Don’t Let the Grass Grow Under Your Feet

_MG_3493I could have rehashed some article from a sport’s scientist, about what to do when it’s all going ‘pear shaped’. I don’t deny that their comments and findings hold great value, but sometimes I relate more to someone personal experience.

‘Heh that’s like me. I’ve had that and I’m not sure what to do’ is always kinda reassuring. So I am hoping that someone may find an element of hope and direction here. No this is not an Agony Aunt page, just some woman trying to think out of the box. It may not solve your training issues but it might just get you thinking.

Still training hard

Still training hard

It’s been a challenging return back to some level of fitness, after the end of the cyclocross season. Motivation has been at a low and I have been nursing a shoulder injury. Initially I did a few tough sportives, involving huge amounts of climbing sprinkled with cobbles. Could I galvanise my body into some serious action? Could I hell! I was capable of mauling my way round for hours, but it was very much a case of ‘what you see is what you get!’. Also I had lost all leg speed and ‘the straw which finally broke the camel’s back’ was a kicking at the Leek Hilly reliability. My pride was at an all time low and my self esteem was well and truly dented. Ok, I’m no superstar! I am a woman in her 50’s, my body is changing, I am getting slower and weigh a bit more, but I still train hard and want to do my best. I lost all confidence riding with groups of riders, fearing I would get blasted.Time for some evasive action I thought. I have always believed that within reason, you can improve if you put your mind to it. I have touched on this before.The likes of Jo Friel and other sport’s scientists, working with older athletes, emphasise the need to train differently. Yep you’re right, this is a favourite topic of mine, but let’s face it at 52 I have a vested interest in their findings. I don’t want to lie down, admit that I am going through the menopause and need to throw in the towel.

Here I am, having returned from today’s ride over the Cat and Fiddle and I have to say _MG_3613things are much better. No I haven’t measured my power, I can think of better ways to spend my money. Let’s face it, I am doing the best I can, so seeing it in watts is neither here nor there. I do know however, that this girl is nipping along with her heart rate over 150 bpm which for me is a good endurance ride. There comes a point when you know your body and heart rate well enough to recognise when you are recovering and working at a good personal level. So yep, I am back to using a heart rate monitor because the readings mean something to me. I know from years of training, when a depressed heart rate shows I am struggling and need more recovery.

So what am I doing differently? In the past during the off season, strength and endurance would have been my priority. I would have focused on big gear intervals and a 20/25 minute threshold sessions. But as I grow older, if I don’t work at a high cadence, I quickly turn into an ‘old plodder’!  I need to keep those neurological pathways firing fast, to make my legs pedal quickly.

So the emphasis has been on quality and speed. I have cut some of my long rides down and included two sets of intervals and a set of tabatas (20secs on 10secs off). The quest for quality has even meant that I do a lot of my sessions on a turbo; even when it’s sunny outside! The downside of living in the Peak District is that it’s always windy and every ride end’s up with me mauling up a 20% gradient. The only things that seems to have suffered is my sun tan, but you can get that in a bottle!

I have taken the interval sessions from the British Cyclocross page. They are part of a suggested 8 week training plan. I am not saying this strategy will work for everyone, but it does seem to be addressing my needs. When your tried and tested model isn’t working, you have to find a different way. We can all let the grass grow under our feet, but somethings are worth researching and fighting for.

Onwards and upwards to all my ageing friends and may we all continue to move forwards. See you in a muddy field sometime.

BCU 8 Week Plan

 

 

 

Guided MTB Rides In the Hope Valley

Still a few places left on the Hope Valley MTB ride, Thursday 12th May. The emphasis will be on exploring the fantastic riding in this area as well as developing skills. The cost will be £40 per rider ( minimum of 3 riders).

Alternative dates can be negotiated with a minimum of 3 riders. Alternatively I can organise a whole day to suit individual needs for £90.
For further information or to book your place email
training@juliephelan.com

New Dates for MTB Guided Rides and Coaching

jpblogI am in the process of organising some guided rides in the Peak District and on Cannock Chase.These will be suitable for those who are either beginners to mountain biking or with limited experience.
The emphasis will be on exploring the Hope Valley area or Cannock Chase, but will include some skill development.
The cost of the day will be £40 per rider (with a minimum of 3 riders) Courses/rides will be from 10 – 3pm (3:30pm). Occasionally the timing is dependent on the fitness level of the group.

