Sunday, February 26, 2012

Starting to get tough now…

Today I woke up still feeling yesterday's ride. And that's a first. The last two weekends had been taken slightly easy by doing 30 and then 35 miles on the indoor bike. Without a headwind, bumpy roads, traffic etc it's a much easier session - with the added bonus of being close to home at all times. Yesterday was on the road, and I know it.

The plan was for a 10 mile figure of eight to be taken 4 times to hit my 40 mile goal. Wanting to make things optimal (in my head, if not reality!), I checked wind speed and direction and choose the direction I would take. About 2 miles west, 1 mile south, 4 miles east (with a near perfect following wind), and then the final 3 miles in a loop back to the start.

Carbed up, the Camelbak loaded to the brim, and sufficient Lucozade gels on board (or so I thought) I set out.

The first loop went well, a niggling pinch on my left ankle resolved by loosening the overshoes, and I completed it feeling reasonable strong and stopped for a bit of fuel and set off again.

The second loop was reasonably OK and improved by the thought that the next time I was passing any point it would be the penultimate time - spot the headology!). But it was spoiled a tad by some bright thing whizz in past on his lightweight road bike at nearly twice the speed I was making.

During the third circuit it started to get tough, especially when the consequences of drinking so much became obvious - but more importantly I was beginning to feel I might not make it. Contingency planning began in earnest, and I resolved to do the final 3 mile loop twice and return home for a quick break before finishing the task. Those last 6 miles really dragged out and the option to reverse one loop really played badly as the winds picked up to boot. But I got home and grabbed some more carbs and set off in a glum mood.

The next seven miles were hellish. I felt a spent force and even with the wind behind me at times at times I could not summon the effort to pedal. Simply standing up in the pedals and freewheeling felt a bless├ęd relief. Twice I just had to pull over and take a breather. I wasn't out of breath, indeed if you had come up to me for a chat I would probably have seemed fine. I just had nothing in my body to propel me.

But I made it home, and watched some rugby. That evening we formed a quiz team with our neighbours and came a creditable joint 4th (John Galsworthy and Mount McKinley the "where did they come from answers"). Returning home I ended the day with a long hot soak for my back.

Since finishing yesterday I've had a bit of a thick head, and despite drinking loads (thinking it was dehydration) have only just realised it's probably my neck overly stiff from the chill (despite the lovely day it was a bit fresh out) . Next time I'll wear the neck roll that keeps the chill out. A legacy from 5 rear end collisions with whiplash.

So lessons?
As Mrs B points out, only a few weeks ago I was feeling pretty knackered after half such a distances, and the previous two weeks were indoors.
But after all of those I did at least feel a few hours later I could have managed them again. Twenty-fours later I still don't feel that today.
But, then again I did at least do this (pretty much) in one fell swoop. Only another 10 miles would have completed the first day of the ride, and without a proper pause for a meal or something at midday.
Lastly, I do have to remember that I still have 3 months to go, having only been back on a bike for about 2 months after a gap of nearly 3 decades. Maybe I shouldn't beat myself up too much. But I'm most definitely not looking forward to next week's 50 miler. But at least that is split in half by the charity lunch at the rugby club!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

And so, the mileage has to increase.

Well, yesterday was interesting. The training plan for the ride had 30-40 miles down as the requirement this time.
Getting up, and looking out of the windows, I immediately knew that my hopes for safe roads was gone for a Burton, so plan B (the indoor cycling machine) was needed for the first time.

To date, the midweek runouts have been pretty short really (under an hour) and therefore not intimidating. The weekend ones (of 2 hours or so) have been time bound so I just get on with it. But now I had to go out for a specific, long, distance.

In the pub on Thursday (bar billiards league, not drinking!) I was reminiscing with a friend about my first summer job at Ford HQ in Warley, Brentwood. My parents lived in Loughton, and I was back from uni to work - so my route was from home to Ilford or Romford railway station by bike (about 10 miles), train to Brentwood, and then cycle the mile up the hill to the office. And the do it all in reverse in the evening. 22 miles (or so) a day, dressed in (albeit student standard) work clothes. No bib shorts with padding, no Camelbak to keep me hydrated, and (perhaps most significantly) no fear of busy London suburb traffic. But that was 31 years and another life ago.

In my second half century now, things are different and I got on the bike with trepidation. The anticipation of a counter that read 0.00 miles and knowing that it had to get to 30 before I could finish was not encouraging. But, having fought my way through the snow drifts (and the logs left behind from the abandoned due to bad weather tree trimming) to the barn where the machine is I started. I had chosen Pink Floyd to accompany me yesterday morning - I hope that the noisy Animals, The Wall, and The Final Cut would prove a sufficient distraction - with Pigs On The Wing Part 1 gently introducing one of favourite albums, from one of my favourite bands, I started.

And so they did distract.

Just over a couple of hours later, with a some refuelling breaks (I've learned my lesson now of trying to do this sort of thing on just a bowl of cereal!) the counter reached 30.0 as Not Now John came to a finish.

To the more experienced cyclist this is probably pretty small beer. But to someone who's done little sport since an electrocution left him with a displaced vertebrae in the small of the back (with the consequential ever present back pain) it's pretty big beer.

