Christmas Stockings and Expensive Bike Kit

The title of this blog is not an abridged version of my seasonal wish list but there is a unique link between the two.

Tomorrow, I’m starting an annual ritual observed by people around the world.  It’ll be difficult for some but will bring happiness to many that see it through.

The Rapha Festive 500.

Those of you that are avid users of Strava will no doubt know it well.  Strava seems to be like that, the Marmite of applications.

Teaming up with Rapha, means that Strava users riding 500km or more, between 24 December and 31 December, will complete the challenge and be entitled to a small, embroidered patch (supplied by Rapha), that you can proudly display on your cycling cap, or whatever other piece of cycling clothing you might choose to adorn.

Strava keeps a leader board, according to the distance ridden.  I won’t be anywhere to speak of on the leader board, as once I’m over the 500km, I’ll call it a day, or more likely, a week of cycling.  Some riders put in 2000km or so in those eight days, to fight it out for the prestige of longest distance ridden. It’s a good stint in the saddle, there’s no denying it but I can’t help but feel that the chart-toppers are somewhat missing the point.  They tend to be riding in the Southern hemisphere, in the height of summer or somewhere a good deal closer to the equator than the home of Rapha.  Taking a week out from work during the summer and riding your bike is a great idea but it’s hardly a noteworthy accomplishment and certainly not one worth two whole square inches of embroidery!

No, in my view, the whole challenge of ‘the Rapha’ is to ride every day (or almost), with the grit and determination required to battle against the elements, rather than sit on the sofa like a seasonal TV sharp shooter, unable to decide which festive movie to choose from. Riding in UK in December can be ‘interesting’ to say the least.

This’ll be the third successive year I’ve ridden the Rapha. The first time, the weather was fine for a couple of days but then a cold snap had me battling through snow and ice, at one stage siding over ridges of black ice, on a road closed to cars by the police, with just my old friend Jon Sharpe for company.  As we were about to turn around at the roadblock, rather than attempt our local hill, the officer said “you can ride through if you want lads but don’t come crying to me if you fall off and break something.” So, ride on we did and on reflection, with some degree of surprise, we didn’t fall off but rode confidently over whatever lay in our path.  It took me until the following summer to actually fall off and break something, on an ever so slightly greasy roundabout.  The rest of that story is history but this one goes on with Rapha 2015.  High winds and rain were the theme for last year.  At one point, I rode into a headwind with 50mph gusts, doing just 7mph on the small chain ring, as that’s all I could turn.

I’m not sure what this year has in store. Suffice to say the relatively warm temperatures and still air, gave way just today, to driving rain and howling wind.

In any event, it’s the Rapha and it must be done.  I have to earn the patch after all.

As a Strava user, you can enter the challenge on the app, or if you’re still to begin feeding that addiction, you can find out more on the Rapha Website.

If you’re a Rapha first timer, I have one word of advice for you. ‘Patience’

That isn’t meant to imply that you should take your time clocking up the kilometres. No, it’s patience you’ll need waiting for your patch to arrive.  They’d perhaps more appropriately depict the Easter bunny than pine trees and snow!

Whatever you’re doing from now until new year, here’s to riding, shiny side up


GI Tri Coach

Weekly Swim Session Plan 20 December 2016

To download and print this session plan, click here: session-plan-99

This week we’re taking a light-hearted approach to a technical swim session.  Practice your drills and whenever you are able, implement the focus of the drill in your freestyle stroke.

There is no warm-up, technical set, or cool down, just go straight into your traffic jam main set!

The object of this session is to keep moving!

Main set:

Set off 5 seconds behind another swimmer.

Swim up the lane, use your choice of drill coming back.

When caught by a swimmer, give way at the end of the lane.

If / when you catch up to the swimmer in front, change from swimming to drilling in order to stay behind them for the rest of that pool length (having the effect of doing more drilling and less swimming).  If you catch them on a drill length, switch drills to a slower drill, in order to stay behind them until the end of that length.

Coaching Points:

Technical swim guide: Driving Home For Christmas

Use any swim drills you like. When drilling, execute with the same precision as you would during the technical set of any other session.

Faster drills:

Catch-up, finger trail, high swingers, head-up life-saver, quick-catch

Medium drills:

1-finger drill, 6-3-6, Doggy paddle, skating (with L/R switches),

Slow drills:

Kick-only, sculling

Weekly Swim Session Plan 12 December 2016

Download and print this session plan here: session-plan-98

Session Introduction

This week we seek consistency of pace throughout the session, as we continue to build volume and that platform of winter base training that will set us up for the 2017 season.

Warm Up:

100 – 200m (4 -8 lengths) easy freestyle

Technical set:

3 x 50m skating drill to halfway, swim to wall

Main set:

4 – 7 x 400m at CSS pace + 4 seconds / 100m, using a pace clock, trying to hit consistent times throughout.  Rest 30-60 seconds in between (based on your current fitness).

Warm down:

100m – 300m (4 – 12 lengths) easy cool down

Total Volume:

1950m – 3450m

Coaching Points

Pacing – as a rule of thumb, swim easy, relaxed strokes early in the session, gradually building in intensity through the session to produce consistent times.

Skating drill:  maintain a long, aligned body positon (engage core and glutes) head down in neutral, trailing hand in pocket Skating Drill demonstration (endless pool)


Weekly Swim Session Plan 6 December 2016

Download and print this session plan here: session-plan-97

This week we begin to introduce volume into the set as we lay down a base of moderately high volume while maintaining appropriate intensity to improve swim fitness.

Warm Up:

100 – 200m (4 -8 lengths) easy freestyle

Technical set:

3 x 50m doggy paddle up, swim back

Main set:

7 – 12 x 200m at CSS pace, using a pace clock, trying to hit consistent times throughout rest 30 seconds in between.

Warm down:

100m – 300m (4 – 12 lengths) easy cool down

Total Volume:

1750m – 3050m

Coaching Points

Doggy Paddle Drill

For doggy paddle, aim to reach to the same depth and width as you would in your freestyle stroke.

During the pull phase, keep the hand on the ‘rail’ (approximately under the edge of your body)

Making a straight pull along an imaginary straight line from the hand when in catch position, directly back toward the foot on the same side of the body.

The elbow flexes out wide to avoid that pace sapping deep, straight arm pull, allowing the hand to stay on line.