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 !!!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Got my training Mojo Back

I have successfully managed to bolster my training rhythm over the last 3 weeks (red circle on duration chart below), shaking the prior slump, and incorporating the benefits of training effort post March. This pattern invariably sets up a solid platform for the Build Phase of my programme leading to the Knysna race in July.

Psychologically, it boosts my motivation coffers to keep on pushing my training boundaries, as well as my belief that it will lead to strong performance in the race, and beyond, to the Spring League.

The red circle on my PMC chart shows the effect of the 3 weeks training on my blue fitness line. Still some way to go to the 80 mark, but well on my way there. It is not only about lines on charts, I also feel stronger when cycling and running. I can feel my endurance and my ability to go longer improve, and I am also feeling and seeing improved power output numbers across the range on the bike.

In the week I started my Sufferfest intervals. It was a bit of a mission to get it copied and I still cannot play it on the dvd player, luckily it plays on the ps3. Nevertheless, a worthwhile investment. The music and visuals definitely eliminates the boredom associated with Indoor Training. So much so that I am looking forward to my Sufferfest session tonight.

Red circles on the Sufferfest Graph above highlights the 10 and 8 min intervals. What did concern me was that although my Perceived Effort was in the required training range 8-10, I was struggling to get my Power Output up around the white Threshold line. Normalised Power was 252W, 247W, and 239W, and during my peak in March it was 300W. Significant drop off. Some reasons for this could be,
• Power drop during base phase due to lower intensity training
• Uncomfortable body overheating during session, will use a fan for tonight’s session and gauge improvement
• First interval session in 10weeks

The graph below is from my Saturday long ride.

The Normalised Power reading on these climbs were 312W, 281W, and 250W already a significant improvement from the Sufferfest session.

Over the last couple of weeks, my 2 hr trail run on Sunday mornings have become a staple workout. The scenery and the feeling of being out in nature at sunrise, with its associated freshness and awakening conjures an emotion that fuels so many highs, making it very difficult to describe.

With all my depicted enthusiasm for trail running, I am most definately still a competitive road cyclist.
It has broadened in the last 2 weeks with the formation of a DC Team for the event scheduled in November. A new addition to my Calendar for the year. More on that later.

For now,

Let’s Ride

Friday, 18 May 2012

A Dip in the Training Plan

It has been 5 weeks since my last blog past. My Annual Training Plan has taken a dip followed by a comeback over this period. We celebrated Mishkah 21st, and also had Mom’s Hip operation and house renovations to contend with.

The red highlighted area on the Training Duration Graph indicates a significant drop off from my planned 12-13hr training weeks during Base Phase. My ATP plan targets 500hrs, and the drop off has necessitated a reschedule and reallocation of hours for the remainder of the year. Following the reallocation my 500hr target still feels manageable, attainable and realistic.

The red pointer on the Performance Management Chart indicates a drop off on the blue fitness line. The next race is in July, ample time to restore Fitness. The orange form line has hit a new high, one of the positive outcomes, indicating improved specific muscle recovery. It cannot be claimed as a quality rest period, due to the fact that lots of physical work was required, there were significant disrupted sleep patterns, and increased levels of stress.

The emotional impact of missed workouts over this period was challenging to manage. It initially became a self-destructing spiral, moving between declining training motivation levels, uncaring junk food consumption, weight gain, and associated bloated discomfort. A good thing was taking some quiet time out during this period, and putting it all into perspective. This helped with the sanity and keeping emotions in check.

All is back on track now as can be seen from the charts above. Last week was a 13hr training week, and this week is on schedule to be a 14hr week. Midweek 3-4 hr training days have started to become part of my training routine, which if sustained I am certain will have a significant effect on endurance levels.

Monday, 16 April 2012

First few weeks of Trail Running

In the week after Argus I started running. The objective had been set months beforehand to start Trail Running as cross training during autumn and winter, to supplement my cycling.

My training plan now included 2 running workouts a week. The midweek workout started in the first week as a 30 min run, building to a 60 min run, and then morphing into a brick session, 1hr bike after work followed by a 1hr run. The weekend workout was a Trail run, initially 1hr and building to a 2.5hr run over a 6-8 week period.

