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…

Time to Hit the Shed Again…

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Sports science test at The EnduranceCoach

So after my 2014 season which you can read about here, and broadly a month off, it’s time to hit the shed again and start training for next year.

This isn’t just about putting the bike on the turbo, jumping back on it again and riding as hard as I can three times a week.  I’m by no means an expert, but I know enough to know that an approach like that will, ultimately, lead to a plateau, rather than an increase in speed.  And going places faster is kinda the point!  Behind it is the principle of overloading and adaptation.  Your body adapts to the demands placed on it and if you don’t continue to overload it, it won’t adapt further.  So keep doing what you’ve been doing, at the intensity you’ve always been doing it, and you won’t make any progress.  That’s a simple fact.  Beyond that it gets a whole lot more complex, and different approaches will reap different rewards.  I am living proof that you can change your physiology through training.  A few years back I was an incredibly efficient (in the burning fat sense) long distance rider – at a slow pace.  My training more recently has been about speed coupled with endurance and consequently I’ve gotten faster.  But I’m way less efficient now  – burning carbs much earlier than I used to.  Okay for racing – no so good for longer distances.  So, if, like most amateurs, you have limited time, then you probably want the best bang for your training buck.  For example, in the lead up to this season I averaged a couple of hours training on the turbo per week, and probably four or five hours on the bike.  That led to me having a relatively successful (for me) season, especially in relation to 2013.  I want to make more progress next year, so I figure I need to up the training duration AND the intensity this winter.  With that in mind, there are a number of stages I’ve been through/will go through

  1. I’ve written down a set of goals for next season.  These consist of short-term, medium-term and long-term objectives.  On top of that I will be doing less racing but more targeted.  To quote Adam Topham in his highly recommended book – A races, B races and C races.
  2. I’ve taken my regular sports science test to reset my training zones.  This year I intend to use power as opposed to HR to guide my training efforts
  3. I’ve started to work with a coach who, based on my physiology, my available training time and my goals, will develop training plans for me and monitor my progress through the winter and into the start of next season
  4. At a suitable point before the start of the season I will look to make improvements to my position.  My coach has already identified issues with my hip flexibility that may be impeding the power I put out

Setting Goals

If you are one of the few regular readers of this blog you will know that I set myself targets in most things I do and look to measure my performance against them.  In my view, goal setting is one of the most important things to do if you are intending to try to improve at something.  How can you know you are improving if you don’t measure your progress?  The answer is you can’t.  I’m not going to share my specific goals yet – I may do just before the season starts – but I will share the process I have been through to arrive at them.

First are my short-term goals.  These will be goals that I have to meet in order to get to my medium or long–term targets.  Think of them as stepping stones.  They are there to give me something that is tangible, achievable and I can use to keep my motivation levels high when things get tough, as they invariably will do.  When I achieve them (when, not if – positive thinking!) I will set some more.  If I’ve made them too difficult I will reset them slightly – remember they are meant to help motivate me, not discourage me.

Second are my medium-term goals.  These are based around the season as a whole.  They are realistic based on an analysis of my results in 2014, but challenging in that they will need a considerable step up in performance.

Finally my long-term goals are more subjective, although still measurable.  I can still achieve this goal even if I don’t achieve my medium-term goals.  In truth, I’m not sure if I might change these – time will tell.

Training Zones

My whole training plan will be based around zones so it’s important I have the latest information to base it on.  Remember what I said about adaptation – your zones will change over time depending on what you do (or don’t do!).  I’ve written about sports science tests before.  They are invaluable.  I’ve had a much better season in 2014 than 2013 but my results are “worse”.  They aren’t really – this is down to the specificity of what I’ve been doing.  These tests give you data that will enable you to focus your training on specific areas of weakness or improvement – remember what I said about bang for your buck.  If you are time-pressed then focus on the areas that need most attention.  If you are embarking on any type of structured training I’d recommend this to you.


