Côte de Emley Moor

OK I know that Emley Moor wasn’t part of the Tour de France Grand Depart, but it is a hill climb (which is one of the definitions of Côte) so I’m sticking with it. Plus the Tour de France is still on at the moment so it’s still relevant and OK to mention it as many times as possible in my posts in the vain hope that it may bring more readers!

I fancied something different this time out, rather than going towards the windmills I wanted to go towards the other side of the valley where I live, so chose a route that would take me over Emley Moor past the mast. To do this I would need to ride past and around it an approach from behind. This route includes a large proportion of the Scissett Triathlon bike ride, a route I had ridden once previously, earlier in the year.

The odd thing about this route is that the first mile you ride away from the mast, with your back to it, going out towards the windmills. This is the only way to get out of the village without heading down towards the mast and for me gives an extra couple of miles onto the ride.

Once up high enough the road then descends for a couple of fast easy miles, allowing me to generate some speed though a couple of villages heading towards where the Triathlon course starts.

After that it is up towards the mast from behind. The run up to the mast is all uphill so I stopped at the bottom for a breather, the road from the Triathlon start is fairly flat so you can pedal hard and fast for a few miles, in top gear, without stopping or slowing. Knowing what was coming, the long drag up to the mast, made me think a quick breather was going to be a good idea.

Riding up towards the mast is just a long slog, something that I didn’t really enjoy that much, so much so I had to stop close to the top for another quick rest. Not something l like to do, especially as I knew that I would stop next to the mast anyway.

Once over the top there is an easy ride back down the hill towards home. The wind always blows in your face on the decent so it can be difficult to get a huge amount of speed up on here.

An enjoyable ride if not remarkable or very interesting! The most remarkable part of this ride was the amount of Strava segments I got PBs on. To be fair I have only been this way once before but still to get 26 PBs and 3 second best efforts is a really top effort.

Ride Details

Distance: 15.5 miles

Time Taken: 1:28:16

Elevation Gain: 1,112ft

Average Speed: 10.5 mph



Proving a Point – To Myself

Last night I went out for a ride to prove something to myself and I have left myself in no doubt that two things are true.

I am fitter than I think I am, but not as fit as I would like to think I am. A bit pedantic maybe, but there is a point.

I took a route last night that I have been wanting to do since I came back from the knee issues of the past months. It is one that I have ridden a few times before, but always struggled with. I wanted to see if, with my new found power and leg strength, I could get up my ‘nemesis’ hill without stopping.

It’s not a long climb, just steep and winding. For Tour de France followers think Jenkin Road in Sheffield at the end of the second Grand Depart stage. Not that long and maybe not quite as steep, but one hell of a hill all the same.

Jenkin Road - Sheffield

Jenkin Road – Sheffield

I have always struggled to get more than 2/3 of the way up without stopping so wanted to see if I could get to the top, or at least to where I wanted to turn off and go off-road, without stopping. So I pushed myself to almost breaking point, telling myself that it was only a few more metres, I was nearly there, how good would I feel when I made it without stopping and some other stuff that I can’t write down!

I made it. Without stopping. But at what price?

I had used up so much energy on one small climb that over the next couple of miles, most of which is uphill, I had to keep stopping, taking a breather and then moving on.

There might be plenty of power in the legs these days, but I still have a long way to go with my fitness to be able to not just push myself up a hill, but to carry on and push myself through the rest of the ride. My chest becomes tight, I can’t get enough air in and my lungs are burning. My nose gets blocked so I can’t breath through it, so I have to gulp air in through the mouth which can sometimes lead to the odd fly or two being consumed!

So I am fit enough to ride around 15 miles without too many problems – last time I went out I broke 10 of my Strava segment records, but I’m not fit enough to ride hard for a couple of minutes and carry on without struggling to breath. Hence why I am not as fit as I would like to think I am.

I’m kind of happy though, I say kind of as a git on a road bike came past me that close he could have hit me (or I him had I stuck my arm out), not that I heard him coming, then his mate and some kid who must have been no more than 11. I’m happy because I am in a good pace but not happy because I know I can do so much better.

In order to get better I am looking at different kit, the dark side, a road bike. It won’t make my legs go any faster, it won’t make me fitter, allow me to ride up hills without feeling like my chest is on fire. But it might help me to go quicker, have less friction on the roads where I mostly ride.

If I do buy one there can be no more excuses!

