Hang on… I started a 50km off-road run in May!

NASA says that missions fall into one of two categories: Missions that are successful, and missions that are rich in learning opportunities.

What a lovely event!

As a location it’s hard to beat the Blue Mountains. Clean air, established trails, enough altitude to affect performance and brutal but beautiful conditions.

Everything was well-signposted, the collection of bibs and bits was quick and easy, the people were nice and helpful, and the expo was full of reasonably-priced gear. The runner’s guidebook was comprehensive and informative (though the elevation profile was deceivingly smooth). I’ve only seen a similar level of organisation and efficiency at marathons in Japan.

IMG_E5470
Such innocence

We spent a bit of time around the Start-Finish line at Scenic World before returning to the hotel.

Safety briefing

We couldn’t attend the welcome to country and compulsory safety briefing in person; we were already in bed. But we watched it on YouTube some time afterwards. David King, a Gundungurra man, told of his mother Aunty Mary King and how she walked the trails that we would be running on.

The medical briefing included an interesting UTA stat: on average each year 2 people are treated for dehydration, but 8 people are treated for hyponatremia, a condition where low sodium levels caused by excess water consumption result in confusion and headaches. The advice was not to drink to a schedule and not to worry about becoming thirsty as it was not a portent of poor performance. By trial and error I determined that 1 litre of plain water in the bladder was more than sufficient, with BCAA and Creatine ‘cordial’ in the two 600 ml squeeze bottles. That’s 1 kg saved.

There was also a strong warning against taking paracetamol or anti-inflammatory drugs: the former would hurt your liver and the latter would hurt your kidneys. And some inflammation processes may aid recovery more than drugs.

The mandatory gear seems like a hassle until you realise that you are on your own. If you must stop you will need to keep yourself warm before help arrives. My pack was weighed about 6 kg including about 2 l of water. A tiny person might fit into a rain jacket that folds smaller than a fist, mine’s nearly an armful.

The weather forecast looked good for dry and cool conditions with light winds; just about perfect, so no need to carry a hi-viz vest; another 176 g saving!

They were serious about random checks of mandatory gear. In the UTA22 several runners were penalised 40 minutes after crossing the finish line, including a runner who had placed in their age range.

Anyone could start after their allocated group, but starting ahead of your group would lead to disqualification. (As it happened, two runners in the UTA50 were disqualified under this rule after they crossed the line.)

Morning of the race

After nearly eight hours of sleep (Wow, I don’t get that much at home!) getting ready was relaxed. I started with a liberal application of Aussie Butt Cream to various bits. I’d set out my gear to make dressing easy; though it took me 15 minutes to choose which of three base layers to wear.

Wearing

  • Nike Pro 3/4 ‘semi-thermal’ tights
  • Compresssport calf compression sleeves
  • Injinji mid-weight short socks
  • Uniqlo Dry shorts
  • Uniqlo Airism base layer
  • Nike running shirt
  • Castrelli arm warmers – Strava-branded, Strava orange coloured
  • Sugoi beanie – map motif
  • Nike Aero cap
  • Oakley prescription glasses with transition lenses
  • Turbine up the nose
  • La Sportiva Akasha shoes (size 14 1/2!)
  • Kathmandu gel cycling gloves – protection from rocks and railings

Carrying

  • Kathmandu Zeolite running vest
  • Kathmandu UltraCore thermal shirt
  • Endura gels, Clif bars, Carman bar (But I forgot the Kyoto Marathon amino and salt pills!)
  • Spare BCAA and Creatine
  • First aid kit: compression bandage, band-aids, spare Aussie Butt Cream, Hisamitsu pads, space blanket
  • Kathmandu Raven 200 headlight and spare AA batteries
  • Battery pack and cables for iPhone and Garmin 235
  • Not taken: Walking poles and thermal tights

Breakfast eaten, fluids filled, running vest checked again, finish-line bag packed, shoes on, out the door at 05:00.

The shuttle bus stop was across the road from the hotel. After a short journey the packed bus stopped at a dark and remote place and not Scenic World as I’d expected.

Pre-race

But the lovely surprise was that we were taking the Scenic Skyway the last 720 metres, which was smart. It was about 20 minutes before sunrise, so the driver left the lights off so that we could see the Three Sisters, the waterfall and the mountains in all of their pre-dawn glory.

Floating into Scenic World by Skyway and then to the start line. We had just missed the first start group of the UTA100, but we watched the second group and the first group of UTA50 runners

We returned to the closed restaurant where we could sit and wait for our time, check our gear, charge phones and grab one last coffee.

