First Running Race and Rehab

Saturday 12th November saw me run my first ever running race, the Cheshire 10 at Arley Hall.

It was also the first time I’d run 10k as a discrete, ‘in anger’ effort. The fastest I’d covered 10k in before was 49:25 during an interval session. I’d only really started running in November last year and, as per previous posts, I was RUBBISH back then. 10k took me comfortably over an hour.

However things have improved significantly with Coach Garry‘s help and I was nervously excited to see what I could do, despite a recurrence of a very painful ankle that had initially hampered me in the Spring.

I had no idea how I’d do or how to pace it. About a month ago I did a park run in a time of 20:50, which was a huge improvement of over 3 minutes from my last one a year ago. Based on this and on my efforts during intervals I thought I’d set off at 4:30/km pace and see. I was aiming for ‘some kind of PB’. A stretch goal was sub 46:40 (or 4:40/km pace)

The weather was pretty poor, heavy rain and muddy at the start but as I’ve found, conditions seem to play much less of a part when running compared to cycling so I wasn’t bothered by that. Actually, I’m being soft. It was fine really.

From the last few events and the park run, due to having terrible ‘imposter syndrome‘, I had a habit of starting way too far back and wasting time and energy fighting my way through, by which time people of a similar pace to me have got away from me.

This time I thought I’d start near the front. There were some absolute racing snakes there and my imposter syndrome started taking over. However I kept telling myself I’ll be fine, it’s just a 10k time trial. I had a nice chat with one of these racing snakes called Matt, seeing him so relaxed helped me really.

When the run got underway, it was a ‘steady’ start for everyone due to the mud and I kept my position, about 50 back. In the excitement I kept missing the start button of my garmin so it missed 70 metres. Anyway, turns out the ‘steady’ start for me was well under 4min/k pace! I soon eased back a little but the first K was done in 4:11.

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A Muddy start/finish but conditions weren’t too bad. Wellies were used during registration.

I was getting overtaken over the next couple of kilometres but I knew this was going to happen, my ankle pain was soon forgotten and I got into a rhythm. This rhythm was at a far faster pace than the 4:30 schedule I had planned but I seemed to be OK. I recalled something Chris Boardman said about pacing a time trial. “Ask yourself the question ‘can I maintain this pace to the end?’, if the answer is yes, you aren’t going hard enough, if it’s no, you’re going too hard. The Answer should be ‘Maybe’.”

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Can I maintain this pace? Maybe…

Continue reading First Running Race and Rehab

A new Venture: Project Donkey pt 2

 

I’m writing this now having finished my last main event of the year. It’s been a brilliant year for me, I’ve learnt so much, met some great people and got fitter than I ever thought I could. I wanted to wait until now to have a good overall perspective. This is a long post for me. Bear with it.

End of 2015

At the end of part 1 I explained how I had gotten a little bored and was looking at a new challenge. I didn’t want to go back to bunch racing due to the risks. I was finding the training for Time Trialling a little dull.

I’d been to Aerocoach for a session there to get me more aero, resulting in potential savings of around 30 seconds over 10 miles, however I never got to ride the new position on the road as I managed to defect my bike before I got chance. The frameset went before I thought to measure the position up exactly.

I bought a new PDQ frame and forks and built it up. It certainly looked the part. But as we’ll see later looks aren’t everything. I was poorly advised on the size I needed but this wasn’t apparent at first. I thought ‘GREAT! I’m going to be mega fast on this thing!

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PDQ Frameset. Dura Ace Mechanical Shifting. Quarq Elsa RS Powermeter. Hed H3 Front Wheel. Zipp 900 Rear Wheel. Custom 55t Fibrelyte Chainring.

Having discussed options and goals with Garry from Sportstest we decided to go large or go home.

My injuries and subsequent metalwork over the years had really put a dampener on my ambitions, I never thought that I’d be able to run particularly well or swim, well, at all.

However, we decided to look at Triathlon. I also took on full time coaching with Garry. This was a massive decision for me financially but it made a lot of sense. I wouldn’t have the worry about fitting the training in around work/family commitments and even then, wondering if I was using that time effectively.

What I learnt-

  • New goals can seem daunting but at the same time exciting. They can renew enthusiasm immensely.
  • Measure your bike accurately when it is set up how you want, and keep a record of those measurements, just in case.

We were starting pretty much from scratch, I could barely run and couldn’t swim a length of a 25 metre pool without half drowning.

Rather than the Cycle test I was booked in for, we decided that I would go away for a few weeks, work on some basic strength and conditioning exercises to prepare me for run training before returning for a run test.

During the run test the first two sections were steady state but even during these I was struggling. Then the ramp test… If I thought that the cycling ramp test was hell, nothing could have prepared me for the fresh hell of a cycling ramp test!

The results were no surprise in that they were incredibly similar to my first cycling test in 2014. I was blowing out of my backside at a very low speed. No fat burning was going on, I was just blitzing through my glycogen at anything more than a walk. I was anaerobic at anything above a Dad-Jog.

From the test, my training zones were set and my training was then to be set week by week.

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First Run test result. Short warm up then 5 minutes at 8kph followed by 5 minutes at 10kph. I was heavy on the treadmill with poor form. Like my first bike test in 2014, I had no endurance. I’m going anaerobic where the red CO2 line draws level with the blue Oxygen line. This occurred at 6 minutes, the moment I started running at 8kph! AT 10kph I was completely anaerobic.

