Monday, 29 May 2017

Balliang Box Forest - My First Road Race!!!!

Yesterday 28th May, I did my first road race!! I had spoken about not doing a road race this year as I didn’t think I was “good enough” for the field but an opportunity came up with Footscray Cycling Club which had a “Women’s Novice” field and free race licenses.

I saw a post come on my Facebook about a friend who was organising a novice group and how they wanted to introduce more women to road racing. They had a recce ride the week before on the 21st May and rather than doing the 70km ride from Little River, a friend from LOC and I decided to just ride the course and met the group at Balliang Hall.

As we were in the middle of no-where, the course was very rough and exposed. If it wasn’t for the opportunity of riding behind the ride leaders/organisers, we would have been pushing through the headwind. When the climb started, this was when the group started to split up with the stronger riders forging on ahead. I wasn’t too familiar with the course so I didn’t push too hard to get through that climb. After the first climb, it was a great descent where I could catch up on the main group. There was a stretch of road where it was narrow and the roads were rough. For some reason, I was riding very close to the edge and before I knew it, I had slid off the edge and landed on my head (hard).

I sat there for a few minutes and held my head in my hands to subdue my headache (concussion) and had a few ladies from the ride to stop to check if I was ok. After getting my bike up and checking that everything was ok, checked that I wasn’t bleeding too much from the fall, I proceeded to the group who was waiting at the turn off into Granite Road. At this point, I realised that I had a small headache which didn’t go away and my helmet was cracked. I was asked if I wanted to turn around or ride with the group, I chose to ride with the group as I wanted to understand the rest of the course and I was comfortable with the gravel roads. After we started off, this was where the second climb for course was and it was the steepest of the lap. From the fall, I was so tired and really struggled to do this climb. I didn’t have the energy or the strength to ride out of the saddle as much.

After this climb, it was fast rolling hills but we had a break as someone in the group had a flat to fix. We then met up with the turn into the gravel road. I actually love the gravel road and have no hesitation on handling the bike along this part of the course. This only came about with my rides on the Dirty Gran Fondo events. The group then turned off to head back to Little River whilst Nat and I headed back to our cars.

During the week, I managed my headache with Panadol but no ibuprofen (no blood thinning medication with a concussion) and had to manage my whiplash with massage. I bought a new helmet on Monday. On Tuesday, my training session was done at 90% as it was hard to look over my shoulders. It was an “over and under” session but we didn’t realise it and did the entire lap at VO2 and took turns.

I went for a swim on Wednesday to help ease my whiplash and flush out the legs. During Thursday’s Albert Park session, I could only put in 75% of the effort for the session during the full laps. I just felt that I couldn’t hold the 80% power efforts and I was under pacing myself, even more so before the sprint sections of the lap before the pit straight.

For Saturday’s session, I brought out the Liv bike (Valerie) as we were doing some hill work. I wasn’t too sure what the session was about and how much I should be pushing but the coaches all knew that I was planning on racing on Sunday. We did a quick loop around Kew before we headed onto Ivanhoe Blvd and did a few hill repeats of a steep road. We then turned into Studley Park and did a TT. As Nat and I were racing, we were asked to do the TT at 80%. Happy to report that this became my PR for the loop as I didn’t stop at Walmer St.

After the TT, it was hill repeats of Molesworth Street and then Yarravale Road which I didn’t do repeats but waited for the group. To minimise DOMS from the day of hilly cycling, I sat in an ice bath for the first time in over a year.

Race Day
Registration for the race started at 8:30 with the race start at 9:30 which was a decent time to get up to drive to Balliang. I got there just after 8:40 and I had plenty of time for a toilet stop, race number pick up, warm up ride and a re-think of what to wear during the race. I opted out of a gilet and long finger gloves which I had during the warm up as I was sweating and didn’t want to feel too hot during the race. I decided to just wear my kit without gilet, arm warmers and then short fingerless gloves.

The women’s field started around 9:40 (last) and the first lap was controlled. I dropped off the group along the first climb but ended up getting back on at the descent but lost then again during the second climb as I couldn’t do the turn and just stuck at the back. After this, I could see the main group ahead but couldn’t catch up during the steep climb and rolling hills. I ended up riding with a chick called Tracey and we took turns along this section and the gravel before headed back to towards the Hall. Tracey didn’t do the second lap so I was solo for the next 5km or so until the lantern-rouge FCC guide came up behind me with another rider (Heather) who had stopped prior to fix a flat. We were assisted along the headwind and the climbs and Heather and I took turns at the fast parts of the route until we turned onto the gravel road where I was comfortable to ride. They caught up to me at the end of Box Forest Road and then it was the final left turn towards the finish line.

For the last 700m of the route, I just decided to put in 100% of what I had and crossed the finish line with harder gear and out of the saddle. I had finished the course just over 2 hours for a 2 x 25km loop which I was pretty impressed with considering we averaged 22km/h during the recce ride.

