lunes, 19 de julio de 2021

600 de Yepes - A day in hell

 A ride worth recording, but flat

That was a real day in hell!!!!

You’d be excused if you look at the ride and you were thinking it was a 600km ride in less than 29 hours, of course it was a day in hell!!!

You’d be wrong. As far as 600km rides go this is a fairly “easy” one. What made it a day in hell was the temperature. If you think you had a warm weekend in the UK, think twice.

Average temperature for the ride was 28°C

12 consecutive hours of the ride were on temperatures above 30°C

Within those, 5 consecutive hours with temperatures above 40°C

Peak temperature was 46°C

I can’t think of any ride I have ridden that fits better in the description of a day in hell.

The day didn’t start well. I had been told we could get breakfast at the start but it turned out we couldn’t. Had to eat a banana and an energy bar for breakfast. Not ideal when you plan to ride 600km.

Only six riders in the start line. We rode together to the first control. But they were riding a bit slow and stopping a bit too long for me so I decided to go ahead solo. 550km to go.

All went very well until km 268. By then I had already been riding 4 hours with temperatures above 40°C. I stopped at the control and my focus was on drinking lots of Aquiarus (a drink similar to Gatorade), I also ate a bunch of olives, conscious of needing to get salt. I wasn’t feeling hungry and with my stomach full of liquid I decided not to eat anything else. That was a mistake.

In my defense I have to say in the routesheet I saw there was another village in 3km and another one 22kms after that one. Plenty of options I thought.

What I didn’t realise was I was in the middle of a national park. Those two villages were merely a couple of houses with no signs of life around. I was on my own in the middle of nowhere.

And then a 11km climb appeared. First 7km were gentle but that was only the slow cooking. Literally. In the last 4km I was fried alive.

I had water with electrolytes, although it was so hot I had to keep it in my mouth for a few seconds to cool it down before swallowing it. 

I tried to eat a small pack of Haribos but they were completely melted. I decided to get a gel, I still felt how hot it was as I was swallowing it but a hot gel was way better than nothing. 

It took me almost half an hour to climb those 4.5km. Half an hour of climbing at 9km/h. Half an hour of temperatures ranging from 43°C to 46°C.

That was it. There and then I sold my soul to the devil in exchange for a resque. 

The resque appeared 2km into the descent in the form of a village, the village had a bar and the bar was open. A soul well invested if you were to ask me.

But the devil being the devil made it the bar had the worst Spanish tortilla I ever tasted (no onions), the 4 cupcakes (yes, 4) I ordered were so hard the landlady, embarrassed, said she wouldn’t charge me for them and when I was 15 minutes into a nap someone decided to wake me up to ask me if I was feeling alright. I showed a huge amount of autocontrol eating the whole piece of Spanish tortilla, the 4 cupcakes and not killing that person. Long distance cycling certainly has points where it is more psychological than physical.

Drinking, eating, not napping and not killing took me one hour and ten minutes. A huge amount of time for a not-control stop, but it was the right thing to do. I was still at km 290. Recovering at that point was critical if I wanted to finish the ride. 

And it worked. 

Not that I was feeling super strong but when the next climb came, the top of the ride at 1032m of altitude, I managed to pass it without much fuss. It helped that by then the temperature was around 35°C. It is amazing how these things are all relative. When you are climbing the Angliru and you see a sign saying the gradient is 14% you think “fantastic, I can recover here”. Similarly when I saw 35°C in the Garmin I tought soon I would need the arm warmers I was carrying in my bag. A bit of an exaggeration yes, but you get the point.

By km 375 I was back to Yepes, the starting point. I had a proper dinner and reconsidered my plans. I had a room booked and the idea of stopping to sleep for a few hours and finishing on the next day was very tempting. On the other hand Sunday was forecasted to be even warmer so I decided to go to my room, get a shower, sleep for 30 minutes, get changed and hit the road again. I wanted to take advantage of the cool temperatures during the night. It was still 31°C at midnight when I started to pedal though.

Temperatures were not an issue anymore but finding open places to eat and refill still was. That’s why when I crossed a village at around 2am and I saw a bar that was open I decided to take the last opportunity to drink and refill my bottles.

With temperatures and refilling not being an issue anymore, sleepiness became the issue. This long distance cycling malarkey is just a sequence of issues you have to deal with while you keep pedaling.

By the time I got to Tarancon, around 3:30am I was feeling sleepy so I decided to stop and lay down in a park and close my eyes. Temperature was 22°C. The green was comfortable enough. I slept for almost half an hour. It is amazing how much you can recover in such a short period of time. 

