Monthly Archives: May 2017

Everesting training – one week in and I’ve not failed yet

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Lower part of Dragon Hill Road, Uffington

Well, that might not set the cycle training world alight but there was every possibility that I would fail in the first week. I’ll take the fact that I didn’t as a success.

The aim for last week was a ride of 60km and two rides with at least 15 reps of Dragon Hill Road in total. There was also the expectation of two runs with Mrs Omil. As it turned out I did the two runs  for a total of 12km (on Sunday and Wednesday), a ride of 64.5km (Monday) and two hill climb sessions with a total of 16 reps of Dragon Hill Road (6 on Wednesday and 10 on Friday).

In total the rides were about 136km with 2,178m of climbing. The longer ride was done at 30kph for the first 40km but then suffered from a strengthening headwind! It’s a bit worrying that the total rides were less that a quarter of an everesting!

The 10 climbs on Friday felt easier than the 6 on Tuesday – partly because I’d already had a run on Tuesday and partly because I’m still getting over the chest infection. What is clear however is that I’m likely to do the minimum to (just) exceed my targets! I’ll need to keep them challenging!

Naturally, I’m more grinder than spinner when it comes to cadence so I’m working hard to climb in a lower gear than normal. I guess that will help when I come to the real thing but I’m avoiding using bottom gear so as to keep it in reserve for when I really need it.

Another thing I’ve decided is to se if I can lose whatever weight I can now, rather than waiting until July. I don’t know if I’ve ever damaged my power output by weight loss in the past but if I lose it now and then stabilise it, I assume power is less likely to be compromised. Weight this morning 64.4kg.

I don’t want to end up bored with (or hating) Dragon Hill – and nor do I want to become great at just that one hill (fat chance) and rubbish at any others (more likely). Accordingly I’m changing the formulation of next week’s targets to:

– a ride of over 75km,

– at least 12 reps up Dragon Hill and

– a third ride with over 1000m of climbing.

Plus the usual couple of runs, of course.

With some social commitments I can’t miss, it looks like a challenging plan.

The 8 week countdown has started

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Uffington White Horse (just discernible centre top)

It’s now 8 weeks to the proposed everesting attempt – time to get serious (or at least, serious-ish) about the training.

This week has been improving after last weekend’s chest infection and although I’m still able to blow out satisfying amounts of muck, I’ve got back to some exercise. Thursday saw a trip to the south coast and a 8.5km run along the Bournemouth beachfront with my wife. We ran, gently, again this morning – just over 6km.

Yesterday I reintroduced myself to Dragon Hill Road which leads up to the Uffington White Horse. It’s about 1km with just over 90m of ascent. With the ride out there and back, 5 reps of the hill turned out to be 30km – an hour and a half of riding with 674m of climbing.

I hope the chap at the bottom of the hill with the broken rear derailleur and the young lady I helped with a puncture both got home safely.

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Looking down on the lower half of the climb

Absolutely no one has asked me why I’m not going to do the everesting on Dragon Hill. The answer is that (while it’s no M4) it’s a bit too busy with cars, a bit too narrow (a car and a bike is a squeeze) and at 9% or so it’s a bit too steep (with a flattish section in the middle, meaning some parts have % gradients up in the high teens).

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Up towards the top of Dragon Hill

One problem with everesting is that it involves both climbing and distance (8848m and, I estimate, 280km respectively). Accordingly, I think the aim this week must be to ride at least 3 times – one longer ride and two sets of hill reps. A total of 15 reps of the Dragon, coupled with a ride of at least 60km has to be the minimum aim this coming week.

A fourth and fifth ride would be good, weather and time permitting but I’m likely to run twice with my wife so that might be pushing it a bit.

Under promise, over deliver (I hope).

 

Training plans – benefit or burden?

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Of course I understand that if you set yourself a significant challenge, you have to train for it. However, I have mixed thoughts about most training plans.

My main gripe is that I always feel guilty when I fail to stick to them (which is every time). Once the guilt sets in it’s easy to forget the good bits you are doing and what you are achieving and just focus on the negatives – the parts of the plan you are flunking.

Holidays, injury, bad weather, social commitments, laziness – there are always more reasons not to train than there are to train.

