Sunday, March 30, 2008

Motivational Issues?

Next time it is too windy, too cold, too ... watch this video. Amazing dude.

No racing for me this weekend - I need to let the legs recover at some point! I did a nice long MTB spin yesterday and a road one today. Horrible weather yesterday, okay today - I'm still wearing 4-5 layers though! Summer, please come soon!

Next week it is the third K-Captial race, then, Mel and I are off to the UK for the first of their XC and Marathon National Points Series races and then back home for the final leg of the K-Capital series. The Irish NPS series starts the week after that but I'll have to see how my legs are doing.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Awareness Test...

It seems all the cycling websites/forums are promoting this...

South Park for free...

I have gone through stints of loving it (about 7 or 8 years ago), not liking it much (most of the time between) and really liking it - now. But Comedy Network have released all of South Park for free on a new website. Pretty sweet - I'm glad to see a lot of the television networks switching to this type of setup as I have not had a TV in years but still like to watch a couple of series in the evenings on demand. I don't even mind (too much) a couple of ads in it...

Also, Channel 4, MTV, and RTE do similar things.

Monday, March 24, 2008

2008 K-Capital Cup Round 2

They talked of rain. Met Eireann had big snowy clouds sitting over Northern Ireland all week – fortunately, the weekend was dry (but cold) and the racing fast. This was the weekend of the Second Round of the K-Capital Series.

The weekend started with the pre-ride on the Saturday. Mel and I drove the two and a half hours to the course and got three laps in. One slow, one fast, one slow. The course was good. Basically, it felt like 90% singletrack. No big climbs (although there was 150m of climb per lap, it felt like it was mostly from steep kickers) and all that single track didn't really suit me – but it was a lot of fun to ride. There was no letup on the course, there was no section to take it easy and I knew that it was going to be hard on my body – not just my legs.

Course Profile

A birds eye view of the Moneyscalp course

Race morning arrived and we drove back to the race course from Monaghan (a one and a half hour drive). Thankfully, the course remained dry and from watching the sports riders ride by, it looked like it was holding up pretty well. There were a couple of mushy sections around the top of the course but really nothing to write home about. Instead of warming up on the roads, I decided to warm up by a steady lap of the course with a few accelerations – all that went grand.

Just before 1:30 we were called up for the gridding – second row for me so I was pretty happy. The first part of the course was up a steep fireroad then straight into single-track. The field had a little of an International flair with 3 Belgians and 3 riders from Great Britain over for the race. At 1:30 we were off – the start was not too fast but a huge surge right before the single track (which was a pretty technical entry point) meant that already there was a few little gaps formed. Over the course of that single-track section most of the gaps closed again but by the time we hit the fireroad there was a small lead group of 5 slightly ahead. Up the fireroad, I was sitting in 7th. This is were I stayed for most of the race – I could see one of the Belgians ahead of me (Patrick Gaudy) on the straight sections and by the 5th lap I caught and passed him. From that point on I slowly moved away from him eventually finishing up 2:17 later in 6th position.

The race was pretty tough - 6th place is my highest finish in a UCI C2 race but I actually wasn't particularly happy with how I raced. I rode technically pretty well but I didn't feel strong – I didn't feel like I had the legs to push hard – I felt that the maximum I could do was a soft pedal. My max HR was 183 (should be in the 190s...) and average HR was pretty low. That was a bit frustrating but the season is long and the next race is two weeks from now. (No racing for me next week – training and recovery is the name of the game) Another of the positives I guess was that I finished with very little left in the tank. In Kilruddery, I could have kept going for hours at the same pace – not so yesterday.

Mel will have some to say about her race but I'll leave her to talk about it in her blog. Full results of the race can be found here. There are a couple of pictures here and here. There is a report available here.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Selling some monitors

I'm selling two Dell 20 inch 2001FP monitors on (link). They are 200 euro each - really nice monitors that I used for dual screening (370 for both...). I'm switching to using my MacBookPro for development so I'm going to pick up one 24 inch monitor instead. (My Mac does not support dual screens without the use of an expensive adapter)

Shoes and pedals

With the new season a new shipment of shoes and pedals came in. First off, I'll mention my CrankBrother 4Ti Eggbeaters. Since I started biking I have pretty much only used Eggbeaters and this was the first time that I was going to be using the 4Ti version. They are, as the name suggests an expensive pair of pedals but at 168grams, the lightest available. At the price, and weight, I only use them for races – even prerides will be done on the 'porky' 260gram Eggbeater SLs.

