Victory Loves Preparation

So I had a pretty hard day last Saturday, starting with racing a tough race (my legs weren’t great and it showed in the results, but I rode an honest race so I am pretty happy about it) and then going on for quite a lot of climbing, which was very, very slow.

On my ride though I met, and then met again, a young bloke new to the area who was looking to get into road racing. He said he had just arrived from China, they didn’t do much road riding where he was from, and that he wasn’t a fan of hills. He pretty much had a track sprinter’s build and even while we were riding together I could see that hills were not his friend. He was on a nice enough bike but he had enhanced it with his own graphics, and they seemed to have been applied with a thick black marker pen. He had written his name on there, which I thought was sensible, but he had also written, all the way along the downtube, “Victory Loves Preparation”. It was, I thought, a great motto. And here he was, out riding in the hills. So while he may not have been a climber that day, he was preparing to be one.

I liked the motto, and I repeated it to myself a few times over the next few hours. The next morning when I woke to the sound of falling rain knowing that I had 200km in my program for the day it was that line that came to mind as I dragged myself out of bed, for what turned out to be a great (if somewhat wet) ride.

Of course good intentions for preparation are all very well, but sometimes life gets in the way. This week has not been a good one at work, and somehow what was meant to be a week of lots of racing and a trip away to ride on some bigger hills has become late nights at the office, no riding at all except on the wind trainer, and right now I am about 600km behind my distance goal for the week. So forget that bit of preparation.

The other view of course is that it is great preparation for the fact that in Transcontinental there will be things that don’t go as planned. Getting up tomorrow and doing whatever training I have time for without beating myself up over a missed goal or pushing so hard that I end up doing myself damage is probably an essential sort of preparation!

A Few Key Stats

Hi,

I got an email the other day asking for some of the more detailed statistics of the ride. Now of course the big problem is that I don’t actually know what they are. For a start, I don’t yet have the exact location of the control points or the required sections. I’m expecting that these will be announced sometime in April or May (last year it was towards the end of May), mainly because for a big chunk of March the guy who created the race, Mike Hall, will actually be racing in the Indian Pacific Wheel Race and won’t be working on this. But they will be announced eventually. When they are announced I will be able to decide on the route I will take, work out just how much climbing there will be and how long it should take me all together in riding time, make some decisions regarding sleeping and stopping time, and figure out riding times and distances for each day. Maybe even make some plans about stopping points, but that might be a bit much!

I do have some constraints. There is a finisher party in Meteora on 12th of August that I would love to be at. Unfortunately, some dear friends are getting married in Frankfurt on 12th of August and I am not missing that, so no finisher party this year for me. That obviously means that I will need to do it again later so I can attend the finisher party, and to ensure myself an entry in the future I probably need to finish at least top 20 this year. Now last year, finishing in less than 12 days, 14 hours and 30 minutes would have got me into the top 20. So that is the goal. Of course, faster is better.

But this will have me arriving in Meteora around lunchtime on Thursday. From there it is around 280km (so an easy day’s ride) to Thessaloniki Airport, where you can get a pretty good flight to Frankfurt. So that sounds like the go.

In terms of distance, that works out to be about 321km per full day. Of course, that isn’t how it will go, because some days will have a lot of climbing, some days a lot of wind, some days terrible weather and some days all of the above! Some days will be perfect though, so there will be a fair variation in the distance covered each day. You usually go a lot faster across a plain than up a hill! I tend to think that this year the times might be a little faster as well, so I will probably be aiming for slightly over 321km, on average. Now that I see the number written down I have to say that it seems like a lot – I am pretty sure that I can count the number of days I have ridden further than that on one hand, and the only two specific examples I can think of had me finishing pretty well exhausted. Happily though I still have around 19 weeks to train…
Me, thinking about riding 321km a day, every day, for 12 days...
I also got asked to put up a picture of myself, so here is me thinking about riding 321km a day…
…every day…
…for 12 days…
…over mountains and through the driving rain…
I’m sure it’ll be fun!

Waiting around for the weather to change is not a solution

I’ve been reading. Getting inspired. Specifically, I’ve been reading the blogs of Kristoff Allegaert, the guy who won the first edition of the race in 2013, backed up in 2014 to win the second edition, skipped the third edition to win the Red Bull Trans-Siberian Extreme instead, and then came back in 2016 to win the last edition by a big margin. I’m not sure if he will be lining up this year (he’s actually starting in the Indian Pacific Wheel Race from Freemantle to Sydney in 14 days, so he might still be recovering when the Transcontinental starts in July) but I really hope so (as well as being terrified by the thought).

