Bikes, brakes and bruises

I’m currently en route to the Isle of Wight for our mid-month Team Pedal training weekend. When we first discussed this weekend a few months ago I excitedly envisioned cycling the route around the island in lovely, glorious sunshine and experiencing for the first time cycling in some form of warmth. This time 2 years ago I was sat on the island reading a book and getting sunburnt ! Today, however, the weather doesn’t look too promising .

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So , update from last weekend. We cycled from Bethesda in North Wales following a route around the Snowdonia region. Climbing a total of 6,283ft, some of the climbs were just mean.

This route in particular was a big learning curve for me, realising that adrenaline alone won't get me up the alpine passes. I need to place more focus on building my overall leg strength , and how to set a good pace that will allow me to reach the top of those climbs.
Whilst climbing, I found that when my breathing became staggered and harder to control I would get up out of my seat and push that little bit harder , on reflection I need to learn how to control my breathing and pace myself more effectively in order to maintain my energy and increase my stamina.

I've had a set back in my training this week due to a slight injury to my left leg. After last weekend I was excited for the weeks training ahead of me , a high-intensity spin class on Wednesday, a 74 mile ride to Nottingham on Thursday and then the weekend training on the Isle of Wight.
Wednesday went to plan, during the spin class , The PT had us cycling one footed on full resistance. Powering a bike theoretically up hill by one leg is hard graft , and doing 4 reps on each other for 4 minute durations really built up a sweat. After some up-hill, high resistance sprints and some crouching reps ( using your core to balance as you cycle very slowly out of your seat without straightening your legs and having your hands off of the bars) I'd felt like I'd really worked hard and targeted my weakness which is uphill strength and stamina .

That evening I aimed to try out my new Mavic MTB shoes and Shimano clip-less pedals. Now …. I was thrilled to find that I could actually use them without getting stroppy and giving up. In fact I actually liked them!
My major downfall though.. That caused my to lose balance and fall off my bike with my feet still clipped in, at the side of a main road .. And receiving a lot of concerned stares from passing drivers ? Pure cockiness.
After a mere ten / fifteen minutes using these pedals I felt really confident on them and appreciated that they would be better on longer rides than my average running trainers and normal pedals.
Cycling back up the road afterwards with dad using his hand-cycle, he said 'its uphill so ill be quite slow, go around the block or meet me at home' to which I replied 'nah it'll be great leg training to go slowly on a high gear uphill'
Turns out I can't go slow, without pedaling. It results in lost balance and a very very black and blue bruise on the left knee and thigh! So I bailed on the Notts route because I wasn't sure how badly injured my knee was ūüė¶ which I was really disappointed about . However , I've merely postponed it , I will be doing it at the next opportunity !!

The swelling has reduced a fair amount and I'm just left with bruises now so hopefully my leg will be totally fine for tomorrow's ride around the island !
And hopefully I will get on beautifully with my new pedals ! Fingers crossed.

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Bike-mas

Got home today to find that cyclist santa had delivered my Chain Reaction order, so my new road shoes, clippy pedals , over shoes and inner tubes are here ! Yay!

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Now to fit the new pedals to my bike and attempt to get used to them.!
Hopefully I can get the hang of them in time for my ride to Nottingham on Thursday. Fingers crossed I don’t face plant some gravel and cry!

Semi blue skies!

Semi blue skies!

The weird March-time snow has nearly all gone , pavements are clear and there is even a small amount of blue sky peeping through! So today Ryan’s on his way over to Leeds from Wales for an impromptu bike ride.
Which is great news because my training has taken a bit of a side seat over the past couple of weeks due to the snow and having to work early and sacrificing some of my morning gym training sessions.
So it’s time to get back in the saddle (wheyy) …and refocus on the goal..which is only 3 short months away!!
Easter chocolate and excuses no more…it’s all go from here!!
I suppose there was always going to be a lull in my focus at some point, I’m just thankful it was now, when I still have 3 months to recover lost time.

