Three weeks to go …

Three weeks to go …

As the title will tell you, it’s just over three weeks until I step on the plane bound for Toulouse and the Pyrenees and what promises to be an epic if somewhat challenging day out.

I am riding Stage 8 of the Tour de France, but riding from Lourdes not Pau, so our route will be slightly shorter at 148km in total. We are riding as a group of 42 to try and raise £25,000 for various charities.

My charity is The Christie – who provide such a wonderful service to the cancer sufferers of the north west and beyond. I have friends and family who have been affected by this horrible disease and over my sporting life I have always tried to support the work they and others in this field too.

With the ride just three weeks away, please visit my page and stick a donation on, even if it is just £5 – every donation helps to make such a difference to people and maybe even for you and your family at some point in the future – my page is here:

MARTIN HOLDEN riding STAGE 8 of THE TOUR DE FRANCE

We are riding the stage the day before the race does, the day before the professionals complete the stage, so it will be a tremendous thing to experience.

Stage 8 of the Tour de France covers four mountains:

route

  1. Col du Tourmalet (HC)
  2. Hourquette d’Ancizan (2)
  3. Col de Val Louron-Azet (1)
  4. Col de Peyresourde (1)

It will be the biggest challenge I have faced on a bike, bigger than Ironman, and I have done 5 of those rides, but this is the Tour and this is the Pyrenees – I am scared and excited in equal measure at this point in time.

The positive things I can take out of the build up to the event is that I have trained, and I have trained consistently. Looking at my current stats for 2016, Strava tells me:

Total Rides (including commutes): 94

Total Distance (including commutes): 1,959km

Total Ascent (including commutes): 14,377m

Could I have trained more, yes of course I could, but running a business, running other smaller concerns, raising a family with three sports mad boys who play football and compete in athletics means that your time is restricted and sometimes plans just fall to pieces. But one this that Ironman has taught me, is that you can do what you can do, and what you don’t do is beat yourself up about “what if’s” – plus when it comes down to the day, then experience and attitude count for a whole lot.

The distance doesn’t scare me, the mountains don’t really scare me massively, they will hurt but I can cope with that … the only unknown factor in all this is the weather. It can be scorching hot and humid at that time of year but as you climb it can be cold and even raining too … planning the kit list for this event is very tricky indeed, but I have chosen and I have hopefully covered all bases.

Yesterday, I rode my 27th specific training ride for the event and I tried something different this time. Both a mental challenge and also a climbing specific one. So what was it all about?

Close to home there is a loop that I slightly extended (to take in another hill) that covers 6.5km and contained within that loop is a climb of 250m (with gradients of 7-8% rising to 9-12% at the top) – further on in the loop is the bigger climb which goes on for 1.4km in total with again gradients of 7-9% at the bottom, going into the main bit where gradients rise to 11-13% in parts before gradually easing off.

The fact that the loop went past my front door would be the mental challenge really – would I ditch early. I set off wanting to complete at least 10 loops and also wanting to make sure I rode at least 100km for the day.

ride summary

I have to admit that 10 loops did start to get a bit boring and also became a little more difficult to achieve consistency as the traffic built up, but the encouraging thing was that I tackled the hills with great strength and calmness.

I assessed my diet during the course of my training and noticed a lack of iron intake, so over the last few weeks, I have started taking some ZipVit multi-vitamins with iron and whether that has helped or not I don’t know but I really felt in control during this ride – I also practised more on my nutrition eliminating a couple of products and choosing others.

After 10 loops I headed off for 35km of rolling terrain and this was a nice little change … it did mean that I would have some climbing to do to get back home and that was the really defining moment for me. The hills home aren’t big or long, but they have ramps of 7-9% in them and usually at the back end of a ride I will be spinning away in the little ring … yesterday I held the big ring up them all and with some comfort too – that really did give me enormous encouragement.

One thing I will take to the Tour with me, is the final element of my tattoo which was completed last week. You have all seen the cycling themed ones on my chest, back and shoulder, but the latest one is again something very special to me and something I have wanted for a while now.

Stars on Arm

Each star represents one of my boys, the largest for Jonny, the medium one for Matthew and the smallest for Dan – I wanted them on my arm, on show for me and the world to see.

As I sweat and toil up those mountains next month, I will glance at my arm and smile at the three superstars at home and I won’t back down, not one inch.

I recently listened to some old tunes and this lyric from a James track has stuck in my head:

“The price of loving life is not so steep, Climb out of your well it’s not that deep, no such place as hell ….”

I’m taking that to the Tourmalet with me …..

The Arm Coolers …

In 2013 I was very fortunate to be on the slopes of Mont Ventoux on Bastille Day during the Tour de France … it was an epic stage in searing heat up one of the most ferocious mountains out there … Chris Froome won the stage and I walked around 9km up the mountain that day and perched myself on one of the hairpin bends, camera in hand waiting for the race to explode.

Amongst the hundreds of images I captured that day was one of Jens Voight, riding up on his TREK and subsequently I tweeted Jens, who is very social and he replied to confirm that the strange black arm bands in the image were in fact special team issue arm coolers, produced specifically for that stage. Very interesting.

Fast forward now three years and through a friend I had the opportunity to get a print of the image signed by the man himself.

This week that print arrived in my office.

Jens Voight

A really personal message from Jens …. “To Martin, all the best and we both know that I am rocking the arm coolers” – that is something really special.

