Sunday, July 19, 2009

Dunwich Dynamo

It was 2 or three weeks ago now. TSK stayed in bed most of the day whilst I drove to Wisbech to pick up wood for refurbishments to the Vanu. Wisbech involved passing through peterborough and I discovered that my love for Peterborough extends to now knowing the quick route through it when you're in a rush to get to Wisbech and Rainbow Camper Conversions.

From Wisbech I drove through the heart of East Anglia and onto Dunwich on the East coast. The drive was lovely. Nice to be there in the sunshine with the corn ripening and the ditches full of slowly moving water being enjoyed by families with canoes.

In Dunwich at 8pm I camped and tucked into a full hamper of beer I'd stashed for TSK's friends in the morning.

I cooked and ate dinner then walked along the beach to Dunwich village.

The waves were beautiful, despite Hinkley Point in the distance. The soft noise only interupted by children on the cliff, who eventually gave up trying to attract my attention. A fisherman's soggy dog tried to talk but was called away. In contrast, a group of lads sent their doberman over to "chat up the lady" but were dismayed when I told them their dog was cute but they stood little hope since I was waiting for my boyfriend to ride up from London.

The sun was setting as I arrived at the village

By the time I was part way home along the road, the sun was set and so the deer hardly saw me as I passed in the woods leading back to the campsite. He could smell me though (8 hours driving a van) and we stood and stared at eachother through the darkness before a twat in a range=rover scared him off.

I slept reasonably well in the van, despite having done nothing with my day except shop and drive. I did wake at 4 am, wishing to get rid of some of the beer I'd consumed and decided to take a drive down to the beach to wait for TSK to arrive. As I looked over the break-water, the sun was re-appearing over the ocean so I popped back to the van to get my chair and sat and watched her rise as cyclists began to queue for the café behind me.

TSK returned to me 2 hours later. Happy and bouncy. Things were looking good for the 600 in a weeks time.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Oakley, Oxfordshire - An Egotists View from the Back

Before we started the race on Sunday I popped over to the signing-on desk to pick up some pins for Sorelle and Sharron’s numbers, joking that my contribution to the day would be solely along the lines of the dutiful domestique. My start to the event was thwarted by a puncture on the startline followed by the slow realisation that the pool of high-tech spare wheels was never going to work with the 8-speed chain on my cyclo-cross bike – the only reasonably lightweight bike I have for road racing.

Drowning my initial resignation to “pack up and go home” I switched out the punctured inner tube and set about my first lap. Half a mile later, one of the links on aforementioned 8 speed chain started to pop undone so I retreated again to the van for a chain tool before embarking on the race once and for all.

After half a lap, I came across Sharron, recovering from the discovery that her wheel wasn’t in straight and the brakes locked up in the middle of the pack on the first corner. Wheel straightened and brakes re-set we began 2 laps of chatting like a couple of Sunday club-run riders, waiting for the pack to catch us. Despite the slippery windy roads, I was fairly sure we wouldn’t catch the pack no matter how hard we tried. In retrospect, I should’ve tried to help pull Sharron back up to any groups which fell off the back of the main pack but when you’re pretty sure you’re 25 minutes off the back of a 6 mile lap, these suggestions don’t come easy to an adrenaline-fuelled brain.

Finally, the men caught us and Sharron made a very brave effort to sit with them while I, ever aware of my limits, continued to wait for the women. After what seemed like an eternity, the pack finally emerged, sadly without Sorelle but I managed to join it and surprised myself by staying in it.

Genevive was still in-tact in the group and seemed relieved to see another Swindon rider to help out. Envigorated by joining a group with 3 laps more fatigue in their legs than I had, I set about causing a stir by stomping out some fast pace on the right hand side of the pack – where all the elite riders were making their moves to avoid the potholes on the left of the road. I tried to mark Gen, giving her a break from the wind and opening little doors in the constant stream of changing places. Sharron joined in the fun, having left the men to their own devices and for the first time in my life I actually felt like I could contribute to team tactics.

The penultimate lap of the course passed with little event until I got another smug “first time for everthing” feeling from crossing over the last lap marker, still part of a coherent group. The fact that I was a lap down just didn’t matter to me anymore.

The last lap pace didn’t start to accelerate until about half way round where a very sharp left hand bend is followed by a steep hump-back motorway bridge. Rather than my usual performance of slowing to a snail’s pace and dropping off the back, I found myself keeping pace with many of my peers and, quite astonishingly, still had my eye on Genevive.

As I marked “breakaway alley” on the right, I noticed a very strong solo-rider start to sneak by with purpose in her legs. There was no-way anyone was getting past my moment of glory and all of a sudden, in my head, I was the Hincapie to Genevives’ Cavendish and I could see my explosive sprint leading her out to take the 1-2 for Swindon road club (ignoring, of course, the fact that I am still one-lap down). So I jumped on the wheel of miss Breakaway and gave my all to dragging whoever else would follow from the main group across the 20m gap she managed to open up. My plan worked, plenty of others saw her go and despite the evil glances of death she kept throwing my way (or perhaps she wanted help), we succeeded in dragging her back.

That was my moment of glory more or less spent as I glided to the back of the pack.