That first 30min run was an unexpected and unusual experience. The last time I had run was 9 years ago, and this time round I was a much fitter in comparison. So my breathing was easy, calm, no burning lungs that I associated with beginner running. My legs however were hurting in unusual places, like in the middle muscle of my quads, whereas the outer part of the quad felt strong and firm. There were isolated muscles throughout my legs, weaker than its neighbors that were feeling the strain of the run.

That weekend Munier and I headed to Tokai for our first trail run. It was primarily a flat route in comparison to the route we have been doing the last 3 weeks, up Constantia Nek. The Constantia Nek route starts from Top Gate, and winds its way up and up. Very challenging on the legs. I can feel my legs getting stronger every week. Munier and I regularly joke about the impact that running on this terrain is going to have on our racing legs come Spring Racing League.

Last week was my first 2 Oceans Half Marathon. It was a late substitution from my mom’s entry. It was more for the experience of running with Munier and Junaid (2 of my brothers) that I entered. It was a very enjoyable run. About 20 000 entrants, one of the biggest half marathons. I managed 2h28, but more importantly I was surprised by being able to run the whole way.

The most enjoyable part of the trail running, is to get into the forest and mountain in the early fresh hours of the morning and experiencing all it has to offer.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Argus Cycle Tour 2012

The cell phone alarm sounded at 03h50. Groggily I swung my legs off the bed and just sat there for a few seconds. ‘Its BIG RACE DAY’, I thought as I raised my arms in a leisurely stretch, took a nice deep breath, and allowed a smile to engulf me.

Ample time had been allotted for the pre- race early morning ritual of breakfast, bathroom, bike into car, and spiritual connectivity. Nothing like pre-race planning and preparedness leading to automatic race morning efficiency and calm.

Munier was waiting outside his place at 4h40 as planned, and 20minutes later we were in BoKaap, unpacking the bikes from the car, checking kit, and receiving some welcomed well-wishing from Shaakira’s Dad as we rode out of his driveway. The Cannondale felt light and smooth as I started pedaling down the road, swaying it from side to side. Gear changes were easy and effective through the cluster. Brakes were immediate with no noise or sluggishness post release.

As we neared the start we encountered ever increasing numbers of cyclists. It was a strange atmosphere, as there was not much socializing amongst the growing mass of riders, each unto his own, just the mechanical whirr of bikes. Once in the E Group start chute it was a matter of relaxing, taking it all in and waiting for the start. At 06h00, the music started, loud and thumping, only briefly interrupted for dignitary opening speeches. Just the kind of lead in needed to shake off the peaceful morning serenity. The excitement started building, and 15 minutes later, with much razzmatazz the Elite group was given starting orders. The 2012 Argus Cycle Tour was under way.

At 3 min intervals group after group moved forward to the start line, and at 06h39, poised on the start line, the gun was fired and E Group was off. The clicking in of 427 pairs of cleats went smoothly, and without incident, as we rambled from the start. The first 14min along Nelson Mandela Blvd up to UCT and down towards Edinburgh Drive was a good warm up. Earlier concerns of a fast paced from cold start, came to naught. Heart rate climbed steadily to 92%mhr and Power to 234w, an easy and comfortable pace.

The size of the group made any game plan to stay in the front of the bunch from the start almost impossible. There were just too many jostling for position so early on, which made that approach not to be the safest , nor the wisest in terms of conserving early energy.

On Edinburgh Drive, 14min into the race, nicely warmed up, and it felt like a good idea to start moving to the front of the bunch. The leaders were closely watching each other, a game of cat and mouse, neither wanting to lead, nor wanting to be swamped by the group behind. The pace had slowed and I wanted to go faster. I took the lead, settled into the drops, and picked up the pace, pushing an avg. of 325W, 2 peaks of 820W max, and HR climbing to 98-99mhr (aaaiiii recipe for disaster). Pushing for 6min way too close to CP5. RED LINE !!!! RED LINE !!!! Oblivious to the first climb of the day that lay ahead, and spurred on by insanity, I was pulling hard at the front of E Group.

When the 2.9% avg gradient, 7 min climb announced its presence to my legs and lungs, I knew that the combination of timing and effort was horribly out of synch. Not much option left but to ease it down a notch, get a rhythm going again, sit this one out, and watch the front of the bunch slip away towards the top.

