Skin suit to wedding suit

So typically life got in the way of blogging. That’s no bad thing, I cycled a lot, worked too much, holidayed a bit, ate perhaps a little too much. More importantly though, I got married. A big year! And big years need to be lived in, except the work bit, I would happily not live that bit.

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Anyway so i’m ill, cruelly struck down with man flu, which is a perfect opportunity to type up something that doesn’t relate to pensions, tax legislation or levels of pension income that my generation will never see. I pretty much lucked out with illness this year which is pretty sweet. I also stopped my annual tradition of throwing myself at the tarmac for which I (and my ever concerned wife) am pretty stoked about. Here’s a picture of an echelon. No reason, I just like echelons.

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I had a pretty great season by my standards, actually make that really great, so I thought I’d pick out a few races from the summer that I at least found interesting. I ended the year a 3rd cat on 24 points having hung up the race numbers in August, roughly about the time a collar bone takes to heal before the wedding…She’s a smart one that Mrs Shaw.

Ken Wright Memorial RR – 2/3/4

So this was my club’s home road race, on home roads and this year NOT the regional champs. Result definitely possible for VC Revolution, or so we thought. Didn’t turn out that way but I had a blast covering moves, doing some work and generally not being pack fodder. Support from the club and friends of VCR on the road side was great as we (Ollie E, Andrew H, Tom S, Andy E and Grovesy) went round which really does make a difference. Anyway, we missed the break of 15 (all the points in a 2/3/4 Reg A) and I finished 27th, about 12th in the gallop which was half decent. Bah! Loved the course though, looking forward to next year already.

ken wright2

  • Strava
  • Time: 2 hours 52 minutes
  • Avg: 178 watts
  • NP: 235 watts
  • Avg speed: 41 kph
  • Points: Up the road
  • Sock game: Strong (see below)
ken-wright-2016

VC Revolution, taking socks seriously since 2007

Abberton Road Race – 3/4

Call this one my second home road race. It’s on the same course as the Jock Wadley (see actual Wadley report here) and also put on by the Colchester Rovers. Organised this year by my good buddy Matt who stepped up and took it on. It was a target race for sure but I wouldn’t say that I had really trained specifically for it other than by putting a big block of racing ahead of it in May. Being a 3/4 I fancied my chances for this one much more than the Ken Wright. VCR had good numbers in the race (Tom S, Andy H, Ian F and Trevor) and we worked hard to make sure we didn’t miss the break this time. In the end no break stuck but one guy did get up the road solo and put 3 minutes on us. He was joined on the last lap (i think!) by another guy that I swear teleported off the front. I can remember realising he was gone when I couldn’t see his fluro polkadot socks near the front any more, no idea when he went. So the rest of us were left fighting for 3rd.

Teammate Trevor hit the front with a lap to go and put in a monster turn to string the bunch out over the bumps on the back side of the circuit. That effort really made the race for me as it kept the bunch together. The other half of the course isn’t hard enough to attack on unless its windy. Rolling up the New Road the wind was from the right, it wasn’t of Flandrian proportions but most of the bunch was busy fighting for the left hand gutter. The finish is sheltered though so I used this as an opportunity to move up. I ended up on the wheel of a lad from Ipswich BC, about 4 or 5 from the front and right on the edge of the bunch. Still not really sure how I managed that. I mean I often planned this, but it rarely worked in road races.

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Photo credit: Natural photography

Ipswich lad went, I followed and we had a monster drag race for the line. Literally side by side, it was awesome. I didn’t dare look behind but we finished half a wheel apart and held off the bunch, Erin was at the finish cheering me on. Best. Race. Ever. Ipswich lad took 4th, I got 5th. Turns out our drag race had produced a monster lead out for Tom from Interbike who took 3rd by a clean 2 bike lengths. That wasn’t part of the plan…..Sure, a podium would have been perfect but I was so chuffed with 5th. All my points prior had come from 4th cat crits so it was a pretty big deal for me. Plus I got a decent cheer at the HQ from the guys which was sweet and I knew I had nailed my tactics so I couldn’t really be disappointed losing in a drag race when I knew I’d given it everything.  The finishing sprint was 720w for 20 seconds. Not earth shattering in isolation but that came halfway through 470w for 75 seconds and after 59 miles! Boom!

abberton-2016

Colchester’s 2016 bike gurning contest

  • Strava
  • Time: 2 hours 25 minutes
  • Avg: 186 watts
  • NP: 238 watts
  • Avg speed: 39 kph
  • Points: 6

Cyclopark – midweek 3/4

I did a fair few mid week crits this year and seriously they are some of the most fun you can have on two wheels. No-one is peaking for these or taking them too seriously. Generally the strong guys try to beat up the weaker guys and see what’s left at the end. Rads (Paul R from the Rovers) and I had trekked down after work and this race stands out because the wind was exactly across the circuit. As the main straights are parallel this made both directions a complete slog and led to a fight for the gutter twice a lap.

