Am I on track?

Am I on track?

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Benchmarking - 10km trainer ITT

So the rain has continued to bucket down in Brisbane. After resisting for quite a while, I finally broke and dragged out the magtrainer for an indoor session before my legs forget what cycling is like.

One of the problems I find with using the trainer is I'm not really sure what to do, and I subsequently find it all a bit boring and aimless.  After mulling over a few options, I decided the best thing to do would be a 10km time-trial, as fast as I could.  This would give me two outcomes - a short but hard workout, plus a 'benchmark' I can use to track my progress in future months.

After setting up my bike on the trainer, getting the pedestal fan aiming at my head and torso, opening up all the windows in the spare room (where I was set up), and filling my water bottle with cold water - I was ready to go.

I started off with an easy 10 minute warm up to get my legs ready for the effort ahead. During the warm-up, my radio station of choice (Triple J) moved on to their 'heavy metal' program. Now that might seem ideal for a flat out ITT, but it wasn't doing it for me - onto Nova instead...

So I reset my bike computer, and launched into my 10km of pain!!  Probably the hardest thing was pacing - I spent a fair bit of time flicking between two rear cogs, trying to work out which I preferred (still undecided!). Plus I was worried about going out way too fast and blowing up in the last few kilometres.

Halfway through, I hit my only hurdle - I was sweating like crazy, but had nothing to wipe my face with!! Luckily, my 10yo daughter came wandering in to see what I was doing. "Can you get Dad a towel, sweetheart?" I gasped...  She ran off and appeared 30sec later with a fluffy towel for me - thanks Emma!!

Finally I reached the last kilometre, and pushed through it in the hardest of the two gears I was using. I kept telling myself it was less than a lap of Murarrie crit circuit to go...

Very relieved to get to the end, I clicked my bike computer over to the time - 22min 26sec.  Not bad for my first 'benchmarking' effort.

I'm not particularly worried about the actual time it took. There are too many variables in play to compare it to an actual onroad effort. The key thing will be comparing it to future efforts, and seeing how I can bring that time down.

I'm still not a fan of the trainer (who is?!), but at least now I have a good reason for dragging it out and knocking out a hard effort!!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Book Review: "One Way Road" by Robbie McEwen

Let's get this out of the way early - I am a huge Robbie McEwen fan.  I have loved watching him race over his long professional career, especially his ability to win a sprint without the benefit of a well-drilled leadout train.  With this in mind, I couldn't wait to get my hands on his recent autobiography "One Way Road".

The book starts off with what I consider to be one of Robbie's greatest ever wins - Stage 1 of the 2007 Tour de France, from London to Canterbury.  After crashing with around 20km to go, and then losing contact with the peloton, McEwen's team drag him back to the back of the race with a few kilometres to go.  He then manages to work his way through the speeding race pack, and snatch the stage win at the last moment with a powerful sprint.

I vividly remember lying on my couch just after midnight, watching this stage. I was gobsmacked at Robbie's ability to win this stage after all seemed lost. So starting the book with this epic tale was a great start for me.

The book goes on to talk about many aspects of McEwen's life - from his early childhood growing up on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia, through to training with the AIS teams in his late teens, to trying hard to breakthrough on the tough European professional cycling scene.  I won't go into detail about these stories, as they are brilliantly told in this book.

One thing there is an abundance of in the book, is Robbie telling us all what a terrific racer he is! Multiple times, he points out how he has beaten all the great sprinters of the modern era.  I have read some criticism of this aspect of the book - but I take something different away from it.  I think it gives an insight into the 'winning mindset' a great sprinter has to have.  It is clear that Robbie truly believed that he was the best sprinter on the road, and he could win every time he raced.  Maybe this incredible self-belief is what it takes to turn you from a 'handy sprinter' to a three-time Tour de France green jersey winner...

I also really enjoyed some of the insights McEwen gives into particular cyclists (such as Cadel Evans), and how he handled himself in the peloton.  He delivers a very frank and refreshingly honest assessment of some riders, but you leave with the impression that he is being very fair and without a nasty 'agenda' - there are no 'sensationalist' perspectives in here that are designed to create controversy and sell more books.

Clearly, I love this book.  If you are a cycling fan, then its a definite must-read.  If you are a more casual observer of the cycling world, or enjoy a good autobiography, then I think you'll also find a lot to like about this book as well.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Goals for 2012 - Racing

So I am home sick from work today with a sore throat, and generally feeling blecch.  The perfect little virus incubators in my house (ie. my children) have passed on their sickness from about a week ago, so looks like I am out for a day or two.  What better chance to sit down and elucidate my racing goals for 2012!!

