The Ascent of Mount Haleakala, Maui, Hawaii

I spoke to some lovely people in the West Maui Cycle shop here in Lahaina about climbing the volcano, and they said to wait as the winds were strong.  I looked at the weather forecast and decided that Sunday would have to be the day.  I had really wanted to get it over with sooner, as the apprehension was preventing me from really enjoying myself out here.
Saturday evening and I had a headache from constant tension in my neck and shoulders, but I was determined to ride Sunday, so I loaded the car with my support kit (pump, tubes etc) and food and water, and then went to bed.
Sunday morning and I was up at 6am (7pm UK time) for my Sunday morning ride, which although not a long one at 57km, was going to be tough, as there were over 3,000m of climbing to do in one go.  Porridge seemed like a good way to start the day, with some very strong coffee.
My wife and son and I (and the bike) in the car, we headed the 30 miles or so to Paia, the official start of the ride.  The weather was looking good with the temperatures not looking so hot yet, and not much wind.  As we came round the island, the bulk of Mt Haleakala appeared, with a large bank of cloud on its flanks.  It really is a huge lump on the horizon, and I was filled with apprehension again.
I told my wife I was nervous, and she asked “about what?”.  My reply was that having tried this climb before, and blown out at about 2,000m I knew what sort of discomfort I was in for.  I did not tell her that a cycling club colleague had suffered a heart attack last week on a hill in Surrey, but it was preying on my mind.  I am older than him, and heavier and slower, and have been slobbing it a bit out here (hey, the beer is excellent and the food too good not to eat and the beach, pool and whale watching are generally more attractive than the gym!).
Anyway, Cranleigh Cycling Club jersey on, I got on my Fondriest TFZero (prepared for me for this very ride) and set off up Baldwin Avenue at about 08:10 – UP being the operative word for the day.

I guess I was feeling quite energised as the first few minutes were great.  The bike felt good, I felt good.  My plan, such as it was, basically meant me taking it steady the whole way – no mad speed at the beginning.  I had to keep my HR under control, as I was expecting the altitude to cause problems higher up.
The road from Paiai to Makawao is really lovely.  The sugar cane fields were waving in the breeze and everything was green and lush, albeit there was a fine misty rain in the air.  I was quite grateful for this, as it was cooling me in the very humid morning.  I am one of those who really sweats for Britain, so I have to keep hydrated when cycling.  Humid conditions let you know when you are sweating, as you just stay wet, and I was, but wait till later for more sweat news!
The road climbed at about 5-6%.  It was a good smooth surface and wide enough not to have to worry about cars (although so far the experience with motorists had been really good compared to home).  Makawao is a nice little village where I think there is a famous bakery, with the best cream puffs, but not today.  I saw one of the many downhill cycling support vans, and tapped on the window to check directions (I had previously missed a turn near here).  The driver said that yes, I needed to turn right at the rodeo, and that the kick up in front of me was the steepest on the whole climb.  Gee thanks I thought.  In fact it was quite a kicker, and went up into double figures on the gradient.  I spotted the tiny sign to Haleakala, and headed right, where the road was like a roller coaster for a while, with loads of downhillers streaming towards me, and the leader shouting good luck (this was to become a feature of the ride!).
My support crew missed the turning, and waited patiently for me to near them so they could take photos/video and get a drink ready.  Hey ho, they eventually realised I was not coming, and looked for the right road.  My son had sensibly made up a large container of electrolyte drink for me, and so could quickly refill my bottle when needed (which was frequently).  I had also taken the advice of my good friend from Adelaide in Australia who said I needed something savoury to eat on top of the horrendous gels and so on.  I had toasted some onion bagels and put cream cheese on them for a change from isogels and bars!
What is a climb in Surrey where I live?  Box Hill, Bury Hill, Leith Hill, White Down, Barhatch?  How long are they?  OK they can be steep, but really not so long.  I knew in my mind that a 33+ mile ride climbing over 10k feet would be tough, but when you find a 5% gradient is a relief, you know things are going to be a bit hard.
The scenery on the road is just amazing, but once again, when you are climbing it all gets a bit boring!  I cannot believe that riding in this environment can be monotonous, but sadly several hours of climbing can be a bit like that.
There was a small downhill section, which at first I thought was great, until I thought that actually I have to get to a specific height, which means that any downhills would have to be re-climbed.
I went through the lower pastures, through the forests, into the higher pastures towards the scrub and then the desert.  I think I was lucky that the cloud was low, such that the moisture was condensing on my arm hairs.  The cloud was low such that there were fewer miles to climb in the cloudless altitude.  Even so, with a gradient of 5%+ as the lowest, it was hard.  
For the first few hours all I did was pedal and refuel.  However when I entered the National Park I was clear that I had cycled further then I did before, and therefore had to carry on.  The sign said there was another 22 miles to go.  At my speed that was several hours of cycling.  Luckily the only aim was to finish the ride, not break any records, or rules.  I was so pleased to have made it this far and thought to myself that I had it in the bag.  Ha!  Although I never felt like giving up, it was hard and relentless.  I stopped sweating, which is always a bad sign for me.  I did feel sick from time to time, and had some bad bouts of cramp, but every now and then I would see my son in the distance with the GoPro ready.  He had set it on the road, on a rock, on the car and so on – all managed using the viewfinder on his iPhone (amazing technology eh?).
I used the Garmin Virb to record a few sequences – mostly me going past signs showing the altitude, and me swearing that this was the last time I would try this.  Recording the road for 5 hours would have been very boring.

