Opening a can of worms… 3cm rule

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

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

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

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

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

And that was the year that was… 2016

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It was a terrible start to the month.  Fresh from the highs of my highest ever FTP at the end of November it all came crashing down as I fell ill.  That knocked out 5 days without training and my CTL tumbled off a cliff.  Even then, when I started training again I wasn’t right and couldn’t hold the power on what should be relatively achievable sweetspot sessions.  Moreover, my HR was all over the place – dramatically too high for the power levels I was putting out and I was getting increasingly despondent at my inability to complete sessions properly.  It is incredibly frustrating as you watch hard-fought gains disappear and the net result is that it has probably set me back at least a month, and possibly more.  But these things are part and parcel of life so it’s no good sulking (for too long!) and I’m back on the painful road to recovery.  In the meantime, I lost a lot of weight (muscle probably) and then did my best to put it all back on over the Christmas holidays, so 2017 will start with trying to shed timber again!

Overall, during the month I managed an even more paltry 298 miles outdoors with 16,890ft ascent at around 15.1mph average, which used up around 12,682kcals. I spent 19 hours on the turbo using a further 17,015kcal. Total for the month was 2,307TSS

2016

You can read about my race season here. It beat most of my expectations and I was really happy with it overall.  It means that 2017 either has to be something really special or it’s going to be a massive anticlimax!  Obviously I’ll try to do all I can to make sure it’s the former but this is a sport where everyone gets faster every year so it’ll be a real challenge!  Anyway, regular readers will know I love a good stat so here’s 2016 by the numbers

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Total road mileage – 5,558 miles, or roughly the distance from Manchester to South Korea

 

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Of which 1,379 miles were racing and 1,658 miles were done on a singlespeed

 

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Total time on the bike or turbo – 545hrs, 43minutes.  If I had started at midnight on January 1st 2016 and rode continuously I’d have got off around 16:50 on January 22nd

 

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Total Training Stress Score for the Year – 30,810TSS, an average of 588TSS per week

 

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Total energy expended – 379,156kcals.  Equivalent to 31,596 penny sweets (just as well given how many I ate over Christmas…)

 

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Total ascent was 243,510ft, the equivalent of riding up the Galibier from sea level 28 times

Structured Training

I often get asked what bits of kit give the most improvement in time-trialling.  Whilst it is true that a TT bike will allow you to get into a more aerodynamic position, deep wheels will cut through the air faster and a pointy hat and skinsuit will reduce your drag into the wind, my advice would be a good training regime first and foremost.  This is especially true if you don’t have natural talent or physiology and rely on mental fortitude and hard work like I do.  Here’s an example of the relationship between the amount of turbo training time vs my average times racing on J2/9, a 25 mile TT course in Cheshire.

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Hours on the turbo per year

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Average time on J2/9 each year

Whilst there are other factors (like experience, kit and position improvements) it’s no accident that my training has increased in volume, focus and specificity over that same time period.  So by all means spend your hard-earned on whatever kit you want but it’s no silver bullet without the training to underpin it.

2017

I haven’t fully defined my goals for 2017 yet.  They’ll probably be based around the M&DTTA and VTTA M&NW series events, with occasional trips to fast courses where possible.  One goal I already have in mind is the 12hr – I think I can add 10 miles to my 2016 distance, weather and course permitting.  Another goal is a financial motivator – I want to earn enough in prize money to buy a specific piece of kit at the end of the season.  I won’t say what it is just yet but it would mean me winning even more money next year than this year so it is a very tangible, yet challenging target.

I have made one difficult decision and that is that I won’t be riding London Edinburgh London in 2017.  There are a number of reasons for it but I think it is the right decision when all things considered.  I had great fun when I did it in 2013, but most of that was due to the company I was riding with and it wouldn’t be the same without them.  And it does make planning my season next year a bit easier and I can focus wholly on what I define as my “A” races.

If you are planning to race in 2017 I would encourage you to set goals for yourself.  You’re much more likely to stick at it if you have a difficult, yet achievable, target to aim at.  And if you hit it early, set another one.

Finally, and most importantly, I do all of this because I absolutely love it! It seems like hard work, and it is hard work, but it is so fulfilling that it never feels like hard work.

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I’d like to wish you all a fast and safe 2017 whatever you choose to do and hope you get to enjoy it as much as I do.  Happy New Year folks!