Or maybe I should just buy some slick tyres for the mountain bike – sacrilege maybe?

I don’t ride for records, for PBs on Strava, but like most I like to see how I am doing against what I have done before. On this ride, although I went a slightly different way there and back I managed 3 personal best times, interestingly on the way home rather than on the way there, once I had got the breathing under control and felt less tired. It also maybe didn’t help that I decided to put my gloves on whilst riding along a downhill section towards the furthest point from home, a section that I can normally get a good time on.

Also interesting is that although the distance is shorter, the time taken and elevation gain is similar to my last ride, which shows that more hills and tougher conditions slow me down considerably.

Ride Details

Distance: 11.7 miles

Time Taken: 1:07:05

Elevation Gain: 792ft

Average Speed: 10.5 mph

No Car Required

A couple of weeks ago I got back out on my bike after a 4 month layoff. To do this I decided to drive up to my favorite windmill course, much like I did on the first ride I did just over a year ago. The ride went so well, with a few personal best segments recorded by Strava, that I wanted to get out again as soon as possible. However, with the Tour de France passing so close to where we live that we had to go and watch and a mixture of kids parties and shopping I didn’t make it out again until this weekend.

Buoyed by my new found power and speed I ditched the car for this week’s ride and went directly from home. This was a similar route to when I drive but with an added climb to increase the distance. I’ve been this way a couple of times before so I knew it would be about the right distance and within the time I had allowed so as not to upset the Mrs too much!

Having suffered from knee problems over the past 6 months or so I wondered if I might have the seat a little low, not much, but enough to stop me extending my knee far enough on the down stroke to cause the issue. So I decided to raise the seat by about an inch. I can still touch the floor (on tip toes) and extend my leg to almost straight when at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Worth a try at least I thought. I was right, it gave more power and my knees although sore, aren’t as bad as they used to be after a ride.

The one thing that I have learnt from my last two rides is that I needed to ride in a higher gear and stop changing down so far, thus using more power to go faster rather than pedaling faster to go faster. Having what seems like more leg power since I came back has helped with this theory and made for some interesting results.

This ride has a total of 13 Strava segments on it (I don’t set these as I don’t have a premium account) and to my total amazement I manged one 3rd best, one 2nd best and ten personal best times! I only missed out on one of the hardest climb PB’s by 1 second as I was chasing a guy on a road bike. He’d come past me just before you turn uphill at the point furthest away from home, I didn’t take offense, I often get passed by people on road bikes. But this time I wanted so see if I could keep with him up the hill for pace, to my surprise I was almost catching him by the end! I had taken my own advice, chosen a slightly higher gear than normal for this climb and stood up to use leg power rather than rapid spinning.

Looking back at the Strava data I have realised that there are two segments for the same climb, one shorter than the other. The shorter version, which is also the newer segment I got the 2nd best on, the older longer segment I got a PB on – which must mean I kept going harder for longer rather than slowing down nearer to the top (chasing other riders often helps with that!).

The only segment I didn’t get a top three is where I always take a bit of a breather, coming down hill after the steep climb – not directly after but close enough, it has a short burst climb which I knew I was in the wrong gear for but didn’t care, after all I am still just coming back and not trying to beat any records.

It will be very interesting to see how my next ride out on this course is and if I can get any quicker. There was a little breeze about on this ride and was thinking as I rode how much of a difference even a slight wind makes to your speed, especially when you always seem to be riding into it.

So from now on, unless I only have 30 minutes to spare, or I am going further afield, there will be no car required.

Ride Details

Distance: 13.8 miles

Time Taken: 1:12:33

Elevation Gain: 775ft

Average Speed: 11.4 mph

The First Run

I finally did it, I went out for my first run! I almost managed to go out a couple of weeks ago, got changed into some gear, but by the time we had got the kids to bed I had gone off the idea, but not last night.

For some reason last night was different. I was actually going to go and run around the block. It isn’t far and it is a course that have done a couple of times on the bike when I first started just to get some fitness.

But this time I was running, no freewheeling down the hill, no sitting down and taking it easy when the heart rate increases and you feel like your chest is about to explode. Just you, some trainers and the road. Of course I have all the gear so had running shorts and a running top, which to be fair is a bit OTT for a summer run and I could have done with a t-shirt, but I’ve got it so I used it.

New headphones in, water bottle in hand, Strava run started on the phone and off I go. Uphill at first, along a straight and then downhill. Legs are heavy, heart pumping, chest screaming, no air through the nose, only gulping it in through the mouth and I’ve only done 1/2 a mile.

