Devon Grand Prix 2012

This weekend was my first attempt at Road Racing. At the start of this year I told myself I wouldn’t race because it was too dangerous and I didn’t think I would be strong enough to be competitive. After I was rooked into going out to a Spring Series race I quickly changed my mind. Since the spring race I’ve come quite far. I’ve averaged about 250km/week of riding and have spent a bunch of time doing intervals and hill climbs which have had a large impact on my speed, power, and endurance.

This weekend was the Devon Grand Prix which consisted of two independent races. The first was the United Cycle Downtown Criterium Provincials in the afternoon on Saturday. The second was the Juventus Gennesee Hills Road Race on Sunday morning.

The crit race was a nerve racking experience. Unlike a road race where there is a considerable distance to travel, the crit consisted of 15 laps of about 900m. This meant that the race would last for about 20 minutes making very little room for error in terms of positioning and pacing. The cornering was intense at high speeds, but I felt comfortable and strong making tough turns in the big group and never once felt really scared about crashing. My starting spot was another story, from the get go I allowed a bunch of other riders to line up in front of me, making it very difficult to move to the front of the group. After the one parade lap, the pace car pealed away and we were off. I felt strong in the corners but was at the very back of the 35 man group. My legs felt good for the first couple laps and  I really worked hard to move myself to the front so that I was in a better position for the sprints that happened every 5 laps. I eventually made it into the top 10 as of about the 6th lap. By this point the lead pack had begun to breakaway from the main group. The guys, lead by Keegan, were really hammering and I was trying my hardest to hang on for dear life. At this point a gap of about 50m split the two packs apart. I was beginning to fade from the relentless speed and not getting on people’s wheels properly and was dropped from the lead group. I tried to fight my way back on but wasted a lot of energy in no man’s land between the two packs where I was also fighting unnecessary wind resistance. This went on for about a lap before the chase pack caught me. By this point I had went well over my red-line in terms of power output and heart rate and was really crashing hard. The weather was beautiful at 25 degrees, arguably the hottest day of riding this year. This mixed with the new black ERTC team kit I was wearing, and my insanely high heart rate left me feeling really terrible with well over 7 laps to go. I slowly was dropped from even the chase pack as I had nothing left in my legs. That, mixed with a lack of air, getting the shivers from over exertion, plus riding solo made for a rough last couple laps where I worked hard to catch and pass the other riders who had blown up early.

I came around the corner of the final lap with a Juventus guy who had been latched onto my rear wheel post getting dropped. He pulled out to sprint past me, I tried following, but the Juventus rider who crashed earlier was walking his bike across the line and neglected to look to see the last riders coming around the corner. I had to pull out at the last second to avoid putting the oblivious rider into his second crash of the day although he would have deserved it. I found out that Keegan scored enough points for 3rd overall and avoided a mechanical which was really exciting.

The take-a-ways from that race are to establish a good starting position as quick as possible, and then sit in for as long as possible while minimizing the amount of actual work you do until it becomes absolutely necessary. I also realized that once I got dropped off the front pack I should have allowed myself to join the chase pack that was working hard to bridge the gap and use them to my advantage. I was really shocked by my Garmin data and realized just how hard I had been pushing early in the race.

On Sunday I had completely different results during the road race. The race was to consist of about 72km of total riding with two massive climbs in the very middle of the ride. While my ability to produce massive power for a short time such as in the crit is not quite where it needs to be yet, I have developed quite a solid base of cycling endurance from all of the 130+ km rides I’ve done. The hill repeat nights I’ve done this year with ERTC has also made me into a decent climber, at least for Cat 5. In total ERTC fielded 5 riders for the Cat 5 race. Kyle, our strongest cat 5 rider is also a strong climber. Our game plan for the race was to stay out of trouble on the way out to the Gennesee Power Coulee, move to the front  of the pack on the first hill, and then really attack hard on the way back on the second climb shortly after. We guessed we’d need about 6-10 people to make the break away work. Assuming that I didn’t repeat the previous days performance, that was about all we hoped for and didn’t really have a plan after that.

