Sunday, 25 October 2009
Thursday, 22 October 2009
I know I said I'd work on a nutritional plan this week – and I did make changes to the crappy way I eat which are starting to pay off in my riding.
But then my kids made these caramel and candy coated pears for Halloween, and we went out of town for the weekend and ate on the road, and, well, we’ll come back to nutrition next week.
This is why, with five weeks to go, I needed an alternative focus for the week. Since every piece of advice I get about riding in El Tour de Tucson says that hitting that 5:30 goal will only be possible if I work with groups of riders, I decided to analyse my group riding skills to see if I can make improvements.
We’ve all ridden in groups, right? Probably most of us are comfortable riding side by side with other riders or tucked right up behind someone else’s wheel. But most of my experience is in groups I’m comfortable with; where I got to spend a few rides getting to know the dynamics of the group, spot the fastest wheels and figure out who’s the most likely to cut me off when they move in front of me.
In the Tucson event, I will have no prep, no time to ease in. So I jotted down a list of rules and reminders to carry in my head while riding in a group. (Caveat: these are my personal rules for working in a pack effectively and safely. I’m not trying to create The Definitive Guide to Pack Riding. There are at least 1,000 pros who could probably come up with a better list.)
Leading the group at the start is impressive, but dumb – Too often, I am excited to start a big ride and put myself near the front of the group. Before I know it (and usually just before the ride really heats up), I end up on the front, wearing myself thin to avoid looking like a wimp by dropping back to the shelter of someone else’s draft. For me, too much work too early is a recipe for losing grip when things get fun and fast. I should either take the very first pull so I can have enough time to rest before the speed picks up or sit in the back until the real ride begins.
Six inches is close enough – Staying close to another rider’s wheel can be unnerving but I know it provides the best shelter from the wind. The best approach to following, for me, is to focus on getting to within six inches, to find the position directly behind or off to one side that shields me the most from the elements, and avoid overlapping wheels with the rider in front. Closer than six inches and any change in my leader’s momentum (they get out of the saddle, move to avoid an object in the road or hit their brakes) and I could be on the ground before I can react to the danger.
Get in the drops – I sometimes forget that the lower extensions of the handlebars on my road bike can be held while riding, giving me a more aerodynamic profile and letting me save even more energy when riding behind someone else. This is especially important to remember when riding behind a shorter person or getting close to the front of the group (where the cumulative effect of multiple riders blocking the wind is lessened).
Look three riders ahead – I’m scared to crash. I’ve seen minor falls result in massive carnage. Although there’s no ultimate assurance against crashing, I can see trouble forming much better by keeping an eye three riders up the line rather than zoning out on the wheel in front of me. This also lets me react to changes in the group’s momentum sooner.
Have an escape route – I get really nervous when there is more than one rider on my left and a curb or other riders on the right. I should always have an escape route out of the group.
Take smart pulls – When it’s time to go to the front, it is important for me to remember to keep the speed consistent and take a fair pull. For me, that amounts to staying there for 15 to 30 seconds before rolling off and drifting to the back.
Catch the caboose – I get dropped so many times by missing the tail end of a riding group after taking a pull. If I am smart about my pull and don’t overdo it, I should be able to catch the train as it passes. The key is not letting my speed drop too much when I come off the front, then keeping an eye out for the back of the line and starting to accelerate when there are two or three riders left to pass me. I can usually slot right into the back of the group after that and recover.
Close gaps without blowing up – Sometimes, no matter how well I stay with the wheel in front of me, speed changes up the group cause a gap to open. Too many times, this is where I get dropped – I quit in frustration from not being able to keep up or blow up trying to hook back on. What I need to remember is that if I avoid panic, get in the drops and focus on consistent speed, I can usually close gaps in a controlled manner.
You will not die if you sprint to close a gap – When pulling a gap back gradually doesn’t work, it's better to downshift and sprint across the gap like a Green Jersey is on the line than simply fall away and get stuck riding without the shared energy and protection of a group.
It’s okay to drop out – I plan to start El Tour as hard as I can to get into the best possible group to reach my ultimate goal of 5:30. But there may come a time when I need to realise my limitations. Rather than blowing up by gutting it out in too fast a group in the first 50 miles, I need to remember to be smart, drop back, spin a little to recover and grab the next group riding by.
I had a consistent week executing the training plan – sprint ride, tempo ride, mountain climb and weekend ride – and I feel like I am on track for Tucson but thinking through group ride tactics was good for me.
I carried that fanny pack of happy thoughts into Saturday’s 65-mile fast group ride and I am happy to say I was with the fast group a lot longer than even one week ago (three-quarters of the ride rather than one quarter).
I got to use pretty much every rule on the list at least once but the ones that had the most impact were ‘Closing Gaps Without Blowing Up’ and ‘You Will Not Die If You Sprint To Close a Gap’. Good times.
