Training & planning diary – 3 weeks to go

The past week was an interesting one, in which I didn’t do as much outdoor cycling as I was expecting due to the pesky British weather.  I did however watch a lot of episodes of The West Wing (obviously whilst cycling indoors, though occasionally with a cup of tea and not on a bike) and I made myself a little more broke purchasing some much-needed kit for the trip.  Here’s a little round-up of what I got up to last week:

Monday 10th June
Today I didn’t get home from work until 7pm, due to covering a late shift.  So instead of going on a planned outing I attached the bike to the turbo trainer and attempted to do as many sprints up hill as I could manage.  I did an hour before I ran out of energy, pushing myself as hard as I could certainly builds up an appetite.

Miles cycled: 6.83 miles to work & back
Time on turbo trainer: 1 hour

Tuesday 11th June
With all the bother I’ve had recently with my eyes (bugs, dust and wind are not kind to eye health) I finally took the plunge and booked an appointment with the optician.  Hopefully I’ll be able to get contact lenses to fit my bizarrely shaped eyes so I can wear wraparound sunglasses and stop a lot of these problems occurring.  I’m also going to need to speak to them about how my eye is still hurting after getting something in it last Saturday, the appointment is on Friday after work.

As much fun as it is cycling in torrential rain I decided against it today and went home after work and did another stint on the turbo trainer.  This time I didn’t do any sprints, just continual uphill for an hour

Miles cycled: 6.49 miles to work & back
Time on turbo trainer: 1 hour

Wednesday 12th June
Today I’m working late again and I arrive in the office to find my new frame has been delivered a lot earlier then we expected:

IMG_20130612_093725

And now I just have to get it home some how!

After work, despite the threat of rain from the ominous looking clouds, I think I might be able to squeeze in a few extra miles so I go for a little detour, I think I made it about 20 seconds down the road before the torrential rain started, so I hastily retreated and dragged my drenched self home.  Once I’d dried myself off I did a bit of indoor cycling and watched the rain pour down from the warm safety of the front room.

Miles cycled: 7.87 miles to work and back with a mini detour in the rain
Time on turbo trainer: 1.5 hours

Thursday 13th June
Thursday was almost a rest day, as I was working in a different part of Oxford which I decided might be quicker to drive to.  In hindsight it would have been easier to cycle as I sat in a lot of traffic jams watching cyclists sail past me.  Once home I hopped on the bike and watched a few more West Wing episodes whilst climbing up some big hills.

Time on turbo trainer: 2 hours

Friday 14th June
Friday was my first rest day of the week and I really needed it!  After work I went to the opticians where I had my eyes tested and poked for two hours.  Thankfully there was nothing still in my eye from the weekend, but I do have some very dry patches for which I was prescribed some fake tears to use for a week.  Naturally they didn’t have my contact lenses in stock as I have weird shaped eyes, but they’ve ordered me some to try next week.  I wont be allowed them unless the dryness has cleared up, which apparently can be caused by cycling and wearing glasses (because the wind gets forced around and in to your eyes).  Hopefully I wont have any problems getting them next week!

When I finally got home I went straight out in the car and drove back to work so I could go and pick the new bike frame, later that evening Ryan and I had a Skype chat so we could look at any differences between my old frame and new one to predict any problems we might have swapping them over.  All looked okay so next week the new frame gets fitted.

Total miles cycled: 6.58 miles to work and back
Total time spent having my eyes poked: 2 hours
Total people I annoyed saying: “ooh, look at my new bike frame, isn’t it sexy”: 2 (sorry Laura & Christine)

Saturday 15th June
I spent a lot of time this week planning possible long cycle routes for my only day off of the week, as the weather reports got worse and worse as the week went on.  The problem with covering so much distance is that you have to check the weather for several different counties.  Eventually I reluctantly decided there was just no way I was going to be able to cover 100 miles this weekend.  Instead I settled for heading out first thing on Saturday to get in as many miles as I could before the rain started, with an afternoon of indoor cycling.

I cycled 25 miles and headed back into Oxford before realising that the weather still looked okay so I should stay out a bit longer.  I cycled through town, taking a brief stop to get another damn bug out of my eye.  Heading back home I really started to wonder if this promised rain was going to arrive as the weather looked good, but I knew that if I’d headed out on a longer ride I ran the risk of being 50 miles from home and making very slow progress in the rain.  I was just cycling up to the driveway and wishing I’d done a more even number then the 36 I’d managed when a thought occurred to me….I didn’t take my house key out with me.  I gave the door a quick knock just in case but I knew no one was in.  I got back on the bike and cycled back into town where Christine was at work and got the very lovely building porter to watch my bike while I ran inside to frighten the library users with my lycra and beg for a house key.  Back home I’d managed to add another 6 miles to my total to make it a nice round 40 miles for the day.