I've never been a 'good' racing cyclist in terms of results. At club level I race in C-grade, and at Open level I'm in Masters C.  In criteriums I can normally hold on, but long road races I find really tough. I've never been able to finish a road race with the peloton, always dropping off well before the finish.

In terms of results, I have had two podiums in 6+ years of racing. A club D-grade 2nd place, and a club C-grade 3rd place. Not a great return for that long!!

That said - I don't race because I'm good at it (obviously!). I race because its incredible fun, and I love it!!  Its a great challenge, and even if I'm destined to never win a race, that's fine by me.

So - which races am I targeting for 2012?

There are two Open races that I'd consider to be my "A races" for the year. I'll be training hard with the aim of peaking for each one.

Firstly will be the "Anzac 25" on Wednesday 25th April (Anzac Day) - a kermesse around the 2.4km Lakeside motor-racing circuit at Kurwongbah.  This event is run by the HPRW club, and was the very first Open race I ever contested.

The last time I competed in the Anzac 25 (back in 2010), I managed to finish with the peloton for the first time.  It was a huge achievement for me! Its a very well-run event, and the circuit itself has been recently resurfaced and improved.  The mix of long flat straights and hilly back sections make it a real test of form and fitness, which is why I love it so much - you can't hide in the peloton like you can on flatter circuits.

My second season goal will be the "Avanti Classic" 80km Handicap event on Sunday 24th June. Run by the Lifecycle club, it's held over a 40km road circuit at Lowood, crossing the Wivenhoe Dam wall on each circuit.

This race is incredibly tough.  It is exposed to strong winds, the roads are dead, and it has enough hills to destroy your legs. Plus the handicap format adds its own challenges!! Typically it has 200+ entrants, making for some exciting racing.

This race always destroys me - but I love it! It challenges me on every level as a cyclist, and the two times I've raced (2009 & 2010) I have learnt a lot about myself and about racing.  If my training and progression goes well this year, I'm looking forward to seeing if I can improve my results from previous years.

They are my two chief targets for the year.  However, there are a few others I'll be aiming to enter.  These are some hard, testing races that I'll be using as 'form-testers' to see how I am travelling.  And of course, they'll just be fun to race in as well.

These races are:

  • Mt Cotton Kermesse, Sunday 18th March. A very difficult race around the hilly Mt Cotton driver training centre.  I entered this in 2010, and was dropped by the peloton on the 3rd lap - and then lapped a further three times... How embarrassing!!
  • Metropolitan Championships road race, Sunday 27th May at Mt Alford. Another hilly road race, thsi one run by my home club. I've never raced it, and am looking forward to giving it a try.
  • Ipswich Open, weekend of 29-30 September. This race comprises an ITT and a road race, around a very tough and hilly circuit near Mt Marrow. This will be my first time at this race as well.
You'll notice I've picked a bunch of hilly races to target. Given that I am terrible at hills, and am probably best at flat sprints, this doesn't make much logical sense!  However, I love this style of racing - I think its very 'honest' in that you have to be fit enough and strong enough to survive.. You definitely can't fake your way through it!!

I may race a few others as well - the full Cycling Qld racing calendar has heaps of opportunities for tough Open racing this year.

With good, consistent training, and a bit of luck with injuries & illness, I can't wait to see how well I go in the 2012 racing season...!!

Thursday, 2 February 2012

January 2012 Review

Its been a fairly quiet January for me, mainly due to some shocking weather.  But first, the stats for the month:

Mileage: 308km
Weight: 85kg  (3kg loss!!)

In South-East Queensland, we have had one of the wettest January's in recorded history!  I spent a lot of days staring out the window at the pouring rain, wondering when I would get a chance to ride my bike.  I've got to say, managing to fit in 300+km in such terrible weather was a real achievement.  Its not what I was hoping for at the start of the month, but it was the best I could do with the weather situation presented to me.

That said - a lot of people suffered severe flood damage with all that rain.  Losing the chance to rack up some base mileage is pretty insignificant compared to those that lost houses, property, and personal belongings. So I'm not gonna whinge!!

The huge highlight for me was my weight loss.  I've been totally committed to getting my weight down in the first part of the year, and its working beautifully.  Three kilograms for the month is the perfect weight loss rate too, slow and steady.

My ultimate goal is to have a stable weight in the high 70's. With continued effort, I can see that happening in the next couple of months.  The hills will no longer be scary at that weight!!

So now, I'm looking forward to February.  The weather forecast is more promising, and I'm feeling good.  Next step is to set my racing goals for the season - expect a blog post on that very soon.  I'm also experimenting with some protein supplementation (nothing too serious) to assist with recovery - I'm currently using some low-carb supermarket shakes from both Musashi and Aussie Bodies, both with about 20g of protein in them. I'll report on how that seems to be going as well.

Hope everyone has a great February!!