My friend Nat from LOC
After the race, I packed up my bike into my car and started to realise that my backside glutes were starting to seize and my legs were starting to be really sore and stiff. I had a cup of tea at the Memorial Hall and then drove home. My body was starting to get tighter and tighter during the drive and I decided that I really need to ice my legs again.

Although I didn’t win the race (so far from it), I have a great sense of achievement as this was something which I wanted to do in terms of cycling. I know what my strengths and weaknesses are and will work on the following:

1) Push my comfort level in keeping within the group even when it is climbing

2) I am still considerably weak riding into headwind. I need to work on VO2 and maintaining power. This is similar to this month’s Albert Park laps.

3) My descents are good especially when I am able to see ahead

4) Work on my climbs for both short and steep and long and not-so-steep ones. Take advantage of the training session at Kew for this month.

What’s next? I don’t have another road race in mind and FCC haven’t released which races will include the Novice Women’s field. There is one women's race within the Northern Combine events but I don’t know if I can race it on my 3 race license as I received it under FCC.

Monday, 1 May 2017

The last Dirty Gran Fondo - My 65km report.

Yesterday 30th April, I participated in my 4th (and final) Dirty Gran Fondo event. Due to the decline in numbers of people participating, the organisers have decided stop running this particular event and the September Gembrook one will be their last off road gran fondo. I have also just looked at the timing of the Gembrook event (3rd Sept) and realised that it is one day after the Ol’Dirty…

This is my 3rd time riding the 65km as my first attempt at this event was the 35km. The first time I participated in this distance (2015), I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into and my skills were nothing to brag about. I remember that ride being the hardest thing I had ever done, I walked my bike up nearly every climb and my grip on the brakes were firm.

My second attempt in 2016 of the event was much better considering that I had trained 8 months earlier for the 3 Peaks event and also having just finished the 7 Peaks rides. I had cut nearly 45min off my previous time and only walked twice.

The 3rd attempted on Sunday was not as great as last year, obviously because I didn’t spend the whole of summer of climbs and strength training but I survived. I had signed up for this event early this year when the dates changed from mid May to end of April due to the clash with Mothers Day. The last time I was on my mountain bike was on New Years when I rode 1km to my friend’s house.

We arrived at Wandong at just after 8am which gave my time for a toilet stop, getting my bike ready and deciding what to wear on the bike. It was about 15 degrees when the race started and I was glad when I removed my arm warmers. I noticed that the numbers this year was low from the start, we were not squeezed in or the end of the group where I usually start the ride was not spread out too far back. There was barely any women as well. I noticed the familiar faces of female cyclists were missing. Apart of the usual who generally podium at these CX-MTB events, strong female cyclist faces were missing.

The start of the ride is always nervous for me as my skills on muddy and rocky roads are not great. My bike set up was not great to start with. I had lent my bike to a friend to use for an event and upon return, I hadn’t had a chance to adjust to suit my changes since the last time I was on this bike. Due to my fall off the bike at last year’s event, I think it may be time to move this bike on.

There was the same part where I hopped off the bike last year after my fall and walked the bike until the “shooting range” section of the course. I made the call early to walk the bike when it was too steep and my tyres were slipping off when I was pedalling.

I am getting more comfortable at my descents. I remember the first descent had some straight gravel sections which ended with some twists and turns amongst the greenery. My times were 16:30 (2015), 15 (2016) and now 12:02.

I was relieved when I arrived at Feedzone 1 as I knew that I would be around a third of the way through the event. I threw my rubbish which I had stuffed under the leg section of my knicks and off I went.

The rest of the ride I found challenging. Mentally I was defeated as I knew that I was so behind the crowd. I actually thought I was the last female rider of the whole event. Physically, due to being under prepared for not only this ride but climbing in general, I was in pain. I wished my saddle was slightly higher and a bit set back so I can sit further back and use my glutes for the climbs.  

After Feedzone 2 is when the 90km riders generally ride passed me and keep me company for a second or two for the remainder of the ride. I knew that there is 1300+m of climbing for the day for the 65km and from memory, I knew that there were some rolling hills after Feedzone 2 through to 3.

I was adamant to finish this event under 5 hours and for the last 15km or so, I pretty much had 45min to sprint home. Luckily it was all downhill from there. After Feedzone 3, it was pretty much a good descent down to the start of the event. Due to the wear and tear of the roads, there were a few slippery moments where my bike skidded off some muddy puddles as well as my bike getting some air over some bumps.

I am happy to report that I did finish under 5 hours with 30 seconds to spare. I was also adamant that I was the last in my category but only found out late last night when the results were released that I didn’t come last in my category.

During the presentations, the race organisers told us that this was to be the last Dirty Gran Fondo due to the decline in numbers. There is the Gembrook Dirty Gran Fondo in September and that will be the last one for Big Hill Events. It is sad that they will no longer be having this particular event as it is the only time I ever bring the mountain bike out.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Out of my comfort zone

For the month of March, Lead Out Cycling have the following training schedules - VO2 training on Tuesdays, rolling and track turns on Thursday and long hilly rides on Saturdays.