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40 odd started, within a lap there were less than 30. Attack after attack kept reducing that number and eventually 4 got away 20 minutes in. We worked a bit and maintained the gap until about 2-3 laps to go. Inevitably people started looking at each other and another 3 got away. In hindsight THAT was the move! Being lazy I had hoped someone else would close it down. Nope! Roll forward to the final lap and the field was blown apart with 7 off the front in groups of 3s, 2s and 1s. I sprinted to 10th, 3rd in the gallop just behind the remnants of the break, and picked up a solitary point. I’ve marked this one down as a favourite as it was a complete sufferfest. Sometimes you don’t come away with much but you know you gave it everything and that in itself feels pretty good.

  • Strava
  • Time: 55:34
  • Avg: 228 watts
  • NP: 267 watts (rip)
  • Avg speed: 38 kph
  • Points: 1

Berkhamsted Castle revolutions – 2/3

The Tour of Hertfordshire series has been around a year or two now I think and they have done a great job of getting local councils onboard to run a series of festival like crit races on closed roads in town centres. I grew up in Hemel Hempstead and Berko is only minutes away from my parent’s house by bike. In fact, I ride through the course every time I meet up with the guys back home for a ride so it was a must do race. The circuit did laps of the Berkhamsted castle ruin and has the start/finish alongside the old castle wall so spectators could look down on the racing from above. Being a street circuit it had tight corners, not to mention a short climb and a fast descent into a tight 90 degree left hander before the finish. Tough circuit for sure. There were food stalls, lots of beer, music, a few bike companies and an awesome atmosphere. Did I mention there was beer?

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I was signed up for the 2/3 and a couple of mates (Jules T and Dan R) were racing the 4th cat. My parents had come down and a few of the other guys wanted to witness the suffering too. No pressure, particularly as the last time my parent’s spectated they ended up taking me to A&E…. Anyway, the guys had a mega race in the 4th cat with Dan picking up a couple of points in only his 2nd crit. Jules was committed to the hero move. Inevitably he was brought back but I’d say the committed cornering photo totally made it worthwhile.

jules

My goal for this one was simple. Survive. Street circuits are definitely not my thing (see Ixworth) and this one had added 2nd cat, plus I’d invited half the world to watch me. I was racing out of region but there were still some familiar (strong) faces in the races. The Fast Test boys had taken a hell of a day trip over from Suffolk and would definitely be a team to watch. I lined up near the front (Ixworth lesson learnt!) and kept top 20 for as long as I could. Someone went down about 2/3rds in which split the bunch, I was just about on the right side of this but slipped back as a result and suffered. Oh man! It was like watching the Jack Bauer’s 24 clock ticking down in the corner of my vision. Every lap I could hear Matt shouting “move up” from the castle wall as I passed the finish line. Whilst useful advice it was pretty much outside my control by that point! Anyway, I finished 27th, so not last. Wahey! Hella good fun but such a kicking. I’ll give it another go next year for sure. Heart rate graph below for lols.

berko_hr

  • Strava
  • Time: 40:34
  • Avg: 234 watts
  • NP: 269 watts (rip)
  • Avg speed: 40 kph
  • Points: 0 (but not last)

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VC Barrachi road race – 3/4

This turned out to be my last race although I didn’t know it at the time. The CC London road race, which would have been my last, was cancelled the night before, shame really as I was feeling really good. Strava was filled with angry hard rides that day, think a few others were feeling good too.

The VC Barrachi course was fairly flat and pretty fast due to a lack of wind. Being way up in deepest darkest Suffolk it was well attended by Strada Sport, Iceni Velo, VC Barrachi (obvs) and Great Yarmouth so if a combination of them went that would be it! Grovesy and I had made the trip and my plan was simple, don’t miss the break (again) and attack the prime. It would give me a feel for the finish and given the lack of wind would probably be the best shot at a break.

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Photo evidence, occasionally I do some work

Well, I was right. The finish was fast and on a very short uphill after a gradual descent. The race strung out for the prime and a strong looking break got away on the one wind exposed section after the prime. I ummed and ahhed a bit too long and eventually went when I realised the composition was right. Cue my best 3 minute power ever (350w for 3:30ish). I got so close but ultimately blew up (hello max heart rate) and dropped back to the bunch. The course turned left, picked up a tailwind and the break was brought back pretty soon after. All for nothing but thats road racing.

