Monday, November 29, 2010

Training for the Tour of Bright is done

It wasn't a big week and I ended up doing even a little less than what I had planned, which I hope is going to keep me fresh. The saying Less is more and Quality and not Quantity was the approach I embraced for this final week of preparation for Bright.

I had two days off the bike followed by a quick session to MacAfee's (not too bad at 17'29") on Wednesday, a short Clear Mountain hit on Thursday and a Brisbane Riverloop on Friday. The later been a good recovery ride, followed by coffee with friends.

For Saturday, I had planned a three hour, high intensity ride, including a race at Nundah. It was raining when I got up so I drove there (Soft! I hear)and did a 12 min warm up on the track before the start of the 60 min + two, A grade criterium race. It meant, coming home after the race, having something to eat and a little rest before heading out for another couple of hours on the bike.

Because I haven't raced much lately, it was important to do a fast race and see how I could cope with the high intensity and race speed. It ended up been a real test. I made myself as active as I could, got dropped and got back (it took me almost two laps to do so) and finished with the first half of the field of 49 riders.

I could even have finished it a bit better if I had noticed the two-laps-to-go sign. It was raised by the commissaires at 57 min, not 60 as we were told in the brief. So, all I got was the bell when sitting very close to the back, terrible place to be when you have 1200 m of a criterium circuit to overtake 30 or 35 guys... I will learn one day, I kept telling myself... but good training anyhow.

A 2.5 hour bunch ride and a ride to town to meet Sandra (on her new Peacemaker) for coffee marked the end of my training for the Tour of Bright. A nice way to finish the week, and the year as I will be off the bike for four or five weeks after the race. It will be time for a long rest and to start looking into what I am going to do next year. More on that another time.

Well, I still have to do something before the race next weekend but I won't even call it training. I call it resting. I want to get to Bright with a rested body and mind and I need to make sure I don't get a flu or cold when the immune system is running at a low level, as it does after so many weeks of training.

Sure, we have heard of tapper, race week, etc. I will be just spinning my legs a bit, doing a couple of sprints to get the lactic acid production and elimination systems going and to remind every cell in my body that we have some tough challenges still to come. And that's it, I might spend 5 or 7 hours on the bike before Saturday, no more.

The rest of the time, I will use it for massaging my legs, checking and preparing the bike and packing. And packing for a stage race in Victoria means a lot of time and lots of stuff as we can see on the photograph. Basically, I am taking gear to ride a bike in temperatures that might range from 4 to 28 degrees and, according to the weather forecast, possible in wet conditions!

I can't wait! Have a great week!

Week Forty Seven: Peak
Time: 11 h 23 min
Dist: 325 km

Monday, November 22, 2010

Training for Bright took me to O'Reilly's...

Bernard O'Reilly

I am glad I finally got to climb the Green Mountains, or O'Reilly's as the 23 million years old plateau is known today. It was, without a doubt, one of the most impressive rides I have ever done. It wasn't just the fact that I could use the big ring for most of the steady climb - I love that - but the diversity of the scenery, the sounds of the wildlife and the solitude . It was an overwhelming experience, really. In fact, I could only compare it to the King's Canyon climb I did in May last year.

The training week started with a ride Wednesday afternoon, from somewhere near Currumbin Beach, through the valley of the same name, up Tomewin-Currumbin Creek Rd to the QLD-NSW border and back. A very scenic ride with 500 m of climbing to get the legs ready for the next morning.

I felt good on the bike again after the rest day and happy to be riding somewhere different once more. I can't even remember when I last rode on these roads...

Overnight rain meant I was on my own for the highly anticipated ride to O'Reilly's. Not a bad thing in a way, I got to choose the route (I was given a few choices by members of Brisbane's RoadGrime) and had plenty of time to enjoy a good coffee before I started.

Also in this forum, I learnt of a Henry Robert Drive, described as one of the toughest climbs in SE QLD. I wasn't sure if I was going to have a go at it but when I saw the sign, again I thought it would be a good idea to test myself.

