Wednesday, 24 July 2013


WOW…  it has been a while since I logged in and now that I have done so, the desire to post an update has been ignited.  There is so much to share that my head is abuzz with where to start, should I do reviews on my new bike and or wheels, or concluding thoughts on last season’s race performance, or goals for coming season, or how social media benefits my cycling, or state of self after rest block. Seeing that the rest block was most recent let me start there.
The first week of July marked 14 weeks of consistent training in the bag since the Argus Cycle Tour. It was a good solid training block, starting with base, culminating with 15min intervals, within a structured framework.
When some important work commitments took preference in my life at the end of June, it was expected that I would experience extreme tiredness by the end of my work audit week. This was accompanied by a total lack of motivation to swing a leg over the saddle. It was time for a rest from my sport, and for the next 2 weeks I left my bike alone. I did occasionally give it an admiring glance, or stroke the handlebar as I walked by.
My rest block coincided with the start of Ramadan, the Muslim Holy month of fasting. This meant that comeback rides would be in the dark predawn hours, allowing sufficient time to have a bite to eat before the fasting day started. Those first rides last week were totally AWESOME. The light rain on those first few mornings made it even more rewarding. I felt very fresh coming back to the road, my mind had been cleared.  My legs felt like they could go and go. The bike felt smooth and svelte. Everything came together so perfectly.
Over the course of a training block I tend to become engrossed in the amount of time I am training, what intensity or zone I am training in, what power profile I am able to attain, what my weight is, and so on. This break has caused me to rethink why I train, and this has created a refreshed approach, filled with a rejuvenated desire for the season ahead.
Do you apply scheduled rest periods in your programme, and how do they work for you?  
Let's Ride

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Email to my Coach

It has been a while since my last blog post, and it does feel good this morning to once again be putting my cycling thoughts to file.
I am a mid of the pack racing vet (masters) cyclist, no podium finishes (yet), and I have been utilizing the services of a cycling coach for about 2-3 years now. Every once in a while, like most average racing cyclist, I question the benefits of having a coach. What do you think?

Below is an email I sent to my Coach this morning,

Hi Michael,
Yesterday morning I woke at 04h15 for my FTP session. I was really not in the mood to get out of bed, and dragged myself to the bathroom. I was contemplating whether to go out, whether to postpone to the pm (risk cancelling altogether in the pm) etc. Was also thinking what (good) excuse I am going to give you for missing the session and so on. Eventually got dressed and got out onto the road, still in 2 minds, swept with laziness. 30 min later I was at the start of my lap, and feeling warmed up, but still a bit lethargic. As the intensity of the climb picked up, I got into it more and by the time I reached the top I was happy to be out and take in the views on the horizon, the quietness and freshness of the morning.
By the time of the 3rd lap, it was lighter, and I could better see my power numbers on the Garmin. I decided to try and micro control my power output to try and keep it more constant. I found that my attempts were working, and I was quite eager to see the graph. From the graph below you can see the difference on lap 3.
Next week I will make a change with my lights so that I can have visibility on the Garmin throughout the 4 laps, and again work on keeping a more constant output.
The other point is that Lap1 – 294W, LAP2 - 297W, LAP3 – 301W. LAP 2 is better than LAP 1 because LAP1 was a lethargic start. LAP3 was higher because of my more constant power through the lap. I am also happy with the spike at the end of the lap.
Your thoughts?
My third point is about my coach. If it was not for him I would probably have skipped yesterday’s session. And, because of his inputs I am working on my micro control of power output (keeping it more constant), which is leading to improved performance.
Thanks coach.  

Let's Ride !!!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Weekend Races - Hill Climb TT + West Coast

This was the first of 2, Double Header Weekends, League Races on the Saturday and Sunday.
First up was the Hill Climb TT. The venue was Redhill, a 4.5km climb, with a 5.4% avg Gradient. I had approached this event with a fair amount of anxiety. My climbing capability is not very good, and worse so with my recent off peak performance. A friend had earlier the week shared his thoughts on the event, that entry fees had already been paid, and it was an opportunity to gain experience and learn. It was with this conviction that I committed to pitch up on the start line. On Friday we had rain and the forecast was for less than favourable rainy and windy conditions for the Saturday. Fortunately the forecasters had it wrong and I was welcomed at the venue by a gloriously beautiful morning.

