Category Archives: Training

Countdown

Countdown. Three weeks until the Haute Route Alps begins in Geneva. After some time out from training for the wedding, what is the best way to prepare in these last precious weeks?

One of the biggest lessons I learned from last year was not to underestimate the importance of a taper. With two weeks to go, I got ill, probably after training too much in the month or two before that. I don’t want to make the same mistake again this year, but with two weeks of time out on honeymoon, that’s less likely.

What did work well for me last year were a couple of big weeks on the bike, separated with more rest than I thought prudent. We’re talking 3-5 consecutive long days of 4-5 hours in the saddle and plenty of long climbs thrown in. Last year the Basque country and the Pyrenees provided the climbing. This year I’m doing my best to replicate this in Regents Park and Essex. Not quite the Tourmalet is it? Still, I’m in the middle of two weeks focussed on long hard rides, simulating climbs with long threshold intervals, throwing in as many consecutive days as I can. It’s hard to replicate the demands of the mountains, but this is the best I can do, and in that, I am not alone.

As for my taper, two weeks of downtime is vital to arriving at the start line fresh. I have heard a lot about riders’ condition improving as they go deeper into multi-day events. For me that never really happened last year. Now I suspect it was because I was too fatigued going into the Haute Route week. So this time I’m taking a different approach and will be making sure that I arrive on the start line in Geneva fresher, if perhaps a bit less fit. I will need an iron will to stay off the bike. Easier said than done, but nothing compared to what I’ll need in three weeks’ time.

photo-12

Essex ‘climb’ intervals on strava: Essex 45mins x2

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Tour of Wessex

I’ve been hesitating to write up my Tour of Wessex weekend. Probably out of spite. To begin with, things were going rather well. Unlike last year, we arrived earlier than 12:30am. It wasn’t even dark while we put up our tent. We had the benefit of having put it up before. There was no gale ripping it from our grasp. Lights out early, we slept from 11pm.

I speak too soon. Conditions on day 1 were the wettest I’ve ever known on a bike. Within an hour we were all soaked to the skin. For the next five, that’s the way it stayed. One torrential downpour followed another. It was pretty miserable. A shame, on a good day the route of the Tour of Wessex is one of the best I’ve ridden in England.

I felt strong, especially up the first climb of the day, Cheddar Gorge. It’s one of the few that I’ve climbed in the UK where there’s a real continental feel to the approach. You’re rolling through Cheddar with the gorge looming up in front of you, waiting for it to kick up. OK so it lasts ten minutes, not an hour, but it has a good feel to it.

Come day 2, there were repercussions. I rode the medium route with Becks, but felt weak all day. I ached on the bike. Not unusual after six hours, but this felt different. By day 3 it was clear enough that we were both ill. Reduced to getting our body composition tested at the race village as we watched the brave few roll off on the long road to Exmoor. Definitely a mistake as it turns out.

Day 3 really is a good one too, especially the climb up to Exmoor from the coast. Not one to miss lightly. We’ll be back next year, but hoping desperately for better weather and perhaps not camping either.

Day 1 on strava: http://www.strava.com/activities/145830167

Day 2 on strava: http://www.strava.com/activities/145830146

Back in the game

It’s some time since I last posted. For about three weeks I was battling with a virus that stopped me training. A drenching first day at the Tour of Wessex brought me down with something. Each time I tried to get back on the bike I could tell I wasn’t up to it.

To say the least, it’s been a busy and exciting time off the bike too. Training has taken a back seat lately, with other more important things taking over. In less than two weeks I’ll be married, so we’ve been spending a lot of time on preparations… On top of that I’ve recently got myself a new job, which has also gulped its fair share of time and effort too.

As usual, after some genuine time off training, I felt pretty unfit getting back on the bike. Because time is short I have been focussing on short rides since then, keeping the intensity really high. In fact, as I often find when illness forces some downtime, I feel refreshed and I can work much harder than before. Longer-term rest really is needed sometimes.

It never gets any easier to spot when I need a that rest though. The only sign seems to be feeling really strong, but then I just want to make hay while the sun shines. With the Haute Route to aim for in late August and a busy few weeks before then, the last thing I wanted was an off-plan rest. Now though, I’m confident that I needed it. Without thinking, I just smashed my PR on a short test climb. I’m back in the game just in time to get a couple of weeks of intense training in before the wedding and some more time off for our honeymoon…

… we’re taking the bikes of course (not even my idea)!

Race Day

I have only dabbled with racing before. If you can call racing one crit a dabble. Prospects of crash carnage had always put me off. And the one Hillingdon cat 4 crit I have done only stoked my nerves. Riders careering all over the place and crashes everywhere; it was all I could do to stay out of trouble.

But some riding buddies talked me into it and a few of the guys from the shop are seasoned racers. So I thought I should give it a go. The East London Velo summer series at Hog Hill seemed like a good one to go for. Still, I was nervous. The words of José Been, commentating on the recent Women’s Tour of Britain, stuck in my head: it’s going to be gruesome! (I’m thinking blood and guts everywhere.)