Perhaps not. Later I decided to call the experience a nut-cracker. It did crack me because I didn't make all the way without a stop and lots of cursing at the time. Mostly for indulging on a large and delicious Margarita Pizza the night before. But... I will go back and have a go at it again.

Time: 37'30"
Distance: 8.1 km
Elevation: 495 m

Naturaly, it was much easier and faster on the way down. Next, it was a short ride to the small village of Canungra, where the route to O'Reilly's starts. From Canungra (elev. 98 m) to the the National Park sign (elev. 910 m), it was a steady 38 km climb averaging around 4%, through a very charming hilly country decorated with beautiful trees and steep slopes as a backdrop.

The landscape changed a fair bit as I climbed but nothing had me prepared for the transformation I experienced when I reached the entrance to the rain forest. It was dark, moist and still in what looked like a prehistorical jungle. It did add a different dimension to the ride, to say the least.

I could have spent a couple of hours exploring the National Park but I still had a bit of riding ahead. A heavy downpour made me seek refuge at the Alpaca Farm on my way down. It was a handy little stop for a soy-hot-chocolate and a good chat with the folks who run the business, they are both cyclists and responsible for carefully placing planks on the cattle-grids. Those planks were great help but had to be negotiated with lots of caution in the rain.

The descent was very nice, I just wished it hadn't rained, I could have done it without cramping fingers and toes. But it did get dry as I neared Conungra once again, and in time for the long ride on the busy road back to the car and the drive home.

Time: 4h 55min
Dist.: 145 km
Elev.: 3,116 m

The rest of the training week was filled with a TT session at Nundah and a ride to Jolly's Lookout (Mt Nebo Road) after morning shifts and a great Sunday ride with Sandra.

Not much to write about a TT session at Nundah, or 25 laps on a closed circuit, just mentally hard I suppose. But always good catching up with a few people.

The ride to Jolly's was interesting. I pushed hard but I was more than 50 sec off my best time to McAfee's (at 6.5 km). I followed it with a more conservative ride for the next 9.8 km because of the rain and got to Jolly's with a new PB (41'35"). That is if I haven't made a mathematical mistake. But it might mean good news, also...

On Sunday, to finish the week, Sandra guided me on an easy new ride - Gap Creek Road and Fig Tree Pocket Loop, I called it . She had been taken on this ride by a friend a couple of weeks ago and loved it. I can see why now and I can also see its potential on becoming one of our favourite training rides.

Week Forty Six: Build
Time: 15 h 40 min
Dist: 397.5 km

Not long for Bright now, a bit of intensity this week and a lot of rest in the next. That's the plan!


Monday, November 15, 2010

Training for Bright gets going and I can get delirious...

Monday, rest day usually, but I am off to do a few kilometers. It is one of those things with being a competitive but amateur cyclist. I have to go to work. We have to go to work to be more precise, but having to work at some weird hours sometimes entails (and allows) being a little flexible with the training.

Hence, I am riding today and resting tomorrow. The good side, I can get out in the middle of the morning, a time when the parents of this town have already dropped their kids at school and should have their 4WDs already parked in their suburban garages, or equally suburban, shopping centers. Either way, it equates to slightly safer roads. That's what we need, amateurs or professionals.

Now, the important part, training for Bright is coming along nicely. After the two-week struggle, when just getting on the bike was an issue, this last week has been good. I have done 340 km and 3,500 m of climbing. OK, nowhere near what I was aiming for but good enough to get the systems going and not falling sick again.

I did start the week with a few repeats on Mt Coot-tha but it was more like a test of the new computer, a Garmin 500. Nevertheless, I did a 9'05" on the 2.3 km/9% climb, slower than my PB last year but not by much.

A commute to work followed by a sprint session with a few club members on Thursday added a bit more speed and fun to the training. I like to do those sessions and be the lead out man, I believe it is more beneficial for my racing and let's be honest here, sprints haven't been my thing for a while.

My week is never completed if I don't do a Bunya loop, so I did. It's quick, it can hurt and it's beautiful. Add the Mailmans Track to the loop and the pain threshold begins to get a serious workout.

