Last week I went on a magical summer holiday with me family to Iznajar in Spain. Nestled in the side of the hills is a beautiful villa called Casa Pino Solo. It was from here I explored / trained.
My key thoughts on training in Spain were to test out my ability to stand the heat and altitude.
The village of Iznajar itself is situated on top of a huge rocky outcropping overlooking the Embalse de Iznájar, the largest reservoir in the whole of Andalucía.
It was this reservoir that I planned to explore on my bike.
Arriving on the Saturday I gave my body a few days to adjust to the heat, the weather was a lot hotter than usual for the time of year reaching 40 degrees some days. Coming from the UK where 20 is a warm day this was unbearable cycling heat for me.
On the Monday I programmed in a 4 hour route to my Garmin and set off, my Garmin soon took me off road through rocky paths made by tractors between olive trees. The climbing was tough, made worse by the dusty terrain which I inhaled with every breath.
Soon my route joined a road and with some relief the first downhill part of my ride took me all the way down to the reservoir. One thing I noticed about riding in Spain is the drivers were very patient and gave me lots of room when they past.
Crossing the reservoir I carried on uphill for what seemed like an age! The sun was starting to really heat up and I was getting a bit concerned about my water levels, I carried on and soon reached the top. The view back over the olive plantations was incredible. My path turned a few corners and then was downhill all the way to the lake. I was amazed that the hill that had just taken nearly an hour to climb could be descended in about 20 minutes!
I made my way home as the heat was starting to get to me cutting my ride short. My first day riding in Spain was brilliant I loved the challenging climbs and the scenery was fantastic.
The next couple of days were too hot to ride, on the Wednesday I went out at 3 blow thinking that it would get cooler, 40 mins in I knew something was wrong with my bike the handling was juddery and my arms were uncomfortable, I jumped off and noticed my headset was loose, I decided to call it a day ride home and tried to fix it. I didn’t seem to be able to fix it so I got in touch with a bike shop in Malaga called Recyclo they kindly offered to have a look at it for me and fitted a new headset.
The next day Martyn and I drove the hour to the beach to drop off my bike and have a beach day. It was so nice being near the sea I love the ocean and the sound of the crashing waves has always made me relaxed.
It was soon time to pick the bike up and with my problems solved I was determined to get up early and get in a good ride on our last day.
My alarm went off at 6 the next morning, after one snooze I got up and went to make breakfast, my little nephew Henry was already up having his breakfast so I joined him with my porridge and sorted out my snacks for my ride. I had planned to head out following the lake towards the dam towards a town called Rute and then follow the main road back into Iznajar and across the reservoir.
The morning breeze was nippy but I knew the sun would be out very soon, so with a few goose bumps I set out, I was soon feeling warm as I climbing the hill to the left of the lake, the view was incredible as the sun rose and shown on the glistening turquoise water.
The path contoured around the side of the lake, the road soon turned to a gravel track which made for a bumpy ride so I stopped and adjusted my suspension. The 29inch wheels made light work of the trails ruts and bumps and I felt really good flying along at a consistent pace.
Since I have been getting a diet plan from Rachel Hobbs I have been sticking to natural foods on training rides and have found a new love for dates! They seem to keep me going far better than any energy gel or jelly baby and are far better for me!
I could see the dam in the distance and with every pedal stroke got closer and closer. Soon I was passing some local tree fellers and making my way onto the dam, the road which had been shaded by the hills was now exposed to the rapidly increasing heat of the sun as I made my way up to Rute.
I kept drinking every 10 minutes and new my hydration was good when I had to make a quick ‘nature’ stop!
The climb to Rute was on a really nice road, somewhat like a motorway in the UK but with far less cars.
I stopped in Rute to fill up my water bottles and after a short sharp climb out of the town I had an 8% hill to descend it felt very steep and I clocked 53kph as I flew towards Iznajar.
Crossing back over the bridge and starting the climb towards our villa I felt a huge sense of achievement; I decided to do a few hill reps to finish and then went back to the villa for a well-earned dip in the pool.
I loved riding in Spain the heat made it very hard and I know this is going to make the Trans Alp challenging. Only a month to go now!
It is now the middle of May and I honestly don’t know where the time has gone! It feels like only a few weeks ago I was peeling on the layers and charging up light batteries ready for training in the dark.
These frosty encounters have set me up well for the summer, with over 2000miles in my legs since November I am looking forward to dry trails!
Since the Gorrick 100 endurance race I have been back to firing on all cylinders which is a relief after a couple of weeks of no power in my legs and feel pretty rubbish.
Last weekend my long steady rides changed, the focus now is on staying off road and getting use to more resistance under my wheels. I really enjoyed exploring, the now dry, bridleways around where I love, finding some great singletrack gems along the way.
