Wednesday, 31 January 2018

What riding should I do?

Alright, so things are becoming a little clearer and I am starting to do some research on what and where to cycle next. I am thinking adventurous and challenging. I am looking to do something fast without the pressure of racing, to the point where I think I will refer to this one as a training ride. It will of course be solo and fully self supported but calling it a training ride means I am free to do whatever I like with no commitment to a specific route or worry about underperforming against my expectations. I can just go out there and enjoy spending lots and lots of time in the saddle.

The first option and the only one I will talk about here is a perimeter ride of the US using the designated Adventure Cycling Association routes. Starting from Main in the top right hand corner, take the Northern Tier route across the country, then follow the Pacific Coast route and Southern Tier before finishing with the Atlantic Coast route. I think the only time of year that this may be possible is a September start on the Northern Tier so that you race across before snow and inclement weather stops you and then hope that it is a fraction cooler on the Southern Tier once you reach there.

It is likely to still be very cool on the Northern Tier in September and need to be ready for some horrible weather. From all that I have read, an East to West crossing on the Northern Tier can expect headwinds for much of the trip, particularly in the first half where by all reports it is quite flat as well. The Northern Tier will be the longest of the four designated routes and potentially the most challenging with weather, distance, winds and high peaks through the Continental Divide.

The Pacific Coastal route is well travelled by bicycle tourists and part of the trip I would be really looking forward to. I am guessing that weather again could be a significant factor with rain and cold in the top half of the route anyway.

The Southern Tier is the part that worries me most at this stage with the potential for very hot weather. It is also quite a long and challenging route through some remote areas, I guess nothing like the remoteness of the GDMBR and I was fine there.

I really have no idea what to expect with the Atlantic Coast route but from what I have read, it is very hilly with constant climbing and descending. I am sure I will enjoy it.

That is the start of my planning anyway. Much more to follow. Which bike? Navigation? How light weight can I go? Total timeframe? Training? Why on earth would I attempt this? Will all be fun.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

The Weld Flyer

Unfortunately it is very difficult to make jokes nearly dying on a bicycle these days as too many of us are experiencing horrible situations at the hands of other road users but yesterday was my turn to nearly die. Fortunately it wasn't anybody fault but mine. Just unfit and didn't look after myself properly out there. To have gone from being super bike fit only 12 months ago to where I am now is a little disappointing but life has gotten in the way of doing the kind of riding that had me as healthy as I was.

The Inaugural Weld Flyer was the best ride I have done for quite some time. Started early, meeting many of the other riders out at Ranalagh's world famous Summer Kitchen Bakery. The day before I had indulged in the dried cherry danish so I moved it up a gear to go with the apricot danish this time. Good move I think to try something different but am pretty sure the cherry was a superior product. Without a doubt the best danish pastry you will be able to source in this part of the world.

 Out at Judbury for the start, it is always great to check out all the different bikes. With close to 40 starters, there were some excellent bikes on show.

 How did the day play out? Quite a late start to allow the Hobart riders to make it down to Judbury for the start. Anyone who drove down on the day will have been well aware of the conditions by the time they arrived as apparently there was a whole load of snow covering the saddle when they came through. Knowing that we were going to climb to a couple of hundred metres higher than the saddle would at the very least have been a fraction intimidating.

Having driven and partly ridden the course the day before as part of the precheck and course marking crew, I didn't bother with any navigation but some others didn't have navigation sorted and paid the penalty with wrong turns on some very remote roads. I probably need to get my GPS sorted again. One day. Easy start at a gentle clip. I knew that I wasn't healthy enough and that there were a couple of pretty reasonable climbs on the course so tried to leave plenty in the tank. Solid mid pack by the time we reached Denny Ridge climb which is really just a bit of a pimple and nothing to worry about. I did catch three or four people going up this one and was feeling okay. 

