Spring is here at last !

It finally felt like Spring had arrived this weekend with two dry rides over Saturday and Sunday.  Saturday was a bit of a surprise as light rain was forecast in the morning.  However, the rain held off and I had my first 100 km plus ride of the year (about 64 miles) in just over four hours.  I’ve only got to increase the distance to 110 miles to match the distance I have to cover each day in September – all a bit worrying!

Sunday morning was nice and sunny so I thought I’d do a two hour “cake and coffee” ride to Cowbridge and back through the Vale of Glamorgan.  IMG_0546Lots of other cyclists had the same idea and both Costa and Cafe Nero in Cowbridge were doing a roaring trade from visiting riders.

You don’t realise how many small hills there are in “the Vale” until you get out on a bike.  However, you do get to see the changing seasons in the countryside and signs of life after the rather grey winter days.

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Primroses opposite Dyffryn Gardens

One thing that does disappoint me is the amount of litter in the verges and hedge rows.  The worst section today was the Old Port Road just above Wenvoe on the way to St Lythans – full of Carling and Coke cans plus discarded McDonalds containers.  Perhaps a deposit scheme may reduce the cans being thrown out of cars?

I’ll be saving the “Big Hills” of the south Wales Valleys for Sunday 8th April – the KOM Sportive organised by my trainer Lawrence KOM link.  I really don’t have any option but to take part – the alternative would be multiple intervals sessions on a turbo trainer and burpees until failure!  I’ll decide on the day whether I do the 130 km or 95 km routes – both have lots of climbing (my pet hate, probably because it would help if I lost a bit of weight).  I’ve also entered the L’Etape Wales and the Dragon ride in June – plenty more climbing over three days.  It will be a good test for the legs and lungs.

Finally, with a break from the bike, I had my first sail of the year at Sully Sailing Club IMG_0551on the Bristol Channel in the afternoon.  I’ve been sailing for over 40 years and it’s a good “release” for me. I sailed a Laser today which is a full body workout, with particular emphasis on core strength – think of doing sit ups for 5 minutes every 10 minutes or so when sailing round a course.  A bit of cross training for the bike riding.  I even managed to win both races although there were less than 30 seconds in it despite each race being between 40 and 50 minutes long !

Finally, a reminder why I’m doing the Deloitte Ride Across Britain in September and asking you to sponsor me.  I want to raise lots of money for Dementia UK, a charity that helps people with dementia and their carers.  Dementia is a horrible disease for everyone concerned and any support can make a huge difference.  You can visit my Virgin Money Giving page here

Mini “Beast from the East” – oh no Mk II

After all the build up the Brewin Dolphin Wye Tour last Saturday, I arrived at Chepstow Race Course bright and early at 7.30 am to be told the event was cancelled.  I had wondered given the forecast the night before although I was hopeful the snow would hold off until the afternoon.  However, once I got through Newport, the rain turned to sleet and then to snow as I got to Chepstow.  To be honest I was relieved the event was cancelled – a 54 or 72 mile ride in sub-zero temperatures (with the wind chill) would not have been fun!

The morning was not a compete washout.  We were treated to a great breakfast of bacon and scrambled eggs rolls and lots of coffee.  While the snow continued to fall outside and the marque shook in the wind (thank goodness we weren’t riding at this point) we had the benefit of training tips from two ex-pro cyclists, Luke Rowe (of Rowe & King Training) and Yanto Barker (founder of Le Col, the cycling kit company).  All very useful stuff and confirmation that all the workouts that Lawrence, my coach, has me doing have a purpose to them !  I was also able to take home a very nice Le Col Brewin Dolphin cycling jersey – thanks Brewin Dolphin.

I even managed a ride at the end of the afternoon – nice and warm inside on my Tacx Neo smart trainer while watching Wales beat France in the rugby.  The less said about England’s performance the better !

Sunday was even worse – I certainly didn’t expect to wake up to 4 cm of snow on 18 March.

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Snow in Penarth on 18 March !

No outside riding that day and I couldn’t even summon the enthusiasm to spend time on the smart trainer.  My excuse, and what Luke said the day before, rest is equally important as hard sessions on the bike.  I did make productive use of the day by converting my Cannondale bike to tubeless tyres which I hope will mean lower tyre pressures (a smoother ride on rough roads) and less punctures (the “slime” inside the tyre is meant to fill any small holes).

Sponsorship is slowly starting to come in.  If you would like to help support Dementia UK please visit my sponsorship page here

Six months to go – oh no !

There is now less than six months to go until the Deloitte Ride Across Britain starts at Land’s End.  To be honest the last two weeks have not been good from a training point of view.