What I learnt-

 

  • Bike fitness bears little relation to run fitness
  • If you’ve never been a runner, don’t overdo it even if you feel fit enough. You need to make sure that your joints are up to it. There is loads on the web about running conditioning exercises.

I also started swimming. There was no great structure to these sessions other than actually aiming for one full length, then two, and so on. I studied numerous Youtube Videos and the Swim Smooth website to pick up pointers then one day something clicked and I went from 2 lengths in one go without stopping to 400 metres then a couple of weeks later my first mile. I was still incredibly slow but what I was pleased with was the effect it was having on my day to day living. I was getting less back and shoulder pain as the deeper muscles of my shoulders and back were getting a good, low impact workout.

What I learnt-

  • If you have any back or shoulder injuries, get swimming!
  • Bike or run fitness does not equate to swimming speed. Technique is king.

2016

Spring

My first early season goal was a Duathlon, the Dambuster based at Rutland Water. This was a precursor really to an event in the Autumn, the Vitruvian Triathlon, a half IM based on the same course. There were no expectations whatsoever.

I’d started doing a couple of run interval sessions and brick sessions to get my body used to the change from run to bike and vice versa. In the build up Garry had been really careful to avoid me becoming injured but I picked up a bit of an ankle injury, it became quite sore after each session. We rested it a week until the Dambuster, thinking it was running related.

The Dambuster course featured a pretty flat run but a hilly bike course. As it was my first multisport event I mithered Garry relentlessly for some hints and tips. One thing was clear. I was overthinking things considerably.

We kept it simple which works for me. I was apprehensive about my ankle and the fact that due to the breaking strain of a kit-kat, I’d put on a fair bit of beef over the winter.

On the day of the race the weather was horrendous-  sleet, 2 deg C with wind chill of -10 on the bike. Again I was worried but I just had to man up. It was the same for everybody and I just had to make sure I was attired correctly.

The event was a shock to the system. by the end of the first kilometre’s running it was clear that I was a very poor runner, aside from the ankle being sore I just really was bad. I soon dropped off and arrived at transition in last place in my Age Group. However. I had just done a 10km PB at 55:18.

Once I arrived in transition I went to take a swig of water from the bottle on my bike. It was empty. The bottle had split. I set off, pre-warned by Garry to pace myself and not get giddy overtaking people. I was cramping straight away, the bike section was a delicate balance of trying to push on but not induce the cramp. I made up 83 places overall on the bike leg despite being disappointed with my time of 1:18:46, just shy of 20mph average.

During the final run I dug deep and managed to withstand the agonising cramp and ankle pain, only losing 4 places overall, the last 5k taking 25:05.

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Wrapped up against the elements, flat out in the last 5k.

I finished completely empty but absolutely buzzing. I was rubbish yet better than I’d ever expected, finishing in the middle third of the field. There were quite a few DNFs due to the conditions and I was glad I stuck it out.

What I learnt-

  • An experienced coach isn’t just there for training sessions, they can help enormously with logistical and mental prep for events.
  • Check your equipment before using it
  • Don’t be put off by bad conditions, they can work to your advantage

The atmosphere at the event was excellent. The organisation very slick. I was happy at the direction I was taking with my training and goals.

After the Dambuster I went to see a physio called Jamal at Lilleshall National Sports Centre. There were initial concerns that there was an actual tear to one of the tendons on the outside of my ankle but thankfully Jamal said it just needed rest and rehab exercises. These worked wonders and I got to the bottom of the cause too. It was the set up on my TT bike.

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Trip to Lilleshall, home of the EIS, to see a physio. Jamal was massively experienced, I was in good hands.

I’d spaced the crankset incorrectly meaning that my right leg was reaching out further than it should. A quick fix.

What was curious was that I had been struggling with results despite some really good power PBs on the bike. I got a small PB on one of my target TTs, the fabulous Beacon Little Mountain Time Trial but I was lighter and power was up a lot. I got VERY frustrated, not least I felt that I’d wasted the sizeable sum I’d invested at the Aerocoach session last winter. To cap it all I was lucky enough to get a start in a midweek 10 at the very fast course in Hull and despite another power PB my time was terrible, by far the slowest I’d gone on there. The only explanation being that I was as aerodynamically efficient as breeze block.

Summer

I borrowed Garry’s Cervelo P5 for a couple of events, one was a 25TT which I PBd at despite horrendous conditions, the other the Tour of Cambridgeshire Chrono, a closed road qualifier for the UCI world Masters TT Champs.

Garry’s bike felt right for me straight away, with only a minor adjustment for saddle height needed. The front end was a fair bit higher than mine, it felt great. I performed better at the Chrono than some other riders who normally beat me.

I really enjoyed the experience of the event however the course was a little, well, dull. I’m not sure whether I’ll ride it again. It was a little frustrating that I was drafted pretty much the whole way round by a guy I overtook after about 5 minutes.

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I measured up to the millimeter and attempted to recreate the same position on my own bike. I could get it there with the help of a guy I had become acquainted with from the Bikeradar and TT internet forums, Andrew Tomkins. But it wasn’t pretty, it involved 90mm of spacers under the base bar, and the base bar was still too low for me. But it would do. It measured within a couple of mm of Garry’s P5 now.

