Plan for a plan..?

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I’m looking for some advice.

In a few years time (probably more than a few, but less than a lot!) I will be looking to retire from my current full-time profession and do something part-time. I got to thinking that I’d like to do something I really love. So I started to form the nucleus of a plan in my head.

I have a keen interest in physiology and training, I love reading about the mental and psychological side of sport and I think I’ve built up some reasonable knowledge and experience in cycling and performance. In fact I’d go as far as to say I’m passionate about the subject, even though that is a phrase I really dislike because it gets bandied about far too much these days!

So anyway, eventually I’d like to start my own cycling coaching business.

I started looking into steps to take to make this a reality. If I do something I tend to go all in and do it as well and as properly as I can. So as I see it there are a number of routes. For British Cycling there are clear courses and progression

  • Level 1 Award in Coaching Cycling (L1ACC)
  • Level 2 Certificate in Coaching Cycling (L2CCC)
  • Level 2 Discipline-specific Awards (L2DSA)
  • Level 3 Certificate in Coaching Cycling (L3CCC)

I think the cost of these (including the requisite first-aid qualification) comes to a bit over £2000, but the intention would be to spread that over at least 3 to 4 years.

Another route seems to be the Association of British Cycling Coaches (ABCC) which offers a course that is significantly cheaper at £250. I must admit I wasn’t familiar with this until I started looking in to the subject.

By contrast, a degree in sports science by distance learning appears to be between £18,000 and £22,000 depending on the university (I stopped looking at two – that’s way out of my budget!)

As I said at the start of this post, I’d be very interested in feedback on this subject, especially from people who have followed this route themselves. Or anyone aware of other routes to get to the same outcome. All advice, hints and tips gratefully recieved.

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Spring has Sprung*

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Thanks to http://www.ridingforlove.com

*as I type this there has been sleet and snow!

The first weekend in March feels quite early to be starting racing.  Despite having been out on my TT bike the previous weekend, 10 miles at race pace on J2/1 was a real shock to the system.  I had tweaked my position a bit over the winter – 2cm lower at the front and saddle 2.5cm further back – and I hated it.  It made my shoulders and neck painful, made my legs hurt in ways they don’t normally hurt and my power wasn’t where it should be.  On the plus side, the weather was quite pleasant, the earlier start time seemed to work well and the new organisers, University of Manchester Cycling Club, did a great job. 21:54, 6th from 59

The next weekend was on J4/20e in very windy conditions.  I persevered but the position felt no better and I was blown about a fair bit.  This, and an unscheduled stop at the first junction, contributed to another disappointing set of power numbers. 22:32, 2nd from 40

Very high winds and lots of rain put paid to the following weekend (good call) so the next race was on J2/3 a week later.  At the end of a decent block of training I felt tired going into it and unsurprisingly performed pretty badly. 22:42, 14th from 96

I finally lost patience and put my bars back up to the same height as last season ready for the Stretford Wheelers Gordon Pickering Memorial 10 on J2/1.  Gordon was a lovely man and is still sadly missed. Disaster struck for me pre-race when the zip went on my skinsuit so I raced with 4 judiciously placed safety pins holding my belly in, much to the amusement of the starter and pusher off (no I haven’t put weight on!)  My legs felt a bit better but nearly a mile idling behind two cars behind a slower rider put paid to any thoughts of a decent time.  I still wasn’t happy with my saddle position so after the race I put that back to last season’s position too. 22:16, 11th from 104

In a major error of judgement I had decided to ride the Merseyside VTTA 15 the next morning in Shropshire, completely failing to factor in the change to BST robbing me of an hour of sleep.  However, despite it being much windier and colder than it looked, my bike felt comfortable again and I recorded an average power over 15 miles higher than any of the 10’s up until that point. 33:48, 6th from 68

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Thanks to @v_petkov_portraits

The Belgian Classics

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Belgian Classics…

It’s nearly time for the Spring Classics, which kick off in Belgium on Saturday 2nd March with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and then Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne the following day. Later in the month (after a detour to Italy for Strade Bianchi and Milan-San Remo), we are back in Belgium for E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem. April races come thick and fast – Dwars Door Vlaanderen, Tour of Flanders (Ronde van Vlaanderen), Scheldeprijs, Brabantse Pijl, Flèche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Mixed in are trips to France for Paris Roubaix and Tro-Bro Leon, and the Netherlands for Amstel Gold. The finale takes place in Italy with Il Lombardia.

Anyway, back to Belgium. I try to provide informative and useful articles on this blog based on my own experimentation and testing. Selflessly, I am doing that again with this post, which compares the merits of different Belgian Classics – the Belgian Bun! I see this as an important public service – it’s absolutely nothing to do with finding an excuse to eat as many buns as possible.

For those that don’t know, the Belgian Bun is the king of all buns. It is a sweet bun containing raisins, maybe some candied fruit chunks, and is covered in white icing, with half a glacé cherry on top. Note it is not a cake as it’s made from dough. They generally contain around 400kcalories, around 10% fat, 60% carb (40% sugar) and quite a lot of salt. Happily, there is some protein in there if you are desperate for a positive excuse!

I have tried samples from Greggs, Aldi, Tesco, Coop and M&S (like I said, I’m selfless). When you settle down to watch the racing here’s your guide to the best bun to accompany your coffee (or Belgian Beer, if you are that way inclined).

