April – Consistently Inconsistent

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

April fool’s day and I was at Goostrey for the Withington Wheelers 25 mile time trial on the challenging J2/9 course.  A full field, including a novice event, and rumours of lots of riders being turned away.  Incredible really for an early season event on a slow course.  April showers were falling as I drove there but thankfully it had stopped by the time I rolled up to the start.  First 25 of the season – probably going to hurt I reckoned.  I was right.  For the first five miles I felt rubbish.  Then I felt good for the next fifteen.  Hanging on for the last five was the best I could do at that point.  My back ached, my neck and shoulders were sore and I’d been fidgety all of the way round.  And it was pretty windy too.

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Accelerating just after joining the A50 from Seven Sisters Lane. Courtesy and © Ellen Isherwood

I was, however, quite happy with the power I managed, although the time I recorded was my worst time since 2015, and in the end so was my finishing position – go figure!  15th from 120 riders

I decided I was going to tweak my position again.  Patience is not my thing!  I ordered a switchplate kit from Canyon that offsets the armrest stacks and allowed me to get my armrests into what I hope is the Goldilocks position (not too narrow, not too wide, just right…) and I added a cm or so to the height.  

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My saddle moved forward a cm in an attempt to stop the fidgeting.

Speaking of position changes, somebody got pinged for a 3cm rule breach which was the cue for another flurry of posting on the time-trial forum.  The fact that the breach was identified via a picture only added to the storm, which threatened to escape the teacup and then some (something I talked about in this post here).  Having seen galleries from my races so far there are quite a few riders who, on the face of it, could have been in trouble, but that was their lookout.  However, it became clear that the CTT were not helping themselves by posting images of race winners in positions that were clearly contravening their own regulation, even if those pictures were old stock images.  And it hadn’t been mentioned once in an HQ, which is the complete opposite to the other regulation change for 2017 (signing out) which had been mentioned every time.  Anyway, to cut an already long story long, the CTT then announced a moratorium on the 3cm rule for 2017, meaning that anyone who had spent time and money on complying had effectively wasted both.  Distinctly not great for all involved.

Back to the racing.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

On Saturday 8th it was the VTTA National 10 mile championship on the J2/1 course.  The weather was absolutely fantastic – sunny and warm.  I didn’t really think I had a chance because the VTTA races are handicapped.  There is a “standard” time for each age from 40 upwards and the actual time is subtracted from the standard to give a “+” or “-” against the standard.  I came 4th overall on actual time but that only translated to 10th on standard.  The winner was, I believe, 86 years old and still doing a 10 miles in less than 30 minutes.  The 2nd place guy was 73 years old and did a 23:30!  Amazing and inspirational to anyone who thinks they are too old for competitive sport!  Frustratingly, myself and two other Manchester & NW Group riders (Darren and Mike) were only 16 seconds away from a Gold Medal for the fastest overall VTTA Section.  4th from 107 riders, 10th place in the Nationals on Standard 

Next up were three consecutive races over the Easter Weekend, starting with a chase for a fast time at the “V”.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

Luckily the rain that was falling as I sat in the car park died down and I managed my warmup and race in the dry.  I was expecting the ride out to the turn to be quick but it wasn’t and it felt harder than expected.  My time at the turn was considerably down on previous efforts although my power was up and I felt decent.  Coming back there were some really fast sections and I was gradually making up time.

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Courtesy and © Craig Zadoroznyj

A really big effort and at the end I crossed the Line in 19:49 – 10 seconds down on my PB on what felt like a harder day.  I feel that with the right conditions I can really improve on it so I’ll be back!  37th from 108 riders

The wind was up in Cheshire on Saturday.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

One of the hardest days I can remember on J2/9.  The headwind from Chelford to Ollerton was very much hard work and featured twice, whereas the Twemlow Lane tailwind only featured once – it’s rarely fair!  Of course it’s the same for everyone and the faster riders dealt with it better than I did.  I felt good and my power reflected that but for the second time in a month I’ve recorded my worst time on this course for 2 years.  I’m happy with my position and feel it’s a bit better than last year but I got roundly beaten by a couple of riders who I beat/was close to last year so maybe I’ve stood still relatively speaking.  That said, a very close call with a car that didn’t see me meant I was a) shaken up for a while and b) happy enough to finish in one piece.  Onwards and upwards.  10th from 97 riders (£10 1st team)

The final piece in my Easter racing jigsaw was a stupid o’clock start to get to Tilstock.  I wasn’t expecting much and accepted wisdom is not to do two races consecutively, let alone three, but I enjoy racing much more than training so there you have it!  It was a cold morning with a stiff breeze but nowhere near as bad as Saturday.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

I was expecting to feel the effects of Friday and Saturday but it soon became apparent that I wasn’t.  In fact I felt strong and was happily maintaining a very decent power output.  Normally, if I do two 25’s consecutively I am at least 10W down during the second.  Today my power was higher.  My minute man was a DNS but after about 10 minutes I could see the lady who had started two minutes ahead of me.  A couple of HGVs went past me on a straight section, followed by a couple of cars, but then we were quickly into a fairly twisty section and on the narrow A road they inevitably struggled to get past the rider in front.  When I analysed my data file for power and cadence I started to ease off at about 00:11:50.  By 00:12:00 my cadence and power drop to zero and apart from one spike in the middle it was 00:12:23 before I start pedalling again!  I missed the podium by 8 seconds and 1st on standard by 20 seconds, but who’s to say that the breather I got didn’t spur me on to better efforts afterwards, so you just put it down to experience.  The wind made the section from Tern Hill to Emsley hard going (but easy back) but then again after the turn back for home at Tern Hill there were long sections where 350W was getting me just under 25mph – very hard work indeed.  At the end I equalled my best time for this course on a day when many other riders struggled, and I beat a few that I didn’t expect to (i.e. the complete opposite of the day before).  A final word on the winner who tabled a 49, which I understand to be not just a course record but a county record!  That’s 30mph average over this course – ridiculous and awesome in equal measures!  4th from 111 riders (£20, 2nd on standard)

