Category Archives: cycling

Do I “really” need to do an FTP test?

FTP testing, how do you feel about it? Do you dread it? Or is it an opportunity for you to show how you have progressed? However you feel about it you may find that you are asked to do some types of tests, or time trials during the season.

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There are a range of tests that I might ask athletes to do, and they each have their own value. As a triathlete I may ask you to do a cycling FTP (functional threshold power) test, or a swimming CSS test, or a running threshold test. Over the course of the season we can perform these tests at fairly regular intervals, and it can provide motivation, or affirmation that training is on target.

However it doesn’t always work this way, as we are humans, with lives outside of triathlon. There are so many variables, that need to be controlled, if you were to have a completely accurate result. So they are used as a guideline. Your threshold can change from day to day depending on, what happened at work, what you ate for dinner, how much sleep you had, how much training you did the day before, the list goes on.

Testing will also come in the form of racing, or time trials as it is easy to see progress, or any areas that need work on. It also provides race simulation which helps athletes to get used to the mental ability to compete, it’s no use being able to do a great CSS test, but then unable to transform that into swimming in a group of triathletes in an open water swim start!

These progress markers provide me, as a coach, something to work with, so that you have specific goals to aim for in training sessions. You may not hit those goals all of the time, and if you were, I would be wondering if your test results were up to date. Bear in mind that these goals are a moving target, and what you may have been able to to one day, may feel impossible or easy the next.

When you have done any testing, it is essential to give feedback, especially when athletes are being coached from a distance. If I don’t see you performing the test then it is vital for me to know how you feel it went. Many people get demoralised or upset if they do not see improved test results, (I’ve been there myself) But remember that the best test, is achieving your goal on race day, and that is the ultimate aim.

Pre-race nerves

Pre-race nerves

The jitters

I wrote a post about tapering a few months ago, which addresses some of the things that may come up in the weeks leading up an event. If you want to take a look then it is here.

Its nearly Ironman Wales race day, and I know how a lot of you will be feeling… nervous, excited, and scared, to name a few emotions, and on top of that you need rest before the big day. The main thing you need to do is let go of these negative emotions. By this I mean acknowledge that you feel a certain way, try to work out why, and then let go.

Have a plan

I encourage my athletes to make a race plan, so that if any worry crops up before race day they know that they have planned for it and are prepared. A plan needs to be adaptable, as unexpected things happen. You can plan for these events to a certain extent but bear in mind that on race day something may happen that you haven’t planned for. Dealing with these events is what racing is all about as you learn about yourself and can develop as a person. So even if it goes wrong you will learn something!

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Uncontrollable’s

If its a fear about the weather, or conditions then there is nothing you can do about it. Everyone is facing the same thing, you will get through whatever the race throws at you, if you have prepared properly. There is little point in worrying about things that are beyond your control just let go and accept.

Never mind about the weather!

Never mind about the weather!

Use the force!

If you are excited, then channel that energy into positive thoughts about the race. Any time you feel a surge of adrenaline then think of a key phrase or song that motivates you. One of my favourites is “I am the best that I can be”, as it doesn’t rely on a result or time to be achieved. You will be the best that you can be on race day whatever happens.

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Relax

Before the race you may be very nervous and stressed, you may find a relaxation CD, or some relaxing stretching could help you in the days before, if you can’t sleep . On the day I found deep breathing was useful. Last year as I was standing in a group of nervous athletes I told a couple of my friends to try to breathe in slowly then breathe out longer that the breath in (similar to birthing and yoga breathing) A few people turned around when we did it together, but I found it really helped to calm my nerves before I got in the water.

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Smile

Enjoy the race. Remember how lucky you are to be able to race today, smiling relaxes your body and makes you feel good so I’m hoping to see some happy faces on Sunday!

smiley-face-journey

Dragon, and yin.

