Fred Whitton Challenge 2017

So did Fred treat me nicely?  We were presented with a sunny warm day with little wind but it was not Fred I had to worry about.

You could not ask for better weather. A south westerly 8 mph wind with temperatures set to sore to 18º.  Not the case at 0515 in the morning when myself and Ian left the hotel for a short 7 mile warm up ride to the start.

Once Ian had completed his early morning registration we lined up on the start.  The earlier warmth slowly leaving our bodies and being replaced with the freshness that is 0600.

The start of Fred 2017

We finally crossed the start line at 0615 and I avoided the temptation to revel in the start and increase the pace to something that could not be maintained.  I had decided to pace myself, setting the Garmin’s virtual partner to the speed completed in 2015.  This was for two reasons, to stay ahead of my own target and stop me constantly looking down and counting down the miles.

We slowly started to warm up again as we headed through Ambleside, the marshals directing us off the main road and to the beginning of the first climb.  The pace soon reduced to single figures as pedals were turned with more effort.  Passing a sign stating the next section of the climb was at 116% and I was not sure if my 34/32 would cope with such steepness.  This was the start of the climb to Kirkstone Pass, a long but gradual climb that would take us to the highest point on the course.  I like this type of climb, it allows me to set a rhythm, a steady tempo on the pedals.  I would say the view was fantastic but as we passed ‘the struggle’ we ended in the cloud and it was cold, around 4º as we crossed the summit.  We were handed some Haribo by the support teams at the top and they tasted good. (The Haribo, not the support team).  These climbs are tough but they do provide one hell of a descent and I like descending.  Not because it means I can recover and no requirement to pedal but these descent are twisty, allowing the line of least resistance to be picked and then hold on.  I did not allow the bike to run away but when the brake pads are starting to smell through heavy braking, you need to give things a break.

The climb towards Kirkstone Pass

The ride continued well and slowly heading towards the 50 mile feed stop but there was still a testing climb to come, Honister Pass, 1.5 miles with a 10% average, slapping you with a short 15% section, just incase you thought it would be easy.  In 2015 I stopped and walked a small section, this year I did not put a foot down but did utilise the stone bridge half way up to compose and motivate myself for the last push.  Entering the slate mines it was then a 13% descent down the other side.  A small group formed and away we went, quickly catching two cars but our top speed was scrubbed.  With twisty tight roads there was no point in putting yourself or others in danger with a risky overtake.  That was not the decision of all and caused issues that affected everyone else.

I met Ian at the 50 miles feed stop in Buttermere and grabbed malt loaf, sandwiches and refilled my water bottles.  I did not want to stop for too long as the next climb, Newlands was less than a mile from the feed stop.  During this climb I noticed something was not right, I started to feel a twinge in my right knee.

I decided to ease up and not too push on the flats, hoping it was something I could ride out.  The next climb of Whinlatter, 1.8 miles at 7% average, I struggled.  The climb has a couple of kickers but in general a steady climb but I was finding it difficult to apply pressure through my right leg.

I continued but things were starting to get worse.  There were still two major climbs, Hardknott and Wrynose to come.  I decided I would get to the 83 mile feed stop, take on some food, obtain some medical advise and rest up for a bit.  Unfortunately this was not the case, a short and unassuming climb to Fangs Brow but at the top I knew I could not carry on.  I made a marshalling point and needed assistance from them.  At that moment it was that bad that I was unable to twist out of my cleat, a marshall had to undo my shoe so I could get off the bike.


Unfortunately this was the end of my race, there was no point in carrying on and being driven to the feed stop there was still some climbing to do.  I am absolutely gutted I did not complete the course but I made the right decision.  My time with Fred is done but I would still love to return to the area and complete the hills again, splitting them down into smaller chunks. 

I have not ridden the bike for over a week now and rested.  I did have a doctors appointment but due to the cyber attack, this had been cancelled.  A physio’s appointment has also been booked but need to wait another week for that.  I went out on a family ride yesterday for around 4 miles and everything felt good and the legs have been twitching to get back on the bike.  I am back into work tomorrow so will have a spin around Regent’s Park and see how I get on.


