Friday, 30 April 2010

Crystal Palace 2010, Race 2

Week 2 at Crystal Palace and the weather was even nicer -- warm, sunny and summer-like -- which meant another good turnout of riders. And this week everyone seemed just a bit more juiced to the push the envelope, or in the men's races at least; there were two nasty crashes by E/1/2 riders overcooking the bottom corner in the within the first 10 minutes, and the 3/4s managed another later on.

My legs were feeling quite sore from the weekend's TT and with some of the previous week's fire missing, I was happy to more or less sit in the ladies' race and see what happened. Not quite the same number of riders as last week, but with 14 starters we still had a pretty good field with 11 of us staying together til the last lap. I was happy to have three and a half Kingston Wheelers teammates on the start line with me, the most I've ever had at once!

Annoyingly, we were once again given the bell lap immediately after being overtaken by a group of 3/4 men, meaning we caught them up with 200m to go and had to ride past them to the finish. With the memory of crash I'd witnessed earlier etched firmly in my mind, I made my usual jump to start the sprint, but the second it became obvious that we were going to run into the back of the 3/4s, I hesitated and both the eventual 1st and 2nd place girls sprinted by me. The two of them were shoulder to shoulder all the way to the line, and thankfully the guys stayed out of their way so they made it across safely. Quite a close finish that I caught myself spectating from my position in 3rd:

Emma just pips Claire at the line, photo courtesy of John Mx of LondonCyleSport

I had mounted a camera behind my seatpost to film the entire race, and though it wasn't perfect (at some point I hit it with my leg and it turned frustratingly sideways), it's been pretty neat to watch the videos and see how things behind me went. Sadly I had neither the legs nor the motivation to launch any big attacks, so a half-hearted one in lap 8 for the sake of the camera was all I could muster. I've split the 14-lap race into four parts, all of which are uploaded to Vimeo below, though be warned they are somewhat boring and scratchy-sounding! And I had to compromise between file size and quality otherwise they'd have been uploading for days. Next time I'll get more creative with the editing and music, and see if I can improve the resolution a bit.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010


Some days it's just one of those days, the kind where every project you start remains unfinished, you get into pointless arguments with people over nothing, the weather outside is beckoning but you just can't get out the door... well that was today. Videos from last night's Palace race are still being edited/encoded/uploaded (thank you YouTube for not being useful) so that report will have to wait til tomorrow, and my brain is too tired to write coherently about much else.

So today was one of those days when the simple act of getting on my bike to ride -- finally, at 6:30pm -- was the best and most enjoyable thing I accomplished all day. Took me an hour or so to feel the love, but by the time I came over the top of Whitedown and crossed the A25 into Surrey Hills country, I felt a lot better. The roads were quiet, the sun was gently setting, the flowers and trees were blooming, the air was still warm, the countryside was beautiful, and I was glad to be alive and on my bike.

Someday I'll get myself a proper phone with a camera so I can take photos more easily on my rides, but til then this will have to suffice as today's little visual memory.

photo by Ben Gamble via

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Crystal Palace 2010, Race 1

Last week was our London Women's Cycle Racing league race at Crystal Palace, that short twisty crazy circuit in south London. With the daylight hours not stretching much past 8pm, the race was underway at 7:15 and lasted a mere 30 minutes for the ladies, about 40 for the E/1/2 men's. But that didn't deter people from signing on, there were over 100 people on the circuit by the time the races started!

Photo courtesy of John Mx of LondonCyleSport

I was freezing from standing around waiting to start so I hit it hard in the first lap and managed to string it out pretty good and drop some of the less confident/fit riders. In fact my max minute and 2 mins was in the first lap... oops! A few laps later we were down to probably ~12 riders and I attacked hard up the hill. Not sure if I even got a gap as there were some strong riders in our race and they were definitely chasing everything, but I started to tire some legs at least. Tried it again around lap 7, again, not much of a gap but lots of heavy breathing behind me! I really have to mount a camera on my seatpost so I can see what happens when I jump, at the moment I have no idea if my attacks don't stick because I don't jump away hard enough, give up too soon, or get chased down too eagerly. At least I dropped some more people with it.

So with a few laps to go and the front group down to about 6, I figured it would be a bunch sprint which didn't thrill me as we had some sprinter-types hanging on the back that I thought might steal something at the line. Also problematic was the way the men's races, particularly the 3/4 race, had broken up so badly that there was a constant stream of men overtaking us. For about 2 laps straight there was just one small group after another, leaving us to just ride around and not really do much.

We hit the bell lap and the two Pearson's riders, Elise and Mathilde had tried to cook something up. Mathilde hammered off the front around the hairpin and down the hill and Elise who was 2nd wheel let her have a tiny gap. I was 3rd wheel thinking, I gotta get around Elise! but that wasn't going to happen til the hill, I'm just too little to gain anything on people descending. We came around the bottom corner to go up the hill and I was still 3rd wheel, but then Mathilde started flagging and I saw my only chance. I jumped hard and buried myself going up the hill, just hoping that I had enough of a gap to make the sprinters have to kill themselves to catch and overtake me.