Jinxed It!

In my last post I wrote

It’s that time of year where it is almost inevitable that colds and bugs go round.  I take multivitamins and have lots of vitamin C/fruit but I am expecting to lose some training days and have built in an allowance for that.  I have made the mistake in the past of trying to train through these things and then regretted it – but there is nothing like making your own mistakes to really hammer home a lesson!  So don’t worry about taking one step back to take two steps forward if necessary, but then you won’t listen to that if you’re anything like me!

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Literally the week later I was struck down with some sort of illness that knocked me out for the best part of a week.  I dropped 8 CTL points in a week.  To put that into context, it had taken 6 weeks to get to that level and I estimate a further 4 weeks to get it back.  Anyway, c’est la vie, and for once I did heed my own advice !  My first attempt to train again tonight was a horror show – no power in my legs and high heart-rate.  Suddenly those 4 weeks look like a long time…

November Update

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November has been a busy month.  I spent some time testing positions, upgrading my bike for next year and attended the VTTA Awards luncheon.  Oh, and I managed to fit in some riding and training too!

The testing was really interesting and was done with the guys at Veloptima at Derby Velodrome.  I spent a couple of hours trying various positions and equipment and although it turns out I was pretty aero anyway, I have a new position to work on that could be worth a considerable amount of time next season.  I just need to work on a slight flare in my right leg on the pedal-stroke and learn to stick my neck forward/head down a bit more!  Here’s some video if you’re interested

I’ve also made some tweaks to my bike.  I’ve fitted Aerocoach armrests in an attempt to pin my arms into the correct position.  They take a bit of getting used to but should provide some benefit.

I also got my mate Martin from Bike and the Mechanic to help me fit new Fibre-Lyte carbon chainrings so that I can run a 56T/42T at the front.  I say help, he actually did it all whilst I stood and chatted to him!  Martin’s a great guy – check him out if you need a bike servicing, building or any type of bike spannering.

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So far the chainrings feel good on the turbo but it’s on fast DC courses where the extra oomph should come in handy!

The weather has taken a turn for the worse up here meaning I’ve spent a bit more time on the turbo than I otherwise would, although I have ventured out from time to time.

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I also attended the VTTA Manchester & North West awards luncheon.  During the season I’d managed to bag the 25 mile championship cup, short distance trophy (best 2 10’s and 2 25’s), FTA trophy (best 2 10’s and 2 25’s local courses) and also won the Watterson Team 3 Distance (25, 50, 100) Prize with Pauline from the club. It was a lovely lunch and very inspirational – there are racers in their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s still knocking out fantastic times.  I also got to do the closing speech on behalf of the riders so hopefully I did that, and them, justice.

It has been pointed out that I’m rocking the Dave Brailsford look but I’m older than him so technically he is rocking the Ade Hughes look!

At the end of the month I also did a second FTP test following on from the one I did at the end of September.  Then my FTP was 4.3W/Kg and now it is 4.5W/Kg which is very pleasing, if not a little scary.  With each increment the training gets harder!  I’ve completed the first phase of my base training and now move onto the second.  Trainerroad has proved invaluable and I’m enjoying it, so hopefully there are more gains to come.  I’m still carrying a little winter weight so I reckon there are 2kg to come off but I won’t really specifically target my weight until January.

It’s that time of year where it is almost inevitable that colds and bugs go round.  I take multivitamins and have lots of vitamin C/fruit but I am expecting to lose some training days and have built in an allowance for that.  I have made the mistake in the past of trying to train through these things and then regretted it – but there is nothing like making your own mistakes to really hammer home a lesson!  So don’t worry about taking one step back to take two steps forward if necessary, but then you won’t listen to that if you’re anything like me!

Overall, during the month I managed a paltry 226 miles with 11,618ft ascent at around 14.8mph average (all lows for 2016), which used up around 8,552kcals. I made up for it by spending 29 hours 15 minutes on the turbo using a further 23,687kcal. Total for the month was 2,582TSS

Finally, on the basis that my next post is likely to be at the end of year I’ll wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Keep training! 