The ride out along the Denison River is a fantastic little jaunt on a quiet gravel road. Nice corners a good surface with virtually no traffic. The pain started once you turn off for the climb up Barnback. This really was the hill I had been fearing. I have ridden it perhaps four or five times in the past and not so much that it is a long climb or is steep but you can never find a good pace. The gradient is never steady, with pinch and then flat and then pinch and then flat. Happy to make it to the summit (and first check point) in pretty good condition. I think I had maybe surprised myself about how good I was going and smashed in a can of solo (light on the fizz so you can slam it down fast) and grabbed a banana and a bag of lollies. 

After the cresting, you roll along the ridge line for maybe five kiometres and it is an awesome ride with spectacular views across into the Tasmanian wilderness. Or at least that would have been the case if it wasn't so overcast. 

The descent is a scary one for me and I got passed by quite a number of riders on the way down. I am reaching a point in life where I guess I am never going to have the belief in my body and reflexes and the bike to descend with any great  speed. I will happily just reach the bottom at my own speed safely, thank you very much.

After the descent, the ride down to the Airwalk is one that I do regularly and knew was not going to be an issue. It is a fantastic part of the course that I hope others appreciated. Most of it is gated off to car traffic so you could happily ride like you owned the road and conditions were good.

Only real issue was just a couple of hundred metres short of the Airwalk, ran into poor Matt Hart, who other than being truly one of life's gentlemen is a terrifically strong rider. He had a major mechanical that he was trying to fix. I stood there and watched and chatted for few minutes and once it was clear that I was not going to contribute anything had to pedal on and leave Matt to it. I did let him know that he could easily just roll down the hill to the Airwalk, which I suspect is exactly what he did shortly afterwards.

Next part of the course is along the Huon River on a reasonably flat and unchallenging link till the climb up Lidgerwood Rd. It was along here that I really started hurting. No real reason to, I certainly had not been riding fast or pushing very hard. I had a bad stomach virus only a couple of days previous and maybe still feeling the after effects or possibly I had not eaten enough during the day but very quickly I faded and just struggled to turn a pedal.

I had been telling other riders all day that the Barnback climb was the challenging one and if you clear that then all would be good. I knew the Lidgerwood climb was higher but it never seems as steep and you can settle in and just grind it out which is kind of my specialty. Not going fast but just able to keep moving up that hill.

The climb up Lidgerwood hurt from bottom to top and I hope I didn't mislead too many people about this one being easy. I did jump off and walk large sections of it which is just something that my fragile male pride does not usually allow. At first this was really frustrating and I went to a few dark places but once I started seeing the snow, I actually quite enjoyed going slowly up and was happy to stop and snap photos of the other riders and many more photos of the beautiful orange Warbird.

Checkpoint two at the turn off to Bermuda Road could not have come quickly enough and it was an absolute godsend. Best Audax checkpoint ever. Period. A bit challenging for the crew who had passed the time between riders by building quite a good snowman. The bit of Bermuda Rd before the descending starts is a fantastic place to ride. I know it is one of Benny's favourite rides and it was a pity that as the organiser he missed out on it with the snow and mud. I am sure he would have loved it on his single speed with skinny 28s.

Then the fast descent back down to Judbury, once again grabbing a whole load of brake but was happy to know that barbecue and beer was not far away. A great ride and one that I hope continues to grow. It certainly deserves to be a part of any winter riding program. 

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

The Washup

This one is going to be difficult but probably has to be written.

Yes, I failed. Difficult to deal with and not very happy with how things panned out.

What can I write about? Training. I think my training was nearly spot on this year. I averaged about 1,500km a month for each month leading up to leaving the country for Banff. I had a quiet patch at the end of April as a result of a bit of illness but it was probably at the right time to stay fresh and excited about cycling. This time it was the right variety of training as well with lots of long climbs on Tour Divide style hills on fully loaded touring rig. I know that on the start line I was physically much better than last time and a much stronger rider.

There certainly were gaps in my training. I did a few long multi-day rides but not as many as I would have liked. Possibly only one or two more. Just one or two weekends devoted to riding. I had the opportunity I know but chose to do other things at the time. Probably things I had to do to keep some balance in my life but I know my body and mind would have been stronger on that start line if I had have had a couple more 4-500km off road weekends.

