So, we’ve made it to 2017 after what can only be described as Year of The Utter Shit, so where are we at?
Well, the start of the new year formed a convenient, if arbitrary watershed to try and re-establish some old, good habits. I’m now attempting to follow a structured training plan from The Sufferfest, though I’ve had to build in some very generous variations due to things like work/on-call commitments and wanting to actually ride outdoors occasionally. Nevertheless, some weight is dropping off and some watts are going on. I’ve had two “new threshold” notifications from Training Peaks in January so far, and my Smart Scale has been congratulating me occasionally. Who would have thought* swapping a quiet beer for an hour of sweat on a bike would be so effective?
Zwift.community has been launched by a good friend of mine and I’ve come on board as an early adopter and admin
In news of actually turning some pedals, I’m racing again two months earlier than expected. Thursday saw me enter a Zwift KISS Race on the spur of the moment, because that’s a thing now, and Saturday saw me racing on dirt for the first time in… ages.
KISS Down Under runs on Thursdays and this time round it was on the London 8 course, two laps past Buck House and over Box Hill, finishing a mere skip and a jump from Pudding Lane, whence the Great Fire of London began.
Self-grading for KISS is easy as pie – My extra poundage dropped me in right at the sharp end of D grade, at just under 2.5W/kg, and as you’d expect from the numbers, I finished on the podium in a relatively small classified D-grade field. I’m hopeful by the next KISS Down Under event I’ll be just nudging over into the bottom end of C-grade, and if I hit my training targets for January and February, I should be into B grade before March.
This slightly unplanned entry into some kind of competition was spurred on my the arrival of my shiny renewed-after-a-break MTBA racing licence, and the realisation that the first available outdoor race of the season was on Saturday 14th, at Western Sydney MTB Club’s Yellomundee circuit. A four-hour lap race, it was exactly my targeted format for this year so seemed like a great idea. I got my entry in and sorted some stuff out.
Turns out a year or so off from racing does nothing for your logistical skills. I managed to forget my eyewear, and didn’t plan a nice cool eskie for my drink bottles. It was well above 40 degrees C when I arrived at Yellomundee for what was billed as a twilight race, and though it did cool down a bit, the heat did some serious damage in my opening laps. My water bottle was hot. Not just warm. Hot. Actually coffee hot. I was sweating far too much. I’d probably started dehydrated – and hadn’t even properly warmed up – so for the latter half of lap 1 and all the way through lap 2 my legs were non-existent. I had no power when I wanted it, and even if I did manage to get a spurt going, I faded so quickly it was laughable. I do not deal well with hot conditions. Adding to that, a slight mechanical issue from a crash at Mystic MTB Park a week before had knocked my front brake lever out of its alignment and I was struggling to brake properly, meaning my speed was down and before long I was heading for the back of the field. I felt like the bike was controlling me, not the other way around.
To add stupid onto stupid, I’d fumbled my Garmin at the start, so my data was all wrong and I had no idea of what lap times I might be doing.
In the latter part of lap three my legs started, slowly, to come into condition, but by then my shoulders were starting to get sore from fighting the bike. Nevertheless I got a little quicker in the corners, and remembered “Oh yes. You usually need a warmup lap or two to dial in leg power and cornering for these races, don’t you?”.
Duh. Two warm-up laps. Yes.
By this point, I had no idea where I was in terms of laps or time, having messed up the Garmin start, and as the head of the field started lapping me in earnest, I hit a mechanical. Downshifting on a slight uphill, my chain snagged, the derailleur whipped round and the chain snapped entirely.
Hmmm. Probably should have put a new chain on.
So I walked it in, arriving at the race centre around the 2 hour mark. I had my spare bike in the van, but at this point I was encrusted in salt and aching quite badly. I debated flicking a new quicklink onto the chain and continuing, but on reflection snipped off my race number, knocked over two bottles of warm water and called it a night.
So, that was the first IRL race of 2017, a bit of a clusterfuck, to say the least.
And to add to that, on getting the bike home and giving it a clean, I discovered the little chain disaster had chewed a decent chip of carbon out of the rear triangle and bent the dropout quite badly. If I’d opted to continue, the derailleur would have gone right into the rear spokes and possibly taken out the wheel, so it was the right decision. The bike is currently in bike hospital undergoing tests and the doctors remain hopeful of a recovery, though I’m rather anxious.
The outlook for this week? Tour Down Under is on, so there’ll probably be a reasonable amount of Zwifting in front of the TV, and I’ll probably try and take the spare bike out for some shakedown kilometres. There’s a non-zero probability that the hardtail is either dead or going in for carbon repair, so it’s sensible to get the FS bike up and humming for the next race. There’s an HMBA XC round at Awaba MTB park on the 22nd, so if I have a race bike by then I may be driving north, and there are a few Zwift races I have my eye on, so fingers crossed for a decent week. Failing that, the next realistic MTB race slot is WSMTB’s third round of the summer four hour on 19th of Feb. There’s a six-hour and the JetBlack 24 in the meantime, but neither are serious prospects given my current state of fitness, so it’ll be Zwift, Zwift, Zwift for the next couple of weeks.