October – and so it all starts again…

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Last month I wrote about the end of the season, taking a short break and then starting training again.  This month my training plan really kicked off in earnest.  I’m using TrainerRoad, starting off with an extended Sweetspot Base high volume plan.  I’ve extended it in two ways.  Firstly, the initial phase of the plan has an extra 3 weeks to fill it out so that I will be ready for the middle of April.  Last season I was ready by the end of February and I struggled to hold fitness through the season so I’m hoping this will help a bit.  I’ll still start racing in March with the first local TT races but will build fitness through that first month.  I’m also aiming to do London Edinburgh London next year so a bit of extra base work won’t hurt.  Secondly I’ve added an extra workout.  Over the last 3 years I’ve adapted to being able to train for 6 days a week so it feels sustainable to continue that now.  And it’s a quality workout focusing on some VO2 max and sweetspot intervals, so it’s not just adding a TSS filler for the sake of it.  The result is a bigger TSS for the month than I’ve ever managed before – I’m going all in this winter!

I’ve also changed my position on the TT bike too which has taken a bit of getting used to.  The saddle is further back and the bars are extended which has the effect of stretching my body out when I’m in TT position. This is an attempt to flatten the Quasimodo-esque hump in my back.  It feels slightly strange but getting better.  I am also trying to do at least some of the training in TT position but it hurts too much on the turbo so I do as much as I can.  It didn’t seem to cause too many problems last season but the more I can manage the better.

A Word on Nutrition

The training I’m doing is very challenging.  The fact is I will be 50 next year so getting the right amount of sleep and eating properly are just as important.  I’m not great on the sleep – the older I get the harder it seems to get a really good nights sleep, no matter how tired I feel.  Also, I’m not going to bore you by listing my diet but there are a couple of things I do which may be of interest, and I’ll share a recipe for homemade protein bars that Liz has refined/concocted from various internet sources – they are really delicious – see below!

So I eat a lot of foods high in nitrates – beetroot, celery, rocket.  I drink cherry juice.  I eat foods that are a source of l-carnitine such as red meat (in moderation), milk and seeds. I also create a smoothie using 175g of frozen blueberries and 300ish ml of chocolate milk, and I eat my own protein bars to aid recovery.  If you’re interested it is worth Googling the benefits of these nutrients to see what you think.

Protein Bars

We found the original recipe online and then adapted it to taste.  These are high calorie protein bars depending upon the size you cut them.  If you cut into 12 bars, or half the ingredients to make 6, then I reckon each bar will be 200-250 kcals but high in protein.  I’m using a lot of calories in my training and my weight (and more importantly my bodyfat %) is coming down very slowly, which is what I am aiming for.

Blend 1 cup of oats until it’s like flour.  Mix in 1.5tsp cinnamon, 6 scoops of chocolate whey protein powder (I use PHD), a 460g jar of smooth peanut butter, about 30g honey, 5 egg whites and about 120ml skimmed milk.  Now I’ve experimented with adding mashed bananas (2 or 3) which was okay but not to my taste.  Instead I added 100g chopped almonds and that was great.  I then added 100g dark chocolate chips and that was even better!  I imagine if dried fruit and/or raisins are your thing you could chuck those in too.

Anyway, mix the lot really well and pour it into a greased or lined baking pan – I think the one Liz uses is about 12x9cm.  It’s baked at gas mark 4 for about 15 to 20 minutes, allowed to cool, cut into as many bars as you need then stored in the fridge.  Mine happily last a week – I wouldn’t recommend longer.

In summary for the month I managed 428 miles with 24,893ft ascent at around 15.3mph average, which used up around 17,693kcals. In addition I spent 24 hours 45 minutes on the turbo using a further 20,340kcal. Total for the month was 2,994TSS

Running on Empty – September

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My last two races in August suggested I hadn’t recovered from the 12hr the week before.  This was not unexpected but I was hoping to shake it off the following week.  I spent that next week doing very little trying to get ready for the BDCA 100, albeit with some trepidation about my form.  On the day, torrential rain and high winds meant the A50 was a spray-fest and so the event was cancelled.  It was frustrating but the correct decision as that road in those conditions would be very dangerous, and I certainly wouldn’t have ridden on it for the best part of 4 hours.  That gave me a bit more time, theoretically, to recover via a couple of fun rides out to see the Tour of Britain, and a bit of easy-ish training.