I grabbed some lunch and had a quick chat with Ryan who was at home nursing a bad back, when the dark clouds descended and the rain started.  Happy to be indoors where I don’t need to do makeshift windscreen wipers on my glasses, I tried to spend as much of the afternoon on the turbo trainer as possible.  I honestly don’t know how Ryan manages to do so many hours indoors, I got bored after two hours but managed to push it to three before my brain started to melt and I had to give up.  Still, three indoors is worth double outdoors so I think I did okay.

Total miles cycled: 41.06
Time on turbotrainer: 3 hours
Episodes of The West Wing watched this week:  Can’t remember, but I had to change the disk three times!

Sunday 16th June
On Sunday I decided to give myself a total rest day.  I had to work so instead of cycling I drove in, in fact, I didn’t go near my bike all day!  It was a very odd experience, and one I’m not too keen to repeat.  I attempted to do some more route mapping today and managed a bit more in my break at work, but I really need to finalise it next week, it’s a lot harder than it seems as I have to check all the roads to make sure they’re cyclable as well as trying not to make it so complicated we can’t remember the way, or too long that we wont make it in the four days we have to cycle through the UK.  Today I also purchased some after-cycling recovery drink which I have had some samples of and it works really well to give you a much-needed boost at the end of the day. I also purchased some new cycling shoes, as my current ones are big and bulky and likely to make my feet too warm in the no doubt glorious weather we’re going to have for two weeks.

Thoughts on the week
Last night I noticed an old message I’d written about a cycling holiday we did to Scotland last summer.  I’d written “cycled 34 miles today, totally exhausted”.  I would now like to apologise to Ryan and Dave for being so incredibly slow and distance-averse on that holiday!  It’s amazing to see something like that because it reminds me how far I’ve come, 34 miles? I could do that before lunch and still have the energy to come back again!

Getting keen for rollers

I have my bike back! For now at least. After spending yesterday evening fitting the replacement headset, brake pads and giving the rest of the bike a bit of TLC this evening was good for a quick ride to blow out the cobwebs.

With the rain and wind tearing at my motivation I gave in and had a two hour session on the rollers instead. This evenings in-flight entertainment was Serenity, and I’m quickly working my way through unseen actiony fodder to help burn the hours away.

The rollers are great because they build up balance and core control as well as working your legs, and they take a hell of a lot more concentration.

It’s not that rollers aren’t fun (they’re not), but sitting in the same place quickly loses its edge. To keep interested I need to set little challenges along the way.

Today’s challenge was to become able to look sideways without falling off, and after a couple of unsuccessful attempts trying to talk to Konrad I managed it a whole minute each way. I’m pretty impressed that Konrad didn’t fire pencils at me continuously! For five bonus points I managed a whole 30 seconds with no hands.

Training & planning diary – 4 weeks to go

After the set backs of last week I was hoping to make some good steps forward in my training and get one really long cycle ride done.  Here’s a summary of what I did this last week:

Monday 3rd June
Still in Wales this morning after the weekend so I’ve picked today as my first rest day of the week.  Ryan and I spend a lot of the morning talking about the new purchases I need to make (new bike frame mostly).  I drive back to Oxford intending to get a lot of planning done in the evening, but the bad traffic means my usual four hour journey takes six hours and I’m back just in time for bed!  But before I can go to sleep I first need to buy myself a new bike frame.  The order is placed, and it will hopefully arrive some time in the next 10 days.

Tuesday 4th June
Determined to get the week off to a good start I set out straight from work for a cycle ride.  As I stupidly left my pannier rack in Leeds over the weekend I’m having to cycle with a back pack into work.  A rather unpleasant experience that gives me a sweaty back.  Cycling after work with a backpack on meant I also had back pain after a relatively short ride, so I wont be doing that again.  Even with the uncomfortable back it was still a lovely evening, and I saw lots of clubs out racing – always wonderful to see so many cyclists about.  I also had to turn back around to get proof of this usual level of friendliness towards cyclists:

image

Well done Panshill Cafe for being so friendly to cyclists!

The best thing about the evening was going down a very steep hill at 28mph and having to brake heavily to avoid going over the 20mph speed limit at the bottom of the hill….wonderful feeling!

Cycle to work: 3.22 miles
Cycle ride after work: 32.58 miles
Minutes of stretching to shake off the back pain: 45

Wednesday 5th June
Learning my lesson from yesterday I returned home after work, changed, and set off out again to do another long ride.  I tried a different route this time, and one that I don’t think I’ll try again.  Cycle paths too narrow to cycle on, others strewn with glass – it really wasn’t very pleasant at all.  I also encountered lots of cycle paths that followed the usual trend of not really understanding the point of a cycle path:

image

…and this is why we cycle on the road.