Being “recovered” triggered my sense of happiness. I found myself completely alone on the road, the sky full of stars, lost in my own thoughts, legs feeling ok(ish). I really enjoyed that part of the route. 

Got to Pastrana, last control, around 6:30 in the morning. Everything was close so I took a picture as proof of passage. I enjoyed the 5km climb. Yes, I know it sounds crazy to enjoy a 5km climb at 6:30 in the morning with 500km in your legs but there I was thinking sprinters got the wrong part of cycling.

That climb was followed by a 50km descent. I also enjoyed that bit. More than the climb to be honest. Those were the only roads I knew, the speed, the TT position, the illusion of strength, the anticipation of the breakfast I was going to have in Chinchon. All contributing to my sense of happiness.

A real shame that by the time I got to Chinchon, at the top of a 15km climb, I got lost and by the time I found my way I was already outside of Chinchon.That didn’t affect my sense of happiness. I’m used to getting lost and I still think I have a great sense of orientation and I’m great at navigating routes. That, and the fact that from Chinchon to Aranjuez there are only 20km, pretty much downhill all the way. So instead of riding back a few hundred metres breakfast in Aranjuez was going to be.

A quick breakfast in Aranjuez, a final 10km climb that proved I still had decent legs and got back to Yepes by 10:42 in the morning. Temperature was now 29°C Perfect to have a smoothie sitting in the shade in a terrace at Yepes’ main square.

While I was refreshing I was told three of the riders were DNF and the other two were still on the road. I felt for them they had challenging hours ahead. 

Following that line of thought I reflected on how happy I was with this ride. It was not that I felt strong or I was very fast. In fact, if anything, I’m a bit disappointed with how strong I felt. Two things made me really happy about this ride.

The first one was how my experience showed up. I changed plans to allow me to recover after the critical moment of the ride. I changed plans again and rode through the night to avoid the extreme temperatures. I adapted to the circumstances and slept in a public park, the first time I did that in the middle of a ride. My experience and flexibility took me through this ride. I’m very happy about it.

The second reason is all the lessons learnt in this ride. I entered this event as a preparation for the Asturica Augusta (1200km), an event I’ll be riding in August. Temperatures are going to be fairly similar (although I hope not that extreme). Knowing that taking Haribos with me is going to be useless, understanding the value of having a long nap during the hottest hours of the day, confirming that SIS electrolytes and Pelotan sun cream worked perfectly for me in these circumstances, realising I need bigger bottles, that the mudguard is going to be useless or that the PBP reflective gilet is too hot for the summer Spanish nights are valuable lessons that will help me for that event. I’m going to need those lessons as I won't have any soul to offer to the devil to take me out of another critical moment. I could offer him my bike but if it were down to it I’d demand the Spanish omelette with onions. When it comes to a point I certainly have a price.

The ride in Strava: 

Take care

Javier Arias González

domingo, 4 de julio de 2021

Two sicentific facts and a recommendation

First scientific fact of the day. Asturian cider doesn’t have any performance enhancement effect when administered in acute dose the day before a training ride (n=1, but fairly confident this can be generalised to the whole population. If anyone were an exception to this rule that would be a lucky person)

In fact, the subject has reported a RPE higher than expected when considered CTL/ATL/TSB and lower power numbers were recorded.

As a consequence, the subject, me, had to reduce the distance and climbing he was planning to ride. Well, as a consequence of those low numbers and the fear of being late to grandma’s family lunch.

That fear was so severe the subject, still me, overcame his RPE and despite the power numbers still being low managed to ride the last 45 kms at speed. 

The subject managed to get home, get a shower and sit at the table with two minutes to spare.

Second scientific fact is that the positive performance effect from the fear of being late to grandma’s lunch is bigger than the negative effect of acute Asturian cider consumption.

Considering the inevitable nature of acute Asturian cider consumption when a subject has friends in Asturias, this panel of experts recommend to scare the subject with the thought of being late for lunch as a way of compensating for the negative effect of Asturian cider consumption.

As the consequences of being late for lunch are so severe, more research is needed to find other ways to compensate for the negative effect performance from the inevitable acute Asturian cider consumption. 

This subject has instructed his friends to get ready to run a new experiment next week. 

Whatever is needed in the name of science.

The route in Strava: 

Take care

Javier Arias González

viernes, 2 de julio de 2021

Welcome to Asturias, cycling paradise

 First day in Asturias and this mountain goat wannabe aims for a route with some climbing, riding non-stop and steady all day.