Due to work commitments and slightly unwell through the month, I had only done one VO2 session. It was good to do these rides on threshold. I have done all three Thursday sessions this month. I have enjoyed this session as I park at my work and ride down to Luna Park to meet the group and then do a good quality ride down Beach Rd. I enjoy this session as I get to work on expanding my comfort zone within a group, work on my rolling turns - we are talking about constant rolling turns and not just do turns when the person at the front feels tired and track turns working as a large group and a smaller group of 3 or 4.

With these groups, I am also practising on riding down on my drops and not on the hoods. As we are doing constant rolling turns and track turns, we don't have chats so I can ride on the drops without feeling like I am being anti social.

I have only done one Mt Pleasant road ride this month. I didn't end up doing that ride last week as I had a hectic week of interstate work and dealing with my car being broken into and credit cards stolen. The Mt Pleasant ride is tough. Much more tougher than Dandenongs or in the Alpine region.

Mt Pleasant road ride starts at the Heidelberg football ground and then we ride along Mt Pleasant road and then we do a loop through Kangaroo Ground, Watsons Creek and Panton Hill. Then we rode back towards Eltham and then back to Heidelberg. It was a tough ride with over 1200m of climbing within 60km.

I was totally dead at the end of that ride. The rolling hills just zapped my energy levels down and I was riding through lactic acid filled legs. Nutrition wise I was fine, not bonked but just tired and totally over the whole ride. Mentally, I was also struggling with the fact that I am the slowest of the low group. I feel like I am holding the group back and that I am not recovering enough by the time I catch up with the group who have been waiting there for me. I am finding myself consuming nutrition whilst I am on the bike rather than eating at the scheduled stops. This ride has left me with a great sense of anxiety thinking about it.

I know that I am becoming a stronger cyclist by doing these rides. I just have to step out of my comfort zone which is still very daunting for me. I have had a few anxiety moments which has made my heart beat fast and my back seized.

On other news, I have my Wilier Back! This is the bike which I had mentioned previously with the campy groupset. It now has Shimano (Ultegra) on it and I can shift gears and brake on the drops!!!

This week coming is recovery week. I am looking forward to it as it is the only week where I don't feel like a total noob.

Thursday, 16 February 2017


It has been just over 3 weeks since I officially joined Lead Out Cycling and I have to say, I am absolutely loving it! I am seeing plenty of personal improvements and I am actually starting to feel like I am a cyclist rather than just a person who rides a bike...

The two things which I have seen the biggest improvement in terms of bike handling skills are:

Riding on the drops
I have only been riding on the drops since about Oct 2015 when I moved from my Wilier (with Campy) to the Liv (Shimano). So since 2008 when I bought my first road bike with Shimano Sora thumb shifters, through to the Wilier in 2010 until 2015, I very rarely would ride on the drops because of the thumb shifting in changing gears and distance from the drops to the brakes.
Riding on the drops has also allowed me to do my sprint efforts more effectively and I am able to push and pull on the pedals with a greater force. I am making a conscious effort to ride as much in the drops as I can, especially in groups and trying to be more comfortable about having my face so close to the wheel of the person in front too.

Descending and cornering
As I have mentioned a million times before, my bike handling skills are not great and because I never rode on my drops, I was never confident in descending and cornering. A flow on effect of riding in the drops is that I am starting to learn about shifting my body's center of gravity and positioning my body better for descents and cornering.
I am continually improving my skills, so much so that I finally cracked the 10min mark coming down the 1-in-20 last Saturday!! I will continue to improve of my confidence but I do want also improve on the 1-in-20 climbs too! My goal is to get < 30min.

Although my climbing strength and endurance are no great, I know that I have plenty of space to improve and I am looking forward to seeing them flourish. This will be easier when I bring my weight down too, the hard part is actually to not lose muscle tone.

I had a bit of a "light bulb" moment this morning during my Team Time Trial training session. I actually seeing myself like I am a real cyclist now....I feel like I am riding in the right position, I am using the right muscles, I am stepping outside of my comfort zone in terms of power, strength and endurance.

The Northern Combine race schedule is yet to be realized and my aim is to enter them and just do it...I can't race them on the Liv as it has disc brakes so I am waiting for the groupset to arrive so I can convert the Wilier with Shimano groupset so I can ride it properly. I have a fair timeframe on the road racing season, I reckon I have about 2 months to train with the Wilier. I am planning on using the Wilier for the Tuesday and Thursday sessions and continue to use the Liv for the hilly rides.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Out of my comfort zone.

On Saturday 4th Feb, I joined Lead Out Cycling for my first hilly ride. It was definitely a milestone for me as I haven't ridden in a group in about 3-4 years. I was so out of my comfort zone and it has become very evident why I haven't been finishing my past events at a reasonable time.

We met at The Basin for a 7am departure. I arrived early to set up my bike etc and we then congregated around the coaches to sort out which group we would be placed in. There was no second guessing which group I belonged to - the bottom one. My aim for the next 12 months is to improve and move to the top of the bottom group or event graduate to the middle one.