Today : we haven’t specified, but I imagine a 60 (ish) ride around Leeds.

This weekend: Bangor Team Pedal training weekend with Ryan and Jen.

Next Weekend: Isle of Wight Team Pedal training weekend!! (Hopefully in glorious broad sunshine too !! Fingers crossed!)

Motivation, check. New cycle computer, check. slice of sunshine, check. Ryan…. 15 minutes yet.

The “First training weekend of doom” that turned out to be actually kind of great!

Training:

A few months ago if someone had said that I’d be cycling from Bangor to Chester over 70 miles in one day I would’ve laughed and said yeah right. I mean, before I started training for this Switzerland adventure I’d maybe do 10 minutes on an¬†exercise¬†bike in the gym at a really slow pace and then think ‘hell yeah, go me’. As I’ve always enjoyed running, I put my lack of cycling skill down to having ‘runners legs’ and ‘weak cycling knees’. Very naive of me, because as soon as I’ve applied myself to cycling training, the positive results have been almost immediate.

My training regime has been pretty steady since I’ve started, I always start with a 20 minute run on the treadmill to get my heartbeat up and warm up my legs. Depending on what kind of night’s sleep I’ve had, or what kind of state of mind I’m in on a particular morning, this stint on the treadmill really sorts out my attitude aswell.

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I was cycling at 90 rpm I promise! (I had to slow down to balance and take the picture though!)

I then go on the training bikes with programmed screens that follow virtual cycle routes along varying terrains. It plays terrible music, but It’s very motivating having the crazy robot woman screaming “Push it, this section is going to be tough” through the headphones. I found it easier to train on these machines as opposed to the traditional ‘gym bikes’ because they resemble road bikes with drop handlebars and a slimmer saddle, so it feels like I’m getting used to the posture and stance of a road bike too. The on-screen route, that takes you on long open-road sprints or tough, rocky up-hill climbs is also considerably more interesting than staring at the gym wall.

Over the 4 months (approx.) training that I’ve been doing I’ve built up from doing a 10 minute jog to warm up and a 20 minute cycle (and then the spending the remaining time on other equipment and weights) at first, to now doing a 20 minute sprint to warm up and either a 40minute up-hill , high energy gym cycle and weights training or a 60 minute long-endurance cycle with occasional up-hill training. I’ve really started to notice a massive improvement in my distance stamina due to this way of training too. I think running contributes to my overall fitness and strengthens my legs.

Spin classes have also been incredibly beneficial for building the muscles in my legs and strengthening my knees. I try to vary my cycling training so that I can condition my body and fitness to cope with long-distance rides.

Training weekend: 

This type of high-energy sports training really prepared me for this first long-distance cycle from Bangor to Chester. I felt prepared for up-hill climbs, imagining some crazy spin-class lady shouting “go , go , go”, and my own will power went into autodrive and I concentrated on counting my breaths instead of how much farther I had to go. I found that I had to attack hills at a fast pace to get to the top, and if I began to slow I would lose momentum and feared I would stop.

Initially I panicked about the looming training weekend, thinking that attempting a 70 mile ride was ludicrous when my personal best was currently a 5mile trip up the road.

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My personal achievements on RunKeeper: 3 distances achieved, that vary quite dramatically.

I really thought that I was in for a rude awakening, and that my training so far would’ve hardly scratched the surface. However, my fitness has improved so much so that I didn’t struggle with the distance too much. I found the hills challenging but not impossible, and I loved every single minute of the ride…Although my¬†enthusiasm¬†did start to falter when we reached yet more hills even after Ryan promised me there were no more!

What did make the hill climbs worth it however, was getting to the top and seeing how high we’d climbed from sea level, and seeing views like this:

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We started on the cycle path 6 meters from the water and climbed to this height! Definitely rewarding!

