has been going well.  I completed Sweetspot Base I and started Base II – I managed to record a modest FTP increase in the 6 weeks.  I’m down on power versus this time last year but up on W/Kg (see above!) and I’m taking it more steadily this year and managing my own expectations.  I did suffer from some knee pain after a couple of long rides one weekend only to notice that my seat post had slipped and dropped my saddle by over 1cm.  It’s a lesson I’ve been taught many times – a sudden onset of pain is usually the result of some form of equipment change or malfunction.

In November I managed 425 miles outdoors with 25,430ft ascent at around 15.7mph average, which used up around 15,954kcals. I spent 32 hours and 50 minutes on the turbo using a further 23,629kcals. Total for the month was 3,178 TSS

This will be my last post before Christmas so I’ll take this opportunity to wish you a peaceful and happy time.  And if you are riding the Rapha 500, good luck and stay safe.

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When is Waterproof not Waterproof…?

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Not me riding in the rain

You could legitimately argue that waterproof gear is necessary at any time of year in the UK.  However, as we flash through autumn and rapidly approach the winter months it definitely becomes more important.  Cycling technology has moved on rapidly in the last few years meaning that the well known Alfred Wainwright quote is more relevant than ever

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.”

So lots of cycling kit is marketed to allow you to ride in all sorts of weather, but does that marketing blurb actually stack up?  Well there are many websites out there that can describe the scientific detail behind all of this better than I can but here is a relatively quick overview.

Waterproof

There is a British Standard so whilst many things might be labelled as waterproof you should check whether it is to a British Standard (or comparable International one).  Essentially a hydrostatic test of a fabric must resist over 1500mm of water across a 1 inch diameter tube for 24 hours.  So a jacket with a test value of >1500mm is considered waterproof, but not all waterproofing is created equally.  For example, a jacket that resists 20,000mm will be considerably more waterproof than one at 1500mm.  Eh?  Surely it’s either waterproof or it isn’t?  Well no.  At a molecular level very few things are completely waterproof – the amount of water, pressure at which it is applied and time it is exposed to water all come into play.  So a bigger number is better.  But cycling is an active sport, so it’s all very well being clad in something that stops water passing into it (a bin bag?) but that also means that when you sweat it stops the moisture passing out.  And that can give the impression that you are “cooking” or simply get wet anyway, albeit not from the rain.  So there’s a balance to be struck and most manufacturers have developed technical fabrics that tread the fine line between waterproofing and breathability.  The final consideration with waterproofing is the fact that clothing involves complicated shapes that are joined together,  Seams, zips, cuffs are all traditional weakspots for waterproofing, so the overall capability of an article of clothing can be compromised if these are not considered properly.

Water Resistant

Some garments are not even labelled waterproof.  They are described as water resistant.  These items generally rely on a Durable Water Repellency (DWR) coating – water forms a bead on it and runs off before it can soak through.  Typically this coating will erode over time and use and washing and need re-applying but it generally works well for showers.  It can, however, be overwhelmed by persistent rain.

So what is the reality of all of this.  Here’s a short, subjective review of all the decent waterproof kit I’ve tried over the years, from the bottom to the top.


Socks, shoes and overshoes

Northwave Fahrenheit Winter Boots

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These use a Gore-Tex membrane to claim to be totally waterproof and breathable.  That may, in fact, be absolutely true but the water runs down your legs, or wicks down if wearing tights or leg-warmers, and your feet can get wet from the inside.  Once they’re wet, they stay wet, as the membrane keeps the water in.  In sustained heavy rain they can keep my feet dry for about an hour. In drizzle I’ve done rides of around four hours with dry feet.

Sealskinz Socks – these are totally waterproof.  I can attest to that fact because when the water somehow gets down into them (and it usually does) it forms pools of cold water around your feet.  When you take them off you can pour the water out.  However, they work well in all but the heaviest rain.

Sealskinz Overshoes – again, these appear to be waterproof but the water gets in around the cuff which is pretty loose.  That, or I have very delicate ankles and narrow calves.


Gloves

Gloves tend to be problematic.  The shape means there are lots of seams and joins which don’t help with waterproofing.  There is also the problem of the cuff – outside the jacket and water can wick down the sleeve, under the jacket and it’s pretty bulky to get on and off.  And, of course, they are a point of contact with the handlebars which are themselves wet and the introduction of capillary action or osmosis or whatever the correct scientific term is.

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Sealskinz Gloves

When the mercury drops I wear the Sealskinz heavyweight winter gloves because I really feel the cold in my hands.  These are about the best waterproof gloves I’ve tried (and I’ve tried a lot).  They can last in drizzle for hour after hour.  In very heavy rain you may get an hour out of them, which is generally much longer than other gloves.  The lobster gloves are equally waterproof and toastie warm in winter when worn with under-gloves.

Endura Deluge Gloves

Lighter gloves and the name is more of a hope than a reality.  They don’t keep water out for long and certainly not in a deluge.  Autumn showers gloves rather than winter gloves.

Altura Waterproof Gloves

They just aren’t.  They will resist some drizzle, and an occasional shower but they aren’t waterproof – but they do have the word “waterproof” printed on them so what do I know.


Bibshorts and leg warmers

Sportful Fiandre No-rain leg warmers

These work pretty well with the rain beading off at first.  Can be overwhelmed by heavier downpours and also inadvertently direct the rain down into your boots/shoes.

dhb Aeron rain defence bib shorts

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Very decent, especially when combined with the leg warmers above.  They are good shorts, comfortable with a good chamois and plain black, which I like.  Water will bead but not for a sustained period.


Jerseys and Jackets

Gore Oxygen Jacket

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They say you get what you pay for and this is absolutely the best waterproof item of clothing I own.  It has never let me down.  It fits well, the sleeves come down to cover the cuffs of gloves (and thus stop rain running into them) and it has a longer tail at the back if you’re one of those lunatics that insists on not using mudguards in the winter.  It doesn’t, however, pack down into a size that is easily portable so it’s a put-on-at-the-start-of-your-ride jacket.  Which brings me to…

Sportful Hotpack

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This is a great packable waterproof.  The water beads off it and it will withstand strong showers.  It will pack down into it’s own pocket to then fit into a jersey or jacket pocket.  This is the jacket I carry on my bike/person during most of the year in this country – it’s a just-in-case jacket.

