Put Your Heart Into It

When I registered for the Tour de Manc (TdM) last week, I saw a countdown timer indicating a little more than 160 days to go before the event. This got my mind focused on training.

I am a British Cycling member, so their website was the first place I looked for advice. They have several free training plans and I opted for their 12 week (84 days) ‘Improvers’ plan, meant for regular cyclists wanting to get ready for their first 100 km bike ride. Although I intend to do the 100 mile ‘Full Manc’. I hope to shoe horn in a second training program prior to the TdM. The reason for training to do something I have already accomplished (100 km Half Manc 2016) is mainly to learn the method of following a structured training plan.

This is the first time I have started following a structured training plan. The ‘required equipment’ was a surprise to me. There are lots of things a little alien to me, like riding in a set heart rate range and a minimum cadence. I am having to spend a little cash on a few essential items. They will be coming from China and delivery is slow but to save £50+ on these items allows me to spend a little more on other things I will need soon.

Bluetooth speed and cadence sensor (search ebay ~£7)

Bluetooth heart rate monitor & chest strap (search aliexpress ~ £10)

Optional spare chest strap (search aliexpress ~ £3+)

I bought a second-hand Garmin 200 just before TdM 2016. The TdM route was mainly unfamiliar to me. I suspected I wouldn’t have the time to get out paper instructions or my phone at every unfamiliar intersection. The Garmin 200 worked brilliantly and I only had two occasions where I missed a turn. They involved several direction changes over a short distance. I’ll prepare better next time and look out for these ‘turn clusters’ cropping up in 2017. However, now I have to train in particular heart rate zones, the Garmin 200 won’t cut it. It can’t connect to bluetooth sensors. Therefore it can’t display the information I need in training and during the event for pacing myself.

British Cycling – Improver’s Plan

The first week of the Improver’s plan has three rides with at least one days rest between each ride. It will be harder in the future to fit in these mid-week rides due to work, but I’ll have to find a way. This week it’s easier to find the time, as I’m on Annual leave between Christmas and New Years.

Week One – Day 2 (Strava Ride 1)

This was supposed to be a low intensity ride for about an hour. I’m obviously not good at riding at low intensity. I got out on my bike and did some offroad and road cycling on national cycle route 6, as it’s close to my house. This time with a HRM strapped to my chest.

HRM Tip 1 – Use an Electrode Gel to make sure of good conductivity between your heart rate monitor’s strap and your chest.

HRM Tip 2 – If you’re using a phone to record your heart rate, keep it in front of you so the signal doesn’t get blocked by your body.

When I got back home and uploaded the data to Strava, I also imported it in to Garmin Connect. I found that my rides are at very high heart rate zones (Average Zone 4.4), not the low intensity (Zone 1 or 2) suggested.

Without knowing my zones or having my real-time heart rate in front of me while training, I’m going to struggle to improve my fitness. I don’t really want to have my phone strapped to my handle bars as it’s not waterproof. Therefore I really need to buy a new GPS unit with bluetooth connectivity.

I have exchanged some Tesco Clubcard vouchers for Evans Cycle vouchers. I’m torn between the 2017 Lezyne ‘Super’ or ‘Micro’ GPS unit despite their bad reviews. Their software is in the beta stage but their price versus functionality will make me take a risk on a Lezyne Year 10 GPS unit. I hope soon their software gets sorted out and the advertised features become a reality. Their 2017 GPS range is outlined in this comparison chart.

Week One – Day 4 (Strava Ride 2)

This ride was my Functional Threshold Heart Rate (FTHR) Test. By working out what average heart rate I can sustain for an hour, allows me to work out my heart rate training zones. I found it a little complicated to do this, I ended up reading the British Cycling instructions about the FTHR Test several times.

I needed to plan a route I could ride at a fast pace for 30 minutes, with minimal traffic lights and no big climbs or decent. I ended up using the A6 from Little Hulton to Blackrod. You ride at the fastest pace you can sustain for the full 30 minutes and then take your average heart rate over the last 20 minutes. Strava lets you select part of your ride and then it shows the averages for the selected region. For me this was 167 BPM and using the British Cycling Heart Rate Zone Calculator I got the following zones.

Week One – Day 7 (Strava Ride 3)

This ride is still to come and I am going to have to use guess work until I can see my heart rate and cadence as I ride. I need to ride in Zones 1 and 2. Zone 3 is allowed for hills but I suspect I’m going to really struggle to ride in the active recovery and endurance zones for between 1.5 to 3.5 hrs.

I plan to find one of the archived Allez Prestwich rides and use that for my likely very frustratingly slow Sunday ride. Alternatively finding a British Cycling ‘Ride Social‘ event may be a better option, as they are often at a leisurely pace. I’ll add a link to the Strava data above, after I’ve done the ride this weekend.

Help Me Out

I hope you are inspired to start getting training for Tour de Manc 2017. If you have any advice for me please visit my blog site cycle2health.com to get in touch or leave a comment for me. I’d really appreciate your help, advice and support during a winter of outdoor training!

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Author: David Jackson

Hello, I'm a 40+ yo cyclist trying to get back into cycling after the Covid-19 pandemic. I have hardly been on a bicycle in the last 2 years.