Thursday, May 17, 2012

Back on the bike.... least tentatively.  Sunday's short MTB ride was "uncomfortable" not helped by the stonking wind that meant a constant battle with the bike even on smooth, flat bits.  Bumpy descending was still teeth clenching.  I rode to work yesterday and that went pretty well, swimming is just about ok if terminally boring but have had to use the granny steps to get back out of the pool or risk a comedy face plant back into the water.

I've not run much or done anything else as its quite amazing how much the muscles around the ribs are used, they're not called core muscles for nothing!   Now that the pain in my ribs has pretty much subsided to a dull roar I realise that my right hip and groin muscles are still a bit sore  and bruised really so on a sensible note I won't be doing the Etape Du Dales this weekend its too hard a ride for me to contemplate unless at good fitness, especially as it looks like it may be another windy day on Sunday (but sunny, pah!).  I've not done anything in the way of tough road rides since the beginning of April.

Time to start building fitness up...whilst resisting my usual tendency to overdo it, aiming for mid June to do something but don't know what yet.   Anyway dust and sunshine and actually looking where I'm going:

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Bl**dy Ribs

Think I've bashed up my intercostals good and proper, it's not quite sore enough to have cracked/broken the rib but just tried a gentle spin on the shopping bike and rolling off a centimetre high kerb stone (i.e the driveway) was not pleasant.  Bike back in garage, about to go get more ibuprofen.  Perhaps manhandling the sofa about this morning was not a good idea.

Another couple of days of complete nothingness ahead (swimming, running even walking are out).  Injuries often expensive for me....looking at new shiny frames, nothing better to do.

Monday, April 30, 2012


Coming back from sunny, dry 24C Spanish riding to this weekend's awful weather was a bit of a shock to the system that's for sure.  Had a great week with Joyriders out in Spain, dusty trails, challenging rocks, a few nice long climbs and the small matter of a great big, full on, over the bars Superman splat onto some pointy rocks which meant I abandoned the last days riding after about 10 minutes...oops a daisy.

I've never been in so much pain with an MTB crash and I don't think I've ever actually had to abandon a ride before and never had to be transported out (just the van, nothing more serious), I could barely stand never mind pedal and couldn't lift my right knee at all.  I've badly bruised my right "hip flexor area"  (so pleased I'm not a bloke that's for sure) and my ribs ache but I've not broken anything at least and can now sort of see the funny side.  Well, I can certainly see the funny side of the hokey cokey I was trying to perform to get in the van, I couldn't get a combination of arms and legs that worked without seeing stars pain, Jez had to shove me in.

I need to do some examination of why I go OTB on the Titus so often, not paying attention to riding the correct rubble free line over a drop is up there as is the fact that the forks are in their death throws but its more than that.  Once the trail gets steep I'm always verging on going over and I don't feel that way on the 456.

I'm hoping to be back on the bike by the end of the week, start working off the week's wine and beer consumption.  Will hopefully update with more on the holiday later though there was a bit of a fail on the photo taking front when riding as I was enjoying myself/being mildly terrified too much.  Took loads on our day off wandering round Cordoba but its not quite the same.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Howgill Hammer

A bit late as it was on the 1st April, oops.

I had signed up for the long route of this Sportive, the route looked like it took in some interesting stuff around the Howgills and as I'm trying to use road events this year to ride lots of new roads (Etape Du Dales excepted, though I want to actually see some views this time) I thought it would be an interesting route and at 90 miles with a fair chunk of climbing (my Garmin reckoned around 6800ft or so by the end) a pretty stiff challenge for my lazy legs.

I did wonder if I had bit off more than I could chew as I turned up in Milnthorpe on what was a stunning but frosty morning, I'd not ridden anything remotely similar since the Etape Du Dales the year before which was quite some time ago. A small entry of what I suspected would be fairly fast riders would possibly mean a quiet ride so I took my ipod along for company, I figured it would help on the last couple of hours in particular - which turned out to be the case. There were timing standards for the ride, for women under 7 hours would get a silver and decided to go for that as a good aim and to stop me dawdling too much in my usual fashion.

Set off at a reasonable pace for me but before long people came hooning past in groups, I tried to hang on but I thought 24 mph was a bit excessive that early on! Saw a couple of fast women batter past too. However, I tried not to settle into too easy a spin, I wanted to push myself a bit on this ride to see what would happen.

