Back in the saddle… looking at lines. And lines. And lines. Because training kicked off with the ‘naughty corner’ (aka: indoor trainer time) and this year I chose to use TrainerRoad for my first two blocks of indoor training rides, which will last about three months.
Look, I know if you’re an outdoor rider you’re probably looking at this and rolling your eyes. Just ride outside right?!
But here’s the thing.
- Family balance. This time with them is crucial, especially during the early training blocks when I’m not doing the super long rides yet. So yes it absolutely sucks getting up at 4:45am to ride for up to two hours while staring through sweaty eyeballs at lines on a screen. But it means that my ride is done before the kids are awake, and then I can spend the evening with them when I get home from work. And my husband is getting up and riding his indoor trainer with me as well, so it’s time together.
- Efficiencies. I’ve been here before, and I know exactly what the benefit is to me… and what the deficits are. The benefit is it allows me to focus on building my fitness back up again so that I can get to the point where I’m riding at tempo (and not at threshold all the time) and can go longer more comfortably. But the deficits are that it does not in any way mimic what it’s like on the road in terms of bike handling (let’s not even talk about ascending and descending) so I’ll have to build up those skills again.
- It’s cold. And I hate magpies (aka: terrified of being swooped).
BLOCK ONE: Build the Base
So block one began and ended with a base phase (for those interested, I used TrainerRoad Sweet Spot Base – Mid Volume I) and most of the first five weeks was completed on the indoor trainer. I did get outside for three rides, but mostly I was inside.
It’s always hard during these sessions to gauge how it’s going. The first couple weeks were pretty horrific: sessions that were supposed to be tempo or even sweet spot ended up making me wheeze pretty badly, and felt a lot harder than ‘the screen’ said that they should. But eventually I got into a rhythm and felt like my heart wasn’t in my throat every ride, and the blood stopped pounding in my ears.
Then came Week 6, which was supposed to be a rest week, but ended up being mostly outside and way more fun than the indoor trainer (no surprises there!)… but didn’t set me up well rested for the next training block. But mentally it put me in a much better place.
To summarise the first six weeks back on the bike: it went all right. For those who like to keep up on the training side, my planned TSS was 2083, and I rode to 2843 (those outdoor gravel rides really pop the training load up). I rode three different bikes (the old roadie on the indoor trainer, the CX on my solo gravel rides, the MTB with Emma during her Race to the Rock) and when I finally did get my normal roadie out on the tarmac it felt super weird! Very light, very quick, and rather easy to get up shorter hills. However, as I had suspected, my bike handling skills had decreased, and I will definitely need to learn how to corner and descend again.
BLOCK TWO: Build Phase and Gravel Time
For the second block of training I decided to move to the build phase as well as increase the hours per week on the bike (TrainerRoad Sustained Power Build High Volume) because by the end of this block I would be heading into PBP qualification territory.
Each block begins with a Ramp Test to set your FTP for the next block of training (see the picture at the start of the blog. There are a lot of different FTP* tests, but for consistency this is the one I’m using).
*FTP is your functional threshold power, or the power level that you’d be able to hold for an hour if you went steady and near all-out on the bike.
Basically it’s a number that determines how hard/easy my efforts will be on the indoor trainer rides with specifically the bike set up I have with the TrainerRoad app. And that’s it. It is all relative to the setup that you have, the app you’re using, and how you’ve calibrated your setup. Is the number meaningless? No, I wouldn’t say that. But it doesn’t really have meaning outside of the naughty corner. Does mean I don’t look at other’s indoor training rides and sometimes despair, thinking that there is NO WAY I’ll ever be able to reach the speeds they are doing at such low watts and heart rate while I am literally spitting at my computer screen while my heart rate is over 170 trying to maintain just over 35km/h?! Cough. Obviously not… But enough about that. Let’s just say the numbers are all relative.
So my first ramp test after my Week 6 “recovery week” didn’t go amazingly well. Yes I increased my FTP, but only by 4, which wasn’t really a massive gain. But I did finally get that rest week, as the first weekend into Block Two was a girls weekend away. And I didn’t bring the bike.
Yes I was twitchy. But it was a good weekend for a number of reasons, including rest time and mental balance. Which was good because the next weekend included my first event for this season.
Ol’ Dirty by Hells500: Sunday September 23
This ride isn’t a ‘serious’ ride. It’s about dirt, hills, brew, and fun. But that doesn’t mean it’s an easy ride. My social media posts from the previous year include the words “hardest 50km I’ve ever done” and other such statements, combined with pics of us covered in mud and blood (for some great pics of last year’s events see The Climbing Cyclist’s post).
But it’s seriously a fun day out, and this year was no exception. Again my two partners in crime and I set out on a fabulous day of adventure riding, though this year we all decided we’d take the MTB’s instead of the CX/gravel grinder/roadie options. It turned out that was a perfect call, and made for a much more fun day out (as we weren’t swearing at our bikes or threatening to toss them over the nearest cliff face). That being said, 45km with 1300m of climbing on a near 16kg bike is going to hurt. I managed the first 35km loop with no walking, though at a few points I was leaning pretty hard down on the bars trying to keep the front wheel from lifting. But still, I was pretty happy with that effort, and also pretty happy no one had the camera on my face during these climbs. It was suggested that we would be walking a little bit on the second loop… and that turned out to be right. I nearly made it up a couple of the climbs, but the legs decided they’d had enough and the second and third pinchy climbs had me walking. C’est la vie. But I managed to come out of the day with only one fall (the bike skidded out from under me during a climb) which meant a banged up knee and a rather sore back. And a lot of awkward moments on the single track (still lacking in skills here, and even more so after a 4 month break). But overall, a win for the day’s adventures.