Eventually I could see the observatories ahead of me and I knew that meant the top.  A cyclist came down past me and said “nearly there”.  I was above the clouds, with a clear blue sky above, lava fields all around and a road which for me only went one way.  I could see the visitor centre, but my target was a little observation hut at the upper car park.  This last stretch was probably no more than half a mile, but it kicked up to 18%+ and my breathing was the fastest and hardest it had been.  OK, so I had managed to pace myself just enough.
I hit the highest end of the car park and dismounted – I had done it.  I was actually quite emotional at that point, not really believing that I had pushed myself to cycle 10,000ft vertical, or 3,000+m.  I had to walk to the very top with the bike, to get the photo at the sign saying 10,023 ft above sea level.
The views were epic too – the crater itself is astonishing, and we could see the 2 big volcanoes on Big Island (Hawaii itself), Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.  One of them had snow on the top.
It was a really hard climb for me, but all the training and support made it happen – thanks to my family mostly, and to those who believed in me and helped make it happen.

9th March - The Journey Begins.

After a fantastic weekend of great weather, great riding and great company, I was still buzzing on Monday. I even had some video footage to show for it, thanks to the loan of the Garmin Virb (still can’t understand the logic behind that name!) from Pure Motion Cycles in West Byfleet.  Now it was time to make some final preparations before my journey began, including cleaning and packing my bike for its flight to Los Angeles, Kauai, and finally Maui for the ascent to the Sun!
Time was too tight to get out on the road bike this week; there is this little thing called life that tends to get in the way of training – work, scuba refresher courses, collecting from university and visiting relatives in Switzerland all happened to coincide this week. However Dave Lloyd wasn’t going to let me get off too lightly. I managed to squeeze in an hour at 100RPM on the trainer on Monday, a session that I’ve become rather fond of. Leg spinning is a great way to build cadence, and practice really does make perfect as I’m finding it much easier to achieve a higher cadence nowadays.
Meanwhile, the Sarto Seta for Athlete Service arrived this week, an incredibly light and elegant bike that I’m sure will be making the rounds on the club runs soon. Another one is due in while I am away, which is going to one of my friends at Beyond Mountain Bikes. Just in time for peak season!
With just a few days until my trip to Kauai and Maui, I spent some time psyching myself up by reading other blogs about the climb. One guy missed his alarm and forgot gloves, which made me feel better about my own level of preparation.  I hadn’t really thought about taking warm gear, but when I checked the weather cam on top of Mt Haleakala the other day, there was snow!  Hawaii is supposed to be sub-tropical – what the devil is snow doing up there?
I am excited at the prospect of my trip, although most apprehensive about the ride.  Taking a bike and everything that goes with it is quite a major undertaking.  I’ve stripped the bike down a lot, let the air out of the tyres, put the pedals in the bag, and added a spare tube.  I also need to pack tools (a torque wrench is essential for carbon frames) and a proper pump.
Despite the busy week of travel, work and prep, I did manage to complete a Sufferfest Downward Spiral on Saturday. A relatively short session with a good warm up and cool down, I quite enjoy this workout. Sure, it’s uncomfortable, but it’s certainly manageable and an efficient way to train.
The final day before my trip flew by, and in between last minute prep and a rather lengthy scuba review I didn’t get chance for a ‘session.’ However I think I’ll need all the rest I can get before Hawaii – wish me luck!