First climb of the day was La Grandota and very quickly I realised what it means being in Asturias. No one around me. 

Well, no one except a couple walking up the climb in the middle of the road. No lights, no high vis gilets, even worse, no helmets. As if they owned the road. They were lucky I’m a skilled rider and, more relevant, I was climbing at 10km/h. Shall Dai, Dennis, Ed and Rupert be here riding here with me we would have been climbing at full speed and someone could have been seriously damaged.

Second climb of the day was El Padrún. I like this climb. Hairpins, nice gradient and great views. It is also true the road had a pothole. Fairly big one. I was lucky because I’m a skilled rider and, more relevant, I was climbing, again, at 10km/h. Shall Dai, Dennis, Ed and Rupert be here riding here with me we would have been climbing at full speed and someone could have been seriously damaged.

Third climb of the day was La Colladiella. In my book a great first touch with the long and high climbs.  At some point my Garmin said something about my PR in this climb. A feature I never had seen. I didn’t bite and kept climbing at my own steady pace. At the top of the climb the Garmin said I got a PR on the climb. That can’t be I thought but now Strava seems to agree. A PR up to La Colladiella without even trying. Shall Dai, Dennis, Ed and Rupert be here riding here with me we would have been climbing at full speed I certainly would have bettered this PR, still I would be last at the top.

The fourth climb of the day was meant to be La Faya los Llobos but I did a full Javier and got lost. On my home turf. Embarrassing? Maybe, but I managed to find my way and I found myself climbing a climb that I’d dare to say it was the first time I was climbing it and I was hoping it would take me to Nava. As I was starting the climb a car passed me. Shocking!!! No car had passed me when I was climbing any of the previous three climbs. I know because I was paying attention to count them. Not that I was very busy with that task though. I was lucky because I’m a skilled rider and, more relevant, I was climbing, again, at 10km/h. Shall Dai, Dennis, Ed and Rupert be here riding here with me we would have been climbing at full speed and someone could have been seriously damaged.

With all he climbing out of the way all it was left was the flat/downhill run to home. I did huge turns in the front but always taking it steady. I knew the final sprint was coming and didn’t want to burn all my matches. The sprint to the top of the Col du Balbona is similar to the Esher sprint. Slightly longer but you approach the final ramp descending and the gradient increases ever so slightly as you climb. A sprint line that is always farther away than it looks. I finished the descent and started to gradually increase the power I was putting on the pedals to finish in an all out sprint. 

Fantastic win. 

I was lucky though, shall Dai, Dennis, Ed and Rupert be here riding here with me we would have all sprinted for the line and Richard L. would have taken it.

Yes, Asturias is a cycling paradise. Still you will find walkers in the middle of the road when you are climbing, there is a pothole going up El Padrún, you’ll have to deal with the stress of a car passing you and some truths of cycling are still true here. Far from perfect.

The ride in Strava:

Take care

Javier Arias González

domingo, 27 de junio de 2021

Dauntsey Dawdle 400km - Audax

 Flat but worth to be recorded ride

You could argue that deciding to ride on the full setup I’ll use in my August 1200km was not the cleverest of my decisions. 

Yes, the ride is flat if you consider it is a 400km ride, BUT, if you consider you have close to 3000m of punchy climbing in the first 200km AND you are going to ride with a bunch of very strong riders to show up to the ride on a fully loaded, heavy bike can only be described as cycling suicide.

“My kingdom is not of this world”. That’s what I was telling myself all of the ride as I was being slaughtered again and again.

And I was happy with it. Managed to hold myself and go for the first and unique coffee until km 300. Survived the ride and now I’m thinking I’m on a very good path to have a fantastic ride in August. 

“Delayed gratification”, the trick is to enjoy just the thought of the gratification while you are in the delaying phase. That’s how I’m feeling today.

Feeling that, and a considerable amount of tiredness on my legs. 

Take care

Javier Arias González

sábado, 19 de junio de 2021

It looked like a great idea...

 In theory...

The idea went like this. If caffeine always makes me feel optimistic and stronger, why don’t you try having a coffee before the ride. You’ll feel optimistic and stronger from the start. An appealing idea so I had a coffee before the ride.

Instead of the usal Javier hiding in the group as much as possible by the time we got to Chessington I was already at the front. I think everyone was surprised by that move. What is Javier doing at the front??!! I was surprised as well.

Not that I was riding crazy fast or anything but the fact that I felt that was an adequate move made me feel great about my decision to have that coffee. 

