Techniques for Improving Climbing

The Kirkwood Mountain Resort Near Death Experience cycling camp is just around the corner from June 6 to 8, 2014, and it had me thinking about climbing technique. Climbing is a part of cycling that either some embrace or some shun. Overall though, all cyclists could use a bit of climbing to hone their performance both in the hills and on the flats.

Our camps usually focus on climbing, because the hills encourage each individual rider to put out steady efforts at steady wattages in the set zones for the workout. Very little help drafting will do on the climbs once the hill steepens to over 6 percent. In essence, you cannot cheat. You have to put down the power on your own without the aid of slipstream to keep your speed up.

Besides myriad physical workouts one can do to improve climbing performance, it’s best to also work on climbing technique. Everyone can improve or hone technique, no matter what their fitness level. Here are a few technique tips:

Position on the Bike:

  • Slide back in the saddle to provide more power from your hamstrings.
  • Rest your hands lightly on the tops of your handlebars to release tension in your upper body.
  • Sit up with a flat back to open your hips allowing for more powerful downward pedal strokes.
  • Slide forward on saddle to increase cadence, or as the pitch increases slightly.
  • Stand  for a few pedal strokes when the pitch steepens, but lower your cadence slightly.
  • Stand even if the pitch does not steepen to loosen your back and activate other leg muscles. Click to one or two harder gears before standing, if the grade is constant.

Pacing on the Climb:

  • Many cyclists start too hard or too fast, and pay the price later by having to “gut it out” to the top of a climb.
  • Start off the climb conservatively in a gear that feels easy.
  • Pick a gear that ensures you are able to spin your pedals at greater than 70 rpm throughout the entire climb.
  • Maintain steady power, especially on flatter sections where you can slightly recover.
  • Stand occasionally, but do not pick up the pace, to alleviate saddle pressure and activate other climbing muscles in your legs.

Gearing on the Bike:

  • Choose a compact crankset (50/34T) and a 12/27 minimum rear cassette. Other options include 12/28, 12/30, or 12/32.
  • Another option is a triple chainring on the front (52/39/30T) plus a 12/27, 12/28, 12/30, or 12/32.
  • Use your gears early on a hill—never “save” an easier gear for later, because your legs may be worn out by the time you use that saved gear.

Other Considerations:

  • Rhythm: Try counting.
  • Breathing: Focus on breathing out, or breathing in, or matching breathing to pedal stroke.
  • Chunking: Break the climb into manageable sections and goals.
  • Style: Stand for 10 strokes, sit for 90, repeat.

More information can be found in this CCSD Handout: Improving Climbing. Hopefully these tips will help you improve your climbing, whether you’re an advanced or beginning cyclist.

We cover these climbing tips, plus workout programs, nutrition, skills, and other topics at Kirkwood Mountain Resort Near Death Experience from June 6 to 8, 2014. Plus, we do a heck of lot of riding! Beyond riding iconic climbs of the Eastern Sierra, you are guaranteed an entry into the sold-out Death Ride: Tour of the California Alps®.

Posted in Endurance Cycling | 1 Comment

Winter Cycling Tips You May Not Have Heard Before

Any google search on “winter cycling tip” will turn up a variety of suggestions on what to wear, how to look after your bike, what lights to buy etc.  Here at CCSD we like to give you information that you may not get anywhere else so read on to see some of the lesser known tips for cycling in the winter.

Baby Powder
Don’t be shy with the baby powder.  Apply it on your feet, hands, chest, crotch, and armpits. This will help you stay drier when you start to sweat, and therefore warmer.

Yes, get a good night’s sleep…. but this refers to a different type of GoodNites.

Don’t ask how we discovered this one but if you cut children’s bed mats (or even adult incontinence pads) down to size they make a fantastic disposable base layer.  Position them with absorbent side next to your skin and they absorb sweat while providing a wind proof layer the other side.  When you’ve warmed up you can just reach inside your jersey and at the next opportunity throw them in the nearest trash (better to do this at the back of the group to avoid strange looks!). Having a piece rolled up tightly in a jersey pocket can save you from that chill wind biting through all your layers on a long descent too.

