Back Racing (just not very well…)

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For the first time in over a year (387 days) I was back racing. The Manchester BC held a 10 mile TT on a course I hadn’t previously ridden on Easter Monday. Sat in the car park at an early hour beforehand watching it snow I have to say I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic. And despite the covid protocols in place I was also pretty apprehensive. Normally at the start of a season I am really looking forward to racing but I wasn’t after a year off. The race itself was about as terrible as I expected. I couldn’t hold my position, the crosswinds were scary and the “feels like” temperature was something like -7˚C, which meant by the end there wasn’t much feeling in anything, especially my fingers.

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Club 10 picture by Kate’s TT Pictures (Facebook)

Since then I’ve performed marginally better in a 25M TT, managing to hold my position and a decent power for the full race, and a 10M TT at Rainford.

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Race of truth by Kate’s TT Pictures (Facebook)

The Seamons Cycling Club has also run a number of evening Club 10’s which have proved very popular – there is definitely a pent up demand for racing again. Despite all of this I’ve not yet managed to feel enthusiastic for any of the races. I thought that after an enforced year off I would be desperate to get back to it, and if the truth be told, I’m not. In fact, I’m struggling to stay motivated for any of it – I’m forcing myself to try to train properly and to enter the events. When I’m riding I don’t feel comfortable or like I’m in any condition, even though the numbers aren’t really that bad for somebody rapidly approaching mid-50’s.

None of this was improved by the latest race last weekend. I hit a pothole and sheared off one of my armrests which meant half of a 25M TT on the base bars. I thought it had damaged the wheel bearings too but they seem okay. All pales into insignificance though as one rider was involved in an accident that required the air ambulance – I believe, thankfully, it was not as serious as first thought.

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Aerocoach Align armrest sheared off after pothole

So I’m carrying on hoping I will get the enthusiasm back and start to actually look forward to events again. Either that or I’ll be finding something else to do with my Saturday afternoons.

The State of Our Roads

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According to a Public Health England study published 18 months ago, nearly two thirds of adults in England were classed as overweight or obese. Possibly worse, nearly 30% of children between the ages of 2 and 15 are overweight or obese. Unfortunately younger generations are becoming obese at earlier ages and staying obese. It’s only going to get worse.

So what?

The NHS estimated that it spent £6.1 billion on overweight and obesity-related ill-health in the 2014-15 financial year. The estimate for the wider economy dwarfs this – it’s £27 billion. Never mind Brexit, that’s a year-on-year bill that nobody seems quite as concerned about – you’re highly unlikely to see that on the side of a bus. Much of this is put down the food and drink manufacturers – and there is clearly a link, but it’s not the whole story.  The government has already started taxing sugary drinks, which is somewhat akin to sticking a finger in the hole after the Titanic hit the iceberg. The other side of the “eat less, move more” equation is physical activity – or more rather, lack of it.

In another report by Public Health England, it forecasts that the health and social care costs of air pollution in England could reach £5.3 billion by 2035. These costs are drawn from the cost of treating diseases with a strong association to air quality – child asthma, lung cancer, stroke and heart disease.

Auto Express suggests traffic congestion costs the UK £38 billion.  

As this is a blog about bikes you can probably see where I’m going with this.

In 2017 the government published its £1.2 Billion long-term plan to make cycling and walking the natural choice for shorter journeys. Commendable, and very much a step/pedal in the right direction.  But £1.2 Billion is a fraction of the the eye-wateringly large numbers above.

Cycling & Walking Strategy

The report has some compelling targets and some very interesting numbers in it. For example, if the UK could achieve the same levels of cycling as Denmark (sounds reasonable) the NHS would save £17 Billion within 20 years, and shifting just 10% of journeys from cars to bikes would save 400 productive life years due to the reduction in pollution.   The report states objectives that by 2020, will:

  • increase cycling activity (including making the roads a sfare place for all users)
  • increase walking activity
  • reduce the rate of cyclists killed or seriously injured on England’s roads
  • increase the percentage of children aged 5 to 10 that usually walk to school

In 2016 102 cyclists were killed on the roads (94 adults and 8 children). 3,397 were seriously injured and 13,314 slightly injured. It’s only my subjective view but the roads feel like they are getting more dangerous, and that it will be hard to meet these objectives without the government driving through some fundamental changes in social attitudes to driving similar to that which happened with drink-driving. However, it took a generation for that to move from acceptable behaviour to anti-social behaviour, helped by stronger sentences and the real risk of consequences if caught. Contrast that to the current state of driving on our roads

  • widespread use of smart phones whilst driving
  • lack of regard for speed limits
  • increasing wilful disregard for traffic signals, especially during commuting hours
  • more and more car safety features giving drivers a false sense of ability and security
  • driving a car being seen as a right rather than a privilige, to the detriment of all other road users
  • government wasting time and money on new laws that work against cycling
  • an almost total lack of enforcement by an otherwise stretched police force
  • traffic increasing year on year

So, whilst I see some positives that government is starting to wake up to the need to have a set of integrated policies – which would free up resources for the NHS, reduce congestion, improve air quality and generally make people healthier and happier – cycling still feels pretty much marginalised. There is still a sense that cyclists (and to a lesser extent pedestrians) are the problem rather than the solution, and motorists certainly seem to think they have more “rights” to use roads.  

