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 ways...got 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.