Sunday, 8 April 2012

3 Days De Torture

Photos by Rick Robson @
 Three events in three days stopped my 320 mile weekly average training regime and in came the tapering, around 2 weeks before the Easter weekend. Not sure what but I must have done something wrong and I might be able to put my finger on it as I have never felt worse in my legs for a long time. Even during the 8 week, 300 mile a week stint I had never felt so bad. One clue is in the bike. I used Jamis for the entire 8 weeks - I think where I believe the fit is more or less perfect. Another clue is the lack of stretching I have been doing up until the taper.

So the first week of taper involved just a 60mile round trip commute on the Tuesday averaging 19.5mph then a nice rest til Sunday where I did a 100mile trip to a TT course that I was doing on 'Good Friday' I went on the TT bike and the temperature was close to freezing. This is where everything started to go wrong. I had raised the saddle as I've read that you put down more power, it didn't feel like I was overstretching and I was comfortable in the aero position but I was getting bad cramp after 60 miles or so and put it down to the terrible wind and putting too much effort in on the big climbs. More on my TT bike later.

Distance 100 miles     Av Sp 16.8mph     Ascent 8250ft!!     Av Hr 148     Cycle Time 5:58:40

Second week of the taper just involved a commute on the Thursday, a day before my first event. That mornings commute was the slowest commute I had done for YEARS! and it's not like I wasn't trying. Something wasn't right. I had been doing stretches as my muscles felt super tight and afterwards my legs felt like jelly everytime, every day, as if I had ridden many miles and got fatigued. Was doing stretching actually hindering my performance? Actually doing stretching has not actually helped me become more flexible as I can't go down any further like putting palms face down on floor but I am fairly flexible anyway depending on fatigue levels. My TT bike was left in the same position as my first event was only 33 miles long and so I thought all would be ok as I felt confident in its position. I finished off with an easy swim with the Tri Club to get the blood pumping through the leg muscles and hopefully make them feel better.

1. Buxton 33mile Moutain Time Trial

        Arrived in Lognor in good time and got a good parking space near the start line which was my major concern. My legs felt terrible and was hoping in the few days leading up to the big day it would be called off due to 6-8 inches of snow however the roads were very clear and I didn't want to waste this opportunity of getting some good 'race' miles in. There were some big domestic time trialling names out and about which added to the atmosphere and there were bikes everywhere warming up on the local climbs - there were lots. I warmed up on 'CROWDICOTE' which is a beast of a steep hill and got my heart pumping and body warm. One of the big names was 'AL' of Polocini fame, sportive organiser extraordinaire, who recognised me. I meant to wish him good luck but got caught up in the shock. 
       My number was 42, Starting at 11.42am on a slight incline. One of my strengths is my ability to pace myself 'perfectly' ( but I was on my TT bike!) and went off without killing myself looking for similar lap times for every lap of the 11 mile course. Most of the climbs I was able to do in the aero position and I was going quite well, just the 10+%ers I had to stand.Most of the climb was at the start and the bad headwind wasn't bothering me.  Lap one 34mins. 
         Started the second lap in good spirits knowing that no one had overtaken me and I had overtaken loads but my world started to tumble dramatically when I started getting cramp in the ligaments behind the knees and every pedal turn started to feel like I was over stretching extremely badly. Luckily the majority of lap 2's climbing was over however I was finding it difficult to get aero and on the flatter/downhill bits found myself standing up to alleviate the cramp. My speed was tumbling but I was determined to finish so eased off dramatically however my heart rate was still very high - another symptom of my TT position - again more later. Lap 2 time.. 37minutes
         Lap 3 was just a plain nightmare and lots of people started to overtake me, even those that I had breezed past on lap 2 when they had only just started on lap 1. Damage limitation was the order of the day, no it wasn't, just getting round the course was! I found my self standing on descents it was that bad and the wind just felt horrific. The effort I was putting in I would guess my heart rate was around 120 however it was actually in the 160's. I was so relieved to cross the line. Lap 3 time 40 mins,  Total time 1hr 50 mins.

I was so annoyed and p155ed off that I vowed to book a bike fit ASAP. 

 Pantani phoned me up the day before telling me to lower my saddle as he had the same problem with cramp and over stretching, I had to see for myself! I did enjoy the event, just a little disappointed and on crossing the line I felt like I had loads of energy to expend which kinda bode well for Event 2.....the very next day!

