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Over on the Yellow Field Technologies blog, there's details of the WordPress Plugin that I use here to display my Garmin data, like the one below.

Have look here: http://yellowfield.co.uk/blog/index.php/2020/02/23/wordpress-plugin-to-show-fit-files/

Time:
06-Feb-17 9:10 am
Duration:
06:04:17
Distance:
84.74 km

2

After the Methlick Cycle Challenge, I decided I wanted to replace my mountain bike. I’d really enjoyed off-road bits of the ride, but using a mountain bike (albeit quite an old one) slowed me down on the road and hard-packed gravel sections.

With this in mind, I decided on a gravel bike. There’re some good gravel routes in my area and it’d be good to use as a winter bike. I eventually decided on a Planet-X Tempest – I’ve long wanted to try a titanium bike, and this seemed like the ideal opportunity. I hummed and hawed about the size and eventually settled on an XL (I’m 6ft 2in, 188 cm tall).

The bike arrived well packed, and I only had to fit the front wheel, handlebars & drop the saddle in. Since this as my first bike with disc brakes, fitting the front wheel took a bit longer than expected. The fit seemed perfect, so I was glad I didn’t go for a large instead of extra-large.

For a first ride, I went around Fyvie Castle estate, a local sporting estate and stately home, now owned by the National Trust for Scotland. The route took in a range of road conditions from decent asphalt roads, potholed roads and rough landrover tracks. The bike handled well with the titanium seeming to absorb more road ‘buzz’, compared to my carbon Felt Z3. The SRAM ‘double-tap’ gears took a minute or two to get used to, and they’re not as ‘snappy’ as Shimano I have on my other bikes, although I may have been spoiled with Di2 on my Felt. The brake levers have quite a bit of movement before brakes bite, and I suspect these may need to adjust.

The Tempest seems to be a great bike and I’m looking forward to exploring more off-road stuff locally.

Time:
14-Jul-19 10:32 am
Duration:
03:37:44
Distance:
63.14 km

The Methlick Cycle Challenge has been going for a few years now, initially as a ride from Ballater to Methlick and more recently as a ride based in Methlick itself. The ride offers 66-mile, 44-mile and 20-mile options.

This was the first time I’d attempted the event, and I opted for the 44 mile distance. The event was billed as part on, part off-road, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Looking at the route map, there were few parts of the route I was familiar with, apart from 10-or-so miles on the old Buchan railway line. I’d opted to use my mountain bike, a 1992-vintage Trek 7000, later fitted with suspension forks (these weren’t a common thing on mountain bikes in 1992).

After arriving at the start a bit later than I’d have liked, due to car problems, I signed on and rushed down a bacon roll. After a quick toilet break, it was time to line up. After a quick briefing, we set off along a track that followed the south side of the River Ythan. At the end of the trail, we crossed the river back onto tarmac and climbed up to Gight Woods. On this climb, I released that climbing with suspension forks is a bit of a bouncy experience!

Once at the woods, we dropped down and turned onto some narrower roads towards Cairnnorrie. From there, we moved onto some gravel tracks and climbed past some wind turbines. On the gravel descent from here, I passed someone who had fallen off. I stopped to offer help, but several other riders had already stopped. It later turned out that they ended up in hospital, getting knee operated on.

From there, we approached a single-track section with a warning sign about a steep descent towards a pond! At this point I walked down to the pond, as I wasn’t too confident in my bike’s stopping power.

We turned onto the Formartine and Buchan Way (an old railway line) beside Auchnagatt and followed that for 10-or-so miles through Ellon to Udny. This was a fairly fast stretch of the route, and the surface was quite good with only a few puddles. There were two refreshment stops on this section as well, together with a bike mechanic for any mechanical emergencies.

