Sunday, 16 September 2018

Failing to plan..

is planning to fail.

I'm usually pretty good at planning, in my professional life, anyway. As triathlon has usually been a hobby I've tended to be a lot more relaxed and taken things as they have come. With Ironman Switzerland being a major focus next year, I need to plan better in order to maximise the time I have available.

To that end, I've signed up to the premium version of Training Peaks. I've used the free version for years, well, before Strava came along. TP will help me generate my annual training plan and help me keep on top of the sessions that I will need to tick off.

Weekly Plan - Preparation
 So this is what a current week looks like. Mondays will stay a rest day as I think it's important I let my body have a break from the inevitable larger amount of work that will be done each weekend. The downside to this is that it means a double training day on Tuesday, but the swim is a shorter, drills focussed one, so should not be too strenuous.

This is an 8 hour week, which is perfect at the moment. As I mentioned in my last post, there's nothing in there that's too demanding, except a couple of early mornings to get the Trainerroad turbo sets done.

I've entered the London-Wales-London audax again; I think it was my favourite event that I did this year and it should be a nice long day out on the bike for a bit of endurance training, but as it's 10 weeks out from IMCH, so it should fit into the plan quite nicely. things are starting to take shape.
Crossing the Severn Bridge. copyright Guardian

Thursday, 13 September 2018


Back in the day when I cheated a lot more
It's been a standing joke on the Tritalk forum for a number of years that any form of swimming as training for a triathlon is cheating. To go for ‘a cheat’ literally means ‘I have swum in a pool or lake in order to be a faster swimmer’.  There’s a consensus amongst a large minority of triathletes that swim training is time wasted. Why spend hours in the pool, when that might only lead to an improvement of say, 10 minutes in an Ironman swim? Those hours are better spent, so the theory goes, on the bike or run where much larger gains can often be found.

I think that there is some truth in this. Last year at The Outlaw, I did 5 swims, total, in the lead up to the race. In fact, I only got into the lake three weeks before the event. I swam 1:15. Compare that to the Forestman where I consistently swam 3 times per week in the preceding months, including an open water swim every week and I ended up swimming 59 minutes. This was a great swim and was well above my expectations at the time, but ultimately it was only 15 minutes better than my Outlaw swim with virtually no training.

It’s hard to compare bike splits in these two events as I’m not really comparing like for like. At the Forestman I was on my road bike with clip-on bars and no aero clothing. At the Outlaw, I was in full TT mode. That said, at the Outlaw I was 25 minutes faster for a much, much lower rpe, as I was in full time trial mode and had three years of consistent time trial training behind me. The fact is that with the bike leg of a triathlon there is a lot of low hanging fruit that can be taken advantage of, if you know where to look.

With swimming, I don’t think it’s as easy. You need time in the pool but you also need coaching.  It is by far the most technical of the three disciplines and requires constant drilling and practice to get right and ingrain good technique.  I was fortunate that I had some really excellent coaching with the Kingfisher Triathletes but as I am no longer a member, I need to be a bit more self aware of my faults. Here’s a few things that I know have been weaknesses in the past;

  • Crossing the centre line with my hands.
  • Head position too high which leads to lowering my hips.
  • Shortening my stroke when I’m fatigued, which leads to not finishing at the back of the stroke. 
  • Weak and unbalanced kick. 
I don’t do all these things all the time! Only some of them, some of the time! I’m not going to cure all of them in one go, but as I alluded to in my last post, they are things that I can work on over the winter with drills to make some improvement, before focussing more on my speed endurance. 

So what does all this mean? Well, as I’m aiming for the best performance possible at Ironman Switzerland I’m going to need to do a lot more cheating. 15 minutes is a big chunk of time to give up if I am to aim for a low 10 hour time next year. I also want to be able to get on the bike after expending as little energy as possible so that I can work at a higher ftp, without already having expended a good deal of energy in the water. 