Looking at the absolute debacle that is Brexit I despair that this government (or any government frankly) will be in any way competent and capable enough of making any of this happen and following through on their strategy.  For the good of everyone, not just cyclists, let’s hope I’m wrong.

September – winding down

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Normal service is resumed…

Of course we all knew that the fantastic summer we’ve had must eventually come to an end.  And so it did in September.

However, not before a very nice day on the 1st of the month for the rearranged Cheshire Roads Club 50 around a slightly different version of J4/16.

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The standard course starts in Twemlow Lane and finishes just before the turn back into it after nearly 3 laps.  The revised version, designated J4/16E, started in Bomish Lane near the start of J2/9.  It then finished just up the bank from Terra Nova School.  I had a decent enough ride apart from a slight problem with my aerobars.  Since I swapped to the reversed USE bars, the horizontal pads were really causing me pain, so I invested in some angled spacers to set the pads at about 20deg and take the pressure off my elbows.  I followed the recommended torque settings (which was slightly below the standard Canyon ones) and everything felt pretty sturdy.  However, the vibrations and rattling caused by Cheshire roads must have caused them to gradually move as over the course of the ride they turned in on themselves so that the ends with the shifters were touching.  This meant I spent a lot of the time slightly prising them apart to a) allow me to get my fingers in and change gear and b) stop them changing gear on their own when I hit a bump (which they did once – threw me off the big ring!)  I’m not sure how this happened because I couldn’t physically turn the bars but it resulted in some serious neck and shoulder ache for me after nearly 2 hours!  The event was really well run but there were a lot of DNSs, probably due to the re-arrangement.  Unfortunately I hear this is the last version of this event, which has been run since 1931.  A real shame.  50M in 01:53:13, 4th from 43 riders (£15 4th fastest, 1st vet, £10 1st team)) 

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The following week was the Weaver Valley 25, also rearranged from earlier in the summer.  The weather for this was atrocious.  I backed my car to a point under the trees at Cranage but still got very wet whilst warming up.  The rain was torrential – at one point I thought the car park might flood!  In fact, the rain continued all the way the start, a good 4 miles or so away.  It continued but eased up a bit during my actual ride and only stopped right at the end.  The ride back to the HQ saw the clouds part and some blue sky!  It was a tough ride in those conditions, and despite resetting them the bars turned inwards again! 25M in 55:23, 2nd from 56 riders (£20, 2nd fastest, £10 2nd team) 

The following Sunday morning I was up to 5am to drive to Levens.  The weather was very, very wet and very windy – in fact the standing water and spray on the course meant the organiser cancelled it before it started.  So despite an early start and an hours drive each way, to be frank I was pleased that the organsier had made the call.

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My final race of the season, therefore, was the Stretford Wheelers 25 on J2/9.  It was a bit chilly, but relatively dry and calm.  For a couple of weeks I wasn’t training as such, simply messing about on Zwift so I came into this feeling pretty well rested – so I thought I’d try to leave it all out there.  I ended up with a very decent power output, maybe 4 or 5W off my best of the season.  Thankfully, the aero bars remained in the correct position this time.  25M in 55:24, 2nd from 66 riders (£30 2nd fastest, £10 1st team)


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Polishing 2017 VTTA Manchester trophies ready to return – sadly I won’t be seeing all of those again this year

Season Roundup

Overall I’m pretty happy with my season.  I had three main goals.  An “18” 10, a “49” 25 and a club record at 12 hours.  I was only going to get close to the first goal on V718, a really fast 10 course, so that went out of the window when racing was banned on that course.  I managed to achieve the other two.  As I get older my other aims were really around age-group and being really competitive against my peers – it’s a fools errand getting frustrated and disappointed about not being able to match people who are 10 to 20-odd years younger than me.  2018 was the first year the Cycling Time Trials (CTT) National Ranking System was live.  I’m not sure of the ins and outs of the points system but basically it is designed to take relative positions of riders in their best 10 races and rank them.  I was 59th* from nearly 9000 riders.  More importantly, there were only 4 riders in the country of my age or higher with more points than me.  I also managed 27th* place in the Best All-Rounder (BAR) which I am very happy with because both my 100 and 12 hour were on courses not considered fast.

*at time of writing


What Now

I’ve taken some time off the turbo and started doing some strength training for the first time in many years.  Currently I’m struggling to walk because my legs hurt so much and I’m sure I’ve pulled something in one of my glutes.