Club 10’s also started after Easter.  I made a bit of a hash of the first one, missing my start time due to some faulty overshoes delaying me, so when I set off I went off like a complete idiot and faded badly near the end meaning I was well beaten.  3rd from 37 riders

Leigh Premier’s 10 at D10/1 was the following Saturday.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

There was a delay to the start as the local council had decided to cut the grass verges – who knew local councils worked at the weekend?  The weather was sunny but a stiff breeze meant that most of the ride would be either tailwind or headwind.  I managed to get my pacing just right – going harder on the headwind (and uphill) sections and easing back fractionally with the wind at my back, so I was really happy with my ride.  You heard it here first – a tester happy with a ride and not making excuses!  4th from 74 riders (£20, 1st on standard)

The next club 10 was FREEZING!  On the back of a block of hard training sessions and a -ve Training Stress Balance (TSB) I expected to be tired and struggle so I took it easy at the start.  As it was I felt okay so ended up with a bit in hand at the end but was in the bizarre situation of having sweat dripping off me whilst simultaneously not being able to feel my fingers or toes!  More importantly the marshalls and volunteers deserve special thanks for standing around in that!   2nd from 29 riders

I’m not sure if the hard week and some issues with sleep caught up with me but after two decent races it all came down to earth with a bump!

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

The East Lancs Road Club 10 was a re-run of the J2/1 course earlier in the month.  This time the wind was giving a bit of a shove on the way out and a bit of a smack on the way back.  I didn’t really have a clue that it would be a bad day for me until riding to the start when I felt a little queasy.  After the start I felt very queasy but put it out of my mind as I thought it would go – it’s not unusual to feel bad in some way at the start of a TT until your body adjusts to the effort.  Unfortunately mine didn’t on this occasion and I felt bad all through the ride and I simply could not sustain any level of power.  At the end I’d lost nearly a minute on my time from 3 weeks earlier which was unsurprising as my power was 17W less, and even less than my last 25 mile race.  Consequently I lost a lot of ground to many of my peers in the overall standings.  18th from 105 riders

The next morning I was hoping I felt better as it was the VTTA National 15 Mile Championship on V728 in Hull.  I had never ridden a 15 before so was looking forward to it.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

The wind was really blowing when I arrived.  It was blowing such that the outbound leg would be a block headwind and the return would be a tailwind.  Riding to the start was a crosswind and it was flicking my deep section front wheel continually.  When I started the force of the headwind was quite staggering.  But it was also swirling which meant the front wheel was catching it again.  It was pretty sketchy and meant that my speed was dropping as low as 18mph on sections and by the time I took the turn and rejoined the return leg I’d done the first 8 miles in 20 minutes.  By complete contrast the return leg was how I imagine Brad Wiggins or Alex Dowsett feels – super-fast and relatively effortless!  I think I changed out of 56-11 only once, my speed (on the flat) peaked just over 40mph and I completed the second 7 miles in just under 13 minutes.  My power was still a bit down and I still didn’t feel 100% but I was happy enough in those conditions. 22nd from 129 riders

So how do I assess the season so far.  Well, it hasn’t been what I wanted it to be.  My power is all over the place, which I can’t explain given how well (I thought) my training had been going.  And other people have improved beyond me.  On the positive side I’ve ridden my course best times on J2/1, J2/3, D10/1 and D25/8e.  I’ve also had some times on courses that are my worst for several years!  I’ve had some rides I’m really pleased with and then some that were just horror shows.  I can’t explain it, let alone try to fix it, but I need to try to get some consistency because next month the longer races start.

During the month I managed 453 miles outdoors with 18,146ft ascent at around 18.4mph average, which used up around 16,364kcals. I spent 20 hours and 33 minutes on the turbo using a further 15,435kcals. Total for the month was 2,571TSS

And we’re off – sort of…

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The race season starts in March – for me anyway.  After a winter holed-up training indoors it always feels like the light at the end of the tunnel when the first race comes around.  Cue the stirring music.

Excited.

Ready.

(Sound of needle scratching across vinyl…)

Disappointment.

The M&DTTA 10 on Saturday 11th was moved from J4/17 to J2/3 due to roadworks.  Earlier in the week the forecast was for strong winds and rain but it was dry with relatively light winds on the day.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

It was good to catch up with folks again and just be around an HQ again.  Hearing about their winter training.  Looking at shiny new kit.  Chewing the fat.

Down to business and everything went fine in my warmup and I felt okay.  I’d not trained in my new position over the winter but didn’t think that would be a big deal – I’ve never done that in any previous winter.  What I have done in the past though, which weather and time didn’t permit me this year, was take the TT bike out and ride at full speed for a few practice 10’s.  Riding to the start in position I started to realise I didn’t feel comfortable at all, a sensation that worsened as I set off.  My new-for-this-season Aerocoach armrests really dig in at the sides so they’ll take some getting used to, and my new lower front end and extended neck position were very uncomfortable.  A few miles in I was struggling to maintain the power output and by the time I reached the turn I was well down on where I thought I should be power-wise. I tried to push on hard, trying to use the discomfort as a motivator, which worked until I was held up by a queue of traffic trying to pass a slower rider and had to back off.  The breather I got meant I could attack the last mile so I recovered a bit but still finished nearly 20W down on the same ride last year, albeit only 1s slower.  It was a big disappointment because it’s the first time I’ve started the season with a worse performance than the previous season.  I knew I’d feel bad in the first race, I always do.  But not this bad.  With a couple of days hindsight I decided it wasn’t as bad as I first thought and I suspected it was down to the position and being race-rusty having not been out for a practice run – after all my average power increased in the second half of the race, even with a big drop due to being held up by traffic.  8th from 63 riders (£10 3rd veteran on standard, £10 1st team)

So I decided to bite the bullet and try training in position the following week.  I also swapped turbo trainers to a smart trainer that arrived after several months on back-order.  All I can say is wow!  It was (is) much harder and being in position definitely elevated my heartrate and made my legs hurt in all new ways!  By the weekend I was feeling more confident but realised it probably wouldn’t be a quick fix.  On a related note I’ve also been playing about with Zwift on the days when I’m supposed to be doing “easy” sessions – unfortunately it does somewhat draw you into going a bit harder than you should!  It is very clever though, especially the simulated road effect when you are riding over virtual cobbles or gravel, and the noticeable effects of inclines and drafting!

