Here's the latest installment of Gareth's Étape du Tour crazy Alpine cycling adventure.
This is why I'm not a proper blogger! So much for monthly updates. It's good to be back!
Training for the Etape is most definitely underway. I'm following a training programme designed to take me from reasonable cyclist to Etape completist(!) in 17 weeks. It takes a bit of time (four sessions and about 120 odd miles per week) but I'm slowly starting to feel a bit fitter.
It was also a good excuse to get a new gadget, a Garmin Edge 500 bike computer, as the training program is based on heart rate zones rather than my old method of barrelling around until I coughed up a lung. I was a bit skeptical about the heart rate training at first but keeping the pace in check to boost endurance levels seems to be working.
Training in Scotland in spring is always interesting. Rain, wind, more rain, a bit more wind, hailstones, snow, the occasional bit of sun but with bonus wind! The weather means you need a bit more kit than your average Euro cyclist.
The best bit of kit I own is the "wee hat" designed to be worn under the cycling helmet to stop you getting ice cream head at speeds of over 5mph. This was a present from our friends Jillian and Greg in San Francisco and was made by Jillian's friend Sheila Moon. In a nice bit of Scottish health and fitness irony I saw Sheila's company mentioned in a cycling magazine I was reading whilst awaiting the preparation of a fish supper at our local fried foods emporium. Looks like she's still doing well and she can rest assured I offer her silent thanks when I have hailstones bouncing off my skull when out training.
If the weather gets too grim it's time for the spinning bike. This can be a bit boring but to liven things up a bit I like The Sufferfest – series of downloadable training videos. They offer gentle encouragement and a bit of hand holding for the wannabe road cyclist, for example:
Another cultural thing with roadies (and plenty of internet debates as to the pros and cons) is for male cyclists to shave their legs. It's meant to make it easier to get a massage post race and make things less messy if you fall off but it seems like a big leap for a peely wally Scotsman. I always have this picture in my mind of shaven legged tanned and skinny European cyclists riding up mountain roads before stopping at an alpine cafe for a wholesome lunch.
In contrast my hairy legs have been taking me over the many hills of Fife in Atlantic headwinds and driving rain whilst looking forward to sampling the wares of Dunfermline's finest Stephens the Bakers and a cup of tea.
Still, it toughens you up and I'm hoping for unseasonably cold and rainy weather in southern France during mid July. No way I'm shaving the legs though, I need the extra insulation for next year's winter training!