Knee Pain

3 Mar

So today I visited my excellent sports therapist to figure out what the problem in my knee and back were. After checking my knee thoroughly it added up that I have a weakness in my glute on the left side. This was causing the hamstring to overcompensate.

Generally any aches and pains are the result of a weak muscle in one location causing another muscle elsewhere to overcompensate, strain and potentially cause an injury. In this case the weak glute was causing the hamstring and hips to take a lot of extra work hence the lower back and knee pain. Fortunately we caught it early and we went through some exercises to do daily in order to activate and strengthen the glutes.

Two simple exercises a day and we should be on track.


The Event List

1 Mar

The plan starts here. I have decided to take a couple of weeks off the TCTP. If I can’t complete power intervals, there’s no point keep trying. In the next two weeks I’m going to do various different intervals at the end of my usual gym days so I can get used to being above my lactate threshold. Then in two weeks I will continue where I left off. I figure since I have two events in the meantime I will get plenty of riding time in and as the first two weeks are only steadystate intervals anyway I won’t be messing anything up too much.

Knowing this I can now plan my season, and it’s all falling into place.

Black Park XC 12 04/03

Looking forward to this one. This Sunday I’ll be doing 4 laps of the Black Park course and building on last weeks experience to really go all out and see what I can achieve. I figure I have a lot more in the tank that I was a little scared of using at Gorrick due to the 40/40/40 lap times. By dropping a category I should avoid any burnout should I push too hard and I should get a better idea of how much I have to sprint with and really try and push to pace. With BP being relatively flat, it should be fast, flowing and technical. Game on.

UK Cycling Events Southern Rough Ride 11/03

The first of the six Wiggle sponsored sportives will take me 70km of offroad riding around Storrington. I’ve never ridden the venue before and I’m looking forward to building some experience at long times in the saddle, with the ride probably lasting around 4-5 hours. This will help me prepare for my final goal – twelve hours at Bontrager 24/12 in July. Of course, many more longer endurance rides will be needed…

Gorrick Spring Series Round 4 01/04

Whilst my main goal for this season is to complete 24/12, I still fancy a bit of racing. I’ll probably enter the fun category in round 4 and do a couple of laps. I’ll be six or so weeks into the TCTP at this point and I should be seeing some progress, so what better way to gauge it? I will be dropping down a cat so as not to affect my training too much, but it means I should hopefully be able to push that bit harder.

UK Cycling Events New Forest MTB 14/04 and Ups and Downs 28/04

Two weeks later I’ll be tackling the second and later the third Epic of the Wiggle super series. Another 70 odd KM of offroading, I’m looking forward to another two well organised events and clocking up more endurance miles on some new trails.

Gorrick 100 06/05

The Gorrick 100 looks hard to resist. I love riding in Swinley and a 14km lap in the 100 looks like a great way to spend a Sunday morning that I would be otherwise doing about that distance in Swinley anyway. So instead of covering 30km or so for a couple of hours, I’ve decided to enter the 1 lap teaser of the Gorrick 100 and try and get a decent time. It’s the beginners cat, but I figure I’ll be in good enough shape at this point to really see where all the training has gotten me. I might stick around and see some of the poor bastards starting the 7 lap 99km ride too!

Bucks Offroad Sportive 13/05

A few weeks before 24/12 and this event looks like the best preparation for it. 132km of offroad riding in the Buckinghamshire countryside organised by WDMBC as their next event after Black Park. This is a no brainer. 8 hours or so of straight riding offroad with full support and other riders – this is the closest I’ll get to 24/12 itself. Hopefully there won’t be too many niggles, but this should give me plenty of time to make any necessary changes to my training if there are.

Bontrager 24/12 12 Hour Solo 7/8 July

And then it happens. Two months of solid training later and I’ll be killing myself at 24/12.

Since the TCTP will be long over, I’m considering heading over to Torq and discussing my training plans with them in May, along with going through their complete performance package. Will keep you updated…

Power Intervals

28 Feb

‘Rankles, I have just had a quick look at your blog. Good luck with the training and just wait until you get to the PFPI sessions on your training plan :twisted: ‘

Looking forward to ’em mate!