2nd March - 2 Weeks To Go!

With just 2 weeks until my departure date, I awoke on Monday feeling sore from my weekend ride but ready for the challenge ahead. I kicked off the week with a ‘spin the legs’ session, and managed to sustain 90rpm for the whole hour.
My good friends at Pure Motion Cycles in West Byfleet have lent me a Garmin Virb – a handy gadget that records video along with GPS and other telemetry, to provide video playback with a data feed overlay. I’m planning to record some of the Ride to the Sun, although sadly I suspect that the battery life of 3 hours is shorter than the ride time (well, my ride time anyway!).
On Wednesday we hosted a Fondriest demo day at Beyond Mountain Bikes, where two people came to try out a TF3 and a TF4.  One lady’s initial scepticism about the TF4 was soon dispelled when she gained 5 minutes on her time for the 40k ride, and found climbing much faster and easier. As I told her, the bike can make a serious difference, especially when you compare a modern frame designed for performance with the older and rather entry-level bike she had been riding.  Post ride coffees offered a chance to brag and share stories, with one rider claiming an output of 700W when climbing.  He is pencil thin, weighs just 67kg, and has thighs that look more like my calves.  I’m no hill sprinter, but on the flat into the wind everyone likes me being in the front – strong, steady and making a big hole in the air!  I may just have to dream of being 70kg again.
Thursday involved another turbo session at low effort but high cadence, a workout that I’m finally starting to master.  It’s still pretty tedious on the trainer, but worth it – I’ve noticed the results. When I was out on the TFZero over the weekend, I found climbing better and pedalled at a fairly high rate a lot of the time. Although the easy gearing may have played a part!

The weekend brought more Fondriest demo riding, and Saturday’s cake ride (featuring a lemon drizzle cake with a lovely sugary crisp top) involved 5 Fondriests and a lone Trek.  As is usually the case, the newcomers to Fondriest were pleasantly surprised by the performance of the bikes.  One chap, who raced a lot in his youth, was overwhelmed by the speed of the TF3 compared to his titanium bike; the guy riding the TF2 was at the front the whole time.  A beautiful morning at 17mph is just the way to start the weekend – don’t you think?
Fondriest is definitely flavour of the month, because there was yet another tester out on Sunday’s club run. He was in a different group, but again was delighted with the improvement in his performance, which was bike-driven.  We had a bit of a mechanical when “Gravity Jackson” took a tumble, causing damage to the mech hanger which subsequently transformed his Sunday morning bike ride into a taxi ride to the station to get the train home! Thankfully I had better luck, and managed to get a few more PBs on Strava; onwards and upwards as the main event approaches – or so I hope!

23rd February - The Big Day is Looming!

As the big day looms it seems that I have even less time to train – typical! Family matters took me to Italy early on Monday, and we didn’t get back until Wednesday evening.
You know what they say: when in Rome (or Florence as it happened), do as the Romans do. In other words, we made the most of fine Italian food, including a visit to a favourite restaurant of mine near the San Lorenzo market, where they serve the best Trippa alla Fiorentina.  We also had some family dinners during our stay, and gorged on lasagne, rabbit, veal, the obligatory pizza and fantastic local ice cream. Who knew that yoghurt and Nutella was such a good mix? Although I didn’t touch a single beer, it hardly made up for the food and lack of training.
The trip involved a lot of sorting through ‘stuff’, in amongst which I found an old Bianchi bike, with the loveliest old Shimano groupset.  I have plans for that bike, when I get round to it!

