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:

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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!

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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.

We have all the time in the world

Except unlike the Louis Armstrong song, we don’t. In less then two months we will be starting to slow down the training in the last week before the long cycle to Switzerland begins.

As my general fitness was quite low when we started this journey its unfortunate for me that just going out for a few cycle rides a week is not enough training to be ready for two weeks of cycling (even if it is “mostly flat”). The problem is, along with my cycle training I have a couple of other commitments: a full time job; studying distance learning for a masters degree; looking for new jobs and applying for them as my one year trainee position comes to an end in August.

The upshot of this is that I have zero time to do anything else, and time spent eating biscuits and drinking tea is being drastically cut into!

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Sometimes you have to make sacrifices to fit everything in.

One sacrifice I’ve made is using up my annual leave from work in order to study.  I’ve booked two days off to give me a long four day weekend, which I would love to spend cycling everyday, adding as many miles to my training schedule as I can fit in. Unfortunately I have two assignments due in the next few weeks which need to be attended to pretty quickly.

It’s hard to know what the best thing is to do.  Part of me wants to spend four days studying solidly and get everything done, but I know I can’t take that many days off without cycling.  Yesterday I spent all day studying and it made me very grouchy, towards the end of the day my productivity started to slip as well.  So today I’ve made sure to incorporate training into my day:

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Today’s uninspiring view

I think the important thing for me at the moment is to try and have a balance between all the things I need to do.  An hour on the turbo trainer has left me completely sweaty but now I’ve cooled down and am ready for a shower then some lunch, I feel more energised and ready for my afternoon of studying.

I still haven’t decided if I should have another two days of studying to see if I can finish everything, with a few hours of turbo trainer sessions to keep up the training.  Or, if I should call it quits tomorrow and spend the whole day out on the bike.

I may have to make a sacrifice on long-distance cycling this week to get these assignments finished, but I know I can’t relax for a moment on the training.  I need to keep going and put cycling into every day.  I already cycle to work so I can push myself a bit harder on those days and sprint home, plus I’m trying to get out running as well to improve my overall general fitness levels.  Cycling indoors is not good enough preparation for spending all day every day for two weeks on a bike but it may have to make do for the next few days.

What I do know is that as soon as I’ve handed these assignments in I have the whole summer off until studying starts again in September. That means I can concentrate on cycling longer distances, cycling more days, cycling quicker, cycling more hills, getting fitter, getting stronger, improving my nutrition and energy…oh, and working full time and finding a new job.  But those last two are easy in comparison.

At the time of writing this blog post this is how much time we have left:

Will we be ready in time?

Will we be ready in time?

I have no doubt we’ll make it to Switzerland (I’m stubborn enough to never give up!) but I’m under no illusions of how hard it will be.  The next 67 days are going to be busy, so lets get on with it…now, pass me the biscuits, I have an assignment to write!

 

Re: You don’t fall off unless you stop pedalling

So I read Jen’s article on clipless pedals and pretty much agreed with everything she said. Until today…

This weekend was never set to be a great cycling weekend. Freezing conditions and a 30mph wind are enough to put off all but the hardiest cyclists. After a full day of chores and burning things (garden waste, I’m not that much of a pyromaniac), I woke up this morning and quickly dismissed the idea of going out. Fortunately there’s always a plan B, and for me that meant a session on the rollers.

The rollers are a new acquisition, fuelled partly by Meg’s amazing video of her first go (which had me in stitches) and partly by Jen stealing my Tacx Satori turbo trainer. My selection process was pretty much “what’s the cheapest one”, and thanks to Wiggle I’ve now got an Elite Arion in classic (read: reduced price) Italian national colours. The evening they turned up I had a quick go, following the usual advice of setting the rollers up in a doorway so you can hold on and get some stability. That didn’t work too well for me, and the proximity of the door frame just made me nervous and not want to let go.

That’s when I bit the bullet and set the rollers up in the middle of the room, with no support around it. This made all the difference to me! I’m not that bothered by the prospect of falling off the bike, so just spent 20 minutes trying to get on, then trying to stay on, then working out how to make it feel easier. The key for me was starting as I meant to go on. I could see that other people use the rollers this way, so  I should be able to too. Even using cleats it only took one session to get up and running, and once you’ve figured out the balance-thing you’re cooking with gas.

I made things a little more interesting for session two, setting up an interval training video and attempting that. That made things more difficult, particularly because when I saw someone go round a sharp alpine corner I leant in to follow the road – not a good idea. I was also not quite as good as I thought at getting on and staying on, so it was hard to keep a rhythm.