So my first race of the month was the week after – the Stone Wheelers 25 which also runs on the A50 (J5/8 course from Blyth Bridge).  It was a very fast day, but I was still tired and I really struggled, whereas lots of riders filled their boots.  In fact my 25 mile power was only a couple of watts higher than my 50 miles power the week before the 12hr which is a measure of how depleted I felt.  However, I still managed to PB (a fast day) but frustratingly missed my season goal of a “51” by 13 seconds.  Possibly the best conditions of the season and I couldn’t take real advantage – but them’s the breaks when you race as much as I do.  21st from 128 riders (£10, 2nd team prize)

The next morning I was up at 5-30am to get to Tilstock and race the WCTTA 25 on D25/8e.  I like this course but I was knackered and really not feeling it – mentally as well as physically.  It’s the first 25 where I’ve felt physically sick part-way through.  And my power was way down, less than a 50 and not that far above a 100!  Only by sheer willpower did I force myself on but it wasn’t great.  The obvious solution to this is to race less but I really enjoy racing.  Maybe I’ll consider it next year – I might have to if I want to squeeze LEL in as well.  4th from 50ish riders (£10*, 4th actual) *provisional – results not out 

My final race of the season was the Liverpool Century 10 at Rainford bypass – D10/1.  It was a lovely sunny day with a bit of a stiff wind in just the wrong direction for this course!  That said, it seemed a fast day and I actually felt pretty good.  My power was about 15W lower than the first 10 of the season back in March which is as a result of general fatigue and detraining through the season but was good enough to give me my quickest time at Rainford of 21:34.  6th from 87 riders (£10, 3rd vet)

2016 Season Roundup

So that was that – season over.  It’s been an intense season – with over 50 open and club events – and one I’m really proud of, although it seems to have flown by.  I missed a couple of goals I’d set myself but I hit the majority of them.  These included

  • a “19” 10 (three times)
  • power PBs at all distances and time PBs at 10, 25, 30 and 50 miles
  • 50 mile club champion
  • 12 hour club champion
  • Club TT champion
  • Club BAR champion
  • Club 10’s points series winner
  • VTTA Manchester & NW 25 mile winner
  • I targeted a top 5 finish in the Cheshire Points Series and came 2nd, missing out by 4 points and with a total that would have won it in any other year!
  • A couple of years ago I wanted to regularly get into the top ten of local events – this has been the year where that happened consistently
  • A win in an open event and 5 podiums – 2nd twice and 3rd three times
  • Just over £800 in prize money
  • RTTC BBAR certificate

At the start of this year I moved to a new club that had significant talent in time-trialling and I’m pleased to say that has worked out brilliantly for me.  In addition to the motivation of having to compete with riders who are faster and more experienced than me, I have been part of prize winning teams on no less than 13 occasions, which includes the club winning the Cheshire Points Series, winning the M&DTTA South Lancashire Shield and setting an event record for the Dukinfield 50.  It also helps that everyone has been super friendly and supportive too, especially those I’ve seen week in, week out at races.

2017 Training Starts Here!

The week after my final race I took a week off.  No training all week and an easy spin on Sunday.  This not only helped to both my body a break but also allowed me to reset psychologically, and get ready for properly starting winter training.  I have to say that by Wednesday I was climbing the walls and itching to get back on it.  Never thought I’d say something like that about turbo training!

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Sports science test at TheEnduranceCoach – 2013

To get ready for training the first job was to take an FTP test and reset my numbers in Trainerroad and TrainingPeaks.  My weight always drifts up by about 3-4 kilos during the race season, and when racing as much as I do fitness drifts down as I mentioned earlier (detraining – it’s impossible to recover properly AND maintain peak fitness through hard training AND then be ready to race).  There seems to be a lot of secrecy about power numbers which I can slightly understand for road racing but not for time-trialling.  Certainly when I started I had no idea what would make me competitive and what wouldn’t.  Aerodynamics plays a huge part – especially at the very, very pointy end so power is not the be all and end all.  But it’s easy to measure repeatedly if you have a power-meter and it’s clearly important, and I would have definitely benefited when I started out if I’d really known what to aim for. So I’m recording my numbers on this blog for three reasons.  Firstly this blog is my personal record.  I have a terrible memory so this helps me out a lot!  Second, it’s motivational writing things down and talking about your targets.  They’re out there which helps you retain focus.  And finally if any of the small numbers of readers of these blog find this information helpful that would be a bonus for me. I’ve been relatively competitive this year in Cheshire and generally upper quartile further afield.  So my numbers should serve as a guide if you need one.  As for aerodynamics – that’s a whole different ball game and takes a lot of time, effort and knowledge that I’m still pretty unqualified to give.  Maybe one day when I’ve sorted my own out!