Sunday, 18 October 2009
Is it possible to predict with a high degree of confidence how you’ll do in your most important race every season? I believe it is. Of course, without a crystal ball you’re never going to be able to predict with 100% confidence, but I think it’s possible to get a strong sense of how well you will do. There are three predictors I’ve found that hold the secret to how you are likely to do in the big race. Assuming you have the physiological potential to achieve a realistic but challenging goal, here are the three questions to ask to predict your success.
1. How did your training go in the 12 weeks leading up to the race? By this I mean how consistently you trained in the final, critical 84 days. During this period you must avoid gaps in training for any reason including the most common ones: unusual commitments (your spouse and boss will love this one), injury, burnout, illness, and overtraining. Any of these will put your chances of success well below 50-50. It’s not great workouts during these 84 days that do the trick; it’s consistent training. You simply can’t miss workouts. Ever. The trick is moderation and the wise expenditure of energy. You must be smart enough to keep from digging a deep hole of fatigue. Yet at the same time your training needs to increasingly simulate the race in some way one to three times each week. It’s a balancing act and difficult to get right. But if you pull it off your chances of success in the race are greatly enhanced.
I’ll give you a good example of this. An Ironman triathlete I coached this year became sick 87 days before his
So then we aimed for a second qualifier 10 weeks later. We allowed for seven days to partially recover from the first Ironman race and gradually began to work our way back to normal training during the following seven days. Now there were eight weeks left. However, two of those weeks would be tapering and peaking. So actually we had six weeks to train. We were unsuccessful a second time. He certainly had what it takes to qualify and had done so before. Basically, and entire season was lost because of a 10-day illness during the critical 84 days.
2. How well do the course and conditions match your strengths? You may not have control over this predictor since some events, such as championships, are tied to given courses. You must then train to do as well as you can on that course by improving your limiters and taking advantage of your strengths whenever possible. But if you have the option to choose a course, be sure to pick one that matches your abilities. Considerations would be length, hills, turns, terrain surface conditions, altitude, and weather - especially rain, snow, heat, humidity and wind.
Your other condition concern is competition. You have no control over who shows up in your category, but with some research and past experience you can probably make an educated guess about who is likely to be there. In some events, especially road bike races, your outcome is very sensitive to the strategies and tactics of the other competitors. Knowing who they are and how they generally race may help you make a decision about which race to select. If the competition is time trial-based, such as a triathlon or running race, then knowing who is likely to be there and how well they race are critical pieces in the prediction.
If the course and conditions don’t suit your strengths then your chances of success are again less than 50-50.
3. How much do you want it? A peak race performance will take you to your limits. In other words, it will hurt. Are you willing and able to suffer to achieve your goal? Hard races have a way of showing that of which we are made. When the time comes to take it to the limit do you have what it takes to hang on or do you often crack? I know this all sounds very macho, and maybe it is. But that’s a big part of what competition is about. It takes great motivation to continue when your muscles are screaming at you to stop. Some people seem to be very good at this. It may be as much a physical ability as a mental one. Some may simply be better suited physically to tolerate pain. Then again, it may be something that their lives have prepared them to handle. Do you tolerate pain well and are you highly motivated to succeed? Then your chances are good.
Before your biggest race of the season ask yourself the three questions above. If all answers are positive predictors then your chance of achieving your race goal is very high. I’d be willing to place a bet on you in
Friday, 16 October 2009
Alex Glasgow of Nevis Cycles RT narrowly missed a podium place at the World Masters in Pra Loup France. After a great XC season where Alex took on the best that the GB have - and demolished them he got a place at the Worlds and had an outstanding race.
I despair that local and UK national press make nothing of these major achievments. Even British Cycling which IMHO is an English centric Olympic body have not publicised these two lads much. Well if they won't do it we local riders can at least offer a "chapeu" as is customery in French cycling in recognition of a big effort or achievment.
Tuesday, 13 October 2009
The cycle back up glen etive from sea level is hard. All in, this is quite a hard ride for one so short. Mainly because you are climbing a lot and even the desecents are on the pedals. A good sportive training run. Really enjoyable ride and nice to meet up with the keepers many of whom I have been on mountain rescue with both as boy and man. The run up the glen left me reflecting on how much a loss it is to MR that these gents of the hills are less commonly involved now. I remembered a time in a house at 05.00am in a winters morning when I was 19. I had fallen a fair distance and had one trouser leg ripped off , a shredded leg and lost a glove and frost nipped fingers. After getting ourselves down off the hill and to the cottage for help I had venison piece, a dram and dettol soaked dressings applied in quick time. I still remember the kindness of the Elliots and the Highland tradition of help and not turning anyone away. It still lives on today but is maybe in further corners of the hills and glens.
Wednesday, 7 October 2009
Monday, 5 October 2009
Sunday, 4 October 2009
The "Wallow Wood" red trail starts below here. Below is the view East.
Saturday, 3 October 2009
Knee pain is back after a last night and the long ride the day before, so it's back into the running shoes and some base endurance training. Still very windy so better watch the tree's. Thought about the Relentless 24 but can't bear 24 hours of going round in circles. I need long single loops or starts with logical ends, so looking forward to the winter league XC races. The Tour of Ben Nevis next year might be up my street, so will see what that's about.