lunes, 3 de mayo de 2021

Endurance rides

 I’m not really sure why I enjoy these steady, endurance rides. Even if I was riding on tired legs. In fact, I think I enjoyed it even more because I was riding on tired legs. 

The ride was announced in the Kingston Wheelers’ forum as “steady K2”. Denis, Ed and myself, no one else wanted to join, not sure why. 

We agreed a truce and we rode steadily into the head wind all the way to Brighton. Endurance pace all the way.

For sure part of it is riding with Denis and Ed. We know each other so well that we ride like a perfect engine. As you probably know by now Ed takes all the climbs, Denis is the most generous with his efforts in the front and I …, well, I’m just happy hanging there. Being part of the group, believing I am getting fitter, enjoying the pace, the scenery, the tail wind on the way back. 

This ride marks the end of another four weeks “training block” (let's pretend for a second I know what I’m talking about). Three consecutive weeks of 2 KW’s two hills sessions during the week and long rides during the weekend had taken my CTL to levels I haven’t seen since August 2019, when I was riding the PBP, and my TSB well into the negative values. Time for me to take it easy. This week I’ll “only” ride a two hill ride on Thursday and a steady 200k on Sunday.

I’ll keep the same pattern for three more 4 week blocks, all the way to the end of July. That will include a 300k in May, a 400k in June and the Maratona and a 600k in July. If everything goes to plan I should be in a decent form for 1001 Miglia in mid August.

That’s another reason why I enjoy these endurance rides. They allow me to dream. Having dreams is part of being happy. I’m happy (although I still don’t enjoy being dropped in the climbs).

The ride in Strava:

Take care

Javier Arias González

sábado, 1 de mayo de 2021

Do you want to do something silly?

 Show up to a Saturday Gang ride with tired legs when Dai, Denis, Ed and Richard are riding and the plan is to ride 195km 2000m.

Guaranteed fun.

Add to it that JFW showed up with the intention to ride only part of the route and you have all the ingredients to get a ride full of surges, sprints for town signs and high pace.

So much so that by km 25 I had decided I was not going to ride the whole route, I’d go for JFW’s short route.

The problem was that around km 60 we had a comfort stop. I was the fastest because I knew we were at the base of a short climb. I started the climb alone knowing the group would catch me but taking to my advantage the possibility of riding the climb at an easy pace. By the time I got to the top of the climb and the rest of the group caught me JFW wasn’t there. He had turned back.

I was tired but my brain was still able to do some maths. It got to the conclusion that being 60km from home I was better off staying with the group and committing for the whole ride than riding back on my own. That, and the not null chance of me getting lost on the way back. I was stuck with the group.

New Alresford couldn’t come soon enough.

A latte, caffeine. Powerful drug for my brain. Like that I went from feeling like hanging to the ride for my dear life to feeling like I could cope with it.

For about two hours. A shame we were about three hours from home.

When the effect of the caffeine disappeared I went from feeling like I could cope with the ride to fearing being dropped in the next bump of the road. I avoided the front of the group like the plague.

By the time we approached the Esher sprint I was telling myself “now that you are here it is ok to be dropped”. I sat at the back of the group.

Ed was leading the group and I was almost dropped on the first ramp. But I wasn’t.

Ed led the group on the second ramp too. The group passed him as we were getting to the top of the ramp. At some point I looked back and saw Ed was dropped. Surprise, surprise!!!

Denis was leading the train now. He stayed there all the way to the last ramp. That was when Dai attacked. 

No one followed. I waited for Richard to close the gap. He started to pass Denis. I waited a little bit more. 

It seemed like Dai was slowing down but Richard was not closing the gap that fast either. I waited a little bit more.

And then I jumped. Typically that would be way too late to take the sprint but we were all very tired by that point. Dai more than anyone, he had sat in the front of the group for kilometres and kilometres. 

I passed Dai about 20 metres before the line and took the sprint. 

We all know it was unfair. I sat at the back of the group for most of the ride and I was dropped in every single climb (no sprint can compensate for being dropped in a climb). Still happy to see I was able to “sprint” after a ride that was so challenging for me.

The ride in Strava:

Take care
Javier Arias González

sábado, 24 de abril de 2021

First 100 metres uphill

The first pedal strokes of the day are always very important for me. First thing I have every ride is 100m slightly downhill and then 100m slightly uphill. I always believed that I could accurately predict how I was going to feel during the ride depending on how I feel in those 100m.

Not today. When I rode those 100m I told myself. You should ride conservatively. You are not that fresh.