Keep Your Kidneys Warm
Keep your vital organs and extremities warm.  There are so many different winter clothing choices out there these days you’re spoilt for choice.  However, for instant warmth from the inside out, try some chemical body warmers stuck to your base layers. These days you can get special body warmers with a sticky back that are perfect for the job.  Much better than trying to stick multiple toe warmers all over you.

Get a Hot Body
Go one better with a heated body warmer! This is a British company but they have a US distributer. Note – I don’t think the pretty lady comes with it or the fury hat comes as an accessory)


Get Hot Hands
Ok, so you may look like you’re about to handle radioactive waste in these but the idea of having warm hands for 5-6 hours is pretty appealing!

Latte on the Go!
Take some hot liquid out on the bike with you.  Who’s to say you can’t make up energy drink with hot water! This insulated bottle from Stanley is designed to fit in your bottle cage and supposedly keeps drinks hot 5 hours (I’m guessing maybe 1-2 hours on a very cold day outside though). Perfect if you use your commute as a training ride.

Butter Blocks
Winter is a time where it can be difficult not to put on winter weight, particularly when you can’t get out to ride as much.  It’s easy to bury your head in the sand and ignore the lbs slowly creeping on…. so here’s a tip to help you face the lbs and reach for a piece of fruit instead of a piece of cake.

Place a 1lb pack of butter in the fridge and don’t forget every lb you gain or lose will be the equivalent of carrying these around with you (or not).   I’ve seen people add lbs of butter or lard to a pile in the fridge as they lose weight too.  It’s a very visual way of seeing what you’re not carrying up the hills anymore.

Lube up!
The bike… yes.. but don’t forget yourself too.  A nice thick layer of lotion can help keep that biting wind from your skin.  Think of open water swimmers covering their bodies in lard (note – smearing yourself in lard if that’s what you choose to do also serves to remind you why your crazy enough to be out cycling in the first place – see hint 2 above!)

Don’t Get Facebook Frostbite
You know how it goes.  You’re out riding in -30 degrees.  You’re miserable, cold, wet and wondering what on earth you’re doing out there.  Yet, you’re also feeling slightly superior for being out in such stinking weather while others are huddled up at home dreaming of Spring.  You just have to post that icy picture on Facebook part way through the ride to let the world know you’re out there toughing it out against the elements.   Rather than losing finger sensation while you’re doing it consider gloves that you can text through.  These are some we’re thinking of trying out (yes sometimes we have to wear gloves in San Diego too!).

Mix it Up
Get a Vitamix.  Seriously, we can’t recommend these enough (no we’re not sales reps for Vitamix).  There’s something very satisfying about being able to throw a bunch of vegetables into a power blender, hit blend and 7 minutes later have tasty steaming soup.  It’ll be done by the time you’ve finished peeling off the numerous layers you’ve been wearing!  Dawn Paul is a local cyclist who sells them.  Email her at, she puts together a great package for cyclists which you won’t get from your local Costco, recipe books, knives, chopping boards etc etc.

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Just hangin’ around in a yoga class

If you read my last blog you’ll know I haven’t found the transition into the mystical world of yoga to be an easy one.

So I was delighted to find The Yoga Factory in Hillcrest, a new yoga studio offering not just the regular selection of yoga classes, but also something new to me ‘anti-gravity yoga’!   Say whaaaat?  I wonder; is this age defying yoga for specific sagging body parts?  A levitation class perhaps?  I decided to sign up for a class and find out, hoping that this might be the yoga salvation I’d been seeking.

My first class was a little daunting, not least because it was a class of exactly 1 – me!  I guess that’s what you get for being an early adopter in a yoga studio that opened the very same day I turned up!
We begin with my teacher Mel, explaining the apparatus; basically 9 feet of silk fabric hung from the roof beams like a swing, which she assures me I’m safe to place my trust (= life in this case) as it will hold up to 1,000lb at any single point, and 5,000lb in total.  I try to imagine in what scenario these might be tested to their limits… not to be mean but if you’re in the 1,000 – 5,000 lbs range I don’t think you’re gonna be in yoga class.
Anyway, this cocoon of silk was going to be my yoga home for the next 60 minutes as we performed what can only be described as a marriage of pilates, yoga and Cirque du Soleil but with fewer sequins, creepy double-jointed children and more incense sticks and funky music.

Here we go then – just me versus the silk yoga hammock, which by now I’ve named The Yammock.   Move #1 turned out to be relatively simple – sitting in the thing, kind of like a swing. Not too difficult.