I’m not planning on any positional changes other than to slightly move my saddle back – it’s slammed forward at the moment.  I’ll do this for the whole winter to give me time to adapt.  I’m still not convinced about the high hands position despite it being quite comfortable (shown below)

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

I haven’t done “proper” aero testing but I do analyse races using Mywindsock and Bestbikesplit and the results are inconclusive – probably far too many variables for a real comparison.

In the near future (if my legs and glutes allow) I will begin base training.  I’m following some advice from Joe Friel for over 50’s by incorporating at least one “hard” session (VO2Max or Anaerobic) per week, and some strength training, into a relatively long and easy base programme.  I’ll do that until the end of the year and then work from there.

Thanks to all the organisers, volunteers, helpers and marshalls that have enabled me to race 39 times this season in open and club events, and all things being well I will see you next season for more of the same.  Hopefully faster!

I rode 641 miles outdoors with 32,211ft ascent at around 18mph average, which used up around 22,213kcals. I also spent 21 hours 39 mins on the turbo using a further 13,713kcals. Total for the month was 2934TSS

 

August – 12 Hours is a Long Time

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I had two main targets coming into August – both season goals.

Club 50 Championship

The Seamons Club 50 mile championship (and also the final race in our TT Champion competition) took place as part of the Congleton CC 50 mile open around the J4/16 course.

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It was a warm and sunny day again and I was trialling a new bottle carrier that clamps onto the saddle rails – made by Topeak.  It’s a modular system that allows one or two of their Ninja bottle cage range to attach to it.  I have two – one that holds a pouch for an inner tube underneath, and one that holds CO2 canisters (as shown).  If you look closely, tyre levers are integrated into the side of the main spine of the cage.

These were in preparation for the 12 hour and I have to say they are really good – very easy to get the bottles in and out, plus supposedly more aero than a non-aero bottle on the downtube.

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Picture courtesy of and © Richard Howes Photography

On another warm but breezy day I was very pleased with my ride, recording my second best time on J4/16 despite encountering the cows crossing the road for the first time in a good few years.  It was good enough to win the club championship and retain the trophy for another year.  50M in 01:52:45, 5th from 82 riders (£40 – 1st vet on standard, £20 1st team) 


Weekend Off

No racing so spent the weekend in the lakes – mainly eating!


Carb Loading isn’t as fun as it sounds…

As I began my taper down to the 12 hour on the 19th, I also started to increase my food intake from about 72 hours out, notably lots of carbs.  The goal was to hit about 8-10g/kg of body weight, so in my case between 500 – 600g of carbs.  During the Giro D’Italia earlier in the year, Team Sky had made much about Chris Froome’s long solo breakaway win, and the fact that they had calculated his nutrition needs as if it was some magical marginal gain.  The fact is testers have been doing that for years on longer rides such as a 12 hour.  My own nutrition spreadsheet has evolved since 2016 and now delivers me 90g of carb per hour during the race, with stops calculated to change bottles and pick up extra food.  90g per hour is considered the maximum the body can absorb, which is why trying to “fill up” the fuel (glycogen) stores with carb loading makes sense.

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Project Management 101 for testers!

Perhaps not surprisingly, by the end of the week I was sick of it, but it did pay off in the end.

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This is what fuelling for a 12hr looks like!


Combined Associations 12 Hour

The weather forecasts were pretty mixed – some were showing persistent rain, most were showing high humidity and decent temperatures but all were showing a very windy day.

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The HQ (and start) was at the finishing circuit on an industrial estate in Wrexham, which sounds glamorous but really isn’t.

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It’s all glamour…

Nutrition

I was up at 3:45am and I had two cartons of Instant Oats porridge.  Then, immediatly prior to and during the event I consumed the following, timed to give me approx 90g of carbs per hour (as per spreadsheet above)

Item g Carb Kcals Count
SIS BetaFuel drink mix (700ml) 80 320 8
Zipvit ZV7c Caffiene Gel 51 204 2
PowerBar PowerGel Shots 48 210 1
Cliff ShotBlok 48 192 2
SIS Go Energy Large Bar 40 227 4
Honey Stinger Energy Bar 26 173 2
Stoats Porridge Bar 26 226 3

As mentioned I carried two bottles behind my saddle and I tucked 2 or 3 items of food inside my skinsuit at the neck opening.  In total, I consumed around 6,000kcals if you include the early breakfast, and I was still in deficit at the end.  I planned four stops to change bottles and get more food – these were at intervals of around 74 miles, 57 miles, 46 miles and 48 miles.  I also knew I’d need a few ad-hoc nature breaks too – one of the many problems with being over 50!  The fantastic support team I had made these stops really quick and efficient so this year there were only just over 6 minutes where I wasn’t moving, and that included 3 unscheduled stops at temporary traffic lights on the course.  That’s 5 minutes fewer stops than last year.

