Monday, August 31, 2009

Cracking the 200... but loosing in a race!

Week Ten of my 12 week program for the Grafton to Inverell Classic was planned as another recovery week after two weeks of build (17 and 15 h). Recovery? From what? I have been feeling so fresh everytime I get on the bike and I haven't been feeling that constant soreness in the legs like in previous seasons. Do I really need a recovery week? Am I doing enough?

I have been planning my training around recovery, good nutrition and more recovery. So that's working. I haven't done the thousands of kilometers that everyone is doing in preparation for The Race. So, I should be fresh. But what's going to happen on the day?

If only I could know the answers...
The Big Ride

Well, things changed a little after I spoke to Brian Ferris, a Grafton to Inverell veteran with 26 starts. As I expected, and in some way hoped, he had arranged for a few guys to meet and do a long ride. Three of them preparing for The Race.

I called Peter, who has done the big race twice (or more), the night before to see what he was doing. Yes, he was doing Brian's ride and he was also doing a longer, harder ride on Sunday...

- I'll see you tomorrow, Peter!!!

Wednesday came and the five of us left Zupps as the sun came up. And without much talk, we started our journey North. We headed towards Strathpine and Petrie, where we turned into Dayboro Road. This is a good stretch to get warmed up for the 7 km Mt Mee Rd climb to Ocean View (350 m) and beyond.

Mt Mee, as it is known, is another one of my favourites (Yes, I do have a few). At 5-6%, it gives the rider few alternatives on how you want to do it. Having the
new shorter cranks, I chose to test them by riding out of the saddle for most of the climb (apparently a disadvantage of having shorter cranks). So, big chain ring and out of the saddle this time...

Then over Mt Mee Village, on a beautiful undulating road, climbing another 220 m. Down the other side on a fast descent and left on D'Aguilar Hwy. Through Woodford and Peachester, with a couple of efforts and another climb followed by a 12 km descent. Great riding all the way to Glass House Mountains Village for a snack.

The scenery was just breath taking as we rode trough forests and sighted some of
the famous volcanic crags of the Glass House Mountains.
The way back was a little more familiar, via Elimbah, Caboolture, Narangba, Strathpine and Aspley. At the end, we had ridden 190 km and had an average speed of 29+ km/h. It had also been one of the best rides ever, for me. Not just the new roads, the scenery and the speed but the company. Brian, Jeffrey, Peter and Richard are very experienced riders , serious about their riding and training but visibly happy for just being out on the bike.

Distance: 200.5 km
Time: 6h 57min
Ascent: 2145 m

Just 190 km and 5.5 km from home! I could not stop so close to the 200 mark so a loop of the Jinker Track gave me the extra kilometers to reach that highest number ever...

Almost home...

Loosing a race

A couple 1 hours spins on the rollers (Thu & Fri) and the Club Road Race Championship was next. Well, that could be a long story but I will make it short and just give a little description of how to mess up a sprint.

The race was at Elimbah, a 17 km loop with 115 m of ascent, most of the groups having to do three laps. I started in a group of six which got disintegrated after 10 or 12 kms. Because of the strong wind, I tried to hold the group together for a while but someone had a different plan. I followed his move dropping the rest of the guys.

From there, it was matter of sharing the work as evenly as possible and making sure there was something left to react to an attack or for a sprint at the end. Very few words were said for the 40 something kilometers. The pace was identical for the three laps - 36 km/h. I thought I could push it to 38 but wasn't sure if I was able to drop my riding mate, he was the more experienced of the two.


The course profile and my HR

Before I knew it, we were in the final three kilometers. I started calculating how many short turns we would make each other take before the sprint. He gambled by taking a longer turn which persuaded me to overtake him with one kilometer to go.

Because of the terrain, I could not see the finish yet so I kept looking and increasing my speed. My time to gamble came with 300 m to the line...

HR, speed and elevation of the finish

But I forgot one thing: the wind. As I accelerated, I kept my line and protected my mate (the dark rider) all the way to the finish. Stupid mistake!


My impression

A different Zupps

Still feeling good on Sunday morning, I managed to leave on time to do the Zupps Ride, usually 90 km. Anything more than that would make me too tired for the rest of the day and for work.

After chatting to a friend for a while, we found ourselves strugling at the back of the 80 plus bunch, which became a bit messy with the increase in speed. I decided to move to the front and with the legs begging for a workout I decided to keep going and break away from the bunch.