Wonderful Wombat 100 by Audax: Friday September 28
I’ve done the recon for this ride before (see blog here) and it’s a cracker of a loop. Since then I’ve done bits and pieces of the loop, but other than the first 25km (which is now part of my standard gravel loop before I turn off the WW100 course) I always seem to do them super fatigued (famous last words: “My bike is tired”), so I was looking forward to hitting the WW100 a bit more refreshed this time.
But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Ol’Dirty had only been 5 days prior, and combined with a set of 120% FTP intervals on Tuesday I was pretty cooked. Tuesday night I felt pretty shattered, then Wednesday I woke up with a terrible sore throat and a cold sore started to pop out (a sure sign for my body that I’ve pushed it too hard) so it wasn’t looking good. Wednesday and Thursday’s longer intervals were immediately scrapped as I spent a good portion of Wednesday in foetal position in bed. Thursday’s session was replaced with a 30 minute easy session with the hope that I would be fit, if maybe not fighting fit, for Marty’s ride on the Friday.
As the start of the ride was only 12-15km away from my house (depending on route choice) Jem and I decided to ride to the start… and grab that crucial pre-ride coffee and chat with the other riders.
The first 40km was very hilly, so there were splits in the group right from the start. I rode with Shannon for a little bit, some with Jem, some with Rigs, and good portion solo and was actually quite okay with that, especially as I wasn’t quite sure how my body was going to cope. After a rather hilarious descent into Blackwood on the CX that had Rigs worried for me as I giggled/swore my way down the hill we re-grouped for coffee and food.
After that we had a lovely bunch of us that stuck together for the next 15km hill/drag section into Trentham, where again it was time for coffee and NICE BUNS (actual name of my favourite food at Red Beard Bakery). I wouldn’t say I was feeling optimum, but I knew that most of the climbing was over for the day so it didn’t really matter: I had survived the tough bits!
So we hammered the team time trial into Lyonville. Pretty sure the boys on the MTB were ready to hurt Jem and I on our speedy gravel/CX bikes, as we flew down the rail trail at the front of the crew at a cracking pace. And smiling 🙂
Overall the day went brilliantly, which was a nice surprise given how rubbish I felt heading into the ride. As I went with the CX instead of the MTB there were a number of sections of the course that I wish I had the suspension of the MTB (not to mention the wide handlebars for better handling) overall I was happy with my choice. My ‘bike’ didn’t feel really tired until about 88km in, and after that it was mostly a downhill course (ish) anyways, so it wasn’t a problem.
Dirt Series by Audax: October 13-14
So a funny thing happened when I failed to read the fine print…
This ride nearly didn’t happen. Dirt rides are off-road events of 35, 70, and 100km rides, and combined they make for a ‘Dirt Series’ award for the season. I had thought (silly Tiffo) that Marty’s Wonderful Wombat would qualify as one of the rides, so had only signed up for the 70 and the 100, thinking I’d use the WW100 as my third to complete the series. But it turns out that a Brevet Gravel (BG) is different from a BD (Brevet Dirt) so unknowingly I had made an error.
Not the first time I’ve done that. Chalk that one up to a learning experience.
So the Friday before we started riding I caught up for coffee with Peter Makin, who convinced me to do the ‘triple series’ for the weekend (the 35, 70, and 100km ride) and get the dirt series award for the year. A quick email to Peter Carr (Ride Organiser) and it was done: I was in for the series!
It wasn’t quite what I had planned, but you know, what could possibly go wrong?
As it turned out, absolutely nothing. It was an amazing weekend, and I’m so very glad I decided to ride the series (and a monster thank you to my mother-in-law for minding the kids for me while I was away).
Here’s a brief summary of the three rides:
35km on Saturday at 8:00am
Cracking loop with fire trail, single track, and sand. What more could you ask for? Other than a MTB perhaps… my single track CX skills had me giggling rather hysterically in laughter/terror, much to the amusement of the others.
70km on Saturday at 1:00pm
So many fantastic fire roads on this farm roads loop. The first bit was downhill with a tailwind (YAAAASS!!!) so I ended up a little bit excited while chatting and failed to notice that the bunch had dropped off behind me (and, as it turned out, then got a flat which they all stopped to fix). So I ended up doing most of this loop at a much faster pace than I anticipated (over 25km/h compared to 20km/h) so I felt that later on that night. It also had a bit more climbing that I had expected, which was a nice surprise at first, but not so much towards the end. Very scenic roads, though the wind made those open sections a bit of a battle.
100km on Sunday at 7:30am
An actual Audax group ride! Cracking out and back on the rail trail, with some exciting magpie dodgem action in the middle (and as it turns out I can get more aero than the boys so I managed not to get swooped). The bakery at 50km was one of ‘Audax lore’ that should have come with a halo and a choir of angels. So needless to say I filled up on cinnamon donuts and was very happy on the return leg.
And that’s it! The Audax 2018 season for me is now complete, and I feel like I’m nearly back in form,
Next up: PBP Qualifying Rides