Sunday, October 30, 2011
Monday, October 24, 2011
Conditions - Dull, Raining and extreamly windy
Distance - 83 miles
Total time - 5.34 hrs
TSS - 301
Waking up at a 9.30, again the longest lie in i have had for about 10 years, I checked the weather from the bedroom window and was pleased to see the sun and dry ground, although the wind was blowing an absolute gail. But considering the forcast the previous day said heavy rain I was quite pleased with what we had been given.
The aim of todays ride was to do another 5 hrs or so and rack up a total of 300 TSS which would see us with a great training stimulas and some quality base miles. As for the route, I had planned to ride out to Malaucene and complete the ascent of Ventoux which starts in the town, we would then descent from the summit down in to Sault and take a right which would see us head west along the back of Ventoux on the D942, D74 and the D40 which will bring us to Entrechaux. From here it would be a ride back south through Bedoin and home again which should give us a good 5 hrs on the clock.
As we headed out of the village we soon realized how windy it actually was and when Ventoux finally came in to view we cringed at what we saw; Big black clouds whirling around around the summit and sitting so low that you couldent even see the white stone that has made the mountain famous, it was a like a scene from a Count Dracular movie where you get the first glimpse of his Castle with clouds circling above. We agreed that we would ascend as far as it was sensible and if we had to the we would head back down and change the route.
We hit the climb after about and hours worth of riding and was thankful that the mountain side was sheltering us from the wind. After a couple of kms we meet a mountain biker who was holiday from his home of St Tropez, he asked if we minded if he stuck with us for as long as he could which was fine by us. We had a nice chat for a while which made the miles tick by but it didnt hide the fact that the air was getting colder and the summit was still looking pretty horrid. I told Mike that i would plough onwards to Mont Serein and see what the conditions were like and whether it was worth carrying on to the Summit. I accelerated off and let Mike keep the french man entertained, It suddenly became very hard work with the hardest section of 2 km at 11% infected with a super strong headwind, it didt make the ascent any easier. When i did eventually reach Mont Serein I was literally blown over and very close to being blown off the side, I quickly whipped my awseome Gortex coat out and descended back down to meet Mike. I told him that it was a pointless task trying to reach the summit and it would only end with us in trouble if we did get to the top, at this point we turned around and began the descend bact to the town during which we almost had a Tour de France moment when 2 stray dogs were running around on the road and we only just manahed to get past with out a massive accident.
Up on finishing the descent, we changed the route plan and decided to ride the otherway round to sault on the same road but simply doing it backwards. Mike however had had enough and decided that he would head home as he was feeling pretty tired. We shook hands and went our seperate ways, although i have to admit i was a bit unsure about leaving him to find his own way back as he is known as the James May of Stratford CC as his sense of direction is pretty bad! Sorry Mike. I kept to the plan and headed towards to D40 which would take me to Sault and soon it was clear that it would be a tough ride, the Wind was easily blowing at 45-50km and it was directly against me and would be for the next 40 miles. I settled in, had some more food and just dug away. The wind was draining the life out of me and no matter how much I ate or drank i was slowly getting more and more fatigued and things only got worse when the hevans opened up with 10km to Sault. Thankfully i had my handy Gortex rain coat which i have to say is one of the best peices of kit i have ever brought.
Finally i reached Sault and was completely drained, 2 hours in to the head wind had proved hard work and i was greatfull that i was changing dirction and heading west back over the Col de Les Abeilles which desends straight in to my Village. With the rain still falling i got going immediatly and felt a bit better than i did earlier on and started the climb with a spring in my step but soon enough the wind was back in my face and i was back to crawlng speed and being robbed of my last reserves. Over the top of the climb I didnt have far to go but my body had decided it wanted to finish now and i was soon treated to the feelings of the dreaded bonk; Tingly fingers, numb legs, tunnel vision and dizzy spells. I pulled over to compose my self and down my last bit of sustinence; a CNP Cola flavoured gel, boy did it hit the spot. It gave me the enough fuel to get over the last few rises which finally saw me start the descent, one of the scariest descents i have ever done. The road isnt steep or technical, the complete opposite in fact, it was due to being battered from the left by a hurricane force wind and having my front wheel lifted off of the floor whist doing 50 mph, Pretty fucking scary.