As is always the case when you go away, the next 24 hours involved catching up, meaning that I didn’t train on Thursday either. However a dry and sunny Friday gave me the chance to finally take the Fondriest TFZero for a test ride, to see how it suited me. This is the bike I am taking to Maui, and it is a beauty.  The frame is 695g, hand-built by Sarto, and I have my lovely Spin Koppenbergs on it, currently with 28mm tyres.  I only intended to check it was OK, and wasn’t trying to push it or me, but it flew up the local climbs and according to Strava I achieved PBs! Needless to say I was happy.
On my way home I dropped in to Beyond Mountain Bikes, where a friend was having a bike fit for his TT.  After a chat, some banter, and a lot of water, I flew home at about 26mph on my magic bike.
I decided to do a gym session on Saturday.  Ignoring the wastrels wasting their time with 15kg leg presses, I powered through a warm-up on the rowing machine, leg weights, shoulder weights and back exercises, before returning home for a session on the ‘bike’ and of course the rugby.
A bright and clear Sunday was the perfect opportunity for a muddy ride. I love riding in the sun - it seems to penetrate the deeper reaches of the brain and just make you feel good. I decided to join the club on a 50-mile route that factored in a few good climbs. The group had a smashing ride, with my Fondriest TF0 once again going up hills faster than usual.  My friends were surprised by my newfound performance, but I really think it is the bike rather than the engine! Even so, it puts me in a slightly better position for the big climb than I’d hoped, especially as I don’t foresee getting much time on the road before I leave.  I guess I will just have to work hard in the gym and on the indoor trainer – every little helps!


16th February - 1 month to go!

With only a month until I leave for Hawaii, time is ticking all too fast! As well as stepping up my training, I have trips to Florence and Geneva on family business, and a bike demo weekend coming up. There really aren’t enough hours in the day!
As if there isn’t enough pressure on the trip, I’m now certain that my coach – Dave Lloyd – wants me to become a national champion, after he professed that he is an ‘old school coach’ at heart. I just want to get a bit fitter and conquer a mountain! And having spent Saturday with a bunch of very fit young women, I’ve become all too aware of my age.
Nevertheless, on Monday I put myself through the paces with a Sufferfest Violator routine – the intervals were pretty brutal, but it’s clearly good for the fitness.  No pain no gain, right?
Tuesday disappeared, but I managed to get to the gym for the first time in ages on Wednesday to do some weight training. I find that 2000m on the rower is a great warm-up exercise, especially if you focus on driving from your legs and back rather than your arms. Too many people get their technique wrong on the rowing machine, a real bugbear for ex-rowers like myself as I know just how much damage it can do. Anyway, it was good to mix up my routine with a few CV machines, weight machines and free weights as a mid-week workout.
Having spent a lot of time in the car on Thursday, I decided to take the night off so that I could give Dave’s prescribed workout 100% on Friday. And it worked – I actually quite enjoyed tackling the programme (5 x 1 mile intervals, then 3 x ¾ mile intervals, then 2 x ½ mile intervals), primarily because I was able to see this one through to the end for once!
I’ve been picking up Fondriest UK bikes this week for an upcoming demo day I’m hosting at a local shop (Beyond Mountain Bikes). Amongst their impressive collection of demo bikes, was my special Mt Haleakala bike – the Fondriest TFZero (made by Sarto).  With a 695g frame, DuraAce chainset and carbon pedals, it’s a thing of beauty. I have borrowed a soft bag to take this out to Hawaii with me, and I’ve customised the bike by adding a 32T 105 cassette and a 105 long rear mech to cope.  It will have my Spin Koppenberg 25mm wheels and 23 mm tyres when finished, so I’m looking forward to giving it a test spin.
I’ve done pretty much all I can to the bike to ensure it gets up the climb, short of adding a motor.  Although I’m sure that I haven’t trained nearly enough, I always feel like that before a big challenge. Time will tell – the countdown begins!