4Ti Eggbeaters

One of the other new bits of equipment that I got recently is the Specialized S-Works Road and Off-road shoes. I am a 44.5 in Sidis but somehow a 44 in the Specialized shoes. The closing mechanism is great and really clamps the shoes onto your feet well with no part seeming to have extra pressure. I've only had one long ride in the road shoes yet (153km Des Hanlon Memorial Road Race) but so far they seem perfect. At 535grams a pair, they also drop 200+ grams over the shoes I used last year on the road.

S-Works road and MTB shoes

Like the road shoes, the off-road shoes have been perfect. They have had a lot more use so far and again, I've not had a single issue. Comfortable, stiff and yet I can still walk/run in them reasonably well. Two very well put together products.

Thanks to 2Pure and Cycleways for helping out with the equipment.

Monday, March 17, 2008

2008 Des Hanlon Memorial Road Race

Yesterday saw me take part in my second road race, third race of, the year. As I said in an earlier post, I was treating this as purely training. But still, with any 150km+ race, a little preparation was needed. On Friday I picked up my new S-Works Road Shoes from Cycleways (Thanks!). White and very PRO looking – they also drop about 220 grams over my now relegated to training shoes. On Saturday, I had planned on riding off road for 2-3 hours but consistent rain (and a bit of a mechanical) meant that I was home, freezing after 1.5 hours. Well – the next day was going to be long so I was not too annoyed.

Sunday arrived to a bright and sunny day – I was not relishing the prospect of a race in conditions similar to last year. I arrived with enough time to sign on and get ready but not enough for a reasonable warmup – the first few km was going to be neutralised so that was fine, besides, all I wanted to do was sit in the draft all day.

A map of the course

Course Profile with speed

Race was going to plan. 30 minutes in, I had done nothing but stay out of the wind. We were on a bit of a climb and I seen a break of about 12 get away – they were a bit ahead and I seen a few try to bridge so I decided I may as well give it a go. For about 5 minutes a few of us worked to catch them in vain. Then another couple of people joined us and soon the peleton was with us again. Ahh well, it's probably best – I was supposed to only be sitting in. For the next few hours I sat in out of the wind most of the time – watching as people were slowly shelled off the back (sometimes in clumps). It wasn't always easy but I never really pushed anything. The course was basically a leg out to the start of a lap, 3 laps (4 reasonable climbs per lap) and then a fast ride into the finish. On the last climb of the second last lap I was chatting to another guy (sorry, I forgot your name – riding an S-Works Tarmac) that if we both have good legs at this point in the last lap we will hammer off the front. So, we rode the next lap and when that point came along both of us, joined by 3 others broke up the main chase group (we were about 30-40 riders from an original 100+) and 5 of us got away. 3 more joined us on the descent to the finish and we hammered along for what was a sprint finish in the end. I came in in 11th position overall in the S1 (probably equivalent to Pro/1/2 in the US) race – if I had stayed an S2 (as I was last year) I would have come second. For someone who took it (reasonably) easy all day, I was very happy with that. This race is known as been an Irish 'classic' and one of the toughest of the year.

Me on a climb - one of the few times in the wind :) (pics from Peter Purfield)

Coming in for 11th - it was a hard push down the hill

Saint Patrick's day for me is about resting, eating well (my PowerTap reports that I used about 4,000 calories in the race), going on a recovery ride and possibly heading into the city later to see some of the festivities.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Exercise Bike...