 On top of that, I enjoy swimming. I think I fell out of love with it a few years ago when I was really struggling with very severe pool sniffles that left me with itchy eyes and throat and a runny nose for days on end. I’ve cured this now (by joining an expensive gym, but hey ho) and I’m confident that I can get back to a sub 62 minute swim over the next 9 months. 

Monday, 10 September 2018

Early Doors Ironman Training

At the moment, I'm just trying to establish a regular training routine. Over the last 4 weeks, things have pretty much settled into 2 runs, 2 rides (not including my very short commutes) and 2 swims. I'm going to make a real effort to do my shorter turbo sessions in the morning and get them out of the way, so that I can rest more in the evenings. I have also started to do one of my swims straight after work, again, so it's done and dusted.

I'm going to aim to avoid double training days. At the moment, so far out from IMCH, there is little point as I don't need the volume. I am aiming to be consistent; no big spikes in training, no stupidly big days and no stupidly hard sessions.

I'm excited about the race but I am as excited about the training, which is a good thing. I've  come to realise that I have always enjoyed the process as much as the final outcome and in a wierd way, despite having completed two long course triathlons before and numerous halves, olympics and sprints, this almost feels like a new challenge. The challenge being to get as much out of myself while aiming to maintain as normal a life as possible. I'm aiming to keep an average of 10-12hrs per week which should give me a good balance between doing enough and getting enough rest and sleep.

Swim - At the moment, I am doing a very simple diet of sets. Lots of 100 metre repeats. Usually between 10x100 to 15x100. The 100s are all front crawl, with some drills or some 25 metre sprints. I am doing a pyramid session once a fortnight for a bit more endurance work, but that's it. The aim is simply to keep drilling my technique and getting a feel back for the water.

Bike-So, this is now my best discipline. That's something I would not have said seven years ago. It's all about Trainerroad. I enjoy the sessions, but more importantly, I trust them and know they will get me into the shape I need. So, I am going to avoid the longer commutes that I  have done on the way home before, as that's padding. Do less, but do it with more intensity. One weekend ride, which will be pretty social until Christmas, before riding some more tt based efforts in the new year.

Run- I had my best run in years last week. Not injured, a good tempo effort that felt comfortable and relaxed. 10kms in 45 minutes so not quick but considering where I was just a month ago, I'm already making some gains. This is a great start. My golden rule is no runs on consecutive days and until Christmas I am not going to run longer than 8 miles. There's just no need and a focus on my 5km speed will keep things interesting.

Strength and Core- I've really enjoyed this and I never thought that I would, but so far it's been paying dividends and because of that, it will make me train better and be consistent. If it has a use, then I'll do it.

I did of course get completely carried away in my last post, shooting off about sub10. That shouldn't be my goal. My goal is consistency and as long as I am, then I will get my reward, whatever that may be. Enjoy the process. Do the training. Be happy.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Well, that escalated quickly!

I've entered an Ironman.

After realising that PBP was not going to happen next year, but being all psyched up and ready to head to the continent for a big event, I felt the need to put something in the calendar for next year. So, I've registered for Ironman Switzerland. No half measures; no faffing; no pontificating.

Sub 10 is the aim. Training starts now, in fact training has already been going on for the last 8 weeks.
I'm excited. I'm looking forward to the process. I have confidence in my ability to prepare as well as can be expected within the time budget that I have as a dad, husband and working bloke.

Bring. It. On. #Sub10

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Plans on hold

It's been a properly mixed bag (for that read 'unplanned') month's worth of training, mainly centred around enjoying the Sunday club runs with KPRC and a few rides with Simon. Over the course of a couple of family holidays I started some running again and was really enjoying it, even dipping under 20 minutes at a parkrun. But then the old body gave way, with my hamstrings and glutes protesting  to the point where I had to stop.

