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


  1. Nice Write up, good luck with this week's training and look forward to next week's race report.