SERRL Kenardington 15 Aug 2010

 

My third road race of the year – and third ever for that matter.  The other two went really well and I scored 5th and 2nd places overall.  After an indifferent – at best – run in circuit races there was a little bit of pressure to a) score a couple of points and b) prove the other outings weren’t flukes.

Outset

No doubt about it; the SERRL races are fantastically well organised and run.  Support vehicles, motorbike outriders, rolling road closure – the cycling peasants can briefly ride like kings.

So I line up with 59 or so other riders who are variously better trained, in better shape, have better genetics and physiology, aren’t pushing 40 and have more time to train.  You get the idea.  Getting a result is somewhat against the odds.

I promised myself I would not repeat the mistakes of yesterweek and respond to and try and get in to every break.  If I was going to do something it would be in the last 10km – the last thing I wanted was a repeat of last week which was a severe arse-kicking at the start of the race with nothing to show for it at the end.

First Half

Four other Bigfoot riders were also at the race; DaveM, ReubenE, PaulS and recently crowned 2nd Cat veteran SteveS.  Steve got in an early break whilst I was quite content to stick in the peloton and generally chill,  barely getting a workout.  One of the cruel travesties of cycling is that riding in the bunch is largely un-taxing at this level, but getting and staying away is very hard work indeed.  There are no prizes for doing something in-between these two extremes.

I was finding time for regular doses of “humour” directed at my teammates.  Average HR for the first half 155bpm.  Tempo at best.

Second Half

This all stopped abruptly when I ended up off the front of the bunch.  I can’t remember what precipitated this madness – it was only half-way through the race and the very last thing I wanted to do was spend the last hour killing myself.  I did my oddly normal trick.  Have half a go off the front.  Realise I’m not going to make enough gap.  Back off.  Realise that the peloton hasn’t made an impression and think ‘fuck it’ and have a proper go.  Weird.

I spent about 25 minutes in no-mans land.  Between a breakaway of two riders and the bunch.  At one point the game was nearly up as a furtive check behind revealed a looming shark of riders.  However I pressed on and caught the two-man breakaway. 

I got my breath back and we started working.  One of the guys was shot and couldn’t contribute to the pace-setting so it was down to me and a guy from San Fairy Ann CC rider to stay away.  We took good turns and at one point I thought I might be able to take the win feeling pretty decent on the small climbs on the circuit.

We had about 40 seconds gap for the last lap; not enough to relax and enjoy the moment that’s for sure. I had one last push on the last climb to see if I could put a gap into the other rider.  No chance.  And no chance of me producing a sprint at the end either.

So second place over the line.  I get the nasty feeling that, in my confusion, my celebration crossing the line might have been a lame thumbs up – I hope there’s no photographic evidence!

Average HR for the second half – 174bpm.  Threshold.

Conclusion

SERRL road races are great.  It was terrific to get another decent placing.  It would have been nice to have got the win of course and it did cross my mind.  But much better to guarantee 2nd place than take big risks and end up 25th.  First of the losers again!

Great to ride with the other Bigfooters who finished in the bunch.  SteveS did a job for me apparently marshalling the bunch but alas out of my sight.

Fowlmead 7th August 2010

It’s been kind of quiet round here for a while.  I had a couple of chilled weeks after the Marmotte – eating a lot of what I fancied and generally recuperating whilst I considered my strategy for the rest of the season. 

Problem…

I’ve had very little joy going round in relatively small circles (ie crits and circuit races) and after a fractious but productive meeting with my some time coach Jo McRae I confirmed my plan to have a proper go at this type of riding.

I have a pet theory that I need to dispel; or at least confirm either way. I have a seemingly limitless capacity for endurance riding which makes me believe that I’m blessed in the Type I fibre department. Which would mean that I’m less well blessed in the Type II fibre department which is precisely what I need for shorter races.  However, I have not trained at intensities much beyond threshold – ever – so who knows?  Maybe I’m a brilliant all-rounder that just needs to adjust his training slightly. 

Planned Solution

So my plan is to do a bag load of HIT (high intensity training) specifically targeting my MAP (max aerobic power).  So I did an arse-kicking test and confirmed this to be about 420W or so.  Ever since then my training looks a little like this.

intervals

If I’m racing then so be it, if I’m not then I do blocks of HIT followed by rest.

