September – end of season spin down

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September is when the season winds down and we head into the winter.  But not before the BDCA 100 which is the only real opportunity for northern based riders to ride a “fast” 100 without driving significant distances.  I set my 100 mile PB here in 2015 which has stood ever since, mainly due to the 2016 event being cancelled due to adverse weather.  So I was really looking forward to this and I was feeling much better this year after the 12 hour.  My preparation was all pretty much to plan – lots of tempo miles and a short taper.  And, beyond all my expectations, the weather was about as perfect as it can get in this country.  I’ve heard about these “float” type days but haven’t experienced many in the time I’ve been doing this.  It was warm without being too warm and there was next to no wind to speak of.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

I’d put together a 10 mile split schedule to get me to around 3 hours and 40 minutes, although it was more in hope than in anticipation.  However, I felt really good on the first 20 miles out and found myself nearly 3 minutes up on target.  As I reached the turn at Blythe Bridge I realised that what little wind there was had been behind me (helping me up the “concrete mountain”) and was now in my face.  It wasn’t like a proper headwind but it took a slight edge off the really fast bit of the course.  By the halfway mark my gains had been reversed slightly and I was only about 90 seconds up.  The second 50 mile “lap” followed the same course as the first and I was happy that I managed to maintain my power until about 70 miles.  Between 70 and 90 miles I struggled and the wheels almost came off – metaphorically; thankfully they remained firmly attached to my bike!  My power dipped quite a lot and I was struggling with some undercarriage problems which didn’t help.  Time to MTFU!

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I managed to get it all back together again in the last 10 miles but by the time I’d finished I’d put just about everything in that I could – it took a while afterwards before I stopped feeling sick and dizzy.  I was delighted to knock nearly 14 minutes off my PB with a new club record of 3 hours 38 minutes and 52 seconds.  I’d been chasing a club record all season so this meant a lot, especially after having thought I’d broken the 50 record only to find Alan had already beaten both the record and me.  I also appear to have qualified to get my name on the timetrialling forum all-time fastest list which is something I never imagined possible when I started this lark.  For 100 miles it is a list of riders who have gone under 3 hours and 40 minutes.  I realise that everyone is getting faster and I probably won’t be on there for long when the goalposts get shifted but again, it means something to me that I can say I managed it.  Subsequently, I also found out that I’d missed a VTTA National Age record by 1 minute and 10 seconds – again, doesn’t seem like much but totally unexpected to get that close so I’m very pleased with everything about this ride.  8th from 78 riders

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

In sharp contrast the weather had noticeably changed over the course of the week so that when I travelled down to South Wales the following Sunday it was very windy and very wet.  R25/3H is arguably the fastest 25M course in the country but not in a gale/monsoon – a fact reflected by the 60-odd DNSs.  Racing can be dangerous in extreme wind and rain, especially on DC courses, so people make their own decisions about riding or not and that is fair enough.  I decided to travel and ride despite knowing there was almost no chance of a really fast time or a PB, ultimately because I respect the commitment made by the organiser and the many volunteers to put the event on – and who were out in the same weather for much longer than I was.  Anyway, I parked next to a motorhome and the kind gentleman let me set up my turbo under the awning so at least I wasn’t soaked during my warm up.  The course itself was decent enough – there is a large downhill near the start known as the “bank”, which was very quick even into a headwind.  However with the swirling nature of the wind and the spray I ended up on the drops rather than stay in aero tuck (#wuss) and I was still 40mph+.  The rest of the outbound leg was a struggle into the wind but after the turn I was flying back.  Unfortunately the disadvantage incurred outbound far outweighed the tailwind back and I ended up with a time 90s off my PB.  On the positive side, I now know what the course is like so if I come back next year that will help.  By the time I got back to my car (nearly 6 additional miles up that bank I mentioned) I was like a drowned rat.  It took ages to get dry and change into fresh clothes and as I walked into the HQ to sign out and hand number 66 back I was stopped by doping control – but it was number 67 they needed.  Good to see them there though.   20th from 55 riders

The damp and the detritus from South Wales meant I needed to do a bit of maintenance on the bike and for the second time the hidden/aero front brake had a corroded leaf spring that snapped

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Experience has taught me that the tiny screw that holds it on is made of cream cheese and strips really easily so I contacted Canyon to order new calipers.  In the meantime I would revert to the solution I used first time around – namely a strip of souvenir Cyprus eraser cut to size to provide the “spring” back against the fork wall.  This is a known problem with the Speedmax front brake it seems – although that didn’t stop Canyon at first sending me replacement parts with half of them missing.

Sunday morning in the South Lakes was a lovely crisp morning, albeit a bit cold. There was limited wind and thankfully no rain.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

I’d not ridden Levens for several years.  It’s a course I like – straight out and back, fairly quiet and fast on a good day, due in part to the gift hill at the start.  Before I ventured onto the V it was where I set my 10 mile PB.  The HQ was new to me – the bowling club in Levens Village which isn’t designed for 90 riders and their cars!  So I collected my number and parked up in the usual lay-by near to Sizergh Castle.  Once warmed up on the turbo it’s a short ride to the start.  I was very happy with my race overall – I managed a similar power output to the start of the season (which is unusual for me) and I knocked a whole second off my course best! 18th from 82 riders (£20, fastest 50+ age group)

My final TT of the season was the last race in the Cheshire Points series – the Stretford Wheelers 25.  It was due to take place on J2/9 but surprise surprise there were roadworks!  This season has been a complete nightmare for roadworks in the north west and it must have driven organisers to absolute distraction.  Instead it was run on the J4/8 course, which many people prefer, myself included.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