What I learnt-

  • Lower isn’t always quicker. It can be considerably slower if you can’t get your head into a good position with a low body.
  • Even with closed roads it’s difficult mentally to take the fastest line through a right hand corner.
  • Cervelo P5s with Dura Ace Di2 are amazing and garner quite a bit of attention at events.

Training moved on towards my first tri, the Castle series at Cholmondley Castle in June. It mainly consisted of endurance paced runs and a mix of endurance and threshold sessions on the bike.

I swam when I could, and I did my first ever Open Water swimming session at a place very local to me – Boundary Park, organised by USwim. The set up was amazing and it was only 2 minutes away from me. Why had I never tried this before? I loved it. A fantastic atmosphere.

I got some really good pointers from the staff there and, as predicted, after the initial panic attack (true story) when I started I got into it, building up to the 1900m I would be required to swim at the Tri. I was really pleased how I’d come on.

I went back to Garry for a Running Test, I’d made big improvements to my endurance and Garry noticed my running form had improved from Lego Man to Passable. I’d also lost a fair chunk of fat. I was burning more fat at 10kph in this test than I had been at 8kph in the first test. My Endurance Heart rate zone had increased by a not inconsiderable 9 bpm.

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So much better! Note how much longer the blue oxygen line stays above the red CO2 line. The Ramp test section on the right doesn’t look that much different until you see the scale at the bottom. My Aerobic Threshold is almost at the same point I actually blew up and finished last time.

When the Castle Tri approached I recce’d the bike route, it was 3 laps of an undulating, twisting course, a fair bit of which was on narrow lanes. It was, however, very scenic. There were a couple of climbs in particular I made note of, so I knew I could go quite hard up them and get chance for some recovery on the other side. Due to the undulating nature of the course and the fact I wouldn’t be at particularly high speeds I decided to use my Carbon 60mm clincher Wheelsmith front wheel rather than the Hed Trispoke. I also decided to use my rear disc though because I like the noise and it’s bloomin light with a SRAM Red cassette on. Paul Bonner from Bikes n Gear in Knutsford did me a massive favour and stuck some Stan’s sealant in the tubular for me. It gave me a lot of confidence.

After receiving numerous pointers from Garry about the logistics of a half iron distance event (mainly consisting of paring back – ‘what the hell do you need all that for on your bike?! was heard when I told him what I’d stuck on it) I was ready.

Registration took place the night before, brilliantly organised, and it was great to catch up with one of the guys who really inspires me, Steve Berry.

On the morning of the race the weather gods shone brightly, it was a most pleasant morning. Having been used to the very pleasant set up at Boundary Park I have to admit, getting in to the water at Cholmondley was grim. I’m such a softie when it comes to this but getting me feet into deep weeds and not being able to see my hands in the water freaked me out somewhat. I made sure that I acclimatised as I’d been told at USwim and others by getting right in, putting my face in the water and blowing bubbles. I had that awful panic again but after a few times I calmed down and was ready.

As we set off all the sediment got kicked up and I found myself gagging a few times but I cracked on, making sure that my sighting was ok (this was a big issue for me, I keep wandering off line due to imbalances).

The swim went well actually, my fastest pace yet for any distance. I was glad of the ‘Australian Beach Exit’ half way round though, despite banging my ribs rather firmly on the step out. It gave me a bit of a breather and a bit of confidence. I also saw that I was actually doing, well, ok.

I had no idea in the grand scheme of things where I was as I Jogged with those jelly legs to the bike transition.

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It came from the swamp!

I set off steadily on the bike and found myself flying past people. The bike leg went very well for me. My power was good, my position on the bike felt good and at the end of the first lap I was glad to see I’d clocked over 20mph average.

On the second lap we picked up riders from some of the other shorter events which gave me more impetus as I passed them. When I finally got back to transition, pretty damned pleased, there were hardly any bikes there! I Was a bit worried I’d messed up.

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Felt good on the bike with the stacks reminiscent of Battersea Power Station’s chimneys. Not a long term solution though. Despite a Giro Selector being the only helmet that tested faster for me at the Aerocoach session it relied on me being firmly ensconced in the TT position. I wasn’t confident I could sustain this so the Kask Bambino was a good choice for me on the day.

I set off on the run for the first of 3 laps and BANG! Cramp straight away. This was not good seeing as I had to run for quite some distance. In fact I’d only ever run a half marathon once before, in 2003, at a jog when I started to try and lose weight. I grimaced and cracked on and after the first mile the legs loosened everything else felt pretty comfortable. As I headed up to the first feedstation where there was a 180 degree turn I saw Steve Berry on his second lap, this was great for me to see and really gave me a boost.

I’m glad I hadn’t recce’d the route as it involved a bit of a shocker at the back of the castle, a steep off road climb and descent. This completely wrecked the rhythm but in some ways broke the run up for me. As I passed near the spectator artea I was absolutely over the moon to see my wife, kids, sister and her kids there all cheering me on. This is the first time any family members had seen me race and I cannot understate the impact this had on me. Any pain washed away and I got goosebumps. It was amazing..