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After that it was all staying up the front and seeing what was what. There were a few of us committed to getting away and never really got anywhere. We made the race tough though so I had a laugh. It was my hardest race power wise which on a flat course was going some. I really did get stuck in. I ballsed up the finish and it came up faster than I remembered from the prime. Think I finished 15th-20th or so. Defo had the legs but wrong place wrong time! A definite favourite this one, bit like chess at 40 kph. More races like this please.

  • Strava
  • Time: 1 hour 49 minutes
  • Avg: 194 watts
  • NP: 247 watts
  • Avg speed: 42 kph
  • Points: 0

Just ride your bike

Last up of my favourites wasn’t a race at all. Once the racing was done I did a few stupid things that I couldn’t do in the season. I rode around 250 miles in 5 days commuting from Colchester to Ipswich for the hell of it. Rude not to in sunny August when you have no races to taper for. Erin’s hen do was at the start of September and would leave me on my todd for a weekend. Cue, daft cycling adventure.

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Beautiful misty Summer’s morning

After a bit of excited messaging Jules and I came up with the brainwave of cycling from Berkhamsted to Ipswich via my wedding venue (conveniently near the Blue Egg, a popular destination cafe and occasional haunt of Alex Dowsett), skirting Colchester, meeting up with Matt for a few miles and crossing the Stour via the foot ferry from Harwich to Shotley. Approx 134 miles. My Dad (also on his todd as my Mother was on the hen with Erin) provided a late night taxi service so Jules drove over to Ipswich, dumped his car and rocketed back to Herts with us at about midnight on Friday. We set off at about 6 am Saturday after practically no sleep (Neither of us are renowned for our time keeping so I have no idea how we made it), spent a quality nine hours chatting shit, getting lost, ripped the side out of a GP 4season offroading on a road bike and got a tan on only the right side of our bodies. It was a mega day out!

Strava

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So that was the summer of 2016, mega year. Promise i’ll update this more in the future, maybe. Thanks for reading!

Rest of my year can be found below if you are bored, ill or can’t sleep.

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2015 – A season in numbers

 

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Photo courtesy Matt Wing

 

Rather than the usual Strava video or whatever I thought I’d take a slightly tongue in cheek look back at my season.

54,887 – Number of cakes consumed, wait, no, that’s metres climbed

9,197 – Distance covered. In km, because its pro. Maybe also because the number looks better…

299 – Hours spent on the bike.

261 – Number of individual rides. Excluding commutes, as they’re not on Strava they don’t exist right?

197 – Max heart rate. No two ways about it, you can’t get a decent result without suffering.

191 – What I thought my max heart rate was. See above.

184 – Longest single ride in kms (Ronde Picarde).

150 – Number of minutes spent hanging on for dear life and wishing that the Divs (Regional RR Champs) would end.

145 – Number of minutes spent secretly enjoying racing the Divs as a first year 4th cat. I didn’t last, but then I wasn’t expecting to get beyond the first lap anyway. Nat B as a first road race anyone?

24.45 – Best 10 mile TT. Note, taking the right turns can be conducive to good times.

16 – Number of races finished.

10 – Total points scored.

3.82 – Watts per kg at threshold. Power not bad. Little more weight loss required though. More to be done on 1, 3 and 5 minute power too.

3 – Best result of the season. Woop!

2 – Trips to A&E. I’m calling this the ‘Thrasher ratio’. Hoping to not improve on this particular stat in 2016.

0.25 – Watts per kg lost due to ‘slight’ overindulgence at Christmas.

 

FTP goggles

I might have just invented that phrase. But still, that’s my problem, chasing improvements in functional threshold power. Makes for great pub bragging rights (or a really dull conversation….) but it doesn’t translate well to circuit racing. I’ve raced a few rounds at Trinity Park and been dropped unceremoniously every time.

I’ve had two problems, not enough short intervals being one, but also my back falling to bits over the rough surface. Its weird really, i’m on the limit (obviously) but its pain rather than the legs that is chucking me out the back. Gradually it gets harder and harder to jump out of the corners, then bang, gone (again). I thought it was my back but after a bit of digging I think it might be a combination of tight hamstrings as well as the weak back.

I’m going to try some stretching, like so:

http://jomcrae.co.uk/bike-fit-blog-part-deux/

and some core exercises courtesy of my buddy Davina (laugh all you want). I’d forgotten all about these until I read that my buddy Michelle, the running astronomer and now an internet celebrity (Linky) was having similar problems. The core session is only 15 minutes long so I’m going to try and fit that in a couple of times a week.