A bit like Yin and Yang. Its really important to balance your training. As triathletes we are used to pushing ourselves and using yang (masculine energy) but we often overlook the other side of yin (feminine energy) recovering and nurturing ourselves. Recently I have read 2 articles explaining the benefits of stretching and prolonged stretching for injury prevention so I decided to make a video of relaxing stretches that you can do before bed. The first article is about fascia, which is connective tissue in your body. It covers all of our internal parts, and basically holds us together. If you do repetitive exercise/sit at a desk for prolonged periods, your fascia forms adhesions which can limit movement. It does this in order to prevent injury. To look after your fascia you need to stretch, keep hydrated, relax, and massage. (all yin energies). You can read more about fascinating fascia here! The other article I read, was about yin yoga. If you haven’t heard of it, its pretty fashionable right now, and is also used as a balance to those hard and strenuous yoga poses that some people do. Each pose is held for 3-5 mins. It is really interesting to do, as you relax into the pose lots of feelings come up, and part of the yoga is how you respond to those feelings, read more about yin yoga here. So my Yin and Yang videos are below, I hope you enjoy them, and a report from The Dragon ride is here

What is an endurance ride?

Or, riding in Zone 2

An endurance ride or run means different things to different people, and it’s something that a lot of people get wrong, so I thought I’d try and clear up a few misunderstandings and misconceptions.

When I describe an endurance ride I ask someone to ride in Zone 2 for an extended period of time. The way that training works is that your body adapts to the training load that you place on it, so it is important to increase the distance that you ride, and make sure that you plan this well. If you increase your long rides/runs too early you will be at risk of burnout and reach your peak fitness too early. If you don’t increase your long rides/runs enough then your endurance will be compromised.

It is also important to make sure you pace the ride correctly, some mistakes that people make are:

  • Riding too hard on hills, and then recovering on the flats and downs.
  • Not riding consistently on the flats and downs.

If you are using a power meter it is easy to see if you are in the right zone, and I have found I ride more consistently when I use my power meter. If you are using heart rate then you can see from your heart rate graph how consistent you are. If your heart rate graph looks like the one below, then you may not be getting the benefit of an endurance ride.

Heart rate dips and peaks a lot.

Heart rate dips and peaks a lot.

Shown below is a more consistently paced ride where the heart rate remains fairly steady

Heart rate does not dip and peak as much.

Heart rate does not dip and peak as much.

People’s heart rates don’t tend to dip as much when they are running, but it is still important to be aware of your effort level and keep a constant pace. Don’t forget, triathlons are steady state events and you need to be able to swim, bike and run at a steady pace for an extended amount of time.

Bertha and 100 mile TT

 Welsh 100 mile Time Trial Championship 2014

Last year I rode the 50 mile national Time Trial Championship in Abergavenny, and at the end I swore I would never, ever do it again. About 6 months later, and after signing up for Ironman Wales I decided that it would be a good idea to do another long Time Trial as part of my training in the lead up to Ironman. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) the only long TT that I could do was the 100. I entered online, thinking I don’t actually have to do it. Aber01 My mum agreed to support me, and we drove up the night before, after checking the weather we decided not to camp. I booked the Premier Inn in Pontypool. My mum was still optimistic about the weather, thinking that it would rain overnight and then be clear for the morning. I was not so optimistic after checking my phone. At least it didn’t look windy!

Rain, and more rain

Rain, and more rain

At 5:30am the alarm went off, and I had a cup of tea, dressed and applied liberal amounts of Sudocrem and Hoo Ha glide to my posterior, (thanks girls for the tips!) Unfortuatley I forgot that I then had to sit in the car. The sudocrem had already seeped through, so I sat on my coat to protect my mums upholstery, ( must remember next time to apply cream at last minute!)

a magical combination

a magical combination

As we drove somberly towards the start in the torrential rain I had mixed feelings, I was really looking forward to doing the TT as I have never ridden 100miles before, but the weather was horrendous, and I could tell my mum was a bit worried, as she asked whether I would be riding along the dual carriageway, and if there would be cars on it. I was also worried that they would cancel, because as we got nearer to HQ there was not the usual hubbub of riders warming up and riding to the start.