The race started pretty calm until after the first corner at which point the guys working hard at the front began to open up the throttle. We had a strong tailwind on the way out and were doing over 40km/h a lot of the time. As it was Cat 5, there were a lot of strange accelerations where a gap would open up by about 10m in the middle of the peleton but then the guys driving the pace would back off and the groups would rejoin.  I realized after this had occurred for the 3rd time not to waste energy working hard to get onto the front group as it was just a useless waste of energy. I gradually moved into the top 10 or so riders nestling in behind Kyle so that I knew I had a non-sketchy wheel to follow. We were just far enough back so that we wouldn’t have to do any pulling and close enough that we could break out to chase down any attacks that may have occurred. Fortunately no serious attacks were mounted before the hills as I guess everyone else had the same plan as attacking on the hills.

We hit the first down hill and were flying, doing well over 60km/h. Things flattened out and then the 1km+ climb started. The strong climbers were all near the front and as opposed to waiting until the second hill, started to fly up the first hill. Not wanting to get dropped I stomped on it, cruising past other riders who weren’t climbing nearly hard enough to keep up. A group of about 15 people out of 40 made it up the hill quickly enough to separate from the lead pack. As soon as we crested the hill, our Cat 5 turn around came.  I had just enough time to get my heart rate settled down enough not to blow up and we were descending again. One thing I’ve learned is that I descend quickly. I don’t know what it is, maybe my heavy aluminium bike or being slightly heavier than most riders, but I have an ability to descend fast. On the downhill, I pulled out around the pack and settled into a an aero position and began pulling away from the front of the group. I didn’t really have plans to go off the front, but thought maybe I could make the other fast guys do some extra work to catch up to me on the decline, wasting energy for the climb. This also allowed us to separate ourselves from the chase pack that was developing as a result behind us. The hill climb was nasty, I’ve never climbed that hard before for that long. I was red-lining again and barely made it over the hill but I figured everyone else was hurting just as bad and managed to hold on.

We managed to form an echelon among the lead group and held the chase pack off for the whole race. By the end there were a couple of guys skipping pulls who looked like they were hurting bad so we tried to up the pace so that we could ruin them for the sprint. Kyle and I talked about what to do with about 7km left in the race. If their hadn’t been such a strong wind I was considering trying to ride off the front as I felt like I had better long term power than in the sprint. I decided not to risk blowing up before the finish line and ruining my chance of finishing high. The 500m mark came quickly and the group took off really far from the line. A group of about 4 people took  off and I managed to get around the guys who were maxed out to catch them. I made the mistake of not getting onto their wheels and spent about 300m in the unnecessary head wind. Kyle managed to pull away, easily pulling off to take first place in the sprint, along with another Juventus rider. I passed the other two guys who were on their tails, but with about 30m left another Juventus rider who had been drafting me pulled out and grabbed third place by about a wheel.

I was stoked on life, getting 4th place was much better than I expected, and Kyle taking 1st was awesome. We executed the game plan perfectly and everything went about as good as I could have possibly dreamed for my first race. The only thing I would have done differently would be to have moved a bit closer to the front of the break-away for the start of the sprint and then getting on a wheel until about 150m before I pull out to make my move.

Here’s the Garmin data for the race: http://app.strava.com/rides/11641433. I was really happy with being able to keep my heart rate for that long. I feel like my HR thresholds have been moving up because I have been feeling really good at higher heart rates that used to ruin me a lot quicker. I also managed to get my HR up to a new personal best of 193 on the final sprint which is the highest I’ve ever seen it on the bike.

The Pursuit of Bread Making(aka Happiness)

I’ve lately been intrigued by both my co-workers’ and training buddies’ talk of bread making and have decided to give it a shot. I love bread, its even above Cheese, Beer, Coffee, and Balsamic Vinegar on my list of foodly obsessions. I normally burn through about 2-3 loaves a week of French bread alone with Balsamic Vinegar and Olive Oil and figure that I could probably redirect the weekly cost into a steady stream of baking ingredients and great general satisfaction.

