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

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Cape Cobra Race

The Cape Cobra is the 2nd race of the Aca Joe Pro Series League, and with a total elevation gain of 1126m, making it the race on the Cape Town calendar that is the most taxing on climbing legs. There are a total of 7 peaks that need to be crested before reaching the finish line.

There are a few lessons that I had picked up over the last few weeks that I am in the process of implementing. I was very pleased to see them come together nicely on race day and aide to an improved race performance.

Lesson 1 – Adequate Rest. I have been self disciplined to ensure 7.5-8hrs of sleep per night for the last 2 weeks now. So no late night movies, plus get a grip on stress and anxiety issues, manage work load so as to keep abreast of work day requirements, and last but not least reduce coffee in pm. This together with an effective training plan has given rise to a Training Stress Balance of +10.4 ( above 0 indicates good form.)

Lesson 2 – Quality Nutrition. The fact that I have reduced starches and increased salads, vegetables, fruit and water, with a good measure of protein, has provided me with a well maintained weight, whilst providing good quality fuel to provide for my cycling demand.

Lesson 3 – Positive, Confident, Feel Good Mindset. Applying self awareness techniques, coupled with positive self talk, and affirmations has created a far more conducive emotional environment.

So with the first 3 lessons in the bag, I arrived on the start line raring to go, with a few more lessons to be tried and implemented.

The below diagram is my race graph. The peach colour area indicates gradient, with peaks numbered 1 – 7. Red is Hr, and Blue is Power.

The first climb up Boyes Drive was fast, The leaders of the Vet start group just took off and there was no way that I was able to match that level of cycling at this stage. More of Lesson 3 was necessary when they took off, and would also be necessary when stronger groups came past, ha ha ha (enough of that one, I am sure you get the picture).

A smaller group of Vet + Master + Elite Ladies riders formed on the slope of Boyes and we seemed equally matched in terms of ability. We paced each other all the way till after Smits Winkel, Peak 4. On Peak 3, Slangkop, we were joined by the front riders of PPA Group A-C. We held onto their wheels for as long as we could but these guys were stronger than some of the leading Vets that had earlier dumped our bunch.

While going up Peak 4, Smitswinkel, a bigger bunch of A-C riders caught us, and things got a bit hairy. They were coming through on the right and left sides of our bunch. Some of them had started to cross the white centre line. The motorbike race marshal came up next to them in order to move them in from the centre line. One of them came too far over and pushed into me. There was a ripple effect towards the guy on my left. Luckily the guy that caused the pushing grabbed my arm and helped me to steady up again. Near Miss!!!
There were other people in other starting groups that were not so lucky. A person ended up in a deep gutter on the mountain side, and another person went into an oncoming motorbike. Scary stuff.

After Peak 4, I got dropped off the pace, and took a bit of a breather, in preparation for Maritime Hill, Peak5, the jury is still out as to whether I really needed that break. The graph clearly shows the decline in power and heart rate after smits winkel, avg. 210W & 85%mhr.

I dug deep and kept a steady pace up Peak 5, Maritime Hill , avg 250W & 88%mhr. At the top, the front riders of PPA Group D-E together with remnants of A-C had caught up to me, and I decided to tuck onto their wheel. This resulted in a good pull up Black Hill, Peak 6, power avg 255W, which was higher than power output on previous peaks 4 & 5. I was very happy with performance up that climb so late in the race, in comparison to previous races where I just faded in the last third.

On the bottom slope of Peak 7, Oukaap se weg, I eased off the bunch so as to conserve energy for the duration of the final climb. Avg 240W on final climb. The jury is out on this decision as well.

My race time 2h51, in comparison to same race result last year, an improvement of 28 minutes …. That is MASSIVE !!!

My race position this week, 59th out of 72 in start group, last week 60th out of 70, so an improvement of 3 positions, at this rate I should make the podium during Spring League 2013 Ha ha ha

Coming back to applied learning, Lesson 4 (if I am not mistaken) Sip the Water Bottle. Previously I was taking mouthfuls of water / sports drink. Last week I finished 5 drinks bottles. On a previous ride it felt as if I was close to death by dehydration. So on the Hub, Dale was always on about sipping small amounts of water. I tried it this week and it worked wonders. I only consumed 2 drink bottles. I also had a small bottle in my back pocket that I used over my head and onto my legs. I had read somewhere that it helps to keep the core cooler. It felt to me as if it worked. Admittedly the temperatures were calmer during this race, 25-26 deg, I still have faith that this will yield benefits.