It wasn't long before things started trending upwards and not too much longer before I caught some of those that had steamed past earlier, the usual happened, I catch up and overtake on climbs and they get me back on the descents and flats. I banned myself from using my granny ring (triple here) until the evil 20% and over climb out of Dent. 39 x 27 is obviously quite a low gear but it did make me not twiddle, not always convinced it is faster though, however it did get me out of the saddle quite a bit.

I tried to push on on the descents but had a serious eep moment on some gravel so reigned it back in a bit again. The route was stunning I have to say, it kind of followed the M6 crossing and recrossing and I achieved an ambition I've held for a few years now. Where the north and southbound carriageways of the M6 split at Shap there is a road that goes under and between the two carriageways, I've wanted to ride that bit of road for years so was really pleased with myself when I did.

After that, the whole bit of the ride over to the first feed at Soulby (35 miles) was absolutely awesome, stunning riding, great views and a fairly large tailwind. At the first feed I was pleased with myself again as I had drunk one whole bottle of energy drink, had a slice of malt loaf and a couple of bits of flapjack, things were going well.

Didn't bother topping up the bottle as next feed was in 20 odd miles in Dent, set off, noticed a bit of a head wind getting up. Climb up onto the moor top and its a proper headwind, have to pedal all the way down the long fast hill into Sedbergh which must have been about 10 miles. Hard work but obviously would have been worse if it wasn't downhill. Arrived at second feed with almost two full bottles and had eaten nothing else, too busy fighting the wind. Got off the bike for a serious stretch here and ate some malt loaf.

Grovelled up the hideous climb out of Gawthrop, granny gear deployed and it still hurt. Back into the wind, then my left leg started complaining. Back of knee a bit tight and leg felt like it was flailing a bit in a weird way. Had a stunning descent, pedalling hard the whole way against the wind, down Barbondale. Wasn't too fussed about the wind here as it meant I actually got to see some of it rather than whipping past in a blur.

From there it was pretty rolling across to Arnside, as I was on my own it was purgatory against the strong wind. I did remember to eat a bit and drink thinking I was overplaying the strength of the wind in my head as I do when I'm tired. Around the edge of coast near Arnside and at one point I nearly lost the will to live, headwind from hell, disintegrating road surface shaking me to bits and the most traffic I'd seen all day with the crappest drivers. I necked a gel, which helped, as did changing direction for the last couple of miles to Milnthorpe. I went from 14mph to 22 mph without any increase in effort.

Finally made it back, the last climb was cruel I have to say. 6 hours 13 overall, 6 hours and 4 minutes actual riding time, average speed 15mph so I easily got my Silver. I was pretty pleased with that, be interesting how quick it would have been without such a wind or if I'd managed to get into a group. All anyone in the car park was talking about was the strength of the wind and having to work just as hard downhill as up so it wasn't just me.

it was a great route though, already on my list of "roads I must ride again".

The downside is my left knee has not been happy since so I've been taking it easy the last couple of weeks, making good use of my decision to rejoin the gym for the pool and have been able to do some spinning and treadmill running but nothing too serious. We're flying off to Spain for a week's MTBing on Saturday which is another reason to be sensible.

On the plus side, I bought some new shiny Speedplay pedals to replace the SPD-SLs, hopefully they will help my knee. At the very least I can get my cleats far enough back now so fingers crossed.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Jodrell Bank Sportive...almost

Had signed up for the 80 mile route on this sportive (actually 78 according to the route map), I wasn't sure the promised very flat Cheshire roads would be my thing as I am crap on the flat but the last third or so had a few lumps in it and I wanted to get some miles in.

The start was at 8am in Poynton which meant getting up at 5:45 am to make sure I got there before registration closed. In the end it was a clear drive, though I was feeling far too sleepy to contemplate riding which was worrying me, particularly as I had just come off a pretty easy week, I expected to be raring to go even given the early start.

Picked up number by about 7:20 then had a bit of a wait til the start. I didn't see the point of getting Bianco ready much before 8 so sat in the car with my coffee to try to wake up and watched the usual shenanigans that always seem to go on around these events (see last post).

Managed to skip most of the queue to start without realising (oops) and set off on the first few miles quite fast (for me) to warm up my fingers a bit and just to get away from the potential carnage at the start. I also got a bit carried away by being on Bianco again I think, its the first proper ride on it this year. As usual on these things I caught up with some big groups of riders doing silly things which I tried to pass as soon as possible, thankfully being so early traffic was non-existent.

