Saturday, 31 January 2015

The best laid plans . . .

In my last post, I mentioned that I'd been ill with the flu over the holiday period.  Well, I returned to work in early January, thinking I was set to get training again, only to pick up a stomach bug and end up in my bed again!  I guess my immune system was still a bit down from having the flu and the doctor said it was just bad luck to get both in a row, but his strict orders were more time off the bike!

So, by the time I was feeling fully fit again and re-started my training on Monday 19th January, I'd missed 4 full weeks of important winter base training.  I do love a good plan, but one of the most critical parts of planning out your season is to be able to re-plan when something goes wrong.

Around that time, the SXC committee also decided to remove the Masters category for the year ahead, following the decision by British Cycling.  Despite some of my views on this in my previous blog post, I'm really glad the SXC has done that as it keeps it consistent with the BCXC races. I've now got an Expert license (although I don't feel like an Expert!) and in some ways it has come at a perfect time.

Combining the move up to the Expert category and the 4 week gap in my training has meant that I've had to re-plan my entire season.  But it's better that it has happened now.  The key thing I've realised though is that my training objectives remain the exact same - to increase my top end speed, keep that speed going consistently over all the laps of an XC race, and improve some aspects of my technical riding.  None of that has changed.

My goals have obviously changed.  Aiming at more podiums in the Masters category would have been realistic but I've had to re-align my goals to where I may finish in the Expert field.  But I'll still be pushing myself really hard to improve this year and I can still measure that.  Measuring the achievement of your goals isn't just about your place in the race results.  It's about lap times, percentage time over that of the 1st place rider, comparison to riders you know, and so on.  

So, I've moved my training peaks out to later in the season and I'm still aiming to improve the exact same aspects of my riding as I was before moving up to Expert.  I'm almost 2 weeks back into training now and I'm loving it.  I've got a long way to go but it's just so good to be back out on the bike again, even if that is in the snow!

Note that's not my Trek Superfly race bike in the photo.  I spend most of my mountain bike riding at this time of the year on my Commencal Meta, with 26 inch wheels, dropper post and flat pedals.  This is something I'd strongly recommend if you've got the option.  Having a winter training bike means you can keep the race bike tucked up nice and cosy at home!  But it also means you can stick the flat pedals on and work on technique, undo any bad habits from using SPDs all the time.  The dropper means you can get the saddle out of the way to work on more technical descents.  And so on . . .

The other thing I'm trying to do this season is change my base endurance rides to involve more mountain biking.  I used to spend a lot of time on the road building up the base endurance but it's more about time on the bike than the kilometers covered.  So, even if I just head out on the mountain bike on the road and ride to a local trail, I'm at least on a mountain bike and getting a bit of trail riding in, despite most of the time being on the road to/from the trail.  It's still the same time and it has some mountain biking in it instead of being all on the road on my road bike.

I'm still doing a lot of work on the turbo trainer and the rollers.  I'm loving the rollers for working on balance and pedaling technique!

Speaking of the turbo trainer, it's about time I got myself on it this morning.  I've got some interval training to do on the turbo and then it'll be out on my Commencal Meta to some local trails to work on skills and for a general endurance ride.  It's still a bit snowy where I am but the sun is out! 

Before I go, I'm hoping to include a few product reviews on my blog this year.  So I thought I'd start with a couple of brief reviews just now.

As mentioned in my last blog, I've still got the fantastic support of the Alpine Bikes Trek Store Glasgow as my sponsor for this season.  All the products I'll mention are available in the store, so pop along if you like the sound of any of them.  The staff are really helpful and knowledgeable and there's a great range in store, or you can order things in pretty quickly if they don't have it.

Something I ordered in recently was the Bontrager TLR Flash Charger pump.

Wow!  This thing is amazing and I can't believe nobody thought of it before.  Well done Bontrager!  Those who run tubeless tyres will know it can be a bit of a pain getting them to seat on the rim and inflate initially.  It either involves a lot of hard work with a track pump, using a CO2 cannister, or home-made contraptions with plastic drinks bottles pumped up to high pressure.  Bontrager have basically made a production version of the latter.  Pump the chamber up to high pressure then flip the red lever and, hey presto, tyre inflated and seated on the rim!  I'd still recommend putting some soapy water on the tyre and rim to help it slip into place but it's the time and effort saved that's amazing.  I'd give this 9/10 and the only reason for not being 10/10 is that, unless I'm being daft, the pressure gauge only tells you the pressure of the chamber, not of the tyre itself.  So, you still need another gauge or pump to ensure your tyre is at the pressure you want.  But I had that already so not too much hassle at all.

I also just got a new helmet: the Bontrager Velocis.

While this helmet is aimed at road cyclists, it's also perfect for XC mountain biking.  It's incredibly lightweight - the medium I've got is only 229g!  And it also comes in the perfect colours to match my Alpine Bikes Trek Store kit :-)  I've not yet used the helmet so will post a more detailed review when I do, but initial impressions are that the fit is great and very easily adjustable, it's got great air flow ventilation, it looks great, the pads inside are made of an anti-bacterial material that will stop it smelling when I get sweaty, and . . . did I mention . . . it's incredibly lightweight!  I'll let you know how I get on using it this season along with some other kit.

Right, I have an appointment with a turbo trainer, so no more putting it off!

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