Specifically, a few things stand out to me. The first is that he seems to have been physically pedaling his bike for over 18 hours most days. This is a little more than I have been hoping for – it doesn’t really leave a lot of time to sleep, eat, get supplies and enjoy the view! The next point is that it seems from his blogs as though it rained for most of the time, in all three of the previous editions he has ridden. Now my thoughts have certainly involved some level of precipitation, and a rain jacket is very much on the packing list, but I might have to think a bit more seriously about wet weather gear. The third thing that stood out to me was the line “Waiting around for the weather to change is not a solution”. I think it’s pretty clear that there will be some rain, and equally clear that if I am thinking about overall placings at all I’m going to have to ride through it. So again, more thought on wet weather gear.

Happily, this morning I got in some good practice. Waking up and hearing rain I nearly rolled over and went back to sleep, but a little part of me that can’t resist a race took over and pushed me out of the door to roll up to a local club race. It was over a particularly pleasant course so I figured I might as well. Unfortunately it rained basically all the way out, all the way through the race and most of the way back home.Prune hands!

So that is how my hands were looking by the end, and I only rode 80km! Maybe I’ll just hope that it is an unusually fine edition of the race!

The good news though is that the riding wasn’t actually that bad. My bike computer shows the average temperature as 15 degrees, and I felt fine while I was riding. I put on a rain jacket for the ride home, not to keep my dry (too late for that) but just to cut the wind and keep me a bit warmer while I wasn’t working so hard. I did pretty badly in the race unfortunately, and there were two reasons. The first is that I was loosing a lot of ground on the descents. My race bike has top end rim brakes on it and in the dry they are fantastic, but when the rain pours down they lose a LOT of their stopping power. This reinforces my decision to go with discs for Transcontinental. I’m slowly closing in on the perfect bike, and am hoping I’ll be able to tell you what it is in a couple of weeks.

The second reason I did badly is a little more disappointing – I just wasn’t fast enough. I’ve been fighting off a cold for the last couple of weeks, and I am feeling better, but I’m still not at a hundred percent. I’m hoping that was the problem, but it might also just be that I need to try harder. Anyway, still got 20 weeks to figure that out…

Rowan

Doing some good

Ok, things are starting to gain momentum. As some of you may remember, in the past I have linked some of my more challenging rides to fund raising for charity. This was actually inspired by Lance Armstrong. I hold a grudge against the guy for the damage that he did to my sport, but I admire and respect the work he did to bring help and hope to a whole lot of people around the world. It inspired me to try and use my riding as a way to make the world a better place, and so for the PEdAL Ed Transcontinental Race I’m proud to say that I will be raising funds for beyondblue. If you want to help, you can donate here!

beyondblue are a charity working to help people with their mental health, focused on help, recovery and resilience. If you’ve never looked at statistics on mental health, I can tell you now that they are scary. If you’re thinking that your mental health is fine and you will never have problems with it, then I am very glad of that. If you’re thinking the same about all of your friends and family, then I’m sorry to say that you are almost certainly wrong. The statistics are that 45% of people in Australia will experience a mental health condition at some time in their lifetime, and the number is similar for most of the western world. It may not be too serious and it may not last too long, but that means that at one time or another nearly half of the people you know will have some kind of mental health problem.

If you don’t believe that, if you’re thinking that number is much too high and wondering why, if it is so high, you haven’t heard about it, the answer is really simple. People don’t talk about it. In fact, a lot of people actively hide it. And it is one of those things that not talking about makes much worse. So I’m funding for beyondblue to raise funds to help them continue their great work on help, recovery and resilience, and also to bring it to the front of people’s minds. On that basis, I encourage everyone to go and check out the beyondblue website over here and learn more about mental health, so that when someone around you has a problem, and it could be your work colleague, your friend, your parent, your sibling, your child,  or even yourself, you will be better equipped to spot the issue and then respond in the best way. Almost eight Australians take their lives every day, and that is just way too many.

I’ve set myself the target of raising one dollar for every kilometre that I race. Now that isn’t very much, and as long as I don’t get lost too often it will probably end up being less than $4,000. Of course, more is better! $4,000 is enough that it will help though, because every single dollar will help. It may be that you have no spare cash right now, or that you just don’t feel like giving it away, or even that you are giving what you can spare to a different charity that means more to you, and all of them are fine too. They are fine because it isn’t just about the money, it’s also about the awareness and the openness. So if you aren’t donating, then just go along to the beyondblue website and have a read, and maybe a share, and you can still know that you have done your part. Thank you!