The weather was warm and mainly dry – the odd hint of damp in the air beforehand but nothing significant.  I was feeling really good and when I set off my power was great.  The first short loop saw the riders turn onto the A50 for a short distance and then left again onto Penny’s Lane.  As I turned I mistakenly hit the front shifter and my chain jumped off the big ring, missed the small ring and jammed between the bottom bracket and the chainring.  I stopped, freed it up and put the chain on the small ring and set off again.  The bloody thing then jumped off the other way as it wouldn’t shift up to the big ring and the chain ended up jammed between the big ring and the derailleur.  I stopped again, put it back on and set off again but that was basically my time gone.  I decided to make it a great training session instead and proceeded to try to smash myself.  A short delay onto the A535 and then again onto King Street confirmed it wasn’t my day.  I powered into the headwind still feeling great and then turned into Byley Lane to see where I would be after one lap.  Only to find a line of cars (and riders) queued behind a herd of cows running up the road.  Followed by a marshall in a hi-viz jacket!  I sat there behind them for a while with the other riders before the marshall turned from running and shouted to go past down the right hand side of the herd.  So I did, quite carefully though, as I didn’t fancy spooking running cows!  As I completed lap one my time was nearly 36 minutes – it had been a bit over 32 minutes the last time I rode this course.  The second lap was uneventful by comparison and I ended up crossing the line somewhere close to 4 minutes down on my previous time.

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© Christian Fox

However, I was very happy with my form and power, and as that was my last race of the season I go into a break and then winter training with better form than I’ve ever had at the end of a season.  15th from 98 riders

During the month I managed 519 miles outdoors with 21,012ft ascent at around 18.4mph average, which used up around 18,471kcals. I spent 13 hours and 15 minutes on the turbo using a further 9,311kcals. Total for the month was 2,375TSS

 

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August – balmy summer days…?

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Battling the freezing rain on the Associations 12 Hour (© Ellen Isherwood)

August was topped and tailed with visits to the V in Hull.  Hoping for fast days, at the start of the month we got the opposite, an unusually slow day.  More on the end of the month later.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

Normally, whilst not ideal, a westerly wind is okay if it’s not too strong.  I’ve set my PB on a day with a westerly.  However, on this day it was too strong on the inbound leg and it appeared to affect most of the field, apart from those at the very, very pointy end.  I paced the ride really well with a negative power split to enable me to push as hard as possible into the headwind back but my run of 19’s on the V stretching back to May 2016 came to an end with a 20:18!

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

A week later and it was the Congleton CC 50 mile open on the J4/9 course.  I feel this is a better course than J4/16 but it has shorter laps so there can be some congestion later on.  It was a nice enough day although the wind, as ever, was more than you’d ideally like, albeit in the “correct” direction for this course.  I was really happy with my ride apart from the traffic, which seemed unusually high – I got held up many times and even ended up unclipping twice at key junctions.

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© Ellen Isherwood

It was our club 50 championship and I was happy to come away with the win, plus Seamons won the team prize again so that was very satisfying.  8th from 100 riders (£60, 2nd on standard, 1st team)

Associations 12 Hour

On Sunday 20th August it was the WCTTA, MDTTA and LTTCA combined 12 Hour event in Shropshire.  The course was much changed from the one I rode last year (here) apart from the final 12.7 mile finish circuit.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

I’d worked out a feeding and pacing strategy as best I could as didn’t really know the course so it was a guess really.  I also had a power number in mind based on what I did last year, and was pretty pleased to have got it within a watt by the end, although I somehow ended up with 2s and 5s power peaks of 1100W and 943W respectively, which is absolutely stupid on a 12 and very much a schoolboy error.

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The glamour of amateur bike racing

It was pretty cool when I set off but the sky was clear and it warmed up during the morning.  The first circuit took us from Press Heath to Espley and then three laps down to Shaw Birch and back.  The outbound bit was headwind which was hard work and other than Peplow the surface was reasonable.  I didn’t stop during that first 70 miles other than for a call of nature, and then headed back to Prees to join the day circuit, a 22 mile loop around Redbrook, Welshampton, Quina Brook and Tilstock.  This was a new route to me and it was very rolling terrain, with a surface that was patchy in parts, especially some of the smaller rural roads. It would probably be very pleasant for a social ride apart from the unbelievably annoying and utterly pointless temporary traffic lights – two different sets of them!  The road barely narrowed where they were set up and on these quiet country lanes they seemed pretty unnecessary.  I got stopped a number of times.  The finish circuit reversed part of the day circuit through Tilstock and was the same as last year (with the addition of one of the sets of lights).  I didn’t realise at the time but since the event a few people asked me what was wrong in the first 100 miles.  Apparently I was well down in the standings but I was fine and just pacing things with the full 12 hours in mind.

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Entering Tilstock

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Leaving Tilstock

To give me an idea of how hard to push it I taped the pacing sheet, and my scheduled stops, to my basebar.

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In comparison to the picture above my times were 50 – 02:07, 100 – 04:17, 150 – 06:28, 200 – 08:46 and 250 – 11:00.  What I didn’t factor in was the unscheduled traffic light stops.  This meant that instead of actually cutting the amount of time stopped from last years effort, I ended up stopping for more time, despite fewer food and drink stops.  In total I ended up being stopped for around 12 minutes – half of which was unplanned.

During the day it had been warm and I thought that wearing a base layer may have been a wrong choice.  However, around 4pm the temperature dipped as the clouds closed in and then the rain started.  And it was cold – a base layer was definitely the right choice!

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© Ellen Isherwood

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© Ellen Isherwood

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© Ellen Isherwood

Last year I got slower and slower as the punishing road surface and the pain of staying in position took its toll.  In fact I ended up sat up last year at the end more often than being in tuck.  This year, apart from a few wobbles, I was much more capable of staying in position.  That’s not to say it didn’t hurt.  It really did.  A lot.  By the end my neck, shoulders and lower back were sore, as well as the obvious clacker area.  But my chest and front of my arms hurt too.  The rain also made it very cold so I was suffering from leg cramps at the same time as trying to push hard to keep my heart rate up and keep warm.

