My Next Big Beautiful Goal

Having wallowed in the wonderful feelings my epic experience in the Ride London-Surrey 100 has given me I am now plotting my plans and goals for next year. So, what do I want to do:

I’d quite like to go sub 5 hours at Ride London. Based on my time of 5 hours 30 minutes I know I can eat into this time by 1) not stopping for drinks/water or at least keeping it to the bare minimum – this will cut 4/5 minutes off my time 2) not slowing down because of cramp in my quads 3) not slowing down because of poor nutrition both before and during the ride. If the combined effects of these amount to 10 minutes I then need to increase my time by another 20 minutes to go under 5 hours. So, how am I going to do this?

  1. Raising my Lactate Threshold (LT) so I am not unnecessarily burning my muscle glycogen and blood sugar especially when I am climbing or putting in a big effort.
  2. Reducing my weight – I think I can get down to 71kg. I am currently 75.7kg which I couldn’t quite believe. A few weeks ago I was 74kg so no idea what is happening with my weight. Anyway, it needs to come down and it will. The weight needs to come off to help with climbing.
  3. Improving my power for climbing and general riding along the flats and rolling hills.
  4. Improving my endurance so my muscles are used to riding longer distances.
  5. Having the best equipment and carrying the minimum of weight

OK, so what do I need to do by way of training to achieve the above

  1. Weight training – build leg muscle strength. This needs to be done over a 3-month period for muscle gain. After it is finished I need to maintain weights just to keep the gains
  2. LT training. This can be done on a bike or an indoor trainer. I think a turbo trainer or rollers will be the best option as these can be used when the weather is bad and the days get shorter. They are also great for short high intensity sessions which building LT is all about.
  3. Hill climbing – just get out and do loads of road cycling up hills. Mix it with hill repeats
  4. Long distance (audax) cycling – get used to being in the saddle for a long time. Pick out some long rides and do them quite regularly, that is, at least once a month and possible more. There are lots of options. i can get on the train and go somewhere and then ride back to Exeter. Or I could ride somewhere, stay in a hostel, ride again the following day and then return to Exeter by train. Lots of options here, the important thing is to get on the bike and cycle longer distances regularly.
  5. Food – experiment with gels and other foods and see what works best in optimising my energy on rides
  6. It’s back to calorie counting and ridding myself of excess fat
  7. Core training – working my abs and lower back
  8. Mid-week training with Wheelers – Tuesday & Thursday

In terms of milestones, I think I should do the following leading up to Ride London:

  1. Some specific long weekend rides in February/March – aim to do 225/250 miles in a weekend
  2. Early season sportives – April
  3. Dartmoor Classic in June – lots of tough climbing, good conditioner for Ride London
  4. Force ride – aim to go under 5 hours – relatively flat course
  5. Time trials – start in May, good for building strength and speed

So, it looks like I have set my goal for the year ahead which is to complete Ride London-Surrey 100 in less than 5 hours. Broadly, my training falls into the following chunks:

  • August – transition
  • September, October – audax, hill climbing, weight loss, core work
  • November, December, January – weight training and LT work
  • February, March – audax, speed work and climbing
  • April, May – Sportives, TT’s, Audax
  • June, July – Audax, Sportives, TT’s, weight loss
  • August – Ride London

I’ll read the Cyclists Training Bible and work out my training plan for the year ahead and then put the specific details in a future post.

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Ride London-Surrey 100

August 4th 2013

Me at the start

Me at the start

16,500 riders set off from the Olympic Park in East London on a warm still day, ideal conditions for cycling and what’s more all the roads along the route had been closed specially. I’d ridden 10 miles to get to the start and met a group of Italian riders from Abruzzo whilst it was still dark. By the time we arrived at the Olympic Park the sun had risen and thousands of cyclists were congregating in the two start areas, Black and Blue.

Riders were organised into ‘waves’ with each wave leaving at pre-specified times. Our wave, G left at 6.38. There were another 2 miles before we reached the official start. I quickly got chatting to a couple of other riders, Charlie from Staines and Nick from Bournemouth. Like me, it was their first sportive. We passed the official start line and we continued chatting. This continued all the way to Hammersmith when Charlie and I dropped Nick and then to the first Hub (food, drinks, mechanics, support, etc) where Charlie got off. For the remainder of the race I was on my own and the proper cycling began.

This was my first ever sportive and I was struck by just how intense and committed all the cyclists were. There was little banter like you get on a good club run. Everybody had their heads down and they all clearly meant business. I hooked into some groups of riders. Just after the 24 mile hub I got behind a club group from Barnes. I followed in their wake, or draft as we call it in cycling for a good few miles but after we reached a couple of easy gradients I upped my pace and went off in front of them. I then seemed to spend much of my time passing other riders and this continued all the way to the first climb. The period of the ride leading up to the first climb was just sublime. I felt strong and the noise of whirring wheels was just intoxicating. I was dancing all over my bike and I was in the zone.

