Pushing my Limits

I spent a lot of 2013 cycling on my own, going out when the mood took me and trying different things. When I started there were 3 of us, two on bikes and one running (sounds crazy now I know). Now the three of us are back together and the runner now owns a bike. The only problem for me is that the runner is still infinitely fitter than I am so I find myself between 10 and 15 bike lengths behind the others on a regular basis.

That seems to be my biggest issue at the moment, my fitness. I can ride for quite a few miles once I get my breathing right and get through the initial burst of activity, that is if I can rest a little – by slowing down or taking my foot off the gas a bit. The problem I have at the moment is the route we have been taking has meant that the initial mile up hill is then followed by another half mile up a very steep hill. I just can’t make it in one go and it nearly kills me every time.

What I need to do is get fitter so that I can get more air into my lungs and not feel like my heart is going to pump out of my chest every time things get a little hard. Some sort of high intensity or interval training might be in order I think.

Riding along ten or more bike lengths behind other people who are chatting away without a care in the world and seemingly taking it easy isn’t much fun, but what it does do is provide the motivation to get better, faster and stronger. I want to be able to keep up with the other two, not just catch them every now and then or when they stop for a breather to allow me to catch up.

I also think I may have found my limit in terms of distance. Although if we were on road bikes on a fairly flat route I think I could have gone further, but on mountain bikes, riding through mud and puddles, along roads and bridalways I think I reached the outer limit of my current range.

We rode up and over the hills behind where I live towards Winscar Reservoir which is above Holmfirth, we’ve tried this route before but my gear shift broke so we turned back. No such problems this time as we made it to and then around the reservoir, then down towards the Pennine trail (along an old railway line) heading towards Penistone. That bit was fun, riding through mud and puddles, keeping pace with the others and peddling constantly for a few miles at a constant pace rather than the quick, slow, quick of the hills we normally ride up and down.

Then it was time for the inevitable steep hill up, this one goes towards the back of the windmills route and was tough – for me anyway. Just over half way up written on the road was a message “no pain no gain” to which I smiled, nodded in recognition and made it all the way up without stopping.

The next bit of the ride should have just been a normal half windmills then home. But I was struggling, badly. There was nothing left in my legs, I tried to get myself up to the other two who were by now their customary ten to fifteen bike lengths ahead, but I just couldn’t do it, I was spent. This is the first time I’ve noticed not having anything left after a long ride. I’ve had it before when I had nothing in the legs just after I set off, but never as a result of pushing myself to the limit.

All in this was a good day out, tough on the legs and a little dull in parts when I was on my own but for the most part I enjoyed it. We went much further than I have ever been before, hopefully next time we can break the 20 mile barrier. Looking at the figures below we went much further but in a very quick time, compared to the last time that is, over 4 miles further but only about 12 minutes longer. This just shows how difficult it is to compare one ride to another using Strava or any other tracking system when you don’t ride on the same route.

Ride Details

Distance: 19.8 miles

Time Taken: 2:19:27

Elevation Gain: 1,598ft

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Longer, Faster, Harder

I read an interesting post the other day about showing off when talking about how far you can ride – it’s about riding 100 miles in one go, which for me isn’t a goal, it’s more like a month of rides for me!

It got me thinking about how I evaluate my rides and if I should map how far I go at all. After all I don’t ride a road bike, I ride off-road and on country lanes, up and down tracks, bridal ways and the like. I still track everything using Strava and like to see how far I’ve gone but does it really matter?

Probably not, well no actually no it doesn’t matter how far, how long, how high, how hard or how many times I ride. All that matters is that I enjoy what I am doing, more so recently now that I am riding with other like minded, but infinitely fitter people who are pushing me to my limits. I come home covered in mud, struggling to stand and still out of breath – you can’t map that on an app or measure the effect on your body or mind with any form of technology currently available. Nothing can tell you how hard it was to ride in 6 inches of mud or up a stream that was once a country path.

I will still map my rides on Strava – that is until I change phones to Windows 8 which currently doesn’t have a Strava app. I will still want to know how far and how long, to see it all on a map to make sense of the crazy routes and how we can improve the experience. I am also still going to write about the rides I go on, detail how far and how long, because I want to, not because I am trying to show off or prove anything to anyone except myself.

This week I have ridden longer, faster and harder. This was partly on road around the windmills and partly off-road in some new places and along some new tracks and trails.

The first ride of the year was a good one, out with friends, covered in mud but happy!

Ride Details

Distance: 15.3 miles

Time Taken: 2:02:20

Elevation Gain: 1,458ft

Below is a picture of me out and about above Holmfirth / Jackson Bridge / Hepworth

Me!

Me!

A Review of 2013 in Pictures

This is a review of my activity in 2013 through the pictures I have taken whilst out and about.

I only started on riding again on the 9th June 2013, after a chance discussion with a couple of friends about getting fit. Since then I have tried to go out at least once a week when possible, clocking up over 200 miles – below are the stats.

Details for 2013

Number of Rides: 34

Total Distance: 228.1 miles

I didn’t take any pictures in June, too busy trying to stay upright and keep breathing so the pictures start in July.

July 2013

The Windmills at sundown

The Windmills at sundown

August 2013

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Sunset looking over Holmfirth

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Emley Moor Mast in the sunlight

September 2013

Looking towards Holmfirth

Looking towards Holmfirth

Sunset over home

Sunset over home

October 2013

Close up Windmills

Close up Windmills

Windmills in a row

Windmills in a row

Looking at Emley Moor Mast

Looking at Emley Moor Mast

November 2013

Me covered in a bit of mud

Me covered in a bit of mud

A misty view across the Pennines - one of my favourite views spoilt by the weather

A misty view across the Pennines – one of my favourite views spoilt by the weather

Looking back towards home in the mist

Looking back towards home in the mist

December 2013

A view along the track at the back of Center Parcs

A view along the track at the back of Center Parcs

A simply stunning view across the lake at Center Parcs

A simply stunning view across the lake at Center Parcs

Looking down the track above the farmers field

Looking down the track above the farmers field

Sunlight through the clouds

Sunlight through the clouds

Looking at these views makes it all worth it, so here’s to a successful 2014 with some more pictures and many more miles.