Saturday, 19 January 2013

Armstrong Revisited

Revelations or confirmation of that which we already were 99% sure of Mr Armstrong raised his ugly head again this week to a bandwagon of publicity but with the majority shouting out that he should not be forgiven and that he was not contrite enough.  I spent an hour and forty five minutes watching the interviews (thank God for Sky+ to get rid of the adverts) and was absorbed by it.  Like a great many people I had been taken in by Mr Armstrong and the story of his survival from cancer and miraculous rise to the pinnacle of the Tour de France several times no less.  I have many thoughts going on in my head regarding the subject and will try and share some the best I can with you.

The first thing that struck me about the interviews was the number of times I had a feeling that Mr Armstrong was trying not to break out into a wry smile.  He answered the questions very honestly that were put to him but he didn’t seem genuinely concerned.  Another point which I scoffed at was that he was unaware of what a big deal he was.  How can someone with a massive foundation winning a marquee sporting event each year not have a clue that they are ‘big’? 

I am I have to say a little sympathetic in some respects.  A majority of the competitors at the time were doing a cocktail of drugs and there are a few things that rangle with me still in that Armstrong has been made a scapegoat for the generation and that if it wasn’t him it would have been someone else.  I am not trying to justify it the whole era was a farcical mess which will have a massive impact on cycling for years to come.  I don’t think it helps that certain individuals were welcomed back with open arms to compete again after a few months or years bans.  In my opinion once you are banned you should not be allowed to compete again within elite sport.  This is regardless of peer pressure etc being put on people to take drugs in the first place.  The other issue that I have is that Mr Armstrong did create an organisation to help people with cancer to cope.  This has undoubtedly helped a large number of people over the years and will hopefully continue to.  It would be a huge shame for this organisation to fail on the back of one man’s obvious and gross flaws.  If there is one thing that he has done right though it is Livestrong.

Having read a number of witness accounts, the USADA report and a platitude of column inches over the past few months along with a number of programmes and internet videos I am now long since over my hero worship of Mr Armstrong.  I don’t think Mr Armstrong can be given a second chance.  He ruined too many people’s reputations, lied for too long and was nonchalant about the fact he had doped in the context of the racing believing still he was on a level playing field.  After this I do not want to hear his name for a long time although I fear there is more to come.

I want to move on swiftly from this and concentrate on the sport I now know and love.  Geraint Thomas summed it up perfectly for me in an interview with the BBC
"I don't think he deserves any more air time than what he's (Armstrong) got.
"We can all just finally move on and learn from it, and stop talking about him and actually talk about what's happening today
"Talk about the future, the clean riders that are doing everything that they can. That's what it's all about."

Sunday, 13 January 2013

All Heart

Bit of an update on the training for the last month and a bit.  Very very positive to be honest.  I have combined gym and cycling doing two gym sessions a week and six days of cycling.  Some of the six days are commuting miles but every little helps.  It did my spirit good doing a wattbike session with Mark O’Reilly shame he has to go back to the Army!  I completed a 20 minute power test with Mercury Training ( ) on Saturday.  It was the first one I had done so didn’t judge the first part amazingly well I think there was a little left in the tank at the end of the test.  There was certainly a few heart beats left to go to maximum.  This brings me nicely on to the blog title.  There are two reasons for the title.  One is the psychological aspect of my training and the other is the recovery element.

Mercury have asked me to monitor my resting heart rate (HR) in the morning before I get out of bed.  It did take a bit of remembering and getting used to but I am not in the habit of providing the data to them along with a morning weight.  My resting HR did surprise me somewhat the average of the week was 52 beats per minute.  I was very pleased with this as it shows a good level of fitness.  Mercury are monitoring to make sure that I am not overtraining.  I had a rough nights sleep mid week getting four hours due to my little lady not been well and my resting heart rate reflected that in the morning moving to 63 beats per minute.