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The weather forecast  for the next Saturday race was pretty awful and it was spot on!

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

I was much more comfortable when I set off but it didn’t take long to realise that I was still struggling to maintain my power.  What I realised was that everything felt compressed and I think that was affecting my breathing in some way.  Mentally I just ignored it and tried to push harder which worked a little bit (my power after the turn into the headwind wasn’t so bad but nowhere near the gains I’d seen on the turbo).  As per usual on this course I was held up a little bit, but I was also pretty wet and towards the end the visor of my helmet was steaming up.  I shaved a couple of seconds off and moved up a couple of places.  6th from 78 riders (£15, 1st veteran on standard)

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Left – 2107, Right – 2016

Looking at my bike afterwards I realised that the Aerocoach armrests were really clamping my elbows much closer together than my previous stock armrests – it’s quite noticeable in the picture above, drawing my shoulders in and compressing my chest.  I wondered if this may have something to do with the power drop, so when I got home I moved the rests one bolt hole wider – effectively an inch on each side.  Time for an experiment with the next race, but during the week I also tried it on the turbo.  During a flat warmup of 200W my HR was static at around 117bpm.  As soon as I clamped my elbows together (simulating the position on the left in the picture) my HR went up 10bpm at the same power.  Back to the original (right) position and my HR went down again.  This was repeated several times with the same results.

The race on Saturday was with the armrests in the “wide” position.  At the start it was a bit of a shock to the system because the sun was shining and the wind wasn’t blowing!

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

I felt much more comfortable and pushed hard but was still well down on power – although I posted my best time on this course.  Still it was a lovely day and I enjoyed the race.  7th from 62 riders (£7.50 Joint 3rd on standard, £15 1st team)

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Courtesy and © Ellen Isherwood

It’s a hard course on which to maintain a pedalling rhythm, due to the narrow lanes and traffic slowing riders, but as I’ve done it before I doubt that is the reason.  As I can push big numbers out of position on the turbo I can only suspect that it is something to do with my new position overall and hope that I adapt to it over the coming weeks.  Here’s a comparison of my last 5 rides on J2/3.

  Time Average Power Air Pressure
19 March 2016 22:30 314W 1.272
12 April 2016 22:22 308W 1.229
11 March 2017 22:31 295W 1.232
18 March 2017 22:29 298W 1.228
25 March 2017 22:12 301W 1.24

Maybe I’m just getting old and it’s downhill for my power from here!  I hope not.

April will be a busy month, with 8 races all in including the first 25s of the season.  It will be interested to see what power I can maintain on those – last year it was about 95% of my 10 power.  If I haven’t adapted to my position at the end of that lot I never will!

In the meantime I’ve reduced my FTP in the various training packages I use, in recognition that I need to train more in position where my power is clearly lower.  It’s also still worth me remembering that I have not finished my training plan yet.  I need to do some more VO2Max intervals which I will be doing over the next couple of months.  I keep forgetting that I deliberately built my plan around peaking towards May and not March like last year.

For interest, here’s the training software I use

  • TrainingPeaks online – overall training plan and recording of TSS, CTL etc.
  • TrainerRoad – individual specific training plans and workouts
  • Zwift – still looking at this for workouts, recovery rides
  • Rubitrack (stored locally) – complete ride history
  • Strava – used as a hub for synchronisation
  • Garmin Connect – used as a hub for synchronisation

It’s a pain that some things will sync with Connect whereas others will only sync with Strava but it’s all set up and working so I’m loath to mess about with it now – they’re both free and I rarely look at them anyway.  TrainingPeaks is my go-to recording software and TrainerRoad my go-to workout software.

That’s it for this month.  During March I managed 358 miles outdoors with 17,700ft ascent at around 16mph average, which used up around 12,852kcals. I spent 28 hours and 42 minutes on the turbo using a further 23,626kcals. Total for the month was 2,887TSS

Coming Soon… Season 5!

Early in February I attended the Seamons 68th Annual Prize Presentation Dinner.  It was a wonderful evening, brilliantly hosted by Nigel and Maria.  I thought it hit a perfect note, combining both the traditional aspects of a club presentation dinner with a modern feel, and I came away with this little lot above.  It includes the BAR Champion George Arstall Trophy, the Club Timetrial Champion D K Hartley Trophy, the Veterans BAR Champion Shield, Veterans Timetrial Champion Trophy, 10 Miles Series Champion R W Chapman Trophy, the 50 Mile Club Champion Trophy and the 12 Hour Club Champion Trophy.  I’m very proud to be part of a roll of distinguished winners over the decades including (sat at my table) a former National BAR winner.  I was quite nervous because I had to say a few words on behalf of the prizewinners but I think I got away with it.

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Racing starts next month.  The bike is raring to go and hopefully, so am I despite suffering from a mild cold at the moment.  Although I did one event in 2010, and a few events in 2012, my first real season was 2013 – with the bike, pointy hat and skinsuit.  So 2017 will be my 5th season.  I go into it, as ever, with a feeling of excitement but also trepidation – wondering if I will have improved at all, and just how much everyone else has improved.  I’ve been looking back over my training for last year and over the winter of 2015/16 I’d racked up just over 12,000TSS by the end of February.  This year for the same period it is around 13,400TSS albeit I’ve followed a different plan that was quite a bit more structured and specific.  It would have been easy to stick with what worked last year but you have to try different things if you want to keep improving.