I rather being outside - even if it is raining. Pretty cool though.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

2008 Specialized Tarmac – New Road Machine

About two weeks ago my new road bike arrived in a big box. I had been thinking about switching to a full carbon road bike for a long time as it would (should) be a bit more compliant on bumpy Irish roads when your riding 120k... The S-Works E5 has been amazing but also, a change is as good as a rest. New Tech is always cool :)

The big box :)

In all its glory

It came with full Ultegra SL and a DuraAce rear d̩railleur. The rest of the finishing kit was Specialized gear Рa few bits I might change as the year goes by to make it a little lighter. The wheels that were stock, I sold as I already had a set of them as my training wheels and I would be racing with my PowerTap SL wheel and a more aero front wheel. The front wheel I picked up was a Mavic Cosmic Carbone SL Premium Рit is pretty heavy at 800grams but is very quick (aero) once it is up to speed. It also makes that nice carbon on road sound when your hammering along (Physcological boosts help too!). Anyone want to give me an aero PT rear wheel to complete the look of the bike? ;)

Mmmm - Dura Ace

The swooping top tube looks cool

First impressions are amazing – the bike seems to be a little stiffer then the E5, most noticeable when putting out 500 Watts+ out of the saddle, but yet a lot more smooth on the road. The constant vibrations seem to be numbed a lot. The groupset is working as I would expect it too – very similar to the Ultegra on my other bike – what can I say, it shifts when it should and breaking is good :)

I must say a huge thanks to Cycleways who helped set me up with the bike.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Videos from the K-Capital Cup

Here are a couple of videos from the K-Capital Cup...

Link 1

I'm coming through at 6:20 in the above video for my final lap.

Link 3

In the end, over 250 people took part in one of the cats on Sunday - amazing. Is it the most ever for a non nationals XC competition in Ireland? Just stands to the reputation that the K-Capital Cup has generated in this, only its second year. If you are on the fense about racing (or traveling here to race one of the other rounds) one of the rounds - do come, you wont be disappointed!

Today I got good intense training in - the DOMS that appeared last week after the road race have not shown their face again this week (damn, I knew I didn't go hard enough in the race). I can't wait for the next round :)

Monday, March 10, 2008

2008 K-Capital Cup - Round 1 UCI C2

Yeeeah – for race season. Yesterday was my first cross country race of the new season – a UCI C2 event which was the first round of the K-Capital Cup Series. The race was being held in the amazing Kilruddery Estate like last year on a course that was pretty similar to last years but a little shorter. The course was basically a big climb followed by a very technical rocky descent (about 2-3 minutes) then a flat fireroad over to another 3-4 minute climb. Next was an amazingly long fast single track section through the woods that goes on for hours (well, not quite, I wish). Another few minutes of climbing and then a chunk more singletrack that eventually takes you back to the start/finish area – about 8km long.

Course profile (it was actually 8km long)

How it looks

Preparation all started on the Saturday with the preride. Having just finished building up my new race bike (more on it later) the day before it was going to be its first ride. Like last year, it was an S-Works Epic so the geometry was exactly the same and fortunately I had been using my new wheels for a few rides so I had no qualms about racing on such a new bike (I've built up enough bikes at this point that I'm confident in my mechanical abilities...). The day started with heavy showers so by the time I was out on the course it really was very sketchy in places. 85% was bone dry, 15% was very wet – I heard that there was a rush to the bike shops after the pre-ride to get mud tires! Anyway, the pre-ride went fine and I was looking forward to the race.

I woke up on Sunday to beautiful sunny skies (and the "why am I about to put myself through this" feeling) and the hope that we might actually have a dry race. By the time I got to the course I got to see a few of the sports riders riding around during their race and they were not covered from head to toe in mud so it looked like conditions had dried out a lot since yesterday – sure enough, after further inspection of the course, it had, and the blue skies around me gave me the real hope of a fully dry race.

The Elite Men were off at 1:30 and as I knew the gridding was based on last years world ranking I arrived about 4 minutes before the start to my second row position (last year I started at the back – would not have been so bad this year though as there was no single track for a long time, just a big climb to get warmed up on). The race started and the pace was not too bad. I stuck with the leaders up the climb and down the slab descent. A few little gaps then formed and unfortunately I was a little back from the next person up (Ross Creber) so I didn't get any drafting on the flat section. The next two hours was basically me pushing myself to get around as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, apart from chasing Ross for a while I was not racing with anyone until I started to lap people on the 3rd of the 5 laps. I finished up 2:23 after the start to come in in 10th position (3rd Irishman). I really enjoyed the race and the singletrack was simply amazing – it is possibly my favourite course to ride but probably not one that suits me the most. The quality of the riders that came over for the race was great too – it had the feel of one of the big UK races! I knew it was early days in the race season for me as when I finished the race I still had legs for another 2-3 laps at the same pace (need to push harder). Also, my average heart rate for the race was very low – about 7-8 bpm lower then it would usually be for a race of that length so I have a few things to work on before the next cross country race (the second round of the K-Captial Series) in Tullymore in two weeks.