Finally i pulled up outside our residence and have rearly been happier or more releaved to be home. The first thing i did was sit down and gulp a recovery drink, closley followed by a cup of tea, cosley followed by a bowl of cereal, closely followed by anothet cup of tea. The shower fely like a dream and the 3rd cup of tea after it tasted just as good as the first. Well, i ended up doing what i planned; 5.5 hrs on the clock and just over 300 TSS, job done. Oh and remeber Mike who headed home as he decided he didnt want to do a long ride? well it turns out he did end up getting lost and arrived only 5 minutes before me with 75 milles on the clock! Hard core.
Ride Day one – Sunday 23 October 2011
Conditions – Sunny with patchy clouds, 13 degrees at sea level
Distance – 85 miles
Ride time – 5.10 hrs.
TSS – 305
Total Ascent – 2600 meters
Rise and Shine
Today saw a late rise for me, especially when a long ride is planned. Well I suppose 9am isn't too late but there was no way that I was going to set my alarm after the knackering day of doing nothing yesterday and it was so nice to sleep in a comfortable bed and get a good solid kip. Opening the French shutter revealed a pleasant looking day; calm, bright and a light covering of cloud in the sky, basically perfect cycling conditions. After a quick toilet stop we headed down stairs to feast on a breakfast of muesli with chopped banana and a chunk of fresh baguette with the cyclist favourite smothered all over it; Nutella!!! Mikey decided he would just have a mammoth bowl of muesli which he soon regretted as he has to force it down with a slightly sick looking expression on his face. Bless him.
With our pockets crammed full of food, oversized Ortlieb saddled bag stuffed full of extra cloths and extra food we were pretty much set to go. I didn't really have any idea of our initial direction but I had a basic game plan for the ride. Firstly we would get in 2 hours or so and head in the direction of the place that we stayed for the last couple of years which is the village of Seguret. This village has been classed as one of France's most beautiful villages and built in to a hill side which back on the to the vast forest of the Dentaeles. We would then loop back round and headed towards Bedoin in order to start the most used and most recognised ascent of Mont Ventoux. Depending on how we felt when we reached the summit we would either descent back in to Sault and take the longer way back home or we would head back in to Bedoin and take the shorter way home. Whatever we did we wanted to get a good solid 5 hrs in and take in the climb.
As we set of it was a bit chilly but the sun was soon pocking nose out and we could feel the warmth on our backs. The first initial miles brought back floods of memories from holidays gone by, some of amazing rides and some of terrible bonks but all in all it was like coming back home to where I belong. It's funny because the first thing you realise when you ride in this part of the world ids how slow it all feels, the roads just seem to grab hold of your tyres and it can feel like riding in syrup. Also, there seems to be a head wind all of the time, I know we say this most of the time but in France it really does feel like it and no matter which way you turn the wind is always pounding your cheeks and never seems to be pounding your other cheeks, if you know what I mean!
We headed out toward Carpentras and had our first reminder that we must look to the left when we enter roundabouts, the sound of an angry horn made us remember for the rest of the ride as the next 5 hours went off without a hitch. I was improvising the route as we went along which is good fun as you can't really get to lost because you simply use Ventoux as a homing beacon in order to find out where you are. We made our way northwards towards Vaison la Romaine, the medieval town which to distinct districts; one side of the river is the new town which hosts a grand market on various day and the other side is the old town which is built in to the hill side and is still home to many residents and businesses. From here it was a couple of kilometres till we reached the Seguret which again brought back more memories, we made our way up to the house where I preceded to hug the side of the building, rummage round the back to view the garden and then get going again.
Onwards and soon upwards
It was at this point where I programmed Bedoin in to the Garmin and headed toward to legendary climb. As we pedalled there was a slight feeling of trepidation in the air from both of us. For Mikey it was due to feeling of uncertainty as this would be the first time he has ever done anything like this and it has been made all the harder as we have done 3 hours before we have even reached the foot of the climb. For me it was because I knew what was coming having done the climb about 30 times before and I had no idea how I would fare as I have never done it after 3hrs either. It wasn't long before we were pedalling through Bedoin and turning right on to the D974 which marks the start of the climb. After a quick picture next to the Mt Ventoux sign we began our ascent of this epic lump in the ground. If you have ever done Ventoux you will know how easy the first few kilometres are which simple lull you in to false sense of security before the road really kicks up and once it does, it doesn't let up again for the next 18kms.
