Thursday, 31 December 2009

chilly christmas

Cold, cold Christmas

Living the jetset lifestyle which I do means that I am once again, writing this whilst crammed into a seat designed for an anorexic dwarf and failing to get to sleep. For those of you who hadn’t guessed, I’m on a plane on my way back to California after a great fortnight at home.
Obviously the biggest difference between being at home and being in SD is the weather, about 40 degrees colder! I left LA in a t shirt and returned home to find the roads covered in ice. I have been training but nothing like the hours that I put in whilst in the sunshine, it would be silly to try, I’d only make myself sick. I’m still big on goals and my goal while at home was to ride enough, catch up with buddies, keep my blood glucose under control, eat lots of my mum’s/granny’s delicious cooking and generally spend the festive period appreciating my fantastic family and friends. You need a solid social base to compete in any sport and investing time in your happiness and that of those surrounding you is just as important as developing a smoother pedal stroke or a higher w/kilo at lactate threshold.
My weapon of choice for riding in the winter and the rain is my Ellsworth roots cx bike. The increased clearances, mudguard mounts, little front chainrings higher BB make it great for riding on the roads around my house which might be best described as “sticky” or less euphemistically termed as “shite”. The nice thing about the ‘cross bike is that, on the days when it was icy, and I had a ride planned I could just pop on the knobbly tyred ‘cross wheels and the mtb pedals and go out and hit the trails. Frozen trails are hard, but grippy. Frozen roads are hard, and slippy. I found this out to my cost on the 23rd when I was out balsting around on the trails, I hit a paved section of maybe 20 meters in between 2 trails. It looked like it was clear. Safe to say it wasn’t and I affected some dancing on ice which would probably have seen me voted off the aforementioned reality TV show quicker than you can say “road rash”. After using my skin as a brake once, I decided to stick entirely to the trails until the ice cleared up. It might mean less training, it certainly means less specific training but you have to make the best of what you’ve got. I had a wicked time riding the singletrack which I used to ride when I first started out xc moutainbiking as a kid and the cool thing about the ‘cross bike is that it’s easy to nip out onto the road (if it’s not doing double duty as a skid pan) and move to another set of trails. Also the shorter wheelbase makes jumps slightly easier, but I didn’t tell you that.
I thought I might throw out some other tips on riding in the cold while I’m at it. Every year I see people riding training rides/races which they could have prepared for so much better, most of the time, they just end up packing it in early and drinking hot chocolate in a cafĂ© instead of sipping champagne on a podium but there is always a chance someone could get sick, or hurt just through lack of knowledge/preparation so, in charachteristically random order here are my cold weather tips.
• Don’t ride your race bike, or wheels, or tyres. You need fat rubber (23mm or 25mm), a decent number of spokes, decent hub seals, 2 bottle cages and a good pump (I like framefit pumps for that old skool cool look)
• Bring spares: I like to cut the top off a bidon and put it in one bottle cage, in it I put a tube, a multi tool, tyre levers (changing a flat with frozen thumbs is bloody terrible) a tyre boot and a puncture repair kit
• Food – bring lots, eat lots you burn a LOT of calories staying warm. Test your stuff out as well, powerbars freeze solid (I have cut my mouth open quite badly in years past). Trek bars stay pretty chewable, so do sandwiches, sweets are good, cocoa orange nakd bars remain, bloody excellent.
• Drink-nobody said you have to put cold water in your bottles, I do green tea and honey. Try wrapping it in a sock and pouring boiling water on said sock before you go out, it stops the water freezing in the bottle, then even if the nozxzle freezes it’ll thaw out when you suck on it.
• Carry extra food and a phone – incase it all goes pete tong
• Clothing: dress like an onion; lots of layers, tough outer layers (hopefully nobody will cr as these layers get peeled off)
o I always start with a good base layer, sockguy makes a nice one with a free Tibet logo, make sure you get something breathable, tight and long sleeved.
o Mid layer – this can be more than one garment; if it’s cold I wear a tight microfleece jersey (like the demarchi contour plus) and a long sleeved thermal jersey (i.e. not a super thin long sleeve) but you can mix this up, some people wear 2 long sleeves, others wear a short sleeved jersey and a micro fleece. Generally if wearing a fleece place it directly on top of the base layer to aid wicking
o Then I go for an outer layer, occasionally this will be a gilet but most of the time I go with a thin jacket (like a rapha softshell) or, if it’s really cold I wear a proper coat, generally I prefer layers to wearing one thick coat and a baser layer though. Nalini makes a nice warm thermal coat for really cold days. Try to keep your outer layer as something with pockets, fumbling about with thick gloves on is a bit pants. You want it to be water resistant at least, even if it doesn’t rain, you get spay from the road.
o Gloves and socks – it’s all about the silk, seriously. Silk undergloves, silk socks, then I wear a pair of old specialized bg pro thermal socks and a good thick pair of neoprene overshoes to keep the spray off. On the hands its silk, then a pair of gloves, or, if it’s really cold my infamous “lobsterman” mitts. Diabetic folks need ot be careful, it’s all too common to have poor circulation when you’re diabetic and believe you me, cold hands with no blood supply can get really nasty really quickly.
Right, that’s far too much information to digest at one time, so stay warm, dry and happy. Have a great new year and make 2010 the year you commit to making a difference. None of this resolution crap mind, just look after yourself and other people.

