Final day of training at Delucci Retreat and stll learning new skills

It’s my last day at the Delluci Retreat and Gary, my coach, planned a two hour climbing ride. The mountain we climbed twisted and turned and all I could see around each corner was another never-ending incline. I was getting used to this demoralising sight ahead and focussed on my climbing technique. I had to keep my head up so oxygen got into my lungs. I used my pacing and recovery skills when the climb got tough. It was by no means a fast climb but I did it smoothly and still had strength in my legs at the top. This is important to practice because the Etape is 208km long and having the endurance and strength is important.

The descent down the mountain went badly. Gary followed my descent and wanted me to practice the skills he had taught me. I went too fast and braked too late around a corner. The back wheel skidded out and I slid across the opposite side of the road towards the mountain wall and a large ditch. Thank goodness I stayed upright and as I neared the ditch I was able to play with the brakes to tip the bike away from the ditch at the very last minute. I got a stern verbal reminder of what I was doing wrong from Gary.

My confidence was knocked from the skid and I followed Gary down the rest of the mountain. We analysed what happened all the way home. I learnt on sharper descents I can not go as fast and I must break at the right time. I can use 70% on the front brake and stick my bottom backwards over the seat to spread my body weight along the length of the bike when braking. In the Etape I would have taken 100 riders out of the race with a skid like the one I just had. In the Etape other riders could make the same mistakes. In the race I plan to slow down and take corners wide so I don’t get caught in any accidents caused by others.

There was a big learning curve with my skid today and even though I made a mistake I have sharpened my downhill riding skills even more. Back at home Gary looked at my back tire. I had completely stripped the tread down to it’s base lining in two places. I was fortunate not to have blown it.

On leaving the Delluci Retreat Gary showed me how to replace my brake pads. Even more valuable information to take back to London. It has been a very worthwhile experience being with a coach and cycling proper mountains. It has helped me learn faster before the Etape. The Reteat is very relaxing and Gary and Sussie were alot of fun. They catered for all my needs. The rooms were fantastic and so was the food. I will be adding the Delluci Retreat to my recommended places to train for cyclists and triathletes.

Thank you Gary and Sussie for a wonderful time.

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Longest day of training yet and still legs stay strong

Yesterday I completed my last full day of training. It was a 6.5 hour ride over 85 miles. I started the day with my usual nutritional supplements. They do make a difference because my legs feel strong everyday.

We climbed for 2-2.5 hours and then descended into the most delightful Portuguese village for lunch. If I was back packing around Europe this is where I would want to come to see beautiful scenery, have sunny days and pay 2 euros for lunch.

The ride went smoothly until one of our cyclist got knee pain. We called for the car to pick him up. Up until this point I had been climbing smoothly at a good pace and feeling strong. When the car came my coach said “Rhys time for some madness”. I hated those words as this meant hard and fast riding as he wanted to beat the car down the mountain and into the next village.

We took off and I glued myself to his back wheel. We were cornering like rally drivers around the twisting downhill descents. In-between the descents were slight inclines which meant climbing 500 to 1000 metres as fast as possible. This was when the pain in my legs kicked in. I pushed as hard as I could and managed the first incline. I rested on the following descent in preparation for the next climb. My coach said “Rhys let’s get on it!” and accelerated again.

The lactic acid built up in my legs with each extra effort I made to push faster. With 200 meters to go to the end of the next climb I broke. The pain in my legs and my high heart rate were too much and I blew. My intensity of riding dropped and the car caught me up. My coach probably would have made it to the village but he waited for me. The moment of madness was over….so I thought.

We relaxed and I followed my coaches slip stream into the village. My legs were fatigued after 80 miles of riding. We still had the climb back to the house to go. I chose to take on the beast of all mountain routes just to finish the day hard. It was stupid but that is cycling for you. It took me 18.30mins with 11-14% gradients. If I stopped pedalling I would fall over. The final push to the top was mighty. Another hard day of climbing finished.

It was encouraging to find my legs still had strength in them and I knew the last ride tomorrow was going to be another good test. I learnt more about pacing myself today and following good lines on the descent. I learnt how to slow my breathing down again and regain composure when I am gasping for air when climbing. Keeping weight on the front handle bars was important to stop speed wobbles down hill.The training has made me stronger over three days.

I put on compression leggings when I finished and relaxed. We headed for dinner and we all ate mountains of food. Our metabolisms were going ballistic. I am enjoying this experience and I can see cycling is very technical when riding in mountains. There is nothing that beats practical experience and that is exactly what I am getting here at the Delucci retreat.

First day in Portugal training. What did I learn?

Got into accommodation at 3am last night due to flight delays. Up at 9am for breakfast and riding by 11.30am. 6 hours sleep not enough but felt good. Took duo’s oil, mamnitech sports products to boost endurance, and multivitamin. Hydrated well as the heat was going to pick up on the ride.

Hired a bike and had my own pedals and handle bar adjuster put on. The seat height was adjusted and we started the ride. I had lots of questions to ask Gary the coach with my main aims to learn how to hill climb and descend safely.

