Monday, November 28, 2011

Changing Seasons - by the day.

Sunset here in the mountains is now around 5pm. That leaves a short window for outdoor training if you want the warmth of the sun on your body. It's also dangerous on the bike when climbing because often you are heading straight towards the sun and any car coming up behind you is seriously blinded! One great thing about being outside training every day is that you really get to live the complete cycle of the changing seasons.

CO2 works!
Yesterday I woke up feeling very stiff and sore having spent the entire previous day chopping, raking and burning to clear a plot of overgrown land. No body part appeared to have been spared from the trauma. The thought of going out for a workout was really unwelcome. Consistency and bloody mindedness are necessary with training so despite feeling wrecked I pulled the bike out. Amazingly, from the moment I started to pedal everything felt absolutely fine. Very weird! About 3k into the first climb I encountered a young guy walking downhill with his racing bike so I stopped to offer assistance. He had used his spare tube after a puncture but it also had a problem and he had no CO2 cannisters left to inflate with. I offered him my spare tube (actually a new racing one) and then used my CO2 valve for the first time ever. It not only worked but it was so fast in blowing up the tyre that I was completely astonished - it seemed to take about 1 second! Right at that moment Chris Harrop pulled over. He had already covered 40k on his own and by coincidence was just passing at that moment. We carried on together and that made me work harder than I'd intended initially but once again the body had no trouble with a hard workout. Unfortunately the Endomondo app stopped logging data for no apparent reason - and the history had vanished again! I need all the data to be able to chart my TRIMP (TRAining IMPulse) or Training Load as the objective is to maintain the Chronic Training Load at 90 throughout the winter. That will be tough! 

Carbo Fuelling
Oddly enough even though the workout was hard there was no serious tiredness afterwards. All this year I've been wasted by intense workouts - they always have me practically falling asleep an hour after they are over and there is a light headedness that makes concentration on anything productive very difficult if not impossible. It struck me that I'd eaten a heavy meal shortly before this workout - with a pile of potatoes. Perhaps I've simply been in the habit of not fuelling my body sufficiently for the job! I've been trying to reduce carbohydrates to lose weight but for physical performance the exact opposite is necessary. I probably don't get enough sleep either.

First Nocturnal Workout
Tonight I went for a slow 10k run on minimalist shoes. The Achilles tendon was sore for the first kilometre but then all pain disappeared once it was warmed up. I also think that I started out a little too much on the forefoot and the Achilles tendon was letting me know this. When even the first kilometre feels long you know that you are tired! It's rare that I feel like stopping by the first kilometre but this was one of those days. Running is just hard work and tedious when you feel this way. I worked on striking closer to the heels to protect the Achilles tendon and it felt very good. Once again this was done while avoiding reaching ahead by simply flexing the ankles a little on landing. When tired it is really hard to focus on anything physically counter-intuitive at all during effort. It feels strangely more natural running with a midfoot strike than a forefoot strike. It's a bit less bouncy but in some ways that feels more efficient.  After 7k the calves started to become a bit sore but remained manageable. I was very happy to get home. The whole run had been in the dark with a 1 watt LED head torch. It was the first nocturnal workout of the winter.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Ski Espace Killy

Skiing in Tignes again today. The piste down to Val Claret in Tignes is now open and in Val they have 11 pistes ready to open at the weekend. There is still no new snow - it is keeping us all waiting - but training conditions are excellent at high altitude with the good weather. In recent years the snow has actually come too early - last year was an example. When the snow falls early on there are several fluctuations in the weather that follow until winter really settles in - during which the base becomes very unstable and dangerous for the whole season ahead. Last year caught a lot of people out this way. I felt very uncomfortable with it and severely restricted my adventures for the whole season as a result. Several events during the season confirmed my intuition. The snow will come soon enough - it managed to come in July and August so it will definitely manage now.

Today I was feeling stiff from running and tired from cycling so the skiing would just be focused on coordination and feeling. The great thing about skiing alone is that you can listen to music. I've always loved to listen to music when skiing - not "songs" but rhythmic almost "trance" type music. There is a clear connection between the musical centres in the brain and physical movement. Anyone who doubts that needs only to reflect for a moment about "dancing". Why do music and dance go together? Whenever the weather is really bad then music comes into its own. Normally in a howling blizzard you are focused on all of the negative aspects; cold, bad visibility, getting lost etc. With music playing the whole scene transforms and it's probably because the music draws your focus back inwards - where you need it to be.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

150 Million Km view persisting.

Pushed myself out the door today for another training ride - 9th day without a break - just have to take advantage of this freaky weather - still have that 150 Million Km view directly to the sun...

