Countdown continues…5 weeks to go!

I now have five weeks before I start the Deloitte Ride Across Britain which means one month of training left!  This has given me the added boost I needed after a slight wobble in the training mojo two weeks ago.

Last weekend we had the first really bad weather for what seemed ages with heavy rain on the Saturday and gale force winds and rain on the Sunday.  I went out on a training ride with Carl on the Saturday morning bright and early.  We had great plans to do five climbs on a 100 km loop round the south Wales valleys.  In the end we settled for two major climbs and a shortened ride due to the filthy weather plus the very slippery roads.  Carl normally drops me on the hills – see my previous post under “Gravity”.  This time out the tables were turned and Carl had a very bad day, possibly due to a heavy training week, plus my training was starting to pay off.  I decided to take Sunday off – there was absolutely no point in crashing in the wind and rain so close to the start of the big ride and missing one session wasn’t going to make too much of a difference.

Last week I bought some new shoes and changed the cleats on my old shoes – cleats wear out and become less effective.  This resulted in a slight flare up in my left Achilles heel, a problem I have had in the past.  I have also splashed out on a new bike to replace my Specialized Roubaix as I was finding my Cannondale SuperSix too aggressive and uncomfortable for successive long rides.  I’ve gone and got a Trek Domane – great service from Ride Bikes Wales, a local bike shop at Talbot Green.  I’m a great fan of the cycling formula n+1 for the number of bikes you own!

As a result of getting a new bike and having problems with the cleats on my cycling shoes, I booked a bike fit with Magnus Backstedt at his fitting studio in Newport Backstedt Bike Performance.  Magnus is an ex pro racer and won the Paris Roubaix race (also know as the Hell of the North) in 2004.

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Bike fit with Magnus Backstedt

The bike fit set up involves lots of reflective spheres being stuck on all your joints and a 3D stick man being created by a computer using the feed off six cameras – all very complicated and clever.  It is also a very quick process compared with some other bike fit models and allows almost instantaneous feedback on minute changes.  For example, my saddle was moved down two millimetres in one change.  Magnus also had a look at my cleats and made a few adjustments.

The proof was in the riding!  Two rides round the Chilterns (for the hills) and the Vale of Aylesbury (for less hills) this weekend on the new bike and no problems with the Achilles – yippee!  I even managed a few new personal bests on some of the climbs.  On Sunday I repeated part of the ride I did in April in the Deloitte Ride Across Britain training day.  It showed how much easier it was riding in a group – much faster and less effort required in April despite my increased fitness now.  A great learning point for the ride itself.

Next weekend I have my last organised sportive, the Wye Valley Warrior, starting from Chepstow Racecourse.  It will be a 91 mile ride so a good final test.  At the time of writing this post, the hot weather we’re experiencing may have turned so it may be a test of wet weather riding over a long distance.  Fingers crossed for no rain but slightly reduced temperatures.

On the fundraising front for Dementia UK, I have reached my initial £3,000 target which is absolutely fantastic!  I don’t want to stop at £3,000 but push on and see how much I can raise for such a good cause.  If you would like to sponsor me, you can reach my Virgin Money Giving page here

Six weeks of training to go

I now have six weeks of training to complete before the final week leading up to the start of the Deloitte Ride Across Britain.  There is one sportive planned – the Wye Valley Warrior in the middle of August which will be a 91 mile ride starting from Chepstow Race Course.  Unlike last year, the Wye Valley Warrior will not follow part of the Deloitte Ride Across Britain route – I will have some satisfaction that I have ridden the climb out of Chepstow by the time I get to do it again on 10 September.

To be honest, the ride can’t start soon enough as the constant training is starting to take its toll, not helped by the unremitting hot weather we’ve been having recently.

I need to find some different routes to freshen up the rides and make them a little less monotonous – yes, I still have to concentrate on the traffic and cars overtaking, particularly in the lanes round the Vale of Glamorgan.  However, I now know some of the routes so well that I know where the bumps and nasty water access covers in the road are located.

From a physical point of view, I am probably fitter than I have been for about 10 years or even longer.  It is not just the feeling of being able to cycle for longer but being backed up by statistics.

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Fitness line tracker – good increase since December !