There was very little wind which I was pleased about as to me big flats mean headwinds. I decided early on I was going to ride on my own, I like the confidence of knowing I can do long rides off my own effort, seems like cheating to sit on a wheel (wrong attitude on the road I know, Jez is forever giving me grief about it). I was also not feeling particularly sociable or indeed "on it" to be riding with others. Once the route split I realised that it may be a very lonely ride at times as not all the field would be doing the 80 miler so latched onto three guys who came past.

I sucked wheels for ages but did a few turns on the front, mainly when they seemed to be going too slow and allowing gaps to form (ooh get me!).

To be honest most of the ride is a bit of a blur, we rode around the telescope which was nice...which is about as interesting as it got actually. I could tell my head really wasn't in it as I was actually a little bored. I arrived at the feed station having averaged 18mph, which bothered me for some reason as it is quite a bit faster than I had been riding lately, even though it was clear from the average HR that I wasn't thrashing myself. After the feed station (before or after the telescope I can't remember but about 35 miles) my legs really seemed to wake up.

So I did some more catching and passing but no more wheel sucking, then it started to get a bit more lumpy and interesting and actually enjoyable as I passed even more people on the climbs. Bianco was great up the hills, who'd have guessed a bike without guards, rack or pannier would be easier to get up a hill.

I often find I pass a lot of people on climbs on events like this, particularly if there has been a lot of flat, its not because I am a great climber, more that I use my gears appropriately or don't get carried away pushing some gear I can't handle. Though it is satisfying to pass some strong looking bloke, who's probably just battered past me on the flat, me spinning away in a girly gear whilst he tries to grovel up in some monster flat riding ratio.

The big climb of the day was Pott Shrigley (I think, I called it Wiggly, Jiggly, Shoogly and all sorts in my head on the way round) there was a cut off just before it if you were late getting there - no danger of that for me. I could see the hill was getting close, straight into Bollington (I think) on a fast descent, follow the signs....and all of a sudden I missed the hill????

I basically ended up on the 50 mile route, by the time I got my bearings I was only 2 miles from Poynton and CBA going back, which isn't like me but there it is. I missed the route split sign somewhere, somehow. I had the route in my Garmin but all ride it kept blanking then redrawing the map a few minutes later and it decided to do it just around the route split. Signage had been great til then so I just followed the first sign I found. D'oh. I had a page map but it wasn't detailed enough for me to get back on track.

So back to the car, 61.5 miles on the Garmin instead of 78, 3:30 ish on the time and an overall average of 17 mph which means I didn't lose that much on my own or on the climbs. I think I would have got round the full 78 in under 5 hours which was my "good day" target.

So, lessons learned: I'm lazy, I can ride harder than I think and keep it going. Need some better map back up! Flat rides are not my thing when training for a hilly event but I think doing this course with a well matched group would see a fast time and probably be really enjoyable (the hard bit is getting a few more matched riders). Flat roads make eating easy, my nutrition was actually pretty good for a change. Cheshire has some very good traffic free lanes, just a little flat.

I appear to be fighting a bit of a cold at the moment so that probably explains the meh attitude on Sunday.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sportive Starts

Sitting in my car trying to muster up enthusiasm to ride eighty miles, watching some serious bike bling being assembled, just been treated to the sight of blokes smearing themselves with chamois cream. Someone has turned up without tyres!? It's barely 7:30.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Not quite as planned.

Got to the pool to find swim kit was nowhere to be seen.  Oops, was looking forward to a swim for once.  Still sun was out though the wind was a bit cold.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Back to Basics ... and a Mini Challenge to Myself

Jez and I attended a Dirt School session at Lee Quarry on Saturday. I desperately needed something to kick start my MTB skills and confidence as they have been on a bit of a downward spiral for quite a while now.

Thankfully the weather was relatively kind with glorious sunshine but it was also baltic and I'm not sure I've properly warmed up yet. It was a useful day for me in quite a few much better at drop offs, a bit of jumping, flat off camber corners where I managed to find the traction limit of my front wheel a few times (which I'd normally never get near) and some advice on bike set up.

My (admittedly very slight) ability to manual appeared to have completely deserted me when I was thinking about it, was fine when I didn't (see drop offs). My shoulders and back got a serious work out as I started to throw all sorts of muscles into getting the front wheel to come up.

Jez's day was made by learning to clear tabletops, smoothly and in control...I'm not far behind but still get some OMG! when both wheels are off the ground, even though it was deliberate for a change.