However, instead of bitching and moaning about it I actually did something proactive, so I headed down to the gym and got myself seen by an instructor who's given me a strength and core routine to do. It is truly staggering how weak my core and upper body is. During one particularly stressful core exercise my arms were trembling like a skyscraper in an earthquake. 'Ooh, you are weak.' said Tom, my instructor, as various gym bunnies looked on in bemusement. That said, it's been fun doing something different and it seems to be working. I'm going to try some gentle runs again later this week but I'll make sure I keep the gym sessions going, along with a short pool session.

So, that's good. Now the not so good. It looks like that PBP will not happen next year. I spent a few days looking at the qualifiers I was going to do (200 and 300km Kingston Wheelers events, 400 would be LWL again, then Windsor-Chester-Windsor as my 600). But then I checked the dates of PBP and realised that the last day is GCSE results day and with Wheezy Junior taking his GCSEs in 2019, it's not something I can or want to miss. Theoretically, if I left with the 80 hour vedettes group, and everything went well and I had a stellar ride, then I could get back to London by Thursday morning, but that's all a big if and I would constantly be clock-watching, which would just sap the fun from the event. I am gutted, but I've enjoyed the audax this year so I intend to complete my Super Randonne series this season and do all the qualifiers next year anyway. Even if I can't do PBP I can still do a shed load of audax.

It does rather leave me with what else to focus on next year, but for the time being, a bit of bike, a bit run and a bit of swim is fine.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

The Buzzard 600km Audax

It's 4am on Sunday morning. I've just managed to avoid 30 very drunk teenagers in Wells, who still haven't gone home after the England game; I've been riding for 22 hours and I'm shattered. My planned sleep stop at a 24 hour MacDonald's hasn't happened because I don't actually know where the MacDonald's is. Suddenly, one of my riding companions, Fraser stops and signals to the left. There, a farmer has left a field gate open and there's a full wheat field. I don't hesitate, so I climb off my bike and lie down for a sleep. It's not gone well, but at least I'm getting the full audax experience.

To become a 'Super Randoneur', one has to ride a 200, 300, 400 and 600km audax ride in a season. As well as that, this is the requirement to gain entry into Paris-Brest-Paris and riding a 600 event in the year preceding PBP would mean I would stand a better chance of my entry being excepted. I guess my two main reservations were the distance (obviously) and the fact that the mercury in every British thermometer was rapidly going up. However, this was my one and only chance to do a 600 so I got my entry in (all £6 of it). This was an 'x-rated' event; nothing sleazy, but it meant that every rider would have to be completely self sufficient with no formal, manned controls. I would have to prove I had been through each town by getting a shop receipt or atm slip. Sleep was another issue. My very lose plan was to keep going until I would have to stop and then rest up, although I knew there was a 24hr Macdonalds at around the 350km point, so that seemed like to best place to get an hour or so before carrying on. The best laid plans.....

There were about 25 starters so I assumed that I would be on my own for most of the ride; thankfully I was wrong, but the first six hours or so went by suitably quickly; settling in and chatting to  few people before I found myself on my own. The Van Nic felt very heavy as the only thing I hadn't packed was a kitchen sink. I'd even packed my thicker wet weather cycling cag, how stupid was that with temperatures scheduled to be around 30 degrees? The second control was in the town of Chandler's Ford and I wasted a bit of time trying to control before finding a co-op and buying lunch and getting the all-important receipt for proof of passage. This was 6 hours in and just gone midday and as I started to eat I could feel my stomach having a few problems. I can usually eat anything on the bike, but the heat meant that my stomach just wasn't working properly. Not a good sign. I left the control under a bit of a cloud but also with two other riders. One of them had just finished building his bike the night before; I didn't know whether he was inspired or mad; probably a bit of both. The other rider was Paul, and we were to ride together for the next 18 hours.

The next stop was Sailsbury, which was very quiet as the England game was just starting, so we controlled at a cafe (cake and coke) before heading to Sherbourne. Soon after we lost the other rider as he had not topped up his battery on his Garmin so he stopped while we carried onto Sherbourne. This is where I started to find it really tough as the temperature was very high and on one section of road the tarmac was actually in puddles, sticking to my tires and frame.