The weather

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It was windy at the start, but dry and reasonably warm.  I opted to wear a baselayer but because of the wind I also cut a small square of emergency space blanket (the tinfoil ones*) and wore that across my chest inside my skinsuit.  That would allow me to ditch it later on when it got warmer.  I’d also wiped the inside of my visor with washing-up liquid the day before as it helps stop it steaming up – I find the Aerohead is very prone to this in damp or humid conditions.

There were spots of rain on the way out to the first circuit but it wasn’t until the Espley – Shawbirch leg that it started raining.  It was cold and wet at Espley and I was glad of my extra layer, and then a few miles down the road it was warm and dry and I was less glad.  Then I’d go back up to Espley and it was cold and damp again!  However, that was really the last of the rain and it brightened up and got warmer as we rode the day circuit.  The wind remained most of the day only really tailing off towards the end – it was unpleasant riding into it and unpleasant battling for stability when it was coming across from the side.  I’d say it was pleasant when it was a tailwind but it never feels totally equitable!

Towards the end of the day it seemed to get warmer and warmer.  The last two years I’ve been freezing at the end but not this year

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Bit hot! Photo courtesy of Johnny Pardoe

*note to self in future – there is a reason that conspiracy theorists wear hats made of tinfoil – it definitely blocks the data signal from your HR strap to your bike computer!

The course

I quite enjoyed the first section of the course which was a rolling ride over to the A41 and then down through Prees Heath to Ternhill to Espley – which is familiar to anyone who has ridden WCTTCA events.  We then had two out-and-back loops to Shawbirch roundabout via the dreaded Peplow “pave”!  On the plus side that was much better than the three and five times in previous years.  However, it is still a teeth-chattering surface that is at best irritating and at worst can shake bits off your bike.  Luckily the only thing I lost this year was an emergency nurofen I’d taped to my bars!

The day circuit was the same as last year – a 22 mile loop around Redbrook, Welshampton, Quina Brook and Tilstock.  It was a headwind on the first part into Welshampton, with temporary traffic lights for non-existent roadworks, and then rolling country lanes for the rest.  Apart from near Quina Brook the surface is reasonable and it’s a lovely route.  However, after my 5th time around I was well and truly fed up with it.  The temporary traffic lights stopped me dead twice, made me slow down significantly twice and sprint like an idiot once, which is not a good idea with over 100 miles left.

It was a bit of a drag back to the finishing circuit – after 200 odd miles it felt VERY rolling and there was also a quite steep descent, which was interesting in a very tired state on a very windy day.  There was also a set of traffic lights at a junction, preceded by temporary lights on a hill just before them.  I got stopped at the temporary lights and it was a >400W effort to get the bike going again up the hill – definitely not something I needed at that stage, it hurt a lot.  Other riders later reported the lights were showing green in both directions resulting in problems for them as traffic blocked the lane.

The finish circuit was a 9-ish mile loop around the HQ.  Past the HQ felt fast, downhill and possibly a tailwind. Then a left turn onto what was quite a rough surface section with a cow crossing point, which held up a lot of riders (not me luckily).  Another left turn onto an ascending drag into the wind, then back down onto the industrial estate via a short section of fast dual-carriageway.

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Passing the HQ – photo courtesy of Johnny Pardoe

Man and machine

For the first twenty miles I felt good.  I knew what I could do for 12 hours and I rode that pace.  I also knew that I wasn’t very good at eating and drinking so I forced myself to do it.  I had a list of things to eat and the times I would eat them taped to my bars.  I set my auto-lap on the Wahoo to lap every hour and when it went off I ate something off my list. Towards the end I felt a bit sick – I’d eaten a lot of sugary carbs and couldn’t face any more, but between that and the carb loading I never felt like I was going to bonk.

I did have some problems though.  My left knee became increasingly sore during the ride.  It had started a couple of weeks before – just the odd twinge here and there but it wasn’t going.  Walking up a big hill in the Lake District the week before didn’t really help either – it was worse after that.  So after about 50 miles I was riding with knee pain.  Luckily for me (!), the pain in my elbow completely distracted me away from my knee.  I’ve fitted the very high reversed USE aerobars and I’d noticed that my elbow was a bit sore at the end of the 50’s I’d used as test runs.  Many people seem to have the same problem and angle the pads so that pressure is spread along the forearm rather than on one bony point on the elbow.  I didn’t have time to do that and therefore it became more and more of a problem.  Any bit of poor road surface sent a shooting pain up my elbow and I was left with two large bruises on my elbows by the time I had finished.  Added to that was the general pain in my shoulders and neck and I was struggling to hold position for more than 20 minutes at a time before I needed a break.  I tried to ride in position into the wind and then take a break when it felt like a tailwind.

