What Happened!

Unfortunately sometimes life gets in the way; I had every intention on racing the whole Vic Enduro Series, however after suffering though a very muddy round at Officer, and then having the wife rushed to hospital in an ambulance the weekend after I was forced to take a step back from racing, the bike, work and just about everything else in life to support the family that support me though my endeavours. Everything is ok now, the wife is well and truly on the mend and the time off the bike probably did me good!

A Muddy Mess!

Early August saw Round 4 of the Vic Enduro Series take place at Officer, the weather leading up to the event was pretty good, reasonably sunny and for the most part dry however the day of the race, it rained so much so I was concerned my Fiesta wouldn’t make it up the fast flowing river that once was a road. Soon the car was in position, feed zone set up and race number zip-tied on. At the start the small number of riders that turned up were raring to go, the race would be a battle against conditions rather than an actual race against other riders.

Soon enough the race started, with a solid climb up though the feed zone, and into the single track, it soon became apparent this would be a real mud bath. The first few laps were uneventful, I found a rhythm and although not really quick was consistent lapping within seconds of the last. After 4 laps the track had deteriorated quite badly so much so pinch climbs were unclimbable, and trying to navigate the off camber corners usually resulted in ending up in the bushes. By now I was having zero fun, and it became more about trudging on than anything else – coming though the start finish area, I heard one of the marshal’s advise just over an 1hr to go, a little bemused I was unaware prior to this a decision had been made to shorten the race… I managed another two laps, although there was more running than riding happening as the course had become pretty well unpassable.

Final results, I ended up 11th in Solo (mid pack). I wasn’t particularly happy with the result given the small field and the fact I’d given it my all but come up well short of my own expectations! In addition to torture that was riding around in the mud for 4hrs made me question WTF I am doing, and why – I didn’t have fun, the amount of effort put in certainly wasn’t worth the outcome! But hey, you have good days and bad days and that’s racing I guess!

Four washes, and I am still cleaning the thing.. This is why!

Moving forward!

As I said above there were a number of life factors that severely limited my getting on the bike during late August and early September; while naturally I did lose a fair bit of fitness it was probably a good few week break that was needed. It offered the chance to gain some perspective and also just go riding for the sake of riding. My goals initially set for VES are now all but a pipedream having missed Rounds and 2, 5 and very likely to miss Round 6 as well due to family commitments; I am not overly disappointed though, Crit Season is now here, and GMBC’s Gazebo series is set to kick off again in December.

Whilst the winter season was a bit of a write off, it wasn’t a complete wreck, there are a few learnings to be had particularly around the effort required to manage cycling / racing with a newborn, and what works and doesn’t – I’ve tried a lot of new things this year both on the bike and trainer, some have worked some haven’t, but most importantly I am stronger now than when I was when I set out these endeavours.

SKCC Crit 05.10.2014

… and action!

Finally after weeks of preparation on the eve of the race at Blores Hill the wife and I packed the kids in the car, hooked up the trailer and off we went – of course this was not only for the race, but an opportunity to get away for the weekend and also the first chance we’ve had to use the camper trailer since we got it a few months ago. After arriving at the venue, and farting around with setting the thing up it would soon be time for dinner and bed. Granted it took a little longer than planned, but what does go as planned when you have a 4 month old in tow!

Race Day
The morning of race day was full of nerves as usual; fortunately there was little to do the morning of the race besides eat breakfast, and get dressed. None of the usual waking up early, packing cars, driving for miles, getting ready etc… After a short warm up we had the race briefing and then line up for the self-seeded start – Determined not to get bogged down in traffic I put myself on the second row directly behind the eventual race winner. Soon enough the bell went and we were off, about 15sec in I ran up someone’s arse; great start I thought in a mad panic I shoved the bloke out of the way and put the hammer down for the remainder of the prologue lap which would see me enter the single track in a reasonable position. I kept the pace up for the first lap with a few changes in position both up and down. After lap one I settled into a rhythm of pedalling, keeping the fluids and food up.

The next few laps were fairly uneventful; just cruising along stringing together corner after corner of fantastic single track. Blores Hill is a great place to ride, fast flowing trails nothing overly technical with the exception to the run up to, and from Trigg Point which is loose, rocky and steep in sections… It’s also in a bit of a rain shadow, so despite the recent rain in Melbourne / Geelong the place was near on bone dry.

