Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Go long

Sunday 17 July

Dublin based friend, sports science researcher, part time triathlete, full time cross enthusiast and cake-eater Greg May has been giving me some Peaks training advice this summer. Obviously most of this a highly guarded secret, but I can reveal exclusively that he has told me to 'go long'.

No not a reference to socks a la Wiggins, but a 'you also need to just do some prolonged running' type suggestion. Now some of you love running, some of you hate running. I don't mind it, well quite like it actually but have always banged on about the fact that the Peaks doesn't really have much running in it unless your name is Jebb with an initial 'R'. Shuffling agonisingly upwards is more apt a description,

However, Greg has letters after his name and threatens to get even more soon, so I thought I had better do as coach says. So I went for a long run. By that I mean an hour round the woods near Arnside Tower, in South Cumbria. And very nice it was too - the monsoon rain meant bike riding was less than desirable and therefore a run a more comfortable option. I spent the hour pleasantly and confusingly, getting hopelessly lost not once but twice and nearly being late to pick up my son and friends from a weekend long Scout camp in the area. They had been in the woods all weekend and were unsurprisingly caked in reddy orange mud, the effect of which was to give my son a 'you've been tango'ed' look. Much to my amusement.

Anyways, the effect of all this running, apart from a mild case of DOMS (look it up) on Tuesday was to make the weekly Bull Hill efforts with Dave Haygarth and Carl Nelson feel vaguely doable. Not that you would have gleaned this from my expression captured by Dave, just as hostilities were about to commence:

So, more longs are planned - with or without getting lost. But solo, as I still shuffle round rather unglamourously rather than striding athletically. Ah well.......

Monday, 18 July 2011

Get Cross - cx skills course

Thinking of riding the Peaks this year? Already riding but want to go faster? Wanting to get into cross? Myself and Dave Haygarth are teaming up with MTB legend Ed Oxley to help you brush up on those cross skills - Get Cross:

Get Cross: A one day course to improve your cyclocross skills

Ed Oxley brings his extensive knowledge from countless mountain bike skills courses to teach betterbike handling.  Ed has taught hundreds of riders better bike handling and brings out the best in everyone.

“The best money I’ve spent on a mountain bike was learning to ride it properly. By the end of the morning I was riding stuff properly that I would previously have balked at. Highly recommended”
Alan Dorrington and Dave Haygarth join Ed to look at applying those skills to a race day.  Shaving seconds off every bend, climb and descent is not just about being the fittest. This part of the course will look at the recce, the race line, and how to apply Ed’s flowing riding skills when under the pressure of a race. Shaving five or ten seconds per lap in a ten lap race is worth a great deal, so put the turbo down and let’s learn to ride smart.

To book please contact Ed or 07939 205563

Saturday 10th September at Lee Quarry, Bacup

Cost £70 

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Bull Hill. Revisited.

Tues 12 July

The monkey is off my back. Following a slightly harrowing introduction to Bull Hill'ing this summer, Tuesday's attempt was fruitful and manageable. 3 laps with the effort spread evenly and less of a bewildering overload of discomfort.

I'll settle for that.

Starting to get back that feeling of last year when it became almost normal to be doing it:

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Bull Hill

Friday 9 July

In terms of synonymy, Bull Hill and the 3 Peaks have one of closest relationships present in my cluttered mind. Geographically apart, diverse in scale in all aspects, they still manage to have this peculiar intertwined relationship for me - the one giving rise to the other in so many different ways.

Let me explain further. Whilst Bull Hill has been there for some time longer, an innocuous moorland hill on the first of the northern hills above the Manchester basin, 'Bull Hill' is the slightly more recent invention of blog regular Dave Haygarth. In looking for somwhere to train and replicate the demands of the 3 Peaks (or so I assume), Dave looked out of his house at the glowering hillside above him and went out to uncover a small circuit of unsurpassable simplicity, relevance to Peaks terrain and sheer pain.

What it lacks in length, the Bull Hill circuit makes up for in intensity. I wrote about it's peculiar charm last year describing the circuit thus:

'...a warm up on a monster climb up onto the moor – a descent down a shattered river bed (under 6 inches of water) but posing as a track – a walk/scramble up a 45 degree slope easing off into water logged peat bog caressed by a howling gale – an attempt to shuffle into a run and summit up further steep slope onto Holcombe Moor – before an exhilerating career down the other side, wiping sweat from my eyes and trying not to crash before turning left to go down the shattered river bed again and repeat.'

And so Bull Hill has for me almost become part of the Peaks experience itself - not just a means to an end. The Peaks means Bull Hill and Bull Hill means the Peaks - the two have become almost inseparable in my mind, and in their stomach flip inducing status. Dave has been doing Bull Hill reps for some time already this 'summer'. Cue some nervousness from me then on Friday as I pitched up for my first session, even though I had tried to do some preparation for it in the past couple of weeks.