With the cold but dry weather it isn't too hard to manage clothing issues when cycling. During the climbs I remove the outer membrane layer and tie it around my waist. The high wicking base layer and shirt take the sweat away from the skin and let it evaporate rapidly. The weak sun is still enough to make it feasible to climb with minimal clothing and the relatively low speed of climbing prevents any wind chilling. Pausing at the top of the climbs the membrane is put on for each descent and the final return on the flats. With everything relatively dry inside the high speeds don't chill the body. When it gets much colder this won't work, but also the roads will become slippery and that's when training will have to move indoors anyway for safety. I might put my studded tyres back on the mountain-bike and get out there anyway.

It always amazes me how the legs can be really sore from running but on the bike none of that soreness is felt.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Run Focus

10k run today with barefoot technique. It was a bit ambitious to have ramped up the mileage so much within one week after returning from injury - but I was very vigilant regarding potential setbacks. The calves still had some recovery pain (doms) from having stepped up to 6k two days ago on flat shoes but the level was still tolerable given a long slow warm up.  

The main focus was to strike just in front of the heel - that is to aim with that part of the foot so that it would land directly under the body. It's impossible to tell exactly which part of the foot actually strikes first without capturing it on video and slowing it down. The other way would be to run properly barefoot - but it's just a little bit too cold for that at the moment. That's my excuse at least. In the shadows along the banks of the river the cycle path already has some permanent ice which will probably be there now until Spring.

Avoiding an aggressive forefoot strike certainly seems to protect the Achilles tendon and to give the calves a much easier time of it in general. There is no loss in technique elsewhere. Despite all the current advice circulating that suggests that the only way to  land on a bare foot avoiding shock is though a forefoot strike, there was no discomfort at all. It's not a heel strike but it's not a forefoot strike either. The feeling is midfoot (which is naturally slightly on the outside edge) followed a tiny fraction of a second later by the forefoot and then the heel. Sometimes it feels like the forefoot strikes first but there isn't much in it - either way the force dissipates without any shock or any strain on the calves or tendons. Previously I always tried to land on the forefoot - even when trying to strike on the outside edge - so this is a new feeling. It may or may not be as efficient as a forefoot strike but it certainly works for barefoot running.

The sore calves made sure that I kept the speed right down and focused on good form. The second protective thing to concentrate on was to ensure an active use of the foot, extending the ankle towards the end of the stride so that the Achilles contracts instead of stretches. This lengthens the stride too but also  maintains the constant height of the Centre of Mass above the ground as the body "falls" forward. It stabilises the C of M preventing excessive up/down movement - it's not an issue of propulsion. The propulsion still comes exclusively from gravity and falling forwards. It's interesting that the extension of the foot activates all the muscles in the foot and you can feel them working powerfully. This is the same as in cycling. Most beginners on the bike seem to let the ankle bend during the push on the pedal and so the energy is absorbed like a sponge. It seems to be the same with running unless you learn to activate the foot and ankle when extending the stride well behind. Amazingly it's the same with skiing. Ski instruction generally informs people to bend the ankles but never explains why. Racing boots then come so stiff that bending the ankles is neigh on impossible. Bending under load when skiing takes place at the hips and knees - not at the ankles - and the feet muscles should tension if standing on the balls.

The next useful focus was on the core. Generating the power from the big core muscles instead of the smaller leg muscles. That only works properly if there is a good rotation in the spine and the hip is allowed to move freely backwards. It's a great feeling with everything working, stretching and moving around a very active centre. This also lengthens the stride and you have to watch that it doesn't slow the cadence at the same timed due to the greater reach. When I came to a hill suddenly the same alignment issue as for the bike just came into focus - using the pull through of the trailing leg you can turn the belly slightly towards the support foot and this places the weight more precisely on the ball of the foot. The power feels amazing for climbing - just as it does on the bike.

