Sunday, February 23, 2014

Strava Challenge Time: The CyclingTips February Fifteen

I've been getting into Strava a bit more lately, mainly as I'm actually riding and running with other Strava users and not just using the site independently of the real world. So I've been paying a bit more attention to the Challenges - getting in 130km rides in for the monthly Gran Fondo series, and trying to improve upon the amount of riding and running I do each month by comparing each month's Monthly Training Series tallies.

Occasionally there are other challenges, involving covering a particular distance or total elevation over a defined period. From tomorrow, I'll be hoping to spend 15 hours on my bike over seven days as part of the CyclingTips February Fifteen challenge. It's why I didn't go for a long ride today (and thus why I got a bit lazy during the week and put off my long run until today). Further, it's a battle between Australia and (the rest of) The World. While we typically have lovely warm weather in February, compared to our friends in the northern hemisphere, The World kicked arse last year.

Now I'm still doing Jantastic, so I need to juggle my three runs (including a long run in which I'm hoping to cover 16km, although I only entered 12km into Jantastic) with saddle time. If I commuted to work I know that I could easily get the 15 hours done, but I work from home and spending time on the bike and not on the thesis could become a little hard to justify... so I'm going to get my extra hours done BEFORE my regular rides, and then do a few extra things. Hopefully it won't be unmanageable!


Today's postponed ride will consist of a trip into the city (~1hr), a ride with the GirlRide group (1.5hrs), and a trip back home (~1hr). Of course, if I get up an extra half-hour earlier and leave at 5am, then I can add another 30 minutes to the tally.
3 hours


The Maling Room Ride (typically ~2hours including commute time), but I am counting on getting an 30 minutes in beforehand if I leave home at 5am.
2.5 hours (and a total of 5.5 hours)


Long run day. Maybe a sneaky half-hour as part of a post-run doughnut hunting exercise.
0.5 hours (total of 6 hours)


The regular Box Hill Breeze ride (typically ~1.5hours including commute time), but with an extra half-hour beforehand and another half-hour afterwards (or however long it takes me to get to the bottom of a local hill).
2.5 hours (total of 8.5 hours)


Speedwork day - I think 400m repeats are on the schedule. I'm thinking that I need to sneak in a quick trip to the shops.
0.5 hours (total of 9 hours)


parkrun day! I haven't made my way to parkrun on my bike at all this month (I was chasing PBs and took the dog), but it typically takes me 45 minutes to get there and 50 minutes on the way back. I'm not particularly keen on the idea of more riding before the run, but I think I could easily add another 30-60 minutes to the trip home. Especially since I want to explore a potential long-run route starting from Westerfolds Park. And possibly stop by Doncaster Westfield to pick up some Lush products.
2.58 hours (total of 11.58 hours)


Long ride day - I "only" need about 3.5 hours to make it if all goes to plan. I plan to head out to the Dandenongs to visit the Puffing Billy Great Train Race course, which is a 70km out-and-back exercise. Depending on how much time I need to make up, I could take a detour through some of the climbs in the area!
3.5 hours (total of 15.08 hours)

Good luck me!

P.S. Berwick Springs parkrun have (surprise, surprise) parking problems! Although I thought they'd run into problems if they exceeded 50 parkrunners, but it's taken over 250!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Cycling adventures: going up!

I went on my first proper climb yesterday, meeting up with others in Millgrove and tackling Mt Donna Buang with a bit of a warm-up via Old Warby Rd.

It took me two hours to get up Donna, sitting in my lowest gear most of the time (28 chainring and 25 cog) and occasionally shifting up when I would want a break from sitting. While I managed to do the climb, I did learn a few things:
  1. I absolutely needed my granny gear, but felt I had too many low gears (I can shift two cogs in one go, so would change up to 28/21 when standing, but would have liked to go 28/19 if I wasn't worried about needing to shift back down 3 cogs to sit in the saddle again)
  2. I have poor leg strength over an extended period of time (not a complete surprise given my discus/hammer throwing background)
  3. My twice-weekly Breeze ride is complete rubbish for preparing me for this kind of riding
  4. I'm not a bad descender
  5. My fingers felt fine after the descent.
So I was up there with my heavy-esque flat-bar road bike. I really don't think that my bike is a problem just yet, as losing ~5kg wouldn't have made a large difference to how my legs were feeling after 16km of climbing. But I definitely wanted to take that bike up a proper climb so that I would get an idea of what gear ratios I would use when sitting and standing on the bike.

I suspect the leg strength issue will sort itself out with regular hill-climbing, doing rides in the big chainring (I did one of my Breeze rides in the big chainring once as a bit of a laugh, but now I feel like I need to do it regularly), and doing rides where I am continuously working for 1.5+ hours. The Breeze ride is 1.5 hours in total, and we ease off to keep everyone together or regroup at the top of hills. So I might find myself doing a faster ride with the Maling Room Ride group (although it would be with their slow group!) and then doing big chainring Breeze rides!

Yep, it was a gorgeous day for a climb!

Aside from the great view at the top (and it is a scenic ride during the climb) and the cooler temperatures in the hills (it was 41℃ on Sunday in Melbourne), climbing a fair distance means you get to come down too! I wasn't sure how I'd go with the descending, as every downhill on my surburban rides is a straight line and I freaked out a bit on the one high-speed curve I encountered during the Peak Cycles women's ride.

Turns out I was a lot better at descending than ascending, well, according to the rankings on Strava! I was placed 1958th out of 1995 on the way up (yep, I was THAT slow) but 579th out of 2075 for the first bit of the way down (until the water bottle refill point) and then 908th out of 1964 for the second bit. I encountered other riders in front of me for the second bit down, and I wasn't sure how to go about overtaking them on downhill curves so I sat behind them holding onto my brakes a bit more until I accidentally hit my bell so they slowed down a bit to let me pass. Ooops, but thanks!

When I got to the bottom, I checked how my fingers felt, and they were fine. No pain from the stupid lab injury! So now I now longer feel like I need to check out bikes with disc brakes. :) Good news for me as bikes with traditional caliper brakes are cheaper. And I'll definitely be looking at bikes with compact (50/34) gearing!