Back to today, and it seemed a good idea to try to get through an entire Sufferfest video. These videos are basically interval training sessions with videos of cycling races and good music to keep you motivated. And motivated I was. Alternating between gears to get the desired effort/cadence mix, I managed 42 minutes on the bike. No stopping. No hitting the side and bailing out.

Not until the end of the 42nd minute. The 42nd minute was about a minute into a section where the video tells you to stand and push a little harder. Standing on the rollers is hard. Very hard. At first I found it okay, and was suspending myself in a position which kept a reasonably even power transfer. Without that I was getting the bike to jump forward and back as I applied pressure and climbed up the roller a bit, which I figure is poor form. After a minute or so my form went a bit and the bike jigged from side to side. This is okay. I can control it. Almost got it back. Almost.

The aftermath

And then I learnt the next important lesson of rollers: make sure you have enough space to fall over, even if you don’t think you will.

I’m not sure what happened, but I ended up diving towards my fireplace when my SPD-SL cleat didn’t  release (I do need new cleats though).

After making a big deal of it and realising there was no-one to give me sympathy, I picked my sorry self off the floor and inspected the damage. The first casualty was my pride, but that can’t be helped. Other than that I have a big bruise where I smacked my arm on the fireplace, but all the equipment is fine (phew!).

So next time I think I’ll set up perpendicular to that attempt. The carpet is a lot more accommodating than the road of course.

 

What do you mean ‘the Alps aren’t flat’?

“It’s mostly flat” Ryan told me when we planned our first cycling holiday, a three day tour around Mull.  When Ryan convinced me and Megan to Cycle the 70 miles to Chester, “it’s mostly flat” he said.  You may have noticed if you’ve read the other posts already on this blog that neither of these routes are flat and that therefore….Ryan lies.

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Trying to pretend I didn’t fall off going up a hill and desperately trying to get back on before Ryan could take a photo

Now don’t worry, I may be only an arts graduate but I’m not that stupid that I think the Alps are actually flat, in fact, I am fully terrified about how much hill climbing we’re going to have to do when we get to the Alps.  What’s concerning is what Ryan says about cycling through France…you guessed it, “it’s mostly flat”.  That and “it’s down hill all the way”.

As if the distance and having to cycle for 16 days wasn’t a challenge enough, we also have hills to contend with.  In addition to hills, we have Alpine passes to contend with.  As more of a ‘coasting downhill’ kind of girl I have always known that the hills were going to be my biggest uphill struggle (see what I did there).

My inability to get up hills without dying was brought into sharp focus on our training session last weekend when Megan The Demon Hill Climber was unleashed upon us.  I was incredibly impressed with Megan’s ability, not simply to get up the hills in one piece, but to attack them with all the vigour of a starving man at a buffet (apologies I couldn’t think of a better analogy).  I really struggled to get up the hills last weekend and although I made it up most of them without needing to walk (see above photo for evidence of my only failure) the effort made me so tired the next day I couldn’t have done that 70 miles again.

With this new knowledge in mind I decided I need to do more hill training, which is where living in North Wales would have come in handy.  Unfortunately I live in Oxford where there are a lot fewer hills and most of them slight inclines compared to what I need.  Thankfully Ryan has gone skiing for two weeks which meant I could kidnap his turbo trainer and bring it back to Oxford with me.

Today I sacrificed going on a long cycle ride to have a shorter session indoors.  In order to simulate the hot Alpine summer temperatures I turned the heat up and kept the windows closed, sweating my way through an hour of turbo training.  I downloaded a really basic app which allowed me to set interval timers and alternated between 5 minutes of easy to medium cycling and 5 minutes of steep hill.

I absolutely loved this training session and I think I got more benefit out of it then I would have cycling around town desperately trying to find a hill.  Some highlights were:

– I wasn’t allowed to coast down hill and had to keep up the pedalling and intensity even when I turned down the resistance.

– I tried to keep peddling continuously for an hour which was great psychological training for me as I’m really good at coasting wherever possible.

– I could practise standing up cycling and balancing one-handed without any real threat I was going to fall off and injure myself.

– I could also practise removing the water bottle from the holder whilst pedalling, not something I think I’ve ever done before.

Overall I can conclude from today’s training that I need to get myself a turbo trainer (or convince Ryan he’s lost his and not lent it to me).  I was expecting to be able to do a long stint on the trainer today but in actual fact it’s so exhausting that I think 1 hour on the bike was equivalent to 3 hours or more outdoors.  Because of this I wish I’d done a hill session a few times during the week and gone on an all day ride today, but it was still incredibly beneficial and I learnt a lot.