Sunday, April 14, 2019

Pep talk

I am so tired I can hardly keep my eyes open so I have to write this down before I forget it... and I probably will.

When I was last living in Sheffield and "into" mountain biking I was a 21yr old stoodent.  OK, OK, we all rode hardtails with tiny wheels and smaller handlebars and mostly named our rides, "Collosus" or "the little tank" but me and Dan Loftus, my buddy, used to drive to Edale to do one third of the ride I did today.

Today I chose paths that took me to the top of Win hill, rode down the other side to go to the caf then rode back up again so I could ride to the Mam Tor trail without going all the way there on the road.  Today I followed different trails up because back then they seemed so "far out". Today I followed different trails down because back then I wouldn't have dreamt of riding them. Today I rode them on a 20kg loaded bike with blokes looking-on.

For all that I have not done as much as I would like to have done with training, the HT has changed my outlook on what's possible on my mountain bike and taken me great places at wonderful times of day.  I can rest assured that no one day on the HT is as tough as this, though I know that cumulatively plenty will be.

I am thoroughly looking forwards to finding out what comes out when I try to do this all the time - day in / day out - but most of all I am looking forward to taking Emvee to the Fisherfield forest and all of the other great experiences my legs and that bike will have along the way.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

March Bivi

March has been a busy month doing a few less wildernessy things which left me hankering for a mental recovery ride.

The boss had decided we should drink our way into Brexit but Thursday looked like a beaut evening so I left the bike bags in a colleague's car whilst we had dinner (Italians are used to people dining in bike clothing). 

At 8pm I strapped the bags back on, relieved to fine EmVee still locked to the post where I left her.

I followed Landsley's route through Eccleshall wood (pink line on Garmin tougher than following a wheel) and up onto the Eastern Moors. 

There was quite a chilly headwind on the moor so I added windproofs and gloves and watered the heather with a pint of fine Italian bierra before bailing over to Frogatt as I suddenly had a pang of guilt surrounding going back to work on Friday.

When I rounded the hillside above the crag the wind dropped so I contemplated a few heathery hollows before deciding the traffic noise in the valley was a bit much for a satisfying bivi. Nothing reinforced this more than the sound of a car alarm going off so I moved along. The closer I could get to houndkirk, the easier for my morning commute.

By midnight though, snoozies kicked in, despite the engaging boulder-hopping so I pushed away from the Edge to some trees. 2 pairs of eyes blinked back at my light. A pair of deer.

We shared a moment before I chucked my bivi down and set to sleep straight away. It was cold and not pretty so I promised to try harder in the morning 

I thought I'd packed a bit light so shivered through for 2 hours before finally getting up for another wee. 


When I got back to my bag it suddenly seemed a lot warmer and I slept 2.5 hrs to alarm at 4.30am. Hit the snooze button to enjoy the warm a bit longer.

I was rewoken at 5am by grouse barking and the blush of sunrise on the moor. 



I mostly packed before remembering my bivipic








It was tempting to brew up sat in my bag but there was no hardstanding and a lot of dry grass so over to the edge for breakfast "on the rocks" I watched the temperature inversion sloshing up and down the valley.

The unpleasant morning surprise was finding I hadn't washed up since Februbivi so the first brew was washing up water to disinfect the ti mug. Ew.
I also found a pair of heat packs in my frame bag so those kept my toes warm whilst I made breakfast. Very satisfying.


The ride home went via Longshaw and Houndkirk then the Mayfield valley. Just a few lucky dog walkers out so that was definitely the best rush-hour commute I've ever done. It was nice to be going flat to the office where I would normally have another valley to do to get home.

At 8.30 I was sat on the pavement in the city retrieving my D-lock but the progress along the canal to work got a bit slow. Still, at my desk by 10am. I'm not sure my productivity was any good but hey, they owe me.















Sunday, March 10, 2019

The Success and Unease of Training like a Pro

I have itchy fingers - no, not an infection - but like travellers have itchy feet, I have itchy fingers.  I have been staring at an empty page, longing to write something but no words come because there have been no great adventures recently. 

Yet I am more at home on a bike than I have been in a long time (not that I've taken this years' race bike out in weeks).

Training like a pro: I have focussed my efforts on my weaknesses this week and yes, for me, that is strength which means the trips to the gym are back on.

There's two good things about that in March:
  1. I can get a big and useful workout done in the space of 1-2 hours.
  2. I don't feel terribly guilty about not going out on my bike when the weather is shitty because I have to recover from a gym session.
After a gym session on Friday, we did get out yesterday to stretch our legs with a walk into town.  Then after I'd recovered I took my new bike, Twiggy, for its first spin on the rollers.  I realise I'm turning into a Zwift wanker without the Zwift account.