My other gripe is that they always seem to be so over-blown. That’s double-edged. Bad because it makes it even more likely that they can’t be kept to – but good because failure to keep to the plan doesn’t mean you’re bound to fail at the challenge.

I ran the London Marathon twice in the late 1990’s and had sub 4 hour training plans that I failed to keep to – but (just) managed sub 4 hour times on both occasions.

Perhaps it’s not surprising. If I was setting myself up as an expert and advising people on training for a specific event, I’d certainly be taking a cautious approach and building in some contingency to avoid people keeping to the plan and still failing at the challenge.

The thing that’s got me thinking about this is the everesting training. Clearly, it’s a sufficiently ridiculous challenge that I need to train – but how? I’ve found reference to a plan on the internet that seems to be endorsed by the Hell’s 500 people so it’s ‘official’ but they want $66.66 for it and it seems to entail at least 90 hours of cycling over 8 weeks. I’ll bet it’s good but that’s just the sort of plan that I know I’ll flunk.

So, taking the theory from that plan, I’m just going to have to cycle as much as I reasonably can, with much of it being uphill. In particular I’ll embrace the high intensity training model and go for hill reps up Dragon Hill – much as I did earlier in the year training for the White Horse Challenge.

I’ll couple that with weight reduction, where possible. The bike weighs in at about 7kg and I’m too mean to upgrade to Dura Ace to reduce that any further – but perhaps I’ll risk going without taking a spare tube and pump (or rather leaving them in the car).

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Weapon of choice

I ride with a carbon saddle and want to keep that for lightness. It’s never been a problem (even for the triple Ventoux in 2015) but this could be a few hours too far for that? It needs thought.

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Instrument of torture

As for me, I weighed in at about 65.3kg this morning (not too bad for 177.5m – 5’10” and 10 stone 4 in old money) so I’ll keep an eye on that. I wonder if I could lose a bit more without compromising on what little power I have?

 

Onwards to everest(ing)

The decks are now reasonably clear for my attempt at everesting in July.

Today was my first olympic distance triathlon. I enjoy really good health but haven’t felt great for a couple of days and woke at 5am this morning with a very sore throat, a blocked nose and an aching back. I did the only thing a man could do – I went to the triathlon anyway.

I put the wetsuit on, got into a pretty cold lake and began the swim. Almost immediately it became clear that it wasn’t going to work and I wasn’t going to shake it off – so I retired, ungraciously. The first time I have ever quit on something like that – I didn’t like doing it and I don’t want to do it again.

I’m really disappointed but there will be other triathlons, I’m sure. The only good news is that I can now start to think about training for my everesting, in ernest. Other posts have set out the plans but the training is a bit of an issue. It will be a long ride (something like 175 miles over about 20 hours or more), quite apart from the climbing (8848 metres).

How the heck do I train for something like that? That’s not an entirely rhetorical question – if anyone knows the answer I’d be grateful for guidance. Failing that, I assume it’s just a lot of cycling, both distance and hill reps. White Horse Hill here I come (again).

How (not) to train for a triathlon

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I did a sprint triathlon in 2015 – and another last year. I enjoyed them but learnt that: I swim badly; I cycle reasonably; I am almost adequate at the run (for an old bloke). So, after signing up for an olympic distance triathlon I will have addressed the issues, right? Wrong.

The early year focus has been on my first sportive (90 miles on 23 April) to the exclusion of running and swimming. Since then I’ve cycled less than 45k, been in the water three times and have run three times, gently, with my wife and three times alone – and only once as far as 10k.

At over 60, I should know better and I don’t really have the excuse of insufficient time, given how so many people manage to do much more while sill working.

Worse still, I’ve only tried on my wetsuit twice and will not manage to get in an open water swim before the event itself. Perhaps I have a secret death wish?

I did take a swimming lesson – but just one and only last week. It was good but, at this stage it will probably serve mainly to confuse me as, during the lesson, I was totally unable to practice more than one new thing at a time – and even then several other things (like breathing) went to pieces. I’m sure it will be really helpful once all the advice becomes a natural part of my swimming but perhaps the session I plan tonight isn’t enough for that to happen!

