National HC preparation reflection

It’s been a difficult year. With tough times on and off the bike. My injuries haven’t fully abated, but just enough for me to put some solid weeks training leading up to this weekend. Outside of racing my training has been mostly soft pedalling and looking down at my legs trying to figure out what the hell is going wrong. However I’ve managed a few good weeks that seem to have brought some of my top end power back.


Last year I was run down to the point that I think I messed up nutrition big time leading to much of my on going injury issues. I was starving and probably overtrained. My weight went down to just below 66kg. So I was determined to not get nutrition wrong this time around. I’ve tracked everything for 10 weeks. Food in, training, weight, body fat, muscle mass… everything. It’s been fascinating to study it all and I’ve learned a lot about macros and nutrient timing, all the buzz words. Despite the assumption of many I’ve eaten loads. Each day I have two breakfasts a massive lunch that I pick at for most of the afternoon at my desk and start eating dinner soon after. My weight? I’m down to 66.0kg.

Body fat, the key component has dropped by over 1%. Definitely leaner than I think I was last year. With more muscle mass than last year too. The key really is simple. I’ve given my body the fuel that it needs when it needs it. For example lots of carbs with some fat and protein in the morning and around training. I then prioritise my calories around protein during the evenings. I’ve only eat simple foods I.e nothing manufactured. I’ve eaten huge amounts of green vegetables, potatoes, rice and oats. With high protein low fat meats specifically tuna and turkey. For my late night snack habit, I choose lightly salted peanuts and occasionally some ham. It should also be noted that I do not eat wheat products and rarely have alcohol or any other calorific drink.

I find high water content foods, usually vegetables, help keep me full. Frozen broccoli and peppers really bulk out meals. I also add a lot of spice and chilli to my food.

On average I’ve been eating 3,500 calories a day dropping to around 3,000 during my taper and rest days. My macros have been roughly distributed CHO 55%,  Fat 25%, Protein 20%.

I think it is important to realise that `calories in` aren’t equal. I listened to a podcast regarding high intakes of protein. They consumed 4.4 g/kg/d, to put that in context I’ve been eating ~2.5g/kg/d. Bearing in mind this was on top of their usual diets so they were not supplementing protein for other macros. Guess what happened… Nothing. there were no significant changes over time or between groups for body weight, fat mass, fat free mass, or percent body fat.

So it is important to know what each macro does for your body.

Macro Nutrient Cals per Gram Purpose
Protein 4 Protein assists in repairing muscle which happens every moment of the day whether you are training hard or not
Fat 9 Essential for cell health. I believe that nutrients require fat to be absorbed by the body.
Carbohydrate 4 Energy which can be readily available or stored for later use.

I think I will write a post about all I have gleamed regarding nutrition as there is a lot of detail which are worth noting.


As mentioned above training has been a bit rushed this year. I spend most of the season fixed into an aerodynamic tuck churning out >20min efforts with little variation in power. This does not help the explosive climbing that is required in hill climbs. With the various ailments I’ve been experiencing I was reluctant to start changing bikes mid week in between TTs. So my training for hills started late which meant training hard through the races I would have ideally tapered a little for. Results suffered for this but it’s all about October 25th this HC season.

Monthly elevation this year

My training had 3 phases. I started with a few weeks just getting used to the road bike climbing at a fairly low intensity just getting in as much elevation per week as possible. Knowing I can get out daily I wouldn’t trash myself in one session but rather keep my powder dry for the next day. For me I feel consistency is key in the base period rather than having blow out days that would hold me back the following day.

The second phase has been 5 minute VO2 repeats and race simulation with a fairly high volume of easy climbing. On most rides I would do a VO2max interval for around 4-5 mins early in the ride to elicit V02max which would give me a better chance of hitting VO2 adaptions during general climbing for the rest of the session. I felt mostly motivated during this phase and could complete the key sessions I intended to do. I was thrown out by my power meter not reading correctly for a lot of this period which meant quantifying efforts more difficult. For a good part of the early weeks I was under my true target powers due to the PM over reading. This also affected many races where I hit the numbers planned and had slow results because of this. I guess this is a lesson in training with and not to power.

Final phase, race and taper. In these final weeks I’ve backed off volume considerably but ensure I keep doing high intensity climbs. For some reason this season I’ve been struggling with performance anxiety during training. Thoughts of ‘what if I go slower up this hill despite trying hard’. I’ve tried to combat this by concentrating on the purpose of the effort. I’ve turned it from ‘how fast can I go’ to ‘how hard can I make this’ or ‘how much can I make this hurt’. This does seem to switch some of the anxiousness off.

I still don’t think I’ve fully shaken off the part of the brain that holds me back for a long effort. I’ve been finishing races still feeling as if I could have gone on if needed. Pacing is certainly something to concentrate on next year. I will be doing my best to keep climbing a part of my weekly training. I will be focusing on SPOCO events next year to ensure this.


I have a Felt F5 frame which I use for my hill climbs the frame is sub kilo but not the lightest. It is however very stiff, I notice this when moving from my Felt B16 TT bike which is as stiff as a noodle. I’ve been very lucky to find a friend in Edgar Reynolds who has an array of Lightweight wheels. He lent me two sets this season. Fernwegs which are super aero, quite light and very stiff (2.5kg with tyres and cassete). Meilensteins light less aero but still stiff (2kg with tyres and cassete). So the choice in each race has been which set to use. I’ve made lots of use of the Compare Equipment tool for this making assumptions between cda of the two wheel sets. It seems in general for climbs below 6% or those than have significant sub 6% sections the aero Fernwegs are faster despite the weight penalty. For the steeper climbs I’ve gone for the lighter Meilensteins.

Bike in low grade config. Around 8kg.

Since the above photo I’ve hacked away at the bike to make it as light as I could. I managed to find the following savings…

  • Cutting off drops 81g
  • Headset spacers and cap 28g
  • Front derailleur cabling 32g (I left the mech on to stop the chain from dropping off)
  • Bar tape and plugs 73g
  • Saddle covering and foam 49g
  • Misc bit such as mech bolts
276g found
276g found, could gain me a second

In all I’ve found 276g a whole 1/4kg! Not as much as I’d hoped. But that could be a second faster on some climbs. The sacrifice has been spending a few weeks without drops which has given me arm ache. No front mech which has meant spinning everywhere, until last week when I put it back on for Beeley Moor. Riding on a surprisingly comfortable sliver of carbon.

Steep grade config weighing in at 7.1kg. Steve Hall ©

In all my bike weighs at its lightest config 7.1kg. I’m giving up 2kg on the lighter bikes but for the resources I have available I think this is as light as it can get. One thing I could do is turn it into a single chainring at the front but I’m reluctant to start messing with my Quarq again.

Looking forward to Sunday

In all I can’t complain. I am in a good place mentally about the nationals. I feel excited. I will enjoy the experience with the objective of being more competitive next year. I want to do my best. However this time around it feels like a dress rehearsal. Of course I hope I can get the most out of myself on the day. I’m lucky to have such a good friend in Edgar Reynolds who has lent my some very nice wheels for the day which I hope to spin up the hill in an effort deeper in the pain cave than I’ve ever been before.

Thanks to Steve Hall for the great Mow Cop photo.


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