Friday, December 19, 2008
I have read somewhere that readers, in general, dislike blog posts with power graphs. I, naively, wonder if it is the same with heart rate graphs. Perhaps not because most of us are still training with HR monitors and they don't look as incomprehensible as their complex cousins.
Chances are it will be exactly the same, and I won't mind if I get some comments on that, but I chose to take the risk by posting my latest HR graphs. The reason is that they are more than an illustration of my thrilling time on the trainer, they are a good example of how our health can affect our training and performance.
My case is an issue with the symptoms of Hay fever. I have had problems with different types of allergies for as long as I can remember but it has really got worsen since I came to Australia, a couple of decades ago. But I won't go into too many details, I just want to show (graphically) how those symptoms can affect us.
In fact, it does affect people's day to day lives in a very bad way, I am learning. The more I read and the more I talk about it, the more I understand why I feel like crap when it gets to November/December and close to the festive season. I can tell, it is not very festive for me!!!
Anyway, here are the graphs which demonstrate clearly how I finished one week of training well, didn't train for three days and got back just to see my performance dropping. One thing, I don't have on the graphs is cadence. The efforts are all done with a 120-130 rpm cadence, part of my training and attempt to stay fit whilst off the bike.
Wednesday, 10th Dec.
Monday, 15th Dec.
Tuesday, 16th Dec.
Wednesday, 17th Dec.
- Getting worse. Struggling here... HR kept going up.
So, I won't get on the trainer for a couple of days.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I am aware that I started this blog to write about training & racing, and other related facts, but I can't help adding what comes to my knowledge and I find to be of interest. At the end, there is or there will be a connection somehow and somewhere down the track.
Let me start with Italian adventurer Alex Bellini who left Peru 10 months ago, intending to row, or float, to Australia. Wait a minute, Italian = pasta = carbohydrates = cycling, here is the connection... Back to Alex, I keep trying to workout what was going through his mind when he decided to do something like that. Ten months alone on a small craft, crossing the Pacific and hoping that the trade winds and currents keep taking him in the right direction.
I crossed the Atlantic once, in 1985, with another three crew on a 38' sailing boat. The trip took us three weeks and that was tough enough. Ten months, alone, on a rowing craft, across the Pacific... it is such a higher level on the scales of adventure feats that I can't even imagine what drives people to get out and do something like that.
Alex didn't make it but he is a legend... or a mad man with some really crazy ideas going through his mind.
That brings me back to cycling and to how the Irish lads are going. These two are also engaged in a great adventure (see Irish Revolution) as they leave the comfort of their homes to ride their bicycles around the Globe. Although, they are meeting lots of people and having a beer or two on the way, the lads are doing tough too. The winter in Europe and the mountains they had to climb have made the first few weeks of their trip a challenge already. They are now heading to South America (not cycling or rowing there, I might as well add!), starting that leg in Buenos Aires, heading to La Paz and leaving the Continent via Colombia.
For the little I know, I can say that this is an epic and worth following journey. There are mountains, deserts, jungles and more on that leg of their adventure. I can also say that they are going to have the time of their lives. And there is project AWARE, which the lads are trying to support.
Good luck, lads!
Racing in Brisbane
Although I haven't been an active player in this topic for a while, the reason being is an old story now, I have witnessed the beginning of the unofficial (because it never starts and never ends) criterium season in Brisbane. The first one was the new Fusion Criterium a few weeks ago, followed by the first of the HPRW Twilight Series, which is run throughout the summer, and the last being the Siziling Summer Series (2 & 3) in February and March.
So, all I can put down here are my views on what I learned from the sidelines and from what I heard from riders that have been competing in these events.
Firstly, the events have been run very well and have been attracting great numbers, including of spectators, which is great for everyone. With the increase in popularity, clubs and organisers are able to attract more sponsors resulting in greater races for Brisbane. The weather has been very amicable which is lucky as we are in the storm season, still.
The races have been fast, very fast. That's what we all want. Apart from a couple of riding on the grass situations, the races have been fairly safe. What I mean is, no crashes so far. I say so far because crashing is part of bike racing and at the same time last year we were heading to the terrible eight crashes in eight races record... I hope we don't see anything like that this time.
