On yer Bike...
*** In August 2011, I found out I have 'megaloblastic anaemia' and have probably had it for a long, long time. This is the result of a possibly hereditary malabsorption of B vitamins and results in red blood cells being deformed and oversized. Obviously, this has HUGE metabolic consequences! Treatment seems to have resulted in someone else's heart lungs and legs being grafted into my body. I feel loads better!
I like cycling and I also enjoy racing on a bicycle although I donít go anywhere near as quickly as I used to in the ĎOld Daysí. To be honest I spend too much time Ďcyclingí these days (which I love) and not enough time Ďtrainingí (which is a real chore), if you know what I mean. I've got a scrapbook with various results from Cycling Weekly and old newspaper clippings about my efforts 15 years ago but I'm starting to think those halcyon days are long gone based on recent performances!
I would really like to ride fast again but I'm not sure I'm driven enough these days. There's a recurring theme of 'couldn't be arsed with it' in my race results, I think that may be the problem!
I've revamped this page a bit for 2010. 2009 was the year of the Fat Bloke dragging himself round a few races, so Iíve moved that out the way a bit to make room for a slightly more detailed account of training / racing in 2010. You can still read the 2009 trials and tribulations, and a bit more background on my cycling here though.
I hope 2010 will be a bit more about the Not-So-Fat-Bloke going slightly quicker. HopefullyÖ.
Another really great ride. The usual gale force wind and not an especially quick day etc but I knocked out another mid 22 which got me 4th place. Again, only 6 rides under 22 mins so Iím getting there. Absolutely spanked myself Ė average heart rate of 171 with a peak at 176 Ė havenít gone that hard for a long, long time. Iíve found the last few rides that itís my heart and lungs that are the limiting factor, not my legs which have been the thing that has let me down before. Sort of suggests Iíve been a bit tired. One of my team mates had an enforced lay off due to decorating duties recently (sounds familiar!) and subsequently has done the ride of his life! The ĎDecorating Taper Techniqueí seems to have worked for me too. Blimey!
I was going to pack up for the winter but I seem to be finding a wee bit of speed now and may just keep going for as long as possible. There are a few races into October Ė Iíll give them a bash I reckon.
Arrrggghhh!!! Hey, you know a couple of weeks ago I said Iíd done the best ride since getting back on my bike? Well, heh heh heh, I was wrong Ė this week was! Fuffing bell, I couldnít believe it. Half pissed on 4 pints of cider the night before, 4 hours sleep, hardly any cycling during the week because I was so busy, alarm didnít go off so no time for any breakfast, got there mega late with no time for a warm up apart for a 5 minute ride to the startÖ
I thought it was pretty much a floaty sort of day as I whacked out to the turn indicating 26-27mph most of the time. The turn on this course is really long and fiddly, including a mountainous out-the-saddle climb over the dual carriageway and back down again. But I was staggered to come flying back at 30mph and I realised it must have been a bit breezy.
Iím not one for hanging around after TTís but I bumped into an old team mate in the loo as I washed the snot off my face and he was amazed when I told him what Iíd done. ďBlimey, thatís good enough for second at the minute,Ē he informed me.
It turns out that everyone had found it a real grovel Ė some had even gone 90 secs slower than the same event on the same course in April . Iíd gone 90 secs quicker!!
I didnít get second in the end but I set a new PB of 22:20. Wahey!! Ok, not superfast, not that elusive sub 22 minute ride but a cracking ride in the circumstances. Still just under 2 mins slower than my all time PB but itís a good psychological booster. It was won with a mid 21, in fact there were only three sub 22 rides. Iím definitely closing the gap slowly but surely.
So what happened? Well, I have to say that ĎSon of Triggerí now feels a-l-m-o-s-t perfectly set up for me. I stayed on the aerobars easily and felt really comfortable without having to freewheel every now & then to relieve the old Gentlemenís Bits / neck / back / wrists. I also felt like I was actually whacking the power down onto the tarmac properly at last (only taken two seasons to suss it!) and was finally able to get on top of the bigger gears (The only bummer is that first time out of the saddle I clattered both knees on the arm rests for me aerobars Ė ouch. Have to watch that!) Plus I suppose I had an accidental mini-taper due to my decorating / DIY commitments. One, possibly two more events then I'll pack up for the winter. Chuffed!
Iíve never been Ďcomfortableí on my current TT bike Ė itís never felt right. As described a few weeks ago, I had a radical rethink recently about my position following a mid-race experiment where I found I went faster and got more power down riding on the brake hoods than when on the aerobars! I had a major tweak and it felt a little better but still nowhere near right.