  • So, at the start of my winter training in October 2015 my FTP was 4.1W/Kg (20 minute power at approximately 4.3W/Kg).
  • By March 2016, when I started racing, my FTP had risen to around 4.7W/Kg (20 minute power pushing 5W/Kg).  This was achieved by upping my power by about 8% and dropping my weight roughly 3 kilos.
  • My start point now for winter training is FTP at 4.3W/kg (20 minute power at 4.5W/Kg) which gives me a great base to work from.  If I can replicate the gains of last year and hit the same race weight then I’d be looking at around 5W/kg and 5.3W/kg.  That’s a big ask but you always need a stretch goal to target!

Here’s how the training plan looks.  It’s all planned out – just need to execute it now!

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So, in summary for the month I managed 409 miles with 18,338ft ascent at around 17.1mph average, which used up around 15,378kcals. In addition I spent 11 hours 25 minutes on the turbo using a further 9,269kcal. Total for the month was 1,848TSS

Time to Plan the Winter Training

I don’t know if you’ve noticed yet but the shops are starting to stock Christmas cards.  Depressing isn’t it.  And here I am about to talk about winter training when the season isn’t over yet.  Sorry, but I’m not sorry.

I used to hate turbo training.  In fact I didn’t do any until after my first real season of time-trialling.

At the end of 2012 I’d decided to give it a proper go in 2013.  I took delivery of my first TT bike, a skinsuit and a pointy hat.  I rode my bike a lot at weekends but I did no specific training.  I certainly didn’t use the turbo.  I followed the aero school of get as low as you can.  I was all-in for free speed.  With hindsight, of course, it was anything but a “proper go”.  That year I rode 23 open events.  I set PB’s of 23:06, 57:55, 01:57:02 for 10, 25 and 50 miles respectively.  I was mostly in the top half of the races I entered (which were mainly in Cheshire) and 4 times I broke the top ten.

At the end of the season I realised I needed to train over the winter.  So I bit the bullet and concocted a bit of a training plan that involved the turbo trainer.  I read the black book.  I had some sessions suggested when I took undertook some performance testing.  So I had half an idea.  I took October off (other than social rides) and started in November, and built my training through December, January, February and the start of March.  Once the race season started I relied on racing for training (specifically club 10’s).  In 2014 I  was able to ride 36 opens.  I set new PB’s of 20:48, 54:06 and 01:53:09 for 10, 25 and 50 miles and I rode my first 100 in 04:20:17.  This year I was mostly in the upper quartile and top ten 9 times.  Averaging my speeds across all races I was nearly 1mph faster over all distances.

I wasn’t sure if I could progress much more on my own so I started working with a coach.  My workload over the winter of 2014/2015 was both higher and more structured.  I followed it religiously.  When the season came it was clear that I was in better condition and faster than I had ever been.  Then illness knocked me out for a couple of weeks.  Possibly my body wasn’t able to cope with the increased demands. However, I still set PB’s at 10, 25 and 100 miles of 20:12, 52:30 and 03:52:14 and I was in the top ten in 12 of the 31 opens I rode.

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I was back doing my own thing during the 2015/2016 off-season but I had a much deeper understanding of what I was trying to achieve.  I upped the volume and overall intensity of training again, progressively.  The extra efforts were considerable, the additional gains much harder to come by.  It’s not over yet but by any measure it’s been my most successful season, which I’ll document in a future post.  And the goalposts have moved.  The standard of amateur time-trialling is higher than ever due to better training techniques, aerodynamics and improved equipment.  If you standstill, you go backwards.

The takeaway from all of this is that training is important.  No shit Sherlock.  Yet you’ll be surprised how many people think that a skinsuit, a pointy hat and a TT bike is all you need.  I should know, that was me in 2013.