Ps- im currently flying across America, it seems awfully large, I’m not so sure about this whole RAAM malarkey

Monday, 21 December 2009

Lego training pt 1 building your base

I have been training pretty hard the past few weeks and I'm building up to a solid block of sitting on my arse eating. I thought I would use this post to throw out some of the basics I use for nutrition and training in the base training phase. Bike training is a lot like lego, you get blocks, put them together and make something big and shiny which you're proud of, and, just when you think it's all going well, a bigger boy generally comes and kicks it all down.

For those of you who don't ride bikes or who aren't familiar with periodisation, base training is the part of my season where I ride a lot, not too fast (I use a powermeter to moderate my efforts) to increase the body's fatburning ability and capillary density. Whilst I'm not necessarily going slow I am generally going slower and try to limit heart rate to 80% of max or power to zone 2. I work on leg speed, strength, pedaling circularity and of course my trademarks: riding backwards, picking flowers and bunnyhopping. I'm pretty convinced I will find a use for my flower picking antics one day, I just need to find the right soigneur to hand them off to.

When it's silly cold, like it is in the UK now, I break out the 'cross bike and mess about in the fields, or ride my mountainbike, it helps your handling no end and stops you going stale. Also it's good to get muddy and fall off once in a while; it reminds you not to take yourself too seriously. I went cx riding today, it was cool, I even climbed a tree to see what I could see; now that's cross training. Then I fell off into some sticky burrs – don't ever do that, they might look soft on your way down but they hurt for the rest of your ride, especially INSIDE your jacket.

If I'm riding easy, the need for super technical sports beverages with the exact calculated number of calories per hour is, in my opinion, not as great. I tend to try to stick to one bottle of "food" (I like nuun, motortabs or prolong depending on how many calories I want) and the rest of my calories from real foods. The mainstays of this years winter training have been sandwiches, which always gets me laughed at on the local fast group rides, until someone eating their power(putty)bar realizes what they are missing out on. Favorites include peanut butter and jam, or pb and banana (with honey and cinnamon) peanut butter and nutella (or similar, I make my own with hazelnuts, cocoa and honey or agave) or even peanut butter, plantain chips and cinnamon-honey cream cheese. It's nice to feel like you've eaten something and most of the above are fully vegan, which is nice to the planet too. I mix these up with trek bars (nice and filling on cold rides) raisins (better in the heat, and a nice break in texture) and little honey packets which I steal from cafes! You can make great energy gels out of cocoa and agave syrup as well.