Following that bravado, the objective on the M3 to Boyes Drive was to keep in the bunch, get as much draft as possible, and to recover. Avg power sitting in the bunch dropped to 145W, and 80%mhr, great for the recovery, but disastrous for finishing time target. This long straight road was ideal for 240W Tempo riding, but the group leaders had a different agenda and were a bit slow at this point, and I was not gonna risk pulling at the front again. The group had also become nervy due to one or 2 falls caused by wheels touching, and then there was also the matter of a few tyre bursts in the bunch. Pressure too high + increasing road temperature = tyre burst = staccato group riding.

At the start of Boyes Drive (a 5-7% gradient in sections climb, 5.7km long), the pace felt comfortable, and I slotted into a steady rhythm. Moved to the right hand side of the road, keeping open space ahead of the front wheel. On this climb many failed to get their gearing selected timeously, slip their chain, or their pace dramatically slowed when least expected, which in a group of this size has quite a ripple effect. As the climb progressed legs remained strong, pace stayed comfortable. Normalised Power for the climb was 294W, upper level of my Threshold, and by the time we hit the crest, an impressive group position had been attained. On the 13.7km flat section from Kalk Bay to Simons Town, Power avg was 171W, Zone 2, which again allowed for some recovery, and perhaps a bit too easy riding.

After Simons Town, at the start of the 7.5km climb up Smits Winkel to Cape Point, and legs were strong, and a good climbing rhythm was maintained. Half way into the race and feeling good. There were many tired legs around, generally slowing, faces clearly depicting the burn of the climb. When the legs are strong, these images on others can inspire, creating potential to tap ever deeper into power reserves. Sadistic. NP for the climb was 267W (@ Threshold sweet point) Reviewing the power graph post-race showed a pattern of intervals on the smits winkel climb, very similar to an anaerobic training workout. 1 min intervals @ CP5 with 30s @ Threshold. Confirmation that Anaerobic Interval workouts will result in improved climbing performance. The climb up Smits, the increased effort over the 5.4% crest, and the high speed downhill (57-61kph) had caused a split in the 427 strong starting group, and I was well positioned with the lead group.

The pace through Misty Cliffs picked up even more. Effort was pushing through upper Tempo levels into Lactic Threshold territory. Tucked into drops, steady pedaling rhythm, 53-15 gearing,50- 55kph in sections, pointing and sweeping through the bends was totally exhilarating. Smile…

After a little pile up at the front of the bunch, which some saw as an opportunity, the pace hotted up again. The group was now starting to stretch out. Two riders ahead of me were having difficulty keeping up with the pace, cause a small gap start. I did not want to lose the bunch leaders, and instantaneously I kicked harder. Power went to 560W, speed to 64kph, legs were burning up, lungs were battling. Initial pull was not enough, doubt crept in, during that few seconds of easing off, I could feel energy for another attempt becoming available, so again, out of the seat, hard on the pedals, breathing deeply, head down, and digging ever deeper, and I was back on to the bunch…. YEEHAAA !!! Way to go. Relief. Could now sit back a bit and recover.

By the time we hit the bottom of Chapmans Peak, 6 min later, I felt ready for the climb, I still had some racing legs. Moving to the front of the bunch was now much easier as I readied myself for the steep section ahead. A rider to my right started picking up pace, and two others got on his wheel, I readied and started powering harder to latch onto them. Soon we were 5, climbing comfortably, about 5m ahead of the rest. I was very chuffed with myself for being able to pull off with the group leaders at this point. Initial power was a tad on the high side, just over my FTP @ 310W, and after about 6min, I could feel it starting to fade. Eased off slightly and kept breathing under control, and a rhythmic pace and cadence. Group had now closed the gap, and some were starting to pass.

When I reached the top the group leaders were about 100m ahead. Going down Chapmans Peak is always exciting, high speeds and sweeping corners. On the downhill I needed to conserve energy for the final climb ahead up Suikerbossie. Temperature had reached 32degC and the heat was making its presence known. There were huge groups of spectators lining the road up Suikerbossie, so the atmosphere was amped, which helped to keep the effort up and the pedals turning over.

After Suikerbossie a second group had formed. There were some calls in the group to get some teamwork going, and soon we were picking up a good pace, 50kph in sections, towards Sea Point. The lead was being rotated, and the riders were giving it the last of what was left.