I went up the first climb pretty well. It was dead straight, pretty steep and not really too long. Descending down the hill with lovely panoramic views over the coutryside I headed off to the next climb at Leith Hill. Just before this climb I stopped for water. By now I was beginning to feel the effects of my exertions but I still felt good. I headed off and soon came to the most difficult climb of the day. My pace dropped and other riders passed me. I felt tired but I was determined to conquer the climb. At the top there was a drinks station and many riders took this opportunity to have a drink and a rest. I didn’t stop I carried on. I felt tired and my pace had clearly dropped. I tucked into white roll and honey and this seemed to give me some much needed extra energy. I could feel my strength returning and my pace picked up again. As I arrived at Box Hill, the final climb of the day I felt stronger and ready for the challenge. I maintained a steady pace all the way up the climb and not many riders passed me. It was a good climb, the road surface was excellent and the gradient steady. At the top of the hill I knew all the hard work was behind me and I was now headed towards London and the finish. I checked my Garmin and realised that barring disaster I would be completing the ride in under 6 hours, which had been my original plan.

As I approached the outskirts of London I took the opportunity to refill my drinks bottles for one last time. I stopped for a few minutes which I wish I hadn’t. I could have simply rode up to a table, had my bottles filled and then got on my way. As I returned to the course for the final leg I maintained a steady pace. Occasionally, I would join a fast moving train and then I would take a breather and then join another. We had one small climb in Wimbledon and then we soon arrived at Putney, crossing the bridge at Putney and then along the embankment to central London. Looking at my time I realised I could probably complete the course more quickly than I realised, around 5 hours 30 minutes. Just this thought gave me an adrenaline rush. I quickly arrived and passed through Parliament Square and then through Admiralty Arch and up the Mall. I went over the finishing line in 5 hours 32 minutes according to my Garmin but I remember I had started it before the official start line and therefore my time was likely to be less than this. It was an incredible feeling. My time would make my average speed around 18.5mph!!!! What, how could I have done this? This was just incredible. The achievement was starting to exhilarate me. The feeling of joy was just washing over me in wonderful waves. What’s more I knew I could have gone faster if I had eaten better both before and during the ride and if I hadn’t been trying to keep the cramp at bay in my quads.

I sat down in the cyclists area having collected my medal and goody bag and now I started to collect my thoughts. What I had just achieved was the culmination of a plan to get me looking the best I had ever looked. I’m not convinced I’ll ever look as good as I did when I was in my twenties but having just turned 50 I had just cycled 100 miles in 5 hours 32 minutes at an average speed of 18.5mph. For a 50 year old who had only started training properly last October this was an amazing achievement. Chuffed is an understatement. I was buzzing and I wasn’t likely to come down to earth for some time to come. If I could do this what’s next?

I am so glad I did the Ride London-Surrey 100. The good feelings I felt during and after that ride will be with me for as long as I live. Those feelings will inspire and push me on to bigger and better goals. There is no turning back, this is the way to live.

Did I Reach My Goal By The Time I Was 50?

This was what I wrote in this blog exactly one year to the day and it is spooky because it is 1.30am in the morning and I can’t sleep!

In my mind I always had a vision of me looking the best I have ever been in my life when I reached 50 – I don’t why I just did. Now I want to turn that vision into reality. I have been exercising on my bike for the past 3 months and the distances I can ride have been steadily increasing. Last month I followed a bike exercise programme developed by polarpersonaltrainer.com and it has definitely inspired me to seek out a more structured approach to achieving my goal. So, I’ve decided to set up this blog and get started.

So, one year on did I achieve my vision? Two days ago I rode in my first ever sportive, the Ride London Surrey Classic. I completed 100 miles in 5 1/2 hours at an average speed of just under 18.5mph. Now, being a member of a cycling club I have learnt in order to do this you need to be reasonably fit. Therefore, I know I am reasonably fit. What about how I look? Well, the weight did finally start to come off earlier this year when I became more disciplined in my diet and yes, I do look a lot better. I have much less body fat so I am definitely leaner although there are still signs of body fat around my waist and face so although my weight has come down to 74kg I still think there is another 2-2.5kg of fat to lose. Have I looked physically better? Yes, I have looked better than this. Can I improve more? Yes, I can. Can I look better than I have ever looked? Yes, I can. How long will it take? I reckon it will take a year. How will I do this? By maintaining and building on my cycling success and by weight training. I did weight training and was enjoying it but I overdid it which led to tendonitis in my left elbow. Therefore, when I restart the weights I will be much more careful.

So, what is the answer to the question? Did I achieve my goal or not. Well, yes and no. Yes, I have achieved a great deal. At 50 years of age I feel fitter than I have been for a long time and more importantly I think I can go on improving. No, because I don’t look the best I have ever been but I have learnt that it was unrealistic to achieve that goal in just one year. It is more realistic to achieve that goal in two years so I am definitely headed in the right direction so I am part way to achieving that bit of my vision.

So, how do I feel one year on? I feel great, I feel like I’ve accomplished so much and most importantly it has given me self-confidence, belief, vitality and a hunger to achieve more. I am going to enjoy and wallow in the success of my achievements. I have learnt that I can make a difference when I use my intelligence and I will carry on using it, in all areas of my life.