Am I on track?

Am I on track?

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Blame it on the rain...

I was never a huge fan of Milli Vanilli.  The Gen Y'ers amongst you won't even know who they are - YouTube at your own peril!!  But "Blame it on the rain" is a pretty appropriate theme song for the last few days in Brisbane...

With a weather system of consistent, heavy rain and cyclonic winds for 3-4 days in a row, what is a C Grade Cyclist to do?  I thought I'd put down a few thoughts on how to handle prolonged wet weather when you're a part-time, fair-weather cyclist...

1.  Running

A lot of people will gasp when I mention the 'R-word'.  There are a lot of highly-respected coaches that basically say that the best training for cycling is, well, cycling - and running has no real cross-training value that 'more cycling' isn't better for.

Now, if you are a top-level cyclist focused on results, then I totally agree.  But if you are a cyclist who's focus is on health and fitness, with racing just some 'added fun' into the mix, then running is a great addition in terms of 'cross training' and general health.

When its raining, running is a great additional 'sport' to have in your repertoire.  I hate riding in the rain, mainly because of the slippery roads and (even worse) all the drivers who seem to forget that the roads are slippery and drive way to fast for the conditions.  Running in the rain, on the other hand, is awesome fun and a great way to relieve yourself of the 'cabin fever' that can build up over successive wet days.

The trick is to always try and have a run each week when the weather is dry.  That way you can avoid a week or two of sore legs when you start running again and your poor legs go into shock from the pounding!

2.  Complementary exercises

Been a bit slack doing your core-strength workouts? Always wanted to try yoga or pilates (or yogalates, or whatever the latest fad mash-up is)?  Use the rainy weather as an excuse to get back into those indoor stretching & sit-up routines, and/or look up a local yoga class and go along to give it a try.

3.  Trainer

If you really can't stay off the bike, then invest in a wind trainer (or mag-trainer, fluid-trainer, or one of the other options). 

I have a mag-trainer at home, and I hate it.  For me, its a psychological torture device - pedalling to nowhere drives me insane. So I only drag mine out if things are getting desperate...

Depending on how much you want to spend (or can afford to spend), there are a ridiculously wide range of options in the trainer market - from your basic triangular framed, back-wheel mounted cheapie, up to machines with linked video-streaming so you can ride virtual Tour de France stages.

If you must ride, then stay safe and do it indoors on a trainer.

4.  Do Nothing

If you've been training consistently and hitting your goals - don't be afraid of staying off the bike.  A few days off won't set you back in the long run.

Take the time to catch up on stuff around the house, or do a few things with your better-half and/or your kids.  Then when the weather fines up - enjoy that feeling of itchy legs desperate to wind up the pedals, and hit the road mentally refreshed and ready for the mileage ahead.

In Summary

Prolonged wet weather isn't a disaster as a non-elite cyclist.  There are plenty of options for exercise and training (or just giving it a miss).

Instead of lamenting the lack of cycling time, seek out new opportunities that you otherwise would ignore during fine weather.  They'll only make you more well-rounded in terms of general health and fitness, which will help give you greater longevity in your chosen sport of cycling.

Friday, 18 January 2013

2013 Goals - Racing

I love racing my bike.  I am absolutely terrible at it - but I love it.  My previosu two posts about my training volume & training structure for 2013 are all about enabling me to get better (or 'less worse'!) at racing my bike.

What I really love are road races.  To me, they are 'real' bike racing - longer, harder, hillier, more tactical, and only those that have put the hard work in are competitive at the end.  Not surprisingly, I am not much good at these races - but I love them nonetheless.  They are a much truer measure of how you are progressing as a cyclist.  They are like Test cricket compared to the hit-&-giggle of 20/20 cricket that is club criterium racing.

So in the calendar below, the Open races I'll be targeting will be the road race events.  I'll still do some of the Open crits, but they'll be more about adding some variety, testing myself, plus supporting regional events.