We came around the top corner and lo and behold, a dozen 3/4s all over the road pedalling like morons because they had been dropped (and likely lapped) ages ago, heading to the line. Seriously, if you've effectively stopped racing with a few laps to go, get off the damned track already! They were completely in our way. I had to decide quickly what to do, I ended up picking the right side, which was the long way around the bend but looked to have the most space to get by. I just floored it and hoped for the best, and managed to get the win. It was very close between me, Claire from Rapha and sprinter Emma from LD, I really think I just got lucky not getting tangled up with the guys. Frustrating for the other girls I can imagine, but then again, nobody but me did any attacking during the race, so if they wanted a better result, they should have made something happen I guess. Thankfully John Mx was there doing the judging which must have been a complete mess with us finishing in the middle of a pack of men.

So not a bad win, though with Charlie B and some others absent, it didn't really feel like an awesome one. Wish I could have done something more with my attempts to get a gap, but with such a short race maybe that was always going to be wishful thinking.

Entire workout (206 watts):
Duration: 29:11 (29:24)
Work: 360 kJ
TSS: 59 (intensity factor 1.101)
Norm Power: 259
VI: 1.26
Pw:HR: 2.28%
Pa:HR: 2.07%
Distance: 17.163 km
Elevation Gain: 358 m
Elevation Loss: 361 m
Grade: -0.0 % (-3 m)
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 744 206 watts
Heart Rate: 129 188 169 bpm
Cadence: 30 125 96 rpm

Last lap at 1:58 and 291 AP!

Monday, 26 April 2010

London Women's Cycle Racing

Late last year, several of my fellow female cycle racers led by Maria David came up with the idea of a London league: a dozen or so local races that we would tag as "league" races, add up points based on the results, and hand out prizes at the end of the season. From the humble beginnings of a few e-mails sent around and a meeting at the pub grew the London Women's Cycle Racing League, or LWCR for short. We're now over 50 affiliated members strong, representing 20 clubs across Greater London and southeast England and beyond! It can certainly be said that women's cycle racing is growing in popularity and enthusiasm.

So far we've held four events and the feedback from both riders and organisers has been excellent. Racing continues throughout the summer into late August, with the top 7 results for each rider counting towards the final points tally. In the meantime, the points leader wears a leader's jersey especially designed and created for our LWCR league. And our gracious sponsors Look Mum No Hands cycling cafe are on hand after every event to award the jersey to the current points leader.

I'd be lying if I didn't say I was interested in wearing that jersey at some point. But for me, the league means more than results and points. I'm really impressed to see how many women have jumped on their bikes and come out to race. All of our races have had more than twice the number of entries usually seen at their respective circuits, and the competition at all levels has been great. Being fairly new to racing myself, one of my biggest disappointments last year was showing up at races to find fewer than a dozen -- often not more than a handful -- of women to race against. Meanwhile, I would look on enviously at the men's races filled with willing participants at all levels. With the LWCR we've taken some big steps in improving that, and there are no signs of it slowing down. And this is great news for women's cycling everywhere, not just London. Women want to race and they are showing it.

If you haven't been to one of our league races yet, by all means come out and race (if you're a woman) or cheer us on (if you're not)! You will not be disappointed.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

FTP and the 25-mile TT benchmark

Today I completed my second ever 25-mile time trial on the roundabout-filled and rolling G53/25 course. This is an interesting distance to race due to its association with that hallmark measurement of fitness and performance: FTP or functional threshold power. With the advent of powermeters on bikes, someone decided that the power you can put out for approximately an hour (coincidentally the length of time a 25-mile or 40km TT lasts for a reasonably fit rider) should be the benchmark for measuring all other power outputs. Thus, all other performance and fitness factors are a function of that one-hour power, with paces and levels described as a percentage of FTP. So a Training Stress Score (TSS) of 100 is defined as one hour at FTP, and an Intensity Factor (IF) of 1.0 is when your power output is 100% FTP.

I've often thought about whether this system of testing and evaluation power is really accurate for most riders, since few of us ride 60 minutes at a steady state in an all-out effort very often. Yet this magical number is how I and WKO measure my effort and fatigue from all other workouts, both short and long. I suppose it's like anything: you need to train it to be good at it, so if I actually did lots of steady-state intervals at FTP like Coggan suggests, maybe my one-hour power would reflect that. But since I don't, I've had to use other measures to figure out my FTP. And it turns out that the FTP I've been using to define my training is actually a bit lower than what I can actually put out for a 25 mile time trial.

Last autumn when I did my 25 mile TT for the first time, I had my FTP set at 240 watts. This was based on a number of races I had done, intervals I could hold in training, etc. I showed up at the TT on the knife edge of fatigue, merely a few weeks before Kona. And managed to put down a time of 1:00:49 with 221 watts normative power, 218 watts average power. A full 15 watts fewer than I "should" have been able to do! Hmm.

