Llanberis 2014

I've just got back from the annual Weaver Valley training weekend to Llanberis. The trip which starts from Northwich heads out for 98 miles to Llanberis taking in Ruthin, Denbigh, the 15 mile climb of the Sportsman before descending to Betws-y-Coed to then climb for a further 15-20 miles to Llanberis via Capel Curig and Pen-y-Pass. The way home is slightly shorter at around 95 miles, bypassing the climb of the Sportsman to continue down the A5 and cut through the forest to Ruthin before heading for home via Loggerheads.

It's a tough weekend on the legs but a good opportunity to finish off winter training with a solid 200 miles before a diet of racing from March to September. It is also a good benchmark of where you are following the long Winter.

Pre-Llanberis - Training & Weight Loss

Following a break (ie: lots of eating and drinking) in October and November I started putting a plan together and watching what I ate again in December. I wasn't too worried about miles as my racing consists of 10 or 25 mile Time Trials but I wanted to get the weight down to 12 stone. My lightest in 2013 was 12.5 stone and I felt good riding at that but an extra half a stone while maintaining power would really help.

The early part of December was pretty light in terms of miles, enjoying the shorter rides and cafe stops. I started adding more miles and quality to my training the week before Christmas once all the Christmas commitments with work were out of the way. I put in a ride on Christmas day, an easy 20 miles to see my parents and took part in the Boxing Day 10. This was good because I controlled more what I was eating and drinking on the Christmas Day.

From Christmas Day onwards I committed to Wednesday spin classes with the club and Saturday and Sunday rides. My rides on Saturday were 40-50 mile solo rides without any breakfast (glycogen rides) to get the body used to performing from it's own energy stores. I made sure my rides on Saturdays took in 3 or 4 hills too which really helped.

 I only really missed 2 days out on the bike in January and February, instead doing some Watt sessions on the spin bike and weights. These were really handy as it allowed me to see that despite losing weight I was also increasing power output.


So there I stood ready to leave Llanberis. My weight 12 stone exactly, down from 12 stone 8 when I started in December. A stone and a half lighter than the same point back in 2013.

All I'll say is that the gains from the weight loss throughout the whole weekend was incredible. My heart rate was about 15 beats per minute lower going up the climbs, I don't think I went into 180-190bpm (my usual heart rate zone when I'm really working such as in races) at all. Rewind back to 2013 and most definitely to 2012, I was in that zone pretty much 50% of the time such is the amount of climbing done.

Being able to work like this meant I was able to conserve a lot of energy. I remember in 2012 feeling really ill at the hotel from the amount of effort I had put in. It was a good confidence building exercise as I now know I had that bit extra to play with.

If the weather had been more favourable perhaps I would have dug a bit deeper but in the time I've been cycling I've never cycled in those conditions before. We faced a 28 mile an hour headwind on the way out, reducing speeds to 3-5mph over the Sportsman at times. It was just an energy zapping battle from start to finish, even having to work hard on the decent to Betws-y-Coed. I managed to get to Llanberis without stopping at the cafe at Capel Curig which many took advantage of, the Guinness tasted so good at the hotel!

If you thought Saturday was hard, it was a walk in the park compared to Sunday. Throughout the night, the wind shook the hotel. It didn't sound good. We woke to trees bent horizontally, rain sleeting down. The wind speed of 30 miles an hour wasn't to be the issue, the 60mph (later found to be 95mph according to the BBC) gusts were to be the main problem. Us 60 riders had to get home, there was no other way, we were going to have to do this.

I've never known anything like it. Going along the A5 was one of the most scariest things I've ever done. Two riders were blown off their bikes. At times I was on full, opposite tilt to the bike, being blown across the carriageway. Unlike the wind from Saturday where you could control it (due to it being a constant), the gusts were occasional and you didn't know when they were doing to come. It was really hard going. We all fought on, the field split to bits.

We survived and all got home in one piece. It was most certainly band of brothers. Would I do it again? Of course. Can't wait!

Guest blogging has got Matt Cutts pissed

For those that don't know Matt Cutts heads up Google's Webspam team, playing an important part in cleaning up SERPS with the recent Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird updates.

When they pushed out these updates, Matt posted up blogs, videos along with quality guidelines to make it fundamentally clear what was acceptable and what wasn't. The narrative focussed around creating high quality links from authoritative sources. Such sources included blogs and forums; supposedly content written by real people who would no doubt offer a link back on the basis that it was a recommendation and an appreciation of the content provided. In essence the better your content, the more it will be shared and written about by others, the more links you would receive back naturally.

One ways of generating some decent links back to your site was "guest blogging". So, you'd find a nice authorative blog, you would build up a repor, find that you have things in common and ask (or be asked) to write a guest blog, thus giving you exposure and raising the profile of the individual's blog (basically a bit like me getting Matt Cutts or Bradley Wiggins to do a post on here). In return that would give you the opportunity to mention your company or service and a nice back link.

Anyway, as with everything in search the boundaries have been pushed, the algorithm manipulated and now Matt Cutts sounds peeved. So much so that it sounds like a change in algorithm will be coming along to downgrade links from guest posts.

"Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company.

Back in the day, guest blogging used to be a respectable thing, much like getting a coveted, respected author to write the introduction of your book. It’s not that way any more. 

....So there you have it: the decay of a once-authentic way to reach people. Given how spammy it’s become, I’d expect Google’s webspam team to take a pretty dim view of guest blogging going forward".

To be honest Cutts did hint a few months ago that they were working on an algorithm change which focussed on ignoring paid for content. So there you go, anyone reaching out to bloggers, blatantly offering to pay £100-200 for an article won't be going far for much longer.