Cycle to & from work: 5.45 miles
Cycle after work: 24.94 miles

Thursday 6th June
Thursday’s are traditionally my rest day as I work later then usual, but as I’m going on a long ride on Saturday I need Friday to rest.  With less time then I usually have I decide to get in from work and do some indoor cycling.  I try to mix fast peddling with steep uphill climbs and keep going for 52 minutes before it’s time for dinner.  Indoor cycling is always hard work as you can really push yourself to your limits….and not having a fan indoors makes it seem like middle of July alps temperatures, so that’s good training too.

I also spent my entire lunch break mapping the route through the UK and trying to save it to send to the rest of the team, but my browser crashed every time I tried. Very frustrating!

Cycle to and from work: 6.42 miles
Time on turbo trainer: 52 minutes
Time stretching: 25 minutes

Friday 7th June
Rest day today.  I started to plan my route for Saturday, as I want to do a bigger ride then I’ve ever done before I know it would be best to go on a familiar route so I can do it quickly.  Unfortunately I don’t know any routes that are very long, so I decide to stick to a national cycle route that will take me away form Oxford and up towards Northamptonshire.  To add a bit of extra interest I decide to divert off route to cycle past some beautiful scenery (see pictures below).  I’m aiming for 100 miles in total, and I really hope I can make it.  I make sure all my kit is ready to go first thing in the morning.

Saturday 8th June
Up at 7 am and straight downstairs for breakfast. I’m anticipating this is going to be an exhausting one….so I have 5 Weetabix.  I’m getting used to nerves before a big ride and today is no exception, I feel quite sick before I set off, but I don’t let that put me off. Just after 8am I’m ready to go and out the door.  After smothering myself in sun protection it’s a little disappointing to find that it’s actually overcast and very windy.  The first 20 miles were really hard as I made my way up through Bicester and out towards Buckingham.  There were lots of cyclists about in the morning, and everyone was very friendly today.  Despite the cloud coverage it was still very warm so I was able to put away the high-vis jacket and enjoy the warm hurricane breeze on my arms….I exaggerate, as usual.  However, there was a very strong headwind the entire journey which made the going very tough.  With lots of sensibly placed stops for snacks I eventually made it to the beautiful scenery I was hoping to see:

image

The podium near the final corner on the Silverstone circuit

image

Aaah what a beautiful welcoming sight

I can’t believe you can actually see the podium from the roundabout outside the circuit!!  Anyway, after wasting a bit of time meandering outside Silverstone and watching some cars racing over the fence, I continued onwards and made it to my half way point.  I realised somewhere around 40 miles that I may have taken a wrong turning but I wasn’t too concerned as the main objective was to reach 100 miles today, no matter what the route.  However, after passing two cyclists I’d passed earlier on in the day I got out my phone to discover exactly what kind of a mistake I’d done:

Screen Shot 2013-06-09 at 21.27.57

Not quite what I’d intended

Instead of going left after Silverstone village I’d followed a road which took me back down towards Buckingham.  Now I was faced with knowing that where I’d stopped was actually on a road which went back down to Buckingham, so I could just go straight down there to get home – it would be quicker.  The old Jennifer would have certainly taken the quicker easier route and continued on that road, but I was determined to get to 100 miles and so I turned around and went back the way I’d come.

Today’s other brilliant sights included this gem:

image

I think maybe they’ve misunderstood the point of a CYCLE route

I made it back home 9 hours and 6 minutes after I’d set off, with a total moving time of 7 hours 57 minutes (with stops for lunch and snacks).

I am very happy that I made it to the full 100 miles, and even more happy that I could still move the next day!

Total miles cycled: 100.55

Sunday 9th June
As my biggest concern with this trip is being able to cycle consecutive long days I would have loved to get out for another 70+ miles and see how I fared.  Unfortunately I had to work today, so instead I got up at 7am to set out for a 15 mile ride before work.  In my last 10 miles yesterday I got what I thought was a bug in my eye, but I’m thinking now it might have been a bit of grit.  At the time I had to stop to try and get whatever it was out, but had to cycle for the last 10 miles with my right eye streaming with water and stinging a lot.  Last night I had a very restless sleep as every time my eye moved I woke up in pain.  Today it doesn’t seem much better and was watering a lot on the ride, so I stuck to the safety of meandering around the streets of Oxford and got to 17 miles before it was time to get ready for work.

Cycle in the morning: 17.64 miles
Cycle to and from work: 6.75 miles

Thoughts on the week
I’m really happy with how much training I’ve done this week, and that I not only did a 100 mile ride myself, but also in a pretty decent time.  On Sunday I didn’t feel too bad out on the bike, my knees were a bit achy and my legs a bit stiff for the first five miles, but generally I felt like I could keep going for a lot more miles.  Next week I need to finish the route mapping for the UK leg of our trip, I tried it twice this week and had problems with browsers crashing, so I need to persevere with that.  Hopefully my new frame will arrive by the end of next week and Ryan and I can start to plan getting it fitted to my bike.

“Like riding on ice”

Image

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.