Over the past few weeks I’ve been trying to make my training…

So over the past few weeks I’ve been trying to make my training more ‘interesting’. It’s safe to say I’m going through a bit of rough patch. I’ve been training hard for over a year for one single event and sometimes it can be hard to maintain the same pressure (even for an event as big as RAAM). You do get the occasional day of shit i’ve got to ride my bike across america that jolts you back to reality and usually onto the turbo doing the hardest session you can find on Zwift but trying to maintain this motivation can still be difficult (for me anyway). 

I’ve found that the key to maintaining my focus is by scheduling small training treats as a way to keep my training a bit more interesting. Me and James both did this in the winter by taking on some of our local cyclocross races but I’m now itching for my next, small, adventure. 

I’ve been googling mini Manchester to Lands End – Manchester – I thought, how far can I get in 7 days but then sanity provailed and I realised March may not be the right time to ride over 800 miles unsupported. 

I have since been riding my cyclocross bike equipped with gravel tyres (schwalbe G One) which are absolutely incredible and it has completely changed my view on the versatility of the humble bike. I’m itching for my next gravel adventure which could pass has some solid endurance training before the big one, RAAM. I think I’ve found the perfect event, Dirty Reiver. 200km across gravel tracks and trails in Kielder Forest! What more could you ask for?! If you had told me a few years ago that I’d even consider riding 200km in a day, nevermind for fun and offroad I would have laughed in your face but this is what RAAM has done – you get the itch to go to places you’d never normally go and you want to test your new found ultra-fitness. 

For now, I will be riding my gravel bike more, have as much fun as humanly possible on my bike and, importantly, getting my head down in preparation for June. 

If you’re interested in some crazy gravel riding check out their event page – it looks boss! https://www.dirtyreiver.co.uk/

 

26 weeks to go: Training for Race Across America

I’ve never trained harder. I thought I’d trained hard before, but actually I just fitted my training around my life. When life got too busy, my training had to take a back seat. It has to, most of us are juggling busy lives, families, kids, social lives, kids social lives! Where’s the time? So how did we make the change? Pretty simple…. Pure FEAR.

Race Across America is just that. It’s a race. The time to finish is under nine days and is very tight. We have to average 16mph over all the terrain, in wind and rain, day and night, over mountains and through deserts without slowing. And I ain’t no cyclist. Well, I guess there’s a correction there, I wasn’t a cyclist. After clocking up over 5,000 miles on my bike this year and having a room in my house dedicated to bikes and training, I cant really escape the reality that I am a cyclist. I still feel a fraud though when I go cycling with someone like Tom who actually knows what he’s doing on a bike and also knows how to fix it!
My training plan for Race Across America has been pretty simple. I know from running the Ultra Tour of Mont Blanc, which took over 30 hours solid, that my endurance base was pretty good. The key point for me to start was with improving my weaknesses (well one main weakness), my little skinny runners legs. They are good at moving my lightweight frame up and down mountains on foot, but no good for powering a bike along. From a bit of reading and discussions with Tom it became clear that my main limiting factor was power (Watts) ,which many of you may be familiar with. As Tom said in his last blog, power to weight is important, but the weight only really becomes a factor when you are going uphill. Most of our ride will be flat roads. I needed more power.

Training started in the early year and I focussed on just riding my bike, into and out of work just to get the miles in. This helped build muscle but we needed to measure how we were doing. One of the great things about cycling compared to running is that it is much easier to measure how hard you are working and how much power you have and how your training goals are progressing. I invested in an indoorWahoo Kickr bike trainer and linked it up to Zwift. For those who don’t follow these geeky things, it means I can use it to measure my fitness (FTP) and to do controlled interval training. And you can’t cheat it. When I was doing running training if you felt a bit tired you could just back off and cruise about, it was very pleasant. Zwift is a virtual training world. It knows how fit I am, it sets the power I have to produce for every session `I do and it controls the resistance on the machine. So once you start a session, you can’t back off. Its utterly horrible, but at the same time incredible quality training.

