Saturday, 23 May 2009

Pain is just weakness leaving your body.

Getting to grips with interval training. Tuesday is intervals day according to Boot Camp. One straightforward approach to this is to do a warm up ride to Alloa and then do the interval sprints on the way back which is gently uphill. It's easy to control the heart rate because the surface is smooth. It takes about 40 minutes to warm up and I get one 5 minute interval in before the turn around. 5 minutes seems like a very long time when you're trying to maintain your heart-rate at 85-90% of the maximum. For me this is around 172-180 bpm.

The intervals on the way home are really tough: 5 mins on, 2 mins off to get the HR back down. The theory is that intervals make you faster and increase the anaerobic threshold. All the time I'm thinking that I don't need to be fast for a race like the Transalp, but it would be a handy attribute nonethless and there is the enticing possibility of finishing in 18th place rather than 19th in an SXC race to motivate me onwards through the pain.

Monday, 18 May 2009

SXC torture.

SXC round 3 was at Laggan yesterday. It's showery on the way up the road and I haven't slept very well.

After registration/faffing(on my part), Dave and I do a part-lap as a warm up before gathering at the back of the start corral. By the time the countdown reaches zero for the "auld 'uns" to go I've cooled down again so it's a rude shock to the system to have to sprint up the hill to catch Dave who has managed a better start without getting boxed in. I catch him on the first corner having overtaken what I imagine to be most of the Veterans' field.

I hang on to Dave up the long fireroad but I'm suffering from the initial effort. There's a lot of jostling for position as most of the Veterans' field pass us again, I imagine. After a few minutes I regain control of my breathing and swap places with Dave to try to reel in Sandy Wallace. The climb is OK and takes us up to the top of the Laggan Red trail. We catch Sandy on one of the corners on the first descent and then we're on to familiar, fast descents. There's a short singletrack climb before the long descent which Dave loses me on. Either he's too fat or I'm too skinny, but either way it favours him (I suspect there's a skill differential in there too, but I'm not going to consider that as a possibility).

We regroup on the fireroad after the finish line and try to keep the speed up on the climb. Laps 2-4 have a bit of mossy/rooty/muddy singletrack thrown in on the climb which is slow but is a nice break from trying to sprint up the road. Dave is starting to pull ahead on the climbs as well as leaving me on the downhills and I'm suffering a wee bit. We overtake one or two and a couple of the Elite females overhaul us. We try to stay with them for the view, "Might as well follow someone..." Dave notes.

The climbing hurts a bit but the whole experience is nowhere near as brutal as I imagined. The downhills are great fun and by the time we cross the finish line I'm tired but feeling pretty good. Maybe Boot Camp is having some kind of benefit after all. I manage the 4 laps in 1hr 34mins. Dave is 40 seconds quicker and the majority of the Veterans' field have been in for some time - Iain Nimmo wins in 1:16. Dave and I bag 17th and 19th place respectively from a field of 37 starters, which I'm fairly pleased with. Most of all, though, I really enjoyed myself and I'm hungry for more.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Boot Camp - week two.

I was a bit lax with Boot Camp last week. A mix of other commitments and a growing aversion to being cold and pish-wet through meant that I didn't do my 12 hours. Chris and I had a couple of hours at Glentress on Saturday which, for a Saturday, was strangely deserted. I think everyone else had gone home because it was raining and windy again. My car was aquaplaning on the way over to pick Chris up (no fault of my new "Goodride*" tyres which were hastily shoved on it to get it through its MOT). We put in a solid two hours at the end of which my bike had turned a uniform grey colour and we looked like mud-men effigies.

This week I've been much more diligent and I've really enjoyed my riding. Tuesday I rode to and from work and went exploring on the homeward leg. The wind has been pretty strong all week, from the east which means it's a bit on the cold side, but it blew me home via some excellent new commuting options which reduces the road:off-road ratio to around 1:4.

