Back in September when I started thinking about the Double, I realised that my fitness needed to severely improve. I didn’t know anything about my heart rate except that it ticked a bit faster when doing exercise, and I had no idea about warming up or stretching. I just liked to get on my bike and ride.
Extending my weekly rides from 30 to 40 miles was the first step, but I was aware that a lot more needed to be done. Why I even contemplated riding 200 miles still puzzles me. Realising that I needed a lot of help, I contacted Steve Young from Forever Young Fitness. Steve is a member of Redhill Cycling Club who had recently coached and cycled with a team 3000 miles across America (RAAM) in just 6½ days. Following a lively evening we found that we were both as mad as each other in taking on these outrageous challenges. His first task was to give me a fitness test where I think he used the adjective ‘pants’ to describe my core strength. We both had our work cut out to get me into shape.
During the following months we devised a training schedule with 4 sessions a week on a 5 week rotation. The 5th week was for resting with a reduced training target. Developing my core on a Gym Ball, cross training in the pool and paying close attention to my diet in reducing a few unnecessary pounds, my body went from strength to strength. Regular fitness tests supported the improvements along with the meticulous details I recorded after each ride.
Finding the time to cram in all the training can have a big impact on family life. Fortunately I am able to do most of my training at home on the turbo trainer or find times when the rest of the family are busy elsewhere. I was also eating like a horse, now with the right types of food, and sleeping very well.
One of my recent successes was completing the HONC (Hell Of the North Cotswolds) 100k hilly ride in just over 5 hours. This knocked at least an hour off my best 100k distance providing a massive psychological boost. This week I repeated a fitness test I did back in December. The turbo trainer was set to simulate going up a hill that gets steeper nearer the top. In December I managed ¾ of the hill before my heart rate peaked and I ran out of juice. This week I cruised up the hill, along the simulated ridge at the top and up the next section. The power output had increased by a massive 64%.
The next area to focus on is my endurance. I have therefore planned a series of 70 to 100+ mile rides each week that should stretch out my stamina. I need to slow myself down to an overall speed between 9 and 10 mph so I can stick out the distance. All my rides feature an average of 100 feet of climbing per mile to replicate the hills on the South Downs (10,000 feet over 100 miles). Box Hill is a favourite where I would often climb it 3 – 4 times on a single ride.