I tried a bit of an experiment while knocking out a big effort on the turbo on my road bike Ė whilst in my most comfortable, optimum peddling position for getting the pedals over, I had Sue measure various distances on me and the bike. Hunched over on the brake hoods, in a pretty much Ďold skoolí pre-aerobar TT position it felt great so the tape measure came out. Most telling was the distance from the tip of my elbow back to the tip of the saddle.
Back on my TT bike on the aerobars, the saddle to elbow distance was 9-10 cms greater. It confirmed what Iíd always suspected Ė the toptube is too long for me. This explains my tendency to hold the bars short (the elbow pads are almost on my wrists) or to end up with the tip of the saddle virtually up my bum. Digging around in the Tyler Ďarchivesí, I found a side-on shot of my original TT bike from years ago (fondly christened ĎTriggerí).
My TT bike from the mid 1990's - Trigger. Not sure that low position would be legal now!
By blowing it right up it was possible to get a rough idea of frame sizes by measuring against the wheel size etc and, again, that toptube (and indeed the whole frame) was much shorter. It made sense really Ė I can remember being in an almost foetal position when riding Trigger, it almost felt like I could tuck right behind my hands if I wanted to. I almost lay on the bike, it was much more natural (I used to be able to stay in the aero position for 4 hours at a time in the longer time trials without too much discomfort.)
I canít remedy this problem very easily or cheaply Ė Iíll need to replace the frame eventually but in the meantime Iíve found an extra short handlebar stem which brings the bars back 6 cms and I can get the saddle 2-3 cms further forward which almost gets me back the 9-10 cms required. Hopefully the bits will arrive before my next TT. Be interesting to see if it feels any better.
Phew. No serious harm done fortunately. Think I just over did things very slightly but I've almost got the hang now of what I can do and what works and what doesn't. Really, really pleased with the last couple of time trials I've ridden. No superfast times or anything but turned up for them feeling really fit and healthy which makes a lovely change. Sounds like another batch of lame excuses I know but I've had 4 races on the trot now that have been battered by speed-dulling winds but I've knocked out some really pleasing 22 minute rides in spite of it. I do get disillusioned regularly but I feel like I'm making progress again now and am slowly but surely chipping away at the times. I've had a couple of rides now where I'd have comfortably got under 22 mins if the weather had been kinder and that's a nice feeling. I turned up for a race on saturday and, although not a superfast ride, I felt better and stronger than I ever have since I started racing again. It was a bit cruel really - at 9 miles with a mile to go, I was at 19 mins 50 something with 32mph on the speedo. I was buzzing - I was finally going to do it, beat 22 minutes! Then I rode out of the shelter of the trees and the wind just shredded all my hopes. Down to 18 mph and the chance was gone. Arse. In a full field of 120 riders, only 10 or so beat 22 minutes so that sort of put things in perspective. Within 30 secs of a few riders who normally go a minute or two quicker than me too.
I've chatted to a few of my old mates who too have made a recent return to racing after many years off like me and they all say it took 3 years for them to get themselves into decent nick again. That's encouraging and probably about right for me too. I've had two years and am starting to go okay at last so next year should be the one. Patience Andy, patience...
I used some of my time off the bike last week to go right back to basics on the set up of my TT bike. I rode a Hilly 20 in Stowmarket as a bit of 'fun' and it struck me just how wrong my TT bike felt. I found that I actually went faster riding on the brake hoods than when down on the tribars! I rode a couple of TT's earlier in the year on my road bike fitted with cheapy clip-on tribars and I have to admit that it felt so much more natural and that I was getting the power down better than on my TT bike and I just put it down to be more used to riding it. So I pretty much spent a whole day re-measuring myself and the bike etc and made some pretty radical changes including saddle height, saddle angle, saddle movement forward and back, cleat position and angle, handlebar height, stem length, tribar angle, tribar width, tribar length....
"Does my bum look big in this?" gasped Andy
I tinkered for hours and even filmed myself riding to check out the biomechanics of everything. As a final test, I rode that days VO2 Max intervals on the re-jigged TT bike to see how it felt. Loads better (but still not q-u-i-t-e right, can't put my finger on it...). It's probably no coincidence that the next time I rode the TT bike in anger, I knocked out one of the best feeling rides I'd ever had on it!