Please be gentle Fred

In a few days I will be heading to Grasmere, Cumbria and register my place for the Fred Whitton Challenge then I’ll be heading off for a tranquil night in a B&B over looking Lake Windermere. There will not be a chance to soak up too much scenery as it is an early start on Sunday for a challenging ride.

Am I ready for Fred?

Having completed it before I am aware what the countryside will offer. I think I am fitter than I was in 2015 certainly putting in the miles. Eating plan sorted. New wheels from Hunt. Plus a compact chainset with 11 gears on the rear offering 11-32. There are a limited number of steep hills in Essex and even though it was part of my training program, my main job and Back On Track taking up time it soon took a back seat.
For 2017 I will be riding with Ian Appleby, a very good friend met through Twitter. I have not seen him since 2015, when we rode Fred for the first time and I will be entering his territory once again. Ian can climb, in the drops with a water bottle in his mouth. Personally I think he was just showing off but I would do the same if I had that ability.

The ride strategy has been organised but the Thorpe jury is still undecided, pass the 1st feed station at 50 miles and head for the 2nd at 88 miles. This will be the longest ride without a stop and I have not completed many rides of this distance over this type of terrain. If everything falls into place with eating, the speed and the wind behind me then anything is possible.

After the second stop the miles will count down towards Hardknott and Wrynose Pass, the climb you see in the distance, it plays with your mind as you can see the flicker of all the cyclist’s red lights dancing up the mountain. Last time I climbed this I was beaten, 18% average with 30% switch backs on Hardknott, pedals turning that slowly that there was not enough speed to unclip. Not sure how I will cope with it this year, I am aiming to complete the two climbs but I am a realist. I am not accepting defeat before I even begin but respectful of the surroundings.

The weather forecast is better than the wet soaked ride of 2015 and I am hoping it stays dry but with the amount of height gained, who knows what the weather may have in store for us.

The crowds that line the route are a credit to themselves and motivating to us riders. Turning out in all weathers, cheering, shouting and encouraging riders up the hills. To those there on the day and those who have been there in the past, chapeau.

I have a couple of rides under my belt for this week, a 63 miler, 100km for the Strava achievement, a non-stop affair with a climb up North Hill, all went well. Today was a ride with the rest of Back On Track Cycling, an easy ride to the Blue Egg for cake. An easy 16 mph average on the way out and a couple of sprints on the way home for good measure.

If you are riding, good luck and ride safe

Mr Forgetful

Tech is a major player within the cycle industry and new stuff, good or bad, arrives on the market nearly every day. The tech we could carry when riding is close to weighing more than the bike.
Does tech over run our cycling enjoyment? “If it is not on Strava it does not count.” You can hear the words being echo’d.

All this aside, I love a gadget, I use Strava, Garmin, Zwift, Beeline to name but a few. Plus I am partial to all things Apple. Yes I am one of those people. 

Lainey worries about me when I am at work and when I am riding my bike. Imagine how high her heart rate must be when I combine the two and ride to work. I try to put her mind at ease, I have set up Live Tracking (Garmin) and Beacon (Strava). Most may have used these notification services, for those who do not, it allows you to enter your chosen email addresses and once you start riding it sends a message, via your phones Bluetooth, advising a loved one that you have started riding and your location. Between us we utilise Find Friends on the iPhone, just in case the others do not work and now makes us sound look like we stalk each other.
So imagine the day I rode 35 miles into the centre of London for a night shift and to return home the following morning with no phone, no ID and no money. I had packed all the mentioned items in my pOcpac dry pouch and duly left them on the worktop at home. This I did not realise until I arrived at work. I opened my work emails to send Lainey a message, let her know I had arrived safe and sound and apologising for my forgetfulness. She had beaten me to it, informing me of my stupidity and the words that followed even turned the Fire Station blue.
Swearing and profanities aside, justifiable of course, the lack of contact did start to make me feel a little uncomfortable and vulnerable. The requirement to ride home out of London and onto the quiet roads of Essex started to concern me. I had left my OneLifeID band at work so I had identification and the means for my rescuers to contact Lainey. At which point she would have killed me if I was injured.  
Reading this back seems to suggest I forget a lot!!!!
With the tech I have, or did not the day in question, there was no way of contacting Lainey if I needed help, no way to pay for cab home or call for one, or if the worst had happened for someone not to know my location. We sometimes moan about tech but it is engrained in our lives. It does play an important part. I do not need it but like it to be there just in case I do. Anyway, imagine the stat of my cleats and the bottom of my shoes if I had to walk home. Priorities people!!!!