The final focus for the day was focus itself. It's hard to stay focused on the power of the centre - it seems to be an emotional issue. It's almost like there is an association with being sick in the stomach - it seems emotionally hard to work this area physically. Focusing is a mental exercise and continually re-focusing strengthens the mind. It both clears the mind of all chatter, relaxing it and at the same time strengthens it. Focusing on the core is good for this because it's hard to stay on it for long and refocusing is never far away.

Physical Memory

Frustrating! A fantastic piece of hardware called the Sony Xperia Arc, worth 549 € and I have to use a crap app called Endomondo worth 3 € for training! Why does software always lag so far behind hardware? I guess it's the same way that people are born with brains but never learn how to use them.

Sony have just brought out the Xperia Active and I WANT ONE! Trouble is I'd still have to use that crap app along with it.

Yesterday, 10 minutes into my cycling workout and the phone simply rebooted itself. Yes, I was tired and plodding and the phone probably reacted in disgust - but rebooting takes a very long time and  really interrupts the workout thank you! (The phone only ever reboots spontaneously when using Endomondo - it's like it's trying to vomit it out of its system)

Interesting article yesterday on the BBC website regarding memory. It was about Clive Wearing - who due to a virus has only 10 seconds of memory. Despite this he can still play the piano though he doesn't remember that he has ever played one etc. I've always wondered how I can memorise dozens of complete tunes on the fiddle and yet not remember the names or notes of any of them. It's a purely physical memory. Quite often I get people returning to skiing thinking that they have forgotten everything - of course they haven't - it's all there in the physical memory. 

Yesterday I played the fiddle for a while and really enjoyed the process of observing the physical side of it; just letting the weird musical/physical memory run its course but focusing on releasing tension and being aware of blockages. Same as with sports everything depends on good alignment and mechanics to start off with. Focusing follows alignment - and even the focus has to be aligned in terms of senses and relevance. It will clearly be a long time before a stupid telephone app can measure this.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

"barefoot" footstriking to protect the Achilles tendon

Ran 6km hill climbing with minimalist shoes and remained completely clear of Achilles tendon symptoms. Following the idea in yesterday's post I tried to land on the heel - but without reaching forward with the feet. Ever since starting with barefoot technique it has been made clear to me from many sources that heel striking is out due to the lack of protection. All of the theory given regarding shock absorption appears to support this assertion.

I ran landing more or less on the heels - but without reaching ahead with the feet. The interesting thing here is that it was easy to control forward lean and propulsion from gravity and because the heel did not strike ahead of the body there was no feeling of significant impact, shock or after-shock. I can only suggest that this is because it is heel striking with a minimum of braking effect involved.

The second modification to technique that I made was to be sure to roll off the forefoot and toes actively extending the ankle to effectively lengthen the stride behind the body. As well as lengthening the stride this would prevent any stretching of the Achilles tendon. On the descent this helped when lengthening out the stride to work with the naturally higher speed.

Despite not having done any running in minimalist shoes or with "natural" technique for a month now there was no aggravation of the Achilles tendon and no reaction from the calf muscles. It also demonstrates to me that all the coordination and feedback advantages of natural technique can be maintained without forefoot striking and without hurting the heels.

Danny Dreyer in ChiRunning advocates striking just in front of the heel - I'm kind of wondering if this is what he really means - not a "point of contact" but the part of the foot that you aim with to land right under your centre of mass. Just standing still you can lift a foot off the ground then depending on how you flex or extend the ankle you can, when putting it back down, alter the part of the foot that hits the ground first and where it hits the ground. To my surprise Dryer has turned out to be correct about almost everything else he writes about - so this is potentially another one.

When we see treadmill demonstrations of how people naturally switch to a forefoot strike when they take off their running shoes - dramatically changing from hard heel striking with the feet reaching way ahead - to no heel contact whatsoever - it has always struck me as potentially "auto-suggestion" - the idea having been planted in the mind prior to the experiment.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Winter Workouts

It's definitely getting darker earlier ...

... and colder at night (Frosty Sunrise over la Plagne!)

