Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Aberdeen Workout

Today it was time to take a break from working on my flat in Aberdeen and get out for a ride on the bike.  This was probably more a requirement for my mental health than physical health.

Late 19th century skyline! The modern flats opposite have plain simple roofs with no objects sticking out.

The past week, driving 2000 kilometres from the Alps to here via Dover, through a million speed cameras, arriving in endless pouring rain, finding a flat with the lock changed, all kitchenware stolen and various other issues, memories flooding in of things that didn’t work out 29 years ago – all made for a “week from hell” scenario.  Add to that the fact that I hate decorating and DIY because it’s indoors and absolutely not what I ever want to be doing with my time – then the endless mind numbing process of sanding, painting, cleaning and shopping for bits and pieces becomes profoundly unwelcome. All the local parking areas are now covered in parking meters and I have to park a kilometre away – so I spent a lot of time walking in the rain. Aberdeen city centre is like a magnet for degenerates.  There is a centre for junkies somewhere near the main street and they use the chemist close by my flat to get their methadone etc.  One flat owner recently found some junkies living in our basement. Needless to say my cellar has had the lock forced and everything of value stolen from it – for the second time.  Day two here I was directly propositioned for sex in Union street – “Do you want some sex?” – No thanks! – Yuck! Having to frequent McDo’s to get internet access is like making a deal with the devil. I feel sorry for the people working behind the counter, obliged to deal with some of the aggressive and nasty dregs walking, waddling or shuffling their way in there. Horrible, horrible, horrible! I’m not referring to the poor homeless and generally harmless beggars – who are quite prolific here – but the loudmouth, tattooed, ear ringed, anti-social thugs who seem sometimes to outnumber the rest here. There’s something about exceedingly fat arsed girls in tiny tight skirts with their knickers showing that would only permit regular McDo’s hardened clientele to be able to actually keep anything in their stomachs. What a vile place. I plunged myself during the week into a frenzy of stodgy comfort eating – focused on all my old familiar favourite foods – like deep fried battered Haddock and chips and Yorkie bars and must have easily gained a kilo or two of fat instantly. I really needed very badly to get out on the bike and break this cycle. Thank goodness I came here by car and brought the bike with me – and that Paul was here to provide motivation and guidance for the route.

Paul and I agreed that Tuesday would be a good day and I’d advanced enough with the work to feel comfortable about taking a day off.  It turned out to be the first day of sunshine and warmth in the whole of May here so it was very lucky. We were able to get out in summer cycling gear and just focus on the ride and not the weather.

Prior to the start of the workout I saw a young eagle overhead. I know it was young because it had white patches under each wing – but I don’t know exactly what species it was, though it appeared to be a young Golden Eagle. This reminded me of home in France where eagles have a constant presence – and today it was just outside of Aberdeen. Already the city was being cleansed from my thoughts.

Perhaps due to sleeping on an inflatable travel mattress on the floor and contorting my body during the painting – plus the horror 2000k drive – week-long junk food fest  - or from walking so much – my legs felt bad right from the start. The quads hurt the moment I started to pedal and stayed that way for the entire 4hr 18min workout. I had to compensate through using technique – working from the spine and using the core muscles – connecting the push and pull - taking the load away from the quads by using the glutes when possible. Only towards the end on the final few climbs when drinking natural tap water was upsetting my stomach did I have to back off a bit – but consuming an almond sugar bar seemed to mostly sort that out. I also felt a craving for sugar so was probably close to bonking.  It’s weird that plain water can have that effect. The first time it happened to me I thought that the water was contaminated – but now that it’s happened several times I recognise the effect. It only happens after about 4 hours of hard effort – usually after the 100k mark – perhaps of course because by then I’m out of sports drink and running on pure water. The longest ride I’d managed this year so far was only 79k so this was 50% longer and it’s not surprising that the end was getting a bit hard. Paul had been very thoughtful all the time checking to see if I wanted to take a shorter route – but it was my call to take the long one because I knew that I needed it. Despite the day being excellent and constructive I couldn’t really enjoy the workout with the struggle going on but I think that Paul managed to enjoy it. On June 10th in Mégève it will hurt a great deal more – so I don’t mind going through this for the purpose of adapting.

Paul was in good form and he set the pace from the start – he was guiding anyway because I didn’t know the route – but at least for the first half of the day I avoided slipstreaming to make sure I wasn’t being lazy. I wasn’t going to be able to take over the lead in my condition so we couldn’t work in turns to set a faster pace. Nearly all the time I was battling just to hold position – but that was good because on my own I’d definitely have dropped to a much lower pace on a day like this.