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Upper – 2017 Lower – 2016

Although the pain is physical it requires mental strength to push through it.  You’d never get to the start of a 100 mile TT and say to yourself “nearly done, only 4 hours left” but that’s exactly what you do on a 12 after 8 hours!  Apparently, according to my Wahoo Elemnt Bolt I used over 9,000 kcalories.  Here’s what I ate/drank

  • Power gel shots
  • Power Go Energy double cappuccino gel
  • Power Go Energy mini bar x 3
  • Tesco chocolate rice cake x 3
  • ZipVit Zv7c cappuccino gel x 2
  • Clif shot bloks x 2
  • Power wafer bar x 3
  • Tesco spicy seed shot
  • Bottle of Hi5 Energy Source x 5

That still left me with a 6,000 kcalories deficit so I must be pretty efficient at converting fat to usable energy.

Towards the end I knew I was close to my target of 270 miles but alas the traffic lights put paid to that and despite a final push I finished just short!

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12 hours running and still 25% battery left – beats Garmin 520 comfortably

By the time I got back to my car I was borderline hypothermic and it took me ages to stop shivering!  My final official distance was revised down to 267.64 miles which is second in the Seamons club records but 1st all-age veteran.  Also, in the provisional results we missed out on the team prize by three quarters of a mile – incredible!  3rd from 50 riders (£75 – 3rd overall + 2nd team (1st M&D – LH Brookes Trophy))

Last year I didn’t really recover from the 12 and was tired for the remainder of the season.  I was a little bit more active in my recovery this time and I haven’t felt as tired.  So I was optimistic about the remaining races I’d entered.  Next up was the Withington Wheelers 10 on J2/1 but amazingly, yet again the course was subject to roadworks and temporary traffic lights!  A little used sporting course – J6/10 – was the substitute.  I’d ridden this once before – my first ever time trial nearly 7 years earlier.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

It was a very pleasant afternoon – sunny and relatively calm.  I made a bit of a mistake with my contact lenses which meant my vision wasn’t great and on a course I wasn’t familiar with, that was very twisty, narrow and rolling, I was slightly hesitant.  That said, I was happy enough with my power output and my overall performance.  7th from 79 riders (provisional – £20)

The day after it was my final trip to Hull to try and knock some seconds off my 10M PB.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

The HQ was at Hull Ionians rugby club, as opposed to Newport Village Hall, and it is a fantastic facility for an HQ, albeit the ride back was nearly as long as the race.  In sunny conditions it was a very pleasant way to cool down.  It was a much hotter day with calmer conditions than earlier in the month and as such I performed much better.  I was, however, 5s slower than my PB so it will realistically have to wait until 2018 for another tilt at it.  56th from 115 riders

During the month I managed 812 miles outdoors with 29,471ft ascent at around 19.1mph average, which used up around 28,494kcals. I spent 12 hours and 22 minutes on the turbo using a further 8,671kcals. Total for the month was 2,831TSS

 

July – Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

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Courtesy of and © Ellen Isherwood

Following the open racing drought that was June, July brought a veritable monsoon of events starting with the Manchester & District TTA 100.  One hundred miles around the J4/18 course is a tough ask – the roads are grippy and ever-co-slightly rolling and full of potholes.  So the best part of 4 hours or so on a TT bike is not just exhausting from a pedalling perspective.  Thankfully the weather was kind.  Not too hot, not too cold and although a bit breezy at times it wasn’t unpleasant.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

Even though I was planning to be self-sufficient both I and others racing for Seamons were very grateful to have a couple of club mates positioned on the course with emergency bottles.  Given my recent propensity for self-ejecting bottles it was something less to worry about.  I carried with me a 750ml and a 600ml bottle with High5 carb powder and that was just enough for me.  I also taped three gels to the bike and carried some Clif shot bloks up one sleeve of my skinsuit.  Again, just enough for me.  For those interested in the science of nutrition on longer rides it is a very individual thing underpinned by some basic facts.  Firstly, your body stores around 2000-2500 kcals of instantly available energy (on top of less quickly available fat stores).  A 100 for me uses roughly 3600 kcals meaning I need to find somewhere between 1000 and 1500 kcals of energy.  At least some of this will come from fat but if I have 2x200kcal gels, 2x90kcal gels and 2x 180kcal drinks then that adds up to around 940kcals.  It seems to work for me.

Gallery courtesy of Tim Marshall, Paul Furness and Ellen Isherwood

I was really pleased with my pacing – in fact I got it pretty much spot-on.  My first 50 miles were done at an average of 244W in a shade over 1hr 59mins and my second 50 at 245W in a shade under 1hr 59mins.  My 10 mile splits were

  1. 23:42 249W
  2. 24:20 246W
  3. 23:35 243W
  4. 23:37 241W
  5. 24:01 241W
  6. 24:25 240W
  7. 23:11 244W
  8. 23:41 245W
  9. 23:56 244W
  10. 23:06 251W

I had the usual issues – bit of saddle soreness at around 50 miles and 80 miles, sore neck and shoulders as the ride went on, and a bit of a battering from the poor road surfaces.  My left contact lens slipped at some point so my vision was a bit blurry, which meant I hit more potholes than I usually do, especially where the shade from the tree canopy made them really hard to pick out on the road.  However, my target was sub 4 hours and I was 2 minutes under which was enough to win the Seamons Club 100 Championship.  I also bagged the Nick Carter Trophy for the best M&DTTA veteran on standard and Seamons retained the South Lancashire team shield for the 4th season running.  Overall, a very good day and a massive thank you to the team of around 100 volunteers and organisers who enabled 75 riders to race – this sport could not happen without them – and of course to our clubmates for the support provided.  6th from 75 riders (£50, 1st vet on standard, 1st team)