The aim for this year will be to hit one big Open event each month, and one or two club criteriums as well.  I did hardly any racing last year (less than 10 events, from memory) - for 2013, I'd like to make that at least 20 racing days.

The calendar below is a possible/probable style set-up.  The events that I might race are in normal font, whereas the one's I'll most likely try and get to are in bold font.

2013 Cycling Qld Racing Calendar


2/3   Toowoomba 2-day (criteriums)
10    Brisbane Blast (criterium at Southbank)
17    Girraween Criterium (at Noosa)


3    AUSENCO Sizzling Summer Series 1 (criterium at Crestmead)
10  AUSENCO Sizzling Summer Series 2 (criterium at Crestmead)
17  Banjo's Mt Cotton Kermesse (hilly kermesse)
24  AUSENCO Sizzling Summer Series 2 (criterium at Crestmead)


7        Qld Masters Criterium Championships (Noosa)
20/21 Ipswich Open (ITT and Kermesse)
25      ANZAC 25 (criterium at Lakeside Raceway)


3-5  Velo Battle on the Border (3-day stage race - ITT, crits and road stages)
12   Towoomba Criterium (support race to NRS Tour)
26   MAP Metropolitan Road Championships  (hilly road race at Mt Alford)


16   *** Avanti Classic (80km road handicap at Lowood) ***
                       My A-Race for the year!!


14  Toowoomba Open (prologue & road race)
21  Fusion Games (criterium at Newstead)


3 Cunningham Classic (huge road race, Gatton to Warwick)
18  Charles Coin Memorial (road race at Mulgowie)


7/8  Qld Masters Road Championships (ITT & Road Race)
15   Mike Stout Memorial (criterium at Nerang)


13   Be Better Psychology Open (criterium at Toowoomba)
20   Northshore Criterium (Riverside Park, Brisbane)

If you click on the link to take you to the full calendar, you can see I've only listed some of the many events on offer this year - but these are the only ones I am realistically able to make it to.  If I can hit at least half-a-dozen of the Opens (specifically, the ones I've bolded), that'll be great for me.

The rest of the year will be made up of club criteriums, a couple of gran fondo style events, and some others - all to be used as training to get me ready for my A-Race for the year in June.

Monday, 14 January 2013

2013 Goals - Training Structure

My last post talked in macro-terms about my big picture goals for training volume in 2013.  The next thing for me to consider is how to structure that training for maximum effect.

Overall Theme - Volume & Consistency

There is no point in developing a heap of detailed training sessions if you don't have the  underpinning training basics sorted out.

Two key basics I need to nail down this year are training volume and training consistency.  I had a few 'big months' of mileage last year, but they were isolated.  And I didn't manage to achieve more than 3-4 weeks in a row of consistent high-volume, high-quality training before I allowed other things to get in the way.

So for the first 3-months of this year, I won't be considering individual training sessions very much at all. The first quarter of the year will all be about establishing 'training patterns', working out how to squeeze the most out of every week, identifying my 'barriers to training' and how best to work around them, and finishing off with (hopefully!) a better understanding of what I can realistically plan for the rest of the year.

During this time, there will be a few key ideas I'll be exploring...

Bunch rides instead of commutes

In 2012, I tried to set up my cycle-commutes as the 'backbone' of my training.  My commute is about 24km (1-hr) each way, which I always considered a 'worthwhile distance' - enough to get some sort of training effect without getting wrecked before work.

I think the problem with this has been that it meant I rarely rode for more than an hour at a time, and so I haven't got any real endurance capacity.  This has affected both my ability to tackle longer road races, and my capacity to sprint at the end of shorter criteriums.

So for the first quarter of 2013, the plan is to shift the focus from commuting to hooking into longer 2-3 hour bunch rides.

Bunch ride 'taste-testing'

There's probably a better term for it than 'taste-testing' (*ugh*), but another focus in the early part of the year will be trying out as many bunch ride opportunities as I can.  I am lucky in that there are plenty of club, shop, & other bunch ride opportunities for me to be a part of every week - but I have largely ignored most of them during my 'comeback year'.