2. L101 10mile TT Garstang (preston) 

             Why this course? Even though it's my second only official TT its a course I know, where to apply the pressure and where to ease off. Also it's where Pantani got his PB even though he's raced at Levens, a notoriously fast course. The cramp from the day before was taking its toll and I was aching like mad however I did feel like I possessed some energy and whilst going down the motorway the rain subsided, dried up quickly and the wind wasn't majorly bad but there would be cross wind. Knowing the conditions were going to be semi decent really got me going and was a big booster to my confidence. Before setting off I knew something had to be done with the TT bike before my training suffered even more and at worst cause me a bad injury. Since Jamis was set up 'perfectly' I went off her. Firstly I changed the stem from my 17cm 35degree Onza stem to a 12cm adjustable one which was nearly vertical. Then I set the saddle as far back as possible as I believe you can produce power over a larger angle range than if I was forward. Finally the saddle was lowered.
           On arrival and signing in I tested TT bikes new position. Two minutes down the road and *DUMP* the front brakes stuck on. My stem had fallen to the lowest level wedging the brakes closed. Doh. Being on 88mm tubulars I left my puncture repair kit in the car but for some unknown stroke of luck I put my multi tool in my back pocket. I knew today was going to be my day, I was going again in no time. The wheels were making a lovely whooshing noise with every revolution which urged me to pushed harder. The warmup was a joy even though the conditions didn't feel too great. I could see my position in the full length shop windows and looking how aero I was got me fired up.
           27 was my number this time round and GO! Up to speed in no time without any aches as my adrenaline had taken over. A big difference was my heart rate. 150-160  over the course which dropped to 120 in no time at all when on a downhill section and only hit 170 a few times trying to keep the speed up on the inclines. I overtook numerous guys and no one overtook me which is a good sign. 5miles in I was going well and had a great turnaround at the roundabout. 4miles to go I was really feeling it and could feel my cadence lowering and my legs trying to push harder. I was tipping over the edge of my saddle for more power but I tried valiantly to hold position. It just felt a fast run and I didn'nt want to let myself down this time so ignored all the pain and kept going and going and going, that finish line was no where to be seen. That was the longest 4 miles of my life but crossed the line with a  loud scream, very satisfied and hoping I got a good time. This time round I wasn't able to draft cars as much as last time so thought that my hinder my time.
           Back at base Pantani said the air wasn't too great and the wind picked up. This was shown in the times that were coming through 27's's, 26's,25's 24's and one guy managed a 22.30. My time came up.......32 MINUTES WTF!!!! After a chat with the organiser I had to wait 50 minutes for clarification.

L101 10mile TT           Time 22.36     Av Sp 26.5mph

YAY! Pb but I was hoping for a 21minute but knowing my legs were knackered, HR all over the show and not so good conditions there is a lot more to come. Two down One to go......