The day after I did a light active recovery session on the turbo and on the Tuesday a relatively light training session.  The club 10 on the Wednesday was a lovely warm and calm evening and I was surprised to find I managed my best average power since early May, but it was only good enough to carry me to 3rd place – which means I’ll be handing back the Club 10 Trophy at the end of the year.  3rd from 23 riders

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

The good weather held out to the weekend when we were racing the J4/8 Cheshire course on the Nova 25. I actually prefer this course to J2/9 especially now that large parts of it have new surfaces that seem pretty good.  And the wind was behind us for the long drag up King Street!  I felt reasonably strong from the start and there are signs that my power is gradually returning.  Some of it is mental – just pushing through the discomfort and carrying on as hard as possible – and it’s easy to lose concentration and dip below threshold or relax position slightly.  I was pleased I was able to maintain form all the way round.  5th from 72 riders (£25, 5th actual, 2nd vet on standard)

The following week saw the second postponement of the Seamons Club 25 championship due to yet more roadworks in Cheshire.  Despite incredibly valiant last minute efforts trying to find an alternative course the organiser was forced to push this back to the Seamons Open event later in the month – see below – thanks again to Paul and the team who turned out anyway to try to get the race on.   I made do with a turbo session instead which meant I was nicely knackered for the mid-week 10 on another balmy evening.  However, my power was okay despite my legs hurting (a lot) and I managed a course best – although still only good enough for 3rd place.  3rd from 26 riders

Next up came an A race – the BDCA 50 on the fast A50/6 course.  I was looking forward to this and for once tried to taper a bit for it.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

The wind direction meant it was going to be hard work on the outbound 20-odd miles (including up the “concrete mountain” past the JCB factory on the A50) and then a tailwind back, with a short section of crosswind on the spur out to Rocester and back.  I decided to go out hard for the first 20 miles and then try to get some recovery with the wind behind me.  So my first 20 miles was done at the power I normally use on 25 mile TTs and by the turn at Blyth Bridge I was pretty tired.  A double caffeine gel helped but not as much as the downhill tailwind – for 20 watts less I covered the next 10 miles in a shade over 19 minutes!  Miles 30 to 40 were even more of a struggle with power down again, although I managed to keep my average speed up.  The single carriageway spur seemed to have more traffic on it than the A50 which was frustrating.  For the final 10 miles I pushed hard to empty the tank, ekeing out a bit more power and managing to cover the distance in less than 20 minutes, which meant I slashed 3 minutes off my PB for a time of 01:45:46.  I was delighted and it would have been enough for a club record had Alan not already recorded 01:44:02!  Still, with Chris as well we set a Club team 50 mile record so that was some consolation.  9th from 78 riders (tbc – potentially 1st 50-54 category, 1st team)

I’d entered the Selby CC 10 on the V718 the next day more as a contingency in case the BDCA was cancelled.  So when my alarm went off at 5:45am I wasn’t quite as enthusiastic as I oversize would have been!

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

The wind on the V was in the “wrong” direction for really fast times but I’d set my PB in similar conditions so I wasn’t concerned, other than about the dull ache in my legs!  The outbound leg has been resurfaced with proper tarmac.  I thought it was pretty smooth before (by Cheshire standards) so it is absolutely brilliant now.  There were blowy bits on the exposed part of the return leg but it was still pretty quick.  I somehow managed to squeeze a decent power out and managed a decent time – my third best ever.  16th from 135 riders

I missed the midweek club 10 due to a work commitment.  Since my last illness I’ve been using an app on my phone called HRV4Training to get some data on Heart Rate Variability.  It is meant to give you a lot of insight into your overall physiological condition because it measures how your autonomic system is responding to stress – I recommend clicking the link above for far more detail and insight than I can give.  Anyway, the point of this is that during the following week (which also coincided with increased stress levels outside of training) I was finding relatively easy training sessions very tiring.  I was also sleeping poorly and waking up tired as well.  I hoped I wasn’t coming down with something – I’ve had this before and it is often similar symptoms to accumulated fatigue – i.e. I’m overreaching in my training.  This is what HRV4Training was telling me – the following screenshots show some of the data it presents to you.

HRV4Training app screenshots

As you can see there were some indicators there.  Top left shows a reduction in my HRV scores (using the “industry standard” rMSSD figures) which signifies increased stress, as does an increase in my resting heart-rate on centre top image.  The bottom left image is a variation of the top left using HRV4Training’s proprietary Recovery Points unit.  The two images on the right show HRV4Training’s interpretation of my data over a sustained period and provides a narrative circled – accumulated fatigue!

Unfortunately I had a hard weekend’s racing ahead so given how I felt and how the data looked I wasn’t confident of success.  I awoke on Saturday feeling like I was coming down with a cold and a sore throat.  I wasn’t confident but decided to race anyway knowing I would probably regret it.  Regular readers of this blog will know I’m a bit stupid like that.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

I was very nervous beforehand.  I didn’t feel well at all so I resolved to take it very steady from the off.  Which I did.  I concentrated on holding my aero position as I reckoned my power would be down.  It was – 17W average lower than the same course in May – that’s around 10%.  However, I wasn’t feeling as bad as I thought, but I was riding within myself most of the way.  Only in the last 5 miles or so, after the final turn out of Gough’s Lane onto the A50 did I allow myself to push hard to the finish.  I was absolutely knackered at the end.  Luckily for me, and unluckily for the last bunch of riders, the heavens absolutely opened as I was at my car.  It was that bad that even though I was parked under a tree, I was absolutely soaked in the time it took me to put my bike and kit into the car.  Out on the course must have been pretty bad.  I still don’t know how but I managed my second fastest time ever on J4/16.  Also, it turned out that we missed out on the team prize by 3s!  Yes, two teams of three riders rode 50 miles and all there was to separate them after just under 6 hours was 3 seconds!  8th from 80 riders (£15, 1st vet on standard)

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The culprit! Small nick in a very nearly new Conti TT with inner tube bulging out

The less said about Sunday the better.  I’m destined never to ride R25/3H, which is a fast 25 course in South Wales.  I was ill at the start of June which was the last time I was due to ride it and up at 5am this time for a 400 mile round-trip, only for the latex tube in my rear wheel to go bang as I waited for my start slot (see picture above for reason!)  The 2 mile walk back to the HQ in cleats, in the rain, was the cherry on top.