I hung on for grim death for the remaining two laps, discovering I very much like flat coke. I fought the cramps and kept looking at my time thinking ‘I’ve gone wrong here, no way!!’

As I came to the finish line my family were there cheering and shouting again. The feeling of euphoria was immense. I crossed the line, spent, got hugs off the family and went to check my results.

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Almost in tears of euphoria. That’s my sister in the background taking a picture with her phone. She assures me she’s not giving me the Vs.

To say I was shocked is an understatement. Not only had I absolutely smashed my 6hr stretch goal but I’d finished top 10 in my Age Group, 9th in fact. I was gobsmacked. And instantly addicted. The only downside was that the run was short by a mile so I couldn’t claim my half marathon PB.

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It gave me a really good grounding to work towards the Vitruvian Tri in September.

What I learnt-

  • Triathlon is AWESOME. Friendly, well organised, challenging, rewarding.
  • I was a lot better than I thought I was going to be.
  • I only need two 500ml bottles on the bike and 4 gels. Don’t be put off by others who look like they’re taking part in an unsupported Race Across America attempt.

I had a great summer holiday with the family on holiday in Menorca, running most days and generally enjoying myself. Which resulted in quite a considerable weight gain.

One event I did which I’d done last year was the Wild Wales Challenge. A hilly ride in Wales organised by Merseyside CTC. The course changes each year and features roads you’d NEVER happen upon yourself unless by chance. I loved being fit for this as it meant I could actually enjoy the climbs and have energy to savour the descents rather than dreading that it meant it led to another steep hill. It’s very much a club event with the only prize being for the club with the highest amount of finishers.

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On the climb up the Bwlch y Groes after nearly 90 miles. Utterly Stunning!

 

Autumn

Once back we recommenced a similar regime that led to the Castle. I still wasn’t making much headway with the swimming but bigger gains were to come at this time from running and consolidating my bike fitness.

I’d read about someone using a standard road fork and stem instead of the fully integrated front end on the same bike frame as mine. This would be a big deal in my attempt to get my position sorted without recourse to a new frame that I couldn’t afford. I ordered a cheap Deda fork and got it fitted with a 90mm stem. It was instantly better. I was easily able to replicate the position I’d got on Garry’s bike, the base bar was in a better position for handling and climbing and another bonus, a Dura Ace front brake rather than the weak integrated effort.  A few training sessions on and I was confident this was the answer.

As previously mentioned, the Vitruvian Triathlon follows the same course as the Dambuster Duathlon, with 2 laps of the bike course and 2 laps-and-a-bit of the 10k run course. Despite the longer run and more climbing I had hopes of beating the 5:32. This was the national middle distance champs so there was a quality field.

As I registered and set my bike up in transition the night before I was mindful that the weather was going to be awful. It was most pleasant at that time but was forecast to start raining overnight. I saw a few people had put bags over their bikes. I had one of my Logistical Panics and rang Garry who reassurred with the rather obvious fact that the bike would get p!ss wet through the instant I sat on it after the swim and throughout the race…

I had a fantastic meal the night before at a restaurant in the town I was staying over at in Uppingham. Making sure I didn’t eat anything too heavy. I allowed myself one nice glass of white wine and half a gallon of water.

I got an early night but was repeatedly awoken by people leaving drinking establishments then the rain came. And my word did it come.

I got up at 5 to make sure I got to the event and make sure transition was set up properly before it shut at 6.30. I just had a little bowl of muesli at the hotel before heading out. It was absolutely pouring down on a biblical scale. There was no getting round the fact that I wasn’t going to dry out after the swim.

It was my first time racing in Sportstest colours too. My Nimblewear Trisuit had arrived just in time, in fact I picked it up en route to Uppingham the day before. You shouldn’t really race in something you’ve never tried before but the suit looked quality, so I thought sod it! However getting the tight suit on whilst getting rained on was quite an amusing challenge. Well, amusing for those watching me trying to get it over my damp shoulders anyway. I was only prevented from swearing by the presence of a child nearby. The talc I tried just got washed off by the deluge. It fitted perfectly if a little tight due to my excess baggage, the material felt FAR better than the Descente I’d worn at Cholmondley.

The lack of sleep was well and truly behind me and I was ready for the swim. There were 3 waves off before my age group and I was eager to get going.

My swim was not much different in terms of time to Cholmondley, however I was swimming faster but I was terrible at sighting this time due to the amount of people around me and the heavy rain so I did a bit further than I should. I was glad again of the small Australian Beach Exit.

Off out to transition knowing I was well down the field. As expected, everything was wet through but I didn’t really notice once I was off.

The difference in the bike set up was noticeable. I was more comfortable, power was good and I was cruising at a pace and the conditions weren’t really affecting me as I thought they would.. There were quite a few hold ups in traffic as motorists overtook without looking ahead to see that they had to brake sharply just in front of me for other riders. I kept it steady on the climbs and pushed on over the tops to get back up to speed, a method that worked well for me. My average speed was in fact 1mph faster than Dambuster, despite the fact it was twice the distance.

I’d chosen the Bambino helmet again, but foolishly I’d left it upside down in transition so the inside of the visor was wet through and it never really cleared properly. I ended up taking the visor off and stowing it using the magnets on top of the helmet. The visor promptly blew off when I did a quick check over my shoulder when overtaking and was never seen again.

