Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Why I always wear a baselayer

Even in a skinsuit. Even when tempted in hot weather to leave it home, I always wear at least a sleeveless light baselayer between me and my jersey. Why?  Because if I crash, I know that the material of the two garments will slide against each other as I slide down the road, hopefully saving my skin from painful road rash. Ever see a pro rider in a race after a high-speed crash, riding down the road with a half-melted skinsuit and huge patches of raw red skin where it just scraped off him?   Ouch.  I'd like to avoid that if possible, even if it means I'm a bit warmer than I'd like to be.

This summer I crashed at nearly 50km/h on a bumpy road during a road race.

This is what my jersey looked like after the crash.

My baselayer had a small hole in it underneath. My back was absolutely fine. Knee, elbow and hip were different stories though. Which got me thinking again, why aren't cycling shorts reinforced at the hip and buttock -- the most common places to crash and rip -- with some kind of thin kevlar? Or at the very least a second layer of lycra material so that impact with the road would see the layers sliding against each other rather than the single layer sliding against one's skin? Hmm...  I must not be the first person to think of this.

My helmet looked like this by the way.

That dent in the left side came from another rider crashing into me, not from hitting the ground. Helmets are mandatory in road racing around here and you won't catch me going without one on my race bike either solo or on the group ride anyway. I once crashed at about 5km/h on a easy-paced club run and spun around to hit the ground with the back of my head. Helmet compressed and smashed, me with a bad headache. Would have been a lot worse if I hadn't had one. Both helmets were sent off to be replaced with new ones for half the cost on the helmet manufacturer's crash replacement policy. Shame that the one this summer was only one day old! (yes, really... it had literally arrived the day before and had been ridden for about 2 hours before its untimely demise).

I always wear a baselayer.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Winning weekend (yes I'm back!)

Well it's been a long time since I've posted to my blog. Nearly 14 months... and a lot has happened in that time. More to be written about that in future posts once I come up with some nice charts and stats. But in the meantime, I'm back to racing and back to winning! It's a nice feeling. :)

Last Saturday was our club open hill climb, the John Bornhoft Memorial. I won this event in 2010 handily but having raced only sporadically this year I wasn't sure how I would do. To make matters worse, I have had a headcold since early September that never really went away and then came back with full force on Friday. So I wasn't heading into the weekend in the best of shape. On the plus side, I'm nearly 3lbs lighter than 2010 which is obviously helpful in hill climbing!

In the end, I managed to go 2.5 seconds faster than two years ago and win by nearly seven seconds -- though Emily is getting closer and closer every year! My watts were the same as 2010 so I'm hoping that means I'm on form for some better hill climb performances in the next few weeks once this silly cold finally clears off.

Suffering badly, as is the case with all hill climbs! Thanks to Patron Choufflard for the pic.

Then on Sunday morning at silly o'clock (for me on a Sunday anyway!) I headed out to race at the new Cyclopark circuit. Having only raced there once before and under the worst weather conditions (I DNF'ed) I was keen but nervous to give it a try again. I needn't have really worried -- if I overestimated my fitness early this season, I'm underestimating it nowadays. Only 11 riders showed up for the start, and with me needing 7 points to keep my 2nd cat licence, I thought 3rd place was certainly do-able.

Turned out that a break of three was established within the first two laps and there was no looking back. KW teammate Jasmijn and former-KW-now-Wyndymilla rider Emily were my break companions and we worked together well to stay ahead of everyone else. In fact, we lapped all but one rider. Emily looked tired after a long season of racing where she's really upped her game, and Jasmijn was happy to give me a hand, having won there herself on a solo break a few weeks back. In the end, knowing I would not outsprint Emily if I left it to the last 100m, I attacked with about a minute to go on a small rise and got a big enough gap to take the win comfortably. Mission accomplished and after a frustrating start-stop season of road racing I can be satisfied ending it on a win and retaining my 2nd cat license for next year. Onto hill climb season proper now!

My game face at the start (pic by organisers Handsling Racing)

Lastly, KW clubmate Andy Taylor has made a brilliant video of the hill climb with a detailed view of the course and every competitor climbing past "cowbell corner". Rewind to watch the whole thing if you have time, it's quite a nice bit of editing! I've embedded it to start with me riding past and right after that is Jim running up the hill pushing Otter in the stroller... another year and she'll be on her own little balance bike whizzing around the trails.

Friday, 12 August 2011


Before I had Otter, I had fitness. I had watts. I had several seasons of consistent training and racing, virtually injury-free, and with some pretty decent results.

This is what my PMC looked like:
January to October 2010: Before Otter

In January I was just starting to rebuild after a couple of months off following the Ironman world championships in mid-October, and 2010 was the season I went from triathlete to cyclist. The big peaks indicate periods of huge training loads (February in Lanzarote, April with lots of road racing, July at the Ras Cymru). Between the peaks -- which were followed by actual peaks in performance -- there are a few troughs where life took over: illness, minor injuries, holidays. The end of the season in early October coincided with peaking for hill climbs, thus shorter more intense training sessions for very short (~5 minute) races. Over the whole season I went from a CTL of just under 70 to a peak of over 120, then tailed off to 85 by end of season.

With this in mind, I had great ideas of how life would be once she was born, how I would take a few weeks to recover then get back into shape as quickly as possible. Hours-long road races and TTs were out, of course, but shorter stuff like hill climbs seemed like just the thing I could do after childbirth. Supposedly my extra red blood cells would mean a kick to my Vo2max and everyone knows that you lose weight while breastfeeding, right? HA HA.

