Yesterday I went for the longest spin for quite a while outside of the 100km metric challenge spins. It took me across the border into Co. Tyrone to Strabane and Newtownstewart before returning via Castlederg and Drumquin for 80km.
As the weather had been settled and dry all week and I had an extra day off for St. Patrick’s Day I managed to ride my bike for 5 days and this spin brought me to 232km for the week. This spin wasn’t just about the mileage though. It was a great day for the bike with dry, bright weather and very little wind for most of the ride. What made it so enjoyable was the ability to lift my head and take in all around me and enjoy the day.
birdsong in all the wooded areas, noisy and full of life.
the miniature horse with legs so short and hair so long he looked like he was floating above the ground.
the old man out for his slow, careful walk smiling at the nonsense of me taking photos of my bike on the pedestrian bridge in Strabane.
the weir at Sion Mills flashing white through the bare trees.
newborn lambs bleating in the fields and anxiously staying close to their mothers.
the group of swans swimming in a flooded area of a field briefly glimpsed at just the right time across the top of a high hedge.
the colourful giant display of a gnome family along the river in Newtownstewart complete with decorated toadstools.
meeting an ex work colleague passing through Newtownstewart and stopping for a half hour chat.
the brand new display board for the International Appalachian Way in Baronscourt forest.
windmills turning lazily, catching and reflecting brief glimpses of sunshine.
pigs squealing in a farm shed outside Castlederg making me think of banjos and a film I haven’t actually seen.
roadside displays full of bright yellow daffodils.
spotting the often seen but recently missing horse from a roadside paddock in a new location in another field.
the hound with long ears and short legs that barks and valiantly tries to chase every time I pass his house and making me smile every single time.
I expected it to be difficult to keep up the level of activity of the last few weeks when I went back to work but I had a plan for the week. I didn’t plan on multiple days of stormy wind and rain though.
Tuesday onwards has been pretty grim which had a big impact on my cycling. My plan was 60km each of my days off (Wednesday and Sunday) with 25km two mornings before work (Tuesday and Friday). Tuesday morning wasn’t happening as I really needed the extra hour in bed. Wednesday I did get out but the worst of the storm was to hit that afternoon into Thursday so I only managed a wet and windy 26km. It was still stormy Friday morning so the bike was out again. Today it’s Mother’s Day and #2 son’s 13th birthday so 2.5hrs on the bike was never going to happen. I had hoped for an hour in the morning but a walk was just about enjoyable, a cycle would have been hateful. A total of 26km for the week, how the mighty have fallen!
Walking has been more successful. I’ve managed to keep up my streak of walking every day. Even on the wettest days it’s not hard to dress up appropriately and make it at least partially enjoyable. My target for the week is 30km and finishing on 28.9 my only issue was skipping the 2km walk on Thursday morning. Heavy rain and hail showers was not my idea of a good way to start the day.
The biggest result of the week has been finally starting a strength and conditioning program. I’ve been following the Chain Reactions kettlebell routine from YouTube. Monday, Thursday, Saturday with a 2km warm up walk (skipped on Thursday). I’ve also added in some upper body movements to give a 25-30min routine. I was very stiff on Wednesday but OK since and hopefully it’s the start of a new habit.
Over the last fortnight I’ve enjoyed two of the very best cycling weeks I’ve ever had. With a great dry spell I’ve been able to get out every day bar two. One of these was when a storm blew in and the other was yesterday as I went back to work.
In two weeks I’ve managed to cycle slightly over 600km. To put that in context my target to hit 6,000km for the year is 500km per month.
Apart from my “31 Days of Biking” Challenge in August last year, which was mostly short daily rides I have to go back to the “Every Day in May” Challenge in 2017 to get consistent high mileage like this. That month included one week of 517km which had my first ever Audax event (205km) followed the next day by a 106km Club spin that nearly killed me!
This consistent cycling has also had a significant impact on my fitness. I can feel it in my legs but it’s measurable according to Strava. A score of 79 is probably a lot lower than many other people but my highest score for the last two years (limit of Strava’s charts) was a very brief 81 in October. This time last year it was approximately 30, two years ago it was 12!
The challenge now is to maintain my great start to the month. These two weeks have put me back on track for my yearly target but this weather won’t last much longer and now that I’m working again I’ll have to be more organised. I have a plan that gets me to 170km per week across 4 days using two mornings before work and my two days off. I also want to start some much needed strength and conditioning training while keeping up with the walking. All of that is in the plan too which starts tomorrow morning.
