The Tour Of The Peaks
Well after a solid few weeks of training (i.e. not a lot, no serious training for a week, no running for 2 weeks, and only a couple of sessions in the saddle) and having been battling a chest infection in the week leading up as well, I found myself on the way to the Tour Of The Peaks cycle race. I think it’s safe to say I wasn’t exactly in the best shape! The forecast did not exactly look good, with some torrential rain due to pass over us bang in the middle of the ride, and winds forecast to be comparable to the Tour of the Pennines. So all looking good then! But it was a century ride, a chance for a bit of fun, and meet some of the guys from the 220 Forum and BCTTT.
A group of 4 of us set off at just after half 8 and had a bit of a chat until the first hill where I took off and dropped them (mistake no 1). In all fairness with the standard gearing on my bike, and not having a compact crank (mistake no 2) I couldn’t really go much slower for my cadence but I should have kept the power down. Originally the plan had been to do it in around 6 hours, which I thought was reasonable, though maybe give or take half an hour or so due to the illness. I did the Manchester 100 in around 5.20 last a year ago off 2 weeks training, so figured with improved fitness and a few hills, 6 hours should be a good target. How wrong I was! And lets just say ‘a few hills’ was probably the same understatement as saying my Ironman was ‘quite a long day’! Anyway, within the first couple of k, we hit an uphill bit and it never seemed to end, a sign of things to come. At the first descent I stopped at the top to take off my arm warmers underneath my jersey as then proceeded on the descent only for a few seconds later to meet a group of cyclists waving and saying slow down. Ramming on the brakes, I could see why, there were just bodies and bikes everywhere. I saw a couple of broken wrists, a couple of broken collar bones, a guy just flat out unconscious who looked like he had gone head first into a wall and I later heard he had been airlifted to hospital with serious neck injuries, and the guy on his wheel had gone over the wall, bike and all, and had had a nasty landing in the field, which needed an ambulance. It was not pleasant, but there were lots of cyclists attending, on the phone, warning other cyclists, clearing parts of bikes, and I would have just been in the way, so I continued on, though heavily on the brakes. We then hit a town, and after a short detour through a car park after missing a turning, started on the Cat and Fiddle. I’ve done this climb many times, and it is a fantastic climb so just settled into a good pace and rode up it, overtaking a fair few. I had been hoping to find a group and sit in a pack, taking my turns at the front and have a good group ride for most of the course, but with the dangerous descents and no one my pace on the climbs, it looked like it was going to be a solo ride.
I was feeling pretty good, and getting lots of nutrition on, and then 30k in, changing gear on a descent my front derailleur twisted around somehow and jammed in my crank. This was an immediate stop and out with the tool kit trying to fix it. I managed to loosen it and straighten in up, but without a stand and pliers, there was no way I could get enough tension in the cable. But it seemed to shift ok, even if a little hesitant. It would do. Back on the bike and immediately I heard grinding like my chain was rubbing against the front mech. So off the bike again and I couldn’t see anything wrong. I tried everything, but I couldn’t replicate it pedalling with my hands holding the bike up. It seemed fine so I had to carry on, doing god knows what damage to my chain, crank and front mech. I still haven’t worked out what it is, and I wonder how much the grinding was slowing me down. It certainly felt like I had my brakes on at points! Anyway, I was still feeling ok, even though this was nearly 2 hours in now, right up until Winnats Pass. This climb is an absolute killer. Even at the start, it didn’t look particularly steep that bit, but I was already in the smallest gear, thinking I had blown or my brake was on. But there was a couple of guys who I was sat behind who said “wow 8mph already” so I knew it wasn’t just me. Then the climb proceeds up and up getting steeper and steeper. As soon we got to the main section I was out of the saddle, all my zips open, heart rate skyrocketing, grinding away trying to wrench myself up it. I was overtaking loads of people who had given up and were walking it, but I persisted (mistake no 3), I eventually made it, with my heart rate hitting 213 bpm!!! Will be interesting to see my HR data for this. Having absolutely beasted myself up the climb, my legs were GONE! I coasted down the hill and then the wind picked up. I reached the first aid station, feeling quite tired, but not too bad. I refilled my bottles, had a bar and then set off again. Mistake no 4 was not taking