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