Sunday, March 28, 2010

Round 1 Leinster League

The first round of the Leinster league happened on the 28th of March. The day was unusually Spring like (after all it is Ireland in mid spring) and myself and Gene packed up and set off for Bunclody. With the newly opened motorway it took just under an hour from Naas which was great as I had imagined the drive would be much longer. The course was located in the shadow of Mount Leinster in a very scenic part of the country. Racing795 were the host club and had organised good parking for the racers (something which not all clubs get right).

A group of us followed the sports race to get a pre-lap in. The course started off with almost 1km of fireroad climb which hit 10% in places. After that it was a drop in on the right into the first section of singletrack which was only a little muddy in places. It was flowy with some nice kickers and techie bits. But there was plenty of line options so a lot of time could be gained if you strung them together. After exiting the first singletrack there was a relatively gentle double track climb which gave great the riders views of the surrounding countryside (not that you'd be looking of course). We then dropped into the second singletrack which was a much steeper descent with plenty of rocks to roll over or around. You then exited this section and into a tricky rock garden you had to climb up before dropping into a swoopy trail. You climbed back out of that and down a rutted singletrack section before getting back out on the main fireroad and the start/finish line.

I'd done a couple of pre-laps and with about 10 minutes before the start myself and Oisin went for a final cycle up the hill. We got back to the start to find the various categories already lining up. Masters would go last so we were done the back. I started at the front of the masters line, but by the time we'd shuffled up to the start I somehow ended up on the 3rd ish row. I keep doing that in unseeded races, something to fix for future races. So the whistle blew and the race was on. I was expecting a sprint to the first section of single track but thought it would not start until closer to the entrance. But I was wrong, the first row of riders blasted away from start. I did not go after them as thought the would slow up - but they didn't. So I was already 10+ second behind them after the first kilometer! And in about 10th place maybe coming into the single track. I doubt I could have kept to the guys pace for the whole first climb anyway.

I did get a fairly clear run on the first singletrack section and kept things running pretty smooth. However, exiting the second section of singletrack and into the rock garden I walloped the nose of the saddle with my ass and it shifted down at a tough angle to sit on. So I got of and gave it a couple of punches with my fist, but would not move! I was only doing this for about 10 seconds when I decided I would just have to live with the angle. However about 20 yards later I hit the back of the saddle and it came back up too far - nose up! At this stage I didn't care too much and just kept pedaling.

After that the race got a bit boring in a way - with no other masters near by, I did not have the motivation to go that bit faster (although I probably did pass a few in my category), and spent the second half of the racing chasing down the faster vets and experts.

The only other drama was getting a branch in my nice shiny, carbon rear derailleur which restricted the amount of gears I had. I could live without the gears, but didn't fancy having to replace the derailleur so was happy to just pedal that bit slower on the climbs.

I ended the race in 5th place which is where I expected to be. I was less than 1 minute from 4th, but a whopping 3 minutes behind the winner, which is a lot on what was a short course. In hindsight maybe I should have buried meself in sprinting up to them on the first lap, but I'm not sure I'd keep it together in the singletrack that followed. Alfie, Oisin and Damo are the guys to watch this year in Masters. Those guys put in serious laps all the way through and I don't think I'll be getting anywhere near them. But if I keep plugging away 4th's and maybe 3rd's could be possible.

All in all, it was a great day out. Racing795 put on a super job and you could not fault anything. Really looking forward to heading down there again. Everyone enjoyed themselves, especially Morgan and Paul.

Last but not least, the Pronghorn performed flawlessly - and a lot better than its rider! It felt great on the climbs and even better on the descents which at times and in the latter stages of the race resembled a DH course. I might make some tweaks to it though. The main thing will be changing the bar - and get a riser instead of the flat one I have now. The bike is in getting a few components tighten up with James @ OC tuning and should be running even better when I get it back. I also have to mention that Oisin won Pronghorn racings first silverware of the season (and first ever!) by coming in 2nd on the day - fair play!