The bike. The bike was perfect. I had been really worried for months leading up that I was spending a lot of money and trust me, I spent a LOT of money on the bike this time for questionable return. Although I really was only able to cycle for a couple of days and limp along for the third, I am certain that the changes I made were the right decision. Go for a high end carbon wheel set with as ultra-light a set up as possible. Other than just saving a lot weight, it turned me into a more than adequate descender. I had been terrible in 2013, embarrassingly bad. This time I was able to either stay with or descend faster than those around me and the wheels were the only thing I can really think of that has made that difference. That and I have done a lot more descending now and maybe am a bit more confident in doing that.

Also, I didn't go with aero bars this time. Very few people didn't have either aero bars or the very popular Jones Loop Bars. My bars are just old fashioned flat bars with a really good sweep. I have ergon grips which I wrapped additional cork bar tape around for extra padding and to spread the contact point out even further. Certainly worked well for the part of the course I managed to negotiate and I suspect would have been sustainable down the balance of the course. I still felt much better physically than I did after three days in 2013. Lack of aero bars may have been slowed me down  further down the course but I will never know.

Electronics will always be a downer for me unless I join the 21st century and start using them for all of my rides. Just more hassle than I need usually when I just want to be out cycling and enjoying the simplicity of my mates, I mean the simplicity of the bicycle. I had a cache battery in between the eWerk regulator and the GPS. This was a real winner this time keeping things going and definitely a good solution that meant I wasn't worried about blowing up another etrex. The USB ports/cables this time weren't good enough. I know there is a solution and I just need to find the time and energy to sort that and it was silly of me not to prior to going out on this ride. I stored the cache battery in my gas tank which meant I was getting crumbs and sand and all manner of stuff into the USB port. Bound to go wrong really.

1x11 was the right idea, weight savings were worth the effort and money. Definitely on day one I was stopped multiple times by gear jamming mud that would not have been an issue with the Rolhoff and seeing the other riders, this would have been an issue further down the course as well but I am still a believer in the efficiency of the rear derailleur I had.

My body, well it broke. It is hard to say when or why but by lunch time on day three I could progress no further really. I identified pain just underneath the knee cap late on day one. Not something I have ever really had issues with. When I do too much walking my knees ache but there is one simple stretch I do to fix that. Cycling on the other hand seems to help any ache or pain with the more riding that I do. My bad hips are awesome if I do a heap of cycling and it is only when I stop that they start bothering me.

I probably made the mistake on day one of thinking it was normal knee pain and if I kept riding things would all be sweet as everything came together. When things were still sore in the knee on day day two I tried lowering my seat but probably didn't lower it enough quickly enough. I did think it was coming good on the morning of day three and cycled strongly from Eureka through to the top of the pass at Red Meadow Lake. The descent from the top there to Whitefish is a whole load of fun. Long and cruisy and I was feeling great. The ride out of Whitefish for me was super hard. It was all on pavement and predominantly gentle downhill but into a reasonable head wind but every turn of the peddle was agony. At this stage I had lowered the seat again and by now was only able to continue pedaling by having the right leg unclipped and having only the very end of my toe resting on the pedal on the right hand side whilst allowing the left leg to do all the work. Again I was still hoping that things would come good but was not the case.

By this stage my ankle was also very sore and swollen as well. At the time I was thinking that this was fluid or somehow related to the knee that was injured. Now I am wondering if the ankle may not have been the original injury and the knee became sore as a result of compensating for the ankle? I don't really know just speculating. I did slip over several times in tough chunking mud on day one and may have hurt my ankle then. Over a week later, the ankle is still sore and swollen. The knee is sore to the touch but feels alright. I would be happy to cycle with the amount of pain there at the moment but would probably be hurting myself again.

I did not experience any neck or shoulder issues this time which is what really slowed me down in 2013. Maybe that would have all played out later down the course but at no stage did I need to carry a back pack this time which I did for every moment of 2013.

How it all played out. Back in 2013, it was too easy to get swept up in everything that was happening. I burnt a lot of emotional energy before the start worrying and thinking about things. I purposely did the opposite this time and think succeeded in that. I was really keen to catch up with people that I knew before the race and it was good to speak to Dave Rooney and Liam in particular.