After a 20 min warm-up I rolled up to the Vets that were assembling at the start line. I normally feel intimidated amongst the racing team guys. Soon the race commissars were calling out vet race numbers, and I was the first up, with subsequent 30s gaps between racers. There was a 500m flat to get the legs loosened before the gradient set in. I had ridden this climb before so had a good idea of what to expect. My pace on the first section was good, and I was keeping an eye on the Garmin’s avg Power reading, targeting to keep just over 300W. About halfway up, I was passed by the second starter. I was not too fazed because I knew that the field was very strong, and my power avg was at my optimum.

I crossed the finish line in 13:38, with a Normalised Power reading of 319W. I was satisfied with this because my FTTP in the beginning of the year was at 300W, so I was improving, and that is all I need to do. The experience gained was invaluable, as this will not be my last Hill Climb TT, and my mindset will be far different next time round.

Sunday was the West Coast Race, 85km on a flat and very fast route. Rain clouds were gathering, which is not good on such a fast course, especially since there were quite a few ugly falls last year in similar conditions. Luckily the rain stayed away for the race duration. The wind however had picked up and we were to be faced by a 35kph South Easterly wind on the return half.

The pace off the start was very fast. Race teams were attacking each other which caused some blistering accelerations. Over the first 40min of the race our speeds were 40-60kph. Those accelerations put me in the red on quite a number of occasions. I would start to drift off the back and have to put in short high effort bursts to pull back in. These were taking their toll, and I could feel the lactic building up in my legs every time, along with heavy breathing, panting bouts, which were burning my lungs. Once back in the bunch I could start to recover, but soon there would be another attack off the front. There were times when I wanted to stop the suffering and sit up. This would be followed by a sense of a minor victory every time I pulled back in to survive a bit longer.

When we turned off the West Coast Road and up the hill going to Atlantis, I could no longer hold the group pace and dropped off.  I was not alone for long because Eugene, had been dropped earlier and was making his way towards me. We recovered and started working together. This teamwork continued for the remaining 50km of the race. We rode very well against the strong wind on the return route, averaging a speed of 30kph. This camaraderie and teamwork was equally welcomed and valued.

My finishing time was not as good as last year, but the race was more valuable in terms of conditioning, mentally and physically, experience gained in tough conditions, and a new friendship forged.

Let’s Ride !!!

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Team Sekuritas at the 1 Tonner

Eeeshhh !!! It has been 3 months since my last blog spot. So much has happened in my cycling world, so many experiences to share.
I have been doing quite a few 4-6 hour long rides, with Team Sekuritas.  A team of 12 cyclists formed to participate in the Coronation Double Century . A cool group of guys, whose antics I enjoy along our weekly training rides.

4 Weeks ago in Franschoek
Last Sunday was the 100mile, One Tonner, and Team Sekuritas had decided to ride this event as a team.  
Scheduled event start was at 06.30, and I was parked and out of the car at 06.15. I quickly prepared my bike, and grabbed all my on road goodies. As I hurried towards the start along the gravel road I spotted Karol and soon I was together with the group at their cars where they were in various stages of preparedness.
Once all were dressed, sunblock applied, nutritional requirements packed, wheels inflated, social requirements satisfied, we headed on the road towards the start. We had planned to start in Group N, but when we arrived at the start Group W were already in the starting stalls. We joined them and we were off.

