Monday, 16 October 2017

Spring cycling and up and coming events

It is now mid October and the weather certainly has picked up and made it more bearable to ride outdoors.

October and November will be a couple of busy months for me with regards to cycling commitments and events.

I have the Ride Daylesford on the 28th October and it is a 146km ride (with over 1700m of climbing, most of it done on the last 50km) so I will need to get some distance/stress in my legs in order to get myself through comfortably. So for this week's long ride (21st Oct), I will ride from my house to Heidelberg (30km) for the 7am start and then ride home. I will be a > 100km day with hopefully over 1500m of climbing. I will be writing off the remainder of the day as I will be in a deep recovery sleep to recover.

I will be heading to Bright over the long weekend for some training with Lead Out 4th through to 7th November. I am looking forward to being back in the Alpine region and to see how I have improved (if any) especially in the descents.

Work has entered me in the Property Industry Foundation charity ride on the 17th November which is a 50 or 75km ride from Healesville. I am suspecting that this ride will be a hilly one but it is fully supported and catered for. Depending on how hectic this ride is, I may or may not ride again on the Saturday.

The week after, it will be my main event for 2017 which is the Giro della Donna on the 26th November. My main aim for this ride is to be stronger on the climbs and more comfortable on the descents. My weight to power ratio will not be great since I have put on weight compared to 2015. The ride is 125km with 2750m elevation. I have not ridden Donna Buang since 2015 so ideally, I should ride up that climb before the 26th November but with so many social and work events coming up, it will look like it may only be done on the event day.

I have done two Mt Pleasant rides within the last few weeks. The sessions were not too dramatic and I didn't tear up after the sessions from exhaustion and defeat. Compared to my first ride with LOC out that way, I am feeling much stronger. Last week was recovery week for Lead Out and I completed the two mid week training sessions but didn't end up riding on Saturday as I wanted to do a long session with the Point Cook Cycling Group (PCCG) riding from Point Cook towards You Yangs and some hill repeats.

The pace towards You Yangs was fairly comfortable with speeds < 25km/hr. Because I was feeling relatively OK, I pushed myself on the hill repeats as the loop is 3km with a climb of 100m over 1.2km. The ride back towards Point Cook was also fairy comfortable for me and I didn't feel too exhausted by the end of the ride which was good feedback for me and how I will get through Ride Daylesford.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

I have no recent FTP Test

Since forever, I have never been great at endurance. Since being able to put a label to my body's performance - Ehlers Dandlos Syndrome (EDS), it does explain my abilities in term of being stupidly flexible for practically all my joints from my fingers, toes, knees, neck, shoulders (joint weakness) as well as it's inabilities of performance over a long period of time due to muscle fatigue. I have trained for years in endurance sports but my strength and speed has not improved. When I started with LOC and we would do individual TT along Beach Road or in Altona, I would start out great and then the muscles would just stop working.

In terms of the 20min FTP tests - they are not my friend. I can push the power for a short period of time, I can sprint at very high power (close to 1000W for 3 sec) but when it comes to endurance, my body just won't cooperate. Mentally, I can put myself through 20min FTP test but my body just doesn't want to keep up. The 20min FTP test works on the Maximal Lactate Steady State (MLSS).

I remember doing an FTP test about a year ago and my FTP was about 160W over 20min. I try to start out in a gear and cadence which is comfortable and I "think" I can hold for 20min. No matter what strategy I use, the end results is about 160-165W.

This morning was no different. The session this morning at Spin Labs was an FTP test. I started out at 190W for 5min, then worked up to 200W for the next 5min with an rpm of 85+ then the last 7min of the FTP test, I started to fatigue with my body shaking and the average went down to 165W. Frustrating. Towards the end when the instructor was pushing us to go hard for the last 2min or so, I just had nothing energy in the legs.

When the session is based on various % of the FTP, I can work with a benchmark of 180-200W as it is sometimes the lowest FTP chart available at the venues. I am comfortable when I use those benchmarks in the session as I can hold high power for a short period of time. For example, on Monday (25th Sept), the session was 4 x (1.5min 95% @ 85-95rpm, 30 easy, 1min 110% @ 85-95rpm, 30 easy, 2min 85% @ 100rpm, 1min easy, 3min 100% @ 60-65rpm, 30 sec out of the saddle, 3min recovery). I used FTP of 180W in the session and I was fine and hitting those power benchmarks or above the whole session.