I plan to get the image framed and start to add to the collection !

In other news, it was stage 3 of the cycling themed tattoo this week and the outline and shading of the back piece is complete …. more to come on this one, but side by side with the chest piece it is starting to look amazing !

Chest and Back

Hopefully I will be getting out tomorrow for another good training ride around the Lancashire hills, building well towards the Tourmalet !

The First Century …

Yes a hundred, a century and it was on my training ride yesterday.

ok, not a true century as that would be in miles, and I work in km’s but a century of km’s is a big milestone for me, the longest ride I have done for 12 months, but this ride means much much more.

I have been working on my fitness and injury maintenance for about 2  years now, with a regime of stretching and regular visits for sports massage to keep the back issues well and truly hidden away.

When I was training for IM I would complete a long ride (so over 80km up to 130km) and really have what I can describe now as a “locked up” back – immediately afterwards and in the following days too – the result of injury and poor bike position. A more forgiving bike (endurance fit Domane), a proper bike fit and the aforementioned sports massage has sorted all that now and what a difference.

So yesterday: well it was a ride of two halves, to use the footballing term. The plan was for me to ride over to Horwich to meet a friend (Will Rose) who is a complete novice cyclist, has just got a bike and was trying cleats out for the first time. I rode the 14km over to Horwich and after some static work, practising clipping in and out, we headed off for a planned 30km flat loop which was excellent – Will rode very well and he seemed to like the feeling of being on a bike, which for me was great to see.

We did ride over the reservoirs in Rivington along the way:

Bridge

After saying goodbye to Will, I looked at my Garmin and I had around 48km on the clock and the sun was shining and I felt really fresh and energised. My previous longest ride this year was about 60km, so I was enthused to push this out to maybe 75km on a nice day like yesterday. Reaching into my back pocket I grabbed a gel and sucked it down with a splodge of water and started riding.

I had been riding easily with Will as he got used to the bike and the cleats, so the average pace was low up to then, so I cranked up the pace a little to work hard on the last part of my ride.

The bike is so comfortable, it was a pleasure to ride and I set off towards Westhoughton and Leigh, looping around and over towards Lowton and Golborne and then heading off towards Ashton … I was still strong and riding well as I headed up Billinge hill and over towards Orrell and it began to dawn on me that I had the 100km in my sight and with the way I was feeling I could actually do this.

Further down the hill from Orrell, I knew I had to throw a couple of loops in around estates I knew well, and this would take me to the bottom of Beech Hill with around 5km to go and if I could do that, then I would have cracked it.

The plan worked superbly and as I rolled down the street towards our house the Garmin ticked over the 100km barrier, and more importantly I was still feeling great.

I did the whole ride on that one gel and around 450ml of water (with electrolytes) which just highlights what getting rid of sugar from your general diet does for you on the bike – no need for loads of sugary gels. Ok, I need to revise my plan for the tourmalet as that approach will see me in a ditch somewhere, but at this stage I am happy to keep the fat burning going a bit longer.

Yesterdays route:

Ride1

and yesterdays stats:

Ride2

When I left Will the average speed was around 21.7km, so you can see how much faster I rode that second half of the ride to increase it up to the 24.4km that the final figures show.

BUT, and here is the big winner for me, the way I felt afterwards was like never before … I had full movement of my back, shoulders and hips, no tightness, no fatigue and I felt like I could ride again … unheard of during my time on the bike and so encouraging .. makes all those gym sessions and physio visits worth it.

It gives me great confidence for the months ahead and gives me encouraging vibes for some “adventure” days out when the hot sunshine comes (which I am hoping will happen this year).

Onwards to the Tourmalet !!!

Getting some consistency

When I first knew about the Tourmalet Challenge and decided to accept the offer, I knew I had lots to do in terms of getting myself ready and fit for the event.

One of the keys to that is consistency. Not just making sure I ride the hills, not making sure I ride the right bike, but making sure that each week that goes by has me riding, more and more and increasing.

I always record all my rides on Strava, it’s a great reference tool and I also use VeloViewer which is linked to it – it gives you some amazing data and stats that you can refer and relate to.

The last 4 weeks for me have been decent:

Capture

As we enter April I have some consistency in my legs, nothing major yet, the longest ride so far is around 60km, but good frequency and that is important too.

I have been having fortnightly sports massage to keep on top of any niggles and to help maintain the existing issues I have. I always make at least one visit to the gym to get the core work and stretching done and I am starting to have a “love/hate” relationship with the foam roller at home.

As a family we have been on a crusade for about 18 months now, to eat fresh food as much as we can and to cut back on the processed rubbish. During this time I have cut out sugar completely in my hot drinks and I have cut out 99% of my white bread addiction – now having a very small amount of wholemeal once or twice a week. I have lost over a stone by cutting these things out, we still eat well and there is no restriction on volume, so no hunger pangs along the way … sure it takes time, but this is a much healthier way of re-shaping your body.

Over the coming weeks, I need to start to build the “long ride” up towards and over 100km which is very achievable indeed – combine that with the regular work in the week (a bit of commuting and grabbing an hour or so when I can) and we are making great progress.

I have three solid months now to continue the training and work for the challenge and if you would like to support me in my efforts to raise £1,000 for The Christie then please click the link HERE and donate to the cause.

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 

TheChristie

 

 

 

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