Lesson 5, Higher gear – Lower Cadence – Lower Heart Rate. By looking back at my Training Peaks data I noticed instances where at the start of a climb, my cadence was going higher (90-120rpm) and my heart rate was picking up as well, sometimes going over 95%mhr, creating little Hr peaks on my graph. I want to get rid of those peaks, because they quicken the onset of fatigue, and reduces the number of matches available in my box. This increase in cadence was also taking place when I went over the top of a climb, again causing a peaking of heart rate, possibly a contributing factor as to why I could not hold the wheel going over Hels hoogte a few weeks ago. So the lesson was to better control cadence, to prevent spinning out at top and bottom or for that matter during a climb, by keeping a heavier gear.

Lesson 6, Control Breathing, during heavy effort. The last interval session I did I was flying, and I noticed that my breathing was different. It was not that frantic, panting, shallow, fast type breathing, it was deeper, slower, open mouth, into the stomach type breathing.

Lesson 7, Sit when climbing. When standing my heart rate climbs more, and quicker. So as far as possible minimise the amount of time doing out of seat efforts on a climb, and be cognisant of what my heart rate is when standing up. In other words if 85%mhr then it is ok to get some acceleration going on the climb by standing, if 95%mhr rather not.

So lessons 5-7 was about controlling heart rate or reducing time in red zone.

The 2 graphs below tells the story. Graph 1 was last years Cobra race. 25min in Z5&Z6, 65min in Z4. Graph2 is the past weekend’s Cobra race, 10min in Z5&Z6, and 58min in Z4. So it worked.

Cobra Race 2011

Cobra Race 2012

And what did the reduced time in Red Zone do for my Power Numbers?

Climb 1 -275W             Climb 2 – 301W             Climb 3- 300W

Climb 4- 250W            Climb 5-250W                Climb 6-255W

Climb 7 – 240W

1st hour of race – 232W          1st 2 hrs of race – 229W          Last 50min of race 230W

So my numbers were fairly consistent for the duration of the race, even though there is a slight drop off towards the end, and in an ideal world I would want to have a negative split, higher power in second half of race.

In comparison to last week’s race. Last 60min of race 161W


Let's Ride

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Killarney Crit 1

It was a year ago that I tried the Killarney Criterium. At Mike’s insistence I went to the Wednesday session which is frequented by the more competitive cyclists as opposed to the Tuesday PPA sessions. On that occasion I was hopelessly out of my depth and 40 minutes after starting I was all packed up back in the car, tail between my legs, and leaving while the cyclists were still going round the track for the remainder of the hour.

So it was with a fair amount of trepidation that I pitched up there yesterday. It was not made any better by Shaheen and Munier who were beforehand saying that the session is hardcore and frequented by Elite cyclists etc. At least Munier was there too (his first time), as we had planned to give each other morale support.

There was a hive of activity at the sign on, and it was rather intimidating amongst all the noticeably younger, very lean, strong looking cyclists, with their bikes and kit to match the profile. It was cool to meet Shahied and Gamiet there from Star Interiors Cycle Club, and others from Mohammediyah and Giants Cycling Clubs. There is morale support to be gained from people you know, with similar backgrounds and cycling proficiency.

At 6pm we were allowed to go onto the race track for a warmup lap, and all was going well. Temperature was high 32deg, but wind was manageable (can get windy this time of year). At the end of the warmup lap we were addressed by the marshal. There are basically 2 starts, first group is +1 group, second group that starts slighter after are the Elites, and the Elites have to chase the +1 group. Winners are the first ones to cross the line after 60 min, without having been lapped.

I started off in the + 1 Group. Immediately we started hitting speeds + 40kph, my heart rate had climbed to 85% in no time, and power was hitting the 330 mark (would average out to 250W for 20min max). On the first lap I started feeling where the wind was, and started finding the draft lines on the track. By lap 3 I had this all mapped out.

In the bends it was better to sweep into the outside line, get more speed into the corner, for easier closing of the gap coming off of the bend. Everyone knew this so the congestion made such maneuvering, testing. Speed was fast. There were sections of the track where we were hitting 52kph lap after lap and it was thrilling.

Leaning the bike over in the corners was truelly awesome. I don’t think I had ever leaned my bike over so much before and it was THRILLING !!! There were times that I just watched the butt of the guy in front of me, and kept his line and gap and went sweeping through the corner, too nervous to look at other indicators of lean angle.

There was one particular left hander where by going wide, you pick up speed because of your faster trajectory, and because of the draft of cyclists on the inside, which meant that you just went flyin past riders. The danger of that tactic was to bring it all in at the end of the corner, and a few times I went onto the red and white shoulder of the road, and on one occasion I was pushed into the dirt off the track, luckily not damaging tyres when coming back on.