Anyway, the race…

Fowlmead’s a nice little circuit.  Not much in the way of altitude changes but a good, long, well surfaced, fast lap.  And windy.  And you can see the sea.  After a bit of a tedious pre-amble; the race was delayed by about 30 minutes without warning, we were off.  My first ever 3rd cat only race.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect so I set off without too much hope although anything resembling a Cancellara-style solo break would have sufficed.  DaveC was also doing the race which was a bonus – “stay off the front was his advice”.  Two minutes later, who was engaged in a heroic solo effort off the front?  DaveC.

When Dave was caught another break went.  For some reason I went with it.  The pack bought us back in.  Then another, stronger break went immediately.  Still out of breath from the first effort I doggedly got involved in this one too.  And so we stayed; 3 of us for 30 minutes.  It seriously hurt – post-ride analysis showed that my heart rate averaged 180bpm for the duration of the break.  My max is meant to be 185bpm although after this race this has been revised to 189bpm.  But still.  Hard work.

And… all this was before Rach, Annabelle and an old (and wonderful) family friend turned up to spectate.  Eventually we were caught and absorbed back into the peloton. Great.  Half an hour killing myself for nothing and surely having compromised any hope I had of a decent finish.  And still 40 minutes of racing to go!

Still, best put on a show.

paul-fowlmead

I then switched to my standard strategy of endlessly working  on the front of the bunch.  Unwittingly chasing down breaks and generally exhausting myself.

Naturally after all of this nonsense I didn’t place very well.  A successful break went at some point and I trailed in probably around about 15th or so – comfortably out of the points.

Result

Consolations.  A very good workout.  And it was great to see DaveC – who had a good energetic race but with a similar result to me. 

dave-fowlmead

In the end, as I routinely find in these races, I was strong but unable to translate this into a meaningful result.  But what I do know is that it’s easy to convince yourself you are strong when you’re pissing around for the first 95% of the race – strong people actually do well in the last 5%!

Crystal Palace 2nd June 2009

“Tis a beautiful night for a kicking” I twittered.

10876047 I was right on two counts.  It was a stunning summer’s (ok technically late spring) evening and if anything a too warm.  DaveM and I cycled up straight for work and got our race numbers.

Alas I was also right on the second count too – I got a kicking!  After the last outing when I felt strong in the bunch right until the end and was possibly a touch unlucky not to get a placing in the top 10 I was feeling pretty hopeful. 

Off we went – 33 laps planned.  There were so many riders that it felt impossible to make any progress through the bunch so I patiently sat in to see what would happen.

I was even more hopeful when the pace for the first couple of laps felt comfortable.  The first bad thing to happen was an involuntary trip through the shrubbery on the climb on the back part of the circuit.  A rider a couple of places in front had a ‘moment’, which caused the rider in front of me to brake hard which forced me to take evasive action.  I was forced off the track and into a bush but fortunately I managed to recover back to the track in one piece.  Though I didn’t appreciate the effort trying to get back the places that I’d lost.

From this point on the race felt hard.  The pace quickened and I just couldn’t get comfortable.  It was depressing sitting in the bunch feeling that all  I could manage was to barely keep pace.  The only place where I felt strong-ish was on the climb at the back where I seem to have better than average pace. 

DaveM did well to hang on for as long as he did but bailed after about 10 laps having lost sight of the bunch some laps before.

I settled in but could tell that I was labouring.  I expected the pace to drop as it had in previous weeks but if anything the pace quickened.  I came out of the back at about 20 laps but decided to press on in case the pace dropped.  With what felt like a herculean effort I managed to get myself back onto the main bunch.  However, this was to be my final act of defiance – by lap 25 I’d had my chips as my whole body gave out on the climb.  I coasted back to the start/finish line and packed.

So, my first DNF.  This was a bit disheartening.  Despite these races ‘only’ being for training, I do care where I finish.  And I certainly care that I finish at all although I’m not prepared to cruise round once I’ve been dropped getting in everyone else’s way!

There was a nasty looking crash on the fastest bend involving a few riders including cycling ‘royalty’ Matt Seaton.  Some poor chap had his posh Cervelo frame broken too.  Hearsay has it that the accident was caused by a backmarker which does not surprise me.  There seem to be a few riders that turn up and pay their tenner to get dropped after a couple of laps, then hang round and cause trouble – what’s not to understand of “stay right”?