Then Mel gracefully swings her leg over one side of the silk to straddle it and round 1 of Jo versus The Yammock begins.  Thankfully Mel had already pointed out that the moves didn’t have to be graceful at first as I did a great impression of a cat trying to escape a paper bag as I battled great swathes of fabric in an attempt to mimic Mel’s effortless move.  Once in there though, it’s pretty cool.  I’m totally enclosed in my little silk cocoon as it gently sways from side to side.  Actually it was swaying kind of wildly after I’d been scuffling around in it but this soon settles into a nice rocking motion as we do some warm up stretches.  I feel like I could live in this thing for a month and emerge a serene, fully-fledged yoga butterfly at the end.

No chance of that – we’re about to move into our first ‘inversion’ – yikes!  2 minutes later I’m hanging upside down with my legs being the only thing stopping me from plummeting to the ground.   It’s actually a) surprisingly easy to get into the position and b) pretty comfortable once you’re there.  Plus you really don’t feel at risk of sudden death in the slightest.  Amazing!

Mel goes on to explain that AG Yoga is great for people with back problems (hurrah!) and actually makes you grow after every class (double hurrah!).   This is particularly great news for me since I recently discovered that I’m not actually “almost 5 ft 8” as I’ve been claiming for the last X years and am in actual fact 5 ft 7 and a whisper.  Unfortunately the growth increase results from AG yoga aren’t cumulative and are only short lived (boo!).

The next 40 minutes are the most fun I’ve ever had in yoga.  We alternate between various hanging positions, core quivering exercises, flying moves … and my favorite “The Vampire”.

There are no oddly named positions that I have no hope of pronouncing or remembering in this class.  The names make sense to me: inverted candlestick is an upside down shoulder stand, wheelbarrow looks exactly like a human garden vehicle.  Flying move is… so cool…  you close your eyes, yell swoosh and let go.  I turn into a child again and don’t want the ride to stop.  Vampire move is my favorite, it looks impossible but is actually incredibly easy to do, but when you’re doing it the core workout is incredible.  I visualize that six pack I’m desiring and try to ignore the insane core trembling that’s going on in me.

Finally we end with a 5 minute relaxation inside The Yammock.  White flags are raised and Jo and The Yammock become intimate friends as I curl up inside and chill for a 5 minutes.  I don’t want class to end and I start to imagine how I might be able to hang one of these things inside our apartment (surely Rob won’t mind if I do some minor interior reconstruction to raise the ceiling?).

I’ve done it.  I’ve found the perfect yoga for me.  Who can’t like a class where you gain fitness, build incredible core strength, laugh a lot (which also helps tone your core) and fly like a bird, all in one session.

Best of all Mel is sweet and funny and she plays cool chill out music rather than a cacophony of squeaking dolphin noises, bird calls and crashing waves.    Six classes in and I have noticed a huge improvement in my flexibility, core strength and ability to bend down in the morning and unload the dishwasher without groaning like a zombie… and yes once or twice I’ve actually managed a graceful move as The Yammock and I become firm friends.

Images: thanks to The Yoga Factory & &

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I Get Yoga Rage

A few weeks ago Rob found me stomping around the apartment muttering dark words about the ‘skinny smiley’ women on my yoga dvd. As I huffed and grumbled my way around the room he made the casual observation (while killing himself laughing at me) that yoga was supposed to be relaxing, but in my case “yoga makes you mad?!!”.

So, why is that?  Well, backtrack 65 minutes earlier.  I diligently climbed out of bed and grabbed my yoga mat, feeling very virtuous and fully prepared give my chakras some long awaited attention in the guest bedroom. A skinny, smiley yogini introduces my DVD yoga class, surrounded by three perfectly turned out yoga students all of whom appear to be way too toned to be students in my opinion (shouldn’t they have a token, disheveled looking student in there who’s just raced to get there from work, or just rolled out of bed like most normal people in class?).  Oh well I guess it’s just going to be me, Miss Super Flex, Miss Yoga Fashionista and Mr Muscles for the next 60 minutes… and of course ,skinny smiley yogini who by now I’ve renamed Mistress of Pain.

I dutifully acknowledge my presence on my yoga mat and honor my body as instructed.  Anybody know exactly how you’re supposed to do that correctly? Shake my own hand?  Take photographs and salute myself in the mirror perhaps?