My cold came out during the week so I missed the midweek 10 again and it was Friday before I started feeling better.  Bit sick of being ill now – that’s twice this season!

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

On Saturday it was Seamons CC Open 25, which included the club 25 championship and the second part of the VTTA M&NW 25 championship, which I was leading by 13s after the first part.

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© Ellen Isherwood

I felt okay although still a bit bunged up, however having been ill meant I’d only trained lightly so I felt pretty rested.  It was a windy day so when I went off I decided I’d push it hard and see how long I could hang on, and try to make myself as small as possible into the wind.  As a strategy it seemed to work well and I was pleased with how well I covered the first 10 miles.  The second 10 hurt a bit more and I saw my power dip by around 10W but that was okay.  During the last 5 miles I struggled but still held my power at second 10 level.  It was good enough for a course best.  I was near the end of the field when I started so most of the results were in when I got back to the HQ.  I was delighted to find I had won the club championship but I’d lost the VTTA championship by 17s – a 30s swing on this ride – you clearly win some and lose some!  7th from 94 riders (£60, 2nd on standard, 1st team)

The next morning I was at Rainford for the Birkenhead NE 25.  I wasn’t impressed with the weather as I waited to get ready and warmup – summer huh?

Thankfully it stopped and I was able to warm up and ride to the start relatively dry.  It did start raining when I was riding but bizarrely only at one end of the course where it runs on the Rainford bypass.  The other end of the course was bone-dry and there isn’t a big distance between the two ends.

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© Ben Norbury mywindsock.com

I was a bit disappointed with my ride.  Not because my legs were tired from the previous day – they were – but because the standing water on the roads made it very difficult to hold aero position properly and I felt I was sticking my head up far too often.  In the end my fidgeting probably cost me the win because I was 2nd by 30s. 2nd from 30 riders (£15 1st veteran – tbc)

During the month I managed 612 miles outdoors with 21,266ft ascent at around 19.9mph average, which used up around 22,698kcals. I spent 16 hours and 3 minutes on the turbo using a further 12,035kcals. Total for the month was 2,552TSS

 

100th 10 mile time-trial

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This week saw me ride my 100th 10 mile time trial (and, indeed, my 250th time trial).  I did my first time trial on the 25th September 2010 (read about it here and picture below).  I did it on my road bike without a clue about aerodynamics and at a time when I was tipping the scales at around 78kg.  I managed to average 20.9mph to do it in a time of 28 minutes and 42 seconds.

Photo by Jon Williams. Me looking knackered

I felt sick immediately afterwards and vowed never to do it again!  7 months later and I tried my hand at club not-quite-10’s (8.75 miles) but it was 2012 before I did another open 10!

Fast forward nearly 7 years and I’ve just completed my 101st 10.  I’m less than 65kg and I managed to average 30.3mph to do it in a time of 19 minutes and 50 seconds.

It’s taken a bit of hard work to get to this point but importantly it’s not felt like it because it has been fantastic fun, and I’ve met some great people over the years.  Although I’m 50 years old I still see myself as a relative novice with plenty still to learn, and I look forward to trying to get faster.

Hopefully this might inspire a few people to give it a go.  If I can do this with no discernible natural talent, then so can anyone.

 

50,000 Up!

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I’ve just hit an interesting milestone.  Since I returned to cycling in 2009 I started recording my rides and I’ve just passed 50,000 miles!  In doing so, I’ve used over two million additional calories that I wouldn’t have otherwise, which is pretty staggering!  This has, of course, allowed me to eat approximately two million additional calories too!

The map above shows where I’ve cycled in those 8 years – I’d love to have cycled in more places but I have had a fantastic time regardless.  Thankfully, this blog serves as my “memory” – here are some of my favourite and memorable rides and events.

12 Hour Time Trial

The Alps. Twice

Lanzarote

Audaxing

London Edinburgh London 2013

Land’s End to John o’ Groats

London to Brussels in 24 hours

First time trial

June – where did all the power go?

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In June I managed just one open race and four club 10’s.

I’d overdone it at the end of May and ended up ill.  This is not the first time this has happened to me – it happened in 2015 and cost me 2 weeks.  This time I stayed off the bike from Wednesday to the following Monday and missed 3 races.  I eased back into training “gently” (my version) with a view to getting back into a sensible shape for the middle of the month when the Seamons Club 25 championship took place, plus a couple of key opens.  After nearly a week off, the first training sessions back felt really hard!

My first race was a Club 10 a few days later.  It was run on a new variation of the course which on the whole was much better but I was much worse!  Couldn’t even make my 25 mile power numbers and my HR was much higher than normal, so I had definitely not fully recovered.  And it was raining.  And I got “lost” on the way back to my car.  In the rain.  5th from 14 riders

On the Saturday I hoped that I’d recovered a bit more with an extra training session thrown in for good measure – which didn’t reassure me as it felt harder than it should have done.  My CTL had dropped about 10 points so I had low expectations.  The forecast was for rain which would be the third race on the run where it had chucked it down on me.  However, an email from the organiser on the morning cancelled the event due to roadworks, with attempts to find an alternative course proving fruitless.  It was disappointing but with perspective it meant that I had some extra time to get a few more training sessions under my belt before the next race.  Instead I did Sufferfest Blender in Erg mode.  Urg!

