Day 4 – The long climb to the summit

Today started slowly as we left Livigno the sheer number of cyclists trying to fit through the streets made the M25 at rush hour look deserted!

IMG_3835

After 4km the road climb turned to gravel track and soon we all spread out grinding our way to the top. The first climb was steeper than I was expecting and I was feeling pretty knackered by the top, 30km into the 73km stage.

My fuelling has been going really well and I tucked away dates on the downhill and flat section through the valley ready for the next climb.

The main event of today came after the first feed station when our route turned back up and my gosh did it go up! We climbed the Umbrail pass. The Umbrail Pass (el. 2,501 metres (8,205 ft)) is a high mountain pass on the SwissItalian border connecting Santa Maria in Val Müstair with Bormio in the Adda valley. On the Italian side, it connects to the Stelvio Pass road. It is currently the highest paved road in Switzerland.

4951977984_a81010252b

The road twisted up through the valley getting higher and higher until we ran out of tarmac, at this point we were sent off up on a steep dirt track to our highest point of the Trans Alp at 2,800m the view was too amazing for words and being upi near the snow line felt a little surreal!

IMG_3842

The descent down was pretty sketchy in places with big loose rocks and super steep sections, I enjoyed the challenge and rode it all feeling pretty confident by the end. I will never be able to wimp out on an A line ever again!

After this awesome descent, as always the Trans Alp through in a sneaky uphill to finish off before the enduro challenge to the finish line.

Today was a great day I felt pretty fresh my legs handled the climbing although it was tough the heat didn’t bother me as much and my fuelling strategy of eating little and often seems to be working!

I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face ready to face day 5 tomorrow. Now its time to find that pasta party!

 

 

 

Day 3 – The picturesque stage

Day three – The picturesque stage

Today has to be my favourite stage so far! Yes the climbs were brutal and steep but this was compensated in the most stunning single-track I think I have ever ridden!

The race started with a climb (something I am getting used to!) for 23km it was tough work but mainly on road so it was a case of getting in a good gear and keeping a rhythm.

IMG_3822

The route followed the river and climbed gently to start with before getting steeper, the descent from the top was steep and rocky but good fun and led to a well-earned watermelon stop!

The next section was a brutal climb so steep that in places I felt like I was going backwards, I had to hop off and walk on several occasions.

IMG_3826

This gruelling uphill effort when on for what felt like an age, waiting at the top was my Dad with a much needed water bottle refill before the fun stuff began!

The enduro section today was rocky to start with wooded single-track, I loved it apart from the scraping of my hand against the rock which was not much fun.

One of the best parts of today was riding along the side of the reservoir up high through a waterfall and through wooded singletrack it was brilliant fun and the views were out of this world!

IMG_3830

I really enjoyed today the climbs were challenging but the singletrack was brilliant and made up for the pain I felt climbing.

IMG_3832

Today was the hottest day so far and the heat is starting to drain my energy!

The journey so far… Trans Alp

We arrived in Imst, Austria for the start of the Bike Trans Alp on Thursday evening very late after a 17 hour journey from the from home. Dad was amazing and drove all the way do So I would have ample time to get used to the climate and altitude.

IMG_3793

We spent Friday and Saturday playing around on the trails which was great fun and Dad got to use his new cameras which he was super happy about!

IMG_3760

Day one – the long one

The start was exciting and full of people buzzing around, Michelle and I were gridded right at the back as we had never raced any stage races before, but that was fine with me I was just happy to have made it this far!

Just after 9 we rolled over the start line for a day of highs lows, ups and downs.

The race started with a tar mac climb through the village it was great with people cheering and ringing bells it reminded me of the start of Ride London.

The day started cloudy but soon the sun shone brightly down making the hill climbing hot and dusty work!

The climbing was rewarded with the most amazing scenery through the mountain passes. At points after climbing we would sweep back down into the valley and through picturesque little towns full of people cheering which really lifted my spirits and kept me going.

It was in one of these little towns I turned the corner and bumped into Dad it was great to see him and also good timing as I had run out of water!

Tom and Dad supported Michelle and I with bottles along the route which was fantastic thanks guys!

The vertical challenge was a timed stage, it was an unrelenting climb which went on forever! The climb went on and on after this vertical stage until we reached the top of the mountain pass. The reward was a sensational downhill through woods and out into open pastures through the valley.