Lets see how that works out!

Langham 10 – 1 July I fancied a break from the weekly Trinity Park kicking and I’d penciled the Langham 10 as a suitable distraction. A 10 is also a great way of incorporating a threshold test into an event as you always go harder with a number on.

It was a bit toasty to say the least, a TT on the hottest day of the year so far certainly helped to burn off a few cakes. I want to break 300 watts (no specific reason, just an arbitrary target) over ten miles and i’m getting closer. 284 watts this time out versus 281 last time. I think there is a little more to come with pacing. Heart rate is pretty good, a nice gentle slope to blurry vision and the need to vomit, but power is a little shaky. It will always move around but I found I was lifting off too much when I lost concentration. For me at least its harder to keep it at full gas than it might seem.Langham_10 I’m chasing power rather than time as i’m at hefty disadvantage on a road bike without extensions, but I was pretty chuffed with a 25:41. Slowly slowly catchy monkey.

https://www.strava.com/activities/337131386

Trinity Park Round 5 – 8 July

Same old same old really. Except for added wet weather and the cornering ability of driving miss daisy. Still, I stuck it out to the end and raced for last place. I really hope the field has come on as I was doing the same thing last year.

https://www.strava.com/activities/341937446

Onwards and upwards

I’ve not managed many miles through June so for July i’m going to go back to basics and smash in some miles. I’m not going completely old school so I’ll keep working on the intervals too. I’ve got a few road races planned in August along with a few crits and time trials through July to keep my focused. I’ve found double days to be pretty useful for getting the training in. Generally I’ll do a gentle recovery ride in to work (about 25 miles) and then use the way home to up the intensity and chuck in various intervals, be it 10-20 minutes at threshold or a block of 20/40s.

https://www.strava.com/activities/337475151

https://www.strava.com/activities/337719036

First park run – 4 July

In my quest to maintain fitness whilst the real world got in the way of my training I gave park run a try. It’s a really cool concept as it has a competitive element (mostly against yourself) but is also totally inclusive for runners of all ages, abilities and sizes.

My running ability has always been woeful, I once ran a 10k, or rather walked a 10k, after Erin signed me up for a charity run (which reminds me, I didn’t ever get her back for that….). That should have been an eye opener really as to how unfit I was. Cue hilarious photo of fat Pete and some guys that look vaguely like my friends but aged about 5.

Run fat boy runI haven’t run for about 18 months but I figured my cardio was good enough to get me round. I was right! I ran 25:29 as a first attempt over 5k which isn’t too shabby. My legs however were not ready for this and I spent most of the three days after walking like John Wayne. Ouch. I’d like to give it another go but I’ll definitely be sticking to the bike. Drafting in a run isn’t very effective for a start. Although if I didn’t swim like a drowning cat a triathlon might be tempting. Hmmmm.

Park run

New toys

I decided a few months ago that heart rate wasn’t quite enough to help me structure my training, especially given the limited time I had available. Since then I’ve been looking down the sides of the sofas and under the seats in the VX for loose change. After a favourable grant from the wedding fund, and negotiation of mutually acceptable interest terms, I was good to go! As I was also planning to change from a compact (50/34) to a pro compact (52/36) Stages wasn’t really the cheaper option despite already having the 6800 crankset. Replacement 6800 chain rings, it seems, are priced at pretty much the discounted price most retailers are selling the complete crankset for. Sneaky Shimano, sneaky! Effectively Shimano’s 110 bcd standard is only helpful to them as manufacturers and not us as consumers.

For the money I also wanted a true 360 degree power reading rather than half a reading doubled (This one could run and run…). I did my research and settled on Power 2 Max as the power meter for me. Unfortunately about a month after they discontinued the classic model range and about a week before the Euro took a dive…..

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Two and a half weeks later, voila! It arrives. Hurrah! The noQ aero chain rings are likely excessive but just look the outer ring, It’s like an aerodynamic ninja throwing star! A Rotor 3D24 (what was the 3D) crankset completes the package. As I’m running Shimano cranks (and more importantly bottom brackets) on both bikes I can swap the power meter (complete with chainrings) from one bike to the other.

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At the moment these are just expensive paperweights until I’ve made sense of this beast. Enter Mr Coggan and the power training bible. It may look heavy going, but it was this or study for my next exam, helpful research based power training, or the regulation of pension schemes and retail investment advice? Tough choice….