We arrived at 6:30, (the first rider was off at 7:09am) I joined the huddle of freaks, sheltering outside HQ who had decided that come rain or shine they were riding 100 miles today. The organiser had not arrived yet so there was some speculation as to whether it was cancelled.  Suddenly the doors were opened and signing on sheets signed. I committed my signature to paper and organised myself, giving my 2 bottles to my mum and explaining where and when to wait. I went out to the car and slung my bag over my shoulder and felt a sharp pain across my back. Now my mind really started playing up, and as I rode to the start my power meter started dropping out, and I could hear a clicking on my front derailler. I was starting to wonder if the gods were trying to tell me something, but I moved my garmin to my handlebars, and realised that the clicking was only the cable knocking against the crank arm, and my back was fine in the TT position.

The ride

I set off behind Tanis Hand (ex Tenby Aces, and the only other woman to ride) The route is 3 laps of the dual carriageway up to Monmouth and back to Abergavenny. At the first turnaround I saw Tanis and she looked a way ahead of me so I just stuck to my plan. When I got out on the second lap I did a quick bit of maths and realised that I was going to be at the lay-by that I told my mum to wait at about 15 minutes before I told her to get there. Happily I spotted her car as I approached ( she likes to be early thankfully) and I stopped to fill up my aero bottle and grab the other bottle from her. I said I was feeling good and got on my way. The photographer was at the next lay-by as globules of snot, spit, and rain dribbled down my chin. I couldn’t really muster a smile!

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Next I saw Jill Coleman who cheered me on, I was averaging 20.8mph so was feeling amazing as I was aiming for 19-20mph. I sang a lovely rendition of Chesney Hawkes I am the one and only (where did that come from?!!) as I was overtaken by one of many men, and I had one of several manic laughing fits as I realised that, yes, I really was doing this, and doing a good time. I had done 50 miles in 2h20 which was faster than I did the 50 mile TT in last year. The rest of the second and third lap was a blur of feeling sorry for lonely, and sodden supporters holding out drinks bottles, marshals waving frantically and pointing, and looking forward to the tunnel near Monmouth for a couple of minutes shelter.

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On the second and third lap I started to pass a few people, including Tanis, and Jill told me that I was on the team now, as Paul had to pull out. About 20 miles from the end I started to watch my power dropping, and had to talk to myself a few times to keep focussed, the last few miles seemed the longest ever. I shouted my number out to the clapping timekeepers and with comedic timing the rain stopped and the sun started to come out.

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When I got back to HQ my mum told me that there was only 1 other woman who completed the race, so I jokingly said “I may be Welsh Champion then”, to which she replied “you are!” This seemed pretty funny to me and I got inside where Jill, Paul, Dan and Rob told me that we’d won the team prize too. 3 cups of tea later I had warmed up and was presented with my Championship cap, and we had a team photo.

The winning team

The winning team

Race Analysis

A word from the organiser

A word from the organiser

Garmin data here, full results here, more photo’s of bedraggled competitors here

If you are not interested in data look away now 😉

Out of 71 riders 26 started 7 DNF, and 39 DNS

My aim was to keep above 150 watts, and below 180, I had set some alerts on the garmin, but couldn’t really hear them. I also had an auto lap set for 25 miles, but again didn’t hear the first lap. My power did go down at the end, but in comparison to last years 50 mile TT it was not so extreme, so I was happy with my pacing. I could probably have held back more in the beginning, as my average power for each lap shows.

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Below is a comparison between last years 50 and this years 100, you can see how I started way too hard in the 50, and suffered about halfway through! This year I had also prepared myself psychologically and knew what to expect.

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100 mile TT 2014

 

Couldn't take it!

Couldn’t take it!

So overall, I was amazed with my result, I rode about 15-30 minutes quicker than I thought I would, so with some great performances under my belt I feel ready for Ironman Wales!

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Spain, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Asturias 2014

We have been to Asturias 3 times on holiday now, the area is lovely, and part of my reasoning to go back this year was that I knew a lot of routes that I could run or cycle without having to navigate too much. So it was less stressful for me in the run up to Ironman.