Childs pose…. doing ok so far, dogs , cats and cows and all manner of other animals quickly follow…. mountain pose doesn’t present too many problems (unsurprising really – I learnt to stand on two feet 35 years ago)… some balancing pose that sounds like a spicy curry dish is a little challenging but I manage to remain on my mat and not crash into the full length mirror.  All the while Mistress of Pain floats around on her perfectly balanced chakras, subtly flirting with Mr Muscles and needlessly adjusting his clothing.  Miss Super Flex and Miss Yoga Fashionista’s smiles remain glued to their face as they effortlessly glide from one pose to another.

Next asana  …… mmmmm asana… sounds like banana….45 minutes left until breakfast.  My stomach starts to rumble at the thought and I temporarily drift off into my breakfast plans.  No! Concentrate Jo! Focus on your energy lines.

About 20 minutes in Mistress of Pain ramps it up a level.  Suddenly I’m 20 seconds behind everyone else… help I’ve been gapped.  Damn it, I’m being dropped in a virtual yoga class!  How is that possible???!!

I manage to get back in synchronization with the class just in time for Tikkamasalajasana pose (or something like that).  “Feel the harmony of the earth supporting you and pushing upwards under you feet “ MoP says.   As my muscles begin to quiver I lose my sense of humor and start hurling abuse at my computer screen “I think you’ll find that’s called gravity dear” I snarl through gritted teeth.  MoP seems unperturbed by my outburst “relax your face, yoga is supposed to be enjoyable”.  “Yeah right, in your dreams woman”… as I catch a glimpse of my puckered up red face in the full length mirror. I look more like I’m practicing for a gurning competition (see here if you don’t know what gurning is!) more than becoming a yoga practitioner.

And then she does it…. the ‘coup de grâce,’  the deathblow … moving swiftly from a relatively easy standing on my own two feet pose they all launch into The Crow position like it’s the most natural thing in the world.   Wooahh! Whaaat?  You want me to balance just on my hands with my knees rammed into my armpits – isn’t this supposed to be beginner yoga?  Not wanting to be defeated I give it my best shot, and immediately face plant into the chair in front of me.  One more try, and my knees slip off my arms and I crash out onto the floor.  Third time lucky… and once again I’m up close and personal with the bedroom furniture.

The whole time Miss Super Flex has balanced perfectly in the position making it look like the human race has evolved to balance all our weight on our hands.  Maybe I need to see the DVD outtakes to make me feel better.

Pause DVD.  I will NOT be beaten by The Crow.  Cue Youtube.  A thousand videos come up on tips to make doing The Crow easier… along with a reassuring number  of clips showing people doing similar clown acts to that which I am currently demonstrating.  10 minutes later my arms are black and blue with bruises and the best I’ve managed is 0.75 very wobbly seconds of balancing.  I despondently return to Mistress of Pain, with my tail between my legs.  Oh good – just in time for  a one legged balancing pose (AKA the inebriated stork pose).  I count down every second of the next 20 minutes, hating MoP and her minions for making me suffer so early in the morning under the pretence of avoiding harmful negative energies and realigning my chakras.

Finally, it’s over and I feel…. exhausted, unbalanced and ready to climb back into bed.  I feel duped. Isn’t yoga supposed to leave you feeling positive and energized?  Maybe I have a clogged chakra or something?  Can you take anything for that?

I guess I’m just a bit of a skeptic when it comes to yoga.  I want to believe that I’m realigning magical forces that will make me stronger and faster and I truly would love to experience self realization… but it’s just that I’d rather that someone just told me to shut up, suffer through it, and enjoy the pain, rather than try to convince me that a larger force is at work.

So, where do I go from here?  I know I need to do yoga, my back is getting stiffer and stiffer the more years of cycling I do and since I’m determined to live to be a grouchy old woman of at least 100 years old I know I need to improve my flexibility and off the bike strength.  Ok, I admit it, I also secretly want to be Miss Super Flex and I totally want a six pack like Mr Muscles.

And then the following day I found what I was looking for… aerial yoga… a combination of circus tricks and yoga… with funky drum and base music and a cool yoga instructor who freely admits that she falls over sometimes when doing balancing poses.  I love her!

Look our for the next blog… my first antigravity yoga experience!


