Cycling

Just 7 months, but what a change

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1st March 2015 I joined my local cycling club, just seven days later I go on my first club ride and get spat out of the back of group four, and I mean spat out. Since then a lot has changed.

First of all I would like to thank the ride leader that day DG who has become a regular face and friend on the Sunday rides as he got me back to the finish. Other club members have helped ove the past seven months and I thank each one of you for your company on our rides and helping me develop, especially those who have taught some to ride in a group (SH, RP, ST, SV and the rest)

I have been cycling the year before with people in the village, but the winter came and the social group when it own ways. I had also completed London to Brighton and Ride London that year so the summer was a good one in the bike, but the lack of training over the 2014/15 winter didn’t help and certainly was a factor of me being out the back door in that first club ride back in March 2015.

The following week I remember thinking work harder and keep on the wheel of the rider I front, it worked as I made it back within the group. Well small progress at least. A few weeks went by and I was getting used to cycling in a group and was coping quite well. A decision needed to be made, group 3? This group moves at an extra 2mph aver age speed and the no drop policy is gone. Oh well the new wheels had arrived and they helped my speed so I made the decision to step up, just one month into my membership! The route was an out and back on a flat and as I know now a fast ride. We reached the out part travelling at 18.5mph average and the previous weeks it was 15mph! Yes this had taken its toll and again I was out the back of group 3 in the last 10 miles, nothing left in the tank and I was empty. It was after this ride that RP had provided some very useful advise via email the following day, use a cadence meter and change the saddle height a bit (upwards), OK advise was great fully received and quite frankly required, as I found myself not good enough for group 3 and not being able to push in group 4. The final bit of advise was the fact me mentioned I would be in group 2 by September. I smiled, but thought this would be a hard ask. The advise worked, no suprise and I was able to stay in the front of group 4 and do most of the work for the next few weeks, before making another attempt at group 3. By now I had been cycling with the club for about six weeks and with the commute to work on the bike I was getting stronger and quicker. However still didn’t believe the “in group 2 by Septemer bit”.

26th April 2015 my second attemp in group 3. Progress, success, not dropped. I felt like I had achieved the first major success at the club, well my success anyway. By now I was loving the club rides and was starting to make new friends which is the other great thing about cycling, the social aspect. There was a dinner and dance the first one the club had organised so it was a good excuse to get to know more people and feel part of the club. A lovely evening was had by all and yeast there was a club ride the following morning to help clear the head. I had also felt more comfortable and had agreed to step up and learn how to lead rides. Within a few weeks I was assisting the group 4 ride and learning the ropes. 

When I was not learning how to lead rides I rode in group 3 trying to learn form the more experience club cyclist as well as push myself forward. After all I was due to Ride London in August so needed to ensure I had the miles in my legs to do myself justice. It is mid May and a few club member s were of participating in various events across the UK and Europe. In just 2 weeks (start of June) the Tour of Cambrideshire was taking place and a large club contingent was going 44 riders, and yes I was one. I had only ever ridden on closed roads once before so the experience was good to pass up. To add extra pressure it was also the UK qualifying leg for the world amatur road race championships in Denmark later in the year. The first two hours flew by with an average over 20mph! Either I was going to set a fast time or burn up. The latter happened and I finished the 88 miles in 4h 50m. Getting faster I thought, after all the goal was Ride London at the start of August.

I was regularly leading rides for group for and now assisting group 3 rides as well as continuing the commute to/from work as often as possible during the week. I continued to soak up advise from experience club members and tried to implement these into my commuting rides. Various levels of success a long with trial and error lead to a continued level of improvement. It would be seen how far I had come on the bike with a three day visit to the Yorksire Dales, just before a ride London with a mate of mine Harv. It was a good trip lots of hills and they are steep and no suprise lots of rain. So much rain in fact even the locals said it was a lot of rain, one gentleman said “it ain’t rained like t’is round ‘ere for years”. After drying out we knew that our legs would cope with Leith and Box Hill that weekend.