When the weather got a bit nicer in March/April I started to do some rides out with Tom. I should come clean about these rides with Tom, I was scared of going out with him because he is ridiculous on a bike. Tom’s slowest efforts were stupidly hard for me. He would ride 15 miles to Tatton Park and I would meet him there (to save my energy) and then we would do 2 laps around Cheshire. About 25 miles. It always followed the same pattern, he would chat, I would pretend I wasn’t dying ha ha . I remember at the end of the first rides that we would part about five miles from my car; he would cycle home, I would cycle to my car. I would already have given everything to keep up with Tom and as soon as he’d left I didn’t have to keep up the pretence anymore. I literally crawled home through Tatton Park on my bike, just managing to overtake the little kids on stabilisers. I even turned my Strava off by this point so Tom had no idea id completely died ha ha But that is the benefit of having Tom on the team, we kind of compliment each other. He drags me along and my power increases to a point when I can occasionally lead him along now. He has learnt about endurance and about going long.

When I started in Jan I set myself a power target to achieve before Race Across America, last week I achieved that target. It’s pleasing, but it was just a number, we still have a long way to go in our training. It just means now I have a new target. The FEAR is still there and still driving us both on. The next two months will be about increasing my power as high as I can and then in the 4/5 months before the race, we will build our endurance ready for the 3,000 mile race. We figure we can race at 50-60% of our maximum speed (FTP), so the more powerful we are, the faster that speed will be.

Any regrets? No not really. It’s a great challenge for a great cause and nothing is achieved without hard work. Training 5 days a week is hard but it has to be done to complete this challenge for Prevent Breast Cancer. My only regret is that we haven’t dome time lapse photography of my skinny legs as they have grown to become more appropriate for cycling!

If I had any training advice I’ve learnt it would be to set yourself a bigger challenge than you thought possible, if you work hard enough you can do it. The second piece of advice that I hope is going to work for Tom and I is to be honest with what you are bad at and what hurts the most in your training and to concentrate your efforts on improving the things you naturally avoid.

Tom and James will Race Across America in June 2019 to raise £125,000 for Prevent Breast Cancer.

If you are interested in the campaign then Tom and James could really use your help. Giving your time is the most valuable help you can give, giving your time to do a charity event for the campaign such as a Cake Sale or a Bag Pack would make a huge difference.

27 weeks to go: Our meeting with a Nutritionist

Tom here, so this week has been a busy one for me and it’s the last week off the ‘Off Season’ for me. This week I’ve been to two charity events with work, done one of my fitness tests and met with our newest sponsor, Olly Howarth, a cycling nutritionist and all round top bloke.

Olly has agreed to become a sponsor for RAAM providing us advice on nutrition in training, the lead up to the race and the race itself. This is something that is incredibly important to us.

This brings me onto the subject of nutrition and weight management, specifically the “importance” of weight which is a difficult subject in cycling and especially ultra endurance. So, after speaking to Olly he has roughly told us that we should be eating around 4,000 calories a day when training, especially when we are completing multiple sessions in a day, like 3 hours on the bike and then an hour in the gym to maintain a healthy weight. That’s just to maintain your weight, not put on weight – we’re just breaking even.

I know that personally, my ideal weight is around 72kg, as someone who is almost 6ft this is still pretty light. I know I have taken my weight obsession too far in the past, with my lowest weight being around 62kg. I had just been accepted onto a world-class development squad at Newcastle University, started training lots, not eating properly and started drinking sparkling water instead of eating after training. It took me a year of bad results, getting constantly ill and taking a year off the bike to really realise that I’d taken it too far. Meeting Olly and speaking openly about nutrition has been amazing – essentially being told eat what you want, drink protein shakes, snack, have hot chocolates is incredibly liberating.

Interestingly, the best ultra-athletes don’t look like the Chris Froome’s of the world, they almost resemble sprinters, not world tour cyclists, even though they are doing nearly double the distance of a grand tour in half the time.

There is a brilliant video that highlights this. At the end of the day, the way I look at it, I know I’m going to be more much more powerful being heavier, being stronger and being more robust.

 

 
 

Training: Strength and Conditioning

Find out how the team are training for Race Across America. Strength and conditioning has always been an imporant element in my preparation for most cycling races and events. S&C work helps keep the body strong and robust and helps improve bone density, which is especially important in none-weight-bearing sports like cycling.