Through Sea Point the spectators were adding to the vibe, as our group had now become quite competitive, speed was high and the most was made of slipstream opportunities. There were about 5 of us that had now lined each other up for the sprint to the line. This is always very thrilling and packed with adrenaline. I had about 3rd wheel in the bunch, pedaling fast, good gear, tucked in nicely, waiting for the right moment. Could see the finish banner across the road ahead, still holding back, guy came pass from my wheel, and I moved to the side to have a clear path, and we were going for it. It was AWESOME !!!

All in all a very well ridden race. It was one of my strongest performances for the Summer, indicating proficient training and racing methods.

A very successful conclusion to the 2012 Summer Race Season.

Race Time 3h08

Overall Position 1131/31331

Group Position 47/427

Age Group Position 190/3527

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Reflection of my 1st League Season

The Aca Joe Pro Classic Racing League has ended and it is a good time to give some thought to what worked, what did not, what have I learned, and most importantly to capture what is worth taking forward as focus points for improvement and development.

My first week in the League was filled more with anxiety, instead of celebration for having made the grade and being accepted to race in the Vet League (+40 Age group). I identified and confronted this negative stress by firstly trying to understand its presence, and recommended course of action. This process led to some personal soul searching, discoveries, acknowledgements, and the subsequent application of proven EQ tools. It helped me immensely, and in the weeks that followed the application of tools, such as positive self-talk, affirmations, and the questioning / verification of negativity has become ingrained not only in my cycling, but has also spilled over into everyday life. With specific reference to my cycling I have become much more confident, which has led to a stronger physical performance on the bike.

In my League Category I was racing with the same people every race, and very soon I was able to pick out those that are similarly matched in terms of cycling performance. Those persons became my benchmarks. During the race if I was amongst my benchmarks I felt positive towards my performance and it was a motivator. It also created a very strong drive to keep with the group pace, and to dig deeper when the going got tough. If at the end of the race I was lagging their race time I would try and find what I need to do differently. On those occasions when I outrode them the personal satisfaction was HUGE !!! So the structure and consistent presence of the competitors within my group caused me to train and race harder, leading to significant performance improvement.

My League group also comprised of very strong cyclists that were the group leaders and they were generally 15-25 min stronger than me on most races. Riding League has given me exposure to how they race, their methods, their equipment, their physical strengths etc., and that has helped me to identify my limiters that needs to be worked on in preparation for the next league season in 6 months’ time. These being my Functional threshold (CP20) and Anaerobic capacity (CP5). FTP has to do with climbing strength, and AC has to do with ability to surge at high power for short durations continuously during a race.

A workout that has week on week made the biggest contribution to my improvement has been the Killarney Criterium sessions. It has boosted my VO2 max, CP5, bike handling skills, and bunch riding skills. It will most definitely become a key part of my training programme from October onwards when the next race season starts. Anaerobic Intervals Workout is the other key that I have experienced to be hugely beneficial, and they are interwoven. I have been able to add knowledge and structure to my workouts involving these, as well as identify my current limits and targets. The experience related to recovery from these workouts is extremely important to prevent burnout, injury, and continued quality training.

In reflection, the decision to register for the Vet League, was the best one. The experience has made me grow on so many different levels, and it has exposed me to those that will be sitting on my wheel in 2 years time.

Let’s Ride

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Bay City Race

The start of the week was signified by some very fatigued legs from the Medallion Tour de Stellenbosch race. This prompted my decision that back to back races on the coming weekend was not a wise choice. There was no benefit to be gained from racing on tired legs, only risk of overtraining at a time so close to my main race of the season. I chose to focus my week on the Bay City Cycle Tour primarily because it covered the Argus Cycle Tour route and to forfeit participation in Die Wilde race.

On Tuesday I did a 2hr ride to work, covering 1 x 20 min FTP interval, 15 min recovery, then 6 x 1min max intervals with 5 min recovery. This was a taxing session, and really set the bar for the week. I had a buzz of endorphins following this session, a good HIGH. With hindsight though it was a bit much, and had a negative effect on the Wed session.

On Wed I planned to do VO2 max intervals, which is 125% FTP, 5 off 2min interval with 2 min recovery. Due to Tues’s session I did not hit the target power zones on Wed, which nullified the potential impact of Wed’s workout. Nevertheless, so we live and learn.

