domingo, 30 de junio de 2019

Ditchling Devil 2019

The Ditchling Devil is probably the most important event in the Saturday gang calendar.

This year the pace was fairly easy for the first hour. Controled mostly by the mentioned group.

As every year there was a bit of a debate about the first control. Bacon roll or not bacon roll. I dare to say I'm recognised as a strong defender of not bacon roll and keep rolling but this year we agreed on a short stop ("three minutes") to allow bacon lovers to satisfy their gluttony. I was on gels, measuring the carbohydrates I needed in my body. That's how serious this event is.

After what felt to me like an eternal stop we decided to start rolling. Unfortunatelly The Pope was still busy, eating a third bacon roll I can only guess.

By the time he caught with the group (we were softpedaling waiting for him and Will... Kind of) he shauted something too strong to my delicated ears and "attacked" the group.

It was one of those attacks that is not an attack, he just sat in the front and set a pace we were abel to match. Not even close. Away he disappeared.

We climbed Dichling Beacon and we all got to the top. While we were softpedaling waiting for Will. Shaun, Denis and Richard "attacked" in the front leaving Rupert and myself alone.

This "attack" didn't look like an attack either. They just rode a bit faster. Rupert and I were just riding easy counting they'd wait in the T junction with the main road. But they didn't.
And we didn't wait for Will either.

And we took the wrong exit in the first roundabout we found (my fault as Rupert didn't have the route in his device).

Still we managed to close the gap just before starting to climb Devils Dyke.

To my surprise Will was with them. He had made a TY. Legal under the Audax rules but cheeky nonetheless (ps. I was told that, apparently, Will didn't do a TY in that sector, he passed us when we took the wrong exit in the roundabout. Oh well).

By this time (km85) I was finally starting to feel some power in my legs. Seeing The Pope descending as we were climbing fueled my optimism.

We all respected the agreed lunch stop. Pasta and rice pudding can't be skipped. The Pope was there waiting for us.

A group of 7 departed the control. Stayed like that for 20km. But then a gap opened. The Pope, Denis, Richard and Shaun in the first group. Rupert, Mark and myself in the second group.

I was not worried. We had 26km to the next control ("the cake control") and somehow I got to the conclusion they were going to get there just three minutes before us. Three minutes in a control full of cakes is nothing. We agreed on keeping a sensible pace and let it be.

Sure enough we got to the cake control (three pieces for me) and we set off all together again.

At some point Rupert and Mark got droped.

In one descend Richard had a mechanical.

It was down to four of us (The Pope, Shaun, Denis and myself)

I have to confess I was worried about Combe Lane. I knew my companions were stronger than me and I was probably going to be dropped at that climb. I decided not to take a single turn in the front (not that I had taken many before. Race craft they call it).

Combe Lane came and we let The Pope lead the group but not for long. Denis upped the pace and opened a gap. I knew I could follow him but I thought I'd better stay next to The Pope fearing a strong push in the last ramp (the steapest part).

But the ramp was approaching and his pace was even slowing down. I kept my own pace and managed to open a gap.

Denis was softpedaling at the top and so I was. It took some time for the idea to cross my mind.
I got to Denis and asked "Do you want to wait or attack?"

"Lets attack" he answered.

That was all I needed to hear. I moved to the front and upped the pace.

Looked back and saw The Pope and Shaun very close. Kept pushing. Looked back again and I saw the gap opening.

Denis came to the front and gave it another push. So strong I almost regreted my idea. Looked back again and couldn't see them.

An attack from far away. The dream of any racer.

We descended fairly fast but by the time the descend was finishing Shaun was next to us (great descender he is I learnt).

We had a short conversation and agreed to keep pushing it until Esher and wait for The Pope there (The Pope was the clear favourite for that sprint).

We kept the power on. Denis more than anyone. It was hard to just stay on his wheel.

Imagine our surprise when we were approaching Cobham when we saw The Pope in front of us. I first thought that was a true miracle but then realised he too had done a TY (big influence has he left in the group) and had taken a shortcut.

Things were not looking great in my head. The Pope in the group. Denis had just demonstrated he was very strong and I had Shaun regarded as a good sprinter.

