Saturday, 25 December 2010

Merry Christmas

Well, the big day is finally here and I'm sure all the planning, spending and wrapping will be utterly worth it as usual :)

There has been a fair amount of training being done here at TSBRT towers, but I don't think Christmas morning is the time to tell all.

So, I'll wish you all a very Merry Christmas and I'll see you in a few days

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

New Ways of Hurtin'

At the start of the month I was fortunate enough to be on a four day residential course, whilst the days were challenging, long and tiring, I was determined to maintain the impetus I'd discovered for my training.  Along with Ad, we made use of the on site Fitness Centre each morning.

I'd read in the latest Runners World magazine that one of their contributers has started doing a workout that he's christened 'Gym-Lek'.. A play on 'Fartlek' (or speed play as it translates to english, a far less amusing name in my opinion).

I put the idea to Ad of adapting this to our biking slant, in the form of (rather obviously) Bike-Lek.  He seemed keen* and so we met at 7am the next morning.

For those of you fortunate enough to have never slung a leg over a gym bike, they have varying levels of difficulty from 1 (easy) to 20 (Chris Hoy thighs required).

A warm-up spin of 5 minutes and we were off.. Ground rules being laid down and adapted as we went in something akin to those 1000 aside games of street football that seemed to break out when we were kids.

"Ok, so recovery speed is 12mph"
"and it should be for 1 minute"
"... deal.. how about keeping rpm at a minimum of 80?"

We set off with an initial minute at level 15, no problems, dropping back down to level 12 I questioned whether this was going to be of any use to our training.

That was the format for the next 25 minutes.. work hard then recover, the hard work getting harder each time and the recovery period seemingly less and less effective.

We got clever, we tried a pyramid of effort..

"1 minute at level 16, minimum RPM of 100, 1 minute at 17, RPM 90"

At the end of our session we were both tired, sweating and cursing our brains at the unused Air Con unit on the wall opposite the bikes.

Two days later we were there again, ready to battle the time, levels of effort and ourselves.

This time, it hurt, really hurt.  With each passing minute I got weaker, less able to keep the RPM up at the target level.. fading over the 25 minutes of effort.  As the bikes beeped to signal the end of the workout Ad looked on amused as I fell of the bike and lay on the floor, gasping for air.

I question the possibility of it being a regular show in my week and I doubt it would be quite so tough if it weren't for a mate being sat on the bike next to me, but if I ever want to inflict hurt on myself in a slightly obscure way, I'm gonna head to the gym with a riding buddy in tow. 

* he didn't say no, so a winner in my book

Monday, 13 December 2010

Places You Think You Know

I often have a feeling of confusion when I read other blogs and how people are travelling several hundred miles by car for a few hours of riding, to travel back again at the end of the day.  I’m blessed to live in an area that is perfect for biking, it’s not mountainous but there are hills steep enough to test the strongest of legs, as for trails, it has well established old favourites and a thriving trail building culture that sees new sections springing up on an almost continual basis.

Unfortunately, I very rarely have full days available to go off and explore for new stuff, instead, I can easily slip into a rut of riding the same trails, in the same order, week in, week out.  That’s ok, I love the trails I ride, but it means that my riding can stagnate if I’m not careful, the ability to read the trail ahead, pick the line of least resistance, move the bike and flow through the trail  becomes dull through lack of use.  This is easily rectified of course, I can ride with different groups, the beauty of the Forest is that everyone has a different ‘patch’ they have laid claim to, sure, others may ride some of my favourites, but they go by different names and are approached from different directions.

The first of my now weekly Wednesday night rides had me riding up a trail I’ve always ridden down.  I followed, quietly muttering about a good descent ruined, but my new riding buddies were exonerated some 15 minutes later, as they led me through swooping trails I’ve never touched, heading towards a trail known as Dowies (or doughies, or any other way you want to spell it – trail names are unwritten aren’t they?), I was left laughing as I attacked a path that had a profile similar one of those bumpy slides you find in any good playground.  That ride stayed with me for several days afterwards, I had the rush of adrenalin that I smile quietly at each time I lead someone new to my area down a
favourite trail.

I’ve gone out and looked for new trails, often these are done with the family in tow and form a ‘walk’ that warrants rolled eyes from my wife, she knows the true motivation of these forays into unknown areas of the forest and I do little to hide my enthusiasm when I spy a likely trail heading off from the path we’re walking.  These potentials are then filed in mind ready for an opportunity to ride them.
Recently, I rode a block of the forest I’ve not stepped foot in for the best part of a decade, I was a foreigner in a strange land, I searched for several hours, failing to find anything that would deserve a return trip, a saunter down one dead end though left me breathless as I came across this view..    I stood in quiet admiration for several minutes, barely believing that I was only two miles from my house – how did I not know this view was there?.

I guess it’s a well known truth that you never really appreciate what you have around you and that any motivated tourist will probably see more of an area in a week that a local will in a year, sometimes though, it’s good to go out and look at your everyday surroundings through a strangers eyes.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Balancing Act

Our normal weekly ride went ahead as planned last night and, I'll make no bones about it, it bloody hurt.  Not just because we started the ride with the temperature hovering at around -5 and pointing downwards either.