The plan was for Karol to lead us out at the start, and he performed this task to perfection. Early pace was comfortable to warm the legs up. Soon we were riding in a solid pace line formation, 30s rotation up front then drop to the back of the line. We did this very well, and kept it up for 3,5 hrs. At times it was tricky for the rider dropping back to fall into formation, because other riders would try to latch onto the back of us. In the main they gave space to the rider trying to get back into formation.
I was conscious of nutrition as I had suffered on this event previously. So in my pockets I had peanut butter sandwiches, banana, and Hammer Perpetuem, Energy Drink Powder. Within the first 30 minutes I started drinking and at the first hour I had my first bite to eat. I continued eating half a sandwich on each hour and this strategy worked very well.
There were many teams like us using this event as a training ride for the DC, and it was very nice to see them on the road. We passed quite a few in the early stage of the race and we were in high spirits. Neil and I were thoroughly engrossed in the soundtrack of ‘Chariots of Fire’ when we had the chance to lead pass other teams or groups.
After 2h45, Gaamiem, the new addition to the team punctured. It was quickly repaired and within 4 minutes we were rolling. At 97km, 3h16 in, we arrived at Riebeek Kasteel, a significant uphill. We had held a good pace of 30kph till this point. We lowered the pace up the climb so as to ensure sustainability for the entire team over the remaining 57 kilometers.

We held our formation for the next half hour or so till the next water point where we needed to fill up water bottles. We had been on the road for 4h12 and still had 34km to go. We were still looking good, although some were starting to take strain. At this stage the team decided to ride as a bunch instead of the single file pace line formation, and in this way the stronger riders would do more work at the front and provide draft for others.  After 30min there was a need to stop 2 min for water again. 4 Minutes after the stop I noticed that Steve was not with us. We had left him at the Water Stop. He had gone to the toilet, hence did not see that we were moving off. We stopped to wait for him and he soon rejoined.
On the rollers that followed Riebeek Kasteel team members started taking ever more strain, and the team slowed quite a bit. There was quite a bit of erratic pace riding. This erratic pace was having an effect on Karol, who was also taking strain, and on one of the little hills he decided to latch onto a group that passed us as they were going at a more constant pace.
Not all in the team were aware of this development, and with about 10km to go the team totally splintered. Kris noticed Karol was not with us, and he and Neil decided to wait, thinking he had been dropped. Meanwhile Karol was ahead of them. Those that knew of Karol’s position were ahead of Kris, and were unaware of the reason as to why the team were reforming. It was a total disjoint. Most definitely tiredness, strain and frustration taking its toll.
In the last kilometer we all managed to regroup and cross the finish line. Many valuable lessons learned, which I am certain will put us in good stead for the Double Century in about 6 weeks’ time.

Weather throughout had been good. I had ridden strongly, and was happy with the hours spent in the saddle. The event was well attended, and the general vibe was awesome.

Let's Ride !!!

Friday, 13 July 2012

2012 Knysna 100km Cycle Race

It has been 4 months since my last race and I have missed the excitement of race days. Putting out and checking kit the night before was accompanied by the usual worry of something being forgotten, when eventually a point is reached where I submit to the mantra ‘whatever happens – happens’, and a knowing that I will just deal with it. Luckily at some point that evening Faridah asked if I had my transponder, which till that point had been totally forgotten, and was tucked deep in a bag so as not to get lost.

Battling a cold and blocked sinus for the entire week before race day, whilst medicating myself with Sinutab and Corenza, was not the best way to go into the race. I had not gone out on my planned workouts during the week in an attempt to allow my body some recovery and this left me feeling less prepared than I would have liked to be.

The rain forecast for Knysna over the last 2 days had not come, and the forecast for race day was clear skies, strong wind (30kph), and a cold 8 deg.Celsius. So dress warmly was the order of the day.

After a good night’s rest, and early morning prep, I rode from the Blue Oyster on cue for my warm up. The air was cold, and I was properly dressed for it. I was also pleased to find the wind not as strong as it had been sounding from the confines of our room during the night. The adjustments made to left brake hood and handle bar the day before felt perfect. The new Zipp 404 wheels felt ….. Revolutionary!!! They spun into speed so smoothly and seemed to exaggerate the effort applied to the pedals. The acoustic accompaniment to this acceleration was new to me, and had a very seductive quality about it.

In the start pen the air was filled with excitement, and positive energy. My starting group, AA, was counted down after the Elites and Tandems, and my Knysna 2012 Cycle race was underway.

