Since I’ve already attempted the 2 challenges which I set myself at the start of the year, I can’t really claim to be training for anything in particular. I do, however, like to maintain my fitness and think that I’ve improved this year, so don’t want to lose what I’ve gained. Since trying my biggest ride in years, the Mary Towneley Loop, I’ve had little structure to my riding. Today there’d be no chance of finding dry trails and I struggled to get excited by the prospect of a ride. I considered Rivington but was worried that the best sections would be too wet and slippery to really enjoy. I thought about Birkacre with it’s good choice of fairly weatherproof trails but decided to add more structure to my ride by ascending Healey Nab to ride 5 laps of an excellent circuit. It’s all off road with no gates or similar obstructions and uses the remodelled red graded downhill segment. I’d begin each lap, though, by climbing a fairly direct and steeper alternative to the usual longer route. I knew there wouldn’t be any major areas of slippery mud to cross and it makes the climb quicker. I’d time each lap but ride continuously, trying to maintain steady lap times, hopefully being exhausted by the end. I’ve always thought, and today confirmed my view, that timing the whole or part of a ride adds a level of interest which you don’t achieve by just riding around a trail. It’s especially useful when you time laps because you can compare lap times and motivate yourself each time around to achieve a target. Timing the whole ride and comparing to previous attempts is very much affected by trail conditions, rain and wind.
I rode a mixed road and trail route to the north end of Healey Nab. It only took 15 minutes or so to reach the start of my circuit. I clicked my stopwatch and started the first climb towards the trailhead. When I got there I found some youths riding down in a slow and untrained way. I stopped the watch at 4 minutes and waited until they were in a better position to pass. Starting the watch again I passed a few, splashing through a puddle by the last 2 who sadly got soaked. I got some amusing verbal abuse even though, I’d apologised. They were with a teacher. I wish we’d had such good lessons as an MTB ride when I was at school, though the mountain bike didn’t exist, as such, back then. Some loose gravel is accumulating on parts of the trail so I was looking for harder packed grip points on the corners to do the hard turning on. I completed the lap in 8 minutes 19 seconds. I was deliberately taking it easy on lap one so was pleased to be consistent at 8 min 14 on the second lap. On lap 3 I can only imagine that I was trying to get my breath back on the easier parts where I should have been searching for speed. 8 min 27. I’m sure I did a slower third lap last time I rode 5 laps of a circuit. Is there a slow third lap syndrome? I concentrated on speed whilst riding the easier parts on lap 4 and was back on track at 8 minutes 13. Pushing myself to maintain the pace on the last lap I was very pleased with another lap of 8 min 14. This time I was breathing hard at the end and was glad of a short break. It seems like I’d paced myself well and rode home by the same route as I’d arrived by. I could feel some satisfying fatigue in my muscles and had turned an occasion where I’d started with little motivation into a fulfilling ride. I strongly recommend timing your rides, runs or other activities. It’s a great way to motivate yourself and make your session more productive.