So a few things to think about and put into practice. The mini-challenge? Learn to climb properly on flats, I just couldn't do it, kept lifting my feet right off. Got the hang of descending on them again pretty quickly and felt pretty attached to the bike at all times apart from climbing. I'm obviously very dependent on the upstroke from SPDs for climbing (no wonder my hip flexors are always tight). It just annoyed me, so I want to see if I can change it, no other reason really so the flats are staying on the hardtail for the forseeable.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Fitness Fightback

Whilst I am getting stronger I still feel quite slow on the bike. I am hoping some of this is due to riding the Kinesis with rack, guards and often rack bag or pannier and that when I get back on nice light Bianco she will practically pedal herself up hills - wishful thinking probably.

I've done some swimming and commuting now, one very dreich road ride over Rivington way which was cut short due to how miserable it was. We did go over the steep 17 - 20% climbs from the Waterman's Cottage and Alance Bridge and I was actually quite pleases that a) they weren't as bad as I thought the would be a and b) Jez couldn't drop me. Obviously b really cheered me up as earlier in the ride he was flying up the short power climbs and dragging me along the flat whilst I tried to hold his wheel as part of my ride with a bit of purpose campaign...find doing that harder than long hills tbh.

I still feel like I am only two thirds back to fitness on the bike though strangely my run fitness seems ok? Why I don't know. I had a fantastic run on Thursday when I decided to sod the swimming and go for a run on the beach in the sunshine. It seems like forever since I ran at lunchtime due to swimming and it was fantastic:

Blue sky and sunshine run

Friday I braved the cold and rode to work, trying to keep up with Jez until Warton then tootling on my own for the next 8 or so miles. I've been slightly extending my commute in/out lately by taking the less direct route along the sea front. It takes it up to 19.5 miles or so now and you get views like this at the moment in the morning:

Sun up, time to move

Meanwhile...looking west the moon was still up

Won't be long til my commute home coincides with the sunset...then it'll be nearly spring!


2011 was a bit of a mixed year for me, started well with lots of road riding and a serious increase in my bike fitness. Lost a bit of lard to help with the hill climbing and I rode further than I ever have before. Totally fell in love with my road bikes somewhat at the expense of my MTBs and began learning to swim front crawl somewhat at the expense of my running.

Highlights were definitely the Etape Du Dales, even with the minging weather and our second Swiss MTB tour. The increased fitness was a big help on those long 10 mile climbs.

The year ended with a bit of a whimper with an knee injury, followed by lurgy, then the death of my Nana. December was spent beginning the road to dragging my way back to fitness.

The year ended with 3467 miles ridden, only 569 miles were actually offroad (no wonder my MTB skills are disappearing). The rest was pretty much on the road either just riding or commuting. I did over 1200 commuting miles last year which is also the most ever so I'm quite pleased with that.

Running wise I only managed 288 miles though it was squeezed out a bit in favour of swimming at which I am only slightly less crap than I was at the start of the year. Only 60 miles swam but everyone was hard fought. I had a rough goal at the beginning of the year that I wanted to average out an hour of some sort of exercise a day, I managed 386 hours last year so comfortably managed that.

Onto 2012....

The aims for this year so far 400 hours of exercise, the Etape Du Dales again (praying for better weather). Just riding even more and perhaps just a little faster, last year was all about making sure I could do the distance this year doing it a bit faster if I can. I am a complete dawdler on the road really and my body doesn't cope well with lots of serious intensity so my plan is to ride with just a bit more purpose sometimes. I do reserve the right to dawdle though, its what makes road riding fun for me believe it or not, dawdling and exploring new roads.

I'm going to keep on with the swimming as I think it is good for me, helps me stretch out and develops some core strength which I really need. I'm going to try and fit in a triathlon at some point this year but its not going to be the focus. I want to do more riding rather than anything else at the minute and I need to build up and maintain some running form so swimming will be cut down to twice a week (and will no doubt get worse).

I need to develop my running again as Jez and I have been drafted in to support a friend at the CELTMAN! part of the requirement is one of us needs to be fit enough to do the supported run leg. The plan is for Jez to get run fit enough to do it but it is probably best either of us can do it.

Other than to shed a few kilos put on at the back end of last year I've not really set too many targets. I did a kettlebell class last Monday which was pretty hard at the time and the next day I felt as knackered as if I had just ridden EDD all over again (seriously!) so I am going to continue with that for a few weeks at least as I clearly need the strength. I currently still feel I'm clawing my way back to fitness so I'll review at the end of January.