Friday, March 23, 2012

Good bye Dirt Crits - hello marathon racing

Yesterday the final dirt crit of the season was held at Stromlo. Out of a total of 20 proposed events, 7 were lost due to rain and the subsequent issues that the precipitation caused – namely mud. Even though the number of races was cut short, the racing was intense and as usual, there is never an easy short track race.

The series started in late October 2011 and got 8 events in before Xmas. All of these events I did on the Flash 26er. After Xmas, there were only 5 races due to excessive rain. For these, I raced on the Flash 29er.

The executive summary of the results from racing in the series for me is as follows –

o 12 starts

o 3 x 1st place

o 9 x 2nd place

The racing last night once again was really close with the potential to drape a slightly elongated blanket over Dylan, Brad and I for the first 3 laps (of 5). On the 4th lap, I ramped up the speed and got past Brad and quickly onto Dylan’s wheel. With only one lap to go I wasn’t getting past Dylan on this course as the opportunities to overtake were slim and Dylan was wise to my attempts to get around him.

Drape a planket style of close racing.

So, as Summer, (cough, cough) draws to a close, the Australian Marathon series kicks into gear. With exactly a month before the first round of the Real Insurance XCM series, it is time to ensure that the endurance is ready for the rigours of 100km racing.

Stop. Hammer time.

For me there are 3 100km races in the series back to back on consecutive weekends in Victoria (Wombat 100), Canberra (Capital Punishment) and Sydney (Convict 100). I haven’t raced the Wombat 100 before, so that will be a new one. Capital Punishment is in my backyard and I have done that one a couple of times, so all good there with regard to course knowledge. The Convict 100 (nee Dirt Works 100) I managed to do last year, and the course knowledge gained from that will assist greatly this year.

Looking forward to it!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Cannondale EVO road bike - first impressions

I finally got my new Cannondale EVO road bike built up.

Cannondale EVO team edition frame and fork
Dura Ace - 7900 brakes and derailleurs
KMC X10-SL chain
Dura Ace 7900 pedals
HED Ardennes HR wheels
Specialized Romin PRO saddle
Specialized Classic carbon bars
FSA K-Force light seatpost
FSA SLK stem
Garmin 500

It replaces my Cannondale Super Six which probably has about 30,000km on it. To say that this bike is wicked is an understatement. All of the reviews that you have read are correct. This bike is very good. 

My first impressions from one single ride are below....

There are now smooth roads everywhere. The thinline and SAVE seatstays and chainstays just purely eliminate road feedback. I've been on my Flash 26/29 since Jan 2010 and you just forget how good this stuff really is. I mean, the stocker super six hi mod is no slouch in the comfort stakes, but the EVO is on another level.

Stiffness is way better than the 'old' supersix. This is noticable in sprints and out of the saddle hill work. Less flex = more forward progress with less power loss. That's a no brainer.

The geometry is standard Cannondale - you can feel safe taking both your hands off the bars going downhill at 80km/hr (relatively) - no speed wobbles, just confidence inspiring stuff.

I actually believe that the EVO does descend better than the super six. This is down to the road feedback suppression - you get less feedback that your mental state has to deal with so you go faster. Less buzz through the bars and the saddle, so you keep pushing harder and faster until you actually get some feedback - by this stage you look down at the speedo and you are 3-5km/hr faster swooping downhill.

Cornering is sexy. When I leave home I have 2 left handers (my favorite type) going downhill in the first 200m. I had Bon Jovi rocking through the headphones and I could still hear myself say 'Whoa!'. Going down Stromlo (road) it just is a bunch of turns left and right. A couple of them are the sorts of corners where you might dab the brakes a smidgen just before the corners. On the EVO I swear I was pedalling in more to the corner, and not even getting my fingers closer to the brakes - there are some new benchmarks to be set.

I did 6 stromlo climbs this morning, - standard Tuesday ride - the number changes but the style doesn't - seated big chainring grinders at Threshold - fun stuff. The conditions were not 'fast' conditions - ie it was cold and a bit still, and the air was a bit dry. But pleasingly, the last one was the fastest (and they are within 10% of each other - this is standard) - I think what is happening here is that I am not getting accumulated fatigue through the body over the course of the total time going up and down the hill. It is really subtle, but as a racer I am happy to grab a bunch of 1-2% gains here and there - there are no more 10% gains to be made by me legally. This is exactly why the Flash is a weapon off road - less acumulated fatigue.

So with 3 hours and 90kms done on the first ride - I really love this bike. I have got to be one of the luckiest guys in the world. This is living the dream!!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The frustrations of injury

This story goes back to the week leading up to the Australian XCO Championships late February. I only now have the strength of mind to write about this. It also has something to do with also having spare time not in physical rehab.