The start is really frustrating with standing around forever up at the Y in Banff while nothing seems to happen. I was trying to hide around the corner and stay away from all the nonsense when everyone started milling around exactly where I was. Apparently they have changed the route up to the trail head and instead of being out of the way, I am in the middle of the guys who I know are going to be fast. I didn't want anyone to know what an imposter I felt like standing there so just kind of smiled and made chatted with my mate Dave and wished him well quite aware that I wasn't going to see any of these guys again as they smoked off ahead of me.

Only a kilometre or two into the ride and I was fiddling with my GPS to try and zoom in a fraction closer to the line that I was to follow to get me to Antelope Wells and I managed to press a couple of incorrect buttons and hide the line altogether. I had no idea what I had pressed or how to rectify things. Not a problem I thought, I'll just follow all these people around me for a while and fix things when I stop a little further down the trail. Big mistake. Once I did stop and work on things it took me maybe 30 seconds to identify the problem and correct permanently. In the interim however I took numerous wrong turns and cost myself much energy in feeling stupid etc.

It wasn't raining at the start but very soon afterwards it did get very wet and very cold. I definitely took too long to put on my wet weather gear and lost all feeling in my fingers whatsoever from the cold. Once I had the proper kit on, it was ll love light and peace but really silly of me to allow myself to get as cold and wet as I got. Spend a minute or two getting things right and save yourself a lot of pain later on.

The afternoon was really difficult cycling with steady rain and gear jamming mud. My chain would not stay on the front cog as the mud was too thick. I was having to stop regularly to clean things off in puddles, streams or ummmm, when no other alternative existed, the well aimed call of nature. Really frustrating to constantly be on and off the bike for this and I knew the Rohloff would not have had this issue.

Was I cycling okay at this stage? It is difficult to tell. I couldn't really find any momentum with everything that I had done wrong and had happen. It felt like I was just making mistake after mistake and it was really worrying me, completely pointlessly of course that I was blowing my opportunity. I think I ended up getting through to Sparwood and Elkford at roughly the same time as I did back in 2013 but I know it was a much tougher day of riding with the prevailing conditions. This time however I felt like I had ridden well within my capabilities for the entire day and had plenty of gas still in the tank. Maybe didn't feel like that in 2013 when I had ridden and well exceeded my own expectations. I don't know how much of that is purely psychological.

I probably made the incorrect call to call it quits in Sparwood. I was a bit worried about finding a spot under cover further down the track as it was still raining lightly but there was plenty of day light left and I could have easily done the ride out to Corbin where there were lots of places to quietly lay the head down and the would have been miles under the belt. Why did I stop? I knew I had done a good days ride and I didn't want to blow myself up too early. The knee was already hurting and I was a little concerned about bears out past Corbin. Silly to stop. I bivvied next to one of the buildings in the middle of Sparwood and slept okay once the fireworks stopped. I was plenty warm enough and although it is no where near as comfortable as a mattress, if you cycle far enough it is never a problem to sleep in a bivvy.

The other bonus to bivvying is the ability to get an early start. I was up and about early with a four o'clock alarm and once moving made reasonable time I think. My knee was really bad early on day two but silly enough to wait until the top of the initial climb out of Sparwood to do something about it. Now day two on the Tour Divide is hard. Really hard. If you stop in Sparwood, there are three monster big climbs on really crap roads as well as many creek crossings where you will get icy cold soaked and then there is the hike a bike sections pushing your fully loaded bike up a cliff for several hundred metres not to mention some silly technical single track. Day two just sucks. Things were hurting.

I did most of the riding on my own this time as I didn't really find anyone riding at my pace. I did however do some riding with a couple of really good people on days one and two. Mainly it was a lanky American called Corey. He was a monster on the bike. A big strong rider who was much faster than I was. Corey had some health issues and ideas on what he wanted to achieve out there that meant that he was happy to ride fast but take longer rests and stay in hotel rooms as much as possible to help him nurse his body through this event. I really enjoyed Corey's company, he was such a relaxed chap.