Thur was recovery riding and Sat was a Taper rep workout. By Sat my body was recovering nicely from the weeks earlier workouts resulting in a Stress Balance of 2.6 for Sunday’s race, a positive number above 0 is good enough.

I was looking forward to the Bay City Race, because it was the last one of the League, and I could feel myself getting stronger week on week. There were a few Vet, Ladies, and Masters, that I have over the weeks identified as benchmarks to gauge my improvement against. On previous races I was lagging them by 3-5 minutes, and was targeting to finish with them on this race.

The warm up ride to the race start was sociable, as when I reached the Main Road, a few riders of Star Team came by and I enjoyed riding and chatting with them. It is always a wonderful feeling to be part of the select mass of people in vehicles and on bikes heading to a race venue, while the rest of the city is still sleeping.

There were a good number of cyclists making up the Vet, Masters and Elite Ladies group. The weather was good, cool temperature, light breeze, clear skies, sun was slowly rising, all conditions looking favorable for a good and enjoyable race.

The starting countdown was followed by the sound of cleats being clicked in as wheels started rolling, eyes were focused on the wheels ahead to allow for quick evasive action in the event of any unprepared slowing.

The initial pace was good, fast but not requiring too high energy expenditure. I started slowly moving forward in the peloton so as to be ahead of those earlier mentioned benchmarks, before reaching the first climb up Boyes Drive. Along Spaansemacht Road I saw the pink jersey, Jenny, leader of the Elite Ladies, raise her hand as she moved to the edge of the peloton, my guess was that she had punctured, or had a bike fault.

As we hit the steeper part of Boyes Drive the group leaders proved once again to be too strong for me to hold with, and the secondary group (containing my benchmarks) started to form as per previous races. I was at the front of the group and decided to keep my own pace, and to lead the group for now wouldn’t be a disadvantage. At the top of the climb 2 riders came past, and I was happy with the position I had as it gave me preference for choice of lines through the sweeping downhill bends. Loads of fun going down there at speed. Also knowing that there were other riders behind me gave me comfort that I did not need to check for vehicles before taking a line into a bend.

On the flat along the beach front the group contained about 15 riders, and I eased up from the front so as to take a more relaxed position behind some wheels. At the same time Jenny re-emerged and rode at pace to the front of the group and started encouraging some teamwork at the front. The pace picked up nicely and I was willing to work harder with her and a few others, and push for a strong finishing time. The pace was good, and the racing was exhillirating.

When we got to Simonstown I decided to ease up slightly and drop back in the group so as to get some recovery before the next climb up Smitswinkel. By the time we reached the climb I had some strong legs again and kept with the front of the group as we climbed. I was satisfied with how I was holding up when I went over the top with the group. On the long straight downhill, our pace picked up again and we were motoring along nicely. I expected the leaders of the next start group, A-C, to catch us soon, and I knew that I needed to save energy for that so as not to get dropped when that pace increase came.

Our group was eventually caught at the bottom of Slangkop by the A-C riders, and I accelerated onto their wheels as they passed. The climb up Slangkop had me heading straight into the red zone. In no time I was working very hard to hang on. Fortunately the climb is not too long and not too much of a gap had been created between me and the group by the time we reached the top. I tried hard to close the gap on the downhill without going over the edge of the road, or losing my wheel in one of the tight bends. On the flat section at the bottom, a tandem came by with 2 riders on its wheel, I immediately grabbed the opportunity, accelerated as hard for as long as I could, I definitely burned a few matches there, and was totally chuffed when I bridged the gap and got onto their wheel. The tandem proceeded to pull us back onto the A-C bunch that had dropped me on Slangkop. Great Stuff !!!

I was now sitting comfortably on a fast paced peloton heading towards Oukaap se weg, final climb of the day, and my benchmark competitors, were somewhere behind me. When we reached the climb the leaders took off, I was unable to hold their power, and settled into my own rhythm for the 7km climb. I kept my power output steady around the 280W, my FTP , and my heart rate was around 91%, and I was feeling fairly comfortable. As the climb progressed I start passing a few of the A-C riders that were able to keep with the group at the start of the climb but by now had little left in their tank. I felt very positive of my performance up Oukaap se Weg. Way to GO !!!