Today came the first day of Power Intervals in the TCTP. There are two different types, with the first being SEPI (steady effort) and later PFPI (peak and fade). Today’s SEPIs involved 3x (three minutes on three minutes off) intervals with an 8 minute rest aftwards. Then you do it again. A power interval means pushing to 100% plus of your lactate threshold – in this case 171 bpm on my heart rate monitor.

Over the past year I have done a lot of things I never thought I’d be doing. I was never into sport, and looking back whilst we had gym and PE at school it was never really done properly. If I knew then what I knew now… hell if I knew half of it I could be destroying mountain bike races right now. Or any endurance sport for that matter. The science is quite simple, I do wonder why schools don’t push it more. But hell, that’s another argument.

Anyway over the past year I’ve lifted comparatively huge weights to what I’ve ever lifted before. My trainer has pushed me to lift more and more, and squat more and more, and push myself harder and harder. However we both have an aversion to cardio. As a strength trainer he rightfully believes more in intervals for burning fat rather than pushing anaerobic threshold. So despite my past years training, I’ve never really had to run hard or ‘see stars.’

When I did my first power interval today, it was both enlightening, shocking and a little disappointing to discover that never in my entire life, and sadly I’d imagine never in the majority of people’s lives, have I ever gone over my lactate threshold for more than a few seconds.

Let alone three minutes.

This might sound shocking to anyone who hasn’t trained like this before. Most people are probably thinking they’ve pushed themselves before. Like when you run against a friend and have to catch your breath. Or when you play football for the first time in years and you’re knackered after five minutes and have to stop. When you get a stitch and have to grab a drink and your throat tastes like blood.

Judging by my HRM, that happens at about 158 bpm. At 175 I wanted to die. I have never felt anything like it. It was all I could do to push my legs hard enough to keep my heart rate there. It took about a minute to get up to 171 and then I felt a huge rush of lactic acid in my legs forcing them to almost cramp up. This is the point where most people would stop. Most sensible people. Why push harder? Your body is telling you to stop. It’s forcing you to slow down with pain.

And I still have 1:30 on the clock to keep going.

I tell a lie. For dramatic effect. I have experienced this once. About a month ago my trainer decided that in anticipation of my training I should throw some intervals into it to try and push my LT. It didn’t necessarily have to be bike but should be low impact, so at the end of a shoulders workout he stuck me on the rowing machine. He figured it best, as trainers do, to do an interval that works on the muscles you’ve just trained.

The goal was simple. 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off. As hard as you can for 20 seconds, then 10 seconds pause. Each 20 seconds is one interval and every time you do it you have to match or beat the distance travelled of the interval before. You do this 8 times.

It was tough. And when we stopped something happened. I couldn’t speak. I was so truly out of breath I couldn’t even bring myself to talk. I kept staring at the ground and trying to breathe, occasionally sipping my water. This lasted about fifteen minutes. During this time I apparently signed off my session, booked a future session and discussed stretches. I was barely there, and didn’t remember a thing. For those fifteen minutes, I was truly pushed to my limit. That’s what it is to challenge yourself.

I managed two of the intervals before I had to stop during the third as two minutes had passed and I hadn’t managed to reach 171. It could be due to the fact that I raced only two days ago, or it could just be due to the fact that never in my life have I ever had reason to push past that point. When people talk about the ‘pain barrier’ I always pictured that bloody throat taste and shortage of breath. I didn’t realise that there was something past that. Now I do.

I may have to lay off the TCTP although I’m going to continue with one more session once my legs are a bit better. My trainer has agreed to do intervals at the end of every session now so I can learn to feel what it’s like to be above my lactate threshold. Once I get used to how it feels I can start introducing it into my training, but right now I’m actually scared I might throw up right there in the middle of the gym.

And noone wants to see that.