I’ve found that S&C work also adds a lovely bit of variety into my training – as they say variety is the spice of life. It’s not all bike, bike, bike.

Here are two of my favouite exercises.

Leg Press

Leg Press is a brilliant and pretty safe exercise to do. The motion is controlled by the machine and because of this it is a brilliant exercise to do to build pure strength. It also really isolates the legs.

Deadlifts

The deadlift is a brilliant compound exercise that engages pretty much every muscle in the body. It builds hamstring, quad and glute strength as well as core and back. This can be quite a technical lift and one that should be built up to slowly. It is the exercise that I find has the biggest positive impact on my overall on-bike strength and if I could only do one exercise in the gym it would be deadlifts.

Revolve 24 Test Event

Revolve 24 was probably one the hardest things I’ve done in a long time. Who stays up for 38 hours straight! The answer is no one in their right mind. Now how rides 300 miles and over Everest in a day… again no one in their right mind. The first 6 hours were nice and easy, dare I say the first 12 hours on the bike I felt brilliant. The next 6 hour block was probably one of the worst moments of my life! My brain had turned into mush and I had forgot how to eat food. 3 hours later, I’m being sick and can’t hold down any food and wanting to throw in the towel. 1 hour later, I’ve managed to keep my food down and I’m back on the bike feeling like a new and slightly exhausted man. Revolve 24 taught me a lot about myself, how I manage fatigue and what tired really is. 

We thought we’d give you all a bit of an insight into the horrible and beautiful world of ultra-endurance cycling. 

 

EAI_RV24_150918_NH_01597

Image 1 of 29

 

How do you want to see us get up Winnats Pass?

Winnats Pass is probably one of the hardest climbs in the UK. I (Tom) have been very close to walking up it on my all singing and all dancing race bike. I also have some not so fond memories of approaching the climb after 5 hours on the bike in 35 degree heat, already cramping, thinking how am I going to do this – James on this occasion absolutely bladdered me up the climb like he does on most climbs in the Peak District. 

If you don’t believe how hard the climb is check out this video! 

So, as a little treat to you we’d like to make this infamous climb even harder and we’re giving you the chance to let us know our fate. 

So how will this work? 

Which ever result comes in first we will do. 

After voting if you could donate to our Just Giving page that would be amazing! None of these options are easy and it WILL hurt.

 

Be kind! 

How do you want to see us get up Winnats Pass?

 

 

28 weeks to go, 200 days until race start

The Challenge

As our Race Across America charity ride gets closer we thought we would give a weekly update on what’s going on in our world. We hope it gives an insight into the challenge itself, the logistics involved, the training, nutrition, our weekly training regimen and so much more.

Every week Team Prevent Breast Cancer is busy with training and organising and logistics and raising sponsorship and awareness. In our first update we thought we’d set the scene of what it is we are actually planning to nearly die doing!! So if you’ve been seeing the headlines of Tom and James doing Race Across America this should give you a guide to what we face.

It all started after returning from our second charity ride for Prevent Breast Cancer, we needed a new challenge, and we wanted a bigger challenge. A quick Google search of “hardest bike race in the world” we came across Race Across America. Some bravado over Whats App between Tom and myself and we’d agreed to go ahead (we had absolutely no idea what it was actually going to involve over the next 18 months ha ha).

We started our research on the race by watching videos on YouTube and OMG these guys are absolute nutters!! The first video we watched the rider got such a bad neck he couldn’t actually look up while riding on the bike anymore, so they built a metal brace attached to his head to hold it up. That’s not the first time we’ve seen that since.

The Race itself is long, 3,041 miles from the West Coast in San Diego to Maryland on the East coast. But the length is not the only issue. The race climbs 170,000 feet (six times Everest) and reaches altitudes of 10,000ft where altitude becomes a factor. But that’s not the worst of it….ha ha ……temperatures this year were over 40 degrees, road temperatures of 50 degrees as we cross the deserts in the first half of the race. This year a four man crew and a solo rider from Manchester attempted the race, both ended in hospitalisation. Heat, tiredness, dehydration, and lack of sleep all take their toll.
Tom and I are terrified of the heat, training in the North West in March and April is no preparation for the Mojave desert. The heat is gonna cook us on the bike like two poached eggs, so we have to invent ways of staying cool. The faster we go, the more heat we produce and the quicker we will break!