The Esher sprint was going to be contested.

First Denis (the most generous rider when a sprint is approaching), then The Pope, then myself and Shaun closing the group. Not bad positioning I thought. Just pay attention in case Shaun goes from afar.

At some point Denis moved to the right and The Pope moved to the front. That could only mean he is feeling strong. My alarms were all over the place.

Denis waited a little bit on the right expecting me to follow The Pope. Not in a million years that would happen. I slowed down and let a gap clear for him to move to the second wheel.
The pace was very slow for this sprint. That's good for me I thought.

As we were approaching the last ramp I was expecting Shaun to jump but it was Denis the one that did the first move.

This is great I thought. I got your wheel.

Not for long. The pace was slow and we were in reach of a sprint so I jumped.

No one followed me.

I took the Esher sprint!!!!

Probably the most important win in my (quite limited) cycling palmares.

We kept a brisk pace to the end.

The Pope claimed he got first to the finish just because he turned right first.

I claimed it was me because I was the first one to cross the line that limits the pub (the best way of wining sprints is deciding the line is where you crossed first).

None of that mattered because we got there before the control had opened. We ordered our pints, the control opened, they convinced me to go for a second pint, Mark arrived and he was the first getting his brevet stamped "wining" Ditchling Devil 2019. My senses numbed by the alcohol I was only fifth (I think).

When we decided to go home The Pope decided to punish me and made me climb Nightingale Lane straight after the pub. My legs hate him, such a great friend....

(apologies for the length of the report but TY needed a full report to have all the information, as impartial as possible, for the after game in our WhatsApp group)

(Just to be clear. Ditchling Devil is an Audax event. Audax is not racing and has nothing to do with racing. No one cares who finishes first, sprints or tactics. All this report is just a joke)


Take care
Javier Arias González

sábado, 16 de febrero de 2019

Weird

Short, Non-Flat according to Javier's ride classification criteria.

Great group as always. Ten riders riding strong and tight. Riding strong is what happens when you have Dai and Bidders in a ride. Riding tight is what happens when you have experience riders that know each other well. Great fun.

Felt slow warming up today. Took me a while to start feeling my legs.

Green Dene was climbed at a steady pace set by Dai. That's exactly what I needed.

Combe Lane doesn't count, I climbed back to help Slavs with his puncture.

Hound House was interrupted by a couple of cars that were descending and forced us to almost stop. Still managed to finish in the front group with Dai, Bidders and Dennis. I could have sprinted but it would have been very rude to them so I behaved like an adult.

Since I was feeling fine and the ride was a short one I thought it was a good idea to add some intensity so took a few strong turns in the front. Funny enough the stronger I was riding the better I was feeling. So weird!

Sumners Ponds was full so we decided to carry on to Tanhouse. At that moment I knew someone would bonk. One thing is to ride 65km and stop and another is to ride 95km before you stop, specially if those extra 30km are a series of small, steep bumps. They eat your legs. This time it was poor Oli.

Tanhouse was a great as always. Dai went for a double shot late so clever me decided to go for a coffee, I learnt my lesson from my last ride with Alice.

A nice surprise seeing the new tarmac out of Newdigate and being caffeine powered I felt happy and strong the second part of the ride.

Dai generously, as always, sat in the front all Juniper setting a strong but steady pace. Bidders on his wheel, then me and then Dennis. When the final ramp came I attacked and opened a gap.

"That was pretty impressive, I got the climb", I thought while easied a bit.

But that was a bit too early, in fact a few meters before the top early. Looked back and to my surprise Bidders was on my wheel.

Not for long, he acelerated, too late for me to react, he took the climb.

I'd lie if I didn't admit I was a bit disappointed, I knew I haven't gave it all, I could have gone harder. But, hey, I go easy on myself. Bad strategy but I was feeling strong and we still had to dispute the Horton sprint.

From Juniper is all downhill, I you can bet I made sure I rode easy recovering my legs. Always relaxed in someone's wheel.

The Horton roundabouts came and we had a bit of a mess of approach. A split, had to stop in one roundabout to let a car pass, I being last wheel.

