Time Trials….

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The worlds best endure a TT as part of the grand tours and other big stage races on the World Tour, they are part  of many of not all national championships and many clubs run those own club 10 or something similar. The local Triathlon club to me is no exception. As a cycling club we are more than involved as many Tri members are cycle club members too. Yesterday evening I turned out for my first TT, hoping not to make a complete fool of myself. 

I had made the decision a few weeks back after a club email and after checking the diary, things matched up, so it was done, I was going to complete my first TT. That weekend I even did the course to see what it was like and to see what I would be letting myself in for, however this test ride was nothing compared to what I experienced but useful never the less. 

A friend had let me use his TT bars which I am very greatful for and will now need to purchase my own set. The test run was completed without the TT bars, so logging the test time I felt I could go quicker. So 6.30pm came and it was time to get changed. 

The start of the TT is very close so leaving at 6.30pm for a 7pm registration allowed for a pre warm up, warm up and time to feel relaxed on the bike. Registration was complete and an estimate time given (as I had no previous time to work on). This was 29 minutes from the organiser, and I went with it. It is now time to mention the test time had been 29.45 without TT bars so I went with this estimation. It meant that out of the 35 riders I would be the eleventh rider out, the fastest riders going off last. The goal enjoy it and try two things, catch my minute man and not be caught by the guy behind me. 

I was called forward to the start and elected to have the bike held so I could remain clipped into my pedals. The countdown started, 30 seconds, 15 seconds, then the final 10 second countdown before GO! Strangle I remember is all quite well but as soon as I was off I wanted to get a good cadence and in a high gear and maintain the pace. I was quickly into position on the TT bars and felt quick. The heart rate was up and getting higher and I knew I had to get close to the redline without going over it to much so not to burn out. Entering the first straight I could see my minute man, this spurred me on to make the catch, but when, if at all would this come. At these speeds a minute is a lot of road to make up. Head down keep the cadence steady in a high gear and push, keep pushing. I went through the bends before I knew it and then onto a second straight. It was deceptive but looking up I could see my minute man and I was sure I was getting closer. Keep going and don’t get carried away, I had to tell myself. The first half, the out section of the course is downhill so I needed to not give it all so I didn’t burn up in the second half. I was getting closer to my minute man and knew I could make the catch, but just had to keep going and it would come. 

Half way was reached and thankfully a clear roundabout meant I didn’t have to ease up much, just enough to get round safely, my minute man was within reach. I thought just get the cadence up and keep pushing in the gear I was in and you’ll make the catch and then we will see what happens. Catch made first goal achieved, I was not on the way back and saw the later, faster starters pushing hard on the out part of the course. Some of these guys and girls were on very expensive TT bikes complete with arrow helmets and skin suits. Just keep pushing and go. The pain was starting to kick in now and I just had to push that to the back of my mind, which was not easy. 7 miles gone and onto the straight again, this time into a headwind, grit teeth and keep pushing I said to myself, numerous times. 

Back through the last village before the end and into the final drag before the uphil finish. Keep the tuck going and push, it was hard to to is now as I was on the limit. I was in the red and with 1.5 miles left it was a case of just hanging in there. I must have made a few down shifts as I entered the hills and then, bang I had been caught by the rider who started behind me. He pulled away into the final hill and I just gave it one last effort. I thought I would catch rider 12, but I was empty and had nothing left. The final straight to the line and I gave it everything. I crossed the line, shouted out my ride number “eleven” (not sure if I needed to but did it anyway) and looked down at the Garmin, 28 something I remember seeing. 

I reached the pub car park where we met at the start and then again at the end, whilst waiting for other club riders to return, and was asked that looked quick what was it? 28 someing was my reply, whilst short of breath. “Good time for a first effort” was a reply I heard more than once. I felt good which what I had achieved. The times were read out after the final rider was home and I had recorded a time of 28.32 which I am happy with. I had beaten my estimation, caught my minute man, so have to be happy, well on reflection I an over the moon with my efforts. 

There are two more TT’s left and luck has it I am not away so will be able to participate. It will be hard but now I have a target time, I’ll give it a go and let’s see what happens. 

So did I enjoy my first TT! no I loved it and can’t wait for the next one. 

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You know you’ve come a long way when…

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For many cycling or any other activity we do to keep fit or for enjoyment of a physical nature, we can normally see improvements over time. There are people out there who just go by the feel of a particular ride or run and those at the other end who analyse every last detail aided by a range of technology measuring, well everything. For me, there is no one better method, and it is personal preference, and I know where I sit along the line, somewhere closer to the analyse everything end than using pure “feel”. 

