Sunday, 27 February 2011

Andalucia Bike Race

Today my partner Kristine Norgaard (Hansens Flodeis) and I had a lot of fun! We’ve competed against each other in several events over the last couple of years so we knew that we would make a good team, but we didn’t realise just how much fun we would have together. I’ve seriously never laughed so much in a race :D

There are a number of female teams competing here such as Yvonne Kraft and Celina Carpinteiro, the Spanish team including Sandra Santanyes and Isabel Castro (Esteve), and Jennifer Smith and Kathy Sherwin (Giant/Orbea). Yvonne and her partner are experienced stage racers having won the Claro Brazil race late last year and finishing 2nd in the 2010 Cape Epic.

Our race started really well and we had a great start that put us immediately into the lead. The course was truly a lot of fun but not easy! There was so much single track and this coupled with many technical sections kept the riders alert. The terrain was impressively varied, ranging from swoopy and flowy to rocky and knarly. It reminded me in many ways of the Roc D’Azur marathon, but perhaps with more single track. There were so many spectators out on the course and their loud cheers were hugely motivating making it easier to get to the top of the super steep technical climbs.

Once we finished the stage we headed straight back to the hotel for a shower, massage (provided free by the organisers), and then a great take away from the local Italian restaurant. Lovely.

We look forward very much to the days that follow. We both know that in stage races anything can happen, so we intend to take care and enjoy!

Many, many thanks to our amazing team supporter, the one and only Mr Dave Padfield :)

Photos to follow......

Monday, 21 February 2011

Return to interval training....ouch!

On the morning of my first training ride back in the UK I woke up to the sound of the rain battering the skylight. I wanted to hide in bed all day; I couldn’t face the torrential rain! I checked the weather forecast in the hope that there would at least be some respite during the day. No such luck. The whole of the country was hiding beneath a dark blue blanket of biblical rain! My thoughts turned to a long session on the turbo trainer before I recalled an email that I received from a friend while we were away in the Canaries. In the email Sophie, who is a passionate MTB newbie, comically described “having to wash my bike after EVERY ride that I have been on since probably October.  I seem to resemble an SAS soldier with the amount of gear I have to wear for a ride these days.  The Downs are bleak windy grassy climbs which are fine until you realise that you've only covered 5 miles in an hour on a good day, whilst the woods are a mudfest negotiating slippery slimy roots”.

An hour later I was donning my waterproofs while I whizzed around Wareham forest for a 3 hour mixed pace off-road ride. I found myself grinning and thoroughly enjoying the slippery conditions and three crashes! It was great to be back in the UK taking on the technical conditions in the forest – I’d actually missed it. The only part of the ride that I didn’t enjoy was the large, aggressive dog that decided to attach its mouth to my foot while I was pedaling. It’s amazing how fast it could run while its head was rotating with my foot! Eventually the owner managed to catch up and wallop it a few times before it released its grip! I finished off the ride with a coffee shop stop with a friend. I love the warm glow and satisfaction I feel after batting the elements. Lovely.

The next day I set off for a 3 hour road ride (maintaining a heart rate of 141-155 beats per minute). I was fine for the first 2 hours but then it was like someone pulled the plug and my legs refused to keep my heart rate in zone. I reluctantly backed off and managed to slowly pedal home. After explaining to coach Matt Hart that I've never ‘hated’ a training ride in that way before, we decided that I needed more rest. I took an unscheduled rest day, with the option of taking a second if I still felt rubbish, because it was important that I was feeling recovered before starting the first interval session of the year. After one recovery day I decided to try the interval session but to stop and try again the next day if I still felt tired. I bought some new music and set up a new playlist on my Ipod before heading off to the highest point in Dorset: Bulbarrow Hill. I completed seven 10-minute intervals (155 to 169 bpm – close to, but just below, anaerobic threshold) with a huge grin on my face throughout. I have to confess that I don’t normally enjoy intervals, but on this day I was absolutely beaming and enjoying the music.