Ride London, the big event was here. Again this was a closed road event on the 2012 Olympic Road Race course, and the goal was to finish the whole course (the weather the previous year had lead to the course being shortened for safety) and to set a good time. I was on the front row of our starting wave and although this is not a race I made the decision to be first of of the Olympic park for our wave. The flag went down and I went for it, and achieved my little challenge, although I doubt anyone else was interested, but I was first into the A12 heading towards central London and the Surrey hills. In the previous wave a multiple world champion and 2 time Olympic Gold Medalist from 2012 was riding with her dad, yes it was Laura Trott. I had the pleasure of meeting her at the registration event on the Friday and said I wonder if I would see her again on the ride. Going through Richmond park I heard a very distinctive laugh (if you have heard Laura laugh then you know what ask mean) which had meant somewhere I had already passed her. I know she was not riding flat out but she want going slow either. I took my opportunity and drafted for a bit.  I also managed to have a chat with her about her Rio preparations etc. and I noticed we were moving quite nicely at an average of 22.5mph, slow for Laura but quick for me. I intended to ride with Miss Trott for the rest of the ride as long as I did my turn on the front and all was going well until the first of three punctures. Laura was gone so I was back in the pack. My mate Harv stopped for a chat before we were off again. I admit I did go a bit faster trying to make to hub for some much needed pressure in the front wheel. All in all the work had paid off as I completed the 100 miles in 5h 15m with a nice average speed of 19.1 mph (group 1 pace!).

The club entered a local charity sportive instead of running club rides one Sunday morning and we all joined in. My aim was to see how long I could stay with some of the sesioned club cyclists, and before long we had a large group, of about 30 riders, a mixture of club members and other cyclists. As the ride went on and the pace remained high (19-20mph) the group gradually got smaller. At 36 miles (of 50) I was starting to feel the pressure, but made a big effort not to be dropped and complete the ride with the remaining club members. At 41 miles I had dug deep but knew that I was going  to finishwith the others and I did in 2h 32m. I reminder saying to Russ, that maybe he was right after all and I would be in group 2 by September. He was right as when the ride leader plan for Septmeber was emailed to us, there I was assisting group 2 at the end of the month.

Leading the two’s was never a plan but on 27th September, the date I was supposed to be assisting this group there I was leading the ride. It was also my first group two ride, so added responsibility, and despite a few wrong turns everyone enjoyed the ride and we got back safely. Over a post cycle coffee, I took a moment to review my first seven months with a cycling club, what a journey. The following weekend was a challenge to ride the Trough of Bowland, which I have to say was very, no extremely enjoyable on and off the bike, but the climbing was harder than the trip to the Dales a few months before. One minute you are climbing at 5mph and then descending at 40+mph for three hours (moving time). However can’t wait to go back.

So my first seven months as a member of my local cycling club has been fun, exciting, full of challenges and the opportunity to meet many like minded people, as well as my cycling ability/fitness come on in leaps and bounds. Just the motivation required for a good winter training set and to be ready for the start of 2016!

Below is a graph I have used to track my fitness and to see my improvement.

 

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.

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. 

How you can help and where your money goes.

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First you can help at my page http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/PhilWheeler5. As you know I’m cycling 100 miles for Sue Ryder in the 2014 Ride London-Surrey 100 on 10th August.

If you read my previous post, or should I say watched the video about the fantastic work Sue Ryder do then you will know that every little bit counts. Here is a more detailed list of how Sue Ryder use the donations they receive.

How your donation can help Sue Ryder

£7.80 provides one hour of incredible care from one of our trained carers.

£15 pays for two stress relieving complementary therapy sessions for someone living with cancer.

£50 covers the cost of a day care/therapy session for somebody with dementia.

£150 enables three family members to each receive three bereavement sessions in one of our hospices.

£570 covers the cost of a highly trained nurse for a week providing care and support for patients and their families.

£1,000 pays for a clinical nurse specialist for a week working in the community offering individual and tailored support to patients in their own homes.

Sue a Ryder has 13 care centres across the UK which offer this incredible service for people. 1in 4, a massive 25% of us will suffer with some form of illness which we will require assistance from organisations like Sue Ryder. Let’s do something about making like better and being pro active rather than reactive.

You can help sue Ryder continue to deliver the incredible service they offer as well as finding vital research to improve the lives of us all by visiting my page http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/PhilWheeler5 just think £15 pays for two stress relieving complementary therapy sessions for someone living with cancer.

I would like to think if I am ever in the situation of needing specialist care the fantastic UK population would help out to make my end a little more comfortable.

