Beyond Belief !

Beyond Belief !

At the moment, I am just so frustrated and disappointed, quite numb actually and really am at the end of my tether.

For the last 4 months I have worked so hard, trained consistently and made sure that I kept all my sports massage appointments – the body was strong and all was set for a wonderful day in the Pyrenees and then …..

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For the last week I have been struggling big time, hard to walk with the knee in lots of pain .. swelling and a total lack of stability around the joint. The most annoying part is that I cannot put it down to one single event, no trip over a kerbstone, no banging it into a table, no unfortunate twist .. nothing at all.

I finished my last hilly training session and from then on it has just deteriorated to the point that I have had to withdraw from the event. Closer examination has revealed more cartilage damage but now that the swelling has started to go down, at least we seem to be able to rule out ligament tears.

I have been told no bike riding now for an extended time and a regime of specific exercises and rehab, strengthening the joint. I need to be back on the anti-inflam’s and lots of ice … the physio suggested swimming would be a good option for me, so I guess its time for some more new goggles and more splashing around.

All that work, the best fitness on a bike for nearly 10 years and then this out of nowhere … really it gutting.

It has made me think hard about my “competitive” future, which I guess is now finally over … the 10 years of top level rugby league and then 10 years of ironman training has finally caught up with me – the list of injuries I have had is long and I have to face up to that.

In the short term, I need to recover from this setback and then take stock, but I have hung up the “events and races” boots and retired any idea of adventures or long distance extravaganzas. I think it’s time to really just enjoy the bike for what it is and not worry about trying to prove I can still hack it, cos clearly I can’t.

The Tour de France starts tomorrow, I should have been there, but sometimes life takes a different route and for me that dream is over. I am really looking forward to the race itself, although Stage 8 will be hard to watch.

It’s beer time tonight, I need it.

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 …..

Ramping It Up …

It’s only around 7 weeks until I depart for the shores of France and the mountains of the Pyrenees to take on Stage 8 of this year’s Tour de France.

My training has been consistent and steady, nothing immense but more importantly very few weeks at all with little or no riding (this week excepted). I am confident in terms of distance now – 100km is right back on my radar as something that is really easy to complete and I am feeling strong.

My injuries all seem to be under control and the strength and speed on the bike is improving week upon week.

Last weekend saw me complete three very good rides, especially the longer one which was done at a record speed for me (in excess of 28 kmh) without any flare-ups or problems afterward.

data

Obviously, the next 7 weeks will be spent working more and more on my core and hill work – I have the endurance for the ride, I now need to train specifically for the hills and the long, long time in the saddle.

Yesterday saw the completion of my cycling themed tattoo – it has taken 5 sittings of two hours each with a fantastic artist and the end product is something I am really pleased with.

full tattoo

I don’t think I am finished with tattoo’s just yet, I still have two specific things that I want to have on me at some point, but I think for now this looks amazing and really does make me smile with happiness.

Due to work and other issues, I have only managed two short commute rides, but a bit of rest after last weeks loading will do my battered body no harm at all in the long run.

 

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