Lining up for some events can be an ordeal. Where is my start group? How do I get there? UTA was so smooth by comparison.

Start line

What a happy place! Looking around at the happy faces of expectation, the selfies, the spectator in a Luigi costume. I felt calm and ready.

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We have no idea what we are getting ourselves into

The MC revved up the runners with the inspirational story of Alfie Johnston, the 75-year-old runner in the UTA100.

Start my watch, acquire GPS signal and… we’re off!

The first 7 km

The entree is on roads, mostly tarmac, 1 km of fairly steep dirt out and back, and suburban streets with welcoming crowds. Chikako and I crossed over twice, about 30 seconds apart. I was happy with 38 minutes at the 5 km mark because 1. I wasn’t going out too fast and 2. I felt great at that pace. (I did worry about the runner next to me wearing ‘barefoot’ shoes who stopped every km to stretch. It was going to be a long, or perhaps very short, day for him.) Descending past the Start-Finish area I found Mario reunited with Luigi among the cheers and volunteers.

Turning towards the Blue Mountains brought the magnificent views of the range. I didn’t stop for selfies or landscapes, but just kept shuffling along.

The first real descent

The Giant Stairway leads 200 m down behind the Three Sisters. No option here but to take care and take time. A woman behind me slipped on a rock step, but fortunately didn’t slide far. (My gloves were a good idea.) The thick canopy and twists and turns means that it takes a long time to see the bottom; on this occasion signified by a volunteer in hi-viz loudly encouraging runners.

I was ready for the first trail section and started at a 7-8 minute/km pace. However, within a few metres of the trail starting I saw the first casualty; a woman lay next the the track covered by a space blanket, attended to by two volunteers. I had to put speculation about the cause and her rescue aside and focus on the race ahead.

From the the stairway I was stuck behind a runner using poles (not allowed in the first 12 km) and headphones (not allowed anywhere on course) who burped a lot. A couple of runners called out to pass, but he didn’t hear them. After they got through, he turned to me and said, ‘I nearly spiked his foot.’ I wonder why they have rules about these items.

Elevation profile was all lies, LIES!

50km-course-profile

I was expecting a rolling path for a few km, followed by 200 m of ascent in two stages, which I was expecting to climb strongly. Instead, the descent was followed almost immediately by steep and wet ups and downs of 100 to 200 m. I was reaching the top of the climbs feeling light-headed. I ate another gel, struggled on to the first checkpoint, and wondered how Chikako was going.

At the waterfall I bumped into a mountain biker who had ridden up from the valley. He carried his bike up the steps with a pace I could barely match as we chatted: he had no idea that UTA was on.

UTA50_Leg1_profile
Elevation profile to from the start to 17.5 km as measured by my watch. I didn’t see that coming!

The cyclist in me couldn’t help but call out hazards as I ran like loose rocks or faster runners behind. I even managed to call out a low overhang… and then slam my own head into it.

The tarmac descent to the first checkpoint should have been a welcome relief and opportunity to make up some time, but my quads were starting to protest. This was not looking good for the long descent to come.

17.5 km Water Point

Recover, refresh, refocus. My wee was a good colour and I wasn’t sweating much. I put Hisamitsu pads on my quads, grabbed some snakes and gummy bears and filled my squeeze bottles. I headed out at a slow run, hoping to get some feeling back into my legs.

A South African, a Pom and an Aussie go for a walk in the bush

The trail opened up and made running a bit easier. I ate some solid food and was feeling better. The slopes were less severe and the terrain less technical, but it was still hard work. An 8:30 finish was well out of reach and 10:00 would be impossible unless I could start running at 8 min/km pace and descend to the valley floor at 5 to 6 min/km.

I noticed a runner with a pained expression and asked if he was OK. He said that 3 weeks previously he had broken his pelvis. Somehow he had the strength to outrun me.

I short time later I struck up a conversation with Rory and we settled into a 10 min/km pace. By amazing coincidence, Rory has previously worked in Kobe and lived in Suma. Every place he mentioned I have been to.

At about the 22 km mark we noticed a drone overhead. Looking back down to ground level, we saw the number 1 bib (and eventual winner in record time) Brendan Davies. Sure, he had left 2 hours before we did, but he had covered 72 km! A few minutes later bib 2 Ben Duffus passed and bib 14 Harry Jones followed soon thereafter. We couldn’t but be amazed at their speed.

We joined up with Justin, a Brit who’s lived in Texas for 30 years but hasn’t lost his accent. More 100 km runners overtook us as we made room and cheered them on.

Sadly, just before the checkpoint I got a message from Chikako that she had abandoned at 24 km because her legs had exploded. She cheered me on

Queen Victoria Hospital – Food!