My goal for the next 6 months will be to work on my endurance and increase by FTP towards 180W over 20min but work out a strategy. Do I break it down to 5min intervals where I increase and decrease my efforts over that 5min, start out strong and watch the power decrease over time or start out low and see if I can increase the power as I go along. I will have the manage my muscle fatigue and heart rate as it hovers around 175rpm during the FTP tests.

I have also heard of the short 8min FTP test which is 8-minute Power at VO2max (pVO2max) efforts. They say that the 8min test is suitable for the more experienced riders but doing the 20min FTP sets better benchmarks.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Stepping into Spring

The last 3 months has not been great in terms of "off season training". I had a bad virus around Queens bday weekend and my cough has lingered on and off since.

Ol'Dirty really took it out of me and I got sick about 4 days after the ride. Not sure if it was a combination of fatigue and riding in the rain for about 30min or my body has just been exposed to the various virus elements.

In order I maintain my cycling fitness when I can't ride outdoors, I am increasing my indoor cycling sessions. Recently I have bought passes for SpinLabs in Hampton. It is conveniently located about 1km from my house and they use Wattbike Pro bikes. I am also choosing to get on Wattbike Pro machines when I am at Art of Cycling as well so I can work to improve. The non-pro versions allows you to free spin, good for recovery and high cadence work where as the Pro versions, I am hitting just below 100W on the lowest gear possible.

With regards to the Zwift sessions, as much as they are fun, I find that I don't push myself as hard as I would on the Wattbike sessions. I had a go on a direct drive smart trainer on the weekend and I found myself on a higher power range compared to the skewer version I have at home. Maybe when I see myself performing at a higher power range, it will encourage me more? It is all psychological.

So Amy's Gran Fondo was on the weekend and I didn't end up doing the event. I didn't want to pay full price for the ticket especially when I feel that my training hasn't been great leading up to it. It was too inconsistent due to illness and I didn't want to suffer so much on the bike that I am put off it. Compared to the first time I did the event in 2015, I want to be able to do this event without stopping and within a reasonable time.

The only event I have paid within the remainder of 2017 is Giro della Donna in November and it will be a few weeks after the LOC training weekend in Bright which I am excited about. We have booked accommodation for the long weekend and it will be our mini-family holiday.

I am utilising the Wattbike sessions to work on my strength on the bike as well as working at the whole "not recovering" after each hard effort but lowering the intensity.

For Lead Out this month, the main sessions will be TTT at Albert Park lake on Tuesdays, Aerobic Strength around Kew blvd on Thursdays and we are riding to Mt Pleasant and beyond (from Heidelberg). This morning, I didn't turn up to the TTT session as I didn't get home from work in Sydney until late. Fingers crossed that the rest of the week goes smoothly with work how my body recovers from the sessions so I don't die (and cry) from exhaustion during the long hilly ride. So far, I have had two bad rides and one good one with the Mount Pleasant loop.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Ol'Dirty 2017 - The Unrideable Ride

So on Saturday 2nd Sept, I can say that I have just done my 2nd and last Ol'Dirty event. I am just not cut out for it. This is my personal reflection on the event and does not reflect the efforts the organisers put towards improving the event from last year not does it portray the remainder of the participants, some had a great day out.

My write up of Ol'Dirty 2016 is here.....and after seeing a few posts from the organisers, promising that this year's course will be more rideable and not as nut-so, I decided to do this event again in 2017 along with some others from the cycling group who had also entered to prove to myself that last year's event was due to the change of course and not because I am a hopeless cyclist.

I had decided to use the CX bike based on the feedback of the organisers as well as the photos and videos of the previous few Ol'Dirty events prior to 2016. I wanted it to be a good day out on the gravel road - I was very mistaken.