The highlight of the training week was the Sunday ride when I headed to Dayboro for a couple rides up Ocean View Road. And talking pain threshold, this road has some pinches. I could even have been a little delirious at the time as I watched the numbers going... 15, 17, 19% on the Garmin (nice little feature!) as I climbed the first few hundred meters.

But more delirious I felt when the vision of a Deux Chevaux popped in front of me. I wasn't, the little blue car was coming down the hill, driven by a French looking guy (believe me!) who, smiling, beeped the horn and yelled. I was somewhere in the French Alps for a few seconds, and it felt good.

Ocean View Road, Dayboro

So, the training is happening and that's what matters. Next week should be bigger. I better get on the bike before heading to work and before those sugary Cafe Lattes are finished and the roads get filled by the speeding 4WDs again...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Training for Bright, kind of hard sometimes...

I am finding it hard.

To get up in the morning and feel that I am not at my best, physically, and have it verified by an abnormally high resting heart rate makes me think that only a miracle will get me through the Tour of Bright stages in one piece.

In the past few seasons, my HRrest had been in the mid-forties, and as low as 43 bpm. To find it at 54 bpm yesterday morning illustrated that the virus is still hanging around, or perhaps that I am super-unfit at the moment. I want to believe in the former and that in a couple of days it's going to be over and I will be able to regain some fitness Bright.

Heart rate and sickness aside, I started the week with an easy and flat ride to Sandgate and back, forty or fifty kilometers is my guess because I have been riding without a bike computer. So, it was all by sense, no numbers, just how the legs turned and felt. And they felt good, rested at least.

Yesterday was noted as low duration and intensity in the program but I decided not to waste to much time (yes, I am counting the days now - 25) and slowly made my way along the undulating Bunya road, heading to Samford's Goat Track for a slow climb to Mt Nebo. For the first part of the ride the legs felt good and I managed to keep my HR down on the uphill bits. Kind of a good feeling.

I have to say, riding in places like Bunya and Samford in the middle of the day, when there are very few cars and trucks around is a recipe to feel good on the bike no matter what. These areas are just stunning, picturesque examples of SE Queensland rural landscape... and great for training.

The second part of the ride was about climbing the Goat Track but the plan changed as I rode towards the base of the mountain. I remembered sending Sandra up the super steep Mt Glorious road during her preparation for Bright last year.

Like with Sandra, almost twelve months ago, I chose this way as a means of testing my strength when trying to turn the cranks on seriously steep climbs (eg. Mt Hotham). That's what this climb is... steep.

I didn't make it to the top, I was short by one hundred meters or so. But it was a good exercise, or test, as I had to work hard on my position on the bike to stop the rear wheel slipping or lifting the front wheel. The legs hurt but felt strong enough, the main issue was the HR which spiked to a sickening level with 200 m to go. No point pushing beyond that when there is something going on, I took a minute break and rode the last bit steadily but with a funny taste in my mouth.

Perhaps a bit too much but it was good to know where I am. I will get back there next week for another go!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Training starts again and the Fusion Criterium video

It is that time of the year in SE Queensland when all the focus start merging to the Open criterium events. Clubs do run this type of racing all year around (it's more profitable and easier to run) but when Summer gets closer, organisers of Open events also leave the hilly open roads in the country for the flat, fast criterium circuits of the cities.

One event that might have, and unofficially, opened the criterium season this year was the 2010 Fusion Criterium at Nundah, this Sunday. Unable to race, I stopped by to watch a couple of the races and support riders of the team. And I am glad I did because I witnessed some terrific racing and that might have just given me a little more eagerness for my next race, the Tour of Bright.

My preparation for Bright has been kind of complicated because of what has now been confirmed as a virus, which kept me off the bike for most of the last two weeks. Apprehensively but happy, I did get on the bike today, normally my rest day (but rest from what?), just to see how my body would respond before starting the hard stuff tomorrow.