CP5 at 28.4km was a welcome sight. Real food, Coca Cola, Hammer gels and electrolyte, and Carman bars. I spent 20 minutes here until I started to feel better. I even managed a few squats. I double-checked my food situation, mixed some BCAA with Coke and started moving again.

As luck would have it, Rory and Justin started at the same time. I guess we were going to do this together, which was good because it would be dark by the end for us. Very dark.

The long descent into…

Justin had run the UTA22 in 2017 so he knew the course from CP5 to Scenic World. His description of the worst being behind us and his encouragement kept me going.

UTA50_36km_profile
Far more jagged than the official version. Nice long descent (into hurt world) shown at right

The wide fire trail had some sketchy sections, and with the 100 km runners appearing quickly we had to move out of their way often.

I then started getting messages from Chikako and my brother-in-law Chris. My sister and her family were on their way to Katoomba to surprise us. Try coordinating three moving parts when you’re on a steep dirt road with very sketchy mobile phone signal!

I had a few goes at running to test the legs and felt better, but I wanted to keep them fresh for the climbs at the end. My hope of running the descent as I had been training for evaporated.

At the start of the descent I was holding back to stay with Rory and Justin. But about 6 km later my knees and right ankle started to hurt like nothing else. I struggled on for another km but began to drop back.I saw a big and comfortable rock at the side and stopped to perform some first aid.

But I soon realised that I wasn’t going anywhere. With just two hours until sunset, the prospect of going deeper into the bush just to be dragged out of it again was too much. I bid my trail buddies good luck, took a selfie and switched to survival mode.

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Rory (left) and Justin (right). If you are ever walk/run through the bush you could do worse than join these blokes

Though the sun was shining, it was getting cold. I put on my thermal top and beanie, ate some food and put Hisamitsu pads on my knees and ankle. I even put on my headlight and switched it to red SOS flashing. As I sat, UTA50 runners stopped to offer help. I wish I could remember all of the names so that I could thank trail angels properly, but I was a bit fuzzy. Sorry.

Within 15 minutes the broom wagon driven by P-plater Chris picked me up. The drive out of the valley back to CP5 was slow as lots of UTA100 runners were running down the hill and the 4WD kicked up a lot of dust at anything above crawling pace. In the back of the car was another runner, who just so happens to work in the same division and live two suburbs away from me.  What are the odds?!

Meanwhile, patchy phone signal provided bursts of messages in between missed calls. Chikako was stuck at the Finish line waiting for a shuttle bus, so I sent Lisa and Chris to pick her up and meet me at the hotel.

Officially Abandoned

I stopped my watch at 35.95 km, though the official record will show that my race ended at 28.4 km.

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(Sad face)

I waited in the car until First Aid Officers checked that we could move on our own. I shuffled into the CP5 tent, signed the withdrawal sheet, ate hot soup (thanks Ami!) and contemplated getting some treatment. UTA100 runners were arriving every few seconds, scrambling for their left bags, refreshing, recovering, resetting and then racing out to join the trail.

There were no shuttle buses from CP5. Fortunately, there were a lot of cars moving in and out so I thumbed a lift to the Great Western Highway for 1 km walk to the hotel. As luck would have it I had been picked up by serial runners Georgia and Harry. The moment I sat down in the back, Harry handed me a Weihenstephaner Pils and a bottle opener. I was conflicted: would the alcohol affect the recovery of my muscles and should I abstain from… I finished the bottle before I got to the hotel. Yes, Georgia and Harry drove me back to my hotel. What gents!

IMG_5505 (1)
Recovery starts at once!

The hotel reception was open and gave me a spare key. I had time for a shower before Chikako and the family arrived. It all worked out in the end.

Postscript

I managed to find Justin online and we chatted on the Sunday after the race. He and Rory had crossed the line just under 13 hours, which gives some idea of how much I had underestimated the time I would take. Justin couldn’t find his head torch and had to follow in Rory’s footsteps for about 4 hours.

So, what did I learn?

Here are just a few items from my rich list of learning opportunities:

  1. Reconnaissance! The otherwise excellent UTA Guidebook had an elevation profile that smoothed over significant climbs.
  2. Training! No substitute for steps up and down and up and down…
  3. Training! No substitute for a comprehensive training plan with plenty of variety and recovery.
  4. Weight! I know that I am about 12 kg over my ‘ideal cycling weight’. This is probably 24 kg over my ‘ideal Ultra-Trail weight’.
  5. Altitude! Living at 625 m ASL is already a form of altitude training [Sweat Science; Alex Harrison], but I will spend more time over 1000 m might give me an edge.
  6. Gear: I have enough, it works well, and I have spent so much on the bloody stuff that I have to keep running!
  7. Share the trail: Running with others can make a huge difference to your mental  state and chances of completely.

