Time to get the miles in

This month has seen an increase in cycle training volume as a result of two big weekends of cycling. And the results are very encouraging for the challenges that lie ahead.

Back to back hundred miles

This first was the London Revolution – a two day event organised by the RAB event company Threshold Sports.

This started at Lee Valley in north London, with a 5am alarm call on the Saturday morning to drive around the M25. A few hours later and I was rolling across the start line for a two hour ride through London. An iconic photo crossing Tower Bridge, but lots of traffic lights and built-up conurbations to slow our progress. Made me glad my local roads are in the leafy lanes around the royal county of Berkshire!

Once we hit the green belt the scenery changed to more familiar surroundings as we moved south west through Kent and Sussex towards the Surrey Hills. A couple of nice climbs done and we made our way towards Windsor racecourse with a 100 miles ‘on the clock’. A fanfare arrival to base camp gave me a good impression of what to expect on each day of RAB, but then rather than heading for the chillout zone it was time for a quick pit-stop before the extra 15 miles ride home. As I have the hotel option booked for RAB, I didn’t need the glamping experience of rain showers, rider snoring and being woken by random tents zips in the middle of the night!

Sunday morning was a 6am alarm (a relative lie-in) for the pedal back to Windsor, where seeing a long queue to cross the start line I opted for a cheeky – bacon butty – second breakfast. Refuelled for the day ahead, the route took us over familiar roads crossing the Thames at Marlow before tackling some meatier climbs in the Chilterns. When we get to RAB, the first two days in Cornwall and Devon are the toughest by way of “undulations” and so the repetitive up/downs of Bledrow Ridge and Kop Hill was a good test. I got up them all showing that my winter training and base level fitness has paid off. Following a sunny lunch stop, we made our way north east through some salubrious areas of north London before hitting Enfield with just 5 short miles of built-up traffic to ride through.

Crossing the finish line – to another fanfare – I quickly stowed my bike in the car and grabbed a change of clothes. Barely 10 minutes had passed and I switched on my phone to see my finisher line photos already uploaded to my facebook account. Now this is a seriously cool use of technology. The event photographers must all have 4G cards in their cameras that mean that rider photos can be uploaded in near real time to social media. And both the quality of photos and the accuracy of spotting each ride by the bar code strips mounted to our bikes and helmets was first class. Meaning that everyone at home could follow the progress of the event and know what was happening. And the event company have the same technology on RAB – so you can follow my path across the country.

Make that three

The second event was a charity challenge, over the second May Bank Holiday weekend organised by a TVT member Kathryn Rossiter – to celebrate her 50th birthday. Now most people think of luxury holidays to mark that milestone, but not when you are GB Age Group triathlete. For her it was a multi-day sports endurance event instead!

The day one Saturday was a ride out west from Reading through Berkshire; then day two Sunday was the ‘long one’ with nine and half hours of riding time out north through the Chilterns before looping back through Oxfordshire. And then a third day heading out south-west through Hampshire with plenty of rolling hills. A total of 300 miles over the three days which is exactly what I can expect on RAB.

Only come September I have to do all that again… and again!

What was special about this second May weekend was the group riding aspect, with many riders all used to cycling together. Cue lots of banter, chain-gang style formation riding, and always someone looking out to see that the whole group was sticking together. That management phrase “there’s no I in team” could not have been more apt.

And given that Kathryn is Chef Exec of a local social charity called Thrive, it would be remiss of me not to mention her fund raising efforts. It was a pleasure to participate and contribute financially to this cause over the weekend.

Looking ahead

So with just over 100 days out from the RAB start line at Lands End – and how do I feel?

Basically the answer is good (which is better than the banal “I’m fine” response usually given to such questions). I know mentally that I can ride back-to-back 100 mile rides, and that the longest day of 125 miles is within my capability. There is still three months to go to continue to build fitness, to make minor tweaks & adjustments to reduce soreness whilst riding, and to focus on fundraising.

Giving something back to others who need help – via my charity partner the Princes Trust – is where my focus turns next month.

Advertisements

The joy of sportives

I rode my first sportive not long after I completed my leg of the 2010 Dallaglio Cycle Slam – and have used them as a regular part of my cycle training plan ever since. They are great – you get to ride scenic new roads; take on some challenging climbs; enjoy the company of like minded cyclists; and have a great excuse for eating plenty of cake!

You can choose a distance to suit your training needs – I typically opt for 50-60 miles which makes for a great morning’s ride – although there are longer options if I need more miles in my legs.  Even the weather doesn’t really get in the way of the ride. I have ridden in beautiful sunshine; a howling gale; torrential rain; and even in sub zero temperatures alongside snow covered fields… but not all the same day’s ride I hasten to add! The point is, that once you decided to do the ride i.e. paid your money and built it into your training plan, then you might as well turn up and go for it – whatever the elements throw at you.

In terms of my weather related memories, the following stand out:

  • Beautiful sunny weather – King of the Downs sportive (May 2010) which was my first sportive, and a fantastic introduction with 5 testing climbs in theNorth Downs
  • Howling gale – Chieveley sportive (January 2011) – a nice circular route through the Berkshire Downs/Chilterns where half the time you battled crosswinds; a quarter was a slog into a headwind and the remainder a spin session
  • Torrential rain – no contest – that was the Magnificat sportive (June 2011) where Half Ironman Training meant I entered the 80+ mile course and got so wet in 5 ½ hours of riding that I needed a complete change of clothing at the finish. Now nudity isn’t allowed in Triathlon transition, but that didn’t matter in the deserted car park at Newbury racecourse that day!
  • Snow covered fields – now that would be my most recent sportive at Watlington (February 2012) where my team mate’s Garmin registered the air temperature at 30 degrees the whole way round!

However, with the spring bulbs starting to show their face, and British Summer Time just around the corner, now is the time to plan a few sportives in April as preparation for the Dallaglio Flintoff 2012 Cycle Slam in May. And the really, really good news is that, this spring, I can combine my training with fund raising as well.

How is that? Well, I have got agreement from F3 events that they will offer discounted places in two of their  April Sportives to Cycle Slam participants (which I will also offer to team mates at Thames Valley Triathletes as well).

And the more participants we get for the two events, the higher the donation from the organisers for our charitable causes. A true win-win! The dates for your diaries are:

  • Sunday 15th April – at the iconic Dorney Lake venue (home of the Olympic rowing) with 60 and 100 mile routes available into the Chilterns
  • Sunday 22nd April – from a base at ShiplakeCollege (between Henley and Marlow) with 60 and 100 mile routes across theThamesValley region

Now I did the Dorney Lake sportive event last spring, and the route was so good I borrowed parts of it for summer training rides that I then led with TVT.  So a good days riding is guaranteed – whatever the weather.

Entry discount codes to follow. Please contact me for details.