Tuesday, 27 May 2008

First Time Clearance

The weigh in
This week 99.6kg
Weight loss 0.3kg

This weeks miles 149
Longest Ride 120 miles (Gran Fondo Cymru)

And what a longest ride of the week it was. A ride of both mind and backside numbing proportions.
I made it 194km on the bike computer. Memory Map made it 4212 metres of climbing. That's 25km more than the Etape, 700m more climbing than the Etape, and I finished in 9:26:10, more than 1/2 hour inside Broom Wagon pace. I'll settle for that as a first time clearance of last weeks raised bar. Up it goes again. Let's aim for under 7:15 at the Polka Dot Challenge next weekend.

I'm getting to think that all the Etape can now throw at me is altitude. I hope I'm right. Certainly Wales threw everything else this weekend. Howling wind and stinging rain at least, and I'm sure the kitchen sink was in there somewhere. I have posted a full review of the ride on Cyclosport.org in an attempt to leave this blog more readable. I'll leave it to say that I really don't know where the inclination came from to carry on along the Gran Fondo route when the Medio finish was only 25 minutes away, but looking back I'm glad I did.

Only 149 people finished the full fat option, of whom I was 132nd. I'll settle for that. How hard was it? BRUTAL! Would I do it again? Hell, yes!!

The obligatory stats:
194km/120 miles
Climb 4212m/13818ft
Target Time: 10 hours
Elapsed Time 9:26:10
Ride Time: 9:06:37
Average speed 21.1kmh/13.1mph
Top speed 66.4kmh/41.4mph
Average heart rate 147
Calories burned 7,945

I'm getting fitter and faster, not only do I now stand on pedals early on in a ride, but I can also raise a grimace for the photographer at the top of the last climb, with 185km in my legs, and 2 pints of water inside my waterproof socks!

Monday, 19 May 2008

Raising the bar

First the bad news
This weeks weigh in 99.9kg
Weight gain 1.1kg
Mostly due to the fluid intake since yesterday helping to support my swollen muscles.

Miles last week 144
Longest ride 110 miles

Why are the muscles giving me some stick? Yesterday was the Etape du Dales, that's why.

Right from the start, the Etape du Dales has been the yardstick event on which I intended to measure my progress towards the Etape itself.

It has:
Slightly more miles
The same amount of climb
Enough riders to have some group riding (though it turns out, not too much)

Has more descending (Etape finishes on a mountain)
The Etape proper lacks oxygen on the big climbs

The predictions for the Etape du Dales were about 8:30 actual riding (if I was going well) plus stops, so I was aiming for a time of 9:15. By my calculations, with 7 weeks to go, this would equate to an Etape ride of about 9:30 including all stops/interruptions, well inside the Broom Wagon schedule.

On arrival at Grassington, my fellow riders informed me that Silver Standard was 8 hours. I had assumed it would be much less. Without any real hope of achieving this, I set off in the company of Mike and Brett towards the first climb at Fleet Moss.

Half way there my HRM started throwing a real wobbly. Shortly after maxing out on a short, sharp climb, it began to register a rate of about 230 per minute.

Either a) I have Karen's problem or
b) It's stupid

I did the only sensible thing and retired.........NOT!!

After a 2 minute stop to remove the errant electronics from my person, I set off again through the most beautiful morning and countryside to the base of Fleets Moss, and the start of the day's purgatory. The climb was hard, the following descent mind-blowing. I admit I bottled and braked at 45.8mph...sorry. Others went past as if I were standing still.

The feed station followed. Shortly afterwards I found out that you cannot tackle a major climb with the handlebars in one hand, and a butty in the other.

By the time of the second feed at Tan Hill it was already apparent I would not make the Silver Standard, so I set myself a target of 8:30 and decided to give it a real go. For the next 40 miles I went just about as hard as I could (including a guest spot on cyclosport TV) coming perilously close to bonking on one occasion, but taking a gel 'blind' in the nick of time without any knowledge of the coming climb up to Newby Head.

Shortly after Halton Gill, and the foot of the descent from the days last climb, a large yellow sign proclaimed "10 miles to go".

"Bridge to engineering. Warp factor nine". "The engine cannae take it Cap'n". "Give it everything anyway".

On the drops and pounding for the whole distance back, I reeled in about 20 riders in that 10 miles, and in the words of Mr Cotty on the Etape Reconnaisance video "left it on the road".

By the time I arrived at the finish, there was absolutely nothing left. Nothing at all. I was gutted to the point of tears to learn my time was 8:30:13, just 13 seconds outside the 8 and a half hours. All lost behind an ambulance on the way out of the start within 2 minutes of actually starting.

The journey home was one of many navigational disasters, mostly due to the state of my brain, which was completely gone. There really was no way I could have given anything else. Looking back, I'm no longer gutted, but delighted at beating my expectations by 45 minutes, and setting an Etape expectation below 9 hours.