On Friday 1st, I had a work awards night so I really didn't have a good night's sleep even when I had prepared most of my kit during the day. The alarm went off at 6am as I had planned on leaving the house around 6:45am to get to Marysville at 8:30am.

The temperature around Melbourne hovered around 15 but went down to 5 when I reached Marysville. I decided against knee warmers and I do heat up very quickly. I started off with knicks, sleeveless base layer, jersey, arm warmers, gilet and gloves, I quickly removed the gloves and unzipped the gilet around 5km into the ride after the first climb. I still had the gilet around as I needed to carry extra food for the ride. There were already some part of the climb which was tough, especially as I was only riding 36-46T, 11-28T.

Due to my lack of skills and confidence and riding my CX, I walked down the majority of the 5 - 10km descent rather than riding. I was in the way of cyclist who were confident so my legs are scratched to bits as I walked to the side of the road into the ferns to stay out of ppl's way. If I had the mountain bike, I would have had a go. I am pretty sure I rode most of the 10 - 18km only stopping to walk through mud puddles and sharp and hectic descents.

From about 18km - 20k was the SRAM Scramble which gradients got to 35% and it was impossible to ride and I actually found it hard to even walk through.

Looking at my Strava file, I can see this is the section where I had to hop off the bike to walk through the clay mud puddles and where I could hop back on the bike for a few pedal strokes. My riding through mud stopped when I reached Acheron Way. I had stopped there to get the mud off the bike and my cleats and I saw a few riders went along the road. A few went South and I followed for about 2km until I realised that I was travelling South towards Warburton. I quickly turned around and rode along until I saw a couple of other rides who had as much trouble riding through the course as I did. I had met them previously on other rides within the last 12 months.

We all rode as group until we hit the climbs on Marysville Road where my power/weight ratio, more because I weighed about twice as much as they did, slowed me straight down to the point where I hopped off the bike and walked about 2km as my legs gave up. It also started to rain when we reached Marysville Road so my bike go a bit of a clean before I finished the event.

I got back to my car before 3pm. I wasn't sorry that I turned off early and missed out on lunch. I never eat half way through a ride due to my sensitive stomach. I survived with gels and a couple of dates for the 5 or so hours. I didn't burn too many calories either as I had walked probable 60% of the route. Luckily I had an empty bike box in the car and I placed it in the back of the car before I placed my muddy bike in. I also had enough towels in the car which I used to cover the muddy tires so I didn't spread mud everywhere.

I guess I didn't "enjoy" this ride like others as I had the expectation that it was a rideable event....maybe if I had my mountain bike with me I would have had a better day but at the end of the day, I made the decision to use the CX and was expecting a gravel ride and not one through crater sized clay mud roads, steep rocky descents and for a person with anxiety and hates falling, my mood was just not positive.

Although I had a chat with a few old friends and met a few new faces, I am just not made for this type of adventure. In terms of training for up and coming events, I felt that I would have had better improvements if I stayed in Melbourne and trained with Lead Out and did the Mount Pleasant loop to improve on my climbing strength, this is just my personal view.

My body ached the next day and I think I have strained my calve due to so much walking on steep angles. I am too afraid to get a massage at this point as I need to continue with my training throughout the week.

Do I recommend this event? Yes of course, if you like eventful routes, mud slides and don't mind not riding along bitumen.

Amy's GF is in 2 weeks and I am yet to sign up for the event. I will make a decision soon as I can...I will also decide if I will do the 120km road ride or the 65km gravel option. I am keen on both however the gravel ride is at Apollo bay and not Lorne.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Me vs Winter vs Training

It has been brought to my attention that I have had a cough/cold virus since Queens Bday weekend (mid June) and I haven yet to recover. This has been reflected in my training, especially my long rides with LOC. The last long ride with LOC was 8th July 2017.

We have started our "cram-training" for Amy's Gran Fondo. This block consists of 5 training sessions a week with Monday and Friday as trainer sessions and Wednesday and Sunday as rest day. Personally, I will do a swim on Wednesdays and Sundays to aid in my recovery.

It started off with a trainer session on Monday morning. Luckily I an idea of the session ahead and did them at my own due to the technical issues the coaches had. My session was over an hour as I started on the bike around 5:50am and finished just on 7am. Once I am done with these sessions, I will have to rush to get ready for work by 7:30am to get there in time.

