Saturday, 16 January 2010

2009: A review and some stats

I've been keeping a workout logbook consistently for over five years now, but 2009 marks the first full year I logged my training with the GPS-based programme SportTracks. By using a Garmin device in nearly every training session, I've been able to track my performance, analyse my statistics, and keep course maps of every outdoor run, ride and swim like the true geek that I am.

Where in the world I trained this year.

Firstly, let me say that 2009 was a breakthrough year for me in that I ran and rode for more hours and more miles faster and more consistently than ever before. Even my swimming -- which I admittedly ignored quite a bit -- managed to improve. I credit losing over 5kg between January and May for a lot of the increased speed in all three sports, but mostly I managed for the first time ever to train week after week with consistency, keep myself motivated, and stay injury-free.

2009 Totals:
(avg 1134km/month or 262km/week)
591 hours (avg 49:18/month or 11:22/week)

436 hours
avg speed 27.6km/h
73,500m total climbing

121 hours
avg speed 4:51min/km or 12.4km/h
6,000m total climbing

23.5 hours
avg speed 1:43/100m or 3.5km/h

Other (weights, core, ice hockey):
10.5 hours

2009 totals for all activities by month.

SportTracks gives me nearly endless ways to mess with my stats, so with a few clicks of the mouse I can see that my biggest training week on the bike wasn't my January training week in Lanzarote but the week of April 20-26 -- coincidentally my first week with a powermeter -- when I rode 22 hours and 602km. The fastest ride I did was my 10 mile time trial in September, done at a speed of 43.2km/h (though I could only maintain that for 22.5 minutes!) I did four rides over 160km long (aka the imperial "century" distance), but no ride more than six hours.

Running-wise, my biggest month by far was September when I ran 186km. My slowest run with the exception of a brutal trail run/walk/stumble in the Belgian Ardennes was Ironman Hawaii, done at 6:33/km. Highest average heart rate for a run longer than 5km was the Wokingham half-marathon where I averaged 173bpm or 83% of max for over 90 minutes, maxing out at 191 at the end. Toughest run was the Tadworth 10 mile race in January, which I rated an 8 out of 10 "very hard" for its 200m of climbing (and descending!) through the frozen Epsom Downs. It'll be a long time before I attempt that race again!

Some other notable or not so notable numbers....
-- 4:15 spent on the turbo trainer, a number I'll have to increase this year if I want to improve my top-end power and VO2max. Not a single minute run on a treadmill!
-- over 34,000m open water swimming in oceans and lakes in Holland, England, Spain and the USA
-- 36 cycling races: 8 open road, 8 time trial, 16 circuit, and 4 cyclocross
-- 315km on my fixed gear bike at an average cadence of 82.6rpm
-- 3 DNFs: one cycling road race, one 10k running race, and one marathon
-- and 3 wins: one cycle race, one time trial, and one Ironman.

... and a few graphs for those who are still reading:

Total distance - Category
Injury-free thanks in big part to tons of trail running.

Avg. time - Activity - Category
Average time spent per type of bike ride, skewed greatly by my long distance triathlon races.

Avg. HR - Month
How my average HR becomes more and more depressed as my training ramps up, and then rockets once I'm rested again (taken from runs over 1 hour 45 min). Note the very low HR in October due to walking a lot of the Kona marathon.

Bring on 2010! :)

Saturday, 9 January 2010


I had been planning to post a little retrospective of my 2009 season -- which, as I've been reminded, was a pretty successful one -- but in the meantime, I thought I'd write a bit about my latest adventure in cycle racing: cyclocross, aka off-road riding on a road bike with knobby tires. This winter, what with the unusual cold weather creating icy roads and freezing windchills, cyclocross has been my saving grace to get outside on otherwise snowy and unrideable days, not to mention a welcome escape from the indoor turbo trainer.

Snowy conditions can't stop the cyclocrosser! (photo Roger Merriman)

My off-road skills have never been awesome (something I'd like to work on once I buy a good mountain bike), but cyclocross doesn't tend to have much in the way of technical climbs or descents. It's just good old-fashioned mud, grass, short sharp run-ups, off-camber corners, and the occasional unjumpable barrier thrown in for fun. In fact, it's become such a popular sport the past few years that even the BBC sent a sports reporter out to investigate, who filmed this video (watch for me to overtake him at 30 seconds in, ha ha).

What goes up... (photo Jim Ley)

Enjoys the ride down! (photo Jim Ley)

Having both the outer path of Richmond Park (my favourite running loop in dry weather) and Esher Common/Oxshott Heath close by means I can be out practising my riding skills on wooded trails and open fields within 15 minutes of leaving home. And whereas a similar park area in Canada might have a few trails here and there, wonderfully old heavily populated England means dozens of criss-crossing paths in every direction. I can easily spend two hours playing in a few hundred acres and never ride the same path twice. The same goes for races: a small bit of single-track and a football field can make up a course that takes 10 minutes to traverse!

London League CX race 03-01-2010
A mile-long course in the space of a few acres.

As for race skills, years of riding a city bike around the Netherlands had already perfected my coasting dismount, and triathlon transitions meant I was good at jumping on the bike at speed too (though in cyclocross you already have your shoes on!) Running up hills: no problem, in fact the more running in a race, the better I am relative to other riders. But the wet grassy corners and giant ruts of mud everywhere have required me to up my game lest I crash more often than not, or worse yet, take someone else out. Thankfully taking a tumble in cyclocross usually means a soft landing, though embarrassingly often in front of a crowd of cheering fans.

Not so gracefully negotiating a corner. (photo Jim Ley)

The imfamous Herne Hill "hurdy-gurdies". (photo Jim Ley)

The races last about an hour with anywhere from five to ten laps of the course to complete. Add in a mass start with up to 100 riders and the first couple of laps are usually quite chaotic. But as a flat-out 60-minute training session, you couldn't ask for a better workout. By the end my quads are burning and my lungs bursting, but I always finish with a smile on my face.

A typical race start. (photo LondonCycleSport)

Jumping on and off the bike. (photo LondonCycleSport)

The mud flies! (photo LondonCycleSport)

Surprisingly, I've managed to pull off some good finishes in my London Cyclocross League races so far, though after a disappointing 4th place last race -- 38 seconds behind 3rd place and all of that lost in the first lap -- I can see I need to work on my starting position and effort if I want to improve. The women usually race with the main group, so call-ups (being placed in the front few rows) are rare. It just means I need to get to the start line earlier and hold my place aggressively so the late-comers can't push their way in front of me. With a hard first 30-60 seconds to maintain my position in the group after the gun, I'm hoping to keep from getting caught behind slower folks. Starting near the front also means I can stick with some faster wheels longer to take advantage of the draft through the open parts of the course. Time will tell how this new tactic works for me!

Sometimes the bike takes a beating. (photo Jim Ley)

But often the rider does too!