All gone a bit wrong again this last couple of weeks. Not felt too well and had to ease right up again. Had some niggly thing that started with really sore eyes and left me really tired and heavy. Progressed into my muscles in a mild flu type thing, then broke out into mouth ulcers, really sore gums, pains in my liver etc etc. Had a couple of days where I could barely be bothered to walk upstairs - All the same old symptoms back again basically. I think I'm learning to live with it a bit better though as it has come and gone quite quickly this time and I'm fairly chilled about it. Resting pulse on the way back down and feeling much better this last week so still hopeful of beating my PB this season....
22:40 again! However, not too disappointed as this was achieved on a brutally windy day with little traffic assistance whereas the last 22:40 was on a dead calm, dead flat course with loads of traffic. Psychologically, Iíve sort of awarded myself a long Ď21í based on that ride Ė to be honest thatís what Iíd have done on a less windy day. So definite improvements and I could really feel the benefit of the big VO2 max sessions Iíve been inflicting on myself.
Check out the grimace!! Can't be accused of not being fully committed to this ride!
Think I trained hard for one week too many though as I struggled to recover and rest the week before and my resting pulse on the day was in the high 50ís and felt a bit tired. Donít think the previous weekend of hardcore boozing / camping at Brands Hatch exactly helped things either!
Still punishing myself and racking the miles up. Suffered a bit at the weekend though Ė longish ride Saturday, then a set of brutal VO2 max intervals on the turbo. Bit busy on Sunday (doggies to walk, motorbike to fix, World Cup final and F1 at Silverstone) so went out for a full on 90 mins ride with some big long TT efforts thrown in. Was totally shredded when I got home!
Was still a bit smashed on Monday morning, plus it was tipping it down, plus Iíd hardly slept because of the discomfort caused by a jellyfish sting Iíd got swimming in the sea with the doggies the day before, so I wimped out and took the van to work that day. Tuesday though I felt awesome and set a new ride-to-work PB set at an average of just 115bpm which I topped that evening at a slightly bigger average of 116bpm. Ok, I never exactly blast it riding to work and itís always just a steady cruise but nice to be seeing an improvement, even if Iím not trying especially hard!
Part of my problem has been the fact that big efforts always seem to catch up with me a day or two down the line and make me ill. Nothing serious but things like sore throats, mouth ulcers, coughs, colds plus a really annoying soreness in my mouth around my gums. Iíve had none of those this last three weeks Ė that must be some sort of record!
I'm still avoiding club TT's etc like the plague - I don't want to know if I'm going any better or worse than before, not yet. In quite a good positive training frame of mind at the minute and don't want to demotivate myself by finding out that I've not actually improved one bit!
When you donít get yourself stressed out about racing all the time, itís amazing how much more fun cycling becomes! Especially in the sort of weather weíre having at the mo, itís just an absolute pleasure to be out and about.
Iím feeling quite adventurous so thinking about cycling down to Brands Hatch in a couple of weeks time for me and my two brotherís annual motorsport piss-up weekend. About 140 miles, a lot of it on the back roads using the national cycle network Nice steady spin down, no stress, no deadline, plus itís the perfect excuse for not having to buy crates and crates of beer!! Really looking forward to it.
Havenít totally given up on racing though - there's just one last thing I want to try before I pack it in completely. A few weeks ago I put my lack of improvement down to basically just being too much of a wimp. I worry all the time about over-training or making myself ill for years again like last time and it stops me from pushing myself beyond my comfort zone and hence the plateau in performance. Every time my legs hurt or I feel crap in a race I panic and rest up for weeks at a time. Silly really.
22:40 on the A11 near Newmarket! Ok, loads of traffic and a very flattering day but nice to do a '22' and only a few seconds away from last years best ride. My legs still feel really tired though, but not as bad as they have been, so could still scrape something a bit quicker this summer. The event was the Eastern Counties Cycling Association 10 mile Championship. I finished 4th in this same event with a 21:01 in, I think, 1996 so a bit of a choker to finish mid-table in a field of 130 riders! That means I'd have finished just under a mile behind myself if the 1996 and 2010 version of me had started together. Puts it in perspective.... How depressing... Ah well.
I've got no races planned for about 10 days or so I'm just going to potter around on loads of steady rides with Sue to try and let the old legs rest up a bit more...
Still virtually no cycling again this week, apart from a really steady 90 min recovery ride on Sunday. Still feel a bit knackered. Raced last night (weds) and STILL had that awful dead, stingy, tight feeling in my legs. As soon as I got on the turbo I knew I hadnít recovered.
However, I used the event as a bit of an experiment in pacing Ė I split the 10 miles into quarters and had a strategy for each one:
Really steady. Slowly let my heart rate come up to my target of 167. This is 5 beats lower than I normally average for a Ď10í. Subjectively, I reckon it took nearly 4 minutes for my body to catch up with my level of effort.
