Monday, 22 December 2014

Learning Curves.

I wish I’d had the sense to take more photos yesterday. It would have made today’s blog all the more interesting, but I didn’t, I didn’t think until it was too late, so I’m sorry.
This being the first year I have really bashed the Turbo Trainer - following a prang last year that saw me bust a rib and my shoulder (that’s never been the same since) after hitting the deck on an icy road at 20mph, I have been keen to get out and see how much of an investment (or disaster) the garage based training has been. Its been 10 weeks since I last stretched it out on the road, my longest abstinence for a long time.....
A decent 65 mile ride with a friend was the plan. We are pretty similar pace over distance on the bike, so assuming all things were even with him it would be a good assessment for me as to my current form.  Despite the wind we met up bright and early and headed out into the hills of the Wolds. The first 7 or 8 miles were tough. The bike felt twitchy and different to what I had become accustomed to, and I certainly didn’t enjoy the climbs. I quickly convinced myself that the turbo was a disaster and my form had gone. I also noticed early on that my heart was working a lot harder on the road than the equivalent effort on the turbo, not that it minded. It wasn’t pounding like a jack hammer in my chest so as to be unmanageable, but it was definitely a good 10bpm higher throughout the ride than I would have expected. I've decided I think the lack of sweat pouring profusely from you when you are physically moving due to evaporation, makes a big difference physiologically, and maybe just even that alone stops you working as hard when static?
By 8 miles I had settled in. We had a few good steady climbs under our belt and got our heads down. Olly, being much taller than me was suffering in the persistent and powerful headwind,  jutting up out of his bike like a windsurfers sail. I decided to go easy on myself and given the quite rough conditions that we were forcing ourselves headlong in to, to not be too quick to judge the turbo as detrimental, and just enjoy it for what it was.
Then at mile 12 Oliver unexpectedly declared himself out. At first I thought it was simply an excuse, and he didn’t fancy battling another 20 miles of this before the route changed direction and we got some assistance from the gusts rather than this battering, but on inspection it was apparent his back tyre had popped. Not just the inner tube – the tyre was worn through. There was a quick admission that he had been using the tyre on the turbo, and it had taken its toll. I posted a few weeks back about a friends tyre spraying rubber in the shed, and I’ve experienced it myself at home. Now, having seen the damage it does first hand when the tyre is subjected to the tarmac, I have all the evidence required never to use my road tyres on the machine.
So there we were stood in the middle of nowhere, except for the badly injured owl that was laid on the road half squashed just behind us, scratching our heads..... and I waited, expecting the back up kit to come out so we could enjoy some impromptu roadside bike maintenance. But there was no spare tyre to be conjured. (I didn’t have one either - but my actual tyre is near enough brand new). There were 2 inner tubes, several inflator canisters and a host of tools and first aid kit on my back - If only he had come off in the wind and knocked some sense into his head we'd have been sorted). I did notice Olly had thoughtfully forgotten to remove his mini pump from its home at the base of his seat post however. Useful. 
Next up the admission that he hadn’t brought his phone either. As it's Christmas I thought it best to be friendly, and decided to let him borrow mine. That was a faff, it meant taking my gloves off, my fingers going numb to the wind chill and clatting about disconnecting my headphones. It was worth the fuss though when he then had to admit he didn’t know his Girlfriends phone number (who he has lived with for a couple of years I might add), so he called his dad to ask him what her number was. He didn’t know either. It was starting to look like he was stuck.  
While this was going on a couple of other friends biked past & stopped, one pouring with an impossible amount with sweat given the conditions. When they stopped and I noticed that, it made me realise how cold I had become. This wind was stripping me to the bone of any heat. I hadn’t really layered up as much as I could have, working on the premise that it would encourage me to pedal harder to generate warmth. With the other 2 now present I seized the opportunity to declare my cycle partner a write off, and they joined in with some casual abuse.
And so we wished him luck walking home alone.  It seemed only fair given his gratuitous personal negligence - it would give him time, walking 12 miles in cleats, in the cold and the wind, to contemplate his failings. I bid him farewell, the other 2 cleared off as well, and once back in the saddle I found myself alone on the Bluestone Heath Ridge, in the pummelling wind.
