Ended up back at home (ie Ballybunion) for the weekend, fortunately I brought the bike. Ran out of time on Sunday, but considering it was the third spin of the year I was happy with it.
Considering the weather (20-30 mph winds and with the wind chill it was 3c) it was hard to get out. But after some motivation (big cheers to Gerry for the encouragement!), I picked a route that was about 30 miles. I was planning on only doing 20 milers for another few weeks, but after realising that I need to keep getting the miles in I decided on Ballybunion->Listowel->Ballylongford and home.
It’s funny, 2 years ago I thought that kind of route would be the equivalent of doing a week on the Tour de France! Even when i was fit (you know, 15, 150lbs etc) I had never even tried cycling to Listowel before, thinking it was a day expedition. But with the 25 mph tailwind I was there in 25 minutes on Saturday! Of course I knew that the return leg would be much tougher. Because Ballybunion is located right on the Atlantic coast, any time I cycle home it is inevitably into the wind. And trying to keep the heart rate down, it meant having to spin VERY slow, 30×25 at times.
So, so far for the year I’ve managed 2 x20 mile cycles, and 1 x 30. The really surprising thing is that the speed (about 12 mph) is very constant, but the the average heart rate over the 3 cycles was 168, 168 and 167! About 40 bpm higher than I’m aiming for, but really surprised that they’re so close! Anyway, I’m happy to be at least getting out once a weekend, although there is plenty of scope to get in both days at weekends, and the food intake is atrocious. But at least I’m more active than I was this time last year.
Since I probably won’t have as much time this year to train as before, I need to be a bit cuter about it. So the plan for the first few months of the year is to focus on weight loss. The whole point of taking up cycling was to lose weight. While that was slightly successful, due to crap eating habits a lot of weight was put back on (as well as leading to not as much weight being lost as would have been possible).
But I’m going to try and do something a bit different this year. I’ve done a bit of research(not much granted), but basically in order to lose weight and get fitter I need to cycle slower! Because I’m pretty heavy my resting heart rate is pretty high. So I tend to spend a lot of time cycling in zone 3-4 (between about 142 and 169 bpm, or 75% to 90% of my max heart rate. Last year my average heart rate was 157). But in order to burn fat I need to spend more time at much lower levels, such as in zone 1 (114-123 bpm) and build mileage in zone 2. (I calculated the heart rates using this calculator.)
Now this all sounds very technical, but basically I have to try and force myself to go slower for a couple of months. This should help build back up a better cardio base, and drop weight at the same time. Then at least when I go to up the intensity at least I will have less weight to haul up hills. Well, that’s the theory anyway, practice could be different. I did try to do a couple of spins at a low HR before, but really struggled to stop trying to keep the speed down. This time I will program the zones on my garmin. That way if I go outside the zone an alarm should go off. Fingers crossed I can stick with this!
Not exactly an epic trek, but I finally hauled myself out and managed an easy spin today. The goal was to just go and spin very easily, I wanted to try and keep my heart rate under about 140 (for the next couple of months, just to recover some fitness, I’ll post a bit more on this later.)
I started off really easy, but the HR alarms I set on the Garmin started going off after just half a mile: not good! Since it was my first spin in months I just did a flat 20 miles, but even at 39×25 (about 12 mph) my HR was 166! Basically all my cardio that was built up last year has disappeared. But it’s not all bad. At that easy pace there was no lactic in the legs, plus it helped open up the lungs a bit. A significant plus from all the cycling last year was that it really helped with my asthma. The last few sedentary have slow started to eat into those gains, but for the first winter in years I got through without a chest infection.
I was trying to compare the mileage with what I was doing at this stage last year, but alas the Garmin Connect site is down again ( this spin must have been so epic I appear to have overloaded the server with the sheer awesomeness of the last upload!), but I don’t think I was on the bike this early last spring. And at that I’d say the mileage was only about 10-12 miles for the first few weeks. I know the first 5-10 miles left me feeling bad, even at that low speed, was the body got into a rhythm I started to feel half decent anyway. For the next few weekend s I’ll slowly ramp up the mileage, but even after today’s spin I would think I should be ahead of where I was at similar stages last year, at least through to the end of Spring anyway.
So, as part of our plans for Mizen to Malin (less than 2 weeks now), we* decided to do a full day spin, on similar roads and with similar mileage as to what we plan for the main trip. And as a final prep we said we’d go with the bags fully loaded.
So the route we chose was around Lough Derg. In theory a nice route, but the initial enthusiasm was dampened firstly by the weather (blustery at times and with the odd very wet shower, but in my case in particular, by stag-night related, um, tiredness! I had planned on taking it easy, but, well…
Anyway, after a slow start (about 11mph for the first hour, and that was when we were moving) we eventually settled into a half decent rythmn. As per usual I was the slowest up the hills, but having the extra weight in the panniers definitely didn’t help (fully loaded the bike is now 20kgs). We eventually plled into Portumna after about 2 & 1/2 hours, where we stopped for a sandwich and coffee. The road out was lovely and flat, and for a while we were able to tip away at 16-17 mph, not bad into a 20mph headwind.
But after another 20 miles the lack of sleep and not enough food on board took a toll, and it was a real effort for me to get into Scarriff. But after more coffee and cake (good timing as there was a torrent of rain while we waited at the garage) we made the last hour handy enough to get back to the cars. And as a brilliant idea, Martin P suggested we go to Goosers for a brilliant feed of bacon and cabbage. Fantastic!
Overall it was a good spin out, well worth while and a good laugh. Physically I’d like to be further along, but we still managed about 14mph, which isn’t bad considering the extra weight on the bikes. The route is lovely, although at places the signposting could be better, and we skipped some of the really scenic bits, just to keep moving. Definitely worth a spin out again in future.
*NB: Some displeasure was expressed that I hadn’t mentioned any names of the rest of the group, so here is a photo of us, after about an hour.
Last night 2 of us did our first spin with the bikes fully loaded (racks and about 7kg in the panniers, basically what we plan on taking with us for Mizen to Malin). Considering the sun had been splitting the stones all day and was quite humid we thought a nice easy 30 mile spin, just to get used to extra was a plan.
Of course the heavens opened just before we started! While baking and accelerating were quite tricky and over average speed was a lot lower than expected (given how flat the course was), overall it’s not too bad with the extra weight. Braking was basically non existent, but I think that was mainly due to the amount of rain. Also having to wear glasses was a real pain, I spent a lot of the spin not having great visibility, prob a bit late to try to get used to contacts again.
In the end we turned back after about 10 miles, just because we were spending so much time standing under trees, out of the rain. The good news is the panniers are waterproof, the bad news is even though it’s the middle of winter we will definitely need nearly all our wet weather gear!