Am I on track?

Am I on track?

Friday, 21 September 2012

On Being Sensible...

On Monday, I had one of those days on the bike that I'd rather forget. 

It was always planned to be an 'easy' day, so I cruised into work for my commute. My legs lacked any snap and I felt a bit lethargic, but I hoped that the easy ride in might shake out the legs a little.  Usually, when this happens my ride home is much better.

The afternoon came, and finally it was time to bike home.  Well, things didn't improve - I felt really awkward and uncomfortable on the bike for the whole hour-long ride, and my legs just had nothing to really give.

I arrived home, and trudged up the stairs to see my wife & kids.  "That was a pretty crap ride..." I groaned to anyone who'd listen.  "You're not overdoing it are you?" replied my wife as she was prepping dinner.

Now, even though it was more of an absent-minded comment, my dear wife was 100% correct (as usual - ha!).    :)

I've mentioned before that in the previous two-weeks I had restarted doing two-to-three hard interval sessions each week.  They are great for crystallising some form in the legs, but they are also pretty draining as well.

This can be a real trap for lower-grade cyclists (who are only used to a moderate training load) and to cyclists who are hitting middle-age.  And I cover both of those categories!!  Jackpot!!

The tendency, especially for males, is to tell yourself to drink a big hot mug of cement and HTFU - in other words, suck it up and train through it.  But if you are in one (or both) of those categories above like I am, its probably the worst thing you can do.

Your body is actually sending you that message, and there's a reason for it.  You might have reached a limit and you need some more recovery, or maybe you have a low-grade virus that has taken the edge off your normal performance level.  It could be a few things really - but the important point is what you should do about it, and that's to take a brief break.

Rather than risk injury, worsening a mild illness, or going into more serious over-training symptoms - just have a few days off the bike.  It will only have a marginal effect (if any) on your form, and will in fact save you from having much longer off the bike if you make things worse (which will have a major effect on your form!).

So what did I do?

I took a couple of days off, leaving the bike in the garage on Tuesday and Wednesday, and catching the bus instead.

On Thursday, I jumped back on the bike for an easy commute into work - and my legs felt terrific.  I did my usual hard intervals on Thursday afternoon's homeward commute, and I felt strong and powerful.  I even set a couple of Strava PR's on two segments.

So all I'm saying here is that listening to your body is a very important part of developing long-term fitness and enjoying 'cycling longevity'.  Play the long game - a couple of days off to refresh the body when it tells you it needs it is good practice. Ignoring it, and developing long-term injuries or illness, is silly and counter-productive.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Race 7/2012 - Balmoral Club Criterium, Murarrie.

My legs have been singing after my first two weeks of re-introduced interval training.  I have felt really strong on the bike, and so was looking forward to taking my current form out for a spin at the my club criterium races.

It was a perfect morning for riding today, so getting out of bed was easy.  Beautiful blue sky, a light southerly wind, and warm temperatures - no better time to be on a bike!!

Around 35 competitors all up in C-Grade - including somebody on-board the most expensive bike I had ever seen in the flesh!!  It was  Pinarello Dogma2, shod with Lightweight Fernweg wheels, and dressed in the new Campagnolo EPS electronic groupset. That's close to $15,000 worth of bike, rolling around in C-Grade!! Certainly a beautiful example of a bicycle, and great to see it being ridden and raced... 

The short story of the day is - I am stoked with how I went.  I was very much in the race, and it was only a poor choice of which wheel to follow on the last lap that stymied what I thought was a real chance of a podium position.  The race itself was very hard work, but the legs handled it all well and recovered quickly during the brief lulls in pace.

Overall stats for the day were about 44 minutes of racing, at an average speed of dead-on 40.0km/h - so yes, it was a quick race!  I've only seen an average speed of 40+km/h a couple of times in my racing history, so that gave me a huge boost in confidence.  I managed to roll over the line in around 15th place out of 35 after messing up my positioning in the sprint, so that's another thing for me to work on before next time...

I'm very glad I made the effort to race after such a good result.  I can't wait to see how much more my form improves with some more consistent interval training over the next few weeks!  I'm almost letting myself dream of a club race podium before the year is out - almost.....  :)

Friday, 7 September 2012

The 3rd third...

So there is one-third of the year left to run - the 3rd third, only 4-months to go.  The perfect time to have a think about what I want to try and achieve for September to December 2012.

I am reasonably happy with how I have gone so far in 2012.  As always, I would have liked to have been more consistent with my training mileage and have raced more often - but family life and work-trips take priority over that, so c'est la vie.

So what will be the focus for these last 4 months of 2012?

Road racing season is coming to a close. There are still a couple more races, including the Ipswich Open (which was on my list of 2012 goals at the start of the year) - but looking at my forward calendar it looks like I'll be away for all of them.

And so, I have decided I will be switching my focus onto preparing myself for the upcoming criterium season.  My training and prep will be mainly about getting myself in a position to do well at these shorter, more explosive types of races.