One thing that we all noticed, and some have communicated to the race officials, is the way the races are finishing. In a big mess. That's because two races are on at the same time. Nothing wrong with that as they are two different grades, one faster than the other, and have different race times. The problem starts when the slower bunch is sprinting for the finish and the riders find themselves bunched up with the faster group.
So far, the officials have been able to pick the winners out of the mayhem of riders crossing the line, but what they can't see is some of the riders taking advantage of the situation by getting a bit of a draft from the faster riders going pass while others get caught in the traffic jam, caused by the two races getting together.
A solution? Officials must be able to communicate with the bunches, using flags is an option, in order to be able to tell they are being caught and have to slow down and allow the bunch on its last lap to go pass. At Nundah, there is a small loop to which a group may be diverted to. That would create a bigger gap in between the groups and we would see a cleaner sprint.
Then, there is team racing. There is nothing wrong with team racing apart for making the race a little unfair for the riders without a team. "Go and find a team then..." some will scream. No, a better solution, and for a fairer race, move all the "teams" to A grade. Then, it will be team against team and in numbers, riders who choose to race in teams might even be able to hang on and won't look so embarrassing if they get dropped...
And that should be for all the club criteriums!
Lastly, it would be good to make these races even greater and cycling even more popular by inviting friends and workmates to come and watch them. Spread the word.
See you out there!
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
That's the best cycling news I've heard in a while, it beats Lance's return by much more than a country century.
With all the "dope" news hitting us every second day (a Belgium track rider just got done!), the all clear for Frank Schleck comes as the biggest relief. For me anyway...
Normally, I'm not one of those people who find a hero in a preferred sport, or action movie, initiating the kind of devotion that might lead to the strange type of behaviour we see during events, being cycling races, football matches or film premieres. In fact, I can be fairly apathetic to such situations and from my subtle existence in this world, call the whole thing a farce of the PR and advertising machines, simply classifying their creations as over-rated!
No, that's not Frank's case but I have found myself in a position of supporter (found it to be a better word than devotee or fanatic) of the Schleck brothers, not just for their amazing climbing capabilities but for their long association with the defunct team CSC, now Saxo Bank, and their contribution to Carlos Sastre's tremendous victory on L'Alpe d'Huez this year and overall title in the TdF.
Here it is, I am and have been a Sastre's follower since his days as Ivan Basso's domestique. Guilty again, I do ride a Cervelo R3!
So, as with most aficionados, a positive blood test result of any kind or even a confirmation of any dope implication linked to a "hero" of mine (and now I said it) would bring a devastating effect to my belief on the sport, and perhaps on human kind, often, dismal existence...
I am glad there is no "B" sample in this case, it was just a payment of 7,000 Euros to Dr Fuentes.
I can go to bed now!
Sunday, December 7, 2008
This was the weekend I had marked on my calendar with a big A. In fact, it should have been pencilled in with an A+. I say that because the Tour of Bright, which ended today, is more than just a stage race, it is a real challenge not just an intense hour of racing around circles.
Ok, I didn't do it last year because I went overseas and I didn't do it this year because... just because and I am pretty disappointed. From the memories I have of the two consecutive years I raced, this tour is one of the hardest events on the Australian amateur calendar and it has been made even harder with the change from Mt Buffalo to Mt Hotham for the final climbing stage. Something I still have to experience but for now, I will have to wait for Sandra's report.
And no excuses for 2009, I will mark it with an A++.
Still, I did have a great weekend. Once again, and for the last time this year, my son Toby came down for a visit. This time with no training or racing planned, we were able to do things like shopping, eating pizza, cooking and going to the beach. We also spent a lot of time just talking which is something we need to do more often and somehow as he lives else where with his mum.
So, not much on training besides an easy 1 h spin on Friday afternoon. Next session will be tomorrow, hopefully a hard one as the legs are pretty rested and keen for a hard workout.
I found this video of now retiring Paolo Bettini and decided to post it here as a tribute to one of the most exciting riders of the last 10 years or so... perhaps the most complete rider of his generation.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Not very easy this week but I got on the trainer again and managed to do two high intensity sessions (75 and 90 min) after the easy spin on Monday.