IMG_3804 (1)

We were making good time and the hours were flying passed, the final 20km was tough. We had worked hard on a road section to stay with a bunch and I paid for this on the hill climb later, luckily just before the climb was a water point where I indulged in cucumber dipped in salt and water melon my new favourite snack!

The last 9km was almost all up hill and seemed to go on forever! The finish line in Nauders was even up hill!

It feels good to have completed the first day I learnt a lot and we had good fun as a team once we settled into a rhythm.

We finished the first stage in 6 hours 16 a great first day and 89km ticked off!

Day 2 – Three countries, lots of climbing

Today was exciting we made our way from rank D to B! feeling very impressed with ourselves we made our way up out of the start with maybe a little too much speed!

IMG_3809

The first 10km was up. The up was on gravel track most of the way which was loose making the climbing arduous. We climbed under lift stations and im pretty sure when there is snow this is probably a blue run!

We made it to the water point at the top, passing groups of cows who I think thought we must be mad! The water point was a light bit of relief, it was good to stop stretch out and have some much needed water melon!

The next descent was loose with great sweeping bends but was over too quickly and we were climbing yet again!

IMG_3816 (2)

My favourite stage today was the Maxxis endure challenge although I found it difficult and walked in places, it was great fun and being in wooded single-track reminded me so much of Wales and after a tough climb it was nice to remind myself of why I was here!

You can probably already guess but after this came yet more climbing! Today has been really hot and the heat has got to me slightly so I had to pace myself on this second long climb, the view from the top was incredible and well worth the sweat to get there.

Today we have ridden in three countries, climbed to the dizzy heights of 2270m, ate a shed load of water melon, and enjoyed stunning views and blistering heat!

All in all a good, but tough day in the saddle. The end was tough for me today, the heat sapped my energy and I was glad to finish. 5 hours 01 minutes, 56km and day two completed!

Tomorrow we ride from Scoul to Livigno. Stick around for more on our Alpine adventure.

Thank you to my amazing Dad for supporting this trip and to everyone at home cheering us on!

Thank you also to Specialized for my super Era which has been a dream to ride so far, thanks to Bike Fixers, Dog Tag and Grip Grab for all your support.

IMG_0141

 

 

The final preparation week

Anyone who knows me well by now will probably be aware that I am racing across the Alps with team mate Michelle. If you’re unlucky enough to have seen me recently you’re probably bored of hearing about the wave of different emotions that hit me on a daily basis about how I feel about it being so close…

IMG_3082

Since starting this journey in October the idea that I actually have to haul myself and my bike up Everest twice has been far on the horizon, a blip in the distance. Well now it’s only a week away that blip is in full focus in my mind and all around me consuming most of my days with thought’s on whether ive done enough training, having I got my nutrition right, what if I brake a spoke have I packed enough brake pads and so the carousel of thoughts goes on…

IMG_3586

Last week was a huge training week for me as I crammed in vital miles on the bike around work and play (play being one fun ride with my Dad). I covered 185 miles (one of my biggest weeks) in 15 hours and felt super happy with how everything went.

This is my first stage race and one question I keep asking myself is, why did I pick a 7 day stage race as my first and not maybe 2 or 3! I have learnt so much this year from training and racing I have had some real highs and real lows but feel stronger both mentally and physically for it. I think this year has made me a stronger person all round and I am hoping that strength will help carry me through my first stage race.

IMG_3664

I have learnt a lot about myself and really learnt to listen to my body most importantly and I feel more in tune with what’s going on inside and how to get the best out of myself.

Training for an endurance event is a bit like rehearsing for a play, each time I set out I am rehearsing for the big event. Concentrating on my fuelling, listening to my body and improving my pacing.

randr-photo-1550288-1500px

Having Rachel’s help on my nutrition has enabled me to get a lot more out of my training and improved my focus. She has helped me come up with a fuelling schedule that keeps me feeling on top form.

I feel physically ready for the Alps now, I have been working hard with my coach Mark to up the miles and feel myself getting stronger.

IMG_2566

This week I have started to taper off training and have been keeping a watchful eye on my nutrition and making sure I’m getting loads of good food!