 Onto Sherbourne, where we controlled at a pub. I'd parked the Van Nic and as I opened my saddle bag I looked at a drain and thought 'I'd better not drop anything down there', and then watched my bike pump clatter on the floor and disappear down the drain. Thankfully, with my belts and braces approach to this ride I had also brought along a load of CO2 (But I had no mechanicals and no punctures, all ride). My stomach issues came back with a vengeance as I had some coke but couldn't eat the chips I ordered and I was in quite a black mood, but I thought I could get to Exeter which was halfway and assumed that if needs be, it would be easier to catch a train back home from there, so onwards to Exeter. This leg was the hardest of the day. The wind got up, which was in no way cooling and dragged our speed down; almost as much as the melting tarmac which was actually pooling into small puddles and the road was continually going up with sharp climbs.

We rolled into Exeter at 12:15am, where we met up with Fraser, who I had briefly been riding with earlier in the day. He had spent the last 10 hours on his own and as we all demolished a Burger King, he asked to tag on with Paul and I, so we formed a trio as we left the Exeter Services and another small group of riders came in. So we were heading back north and as the temperature dropped our speed increased ( a bit). I was able to digest food again and was feeling better. This was quite wierd as we were riding in pitch black and there were times where I was convinced we were riding up hill only to see the speed of the bike dramatically increase and vice versa; it was a wierd and disconcerting assault on my tired senses. The 20kms into Wells were down very small farm lanes and I was getting extremely dozy; it wasn't that I was falling asleep but I just couldn't process quickly enough what I was seeing and I was really pleased to get into the town, but only to be confronted with a large group of extremely drunk teenagers.

By the time we found the field, I was ready to get off the bike. Although I had been hot all day and the sun was now about to come up again, within a couple of minutes I was shivering badly as my sweat drenched kit cooled me down a bit too quickly. Thankfully, my over-preparedness worked and I was able to dig out my waterproof jacket, which kept me warm (ish). We had a 90 minute sleep and then were back on the road to Bath.

We left the field at 6am and would be on the road for another 12 hours, getting back to Leighton Buzzard at just after 6pm. We decided to take it very steady, and had numerous stops, pretty much every 30-40kms.  I was really struggling in the morning, with no energy and feeling sick every time I tried to raise my cadence even slightly, and when I suggested to Paul and Fraser that they should go on ahead, they wouldn't have it and insisted that we stay together. I'm so greatful to them both for this as it made a difficult ride much more bearable.  At one point around midday, we found a shady spot and just rested up for 30 minutes. At that particular time my stomach was really tying itself in knots and this particular stop helped me to start digesting food again. I had asked some advice on the yacf forum about how to cope with the heat, so at every stop it was shoes off, helmet off, cream on, water in and then any food that I could eat.

I had in my mind that I would finish this ride at around 1pm. It took me 5 and a half hours longer and according to Strava I spent the best part of 10 hours stationary. I am sure more experienced audax riders would be aghast at this but I was just really pleased to finish and while I have ridden in the heat before, this was a completely different experience and I am super chuffed just to have got around with the help of some top blokes.

I learnt a lot. I need to carry kit better as my saddle bag is too flappy and upsets the bike's handling. I need to carry less kit or at least get the weight of my kit down.I need to get my contact points sorted, in particular, my feet were a problem for long portions of the ride. I need to find ways of getting calories in, if it's hot at PBP next year.

So, lots learnt. Just the matter of a 200 to finish off the season.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

RTTC 12 Hour TT Championships

Well, I had a great day. I didn’t really hit any of my targets although I did pb.  Like last year, there was a strong southwesterly wind which made the leg to Farnham super fast and the other direction, super slow. Within the first hour I know that 255 was not on, but by halfway I was still on for 250 miles. I was really conservative during this period and my power meter was extremely useful when going into wind, to ensure that I was not going too hard.