Gorrick Spring Series Rd 2 – The First Race

27 Feb


Gorrick Rd 2 was never in my original plan. I had planned to start the TCTP, breeze along it and around about week 8 start dabbling in racing, when the programme recommends you will peak. However with my favourite local ride being Swinley Forest, Gorrick Rd 2 was just too hard an opportunity to pass. I figured why not do my first race on home turf? Why not use this early event to learn what racing’s about and get a feel for everything? There were a few reasons to give the race a go, not least because I was eager to get started and gauge my current fitness.


I arrived on the morning nice and early enough to catch a few of the juvenile racers finishing their laps. They’d clocked some good times, and after I’d picked up my number I inevitably did what I usually do whenever I go… well… anywhere and realise I’d ridiculously early and had nothing really to do. It was 10.00am and my race wasn’t until 13.00pm. Plenty of time, I thought, for a warm up and a practice lap.


I strapped on my Garmin and headed round the track. It started with some pretty gruelling up and down forest singletrack, which whilst relatively simple technically felt like a bit of a constant struggle through soft ground and roots. After about 2km the forest opened up into a stretch of gravelly fireroad leading to a bend. I started to accelerate and keep my heart rate below any sort of zone that was going to waste any energy for the actual race, but as soon as I hit the bend I saw it.


Cardiac Hill.


I’ve heard of it. I’ve heard stories about it and people who ride Swinley frequently fear it. Despite this, after two years of riding Swinley (frequent visitors will appreciate this fact) I’d never actually come across it, due to Swinley being the size of a small country.


It was an easy decision to walk it, but the tough 35 degree rocky climb for probably 70 metres or more was going to be tough on foot or bike. At the top I optimistically told myself I would have to climb it at least once.


After that we hit the Labyrinth section of singletrack – Swinley’s best technical descent. Honestly, at the top of the hill I was seriously wondering how, only 2.5km into an 8km lap I was ever going to complete three of these. It played on my mind for most of the practice lap that there was still time to transfer to the 2 lap ‘Fun’ category, despite it’s pride hitting name. However those thoughts quickly evaporated when I bombed down the Labyrinth causing all practicing riders to move quickly out of my way, assuming that I was part of the current race.


After that the course cut through more forest trails with another couple of sweet technical downhills through forest, a tough forest hill and finally coming out at the timing van clocking at about 8km.


After a chat with Matt at the Torq Fitness stall (I always use Torq products) he agreed that three laps was a good number, and I agreed. Whilst the beginning was tough, it got a little easier afterwards and I decided that it was worth the punt. Surely I couldn’t be the least fit guy there, nor the worst rider.


I ditched my baggies for the bib tights, changed the lenses in my goggles and filled up two bottles. Shoving a couple of Torq Black Cherry gels in my jersey, I sat down to strategise.


I set myself the following goals. Bearing in mind that I am not only two weeks behind in my training due to illness, but I am racing six weeks too early into an 11 week training program. I am not ready to challenge anyone, and because of this my main goal was simply…


Goal 1 – Finish the race


I told myself that apart from huge mechanical failure (I carried a spare tube and pump to cover for a flat – though I’ve impressively never had one on my Rockhopper) or a crash and injury that I had to finish all three laps, no excuses and preferably not last.


Goal 2 – Manage your energy


If I was going to finish the race, I had to manage my energy levels properly. To do this took a little experimenting but as a base I was using the tried and trusted Joe Friel and Chris Carmichael recommendations. They equate to roughly one 500ml bottle of water per hour of racing, and 35-50g of carbohydrate per hour, to be consumed after 15 minutes and throughout the race. This equated to two bottles, one filled with Torq Natural Orange and a couple of gels – although one of those was a backup and this was anticipating a potential two hour ride.


Goal 3 – Play to your strengths


I figure in racing you always have to play to your strengths, but what was I really bringing that set me apart from others in the open category? I figured there were only a couple of things at this stage in my training. I’ve been mountain biking seriously for ten years, and this has taken me all over the UK to some of the biggest and best trail centres around. Whilst I haven’t been out three times a week for years on end, I do have experience on some of the most technical descents and climbs in the country and I figured this would give me at least a slight advantage over a few of the riders in a general category such as open – mainly less experienced riders or road riders making the change to MTB.


