Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ride to Newbury

Cycle ride with Ed to Newbury 2009/06/20

Went to: Winchester, Newbury, Andover
Distance: 91 miles
Total time on bike: 6:17
Average speed: 14.6 mph
Total climb height: 1320m (take the absolute value with a pinch of salt but about 37% more than the 65 mile Isle of Wight ride)

Today I had a great day on the bike with Ed Altenburger. We've both got Orbea Orcas but his is the 2009 model which has a slightly lighter frame and he's got wheels one level above mine. It's a very pretty bike. I'm not jealous. Ahem.

It had been raining just before I woke up at 7:00 and the roads were still wet when I set of to Ed's house at 8:00. There weren't any puddles and the slick tyres didn't really cause any spray so I stayed dry. Following last Saturday's bag incident I was bagless which is the best way to cycle. I'd managed to squeeze two Mars bars in to my saddle bag which was how many I'd eaten last weekend.

The way up to Newbury had some climbs but nothing too steep so we took it easy and we arrived in Newbury 2.5 hours after leaving Winchester. We both had bowls of non-skinny latte and we shared some Rocky Road/Tiffin (thanks Ed!).

Another latte shot at Newbury canal

We'd planned two routes to our next stop at Andover: one which looked great on the map and one which avoided the worst of the hills but still hit 240m elevation. We'd had such a comfortable ride out to Newbury that we decided to tackle the hillier route. Ed would regret this choice an hour later but given that he made it home in one piece it was great training for him (and me).

We were using the iPhone to find our way. The Maps application served us well. We had network data reception every time we stopped and the GPS showed where we were on the map making it easy to decide which road to take when we weren't sure where we were.

We could see a big ridge in the distance and we knew there was no way around it. But it was still a bit of a shock to turn a corner and find that the road suddenly took off vertically. Well, maybe a 16% gradient any way. Ed tackled the first half and took a breather whilst tying to pick his lungs up from the floor. It was good to hear the cars labouring to get up the hill in 2nd gear.

Steep hill west of Newbury

I scouted on ahead and found that it levelled off after another 200 metres so went back to encourage Ed but he'd already set of so had nearly caught me up anyway.

The views were magnificent from the top; this photo is about half way up the final steep bit.

View from steep ascent west of Newbury

Once over the hill we had a mixture of pleasant gentle decents and more climbing to do. The hill had really taken it out of Ed and he was in a bad way on the ascents for the next few miles before they finally petered out 6 miles north of Andover.

Newbury ride elevation profile

We stopped at Sainsburys in Andover and had a sugary drink and some food and saw 3 old planes doing fly-bys accompanied by 2 helicopters - was there an air show on?

Thankfully the last leg home wasn't too hilly although we don't live in Holland so there was still some climbing to be done. I got home at about 4:30 and devoured what was left of Emma's lovely Victoria sponge cake.

All in all, another lovely day-long bike ride. My total tracked road bike mileage is now up to 1729 miles. Roll on 2000 miles.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Running versus cycling fun race

On Thursday we had a "fun race". Fun, that is, if you relish the idea of 25 minutes of hard cardio-vascular effort.

The idea for the event came from a race that Ed Altenburger and Alan Chatt had last year. The challenge back then was "Can Alan cycle to along Port Lane to the sign and back on his knobbly-tyred mountain bike TWICE before Ed can run to the sign and back once?" One round trip distance is 3.65 miles and it's flattish, being 30 metres higher at the far end.

Things have changed since last year and now the runners are Andy Perry, Alex Mitchell, Jon Tilt, John Cooper and me, and the cyclists mostly have road bikes, so the nature of the race has changed a little.

For me, the main challenge was to be faster than half Alan's speed - he has a shiny new full carbon monocoque Orbea Onix. I've been doing lots of running over the last few months although the focus has been on distance not speed. We genuinely didn't know how it would turn out.

Pete Siddall also joined us - he commutes literally every day on a knobbly-tyred mountain bike so another sub-competition would be to see if he can beat the fastest road bike.

