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

Take a Deep Breath

Today was the first time I have ridden my bike in nearly a month, due mainly to the small operation I had last month and latterly because I have been full of cold.

There is nothing worse than having a chest and nose full of snot when exercising, it kind of leaves you gasping for breath.

But with the sun shining and the temperature quite mild for the time of year I decided it was time to have a crack at the windmills with a slightly extended first (and last) phase. To get there I drove with the bike in the boot, to just past “Up Top” as I wanted to save my legs for the first sprint that I wanted to get a PB on Strava for.

A little side note on Strava – I uploaded my ride this afternoon and it logged with Strava twice. When I got home I deleted the one that had no detail. Big mistake. Both rides were deleted at the same time so now I have lost all of the data. Rather annoying when you have 5 PB’s and 3 second bests on a ride that was only 8.4 miles. Needless to say I won’t bother doing any housekeeping in Strava again!

So I don’t have the full data from today’s ride, what I can remember is this

Ride Details

Distance: 8.4 miles

Time Taken: 46 minutes (ish)

Elevation Gain: 450ft (ish)

This was quite a good ride out, although I struggled to breath most of the way round, I still rode over 8 miles in the time it used to take me to ride 6. Also having a break of nearly a month hasn’t really slowed me down, yes I felt a bit heavy legged and didn’t go for it as much as usual on the downhill stretches, but It was a good workout and marks my return to the saddle.

I still haven’t managed to go out for a run either, I’m sure that will come!

I really want to keep going on the bike for as long as possible until the bad weather hits, it was difficult enough today with the small amount of breeze that was blowing, let alone when it starts raining at the same time. I guess that will be when I start running.

Today’s photo is looking across the quarry which marks the starting point of the ride. I am heading away from this area, up towards the windmills – which I will take a snap of at some point when I ride up there again.



No Second Wind

I looked out of the window this morning to be greeted by bright blue skies, today will be a good day for a ride I thought.

After a bit of should I shouldn’t I , will I won’t I, I decided to get myself sorted and go out for a ride – a big one as this will be my last for a couple of weeks with a trip to the hospital looming large next week.

What I hadn’t taken into account was how breezy it was out there. Not really windy, not dangerous to ride in, just breezy enough to make it hard to cycle in, because no matter which direction I was going in, the wind always seemed to be in my face!

The route I have been taking recently starts uphill for about a mile then after a quick flat stretch comes the short but hard climb up top. I kind of knew after about 300 metres that I didn’t have it this morning, nothing in my legs and struggling with breathing.

I usually get to the top of the first hill, have a breather whilst on the flat, then once I’ve had a moment at the top of the hard climb I get a second wind, ready to do the windmills course or at least ride around a shorter course with some great sprints. Today, nothing. Nothing in my legs, no air in my lungs and with the wind in my face no motivation to push on. I tried a short sprint that I wanted to beat me previous time on, but with the wind I was going nowhere fast, so I did the unthinkable, I turned round and rode home.

I didn’t just come straight home, I did manage to climb Up Top (from behind so it’s hardly a climb) then it’s all downhill until I get home. The downhill is great, I try to hit top gear and peddle as much as I dare, hitting nearly 30 mph which for me is fast enough when you are weaving past parked cars and hoping no-one pulls out of their driveway.

Ride Details

Distance: 5.4 miles

Time Taken: 37.31

Elevation Gain: 441ft

I think I may have put myself off by stopping to take this picture half way up the first hill! The best of the pictures I take I run through Instagram to enhance some of the features (including the one below). They can been seen on my Instagram page here.

Looking towards Up Top

Looking towards Up Top

Even now, a few hours after going out, I feel like I have done at least 20k, still nothing in my legs and just feel stiff. Time for a break now to get some bits sorted in the hospital next week so hopefully back to full fitness and back out on the road soon.

Fading Light

The nights are drawing in, now that we have reached September, so this is the first time I have used lights on my bike for a number of years!

As the sun went down over the Pennines I decided to ride towards the Windmills, but take a shorter route that I have ridden before which loops back to where I started – once I got up top . I am basically riding up hill for a couple of miles or so before I reach kind of a plateau (but believe me it’s not flat!) which I can either take the shorter loop that I did this time, or the longer loop in the other direction which takes me around the windmills course.

I love riding in this area, much more than the church 10k as it allows time to recover from the climb up, gives me the length of ride that is similar to the church 10k but isn’t quite as hard. You might think that I should take the harder option, but I think I would prefer to enjoy the ride, especially when I am finding it tough going (like I did on this ride), than killing myself around a course that I just don’t get on with.

It’s a shame because there are some great views on the church 10k but only after you have slogged round most of the trip so I’m usually too tired to either care or enjoy them!

So on to the details of this ride.

Ride Details

Distance: 7.1 miles

Time Taken: 45:34

Elevation Gain: 600ft

Part of the reason I like to go out – and one of the things that keeps me going when I really don’t want to continue, are the views. I will try to take pictures of different parts of each ride, maybe from different angles, but with fading light it isn’t always possible. Here are a couple of shots from today’s ride.