Training progress so far - What I've learnt and what I'm still learning.

Bit of a review time and take stock.  84 days remain, a lot of miles ridden, a lot of calories burnt and and a lot of knowledge gained.  So far the training, the process and the adventure has been insightful and I've tried to share what I can.  As I've gone up to 65% of challenge distance in a single ride and I'd guess half way between getting the idea and setting off on the challenge, the next period of the project is where things change again.  In the next 84 day there will be more of the "off bike" stuff coming forward - charity launches and links, work involvement with the press and PR side of things, events, consolidating what I know and focused/targeted sessions.  So what I've done.

Equipment:

LET THERE BE LIGHT!

I've blogged before about the virtue of dynamo hubs, but yes, get a dynamo hub!  For this kind of challenge the difference is as clear as day and human powered LED lit night and searching for the dynamo, spec'ing the rim and paying for the wheel to be built was worth it.  Massive thanks to Shutter Precision for the hub, H Plus Son for the rim, The Cycle Garage for the build, and B&M for the light.  Within two weeks of getting it spinning, I'd already ridden around 500 miles and it's stayed near perfectly true and tensioned (thanks Ed!).  One of the biggest step changes has been the knowledge that I have light as long as I move and that has psychologically has made a huge difference.  Previously I had used either cheaper bike mounted lights or battery packs which always had the nagging doubt of "what if I run out of charge on a remote country lane???"  Ever since swapping to dynamo's (last autumn for the Genesis Day 01 Alfine and this March for the Concorde), that piece of mind has made the difference in both commuting and training.  For the Genesis, meah, the extra drag doesn't make too much of an issue because it's resistance training and the light I always have on for safety.  For the Concorde and the SP hub, I can notice the difference compared to a standard hub so only use it when I know the sun will be setting.  For day running, I can switch off the light and use a few extra watts for speed then switch it on at night.  On the 9th July I'll swap wheels at dusk to make the most of my energy.

The flip side of having a dynamo is that to have light, you have to move.  If you have a front puncture, then there is an obvious issue.......  so a spare torch is now included in the "oh shit!" kit.  For the winter commutes it's the weight penalty of a Maglite so no hardship.  For training, I've had to make a couple of adjustments.

Pockets and bum rockets.

My carbon seat post isn't saddle bag friendly and although normally I'd ride with a pump and spares kit in my back pocket, I've decided to change to a different system.  Vanity has made way to a tri style behind the saddle mounting point with storage bottle instead.  This frees up rear pocket space for more food and takes away some bulk.  It's taken a little fine tuning, but it's working - even if it doesn't "look pro."

Rolling on 25's.

For the last couple of years I've rolled on 25mm Conitnetal GP4000s tyres at around 100-110 psi on the Concorde.  For the Genesis, I used 25mm Conti Gatorskins and now 25mm Conti GP-GT's. I've had no problems with Continentals and the GP4000's are fast, sticky, reasonable puncture resistance, good road dampening...... you can read a millions reviews on these.  I used to use 23mm Vittoira Rubino's to good effect, but after a recent use (I put a 23mm Rubino on the H Plus Son as a stop gap), I can really notice the difference.  The higher pressure Rubino's push a lot more road vibration through the wrists and lead to carpal tunnel - I don't think I'll be heading back to 23's.  I've ordered 25's for Blue Steel as a back up bike/training option.

Garmin's quit before legs

My next equipment challenges are the Garmin and the bar extensions.  For the Garmin, I shut off all extra functions (BT, power meters etc) and turned down the screen contrast to extend the battery as long as I could while keeping route, cadence, HRM and some displays.  Garmin claim around 10-12 hours, but I got it to 16 hours before battery exhaustion.  Not bad, but not good enough for what I want to do.  This gives two options for me to play with: batteries or dynamo.  I had thought batteries would be the better option, but I like the principle of the dynamo.  Caveats are weight, charging period, aerodynamics, physical bulk, if it's weatherproof and cost so still toying with options.  For one idea, I do like the DIY approach which can be neatly built in somewhere.  The off the shelf version is a lot more expensive and I have mild distrust of batteries.  I have a cheap USB battery to experiment with.

For bar extensions, these are currently on the Genesis (weird looking test rig/commuter bike at the moment) but will swap over shortly.

Battle bike

The Concorde is my battle bike.  She's 17 years old, endless upgrades and has it's quirks but comfort wise it's very good to me and unless someone grants me a loan/sponsor bike, this is the bike I'll keep riding (together, me and the Concrode have "seen stuff.......").  Newer bikes may be made from plastics, lighter, more aero, better paint jobs, have grand tour wins to their name and so on, but me and my Concorde have done 100 milers in 4 hours 30mins, kicked the arse of Pinarello Dogma's on the Fred Whitton and skipped cafe stops to do "one more pass of Holm Moss."