Next week is round 2 of the Leinster league in Bellurgan Park and promises to be a great day out. Cuchulainn Cycling Club are hosting the event and it will be run on a brand new course. More info here. Can't make it myself, but will be out the following week for round 1 of the NPS.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

My hill climb

I'm taking a new route into work these days over Slade hill, down the other side, and back over it again before dropping into Saggart. The climb from the Castlewarden junction (first roundabout on the Kill road) to the entrance of the forest is what I'm using as a test. Its 6.25km's long and has 229 meters of climbing. I like it a lot as it starts off easy before getting really tough towards the top, so you can get a good tempo going and when to get the steep bits its a real challenge to keep the pace up. I've pulled out the times for that section of the spin to work over the past couple of months and there has been a steady improvement, but today I pushed it and got a new time of 17:33. I'm already looking forward to trying to beat that one :)

Whats highlighted is the actual climb. Defo looks like I'm taking a breather halfway up, but its needed :)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

2010 Goals

Well, better get them written down...

Last year the plan was to get regular top 10 finishes, and a couple of top 5's. I kinda achieved those, but missing 3 or 4 NPS races due to injury messed things up a little. Still, I got a 4th place in Killarney, and made it into the top 10 for a couple of NPS's. I also got a 7th and a 4th in the K-caps and won the Cooley Thriller (Masters), so not a bad first serious year.

But I ain't going to get carried away with myself for 2010. Without doubt this will be a very tough masters season. I can think of over 10 riders who on their day can win races, so any goals have to be realistic.

So, with that in mind my NPS goals are:
5 top 5 results, and the rest top 10 (barring mechanicals)
2 or 3 podiums would be great
1 win - if I get lucky and others very unlucky

Not sure about the national XC champs, getting inside the top 10 comfortably would be nice, and same goes for the marathon champs. I'd like to go out and win the Cooley Thriller again, but I was a little lucky last year, so top 5 finish there would be good too.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Continuing on...

Tuesday - Back to Spinning class. I had grand thoughts of cycling up, but I was knackered after the Glending spin the previous day. Had a really really hard session. It made me realise how much more of these types of training sessions I need in the weeks leading up to the start of the NPS...

Wednesday - Paddy's day and totally spent after the previous 3 days efforts. So I decided to skip the road race in Dunboyne and head off with the lads from the club for the craic around Djouce. It was good fun - plenty of thrills and spills. Glad I dumped the road race.

Thursday - Back to work after a week off 5 straight days off - arragh. Drove in as needed a break from all this biking activity.

Friday - 1 day is plenty break-time! Back on the bike into work, did my usual spin via Slade. Going to use the climb from the Castlewarden junction to the Slade entrance for testing. Its approx 6.25km's and it gives you 221 metres of climbing, with the gradient hitting 14% at points, so a good tester. My best time (set in this run) was 18:04, so getting under 18 minutes is the big goal for me.

Saturday - Disaster, brought the PH out to Glending and ripped the rear Nobby Nic within 10 mins - went flat as a pancake almost instantaneously. Needless to say I was ragin'. Called it a day as had crappy nights sleep previously and just needed to relax. Was in bed at 9.30pm :)

Sunday - Decided last minute to do the Bohermeen road race. Not sure why I decided to go for it - the road quality was supposedly not up to much (which turned out to be somewhat true) and it was flat as a pancake which would almost ensure a bunch sprint. The only reason I ended up going was because I agreed to give Mel a lift so there would be no backing out :)

We got up there for about 12 and got signed on. While in the toilet of the pub I overheard a competitor and paramedic talking about the race last year and the number of accidents that occurred. Not exactly what I needed to hear.

There was a huge turn out of riders and I was glad to hear the A4's were getting their own race. I did a quick warm-up on some of the roads being used and the were very narrow and rough in places - and on the aptly named 'Bog road', it almost disappeared for 50 meters.