To get to the circuit and by way of warm up, there is a rocky bridleway climb followed by a grind up through moorland that is actually bigger than the circuit climb itself. If I am honest, this part fills me with more dread than what is to come - on this first session, I think I probably hit my max heart rate trying to stay with Dave and 'clean' the greasy slabs and rocks on the way up. Not an auspicious start before being forced into a shuffle after the top gate onto the moorland:

Pic: Dave Haygarth

Christ, those ensuing laps messed with my head - pain, self doubt, fear, humiliation all featured on the next two 15min or so rounds. Character building stuff indeed, but I had a moment of clarity for myself proving just how tough mentally you need to be to perform at the highest level in an endurance sport - to banish the self-doubt in face of the discomfort and the difficulty of your chosen activity. And that is why I remain a commited enthusiast rather than a high performing athlete. I simply don't have the strength of character it takes (as well as the genetic ability of course) to reside in the upper echelons of the sport. No matter, I enjoy what I do, in the way that I do it. And will continue to for some time yet.

Dave on the other hand was on fire. Here is the final, steeper than it looks climb to the summit on his last lap:

His 3 laps (to my 2) were consistent, measured and within 10 secs of his lap record. A fine effort, indeed. There will be more of the same for the next few weeks including a push to 3 laps in the very near future. That's more of a mental barrier than anything else but crucial nonetheless.

The relief on getting back down after that particular experience, and in the worsening weather, was strong:

Pic: Dave Haygarth

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Recovery and preparation - 2 lessons for the week

Monday 4th July

Less celebration (for our American bretheren) and more survival (for me) after a tough weekend of training, running around and eating/drinking too much. Need to knock that on the head over the next few months for sure... the eating and drinking I mean.

Cue a recovery ride with the CycleSport Pendle kids, including my 10 year old - a new regular Monday night club run for the kids based around the picturesque Leeds-Liverpool canal marina at Foulridge. Quiet lanes, and a coffee after makes for a lovely easy ride. With hills. And a mad 400m long ford....

Tuesday 5th July

I've resolved to get more off road riding in this summer in the run up to the Peaks. The reasons for this are twofold - one to hone and develop my technical skills off road and secondly, to toughen myself up and condition my upper body.

Gym work feels like a bit of an anaethema, especially in summer, and in any case is not overly specific to the battering your body takes in the Peaks. So, plenty of bumpy off road battling is the key to get the strength and endurance required on race day.

I commuted to work on the cross bike with a cheeky off road section thrown in, but the main plan was a big ride home incorporating some good long road efforts at threshold and some technical riding in between. Cragg Quarrry and Lee Quarry in the Rossendale valley are premier mountain bike trail centres and not too rough for cross bikes too. Mostly.

My ride was cut short by user error - an untimely puncture in Cragg Quarry conspired with a valve of insufficient length compared to rim height to force me into a long jog/walk carry down to the Valley and a rescue call to Mark who kindly stuffed tea down to come and get me.

I shall be better prepared next time with the correct tubes and some CO2 canisters too.

Monday, 4 July 2011

The 3 Peaks Cyclocross starts here

1 July - a red letter day for many reasons. Summer really underway, Tour de France to start within a day or two and..... Peaks entries.

I feigned a casual approach to the registering of my interest in entering through the pre-registration system. As  many who called me out on that one correctly observed, I was anything but relaxed. I had my first (of many) stomach flip on that Friday, as the reality of the pain and pleasure of the Peaks took but one small step nearer.

Do a label search through these blog pages and you will find a multitude of references and posts to this unique event. By way of developing this resource further, I thought that this year I would post regularly (perhaps not every day) my approach, preparation and practical application to this years race.

So expect a sort of of 30 days of Peaks except it will nearly 3 months long. Tune in, tune out as you wish. But I guarantee that if you have an entry in you won't be able to stay away too long. If you are anything like me, your own growing obsession/preoccupation (delete as appropriate) with the race will have you checking in on others progress, training, whingeing, misfortune, satisfaction etc. It's just that kind of event - a massive personal battle against terrain and gravity but one in which we are all in it together. And genuinely, unlike our egregious politicians in power would have us believe......

So by way of avoiding a political shit storm and by dint of taking the conversation off in a different, more positive direction here is the first offering:

Saturday 2 July

Long hill reps - well 2 actually, but nearly 20 mins long each, on the Alpine like gradients of the Deerplay climb up from Burnely. Good for those long, dragging efforts albeit on foot, that characterise the Peaks.

Sunday 3 July

This is more like it.....

Nice Peaks like profile on those climbs there....

Thieveley Pike is a hill of two sides. One approached from a nearby road that even the most exercise averse sofa lover could manage, the other a brutal, grinding plod up from the Mary Townely loop as it is passes through Home Chapel, Cliviger.

Done as my first Peaks specific training, on a sweltering day, it is a real calf burner of a carry, not quite as steep as Simon Fell nor as long but still well worth doing as a 2 lap 'hurter'.

Tough but satisifying as was the blast back into Burnley to listen to my lads Brass Concert in the a fine local Victorian Park and its bandstand.