Yes… we will be back next year.

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Hang on… I’m doing a 50km off road run in May!

It’s all dawning on me now. Last September my wife entered both of us into the Ultra-Trail Australia 50km (UTA50) in the Blue Mountains.

Why?

My wife wanted to do a 50km event in her 50th year. Fair enough, however she was convinced that an on road ultra marathon would be boring. So let’s try one of the hardest 50km events in the world!

How?

For weeks before entries opened we discussed it, watched YouTube videos made by successful runners and finally committed to it. Within two days of opening the entries for the 100 and 50 were full. I worried that I had taken a place from a real ultra runner, but my mate Steve said that not everyone is in the elite class and that runners were still arriving at the cut-off time when he did the UTA100.

What?

This is a tough event.On Easter Saturday I ran/walked the Centennial Trail from Hall to Gungahlin for 23km and 472m of ascent. There’s about 2400m of ascent and descent in the UTA50. 472m is probably the ascent in the last 6km alone!

When?

Saturday 19 May 2018. It only seems close because it is.

Srsly?

Yeah. I’ll even reveal my training and equipment secrets in future posts.

Qantas entertainment making the hours fly by

My rare trips to the cinema are now limited to flights! So, what’s on for February 2018 flying to Japan?

On the CBR-MEL leg I got into the mood with a documentary about Japanese sword, kimono and pottery made by traditional methods.

Fun Fact: Mud is involved in the manufacture of all three!

  • Painted on at various depths before final firing to pattern the blade.
  • To dye the silk.
  • Clay. (More a slurry than a mud, but anyway…)

The 10 hour MEL – NRT leg

Battle of the Sexes – Bobby Riggs v. Billie Jean King. Five stars. I wonder if there was a deliberate attempt to balance the story-telling for the two main characters. I felt for Bobbie Riggs at one point. He was a hustler, a loudmouth and a chauvinist pig, but he wasn’t a monster. BJK’s wasn’t shown as a bra-burning ball-breaker. (Margaret Court cops it from all angles… but that’s reasonable given her views that haven’t changed since then.)

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (HBO) – You probably owe your life to this woman’s cancer cells. I’ve shared the RadioLab podcasts that have discussed the ethics and the impact on her family. This film starring Oprah and Rose Bryne looks at the family in detail in the context of Rebecca Skloot’s book. BTW, the continual references to Henrietta’s painted toenails is symbolic of the care that she took in herself and others, and that the first that people realised how sick and weak she was when they were chipped.

The Journey (2016) – Described as “a fictional account of the true story of how political enemies Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness formed an unlikely political alliance” at the October 2006 meetings for the Northern Ireland peace process.

They’re a Weird Mob (1966) – Yet another classic Aussie movie featuring Graham Kennedy. But seriously, how could I have not watched this film before now? TAWM probably did more for cultural education than even The Adventures of Barry McKenzie. Fun Fact: Walter Chiari (aka Walter Annicchiarico) spoke English very well in real life.

Casino Royale is too much… for Qantas

Special mention goes to Casino Royale in the James Bond section for its confusing presentation of Casino Royale.

The 1967 film of that name used the tagline “Casino Royale is too much… for one James Bond”. The loose relationship the rest of the canon is illustrated by James Bond being played by David Niven, Peter Sellers and Woody Allen (and more), and having had 6 Directors [and far too many drugs].

The 2006 film is the official version with Dame Judi Dench, Daniel Craig and Mads Mikkelsen.

The poster art is from the 1967 film, the title screen features a scene from the 1967 film but lists Judi Dench and clicking play opens with dark streets and an office building in Prague; not Peter Sellers and Duncan Macrae in a pissoir in Paris.

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To coin a phrase, “Casino Royale is too much… for Qantas”.

Fun Fact: Mike Myers cites Burt Bacharach’s song from the film “The Look of Love” that he heard on the radio the way home from ice hockey practice and Our Man Flint as the inspiration for Austin Powers.

Bonus Fun Fact: Casino Royale also takes credit for the greatest number of actors in a Bond film either to have appeared or to go on to appear in the rest of the Eon series: 11.

What entertainment will HND-SYD and SYD-CBR bring?

The eggy, scramble happy ending

There have been so many stories of cyclists abused, injured and killed recently that it may appear to the casual observer that cyclists and drivers are at war. Australia is far from the friendliest place in the world to cycle; however there is a lot of love out there. Maybe Canberra is a bit special with so many recreational, commuting and racing cyclists that the attitude of drivers is more friendly.