2nd February - Training and the West End

Allowing someone else to set you a training programme is a great way to enrich your routine with variety and new challenges, so Dave Lloyd kindly sent one over for the week ahead. However, it didn’t get off to a great start on Monday when I opened the wrong one. Instead of a testing 1.25 hours at 100RPM to 120RPM, I embarked on a gentle recovery ride. Probably for the best - I can just about manage a prolonged 110TPM, but Dave’s prescribed speed and duration was a tall order…
I hardly redeemed myself as the week went on - adhering to the plan proved to be difficult! Instead of putting myself through the paces with 12 x ½ mile flat-out intervals on Tuesday, I enjoyed a rather less strenuous two intervals at The Book of Mormon on the West End. Definitely worth a visit though, I might add. Wednesday’s excuses were a little more valid, as a day jam-packed with errands soon disappeared, leaving me no time to get on the trainer.
Dave had warned that Thursday would be a ‘hard day today,’ and had prescribed 3 x 20 minutes lower Zone 5 (25mile TT pace - whatever the hell that is!), with 5 minutes recovery between each session.  Unlike training outdoors, getting my HR to 158bpm on the turbo really pushes me to my limits. It seems to require so much more effort than the road bike, but with the frosty conditions outside I’d much prefer to train indoors.  Eventually I bailed, although I did make up for it with a difficult Downward Spiral. You know you’ve been working hard when you finish feeling spaced out!
I thought that the Wales v England match on Friday would be good motivation to get my training done and dusted as soon as possible. Dave’s plan called for 2x2 miles flat out, with 5 minute recovery; 3x1 mile intervals with 3 minute recoveries; 4x½ mile intervals with 3 minute recovery, then 5x30 second “all out” sprints with 1 minute recoveries.  However a few early hiccups with the computer and measurements meant it soon went to pot, though I did put in an hour of fairly hard work before I replaced the trainer with the telly!
The weekend provides some welcome time on the clock for outdoor training, so on Saturday I decided to do some hills. I managed to tackle Box Hill 5 times in a row before cycling home feeling pretty happy with my performance. I’ll have to do it again soon to compare my stats. 
Sunday was a club day, but after a week of training my legs felt leaden.  We managed 40 or so miles at a respectable speed, but despite lovely sunshine the cold and wind made it rather less pleasant than it should have been. Funny how the weather can make such a difference to your training - hopefully spring is on it’s way soon so I can spend more time outdoors…

26th January - The Bike Place Show

After a busy weekend setting up at Silverstone, the effects of my wonderful massage had worn off by Monday. That said, regular sports massages are a godsend for cyclists – working at Bike Shows takes its toll too! Even with our relatively modest display, set up always takes longer than you think, especially when there is one lift available for everyone to use. Still, waiting for a lift beats tackling 11 flights of stairs.
If you haven’t been to The Bike Place show, you’re missing out. It’s getting bigger every year as more and more people realise what a good venue and show Silverstone is. And without meaning to brag, we definitely had the best road bikes there – Sarto and Fondriest stole the show looking their finest.
Our display showcased almost the entire Fondriest range, including the new TFDisc with Shimano hydraulic disc brakes; Sarto included the Dinamica (made for Impact Cycles), the Seta, the Asola, the Lampo, and the special Campagnolo liveried bike made to order. In the middle was the Fondriest TF0, which I now plan to ride on my ascent of Mount Haleakala in March.
I’ve touched on the challenges of maintaining the diet during shows before, but this time we were quite abstemious. ‘Quite’ because Brian and I had brought some of our home brews to sample and compare; Brian’s “Awesomestow Ale” went down very well, whilst my Belgian-inspired brew certainly marked high on strength if nothing else.
As shows fall on the weekend, they also impact training and much-needed downtime. Nevertheless, it was great to catch up with SpinMeister Drew Gill from Spin Industries, who arrived on Tuesday with some lovely home baked cookies. He’s provided great wheels for many of our bikes – I’m particularly pleased with my Spin Koppenbergs, nice light alloy wheels. The Velosport Pasta Montegrappa ladies racing team will also be sporting his wheels, on Fondriest TF3s.
Wednesday was spent recuperating from the Show, and a recovery session on the turbo was a welcome re-introduction to training, giving the legs a steady spin. Philippa gave me some stretches to practice to keep me supple, so I incorporated them into my training too.
Feeling well rested, I decided to do a Sufferfest Downward Spiral on Thursday. This is a bit of a pig, but I quite like the structure of the reverse pyramid – 2 minutes hard, 2 minutes recovery then 1 minute 45 hard and 1 minute 45 recovery etc. You work your way down to 15 seconds flat out and then have a 5-minute rest before embarking on the process again. I managed it pretty well – at the very least it was good to get it out of the way.
On Friday we went up to Cambridge to see my son, who’s in his 2nd year studying Natural Sciences. We combined the visit with a night at the Corn Exchange to see the hilarious Omid Djalili – well worth the trip and a day off the exercise. Or two as it happened, because we got home so late that it wrote off a Saturday morning ride!
I was delighted to wake up to a warm and bright Sunday morning, so spent most of the day outside working in the garden and on the bike. I did 3 reps up Staple Lane, a 10-minute climb that’s perfect for days when you’re a little time poor. It’s always good to get out on a real bike and do some real roads instead of the turbo, even if it’s a short session.
However at the end of a week that gave limited opportunity for training, I still think the big climb is going to be very tough.