For a little boost on my power, yesterday I did intervals at, or close to my lactate threshold (85% of MaxHR). These are hard but feel like the correct exercises for criterium races, where we need lots of those all-out efforts to cope with the surges.
An easy spin later this afternoon and an "cool" weekend with my son. Perhaps a couple of Stellas to keep me that cool.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
For a few weeks now, I have been reading about this "revolution", following the story of these two young men who decided to realise one of their dreams . Firstly I read about their plan, looked at their preparation, their motivation, the equipment. Then, it was the "first leg" from Dublin to Cork, and into France and now in Spain as they continue over the mountains and heading East.
And East is where they are going until they complete their ride around the world. It is not a straight line and many, many things will make them change their course. But, that's the beauty of such an adventure. In fact, many nice things are already happening...
Well, I am not going to write about their "trip", so click on the link on the sidebar, get on their website and support the lads who are also collecting funds for a couple of good causes.
Good luck, lads!!!
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
As the season comes close to an end and temperatures drop in
Europe, a few pro cyclists find themselves travelling south in search of warmer grounds to start their preparations for next year and put some base kms on their legs.
In Tenerife, Team Astana, and that now officially includes Lance Armstrong, has been seeing on their Trek bikes and on surfboards. Reports tell of film crew, paparazzi et al hanging around the hotel and following the riders on the road and at the beach.
Here is one thing I can do better than Lance...
Meanwhile, on another Spanish island, a few Rabobank youngsters have been having some fun on their bikes. One of them is Theo Boss, one of the fastest cyclists on the planet and perhaps the one to bring Mark Cavendish’s sprinting domination to a test next year.
Fast on the track, fast on the road...
These are two examples of when the work of the professional teams begin in preparation to a year of training and racing. For us, of the normal kind, it might be time to slow down a bit, perhaps to have a little break and to reflect on the season that just gone. Then, it will be time for some planning based on our new goals and dreams.
Looking forward to the 2009 racing season.
Monday, December 1, 2008
I will start with my injury so I can get it out of the way quickly.
Last Tuesday, I had the highly anticipated appointment with the shoulder specialist. Without going into too many details, that's how it went:
- Any improvement? as he looked through the MRI report.
- Any pain? as he got up and touched my shoulder.
- Do this... and this... and that... Does it hurt?
- Yes, a bit...
- Looking at the MRI films, there is something else that needs to be addressed but at this stage, we're going to keep working with the physio and will organise for another cortisone injection in a few weeks... January that is.
- First couple of weeks of... and I will see you after that, first week of February.
- February... what about the Twilight Series?
No, I didn't ask that but he should know!!! I just walked out of there thinking that it will be another few weeks before I get on the bike again. Racing? Another couple of months.
I didn't post anything earlier because it took me a while to convince myself that the news were actually good. I won't be back on the road or racing for a while yet but I might not need an operation after all. That is a positive thing!
Next day, back on the table with Ben Herde at OSM for another treatment (more needles), a few adjustments and heaps of reassurance. I guess he needs to be a bit of a psychologist as well in his line of work. Ben has been pretty accurate with his findings also.
After Tuesday's result, getting on the trainer for a session became a little hard. What is the point, I asked myself. So, I did a very easy session, just spinning as I read a book on Pantani.
Wednesday session, nice and easy.
Thursday comes and I am on my way to Adam's Lab for a coffee and a session on his Tacx equipped trainer. Ok, that was the plan. I just didn't know how hard it was going to be. After a chat, a coffee, an adjustment on the seat height (I didn't know my legs were so long...) and a brief warm up ride with Cadel, I was on my way up the hair-pins to Alp D'Huez.We decided going a little easier was best because of my shoulder so Adam dialed the degree of difficulty to -25%. Cheating, I know but it was enough for me to do the whole workout with minimal damage to it.
Next day, it was time for another easy ride, 1h41min with an AvHR of just 83 bpm. It is all about recovery.
After watching the the crits at Nundah, the afternoon training could not be an easy one. Time for the high resistance (5/5) on the magnets and a big gear on the bike, 53-11, which really hurts when trying to push a 70+ cadence.
In the 5 x 3' efforts: 157.2 AvHR and 168 Max
Four hours and thirty eight minutes on the trainer this week, enough to keep a bit of the fitness and even build a bit of strenght. Off the bike this Sunday.