The good weather has stayed around for another week. Not as warm and sunny as last week but despite the grey skies and chilly winds it has stayed dry which is the most important. As my fitness is at a pretty good level and I’m going back to work tomorrow I thought it would be a good idea to get my 100K done nice and early this month, especially as the weather may not last.
I was tempted to go a longer route this month, especially having seen one of the guys in the club doing a great 110K route last week. However, I’m still not comfortable going far from home and having to use garages and shops for comfort breaks and food stops. I decided to stick with a similar route to the last two to be on the safe side and be able to have my break at home again.
I modified it slightly again though. This time I did three overlapping loops. Clady to Ballybofey (37km), Strabane to Killygordon (37km) and Clady to Killygordon (26km). I had my break at 74km which was perfect again. This route worked really well as there was a gusty, cold SE breeze. This was a real hassle on the first loop but the second one used the wind better by going down the sheltered back road and back the main road with a bit of a tailwind. The third loop was OK too but short enough not to matter.
At 52km the sun came out briefly and I stopped to eat a bar and admire the huge 5.5m tall metal sculpture at the border in Strabane. It’s officially called “Let the Dance Begin” but in typical irreverent Irish humour it’s known locally as “The Tinnies” as Tinney is a local surname. The artist is Maurice Harron who is a very far out family relation. The site of the sculpture is highly significant too as it’s the former location of the “Camel’s Hump” British Army border checkpoint from The Troubles and dismantled in 1999 after the signing of The Good Friday Agreement (1998).
The tone of the recent government announcements about lockdown restrictions suggest that we might see some relaxations from early April. I hope to go somewhere more interesting and further away for next month’s challenge🤞
This morning was getting some jobs done about the house. Tempocyclist will be glad to hear that one of them was cleaning my bike which was on the plan before he published his latest blog 😄
Post lunch the idea was a ride on the road bike of approximately 60km but I just couldn’t get motivated for it. I think it may have been a bit of burnout after 6 days in a row but I’m mostly blaming it on the weather. It was cold here all day with a mist hanging just overhead giving a hateful grey and gloomy feel to the day. Just over 2 hours on the road in that was totally unappealing.
Instead I decided to get the MTB out instead. I fancied an hour or so wandering around the local roads and forests. I ditched the usual gear and threw my walking trousers over my bib shorts and stuck on my hiking shoes having switched my bike pedals to the flats. I wanted to be able to jump off the bike and do a bit of exploring in Monellan.
In the end up I was out for almost 2.5hours including just over half an hour exploring. I even took time to stop for a few photos.
A slog on the road turned into a great local wander. I even found a cracking spot along the river for tomorrow morning. I’m really glad I decided to change my plans.
Believe or not completing this on the very last day of the month was according to plan. Since last weekend when it was clear that Spring was coming this week and that cycling was back on the cards I’d planned to do my 100K spin yesterday. However, a bit of over exuberance and lack of thought on route choices on Friday left me with a much bigger week than expected. This forced me to rearrange the weekend and make Saturday a recovery day.
As I said yesterday recovery rides are not my forte. I set out with the best of intentions but it usually ends up a normal ride, slightly slower and with my cadence on the higher side. My legs were tired and achy yesterday which forced me to focus on my form and actually resulted in a proper low power and heart rate spin at a higher cadence. As a result today felt great.
In Covid times I’m still not comfortable being very far from home so I chose to ride a similar route to last month. I shortened it slightly to give me 2 full laps of approx 37km plus a final shorter lap of approx 26km. I felt the meal break at 50km was too early last month but 75km turned out to be perfect today. It was nice to get back to the house, eat something proper and stretch out for a bit. Having a short lap to finish was also a nice mental boost to get going again.
The nicest part of the day was just under 5km from home. A little girl, about 7 years old, came along the pavement just as I was pulling away from traffic lights. She called out “I saw you this morning too”. She was absolutely delighted with herself and full of happiness. It put a big smile on my face that took me all the way home.