After the 4th lap I stopped to take on more food and bottles before heading back out; unfortunately my timing couldn’t have been worse the 3hr riders had started only a few minutes earlier, their race joined the course a few kms into the lap right before the technical climb up to Trigg point and minefield of rock gardens on the descent. I must have caught every slow 3hr rider there was, none of which would heed to my constant (but polite) calls for “track” on the climb. I was stoked when I got to the fire road section of the climb and managed to pass a few, only to come across more on the descent!

After a few spills, including running straight over the top of one of the slower 3hr guys when he fell in front of me I was finally in some clear track, and ready to power back on! I was still feeling good but I was struggling on the climb up to Trigg Point which seemed to get harder and harder every lap. I started really feeling it on Lap 6, the effort was still the same but the speed just wasn’t; I couldn’t find a happy gear and I was getting slower! On the last lap I dug deep hoping to get to the line before cut off enabling me to do another lap but it soon become apparent that I would need to pull out my fastest lap of the race to get there – No hope! In the end I crossed the line 6hr 16mins having done 8laps (113kms) and finishing 17th of 40 or so in Solo open.

At the time I was a little disappointed with the result, I really thought I would be closer to the top 10 but then the realisation that this was the biggest week on the bike since Aidan was born! I felt good on the bike, I ate well and kept the fluids up in all I had ridden a pretty good race despite the mishap with the falling 3hr rider. I had fun and it’s great to be back racing.

A few things to take away from the race!
1) Go hard at the start to avoid the pile up once the single track starts.
2) Do some more work on climbing on the MTB.
3) Admit your 26” is old tech, and buy a 650b / 29er dually already! (the 29er riders made the techy Trigg Point look easy)
4) Try as you might, there probably isn’t a real substitute for volume when it comes to endurance racing.
5) Als you can do is all you can do!

Hell, sure was on a 26′er!

Rocky Descent:

Special thanks to the wife and little ones for their support at Blores Hill their cheers every lap made the race that much easier! Next race is at Officer on the 10th of August; another race to look forward to!

Self Validation!

I have had a quite uneventful month or so since the last update; the planned trip to Albury for VES Rd2 was a “No Go” due to a house full of sick children and a subsequently grumpy wife… Granted it was cold, wet and windy and the race was a slop fest but missing the race was quite a psychological blow having not raced the MTB since April it made me start wondering just why I was doing this again!…

Every now and then when the chips are down, I find it helps to take a step back and look at the bigger picture of sorts. I sat down the other week and thought I would do a bit of validation of my goals I set at the start of the year; some of these were pretty simple goals but goals non the less. Sometimes I think we lose sight of what we originally set out to achieve and get caught up in what we are doing, improving or whatever else to care to much…

Goal 1) This year I want to ride 12,500km. – Well on the way having ridden 7432kms thus far, my current weekly average will get me exactly 12550kms by years end, but more volume will be added when it warms up a little.

Goal 2) I want to ride down the coast, for something different! Done, but only as far as Anglesea, will have to head down when the weather warms up, there are a few climbs I’d like to hit up.

Goal 3) I would like to tackle the climbs of south side of Mt Macedon, Donna Buang, Lake Mountain and Falls Creek.
South side of Macedon done, also climbed Mt Buller which said to be more difficult than Lake Mountain and Donna Buang. More climbs to come when the snow disappears.

Goal 4) I would like to do well in Age Group at the 2014 XCO Nationals. Having kids got in the way of that one, always next year!

Goal 5) This year I want to finish strong at the Wombat 100. As above!

Goal 6) This year I want to chase the podium, and hopefully make one of the steps in the 2014 Victorian Enduro Series. Still working on this one, 5 rounds to go!

Goal 7) Start racing road more actively. Done, when I can – Not racing as much as I would like but there is some good ones coming up! I am looking forward to Summer and Crit season that’s for sure.

So that’s my own self validation for now. In all not a bad effort, with some clear goals to shoot for in the next few months.

Let’s Go Racing!
This weekend is VES Rd3, entries in, accommodation booked so LETS GO RACING! I am really looking forward to this event, it was a good one last year until I crashed out destroying my helmet and bruising my ego.

The lead up to the race has been a bit all over the place with a few sleepless nights, and missed riding days due to poor weather (call me soft, but riding in 70km winds and driving rain is not fun). Like always I always come into the event wondering if I’ve done enough, but also knowing I’ve done all I can!