Marks & Spencers – 3.5 out of 5 stars

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This is not just any Belgian Bun, this is an M&S Belgian Bun! It is very fruity, with raisins and chunks of candied orange. In fact, it tastes very much like a hot-cross bun – a bit too much really. The bread is firm but not hard and the bun is well-shaped. The icing is thick, sweet and really very good, with no real fondant aftertaste.

Coop – 4 out of 5 stars

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Another bun with lots of raisins and a good, firm texture. Not so much of a citrus flavour but that’s no bad thing. The icing is not quite as thick but is sweet with no aftertaste. A great bun and comes in a pack of two – what’s not to love!

Greggs – 2 out of 5 stars

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Misshapen and slightly hard bun. The icing is very sickly and leaves a fondant aftertaste. Not one for me I’m afraid.

Aldi – 4 out of 5 stars

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Another pack of two, the Aldi buns seem to be slightly taller. They also seem to have slightly less raisins than the others and a very sweet icing, but the whole thing seems to work well.

Tesco – 5 out of 5 stars

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My favourite. The bun seems to have a hint of lemon flavour to it, and a nice selection of raisins and sultanas. The icing is thick but not too sickly and the whole thing is well-shaped and comes in a pack of two. My go-to treat when settling down to watch the racing after a weekend ride.

Of course, if you are interested in the real Belgian/Spring/Cobbled Classics then head over to the blog at ProcyclingUK

New Season

One of the things that I really love about time-trialling is that the buck well and truly stops with you.  Did you train well over the winter?  Did you take care to eat properly?  Did you allow for recovery and adaptation?  Only you can answer that honestly, and if you don’t then the race of truth will find out. The new season is not far away.  I can look at those three questions and answer honestly – yes, yes and yes!  Alas though, I am another year older and I’m sure quite a few people will have moved the needle on a bit.  I did a little bit of testing on my TT bike yesterday and it confirmed what I always know – the first few races will just be about learning to hold position and suffer in a race again. It all starts again next week – I’m looking forward to testing myself again. See you out there.

Happy 2019!

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As 2018 draws to a close here’s a quick look at what I’ve been up to in the last couple of months. Happy New Year!

Ramp Tests Galore

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I spent a week or so in early November helping out with a scientific study at the University of Chester. It required me to perform a ramp test followed by a period of recovery and then another test. The period of recovery varied in duration. I did six of these in total. It was good fun and I discovered that my recovery after 30 seconds is pretty good. In fact it is as good as several minutes – in theory I should be a decent crit racer, go figure!

VTTA Manchester & NW Luncheon

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At the end of November it was the VTTA Manchester & NW annual luncheon. It’s a nice event (first Christmas dinner of the year!) and I picked up the 25 mile Championship Cup, the ES Ward Memorial Championship Cup, the Stan Livingston Memorial Trophy, the Local Courses 3 Distance Shield and the FTA Trophy.

Turn up the Base

I don’t know if it is the same for everybody but during the racing season my FTP drifts downwards unless I specifically aim to build it up. I think it is because the intensity of racing chips away at your physiology due to the needs of balancing intensity with adequate recovery. It’s only a few percent but frankly when you are in your fifties that matters, because it is very hard to get it back, and even harder to add some more on. So I thought I’d try a different approach this winter and go somewhat old school. I took a week off training and then started doing fairly easy long rides – either outside or on the turbo. Once a week I threw in a VO2 Max session as recommened by Joe Friel in his book Fast after Fifty. Also, for the first time in a long time, I did some strength training.

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#Festive500

Anyway, my base phase culminated this week. I had time off work and the weather was mild so I got outside and did some big miles – which coincidentally allowed me to complete the Rapha #Festive500 for the first time in a few years. It was a big week (975TSS) and I was knackered at the end but a good way to sign off base miles. Instead of a natty woven badge, this time Rapha donated an equivalent amount to World Bicycle Relief, a charity that mobilises people through The Power of Bicycles. They are committed to helping people conquer the challenge of distance, achieve independence and thrive. Click on the image to the left to see their website. Anyway, a week of recovery and then it’s into the build phase in January – things get a bit more serious and I will start to outline my goals for 2019 and develop my training plan and race plan around it.

Ade’s Pancake Ratings

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I’ve had a few pancakes recently. They’re my favourite brunch item. Here’s the Ade Pancake Ratings in order of preference

  1. Top right – Moose Coffee – filled with blueberries, large and tasty and great value
  2. Bottom right – Cafe North – very, very close second
  3. Bottom left – homemade (Kingsmill!) – my own creation with greek yoghurt and fresh summer berries
  4. Top left – The Ivy – great setting and nice enough but small and expensive

2018 Highlights

My road mileage increased a fair bit in 2018 – I did around 6,600 miles and that included around 341,000 feet of climbing. In addition I spent over 323 hours (24×7 just about twice) on the turbo. That little lot used about 460,000 kcals of energy. Anyway, within that lot my top highlights were

  • Club record 272.21 miles in the Combined Associations 12 hour race
  • Breaking 50 minutes and 30mph average for a 25 mile TT (just!) – 49:57
  • A win in the VTTA M&NW 10 in April

I hope you look back on 2018 happy in what you achieved and I wish you all the very best for 2019. Happy New Year all.

