Red Rose 200k Audax – Rain Stopped Play!

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Not me riding in the rain

I got a text from Anthony last night.  It said that there was a yellow rain warning and severe gales expected today, and asked if we were in fact going to attempt this ride.  After a literate and rousing motivational reply, Anthony turned up this morning and we headed over to the start at Halifax.  It was windy but dry.  A spot of toast and suddenly we were the only ones left – the others had gone.  Within the first mile we went the wrong way and after a bit of messing about we retraced and got back on route.  Anthony rode with old friend Peter Bond for a while before we got lost a second time after a closed road took us off the route.  By now we were wet and it was clear my motivational text had worn off.  The rain got worse and the wind kicked up, sweeping me several yards across the road at one point before I even knew what had happened.  It sounded like a jet engine in the trees!

At the first café stop 40 miles in I got a text from Liz asking me to stop and come home because the weather was frightening.  At that point we were soaked through, freezing cold and wary of the wind.  We decided to bail.

After wringing my socks out in the toilets, and eating soup and eggs on toast, we calculated the quickest route back and set off.  I have the say that the last 10 miles were possibly the worst I’ve experienced on a bike.  Absolutely drenched from head to foot, I couldn’t feel either my feet or my fingers.  Braking and changing gear was proving more and more challenging.  Riding down the valley from Burnley to Todmorden to Halifax into a headwind was hard enough, but with alarming frequency the wind would swirl sideways blowing me either into the kerb or into the centre of the road.  Helpfully, motorists were giving us a wider berth (#sarcasm) so it wasn’t at all scary (#moresarcasm).

At the end we’d done 71 miles and there were still a dozen audaxers aiming to finish – I am in awe of their fortitude.

Ride stats : 71.45 miles in 5hrs 14m @ 13.6mph. 4983ft climbing, average HR 122bpm, 3152kcals used

Strava ride here

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Macc Monster 2011

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Remember - the camera adds 10lbs...

On Saturday I was having a bouncing competition with my youngest daughter (don’t ask – she’s a bit childish like that) when I had to stop because of a pain in my lower back.  I thought nothing more of it and it went away.  Until the first real climb of the Macc Monster when it started aching quite badly, and didn’t really stop for the rest of the ride.  Last year I rode the Macc Monster in bright October sunlight, riding in shorts and short sleeves and enjoying a really nice day round the hills of the Macclesfield Forest and edge of the Peaks.  This year it was windy and wet, but still as enjoyable, with the Kidscan charity organising another super event.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

7,087ft climbing

I mistakenly got up an hour earlier than I needed to having misread the registration time so I was there nice and early, with the weather damp but not too bad.  This is a well-organised sportive so we were off pretty much bang on time in a 200 strong peloton heading out from the HQ.  The field rapidly thinned out as we immediately started hitting the hills and I made my way through the field settling (and staying) in the first 30 or so riders.  We seemed to battle a headwind for most of the ride which somehow seems unfair considering it’s two loops but certainly as we hit the peaks the wind was blowing hard.

Not far from, and at the halfway feed station, I started chatting to a chap who introduced himself as Adam who had just joined North Cheshire Clarion.  He looks like the racing snake variety of cyclist and is apparently into time-trials so watch out Giles next year!  Adam, if you are reading this, welcome to the club.

The feed station had the usual basic, but very welcome, food such as banana, flapjack, malt loaf and water/energy drinks and I was soon on my way again.

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Photo does not convey how wet and windy it was

The last 2 climbs were pretty tough.  The headwind was now brutal and the rain was being driven into our faces and was actually painful, especially up to the Cat and Fiddle.  But this is a great route and soon we were sweeping down descents towards the finish, and a complimentary steak sandwich and cup of coffee.

I keep recommending these rides – this one and the Peak 100.  They are great value, with well signed and interesting routes, good organisation and value for money.  And any proceeds go to the charity.  Give them a go next year – I will see you there.

By the way, if you like the photos they were taken by Rick Robson at CycleSportPhotos – I think they’re good despite the subject model – especially given the weather conditions.

Ride stats : 64 miles in 4hrs 40m @ 13.7mph average.  7087ft climbing, average HR 150bpm and 4099kcals used.

 

North Lancs Cycleway and Bowland Forest Populaire Audax

It was wet today... (Copyright Greenprophet.com)

Anthony, Martin and I drove up to Caton in Lancashire today to ride this Populaire audax.  At 8-30am this morning you wouldn’t have thought the weather would be bad, as the sky was clear and the sun was shining.  However, the weather forecast was suggesting that a blanket of rain was sweeping northwards and would envelop us around about 1pm.  For once, and unfortunately, the forecasters were right and the heavens opened at around 12-30pm.