Bidders went away and someone closed the gap. Nor me, I was still sitting on Will's wheel, the man I was marking.

Bidders went away again and this time it was pretty clear we were not going to catch him. He took the Horton sprint solo. Strong performance.

Behind him, Dai lead, the Luca, then Will and then myself. Luca went. Will on his wheel, I on Will's. Then Will went, I on his wheel. Then I went.

I'd say I took the sprint (second after Bidders, that is) but somehow Will thinks he took it. Bloddy sprinters :-D

Anyway, didn't reduce a bit how happy I was. I had ridden strong and I was still feeling strong. Happy days.

Still I don't understand how this is possible. I felt today much better than last Saturday's ride and the training I've done during the week cannot justify the progress. Weird.

The ride in Strava.

Take care
Javier Arias González

Javier's ride classification criteria

This is how I classify rides.

Any ride that has less than 1000m of climbing per 100km is a Flat Ride.

Any ride that is between 1000m and 2000m of climbing per 100km is a Not-Flat Ride.

Any ride that has more than 2000m of climbing per 100km is a Hilly Ride.

Any ride shorter than 150km is a Short Ride.

Any ride that is longer than 150km and shorter than 200km is an Endurance Ride.

Any ride longer than 200km is a Proper Ride.

Any ride longer than 241.402 km (150 miles) is a ride Worth to be Recorded as it counts towards my live long objective of getting to E150.

Don't even try to argue with me about this classification.

Take care
Javier Arias González

domingo, 13 de enero de 2019

Alice and Bidders. Bidders and Alice

Flat but a decent distance and with Bidders and Alice in the ride, even if she was on tired legs, I knew it was not going to be an easy one.

Going west meant strong head wind on the way out, tail wind coming home (I still have this philosophical debate on what is best for trainig purposes head or tail wind first?)

Six in the ride, I had never ridden with the other three so had this first few kilometres trying to asses if the ride was going to be hard or super hard.

Everything started nicely though. We rode very well together, turns in the front fairly distributed (although I have the feeling that Alice sits there more than anyone else).

Come the first "hill", Playhatch, just a tiny bump in the road. Bidders was in the front and I was on his wheel. He set that pace that I love. He pedaling efortless and me in the pefect equilibrium between I can hold him and I'm dying here. I didn't outsprint him, not because I thought I couldn't but because I didn't know where the hill finished and he kept pushing it in the flat so I thought there was more climbing ahead of us.

A few kilometres later the second hill came, Pishill. Bidders sat in the front and I was second wheel. He did his usual game sustaining a constant pace ignoring competely that the hill was getting steeper and steepr.

I honestly thought I had him. I even was thinking on where to start my sprint. All wishfull thinking, he kept the speed in the steepest part of the hill and I blew in pieces mere metres from the top.

We stopped briefly at Henley (km100) for a refill and right after the stop we had White Hill. I put a nice effort and I made it first to the top but that was only because the rest of the gang couldn't be bothered to push it that hard after the stop.

I was feeling strong and I was happy to push the pace.

At some point I realised we were heading to Drift Road, a sprint I'm terrible at. This road goes on forever (6km), it always feel so long that I always have problems to know where it finishes, where should I start the sprint.

But this time I had a plan. Follow Bidders, sit on his wheel and only jump when you see the roundabout.

Easier said than done but I gave myself a fair chance.

Started cautiously at the end of the group. The rider ahead of me left a gap and I passed him easily. I was now fith wheel and cool like a cucumber.

Bidders took the front but I didn't panic. As always with him the pace didn't went up that much, just ever so slightly. I was happy just sitting.

But he kept increasing the pace, very slowly and at some point I noticed there was a small gap between Bidders and the second bike (don't remember the rider).

What do I do? what do I do? I decided to wait a little bit to see if the rider were going to close the gap, but in a few seconds I realised it wasn't going to happen so I went.

Passed the three riders and closed the gap. By the time I managed to look back I saw the rest of the riders didn't follow us. It was just Bidders and myself. Good!!!

Or maybe not.