Steady to the turn, HR no higher than 170. This meant throttling right back on some of the drags Ė not easy psychologically!
Slightly faster from the turn, allowing my HR up to 172.
Go by feel. The usual tits-out for the last km or so.
The result was that at 8 miles I felt really fresh and belted the last 2 miles at 32mph average! I think I could have easily wicked it up from the turn to be honest, in fact the whole ride was far too Ďeasyí. Having said that I didnít feel like I was suffering once Ė makes a change!!
I think it worked though, just needs a bit of tweaking. Anything has got to be better than blowing at 3 miles then hanging on for the next 20 mins, gradually going slower and slower and slowerÖ.
Did 24 mins 15 secs. Consensus was that the windy conditions cost everyone a minute and I could easily have saved another 30 secs by riding faster, so morally Iím claiming a 22:40 something I reckon! Onwards and upwardsÖ
Hardly ridden for the last few weeks (since the 4th of May), done a couple of club '10s' and a few really gentle rides. Feeling slightly fresher and more rested - I'm hoping the time off has done me good. I'm starting to suspect I'm just absolutely and completely knackered and run down, that's all. Few quick Opens in the next week or so, so let's see what happens...
28:00 dead on a sporting '10' last night! Ok, was riding my £300 Halfords clunker but, FFS, it's just rubbish really. I'm starting to see the funny side now - what else can I do?? Hadn't ridden since the rubbish ride 10 days ago as I was getting over my cough / cold whatever. Resting pulse fine, just fat, middle aged and unfit. Never mind. At least I'm still the fastest shopping trolley pilot in the world....
"This has got to be the most stupid pastime in the world," Andy mumbles to himself whilst breathing out of his arse...
Well, I'm buggered. After a complete week off the bike, I turned up to the VTTA 10 on the A14 on sunday and had a cracker. Got under 24 mins fairly easily on a not particularly quick course, despite having had 6 hours sleep and far too much booze the night before. And a nasty chesty cough has materialised which (I hope) explains the poor form just recently. Legs still not 100% but only a minute or so away from where I would like to have been at this point in the season. Perhaps all is not lost? Defo need another week off though to shift this cold / cough. Might do a club 10 in the week but that's all. Two 10's next bank holiday weekend - potential for a PB if things continue to improve....
What a load of crap. Bloody hell, it gets worse. Rode a 20 mile Hilly TT at the weekend and felt dead from the start. No strength in my legs, no speed, nothing. Pretty hard to stay focussed when youíre killing yourself to average 20 mph, so I sat up after 8 or 9 miles and just enjoyed a nice ride in the sunshine. Not sure what the marshals made of it all! Amazingly, I still didnít come anywhere near last so thatís something!
I havenít felt that bad for a long, long time and it may not be a coincidence that I tried an experiment with the calcium supplements in the week beforehand.
Iíve now pretty much reached the stage where I really canít be arsed going through all this again and might just forget the whole thing. My whole Ďexercise allergyí syndrome continues to haunt me, Iím bloody doomed I reckon. Iíll stop riding / training for a couple of weeks and see if anything improves. Thatís all I can do really. I just hope I've been hit by a virus and it's not the 'old trouble' flaring up again.
Feeling reasonably fit now, in an Ďathleticí sort of way I mean and along with the weight Iíve lost and a pretty severe regime of stretching, Iíve rolled back a good few years! Keeping my sacroiliac joint mobile is just as much of a problem as it was 15 years ago but the stretching keeps it limbered up. It's getting to the stage where it needs a good cracking, but I don't really know of anyone (apart from a 'professional') that I trust to do it for me.
Andy was starting to feel awesome and had lost LOADS of weight....
I have a really steady ride into work or if its too cold / wet I get home and sit on the turbo really steady (120bpm max) for 45 mins. Weather has been so awful recently that I went for over two weeks without having a Ďrealí ride a while ago. I donít ride both in to work and home at the minute, it feels like slightly too much. What I do is put the bike in the van and drive in, then cycle home. Next day I cycle in, put the bike in the van then drive home in the evening. Feels like just enough.
I donít have anything flash like a power meter so itís hard to judge progress until I do my first time trial but I think Iím miles up on where I was last summer. I can best gauge it on my Ďsteadyí rides into work Ė I was averaging between an hour and 1:05 last year but now at the same pace Iím 8-10 mins quicker. Think itís fairly safe to say last years 10 mile PB of 22:39 will be improved very early on!
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