In fact, my most recent encounters have been overwhelmingly courteous, such as the Linfox driver who gave me extra space or the Cappello contractors who patiently waited behind me on East Tallegandra Lane before overtaking safely.

I have just bought Cycliq Fly12 and Fly6[v] cameras to replace my old Fly6. Hopefully, I’ll continue to see examples of coexistence; now from two angles.

So anyway… last year I was hit by an egg while riding. This was so bizarre. Who throws an egg? Who carries eggs in a car and then throws them at a cyclist? Continue reading “The eggy, scramble happy ending”

I drove over 1000 miles in a single day in my electric vehicle

Guinness doesn’t have a record for “Farthest distance driven in an electric vehicle in 24 hours”, but it should. Achievement unlocked!

The Tipping Point

tesla_CDF2You hear it all the time – can’t go anywhere in an EV, they’ll never work in Australia, takes too long to charge. However, last week I drove 1635km in a single day in my Tesla. Yes that’s right naysayers: 1015 miles.

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Swap from rear wheel to KICKR without adjustment

Has this ever happened to you? You have a KICKR, LeMond Revolution or other smart trainers with integrated cassette and every time you change your bike from trainer to wheel you need to adjust the limit screws on the rear derailleur?

You could just put a 30-year-old steel-framed bike and fit spare parts and stuff you were lucky enough to get for free and somehow got working together. But it might be easier to match the alignment of wheel and trainer.

Cassette locknut to axle locknut is the key

The rear dropout presses against an axle locknut AND Shimano 10-speed cassettes have the same spacing; MTB and road.

So the position of the cassette relative to the edge of the axle locknut must be the same on your rear wheel as on the KICKR… or close enough. That means that the cogs will be in the same position above the derailleur in each gear too.

From https://www.sheldonbrown.com/cribsheet-spacing.html

Brand and model Center-to-center
Spacing
Sprocket Thickness Spacer Thickness Total Width
Shimano
10-speed
3.95 mm 1.6 mm 2.35 mm 37.2 mm

Measuring

A vernier caliper makes this easy, but any good metal rule with fine markings will work.

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Vernier flush against the axle locknut, probe against the cassette locknut – 2.8mm

Measure the rear wheel and then the KICKR and calculate the difference. I used the edge of the cassette locknut, being careful to avoid the taper. You could use the flat of the smallest cog; just be consistent.

Start with the rear wheel

(The rear wheel must be true and centred on its axle.)

Adjust the derailleur for the rear wheel first. Sweet shifting on the road is the most important benchmark. Check that the cage doesn’t interfere with spokes in the lowest gear or the chain stays in the highest.

Space the KICKR’s cassette to match

Add or remove spacers from the KICKR to match the rear wheel closely. Shimano 10-speed cassette spacers are available in 1mm and 1.85mm sizes, though I’m sure I have a 0.5mm one somewhere.

Fit the KICKR and check the shifting

Shifting should be the same on road and on the KICKR. Some fine-tuning at the barrel adjuster  may be necessary

The cassettes can be different; I had a 28T-11 on my KICKR and a 32T-11 on my wheel without a problem. As long as your derailleur can take up the chain on both, it will work.

Marginal gains – little things to try

If the shifting is close but not quite the same, you should look for other differences. For example, I found two other factors on my bike that had a minor effect, including a problem where my long cage derailleur touched the KICKR case in my lowest gear.

Protruding dropout screws

The screws holding the dropout were protruding and pressing against the axle locknut on the KICKR, but not so much on the rear wheel. That millimetre or so was enough to affect the angle of the derailleur cage on the KICKR. I filed the screws down to sit flush. The other benefit is that the locknut now sits squarely against the dropout and not just on a few stress points.

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Tiny QR skewer nut and the very tiny dropout screws (Trek Domane)
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Dropout screws filed flush. Note: the axle locknut had been touching the screws

Big, old quick release skewer is more powerful?

I suspect that it takes more effort to close a lightweight QR skewer compared to a big, old QR. So it is easier to put more clamping force on the KICKR than on your rear wheel. I can’t directly measure the difference; I just noticed that the derailleur cage moved inwards more after clamping on the KICKR. A slight reduction in force made a difference without compromising the connection to the trainer.

Or use an old bike

Enough with the advice. Time to play TrainerRoad on my 30-year-old steel-framed ‘ute’ with 10-speed spare parts and free bits.

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Barely any space between the smallest cog and the dropout adapter!