That said, my coffee ride to Cowbridge this morning was the first ride I can remember where I didn’t get any notifications on Strava of a top 3 segment time compared to my previous rides over the same roads – I think this may please my coach as the ride was meant to be a low intensity session (it doesn’t fit well with my competitive side!).

I use a website called Training Peaks to track my training and my coach can set out activities for the each month.

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Training Peaks calendar

Each completed activity goes green in the calendar, missed sessions go red (as do sessions where you exceed the allocated training time – I just go and alter the specified duration!).

The high spot for me this weekend was not on a bike but on my catamaran at Sully Sailing Club where we had a race in a good strong breeze (Force 4-5) on Sunday afternoon.  It was great to have a bit of a blast, trapeezing off the side of the catamaran both up wind and down wind.  The only downside was that the course was a little small (less than 6 minutes a lap) so I couldn’t make full use of all the sails (not enough time to deploy the spinnaker and really fly along!).  Anyway, it was great was a great way to blow away some mental cobwebs.

Next weekend I’m due to do a five hour ride taking in two or three long climbs so it’s going to be up into the south Wales valleys – I think I’ll try a new route to the Bwlch and the Rhigos climbs for a change.  The long range weather forecast for next weekend is about 22 degrees which will be a welcome reduction from this weekend’s 26-28 degrees.

On the fund raising front, my firm Geldards, is donating the proceeds of our monthly Dress Down Day in July to Dementia UK which will be a great way of boosting my running total.  It will also be a fantastic opportunity to tell all of my colleagues about the ride and why I am supporting Dementia UK.

If you would like to help Dementia UK continue and expand its support for families caring for loved ones with dementia, you can donate via my Virgin Money Giving page here You can find out more about the work of Dementia UK here

Chiltern 100 – Hilliest Sportive Yet

On Sunday 15 July I took part in my hilliest sportive to date when I did the Chiltern 100, which as its name suggests, is a 100 mile bike ride round the Chiltern Hills.  For those of you who don’t know, the Chilterns is a beautiful area of woodland and fields north west of London and quite rightly designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  It includes some fantastic estates including Ashridge Estate, the Getty family estate (Wormsley Estate – the starting point of the Brewin Dolphin Ridgeway Rouler this year, see my post in April here) and probably most famously of all, Chequers, the country residence of the Prime Minister which has been in the news about Brexit and the visit to the UK of President Donald Trump.

The ride itself took us passed the Ashridge Estate and was the only time in the ride I stopped to take a photo.  We did pass two entrances to Chequers, however the gates were closed and traffic cones were placed next to the road so I didn’t think it would be a very good idea to stop for a selfie !

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Ashridge House, near Gaddesden Row

As the “Hills” in the Chiltern Hills suggests the area is very hilly!  The Chiltern 100 was advertised as taking us up 10 named hills – take it from me, they could have added a few more names to the hills we did go up, including a climb to the top of Ivinghoe Beacon (part of the National Trust’s Ashridge Estate)!

The route took the participants of the 100 mile route on 2,438 m of climbing or 7,998 feet.  I am sure I could have found an extra 2 feet of elevation to get to 8,000 feet.  My ride time was 6 hours 20 minutes which I am very pleased with considering that the the temperature went above 30 degrees in the full sun.  I think we were lucky that a lot of the ride took place on roads through the stunning woodland which gave some much welcomed shade, although the tree cover may have stopped some GPS units from getting a signal.

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View south from the top of Bledlow Ridge (taken on Saturday)

I went on a ride on Saturday up some of the hills (including Whiteleaf, a climb local to my mother’s home) and my GPS said I had stopped moving at some points on the climbs when I definitely hadn’t stopped to walk.  I changed the settings on Sunday to avoid the annoying beeps! You can see my Chiltern 100 ride in a fly over mode here thanks to a nifty app from Relive Just check out the elevation graphic plus when my heart rate maxes out on a climb!

To put all this into perspective, the Deloitte Ride Across Britain will involve 52,009 feet of climbing.  Fortunately only one day will have more climbing than the Chiltern 100.  The bad news is that is that it is Day 1 going through Devon and Cornwall (or should that really be Cornwall and Devon?) when we do 8,232 feet of climbing.  There is no warm up day on the Deloitte Ride Across Britain.

