Sunday, October 30, 2011

Back on Form

Despite feeling incredibly low in energy yesterday and having my slowest climb of the year up to Granier - everything was back to normal today. Sleep wasn't the issue because I only slept 5 hours last night. Strange how the body just does as it pleases. I waited until it warmed up outside before going for a workout, which gave the opportunity to watch the Indian Formula 1. My favourite drivers are McLaren's Button and Hamilton. Hamilton impresses me more and more - in the last race he held off a sustained attack from a raging Red Bull while at the same time refusing to cave into Nicole Scherzinger's demands to give her a baby. He must be the only man on the planet capable of either of those exploits!

The only other UK TV I watch is Top Gear. I find it both informative and hilarious. Unfortunately I also watched the US version the other day! What is wrong with Americans? They just don't get "humour". When they try to be funny it's just stupid - or strangely NOT funny - but they still laugh. Very depressing.

I did wake up with a really sore upper trapezius muscle and both sides of the neck stiff. This hurt in the house but not when concentrating on the bike - except when trying to bend into a really low aero position and lift the head - but that's always hard to do.

New Smartphone Bike Mount (patent pending!)
Anyway, I figured out how to attach a smartphone to a bike without adding weight. A section of inner tube about 18 inches long placed around the handlebar stem with the ends tied together in a knot. That's all that's needed. It's rock steady even when hitting potholes. For bad weather just slip the phone into a small plastic zip lock bag and push the earphone connector though the polythene. If you want a really serious watertight job then push the connector through the rubber too. This all costs next to nothing and adds negligible weight. In addition the phone can be removed without difficulty. I found that attaching the earphones with just a small clip on my collar it was fine to let the cable dangle free in front of me - the cable being just long enough to allow you to sit upright to stretch. This is quite good because if the device is in your pocket and the cable running through your clothes it's always a problem when changing clothes.  I still managed to screw up the function of the app - namely somehow stopping it instead of pausing it mid way through the workout and so being forced to start a new workout. Then the phone system crashed and so I lost all the descent after the first climb. To be honest a dumb GPS unit is still more reliable that a smart-phone.

Tee Shirt Celtic New Year (Halloween)
The weather was great again and so it was another shorts and teeshirt day - but there's surely not many of those left this year. A sleeveless wind-breaker and arm warmers were needed for the descents though. Yesterday I'd put proper warm clothing on and ended up boiling on the climb and freezing on the descent - so today I planned it a bit better with this experience in mind.

 View looking up the valley towards Meribel, clear  all the way to the sun - about 150 million km.

Autumn colours - Courchevel (left fork) Meribel (ahead to the right).
Hautcoeur just below and Moutiers hidden 2300ft below.

I'd set off with a provisional bail out plan if my energy levels were still non existent, but everything felt good. The first climb was 2 minutes slower than my best - but it was still the second fastest ever. I wasn't out to push hard unless it was because of feeling good. I decided to work on focusing on good form - bent elbows and completely relaxed shoulders. The moment the arms are completely relaxed you can feel the workload shifting more clearly to the core muscles. Only on last kilometre of the second climb (final one) did my concentration start to wander. Lower blood sugar and tons of lactic acid conspire to make focusing tough by the end of this long unrelenting climb. I never get to the top of it with a clear head, but today my body felt good and I was able to stand on the pedals and power up through the village at the summit. That's a first for me! The coordination I've been working on allows better application of the core muscles and alignment of the legs/hips over the pedals. It seems that in getting used to doing this I'm accessing more power and endurance than at first when it felt a bit counter-intuitive and unnatural.

On the descents I worked on moving the centre of mass into the turns and keeping the bike more upright. The road was a bit wet in the shade and I didn't want to be watching the next Formula 1 from a hospital bed. The cornering technique also seems to be improving and I think that the descent back to Macot and Aime was even faster than usual. It's a fast descent anyway - long steep straight wide roads where you can overtake cars on the corners and accelerate off again no problem.

Garmin Fit App tryout

Tried out the new Garmin "Fit" Android app. It's good but not good enough really. At least it picks up the Garmin footpod which is useful for running cadence or distance if used on a treadmill. It syncs to and from the Garmin Connect web site - which is a great place to keep training data because it's in the cloud and accessible from the phone or any computer. It doesn't have the analytical capacity of SportTracks software nor does it have the Beat Yourself option, handsfree control or audio feedback of Endomondo.

The workout itself was useless. For no apparent reason I felt tired and climbed up to Granier very slowly. Realising that a proper workout wasn't going to happen and that it would also be best to cut the distance I focused on breathing - particularly nasal breathing and using the diaphragm. Even if a performance workout was not possible there are many other useful things that can be done - not to forget the mental training aspect of focusing and re-focusing. I'd also felt unusually stressed as well as tired so paradoxically the focussing relaxes the mind and guarantees a significant reduction in stress despite the tiredness.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bug Fighting Fitness / Bosses du 13 Photos

End of October looming up and was still able to go for a ride up to 1200m altitude wearing tee shirt and shorts. Days like this are becoming few and far between now so each opportunity has to be seized.

Still hadn't recovered from Sunday and ended up with a slow time - about 7 minutes below my best on a 90 minute workout. Oddly I seemed to get stronger over the last section and recovered about one minute over the final few kilometres. Worked on pushing high gears most of the time - linked with strong use of the core muscles. It's just great to be out in the fresh air.

Photos just arrived from Bosses du 13 in Marseille

That's me going straight past the refreshment stand - yellow/red jersey and blue shorts.

I've noticed that much more power can be applied when the coordination is correct - that is - the hip moves backwards as the foot pushes forwards. The power comes from a re-alignment of the body to focus all the power through that hip joint - exploiting the hamstrings and glutes to extend the hip joint and the quads to extend the knee - combined with the core power from pulling up strongly with the other leg using the psoas, hamstrings and calves to flex everything on that side. The problem is that so much power goes through the knee that it can start to cause knee pain. I guess that when pushing big gears with lots of power this is something that might be expected - so increases should probably be made gradually. I only get very slight occasional twinges at the site of an old but serious injury - nothing more than that.

Despite the disappointment of having a damaged Achilles tendon and being unable to run I'm happy to have avoided (so far) the first round of flu and colds. Perhaps having reduced the training level has helped there - the body can use its fitness to fight bugs effectively instead.