Monday, 20 January 2014

Low mileage, good quality (and a new toy)

The lowest mileage week for yonks last week - I was away overnight Tuesday then didn't get out Wednesday as I was a bit late home and the weather was grotty, so I hit Thursday with just 20 miles in the bank.  My rule of thumb is I like to do the best part of 100 miles Monday to Friday, then depending on what I do at the weekend it's either just under, or just over 200 for the week.  I've not had a lot of 200 mile weeks recently, mostly on account of tending to do 80 or so in the week.

However this week I was not going be anywhere near 100 for the working week - I did a very pleasant, and reasonably brisk, 25 on Thursday, then I revisited the Gargrave/Hetton loop on Friday, to give me 60-odd for the week.

Saturday was chaingang time again - I'd got a bit grumpy as I quite like a 9:30 start, but Iain and Sean both wanted an earlier one, so the group agreed to a half eight start.  The weather was stinky-wet, and Iain decided against it, but a hardy group of 9 set off from Dave's at about 8:40.  The wind was out of the south-east(ish) so going out was harder than last week, but with The Herb and Stu Cowperthwaite (a bit of a beast from Appleby) we made decent time, and dropped a couple of people before the turn at Cottingley.

With the wind behind and on the dual carriageway the hammer really went down, and before long we were down to five, with Herb and Stu pushing the pace along at about 25mph.  The trick with these paceline sessions where you do a turn then signal for the group to overtake (as opposed to a chaingang where the line's constantly rotating) is not to do too long on the front.  There were a couple of times people did a bit too long and the pace dropped a bit - I reckon with 5 of you a minute's plenty - that way you can bury yourself and then get a rest for the best part of two miles before you have to do it again.

We were quicker than last week, and the exhilarating nature of these sessions means you don't mind the wet as much as you would in a longer, steadier, ride.  The Herb, of course, bloody loved it - hitting 30mph on the flat at one point.  Animal.  And the 8:30 start had the definite benefit of getting us home for about 10:30, so extra brownie points at home for a dog walk with K and Izzy in the afternoon!

The Sunday ride was planned to be a flat ride to Wetherby.  As we found out this week we've got into the Fred Whitton (gulp) I wanted to do something a little hillier - and in the end the rest of the lads agreed.

Over to Otley on the back roads (with the usual tutting about the state of the Nesfield road) then over Norwood Edge.  I've not been up there for a while, and certainly not with a strong group, so I wasn't surprised to see a "PR" on my Strava track afterwards - but being such a popular climb even my best puts me a long way down - I think I might squeak into the top 15%.

A nice run down to Pateley, during which the decision was made against a cafe stop and then up Peat Lane, the alternative way up Greenhow Hill.  Brutally steep at the start, it eases off to just "very steep" for about half a mile then undulates its way up to the main road.  Most of the lads hadn't been up there before, and I described it to Iain as "about half a Hardknott", which as the steep bit's just over half a mile is about right!

We had considered a finish over Black Park, but we were all a bit tired by this time, so we opted for a fast finish via Burnsall and Linton.

We even managed a half-decent chaingang down the Grassington Road, with a Strava time of 8:17 for the "Blast Down South" segment - which whilst nowhere near our quickest, is pretty respectable.

The new toy mentioned in the title is a bike mount for my Garmin Virb video camera.  It's got GPS in it, and I can import the .FIT file from my Edge to the video (hence the gauges).  It was a bit dark and damp yesterday, but I've had a go at a bit of an edit:

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Tsk, tsk, slippery slope and all that...

Monday was the usual - go to work, come home, ride about 20 miles have tea.  I'm riding with a different front light this week as my current favourite, my Exposure Six Pack has had to go back as it's not charging properly.  I'm favouring it as I have a Redeye back light that plugs into the back of it and weighs a lot less than my Hope District rear light.  Exposure are a bit like Hope in that they're UK based, make superbly engineered lights and back up their products with excellent after sales.  They rang yesterday to tell me they've updated something or other and the light's on its way home.