Sunday promises to be interesting.

So: train consistently, work on your weaknesses; taper properly; and don’t let the event introduce new things to you (especially like wearing a wetsuit for the first time).

Oh yes, and do what I say, not what I do.

A second trick in a week. Old dog overload?

After mixed results from the ‘introduction to wetsuits’ experience earlier in the week, last night I tried a swimming lesson. I guess I must have had a rudimentary lesson or two at school as a child when I learned to swim – but certainly nothing in over 50 years.

Two sprint triathlons have largely proved what I already knew – I don’t swim well. The impending olympic distance triathlon had me looking for the swimming silver bullet – the hope that a proper coach would identify the one small thing that would transform me into Michael Phelps overnight.

Of course, it doesn’t work like that. The coach was very good and in just 30 minutes came up with a number of things to work on. Together, in time, I’m sure they will improve my swimming but I think that Michael’s records are safe from me.

So: starting breathing out as soon as my face is under the water; not kicking from the knee; more rotation along the long axis; a longer reach; a straighter pull backwards rather than down; and delaying the start of the next stroke until the other arm passes my head.

It’s all a lot to think about and trying to incorporate all the advice was really hard. I found I could (sort of) do any one of them if I thought about it hard – but then the others went out of the window. With a longer stroke and fewer strokes each length, I take fewer breaths and that messes with my breathing. Eventually, I assume that each stroke should be smoother and more efficient, and so less exerting, but the key there is ‘eventually’.

No silver bullet, no overnight transformation – but lots to work on in the next week or so.  If it all becomes the norm in my swimming I’m sure it will be really beneficial – if I live that long.

It just reinforces the high regard I have for good triathletes – the ability to master the three skills is really something this cyclist admires.

Old dog – new tricks?

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Instrument of torture. How can something apparently so simple be so difficult?

I won’t say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, just don’t expect too much too soon. At least that’s the experience of this old dog who has tried to learn two new skills this week.

I’ll deal with the first one first. With my first olympic distance triathlon just over a week away, I tried to get into a wetsuit. It was a disaster. I didn’t time it – which is a good thing as it would have been too depressing – but more worryingly I couldn’t actually get into it at all. Eventually the arms and legs went in but I couldn’t do it up at the back.

To be honest, I rather panicked at this point. It’s a second hand Ebay special that I was sure I’d researched carefully but it seemed clear that I’d bought a size too small. I went back to the manufacturer’s website and that confirmed that I hadn’t made a mistake – I am pretty well in the middle of the ranges for height and chest size and at the lower end for weight.

Unfortunately, the suit did not know this and it steadfastly refused to do up. Having got hotter than I might after a couple of hours’ cycling I did the only sensible thing – I gave up. At this stage I was expecting to have to abandon the triathlon completely as it will be wetsuit-compulsory and I felt too mean to go and buy another.

I tried again the following day, sure that I’d lost weight overnight – or that my technique would have miraculously improved. It hadn’t. I’d like to think it was simply due to my manly chest but, having been a cyclist for a few years, I’m a rather more Chris Froome than Arnold Schwarzenegger in that department.

I swallowed my pride and asked help from my wife who seemed pleased to be getting her own back after years of needing help to get into evening dresses and necklaces. It worked. Sadly, it fits so well that, far from making me appear sleek and lithe, it highlights bumps and lumps that I didn’t even know I had. I thought it might have a slimming effect like a corset – instead it just magnifies the bits that shouldn’t be there and mocks the bits that should be bigger. I was also rubbish at getting it off. I’ve watched the Brownlees and they don’t seem to have the same problem – how could that be?

The only good news is that I eventually went online to get advice about putting a wetsuit on. The site I found says ‘get a helper to do the suit up’ so perhaps I shouldn’t have worried in the first place?

I’m wondering if I should drive to the triathlon wearing the wetsuit. The problems are obvious: the final nerve-induced visit to the gents; death by overheating on the journey; explaining it to the Police if stopped or to the petrol station attendant if low on fuel.

They say transition is the fourth discipline in triathlon. Sadly, for me, that may mean it takes as long as any of the other three.

Second new trick tomorrow.