The State of Our Roads

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According to a Public Health England study published 18 months ago, nearly two thirds of adults in England were classed as overweight or obese. Possibly worse, nearly 30% of children between the ages of 2 and 15 are overweight or obese. Unfortunately younger generations are becoming obese at earlier ages and staying obese. It’s only going to get worse.

So what?

The NHS estimated that it spent £6.1 billion on overweight and obesity-related ill-health in the 2014-15 financial year. The estimate for the wider economy dwarfs this – it’s £27 billion. Never mind Brexit, that’s a year-on-year bill that nobody seems quite as concerned about – you’re highly unlikely to see that on the side of a bus. Much of this is put down the food and drink manufacturers – and there is clearly a link, but it’s not the whole story.  The government has already started taxing sugary drinks, which is somewhat akin to sticking a finger in the hole after the Titanic hit the iceberg. The other side of the “eat less, move more” equation is physical activity – or more rather, lack of it.

In another report by Public Health England, it forecasts that the health and social care costs of air pollution in England could reach £5.3 billion by 2035. These costs are drawn from the cost of treating diseases with a strong association to air quality – child asthma, lung cancer, stroke and heart disease.

Auto Express suggests traffic congestion costs the UK £38 billion.  

As this is a blog about bikes you can probably see where I’m going with this.

In 2017 the government published its £1.2 Billion long-term plan to make cycling and walking the natural choice for shorter journeys. Commendable, and very much a step/pedal in the right direction.  But £1.2 Billion is a fraction of the the eye-wateringly large numbers above.

Cycling & Walking Strategy

The report has some compelling targets and some very interesting numbers in it. For example, if the UK could achieve the same levels of cycling as Denmark (sounds reasonable) the NHS would save £17 Billion within 20 years, and shifting just 10% of journeys from cars to bikes would save 400 productive life years due to the reduction in pollution.   The report states objectives that by 2020, will:

  • increase cycling activity (including making the roads a sfare place for all users)
  • increase walking activity
  • reduce the rate of cyclists killed or seriously injured on England’s roads
  • increase the percentage of children aged 5 to 10 that usually walk to school

In 2016 102 cyclists were killed on the roads (94 adults and 8 children). 3,397 were seriously injured and 13,314 slightly injured. It’s only my subjective view but the roads feel like they are getting more dangerous, and that it will be hard to meet these objectives without the government driving through some fundamental changes in social attitudes to driving similar to that which happened with drink-driving. However, it took a generation for that to move from acceptable behaviour to anti-social behaviour, helped by stronger sentences and the real risk of consequences if caught. Contrast that to the current state of driving on our roads

  • widespread use of smart phones whilst driving
  • lack of regard for speed limits
  • increasing wilful disregard for traffic signals, especially during commuting hours
  • more and more car safety features giving drivers a false sense of ability and security
  • driving a car being seen as a right rather than a privilige, to the detriment of all other road users
  • government wasting time and money on new laws that work against cycling
  • an almost total lack of enforcement by an otherwise stretched police force
  • traffic increasing year on year

So, whilst I see some positives that government is starting to wake up to the need to have a set of integrated policies – which would free up resources for the NHS, reduce congestion, improve air quality and generally make people healthier and happier – cycling still feels pretty much marginalised. There is still a sense that cyclists (and to a lesser extent pedestrians) are the problem rather than the solution, and motorists certainly seem to think they have more “rights” to use roads.  

Looking at the absolute debacle that is Brexit I despair that this government (or any government frankly) will be in any way competent and capable enough of making any of this happen and following through on their strategy.  For the good of everyone, not just cyclists, let’s hope I’m wrong.

September – winding down

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Normal service is resumed…

Of course we all knew that the fantastic summer we’ve had must eventually come to an end.  And so it did in September.

However, not before a very nice day on the 1st of the month for the rearranged Cheshire Roads Club 50 around a slightly different version of J4/16.

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The standard course starts in Twemlow Lane and finishes just before the turn back into it after nearly 3 laps.  The revised version, designated J4/16E, started in Bomish Lane near the start of J2/9.  It then finished just up the bank from Terra Nova School.  I had a decent enough ride apart from a slight problem with my aerobars.  Since I swapped to the reversed USE bars, the horizontal pads were really causing me pain, so I invested in some angled spacers to set the pads at about 20deg and take the pressure off my elbows.  I followed the recommended torque settings (which was slightly below the standard Canyon ones) and everything felt pretty sturdy.  However, the vibrations and rattling caused by Cheshire roads must have caused them to gradually move as over the course of the ride they turned in on themselves so that the ends with the shifters were touching.  This meant I spent a lot of the time slightly prising them apart to a) allow me to get my fingers in and change gear and b) stop them changing gear on their own when I hit a bump (which they did once – threw me off the big ring!)  I’m not sure how this happened because I couldn’t physically turn the bars but it resulted in some serious neck and shoulder ache for me after nearly 2 hours!  The event was really well run but there were a lot of DNSs, probably due to the re-arrangement.  Unfortunately I hear this is the last version of this event, which has been run since 1931.  A real shame.  50M in 01:53:13, 4th from 43 riders (£15 4th fastest, 1st vet, £10 1st team)) 

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The following week was the Weaver Valley 25, also rearranged from earlier in the summer.  The weather for this was atrocious.  I backed my car to a point under the trees at Cranage but still got very wet whilst warming up.  The rain was torrential – at one point I thought the car park might flood!  In fact, the rain continued all the way the start, a good 4 miles or so away.  It continued but eased up a bit during my actual ride and only stopped right at the end.  The ride back to the HQ saw the clouds part and some blue sky!  It was a tough ride in those conditions, and despite resetting them the bars turned inwards again! 25M in 55:23, 2nd from 56 riders (£20, 2nd fastest, £10 2nd team) 

The following Sunday morning I was up to 5am to drive to Levens.  The weather was very, very wet and very windy – in fact the standing water and spray on the course meant the organiser cancelled it before it started.  So despite an early start and an hours drive each way, to be frank I was pleased that the organsier had made the call.