The next strength would be endurance and leg strength. For the past year I’ve been in the gym four times a week at least, strengthening my core, legs and upper body whilst reducing my body fat down to 8% or so. Whilst not all of this is directly beneficial in mountain biking and much more on bike training is needed, it does give me excellent conditioning and endurance – and I wanted this more than anything to come through. I had probably trained harder in a general way than 80% of the guys in the cat, and despite them all probably having more on bike training I figured over the course of three laps I might be able to outlast some of them.


The Race


I wasn’t nervous in the start to the race. I’d never done a race start but I knew to not go crazy as I had yet to reach any power intervals in my training program and quickly sprinting out of the starting grid would tire me for the rest of the race and could seriously jeopardise goal number 1 – finishing the race. I figured for the first lap I just wanted to make it round and gauge what happens.


I was a little nervous to see a lot of top team riders lining the front of the grid, most notably from Team WIggle etc. However towards the middle where I was we were a bit more relaxed and logo-less. I figured here would be a good place to hang back and see the start from a safe distance.


And then the horn went. D Day.


Everyone pushed forward suddenly, the gates were down and it was every man for himself. To the left of me a few guys collapsed in a heap. I rode around them, not thinking about anyone but myself. If I didn’t get moving, I’d be on the deck too. I kept riding until I got myself some space and fell into a  tight but strangely free moving mob of riders. Another crash in front of me and I overtook a few more guys. Every man for himself.


As the riders began to settle and split up about 2km in it came to the point where we all knew for sure would split the men from the boys. That bloody hill.


My initial promise to climb said hill at least once suddenly seemed wholly unrealistic. Whilst I was floating comfortably near the rear of the pack my heart rate had not come below 165 for the whole start of the ride (my LTHR is 171 and I’ve only trained so far at 8 and 10 minute bursts of 158-161 – this was now 8 minutes at 166 and counting). I was feeling a burn and whilst I was comfortably warmed up, I was worried about burning out early and ruining my day. I jumped off and walked, along with most everyone else. My lower back began to burn along with my calves as we climbed up the hill, but at the top I knew my strength. The one point where I could take some guys down.


However it turns out that in the places where you’re strong enough to gain momentum, so are most other trained riders.


In Labyrinth I was hot on the rider in front of me the whole way. I was constantly having to touch heavier on the brakes behind him. He was going fast and cornering well, but I just had that edge on him. If I could just get round him safely I could feel I accomplished something on that stretch. The corners were getting tighter and I was nailing every one, but I couldn’t safely pass the guy. He knew I was on him, and he seemed willing to give way but there was just no safe way to do it. Go too wide and you were heading 20ft down a muddy hill. There was nowhere to pass.


Then a burst of sunlight. The singletrack ended and a stumpy little dirt track came into view. He pulled in slightly for just a second where the path opened out – and I picked the worst line possible. I came off my pedals (I ride flats – and thank God I was then or I’d have been off) and whilst I regained control of the bike quickly he was now six or seven feet further ahead up a gravel hill. I’d lost my chance.


My legs were burning nicely and the adrenaline was pumping as we headed into the next section but I was focussed on getting my HR down. I agree with people who say you probably shouldn’t race with a HR but I had my reasons this time. I’m still not far enough into my training to accurately know when my body is giving up and I need to put a number on it. Unfortunately that number had now been flashing on my monitor for over twenty minutes and 4km. Surely this was going too hard?


I pressed on, and had to walk those final hill climbs (as did many people. A girl passed me just as we entered the forest. She was climbing like a pro and asked to pass me on my right.


‘Are you leading the women’s open?’ I asked. They were due to start five minutes after us.


‘Yes, thanks for letting me through’.


Good bloody work. half way round and she’d made at least five minutes on me. I wished her luck and carried on.


Lap 2


As we came into the second lap there weren’t many riders around. Lot’s of people you thought you were chasing were actually practice riders when you got close. I plodded on and did one of my gels. About half way round I started to feel it in my back.