It takes a fair bit of mental strength to ride for 12 hours.  I can only do it by breaking it down into smaller chunks.  So I focused on each hour.  I forced myself to do calculations in my head to keep track of the pace I needed to do, and I set myself little goals like “ride the next section at this power”.   When I reached a milestone you can have a bit of a celebration in your head, things like 25% of the time through, first 100 miles done etc.  Then you start to count down after halfway which is always a boost.  All are mental tricks to keep you pushing through the pain and discomfort.  I also tried to say thank you to each marshal I passed, although at some fraught times I know I missed a couple.  The event was organised and marshaled superbly well and they all provided great support as riders went past.  The final surging morale boost came when I entered the finish circuit.  Even though there were still a couple of hours left it was quite emotional and a massive lift going past everyone at the HQ.  In fact, looking at the data, my power and speed picked up noticeably and I finished very strongly despite the pain and fatigue.

The bike functioned perfectly well.  There were a few creaks and groans from the headset by the end, after the battering from the road surface, but other than that it was great.  I used a waxed chain which felt very smooth and didn’t miss a beat all day.  The last two years I’d suffered from chafing after a few hours and had used a LOT of chamois cream to get me through.  This season I’m running a Specialized Sitero saddle and it wasn’t until around 11 hours that I felt any chafing or discomfort, which is a big improvement.

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What a superb support crew! Photo courtesy of Johnny Pardoe

None of it would have been possible without the fantastic support I received.  Dave and Neil out on the course, Liz and Kate in the lead up to the event and on the finish circuit, and Carol and JP at the HQ.  Thank you all.

Things that went well
  • My target was 270 miles and a Seamons club record.  My official distance was 272.21 miles.  That should also get me the Club BAR again
  • Superb organisation and marshaling.  Indeed, the provisional results were out the same evening which is incredibly fast for a 12 hour
  • Fantastic support!  Thank you all again
  • Overall nutrition planning and stops
  • Honey Stinger bars – very nice, easy to chew and get down
  • My power/pacing was pretty consistent all the way through
  • Bottle cages behind the saddle
  • Specialized Sitero saddle
  • Wahoo Elemnt Bolt battery life

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Still > 15% battery left!

Things a bit so-so
  • SIS Go Large Energy Bars – nice enough but a bit hard and very difficult to chew on the move
  • Stoats porridge bars – the opposite – easy to eat but crumbly, so bits were flying everywhere
  • SIS Betafuel – seems to work well but a bit of an insipid taste (lemon/lime – should’ve tried orange as well)
Things that didn’t work
  • Horizontal armrests with “praying mantis” aerobars
  • Armrests probably too narrow for 12 hours – a bit uncomfortable
  • My left knee
  • HR monitor data signal through tinfoil
Facts and Figures
  • 272.21 miles at just under 22.7mph
  • Approx. 7,000ft of ascent
  • Average power 194W, normalised 199W, peak 5s 463W (uphill traffic lights!)
  • Average HR 136bpm (approx), average cadence 79rpm
  • Work expended 8,287KJ, 543TSS
  • Temperature went from 13.9C to 22.8C

In summary, it was a really well organised day and very enjoyable.  If you are undecided about having a crack at a 12 hour I’d recommend it, and hopefully there is some useful information for you here.  272.21M in 12 hours, 4th from 60 riders (£40, 4th actual)


Back to a short one

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I spent the next week trying to properly (and actively recover).  The pain in my shoulders and neck went quite quickly but then came back after a couple of days.  The pain in my knee and legs more gradually subsided.  The Withington Wheelers 10 on the J2/1 was a bit cool and breezy and I didn’t know how I’d feel.  Five minutes in and I thought it would be a disaster but I felt better as the time went on.  It was a headwind out so I convinced myself I only had to try really hard to the turn.  Of course I was lying but by then I felt okay.  However, J2/1 involved two trips across Chelford roundabout.  On the outbound leg I got lucky and sailed through.  No such luck on the way back.  A line of cars meant I just had to unclip and wait. Looking at the file afterwards, including the slowing down it cost nearly 30 seconds which is absolutely gutting.  10M in 22:27, 5th from 90 riders (£30 2nd vet on standard, £10 1st team)


20˚C Colder – WTF?

On the 23rd July I rode one of my regular training routes and the temperature hit 26˚C.  On the 26th August I rode the same route where the temperature dropped to 6˚C.  On the 28th it was 20˚C again.  Only in this country.


I rode 714 miles outdoors with 28,118ft ascent at around 19.5mph average, which used up around 24,557kcals. I also spent 23 hours 5 mins on the turbo using a further 15,402kcals. Total for the month was 3,167TSS

Why Blog?

I started this blog back at the start of 2010 because I was doing a charity LEJOG ride.  It made sense because a lot of people were supporting me and I was continually looking for sponsorship.  Once that was complete I carried it on as I took on a couple of other charity challenges.  Then I carried it on because it was an easy way to log the audaxes that I’d started to do.  Since then it’s sort of morphed into a record of what I’ve been doing in amateur time-trialling.  I imagine it’s a pretty tedious read and as it only gets 20 to 50 visitors that would seem to be the case – nobody is forced to read it obviously.  In the main I’ve been using it as my own personal record given that my memory is so bad.  However, I’ve got other software for that as well so I’m not sure that is even a reason now.  There’s also an amusing (if quite unkind) thread on one of the Facebook forums about amateur blogs which made me think about why I do this and what is the point of it.

