Saturday, 26 December 2009

White Xmas!

Well, with all the snow around here right now, I wasn't going to let it stop me getting out on such a nice xmas day to test out my latest Xmas present (some new MTB shoes), so I decided to hit the snow and ice covered roads with my GT I-drive training steed - all 26lbs of pure full suspension fun!

Admittedly, I was still slightly under the influence from over-indulging the night previously, but I had once heck of a good cycle... clocking up 35miles on the MTB in crunchy snow and ice isn't the easiest surface to ride on, but somehow I felt faster than ususal. Now whether this was due to the beer intake the night before, or my pimpy new race shoes, I don't know! I will have to experiment with pre-race beer loading during the race season and find out (hah). Here's a pic of my fresh new Gaerne G.Wallaby MTB shoes. They fit real nice, and so much stiffer than my old Diadora Team Racers, very pleased with them! Look good don't you think?

So, that's about it for the moment. A big merry xmas to you all. Hope santa was good to you! Oh yeah, almost forgot! If any of you are into music and playing guitar like me, Baba, a best mate of mine has a cool website, The Boy and The Bar Stool . He's written a stack of his own stuff, so pop on over and take a listen if you are interested, awesome stuff! (Merry xmas, dude).

One last shot.... pentland road just before achmore. Stopped for the call of nature :-D

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

I thought it about time...

Hey all! I am total pants at updating you all, ain't I?? Well, here's my first off-season update. Especially for Kenzie' seeing he nagged me about it so much - haha! (Seriously man, you should get yourself a bike and start riding with us, too)

Well, after a short layoff i'm now firmly set in my winter training routine. My GTR Ultra carbon is firmly strapped to the turbo trainer with watt computer, all set for the nights which are too wet and windy to venture outside. Mudguards are on my Giant Road training bike and i've been doing a bit of cross training as usual - in the form of running, and there is actually a local XC running race on after the new year which I may just enter if I feel i'm good enough (can't hurt, can it?). Avoiding fell/hill running this time round - definately too risky for the injuries. Also doing a little weight training this year, just to mix things up if nothing else, although not too much on the upper body as I seem to bulk out quite easily which isn't what you want as a cyclist.

As far as on the bike goes, i've taken time to reflect on last year, and i've decided to switch back to more traditional training methods this winter (i.e. keeping intensity lower, and building volume) as that's what I did the winter before the 08 season which was my best to date. I think too much intensity last winter killed me (although I arrived at the first race in good form) and I was a bit mentally fatigued, so when the virus struck it just wiped me out completely. My first real intense sessions will likely be the Freeride Spain training camp in Feb with Andy Barlow and crew - very much looking forward to that! On the plus side, the season finished on a high - I came in 2nd at the Ullapool beag road race, which wasn't too shabby.

So - here's looking to a good season next year. I plan to do a bit more in the way of road racing next year, too. Right now, i'm feeling nice and focused and looking forward to racing stronger than ever. Quite happy with how things are going at the moment. Easy does it as they say....

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Still Alive!

Well, as you may notice, this is the first time i've posted in quite a while. First of all, let me reassure you that i'm still on the bike - (I don't think you'll ever get me off it tbh!). I haven't been posting due to a secession of poor performances which kind of killed the enthusiasm to update you all. I guess I just found it hard to post up when i've not got too much good news for you, and it's tough when you are used to standing on the podium and all of a sudden you are half way down the field. I'll have to try and not let that get in the way of me posting from now on!

So, let me kind of summarise how things have been for the past while. The last few months has been quite an experience to say the least. Following the big crash at Sherwood pines, things just didn't go to plan at all. Firstly, I picked up some kind of virus which really took the life out of me. I had very little energy for weeks, and just couldn't seem to shake it, despite plenty of rest etc. Things went from being able to do normal training every day to feeling wiped out after an easy 20 miles on the bike. At one point I was literally just sleeping all the time. I'd get home for lunch - sleep. Finish work - sleep. Then head to bed at night, sleep for 10+ hrs and wake up the next day only for the whole cycle to continue once again. Anyhow, I managed to shake that after a while, but let me tell you, my cycling performance was very poor. I had a lingering cough/tight chest which just wouldn't shift and my ability to hold any sort of intensity on the bike was greatly impaired. A string of DNF's at races (should I even have been racing?) and poor finishes continued. Got a 7th place at SXC round 3, and 6th at the Scottish Champs - which was a struggle. The other rounds I felt so lifeless I couldn't finish.

Following that, I decided it was best to hang up the MTB season early and focus on getting back on track. A string of poor performances and training really starts to eat your mental enthusiasm for the sport, and I didn't think racing in that state was doing my mind or body any good. It's pretty hard to know what to do in that kind of situation given i'm self coached and don't have anyone at hand who is experienced enough to speak to for advice.