With about 200m to go at the top of the climb, Jenny re-emerged next to me, and I turned to see Caren (one of my benchmarks) with her. None of the others were present. I allowed them to pass and sat on their wheels on the downhill, getting some recovery and preparing to ride hard so as not to lose them on the flat section that lay ahead. By the time we reached the bottom 2 more guys of the A-C group had joined us. There was still about 10km to the finish, and we started to pick up the speed again, while sharing the load setting the pace. We were going nice and fast, + 40kph, and it was very challenging and thrilling.

On the last 2 small rollers before the finish straight we played some cat and mouse games seeing who still had some legs, and wearing out those that were just hanging on. I felt strong and I was matching Jenny. By the time we reached the flat run to the line we were 4, and as we got closer to the line I was a bit stronger than the others and crossed the line before them. When I stopped the clock, flipped the screen to my race time, and saw a time of 2h30, I was shocked, not at all what I was expecting. My target time was 2h40, I had bettered it by 10 min, improved by 34 min from the previous year, and had finished ahead of my benchmarks… it was one of those personal moments when emotion sweeps over you and there is nothing much you can do, but embrace it.

The last race of the League was over.

Let’s Ride.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Medallion Tour de Stellenbosch

This week was to be a reduced training hours week in comparison to the previous 2 weeks. My training blocks structure are 2 Weeks hard, 1 week recovery. This week was also the start of my Peak Phase so there is a deliberate bias to shorter, higher intensity rides in my training programme.

When I put together the workouts for this week I was initially undecided re Tuesday’s workouts. Couldn’t decide between 1min Anaerobic Intervals or 20 min Intervals at FTP (Functional Threshold Power). I evaluated respective target areas and decided on Anaerobic intervals. I get a fair amount of work on 20min intervals during the weekend races, and it is the speed surges during the races especially on the rolling hills that tend to limit me most.

My Tuesday Anaerobic Intervals were 1min intervals, starting with a sprint to max for as long as I can hold (out of the seat effort), then seated for the remainder of the minute whilst holding the power high. It is a really hectic burn, and is followed by 5 minutes rest (easy pedaling), and I do 6-8 of those. Try and hit above 145% FTP during the interval.

On Wednesday was Killarney. My legs were feeling fresh and recovered from the Tuesday workout. The plan was to sit with the bunch for as long as I could, then revert to 2 min Anaerobic Intervals after a 5 min rest. All went well, and I sat with the bunch for 20 minutes, it was on the 4th lap that I got dropped after mistiming my acceleration on the bend hitting the headwind, and too big a gap had opened up. Thereafter I switched to my plan of 2 min at 145% FTP followed by 2 min rest and repeat. The chart of the Killarney session below is a nice indicator of my 2 min intervals (after the 20 min mark – distinct peak and valleys). The blue lines in the first 20 min look very noisy in comparison, the reason being that the riding with the bunch is very much like 1 min sprint with 1 min recovery. The other observation is that the red line (heart rate) did not decouple from the blue line (power) in the latter stages of the session, meaning that my endurance base is solid.

Thursday and Friday were much deserved rest days and resulted in me feeling fresh going into the weekend. Saturday was time for a new workout called Taper Reps. These are 90s intervals at FTP with 90s recovery, and I did 4 of those. They are hard enough to work the system but not fatigue it. The ride was an hour long, and I followed this with some stretches in front of the tv.

Sunday morning I was up at 4. Some breakfast and coffee, followed by 5 minutes sitting / meditating outside, enjoying the silence of the morning, before Munier picked me up at 5. We arrived in Stellenbosch at 05h40, time to leisurely unpack, sign in and get in a 20 min warmup ride.

It was good to see the normal faces on the start line, the mood is always good in the starting chute, and the energy is really something to relish. Shaheen’s new Scott Foil looked really cool. The guys in the Stars League were looking ready for some serious riding.

The pace off the line was fast, the weather was great, my breathing rhythm was fast adjusting, adrenaline was flowing, sun was low and in our eyes, and luckily no accidents. Being part of this fast rolling peloton through the center of Stellenbosch was an awesome experience. Within 6 minutes we were at the foot of Hels hoogte hitting the first ascent. I kept with the leaders as we hit the plateau before the next incline. Again pace picked up and I held with them. I was starting to hit the redline, and these guys just kept on going. I wonder what power and heart rate readings they were getting up there?