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My final race of the season, therefore, was the Stretford Wheelers 25 on J2/9.  It was a bit chilly, but relatively dry and calm.  For a couple of weeks I wasn’t training as such, simply messing about on Zwift so I came into this feeling pretty well rested – so I thought I’d try to leave it all out there.  I ended up with a very decent power output, maybe 4 or 5W off my best of the season.  Thankfully, the aero bars remained in the correct position this time.  25M in 55:24, 2nd from 66 riders (£30 2nd fastest, £10 1st team)


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Polishing 2017 VTTA Manchester trophies ready to return – sadly I won’t be seeing all of those again this year

Season Roundup

Overall I’m pretty happy with my season.  I had three main goals.  An “18” 10, a “49” 25 and a club record at 12 hours.  I was only going to get close to the first goal on V718, a really fast 10 course, so that went out of the window when racing was banned on that course.  I managed to achieve the other two.  As I get older my other aims were really around age-group and being really competitive against my peers – it’s a fools errand getting frustrated and disappointed about not being able to match people who are 10 to 20-odd years younger than me.  2018 was the first year the Cycling Time Trials (CTT) National Ranking System was live.  I’m not sure of the ins and outs of the points system but basically it is designed to take relative positions of riders in their best 10 races and rank them.  I was 59th* from nearly 9000 riders.  More importantly, there were only 4 riders in the country of my age or higher with more points than me.  I also managed 27th* place in the Best All-Rounder (BAR) which I am very happy with because both my 100 and 12 hour were on courses not considered fast.

*at time of writing


What Now

I’ve taken some time off the turbo and started doing some strength training for the first time in many years.  Currently I’m struggling to walk because my legs hurt so much and I’m sure I’ve pulled something in one of my glutes.

I’m not planning on any positional changes other than to slightly move my saddle back – it’s slammed forward at the moment.  I’ll do this for the whole winter to give me time to adapt.  I’m still not convinced about the high hands position despite it being quite comfortable (shown below)

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Ade's Road Cycling Blog

I haven’t done “proper” aero testing but I do analyse races using Mywindsock and Bestbikesplit and the results are inconclusive – probably far too many variables for a real comparison.

In the near future (if my legs and glutes allow) I will begin base training.  I’m following some advice from Joe Friel for over 50’s by incorporating at least one “hard” session (VO2Max or Anaerobic) per week, and some strength training, into a relatively long and easy base programme.  I’ll do that until the end of the year and then work from there.

Thanks to all the organisers, volunteers, helpers and marshalls that have enabled me to race 39 times this season in open and club events, and all things being well I will see you next season for more of the same.  Hopefully faster!

I rode 641 miles outdoors with 32,211ft ascent at around 18mph average, which used up around 22,213kcals. I also spent 21 hours 39 mins on the turbo using a further 13,713kcals. Total for the month was 2934TSS

 

August – 12 Hours is a Long Time

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I had two main targets coming into August – both season goals.

Club 50 Championship

The Seamons Club 50 mile championship (and also the final race in our TT Champion competition) took place as part of the Congleton CC 50 mile open around the J4/16 course.

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It was a warm and sunny day again and I was trialling a new bottle carrier that clamps onto the saddle rails – made by Topeak.  It’s a modular system that allows one or two of their Ninja bottle cage range to attach to it.  I have two – one that holds a pouch for an inner tube underneath, and one that holds CO2 canisters (as shown).  If you look closely, tyre levers are integrated into the side of the main spine of the cage.

These were in preparation for the 12 hour and I have to say they are really good – very easy to get the bottles in and out, plus supposedly more aero than a non-aero bottle on the downtube.

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Picture courtesy of and © Richard Howes Photography

On another warm but breezy day I was very pleased with my ride, recording my second best time on J4/16 despite encountering the cows crossing the road for the first time in a good few years.  It was good enough to win the club championship and retain the trophy for another year.  50M in 01:52:45, 5th from 82 riders (£40 – 1st vet on standard, £20 1st team) 


Weekend Off

No racing so spent the weekend in the lakes – mainly eating!


Carb Loading isn’t as fun as it sounds…

As I began my taper down to the 12 hour on the 19th, I also started to increase my food intake from about 72 hours out, notably lots of carbs.  The goal was to hit about 8-10g/kg of body weight, so in my case between 500 – 600g of carbs.  During the Giro D’Italia earlier in the year, Team Sky had made much about Chris Froome’s long solo breakaway win, and the fact that they had calculated his nutrition needs as if it was some magical marginal gain.  The fact is testers have been doing that for years on longer rides such as a 12 hour.  My own nutrition spreadsheet has evolved since 2016 and now delivers me 90g of carb per hour during the race, with stops calculated to change bottles and pick up extra food.  90g per hour is considered the maximum the body can absorb, which is why trying to “fill up” the fuel (glycogen) stores with carb loading makes sense.