Saturday 30th April Cannock Chase
Thursday 5th May The Hope Valley
Thursday 12th The Hope Valley

Alternative dates can be negotiated with a minimum of 3 riders. Alternatively I can organise a whole day to suit individual needs for £90.

For further information or to book your place email
training@juliephelan.com

Ronde Van Calderdale

The Ronde van Calderdale! Well where to start??

This must be an easier climb because I am sitting down!

This must be an easier climb because I am sitting down! Picture by Nicole Jolly-Vanderheyden

I am writing this on Tuesday having ridden it on Sunday and I still feel pretty wrecked. My back is stiff, the stairs were kinda interesting yesterday and on Sunday night I ate everything! That sounds a bit negative but I can assure you if you like a challenge, this is for you! If it’s easy is it worth doing? Have you achieved anything? In my books no, not really!

Here we go!

Here we go! Picture by Nicole Jolly-Vanderheyden

As I look over the photos posted on the Ronde van Calderdale’s Face Book page I can’t help but smile. Videos clips of people walking, being cheered on by their mates or trying the impossible task of clipping back in, on a 20% cobbled incline are making me laugh. I truly believe that’s why people go back consecutive times. Even I am sitting here thinking, I might just have another go. It’s a bit like the Three Peaks! The attrition and struggles are remembered all through rose tinted spectacles.

A really nice touch. The locals had provided a welcome rest for the weary.

A really nice touch. The locals had provided a welcome rest for the weary.

So that’s it, I guess I will be doing it again because like all the other ‘sorry’ souls on Sunday, I love a personal challenge. This very special sportive tests your stamina, determination and sheer will power. I am already thinking how I could conquer the two cobbled climbs I never quite managed to ride up. There’s always one more thing to work on eh?

So why was it so hard? Because it’s 75 miles long, with 13 cobbles climbs some of which are 20%. All in all it has 10,000ft of climbing. I have ridden up all the climbs on the Tour of Flanders, but many of these are longer. That’s what makes them so hard. I don’t know about you, but I can only maul out of the saddle for 50/60 metres, at best! There lies the future challenge for me!

The reward. A bottle of Ronde Van Calderdale.

The reward. A bottle of Ronde Van Calderdale.

Recognising that riders will be out for a considerable time, for it’s relative distance, it’s had three well stocked feed stations. Due to the severity of the whole thing, running on empty isn’t an option. Mechanical support out on the course was provided along with the usual sad waggon etc. The route was well sign posted and the locals armed, with cowbells and words of encouragement.

Back at base, all finishers were awarded with a welcomed bottle of Ronde Van Calderdale beer, a rather fetching pair of RVC socks and some more nibbles and chocolate. The flap jack went down a treat, but being congratulated by the organisers is the thing that will stick in my mind. They really meant it because yes, we had all risen to the challenge of completing an extremely tough ride, requiring something a bit more, than just sitting in the saddle for hours. I would like to thank the organisers for a fantastic event. All money raised goes to supporting young riders in the Kirklees Academy, a worthy cause.

For more pictures and information do have a look at the Face Book Page

Ronde Van Calderdale

Find below a link to a great write up about the event in the local paper

http://www.examiner.co.uk/news/west-yorkshire-news/ronde-van-calderdale-ride-puts-11164717#ICID=sharebar_facebook

 

Ronde Van Oost Lancashire

Tired but happy

Tired but happy

If you like sportives with a Belgian theme, try the Ronde van Oost Lancashire next year. Run on the same day as the Tour of Flanders, the ride is finished off with a live screening of the Belgian classic.

It takes in the most challenging roads from Clitheroe and includes cobbles, steep climbs and picturesque scenery. Those familiar with the area, will be aware of The `Muur of Colne, Spine Cop and The Padiburg. If these don’t provide enough of a challenge, there’s also climbs such as Clinkham and Brant Fell. With nearly 6000ft of climbing in 50 miles, it’s not for the faint hearted, but for those who love a tough ride this is for you. Organised by the Green Jersey Cafe, it only caters for a small number of riders, but I see that as a huge plus. Small events often mean a very friendly atmosphere with good camaraderie out on the route.

Post ride massage

Post ride massage

Pre entries this year, cost a mere £15 which included support out on the course, a well stocked feed station, sufficient signs on the route and food after. What more could you want? Big thanks to the organisers,the ladies at the feed station and staff at the cafe.