Gary knew we had 4 days of riding so today was a steady 4 hour ride. There were 3 climbs from 45 mins to 1 hour long. I had never ridden this long on hills before so I was looking forward to testing my body.

I have come to realise training is about preparing your body. When you go out to train you can consciously tell your body what to do and it will respond depending on the training it has had. I did not know how my legs would respond to hill climbing so just waited to find out. The goal of today was to get distance in my legs with hill climbing and riding a steady pace.

We took on the first hour climb and I could feel I wad getting sore between the legs on the saddle. Gary looked from behind and could see my saddle was too high and each down stroke of my leg put pressure on my groin. We adjusted the seat and the pain eased. A loo stop also helped. Gary get me in the easiest gearing and high cadence and we chatted all the way up the hill. This was a good sign my VO2 max was good. This was the type of condition I was too sustain through the entire ride.

I could feel the pave I was maintaining up the hill and as we took on more hills my body was reacting well. My legs felt strong and even though my heart rate elevated I was comfortable. On one ride my legs were starting to fatigue and I was looking for the top of the hill but as soon as we hit flatter sections of road I recovered quickly.

Gary taught me to get out of the saddle and pedal to give my back a break and vary the load on my body. It actually felt very comfortable and helped me climb better. I usually dropped the gear two down to make pedalling out of the saddle smoother.  I definitely was eating and drinking more on these rides.

Going downhills has been a great learning curve today. On the first long decent I was leaning the wrong way around each corner and I was finding the line of my turning made me break too much. I was less confident turning corners to my left.

Gary told me to turn and aim for the apex of bend. Break before the apex but not at the apex as the back wheel can skid out and this is a common problem when cyclist break with the rear breaks. He told me to lean with the bike and relax. I followed his lines of biking down the hills and could feel the turns better. It was best to choose safety over speed when descending so I did break if I felt unsure.

By the end of the day I was staying closer to Garys bike when descending and I was beginning to know the lines to take leading into the bends.

I got home and felt strong finishing with no bonking. I had paced myself well and Gary thought my cadence and speed up the hill was good.

I learnt a lot today and finishing the ride with a nice cup of tea and biscuits sitting in the sun was idyllic.I am looking forward to practicing what I have learnt tomorrow. Gary did live in London and is going to introduce me some guys who will show me the big hills in Surrey to ride to maintain my momentum when back in London.

Gary is a great coach and very entertaining. He had me laughing riding up the hills and  he is an uber experienced  professional triathlete, duathlete and cyclist. He has a new purpose built home and cycle workshop for athletes to stay and train. Could not have come across a better place to prepare for the Etape. I will be posting videos on YouTube soon. Garys business name is Delucci and can be found on the net. Until tomorrow it is time to put on the compression leggings, get in the nutrition and recover for tomorrow.

Reentering the Etape

It has been a great week. At first I thought the Etape wasn’t possible this year but things have evolved and I have been given the opportunity and time to race again. I have snapped it up with eager hands and am back into training again.

I feel I am not in the best condition for the event because I have not entered any other events to prepare me for the hill climbing. I have rested for 2 weeks and my hill climbing in and around London is no comparison to the hills in France.

I spoke to my Coach (Fran) and he has said I must commit 3 x week t training, plus one gym session and train overseas to get to know what real hill climbing is all about. The advice he has given me has stimulated me into action. I am checking I still have an entry into the Etape next week. If it is still available I will be on a flight out of London on Friday to train in Portugal with Sigma sports associated coach, Flash. He will train me 3 full days on hill after hill until I break. I hope this gives my body the experience it needs to learn how to hill climb  in France.

This week I have done a time trial around Richmond Park. I finally cracked 20 minutes with an anticlockwise lap of 19.52. I have told to do 3 laps in 60 minutes. If my coach sets me three laps I will aim to complete this target.

Today I went out for a 4 hour bike ride with my Ironman friend. I decided to ride as many hills as I could find in Surrey and we did long hills ranging in gradient from 3%-13%. We avoided boxhill as there were more challenging hills to climb. On the way home I ran low on energy. My legs were painful climbing  up the hills and I pushed hard t get to Sigma Sports in Kingston. It was a pleasure to get off the bike after such a hard ride. It hit home again how much hill climbing I have to do before the event.

I went to the Sigma Sports sale and picked up half price Specialized bike shoes and a racing top. The shoes were so comfortable to wear and gripped my foot with three straps to help me hill climb. On the way home I took three gel shots as I felt like I needed them. It was a slow ride home and finally getting home I ate a big plate of pasta with cheese. Probably not the best food but I was soooo hungry.

I noticed hill climbing made me eat and drink more than normal and because I did no crab load I ran out of energy. I plan to crab load on future rides and take more food with me.

I am interested in what my coach gives me next week and if I go to Portugal this will be a totally new training experience. This is helping me understand the effect of cycling on the body and what to do best to prepare for rides and recover. Until next week I will sign off  a much happier cyclist.

Back to training, hill climbing from London and jet lag

I got back from New Zealand and Australia after a 3 weeks holiday and knew it was time for me to get back into training. I knew I was jet lagged and did not want to tire myself after a very relaxing holiday.