After the disappointment of last month’s power test I was scheduled to take another; the last one before the start of the season.  It was a much more positive result and I’ll be starting next season at least 10W better off than the start of last season, and those watts have been pretty hard to come by.  That said, I’ll be 50 this year so I suppose I shouldn’t be expecting big gains.  I’m hoping my new position will also add a bit of speed but it all comes down to a simple question.  Can I translate the power and position to the road under race conditions?  If I can, I’m looking at decent time gains.

This time of year is always unpredictable in terms of the weather (although I guess in the UK it’s unpredictable at any time of the year!)  March is usually cold, a bit damp and often windy, but will see me ride three races which I class as “openers”.  That is to say they are races to blow off the cobwebs, get back into the race routine and test out the new position and equipment.  The real fun will start in April, but more about that nearer the time.

On the subject of weather I very much recommend checking out mywindsock.com which is a website that enables you to check the wind direction on TT courses and/or Strava segments.  And it’s got a few more new features that I’m yet to play with but they look great.  It’s already an incredibly useful tool for planning your race strategy and understanding where you need to go hard and where you need to be aware of crosswinds, and it gets regular updates too.  It’s produced by one of the local area riders, Ben, and so is worth supporting.

Anyway, during February I managed 334 miles outdoors with 18,143ft ascent at around 15.1mph average, which used up around 12,698kcals. I spent 25 hours and 40 minutes on the turbo using a further 20,629kcals. Total for the month was 2,637TSS

January – a stumble is not a fall

© Sylvia Duckworth

© Sylvia Duckworth

I think there are too many memes in circulation.  They are usually trite nonsense designed to make the sharer look clever and therefore unsurprisingly Facebook and LinkedIn are both full of them.  So it’s very rare for one to actually capture my attention and resonate with me  This one does (btw click on the image to go to the authors website – very talented).  As I wrote last month, being ill set me back.  And somewhat disappointingly I find myself at exactly the same level at the end of January as I was at the end of November.  But that is a reason to continue working hard and putting the effort in.  Especially as it is now only 6 weeks to the start of the racing season and training really counts now.  However, it’s also at this time of the year that I begin to have doubts about whether I have done enough, whether it is the right training and whether it will translate into actual speed on the bike.  So this graphic was a timely reminder to keep perspective and keep doing the things I have been doing and hopefully it will pay off.

So I started the New Year with a hard session on New Year’s day and spent most of the month completing the rest of TrainerRoad’s Sweetspot Base High Volume II plan.  It had taken me several weeks longer than planned as I restarted it after my illness but I finally finished it a week or so ago.  I’m now moving on to the Sustained Power Build plan, which started with a new power test.  This ended up with an FTP basically the same as my last test at the end of November.  I had to dig pretty deep for that too – feeling physically sick at the end of the session, so as I say, I was disappointed.  This is where keeping a training diary comes in useful.  I looked up my last test and I can see that I came into it after a rest day and with a positive training stress balance (TSB) – the equivalent of form.  Due to family commitments I had rearranged January’s test so that I was without a rest day before and so had a negative TSB.  My average and normalised power had increased by a small amount.  So I suppose it wasn’t as bad as I thought – probably a slight improvement, but as I’m my own worst critic I struggled to take it as a positive.  Maybe writing it here will help!  Of course, I may be bumping against the upper limit of what my ageing body is capable of so I will take another test towards the end of February to see.  However, if I go into the season with my current FTP it will still be better than last season so again, take the positive Ade, take the positive!

During the month I managed to get outside a few times but the weather has been typically cold and I’m looking forward to it warming up a bit.  I’m also still a bit heavy, which makes going up hills a bit harder but shouldn’t be an issue for time-trialling.  In addition to eating anything and everything over Christmas, I’ve been trying to eat a bit more since then in a (so far futile) attempt to increase my power.  Still time yet but I think I need to lose a kilo or so of bodyfat before the season starts.  I’m sticking with my aero kit from 2016 but took the opportunity to try some new gear on recently!

Trying out new aero lids…

The final weekend of January was also the Manchester & District Time Trials Association Annual Luncheon & Prize Presentation.  I came 2nd in the Cheshire Points Series and 3rd in the Best All-Rounder (BAR) but was part of a Seamons trio that won both of the same team trophies as well as the South Lancashire Shield 100 mile team trophy – which is literally massive!  Seamons also won one of the other team prizes that I wasn’t part of but that is one of the great things about being part of this club.  There is a strong and talented bunch of riders and even if you don’t win yourself there is usually a chance of a team prize.  Other strong riders make for a great incentive and motivation.  The medals were very nice too, so thanks to all the volunteers and organisers who made the events and the competition possible, as well as organised the lunch and presentation.

Overall, during the month I managed 343 miles outdoors with 19,799ft ascent at around 15.5mph average, which used up around 14,009kcals. I spent 28 hours and 25 minutes on the turbo using a further 23,469kcals. Total for the month was 2,882TSS

 

And that was the year that was… 2016

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It was a terrible start to the month.  Fresh from the highs of my highest ever FTP at the end of November it all came crashing down as I fell ill.  That knocked out 5 days without training and my CTL tumbled off a cliff.  Even then, when I started training again I wasn’t right and couldn’t hold the power on what should be relatively achievable sweetspot sessions.  Moreover, my HR was all over the place – dramatically too high for the power levels I was putting out and I was getting increasingly despondent at my inability to complete sessions properly.  It is incredibly frustrating as you watch hard-fought gains disappear and the net result is that it has probably set me back at least a month, and possibly more.  But these things are part and parcel of life so it’s no good sulking (for too long!) and I’m back on the painful road to recovery.  In the meantime, I lost a lot of weight (muscle probably) and then did my best to put it all back on over the Christmas holidays, so 2017 will start with trying to shed timber again!