The following day I set out for a 3 hour road ride (141-155 bpm). I don’t normally ride with an Ipod but after the huge buzz that I had the day before I decided to plug in my left ear only so that I could still hear the traffic with my right ear. Just like the last time I tried this session, I felt brilliant for the first two hours but struggled with the last hour. After another chat with Matt we figured that I had possibly under-carbed during the previous days interval session where I only had a 750ml bottle of 6% carbohydrate. Matt suggested that I take a gel during my next interval session in order to get more carbs.

After a rest day I headed off to Whiteway Hill, Isle of Purbeck, for my first anaerobic interval session of the year (more than 169 bpm). The session included six 3-minute intervals followed by eight 1-minute intervals. This is a session that I find really hard, particularly half way through the 3-minute intervals, and this day was no exception! Before the 1-minute intervals I took a Torq Caffeine gel and that gave me an extra boost to finish the session. One of my non-racing friends came over and had a go at the session too! It was really nice to see her giving it a go and her smiles and shouts of encouragement made me laugh. Extra motivation also came from the reward of lunch at Corfe Castle tea rooms afterwards :D

Yesterday I set off on a 3 hour road ride (141-155bpm). I drank two 750ml of Torq energy mixed at 6% (90g of carbs), ate a Torq bar (45g) and a caffeine gel (28g). This gave me a total of 163g, which meant that I met my target of 54g of carbs per hour (aim = 1g of carbs per kg of body weight). I felt amazing for the whole ride and a big smile throughout was clear for all to see!

I absolutely love life on two wheels at the moment and any doubts about taking a sabbatical have now been replaced with excitement about training and racing full time :) I am truly very happy.

I’m having an easy week now to ensure that I’m rested before the start of the Andalucia 6-day Bike Race on Sunday. I’m teaming with Kristine Norgaard (Denmark) who won the ladies pairs in both the Cape Epic and Trans Alp last year. I’m really excited to be racing with her and it’ll be great training for the 8-day Cape Epic that starts on March 27th.  I’ll be writing daily updates during both the Andalucia Bike Race and the Cape Epic….fingers crossed!!!!!

Happy training and racing,
Sal :0)

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Bike fuel

Here is just some of the fuel that will see me through training and two stage races (Andalucia Bike Race and the Cape Epic) over the next couple of months. Thanks Torq!!!!!

Saturday, 12 February 2011

British Cycling Interview

A short time ago I had a ride and, of course, a coffee and cake stop with Luke Webber from British Cycling. I'm not very good at reading things written about me; it's all at bit weird, but if you want to have a read and check out the great photos taken in Wareham Forest, Dorset then click here.

Club La Santa, Lanzarote

We’re just flying home from 2 weeks training at Club La Santa where we had one great week of MTB’ing, including a two stage MTB race, and another week of excellent road riding (but on my MTB). This, in addition to our stay in Gran Canaria, has given me 6 weeks of winter base training - something that I have never had the luxury of experiencing before!

Dave's road bike meant that he could train with me :D

We had an amazing time riding in Gran Canaria (GC) and we were sad to leave. I have to admit that after looking at a map and checking out Lanzarote’s vital statistics I was initially a little tentative about the riding there. Lanzarote is much smaller than GC (60km from north to south and 25km from east to west) and the highest point is only 671metres.      

When we arrived at Club La Santa we were instantly surprised by the variety of sports people, ranging from professionals to beginners. It was really refreshing to be in an environment where sports are the norm rather than being in a hotel surrounded by people who want to be as inactive as possible and who consider athletic people weird! The facilities are truly impressive: there is an indoor and outdoor gym, Olympic pool and recreational pool, squash and badminton courts, boxing ring, windsurf and kayaking lagoon, athletic track, bike hire (MTB and road), and top level coaching. All of which is free! This is just a handful of activities, there was so much more!

