Riding Back to Fitness: Part 4

In this Riding Back to Fitness I explain why Zone 1 is dangerous, running is terrible and a moan about man-flu.

Well it’s November and it feels like that late summer has finally left us and autumn is here. Here with a bang and not just the weather, which has seen three named storms crash over the UK. They’ve left the woods outside my window looking scarred, with broken branches and fallen trees. The ground is sodden underfoot, which has made the stumbling runs I’ve added to my Riding Back to Fitness routine, interesting.

Between the rain the skies turned blue for my Riding Back to Fitness this week
Between the rain the skies turned blue for my Riding Back to Fitness this week


Why add running to your routine, has coach Ric told you to? No, he has me on a steady routine, building me up for next year. However I’ve been listening to a lot of cycling podcasts and the amount of riders now adding running is rising. I suppose I’m easily influenced, but I thought I’d start again. I’ve always done a little running leading up to the ‘cross season; always handy for the muddy races. I even did a couple of 10k cross country races, they work out about the same amount of time as a cyclo-cross race.

I’m hoping to ride a round of the National Trophy ‘cross series; just for fun! This will be at Cyclopark in Kent. Part of the course has had a huge flight of stairs added to the circuit. This is going to be tough, especially as I’ll be carrying a bike up them! However I do have a handy flight of stairs leading up through the woods to practise on; so that will help.

Cyclopark has a new obstacle for us to tackle

So to keep to the slow and steady theme, I started with short twenty minute runs. I would walk for the first five minutes, then slowly increase to a trundle. I wasn’t aiming to beat any records, just get my body used to running again. Thankfully the gym work meant I didn’t suffer the usual debilitating DOMs I normally get. Despite all this on the fifth run, just as I was getting used to it and had added some steps to run up, disaster struck. My Achilles went ‘ping’ as I was heading towards the steps I was going to try sprinting up. Leaving me to limp home cursing running; we’ll have no more of that foolishness!

Impact can be good

As an older rider I need to start adding some impact sessions to my training. Ric has me doing weights to help with overall fitness on and off the bike, this will help keep my old bones strong. Running was meant to help, but that’s off the books for a while. The sessions are set by an app called Volt. It has a programme that changes, which keeps me interested. It also allows you to swap out individual exercises, which is important as I have to avoid any that can impact my lower back. I can do these at home using body-weight, bands and kettle-bells, or head out to the gym.

I've been using the Volt app on my Riding Back to Fitness journey
I’ve been using the Volt app on my Riding Back to Fitness journey

While this added impact is good for my bones, I could have done without an unwanted impact session two weeks ago. This is where I explain why zone 1 training is dangerous. For those that don’t know most endurance training is done in different zones. These zones can be related to heart-rate or power and run from one to six, with one being the easiest. Riding in the lower zones can be good for recovery, training your body to burn fat for energy and developing a strong base. However, it can also be a little, boring.


Towards the end of a long zone 1 session – I was about 20 minutes from home – I had a crash. I’m still unsure exactly what happened, but both my hands came off the handlebars. This happened on a brand new cycle path with lovely smooth tarmac at around 35Kph. With no way of steering, the bike and me veered off the path and collided, ironically, with a large immovable safety fence!

Constructed from stout, 150mm square wooden uprights – with lovely sharp edges – my ride came to a sudden stop. Bike and rider were flung unceremoniously back across the path; me screaming from a massive cramp in my calf. I took a few seconds to lie there and check that everything still worked; it did. Then it was time to hobble across to my bike, wondering what the annoying beeping was about.

Ah, that would be my Garmin telling me I’d had a crash and it was sending a message to my wife. She’s used to getting these when I ride off-road. It usually goes off after I have to stop for gates on our local paths and if I don’t get it in time, she tells me off. This time however, it did it’s job.

The end of an old friend

I had thought “oh well, I’ll just ride back home”, but on picking up my bike I realised the front half was only held on by a few strands of carbon-fibre; I wouldn’t be riding anywhere on that bike again! As I waited for my ride home, I must have presented a disconsolate figure to passing cyclists; all of whom stopped to enquire if I was alright.

Of course I replied “no, I’m fine”, but I wasn’t! My much loved bike, one of the original Handsling RR1s, was no more! We’d been through a lot together, racing and training both here and abroad. There’d been trips to Italy, Denmark, Portugal, Spain and Italy. I had thought to hand it on to one of my sons, before they got too big. Now it was just a broken thing…Time for a new bike, eh!

RIP old friend…

So, how’re you feeling?

Well, I think would be the best answer. I’m handling the sessions that I’m being set, as long as I can stay upright! The biggest change is getting used to the long low-intensity sessions on the weekend. Previously weekend rides would just turn into testosterone-fuelled smash fests; good fun, but no longer on the menu. These have given me the chance to take one of my sons out on the slower club rides. It’s nice to chat with him as we spin along and he’s on the way to becoming a convert!

These slower rides are also a good place to just chat and talk to other riders. I’m hoping I can also convince some of them to have a go at some cyclo-cross or gravel races. My local club has a large, older membership and most of them don’t race. There is a core that like to time-trial; the “English disease” as my dad used to say! However I think I may be able to sway a few to try some off-road action in the future.

What does Strava say?

Looking at my Strava Fitness graph, it’s good to see it climbing steadily. There’s a little blip where we celebrated my brother’s 60th, but some things are more important than riding your bike, eh? With Christmas just around the corner I’m sure there will plenty more ‘blips’, but I won’t stress about it and just follow the plan where I can.

There's been a few pot-holes while I'm Riding Back to Fitness, but no need to panic
There’s been a few pot-holes while I’m Riding Back to Fitness, but no need to panic

On to the body’s aches and pains and I’ve added a few more with the crash. My right arm does not like it when I try and raise it, so I’m watching that. The osteopath said it was likely just soft tissue damage. I was worried as a previous crash had torn the ACJ ligaments. My left hip also feels sore when I get off the sofa; accompanied by lots of old man noises! There’s also a new added Achilles pain thanks to the running, so that will have to stop until it calms down. Mind you, I have just got hold of a Pulseroll Mini Ignite massage gun, maybe that will help with all these aches and pains?

I’ve also caught a dose of man-flu that’s doing the rounds in our area at the moment. It’s of the coughy, achey variety that’s kept me off the bike and wheezing in front of the computer all week. Even though I’m in the build-up stage and there’s months to go before anything serious, I’m getting down about not being able to train. I keep telling myself to calm down, it’s less than a week off. But no training for a week? That’s hard, I can do some stretching to counter all this sitting though, but feel too lethargic. Maybe a cup of tea would help?

New Races

Did someone say GRITerium?

Otherwise as I said, I’m feeling well and looking forward to more riding. Looking around at next year’s racing, there’s a new UCI gravel race on the calendar and it’s here in the UK! The Brwydr y Graean (Battle on the Gravel) is a 100 kilometre race in North Wales, so should be proper wild country and weather!

There are also rumours of a GRITerium series being planned by those young radicals of the British Masters Cycle Racing organisation! This would be a series of races with an on and off road circuit lasting around an hour. It sounds like a lot of fun, hopefully something will come of it and they won’t all be so far up north that I can’t get to them. So as I cough all over my keyboard I’ll wish you all good riding until next time!

Riding Back to Fitness, part one.

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