I’d used the same nutrition strategy that stood me well at Cholmondley but due to the cold I hadn’t drunk quite as much.

On to the run I set off steadily, a bit of cramp initially and a few overtook me. However I started to feel more and more comfortable and built speed throughout. I actually and managed a negative split, doing my 2nd best ever 10k time in the second half. I overtook a fair few of those that had got past me early on the run.

This wan’t about finishing positions but improving on my Cholmondley performance and I’d improved on that in spades! Power was higher on the bike and my run time was pretty much the same as Cholmondley despite being 1.2km longer. I was very pleased indeed. Oh, and the Tri Suit was a resounding success.

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Taken by Garry who’d come to watch. Always great to have some support! My finishing time was 5:06:32, I finished 256 out of over 800 starters. I made up over 330 places on the bike.

What I learnt-

  • A good night’s sleep is nice but not essential to good race performance. I think it has more of an effect long term/on recovery.
  • Watch where you’re going whilst swimming!
  • Don’t be put off by bad conditions (Have I said that before?)
  • Knowledge of a course is a massive advantage. Knowing when and where to push on is key.
  • Self belief is very powerful.
  • Dura Ace brakes are fantastic, even on carbon rims in the wet.
  • Bambino visor magnets are as effective as a jelly hammer.

Garry and I had a bit of a discussion. It was clear last winter I had stagnated so Garry suggested some winter events, or at least one event a month to keep me focused. I immediately suggested the Oulton Park Autumn Duathlon in early October, a qualifier for the 2017 European Champs. I also entered a couple of 10ks and a half marathon. in November.

As Oulton neared I had a couple of run speed work sessions and top end bike sessions. Training was going well and weight was coming off. I got a few comments from colleagues and friends that I had lost weight which is music to the ears of anyone into endurance sports!

 

I was really relaxed for the Oulton Park Duathlon. One of the aspects I was looking forward to was the circuit, to be bombing down Cascades Corner on my bike like I’d seen British Touring Cars do in my youth.

The weather was perfect. Sunny, not too warm and only a little wind. Registration and transition were a doddle, I loved the fact that Transition was in the pit lane. The race was slightly shorter than ‘standard’ distance at 9k run, 39k bike, 4.5k run.

Off we went and I felt great, yes I’m not a fast runner (yet) but for the 1st run I set my fastest pace ever for anything over 5k.

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Perfect conditions.

The bike was (mostly) a joy. I posted the 4th fastest split in my Age Group. averaging over 24mph. I wasn’t disappointed by the circuit. Cascades was a hoot and the banked hairpin was fun too. There are a couple of short sharp rises on the circuit that after about 5 laps start to really hurt. The tarmac surface though, sublime! One observation was the difficulty avoiding drafting. With 9 laps and a field of over 300 it was hard to keep moving line and avoid getting boxed in. Thankfully I did OK and avoided any penalties.

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In full flight at the bottom of Cascades. I was using another new fork that enabled me to raise the base bar further again, much to my benefit. The fork was also of a more aerodynamic design. I’d decided on the Tri SPoke front wheel due to the higher speeds anticipated and lack of wind. I’d also used the Giro Helmet for the first time in a multisport event.

The 2nd run brought about my usual cramps but I hung on, ran a faster pace than my first run and finished in a touch over 2hrs. In fact it was a faster pace than my 5km PB. I finsihed with my legs seizing and reached for my much deserved Erdinger AlcoholFrei awaiting me. I’d finished in the top quarter of the field and had a great day out.

I’m still waiting news of a possible roll down spot at the European champs.

What I Learnt-

  • Motor Racing Circuits are AMAZING for riding a bike on
  • Being relaxed about an event can be of benefit. I still had expectations of myself but I think the difference was confidence. I went in with some self-belief.
  • I lost a lot of time to those at the sharp end on the run. A LOT.
  • I need focus on running over the winter
  • I need to lose weight over the winter

Going Forward to Winter and 2017

As I said at the start, I’ve loved training and racing in 2016 once I’d got my early injury worry and my bike issue out of the way. Garry has been absolutely brilliant at dealing with my comical meltdowns and sorting my training out.

I have saved up over the last 12 months for another session with Aerocoach in December, I’m really looking forward to that. November is going to bring my first ever stand alone 10k run. I’m determined to get well under 50 minutes in that.

I’ll be retesting soon so I’ll post about that too. I’m just having a bit of a week off, We will then set some clear aims over the winter, and the blog posts will be more frequent and (substantially) shorter and more about what I’m up to than an overview.

Alex

 

 

A new venture pt 1: Operation Donkey

2014

At the start of 2014 I was lost. My training was going nowhere. I had enjoyed doing some sessions on the track and had managed to get my Accreditation at Manchester Velodrome however I felt like I was going backwards.

Back in 2009 I’d been to see Dr Garry Palmer at www.Sportstest.co.uk as I’d got a free session through Cyclepowermeters when buying my first powertap.

I remember it being an enlightening experience, made a fair bit of progress (resulting in me winning the Macclesfield Wheelers 10 mile TT handicap trophy in 2011.)

However following my broken back/shoulder in 2011, in 2012 I was lost again. In 2013 I started doing a bit on the track and a couple of club time trials but I was very poor. I was going nowhere.

