The last week has been another one to recover, and it seems my lack of riding has also favoured a lack of writing. But with the rest week almost over, I’ll try and renew my focus on the blog.
I’ve had a pretty busy training block to cover, too. I still haven’t been knocking out massive kilometres like I used to, but the intensity has probably increased. And not just because I’ve gotten stronger. I think I’m pushing harder at the level I’m at, trying to get everything I can out of each session.
I’ve been hitting the indoor trainer pretty hard, and managed to knock out 180km on a Zwift challenge. 60km in I had to turn up the fans, turn down the aircon, and slow down my pace to get into a rhythm. I wish I’d weighed myself before and after this one!
Criterium training at Hidden Valley has been pretty interesting too. And I reckon really fun. On the whole, overall times haven’t been outstanding for anyone, but it has gotten very dynamic with more attacks and less of an 8 lap bunch ride. I broke my rest week last night and went to the crit, and it turned out a good move, as Stuart decided to run handicap 2 lappers, putting everyone in the box to either catch or not get caught. Typically it only runs for 35 minutes, but in the last 3 sessions they have been hard enough to up my max heart rate from 191 to 195, and have also seen increases in my maximum power output and some stronger sprints.
Saturday bunch rides and Hour of Power are still featuring in the training, and are proving solid blocks to help increase my FTP. HoP, in particular, has been a good indicator of form. I haven’t set a new fastest time, but it’s gotten close, and with fewer riders in the bunch, it has certainly been a challenge to keep the pace above 40km/h.
I’ll keep it at that for now. A dull post, but I think my focus has turned a little more towards cycling and a little away from riding. In fact, I pretty much can’t stop thinking about riding.
I’ve almost completed another rest week. Yes, rest weeks don’t just pass by – I actually complete them. When you’re like me, and want to be riding all of the time, forcing yourself to take it easy, have days off and keep your heart rate down is a serious challenge!
I’ve still been going to Yoga, and I’ve had regular, relaxed paced rides throughout the week. This makes it hard to gauge how I’m going, but this morning’s bunch ride (around 80-90km) did give me some good indications.
Setting off faster than usual, the pace mostly remained pretty high, but I stayed conservative, either dropping the pace a little when I was on the front, or pulling very short turns. However, along a few stretches of road, I found myself needing to put in something of an effort to stay in contact with the bunch. And it felt easy. I only pulled a short turn on Tiger Brennan Drive, but was able to comfortably ramp it up from the mid-40s to well over 50km/h. I decided not to stay on the front at that pace for very long, but it was a hard decision when I was feeling so fresh after a week off. And I’m sure it was for the best – learning when to not do any work is another important aspect of racing, and it is crucial to my training as well.
Matt has set out an exceptionally hard week to go into as well. Heavier on kilometres than previous weeks, although perhaps well below what I’d regularly knock out in Melbourne, the intensity is likely to leave me feeling very fatigued. It’ll really shake up the regime and I’m really looking forward to trying to rip my own legs off.
This was the segment that started it all. A true blood on the lungs effort. And a stretch of road that leaves the conquerors gasping for air and coughing up their insides. It was the first truely difficult segment I thought I had a chance of getting, and without a doubt the hardest effort I have put myself through.
Located in Lower Plenty, Melbourne, the segment averages 5% for 1.3km on Old Eltham Rd from the junction of Main Rd and Bolton St, to the top of Bonds Road. It actually begins with a short wall that maxes out over 20%, then continues for some time as a false flat before tending uphill again, and finishing in another steep pinch well into the teens.
I found myself getting fitter and stronger at the start of 2015, and really gave the segment a go in February to claim a top 10. I was stoked, and even more so a few months down the track as I started to learn about the riders around me on that leader board. Over the year, and picking up speed, I had several more attempts, but would usually run out of steam before the top. But in early December, and with several of those riders engaged with the Tour of Bright, I headed out on an easy ride in preparation for the double everesting I was attempting the next day. That easy ride would have one hard effort – and I was determined to put in a fast time up to Bonds Rd.
From Fairfield i rolled out through Ivanhoe, Heidelberg, Viewbank and then down past the Pony Club and the mansions of Lower Plenty. My thoughts were running fast and thick – but not about the KOM – I couldn’t take my mind off the double. Could I do it? Was I prepared? A KOM attempt was really something to take my mind off the coming weekend.