I also received the results from the Threshold study I was involved in at the University of Chester (you may have read about it here).  I knew I was overweight when I did it and the study confirmed it.  Since then a combination of the illness (I won’t go into detail but you can imagine) and using the myfitnesspal app to keep a nutrition diary has meant I have dropped a lot of weight.  The app is really easy to use, including barcode scanning and a very large existing database.  Since the testing I’ve lost a good few kilo’s and am now back at my race weight of just under 66kg – I was 70kg at the test which was a shock!  One downside of this is I appear to have lost a bit of top-end power – maybe 10W.  I’m hoping that this will come back and/or the reduced weight will offset it.

Here are some of the results.  My Haematocrit was 43% and my Haemoglobin 137mmol.l

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Critical Power correlates roughly to 20 minute power, which means I’m not trying hard enough in 10’s!  It would also point at an FTP of around 316W, which also means I’m not trying hard enough in 25’s!  Must.  Try.  HARDER!

It also illustrates how important weight is for cyclists.  At my current weight (assuming I’ve lost no power, but as I mentioned I have) my Critical Power would jump to around 5W/Kg, my VO2max to 66.7, Ventilatory Threshold to 4.4 and Wmax to 6.25.  Not sure I can get to that but the target is there.  Anyway, all good stuff and the testing was a great experience.

The Seamons Club 25 Championships were meant to be up next but they were also cancelled thanks to the road-surfacing works that had done for the 25 the previous Saturday.  What’s worse is that large chunks of the Cheshire courses (J2/3, J2/9, J4/16) have now been surface-dressed which is the most appalling road surface technique ever invented.  They are a nightmare for cyclists, being horribly grippy on the straights, dangerous on corners and doing nothing to potholes other than applying a veneer over the top of them.

My next race was the midweek club 10.  I am rarely in good shape for these, and came into this on the back of some hard training, so it was unsurprising that my power was well down again.  I really had very little in my legs but it was a lovely warm evening so I was glad I rode.  3rd from 16 riders

I think the week of sickness and the reduced power affected me more than I realised because most of my training sessions were feeling more difficult than they should and I was often turning the intensity down.  I’m having a bit of a crisis of confidence at the moment but I’m just continuing to plug away as best I can.

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On Saturday it was the Manchester & District Time Trial Association 50 mile championships.  It was touch and go whether it would take place because it was laps of the same course that had resulted in the cancellation of the Seamons 25.  By the morning of the event the roadworks were clear apart from a single temporary light on Twemlow Lane.  A marshall was duly stationed there and the event went ahead.

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Found some shade to warm up

The temperature in the shade was around 25˚C and out in the sun it was touching 28˚C.  After the last 50 debacle where I’d lost my Specialized Aero TT bottle and had to ride the event with no fluids I’d invested in a Fabric no-cage bottle*.  The reviews were mainly by mountain bikers so I figured it would be pretty robust.  It pinged out at the very same spot as the TT bottle had done – Chelford roundabout.  Oh great, 50 miles in 28˚C heat with no fluids.  Clearly mountain bikers haven’t tried a Cheshire TT!  My mood was not improved by the delays on the course due to traffic, including me needing to overtake a tractor and a STEAM driven lorry which was belching black smoke behind it like some kind of James Bond car.  And then I got stopped at the red light.  Of course I did.  The heat and lack of fluid was taking it’s toll.  I was watching my power drop steadily and my HR rise steadily.  Overheating leads to your heart pumping blood faster to the surface of the skin for cooling, diverting it somewhat from muscles and dehydration leads to blood plasma thickening which overall leads to your heart having to work much harder for the same “effort”.  The worrying bit came when I stopped sweating.  Anyway, I carried on although I was massively frustrated as I could see my time getting worse and worse.  By the end my power was more like I’d ridden a 100, my HR was more like I’d ridden a 10, and my time was 3 minutes down on where it should be.  When I went into the HQ it was clear most people had suffered.  The number of DNFs was huge – 26 in total.  Here my reduced weight had helped because the leaner you are the more effective your body’s cooling is.  It turned out I missed out on the championship by 39s, or as I like to kid myself a dropped bottle, a red light, a tractor and a steam lorry!  Bugger.  5th from 105 riders (£25, 2nd vet, 3rd MDTTA)

* update – Fabric kindly offered to send me a replacement bottle – great customer service if they do.

My next Club 10 was at the end of the heatwave which apparently was the hottest since 1976.  In fact the heatwave ended at the precise moment I was getting ready – I got soaked in the downpour that ensued as I was warming up and I watched the temperature on my Garmin drop from 25˚C to 20˚C.  The race was okay – still tired but I recorded my fastest time on the “new” new course.  2nd from 20 riders

The BDCA 30 mile open was cancelled due to the very sad death of a rider on the A50 earlier in the month so I took myself off for a longish ride over to Todmorden, Hebden Bridge and up Cragg Vale for a bit of threshold hill training.

My final race of the month was therefore the Club 10.  For a change I was rested coming into this because the day before I was out marshalling at the Seamons TLI Road Race

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Finish line marshalling team!

The weather for the Club 10 was horrible.  The temperature was 11˚C and it was raining again, as it had been ALL day.  Still, I rode well with good pacing and managed my best time on the new “new” course and got my first win for a long time!  My power was still down a bit but overall a pleasing race.  1st from 15 riders

Finally some very sad news.  This month saw the passing of Gordon Pickering, a stalwart and legend of the M&DTTA and north west time-trialling.  He has been timekeeper for most of the “J” course time-trials I’ve done over the last 5 seasons and he was a lovely man who always had time to chat, even when counting you down to the start!  He’ll be sorely missed and it won’t be the same without him in and about the HQ’s and setting us off.  Rest in Peace Gordon.

