The commute is on again

Part-commute is back – cycling two stops down the line from home, leave the bike there and cycle home from there in the evening. It’s straightforward, and there are two route options: a longer hillier one (8.5 miles) and a shorter flatter one (7.9 miles). Did the longer one in the morning and the shorter in the evening – partly to remind myself of likely timings. Overall it adds about 20 minutes to my commute, saves a bit of cash, and adds about 16 miles to my weekly total. Useful. 

It was also the first proper test of the commute backpack – Showers Pass Transit bag. I prefer backpacks to panniers; I find panniers tiresome to carry around, even those with shoulder straps. I got the Transit because it’s seriously waterproof – I carry electronics and don’t particularly want them damp, thank you. It’s also cavernous, which is brilliant – I can carry all the day-to-day stuff (laptop, notebook, cables, pens, phones, wallet) and a change of clothes, a rain jacket, plus lunch and there was still plenty of room for my helmet to go in at the station (there’s a helmet pocket on the outside if I ever have to carry even more stuff inside the bag). There was still room in the bag even then. A pocket on the outside takes the toolkit, patches, CO2 and mini-pump, and a spare tube goes into an internal pocket. 

It’s comfortable on my back – the mesh stopped me getting particularly warm, and rides enough not to get in my way. Straps are wide and comfortable as well – I removed the waist strap because I don’t like them, and am very happy that Showers Pass have it as an optional thing! I’m fed up with tying back or cutting off waist straps on bags. 

Ride long

Herts 100(k) plus there & back added up to 82 miles and a little over 3,300ft of climbing, averaging 12.5mph – it felt like there was more elevation, but it’s a rolling course (north Herts does roll more than you might think – nothing extravagant, but it’s pretty non-stop).

This was the first wet/chilly ride of the year – as I’ve been off the bike for so much of it – but the gilet did what was needed to keep the worst off (it rained for maybe 25% of the time; the cold was mostly wind-related). I was amused by how many riders ended up waiting under trees etc – I finished ahead of a much stronger group who just kept stopping whenever there was a raindrop.

I had forgotten how wonderful a hot bath is after getting chilled (I’m not riding hard enough to try icing my legs, thank you).

Average power down a little – 126w: maybe because I’ve been out on the bike more than usual this week (most hours out on the road in a year; this is my longest ride (bar RL100, which is a rather different thing) in over a year. Overall I’m pleased with it – the key is hours out on the bike right now, and the speed is coming back with the hours (up from 11.5mph on a similar route a couple of months ago).

Heart rate monitor failed to work, despite electrode gel; will try another monitor strap to see whether it’s that. I keep thinking about getting a wrist monitor, but DC Rainmaker’s views seem to suggest they aren’t quite there yet for cycling.

And food … well, this time I did stop and eat at the feed stations – not a lot, but I ate (fig rolls, bananas, cheese) and took two bottles of Skratch Matcha drink for added carbs. I also finally remember to set my Garmin to beep at me every 20 minutes, to try and remember to drink. So, well below requirements overall – I need to eat more breakfast, I think.

Ride 1, ride 2

IMG_0587Two rides this week (well, so far) – taking advantage of a few days break, snatched as something fell out of my diary.

Yesterday – 24 mile loop mostly on trails with the hybrid. This was fun (note to self: wear the padded knickers next time … the saddle on the hybrid is not that wonderful). The route should be good through the year with the MTB once the rain starts up in earnest (will be muddy as a muddy thing once that happens).

Today – worked a bit more, for a 32 mile loop up to the north; reasonable number of ups & downs, and Emily’s in Whitwell is rather good (I still prefer the Westmill Tearooms, but Emily’s is closer!). In terms of feel, it felt stronger than the riding has done – the ups were less of a struggle, mostly, and I did more standing than usual. The combination of weightless and work is beginning to show through, I hope.

Why/where the photo? Today’s route went past Luton airport, and the runway is just beyond the field …

Experiments in cross-training

I’m working on building general fitness as well as bike-specific fitness – mostly for general health purposes, but improving core strength and upper/body strength will have cycling benefits anyway. 

I’ve been experimenting with weights routines but … I find weights work really really boring. The result is an epic tendency to procrastinate and simply not do the exercises. 

The experiment now is to trying swimming, particularly arm drills. I actually like swimming, unlike weights work. It’s not a chore (or a bore) to swim for half an hour. Arm drills (not using legs, and using paddles for additional resistance) will work upper body quite effectively – maybe not as much as weights, but definitely more than procrastinating on weights. 

I’m not giving up on weights work entirely – squats (normal and lateral) and lunges etc will still have bike use and so will just have to be done. Planks etc for core also have to be done. But I can tolerate 10 minutes of squats/lunges/plank after swimming. I just can’t tolerate half an hour or so of weights.

So, swimming 2-3 times a week with leg/core work after seems like a sustainable plan. I’ve also signed back up with the personal trainer I was using – accountability again. A proper weights session in place of swimming etc every couple of weeks seems like a reasonable plan (twice a week is more than my budget would stand, regardless of accountability). 

Planks yesterday were straight-arm. Too many bruises from the tumble on Sunday on my elbow for bent-arm!

London to Southend off-road

37 miles, on bike paths and bridle ways, mostly – no power readings, but average heart rate was 150bpm. 

This was a nice route, winding across country: not particularly technical until we got near the end, where a forest track was a bit steep (down) and bumpy. I ended up walking down, as I wasn’t confident I’d manage the descent without a fall. 

