Monday, 31 March 2008

Another month slips away

This weeks weigh in

Weight this week: 99.5kg
Weight loss this week 0.4kg

Miles last week 125
Longest Ride 98 miles

Miles for March 534

Biggest month for a long time, possibly ever (must check the records). Thankfully yesterdays 5,943 calorie burn around Cheshire helped the weight loss effort. A gentle week coming right up, together with a search for some events/ideas for the coming weekends.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Still Smiling

The Cheshire Cat Sportive is over (thankfully) and I can still smile like the title character.

Sunday miraculously dawned clear and sunny, quite a change from the forecast as late in the week as Friday morning. Gone were the threats of torrential rain, howling 50mph gusts of wind and/or sub-zero temperatures, replaced with a day so good that the boil-in-the-bag waterproof coat spent the day locked in the car.

All was not plain sailing, however, as the rudimentary task of checking tyre pressures resulted in a broken valve and inner tube replacement before I had even got on the bike. Next the overshoes bit the dust mid-installation with the zip unravelling into a tangle of useless metal. This was not the disaster it first seemed, as the improvement in the weather as the day went on would have meant my feet were too hot anyway.

With all this faffing about our intended very early start became just an early start. Another hidden advantage since this meant that there were more riders ahead of us to chase after when the start group fragmented into nothingness inside the first 4 miles.

I managed to stick with Brett and Mark until the first 'real' hill of the day after Weaver Bridge but, whilst they were still in sight at the top, I had blown through my max heart rate and the recovery period saw them disappear into the distance.

The Norley drag saw me pull alongside Karen (see blog link) and exchange observations on how unnecessarily difficult hills are, prior to my pulling away to chase after Brett & Mark (pointless). Sorry not to have caught you at the finish, Karen, hope it all went well.

The Yeld was equally painful, but is probably the last hill I remember prior to the 'lovely' diversion just before Alsager. The organisers, who did a very good job, had no choice but to detour us round roadworks closing the road, the problem being not the extra 1.8km, but more the additional 90 metres of climbing. Nice!

It was at about this point that Mow Cop hove into view, prompting the rapid consumption of a Torq gel (with extra caffeine). I'm convinced that the two major components of gelignite are Glucose and Caffeine after trying those. The speed deliberately dropped off for the next 5 km to at least save my legs marginally before the climb.

I entered the sportive with 2 distinct intentions:
1. Ride Mow Cop without stopping
2. Beat last year's time

I swear that Mow Cop has got steeper since the last time I tried it a few weeks ago, and the less steep bit in the middle has got steeper. Nonetheless, I managed a grimmace/smile for Cyclosport TV, and ground up at a cadence of about 35 in 30/27. Very few around me remained mounted by the bottom of the steep section, but in Churchillian fashion I was determined to 'never surrender'. If there is a record for how slowly you can ride a bike up Mow Cop, I probably am close to holding it at 3.2kmh, a feat of balancing excellence, if I say so myself. The top was reached without feet contacting ground. To quote Muttley from the Cartoon "Medal, Medal, Gimme Gimme".

Blacky Bank and Bridestones were as bad as I remembered, but did not prompt walking this year, and over the last 20km, I managed to leave most of the energy I had 'on the road'.

Brett and Mark had finished in ultra-respectable 5:54's, so they had to wait for me for a while, however:

Time last year: 8:04
Time this year: 6:35 Now that's what I call improvement!

One last comment. All the way around, people were asking "Are you Clive? I've read your blog". I'm amazed that so many people have found it and deem it worthy of attention. Thank you all for your support. My apologies if, in my haste to finish and shattered state, I didn't get to say 'thanks' in person.

And to the guy I spoke to at the finish, good luck in the Etape, and I hope to see you in Pau.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Come in number 4537, your time is up

Now, as long as I don't hear that from the Broom Wagon, I'll be fine.

Three of the four of us have dossards allocated, and we will all be starting from the same pen. We're just waiting for Mike to make his way out of the hat, and we'll all know where we are.

At least one of my major worries has been put to bed. I had visions of being drawn number 8,499 and having to race the broom wagon in a sprint off the start line. With a draw number in the mid 4,000's we should get a head start of about 25-30 minutes, which makes me much more comfortable.

In case no-one noticed, there are now just 100 days left, in fact 100 days from right now, it will all be over (and I'll be looking out for next year's challenge).

If you're looking for your own dossard number, it can be found here. Just type a name or letter, and if you're confirmed "voila" (as they say in Pau).

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

A quiet week

The weigh in

This weeks weight 99.9kg (phew!)
Weight Gain 0.2kg

Miles last week 5 (yes, five)
Longest ride 5 miles

At least after a week of relative inactivity I can still claim (just) to be under the psychological 100kg barrier, thus making it really count.

The intention was to have a quiet week, and just do a few miles later on in the week, thus giving the ageing body time to recover from the self-styled 'Petit Etape du Cotswolds'. Problem was that real life got in the way a bit, and conspired to keep me away from both bikes, or so it seemed.

Garden re-landscaping over the Easter weekend convinced me that I really was feeling lethargic and tired (obviously a hangover from the previous weekend) until the Saturday afternoon sunshine tempted me and Mrs H out onto the road for a gentle 5-miler. At the end of that I realised that what I was really missing to energise myself was just getting on the bike. As soon as I had stopped, I was ready to go out again.

Note to self: "No more 'rest-weeks' just ease it back a bit next time"

3-4 Turbo sessions this week to spin the legs up whilst the MadOne is being checked over at the Bike Shop to rectify any shakedown issues (and to repair any damage caused by riding through floods) and then its the Cheshire Cat on Sunday (in the rain). Game On!!