Thank you to my coach Mark, Specialized, Bike Fixers, Food for Thought, Grip Grab and Dog Tag and of course all my friends and family keeping me going!

Now all I have to do is pack…

 

 

 

Gorrick Summer Monkey

Yesterday was the Gorrick Summer Monkey, the race that introduced me to endurance racing last year. I was excited about going back to Ceasars camp and trying out my new endurance legs on the course!

IMG_3586

On Saturday I had a long ride with Michelle and then went home to prepare for race day. I packed my snacks making sure I had 60g of carbohydrate per hour. I was trying a new snack my dietitian had mentioned taking which were pretzels instead of peanuts as peanuts high fat content can affect my performance. I also packed bananas, dates, malt loaf and some Torq energy gels.

Race day started at 6am getting up to have porridge before packing the car and setting off. I didn’t ride the course but instead spent my time making sure my feed so was stocked with water and snacks in an easy to reach place. I also had my second breakfast of mixed berries and Greek yogurt.

The race started at 9 and the new course was full of surprises, starting with a long drag uphill on fire road it soon turned back into the forest, where a bumpy downhill section dislodged my water bottle from the reverse rack, with riders behind me stopping was not an option, so I continued making a plan of how I would survive on small water bottles.randr-photo-1550288-1500px

The course climbed further this time up to a high point near the reservoir, this was for me the hardest part of the course the sharp left bend at the bottom of a bumpy descent before a sharp climb up seemed to give me gearing issues every lap!

After this was my favourite part of the course as the singletrack twisted through the tress with loads of great corners, jumps and long descents, my top speed was 26.5mph.

Although the lap had been shortened it was really good fun because you would notice something new or find a new favourite section each time which you could look forward to next lap. Thanks guys for a brilliant course!

Eating every 45 minutes was hard as you could never guarantee whether you would be on a trail section where eating was possible, I think this led me to have a little energy dip at around 4 hours, as well as physiologically being around lunch time it is always slightly harder to focus.

I had an energy gel which seemed to cause me more issues than giving me needed energy. Instead I just got stomach cramps, I made a decision to slow down slightly which seemed to relieve my issues and then picked it back up again on the next lap.

randr-photo-1549044-1500px

All laps had to be completed within the 6 hours, I came through after my 9th lap on 5 hours 22 and felt like another lap was impossible, let along a fast one (I had been thinking my lap times were around 45 mins, turned out they were faster) But  I had set out to ride for 6 hours so that is what I was going to do I started my tenth lap steady but soon was being overtaken by people clearly trying to fit their last lap in, this spurred me on to do the same, I was delighted to finish at 5 hours 55 just getting my tenth lap in. I had to really dig deep for this last lap and was proud to have achieved it.

I lost time having to faff around with re-filling water bottles after I ran out of small ones; this is something I need to work out before the Trans Alp! I also found out that pretzels are no good as they suck all the moisture out of your mouth, new savoury snack hut begins!

Altogether I did 59.69 miles over 5 hours 55. My average heart rate was 149 and max was 180. I think what yesterday showed me is,  when I feel like there is nothing left in the tank its always worth having a deeper look, because I found the strength and speed to turn out another fast lap, as fast as my third lap of the day when I was at the beginning of my race.

IMG_3598

Thank you so much to Bike FixersBike Fixers for getting my bike ready for the race, thanks to Specialized for my amazing Era and to Grip Grab for the most comfortable gloves I’ve ever worn over 6 hours.

Lap Times:

  • Lap 1 00:33:31
  • Lap 2 00:33:56
  • Lap 3 00:34:31
  • Lap 4 00:35:25
  • Lap 5 00:35:43
  • Lap 6 00:36:04
  • Lap 7 00:36:41
  • Lap 8 00:37:48
  • Lap 9 00:37:02
  • Lap 10 00:34:19

 

Dusty trails in Spain

Last week I went on a magical summer holiday with me family to Iznajar in Spain. Nestled in the side of the hills is a beautiful villa called Casa Pino Solo. It was from here I explored / trained.

IMG_3516

My key thoughts on training in Spain were to test out my ability to stand the heat and altitude.

The village of Iznajar itself is situated on top of a huge rocky outcropping overlooking the Embalse de Iznájar, the largest reservoir in the whole of Andalucía.

