Remember, you’re having fun…

IbizaThe start of July was mostly spent burning off a few too many boozy weekends in June (see obligatory pool side Ibiza leg photo above) and getting my fitness back to where it had been. I tell you, it’s frustrating when the real world gets in the way of a well crafted training plan (Tongue firmly in cheek!). So here are a few highlights (or lowlights in some cases) from July.

Hog Hill 3/4 – 16 July

I foolishly ventured back to Hog Hill for a mid-week 3/4 race. Originally with a buddy, but I ended up racing on my own. For reference, my last 3/4 here ended about 30 minutes prematurely with me blowing out my arse. Not much has changed it seems. Tough course with some serious characters racing. There’s a big jump in ability between your garden variety 4th cat and a serious 3rd cat. Plus, the weaker riders aren’t going to choose Hog Hill for a mid-week crit. Sensible chaps.

Still, I lasted about 5 minutes longer before getting dropped this time. How’s that for progress?

https://www.strava.com/activities/347617951

Langham 10 – 22 July

Second attempt at a ten and I knocked 10 seconds off my PB with a 25:31. Average power was a PB equaling 284 watts. Solid. Any training benefit was immediately counteracted with celebratory nuggets.

https://www.strava.com/activities/351903501

nuggets

Cyclopark 4th cat – 25 July

Now this is where the excuses begin. I honestly reckon this could have been a great result, but, well, it wasn’t. Returning to the scene of my sole point with Jamil I was hoping for good things. We both were to be honest, think of it as a mid-season 4th cat lack of points paranoia. Instead of making excuses I’ll just leave this quote here, taken from a chap on a forum I frequent, which about sums up several of my recent races, including this one!

“I attacked a few times but no-one was willing to work with me, sat comfortably in the bunch for most of the race, was in a great position/leading position/first 5 riders with 250M to go and then <insert something bad here> and finished about 25th.”

17th in my case. Next time perhaps.

https://www.strava.com/activities/353741525

Cyclopark 3/4 – 30 July

Those words again, 3/4, more than a little apprehensive of this one. Sole mission, survive. I had no illusions of grandeur, just dreams of survival. The difference between a 4th cat only race and a 3/4 race seemingly is that everyone is strong enough to attack the bunch and no-one is willing to let anyone get away. Cyclopark is a tough circuit but its no Hog Hill, I was hoping that would be the difference.

You can see where this leads, to the most ridiculous set of intervals I’ve ever experienced. I was practically begging to be dropped by the end with the words “Remember, you’re having fun” ringing in my ears (Thank you Tom Starmer). Average heart rate in particular says it all. 175 bpm is what I would look to average for a 25 minute TT effort, which is usually a well paced climb towards a pre-planned oblivion, 175 bpm for an hour is a new level of uncomfortable.

Cyclopark_3_4

I was racing with two buddies from my club which was good fun, they both had good prospects of points, possibly even a win, whilst I was purely pack fodder. The inevitable attacks began almost immediately but no-one was getting away. Ollie and Justin each had a dig with the pair of us still in the bunch running interference. No joy though. Someone went down with about 6 or 7 laps to go which split the bunch and left me chasing hard the length of the back straight, Ollie came whoosing past like I was standing still but we both got back on (only just in my case). Simple maths is surprisingly difficult when in oxygen debt but I eventually worked out that there were only 12 or 13 of us left in the lead group. Suddenly, the odds had improved!

Not enough seemingly, the inevitable last lap pace change came early and gave it everything to hold on for 11th or 12th. Ollie bagged 3rd and Justin 8th. Not a bad team result all in. About 20-25 others hadn’t hung on to the lead group so I was happy with that, especially as the lead group was entirely 3rd cats with the exception of Justin, the world’s fastest 4th cat.

Nuggets well earned that night.

https://www.strava.com/activities/357613352

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Are we nearly there yet?

reality-check-warning-sign-square

One question that has been bugging me for the last six months was ‘how do I know when I’m fit enough?’

I spent October, November and December steadily plugging away through the dark mornings and the grim weather, increasing the distance each weekend whilst chucking in a session or two of 2 x 20 intervals where I could in the week. Whilst not exactly a training plan to make Team Sky envious, looking at training load at least I appeared to be fitter in December than I was during the Summer. I felt pretty good, but how does ‘good’ compare to your garden variety 4th cat?

IMG_3246

Winter miles without a wet arse, sponsored by SKS mudguards….

To answer this I enlisted the services of Russell Hampton at Marginal Gains Cycling (http://www.marginalgainscycling.co.uk/) and took on the ramp test. Best not to google that before giving it a go as all you will find are tales of vomiting, seeing spots and jelly legs. Which pretty much sums it up to be honest! The test takes on average between eight and fifteen minutes and starts at a low resistance level.The aim is to maintain a steady cadence, say 90 rpm, whilst the resistance increases until you can’t sustain that cadence any longer. The weirdest part is that nearer the end of the test, when the seconds pass like minutes, you’re breathing like a hyperventilating rhinoceros, seeing spots and concentrating equally on 90 rpm and not vomiting, it just ends. Like that its over. The results give you an indication of your functional threshold power (from which power zones can be derived) and your heart rate zones. I’d already worked out my heart rate zones using the British Cycling threshold test but this was a great chance to see how the two correlated.

And the results? Well, pretty good actually. I’m no Marcel Kittel obviously, but power wise I’m pretty strong which is reassuring, stronger than I thought in fact. Worth remembering here that I’m heavier than your average racing whippet (and not just because of all the Jaffa Cakes and Smarties I consumed over Christmas!) so I need to be putting out better numbers than my lighter competitors just to level the playing field.

Wattbike-Trainer

Would I recommend Wattbike based torture? It’s well worth doing if you want to get an idea of where you are power wise. Marginal Gains combine this with a personal evaluation which assesses training, nutrition, goals, pedalling efficiency and strengths/weaknesses. Overall, I’d put it right up there with a proper bike fit.