 Achilles tendon heeled.
Yesterday managed a 5km run with low profile shoes and had no Achilles tendon pain. Had to run on the heels though and so reverting to retrograde running technique does have a few advantages - it feels horrible but it protects the Achilles tendon when it is recovering from injury. This did bring up an interesting cross-over issue regarding skiing. In skiing it is important to develop some aspects of technique from a sold stance firmly rooted on the heels. Most people think that this will cause them to lean backwards - but that's not the case. You can stand on your heels and tilt your centre of mass forwards - in fact generating even less likelihood of falling backwards. (Ironically part of ChiRunning is tilting forwards and though they never spot it you get your CM tilted forwards more easily in fact from the heel than from the forefoot!) Likewise it occurred to me when running and trying to avoid reaching ahead with the feet ("barefoot style") I could still land with the heels below the body by flexing the ankles - so that because the heel was already slightly behind the body on impact there would be no braking affect or amplified after shock. This has the effect of maintaining generally good mechanics but allowing the cushioned heel to absorb the landing instead of the tendons and muscles - sparing the dodgy Achilles tendon. It's pretty similar to the feeling of skiing on the heels in that pressure is deliberately removed from the toes and forefoot (though only during the landing phase in running). Basically I'm saying that you can run on heels without your feet going ahead and with quite flat shoes - through controlling the ankle flex. Note: The only time that the ankle should be flexed in skiing is when you are solidly on the heel, activating the tibialis anterior muscle. This is of course the opposite to advice give by intellectually challenged organisations such a BASI in the UK or the PSIA in the US.

Notre Dame du Pré
Had a great workout on the bike today - mainly because I didn't see another cyclist. The roads are still dry and the cold alone doesn't bother me. I covered 52km and 5700ft of climbing but it was about 20 minutes slower than a few weeks back mainly due to the legs being a bit tried from getting back into running. I took a  change of shirt to replace one layer close to the body before the final long and fast descent - but putting a soaking shirt and soaking polar fleece lined membrane back on top of it wasn't pleasant. It worked though. Felt great on the final sprint back up from the Isère river to Aime.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Ski Tignes 14th Nov 2011 (Another day at the office!)

When up to check out the conditions today. At this time of year it's normally close to minus 30°C with gale force winds and zero visibility. This year it's the complete opposite - perfect training conditions. Even the off piste is fun with both wind pack and ski pisted areas. Unusually for Tignes there is no overcrowding - for me that is as close to heaven as it gets.

Fresh snow is forecast for about a week from now and the temperature has just dropped so the snow machines can work at night. Last week we had a Foehn wind (South/ East) that brought the temperature up and prevented any snow production - but that has turned around now. Had to bring the chilli pepper plants in from the balcony so they don't keel over dead.

Off piste there are places with over a metre of powder - but you'd have to use skins to get back out. There's probably a lot more over at Le Fornet but that won't open for a couple of weeks yet - plus it's not safe over there until things have really settled in. I like to wait until at least the first round of avalanches have been triggered by others who are not so fussy about staying alive.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Macot ASC

Here's a photo of my replacement car...

Sorry - wrong photo - it's this one

The other one is what I would LIKE to have, but at $2,400,000 the Bugatti Veyron is slightly beyond my financial reach at present. If somebody would like to send me one for long term testing I could be persuaded to help out. I'm not sure how much the insurance would be though.

Macot Cycle Club
Back to reality and last night was the AGM of the Macot cycling club. Despite nobody actually ever contacting anyone else there and everyone just doing their own thing, the 43 members managed to stand on a total of 121 podiums during the summer - covering everything up from the cyclosportives to the top level amateur categories. I was very proud to have contributed one of those podium spots myself. Someone had gone to great trouble to make up displays and to my surprise I found myself in the middle of one - left, centre...

The evening saw the anglophone contingent grow by one more - to a total of 4 - all ski instructors. This means that the Macot club is now almost 10% anglophone (if Aussies count).

The temperature is dropping again despite a distinct lack of snow in the neighbourhood. Although that might bankrupt the entire local economy - which depends on skiing - at least we can still get out an maintain our fitness on the roads. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

10,000 kilometres

Very special day today - it's the 10,000 kilometre party for my Canyon racing bike - my faithful, utterly reliable and totally uncomplaining partner. That's 10K accumulated since it took to the road for the first time a year ago in the Spring. Nearly all the mileage has been in the high mountains and that makes quite a difference considering how rough the roads are. The bike is great quality and has stood up to it well. Probably better than I have!  

Second time in a row my training has been interrupted by big cows with big sharp horns occupying the road. It's that time of year when the cattle are brought down from the high Alpine pastures. I did get a bit nervous when the bull went past me with only about 2 feet of air separating us - those beasts are massive!