Once off the old railway line, we followed mostly smaller country roads to Udny Green, and then off-road again on the Old Aberdeen Road, which is basically a grass track, into Tarves. The final part of this was a rocky descent shaded by trees. Here, I really thought I was going to come off my bike, but somehow managed to get to the bottom in one piece. From here, we passed through the centre of Tarves and onto another stretch of farm road. At this point, I became aware of a rattle somewhere on my bike. Looking down, I saw that the front quick-release has somehow come loose.  Thankfully, the ‘lawyer nibs’ stopped a more serious problem, as that section of track was quite bumpy.

At the bottom of this descent, we crossed onto the hard-packed roads of Haddo House estate, a stately home owned by the National Trust for Scotland and home to the Marquess of Aberdeen. Once through the estate, we were back onto tarmac for the short stretch back to Methlick with a free beer and a barbeque at Laird’s Cricket Ground.

All in all, a well organised event that took in some interesting routes around Methlick. Will I do it again? Definitely! On the same bike? Probably not – talking to some of the other riders over a beer later, many of them had ridden Cyclo-cross or Gravel bikes, so I’ll probably go that route for next time. I’ll definitely be back next year.

Time:
16-Jun-19 10:48 am
Duration:
03:56:25
Distance:
86.47 km

Last weekend, I took part in the Suie Classic, a 54 mile bike ride that’s part of the Great Inverurie Bike ride.

The Great Inverurie Bike ride started out many years ago as a 25 mile sponsored event. In the last couple of years, a longer, 54 mile option has been added. The route follows most of the 25 mile course with and out-and-back loop added over the formidable Suie hill, a 6-mile climb, topping out at a 14% gradient.

I’d done this ride before, in 2017, so I knew what I was letting myself in for! The weather was nice at the start in Inverurie, with temperatures of about 15 Deg. To avoid congestion at the start, we were set off in groups of about 20 every 2 minutes-or-so.

I probably took it a bit too easy on the first couple of small climbs, wanting to save myself for the climb of Suie. The run out the foot on the climb was fairly uneventful, passing along the side of the River Don to Keig where we turned right onto the bottom of the climb. The first 4-or-so km are fairly easy, then the road ramps up for the final 2 km. Here the gradient hits 14% (according to Strava). Once at the top, I stopped to refill my water bottles and to refuel on Jelly Babies and a banana. From there, it was a descent down the other side of Suie (the steep side, with 16% gradients and tight corners), and along to Auchleven. 

At that point, just as we starting to climb up Brindy out of Auchleven, the heavens opened and we were bombarded with torrential rain and hail stones. The shower only lasted for 10 minutes-or-so, but it was enough to soak my shorts and feet (I’d stopped to put my rain jacket when the rain started). After the descent, we turned back along the river Don towards Monymusk. After that point, I felt pretty miserable with wet feet.

As we approached Monymusk, it was apparent that they’d had no rain, and the warmer air meant that my jacket and shorts soon dried. The course looped around the back of Monymusk, and then passed through the centre of the village before heading back to the start through Blairdaff and Burnhervie. At this point, we joined the 25-mile route riders, and later the riders on the shorter, 13-mile family route. It was good to see families of all ages out on their bikes, although caution was advised as some of the youngsters were weaving over the road, with little awareness of cyclists approaching from behind.  The final run into Inverurie was a welcome downhill past the hospital and back to the start.

My final time was 3:49:03 (moving time), a few minutes slower than last time.

Up in my part of the world, training outside in the evenings (and some days) is pretty difficult between October and April. During this period, I rely on my Turbo trainer for cycling fitness. I’m lucky enough to have a dedicated room for my training, albeit in our outbuilding.

TacxNeo

Neo Trainer

Late last year, I upgraded by mid-2000’s vintage Tacx Flow to a Tacx Neo. The Neo is a direct-drive trainer, meaning that the bike connects directly to it, rather than the bike’s rear wheel resting on a roller, like in a traditional turbo trainer. My last trainer did have controllable resistance, but it was from a time when few trainers had a computer connection. Having the trainer controller by the software has made a big difference to my experience on the trainer.

Zwift

Since I got the Tacx Neo I’ve been using Zwift. Prior to this, for the past couple of winters, I’ve used the Sufferfest, first just the videos, then the app once that was released. While the sufferfest provides a good workout, it didn’t provide anything for unstructured, ‘just cycling along’ days. With Zwift, there’s the option to just cycle the roads of the worlds they provide.

