Target Approaching

I am now one week away from the incentive; the reason I started training more intensely – the Giro Della Donna.

Almost three months ago I made the decision to employ a coach and undertake more focused training. And this fondo was my target . Whilst, strictly speaking, it is more of a mass organised ride than it is a race, the Giro Della Donna, last year, was most certainly a race. Places were awarded for the first 100 places, and I was not quite satisfied with 27th. And although this year the organisers have decided not to run the same format, and have opted to instead time the first climb for prizes, I am fairly confident I will again have the opportunity to give it all against some very talented cyclists. I am aiming high for one week’s time – I am determined to finish within the top 10.

The event itself is incredible – about 110km with something like 2500m of climbing, it encompasses some roads that are nothing short of spectacular to ride, especially with a large chunk of it either closed to traffic or managed for the event. The Giro Della Donna is worthy of a stand alone post – I’ll save any more descriptions for another time soon, and will recount more of my experiences from last year.

But what about my form? I’ve spent two weeks on the side line after having a rest week. So three weeks in a fairly sedentary state. Whilst it has been necessary and obviously beneficial to recover fully before spending more time on the bike, I’m definitely a bit disappointed that I couldn’t train until closer to the event, and utilise an effective taper period. All I can do is accept that it is what it is, and the best course is to listen to my coach, recover, and then activate my legs in the coming week. My hope is that I haven’t lost too much fitness.

How do I rate myself? I’m not sure I really can just yet, and that is part of the reason for my desire to go back to ride it again this year. I expect there will be numerous NRS riders, club A-graders and plenty of local hitters. These are cyclists that race frequently at a high level, will be there with a team, and will undoubtedly have ridden considerably more vertical metres than myself in the last three months. In Darwin, the pool of riders is very strong, with several NRS and higher level riders kicking around – but not nearly as many as there are in Melbourne. Not to mention my training has included no real time climbing. Although I am hopeful that the gains in power I have had translate to more uphill speed.

Successful or not, I will at least be satisfied if I manage to rip my own legs off. Couple that with some of the most incredible roads in Victoria, a bunch of awesome mates and finally some time riding uphill, I’m bound to have an excellent day out. And perhaps it will just be another day of training…

Monsoon Maddddneesss!

Whilst a bunch of mates were racing at one of my favourite events from last year, the Buxton Boot Camp, a 6 hour enduro in Victoria, I spent about an hour and a half sweating it out in the tropics for Darwin Offroad Cyclists’ last event for the year – Monsoon Madness.

Monsoon Madness Moustache. Luke Hansen. Pic courtesy of Keogh Conboy
Monsoon Madness Moustache. Luke Hansen. Pic courtesy of Keogh Conboy

Held at Lee Point, a 20 minute ride from my house, the race encompassed as many laps as you could complete of an approximately 5km course in an allocated time of 1:30 minutes. I’m fairly familiar with the trails, and despite the stifling heat up in the top end at the moment, I was super excited about hitting the course.

90 odd club members were lined up to race at 4:30pm, and I was stoked to have Aidan and Kev there to make it hard. Out the front of the bunch from the start, I had Aidan alongside me and was happy to cruise the opening fire trail at 35km/h until Kev blew past about 100m in doing at least 40! He’d pulled off one of my favourite tricks, and it was a real struggle to get ahold of his wheel!

I couldn’t hear anyone behind me, and I barely had sight of the two leaders when I made a blunder. Over the top of a large roller, the trail bends to the left. I took it with too much speed and committed myself to riding off the trail and into the bushes, sending me off the bike, along with my mini pump and a water bottle. The pump I retrieved as I righted myself to watch about 5 riders slip away, the bottle I wouldn’t notice until I’d remounted and taken off. Planted obviously to the side of the trail, on successive laps that bottle proved to be a reminder not only to ride smoothly, but also that I was thirsty.

Not thirsty just yet. Pic courtesy of Keogh Conboy

Not wanting to lose too much ground, I hammered it to get onto the second bunch, and followed better lines through the single track, and blasted it every time the course opened up or started climbing. I’d worked my way back to third position by the last of the single track, and when I emerged onto a long, uphill section of fire trail, I could see Kev most of the way up, and Aidan at the top.

Aidan in the lead. Pic courtesy of Keogh Conboy
Aidan in the lead. Pic courtesy of Keogh Conboy

And that is how it stayed for a couple of laps – I’d make up a bit of ground, but then fall a back behind on the technical stuff, before edging closer on the climbs and long stretches of open terrain. I really wish I had a power meter on my mountain bike, because it felt like I was really utilising all of the road training I’ve been doing.

Eventually I made it past Kev, who would stay close to my tail for the most part of a lap, and had to really hook it along the starting fire trail to catch up to Aidan – this time I was doing 40km/h! I was able to take a bit of  a breather with Aidan in front on the single track, and me pulling hard turns on the fire trails and climbs.

Just after passing Kev. Pic courtesy of Keogh Conboy
Just after passing Kev. Pic courtesy of Keogh Conboy
Kev now chasing. Pic courtesy of Keogh Conboy
Kev now chasing. Pic courtesy of Keogh Conboy

At one point I stopped to pull some foliage out of my rear mech, with Aidan offering to slow down so I wouldn’t have to work hard to catch back up. But it sure didn’t feel like that – it took me a full lap to catch back up!

