Friday, December 26, 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

Graphically Speaking

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.
- Feeling good on the trainer for the whole week.

Sunday, 14th Dec.
- After three days off the trainer, due to a worsen of my Hay fever symptoms, it was hard to get back.

Monday, 15th Dec.
- Hay fever keeps affecting me, HR is erratic and up, and legs feel weak.

Tuesday, 16th Dec.
- Feeling crap, low mood, heavy legs again (flat tyre doesn't help). Chose an easier gear.

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

Great Adventures / Racing in Brisbane

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

Frank Schleck cleared

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

Another video - Bettini

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.

The Champion

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.

Salute, Paolo!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Sandra in the Tour of Bright / For you "papa"

I have just returned from the airport after seeing Sandra off to Melbourne and the Tour of Bright. We have done this race together (2005 and 2006) so to see her going by herself wasn't the best. Even knowing that she will be well looked after by Bruce and Mick, good friends of ours from our time in Cairns, it's always nice to do these racing trips with her.

The Tour of Bright is hard for us as we don't have those types of climbs in Queensland so racing those "mountain-goats" down there is a challenge. Sandra has trained hard for it and has the mental strength to do well in this type of event. All she needs is to race sensibly, trust herself and make sure she stays with the leading group on the fast descents. I know she will do well and hope she has a good time doing what she loves doing - riding her bike.

Can't wait to hear from her.

For you papa...

Last night, Sandra showed me this video and I found it so brilliant that I decided to put it here (as I do) for those that haven't seen it and for those who have but would like to see it again. "It" went really well with Thai last night. Uhm... lunch time soon and I don't have to go to work!


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.
On Wednesday, I did four high cadence efforts to assist with leg speed (three minutes each with three minutes rest). The cadence was kept at around 135 bpm. These efforts, also put a load on our cardiovascular system as the HR jumps to 80% plus.

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.

Safe Racing!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Irish Revolution has started...

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

A season ends, another gets underway...

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.

Safe riding!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Quick Injury Report / Training / Anything cycling...

Injury report

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.

- Yes...

- Any pain? as he got up and touched my shoulder.

- Yes...

- 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.

- January?

- 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.

15 km climb in 44'24"; AvHR at 159 and Max 170 bpm

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.

Anything cycling...

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!

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