Signs of improvement

I’ve not done as much training as I’d like recently due to real life getting in the way – sleep, work, kids, the usual! My knees have recovered from my sled-pulling exploits and I’m ready to go again.

I did a 56km ride last Friday which went well, I was feeling surprisingly good for the first hour and a half and had considered pushing on to do another hour.

However, this soon changed as I decided to have a go on one of the local hills, Hadleigh Road.

It’s a short hill but it’s very steep. I went up it very slowly, my speed was in single digits I think! My cadence was in the 50s. I got to the top without any problems but my legs were very unhappy! So I stayed with the original plan of doing 50km. I felt as if I’m getting stronger and fitter which is always good.

I’ve also started trying to do at least 10km when I cycle to circuit training. It’s only 2km in a straight line but I try to take a longer route (when time allows) to get a bit more distance in. This runs the risk of then having to do a “leg day” at circuit training but it’s been OK so far! My distance for the year is alright – it could be better but I’m doing OK. I’m going to try and do another long ride this Friday (before the snow comes again, yay!) and then maybe a few Zwift sessions to boost my FTP.

Charity

I’ve finally got around to setting up a JustGiving page for RideLondon. This year I’ll be raising money for the British Heart Foundation, to honour the memory of an old friend and my father, as well as thanking the BHF for their help when I was having heart tests back in 2014. I’ve set a target of £100 but hopefully I can beat this. I feel a little guilty asking for money to do something that I enjoy doing, but it would be nice to raise money for a good cause.

Stop-start training

Training has not been going that smoothly, although I’ve done a few decent rides. I managed a half-century in very windy conditions which took a lot out of me, but I’m pleased I was able to do the distance regardless.

The route was mostly flat although it’s rolling around the reservoir. There’s also one significant climb in Rayleigh (London Hill). I used to do a paper round in that area and would regularly ride up London Hill with two bags of Sunday papers, I have no idea how I used to manage it!

The weather has also not been kind thanks to ‘The Beast from the East’ and Storm Emma. The snow has only just cleared away, so I’ve done a few Zwift rides. I finally worked out how to change the starting FTP so I was able to complete an FTP test. Zwift claims my FTP is 103W which feels relatively low. I’m not convinced the calibration with my dumb turbo trainer is correct, but at least it gives me a baseline to work from. My average heart rate through the 20 minutes was 177 which will also help work out heart rate zones when I’m out and about. I’d love to get a power meter but they’re too expensive for me at the moment.

I had hoped to get out for a 50km ride today but I didn’t get much sleep last night. My knee is also playing up a little – I think it’s on account of pulling the kids on a sled through the snow last week! Hopefully it will clear up soon.

I’ve also signed up to raise money for the British Heart Foundation during RideLondon – I’ll update my Charity page with links once I’ve got everything setup.

Pros back in the swing of things

It’s great that the pro-cycling season is back under way properly, with the classics starting and Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico about to start. Can’t wait for Milan-San Remo in a couple of weeks! Strade Bianchi looked very gruelling. There are some awesome pictures of the riders covered in dirt, such as this one of the winner Tiesj Benoot.

Embed from Getty Images

RideLondon-Surrey 100 2018 here we come!

My RideLondon ballot result came through yesterday. I was very lucky in the first year (2013) but each year since has seen the “Commiserations” magazine drop through the letterbox. However, this year I have a place!

RideLondon 2018 magazine

I’m both very excited and a little apprehensive. RideLondon 2013 was one of the best things I’ve ever done and I can’t wait to experience it again. The closed roads, the crowds, riding with so many people! However, it does mean I need to start training again more seriously. I had been planning on taking things relatively easy for a couple of months whilst I build my core muscles and general fitness. I think though that I need to start doing some longer rides in the meantime. I’m going to check my Strava log for 2013 to see what I did.

One thing I need to remember though is that when I got the ballot result in 2013, my longest ride ever at that time was ~40km. I did a 50km ride last week so in theory I’m in a better starting place. I’m also generally fitter. I probably weigh about a stone more though so need to watch what I eat for a while.

Zwift

I had a go at Zwift on Monday as it was snowing outside. It’s something I’ve been meaning to try for ages; I bought a USB ANT+ receiver a long time ago. My laptop is a little under-powered but thankfully it was up to the job. I went for a ride around London (including going down into a Tube station and riding through a tunnel!) I also had the indignity of being overtaken on a hill by a jogger! Foolishly I thought I wouldn’t need a fan as it was freezing outside, but I had to stop after 40 minutes as I was too sweaty.

I’ll definitely give it another go – I’m planning on doing an FTP test tomorrow. I’ll probably subscribe for a month or two until it gets warmer out!

January 2018

January has gone really quickly, but I’ve made a decent amount of progress. According to VeloViewer, I managed 217km in the month of January, which is the most I’ve managed since 2014! So it’s a good start for reaching my target of 2,000km in 2018.

