Monday, 24 April 2017

Fast Tuesday III'rd. On a Monday.

Elizabeth II.
Henry 8th.
Edwards 1st.
Fast Tuesday III.

All famous in their own right, aside from Fast Tuesday III'rd which happened on a Monday. Steve and I met for a Newton Abbot to Steps Bridge shakedown ride and frankly, we hammered it. Looking at times, we are improving fitness, getting 'faster', holding threshold and tempo for longer and generally looking quite strong considering mid April. As Steve said yesterday, what will we be doing in a few months time. There you go people. Cyclists, eternal optimists and forward thinking people.

The nett result of Fast Tuesday on a Monday was effectively 30 miles in 1 hour 30. Fast going for two middle aged chaps recently ejected from Britains Got Talent. We did not even make the auditions on X-Factor despite me playing 'Nothing else matters' note for note and Steve singing 'Let it go -The Devon version; unplugged'. So, we set our sights on getting quicker rather than global infamy on a TV show.

Overall Strava highlights some interesting bits n' bobs. Average speed 19mph, 210 watts average power, topping out a 629 watts, which is not a lot as not sprinting, just likely climbing a punchy climb hard. The Newton to Steps Bridge route is a roller, there are no flat roads in Devon and the way back is better than the way up for me, despite the road being a mirror image when looked at. It is not unlike an ink splot or a Rorschach test for those of you who may have had medical intervention !

Pictured below, some highlights going up North bound, 19.1 mph for 19.14 minutes. Note the top ten times and note number 1, Steve Lampier, a seasoned pro, paid to ride a bike 5/6/7 days a week. Coming back faster, 20 mph for 34 minutes. 4 minutes off the top ten, but evidence enough that the road currys favour when heading away from Dartmoor. All told, we got home happy, much beer and food was consumed. Bunting was hung and children danced in the street to celebrate hitting 19mph average on a ride. First time since 2012 I think. Personally, I have no idea how much faster I can get. The wind had an impact again yesterday, but I have resigned myself to the fact that Devon is effectively a much harder place to ride a bike than other UK places I have been. As they say in Belgium, it can bring you on, make you strong, which is true as frankly I would love a fast ride elsewhere to see how the numbers stack up.

Anyway that's about it, just one last thing. Last week a woman at work asked me if I got bored riding from Bristol to Exminster two weeks ago. You should have seen the look on my face. I was speechless. "Bored ?" I said. I nearly fainted. 

Finally, a few images below. Steve looking dapper in his kit. The man is a cycling animal !

Monday, 17 April 2017

When the wind blows ....

To my mind 2017 has been very very windy. Again. 2016 was and 2015 before it. I am not sure if we notice wind more than non cyclists as we do monitor weather but of late, 2017 has been super windy. I live in South Devon in the heart of an estuary and I am fully aware that coastal areas are windier than other places due to the vortex the cold air of the sea and the warm air of the land can create but even in land it has been hellish. Global warming, the gulf stream, estuary living or something else. All rather odd and very testing when on a bike. The head wind riding back yesterday was simply brutal. Wattage and HR ramping up just JRA as they say.

In light of the wind, my decision to run a 303 on the front was well vindicated yesterday as by the time we finished work it was blowing a gale in what seemed like every direction despite trying to pinpoint a direction. However, James William Ward and I had a decent bimble home and it was a nice reminder of the fitness level now attained as I personally got 3 pb's on Strava riding across Roubaix lane and then a PB smashing the fast road from Mamhead crossroads to Starcross golf club with some fast times. 27mph for almost 4 minutes and I managed to get a tidy 35mph on the flat despite the blustery conditions. 303 = money well spent though the 404 will certainly come out to play as and when, they are too good not to. The time shaved on various segments is the self improvement thing I have talked about before. Not going out to target segments, just getting fitter week after week and getting stronger with a raised threshold. Some days I feel like the rider of old as I was back in / up to 2012/13 before the long break did all the damage. Paradoxically, living in Devon has I think started making me a better rider. If I went back to Bristol to do a Strada Shop ride for example (bottom picture), with my current fitness based on terrain, I would smash it. It is pan flat. In perspective 29 miles equates to 817 feet where as last week on Monday I did 1700 feet in 31 miles. Hills hurt but they can make the difference to fitness I suspect. Worth noting I still have the KOM for the Strada shop ride ! You can take the boy out of Bristol and all that....

A few images below. Happy days. If anyone can explain why the wind is as bad as it is please send a postcard to the usual address. The first postcard picked wins a mystery prize which I have not yet chosen such is its mystery. Ahem.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

The long and the short of it ....