Please note; I have been asked to add a disclaimer. I have not asked Lainey to proof read this entry, as stated in a previous blog. If there are any spelling mistakes or errors then it is purely my fault. 

Pressures of Blogging

I am not a writer, and I do not write a lot.  My brain works quicker than my fingers do and words are missed or the predictive text takes over.  I have never been versed with copious amounts of words that complete the English language.  Well I know a lot of words, whether I can use them correctly, spell them or even know what they mean is a different matter.

My intension with the Back On Track Cycling blog was to take fellow cyclist or those with an interest in my meandering text on a journey and hopefully an insight into something I am passionate about.

When I have written a blog I pass it onto my wife, Lainey.  She has been fantastic with her support.  She has proof read all my blogs before publication and this has been needed.  The day will arrive, at some point in the distant future, when it will be perfect, no over use of comma,s, flowing sentences, painting a beautiful picture with words and more importantly making sense.

Following the latest blog, she mentioned they had lost some focus, not as well written as those from the beginning and reading as if I have written with my main occupation’s hat on.  Those that know are aware of my other job, for those that don’t, I work for one of the emergency services.  I am in charge of a shift so report writing comes with the territory.  This type of report writing is regimented, clinical and needs to be matter of fact.  It is not often that I am required to flower things up so feel I have dropped into my default.

This did make me think so I went back to read my first and then my last blog. Don’t tell her this, but she was right!  I am new to blogging, I really enjoy it but finding the balance between meaningful pieces and dumping half hearted drivel into the internet is not always easy.  Rather than feel the pressure of publishing a blog every few days, just take your time.  Wait till there is something worth writing about, re-introduce the passion that I started with and apply that formula to all.

That is not to say every piece will deserve an award for literacy but to remember why the blog was started in the first place.  When I write about cycling and if my wife (who is not too keen on cycling, watching cycling, hearing about cycling, seeing a husband head to toe in figure hugging lycra or seeing a new piece of cycling equipment arrive daily) finds it a little interesting, then I am onto a winner!

Quite a woman really.

Wind, it’s character building. Some may say

Coffee, cake and cycling. They certainly go hand in hand with Back On Track Cycling.  Recently I floated the idea of riding without stopping for our little luxury.  The reaction did surprise me; “Well what’s the point then?”

The reason for my change of tact with the group ride was to increase my endurance level.  Even though we ride around 50 miles, it is more like two 25 miles rides with a nice rest in between.  I am completing the Fred Whitton Challenge in May and the first rest stop is around 50 miles and to get there I need to climb a few small, insignificant hills.

This weeks ride was just that, a non-stop affair to see how the body would cope and enabling adjustments in food consumption.  0930 at the meet up point and it was just the two of us.  This was known, unfortunately other riders were working shifts. 

Route planned and we set off, no forecast for rain but we knew it would be windy. However the strength of it took us both by surprise.  It’s as if the wind god (other gods are available, depending on belief system) saw us riding and turned the dial to 11.  When you have to pedal downhill to reach 14/15 mph you know the day is going to be interesting!

The roads were damp and as we cut through towards Barkway Golf Course, at points we should have changed our bikes for a cyclocross version.  Simon had removed his mudguards, he soon realised his actions were a bit premature and I did not sit behind him as I did not want to eat the Essex countryside.

After climbing passed the golf course we decided to have a brief respite for a gel.  The wind was picking up but we were in open fields so nothing to stop or divert the onslaught.  After a short cross wind section we were greeted with a left turn and started heading home.  We hoped this would present us with a tail wind but anyone who has ridden with me, knows the wind gods do not look down on me favourably.  We turned left and I think the dial increased to 12 only being given a short break on a 3% climb.

