Thursday, 16 April 2009

Sunny weather, back to the grind, and why I love/hate cycle racing

After last week's sort of blah post-DNF-marathon feelings, the rainy cold weather over Easter weekend served to demotivate me even more from training (though I did get in a good 12km run through Bushy Park on Saturday at a 4:33 pace that felt dead easy). But the sun finally came out on Monday, both literally and figuratively.

Since then, I've racked up 10 hours of training, nine of which on the bike. When the weather's nice and the sun's shining, I just want to be out riding my bike! The running will catch up later this week as I've got a flat 6km planned for today, a hilly 17km tomorrow and another short fast run on Saturday (maybe a 5km parkrun in Bushy Park or Banstead Woods). As for swimming, well... my schedule's been calling for it since April started, but as I'm not a member of a local triathlon or swim club these days, I've been putting off getting to the pool. In a few weeks, the open water sessions at local lakes will start, plus some of the unheated outdoor pools will be open for prime wetsuit swimming. Triathlon London has the full list of training venues. In the spirit of it, though, I'm going to hit the Kingston pool today for lunchtime adult lane swimming for a quick few kms.

The week so far:
  • Monday: Afternoon spent crisscrossing the Surrey Hills in the toughest ride I've done in a while. Started out strong as I'd had nearly 2 weeks of limited training and my HR showed it! My legs were so fresh for a change that my heart and lungs were the only limiter, and they weren't doing much limiting at all. But the 21% Winterfold climb got the best of me, shattered all ideas of ego and fitness and left me a shaking mess by the top. After that, I was determined to power up all the climbs I could in the big ring as I just couldn't stomach that sitting and spinning and feeling like I'm going nowhere feeling anymore. Box Hill was a new record for me with a time of 7:21, not bad considering the 80km we'd already ridden and the little headwind on the long 1st and 3rd sections of the climb. The roundabouts heading home were fast with a tailwind and I hammered it pretty hard, nearly dropping Jim in the process. 111km, 4:40, 1200m total climbing
  • Tuesday: Decided wisely to do a flattish ride, so I pulled out my TT bike (Cervélo P2SL, renamed this year to the P1) for a spin out to Windsor, through the Surrey Heath and back along the Thames. I haven't been on this bike very much yet this year so I'm still getting (re)used to saddle position and comfort. Once we got out past the M25 I was able to sit in the aerobars quite a bit as the roads were quieter and better quality. We took a little detour up to Windsor Castle as I'd never seen it up close before, then blazed back through the Great Park towards Chobham at 30km/h average. The wind had picked up a bit, making my aerobars all the more advantageous (and for Jim disadvantageous as I'm so low on that little bike that his entire upper body is exposed to the wind when he tries to draft behind me!) 82km, 2:50, for a 28.5km/h pace
  • Wednesday afternoon: This was the first real true spring day to me, as it was 20 degrees with a hazy sun and stiff but warm easterly wind. We headed to Richmond Park for some unstructured laps to see how we felt. The popular 1-lap challenge was out for today as my legs felt a bit trashed, but having not ridden the 3-lap challenge ever, I decided to set a base time for it at a moderate pace. We did the first lap clockwise, then 2 laps counterclockwise, then Jim headed for home and I did one last lap clockwise again. Total for the last 3 laps was 1:05, averaging 21:40 per lap. My goal is to get under an hour for 3 laps, which I'll probably only be able to do some quiet and still evening on the TT bike. 48km, 1:40, 400m of climbing
  • Wednesday evening: Our running club does a hill intervals session once a month, either on a longish not super steep hill, or a shortish quite steep hill. Tonight's was the latter, and I hadn't done it since cold dark December so I was curious to see how I'd get on with my recent bit of weight loss and the summer weather. Two sets of 7 reps with a 3 min rest interval between them. Going up the first rep, I discovered a good trick for maintaining momentum through the 10% grade bit through the last 50 metres: running on my toes, not letting my heels touch the ground. It was here that I made up the most ground on my fellow clubmates, as they all seemed to go off like rockets through the initial shallow climb, then slow down considerably on the steep part and drag through the flat at the top. I consistently hit each climb at about 38 seconds, which is nearly 5 seconds faster than the previous outing, so quite happy with that. 6.6km, 40 min, avg uphill pace 4:14/kmh
Between the riding and running yesterday, I managed to catch the last hour of the Scheldeprijs pro race with its promised sprint finish. Last year, Tom Boonen sat up and celebrated somewhat prematurely, as Mark Cavendish came through under his arm and nicked the win. This year, however, was mass carnage for the big boys as van Avermaet sprinted too early, Petacchi overtook him and cut across a bit soon, and McEwen tried to follow, tangled with van Avermaet and took down half the field including Boonen (Cavendish wasn't racing). The only bright light to come out of it was a 3rd place finish for Canadian Cervélo TestTeam rider Dominique Rollin, his first Euro podium ever. And a nifty 2nd place for the Dutchie Kenny van Hummel, riding for the continental Skil-Shimano team.

The massive crash below is the reason why I love and hate cycle racing at the same time: such an awesome sport, so on the edge, so hard-core, yet so completely dangerous and insane. This is why my races at the amateur level always end on hills!

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