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Project Management 101 for testers!

Perhaps not surprisingly, by the end of the week I was sick of it, but it did pay off in the end.

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This is what fuelling for a 12hr looks like!


Combined Associations 12 Hour

The weather forecasts were pretty mixed – some were showing persistent rain, most were showing high humidity and decent temperatures but all were showing a very windy day.

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The HQ (and start) was at the finishing circuit on an industrial estate in Wrexham, which sounds glamorous but really isn’t.

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It’s all glamour…

Nutrition

I was up at 3:45am and I had two cartons of Instant Oats porridge.  Then, immediatly prior to and during the event I consumed the following, timed to give me approx 90g of carbs per hour (as per spreadsheet above)

Item g Carb Kcals Count
SIS BetaFuel drink mix (700ml) 80 320 8
Zipvit ZV7c Caffiene Gel 51 204 2
PowerBar PowerGel Shots 48 210 1
Cliff ShotBlok 48 192 2
SIS Go Energy Large Bar 40 227 4
Honey Stinger Energy Bar 26 173 2
Stoats Porridge Bar 26 226 3

As mentioned I carried two bottles behind my saddle and I tucked 2 or 3 items of food inside my skinsuit at the neck opening.  In total, I consumed around 6,000kcals if you include the early breakfast, and I was still in deficit at the end.  I planned four stops to change bottles and get more food – these were at intervals of around 74 miles, 57 miles, 46 miles and 48 miles.  I also knew I’d need a few ad-hoc nature breaks too – one of the many problems with being over 50!  The fantastic support team I had made these stops really quick and efficient so this year there were only just over 6 minutes where I wasn’t moving, and that included 3 unscheduled stops at temporary traffic lights on the course.  That’s 5 minutes fewer stops than last year.

The weather

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It was windy at the start, but dry and reasonably warm.  I opted to wear a baselayer but because of the wind I also cut a small square of emergency space blanket (the tinfoil ones*) and wore that across my chest inside my skinsuit.  That would allow me to ditch it later on when it got warmer.  I’d also wiped the inside of my visor with washing-up liquid the day before as it helps stop it steaming up – I find the Aerohead is very prone to this in damp or humid conditions.

There were spots of rain on the way out to the first circuit but it wasn’t until the Espley – Shawbirch leg that it started raining.  It was cold and wet at Espley and I was glad of my extra layer, and then a few miles down the road it was warm and dry and I was less glad.  Then I’d go back up to Espley and it was cold and damp again!  However, that was really the last of the rain and it brightened up and got warmer as we rode the day circuit.  The wind remained most of the day only really tailing off towards the end – it was unpleasant riding into it and unpleasant battling for stability when it was coming across from the side.  I’d say it was pleasant when it was a tailwind but it never feels totally equitable!

Towards the end of the day it seemed to get warmer and warmer.  The last two years I’ve been freezing at the end but not this year

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Bit hot! Photo courtesy of Johnny Pardoe

*note to self in future – there is a reason that conspiracy theorists wear hats made of tinfoil – it definitely blocks the data signal from your HR strap to your bike computer!

The course

I quite enjoyed the first section of the course which was a rolling ride over to the A41 and then down through Prees Heath to Ternhill to Espley – which is familiar to anyone who has ridden WCTTCA events.  We then had two out-and-back loops to Shawbirch roundabout via the dreaded Peplow “pave”!  On the plus side that was much better than the three and five times in previous years.  However, it is still a teeth-chattering surface that is at best irritating and at worst can shake bits off your bike.  Luckily the only thing I lost this year was an emergency nurofen I’d taped to my bars!

The day circuit was the same as last year – a 22 mile loop around Redbrook, Welshampton, Quina Brook and Tilstock.  It was a headwind on the first part into Welshampton, with temporary traffic lights for non-existent roadworks, and then rolling country lanes for the rest.  Apart from near Quina Brook the surface is reasonable and it’s a lovely route.  However, after my 5th time around I was well and truly fed up with it.  The temporary traffic lights stopped me dead twice, made me slow down significantly twice and sprint like an idiot once, which is not a good idea with over 100 miles left.

It was a bit of a drag back to the finishing circuit – after 200 odd miles it felt VERY rolling and there was also a quite steep descent, which was interesting in a very tired state on a very windy day.  There was also a set of traffic lights at a junction, preceded by temporary lights on a hill just before them.  I got stopped at the temporary lights and it was a >400W effort to get the bike going again up the hill – definitely not something I needed at that stage, it hurt a lot.  Other riders later reported the lights were showing green in both directions resulting in problems for them as traffic blocked the lane.

The finish circuit was a 9-ish mile loop around the HQ.  Past the HQ felt fast, downhill and possibly a tailwind. Then a left turn onto what was quite a rough surface section with a cow crossing point, which held up a lot of riders (not me luckily).  Another left turn onto an ascending drag into the wind, then back down onto the industrial estate via a short section of fast dual-carriageway.

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Passing the HQ – photo courtesy of Johnny Pardoe

Man and machine

For the first twenty miles I felt good.  I knew what I could do for 12 hours and I rode that pace.  I also knew that I wasn’t very good at eating and drinking so I forced myself to do it.  I had a list of things to eat and the times I would eat them taped to my bars.  I set my auto-lap on the Wahoo to lap every hour and when it went off I ate something off my list. Towards the end I felt a bit sick – I’d eaten a lot of sugary carbs and couldn’t face any more, but between that and the carb loading I never felt like I was going to bonk.