It was this reservoir that I planned to explore on my bike.

Arriving on the Saturday I gave my body a few days to adjust to the heat, the weather was a lot hotter than usual for the time of year reaching 40 degrees some days. Coming from the UK where 20 is a warm day this was unbearable cycling heat for me.

On the Monday I programmed in a 4 hour route to my Garmin and set off, my Garmin soon took me off road through rocky paths made by tractors between olive trees. The climbing was tough, made worse by the dusty terrain which I inhaled with every breath.

IMG_3533

Soon my route joined a road and with some relief the first downhill part of my ride took me all the way down to the reservoir. One thing I noticed about riding in Spain is the drivers were very patient and gave me lots of room when they past.

Crossing the reservoir I carried on uphill for what seemed like an age! The sun was starting to really heat up and I was getting a bit concerned about my water levels, I carried on and soon reached the top. The view back over the olive plantations was incredible. My path turned a few corners and then was downhill all the way to the lake. I was amazed that the hill that had just taken nearly an hour to climb could be descended in about 20 minutes!

IMG_3523

I made my way home as the heat was starting to get to me cutting my ride short. My first day riding in Spain was brilliant I loved the challenging climbs and the scenery was fantastic.

The next couple of days were too hot to ride, on the Wednesday I went out at 3 blow thinking that it would get cooler, 40 mins in I knew something was wrong with my bike the handling was juddery and my arms were uncomfortable, I jumped off and noticed my headset was loose, I decided to call it a day ride home and tried to fix it. I didn’t seem to be able to fix it so I got in touch with a bike shop in Malaga called Recyclo they kindly offered to have a look at it for me and fitted a new headset.

The next day Martyn and I drove the hour to the beach to drop off my bike and have a beach day. It was so nice being near the sea I love the ocean and the sound of the crashing waves has always made me relaxed.

IMG_3554

It was soon time to pick the bike up and with my problems solved I was determined to get up early and get in a good ride on our last day.

My alarm went off at 6 the next morning, after one snooze I got up and went to make breakfast, my little nephew Henry was already up having his breakfast so I joined him with my porridge and sorted out my snacks for my ride. I had planned to head out following the lake towards the dam towards a town called Rute and then follow the main road back into Iznajar and across the reservoir.

The morning breeze was nippy but I knew the sun would be out very soon, so with a few goose bumps I set out, I was soon feeling warm as I climbing the hill to the left of the lake, the view was incredible as the sun rose and shown on the glistening turquoise water.

The path contoured around the side of the lake, the road soon turned to a gravel track which made for a bumpy ride so I stopped and adjusted my suspension. The 29inch wheels made light work of the trails ruts and bumps and I felt really good flying along at a consistent pace.

IMG_3549

Since I have been getting a diet plan from Rachel Hobbs I have been sticking to natural foods on training rides and have found a new love for dates! They seem to keep me going far better than any energy gel or jelly baby and are far better for me!

I could see the dam in the distance and with every pedal stroke got closer and closer. Soon I was passing some local tree fellers and making my way onto the dam, the road which had been shaded by the hills was now exposed to the rapidly increasing heat of the sun as I made my way up to Rute.

IMG_3525

I kept drinking every 10 minutes and new my hydration was good when I had to make a quick ‘nature’ stop!

The climb to Rute was on a really nice road, somewhat like a motorway in the UK but with far less cars.

I stopped in Rute to fill up my water bottles and after a short sharp climb out of the town I had an 8% hill to descend it felt very steep and I clocked 53kph as I flew towards Iznajar.

Crossing back over the bridge and starting the climb towards our villa I felt a huge sense of achievement; I decided to do a few hill reps to finish and then went back to the villa for a well-earned dip in the pool.

I loved riding in Spain the heat made it very hard and I know this is going to make the Trans Alp challenging. Only a month to go now!

IMG_3522

Flying with a bike.

Flying with a bike

It’s roughly a month until the Trans Alp, I am currently in the air  (well I was on Saturday its now Wednesday!) flying to Spain on a much needed break with my family. However due to the proximity of the Alps race and the brilliant opportunity to ride some big hills I couldn’t resist bringing my bike along for the ride!

I contacted Box My Wheels who kindly leant me a bike box to keep my specialized Era safe during transport.