19th January - Training and Recovery

Now that I’ve shaken off my cold, it’s back to work with a vengeance. I can feel the hand of time on me as the trip to Hawaii looms, and I have some serious catching up to do. That said, I am really looking forward to going away – I’m just worried I won’t be fit enough to get up that mountain!
The good news is that I’m losing weight.  Although I don’t subscribe to ‘Dry January’ motives, alcohol is incredibly fattening, so I cut it out of my diet after New Year.  Like everyone else, I love wine and beer – I’ve even made my own home brew – but I’ve resisted the temptation of draining the delicious beers my boys gave me for Christmas.  Alongside cutting wheat, caffeine and dairy from my diet, the results have been fast and effective.
Before you praise my will power, I hate feeling hungry.  However even I have been able to stick to this diet, as you can eat as much as you want, so long as it’s structured. Whilst I started out rather sceptical about the Fast Metabolism diet, it does seem to work. You’re given certain food groups to eat on certain days, to wash down with about 3 litres of water daily.  Having lost 2kg in 2 ½ weeks, that weight can’t just be water. There’s a long way to go but so far so good, although it may be hard to maintain the diet when I’m away from home.
This week, I started out with a steady state turbo session on Monday, maintaining Z3 for about an hour at 90+rpm.  Listening to the radio and watching TV is a great way to pass the time, although I was well aware that my fitness was lacking – my muscles felt tight and uncomfortable, not a good sign!
On Tuesday I made my way around the country collecting some brilliant bikes, including a lovely blue and yellow Fondriest TF3, a Sarto Seta, as well as a set of stunning Spin 50mm carbon wheels.  My diet had a momentary lapse when I met my son for dinner – the Maximus burger at Bath Brew House has to be seen to be believed.  However I managed to resist sampling the delights of the microbrewery, which on a normal day would have been heaven.  I’ll have to return when I’m not training…
Wednesday was a combination of cleaning and turbo work.  As well as preparing bikes for the Silverstone show, I attempted 1 mile intervals on the turbo with poor results.  Slow on the intervals, a sluggish heart rate, burning legs and difficult breathing were yet another reminder that my fitness needs improving, although I did manage over an hour to make up for my lack of performance.

Needless to say a sports massage couldn’t have come soon enough, so on Thursday morning I visited the lovely Philippa Long at the Guildford Sports Clinic.  She works in the basement of the local running shop, FitStuff.  However any illusions of a gentle massage were soon dispelled, as my tight muscles proved problematic. I tore my left calf muscle a few years ago, and could feel a definite lump in it as she deftly applied her strong hands to my limbs.  It was a great experience, and afterwards I was definitely in a relaxed, almost spaced-out state, but boy did my legs hurt!

Hopefully I’ll fare better next week as I get back into the swing of things. I do hope so because time is ticking!