I did have some problems though.  My left knee became increasingly sore during the ride.  It had started a couple of weeks before – just the odd twinge here and there but it wasn’t going.  Walking up a big hill in the Lake District the week before didn’t really help either – it was worse after that.  So after about 50 miles I was riding with knee pain.  Luckily for me (!), the pain in my elbow completely distracted me away from my knee.  I’ve fitted the very high reversed USE aerobars and I’d noticed that my elbow was a bit sore at the end of the 50’s I’d used as test runs.  Many people seem to have the same problem and angle the pads so that pressure is spread along the forearm rather than on one bony point on the elbow.  I didn’t have time to do that and therefore it became more and more of a problem.  Any bit of poor road surface sent a shooting pain up my elbow and I was left with two large bruises on my elbows by the time I had finished.  Added to that was the general pain in my shoulders and neck and I was struggling to hold position for more than 20 minutes at a time before I needed a break.  I tried to ride in position into the wind and then take a break when it felt like a tailwind.

It takes a fair bit of mental strength to ride for 12 hours.  I can only do it by breaking it down into smaller chunks.  So I focused on each hour.  I forced myself to do calculations in my head to keep track of the pace I needed to do, and I set myself little goals like “ride the next section at this power”.   When I reached a milestone you can have a bit of a celebration in your head, things like 25% of the time through, first 100 miles done etc.  Then you start to count down after halfway which is always a boost.  All are mental tricks to keep you pushing through the pain and discomfort.  I also tried to say thank you to each marshal I passed, although at some fraught times I know I missed a couple.  The event was organised and marshaled superbly well and they all provided great support as riders went past.  The final surging morale boost came when I entered the finish circuit.  Even though there were still a couple of hours left it was quite emotional and a massive lift going past everyone at the HQ.  In fact, looking at the data, my power and speed picked up noticeably and I finished very strongly despite the pain and fatigue.

The bike functioned perfectly well.  There were a few creaks and groans from the headset by the end, after the battering from the road surface, but other than that it was great.  I used a waxed chain which felt very smooth and didn’t miss a beat all day.  The last two years I’d suffered from chafing after a few hours and had used a LOT of chamois cream to get me through.  This season I’m running a Specialized Sitero saddle and it wasn’t until around 11 hours that I felt any chafing or discomfort, which is a big improvement.

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What a superb support crew! Photo courtesy of Johnny Pardoe

None of it would have been possible without the fantastic support I received.  Dave and Neil out on the course, Liz and Kate in the lead up to the event and on the finish circuit, and Carol and JP at the HQ.  Thank you all.

Things that went well
  • My target was 270 miles and a Seamons club record.  My official distance was 272.21 miles.  That should also get me the Club BAR again
  • Superb organisation and marshaling.  Indeed, the provisional results were out the same evening which is incredibly fast for a 12 hour
  • Fantastic support!  Thank you all again
  • Overall nutrition planning and stops
  • Honey Stinger bars – very nice, easy to chew and get down
  • My power/pacing was pretty consistent all the way through
  • Bottle cages behind the saddle
  • Specialized Sitero saddle
  • Wahoo Elemnt Bolt battery life

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Still > 15% battery left!

Things a bit so-so
  • SIS Go Large Energy Bars – nice enough but a bit hard and very difficult to chew on the move
  • Stoats porridge bars – the opposite – easy to eat but crumbly, so bits were flying everywhere
  • SIS Betafuel – seems to work well but a bit of an insipid taste (lemon/lime – should’ve tried orange as well)
Things that didn’t work
  • Horizontal armrests with “praying mantis” aerobars
  • Armrests probably too narrow for 12 hours – a bit uncomfortable
  • My left knee
  • HR monitor data signal through tinfoil
Facts and Figures
  • 272.21 miles at just under 22.7mph
  • Approx. 7,000ft of ascent
  • Average power 194W, normalised 199W, peak 5s 463W (uphill traffic lights!)
  • Average HR 136bpm (approx), average cadence 79rpm
  • Work expended 8,287KJ, 543TSS
  • Temperature went from 13.9C to 22.8C

In summary, it was a really well organised day and very enjoyable.  If you are undecided about having a crack at a 12 hour I’d recommend it, and hopefully there is some useful information for you here.  272.21M in 12 hours, 4th from 60 riders (£40, 4th actual)


Back to a short one

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I spent the next week trying to properly (and actively recover).  The pain in my shoulders and neck went quite quickly but then came back after a couple of days.  The pain in my knee and legs more gradually subsided.  The Withington Wheelers 10 on the J2/1 was a bit cool and breezy and I didn’t know how I’d feel.  Five minutes in and I thought it would be a disaster but I felt better as the time went on.  It was a headwind out so I convinced myself I only had to try really hard to the turn.  Of course I was lying but by then I felt okay.  However, J2/1 involved two trips across Chelford roundabout.  On the outbound leg I got lucky and sailed through.  No such luck on the way back.  A line of cars meant I just had to unclip and wait. Looking at the file afterwards, including the slowing down it cost nearly 30 seconds which is absolutely gutting.  10M in 22:27, 5th from 90 riders (£30 2nd vet on standard, £10 1st team)


20˚C Colder – WTF?