The warm up was the climb up 1-in-20. Because we were riding in the group, I actually did my 3rd best time of 29.40 (at 70kg) where as the other 2 times was when I weighed close to 60kg or even less. It was the first time where I was totally out of breath when I reached the top in a very long time.

We then headed towards Devil's elbow way and headed up Churchill Drive and then One Tree Hill Rd. It was the climb up Church Hill which I dropped to the back as the coach (Mark) pointed out that I needed to hold my core and not worry about pace for the moment. We then headed to Sherbrook Rd and came up The Crescent and headed to Sky High. I found the ride up The Crescent soul destroying and actually had a bit of help up, I didn't need it but it was a welcome relief on the legs.

The ride up to SkyHigh was challenging as always, small steep climbs felt like they went on forever but I knew that this was one of the last climbs for the day. We stopped at Sky High for a small break for photos and then it was a descent down 1-in-20.

Always improving!

Good news is that my descents have improved and I achieved another PB on the 1-in-20 descents. I was completely washed out at the end of that ride. I was completely thrown out of my comfort zone. My legs are still throbbing 2 days after the ride and yet to fully recover. I can see the benefits of training with a cycling specific coaching group and the decision to join Lead Out was definitely a big tick in my life!

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Getting back into it...

Since we returned back to Melbourne from spending a week in Adelaide for the Tour Down Under, I have done 3 Lead Out Cycling sessions.

On Australia Day, I did the skills session at Richmond Blvd. We worked on smooth rolling turns followed by track turns. Rolling turns works when riders are riding two abreast and the riders on the right hand side moves up to the front and then across to the left once they have spent enough time on the front. The speed of the group shouldn't be surging unless you are the last cyclist on the left side and then moving to the right and also the slight surge to move in front of the cyclist on the left when you are riding on top of the group.

Track turns is done when you are in single file and when the lead cyclist has done their turn at the front, then will flick their elbows, move slightly on the left so that the cyclist behind them will overtake on the right. The lead cyclist will then keep riding at the group's speed until they are about 3-4 riders in front of the one which dropped off and then move towards the left, this way you and the line of cyclists behind don't chop off cyclists on the road.

After the training session, I quickly rushed off for a shower and to pick up a cycling cap which I wanted to gift to a friend who was attending the #TowardsZero crit at Albert Park lake. Luckily I met my friends and had enough time to watch a few laps and then the finish. Due to the 2 hour break in between the female and male races, I went and bought coffee beans and then did a few body maintenance things before I headed home.

On the Saturday 28th, it was the long ride with LOC. It was recovery week so the long ride was not too long, only from St Kilda to Mordialloc and then back to St Kilda. During the ride, we did rolling turns  amongst a group of about 7 cyclists which was good to maintain a sensible speed and everyone had a turn at the front. As I didn't need to head to work, I stayed for coffee with the group for the first time.

Then on the 31st Jan, I didn't end up doing the Boat Ramp session as I had a very early start at work but I made it to this morning's Team TT session at Albert Park lake. For this session, we started with a warm up lap around Albert Park lake as a whole group followed by Team TT efforts with groups of 3 or 4. I was in a group with Dave and Cheryl , we all are new to Leadout. For this session, I wanted to work on cycling on the drops and utilising the lower centre of gravity for cornering at speed. I did this successfully so I am happy. I was nervous at first because it was hard to see so early in the morning as we started at 5:45am.

Compared to the Ladybombs sessions, we all took turns at the front so the speed varied based on where we were around the lake as well picking up pace based on who was out the front. As we were in smaller groups, it gave us a chance to do track turns.

This weekend is the first hilly ride for the year at the Dandenongs. I am nervous for this session as it would be the first time riding the hills with LOC. I will report how this session went and what lessons I learnt.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Tour Down Under 2017

Before I get into the TDU, I didn't end up doing the long ride with Leadout on the 14th Jan due to cramps and pains. This is something which I am trying to manage in 2017 with medication as nutrition and exercise is not working at all.

So we decided that we would drive up on the 18th Jan instead of flying as we were taking our bikes as well as my cycling caps etc. The drive was good but it is a long day. It's a good thing that the speed limit is 110km/hr for some of the route and there are plenty of overtaking lanes which meant that you were not always stuck behind campervans and trucks going well below the speed limit for too long. I am a pretty careful driver so I would only overtake on the dedicated lanes.

Obligatory Giant Koala Stop to TDU
We arrived at our AirBnb accom around 3:30pm that day. The house was located only 2 blocks from the town centre where The Village was located and a walking distance from all the major locations of the TDU such as Rundle Mall for the carpark crits and to all the bike shops of the CBD.

We picked up a friend from the airport who arrived at 6:15pm and we then headed to the Norwood crits to watch her husband and the rest of the cycling team race B grade crits hosted by the local Norwood Cycling Club.