During the month I managed 409 miles outdoors with 17,349ft ascent at around 17.4mph average, which used up around 15,977kcals. I spent 18 hours and 19 minutes on the turbo using a further 15,354kcals. Total for the month was 2,251TSS

May – if you want to go faster you’ll have to scare yourself

Coming off the back of some disappointing rides in April I’d been doing a lot of thinking.  About training, about nutrition and about how I’ve been racing.  My conclusions included upping my carbohydrate intake and building on the limited VO2Max work I’d already done.  I also listened to a discussion with Joe Beer on the Cycling Time-Trials Podcast during which he mentioned the phrase above in the title.  I started to wonder if I wasn’t “scaring” myself enough i.e. I was always keeping a little something back.

Anyway, the first club 10 of the month was a windy affair and I paced it pretty well, if conservatively, on another sunny yet bitterly cold evening.  3rd from 34 riders

The weekend saw the first 50 of the season – the Dukinfield CC 50 around J4/16.

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I made sure coming into this that I was well fueled and hydrated so I was feeling pretty good.  I had an idea of the power I wanted to ride at and I managed it very consistently, so I was pleased to come in with my best ever 50 mile power.  I was held up a small amount, but often that helps give you a breather in a 50 and is not usually a factor.  And I did have a small mishap when I dropped the gel I’d been carrying as I attempted to consume it, so by the end I was running on fumes.  Despite a few aches and pains I’d say that overall it went very much to plan and that gave me a lot of confidence that I can probably eek out a few more watts in the next one.  9th from 108 riders (£30 1st team)

On the following Monday (and then the next Friday and the next Monday) I took part in some sports science testing at the University of Chester.  You can read about that experience here.

The following club 10 was on a warm and fast night but I was tired and couldn’t take advantage off it.  I did manage to go a little bit faster off slightly less power.  2nd from 38 riders

Then it was back to good old J2/9 for the M&DTTA 25 championship.

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I was aiming to ride at a power PB level on what was a blustery, but dry day.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to hold it but overall it was a decent ride with decent power.  It was a confusing day in many ways – it felt very hard but also reasonably quick.  I managed my fastest time on J2/9 this season so I was happy with my ride.

There were some quick riders out so I was happy to nudge into the top ten and we won the team prize again.  10th from 104 riders (£30, 1st vet 45-49, 1st team)

I missed the midweek club 10 due to a work commitment so next up was the Stone Wheelers 25 on J5/8 – a fast dual-carriageway course on the A50, with the finishing stretch known as the “concrete mountain”!  The weather all week looked sketchy and as I arrived at HQ it was decidedly so!

I was thinking it may be called off but the organisers took a sensible decision to postpone the start by half an hour.  I don’t know what happened to the earlier riders but it meant that I managed to get all the way round without getting wet.

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I’d expected a bit of a cross-tailwind out but somebody in the start queue said it would be on the way back so I was confused.  It felt fast when I started but I was conscious that I wanted to hold something back for coming back up the mountain.  As it was, going out I reached 42mph at a low wattage so I was unsurprised when the first 10 came up in around 19:05 without a significant effort. When it got to the turn the surface was very wet so I went around both roundabouts like I was on a shopping bike.  Back onto the DC and it still felt fast and I was pretty comfortable until I crossed the McDonald’s roundabout and started to make my way up the mountain, in what felt like a cross-headwind.  It was hard work and felt like a battle all the way – if you haven’t done it before it feels relentless.  Nevertheless I thought I was on for a fast time and was doing calculations in my head over the last two miles.  I missed the club 25 record by 13 seconds but I couldn’t be too disappointed as I took 32s off my 25 mile PB and ticked off a “51” – something I’ve been chasing since last season.  To cap it all myself, Alan and Chris won the team prize and set a new club team 25 record.  9th from 119 (£30, 6th on standard, 1st team)

A couple of hard training sessions and I had very heavy legs at the club 10 on a lovely warm evening – surprisingly the lowest turnout of the year.  2nd from 27 riders

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At the weekend I had entered the Warrington RC 50M TT which also included the VTTA Manchester & NW 50M championship.  The weather forecast was a yellow warning for rain showers, and it was windy.  In fact, on my drive to the HQ down Twemlow Lane it was dry as I turned into the lane, halfway down there was torrential rain and then it was dry again at the end!  The organiser was especially worried about lightning but certainly for my ride it held off, with only a light shower towards the end.  As a ride it was frustrating.  I felt good but there was much more traffic on the roads than usual which meant getting held up – ignore what I said above about it not affecting a 50 too much!  I was held up at Chelford roundabout each pass and I was held up coming out of Gough’s Lane each time too.  In addition, lines of cars waiting to pass riders meant I was held up on some of the fast straights too, especially passing the Egerton Arms.  Also after the first pass over Chelford at 6 miles I hit a pothole and lost my bottle (actual, not metaphorical) which meant I ended up doing the entire 50 in warm, humid conditions without a drink.  By the end I was steadily losing power so I was happy with my time but it could easily have been a fair bit quicker.  10th from 97 riders (£20, 5th on standard, VTTA Manchester & NW – ES Ward Memorial Championship Cup)

What seemed like a good idea at the time I entered, on the Bank Holiday Monday I got up at stupid o’clock to ride the historic Anfield Bicycle Club 100 – possibly the oldest bicycle race in the world, dating back to 1889 I believe.

