Thursday, 31 December 2015

It's all part of the plan . . .

I had every intention of writing a report about a wild mountain bike route I'd been planning to do last weekend, with photos, advice and a GPS file of the route so that you could try it for yourself.  It didn't happen . . . the best laid plans are often scuppered by the weather in sunny Scotland!  Oh, and that annoying thing called a social life that often gets in the way at this time of year!

Instead, on the nicer of the two days last weekend, I got out for a great road ride.  Over the Campsies to the north of Glasgow in the glorious sunshine.  A great way to burn off the festive calories, get some good Zone 3 tempo work in and over 4 hours of "base" training in the legs.

Beautiful day to be out on the bike!

As a mountain biker, with mostly short XC races on my calendar, you may wonder why I decided to spend over 4 hours on my road bike on a glorious sunny day.  Well, I had hoped to mountain bike on Saturday and that didn't happen due to the horrible weather.  Then, on Sunday, I didn't have time to drive to the place I wanted to go mountain biking and get back in time for the aforementioned social life!  That's the great convenience of road riding - you can get going straight from your front door.  I'll be doing more blogs in future about how to use road riding to build your speed, strength and fitness for mountain biking.

But the other reason is . . . it's all part of the plan!  My training plan, that is.

Back in November, I covered goal-setting to help you get started with your bike training.  If you're putting together a plan for the first time, whether it's to target some races, do better at an event, or just get faster or fitter on the bike, I hope that blog was helpful.

I've put my own advice into practice and set my goals for 2016, so I thought I'd share them here, along with a bit of advice to go along with them.  For the past two seasons, I've focused on shorter XC mountain bike races and although I've done well in some of them, my heart still lies in the type of races that got me into competitive mountain biking in the first place:  Endurance.

Whether it's a 75km off road mountain bike marathon, or a 10 hour multi-lap event, or the grueling mental challenge of a 24 hour solo race, I've always enjoyed these races more and done quite well in some of them too.

I'm still going to do the British and Scottish XC Series in 2016 but they'll be "B" or "C" priority races in my schedule.  You should choose no more than 3 or 4 "A" priority races for your season - the ones you aim to peak for.  Your entire training plan is focused on coming into "form" for those races, where you hope all your process goals come together to achieve whatever outcome goal you've set yourself; be that a podium, a top 20, or just to finish the race.

B priority races are still important but you typically don't peak for them.  C priority races are the least important - you may miss them if you're not feeling up to it, or you may use them to experiment with your strategy, nutrition, or warm-up routine.

So, what does my 2016 race season look like?  Here's the plan, with the A priority races highlighted in bold:

27/03 - SXC Round 1, Laggan
03/04 - BCXC Round 1, Pembrey (Wales)
24/04 - BCXC Round 2, Newnham (Plymouth)
01/05 - SXC Round 2, Dunoon
15/05 - BCXC Round 3, Dalby
22/05 - SXC Round 3, Cathkin
28/05 - Glentress Seven, Peebles
12/06 - BCXC Round 4, Fforest Fields (Wales)
19/06 - Crit Under the Castle, Stirling (Road Criterium)
25/06 - Ten Under the Ben, Fort William
03/07 - SXC Round 4, Dalbeattie
17/07 - British XC Championships, Cathkin
31/07 - Manx 100, Isle of Man
07/08 - BCXC Round 5, Cannock Chase
21/08 - SXC Round 5, Fife
18/09 - SXC Round 6, Forfar
24/09 - Tour de Ben Nevis, Fort William
29/10 - 24 Hour UK Championships (Relentless 24), Fort William

If you happen to be in any of these areas on those dates, please do come along to watch!  Mountain bike racing is a great spectator sport!  I'll probably throw in a few more road races too - they're not my priority but they are a great way of training and pushing your speed on the mountain bike.  Especially Criteriums, like Crit Under the Castle in June.

So, what does all this mean for my training plan?  Well, given I'm still doing XC races I still have to work on speed and power.  They are still important elements of an endurance race, but in a slightly different way.  Being able to repeat a steep hill 10, 11, or 12 times during a multi-lap endurance race like the Glentress Seven or Ten Under the Ben not only requires being able to put the power down, but also requires the endurance to go along with it and do it several times over.

On my way to 3rd place with 11 laps at Ten Under the Ben in 2014

In the winter, this all starts with "base" miles.  While I absolutely love a long day out on the mountain bike, there's no better way to build a steady endurance base in your fitness than a solid few hours on the road bike.  You get the chance to rest too often on the mountain bike with the varied terrain.  But even on the downhills on a road bike, you can still be pushing the pedals and working on that base endurance.

