Monday, 23 June 2008

Last big training ride done.

Weighing in
This week 100.0 kg
Effectively no weight loss since the start of the year, but no gain either. The first time in 10 years my weight has not been going up over time.

Miles last week 225
Longest ride 102 miles

With the Etape now being just 13 days away, I'll not be concentrating on how lardy I am any more. There are more important things to sort out now.

Yesterday saw a very windy Circuit of the Cotswolds with trees at the side of the road bent almost double in places.

At least over the course of the day, the sun mostly shone, and the wind shifted to be with us for about 50% of the ride. I'm still learning a few things, but yesterday carried some really good lessons.

After the Lark Stoke climb (about 60km in) I caught up with an older gentleman in Reading CC kit (greying hair, legs that looked as if they'd seen more miles than a London Taxi) and whilst talking he pointed to a guy about 30 metres in front and said "that's the wheel to be on". How did he know? 30 metres up the road is usually considered by me as "past and gone", but on this occasion I dug in and got on. At this point his 3 team mates in MidOxon gear arrived, and I struggled to hold the last wheel for about a mile whilst oxygen returned to my bloodstream. Once it did, however, the group kindly dragged me all the way to Snowshill a full 10kmh faster than would have otherwise been possible. Thanks guys, whoever you were.

Later, on Cleeve Hill, I learned that riding all the way up a 1-in-4 is not always the best policy if it's going to kill your legs for the rest of the ride. So, for the first time this year, I chose to get off. Usually, I get off at the point of surrender or collapse. Many others were pushing too. On the next two climbs, I passed those who had been riding Cleeve, as they were walking. Net gain.

Feeling unusually strong, I left the last control with the wind behind, and leathered it as hard as my slipping chain would allow (must get that fixed before the Etape) only for my "fastest target time" to be cruelly snatched away by 5 (count 'em, 5) red traffic lights in the last 3 miles.

The obligatory stats:
Distance 164km/102 miles
Average speed 24.1kmh/15mph
Max Speed 71.6kmh/44.5mph
Ride Time 6:49:30
Elapsed time 7:01:52

And then today the results were published. I had a suspicion yesterday that the organisers might have been generous with the time standards, but apparently:
22% got Gold
20% got Silver
23% got Bronze
35% got finishers medals, so it's not 'too' generous.

I was gobsmacked! I finished 120th fastest of 345 finishers, and got my first ever Silver Medal. I'm so chuffed I could burst! (perhaps after the Etape)

Monday, 9 June 2008

Exit, Stage Front!

Weighing in
This week 98.5kg
Weight loss this week 1.9kg

Now that's what I call dehydration!

Miles last week 148
Longest ride 115 miles

75% of the First Time Etappers headed off the White Rose Challenge, the only absentee being Brett, who was spending another weekend in the company of his good friend, Beer. OK, he did have a wedding to attend, but we have his measure. (It's a half-pint, or perhaps a 'short')

A beautiful day was forecast and duly arrived. We registered fairly swiftly, and after faffing about for a bit too long, got started at about 7:45. The first sections are tough, but not too harsh, and Grassington was reached in a decent average speed (Mark & Mike were both well gone, though, by this point on their way to Silver and Gold respectively).

I gather that the upper part of Wharfedale, above Buckden is referred to as Langstrothdale, and it is without doubt one of my favourite places, and epitomises Dales countryside. It also gives me chance to test the new cameraphone, thus:

It's easy to let the average speed drop in such places, just to give yourself more time to look around. But with work to be done, Fleet Moss is soon upon you, and HRM's get noisy. On this occasion, for 3 minutes less than the Etape du Dales, result.

After Hawes, the WRC cuts across to the Coal Road, another climb I first experienced on EdD. I matched my 21 minute ascent, but that's where the good news ends. On the descent, I lost a contact lens near the top. Deciding to renew bi-focal vision at the bottom, I continued down, trying not to brake too hard or long and heat up the rims as badly as last time.

Rounding the second of the three sharp bends at the bottom of the Coal Road, a loud PHUT! and 1 second deflation of the front tyre announced my lack of success. I had a choice at this point, try to corner downhill on a flat tyre (impossible), crash in the road (painful) or attempt a semi-controlled crash landing on the grass verge/bank (the least unattractive of the three options). I managed the feat, leaving the bike over the handlebars and perfecting a forward half-somersault by landing on a combination of head & shoulder. The GPS says I slowed to 11kmh before this happened, I'm glad it was no faster.

25 minutes later, I was re-contact lensed, the Trek was re-shod and the chain re-loaded, and I was back on the road, all hopes of Silver now gone. The rest of the day is a blur (thankfully) of cramping legs, caused by a combination of not drinking enough, and strained back as a result of the fall. I think I experienced my first real 'bonk' on the hill out of Stainforth. All forward motion ceased amid dead legs and cold sweats in the 24 degree heat. I'll try not to repeat that one, thanks.