The format was simple. One race for cat 3/4s, with a 30-second handicap for the 3s. Starting pace was pretty high, leaving me wondering for the first few laps how I was going to survive an hour and fifteen minutes of it. Especially up the ‘Hoggenberg’… a decent climb for a crit circuit, positioned just before the line. The group would bunch up at the bottom, holding a reasonable pace until the steepest part of the climb, where the mash fest began as others sprinted up to get a good position for the tricky sweeping left-hander that followed. It seemed like wasted energy to me, as each lap it came back together again a couple of corners later. I had good advice ringing in my ears… “don’t be a hero, spin up the climb early on”.

After a few laps the 3s and 4s came together; one bunch. And a break of four went away – but I can’t really recall how or quite when! The pace up the Hoggenberg eased off a bit too. A couple of guys went down after grounding pedals on one hairpin, but luckily didn’t take anyone with them. I think there was a crash in the bunch too, but I didn’t risk looking back. And in the final I pushed from the bottom of the last climb to take something like 5th or 6th place, first of the bunch to cross the line.

There’s nothing like a race to push you hard. This was a pretty hard effort, which is no doubt good training. Having said that, coming into the race my priorities were to 1) not crash and 2) finish (in that order). So I was really happy to get points and left excited about the next week… when I’m sure the pre-race nerves and images of blood baths will make another unwelcome appearance!

Pro score: 3/10 (racing it is, some way to go for a contract)

See my ride on strava: http://www.strava.com/activities/141575959

Hog Hill view back to London

Haute Route Ambassador

After being blown away by the experience of riding last year’s Haute Route Alps, I applied to be an Haute Route ambassador for the UK… and thought nothing of it for a while. Then I came home one evening to find an email congratulating me on being one of the first Haute Route ambassadors!

My first thought was of the scale of the challenge I’ll be taking in again! Next it rekindled the images of Alpine cols that burned into my brain last summer. One particular shot of the start line at lake Geneva reignited the feeling of rolling over the line with six hundred other riders, all about to experience a week-long adventure through pain, strength and awe.

I’ll be blogging my preparation for the event and on being one if its ambassadors. One look at the iconic cols in this year’s route is enough to get anyone excited. One stage takes in Col de la Madeleine, Col du Glandon and finishes up L’Alpe d’Huez! Bring it on!

Cross training: update

As autumn hits winter you can barely turn the page of a cycling magazine or click a cycling website without reference to some sort of cross training. Every pro interview talks up their core regime. A team mate from last year’s Haute Route Alps ran every day for a month last winter – 17th place is evidence enough that it didn’t hold him back. Andre Greipel is even tweeting about his runs!

You’ll remember my post on run club. Well a few more weeks in, what more have I learnt? Cross training still feels like a dirty word. I’m a cyclist not a runner. Surely time I take out of the day to train should be spent on the bike.

The first few weeks of running felt hard. And left me nursing sore legs, making hard efforts on the bike almost impossible for two or three days afterwards. Not good. So what did I do? Added more cross training! Thanks to a rower friend’s recommendation I’ve thrown in some high rep (& speed) leg weights too. It might not quite be the perfect core-bashing off-bike work out, but it’s some of the way there.

What’s more, I’ve even signed up to run a 10k race, spurred on by some healthy competition with work colleagues (and a burrito riding on the result). How bad can it be? Well it is a Saturday – so it probably means a Saturday without cycling (and I’ll definitely miss the club ride).

But, dare I say it, cross-training is working. For one thing, it’s a change. After 9 months of solid training for the Haute Route, it’s good to have a refreshing new target. It might even make it easier to persuade myself that a couple of weeks off the bike will make me stronger next year. Not something I’ve yet managed, but easier if I can keep running (does that still count as rest)?

And as the weather closes in and a busy new project surfaces at work, it’s difficult to get enough hours on the bike. Running and weights seem a time-efficient way to keep building strength and to maintain that top-end aerobic fitness. We’ll only really see in the spring how it’s gone.

The downside is, the running isn’t getting any easier just yet.

Pro score: 4/10

runningshoes

100kph

You can tell it’s autumn just from looking at my post titles… The first storm of the year has hit us. In the wake St Jude’s 100kph gusts, it seems apt to talk about wind.

Wind provides everything you need for great winter training (at least when you’re not at risk of being flattened by a tree, like I was on this morning’s ride). The illusion of the elusive souplesse on your way out. Relentless low-cadence strength training on the way home. Or if you’re lucky, the other way around!

Still, it’s pretty much my worst nightmare when it’s windy out there. You’ll know I can take rain from my last post, but there’s something demoralising about slogging into a headwind, no matter how much good you know it’s doing you. And somehow it never gives back as much as it takes.

The only silver lining perhaps is the emptiness of windswept roads. Each hour out there is one up on your rivals and one more in next season’s legs.

Training in St Jude’s 100kph gusts. Pro score: 8/10

falling leaves