I went for a small ride on Thursday morning with the BlackSheepCycling group. It was a breakfast ride and it was flat which was a relief for me as I wasn't prepared for the hills. The ride took us through the bikepaths and then ended at Henley Beach. We had a quick break there before Jason, a friend Kathyrn and I rode back along Henley Beach Road into the city. We stopped at Cycle Closet which is a shop in the CBD which only stocked clothing, socks, helmets and some accessories. I was overwhelmed by the clothing/kit/socks but only came out with a Ridge Supply jersey and a gilet from Spin Cycling which was on sale. I am going to reward myself with a new (expensive) kit when I lose 5kg and a new helmet when I lose 10kg. We then took a shower and then ventured into The Village to watch the final 60km of Stage 3.

My friend Dayna and I at The Village
On Friday, we ventured out into the city and checked out Giant Adelaide as well as our second visit to Cycle Closet before we headed into The Village to watch the last 60km of Stage 4. We met up with the BSS boys watching the highlights of the Stage before we headed for dinner. The BSS boys do all their big rides during the day, some over the actual course themselves so they don't know who wins each race, they make sure they don't log onto social media and head into The Village to watch the highlights and find out how each stage pans out.

On the Saturday, we decided that we would drive out to Willunga Hill to watch the race as the riders passed through that point twice. The drive was about 50min away and we found a park for the car as well as out butts about 1.2km from the finish. I have to say, the atmosphere of being on the course is amazing! Although we were not close to the finish line, more like half way up the climb, we didn't need to fight through crowds to see the riders at all. We saw plenty of people we knew ride passed and we cheered for them. I am promising myself that I am going to do the ride from our accom all the way to Willunga next year.

My #instafriend Felicity and I at Willunga Hill - I realized that she was standing
10m from me only after she posted a photo and I saw myself in the background.
After the stage was done, we rushed back to the accom to get ready for the event which I was doing to help a friend raise money for charity. Due to the timing of the event so close after the finish of the stage, the event was cancelled. I did end up selling a cap or two but I didn't stress out too much. I didn't really plan the whole trip around selling my wares. I still donated the caps and musettes to my friend and she can use them to raise money for charity. We then walked over to the Carpark crit to watch the crit race up 6 levels of car parking.

The Canadian and I did a small ride up Norton Summit and around Montacute Rd for a 50km, 600m elevation day. It was hard and I am currently so unfit for hills.

I am already looking forward to TDU2018. This will be a goal for me to train through 2017 so I can join in with the group rides and get out to the stage courses.

On another note, officially joined Lead Out Cycling...I am looking forward to improving as a cyclist. I have also committed myself to lose 10kg by Dec 2017. I am being more mindful of what I consume as I am no longer running and high intensity cardio work.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Lead Out Cycling - Second Session - TT, Hills and Teardrop

I have had a love-hate relationship with Studley Park for years. The location is great as you don't have to travel far to do a few hilly rides. The tear drop loops is where I used to do TT efforts when I was training with Tri Alliance but during that time, we never really learnt how to ride hills, cornering or descents.

Since about April 2016, I have done a few lessons to learn how to ride on the drops, descend properly and cornering at speed.. As I am only cycling, I actually have opportunities to practice those skills after the lessons.

This morning was my 2nd session with Lead Out Cycling (LOC) and the session was held around Studley Park. The session started at 5:45am and the warm up was from the starting point to Yarravale St where we re-group. We then do a TT effort to the Kew end of Yarra Blvd and back down to the Teardrop. Then it is 4 efforts up the incline and then recovery down the corner followed by efforts up again on the climb. We then regrouped again and did the whole thing from the TT and the Teardrop efforts again!

The whole ride was about 24km but I gained plenty of benefits from the session. I now have a benchmark to my level of fitness and strength and hopefully with consistent training, I will improve to become a more confident cyclist.

My next session with LOC will be on Saturday when we go for a long ride. My endurance is not great at the moment so I am a bit hesitant about being able to ride with the group for the entire way. I will report on how the Saturday session goes...

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Lead Out Cycling - First session - Power and Sprints

So this morning, I did my first training session with Lead Out Cycling. It was a sprint session held out at Albert Park Lake. I am glad I did a few sprint sessions over the holidays as part of the Festive500 because it gave me a chance to work on my body positioning over the bike when I am down on the drops.

Recently, I have been training to ride down on the drops more than the hoods. I can corner more confidently on the drops and still very hopeless on the hoods. With sprinting, I am gaining the confidence (and subsequently strength) whilst also down on the drops which is great.

The session started at 5:45am at the Carousel parking area around the corner from MSAC. I parked at MSAC that morning knowing that I can head to the toilet when they opened at 5:30am and with a bit of time to get ready to meet the crew there just before 5:45am.

I recognised a few faces based due to friends, friends of friends and through social media. I started at the back as per the coach’s preference for a first timer and I was totally comfortable with that. We first did a lap around the lake and then started our session around the pit straight.

The session was based on two types of sprinting:

1) Hard gear sprinting starting from close to 0km/hr.

2) Sprinting from a moving speed and increasing gear if required.

I really enjoyed the sprint work this morning as it played into my strength of power for a short period of time on the bike. I do need to work better at lower elbows and maybe picking the right gears to sprint with. I found that when I start on a gear too high, I am slow and a bit wobbly.  

