Archive for the ‘training’ Category

Winter Training – The Climb by Garmin

Forwarded to me by Christian, here’s the first LFNP post of 2011.

It’s a beautifully-shot film, and it reminded me of a few things:

  • riding up cols in Europe
  • Rapha’s short season of exquisite movies about riding
  • how I don’t have a Garmin Edge 800
  • how I don’t have a heart-rate monitor at all, ever since my Garmin Forerunner 50 gave up the ghost


Product review: High5 Protein Recovery

Get this. Drink it.

Get this. Drink it.

I’ve been knocking back the protein shakes for several months now, and can totally recommend the High5 Recovery Tub.

Whether after a hard ride or heavy weights workout, drinking a bottle of this within 20 mins of exercise leaves me feeling significantly less fatigued. It doesn’t mean that you can skip meals, especially high-carb refuelling, and obviously you’ll still feel tired after hard efforts, but for me this makes the difference between being totally knocked out and being able to function as normal.

A case in point: after the Puncheur yesterday, my sister handed me a pre-mixed protein shake at the top of Ditchling Beacon. I drank it straight away, and followed it up with a bowl of pasta. I then drove home, cleaned my bike, did some chores, made dinner – basically felt pretty perky. I’m feeling a little soreness today, but probably less than I would without my hardcore protein fix at the end of the ride.

Cheat the week – GPS tracked route

View Larger Map

A nice little 3 hour loop this morning, tracked by the Motion X GPS iPhone app.

I have nowhere near the legs I had this time last year, for obvious reasons (blowing out winter training for one) – but today’s ride felt OK. 12 degrees, and a bit of sun too.

The natural plan

Millsy descending the bank to Brasted, 15/1/11

Millsy descending the bank to Brasted, 15/1/11

It is one of cycling’s enduring mysteries that feeling good on the bike can occur apparently at random. Last week, I had a series of nights with poor sleep. At work, I was the walking dead; on the cycle commute, I was flying like the demonically possessed. This week, by comparison, I’ve had great sleep and good food, but have felt much less strong in the saddle.

‘Strong’ here is relative. I have no great expectations of my form at this stage of the year. However, on the weekend I did 2 road rides:

  1. Friday – 2hrs 45 – easy
  2. Saturday – 4hrs – easy but with harder hills

Saturday’s ride out was with turbo-addict Simmo, who was climbing like I’ve never seen him climb before, on any ride we’ve done together since we were 16. Look out Millsy for Ironman Lanzarote!

I feel fine about not having ridden much over the winter. Not for me the Rapha Festive 500 (“Riding hard at Christmas is not a paradox” – no, it’s lunacy). It’s been cold, and icy, and snowy – and I’ve been mostly inside.

The idea of seasonal fitness rhythms – peak in summer, rest in winter – seems right to me, particularly in the UK climate. If I lived in Tenerife, maybe I’d have evolved differently, but over here it makes more sense to do a season that starts in mid-February and winds up in early September, than to start stressing at Christmas time and burn out by July.

In any case, I’ve come to realise (over the last 3 years of serious training) that cycling should never seem like a chore; if you don’t feel like cycling, don’t. You will.

Following this kind of ‘natural’ plan allows your mind and body to experience the exhilarating wake-up call of Spring. It was riding home one evening last week, climbing the long drag from Streatham Hill station, that I felt the first deep flicker, the firing of dormant energies coming back to life after the sedentary chill of winter.

I really think my 2011 ‘season’ may have started.

Stock Hill

Ooh check out Garmin Connect’s new embedding feature! Disappointing isn’t it. Naturally, what I want to do is display my heart rate graph – if my Forerunner 50 had the functionality, I’d want to embed a map. Not just the stats, basically. At any rate you’ll just have to click through for now.

Stock Hill – a suburban street in Biggin Hill – is a tough session. It’s tougher than Swain’s Lane, because it’s longer – 2 min repeats on shorter recovery – even though it’s possibly not quite as steep as the steepest ramp of Swain’s Lane. The best thing is, the gradient is constant, and the road is smooth. You start out at around 130bpm, move over 80% at 30 secs, then spend the final 30 secs in the red at around 170bpm (my max today was 177). I hit the first couple of reps pretty hard, and descended straight away, allowing myself only about 30 secs recovery. I was really suffering on rep 3 though, so I backed it off a half and extended the recovery period.

I did 8 reps, alternating 4 seated and 4 standing, pushing about a 34-20 gear (3,4 & 5 down on the cassette).