Another reasonable week on the bike with less commute miles but a couple of decent Estuary shifts added to my training log. I felt strong on the bike today. A fitter guy dropped me after the Mount Pleasant climb into Dawlish to remind me how superior he was as I did say hello before he clunked clunked his gears to go past me, but hey ho he was riding hard on a Specialized bike and never judge a man when training. He looked lean. Credit to him. Specialized bikes are topical in the cycling news and press given the PR shit storm they now face after their new fanfare bike the 2017 Roubaix bicycle, reinvented with a 'front shock TM Specialized' on the headset fell apart at Paris - Roubaix, thus throwing classics specialist Nik Terpstra off his machine. Bloody dangerous, an awful crash and a PR nightmare for the worlds greatest marketing machine.  Like every brand out there, they make some great bikes, they also make some shit bikes. Anyway, I am happy to admit there are far better bike riders out there. I am just racing myself. The endurance bike theme is interesting though, hence the title of the today's blog. Oddly, I nailed Exminster to Dawlish (see attached below 6 odd miles at 18.5 mph is nice given the wind)  today, and got a sliver PB but incredibly, I have done this long segment faster on a Cannonadle Synapse (last summer as below) which bodes the question are these bikes quicker in real world terms on battered roads ? I've no idea really as fast legs make a bike fast but it will fascinate me for a long time yet. There are too many variables to compare really, but ultimately, it is apples for apples. A braeburn to a Golden delicious perhaps ?

Monday, 10 April 2017

Averaging the average; hell is for heroes.

I did some retrospective examining of last weeks long ride and put together some data which I found very interesting but also slightly puzzling though I feel that the answers on time gained and time lost are held within a. the use of power over a long ride and b. hitting the unexpected Blackdown hill climbs. Last years ride of the same venture and this years ride break down as such -

Ride A 2016

10 miles 51.52

20 miles 1.31

30 miles 2.11

40 miles 2.54

50 miles 3.37

60 miles 4.15

Ride B 2017

10 miles 42.14

20 miles 1.22

30 miles 2.01

40 miles 2.52

50 miles 3.39 (two minutes down - hills taking effect).

60 miles 4.21

The interesting data is that I was a mere 2 minutes up at 40 miles, but the caveat being that I left Bristol way later in the day last year and effectively rode full gas from the get go even though the fitness and form was not quite there due to the late depart. I was also riding a little bit panic stricken as I knew I was going to lose the light hence going to Taunton to get on a train, rather than completing the ride. I was doing a there and back on the same day but the motorway going up was hellish. The 50 miles difference is a surprise though this is why data comparison ends at 60 miles. There was a cat 4 climb leaving Low Ham which again would have made the difference between climbing and riding tempo westward on the flat. 6 minutes down at 60 miles though I had a couple of map reference stops and a food break. I always find a section on an endurance ride where I sort of zone out and just ride probably losing time, but enjoying the bike. Oddly on ride b. sixty miles is where the hills started ramping up on ride a and this will of no doubt had an effect on an endurance ride.

But, all things being equal I do feel that the use of zone 1 and 2 with power paid off on last weeks ride as I was very very fresh and strong riding into Exeter at 85 miles + rather than spent, had I misused my effort and gone tempo or moderate for longer which I likely did last year. It is the old turtle and the hair scenario on the bike with oneself but there is no doubt that the road across to Taunton from Ilminster was hugely easier last year as largely flat going across country, skimming the Blackdowns. Another thing to factor in that I am back on a race bike and whilst I do not buy into accumulated seated fatigue when on the bike, it may come to pass that as per the press hyperbole, you do indeed get quicker and stay fresher on an endurance bike further into the ride. Perhaps however, I just went a tad too slowly for the first 40 miles keeping my powder dry for the long haul. Food for thought though worth remembering that the difference between the metric 100 (60ish miles) and 100 miles on a bike is massive so riding smart, alone takes precedent.

I do enjoy using data and analysis and as ever proof in the pudding is timing for betterment and when I do this ride again I would be looking at improved dividends without over doing it. I would be looking for a faster time and likely use the same route, but go straight out of Chard to Honiton via the A30 decent rather than the multiple climbs I faced leaving Chard the 'backway'. It felt like I went up Haytor 5 times. If you look at the image below, 5 cat 4 climbs within 65 miles to 80 miles chart shows the 5 peaks that topped out at 900 - 1000 feet approx 5 times before heading down into Honiton. I have no idea how pro's do it. In the words of Stone Cold Steve Austin...."Hellacious"

Friday, 7 April 2017

Bristol to Exminster ....

Fortune favours the brave and today I was brave. Or stupid. I always think of the New Zealand film 'Once were Warriors' on days like today as I was one once though the days of me smashing out 75 miles on a Wednesday and the same on a Sunday with Team Concept out of Specialized Bristol have long since gone and in many respects I do not miss it as at times, as fit as I was, it was aimless. What was I training for ? Life perhaps or just a love of cycling. 