I know I have improved when I look at my data, but that is not the purpose of this post. As part of my career I have used reflection to improve my own performance (as many others do) and this has been transferred to my cycling. I reflected on the club ride yesterday and the first ever club ride I completed back in March. First yesterday was a higher group, so the first baromitor of any improvement. When I reflect upon the first ride when I was not fit enough and I could not close the gap which had developed, and yesterday when I was leading a large peloton of 17 riders at a much higher speed, is the second. I didn’t think I would be in such a position. Maybe the club secretary was right in his statement I could be in the second group by September! These improvements are backed up with the data (on Strava), but the improved confidence of riding within a group, and leading them is another sign of my improvement as well as others having the belief in my abilities to do the job. 

Confidence. I now have this, and back myself, and I will even try a TT before the end of the season. TT bars have been aquired from a friend (who joined the club ride for the first time yesterday and loved it). I have ridden the TT course so know what to expect but not yet with the TT bars which will, I am sure aid my goal towards a PB. The  think here is just having a go. If I come last, so be it, but for me a TT is just about being able to beat my own time over a period of weeks. 

The improvements I have seen in 2015 will keep me more motivated during the winter months when on the trainer and then come the spring knowing a good winter training programme has followed a good summer, will allow an increase in confidence for the summer of 2016, and pushing those boundaries further. The only problem with this is the requirement for  another new bike which I suppose is never a bad thing! 

This is all good of course for the main event which is just under a month away, Prudential Ride London raising fantastic funds for Teenage Cancer Trust. My link is here if you can help in any way to reach my target. 

Whatever works for you, is what you should use, and enjoy it, unless your a pro cyclist and they get paid for their hurt, however we feel great when we can see ourselves improve and for that I just love Strava! 

Happy riding, enjoy the ride.

Ride Leader

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I have been out with the club for about 4 months now and it’s fantastic. I have learnt so much and reminded myself of things I had forgotten from reading blogs and articles last summer. Tomorrow it all comes together when I will lead my first ride at 7.30 am tomorrow morning (UK time). 

Others have faith in my ability to lead the ride, and I am confident I can do a good job. After all I have been assisting in an official capacity as ride assistant for the past few months, learning the ropes, and now I have the opportunity to ensure everyone has a good ride. 

The route is quick and flowing and all going well we should roll quicker than the planned average, but we shall see. We do have a no drop policy for the group I lead tomorrow, so a good opportunity for me to roll through the groups having a chat with people and getting to know more about them and their cycling, and more importantly to ensure everyone gets back safe. 

As normal I have checked the bike over and ensured she is ready for the task, and she received a little more attention than normal to ensure she is looking her best for leadership responsibilities. The kit is ready, drink chilling in the fridge, and the Garmin fulling charged with the route loaded, so we don’t get lost. 

Just now need to chill out with a cold drink this evening and watch the highlights from the first stage of the 102nd Tour de France. 

Chapeau!

Enjoy the ride.

Rule#17 And #16 I suppose. 

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Enough said really!   

I received a great email at the weekend to say that my jersey had arrived and I was able to collect. The bib shorts are still on their way and I can’t wait for them to arrive in a few weeks. However I now feel even more part if the club (if that were possible with the phenomenal welcome I have already received). 

I have to say the quality is very impressive. It is clear this is not a cheap Jersey. It feels very light and fits very well, as you would expect from IMP Sports. The pockets are large to fit your ride essentials and some food for the long rides. If your club kit is as good as this then you, like me are a very lucky and happy cyclist. I suppose the question is what next to order after I have taken out a mortgage to pay for it all!

I can’t wait for the commute in the morning so I can get to ride wearing my new club kit for the first time. And yest rule #16 will also be applied, respecting the jersey, after all I am now always on club duty wearing this little number. 

Happy riding.

Improving? How do you know?

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i suppose the answer to the above depends upon the goal and how you have decided to measure it. If I want to lose weight and I am getting lighter in the scales then success? But how can you measure your improvement on the bike. 

You could wait for a sportive and complete this year in year and see if your times are tumbling, but this is a long time to wait and we need feedback more often, well I do anyway. There are a number of measures you can use and they will all have their benefits as well as drawbacks. I have been using Strava’s Fitness and Freshness tool which is available to premium members. I am sure it has many drawbacks, but it is working for me and I can feel the improvement in the bike, where it counts.

  This is what you get! A sImple graph with a nice positive upward move the more rides you put in. You do need a HR monitor as this measures your suffer score and estimate power. If you have a power meter this will provide even more data to analyse. You cannot share this with other Starva users directly but a screenshot onto a blog post or other social media can be easy complete for those who want to do so. I have chosen only to do this for the purpose of this post as at the end of the day the day it’s used my me, and I know I am improving if the fitness number it going up over time. 