 Pulling into the carpark there were already 6 other riders shivering around their bikes.  Getting kitted up as quickly as possible I soon noticed that I only had one glove.  Amongst the typical (and only to be expected howls of derision given the unwritten rules of the group) Al  bravely offered to lend me his spare set.  Gladly accepting I got my helmet out of the back of the Landy and found my second glove nestled in the straps; cue more howls of derision.

We set off as quickly as possible and, before a few hundred metres had been covered, our first problem manifested itself.. Rex's glasses fell apart, a few cold, foot stamping minutes for the group and we were on our way again.

 The fire tracks were covered in a few inches of snow and the going was tough, the forest seemed transformed into a new and unrelenting world of lung freezing air and ice rink trails.

It became quickly obvious to me during my efforts to keep up with the quick moving group that time off the bike has really affected my legs, where I was previously powering up hills at the front, I was reduced to bringing up the rear with no answer to an unrelenting pace.

The temperature soon affected our bikes, first victims were our camelbaks, attempted drinks of water resulted only in the scrunch of ice.  Brake fluid thickened, mechs stubbornly refused to shift and gear cables stuck in their hoses.

Approaching the last singletrack of the night we dipped close to a local pub.  Brightly decorated trees lined the carpark perimeter and warm light spilled through the windows into our separated world of ice and snow.  A wistful final glance and we turned back into the Forest for a blast down Dr Johns.

 A couple of hours after leaving the carpark we were back, hurriedly loading kit and bikes into cars and heading to our respective homes for warm showers.

 It occured to me during the ride that fitness is a fickle thing, whereas a month ago I had biking legs and lungs, a few weeks off the bike and on the roads has seen my fitness shift towards running.  I guess that's what makes triathletes impressively fit, they are constantly stretching themselves in different ways and, to compensate they become rounded and adaptable athletes.  This is the start though, my first season of competition is still months away and I have a winter of preparation between then and now.

I'm aware that the weather has become a national talking point of late (lets be honest, when is not a talking point in the UK?) but I thought I'd share this with you, a comment passed by a very straight talking mate.. 

 "It's not the BIG FREEZE, it's not the new ICE AGE FROM HELL or any other bollocks that our lying, brainwashing media try to make everyone panic with. It's WINTER. Thats right, that simple WINTER. That being the same, simple, straightforward winter that has happened since the last ice age, every year for approximately 2,000,000 fucking years. Probably just time to get your big girl pants on and deal with it."

Tuesday, 7 December 2010


Not a word I generally tend to associate with myself I have to admit, possibly backed up by anyone who has ever had the misfortune of watching me approach a dance floor. No, the rhythm I'm referring to is in my training.

I realised a couple of weeks back that I had been drifting along without any real focus to my training. I've laid it down for all to see that 2011 will see me compete in a number of triathlons, Bike Endurance events, and possibly even an open water swim.

That's great, but, in the words of a motivational quote I'm sure you've all seen "A plan without a goal is just a wish"

Before you get nervous about me becoming a lentil knitting hand wringer, I'll throw this in;

There, cynicism restored

I'm aware that my initial objective for 2011 is the Forest of Dean Half Marathon. Not a biggie for some people, but I know that I'm not a runner, it's a past time that although I enjoy, I don't excel at. Given the option between trainers and tyres, the trainers would stay in the hall and I'd soon be hitting the singletrack. Trying to reawaken my running during Winter isn't ideal either, but needs must and I'm aware that if I'm to be any use at all next year I need to focus hard on those areas at which I struggle.

Determined to do something about this, I spoke to a work colleague who has an impressive running pedigree, including a PB for the marathon of 2hrs 30. He briefly outlined the sort of weekly mileage I should be aiming at along with a little structure about workout type. Armed with this no nonsense advice I put finger to keyboard and prepared a basic training schedule.

I'll hold my hands up and admit I backed out of yesterdays session, no reason but in the eternal battle between duvet and pavement, duvet took it by a mile. Pavement, it appears has allies though, one of which called himself Guilt and took great delight in sitting on my shoulder for the remainder of the day.

Needless to say, at the sound of the alarm this morning I rolled reluctantly out of bed, got my stuff sorted ready and stepped outside. My Garmin was obviously as reluctant to face the subzero temperatures as I was, for it doggedly refused to find any satellites, normally, this is a 30 second task, but today it stalled for a good 10 minutes, frustrating, but the little blighter didn't escape that easily, the heart strap did though, as it appears the batteries have gone.

Once out on the road I ran well, the cold air stung my lungs for the first few miles and the moisture from my breath froze on the buff I had pulled up over my face. That was OK though, I pulled it lower and carried on. I have to say I enjoyed it, even the bit when my eye lashes developed their own icicles.. it's being out there in the tough stuff that makes me feel good about my training.

Driving the same road an hour later, the car showed a low of -11.5, smug levels set to high, I parked at work and set about the rest of my day.