On my drive from the city on Tuesday, I spotted this guy riding his bike on the footpath. Something told me that I should turn around for a better look. And a photograph, which I took. At first I thought he was some kind of a drifter with an eski full of XXXX on a bike. A couple of days later, I had a closer look at the photo and found a couple of details that started me thinking this guy is into something big... What ever he's doing, he is a cyclist to me.
Best place to keep food if you're travelling around
That's where he's from...
The star and stripes might
have had a rough trip here
That's my account... Safe riding!
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Thursday morning, a rain-wet morning in Brisbane. Sitting at home, waiting for my parents to contact me via Messenger, I find no better time to get on the Net and do a bit of surfing. I wonder if the term surfing the net is still in use. Things change so fast.
One thing I do on the Net is to check AMRcycling stats. It gives me a good idea of what is happening with the blog in terms of numbers and traffic and at the moment, it is looking great. According to Google Statistics, the numbers have grown by 95% this month. It sounds incredible, doesn't it? And it's not that the visitor's
count went from seven people visiting the site to 13.65 ... The number of Unique Visitors reached a total of 2,315 since March.
This month so far, AMRCycling was visited 897 times with 583 of the visitors been Returning Visitors. Another positive piece of information is the Average Time on the blog, which is now 2'56". It is nice to know that visitors are reading the posts and coming back.
Cycling in Rio - video
As this post is #100, it is the perfect time to send out a quick Thank You! to all visitors, from Toowoomba to Bogota, from Sarpsborg to Cape Town, and as this blog is about anything cycling, to share this video that I found in one of my favourite cycling blogs, Copenhagen Cycle Chick. It was produced by a car insurance company, of all businesses, in Rio de Janeiro . It is advertising but it promotes cycling, telling me that things do change and a lot of times for the better.Enjoy!
Keep in touch and Safe Riding!
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
A week or so ago, in one of my posts, I called cycling my little obsession and joted down a few points on why I do like it so much. Well, there are so many reasons but what I was trying to get to is this feeling that I get when I ride the bike. No matter how easy or how hard the ride is... I always find myself wanting more.
So, when I walked into Bruce's newsagency a few days later and found the new issue of my favourite magazine, I got a surprise in form of very bright red letters they used on the cover: ARE YOU ADDICTED TO RIDING? No second thoughts on buying that issue, plus they always publish are variety of good articles on training, clothing, food and some new bling. Yeah, just like any other sports magazine, I hear.
No, I am not the only one and according to the author of the article, who described her craving as intense, and researchers in the US and Canada, it's all explained by changes in our brain chemistry when bicycling. Specially at high intensities. Ah, and my experience tells that we do get this from other sports and by ingesting or smoking some substances too - like beer and cigarettes.
They mention a boost in activity in the nervous system and an increased production of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, which get us all fired up and feeling good. Of the three, dopamine is the one that gets most of the attention as it stimulates behaviour associated with survival, and is linked to acts such as eating, having sex and earning money.
It is all starting to make sense now!!!
In the same article, a J J Ratey, a neurobiologist in Chicago, says that it's possible to become hooked on the chemical changes that exercises bring about and that hard rides trigger human growth hormones production. All good so far. In the down side, and there is always something, with a long, intense workout the adrenal glands begin to produce cortisol, or stress hormone, which begins to tear down muscle. Apparently, this is one of the reasons for elite athletes adopting short, intense intervals to their programs these days.
I like that!
The other point they raise is that of a possible harmful behaviour which they say is a defining characteristic of an addiction. Thinking about riding when at work, dreaming about riding and have that urge to go into a bike shop when we see one might be seen weird by non-cyclist partners or friends but they aren't terribly bad things, as long as we keep doing other important things in life. What ever they are?? Just kidding.
In a very promising note, medical organisations should be able to use this association to treat alcohol and drug addiction just by introducing physical activity to patients. Yes, it is a complex issue but who knows if a program where people with those problems could be taken to a velodrome, given some instructions and bikes and told to race wouldn't benefit from it.
A program of this kind would help a cycling organisation in getting some financial support to build a descent venue, which could also be used by other patients, of the cycling-addict type, to get their fix on the boards.