So, I decided to go back to basics and sit myself on the road bike for some nice steady mileage to allow recovery while maintaining some sort of fitness. Things started to pick up and so a few weeks ago I decided to enter the Scottish Road Race Championships for training. Things went a lot better - my aim was just to finish with the main peleton as the pace at the champs is pretty savage, and after 81miles of racing I crossed the line happy, and well into the top half of the field.
Following that race, my training has started to take a turn for the better. I started to feel like my old self once again (albeit a bit slower) and things have picked up. Last weekend I rode the 90 mile Bealach Mor Road Sportive ( with fellow Island Cyclist Roddy Murray.

The conditions on the day turned out to be pretty windy with heavy rain. Ok - no problem, i'm a hardened roadie (erm..) from the Hebrides so used to that anyway, right? I set off from the race HQ with some great legs, and to be honest, the weather kind of urged my enthusiasm to hammer on. Myself and Roddy picked up a few riders during the first half of the race, but once we hit the 8km Bealach Na Bah climb I decided to go my own way. Being the longest Road climb in the UK, I expected it to be tough, and with 40-50mph gusts, 10m visibility and pouring rain that the top it certainly wasn't easy. But, I have to say, I climbed with an eagerness I haven't felt for some time. As I climbed, picking off riders, I thought of the once great and under-respected Robert Millar for a few moments, forced into using his unique climbing style as I pushed an unusually low cadence in the 39/25, seated and swaying my upper body from side to side. The enjoyment of suffering and usual twinges of cramp as I hit the top in 39mins and something seconds was more than worth it. Straight into the big ring and down the other side, trying to control the bike with the strong side winds. To my surprise, I found myself as lead man on the road by the bottom at Applecross. I thought it wrong not to try and hold it to the finish, but after another 10 miles I got caught by a small group of riders. 20 miles from the end, I struggled to hold the group as a marshal shouted to inform me of my current 4th position. Unfortunately things went a bit backward from there and I laboured back to the finish line, feeling pretty depleted in 5hrs dead, but in a respectable 20th position from 560 starters! Roddy crossed the line in little over 6 hours, beating his own P.B from previous years by a significant margin. I enjoyed the whole race, and what a cracking race route! A good race like that makes me realise why I enjoy cycling so much. Anyone who completed that deserves respect, it's a testing route, especially in those kind of conditions!

Well, that's about it for now. Some pics from the Bealach above. I've certainly learned a lot in the past few months, so i'll reflect on that as a good thing. Heres to some more good miles on the bike, and some better luck. I'm riding the Ullapool Beag Sportive in 3 weeks time so next update will be on that. Over and out.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

"Hit and Miss" start to the season!

It's been a hectic last few weeks for me, with the race season starting and other work and day to day stuff getting in the way, so haven't had a chance to post! Ok, so i'm just a lazy bugger really, but i'll use that as an excuse anyway. On a more positive note, it looks like my winter training has worked very well, as I managed to take 2nd Elite at the first round of the Scottish XC series at Kirroughtree - yeah!!

Being the first time i've ever raced at Kirroughtree, I didn't know what to expect. On saturday practice, I instantly enjoyed the course, and knew it would make for some good racing. After a crazy fast start with adrenaline filled younger riders such as Hamish Creber and Kenta Gallager lining up the start line, I settled into a decent spot around 4th-5th, sitting just behind the lead group. After a couple of laps, I was up with them, and decided to sit pretty to find some recovery. Meanwhile, UK pro Paul Oldham had shot off up front (no suprises there!). So, I pushed on with the group behind, and was soon setting the pace at the front. I decided to put a few digs in on the climbs, and as the laps dwindled down, Hamish and the Irish (?) rider fell back, so it was soon just me and young Kenta Gallagher. On the 2nd last lap, I pulled a small gap, and unfortunately he punctured so all I had to do was push on and 2nd spot was mine. I had caught glimpses of James Fraser Moodie behind, so didn't want to back off too much, knowing he can be strong at the end of a race. Thankfully, all went well and I took the credible 2nd spot - what a great start to the season! :-)

The weekend after, I was heading on down to Nottingham for the 1st Round of the British XC. Having recovered pretty well after SXC1, I was looking forward to racing with top UK pro and Elite riders. Now first of all, let me just say that this wasn't your typical Scottish XC race course. It was FLAT. Like pan flat! So I didn't fancy my chances being of a smaller build, but it should make for some fast racing (or so I thought).

With 50 riders lined up to start, I was gridded 2nd or 3rd row from the back. Unfortunately, after a frantic paced start, another rider came into me, took me down along with a few others and there was instant carnage and bikes flying everywhere. I took a rather nasty blow to the head, breaking the rear of my helment which caused me to black out for a moment. I was kneeled down, when the ambulance crew came running over, but I decided to get up and try and continue. By that time, I was dead last by quite a margin, but managed to claw back 4 places on lap 1. Realising I was hurting from the crash, things kind of just went downhill from there. My lower leg was swollen and sore, with that and some bike mechanical issues on lap 5, my race came to an end. Bugger! That's racing for you!

Once back home, I realised the crash had taken more out of me than expected. I should have really gone to get checked over, but just wanted to get going (as you do when things don't go well). Having decided a few days off the bike would be best, I delved into a state of complete exhaustion for the whole week, sleeping 10-12 hours each night. Also, I had this terrible headache that wouldn't shift. However, the cuts and scrapes healed up quickly, and by the weekend, things were looking up and I ventured out for some easy spinning. Right now i'm feeling back to my usual self thank goodness, which is just as well as I have a race next weekend, which is SXC round 2 at Aberfoyle - bring it on!