The dramatic clouds give an idea of how wild the weather is - but it is unseasonally warm at the moment. Last year the temperature plummeted on the 12th of November and stayed there for several months - so we'll see what happens next.

The training went well with the wind acting as a hard task master.  It's a foehn wind - which means that although the wind in our valley is coming from the East the air mass is warm and coming from the South. It has dumped almost 2 metres of snow on the Glacier at Val d Isère but nothing lower down the valley.

Each day on the bike there is something to learn. It's the first time I've actually enjoyed riding this bike in the wind and found it adding to the fun instead of being scary. It's taken 10,000 km on this ultra-light high performance machine to get to this point - so that it no longer feels like a wild stallion trying to throw me off when the wind gets up. I found it terrifying to begin with in the wind but now I love it. 

I've realised that I have to align my leg even more before pushing on the pedal (just like standing on a ski) - getting the bottom over to the opposite side of the bike (that's what it feels like). There is a distinct point where this gets the pressure on the ball of the foot. The movement across is much greater than I would have expected. It's a bit like swimming the crawl where the rotation is much greater than you expect if you are a die hard breaststroke swimmer. The effect of this motion when standing on the pedals is wonderful because it enhances the power of the pulling up as well. It makes it great fun to stand up and attack in a big gear. You can put your whole body into it. Feeling the pressure clearly on the ball of the foot helps to remind you to keep the foot muscles active and prevent the ankle from flexing under pressure - acting like a "power sponge". This is exactly the same as in downhill skiing - where the ankle needs to be extended (or extending) to stand strongly on the ball of the foot  - not flexed.

Decided to check my Zefal CO2 system which was mounted on a bracket next to a water bottle. I'd used "screw glue" to hold it on properly after losing two units already on the road. It has remained like this now for a couple of months - never having had a puncture I haven't touched it. To my horror it was impossible to remove the device with bare hands - I had to get pliers to do the job. Fat lot of use that would have been out in the wilds or during a race. Eventually after getting it off I discovered the entire unit was so heavily corroded that it was inoperable. The Zefal Air Control device is tiny and made out of aluminium - but it isn't anodised and simply rots both inside and outside rendering it useless. Using tools I opened the valve (as should be normally possible by hand) then dismantled it and cleaned it up thoroughly. Even the O ring in the interior was incorrectly seated. There was nothing functional at all with this device. Thank goodness that the tyres are phenomenal and I'm still on the original tyres which are only briefly removed for races - they have 9,000km without any punctures! (Continental 4000S) I greased the Air Control unit inside and outside and put it back together - greasing even the plastic protection cap and all the gaps that water could get in. Prior to that I checked that the mechanism was controlling air flow correctly by blowing through it. This time is shouldn't corrode again and I know it will work if ever it is needed! Part of the problem is water coming up from the front wheel so I've removed the bracket and placed the unit on the seat post where I had it before.

I tried Mark III of my ISBM (Improvised Smartphone Bike Mount) which was a lighter weight strip of inner tube cut and glued all properly and correctly - but it almost lost me the phone so I'm back to Mark II which worked perfectly and I'll stick with that. It needs the full "double" thickness of the inner tube to give the right tension and security for violent potholes in the road. Plus it's simpler - one section of inner tube tied in a granny knot and trimmed - plus one tiny carabiner to hold it together as explained 3 posts back.

Monday, November 7, 2011

CTL 90

Picked up a Nakamura membrane "soft shell" top for under €50 so that motivated me to go out and train the past few days - when there were gaps in the rain. During the Alpine summer the mornings are most often clear with storms arriving in the late afternoons. After Halloween it's the opposite with the bad weather in the mornings and clear spells being forced open by the afternoon sun. The temperature has risen again so the ski resorts are not getting a great deal of benefit from the precipitation and they can't artificially produce the snow either because that needs a temperature of -5°C or below. The only thing constant is the wind and that has made workouts the last two days particularly hard.

When hunting for clothing I came across these baby mice in a shop - all huddled together in the only shelter available.

With the bad weather there has been little motivation to photograph the mountains so I thought the mice would make a change anyway.