Thursday’s session is at Kew Blvd….it will not be a sprinting session so I will play it by ear to how I will go….it might be an issue after the session when I have to travel to work (by car).

It is now 3 hours post session as I write this and my legs are throbbing! I really miss my compression boots for recovery sessions….

Friday, 6 January 2017

2016 Wrap Up

#Festive500 - The Wrap Up Report

For the first time ever, I actually completed the Rapha #Festive500. I had mentioned previously that I had never completed the challenge due to cycling circumstances. For those who are not aware, the Festive 500 is a challenge started by Rapha and Strava to ride 500km within the 8 days of Christmas Eve to New Year’s eve. If you were to ride the same distance everyday, you would need to ride 63km everyday.

When I was a triathlete, it was hard to do this challenge along with the Hell Week commitments and less than ideal weather. Last year, I was climbing more so I was searching for elevation more than distance.

In 2016, I had not committed myself to 3 Peaks or the Alpine Classic so I decided to get all my “fitness” things out of the way as part of this holiday break in order to spend a few days afterwards to relax. This blog entry is a recollection of how I finished the challenge within 7 days.

Day 1 – 66km
Since I have moved to Hampton East, I wanted to know the distances of riding to Port Melbourne as well as to Mordialloc. I started out the day from the house and then headed down to South Road towards Port Melbourne. I turned around at Port Melbourne to head down towards Mordialloc. Because I wore my BlackSheepCycling kit, an older gentleman who wore the same as me decided to tag along just as I crossed South Rd towards Mordi and then we rode together until we turned around and hit the Black Rock roundabout where I turned off to Bluff Road and then headed back home whilst he headed along Balcombe road as he lived around Mentone.
BlackSheepCycling - Peacock Kit

Day 2 – 72km (Christmas Day)
There was a plan on doing the Christmas ride with the old Tri Alliance crew but it numbers were really low as they all finished Hell Week the day before. To get the numbers up, I rode into St Kilda to a Sharon and Pete’s house and then we rode into Elwood to meet up with the Tri Alliance crew. There were only 3 people who joined. We then rode to Black Rock roundabout and then back to Sharon and Pete’s house for coffee/light snack. I stopped there for about 30min for a chat with the old crew before I rode back home.  
BlackSheepCycling - Tilly

Day 3 – 69.2km
As I had done Port Melbourne on the first 2 days, I ventured down to Frankston from the house. The ride down to Frankston was slower due to the slight southerly but I knew that my ride back home would be easier. I turned around at the Frankston BP and back home on the same route (straight out and back).

Lumiere Cycling Kit

Day 4 – 80km (My Bday)
The 27th December is my birthday. I wanted to do something fun so I did a few laps of Albert Park lake to work on my sprinting cornering skills. I had done a few cycling lessons with Tribal Cycling and haven’t really had a chance to implement the skills as I can’t ride my disc brakes in races. I rode up to Port Melbourne and headed towards the lake for a few laps...I think I did about 8 at the end.

There is a particular corner of the lake which I have always found stressful due to the sharp right hand turn. The first time I rode around that corner I was a bit hesitant but the laps afterwards, I was much more confident as I applied the skills I had learnt about being down on the drops, low elbows, outside leg straight and actually going into the corner fast has many advantages and one of them being that you don’t feel like you are going to fall over. I then rode back home for an 80km day.
Rapha (Canyon/SRAM - Pink) Kit

Day 5 – 62.1km
This was the first really windy day on the bike and also the first really “hot” day over the Christmas holidays. It was so humid that I was already sweating buckets after 5km from home down to Beach Road. The day started out with riding into the headwind towards Port Melbourne and then I did a few laps of Albert Park lake until it started to shower so I decided to then ride home. I noticed that my distance for the day would be too low so I rode towards Black Rock roundabout and then back home along Bluff. Towards Black Rock, it started to rain rather than shower so was drenched by the time I got home from the sweat and the rain.

Jaggad Cycling kit - Galahs

Day 6 – 70.5km
This day was forecasted to be a crazy day weather wise and this was the only day at which I started the ride early. I needed to complete my ride before the weather turned and I wanted to get a good chunk of my distance done so that I was able to complete the challenge with one more day.

I was so tired and my legs just didn’t want to do anything. There was an initial plan on riding with the Tribal Cycling girls but I didn’t know how I would go with my heavy legs. As I was about 10min early for the first meeting point, I decided that I would forge ahead towards the 2nd meeting point rather than wait around. I ended up being early for the 2nd meeting point and due to the strong winds, I decided to just forge ahead solo and turn around at Kerferd Road rather than the end of Port Melbourne.
This day proved to be the hardest since I did the challenge. I wasn’t sure if I was going to finish the challenge off within one more day or do one big ride with a smaller one the next.