New to my training this year will be working with a coach.  I hope to report back on how successful it’s been but only time will tell.  I have high hopes that he will provide me with the level of specificity, focus and feedback I need to improve to the levels I want to be at.  I was certainly very encouraged after my initial meeting with him.

So that’s it – time to retire to the shed and start the hard work again.  Roll on spring!

Training Plan

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I’ve been doing a couple of things differently this winter.  For the first time I’ve gone into the winter with a plan that continues from last summer.  Last year I needed to shift some timber in preparation for cycling in the Alps, which I did.  I carried that on and combined it with a structured training plan.

The Secret to Weight Loss!

I’ve had a number of comments about my weight loss.  Generally people ask what the secret is.  They want to know what I’m doing to lose weight and how they can do it too.  Often they add that they’ve tried everything and nothing works.  So let’s be blunt about this.  Let’s cut to the chase and stop kidding ourselves.

For 99%+ of the population, if you are overweight it’s because you’ve consumed more energy* than you’ve expended.  So the magic secret is…

Expend more energy than you consume!

Now you have three ways of doing this.  You can consume less energy.  You can expend more energy.  Or you can try to do both.

That’s it. Really. Lots of people try to make it more complicated than that, but it isn’t. It really isn’t. The hard part, the part you have to work at, is the willpower aspect of this. For me personally it has taken 14 months to go from 79kg to 65kg – which is around 1kg per month.

*by this I mean food that gets converted to energy


The Training Plan

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I talked somewhat briefly about energy from glycogen stores and energy from fat in this post here, with information provided by Rob Harris, in the lead-up to my lejog ride in 2010.  It turns out, through my testing at the Endurance Coach that my body is pretty efficient at burning fat rather than carbohydrate, and consequently that makes me well-suited to endurance riding.  What I’m not so well-suited to are faster events such as races or time-trials (TTs).  And as a big part of my season this year will be focussing on TTs that seemed to me to be a problem.

Last year, I treated TTs as a bit of fun.  So I didn’t do anything in winter other than ride my bike normally.  I certainly had no training plan, and I avoided the turbo trainer at all costs!  This year, I’ve been on the turbo at least 3 times a week, in conjunction with weekend rides, with a specific focus to get me ready for TTs whilst maintaining my ability to complete endurance rides.

The focus of my training is as follows.  Firstly, there is an aerobic element to it.  People talk about base miles incessantly these days but I think there is too much focus on it.  If you have ridden several thousand miles socially then you essentially have a base already.  Doing more will just make you more efficient at that speed, which does not instantly translate to being efficient at higher speeds.  For that you need to train at higher intensity levels.  Secondly there is training at a level at or just below the level (threshold) at which your anaerobic system kicks in to support the energy requirements of your body when your aerobic system cannot cope.  By training at this level you become able to hold that intensity for longer, and you “train” your mind and body to deal with the lactic acid response you get from working at anaerobic levels.  Third, there is aerobic power – the ability to generate significant aerobic energy over short periods – such as a TT.  Finally, my training includes efforts around force production and tolerance, to improve the ability to quickly generate force for short periods.  These periods could be for climbing hills or for sprints, but the energy largely comes anaerobically and this training helps develop that capability and the ability to handle and process the lactic acid produced as a by-product.

So my training programme has included elements of all of the above – aerobic conditioning intervals (lower level, higher duration), threshold intervals (higher level, shorter duration), aerobic power intervals (low cadence, high power, short duration) and force tolerance intervals (very short “shock” intervals in a big gear).  On top of this, I have spent the winter riding a very heavy bike with big, fat, sticky tyres in as big a gear as possible – with the aim of developing my leg strength.

Now whilst I have followed (and am still following) what has been a 16 week programme, I have to say that I am a very poor trainer on the turbo.  I struggle to get my HR into the right zones and I get bored/disillusioned very easily.  So I’m not completely sure that I’ve done the programme total justice.  I am, however, much more prepared than I was this time last year – so that must surely be worth something.  My realistic target now is to complete the training programme and to use March and April TTs as effective warm-ups.  During May, June and July my aim is to beat the targets I set myself here.

