So I have discovered that it is hard to write blogs in the middle of the racing season. A lack of time is the main reason. I have also been trying out a lot of new stuff including the altitude tent, training at simulated altitude and looking at the muscle oxygen saturation %. All good stuff and worthy of writing about in future posts. I am also not feeling very funny. I am suffering from a lack of humour. Some might say that this is not a new affliction but my two main reasons for writing to you are to help you go faster and make you laugh. In this regard, I have a big problem: I have lost my sense of humour. I think I left it in one of two places:
- The Hallowed Ground
- Preston Park Velodrome
There was therefore only one thing to do. Ride around both of these courses until I found it. This 2 part blog looks at my search around each.
This being the closer course, I opted to search this one first. To make life interesting and gain an ancillary benefit I also opted to undertake my humour hunting on the TT Rig.
A word or two from Fabian
Fabian Cancellara once said, without a trace of humour, that if you want to get good at TT’s then you should ride your TT bike a lot. He followed his own advice with 200km plus rides on his Rig and, lo and behold, he was good at TTs. His ability to ride at about 500w might alos have had something to do with it.
My own traditional approach is to train hard throughout the winter on each and every bike I own with the exception of my TT bike. Pretty smart eh? I actually spend more time on a track bike than a TT bike in the winter. Do I race track? Nope. Fabian would not understand the logic of this approach (in a very Swiss way).
On reflection, I would be inclined to agree. Dusting off the TT Rig in March will not get you in good shape to ride fast TTs. Why, you probably did not ask? Well, because it is a totally different position to the road (or track) bike. I noticed this in my first race of the season – a very fast day on the very fast E2/25 25 mile course. The result – an all time club record with a PB of 50.14. This was achieved with pretty piss poor power and, in truth, was a missed opportunity to achieve one of my main goals of getting under the 50 minute mark.
So, I decided to look for my humour by riding 161km around a beautiful 6.7km loop in Leigh, Kent that is littered with potholes, gravel and civilians on my TT bike. [EDIT – the civilians were not on my TT bike. I was on my TT bike. The civilians were on foot, in cars, at bus stops and driving a Royal Mail van]
What is the furthest I had ridden my TT bike before in one go? 25 miles. (plus a little bit of a warm up and a little bit of a ride back to HQ). The Hallowed Ground is about 6.7km long with about 24 laps required to complete the century of 161km. I knew from experience of riding in the Unhinged Gunfights that 10 minutes is the gold standard for a lap and I would not maintain that for 24 laps so settled on targeting sub-11min laps with a view to break 4.5 hours of ride time for the century. I had a plan (and as we know from the Unhinged Anthem – all we ever need is a plan).
A word from an old bloke
An Old Bloke
On arriving at the Hallowed Ground, I found a nice place to park under a tree as I anticipated that I would need to stop for liquid replenishment. Also under the tree appeared an unexpected collection of old people who were most interested in what I was doing. They were even more interested to learn that the ground they lived on was Hallowed.
They were there to catch a bus to do the weekly shop. I explained I was looking for my sense of humour. Most of them trundled away at this point with alarmed expressions on their faces but one old tinkerer struck up a lively conversation about aerodynamics and minimising frontal area. He even cited the fact that he cut down his handlebars to achieve this. I think he could have been Graeme Obree’s dad. It was an unexpected but welcome exchange and he, and I, departed with our spirits lifted.
A word from the Dogs
The Dogs (well, Marcel’s Dogs anyway..)
The first few laps went well in the sense that I was fast with lap times of around 10mins 30s. However, on about lap 3, the dogs decided to have a word. The previous night I had treated them to a night of racing at the Lee Valley Dogs. (and also had a quick cursory look for my sense of humour on that course to no avail.)
Now, some might say that a night of hard crit racing is less than ideal preparation for a maiden TT century on the TT Bike. Mr Some would be correct. And the Dogs would, and did, agree wholeheartedly. They gave voice to this agreement in the only way they know how – by screaming at me in agonising pain. At this point, I knew I was in trouble. Ungrateful mutts.
To be fair, there is always some calculated method in the Unhinged madness. As ever, I had one eye on the Tour of Sussex and wanted to get used to riding a hard ride when feeling pretty fatigued. Woo Hoo for the method – this did not mollify the dogs in any way. It was going to be a long 4 hours ahead.
A word from the Deltoids
The laps ticked by. I ignored everything the dogs had to say. I found better lines through the potholes. I avoided all of the civilians who were trying to kill me. To be fair, I didn’t hold it against them as they were understandably not expecting a coral clad Unhinged cyclist to be travelling around this discrete stretch of road at such immense speeds.
The first hour passed by with about 38km covered. Things were looking up. I was on track. The 40km mark was achieved in 1hour 3 mins.