I decided to have a proper massage of my legs to get rid of the fatigue that afternoon.  
Pedal Mafia - Nevada Vibes kit

Day 7 – 80.3km
The weather for this day was glorious. I rode towards Frankston and found my rhythm early. I enjoyed the ride the entire way down to Frankston as well as on the way back. I stopped at Mordialloc for the bathroom and noticed that a lady was having trouble with her flat. She was still there doing the same thing after I had finished so I knew she was in a bit of trouble. I helped her to change the flat using my tools and gas canister and then we rode back towards the city together. I turned off at South Road but then realised that I only had 15km to go to finish off the 500km so I decided to turn off at New Street and turned around along Beach road and back onto South. From the end of St Kilda Street and Nepean Hwy, I had bumped into friends of mine who were also riding for the Festive500. We chatted for a bit before my turn off and they had about 60km more to do for their planned 120km.

Rapha (Canyon/SRAM - Blue)

I pretty much finished on the dot of the 500km when I got home and I didn’t feel fatigued at all.

As I had finished the 500.3/500 on Day 7, I had a good sleep in on Day 8 and didn’t get back on the bike until New Year’s eve when I rode a fill 1.2km to a friend’s house for a BBQ on my trusty mountain bike and in my dress.

Lessons from doing the #Festive500 (for a first timer)

- If you live in Melbourne or tend to over celebrate over the Christmas period, don’t just schedule 63km for 8 days. I purposely aimed for 70-80km each day and luckily I was able to achieve them.

- Schedule in a massage or two every few days as your body will need some form of recovery especially if you are not a consistent cyclist, like me.

- You will feel tired. There were some mornings where I actually tried to negotiate with myself about taking a day off and then ramping up my distances for the remainder of the challenge but I am glad I stuck to my guns and just did it.

- The flatter the ride, the easier it will be to ride 60+km. Last year when I was training for Peaks Challenge, it was not pleasant to ride 60km in the hills and I can’t imagine doing it for 8 days in a row.

- For me personally, the novelty of wearing a different kit and matching cap and socks is what made the challenge easier.

- I made a plan of riding a slightly different direction and taking a slightly different route each day.

- Although it wasn’t intentional, I worked on some of my skills such as cornering, out of the saddle and sprinting on some days.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Rapha 500

So it's that time of the year again... the break between Christmas and New Years where people try to ride 500km over the 8 days.

I had tried to do this challenge on several occasions but had failed. I was triathlon-ing and during this time of the year, we used to do "Hell-Week" which consisted of fitting in 3 disciplines in one day. Living in Melbourne, you will also get some crazy weather conditions so actually doing the riding was not done completely.

Last year I was training for Falls Creek 3 peaks and instead of riding the distances, I was climbing for the elevation and strength. As I am not doing this event in 2017 and just riding for fun, I have decided to commit myself to complete this challenge for the first time.

I won't be scheduling in riding a min of 62.5km a day over the 8 days as I know that I will not be riding everyday during that time. I will most likely do a few double days if the weather is great or do a longer ride if I have no plans.

I also have a birthday in between Christmas and New Years so I am sure that my schedule will depend on how I feel.

Happy Riding XX

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Plans for 2017 onwards

So….you may be hearing crickets in the background whilst reading this entry….I don’t blame you. I haven’t been blogging as much as my previous years because the current phase of my life is crazy!

I had mentioned before we are moving house and for the last few weeks, I have been doing some sewing for the hobby business, looking for a place to move into, culling my belongings to minimise bringing things to the next house, arranging for removalists, arranging for cleaners and steam cleaners, planning for TDU and throwing out clothes which I no longer fit in *sigh*…

Good news, we found a place, it is closer to the city and we move in on the 9th December. Our current address is Aspendale which is approx. 35km from the city. The new house is in Hampton East and it is about 11km which is going to be great for commute.

I am really looking forward to it as I am going to make changes to my lifestyle for 2017. I didn’t end up doing any events after Ol’Dirty. I had an entry for “Chase the Dog” but the day ended up being horrific and I actually came down with a bad cold which set me back off the bike for 2 weeks. I then pulled out of “Ride to the Divide” as I had a backache and I pulled out of Giro della Donna due to the lack of training with the house moving thing and also keeping up with my cycling cap orders. I sold my ticket to a friend’s husband and as he is elite cyclist. As the change was done on the day before the event, I ended up getting messages that I had scored the QOM for the day (the actual female who came first was about 20min after Pete’s time) and won top 10 of the finish…! Luckily it was all sorted and the females all were awarded correctly for their placings.

Hobby business wise, it has been great. I had a huge order within November which I needed to finish within 1.5 weeks due to the house-moving thing and also completing custom orders. I am totally obsessed with sewing at the moment as I get to tune out with my audiobooks, destress from work/life and it is a creative outlet for me.

I essentially have not done any events within the last half of this year and I am not going to put myself through any until I get some proper training done. After being dropped in a supposedly easy shop ride last week, I decided that I am going to commit to a training/coaching group, doing more group rides and following a program under the instruction of coaches. I think the only reason why I haven’t signed up to coaching before is that most of them start either too early, not great when you have to travel from Aspendale or they finish too late and with my new field of work, taking a shower at work when everyone has already had an hour’s work will not look great…

I won’t be starting out with them until after my move into the new house and when things settle down with sewing and my work but I am looking forward to setting and achieving new goals in the near future. Some goals I have for cycling include:

  • Being more comfortable about riding in groups, this includes being able to keep up with speeds greater than 30km/hr for the entire ride.