Pride got the better of me though and I managed, somehow to cling on to the group and keep pace around to the last corner. We all knew it was going to be fast as a short climb led to a long, flat tail winded finish. As I planned to chase down the attack lines on the right, the pace just got too frantic and my muscles wilted into melted cheese.

I let the pack go and rode close to the verge, waving the support vehicles to go past me then whoomph, 6 riders on the right hand side of the pack exploded into the air in a mass of bikes and limbs.

Having declared my race “over” about 3 hours earlier, I set about doing what I could to pull bikes and people off the pile of wreckage. A number of riders rode on to the finish whilst I stayed to help out. One first aider was faced with 2 casualties to tend whilst the rest of the cavalcade lifted bikes onto the support vehicle and pacified the local bobby who was genuinely surprised to find out there was a bike race happening in his area.

Everyone safely moved and ambulances called, I picked up my bike to find Genevive and Sorelle had come back to check on me as my absence at the finish line had been noted. In times of such woeful failure it is always really nice to find that, not only do your team-mates know you are missing but the lap-scorer is still patiently waiting for you to return.

Trepid Explorer – resoundingly last but by no means disappointed.

Thursday, July 09, 2009


I am officially an official chartered n'engineer.

Trepid Explorer CEng MIMechE. My name will actually appear in the Telegraph newspaper in about 3 months time.
For 20 years I have approached cycling with the same philosophy. Miles = fitness. I dabbled in the science of heart-rate monitoring – measuring a maximum heart-rate – that which can be maintained for 8 minutes - and training at various percentages of it in order to achieve an aerobic performance (or otherwise).

Sitting in a pub (drinking orange juice) and talking to my team mates I heard them all talking about their lactate threshold which sounded like something terribly scientific that can only be measured in a lab.

When I proudly proclaimed I had measured my max heartrate, I was met with silence – not a stunned silence – but still an “Oh my god, max heart rate is soooo 90’s” silence. So I dug out a book. A book that I bought in February. And I gebun to read.

Accordindg to this book, my lack of energy and constant illness is not just brought on by me being crap but is as a result of me over-training. When I go-for-it hell for leather, I show a slight improvement then, oops – no brainer – I get sick or I injure myself, all the fitness is gone and… repeat for 20 years.

So finally the message has come across – stop over training and start training with a brain. The book is well written. The author makes an excellent case for his methods and reports that he has walked away from potential clients on the basis that they are unable to follow his regime - not because it's too hard but because they over-train and stress and beat themselves up when they are unable to train because the plan does not allow it. His book is littered with quotes from training manuals gone by, outlining the ludicrous ideas that we used to have in the old days. It is also filled with statements from today’s heros quoting that they “gave up 35 hours a week training years ago” (Phew).

Still, it doesn’t matter with this programme, whether you train 100 hours a year or 1000 hours a year, this programme is about distributing the efforts associated with training to build muscles, aerobic capacity, anaerobic capacity and endurance to achieve an all-round cycling skill which can then be adapted to the type of cycling you do and the areas in which one needs to improve. 2 weeks ago I sat down all day Saturday and came up with a plan.

I – it seems – ride about 350 hours a year. From now on I will be varying the hours I spend riding depending on when I am in a Base phase, a build phase, a peak phase or a rest phase. I get two peaks in a season which I am planning on being the 3 Peaks cyclo-cross in September and the nationals in January. Which phase I am in determines what percentage of my time is spent on Endurance, Force, Muscle Endurance, Power, Speed Skills and Anaerobic Endurance. As I build towards the beginning of my winter season I am doing most of my riding as endurance which is what I’ve been doing for years but even so, the proportion of rides which I need to do to fulfil the rest of the training is beginning to define the shape of my body as I develop hip extensor muscles, arm muscles (where there haven’t been any for years) and my thighs and calves return.

The program has so far turned out to be an excellent driver. When I look at my plan on a Wednesday and realise I still have some ME hours and some Force hours to do, it inspires me to get out on my bike – if only for half an hour – and play catch up.

Thus I found myself on Saturday leaving the comfort of a cool house lacking in commitment and responsibility to head for the hills in an effort to develop my thigh strength and tick-off 90 minutes of ME training. It was perfect and I returned home feeling exactly like I’d been to the gym, yet full of the joys of never-ending rolling fields filled with blue cornflower, red poppies and yellow oil-seed rape.

So on Sunday, when TSK suggested we ride to Andover I could see 4 hours ahead of endurance riding and signing off the rest of my ME with a little force training. What he neglected to tell me was he was opting for the hilly route to ensure plenty of breeze all-round. Following a hardride on Saturday I hauled up the first hill then spent the rest of the day settling in to whatever I could be settled with – including granny gear. It didn’t matter, we had a great day out filled with coffee, fruit juice, a marching band and good lunch. There were many hills and many lonely valleys where we felt like the only people on the road and we enjoyed Andover – despite the poor signposting around the town. 9 hours later we got back to the house, seriously having overdone the training doses for another week (last week was truly gourmande as far as the training went).

All I can think is the author of my book would not be imipressed but hell, if you’re going to break the rules you might as well have fun doing it.