By the finish I had a top speed, cramp-free, of a massive 15 kmh and couldn't even walk up Langbar without stopping, but at least that gives good photo opportunities:

In the end I crossed the line in a fraction over 9 hours 28 minutes, at the end of a very "bad day at the office". I just have to convince myself that its not all bad, and is still inside Etape pace despite all mishaps.

For weeks now, we have been discussing how it would only take one accident to ruin 2 entire years of training. Sunday was the day of that accident. I am fortunate in many ways to have got through it relatively unscathed (nothing the chiropractor cannot fix) and am still going to France, hopefully the wiser for it. Certainly I shall be running less pressure on thicker rim tapes (the inner tube had punctured where it had pushed into the spoke holes on the rim).

One milestone of note, somewhere around the Langbar climb/walk, I passed through 8,000 miles of training for this Etape.

More details on WRC are on my 'Sportive' blog on

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Four get plenty wet!

The weigh in

This week 100.4kg (Oops!)
Weight gain 1.0 kg

Miles last week 149
Miles for May 644
Longest Ride/Day 107 miles

After 2 attempts that were only 75% successful, the first time Etappers finally had a 100% turnout on a Sportive event last Sunday, when we all got to the start of the Polka Dot Challenge. Not only that, but our 'team' jerseys from the Cycle Studio with company logos in place had arrived, so we looked the part. On the down side, 'team' attire does make you feel somewhat conspicuous, especially when you're not that good.

Right from the off I tried to hook up with a group of riders who, it transpired, were very strong, and I arrived in Macclesfield just about on the back of the group with my legs barely still attached. The Cat & Fiddle soon sorted that out as I went backwards pretty quickly, despite knocking 6 minutes off my best time bottom to top. Windproofs/Showerproofs-on was the order of the day as the weather closed in and deteriorated rapidly, soaking everything for the next 2 hours or so. Long Hill was, well, long, but thankfully mostly on the downhill side. Chinley and Chunal Heads were vicious but short, Snake was venomous. By the top of Snake, I had the backache from hell, but this eased on the 20 miles without a climb that followed. The next pass, though was Winnatt's. 20% for far too long, this was a feast for the senses:

Sight: green grass and rocky crags

Sound: Sheep, birds and cyclists' muttered expletives

Smell: Car clutches burning out as they came past.....

Feel: That you'd really rather be doing something else. Anything else.

Taste: The taste of success arriving undismounted at the top.

Winnatt's Pass. Please note other passes are available. 'Weather' is guaranteed, but past results are not an indicator of future performance. Weather is regulated by a Higher Authority who recently does not seem to get on with cyclists.

The top arrived none too soon, and was followed by several miles of 'undulations' prior to a proper ascent of Axe Edge all the way from the middle of Buxton. Fitness is building, I've never had enough left on Axe Edge to change back up the gears until the very top, on Sunday I managed it from half way up, and in a ratio higher than the other bike (first time up Axe Edge on Mr Trek).

Then, the bit I had been waiting for. The Datameister attack on the land speed record on the descent past the Roaches. Lining up the cyclist in front, who had passed on the ascent, the brakes were feathered to ensure overtaking occurred after the first bend, then 108kg of Kamikaze Sumo Cyclist and bike were unleashed downhill in their full enormity.

What I hadn't counted on was that every bike (I am told) at a certain speed (different for each bike) has a tendency to develop a 'speed wobble'. I have discovered that for my Trek Madone, this occurs at 52.9mph. Some say that such speed wobbles can be corrected by balance distribution, centre of gravity, wheel balance and many other things. All I know is I'm unsure whether I wish to find out. Thankfully, it developed at the start of the 'roll-out' at the bottom, so didn't last long enough to get serious, but I nearly bought shares in the dry-cleaning sector.

Gun Hill was subsequently dispatched, and the remaining 30km ground out back to the finish without further mishap, only to find that the other three had been waiting for AGES for me to get back. I was pleased with my time, I guess they must be delighted with theirs.

Compulsory Stats:
Ride Time 7:13:11
Elapsed Time 7:20:00
Distance 164km/102miles
Climb (Memory Map) 3042m/9980 feet
Average Speed 22.8kmh/14.2mph
Max Speed 85.1kmh/52.9mph (never again, until next time)
Average Hr 144 Max 171
Calories burned 6,078

Now that the results are out, we can see how good our rides were. OK, I know it's not a race, and we weren't racing, but just going out to do the best we could.

Nevertheless out of 269 finishers (from left to right):
Mike 6th
Clive (the only one NOT wearing the team corset) 181st
Brett 17th=
Mark 57th=

A Grand Day Out, and another one inside Etape pace.