Anyway, I shall not bore you with my excuses.  I rode hard – average speed was just over 39km/h and my average heart rate 176bpm which is about 95% of my max – the latter of which I also hit!

I felt de-hydrated during the race and had a headache after I finished.  So I should try and take or more fluids in the future I guess.  On the plus side my ‘cramping’ left calf didn’t  play up during the ride so that was something.

Next week will be better… :-)

Hog Hill Heart Rate

My heart rate plot from the race on Saturday is almost art!  Here’s 24 laps of colour-coded heart rate madness.

hoghillhr

Hog Hill 25th April

Another first for me; a 3rd/4th category race at the Redbridge Cycling Centre AKA Hogs Hill.

This is the circuit that was in the press recently that replaces a circuit called Eastway that was demolished to make way for the Olympic developments.  It’s a custom-built, 2km or so track which is twisty and has a nice climb at the end of each lap.  In addition to a great track surface there also changing rooms, a cafe and timing chips and… well, everything really.  Brilliant.  Well worth the £4.5million spend!

I was a bit iffy about the race having pulled a muscle in my calf this week. It doesn’t hurt that much but I was worried about making it worse and hampering my training – Mont Ventoux looms (literally) in a couple of weeks time.

Anyway, I thought I’d go along all the same.  I took my big camera so that, at least if I had to bail, I’d be able to use my time effectively by getting some decent pictures of the race in general, and two club mates – Steve and PaulS – in particular.

PaulS picked me up and we headed up to the track.  It was a bit of a trek but there’s always plenty to talk about cycling-wise so it we had a good catch-up. 
We arrived at the track in good time and found Steve in the car park.  We cast admiringly glances at each other’s equipment, then checked out each others bikes.

A quick swap of race license for race numbers later and change into kit and we were off for a quick couple of warm up laps of the track.  Fantastic.  Windy.  But fantastic.

I had an endless stream of piss coming out, probably due to the ‘mental powder’ High5 Extreme energy drink.

We lined up for the race; probably about 40 of us I guess and we were off.  The early pace was reasonably relaxed, at least compared to the madness of Crystal Palace during the week.  I felt a bit more confident amongst the other riders as we made steady progress around the circuit.  The race would be run for one hour and then 5 further laps.

My plan was simple; tuck in, stay out of trouble and get a nice high intensity ride in.  However noble or otherwise my intentions I was not able to stick to them.  I found that, as the pace was just below my ‘all out’ pace I was constantly tempted to ride on and off the front.  This meant riding at or beyond my threshold pace for large parts of the ride.

I managed to push myself pretty hard, increasing my recorded maximum heart rate to a whole new level – 193bpm or 3.75% higher than my previous ‘best’.

I kept expecting to hit the wall, but when really fatigued I tucked back into the bunch to recover which happened reassuringly quickly.  Meantime Steve was spending a good deal of time at the front end of the bunch and PaulS riding a good conservative race staying out of trouble.

A few breakaways were attempted by none successful – not least my own ridiculous hubristic efforts.

With an hour done the 5 lap marker was displayed which was something of a relief.  The big hill before the start/finish line was starting to hurt.  PaulS was starting to make regular appearances towards the front of the bunch as was looking pretty fresh. 

I found myself at the front again, unintentionally, and again tired.  On a straight bit of the circuit I thought I’d treat myself to a little drink before re-composing myself for the hill.  At which point Steve screams ‘put that down’ and zoomed off into the distance – the implication clearly that I was somehow meant to follow!  Duly chastened I calmly replaced my water bottle and set about trying to chase him down.  Already knackered this was no mean feat and it didn’t really happen.  Either way we were quickly caught by the bunch.

With one lap to go I was convinced that the whole bunch was going to come zooming past me.  Instead I found myself pretty much at the front all the way to the last climb of the day.  At this point I got my arse roundly whipped and ended up finishing, well, just about nowhere which was rather amusing.  Steve also, probably fatigued from our ill-advised attack, didn’t have much left for the last climb.

I parked up and chatted to Steve who I think was a bit disappointed in the end – an hour and twenty minutes of pretty solid effort to be outgunned in the last 30 seconds can do that I guess.  PaulS rocked up a couple of minutes later saying ‘what happened to you boys?’.  He’d only gone a finished 4th!  Brilliant effort at the end of the race.