If you wish to use this you do have to be a premium member which doesn’t appeal to some. You will also need a HR monitor as previously mentioned. As it says in the site its best to ignore the numbers or not pay too much attention to them and look at the trend over a period of time, and if you have a positive upward movemnet you are getting fitter and probably finding your rides a little easier. 

I have been using this tool for about 11 months now and I find it has really helped me. Also getting out for the weekly club rides does wonders for the body, but at least with this tool from Strava as well as recording your ride you can analyse the data so see how your are improving. 

Whatever you chose to use to measure your progress you will be able to confirm the data as you will feel better or stronger on the bike, which in itself is a fantastic feeling! Enjoy your rides, safe cycling. 

First sportive of 2015

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Again in 2015 I will be completing the Prudential RideLondon , but this time for Teenage Cancer Trust. This is a fantastic charity and I hope to be able to do all I can to help teenagers and young people, and their families who are dealing with cancer. As I work with teenagers on a daily basis and I get to see first hand how great they can be at a wide range of problems and solutions it feels right to be helping such a great charity. You can help me and them from my fundrasing link here.

So with a centry planned for early August (this year lets hope the rain keeps away so the organisers dont have to cut short the route) I decided to get an early season sportive into my legs and assess the results.

Stansted flyer midi

I originally signed up for the full 101 mile route but I am glad I opted for the slightly less 73 mile route insted. If it was later in the seson or the preperation had been better then the 101 would be on. Also I had the option of rideing with a collegeue from work and as we experienced head and cross winds for most of the ride I was glad I opted for the middle distance. It was a nice warm day and ill take the ave moving time 4.42.46 for the 73 miles.

What would I change?

before I reflect on this I need to remind myself, as well as inform the reader, that May is near the start of the long training rides for August. Yes I am cycling in club rides and the commute to work, but these are not the long rides to help with thr endurance, although they will help. Overall it was a good test of where I am at fitness wise etc. 

So the answer to the question is…

I would change or rediscover the feeding whilst in the ride. The energy sources from high five is great and I dropped a few zero tabs in for good measure due to the heat, but I think I would pop a few more in my pockets for the refill at feed stations. I also need to get used to when I need to take a gel and how often, something I will have to practice on club rides. 

I also would benefit from being able to switch off the wind, as this was a nightmare as it normally is but as I can’t I need to go back to the article about how to ride well in the wind. Saying that is was difficult when there was just the two of us. I do much prefer cycling in a group as it works together, but this is a luxury reserved for club rides.

Apart from these few changes I feel ok for 118.2km without the ideal about of winter and pre season training. Now to get my gear ready for the commute in the morning. 

Happy cycling. 

Club Membership

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I am sure I have blogged before (last summer) about my intentions to join the local cycle club, well there was a lot of procrastination and it never happened, which actually meant that after Ride London last august my cycling took a back seat. Over the winter months the weight went on, the new year came and I decided I would attempt Ride London in 2015! Not a problem, except I was a lot heaver than I was the previous year when I signed up. There was clearly work to be done and the winter training in the gym wasn’t going to cut the mustered.

Action plan 1 – The Turbo Trainer!

January sales and managed to pick up a lovely turbo trainer for the winter months. At last I was back on my bike, rather than the exercise bike in the gym. I could start to measure cadence and HR again and this made me feel better. I knew however I need to get back out on the road and motivation was a little lacking as the weather was not helpful to start the morning commute. At least I know I have this option for the late autumn evenings and I can still get a workout from my bike.

Action Plan 2 – Stop procrastination and join the club

It might have taken until late February to print and post the form and cheque but on 1st March 2015 I received an email confirming my membership,  complete with my membership number and the benefits I am now covered by as a club member. Along with this I was now on the email list to receive weekly ride details. Just get up early on a Sunday morning and see what it is all about. Remember don’t make a fool of yourself and try and fit in.

Well the first club ride came and I was welcomed into the club. In the following months I have starting to make new friends and meet people, as well as gain some very useful tips and guidance to improve my cycling. Some of these have had the desired effect already (higher cadence and higher seat post) and I have managed to step up a group.

I have been made to feel so welcome when the request for ride leaders and ride assistants came, I felt I could not help out. Another part of my cycling education keeping others safe and regulating the pace in the front of a group etc, but all good fun.

So if you are thinking of joining a cycling club, then my advice is go for it. They are all different so you will need to complete some research first, but if your local club is anything like mine then it will be a pleasure when the alarm goes off very early on a Sunday morning.

Happy cycling and keep safe out there.