Training and injury
As this blog is about training also, I will continue to put down my graphs and stats. Perhaps, I will also put down a bit of information on what, why and what I am trying to achieve with my training. Unfortunately, my injury hasn't gone away and a decision on what the final treatment is going to be hasn't been reached either. With the help of a good physio, it is a kind of waiting game at the moment.
Hence, a change to the trainer sessions for now, from some intense intervals to long easy spins. A kind of base training as it is going to be a while before a get on the bike and race again...
Time: 2h; Virtual dist: 36 km;
AvHR: 86 bpm; MaxHR: 106 bpm
Time: 1h; Virtual dist: 18.6 km;
AvHR: 86 bpm; MaxHR: 106 bpm
So, on your bike and safe riding!
Sunday, November 23, 2008
The Storm that didn't come
Here in SE Queensland, we have been expecting the storm of all storms. It was expected to hit the area last night. We were not just told by the experts in the media but it was also pretty obvious that we were going to get hit badly by checking the weather bureau. I checked the BOM site (great site to check the weather before a ride) a few times in the last couple of days and it was looking pretty stormy to say the least. For a couple of days, the Radar showed cloud formations stretching from WA to NSW and QLD and stormy weather in the Tasman Sea. So, we all expected the storm of all storms.
The good thing, we got spared, somehow they disapeared before getting here. We only got a strong wind over night. This morning, we woke up to a nice cool morning. Driving to work at 4:30, I could not stop thinking: - What a great day to be on the bike!!!
Maybe in a couple of weeks.
Criterium Racing this summer
Summer in Australia is synonymous of Track racing, everyone knows that. But it is also the time of the year when the size of the fields grow twofold in every club Criterium in Brisbane, perhaps in the country. Clubs like HPRW and Balmoral, to quote just a couple, run their ultra fast "crits" in closed circuits every Saturday morning. Other clubs run their events on Sundays.
These club events also attract track riders as they can benefit from the flat circuits and from riding, or hiding, in the pack for most of the 45-60min races and then sprint for the last 100m or so before hitting the line. Less powerful riders often attempt to break away from the pack but are usually caught in the last 500m or less.
The pace in these races can be anything in between 38 km/h for a C grade bunch and 45 km/h for A grade. With some tight corners in most circuits, racing crits demands good bike handling and lots of explosive acceleration.
There are a few Open Criterium races also, like the Twilight Series (Dec/Jan)run by HPRW and the Sizzling Summer Series run at the end of Summer. They are events which attract huge fields, some above average prize money and generate some very fast bike racing.
Now is a good time to do some specific training for the Criterium races this summer. Time to do some speed work, short all-out efforts and lots of racing. Perhaps a few laps on the track might help with bike handling and confidence to get right in there with the big sprinters.
Check some photos taken by young cycling "ace"/photographer Nick Schultz.
Good luck and Safe Riding!
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Having done a bit of research, despite the "You should be riding your bike!" that I can hear, I came across a lot of new blogs and a lot of information on bloggers as well. I am very new at it, still I am part of a group of millions that have been doing it for a while now. Not very long, really, blogging has been going for five years or so...
I am a female blogger!!!
Have a safe ride!
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Early morning in the shower, getting ready to head out to watch Sandra's race and to catch up with some friends at Nundah, I still had this little voice in my head telling me I had time to change my mind, get dressed and sign up... I didn't!
I got there and watched the women going around the circuit, had a couple of words with Sandra and went around to see if I could find some familiar faces. It was an Open event with huge prizes and attracted a lot of riders and a good size crowd. It was early and there were marquees, music, the coffee van (love coffee, hate vans), bikes everywhere... the place was buzzing already!
After a few chats here and there, I had this conversation:
Racer: Hi Alberto?
Me: How are you?
Racer: Good! Not racing again?
Me: No, shoulder is still an issue.
Racer: Yeah... We are sick of reading that... in your blog.
Racer: You should drink a cup of cement and harden up!!!
Me: Yeah... Have a good race!
Nice. The voice said maybe I should.
