Saturday, 9 July 2011

Hot summer = good MDS preparation

I just came back from a nice run down to the lake, around the centre of Zürich and back again, and I am covered in sweat.  I feel happy to use the term sweat but when I told one of my female friends once she was sweating a lot she reminded me that women don't sweat, they perspire :)

It felt hard running in the heat compared to when I was running a lot back at the start of the year.  It just feels like you can't quite get enough oxygen.  That's why I am very happy now to have this heat, as it is great to start getting used to it in preparation for the Marathon des Sables.  Actually I will be escaping some of the winter here by going to South America where it will be summer.  So I should have a lot more hot weather still to experience.

During my run I didn't feel any lingering effects from La Marmotte last weekend.  My legs don't feel heavy and there are no lingering aches or pains.  The last time I felt affected in any way was on Thursday night when I did Pilates, during which I felt slightly more fatigued than usual.  Probably inside though there is still a lot of repair going on, for instance there are probably many micro-tears in my leg muscles that need to heal.

I am considering to get another lactate threshold test done, as it would be interested to see if I have improved compared to the last one I did.  I need to make sure I have fully recovered before I do the test so that the results are as accurate as possible.  I may try to schedule one for the end of next week or the start of the week thereafter.  Last time I did the test on a treadmill but probably I would get the best results now by doing it on a stationary bike.  In order to make comparisons though I need to do it the same way as last time.

It looks like this weekend is going to be nice and hot, so take off your clothes, go down to the lake or river, and enjoy.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Not diving but rather easing back into the training again after my short recovery rest

I realise that it takes the body longer than 4 days of complete rest to recover from an event from La Marmotte, but I am ready to start training again bit by bit.  The aches have completely gone and the energy levels are coming back up again.  On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I woke up exhausted feeling I hadn't slept hardly at all, despite actually having slept 9 hours.  But this morning I woke up feeling more or less the same as normal.  I don't have any competitions to train for at this point in time as I will not be racing the Vuelta Sudamerica Buenos Aires to Cusco ride, but I still need to be incredibly fit, as we will be cycling at altitudes of up to 4,000m and covering 100km or more per day for up to seven or eight days in a row.  Plus I have my longer term target to keep in the back of my mind - the Marathon des Sables.

I think for the next 2 months, which is the time I have left before my travelling adventures begin, I will do a  combination of cycling, running, yoga and Pilates.  As you may recall I haven't done much running since the Zürich marathon in April, as after that I switched my focus almost entirely to cycling to train for La Marmotte.  I have however been going for once per week lunchtime runs so I haven't lost all my running fitness by any means.  Without a competition for the next few months, I can just enjoy my training without having to worry whether I am training hard enough or constantly racing against the clock.

My travelling plans mentioned above will also try to incorporate some physical challenges.  They are not completely finalised yet, except for the Vuelta Sudamerica ride itself at the end of September, but if all goes to plan I have the following in mind:

1) A trip to Rwanda at the beginning of September - where I will do some gorilla trekking.  Anny's sister lives and works in Rwanda so we would have our own personal family guide.

2) A trip to Tanzania where I will do a little bit of safari and then I will attempt to climb Kilimanjaro.  As I do not like to do things the easiest way I am thinking to try and climb up it by one of the harder routes.

Then the Vuelta Sudamerica ride begins.  Hooray!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Post Marmotte analysis

Despite the significant extra training this year, my finish time was actually a few minutes more than the last time I did La Marmotte, which was 2 years ago.  In the following post I want to do some post event analysis and think about why I might not have done as well as I thought I would.  We all have off days but I think it is good to try and learn from them.  The most important thing of course is that I completed the course for the third time, an achievement in itself.

I usually like to try and present my ideas in a logical fashion, so a numbered list seems appropriate.  So here goes.