The bike box Alan is a big box with special wheel segments and an anti-crush bar. As my wheels are bolt thru skewers they haven’t fitted in the holes as they should, but with some careful arrangement it has all gone in!

It’s pretty simple to get the bike in you need to remove your handle bars, to do this you need to loosen the headset with an Alan key. I have also taken my forks out as this meant it fitted in further away from the edges of the boxes which made me feel more confident in its safe arrival. If you’re going to do this remember which order your spacers go in and store them securely on you forks by refitting the headset cap. Remember the bits with ball bearings in need handling carefully!

I had to take the rear hanger off which was a simple Alan key bolt I then wrapped this in bubble wrap.

As my wheels don’t fit in the proper wheel holds I have taken my rotors off and wrapped them in bubble wrap too.

Once the frame is in pieces you simply fit it into the box securing with Velcro straps, in the spaces I’ve secured my seat post, a pair of shoes and some inner tubes in the space remaining.

The frame is separated from the wheels by a large sheet of foam. I have also added a blanket for added protection.

Once your wheels are in and the anti-crush bar the box closes securely and once stood up has very handy wheels. Although, a bit like a shopping trolley, these sometimes have a mind of their own!

My top tips for flying with your bike:

  1. Hire a bike box from Box My Wheels around £60 a week
  2. Get a decent alan key set to make dismantling easier
  3. Get some Loctite 222 to put on your rotor bolts
  4. Take photos of things like the headset before you undo them so you know exactly where to replace them
  5. Put some tape round your seat post before you take it out so you know where it goes in
  6. Get bike insurance

 

I hope you enjoyed my post, see you in a week!

 

You can only train as hard as the fuel you put it in

This week a new session was added to my training plan Mark my coach added a ‘no hanging around’ ride a 3 hour fast ride, his comments said ‘no hanging around ride’ which I found this amusing I wasn’t aware that I did much hanging around on training rides!

Thursday was the day for my ‘no hanging around’ training, it was also the day I decided commuting to work on my bike would be fun!

It was a damp but warm morning as I peddled from my house towards work. I had not fully appreciated the amount of climbing in this 31km ride so trying to take it easy wasn’t always possible, by the time I got to work I was slightly pinker than I would have liked! I felt great for arriving under my own steam.

I ate all the normal things that day and felt fine. At 5:15 I got back on my bike for my ‘no hanging around’ training ride. The first hour I did as instructed I pushed hard letting my body recover on the flat, averaging around 25kph which is good for a mountain bike on the road.

I had a torq energy gel at 45 mins in which gave me a super charge of energy, I felt like someone had added an extra fuel cell to my battery. Sadly this feeling was short lived and by 1 hour 30mins in I had a bout of ‘shaky leg syndrome’ so I stuffed in some salted peanuts for good measure knowing this would be slower to take effect I waited 10 more minutes and had another gel I had another zing of energy (slightly shorter this time) and then another lull by wonder peanuts didn’t seem to be kicking in at all and I was starting to realise it was too little too late.

I finished my training early deciding to listen to my body instead of be frustrated by my lack of pace for the rest of the session. I still managed 60km in 2 hours 37 minutes which is good going and my fastest 60km to date showing that with the correct furling I could achieve more.

The moral to this story is that of you are only as good as the fuel you put in and the timing of that fuel is crucial. You are not eating for ‘now’ but 30 mins later so start eating earlier on to stop getting to the point of no return. Also to look at your daily energy expenditure if you add in a commute or some other activity you need to eat to recover from that and replenish ready for training.

Nutrition seems to be one of my weaknesses so I have taken on a dietician. A girl that I used to work with who comes highly recommended called Rachel Hobbs she is now setting up my diet plan to get me on track for the Trans Alp.

More on my new diet soon!

Thanks for reading x

Scott MTB Marathon – Rhayader, Wales

On Sunday I took on my first Scott marathon of the season. Michelle and I travelled together to Rhayader in mid-Wales on Saturday in the pouring rain hoping that the sun would shine on the race day!

The morning brought dry cloudy weather, as we lined up in the mass start the sun was trying to come out but dark clouds loomed above us so I decided to take my waterproof, just in case.