Sportful Fiandre No-rain Winter Jacket

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This is a very warm jacket which I think is ideal for winter in this country.  It’s a racing fit and so far it has held the rain at bay when I’ve needed it too.  The rain beads at first but then appears to soak in a bit but it doesn’t get through.  Did I mention it’s pretty warm too?

Rapha Classic Winter Jacket (Tricolour Version)

Ade's Road Cycling BlogWhat a great jacket.  Another put-on-at-the-start-of-your-ride; it’s windproof and weatherproof.  I’ve worn it in four hours of drizzle/rain and gusty wind and it’s kept me warm and dry.  The fit and cut is everything you expect from Rapha with nice detailing touches.  In comparison to the Fiandre above it’s not quite as snug a fit and not quite as warm but that’s a subjective view.  In the dry it appears to wick sweat away really well.  It is expensive but if you use vouchers and sales (I’ve never bought Rapha full-price ever) it’s a great jacket that will do a job for ages.

Pactimo Storm Jacket (club kit)

This is a strange jacket.  It has short sleeves and a pair of arm warmers.  The body is meant to be water-repellant and it does so to a certain extent.  It certainly isn’t waterproof and though the body is warm enough (roubaix-type lining) the arm warmers don’t really cut it in winter.  So I tend to use it for Spring and Autumn.

Commuting Jackets

Both the Altura NightVision and the Proviz jacket I use in winter are waterproof in the heaviest rain but then my commute doesn’t last very long!  I’d say you’d be dry in either for a commute up to an hour.  Both have hi-viz reflective detailing (the whole Proviz is reflective!) and therefore stand out in the dark and help make you more visible.

Stolen Goat Orkaan Race Tech Jersey

This is a super racy fit mid-sleeve length jersey.  It’s warm and is water-proof although the seams are a weak point.  It’s great for those spring and autumn days when the weather doesn’t know what to do.

Le Col Aquazero Winter Jersey

Great quality, super-warm and water-repellent.  Excellent winter jersey and looks amazing too, which always helps.


Finally, I’ve tried a whole host of cheap alternatives to the above over the years and they generally don’t work.  Technical bike-wear has come on tremendously in the recent past and you do usually get what you pay for.  I have found out to my cost that mostly, if you buy cheap you buy twice.

To sum up – if you do very long rides in the rain, sooner or later your waterproof clothing will fail you as water always finds the weak point – like a seam, a zip or an opening.  How long that takes will be a combination of the conditions and the product.  If you are doing shorter training rides there are a lot of good products out there that will very effectively keep you dry.  My comments are based on my own experience of both types of ride.


If you decide to buy any of this gear you can get cashback by joining here and then clicking through to various online bike shops including Wiggle, Chainreaction, Evans etc.  Ade's Road Cycling BlogIf you buy a lot of gear online (or anything really), the cash back really is worth it. 


October – Season 6 (2018) Training Plan

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Everybody needs a plan!

I’ll be using TrainerRoad for my training again this winter.  Last year I added to it with some additional indoor sessions that I found useful, but I think this time round I’m going to stick to the plan during the week.  At weekends, if the weather is relatively kind, I intend to substitute turbo rides with appropriate outdoor rides.  This helps mentally as it can get a bit stir-crazy constantly training indoors.  As ever, all my rides will be logged in TrainingPeaks – you can see the overall training plan PMC chart above.  I’ll be following these  plans

  • Sweetspot Base High Volume I – 6 weeks
  • Sweetspot Base High Volume II – 6 weeks
  • Sustained Power Build High Volume – 8 weeks
  • 40k TT Speciality High Volume – 8 weeks

Instead of the TT bike I am using an old road bike frame on the smart-turbo, with all the measurements set as close as possible to my TT position.  I want to reduce the wear and tear on the TT bike and although using a different bike is not optimal, as long as I get the position close enough it should be okay.  That said, around about the middle of January I will be swapping back to the TT bike in order to iron out any positional differences before the season starts.  A welcome side effect so far is that the road bike is MUCH more comfortable on the turbo than the TT bike!

I’d also like to do some changes to the front end on my TT bike, with some new aerobars that provide more of a ski-jump extension than a flat extension.  Initially I’ll try to use the BikeFastFit video app to get the position how I want it viusually, and then hopefully some reasonable weather in the New Year will let me do a bit of outdoor aero testing to fine tune it.

Of course, most of this is just a plan at the moment.  It’s important to have a plan and a sense of how you might get to the outcome you want, but it is equally important to understand that they can and do change and be prepared for that.  However, I have started and it’s going well.  The first task was to re-establish zones by performing an FTP test – using the 20 minute protocol.  These tests are pretty hateful affairs and mentally having a decent music playlist helps tremendously.  I’ve spent a bit of time perfecting mine with tunes that motivate and keep me going.

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A decent start point

At this time last year I started with an FTP of 296W, whilst weighing 68.76Kg.  That means my FTP was 4.3W/Kg.  As you can see, this year I start slightly higher at 298W, which doesn’t seem like a big gain.  However, my current weight is under 63Kg, meaning an FTP of around 4.75W/Kg.  I’ll take that as a starting point!

As I write this post I am coming towards the end of week 5 of Sweetspot Base I and my legs are starting to feel it.  I’ve had some decent outdoor rides including a recent trip over Holme Moss and Audlem CC’s reliability ride both of which were high TSS efforts.  I’m looking forward to a recovery week of lower intensity before my next FTP test which is fast approaching.