I’d mentioned to my trainer about lower back pain on rides of around 2 hours or so before. Usually most noticeable during technical singletrack, my back seizes up and… oh hell, you’ve all had this problem. My worry was that I still had 5km or so to go on my second lap and I could do nothing to stop it. All the exercises I’d been doing to prevent this seem to have only delayed it.


Also the lack of riders around had me thinking. My HR was still 160 odd so I figured I was pushing all I could, but not having anyone to chase was making me wonder whether I was falling behind. I was passed by a couple more of the women’s leaders, which was fine, but the fact that I’d not been passed by any men in a while was encouraging. There was no way I was last, there were too many behind me at the start. And if they weren’t overtaking me they must be behind.


They must be feeling the same things. Surely I can’t be the only one hurting? My legs feel fine, apart from my back I feel great. I can do this. Besides, I only need to finish.


Lap 3


I kept pushing. I overtook a guy at the start of lap 3. At this stage he could have been anyone – a Vet or someone just starting, an Open guy I’d caught up to, a practice rider. It didn’t matter, it felt good. ‘On your right!!’ I shouted as I passed him at 2mph. Him crawling uphill at 1.5mph. I know how he felt.


I pushed through the initial rooty bit. The soft mud that had been almost unnoticeable during my practice lap had become chewed up and soggy through hundreds of riders churning it up. It was getting tough, my heart was still beating at over 160rpm and had been doing so for over an hour. My legs were tired, my back was locked. On the path leading up to the hill I could see riders again. Just a few. Some were practicing. Some were lean, fit and sponsored – the sport category had begun.


I pushed up the hill. Despite how my back felt I still felt excited for Labyrinth. I bombed down it, y internal monologue spurring me on the whole time. You might not see anyone, but noone’s passed you either. Half a lap to go. You’re bossing this part. You brought one thing today and this is where you can show it off.


Weirdly for other periods my internal monologue sounded like the drill instructor from Full Metal Jacket with my voice and accent. Weird. Anyway…


As I got towards the last hill in the forest something interesting happened. One of the women caught up to me and asked to pass. She was probably third or fourth in the open, and I let her through as I was slowing down. My knee began to hurt inside, bringing back an old stress injury I picked up walking the length of Manhattan in October, which came back in the gym a few days later when sprinting but I hadn’t had since. It was back, it was painful and it was slowing me down.


Anyway after I let this girl past she went up the hill and out of sight. However within minutes I was winding down the other side of that hill through the forest and I caught up to her. I was about 2km from the finish and that was all I needed. The rest is technical and you’ve GOT this. Just finish it!


I bombed through the forest towards the finish. I tried sprinting but my back wouldn’t let me. It lasted a couple of seconds before I had to stop trying. My back and my right knee was killing me. I just had to finish. Everyone I passed became a victory. Some guy who’s having a mechanical, I’ll take that. Some guy who’s clearly in another category – you’re mine! Some lady walking her dog, some kid on a bike. I destroyed them all.


As I came to the last, awesome yet lethal stretch of bumpy roots and dips I heard the unmistakable sound of another rider behind me (see pic). No way. Not now. It couldn’t be a sport rider he was way too far ahead. It wasn’t a girl. It had to be my nemesis. For the next thirty seconds, he was my mortal enemy. Whatever position I’m in right now, it isn’t last. He could change that. He wants to change that.


I felt him breathing down my neck. I kept going. The track opened into a small fork. On the left was a drop off and small jump. On the right was a slightly soft path which went round a small tree. I took the left. Nailed the drop off. Took off over the jump. There was no way he was taking me. Not with me throwing myself all over the show like that. The rules state you don’t have to give position, and there was no way I was giving this guy my spot. When I hit the tape path leading to the exit I knew I’d done it. I’d finished.


The Results


103rd out of 120 was pretty good for my first race. It was tough, but it was a load of fun. My lap times were around 39, 40 and 40 mins which is interesting for a few reasons. My avg lap time, let’s call it 40, was actually quicker than a lot of people’s last lap who finished higher. A lot of people got progressively worse as the race went on and whilst I though I was, my laps were almost identical.


Does this mean I didn’t push hard enough? Does it mean my endurance was great after all?