I wanted to get to the front of the bunch, so initial effort off the start was high. Hr avg 90%, speed avg 35kph, for the first 6min of the race. I had been positioned in the middle of the starting pen, and to get to the front lot would prove to be too far for me to bridge. When the gap opened up, I was already going flat out, so I kept to the second group that was forming.

Within 6km, we were onto the first climb heading out of Knysna in the direction of Sedgefield, 2.4km 5.6% gradient. Over this climb, hr avg – 98%, which was much higher than usual. I stayed with the group over the top and the downhill was a welcomed relief. On the 3.5km downhill, speed avg 49kph, top speed 65kph. The downhill speed felt great and these wheels were making me smile. I carried quite a bit of speed onto the next little hill, still heart rate maxed out into zone 5, and I was feeling the effort of it.

The next 15km was relatively flat, speed avg. 33kph, and heart rate more manageable in Zone 3. At this point I was feeling good. We could see the first group ahead, our group pace was good, and we were moving along at a good race intensity. 

There were some some rolling hills ahead. Speed was high and I was keeping up with the group. Effort was hard, often going into the red, but I felt positive. On these hills I was slightly losing ground going up, but easily closed the front down on the downhill. Future improved climbing ability was a promising thought. At the 1hr28mark, we reached the bottom of Hoekwil, the turnaround climb. Speed avg for the race thusfar was 31kph, which I was satisfied with, considering the wind advantage on the return route.

Hoekwil has a gradient of 8% and is 2.4km long, so quite a tough ascent. At the start of the climb the group splintered, and I got off with the first few. After a few hundred meters I could no longer hold their pace and settled into my own rhythm. The climb felt long as I was mostly on my own, and at the same time I was satisfied that I was not being caught. My hr climbing Hoekwil was well within the red zone, and I was starting to take strain.

On the descent from Hoekwil, all the hard riding from the first half of the race took its toll. This is when the effect of my cold and sinusitis started hitting me hard. I also think it the main reason for my high heart rate throughout the race. Once on the flat after the descent, the inside of my thigh from above the knee started cramping first. If I kept cadence high with light effort then the pain would subside, but as soon as cadence slowed or effort increased, the pain would build. A group of 3 riders came past and I increased effort to stay with them. This was very short lived due to the knife twisting pain in my thigh.

I resolved to settle into my own pace, eased off the effort and allowed the discomfort to subside. I looked back and saw no groups in the distance. A few lone riders came past, but I decided to recover some more while waiting for a bigger bunch to come by.

After 30 min of solo riding, a group came by, and the front rider shouted some words of encouragement to pull into the group. I gladly obliged. They were going at quite a pace, +40kph on sections, and this was bringing my average speed up again. I sat on the back of the bunch nursing my fatigued legs, which were gradually feeling better. We reached some rolling hills and I was pleased to see that others were dropping off before me, and the front rider slowed down the pace to allow them back on. Over the top we would crack up the pace again and I was managing to hold on. I was with this group for 20min when my hamstrings started hurting. I managed to hold on a while longer as we passed some of the lone riders that had come by me earlier, before I succumbed to my aching hamstrings, and watched the group take off.

I felt somewhat despondent by other muscles starting to seize, first one side of my leg now the other. My pace slowed and my average speed was dropping, and I did not have the strength to stop it. By this time the long route merged with the shorter route, and I was slowly passing the 50km riders. Some faster 100km riders came by, but unlike earlier I did not have the legs to slot in with them. I just steadily kept my own pace, longing for the finish line.

3Km to go, on the flat run in to Knysna, around the lagoon, a group of 6 came by and I recognised one of the riders from previous races. We were of similar strength, and I tried to put down a harder burst of effort to pull onto the group. My legs hurt like hell but it worked and I had got onto their back wheel. The pace was fast, 40kph, and I found that I could hold on by applying a few high power strokes at short intervals, between intervals of coasting. This was working to hold on, and the excitement of the race took hold of me again. The guy in front of me started cracking and as he pulled out he signalled for me to close the gap.