In October I managed 625 miles outdoors with 36,355ft ascent at around 16.3mph average, which used up around 24,256kcals. I spent 21 hours and 20 minutes on the turbo using a further 15,914kcals. Total for the month was 3,234 TSS

September – end of season spin down

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September is when the season winds down and we head into the winter.  But not before the BDCA 100 which is the only real opportunity for northern based riders to ride a “fast” 100 without driving significant distances.  I set my 100 mile PB here in 2015 which has stood ever since, mainly due to the 2016 event being cancelled due to adverse weather.  So I was really looking forward to this and I was feeling much better this year after the 12 hour.  My preparation was all pretty much to plan – lots of tempo miles and a short taper.  And, beyond all my expectations, the weather was about as perfect as it can get in this country.  I’ve heard about these “float” type days but haven’t experienced many in the time I’ve been doing this.  It was warm without being too warm and there was next to no wind to speak of.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

I’d put together a 10 mile split schedule to get me to around 3 hours and 40 minutes, although it was more in hope than in anticipation.  However, I felt really good on the first 20 miles out and found myself nearly 3 minutes up on target.  As I reached the turn at Blythe Bridge I realised that what little wind there was had been behind me (helping me up the “concrete mountain”) and was now in my face.  It wasn’t like a proper headwind but it took a slight edge off the really fast bit of the course.  By the halfway mark my gains had been reversed slightly and I was only about 90 seconds up.  The second 50 mile “lap” followed the same course as the first and I was happy that I managed to maintain my power until about 70 miles.  Between 70 and 90 miles I struggled and the wheels almost came off – metaphorically; thankfully they remained firmly attached to my bike!  My power dipped quite a lot and I was struggling with some undercarriage problems which didn’t help.  Time to MTFU!

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I managed to get it all back together again in the last 10 miles but by the time I’d finished I’d put just about everything in that I could – it took a while afterwards before I stopped feeling sick and dizzy.  I was delighted to knock nearly 14 minutes off my PB with a new club record of 3 hours 38 minutes and 52 seconds.  I’d been chasing a club record all season so this meant a lot, especially after having thought I’d broken the 50 record only to find Alan had already beaten both the record and me.  I also appear to have qualified to get my name on the timetrialling forum all-time fastest list which is something I never imagined possible when I started this lark.  For 100 miles it is a list of riders who have gone under 3 hours and 40 minutes.  I realise that everyone is getting faster and I probably won’t be on there for long when the goalposts get shifted but again, it means something to me that I can say I managed it.  Subsequently, I also found out that I’d missed a VTTA National Age record by 1 minute and 10 seconds – again, doesn’t seem like much but totally unexpected to get that close so I’m very pleased with everything about this ride.  8th from 78 riders

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

In sharp contrast the weather had noticeably changed over the course of the week so that when I travelled down to South Wales the following Sunday it was very windy and very wet.  R25/3H is arguably the fastest 25M course in the country but not in a gale/monsoon – a fact reflected by the 60-odd DNSs.  Racing can be dangerous in extreme wind and rain, especially on DC courses, so people make their own decisions about riding or not and that is fair enough.  I decided to travel and ride despite knowing there was almost no chance of a really fast time or a PB, ultimately because I respect the commitment made by the organiser and the many volunteers to put the event on – and who were out in the same weather for much longer than I was.  Anyway, I parked next to a motorhome and the kind gentleman let me set up my turbo under the awning so at least I wasn’t soaked during my warm up.  The course itself was decent enough – there is a large downhill near the start known as the “bank”, which was very quick even into a headwind.  However with the swirling nature of the wind and the spray I ended up on the drops rather than stay in aero tuck (#wuss) and I was still 40mph+.  The rest of the outbound leg was a struggle into the wind but after the turn I was flying back.  Unfortunately the disadvantage incurred outbound far outweighed the tailwind back and I ended up with a time 90s off my PB.  On the positive side, I now know what the course is like so if I come back next year that will help.  By the time I got back to my car (nearly 6 additional miles up that bank I mentioned) I was like a drowned rat.  It took ages to get dry and change into fresh clothes and as I walked into the HQ to sign out and hand number 66 back I was stopped by doping control – but it was number 67 they needed.  Good to see them there though.   20th from 55 riders

The damp and the detritus from South Wales meant I needed to do a bit of maintenance on the bike and for the second time the hidden/aero front brake had a corroded leaf spring that snapped

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Experience has taught me that the tiny screw that holds it on is made of cream cheese and strips really easily so I contacted Canyon to order new calipers.  In the meantime I would revert to the solution I used first time around – namely a strip of souvenir Cyprus eraser cut to size to provide the “spring” back against the fork wall.  This is a known problem with the Speedmax front brake it seems – although that didn’t stop Canyon at first sending me replacement parts with half of them missing.

Sunday morning in the South Lakes was a lovely crisp morning, albeit a bit cold. There was limited wind and thankfully no rain.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

I’d not ridden Levens for several years.  It’s a course I like – straight out and back, fairly quiet and fast on a good day, due in part to the gift hill at the start.  Before I ventured onto the V it was where I set my 10 mile PB.  The HQ was new to me – the bowling club in Levens Village which isn’t designed for 90 riders and their cars!  So I collected my number and parked up in the usual lay-by near to Sizergh Castle.  Once warmed up on the turbo it’s a short ride to the start.  I was very happy with my race overall – I managed a similar power output to the start of the season (which is unusual for me) and I knocked a whole second off my course best! 18th from 82 riders (£20, fastest 50+ age group)

My final TT of the season was the last race in the Cheshire Points series – the Stretford Wheelers 25.  It was due to take place on J2/9 but surprise surprise there were roadworks!  This season has been a complete nightmare for roadworks in the north west and it must have driven organisers to absolute distraction.  Instead it was run on the J4/8 course, which many people prefer, myself included.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

The weather was warm and mainly dry – the odd hint of damp in the air beforehand but nothing significant.  I was feeling really good and when I set off my power was great.  The first short loop saw the riders turn onto the A50 for a short distance and then left again onto Penny’s Lane.  As I turned I mistakenly hit the front shifter and my chain jumped off the big ring, missed the small ring and jammed between the bottom bracket and the chainring.  I stopped, freed it up and put the chain on the small ring and set off again.  The bloody thing then jumped off the other way as it wouldn’t shift up to the big ring and the chain ended up jammed between the big ring and the derailleur.  I stopped again, put it back on and set off again but that was basically my time gone.  I decided to make it a great training session instead and proceeded to try to smash myself.  A short delay onto the A535 and then again onto King Street confirmed it wasn’t my day.  I powered into the headwind still feeling great and then turned into Byley Lane to see where I would be after one lap.  Only to find a line of cars (and riders) queued behind a herd of cows running up the road.  Followed by a marshall in a hi-viz jacket!  I sat there behind them for a while with the other riders before the marshall turned from running and shouted to go past down the right hand side of the herd.  So I did, quite carefully though, as I didn’t fancy spooking running cows!  As I completed lap one my time was nearly 36 minutes – it had been a bit over 32 minutes the last time I rode this course.  The second lap was uneventful by comparison and I ended up crossing the line somewhere close to 4 minutes down on my previous time.