Picture courtesy of

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Weight Weight Don’t Tell Me: Raw Turnip Salad

…I found a turnip in the fridge

…It looked forlorn and lonely

…It was 80 degrees outside – not a day for hot dishes

So here’s what it turnend into: low fat..low calorie..delicious

Raw Turnip and Apple Salad

1 very finely sliced turnip (I used a mandolin but you could also grate)
1 grated apple
teaspoon of Therabee (thanks Martha!)
bit of chopped red pepper
handful of fresh parsley
3 tablespoons lemon juice
good pinch of salt & pepper

Mix it up well and leave to marinade for 1 hour

Go crazy, try adding other stuff to make it interesting:  Chilli? Nuts? Nectarine? Olive Oil? Dried cranberries?


Posted in The Road to Everest Challenge Stage Race 2012, Weight Weight Don't Tell me | Leave a comment

Alcohol Effects on Cycling Performance

I hate to have to write this blog… really I do.  I’m British so it goes without saying that drinking beer is in my genes, and I do like a glass of wine with dinner.  However, since I’m committed to this crazy Everest Challenge Race there are some changes I have to make.

95% of the time I stick to a pretty healthy wholesome diet (see picture of our fridge – no this wasn’t staged, this really is a common sight in our kitchen) so I don’t have too many diet changes I can make.  But,  I am unburying my head from the sand in terms of what I already know about how alcohol affects us as cyclists and hoping that by actually writing it down on my blog it may give me some willpower to abstain most of the time (I’m only human after all).

So if you want to remain in blissful ignorance and enjoy a bottle of wine this evening, hit the ← button now.  If you want to really know what a few too many glasses of wine / beer does to your cycling performance here’s a quick summary.

“I’m carb loading” is a joke I often hear (and use!) when reaching for that frosty glass of beer.  However deep down we all know this isn’t the truth and while there are energy calories in alcohol (a whole 7Kcal/g versus 9Kcal/g in fat and 4Kcal/g in carbohydrates) alcohol is pretty useless as a short term energy source, in addition to the fact that it is devoid of any nutrients.

So, let’s look at this simplified explanation of what happens when you drink a few beers:

1. Toxin alert!: Most of the alcohol in the beer heads into your bloodstream and is immediately treated as a toxin by your body.   Where do toxins end up?  In the liver!

2. Feeling tipsy?: The liver gets to work straight away metabolizing the alcohol using powerful enzymes, but there’s only so much enzyme capacity in there so any excess alcohol circulates your blood stream waiting for its time to come to be metabolized.   In the meantime it plays havoc with your heart, brain, other tissues and organs (legs muscles go a bit wobbly, brain a bit more relaxed, reaction time not so cat like… sound familiar??).

3. Glycogen replenishment halts: In addition to the alcohol consumed there’s also a good dose of carbohydrates in beer.  “No problem!  That’s my recovery fuel” I hear you say.  Sadly – no, it doesn’t work this way.   Since the liver enzymes are working at full speed to rid your body of the alcohol toxins they aren’t available to be used for normal energy metabolism functions and glucose conversion to glycogen grinds to a halt (glycogen being the stored form of glucose in your muscles).

4. Fat stores benefit though: In the same way that the body doesn’t like a heap of alcohol to be swimming around in your blood it also won’t tolerate a load of excess glucose in there either.  So, your body goes all out to lower the blood glucose levels too, but since the excess glucose can’t be metabolized into glycogen… where does it go? Fat stores I’m afraid!

5. Got the munchies?: Only once all the alcohol has been dealt with can your body return to normal and start slowly tapping into those fat stores and replenishing glycogen depleted muscles.  The body metabolizes alcohol at roughly 7g – 15g of alcohol / hour and a 12oz bottle of beer will have somewhere between 10g and 14g of alcohol in there.  That means if you have a few beers it could be 3-4 hours before your body can even start to deal with the carbohydrate you consumed in the beer and even longer before it gets around to dealing with that burrito that seemed like such a good idea afterwards.

6. Sleep patterns affected: The low blood glucose levels caused by the alcohol in your body can have a serious effect on sleep patterns too.  REM sleep is disturbed and this is the sleep cycle where you consolidate and commit to long-term memory everything that happened during the day.