Overall, during the month I managed an even more paltry 298 miles outdoors with 16,890ft ascent at around 15.1mph average, which used up around 12,682kcals. I spent 19 hours on the turbo using a further 17,015kcal. Total for the month was 2,307TSS

2016

You can read about my race season here. It beat most of my expectations and I was really happy with it overall.  It means that 2017 either has to be something really special or it’s going to be a massive anticlimax!  Obviously I’ll try to do all I can to make sure it’s the former but this is a sport where everyone gets faster every year so it’ll be a real challenge!  Anyway, regular readers will know I love a good stat so here’s 2016 by the numbers

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Total road mileage – 5,558 miles, or roughly the distance from Manchester to South Korea

 

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Of which 1,379 miles were racing and 1,658 miles were done on a singlespeed

 

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Total time on the bike or turbo – 545hrs, 43minutes.  If I had started at midnight on January 1st 2016 and rode continuously I’d have got off around 16:50 on January 22nd

 

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Total Training Stress Score for the Year – 30,810TSS, an average of 588TSS per week

 

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Total energy expended – 379,156kcals.  Equivalent to 31,596 penny sweets (just as well given how many I ate over Christmas…)

 

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Total ascent was 243,510ft, the equivalent of riding up the Galibier from sea level 28 times

Structured Training

I often get asked what bits of kit give the most improvement in time-trialling.  Whilst it is true that a TT bike will allow you to get into a more aerodynamic position, deep wheels will cut through the air faster and a pointy hat and skinsuit will reduce your drag into the wind, my advice would be a good training regime first and foremost.  This is especially true if you don’t have natural talent or physiology and rely on mental fortitude and hard work like I do.  Here’s an example of the relationship between the amount of turbo training time vs my average times racing on J2/9, a 25 mile TT course in Cheshire.

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Hours on the turbo per year

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Average time on J2/9 each year

Whilst there are other factors (like experience, kit and position improvements) it’s no accident that my training has increased in volume, focus and specificity over that same time period.  So by all means spend your hard-earned on whatever kit you want but it’s no silver bullet without the training to underpin it.

2017

I haven’t fully defined my goals for 2017 yet.  They’ll probably be based around the M&DTTA and VTTA M&NW series events, with occasional trips to fast courses where possible.  One goal I already have in mind is the 12hr – I think I can add 10 miles to my 2016 distance, weather and course permitting.  Another goal is a financial motivator – I want to earn enough in prize money to buy a specific piece of kit at the end of the season.  I won’t say what it is just yet but it would mean me winning even more money next year than this year so it is a very tangible, yet challenging target.

I have made one difficult decision and that is that I won’t be riding London Edinburgh London in 2017.  There are a number of reasons for it but I think it is the right decision when all things considered.  I had great fun when I did it in 2013, but most of that was due to the company I was riding with and it wouldn’t be the same without them.  And it does make planning my season next year a bit easier and I can focus wholly on what I define as my “A” races.

If you are planning to race in 2017 I would encourage you to set goals for yourself.  You’re much more likely to stick at it if you have a difficult, yet achievable, target to aim at.  And if you hit it early, set another one.

Finally, and most importantly, I do all of this because I absolutely love it! It seems like hard work, and it is hard work, but it is so fulfilling that it never feels like hard work.

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I’d like to wish you all a fast and safe 2017 whatever you choose to do and hope you get to enjoy it as much as I do.  Happy New Year folks!

November Update

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November has been a busy month.  I spent some time testing positions, upgrading my bike for next year and attended the VTTA Awards luncheon.  Oh, and I managed to fit in some riding and training too!

The testing was really interesting and was done with the guys at Veloptima at Derby Velodrome.  I spent a couple of hours trying various positions and equipment and although it turns out I was pretty aero anyway, I have a new position to work on that could be worth a considerable amount of time next season.  I just need to work on a slight flare in my right leg on the pedal-stroke and learn to stick my neck forward/head down a bit more!  Here’s some video if you’re interested

I’ve also made some tweaks to my bike.  I’ve fitted Aerocoach armrests in an attempt to pin my arms into the correct position.  They take a bit of getting used to but should provide some benefit.

I also got my mate Martin from Bike and the Mechanic to help me fit new Fibre-Lyte carbon chainrings so that I can run a 56T/42T at the front.  I say help, he actually did it all whilst I stood and chatted to him!  Martin’s a great guy – check him out if you need a bike servicing, building or any type of bike spannering.

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So far the chainrings feel good on the turbo but it’s on fast DC courses where the extra oomph should come in handy!

The weather has taken a turn for the worse up here meaning I’ve spent a bit more time on the turbo than I otherwise would, although I have ventured out from time to time.

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I also attended the VTTA Manchester & North West awards luncheon.  During the season I’d managed to bag the 25 mile championship cup, short distance trophy (best 2 10’s and 2 25’s), FTA trophy (best 2 10’s and 2 25’s local courses) and also won the Watterson Team 3 Distance (25, 50, 100) Prize with Pauline from the club. It was a lovely lunch and very inspirational – there are racers in their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s still knocking out fantastic times.  I also got to do the closing speech on behalf of the riders so hopefully I did that, and them, justice.

It has been pointed out that I’m rocking the Dave Brailsford look but I’m older than him so technically he is rocking the Ade Hughes look!

At the end of the month I also did a second FTP test following on from the one I did at the end of September.  Then my FTP was 4.3W/Kg and now it is 4.5W/Kg which is very pleasing, if not a little scary.  With each increment the training gets harder!  I’ve completed the first phase of my base training and now move onto the second.  Trainerroad has proved invaluable and I’m enjoying it, so hopefully there are more gains to come.  I’m still carrying a little winter weight so I reckon there are 2kg to come off but I won’t really specifically target my weight until January.

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!

Overall, during the month I managed a paltry 226 miles with 11,618ft ascent at around 14.8mph average (all lows for 2016), which used up around 8,552kcals. I made up for it by spending 29 hours 15 minutes on the turbo using a further 23,687kcal. Total for the month was 2,582TSS

Finally, on the basis that my next post is likely to be at the end of year I’ll wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Keep training! 