Long ride(ish)

I also managed a 50km ride this week:

It was only just over 50km, and that’s because it was so windy – over half my ride was cycling into a headwind and it really took it out of me! I also did a bit of climbing (much more than I have done recently, anyway) which took it out of me. My legs have been aching as a result this week. That wasn’t helped by Wednesday being “leg day” at circuit training! My calf muscles have been a bit tight since (I blame the skipping) but hopefully if I continue stretching they should get stronger and mean I can start running again. I’m not a fan of running but it’s much easier to go for a run than a bike ride, so it should lead to me losing some weight. Then I can buy more cycling clothing!

Not long to go now until the RideLondon ballot results are known. Fingers crossed that I get a place, but even if I don’t I’m still going to aim to ride 100 miles at some point during the year. This might be as part of a sportive or on my own, I’ll have to look and see what is available.

Apart from the tight calf muscles things seem reasonably good from a cycling perspective, and as cycling is part of what keeps me sane this can only be a good thing! I’m hoping February will see me ride a similar distance to January and perhaps I can start work on improving my Eddington number…

Making a little progress

I’ve not cycled a great deal since my last post. I’m still very busy with work (although I’ve finally caught up with the Christmas backlog). The weather has also been very unfriendly – it’s been cold and very windy. I’ve managed a couple of longer rides and I’m still cycling to circuit training two or three times a week. The main thing to write about is that I haven’t injured myself! I even went for a run one day at circuit training and survived unscathed. Well, I say run, it was definitely more of a jog and it wasn’t that far, but it was far enough for me!

I’m definitely feeling the benefits of circuit training and I’m hoping this will eventually translate onto the bike. We’ve done some leg work which has left my legs feeling sore – I hate squats! My core should also be getting stronger, and hopefully I can shift some weight around my middle so my cycling clothes are not quite so skin-tight.

My longest ride so far in 2018 has been 28.1km – not a massive distance, but better than nothing. I’m not quite doing enough to average 2,000km for the year but I’m close enough.

I’m hoping I can find time for a longer ride this weekend but the weather forecast looks typically awful. I might even get around to testing out my USB ANT+ stick and see if Zwift will work on my laptop!

Tour Down Under

The cycling season is back under way, but because it’s in Australia it’s finished by the time I wake up! It’s good to see the sprints being shared out so far, and surprising to see Sagan win today’s stage. I guess he’s in great shape which doesn’t bode well for everyone else!

Embed from Getty Images

Hoping for a more active 2018

2017 was not a great year for me on the bike. I didn’t even manage 1900km all year, my lowest effort since I started cycling in 2012 (not including the year I was waiting for hernia surgery!) Here’s my Strava video showing my not-so-glorious stats:

This has partly been down to lack of time and partly down to injuries – I always seemed to have a pulled hamstring or calf muscle. So I’m hoping 2018 is the year I get properly fit again. Hopefully my circuit training will improve my core strength and overall fitness.

My targets for the year are:

  • Beat last year’s distance, at least 2000km but preferably much more.
  • Complete one century – either an organised ride (hoping for a RideLondon place!) or just a ride on my own.
  • Increase my Eddington Number – I’m currently at 36 miles/55km, I’d like to get to 40 miles/60km.

I’ve only managed one ride so far this year as I’ve been ridiculously busy catching up with work that I missed over Christmas.

Just the standard 24km, hopefully I can manage some longer rides once I’ve caught up with work. I’m hoping to do 30 minutes or so tomorrow on my way to circuit training. I may yet live to regret this!

World Tour 2018

Pro cycling returns next week with the Tour Down Under which promises to be a decent race. I realise it’s not as serious or important as the Spring Classics but it’ll be good to see some proper racing again. It promises to be an intriguing season – I just hope all the nonsense with Chris Froome is sorted out quickly. If he races/wins the Giro or Tour and then gets it taken away it would not benefit anyone.

It’ll be strange to have the Classics without Boonen and Cancellara – I wonder if Sagan will fill in a few holes in his palmarès, strange to think he only has one Monument to his name.

Finally found my way around the reservoir

I was pretty busy all of last week but I managed a couple of rides – one was just my usual 24km route but the other was much longer at 62km. If I had been fitter and not completely broken I would have tried to extend the route to get to 64km but it wasn’t going to happen!

I’d set off with the idea of getting to the reservoir and back, and I seemed to be making good time. I had never actually succeeded in doing a loop of the reservoir – last time I tried I took a wrong turn and ended up in Chelmsford! But I didn’t think it would take too long. I was mistaken!

I also don’t remember the terrain around the reservoir being up and down – the headwind probably didn’t help! It took me much longer than anticipated and my legs were starting to complain. At least I know I wasn’t imagining it as MyWindsock demonstrates:

mywindsock cycling weather

I had a tailwind on the way back thankfully so I wasn’t too slow, but I did crawl to a halt going up London Hill which touches 11% near the top. I used to do a paper round around there and remember Sundays being particularly difficult, but not as difficult as I found it yesterday! I made it to the top though.

Goodbye Alberto

I was really pleased to see Contador get his stage win on the Angliru. It’s a shame he had his off day in Andorra as he might have been a threat in GC otherwise. Hats off to Froome – it’s an awesome achievement which should see him knighted and nominated for Sports Personality of the Year, but it wouldn’t surprise me if neither happens. I hope he goes for the Giro to complete the set of Grand Tours.