When the Elites eventually caught us there was a huge amount of adrenalin pumping through. Suddenly I had fast cyclists come through on my left and right, and I was focused on holding the wheel in front of me. It was HECTIC !!!  YEEHAAA!!!!!!

When the bunches merged the pace quickened. By the next lap people were starting to drop off and I found myself isolated from the bunch. Note to self, next week when the bunches merge move to the front so as to hold on for longer.

I nearly got taken out as well. On one right hand bend the guy on my left connected with my handlebar, luckily I managed to keep it together. Phew….

This kind of racing will make me stronger because it works at LT, and will improve my bike handling skills tenfold.

I managed to hang with the bunch for 50min this week, that was a huge motivator. Next week I will aim to complete the full 60 min with the bunch.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Aca Joe Pro Classic Series Wk1

We learn things about ourselves on a regular basis. Some days we learn more than others, and when you have an objective which causes you to stretch your abilities and push your boundaries, the magnitude of such personal learning or growth is substantially greater. This past week, the first week of the Aca Joe Pro Classic Series, my first week as a Veteran Racing Cyclist (equivalent to a Cat 3 cyclist), has been such a time for me. A week where my passion for cycling, and my cycling goals to achieve, has gifted me, by highlighting what till now has been obscure.

Since I started cycle racing 2 years ago, I have been admiring the guys that move to the front starting chutes at races, the Elites, the Racing Age Groupers, the League Racers, their bicycles marked with its own registration number. This week my bike got its own little number plate, and this accomplishment brought with it some internal demons in the form of anxiety, and its associated negative energy.

My questioning of this psychological state, its affect on my cycling performance, its existence at a time when I should be overjoyed, prompted the discovery of associated literature, and the realization that I allot too much power to what I think others are thinking of me, fear of not being accepted by others, that I am not worthy or good enough to be amongst them. And the negative self talk that this eschews.
Reward to self for 'discovery'
There are tools that I have selected from those readings as well as recommendations from Michael that I will be utilising going forward. This is also the arena of sports psychologists, and mental fitness consultants.

As the days progressed my mind set improved, and by Sunday, race morning, I was feeling very different from earlier the week. A lot more confident, and armed with tools to deal with negative self talk if necessary, a lot more relaxed and comfortable with where I am at.

Did it provide me with a blistering performance in today’s race? No, it did not (this is real life not a hollywood blockbuster), but the results from my inner discovery will manifest itself in many different ways within me, improving me, and will influence my riding performance in the weeks, months, and years ahead.

My short report on the first race of the Aca Joe Pro Classic Series, PPA Klein Joostenberg, 105 km.
I was up at the crack of dawn, well rested, and in high spirit. By 4.45 I was in the car and headed to the N1 and Klein Joostenberg. Arrived at 5.25, an hour before my race start time. It was great to see Spat in the parking lot, and briefly touch base, as he too was very excited to be in his first League race. After unpacking the bike, drinks, gels, etc. we headed together to the race sign on.

There was a hive of excitement at the Gazebo, and it was great to take it all in and to be part of it all. It was good to greet and chat with friends, Dale and Tiny K, and mix with other familiar faces noted from previous races.

I had planned to allow some time for a warm up, so headed out for a 20 min warmup after signing on. As per last week, I put in 2-3 sprints.

I got into my starting chute with about 10 minutes to spare, and the vibe in the starting chute was great. Many people chatting with friends, others meeting and greeting, and some (like me) quietly composing themselves for the race ahead.

From the count down the start was fast. There are some very strong guys in the Vet group and they set quite a pace. As we came into Stellenbosch the pace mellowed out in anticipation of the climb up Helshoogte that lay ahead. At the base of the climb the pace quickened and the effort increased substantially. I had moved to the front third of the group before the climb and was at this point feeling comfortable. Half way up the climb the leaders of the vet group opened up quite a gap and just kept on going. I settled into a smaller bunch positioned in the middle of the original starting bunch. We climbed well and steadily tackled the ascent. As we crested the top I could no longer hold on and felt myself isolated on the descent, and the next few kilometers.

It was not long before another bunch was formed from remnants of the vet group. I sat with them for quite some distance, till 1h45 into the race. At this point the pain in my legs from the rolling hills and heat (30deg C) got the better of me. I got dropped from that bunch, they went on to finish in 3h03.