    • This is the only way at which I can finish at a reasonable time for Amy’s Gran Fondo and Giro della Donna

  • Maintaining my cadence > 60 when climbing for gradients > 5%

  • Pushing my power/weight ratio > 2W/kg for the majority of the ride with an average power of > 150W

  • Following on from the power/weight ratio, reducing my fat mass down to < 65kg

Triathlon training really didn’t condition me for road racing/riding, not enough time in groups and not enough opportunities at cornering either. In the past, there would be one or two cycling sessions a week (on windtrainers) and then a long ride on the weekend. Not sufficient for road racing.

Things I will need to invest in for 2017:

  • Getting a power meter for the purpose of monitoring strength and improvement of power to weight ratios. I was supposed to get it within 2016 but luckily it hasn’t been required

  • If I do end up doing proper road racing events then I will need to invest in a non-disc brake, Shimano groupset bike. I can’t reach the brakes and the shifters on my Campagnolo down on the drops and I can’t use my Liv because of disc brakes.

  • Paying for cycling coaching. At the moment, I have been in contact with Lead Out and will try out a week or two before I sign up, most likely on a $130/month plan.

  • Recovery boots. I rented them for 6 months last year when I was training for 3 Peaks and I found them to be a great help especially for my Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS).

I am pencilling in some big goals for 2017 and 2018. I may visit the goal of Falls Creek Challenge again in 2018, with a bit of guidance and a proper training program I want to be able to tick that event off my bucketlist. I will also be biting the bullet and signing up to some road races over the winter months to learn how to ride at a decent distance in a pack.

I am looking forward to being a fitter, better bike handler and generally healthier version of myself for 2017 onwards. 

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Slowly getting there

I am started to pick up my cycling since I got back from holidays and post Bicycle Market/getting my online shop happening

There are a few cycling events lined up for the next 3 months or so but we have just received a notification that we have to vacate our rental... which is a pain in the ass as we have only been in our Aspendale place for just over 6 months!!!

I am hoping to get an entry into Chase the Dog which is a predominately off-road/gravel ride in and around Forrest and I will this ride on my CX bike. Fingers crossed that I am able to ride the entire way and it is not as hard as Ol'Dirty. Then I have Ride to the Divide on the 6th November before the Giro della Donna on the 27th November. That will make up my cycling events for 2016.

I have decided to no longer to the Alpine Classic as I am going to head to Adelaide for the TDU - more because I will be having a pop-up market there.

Although the weather has significantly improved over the last few weeks with temps over 10 degrees celcius, the wind has noticeably picked up. It doesn't really bother me too much as I try to do as many of my long rides in the hills as I can. My goal at the moment is to hit 150km a week. Easy if I choose to ride to work as it is a 60km day. A spin class is about 25km and a long hilly ride should be > 50km. I am definitely using Strava to improve on my times both climbing and descending. I can tell with my descents down 1-in-20 that I am much more faster (up to 3 minutes faster) and more confident as I am learning to descend on the drops instead of the hoods.

For the next few weeks, I will be inspecting houses, saving up money for the rental bond and all the BS that comes with moving house.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Bicycle Market & No Cycling

So I have been very very very quiet in the blogging front since Ol’Dirty in Aug 2016 and I had mentioned that the two events I had entered were Amy’s Gran Fondo and Dirty Gran Fondo…well I didn’t end up doing either events.

My hobby business of handmade custom cycling caps and musettes had picked up a tad and I was committed on a pop-up store at the Bicycle Market on the 17th September. With that in mind, rather than spending an entire weekend away from the sewing machine, I decided to stay in Melbourne, finished off my 21 caps for an order from the US and more for my pop up store.

On Monday 12th I had finished and posted my US orders (all 21 handmade cycling caps) and then I flew into Perth for work for the next 3 days (no sewing!) With only 2 more days post Perth to make stock for the Bicycle Market, I was up until 2am in the morning on Thursday and Friday night….

The Bicycle Marker was pretty much a swap-meet. There was pretty much only 2-3 stalls out of 50 which sold something new…It wasn’t the ideal market for my goods but I am happy to report that I sold a third of my stock and will be putting the rest of them up on my online shop.

I received positive feedback for my caps and I will need to work on display for the next market opportunity and will be looking at a pop-up at the 2017 TDU.

I decided to stay at home and have a rest and not do the Dirty Gran Fondo. The Canadian didn’t want to put himself through an event like this without having been on a bike in months and it was also a wet day and I couldn’t be bothered dealing with it all….

With the weather picking up during the week, I had committed myself to be on the bike as much as possible. This includes commuting to and from work (I live 35km from work), playing on the track for 30min or so through to a long ride on the weekend.