The other was a young kid called Luke. Luke is only 17 but is already a veteran having completed the course a couple of times already, once touring with his family and then last year in the race format. Luke really had things sorted. He knew what he was doing out there. All over the course knowledge and how he was progressing along the route. Distances, average speeds, refuel points, he had it covered and a seriously clever head for the race. I cycled away from Luke a couple of times on the big climbs and I thought that I had him covered in a very non competitive kind of way cyclists relate to each other but there was one time on the flat where another cyclist came along that Luke knew and they took off into distance very easily without me having any chance to keep up. I think Luke just knew when to go hard and when to ride within himself.

I had some issues coming through the border this time. Last time blew through pretty quickly and then wasted time waiting for a hot meal at the pub. I wasn't going to repeat that mistake this time but had problems with my visa waiver having expired. Just bizarre. I tried to renew my visa waiver a couple of months ago to make sure everything ran smooth but the system wouldn't let me as I already had a valid visa waiver. It just meant that I spent half an hour chatting with some dud ewhile he sorted everything online in Montana time rather than cycling towards Eureka.

Eureka was where I made the first big mistake of my ride. I was well aware that I was making pretty good time and my knee was really sore by this stage. Corey offered to share a hotel in Eureka if I wanted even though there was plenty of light and in 2013 Walter and I had pushed on and found the shelter at Birches Creek Recreational area another 23 very easy paved miles down the course. I really should have done that on the Saturday evening but was easily seduced by the idea of a hot shower and soft bed.

I did sleep really well and the chance to stay on top of saddle soreness was probably a good thing and I know I wouldn't have felt quite so good on day three if I had pumped out the extra on day two but it would have been very easy to knock those off in the evening and be feeling super good about what was happening next.

Also spent a bit of time on day two in Eureka chatting with Jackie Bernardi about some of the mechanical issues she was up against. Really good strong rider. Much faster than me but her chain ring was held together by zip ties at this stage and panicking a bit. Thankfully she made it through to Whitefish and setting a blazing pace down the rest of the map.

Day three. Again, I did get up early and out that hotel room door early. I wasn't feeling great on the bike knowing that I was doing miles that I should have done the night before but they did pass really quickly and when I passed where I should have camped I think everyone was still sitting around there so that made me feel better. Back in 2013 I really struggled with the climb up Red Meadow Lake and had been dreading it a bit. This time. Kind of really flew up there. The knew was coming good and I made excellent time. Finally finding some flow. At the top I thought I was finally getting myself together. The body was much better and even if I was only running at the same speed that I had in 2013 I knew my body was a lot stronger and I had a lot more in the tank than last time. The descent from there down to Whitefish was fantastic and felt ready to go.

Whitefish everything came undone. I do not know what is wrong with my leg but as soon as I started cycling again after lunch just crippling pain and it was a real effort to nurse myself along. Lowered the seat again and cycled along unclipped for as far as I could. I managed only another 30 or 40 miles after that mostly downhill and all on pavement certainly no challenge whatsoever but too sore to ride bikes. I am pretty good with pain and in may ways was wanting to reach that point in the race where everything hurts. I didn't get the chance. My knee was just too sore to continue. If I had have pushed on, I may have ridden another day or so but there is no way I would have been able to go much further and I would have been doing much more damage to myself. Canada was hard and difficult. I love Montana. Montana is such a relief after Canada but I had to call it quits. It was difficult and yet really easy to stop.

I wanted to be out there, I wanted to be just cycling. I wanted to find that spot where the rest of the world disappears and it is just me and my bicycle heading down that course. I didn't reach there this time. Still all kinds of stuff happening in my head. I missed out on the euphoric highs and some of the terrible lows as I pulled up stumps too early in the ride. Clearly this will not happen again. I will never get this opportunity again. I could not justify it. I spent way way too much money that I just do not have to go and ride my bike for a few days and fail so spectacularly. I will stick to riding my bike with mates and enjoying that. 2013 was amazing and probably a bit life defining. We don't get the opportunity as adults to reach the kind of places that I did in 2013 and I hope that this experience does not subtract too much from that.