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So coming into the 2016 season I built my training volume up through November, December, January and February.  I had a 20 minute W/Kg figure in mind as a target for March but that’s not the whole story.  The image above shows % training time spent in specific power zones, from Zone 1 at the bottom to Zone 6 at the top.  Again, I built up to working for longer and harder periods in higher zones, although for time-trialling the most important ones are around threshold level.  The aim for this winter is to do the same again.  I’m currently constructing an approach that will see me using Trainerroad as the basis for it with some personal tweaks on top.  I’ll follow the general approach set out of base, power build and speciality phases.  If you are fairly new to time-trialling, and you are already using a turbo trainer, or planning to, then you are ahead of the game.  My advice would be to use a tool like Trainerroad and/or TrainingPeaks to give you some structure and direction and then follow the plan!  Whilst it can seem daunting, you then just focus on each individual training session, safe in the knowledge that each one you complete is a step in the right direction.

Good luck!

August – first and last of the sunshine?

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Did anyone spot summer?  I’m told we had one but I can’t quite remember when it was.  First race of the month was a club 10 which ended up being a pretty poor effort by me off the back of some hard racing and training and in windy conditions.  2nd from 21 riders

At the weekend it was another Cheshire Points series race, the Weaver Valley 25 on J4/8.  This time I put a decent effort in on a warm day with a relatively light wind.  9th from 95 riders (£20, 3rd 40-49, 1st team)

Midweek and the weather was shocking.  Temperatures were down to around 12˚ and it was raining.  Not many people turned out but I was daft enough to do so.  1st from 23 riders

The penultimate Cheshire series race was the Congleton CC 50 – again around the J4/9 course.  It has made a refreshing change this year riding J2/3, J4/8 and J4/9, which all take in laps of Penny’s Lane and King Street.  That said, they are hard courses when the wind is against but we haven’t had it too bad this year – it could have been much worse.  One thing that has made predicting which bits will be hard is a website produced by Ben Norbury of Congleton CC.  It’s called mywindsock and allows you to check the effects of the predicted weather forecast.  I urge you to check it out – I find it really helpful.  For reasons I wish I could explain more readily I was flying during this race.  I felt really good and whilst not a power PB I recorded my best time for J4/9.  8th from 87 riders (£40, 5th vet on standard, 1st team)

The last club 10 of the season was a bit warmer but still breezy.  I managed a slightly better effort.  1st from 29 riders

I wrote about my 12 hour time trial here8th from 60 riders

I spent the next week trying to recover.  I did a gentle and tentative ride on Tuesday and then a slightly longer one on Wednesday.  By weekend my undercarriage had recovered but my legs were still a bit sore and so was my neck and shoulders.  On Saturday I raced the Withington Wheelers 10.  Again, it rained and was cold and I discovered that my legs hadn’t really recovered as I had to go very deep to get a half decent time.  As it was, a couple of riders that I have been beating this year went quicker than me but I guess that’s what happens.  7th from 84 riders (£20, 3rd vet on standard, 1st team)

On Sunday I went to Hull, along with the majority of the fastest riders in the country.  I was pretty nervous that given my performance the day before I would embarrass myself and end up languishing near the back of the field.  I went off pretty well and was going okay past the turn.  As the road started to drag up at about 6.5 miles I just went pop.  I really had to dig into everything I had to keep pushing forward as I watched my power drop through the floor and my heartrate hit numbers it doesn’t normally hit until the very end of a race.  At the end I was only 11s over my PB and had managed my third “19” of the season.  My power was 20W less than when I set my PB, so it has given me confidence that there is more to come even though it’s my worst position for a number of years.  55th from 109 riders

It’s starting to feel a bit like the end of the season (which it is).  The Cheshire points series has finished and I hit my target of a top 5 finish – 2nd place, missing 1st by 4 points is a bit gutting though.  In the month I covered 745 miles with 26,028ft ascent at around 19.3mph average, which used up around 24,397kcals. In addition I spent 11 hours 49 minutes on the turbo using a further 8,581kcal. Total for the month was 2,627TSS

First 12 Hour Time Trial

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And we’re off!

I’d been worried about this for a quite a while and when the alarm went off at 3-15am and we drove towards Prees Heath in the dark, the pouring rain and swirling wind did nothing to ease my concerns.  By the time the sun had come up the rain had stopped but the wind remained, and would do so for the entire day.  More on that later.

Clubmates Pauline and Jeanette were also doing their first 12 hours with support from John and Paul.  Both kindly offered to provide me with some support on the Anfield loop as Liz and Kate would be stuck at Prees island, an offer gratefully received.