And that is how I started. First climb of the day and I manage to just hang on there. Could I have sprinted at the end? Probably. Did I sprint despite Dai accelerating in the last part of the climb? No way. I was in “ride conservatively” mode.

Second climb of the day and I was dropped like a stone. Yes, there was a car that got between me and the rest of the group but the gap at the top of the climb was probably more than a minute. In a 4 minutes climb!!! I panicked. A little bit.

But then the rompepiernas ( section of the ride came and it felt like the pace dropped a little bit. I started to tell myself this is endurance pace. I can manage this.

Coffee stop came and I was feeling kind of ok but I knew the second half of the ride would be harder. I ordered a latte (apologies to my italian friends).

Caffeine did its magic and as soon as we started to ride I felt great. The pace felt easy and my brain started to have thoughts like “I can sustain this pace for ever”, “I am a super duper endurance machine”, “Should I up the pace to make the ride challenging to everyone or should I wait for the climbs?”. Still, following the first feeling in the morning, I ignored the urge to ride faster and I kept riding conservatively.

Third climb of the day came and I liked it. It is a climb I know well and I generally “enjoy”. I did well. I wasn’t dropped. I survived a few of Denis’ pushes and I still had some energy for the last few meters. Maybe I don’t need to ride that conservatively. Maybe how I feel in those 100 metres is not a reliable way of defining how I should ride. Maybe I can attack in the last climb.

I did everything well. I’m very good at the theoretical game. Got a gel ahead of the climb, in the traffic lights got rid of the arm warmers and the gilet. Ready for the climb.

At least for the first 20 metres. That is how long it took my riding mates to get me dropped and for me to move from I’m so going to smash it to I am so smashed. Not the best feeling when you are going up Ranmore.

From the top of Ranmore it is mostly downhill to home. But we still have the last sprint of the day. My last opportunity to save a little bit of my pride. Just for the record, in my book there is no sprint win that could compensate for not doing well in a climb, but a sprint win is better than a no sprint win.

For some unjustifiable reason for someone that a few lines up claimed to be “very good at the theoretical game” I took the front in the first ramp approaching Esher.

When I was passed I moved onto Dai’s wheel. Not because I chose it but pure chance but that was the right position. Richard led the group in the second climb and then Denis took the front in the approach to the final ramp. Dai following him, me following Dai.

At this moment I knew what was going to happen and how I was going to play it. Denis will do the lead out. At some point Dai will start the sprint. I’ll jump on his wheel and wait, wait and wait (we had head wind) and will pass him in the last 10 metres. Perfect. Beautiful.

Dai started the sprint a bit too early. For a reason no one would be able to explain, I thought that was good news for me. I jumped on his wheel and three seconds later he dropped me. Three seconds more and Richard passed me flying. Moved into the small chainring and dragged myself to Esher.

Maybe I should start paying attention to how I feel in those 100 metres slightly uphill when I start my rides and use that as the way I pace the rides.

Maybe at some point I’ll learn. It wasn’t today.

The ride in Strava:

Take care

Javier Arias González

lunes, 5 de abril de 2021

Positive thinking

A short, not-flat ride ( with Dai, Denis and Ruper on the menu and the feeling after the first few pedal strokes is “uhm, you are a bit tired”. Probably not the best spirit to start the ride. 

It started with 30km of punishment.

Being taken to the limit, and dropped, in every single “climb”.  

I put it in the "this is good for you" account. Not from the ego point of view but from the training point of view. You'll get better… (from the training point of view, I’m a lost case from the ego point of view). Positive thinking, positive thinking.

Then 30km of feeling ok(ish). Strava rewarded me with a collection of PRs. I'm guessing taking orderly turns in the front, being that part of the route pan flat and having tail wind was somehow related to those results. The equivalent to my grandmother thinking her grandson is a strong cyclist, I know, but you have to find positive signs wherever they are. 

After the stop at Tanhouse we decided to take the standard way home. Those were excellent news for me. Knowing the way home helps me to dial how much I have left and how much we have to ride. I started to think "this is not that bad". I think I'll be fine for the rest of the ride.

Yes, I was fine. Holding the wheel up Juniper until a dog forced us to brake. Being third wheel I lost all my momentum. Or so I told myself. In any case that served me as the perfect excuse to ride easy to the top of the hill. In my mind I was telling myself I could have sprinted but I’m not sure that was a thought based on the reality my legs were feeling. I still was telling myself I was fine anyway. You wouldn’t say I didn’t master the idea of positive self talking.