 

The ride took us in a big loop around the Forest of Bowland on both cycleway and quiet country roads.

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The route ran clockwise, wind South to North

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3393ft of climbing

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Even in the nice sunshine there was a wind blowing northwards so the first section of the ride, of course, took us into the headwind.  Plenty of hills but not an excessive amount of climbing.  The big hill in the middle was made much worse by it being directly into a headwind, which whistled down the exposed moorland.  As usual we rode along having a laugh, especially when it turned out I’d plotted the route incorrectly, and Anthony confused himself by wrongly voting for himself to be responsible for remembering the control points.  The upshot of having an incorrect route, and poor instructions, was that we passed many riders only to find ourselves behind them at a later stage.

Foodwise we managed cake in the morning, warm food in the middle and a bacon butty at the end.  The Riverside in Slaidburn was full of Harley Davidson bikers.  We considered having a “rumble” but it was starting to rain that fine rain so we thought we’d go to Puddleduck’s in Dunsop Bridge instead.

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I have been asked to point out that this is not the only thing Anthony is good at

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Anthony tells Martin eating scones is not the only thing he is good at...

We had a brilliant tailwind on the final leg back to the HQ which saw us flying up a hill at 22mph at one point, but by then we were all very wet and very cold – in June – ridiculous.

Ride stats : 68 miles in 4hrs 57m at 13.8mph average.  3393ft of climbing and 3451kcals energy used

Tips for Riding in the Rain

Nice weather for ducks...

Well the rain didn’t let up at all today.  But fair weather ne’er a fair maiden found (or something like that) so I met up with Andy W and we ventured out into the monsoon.  We did a relatively fast 52 miles at around 15.7mph around the lanes of Cheshire including a very pleasant cafe stop, where I had coffee and a cream/jam scone, and tried to get warm.  Apologies to the cafe owners for the large puddles we left behind!

It was a pretty flat route and one of the advantages of being out today was that not many other people were stupid enough to be so.  The roads were pretty clear really.

Anyway, it got me thinking about riding in the rain – here’s some tips

  1. Waterproof doesn’t mean waterproof.  There are degrees of waterproofing – and the unit of measure is Hydrostatic Head, which relates to pressure exerted by a column of water.  In the UK a HH of 1000mm is the minimum value to be considered waterproof.  Falling rain exerts an HH of about 1000mm so you’d think that you will be okay if your jacket is rated at that level.  But then factor in the wind and the fact that you are zipping along on a bike and roadspray etc and you should be looking at HH values above 5000mm.
  2. A high level of waterproofing is likely to mean breathability issues.  So you have a choice – get wet from the outside or get wet from the inside.  Either way you’re getting wet!
  3. Waterproof socks and gloves are great until they fail – and they will fail if you are riding in rain for hours.  At which point the waterproofing keeps the water in!  Lovely.
  4. Watch the road more than usual.  A puddle can often mean a pothole. And bigger pools of water not only get you wet but often mean you’ll either pull into the middle of the road to avoid them or hit them hard enough to throw you off balance.  Today there were numerous floods on the back-lanes and it was fun (yes fun!) riding around and through them and trying not to get soaked!  Fat chance.
  5. Take corners carefully – my tyres certainly do not perform as well in the wet – I suspect they’re not unique.
  6. Brake earlier – they don’t work great in the rain
  7. Keep your mouth closed.  Or you’ll get a mouthful!  And rain hurts your face at 30mph downhill too.
  8. Keep an eye on your brake-blocks.  The wet and the natural crap you get on roads can create a rough paste which gets between your rims and blocks and acts like sandpaper.
  9. Eat cake.  Yes I know that’s got nothing to do with the rain but it’ll make you feel better.
  10. Don’t stay out too long.  Once you are soaked, it gets harder and harder to stay warm.

Anyway, I’m glad I went out.  It was a good to meet up with Andy again and given the weather it was a decent pace.  I’m just about dry now too!

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

 

Season of Mists Audax

A wet and wild Sunday morning early start saw nine North Cheshire Clarion stalwarts gather at the HQ in Hebden Bridge for the Season of Mists audax.  Wet weather gear was the order of the day but unfortunately none of us had the right equipment for the level of rain that was falling!

Gaz forgot his coat and Martin forgot his shoes so one got the feeling that it was going to be one of those days.  We managed to be on time for the start for a change so we set off half a mile before the first climb in Hebden Bridge.  What a climb it was too!  Nearly a mile long and with a gradient peaking at 16.7% it was a fierce climb for cold and already wet legs.  Added to that the last few hundred yards were on wet cobbles!  Horrible!