The area around us, Picos de europa

The area around us, Picos de europa

With limited time I have condensed the holiday into the good, the bad, and the ugly! (Its mostly good)

The good

  • Watching a fixie criterium at Gijon, (I was actually entered for this but then realised it was fixie only and didn’t have a bike, (didn’t stop me having a mad dash to find one, even though I have never ridden a track bike before! Maybe next year ;-))Patrick has done all the hard work with pictures here and a short video here 

 

  • A nice top end endurance ride around Cabrales getting a few QOM’s
My longest ride

My longest ride

  • Swimming in the sea, feeling more confident about donning my wetsuit and dodging beach goers to swim

 

Swim before watching the criterium

  • Great food, lots of sea creatures
crustaceans

crustaceans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Devons birthday, I managed to order a cake in my limited Spanish, and he requested “hiking in the mountains” as his birthday treat.
  • Too many more good things to mention, and I came back to do my best ever hill session, averaging an extra 4-5 Watts per interval, and on longer intervals too! A change is definitely as good as a rest!

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The Bad

  • Some dodgy fabes con almejas (clams and beans) at a sideria in Ribadasella, which had me up all night with stomach cramps, wondering if it would hinder my training :-/

The ugly

  • Our plumbing in the holiday let. After a day or 2 every time we flushed the toilet the contents came up in the bath. This coincided with the above (eurgh) it may have been Devon shoving half a toilet roll down there on the 2nd day, but I didn’t mention that. Luckily a man with a mop turned up after I reported it, and fixed the problem :-)

Next up

100 mile Welsh championships on Sunday with wind and rain forecast, good to be home!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Long Course weekend

This weekend was the Long Course weekend in Tenby. I entered this after my failed attempt at the Tour of Pembrokeshire 76 mile route, as I wanted to do a longish sportive before Ironman Wales. When I told Patrick that I had entered all 3 events he was a bit surprised, but then he decided to enter the Half Marathon on the Sunday. Luckily for us my mum was on hand to look after the kids so we could both run!

Tenby Harbour with swimmers waiting in the pen on the left hand side

Tenby Harbour with swimmers waiting in the pen on the left hand side

The Swim (2.4 miles) Garmin data here Results here

The swim is a 2 lap course and conditions were pretty perfect, swim starts are always a bit nerve racking, but I am getting more confident now. I have learned not to listen to the stories people tell about the start and just focus on what I’m doing. There were 2 men behind me chatting and saying how it would be a scrum to the first buoy. I decided I didn’t really want to listen to that conversation so moved away from them. It’s one of the things that irritates me when people perpetuate fear and anxiety to make themselves look good! It really isn’t that bad, and telling people how awful something is really doesn’t help anyone. The start was busy and I did get a couple of elbows in my goggles, but I was soon in clear space and feeling great. I stroked a few jellyfish, and was on my second lap. The pace at the end of the second lap around the last buoy picked up so I hitched a ride with a massive group, we were flying, and all scrambled out together.

My mum, surprised that she missed me come in!

My mum, surprised that she missed me come in!

The swim was a bit of a test for Ironman Wales. I was hoping to complete the swim in about 1 hour and 5 to 1 hour 10. I was very surprised, and on a bit of a high when I came out of the water in 57.28. Didn’t sleep very well that night!

The Wales sportive (70 miles) Garmin data here Results here

There is a choice of 40, 70, or 112 mile routes for the sportive. It follows the same route as the Ironman course. If you are doing 112 miles you do both the 40 and 70 mile loops. I chose to do 70 miles because I didn’t want to exhaust myself over the weekend and be unable to train the week after. I decided to park in New Hedges and cycle down to Tenby to avoid the chaos of parking in town. When I arrived I spotted Clair, and we had a quick hello, then I made my way down to the start. I was super early so decided to spend my emergency cash on a macchiato from the teeny tiny coffee van. At the start I shoved in next to Clair, she was meeting Tom (her other half) en route and he was going to pace her on the ride.

power surges at the beginning, then lower when I was in a pack, and dropping as I got tired

power surges at the beginning, then lower when I was in a pack, and dropping as I got tired

At this point I had a bit of a battle going on in my head. I had planned to try and stick to about 150-160 watts the whole way round, but I thought it also may be good to push a bit and see what I could do. When we started I thought I would try and stick with Clair, as it might be easier to have someone to ride with, but it became clear in the first half hour that they were going for it, and I decided to err on the side of caution and drop back! I was on my own then from Lamphey to Castlemartin, where I tried to hang on the back of another group I managed to stay with them until after Angle then got spat out the back. The rest of the ride I was solo, but it was good to see how hard I could push it. I was feeling pretty tired and when a few people passed me that I knew, it was nice to hear a bit of encouragement.

