An Ordinary Bloke Vs. An Extraordinary Challenge: May Update - Pedal Progression


21 May 2018

An Ordinary Bloke Vs. An Extraordinary Challenge: May Update

With just under 12 weeks to go till the  race I thought an update on my training was in order before I move to last phase! So what’s been going on…

Well, I’m still trying to get better at keeping a diary and planning ahead,  I have been doing some fun testing against myself (see below), more back to back fatigue, back to see Ben for a strength update, adding miles and hills to my commute, trying to limit the impact of a few BBQ’s and beers, enjoying some dry trails and sunshine, focusing on eating like Popeye, trying to structure my sleep better and remembering that I chose to do this so if I ain’t having fun it’s time to switch it up and try a different approach!

Training Logs

I started doing this with a combination of Strava and google calendar. It went well to begin with but I had a few phone issues and got a bit slack with it through late February and March. Back into April and re-focused, I have been logging (almost) everything I do. Only a basic record but better than nothing. Although what I am recording doesn’t give me a whole lot to analyse It feels motivating to look back on everything I have done in the past month. It gives me confidence in my training to know I am ‘getting it done’, most of the time! I am trying to record all my rides on Strava now and also link this to my turbo session via Sufferfest, this should give me an increasingly good idea of how I am progressing. I’ve not been focusing too much on Strava segments (although it’s fun when you beat yourself) but it’s been a great tool for keeping track of the big data – distance travelled and average speed being the details I am most interested in. I have just bought an entry level Garmin which I hope will make it easier for me to record more, more consistently.

Back To Back Fatigue

This approach to endurance training seems to be coming to the fore in a lot of stuff I read and almost everyone I talk to. Instead of trying to going really long you go as hard as you can for a couple of consecutive days. Here’s a couple of examples from last 6 weeks. Time wise it’s pretty hard to get these in, but I am doing my best.

First up on the mountain bike… I slung my bike and a load of other crap in the back of the car and decided to head for Afan. I know the trails well and can ride without distraction of having to navigate or think about logistics. It’s got plenty of challenging climbs but lots of fun descents to keep the spirits up. Day 1 was 101Km and about 8.5 hours of riding. For anyone who knows Afan, this is Skyline, followed by W2 with a bonus lap of Whyte’s level and about 10K of spinning along fire roads at the top of the hill to warm down. Once finished,  I ate, drank a couple of beers (essential psychological recovery juice for a sunny evening in the hills) lots of water with some hyration salts, had a bit of a stretch and went to sleep in the back of my car then got up and did it all (almost) again the next day. I had to skip the final lap of Whyte’s to get home in time for tea.

A couple of weeks later I had a go on the road bike….I found myself with 2 week days off in a row, although I still had to do the school run, this gave me about 6 hours to play with in the middle of the day. Day one I headed out to the Mendips for 120km of gorgeous gorges and sunny skies, google maps decided to take me on an ‘interesting’ route which resulted with me walking a few miles of restricted byway. That evening just to give my legs a little more pain I took on some turbo interval training. I went to bed wondering whether I would feel good for the morning and woke up pretty surprised – definitely feeling the previous day but good to ride. I felt a bit groggy for the first 10 miles or so, but once back up to speed managed another 120km with some steep climbs and sketchy muddy road descents in the Cotswolds with relative ease, the only thing that bought me home was the end of day school bell!

I have been told this approach will work well for my fitness and body conditioning for being on the bike for a long time. I have also found it hugely confidence building. It’s been a long time since I have done so many back to back miles so just knowing that I can do it and not feel completely destroyed has been really encouraging!

Back To The Strength Factory

I have been back to see Ben at Strength Factory in last week to find out if I have made any progress and get a bit of an update on my strength routine. I have been finding it difficult to fit in the full set of reps on my longer routine, so I chatted with Ben about a different structure for my sessions. After assessment to see if I had made progress (thumbs up), we moved on to work on some new stuff. I have really started feel the benefits of my strength workouts especially on long rides.  My core feels a lot stronger and the rate of fatigue is much slower. I am sure most of you will know the feeling of being exhausted on your bike and slumping over the handlebar as you loose the strength in your upper body, it’s kind of the beginning of the end as it makes it harder to control the bike, stand on descents and generally be dynamic with weight shifts.  This sets in for me now at around 6-7 hours of hard riding, rather than before it was more like 3 hours. This is similar in terms of lower back pain, I can easily ride for 4-5 hours now without feeling anything uncomfortable in my lower back.

You might also remember if you have read previous blogs that my left wrist was very weak following a complex fracture at the end of 2016 for which I had surgery and some metal inserted. When I first met Ben my wrist felt fragile when I was riding, this was affecting my confidence and ability to push myself over longer periods. I couldn’t do a single press up with my wrist fully weighted and had to do them on my knuckles. Ben gave me a series of exercises to do daily. Now I can do my full reps without feeling any more discomfort than I do my right wrist. This has been great for confidence on the bike! Finally my legs! I guess they are pretty important. Again I am really feeling the difference on longer rides, when even through my body is feeling over all very tired I can still find more strength throughout the pedal stroke to really dig deep into the muscle particularly on steep climbs when my cadence is forced down.