Last weekend I started with a 5 hour ride to Box Hill. It was a beautiful day and perfect weather for cycling with no wind. I went with another cyclist doing the Etape at the same time. He trains in France and has a hill 7km high near  his house. His hill climbing is stronger than mine and I let  him lead the way up the hills.  We rode two hills and I followed his back tire. I focussed on the tire and avoided looking at the hill itself. This helped me focus on the feelings in my legs without the disempowering sight of the hill I still had to climb.

I noticed with jet lag I felt slightly “out of my body” and tired. My legs felt the strain up the hills and towards the end of the ride I knew I had ridden 5 hours. The last hill in Richmond Park was a killer. I tried following the back tire of my cycle companion up the hill again but fell behind. My legs blew out, I felt they cramped when I exerted force through them and I lacked power. I dropped right behind and it was good reminder I some serious hill training to do.

This first ride was a good test of where I was with my riding after 3 weeks of no training. I wanted to rest well and prepare for the ride this weekend.

This weekend we did exactly the same ride. I noticed I was stronger as soon as I got not he bike. I could feel I more power and was less tired. The “out of body feeling” was significantly less. I set my watch to beep every 20minutes and made sure I ate or drank something at these times. The idea is to maintain a steady energy supply to my muscles and brain.

The tests I used to tell if I was riding stronger this weekend was the feeling I had in my legs and Cardiovascular system when hill climbing. I let my colleague lead the way up the hills as he had better hill climbing strength and then I stayed on his back tire again.

I was considerably stronger up the hills and could stay with him comfortably. When I say comfortably I was at 85-95% of my maximum heart rate but still felt strong at the top with more in reserve if I needed it. My colleague is 10 years than I am but has the advantage of training on the hills in France and he has done  a cycle camp in Portugal. I noticed I had better flat road speed and strength through my Ironman training and he had the hill climbing speed and strength. Today was the first time I noticed I was catching him on the hills and with more training I hope to pull him up the hills.

There are not many hills to climb around London so I am riding to Surrey Hills. I have one course I have memorised but next weekend another cyclist will take us an alternative course to find new hills. In my particular course I have two main hills. I have decided to ride up and down these hills twice in one ride.

There are three main hills in the Etape Du Tour. They are 7.7 -8km long. No hill in England lasts that long so I can only compensate with repeat hill climbs. My colleague tells me box hill is much closer to type of hill we will encounter in France. It is a winding hill with some flatter sections to rest and then repetitive climbs. Maybe climbing box hill 5-10 times will be good. Sounds crazy but I have to do what I have to do.

I will get intouch with my coach again to start a training plan. I feel strong and rested and ready to train hard again. I am wondering if he will continue with gym sessions? Time to eat.

Jenson Buttons meets Lance Armstrong for training and does Olympic distance Triathlon in Hawaii

BUTTON TAKES A BREAK WITH A DIFFERENCE

Jenson Button heads to Hawaii this weekend for his latest triathlon attempt armed with cycling tips from arguably the world’s greatest, Lance Armstrong.

The punishing event that includes swimming, cycling and running is not one for the faint-hearted, least of all in between grands prix.

But that is the exacting schedule Button has chosen to undertake as he competes in the 14th annual Waikoloa Lavaman Olympic distance event on Sunday that includes a 1.5 kilometre swim, 40km bike ride and 10km run.

Button could comfortably have remained in Melbourne after finishing sixth in Sunday’s season-opening race in Australia with McLaren.

Instead, the 31-year-old will jet across the Pacific to take part in the triathlon he feels is perfect preparation for the next race in Malaysia in 11 days’ time, with the levels of humidity similar in Hawaii to what he can expect there.

But it was in Hawaii in January that Button met seven-times Tour de France winner Armstrong by chance prior to the American sending the Briton a message on Twitter asking if he would like to meet.

“We did meet up and went for a couple of rides,” Button told Press Association Sport.

“It was an amazing experience. Anyone who is at the top of their game in a sport, to spend time with them, it’s inspirational.

“It was a great opportunity to learn from someone who has achieved so much.

“It was not only good for my training, but to talk to someone at the top of their game in a sport, to see how much training they put in and their mental attitude.

“A lot of top sports, especially cycling, mentally it’s so tough and sometimes you have to take your brain out, put it to one side and fully focus.

“It was good and hopefully that will come out.”

Button has revealed his cycling exploits especially will continue later this year, although he has refused to divulge details.

“I’ve the opportunity to ride with some of the greats, which is exciting as well,” added Button.

“We do a lot of work with specialist riders, and there are lots of good ones I will get the opportunity to ride with.”

Many would view Button’s triathlon workout this weekend as insane, but he does pride himself on being arguably the fittest driver in F1.

“Physically I am very fit, which in turn helps you mentally knowing you will be 100% on every lap,” said Button.

“It’s something I do particularly work on, but then as a driver you work in every area – nutrition, fitness, mental attitude, engineering, and obviously driving the car.

“But I’m really excited about this weekend. It’s going to be good, and great to do it in the humidity as well.

“It will really put me in the right frame of mind because getting used to the humidity is so important for Malaysia.”