Over the years this blog has largely been driven along by travel and travel photography. The last couple of years has seen that shrivel because of our great pandemic. The blog has shriveled along with it. There is a limit to how many times you can spin a tale out of spending your two hours outdoor exercise riding your bike in circles. For the moment though country Victoria is off the leash – Victoria is my oyster, can’t leave the state, can’t visit Melbourne. The pearl in my little oyster is Port Fairy and that’s where I am.
I have been riding my bike in circles but at least the circle is a big one. What more could a girl ask for? I like to call the route L’Étape Charles de Gaulle …
My accommodation here is built from bluestone which is basalt from the Newer Volcanic Province. Port Fairy’s basalt was donated by Mount Rouse 60km to the north. It seems a long way for the lava to flow. Perhaps it could have got further but sizzled to a stop in the sea. There is a closer but older volcano at Tower Hill which I have written about previously <HERE>. Rather than slowly boiling over it went off with a phreatic bang.
Hopkins Falls is about 40km east of Fairy and is another side effect of the newer volcanics. Said to be the widest waterfall in Australia at 90 meters in width it drops about 12 meters off a basalt shelf. It’s been a fairly wet winter. It’s quite a satisfying sight at present …
What about something very similar – Amy’s Gran Fondo on Sunday October 24 starting and finishing at Lorne. It’s a 130km course climbing over some now familiar hills and then running along the Great Ocean Road.
There’s a gravel ride the day before and a couple of shorter rides for the less obsessed. All the details can be found <HERE>
… worthy of a spectacular ride. The Great Ocean Road and Otway hills – all the ingredients needed. The 204km ride got away at 6.30 in the morning …
Most of the first 80km or so is through undulating farmland. There was a decent headwind. Fortunately I was able to pick up a strong group and slipstream all the way to Forrest. Thanks are due to the heroes that took the lead. Average speed to Forrest was 31kph – no concern regarding the cutoff.
The climbing starts in earnest just before Forrest. My group took advantage of the rest stop there, I soloed on. Either the food was good or there was a long queue for the toilets. I didn’t see them again. In fact by that time you couldn’t see much at all. A mist had rolled in bringing a gentle drizzle.
Climbing is not my strong point. I just have to accept that it will be slow, settle into a rhythm and keep an eye on the power meter. The reward is that you then get to descend. This time the road was wet and windy but it’s still fun.
The foot of the descent is Skenes Creek on the iconic Great Ocean Road. The rain ceased and the wind dropped. Groups to parasitise became rare. So head down and tail up …
“I can make you a maa.a.a.a.an …” Rocky Horror Show.
Or you can join me in the Peaks Challenge Falls Creek. Cycle 235km with 4,600 meters of climbing. The legs had better be loaded by now. In a week you can do very little to get fitter but you can ramp up the fatigue trying.
My preparation can be summarised thus …
Turning that into weekly averages gives 344km, 2,292m of climbing in 15 hours on the bike.
Volume alone is a poor measure of training. Intensity has a key role. I have endeavoured to keep up the quality by doing some interval training, hill repeats and racing. Finding a group ride has also helped to sharpen the output. The guys and girls have also been great mentors, given me heaps of encouragement and support. All of which has been most appreciated.
Has it made me fitter? Yes it has.
I bought the road bike last May six months after I started riding. I added a power meter in July and was quick to do an FTP test. That involved 20 minutes going full gas, on the rivet, going for the doctor, blood sweat and tears, pain, suffering , you get the picture. The answer was 196 Watts.
I was in no hurry to do further FTP tests but as a Strava subscriber I have access to my critical power curve which gives me another way to estimate FTP. Using the first six weeks of power data Strava estimated my FTP at 190 Watts. The last six weeks provides an estimate of 237 Watts. (A Grand Tour rider would have an FTP of 400 plus.)
Back in the jogging boom when I ran the odd marathon the gold standard of endurance fitness was VO2max. In those days you had to head into the laboratory to find what that was. These days you just have to ask … your watch. My Garmin watch estimates mine to be 51 ml/kg/min – up from the low 40’s seven months ago. (Above average for an adult male but an elite athlete will be in the range 65 to 80).
The bike was serviced just a few weeks ago. It has a new chain and fresh tyres. The cassette has been replaced with an 11 – 32 giving me a slightly lower gear than I had. That will help on the hills. It goes for a final tweak in a couple of days. I will have to put a rear reflector on it before the big day – the organisers insist that bikes be road legal (I ride in the day with two flashing red lights to the rear, one of which is also a radar. There isn’t room for a reflector and safer to boot. Ours not to reason why.)
The week past has been a big one. It included a trip to the Grampians with a couple of rides up Mount William. The last couple of kilometers to the summit have an average gradient of 12%, there are spots where I struggled to keep the front wheel on the ground. This is steeper than the worst sections of the Peaks Challenge. The bonus though is that the climb offers the prettiest views of any ride in the state of Victoria.
It’s now time for the taper. Training too hard will find you fatigued at the starting line. If you don’t train at all you start to lose condition. How best to balance freshness and fitness? The right answer probably varies from person to person and is best sorted out by trial and error. I have no recent experience to draw on so it has to be generic. Having consulted the literature my intention is to maintain the intensity but halve the volume.