Very quickly I noticed the effort of passing the three riders and closing the gap had taken a bit too much of me. Tried to hold the pace hoping that Bidders would easy a little bit.

It seemed reasonable at the time but now, from my sofa is even funny.

There was no way that was going to happen!!!

He just carried on pedaling as it were easy and the inebitable happened. I was dropped.

Not like a stone, but properly dropped. Being in no man's land was silly so looked back and saw the group approaching. Easied a bit and when they passed me I jumped at the back.

Miraculously I managed to recover a little bit so I moved to the front to help to keep the pace. Alice took the front in the home straight and I still managed to sprint with her.

Pretty happy with my effort.

I was still feeling strong and happy to keep pushing the pace in the short steep climbs that we were riding through.

But that feeling didn't last long.

Slowly but surely it started to feel harder and harder to keep up with the pace that Bidders and Alice were sustaining.

Not that I was in trouble but just that sudden realisation that you are not feeling strong anymore, that you are happy just to hold in there.

Decided to sit all the way to the final sprint.

Bidders takes the front.

This time there was no way I wasn't going to allow anyone between me and his wheel.

Second wheel I was. Alice on my wheel.

She knew I was going to sprint.

I knew she knew.

I knew she was going to sprint as well. I don't know if she knew I knew.

No idea what Bidders knew but I would say he didn't cared at all bout the sprint.

Hands on the drops. Wait, wait, wait....

And...

Actually I'm wasted and there is no way I can sprint.

Alice noticed it and she went for it. And took it!!

By the time we made it to Hampton Court I was over the moon.

Yeah, I know, I didn't take any of the sprints and I was wasted, but who cares. Sprints are just games and being wasted is the logical result of a ride with Bidders and Alice.

What really matters is how well we rode together, how much I enjoyed the route (despite being flat), how well I felt and, best of all, my left knee didn't hurt.

I was riding the same bike, same shoes as when it hurt me and not a slight sign of pain.

By the time I made it home I was smiling despite having a flat on my rear wheel.

I'm so tired and writing all this took me so long that I'll repair tomorrow :-)


Take care
Javier Arias González

sábado, 27 de octubre de 2018

Alternative Realities

This was a special training session.

Gave it all in the first 80k of the ride. And then, once my legs were empty, rode the last 60k at recovery pace. It was so good! I almost could feel my capilar density increasing in my legs, the mitochondrias growing, my hear getting stronger.

That would have been very cool if what happened in reality wasn't that the gap between what the pace I think I can sustain and the pace I actually can sustain wasn't that big that I ended up blowing in pieces half way into the ride forcing drop from the group and ride the last 50k at real recovery pace.

Oh well, at least I took a sign sprint today. And that was very cool. Marc told me it was approaching and that gave me enough time to get ready. Marc was boxed so he was out of the game. I was sitting on Luca's wheel which is a great place to be because he is very strong these days. I knew I had Will behind me and I had to be careful because he is a hitter. I saw the sign and still hold my attach a little bit to make sure I could sprint all the way to the line. And then, I attacked. Fearless, didn't look back, gave it all and reached the sign almost a bike ahead of Luca.

That would have been very cool if what happened in reality wasn't that we were riding two abreast, no one even considered sprinting and I probably did something like 200w in the last 30 metres to cross it first. I still celebrated. A win is a win :-)

You see, in an alternative reality I'm a sprinter and very advanced in my training.

take care
Javier Arias González

sábado, 20 de octubre de 2018

You need to read this if you are invited to join a Kington Wheelers ride to Sumners Ponds

That was an easy ride to Sumners Ponds.

That's something I never said.

Nor today. It doesn't matter it was a shorter version than the "official" route and supposedly ridden at "Dai's recovery" pace.

Don't get me wrong, the pace was not crazy at all. But there is something about riding to Sumners Ponds that always slaughters the weakest rider of the group.


It usually goes like this.

The victim goes reasonably well in the first two climbs. But at the moment the second descend finishes the victim realises has been too optimistic. It doesn't matter if the victim knows the route or not, it's only 40km into a route that is 125km in the "official" route and 100km in Dai's short version and the victim knows that has spent a bit too much.