The Race is non-stop, either Tom or I have to be on the bike at any one time, a constant relay between the two of us, day and night, day after day after day for eight days and nights until we reach the East Coast. We will ride two hours on two hours off, the two hours off the bike will involve getting off the bike into a hot car, eating, massage, drink, try and get some sleep and then eat again, drink, get back on the bike, repeat.

We will need 8000 calories each per day, we can’t eat that much, so our bodies will essentially be eating themselves, eating our muscle and fat stores away for the eight days. Tom and I are gonna have to put some weight on before this race starts!! Sleeping is really difficult, you get off the bike with your heart racing from exercise, hot from the effort needing to eat and drink. Typically racers actually sleep for 30-90 minutes in a 24hour period. Guaranteed scrambled eggs for brains.

The Race has to be completed in nine days, we have to hit the checkpoints in good time or we will get timed out and the Race will be over. We have to average 15.6mph to get inside the time, this is no mean feet considering winds, hills, changeovers, heat etc so there can be no sightseeing or hanging around!!! This ain’t gonna be a holiday for sure.

Having just completed a solo 24 hour race around Brands Hatch in September we now realise that after the first day we will be not capable of rationale thought. This could not happen without the support of a crew, we need eight crew members to come on the adventure with us. The Race requires a car to follow the rider with flashing lights on the vehicle at all times. We need another vehicle for the riders to get in and rest and eat. So we are moving 2 vehicles across the US with constant changeovers of drivers and adequate rest for the team. The crew will look after food and drink, route finding, problem solving, bike maintenance, medical support, moral support and also importantly themselves! Oh and preferably they will have a terrible sense of smell, there is no doubt Tom and I will not be smelling of roses.

 

Just writing this brings a sense of apprehension.

So this week I thought id put in my weekly diary to give you a picture of what we are up to behind the scenes.

 

  Morning Afternoon Evening
Monday Ride into work 1hr 5 mins. Meetings with potential sponsors Breast Clinic Ride home 1hr20 in freezing rain
Tuesday Breast clinic Breast clinic BMI Alexandra Stretches

Rest

Wednesday Operating list Breast Clinic 9-10:30pm ride on indoor cycle trainer
Thursday Breast clinic BMI Alexandra. Research meetings Meetings with PR company and Manchester Institute for Health and Performance 18:30 meeting with sports nutritionist.

9pm starving – eating pizza

Friday Operating list Operating list Training Whaley Bridge U8and U9s footy teams. 9-10pm 1hour indoor training. Got some ace pink rimmed tyres, fit them
Saturday Ward round Climbing session for core strength. 1hour on cycle trainer social media, bike maintenance chicken and wine!!
Sunday U8s footy match. Fitness test with Tom 1hr 30 Rest and blogging.

@nwbreastsurgeon

If you want to get involved in helping raise funds towards our total of £125,000 or want to offer your help in any way please contact @nwbreastsurgeon, @wearepreventBC or please visit our Just Giving page https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/preventbreastcancer/raam

Race Across America: History of the Race

Race Across America (RAAM) is one the most respected and longest running endurance sports events in the world. RAAM is seen as a pinnacle of athletic achievement in cycling circles and the greater sporting community. 
RAAM has a rich and storied history. In 1982 four individuals raced from the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles to the Empire State Building in New York City. Covered by national television, the race captivated the public’s imagination.

Teams were added in 1992 and quickly became the most popular and fastest-growing segment of the race. Relay team racing made the event accessible to any reasonably fit cyclist. The 2017 race will be the 36th edition of RAAM and the 12th year starting in Oceanside, CA. There is no other race in the world like RAAM. The Race inspires everyone who has been a part of it — racer, crew, staff and fans alike.

RAAM is the true test of speed, endurance, strength and camaraderie. The ideal combination of work and fun! There is no race that matches the distance, terrain and weather, and no other event that tests a team’s spirit from beginning to end.

Check out the road.cc article on the craziest cycling records! http://road.cc/content/feature/214554-14-fastest-longest-and-maddest-cycling-world-records http://road.cc/content/feature/214554-14-fastest-longest-and-maddest-cycling-world-records