12th January - 9 Weeks to go!

Nearly halfway through January and another week began with a clogged chest and achy sinuses. However training doesn’t do itself, so on Monday night I powered through an hour on the turbo trainer to ease myself back into the routine. Whilst I was never going to smash my personal best at a gentle 110 bpm, it felt good to get the legs turning and have a long stretch afterwards.

With 9 or so weeks until I leave for the Pacific, the health blip has left me a little nervous – not to mention weak and tired. But then again, when you’re as old as me a bad cold really takes it out of you. Things started to look up on Tuesday though, and if anything the bad times only fill you with determination to come back stronger.

On Wednesday I’d arranged to visit Dr D, the man also known as “the bike whisperer”. Seeing that the poor guy had come down with a nasty cold too, I felt a little less sorry for myself. He was in his pyjamas when I turned up to collect the Sarto Asola from him, and was heading straight back to bed after I left. Hope he gets better soon - I think everyone’s immune systems have been feeling the strain after Christmas!

Did anyone else read’s “Top Upgrades for Your Bike in 2015”? I was delighted to see my choice of hoops was so highly regarded, whilst the groupset I use (Shimano Ultegra 6800) also got a mention! All that was missing from their list was my frame, but hey, they have yet to learn!

Once the frost and ice had melted away on Saturday I took the opportunity for an afternoon ride. It was great to get out in the sun and fresh air on a beautiful winter’s day, but my heart rate was still too elevated for the speed I was doing. The body is a fragile thing really, and it was a reminder that I’m not back to 100% just yet.

The cold spell lasted through Sunday morning, so rather than risk the roads I chose a turbo session – the Sufferfest Downward Spiral! Although this is an interval session I really quite enjoy it if I’m honest - possibly because it has structure. Having worked at what I thought was a reasonable pace, I was disappointed when my HR trace told me it was mostly Z3-4. How annoying to have lost performance so quickly – I thought I was working much harder!

After a pretty poor week of training, there’s nothing like talking to the younger generation to boost the confidence levels; my son generously reminded me that at my age my body is degrading at a faster rate than I can upgrade it! But age is just a number, right?

Christmas and New Year

There’s something nice about the familiar – especially over Christmas when routine gets turned on its head! A Monday evening would not be the same without a gentle leg rotate on the turbo torturer, and this week was no exception.
However never wanting to miss an opportunity to get on my bike, Tuesday’s turbo session was replaced with a ride to the garden centre. I had to get something for my sister, and why take the car!? Taking a detour home, I voluntarily did a couple of hills and felt good for the blast out. The roads were pretty empty (apart from a pretty hairy moment where some cretin overtook me on a narrow stretch) and relatively dry. Getting out on the bike beats sitting on the indoor trainer hands down every time – it always puts me in a great mood.
Christmas Eve soon disappeared with plenty of last-minute things to do, although I did manage to squeeze in a nice afternoon beer with a cycling chum. We chewed the fat and put the world to rights. If you can’t do it at Christmas when can you!

The big day arrived and thankfully I was spared the task of cooking with an invite to my parents’ house for lunch. I mustered the motivation to cycle there on the basis that it was (a) a good thing to do before a big meal and (b) the last change I’d have to ride for a while with my ski trip looming! My Christmas Day morning ride proved to be great fun; with very little traffic to speak of I covered the 22.5 miles in an hour and a quarter, with an average speed of 17.7mph. Whilst I was pretty pleased with my effort, I ruined it with a huge quantity of rich food, washed down with fine wine.
In the wake of too much turkey and red wine, skiing in Austria was a perfect escape. It was lovely out there – the hotel was great as was the skiing – however cold outdoor weather combined with roasting indoor temperatures provided to be ideal conditions for whatever virus I managed to catch! 2015 started with a sneeze and a cough, rendering me useless for training. Even going upstairs leaves me out of breath – how inconvenient!