There is still hope though. "I'll recover at the coffee stop" the victim thinks. But the coffee stop can't come soon enough. The road goes up and down; not any climb to mention but with very little flat. That kind of terrain that eats your legs.

By the time the group makes it to the café stop the victim knows the return leg is going to be tough. A tiny bit of hope that recovery is still possible is there but it blows in pieces the moment the group hits the road again.

That's because very soon there is a climb, nothing crazy, just a bump on the road, but hard enough to make the victim agree with the say that goes "hell is the pace of the others". Because the victim see the others and realises, "they are going well and I am not".

It is not hell what comes, no dramas here. It is just the realisation that legs won't keep up and the slaughter is inevitable. There is no way out, it is just a matter of time.

The time that takes to get to the next proper climb (Broomhall in the long version, White Down in the short one). There's where the slaughter will happen. The victim sees the group disappear up the hill and all the victim can do is to load the longest gear available on the bike and take it as easy as possible. The gap at the top will be immense anyway, it is better to save the legs as much as possible because there are at least 25km to the end of the ride. They are mostly downhill, but the victim knows that once you are killed every single km feels very long.

Believe me, I have seen this happening to a lot of riders. Doesn't matter how strong you are. You go on holidays for two weeks, come back on the bike after a cold or simply join the wrong group to Sumner Ponds and you'll be slaughtered. That's a fact.

Today I was the victim.

In the second climb, I even put my Garmin in my pocket so I couldn't see how hight my heart rate was because that would make me hold myself. I did well, third after Denis and Joe, respectable.

The hope to be able to recover at the coffee stop made me to take a turn in the front in one of the few flat sections. That was plainly silly.

Got to Sumners Ponds and I was under no illusion the second part of the ride was going to be tough, there was not coffee stop that could recover the mess my legs were in.

I didn't fight my destiny, just tried to do a decent job holding with the group. Came White Down the inevitable happened. Loaded the lowest gear and went up as easy as possible (there is no really any way to go easy up White Down). Last at the top by a huge margin.

And that was it. Would you believe me if I tell you I really loved the ride?

Take care
Javier Arias González






jueves, 14 de junio de 2018

A very interesting interview with Amelia Boone

A really enjoyed this Farnam Street interview with Amelia Boone. She is a long distance runner but lots of the things she says resonate to me. A few notes (the bolds are mine):

  • "Most of the people I know would think [what I do, long distance racing] is a little bit of crazy... the funny thing is I always considered myself a very regular person"
  • "You left knee is hurting and you think oh God I really did something wrong and then 5 miles later you are fine. I just kind of talk through it in my head..."
  • [Getting mentally strong] "is practice, through habit, through repetition ... "The more you expose yourself to the better you get at it"
  • "It doesn't bother me if someone else beats me in any given day ... what bothers me is when I make mistakes and beat myself". So you are really racing against yourself? "Yeah, I think so"
  • "I realized that it is never going to be enough just to win a race, it is never going to be enough just to sitting on the top because you think at some point, like once I get to X point in my life, once I have achieved this, then I'll be happy and I'll admit it. That is so not true. And so for me racing has really turn into just the love of the entire process. And the love of getting there and working through those really long hard situations, and if the results follow, great. But if they don't it's not as tough for me anymore because I realize I just love the process of getting there"
  • "You can't depend on anyone on your life except you ... If you want something, people will help you all along the way, and that's great, and be grateful for that, but you can't expect it to happen"
  • "I'm a great believer in routine"
  • "I have a little iPod shuffle that I listen to, and it actually has had the same songs on it for probably five or six years" (I don't listen to music when I ride my bicycle outside but I have had my turbo YouTube playlist pretty much untouched for a couple of years now :-D )
  • "I blog occasionally, I'd like to write more than I do. But I do a fair amount of writing, not all of that sees the light of day. But I do most of my writing on my head when I'm running"
  • "One of the most great things that ever happened to me was when I gave myself permission to not to finish a book"
  • "I want to have longevity as an athlete, and when I'm in my 70s or my 80s it would be amazing to still be out running"
  • "For me [running] it's really, it's about relationships"




Take care
Javier Arias González