The good news is that I felt remarkably fresh this morning and think I could have managed another long ride.  In addition, I very much doubt I will be riding as quickly in September (an average speed of 25 kph or just over 15 mph on Sunday) and I hope it will not be quite as hot, although I’d still prefer no rain (or a northerly headwind).  My recovery was also aided by a great sports massage at Agile Therapy in Cardiff – well worth it to get the knots out of tired muscles.

It will be back on the bike tomorrow for an easy session as proper recovery from a big ride is very important at this stage of training.  I’d hate to pick up an injury now with seven weeks to go.

As a reminder, I’m not doing the Deloitte Ride across Britain purely for my own benefit and fun (although I am fully funding the ride).  I am trying to raise lots of money for Dementia UK, a charity that provides support to families caring for someone with dementia.  Dementia UK does not fund research (unlike other dementia charities) but focusses purely on the “here and now”.  Have a look at my post on 26 June for my personal reasons for supporting Dementia UK.  My running total is now around £2,200 which is fantastic although there is always scope for more donations – reaching my target doesn’t mean I will not accept more donations (I may increase the target a little bit)!.  You can support me via my Virgin Money Giving page here

Two Months To Go – Training Review

In two months time I should, all being well, be sat down in Bath having completed Day 2 of the Deloitte Ride Across Britain riding from Land’s End to John O’Groats.  The ride will be 980 miles over 9 days.  I’ll see how I feel about finding an extra 20 miles, perhaps on Day 4 (meant to be an “easy day”) to take it up to a round 1,000 miles!  I just hope the weather is slightly cooler than it has been recently, not that I’m asking for rain, it’s just that I completed a 2 hour ride this morning and it had already reached 27 degrees according to my Garmin by 10 am!  I felt sorry for the riders in the Wales Velothon riding up to 140 km (87 miles) today.

While the ride itself will be a challenge having to ride an average of 110 miles a day for 9 days, the training in order to be fit enough to enjoy the ride has been much more of a commitment than I ever expected.  My aim, all along, has been to be able to complete the ride.  However, I think it is important to be able take in the experience of riding the length of Great Britain and not to have to worry about being caught up by the broom wagon and this requires a certain level of fitness.  Threshold Sports, the organisers of the Deloitte Ride Across Britain, made training programmes available to all the riders.

Today I sat down and added up the total time I have spent training for the ride since 1 January this year:

  • Rides inside on a turbo trainer (56 sessions)
    • 46 hours 40 minutes
    • 1,335 km or 834 miles
  • Rides outside (34 rides)
    • 107 hours 17 minutes
    • 2,733 km or 1,708 miles
  • Elevation gain (combined) 41,429 m or 135,922 feet
  • 19 separate gym sessions of up to an hour each working on strength training

As the year as gone on, the training time has increased each month both in terms of time, distance and intensity.  I am a lot fitter than I was in January and weigh 8kg less! A lot of credit has to go to Lawrence at Enduraprep who has designed my training plan and kept my training going in the right direction.

The ride this morning meant a reasonably early start to try and avoid the heat, I also had to be at my sailing club by 12 noon for a sailing duty.  On the ride round Cardiff Airport I met an 82 year rider who was seriously quick despite his age (and kept me puffing on the climbs) – he told me he was still competing in time trials well into his 70s.  I’d be delighted to still be cycling at that age let alone competing.  He was also taking a brand new bike for a spin, so it goes to show that the formula for the number of bikes (n+1, n being the number of bikes you already have), i.e. there is always a reason for another bike, applies even when you reach your 8th decade !

Continuing with an earlier theme of taking pictures in the same place to show the changing seasons, here is a picture taken near Dyffryn Gardens with the oaks trees in full leaf and the grass standing tall !

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Near Dyffrn Gardens, Vale of Glamorgan

There is still plenty of time to sponsor me to help raise lots of money for Dementia UK   I have been very fortunate recently to receive some very generous donations so I am getting close to my initial target.  Remember the target is there to be smashed so please don’t hold back!  You can reach my Virgin Money Giving page here

Why am I supporting Dementia UK in the Deloitte Ride Across Britain ? John Evans (1934 – 2010)

Why I am riding from Land’s End to John O’Groats in the Deloitte Ride Across Britain (a distance of 980 miles in 9 days) to raise money for Dementia UK?  The simple answer is in memory of my father, John Evans, who had he been alive would have been 84 today (26 June).  Unfortunately John suffered from vascular dementia for well over the last 10 years of his life and had we, as a family, known about Dementia UK at the time, the support and advice we could have accessed could have made what we, and my mother in particular, had to go through so much easier to deal with on a day to day basis.