Getting fast(er) on limited time…

Of late I’ve been asked more frequently what I’ve been doing with my limited time; I seem to be getting faster every time I head out if the local bunch, my average speeds and Strava “trophies” count for anything. So I figured I would detail some of what I do on an average week and share a few of my favourite shorter workouts – there is nothing new or ground breaking here just hard work!

As most with children know having a new born is a challenge in itself, they demand 110% of your time and often falling into bed immediately after they do is the most eagerly anticipated part of the day; on top of that there is work – got to pay the bills, other family commitments – can’t forget the wife and daughter too and finally at the bottom of the list comes riding. All of this means often getting out at “dark o’clock”, a short trainer session while bub is asleep or even just staying in bed / lazing on the couch (recovery) are the only options.

“Dark O’clock”
Admittedly I am a bit of an early riser anyways, so getting up early to head out the door for a ride has never really fazed me. If I am up at 5 o’clock and out the door at it means I can get in a solid 2 hours of riding before needing to race home and get ready for work. I usually use this time to get in some much needed actual riding and respite from the brain drain that is spending a lot of time on the trainer. These rides usually have some purposeful training but nothing too regimented, I will often take the opportunity to make these either easy or hard rides, easy being much needed Z1/Z2 work, the hard rides being either fast bunch rides or longer (20min) FTP intervals, I generally aim to get out for one of each (easy / hard) once a week.

“Short & Sweet”
The other portion of my little riding time is spent on the ergo / trainer, usually this short period of time is spent focusing on specific training zones aimed at forcing specific adaptions; a lot of the work on the trainer is designed to be short and sweet; with a high to very high intensity working predominately Vo2 Max, Anaerobic and Neuromuscular though intervals of varying length from 8mins down to 15sec respectively. These intervals are painful but very effective at increasing anaerobic capacity and highly specific to mountain bike racing. The hardest part is hitting the required power output, over and over and over again, followed by trying not to fall off the trainer!

I’ve outlined below a couple of workouts I am loving at the moment, maximal effort minimal time.

Vo2 Max Lung Buster.
This workout albeit pretty short is solid, a lot of time spent at Vo2 Max with very short rest periods (1:30min) to induce some pretty serious oxygen debt. The hardest part is just going again, and again, and again; it’s tough not just on the legs / lungs but also psychologically as well. Intervals should be done at 106% to 120% of FTP (Z5) or >120% in the case of the Z6 intervals (very hard to achieve by now). If you don’t fall off the trainer at the end, or collapse in the shower shortly after you are not going hard enough!

5 to 10mins Warm Up
3 x 3min Z5 Intervals w/ 1:30 Rest
2 x 2min Z5 Intervals w/1:30 Rest
3 x 1min Z6 Intervals w/1:30 Rest
2 x 2min Z5 Intervals w/ 1:30 Rest
3 x 3min Z5 Intervals w/ 1:30 Rest
5 to 10mins Cool Down.
Hit the shower, then slam down 500ml; of chocolate milk or your favorite recovery drink / foods.

OUCH!!!
Lungbust

Under/Over – Over/Under Intervals
This is a workout I have been doing for a long time, I am pretty sure it was originally featured in one of Lynda Wallenfels training plans I did years and years ago – I think it was originally devised by Chris Carmichael and has done the rounds in most “Time Crunched” type training plans; most recently it’s been brought to attention by Team Sky who claim it has been one of their keys to success on the mountains in the TDF. The interval consists of a an interval of riding at 95% FTP (or just below LTHR) followed by 105% FTP (or just above LTHR), repeated a few times. The durations can be whatever durations you like, I like to mix them up a little just to ease the boredom on the trainer. It’s a solid threshold workout, your legs should be burning by the end of it but your lungs should be fine.

5 to 10min Warm Up
8mins x [1min @ 95% FTP / 1min 105% FTP, repeat]
5min Easy Spin
8mins x [30sec @95% FTP / 1min 105%FTP, repeat] (alternatively try 2mins/2mins)
5miins Easy Spin
8mins x [1min @ 95% FTP / 1min 105% FTP, repeat]
5 to 10min cool down

Over/unders!
Overunder

So that’s it…

Well not really! I have a large pool of workouts I can do on the trainer – most of which hurt! The even scarier part is the coach has an even BIGGER list of workouts he can draw on if he is feeling particularly nasty. But a single workout WILL NOT make you fast, hell even a heap of workouts won’t make you fast; there is a significant amount of planning that goes into how I spend my limited time; the above are just very limited examples that might be applicable to this week, but not necessarily the next. It’s all a juggling act of consistency and balancing stress / recovery!