That said, I still have a couple of months before the big hill climb, so I can afford a few days off. After weeks of weighing up what to do with the bike situation, the balance is swinging in favour of taking my own rather than renting. That way I can practice on some of the roads in Maui before heading out for the ‘big one’. I am actually quite excited by the prospect of exploring parts of Maui by bike.
With a New Year comes the traditional resolutions, and in a bid to lose a few kilos before March I’ve embarked on a new diet. But don’t worry, I’m not talking about any fad diet – this one is great because I get to eat every few hours. However I have cut out alcohol, dairy and caffeine and replaced it with 3 litres of water a day. My kidneys don’t know what’s hit them!

15th December – Winter Base Continues

Christmas is a busy time in the social calendar, and another family party was a great end to the weekend before a very wintery week of cycling.
On a side note, I read a rather interesting bike review recently that offers some food for thought. The magazine was awash with reviewers raving about a fantastic new carbon bike made in the UK. They loved the bike, the way it rode and the fact that it was produced on home soil. Intrigued about the product, I did a little digging of my own and found that they had all been duped – the bike was made in Italy.
Can you really trust reviews when the writers simply recycle the information given by the supplier without checking it? Do you do extra research when reading up on new bikes and accessories?
Anyway, back to my winter base week! Monday got off to a great start with a lovely meditative recovery (from overindulgence!) on the turbo. 60 minutes at over 100rpm got the juices well and truly flowing again, leaving me in high spirits. However that session proved to be the calm before the storm, as on the agenda for Tuesday was 45 minutes at the sweet spot. Whilst this is relatively easy on the bike, it’s much tougher – not to mention a little boring – on the trainer. That said, I felt good for it afterwards, especially knowing that Wednesday was a Zone 2 ride.

Bright winter sun greeted me on Friday, making it an easy decision to forego the turbo and get outside for some fresh air and psyche healing. Besides, the evening turbo session had already been ruled out, as a ticket to see Lucy Punch perform in ‘Great Britain’ was too good to miss. We had

a lovely evening, and London at Christmas never ceases to amaze with its magic - the Shard had special lighting to appear like a firework, and the whole scene was incredibly festive.
I was prepared for an ass-kicking on Saturday morning when I met Kerry - a young, fit, personal trainer – for a ride. Thankfully she took pity on my sluggish speed and was gentle with me, so it turned out to be a great blast out in the sun. The icing on the cake (literally) had to the freshly baked cake awaiting us when we returned!
Sunday marked the last Club run before Christmas, and a rather jolly one at that. The local pub laid on coffee and mince pies before the ride, followed by a far more leisurely stroll on the bikes than usual. The perfect way to wind down the weekend with only a few days until Santa arrives!

8th December week – Power Base

A family knees-up is a worthy excuse to forego training. Yesterday, good food naturally took the place of my bike to celebrate my uncle’s 25th wedding anniversary, although as designated driver I stayed sober as a saint. On the other hand there was a very good cake – say no more!
The start of the week flew by in a flash, and a late Monday working in London followed by a day trip to France on Tuesday meant there was no time to focus on my training. So I dare say I was looking forward to getting back on the turbo trainer when Wednesday arrived. Whilst I’m a firm believer that training outdoors soothes the soul, the blustery December weather makes the turbo a much safer and drier option.
A good base hour on the bike is a great way to ease yourself back into the routine after a few days off, and it certainly got my legs moving and the sweat flowing. However I must say that the term ‘sweet spot’ – riding at about 95% of your threshold HR – is something of a misnomer when applied to the turbo. Although 30 minutes riding at that pace through the countryside is actually quite satisfying, I find it much harder to get my heart rate up with 10 minute reps indoors. Who’s with me on this one?

My point was proven on Saturday, when I finally met up with my BeforeTheTour pal (fixed chain intact!) and a club friend for a blast in the great outdoors. Cold as it was, we worked up quite a speed for the first hour, which reassured me that I wasn’t losing my touch. However Nic and I politely passed on the 100 mile target that our friend was hoping to cover. After all, it was a Saturday afternoon.
I’m currently weighing up whether to take my own hand built bike to Haleakala, or to rent a standard sized bike on Maui. Of course I’d rather take my own, but this could be tricky not to mention expensive… Oh the joys of being a cyclist!