Of course, the latest Sufferfest provides much more than just training sessions, providing yoga and weight training sessions as well.

There’s a number of VR-type cycling apps on the market now, including Bkool, Road Grand Tour and others. Zwift works well for me, and I’d rather spent my time training, then trying out other apps. For a good review of the various options, have a look at DCRainmaker’s trainer software review.

Computer/Keyboard/Monitor/Adaptors

I’m using my main laptop, a 2018 Macbook Pro, along with an Apple keyboard (MB869LL/A). The keyboard has two USB ports, one at each end. Into one I’ve plugged a cheap mouse, and to the other, a Suunto ANT+ adaptor. The Macbook needs to have a keyboard connected to run in clamshell mode (i.e., lid closed). Although a Bluetooth one will work, I used a wired one as it allows me to use a cheap mouse and also provides a port for the ANT+ dongle. I’ve also got an additional power adaptor for the laptop to save having to drag one out every time I’m training.

I’ve got a BenQ 21” monitor (GL2250HM) that I picked up cheap on Amazon, and a stand to hold the laptop vertically so that it takes up less space on the worktop (the unit is an old kitchen unit from our house). A plethora of USB-C adaptors are used to connect these – I swear the adaptors cost more than the laptop!

WiFi is provided by a TP-Link PowerLine adaptor connected back to the Internet router in our house.

I’ve got Honeywell fan from Amazon which sits on the desk to provide some cooling airflow. To control the fan (only On/Off), I’ve got an Eve Homekit switch – this means I can turn the fan on and off without having to dismount from the training, using an app on my iPhone. In the winter, it’s a bit too cold to have the fan on from the start of the session, and I usually need 10 -15 minutes warming up before it goes on.

On the bike, I’m using a Tacx Sweat Cover with an iPhone pouch on it. In Zwift, there’s a companion app that runs on iOS and lets you control aspects of Zwift without using the mouse or keyboard. I also use the iPhone to control my fan.

ZwiftSetup

Performance

The setup works very well. However, looking the zwift logs in zwiftilizer.com, it looks like the distance between the Neo and the ANT dongle might be on the limit, as the log files show some dropouts, although I haven’t noticed this either when using zwift or in the .fit files when reviewing at them later. This may also be due to the TP-Link WiFi base being too close to the ANT dongle as both of these work on the 2.4 GHz frequency. I probably need to check exactly what channel the WiFi is using as well, as it’s recommended to uses channels 1-5 to avoid interference with ANT+ and to definitely avoid Channel 10, as it’s exactly the same frequency that ANT uses. Using 5 GHz WiFi is also an option, although I don’t think my current TP-Link unit supports that.

With my 2018 Macbook pro, I’m getting 60 frames per second on average, using the 720 & basic settings in Zwift. I need to experiment with higher settings, but I always forget to do this before starting the Zwift session!

Conclusions

The change to using a Neo and Zwift has certainly enhanced my training this winter. If nothing else, it’s motivated me to training more often, which can only be a good thing. Getting the environment right also reduces the friction to getting going for a session.

On Saturday, I took part in the Brewdog Sportive. In its first year, this event is organized by Let’s Go Velo and based at Brewdog’s brewery in Ellon, Aberdeenshire. The ride has 30 mile and 60 mile options. I’d opted for the 60 mile, challenge, option, although leading up to the event, it wasn’t clear whether this was 70 miles, 60 miles or 104 km, depending on which website or Facebook page you looked at!

The weather was fine on the day, in the low 20s Celsius. Parking was provided at the near-by Ellon park and ride, a short distance from the brewery. Registration was quick and easy, and we were piped off in groups of 20, every two minutes.