7. Dehydration: Antidiuretic hormones which normally prevent too much urine being created are reduced in the body when you drink alcohol, the resulting effect being excess urine production, dehydration… and of course several trips to the bathroom in the night which compound your already disturbed sleep!

Dehydration continues well after alcohol consumption and since as little as a 2% decrease in body water weight can have a significant impact on performance this is certainly going affect your Strava time the following day.

8. Muscle growth is affected: Lack of sleep not only turns me into the human equivalent of a caged tiger being poked with a big stick but the double whammy here is that less sleep = less HGH being produced by the body.  What does HGH do – exactly what the name Human Growth Hormone suggests …. builds muscles. Reducing what is naturally produced in the body to build muscle is clearly a performance decreasing strategy.

9. Cortisol production increases: Cortisol (a useful ‘fight or flight’ hormone which increases with stress levels)  increases when you drink alcohol.  While you may be having a merry old time while you’re in the pub,  the aftermath on your system can be dramatic. Increased cortisol negatively affects testosterone levels and being in a prolonged and unnecessary state of “I’m ready to flee from an attacking rhinoceros” can’t be good for anyone.

10. Testosterone production is reduced: I’m a girl right?  Testosterone’s a guy issue!…. Sadly no this isn’t the case.  Us girls need it too and it’s important for muscle development.   Studies have shown that consuming alcohol leads to a dip in testosterone (i.e. post riding drinking could really affect that period of muscle growth after a training ride).

Oh dear, this really is kind of depressing isn’t it.  So, what’s the answer?  Never letting a drop pass my lips again? I have to admit, just writing this has certainly made me think twice about drinking, but at the same time I also know that life’s for having fun and sometimes the mood enhancing benefits of a few drinks with good friends can far outweigh the physical downsides.   I’m a great believer in ‘all things in moderation’ and while I can’t claim that drinking is going to improve performance most of us aren’t competing at a pro level and the odd drink or two isn’t going to ruin our lives.

So – my aim is this; to lighten up on my drinking by:

1. Avoiding unnecessary drinking e.g. the “it’s 6pm and a fancy a beer because the day ends in Y” type drinking.  Save it for memorable occasions.

2. Avoid the post ride beer situation (which is tough because sometimes after a long hot ride that’s the best tasting pint you’ve had in years)

3. If I’m going to drink, go for light beers or stick to gin and low cal tonic

4. BUT – remember that above all ‘life’s for living’ and if I choose to occasionally suffer a little the next day but as a result have a great night with some friends or open a nice bottle of wine with Rob then that’s ok once in a while.

I should also note here that there is research out there which puts a positive spin on drinking e.g. heart benefits of red wine, plus studies that suggest low quantity/high frequency drinking subjects are leaner than non drinkers.  However, I’m inclined to believe that anything that your body treats as a toxin really can’t be that good for you and I think I’d rather still consider the occasional beer / wine as a treat rather than nutritional must have.

Posted in The Road to Everest Challenge Stage Race 2012, Weight Weight Don't Tell me | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Road is Long: Hor-moans…a grumpy ride

The Road to Everest Challenge Stage Race 2012
The Road is Long: Hor-moans…a grumpy ride

Some days you just wake up in a bad mood.  Maybe hormones, maybe my attempt to go 3/4 decaf 1/4 caffeinated coffee (not doing that again before a ride!) or maybe the stars just aligned to put me in a foul mood.  Whatever, I started yesterdays ride in a grumpy mood.

A group of about 12 of us were supposed to do 60 miles including Boulder Creek (11 miles of dirt road) with a stop at Julian Pie shop in the middle.

4 miles in I wasn’t feeling the thunder, plus something wasn’t feeling right with the bike. After a few checks nothing major seemed to be wrong other than a worrying noise and a bit of movement in my headset (see below – how to check your headset).  By this time I’d tightened it up I was off the back by about 1/2 mile, feeling terrible and not relishing the thought of having to catch back on up a steep dirt road climb. So, not wishing to inflict my bad mood on the group I opted to veer off and do a 70 miler on paved road instead and maybe meet the group somewhere along the way.

Here’s how it panned out:

The Message: Having no cell coverage at that point I couldn’t let Rob or anyone from the group know my plans.  However, 10 seconds later a flatbed truck came by me, so (saying a quick prayer to the cycling gods that this wasn’t a cyclist hating red neck) I flagged him down, put on my sweetest English accent and asked him if would very much mind letting one of the cyclists ahead know that I would meet them in Julian.  He agrees, looking a little confused and repeating my message back to me twice.