So if you fancy something a bit different to add a bit of

Food and The Tour of Flanders

Food and The Tour of Flanders

spice to your weekend, it might just be worth checking out their web site. For all those who can’t resit a bit of climbing, the next event is Le Grimpeur on the 24th of April.

http://thegreenjersey.co.uk/

Cyclocross Tubeless Wheels and Tyres.

We have full inflation!

We have full inflation!

I dedicate this article to those in search of full inflation who despise mopping up pools of liquid latex. At times my bike shed has looked like a scene out of Ghost Busters, with pools of ectoplasm everywhere!

The search for a tubeless set up for my cross bikes has been both long and painful. I like the idea of not having to think about pinch punctures whilst riding my local gnarly trails and for events like the Three Peaks Cyclocross Race. However the worry of whether they would stay inflated just became all too stressful.

Click for full size

Those close to me, know the trials and tribulations of Phelan’s tubeless conversion kits. I had tyres which stayed inflated for a year, then others barely making a week. Another tyre decided to dump it’s contents in the back of the car. I have enough stress in my life and I certainly don’t need worries with my hobby.

My last Three Peaks made me realise that for the sake of reliability I just had to dip my hand in my pocket, flash the cash and sort it. There’s no point travelling to an event only to find the night before, your bike sitting in a pool of  latex. Yep one back tyre did that at 9:45 p.m in the B and B and another on my spare bike did the same when I reached Helwith Bridge. I only had a few miles to go which kinda made me laugh. I’m getting older and my bikes are all deflating! Is somebody trying to tell me something? Well I’m not sure about that, but Phelan has had enough.

IMG_2022Now I am not really a bike geek. If somebody I respect tells me something works, that’s usually good enough for me. All I did know was that some tubeless tyres don’t seem to seal well with certain tubeless rims. So off I trotted to The Bike Factory in Whaley Bridge, to ask their advice.

I am now the proud owner of some lovely wheels built on Stans No Tubes ZTR Alpha 4000 rims with Hope Pro 4 Hubs in a rather yummy go faster red. As for tyres I opted for Racing Ralph Evo CX s. Well that was about four weeks ago and I am still fully inflated.

IMG_2024So the moral of the story is, if someone says this has worked well in the past, it probably does. We can read articles until we are blue in the face but experience is everything. ‘Well it is for me anyway’ as she pedalled off into the distance 🙂

Big thanks to Fred Salmon and the team at The Bike Factory!

In The Green Zone

 

In the green zone on Axe Edge

In the green zone on Axe Edge

It’s been nearly two months since my last cross race and I have to say I haven’t felt the ‘love’ for all things muddy. Finishing the season blasted and with a niggling injury, I’ve been happy to take things easy and slot in a bit more running. There’s a simplicity to running I love. No bike washing,decreasing, soaking clothes in a bucket…… just one pair of muddy shoes by the back door.

You can only sit on your laurels for so long before the urge rears it’s ugly head! It’s been happening for a few days and so today I had planned a 3hr+ ride over the Cat and Fiddle on a road bike. That’s all I’ve been riding recently. I like the idea of park and go when I return to the house and giving it a token squirt of WD40. The whole operation can be completed in about 10 minutes, if you get a real shift on. You can imagine my horror when I looked out of the window this morning and was faced with snow. So that was that, cross bike out and bite the bullet!

Going up in Macclesfield Forest.

Going up in Macclesfield Forest.

So glad I did. I have had such a fantastic ride today. Admittedly at the beginning I tried to scoot round any mud but once my mud head was on, off I went. Today I have ridden along a disused railway path; nipped along roads; negotiated snow packed bridleways through Macclesfield Forest, and joined the 4×4 brigade on a tiny road covered in snow. As well as topping out on the Cat and Fiddle along with loads of others, admiring the Winter Wonderland.

‘Yes’, to the man in the LandRover, this bike is the 4×4 of the cycling world and I am having fun. I am emulating my childhood, out on my pony, going where ever I fancy, be it road, trail or track. ‘No’ to the lady fell runner, I’m not going to fall off in the snow because with a bit of skill and a sense of adventure, I can do anything on this baby! ‘ Yes’ I am no longer a spring chicken, but I still love the thrill of riding something technically difficult and the sense of achievement of arriving on a summit.