Second at Horton’s sprint after Dai. It turns out I sprinted for the wrong line. I was not demoralised, I still was telling myself I was fine. Riding through Chessington I thought I could do the whole ride all over again. That’s when positiveness starts to touch delusion but helps you feel better.

I was almost celebrating how well the ride went and over lunch, after I told the family how the ride went, my daughter said “You look completely shattered. Doesn’t seem you are any good at cycling".

All my positive thinking through the window. I'm still crying on my sofa.

The ride in Strava:

Take care

Javier Arias Gonzalez 

viernes, 2 de abril de 2021

What were you thinking?

What were you thinking?

You were doing so well…

You knew a ride to Arundel is never easy. It is not the distance, just 160km, an endurance ride. It is not the climbing 2,139m, not-flat. It is the terrain, always up and down. It eats your legs. 

Even harder if you have head wind on the way back. Those roads after Amberly are exposed, nowhere to hide.

You knew it and you were doing it so well... When you proposed this route you promised “I'll try my best to convince them [Ed and Denis] to ride at a sustainable, steady pace”. 

It was working. Certainly it worked all the way out. The group rode together, making sure the pace was sustainable for everyone. Apart from the hills, obviously.

Losing any chance of being a Castellin brand embasador

It was also working on the way back when some legs started to feel the effect of the kilometres and the constant up and down. You were still riding steady, trying to help to keep the group together, trying to offer a steady wheel to those in need.

Then, one second you were saying “I don’t mind riding this pace all the way home” and the next you were attacking Ed and Denis every single bump on the road.

You started to attack Ed and Denis!!! What were you thinking????

Can’t think of anything better way to demonstrate you are not the cleverest cyclist out there.

Aren’t you the cyclist that prides himself on always being measured with his efforts? The one that always tries to make sure you have some energy for the last sprint, not always possible, but you always try? What were you thinking then?

Your legs were not dead but you knew they weren’t feeling that great either. You knew Ed and Denis are in great form. You knew there was still one “big” climb left(I refuse to call a 800m climb big, even if it averages 11.9%). You knew it was Whitedown. 

Yes, you didn’t remember Whitedown but Luca’s face at Arundel when he was told that was the last climb of the day should have made all your alarms ring. 

Ok. Yes, you probably made an impression pushing up the pace. Ed and Denis might have raised an eyebrow. Yes, at some point the thought that you were riding strong might have crossed their mind. Yes, they might have thought you were going to be first at the top of the climb to Holmbury.

It's just that they saw you sprinting way too early up that climb. They saw you realising what type of climb was Whitedown. Same as removing a tooth without anesthesia but with 135km in the legs. 

That was it. I think you lost two minutes to them at the top of the climb. I don’t even want to check in Strava fearing it was even more. 

From the top of Whitedown is mostly downhill. That was even worse, it gave you the illusion you had recovered and you had a chance at the Esher sprint. Let’s leave it here just saying you didn’t have ANY chance at the Esher sprint. Zero. None. Nill.

I’ll stop torturing you now. Will only remind you that for tomorrow’s ride you said “My intention is to make that one an easy, eat more calories than what you burn, recovery ride. Not too bothered about the route but putting this107 pan flat kilometers ride to Windsor, ideal to sit in the middle of the group and don't give a single turn, as a proposal”. I wonder at what point will you screw it.

The ride in Strava:

Take care

Javier Arias González

domingo, 28 de marzo de 2021

The reality

 After an easy week and being back on my long distance bike I had great hopes for today's ride.

Such a great pleasure to ride this bike. Not the lightest but very comfortable. The endorphin induced happiness of riding fast, even against the wind. Feeling fresh. Believing you are strong.

A shame reality stroke as soon as we hit Green Dene. It is not that I was dropped. It was that I blew up in a thousand pieces and lost about a minute in 100 metres. 

You barely warmed up, I told myself. For a diesel engine like yours a climb in with barely 25km in the legs is just too soon. (I’m not really sure I have a diesel “engine” but it was a great excuse to be used at that moment). 

The problem is reality is stubborn and I blew up again up Cutmill. To add insult to the injury Cutmill is a climb I know fairly well, I raced it a few times. I know where you have to attack. I was aiming to take it. And just at that very moment I was telling myself “Attack. Now!”, my legs, my brain, all me really, gave up. 

For someone with a thousand excuses in the bag I was starting to run short of them. The diesel engine excuse doesn’t work that well when you are 70km into the ride, even if you play the “I’m a audaxer card”.