So, when the chance to ride Bristol (my former home) to Exminster (my home) arrives every now and again I take the chance with both hands and given this was the first one of the year, I feel that on the whole it went well. Fast Tuesday's and before that a few decent shifts on the bike building up some mileage paid off and back home after 95.6 miles banked I can reflect on the days events. 

Leaving my parents front door in North Bristol at 7am was fine if a little fresh.  The route, Southbound, out through South Bristol into Long Ashton, Nailsea, Yatton etal went well and as usual the early morning city traffic was hellish but I rode smart. The roads down to Cheddar went well and then on from Cheddar onto a mist laden Mendip levels was nice and the weather was fantastic with no wind present and by about 8.40am as I passed Cheddar on my left the sun was coming up to take the nip off the toes. I do dislike the fast decent into the top end of Cheddar one of those exposed steep roads where the wind can catch the rider - hence riding smart. Turning right, Glastonbury Tor to my left was lit up like a beacon. Beautiful. These roads are deceptive. They are flat on the whole, but the 'Somerset' levels to my mind is in three stages and not pan flat. A few nice hills, the climb out of Low Ham into High Ham is huge but perfectly doable. Despite having a Garmin on the bike I often refer to a paper map in my pocket and so far so good. I steamed through to Langport and down to Ilminster passing multiple Somerset hamlets and villages. Beautiful. Exiting Ilminster was the first test, a huge unexpected head wind on the busy road to Chard pushed me back, but I rode smart, spinning up and using power to stay in zone's 1 & 2.  Once into Chard, 64 miles in at 4 hours 40 I realised I had dropped a clanger. Getting out of Chard was and is a nightmare. I have / had never realised Chard is at the bottom of a huge valley as cant say I go there often and whilst I tried to cut across country as best I could by peeling left to get off the A30 to get to Honiton the back way it came to be that I was riding hills I had not expected. I had thought the Blackdowns were further west having ridden them before (Corfe hill; Taunton), but I ended up on the cusp of the eastern tip and likely the steepest parts I could have encountered. Cat 4 climb after cat 4 climb. I went from 64 miles in 4.45 approx to 73 ish miles in 6 hours. I basically lost 1 hour 20 odd to 12 miles of frankly hellish hills with gradients that were 22-26% perhaps even steeper going up and back down and then straight back up. I kid you not, it was like riding up and down walls. Bonkers. In moderation I can climb slowly but this was steep as shit and no fun as it was so steep coming down the triceps and shoulders were beginning to suffer. Chard, Cricket St. Thomas, Noel Edmonds, Mr. Blobby - you can poke it as far as I am concerned. The decent into Honiton was mayhem too, steep as f**k but I was glad to see the bunting on the main road and ride through knowing I was back into my chartered territory. South Glos, Avon, North Somerset, Somerset, Dorset, East Devon, Devon. I had scheduled a cheeky Costa coffee in Honiton, but due to losing time I carried on, turned left and went up Tesco hill, the steep climb to Sidmouth, but turned right into Ottery St. Mary, a lovely East Devon post card town preceeded by yet another brutal 22% decent (into Ottery) where the local butcher kindly gave me a top up on my water. Ottery 'felt' around the corner from home but it was still a plod back towards the Exeter road and finally, I managed to get on the fast Rockbeare road and go into a time trial mode holding tempo in zone 3 (18 mph for 15 minutes at the tail end of today's ride into a head wind shows the old endurance magic still there) before passing Cranbrook (strange place, middle of nowhere) and into a very busy Exeter via Sowton and then onto my front door. Typically, it was blowing a gale in Devon. Standard.

Overall 95.6 miles in 6 hours 56 moving time (quicker next time) with 6,129 feet climbed. 6 full bottles of water, 2 bananas, one energy bar and 4 energy gels consumed to tick along. Likely the most I have climbed since August 2012. On the whole I enjoyed the journey and the first 4.40 was immense and what I enjoy. To lose excess time climbing unexpected hills not great but when you are racing yourself, you just want to get home, as far as it seems at time. I used power and HR to my advantage today and considering the distance the use of zones was valid and the bulk of the workload was in zone 1 and zone 2, (pictures below) recovery and endurance with a little bit of everything else. I felt disappointed in myself at times, but try and keep it in perspective as I hit 45 last week and irrespective of age, unless you are a pro paid to ride 7 hours a day week in week out,  25% hills 70 miles in are gonna hurt.

In perspective today due to the aforementioned hills I think a disc brake road bike would have been ideal ?!?! I suspect I took 6 months off the life of my Zipp wheels, but hey ho such is life. They go well on the flat and going up. My Trek Madone was flawless and is truly a great bike. If Carling made road bikes and all that. In stack and reach terms it is an endurance road bike. In performance terms it is simply incredible. Stiff, light, fast, strong. Pick 4.  