The route had three sections.  Three times round a 20 mile circuit between Prees and Espley, the only part I was familiar with.  Then up to six times round a 17.5 mile circuit from Espley (the Anfield loop) and then back to Prees and as many times round the 12.5 miles finishing loop as time allowed.  The link below shows the route I took

https://www.relive.cc/view/684279680

I’d prepared a whole set of instructions for Liz and Kate about what I’d need at each stop.  On the first 3 loops I was okay because I’d be back every 20 miles.  I’d then be on my own for 125 miles or so with the limited supplies I’d given John.  Fairly early into the ride the plans went out of the window because my needs were changing as the rode wore on.  Next time I do one of these I’ll have a much better idea of what to do.

The first three loops were okay – the wind was pretty tough coming back – but energy levels were high.  I changed my helmet after the third one because the first one was steaming up and hurting my neck a bit. Then it was off to the Anfield Loop.  I was worried about this bit because forums were talking about the “Peplow Pave” – a very rough section of road.  The worst bit however was the first stretch from Espley which was slightly uphill into a fierce head/crosswind.  I stupidly took a bottle from John on the move on this section and nearly ended up in the road due to the wind – suffice it to say I stopped the next time!  The Peplow bit was bad but not really worse than Cheshire courses – it was just the cumulative effect of it.  As I was travelling reasonably quickly I was treated to the full six laps.  After three hours my neck and shoulders were quite sore.  After five or so hours my knee was hurting.  Undercarriage, forearms and wrist were also starting to protest.  The only way to get through this sort of thing is to break it down into smaller and smaller chunks, so I’d worked out the bits of the course were I got some respite and counted the laps down to those sections.  I was spending more and more time off the aero bars and on the drops because it was more comfortable, which cost me speed.  Interestingly, from a fitness point of view, I never felt troubled, and probably could have gone faster were I not in pain.  Finally, I was directed back to Prees for the finishing circuit.  I stopped for a re-application of chamois cream (Elite Ozone Endurance – the best chamois cream I’ve used bar none) and for some deep heat on my neck and shoulders.

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Still smiling 190 miles in…

The finish circuit consisted of a short stint up the A41 before turning off down the backroads through Tilstock and down to Quina Brook.  This first bit of country road was horrible.  The surface-dressed road and headwind made it purgatory.  It was more aero-efficient to go into a tuck on this section but the surface and the nature of the road just made it agony.  There were some sections after this that were really nice and quite quick and then we turned left and back towards Prees, up a short incline.  By the end this incline felt a bit like an Alp but at least there was a 30mph+ downhill on the other side!  Back at Prees a crowd of supporters had gathered and it was fantastic to receive support as we went past – it’s a real boost before the horrible bit of the finish circuit!  After 10 hours I had a bit of a surge which lasted for half an hour – then I was just surviving – especially when it started chucking it down for the last hour or so.

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You can see my pace get slower and slower…

In fact I probably could have got a few more miles in but I was cold and in pain so I timed my ride to end at the timing point nearest the car park!  My official distance was 263.64 miles and I came eighth.  Thank you to Liz and Kate for their support, and to John and Paul.  And congratulations to Pauline and Jeanette for also finishing their first 12’s.  And a massive thanks to all the organisers, volunteers and marshalls – an incredibly well run event.

I told Liz she could slap me if I ever said I’d do another but I reckon on a good day (i.e. less wind) I could seriously beat that distance.  Here’s the lessons I’ve learned

  • I spent over 10 minutes stopped.  Doesn’t seem a lot but that’s 3 to 4 miles.  I think I could reduce that
  • I’d reduced my tyre pressures to provide a bit more comfort – probably should have reduced them further
  • My whole nutrition approach would change – I overestimated what I’d need
  • A bit more mobile support team would have made life a lot easier
  • A bit more training in aero position to help the neck and shoulders and using my more comfortable TT helmet from the start
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This is what 264 miles does to you…

July – hotting up

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The first weekend in July was the M&DTTA 100 on a gruelling Cheshire course that was best described as “grippy”. I was pleased with my overall performance despite an issue with a car that cost me the best part of 2 minutes and made the last 13 miles somewhat more mentally difficult. As an added bonus the Seamons team took the South Lancashire Shield. 7th from 70 riders, 04:03:20, (£40, 2nd vet on standard + team)