Finally, all of the information and design of this training programme was given to me by the Endurance Coach.  If you want to take things up a level, or are just interested in knowing a bit more about you and your limits, then I highly recommend you visit them.

Sports Science – 6 months on…

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In April of this year I visited the Endurance Coach people to get some insight into what was going on with me on the bike – you may have read my post about it here.  They gave me a training plan that was essentially about riding nearer to my threshold to avoid gradually getting slower over time.  I was already losing weight at that point in an attempt to make our trip to the Alps in May a bit easier, and since then I have continued to eat carefully and ride harder.  With that in mind I returned this week to take the tests again – to monitor my progression – and to talk about a training plan for the next few months ready for next year.  Here’s the raw data – the figures in brackets are results from the previous test

  • Max HR – 191bpm (197 bpm)
  • Threshold HR – 185bpm (187 bpm)
  • Threshold Power – 350watts (310 watts)
  • RQ1 HR – 183bpm (172 bpm)
  • RQ1 Power – 350 watts (250 watts)
  • VO2 max – 62.33 ml/min/kg (45.2 ml/min/kg)
  • Max Aerobic Power – 390 watts (370 watts)
  • Aerobic Power/Weight Ratio – 5.65 watts/kg (4.93 watts/kg)
  • Max Sprint Power – 1037 watts (1077 watts)
  • Anaerobic Power/Weight Ratio – 15.03 watts/kg (14.34 watts/kg)
  • Average 10 sec power – 906 watts (862 watts)
  • Power/Weight Ratio – 12.49 (12.06 watts/kg)

In reality what has happened is that I have lost around 6kg and managed to pretty much maintain my power output – which means my power-to-weight ratio has increased.  This is very noticeable going up hills!  In addition my RQ1 figure is now 100watts higher – which essentially means that around threshold I am now putting out more power than I used to – which either means I can go faster or be more economical and go further.  Interestingly, whilst I went further from a power perspective on the test, and Jacqui made me do an extra minute, I had to bail at a lower maximum heart-rate.

So the plan for the next 4 months is to improve technique, aerobic base and strength/force.  I’ve started down the technique route by having my bikes fitted properly by Richard at PedalPrecision.  I’ll write about that in a future post when I’ve tried out his changes.

So I now have a some very specific targets in mind , a structured training plan, some new equipment and NO EXCUSES.

Sports Science Testing

Ade's Road Cycling BlogLast week I went for a test with The Endurance Coach in St Helens.  Despite some carpark-based shenanigans afterwards, it was a really rewarding and interesting session.

For those interested it involves wearing a gas analysis mask whilst doing a cycling ramp test where the power is gradually increased and you maintain your effort.

Here are my summary statistics – it turns out I’m relatively good at burning fat (50/50 fat vs carb at low power/intensity) and that lends itself to longer, endurance rides.  I do need to do some quicker rides as gradually, over time, I will get slower if I don’t.

  • Max HR – 197 bpm (not bad for a 44 year old)
  • Threshold HR – 187 bpm
  • Threshold Power – 310 watts
  • RQ1 HR – 172 bpm
  • RQ1 Power – 250 watts
  • VO2 max – 45.2 ml/min/kg
  • Max Aerobic Power – 370 watts
  • Aerobic Power/Weight Ratio – 4.93 watts/kg
  • Max Sprint Power – 1077 watts
  • Anaerobic Power/Weight Ratio – 14.34 watts/kg
  • Average 10 sec power – 906 watts
  • Power/Weight Ratio – 12.06 watts/kg

I’ve been given a training plan and I hope to return in 16 weeks to see what, if anything, has improved!

Who Stole My Legs…?

After our jolly japes in the mountains of Todmorden on Sunday I played football yesterday evening.  My legs felt fine and it was a good game.