A cracking ride and food consumption adjusted to every 30 minutes but need to add salted nuts or the like to the eating schedule.  The legs ached but showed how much rest we do get at stops.

More longer non-stop distance required…

Non-stop Barkway Ride

Accreditation night at the Velodrome

It had been a while since I passed my Stage 2 Accreditation, I think it was back in November 2016 and tonight my Stage 3 had arrived. I had spent some time on the track in between with skills sessions and this seemed to pay off.
After walking the same hall as Wiggins, Cav and Kenny, just to name a few, I changed into Back On Track Cycling colours and headed to the track.

Every time I walk the ramp to the centre of the velodrome it does send a tingle down my spine. Imagining the noise of the crowd and the atmosphere as you enter must be immense. Unfortunately the 10 people sitting in the stands did not provide the same effect.
Checked in again and for the first time in accreditation sessions, I was handed a numbered bib. This was in a baby blue with a black number on a white background. I was not happy that it ruined my whole cycling image, no hiding from the coach this time. A lot of people started to arrive and was the biggest group I had ridden with, 22 in total but we ended up being split.

Does not suit Back On Track Colours

I started talking to other attendees and learnt getting to know each other before circling the track is a must. Rosco arrived with a very nice and new BMC track bike, Mike a TT specialist, Paul a fellow roadie and Hammy, part of the Pakistan Olympic Track Team. I say team, he is the only representative. He had flown into the UK and is taking the sessions to gain his qualifications in the shortest time possible. Quite a character, changing his sport from rugby to cycling. Mentioning that the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix are smoother than the velodrome in Pakistan. A concrete velodrome built in 1954 and has not been updated since.
Our group was first on the track, we would be assessed over 3 different disciplines. The first being half lap changes. After a few laps warm up, the group settled in to a nice steady pace. Once the group was settled the changes began to really smooth out and with 10 other cyclist going by it was best to get yourself up to the boards. Returning for a debrief as the other group started their assessment, our coach was happy and mentioned no concerns.
Back to the track for a second time and it was paired changes. This requires good communication between the pairs and the group had certainly cemented this. A lap or two to get reacquainted with the track then into pairs and settle in. Every lap the front two peel off, ride up the bank into single file then allow the rest to pass underneath then drop down onto the back. Timing is everything with changes and we needed to be within half a meter of the wheel in front. Easier said than done, no brakes and a fixed wheel means it’s all about timing. We did have a moment of bottom clenching when the pair on the front did not power away and caused the group to come off their line, it resulted in some panic and unrest. The group were vocal but soon returned back to it’s rhythm.
Our final assessment was for a team pursuit and I love this. Single file on the blue line, pedalling at a resting rate. When the whistle is blown, the first three drop to the sprinters line (black) and with half lap changes, chase the pack down. Again timing the speed to join the back of the group smoothly. With 11 riders the sprint groups rotated, I was in the first sprint team with Hammy and Rosco and Hammy has a lot of power, his rugby days have given a little bit of power in his legs. Changes were nice and smooth and with a smaller group the changes happen later on the bank and height is not so much of a requirement. I was on the front as the group came closer but I miss timed their speed and ended up doing 1/2 a lap more on the front. Happy with that sprint and slowly I moved by way up the line. We ended up doing about 4 sprints and we all pushed it. Sweating and out of breath at the end and if we were all American then it would have been a high 5 moment but we are not and totally British.
Our coach had mentioned that he was happy and gave some further advice but nothing that concerned the group. Now was time for a feedback and if we had passed. 9 people had spoken to the coach and passed. My turn, he asked how I got on and I discussed mistiming the pursuit, which he has not noticed but was happy I had recognised the fact and adjusted accordingly. The only thing he had written down against my number was bike confidence, not a negative observation. On the paired changes I rode very close to the person next to me with ease. He was impressed with this. I did not realise had done this, I looked at it that I did not want to expel too much energy on the banking but I’ll take that.
Just waiting for my card to be updated on the system and I can look at the next accreditation level but realise I will need some more track time.
Legs are feeling it this morning and I was going to ride in London but glad I did not. Need to rest them so may even venture into the gym this afternoon to spin the legs out.