I’ll have to think hard about what they mean. I’m surprised that my third was as good as my second. I definitely began to feel it on the third lap but the consistency gives me the confidence that around 25km is my limit for an XC race.


My avg HR of 166 which concerned me for so long actually surprised me at the end. I didn’t feel like it was beyond my means, and I expect to race at this in future. I do feel that perhaps my practice lap was a bit too aggressive and may have contributed to my tiredness later, but this will be remedied in future.


Most importantly I learnt what racings all about, had a blast and picked up two injuries. Minor injuries, but ones that will come back and won’t go away unless I work on them. I’m visiting my physio this week to work on my lower back and knee and will report back. Better they happen two laps into a XC race two weeks into training than 2 hours into a 12 hour enduro six months later…


‘Oh Sugar, you’ve just gone and done the dumbest thing in your entire life…’

16 Feb

If you’ve been keeping up, you’ll know that not only is this my first year racing, but I used to be pretty out of shape. I didn’t get on my bike often enough and when I did we took it pretty easy and just enjoyed ourselves.









Why, then, after just starting bike specific training and with my first ever event still two weeks away, did I just sign up for this?

Well I may be mental but it does look like a hell of a lot of fun, and the perfect challenge at the peak of my season. In fact, I am now focussing my entire season around prepping for this event. I’ve entered the 12hr male solo (I’d rather not kill myself/take myself out of action for a fortnight by doing the full shift – although massive respect to those who do) and am now looking at my confirmed race calendar with a huge smile on my face. After the first interval session went so well I can’t stop thinking about Gorrick Round 2 and getting out there.

Which is why today took the wind out of my cocky sails a little bit. The second interval session (I’m doing the TCTP, please read below…) is identical to the first, and involves three 8 minute intervals at 92-94% Max HR. My first experience with this was pretty uplifting. It was tough but doable, challenging but fun. This one was much harder. My left calf started to cramp up during the second interval and I often struggled to keep my heart rate in the zone, either going to low or too high despite riding at the same gear as the time before.

It might have been down to an inadequate warmup as my diet was as good as if not better than before. It could also have been a little tiredness, so I hit the foam roller hard afterwards and stretched out properly, followed by cold/hot treatment in the shower and every other recovery trick I could remember.

I guess we’ll see next time how it goes…

The Cold, Hard South.

15 Feb

I haven’t updated in a while, mainly out of frustration.

For anyone who’s been in the UK recently, the temperature dropped massively at the beginning of February and I went and got a cold. That couple with two weeks of sub zero temperatures at the beginning and end of the day meant no training for one week, and no training outside for the second!

This meant postponing my training from the last week of January to the third week of February. On the downside this means my first race, the second round of the Gorrick Spring Series, is now two weeks into my training rather than my planned five. With Black Park the week after and a 70km sportive the week after that, it means that the focus on those is now simply enjoying myself and getting to grips with racing and events, and my peak should now be a few weeks later.

I’m actually quite happy with this, as it clears my calendar and takes the pressure off my early races hugely.

So a quick catch up…

  • My main training plan revolves around my existing strength training that I have been doing for a year (I can hear other racers groaning as most stop upper body work early in their seasons training, but I’m gonna keep it up) and the Time Crunched Training Plan of Chris Carmeichel. This generally involves two days of hard interval training in specific Heart Rate Zones a week. More on this later.
  • The crux of these intervals relate to working within your Lactate Threshold Heart Rate Zones. Rather than your Max HR, which is difficult to calculate and arguably not as useful for this kind of training, your LTHR Max determines your personal point of maximum sustainable effort. The point at which your body is truly pushing it’s limits and can only sustain the effort for a limited period of time.
  • The CTS Field Test is used in the training plan to determine this threshold. This involved a test involving a good warmup, followed by two eight minute all out intervals on a flat road with ten minutes rest between. After doing these, take the AVG HR for both intervals and the highest average is your LTHR Max. Mine is 171 according to these (painful) tests.

So long story short, my first interval session in Week 1 of the TCTP involved three eight minute intervals at 92-94% of that max, with five minutes rest between.