Last year I’d remarked on how I found Paul’s seemingly irregular pace on the climbs a bit difficult to adjust to and today I discovered the origins of this issue! The overall accumulated climbing was not great – only about 1100m - but it felt like we were always climbing because there were endless short and sharp hills, complimented often with long moderate gradients. Paul attacks the short hills with a high cadence and manages to maintain his speed because he knows that the climbs are short. Usually close to the summit his cadence and speed slow down. The endless “interval” style training on those hills is what has developed the same surging when climbing the long hills in the Alps. I’m the opposite in that I’m used to very long climbs so I never start a climb fast. When I get into a rhythm I usually pick up speed after several minutes and then push hard close to the summit because I know I’m going to make it without exploding. I try not to change pace too often during a climb and I’m not used to big changes of rhythm.

Regardless whether or not my legs were hurting I think that my training base of 546 miles this year to Pauls 1300 miles was more of an issue than any immediate physical discomfort. My calculator tells me that this is 9.291037331 x (10 to the power of -11) light years.

Paul seems to get his training effect from pushing constantly hard on the flats and moderate gradients. This is similar to some of the races I’ve encountered outside of the Alps and it is an art in itself. When there is a long mountain climb it’s like the effort is imposed upon you, but in gently rolling terrain you have to assert the same effort. It should be the same thing really, but it isn't.

There is no way I could retrace our route because there were so many junctions. In France all my training routes have a minimum of junctions and a maximum amount of endless climbing. I think that on the tour of Savoie (including the Col de la Madeleine and the Col de l’Isèran) in over 220km there are 2 junctions and well over 4000m climbing. I like that because even if my brain goes into a catatonic state I still don’t get lost.

We stopped at a small shop in Fettercairn for a lunch break. It is a quaint village with a small shop with one bench, table and parasol outside. This was one of the very few days of the year that a parasol would actually be used for anything other than deflecting rain. The lady in the shop made up sandwiches which Paul kindly paid for as I'd run out of sterling and only had euros or a credit card. I always take a credit card on a long ride - it's like a "get out of jail free" card if everything goes pear-shaped. Our lunch break probably dragged on a bit too long because it was too pleasant sitting outside in the sun and warmth with a lot of chat to catch up on. The roads and traffic in Scotland don't permit too much cycling side by side so there isn't a lot of talking on the bike. One of the great things about riding in the Alps is that drivers are much more aware and respectful of cyclists because cycling has always been a strong part of French culture. Road racing was banned in the UK over a century ago and reduced the UK from having the strongest competitive cycling culture in the word to zero overnight - a situation which is only starting to be reversed now due to the violent pseudo-environmentalist socialist reaction against cars and anything producing CO2. Ironically cyclists produce CO2 but that doesn't seem to matter. When we stopped to eat I wasn't hungry - which is odd - but I made myself eat. I was however drinking much more than usual and not needing to pee at all - even two coffees didn't make any difference there. I even felt a slight respiratory problem when waiting inside the shop shortly after dismounting the bike. Sometimes I get this after stopping at the end of very hard races - when I feel like I can't breathe for a minute or so - but never on training workouts. My family have a genetic disposition to very serious asthma, but other than being badly poisoned with polyurethane paint once I have only experienced very brief and very mild events a handful of times in my life. Lots of very odd things happening here. One thing for sure is that I'll not be touching another Big Mac no matter how hungry I get.

I had a few technical problems with changing up to the big chainwheel. The chain was being pushed over too far sometimes and then coming off. I'll have to tighten the range limiter screw a little. The problem with the Osymmetric chainwheel is that to go up to the big ring you have to remove all pressure off the pedals or it won't go. Even a very slight tension will stop it and then you try to force it with the dérailleur  instead of backing off with the feet. I figured out the problem when setting up the gears on the work stand when all the changing was perfect with just pressure from the hands and then impossible when pedalling. Paul's new chain was jumping badly as it was bedding in.

The only problem when slipstreaming in Scotland is that you are guaranteed to visit a few nasty potholes. The roads are generally worse than on the continent.

Despite tiredness and the difficulty I was having during the ride I felt refreshed and regenerated afterwards. It's like having the brain and body flushed out and cleaned - a very good feeling.

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