The move turned into a real break as the group decided not to react at first. Then, one guy came across but he didn't last as I used him to take a rest and then speed away again. I was never going to succeed but I wanted to use it as a good work out by staying away for as long as I could.

And that was it, helped by a young rider called Sam, by a couple of traffic lights and a small crash in the chasing bunch, I stayed away for 12min 45sec or 9.2 km...

A great way to finish my week.

Week 10: 457.5km/16h12min

Monday, August 24, 2009

Nundah Crit and being late for Zupps hurt...

Week nine ended without the long ride (180 km) I had in my training plan. Work just kept getting on the way... That's not an excuse by any means, it is just a fact and I do know that some people have even worse working hours and other commitments which make their training even more difficult. I just don't know how they do it sometimes...

After the week of training, the late shift on Friday didn't allow me enough sleep before the anticipated Nundah race on Saturday morning. Getting up was very hard, having something to eat even harder so I had to do it with a cup of coffee and the banana with Nutella trick...

Lucky, we are not far from the track. I left home at 7:42 and was crossing the start line at 8:11.

Nundah Criterium

A field of fifty plus guys lined up for B grade, the ladies had their own race earlier. The presence of two or three teams with their heavy weight sprinters was an indication of a possible sprint finish. As I am still using these races as training sessions for endurance events, and fun, I couldn't just sit in the bunch for 52 min and then try to win the race in the last 200 m so attacks and a break away was in my mind.

Five of us did get away early in the race, too early in fact, and stayed away for about 20 min with a gap as great as 25 sec. Strong group, good move, wrong time. It looked like we got caught by some extraordinary effort by a couple of sprinters themselves. Great work!

After getting caught, I went into energy saving mode for a while then attacked a couple of more times hoping to start another break. Useless moves. Near the end, I felt that the legs had lots left for a strong finish but mentally I didn't have the energy to fight for a position with 40 guys who were there to race for 1.2 km.

The training got done.

Time: 53min 50sec
Dist.: 38.2 km

Zupps Ride

Normally, I leave home 15 min before the roll out time. This Sunday, I had 5 min to get there - 5.5 km away. So, sorry to the cycling community but I only stopped at the red lights when I had to. I went past with 9'35" in my clock and heard the friendly shout from the easy going second group: You better hurry, they are gone!

- Shit! I told myself.

It took me another 11' of hurt to catch the bunch. Not the prescribed way to start the morning but I really wanted to get more intensity on the weekend and this ride is good for that.

Sandra was on her way to the State titles, so were some of the Elite riders who regularly do the Zupps but there was still a strong bunch and a dozen or so hot U19 guys who were really keen to hurt everyone else...

The average speed was around 38 km/h which is fairly high for the Zupps, I think. And I felt it, later at work!

Time: 1h 45min
Dist.: 65 km

Week 9: 415 km/15 h

Today, I am off the bike and planning for a recovery week. Having a couple of days off work, I wonder if I should throw in a long, long easy ride... It can't hurt.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Mt Nebo Road

It was 3:30 PM when the alarm went off for the second time today. It did the same thing 12 hours ago, exactly, when I reluctantly got up to get ready for work. This time, I was going to ride my bike on Mt Nebo Road.

I should be rested after the one hour nap and keen to get on the bike for the three hour session. But no, I felt unmotivated and a bit down... or just tired. I looked through the kitchen window and noticed that the wind had picked up, a SE which surely would make the ride down from Jollys Lookout too cold.

The smell of fresh coffee woke me up again and helped me move away from that view. In the spare room, I put on some some warm riding clothes. Undershirt, warm socks, an old bib with holes from a crash, full length Skins on top, jersey and the thought of taking a gilet for the way back.

Back to the kitchen and to the coffee, to do the dishes seemed the right thing to do, I still had 5 min before the planned start of the ride. Plenty of time to eat something, I needed energy for the three hour ride. A banana with Nutela gave me what I needed, and quick. But the coffee made me hot and I decided to get changed, I was going to be doing some intensity work after all.

It was 4:31 when I left the driveway, not cold yet but cool. I had to rush if I was going to do even 2.5 hours today. That warmed me up and I arrived at the meeting point at 4:54, not that I was meeting anyone but I had luck with a few lights... and reached 66.7 km/h somewhere on Waterworks Road.