This is my PMC now:
October 2010 to August 2011: After Otter

From the 85 I was at last October, my CTL fell dramatically over the winter, picked up again in spring, then went into freefall to an all-time low of 30 at the start of August. I'm holding that steady now, but not really building it back up, though that's more due to lack of time to train than lack of desire.

But even with an unplanned c-section (and my fitness did play a big role in helping me recover quickly from that), I still thought post-birth that I could fulfill my pre-birth expectations. Two weeks afterwards I rode my bike for the first time -- stamina was low, legs felt terrible, but ah the fresh air! The wind on my face and the sun on my arms! Never mind the watts.

Then a few more weeks passed and my power didn't seem to be improving. Worse yet my body just didn't want to push itself much. And apart from the massive weight loss I got in the week after she was born, I wasn't losing any more! It felt like I was newly pregnant again -- outwardly not looking too bad, but inwardly no legs, no motivation, no power. And no sleep to boot. Still, I was happy to be out on the bike. Though starting to rethink my expectations a bit. Ok, definitely no road races. Probably not even a 10 mile TT, especially with wrecked ab muscles and a sore lower back in desperate need of some core work. Even hill climbing, that beacon of hope in the distance, was starting to look pretty unlikely.

Nine weeks in, I now have to admit that 2011 is going to be a washout season. My FTP has barely climbed from the 185 watts I had in April to 205 watts today. Last year's 240-250 watts seems like a dream. The last 5kgs of pregnancy weight is not going to come off my body without a fight -- probably not til Christmas when Otter starts to wean, or maybe even later til I completely stop breastfeeding. Which means that there's no way I'll attempt hill-climbing, which is all about low weight and high watts. Pretty much the opposite of what I have now!

So 2011 is the season that wasn't. Quite forgettable in athletic terms... yet so memorable in life terms. We have the best prize of all -- we have Otter! What's a few missed races and lost watts when I have a beautiful kid to show for my efforts.


How long til she's on a bike of her own?

Saturday, 18 June 2011

New Beginnings

I should have known that going out and buying a swimsuit appropriate for my 9-months-pregnant body would mean I'd use it once and promptly go into labour. And that's exactly what happened, I went for a swim on Monday night, the day after my due date, and that night woke up in a puddle. Four days of latent labour, full waters being broken, induction leading to the most pain I've ever felt in my life, and a c-section later, we had our little one, a girl we've named Otter. She weighed 8lbs 9oz at birth, but at only 19 inches long it's looking like she takes after short stocky me rather than tall lanky Jim. She was a superstar throughout the entire labour, her HR very steady and showing no distress, and scoring a 9 out of 10 on the one-minute Apgar test (10 out of 10 at five minutes). In fact, she appears to be very strong and fit and the midwives have nothing but compliments for us.

Despite a stressful and tiring labour for me -- both physically and emotionally -- I'm recovering well (something I chalk up to my great fitness going into it) and already looking forward to when I can get on my bike again. I'll give it another week then start out with gentle spinning on the turbo and see how it goes. My CTL has already plummetted to below 50 in the short time I've been off the bike, with more to lose before I can start back again, but that was to be expected.

Otter at 24hrs old
Otter at 24hrs old

Just in case it sounds like I'm bragging or overconfident or anything... let it be known that I'm really just getting through each day as it comes, trying to catch sleep when I can, nursing very sore nipples (and massive knockers, wahey!) and generally letting Otter lead me as to what she needs and when. Having a newborn glued to you nearly 24/7 is quite a bit harder than I imagined. When Jim goes back to work next week it'll be even more challenging. But it seems Otter is a pretty easy baby so there's that to be thankful for at least!

I have no idea what I'm doing!

So over the next little while, I'll be doing more supporting than riding while Jim does a few TTs he's entered. I'll have to live my racing life a bit vicariously through him, though I hope myself to manage a 10-mile TT by end of summer, then a few hill climbs. Racing a crit isn't out of the question but I'm not holding myself to it. Longer road races are quite unlikely as I just won't have the time to train for or race them well. Instead I'll dig out my running shoes again and start to build up the miles there for the autumn cross-country season. Once Otter is big enough to go in a jogger, we'll buy one. But I think a bike seat is still a long ways off!

My favourite view of Jim in TT mode

Sunday, 5 June 2011

June 5

Today was my due date. And I rode 35km in Richmond Park, mostly to say that I did it. Total of 75km ridden this week. Goal accomplished! No pics to mark the occasion but I can verify that I'm now wearing one of Jim's medium-sized KW jerseys, my quads hit the bottom of my bump with every pedal revolution (giving me an unintentional bowleggedness) and afterwards my ribs feel battered and bruised from having a 8-pound baby's legs squashed into them. An hour to 90 minutes is my max these days on the bike then I've had enough.

Ironically I feel fairly fit still -- in fact, I put in the highest peak 1-minute and 5-minute power I've seen in about six weeks, though that was partly due to my annoyance at how many slow and silly cyclists were in my way today! -- but riding a bike is ceasing to be much fun now. Glad to have ridden as long as I did but the time has come to stop I think.

So... the other day I finally relented and bought a swimsuit to fit my giant whale-like shape. Tomorrow or the next day I'll visit the pool for a swim. Looking forward to it actually, as it'll be a novelty to swim with such a huge belly -- will I float more than usual or start sinking? What'll work best, freestyle, backstroke, or breastroke (dare I say butterfly)? All of this will be interesting to discover and it'll give me something to keep my mind and body occupied while I wait for this now-overdue baby to make an appearance.

But sorry, no pics of me in said swimsuit will follow. It was bad enough seeing myself in the changeroom mirror when I tried it on!

For those with no imagination, I'll probably look something like this.