So, I’m three-quarters of the way through my July post – it may be the last one.  Or, if my OCD kicks in, I may do it up to the end of the season.  But the likelihood is that I will probably let this fade away.  There’s possibly 20 to 50 of you who may notice 😂

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…

June – you can tell it’s summer cos the rain is warmer…

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Ah summer.  We had a few days of that this month.  At least the rain was warmer though.

The first race of the month was the club 10 championship on the 1st.  As is often the case it didn’t go to plan as I got held up by an Eddie Stobart lorry who I am convinced did it on purpose, causing me to limp in well down the field.  However, we race on public roads so them’s the breaks, and the winning time was a cracking one that would have taken some beating, so I wasn’t too disappointed.  23:29, 6th from 32

On the first Saturday of the month I rode the Stretford Wheelers 25 on J2/9.  This was a hot day – probably the first day of the year racing in such temperatures.  I don’t carry a bottle on 25’s and it doesn’t usually matter but this time I was serioulsy overheating and dehydrating.  My power was down, barely above the previous week’s 50, and at the end I thought I’d done terribly, as it got worse and worse.  As it was it must have affected others more than me because my time was much better relative to the people I’m normally in and around.  55:28, 5th from 67 (£25, 1st 40-49)

Midweek I rode the club 10 and didn’t get held up this time. 22:26, 1st from 34

The next day I was up at stupid o’clock to get down to Tilstock to ride Chester RC’s 25 on D25/8E.  I like this course but not so much the early starts!  However it was a lot cooler and I rode much more evenly paced race.  In the end I was both delighted and gutted in equal measures to take 2nd place, not far off my first win.  55:02, 2nd from 54 (£50, 2nd and 2nd veteran on standard)

Saturday the 11th was a day of rain, rain and more rain, and the Janus RC 25.  The road was flooded in several places and it was no fun when my feet (and expensive power pedals) were going underwater riding through the floods!  Twemlow Lane, the subject of a very recent surface dressing, was flooded in at least 3 places – yet another reason to add to the list why surface dressing shouldn’t be considered an effective or viable road resurfacing method.  This time I fared worse in relation to my peers, being affected more than they were.  56:27, 5th from 77 (£20, 3rd veteran)

The midweek club 25 championships were postponed due to roadworks so my next race was the M&DTTA 50 mile championships.  Having got soaked on Saturday I did likewise in my recovery ride on Sunday, so ended up with a cold all week, and feeling a bit sorry for myself by the time of the 50.  The weather was near perfect and despite how I felt I managed another 50M power PB, but everyone else just basically went faster!  01:54:16, 10th from 91 (£15, 5th veteran on standard)

The following week, after what felt like a month of general malaise, I actually felt good again when I was training and good again at the mid-week 10.  22:06, 1st from 26

Although I’ve ridden A25/11 and the 100 mile course on the A50 from Etwall, as well as the 50 mile course from Blythe Bridge (the other way round – J5/12), I’d not ridden A50/6 before so I’d identified it as an A race as it’s a fast course.  That meant lots of very fast riders from all over the country so I only just scraped in with my PB of 01:53:00.  The weather forecast was pretty variable before the event but there would be a headwind out and a tailwind back.  The question would be whether I got a soaking too – an hour beforehand there was a hailstorm so it didn’t bode well!

I’d set out the splits I needed to hit my target based on my knowledge of the course and how fast I could push it.  They were first 10 miles in 22:30, second in 24:00 (up the “concrete mountain”), back down in 20:00, single carriageway section in 23:00 and last 10 miles in 20:30.  That would give me a target of 01:50:00, but of course it didn’t take into account the wind direction.  I resolved to ride the first 20 miles into the wind at 25 mile power – roughly about 290W.  I was 7 seconds over on my first 10 miles – so far so good.  Then the headwind really hit me as I started the drag up the hill.  It took me 25:22 to do the next 10 miles – so far so bad!  I was able to get a bit of a breather on the next 10 and still spin out on 53-11 at nearly 40mph, making it in 19:03.  I took a gel and calculated that I was still down so pushed a bit harder to do the next 10 in 22:05.  It was back on – my renewed impetus and the tailwind helping me to complete the next 10 in 19:29 to clock a new PB of 01:48:48 and a Seamons all-age veteran club record.  That felt really satisfying, especially as I didn’t get wet at all!  01:48:48, results not yet in

The weather must have put a few people off for the last club 10 of June as there were only 24 riders.  The forecast correctly predicted the rain would blow over so none of the riders got wet which was another bonus.  The effects of the weekends efforts and training meant I was coming into this with a -11 TSB and low expectations and I met those comfortably!  My legs simply ran out of power after about 6 miles.  22:35, 2nd from 24

Here’s hoping that July brings some kinder weather with it.