Dementia is such a cruel disease as you never know how long you have to live with the disease and its rates of progression are so different between people with different forms of the disease.  In the case of my father, there were a series declines followed by plateaus.  John and the family began to think something was wrong when he couldn’t complete The Daily Telegraph crossword, something he’d been completing for over 30 years.  We then saw a loss of short term memory with the repetition of conversations on a 10 minute loop – it was terribly difficult to continue the same conversation when John had no idea we’d discussed the particular topic three times already!

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John enjoying a glass of fizz at Caroline’s wedding

John and my mother retired to Dittisham, near Dartmouth in Devon, and I think one of John’s happiest day was walking my sister, Caroline, down the aisle at her wedding.  Even then in 2002, the decline had set in and I had the pleasure of giving the “Brother of the Bride” speech at the reception after John had welcomed the guests before the meal.

The odd thing was that his long term memory was fine until he lost his mobility.  When we eventually decided to move John into a care home, one day he escaped by climbing over a locked 5 barred gate.  This was second nature to an ex-agricultural lecturer and Head of College who would regularly walk the College farm.  Fortunately, the escape attempt took place in the summer and he was found several hours later over three miles away having travelled through a few fields!

It was also awful to see the loss of the ability to communicate, particularly for someone who had been so articulate.  John must have found it frustrating as well, as one day in the care home he lifted a huge cathode ray TV off its table in the lounge and placed it carefully on the floor – I can only think he wasn’t enjoying the day time telly !

I have a huge amount to thank John for, notwithstanding the obvious!  He was responsible for instilling my “values” – work hard, treat people with respect and how you would like to be treated, don’t say anything if you haven’t got anything nice to say and be loyal and generous to your family and friends.  I think I also inherited his competitive instinct – anyone who heard his exhortations to himself on the golf course will know what I mean.  I can still hear the “Oh John!” shouts following a duff shot!

I also picked up my love of sailing, crewing for John in “Gusty” while learning to sail.  We had a series of holidays to Rock in north Cornwall in the 1970s, before it got terribly trendy, trailing the dinghy down the M4 and M5 from Kent.

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Family sailing with “Gusty” at Rock, north Cornwall

A real bucket and spade holiday, sailing in the estuary and surfing at Polzeath.  John would escape for a few rounds of golf at St Enodoc Golf Club leaving the rest of us having fun on the beach, digging pits, building sandcastles and tennis ball helter-skelters and flying kites.

What would John think about me undertaking this ride?  He’d be terribly proud, pretty surprised (as I only took up cycling about four years ago), worried about the amount of training involved (and the lack of tennis I’ve played this year) and fully supportive of my efforts.  I have to say I still miss him more than I care to admit.

If you would like to learn more about the great work carried out by Dementia UK you can reach their website by clicking here

If you would like to sponsor me so I can raise loads of money for Dementia UK you can donate via my Virgin Money Giving page here

Wet Weather Riding

I’m the first to admit that I’m a fair weather rider and try to avoid riding in the rain. However, as the Deloitte Ride Across Britain 2017 involved 8 out of 9 days of rain, I’ve decided that I’d better get used to wet weather riding and test out my kit. The weekend just gone (16-17 June) gave me the perfect opportunity! Fortunately, both rides on Saturday and Sunday started out dry before the heavens opened with some serious rain showers together with fairly strong wind.

What did I learn?

  • I still don’t like riding in the rain!
  • My rain jacket from Rapha works – as it should considering how much it cost
  • Good lights are useful to make sure cars and lorries can see you. I’m not a great fan of the “stealth black” cycle clothing look.
  • Disc brakes are more efficient that rim brakes in the wet, at least on the bikes I’ve got and slower riding speeds are a good idea
  • I need to get some better waterproof over-covers for my cycling shoes as I don’t want to be riding for 6 or so hours with wet feet

Apart from the weather, training is going well although I have had a bit of tendinitis in my left foot. This has been my first “niggle” of the year and a combination of ice, elevation and ultrasound is having a positive effect. Hopefully all will be well next weekend.

