Category Archives: cycling

Everesting training week 5 – the dog ate my homework

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Must remember to wear the best padded shorts with this saddle

The week started very hot and then turned very windy. For me, neither is very good for cycling and the result is a failure to meet the targets I set myself.

I know that’s an excuse on a par with ‘the dog ate my homework’ but, following last week’s ‘reasons to be cheerful’ I’ve decided not to fret about it but to appreciate what I did manage to do.

I did the turbo trainer for an hour on both Thursday and Friday which went well but meant that Saturday morning I really didn’t feel keen on a hard ride. I forced myself to get out to Dragon Hill Road but on the first rep I was wondering if it was going to be the only one.  I kept going and ground out one after the other and did 15 in total.

It was all done into a strong headwind of about 15mph which the source I found on the internet (so it must be true) suggests is equal to another 3% on the gradient so I’m happy with the effort. I also managed to keep up my practice of making the last rep the fastest of the set.

Today (Sunday) I went out thinking I’d do a longer slow ride but within minutes I was rained on heavily and battling with another 15mph wind. That changed the plan so I went for some more hills and a faster pace. I managed 643m of ascent in about 53km at over 26kph.

Running training log so far:

Week Single session hill reps Longest ride (km) Total km Total meters climbed
1 10 64 139 2178
2 12 79 162 2504
3 15 52 143 3038
4 20 62 138 3045
5* 15 53 105 2212

* +2 hours turbo trainer

That’s almost exactly 13,000m of climbing in the 5 weeks. The aim for next week is a 22 rep session and a ride of over 100km – weather permitting.

Sadly, despite all this training, I see I’ve not got a place in Sky’s Tour squad. Oh well …

Reasons to be cheerful, week 4

 

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Sacré bleu!  Would running up the steps count as a hill rep?

My apologies to Ian Dury and the Blockheads – I know it should be ‘part 3’ but it feels close enough.

It was clear that failing to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary properly could severely prejudice the chances of making it to the 31st, so having got back from Paris on Thursday night it was out on the bike on Friday for the first time for 5 days.

I decided to attempt the 18 reps I’d set as the week’s single session target but it felt like it was going to be really poor. The first climb was terrible but by the time I’d done 3 I knew I could do 6, and by the time I’d done 6 I knew I could do 9 – and so on.

In the end it turned out well and I was able to push myself beyond the intended 18 and actually did 20 reps. I even managed to make the 20th the fastest – so major reasons to be cheerful.

Another good result was that when I came to put the bike away, it had a completely flat rear tyre. Punctures are a pain but at least this one must have happened as I got home.

Not reasons to get carried away, of course. It’s the first time I’ve gone over 2000m of climbing in a day since the alps last summer – but it’s still under 23% of an everesting.

A gentle ride today (Sunday) leading the club’s ‘dust off your bike’ ride (for families and social riders) was topped and tailed by a few hill reps to meet the week’s climbing target – and that rounded off the week.

Week Single session hill reps Longest ride (km) Total km Total metres climbed

 

1 10 64 139 2178
2 12 79 162 2504
3 15 52 143 3038
4 20 62 138 3045

Next week’s target – 22 reps of Dragon Hill in one session and 3250m of climbing in all.

I’m constantly reminded that the mental side of this is key. I’ve not yet stopped doing a rep session because I can’t go on physically – but I can imagine talking myself out of carrying on at some stage.

Perhaps the toughest thing to come to terms with is not knowing how much of what type of training is necessary. I’ve read blogs and reports of other attempts but there’s no consensus I can see and, even if there were, it would be hard to know where others had started from in terms of fitness. I swing from optimism to concern that I’ve bitten off much more than I can chew.

It’s the uncertainty that gets you – I’m certain of that.

Everesting training week 3 – and some lessons learnt

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Very early, it became clear that this week’s training target was unachievable.

Sunday was spent driving back from a wedding on the Wirral, Tuesday was the England v New Zealand ODI in Cardiff and I discovered that today (the day I was going to add a bit to the club ride to do the 85km) I was down to lead the club’s short, slower ride.

With already Monday washed out with rain, I prioritized the climbing and managed 15 reps of Dragon Hill Road on Wednesday and another 8 on Friday – both into very strong headwinds. With today’s ride I managed 3169m of climbing (against a target of 2750).