During my second visit Ben walked me through several new exercises which were an increased level of difficulty and also made my work out a bit more interesting. Substituting standard side planks for side plank reaches and press ups for butterfly press ups. He also added a few more difficult exercises, rear lunge knee taps and single leg glute bridges. These target the areas of strength I need to build with more intensity. To make it easier for me to be flexible with time he also organised them in circuit and advised I did 2-4 circuits depending on how much time I had. This works a lot better for me, as I can get a 20 minute (2 circuits) work out in daily now, before the kids wake up, without having to get up a silly-o-clock. This means I can also be more consistent which has got to be good.

Nutrition And Lifestyle

I am trying to really focus more on on what I eat. This is continues to be one of my biggest challenges. However, since making some changes in my diet I have started to see increased rate of weight loss which has made me feel faster on the bike and generally more energetic. I lost about 3 kg between Christmas and the end of March then since really stepping up my commitment to nutritional changes I have lost another 3 kg in the last 5 weeks. I don’t know if anyone else has noticed but it seems like BBQ season is on us, this has forced my will power at times and… Yeaaaah, there’s been a bit of cider drinking and burger eating with a few late nights.  Two things to say about this.

1. I am taking my training seriously when seriously feels good but the plan was never to completely give up fun times for 6 months.

2. I always manage to get back in the rhythm of things within a couple of days any ‘indulgent’ activity!

I have also been trying my best to follow some of the lifestyle advice given to me by Adam, specifically around sleeping. It kind of seems obvious but sometimes this stuff doesn’t come naturally to me. I need to sleep more to recover quicker – of course. Typically, I get about 6 hours of sleep a night, which is not enough so I have been forcing myself to get to bed earlier when I can. Better sleep means higher levels of natural energy so I tend to find my craving for sugary and highly processed refined carbs decreases particularly in the morning, this aids the stabilisation of my blood sugar levels though out the day, keeping my energy levels consistent (and higher) throughout the day. Good times when I get it right!


I thought I’d do a couple of comparisons this month to see if and how I have progressed. Last week I re-took the Sufferfest fitness test and was pleased with the results, amoungst other things this calculates your Functional Threshold Power (FTP). On March 19th my FTP was 242 watts this had risen to 275 watts. When combined with my weight loss this has increased my watts per kilo from 2.81 to 3.35. I gather these stats are an important measure of my fitness and strength, I will not be setting the XC race world on fire anytime soon but according to this chart I have shifted my comparable performance from fair to moderate. It’s also important to note that when riding for longer distance watts per kilo is only part of the story, knowing where I am at will give me good guidance on how fast I can ride, but I am increasingly aware of the massive part played by getting the metal and nutritional game right to keep going for 24 hours.

So how does this transfer increase power transfer to the trail and the road?

Early on in my training I logged a 50K local off road with the thought that I might go back and replicate later in the year to see if I had got faster. So I did and was pleased/relieved by the results. Over the 50K my average speed had increased by 3km per hour. Might not sound like much, but this had me finishing the ride over 30 mins quicker than I had a few months earlier. Conditions were actually fairly similar, maybe a bit muddier in Jan but no real world comparison is ever going to be exact. The first ride was on a cold crisp January day when the ground was hard packed (yes we did have some of these). The recent ride was in warm dry conditions. Ride 1, Jan 22nd: 49.3km in 3:41, – 13.4 kph average speed. Ride 2 May 13th: 53.1km in 3:23. – 15.7  kph average speed. Again, progress which is great for my confidence and sense that I am doing something right. Also my average speed for my extended commutes, which are now between 15 and 30 miles and solo road rides has steadily increased from around 22kph to between 26 and 27kph.

What’s On Now?

My average training week now looks a bit like this: This is the plan at least, realistically when life gets in the way I normally do about 70-80% of this. I will touch on why in my next blog. But in short, it’s because, like everyone else, I have other stuff to do to, commitments to my kids and partner which vary and can be unpredictable.

Mon: Interval training, strength and stretch. If I have done something big on the Sunday I will do at least an hour of active recovery, probably on the turbo.

Tuesday: 2 strength factory circuits, 15 -20 miles on road.

Wednesday: 2 strength factory circuits, 30-40 miles road.

Thursday: 2 strength factory circuits, 30-40 miles road, longish local MTB ride, relaxed pace with friends.

Friday: 2 strength factory circuits, 15-20 miles road.

Saturday: 2 strength factory circuits, 30-40 miles road.

Sunday: Depends, most of the events I am entering are on Sundays, if not then rest day. If I have an event on Sunday, I will make Saturday my rest day.

This coming weekend is the Scott MTB Marathon. So this weeks training will be reduced and I will focus more on what I eat, drink and getting good sleep!

I have long night ride planned on the 2nd June. This will obviously have some benefits for my fitness but is mainly for my confidence. I have not done a long night ride in while so will hit the Forest of Dean for an evening – early hours epic.

I have a couple of camping weekends with friends coming up in June, these will involve bikes but I am not quite sure how yet. Just trying to work out logistics so I can make them count.

Any one else doing Bikefest? The race is on the 30th June. This falls on the same weekend as the Scott Exmoor marathon so I thought I’d take this opportunity for bit more back to back fatigue (Bikefest Saturday, Marathon Sunday). Probably the last big effort before race day!

In my next blog I will be addressing the big question, How to you get all the training done without being an absent parent and a pain in the arse to your partner? I have tried my best on this one, not always entirely successfully!


Written by:

Ollie Cain