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© Christian Fox

However, I was very happy with my form and power, and as that was my last race of the season I go into a break and then winter training with better form than I’ve ever had at the end of a season.  15th from 98 riders

During the month I managed 519 miles outdoors with 21,012ft ascent at around 18.4mph average, which used up around 18,471kcals. I spent 13 hours and 15 minutes on the turbo using a further 9,311kcals. Total for the month was 2,375TSS

 

August – balmy summer days…?

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Battling the freezing rain on the Associations 12 Hour (© Ellen Isherwood)

August was topped and tailed with visits to the V in Hull.  Hoping for fast days, at the start of the month we got the opposite, an unusually slow day.  More on the end of the month later.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

Normally, whilst not ideal, a westerly wind is okay if it’s not too strong.  I’ve set my PB on a day with a westerly.  However, on this day it was too strong on the inbound leg and it appeared to affect most of the field, apart from those at the very, very pointy end.  I paced the ride really well with a negative power split to enable me to push as hard as possible into the headwind back but my run of 19’s on the V stretching back to May 2016 came to an end with a 20:18!

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

A week later and it was the Congleton CC 50 mile open on the J4/9 course.  I feel this is a better course than J4/16 but it has shorter laps so there can be some congestion later on.  It was a nice enough day although the wind, as ever, was more than you’d ideally like, albeit in the “correct” direction for this course.  I was really happy with my ride apart from the traffic, which seemed unusually high – I got held up many times and even ended up unclipping twice at key junctions.

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© Ellen Isherwood

It was our club 50 championship and I was happy to come away with the win, plus Seamons won the team prize again so that was very satisfying.  8th from 100 riders (£60, 2nd on standard, 1st team)

Associations 12 Hour

On Sunday 20th August it was the WCTTA, MDTTA and LTTCA combined 12 Hour event in Shropshire.  The course was much changed from the one I rode last year (here) apart from the final 12.7 mile finish circuit.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

I’d worked out a feeding and pacing strategy as best I could as didn’t really know the course so it was a guess really.  I also had a power number in mind based on what I did last year, and was pretty pleased to have got it within a watt by the end, although I somehow ended up with 2s and 5s power peaks of 1100W and 943W respectively, which is absolutely stupid on a 12 and very much a schoolboy error.

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The glamour of amateur bike racing

It was pretty cool when I set off but the sky was clear and it warmed up during the morning.  The first circuit took us from Press Heath to Espley and then three laps down to Shaw Birch and back.  The outbound bit was headwind which was hard work and other than Peplow the surface was reasonable.  I didn’t stop during that first 70 miles other than for a call of nature, and then headed back to Prees to join the day circuit, a 22 mile loop around Redbrook, Welshampton, Quina Brook and Tilstock.  This was a new route to me and it was very rolling terrain, with a surface that was patchy in parts, especially some of the smaller rural roads. It would probably be very pleasant for a social ride apart from the unbelievably annoying and utterly pointless temporary traffic lights – two different sets of them!  The road barely narrowed where they were set up and on these quiet country lanes they seemed pretty unnecessary.  I got stopped a number of times.  The finish circuit reversed part of the day circuit through Tilstock and was the same as last year (with the addition of one of the sets of lights).  I didn’t realise at the time but since the event a few people asked me what was wrong in the first 100 miles.  Apparently I was well down in the standings but I was fine and just pacing things with the full 12 hours in mind.

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Entering Tilstock

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Leaving Tilstock

To give me an idea of how hard to push it I taped the pacing sheet, and my scheduled stops, to my basebar.

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In comparison to the picture above my times were 50 – 02:07, 100 – 04:17, 150 – 06:28, 200 – 08:46 and 250 – 11:00.  What I didn’t factor in was the unscheduled traffic light stops.  This meant that instead of actually cutting the amount of time stopped from last years effort, I ended up stopping for more time, despite fewer food and drink stops.  In total I ended up being stopped for around 12 minutes – half of which was unplanned.

During the day it had been warm and I thought that wearing a base layer may have been a wrong choice.  However, around 4pm the temperature dipped as the clouds closed in and then the rain started.  And it was cold – a base layer was definitely the right choice!

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ellen Isherwood

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ellen Isherwood

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

© Ellen Isherwood

Last year I got slower and slower as the punishing road surface and the pain of staying in position took its toll.  In fact I ended up sat up last year at the end more often than being in tuck.  This year, apart from a few wobbles, I was much more capable of staying in position.  That’s not to say it didn’t hurt.  It really did.  A lot.  By the end my neck, shoulders and lower back were sore, as well as the obvious clacker area.  But my chest and front of my arms hurt too.  The rain also made it very cold so I was suffering from leg cramps at the same time as trying to push hard to keep my heart rate up and keep warm.

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Upper – 2017 Lower – 2016

Although the pain is physical it requires mental strength to push through it.  You’d never get to the start of a 100 mile TT and say to yourself “nearly done, only 4 hours left” but that’s exactly what you do on a 12 after 8 hours!  Apparently, according to my Wahoo Elemnt Bolt I used over 9,000 kcalories.  Here’s what I ate/drank

  • Power gel shots
  • Power Go Energy double cappuccino gel
  • Power Go Energy mini bar x 3
  • Tesco chocolate rice cake x 3
  • ZipVit Zv7c cappuccino gel x 2
  • Clif shot bloks x 2
  • Power wafer bar x 3
  • Tesco spicy seed shot
  • Bottle of Hi5 Energy Source x 5

That still left me with a 6,000 kcalories deficit so I must be pretty efficient at converting fat to usable energy.