There are 3 ways to approach the start of the segment – all of which rely on a good run through the lights. Perhaps the best is to line up the sequence from directly opposite with a downhill start, and run through the green light with speed. I really couldn’t be bothered with that, so I opted to roll through the intersection with a slow, left-hand turn up the incline.
The live segment was running with the KOM as the goal – I had to go into it hard, but not so hard as to destroy my legs on that awful wall. I somehow managed to keep my speed around 20km/h, and was feeling pretty good. It’s that steep you really need to muscle your way up. I wasn’t able to see how I was going at that point, but rounding the top and turning right, I was able to look down at the screen and see that Andrew Stalder’s time was a few seconds ahead.
Feeling defeated, I contemplated aborting, but decided I should at least set a faster time than I had before. With my heart rate already getting dangerously high (probably not the right adjective to use, effectively is probably more apt), I gritted my teeth and got my bike up to speed. Holding a good cadence and a speed in the high 30s, I glanced down again to notice that I had just edged ahead! Shit! That meant I had to keep going! I couldn’t give up at that point!
Every time I’d glance down, I’d see myself floating around the same time – 1 second ahead, 1 second behind, but no major gains or loses. It was feeling like a nail-biter and I could my heart going crazy. The next small ramp I got out of the saddle to edge up it as powerfully as I could whilst trying to maintain efficient – an attempt to save something for the finale.
That final pinch I really emptied myself – my heart rate was at it’s max, but I was determined to stay in front. That last bit can hurt with fresh legs – but I kept turning the gear over and threw everything I had over the last speed hump just before the apex. I was at the top!
But the segment was not over. Cruelly, the finish is not at the start of the high point f but continues for another 30m or so to just before the junction with Bonds Rd. And this is where I hurt the most. Gasping and wheezing for air, I was spent. I didn’t realise it at the time, but at that point, with a few more metres to cover, my heart rate crept up one beat per minute higher than I’d ever seen it. I could do nothing but shift in to a much easier gear and spin quickly, hoping it would be enough.
If I had a camera on me, I reckon you would have seen me throwing the bike as if I was in a track sprint. The segment was over – I didn’t see if I’d beaten the KOM – at last check, I was still back and forward with Stalds. I was lucky to stay upright – light-headed, red-faced and beginning to cough – I was immediately aware that I’d achieved something I hadn’t before. I’d really pushed through an effort that should have stopped me far earlier.
Paused at the top for some time, I limped back to Fairfield as best I could. It was the one and only segment I’d ride hard that day, but it successfully took my mind of the coming everesting. And the cough I had developed? I could not shake it. All the way home my lungs hurt. – I’d cough up phlegm, but it wouldn’t help. It made my eyes water and I was worried it would affect me the next day. In fact, the cough persisted until about midnight the day after – not long before finishing the first side of Henley Rd I was attempting the double on!
But, the upload was so satisfying. I’d earned the KOM by a mere 3 seconds. Sure, it’s only short – but quality riders have set some fast times up there, and it’s the stomping ground of the Peaks Cycles bunch – a top shelf KOM I would not likely keep. I did feel cheeky for borrowing it of Stalder whilst I knew he was away racing (one does not take KOMs of Stalds – they are only borrowed). But I was pretty happy and confident of holding it for a few days. Maybe even a week! I held it for just over 3.
Okay, a lot of words for a short segment, but the story doesn’t end there. I had the segment, completed the double everesting soon afterwards, and got back into my regular bunch rides. I reckon I was more chuffed with that KOM than I was with the double, but there was plenty of talk going around and I found myself receiving many congratulations and comments of craziness. With a much inflated ego, I made a mistake. I mentioned to a young speedster, Liam Garriga, that it would be quite funny to go out on Christmas Eve, steal some KOMs, and entitle the ride on Strava as “The Grinch”.
I thought it was a brilliant idea, and put in some attempts on Christmas Eve in the Heidelberg area. With no success, I found myself in the car heading to my sister’s home in the Otways for Christmas lunch when my phone buzzed in my pocket. A notification. “Uh, Oh! Liam Garriga just took your KOM!”