Amy’s by the numbers

A bit of an update to put some stats around the ride.

Watts/kg at 1 Hour – 1.98

I’m really happy with this. It’s a Strava estimate, but my long-term average has been around 1.5W/kg.

My last FTP test on a KICKR was 238W for an hour, so an estimate of 214W is plausible for the start of a 5 hour effort.

Garmin Recovery Time – 67 hours!

And I thought that the 58 hour recovery time calculated after l’etape was bad.

I can’t agree with this metric as I felt quite good at the end of the ride. I could have ridden home if Chris and Christopher didn’t have to get back to Sydney so quickly. 

Vmax 86.4km/h

At this point I’d been coasting from the small climb after the loop. Smooth, straight, steep road and a tight tuck. 

2017 Amy’s Big Canberra Ride

Pedal Power answered our demands

Amy’s Big Canberra Ride has the right destination in Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. But some of the particulars left something to be desired until now.

  • The 120km started at 0700 instead of 0800 (was going to be 0630, but that would require lights.) We had finished the Tidbinbilla loop by about 1100.
  • The 120km started without the encumbrance of the 68km riders.
  • Aid stops were nicely placed:
    • At the corner of Uriarra Road and Brindabella Road (as normal)
    • Tidbinbilla visitor’s centre, with a free coffee (located at the bottom of the hill, not after a 12% climb like two years ago)
    • Cotter Rd opposite the Cotter Campground entrance (not buried in Casuarina Sands Reserve like last year)
  • Tidbinbilla loop was clockwise like it was two years ago. That means a tougher series of long climbs to start, but no dangerous cross-over at the loop intersection.

They didn’t have the 60 km/h speed limit throughout the roads like during Fitz’s 2016; however, there seemed to be little traffic this year anyway.

Well-timed, well-placed rain

Saturday’s rain was rather heavy down South. However, on Sunday the roads were dry and the shoulders didn’t hold any surprises. However, there was gravel washed over the road in sections; not least around the fast descent near the Gravel Pit. They were probably caused on Saturday because there hadn’t been many cars to sweep clean runs.

Some out-of-town riders noticed the stench of roadkill for the first time. (Have you smelt the Harbour Bridge walkway on a Sunday morning?)

But our noses were more than compensated by the explosion of aromas in the Tidbinbilla Reserve; no doubt awakened by the rain. Bloody glorious! Christopher didn’t see an Antechinus this time, but the aromatherapy made up for it.

Tailwind

A south-easterly wind picked up on the way out. I was down to my 28T for most of the minor climbs from before the Deep Space Network until the Tidbinbilla turn-off.

It made for good times on the ride back, though. I lead a small group for most the way back until the series of climbs around Pierces Creek..

28c is how I roll

Fat tyres rule. But one must take care. Last weekend I burst the sidewall of a Continental Grand Prix 4000 S II 25c that had 6000 km on it, so I took the opportunity to put on 28c tyres. Everyone knows that 28c roll better, especially on coarse roads.

Despite fairly wide rims, the rear tyre bulged to 30.5 mm and rubbed against the rear brake bridge. It wasn’t just a bit of rubber, it was touching at every bump.

After changing the 30.5 mm Conti Grand Prix 4000 S II for a 28.5mm Schwalbe One on the rear I could roll without rubbing. They roll so well over everything. I set some PR and got close to others doing even less pedalling than before. I absent-mindedly rode over a pothole without spilling my drink. I did have a hairy moment on the loop when a corner tightened unexpectedly. I grabbed a bit too much brake and the rear kicked out a bit.

And I took another second off my Pierces Creek Descent time for a 47s time though I coasted longer. (Video on YouTube shortly.) I now have a straight flush of times from 47s to 51s.

If you are doing any riding out the back of Canberra, get fat tyres and keep the pressure low. I used 95psi (6.5 bar) because I am very heavy.

Garmin Edge 520 v11.0 – Now with faster grade calculation

I use the grade display on my Garmin 520; however, it used to take a long time to recalculate on change of grade. The new firmware is much faster.

So now I know why the road after the Uriarra Climb is so hard; the apparently flat road is 4%!

But every Garmin upgrade seems to reset the screens the take so long to configure and switches on live segments. I do not need reminding how far I am behind a racer mate of my on the first big climb of the day.

New records

I took it steady on the way out just to make sure my legs were OK. My legs felt very strong, which made a difference on the long climbs, despite dropping the 32T to a 28T cassette. Or perhaps because of.

And my descending was unencumbered by nervous descenders or slow traffic.