I thought the first week would be great – a bit of altitude training, otherwise known as skiing in La Plagne at an altitude of 1,950 m above sea level.  It started off so well with some fresh snow and unexpected powder stashes in a Backcountry course with Snoworks ski courses.

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Me in deep!   Photo credit : Anthony Swallow

 

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Powder tracks

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then the dreaded norovirus hit and I spent one day in bed and was in no fit state to ski on the next day – climbing a couple of flights of stairs was a struggle !  To make things worse I missed a fantastic powder day according to the rest of the group when they dragged themselves in for tea and cake.

The next week back at work resulted in further recovery from the virus and then the start of a slight cold, or at least not feeling 100% and not doing any training as a result.  I do need to get back into the swing of things this week as I’ve got my first sportive of the year on Saturday with the Brewin Dolphin Wye Valley ride.  I was rather enthusiastic when I accepted Brewin Dolphin’s invitation and signed up for the Epic ride, 77 miles of Wye Valley’s best it has to offer.  I’m now thinking I wished I’d signed up for the 54 mile Standard…  I’ll have to see how I feel on the day.  I’ll have to report back next week with how it went.  The forecast for the weekend show it will be cold by dry on the day.

My sponsorship is now starting to come in – a big thank you to everyone who has supported me so far !  You can visit my Virgin Money Giving page here

First longer ride of the year

Last Sunday saw my first ride of more than 50 miles in 2018 when I managed 60 miles riding round the Vale of Glamorgan.  When I uploaded the ride on to Strava it was a little disappointing to see I was less than 4 km short of riding 100km !  Regular riders will be aware of the saying “If it’s not on Strava, it didn’t happen !”.  There is nothing worse than getting home from a long ride and finding that your cycle computer has failed to save all the details from the ride.

For non-cyclists, Strava is an application that can be used to show where you’ve ridden.  It also adds an element of competition by dividing routes into “segments” which are timed on the basis of your speed.  The quickest riders get the King or Queen of the Mountain for that segment.  The times can be broken down into All Time, Yearly and That Day.  If pay for a premium edition, you can also see how you compare against your age group and weight category – no cheating by claiming you are 110kg when you are actually 85 kg !  Strava segments can get quite competitive, although I only use it to see how I compare to other rides I have done over the same route.  The only problem is that it can get very demoralising when you’ve noticed that your quickest time on a segment is from two years ago.

Here is a link to my last ride Strava ride  in the Vale of Glamorgan.  It has quite a lot of data which great for a bit of data geek like me.  I like to compare “numbers” and see if I’m getting fitter from an empirical point of view rather than just “feel” on the bike.  Other riders may just rely on whether their jeans have a looser fit….

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View from Southerndown

Normally during the week, I have some training to do in the evenings set by my personal trainer, Lawrence Cronk at Enduraprep  Lawrence knows by now that I won’t do the training the in the mornings before work – it just will not happen !  I’m afraid this week Lawrence is going to be very disappointed.   I’m a volunteer on Challenge Wales, a charity run 72 foot sail training yacht, and we had a volunteer strategy meeting on Monday night.  Tonight saw me attend a Penderyn whiskey tasting event (for work) as a guest of the Wales Millennium Centre (very nice !) and tomorrow I have a visit with my sailing club to Penarth RNLI centre.  It’s a very good job that the Ride Across Britain is not for another 27 weeks!

If you would like to sponsor me please visit  my Virgin Money Giving page  and help support Dementia UK.  You may even be the first person to sponsor me !

 

February training starts

Last weekend saw the start of training in February, wet on Saturday so a good indoor session on the Tacx Neo – Zwift on the iPad helps the time pass quickly, although I really must get a fan to try and keep cool.  At least training in the kitchen makes cleaning the floor afterwards quite easy!

Sunday was bright and sunny although pretty cold.  Once I got going I warmed up quickly going through the lanes from Dinas Powys to Wenvoe.  After climbing the “Tumble” out from Cardiff on the A48 (not the “proper” Tumble near Abergavenny) I decided to head towards the climb up into Pentyrch.  I’d seen the route from rides on Strava and it was a reasonably challenging 10 minute climb for 3 km (about 1.5 miles) and a bit closer than going up the Valleys to the Bwlch (nearly 2 hours to get to the bottom of the hill before an 18 minute climb, and thats on a good day !).

I decided to stop off in Cowbridge for a well earned coffee and cake stop at Waitrose (free coffee with my loyalty card so why not).  It was then a ride to Llantwit Major and the return via the coast road into a north easterly wind.  I decided to drop off the main road into Porthkerry Country Park.  IMG_0494For those of you unfamiliar with South Wales, it is a bit of a haven for dog walkers with lots of open grassland and walking trails in the woods.  There is even access to a pebbly beach and a popular cafe.  IMG_0497The highlight is the railway viaduct which is still used by the Valley Lines trains to Rhoose and Bridgend and freight trains to the Aberthaw power station.