I finished in 3h17. Not a good race time. Position 58 out of 69. I have a lot of hard training required in the weeks and months ahead, and I am confident that the rapid pace with which I have been improving will continue.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Olympic Cycle Race

I woke at 4.30am on race morning straining my ears to hear if the previous day’s gusting wind had subsided. I had a reasonably good night’s sleep, considering that I do not usually sleep uninterruptedly the night before a race. I slowly made my way into the kitchen, made a cup of coffee, microwaved my potatoes, and made 2 slices of rye bread with peanut butter to start the day’s fuelling.

At 5.30am I met Munier, at the bridge, and we started our warm up ride to race venue 30min away. Wind was present and threatening, as we are quite aware that the South wind can be challenging on this race route. There were quite a few cyclists out and heading in the same direction to the race venue. The vibe was uplifting and filled with excitement. I remembered Mike’s tip re-sprints, so I pushed out 3x30sec @90% sprints, on my warmup ride.

There was quite a buzz at the start venue when we arrived with 25 min to spare. I promptly made my way to the PPA counter for my upgraded Group F race number. That queue was slow, and I did not enjoy that one bit. It took me 15 min to complete my registration. The good news is that with upcoming race registrations, conditions will be different and this frustration will not be repeated. Which also means my warmup can be done with less of a time gap to race start time.

In the start chutes all was good. Quite a bit of laughter and greeting of familiar faces. A lovely place to be . I took the time to recap on previous learnings ….. warm up had been completed, nutrition had been good, rest had been ok (can do better), and all that remained was to watch my exertion in the early stages of the race and to pace myself so as not to blow up, and to still have legs in the latter stage of the race.

After the normal race announcements we were counted down, the clock was started, and our group of 46 took off. The pace was fast, yet manageable off the start, for the first 6min before oukaapse weg, I was avg 83% mhr, NP 230W, and I felt comfortable.

When we hit the climb the effort increased significantly. The wind was gusting and as we turned the bend for the 2nd half of the climb the wind was head on. The bunch was tight, the hammer was down, and holding your line in the gusting wind on the mountain was going to be hard work. Everyone was digging deep within themselves, heart rates climbing, power building, and lactic acid starting to burn the legs. Concentration was highly tuned on those around you and your senses were on high alert. I was averaging 94% mhr, NP 300W on the 5.5% gradient climb with a 350m elev. Gain. I heard the unnerving sound of tires rubbing against each other. I could see the guy on my left had made contact with the wheel in front of him and he was going down. He started shouting as he was toppled against my left shoulder. I braced my hold on my handlebars so as to hold my line and push back against his weight. The push from my left made me lean to my right and contact the guy on that side. Luckily we were able to compose ourselves without causing further mayhem. As the guy on my left made contact with the road, there were frantic shouts of warning from those behind him. I hope he was not badly hurt.

As we neared the top of the climb there was another incident where the wind blew the leader of the group into the oncoming traffic lane. Luckily there were no oncoming vehicles at that instant. Near Miss!!!! This reminds me of a training ride I once did on this very climb, and the southerly wind was also pumping that day, and it got so strong at the top that it blew me 180deg into the opposite direction facing downhill and oncoming traffic. Since that experience I don’t train this climb in a strong south wind.

When we leveled out at the top of the climb I was happy that I had managed to stay with the bunch, not go into the red on my heart rate, and knew that lots of hard work still lay ahead. The descent was undulating and the speed was high. There were instances when we were hitting 70kph…. thrilling descent, snaking through the bends, using the full width of the lane, right - left- right – left, off the brakes just before the bend, point and sweep through, picking up speed heading to the exit, open the knee more to pull in, and the Cannondale was handling them well, inspiring confidence…. YEEHAAAA !!!!

Coming off of that adrenaline rush, at the bottom we turned at Ocean View towards Misty Cliffs, and the wind was there to greet us. I tucked into the bunch after a short turn at the front and tried to get the most protected position. This was a 20km stretch to Smits Winkel (Cape Point), into the gusting and cross wind that was changing direction all the time. We kept a steady work tempo, avg 26kph against the wind.

As we reached the top of Smits Winkel the pace picked up on the downhill, and the wind was slightly behind us at the turnaround point. The decent was treacherous, again hitting 70kph, winding changing on us all the time as we went down the mountain. My heart rate was averaging 94%, peppered with some max efforts that were really killing me. My legs after 15 mins were feeling the lactic burn big time, and becoming very heavy. There was still some way to race and I decided to ease off from the bunch with about 45min still to go.

There were 2 other cyclists with me, and we were alternating the pace setting as some slight recovery took place. We caught up to a tandem and the 4 of us worked together till the bottom of Boyes Drive climb.