Towards the end I knew I was close to my target of 270 miles but alas the traffic lights put paid to that and despite a final push I finished just short!

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12 hours running and still 25% battery left – beats Garmin 520 comfortably

By the time I got back to my car I was borderline hypothermic and it took me ages to stop shivering!  My final official distance was revised down to 267.64 miles which is second in the Seamons club records but 1st all-age veteran.  Also, in the provisional results we missed out on the team prize by three quarters of a mile – incredible!  3rd from 50 riders (£75 – 3rd overall + 2nd team (1st M&D – LH Brookes Trophy))

Last year I didn’t really recover from the 12 and was tired for the remainder of the season.  I was a little bit more active in my recovery this time and I haven’t felt as tired.  So I was optimistic about the remaining races I’d entered.  Next up was the Withington Wheelers 10 on J2/1 but amazingly, yet again the course was subject to roadworks and temporary traffic lights!  A little used sporting course – J6/10 – was the substitute.  I’d ridden this once before – my first ever time trial nearly 7 years earlier.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

It was a very pleasant afternoon – sunny and relatively calm.  I made a bit of a mistake with my contact lenses which meant my vision wasn’t great and on a course I wasn’t familiar with, that was very twisty, narrow and rolling, I was slightly hesitant.  That said, I was happy enough with my power output and my overall performance.  7th from 79 riders (provisional – £20)

The day after it was my final trip to Hull to try and knock some seconds off my 10M PB.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

The HQ was at Hull Ionians rugby club, as opposed to Newport Village Hall, and it is a fantastic facility for an HQ, albeit the ride back was nearly as long as the race.  In sunny conditions it was a very pleasant way to cool down.  It was a much hotter day with calmer conditions than earlier in the month and as such I performed much better.  I was, however, 5s slower than my PB so it will realistically have to wait until 2018 for another tilt at it.  56th from 115 riders

During the month I managed 812 miles outdoors with 29,471ft ascent at around 19.1mph average, which used up around 28,494kcals. I spent 12 hours and 22 minutes on the turbo using a further 8,671kcals. Total for the month was 2,831TSS

 

Cycling Apps

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I have recently acquired a Wahoo Elemnt Bolt GPS computer to replace the Garmin 520 and 800 that I have been using.  There are a number of reasons for this, not least being that the repeated and extended use of both of the Garmins has made the USB connectors a little dodgy, making charging “interesting” and uploading rides difficult (in the case of the 800).  Also, the 520 was fine for recording data but couldn’t do maps and navigation very well.  The 800 did maps and navigation well enough but is quite long in the tooth which affects battery life.  The Elemnt Bolt combines good data capture and decent maps and navigation, plus some other funky stuff like live tracking which will come in useful from time to time.

What I realised when I was setting up the Bolt was the intricate and linked web of cycling and fitness apps that I have set up at the moment.  If you look at the image above you can see what I mean.

  • I use the Garmins, the Bolt or Trainerroad to actually record ride data such as route, speed, distance, time, power etc.  They all do this in a standard .fit file format
  • In each case the initial load of that data is into a native app.  It’s at this point it gets a bit “busy”
  • Each of these native apps will send the data directly to Strava and TrainingPeaks.  I don’t actually use Strava much but TrainingPeaks is my main resource for logging training and planning it forwards (although I do use Trainerroad for the actual plan and workout execution).
  • In addition, Wahoo sends data to the Apple Health kit, as does Strava
  • Strava sends data to Rubitrack, which holds a complete history of my cycling data on my computer at home (backed up offsite in case you were wondering)
  • HRV4Training logs my heart rate variability (HRV) using my phone and sends that data to both Apple and TrainingPeaks.  It also pulls data back from TrainingPeaks and from Strava
  • Myfitnesspal is a food diary and pulls expended calorie data from TrainingPeaks and shares it with Apple
  • Strava, Komoot and Ridewithgps all allow you to create a gpx routemap for downloading onto a device – they each have their own merits

Luckily I’m a bit of a geek and I like messing about with tech.  And when it all just works it’s pretty seamless.

July – Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

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Courtesy of and © Ellen Isherwood

Following the open racing drought that was June, July brought a veritable monsoon of events starting with the Manchester & District TTA 100.  One hundred miles around the J4/18 course is a tough ask – the roads are grippy and ever-co-slightly rolling and full of potholes.  So the best part of 4 hours or so on a TT bike is not just exhausting from a pedalling perspective.  Thankfully the weather was kind.  Not too hot, not too cold and although a bit breezy at times it wasn’t unpleasant.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

Even though I was planning to be self-sufficient both I and others racing for Seamons were very grateful to have a couple of club mates positioned on the course with emergency bottles.  Given my recent propensity for self-ejecting bottles it was something less to worry about.  I carried with me a 750ml and a 600ml bottle with High5 carb powder and that was just enough for me.  I also taped three gels to the bike and carried some Clif shot bloks up one sleeve of my skinsuit.  Again, just enough for me.  For those interested in the science of nutrition on longer rides it is a very individual thing underpinned by some basic facts.  Firstly, your body stores around 2000-2500 kcals of instantly available energy (on top of less quickly available fat stores).  A 100 for me uses roughly 3600 kcals meaning I need to find somewhere between 1000 and 1500 kcals of energy.  At least some of this will come from fat but if I have 2x200kcal gels, 2x90kcal gels and 2x 180kcal drinks then that adds up to around 940kcals.  It seems to work for me.