I was first intrigued with bread making over a year ago when I been making my own pizza doughs as they are much cheaper and tastier than pre bought crusts, and provide the satisfaction of making them from scratch. While this is fine, I can only handle making pizzas every so often. I have been using Peter Reinhart’s Neo-Neopolitan Pizza Dough recipe which  has served me really well so far although I am sure that there are many things I am doing incorrectly. I realized today that the version I had been using all this time was not the authentic version and called for no sugar, which I am assuming would have a large impact on how the dough turns out. Once I make it through these last 4 crusts I’ve made I’ll have to give it another shot with  the added sugar. Anyways, if you are interested in making dough from scratch pizza doughs have been fairly easy to make and quite rewarding. My only suggestions would be to invest in a pizza stone for the oven, and also corn meal to help make sliding your pizzas on and off the stone easier. On the topic of Peter Reinhart, I just finished watching his TED talk on bread making which I really enjoyed. It examined both a bit of the food chemistry behind the baking process and also the importance of bread from a philosophical/cultural point of view. I’ve linked the video below.

Anyways, to support my recipe book collecting/Amazon purchasing addictions I’ve ordered Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery that Revolutionizes Home Baking and a dough scraper to make life easier. The book was highly recommended and has an introduction that speaks about the basic techniques you’ll need to get started with bread making as well as featuring great recipes, or at least that’s what the internet is telling me. Once my gear arrives and as I learn more tips and tricks and begin cranking out loaves and I’ll probably throw pictures/what I’ve learned up on here.

As a side note I was also really intrigued by the end of the TED which taught me that you can add Spent Grains to your baking which is a by-product from home brewed beer, UH-OH! Maybe once I’ve graduated and have some more money to throw around I’ll consider it, but in the mean time, I’ll have to stick to breads.

Fast Trax 30km Trail Race Report

On this most recent Saturday morning I completed my first ever trail race. The 30k distance, which I competed in, was the smallest distance with the other choices being Ultra Races at 50km, 80km, and 100km distances. The 30k was more than enough considering I’ve only ever done one other half-marathon back in February and hadn’t really devoted a lot of distance work and time to preparing for this race which I signed up for on a whim back in March.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from myself in the race. I think the largest ran I’d done before this was back in February at about 23km and was at a really slow pace. The other factor was that I’d never completed a trail race before so running with a ton of elevation change was not something I was used too. I also hadn’t really devoted a whole lot of training for this race. Since the summer has started I’ve been consistently doing long runs on Monday nights of about 18-20km’s with lots of trails and maintaining an average pace of about 5:00min/km and then trying to do at least one other 10km run during the weeks at closer to my 10k race pace. For that reason I assumed that the max cut off for my day being a failure was running anything over 3 hours (6:00min/km pace) and set my top end goal for 2 hours and 30 minutes(5:00min/km).

The race was held at Gold Bar Park here in Edmonton and was a blast to run. It had rained earlier in the week but despite many close calls held off from raining for the last 2 days before the race making the trails soft but not at all muddy. Because some people were attempting to do a 100km’s, there was a mass start for all distances at 7am which was really damn early. It was a little bit intimidating with all of the hard core people dressed to the 9’s with their hard core trail runners, compression socks, camelbak’s and all of that other trail running gear. Soon enough the gun went off and we all went trudging along. The different distance packs all split up pretty quickly and before I knew it, Keegan, myself, and the eventual 30km winner had all moved to the front and were out leading the pack.

I hadn’t pre-run the course or even been to Gold Bar before so I held back a bit on the first lap until I got more of a feel for the course and the elevation. After about 6km’s two other runners started lessen the gap between me and themselves so I decided to take off from Keegan, who was going for 50km, and just run at a comfortable threshold pace. I specifically set my garmin to not show heart rate, set my laps to 10km and only showed average lap pace so as not to worry about pacing other than that I was not completely falling short of the speed I wanted over the course of the lap.