I’m heading back to work on Saturday and the weather is set to be good again all week. If all goes according to plan I hope to repeat this ride on Thursday 🤞
To put that in perspective I’ve cycled further in the last seven days than I did for either of the whole months of December (173km) and January (206km). The dramatic change is down to a big improvement in the weather. Spring (or is it “fool’s Spring“) finally arrived on Sunday and somehow managed to hang around all week. Tuesday was the only blip as another storm blew in but it was a price worth paying for the rest of the week.
It’s taken a toll though, going from virtually nothing to this level. Last night I was very tired. My legs were aching and this morning I had an annoying tightness in my calves. My original plan was to get my February Metric Challenge spin done today but yesterday’s spin, with a very tough climb in the middle, was the wrong preparation for that on top of the rest of the week.
I decided to switch my 100km plan to tomorrow and instead went for a 26km recovery spin this morning. My legs are so much happier this evening which should make tomorrow a lot more enjoyable.
I’ve managed to get a decent variety of spins too. Four of them were reasonably hilly varying from 32 to 62km on similar but slightly different routes, one was a cadence interval session on a flatter route and today was an active recovery on the same route.
The last two are something different for me. I’ve never really done a proper interval spin or recovery ride before. The cadence ride was a mix of low/high cadence to build power in my legs and today was a proper high cadence, low power/heart rate ride. Riding slow and easy is more difficult than you would think but I definitely needed it today and focused to make sure I did it properly.
I’ve also managed to keep up the walking. As the evenings are stretching out I’ve been able to get home, get cleaned and changed, eat and relax for at least an hour before going for a decent walk. The last few days though I’ve stopped carrying the additional weight as my legs have tired with the consecutive days of cycling.
photos from the week
The weather is set to continue with no rain forecast until Sunday next week and thankfully a respite from the pretty strong winds I fought for most of last week. I also got news that I’m needed back to work at the end of next week so I plan to make the most of this good spell and get March off to a good start while I have the time.
It’s been a long time since I rode two days back to back. That was August last year when I was doing the 31 Days of Biking challenge. The majority of those were simple 25km 1 hour spins so it’s even longer since I did this kind of mileage over two consecutive days. It’s nothing ground breaking at just under 100km but considering how little I’ve been riding since the New Year I’m happy with that.
The big push to get out today is because we have yet another storm to hit overnight tonight and tomorrow with the whole country on yellow alert and some areas (not us thankfully!) on orange.
Today’s weather was pretty much like yesterday: mild, dry and windy. Again the wind was stronger than I was fully comfortable with but the day was too good to waste. Following a post from tempocyclist I’ve bought a little Bluetooth clicker and took the opportunity to do some posing also.
One of the best things about the last two days has been the ability to drop some of the winter gear. A layer has gone up top, the winter leggings are replaced by leg warmers, the shoe covers are gone and the gloves are now lightweight spring/autumn ones. After the storm the forecast for the rest of the week is looking good again so I’m hoping for a positive cycling finish to the month🤞
After all the rain and storms of the last couple of weeks today has seen a change. I’ve been watching the forecast all week hoping it wouldn’t change and despite it being a bit windier this morning than expected I finally got back out on the road bike. It’s been 11 days since my last ride and as that was on the MTB it’s 13 since I was on the road bike. Felt great to be back out today.
The sun was shining and despite a strong headwind (35-40km/hr) for most of the ride it was a really great day to be out. After all the rain the air was so clear and visibility was fantastic. On the top of the valley above Castlederg I could see as far as Errigal and Muckish and The Sperrins on the opposite side.
The route was a new one for me that I found using the Strava Routes option and modified very slightly. Some of it was familiar but the last time I rode the climb out of Clady was 2016! This is definitely a route I’ll ride again as it was a good mix of climbs with good road surfaces and as a bonus I didn’t have to climb the last bit to get home.
Tomorrow the Spring weather is to continue with a little less wind so today was only 30km to spin the legs back up for a longer ride tomorrow.
Just over a month since Xmas and Santa came again yesterday.
Funkier Pontebba Winter Jacket
Ordered based on a recommendation from a fellow blogger. Reduced from $100 to $19 and $28 for delivery which I felt was still good value. Predicted delivery from US 21-45 days, arrived on 22nd day. Great first impressions and looking forward to testing it over the next couple of weeks.
I’ve looked at similar gloves over the last couple of years and at £9.99 these seemed to be great value. They’re no longer on the website so may have been a clearance price. I hopefully won’t need to wear them too often🤞