IMG_3418

I always find mass starts challenging and yet again as we pulled off Michelle easily seemed to slip through gaps between riders whilst I struggled to find my own gaps! I had to push harder than I would usually push at the start of a long race to get back to Michelle and then set into a steady rhythm up the last road climb before the fun stuff!

After the descent the course turned onto fire road, as I turned to my side, I expected to see Michelle but she wasn’t there, looking back I couldn’t see her and thought she must have got caught up so I gradually made my way up the hill expecting her to catch up.

The course was very wet and muddy with huge puddles and a lot of slip sliding around on the grassy descents. I enjoyed the challenge this presented as the steeper decents were made more technical and pushed my skill level where if they had been dry they would have not been an issue. The course was packed with good climbs but the most challenging and best climb was a steep rocky climb that seemed to have a lot of people walking on it, I started the climb behind a guy but once he wheel spun and moved out of the way I was free to pick my own line through the walkers, this was a rather nice feeling to be slowly edging past lots of people, by the time I got to the top my heart rate was sky high but I felt a massive sense of achievement for beating the hill climb.

_DSC8347_1700x1131

I was going well fuelling wise I started with dates at 45 mins then another 45 mins later had salted peanuts then when I reached the first feed station I had a banana, handful of nuts and got my water topped up. It was at this time that a crack of thunder rumbled through the skies and the heavens opened, not just drizzle a torrential downpour started for what seemed like ages, I was glad to have packed my waterproof! It was tough going in the wet and cold every time I went up hill I got too hot followed by freezing on the downs. I tried to keep drinking small sips but my water bottles were so caked with mud I ended up with more than just a drink.

After the course split and the half marathon went one way there was another long road climb, it was on this climb where I heard the sound of my name being called! Looking round Michelle had caught up. It was great to ride with other people again after being on my own for around 43km.

This next part of the course was the worst after a fire road climb the single-track became almost un-rideable due to massive puddles and so much thick mud that my tyres wouldn’t go round. We ended up walking lots of this section slowing down meant getting cold so I ate some more dates to try and get some extra energy. It was a short while after we left the single-track back on a wider path that Michelle fell off and sliced her knee on something, we still don’t know exactly what!

This meant a walk back to the marshal point and a long 45 min wait for the paramedic, after they washed out her wound they decided she shouldn’t ride on it so I finished the course on my own.

Michelle was okay luckily but had to have three stitches.

Although I didn’t complete the full 75km I am super happy with this result I kept a consistent pace fuelled well and felt in a good place, I didn’t feel tired at the end which I feel is a good indication I had more in the tank. I will be back to finish this race next year! For now onwards and upwards towards the Alps…

 

Training so far, wow it’s May!

It is now the middle of May and I honestly don’t know where the time has gone! It feels like only a few weeks ago I was peeling on the layers and charging up light batteries ready for training in the dark.

These frosty encounters have set me up well for the summer, with over 2000miles in my legs since November I am looking forward to dry trails!

Since the Gorrick 100 endurance race I have been back to firing on all cylinders which is a relief after a couple of weeks of no power in my legs and feel pretty rubbish.

65553995-Gorrick+100+2016-524

Last weekend my long steady rides changed, the focus now is on staying off road and getting use to more resistance under my wheels. I really enjoyed exploring, the now dry, bridleways around where I love, finding some great singletrack gems along the way.

To increase my climbing I headed to the South Downs Way which runs from Winchester to Brighton, it’s a chalky bridleway with some great climbing and stunning views over the South Downs national park. Well worth a visit!

IMG_3367

Living below the South Downs national park I am fortunate to make good use of this middle section for training, I headed towards Winchester to climb Harting down which is a steep chalky rutted climb and then on from this Butser Hill a grassy steady climb which gets steeper in the middle before plateauing out. Both had me gasping at the warm summer’s air.

I covered 75 in total at a steady pace, which I am happy with and can build on. My fuelling strategy was a banana at hour one, slated peanuts in hour two, another banana at hour three and then jelly babies and malt loaf in hour four. Considering a banana is roughly 30g carbohydrate I still need to increase my food intake considerably.

As my nutrition has become a vital part of my training i have decided to take on a nutritionist to help me towards my goal of completing the Trans Alp! I will let you know how the new diet goes….

IMG_3370

 

Mountain biking & other adventures