Sunday, 11 November 2012

Tour of the Cenotaphs

Here's a novelty, I'm going to write about cycling. I rode just under 50 miles this morning, getting out at 7.45, reasonably early for the winter months, and this is just going to be a series of unconnected ramblings that occurred to me as I rode.

First, the title. Well, the route inadvertently turned into a tour of churches, parades and cenotaphs where cubs, guides, ATC, Army folk, ex-servicepeople, local dignitaries and brass bands were marking Remembrance Sunday. Actually, one of my encounters was deliberate - my stepfather was in one of the brass bands, playing and marching through Macclesfield, so I stopped off in the square to video him. (Do we still say 'video' now it's all digital? What do the kids call it?), and very impressive and moving he and his band were too. I felt a bit guilty I wasn't participating in a proper service myself, but I did have more than two minutes of quiet reflection as I pounded the lanes.

OK, what else? Well, I hadn't really been out for a decent run on Cheshire roads for a while, and sad to report, among the hordes of other cyclists, and there must be a fair few new ones in there, the practice of acknowledging each other seems to be dying out. I still raise my hand, tip my helmet or otherwise cheerily greet my fellow veloists, but I must only get a response from perhaps 20% or so these days. And that 20% seem to either have beards, or be over 50, or both. I guess it's a combination of the culture not being there with the new riders, and the sheer ubiquity of cyclists, especially at the weekends. After all, we don't acknowledge other cars when we're driving do we? It still feels as though we're losing something good however. I have a suspicion, nevertheless, that 46 year olds have been writing stuff like this paragraph since about 1945 - "Ee, these youngsters Bert...."  "I know Ernie, no respect"....blah blah.

Training - I went like a train today for some reason. The sunny weather and last night's mighty fine homemade curry played their part, but I also think it's something to do with the fact I did a short but hard session on the turbo trainer yesterday.  Out on the road, I never use a heart rate monitor, preferring to ride on "feel", but I do like to train reasonably scientifically on the turbo. During the winter I use Coggan's (the original 'training by powermeter' guru) old favourite 2x20 minute session, where after a 10 min warm-up and with a 10 min break for easy riding recovery, you do 2 lots of 20 mins at 85% of your Functional Threshold of Power (FTP), where FTP is the highest power you can hold for an hour.  You obviously have to find that our first; fortunately there's a 20 min test you can do rather than the full hour, so that's what I did yesterday afternoon. The idea is that 2 of those 2x20 sessions a week is enough to increase your FTP without unduly stressing your body. Sounds good to me, and I have to say, it seems to work. Turns out my FTP is 299w, measured yesterday, on my turbo, with yesterday's tyre pressures etc etc. What's less important than the actual number is the trend, and I'll measure myself again in a month's time. I know it sounds a bit boring and geeky, but it's just lovely getting to a hill out on the road and knowing you've got the capacity to go up it without too much stress. With most British hills, you don't have to train on them to get good at them, they're just not long enough, so turbo training can be really effective. Pyrenean or Alpine ones, however, are a different story....

Part of my route today took me through Tatton Park, a lovely traditional estate complete just outside Knutsford with ancient trees, meres, and deer. And oh my goodness, how those deer have got comfortable with humans. They didn't bat an eyelid as a bowled through within yards of them, and one big fellow was sitting down on his haunches so close to the road that if I'd tried to indicate left my hand would have brushed his antlers. I'm not even sure he'd have been that bothered. Normally when I'm that close to them I'm eating them. Venison, mmmmmm.

All in all, a good ride. In fact, it was one of those rides that are so good they turn me into an unbearable tigger for an hour or so when I get home, bouncing round the house, gushing about how brilliant cycling is. After that I turn back into an unbearable old git, at which point it's time to write the blog.

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