Didn't have the same energy levels as last week due mainly to going to sleep too late each night.  I should aim to try to maintain a CTL (Chronic Training Load) of around 90 over the winter and it's currently at 88 so that's fine but it doesn't leave any margin for periods when I can't train at all - like when working long hours every day during the winter.  It took me three months to get back up to 90 at the start of June this year - so maintaining 90 would effectively give a 3 month head start next year.

The only thing I noticed on the bike during those workouts was that I could align the body (letting the hip move backwards) to push on the pedal easier when standing up just by moving the bottom over to the opposite side. Some people ski this way - by dropping the hips into a turn. I think it's artificial in skiing and usually over done by those advocating it - but on the bike it feels just about right.

Even with the membrane I got chilled after an hour when I had to stop for a minute and failed to warm up again. The problem is that both my base layer and shirt were completely drenched with sweat after an hour and so was the polar interior of the membrane - so the insulation had failed already. Next time I'm going to put a plastic bin liner over my upper body before dressing so that it stops the sweat from soaking the layers. I just want to see if this can prevent the insulation from breaking down and the chill setting in.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Otherworld Training

Another animal workout - climbed up to Granier in 7th gear, big chainwheel for the first time working on strength. (ratio 54T/24T). I had no idea that I could maintain that force level. The climb time was only 30 seconds slower than my PB for this year. Must be the Halloween effect. It should be noted that France does not celebrate Halloween which is en effect the Celtic New year - despite Brittany being Celtic. The French celebrate "All Saints" on Nov 1st and "All Souls" on Nov 2nd as a Christian take on the Celtic Halloween - which was really marking the division between summer bright and light days and winter dark and dreary days. This day marking the division was also when the division between this world and the "otherworld" was thinnest and spirits could pass through. The costumes were to disguise yourself as a harmful spirit so that the real harmful ones would leave you alone - or something like that. The French don't quite get it though. Never-the-less today I rode past the perfect superstitious symbol and context as the short day ended...

Mont Pourri Glacier (what's left of it) in the setting sun - behind Les Arcs and in front of Tignes.

Over the Tarantaise valley to Peisey going all the way up to Tignes - forking to the left near the end.

New town centre café terrace  at Aime - photo from Sony Xperia Arc!

The last photo might seem out of context - but it isn't because following the workout a mad craving for pizza had to be satisfied and this meant a trek through the town.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Persistence Hunt - and avoiding Achilles injury!

This is a great YouTube video that shows why we are really born to run. You can see why we also have great abstract imagination - how else can you put yourself in an animals shoes and work out where it would go? Interesting to see that only one runner is chosen for the chase - this must be the tribe member with the highest proportion of slow twitch muscle fibres! Pity the guy is using running shoes though. Despite that - watch his left foot as it strikes the ground in slow motion - striking with the outside of the forefoot even though he's in clumsy modern shoes.

How ChiRunning can injure the Achilles and how to avoid this problem.
I've worked out why barefoot running has given me an Achilles tendon injury. In ChiRunning and Pose technique they talk a lot about relaxing the ankle and to avoid "pushing off" and so stressing the calves and Achilles - but there is a problem here. If you relax the ankle too much when trying to lengthen the stride behind you then it just turns into an Achilles tendon stretching exercise! The result of this is greater stress on the tendon and a shortening of the stride. If the ankle and foot are used then the stride is completed with the ankle extending and the foot flexing - lengthening the stride. Trying to completely relax and avoid pushing off causes the heel to remain on the ground as the body moves forward and for the foot to be just "picked up". This shortens the stride by almost the length of the foot and puts a slight stretch on the Achilles which eventually leads to injury. The ankle and foot have to remain active and strong so they can't be completely relaxed. The foot and ankle might not be needed directly for propulsion - but it's the final part of stabilising the height of the centre of mass as it "falls" forward - the ankle and foot lengthen the stride and maintain the constant height of the Centre of Mass. This is missed out in ChiRunning.

ISBM Mark 2

Mark II of the Improvised Smartphone Bike Mount
The ISBM Mark II was built and tested today. It has several major benefits over yesterday's mark I. 
  1. Less stress is placed on the body of the phone so there is less chance of snapping it in half.
  2. More streamlined.
  3. Better looking.
  4. Detachable.
A slightly longer section of inner tube was needed. The tube ends are again tied in a knot and then two sides are brought together under the stem and attached to each other with a small lightweight aluminium key ring type carabiner. It makes a neater, more streamlined and very secure holder. Once again it was inadvertently tested on nasty potholes at speed and didn't even shake. The Endomondo app was used and Poweramp for music.