My plan is to get involved in as many of these bunch rides as I can, and work out which ones suit me best - in terms of skill & effort level, distance, organisation, friendliness & compatibility (not to be under-estimated as a factor!), and how easy it is to blend it in to my routine.

The main ones I intend to hit are my Balmoral Club's rides (weekdays & weekends), the Planet Cycles and Lifecycle shop rides, and "The Wombles" and "Southbank Bunch" groups.

More on than off

As part of the 'consistency' theme, the plan is to have more riding days than not-riding days. So I am looking at hitting the bike 4-5 days every week (if I stick with my "1 run per week" plan, that'll count towards my total too).

That gives me plenty of opportunities to build volume and consistency, but also 2-3 days free to recover as well.  This'll be important in terms of both injury-avoidance, plus giving me heaps of time and flexibility to plan around family and work commitments.

A good time to be 'unstructured'

Whilst I plan to be racing throughout the year (including in January) - my main race goal, which I'll detail in another post, isn't until June. So this first quarter of the year is a great time to just get out there, ride as much as possible, and get a real feel and understanding for what works and what doesn't work for me in terms of training structure.

Given that I am 'chronically undertrained', the great news for me is that any regular consistent training will result in both improved performance and confidence.  The goal is to reach a point where I need to start to focus on the detail to see real performance improvement.

The next step

The plan is to develop a more detailed training plan for the quarter April-May-June leading into my A-Race for the year (an 80km road handicap race).  I'll talk more about that race and my other race goals in my next blog-post in this series of "2013 Goals", which will be about what I am actually training for...!!

Saturday, 5 January 2013

2013 Goals - Training Volumes

And so a new year has begun!  I have plenty of big race goals to tackle this year, but to achieve them I have to hit some solid training goals first.

Looking at my training last year, the key themes for me to improve on have been volume and consistency. Pretty basic stuff, but its important stuff to acknowledge and consciously work on.  My best form last year was clearly correlated with my highest volume training months, so the proof is here for me - I just need to get out there and do it!

In the past, my goals have been expressed purely in mileage/distance terms.  This year, I'll be doing it a bit differently and also giving myself some time goals as well.  Both are important, plus the time metric will take some pressure off the mad scramble for distance I sometimes have at the end of a month.

So, what are the goals for this year?

Yearly goal

365 hours of training, and 6000km on the bike.

365 hours works out to an average of 1 hour/day. If I can achieve that, the rest really will take care of itself! Its a significant jump on previous years, but if I'm going to start approaching my potential on the bike then I'm going to have to spend more time with my bum in the saddle...

Monthly goals

25 hours of training, and 500km on the bike.

My biggest training months last year were just over 20 hours, so I will need to build up to doing 30+ hours per month.  But as a minimum, I want to hit at least 25 hours by the time the end-of-month rolls around.  This also gives me a little flexibility in terms of having easier vs big months depending on what racing is coming up, plus a little leeway if weather or illness knocks out a week here and there.

Running once-a-week.

If I was an elite cyclist, then running would have no place here.  But as a middle-aged guy who is training for racing and general health, then I think running has a useful place in my schedule.  There is plenty of evidence on the importance of weight-bearing exercise for the 'mature gentleman'. Also I believe that at the recreational athlete level (where I am at), there are benefits to be had by 'cross-training'.

I'm not a natural runner  but I'll persist with this for the first few months of the year at least and see how I go with it...

That's it...

I'm not getting any more 'micro' with my training goals than that.  I know from experience that if I get too caught up with weekly or shorter term mileage/time goals, then I feel too pressured and I lose some of the 'fun' aspects of training.  And personally, I train (and race) because I want to, not because I have to - and I don't want that to change! So in terms of training volume, then these broad macro goals are the only key goals I'll be looking to achieve.

Of course, how I'm going to achieve them is another question.  So the next post in this start-of-year goal-setting series will be about my training structure for 2013...