At about half way, I missed two feeds which meant I went over an hour with no food and this saw my speed drop quite a bit as I simply ran out of energy. When I eventually got to my support I was able to neck a few hundred calories but it took another half an hour before I could feel the calories being converted into energy. I had the usual low point at around 8 hours but once the finishing circuit opened, I was able to pick the speed back up again and my average power climbed. This was a combination of getting my head back into a happy place and not having to spend any more time on the ultra slow Chawton section of the course, which was just bloody horrible. So I ended up riding 245.5 miles. A 10 mile pb on a faster course but in much worse conditions than the ECCA event I rode in 2015 and after riding much more conservatively. I think 250 should now be well within reach.

Friday, 15 June 2018

12 hour time trial pacing; let’s get it right this time.

An up and down few weeks, trying and almost succeeding in keeping some consistency going. Three weeks ago I was taking part in the Hounslow 100m time trial. This was to be my last long ride before this Sunday’s 12 hour and as it was on the same course it was going to give me all the power and speed data I would need to pace the 12 hour. All was going well until an hour in, when I went past the Hen and Chicken pub only to see a car on its roof on the other side of the road. As a result the event was immediately abandoned, so that was that.

I was riding at 4:12 pace for 100 miles when it was stopped so that gives me something to work with. (I also did my first 100 in last,year's 12 in 4:18 when I blew, so I know not to got that hard again in a 12)  I’ve found a 12 hour pacing schedule that seems to be quite accurate, according to those that have used it before and this would seem to suggest a 255 mile finish, which would be frankly amazing. That said, after last year’s epic 12 hour fail, my first goal is to finish. The pacing works by calculating your middle 25 mile time for an average pace, then adding a minute for every 25 after that, and subtracting a minute for every 25 before.

Basic target: Finish. Don’t DNF. Make sure I get the pacing right in the first 6 hours, then all bets are off. My pb of 235 miles should be well within reach.
Dream Goal: 260 miles. Only likely to happen if I don’t drop off big time towards the end and the weather plays ball.
Stretch Goal: Frank’s old club record of 257 miles. Maybe.
Stellar day: 255 miles. According to the schedule, this should be on, barring mechanicals, long pit stops, massively getting my pacing wrong etc.
A great day: 250 miles. I would be delighted with this.

It boils down to this:

Friday, 18 May 2018

Taking it up a notch

In the week Immediately after LWL, I was wiped and did very little.  General fatigue, feeling run down and lots going on at work, but this week it was time to bounce back. A quick TrainerRoad ftp test, equalling my best result. Then just the issue at having to train at that higher value. Last time, I just didn’t manage it, so when I got on the turbo last night to do 'Budwang'; 4 x 9 minutes at 105%, I wasn’t really feeling the love.

I absolutely smashed it! I can only think that the long rides and audax stuff I’ve been doing has soaked in and given me the base I needed. It just felt a lot more comfortable than I was expecting; hard but doable instead of impossible.

TrainerRoad have also improved their website with a new ‘performance analytics’ platform, which pulls in all your rides, not just the turbo sessions.  So I’ve sold a kidney and bought myself some Powertap P1 pedals so that I can track my TSS, but more importantly, use power as a metric for racing and pacing. With the 12 hour only a few weeks away, power data will hopefully avoid my spectacularly badly paced ride from last year and maybe even get me over 250 miles, which would be nice. Anyway, selling the TT bike is on hold.

Monday, 7 May 2018

London-Wales-London Audax

Suited and booted
I was really looking forward to this ride. The thought of actually using my bike and being under my own steam to travel to another part of the UK, from the capital, seemed  to conjour up a sense of daring-do and gutsy ambition. Admittedly, the 'London' bit is actually Chalfont St Peter, on the very outward western fringes of London, and the Wales bit was only just about touching it before heading east again. But nonetheless, it was still going to be 400kms and a very long day in the saddle, in fact my longest ever continuous ride. I decided to go 'full audax' and bed down at the HQ the night before as it was an early start, so I headed off the the pub with a couple of other riders to have an anaesthetic pint, while the line-dancing class finished off. In the pub a few of the locals were rocking out to a pub band and a few of them were kind enough to wish us luck for the next day's shennanigans.