October – and so it all starts again…

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Last month I wrote about the end of the season, taking a short break and then starting training again.  This month my training plan really kicked off in earnest.  I’m using TrainerRoad, starting off with an extended Sweetspot Base high volume plan.  I’ve extended it in two ways.  Firstly, the initial phase of the plan has an extra 3 weeks to fill it out so that I will be ready for the middle of April.  Last season I was ready by the end of February and I struggled to hold fitness through the season so I’m hoping this will help a bit.  I’ll still start racing in March with the first local TT races but will build fitness through that first month.  I’m also aiming to do London Edinburgh London next year so a bit of extra base work won’t hurt.  Secondly I’ve added an extra workout.  Over the last 3 years I’ve adapted to being able to train for 6 days a week so it feels sustainable to continue that now.  And it’s a quality workout focusing on some VO2 max and sweetspot intervals, so it’s not just adding a TSS filler for the sake of it.  The result is a bigger TSS for the month than I’ve ever managed before – I’m going all in this winter!

I’ve also changed my position on the TT bike too which has taken a bit of getting used to.  The saddle is further back and the bars are extended which has the effect of stretching my body out when I’m in TT position. This is an attempt to flatten the Quasimodo-esque hump in my back.  It feels slightly strange but getting better.  I am also trying to do at least some of the training in TT position but it hurts too much on the turbo so I do as much as I can.  It didn’t seem to cause too many problems last season but the more I can manage the better.

A Word on Nutrition

The training I’m doing is very challenging.  The fact is I will be 50 next year so getting the right amount of sleep and eating properly are just as important.  I’m not great on the sleep – the older I get the harder it seems to get a really good nights sleep, no matter how tired I feel.  Also, I’m not going to bore you by listing my diet but there are a couple of things I do which may be of interest, and I’ll share a recipe for homemade protein bars that Liz has refined/concocted from various internet sources – they are really delicious – see below!

So I eat a lot of foods high in nitrates – beetroot, celery, rocket.  I drink cherry juice.  I eat foods that are a source of l-carnitine such as red meat (in moderation), milk and seeds. I also create a smoothie using 175g of frozen blueberries and 300ish ml of chocolate milk, and I eat my own protein bars to aid recovery.  If you’re interested it is worth Googling the benefits of these nutrients to see what you think.

Protein Bars

We found the original recipe online and then adapted it to taste.  These are high calorie protein bars depending upon the size you cut them.  If you cut into 12 bars, or half the ingredients to make 6, then I reckon each bar will be 200-250 kcals but high in protein.  I’m using a lot of calories in my training and my weight (and more importantly my bodyfat %) is coming down very slowly, which is what I am aiming for.

Blend 1 cup of oats until it’s like flour.  Mix in 1.5tsp cinnamon, 6 scoops of chocolate whey protein powder (I use PHD), a 460g jar of smooth peanut butter, about 30g honey, 5 egg whites and about 120ml skimmed milk.  Now I’ve experimented with adding mashed bananas (2 or 3) which was okay but not to my taste.  Instead I added 100g chopped almonds and that was great.  I then added 100g dark chocolate chips and that was even better!  I imagine if dried fruit and/or raisins are your thing you could chuck those in too.

Anyway, mix the lot really well and pour it into a greased or lined baking pan – I think the one Liz uses is about 12x9cm.  It’s baked at gas mark 4 for about 15 to 20 minutes, allowed to cool, cut into as many bars as you need then stored in the fridge.  Mine happily last a week – I wouldn’t recommend longer.

In summary for the month I managed 428 miles with 24,893ft ascent at around 15.3mph average, which used up around 17,693kcals. In addition I spent 24 hours 45 minutes on the turbo using a further 20,340kcal. Total for the month was 2,994TSS

Running on Empty – September

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My last two races in August suggested I hadn’t recovered from the 12hr the week before.  This was not unexpected but I was hoping to shake it off the following week.  I spent that next week doing very little trying to get ready for the BDCA 100, albeit with some trepidation about my form.  On the day, torrential rain and high winds meant the A50 was a spray-fest and so the event was cancelled.  It was frustrating but the correct decision as that road in those conditions would be very dangerous, and I certainly wouldn’t have ridden on it for the best part of 4 hours.  That gave me a bit more time, theoretically, to recover via a couple of fun rides out to see the Tour of Britain, and a bit of easy-ish training.

So my first race of the month was the week after – the Stone Wheelers 25 which also runs on the A50 (J5/8 course from Blyth Bridge).  It was a very fast day, but I was still tired and I really struggled, whereas lots of riders filled their boots.  In fact my 25 mile power was only a couple of watts higher than my 50 miles power the week before the 12hr which is a measure of how depleted I felt.  However, I still managed to PB (a fast day) but frustratingly missed my season goal of a “51” by 13 seconds.  Possibly the best conditions of the season and I couldn’t take real advantage – but them’s the breaks when you race as much as I do.  21st from 128 riders (£10, 2nd team prize)

The next morning I was up at 5-30am to get to Tilstock and race the WCTTA 25 on D25/8e.  I like this course but I was knackered and really not feeling it – mentally as well as physically.  It’s the first 25 where I’ve felt physically sick part-way through.  And my power was way down, less than a 50 and not that far above a 100!  Only by sheer willpower did I force myself on but it wasn’t great.  The obvious solution to this is to race less but I really enjoy racing.  Maybe I’ll consider it next year – I might have to if I want to squeeze LEL in as well.  4th from 50ish riders (£10*, 4th actual) *provisional – results not out 

My final race of the season was the Liverpool Century 10 at Rainford bypass – D10/1.  It was a lovely sunny day with a bit of a stiff wind in just the wrong direction for this course!  That said, it seemed a fast day and I actually felt pretty good.  My power was about 15W lower than the first 10 of the season back in March which is as a result of general fatigue and detraining through the season but was good enough to give me my quickest time at Rainford of 21:34.  6th from 87 riders (£10, 3rd vet)