Embed from Getty Images

The Tour of Britain wasn’t quite as exciting – Cav was obviously working for Boasson Hagen as he regains fitness, and Ewan/Gaviria seemed to be missing something. I hope they have a better parcours next year.

Almost the end of summer

I guess today is the end of summer from a calendar point of view, but I think today was probably one of the last good sunny days for a ride. Luckily I managed to get out for a 40km ride. I haven’t had much time for the bike recently due to real-life commitments. All I need is a lottery win and I’ll have a bit more free time!

I’ve discovered two useful Strava-related services. These are Relive and MyWindsock. Relive lets you view a video of your route using Google Map’s satellite view. If you’ve taken any photos on your ride it’ll add them at the various locations where you took them. Pretty useful! They don’t allow embedded videos or downloads yet, but here is a link to my ride this morning.

MyWindsock takes your ride and shows you which way the wind was blowing. So now if you have one of those horrible rides where every direction is into the wind, you’ll be able to know for sure! The map below shows that I had a less than 50% headwind today which sounds about right.

mywindsock cycling weather

La Vuelta

We’re over halfway through the Vuelta now and it looks as though Froome is going to win it. It’s obviously an amazing achievement but the Sky train doesn’t lead to an exciting GC race. Given the lack of sprint stages it doesn’t make for exciting viewing. It’s a shame Contador had a day of being ill but at least he tried something today. Hopefully he’ll manage a stage win or even a massive ambush.

Embed from Getty Images

The Tour of Britain starts this weekend and promises to be good with several star riders taking part ahead of the World Championships in a few weeks. Fingers crossed that Cav is back to full health and show something in the sprints, but I can see Gaviria winning a lot!

Still suffering with calf problems

It seems like I’m always taking one step forward and two steps back. My calf muscles are still aching and despite constantly stretching them it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. I’m going to start using a tennis ball to do some deep massage, I had a go last night and it was pretty sore afterwards! Hopefully it will have a positive effect.

The calf muscles don’t affect my cycling too much but it would be nice to feel physically healthy for once, I think the last time I felt really fit was in 2014. I was off the bike for all of June, but I’ve managed a few rides since. The first ride was pretty horrible, it has to be said! But my ride yesterday was a bit better and had a decent average speed.

Tour de France

The Tour started off well but has been a bit anti-climactic recently. Stage 4 was obviously full of drama and my initial reaction was that Sagan should be thrown out but probably wouldn’t – at first glance, this image is pretty damning:

But obviously he then did get thrown out! Having seen the replays again I think getting disqualified from the stage would probably have been enough, the elbow didn’t seem deliberate and Demare’s move at the front was probably far worse, it’s just that Cav crashed pretty spectacularly (along with Degenkolb and Swift). I was pretty gutted at Cav having to abandon after he made such an effort just to be there, and he looked reasonably competitive. Unfortunately without Cav and Sagan (and Demare has now gone home too) the sprints are too easy for Kittel and not interesting to watch.

The GC is also not as interesting thanks to Porte’s crash. Thankfully he is OK because that too looked very nasty, but it means that Froome only has to really worry about Aru. Whilst my opinion on Froome has changed over the years, I’d still like to see him actually have to work for the win! Hopefully something spectacular will happen in the next mountain stage.

Getting fitter and faster

After my calf injury-enforced break I’ve managed to do a few rides in the last couple of weeks. My right calf is still a bit tight but I had a massage this weekend which has helped quite a lot! My first ride back was on my mountain bike with Nicky. We rode along the Prittle Brook Greenway. It’s the first time we’ve done it in quite a while, and it was also the first time we’ve started off from home. Previously, I’d drive down to near the start and we’d go from there, but Nicky is getting much stronger and fitter. The only problem was that there were many mayflies along the route which were getting in our eyes and mouths. We came back a different route! I’ve bought Nicky some cycling sunglasses to prevent it happening again.

I managed my longest ride since September 2015 last week! I had been planning a 53km route but the hill I had been planning to go up was closed, so I had to take a detour. It meant I cycled a total of 58.3km, and my average speed was 26.9km/h – I was very happy with that! I cramped up slightly on the last hill but overall I felt pretty good. I even had a wheelsucker at one point!

On Sunday I went for a quick ride around my usual 23.7km route. I was feeling good after my massage the day before and the wind seemed to be in my favour for most of the ride, meaning I almost broke the 50 minute mark for the ride, which I haven’t done in a couple of years at least! I’m hoping this means I’m actually getting fitter and faster.

Giro d’Italia

We’re three days into the Giro and whilst the GC battle has yet to commence, the first few stages have had their moments. It was great watching Pöstlberger attack to get the maglia rosa ahead of the sprinters on stage 1. He was so obviously delighted by the win!

It was exciting to see the echelons in stage 3, instigated as ever by Quick-Step Floors. I like Gaviria so it was good to see him get the win and the maglia rosa. The real action starts tomorrow though and I’m looking forward to it!