Each competitor submitted a target speed which represented an aggressive effort - something you would be pleased to achieve. I picked 7:00 min/mile pace given that I've not run much below 7:25 pace before so this is uncharted territory. Alan picked 18mph but thought he might not quite be able to maintain that speed. If that was the case, and I could hit my target pace then we'd be virtually "the same" (technically he'd be twice as fast as me).

I created a spreadsheet that calculated each of our target times and a handicapped start time such that we should all finish at the same time.

I think we were all pretty nervous on the day - it's not often you get to aim for an all-out effort alongside other "athletes".

Dave Lenehan (training for the New Forest Ironman but resting a knee on the day) was officiating and counted us all down to our start times and recorded finishing times.

Earlier in the week I'd revised my target pace down from 7:10 to 7:00 to match John Cooper so we both started at the same time. John's out of training at the moment but in the past has been much quicker than I am.

I started breathing heavily straight away - up the only significant hill of the course. For all I could tell John was holding his breath. He looked very relaxed. After 1/3 of a mile I told him not to wait for me and eased back ever so slightly and he pulled ahead.

He got about a 20 metre lead on me but it didn't continue to grow. My heart rate was at about 175 and breathing was hard work.

After a mile or so I crossed paths with each of the 3 cyclists. They looked to be putting in a decent amount of effort. Pete had already overtaken Phil Willoughby on his new road bike. The handicap system meant that Pete shouldn't catch Phil until the finishing line so he must have been seriously overachieving his estimate.

When I reached the halfway mark John was still 15 metres or so ahead. On the way back I felt like I was maintaining maximal effort - heart rate was up to 183 +/- 2. But I started to catch John, and gradually caught and overtook him at about 2.75 miles. As he'd said at the start, his approach would be to go out hard and try and hang on. Apart from a red face he still looked and sounded like he was comfortable though.

Shortly after Pete came by - he was first to finish by a significant margin (he won't get that much head start next time!) The finishing order shows by how much people exceeded their target speed.

My next goal was to catch Andy Perry. He has what must be an efficient gait since he never seems to be running fast. He didn't look to be that far ahead so I was confident I'd catch him sooner or later - especially since every time I looked at my pace on my watch it was sub-7:00 pace and Andy was aiming for 7:40 pace. But seeing him ahead and actually catching him were two different things. I inched closer over the next mile and finally caught him at about the 3.3 mile mark. He finished 11 seconds after me in the end.

The last couple of hundred metres are downhill. I was checking over my shoulder for the faster runners behind to catch me but I couldn't see them so apart from feeling knackered I was pleased to be finishing ahead of the pack. But then I heard a whooshing sound and Phil came steaming down the hill at 32mph and pipped me to the post by a few seconds.

I managed a final extra sprint for the last few yards and finished, gasping for breath. I looked at my watch to see that my average pace was 6:28 ! Way faster than I'd have dreamed of getting.

Fun race - pace and heart rate

Andy Perry finished just after and lay down on the grass verge while fending off a heart attack. His actual pace was 7:10 which was also much faster than he'd been hoping for.

Then came John Cooper, averaging 6:38 pace, another significant over-achievement.

Jon Tilt was next - he'd caught and passed Alex. Jon had averaged 6:12!

Then came Alan - averaging 18.2mph - almost bang on his target pace and "last" was Alex, averaging 6:45. Alex was the only person to not exceed his target pace which perhaps shows that he was better able to estimate than most of us, but also that he's out of running practice at the moment. Averaging 6:45 when out of practice is no mean feat!


Alan was not twice as quick as me - 18.2 versus 9.3mph. Result!

The fastest cyclist (Pete) was just over twice as quick as the fastest runner (Jon) at 19.47mph versus 9.23 - 10 seconds difference over 22:30 minutes

On the day, the mountain bike was faster than the carbon fibre road bike. Doing 19.5mph on a mountain bike is seriously impressive.

Alan and Alex had the best guess of their speed, Pete had the worst.

For someone who's only had his road bike for a fortnight or so, Phil was impressive at 16.2mph.