Of course when you have sponsored me you can relax and enjoy me suffering with the pain in training and on the day when I aim to complete the RideLondon-Surrey 100 in a decent time. If I can achieve my target it would be the same as providing:

The cost of a day care/therapy session for somebody with dementia.

Three family members to each receive three bereavement sessions in one of our hospices.

One highly trained nurse for a week providing care and support for patients and their families.

Pay to have me suffer and helping people less fortunate than ourselves. Sounds like a good deal.

Thank you for your support.

http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/PhilWheeler5

The incredible work Sue Ryder do

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The fantastic work Sue Ryder does for people with incurable conditions. This is why I’m proud to be part of #TeamIncredible at the 2014 RideLondon-Surrey100.
Help me help others at http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/PhilWheeler5

Joining a club?

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In an ideal world I would now be on my first ride with a club to try out what they have to offer, however whilst I might be out of action for a week or so with a bloody injury to my stomach I have had some time to think. This is a horrible time as I am very frustrated about not being able to ride, even for enjoyment.

I have also been thinking about when I get back on the bike how I can start to improve my performance on a bike and safely. To be fair this thinking process started before my injury, but now I have time to complete some proper research.

Why join a club?

At this stage I won’t be a competitor for the club, just looking for more social rides with like minded people and to be able to gain advice on my riding style, training and more importantly how to ride in a group.

This last point is an important one. Yes I have been involved in mass cycle events I the past, but never received or sought any training on how to ride in a group safely. This will be a vital skill when I cycle RideLondon in August. I’ve picked up a few ideas from the Sunday social rides I’ve done with friends but this area of my cycling is an area I need to know more about.

Well once I’ve recovered from the injury and cleared the other commitments I have at the weekends, I look forward to contacting the club again and getting out with the club, just to see how I get on.

Still time, but how fast will I be?

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As the sun starts to shine and more riding can be done in daylight without the need to wear extra layers, again my thoughts turn to how fast could I complete Ride London 100 in this summer?

The first goal however is to finish and the second raise loads of money for Sue Ryder. You can help by visiting my page here. However being the type of person I am and from reading peoples accounts of last years event I have started to think about the time.

When I found I had a place I thought if I could complete the course around 6.5 hours then this would be a good time. Also something I could achieve with an average speed of just under 25kph (24.7). This is well within the 8.5 hours allowed to complete the course even with a few rest stops thrown in. However my training has got me up to around 28kph which would give me a time around 5 hours 45 mins. I have even calculated 5 hours but this is a stretching 32.2kph and outside my reach. But you have to dream.

Well I suppose I have now set myself another challenge, to complete this in sub 6 hours. I have a history of this as last year I set a target of sub 4 hours for London to Brighton only to be hampered by light failure, but I am sure this will be achieved soon. However this challenge is different. The last hill comes at 109.4km which then leaves a final 50k to get the power down for a grandstand finish on the Mall being cheered on by the large crowd which will no doubt push me on. London to Brighton has the big hill at the end which drains your energy and then you have no time to recover before the finish.

Well it looks like the training will continue to be hard to ensure I build the power, strength and aerobic ability to allow me to travel faster and further for the same amount of input. Time to update the training plan.

When you have been cycling for about 3 months then you will have the basic strength to build upon to complete your sportive or event ride. I have built this up with commuting to and from work plus the weekend longer rides. Now it is time to step up the training to improve my ability. I have found some longer routes to commute to increase the distance cycled each week, which will help, but I am going to start using the normal commute to work as shorter time trial rides and for interval training. In theory this will improve my overall moving time (average speed) to allow me to achieve the magic sub 6 hours. Then the weekend rides are for the social aspect as well as getting the time in the saddle completed. I will target certain segments on Strava and use these as markers on my progress. Hopefully come the end of June I will have seen some improvement in my general average speeds on rides and then the plan would be to keep these up on the longer rides come the weekend.

Let’s see how I get on.

Training update and allowing my mind to drift into the future…. The possibilities?????

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It’s going well, very well so far. I might only be in the second week of my training plan but cycling to and from work with a ride on a Sunday is allowing me to hit the numbers for the early weeks. I am also starting to feel the strength come back to my legs I had last year so all is good, especially as the weight is finally starting to fall off as my body adjusts to its new regime.