  • Tidbinbilla Ring Rd Climb (clockwise) 8:48 > 6:51
  • Tidbinbilla Road Climb (from after loop intersection) Cat 4 13:33 > 11:12
  • Pierce’s Creek Descent [2.4km -157m -6%] 2:47 > 2:34 (Vmax 80.6km/h)
  • Pierces Creek Descent [0.9km -97m -10%] 48s > 47s (average 75.5km/h, Vmax 80.6km/h, all time equal 12th fastest)
  • Cotter Climb Casuarina to Equestrian Trunoff [sic] Cat 4 25:24 > 25:05

Who breaks a chain link?

SRSLY! I do not mash the gears, I don’t change in a sprint and I clean and lube my chains like they were an intimate partner. I even have a Birzman chain stretch checker, which is why I changed my Ultegra chain with .75% stretch after 6000 km for a KMC chain with very few km on it.

I noticed my chain skipping at the bottom of the Cotter Road Climb. How I could have a stiff link at this stage was baffling; probably some grit. I pushed hard up the Cotter, dropping a cog when I could, and took 39s of my previous best. The stiff link wasn’t affecting me when in gear; I just had to take care when shifting, as I always do.

I stopped at the top of the climb, expecting to wiggle the chain a few times and then sprint down Cotter Road. But I could see immediately that the pin had popped out of the inner link and was a few millimetres out on the outside. Then I noticed half of the inner link plate had snapped off! The pin hadn’t pulled out; the pin didn’t have a hole to fit into!

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How does a link even break like that?

I nursed it home from there.

So that’s 3 tyres and a chain for 120km. At least I’ll be fine for the Bobbin Head classic.

Thanks to Pedal Power and the wonderful volunteers. See you next year.

Fitz’s Challenge – This Fitz just got real

That was a ride and a half!

I knew that the 165km and 3000m of climbing would be a stretch, which is why I entered. I’m not much of a climber yet, but I do prefer long distances to short sprints.

The weather did not help. (Maybe a slight NW tailwind on some of the out climbs.) Early morning rain dampened the road making drafting sometimes splashy. The road was not so wet to be slippery.

Calm, humid and overcast; unusual conditions for Fitz’s. I recorded 12° at the start and about 20° by mid-morning. It dropped to 12° again just before Cotter and the second last climb.

The return was into the teeth of a 35-40km/h NW winds with gusts of 65km/h. Steve drafted me back, but I couldn’t avoid the big hits.

Then the rain. With about 35km to go it started. Big drops right in the face. Shoes full of water, face full of grit, drenched and getting cold.

Personal Records – Climbs

When Dave flatted at the top of Mt MacDonald, Stu and I kept going. I rode ahead to the Gravel Pit (33km) on my own. Steve and Dave wanted to keep rolling, so Stu and I jumped on. Somehow I got to Tharwa first. So I’m quite happy with the PRs I set, including this lot.

  • Pierces Creek 8:37 > 7:26
  • Break My Spirit 14:01 > 12:30
  • Paddys River Rd Climb 9:48 > 8:25
  • Fitz’s Climb 23:39 > 22:41
  • Cotter Climb to Stromlo KOM 27:50 > 26:52

top-of-fitzs-hill

Personal Records – Descents

Since Steve Richardson told me to not attack descents but to tuck and recover, I’ve been posting some of my best times. More importantly, I’ve been able to recover and lower my heart rate ready for the next climb.

It does make riding in a group difficult. I’m slow on the climbs but very fast on the descents. Sometimes I waited for the others to catch up. Sometimes I caught riders who had been minutes ahead. 

On Fitz’s Descent I did a 2:04 at an average of 71.9km/h, for a ranking of 30/2138. For Vmax Strava says 94.3km/h but my Garmin says 95.5km/h, which is the figure I’m going with.

Didi’s granddaughter is all grown up!

No photographic evidence, unfortunately. Photographers appear at the top of a few climbs to catch those magic moments when your heart is thumping and your tongue is hanging out. As if to reinforce these feelings, the photographer on Paddy’s River Road had a companion in the shape of what could only be described as an unfeasibly sexy young lady in an unremittingly sexy devil’s costume, with trident. She whispered words of encouragement as I passed. It may have been a Halloween promotion. Or a ruse from the photographer to get lots of photos of pounding hearts and tongues hanging out.

tour-de-france-devil-didi-diablo-01
This is Didi. He encourages cyclists. His ‘granddaughter’ achieves the same, but with more subtle methods.

Fitz’s is not the only hill

After Fitz’s Hill lies 14km of climbs before the turnaround. The last climb is marked as 2.2km at 5.8%. That belies how steep the climb gets in between the brief flats. I measured 17% a few times. Arguably tougher than Fitz’s Hill.