I've now moved on from true base endurance, where I spent hours in my heart rate Zone 2, and have now started to introduce "tempo" intervals, where you spend anything from 20 to 60 minutes in Zone 3.  That's exactly what I did on Sunday on the road bike and I'll be building up to even more hours over the coming weeks.  

Just because I have a 10 hour race in June doesn't mean I need to do a 10 hour training ride, but you do need to know your body can cope with the time.  If you can comfortably do a training ride of 70 to 80% of the race duration, your mental strength should get you through the rest.  It's also a good chance in the training rides to try different nutrition strategies and make sure your bike set-up is not causing any niggles in your back or your knees.  I'd also recommend not just doing long wild mountain bike rides, but multiple laps of the same course to get used to the repetitive nature of these events - that can be the most challenging aspect mentally.

I therefore do still do long mountain bike rides for that purpose, and it's vital to keep working on your skills.  You should aim to spend at least one training session each week on your mountain bike, practicing basic skills and/or pushing yourself on more technical terrain.  That's where my wild mountain bike rides come in, and while I didn't get the chance to go on such a ride last weekend, I'm sure I'll get the chance in the coming weeks - so check back soon for a report on that ride when it comes.

In the meantime, get yourself out there on those beautiful winter days and build up those base miles.  Your body will thank you for it in the summer!

Monday, 21 December 2015

New sponsor for 2016 - Origins Fitness

I hinted on Friday that I had an announcement to make today and I’m delighted to announce my new sponsor for the 2016 race season:  Origins Fitness.  If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll probably have noticed my tweets about the gym over the past year.  It’s where I do my strength training throughout the season and I’m over the moon to now be working in partnership with the team at Origins Fitness for 2016.

Photo courtesy of Jamie Simpson Photography

I’m pictured here alongside Graham and Pamela, both qualified and experienced Personal Trainers who run the gym.  Not only is the gym a fantastic facility, but they’ve both given me some great personalised advice for my training and nutrition over the past year.  Whether you’re looking for personal training, nutritional advice, sports specific exercises, gym classes, or just a relaxed environment to workout in with really high quality equipment, pop in to see Pamela or Graham for some advice and check out their website and Facebook page.

Photo courtesy of Jamie Simpson Photography

I’m going to be really proud to be wearing my Origins Fitness kit next season, not just because it looks cool though!  But also because I’m really proud to be flying the flag for this great gym and local business, located not far from where I grew up. 

The gym is based in Hillington, just outside Glasgow and not far from Braehead shopping centre.  It’s really easy to get to from Glasgow, Paisley, Renfrew or any of the surrounding areas.  It’s got the best equipment I’ve ever come across in a gym and the advice I’ve had from Pamela just in the past month has totally changed the way I’m working out to improve my bike-specific strength.

Check back on my blog over the coming weeks and months for some tips on bike specific exercises you can try in the gym to help improve your strength, balance and control on the bike.
Speaking of blogs, that’s not going to change . . . I’ll still be doing my race reports and training tips on this site, plus a whole lot more, and you can continue to follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.  Given my new sponsor, I’ll include even more training tips about off-the-bike strength and core training, plus nutritional advice.  I’m also going to be doing some events for the gym members such as guided road and mountain bike rides.  If you’re a keen cyclist who uses the gym and you see me in there for my usual Monday or Thursday night sessions, just give me a shout if you’d like to talk bikes or bike training.  Just don’t try to take your bike on the treadmill like I did . . . !

Photo courtesy of Jamie Simpson Photography

So, us cyclists are always obsessed with how we look on the bike . . . The big question therefore is, what does the new kit look like now I’m riding for Origins Fitness?  Well, it’s currently being produced and should be with me by the end of January, but here’s a sneak peek at the design.  I can’t wait to wear this awesome looking kit and fly the flag for Origins Fitness in my racing all over the UK in 2016!

I don’t think I’ve ever been so motivated for an upcoming race season and this new sponsorship is a massive part of that.  My training is going really well and I’ve already planned out my main events for 2016.  Check back soon for my next blog about my change in strategy for 2016, as well as loads of new content coming soon on the site.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Exciting times ahead . . .

Watch this space on Monday 21st December for some exciting news about my 2016 race season!  All will be revealed in Monday's announcement . . .