2016 Season Roundup

So that was that – season over.  It’s been an intense season – with over 50 open and club events – and one I’m really proud of, although it seems to have flown by.  I missed a couple of goals I’d set myself but I hit the majority of them.  These included

  • a “19” 10 (three times)
  • power PBs at all distances and time PBs at 10, 25, 30 and 50 miles
  • 50 mile club champion
  • 12 hour club champion
  • Club TT champion
  • Club BAR champion
  • Club 10’s points series winner
  • VTTA Manchester & NW 25 mile winner
  • I targeted a top 5 finish in the Cheshire Points Series and came 2nd, missing out by 4 points and with a total that would have won it in any other year!
  • A couple of years ago I wanted to regularly get into the top ten of local events – this has been the year where that happened consistently
  • A win in an open event and 5 podiums – 2nd twice and 3rd three times
  • Just over £800 in prize money
  • RTTC BBAR certificate

At the start of this year I moved to a new club that had significant talent in time-trialling and I’m pleased to say that has worked out brilliantly for me.  In addition to the motivation of having to compete with riders who are faster and more experienced than me, I have been part of prize winning teams on no less than 13 occasions, which includes the club winning the Cheshire Points Series, winning the M&DTTA South Lancashire Shield and setting an event record for the Dukinfield 50.  It also helps that everyone has been super friendly and supportive too, especially those I’ve seen week in, week out at races.

2017 Training Starts Here!

The week after my final race I took a week off.  No training all week and an easy spin on Sunday.  This not only helped to both my body a break but also allowed me to reset psychologically, and get ready for properly starting winter training.  I have to say that by Wednesday I was climbing the walls and itching to get back on it.  Never thought I’d say something like that about turbo training!

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Sports science test at TheEnduranceCoach – 2013

To get ready for training the first job was to take an FTP test and reset my numbers in Trainerroad and TrainingPeaks.  My weight always drifts up by about 3-4 kilos during the race season, and when racing as much as I do fitness drifts down as I mentioned earlier (detraining – it’s impossible to recover properly AND maintain peak fitness through hard training AND then be ready to race).  There seems to be a lot of secrecy about power numbers which I can slightly understand for road racing but not for time-trialling.  Certainly when I started I had no idea what would make me competitive and what wouldn’t.  Aerodynamics plays a huge part – especially at the very, very pointy end so power is not the be all and end all.  But it’s easy to measure repeatedly if you have a power-meter and it’s clearly important, and I would have definitely benefited when I started out if I’d really known what to aim for. So I’m recording my numbers on this blog for three reasons.  Firstly this blog is my personal record.  I have a terrible memory so this helps me out a lot!  Second, it’s motivational writing things down and talking about your targets.  They’re out there which helps you retain focus.  And finally if any of the small numbers of readers of these blog find this information helpful that would be a bonus for me. I’ve been relatively competitive this year in Cheshire and generally upper quartile further afield.  So my numbers should serve as a guide if you need one.  As for aerodynamics – that’s a whole different ball game and takes a lot of time, effort and knowledge that I’m still pretty unqualified to give.  Maybe one day when I’ve sorted my own out!

  • So, at the start of my winter training in October 2015 my FTP was 4.1W/Kg (20 minute power at approximately 4.3W/Kg).
  • By March 2016, when I started racing, my FTP had risen to around 4.7W/Kg (20 minute power pushing 5W/Kg).  This was achieved by upping my power by about 8% and dropping my weight roughly 3 kilos.
  • My start point now for winter training is FTP at 4.3W/kg (20 minute power at 4.5W/Kg) which gives me a great base to work from.  If I can replicate the gains of last year and hit the same race weight then I’d be looking at around 5W/kg and 5.3W/kg.  That’s a big ask but you always need a stretch goal to target!

Here’s how the training plan looks.  It’s all planned out – just need to execute it now!

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So, in summary for the month I managed 409 miles with 18,338ft ascent at around 17.1mph average, which used up around 15,378kcals. In addition I spent 11 hours 25 minutes on the turbo using a further 9,269kcal. Total for the month was 1,848TSS

August – first and last of the sunshine?

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Did anyone spot summer?  I’m told we had one but I can’t quite remember when it was.  First race of the month was a club 10 which ended up being a pretty poor effort by me off the back of some hard racing and training and in windy conditions.  2nd from 21 riders

At the weekend it was another Cheshire Points series race, the Weaver Valley 25 on J4/8.  This time I put a decent effort in on a warm day with a relatively light wind.  9th from 95 riders (£20, 3rd 40-49, 1st team)

Midweek and the weather was shocking.  Temperatures were down to around 12˚ and it was raining.  Not many people turned out but I was daft enough to do so.  1st from 23 riders

The penultimate Cheshire series race was the Congleton CC 50 – again around the J4/9 course.  It has made a refreshing change this year riding J2/3, J4/8 and J4/9, which all take in laps of Penny’s Lane and King Street.  That said, they are hard courses when the wind is against but we haven’t had it too bad this year – it could have been much worse.  One thing that has made predicting which bits will be hard is a website produced by Ben Norbury of Congleton CC.  It’s called mywindsock and allows you to check the effects of the predicted weather forecast.  I urge you to check it out – I find it really helpful.  For reasons I wish I could explain more readily I was flying during this race.  I felt really good and whilst not a power PB I recorded my best time for J4/9.  8th from 87 riders (£40, 5th vet on standard, 1st team)

The last club 10 of the season was a bit warmer but still breezy.  I managed a slightly better effort.  1st from 29 riders

I wrote about my 12 hour time trial here8th from 60 riders

I spent the next week trying to recover.  I did a gentle and tentative ride on Tuesday and then a slightly longer one on Wednesday.  By weekend my undercarriage had recovered but my legs were still a bit sore and so was my neck and shoulders.  On Saturday I raced the Withington Wheelers 10.  Again, it rained and was cold and I discovered that my legs hadn’t really recovered as I had to go very deep to get a half decent time.  As it was, a couple of riders that I have been beating this year went quicker than me but I guess that’s what happens.  7th from 84 riders (£20, 3rd vet on standard, 1st team)