It all went quiet and soon the only sounds that could be heard were those of shifting gears and deep breathing. It was very strange doing the climb in October compared to August as there was barely another soul on the road apart from us, typically I would pass about 100 other cyclists on my way to the summit but today I passed 1, just 1, no because I was hideously slow but because there was no one else stupid enough to do this climb in late October when its shrouded in mist! WE were about 45 minute in to the climb when I turned to mike and asked him how he was feeling, the reply didn't sound too good, "I feel like shit and I think I'm going to pass out"!! Not how you want to be feeling when you still have 11km of 9% to go. I told mike that Chalet Reynard was not too far away and that he should stop if he needed and I would carry on but descend back to him once I had reached the restaurant. This is what we did, Mike had a breather whilst I chugged on and with every pedal stroke I noticed it was getting colder with every meter of vertical ascent that ticked off. When I did reach Chalet Reynard I decided that I would just keep going as I knew that if I started descending now I would just freeze and wouldn't be able to get warm enough to start climbing again.
Its only 6km from Reynard to the summit, just a measly 6km! Trust me, this can be the hardest 6km you will ever do and with over 4 hours on the clock it was indeed pretty tough. Not as hard as I have found it but no exactly comfortable and as it was now getting toward zero degrees, even my effort climbing couldn't keep me warm.
As I rounded the last bend which is hideously steep I barely managed to rise out of the saddle due to the cold and as soon as I crossed the finish line in a pretty casual time of 90 minutes, my best being 75, I quickly stopped, grabbed my new Gore Tex coat out of my handy saddle bag and slung it on before starting the descent. I had decided that when I saw mike I would tell him that the top was a long way off and it was freezing so we should just head back home and he can try again another day. However, to my surprise I only managed about 3km of descent before I spotted mike standing at the side of the road. I was amazed that he had managed to get so far and that he was so near the top, there was no way that he would stop now so we would carry on to the top and let him conquer this beast. He informed me that he had about 2 minutes rest when I let him at which point his anger pushed him onwards and he set out to chase me down. He had one or few stops on the way up but had still made amazing progress. We had one last little stop before the straight where I told him to put on his coat in preparation for the summit and ploughed onwards. Upon reaching the top we had a manly hug and then quickly realised just how freezing it was so we got the fuck out of there and started our descent.
We decided that as we had almost 5 hrs on the clock we would head the direct way home by descending straight back down towards Bedoin. I think it's fair to say that although we thought we were prepared we really weren't. It was absolutely freezing and soon it was my turn to start feeling dizzy. The cold was almost unbearable, my hands were beginning to fail and I could barely feel my legs. It just seemed to go on forever and no matter how far we descended back towards sea level, the air just never seemed to get any warmer. We finally hit the bottom of the main climb and I pulled over to see how mike was, he pulled alongside me with a ghostly look on his face which was also very blue. He was worse than me so I gave him a manly rub for a few minutes in order to get some warmth back in to his torso which seemed to do the trick. We too the signs for the village and headed for home, it was so hard to try and pedal as the cold had all but killed my legs and I could hardly turn them. It was a nice feeling when we rolled in to the village and finally began to feel a bit warmer. We stopped off at the local drinking hole for a quick cappuccino to get some real heat back in to our system and drink to a job well done.
So with day one out of the way and some experience gained ready for the next day, we headed back to the house where we walked in to the glorious smell of beef casserole cooking in the oven, a well-earned one at that.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
If you were to ask me where my all-time favourite place in the world is, I wouldn't have to think about it for too long. For me the answer is a simple one; the top of Mont Ventoux looking northward towards the southern tip of the Alps on a clear day. Perfect. For the last couple of years our family holidays have all been to the south of France and twice they have been to a small village called Seguret which is situated in the department of Varcluse in Provence and sits just a few miles west of the legendary Ventoux. Both of the times we have been we have journeyed down in early august, just me, my sister, my folks and of course the bikes. I have always used this time as a kind of training camp and took it up on myself to put In some hard long miles and prepare myself for an end of season peak, this has meant that although the riding was fantastic I never really took the time to savour the enjoyment and realise how great the riding actually was as there was always an sense of pressure to get the training done; I spent more time looking at my Garmin head unit and the watts than I did looking at the amazing scenery.
It's now late October and we are making the same trip down to Ventoux as we have made in previous years only this time a few things will be different. Firstly we are going at a different time of year, autumn, and I have no idea what the weather will be like which could prove interesting. Secondly I am heading down with my mum, my dad and my best mate Mikey, yes the same Mikey that broke his collar bone only a few weeks ago! Lastly, although I will be putting in some long miles it will not be hard focused training but will instead be about getting in some early winter base miles and actually taking the time to take in the scenery and enjoy being on my bike, my power meter will be present but I won't be drawn to the numbers this time.