Got on my bike this morning and although my legs were a bit stiff and achy, it’s mostly downhill so I didn’t notice too much.

However tonight on my way home was a different story.  My bike is a fixie so there’s no hiding place.  Jelly legs and no power going up the relatively mild hills of my commute.  And they don’t half ache now!

High Intensity Weekend

I guess it’s all relative.  To many faster, fitter, younger riders it probably won’t seem like much, but this weekend has been pretty high intensity for me.  And that’s on top of a week where I’ve probably overcooked things.  Last Saturday I tackled the Hopey New Year audax which was very tough in itself.  I took Sunday off and then played football on Monday – on a side with a man down.  Tuesday I took off and then did my normal commute (12.5 miles each way) on Wednesday.  Thursday it was football (again a man down) and Friday my commute.  Geordie Graeme from North Cheshire Clarion had mentioned a Saturday afternoon ride so myself and Paul turned up.  I thought it would be a good warm up for Sunday’s new format “training” club run, which I’d volunteered to lead.  As it was Paul and Graeme drove a pretty fast pace into the wind, and as we didn’t stop, I got my nutrition horribly wrong and was bonking badly with 4 or 5 miles to go, slowing the guys considerably.

Saturday route - NO CAFE STOP!!

707ft ascent

Saturday evening was all about trying to recover.  My “warmup” had really hit my legs so I was into an ice-bath when I got home and then on with the compression tights, much to the amusement of the family.

There has been some discussion about the NCC Sunday club runs recently.  They are billed as social and open to anyone, fitting nicely with the ethos of the club itself.  The trouble is, fitness-wise, I’ve felt myself going backwards as they don’t stretch me at all.  Last summer and autumn it was okay because there was always an audax or a sportive that helped keep the levels up.  But after November, and coupled with the white-off that was December, I’ve gone backwards at a rate of knots.  So we now have sister rides to the social rides – currently known as training rides.  Today was the first and I was leading.  We set off 15 minutes ahead of the social ride, on the same route, such that anybody struggling can be swept up by the social ride.

Sunday route - cake at Lavender Farm

616ft ascent

Including me there were 6 riders up for the inaugural ride, and off we went.  If anything the weather was worse and the wind slightly stronger, blowing West to East – so into our faces from the off.

The ride went very well indeed, with people taking turns on the front and keeping up a decent pace.  As we arrived at the cafe stop after 30 miles we were averaging 17.6mph.  Some coffee & walnut cake helped refill the tank and we set off back.  By now we were turning back into the wind and the heavens opened with cold, driving rain directly into our faces.  As opposed to Saturday where I bonked, today I got within a couple of miles of the end and my legs had decided enough was enough, and I gradually slipped off the back .  Anthony sportingly dropped back and pulled me back on but my legs were shot at the end.

Saturday HR profile - average 156bpm

Sunday HR profile - 162bpm average

HR Legend

The two HR profiles show the level of intensity I was working at on both days.  To put it all into context, in the 603 rides where I’ve collected data, these were 3rd and 8th highest average heart-rate, which I think is either a measure of how my fitness has tailed off, or it shows that whilst I’m pretty good at long distance and endurance, I’m not so good at high intensity.  Put it this way, I feel a long way off the 18.6mph average that Anthony and I did on the Manchester 100.  It’s probably a mixture of both if I think about it.  I’m just not used to these higher intensity rides and therefore struggle when we get towards the end of them.

And that is what the training rides are all about.  Hopefully these will develop my fitness and help increase my ability to work at a higher intensity for longer.  That said, I also think I need to realise that I’m not as young as I used to be, and not get frustrated when I can’t do everything I want to do, at the intensity that I want to do it.

My legs are aching now, and my right knee is very, very sore.  I think I’ll listen to my body now and have a couple of days off.  Hopefully everyone else enjoyed the training ride and it will be the first of many.