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The course started on the A53, across Espley roundabout to Tern Hill, then A41 to Press Heath and back.  A short diversion up to Muller Island and then back across Tern Hill and Espley for 4 loops of the A53, B5063/2, A442.  It didn’t take long after the start for me to realise I didn’t feel good.  My lower back and glutes were still sore from the 50 I’d done less than 48 hours before and I was struggling to put out the power I was aiming for (around 250W).  I didn’t seem to be making much headway against the cross-headwind.  Things picked up a bit after I crossed Espley and got onto the D25/8e course and with the help of a tailwind to Prees I felt a little better.  The turn back into the headwind put paid to that!  I was also uncomfortable on my saddle and my left arm/shoulder was hurting too.  At some point it started raining too compounding my increasing misery.  Again things picked up with the cross-tailwind all the way down to Shawbury before turning onto the B5063.  The combination of headwind and appalling surface-dressed road nearly finished me as I could see my power and speed drifting down.  Turning onto the A41 brought the delights of the Peplow Pavé to further rattle my fillings and I heard something ping off the bike – I later discovered I lost a bolt holding the saddle on.  A little bit of respite on the A53 and I passed the finish line for the first time.  The thought of 3 more laps and I wanted to cry, with dark thoughts filling my mind as the course passed within a mile or so of the HQ “There’s no shame in climbing off”  “Today’s not your day”  “Shouldn’t have done that 50”.  Instead I decided I would try another lap.  I was just about on 4 hour schedule at 50 miles which meant I wasn’t on schedule as I knew I’d get slower.  Everything was hurting – I was cold, wet and struggling to hold my power and my position.  It was a real fight and I didn’t really enjoy it, which is unusual for me.  Each lap I promised myself the next one would be the last – I’m such a liar!  My 10 mile lap power was dropping.  250W, 249W, 244W, 245W, 243W, 240W, 234W.  I rallied a bit at 70 miles with a double caffeine gel – 242W, 237W and then a final push of 246W.  I finished in just under 4 hours and 5 minutes, which was 5 minutes outside my target time.  It took me an hour afterwards to get warm and stop feeling sick!  (11th from 84 riders, £20, 1st vet 50-59, 6th in VTTA National 100)

The next day I felt okay, if not a bit achey, but two days later I awoke feeling ill and without going into gory details I need to stay close to the lavatory.  I was meant to ride the Seamons 10 mile club championship but I was tired just walking around so I was unable to do so.  It might seem a bit “no shit Sherlock” but it seems that at my age two big efforts inside 48 hours is beyond my body’s capabilities.  I’v had this type of illness before when I’ve overreached and I’m gutted I’ve fallen into the same trap again.  It can take weeks to recover properly so I’ve already cancelled this weekend’s races.  Sometimes, I am still an absolute idiot.

During the month I managed 609 miles outdoors with 19,906ft ascent at around 19.3mph average, which used up around 22,665kcals. I spent 16 hours and 53 minutes on the turbo using a further 12,530kcals. Total for the month was 2,717TSS 

 

Lactate Threshold and Critical Power Testing

 

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Test 1

Over the course of three sessions I’ve been one of many guinea pigs taking part in a study that will essentially assess the effects of recovery on the ability to work at anaerobic levels, and produce a repeatable test to measure it. I think the findings will be published sometime in the future and will undoubtedly contribute to the body of knowledge in Sports Science.  It’s a technical subject but interesting nonetheless and I look forward to seeing the finished article in the future.

From a personal perspective it has given me some up-to-date data carried out in laboratory conditions which I’ll describe here.

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BodPod

At the first session I was measured and weighed and my body composition was analysed. There were a couple of anomalies with this that are worth mentioning. The first is that I appear to have slightly shrunk since the last time I was “formally” measured. Apparently I am now 174.2cm in height, as opposed to the 175cm that I was in 2005 when I last had a proper medical. A bit of research suggests that we can lose up to 1cm every 10 years over the age of 40 so that kind of explains it, but it was a bit of an unwelcome surprise. The second anomaly was the results of the BodPod body composition analyser. It came out with a 24% bodyfat, even after a second go and a calibration. Which suggested I am overweight and that I’m carrying the equivalent of about 16 bags-of-sugar worth of fat!  To put that into some sort of context – if it is correct and I somehow managed to lose that amount of fat to get down to “lean” levels I could have a power-to-weight ratio not dissimilar to a Tour de France rider – not going to happen!  A series of 9 measurements were also taken using calipers and this apparently resulted in a measure closer to 12%. As all previous subjects had shown a close correlation between the BodPod and the calipers something was clearly a bit weird about me, but it’s probably safe to say the answer is somewhere in between (my Tanita bio-impedance scales at home report between 12% and 16% depending on hydration levels – but these are notoriously inaccurate).  I’m a couple of kilos heavier than I was this time last year – I’m currently in the process of shedding some of that!

Then it was time to have my finger pricked and some blood spots taken to analyse normal lactate levels.

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The ergonometer is behind the VDUs – we didn’t use the Wattbike

Onto the bike test, or more correctly, the ergonometer test. The ergonometer is a very accurate static “bike” that strictly controls the resistance of the ramp.  I was given a face mask and hooked up to a gas exchange analyser and off we went. After a warmup the power started at 100W and then slowly ramped up until I could do no more. I topped out at a tad over 410W and 175bpm. Another blood test and then I had to immediatly go as hard as I could for 2 minutes. The ramp was to clear out my anerobic energy systems and then the 2 minute effort would be all about my aerobic capabilities, from which my Critical Power (CP) could be assessed.  At the end of that it was back to a ramp, this time starting at 360W, I didn’t last long beyond that before I couldn’t turn the pedals. After a cooldown that was it.  The power and HR graph at the start of this post is the trace from the test.

My CP (equivalent to 20 minute power) came out at around a very surprising 333W – which means I’m not trying hard enough in 10’s!

The second and third tests followed a similar approach but without the CP test.

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Test 2

The tests themselves seem innocuous enough until you are doing them.  In total they last about 33 minutes (for me anyway – if you hold the ramp for longer they will last longer!) and run out at around 40-ish TSS.

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Test 3

The ramp itself is reasonably comfortable until you get to the pointy end.  Then I found that I became very aware of the mask and I often had a real desire to scratch my face!  At the point of failure I was gasping for air and my legs were burning, and the guys are shouting to keep going.  The ergononmeter doesn’t let up so my cadence just got slower and slower until I couldn’t really turn the pedals.  It’s a horrible feeling, and then you do it again!  That said, I found the experience very interesting and the data has given me a lot of food for thought.

Edit – results can be found in this post here

 

April – Consistently Inconsistent

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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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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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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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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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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…

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

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)

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

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