The Bee: 5 minutes later, I’m descending Boulder Canyon and am stung by a bee which attaches itself to inner thigh.  In my mad panic to detach said bee from my leg I slam to an abrupt stop, totally forget to unclip like a complete newbie and topple gently onto the ground (fortunately only a slow embarrassing topple rather than anything spectacular). Unimpressed with my cycling circus antics, the bee detaches itself mid fall, but kindly leaves me with the stinger stuck in my leg.  Having not been stung by a bee since I was about 6 years old I have no idea what to do, other than alternate between whimpering and cursing.  Finally I invoke rule 5 (don’t pretend you don’t all know what that is),  pull the stinger out and get back on the bike.

The Confusion: In the meantime ‘Guy in Truck’ tells Rob: “Jo…. the one with the accent…. she’ll meet you in Julian”.  Rob hears.. “Jo… the one with the ACCIDENT… she’ll meet you in Julian”.  Rob then spends the next hour thinking that I’ve had an accident and can’t get hold of me to check I’m ok.

The Detour: Passing Rob and the group around Julian I take the car keys since I’m slightly ahead and likely to reach the car first.  At least that was the plan before I completely missed a turn, took a 5 mile and 500 feet detour, discovered some lovely roads around Julian, but ultimately put myself back behind the group who arrive at the car 15 minutes before me.

The Upside:
- I managed a reasonable 70 mile ride, in 90 degrees + (good hot weather training for Everest Challenge)
- I discovered that I do not go into any form of anaphylaxis if I’m stung by a bee.  I do, however become a complete cycling numpty and revert to being 6 years old again.
- I discovered some new cool roads around Julian
- I learned to ease off the caffeine more slowly next time!

Hints: How to Check Your Headset for Looseness

1.  Straddle your bike facing forward
2. Apply the front brake fully
3. Grab the handlebars and push forward and backward against the grip of the brake

There should be no looseness, movement or knocking in the headset. If there is, you need to either tighten it, or get your local bike shop to check it out.

Posted in The Road is Long, The Road to Everest Challenge Stage Race 2012 | 2 Comments

Weight Weight Don’t Tell Me: How much to the lbs really matter?

The Road to Everest Challenge Stage Race 2012
Weight Weight Don’t Tell Me:  How much do the lbs really matter?

I admit it… I lacked some willpower while in Belgium in April on our Spring Classics Trip.  I’m not afraid to say I’m fond of a Belgian beer or two, the food over there is delicious and frites & mayo are a requisite part of watching bike racing. So I’ve gained some lbs and I’m now going to have to put in the hard work to lose them again before Everest Challenge.

First step – beer and wine.  Much as I do like a glass of wine in the evening and a cold beer at the end of the day, this really is one of the easiest ways to reduce calorie intake without any loss of nutrient value ;-(  .  More on this in later blogs – i.e. how does alcohol really affect the athlete.

A few people asked me recently at our High Altitude Training Camp how much every extra lb counts for in terms of speed.  Since it’s been waaaay to long since I sat in my school physics classes I’m relying on someone else with more brain power than me to have done the calculations correctly.  I like this site: which seems to have done the math (based on some estimates, assumptions and variables remaining constant). Obviously other factors come into play here (including the fact that you often drop weight as you train more and therefore gain additional speed not just from losing lbs but from gaining fitness).

This calculator seems to suggest if I lost a mighty 10lb between now and Everest Challenge I’d gain about 10 minutes on White Mountain (a 21 mile climb with a 6% average grade). What I love about this calculator too is that you can put a negative grade and zero power into the calculator and play around with what speed you can ‘theoretically’ hit on a descent.  This bit is fun, particularly if you watch the speed difference between 5,000 feet altitude and the thin air at 10,000 feet.

By the way – if you’re looking for the real “Wait Wait don’t tell me” it’s here:


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The Road to Everest Challenge Stage Race 2012

Training, Eating and Grumbling my way to race fitness

Ok – I’m doing this.  I need one epic ride / race each year to train for outside of my ‘work’ miles….so this is it:
Everest Challenge Stage Race, 2 days, 208 miles, 29,035 feet of climbing.