The start was typically low key. Coffee and toast, a few last minute fumbles with kit before Liam, the organiser, said a few words in the car park and on the dot of 6am, we were off. 119 of us setting out, north and west for Wales. As usual, a bit of a fast start before things settled and I found myself in a group of 3, cruising along some single lane at 17-18mph. My abiding memory of this section was just the haze and the gorgeous sunrise turning into full morning. I'd dressed in my leggings and long sleeves as it was cold and I was just right; comfortably cool. Before long we had turned into a group of five as two faster riders went past and we hooked onto the back, taking the odd turn on the front, but these two guys were doing a great job and didn't seem to mind us sucking their wheels.

Early days
  I had got chatting to a rider called Jacko and we spent an hour or so chin-wagging, before pulling into the first control at a social club in Woodstock to have a full fried breakfast. The club was a throwback to the mid 1980s, with brown swirly carpet, sticky dancefloor and pub furniture, but it was perfect. There were no energy gels, protein bars or shakes here; just a full english brekkie! I inhaled the sausage, eggs, beans and bacon. Brevet card stamped, water bottles topped up and I got going again.

Leg 2 was going to be another 70kms to Tewksbury and as I left the control I hit the first junction with a chap called Nick. We had a few brief words as we'd missed the obvious road to the route and then I spent a few silent minutes with Nick sitting on my wheel, so a few more words to say hi and from that point we rode the next 15 hours or so together. The sun was starting to get up and it was going to be a very hot day, but I was still in a long sleeve top and cosy warm, rather than hot. Nick and I chatted for the next few hours, talking all things endurance sports, work, kids. Although this was his first audax, he'd done plenty of other long endurance ultra-marathons so I could tell he had that calm, even temperament that I think you need to keep going when things are hurting and maybe not going to plan. After a while we caught up with Jacko who had left Woodstock 10 minutes or so before me and we rode the last hour into Tewksbury, where we had to get a receipt as proof of passage. It was properly hot now, so it was time to strip off, eat one of Gregg's finest steak bakes, top up bottles and get going towards Tutshill. The sun was shining, my legs felt great, Wales was 3 or 4 hours away and all was right with the world.

The countryside continued to unroll under my wheels; never ending fields and carpets of bluebells. The route was really wonderful and quiet, which made the cycling such a joy. While we had a good tempo going I wanted to take the time to smell the metaphorical roses, and I tried to take as much of the scenery in as I could. It made me realise how much of my own country I have yet to explore and what a great way that a bicycle is to do it.

Nick and I were working together well and we were keeping the speed up as we glided through Gloucestershire and into Herefordshire. The terrain was less than lumpy, but more than rolling, so at times we could really get the speed up, while some of the rollers sapped all the speed from my heavier than usual Van Nic. We had an infomation control at a war memorial, where I lent another rider who was on his third puncture, a tube, before we headed towards the big climb of Yat Rock. By this time we had hooked up with a female rider in full LEL kit and the three of us headed to the base of the climb. I started it ok but as we got to a steeper ramp near the top I got out the saddle and all of a sudden I just knew that I couldn't keep the bike moving forward, as Nick and LEL lady weaved up the road to the summit, I got off and discovered that I had not tightened the QR skewer tight enough and when I was pushing really hard to keep the bike moving forward, the wheel had moved (as happened at the Bec HC a couple of years ago). Frustrated, I sorted out the skewer before walking the rest of the way to the top, where Nick and LEL lady were waiting.

The Tutshill control was still a good hour or so away, and this was where I had my only really bad patch of the ride. I was frustrated and a bit angry at myself for not getting up Yat Rock (pure male ego) but I noticed that I was getting the tingles in my arms and starting to feel a little shaky. With the increase in heat I had been religiously taking in water but I had stopped eating for some time. I also realised that my worsening mood was an indicator that I didn't have enough energy in my system, so I got out two soreen bars and forced them down, hoping that they would be enough until we got to Tutshill. Nick and I had been sharing the work, but he was looking comfortable so I took the opportunity to sit in and take his wheel while I recovered. Nick's a big lad and made a large hole in the air so it made my life considerably easier to take a draft while I recovered.