It took me until February 2014 to ‘remember’ about Garry’s services. So I booked in for a cycling test.

The results were equally shocking yet expected. I had absolutely ZERO endurance. None. Somehow my body seemed to have no aerobic capacity whatsoever. I started burning glycogen almost as soon as I started turning the pedals with virtually no fat burning going on at all. Soon after that I was getting in oxygen debt.

We had a good chat about my goals, I was interested in Time Trialling and racing on the track. Garry pointed out that the two disciplines weren’t particularly compatible but I was determined to get somewhere.

Armed with a training plan and my new training zones I began…

The aim was a mix of aerobic base building (Classed by Garry as Level 2 in line with British Cycling Heart Rate guidelines, but scientifically, accurately, derived by Garry from my aerobic capacity test) with some sub threshold work (Level 3 British Cycling, based on my ramp test.)

Guide to BC Heart Rate zones

If I used traditional methods of calculating my ‘Zone/Level 2’ from  maximum heart rate or from a typical ‘threshold test’ it was way out. Far too high. I was far too rubbish. I was a donkey.

During my Level 2 rides I felt like a complete beginner, I was so slow. However I made sure I stuck to my zones. My average speed on local rides was around 14-14.5mph. My level 3 rides were equally slow – for those that don’t mind getting bored by power levels, they were intervals varying between 5-12 minutes at around 220-230watts.

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Results of my Feb 14 test. The left half of the graph is the aerobic capacity test. The blue line is oxygen intake, red line CO2 output. Where the blue line is above the redline, fat burning is going on. The more/longer the blue line is above the red line, the fitter you are. As you can see. I was SHOCKING! Even at 165 watts!

Keeping my ego in check I coped with being overtaken by all and sundry whilst out on the bike with the mantra in my head (in Garry’s voice) ‘it is what it is’ playing on permanent loop.

Over a couple of months I noticed my speed was creeping higher. As was my power during the Level 3 sessions.

I got myself a TT bike from ebay built on the cheap. I was utterly dreadful but experienced told me to get a fit by Adrian Timmis at http://www.cadencesport.co.uk. Much better but limited still by the frame, the saddle angle was too slack for a TT bike but Adrian made the best of a bad job.

The time trial and track seasons started and I was doing OK. I started with the club 10s on the local Macclesfield to Congleton course and got my times down to the mid 23 minute region. I did my first ’25’ and ’50’opens and was quite pleased. I managed a 1:03 something in the 25 and 2:12 something in the 50.

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Congleton 50

On the track, when I could get there, things were going a bit better with a 2nd place finish in a scratch race and I was getting more and more comfortable in the bunch after my initial wariness from my broken back inducing crash. However the logistics of getting to the track around the shiftwork of the wife and I and childcare were taking it’s toll. I had to knock it on the head.

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Taken by my daughter after getting 2nd in the Scratch

I sold the track bike in the autumn to get a new TT bike. I took the trip over to Planet X and got myself an Exocet 2 frame and built it up. Off to Adrian Timmis at Cadence sport again and it was much better, although the frame was too small I got a good fit on it.

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Bike fit at Cadencesport on the new bike

An autumn test with Garry resulted in a long chat about realistic goals. He didn’t tell me directly what he thought I should be aiming for but like any good coach, through his questioning he led me to making my own decision on concentrating on the Time Trialling.

2015

Into the new year the training continued in a similar vein but I was getting so much faster, able to ride fasted for much longer at Level 2 (my heart rate at this point had increased substantially too, I was much more efficient). My power at Level 3 intervals was substantially higher than 12 months earlier too. I was doing my Level 2 rides at 19-20mph on the road bike.

I retested again with Garry in the spring of 2015 and the results were clear.

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Note the blue line. It’s firmly above the red even at 220w. Further more, on the ramp test look at how much longer it took me to get to anaerobic threshold! Just over 28 minutes as opposed to just over 24. That equates to around 70 watts.

I had entered a few open time trial events with one big aim of getting under 2 hours in the Beacon Little mountain Time Trial. My favourite event. I’d done this event a few times before with mixed success, I love the course but I had crashed there in 2011, didn’t enter in 2012 and in 2013 did not finish (due to my dreadful aerobic fitness resulting in crippling cramp).

I was pleased with how I was doing, come the Beacon LMTT I just missed out on my goal of sub 2hrs but came 5th in the ‘biggest improvement to PB’ prize.

I knew things were going well in 2015 when I beat my PB on the local Macclesfield Wheelers Gawsworth course from before I broke my back with a 22:44. I got under the hour for the first time on the local 25 Time Trial (J2/9 for you geeks) course in the Stretford wheelers open with a 59:17 which was such an amazing feeling. I also knocked 6 minutes off my 50 time on the same course as last year. I was feeling great.

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National 50

I also did a couple of ‘fast’ events, recording a big 25 PB of 55:42 and 10 PB of 20:58.

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On my way to a 20:58 ’10’

But. By the end of the season I was getting bored of it. The training for time trials was very monotonous (if effective) and I was just chasing times. Even the racing was a little dull. I needed something new.

In the autumn it was time to sit down with Garry again.

This is where it was all change…

Pt 2 and 2016 coming soon.