I outwardly laughed, but shed a bit of a tear on the inside – there was no way I would go back to try it again. As it turns out – Liam isn’t interested either, “About 20 minutes after the effort, I actually vomited whilst riding and had to stop… That’s how brutal it was!! Also developed a brutal cough!!” Next week I hope to present to you Liam’s attempt – it was clearly a cracker!
Part of me hopes that someone else does give this one a go – I am quite certain that it would end in more blood on the lungs.
The pain in numbers:
Average HR: 183bpm
Max HR: 190bpm
Average Speed: 28.9km/h
Max Speed: 37.8km/h
Min Speed: 17.3km/h (I don’t normally include this, but want you to see my starting speed for this one)
Side note – I’d like to thank Andrew Stalder for two things here. Firstly for setting such a blisteringly fast time to chase, and secondly for mentioning the term, “blood on the lungs” on his own ride when he took the KOM. It’s riders like Stalds that push me to always try harder. Kudos.
This morning I popped. I had only two minutes remaining of my third and final strength effort of the morning, but I was lacking enough to not get through. I wasn’t breathing particularly heavy, and my heart rate wasn’t through the roof. Simply, I couldn’t muster enough willpower to push through the remaining 120 pedal strokes.
To be fair, the efforts had each been increased from previous weeks, and my legs were shaking on the first effort. They were certainly hard enough to really hurt. But as I sit here typing, and feeling fine, I can’t help but wonder as to why I didn’t quite finish it off. I think a training programme should be set-up so that you have some failures – tasks that force you to push harder – for what is success without a target?
Although I didn’t hit the intended numbers this morning, I’m taking a lot away from it. I’ll be doing the same efforts on Sunday morning, and I’ll be annoyed enough at myself to calmly and surely give those numbers a better nudge.
If you’ve been following along here, or having a perv on Strava, you will have noticed that I’ve been spending a bit of time training indoors, on stationary trainers(s). I am by no means an expert on indoor trainers, check out Shane Miller if you want info on that (in fact, check his you tube vids anyway, they are a veritable source of interesting cycling related stuff), but i’ll give you a run down of my experience.
The very first training session that Matt had in mind for me was to begin strength efforts. These have involved doing several sets of 10 minute intervals at or near my functional threshold power, but at a low cadence. Typically the whole session will last about an hour and I come out of them with my legs feeling 10kg heavier initially, but exceptionally powerful if I immediately afterwards ride on the road (they are not actually more powerful, it’s just that riding on the road feels easier).
An issue quickly arose in the first couple of weeks of training whereby the fluid style trainer that I’ve been using (where my rear hub is locked into a triangle-shaped frame and resistance is generated by a rubber-like roller interfaced with the rear wheel). I found that this trainer did not provide enough resistance to properly complete the efforts. Not wanting to completely waste a training session, I immediately adapted to a higher cadence for the same power. The cadence was still relatively low at around 70-75rpm, but considerably higher than the target of 60rpm. I’m happy with myself for make the most of what I had, but really wanted to get the most out of these efforts, and at times would find myself pedalling at up to 80rpm to hit my target power. Not ideal.
Luckily, Matt had an easy solution and Blue Cycles lent me a Wahoo Kickr. These smart trainers are by no means cheap, so I was stoked to have a loan, and the increased resistance immediately ripped me a new one on Thursday morning. The training session felt far more effective, and the feel of the trainer is much more road like than the fluid trainer I’d been using. It’s hard to get enjoyment out of riding indoors, but having a set up that feels closer to riding outdoors takes away the mental drudgery of sitting in an air-conditioned room in front of a lap top screen (I’d rather save these conditions for writing).
I’m bound to write some updates on the indoor side of the training. I’ll probably end up purchasing a Kicker. And I’ve found another edge that having a coach can provide – being able to adapt sessions to fit your needs, and being connected to tools that allow for more effective training.
Please be warned that the recount below is by far the most amount of words I have written in relation to time spent on the bike. But as one of the most exciting races I’ve competed in, I feel it worth it. And before I start – a massive than you and shout out for the Darwin Cycling Club and all the organisers for making this race happen. I turned up and had a blast. You guys did an amazing job setting everything up and really showcased competitive cycling in Darwin. Kudos
What better way to finish off my first two hard weeks of training with a criterium? After strength efforts, knocking about in bunch rides, yoga and targeted training under the tutelage of Matt King, I found myself lining up for the inaugural Mitchell St Mile race. And what a race it was.
