An April start for the Sussex to Shetland makes winter training a ‘must’. So it’s important to ‘get out there’ whatever the weather and to do some indoor ‘work’ too.
Here’s the schedule for a typical winter week – starting on Sunday December 2nd.
December 2nd – 20 miles
Today’s weather wasn’t too bad for December. On the plus side, it was mild. Less attractive were the rain, a strong westerly wind and muddy country lanes but, consequently, there was very little traffic and absolutely nobody out horseriding in spite of it being a Sunday. Quite a few hardy cyclists, though, including my wife, Diane. We took things steadily to cover twenty miles.
December 3rd – 40 miles
The 1066 Cycle Club organised a 60km ‘country ride’ earlier in the year. It’s a ‘testing’ route with plenty of climbing and, to compensate, some long descents. The route takes in the towns of Battle, Hailsham and Bexhill as well as passing through some particularly attractive villages such as Catsfield, Netherfield, Rushlake Green, Cowbeech, Westham and Pevensey. Cycling past the Norman castle at Pevensey is a particular highlight.
That’s where I went today, riding the Raleigh Classic Tourer in three hours of quite hard cycling and contending with very strong winds, poor visibility and showers. As yesterday, at least it was mild. Just four horseriders were braving the elements today.
December 4th – RPM (Spinning Class)
It’s up early for the spinning class at the Sovereign Centre in Eastbourne. Forty five minutes with Danny in darkness peddling like mad to dreadful music soon has everyone awake and sweating buckets. We all get nowhere very quickly but, if properly connected, we could be powering the centre’s light and then some. It’s punishing but worthwhile. It’s also warm, dry, windless and traffic-free. Mind you, Danny is a hard task-master. Pedal too quickly and he’s soon round putting extra pressure on the brakes to make your life more difficult. It’s all done so cheerfully, though. Danny has the knack of getting the best out of everybody. No wonder his classes are always full even though he’s insisting that we all wear twelve cycling tops next week – ‘The 12 layers of Christmas’. Looks like it could be good practice for Shetland!
December 5th – Gym
Other daytime commitments meant missing the chance to get out on the bike today. So, an hour in the gym had to do. It’s not the same as being out on the road but the gym bike soon got the heart rate monitor registering a steady 140. (Apparently, I’ll explode at 155 beats per minute!) Gym bikes come with a bewildering array of possibilities including TV and radio options. I chose a ‘challenge level’ of 17/25 and a hilly course for the ‘evening ride’. This turned out to be just within my capabilities judging by my bursting thighs and the rather embarrassing rivers of sweat flowing down my arms and on to the carpet. The bike next to mine was left unused even though the gym was busy – funny that.
I met Dan, a fitness instructor, on the way out. He mistook me for a ‘runner’ at first. When told that cycling was my sport, Dan talked about cyclists’ T-Rex syndrome – building fantastic legs but restricting upper body development to keep ‘unproductive’ weight to a minimum. Dan didn’t think much to this and recommended more upper body strengthening. Admittedly this might come in useful when carrying the bike up stairs or across streams but, on balance, large legs and a medium body will do me nicely.
One good thing about using the gym is that it provides a great incentive to get out on the road which, on balance is far less demanding. OK the traffic is a perennial problem but bring on those cooling winds and the chance of the occasional well-deserved freewheel downhill.
December 6th – RPM (Spinning Class)
Another early-start to meet up with instructor Danny and the other room full of ‘spinners’ for a challenging forty-five minutes. If you’re unfamiliar with spinning, it’s cycling to music. Everything depends on the beat – you’re supposed to pedal in time with it if you possibly can. Danny, though, often exhorts us all to go faster than the beat in short bursts of furious cycling. That’s demanding but I’m already feeling the benefit on the road. Thoughts of fitting an extra low gear to the bike are now a dim and distant memory. No need – the legs are coping with hills better than ever.
December 7th – Swim
Early morning swim for 40 minutes. Relaxing and freshing at the same time. Weather forecast is good for tomorrow. So, I’m looking forward to getting back on the bike. There are three daylight hours free of other commitments and I’m determined to make the most of them.
December 8th – 40 miles
Cycling along some of East Sussex’s more obscure winding and undulating country lanes, I enjoyed a challenging ride in very strong westerly winds along the coast to Pevensey and then north to Heathfield. I returned to Pevensey via the Cuckoo Trail and was then blown east to Bexhill by the strengthening wind. It would have been possible to freewheel most of those six final miles but this is training, so it was ‘pedal, pedal, pedal’ in the highest possible gear at up to 23 mph. That’s fast for a steel touring bike but all went smoothly and I arrived home feeling good, having spent just over three hours in the saddle.
Reflections on the week
Good points: exercised every day; gained some useful experience on the gym bike; battled successfully against some fierce winds; received some very positive feedback from Dan, the fitness coach.
‘Not so good’ points: cycled only 100 miles on the road; allowed too many daytime distractions to eat into the time earmarked for cycle training.
Next week, I should: exercise every day; complete 150 road miles as a minimum; avoid additional commitments during daylight hours.