It took me a while to get the rollers and the bike set up so I was comfy but once started, I got plenty out of it - waking up the lungs and fast-twitch muscles and getting comfy on that bike just in case I get to use it any time soon.  1 hour 20 minutes later and I wasn't quite spent but I was quite hungry.

But there are no epic stories to tell from my roller sessions, my trips to the gym or my commute - which is blissfully and thankfully dull.  The most exciting event on my bike in recent weeks has been meeting up with Becky after work on my bike like a well ingrained hipster and my speedy drag races up the hill that are genuinely getting faster and less frantic.  It's so rewarding when I ask my legs for something and they respond.

In the absence of wild camping weather (or something anywhere near) weights and rollers are still great mood lifters.  They do a tonne for my fitness and confidence and the endorphins get to work and I'm more ready than ever for a nap.

Some people may not need to lift weights or work on their aerobic capacity.  It may come naturally when they ride.  They are lucky people who have probably spent their lives in clubs and pelotons, never really understanding why I wouldn't just turn up.

It's nice to see some of the people I look up to in the endurance world openly admitting to a cheeky turbo or roller session to get out of the weather.  Mostly they probably, like me, don't find much to talk about in it.  I'd like to think that everyone else is holed up indoors through this weather.  All waiting like chrysalis for March to be over, April nearly through, so that we can emerge, like butterflies to be flitted far and wide on colourful wings.

Training like a pro goes beyond the boundaries of the bike and going to the gym.  It's a wholistic approach to self care which strays in to coming to terms with day to day chores and makes them more bearable. 

The whole point of there not being someone else to do shit for me means that in some ways I'm like a lowly paid domestique, doing all the chores for myself.  There's no soigneuse to take care of my massage, food and no maintenance team to look after my bike. 

After months of being a slave to a difficult and stressful job, I am now taking measured pleasure and awareness from the following:
  • having a shower (hygiene)
  • the supermarket run (being stocked up with Calories and nutritious food)
  • washing and rebuilding bikes (mechanic)
  • cooking (nutritious food)
  • Tidying up (hygiene & safety)
  • Driving to work (recovery)
I still haven't really got the hoover out but the risk of injury, exhaustion and allergy attack puts that on a low frequency spectrum that I'm only prepared to endure once a month or less.  Other things I have not yet mastered include:
  • massage 
  • stretching
  • cleaning the team bus
Rest still happens though this year I am trying my absolute best not to let it stray into laziness.  Where before I may have let laziness continue all day, instead I have replaced it after a while with simple, non screen-related tasks.  If I still can't get up then I at least get the knitting out.

Last year had more miles in it so far.  It also had more hours.  It had less weight training and that aspect only went down hill.  It will be interesting to see just how it helps me progress.  Last year at the Mag 7, I commented to Matt Payne that my annual first awakening to hill climb training comes with the Mag 7 ride (last year in advance of Ireland, the year before in advance of Alpe d'Huez).

This year I feel like I'm already three weeks into addressing my particular difficulty with hill climbing and we still have 2 weeks to go before the Mag7 race.  By testing myself on the course last week I realised that what I thought would have been working for me actually really wasn't (long mountain bike rides on a heavily laden bike).  In retrospect it's a good job I started weight training when I did.  I'd love to claim it was planned but it really wasn't.  Perhaps my body was giving me subliminal messages, secretly craving the thing that it will make it go faster.  After all, I know I'm *supposed* to do this, I just never really felt like it before.  Perhaps it was Ruth Marsden that started it.

I think I did, at least, realise that the yoga alone wasn't going to give me the strength I need and with an ever growing influx of new year students late on their new years' resolutions (for good reason - Exams), yoga is being strength-diluted with breathing, relaxation and stretching taking over.  I had to make my gym money go further and so far weight training has been a success. 

When I went to the gym today there were moments when the black leather cushion material on the machines burned into my skin from the beautiful winter outdoor sunshine baking them hot.  I also strengthened my glutes as the hailstones tore around in the maelstom of a flurry.  If I'd been out in that I would have been soaked and cold for hours afterwards.

There are moments when I think nothing will do away with the guilt of not being "out there in it".  Blogs like this where I'm trying to persuade myself more than you, my dear reader.  But there are moments when I will walk away from a hailstorm and into a hot sauna and I am fine with my choices.