From my workout graph I was averaging 290W for the 20min climb, which is at my FTP, so in order to climb as well as the leaders I will need to work on my FTP for next season. The way to do that is through regular FTP Intervals and CP30 Testing.

On the climb I settled in with the remaining Vets, Masters and Elite Ladies. In December a few of these riders had dropped me as we crested Helshogte. This time it was different. I was doing quite a bit of the pace setting for this group and lead the bunch over Helshoogte. This was quite a motivator as it evidenced improvement.

For the next 40min, at a speed avg of 42kph, three of us took turns pacing the bunch, resulting in us catching a group of 6 vets at the 1h08 mark, note the red heart rate line dropping and recovering after having bridged that gap. The first time this season that I have been instrumental in bridging a gap.

I sat in for about 5 minutes (recovering), when the excitement of the race got the better of me, and again I moved to the front to set the pace. My timing was a bit out this time, as I had only just put in an effort of about 2min when the leaders of A-C Group and a few tandems reached us. These guys were moving at a helluva pace. Our group immediately latched onto them and the pace and effort increased again.

Note the blue power and red heart rate lines at the 1h20 mark. Power shooting up above 500W for close on a minute, then respite for a minute, then up to 500W again. These are representative of my Anaerobic intervals in training done at approx. 430W. Because I had not recovered enough from the earlier effort the gap grew between me and them, and within 3 minutes I was out the back. This experience indicates another of my limiters, which can be improved on for next season through many more Anaerobic Intervals.

For the next 10 min up to the 1h38 mark I did some recovery with 2 others, avg 36kph @ 170W. The next bunch of A-C riders and tandems then reached us, and we latched onto that group. I sat with this group till the end of the race avg 38kph – 210W. I also managed to move to the front on 2 or 3 occassions and take my turn at the helm. Being part of this train rolling through Stellenbosch close on 40kph was very exhilarating as we steamed towards the finish. I was happy to see negligible decoupling of Heart Rate to Power indicating a good level of endurance fitness. My finish time was 2h40, for the 97km race, a 30 min improvement on last year’s performance.

I am very happy with my race performance, and feel that my training workouts are yielding results, and that I am doing the right workouts with the right training strategy. There is also confirmation of elements that need to be focused on in the Winter leading to the next season, Spring 2012, which are inputs to my Training Planning process.

Let’s Ride.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

99er Race Week

I am in my 2nd Build Phase leading up to Argus Cycle Tour. From PMC below, blue fitness line has picked up nicely. As expected the orange form line has dropped to -20 (well below zero).

The next week is an easier week in terms of training duration, so the form line will increase nicely towards the Stellenbosch race coming Sunday.

On Wednesday’s Killarney Criterium, Raees joined us to take some action photo’s. I should create a gallery some time to add them all.

The wind was calmer this week, but to hold with the groups was just as challenging. After being dropped I set about to build my CP20 (personal best Critical Power over 20 min) , CP30 and CP60. I was elated with the info from my Garmin during the ride, indicating that I was hitting CP20, CP30, and CP60 targets. When I downloaded to Training Peaks the next day, I was puzzled to not see the ‘records’. After some investigation I found that I had a switch on the Garmin activated that was not taking my Zero power readings into determining the average. Bummer …..

The Saturday morning of the 99er race started well. We had home departure time, prep packing, warm up time all well nailed down. Weather was cool, rain threat, light wind, so all was looking good. The start was a good, steady pace. Within the first 20 min we came across the first crash of the day that had occurred in the previous start group. There did not appear to be serious injuries, but quite a few had roasties and would be bruised in the days to come. Throughout my ride I observed 4 bunch crashes. This came about because the starting gaps between group were too small causing bunches to become too large.

These crashes made life in the bunch quite a nervous affair. There were quite a few wheel rubs and scares, with people touching brakes more often than necessary. I sat at the back most of the time so as to keep safe, but it makes racing difficult especially when speed picks up, the gaps to close down at the back are magnified. I need to work on riding closer to the front of bunches, same goes for Killarney training rides.