The obligatory numbers:
178km/110.8 miles
Ride time 8:17:20
Elapsed time 8:30:13
Average ride speed 21.5kmh/13.37 mph
Max 73.7kmh/ 45.8mph

Finishing position 432 of 666 starters.

Unsurprisingly, my slowest section was the one with most climbs, the best the one with most flat/descent.

The bar has now definitely been raised, but I'm determined to take it higher still. Next year I'm going back 10kg lighter. And I'm having that Silver Standard.

Chapeau! to both Brett and Mike, who both got Silver.

Monday, 12 May 2008

8 weeks left!

The weigh in

Weight 98.8 kg
Loss this week 0.4kg

Miles last week 187
Longest ride 132 miles

Let the long rides commence! Once my entries are confirmed I will have an event every weekend for the next 6 weeks (though I may be resting in the middle of some weeks) up to 2 weeks prior to the Etape, and a gentle fortnight up to the event itself.

For now, sensible weekday rides will suffice. 11 miles tonight in the company of my wife, who has returned a personal best for the 11 mile loop. She'll be doing 100km Audaxes before long......

Sunday, 11 May 2008

FoD Results

Counting the late entries on the day, it seems that 695 individuals were daft enough to sign up for this one, of whom 202 either did not start, or cut short their days activities once the hills became too steep and too frequent.

I finished =369 of the 493 people to successfully haul their bikes over the finish line, some 2 hours and 13 minutes slower than the leader. and 2 hours 11 minutes ahead of the lantern rouge, who was in (and possibly out of) the saddle for a mighty 8 hours 53 minutes. Chapeau!

I cannot therefore claim to have been in the top half, even if I count the non-starters/non-finishers, but I'm getting closer. Half an hour would have gained me over 100 places, so I appear to be in the position I often found myself Orienteering, just about hanging onto the back of the bulk of the finishers, but not quite competing on their terms. Redouble the training efforts in the next 8 weeks, methinks.

I have been warned against overtraining (me, overtrain? The very thought!) which for a born-again ex couch potato will be a new phenomenon.

Next weekend sees the Etape du Dales, the benchmark against which I have been intending to measure my ability to finish in the Pyrenees. 170km and 3,500 metres of climbing, almost exactly the same as the Etape itself.

I know it's bike-to-work week, but the last time I did the commute (40 miles each way) in a day was 3 days prior to the Lakeland Loop, and I suffered towards the end of the day there. Commuting will be postponed to a more suitable time. Especially given how tired I am after yesterdays 132 mile ride.

Depending on how I feel by Friday, my late entry for the Gran Fondo Cymru may be submitted as the website closes......watch this space.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Don't Panic!!

But there's less than 9 weeks left. 9 weeks!! Where did the other 25 go?

Weigh in
This weeks 99.2kg
Loss of 0.8kg

Miles last week 147
Longest ride 85 miles

April total miles 549

Unfortunately, I couldn't find the opportunity to go out and 'go the extra mile' for 550, but that's just another number, so who cares?

More importantly, Mark commented after the Wales weekend that "these climbs will redefine the ones at home", and so it proved. On Tuesday, I hit the road with Brett for a 'gentle' 15 miles which was completed in a decent 47 minutes and included the not-so-infamous Col de Loxley.

The Col de Loxley is the closest hill of any size to where I work, and gratuitously forms part of the local triathlon course (just because its there). Normally, I crest this hill wheezing and red-faced in my bottom gear (30/27) owing to the 10% pitches at bottom and top. On Tuesday I had 2 cogs to spare, one on the cassette and one on the chain-ring, hence getting over in 40/25. How chuffed was I? Especially since I could still breathe.

Yesterdays Forest of Dean Spring Classic was mucky because of the intermittent rain, but a great course, and very tough event. At least, that's how I found it. The website doesn't do the course justice, not pointing out the 14 named climbs en-route. It was on the first of these that I passed "Team Cycling Plus minus One" on their nice new FELT bikes. Karen doesn't need to be told how good the climbs were, but I'm sure she'll be back soon, better, stronger, faster. Won't you, Karen??

Route information and report will follow, but the obligatory stats are:

Distance 134km
Climb 2,773 metres
Predicted time: 6:25 (recast from 6:39 after Wales, see below)
Ride Time 6:25 (happy!!)
Elapsed Time 6:42
Average speed 20.9 kmh
Top Speed 67 kmh
Average Heart Rate 149 (despite maxing at 172 on the day's first climb)
Calories expended 5,758

Predicted times are drawn from a simple formula on Memory Map, where you input your "on the flat" speed (28kmh), add on some time for every 10m of climbing, and take some off for every 10m of descent (6 seconds). The addition for 10m of climb started at 1 minute in January last year, and speed at 25kmh. The climb penalty was down to 30 seconds by the Cheshire Cat this year, and another 3 seconds down to 27 seconds for this weekends FOD prediction. Since I hit that target, I'll keep it for now.

Most importantly, those predictions result in an Etape of 8 hours 15 minutes (plus stops). Keep up the effort, the training and the weight loss, and I might never see that Broom Wagon.