Testing the Legs

So the January Spanker was the first proper ride of the year. I was on the heavy bike with the fast guys so I was slow. I felt strong. But I was lagging behind constantly. I needed a proper test of my fitness. Needed a proper chance to assess how I was on the bike in the depths of the winter fitness slump after not having been able to ride properly since the accident in August.

This was a tricky one. It had to be the Peak District to get a real test. But I didn’t want to start hitting the 100 Climbs. As it was January, there was a risk of ice making roads dangerous.

A bit of thought and poking round with Strava Routes came up with a loop that took in some tough climbs, to give me a test, mainly on bigger roads that I hoped would be well gritted and travelled enough that I’d be safe on the bike.

I prepped the good bike to. The light weight carbon bike. Took it off the turbo, fitted the non-turbo rear. Reindexed the gears. Cleaned and lubed the drive chain. Fitted lights, saddle bag with the right spares. Made sure I was all set.

Sunday came and it was cold, very cold. So I layered up in my finest winter gear, loaded the route and set off to meet my mate.

I think I got the layering about right. We hit snow, rain, sleet, hail and rain. Occasionally it was dry too. It wasn’t too awful out. It felt great to be out riding in the Peak in not-the-greatest weather. Tough. Rule #9 applied.

After the boring bit (with hills) riding out to the real Peak, we had a good cruise across the top of Froggatt before dropping down to Hathersage and steaming along Hope Valley to Bradwell where we hit the climb on the road to Tideswell.

That’s a good road to ride. Starts stead, building the climb, kick and a drop before that final slog to the top. Often a bit busy with traffic, on a cold wet January Sunday it’s quite empty. Felt good. Smashed up it.

We dropped down to Miller’s Dale, which is a nice cruise down, before climbing out via Priestcliffe. Again, good steady climb. And across to Longnor.

There’s a brilliant cafe at Longnor, but we were on a no-cafe-stop ride. No fannying around. It’s winter. Get the hills ridden and get home.

After Longnor is one of my favourite Peak District climbs. Crowdecote is half a mile. It’s steep. It has hair pins. It’s a beautiful place. That was shrouded in fog and drizzle this week.

I got my 4th best time up there. Which I thought was great going for January. My legs were starting to try and attract my attention by then though. Hope to set a PR up it in a few months, on a nice day. I do love that climb.

Cracked on from there, back to Bakewell, Bradwell and then using Owler Bar as the best option to climb back out of the Peak. I paced steady up that. Save what was left in the legs.

It was just great getting out for a proper ride. At points, when the snow was light and proper snow, settling on the edges of the road and fields, it was magical. At others, like the hail facial tattoo, it was a bit grim. But generally it was great.

I’m not in peak form, it’s January. I need to keep the Zwift sessions going in the week and work on the fitness. But I’m ready for proper long rides in the Peak. Well. Ready to start building the stamina better. My back is not used to that long on a bike any more and is killing me…

Zwift vs Reality

If you ride a bike you can’t avoid hearing about Zwift. Virtual Reality riding linked to your smart trainer to make that winter training more bearable. For some, including me, it’s a massive win keeping me motivated to sit on my turbo for over an hour this evening trying to set some new PRs on some virtual hills.

For others, they can’t understand why we’re not out in the cold wet and dark getting killed by winter motorists as well as cold wet and miserable.

But each to their own…

Big bone of contention is that Zwift racks up your mileage and climb totals for the year on Strava, which annoys the hell out of people.

So, should it count? Is it close enough to reality?

I only really care about going up hills, so let’s look at that. First, I remember Ben at Veloviewer.com posting an article about how to find segments you’ve ridden that are like a climb of interest you won’t get to ride. It’s here. So we can use that to find a segment that suits us for comparison.

To save me the bother, Andrew pointed out that Half China is quite a lot like Carr Lane. Which is a segment B&DCC, the club we ride with, runs a hill climb up so we’re quite familiar with.

How to compare? Well I figure VAM is a good one. I’ve only ridden Carr Lane 7 times, which is nothing compared to Andrew who is over 80 repeats. My VAM ranges from 652.4 3 and a half years ago to just over 1000 for my PR and last April.

My VAM for Half China goes from 844 a few days ago to just over 1000 just before I got ill late last year and slumped my fitness.

I’d say that’s a pretty fair comparison and climb on Zwift counts then.

I checked one or two other segments, seems close enough to me.

Lincoln Blast

Purpose of this ride is to get stamina up. On the flat you pedal the whole way. Which is a different kind of energy sapping than riding hills. Plus on a Lincoln Blast, it usually ends up with suffering into a headwind.

Idea is to ride from the usual B&DCC start at the Cenotaph in Bolsover on Sunday the 18th of January. 9am start. Ride out to Lincoln, smash up Michaelgate. Then back the scenic route.

