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.

 

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.

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

 

 

 

Pleased with Progress …

This year has been one of the best for me for a long time, so many small changes made for the better, so many decisions made and so much clarity achieved.

One of the big things we did as a family at the turn of the year was to make nutrition changes, and not the “let’s juice for 30 days” type of change, but a commitment to long term dietary changes.

We decided that we would try as much as possible to cut out the processed foods that the super markets tempt you with during the “weekly shop” – we would commit to cooking from fresh as much as we could, and we would also try and source our meat and fish locally.

Changes like that can’t happen overnight, it takes weeks and months to achieve them, but they are so worth it. So what does a typical meal look like for us these days? Well here are some snaps I took before I ate the plate of food in front of me ….

Tuna, Anchovy, Olive, Tomato, Feta and Spinach salad:

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Hot Chicken, Onion, Garlic, Tomato, Celery, Feta and Spinach salad:

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Scrambled Eggs with herbs, sliced tomatoes, feta cheese and walnut oil drizzle:

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Roast Lamb, Kale, Sanfire with a touch of salt and butter, mashed sweet potato:

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I have to say, we don’t always get it right, there are still the “emergency chippy” days and the “I really do fancy a curry tonight” days …. but these are rare now … and they really are a treat when they come along and it feels like a splurge.

Over the months one the of surprising things I managed was in August when I made a brew and found we had no sugar in the house, so I drank it without and thought, wow, if I could do that all the time that would be good …. I have tried many times before, usually lasting a couple of days before falling back to my half teaspoon …… but this time it stuck …. not had sugar now for over 6 weeks and I don’t miss it … happy days.

I have also made a massive effort on the white bread …. I love my bread and could easily eat 10-16 slices a day, especially when training hard … these days, I try and not touch the stuff, maybe a few slices a week and even then, they are not white, they are gluten and wheat free options.

But what does this mean as we come to the end of September?

It means this:

I started the year weighing 107.5kg (or 16st 12lb) and although I was fit and healthy, I needed to drop some of that size ….. this morning on the scales I was 101kg (or 15st 12lb) …. but even more impressive has been the change to my body shape …. my belt has 5 notches on it and I was on notch 2 at the start of the year but this has dramatically dropped and I am now on notch 5 and it’s soon to be time for a new belt !!!

I have had to throw away loads of old clothes as they now bury me and I have only really just started, so may be loads more to go as well …… a stone over the course of 9 months has been done without any “dieting” at all … just eating healthy foods, cooked from scratch.

I even make my own salsa and fajita seasoning these days too:

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On Yer Bike …

Well, I did give the knee a little bit of a test and it wasn’t as good an outcome as I had hoped for …. all changed and ready to run, but after about 500m I could tell that it just wasn’t stable and to have carried on would have been silly. I guess more rest and the physio may very well be needed now.

So, not wanting to waste an opportunity, it was out with the road bike instead:

Felt Road Bike

The knee gives me no issues when I am riding as I guess the movement is all in one plane and with no impact … maybe my old body is telling me something now eh ?

It wasn’t a particularly pleasant ride, given it was only my second road ride in 2 months, but I have to say it did re-kindle my love of riding a bit … not that I had lost it but two months with virtually no proper riding is a long time for me.

I always capture the ride on my Garmin and the data that came back from today was interesting:

morning ride

I chose a very urban route, one that had quite a bit of traffic, numerous traffic lights and the occasional section of road works … so the average speeds are always slower than when I ride out into the country – I always reckon if I can ride easy and average around 24km/h for a ride like this then I am doing ok.

It was a chilly morning with a little breeze, so not ideal conditions but I felt generally ok … even pushed on a little at the end with a short blast up the “Ashfield Strade Bianche” .. a short stretch of unadopted road which has a very uneven and gravelly surface. Its name after the Strade Bianche race in Italy although it hardly compares !!! My second ever fastest time up this hill with little training and on the back of a night’s worth of beer and wine … I’m pleased with that.

The encouraging news was that there was no knee pain when I stepped off the bike, so clearly cycling isn’t going to cause it any harm and so until it feels right to run again, I will be back on the bike to keep the fitness levels up.