The first half of the course was extremely hilly, right off the bat we hit Esso hill which was a nasty, long steep beast which was okay the first two times through but really sucked the third time. From about kilometre 6 and on the course really flattened out and I was able to step on it. After the first lap my legs were feeling really good so I upped my pace a bit and was able to float around 4:41/km for the lap. By the time the third lap came around I was really starting to feel it. However there was $20 worth of beer on the line for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place finishers so I had to push hard. By the 26th or so kilometre I was starting to feel pretty spent and went from pushing to be fast to pushing just so I could be done with running for the day. My pace gradually dropped from 4:45 down to 4:55 at which point I really focused on maintaining that speed. There were a couple of points where I got really light headed and shivery, and felt like I was starting to bonk but backed off just long enough that it would go away. At another point I developed chest pain that started on one side and worked its way across my body to cover the whole front and a bit of my back. I figured I was going to be that 1/1000 person who died from a heart attack in a race and that I should really push so that when it finally struck me it would be a swift and painless death. I survived that, the knee pain, small back spasms, and all of the other interesting ways that your body starts to scream at you once you get over about 20 kilometres and the finish line came soon enough. It felt so awesome to be done, finishing second in my distance and first in my age group.

Overall I was really happy with my performance, my pacing, and the race in general. Obviously more training would have helped but I went into this race more just to try the longer distance out in preparation for a marathon in the next year and as something different to try out. The only real critiques were that I should have maybe eaten another gel or 2 on the race as I only managed to get 1.5 down. And perhaps drinking more water would have helped. The aid station people missed me twice so I only ended up drinking 3 small cups throughout the race. That being said the Ultra distance is more of a self-serve aid station set up and I shouldn’t have really expected the volunteers to have water ready for me as I was going by.

Total Time: 2:25:03

Split 1 – 48:00

Split 2 – 47:17

Split 3 – 49:46

Strava: http://app.strava.com/runs/10958663

Race Website: http://ultra.fasttraxskishop.com/trail_info.php

Great Speed Swim Workout

With my upcoming race on Saturday morning, I decided to give my legs a break from the regular Thursday night pounding that hills with ERTC inflicted on them. Instead I went to our Tri club’s swim practise and was treated to a great workout by our coach Mike. It provided a good combination of pacing work, speed, and endurance all mixed into one package. I found this to be a lot of fun and am writing about this as much for the 10 people that might read this as for archiving this workout so I don’t forget.

The distance worked out to 2.2km and I finished it in around 90 minutes. I consider myself an “advanced beginner”.

Warm-up:

3x: 100m easy free style, 25m backstroke

+ 25m of back kick to get back to the start

Main Set 1(Hard Kick, Race Pace):

6x: 25m of kick at 40 seconds, 50m of freestyle on 1 minute, 30 seconds rest

Main Set 2(Race Pace – 10 seconds, Race Pace):

1x: 50m on 1:10, 50m on 1:00

1x: 100m on 2:20, 100m on 2:00

1x: 150m on 3:30, 150m on 3:00

Main Set 3(Active Recovery, Race Pace, AR, Above RP, AR, 2 x All Out):

100m on 2:30, 100m on 2:00, 100m on 3:00, 1oom on 1:50, 100m on 3:00, 50m on 50s, 50m on 50s

Cool Down:

100m easy free style

Notes:

-This workout uses speeds I am comfortable with where my race pace is approximately 2:00/100m. Based on that time you can adjust the workout to fit your own race pace speed.

-If you need more distance, tack it onto the 3rd Main Set

-On the 2nd and 3rd sets I worked on pacing myself so I arrived exactly at the allotted time which allowed me to practise pacing and also made for 2 sets of 600m of consecutive swimming