And what about some carbohydrate loading? My day to day diet is low carb but come Friday I’ll be enjoying some pasta, Saturday some rice. I’m sure my body will stack away glycogen like there’s no tomorrow.
In preparation for the Peaks Challenge at Falls Creek I’ve been knocking out a 100km ride about once a week. Aside from that I’ve concentrated on intensity rather than volume with hill repeats (outdoors and on the trainer), intervals and some racing. Rest days and the odd light week are vital to the mix and the first week of February was the light week. There are now 25 days to go. My intentions were to ramp up the climbing and get in at least one 200km ride. Now I find myself limited to two hours a day and within 5km of home.
The nearest asphalt to home is a kilometer away. I could ride back and forth on 4km of black top – hill repeats without any significant hill. The alternative is to take to the gravel on my mountain bike. And it’s not such a bad alternative, increased resistance from wider tyres and the gravel plus the less aerodynamic position and greater weight put the legs to the test. The distance limit means going around and round. It could wear thin but I enjoyed it this morning.
I also slipped in an extra weights session. Tomorrow I’ll do some indoor hill work and perhaps take the mountain bike out again. I can’t see myself doing more than a couple of hours at a time on the trainer.
The Peaks Challenge at Falls Creek entails more than 4,000 meters (13,100 feet) of climbing. Living in the flat land makes it hard to prepare the legs. One answer is an indoor trainer that can simulate the resistance that would be experienced climbing hills. I settled on the Tacx Neo 2T and with the help of Youtube got it up and running. I’m currently enjoying, if that’s the right word, a one month free trial of the Tacx software.
Here’s a shot of the pain cave …
I’ve repurposed a superseded lap top and thunderbolt screen and added an ANT+ dongle to the computer so that it can read my heart rate monitor. In this shot I’m setting off to climb the Jaufen Pass. The video advances to match the speed that you’re making whilst the software adjusts the resistance to reflect the gradient.
Here’s a screen grab nearing the top of the pass …
On the left of screen you can see speed, power, cadence, heart rate, time elapsed, the gradient and in the tiny letters the most important information is the distance to the top.
The real Jaufen Pass is in the Alps in the far north of Italy. On the Tacx the ride to the top is a little over 15 km and climbs 1,087 meters. Average gradient is 7.2% and it maxes out at 9.4%. You can continue down the other side but I can’t for the life of me see why you would, you reach impossible speeds with no effort and round corners in a fashion that would be lethal in real life and are too dizzying to look at on screen.
How does it compare with the real thing? It certainly feels pretty realistic and I think it will substitute well for the missing mountains.
As well as a library of videos there is a workout section where you can set up an interval session with control over gradient if that’s your thing and there’s a built in ramp test and FTP test.
The trainer will work with other apps such as Zwift and RGT. They have free introductory offers that I will probably make use of before choosing which way to go in the long term.
Meanwhile there are 54 days until the big event which equals four Jaufen Passes plus a whole load of connecting asphalt.
An athlete should do the least amount of the most specific training that brings continual improvement.
In other words specificity and efficiency. What you can do this week depends in the main on what you did last week and the week before. If the objective is an endurance event and you aren’t confident on the basis of what you did last week then you need to do more this week. If it entails a great deal of hill climbing then you’d better climb some hills.
The other side of the coin is the more you do the more fatigue you accumulate. So I need to increase the training load but allow sufficient time for rest and recovery.
A training plan seems a good idea. Bicycle Network are the organisers of the Peaks Challenge and they offer three training programs devised by Dr Stephen Lane. It’s suggested you make your choice based on how much time you have available in your regular week. The least, perhaps the most efficient, calls for 10 hours a week, the biggest for 16.5 hours a week. I downloaded the intermediate one aiming for 12 hours a week.
They all give you a 16 week lead up to the event. Each starts with a measurement of your Functional Threshold power (FTP). Workloads are specified with reference to your FTP. They call for six days training followed by one day off. Hard days alternate with easy days and the fourth week of each block is an easier week. Long rides are prescribed for the weekends. Finally they wind up with a taper. Dr Lane has more advice and encouragement in video form all of which can be found <HERE>.
At the core of all three programs the quality work is much the same. Extra time in the more time consuming programs is largely more long slow distance. Up hill interval training figures prominently.
The programs have been designed to suit working people. They stay in sync with the calendar and don’t bite too deeply into weekdays.
The guru of my running days was Dr Ken Cooper. In his view exercising 5 times a week was the optimum. The additional benefit from a sixth session wasn’t great and came at the cost of possible injury and increased fatigue. In those dim distant Marathon running days there was never a time when I arrived at the starting line with as much training behind me as I would have liked but I never withdrew from a race (nor did I ever win one!)
Given the entrenched belief that six days in a row is too much and the fact that I’m not a slave to the calendar I have opted for working in 5 day blocks – Hard day/easy day/easy day/ hard day/day off. The second easy day includes a weights session.