Despite feeling tired from yesterday I had to take advantage of the great weather and get out for another ride. This weather can't last.

I put Endomondo into the "Beat Yourself" mode and chose the previous "Tarantaise Valley" workout which is around 45km and 90 minutes. The previous time I'd improved this route by 8 minutes and stayed on the big chainwheel even going up towards Les Arcs - so given the tiredness from yesterday it might not have been a good idea to race against that. Once again it was an unseasonal teeshirt and shorts day. Although the air was a bit fresh there was no need for extra clothing in the end - but I had some with me just in case. After the first kilometre I was 2 seconds ahead - feedback being supplied from Endomondo through the earphones. Surprisingly, despite a strong headwind the gap continued to slowly grow - at first. Arriving at the Montgirod climb after about 7km it had grown to around 20 seconds. Getting kilometre split time feedback every few minutes is a really motivating stimulus. It's like having a coach with you in a support car telling you how much time you are losing or gaining in a time trial against your competition. Just knowing that you are a few seconds either way really pushes you to maintain or improve the time. This time I tried to do the climb with the big chainwheel and 2nd gear - one higher that the last time. It's only with the recent improvements in alignment and coordination that I've been able to generate enough power to do this without feeling like my body was going to tear apart. It's brutal placing so much force on a pedal but as long as the bones are aligned well and the core muscles engaged then it's not so hard. There was no hint of knee pain and with this alignment absolutely no strain on the back. Sometimes this makes my lower back click in several spots - like a chiropractor  - but it's a nice feeling that I normally only get when stretched over backwards on a Swiss ball. It's a bit scary powering so hard on a climb because you don't want to get tired too quickly - but perhaps the body can do more than expected. By the top of the climb I had gained another 30 seconds and proved that the bigger gear makes for faster climbing.

On returning to Aime at the end of the first 15km loop the advantage was now 1'27" and with the legs feeling tired this was surprising because setting the original time about 10 days earlier had been very tough.  Sure enough the next 15 kilometres, gently but consistently uphill on the cycle track by the Isère river to Bourg Saint Maurice, would be a battle the whole way to avoid losing time. Despite working as hard as possible, dodging kids and apparently deaf people walking on the path (it's actually THE most dangerous place to cycle) I had dropped 2 seconds on reaching the climb to Les Arcs. I was certain now that pay back time had arrived and the the climb would see the all time advantage vanish. If anything I'd been fighting to at least maintain the time advantage for as long as possible because of anticipating a catastrophic collapse at some point on the return leg. Oddly enough the opposite happened. Big chainwheel again! The steep start to the Les Arcs forced me down to 1st gear on the sprockets but I was soon able to get into 2nd and keep a good pace. Most of the climb was made in 2nd (7th gear in total when including all the available ratios). By the top of the climb another 30 seconds had been gained. The steep narrow descent back to the valley floor is a little bit dodgy here because it is frequented by the White Van Man. White Van Man is like Agent Smith in The Matrix - he is all over the place, threatening to take over the planet and trying relentlessly to kill you. I used the descents to work on cornering skills - sliding off the saddle, dropping my bottom to the inside of the turn like a motorbike racer. Oddly I've never seen this done on bicycles but it is easy - just raise the heel and knee on the outside leg and that lets you move your bum without risk of the inside pedal going down to the floor. It does feel more secure having the centre of mass further into the turn and the bike itself more upright. Oddly - or perhaps Not oddly - this is very similar to how the Centre of Mass controls a turn in skiing - the key always being to get that Centre of Mass to the inside - the angle of the ski to the snow being largely a secondary issue.

The long ride back to Aime would be against the wind but most of it downhill. The wind exacted it's toll and about 30 seconds were lost again. Once again though I was surprised at the strength available and was able to power along the whole way and attack the climb up to Macot faster than usual - recovering the lost 30 seconds on the climb. The final descent towards Aime was fun and the steep climb back up from the Isère was tackled in a much higher gear than usual. It's a great feeling being able to keep the power on and keep the speed up on a short steep climb. The whole body has to be used to the maximum. In the end the overall time gain was 2'10". that's not a lot over 90 minutes but the whole thing is an exercise in motivation. The Smartphone technology is really excellent in this respect.