Immediately after the start, most of my group shot off up the road, but I held back with a couple of others to get a bit of a warm-up. In the first 5 km or so there was a short climb of 12%, then the road levelled off. The course led East from Ellon along rural roads, following the river Ythan to the small village of Colliston. From there, we followed the coast up to Cruden Bay, with views over the North Sea and of Slains Castle, the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. We then headed North, before turning back towards Ellon and to the food stop at Hatton village hall, stocked with sandwiches, bananas and water and, most importantly, toilets. After Hatton, the route headed back to Ellon, crossing a couple of main roads. Once in Ellon, the 30 mile route finished back at the brewery, while the longer, challenge, route headed past Ellon golf course and North-West towards Methlick, where there was another food stop at the 75 km point. Again, there were ample supplies of bananas, sandwiches and water, plus a convenient public toilet.

Leaving Methlick we headed south into a head wind through Tarves. From there, we headed East through Udny Green, and then turned North to take advantage of the tail wind over a short climb back to Ellon, then rode through the centre of Ellon back to the Brewery.

As usually, I could have done with a few longer rides, leading into the event – I’d done 80km the week before, but prior to that, my longest ride had been about 50 km. Again, at the end, I was feeling pain in my neck and shoulders, so I think I need to tweak my position on the bike a bit more. Oh, and my bike’s still got the annoying click from somewhere that I can’t find.

The event was fairly well organized. The route mostly followed quiet, country roads with little traffic. And the route signage was fairly good, but could have been better, with perhaps some advance signing of the turns. For instance, at around the 30km mark, the was a T-Junction immediately after a blind corner – there was no warning of the impending junction, or advance warning of which way to turn until right on the junctions. At another point, we turned right on a busy road in the Ellon – however, again, there was no advance warning of the turn. Additional signage would have allowed us to positioning ourselves safely In the traffic before the turn. However, these are minor criticisms, and certainly won’t prevent me from returning next year.

We’re just back from a couple of weeks at Club la Santa in Lanzarote. For those not familiar with it, Club La Santa is one of the premier sport resorts in Europe. Its location in Lanzarote makes it the ideal place for a spring training camp as the weather’s usually pretty good, and the temperature’s usually in the mid-teens to low twenty’s. We’ve been here many times before and always came away having thoroughly enjoyed our time there.

The first week of our stay was for the Joe Beer Spring Triathlon camp with Joe Beer, Dan Bullock from Swim for Tri and Phil Price of Club la Santa.

The weather was a bit windy for the first week of the camp, with the occasional rain shower. The wind made riding in a group a bit tricky, especially when riding alongside lighter riders who are more affected by the wind. However, only one ride was cancelled due to the weather and was replaced by a Q & A session with Joe and Dan.

The second week was self-coached, consisting mainly of some longer bike rides and a couple of runs. I managed to have a puncture on the second-last day, but couldn’t find the cause of the hole (neither could the guys in the Club la Santa bike shop who replaced the tube for me). The next day, the last day on my camp, I had another puncture on the same wheel about an hour into the ride. I changed the tube, again looking for signed of the cause, and just took it gently returning to Club la Santa – since I was flying home the next day, I didn’t worry too much about the cause – on returning home, I found the plastic rim tape had twisted and that seemed to be the cause – I’ve since replaced the nylon rim tape with Velox tape and have refitted the tube and tyre. So far, I haven’t had a chance to ride on it due to Aberdeen’s winter weather.

FRI 193

VIRB0023

Time:
24-Sep-17 10:03 am
Duration:
05:17:03
Distance:
42.3 km

At start of year, my nephew, Ben, mentioned he was running Loch Ness marathon. I Decided to join him, as I’d always planned a marathon at some point, and this seemed the ideal opportunity. At the time, it seemed like a long way off, not until September.

Coming up to the event, my training had gone OK -  I’d had a couple of 10 – 12 mile runs about 6-7 weeks out, but I managed to get sick for a couple of weeks shortly after that. My longest run was 16 miles a week before the race.

I’d booked accommodation in the Premier Inn in Inverness, as it was only a short walk from the race village for registration and transport to the start. On the Saturday night we met up with my nephew, brother and mum for a beer and something to eat. The restaurants were pretty busy and it took us a while to find one with a table available. After food, it was back to the hotel for an early night.