[NOTE! - All the equipment, is my own kit, I have no equipment sponsor so I have purchased from my own pocket based on preference, performance and price.  The kit linked is because I value it, not because I have any promotional obligations]

Physically:

I'm still the same person, just a little modified.  Some battle damage, some improvements, a couple of scars and a little less of me.

The good:

  • The carbohydrate study pushed my power output higher!  I can sustain higher power outputs for far longer and this has been reflected in my pace.  In recent testing with Lynsey, I've maintain this post carb study so looking good.
  • I'm more in control of my nutrition and know a lot more about how, why, when, what..........and enjoying food.  In ride fueling can be haphazard depending on availability (village/town, time of day/night etc) but getting better.
  • I'm in shape and I've been pretty much injury free the whole time.  Even with over 16 hours a ride, nearly everything functions in a way a normal person should.
  • In a recent blood sample, there was no problem finding a vein.
The bad:
  • Carpal tunnel turns you into an old man that can't open a jar of pickles, tear open an energy bar or write properly.  I have a new respect for OAP's or those with dexterity problems because it sucks and isn't a laughing matter.  I've had spells of it, but can't imagine it being daily life year on year. 
  • Circulation to my extremities in cold weather can be interesting.  I'm more prone to cold digits than I used to be. 
  • My upper body strength is rubbish.  Seriously, I couldn't fight a 5 year old.  I used to love freestyle kayaking, now I'd fear my shoulders would pop.
  • Depending on short/leggings padding and/or saddle I'm using, sometimes it hurts to pee.  This is a function of riding and quickly corrects.
  • I've had a "mystery illness" for some weeks now - I'm being tested.
  • There's a spot in an awkward place, but I think it's getting better.

The interesting:

  • I now have matching biopsy scars on my thighs.
  • My upper body is very lean.  The little upper body muscle that's still hanging around appears to be hiding behind a thin smear of skin and not much else.
  • I have a new respect for diets.
  • I'm annoyed by the food industry for supplying crappy junk foods.
The work with Abdullah which I've blogged about at length made my performance jump.  The focus of the study, training, nutrition and discussions help me develop in a way I couldn't have done solo, so many thanks to all those involved in that phase.  In the process, my power max went from around 255 to 296W.  This provided the bedrock to work from.

Recent work with Lynsey is showing how far my body is adapting to the endurance load of exercise (full write up to come).  My metabolism has shifted, my power output has increased compared to energy expenditure showing an increase in muscle efficiency and my stamina is far higher.  My glycogen depletion leading to fatigue is getting to be the limiting factor, not comfort or physical pains.

Mentally:

I'm feeling mentally strong.  Hitting over 400 km recently was a good marker, having kit confidence, riding all weathers, seeing the power increases with Abdullah, Loughborough Uni support, kudos on Strava and comments at work have all made me feel more buoyant.  This challenge can and will cause a lot of pain, but a lot of minor things are pushing that point further back.  Gearing up to ride 200 miles is still a "oh eck, that's a distance" thought, but less so now than last July when I headed to Skeggy and back.  I feel as if I need less of a safety net and can go further afield with confidence as I have a task - scouting out a route section, managing a pace, testing a bit of equipment etc - which takes the focus away from doing 200 miles.  Being 200 miles in, and then think "yes! Only 260 miles more to go!" is surreal but welcome.

A lot of the time on the bike, I've looked at chunking the ride into sections - turning points, distance markers, countdown v's count up, ride fractions and not whole distance numbers, time periods etc.  Jumping on the bike and thinking "I'm going to be on this for 10 to 16 hours" is different to "in 2 hours I'll be at the bakery in XYZ, then it's only another 2 hours to the bridge when I'll be at 1/4 distance.  I'll think about the other 3/4 of the distance once I'm over the bridge....."

One of the things that has struck me has been the recall to my years of doing The Fellsman.  I did this three times, finishing twice (63 mile fell race in the Dales).  The feeling of going into the night, the feelings in your stomach of wanting food but not wanting food, the fear of stopping because your legs just want to keep going, the quiet in the dark........ all strangely familiar.

The bits that do sit in my thoughts are;
  • "The Fens,"
  • Missing the 24 hours
  • The finish line.  