All in all a good ride.  Great training for me.  Racing is very much a secondary goal this year – not least as having lower expectations leads to much less disappointment when the inevitably indifferent results start rolling in.

Having said that, 2 races in one week, and I’m starting to get a bit hooked.  Suddenly pottering around doing 100 mile sportives seems a bit unambitious.  Maybe it’s the endorphins…

Stats here.

First Race at Crystal Palace

Phew.  Just back from my first proper race.

My plan for racing is not to take it too seriously but to add a bit of edge to my fitness, replace a turbo session or two and to have fun.

Doubtless the first two criteria were met and, now I’ve recovered, I think the third was too.

Anyway, I left work 13 minutes early (the specificity can be explained by my work colleagues who, when the boot was on the other foot, were very keen on precise timekeeping), quickly cycled home, got changed, jumped in the car and headed off to Crystal Palace.  I wanted to leave plenty of time to make sure that I can find out where I was meant to park,  sign in, leave my stuff, etc.  For some reason I was a little nervous about the whole endeavour so I wanted to leave little to chance and to minimise unnecessary stress.

Arriving in plenty of time I queued for eternity to swap my newly minted racing license for my numbers which would be pinned to my jersey.  The organisation was a complete shambles; I’m afraid no matter how generously people give their time it does not grant them blanket immunity from criticism of the embarrassing levels of incompetence on display.

It was a beautiful spring evening and I got a chance to chill for a few minutes before DaveC turned up.  It was great to see a familiar face and we had a chat and Dave straightened out my crudely pinned race numbers.  It was very kind of Dave to come along and provide some moral support and also to take pictures!

We waited for the kids race to finish (which was brilliant – reminiscent of seeing kids skiing in a way) before getting a chance to do a couple of warm-up laps.

Soon enough it was time to line up for the race.  There were a good few riders!

And off we went.  Clip, clip – cleats engaged and we were away. 

The course consists of a long straight, a hairpin then a couple of sharp-ish bends, a hill then back to the start.

Despite being warned, I wasn’t quite prepared for the pace.  My heart rate rarely dropped below 170bpm and peaked at 184bpm – my max is 186bpm.  And I’m an old man!

It was hard work for sure, but I wasn’t getting dropped which was good news.  Though I did find it a bit tricky to get used to the rhythm of the race which seemed distinctly uneven.  There appeared to be a good deal of extra effort put in after every tight bend.  I’m not sure why as I can’t see that this is an efficient method of maximising the use of the scarce resource of available energy.

Furthermore I was continually being passed when I thought I was following the rider in front at a sensible distance and speed.  Anyway, more experience for next time.

The laps wore on and I started to feel a bit fatigued.  Fortunately the pace backed off a little.  I was showing good form I felt and on the climb usually managing to make up a couple of places without too much trouble.  I even managed to sneak up into the top 5 for a bit.

At some point the race got split.  I’m not sure entirely what happened but when we were caught by the 1st/2nd cats (who started a minute before us) there was a bit of confusion and the group got split up and I’m pretty sure I lost out and missed a bunch of riders that ‘got away’.

However, I must have been up towards the front of the pack overall and was in pretty good shape compared to those around me; generally losing out on the technical sections of the course and making up ground on the climb.

Interestingly I had no idea how long the race was going to go on for.  At 30 minutes I thought that if I was only half-way there I was going to be in trouble.  At 39 minutes the race was stopped which was part-disappointing and part-relief. 

For the last 3 or 4 laps I started to suffer with a bit of cramp which was frustrating but I was able to ride through it.

Dave managed one last snap of me looking  composed :-)

And that was that really.  I’ve no idea where I finished or how well I did.  When getting my license back I was again to experience unbearable administrative uselessness.

Overall though  I felt surprisingly confident in the bunch and, I think, with a couple more rides like this to boost my ‘top end fitness’, I should be able to put in some reasonable showings.  We’ll see.  I’m hoping to make a regular thing of the ride.

A massive thanks to Dave again, for coming along and providing support and for taking some great pictures.

Click for more pictures and ride stats.

British Racing License

Well, it has arrived.

I’m not quite sure why and what benefits I get, but I now have a British Cycling Racing License.

I’m hoping to get involved in a race at Crystal Palace on Tuesday night if all goes well, where I fully expect to get my ass roundly kicked!