I sat in my bunch well. My power average and heart rate was ‘low’ throughout, and I kept pace well when the speed picked up. Unfortunately at the 3h00 mark I punctured when I hit a pothole, causing me to complete my race in 3h41, excluding my time to repair my puncture.

All in all a good training week, 12.5hrs on bike, a good – well balanced 3h42 race, a new CP60 at Killarney on Wed, quality intervals on 3 climbs on Tues, and a good 3hr endurance ride on Sun.

Let’s Ride

Monday, 6 February 2012

Roller Coaster Week

From my PMC below, my blue fitness line has been dropping (A), together with my weekly Energy Output (C) , this is not a desired trend line for me in the run up to the Argus Cycle Tour.

With 5 Weeks to the Argus Cycle Tour, my training strategy now is to pick up the Duration and Intensity for the next 3 weeks, followed by 2 weeks for peak and taper. Due to other commitments Monday and Tuesday were going to be non- training days, which meant that my planned 10hr training week would run from Wed to Sun. As can be seen from (B) and (D) I put in 11hr for the week and the trend is reversed.

Wed night’s criterium was again setup to be a challenge with a 35kph strong southerly wind. Whilst unpacking the bike I had resolved to the same strategy as last week, be prepared to be dropped on numerous occasions, and focus on riding against the power meter. As the results for the session will testify my CP60 increased by 3W. The cherry on top were the competitive laps between Shaheed and I. We would sit together most of the way around the track, each taking a turn to battle the wind and provide the other with a wheel to recover on. On the final stretch to the finish line, we would increase the pace to a sprint for the line. Great Fun, and a Great Workout !!!

This week also marked Faridah and my decision to take a week’s break in Knysna, the first week of July, for the Oyster Festival. This will provide for some great Winter training goals, 100km cycle race, a trail run, and a half marathon. This means that post the Argus Cycle Tour I will be including running in my training programme, a fantastic winter cross training opportunity. I even this week managed to score a pair of trail running shoes on Sale.

The weather on Sunday morning for the Roller Coaster Cycling race was superb. Wind and morning temperatures were calm and one of those beautiful cycling mornings.

I improved on last year’s time by 9 minutes. My power output was fairly consistant close to threshold, and I rode a well balanced race, with good legs on the last climb and the last 5km. My race position was 50/62 so it was a very good training week.

Let’s Ride

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Aca Joe Pro Classic Series Wk3

The League season is in full swing, and this week marked my 3rd League Race, the Bouckaert-Soenen over a distance of 126km. This was also one of those weeks where my training programme needed to be altered to accommodate work requirements. My Tuesday hill intervals and Saturday Pre race ride were cancelled, luckily I could still accommodate my Wednesday Crit session as planned.

The criterium this week was well attended by the elite teams, and it was cool to rub shoulders with them albeit a tad intimidating. The wind was a strong south 34kph, this caused some strong cross winds on the track, resulting in a few splinter groups of 4-5 riders as opposed to the previous week's two distinct bunches. I managed to work hard and last for the full 60 min, at avg power of 258W, previous 60 min high was 242W. I love seeing these small improvements, Great Motivators !!!

I am 2nd from front

Action shot of Elite Guys

Early morning temperatures on Sunday, Bouckaert-Soenen Race Day, were an indicator of the heat we were about to experience in the Paarl – Wellington area. Race start terrain was flat, and the peleton speed was a respectable 36kph for the first hour, till the first climb of the day, Riebeeck Kasteel, elev gain 250m, 4.5% grad. Sitting in the peleton was my first time participating in the dynamic, which is breakaway challenges and peleton reel back in. Some Exciting stuff !!! One day I will be part of the breakaway ( I wonder if they will catch me…)

Back to reality… so it is on the climb that the Vet Group Leaders accelerate and leave me at the bottom to struggle in my ‘breakaway’ ha ha ha….

On the downhill, the next start group A-C, caught me, and I managed to stay with them for the next hour or so. I was quite satisfied with myself that I managed to stay with this group for as long as I did. Eventually the heat got to me, about 34deg, and I dropped off that bunch. I still managed to keep a good average power to the end, and even managed a competitive sprint on the line with remnants of my starting group. My race time was 3h38, a 30 minute improvement on last year’s race time. I also finished 46th out of 63. A move up in position of 4 places in comparison to last week. Another week of Good Improvements !!!

Let’s Ride