I chose due to the weather and my location to do this on a stationary bike at the gym. It’s not ideal but a controlled environment and access to their stretching and foam roller equipment afterwards sold it for me, and to be honest I can’t see that changing. I live in central London and throughout the course of the forty minute workout I rode 20km. To find 15km of straight road with no stopping in central London, whilst keeping my heart rate between 157 and 161 BPM would be next to impossible. Seeing as the HR Zones are crucial to the training, I will probably, perhaps unfortunately, complete all my training (bar rides and races obviously) in the gym.

The session went really well. I had done a tough (and possibly final for the time being) leg strength workout with my trainer three days before. I was comfortably pressing 120kg amongst the usual squats and lunges etc so I feel really well conditioned from the past year in that department.

The first interval after the warm up settled quite quickly. Within a minute I was comfortably staying to the HR zone despite it being quite tight, and between Rise Against on the Ipod and football on the TV it was surprisingly holding my attention. Considering I usually get bored warming up for longer than five minutes, let alone sitting there for forty five, the changing intervals and the constantly having to watch the HR Monitor kept my attention for the full time. At the end of the session I felt really confident with the future workouts, and started eyeing up crazy things like the Bontrager 24/12 😉

This weekend I should be taking a look round the Black Park course for the race on the 4th, so that will cover my Saturday training and then the week after is Gorrick. Hopefully the next few sessions go just as well!

Black Park

22 Jan

Today had to be a good day for training. With work commitments ruining my training for most of the week and my group ride having to be cancelled on the Saturday, I had to step back up with both an upper body workout and an hour or so on my bike. First thing in the morning and my chest workout went well. I’m currently in the fortnight downtime between nitrous oxide energy supplements used for strength training, and I was feeling the effects of not using them. I’ve been exhausted all week and I have made less progression than usual. Despite this, the session went well and Im back on them next week.

For the ride I went to Black Park as I didn’t really have the time to travel to Swinley and it was getting late in the day. Black Park is quite mountain bike friendly, but notoriously flat. It’s got some nice trails and even some man made bits but generally it’s fast, flat and relentless.

The key goals highlighted by last weeks ride were as follows…

  • Cadence – 63rpm on average over two hours is pathetic and detrimental to my training. The idea that I may have been riding at this pace for years is a little worrying and I’m glad I got the Garmin early enough to work on this. I should be aiming for at least 80-85rpm and ideally around 90-95rpm. This was the main focus of the day.
  • Avg Heart Rate – 146 may or may not be fine, but there were a few little rests in Swinley and sightseeing stops that make me believe this could be higher. Today I was on my own and had no excuse to stop pedalling.
  • Avg Speed – Due to the lack of hills in Black Park, I anticipate that if I kept my cadence at 90rpm and thus kept my heart rate higher, the average speed would inevitably increase. My max speed would also likely be lower with the lack of downhills.

A few minutes in it was these lack of downhills that I was starting to feel. With no downhills and a determination not to stop (you can’t stop in a race!) my legs were really working. Combined with my attempts to keep the cadence up I was definitely feeling it more than last week.

Half way in and I was starting to feel like I’d already done two hours, and I had only done thirty minutes. I struggled to shift into the large chainring and still keep my cadence about 75rpm, and occasionally had to drop down to the smallest after a sprint. Despite the occasional long sprint my heart rate never really peaked (although it did reach 177 at one point) but pushing my heart rate is best left to the intervals I will be starting in a few weeks.

I got some good cornering practice in and generally felt really good, but it was a massive jump from last week. Considering after an hour I was knackered I definitely need to train hard to be able to keep that pace up for longer. Whilst Black Park is unusually relentless and lacking in any downhill breaks, seeing as my first race is the Black Park XC12 on March 4th I better get used to that style!

The link to the route and stats as before is here –

Next week I need to continue my cadence work now that I know how it should feel consistently, and definitely continue keeping up the pace. Hopefully we’ll see some more improvements. Also I’m quite impressed by the km/minute increase when I up the pace. All promising!