Fred Whitton isn’t far now, just 2 weekends left in between. Training has been going well, almost. Had planned to ride 2 big rides in April – one with lots of ascent, and the other long in distance.
Rode the first one on 12th. Joined Andy, Nick and Damian for the Leith Hill Octopus, and followed it up with 3 reps of Box Hill to make up some more climbing metres. Combined with the ride home, over Ranmore Common, Greendene, and the home climb, the climb totalled up to just over 3000m of ascent. Item one: checked.
Rode a new sportive, the Meon Valley Riser, last Sunday1. I needed a longish, hilly ride and there are few sportives 100 miles or longer this early in the year, even fewer hilly ones. That it was located in a part of South Downs that I’d never visited before added to the draw.
Long, rolling, and pretty, with a couple of hills each thrown in at the beginning and the end. There were poor road surfaces in places, but nothing worse than what we see all over here in Surrey. There were also a few high traffic roads used, but almost always on a descent or a fast flat – nothing that couldn’t be managed.
With 2100+m of climbing in 102 miles, it was hilly for the south-east, but not really a killer. In any case, as things turned out, the hills were to be the least of my worries.
The weather forecast wasn’t great – it was supposed to be quite windy with gusts reaching 71km/h, and rain all day long. I’d been trying the previous 12 hours to get out of riding it, dropping hints all around hoping Rags would take pity on me and let me stay home.
No luck. She did take pity and ask me to ride the 50 mile route, but that was her just being smart. She knew, as did I, that if I did go out, I’d be riding the full distance.
It was cold. Roads were icy. There were hills aplenty. It got really windy & rainy near the end.
It was awful.
Loved it! I’ll be back.
Things I learnt this weekend:
Hell is not hot.
It’s cold, wet and windy. A snowball would do very well in there.
They serve amazing sticky malt loafs in Hell.
Wonder what all the good bakers do to earn their place in there?
I may have gorged on half a dozen of them, eating more in calories than I ever hoped to burn over 65 miles of cycling.
These sticky malt loafs should be mandatory at all cycling events! Make it a rule.
People running Hell are quite a friendly and helpful bunch.
The devil must be a jolly good fella to have gathered such a chirpy bunch. My kinda guy. Or girl.
I like hills1
Both, going up and down them. Don’t know when this happened. Maybe after I lost 20 kilos, thus increasing my power-weight ratio by 25%. Or maybe when we moved to this house in Guildford – living on top of the hill means rides back from everywhere are uphill. There’s no escaping at all.
Whatever the reason, I have changed. From grimacing at the sight of a hill, I’ve gone to smiling at the thought of each one.
A welcome change given where I live, and what I’ve signed up for.
Big, old2 men can climb too! Andy claims to hate hills (wonder why he keeps signing up for hilly sportives?), and specially Kidds Hill (aka The Wall3). Yet, he climbed it quite comfortably – chatting with me all the way up, so probably never above zone 3! Who said big men can’t climb?
There is a ‘worst’ time to get a flat. It is 2 miles from the finish on a 65 mile ride.
In freezing rain and driving winds.
Finding the tiny piece of flint on a mud wrapped tyre is excellent training for building concentration under stress. Everyone must give it a go. Regularly!
Surrey drivers aren’t such a bad bunch.
Not when compared to some of the miserable twats who drive around Kent. One woman in a Land Rover honked continuously for at least a mile, driving way above safe speed across the lanes, almost running off 2 cyclists (hand stretched out to signal a turn) at the end.
She was the worst I saw, but not the only one. Way more wayward, angry drivers than I meet on equivalent rides in Surrey or Sussex.
Running is good for cycling.
For this time of the year, I’ve cycled less this year than most years. I’ve run way more than any of the last years. And I’m climbing, out of the saddle, better than ever across all sorts of climbs – short and steep, long(!) and steady, short bumps and bridges, and more. So well that I’m climbing better out of the saddle than in it4.
Being good at riding out of the saddle is useful!
Not just for climbing. It’s a useful get out of jail card.
