Following the open racing drought that was June, July brought a veritable monsoon of events starting with the Manchester & District TTA 100. One hundred miles around the J4/18 course is a tough ask – the roads are grippy and ever-co-slightly rolling and full of potholes. So the best part of 4 hours or so on a TT bike is not just exhausting from a pedalling perspective. Thankfully the weather was kind. Not too hot, not too cold and although a bit breezy at times it wasn’t unpleasant.
Even though I was planning to be self-sufficient both I and others racing for Seamons were very grateful to have a couple of club mates positioned on the course with emergency bottles. Given my recent propensity for self-ejecting bottles it was something less to worry about. I carried with me a 750ml and a 600ml bottle with High5 carb powder and that was just enough for me. I also taped three gels to the bike and carried some Clif shot bloks up one sleeve of my skinsuit. Again, just enough for me. For those interested in the science of nutrition on longer rides it is a very individual thing underpinned by some basic facts. Firstly, your body stores around 2000-2500 kcals of instantly available energy (on top of less quickly available fat stores). A 100 for me uses roughly 3600 kcals meaning I need to find somewhere between 1000 and 1500 kcals of energy. At least some of this will come from fat but if I have 2x200kcal gels, 2x90kcal gels and 2x 180kcal drinks then that adds up to around 940kcals. It seems to work for me.
Gallery courtesy of Tim Marshall, Paul Furness and Ellen Isherwood
I was really pleased with my pacing – in fact I got it pretty much spot-on. My first 50 miles were done at an average of 244W in a shade over 1hr 59mins and my second 50 at 245W in a shade under 1hr 59mins. My 10 mile splits were
- 23:42 249W
- 24:20 246W
- 23:35 243W
- 23:37 241W
- 24:01 241W
- 24:25 240W
- 23:11 244W
- 23:41 245W
- 23:56 244W
- 23:06 251W
I had the usual issues – bit of saddle soreness at around 50 miles and 80 miles, sore neck and shoulders as the ride went on, and a bit of a battering from the poor road surfaces. My left contact lens slipped at some point so my vision was a bit blurry, which meant I hit more potholes than I usually do, especially where the shade from the tree canopy made them really hard to pick out on the road. However, my target was sub 4 hours and I was 2 minutes under which was enough to win the Seamons Club 100 Championship. I also bagged the Nick Carter Trophy for the best M&DTTA veteran on standard and Seamons retained the South Lancashire team shield for the 4th season running. Overall, a very good day and a massive thank you to the team of around 100 volunteers and organisers who enabled 75 riders to race – this sport could not happen without them – and of course to our clubmates for the support provided. 6th from 75 riders (£50, 1st vet on standard, 1st team)
The day after I did a light active recovery session on the turbo and on the Tuesday a relatively light training session. The club 10 on the Wednesday was a lovely warm and calm evening and I was surprised to find I managed my best average power since early May, but it was only good enough to carry me to 3rd place – which means I’ll be handing back the Club 10 Trophy at the end of the year. 3rd from 23 riders
The good weather held out to the weekend when we were racing the J4/8 Cheshire course on the Nova 25. I actually prefer this course to J2/9 especially now that large parts of it have new surfaces that seem pretty good. And the wind was behind us for the long drag up King Street! I felt reasonably strong from the start and there are signs that my power is gradually returning. Some of it is mental – just pushing through the discomfort and carrying on as hard as possible – and it’s easy to lose concentration and dip below threshold or relax position slightly. I was pleased I was able to maintain form all the way round. 5th from 72 riders (£25, 5th actual, 2nd vet on standard)
The following week saw the second postponement of the Seamons Club 25 championship due to yet more roadworks in Cheshire. Despite incredibly valiant last minute efforts trying to find an alternative course the organiser was forced to push this back to the Seamons Open event later in the month – see below – thanks again to Paul and the team who turned out anyway to try to get the race on. I made do with a turbo session instead which meant I was nicely knackered for the mid-week 10 on another balmy evening. However, my power was okay despite my legs hurting (a lot) and I managed a course best – although still only good enough for 3rd place. 3rd from 26 riders
Next up came an A race – the BDCA 50 on the fast A50/6 course. I was looking forward to this and for once tried to taper a bit for it.
The wind direction meant it was going to be hard work on the outbound 20-odd miles (including up the “concrete mountain” past the JCB factory on the A50) and then a tailwind back, with a short section of crosswind on the spur out to Rocester and back. I decided to go out hard for the first 20 miles and then try to get some recovery with the wind behind me. So my first 20 miles was done at the power I normally use on 25 mile TTs and by the turn at Blyth Bridge I was pretty tired. A double caffeine gel helped but not as much as the downhill tailwind – for 20 watts less I covered the next 10 miles in a shade over 19 minutes! Miles 30 to 40 were even more of a struggle with power down again, although I managed to keep my average speed up. The single carriageway spur seemed to have more traffic on it than the A50 which was frustrating. For the final 10 miles I pushed hard to empty the tank, ekeing out a bit more power and managing to cover the distance in less than 20 minutes, which meant I slashed 3 minutes off my PB for a time of 01:45:46. I was delighted and it would have been enough for a club record had Alan not already recorded 01:44:02! Still, with Chris as well we set a Club team 50 mile record so that was some consolation. 9th from 78 riders (tbc – potentially 1st 50-54 category, 1st team)
I’d entered the Selby CC 10 on the V718 the next day more as a contingency in case the BDCA was cancelled. So when my alarm went off at 5:45am I wasn’t quite as enthusiastic as I oversize would have been!