By this stage we were nearing the end of the race. I hadn’t checked the time properly, and had forgotten what lap we were up to, but the two of us thought we would get one more lap in. Aidan was looking cooked, and made it vocal, but kept on my wheel so we could take the 1,2. Perhaps 200m from the finish, Aidan tripped up a little – staying upright, but dropping his chain. I slowed up to almost walking pace, looking over my shoulder and wondering what the fuck was taking him so long, as I crossed the line – only to be pulled up by Alice. The race was over.

I did get one more lap in – a warm down and bottle collection were both necessary.

Massive thanks to all the volunteers out for the day – many of them gave up racing themselves to marshall and time the event – more than I’ve ever bothered to do. Congratulations to all the competitors for racing in those conditions too – it was great to hear words of encouragement shouted at me throughout the event, and I hope I was just as encouraging for everyone else (apart form the times I overtook with my head down and my teeth gritted). I’ll try and make as many of these races as I can next year, and I’ll have to give up a number on one of them to volunteer.

Strava: Monsoon Madness

Aidan getting loose. Pic courtesy of Keogh Conboy
Aidan getting loose. Pic courtesy of Keogh Conboy
Dialing it in on the last laps. Pic courtesy of Keogh Conboy
Dialing it in on the last laps. Pic courtesy of Keogh Conboy
And exit. Pic courtesy of Keogh Conboy
Donna keeping low and focused. Pic courtesy of Keogh Conboy
Donna keeping low and focused. Pic courtesy of Keogh Conboy
Local pinner, pinning. Pic courtesy of Keogh Conboy
Local pinner, pinning. Pic courtesy of Keogh Conboy

Forced Rest Week

Nine weeks in to a dedicated training regime, and my consistency has finally broken. And unplanned. I’m not disappointed, but I am a little frustrated. After I’ve placed much effort into building my ftp, and ensuring I spend enough time recovering, I’ve come to the inevitable, and unenviable position of becoming sick.

But not all is lost – a lot of gains have been had in the past fortnight. After a rest week (apart from a smash fest at crit training), I got up for the win at DORC’s last mountain bike race of the year, and backed it up with a good performance during an FTP test with Matt. I’ve basically taken another rest week, and have been as sedentary as possible, and taken the chance to get extra sleep when I can.

I’ve already written about the mountain bike race and will publish that soon, so I guess I should give a bit of an overview of the most recent test of my functional threshold power.

On Tuesday morning, I arranged to meet Matt at Blue Cycles for another test. It was nine weeks since the last test, and I was keen to thrash my last score. But I was also concerned that I was getting ill, and was far more exhausted after the mtb race than I expected to be. Whilst I did bury myself at that race, and didn’t do my best to stay hydrated, my condition the next day was only fair to middling. We almost canned the test for another day, but I woke up feeling better and rolled down to the shop to give it my all.

I’m not well versed at sitting FTP tests – a 20 minute, all out effort aimed at going as hard as you possibly can in the time limit. But I’ve trained enough recently to have a good understanding of what I can put myself through. As with the last test, I had a good warm up before Matt snatched away my Garmin.

The first 5 minutes felt four times as long – it was as if I went out far too hard in the first 2 minutes, and my power data from minutes 10-15 show a decrease in my effort. Still, I had Matt yelling encouragement, and I pushed through to the half way point.

I think I typically hit a mental high when I get to the half way point of anything relating to time or distance on a bike, and can pick myself up to perform better when I know that it is all “downhill”. Whilst I didn’t pick up the pace at the 10 minute mark, I kept it consistent and felt like I could sustain the effort for another 10 minutes.

With Matt now breaking the test into “chunks”, I had smaller time slots to target, and when 15 minutes had elapsed, I felt as though I had enough left to now go considerably harder. Dropping down a gear, my cadence dropped only slightly for a large gain in power output. Matt was vocally happier with the effort I was now maintaining, and I was confident of holding it out until the end.

With time slots of 1-2 minutes being called out, I was happy giving it my all for one slot, but had to break through some glass to convince myself to maintain it for the next. With one minute to go, Matt started giving estimates of distance left in a race, with other riders baring down on me. I’d visualise Bagot Rd on the end of the regular Hour of Power ride I do, and how I can usually muster something together for a strong finish. With 45 seconds to go, I really had Matt shouting at me. I couldn’t see my Garmin, but he had close eyes on it, and was pushing me to do more and more.

“Come on, I want to see X watts!”

This was the last piece of encouragement I took in from Matt – anything else he said fell on deaf ears, as I was completely focused on finishing on X watts – a number I couldn’t see in any case.

The effort done, I wound it down for 10-20 seconds before Matt let me know the numbers and let me know the improvement.

So, where do I stand? Well, I’m still going to be a little bit cagey… just for a few more weeks. I’d like to re-sit the test in better health, but the improvement for 9 weeks of training was probably pretty huge. With Matt’s structured training, my FTP went up 12%. And I feel I can do better than this in a test, and better again in a race. I’m not quite where I want to be, but I’m not far off – a little more training, and a little less fatigue should see me closer. But I don’t expect I’ll be able to add 12% so easily next time – it’ll take more work than I’ve done in the last 9 weeks. However, the gains in my form have been fantastic. Even though I didn’t perform quite as high as I wanted to (and I was not far off at all), I was in much better shape throughout the test – looking less ragged on the bike, and far more fluid and consistent. I buried myself even more, feeling far worse immediately after the test, but recovered to a very good state very quickly – something I can’t say about last time.

Rest Week

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.