The 15 reps (with the ride there and back) was about 18% of an everesting.

Could I have done more – yes. Did I want to do 5.5 times that – no.

Three weeks in, training so far:

Week Single session hill reps Longest ride km Total km Total m climbed
1 10 64 139 2178
2 12 79 162 2504
3 15 52 143 3169

Next week is also going to be compromised – I have it on good authority that 30th wedding anniversaries are not celebrated entirely by riding a bike.

I’ll keep the focus on the climbing and aim for over 3000m with a single session of 18 reps.

Key lessons learned so far:

1          The wind can be a real issue

Dragon Hill Road starts to the south and then doglegs to the west. The contours mean that any sort of southerly or westerly winds create a headwind most of the way up. This week it’s done exactly that. On Wednesday and Friday the wind was around 16-20 mph and meant I was climbing in a full gear lower than normal.

I don’t know how accurate it might be but I’ve seen a suggestion that 5mph of headwind is like a 1% incline, so my 9% hill might have been riding like a 12+% – it certainly felt like it.

When it comes to the real thing, everesting a hill into a wind looks like a really bad idea. My planned hill should be ok judging by usual wind direction but I think I might look at an alternative, just in case.

2          Training on a steeper hill looks like a good idea

I did a few reps on a 7% hill last week. After Dragon Hill at 9% it felt (relatively) easy.

3          Mental strength is going to be vital

Mental strength (or sheer bloody-mindedness) is so important. Every time I go out for a hill rep session I feel like I can only do a few but, just taking them one at a time, I find I can keep going. On the last three sessions I’ve even had enough left in the tank to make the last (the 10th, 15th and 8th respectively) the fastest of the set.

All the right notes – but not necessarily in the right order

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From White Horse Hill, looking down on Dragon Hill. The bald patch on the top of the hill  is where the dragon’s blood fell as it was killed by St George (really)

I doubt that the late lamented Morecambe and Wise, or ‘Mr Preview’, realised they were doing a sketch applicable to cycle training but I’m sure they would have been pleased.

Apologies to anyone who is too young to understand what the hell any of this is about (you can find it on Dailymotion if you search for Morecambe and Wise Previn) but, frankly, what do you expect if you read a blog by an old man in lycra?

Monday is usually a running day but on the Bank Holiday Mrs Omil announced that she would run on Tuesday as she needed to swap over her summer and winter wardrobes.

No, I don’t understand that either – it must be a girl thing. Personally, I wear much the same things all year round … just more of them in winter.

So I thought I’d better do the longer ride, even though I didn’t really feel like it. With Saturday and Sunday lost last week for a wedding and Friday, Saturday and today lost this week for another up in the Wirral, there wasn’t much choice.

It was quite cathartic just to go out for a ride with no particular plan or route but it set the scene for the whole week – ending up doing things I wasn’t really up for and at the wrong times on the wrong days.

First world problems, eh?

As it turned out, the runs, the planned 12 reps of Dragon Hill, the longer ride (79.5km) and an additional 750m of climbing (reduced from 1000m) all happened – but none of it as I’d expected or when I’d planned. Two runs and four rides in four days is a bit too much.

In spite of everything, I enjoyed it. It’s so easy to forget how good tough exercise can be. A CEO I once worked for said that fun was taking on something difficult and succeeding – but only just. He was an arse but he got that one right.

Two weeks in and the cycling training looks like this:

Week Single session hill reps Longest ride km Total km Total m climbed
1 10 64 139 2178
2 12 79 162 2504

I’m trying to increase everything every week but decided that I didn’t need to aim for any increase on last week’s two punctures – and managed to deliver on that, puncture-free.

So, next week’s aim is a trip to Dragon Hill Road for a 15 rep session, two other rides with one of them 85km and a total of 2,750m of ascent across all three (plus two runs).

As an aside, that Morecambe and Wise sketch is from December 1971. An ominous sign that I’m getting older is that I remember it so well from first time round (aged 16) but am a bit hazy about the week before last.

While on the Morecambe and Wise theme I thought I’d share my favourite one-liner of theirs. Eric looks out as a police car or ambulance races by, siren blaring, and says: “He’s not going to sell much ice cream going at that speed, is he?”

 

 

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?