Even more, by the time we passed the first two climbs I didn’t shy away from moving to the front. At points even pushing the pace. It felt so good.

The coffee stop came a bit too early in the ride, way before half of the ride, but it came at the right moment for me. I was starting to feel the effects of the party I was having with my legs. A second coffee (and a great scone) felt like the solution.

It took me a while to warmup after the stop. British summer felt cold and legs were enjoying the coffee stop a bit too much. The road continued going up and down and the pace of the group was anything but relaxed. Eventually I managed to get in the zone. So much so that approaching a roundabout without cars, at speed, I put my head down and kept pushing the pace going straight while the rest of the group turned left. They were right, I was wrong. One more anecdote in that theory that I’m terrible at navigating a route, with a Garmin… pure gossip.

Ed took the sprint at Rusper despite I thought I had it in the legs. I was feeling great, I knew a sprint was coming, I knew I still had the energy to put up a good sprint. The problem was I had no idea where the town sign was and by the time Ed went for it we were so close to it there was no way I could even try to contest it. 

That was the end of it. I started to realise that the idea of two coffees in a ride wasn’t that great after all. To start with I needed a pee stop. I hadn’t paid much attention to the route but I knew a hard climb was coming. When I started to recognise the roads I feared it was going to be Leith Hill. Going up Leith in my need of a confort stop wasn’t going to be fun, I thanked God when we continued straight and missed the turn to Leith Hill.

I probably should have thanked Dai but I knew it wasn’t Leith it was going to be another one. When we stopped for that confort break I asked, he answered and I didn’t like the answer. He said something like: We are climbing the back of Houndhouse. I didn’t like the answer not because I knew the climb, in reality I had no idea what climb he was referring to, but I knew very well there is no easy climb to Houndhouse, let alone from the side we were on. A quick check with how my legs were feeling and I knew I had a problem. Two coffees, feeling optimistic and strong early in the ride meant I was tired at that point. 

I didn’t recognise the climb at all so I took it steady and managed to survive it. Enough to make me think I could still do reasonably well at Coombe. The caffeine still having some effect on my body I guess.

I’m guessing because half way up Coombe I lost Denis’ wheel for good and by the time I got to the top I needed another pee stop. Empty legs in the last part of the ride and a diuretic effect. Me and my great ideas.

From Coombe to home is mostly downhill and I was happy to call it a day. Entered sustainable mode and enjoyed the easy ride. The problem was at Cobham, when we were waiting to turn right on the road to Esher Denis mentioned this was my last Saturday ride for three months (I’m planning to spend the summer in Spain) he mentioned the pressure was on me to finish taking the sprint. 

Why did you do that to me Denis? I was about to say I wouldn’t contest the sprint but now I had to. There was no other way. A shame my legs were empty... and I needed another pee stop.

This was a fairly simple sprint. Dai started at the front, I was second wheel and Denis, the Pope and Richard following me. No idea in what order. Dai opened a small gap in the first ramp but I managed to close it slowly when we got to the flat. In the second ramp he opened a bigger gap, he almost dropped me, but, again, managed to close the gap slowly at the top. By then I knew I was going to be able to hold his wheel until the last ramp. Great news for me. The pace was not insane and that gave me the impression I was going to be able to sprint. Caffeine is amazing.

We started the last ramp and Dai flicked his elbow and I moved to the front. Why did I move to the front in that situation? It is clear I shouldn’t have. It was way too early. I should have stayed on his wheel no matter how much he was slowing down. I blame the caffeine. At that point I believed I was going to be able to sprint and beat everyone from the front. 

What really happened is I sat in the front for a few seconds. Not very long but just enough to allow Ed and Richard to take my wheel and then start the sprint. When I felt them passing me I also started my sprint. It was a decent sprint. One of those sprints that when you are fading you feel the rider ahead of you also fading and you still manage to get another kick. A shame Richard also managed to get another kick and he was in front of me. It was a close one but he clearly took it.Caffeine infused optimism probably cost me the sprint and... I almost peed myself. 

It looked like a great idea… in theory.

The ride in Strava:

Take care

Javier Arias González

domingo, 13 de junio de 2021

A win is a win. Two wins is better

Second consecutive Sunday riding with Rupert and Noel on tired legs. At some point Denis and I have to have a serious thought about our riding plans for the weekends. We keep putting ourselves in these challenging rides and I’m just not sure these near death experiences are any good for training. Although, to be fair, Denis looked amazing today. Very impressive ride from him.

And you can believe me it wasn’t easy. In case Ruper and Noel were not enough to make any ride challenging we were joined by Enrique, a very solid rider, and Judah “steady at 400w” Rand. 

