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