Gallery courtesy of Tim Marshall, Paul Furness and Ellen Isherwood

I was really pleased with my pacing – in fact I got it pretty much spot-on.  My first 50 miles were done at an average of 244W in a shade over 1hr 59mins and my second 50 at 245W in a shade under 1hr 59mins.  My 10 mile splits were

  1. 23:42 249W
  2. 24:20 246W
  3. 23:35 243W
  4. 23:37 241W
  5. 24:01 241W
  6. 24:25 240W
  7. 23:11 244W
  8. 23:41 245W
  9. 23:56 244W
  10. 23:06 251W

I had the usual issues – bit of saddle soreness at around 50 miles and 80 miles, sore neck and shoulders as the ride went on, and a bit of a battering from the poor road surfaces.  My left contact lens slipped at some point so my vision was a bit blurry, which meant I hit more potholes than I usually do, especially where the shade from the tree canopy made them really hard to pick out on the road.  However, my target was sub 4 hours and I was 2 minutes under which was enough to win the Seamons Club 100 Championship.  I also bagged the Nick Carter Trophy for the best M&DTTA veteran on standard and Seamons retained the South Lancashire team shield for the 4th season running.  Overall, a very good day and a massive thank you to the team of around 100 volunteers and organisers who enabled 75 riders to race – this sport could not happen without them – and of course to our clubmates for the support provided.  6th from 75 riders (£50, 1st vet on standard, 1st team)

The day after I did a light active recovery session on the turbo and on the Tuesday a relatively light training session.  The club 10 on the Wednesday was a lovely warm and calm evening and I was surprised to find I managed my best average power since early May, but it was only good enough to carry me to 3rd place – which means I’ll be handing back the Club 10 Trophy at the end of the year.  3rd from 23 riders

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

The good weather held out to the weekend when we were racing the J4/8 Cheshire course on the Nova 25. I actually prefer this course to J2/9 especially now that large parts of it have new surfaces that seem pretty good.  And the wind was behind us for the long drag up King Street!  I felt reasonably strong from the start and there are signs that my power is gradually returning.  Some of it is mental – just pushing through the discomfort and carrying on as hard as possible – and it’s easy to lose concentration and dip below threshold or relax position slightly.  I was pleased I was able to maintain form all the way round.  5th from 72 riders (£25, 5th actual, 2nd vet on standard)

The following week saw the second postponement of the Seamons Club 25 championship due to yet more roadworks in Cheshire.  Despite incredibly valiant last minute efforts trying to find an alternative course the organiser was forced to push this back to the Seamons Open event later in the month – see below – thanks again to Paul and the team who turned out anyway to try to get the race on.   I made do with a turbo session instead which meant I was nicely knackered for the mid-week 10 on another balmy evening.  However, my power was okay despite my legs hurting (a lot) and I managed a course best – although still only good enough for 3rd place.  3rd from 26 riders

Next up came an A race – the BDCA 50 on the fast A50/6 course.  I was looking forward to this and for once tried to taper a bit for it.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

The wind direction meant it was going to be hard work on the outbound 20-odd miles (including up the “concrete mountain” past the JCB factory on the A50) and then a tailwind back, with a short section of crosswind on the spur out to Rocester and back.  I decided to go out hard for the first 20 miles and then try to get some recovery with the wind behind me.  So my first 20 miles was done at the power I normally use on 25 mile TTs and by the turn at Blyth Bridge I was pretty tired.  A double caffeine gel helped but not as much as the downhill tailwind – for 20 watts less I covered the next 10 miles in a shade over 19 minutes!  Miles 30 to 40 were even more of a struggle with power down again, although I managed to keep my average speed up.  The single carriageway spur seemed to have more traffic on it than the A50 which was frustrating.  For the final 10 miles I pushed hard to empty the tank, ekeing out a bit more power and managing to cover the distance in less than 20 minutes, which meant I slashed 3 minutes off my PB for a time of 01:45:46.  I was delighted and it would have been enough for a club record had Alan not already recorded 01:44:02!  Still, with Chris as well we set a Club team 50 mile record so that was some consolation.  9th from 78 riders (tbc – potentially 1st 50-54 category, 1st team)

I’d entered the Selby CC 10 on the V718 the next day more as a contingency in case the BDCA was cancelled.  So when my alarm went off at 5:45am I wasn’t quite as enthusiastic as I oversize would have been!

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

The wind on the V was in the “wrong” direction for really fast times but I’d set my PB in similar conditions so I wasn’t concerned, other than about the dull ache in my legs!  The outbound leg has been resurfaced with proper tarmac.  I thought it was pretty smooth before (by Cheshire standards) so it is absolutely brilliant now.  There were blowy bits on the exposed part of the return leg but it was still pretty quick.  I somehow managed to squeeze a decent power out and managed a decent time – my third best ever.  16th from 135 riders

I missed the midweek club 10 due to a work commitment.  Since my last illness I’ve been using an app on my phone called HRV4Training to get some data on Heart Rate Variability.  It is meant to give you a lot of insight into your overall physiological condition because it measures how your autonomic system is responding to stress – I recommend clicking the link above for far more detail and insight than I can give.  Anyway, the point of this is that during the following week (which also coincided with increased stress levels outside of training) I was finding relatively easy training sessions very tiring.  I was also sleeping poorly and waking up tired as well.  I hoped I wasn’t coming down with something – I’ve had this before and it is often similar symptoms to accumulated fatigue – i.e. I’m overreaching in my training.  This is what HRV4Training was telling me – the following screenshots show some of the data it presents to you.

HRV4Training app screenshots

As you can see there were some indicators there.  Top left shows a reduction in my HRV scores (using the “industry standard” rMSSD figures) which signifies increased stress, as does an increase in my resting heart-rate on centre top image.  The bottom left image is a variation of the top left using HRV4Training’s proprietary Recovery Points unit.  The two images on the right show HRV4Training’s interpretation of my data over a sustained period and provides a narrative circled – accumulated fatigue!