It was an easy spin and the legs felt strong and fresh (no wonder!), the heart pumping a bit faster than normal but most of the flu-like symptoms disappearing as I got warmed up. Perhaps I can start going a bit harder tomorrow. Not that I have much choice, I have 25 days to get race fit and ready for one of the toughest climbs in the Australia. And, I would like to loose 3.5 kg, if I haven't mentioned before...

Yet, I have decided not to stress too much about this race and concentrate on going there to learn as much as possible about the Mt Hotham climb and go back next year with bigger goals in mind. Sandra will be heading down with me so it is certain we will be exploring a few other climbs in the Victorian Alpine region.

Next on the criterium calendar is the Twilight Series, run by the HPRH cycling club, also at Nundah. I am not sure if I will be racing the first race of the Series because I still have Bright ahead of me. So, training for road races and hill climbs is my priority right now. I also like to avoid the risk of crashes, which do happen fairly regularly in criterium races.

So, it is going to be climbing, climbing and climbing for the next two weeks. I am looking forward to that!

Finally, to get everyone excited about the criterium season and show a couple of ways this type of racing can be won, I put this short video of the Masters A and Masters B finishes on Sunday .

Enjoy it!!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Do what you love, love what you do

I woke up from a nap this afternoon feeling terrible again. Sick to a point that I couldn't even get up. So, I layed there trying to work out what the problem might be and the possible consequences of getting on the bike and going training feeling like that.

Then, I thought about the young surfer who passed away this morning from a viral disease - Dengue Fever.

I have to say, I don't get shocked with this sort of news often, death is a natural thing and happens all the time, right? But I was touched when I saw the headlines.

No, I never met the guy but perhaps it is true when it is said that there is a kind of link when two people are passionate about the same thing, in this case surfing.

It has been months since I caught a wave and years since I had a really good time in the surf but there are very few days that I don't think about it. In fact, two or three days ago, when I was feeling sick and couldn't get on the bike to train, I thought that perhaps it was time to give up and just go back to a laid-back lifestyle of enjoying the sun and the surf.

More over, if I could go back in time and choose an occupation, like any occupation, I would choose Professional Surfing. I am passionate about cycling as well and I wouldn't mind making a living out of riding bikes but there was something about surfing that... as the old cliche says: Only a surfer knows the feeling!

I checked the Billabong website - they sponsored Andy Irons - and found this promotional video. It is simple, it is kind of funny but it tells a story about a young man who was very passionate about what he did. I liked it and I particularly liked his last statement about what he loved doing.

Buddy, thanks for being such a legendary surfer!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Training for the Tour of Bright

It has been three years since I last raced the Victorian Classic and this year will be my first since the Alpine Cycling Club moved stage three to Mt Hotham.

How do I feel about that? Well, a bit nervous really. Nervous but excited because Mt Hotham is considered by many as a world class climb, similar to climbs in the European Alps and the Pyrenees I've been told. And I will be racing it this time.

My final preparation for Bright is about to start, in fact I am a week late as I have been dealing with a virus since our return from Grafton. It makes me think that some of the texts/emails I received were correct on a virus been the possible cause of my DNF.

Anyhow, I decided to have a week off to rest - I barely left the house this weekend - and will do an easy week just to make sure I am "bug" free before starting the high intensity stuff. After discussing the "what I have done" and the "needs" for a race like Bright with Sandra - she has done four of them - I put together my program with two weeks of Build, one week of Peak and the Race week, with a total of 60 hours on the bike.

Naturally, a lot of these hours will be climbing at Medium to High intensity pace. As Sandra mentioned, I have enough kilometers in my legs to last the relatively short stages, what I will need is to be able to ride and climb at, or above my threshold when the hammer comes down. And it will!

The top 10 riders in the Masters 4/5 division finished the Mt Hotham stage in 2 h 09 min, or less, last year. That's just over 16 min slower than the Elite A winner's time. Bloody fast old buggers!

My goal this year is a top 15 at Mt Hotham and top 20 on GC but more importantly, race the Tour of Bright again!

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