Another three minutes and I was pushing the red button to time the first 6.5 km of the climb. That was the part I wanted to do my training on, the rest of the 17 km (by my computer) was just a spin up the beautiful climb to Jollys.

Time is 00'00" and the climb starts


Mt Nebo Rd

A friendly reminder

One of the downhill runs

All out from here... 165 bpm.
Mc Afees: 6.5 km, 318 m rise
A good run today at 16'18", perhaps my best time to date. My average HR was 156 bpm, low because of the descents. More importantly, it was a good workout followed by another 300 m of climbing in this beautiful part of the world.
View of Sanford Valley from half way up

Rises like this make for great
descents on the way home

Incline past the winery

Perfect spot for a sprint

Beautiful 1 km stretch before Jollys

Turn left and ride up for amazing views

Jollys: 17 km, 615 m rise

From there, it was a slow ride down in the dark, which I enjoyed very much. The temperature was 15 degrees and dropping fast but I was concentrating too much on the road to even feel the cold. I raced home from the bottom to finish the 60 km ride in 2h 15min. And feeling great!
Note: Photos were taken on 13/8/09, earlier in the afternoon.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Still training for Grafton to Inverell and my new crankset.

Two more weeks are gone, and fast. They were Week 7 and 8 of the twelve week program I put together for my biggest cycling challenge - a 228 km race. And so far, it is all going well, really well in fact.
The week seven, marked as a recovery week, ended with a race at Lakeside on Saturday morning and an easy ride around Mt Coot-tha on Sunday. The race was a lot of fun, the program read medium volume/high intensity which I translated into:

1. Ride out with friends
2. Try to initiate or participate in many breaks
3. Sprint for the Prime
4. Repeat 2.
5. Try to beat the sprinters
6. Ride home and recover

Not a winning formula, a smart racer can tell but it's what my legs need - good, high intensity workouts.

HR: 151/170 bpm

Sp: 39/58.9km/h
Following the program, the Sunday ride was high volume/low intensity. In a very civilised manner, Sandra and I left the house around 8:30 AM for our ride. Sandra had to finish her week with some strength training on the 2.2 km climb at the back of Coot-tha, all I needed to do was keep my HR below 137 bpm.

We picked up our friend Kris on the way and that helped as we chatted for most of the time, leaving Sandra to do her hard work.

I have to say that I had fun. First, I didn't have to time myself, or push hard, or spin or grind up the climb, all I needed to do was pedal with my new 170 mm cranks. THE new cranks!! Yes, they were fitted the day before and looked great! So my ride was about having fun.

Coincidentally, there was a bit of a debate on crank length in one of the local forums. It made the change fairly exciting as a lot of theories and formulas were thrown in, nothing really conclusive but informative nevertheless.