John Cooper appeared to be running *very* comfortably but actually went off slightly too fast and paid for it on the way back, although he still overachieved his target by a substantial amount.

Andy Perry can maintain his easy shuffling gait and still run fast at 7:10 pace

5 athletes finished within 1:05 of each other. Excluding Pete the spread of finishing times was only 2:29

Running versus cycling fun race spreadsheet

I'm going to schedule a repeat of the event just before the summer holiday season starts. Whilst it was rewarding to do the "fun race" it was a big effort and not something I'd want to do every week. If you want to join in then let me know.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

My first century ride


Went to: New Forest, Wimborne Minster, Bournemouth, Christchurch, Lymington, Beaulieu
Distance: 121 miles
Total time on bike: 7:33
Average speed: 16.1 mph
Total climb height: 670m (take this with a pinch of salt but much less than the 65 mile Isle of Wight ride)

On Saturday I did my first "century" ride with Mark Halliday and Rich Harran. They were doing a 100+ mile as some last minute training for their "Longest Day" ride where they head north from Winchester at 4am and cycle all day until dark, which should be about York where Rich's family lives.

Mark and Rich at Boscombe pier and pyramid

We met at North Baddesley at 08:00 and headed to the New Forest. There are loads of foals and calves in the Forest; it's really nice to see animals in the wild like that.

Before long we'd reached Ringwood, then Wimborne Minster where they were having a folk festival. There was much dancing and people with bells tied to their feet. It seemed like the whole town were involved. If they do it annually then it's worth a visit next year.

We passed Kingston Lacy (a National Trust place that is a good 45 minutes drive on fast roads from my house) and started south, aiming for Corfe Castle. We went a little off our ideal route and stopped at a shop for sweeties and a drink.

At which point I realised that the drawstring bag that I'd been carrying was no longer on my back. *%&*#! The only place it could have been was the last time we'd stopped which was about 6 miles back. Grr. My iPhone was in my saddle pack but the bag contained my normal spectacles, £10 cash, a credit card, my bank card and 4 Mars bars.

So we raced back with me leading the way as punishment (it's much harder work leading than following, by about 18% at 20mph according to The Complete Book of Long-Distance Cycling).

When we got back the bag was not there. Double *%&*#. 100 yards away was a National Trust property (White Mill) so we cycled over and asked the assembled gentry if anyone had handed in a bag. A very nice "old boy" in a suit had it:- a local lad on a bike had found it and left it in his safe keeping. Phew!

The detour had somewhat ruined our plan to get the ferry from Sandbanks to Poole so we replotted a route to Bournemouth beach. We'll leave Corfe Castle and Swanage for another century ride.

The weather at Bournemouth/Boscombe beach was weird. It was warm and sunny one minute, then further along the coast it was like being in a cloud. The visibility was down to 1/2 a mile or so and it looked like it might be raining back towards Bournemouth.

We had some well-earned (77 miles) chips on Boscombe beach and soaked up the sunshine. Speaking of which, I'd put suncream on my face, neck and legs. Which meant that only my exposed arms were sunburned when I got home. I've got a very fetching tan line half way up my biceps.

Our bikes on Bosombe beach

Going through Christchurch made me realise that when Emma and I had visited several years ago we hadn't found half of it so we went again today (no, I didn't cycle there) and had a lovely couple of hours exploring the town, abbey, ruins and marina.

We stopped in Lymington for a "full fat coke" and for Mark to get some Ibuprofen - his achilles is giving him some trouble if he pushes hard up the hills.

Then it was "only" 29 miles home via Beaulieu and Marchwood and I was home in time for tea.

My previous longest ride was 76 miles (or 81 miles in 3 stints for the Isle of Wight ride). The step up to 121 miles was surprisingly comfortable. It definitely helps to be riding in a group. You get to rest while drafting the others, you can resist the temptation to go too fast and you've got company to keep your mind occupied.

I'm looking forward to my next day-long ride. Maybe Brighton and back? You coming?