The truth is, I felt like going home but it was Sandra's day, I moved on. I am glad I did, apart from an enormous desire to be racing, I felt alright hanging around and chatting and watching the Women's race, then the B Grade race and then the A Grade race. It was a hot morning, people were racing really hard... What an atmosphere!!!!
Sandra's race was really exciting... and fast! She looked calm at the start and got out there to race hard, not just to be dragged around. She raced well for the first few laps but looked like she was struggling to stay with them for the rest. I think she was just a little overwhelmed by the quality of the field and didn't get a better result because she spent a lot of time in the wind and/or at the back. A good experience for her and certainly good training for her main goal next month.
Her report here.
Women's field, Sandra is the second from right
The B Grade was a huge event with 70 to 80 riders. Attacks from the start, small groups trying to stay away, fast sprints. With a bit more organisation it would have looked like a pro field. In one instance and a few metres from where I was sitting, a rider stopped because of a jammed chain, tried unsuccessfully to fix it, looked around and then launched his A$8,000 bike in the air. It landed on the grass. I didn't know what to think of it at first but then it came to my mind that some people have so much disposable income that they can put an act like that without thinking of the consequences... Just like a Pro... field.
When the A Grade riders lined up, it was like always is with them... The teams got called to the front, some of the riders answered a couple of questions, then the rest of the riders, and they were off to a fast show of speed and team tactics. Perhaps the second being one of the biggest differences in between A and B grades. Those guys know how to protect a rider and launch team mates like bullets for a sprint to the line.
Having said that, someone I've raced with a few times sneaked in for an amazing third place beating a lot of the local "pro" riders! Good on you Shaun!!!
No time to watch the presentations, time to go home and get ready for work. On my way out, another quick chat:
Me: Hey, buddy, fast race!
Rider: It was very fast! You are not racing yet...
Me: Perhaps in the road season.
Rider: We are looking forward to have you back in the field.
Me: Thanks, buddy. I am looking forward to race again.
I raced home!
Training goes on...
First session this week, not a very hard one but enough to get me sweating and the heart pumping... I changed the resistance to 4/5, which dropped the cadence to 100-110 rpm. It made more sense as it is not as the High Cadence efforts when I spin at 130+ rpm. And yes, it hurt!
- All out efforts (2'30"; 2'; 1'30";1' and 30") x 2
Virtual dist: 35 km
AvHR: 115 bpm
MaxHR: 161 bpm
The Injured Shoulder
I took another step towards finding out what is wrong with my shoulder. This time a MRI was done to see if they can find any damage to tendons, ligaments or anything else as there is still a sore spot in there and I can't lift much weight with my left arm. Sincerely, I don't know what I want the result to be. If they find something and I have an operation, the recovery is going to be long. If they don't find anything, it is going to be like my other shoulder (I had a similar injury on my R shoulder after crashing in MTB race) and will take a long, long time to heel...
Now I must wait for the specialist to have a look at the "pictures"...
Friday, November 14, 2008
The blog is also about training so I will put down the stuff I am doing at the moment. As I said before, the sessions are all an attempt to stay fit (and sane) and even gain some kind of form for when I get back on the road again. It seems like that day is still months away, that making it hard sometimes but at the end of the sessions, I feel better.
- All out Efforts of 2'30"; 2'; 1'30"; 1'; 30" (same recovery time) x 2 set
Virtual Dist: 32.9 km
AvHR: 112 bpm
MaxHR: 162 bpm
- High Cadence Efforts of 3' x 8
Virtual Dist: 40.8 km
AvHR: 105 bpm
MaxHR: 159 bpm
- Easy spin
Virtual Dist: 47.2 km
AvHR: 93 bpm
MaxHR: 127 bpm
Then, in a more general way, there are health benefits and the social aspect of it. I drink much less alcohol and more Green Tea nowadays and I don't smoke anymore. I have met some really nice people, some really cool too.
Since I hurt my shoulder, I have spent a lot of time and energy trying to decide if I should enter the races. I missed most of my main events this year and I won't be there on Sunday. It is the right thing to do. There is always next season. Hopefully...
Another important aspect of cycling is the chance of using some really simple and interesting equipment. They can be as high-tech as we want (wind-tunnel tested, electronic shifters, hydro formed tubes, etc) or really simple and not very different from the bicycles ridden in the beginning of last century.