Left hamstring started cramping on the up stroke just after I started the climb of Ide Hill. Riding out of the saddle helped stretch it, while still climbing comfortably. The niggle was almost gone by the time I reached the top of that 2 mile climb. I may even have accelerated past a bunch of riders near the top ;)
Ridin out of the saddle is also very useful, even outside of climbs, as a back-stretcher for heavyset folk like me who frequently end up with lower-back pain. Ask the guy at Woking sportive who I carried back to the finish with a broken back. And me.
Commuter jackets should be kept just for commuting.
I’m not a jacket guy. The only one I have is a commuting one – very good at keeping dry on not-hard rides, and at keeping me highly visible day and night.
With the threat of rain looming, I wore it for the ride. It did a great job of saving me from the freezing rain all of the last 30 mins of the ride. Sadly, by then I was thoroughly drenched under the jacket from sweating all through the ride. Doesn’t breathe. At all. I think I’ll stick to gilets.
I missed out on a good looking bidon :(
Turns out there were a few good looking bidons for riders to take away. I saw them lying around when I finished and went to the sign-in area. By the time I returned after swallowing a load of pasta and hot chocolate, they were gone.
I have often criticized events for passing out characterless bidons in goody bags, but here I am rueing not picking one up this one time. Shallow, two faced me! (Now hand me that bidon)
Hell of the Ashdowns Bidon (photo courtesy @lulhandy)
Hell of the Ashdowns Bidon (photo courtesy @lulhandy)
NEG + well trained volunteers beats all the goodies in the world
Volunteers running Hell, standing around in freezing cold and rain, are way friendlier than the folk who pay to ride through it.
Cyclists, specially the non-pro, road-riding variety need to lighten the F up.
It’s not a race. You’re not riding against other riders. You’re riding with them, against the elements, against the terrain, and probably against that extra pint you had last night.
No one forced you to ride. You volunteered. You even paid for the pleasure. Behave like it’s a pleasure!
Smile at, and thank the volunteers. Every one of them. Yes, even the one at top of that hard hill you huffed and puffed up.
Say hello to, and exchange banter with fellow riders. Rode with someone, off and on, along the way? Ask them how their ride went. Maybe share a fist bump. Don’t sit a table in the corner and pass shameful, snide remarks on the humanity of riders trudging in from the freezing cold5.
Someone hung on to your wheel? Feel good that you helped someone out. Not shout at them, and call them names.
We cyclists have got a lot to learn from us runners. There are more smiles and shakes at end of a single 10K running race than at end of all cycling, not-a-race sportives I attend in an year!
Not taking a cold shower can have serious consequences
Had my first episode of lactate suffering last night and today. All because I skipped the ritual, post-exercise cold shower. No, let’s not even talk about the foam roller.
Feeling better since today’s lunch run, which was promptly followed by a cold shower and compression socks.
All in all, the never flat, undulating route, tasty grub and friendly volunteers more than made up for grumpy grimpeurs and crazy Kentish drivers. It was a good day out.
I use the term hill quite liberally here. The hill I live on top of is 140m high. The highest in the region is barely over 250m! The climbs up them are either short and sharp, or not-very-short-but-not-long-either and steady. The best would probably rank as Cat 4 in the Tour. ↩
If I disappear in the next few weeks, Andy did it – for calling him old. Tell the police! ↩
There must be a hill climb nicknamed The Wall in every county of the UK! ↩
I do need to work on seated climbing. Between spinning and running, the quads really haven’t been getting much power training. ↩
Specifically, the two rich, fully Rapha-clad MAMILs sitting on my table making unmentionable comments about all the men and women they could empty their potty mouths at. ↩
Haven’t had them for a while, not for cycling events at least.
Riding the Hell of the Ashdowns tomorrow. It isn’t really long at sub 110K. Last weekend was marginally longer at 110K. It’s slightly hillier than last weekend, but not by much.
It’s just… new.
I haven’t ridden in those parts before, while I’d ridden most of the last weekend’s route multiple times before. It’s a new organising team, though well known. On the other hand, I’d ridden plenty of events with the Evans Cycles’ Ride It team before, including two from the same venue as last weekend’s.
