A return to the hills …

When I was training for Ironman, I spent many many hours riding the desolate roads of the West Lancashire Moors, up and over Rivington and Belmont and it was training days like these that helped me cope with the race when it came around each year.

It seemed only natural therefore to turn to the same hills to help me prepare for the Tourmalet Challenge. Right, lets get one thing straight, there in nothing in the UK that can prepare me for the Pyrenees, nothing at all, but there are some hills that will help.

Anyone who rides locally will recognise this sight, the last drag up towards the top of Winter Hill before the drop down to Belmont village.

RIVI 013

However, in reality when you look at the data afterwards, you will see that you can actually replicate a 10km climb from the “dip” in Worthington to the top of the climb:

10km climb

The average gradient on this 10km climb is around 3%, but there are stretches that are 10-13% and even a small bit on the hairpin bend that is over 20%, so its a good challenge on any day when you ride it.

I chose Friday as the best day to ride over the holidays, and it was a wise choice given what we have had since, it was also the first longer ride on the new bike, so I decided to be sensible and set the goal distance of “over 50km” and the time goal of being “over 2hrs 30mins” – both of which would be a good foundation for the weeks to come.

In the end I rode 60.60km and 2hrs 40mins and really enjoyed myself. I hadn’t ridden the big hill for over a year, so I was never going to be blasting my way up it, but I was comfortable and relaxed and the bike responded well to the challenge.

It was also time to try out my new nutrition, and I have chosen ZipVit to try out first to see if can stomach their energy bars and gels – I really enjoyed the bar, much better than others I have had, but the Rhubarb and Custard gel wasn’t the best, it did the trick, but not the greatest of things to eat really. There are other flavours so now is the time the test them all out and see which one I like the best.

All in all, it was a pretty successful return to the hills, lots more needed of course, but we are only in March and I am fit and raring to go and have three full months to train and work hard for the challenge.


Forming a plan …

With the arrival of the new bike, I can now start to plan the training as I step up from the preparatory phase into the increased volume stage.

I have spent the last few weeks, building up the frequency of rides, commuting and riding at lunch, starting to lay a foundation on top of my winter 29er riding, getting the body ready for the long miles ahead of me.

I have to say that I am feeling great at the moment physically (probably the kiss of death) but I have no fatigue after rides, no aching lower limbs, no gluteal cramps and I like it. I just feel like I am getting stronger and stronger each time I go out there and ride.

The new bike got its first ride this weekend:

TREK Domane 4.3 .

I have read lots and lots about how the Domane was developed, a joint enterprise between TREK and Fabian Cancellara and I have read all about the technology that was used in its design and I was hoping for a jaw-dropping laugh out loud experience and guess what I GOT EXACTLY THAT !

It was just so comfortable, so responsive, so smooth and a joy to ride – over rolling terrain, I rode for 75mins as I didn’t want to do much more than that due to the tattoo still healing (more in a minute on that) – I even rode over some cobbles just to see what it felt like …. and that in itself was amazing … smooth and very different to the experience on the FELT.

I chose one small hill, a 500m effort of 4% average, so nothing that difficult, but I pushed on and crested feeling like I had ridden it quite well … later on, I found I had achieved a PB by 3 seconds and the fastest I had ridden it for 3 years !!!

I mentioned the tattoo earlier, it is scabbing up nicely now and looking just amazing:

First Piece

And all that leads me nicely on to the plan that is forming for the next 3 months of training as we head towards the Tourmalet.

The commuting has up to now been on the 29er, but all that stops now and the Domane takes over – when the weather is suitable, I will ride into the office and home but also at lunchtime .. I did it a couple of times last week and added about 70km to the weekly output – so it all adds up nicely. I can only manage it a couple of times as meetings and other stuff get in the way, but that seems an easy winner to me.

The weekend will revert back to my Ironman days, with rides starting at around 2-3hours and gradually building each week – so about 50km building to 80km over the next month and then we will start to introduce the hill work.

I will take a few days off work in the coming months, to have really long days in the saddle, 8 hours or so, just to get used to the big days ahead, so if anyone fancies a day out in the week, drop me a line … slow people only need apply !

That kind of plan, combined with a bit of gym work, physio every couple of weeks should see me in good form for the challenge.