The biggest challenge of the ride on Saturday was towards the end of the ride when the sun set and it became freezing. It was a very strange sensation, being absolutely frozen, with numb fingers, toes and feet whilst I was throwing what was left of my energy into a sprint along a long, pitch black cycle path with nothing but a small LED bike light that lit up about 3cm infront of me. The final 10 miles in these conditions were certainly character building to say the least, and my confidence got knocked down a couple of pegs. The extreme contrast between me sprinting along the coast paths in lovely sunshine, to later on averaging at 8mph in the freezing cold, just goes to show that the whole experience was a roller coaster of emotions.

From it all though, the most important question that I had to ask myself after the whole experience was, could you do that for 12 or more days straight, albeit in warmer weather, steeper hills and longer distances… and I thought hell yes! So the dark tunnel of doom didn’t completely put me off! yay!

Overall, the ride taught me a few good things:

-My training so far is on the right track…I’m not behind on training like I feared.

-I’m good at attacking short 200 meter (ish),steep hills at a fast pace, but need to improve my up-hill endurance in order to be able to tackle longer up-hill climbs at a steady pace that I can maintain.

-I need to gain some confidence on downhill descents, and become more comfortable with faster speeds without slamming on the breaks all the way down. Partly because my break pads will disintegrate if I do this in the Alps, and because it makes your hands resemble something like the Claw after a long time. (Especially when its cold- this is extremely uncomfortable and painful when they start to reheat).

-In moments of doubt, despair and exhaustion all I have to do is catch up with Ryan and get him singing Spice Girls covers. Instant mood lifter!

-I didn’t suffer from the common “sore saddle ASS” (as Ryan likes to call it). I like to accredit this to 2 things: I train on horrible, hard, standard issue saddles in the gym for lots of days straight (Although not all day long, granted) So my ASS is accustomed to sitting on a rock hard saddles. Secondly, when purchasing my¬†road bike, the lovely people at Merlin Cycles advised me to get a women’s specific saddle, that can only be described as a super comfy, bike-sofa. My Tush was Cush to be honest, but I can only be optimistic about longer rides over several days, fingers crossed!

-My legs weren’t too sore the next morning. Jen and I did a very thorough “stretching-off” session once we got home. I mean, really all we did was imitate lots of animals:¬†praying dog,¬†Sphinx¬†Cat, standing like a flamingo and Luke’s really fantastic stretch, the Frog. This was particularly entertaining.

The first training weekend has motivated me to train harder and I’m really excited about getting out and doing some long-distance routes of my own. The next training challenge is to be able to do the BangorChester-ness 2 days straight! So I need to get training to improve my stamina and endurance…and maybe pack warmer clothes¬†as well¬†next time! Training weekend numero deux come at me!

Relative excellence

Auntie Ann and uncle Ernie have been super relatives and sent some awesome thermal socks in the post in aid of team pedal’s training weekends! 2 pairs of nicey warm socks … So next time we don’t have to worry about losing our fingers and toes to frostbite !
So thank you very very much to Ann and Ernie !!!! X

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“Like riding on ice”

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Upon first reading the instructions for my new ELITE Parabolic Roller turbo trainer, they liken the experience to “cycling on ice”. Promising start. I then optimistically jump on, realising that the bike is in no way supported and I have to juggle balance, speed and direction all in one go and when you pedal , you wiggle … A LOT.

Reaction number 1 to my new “Roller” turbo trainer:

This is ridiculous, this is crazy, what…I dont get it, eh how do I stay upright?, that’s mental, who in their right mind would do this
Then I tried it…and after¬†eagerly¬†awaiting its arrival in the post I felt like crying in frustration in true 8year old Megan “I CAAAAAAN’T” style familiar to all Brooks family members.
That’s stupid, how ridiculous is that, NO WAY, It IS like skating on ice! , Thats impossible!

Safe to say it went straight back into its box and was going to be refunded the hell out of.

Then Dad says, well it isn’t impossible because people have mastered it, it just takes practice. It’s the best one out there.

Then I rang Ryan and he told me to persevere because it’s the most beneficial way to turbo train as it builds your core strength and muscles and also improves your balance.