The wind on the V was in the “wrong” direction for really fast times but I’d set my PB in similar conditions so I wasn’t concerned, other than about the dull ache in my legs! The outbound leg has been resurfaced with proper tarmac. I thought it was pretty smooth before (by Cheshire standards) so it is absolutely brilliant now. There were blowy bits on the exposed part of the return leg but it was still pretty quick. I somehow managed to squeeze a decent power out and managed a decent time – my third best ever. 16th from 135 riders
I missed the midweek club 10 due to a work commitment. Since my last illness I’ve been using an app on my phone called HRV4Training to get some data on Heart Rate Variability. It is meant to give you a lot of insight into your overall physiological condition because it measures how your autonomic system is responding to stress – I recommend clicking the link above for far more detail and insight than I can give. Anyway, the point of this is that during the following week (which also coincided with increased stress levels outside of training) I was finding relatively easy training sessions very tiring. I was also sleeping poorly and waking up tired as well. I hoped I wasn’t coming down with something – I’ve had this before and it is often similar symptoms to accumulated fatigue – i.e. I’m overreaching in my training. This is what HRV4Training was telling me – the following screenshots show some of the data it presents to you.
As you can see there were some indicators there. Top left shows a reduction in my HRV scores (using the “industry standard” rMSSD figures) which signifies increased stress, as does an increase in my resting heart-rate on centre top image. The bottom left image is a variation of the top left using HRV4Training’s proprietary Recovery Points unit. The two images on the right show HRV4Training’s interpretation of my data over a sustained period and provides a narrative circled – accumulated fatigue!
Unfortunately I had a hard weekend’s racing ahead so given how I felt and how the data looked I wasn’t confident of success. I awoke on Saturday feeling like I was coming down with a cold and a sore throat. I wasn’t confident but decided to race anyway knowing I would probably regret it. Regular readers of this blog will know I’m a bit stupid like that.
I was very nervous beforehand. I didn’t feel well at all so I resolved to take it very steady from the off. Which I did. I concentrated on holding my aero position as I reckoned my power would be down. It was – 17W average lower than the same course in May – that’s around 10%. However, I wasn’t feeling as bad as I thought, but I was riding within myself most of the way. Only in the last 5 miles or so, after the final turn out of Gough’s Lane onto the A50 did I allow myself to push hard to the finish. I was absolutely knackered at the end. Luckily for me, and unluckily for the last bunch of riders, the heavens absolutely opened as I was at my car. It was that bad that even though I was parked under a tree, I was absolutely soaked in the time it took me to put my bike and kit into the car. Out on the course must have been pretty bad. I still don’t know how but I managed my second fastest time ever on J4/16. Also, it turned out that we missed out on the team prize by 3s! Yes, two teams of three riders rode 50 miles and all there was to separate them after just under 6 hours was 3 seconds! 8th from 80 riders (£15, 1st vet on standard)
The less said about Sunday the better. I’m destined never to ride R25/3H, which is a fast 25 course in South Wales. I was ill at the start of June which was the last time I was due to ride it and up at 5am this time for a 400 mile round-trip, only for the latex tube in my rear wheel to go bang as I waited for my start slot (see picture above for reason!) The 2 mile walk back to the HQ in cleats, in the rain, was the cherry on top.
My cold came out during the week so I missed the midweek 10 again and it was Friday before I started feeling better. Bit sick of being ill now – that’s twice this season!
On Saturday it was Seamons CC Open 25, which included the club 25 championship and the second part of the VTTA M&NW 25 championship, which I was leading by 13s after the first part.
I felt okay although still a bit bunged up, however having been ill meant I’d only trained lightly so I felt pretty rested. It was a windy day so when I went off I decided I’d push it hard and see how long I could hang on, and try to make myself as small as possible into the wind. As a strategy it seemed to work well and I was pleased with how well I covered the first 10 miles. The second 10 hurt a bit more and I saw my power dip by around 10W but that was okay. During the last 5 miles I struggled but still held my power at second 10 level. It was good enough for a course best. I was near the end of the field when I started so most of the results were in when I got back to the HQ. I was delighted to find I had won the club championship but I’d lost the VTTA championship by 17s – a 30s swing on this ride – you clearly win some and lose some! 7th from 94 riders (£60, 2nd on standard, 1st team)
The next morning I was at Rainford for the Birkenhead NE 25. I wasn’t impressed with the weather as I waited to get ready and warmup – summer huh?
Thankfully it stopped and I was able to warm up and ride to the start relatively dry. It did start raining when I was riding but bizarrely only at one end of the course where it runs on the Rainford bypass. The other end of the course was bone-dry and there isn’t a big distance between the two ends.
I was a bit disappointed with my ride. Not because my legs were tired from the previous day – they were – but because the standing water on the roads made it very difficult to hold aero position properly and I felt I was sticking my head up far too often. In the end my fidgeting probably cost me the win because I was 2nd by 30s. 2nd from 30 riders (£15 1st veteran – tbc)
During the month I managed 612 miles outdoors with 21,266ft ascent at around 19.9mph average, which used up around 22,698kcals. I spent 16 hours and 3 minutes on the turbo using a further 12,035kcals. Total for the month was 2,552TSS