This morning was the VO2 sessions at Richmond Blvd. I enjoy these sessions as I get to push my limits without the pressure of keeping up with the group or letting the TTT down. Heading back to the carpark works better for me due to my weight and the slight downhill compared to the other way towards Melbourne Girls. I arrived early this morning and did a quick warm-up half-lap before the start of the session as I am the only one who drives there. Different if this session was on a Thursday where I would have had to ride in from West Melbourne.

As I had mentioned before, tomorrow will be my swim session after work and Thursday will be at Albert Park lake working on our Steady State Tempo (SST) with a few sprints. I also enjoy this session as I get to work on the sprints which is my (pun) strength rather than endurance or climbing.

Friday will be VO2 trainer sessions and Saturday will be a long ride from Kew and we will be doing the Mt Pleasant Loop. The last time I attempted the Mt Pleasant loop, I was so exhausted at the end that I nearly cried. Fingers crossed that I will be able to get through this week's session. Extra fingers to be crossed that my anxiety won't be that strong that it stops me from getting out of bed and heading towards that training session early Saturday morning.

It is hard to manage my anxiety with these cycling sessions as I don't have a fool-proof solution. If I don't think too much about it then I won't stress too much and will be able to sleep and get myself out the door and do the session however if I don't think about it then I won't be prepared. Being prepared for me is being in control of the kit I am going to wear, nutrition, hydration, charging lights and Garmin, sometimes I even pack the bike in the car the night before.

I will only be doing the Mt Pleasant loop for 2 weeks as I will be doing Ol'Dirty on week 3. As much as I stress about doing the long ride on the weekend, it will be beneficial for me for the climb-training required for Ol'Dirty, Amy's Gran Fondo, Daylesford and Giro della Donna.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Update on Cycling

I have been training with Lead Out Cycling for nearly 7 months now. The reason for this post is give others an update on my progress but also it allows me to get a few thoughts down.

I had mentioned before how my cycling skills have really improved. This includes riding in groups, doing constant rolling turns, track turns and even cornering and descending. One of my goals for improvement over the next few months is my endurance. I am much stronger on the bike compared to when I was in triathlon but I am finding that because I am pushing myself on the bike, I am not able to hold that "speed" for a long period of time. I have noticed that my breathing and lung capacity is not what it used to be, maybe because I have stopped swimming and therefore, not really training my lungs to be more hypoxic.

I have registered for Ol'Dirty 2017. Ol'Dirty 2016 totally broke me. To be honest, I am still traumatised from last year's OD but the organisers have promised that this year's route won't be as "nutso" as 2016. Maybe I am naïve to believe that they will be better organised this year and take into account the riding abilities of the greater cycling community...we will see.

I am yet to register for Amy's Gran Fondo but most likely, I will pay during August or post-tax-return. $200+ for a 120km ride is a bit steep. Another event which I have entered is Giro della Donna and this will be the A-event to train towards for 2017. So in summary for 2017:
  • Ol'Dirty on the 2nd Sept, riding the CX bike
  • Amy's Gran Fondo on the 17th Sept
  • Daylesford Ride on the 28th October (tentative)
  • Giro della Donna on the 26th Nov
I have re-activated my Zwift account and using the Tacx trainer to do a few sessions indoors. I was really sick a few weeks ago and the cold winter air is not the best for my breathing. So the last few sessions have been completed at home on the trainer or back at my own training studio of Art of Cycling in Yarraville and hitting up the strength climbing sessions.

Art of Cycling - Wattbikes

Moving forward in training, I will aim to do at least 5 sessions a week, this includes the 3 Lead Out sessions along with at least 2 trainer sessions at home on the Zwift, beach road recovery, commute rides or a session on the track bike. To be honest, I haven't brought the track bike out since we moved out of Aspendale. When it gets too warm, not being able to carry water on the bike and not being able to coast on the bike

The best way for me to keep myself accountable for these sessions is to actually schedule them in and then tick them off. I can't be bothered with Training Peaks as I am not reporting to a coach so an excel spread sheet will do for me. For the month of August, I have my training schedule done as I know where my work locations are - working out at Glen Waverly on Wednesdays and West Melbourne on Thursdays.