3. Pendle Witches Vintage Velo

        This event has been going for three years and I have attended every one but this time I actually paid for in advance. Without doing so I would deffo have stayed in bed when that alarm went off as I was shattered and it was raining :( I readied my heavy alloy Focus TT bike that I converted to road for aeroness even though the climbs would be unforgiving. A Std chainset with 25 rear should just get me through if the legs were ok ish otherwise I would be crawling. One of my little experiements was in order and the topic of 'cramp' crops up alot where not even top scientific boffins know what precisely causes it. I lowered the saddle and I was to push hard at a low cadence all round the course to try and induce cramp. With all the climbs what bettter test than today. An unexpected  'plus' was that I wasn't fully hydrated from a few days ago and it has just built up. Getting up late didn't help and I was unable to get alot of drink down or any food!
       Chuffing hell! That wind was monstrous and a total block head to boot. Taking it easy wasn't an option and I had to push it more than I would have liked to get there on time. The place was rammed and I had to negotiate the labyrinth of lycra to get to the registration line and pick up my number. It wasn't long until we were off and the usual looks and stares at my stem and extreme setup were left back at base. The older bikes got a ten minute head start and then the first group went. I snuck inbetween the first and second group and off I went to get back before the place got busy and claim my reward of pie and peas.
        That wind was hard work and I slowly made my way through the field until I eventually came to the back of two guys, one from Manchester Wheelers and his younger, less able? mate. I sat in just to see what they were like and I got the impression that they didn't like any company, at least the guy from manc wheels didn't anyway. Biding my time, the first selection point was the climb out of Padiham to Sabden just a few miles into the ride, by this time we had been joined by a group of 7-8 others due to traffic light stops. I sat at the back waiting for moves. Two went off the front and I got held up at a junction so let them go. The younger guy from before took up the charge and accelerated past the bunch to try and catch the two runaways with his mate, Manc Wheeler guy, in pursuit. I went at my own pace ( which is the most important thing on a sportive) and wasn't long before they had blown and I was catching up the front runners. I managed to make contact on the descent just before the Nick o' Pendle climb.
         Big climb alert! It's not overly long or high but what makes it difficult are the steep sections and twisty corners at the top exagerating the gradient. Using my 39-25 was painful and had to stand and grind my way up, another fellow next to me on his Canyon using a compact looked more comfortable. I asked to borrow a couple of his extra gears but he was concentrating too much to answer :) Keeping up at my own pace, difficult, but not overly so I had made a clear gap at the top and I was on my own on the drop to Clitheroe. Looking at the piccy my water bottle was already empty! I was also on my own on the climb up Waddington Fell however I did pass the two 'leaders' where I offered to lead them up but wisely they stuck to their gameplan - seasoned veterans. Actually they weren't that far behind me at the top.
         The feed stop was nearing and I could see two guys chasing me. I eased back for a mile or so and we deliberated whether to stop or not. The smell of Banana cake made the decision for us and I downed 750ml of water in one go and two small slices of cake - my breakfast, too hungry to enjoy its full flavour. What a waste. One of the chasers was from Bolton Tri Club and he must have dragged us the rest of the way. The other guy was in the lead by quite a margin, going off the pictures , at the top of Nick O' Pendle but I don't remember overtaking him so how he came to overtake me again I will never know!  The wind made drafting so much harder and I was feeling the pressure on the climbs big time. Just keep my own rhythm and pace I kept telling myself as there was no gain to be had from drafting in the swirly air and going in the red. It worked a treat and although I lost the wheel at the foot of climbs I was back in contact near the top.
 One such climb was out of Whalley on Whalley old road. Again I was dropped early on but by the top, where the photographer was lying in wait, I can be seen clearly back in contention however minutes later, on the flat,I was a gonner due too the horrendous cross wind. Haslingdon Old road was next, a Westerly tail wind was expected but a Southerly element put spoil to that thought. I hadn't felt the dreaded 'bonk' for months but I was in theearly stages and of dehydration. Two gels and five minutes later I was good to go again. The effort I was putting in I should easily have had cramp... a long time ago, but it wasn't happening, to much relief but it was always at the back of my mind. It was a very tough route, all up and down with not much inbetween and the last few miles was definately no exception.  I hadn't really mentioned the miserable wet weather possibly due to the fact I was more bothered about survival than anything else. Still climbing I got a huge boost from some cyclist coming from the other direction say the two infront were less than a minute ahead.
            Back at base the Bolton Tri guy just passed me to do a run! and the other was securing his bike. I couldn't say much and just signed off asap and straight to the bar for a drink and my pie and peas. I sat in my cold and wet clothing, shivering, stuffing my face with the most welcome home made pie. A few guys sat down with me who had done the shorter route. I asked one of them if I had a big rash down the side of my face. Why? he asked and you were wondering. Shortly after the food stop in our little chaingang a car approached us on the wrong side of the road, as he/she tried to overtake cyclists on their side. I just heard the words 'Dive' and 'Verge' and I hurled myself into a bunch of nettles. The left of my face was stinging like crazy but settled down once the cold air was blwing on my face but when stopped at base I could feel it again.
          The home leg saw me don my waterproof as I wanted to look good for the photos therefore leaving it in my pocket. Edenfield road climb was the last obstacle which was easier than expected.

Distance 55miles     Av Sp 17.6mph     Ascent ~4500ft     Total Time 3hrs 13min ( 3hrs 08 moving)
Av Hr 153!

Overall total mileage was 86 miles.

A few hours after I was in agony as the ligaments/tendons behind my knees were tight due to the cramp suffered a few days ago during the Buxton TT. How I got round the last event I will never know but the power of the mind must have played a big part. Time for some needed rest. I have a Super hilly audax next Sunday!

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