Monday, 28 April 2008

A Heavy Weekend

Weigh in first
This week 100.0kg
Weight gain 0.7kg

In my defence, the scales have determined that my body water content is 51.6% this week and not the usual sub 50% figure, therefore I determine that I am properly hydrated for once. Body fat % is below 30 for the first time (albeit only 29.9%). This is probably consistent with me emptying bidons far more rapidly than normal for the entire weekend, which is a good thing in anticipation of the potential hot weather that may be imposed on us come the Etape.

This weekend, as the title suggests, was a biggie. The four first-time etappers headed to North Wales in the early morning light of Saturday, to congregate at Betws-y-coed YHA for a 9 a.m. start. Unfortunately, route finding, traffic, and the inevitable pre-start faffing about meant that the eventual start was something after 10.

Mark had planned routes for both days, and they were belters. Lots of open road pacing, both into and with the wind, together with a lot of quieter roads over more 'inhospitable' terrain. It ended up looking something like this:

Whilst there are some differences of opinion between Memory Map, Polar HRM and MapMyRide, we are going for the following stats:

Predicted Ride Time 7:26
Actual Ride Time 7:19
Elapsed Time 8:38
Climbing 3,529 metres (MORE THAN THE ETAPE!!)
Calories 6,409
Average Ride speed 20.9kmh
Top Speed 71kmh

That's a ride 10 miles less than an Etape, with an Etape's climbing, in 8:38. Game On! Mr Etape, the Datameister is ready for you now!

Saturday night's recovery involved Steak & Kidney Pud, Red Wine and Ibuprofen, together with about 8.5 hours sleep. Sunday 'dawned' grey, with the realisation that, 'if this was how the professional stage racers felt, I'm happy to be an accountant'. Everything ached, and Sunday promised another 57 miles of pain.

Breakfast offered some respite, as did a 20 miles drive to Corwen, and a rematch with the Horseshoe Pass (had me off the bike last time) followed by the "Road to Hell" from the Dave Lloyd Mega-Challenge. Horseshoe was conquered, as was the far-too-long 17% section along the road to hell, the route looking like this:

The obligatory stats:
Predicted Ride Time 4:18
Actual Ride Time 4:08
Elapsed Time 5:36
Climbing 1,747 metres
Calories 3,282
Average Ride speed 21.7kmh
Top Speed 63.6kmh

Again inside 8:30 Etape ride-time pace. Happy!!

We all survived the weekend, despite Brett threatening to demolish a LandRover Discovery in another SMIDSY moment (again descending at 30+mph). Why do they always fail to see HIM?!

And somewhere around the Bwlch-y-Groes/Lake Vyrnwy on Saturday, I passed 7,000 miles of training.

If you got this far into this monster missive, well done! You probably have sufficient stamina to finish an Etape.

Until next week, and the results of the Forest of Dean Spring Classic, have a good week.


Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Just a ride

This week's weigh in

Weight 99.2kg
Weight loss this week 0.7kg (at last)

Miles last week 166
Longest Ride 122 miles

After weeks of pressured rides (training, climbing, etc) and frankly getting a bit fed up, Sundays Derbyshire Dales Audax was a deliberate attempt at just going out for a ride.

No pressure, no targets, just enjoy it. Since it started from close to home (10 miles) cycling to and from also seemed like a good idea, except the weather had other ideas. When it wasn't raining it was cold and miserable, and the wind howled, but at least it was behind us for the second half.

In the Dales, cloud touched road, and it seemed more like November than April (though that may have been wishful thinking, since that would have given me more training time).

9+ hours of very leisurely riding yielded a calorie burn of 6,300 at an average heart rate of 127, well within the fat burning range, hence the weight loss this week.

Meanwhile, the organisers have posted the detailed itinerary and broom wagon times, which are eminently do-able. See what I just said? I'm going to succeed, and I WILL beat the broom wagon. The real test for me will be to make the 119.9km to the top of the Tourmalet in under 7 hours to avoid elimination.

Total climb claims to be 3284 metres, descent 1841 metres and coupled with the 169km distance, my last 2 sportive results would indicate a predicted finish time of 8hours 20 plus stops. Would I ever settle for that!!?

Those wishing a quick look at the closest I can get to the route will find it here.

Big training weekend in Wales this coming weekend. I forecast pain.