Finally, walking in the door to my awesome partner with a huge cold Milkshake in her hand was just great, as was coming home to Bella, the worlds greatest puppy. 

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Fast Tuesday Part Deux #windy.

Another fast Tuesday and another crazy wind blowing around the Teign Valley though not too disruptive as in the end, some excellent data logged which equates to an improved FTP, some serious recreational power put through the pedals by both Steve and I. James was busy doing nothing waiting for a delivery to arrive and thus off the bike.

Today we had a slightly calmer start with a decent plod out of Newton which was as busy as usual.

The headwind blowing us back was again somewhat lamentable so we had a steady ride up which was still fast in perspective though not the 24 mph madness of last week. In light of this, Steve and I swapped bikes so he could test ride my Madone as he has one lined up. Suitably impressed, as I was with his SL Propel though the fit was slightly skewed for both of us. It can remind you of how dialled into your own rig you become once back on it. 

A quick respite stop for a chat at Steps Bridge; Dartmoor, some jelly beans and an energy gel saw us turn around and open up the tanks with some serious full gas shenanigans unleashed with both parties putting in huge shifts on the front with what seemed like an omni present wind; neither side, nor rear or head on. Just swirling and occasionally whipping under both aero bikes rendering our collective bottoms to parp once or twice. Once home we concluded it were a sharp ride and as per usual data backs that up. My legs felt inherently fresher than last week, my heart rate was under control, 42 minutes in zone 4 though I think I have a naturally high HR (???) As an example segment, sustained power of 21.4 mph for 32 minutes is good enough for me (images below, click to make big). In context years back, I can remember thinking 14 mph was fast, then 15, then 16. You get the picture. Exponential speed is a hard thing to attain, you really have to work hard for it, but it'll do for now. The ideology of a fast Tuesday is to bring us on and ultimately, creep up those numbers. Interestingly today I was holding 100 rpm cadence at a speed of 28 mph. Happy days.

Overall, this weeks ride is literally seconds apart from last weeks three up. I want to discount the slow in and out however, which is where your lap button comes in handy on the garmin. I netted 61 pb's today of which a huge portion were gold. My FTP increased by 6 watts and my 20 minute power currently sits at 224 watts which week by week I hope to increase as my fitness progresses. In 4 weeks alone I have increased it by 24 watts. FTP (functional threshold power), figure is like a virtual carrot 25 yards in front of the bike. It always stays that distance away, but as your FTP increases your zone's go up, you ride harder and thus impact your own capability which is why riding with power makes so much sense in performance terms and rest terms. My goal is to become a 300 watt FTP rider. I often get asked how to ride a bike 'fast' and there is only one answer. You have to suffer now and again but the net result, that post ride buzz is worth every second as Steve and I mulled the merits of life over coffee and choccy biscuits. 

A couple of days off now before I embark on Bristol to Exminster, 100 miles approx. It is looking good performance wise and weather wise. Blog to follow no doubt.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Marching on ....

March 2017 has been and gone and on the whole it was a quality month of riding within the realms of time spent on the bike along with juggling everything else modern life requires as well as getting older. I turned 45. I clocked 30 recorded rides, 28.5 hours with a distance of 407 miles logged. Could be more, could be less and I realise mileage is half the story but always nice to put some solid numbers on the board early in the year. I threw in some fast rides, some slow recovery rides and some hilly stuff. Standard fodder and aside from hitting a spell of tiredness last week which I tempered with a light week on the bike (actually hardly rode the things) my weight, form and power are all going in the right way. It is now 1 stone (14 lbs or 6.35 kg) lost since week 2 Feb 17, the week I decided I had to shift some timber. You can notice it on the bike on punchy climbs standing in the big ring as well as looking at data on Garmin connect. The elusive 'form', a metric derived of fatigue minus fitness is info based on numbers and perhaps more so, feel. Last week I felt like the nail rather than the hammer, and a more pragmatic approach told me to actually not turn the pedals, put some compression socks on and recharge the internal batteries. The numbers reveal themselves with FTP (hopefully will see and increase soon) and PB's logged on Strava and just tonight I secured a couple of gold PB's riding home from work after a long Sunday.  This what you want; increased power, less effort, faster times and where possible, higher cadence. I now believe high cadence and power are the two holy grail's. Make them work together and you'll get there. Evidence below of increased capability, listed in the chart on the right. I pedalled no harder. It just happens, which is what we want with our bike riding. Formula One is based on tenths, cycling on seconds, recreational cyclists can look for minutes. 

In summary, onwards and upwards. Life is good I think. A decent week looms on the bike. Have some time off work and will manage to get a couple of decent shifts in with a very long one planned for the end of the week.