The Fens

I've read about hallucinations on the Fens during London-Edinburgh-London (LEL) and after doing it in daylight, I can see why.  If you don't know about The Fens, it's a weird place of marsh land in East England which is flat, prone to misting and eerie at night.  You can see why various murder mysteries are set there with zombies/bodies emerging from the ditches and dykes that cross a very featureless area.  The roads are very straight and the white lines become hypnotic.  Sleep deprivation, although less than in LEL, may well be a factor and a bridge to cross but the Fens will be an area I'll do in the dark - featureless, bland, exposed, straight roads.  In the light they tick off, but in the dark I can see why vision goes, lines blur and riders lose focus.

Missing the 24 hour target.

The 24 hour target - I can do it.  I can do it.  It's going to be tough, wind may factor, punctures/mechanical problems can occur, training will have an influence, so many variables.........  I can do it.  I think I'm too far out to say either way, but 24 hours is in scope.  Closer to the time I'll comment on feasibility but I have confidence that I'm closing in.  At the moment I have a predicted time window - optimistically, I think I can be down to around 20 hours, pessimistically with mechanical/physical problems I think I could be 36 hours, realistically I think I'm heading for 22-26 hours.  As I develop, I think this range will shrink but at the moment, the ball park is there.  The DNS or DNF aren't even being considered.

The finish line

My last mental "bit" is the end.  I've focused in finishing on the Mall at the gates of Buckingham Palace.  The state I'll be in will be in when I get there is anyone's guess but I'll be there in all my gel and sweat covered glory.  When I get there, will it be a Lizzy Armistead style look of disbelief? Peter Sagan wheelie? Pantani soaking up the glory?  Or just collapse on the grass?  I know that as this is "my challenge" so unlike the Surrey 100 or other events, there's no medal, finishing enclosure, closed roads or freebies bag.   Just millions of tourist fighting to get the the gates of Buckingham palace, and my team there to support me.   I may be the one who'll do the effort, but it'll be a team celebration as I can't do this alone.

What has been inspiring me:

Sounds very narcissistic or egotistical, but in a way some of my own rides have been inspiring me.  I've ridden some fantastic roads, see wild-life and wildernesses, re-experienced the joys/pains of endurance events and achieved personal bests.  For a 34 year old dad of two, that's pretty awesome!  To see so much of this documented in this blog, lab data, Strava profiles and GC analysis is a snapshot of my life that I won't repeat but future riders may want to use, my kids will find it and one day I'll look back at this bit of my life.  I have and am raising charitable money, contributing to science and seeing what my body can do.  In less than 90 days time, I'll be able to say for the rest of my life "yeah, I've ridden from Edibrough to London in less than 24 hours."

As a kid/teenager, I grew up with images of Chris Boardman, Miguel Indurain, Tony Rominger and Johan Museeuw racing the flat lands and Marco Pantani lighting up the slopes.  Growing up in the Pennines, I wanted to experience the fun of going flat-out through the Lincolnshire fields, sitting in an aero position, legs spinning a high gear along flat open roads like I'd seen Indurain do in France but always headed for the hills with mixed cadences, ascents, descents, in and out of the saddle.......  One Saturday morning last month while heading towards Hull averaging 35 kph, pushing a steady 70 rpm and shooting between spring fields, I got that feeling of "wow, this is what I wanted to do 15-20 years ago!"
Big Mig
My family has been fantastic in supporting me in this indulgence so far with extreme understanding.  I may have become a bit of a one topic of conversation bore on this around the house.  The burden will increase in the next 80 days and will add strain, but "this is a phase."  I'll have some fall out after the 11th that I can enjoy, but I'm looking forwards to playing with the kids.  I want to do this challenge for the charities, for myself and also to make my kids proud.  The form I'll have by the summer will roll in to riding the Surrey 100 with Mrs Stav on a tandem at high speeds - a brilliant pay back and share for the support she has/is giving me and I can't wait to ride this after the last three editions I've done solo.

Mrs Stav on the power up Bwlch Pen Barras


For the past year I've been following Steve Abrahams with his attempt at the annual mileage record.  So Steve didn't get it, but seeing is love for cycling in my Strava timeline is worth it - a man who's inspired to ride and every photo is a smile.  Plus he rides a tandem, so a kindred spirit.  He also keeps me more grounded - I may ride 200 to 275 miles for a training ride, he was riding 205 miles every day for a year.   I have recover periods, he didn't.  That's mental.

What I've noticed:

This is a big challenge I've set myself.  The distance is becoming less scary, but the time target and the size of the commitment I'm making is huge.  People are wanting to link into this is so many different ways which puts the pressure on me to do it and I put pressure on myself.  Physically and mentally I'm managing it, even enjoying it, but I know I put a rather high stake and don't want to disappoint.

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