Day 1& 2 – The Long Way Down
The south of France is long way away and we don't take the easy quick option of flying down, oh no, we like to do it the long and uncomfortable way of driving it. 800 miles from Stratford upon Avon to the Village of Villes Sur Arzon where we will be staying. In the past years we have just done it all in one go but this time we decided to break it up a little in order to make it a bit more bearable.
At 5.36 pm sharp we had the car fully loaded with 3 bikes, 1 week worth of food, clothes and essentials, various bits of equipment including 4 smart phones, 1 laptop, 3 Garmin's, 1 Tom Tom, 2 cameras and about 10 different chargers., Oh and 4 people! After a quick stop at a post box to post a letter which I forget to do we set off on the first leg of the journey, rather than drive straight down to Folkestone, get on the train and then continue down to France, we decided we would stop at a Travelodge about 10 miles before for the tunnel and get a few hours kip before boarding the training at 5am the next morning. We got the Travelodge at about 8.30 on the night and after sneaking 4 people and a bike in to a 3 person room, we had a quick cuppa, a bit to eat and then hit the sack before an early rise.
As expected it was crap night's sleep for everyone except for my old man who kept us all awake with his intoxicating snoring!! Teeth brushed, clothes on and beds somewhat made, we headed out the door at 4.20am and made our way to the tunnel ready for our depart and the start of what we class as the real journey. Thankfully we got on the train without a hitch and 35 minutes later we were in the gran land of the Frenchies and faced with a further 600 miles of driving ahead of us. The first 100 miles were easy as I made up for the sleep that I lost the night before and woke up at around 9am and was greeted by thick fog and a temperature gauge that read 2 degrees!!! A bit of a change to when we head down in the summer. I have to admit that I detest long car journeys but thankfully I had a few things to keep me entertained such as angry birds on my phone and writing this blog, I hope that these simple pleasures would help the journey go a bit quicker.
After getting 200 miles under our belt and breezing on past Reims, we decided to stop at service station and get some breakfast and fill the car up with fuel. It's crazy, every country is the same when it comes to motorway services, they know they have you by the bollocks and will charge extortionate amounts for anything they can. The petrol is twice the price and a couple a panachocolates, 3 bottles of drink and a pack of biscuits came to 14 euros. Filthy bastards! Anyway, breakfast consumed we are back in car and hurtling out way down to Lyon with 300 miles to go and the weather still looking grim.
600 miles later and finally we pulled up outside Le Maison Juane, out temporary home for the next week and what an amazing place. Right in the centre of the village, the house is 3 stories, full of character and has a real homely feel. It took about 20 minutes to unpack all of the car and get ourselves sorted, soon we a were sitting down in front of the TV with sore tired eyes, drinking tea and rifling through a box of roses whilst watching X Factor! Nice. It wasn't long before we were all in bed after a long exhausting day and looking forward to the first ride of the holiday just the very next day.
Sunday, October 9, 2011
With the season done and dusted and no more racing planned apart from a few fun races and a couple of cross races, my focus now shifts to the winter and laying the foundations ready for the new season. This is true for most road cyclists who follow a structured training program, yet many forget one vital part of the structure; The Transition.
Most cyclists and athletes for that matter have such determination to better themselves for next season that they dive straight in to long hard winter training after only just calling an end to an even longer and harder season of racing! Many riders I know will finish there last race on the last weekend of September and will then be riding a 25hr training week starting on the following Monday, This will led to one thing; Burnout, overtraining and a poor start to the coming year. I can say this with first-hand experience, for 2 years I raced a full season of road racing and then competed in Cyclocross through the winter which started before the road season had even ended. This lead to me starting the following road season fatigued both physically and mentally and lacking the motivation and desire to compete that had been present in previous years. Last winter I decided that enough was enough and I needed a break so I didn't race the cross season, however I made the other mistake of diving head first in to tough structured training comprising of hours and hours of hard riding and this started before my last race of the season so once again I had no lay off period. This is what many cyclists, runners, swimmer and multisport athletes do and yet deep down we all know that it's the wrong thing to be doing. So why do we allow ourselves to do, why is the urge to get on with it so strong?
I think that most athletes will agree that to be successful in high level sport you must have something about, something that keeps your pushing on and pursuing sporting excellence. I also think that it's fair to say, and I'm sure most will agree, that many top level athletes have obsessive compulsive tendencies and it's this mind-set that allow for such driven determination and self-sacrifice. However, this does come with its problems and the one key issue is the worry of losing what has being gained, the worry of getting slower and not fitter, the fear of slipping back and not striding forwards. This is the main reason why many athletes will rush in to hard training after the season end and be busting out eye popping intervals before Christmas. It's all down to the fact that they don't want to think of themselves undoing all of their hard work and that if they keep up their race fitness through the winter then they can just keep building on that going in to next year. Unfortunately this is not how it works.