On Wednesday evening I met Dave at the Water of Leith carpark in Currie and we managed a good 3 1/2 hours in the Pentlands. The wind made it really hard work in places but it was a beautiful sunny evening. I felt really good and strong on the long hills like Monk's Rig up from Ninemileburn to West Kip, though still made an arse of the Green Cleugh climb, almost colliding with Dave ahead of me. We finished after sunset with the now customary descent of the Poet's Glen in the gloaming, using The Force to negotiate the last bit before the road.

I'm pretty confident in asserting that Scotland is the windiest country in Europe (which is enough to make it a fact), and the same wind is present on Thursday evening as well. Once again the sun is out and the local trails are lovely and dry. I get home at sunset, feeling a contentedness that not even the MP's expenses row can unbalance.

Friday. Rest. Tick.

Today (Saturday). Rain. Tick. Boot Camp demands 4 hours of flattish road riding with 2x45 min sessions at 80% intensity so I head out in the afternoon to tour the neighbourhood. An easy warm up takes me west to Allo-a where it seems to have rained more than it has in Dunfermline. I manage one of my 45 min sessions on the way back but I spend all of it cycling into the rooster-tail of muddy surface water thrown up by my front wheel. I'd dressed optimistically since it was quite warm and sunny when I left, but this has left me pish-wet through and cold. My feet are numb. It's mid-May, for crying out loud...

Unlike the rest of the week (and my new car tyres), today wasn't a good ride. Tomorrow is SXC torture at Laggan. I wonder what that will be like?

(* I'm too lazy to Google it, but wasn't there a James Bond lovely called something like Felicity Goodride?)

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Boot Camp begins.

This week is the beginning of the 11-week plan. Day 1 went perfectly - rest. Day 2 was meant to be speed work - 4x5 minute intervals at 90% intensity. Instead, I spent the evening lugging breeze blocks from the pavement up to the back of the garden which left me feeling exercised, even if it wasn't very speedy.

Tonight called for a long easy ride; 3hrs with 3x10 minute sessions at 80% intensity and hills at the end. Dave and I head for the Pentlands. I spend all day expecting/hoping for a text to say "Weather too pish. Not going" but it doesn't arrive so I get changed and head across to Currie to meet Dave. I've got a sore back from the breeze block "speed work" and I'm doped up on ibuprofen. And it's raining and windy. The ride starts with a nice warm up through the trees to Balerno but before long it heads up onto Exponential Hill and my heart rate is too high even in a very low gear. The training plan counsels "back off from the burn", but to do that I'd have to get off the bike and sit down for a while. It seems to take me ages to get properly warmed up and we're up the Red Road and onto Hare Hill before the strong wind is at our backs and I'm starting to feel comfortable.

The climb out of Green Cleugh is as hard as ever and I make the usual mistake of going at it in too low a gear so that I can't generate enough torque and my back wheel spins out. The fast descent down the side of Black Hill is pretty sketchy with a thin film of mud in places which causes some barely-controlled high speed drifts. When we reach the road at Glencorse we've only been on the move for 1hr 20 so we turn right up the road and into the wind, battling past Loganlea Reservoir and back towards Green Cleugh. The wind is being funneled through the narrow defile and we take 15 seconds each at the front to spread the workload. By the time we make it back to Exponential Hill, the "3x10 mins @ 80%" plan has gone right out the window so we enjoy the singletrack descent down beside the road and a quick return to the cars via Harlaw and the Poet's Glen. We're soaked to the skin and the bikes look like they've been on a typical winter ride. Boot Camp takes no prisoners.

I felt strong at the end of the ride, despite taking an age to warm up. Average HR - 159bpm. Dave's - 129bpm! I must have some hummingbird DNA.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Good Days and Bad Days

Good days the climbs are a breeze of swift pedaling clearing any obstacle that is presented and the descents are mastered with the speed of Steve Peat chasing that world cup title. At the end of the ride you feel like you could go on and on, there is a smug self satisfied feeling that it has been a good day.

The Knlochleven trip had been a good day the SXC had been a relatively good day. Today was not a good day. There are times when a drunk at the end of the night and a cyclist have a lot in common. Both are on auto pilot with the goals of getting home and getting food. The world looks different from normal and when you move your head from side to side the world moves at a different speed. This was how I had felt tonight for the last part of my ride. Low blood sugar is very like being drunk just a lot more painful.

