For the last three weeks I have been working on my strength in the gym with my personal trainer Steve. After a long time off the bike I needed a way to build up my power and endurance and weight training is great for this.
Yesterday we worked on glute strength, with walking lunges, Bulgarian split squats and hip thrust to name a few.
In most of us today our glutes are not being fired up on a regular basis due to the fact we spend a long time sitting! Even though this is a big muscle group it gets lazy when it’s not used and weight training with exercises like squats, lunges and hip thrusts are a good way to build glute strength.
What’s a glute? The gluteal muscles are a group of three muscles which make up the buttocks: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. The three muscles originate from the ilium and sacrum and insert on the femur. The functions of the muscles include extension, abduction, external rotation and internal rotation of the hip joint. So there pretty important!
Bulgarian split squats work the glute muscles as well as the upper leg muscles. The target muscle is the quadriceps with the gluteus maximus, soleus and adductor magnus working to assist. The hamstring, gastrocnemius, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus all act as stabilizers.
The glute bridge and the hip thrust are very effective, targeted and versatile exercises designed to activate the gluteal muscles. Being that the glutes are the largest muscle in the body (by surface area), they play an important role in hip movement and stabilization.
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.
Training for the Trans Alp is going well I have been working on my stamina doing long 5 hour steady rides where the key is working on my fuelling and also keeping a consistent pace. I am working on breaking the 100km in 5 hour barrier which is my goal!
There is only four months to go now which is really daunting and exciting. I have such a mixture of emotions as the Trans Alp gets closer, my fitness has improved and I feel stronger than I have ever done, but I still have weak days. Days when I don’t know if I can keep going and days when I question my motivations behind taking on such a challenge.
On days when I feel like this I find sometimes its good to just go and ride to remember why I love being on my bike and the freedom that comes with being out in the countryside on two wheels. Check out my latest training rides on my you tube channel and please subscribe it’s a work in progress!
Getting ready for a stage race is very different to anything I have ever experienced because there is a lot more pressure. Michelle and I have been working hard together to make sure not only our bodies are up to the challenge but we need bikes that can cope with big days of knarly trails and our heads can cope with day after day of keeping focused on being race ready. It has been really fun to have a friend and team mate to bounce off it makes training and nerves easier to deal with because someone is there who gets it.
The fun side of all this preparation has been designing our new team kit! It has been good fun and we are finally ready to give a sneak preview! What do you think?
This weekend I am off to my first cross country race of the year. I am keen to see how my speed has improved, I know it has but as I have been concentrating on endurance it will be interesting to see how I can perform in a cross country event.
I will let you know how it goes!