Thank you everyone for reading and everyone who supported or encouraged me.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

End of February Update

Am quite upbeat at the moment. The numbers are probably modest at best but I have indeed built a pretty reasonable base upon which to really build in the next couple of months and then fine tune over the final month.

The raw numbers say February saw me punch out pretty much exactly 1,400km. This on top of January's 1,360km. In reality it has been only a consistent month rather than anything super impressive. I really enjoyed the 400km weekend with the Audax guys and I do really need to incorporate much more of that style of cycling into my training. It is a case of making the time available.

The rest of the kilometres have been just doing the commute with very little weekend riding. I do really miss riding with Dave and Benny who aren't just good blokes who ride bikes but also very entertaining and give me hope that not all Tasmanians are narrow minded puissant bigots.

I can comfortably do the commute into work over pretty reasonable hills and be just as strong at the end of the week as I was at the start. Punching out 80km a day will build a very good base. I feel better when it is really consistent and able to happen days a week but well understand the need to help and be around for Michelle as well.

I am really feeling the need to do bigger rides from about now. Time to step into the lions den so to speak. One of the best parts of the Bronte Park and return ride was feeling so much better on day two than day one. I think you have to go and experience the pain  every now and again. Dip much deeper into the far reaches of your own endurance. I haven't done anywhere near enough of that yet. Have to let the body and brain know what they are in for. I do worry a fraction about how I do that if I am cycling on my own. I have a couple of ideas but nothing firm at this stage.

I did have a couple of dizzy spells last week which worried me a fraction. I have never had anything like that at all before. The first one was at work and I had been staring at the computer screen for too long maybe. Very sedentary. Quite a severe episode where I thought I was going to fall off the chair I was sitting on and queasy enough to worry I would throw up. It passed quickly but did worry me for a bit. The second episode was right at the end of Monday's ride and may have been a bit of over exertion or possibly under-hydrated? I did not have a great ride on Monday evening despite excellent conditions and a very happy day at work. Just wasn't a good day on the bike, happens sometimes. A bit like sometimes without reason you have a very good day. I will keep an eye on things.

My diet has been much better the last few weeks and certainly less alcohol. Am guessing that is a good thing. My weight is right down to 74kg. I don't want or need to lose too much more before the start of the race. It is good to be back to a much healthier weight range and need to consume much better nutrients than I probably have in the past.

Course research is going much better and think I have the top half of the course much better researched. It is one of those areas that you can spend a lot of time and it is probably all well spent in that the more you know, the more flexible you can be. It is all about options and cause and effect. I was hyper aware when I was out there last time how bad my course knowledge was, need to avoid the same mistakes next time. I probably should write things down much better this time as well rather than just attempting to commit things to memory although a lot of it is pretty ingrained now.

I do not have any longer rides or weekends blocked out in the calendar but really need to. I am trying to be a fraction opportunistic and fit in with weekends that Michelle has other things planned. Will work well this month and early April but will have to bite the bullet and force the issue a bit more after that.

Am I fast enough. I don't know if I am going to be able to get much faster. I have noticed that I can have a reasonable commute where I just sit at a comfortable speed and pedal easy until I get home or if I feel great and really push it I only arrive home maybe 10 minutes faster. When I am out on the course, I may well be better suited to never try and push it hard but make sure I just don't have that extra 10 minutes off the bike.

Unfortunately it looks like Robin isn't going to be a starter this year. I had been really looking forward to catching up again but doesn't look like he will be ready. Lots of Australians amongst the starting list. Looking forward to meeting them. The pure number of riders worries me a bit. I am not really interested in a big mass participation ride but after the first couple of days it doesn't feel like that anyway. From what I know of some of the other riders, it is going to be fast up at the front and there are going to be a lot of guys thinking that they are a chance to win this. I will just ride my race but I do want to go much faster than last time. I want to surprise myself.