This was awesome, the adrenalin was pumping, and again I loved the effect, behaviour and sound of the Zipp’s. We were now in the final run to the finish, 5 of us, single file, going very fast. A right hand bend lay ahead, with the finish line about 200m beyond it. I kept my trajectory smooth and tight on the wheel before me as we swooped through the bend. My speed exiting the corner carried me pass one rider, and I was alongside the guy I had earlier recognised. There were 4 of us battling the final sprint, 2 in front of me side by side, and another alongside me. The feeling was exhilarating, +50kph sprint, I pulled ahead slightly and took 3rd place as we flew through the finish.

A challenging race, all the more so due to my cold, but a very rewarding one too. A reminder of the hard work still needed to get into shape for Spring League, 2 months away. Race time was 3h21, 15min better than last year, a reward for work already done this season and an indication of improved race times that lay ahead.

Let’s Ride !!!

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Supersix Makeover

The highlight race for Winter, the 100km Knysna Cycle Challenge is on Sunday, and I have 2 days leave before the road trip on Friday. The ideal time to do some annual maintenance, and give my Cannondale Supersix a general makeover.

I got myself this stand from Arcstands. I decided to support a South African entrepreneur with this purchase instead of going with Park Tools.

Here it (still) looks good, unfortunately it did not last. General build quality is too weak, and hinge design is flimsy. Will try and repair / strengthen it in the weeks ahead once my disappointment therewith has subsided.

The first to go will be these Nokon Cables.

I put them on a year ago, and although they look rather bling they have become an irritation more than a pleasure. The biggest problem I have had with them is the creaking when turning the handlebar. I have on two previous occasions investigated the headset bearings as a possible cause for the creaking, before finding the real culprit.

I have 300hrs on the chain, and 500hrs on gear cluster and chainrings, so I have replacements for them too.

Crank Bearings have been opened up and lubricated recently so I will leave those alone. Headset bearings will get an overhaul too.

And then there is the matter of the wheel upgrade ….

I replaced the cables with a set from Jagwire. I have previously put a set on my Merida and was very impressed with the quality and colour options.

Also added some custom colour with these Hudz.

Oh... have I mentioned the wheel upgrade?

Here is the finished product.... Race Ready !!


Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Ready for Knysna

It is the week of the Knysna 100km Cycle Race, the only cycle race on my winter Calendar, and 4months since my last race. Next week will also see me entered in a Trail run and the Knysna Half Marathon.

During Autumn and Winter (thusfar) my training has seen some ups and downs, some missing sessions, but in the main it has been consistently good. And I am arriving at the start line fitter and stronger than last year. In great part thanks to the companionship of my training partner, my brother, Munier, and the supportive family and domestic environment created by my wife, Faridah, and daughter, Mishkah .

Kids Birthday moments
The Sunday morning 2hr trail runs have been good, and I will soon need to decide if it will continue with my Spring Training Programme. I believe that it has, improved my aerobic engine, strengthened core muscles in my back and shoulders, strengthened cycling supportive muscles in my Quads, and strengthened calf muscles. It has also strengthened cycling specific muscles by allowing them to recover from cycling related muscular stress while still engaging the body in mid to high intensity exercise. The biggest value has been the stress relief that it generates, and the associated general feeling of well-being.

The release of the Trail
Saturday mornings have been 4hour long rides, at times with the club and or the Double Century Team. The last few have been just Munier and I, as the focus has been to hit the climbs a bit harder. These rides have been very beneficial in building endurance, and quality time in the saddle.

DC team

Munier on Signal Hill
The quality midweek ride has been indoor intervals, this season with the introduction of Sufferfest training dvd’s. These live up well to all the online reviews. The visual footage from mainstream races and road cycling stars, mixed with thumping upbeat music keeps the sessions interesting and does well to combat the boredom factor. The workout value is kept high through the use of cue cards, and is aligned with world leading workout structure.


I will celebrate the level of readiness achieved by taking leave from work for the next 2 days, do some bike maintenance, and unwind from the day to day pressures of work, before the road trip to Knysna on Day 3.

Let's Ride !!!