I got down to Adelaide on the Tuesday evening and went straight to Sushi Train for dinner. After polishing off a truckload of dishes we went to our cottage in Eastwood and crashed for the night. Wednesday and Thursday was spent out at Eagle on the hill. I was feeling the bike on the dirt really well. It felt like an extension of the body and my confidence on the sketchy gravel of Eagle on the Hill XC course was high. It is a really hard course to race, so having the good feelings on the bike was a major positive.

Friday was spent doing exactly what I had done last year. A nice, cruisy 2 hour ride on the flat bikepath down to the beach and back. Massage in the afternoon. All good.

The next morning, I woke up with a searing pain in my left shoulder. Nothing that I could do would make it go away. I was getting referring pains down the left arm and my thumb, index and middle fingers all had pins and needles and were going numb.

As I was curled up in the foetal position moaning and groaning in unbearable pain, my mind was figuring out how in god’s name I was going to get anything done today let alone race one of my major objectives of the year. Kylie helped me scour through the Adelaide phone book after anyone who could provide some sort of relief. Massage Therapists, Physiotherapists, Chiropractors were all called in the desperate hope that a) one would be open on a Saturday morning, b) there would be a vacancy (pipe dream) and c) I could actually get there and they could do something.

Amazingly I found an after-hours Chiropractor who was able to fit me in. Whilst being driven over the 10 minute route, I was holding my arm above my head wincing in pain at every bump in the road. The pain was so intense my body was tensing up and getting really tight, and was at times making me feel as though I wanted to pass out.

The chiropractor got into my back with a nifty little gun that did some magic. Finally the pain subsided. It was still there, but I could be a little more relaxed. I went back to the chiro again that afternoon to see if he could work some more magic in time for me to race, but after hopping on the bike and trying to roll down the street, my arm collapsed when I put any pressure on it. No hope in hell of racing unfortunately.

As you can imagine, that was a bit of a kick in the pants. As an athlete, you live to race. Everything that you do is setting yourself up for the race. Everything....

So with that in mind, I fleetingly set about trying to get better for the next day’s short track race. The next morning, same pain, same bad feeling deep down inside that says “you are not getting on the bike”.

So, fast forward two weeks and what is the status. 4 massages, 4 chiropractic adjustments, 2 physio visits, an adventurous visit to the acupuncturist and my pain levels down the left hand side of the upper body are pretty much gone. That is the good news. The tip of my index finger is still numb and has no feeling, that’s a bit weird to say the least.

Because of a few things, like over compensation, cold weather and crap luck, I now have an annoying pain in the left outer knee area. There is something tight in here, which doesn’t like what I do to it when on the bike. So it will be 2 massages and one physio visit this week and also a visit to a GP who will hopefully administer some cortisone to reduce the swelling. At least I know what is causing this one. With the back/shoulder, I have no direct knowledge of what caused it, other than maybe it was a truckload of things conspiring, then, the different bed and pillow arrangement might have pinched the radial nerve somehow.

I am booked in for an MRI next week to rule some things out (ie in the neck region – slipped disc etc). After that my sports doctor will sort the specific treatment based on what comes back. In the meantime, it is just a matter of coping and doing what I can on the bike and listening to the body.

I would probably be the only person who is not disappointed at the recent race cancellations due to the excessive rainy conditions. I definitely dodged a bullet there. Mainly in the fact of not having to hastily get myself to a certain level of race fitness, or even hit up a race totally not ready. The timeframes that the organisers have relocated the racing to, definitely suit me and my journey back to full fitness.

However, with the cancellations, there is now the added drama / anticipation of at least 3 back to back 100km events in late April. So, it is a matter of building appropriately for these events, and ensuring that recovery is spot on between these races so that the results can be positive.

On a positive note however, I received my new Team Edition Cannondale Evo frame from the guys at Cannondale Australia. The Team Edition colours are quite striking and a lot has been written in a positive light about the Evo frame due to its light weight as well as its superb strength qualities. In my mind (and the way that it is engineered) it is essentially the same as my Flash Mountain Bike in a road bike set up.

On the 29th of February, Kylie Webb and I conducted a Mountain Bike Marathon Seminar at Lonsdale Street Cyclery for 20 keen mountain bikers. Interaction covering key topics such as training / tapering, nutrition, bike setup, logistics and race tactics made the two and a half hours fly by, with the questions and discussions coming thick and fast. It was quite satisfying to provide people who were keen to learn, some good specific knowledge transfer tips so that they can achieve their event objectives.

So, in taking the good and the bad, it could be worse (a lot worse), but is still frustrating nonetheless dealing with injury. Now I just have to ensure that everything is going well for the first 3 events in the Real Insurance XCM series. Wombat 100 April 22nd, Capital Punishment 28th April and Convict 100 May 5th. Back to back marathon events will call for careful management of recovery – but like Anthony Shippard said “it means very little training for a month - just recovery in between races!”