Hill climbs

8 08 2008

What is it with a challenge?  Why is it that when it’s blowing hard, we always want to go and train, just to see if we can?  When I’m cycling, I hate hill climbs.  They hurt, you go slowly, and you can’t rest.  It’s just an ongoing wall of pain that you have to push through.  Yet, when I finish riding, I just want to get back out and find another hill…

Anyway, I just got back from a scouting drive, looking for decent hills near the Alp de Watlington.  Well, I found a beauty.  It’s 2 miles long, snaking up a one lane tarmac road, through a forest amongst high banks and gnarled roots, and must climb about 600 metres.  It’s a bit like Hobbiton, just vertical, so it looks like a fantastic challenge.  I’m heading off to ride it tomorrow morning, and I know for a fact that I’ll hate every second of it, but just the thought of getting up it in one go makes me want to give it a shot.  I’ll let you know how it goes.


Powerbars! Ho!

29 07 2008

So during big events, we can be competing for 4 races, each lasting 45 minutes each. During each race, when it’s breezy, I average a heart rate of between 160 and 180 beats per minute, and have to work hard all the way round the course. Sailing is one of those sports where “social loafing” is not possible. Unlike sports such as football and rugby, I can never say to myself “right, I need a rest, I’ll take it easy for a bit and let others take the slack…”. When you’re racing a 49er, you can never rest your arms, so when tiredness sets in, you’re in trouble.

One major area we have worked on later is nutrition. It’s not enough to eat a past meal each night and some cornflakes. You’ll never get round the course. You need to be eating between each race, and it is here that we have made one of the biggest gains. Before, we would take out bananas, chocolate bars or cereal bars, and yet I’d always feel lethargic going into the last race.

However, we recently bought a big bag of Powerbars (Powerbar Performance stage 1, to be exact), and have been pretty surprised by their effect. We’re now going through them at about 4 or 5 each per race day, and have had far more energy during and after racing, better concentration levels and more motivation. We’ve started taking them cycling as a mid way energy boost and again have been surprised at how easy they are to digest (no stomach cramps) and how quickly the energy hits your limbs. It’s been such a huge boost to our sailing, being able to train for much longer without needing a decent meal or longer rest stops.

So the moral of the story? If you want to sail just as well at the end of the day as you did at the start, get some Powerbars.

Alp D’Huez vs. Alp de Watlington

29 07 2008

So we’ve been training hard on the bikes in our spare time.  Although we only manage two or three days sailing each week, we supliment this with 4 or 5 rides and gym session days to keep the fitness high.

I live in Oxford and Jus lives in Southampton, so we have to have pretty high motivation to train on our own.  Flat rides are ok when you have someone to talk to and draft behind when you’re pushing the pace, but it gets very boring on your own.  However, I’m lucky enough to live 20 minutes of cycling away from the edge of the Thames Valley which means I’m spoilt for choice when it comes to hill climbing.  Unfortunately, I’m completely the wrong size for cycling up hills.  for my height, a professional hill climber would aim to weigh in at 66kg, a full 16kg lighter than me.  couple that with having a 5kg bike rather than my alloy one, and I have to carry almost an extra 24kg up the hills.  However, I still love hill climbing, and use it in my rides to push my VO2 max levels for those windy days.

Yesterday i finished work and jumped on the bike, looking for a new route.  i have a rough idea of where i was going, so headed off towards the hills.  After 30 minutes, I found the sweetest hill climb around here, the A40 that runs alongside the M40 near the Stokenchurch cutting.  Where as the M40 cuts straight through the hill, the A40 winds up the back of it, through thick forest.  It turned out to be 15 minutes of steep , out of saddle climbing which really got me thinking.  Now, I’m pretty fit.  for example, on the way back we have a long straight road through open fields, which I always flat out sprint, at around 190 bpm, which lasts for around 5 minutes.  This is fine, no problem, but at the top of that hill I was spent.  Sure, I had raced up it as fast as I could push myself, but compared to real cyclists I have nothing.  in 2004, Lance Armstrong time trialled up the Alp D’Huez, an epic mountain climb in France in a record time of 37 minutes and 36 seconds.

How anyone can race up such a huge steep hill for 37 minutes is beyond me, and truly puts the Alp de Watlington into perspective.

Right, time to get back to training.  I have a LONG way to go…

the 21 bends of the Alp d'Huez

the 21 bends of the Alp d'Huez

Awesome weekend

16 06 2008

We’ve just finished a fantastic weekends training in the Solent.

With us leaving for Kiel week this friday coming, we trained with Rich Mason and Tom Peel over Saturday and Sunday as a final weekend sharpening up practice. Although we drove to Lymington expecting light winds, the Solent delivered a sunny, 16knot seabreeze day with short steep chop. Amazing…

After agreeing rig settings with Rich and Tom (it’s good to know what the other boats is sailing on so you can compare. We chose slightly lighter settings with a straighter mast), we hit the water to be greeted by the aforementioned kick ass sea breeze. Both boats quickly took on some turns and set off on a long tuning run. First result went to rich and Tom, creeping away from underneath us to lead by about a boatlength over 10minutes of upwind sailing. We took a few more turns and some more jib tension (the breeze was building) and set off onto another run. this time, we seemed to have much better pace, and could sail faster on a bow-down course, and higher and faster when we wanted to climb away. although our boat speed was similar in a straight line, we just seemed to react to the gusts and chop marginally quicker (and when I say marginal, I mean gaining half a meter each gust. not much, but it does add up). After a few more upwind tuning runs, we popped the kites for some downwind training.