Race morning started at 5:30 for a breakfast of cornflakes. From the hotel, it was a short walk to the pick-up point for the race. I met up with my nephew and from there, we were bussed to the start of the race (about an hour’s travel) at the south end of Loch Ness (opposite Invermoriston). We left the busses and walked a short distance to the start area. The start was on an exposed moor and it was cold windy and horizontal rain. We were glad of the bin bags we’d brought for insulation! On the plus side, there were plenty of portaloos for the 2500 starters.

We were piped off at the start by a school pipe band. The route is downhill for first 5-or-so miles, which meant we were less exposed to wind and rain as the road dropped down to the loch side. I ran alongside Ben for the first couple of miles, slightly ahead at times and slightly behind at times. I lost sight of him after about 6 miles and didn’t know if he was ahead or behind.  Just after the 6 mile point, there was a large-ish hill where I walked up it. From then on, the route is undulating. I went through the half-marathon point at 13.1 miles in 2:20, and still felt OK. However, after 17 miles the wheels came off and I was reduced to walk/jog. At least at that point the remaining miles were in single figures. With 6-or-so miles to go there’s a long hill which seems to go on forever. After that point, we were back on the outskirts of Inverness with only a short-ish distance to go. The final part of the course follows the river Ness past a number of pubs and hotels, then crosses the river and follows the other bank back to finish in the race village at Bught Park. I managed to run most of the way back from the bridge and finished in a time of 5:17:01, a bit longer than I’d hoped, but not too back considering the training I’d done. My nephew, Ben, finished almost an hour behind me in 6:15:33.

Post-race, we heading into Inverness for beers and pizza (and a lot of garlic bread!) at the Black Isle Bar.LN Marathon

Huntly triLast weekend, I competed in the Huntly Triathlon, another event in the MPH-sponsored Aberdeenshire Council Triathlon Series. It’s based at Gordon Schools & Huntly swimming pool, about 45 minutes’ drive from my home.

I’d seeded myself with a slower swim time that at the Turriff race, with the hope of being in a lane with swimmers of a more comparable speed to myself. Luckily, this seemed to by the case and I ended up swimming with someone who was more-or-less the same speed as me – we completed the swim a few seconds apart, although I took a little longed exiting the pool as I moved across a lane-or-two to use the ladder.

Once out into the transition area (there was a run from the back door of the pool to the car park where the transition was setup). I had a fairly quick (for me – still putting on socks) transition, and ran with my bike up to the mount/dismount line.

The first part of the bike runs through the town of Huntly and out onto the country roads. The section through the streets is quite twisty with some sharp corners. I was a little surprised to be passed by another cyclist on one of the sharp, blind corners! However, it was early in the bike leg, so I didn’t bother to chase him down yet. Once out of the town, the bike runs along the A96 main road for a short while before turning onto quieter, more rural roads. The route runs through the surrounding farming countryside, before heading in to the village of Rothiemay. Shortly before the turn-off for the village, I managed to pass the cyclist who’d passed me in the corners in Huntly.

The route to Rothiemay is fairly flat with a few undulations and a final drop into bridge before entering the village itself. Once in Rothiemay, the route turns back towards Huntly, following the River Deveron. From this point, the road climbs gently, before a drop back into Huntly. The course turns back into Huntly, and returns to the pool via a couple of narrow streets with a couple of tight corners to watch out for.

The run heads out from the swimming pool towards Huntly Castle, then follows the edge of the rugby pitches into some industrial units. From there, it rejoins the bike course back to the swimming pool. I managed to run the first 1.5 km a bit too fast, then had to stop for a walk/jog break. After that point, it was a walk/jog back to the finish. I misjudged the barriers on the pavement at the swimming pool and had to run a few extra yards when I realised I couldn’t cross the road to get to the finish line.

Overall, I was happy with my race – certainly, I have a better swim that at Turriff, and felt stronger on the bike. The run still let me down a bit, though.