The only blot on the ride was the colourful suggestion from a young passenger in a car that I should take advantage of a cycle path on the road near Barry docks.  Once he learns to drive I’m sure he will realise that the Highway Code (Rule 63) says that use of cycle paths by cyclists is not compulsory – I wasn’t a winning member of the Buckinghamshire Schools Road Safety Quiz Team for 1983/84 for nothing!  There are a number of reasons why I don’t always use cycle paths – pedestrians don’t appreciate having a cyclist on a shared foot/cycle path, they think I’m breaking Rule 64 – you cannot ride on the pavement.  Also there can be quite a bit of debris on the cycle path (broken glass etc) which can cause punctures.  There is usually enough space on the road for cars to overtake cyclists without too much of a delay.

It is now 7 months to go until the ride starts.  I received an email from the organisers to book bike transport and travel to and from the start and finish which makes even more immediate!

If you would like to sponsor me please visit my Virgin Money Giving page

The importance of bike fit

As I will be spending up to 8 hours a day riding my bike on the Ride Across Britain it is very important to be as comfortable as possible when riding the bike.  It is not just a case of riding with lots of padding in the cycle shorts or on the saddle but making sure the bike fits you.  A bike that doesn’t “fit” properly can cause injuries to flare up.

This is what happened to me over Christmas 2016.   I did over 500 km of cycling in 8 days using two different bikes, both a which had their pluses and minuses.  However, one bike resulted in me getting very sore Achilles tendons in both legs – I did very little cycling in January and February as a result!

Last Saturday I took the offending bike to a bike fit with Cranc Cycle Sport in Carmarthen where I spent three hours having the bike measured, my cycling position filmed and gradual changes made to the bike set up.

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Wire up for filming

Here is a photo of me riding with sensors positioned on the major joints to create a stick man rider using a camera system and some clever computer software.  The size of the bike had already been inputted into the computer using special measuring gadgets and a 3D monitoring system.  The combination of minor tweaks to saddle height, saddle position on the top of the seat post, stem length and position of the handle bars can make a huge difference to the comfort of the overall ride.

 

 

At the end of the fit I had some before and after photos.

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Before (left) and After

The differences may not look too obvious but they make a huge difference to the ride comfort.

 

On Sunday I did a two hour indoor ride on my smart trainer to test out the fit.  A previous one hour ride had resulted in Achilles soreness.  However, no issues arose after the two hour ride – a result in my book!  It now means I can use my slightly older bike for training rides in not so nice conditions outside and not spoil my “nice” bike which I can save for later in the year when the miles build up.

One other point I brought away from the morning fit.  If you are going to spend a lot of money on a bike, you may want to have a measurement session before buying a bike.  Apparently, a slightly smaller bike may have been a better option for me – it is too late now !

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Nice bikes !

Cranc Cycle Sport have some very nice bikes to buy – definitely worth a visit if you are looking for something special or if you want a detailed bike fit on your existing bike – see there website here

 

I now have no excuse but to get on with the training, both indoors and out!   I’m just hoping for a bit of dry weather at the weekend (or at least not gale force winds and torrential rain) so I can go out for a long ride.

You can sponsor me to support Dementia UK at my Virgin Money Giving page

 

January Training

What a difference 3 degrees makes !  Last weekend the temperature was hovering around 1 degree C plus a westerly wind which was not conducive to riding outside.  This weekend the temperature was around 4 degrees C, with winter sunshine and little if any wind.  A much more pleasant environment for a 3 hour ride round the Vale of Glamorgan.

Last Sunday (7 January) saw me complete a 100 minute ride on Zwift on my Tacx Neo smart trainer.  Zwift is a bit like a computer game for bike riders with different routes to choose from.  There are also races and group rides that you can choose to join.  The combination of the routes and the smart trainer means that any terrain changes on the iPad are reflected in the resistance on the trainer – you either have to cycle harder or change to an easier gear (just like riding outside).  However, you have to keep working even on the downhills!

Monday evening saw me take part in a Zwift race.  Even though it started at 6.30 pm GMT there were riders taking place from all over the world all linked up via their computers.  I finished something like 792nd and I wasn’t last!  We were meant to to grouped according to power output ability – I have some work to do as the front runners finished in around 35 minutes with me coming in just short of an hour.  Apparently you can trick the system by claiming a lower weight than you really are – you do get caught out if you have a heart rate monitor which shows you are not working very hard but putting out loads of power – possible for professional riders but not run of the mill riders like me.