My ride can be summarised in two sentences. I was last in every single climb, by a big margin. The coffee at Tanhouse didn’t rescue me, the second half of the ride, despite being flatter than the first half and the caffeine running wild in my veins, felt equally challenging to me. 

But when I look at the positives I remember I got some important wins today.

I got a heavily contested sprint at some point near Esher. It was one of those sprints I’d never take because I had no idea it was there. Rupert moved to the front and increased the pace so I held his wheel. At some point he started the sprint, and then, for reasons I can’t imagine, he slowed down. Did he realise he had nothing to do with such an accomplished sprinter on his wheel? I wouldn't be surprised. In any case I took that as the sign to attack and clearly took the sprint. I even had time to celebrate. Looked back and saw the whole group at full speed at some distance desperate as they had missed the only line that really mattered in today's ride. 

I feel for them. I’m sure they’ll be making up excuses, we didn’t know there was a sprint there, there was a lot of traffic, they might even go as far as pretending they didn’t contest the sprint. Don’t buy their excuses. It was a great win. Comparable to my today’s second win. I was awarded table number 1 at Tanhouse!!!! Coming from a place that sees so many cyclists it really means something. Can’t decide if more or less than the sprint I won. But if they say a win is a win, imagine two wins. They almost made me forget how hard today’s ride was for me.

The ride in Strava: 

Take care

Javier Arias González


sábado, 12 de junio de 2021

A sprinting lesson

 Esher sprint. Six riders. Starting from complete stop. Four ramps, the line at the top of the forth one.

Denis on the front the first ramp. Setting a sustainable pace. 

The Pope, the strongest climber in the group, moving towards the front by the top but it was Richard L. the one that hitted the front. 

Using his aero bars kept the pace sustainable. The Pope on his wheel, myself on The Pope’s wheel. All the group together.

The second ramp approached. The Pope moves to the right, he puts the hammer down. I follow his wheel. It felt easy!!! The Pope was standing on his bike. I was following him still sitting on the saddle. Looked back and saw we had a gap. 

There came the first question. Should I attack The Pope? It was tempting. I was feeling fine, I reckoned if I jumped the moment he sat back on the saddle he wouldn’t be able to follow. Looked back and measured the gap we had. Not that big so I decided attacking was not a clever move.

The Pope sat on his saddle, I knew he was going to look back to see what had happened at his back so I moved to the left hoping he wouldn’t see me on his wheel. He looked over his right shoulder, I think he didn’t see me…

A shame he immediately looked over his left shoulder. I was about to move to the right because I suspected he would do that but he was too fast. He saw me sitting on his wheel, he eased a little bit. The rest of the group caught us.

The Pope took it easy on the descent, me glued to his wheel. By the time we hit the third rap, the smallest one, the pace was very, very slow. The Pope asking me to move to the front me putting my best “no way face”.  We were going so slow that the rest of the group had to break to avoid passing us, so slow that a conversation started. I didn’t pay attention, all my focus was to stay on The Pope’s wheel. Suddenly Denis attacked.

No one followed. Very quickly he got a gap. 

That changed everything. I moved to the front, parallel to The Pope. What should I do? What should I do? 

I jumped hard and closed the gap to Denis. Great effort. Looked back and I saw Jack coming. What should I do? What should I do? 

Attacked again and passed Denis at full speed. Another great effort. The problem was I barely started the last ramp… and Jack was coming… and my legs started to feel those two great efforts. Maybe they were too great. What should I do? What should I do?

I slowed down and “waited” for Jack to catch me. Very cleverly he didn’t pass me, he stayed parallel to me. 

Ok, I thought, this is the plan. Ride “easy” parallel to him trying to recover a little bit. When you get half way up the ramp attack him. Perfect plan.

The problem was that a second after I settled for that perfect plan Richard, Atticus and The Pope passed us. Jack followed them.. I made the intention to jump on their wheels but it took me another second to realise I didn’t have the required energy. 

Beaten, all I could do is to pay attention to see how the sprint was resolved. Richard took it.

Denis still had time to pass me way before we got to the top. 

Last at the Esher sign. 

What was the lesson? 

Well, it certainly was not that I was that I attacked too early in the sprint. That is something I know that happens to me very often. Too optimistic about what I’m capable of in a sprint.

The real lesson is Richard is a man to mark in the Esher sprint. He is always in the game. Something I knew but something that I need to remind myself again and again.

Lesson learnt.

The ride in Strava:

Take care 

Javier Arias González