Then there’s the weather. It’s expected to be quite cold – starting at below zero, and topping up at not much above it. It’s expected to be windy – heading into the wind most of the way out. And, if I get delayed, or the wind picks up – it’ll be raining, possibly even sleet or hail. Despite having run this year in all kinds of weather, I’m not sure I’m up for those kind of elements on the bike yet.
Add to it the 55 min drive all the way to Kent. One way. Not a very happy chappy I am tonight.
After a couple of months increasing the frequency and intensity of workouts, the body was starting to show wear. So, decided to make last week the easy week.
May have made it too easy :)
The usual easy run on Monday got cancelled, and due to a mix-up, the Monday evening swim got reduced from 50 lengths to just 30 easy ones.
Tuesday’s spin class was brutal as ever.
Wednesday was completely idle.
Thursday saw an easy 5K, instead of a tempo run or a mid length bike ride.
Friday, just as easy as Wednesday – nada.
Saturday had just a tempo 5 miles with Chewie on the mount, and
Sunday had just a painful ride on the rollers after a long, gluttonous lunch at Bill’s.
So, instead of usual mileage of 25-30K runs, 60-100K road rides, 1200m+ swims, I did just 13K of running, no riding on the road, and 750m swimming. Missed working out on most days, but did come out of the week less tired than before. So, that’s a success.
Highlights of the week:
Finally, after 3 weeks in 78s, broke the 78.0kg barrier and ended the week at 77.5kg. Workout like a dog for weeks, no change. Sit idle for a week, lose 1.1kg!
Anyway, just 1.5kg to go to end of year target :)
Rode one handed on the rollers1! From barely being able to stay upright, to being able to ride one-handed – it’s probably the biggest improvement in all my sporting abilities :)
The race seems to be a big thing amongst local running clubs. I missed it last year – discovered it late, and by then I was already signed up to run my first trail run, the Mud Man, on the same weekend. So, I’d been looking forward to it this year.
It being my last event for the year might also have something to do with why I was looking forward to it ;)
I’ve been in good shape – general fitness and running form wise – recently, so was confident about the run, despite the painful climb up the Mount. There had been a niggle in the old bugger – the right hamstring – but taking a couple of days off all training helped with it. The only handicap was I got barely 3 hours of sleep the previous night. Bad, but nothing that a strong coffee couldn’t cure.
Coffee drunk, standard pre-race meal of toast and Eat Natural bar consumed, lots of wrangling to get the race number on the new running belt done, it was time to run.
The start was unexpectedly fast. I’d planned for a 6:00/km pace avg, with a 5:30 avg on the flats. The first 4 km, with small hills, went 4:32, 5:14, 4:29, 5:14. Something had to give. And it did. Midway through the big climb of the day, I was forced into the walk of shame. Just a few 10s of meters, but a walk it was. Km 5 took 6:50. The next K involved recovery, saying hello to Coco, and running on familiar ground of the Hogs Back. 5:23. 4:51. 4:27. 4:46. 4:37. The 10K took 50 min 23 sec. Just 50 secs off my PB, and it included a hill and a half! If only I hadn’t walked the hill :(
The 11th Km included the tiny, surprise ascent back to Loseley park. It hurt more than the big hill had. I walked again. Just about 10m, but a shameful walk it was! 5:11. That last 5K went in 23:52 – just 6 secs off my PB! If only I hadn’t walked those 10m :(
Sprinted, as much as those mulching leg muscles would allow, the last 700m. Finished in 57:45 (official time 57:59). About 12 mins faster than the race plan! I was, obviously, smiling for rest of the day :)
My hypothesis on possible reason behind the surprisingly fast run: Either, or more, of these work – sleep less, drink coffee, race on the road (all my training runs are on soft trail), get partner to drive you to the run. Or possible the lure of that Hog-shaped medal :)
Met Chewie and her caretaker, hugged Chewie, kissed the caretaker. Received medal, gave it to Chewie for safekeeping. Got a banana, shared it with Chewie. Drank water. Lots of water. And headed back home after a quick photo op with Chewie, sans the caretaker.
The caretaker, also known as my partner Rags, took off for her weekend run soon after we reached home*, while I stretched and went for the ritual ice-cold shower.
I’d considered going for a short, 20-mile ride after the run, but lethargy took over, and warm bed won out. Sorry bike!