Overall, during the month I rode 639 miles, with 27,987ft of climbing at an average speed of around 18.4mph.  I used 21,932kcals of energy, with another 10,473kcals during 13hrs and 24mins of turbo time.  Total training stress was 2,679TSS.

August

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I managed a few gentle training rides in Lanzarote at the start of August (see previous post) and arrived back feeling rested but slightly unfit. And two days later it was the National Clarion Road Race at York Arena.  That was great fun and it was really successful for North Cheshire Clarion, taking 1st, 2nd, 4th and 7th for myself.

The day after was Manchester Wheelers Hilly TT, a 20.5M loop round the Peak District.  I took the TT bike which was fine for going up the hills, but terrifying going down, especially in breezy conditions and on winding descents.  In fact my nervousness probably cost me a prize.  4th from 37, 58:35

On the Wednesday was the final Seamons Club 10 of the year, and I enjoyed another good ride in sunny conditions which attracted a large field.  2nd from 50, 22:41

The following Saturday was my third 50 of the season.  I’d normally done a few more by this stage and I was a bit nervous given my fitness levels.  As it was the ride went like a dream and I felt really comfortable, with a power PB and clocking my best time for J4/16, although there was a stellar field with some of the best amateurs in the country riding.  16th from 108, 01:56:14

The midweek ride at Rainford was cancelled due to the weather so my next ride was Withington Wheelers 10 at J2/1 the following Saturday.  I needed a decent ride here as I won’t get the full 10 rides in for the Cheshire points series, so need to pick up as many as I can in this and the final qualifying race in September. As it was I rode a course best time but it could have been quite a bit quicker due to traffic hold-ups and needing to unclip twice.  I’m not sure I like J2/1 – I always seem to get something holding me up.  11th from 83, 00:22:06

Rainford on the Wednesday threatened rain again, but it held off.  For some reason I felt really strong, and put down my best 10M average power and narrowly missed a “21”.  4th from 30, 22:00

In between races I tried a bit of cycle-cross riding, as I’ll be racing this autumn/winter.  Here’s a bit of video of me – first one is a short version

 

The final Sunday of the month saw me riding at D25/8e early in the morning.  It meant getting up at 5-30am and driving an hour and a half to Tilstock.  As I didn’t warm up on the turbo (an extra half hour in bed seemed favourable!) I knew the first 5 miles would be horrible.  And they were, my legs feeling heavy and slow. For a change on D25/8e the conditions were calm and I started to get stronger and stronger and managed another power PB.  I’d had decent results here with 57 and 58 minute times so when I crossed the line in my course just under 55 minutes I thought I might do well.  It was good enough for my first open podium finish, fastest veteran and £15 prize money.  I was absolutely delighted, and it was nice to finish the month with 4 successive course bests and new power bests at 10M, 25M and 50M.  3rd from 96, 54:59

August saw me ride 654 miles, with 31,523ft of climbing at an average speed of around 17.4mph.  I used 24,461kcals of energy, with another 3,392kcals during 4hrs and 18mins of turbo time.  Total training stress was 2,062TSS.

Cycling in Lanzarote

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I was allowed to hire a bike for two lots of 3 days on our holiday to Lanzarote (thanks Liz!) and so I contacted Revolution Bikes who were absolutely brilliant.  I’d highly recommend these guys – they are so helpful and the bike, a carbon Planet X, was great.  I did some research and came up with six routes prior to leaving.  A quick check with Revolution and I had to amend all of them – many of the roads I’d chosen were dirt tracks, even though they appear on google maps. So my first tip is stick to roads labelled LZnnn – and more than likely you’ll be fine.  Or check out my routes on strava – apart from when I went wrong or the mapping software played up a bit they are fine.  I’d last been to Lanzarote in 2003 and travelled the island in a hire car. I couldn’t remember it being hilly, and it isn’t alp-like, but it’s rarely flat.  I’d classify it as rolling.  The biggest hills are maybe 1,500ft, but the prevailing northerly wind is hard work!  Unless you are heading south, there are few free rides in Lanzarote.  It’s ideal for training.

Here’s the whole 340 or so miles I rode in a little under a minute!

 

Day 1 – I elected for a shortish route from my Puerto del Carmen base. This took me up through Timanfaya to Club LaSanta and then back down through Teguise

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https://www.strava.com/activities/362919224

Day 2 – I followed the cycle path from PdC for over 10 miles along the coast, through Arrecife.  This is completely separate from the traffic, it’s wide, well-surfaced and safe – something the UK could do with a lot more of.

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The cycle path also passes the very end of the airport runway!

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I met an Italian cyclist called Marco in Costa Teguise so it was nice to have company for the majority of the ride

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https://www.strava.com/activities/362919165

Day 3 – West to El Golfo and then followed the road down the Playa Blanca.  Then a monster headwind north plus a long and steep climb up to Femes – very hard work into the wind!