They sent off the A2's, and A3's ahead of us with a 4 min gap between each group. We were up next and rolled out at a nice pace down the bog road. Again, despite getting close to the front at the start, a messy clipping in moment had me down towards the middle/back for the first few Km's. This meant a long battle to work my way back up front. Eventually we got onto a wider, smoother road and I got up to the front of the bunch and pushed it on a bit - same 'tactics' as in the Newbridge GP - just out there and get some exercise :)

Despite a few guys who were eager to get a break going, and a few attempts being made, none stuck, which was annoying and I had put a couple of efforts in myself to string things out and get a few people to pop out of the group. After a lap and a half of that I was pooped and dropped back into the group for a lap before pushing back up to the front for the last lap. Things started to get hectic towards then end. I heard one crash behind be with about 4 km's to go. I came very close myself to coming off with about 1km to go when a fella grabbed a huge amount of brake right in front of me. But luckily I remained upright and was in the top 20 with under a km to go. I was on the outside (waaaay on the right hand side of the road to boot) and we were coming up to a left hander on a slight incline. All of a sudden a gap appeared on outside of the bend as all the other riders pushed in to the right to find the shortest route around the bend. My fear of getting clobbered before XC season started disappeared as I pegged it around the outside and got to the front and starting sprinting. I had not put much thought into the sprint tactics as I never thought I'd be in this situation. My problem was I went all out with about 400 meters to go and when we reached 200 meter marker I was spent. About 10 or 15 guys blasted through and I just rolled over somewhere in the top 20.

I did enjoy it and was glad to have did the race. If I had the time I would do a few more as they can be fun once you stay up the front. However, they can also be pretty dangerous also and the finish of the A3 race proved with 6 guys going down hard. Pics here.

Plenty of other mountain bikers out - Cait, Richie Felle, Les, the Epic roadies etc - all made it around safely too.

Monday - Lashing rain, leg sore, drove in to work - nuff said.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

My going's on

Beats calling the post 'training log' for the umpteenth time...

Monday - Another freezing morning - will this winter ever end? Spun into work the long way - up and over Slade. I'm pushing the on the climbs now and everything is holding together! My injuries seem to be clearing up nicely now so fingers crossed that'll be it for the year. Cycled home the quick way, but took it handy enough.

Tuesday - Spinning class with @wearepureclass. Again, felt I could push along harder in the session.

Wednesday - Went out with Gene to Glending for an easyish night spin. Met a few IMBRC lads who were out enjoying the quickly drying trails. Better get out and enjoy them before the rainy season kicks in. Despite it being my first mtb spin in a good while, managed to not do too much damage to myself.

Thursday - Not-as-freezing morning for the long spin into work. The route has some nice long climbs which are perfect for climbing (apart from the 50 meters @ 14% that is).

Saturday - I had a busy day in work on Friday so could not cycle in, so just took the day off. Friday night myself and Gene drove the Newbridge GP course to get an idea of what it was like. 2 nice drags and some rolling bits summed it up. On Saturday Sean D dropped out and we cycled out to the loop to get a better look at it. Funny how it seemed totally different in the daylight and on a bike! I still liked the look of it tho and was looking forward to the race.

Sunday - So race day arrived. Weather-wise the day was perfect - dry and cool. We headed over to race HQ at Newbridge to find quite a few people already milling around, signing on and tweaking some very fancy bikes (some were a bit too fancy for S4 if you ask me :) ). We signed on and hopped back in the car for 30 mins getting ourselves sorted.

As I was seeing this race as training, I had no plans on sitting the group and popping out at 3 km's to go. The plan was to push things along, and get the legs heart pumping good.

The call was made for the S4's to group at the entrance behind the main escort car. The Commissaire for the day gave us the low-down on the race and before we knew it we were on our way to the starting area. We had a few miles behind the escort car to get to the 10 mile race loop so I decided to get up close to the front and not repeat what I did in the Dublin Wheelers GP where I started down the back and stayed stuck there.