Don’t forget, you can donate here!

Something is working!

I just rode my fourth race in 36 hours. Now admittedly the first three were all virtual races and in the last of them the computer crashed out after 12 km, but I was still expecting to be totally cooked for this race.

Hard work!

A break went away and I could see it was time to bridge, but it was a long way to a strong bunch. I gave it a go anyway, and before I knew it I was there! I was nearly dropped a bit later on (I actually think they may have sat up for me) but managed to finish with the break, which is better than I’ve done in that race for a while. So I’m not sure why, but it seems that something is going right!
Rowan

P.S. Let’s not not talk about that torque effectiveness number, I’ll worry about that later!

The Wheels Are Turning!

Well, things are rolling along. I managed a good ride last week, 327km of mainly dirt. It took longer than I hoped, but I still have six months to train (at least I did, when I did the ride)! Still, my basic plan at the moment is just to gradually do more longer rides, with maybe a bit of light touring in a couple of months.

Right now the long rides are all happening on my mountain bike. This is reinforcing a few things to me, including the fact that weight is actually a consideration, despite what some people seem to claim, and that saddle choice is critical. Since the day I bought that bike I have been meaning to swap the saddle, and given that I am likely to be doing quite a bit more time on it over the coming months I think the time is now.

I thought I had sorted out my accommodation, but things are not that simple. I really want to be able to pull up and be in bed very quickly – I figure if I have eaten on the bike then all I should have to do is get my accommodation set up, spend 3 minutes servicing the bike and 7 minutes brushing my teeth and taking care of any physical issues that have come up during the day (which will include a bit of stretching). That should mean that I can be in bed within 10 minutes of pulling up, assuming that it takes zero time to set up my accommodation. I’m pretty well on the way to this goal at the moment – I’ve got my trusty ultralight sleeping bag that has accompanied me on a few adventures already, and I now have a fantastic “Alpine Cocoon” bivy bag from Macpac. This thing is light, durable and packs up to be nice and small. The only thing missing is a sleeping mat, because frankly I’m getting older and sleeping on the dirt sucks. But sleeping mats are huge and heavy. Well, most of them are. I did find one though that promised to be a bit smaller, a bit lighter, and even a bit quicker to set up. I even found a shop that stocks them. The only problem was that they only had one single example, and it had been sitting on the showroom floor for quite a while. It had been subject to the whims and rough treatment of any number of passing punters. It is a fairly light weight model mind you and I had my doubts about the comfort levels it would provide, so I tried it out in the shop (just like the rest of the punters had). It was all good there, and it wasn’t until a few nights later when I went to use it in anger for the first time, quite a long way from anywhere, that I realised that it actually went down after about 5 minutes. Yep, somehow while on display it had acquired a hole. So that was a bit of a let-down. Anyway, the shop is a pretty good one, so I am sure I will be able to take it back and swap it without a problem, at which time the accommodation should be sorted. 10 minutes to be in bed will be pretty reasonable (the mat only takes three breaths to inflate it, when it doesn’t have a hole), and this set-up should pack up small and light in pretty good time, so I think 20 minutes to be back on the bike is a reasonable target.

The other key issue to be addressed is that of the bike I will race on. I’m pretty clear about what I want from this bike, the only problem is that I am not sure if I can find someone who will be able to make it for me, and even harder will be to find someone who will make it for me in time. I’m still looking at options at the moment, but am well aware that the clock is ticking!

It’s a brand new blog

This is of course version two, because version one just didn’t work. This one seems to be fine though, so all good. I’ve got the blog working, I’ve got my entry in, and I’ve figured out which front hub I will be using. That seems like it must be all I need to do.

I had a pretty good ride last weekend, except it was awfully hard and took a whole day longer than I planned. Still, these things happen, and I’m sure it won’t happen again, and the view was good. The good news is that we’ve got a very long weekend here, so plenty more time for riding from tomorrow!

Hello world!

OK, it is a go. My entry has been accepted, I’m going to race in Transcontinental No 5. And in the essential first step for any adventure, it starts with a blog!

I will be updating this through the preparation process. I will share the equipment I’m using, the training I’m doing, and the plans I am putting in place. There might even be a hint or two about my route. It will be riveting stuff! Well, maybe more riveting for other people planning similar adventures, but hopefully at least passably interesting for everyone else.

The blog is very basic right now, but the subscribe button works and the blog will get better and better as the race approaches, so I hope you’ll come with me on my journey to the start line!