First Hour of Power

Interesting first ‘hour of power’ session.

hourofpower

Warm up for 5 minutes.  Then maintain about 90% of FTP and every 2 minutes put the hammer down for 30 seconds.  I managed 40 minutes of this nonsense before collapsing.

Still, not a bad first effort. 

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

Ventoux Tumblelog

I’ve started to put together a new tumblelog on Mont Ventoux.  Early doors yet but I should be able to get more stuff on there over the coming couple of weeks in anticipation of our ‘Cingles’ attempt.

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.

Carlos Ashtray’s TdF Jersey

On eBay with 48 minutes to go.  A snip at £1,220.  And no postage rip-off so get in there!

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.

Bike Skills

Awesome.  As kids probably used to say about 5 years ago.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z19zFlPah-o&hl=en]

Shopping!

“Lynn, I’ve been bad”.  In the words of Alan Partridge. 

I’ve bought one of these

And one of these

If you are tempted by the latter, go for a size smaller that you think.  Even the medium is pretty big on me.

Garmin Edge 705

I’ve had my Garmin for a year or thereabouts so this seems an apt time to say a few things about it.

I’ll make it easy by splitting into the good and bad things as I see them.

Good

  • Route Guidance The main reason I bought the unit was to make my life easier when riding unfamiliar routes.  I quickly tired of putting routes together online then carefully creating a ‘route sheet’ noting down every junction.  Not only was this time-consuming but it was very tedious on the road having to keep checking I was going the right way.  I’m now able to download the route directly on to the Garmin and see the route superimposed on to the map on the screen.  Simple and brilliant.  The only time I go wrong now is when I forget to look down!
  • Not just a GPS The Garmin is not just a GPS device.  It also measures speed, gradient, climb, heart rate, cadence, power (if you bike is suitably equipped with a PowerTap or SRM) – in fact everything that a self-respecting cyclist might want.
  • Display options The display options are brilliant.  The ‘mode’ button can be used to toggle through the main display and the map.  The display has two views and each can have up to 8 different parameters (speed, cadence, etc) which are entirely customisable.  The map page (as pictured above) works likewise with wholly customisable options.
  • Magic It’s quite infeasible that Garmin have managed to pack so much into such a small (albeit not by bike computer standards!) package.  Postcodes, addresses, stations, routing, altimeter, routes, history, etc, etc.
  • Updates After a shaky start, Garmin responded quickly with firmware upgrades correcting early problems.
  • Service I had a problem with my unit displaying cadence.  I sent it off to Garmin and, to my surprise, received back a brand new unit with heart rate monitor, cadence unit, etc.

Bad

  • Cost There’s no hiding behind the fact that the unit is pretty expensive.  In addition, unless you get a bundle in the first place, the additional items (cadence unit, stem mount, etc) can cost more than a new bike computer!
  • Confusion Waypoints, trackpoints, GPX, courses, history, tracks, routes… What does it all mean?  To be honest, I still don’t know.  The documentation is poor to say the least and, despite many hours of research, I never fully got to grips with what it all meant.  It took me a long time to find a solution to downloading a route from Bikely, getting it onto the Garmin and setting it up in such a way that the unit didn’t screw it up.  This might all work much better now with subsequent releases of software, but having invested so much effort in finding an acceptable solution I can’t be bothered to get back to basics are start afresh.
  • Bracket Mounts The handlebar mounts are rubbish.  They only last a couple of months, are made of flimsy plastic, and cost about a tenner to replace.
  • Maps Why does the map alone for the unit cost more than the entire unit with the same map for a car!?
  • Basemap The unit comes with a basemap which is a complete pile of shit forcing you to buy additional maps.  This seems a bit unreasonable to me.
  • Reliability I’ve had quite a few issues with the unit and have twice had to send it back to Garmin.
  • Software The software for the PC is pretty dated and, frankly, poor.  And confusing.  Different bits of software, some desktop, some online, doing seemingly overlapping things.  The software doesn’t even seem to ‘read’ formats that come directly of the unit for goodness sake.
  • Acquiring Satellites The start of my rides are often marred by waiting for the unit to ‘acquire satellites’ which is pretty irritating.

Overall

Overall?  The Garmin is expensive.  And it has quite a few irritating faults.  But I think it is a totally brilliant bit of kit.  It has a bit of a ‘first version’ feel and you expect to pay a bit of a price if you are an early adopter.  But Garmin seem to be a good company and quickly responded to the unit’s early issues.

I would genuinely struggle without it now.  Last weekend I went to the Brecon Beacons; I was able to download two great routes from Bikely – created by others – in no time at all and was able to explore a completely unknown area without a second thought.

If you haven’t got one already – go buy one!

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!