any solids on offer at this point, and had dire consequences towards the end. I continued on and gradually got more tired, but at about 80k I found a small pack and tagged along with them, pulling me up the hills for a while, seeing if I could hang on to the 2nd aid station. I ended up 2nd man in the line, then the lead guy slowed down, and I thought that was my cue to take over and pull the pack at about 95k, so I went to the front, carried on for a bit, then turned around and they had all dropped back to eat and chat! Having had this gone, my legs just gave way and that was pretty much the end of the ride for me. We then hit a massive climb, which isn’t one of the main climbs, but was a killer. When I saw my speed drop below 6kph, and with nothing in my legs, and my lower back killing me, I decided to walk. It was a humbling experience, with me not being a quitter. But I needed it to finish the ride. I dragged myself to the 2nd aid station and just piled the food in. At this point my legs were gone and I needed food. After getting back on the bike, it was into the wind, and uphill and my legs had nothing left. I tried eating more, but never got my 2nd wave of energy. Eventually we reached Holme Moss, and I managed to get to about a k from the summit until the wind got to me. I was climbing quicker than everyone, but this was only because of my gear selection. I didn’t have an easier gear, and turning the pedals any slower would mean me falling off, so I stopped and walked to the top:
At least it looks like I was having a good time!
After getting over this, it was just a case of getting to the finish. Every incline felt massive, and I ate all my emergency food but never got my energy back. However I made it to the end, and was rather happy to finish! Total time was 8 hours of cycling, and I was clocked at 8.42 including all my food stops, mechanical and loo breaks. I even managed a run afterwards and didn’t feel too bad! For some reasons, 8 hours in the saddle seems to have fixed my foot almost completely…
- I went off too hard, my pacing was non existent and I had a big drop. On a course like this it is difficult and I’m sure my current form, illness, mechanical, lack of time on the bike all played their part, but I would not have bonked so soon without my pacing.
- For a course like that, I need a compact crank. I am a small athlete, and don’t have a particularly big power output. There is no way I can ride a 53/39 crank over a course like that. A compact crank is definitely on the shopping list! My next big purchase will also be a power meter, which will also help with my pacing, so this may be 2 birds with 1 stone. However, I need some money first…
- Going up the climbs too hard – yes I can’t have really gone any slower, but I should have swallowed my pride and walked earlier. Going up the cat and fiddle at a high pace was the start of the downfall
- My nutrition was way off, ok at the start, but I didn’t take on enough calories. Add this too going too hard and you get the state I was in.
Effect of the Paleo Diet
An interesting question would be to look at how much my lack of carbs in my diet affected my ride, after all I don’t usually run out of energy that quickly. However, I think this was more to do with my current fitness, and lack of time on the bike. It is also the first long, serious bike ride since my Ironman, and I haven’t gotten used to spending long hours in the saddle and feeding properly. This will come during my bike block over Christmas.
Well the main positive from this ride was the fact that I can still spend this amount of time in the saddle, even if it didn’t go that well (though with the wind and the course, I may have been putting out an ok power throughout). I was only an hour behind the leader, so it can’t have been that bad! The other positive was my foot. It had not really healed over the 2 weeks since I did it, and I still couldn’t walk properly in the morning. 8 and a half hours in the saddle and in bike shoes seems to have fixed this!
Training over the last couple of weeks hasn’t been great, especially with my injury. I have lost motivation and fitness as my previous post stated. As my foot is now healed, I am going to build up my training again. But only in the running, trying to get 6 runs a week. Being the off season, and obviously not being mentally recharged I am going to let the other 2 sports tick over and just train when I feel like it for each block until I am itching to train again. I am sticking with being fully Paleo now in all my meals, though now I am back in fairly decent shape, treats are back in if I want them! Just a bit of a break until full training starts again. I am off to Russia next week for a few days, so will probably put up a non-training post with lots of pictures, and then its the Preston 10 mile race. All I want from this is a solid run. Losing 2-3 weeks of run training isn’t going to put me in a good position, but it should be good fun.