Worst of all I was still feeling ok(ish) for most of the time. Fair to say part of it is that by now wind was mostly tail wind and that makes it easier to get tricked into believing you are riding fast when the reality is that it was mostly wind assisted speed. I’m sure you know the feeling.

Ah, the reality. The reality is also that I took the Esher sprint. True too the reality is the order we took turns meant I was sitting on a wheel just before the moment you have to launch the sprint. That helps.

I needed that “win” to keep believing I was fresh, strong and fast. 

Who cares about reality. 

The ride in Strava:

Take care
Javier Arias González

domingo, 21 de marzo de 2021

How is my training going?


My CTL from 18th of Dec to 21st of March

I wanted to review how my form has evolved in the last few months and think a little about what I'm trying to do from the training point of view. I know you might not care about how my training is going so feel free to completely ignore this post. 

From 18th of December I enjoyed two weeks of holidays. That meant lots of cycling outside. Cycling lots meants your CTL goes up quickly, from 63.5 to 85.1. Cycling lots also means your form gets better and I definitely can tell I was riding stronger than I was for a very long , long, time.

January meant lockdown and not riding outside. Lots of turbo sessions kept me in good form. My CTL went from 85.1 to 77.8, but that’s normal. Even considering that I started to put 2 hours sessions on the turbo it is very difficult to compensate for the lack of volumen when you ride lots outside.

February was not that great. Still in lockdown my turbo decided to commit suicide and, literaly, stopped working with a small explosion. February was also a very busy month from the work point of view. We launched GCN+ and that meant lots of working hours. Lots of working hours mean less hours on the turbo. My CTL dropped from 77.8 to 63.1. I wasn’t too happy about it but live sometimes gets in the way of cycling.

March came. A glimpse of a summer allowing cycling events gave me a reason to dream about cycling objectives. Maratona in July, 1001 Miglia in August, Flanders and a week training camp in September. It is all, obviously, pretty much up in the air but having objectives gave me a reason to start thinking about training. 

A regime of four weeks of 2 easy hours on the turbo on Tuesdays, an intense session on Wednesdays, 2 steady hours on Thursdays, a long, intense ride on Saturdays and a steady ride on Sundays made my CTL go from 63.1 to 81.2 and I started to feel strong again.

I’ll confess this last week was fairly hard. Instead of taking it easy after three weeks I decided to keep the volume and intensity for one more week. That is because next week life will get in the way of cycling again and will force me to ride less so I preferred to force this fourth week rather than having two consecutive easy weeks. It wasn’t easy. My TSB touched -39, on Friday got my first dose of the COVID vaccine. Yesterday’s and today’s ride felt hard and I was dropped again and again. I’m definitely ready for a very easy week.

With the Kingston Wheelers 200 coming on 11th of April and having the 300 in May, the 400 in June and the 600 in July (perfect build up for the 1000 miles of the 1001 Miglia in August)  I’m now switching to my long distance bike. I’m also switching from short 1 minute interval sessions on Wednesdays to 8 minute intervals. Traditionally those have worked very well for me in terms of getting form.

Looking at my numbers for this year and comparing them to my best year (2018) I’m a bit behind in the calendar but they are very similar. The prospect of getting better than I was in 2018 after my fairly weak years in 2019 and 2020 makes me feel very optimistic. Let’s hope everything keeps on a positive note.

Take care
Javier Arias González

sábado, 2 de enero de 2021

Javier, the climber

 The whole point of this ride is the "climb" that is about half way through the ride.

I knew that and I was prepared for that. Well, kind of. There is a long (3km?) drag before the climb and I'm never sure where the actual climb really starts.  

In any case I played it conservatively. Denis and I were taking turns as we were approaching the climb at a not very hard pace.

At some point, when I thought the climb was about to start I moved to the front and kept the pace. The road was getting steeper, I was keeping the cadence and I saw the power number to go "high".

Did something like 30 seconds at around 350w. The road got even steeper and I pushed to keep the same cadence (around 85rpm). I started to see power numbers around 400w. 

What a great Chris Froome impersonation!! Javier, the climber in action. All powerful, all confident. All this going through my mind. They say exercise efforts makes you seggregate endorphins and I was having an overdose.

All this until Ed passed us like he was riding in the park. 

Ed, the one that was riding about 30s behind us to make sure we were compliant with the lockdown rules. 

Very soon after Ed passed us it was Denis' time. Denis, the one that is always there, was, once again, there. He passed me slowly but by the time we got to the end of the climb he was a full bike ahead of me.


Javier, the climber. Starting the year with a bang. 

Take care
Javier Arias González