I averaged 156 watts on the course but, for Ironman, my pacing will be a lot different! I was happy with my time though, as I was aiming for about 4 and a half hours. Clair did an amazing time of 3 hours 55, there was no way I could have caught her! Fortunately she was still at the finish when I arrived and she very kindly gave me a lift back up the hill to New Hedges, (very grateful!)

I got home and was about to do my stretching when I had an overwhelming urge to have a sleep so I had a nap for an hour (luxury sleeping during the day :-))

P.S. I was glad of my delicious portables that I had brought! (short blog post about that here).

The Wales Half Marathon (13.1 miles) Garmin data here Results here

When I finished the bike I said I would jog the run on Sunday. Patrick had entered too, and was also planning on taking it steady. The run starts in Pembroke, and you run to Tenby, after a bit of discussion we had decided to take the train from Narberth. When we stopped in Tenby quite a few other runners got on, and we arrived in time to march up the high street with the band to the start. The only problem with the train, was that I had change jangling in my back pocket the whole way to Tenby! (extra weight too ;-))

Feeling good

Feeling good

We were off and I kept an eye on my heart rate, as I know how easy it is to start following people. I kept a steady 152 average which is upper endurance for me ,probably a bit faster than I should have gone, but I was feeling pretty relaxed and strong. I had to tell myself to slow down a few times and let people go that I normally would have chased!

Taking it steady

Taking it steady

Anyway I was very happy with my time, I was 2nd in my age category, and not too exhausted afterwards. Patrick came in 4 minutes after me and I was there to watch his sprint finish, very impressive on only a couple of runs a week! We then headed down to the beach for a BBQ with the boys.

The weekend was fantastic, support on the course is amazing, and there is such a good atmosphere everywhere. The weather was pretty good, and I had a successful testing weekend which will have benefitted my training a lot. No posts for a while now as we’re off to Asturias for a couple of weeks, looking forward to riding in the Picos!

 

 

 

 

Jet setting

Last week was a busy one with the 4 up Time trial on Thursday evening and a wedding in Jersey at the weekend.

4 up TT

The 4 up time trail was on Thursday evening an hour and a half away, so we left Pembrokeshire at about 4pm and were back home at about 10.30pm, which is a late night for me! Our team consisted of Mel, Clair, Kirsty, and myself, and we had practised a couple of times.

I had never done a Time trial like this before, but it was great fun. The first part of the course is mostly down and I think the wind was behind us. I was checking my speed and we averaged about 27.5 mph on that stretch, so I was feeling pretty good. As we approached the turn of I was at the front, and I didn’t want to peel of at the junction, so I stayed at the front for a bit longer than I would have liked and I could feel it on the way back, as I was watching our average speed drop going uphill and into the wind!

spot when I was on the front!

spot when I was on the front!

It is amazing how much easier it is at the back drafting, as you can see from the power graph above. At the beginning I was desperate to get on the front, but by the end I was not looking forward to my turn so much! We beat the women’s Velo’s time by about 4 minutes so everyone was pleased with that.

Results are here, we were the 3rd women’s team.

Checking the times

Checking the times

Jersey wedding

On Friday we flew to Jersey for one of my husband’s friends wedding, we arrived there for a bbq overlooking the beach, the weather was fantastic, and it felt like we were on a holiday abroad, (I suppose Jersey is abroad!) On Saturday before the wedding Patrick and I went for a swim around the headland, although I think we went for a bit too long, as we didn’t warm up until we got back to the hotel, even though the sun was out!