Anyways that’s all for now, happy riding!

Epic

Every now and then I like to get out for an epic ride; the type of rides that epitomize cycling just you, the bike and the road or trail as is often the case with me. Wife and kids away for the weekend it provided the perfect opportunity to go out and ride, without the worry of needing to be home for reasons X,Y & Z – the weather was reasonably good too! So let’s get riding!!!…

Mount Macedon
I had planned to head to Bright for the weekend to ride Tawonga / Falls and Mt Hotham, but after getting up at 3:30am to do airport drop offs, I was in little mood to spend another 4hrs in the car driving and so opted to head to Woodend / Mount Macedon instead. There is not a lot epic about Mount Macedon, although it does offer a good opportunity for some good climbs and good views from the war memorial at the summit as well. After doing 2 laps of my normal 30km circuit I had hoped to do some further exploring and ride a climb I discovered online called Alton d’Huez unfortunately a rapidly deflating tubular tire ended my day early.

Alton d’Huez Video stolen from Climbing Cyclist YouTube channel:

Looks kinda cool!

The War Memorial, clearly whomever designed this had bike photo op’s in mind:

Mount Buller
On Sunday morning I packed the car and headed off to Mansfield to tackle Mount Buller The weather was grey, but reasonably mild and I set off on what would be a 100km ride from Mansfield, to Mt Buller summit then back to Mansfield. Being mindful of the coaches’ “don’t bury yourself” comment earlier in the week I tried to pace myself Z2 to Sawmill Settlement, then complete the climb at tempo / sweet spot before riding Z2 back to Mansfield. Even before I got to the gates at the bottom of Mt Buller I knew I was in for a long day an hour in to the ride and I was already feeling it having smashed myself the day before.

What a climb! Soon enough I got to the gates and commenced the climb; Mount Buller for the most part is a fairly constant 6% grade for the first 12.5kms, before ramping to about 13% for the last 1.5 to 2kms. Even completing the climb at tempo was a big effort it was just constant climbing, no rest but reasonably epic views to distract you from the ongoing pain. The cloud cover rolled in from about half way up and got thicker towards the top to the point where you could barely see 2m in front of you. The final 2kms broke me, out of the saddle cranking 39/23 and seemingly going nowhere I was absolutely elated to see the pavement change from bitumen to concrete and the village pop into view which marks the end of the climb. Finally I had made it… And I learnt something about myself too!

The village was dead, it provided an almost surreal experience with the cold, thick fog, and being the only person there – it left me wondering how the hell do businesses stay open over the spring, summer and autumn months, soon enough it was time to depart and head back to Mansfield as I was concerned I would run out of light before I got there! The descent down Mt Buller was fast and hairy, the road partially wet made for some dicey cornering; lucky I was repping the mountain bike skillz or I could have ended up sliding down the road… the trip back to Mansfield was fairly quick if only the 3 hour drive home was that quick.

Total ride time was 3hrs 40mins, 96kms and one of the 7 peaks chalked up.

I was hoping for a view, but all I got was clouds:

Ride Data:

In all a solid weekend of riding, I think an easy might be in order for today!

Now with Power!

So it’s been a while since the last update I figured I should type something for those interested!

“The Best Laid Plans”
Per my last entry, I had every intention to do the Dirty Gran Fondo held a few weeks ago; but then the rains came! The Dirty Gran Fondo is known for being a cold and miserable place in the wet and this year’s running of the race was going to be no different. But the choice was made easier; I’d been shopping for a power meter for some time a few days before the race a set of Zipp’s laced to a Powertap come up for sale… So I made a compromise, Dirty Gran Fondo vs Powertap the answer was the Powertap and a “we will see about the race” was how I left it with the wife whom wasn’t too happy with the $1k spend.

Taking the easy road
On the eve of the Dirty Gran Fondo the heavens opened up with rain from all angles – it hammered down all night. Waking in the morning to the sound of very heavy rain on the roof the option of staying in bed, snuggling up to my Zipp/Powertap wheelset won by a country mile. I had no interest in replacing my bike’s chain, cassette, chain rings, brake pads, brake rotors, bottom bracket and whatever else the mud would have destroyed.

On the positive side, a race provides memories of both good and hard times – but the Powertap will provide at least a couple of years’ worth of training data. In addition the Zipps are a bloody light and fast wheelset not to mention they look pretty trick on the Norco.