Back round towards where I started and I know it’s just under a mile from my bike trips on this course, so round I go again.

Just like I did when I first tried this on the bike I only get half way up the first hill and have to stop. Well walk. “This is the last time I will be this slow” I think to myself, probably right but not really helping at that precise moment. I need to slow my breathing, take some air in and start again. I would have turned around and walked back down the hill to home but I had just passed some people sitting on a wall and didn’t really want to go back past them walking having given up – strange where we get our inspiration from but I am glad I pushed myself a bit further.

I managed to go a bit further but had to walk again, not for long, just to get some air in to my sore lungs and start again. It was at this point I decided to take a shortcut back, through the estate and not all the way round the full course. I knew I was slowing and didn’t want to overdo things on the first day, “live to fight another day” I thought, “this is the first of many”.

In little over 20 minutes I was home, sweating, panting, aching all over and feeling sick. I’d got the metallic taste in my mouth I get just before I am about to throw up so dinner would have to wait. I would like to say I felt good after the run but I didn’t. I felt dreadful.

At least I wasn’t sick and after about 10 minutes of sitting outside on the decking, taking in some evening air, I felt fine. Yes the legs where stiff and I should really learn to warm down, but it didn’t matter, I was home.

I had done it, I had gone out on my first run.

Run Details

Distance: 1.6 miles

Time Taken: 20:28

Pace: 12:39 minutes / mile

Back with a Bang!

After what seems like an absolute age – 4 months to be exact, I’m back.

I’m back on the bike and I have even taken the plunge and been for a run, more on that in a later post.

My knees have been causing problems for quite a while, since I rode the Triathlon course back in February my left knee has been giving me real problems and i just couldn’t put any power through it. After that my right knee had a similar problem but in a different place, more top of calf than knee really.

Something changed a few weeks ago, no more real pain (the right knee is still stiff but I think it’s more muscle than anything else) and I don’t have any problems at the moment with the left. I also started to look at the roads when I was driving, seeing how hard it might be to ride, looking for new courses or places to ride. I hadn’t felt like this since the backend of 2013 when I was out most weekends on the bike.

So it was time. Time to get the bike out, scrape the old mud off the gear changers, oil the chain and see how I went. I’ve been around the estate with my son a few times just to test the knee, but nothing more than half a mile at the most.

Not wanting to over do things first time out I decided to throw the bike in the back of the car and drive up towards the windmills. I’ve done this a few times in the past, not too close that it is only the 10km course I started on last year (yes it has only been a year since I started this) but close enough that if I have a problem I am never really too far away from the car.

So off I go, happy in the knowledge that this is just a training ride, enjoy the scenery, test the knees and see how I feel. I had noticed over the past couple of months that my overall fitness had dropped, walking up into Sheffield from work I was starting to get a bit panty, where before Christmas I was fine.

It felt good. Out on the road, peddling hard and using the top gear range more than ever. The only issue was the gear changer kept getting stuck so I was having problems changing the front derailleur up to the top cog. Not a massive issue but it kept sticking, taking longer than it should and slowed my momentum – but this wasn’t a race, just a test of stamina and strength.

To my amazement I managed to beat 5 previous segment times in Strava and also get 2 2nd best times. I knew I felt good with good power in the legs but I never thought I would have been able to go that quickly after so long out. I knew I was pushing hard in some places but thought I was going fairly slowly especially as I was a bit knackered and definitely feeling it in my chest, lungs busting and heart pounding.

There have been many times in the past where I have thought I could go around the windmills course twice, but not today. Once was more than enough and I was ready to head back to the car and go home.

Only, and I say only as if I usually cycle for hundreds of miles, but I only did 8.5 miles but I was happy. Happy to have been back out after what felt like forever, happy to have gone so quickly on so many segments and happy that although I knew I had done some exercise, I wasn’t feeling too bad. I certainly didn’t feel too heavy legged and tired as I did when I first started.

Now I have been out once, I want to get out again. Life has changed slightly since I first started and since Christmas where I was getting out every weekend for a few hours. I may not get back to those levels for a while and may need to start going out on an evening, but I am determined to get back out and put some miles into the legs. I’m even looking for a road bike to get more power and speed riding on roads and keep the MTB for off road fun.

Ride Details

Distance: 8.5 miles

Time Taken: 44.50

Elevation Gain: 440ft