A short descent that dropped us down to the start/finish area - pic from here

Before then, there is a road race on on Sunday that I'm contemplating doing – it's pretty long at 150km but I did it last year and enjoyed it. If I do do it though, I'm doing it for training and not to race – I'm going to have a big sticker on my handlebars saying “Thou shalt not attack”. Nothing like a good 4 hour peleton pacing session.

Results for the race can be found here.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Sore legs...

Yesterday I was out riding the mountain bike and today was supposed to be high intensity intervals off road but I think my legs have a bit of a case of DOMS. I was pretty good on Monday but yesterday and today my legs just don't have any getup and go. I'm going to switch around the steady road ride scheduled for Thursday with todays intervals. I know tomorrow I'll be able to get the intensity right.

I do like this explanation of DOMs on Wikipedia though:
"Some research claims that DOMS is not caused by the pain from damaged muscle cells, but from the reinforcement process. The muscle responds to training by reinforcing itself up to and above its previous strength by increasing the size of muscle fibers (muscle hypertrophy). This reinforcement process causes the cells to swell in their compartment and put pressure on nerves and arteries producing pain."

I guess the first race of the season really did shock my legs!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Cycleways Cup - First Race of the Season

Sunday saw me take part in my first race of the 2008 season - The Cycleways Cup - which was also my first as an S1 (I was an S2 last year). It was a 123km road race held around Navan. The course was basically an out, then three laps of a 39km loop and then back to a different finishing location. Unfortunately, there wasn't much climbing involved (about 900m in total over the whole race) but there was a constant wind to keep the difficulty up. Last year I rode the race with a 12-25 on the back (the only cassette I had), on Saturday, I thankfully picked up an 11-23 as I spun it out a few times too...

A map of the course

The profile for the day (and speed)

Anyway, I rolled off at the start a little apprehensive as it had been a while since I rode in such a large group (about 100 riders) but after a few minutes it felt like normal again. There was no serious cornering etc... so most of the riding was pretty simple. As I had taken part in a race on this course last year, I knew that the attacks would start from the first 'climb' about 5km into the race. I stayed around the front for that trying not to make my mistake from last year and not make the winning break (last year, a break of about 15-20 stayed away for the complete race). I rode around the front and bridged up a few times but wasn't really doing anything except giving myself a good workout. No large groups got away so I ended up moving back and resting in the peleton for much of the next hour or so. With about an hour to go a group of about 12 got off the front, which I missed but a while later I decided that it really was now or never for bridging up to the group. The distance looked to be about 40 seconds so I gave it everything.

Power/HR when I bridged - I love my PowerTap

It took about 4-5 minutes to bridge across but luckily about 2.5 minutes in another rider (who looked a lot more suited to flat racing then me) joined me and we worked together to bridge up – by the time we made it, I was about to be sick. I was so happy to see him, it really really helped and I don't think I would have made it otherwise. As I got to the lead group, the next few minutes was about recovering. After that, we worked a bit of a paceline to make sure the chasing group didn't get us but no one really wanted to pull. A few tried to get away a couple of times (and I followed) but the group would just chase us down. Tactically, in hindsight I rode the final 20 minutes pretty poorly – I felt strong and repeatedly attacked off the front (as was other people) but I could not seem to get away. Eventually, 4 actually did make in and then another 2 but I didn't make that cut and ended up rolling in with the rest of the lead group a little back. (I must have tried to go about 15 times – talk about interval training!)

The race was pretty good fun – the start was great and the end was exciting (the feeling of, hey wait, I might just be able to win this thing...). The middle dragged a bit – but at least I got some rest.

The purpose of the race for me was to get some racing into my legs before the K-Capital series starts next week – in that regard, the weekend was a success... My normalized power for the final 50 minutes was 350... a new record for having already ridden over two hours at a hard pace. No new power records from the rest of the race for me... Road racing is just so surgey. Some pictures from the race can be found here.

In other news, a ton of new equipment has been arriving – bikes, wheels etc... More on that later.