One thing I have been obsessing a bit about lately was how much I slowed down last time. There were guys passing me who I had been much faster than earlier in the ride that I just couldn't keep with later on. I don't know whether that was a lack of strength on my part or poor nutrition before and during the race or maybe I became ill? I had always pushed it aside n the past and attempted to believe that once Walter got hit, I kind of switched to touring mode. I suspect that all falls into the kidding myself category. I did not have it in me to go faster in the second half of the race, it wasn't psychological, just purely physical. I am hoping to be stronger and healthier this time.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Next update - Tour Divide 2016 - Training and preparation

Three weeks into February and have clocked over the 1,000km for the month and s touch over 2,300 for the year. Still manage to feel guilty about the days I am not out there or when I am actually feeling alright on the bicycle. I have had a very slack week after last weekends tremendous Wuthering Heights and return ride.

I am not really certain how useful it is to look back at 2013 at the moment. I didn't manage 1,000km for the month of Feb in 2013 and it was the first week in March before I ticked over the 2,000km for the year, so I am comfortably ahead of that schedule. I didn't do enough riding then and the body was not strong enough. I am trying to be better this time but am still well behind the eight ball. In 2013 I only did one 200+km ride in the prior to the race, that was my memorable ride out to Yea. This time I have done 3 200+km rides already including a couple back to back. I think that the long days in the saddle are very beneficial, not just for the body but learning how to do this stuff.

The learning is a bit double edged. Clearly I was very underprepared last time and it just made it a guts ride from a very long way out (like from the US/Canada border). This time however I know exactly how much it is going to hurt. It does just hurt, there are all kinds of twee motivational quotes for cycling and I hope they work for some people but really the pain of being out there riding has got to be a million times better than the numbness of sitting on the couch all day. I know it is going to hurt, embrace it and ride far and fast as much as possible. Hands, wrists, arse and legs are okay, they are good pain. The neck and shoulders worry me more. Not having the strength to hold the chin off the chest last time did slow me down, I need to be a lot more committed to the strengthening exercises.

I am not really one to panic or make rash decisions but I do worry about things for longer and harder than I should. The more long rides you do in preparation, the more of the issues that happen are going to have already been addressed. You can't be worrying about things if you already know that you can handle things. No point. I suspect I would just find something else to worry about.

Speed, actual straight line bike speed. This is a tricky one. On the Divide last time I only reallyhad one speed. I could not have cycled any faster. Maybe I will be faster this time with the extra training. I see other cyclists much faster than me on the Audax rides who are well in front of me when I am riding to my absolute limit. I suspect that I was faster in the first week but because I wasn't fit enough dropped off much more than anyone else over the second half of the race. My terrible diet and all manner of other things may also have contributed but I need to do better this time.

I think it is okay to nominate Lael Wilcox as one of my TD heroes. She embraced the whole no stopped time philosophy and allegedly didn't even take her helmet off for the final week of the race. This will need to be my chosen strategy given my lack of straight line speed. It will be the best method for me to cover as many miles as possible every single day. Don't get sucked out of race mode. It will take discipline, a discipline I sadly lacked last time. A discipline I only kind of have in my training at the moment but make it count when you are out there. I know that I can start like that but will need to maintain focus and not allow myself to be discouraged when I have a bad day or make one of the mistakes that I will.

My commutes are going much better. I am feeling stronger and faster every time which is a very good sign. I can peel off the 80km per day with little effort and enjoy every turn of the pedals. I have lost a lot of weight, was down to 74kg on Friday but having had a fat weekend am probably back to 76kg. I just need to keep cycling far.

Michelle has been desperately supportive in a way that I had not expected. She knows that I am committed this time and is letting me go ride bikes. There are a couple of weekends coming up where I will have the opportunity to ride big but will need to amp up my own motivation. Get a couple of back to back 250km days in. When I have the time I need to make the most of the opportunity.

I hope I am doing the right things with my bicycle. I am just so out of my depth with anything technical. I can fix things that go wrong but I am having to ask a lot of questions on the bike where people probably look at me side ways for not knowing simple stuff. It just has never interested me.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Some good and some bad

Just a quick update as there has been nothing very exciting in the last week.