Now, the next part of our training was obviously designed by helms, not crews. The 50 gybe challenge (invented by Team GBR coach Harvey Hillary) is a long downwind leg where boats have to, yes you’ve guessed it, gybe 50 times in quick succession. I used to think gut-busters were hard, but the 50 gybe challenge (particularly the last 15) was exhausting. Still, we got through it without looking dangerous which we felt was pretty good considering the steep chop we found just of Cowes. Although we had more pace upwind over the weekend, Rich and Tom we’re EXTREMELY rapid downwind. We struggled with our training kite whilst they had a good quality kite up, but even so, the boys have some pretty devastating downwind pace.

After the long downwind legs, we ran a 20 minute “tacking every 20 seconds” drill, which again was great practice. Both boats were very evenly matched, only gaining or losing due to the conditions on either side of the course. After 20 minutes upwind, we were still meeting bow to bow in the middle, no matter which side each boat took.

We finished off Saturday with some long races followed by several extreme shortcourse races with a set number of tacks and gybes each leg. Again, both boats were very equal, although we did manage to win more races than we lost. But again, it was generally even. Rich and Tom seemed slightly less hurried over the very shortcourse races, but we seemed to pull ahead when the course was a little longer.

Sunday dawned with slightly less sea breeze due to the lower temperature, but still gave us 12-14knots of wind to play with. Sunday was a mirror image of Saturday: Long downwind legs against the tide (with Rich and Tom showing some more pace) followed by extended tacking legs and tuning runs (again, our upwind pace seemed to pop us out in front). We finished off the weekend with some starting practice, triggers and short course races.

Overall we notched up six hours on the water, plus a couple of hour bike rides in the evenings. In the final week run up to Kiel, we are both hitting the gym each day plus logging 5 high intensity rides to top off our training. Roll on Germany!


6 06 2008

I’ve tried all kinds of training for sailing. Running is like watching dust dry, swimming is as enjoyable as juggling with bricks (wearing a blindfold) and don’t get me started on the “I’ll play rugby to get fit” (ok, I learned how to get punched in the face, which is a useful skill for sailing occasionally, but it’s tricky sailing with a broken back…). Sure, I hear you cry (or mutter), sailing is the best fitness for sailing, but I’ve got a business to run during the day…

So what’s the answer? Cycling. Over the winter, i was running 4 days a week for around 45 minutes at a time. Watching the seconds tick by was torture, and 45 minutes seemed to last a liftime.  Picking up cycling though has opened my eyes. A two hour ride flashes past in an instant, and I just can’t get enough. Sure, I’m now adding more carbon to my bike then you find on a stealth plane (costing me a fortune) but it’s all worth it when I hit the water in breeze and don’t even feel the pace.

Seriously, if you want to get fit then get a bike. If you want to improve the whole “how to wear a gum shield when I have no teeth for it to stick to” technique, then play rugby. Just whatever you do don’t take up running instead. Like a retarded midget, it’s not big and it’s not clever. (I’m going to hell for that joke…)

Weekend update

3 06 2008

Sorry about the uninspiring title, but yes this is just a weekend update.  We are in our summer training programme at the moment, which comprises training Saturday, Sunday and Monday whilst working like a beast in the evenings to keep the business going.

This weekend, Saturday looked too light to sail so after meeting in Lymington with 49er new boy Ben Paton (Ex Radial World and European Champion), we set about re packing our rudder stock, whch turned out to be the most boring job we could imagine.  The second we had ripped the old packing out (AKA the point of no return), the breeze picked up to around 6 to 8 knots.  However, without a rudder, we were stuck, so we set about re-packing the stock to sail sunday and Monday (and also re-rigging and tuning Ben’s 9er for him).
Sunday turned into the best day for sailing.  We managed 2 -3 hours in 4-8 knots, but struggled on the sail in when the wind died to zero, forcing us to beat in against a ripping 4 knot tide.  We eventually made it in with some daylight spare, so we topped the day of with an hour bike ride (a puncture forced me to go back and pick the van up halfway, so Jus could only cycle for half of it. But he did make friends with a horse in a field.  It was called Jeffery.  The horse)

Monday gave us an hour upwind sail in very light winds against another strong tide.  Again, we managed to get back in without calling our mates from the RNLI to tow us back, although it was a close thing…

Finally, we went for a high intentsity cycle to finish off the weekend.  24 miles in an hour and a half around the New Forest was enough to get us walking like drunk monkeys afteerwards, but it was great to keep the fitness levels up.  Now it’s back to work for me, and back to enjoying the sumer (rain) for Jus.  ( I hate uni students, now that I’m not one anymore..)

Back in the saddle

6 05 2008

So after a week of having a physio pull my neck apart, we decided to give it a shot and hit the water saturday morning.  After a much drawn out warm-up whilst Jus rigged up, we launched into 12 knots and sunny skies.

Thankfully my neck held out and we had a decent 2 hour session.  Towards the end the breeze picked up to nearly 15 knots so we ended up having an awesome sunny day sailing.

Once we got home, we had a quick pasta dish and jumped on the bikes for an hour and twenty minute 25 mile fitness ride.  Needlesss to say, by the time we srrived home and had dinner, we were knackered….

Sunday brought light and flukey winds.  After standing around for an hour moaning about the weather gods, we decided to re-grip the boat in time for next weeks event in hayling Island.  Three hours later we were suitably grippy, packed away and loaded ready for Hayling.  We headed back to Hythe and went for another fitness ride, this time for an hour.

Great weekend, loads of fitness and some sailing.  Lovely!