The base that I’m coming off has been fairly consistent over the four months August through November with an average weekly volume of 365 km and 2,040 meters of climbing. Time invested has been 16 hours a week. In December I made a serious effort to increase the climbing, time stayed about the same but I climbed 3,120 meters a week, distance was slightly down.
I have no mountains on my doorstep so 15 minute intervals up hill pose a problem. The best hill in the neighbourhood offers about 5 minutes of climbing. I’ll cover the solution to that problem in a future post.
I also have a few treats lined up for myself to spice up the training.
I just submitted my entry for the 2021 Peaks Challenge at Falls Creek. It’s run by Bicycle Network and this is how they describe it …
Peaks Challenge Falls Creek is a 235km ride with 4,000+ metres of climbing, set among the backdrop of the beautiful Victorian Alps.
You’ll tackle the ascents of Tawonga Gap, Mount Hotham and finally, ‘The Beast’ that is the back of Falls. The back of Falls will hit you like a tonne of bricks. With 200km in your legs, you’ll quickly learn why the first pinch is called WTF Corner. It’s a steep and relentless climb with little reprieve.
D Day is Sunday March 7th.
The challenge must be completed within 13 hours or they will cart you off the course in the sag wagon. It is further than I have ever ridden before and entails ascending up half an Everest. So you see I have set myself up for a very public humiliation.
Success depends on loading the legs and I’d better get cracking with that soon! I’ll share my preparation. If you are inclined to join up here’s the link BicycleNetwork.
When I was a lad in England this was a popular song often played on the wireless. My father, a policeman, would tell me that it was evidence of the trust we placed in the men in blue. If I were lost or just wanted to know the time I could safely approach a policeman.
In fact the song was written by Edward William Rogers in 1888 and was a monster hit in the Music Halls of the day for Mr James Fawn. In runs through five verses and choruses of innuendo that the audience of the day would have latched onto in a flash.
The first chorus sets the scene …
If you want to know the time, ask a policeman.
The proper Greenwich time, ask a policeman.
Every member of the force has a watch and chain, of course,
How he got it, from what source? ask a policeman.
The police were drawn mostly from the working classes and paid a meagre salary how could they afford a watch and chain, expensive items in those days?
If you didn’t click the link above do try it now and if you’d like to learn more of the song’s history and see the full lyrics there is an excellent site <HERE>.
But those days are long gone. So much has changed. In those days you could ride a bike without a helmet, a deristricted sign meant that there was no speed limit, the police couldn’t stop you without a reason, there was freedom of movement, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the regard in which we hold the police. Christine Nixon, former Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police did her bit by lying to the public about the role of African gangs in Melbourne’s crime statistics, topped off by going out to tea with her phone switched off as Victoria burnt one Black Saturday. Simon Overland, former Chief Commissioner, was in charge of the Purana Taskforce during the period that Nicola Gobbo, lawyer to the stars, was informing on her clients. Graham Ashton, former Chief Commissioner, has just been excoriated by a royal commission for suggesting that such outrageous behaviour passed “the pub test” because it was all in a good cause.
The present Chief Commissioner, Shane Patton, has shown himself excellently well qualified to run a Police State. His force managed to subdue and handcuff a pregnant woman in front of her children in her own home for a facebook post. I understand that she may be facing a 15 year jail term. Well serves her right, she should have organised a Black Lives Matter rally or a union protest both of which are exempt.
Mr Patton has resurrected or borrowed or invented the offence of outraging public decency. He should be careful with a hairstyle that does just that.
Welcome to China, have a nice day. It must be part of the Belt and Road agreement.
The daily dose of Dan and the other politicians is stirring stuff …
We will fight on the beaches, we will fight on the landing grounds, we will fight in the meatworks …
and there’s every chance we will fight in the supermarkets that are suddenly meat free zones. Thank goodness I’m a vego. And what is it about toilet paper?
Stage 4 restrictions for the majority of Victoria’s population Stage 3 for the rest of us. Almost no valid reason to let anyone into your house only four valid reasons to leave it. House arrest. There does still seem to be a social licence for these measures. The other day’s Herald-Sun had some snippets from half a dozen persons in the street all in favour. The tone crystalises into putting up with short term pain for long term gain.
There is emerging some disquiet and disobedience. The utter nutters are in the vanguard declaring Covid19 a hoax or blaming it on the 4G network. Just to make sure that they have no protection by way of civil rights Mr Andrews has declared a state of emergency giving the police supernatural powers, after all, these people are not Black Lives protesters or union members picketing a building site.
Following the Covidiots are the invincibles, mostly young with little to fear beyond the death of a grandmother here and there. They don’t believe that Covid will kill them. The government tells them it will but mostly that’s untrue.
The current strategy is to limit the spread of the virus by severely limiting the movement of people. I do believe it will work. I expect that in a couple of weeks case numbers will begin to come down quite quickly. But then what?
The population of Australia is 25 million people. As of yesterday there had been 18,318 cases of Coronavirus infection. That means that 99.94% of the population are naive to this virus. Unless there are no cases left in the community there will be a third wave once restrictions are lifted. If there are indeed no cases we will all be safe … until we open our borders.
Will there be social licence for stage 5 restrictions when the populace realises that this isn’t short term pain?