The Mitchell St Mile is a foot race held on a closed circuit in the middle of Darwin, and for the past few years has attracted some of Australia’s best runners. This year, the Darwin Cycling Club announced that a criterium would be held before the running race, and that Arafura Fabrications would be laying down some serious prize money. 25 minutes and a lap in the men’s race would mean some serious speeds being hit right past a bunch of pubs followed by some squealing brakes into a u-turn before doing it all again.
Coming off a good block of training, I was feeling pretty confident. Far more confident than I’d normally be for that type of racing. The tight turns and the short duration initially put me off, but some good practise on Thursday night gave me quite a confidence boost – I knew I could hold a wheel and I was feeling strong. Nevertheless, I had tactics in mind leading into the event, and implemented them quickly.
20 odd riders lined up at 2pm, and with the very real threat of rain imminent, the bunch was looking a little nervous. I was nervous too, but shrugged it off by having a laugh… tactic one. With the sound of the gun, I put my head down to roll off with the bunch, but as soon as I had my right foot clipped into the pedal, I hit the gas. Hard. That was tactic two. I had no desire to be rolling around for 25 minutes with a bunch of big dudes who in all likely-hood could overpower me in a sprint finish. So I went out with the idea of unleashing constant attacks to try and break the field apart.
That first attack probably didn’t work, but I’m sure I caught some by surprise. I must have opened up a good 20m on the pack, but cooled it off when I saw former Australian Criterium Champion, Steve Rooney, bridging the gap. I couldn’t see behind him, but decided to sit up a little and roll the legs over… at 40km/h!
I took the first u-turn in pole position, and could see the field coming around behind me. Clearly, it was good to be close to the front on the corners on this course – those in the rearward positions would only be coming into the corner whilst the front guys could be attacking out of it.
I think it was about lap 3 that the damage really started to be done. After rounding the south turn and sitting on the front, I watched Chris Hanson drop about 60 million watts with no one willing to cover his attack.
The pursuit was on. I had no doubts that Chris would be the type of rider who could hold on for a win. But I was concerned about the size of the bunch. Bridging to Chris from the front of the pack would have brought everyone up with me. Not only that, the rain started to fall, and the turns became quite precarious.
Chris had a solid lead, perhaps 200-300m up the road, but I felt like I was doing all the work. Matt put in some short, strong turns, and a few others started to pull on the front as well, which gradually worked to both reduce the size of the peloton, and close the gap to Chris.
Hard braking in the wet required a lot of concentration, and everyone quickly learned to start braking before the rider in front, or risk a collision! At one point, coming into the south turn, we could hear the commentator calling out that Chris had had a near miss. And sure enough, we could see Chris hitting the start of the straight from an unusual position… but I was glad to see he’d remained upright.
I didn’t feel like I was red-lining, but I was certainly concerned I’d done too much work, and the bunch would completely reform. But it didn’t. With two laps to go, I started to tuck in more and allowed myself to drop back in the now much smaller bunch. Chris was now back in the fold and the pace felt to be dropping. On the bell lap, I rounded the turn in first place, but took it very wide so as to force someone else to the front.
The rain was awesome in both senses of the word. I loved how difficult the parcours had become, and the grit required to keep racing. But I could actually feel the extra weight of the water in my shoes, my socks were feeling uncomfortable and the sheer torrent of water produced as a rooster-tail from the rider in front was near blinding. I’m not quite sure how I managed to keep my sunglasses on, but was rather amused to hear that Steve Rooney had tried to rinse the grit out of his eyes with a water bottle, only to find it filled with Endura!
One mile left in the race and I could only sense about half a dozen riders remaining in the bunch. For perhaps the only straight in the race, I stayed off the lead, and allowed myself to recover somewhat. Lining up for the final u-turn, I’ll admit to being super excited. In front of me was Steve, Ryan Coppola, Matt and Chris, and I think only Phil Brownscombe and Sam Wood behind. Ryan entered first, followed by Chris and then Matt and myself cutting in sharp to overtake. Perhaps foolish, but I saw an opportunity to attack at that very moment, and yelled at Matt to get on my wheel.
Dropping almost 20 watts per kilo, I flew past Ryan, and found myself out the front of the race with a decent gap again. A quick look-back and I realised that no one had jumped on my wheel. Shit. I had time to look down at my power meter, and didn’t like my chances of holding 450-500 watts for the remaining 700m of the race. I dug my heels in anyway, and urged my legs to push on.