Anyway - 20 miles along the back road to Ilkley then back through Addingham and back up the gated road.  Steady away as I was feeling the weekend's efforts a bit.

Then I was away last night over in Derry with work, so travelling, a couple of beers and an unhealthy tea meant no exercise and a fairly substantial overload on the calories in/out balance sheet.  Then after a longish day today I came home to find myself a little short of mojo and so I've had another day off - the first time I've done nothing for two days for yolks - hops this isn't the start of a period of fat laziness...

So - tomorrow is a "must ride" day - to quite literally, get back in the saddle - hopefully my fave light will have come home!

Monday, 13 January 2014

A weekend of effort and not a few miles...

There's a few of the lads at Skipton CC who are intending to race this year - I've not really made my mind up, because even though racers tend to look down their noses at mere sportive riders, I rather enjoy them - and being a bit fitter this year I've entered a couple of toughies.

Nevertheless, this means that said lads are "training" rather than "going for a ride", which means a new ride has entered the regular schedule - the Skipton CC Saturday chaingang.  This is a 30 mile ride which is ridden hard, with riders taking turns on the front - with the rule being that "if you're dropped, you're dropped".  It's an out and back route, so the idea is you can have a rest, get back in the group on the way back and the presumably get dropped again.

Ideally you want 10-12 riders, so you can run a constant loop and not spend too long in the wind, but for this first one we had four of the normal A group riders (me, Sean, Iain and Steve) plus a guy called Phil who's just returning to cycling after having a baby and then Rachael, one of the B/C team who decided to see how she got on - chapeau to her for trying.

We set off towards Cross Hills on the A629, and didn't bother with changing the rider on the front, as we were taking it relatively easy - 18-20mph and HR down around 120.  Rachael dropped off pretty soon, and then we picked up Craig, another A rider at Cononley Lane Ends.

Once across the railway we started to rotate the lead and put the hammer gently down - speed and HR increased to maybe 24-25mph on the flat, with Sean complaining of "bleeding lungs" as we stopped at Steeton lights!

HR output from the Chaingang - can you see where we turned into the wind??!

Through Keighley and Bingley we lost Craig and Phil, so as we turned at Cottingley we were down to four.  The wind was now in our faces, and we'd decided to ride back along the dual carriageway, with it being flatter - but flatter often means more exposed, and it was decidedly hard going.  Sean eventually dropped off, and Steve went back too - so by the time we were on the last bit of dual carriageway after Steeton it was just Iain and I.  He flicked his elbow to wave me past, and before I knew it I was on my own - which was not really the intention!  However, I decided to crack on and see how long I could keep going.

I got back to Skipton in about 85 minutes having ridden just under 30 miles, so a respectable average that I'm sure we'll beat when we have more riders.

Sunday dawned very frosty, but Karl was keen to go to Clitheroe to suss out a new frame, so seven of us set off down the A59 to see where we ended up.  After a stop at the bike shop we carried on round Longridge Fell, returning via Cow Ark to Waddington for a brew and a sausage sarnie.  Lovely rolling roads with just the occasional patch of slushy ice to keep you concentrating.

After Bolton-by-Bowland Stuart put the hammer down up the climb, and of course I felt honour bound to chase him.  We rode it fairly fast, and then waited for the rest at the end of the road, and received a sound bollocking from Iain, our Hon Sec, for leaving Dave behind as "he might have had a puncture".  As Dave runs a bike shop, I suspect he'd have been ok, but suitable chastened we set off, only to have said Dave ride past and inform me that "if anyone passes me on a hill I'll smack them in the face".  You'll have to catch them first, Dave...

That rather spoilt a grand day out - both Simon and I were slightly bemused by how grumpy Iain and Dave were, having only been left by about two minutes, especially as the previous Sunday we'd left our club president rather further behind on a very snowy Fleet Moss!  Anyway - one for a debate next week.  72 miles for the day game me over 100 for the weekend, and a respectable 193 for the week.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Nine months? NINE MONTHS?? Where have I been?