Other than a new wheelset not a great deal has been happening on the bike front, the training focus has shifted from Vo2 Max, back to more of a Threshold focus. I am trying to get as much riding in as possible while juggling work, life and the little ones! The balance still needs some work, just when I think I’m doing well I seem to hit a bit of a lull or cop a night of no sleep just to mix it up, BAMM!

The wife and little ones are away this coming weekend, so I might try and get in some epic rides!

Race Report: GCC Presidents Handicap
Coming into this race I didn’t expect much as I hadn’t been riding nearly enough the last two weeks… But it was a flat course and if anything suited me so I was up for giving it a red hot crack. I packed the bike in the car, got dressed and headed off to the race. On arriving there was plenty of riders around looks like a big field!

The race start was fairly uneventful, the first lap was hard and fast with the bunch sharing the work. After the first lap I was hoping we could keep up the pace, but few dropped off as the scratch bunch come racing past (they were a lap behind). I opted to bridge the gap to the scratch bunch with fellow bunch mate and Lara Latte rider Barrie, hanging a few meters off the back of their bunch. Their pace was too fast for me in the wind but they did take a while to disappear into distance.

I looked back only to see the bunch a couple of hundred meters behind me and Barrie tailing off too , at this pointed I wondered do I keep it up or ease up and let the bunch catch me before burning too many matches; I opted for the latter knowing that it would be a long four laps out by myself. After heading back to the bunch I discovered their reluctance to do any work myself and another rider on an older Cervelo did a majority of the work on the front with the individuals slowly dropping off as each lap went passed.

On the bell lap, we got a time to the next bunch; trying to encourage the group down the every so long fast Murradoc rd section of the course I barked a few instructions “short sharp turns” again this fell on deaf ears finding myself at the front of the bunch doing most of the work again… We caught and swallowed up the bunch in front around the back half of the course only a few km’s from the finish. Our bunch was now 4 people bigger and everyone champing at the bit for the sprint despite the leader being 2mins up the road.

We rounded the final corner about 600m out the Cervelo rider jumped, I grabbed a wheel while thinking out loud “way too early” two others from the bunch wound up and pulled alongside; “fark I’m on the inside”, the Cervelo rider ran out of legs about 150m from the line – doubled fark, now I was boxed in and slowing! I managed to pull out behind the other two and give it some stick. I ended up 4th, the spilt between 2nd and 4th being only 0.143 of a second!!!

We were all pretty cuffed with the finish and the race as a whole – it was a good hit out with a few comments about how hard I was pulling on the front of the bunch (really it didn’t seem hard). The flat course suited me well and I left the race richer and with a big smile on my face and now knowing why I spend all my time on the trainer.

Props to Geelong Cycling Club for putting on another great event, and for the pictures.

Late in the Race:

Full Flight, Mid Sprint:

Making use of time…

As most with children know finding time for “other stuff” is often difficult, occasionally impossible – between family time, activities, bad moods, illness, and factor in work it’s little wonder most of us with children can’t get that VOLUME of riding we’d like to at least not without coming home to a cranky wife/partner or worse, divorce papers on the dining table. So sometimes you just have to make do with the time you’ve got, but if you are clever you can still get in some good training.

Yesterday was a prime example, it was a day off from work for me and I had secretly been planning all weekend to get out on the mountain bike for 2 or 3 hours; unfortunately sick kids, and a sick wife meant getting out on the bike for a few hours just wasn’t going to happen. So I continued my love affair with the fluid trainer, this time knocking out 4 x [4x 15sec on / 15sec off] Z7 intervals, combined with a warm up and cool down this 30min workout left the legs feeling like jelly!

Sure the total workload was only 3mins, 07sec (fell short on a few) but all of it was >150% of FTP and much closer to 175%-200% FTP, but these short intervals offer a host of Neuromuscular adaptions. In hindsight these intervals probably aren’t too far from MTB specificity really, as “short blast” power is often used for hammering up pinches, or clearing trail obstacles.

Strava

Next race!
With the next Vic Enduro Series race not until the end of June, I am looking for a filler – subsequently I am hoping to the Dirty Gran Fondo in early May, this race has been on the to do list since its inception with its European style stocked up feed zones and finish areas with sweets, treats and even free coffee, people racing on cross bikes, great atmosphere, etc… Sounds like a winner!

Link for those keen: http://www.bighillevents.com.au/dirty_grand_fondo/home.html