The plan was for Katy and I to cycle on the road from my home to my mum and dads where we were to have dinner at 7:30. The route was round Cademuir along to Innerleithen on the back road then over the granites to Goredbridge before taking the retun road over the moor past Roseberry estate then onto the A703 through Eddleston. Google maps said something like 45miles I can't remember exactly and I am still in recovery mode. In other words it wasn't that long a cycle for someone who is doing the Transalp in July.

The training schedule Stuart and I are following for the 11 week lead up to the race says vary the pace don't ride medium all the time. So with that in mind I would do some 3minute efforts during the ride.

We eventually got away from the house at 5:15 then we had some faffing with my seat and the Katys cleats on her new bling shoes on our way to Inners. The wind was right in our face and this continued the whole way round our circular route. It was sunny so our spirits were high and we swapped the lead working together to share the wind like a Tour de France break away going for the finish line. Cresting the climb up the granites from Inners was the signal to start the first effort. Katy would follow in my slip stream with her restricted youth gears making it difficult to keep up with me.......well that was the theory. I lasted about 30s then my engine spluttered and stalled I let Katy slip in front and I watched as she disappeared of in the distance. I didn't know it then but here was a perfect example of a good day(katy) mixed with a bad day(me). I caught up after the 3minutes had passed and she slowed down.

We had some climbing after this and the ever present wind meant we were that Tour de France breakaway again swapping the lead. Only this time I was the guy you see on the Tour who is struggling never quite doing enough work and you know he isn't going to be there to contest the win its just a matter of when. Over the top its 3minute effort time, Katy shoots off and I grit my teeth and give it everything to catch her slip stream clawing my way slowly forward into the relief from the wind. After I recover and can see straight I notice we are flying down the hill despite this damned wind. I take a short spell at the front but really there is nothing in the tank.

At this point I feel okay although I know I'm not in top form. We follow a network of back road with very few signs using the Pentlands and Arthurs seat as navigation aids. The wind is relentless sapping every pedal stroke and the cold is eking away any energy that is left. There is nothing for it but dig in and keep slogging away. When we hit a short downhill followed by a short steep uphill Katy comes flying past me powering up the climb and it hits me I am done in,my legs are like two pieces of lead, I creep up the hill after her. At the top we stop so I can text my parents to let them know we are okay, its 7:30 we will be late for dinner. I shake my head and know all is not right the world is moving much slow than it should, I feel slightly detached and my legs are fecked.

The road crossing the moor from Gore bridge to the Peebles/Edinburgh Road(A703) is a great cycling road. Its quiet, the scenery is fantastic and its interesting with lots of turns and undulations. I don't care, it feels like a Siberian wind is cutting into me, its pushing me backwards, I just want to get home and more than anything I want to eat.

Katy and I do some swapping of the lead but the reality is that I do about 10% on the front just to give her a bit of breather and she drags me along 90% of the time. My legs somehow keep going and finally I see Cowieslinn quarry in the distance which is the other side of the A703.

Down on the main road the wind is less than on the exposed moor road and its time for the final 3minute effort. The cereal bars I had 20 mins ago must be taking effect because I decide to follow Katy keeping in her slip stream for the effort. She sprints off and its agony getting out of the saddle straining my muscles to their limit to keep up and get into the treasured slipstream. 500metres later both my legs lock up with cramp and screaming in agony I skid to a halt unable to get off the road or get off my bike. Katy comes back to check on me and eventually I can make enough small movements without the extreme agony of cramping locked muscles to get off the road. Once I have recovered Katy heads off for her final 3minutes effort while I concentrate on the effort of turning one pedal after the other to get home.

The look on my mum and dads face when we arrive is like the time I broke my wrist or fell of the roof and cracked my heal bone or the time I came off my road bike outside the house and took all the skin off my forearm and had a large hole in my elbow. Well you get the idea I didn't look well. Lindy was less worried having seen me in much worse states. I sat down immediately and ate everything put in front of me thanking Katy for getting me home. It was 8:30 we had battled that damned wind for 3 hours and 7 minutes

A bad day I hope I don't have any of them during the Transalp................