Unfortunately I had a hard weekend’s racing ahead so given how I felt and how the data looked I wasn’t confident of success.  I awoke on Saturday feeling like I was coming down with a cold and a sore throat.  I wasn’t confident but decided to race anyway knowing I would probably regret it.  Regular readers of this blog will know I’m a bit stupid like that.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

I was very nervous beforehand.  I didn’t feel well at all so I resolved to take it very steady from the off.  Which I did.  I concentrated on holding my aero position as I reckoned my power would be down.  It was – 17W average lower than the same course in May – that’s around 10%.  However, I wasn’t feeling as bad as I thought, but I was riding within myself most of the way.  Only in the last 5 miles or so, after the final turn out of Gough’s Lane onto the A50 did I allow myself to push hard to the finish.  I was absolutely knackered at the end.  Luckily for me, and unluckily for the last bunch of riders, the heavens absolutely opened as I was at my car.  It was that bad that even though I was parked under a tree, I was absolutely soaked in the time it took me to put my bike and kit into the car.  Out on the course must have been pretty bad.  I still don’t know how but I managed my second fastest time ever on J4/16.  Also, it turned out that we missed out on the team prize by 3s!  Yes, two teams of three riders rode 50 miles and all there was to separate them after just under 6 hours was 3 seconds!  8th from 80 riders (£15, 1st vet on standard)

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The culprit! Small nick in a very nearly new Conti TT with inner tube bulging out

The less said about Sunday the better.  I’m destined never to ride R25/3H, which is a fast 25 course in South Wales.  I was ill at the start of June which was the last time I was due to ride it and up at 5am this time for a 400 mile round-trip, only for the latex tube in my rear wheel to go bang as I waited for my start slot (see picture above for reason!)  The 2 mile walk back to the HQ in cleats, in the rain, was the cherry on top.

My cold came out during the week so I missed the midweek 10 again and it was Friday before I started feeling better.  Bit sick of being ill now – that’s twice this season!

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

On Saturday it was Seamons CC Open 25, which included the club 25 championship and the second part of the VTTA M&NW 25 championship, which I was leading by 13s after the first part.

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© Ellen Isherwood

I felt okay although still a bit bunged up, however having been ill meant I’d only trained lightly so I felt pretty rested.  It was a windy day so when I went off I decided I’d push it hard and see how long I could hang on, and try to make myself as small as possible into the wind.  As a strategy it seemed to work well and I was pleased with how well I covered the first 10 miles.  The second 10 hurt a bit more and I saw my power dip by around 10W but that was okay.  During the last 5 miles I struggled but still held my power at second 10 level.  It was good enough for a course best.  I was near the end of the field when I started so most of the results were in when I got back to the HQ.  I was delighted to find I had won the club championship but I’d lost the VTTA championship by 17s – a 30s swing on this ride – you clearly win some and lose some!  7th from 94 riders (£60, 2nd on standard, 1st team)

The next morning I was at Rainford for the Birkenhead NE 25.  I wasn’t impressed with the weather as I waited to get ready and warmup – summer huh?

Thankfully it stopped and I was able to warm up and ride to the start relatively dry.  It did start raining when I was riding but bizarrely only at one end of the course where it runs on the Rainford bypass.  The other end of the course was bone-dry and there isn’t a big distance between the two ends.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

I was a bit disappointed with my ride.  Not because my legs were tired from the previous day – they were – but because the standing water on the roads made it very difficult to hold aero position properly and I felt I was sticking my head up far too often.  In the end my fidgeting probably cost me the win because I was 2nd by 30s. 2nd from 30 riders (£15 1st veteran – tbc)

During the month I managed 612 miles outdoors with 21,266ft ascent at around 19.9mph average, which used up around 22,698kcals. I spent 16 hours and 3 minutes on the turbo using a further 12,035kcals. Total for the month was 2,552TSS

 

100th 10 mile time-trial

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This week saw me ride my 100th 10 mile time trial (and, indeed, my 250th time trial).  I did my first time trial on the 25th September 2010 (read about it here and picture below).  I did it on my road bike without a clue about aerodynamics and at a time when I was tipping the scales at around 78kg.  I managed to average 20.9mph to do it in a time of 28 minutes and 42 seconds.

Photo by Jon Williams. Me looking knackered

I felt sick immediately afterwards and vowed never to do it again!  7 months later and I tried my hand at club not-quite-10’s (8.75 miles) but it was 2012 before I did another open 10!

Fast forward nearly 7 years and I’ve just completed my 101st 10.  I’m less than 65kg and I managed to average 30.3mph to do it in a time of 19 minutes and 50 seconds.

It’s taken a bit of hard work to get to this point but importantly it’s not felt like it because it has been fantastic fun, and I’ve met some great people over the years.  Although I’m 50 years old I still see myself as a relative novice with plenty still to learn, and I look forward to trying to get faster.

Hopefully this might inspire a few people to give it a go.  If I can do this with no discernible natural talent, then so can anyone.

 

50,000 Up!

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I’ve just hit an interesting milestone.  Since I returned to cycling in 2009 I started recording my rides and I’ve just passed 50,000 miles!  In doing so, I’ve used over two million additional calories that I wouldn’t have otherwise, which is pretty staggering!  This has, of course, allowed me to eat approximately two million additional calories too!

The map above shows where I’ve cycled in those 8 years – I’d love to have cycled in more places but I have had a fantastic time regardless.  Thankfully, this blog serves as my “memory” – here are some of my favourite and memorable rides and events.

12 Hour Time Trial

The Alps. Twice

Lanzarote

Audaxing

London Edinburgh London 2013

Land’s End to John o’ Groats

London to Brussels in 24 hours

First time trial

June – where did all the power go?

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In June I managed just one open race and four club 10’s.

I’d overdone it at the end of May and ended up ill.  This is not the first time this has happened to me – it happened in 2015 and cost me 2 weeks.  This time I stayed off the bike from Wednesday to the following Monday and missed 3 races.  I eased back into training “gently” (my version) with a view to getting back into a sensible shape for the middle of the month when the Seamons Club 25 championship took place, plus a couple of key opens.  After nearly a week off, the first training sessions back felt really hard!

My first race was a Club 10 a few days later.  It was run on a new variation of the course which on the whole was much better but I was much worse!  Couldn’t even make my 25 mile power numbers and my HR was much higher than normal, so I had definitely not fully recovered.  And it was raining.  And I got “lost” on the way back to my car.  In the rain.  5th from 14 riders

On the Saturday I hoped that I’d recovered a bit more with an extra training session thrown in for good measure – which didn’t reassure me as it felt harder than it should have done.  My CTL had dropped about 10 points so I had low expectations.  The forecast was for rain which would be the third race on the run where it had chucked it down on me.  However, an email from the organiser on the morning cancelled the event due to roadworks, with attempts to find an alternative course proving fruitless.  It was disappointing but with perspective it meant that I had some extra time to get a few more training sessions under my belt before the next race.  Instead I did Sufferfest Blender in Erg mode.  Urg!