Bike fit at Pedal Precision

This latest post is about a trip to PedalPrecision.com

Long post…
Bit of background

In March 2009 I broke my leg quite badly and it really affected my cycling, over the months I was struggling more and more with various niggles and pains. Through the Bikeradar forum I heard about a small fledgling bike fit operation – Adrian Timmis (Cadencesport) and took the plunge. That was early in 2010 and since then I have waxed lyrical about the service he provided and the difference it made to my cycling. This is well documented already.

In short, during this fit I had angled wedges placed inside my shoes and under my cleats, also Adrian found a leg length discrepancy, so I had a 1cm stack on right shoe. The front end was sorted and some gems of advice imparted.

The biggest thing with Adrian’s fit were the moulded footbeds, they had such a profound effect I spoke to my GP who referred to a podiatrist. The podiatrist found very quickly that I needed inserts all the time and I had some custom inserts made for my shoes.

In 2011 I broke my back and collar bone, changed my bike, have bought new cleats a few times and I had slowly ‘unfitted’ myself. Furthermore over the last 2 years I have developed pain at back of knees, ITB issues, lower back problems and a distinct loss of motivation.

I have had the leanest few months of cycling in years, I’ve not even managed 300 miles in 2013, including turbo mileage. I was doing that much a week before.

Decided it was time for another bike fit…

Due to the increased cost of the fit at cadencesport (was £100 3 yrs ago, now £180 but it’s now in a VERY nice shop, if you’re in the area, it’s well worth a visit not least for all the Tour memorabilia, classic bikes on display and all the lovely kit to buy. Nice coffee too!) and travel distance I decided to try Pedal Precision (Pedal Precision) at Manchester Velodrome.

I contacted Richard by email and an appointment was made. There are three levels of fit, I opted for the middle ‘Pro’ fit.

Today I entered the hallowed entrance to the world hub of track cycling and was met with Richard’s friendly face, taken to his office and given a nice coffee while we chatted about my cycling, my issues and my goals.

Richard started from scratch, he looked at the way I walked (he could tell by the way I used it I’m not a woman’s man) and looked at my mobility/range of motion. This took about 30 mins. Richard found that my ‘leg length discrepancy’ was not in fact an actual discrepancy but appeared that way due to a mechanical issue with weakness in my right hip. The mechanics of it were all explained to me in detail using a diagram.

Ditched all the cleat wedges and the stack but kept the footbeds. Kept the angled insert in the shoe and bolstered it up slightly.

Then I got on the bike

My Knee/ITB issues, I was told, were due to muscle weakness in certain areas. Turns out I’ve hardly ever used my glutes whatsoever, for anything! Once these start joining in I hope to be getting some more power out. It appears I’ve not been using the outer part of my quads either and my ITB has been working overtime to correct this. This has then caused ITB tightness. I have been given exercises to address these, thus I will eventually sort the root cause of these weaknesses rather than deal with the end result of them through use of shims/wedges. This should make me a stronger cyclist and be less sensitive to changes in position.

Whilst on the turbo I was filmed from various angles and examined in slow motion, and of course watched ‘live’. Looking at my rear on the screen you could see the weakness at the bottom right of my back. It was also a big fat ass. Need to do something about that.

Adjustments were made to my saddle position and explanations given as to what was being done and why. For the record I was moved a fair bit forward and a little up. The saddle was tilted slightly forward but not that you’d notice to look at. My legs immediately felt more comfortable and due to the change in angle I could feel my glutes firing without having to contort myself or compromise the power from my quads. I was riding very smoothly with no ‘grabbing’ which had been causing the substantial pain at the top of my calf on longer rides. There were no issues with the front end fit at all and no adjustments made.

Richard will be sending me an email with all the exercises detailed and all the bike measurements on a diagram.

I was glad I had the footbeds from Adrian, maybe it is something Richard could look at (unless he does them already, I never broached the subject)

In all an excellent, very detailed service with a full and open explanation of what was done at every stage. No hidden secrets here. Learnt a fair few things about my body and I have come away with a very positive outlook about my riding again…

Richard is a really nice, relaxed guy. Very easy to get on with to and interesting talking to him about his background and his life changing events.

I have said this before and I’ll say it again, people don’t baulk at paying out money for upgraded components that don’t acually improve anything but bragging rights (I’m as guilty as anyone) so in the grand scheme of things, a bike fit is peanuts. I’d recommend to getting a good bike fit to anyone who cycles. I’d highly recommend both fitters I’ve been to, they both have different approaches, but I was really pleased with the results from both.

I will post an update in a month or so with how I’m getting on having done the exercises for a month. Unless no-one’s interested, then I won’t bother…

Just for the sake of it

Most blogs start this way and mine is no exception….
“It’s been ages since it was updated and it’s about time I did it.”

A little update before the meat and bones-
Following my accident in May the healing is going steadily, my back is a little stiff but I’m certain it’s going to be OK, my collar bone is still not fully knitted in yet but I have a good range of movement. It’s plated up with 7 screws. In short, I’m bloody lucky. I’ve been able to get out riding but being in pain, unfit and overweight is not a good combination. Mentally I’m a lot better, I was somewhat fragile following the crash as I had a lot of other stresses at the time especially as I had bitten by HIV+/HEP C+ drug addict.