The next body part that wanted to have a word with me were my Deltoids. These are the muscles in the shoulder that do quite a lot of things including enabling you to do a decent chicken impression. Go-on, give it a try. It is guaranteed to make you and your loved one laugh. The Delts also are quite involved in holding the Aero position on the TT bars it would seem and they were mightily unimpressed at the requirement to hold it (on and off, but mostly on) for over an hour.
It would also seem that the Delts can only communicate in the same way as the Dogs – you got it – by screaming at me in agonising pain. Now this had pros and cons. On the plus side, they screamed louder than the dogs meaning I could not really hear the howling of the dogs. On the minus side they would not be ignored. In fact, I have no track record of ignoring Delt pain. This was a problem.
I swiftly realised that my foolish dream of only stopping to quickly change bidons was exactly that – a foolish dream. I would need to take some breaks. Fair enough, I could deal with that. I mean, it is not like I am yet going for any 100 mile TT records or anything… I set myself the target of 80km before the first break. I arrived at this point in 2 hours 9 minutes so was still on target.
A word from inside the dogs
As anyone looking at my Strava will testify, I have been playing around with muscle oxygen saturation monitoring. This basically takes one of your dog muscles (Vastus Laterallis if you want to be precise) and uses a monitor to assess how much Oxygen is in the capillaries of the muscle expressed as a %. More on this in a dedicated post, but the image below shows that my SMO2 % (Saturated Muscle Oxygen %) was regularly at a level under 20%. It usually takes some hard intervals to get it down to this level. I therefore had an Oxygen supply issue as my cardiovascular system was pretty fatigued from the Crit (and previous training). As will be the case in the Tour of Sussex (and then some).
So looking inside the dogs the SMO2 % told me me that I was tired and about to get tireder. Which is not a word yet very apt.
A word with the lads
A word with the lads
I took a break, sheltering from the sun under the A21 and knew that I needed some encouragement to complete my challenge. I therefore opened up some whats app chat with my teammates taking some motivation from the fact that they thought I was bonkers and telling them what I had planned. With this out there I knew that I had to complete it.
Telling them that I would check in after another 40km I got back at it. My first break was 11 mins.
A word with myself
The next 40km and 6 laps passed in a bit of a blur. It took me 1hr 8min and 30s and it all felt wrong. The Dogs and the Delts were having a scream off and would not be ignored. My car was also screaming at me to get the fuck inside it and go home every time I charged passed it at a constantly reducing velocity. I had had enough.
The thing is with Unhinged exploits, there is always a time when you have had enough and it is at this point that I had a word with myself. A quite word that drowned out the screams of my Dogs, my Delts and my car. It is a word that is one of the keys to my success as a bike rider. That word is “Rhinoceros”.
Now, some of you might be looking for something more profound here. A handy mantra (I have one of those– it goes STRONG-SMOOTH-COMMITTED-CONTROL), a bold statement (such as ENDURE) or a positive statement (YOU GOT THIS, YOU CAN DO IT blah blah blah..). They would all help but no, I quietly said the word Rhinoceros and said it only once. Now this had a remarkable effect. The Dogs were not expecting it, the Delts were surprised by it and my car shat itself. And they were all quiet for a while. It was very peaceful completing the last lap without any voices in my head.
Another word with the lads
Another word with the lads
I stopped for my second break with 18 laps, and 121km done in about 3:20min. I had 40km to do in less than 1 hour 10 mins. On the face of it, this seemed reasonable. The Jackhammer told me so over WhatsApp. I didn’t believe him. The King told me to stop chatting and get on with it. I could not really argue with that. I did not want to but had made such a fuss with my team that I had to finish it.
And then an amazing thing happened: I got quicker. Laps were sub 11 minutes again. There was a stoppage for liquid and an interaction with a kind civilian who drove over to me with a bidon that had launched itself out of the rear facing bidon launcher (otherwise known as the wanky tri seat mount).. A kind gesture and one that restored a bit of faith in the civilian population.
After a few laps ticked by I reached a happy place. (no not what you are thinking you filthy individual Glenn Bowker). I had reached the place where I knew that I was going to get the job done. There was still some work to do, some discomfort to ignore and some screaming to drown out but all became calm.. I was going to achieve my objectives. I was in the moment and completely present.
Power came back and the last lap was the quickest.
I wrapped it up. Packed up the car and treated myself to a Magnum. Naughty Naughty.
Laps (including breaks)
Did I find my sense of humour?
Well, I had better let you be the judge of that. During my second edit of this post I chuckled a couple of times in an Unhinged manner on the commuter train so this is a good sign. However, I still felt that it was missing. Part II looks at my search around Preston Park.
What I did start to find was my TT form after this ride. My power went up. Course records started to fall.
The evening after this Unhinged effort, I took part in a club TT. I couldn’t look at the TT rig (or be bothered to take the wanky tri-seat mount off) so did it on a road bike. This was an experiment in relation to my powers of recovery. I completed the TT and performed better than expected. I reckon that the effects of the Altitude tent were starting to kick in… this was interesting…
As ever, thanks for tuning in..