No cafe stop planned at the moment, last few times we’ve done this we just stopped at a shop to pick up more fluids and snacks and cracked on. Depending on the weather, warming coffee may be desired though.

Route on Strava.

2015 Epic Training

2015 is looking like a high-mileage year for me and many others. For me, there’s the Wales in a Day in September and a 206 mile ride in Newark in July. Plus probably a Coast to Coast in a Day and a lap of the Peak District.

Which means I need to do lots of long rides regularly to build the stamina and fitness back to peak for that. So, I’m going to be out as many Sundays as possible for at least 50 miles, and need to make sure that every month includes at least one epic.

Here’s the plan:

  • January – Lincoln Blast – just under 100 miles. Flat.
  • February – Double Brutal – Lots of opt outs if the weather changes, but 100 miles of intense climbing.
  • March – ?
  • April – ?
  • May – Cleethorpes Run?
  • June – Peak Epic++
  • July – 205 mile Sportive
  • August – Lap of the Peaks
  • September – Wales in a Day

Generally, the mileage is high, but the cafe stops are low. Because there’s a lot of miles to get in. Self-sufficiency is important, I always carry:

  • 2-3 inners
  • pump
  • tyre levers
  • cable ties
  • multi-tool with chain breaker
  • Speed Links for the chain
  • Energy Gels
  • Flapjack
  • Phone, ID and Cash

With this, can handle pretty much anything that happens on a ride, without a problem.

Strava and Gear Fit Integration Pt II

So, I have been playing with the Strava integration with Gear Fit. My first try was less then smooth. However, that seems to mostly be down to the beta quality of the Gear Fit software itself. Rather than from Strava’s side (I do think the Strava app is awesome. Shame about my phone battery life and HRM integration limitations, so I’ll stick to Garmin).

Seems that the Strava/Fit integration shows you the  “Popular” segments you ride, and segments you star.

So today I set off to ride Holme Moss, part of the 2014 Tour De France stage 2, and made sure before I set off that the Holme Moss segment I consider definitive was starred.

When I got to Holmfirth I started Strava on my phone. Battery was already low, as Gear Fit Manager holds a wake lock keeping the phone awake and draining the battery instead of letting it deep sleep.

Samsung support say this kind of thing is “typically” fixed with software updates but they have no idea if we’ll ever get one. Twats.

ANYWAY. I was dead happy to see my percentage progress, current time and lead against my PR display on my wrist as I slaughtered myself up Holme Moss.

I pushed hard. I over did it on the early part of the ride and was 23s ahead of my PR really early on. Which meant on the last stretches of the climb (1/2 a mile and counting down, love those lines on the road) I was hurting and losing some of the 2+ minutes of gain I had on my PR. When I hit the 200 yards I gave it everything and finally pulled myself over the finish in 22:09, nearly 4 whole minutes under my PR from May last year.

And being able to see that count down/up on my wrist was really fantastic.

It’s just a shame that the battery life on my phone is butchered by the Gear Fit Manager. Not that it’d last long enough for me to do a whole 100 mile ride anyway with GPS tracking. But, it is just slaughtered as a useful device by the buggy beta quality of Samsung’s integration apps.

Double Brutal

Last year, the Sheff Rec Cycle Club announced they were going to run their usual club annual challenge ride as an open sportive with limited places. The route is a tough 50 miles of repeated climbing in the Strines area near Sheffield. It covers ground that the Tour De France Stage 2 2014 will cover.

You can see the information they published about the event here.

Frankly, we were too tight to pay the entry fee to ride the sportive, especially since it was only 50 miles. So we decided we’d just cycle out to Strines one Sunday and do the route ourselves.

Unfortunately, that meant that we were adding an additional 50 miles onto the route, and a considerable amount more climbing to get over the hills to Strines.

Thus was born Double Brutal.

We thought it would make a good March landmark ride as part of our C2C Training Ride series. The route is good, because it loops round Strines a lot, which means if the weather turns really nasty, or it’s too tough, it’s easy for people to drop out and head back to the start.

Strines is also quite sheltered, so if the weather is a bit off, we won’t be constantly blasted by wind like we were on the Lincoln Blast.

We’ve improved the route this year, so it’s not just out there, challenge and back, but puts a bit of interesting Edge of the Peak District Fun on the return, and called it Double Brutal – Redux.

This ride is brutal. It’s 100 miles, with over 13,000ft of climbing. That’s 160km with 4,000m of climbing. Almost the same ascent as the C2C.

We’re planning on riding the route on Saturday the 15th of March. A Saturday not our usual Sunday just this once. We’ll likely be starting from Eckington at 8am. There’s the possibility of picking others up at Bradfield as we hit the start of the main Strines Challenge route for those who feel they’d rather have their Brutal in a single measure.

And this video should give you a good idea of what it’s like, just look at those silky smooth surfaced empty roads with beautiful views and weather…