I have to say I am enjoying the training too. I think this is a vital way to ensure I maintain the levels I will be required to do for August. It Is easy to training when you enjoy putting in the hours. I have to say using the bike as part of the commute to work really helps as the training for these days is complete with me just getting to work and then home again later in the day.

I still need to work on some items and I will share one of these with you. Whilst I fuel my body before a ride in the form of breakfast, but more importantly the food the previous day, I still send to work out what it the best food to eat whilst on the bike. I am a fan of the high 5 gels as they taste nice and come with the caffeine option of your wish, which from what I read are very useful towards the end of a ride.

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I also love the high 5 tabs which you drop into your water bidons as these have the electrolytes which need to be replaced when cycling.

The reason I still need to practice which fuel works do me is last year I think I might have overdone the gel consumption during the London to Brighton night ride. Let’s say I was more than wide awake for the ride and the whole day following the ride and only started to feel slightly tired when I finally got home that evening. I also don’t like fig rolls which are a good source of fuel when cycling. Looks like it’s jelly babies or Haribo for the sugar content or Jaffa Cakes, but it’s the other eagerly types I need to practice with. Well I am going to have plenty of opportunities to get the right mix of fuels for me. We are all individual but I will post what works for me if and when I find out.

I think I could be even more hooked by the bike and cycling is starting to be the main choice of transport, at least in the head, even though it might not be the best option. An example of this is not wanting to reserve something in the well known catalog store here in the UK (the red and blue one) as I can’t collect in store as I want to cycle to work. The item will just have to wait until the day when I use the car again. It was only a bed anyway, it can wait.

If I am going to be regularly cycling 150-250km per month when the training ramps up in the near future, what happens when the events are completed? All this work for 2014 and ride London gets me in hopefully fantastic shape but then what? This has got my mind working, well drifting again. I may need some time off from the charity bike rides, and focus a bit more on the personal challenge. I like the idea of cycling over a number of days from locations within the UK to start, but then entering Europe. The latter will certainly be 2015 at the earliest due to the planning involved for such a journey.

I suppose I should look at completing one of the London to (enter a European capital here) events before I turn 40, which means I have three years left to plan and then execute my plan, however lose they are at the time of writing this post. Whatever the far fetched ideas I have for 2015 and beyond I suppose I better return to the matter of 2104 and very much the present plan and ensuring I am ready for RideLondon come August. Right in that case it’s off to bed to get the legs ready for the cycle to work in the morning.

Thank you for reading.

Getting there!

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The weather was lovely this weekend and just ideal for a cycle, so I have done just that. In the last four days I have ridden a total of 93.5 km which is ideal to kick start my training for Ride London later in the year. Last week I achieved my weekly goal of cycling 80 km mainly helped by the work on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I will say that of the 93.5km cycled 39.5 has been in the gym and the rest on the road, so prober cycling. However the result will be a fitter me and km in the legs for later in the year.

I didn’t write this post yesterday as I was a little disappointed with a 10 mile TT which a friend of mine had set up. We both had a goal of achieving this in sub 35 minutes and unfortunately I was 29 seconds over. I am sure next time I will achieve the sub 35 minutes goal. However I need to take heart from the fact the ride yesterday the ride had a number of PB’s on segments which I have to take heart from. A PB is a PB after all.

I am also glad I didn’t post this when feeling down and took the opportunity to look at one of the segments from my Saturday ride. There was a segment which I had set a goal of completing in 9m30s and actually completed this in 8m39s. This cheered me up as to take 51 seconds of this time is a real achievement. So on reflection I am happy with this. I must remember in the grand scheme of things I am only battling against myself and my times. If I keep achieving PB’s then I know I am improving.

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I aim to increase the km ridden each week from now as the training plan kicks in. Cycling to work will certainly help. In the past I have looked for an average speed on rides of 25kph which is 4 hours for 100km and 6 hours for 150km and just under 6.5 hours for the big 160km (100 miles). I do think I might need to increase the speed for the shorter training rides as this will help my training. If I can get some 30-50 km rides in at 27-29kph and then up to 30kph this should be able to enable me to complete the longer rides at a good average speed.

Well the weather is grand so far this week so let’s start cycling to work. As a famous supermarket has as it’s slogan “Every Little Helps”. If only I could earn the relevant points on that supermarkets loyalty card for every km ridden. Now there’s an idea for another blog.