The base building phase is a great time of year to clock some miles with beginners, old men (or women), fat people, mountain bikers and generally he sort of folks that "proper" bike racers wouldn't be seen dead with. It's also a good time to avoid group rides where significant amounts of penis measuring goes down. Try to keep it in your trousers until at least the first of the new year. Whilst I generally use watts and heart rate to keep my efforts moderate I'm pretty cool with zen riding at this time of year (I'm pretty cool with zen riding full stop) and I'm more than happy to throw the monitors back in the shed and ride until I get tired, then stop and drink coffee, eat cake and come home. I know I'm going to hard if the constant stream of verbal diarrhea which spews from my mouth is hindered by a lack of air. IN all seriousness, close your mouth, if you're riding too hard for nose breathing, it's too hard for base. So slow down.


Thursday, 17 December 2009

New year, new deal

I'm writing this at LAX, if you get the chance to fly from LAX, Don't bother. For such a busy airport there really is very little to do, not even a good place to get coffee or steal wifi, give me Heathrow terminal 5 any time. Anyway, on the plus side I got to eat a good burger for lunch before I arrived and BA took my bike box with no problems. Looking around you at an airport is always fun, who's here, why? Where are they going? I love guessing peoples' back stories right now I am looking at a guy who is clearly making a pilgrimage to Liverpool to pay homage to the fab four, there is no other explanation for that haircut.

The reason I'm at LAX is that I'm off back to the UK for the Christmas holidays. It's a great chance to catch up with family, eat mince pies, monitor the developments in the beer industry and get some practice in hardening up to ride in the cold. IN this vein, Ellsworth bikes have kindly sponsored my efforts to race cyclocross by providing me with a very cool roots cx bike. It weighs about as much as a gnat's pube and first impressions are very good. I'm loving being off the road on a rig more suited to it than my road bike (on which I snapped the fork, that's why you don't ride your road bike off road kids) and mastering the remounts/ dismounts with limited impact on my "boys bits". Thus far I have entered 2 cx races, you can expect pictures of me covered in mud and manure by the new year.

Anyway, the main thrust of this post is that I'm switching teams for 2010. I had a good time with the Swamis' DET last year but my goals and theirs weren't mutually compatible in the long run. In the coming season I will be riding for team type 1, a squad based on showing diabetic people that anything is possible and diabetes isn't an excuse (now obviously there are limits to this, I can't fly but gravity is my excuse, not diabetes). It's a pretty cool set up and I'm looking forward to doing some big races, travelling around the USA and meeting lots of cool people and having loads of fun riding my bike. I feel this team is a pretty perfect fit for me, there's no pressure to go and race around a car park every weekend and then crash into everyone 100 yards before the whole petrifying experience is about to end (yeah, I hate crits). Furthermore being diabetic is a huge part of my life, but I'm not one to let it stop me doing anything, by being on a team which promotes exercise to the diabetic community I'm hoping to spread a bit of the "can do" attitude which finds me covered in my own sweat and dribble in various advanced stages of hypoglycemia in exotic locations around the world.

Base training this winter has been fantastic; I have been going well and feeling strong, having great fun riding my bike(s). Rolling out on a friend's training camp this week with some of the Garmin team and a few ex world/Olympic/national champions and lots of great friends. I realized how lucky I was to be able to ride my bike for 6 hours in the sunshine in the middle of the week. I love my job and I wouldn't change it for the world. I'm working on a sweet research project on the 1936 popular Olympics (Wikipedia it), teaching a freshers' writing class and riding around in the sunshine. Even when the UC system celebrates Christmas with a 4% paycut, things are still looking good for the future. I don't mean to sound conceited when I say all of this but it's all too easy to look for negatives. So instead of looking back at last year and seeing bad things, look forward to next year and think about how fu**in awesome you can make it!

Next time I write this, it'll be about 30 degrees (proper euro degrees none of this Fahrenheit crap) colder and I will hopefully be more comfortable and a little further away from the worrying rivers of perspiration flowing down this gentleman's forearms. Until then stay, safe, eat well, eat lots and ride lots more.



Ps-if you live in California, oppose the raise in UC fees, education should be free and this is a step in the wrong direction!

Pps If you were wondering yes, ia m still handing out trek bars to the homeless population of southern California