On the 23rd July I rode one of my regular training routes and the temperature hit 26˚C.  On the 26th August I rode the same route where the temperature dropped to 6˚C.  On the 28th it was 20˚C again.  Only in this country.


I rode 714 miles outdoors with 28,118ft ascent at around 19.5mph average, which used up around 24,557kcals. I also spent 23 hours 5 mins on the turbo using a further 15,402kcals. Total for the month was 3,167TSS

Joe Friel’s Training Bible

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For those who don’t know Joe Friel is one of the most knowledgeable and helpful endurance coaches out there.  If you are serious about your training you may well have read some of his work or used some of his techniques.  Click on his name above if you want to jump to his blog.  Anyway, he has just re-written his very famous work – the Cyclists Training Bible – which is now in 5th Edition.  Cycling is a sport where lots of people will spend hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds on the quest for “free” speed.  This book currently retails for around fifteen quid on Amazon and it may well be the best fifteen quid you spend this year, especially if you are a relative newcomer to training and racing, and you are unsure how to approach a winter of structured training.  The book is split into the following sections

  1. Mind and Body
    1. Mental Performance
    2. Physical Performance
  2. Training Fundamentals
    1. Basic Training Concepts
    2. Training Intensity
  3. Purposeful Training
    1. Getting Started
    2. Preparing to Race
  4. Planning Your Season
    1. Planning Overview
    2. Planning a Week
    3. Planning Alternatives
  5. Stress and Recovery
    1. Training Stress
    2. Fatigue, Recovery and Adaptation
  6. The Competitive Edge
    1. Muscular Force Training
    2. Tapering to Race
    3. The Training Diary

As you can see it is a comprehensive training manual that will guide you through the process of planning and executing whatever training you intend to do over the off-season.  I think it is a book that I will return to over and over again as it is full of useful information.  I’ve already read Fast after Fifty by Joe and this is equally as good.

July – Tan Lines, Ice Creams and Biblical Rain

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Continuing the theme…

Sunday the 1st of July and it was the M&DTTA 100 Championship around the J4/18 course in Cheshire.  At least that was the plan!  When I turned up to sign on there was a sign up – roadworks had closed one of the short legs of the course so now it was the M&DTTA 91 Championship!  I have to admit that looking at the forecast temperatures I wasn’t particularly unhappy about having to do 9 miles fewer.

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It was relatively pleasant when I set off but pretty much straight away I got a taste of what was to come.  The road surface was terrible.  After just over a mile and a half I felt one of my bottles hitting my leg as it was bounced off the bike.  I wasn’t too concerned because I’d put a couple of spares on the self-supported table so I just carried on juddering up the A50.  Several miles later, on the way back down the A50, I noticed that somebody had stood my bottle by the roadside.  I’ll get that next lap, I thought.  After Twemlow Lane the A535 to Chelford was particularly busy with traffic.  Before 10am on a Sunday morning on a narrow country road you don’t expect to be passed by a couple of HGVs and stuck in traffic at a roundabout.  The traffic didn’t seem to ease off after that and I ended several times, including the Holmes Chapel double roundabout and Chelford Island again.  When I arrived back at the point where my bottle had been I slowed down to get it only to find it had gone.  At the self-support table I found it, so that was a bonus.  Or so I thought because I lost it again on the next lap – this time thanks to a different set of potholes on the A50 (never to be found again this time!)

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By about 60 miles the temperature had really ramped up and it was getting harder and harder to maintain power.  I started getting cramp at around 80 miles and by the finish I wasn’t bothered how fast I was going, I just wanted it to end!

Picture courtesy of Tim Marshall

By the time I rolled into the HQ my bike was making all sorts of strange noises from the battering it had taken on the awful Cheshire roads, as were a number of my joints and contact points! 92M in 03:41:46, 5th from 49 riders (deep breath – £20 and Nick Carter Trophy, 1st vet on standard, £20 and South Lancs Team Shield 1st team.  Bronze medal in M&DTTA Middle Distance Comp, 1st Veteran)


It’s just not cricket

Actually it is.  I took a break from training and went to watch England play India at the T20 cricket at Old Trafford.

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Great atmosphere

The atmosphere was pretty great and despite India teaching England a lesson it was a lovely evening.  On the tram home the streets were deathly quiet because England were busy winning a penalty shootout in the World Cup for the first time in a generation!

At the Club 10 on Wednesday my legs really did have nothing – 20W down from my best and 10W down from my usual mid-week.  At least the tan lines look good.

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New Bars Please

I had decided to try to alter my position to get one with my hands a bit higher and closer to my face.  So I replaced the Zipp Vuka 110’s with some reversed USE 50˚ extensions.  I also used Canyon’s switchplate adaptors to bring the armrests slightly closer together.  I tested it all and it felt pretty comfortable on the turbo.  I’m not sure that it is any more aero but it seems to look like it should be.

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Do you want the bad news or the good…?

On Saturday I was at Rainford to do Southport CC’s 25 on D25/3.  I figured it would be a good test for my new position.  It was another scorching hot day and I was expecting quiet roads due to my start time being twenty minutes before England’s World Cup quarter final against Sweden.  I signed on and got my bike set up on the turbo ready for my warmup.  The bike was in the 11 cog at the back and that was where it stayed – the Di2 system was dead.  I was sure I’d checked the battery level the night before so I wondered if I’d inadvertently not connected something properly so I went through all the connections.  I even removed the seatpost to check the battery connection.  Nothing doing.  So I was a DNS.  Annoyingly, when I got home, I plugged the charger in and it all worked so maybe it had discharged?  Still, I got to watch the England quarter final game which was some consolation.