We had arrived at Tutshill at 14:15 and not too many riders had gone through, so the control was quiet. The two fast lads I had been with early on were there with another two or three and I tucked into a big plate of pasta and a couple of bags of crisps for the extra salt. I could literally feel the energy pouring back into my muscles and as I slapped on more sun block and vaseline,  my mood lifted considerably and I started to look forward to getting back home.

 Within minutes we were over the Severn Bridge with clear views across the estuary and we headed for the climb up to the Somerset Monument at Hawkesbury. My front mech was playing up and had been for a while so I had a couple of mechanicals where I was overshifting. This would only be very mildly irratating on a standard club ride, but 240kms into a ride even a small issue becomes a major problem. It seemed sensible to just keep in the small ring which helped keep my legs relatively fresh. Again, plenty of green fields, bluebells, country mansions and  york stone villages. Audax riding really is a brilliant way to see the country. There were some sections where Nick and I were able to 2up along some faster roads, each of us taking a turn on the front for a few kilometres before swapping. I was thankful that I'd been able to stave off a full on bonk earlier, which would have been a bit of a disaster by this point in the ride. Nick was great at making us stop at a few other intermediate points to top up bottles and grab a flapjack or ice lolly. This was a big lesson for me to not just rely on the controls for food and while each stop cost us a few minutes it helped to keep energy levels up and take the pressure off our contact points, which I'm sure helped keep our average speed that little bit higher.

Fading light at Lambourne
We pulled into the last control at Lambourne and had soup and a roll, flap jack with fruit and a few cups of tea. It was about 7:30pm and it was warm but the heat was dropping fast, so I got my long sleeve top on, more vaseline and I was good to go. As I pulled out the control I suffered another mechanical and had a proper sense of humour failure. I'd just washed my hands and then within seconds they were covered in oil again. I told Nick to carry on and I would catch up, but it took me a couple of minutes to get the Van Nic back up and running. Nick had waited for me a kilometre or so further on (he'd taken the opportunity to stop and put on some arm and leg warmers). I was really grateful that he had waited; as the sun was going down, night riding after being in the saddle for over 12 hours was going to be a new challenge. It was also really quite lumpy. In my mind I thought that this section would be flat and easy; it wasn't. There were a couple of really quite tough climbs that had me bobbing and swaying out the saddle in the lowest gear I could get, the weight of my bike trying to drag me back down.  Things were starting to get quite tough.

Nick was doing more work at the front as his front lights were much better than mine. He was also doing a great job signing the many potholes, but after a while I asked him to stop. I think he was more likely to come off with only one hand on the bars and I would just run into the back of him, so I dropped back a bit and just hoped for the best. After Henley and avoiding the drunks, there was another climb out and by this time I just wanted to get it done. I tried to take turns on the front where the light was better, but Nick was able to read his GPS easier than me, so he was burdened with most of the hard work. I was behind him, clattering into potholes, swearing profusely and hoping to stay upright. With a few kilometres to go, I was just hoping not to get a puncture in the pitch black and it was testament to my mood that at that time a puncture would have seemed a disaster, but in reality it's nothing more than a minor inconvenience.  In the last 10kms, there were another couple of steep-ish hills and tons of gravel that I just couldn't see that had me slipping all over the road. It was pretty hard work and when we eventually got onto the A40 and the turn for Gerrards Cross I was a very happy bunny.