The ride today was as good as a January ride gets.  Dry roads (most of the time), watery sunshine and very little wind. I decided to take the Specialized Venge for a ride.  IMG_0483This is a bike that likes going fast as it is primarily aerodynamic rather than a bike for climbing hills. By leaving in later morning I seemed to miss a lot of the traffic despite sticking to the main roads.  A good session that saw me complete just short of 50 miles in a little over 3 hours without having to work too hard on the bike.  Here is a link to the ride on Strava.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1357032302/embed/1f31b4b18e294d366d236a169d1e66b52c275f29

Any way, a good week of training and no injuries which always an added bonus.

You can sponsor me for my Ride Across Britain here

Christmas and Training

This post should really be titled “Christmas and the Lack of Training”.  I started off with all good intentions by registering for the Rapha Festive 500.  This involves riding 500 km between Christmas Eve and New Years Eve; basically 50 miles a day for 8 days.  I managed to complete the challenge last year so thought I’d try again this year.  So much for my good intentions.  A bout of food poisoning (eating out and not my Mother’s cooking I hasten to add) on the evening before Christmas Eve put paid to my plans for a 100 km ride round the Aylesbury Vale (fairly flat compared to the Chilterns) on Christmas Eve.  Christmas Day – no chance this year (the weather was pretty horrible as well), and Boxing Day involved driving back to Cardiff.

Cardiff escaped most of the snow in Christmas week, however, the ice was a different matter.  Bambi on ice had nothing on me when I stepped outside on Thursday – my shortest ride ever, not even making it to the end of the road.  Better safe than sorry tucked up at home rather than risking the ice on the Vale of Glamorgan lanes.  By this stage completing 300 km let alone 500 km was going to be difficult and lethargy took over!  The next excuses were the near gale force winds blowing through on Friday and Saturday plus a fair bit of rain.  Yes, I tend to be a fair weather cyclist and prefer not to start riding if it is pouring with rain.  If you ever read David Millar’s excellent book “The Racer” you’ll find that even the pros find excuses for putting off training (see page 11 – well worth a read).

I did manage an indoor ride on my new Tacx Neo smart trainer with a virtual ride round London on Zwift (more about this in a post later in 2018).  I don’t think the distance

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Llancarfan Church

counts towards the Festive 500!  The last ride today (New Years Eve) involved a trip out into the Vale of Glamorgan dodging the train showers until the last 10 minutes of the ride.  Total distance outside over Christmas, around 160 km.

On the bright side, I don’t have any injuries so I can look forward to building on the fitness in early 2018.  Although I completed the Festive 500 in 2016 I ended up aggravating both Achilles tendons and was unable to ride for a couple of months.

If you’ve been reading my posts, Happy New Year and I’m looking forward to the Ride Across Britain Challenge in September.

You can sponsor me here

December training continues, parties permitting!

Saturday saw another long ride, this time about 52 miles in the Vale of Glamorgan going out north towards Llantrisant before ending back towards the coast via Cowbridge and Llantwitt Major.  I thought with the forecast I’d avoid the south Wales mountains, plenty of time for climbing in the Spring.  The mountain roads closed on Sunday due to snow – more about that later!  This link to the ride should work:

https://www.relive.cc/view/1307995657

The one problem with winter riding, apart from the cold, is all the mud and muck on the roads.  Rather than having “Happy Feet” I ended up having Mucky Feet and a very dirty bike in need of a good clean when I got in from the ride.  A quick wash with the hosepipe did the job.  I did think about a ride on Sunday however the snow and freezing conditions soon put me off.  I made do with an hour and a bit on a static bike in the gym with a more structured workout; not quite as satisfying as an outdoor ride!  There ended up with over 30 cm of snow on some of the mountain roads.IMG_0445

Brrr – it’s cold out there !

I did my first outside ride for about two weeks after a weekend off for my birthday.  The worst part is just getting out of the door.  Once I was out it wasn’t too bad as I’d prepared for the cold.  Fortunately, the wind was very light so I didn’t have to worry about too much wind chill and there was no rain.  Some of the road surfaces were a bit slippery so I had to be careful on some of the corners.

The ride ended up being about 3 1/2 hours down to Ogmore via Barry and Rhoose, followed by a cross country route to Cowbridge and a coffee stop courtesy of Waitrose !  It was then a ride back via Welsh St Donats and back along the A48 turning off to Dyfryn Gardens for the ride back to Dinas Powys.

Keeping the training going through December is going to be tough with an increasing number of work Christmas drinks events – the first one was at the end of November.  I haven’t yet resorted to the ultimate sacrifice – getting up early to do a session on the spin bike before work.  The Ride Across Britain is nine months away !