Monday, 25 September 2017

3 Peaks cyclo cross - done.


See that happy smiley face? That's 'cos Simons Fell wasn't killing me. That was a relief. My coach said "it's no a running race", so lets bin the running and concentrate on the cycling and you know what, he was right.
To be honest I had no idea how I would do in this race and the night before I was very nervous, more nervous than I think any other race I've done. I just didn't know how fit I was, I've never done 7 weeks on the turbo, could I go hard from the start? Or should I pace myself round so that I could at least finish?
Add that to the apprehension about the bonkers start and would my bottle caching idea work and I didn't sleep well on 3Peaks Eve!
I had gone down a day early, this was a good thing; I could recover from the 6hr drive (massive sleep in a massive bed)  recce parts of the course, get a wee pre-race ride in and sus out where to stash some bottles.
This all went well, I'm a great believer in recce-ing and checking everything in plenty of time, I hate last minute 'faffing about' - check it and forget it.
Even so, restless sleep, up really early, big Premier Inn breakfast and off to the race. Sign in, meet friends, hand over bottles - for hand-ups where possible, and try to look calm (wasn't).
The line up is mad, stand in a place you think might be near the front a good half hour early, then watch as loads more push in til you're no longer able to see the front!
Then the start.
How to describe the start?
It's like 650 totally wired and hyped up cyclists all trying to get to the front, utter madness.
My coach had 'reassured' me by saying go as hard as you can right from the gun, get up near the front (well, top 50-60ish) and just hang in there for the rest of the race. Gulp.
Heart rate straight up to max and bonkers riding all around me, going from hard on the brakes to stamping out watts that I should only ever see in 20 second intervals. I'm sure there were crashes, there was certainly lots of colourful shouting.
Even with all this effort we still hit the first obstacle - a cattle grid, bunched up and there's some impressive track standing to avoid unclipping.
I'll not give a blow by blow account of the whole race, but Simons Fell was over without too much pain, the first descent was very boggy and I grabbed my first cached bottle with shouts of "well done Paul Masson!" from those who had been standing near my labelled bottle!
Loved that.
Picked up a nice wee group on the first road section, everyone worked well together and pretty quickly it's off the bike and onto the second climb - Whernside.
Another trudge, but as on Simons Fell, I wasn't suffering too much and even managed to pick off a few people throughout the climb, this was starting to feel good.
Followed a 'local' on the descent, dunno if this was a good thing, ended in a bog and had to run onto the main track. Maybe not do that again.
Second bottle hand up went well, until I reached down to my bottle cage for a drink a few k's later only to see that I had half a bottle cage and no bottle. A thirsty last climb then. Hooked up with a handy time trial looking rider i.e. a good windbreak, on the road to Pen-y-Ghent and between us we towed along a good half dozen other riders. Thanks guys.
Pen-y-Ghent climb was fine, picked off more riders, legs still felt good, rode to where you should be able to ride - 1x11 gearing was grand.
Dibbed at top, saw the time and thought 'jeez that's good' then proceeded to ride like a right punter on the descent 'cos all I could think about was 'don't crash', 'don't puncture' instead of just riding like a rider that normally rides lots of rocky downhills (like I live in the Cairngorms) duh.
Anyhoo, out onto road, catch a few more riders who seem quite happy just to sit in, but I'm there now so use my last few watts dropping them. Up ya.
So a strong finish leaves me thinking could I have gone a wee bit quicker?
Dunno, but even now, one day on, I'm already thinking of next year!
Massive thanks to my coach David Lines of Espresso Cycle Coaching, he told me what to do and it worked.
Oh and not forgetting all those involved in the race, the marshals, the gang that help pass the bikes over the fences, the bystanders that cheer you on and those that thought I looked thirsty and offered me up drinks on Pen-y-Ghent, all these people are awesome and reaffirm your belief that most normal people are actually quite nice!
Til next year...

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

3 Peakscx Prep' Done.


That's it done. 3 Peakscx prep over. A very different build up phase than last time, or any other race prep' I've ever done before.
It all started same as normal, long rides, short fast rides, some hill running, mountain biking for da skilllzzz and cutting out all the nibbles. Weight was slowly dropping down to race weight i.e. the weight I was 7 years ago (last 3peakscx attempt) and the running was feeling good.
Then disaster; whilst on holiday I dived off a high board into Lake Annecy and burst my eardrum. That hurt. Lots. Worse than that though was it affected my balance and exercising made it agony (raises blood pressure? Dunno) Sore though.
Lost nearly 4 weeks due to that silly little thing and started to panic. So much so that I contacted my friend Gary Macdonald to ask about training advice, he recommended his coach - David Lines (Espresso Coaching). Davie and I then had a chat about 'everything' and once he'd seen my background data and FTP results decided on a predominantly indoor turbo based training phase for the time we had left - 7 weeks.
Now, I'm not an indoor training sort of a guy (I mean, I live in the Cairngorms!), but with the amount of hours I had available each week and the relatively short time left I saw the logic in it, gritted my teeth and did exactly as I was told!
I borrowed one of those modern 'posh' wheel-off direct drive trainers, hooked myself up for power, hrm, on line training software, tunes, fan and towels to mop up the copious amounts of sweat and basically left it all set up to avoid any 'putting it off' excuses.
I had on average 7 hours a week available and my coach made sure every minute of that time counted.
Sweet spot work, threshold work, strength endurance, VO2 max, tempo, long Z4 intervals, short and nasty flat out high gear max power intervals, you name it, I suffered it.
And suffer I did, some sessions made me sick and some made me fall off the turbo when finished and lie down curled up in a ball making really bad noises.
It was brutal, but effective, FTP has gone up 'a lot' and I now have veins and muscles on my legs.
No running, no hill climbs carrying the bike, virtually no outside riding, every minute was dedicated to chasing the WATT.
Weight dropped off shockingly fast, I'm normally 69kg, I'm now 64. I weighed that when I was running marathons at 21. Wife says I look scrawny and weedy. Perfect.
Power to weight is now 'respectable' for a mamil. HRM strap no longer gives me 'moobs' I've had to buy new jeans and some of my once very tight lycra - 'that' Castelli top, now fits nicely.
New outfits ordered.
My Stigmata also went on a diet; carbon everything, lighter cassette, silly light pedals, Cross Boss tyres instead of those awful 3peaks only Landrover tyres and it now looks as lean as me. 7kgs, hope it survives.
Am I ready? Dunno, nervous as hell this time round, really want to equal my old time which was just under the 4hr mark, but who knows - no plan survives first contact with the enemy...