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https://www.strava.com/activities/362919164

Day 4 – Longest ride including a ride along the coast as far North as possible and up to Mirador del Rio, then a decent climb out of Haria followed by a tailwind all the way home!

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Coast road north

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View from Mirador del Rio

https://www.strava.com/activities/362919201

Day 5 – Similar ride to day 1 but a different route back.  Started to feel it in my legs today and my HR monitor packed in part way round so I got some very strange readings.

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https://www.strava.com/activities/362919299

Day 6 – Back up to Haria for my biggest day of climbing with rides up both sides of arguably Lanzarote’s highest profile climb – the road out of Haria.

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Top of the climb looking back at Haria

https://www.strava.com/activities/362919215

Pictures – some of the pictures I took

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Videos – some videos taken from the rear mounted GoPro camera on my bike

Failing (or the Art of Compounding Mistakes…)

At the start of the year I sat down and wrote down a series of things that I wanted to achieve from the 2015 time-trial season.  There were some main goals, some interim goals and some one-off goals.  I then planned out my race calendar so that races that contributed to the main goals were classified as “A” races, “B” races contributed to the other goals and “C” races were simply about race-craft or training.  My training plans would build towards an “A” race and my focus would be 100% on preparation, so it was supposed to be highly scientific and carefully planned.

And then reality happened.

For my first “A” race earlier in the season everything was going to plan in preparation, but the race itself didn’t turn out how I thought it would and at the time I didn’t know why – with hindsight I was at the start of an illness that knocked me back for about 4 weeks.

For my second “A” race I really wasn’t in the right mental frame of mind.  I almost didn’t ride.  The race went entirely to plan!  Make of that what you will.

My third “A” race was over the weekend just gone and involved a 300+ mile round trip.  Again, everything was going to plan.  In the previous week I’d ridden two TT’s at a course best for me. I arrived at the HQ very relaxed and confident.  My warmup was okay.  The trouble was it was very hot – the Garmin and car gauges were reading 30˚C.  I decided against a bottle on the bike because, hey, I’d never needed one for a 25 before.

Hello mistake number 1.

I rode to the start.  It was hot but okay when I was moving.  I rolled past the start and then further up did a U-turn and came back down to the queue of riders, forgetting to change to a higher gear and leaving the bike in too big a gear for my start.

And that was mistake number 2.

My intention was to hold the front brake on, lean the bike forward and flip the gear like I’d done a hundred times before.  I pulled the brake and heard an alarming “ping” as the right hand caliper, hidden behind an aero fairing inside the front fork, clamped to the wheel.  The rider in front of me was at the start line which meant I had a little over a minute.  The wheel wouldn’t turn, the caliper wouldn’t move.  I had no tools to remove the fairing.  I wouldn’t recommend this at home, and with hindsight it didn’t help much, but I loosened the wheel and repositioned it at a slight angle such that it would turn, albeit still touching the pad.  I realised I didn’t dare pull the front brake so I’d be approaching every roundabout simply feathering the rear.  I didn’t have time to be too nervous about that because then it was my turn to push off.  N1/25C has a gift hill at the start.  I realised going down that that I wasn’t going as fast as I should be and so my natural instinct kicked in.

Mistake number 3.

I pushed a bit harder than I should have done, and kept on pushing, but still the speed didn’t come.  At roundabouts (there are lots on N1/25C) I was backing off and using my one brake carefully.  At 8 miles the course turns back on itself and on this day was into a cross headwind.  By 10 miles I was overheating and my power was dropping as my heart rate was rising.  At 13 miles the course turns back again and the sweat was dripping down onto my visor.  I was cursing myself for not putting a bottle on the bike as I was so thirsty.  I’d pretty much run out of gas.  The rest of the ride was a bit of a blur of unpleasantness, and at the end I felt dazed and dizzy as I got my breath back before heading back to HQ.  To be confronted by my worst 25 time for 2 years. In an “A” race.  AN “A” RACE!

Anyway, I sulked for the duration of the drive home.  Took the brake apart to find the broken spring – see picture.  Manufactured a pretty dodgy Heath Robinson fix.  Emailed Canyon to request a warranty replacement.  Got my stuff ready for the following day.  Sulked a bit more.

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On Sunday morning I just got on my bike and rode.  No warmup as such, a lot of care on the front brake (used it only once) and concentrated on putting the power down in the right places.  I came 6th overall in a time around 4 minutes quicker than the day before. I’d like to say it made up for the Saturday, and in some ways it did.  But I still need to re-assess my overall goals and probably change them, as the ones I’d set are pretty much insurmountable now.  So that remains a real and tangible disappointment after all the effort I’ve put in over the winter.

Anyway, lessons to be learned and more plans to be made.  You might call it a Plan B.  Onwards and upwards.