I’m taking part in the Deloitte Ride Across Britain to raise money for Dementia UK. You can sponsor me by visiting my Virgin Money Giving page here

Dragon Tour – First Multi-Day Event

Over the weekend of 8 – 10 June, in order to prepare for the Deloitte Ride Across Britain, I took part in my first multi-day cycling event – the Dragon Tour organised by Human Race Events which is badged as L’Etape Wales with links to the Tour de France.  The event culminated with the Dragon Ride, with distances ranging from 100 to 300 km.  I had booked to do the Gran Fondo at 223 km.

The start for the first two days was based just outside Crickhowell which offered the opportunity to do two different rides of under 100 km each in the Brecon Beacons taking in the climbs of Gospel Pass and The Tumble.

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Ready for the start on Day 1

I knew what to expect with The Tumble having ridden it twice in the Wales Velothon – basically a steep first half and a relentless grind for the second half once clear of the trees.  Gospel Pass was completely new to me, a gradual start and an absolutely horrible ramp up towards a cattle grid in the middle, followed by a reasonable gradient to the top.  My sunglasses glasses had completely steamed up by the cattle grid and I had to rely on a race marshall telling me not to stop and keep riding!

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The view from the top of Gospel Pass (Day 1)

The view from the top was spectacular even with the low cloud.

Day 2 included The Tumble climb – I managed a Personal Best time, followed by a great traverse of part of the Brecon Beacons plateau.  The descent off the plateau was fantastic despite following a lorry that was doing its best to burn out its clutch (it probably stopped me taking too many risks downhill).

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Brecon Beacons plateau – not so steep descent!

The last 20 miles were the longest 20 miles I have ridden in a while, constant hills and rolling terrain and being passed by faster cyclists – no peloton this time to draft behind.

The Dragon Ride started from Margam Park, near Port Talbot.  Sunday started bright and sunny, no cloud cover of any note unlike the previous days.

The day ended up being very hot which made pacing myself on the long climbs essential – no going for PBs uphill, just getting round was the key thing!  The descents off the Bwlch and the Rhigos were fast and great fun and made up for the long slog up.

In the end, the previous days’ rides took their toll and at the second feed station I decided to drop down to the Medio Fondo – still a ride of 150 km (about 95 miles).  My hamstrings were protesting and with the Deloitte Ride Across Britain being my goal there was no point injuring myself with three months to go to the start line in September.  I wasn’t alone in changing the route on the day given the high temperature.

I ended up with a ride time of 6 hours 40 minutes (compared to a total elapsed time of 7 hours 12 minutes).  Carl (who I rode with on a training ride recently) did the Gran Fondo in 9 hours which meant I’d have probably taken around 11 hours to finish given my average ride pace.  Clodagh, who showed all the men up at the Deloitte RAB training ride in April, went round the Gran Fondo in an astonishing elapsed time of 8 hours 37 minutes and won the Strava Queen of the Mountain for the event as fastest female rider over that distance plus was one of the fastest females over the Devil’s Elbow timed climb.  I certainly will not be trying to keep up with Clodagh on the Deloitte RAB !

What have I taken away from the Dragon Tour?

  • The multi-day format was great, particularly if you managed to get to know other riders
  • Pacing is key; it’s no good going off too fast and not being able to cope on the next day or the third day
  • Fuelling (eating enough) and keeping hydrated (drinking enough) is important, particularly with the very warm weather we had during the Dragon Ride
  • Riding in a peloton saves an enormous amount of energy and riders having a bad day are very grateful for a “tow”, even if you end up cycling a bit slower than you could manage
  • I can cycle the daily distance required on the Deloitte RAB but I can work on my climbing ability (basically more of what I posted about in Gravity)
  • A daily post ride massage, however short, worked wonders on tired muscles!

Overall the Dragon Tour was fantastic – I couldn’t fault the event organisation, particularly on the Dragon Ride.  The race marshalls were plentiful and dealt with the few tacks thrown on the road by disgruntled locals (upset by 5,000 riders visiting south Wales for the weekend, many with families, and spending their money in the area!).  The volunteers and staff in the feed stations were awesome, with a special mention for the feed station at Ystradfellte – so friendly and welcoming!  I certainly hope to take part in the Dragon Ride next year.

I’m doing the Deloitte RAB in part to raise lots of money for Dementia UK in memory of my father who suffered from dementia.  You can help me raise money by sponsoring me at my Virgin Money Giving page here