Goal Races

There are a few Open Criteriums that I'd like to try and have a go at in this last part of the year. I'm not sure I'll be able to get to them all, but I'll do my best to arrange the schedule so I can hit at least one or two of them.

1. Northshore Criterium, 21st October, near Hamilton, Brisbane.
2. Be Better Psychology Criterium, 28th October, in Toowoomba, Queensland.
3. Brisbane Blast, 1st-2nd December, a new race in the Brisbane CBD.

I'm also hoping to do well in the Summer Twilight Criterium Series, run at the Nundah criterium track on a few Wednesday afternoons (after work) by the HPRW club.  It's only a 5-minute ride from my workplace, and is a fun mid-week hit-out on the bike.


So far this year (as at the end of August), I've racked up 3294km on the bike.  When you split that up, I did 1494km in the first third of the year, then 1800km in the 2nd third - nice to see an upward trend!

I'd really like to make 6000km for the year, which would need me to knock out 2700km for the final third of the year - almost 700km/month.  I'm not sure if that's achievable, but I'm going to give it a red hot go!

My plan is to make 600km/month as my base goal, and try and push a couple of those months up to around 800km.  Of course, I have to be realistic about it - but I'll strive hard to achieve it and see how I go.  No point in having a goal that's 'easy' - I'd rather fall short striving for a difficult goal, than rest on my laurels for reaching something that's too easy...

Training Style

No, not what I'll be wearing on the bike...  ;)

The plan is to get back to incorporating more hard efforts and intervals into my training, after a couple of months of 'just riding' to try and build up some base.  I'm not going to crazy with it, but will do at least two sessions a week (probably integrated into my commutes) where I really try hard to smash the legs.

To help with leg strength, I'm also planning to hit Mt Gravatt for some hill reps roughly once per week or per fortnight.  Not sure how often really, but I'll see how that goes...

Other Training

I bought a 5kg medicine ball, which I have just started using as part of a core strength routine 4-5 time a week.  I'm enjoying doing it, and I feel like its paying some dividends on the bike.  It'll be interesting to see how that progresses over the next few months.

I'm also going to try and do the One Hundred Pushups program.  Not sure if it'll do much to improve my cycling, but this is more about my long-term general health and fitness. My upper body strength has always been pretty ordinary, and I'm hoping this'll give me some half-decent functional strength.

Finally, I'm considering integrating a bit of running into my week.  Not so much for my cycling (although I think it will help), but because my oldest daughter is becoming a keen runner.  It'll be fun to be able to train with her, plus the 'cross-training' can only help me.  What can be better than combining exercise and family time!

Finishing off...

I have probably rambled on longer here than I expected to.  There is plenty in there for me to achieve, but I believe if I can really commit to these goals, plans and ideas, I can have a really strong finish to my year cycling-wise.  It would be great to be able to podium in a club race before the finish of 2012, and I think that's certainly a realistic goal if I can stick with what I have written above.

Naturally, I'll review and rejig all of this after a month or so, as I settle into a routine and figure out what is working and what isn't. 

Saturday, 1 September 2012

August 2012 Review

A bit of a better run for August. Still not perfect consistency-wise, but got my mileage up to a much more acceptable level...

Mileage - 530km (year-to-date total - 3294km)
Weight - 78kg (steady)

Not great, but not bad either.  I'd call that a 'par' month.  The key now will be to build on that for September and reap the benefits of two decent months in a row...

Only real disappointment for August was missing out on racing the Charles Coin Memorial.  I was setting myself for it, but unfortunately work & family stuff got in the way and I had to ditch it.  That's OK though - its another one I'll hopefully get to do next year.

I have a few things brewing this month that I'll go into more detail about in later posts.  I purchased a bargain heart rate monitor from Aldi, a Crane Sports branded one for the princely sum of only $20!  Not sure how exactly I'm going to use it yet, but I have a few ideas...  Once I unbox it (I'm not allowed to open it until Father's Day!) and use it a few times, I'll post up a review...

My new HRM - now, what to do with it...

I also picked up a 5kg medicine ball from Southside Fitness for $40.  I've been using one at the work gym to do some core strength work, and it has been paying dividends. So I have bought one for home so I can make it a part of my morning routine. I may not end up with six-pack abs (I think that prospect disappeared in my late teens!!) but hopefully that will further help with my core stability and warding off any back pain on long rides.

Finally, I'm almost finished coming up with a plan and some goals for the last third of the year.  I'm looking to finish the last four months strongly - both in training and racing.  As always, the challenge is  to come up with a plan and goals that will stretch me, but are also realistically achievable - with some luck, I'll get that balance just right!

In the meantime though, it is finally Spring in Australia!! There can be no greater motivation than bright blue skies and weather that is just getting warmer and more pleasant every day...!!  Happy & safe cycling everyone!