Did the commute 4 times this work week which has given me a pretty cool 320km and makes 520km in the last seven days. Not huge numbers but clearly the biggest week so far and have come out the other side feeling really very fit and strong. I have finished each day feeling good and like I can indeed keep cycling for many more kilometres. I am pretty happy to be making good progress.

The flip side is that it is going to be a very limited week coming up in terms of time on the bike. Long weekend at the moment and have commitments that will keep me off the bike. Which maybe a good thing anyway. I will get a commute in on Tuesday but that is it until the weekend when I will do the Audax 400. Being a bit positive, maybe it is good to change things a bit, allow the body to recover for a few days and get a good 400 in this weekend.

I know I have to do the training for my own head, my own body and my own level and health and fitness and to meet my goals but I see guys posting to facebook etc. about doing huge rides and the amount of kilometres they are clocking up. It does get me down a fraction, when I am not out there and they are. Mostly jealousy on my part perhaps but some of it certainly is questioning my own commitment. I had previously talked about my own ability to not be honest to myself, there may be some of that in there. If I am serious about this I need to get out there and do big big rides. I have deliberately held myself back in January as I did not want to ramp up too much too quickly but this has to be fair dinkum February now. I am certain I am on a much better trajectory than last time and will be well placed.

You have to do the right amount of training to meet ambitious goals. It is getting the head there as well. You need to believe that you are capable of doing these truly extraordinary things. I didn't believe last time and found it very easy to slow down when it really hurt. I think everyone hurts out there and this time I just want to be able to keep going.

Need to sit down again and do some better planning for the next two months as well. The January and February plans worked well and have allowed me to do a lot of riding because it was communicated well in advance to Michelle and she made alternate plans. Very important to keep her on board and I have been very lucky and a bit surprised even maybe about how much support I have received this time on such an indulgent exercise. I know she worries about things as many people do and I know that there is no quid pro quo on this one. I just don't believe in keeping score or counting points. This is purely about my need to escape and ride my bike for a couple of weeks.

Also looking at the people that are putting their hand up. There are going to be a lot of very fast guys out there this year. It is going to be a fast year this year with lots of very strong cyclists. It is going to be great to be a part of that even if it is all happening way out in front of me. I do want to go very fast. I think if I keep going with the training and I have no reason to believe that I won't then if I am clever and strong and cop some good breaks when I am out there then I can get down into the 18day range.

Last time I wanted to be fast and thought sub 21 was a fast time. The goal posts are moving rapidly with the training I am doing and how light weight I may be able to go with the bike and kit. Whilst still dithering over wheels, I am certain I will invest in some good carbon rims and a 1 x 11 conversion to lose the rolhoff. Big weight and efficiency gains. I took way too many clothes last time and will just be much smarter with all of that.

The weight training is not going to plan. I have not gotten to the gym at all and having suffered badly from weight loss related neck issues last time, I should be doing a lot more. Just remember the Idaho rail trail. I could not lift my chin off my chest from there onwards. With some luck I am a day or more ahead of the schedule I set last time and may be a bit fitter when I reach there. Get into Wyoming faster than last time and the body can recover a bit more.

Also dithering a little on the flights into Canada. I am pretty keen to fly to Vancouver and have a fast ride out to Banff. If I fly out of here on Thursday 2nd June, out to Vernon by probably mid Saturday and then a couple more days out to Banff. Really enjoyed the ride out to Banff from Vernon last time but that was because I had Gavin with me and I always enjoy cycling with Gavin. He is just the right amount of interaction and amazing knowledge for me when we go riding. Bit different riding on my own but think I would really enjoy it.

The other option I have is to fly out of Australia and into Calgary. That would make only a one day ride out to Banff and I could leave Australia probably 3 or 4 days later. Would I still be jet lagged? It costs more to fly to Calgary but I would save that money by being here in Australia for longer and Canada isn't cheap. I do need to sort flights very shortly.

Am liking the place I am in at the moment when I stop and properly rationalise. Just need to stop comparing myself to others and ride my race and do my training. Take it seriously and sort stuff out.