A few times it blew so hard that I nearly ended up in the ditch. The rear wheel disc (mentioned in the previous post) acting as a sail, and forcing the back end all over the road. I was enjoying the challenge.
View from the Ridge.
This continued unrelenting until mile 34. At that point the course changed, and it gave me some assistance. In terms of the turbo, I had had plenty of time to assess my form during those miles. It was hard to tell if it has helped my power or pace, but certainly my endurance was strong. Given the effort of cycling into 25+mph winds it dawned on me I still had plenty in the tank for the mostly steadily uphill 31mile climb to home. A big plus for the indoor work done. Again I got my head down and enjoyed it for what it was.
There were a few back wind /down hills going home, steep and ferocious affairs. Thundering down them, barely in control, belly on the seat, backside mm’s from the rear wheel, chin on the aero bars. Blind from the wind. Adrenalin surging. An overdue reminder that that’s why we cycle.
Home in just over 3hrs. Averaging 18.5mph. I wouldn’t leave the road out so long again, but the turbo has been confirmed in my mind as a valuable means to an end. As a mate said after, it keeps the legs spinning, and lets you do some all out sprints without a fear of coming off.
Trainers on, and straight back out onto the road for a run. A quick 5 mile brick to gauge current form in this department. The legs were tired and angry at this unexpected effort, but gave me a 6:45 min  mile average regardless. No complaints there.
Yesterday was also the last day of the 30 Day Cold Water Challenge.
The 30 days are done, and it went quite quickly. My body has got used to the cold, and I think there has been some benefit in helping me with Ice swimming. Certainly my head has desensitised to the initial ‘ice-cream headache’ type effect I was suffering.
The highlight is definitely that I used to think a warm shower after training was refreshing, I now know it isn’t. I will continue to take a cold shower after a decent session. It genuinely cools you, brings down the heart rate, and leaves you feeling alive and fresh, not tired and sleepy. In terms of training, especially in the morning before work, that is a real gain. 
The only reason I'll really be glad its over are because of the couple of things I hadn't really counted on missing. The first is I always tend to sit in the shower. Cross legged on the floor letting the water beat down on me. I love it. Its also a great place to sit and brush your teeth. When the water is ice cold there is no point trying to relax like that, and its good to be able to do it again, although I have already had complaints that I drain the tank of all water, and how much the family preferred me 'on cold' as it kept an element of brevity to my washing affairs.
Secondly I missed showering with Sarah. Not like hot and steamy showers, but just day to day. We are a house zero privacy, or so it seems. Often when we get up we will both get in the shower together, a quick mutual back wash - and just to save time and water. Its not unusual to be followed into the bathroom by 1 child sat on the loo and then 1 child stood brushing their teeth, all while we stand and shower together. A quirk of our family life that was missing for a month while I had to hang back and let the rest of the family  get sorted before I did my cold thing. Getting back to the everyday routine that I never even knew I would miss will be fun.
The low point in this endeavour came a week last Sunday from an unexpected corner. While we were changing for Ice Swimming in the hut a fellow swimmer asked me how it was going. At that point my mate Alex piped up ‘Are you still doing that??’ I confirmed I was, and asked if he had tried it, to which he replied:
"I thought about it, but we are stood here nearly naked about to get into a lake that’s 5 degrees, I considered that, then thought ‘of course he can do that, it’s no challenge’ so I didn’t bother trying it. We all know you can take a cold shower".
It was a throw away comment from Alex, but his assessment that it was in essence a pretty low bar I had set myself with this one hit home, and it made the final week hard to push through and be bothered to continue with it. Finish what you start though, even if all you take from something is that you saw it through, is a worthwhile maxim. And so that’s what I did. I stopped questioning it again, got on with it, and now it’s finished.  No regrets.
It’s that attitude I hope will carry me through the bike leg of the 140.6 in the summer. No questioning it. Just get in the saddle and pedal.
And so on to the Christmas Holidays, juggling gluttonous excesses and family gatherings that can quickly rob you of structured training. No doubt there will be lapses, but the 2 main pre Christmas evening events have passed without drunkenness, and that is the biggest thief of my time. A hang over seems to last 3 days and ruin training. They have been avoided with a strict personal 3 drink limit, and that is a huge gain.