Pilgrim’s Way long loop

Rode this yesterday, in reverse of the direction mapped. It’s a nice route, although I’ve no idea why it’s called Pilgrim’s Way. Went fine until overshooting a cross-roads at Longfield, then bonking. Missed out the small loop to the west via Oxted, and returned from Chevening to Hawley Corner and through Biggin Hill. Stopped off for a massive slice of lemon cake to get my sugar levels back up, then nearly puked.

Which is worse – puking or the bonk? Time for a new poll?

In the process of getting lost near Biggin Hill on the way out I discovered a monster climb 50 mins from my house. Stock Hill. We will meet again.

Mid-March block

Having completed an arduous 10 weeks of winter training, I treated myself to a light week straight after the Puncheur – literally 2 commute days out of 7. It seems to have paid off: something has clicked, and I now feel like I have some Springtime legs.

A week fortnight ago I tentatively began a fresh month-long ‘block’ of training. Roughly, the plan is to put in long rides every weekend, culminating in the Downland Cycles 100-miler on 11 April. Mid-week, I’ll be alternating 3hr hilly rides with faster-paced tempo riding and intervals.

  • Last Weds I did 2hr 30 out to Toy’s Hill and back.
  • Saturday was 5hrs in the constant drizzle.
  • Thurs this week was Richmond Park – 10 mins race pace x 4, on 2 min intervals. Felt good, it rained again.
  • Tomorrow is… another long, wet one by the look of it.

After Thursday’s session I recorded a new low weight of 10st 8.6. The good thing is I’ve started to feel the fluidity and turn of speed I started to feel around this time last year, when I rode the Burgess Hill Classic.

During this block I’m also going to ensure that I allow myself enough recovery after hard sessions, and slightly reduce the amount of commuting I do.

Richmond Park

Looped figures are relevant splits.

Looped figures are relevant splits.

These are my splits from last Thursday’s Richmond Park workout. Lap 1 was clockwise (the ‘hill’ route), Lap 2 counter-clockwise, with a 3-minute recovery in between. If it hadn’t been so cold I would have recovered for longer!

The laps were tough, and not made any easier by a chilly head-wind. I also didn’t feel that great either. Because of the way my HRM occasionally malfunctions, I don’t know whether the highs of 184 and 193 are accurate – but I think they are, since they happened on both laps. I had a feeling of being half-strangulated from the effort and the cold air.

I have Jonny’s 3-lap record of 56 mins to beat…

Ride of the year

I think I can call last Wednesday’s 3-hour hilly loop the ride of this year so far. After thorough drenchings on both legs of my commute on Tuesday – a day when it literally did not stop raining – Wednesday dawned clear, with blue skies. The sun’s appearance, and perceptible warmth on my face, was little short of a miracle after so much bitter cold.

Riding last Sunday’s loop – which I can see becoming a mid-week staple – in reverse took me over Toy’s Hill the same way I rode it in the Reigate sportive last year. From bottom to top it’s a 10-12 minute climb, but a Box Hill-style gradual ascent unlike the harsh gradient on the southern side. I prefer it this way round, because there are at least 2 other chevron spikes on this route (including this little baby in the hills west of Biggin Hill) so there’s no shortage of opportunities to get out of the saddle.

After a weekend off (wedding) I’m planning another mid-weeker this Wednesday, followed by a longer one on Sunday, and possibly a bit of speed-work on Richmond Park the following Weds to tune me up for the Puncheur.

Mid-Feb, progress

The best thing about February is that it’s no longer January. That said, it’s still cold, and wet, and muddy. In fact the only thing that saves February is that my birthday is on the 7th – which potentially means new kit.

Having achieved my January goal (I rode about 29 hours / 17 days, compared to Jan 09, when I rode 25 hours / 15 days), I’m starting to feel a return of the legs. Yesterday I did 3 hours, mainly brisk, on a hilly circuit that took in Toys Hill and a handful of other spikes. My heart rate graph for the ride revealed an average of 144 bpm, and a max of 169 bpm, very similar to what I recorded on Jan 17, although I felt like I was riding smoother and stronger over tougher terrain. I’m considering doing the same route in reverse on Wednesday, but just pushing it a fraction harder.

But man, the conditions sucked. 1 hour of drizzle, followed by freezing fog and visibility down to 70 metres, and a layer of slush that turned to mud on sheltered roads. Roll on Spring time.