The inevitable catch came early. I glanced right to see Sam fly past with a bit of a gap before Steve went through with Matt immediately behind him and Chris also catching the draft. I had gambled too much and was unable to grab a wheel. And looking back down the road, could clearly see I would hang onto 5th place, so rolled over the line without a real sprint contest. Sam took the win, Matt in second, Chris was incredibly impressive for 3rd, and Steve Rooney demonstrated amazing experience to hold me over for 4th.
I’ve taken so much out of that race, but I’ll try and quickly summarise what I’ve learnt. Attacking off the front unpredictably works for me. I’m a much smaller rider than most, and can’t hold the highest speeds, but I can accelerate quickly. A relaxed, yet confident mindset will help me perform when conditions are tough – from the start line,
I wanted to dictate the racing as much as I could, and refused to get nervous.If I want to win a race, doing so much work on the front will not work in a criterium. It’s better to save my legs for a handful of efforts that really matter – be it the final sprint, an attack that gets me away, or simply bridging a gap in 1 second rather than 10. And finally, I reckon I can race!
The race in numbers:
Average Heart Rate: 175
Max Heart Rate: 191 (previously I’d only hit 190 on 2-3 occasions!)
Average Speed: 38.6km/h
Max Speed: 61.6km/h
Average Power: 246 Watts
Max Power: 1052 Watts (on my final attack, and only the second time I’ve gone over 1000)
If you’ve been following me on Strava for the last week, you’ll notice that I’ve been taking it relatively easy on the bike (not on the coffee front – I’ve been hitting the coffee as hard as always). This has been a planned part of the program (I think I’m going to make lots of doping references for the next 3 months – hopefully I’ll be getting some results that look suspicious by the end of it). You won’t, however, have seen the behind the scenes, off the bike work I’ve been up to the last week.
No, I haven’t been hitting weights at the gym. Nor have I been out running or getting into a special diet. The last week has been all about recovery and planning. I still got out on the bike, and I did put some efforts in, but by and large I’ve just been casually turning the pedals and reducing my fatigue levels.
After last week’s FTP test, Matt showed me a video he’d taken of me on the bike. It was probably towards the end of the test, and I was most certainly feeling ragged by that point, but it clearly shows a bit of an imbalance I have on the bike. For ages I have been ignoring my lack of flexibility. With this in mind, the newest addition to my program has been Yoga!
Wednesday morning had me up at a time I’d often be cycling, and down to Palmerston for some stretching. It’s something I’ve never been into, but have been meaning to give a serious go. I’m now pretty convinced it’ll get me more flexible on the bike, but was surprised how much it hurt everything around my chest – in a good way. Thursday morning I woke up and was really sore, but in a way that made me feel like my diaphragm had been worked for the better. Guess what – cycling downs a lot of oxygen, so improving this breathing caper is bound to be good for me! Yoga gets a tick.
Capping off the week of relaxation, I went and saw Matt after the Saturday morning bunch ride (on which, by and large, I sat in and did very little work). We discussed strengths and weaknesses and basically did a bit of a rider profile, and then got onto the important stuff – setting out a regime. I won’t bore you with too much detail, and am excited that Matt has managed to plan out a schedule that includes all the regular riding that I already love to do. So I’ll continue to do the regular bunch rides I enjoy, and will also include some low cadence strength efforts on the stationary trainer and some intervals. If you keep an eye on Strava, you’ll get a fair idea. Oh, and I have two hard weeks, followed by an easy week. Massive focus on recovery with the training, and I know that it’ll get results.
It all feels too easy so far – but I know what is laid out to work through, and that I’ll be smashing myself soon enough. I’m looking forward to giving you another run down in about a week.
One of the early segments I worked towards topping runs from Chandler Highway, along the boulevard, and to the top of Yarra Street. I’d sum it up as an undulating time trial, followed by a short steep pinch – just when you think the pain is done, you cop a kick in the guts whilst you’re on the ground.
I think I stumbled upon the segment by accident one ride, and proceeded to slowly chip away at my time. On October 30th, I was fairly close, but didn’t feel warmed up enough and faced a predominant head wind. The following day a northerly was considerably more favourable, so i went out to have another crack after a bit of a warm up.