A mile further on and “lucky” Gaz got a puncture. Jim wasn’t feeling well so decided to go back to the car – not before Martin borrowed his shoes and Gaz had his spare inner tube!  At this point we’d been going half an hour and had done 2.25 miles.  And were all soaking wet.

The roads were very wet – almost like streams at some points.  It made going downhill and picking lines very tricky and placed a lot of strain on brakes and brake blocks – which now need changing on my bike.  Even the Garmin started playing up in the rain, refusing to signal turns.  We missed one turn which meant an extra climb back up the hill – that was very popular.

Around 28 miles in we had the first cafe stop.  The poor cafe owner was trying to serve and mop up the puddles of water at the same time, but I still managed a nice hot apple pie and custard and a cup of coffee.

I managed to tick off a hill from the 100 Greatest Climbs book – the Nick of Pendle – which was by no means the worst of the day.  Here’s the profiles for the days climbing

6981ft of climbing!!!!

Some nasty sharp hills

There is a spike in there at 32% gradient which I’m not sure whether it’s a Garmin/GPS issue or was actually one of the hills.  There are a dozen or so 10%+ hills on there though and at the end of 63 miles it was very, very tough on the legs.

The second stop included some homemade cake which was simply brilliant and at the end, as per usual on these events, the catering was absolutely superb.

The sun finally came out at the end but it was still a great effort by a very damp Clarion team – probably harder than Tour of Britain last week – but special mention to Giles who has gone from trailing in my wake on the hills to leaving me for dead.  I’m told it’s structured training rather than Spanish steak but either way it was an impressive display today.

Ride stats – 63.48 miles in 5hrs 13mins ride time – 12.1mph average.  6981ft of climbing and 4098 kcals used.

NCC Sunday Club Run – a Tale of 2 Halves

Cutting to the chase – today’s club run round Cheshire saw us start the ride in driving rain, which then proceeded to drive even harder, and end the ride in clear blue skies and sunshine.  I’m guessing that’s the type of weather differential you can only get in this country.

I started the ride in Endura waterproof overshoes, Sealskinz waterproof socks, Madison waterproof gloves and my Club EnduraPro Windtex (waterproof) jacket.  The rain was driving down, which coupled with the spray from the dozen or so riders around me meant that precisely NOTHING remained dry!  We looped round Comberbach, Great Budworth, Pickmere and Knutsford before heading north through Mobberley and Dunham before the inevitable sprint to the Lavender Cafe for a well earned coffee and slice of cake.  At that point we looked like a bunch of drowned rats, with water dripping off us as we trudged in.

Pulling damp and soggy clothes back on we ventured back out to find that the rain had stopped only to be replaced with a vicious wind – at times in our face, at times across us.  This called for tightly bunched-up group riding which we did quite well, though I say so myself.  The Sun came out and the with the aid of the wind was drying us quite nicely as we reached the end of the route.

Had to wash my bike for the second time in two days when I got home due to the rain.  Is this the end of summer already?

Ride stats: 43 miles in 2hr 44m at 15.7mph average, 740ft of climbing and 1581kcals used

No 72 – The Rake

Climb number 72 in Simon Warren’s excellent book, 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, is The Rake in Ramsbottom.  It’s given an 8/10 rating in the book.  I plotted a ride that diverted from my usual Grane Road loop to take in this hill and chalk up my seventh climb from the book.

The weather was overcast when I set off, and chilly too considering it’s bloody August!  By the time I returned the heavens had opened and I was drenched!  The ride to the Rake was uneventful apart from the fact that my Garmin was playing up – claiming it had no saved routes even though I could see them when it was hooked up to the Mac.  More on some Garmin hints and tips in a later post.  I started up the climb and the road quickly becomes around 15% gradient for a while and then swings 90 degrees left and flattens out.  At this point I was thinking “is that it?”  Then the road turned right into a section that looked like the ramp from Mow Cop!  This section is marked as 25% on the sign at the start, and even has a handrail on the wall for pedestrians!  Although my heart-rate was maximum at this point I felt relatively comfortable, especially when the road flattened to a “mere” 20% gradient.  It was still very tricky – the road surface is very poor so you have to concentrate on line rather than just slogging upwards!  The hill is only about three-quarters of a mile and was over fairly quickly.  I’m not sure I’d rate it an 8/10.

The rest of the ride took me (very, very soggily) back onto my normal Grane Road loop.  I tried to really attack the remaining hills to get some training in, hitting max heart-rate a few more times.  Interestingly, GPSIES reports this ride as having a ClimbByBike index of 55.43 which is seemingly quite benign (by way of contrast – the Tan Hill Challenge had a ClimbByBike index of 210.04).  This is a method for rating climbs – click the links for more information.