On Sunday I went to Hull, along with the majority of the fastest riders in the country.  I was pretty nervous that given my performance the day before I would embarrass myself and end up languishing near the back of the field.  I went off pretty well and was going okay past the turn.  As the road started to drag up at about 6.5 miles I just went pop.  I really had to dig into everything I had to keep pushing forward as I watched my power drop through the floor and my heartrate hit numbers it doesn’t normally hit until the very end of a race.  At the end I was only 11s over my PB and had managed my third “19” of the season.  My power was 20W less than when I set my PB, so it has given me confidence that there is more to come even though it’s my worst position for a number of years.  55th from 109 riders

It’s starting to feel a bit like the end of the season (which it is).  The Cheshire points series has finished and I hit my target of a top 5 finish – 2nd place, missing 1st by 4 points is a bit gutting though.  In the month I covered 745 miles with 26,028ft ascent at around 19.3mph average, which used up around 24,397kcals. In addition I spent 11 hours 49 minutes on the turbo using a further 8,581kcal. Total for the month was 2,627TSS

July – hotting up

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The first weekend in July was the M&DTTA 100 on a gruelling Cheshire course that was best described as “grippy”. I was pleased with my overall performance despite an issue with a car that cost me the best part of 2 minutes and made the last 13 miles somewhat more mentally difficult. As an added bonus the Seamons team took the South Lancashire Shield. 7th from 70 riders, 04:03:20, (£40, 2nd vet on standard + team)

Midweek my legs were surprisingly sprightly and I clocked a respectable time in the club 10. 2nd from 32 riders, 22:16

I had relatively low expectations at the Nova CC 25 the following weekend but yet again I was pleasantly surprised with how I fared. Sometimes I find time-trialling infuriating because when I don’t expect to go well I do, and when i expect to go well I suffer. I’m sure it’s all explainable but despite the myriad of tools at my disposal in this day and age I’m still often clutching at straws to understand differences in performance. 3rd from 57 riders, 55:36 (£30, 3rd actual, 1st vet on standard)

As if to illustrate my point part 1, at the club 10 on Wednesday evening I put more power out and was over 30 seconds slower than the previous week (whilst other riders were faster). 1st from 34 riders, 22:48

And then to illustrate my point part 2, the following weekend was the Warrington RC 25 on the same J2/9 course as the Nova. In not dissimilar weather conditions I managed a power PB for a 25 (296W AP, 299W NP) but ended up 20-odd seconds slower. I had replaced the front tyre on my TT bike so maybe it was that but who knows! 8th from 102 riders, 55:59 (£10, 2nd 40-49)

The day after I went over to Hull chasing fast times and managed my second “19” so I was pleased with that. 16th from 139, 19:54

Bouyed by this result I proceeded to deliver less watts and a faster time at the next club 10. I wish I knew! 2nd from 32, 22:21

A change from the usual J4/16 50 course in Cheshire saw the Cheshire RC 50 being held on J4/9 – the new designation for the old J50E course. Slightly agricultural in parts, and with the usual grippy Cheshire roads, it did make a nice change, albeit the shorter lap distance did cause more bunching and traffic issues as the event went on. It was a warm day and I do seem to fade a bit in the warmer conditions, so overall I was pretty pleased with the result, especially as it helped us to another team prize. 10th from 78, 01:54:51 (£8 team prize)

On the Tuesday evening we had the rearranged Club 25 championships on JC24. It was a bit windy and I picked this evening to chalk up my worst 25 time of the season. Again, my power was okay but I think I went out too hard and then died into the headwind sections. Other than that I can’t really explain it. 3rd from 24, 57:21

I also rode the Club 10 the day after and was happy enough that I still had enough in my legs for a reasonable performance. 1st from 26, 22:38

At the weekend it was our club Open 25. As well as counting for the Cheshire Points series, the fastest M&NW VTTA rider with the best aggregate standard times from both the Nova CC 25 and this race would hold the VTTA Manchester & North West Group 25 Mile Championship Cup for 12 months. And I was leading after the Nova, so I had a clear target in mind for this race. It was a windy day and I was adamant I wouldn’t make the same mistakes I made on Tuesday, so I made sure I paced it sensibly, going harder on the headwind sections and taking a breather on the tailwind bits (although it never works out like that on J2/9 really!) It paid off and I made it on to the podium, we won the team prize and I secured the VTTA cup, so I was very pleased. 3rd from 77, 55:38 (£30 + £10, 3rd + team)

Up at stupid o’clock on Sunday I was off to Rainford to ride the Birkenhead North End 25 at D25/3. It was windy again and it’s an unforgiving and open course, so it was really hard work. When I started TTing only a few years ago I never thought I’d say this, but I won an open event! Absolutely delighted. 1st, 56:32 (£50)

The weather in July has been a bit all over the place.  Hot, cold, windy, rainy.  I guess what you’d call a typical British summer.  In the winter and early spring months you convince yourself it’s going to be a great summer but the reality rarely matches the expectation you’ve set.

As we head into August I’m leading the Manchester & District TTA Cheshire Points Series, but the way these are scored means that I’ll be overhauled early in the month.  My overall goal at the start of the season was a top 5 finish so I think I’m on track for that.  I’m also looking forward, with a lot trepidation I must add, to my first ever 12 hour time-trial.  My longest ever ride is 258 miles so I’d be delighted if I could beat that, although at the moment the goal is just to survive!

Overall it was a month where I tried to ease back a bit to avoid overreaching, covering 577 miles with 19,009ft ascent at around 20.4mph average, which used up around 19,958kcals. In addition I spent 12 hours 37 minutes on the turbo using a further 8,645kcal. Total for the month was 2,445TSS