This leads me into the psychology of the HR monitoring.  The days where I awoke with the lower more average HR readings I felt great on the bike and the commute was very easy and uneventful.  I could push and wasn’t tired when I arrived at work and home.  The day the HR was elevated I am not sure if it was physical or psychological but the commute was a massive effort and I felt tired at the end of the last commute home.  The speed dropped and the avg HR was higher for the commute home.  I think it will be a little bit of both.  Moving on from that the power test on Saturday morning allowed me an opportunity to zone in and push myself.  I could see the HR on the monitor and even though I felt tired I knew that there was more to give.  Trying to hit a sweet spot was good of between 169 – 177 bpm and I knew if I went over this small zone I would be ‘in the red’.  This allowed me to make sure the effort was pretty consistent and provided good readings.

The gym sessions have been providing a real sense of moving forward with the training.  I am doing two per week and the are consisting of upper body toning, core work and a long period of flexibility work.  The session is lasting about 50 minutes which I am happy with at the moment.  I am going to try and fit another session in before or after work.  I am also looking to start getting some more miles in on the bike.  The last two Sundays have seen a longer ride due to the nice, but cold, weather.

Thanks very much for reading!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

2012 - 2013

I hope you had a Merry Christmas and I wish you a very Happy New Year.  May all that you wish for be achieved.

This is a bit of a 2012 review and a 2013 goal set.  In 2012 I set the following as goals;

  • 2-3 stones weight needs to be shifted
  • Manchester to Blackpool in better than the 4hr 30mins I took this year.  
  • I also want to attempt the Manchester 100miler again this year and come in under 6 hours hopefully more towards the 5 hours 30minutes mark.
  • The Big Red Bike Ride in June, it will be 600miles in 6 days which will be my biggest challenge yet. 
  • June will also see me try and complete my first half marathon.  I am looking to sign up for the Humber Bridge half marathon.

I managed to shift a stone and a half, which I am pleased with.  2013 will see a further loss at approximately 1kg a week.  This has been set by the coaches at Mercury Training (  Stuart and David.  This will motivate me more to achieve the target.  On the Manchester to Blackpool goal we did it in 3hrs 36 minutes nearly an hour’s improvement on the 2011 effort this was achieved shortly after returning from Ireland and I believe I was probably at my peak for the season at this point.  The Manchester 100 was not quite as successful.  The first half of the sportive was in poor weather and I struggled a little with it.  Considering this I was pleased with the 6hrs 21minutes I did.  This was a ten minute improvement on my attempt in 2011.  The Big Red Bike Ride was amazing.  You can read a number of exerts about the trip in this very blog if you take a look at June 2012.  On the running front I don’t think it will happen yet until I am significantly lighter and have had something done with the knee.  I am hoping one day to run again as my good friend Steve Wingfield has shown this year it is entirely achievable.

2012 Ride Stats:

Total Miles:                 4250 (11 months total as injured for November)
Avg Speed:                 14.5mph
Time:                           299:17:44 h:m:s
Elevation Gain:           97,648 ft
Avg HR:                     145 bpm
Avg Bike Cadence:     76 rpm
Calories:                      241,594 C

2013 will see some changes for the better I am positive this will occur.  My goals are as follows;

  • Drop to 90kg (ish)
  • Complete a 10mile and 25mile TT competitively
  • Continue to ride a number of sportives and include one abroad.
  • Knock time off Manchester 100 mile time.  Hopefully a substantial amount
  • Increase my average miles per hour substantially.  (2nd half of 2012 avg was nearly 1.5mph faster then the average for the 1st half of the year)

I would just like to thank everyone who has helped me.  All the people who I have ridden with this year.  Special thanks to Mark O’Reilly again for his companionship during the year.  I am sad (but proud) that he has joined the Army and we will only be occasional riding buddies in 2013.   A big thanks to Rich Salisbury from Pedal Precision (  who again has advised and tinkered with my setup to help me.  A big thanks to Evans Cycles and especially Ted Gordon/Chris Hardisty for the help and support and to the various other people I mither through the year for advice. 

I am looking forward in 2013 to linking up with Mercury Performance coaches and hopefully seeing a massive improvement.  Also to continue my love affair with cycling after an amazing 2012.

Happy New Year!!