Even though I did not manage to hold onto the leaders of my start group, I was satisfied that I still had legs to climb Boyes, with 91%mhr, 250W NP, for 20min. To me this was indicator that my warmup and start (oukaapse weg) climb pace control strategy had worked, this in comparison to my Burger Race experience. Over Boyes and on the flat 4km section to the finish (avg 40kph) I passed quite a few riders from my start bunch that were suffering and whose legs were no longer compliant.

All in all I was happy with my race. I finished the 75km route in 2h21, 41st out of 193 for my age group.

Next week is the start of my Vet Racing League Journey.

Let’s Ride.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Training Plans

It is the beginning of the year, the beginning of the season, and the time for setting Goals. I did a post on Goals 2 weeks ago, and in the words of Joe Friel,” A goal without a Plan is a wish.”

I have encountered so many people that say they want to do the Argus, or start cycling, or lose weight, or get fit, and they go out and buy the bike and the kit, cycle for anywhere between 2 weeks and 2 months and then ….stop!! If they have committed to an event they will most likely force themselves to roll the bike out the front door 1-2 weeks before the event to train. Those that have not committed to an event will probably leave the bike (in storage) for much longer.

Merdia 905 - still in action

I bought a Merida Road 905 in 2006 to start a healthy, cyclist lifestyle. I only rode it for 2 months, before it was left to rest against the wall in the garage. It was in October 2009 that I next took that bike out for a ride. Then my goal became SMART, and I backed it up with a training plan, and 2 years later I am still passionately living the fit, cyclist lifestyle, and becoming increasingly competitive as the weeks past.

My first training plan in 2009 was developed on an Excel spreadsheet, days in rows and weeks in columns. I got my workouts from generic plans that are freely available in mags and on the net (sample plan), and I tailored them to my available time and capability. The most important element in those first 12 weeks was just to ride my bike, regularly (at least 3 times per week). That spring I was consistently hitting 5-8 hrs per week. After doing this for a few weeks my cycling became habit. It became a norm to ride to work 2-3 times per week, to wake up at 5am in the morning, leave the house at 5.30, and to go out for 2-3 hr rides on a Saturday or Sunday morning.

I used to update my Excel training plan on a daily basis by highlighting the completed workout in green, and record workout duration. It became a huge motivator to daily view my ever greening spreadsheet, and to miss a workout meant a red highlight, which became a real no no.

During that first 12 weeks my goals were adjusted to include the completion of my first Argus Cycle Race in March 2010. This gave rise to a new Excel Training Plan being developed in January 2010, and this time Interval workouts were included. Weekly average training time also increased to 8-10 hours per week.

When it comes to regular +8 hour training weeks out on the road away from home, family support becomes a critical element. My cycling progression would not have been possible without the support of my Family, Faridah, Raees and Mishkah.

In Winter of 2010 when daylight hours became shorter, I picked up a book, Time crunched cyclist, and used it to develop my Winter training plan. Well worth checking out.

In October 2010 I upped my game considerably, and new that my Training Plans needed to be more focused and decided to sign up with Michael from Bike Max Power and Training Peaks. I also read Joe Friels, Training Bible. A must read for the serious cyclist.

In November 2011 I invested in a Power Meter, and my workouts became Power and Heart rate based.

My training plans and workouts have evolved and become a lot more focused since when I started in 2009. This all in alignment with my cycling goals and objectives.

Many a time I see cyclists that don’t develop training plans, goals, data log and track, and performance measure, and I wonder …….. Is this all necessary?

Do you think you can become the best you can be without a plan?

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Last Ride of 2011

It was a 6.30am start to a ride with some of The Hubsa members on 31 December 2011. We exchanged welcome pleasantries at the meeting point and wheels rolled immediately thereafter. There was plenty of chatting and sharing out on the road, and the social aspect of this ride made it the most social ride I have had in 2011. What a way to end a year and start the next. 

It turned into a very lekker experience for me to meet the persons behind the usernames I see on the hub on a regular basis. Being amongst a bunch of riders with goals and ambitions very similar to mine, to be competitive, and to improve in League and Seeding was refreshing and a personal learning in itself.

Meet and Greet

On the road through picturesque Durbanville 

Time for refuelling on the bike

Puncture stop

And a chat
The route was the 123km  99er race route, scheduled for 11 February 2012. The route is 15km longer than 2011's and is noticeably tougher, especially the added rolling hills early on. The heat and wind could also prove to be a challenge on race day. Keep an eye on weather reports, and train to ride in the wind would be advantageous.

To the guys I met on this ride, thanks for the experience and opportunity. I hope to see you at the local races and on the hub. Good luck and success with your cycling.

Lets Ride.