For the first time since I signed up for this madness, I can see how I might actually achieve it. I have a very long way to go. The mileage yesterday would only get me a bit over halfway through day 1, and about halfway on any of the subsequent days. But the fact I didn't feel dead for the rest of the day is good.

Lessons learned?
- indoors is physically much easier without the lumps and bumps of the open road, traffic, and a headwind.
- the saddle on the indoor machine is rubbish
- music whilst you work is good!
- it's nice to cycle without 4 layers of clothing to keep you from freezing
- it's really *really* nice to know that 4 miles from home I can just stop and be there, rather than have those 4 miles to cycle (as has happened a couple of times before I started to take calories out with me!)
- I much prefer progress to be shown in 100ths of a mile instead of 10ths (once the mileage reaches 10 the counter goes to 1dp). As there is a sense of constant ticking over.

I spent the rest of the day well. Lunch was a lovely piece of rare to blue steak with some stir fried green veg (I tend not to cook steak at home as restaurants do it so well, but this time I did a half decent job although my judgement might have been skewed!).
England won a hard fought match against Italy in the snow and improved a bit on last week's win (more width in defence).

The day was wrapped up with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. The 2011 film. I was troubled that this film was made, as I could not see how the BBC TV series could be bettered. But the loud praise could not be ignored. The film was done well, but…
- the “need to do some CGI” efforts to make it look 1973 were pretty poor in places. Notably the shot of the bridge and St Paul's Cathedral dome; and another of 2 characters walking through a gate with a clearly green screened background.
- it does help if the person who is watching it with you (and is not familiar with the premise and tale!) does not read the paper for the first 15 minutes and need a full debrief afterwards!!
But, it exceeded expectations, and the acting was good, and I was mostly able to forget the actors from 1979.

But that was yesterday. It'll need repeating (and more) over the coming weeks and months. But for now I bask in satisfaction and Marillion on the HiFi.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

England win the Calcutta Cup, but how were they really?

There were many things not so good with England's game. And if the Scots hadn't mucked up so much, it would probably have been a different result. But, compared with the miserable World Cup 2011 squad:
* tacklers rolled away quickly
* players arrived quickly at the breakdown
* tackling was strong and consistent
* players didn't give away silly penalties in our half (well not many!)
* players played to the ref, not to their interpretation of the rules
* they seemed to be committed to winning
* they had pride and passion
* they were a team

On the downside
* they let Scotland gift them the game
* they were far too narrow in defence, although Scotland let them get away with it

Overall, I think this is possibly quite a good start to the 4 year campaign for a 2015 World Cup Victory.

File under optimist!

Friday, February 03, 2012

In case you were wondering - this is what a 350 mile cycle ride looks like (diversions not included)

Click on the image for a large scale map!

Week 6 of training for a 350mile bike ride - how is it going?

Well, I've been incredibly lucky with the weather really.  Nearly all my training rides have been in good sunshine and dry roads.  The downside is that it has be fiercly cold, and sometimes quite breezy (understatement).

I'm very pleased that so far I am still sticking to the training plan issued, and not missed a single run out.  The last two weekends have been rides of about 25 miles.  Perhaps not so far to many who have a degree of fitness already (and are in their 1st half century of life, not the second!); but to this poor old sap who's not really properly training/exercised for 30 years it's a big deal.

The new kit I got a couple of weeks ago and since has really changed things:
  • Cleats and shoes.  The first time I went out with my shoes clipped into the pedals was a revelation. I should think it is worth about 15-20% power improvement
  • Proper padded bib shorts.  The three interfaces with the bike (hands, feets, backside) all take a bit of impact.  The latter the most.  Cycling whilst sat on a razor blade is not much fun, and the new shorts really do take a lot of pain out of the process.  I still haven't got the position and rake of the saddle quite right, but I can see how I might possibly survive the trip now.
  • Warmer clothing.  For the last 2 weeks the temperatures have been around freezing point.  I have (ahem) invested in some more layers and wind+waterproof kit that meant today's shorter ride finished with some feeling in my feet and hands
  • Energy input.  Last weekend I simply ran out of gas.  The last 6 miles home I was running on fumes alone.  Afterwards I realised that (based on davesbikeblog) that I was running a deficit of many hundreds of calories for hte morning.  It was no surprise therefore that I almost didn't make it home!
So what am I working on?
  • Energy Input 1.  Having spoken to a few friends, I'm putting a 50/50 water/energy drink mix into my camelbak.  The last 2 rides don't seem to have been easier, but I reckon my recovery was faster.
  • Energy Input 2.  I don't like to eat whilst riding, opening the bars, and then holding something for a bit isn't too clever for me!  So I'm looking into the options to get a quick decent input, and then continue the ride
  • New routes. from next week the program increased the mileages again, so I'm looking at more routes that give me some variation, and also keep me off the busiest roads in the area.
Oh, and finally.  I had my first accident on board.  After being out for the whole run, I unclipped from the pedals and then rode the last few yards to the house.  What I hadn't realised was that my right foot had reclipped, so when I came to halt, and put my right leg out to stand on, nothing moved.  Just like Delboy in Only Fools and Horses, I gracefully fell in an upright position onto the gravel drive.
My right knee now has 6 holes in it!
The bike is OK BTW.

Oh, and of course And of course if you want to sponsor my Help For Heroes Big Battlefield Bike Ride, Please click here