Total Ascent - 1873ft

Overall, a very good ride, if a little damp.  Enjoyed the Rake – not sure what hill to tackle next!

Ride stats : 32 miles, 1hr 59m, average speed 16.1mph, 1873ft ascent, 1598kcals

#lejog Training – Wet, Windy and Yet More Hills

Woke up to a cold and damp morning with my legs feeling particularly heavy from yesterday’s hill-fest in Lancashire.  I guess this is what the actual journey is going to feel like at times (only worse) although I’m hoping that excitement and adrenaline will play their part.  Had to be back early today so decided on a shorter route but still with some “lumps” to get over.  The route heads north towards Blackburn over the Grane Road and then turns back on itself and down to Bury and home.  It’s a favourite of mine.

It was made a bit harder by the rain and the headwind as I headed north.  The north bit is the uphill bit – so just what I needed was an added headwind.  One of the reasons that Land’s End to John o’ Groats is considered easier than the other way round is that generally the prevailing wind is south-westerly giving you a push.  However, having followed the weather closely for the last few months there seems to be an awful lot of northerly winds which will be a nightmare if it turns out like that at the end of June!

Much of making it over hills is in the mind.  Quite often your body has plenty in reserve but your mind tells you to stop.  I decided today I’d do some “mental training” by staying on the big ring up all the hills.  The temptation would be there to make life easier and go to the granny ring but this would be good for mind over matter, not to mention helping build up the power in my legs.

1749ft of climbing

I have to say it was a struggle, what with the headwind and the rain, but I did it.  And I beat my best time on this route.  In May last year I did this route in 2 hours and 39 minutes, averaging 12.1mph.  In February this year, as my only training ride of the week, I did it in 2 hours and 14 minutes, averaging 14.4mph.  Today I did it in 2 hours and 8 minutes, averaging 15mph which I am very pleased with, especially after yesterday and the conditions.  Interestingly, in February I used 2109kcals of energy and had an average heart-rate of 148bpm.  Today I used 1761kcals with an average heart-rate of  135bpm.  I think these are good indicators of how far I’ve come.  My next target will be to beat 2 hours on this route!

#lejog Training – Simulating Cornwall!

Got  a few days off work so I have the opportunity to get some extra training in.  Today I decided to get back up the hills and picked a route that I hoped would give me a taste of the Cornwall leg of the journey.  Plenty of people assume that Cornwall is relatively flat.  In fact it is very, very hilly.  Of all 8 days we will be riding, we will do the most climbing on day 1 through Cornwall – even more than the final day through the Scottish Highlands – probably between 5500ft and 6000ft.  So the route I selected would give me over 5000ft of climbing.

The weather has cooled down considerably today and was probably a good 15 degrees colder as I set off north up through Bury, Haslingden and Accrington and heading towards Clitheroe.  Or rather past it and then turning north into the Forest of Bowland.  I spent many a happy hour as a lad in the Trough of Bowland in the early 70’s.  Me, Dad and Grandad would race sticks down the streams whilst Mum and Gran fussed over sandwiches and boiled eggs!  Happy days.  Anyway I headed towards Slaidburn for a spot of refreshment at the Riverbank Tea Rooms.

Coffee - my cake of choice...

It wasn’t just me that thought it was time for a drink

The village of Slaidburn, and all the surrounding farms, are apparently owned by an eccentric Squire who keeps the rents low and subsidises the village to make sure the way of life is not lost.  Well worth a visit.

As I left Slaidburn full of cake and coffee I didn’t really want to see something like this but I guess it was my choice

I hate signs like this!

The hills started coming thick and fast, like a roller coaster.  The worst one was Jeffrey Hill which at 20% was a real struggle

...and, it became clear, slightly overweight cyclists!

Halfway up, the view down doesn't do it justice

Sign on the way down - no similar "up" sign at the bottom!

Reaching the top gave some really lovely views of the Ribble Valley.  But the hills didn’t stop there.  I headed over towards Longridge and via Ribchester and Wilpshire back through Blackburn.  There were still some stinkers to get up and it had started to rain.  Tried my Altura Pocket Rocket showerproof jacket which worked really well, keeping me warm and dry.

Again, photo doesn't do it justice but believe me it was a horrible hill

Had a few chain/gear issues which suggests that my chain needs replacing so on the way home popped into Cooksons to book the bike in for a servicing.

Overall managed 80 miles at an average of 14.3mph.  5196ft of climbing using 4543kcals.