I also received the results from the Threshold study I was involved in at the University of Chester (you may have read about it here).  I knew I was overweight when I did it and the study confirmed it.  Since then a combination of the illness (I won’t go into detail but you can imagine) and using the myfitnesspal app to keep a nutrition diary has meant I have dropped a lot of weight.  The app is really easy to use, including barcode scanning and a very large existing database.  Since the testing I’ve lost a good few kilo’s and am now back at my race weight of just under 66kg – I was 70kg at the test which was a shock!  One downside of this is I appear to have lost a bit of top-end power – maybe 10W.  I’m hoping that this will come back and/or the reduced weight will offset it.

Here are some of the results.  My Haematocrit was 43% and my Haemoglobin 137mmol.l

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Critical Power correlates roughly to 20 minute power, which means I’m not trying hard enough in 10’s!  It would also point at an FTP of around 316W, which also means I’m not trying hard enough in 25’s!  Must.  Try.  HARDER!

It also illustrates how important weight is for cyclists.  At my current weight (assuming I’ve lost no power, but as I mentioned I have) my Critical Power would jump to around 5W/Kg, my VO2max to 66.7, Ventilatory Threshold to 4.4 and Wmax to 6.25.  Not sure I can get to that but the target is there.  Anyway, all good stuff and the testing was a great experience.

The Seamons Club 25 Championships were meant to be up next but they were also cancelled thanks to the road-surfacing works that had done for the 25 the previous Saturday.  What’s worse is that large chunks of the Cheshire courses (J2/3, J2/9, J4/16) have now been surface-dressed which is the most appalling road surface technique ever invented.  They are a nightmare for cyclists, being horribly grippy on the straights, dangerous on corners and doing nothing to potholes other than applying a veneer over the top of them.

My next race was the midweek club 10.  I am rarely in good shape for these, and came into this on the back of some hard training, so it was unsurprising that my power was well down again.  I really had very little in my legs but it was a lovely warm evening so I was glad I rode.  3rd from 16 riders

I think the week of sickness and the reduced power affected me more than I realised because most of my training sessions were feeling more difficult than they should and I was often turning the intensity down.  I’m having a bit of a crisis of confidence at the moment but I’m just continuing to plug away as best I can.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

On Saturday it was the Manchester & District Time Trial Association 50 mile championships.  It was touch and go whether it would take place because it was laps of the same course that had resulted in the cancellation of the Seamons 25.  By the morning of the event the roadworks were clear apart from a single temporary light on Twemlow Lane.  A marshall was duly stationed there and the event went ahead.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Found some shade to warm up

The temperature in the shade was around 25˚C and out in the sun it was touching 28˚C.  After the last 50 debacle where I’d lost my Specialized Aero TT bottle and had to ride the event with no fluids I’d invested in a Fabric no-cage bottle*.  The reviews were mainly by mountain bikers so I figured it would be pretty robust.  It pinged out at the very same spot as the TT bottle had done – Chelford roundabout.  Oh great, 50 miles in 28˚C heat with no fluids.  Clearly mountain bikers haven’t tried a Cheshire TT!  My mood was not improved by the delays on the course due to traffic, including me needing to overtake a tractor and a STEAM driven lorry which was belching black smoke behind it like some kind of James Bond car.  And then I got stopped at the red light.  Of course I did.  The heat and lack of fluid was taking it’s toll.  I was watching my power drop steadily and my HR rise steadily.  Overheating leads to your heart pumping blood faster to the surface of the skin for cooling, diverting it somewhat from muscles and dehydration leads to blood plasma thickening which overall leads to your heart having to work much harder for the same “effort”.  The worrying bit came when I stopped sweating.  Anyway, I carried on although I was massively frustrated as I could see my time getting worse and worse.  By the end my power was more like I’d ridden a 100, my HR was more like I’d ridden a 10, and my time was 3 minutes down on where it should be.  When I went into the HQ it was clear most people had suffered.  The number of DNFs was huge – 26 in total.  Here my reduced weight had helped because the leaner you are the more effective your body’s cooling is.  It turned out I missed out on the championship by 39s, or as I like to kid myself a dropped bottle, a red light, a tractor and a steam lorry!  Bugger.  5th from 105 riders (£25, 2nd vet, 3rd MDTTA)

* update – Fabric kindly offered to send me a replacement bottle – great customer service if they do.

My next Club 10 was at the end of the heatwave which apparently was the hottest since 1976.  In fact the heatwave ended at the precise moment I was getting ready – I got soaked in the downpour that ensued as I was warming up and I watched the temperature on my Garmin drop from 25˚C to 20˚C.  The race was okay – still tired but I recorded my fastest time on the “new” new course.  2nd from 20 riders

The BDCA 30 mile open was cancelled due to the very sad death of a rider on the A50 earlier in the month so I took myself off for a longish ride over to Todmorden, Hebden Bridge and up Cragg Vale for a bit of threshold hill training.

My final race of the month was therefore the Club 10.  For a change I was rested coming into this because the day before I was out marshalling at the Seamons TLI Road Race

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Finish line marshalling team!

The weather for the Club 10 was horrible.  The temperature was 11˚C and it was raining again, as it had been ALL day.  Still, I rode well with good pacing and managed my best time on the new “new” course and got my first win for a long time!  My power was still down a bit but overall a pleasing race.  1st from 15 riders

Finally some very sad news.  This month saw the passing of Gordon Pickering, a stalwart and legend of the M&DTTA and north west time-trialling.  He has been timekeeper for most of the “J” course time-trials I’ve done over the last 5 seasons and he was a lovely man who always had time to chat, even when counting you down to the start!  He’ll be sorely missed and it won’t be the same without him in and about the HQ’s and setting us off.  Rest in Peace Gordon.

During the month I managed 409 miles outdoors with 17,349ft ascent at around 17.4mph average, which used up around 15,977kcals. I spent 18 hours and 19 minutes on the turbo using a further 15,354kcals. Total for the month was 2,251TSS