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On Sunday I was due to go to South Wales to ride R25/3H again so I was paranoid about my Di2 working (I now carry a Di2 charger and battery pack in my TT kitbag!).  The heatwave continues and it was already warm when I arrived at the HQ. I warmed up in the shade and made my way to the start.  This was the first time trying my new position in anger – not ideal but there you go.  The sun was pretty intense when I set off and I was working pretty hard despite the slight tailwind.  I recorded my fastest ever 10 miles in 18:13, or 32.9mph.  I did that off 279W – my heart-rate (HR) at a fairly normal average of 167bpm.  It started to hurt a bit at this point with the turn coming at 15 miles or so and then back into a slight headwind.

I was very hot now and sweating profusely.  Being a smaller rider I think I manage heat better than most and I don’t normally sweat so much.  The theory with sweating is that there are two main components to it.  Blood is diverted towards the skin (and consequently away from the muscles) to allow it to be cooled by the air.  That’s not enough so the next stage is to use fluid to help heat evaporate. In the first instance the water that constitutes sweat comes from extracellular fluid and blood plasma, which results in a “thickening” of the blood.  That means the heart has to work harder to move it around the body, which compounds the fact that it is already diverting it from the muscles.  Hence HR is usually elevated in the heat and performance is seriously compromised.

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Thanks to GBM Photography

My second 10 miles took 20:35 (29.2mph) but my power had dropped to 274W and my average HR was up to 177bpm.  I was struggling now, and a slight holdup at the final roundabout (cost – 8 seconds, according to TrainingPeaks) made me think I had missed my target “49”.  I was gutted as I crawled my way back to the HQ, miserably up the bank that I had been flying down at 46mph only forty-five minutes earlier!  However, I had just sneaked in under 50 minutes!  #project49 complete!  For the last 5 miles my power was 276W with an average HR of 181bpm, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.  I put a massive effort in over the last half mile, averaging 317W, with my HR peaking at 185bpm (which is pretty much my maximum).  That effort was probably the difference between success and failure and I doubt I would have been able to do that if I’d raced on Saturday rather than DNS!  A good lesson in perspective!

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25M in 49:57, 15th from 97 riders


Contador by the numbers

Alberto Contador posted some pictures to his Instagram page showing the results from an FTP test he took prior to one of his Tour victories.  So the data is possibly 10 years old but it is quite incredible really.  He also posted a picture of him weighing himself afterwards.  The pictures showed that his 20 minute power was 458W at under 62kg.  Wow.  That’s around 7.4W/Kg for 20 minutes.  Now I weigh just under 62kg too, but I’m happy if I get anywhere near 5W/Kg for 20 minutes.  In real terms, if I started a 20 minute climb next to Contador I could stay with him for possibly 90 seconds.  At which point I would go pop whilst he carriied on riding at the same level!  Even Chris Froome, with the most recent test data he published, is only in the mid 6’s (W/Kg), which sort of pokes a hole in the Froome-haters view that he is on something that elevates him above his peers.


BDCA 50

It’s not very often in this country that you see a shimmering heat haze on a road but that’s what it was like on the A50/6R.

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Having been re-arranged from the A50/6 due to roadworks further up the A50 the field was much smaller than usual, and the course was 3 laps of the circuit above.  I actually liked the course and I believe that the BDCA 100 later in the season will be 6 laps of this.  Again it was hot and again I watched my power fade away as the temperature increased and I flagged, although overall I really enjoyed it.  50M in 01:47:09, 4th from 24 riders


Seamons 25

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Photo courtesy of Mike Kilburn

With the Cheshire RC 50 being cancelled due to an accident that resulted in a 600 ton exceptional load being diverted onto the course (imagine being stuck behind that – “I would have PB’d…”), my next race was the Seamons Open 25 on J2/9.  After the seemingly endless heatwave (by British standards) the weather was much cooler and very, very windy.  I was off early so that I could help with the catering/general dogsbodying after my ride.

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The day was very windy and as I was about to head off for the start it started raining.  By the time I got to the start it had stopped so I thought I might get lucky.  No such luck.  The wind was really blustery, with some scary gusts, and then the heavens opened and it was monsoon-like for about 20 minutes.  The first lap of the course was pretty miserable but then it stopped and the wind died a bit making the second lap more pleasant.  A big thank you to all the volunteers, helpers and marshalls – it can’t have been nice being out in that.  25M in 55:39, 4th from 88 riders (£50, 1st vet on standard, £20 1st team.  VTTA M&NW 25M Championship Cup)


Blog On

I’ve been thinking about whether to continue with the blog.  A few people have spoken to me about it and find it interesting, which is really nice to hear (thank you for taking the trouble), so I’m going to carry on for the time being, although I might think about changing tack a little bit after the season is over.  If you read this and enjoy it – thank you.


Another month of mainly scorchio weather!  Brings back memories of 1976 for those over a certain age!  I rode for 729 miles outdoors with 25,225ft ascent at around 19.2mph average, which used up around 25,225kcals. I spent 18 hours 43 mins on the turbo using a further 13,628kcals. Total for the month was 3,320TSS