Reaction number 2 to my new turbo trainer:

Whether it was sheer arrogance or determination, after it defeated me so quickly, I got it back out and gave it another shot. As my dad was holding onto my saddle loosely and “spotting” me whilst i built up my speed, I was screaming “DAD DO NOT LET GO, DON’T YOU DARE LET GO, I WILL FALL”
Ten minutes or so later I actually started pedalling in a (relatively) straight line and Dad was no longer holding my saddle like I was a 4 year old riding my first stabiliser bike!

I will persevere with this nutjob contraption, simply because it opened my eyes to actual cycling skill. I mean .. I thought I WAS cycling in a “straight” line when on roads, but this turbo trainer just actually shows you how hard it is to keep a bike going precisely straight. So , theoretically if i get better at this, then I’ll be riding in a straighter, safer line out on the roads. Less chance of bike-van collision. Win, win situation.

Curb your Van-Fear

So. ever since I got my shiny new road bike the weather has persisted to prevent me going out. Snow, ice and compressed slush just isn’t ¬†my friend. Credit to Super-Jen who has got out in the snowy conditions for 14 mile cycles, however I have zilch experience in road-awareness and cycling safety so I’ve been waiting for milder, clearer riding conditions.

I got out this morning hoping for a 10 mile ride, as Ryan said that would be a good starting point to gain some road experience and get used to the gears. Ideally, I wanted to cycle along the cycle way nearby, which would factor out traffic and navigation and would allow me to concentrate solely on getting used to gears and building up my speed and confidence. However, the entire cycleway has turned into an ice-rink….so roads it is.

I’m still getting used to the gears on my new bike, and I’m aware that looking down at the chain whilst doing 20mph on an A-road isn’t ideal, so I tried my best to anticipate gear changes and not twist my chain by going too high or too low. Ryan actually gave me a theory lesson in gears yesterday, to help me get my head around what gears are needed for what terrain. This was his diagram :

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Now, I’ve never cycled on busy roads before in my life aside from a mandatory “road cycling safety” class in primary school that taught us to balance when sticking our arms out to indicate turning. That lesson actually came in very useful today. Thank you Miss Hill.

The vans and cars zooming past me at 30mph was quite daunting at first, and judging the space between them and the curb takes some concentration, but I felt more at ease even after 5 minutes. ¬†I need to build up my speed, stamina and become more comfortable with gear changes, but that’s what this training is all about. I think I keep forgetting that I only started cycling 3 months ago, and make myself feel bad for not being an experienced cyclist yet, but it’ll take time. Hopefully not longer than 5 months!

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Ryan and Jen are more advanced in their training than I am, but they have done cycling holidays before and been cycling for longer than I have. This coming weekend is our first official training weekend where we will meet up and cycle 60 miles from wales-Chester ( I believe) and i’ll be able to see if my training so far has paid off, and how I need to change/step up my training regime.

After cycling on the roads today amongst cars, lorries and vans and indeed facing the ‘van-fear’, I thought i’d delve this out and re-award myself with the ‘trained cyclist’ badge I¬†received aged 9. well done me.

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Now for some smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast. yuum ūüôā

Sunday morning cycle before work.

As a result of last weeks very first outdoor ride in Wales, I started today with a 6am gym cycle with the target of reaching 100rpm with the resistance whacked up to create a ‘hill’ training session.
The ride in Wales made me realise that a real road hill is much more challenging than it can seem on a static bike in the gym , when you have the luxury of lowering the resistance when you find it too hard. The brutal truth about the real deal is that if you get tired half way up that steep hill, you’re stuck halfway up that steep hill!

So I had a very rewarding training session , I cycled for an hour keeping my rpm’s between 80-110 and kept increasing my resistance to make it harder work on my legs.

I’ve begun to see an improvement in my uphill stamina and I recover quicker from fast uphill climbs now, which is good! Lots of work to do though, it’ll take longer than an hour to cycle up the Alps!

Megan x