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2014 Review

Ronde So I started 2014 thinking, right, I’ve lost some weight, now to lose some more and get faster. I set a few goals for the year to keep me focused. These probably aren’t earth shattering for most but they were intended to be achievable whilst keeping me motivated. It’s worth pointing out there that whilst I love my cycling, it needs to be balanced with life (apparently there is life outside cycling) and work commitments. If that isn’t enough I also have to juggle two exam sittings a year which come around in April and October. I don’t have the luxury of spending hours on the bike, and frankly, it would probably stop being fun if I did. The key then was longer rides where possible, and regular doses of leg shredding on the chain gangs during the week. Below are the goals and a brief of summary of my progress against each:

To cover 40 miles in 2 hours (solo), 60 miles in 3 hours (group) and 100 miles in 5 hours (group)

Looking at Strava it looks like my fitness peaked in late July/August. Annoyingly, just after the Trinity Park races finished….. Still, I achieved what I set out to do on this front. 60 in 3 became a regular occurrence riding with the Rovers on Sundays and I brought my solo speed up to over 40 in 2. The big one was the century in five hours. I had two shots at this, one was the Ride London, which thanks to Hurricane Bertha became the Ride London 86. Still, we averaged a smidge under 22 mph over the distance, with only one brief stop, so that was a good start. The other was the Ronde Picarde. This is one of our club’s annual trips and something I had been nervously looking forward to all year. The format is different in France, and I think the continent in general, a sportive over there is mass start and effectively a race in everything but name. This isn’t Joe MAMIL taking on a century as a once in a lifetime bike ride but a collection of very strong club riders, amateur racers, semi pros and even a sprinkling of pros on occasion. The start was frantic, with several crashes to be negotiated. Once everything had settled down I found myself in a group of 20-30 riders with the two Andys (Crowther and Elderfield). We smashed through the first 60 miles averaging what felt a fairly comfortable 22 mph. We stopped briefly to top up our water and I stupidly rested my bike up against a post which moved the rear brake onto the rim. Not noticing, I missed the next group coming through as I sorted it and spent the next 10 miles tearing myself to bits trying to jump back on. Rookie mistake. Eventually I was picked up by another group containing Alan and Andy C but my legs were done by this point. Conversation was muted as many were feeling the pace. Miles 70 to 100 seemed like eternity. One more brief stop to top up on e numbers before Andy C dragged me home to the finish picking up a couple of Dutch chaps, a Frenchman and a German chap along the way. I finished the 115 miles with an average of nearly 20.5 mph so I’m calling that mission accomplished! Here’s the Strava for anyone that wants to view my torture. The average heart rate in particular tells a story (163 bpm)!

http://www.strava.com/activities/194377116

Ronde 2 – To enter my first race and still be there at the end.

Well, I achieved the first half by entering! Due to a combination of poor cornering technique, having no idea what I was doing and not quite having the lungs to keep up I went out the back in fairly short order each time. Still, I had a great time and generally always found a race of my own even if most were half a lap away! Fond memories in particular of racing two chaps from Stowmarket CC to not be last across the line. Seems silly, but that was just as important to us as anyone else further up the field (I was second from last…). I managed five of the six Suffolk Cycle Racing Series and if nothing else it really brought my speed up over the course of the two months. First round Strava can be found here:

http://www.strava.com/activities/152412963

SCRS – Get round the chain gang (and still be there at the end!)

I spent most of the summer chasing this one, from struggling to keep up with the medium group, I made it round a couple of times with the faster group. Ironically this was supposed to be training for Trinity Park but I think actually Trinity Park brought on the speed for later in the summer!

– Lose some more weight

Looking at myfitnesspal I’ve lost 2 stone 8 lbs in the course of the year. The photo below says it all really! photo comparison

First post

scenic

I’m not sure that any of this will ever be worthy of a blog, but hopefully it’s of interest to some, and if nothing else it gives me a great way to keep track of what I get up to.

2012 saw my interest in bikes revitalised, what can I say, call me a product of the ‘Wiggins effect’. To set the scene I’ve never been particularly fit. I used to mountain bike a fair bit in my early twenties, and play around with trials bikes at the same time but there was never a conscious effort to eat well, lose weight or stay in shape.

In 2013 I bought my first road bike, a rather fetching if basic Giant Defy Composite. Over the course of the summer I rode a few sportives, rode overnight to Dunwich (which also happened to be my first century) and joined a club, VC Revolution, later in the year. The miles started to add up and thinking I was fit enough I gave club riding a try. Wow, that was a shock!

Last winter was spent mostly on the rollers shedding the lbs in preparation for a bigger year in 2014. A few reliability trials early in 2014 were a start to the season (and another eye opener). Despite the horrible weather i’m really looking forward to these kicking off next year.

2014 would be different I decided, onwards and upwards!