I could be bothered by my hours and miles for this year being down compared to 2018 or we could acknowledge that 2018 still left me empty when I got to the race in June.  Sure, my endurance was OK but I had neither strength nor speed.  3 days in I was frazzled, uncomfortable and behind.  13 days in and I'd ridden myself somewhere near into the shape I should have started in. 

By contrast, though I've ridden less this year, I've climbed more per km and done it faster - and mostly on a loaded bike.  Interesting.  It's gonna be interesting.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Training like a pro day 6

Finally made the transition from office to bike to gym and then rode home.  Quite a nice warmup really for the final climb to my house.  Sitting on the sofa on a Wednesday night feeling like I rule the world.

Nice.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

On training like a pro

Training like a pro took a back seat last week. Unless you mean training like a professional engineer. I went back to work. I tried to do self care but by Tuesday I was already working late because I now had 3 monthly reports to catch up on.

So I took wednesday morning off and went to the gym instead... but I didn't. I sat on  the couch and did nothing.

This week training like a pro has reverted to the grind of recovering from some of the hard efforts put in on my last week at work and easing myself into the daily grind. Trying to recover effectively from the working day with a bike ride home. Eating nutritional food. Trying not to get too drunk when friends come to visit.  That will have to do for my pro training.

Whilst I made it to yoga, the promised gym sessions on Monday, Wednesday or Friday didn't happen.

I thought I was due an Audax on Saturday but I really couldn't face getting ready for it on Friday night. Instead I had nothing planned so it was with great relief that, this morning, I did some work on my new bike then took it for a short, strengthening spin up some local hills.

It turns out plebbing about on a mountain bike for miles and miles isn't that good hill training. The ride certainly beat squats in the gym and had the added bonus of wearing me out completely before the weather turned. I ate lunch then lounged in bed in the late afternoon before making myself piles of food. I can't think of a better way to pro the day.

Another stint in bed now before, in all probability, I take to the gym again tomorrow to hide from the hideous weather.


Monday, February 25, 2019

Train like a pro day 4 - La Rentrée

OK.  I didn't quite manage the Monday morning ride or gym, with a ton of stuff to take back to work, a little tired from yesterday and an urge to get in early so I could get out early.

This I did manage and took my new ride out for a spin this evening.  Without a team mechanic to get my bike ready it took me a while to get the tool bag, pump, lights and Garmin mount on.

I also couldn't decide what to wear.  On account of it being February in the bottom of the valley and June at the top of the valley where the sun had been shining.

I had an abrupt warm up Hollins Lane then pootled along one side of the valley and back along the other, messing with cleats, saddle height, position and more cleats along the way.

I think I nailed it but I'm sure I didn't.

A very enjoyable evening out, despite the mid ride freezing from time to time.


Sunday, February 24, 2019

Train like a pro day 3 - Mates ride

Not the traditional pro today (and yesterday) but I did take all kit loaded out to the peak along with my trusty companion, Mr Landslide.

There was a fair quantity of haze around as we left the city on Saturday afternoon.
The Eastern Moors

We dawdled through the peak, dicking about taking pics and visiting stone circles before heading to The Robin Hood Inn, dined on fine lasagne and beer then went in search of a place to stay.

Papp'd

A poorly framed stone circle
 The accommodation was fine - flat, dry, comfortable. The company quiet, companionable and well organised.  We compared bivi notes.  I started off swathed in layers and had to de-layer in the night.  He started off delayered and had to add layers in the night.  My 1996 bivi bag really does give a fab night's sleep (not yet tested in the wet) as it is both snuggly, breathable and perfectly shaped for my form.
Basecamp

We went to sleep about 9pm then I got up for a faff, in search of allergy tablets, my outdoor allergies having been suppressed for some time by the virus, finally came to the fore of my failings again.  Sadly no allergy tabs on board so I went for a pee and that seemed to sort my chronic sneezing fit - an odd repair!

I slept through till 6:30 when birdsong and squawking pheasants woke me up.  The sunrise was fine, when we got up and got riding, the temperature inversion finer.  We brewed porridge and coffee then set off on day 2.





More stone circles and burial grounds were visited.  Once we dropped into the valley, temperatures plummeted and gloves were added.  Second breakfast was served in the Edensor caf at Chatsworth.  Very fine heated building with Pork Products.  After we climbed again, we had third breakfast at Longshaw sitting outside eating ice-cream and having more conversations than we'd bargained for.

We went out separate ways at the Foxhouse Inn as I set off for Houndkirk and Landslide headed over Blacka to do family time.

There may be no pro's in this sport but that's the best value training I've had all week.