Opposite the Cat and Fiddle

Opposite the Cat and Fiddle

Cross bikes, the true ‘do what ever you fancy bike’. I love them with a passion. Today Phelan has truly been in the green zone, have you?

http://believeperform.com/performance/emotional-thermometer-controlling-competition-anxiety/

 

Core Skills Session

Loving developing core skills with a great group of ladies. We’ve been working on balance, co-ordination, gear selection and cornering. Really looking forward to a bit of dismounting, remounting cyclocross style next time along with descending.

Here’s a little video clip showing the team in action.

The ‘Newbies’ Guide to Surviving a Cross Race

First mud fest of the year.

First mud fest of the year

Last weekend was my first really muddy cross race of the season. As I approached the car and began sorting myself out, I felt rather pleased with myself. It wasn’t about my result, because that was the performance I had expected, but rather that I was now, a well organised cross racer. You might think, what the hell is she on about? But I can tell you life is much improved from my initial mud fest in Baggeridge Park a couple of years ago.

I recall approaching the car with it’s light blue upholstery, my backside and gloves plastered in mud and everywhere else, an interesting shade of brown. It was freezing and I knew my priority had to be getting dressed and warm. But how? I didn’t know where to start! I was on my own, but somehow, had to galvanize myself into action. How could getting undressed under a towel be that hard? I opened the car door with filthy hands, covered everything, and sure enough the car door closed on my muddy bum, as I reached over to fetch my clothes. There went the nice light blue interior and you can only imagine what it was like trying to ram a muddy bike into the back of the car.A total freezing mucky hell!

This isn’t a guide to buying a big van, pressure washer or organising staff to help you. We all begin by going to small races on our own with minimal kit. So how can you make it a bearable experience? Well here is my personal guide to surviving and making the whole thing enjoyable.The key is organisation.

I have the luxury of two bikes which are carried on a tow bar mounted rack. This has been the best present I have every had. No more mucky bikes in the car! I always pray for rain on the journey home, hoping I will arrive back with two sparkly bikes.

All post race clothes, shoes etc are thrown into a special plastic tub which can be swilled later. I do carry water, but usually a fair bit of this has to be used to wash the bike down after the practice ride, so there is little left for washing.Yep that sounds dreadful but believe me if you attempt to clean up with limited resources, the mess seems worse and most of it’s left on your towel. It seems better to just let it dry and jump in the shower at home. The use of a wet wipe on your face may be useful if you need to buy fuel or heaven forbid, talk to the RAC on the way home!

Faced with muddy wet legs, nice stretchy trousers like joggers or lycra bottoms pull on easily over filthy legs. Go for ease and speed, this is no time for vanity. You’ll just look like one of the ‘in crowd’!

On the way home I usually stop at the jet wash. I am slowly redistributing parts of the country, to a garage forecourt in Leek. Speed is your friend because by now you are dreaming about sitting on the settee with a well earned cup of tea and it’s beginning to get dark.

Once at home, all the muddy clothes are left soaking over night in a preprepared bucket outside by the back door.The washing machine usually gets a reprieve until the next morning.

So there you have it! Phelan’s guide to making a muddy cross race as easy as possible. I have no doubt you may have some additional ideas yourself. All you need to fret about, is how to pedal fast.

An after thought – Do you think dried mud under lycra feels like varicose veins? Not that I have got any but it does feel weird, Let me know? lol

For all those older cyclists with aspirations of grandeur (a.k.a achieving our personal best)

A post for all my older friends and acquaintances who wrestle with the age old question, ‘what the hell am I doing?’

I frequently sit down and have a think about things I do. Should I still be racing?

Racing in a former life

Racing in a former life

Am I making the improvements I’d like? Is the amount of time I spend pursing goals justify the end product? Does the training time and competing have a detrimental effect on those around me? Can I make the switch from long MTB endurance racing, to a short sharp cross race?

So what do I do? I read inspirational race reports, about veteran riders achieving amazing things and training articles to keep me going during those moments of self doubt. They pep me up and keep me going. It gets tough when the majority of people around you can live a life of inactivity, think you’re totally nuts and really ought to bow out gracefully. Well people like me can’t! We love that feeling of being alive, pushing ourselves and feeling fit and healthy. So my fellow obsessives, nutters etc……. This article in Cycling Weekly is for you. Read, enjoy and may it feed your soul with determination and possibilities.

Don’t let age slow you down
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