To increase my climbing I headed to the South Downs Way which runs from Winchester to Brighton, it’s a chalky bridleway with some great climbing and stunning views over the South Downs national park. Well worth a visit!
Living below the South Downs national park I am fortunate to make good use of this middle section for training, I headed towards Winchester to climb Harting down which is a steep chalky rutted climb and then on from this Butser Hill a grassy steady climb which gets steeper in the middle before plateauing out. Both had me gasping at the warm summer’s air.
I covered 75 in total at a steady pace, which I am happy with and can build on. My fuelling strategy was a banana at hour one, slated peanuts in hour two, another banana at hour three and then jelly babies and malt loaf in hour four. Considering a banana is roughly 30g carbohydrate I still need to increase my food intake considerably.
As my nutrition has become a vital part of my training i have decided to take on a nutritionist to help me towards my goal of completing the Trans Alp! I will let you know how the new diet goes….
On Sunday I went to the Gorrick 100 bike race, a 100km endurance cycling event.
I had really been looking forward to this race as I felt it would be a good indicator on where my fitness levels are and how my preparation is going for the Alps.
Frustratingly I have had a stomach bug and generally not been feeling on top form so didn’t decide to race until Saturday afternoon when I was feeling moderately better.
I have done 100km a few times on the road on my mountain bike and find it hard but I was not prepared for how hard 100km off road was going to be!
I laid out my snacks and water bottles in the feed zone and lined up at the start at 8.30. My strategy was to pace myself stay steady and enjoy it.
The course was a lengthened cross country course a great mix of singletrack and fire road. There was not a great deal of climbing but the course was relentless there was no recovery periods apart from two road sections the rest of the time you were having to push the bike hard.
The first three laps I felt good and able to push hard where I needed too. It was a lovely hot day and I was drinking plenty. When I came back round to the feed zone for lap 4, I had run out of small water bottles so had to spend time re filling them. This is something I then had to do for the rest of the laps wasting valuable time!
The 4th lap was good I was trying to stick to around 15km per hour on the flat, my heart rate was in a good place roughly around 150/160 so I knew I could keep pushing.
I came round for the 5th lap and decided to up my snacks and had a malt loaf and more salted peanuts. I think in hindsight I should have had more snacks earlier on because during my 5th lap I started to feel tired. I slowed my pace slightly hoping that I could pick myself back up. I also had a few mechanical issues with my chain on this lap which slowed me down.
One of the hardest things about long distance bike racing is the lack of ability to pedal and chew at the same time. Even on flattish ground chewing, breathing and pedalling don’t mix! This was made harder during this race because the ground out of the feedzone was particularly bumpy and by the fact I had picked hard to chew salted peanuts and malt loaf both of which take some chew time.
These are my snacks of choice for training but struggling to eat them in this race brought up the need to find other snacks for the Trans Alp which can be eaten quicker and have the same energy hit that I am looking for.
The final stages.
Lap 6 was exhausting I had entered survival mode and didn’t know whether I could do another lap I kept pushing forward thinking it’s only another 12/15km, but I knew I was in trouble my heart rate was really low around 130bpm but my legs where giving everything they had I had hit the proverbial ‘wall’! I was relieved when I reached the long straight gravel section before the entrance to the arena this was my que that the lap was nearly over and I stuffed in another malt loaf for good measure!
Lap 7 was so hard my body was done in physically and I felt too tired to make it up some of the hills which earlier I had found easy. The bomb holes had also become hard and I found myself making silly mistakes another sign that my body was finished. It seemed like a life time before I reached the long gravel straight and I knew that this was probably my last lap.
I had a love hate relationship with this course, I loved the first section cornering through the trees and the big bomb holes and little jumps it was hard work but good fun, the second part of the course had lots of twists and turns doubling back on yourself all the time and the ground was loose making it tough going, I didn’t enjoy this so much!
This race was far tougher than I was expecting, I think I felt every emotion going in 6 hours 54 mins on my bike from enjoyment through to dread at the idea of doing another lap!
From the race.
I learnt a lot about my fuelling strategy which I need to work on over my next few long rides to make sure I’m eating enough and early enough for it to have an effect on my ability to keep going.
I need to also look at pacing and how I can improve this. I am really delighted with my first four laps as my timings were consistent. It is hard to tell my riding time from lap 5 as I had to stop to sort out water bottles and also had chain issues.
Overall I am super happy with my performance this is the longest I have ridden this year nonstop and after the past two weeks of feeling powerless and not being able to complete a cross country race this is a great turn around and has shown me that I need to really use my recovery days to recover properly.