KILDARE CYCLING COLUMN: My training for 300km to Cork

Conor McHugh's cycling adventures

Conor McHugh


Conor McHugh


KILDARE CYCLING COLUMN: My training for 300km to Cork

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I’m currently in training for CP2CP which is on August 24 next, a month away from last Wednesday.

The first CP2CP was held in 2015 in honour of the late Aidan Lynam who was a friend to all who love to get around on two wheels.

It one went from Croagh Patrick to Croke Park, which was 277kms.

The following year it went in the opposite direction, and this year, sticking with the CP2CP theme, we’ll be heading from Croke Park to Cork Port.

To be honest I don’t know the route yet — it’s being kept a secret because apparently there’s a little surprise, which I’m hoping is somewhere nice to have gourmet lunch rather than a big climb.

Getting to Cork is enough of a challenge — I don’t feel the need for additional scenery!

I don’t have a plan that is hugely specific in terms of efforts and zones. My plan, if you can call it that, is broken down into a couple key goals.

Now I know that your average professional and qualified trainer will be somewhat horrified by my lack of precision about these things, but as somebody pointed out the other day, when you know your body and what you’re capable of, you tend to have a good sense of what you need to do to get yourself into shape.

The first goal is to simply spend more time on the bike. The cycle will take more than 10 hours and I want the body to be used to that amount of work.

So over the last few weeks I’ve ramped it up so that I’m getting out at least four if not more times a week.

I am a firm believer that when it comes to base training, it’s less a case of how far or how fast and more a case of how often.

So I’ve been doing at least one long one at the weekends followed by at least two shorter ones during the week, a little bit of mountainbiking and even, when suits commuting in and out of work.

My partner, for example, has been commuting 21kms twice a day for the past eight weeks and has improved her average speed by 10kph.

I should add, my idea of a long one is getting over 100kms, even if that’s just 101kms.

Secondly, I want to increase my power to weight ratio because I want to enjoy CP2CP rather than suffering my way through it.

The two main ways to increase your power to weight ratio are to increase your power and to decrease your weight. I’m not trying to be funny — I’ve often seen people attempting to do one without the other.

With that in mind, every time I come to a hill I’m destroying myself on it, trying to develop an ability to hold a steady higher wattage. It’s actually a form of weightlifting, and it improves the strength in the legs.

Secondly I’ve signed up to the Noom app on my phone, which was recommended to me, and I have to say I find it excellent. (Alas I’m not being paid to say this.)

I am cynical by nature and particularly cynical of weight loss programmes, but this has proven to be particularly intelligent in how it works.

Without you noticing, it fits nicely into your lifestyle and makes you thinking about what you’re eating. For instance it’s linked to my Strava account and when I’ve logged a spin, it will increase my daily allowance by half as many calories as I’ve used.

It asks you how much you want to lose you and how fast you want to lose it, and then designs a plan around that.

If you find your plan too onerous, you can adjust either of those two metrics. Or just exercise more to get the opportunity to eat more.

Third, I have a set of rollers at home that I do half an hour on a few times a week.

I’ve found that rollers require a particular form of cycling to keep yourself upright. It must be constant, both in terms of power output and the cadence.

You don’t necessarily appreciate it until you try it, even if you’re a good and smooth pedaller, but we rarely actually pedal so smoothly and consistently for so long.

The only thing you can do is click up through the gears to make it harder or easier, but the smoothness must remain.

In cycling, as in life, an ability to pedal smoothly makes everything easier.

Fourth, and finally, there’s fueling, and the body’s ability to be as efficient as possible with fuel.

There are three sources of fuel — fat, glycogen and blood sugar.

Like in a car, the faster you go the more fuel you need. You will always, more or less, use the same amount of fat and glycogen, and if you can keep your heart rate low, they make up the majority of your fuel.

If you go hard, the percentge of fuel being derived from blood sugar will increase.

Blood sugar, as in, the results of that Mars bar you ate an hour ago, gives you great immediate power, but it doesn’t last long whereas your fat stores are essentially endless.

The trick is to keep the heart rate low, so that the greater part of your fuel comes from fat.

On the cycle itself, think less about the miles and more about the time.

Your body can only deliver to your leg muscles about 250 calories of food per hour, so the trick is to just keep grazing all day long.