I’d already had one fall earlier, having failed to unclip in time on a tight right hand turn. I’m noticeably more uncertain on tight right turns, so should practice as I suspect the same is true on the road bike. It’s just that road bike routes tend not to involve tight turns. The fall was more embarrassing than anything else, although I discovered quite a bit of bruising when I got home (I seem to have landed thigh-side first, which would also explain why my quad wasn’t too happy in the second half). 

Need to watch the food intake more closely; the ice-cream halfway was nice (was a warm, if cloudy, day) but I really should have eaten slower release stuff. Ran out of glycogen on a hill about three miles from the finish, and had to munch through a fig roll. 

Bike was good – gear issue sorted out by a mechanic at the halfway point. I was right, it was the hanger. Probably got bent when the bike fell a couple of weeks ago when I was closing a farm gate. I need to be more careful! And buy a spare hanger. But this does explain why I couldn’t dial in the indexing on Saturday. 

I’ve planned out a couple more off-road rides, and am looking at MTB skills courses. Off-road is a fun alternative for steady rides, and should work well to build some power as it takes quite a bit more work to push the bike, even on the road. 

Under a red moon

Reds ride on Thursday night – noticeable that I’d worked the night before on the pub ride, I was off by 10-20W on the hills in particular. That endurance will come back, though. 

Today’s planned ride has been cancelled due to high winds; I though about going out anyway, but the plan at the moment is to build base rather than flog myself into the ground – tomorrow’s 40 miles off-road is likely to be demanding enough that adding more today wouldn’t help. I’ve done 60 miles this week, so will be 100 or so total when done. That’s enough for now. 

Checking in

14068362_10153623411151431_7436345766524496401_oThe weekend was a bit of a groggy haze of not feeling very well. Nothing specific – a bit queasy, head aching a bit, generally subpar. I think – and this needs to be worked out in a bit more detail – it was a blood sugar crash issue. I’ve been fairly carefully eating high protein, with carbs from vegetables and (very) whole grains, for a few weeks now. It’s working in terms of weight loss (I have some insulin issues, so high protein seems to work best) but it appears that it’s reducing my tolerance for sugar and things that react like sugar in my system (bread, pasta etc). This was a weekend away, and a higher straightforward carb intake than I’ve had for a while, so … it might be that. Or it might just have been an opportunistic bug that bit.

In food and other news – the photo is of a fig cookie that I made (recipe is at Olympian-Approved Fig Jam Cookies | Real Simple – although I have the book that the recipe comes from, and recommend that too). This is part to try and manage the blood sugar issues, on and off the bike (I had a bad blood sugar dip a few rides ago as well – entirely my own fault. One cannot ride on Coca Cola alone). I wanted to make some sort of fig roll as I like dried figs this way but I’m not all that keen on the commercial types – they’re a bit too dry, really. I found some great wholemeal fig rolls in the US but, no surprise, they aren’t imported to here. So I hunted around for a recipe …

These are pretty sturdy cookies, so should stand up to back pocket treatment, and the fig, almond, tahini & wholemeal flour mixture should mean reasonable sugar release without spikes of sugar or insulin. I ate a couple yesterday without adverse effect, so let’s hope it stays that way (they taste amazing).

The pub ride last night went well – felt a bit like flying, I may be getting better at the nutrition (and a stone off helps on hills, natch). More night riding practice is useful too.

Up the South Downs

Time on the bike counts, regardless of bike – so I shoved myself and my hard tail mountain bike up the South Downs Way. The result was quite a bit of walking: not because of the gradient (a 34-42 bottom gear will go up almost anything) but because a millennia or two of water cascading downwards was carved deep ruts into the path and it’s basically impossible to ride up (for me, at any rate). 

So I pushed the bike up, and then cycled down and looped around back. Just under 17 miles at no particular speed but with a lot of exertion. It all counts. 

Breeze ride

14021680_10153609194541431_4236092130069067773_nEvening Breeze ride – 12.2 miles; 13.1 mph; 112W avg.

A little shorter than usual, as a mid-summer social; I stopped to take photographs and ended up with a PR as I chased the group back down, which is pleasing. The power meter seemed to work this time and it is interesting that it does make me work a bit harder, I think – I can see the numbers and know that I can keep going harder (on hills).

On which note – 7kg down now, and it’s noticeable on hills.

Oh, and I forgot my cycling shoes … so did the whole ride in soft-soled Keens. A couple of toes went numb for a short while, but it was surprisingly easy to ride.

Kit: filofax

filfofaxNot necessarily the most obvious piece of training kit, but useful all the same: a slimline filofax. I’ve had it for years, never quite managing to work out what to do with it.

I’ve repurposed it as my training diary – not entirely a ridiculous concept. I had been thinking of using Day One, or my usual (phone/computer) diary etc, but none of that really seemed to work. My calendar is already a mess with work commitment and adding more detail to it would just make me want to run in the opposite direction.  I do keep an eye on that calendar to ensure that I leave time for cycling etc, but it doesn’t work as a record.

So I dug out the filofax and bought a week-on-two-pages academic diary to take me through to LEL next year (which it does perfectly: ends on the last day of LEL). This allows me to see the week at a glance, to plan out the workouts – my current training plan is fairly simple: keep building endurance until the end of the year, so mostly just riding, plus some gym work and pilates for core. The space allows me to add some detail after the session if I want to, and there’s space at the beginning of the week to add week goals.

Added to that, I have a stash of notes pages at the back with some tabs to separate them – general notes, clothing notes, equipment notes, nutrition notes. This allows me to keep ideas and, later, plan out strategy etc for the ride.

I do keep information electronically – Evernote is useful for stashing ideas from websites etc – but ultimately I need to make some sense of it, and I still seem to find it easier to make sense of things when I can scan them to review them. It’s not as straightforward to do that in an app, for me.