Next update will report if any progress has been made in the last 12 months.......

Monday, 17 March 2008

Almost an Etape!

This weeks weigh in

Weight this week 99.7kg
Weight loss this week 0.5kg

Miles this week 155
Longest ride 105 miles

At last! I am digitally reduced, now being back into 2 digits (under 100kg) for the first time proper in 10 years (the last 2 times didn't count since they were the result of lots of time in a steam room and lasted for less than a day).

Both Brett (colleague from work and fellow etapper) and I are still alive after yesterdays ride, but only just. A 'farmer' in a mini-tractor had a SMIDSY moment (Sorry Mate I Didn't See You) and went to pull out in front of him descending at 30+mph, only to be stopped by Brett yelling at him (and gave Brett a filthy look for interrupting his driving, on the road he evidently owns). I tried to rearrange my front wheel with a rock whilst descending at similar speed, cue heavy braking and LOTS of slithering to a gradual halt down a very wet steep hill covered in unmentionables. Nearly set a new heart rate record there! Thankfully, there was no puncture, else I would never have held it and would undoubtedly have investigated the braking power of the interaction between lycra and tarmac.

So, almost an Etape? Yesterdays ride was deliberately as much climbing as we could reasonably find in an etape-like 105 miles without retracing our routes too much.

105 miles
2800 metres of climb
22 chevrons on the OS map (14 up, 8 down)
Max Gradient 25% for 1/3 mile (Cleeve Hill)
5 flooded roads
9:37 elapsed (including, for me, about 1 hour stopped)
Unfortunately, the only time we can be sure of is the 'elapsed' since every piece of timing equipment we own broke during the ride, including my new Polar HRM/Bike Computer (That's going back tomorrow)

Good enough? Not quite, since the etape is about 700m more climbing, which will add (for me) more than the 23 minutes we were inside the 10 hours.

Better Roads
Group Riding Effects
Organised feeds to reduce stopping

Howling 24mph NE winds (hopefully)
Flooded Roads (hopefully)
14 individual sets of gradients of >13%

Confidence is building. Next milestone will be the Cheshire Cat Sportive, and hopefully a great improvement on last year's elapsed effort of 8:04.

But it's a quieter 2 weeks until then, especially since I have already surpassed February's Mileage for March. I'm off to do the stretches my aching legs demand......

Monday, 10 March 2008

A scant 17 weeks to go...

Scary thought, isn't it?

This weeks weigh in
Todays weight 100.2kg
Loss this week 1.6kg
Scales say no dehydration, either.

Miles this week 148
Longest Ride 69 miles

Another week of Cotswold hills, but this time with a gratuitous re-ascent of Fish Hill thrown in for good measure. There was less wind this time, so speeds on parts of the course were vastly in excess of the previous efforts (no overtaking joggers this time).

The Madone continues to impress, particularly on the draggy hills between 3 and 8%. I haven't yet run out of gears, even though I don't have the ridiculously low ratio that is on the other bike.

Brett was forced to wait for less time this weekend, so my climbing must be getting quicker.

More of the same this week. I'm not yet convinced I'll finish the etape inside the time limit, but I'm getting there.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Police Brutality

Diet Police Brutality that is.

Peter is taking his new role, very, very seriously. So much so that even the humble tic-tac is subject to the "that's 2 calories you don't need" approach.

The only problem is, I can't complain whilst it's working.

This weeks weigh in
Weight 101.8kg
Weight loss this week 0.8kg

Miles last week 119 miles
Longest ride 95 miles

More training miles planned this week outside the long ride at the weekend, and another week reminding myself that denial is not just a river in Egypt.

Only 18 weeks left.....8-(

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Disillusioned? Perhaps not.

Yesterday (Saturday) was the first lengthy outing for the Trek Madone.

It would be great to say that "It was a great improvement, it's going to completely change my riding, and the Etape is in the bag". Unfortunately, it wouldn't be true.

Yesterday was horrendous. The "Over the Malverns" Audax is a very good event, I'm sure.

Regrettably, a few things did not go quite right.
1) I didn't get started early enough, and missed being ready for the start.
2) Everyone else had gone. Solo rides for 153km never feature high on my wish-list
3) Wind. The weather kind. 25mph largely against for the first 80km
4) Poor road surfaces (mud and potholes, where there was actually a road surface at all)
5) I ran out of Bidons in the first 50km (I NEVER drink 2 bidons in 50km) and the next refill was after 69km
6) I had to introduce the Madone to the art of walking up the last 150m in West Malvern.
7) By Malvern average speed was down to 19.2kmh

None of this was what I had in mind from a new bike, and by the coffee shop I was more than a little depressed (and tired, and cold, and fed up of howling wind)

So, was it all bad? Not at all. The Madone 'floats' downhill, but takes a lot of stopping. Brakes are on the upgrade list, already. Cornering is 'interesting' and much more lively. You have to go in confident and really lean it over to get any positive feeling in corners. Having more gears does seem to make it easier to find a good one for keeping the power on, particularly late-on in the ride.

But is it better? Who knows? Average speed had been raised to 21.6km (13mph) by the end of the ride, but a day like yesterday does not lend itself to easy comparisons. However, here's one:
Last Year's Cheshire Cat
Fair and calm
1550 meters climb
Some group riding
8 Hours 4 minutes elapsed

Yesterdays Over the Malverns Audax
Sunny but howling wind
1835 metres climb
All solo riding
7hours 50 minutes elapsed

How much is my improvement? How much is the bike? I guess that at the end of the ride, it doesn't necessarily matter.