I had decided to give up road racing as my current job was in jeopardy and I didn’t want to take too many risks especially now with 3 kids to feed.

I thought I’d stick with time trialling until my Wife and I heard the terrible news of Karl Austin being killed. Karl was very well known on the local time trial scene and his death, well, it’s just incredibly sad, so pressure from my wife made me decide to stop TTing too. Karl’s Funeral was very moving and there was a tremendous turnout from the cycling fraternity. I’ll never forget that day. It was my first ride out on the bike since the crash and the physical pain was forgotten about. It would be a while before I was able to ride again.

I’d had to stop being coached by Adrian Timmis in the short term due to financial constraints however the lack of racing meant that this sadly became a long term thing. However he had opened a new shop, Cadence Sport in Barton under Needwood in late May/Early June so I went along to see him there.

The shop itself is very nicely appointed, he has some really great memorabilia on display from his racing days and (worse for me and my wallet) some very nice bikes and kit for sale.

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We had a good chat, comparing injuries (Ada had broken his collar bone and elbow 18 months ago but had lots of problems with it). It was then he advised me to sell my Powertap, ride on feel and most importantly to remember why I started riding in the first place.

The decision to get rid of the powertap was pretty easy due to the financial issues of being off work however I then had to get to grips with the idea of training without power. This should not be an issue whatsoever but I had become mentally reliant on those figures. However my reliance also translated into misery when my numbers weren’t what they should be or I was hoping for. For a rank amateur this is not a good thing.

I don’t miss it. Not at all. Having used power for every session and in particular doing intervals my legs have learnt how each effort should feel. I’m pretty confident that when doing intervals I can be pretty consistent.

But that’s not important anymore. Here’s the crux- I’m just riding for the sake of riding. I’m not ‘training’. It’s incredibly liberating and in fact the thought of not racing has been almost like a weight off my mind. I still get pangs when I think of racing and look at my trophies but I also feel my wounds and look at my kids, they soon go. I’ll still do my turbo sessions due to time/family constraints though, an addiction to The Sufferfest will ensure that. (New video out, review to follow)

Last Friday this liberation hit me enormously. I possibly had the best ride of my life. I was in full summer gear as it was beautifully warm but the autumn colours added an extra vibrance to the peak district. I’d picked a great route and there was no pressure for me to ride at a certain speed/heart rate/power output. It was, quite literally, just a bike ride.
I even didn’t mind stopping to take a few snaps, here’s my favourite of the day, you can see the road going back over the hill in the distance-

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One thing that struck me was that I was able to ride several hours now without back pain. Thinking back to all the niggles I used to feel, one of the biggest factors in the enjoyment of the ride was the fact my bike fits perfectly. You can’t enjoy that ride if you are in pain or have niggling soreness. Bike fit and riding enjoyment go hand in hand.

Forget spending any money on new bike bling, the most important purchase after a bike, in my opinion, is a bike fit from someone who knows what they’re doing. The biggest ‘upgrade’ you’ll ever get. Even if you don’t get any ‘niggles’ or discomfort, you could be losing power through an inefficient position. That’s free speed. Racing or not, free speed is nice.

This brings me back to Adrian Timmis. You owe it to yourself to pay him a visit. Then get out and REALLY enjoy your riding…

Progress

Went to see the surgeon today to discuss whether or not I have a plate put on my shoulder. I say ‘discussion’, the consultation lasted about 3 minutes as we both wanted it!
I’m going in on Thursday.

Update-

I had a marvellous plate put in to stabilise it…

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I’ve had enough.

Raced yesterday at Birmingham Circuit races.

Fantastic circuit and great organisation.

Big field of about 60.

There had been a few squirrely moments with people braking for no reason at all. Saw a particular lad cut people up at one of the roundabouts a couple of times and doing the dreaded bombing down the inside on the approach to a corner.

1.5 laps to go I was feeling really strong, ready to sprint. I was keeping out of trouble near the front, on the outside of the bunch (exactly where I wanted to be) and I saw same lad do his stupid bombing down the inside on the approach to a left hand bend. He had no room at all and knocked into two others.

I thought FFS, they are going to crash, thank god I’m over here.

Cue one of the riders shoot out over to the right on the ground, right in front of me.

Cue me going over the handlebars right up in the air.

I landed on my head/left shoulder/back

I felt my helmet explode as I landed and as soon as I got up (lucky I wasn’t hit from behind) I knew I’d done my collar bone.

The lad that in my opinion caused it said ‘never mind your shoulder, this is the first time I’ve used these wheels and they’re wrecked!’

Anyhoo, I’ve got 3 fractures to my left collar bone and a compression fracture to my T11 vertebrae.
I’ve got a career that relies on me being fit and healthy. I have 3 kids (one of whom is 10 weeks old) and a wife to support.

For that reason, I’m out.

From now on I’m just training on the turbo to keep fit and *may* do local 10s.

As an aside, I had a crash in Dec where I banged my head and was concussed. My helmet was ok but a little cracked. Obviously you are supposed to replace as they won’t work properly but I had just been thinking ‘sod it, I’ll be ok’ but after Wouter Weylandt’s crash, even though it didn’t help him. I discussed it with my wife and despite being skint I thought it best to buy a new helmet, so on Thurs I got one.

I’m sooooo glad I did. It really did it’s job.

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