I've always been a bit of a hit and miss blogger, and usually get enthusiastic when I'm "doing" something - either running or cycling.  So my long-term absence from here would suggest that I've been eating pies and getting humungously fat.  Well (as Bill Beaumont used to say on Rugby Special), nothing could be further from the truth, Nigel.

I've been cycling.  A lot.  More than I've ever done before.

In my last period of writing this thing I was doing some running with The Reverend Hinsley, who had dropped a significant amount of weight and was spanking my bottom on the track.  He'd been using what he described as "a revolutionary weight-loss technique consisting of eating less shit and doing more exercise".  And in May, always one for a faddy diet, I gave it a go.

I've been using an app and website called MyFitnessPal, which simply allows you to record what's going in and what you're using up.  It gives you a calorie allowance depending on how much weight you're looking to lose and how active your job is.  Mine is "sedentary" and I was looking to lose 2lbs a week, so I only got 1200 calories a day - but what made the big difference for me was that you can "earn" extra calories by exercising.  The website has some calories usage calculations in it (so 8min mile running for 30 minutes earns you about 600 calories) that are reckoned to be a bit generous, but I was taking every one I could get.

So what this meant is that I went from doing almost no exercise to doing something pretty much every day - and by June I'd lost about 15lbs and my calorie-earning exercise of choice had become almost entirely bike based.  It was a really virtuous circle - riding my bike helped me lose weight, and losing weight helped me ride my bike, and as it got easier (and, if I'm honest, I got faster and started to keep up with and eventually drop people I'd struggled to ride with) it got more fun - so I did it more.  A twenty mile ride after work became a pleasurable way to wind down rather than an effort.  My mate Bob has also lost a shedload of weight, and got miles quicker on his bike, which is also a real help.

Herb and I did the White Rose medium route in about 5 hours 30 on a mega hot day - got a Gold standard and were in the top 30 times out of over 300 riders.  I did the Coast to Coast in a day, 127 miles at an average of over 16mph.  I hired a bike every day we were in Mallorca in the summer and rode over 300 miles on holiday. And then went to Mallorca in September and absolutely smashed (and I mean out of sight) my times on all the main climbs, including taking nearly 25 minutes off my time up the biggie of Puig Major.  I had a blast on Sa Callobra, chasing about forty city-boy charity riders, and generally had a fabulous time.

And then it got to the autumn, when I traditionally "rest", drink too much and generally go massively backwards.  Only this year I didn't.

A new winter bike, some inordinately expensive lights and a determination not to lose what I've gained (well, gain what I've lost, but you get the picture) has seen me maintain pretty good mileage (never less than 150 miles a week and usually nearer 200) and keep most of the weight off.

I actually hit my low point weight wise in September and October, when I was around 12st 4lbs (78kg) - which is a full stone lighter than I was in 2009 when I got a glowing report at my medical.  Over the festive season I put maybe 10lbs on, but a week into the New Year and I'm back at 12st 8lbs, and back to eating sensibly and of course still riding the bike.

The weather's been vile recently, but there is a perverse pleasure in getting out in the dark and the rain and the wind - this week's mileage will be pretty low - it's Friday and assuming I get another 20 or 25 in this evening I won't have hit my magic "100 miles for the working week", and as it's Skipton CC's inaugural Saturday Chaingang tomorrow (which will be about 30 miles or so) then I don't expect to be much over 170 for the week.  But that's still almost inconceivable mileage from a year ago, when if I did 75 miles in a week I'd think I'd done well.

I've been running a bit - I'm trying to do one run a week now, but if I'm honest I don't enjoy it as much as the bike, although it's a good thing to do when time is short or I'm travelling.

So - what am I going to do with all this fitness?  Well I've entered the Fred Whitton AND the Etape du Dales - we find out about the Fred this weekend.  They're only a week apart, so that'll be an interesting seven days, assuming we get into the Fred.  I'm going to do some time-trials, and might even have a go at road racing.  Mallorca 2014 is booked for September, and my bike's booked on the flight to summer hols in July.  But before any of that I've got another half a stone to lose.

Best get back to it...