I don't think I overestimated my FTP too much, maybe by 5 watts or so. A few weeks earlier I had done a 10-mile TT (~105% of FTP) on 254 watts so had based my numbers in part on that. Had I been fully rested, I might have been able to hit that 240 watts, or had I been doing Olympic distance triathlon training instead of Ironman, or, or, or... anyway, suffice it to say, I let my fitness tail off after Kona and at Christmas I was back down to an estimated FTP of 220 watts, to be built back up between January and March via cyclocross, winter circuit races and a warm-weather training camp spent on the Canary Islands.

Today I showed up -- same course, same time of day, same air temperature and conditions more or less, same equipment more or less, same lack of sleep, though I was less fatigued overall -- and put down a 1:01:59 with 225 watts normative power and 223 watts average power. The rain halfway through and subsequent windier conditions probably was the biggest factor in the slower time (the winner of both races who happened to be the same guy was also 90 seconds slower), though I also wriggled around a lot and cost myself some aerodynamic advantage, having not ridden my TT bike in a while and not being entirely comfortable on it. Yet I still fell 10 watts short of my current estimated FTP, which is set at 235 watts these days and I think is pretty close to reality.

No excuses this time (apart from the wriggling), but again it leaves me wondering who out there can actually ride 60 minutes straight at a completely steady effort at their WKO-estimated FTP. Yes, I could set my FTP lower, but then all my other intervals -- particularly the shorter ones -- would be overestimated, thus inflating my IF and TSS for every other workout. So this is the flaw in WKO+ I think: basically your single biggest benchmark by which all effort is measured is somewhat impossible to actually achieve! Unless of couse you race 25 mile TTs all the time. Does anyone else have this problem?

At any rate I was pleased to see an overall increase in today's race of 5 watts over last time, meaning that my fitness is pretty much at the same place it was last September when I was peaking for Ironman Kona. And it's still April! Lots of summer racing to come. For future FTP tests I'll be more likely to go out and do a Richmond Park 3LC some nice evening. Same ~60-min effort and a lot closer to home!

Below is a graphical comparison of the September 2009 and April 2010 time trials (the grid line shows the average watts for each race). Both were paced reasonably well, both contained an obvious dip halfway through as I felt the effects of the effort, and both started out perhaps a bit strongly. Today's effort showed a better recovery and kick through the last quarter of the race, and also shows how much less fatigued my overall state was, with an average HR of nearly 10 beats higher! Otherwise, the slower speeds on the downhills show the headwind today; you'd never know I had a disc cover on there.


September 27, 2009
Lap 1 (1:00:49.15):
Duration: 1:00:49 (1:00:57)
Work: 796 kJ
TSS: 85.9 (intensity factor 0.921)
Norm Power: 221
VI: 1.01
Pw:HR: -0.28%
Pa:HR: -4.76%
Distance: 40.329 km
Elevation Gain: 412 m
Elevation Loss: 417 m
Grade: -0.0 % (-5 m)
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 389 218 watts
Heart Rate: 98 176 167 bpm
Cadence: 47 131 94 rpm
Speed: 0.3 57.4 39.8 kph
Altitude: 32 137 69 m
Crank Torque: 0 60.9 22.2 N-m


April 25, 2010
Lap 1 (1:01:58.01):
Duration: 1:01:58 (1:02:06)
Work: 828 kJ
TSS: 95 (intensity factor 0.959)
Norm Power: 225
VI: 1.01
Pw:HR: 0.75%
Pa:HR: -2.91%
Distance: 40.35 km
Elevation Gain: 417 m
Elevation Loss: 421 m
Grade: -0.0 % (-5 m)
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 656 223 watts
Heart Rate: 117 184 176 bpm
Cadence: 53 123 97 rpm
Speed: 1.4 59.1 39.1 kph
Altitude: 32 137 69 m
Crank Torque: 0 103.2 22.0 N-m

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Three weeks

Time flies and my blog has been sitting neglected since February I see. Not that I haven't been busy (I have!) or haven't been writing (sadly more for other sites/forums than this one, not to mention micro-blogging on Twitter), but it would seem I haven't created a proper habit of posting to my blog and therefore it goes undone.

Habits take three weeks to form, so we're told. In fact, I've informed my new husband that he needs to wear his wedding ring for at least three whole weeks before he's allowed to decide it's too uncomfortable for daily wear. So in that spirit, today marks day 1 of my attempt to make blog-posting a regular habit again. Every day for three weeks I will post something! Some longer and more detailed than others, but at least something every day.

To remind myself, here's what I need to catch up on:
-- race reports
-- training camp in Lanzarote
-- PMC/FTP/CTL and other assorted acronyms
-- more race reports
-- my new TT-turned-road-bike
-- plans for the season
-- race reports!

And oh yeah, I got married on April 7.