I didn’t have a power meter at the time, but I was keeping an eye on the live segment on the Garmin screen. Taking it relatively easy up the first climb (by relatively easy, I mean the fastest I’d ever ridden up there), holding over 40km/h up that 3%. I was feeling great, and didn’t notice my heart rate getting up to 185bpm – a sure sign everything was firing, but I wasn’t going to blow up.
I’d gained a 6 second lead, but was well aware of the fact I would need to maintain a good speed on all the downhill segments. And I did loose some time on that first downhill, and on the next uphill – not exactly a confidence boost, but I was still on par for my best time, so I kept hammering away. Brilliant, because as I rounded Cornering Speed Test, things got substantially easier!
Thus far, the northerly had been giving me next to nothing, but after that corner I could feel a noticeable difference in wind direction, and could suddenly hold a lead with less effort. I was convinced that I could take this one, and at that moment decided to save my legs for Yarra Street. It was a winning move.
The whole segment is really easy to blow yourself up on – go to hard early, and you could find yourself hitting lactate half way up Yarra Street (or earlier). Take it too easy, and you will need to fly up that final pinch. This time, my effort was measured perfectly, and I was able to maintain something of a sprint to the final corner, almost hitting my maximum heart rate. All over in 5:56s and the KOM in the bag with 8 seconds to spare.
I haven’t ridden that exact segment since, and am definitely expecting to receive an email notification of someone getting a better time. But I’d love to try and better my PB if the opportunity arises.
Average Speed – 37km/h
Max Speed – 51.1km/h
Min Speed – 15.1km/h (I don’t normally list this, but wanted to give an indication of what it’s like to hit Yarra St!)
The bullet is clenched between my teeth, cold and metallic. It’s time to clamp down. After almost two years of solid riding, and improvement well beyond my expectations, I’ve decided to properly turn my focus towards getting faster on the bike, and am employing the expertise of a coach and a structured routine.
Three months of solid training is my commitment. No ridiculous rides. No hitting Strava segments for the sake of a crown (but let’s be honest, I’ll work this into the training somehow). No destroying myself with no recovery. No beer (that won’t happen either, but I’ll tone it down some). My aim is to transform myself from a cyclist that can perform on occasion, hitting some good numbers, into a cyclist that is race ready and mentally prepared to win.
I expect massive difficulties that will need to be overcome to reach my goals (I won’t go into them yet). I’m basically a rider who has been cycling for 25 years, but had a 23 year taper. It’s really in the last couple of years that I’ve turned my attention fully to wheels, and much of the riding I have done has been inconsistent, random, but above all, interesting and exciting. But with such a broad spectrum of cycling challenges in such a short time, I don’t know how well I will adjust to a structured regime with, “training”, and “recovery”, and “stress scores” and “sleep”! I’m going to attempt to ride smart, and not just like a smart arse.
I’ve decided to take up help from Matt King, a local Darwin rider. Do a google search, and you won’t get a huge amount of hits. But you should discover that Matt was an U23 National TT champion in 2008 (and 2nd in the road race the same year). He is no longer a professional, and is only recently getting into coaching, but I am confident that he will help me improve immensely in three months. And being in Darwin, I have the advantage of regular face-to-face time – something you can’t really get with the modern online coach.
Things kick off this week, and I’m taking it easy until some testing Tuesday morning. Thank fuck I’m still buggered from the combined efforts of the last everesting and The Redback – spinning the legs is about all I feel like doing right now. And before I sign off on this post, it’s worth noting that in early April last year, I was certain I’d maxed out my potential – oh boy, did I learn otherwise…. Suffice to say I’m excited to see where the improvements go.
Ergh. When I thought my legs were getting faster, and I was getting over that last everesting, I’d actually been building up more fatigue from stage racing.
It’ll be good in the long run, but I could barely last 20 minutes on Zwift yesterday morning, and Hour of Power this morning was an exercise in mental stamina (I was sure I wouldn’t be able to hold on). It’s probably about time I got onto Training Peaks and learn about training stress scores – it might be useful, or it might scare the crap out of me. It’s easy to get caught up and bored looking at numbers all the time, but I’m keen to do some high intensity racing in the next few months, so training appropriately and being more conservative with mammoth rides will only help.