Then there’s the 1.3km 7.3% climb out of the recovery zone! There were walkers on that hill.

Recovery

I feel better after this year’s 165 than after last year’s 105. Admittedly, hot temperatures take more out of you than cold, but so does the wind. I just rode smarter this year.

My back and knees hurt and for some reason I got up at 5:00 to write this, which indicates a certain amount of discomfort. But my muscles feel good. I’ve just ridden the toughest imperial century in Australia and it feels like a normal, long, hard ride.

l’etape should be a doddle.

Nice things

Roads are not closed during the event and there are no alternative routes. But this year there was a 60km/h limit along the entire length and Police motos for enforce it. There seemed to be less traffic this year and it was generally more pleasant on the road.

Climbing Pierce’s Creek I was overtaken (no surprise!). I looked across to see a girl on a flat-bar bike wearing a school tunic. I was not expecting that! As she passed I saw the poster for ‘bikes for girls in Africa’, who give bikes to girls so that they can go to school much faster and safer than walking. There are several such organisations and I’m not sure which one she was representing so I won’t add a link. Just look for the cyclist wearing a school uniform and going faster than you and ask them.

At the finish I noticed a pregnant woman had also completed the 165km. That will be a great story for the baby book.

The sun came out for a few minutes on the Cotter Road climb. (That’s it.)

210km Fitz’s Epic next year?

That’s a big step up. We’ll see.

 

Fitz’s Challenge – Classic 165km preparation

Apparently one is not supposed ride the 165km Fitz’s Classic as one’s first imperial century. Instead I should find a flat 161km event and pootle around. Something in my favour this year is that I will be riding as a group of four; among which is a 30-time Fitz’s veteran. The support, guidance and morale-boosting will be invaluable.

Well… I missed my 15kg weight loss target by about 12kg. I haven’t retested my FTP since September, but I suspect it has improved.

I have made some effort. I have ridden some famous climbs for the first time, including Red Hill, Mt Majura, Mt Pleasant and a successful summit of Fitz’s Hill a month ago. I’m not overawed by it, but it certainly demands respect, especially as it is after 70km.

Looking back at last year’s post mortem (numbered below), I have some updates and improvements for this year (bullet points).

  1. Indoor trainers teach continuous pedalling.  You can’t underestimate the efforts that your legs, feet, bum and gentleman’s area go through on a long ride without traffic lights and intersections.
    • True that. My legs don’t fatigue like they used to. I can turn for 2 hours without stopping.
    • There is always tension on the chain at the set power level, whereas on the road the freewheel doesn’t tension the chain. Perhaps legs become more circular indoors?
    • Three words: Aussie Butt Cream
  2. Strava arm warmers will also keep you cool in hot weather and free from sunburn.  I have slivers of burn on the tiny gaps between my gloves and sleeves.
    • I found Bontrager arm covers that are thin and cool but SPF50+
  3. I need something under my helmet to prevent “horns” from being burnt into my forehead.
  4. And something to stop sweat pouring into my eyes on descents.
    • Ditto on the skullcap.
  5. Load the course into your Garmin.  Knowing what you are about the face and how long you need to face it is very good for pacing and confidence.
    • Done
    • I would have liked to have trialled the course on my KICKR.
  6. If the course is not downloadable from the ride website, try www.plotaroute.com or similar.
    • I copied it from a friend who completed it last year.
  7. Prepare your bike.  My tyres were new, I degreased the drive-train before full tuning, brakes were tightened for fast response.  My KMC chain doesn’t like my Ultegra top jockey wheel, but at least I never missed a shift.
    • I just discovered that the KMC catches the next cog on the Deore cassette slightly every half-rotation, which explains the noise.
    • Ultegra chain also catches, by to a far lesser degree. Shifting is sweet.
    • Tyres aren’t new, but I found two tyres that were in good condition.
    • Tioga tubes are hopeless. Replaced all around with tubes that lose 1psi per day, not every 5 minutes.
  8. Keep it steady for the first third.  If you feel good, then push it.
    • The group shall.
  9. Ride at your pace.  Jump on a train if you can, but don’t burn up trying to stay on.
    • The group shall.
  10. Eat and drink regularly.
    • I’ve got gels, salt tablets, seaweed strips from the Kyoto Marathon.
  11. Some drivers have no idea about overtaking.
    • Safety in numbers
  12. Motorcyclists have more respect for cyclists than drivers do.
  13. Have fun.

We’ll found out tomorrow. Weather should be OK for the out, but expecting a big NW headwind and possible rain for the return. I’ll earn it.