Before - 172.5 mm Ultegra

After - 170 mm FSA SL-K Pro

In my case, the shorter cranks were recommended by an expert. So, was a more forward and lower seat position and cleats with 4.5 degree float (replacing the fixed ones). The changes were all by a few millimeters and based on some careful measurements and my history of injuries.
I will write more on the changes after a few more kms.
Week 7: 257km/10h35min
Last week was another build week, basically with longer rides and more intensity. I had to prepare myself for the Club ITT Championship as well so the week was set to be fairly busy.
Mon - Recover and fit TT bars
Tue - Easy ride/test bars
Wed - A few more heart beats/try the TT course
Thu - More beats again/test new cranks climbing
Fri - Easy and coffee/adjust bars
Sat - ITT Championship/remove bars
Sun - 160 kms ride
It can't get more fun than that...
I have ridden on the road they were having the ITT so many times on my way to Mt Mee that I can tell where all the pot holes are but it is different when you have to ride it flat out, do a U turn in the middle of the road and head back even faster without collapsing before the finish line. Off to Dayboro on Wednesday.
Closeburn ITT course
It worked out well. I tested the bars on the hills which led to a couple of changes and I timed myself (54'+) which gave me an idea on how much harder I would have to go to get to my goal - under 51'.
The Thursday ride was to Mc Afees, I wanted to test the cranks and needed a bit of intensity. The 6.5 km/318 m climb on Mt Nebo road is good for that with its short sharp pinches and descents for a bit of recovery.
HR: 153/160 bpm
Sp: 22.9/61km/h
Two good things came out of the ride. One, the cranks are good. Perhaps the crankarms are not as stiff as the Ultegra but I am comfortable climbing with them, on and out of the saddle. Two, I was very close to my best time to Mc Afees at 16'57", that was without killing myself.
Friday was a recovery day before the ITT, I fitted in a short coffee ride and a siesta before going to work in the afternoon. All good, apart from having to do a late shift the night before a race. I didn't get to bed that late, 1:00 am I think, but the stress of getting to sleep quick so I can get enough rest always keeps me awake for a little longer.
The ITT day was great. I was dragged out of bed by the smell of fresh coffee made by Sandra, had a small breakfast, jumped on the bike and rode 23 km to the start. Perfect warm up!
The race itself was like any time trial. I went as hard as I could go or thought I could, overtook a few (couple in my division), got overtaken by a rider who started 1' behind and finished fairly strong in 51' by my computer. That was enough for the second place in my group and 6th or 7th overall.
I am happy with the result and my time but I keep asking myself how much faster could I have gone with a time trial bike, helmet, wheels, suit, etc... There is only one way to find out, isn't it?
Sunday ride was the perfect ride. Met a couple of friends in town and went for a 100 km ride in an area that I haven't been before. Rolling hills, good roads, no traffic and a cloudless sky. We average 30 km/h, good pace also.
I was short by a lot of kms so meeting Sandra and doing another 45 km after having a coffee break back in town saved the day. It also put me in a state of tiredness that I haven't felt for a while. I think a case of dehydration and hunger.
Week 8: 462 km/17h00min
Recovering for the last 24 hour. I have been wearing compression tights, eating and drinking well and had a good sleep. Woke up today with a Rest HR of 45 bpm, weight around 65 kg. Ready for another big week...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Training and racing: 1030 km and a bike fit later...

One thousand and thirty kilometers, that's what I have ridden since my last post, three weeks ago. Less than a third of the kms the riders in the Tour de France raced. And lets not go into average speeds, course profiles, etc... I also did lots of TV viewing in a couple of those weeks, setting up an odd sleeping pattern to be able to watch most of the stages and also work and do everything else that is part of our day to day lives.

In the three weeks, I have been building up the kms and have been having a lot of fun on the bike. They were weeks 4, 5 and 6 of the twelve weeks program for my first Grafton to Inverell race. I managed to fit in four races with satisfactory results, with the exception of the Jon Brooks Memorial where I punctured 12.4 km from the start and didn't finish, shortening my week by 80 kms, or a couple of hours.

Week 4 - 199.8 km/7h59min
Week 5 - 365.0 km/14h17min
Week 6 - 464.8 km/16h24min

This week is a recovery week and I chose to take two days off the bike as I am treating a small injury on my right leg, caused by some bad cramping while racing on Saturday. The race was the Cunningham Classic, well known for strong cross winds and 845 m of climbing, the course taking the riders over the Cunningham's Gap and from Gatton to Warwick.

I planned for a conservative race after the KOM as I had decided to ride back the 96 kms, adding some needed kms to the legs. This approach really had to be put in place as the person with my extra drink bottle didn't make it to the feed station... Another challenge, racing the remaining 45 km with 500 ml of water, my recipe for cramping.

The ride back was a valuable test, and having done it by myself gave me the confidence I needed to believe I can finish the Grafton to Inverell race in September. There are a few more weeks to go and lots more training, with at least another three 180+ km rides ahead.
In between now and then, we will have the HPRW ITT and Road Race Championship and a few club races. I won't be racing the 2009 State Championships as the budget for racing has been made a little tighter this year.
Bike Fit
Because of some physical issues I am having and with the intention of getting a more efficient position on the bike, of course, I had a professional bike fit done. By professional, I mean the bike fit was done by someone who is a specialist on the subject.
As I expected, the major changes were on seat height and crankarm length. After a bit of research, I am now the owner of a set of 170 mm long carbon cranks. I have been a big fan of the Ultegra set, advocating that no cyclists at an amateur level would need anything of a higher level (crankset or group set, as a matter of fact) but found the carbon set for the same price on the net. Why not, I thought.
New saddle was the next recommendation but that will have to wait as this is becoming an expensive business again... Is anyone interested in sponsoring a masters level cyclist?
Next week, I will be testing the new carbon crankset and will have the last changes made on the bike. Looking forward to come back here and report on some amazing speed gains...
Ciao for now!

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