In terms of body recovery and maintenance, I am going to invest in air compression sleeves for my legs to help with my DOMS and fatigue. My inflammations last longer than the normal person as I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). Weekly massages are good but I would like to use the sleeves on a daily basis to prevent lactic accumulation.

Smiling on the home trainer - just finished 2:45 on the Zwift

In terms nutrition, I have really cut down on consuming gels during training. I only take gels on the long weekend rides and only every 60min (not 30-45min). The sessions during the week tend to be 45min through to 1:15, no need for supplements. My weight has not gone down but I am confident that I am getting stronger.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Melburn Roobaix 2017

On Sunday, I did my 5th Melburn Roobaix event organised by FYXO.

This is my 5th and the past events are all blogged here:
2013 - My First Roobaix
2014 - The Wet Roobaix
2015 - The Sunny Roobaix
2016 - The Cold Roobaix

A few months ago, I put a call out on Facebook to purchase the Melburn Roobaix tickets when they were released online as I was in work meetings. Luckily a friend who was on school holidays could buy them for me.

As part of this year's entry pack, we received a FYXO Snood which I had used prior to the event, a couple of stickers and the tickets itself. I have always loved the Melburn Roobaix entry packs, you always receive something which you can use on the bike and/or souvenirs.

The 2017 edition occurred on the 25th June. The event started with registration between 9-10am. The Canadian and I parked at our usual spot at Abbotsford as it is between Hawthorn and Brunswick and allows us to park the whole day.

The Canadian rode a shop bike (TCR Advanced) and I rode my CX bike for the 4th time. As I ride my road bike 99% of the time, the CX bike, the Liv Brava certainly feels like I am riding a 20kg steel horse.

The day started out pretty cold so I started the day with my pink woollen gloves, pink gilet over my long sleeved roubaix jersey. I had 3/4 knicks on as I was sure that I would not be too warm and requiring to take off knee warmers if I had worn them with a standard set of knicks.

We arrived at the Hawthorn velodrome around 9:30am and picked up our musettes, chatted with a few friends and then we started off our day. This year, there was 12 sectors again but I noticed that the routes are shorter and didn't go to towards North Melbourne or Flemington.

We completed 3 sectors and stopped for a coffee and a snack at Mavis the Grocer as we didn't have a proper coffee in the morning as we ran out of milk but it also allowed for the crowd to spread out as it was getting really hectic on the roads as well as along the cobbled laneways.

It wasn't too sunny throughout the day but luckily it wasn't raining or windy. We rode along the bike trails at a comfortable speed and finished most of the sectors. We had a quick stop at the section where they gave away free butterbings! Butterbings are these soft brownie cookie sandwiches which are gluten free. They are mix between a macaroon, a brownie and a cookie sandwich. They are delicious!

I bought butterbings the next day from the café at my work

After 3 more sectors, we realised that we were 2 hours early for the end of the event so we decided to stop again for a late lunch at Cornerstone Pizzeria. We ordered the "cornerstone" pizza but I didn't really like it as the pizza was so soggy from the marinated peppers but luckily it was a tasty pizza and I had 2 pieces.

The last 2 sectors were just across the creek from the pizza stop and we arrived at the Brunswick velodrome around 3pm. I didn't ride up too high along the velodrome as it looked so steep! A bit too overwhelming for me. After a lap, we parked the bikes within the Bicycle Network bike parking sections and went for a walk within the velodrome to see what tents were there.

The Canadian and I took some photos within the photobooth before waiting in line to get a coffee prior to the end of the event where the prizes were announced. The grand prize was cold-hard-cash and the cobblestone trophy rather than the trip to Paris-Roubaix this year.

Some of the efforts people go with regards to costumes for the day is pretty good. Some people "make" a bike to ride. One of these notable bikes was from a guy called Jacob and he made a bike around a bed frame. I was actually close to him at a small section of the day and the way he gets on the bike, the way he rides and how he hops off is amazing!

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...