It was a rolling start once we got onto the loop and I ended up leading the group for most of the first lap. I was not pushing things hard, but just keeping a nice speed up. As we came to the first climb, riders started to push forward trying to get a good position and not get boxed in by slower riders as they made there way up. I was half expecting someone to make a move there but nothing happened. I think the whole race regrouped on the way back down the other side. Shortly after we hit the second drag - not as bad as the first but tricky enough. I went up the front again and tapped out a steady pace. And I pretty much stayed front until we came around to the main climb on the second lap (boardsie/Orwell rider also got stuck in too). This time I decided to push hard the hill and see what happened. An Usher rider was also putting digs in too and the group started splitting - unfortunately I started running out of steam near the top and got swallowed up by a good 15 riders. 'Game over' I thought, but as we reached the top they too also started to run out of puff and I wheeled up to the back of them and caught by breath on the way down.

Last lap, 4km to go, and on the last drag. Things slowed down again as everyone was getting prepared for the finish. So, again, I went up front and cycled away from the group (can't say I sprinted away, they were just going so slowly it looked like I was). As we hit the steepest part of that climb I could heard big efforts behind me and before I knew it I had 7 or 8 guys blast past me. This was it! Unfortunately I was slowing down and this stage, but I was determined to be a part of the winning break away, so I buried myself for the last 2 minutes of the climb AND descent (which was even bloody harder). It was a nice drop down after the climb. Not too steep and bends you could pedal into. I hit 58kph trying to catch the group and still had the McCabes passing me! Eventually I got the last wheel of the breakaway only to see the eventual winner sprint away with about 500 meters left. The break seemed resigned to letting him go and it became a sprint for the lower positions. I decided I had done this much I might as well just give it a lash and see what happened. So I pushed on again got past a few riders slowing up and ended up in 13th position. I was pretty happy with that considering the effort I put in during the race. And the best bit was when we went back to the start/finish line I got to see myself in the race photo-finish - which was a first!
Monday - The legs were feeling a bit tender on Monday but with the weather being so nice (and having a day off), I hit Glending for a couple of hours of fun. The place is drying up nicely and as long as the Spring does not turn into the rainy season there will be plenty of good riding up there.

In general its been a good week - leg feels better and I've had a couple of sessions where I feel like I'm making progress, so all good.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Training log... with actual training in it!

Yes, things are getting better on the old leg front. After a couple of physio sessions and some of my own patented massage techniques things are looking up. It turns out the IT band was just a symptom of a problem with the muscles around my hip. So some vigorous massage later, things are on the mend.

So for this week that meant just a couple of spins into work (the easy way), and a night spin with a few sprints with Gene. I hope to get back to the spinning class next week.

I did take part in the Dublin Wheelers GP today. I thought it would be a good way to get some top end fitness back, but in hindsight, it was probably just a good way to get mangled.

I went out in A4, which is the lowest cat on the roadie side of things. There was a big turn out, but the organisers decided to run the A3 and A4 together, but giving us A4's a head start - now I did not realise this till the A3 came storming through into the second lap. Anyway, the race starting off at a nice pace, and the first lap - apart from the sprints out of corners and roundabouts was pretty handy. When the A3's turned up, things went bananas. All of a sudden there was a main group of 80-ish riders, and all of them were trying to get to the front and in doing so were coming dangerously close to oncoming traffic. One guy took a tumble in front of me while doing a decent speed but he was ok after. I think the after the race the general consensus was that the mental braking for no reason and large group was an exception rather than the norm in road racing - which is good to hear!

A group of 7 had broken away just before the A3's had arrived and stayed out to the finish. I just kept out of trouble in the main group and was happy to get around in one piece. In the end the route was 55km and I had an average speed of 38.5kph with a max of 57. It was not much of a workout to be honest. Had I gone in the A3 group or made it into the breakaway I might have managed to get the heart rate up, but stuck in the main group, my average HR was 20 BPM lower than it typically is in an XC race. I do plan on doing 2 more in the next 2 weeks and plan on doing more than just sitting around. For me, the next race will be about staying up front and pushing the pace where possible. I'm not too pushing about winning races, but if I am going to put time into doing some road races I want to get something out of it fitness-wise.

But I do plan on getting back on the mountain bike next week - some hard sessions are required after being off for a couple of weeks.t