Surf action at La Santa

We stayed half-board which included a buffet breakfast and buffet dinner. I’ve only ever stayed half-board at a hotel once before and thought I’d never do it again! Club La Santa was genuinely different. I’ve got a pretty hard-to-please diet but the variety of food on offer each day was impressive. In restaurants I often have to ask for extra portions because I eat so much, the nice thing about the buffet was that I could have two meals and I wasn’t the only one J There were lots of national teams training there, including the British Triathlon Team, and it was easy to see who’d been training hard by looking at the piles of food on their tables! There were always lots of carbs (rice, potatoes, pasta), fresh fruit and veg, fish, chicken and meat. And as well as ‘healthy’ food it was also nice to enjoy some ‘unhealthy’ stuff too!

The lovely Tabayesco 10km climb :)

During our first week I helped out with the Cape Epic Training Camp, which included the two-day stage race and 5 days of guided MTB riding. After training mainly on the road in Gran Canaria it was really nice to spend a week off-road. It was also nice to ride with other people and have a break from my structured training. There were a mix of technical abilities in the group but all of the riders were pretty strong so the pace was good and there wasn’t a lot of stopping. The MTB’ing in Lanzarote surprised me, although there are lots of wide dirt tracks there are also some fun singletracks, including narrow passes around the edge of volcanoes, raised rocky narrow trails dividing farmers crop fields, and off-piste ‘bike skiing’ down very steep, very loose volcanoes :D There are also some steep, narrow footpaths in the hilly north all of which are open to bikes. Some of the trails can be hard to find but it’s worth having a chat with Barry from the Green Team at Club La Santa or Steve at Pro Bike in La Santa who can point you in the right direction.

Fire Mountain - Timanfaya National Park

It was back to high mile structured training during our second week. This gave us the opportunity to explore the whole of the Island by road. As in Gran Canaria (GC), the roads are smooth and the drivers are courteous; however unlike GC it is possible to ride on reasonably flat roads. This meant that I was able to stay in a specific training zone for as long as I wanted. My winter base training rides involve riding consistently at a low intensity for 5 to 6 hours. This was difficult in GC because it is so mountainous; a three-hour climb would be followed by an hour-long descent – super fun but no aerobic benefit. Don’t get me wrong, GC is an amazing place to train and the mountains are beautiful, but Lanzarote provides a different, perhaps more efficient way of training.

The road to Famara. Just one of the many super smooth roads :)

In terms of landscape it’s pretty varied: from the volcanoes and vast lava fields of Timanfaya National Park which are really dramatic, to the rugged coastline around El Golfo, and to the greener more hilly north that provides switchbacks and big vistas. With 2551metres of climbing the 180km round-the-island Ironman route incorporated all of the above and became my favourite Lanzarote road ride :D In total we covered 750km in our last week, including two rest days by the pool. Lovely.

Club La Santa pool 

Lanzarote is a relatively small island and as an endurance rider looking to cover big miles there is less variety (a 5-6 hour ride will take you around the Island) than in GC, but there are several different 3-4 hour routes, particularly being based at La Santa where you can either head off south or north. Looking back, 3.5 weeks in GC and 2 weeks in Lanzarote were absolutely perfect and I would do it all exactly the same next year if I could J

Coffee time :D

So with 6 weeks of base training behind me it’s now time to think about starting interval training next week. I’m looking forward to beginning speed work because although I’ve got a strong endurance base at the moment I’m not fast! Ideally at this point in time I would like to have had more base training but a pre-patella bursitis throughout December meant that I missed 4 weeks. I’ll be in the UK now for the next two weeks (Brrrrr) before flying to Malaga for the Andalucia 6 stage Bike Race where I’m pairing up with Kristine Norgaard (Denmark). I’m really looking forward to the race and I’m especially excited about riding with Kristine! :D

Rain is forecast at home tomorrow. Looks like I’ll be getting wet!    

Sightseeing ride to the historic town of Teguise