Best. Dahl. Ever.
Amazingly, we made it back before midnight, which meant that there were approximately 20 riders of the 119 or so who had made it back to the HQ before us; all in all, a pretty good day's riding! I fell on the food. Dahl, rice pudding, peaches, tea, biscuits; I had the lot and despite being achy and tired, all in all, I felt pretty good. Although not the toughest route in the audax calendar, it was still a hard test, with a varied diet of roads. I was extremely lucky to hook up with Nick. Working with another rider makes it much more bearable when things get tough and over those last 50 kms it would have been a lot more difficult, but his steadfastness and easy company really helped the miles go by. I've learnt so much about audax from this ride. I'll blog my main thoughts another time, but the main two things I've taken away is that a 400km audax is very much more than a 300km one and I really enjoy audax riding.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Fettling again

A bit of a transition week spent recovering from the 50 mile tt on Sunday and thinking ahead to LWL on Saturday. After the TT I found some issues with the Argon which needing sorting (a cable too tight; bars had slipped) so that was another hour tweaking.

Yesterday I went out and bought some bits for LWL, namely a new, small handlebar bag. The only problem was I found that a strap to attach it to the headset is too small, so it's going to flap about a lot. I think with the time I have left, I'm going to probably go without, which I'm sure will be fine. It will just mean carrying food in my seat pack which won't be as readily accessible. Other than that, just got to sort out my Garmin route for the very last leg, clean the Van Nic and then, hopefully, I'm good to go.

I'm pretty sure things will go wrong at some point but I'm also pretty sure I can sort most issues out. I'm looking forward to it, a lot, and even the weather seems to be set fair. Happy days.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

The definition of madness.....

is making the same mistake twice.

I spent all day, and I mean literally all day, rebuilding my Argon TT bike. I had got it back from my local bike shop who had finally managed to get the spacers off that had been welded firmly to the steerer tube with my turbo sweat. So I set aside all of yesterday in order to get it ready for today's Charlotteville 50 mile TT.

I had barely serviced the bike over the last couple of years and if had finally failed on a few fronts and needed some tlc.

  • New rear brake installed.
  • New front chainring installed.
  • Headset bearings stripped and re-greased.
  • Selcof handlebars installed and the steerer tube trimmed to neaten up.
  • All new gear and brake cables installed.
  • New chain
  • New bar tape (obviously!)
Thankfully, Mrs Wheezy and the cat decided that I was best left to it, that conversation would be useless while I wrestled with the intricacies of the Argon's engineering. This also involved a lot of swearing and a lot of cups of tea. By 6 o' clock in the evening I'd got it sorted and after two months, I had a working bike.

All good, but there was no time to road test the bike save for checking all the indexing. I would have to test the fit of the bike in the following day's time trial at the Charlotteville CC event.

Today's event was one that's been a bit of an early season opener for me for the last couple of years. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I struggled from the off. It was really cold this morning and I never got warm. Probably on it's own, this would have been fine but I had raised my saddle a few millimetres during the rebuild and this came back and literally bit me on the bum. I ended up riding 2:06:14, which is the slowest I've ridden over 50 miles in a few seasons. The bars were comfortable but they did slip which didn't help. I was some 2 minutes down on Simon, so not a disaster but I need to get my position properly sorted before thinking about the 12 hour in a few weeks time.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

If Heineken did bike rides

Summer finally arrived this weekend, well, for a few days anyway. So Sunday was the club run, the weekly training ride that’s been around since cycling clubs began. Sometimes fast and frenetic; sometimes relaxed and steady. This one was definitely in the latter category but was all the better for it. I’ve had a couple of weeks off the turbo now and I’ve really enjoyed the break from it and the slight change of focus to thinking about audax events and a longer, slower easier pace has helped me to reset a bit, so the Sunday miles were perfect to just catch up with club mates and enjoy the simple pleasure of riding my bike. With one eye on the LWL, I bulked the ride out a little beforehand but again it was a steady flat lap out to a Sunbury before meeting the rest of the group. The sunshine brought 10 of us out; we haven’t seen double figures for a while and our ride leader, Gemma took us down some country lanes that I had not been along before. I think it was one of the best group rides we’ve had in a long time. Must do more!