After our swim

After our swim

We then went out for a run, I had planned to do 3 minute anaerobic intervals, and I managed to persuade Patrick to do the same, I went a lot faster than I would have on my own, as I could hear him breathing down my neck!! So I think he will be on fine form for the Long weekend half marathon, and will probably beat me!

Ouch!

Ouch!

Anyway I’ll leave you with a picture of me and a postcard that we found in the pub!

Obviously true!

Obviously true!

 

 

 

Long time no posts

Easter holidays

Easter has been a busy time, with visitors staying over both weekends, and a lot of furniture being delivered, which is now in boxes waiting to be assembled! I haven’t had any time to do anything except train and entertain the kids, now they are back at school I should be able to get back to some sort of routine.

A lot of work to be done..

A lot of work to be done..

First time trial of the year

I did the Neyland 10 , and was fairly pleased with my effort. Unfortunately I had a mechanical, my chain came off and got jammed against the frame, so I spent nearly 2 minutes on the verge wrestling with it and pulling paint off my frame :-s This meant my time wasn’t great but my power output was about the same as last year and I had a VI (variability index) of 1, which I was pretty pleased with. This means that I didn’t surge in power too much and kept a steady pace throughout. If you are interested in the full definition, then a lot of useful information is here

Trianing peaks data

Trianing peaks data

The Tour of Pembrokeshire

My friend Rachel and I planned to do the tour of Pembrokeshire 75 mile route. She arrived on Friday evening with her family, to lovely weather, we even ate outside. I had seen the forecast for Saturday, but was hoping for a change, it does do that sometimes, anyway it was pretty awful, I was quite jealous of the husbands still in bed when we left, with children still sleeping!!

We started out and agreed that if it didn’t improve then we would do the 50 mile route instead. At the feed station we decided we should cut it short, it was windy and wet so we couldn’t even chat! So we arrived back in St Davids to a welcome pork roll, and warm cafe, then went home to takeaway and Prosecco . I attempted to make a video with Patrick’s “go pro” the battery ran out way before the end but I managed to get a small amount of footage. which is here.

The Tour of Pembrokeshire

Next weekend The Dyfi Enduro…

 

 

 

 

Bike fit and rest week

Bike fit

I decided to get a proper bike fit, as I have been messing about with my saddle and seat height without having a clue what I was doing, and have also been getting a stiff neck on my long rides. I have been following someone on Facebook whose husband does Retul bike fits, they sounded interesting so I googled it and found someone in Carmarthen doing them.

After a look on Facebook at reviews I decided to book a fit with Andy at Cranc cyclesports. When I arrived Andy got me a drink and generally made me feel very welcome before we discussed my main events this year. It turned out that we were both doing Ironman Wales this year for the first time! I then did some flexibility tests and was set up on my bike, warmed up and had the sensors placed. Andy made quite a few changes, he raised my saddle 18mm, and moved it back 29mm. The cockpit was lowered 5mm, and my stem was shortened to 80mm. This has resulted in a comfortable but more aggressive position. I’m looking forward to testing it out on a long ride.

The whole way through the fit Andy explained what he was doing and why, I would thoroughly recommend him, he even drove out to my house to fit the stem, as he didn’t have one in stock.

The end result!

The end result!

Rest week

Typical that on a rest week the weather is the best its been for months! Never mind I spent a few days in Bath with my mum to celebrate her birthday, and made use of the Roman baths, which again I can thoroughly recommend!

Spring like weather

Spring like weather

When I got home I did an FTP test urggh. I got a free month of premium membership on Strava with my power meter so I thought I would make use of the Sufferfest FTP test while I still had the membership. I was 10 Watts higher than when I did the test in April last year, which is great, but also could be down to being more motivated by the video, or a different power meter, or bike fit, however I felt strong so I’ll assume that I have improved!

Sufferfest

Garmin glitch

My Garmin has an intermittent fault with the elevation, which I am trying to sort out, I didn’t realise until I uploaded my ride and run to Strava how bad it was! Managed a couple of 20 min runs last week though so good news :-)

Strava

Whoops!

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