Ride Stats : Saturday 43.6 miles in 2hrs 38m @ 16.5mph, 2512kcals used

Ride Stats : Sunday 42.8 miles in 2hrs 30m @ 17mph, 2517kcals used


December’s a White-Off

No riding this weekend which coupled with the snow and ice earlier in December all adds up to a very poor month for cycling.  So far I’ve only managed 144 miles this month and if the weather stays as it is there may not be much more to go on top of that.

More disciplined people than me will doubtless spend hours on their turbo’s in the garage and I guess I should too, but it’s sooooo boring.

To top it all my regular games of football have been cancelled more often that not too, meaning  I’ve not been getting as much exercise as usual and I can feel my fitness drifting.  Of course I’ve adjusted my eating accordingly.  Oh, wait…


#Lejog Training Roundup – All the Stats

So I’ve finally finished my training for the LEJOG.  It’s been 20 weeks and I’ve been keeping track of all that I’ve done.

I started when the weather was freezing cold at the end of January, when getting out of bed in the dark on a Sunday morning at 6-30am was a real struggle.  I’ve been freezing cold (a lot), soaking wet (surprisingly not that much), hot and sweaty.  It’s been icy, windy, rainy, sunny and cloudy (a lot).

I’ve ridden around Greater Manchester, Cheshire (a lot), Lancashire, Yorkshire, Wales and flirted with Derbyshire.

I’ve been up hills and down dales, on mountainsides, in valleys, through villages, towns and cities.  I’ve seen wonderful scenery and beautiful countryside.

I’ve done long and lonely hours on my own and I’ve made some great new friends and ridden with great people, and some inspirational people.  I’ve enjoyed my own company and I’ve enjoyed their company.

I’ve fallen off, I’ve hurt my knee and I’ve seen countless idiotic drivers.  My knee has been sore, my fingers have bled and my legs have ached (a lot.)

I’ve absolutely loved it.

Here’s what I’ve done:

  • 2,153 training miles (plus another 530 miles commuting making 2683 miles in total)
  • over 142 hours of riding (nearly 6 days solid)
  • 78,400ft of climbing.  That’s equivalent to 2.7 Mount Everests.
  • I’ve averaged 15.6mph across those 2,153 miles
  • 116,706 kcalories of energy burned.
  • Gone from 189lbs to 172lbs and 24% bodyfat to just under 18%.  That’s at least a stone of unwanted fat gone

Weekly training mileage

The graph above shows the build up in mileage that I’ve tried to achieve to peak 3 weeks before the start, and then taper down.

More and more climbing!

Similarly you can see above the amount of climbing I’ve tried to build in on a weekly basis, and the following graph is my average heart-rate – which I think demonstrates that my fitness has improved over the time I’ve been training.

My fitness has been steadily improving

Is it enough?  I’ll tell you in a fortnight!  I was advised that 2000 miles of training would be the required amount and I’ve pleased that I’ve achieved that. Although I have a slight cold at the moment I feel very strong and fit, so I’m hoping that what I’ve done will stand me in good stead.

Cleaned, oiled and ready - the bike that is

Here are some five things I’ve learned

  1. Having a goal is really important – in this case the LEJOG provided all the motivation
  2. Structure works. Planning what you want to achieve, and how, means you can track your progress and build your confidence
  3. Shake it up – the same routes and the same things get boring.  Put effort into making things fresh
  4. Accept that some days will be hard for no reason, physically and/or mentally. For every 2 steps forward you may well take 1 back.  As long as you are moving forward it’s okay
  5. JOIN A CLUB – there really is no substitute for joining a cycling club and riding with others – it makes things a lot easier and more fun

One final thing.  A very big thank-you to my family, who have put up with me disappearing most weekends for hours at a time without a single word of complaint.  They have been behind me every step of the way, coaxing, cajoling and encouraging.  Fantastic support, without which I wouldn’t have been able to do my training.

I’m ready.  Wish me luck.  Better still, sponsor me.