Remember, I am raising money for THE CHRISTIE and you can sponsor and donate to the cause HERE 





My new tattoo …

For as long as I can remember I have wanted a tattoo on my chest, but for loads of reasons, I just never have got around to doing it.

Last summer I sorted it out in my head and got an idea of the design that I wanted and started to look for some artists who might be able to do it for me. Had chats with several and they ranged from pretty clueless to fairly good.

I then got a message with a recommendation for a chap called Malcolm Brown and so I got in touch. Malc works from his home address in a purpose built studio at the back and I could not have chosen a better man for the job.

You can see a bit more about him HERE

Anyway, such is his quality that he was booked up fully from last year through to Spring of this year, so I have had to wait to see him and last night was my first sitting.

Now this isn’t my first tattoo, back in 2007 when I completed my first Ironman I got the “M-Dot” logo on the top of my arm and I couldn’t really remember whether it hurt or not, so I was a little apprehensive, but excited last night.

The sitting took 2 hours and the piece isn’t finished yet by a long way – I have 5 more sittings to come, so lots more detail, shading and improvements ahead.

This is the result of the first session last night:

Tattoo - First Session

and this morning after a great nights sleep it looks even better:

Tattoo - Day After

The teeth of the chain ring, all the chain links and the “wounds” are the next thing to be done in the next session, then we need to exit the chain out of the back of my shoulder and fix it onto a cassette on my back … then we tackle the M-Dot with some other additions … it will look amazing when it is completed.

Thankfully, I was fine with the pain, in fact, I found parts of it quite relaxing and maybe “nice” is the wrong word, but certainly not unpleasant !

When I came out, I checked my phone and to my delight I had received 4 donations to start my fund raising campaign and that’s now 9% of the target raised which is excellent.

Remember, you can sponsor the #TourmaletTank by clicking HERE


The Christie and why they need your support

I am completing my Tourmalet Challenge this summer to raise funds for The Christie and for those who don’t know much about them, here is a small snippet of the work they do. If you click the image it will take you through to the page that explains it all.

Christie Work 1

They make a massive difference to people’s lives and close members of my family and several friends have been patients here and I am proud to be trying to help them.

If you are able to support me, no matter how much, then please visit my JustGiving page HERE and follow the instructions. As you can see, as a group of people we are trying to raise £25,000 for various charities and that would be amazing to be part of such a worthwhile cause.

Stage 8 of the Tour de France will be an epic challenge, and I am already starting to ramp up my training, by spending more and more time on the bike, and each time I ride I am putting more into the Tourmalet Tank so come 8th July I will be ready to take on the biggest challenge of my life.

#Allez #Allez #Allez

An Order Placed

Since the last blog post quite a bit has happened.

The original plan was to upgrade/change the set up on the FELT and ride that on my quest to defeat Stage 8 of this years Tour and the Tourmalet. But a couple of days to think on it and I decided that I really rather fancied a new bike instead.

After all there are three very good reasons for that:

  1. You can NEVER have enough bikes.
  2. I got my FELT about 4 years ago now and it’s time for a change.
  3. You can NEVER have enough bikes.

I have been a massive TREK fan for ages, and my current 29er/MTB is a TREK and I have been hugely impressed with it since day 1, so my search had to start with the TREK brand.

The Emonda looks a great bike, but perhaps a bit too racy for me, and therefore I naturally then turned to the Domane (doh-mah-nee) range, and wow, what a range of bikes they are.

In the end I settled for the 4.3 below:

trek domane 4.3

The bike is currently being built up and will be ready next week for me, and I am extremely excited by it – it really does seem to be the perfect bike for me.

I am also going to running tubeless tires, quite an innovation in the road bike world but after a fair amount of research and some good first hand experience evidence I am happy to go with this set up.

The bike comes with a compact set up and 11-32 cassette, so pretty much perfect for the stage that I am riding.

The training is coming along well now too, with a mix of indoor trainer work, and commutes with added lunchtime rides – I had my first physio visit last week as well to keep on top of the bodywork, so all is going perfectly to plan so far.

In the next blog, I will go into more detail on diet and nutrition, which opens up a whole different can of worms (that’s not the nutrition by the way).