Athletes can only maintain peak race fitness for so long as the base on which this speed and power is built on begins to crumble, eventually this foundation will give in and that when you know it's time to back off, rest, recuperate and rebuild an if you have done your season right then this should happen just as your last races are taking place. He aim then is to rest up and allow your body to return to equilibrium, only then can you start laying down the foundations again. You wouldn't build a house straight on to a muddy swamp or crumbling piece of rock so why would you want to build your pyramid of fitness on the same kind of thing. So before we begin building our house we need to lay a solid foundation, but before laying the foundation we need to clear the weeds and rock from the land and level it nice and flat. So how do we do that I hear you ask, well it's simple; it's called a Transition period.
So what exactly is a transition period? A transition period is the interim between the end of your racing season and the start of your sport specific winter training. Why is this period so vital? A transition period allow you to ease back, re charge your batteries and re fill the tank which means that you will go in to your training topped up with energy, focus and motivation. It's also a time to reflect and review your racing season and look at what went well, what needs work, where were your strengths and weakness, did you achieve what you set out to do? It also gives you the chance to set new goals and targets for the coming year and begin to plan the training that will take you there. Most importantly though its about letting your hair down, spending time doing things that you have missed out on during the race season, eating few "bad" foods, lying in, staying up later and enjoying life without the stress or pressure of training and racing. Some people may do this full on and not touch the bike for 2 weeks, others such as myself will keep riding their bikes but will put away the gadgets and gizmos and ride with the aim of seeing the world and enjoying the view, something that many of us don't do due to staring at our Garmin's!
This year I am doing my transition period in the right way, I had planned what I was going to do a few weeks before the season ended. I arranged the things that needed to arranged in order to accommodate my plan and went out and made a few new purchases as well. This is how my end of season transition period is going to look:
The Transition period will last a total of 4 weeks and will begin at the end of my last race which was on the 18th of September (as you read this I will already be in the 2nd week of my TP). It will end the day before we go away to France for a family holiday, this holiday will mark the start of my Base training, something which I will discuss as I enter that phase. My personal aim for my TP is to firstly break my routine which I have been stuck in for the last few months and refresh my mind and allow my body to freshen up and recover. I will also use the reduction in training as a way to aim my weight gain, this is something that has been a real challenge and has caused me many problems over the past few years. My aim is to increase my weight from 53kg to 58-60kg; this is where my sweet spot is and where I need to get back to. Finally, this period will give me the chance to work on any physical niggles or injuries that have cropped up during the season, the main one being a long term back issue and now a trapped nerve in my right shoulder. These will be a priority during the first few weeks of my TP.
My weekly plan for next 4 weeks is as follows:
Monday – 1.5 – 2 hrs. Resistance training
Resistance training will play a big role in my entire winter campaign but the focus in this period is building a foundation of strength and work on any muscular imbalances. The session will be a fully body workout with some time spent on lower body and some spent on upper body.
Tuesday Morning – 60 min swim
Yes I know what your thinking, why the hell am I going swimming!!! Well, no I'm not becoming a Triathlete, it's simply a form of cross training that provides a different physical stimulus and keeps my mind fresh and invigorated. I am also aware that my upper body is in a very poor state so tis will begin to engage the muscles that rarely get worked, it will also help improve my core stability and breathing rhythm.
Tuesday Evening – 1.5 hrs. Club Run
This will be a nice steady ride out with the local club in order to keep my legs used to pedalling and also for the social aspect of cycling, something that many of us competitive lot have long forgotten about.
Wednesday – Pub Run
Even more social that a normal club run, this is a nice easy ride out to a pub, a drink and then a poodle back home. What could be better?
Thursday - 1.5 – 2 hrs. Resistance training
This will be my second resistance session of the week and will mimic the first
Friday Morning – 60 min Swim
Saturday – 2 hrs. on the Club bash
Sunday – 2-3 hours nice and easy with the lads or if I don't feel like doing much I will just chill with a day off the bike.
In this time I am also seeing a Chiropractor in order to get my back and trapped nerve sorted out; this is something that may be on-going for as long as it need to. This structure will set me up nicely for my Base period and will allow me to get my body back to equilibrium and make it strong and resilient ready for the hard work that is to come. If there is one thing I would encourage all athletes to look at doing right this year is the Transition Period, it will set you on the right road going in to the new season.