Anyhow, enough for now. The photo above is from SXC round 1, just after I caught the front bunch. Great race. For now - turbo for some interval work before the caffiene kick wears off ;-)

Later People

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Fine tune your Nutrition

Hey All. Just a quick post. Recently, i've been reading Monique Ryan's book - "Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes". It makes a good read, with loads of interesting info, and I can highly recommend it to anyone wanting to fine-tune their nutrition for both training and racing. I'm also using it quite often for reference, too. Weather has been pretty rough up here as usual, but training is going well all the same :-)

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Freeride Spain Training Camp

Well, i'm just recently back from a week long training camp in the South of spain. Really enjoyed my time out there, and got some quality training time in. Our stay and accomodation was organised through the friendly people at (thanks for a great stay Simon, Emma and others!) who I would highly recommend. We stayed in a small town called Lanjeron, north of Granada. The view from our apartment can be seen below;

I flew out a week after some fellow race pals, Andy Barlow and Gareth Montgomerie, had arrived, so I certainly had a bit of catching up to do. Thankfully, the poor weather and rain that had hit the lads for the first week cleared, and it was all sunny, clear skies for me! There were also a few others over for training, all of which were at a decent level of fitness - and a great bunch for the craic! The roads and climbing out there were just top quality - tour style climbs and descents, beautiful scenery and weather - I will definately be going back next year. Here is a shot of us all at a water stop, somewhere up in the hills;

And so arrived mistake no1. I had travelled out, just off a heavy training week, fatigued and hungry, so straight into 4-5hr training sessions in the mountains quickly took it's toll. On day1, I felt ok and got through, but a big ride on day 2 with 3 monster climbs saw me crack bigtime and forced to jump in the van at the bottom of the last descent, 10km to go. However, after a rest day, I started to find my legs and things went much better from then on. Let me tell you, the climbs out there are damn steep - and they don't stop after a couple of km like in the UK. 10-15km would be more accurate! Top quality training! In total, I clocked 22hrs on the bike in 5 days of riding which was around 700km with a massive amount of ascent (and descent for that matter).

So, after getting back home and getting some rest in, I can say my form is very good indeed. Let's hope it puts me in good shape for the start of the MTB race season which is now just 5 weeks away! At the moment there has been a delay with my Orbea Alma frameset from Sandy Wallace, but let's hope it arrives in time. Just one last pic for that mystery bike that kept appearing in random places around Lanjeron... never seen with a rider!

Over and out for now :-)

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Mid-winter update

Hey all. Haven't posted in a while, as things have been pretty hectic between training, work and all the other things that go with it. Just coming to the end of a rest/easy week from a 3-week block of training. It always amazes me how you only start feeling tired when you back off the training - this week I have been constantly knackered and hungry, sleeping for up to 11 hours a night, although as of today i'm pretty much back to normal. I've just been putting in the odd easy session on the bike, along with running and walking to mix it up. It just shows how much fatigue you can unknowingly carry if you don't back of the training, so rest periods are very important. The hardest part is making yourself rest - I tend to be quite guilty of not doing so.

As far as form goes, i'd say i'm in pretty good shape for this time of year. Unfortunately the weather has been fairly awful of late, so I haven't managed to get many decent rides outside - instead I have been confined to the realms of the turbo trainer for on the bike stuff during the week. However, I got a cracking 16hours of training in on New Year's week (250 miles road work, and a few hours on the MTB) while I opted out of the party mode. The mainland weather was a bit iffy, so I decided to stay home and make the most of the crisp, dry winter spell we had. Here are a couple of shots from my travels;

Along with rest, i've been doing a bit of bike servicing this week. The salty wet roads had really taken it's tole on my Giant OCR winter bike. Drivetrain and rear hub was in a bit of a state but all sorted now.

And for the best bit of news, on 7th of Feb i'm heading to the mountains of South Spain for a weeks training at Freeridespain with some fellow XC racers (Gareth Montgomerie and Andy Barlow to name two). Really excited about this, it will be great to train in a decent climate for a change, a much deserved mental break from the dark, wet winter up here. We will be covering some of the "La vuelta de espana" (Tour of Spain) roads where the top pro's race, so it should be a great experience.

That's all for now. I'm just going to head out for some easy miles before our Burns Night Supper . Gie yer a haggis!

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Feeling slow after breakfast?

Just found this interesting article;

I've experimented recently with skipping breakfast, going out on the bike and feeding during training as needed (if it's a longer session). My energy levels are WAY higher, head feels clearer and for some reason I don't seem to be craving junk through the day. I don't think this is for everyone, but if you find that you are slow and sluggish all day after your usual early morning breakfast then it might just be worth a shot. The trick is to have a decent, carbohydrate based meal in the evening and post workout to replenish glycogen stores. Not sure how this will work in on race days yet though - i'll have to do a bit of testing.