June – where did all the power go?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Found some shade to warm up

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

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

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

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

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

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Finish line marshalling team!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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