Midweek my legs were surprisingly sprightly and I clocked a respectable time in the club 10. 2nd from 32 riders, 22:16

I had relatively low expectations at the Nova CC 25 the following weekend but yet again I was pleasantly surprised with how I fared. Sometimes I find time-trialling infuriating because when I don’t expect to go well I do, and when i expect to go well I suffer. I’m sure it’s all explainable but despite the myriad of tools at my disposal in this day and age I’m still often clutching at straws to understand differences in performance. 3rd from 57 riders, 55:36 (£30, 3rd actual, 1st vet on standard)

As if to illustrate my point part 1, at the club 10 on Wednesday evening I put more power out and was over 30 seconds slower than the previous week (whilst other riders were faster). 1st from 34 riders, 22:48

And then to illustrate my point part 2, the following weekend was the Warrington RC 25 on the same J2/9 course as the Nova. In not dissimilar weather conditions I managed a power PB for a 25 (296W AP, 299W NP) but ended up 20-odd seconds slower. I had replaced the front tyre on my TT bike so maybe it was that but who knows! 8th from 102 riders, 55:59 (£10, 2nd 40-49)

The day after I went over to Hull chasing fast times and managed my second “19” so I was pleased with that. 16th from 139, 19:54

Bouyed by this result I proceeded to deliver less watts and a faster time at the next club 10. I wish I knew! 2nd from 32, 22:21

A change from the usual J4/16 50 course in Cheshire saw the Cheshire RC 50 being held on J4/9 – the new designation for the old J50E course. Slightly agricultural in parts, and with the usual grippy Cheshire roads, it did make a nice change, albeit the shorter lap distance did cause more bunching and traffic issues as the event went on. It was a warm day and I do seem to fade a bit in the warmer conditions, so overall I was pretty pleased with the result, especially as it helped us to another team prize. 10th from 78, 01:54:51 (£8 team prize)

On the Tuesday evening we had the rearranged Club 25 championships on JC24. It was a bit windy and I picked this evening to chalk up my worst 25 time of the season. Again, my power was okay but I think I went out too hard and then died into the headwind sections. Other than that I can’t really explain it. 3rd from 24, 57:21

I also rode the Club 10 the day after and was happy enough that I still had enough in my legs for a reasonable performance. 1st from 26, 22:38

At the weekend it was our club Open 25. As well as counting for the Cheshire Points series, the fastest M&NW VTTA rider with the best aggregate standard times from both the Nova CC 25 and this race would hold the VTTA Manchester & North West Group 25 Mile Championship Cup for 12 months. And I was leading after the Nova, so I had a clear target in mind for this race. It was a windy day and I was adamant I wouldn’t make the same mistakes I made on Tuesday, so I made sure I paced it sensibly, going harder on the headwind sections and taking a breather on the tailwind bits (although it never works out like that on J2/9 really!) It paid off and I made it on to the podium, we won the team prize and I secured the VTTA cup, so I was very pleased. 3rd from 77, 55:38 (£30 + £10, 3rd + team)

Up at stupid o’clock on Sunday I was off to Rainford to ride the Birkenhead North End 25 at D25/3. It was windy again and it’s an unforgiving and open course, so it was really hard work. When I started TTing only a few years ago I never thought I’d say this, but I won an open event! Absolutely delighted. 1st, 56:32 (£50)

The weather in July has been a bit all over the place.  Hot, cold, windy, rainy.  I guess what you’d call a typical British summer.  In the winter and early spring months you convince yourself it’s going to be a great summer but the reality rarely matches the expectation you’ve set.

As we head into August I’m leading the Manchester & District TTA Cheshire Points Series, but the way these are scored means that I’ll be overhauled early in the month.  My overall goal at the start of the season was a top 5 finish so I think I’m on track for that.  I’m also looking forward, with a lot trepidation I must add, to my first ever 12 hour time-trial.  My longest ever ride is 258 miles so I’d be delighted if I could beat that, although at the moment the goal is just to survive!

Overall it was a month where I tried to ease back a bit to avoid overreaching, covering 577 miles with 19,009ft ascent at around 20.4mph average, which used up around 19,958kcals. In addition I spent 12 hours 37 minutes on the turbo using a further 8,645kcal. Total for the month was 2,445TSS