a journal - cycling, sociology, social media

Sunday 5 December 2021

Have I really ridden for 700 consecutive days ?


                                          On November 24th I posted my 700th consecutive outside ride on Strava 

It's been a long couple of years for us all that's for sure and we have all had to find our way through the pandemic the best way that we could, for me that was to keep riding my bike ... everyday. I have just passed the milestone of 700 consecutive days riding outside, not something that I particularly set out to do, it just sort of happened, gradually and fairly slowly for a lot of the time.

When Covid arrived in March 2019 my race season had just got underway, I had made the decision to start early that year so I had managed six races before everything else was cancelled and that was it, season over for me and everyone else. It was fairly obvious to me that the year was a write off in terms of racing so I made a conscious decision to let my 'top end' race fitness go guessing that it wouldn't be needed for a year or more and that I couldn't hold it for that long, even if I wanted to. But I also knew that if I stopped riding consistently that there was a good chance that my fitness would go completely and at my age it would be really difficult to get it back and could mean that I wouldn't race again. So my solution was to ride every day, mostly low intensity and mostly fairly short rides but all outside and with some regular doses of quality thrown in.

By the end of 2020 (a leap year) I had ridden every day including Christmas Day which went down well (not) with Mrs R - A.K.A. 'The Team Principle'. By this time it was starting to look like we would have some sort of race season in 2021 so it wasn't the time to stop the 'streak' in fact it was time to ramp it.

                   By May the 8th another milestone was reached when I hit 500 and it was a wet one ! 

I might have ridden every day but I definitely didn't train everyday. The majority of my rides are really easy (more on this below) and involve pedalling gently to my favourite cafe at a very leisurely pace, stopping regularly to create Instagram content. The other thing about my ride streak is that a lot of  the rides were off-road on my gravel or mountain bikes, again nothing too strenuous mostly bridleways and cycle tracks away from the traffic but always carefully planned to include coffee at some point. 
My season finally got underway at the end of May and I must have been feeling enthusiastic and keen to get started as I did a round trip of 240 miles for an hour of crit racing at the UCLAN Sports Arena in Preston, Lancashire. Despite there being no rain whatsoever on the weather forecast it rained - torrentially throughout. Although I 'got round' OK and managed to stay upright unfortunately my brand new packet fresh white socks didn't survive.  
Fortunately better weather for one of my four visits of the season to the Darley Moor circuit in Derbyshire another long trip for me but in year when the race calender was a bit on the sparse side it was a case of if I wanted to race I had to be prepared to travel.
For the record a summary of my 2021 race season  looked like this:
  • 10 races
  • 2500 miles driven
  • 5 overnight stays
  • 0 punctures
  • 0 mechanical issues 
  • 1 crash (cut finger no bike damage)
  • 0 Results !
Above race action from Darley Moor captured by my friend Cheryl Owens and all I can say is there are some fit old fellas in Derbyshire that's for sure. You can read more on how my shortened 2020 season went here Back to it.

Something that this 700 streak has confirmed to me is that to be of any benefit training needs to be hard a significant proportion of the time is actually false ... it doesn't, although to qualify that statement I am a 66 year old with several decades of very consistent training in the 'bank'. I've posted a more detailed account of my recent approach to training here Training without training.  

                                     Ready to roll out from raceforthecafe HQ for another coffee spin.

These days the biggest proportion of my riding, probably over 80% is done at an easy pace, my breathing isn't laboured and if the ride is only around an hour or so to the cafe the physiological demands are on a par with going for a brisk walk, nothing more, I'm rolling along pedalling and my heart rate is up slightly but the pace is very comfortable.

                                                                                        My type of - ride direct to the cafe.

                                                                                     With a nice 'sit in' on the way home.
As I mentioned earlier I have been training for endurance sport for a long time, in what now seems like a former life I was (a fairly average) Ironman triathlete for many years but this is not to say that this approach is not relevant for everyone. I have previously posted about Ironman triathlon here: Changing Sports here Origins of Ironman and here Ironman Lanzarote 
These days thanks to the work of scientists and researchers like Stephen Seiller we now know that some of the world's very best endurance athletes spend around 80% to 85% of their training time going easy. Of course the other 15-20% is no doubt brutally hard but they know that even they don't have the physical or mental capability to train at that level all the time without burning out - nobody has.

So how I train now is to make sure I am pedalling consistently and most of the time at a moderate pace so that I can be sure to get out every day. Some of the time I go hard for different periods of time, 3 mins, 5 mins, 10 mins 20 minutes, I just mix it up and at some point every week, without fail I go really really hard, absolutely all in, maximal effort just for a few seconds a few times and that's it. 

The relevance and benefit of this approach is that it engages all three of the bodies Energy Systems , aerobic (5 min +) anaerobic (30 sec - 3 min) and anaerobic alactic (8 -12  seconds) which also means it's an approach that's event specific for me. All of my races (BMCRare pretty hard from the start but usually not hard all the time, especially when sheltered in the wheels which is where I like to be, but they do get very hard at different points often for several minutes at a time when the pace is high, the terrain is tough or when as often is the case attacks are coming one after another. Inevitably at some point the racing gets very, very hard, just for a few seconds when closing a gap getting on to a wheel or sprinting at the finish.

So you may (or may not) be thinking how long can I keep this un-broken all rides done outside streak going ? Well there is a clue in the picture above, I have a bike set up and ready for my first excursion to the enchanted land of Watopia that I have been hearing so much about for the last couple of years. 
To be honest it's been ready but unused since the start of the pandemic but I have now decided that some serious Zwifting is in order in the new year just in time to avoid the worst of the winter weather. The last day that I didnt ride outside was the 25th December 2019 so it feels like Christmas Day 2021 might be a good day to have my next rest day. I'm just hoping that having days off doesn't turn in to a habit, give me a follow on Strava to find out.

Thanks for reading.


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