I’ll be blogging my way to Everest Challenge over the next few months and trying to pass on some helpful tips for others at the same time. Look out for blogs under the following headings:

1.  Weight Weight Don’t Tell Me
Ok – so I gained a few lb while in Belgium (err beer, waffles and other tasty treats!).  This is how I’m losing the lbs, recipes I’m trialing and what’s cooking today
How much to the lbs really matter?
Alcohol effects on cycling performance

2. The Road is Long
Training rides I’m doing, training focus and tips on training for endurance rides
The Road is Long: Horseshoe Meadows
Mammoth Lakes Training Camp
The Road is Long: Hor-moans… a grumpy ride

3. Tints and Hips
Other hints I’m picking up along the way and tips I’m passing on

4. Equipped for the job
What equipment and stuff I’m using

Come back to this post and for updates and links to new blog posts.




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The Road is Long: Horseshoe Meadows

The Road to Everest Challenge Stage Race 2012:  The Road is Long
Horseshoe Meadows Road

Ride Desciption and Route
It sounds like it should be the most delightful ride doesn’t it?  Through grass and flower filled, flat, lush meadows with frolicking lambs and soft eyed foals. Well Horseshoe Meadows is about as far from that Disneyesque scene as you can get.


Try a hot, dry and dusty climb up to 10,000 feet sitting in the shadow of Mount Whitney (the highest peak in the contiguous USA) with only the occasional scampering lizard… no sign of any lambs I can assure you.

The ride from Lone Pine is 45 miles in total, pretty much 22.5 up and 22.5 back down.  The highest point is 10,000 feet and total climbing over the ride is 6,500 feet.

We opted to take Tuttle Creek Road out of Lone Pine.  Thank goodness we did as the rolling terrain (up to 11% grades) and interesting geological features through this first 5 miles provide some much needed visual stimulation before you hit the 13 mile middle section which is itself a high cadence snooze-fest.


Look out for “Sex Drive” and “Memory Lane” – aaagh the locals know how to have a laugh don’t they?



Hairpin bends in the middle section are less Alpe D’Huez and more Help Do I’z really have to keep climbing this?  2 mile switchbacks with very little to look at other than rock and the occasional hardy lavender plant.  A pretty steady 7% – 9% grade the whole way doesn’t add to the excitement of this part.


Finally, you reach 9,500 feet, only to rudely have 250 of it whipped away again with a short descent after the false summit.  The scenery is markedly more interesting up here though as the environment turns to high altitude forests.

The last 4 miles are once again a steady 7% – 8% up to the campground.  There are toilets and water here.

Hint: If you want to reach 10,000 feet + you have to take the right turn just before the end of Horseshoe Meadows Road and skirt the edge of the car park until your GPS finds the highest point (I know you’re all obsessive enough to do this… we did!).

- No bear sightings despite our delicious 
Honey Stinger offerings.

Watch out for rock falls on the fast descent! -


Training Notes: Endurance, endurance, endurance.  75% max HR. The focus of this ride was to get a feel for my current cadence and long endurance climbing pace at altitude.

With a steady cadence of 65 through the 8% section to keep within my endurance zone, this suggests with my current fitness I need more than a 34:28! A good benchmark climb before the Mammoth Lakes Training Camp at the end of July, which covers many of the Everest Challenge climbs.

Hint: If you don’t have a HR monitor then use breathing to determine if you’re at about 75% of max HR.  If you can breathe easily through your nose for a full minute, without feeling like your drowning, then you’re probably at or about 75%.

Post Ride Pleasures: Alabama Hills Cafe in Lone Pine is a must straight after this ride.  Very friendly service and a good selection on the menu.  The cakes are also a tough test of willpower!  I opted for the veggie sandwich minus the cheese and this was plenty to keep me going for the whole drive home.

Final hints and tips if you’re doing this climb:
1. Leave early to avoid the heat.  7am or earlier if possible.
2. Take two full 24 oz bottles of water (insulated and ice filled if possible).  You’ll be climbing for 2 1/2 – 3 1/2 hours and there are no services until the campground.
3.  Go easy… it’s a long one
4. Don’t leave a bottle of unopened wine in the hot car while you’re doing it. You may come back to a mess on the seats after the cork has forced itself out!

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