Monday, 14 April 2008

There's snow on them thar hills!

This week's weigh in

Weight 99.9 kg (again,again)
Weight loss last week NIL

Miles last week 175
Longest ride 68 miles

This weekend saw the Lakeland Loop Sportive, which was initially intended to be a two person activity with Brett. Unfortunately, he considered that the Hardknot and Wrynose were far too difficult and, to get out of it, hit one of the opposition players in the elbow with his face while playing football on Saturday.

I decamped to the Lake District while he was still in casualty, and got a fitful night's sleep in the YHA at Grasmere. My wife will, no doubt, be amused that someone kept ME awake by snoring.

Sunday morning was, simply, stunning. Sunshine, little wind, no clouds, and snow on top of the Langdale Pikes, Helvellyn and Blencathra to name but a few.

The climb of Red Bank after just 5km was a rude awakening, as was the horrifying 25% drop into Grasmere. Dunmail Raise went slowly under the wheels, but went nevertheless, as did Whinlatter Pass and Cold Fell. It was at that point that the beauty of the early morning Lakes was contrasted by the industrial spectre of Windscale, but it soon passed in a flying descent to Gosforth.

If only I could say the same of Hardknot and Wrynose Passes. I almost made it up the first steep pitches of Hardknot, but failed with 1 hairpin left. The heart rate was fine, but the legs wouldn't respond after Thursdays 80 mile commute (PB both ways). After a brief re-mounting for the middle section, the top was a fine walk, tempered by the fact that I don't think I'd have stayed on the bike without the front wheel disappearing backwards over my head. Chapeau to those like Alec who managed to ride the whole thing.

Following an arm-wrenching wrestle with the brakes down the other side, Wrynose Bottom passed quite quickly, only for the pass to once again degenerate into a walk-fest. Another 'gripping' descent taught me another cycling lesson. Never try to stop on a 25% downhill gradient. Even if you manage it, as soon as your weight leaves the saddle, your bike does a rear-wheel wheelie. DO NOT TRY THAT AT HOME!! Rapid release of front brake prevented face and gravel coming together, but not before I wobbled and half-hopped a good 10 yards down the hill.

Blea Tarn had me off again for about 50 metres before the final descent, and a much-needed leg massage. All-in-all a stunning event, and one I shall definitely do again next year.

Biggest regret? No, it wasn't the walking, but not taking the camera. I shall probably never again cycle on such a perfect morning in such surroundings. But then there's always the Pyrenees........

Monday, 7 April 2008

Not such a good week

The weigh in

This weeks weight 99.9kg (again)
Gain this week 0.4kg

Miles last week 21
Longest ride 7 miles

In keeping with most weeks when I do few miles, the weight went up last week, but should go the other way this week with the Lakeland Loop on Sunday.

At least I managed to kick start the week with a 12 mile ride the long way round to meet the local cycling club, and another 3 the short way home. That's 29 for April, and counting.

Real life gets in the way tomorrow with a trip to the Big Smoke, but I'm hoping to brave the frost on Thursday with a both-ways commute for another 82 miles. Watch this space with just 90 days (count 'em 90) to go.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Absolutely Loopy!

In an effort to remain focused, new events have appeared in the training diary.

We hope next weekend will be good, weather wise, since I am now (at Alec's suggestion) signed up for the Lakeland Loop on the 13th April. As if the 1:4 of Mow Cop wasn't enough, that event finishes over Hardknot and Wrynose Passes in Cumbria which, I am told, are 1:4 and 1:3. I somehow think it might be a little difficult to stay on the bike over those after 100+ km.

May 4th sees the Forest of Dean Spring Classic, which is in an area I like having visited for a rather damp Audax (rained torrentially for the whole 6 hours) last year.

Finally (for now) Russell at the Cycle Studio in Stratford-upon-Avon, not content with selling me the Trek MadOne, has convinced me to sign up for the Circuit of the Cotswolds two weeks prior to the Etape. We've already done most of the climbs on this one in the "Petit Etape du Cotswolds" we put together a couple of weeks ago. I'm assured that although I'm on the reserve list, everyone on that list got a start last year.

The lads at the Cycle Studio are urging us to "shell Russell off the back" at the earliest opportunity. I haven't the heart to tell them, but "shelled off the back" is a position I usually reserve for myself ready for the first hill of the day. Never mind.