Paul's list of possible reasons why I may not have done as well as I had expected to do, despite much more training:

1)  Went off too fast
I started at a nice speed and climbed the col du Glandon at a good steady rate, arriving at the top with no problems at all.  The descent was a really fast one, but I did not have to pedal much, so very little energy was expended.  However, in the section between the base of the Glandon and the base of the Telegraphe I was drafting behind some really fast riders.  They were really going for it, and I was struggling to stay on the back of them.  I had two choices here a) drop off the back of the line and tackle the headwind by myself or tack onto the back of some slower riders b) try to take full advantage of the drafting behind these fast riders.  As I was looking for a really good time I decided to stay on the back of them.  In retrospect I think that I was pushing it way too hard this early in the event, and I should have gone for option a above.  But I didn't and I think I suffered for this later on.

2) Technical issues
During the latter stages of the climb up the Glandon it became apparent to me that my left shoe was sliding back and forth on the pedals, and I suspected that my cleat was coming lose.  This was really bad news with 3 large climbs and 150km still ahead of me.  As I continued the ride, the movement became more and more pronounced and this was causing a lot of knee rotation, leading to some knee pain.  I didn't have any tools other than tire levers on me, so I had to continue to the top of the Telegraphe before I saw someone with tools that could help me.  By this point my cleat was almost at the point of coming off entirely.  I tightened it with a screwdriver as best as I could, considering the fact that the screwdriver was not really the right size and then I set off again.  Later in the ride it started coming off again and then later on again even the right cleat started moving and slipping.  The knee pain became more and more pronounced and at one point I was considering packing it in to avoid injury.  These technical problems helped neither my technique nor my psychological state.  This I think was a big factor in my performance not matching my expectations.

3) Training was too much endurance focussed and not enough speed focussed
This year I did quite a few century rides, and even did up to 4,000 vertical metres of climbing in my training rides.  The previous time I did La Marmotte I had only done 2 rides in any way comparable with the event, and even then my maximum climbing on any one training ride was 2,500 vertical metres.  So clearly this year I was a lot better trained for endurance.  The problem though was I don't think I trained enough for speed.  On my long rides this year I usually stopped for lunch, and this is not anything like race conditions.  In retrospect I probably should have taken gels and food in a rucksack and consumed these, and not stopped in restaurants for lunch, even if that meant doing shorter rides, as that would have been more race like.  I also only started doing faster rides several weeks before La Marmotte, compared to the last time when I was doing faster rides on a regular basis for several months beforehand.  The statement that I was definitely better trained endurance wise this year is backed up by the fact that at the finish I was in a much better physical state this year, and post event I have not really suffered anything more than needing some extra sleep and a little soreness in my knee which has now gone after having a sports massage today, compared to the last time I did the event when I had knee problems for 2 months after the event.  It just felt that the speed wasn't there in my legs during the event this time.

4) Not enough cycling specific training time
If you recall in April I did my first marathon and I had not got on my bike even once until late April, as I wanted to focus exclusively on my running training.  This meant I did a really good first marathon time of 3 hours 29 minutes, but also meant that I only had 2 months left to start cycle training ready for La Marmotte.  Maybe 2 months is just not enough time for the body to make all the cycling specific adaptations that it needs to make.   The marathon gave me a great cardiovascular base, but my cardiovascular system was not really under much stress at all during La Marmotte this year.  It was really only the muscles seemed to lack the necessary power to go faster than I did.

The above are only possible ideas and there will never be a way for me to know for sure, other than to do it again and try out new techniques based on my lessons learned from this year.  It is too early to say whether or not I will do it again next year but lets just say I won't rule it out just yet wink wink.

Marmotte photos

Here are some pics from La Marmotte on Saturday 2nd July.

Leg muscles on show

A little bit of descending

Hot stuff - helmet off to prevent overheating on ascent

Monday, 4 July 2011

I have reduced the reserve price for the 6 months Holmes Place Zurich gym and spa membership to 700CHF - a real bargain now

I am a little surprised that I have had no offers so far on for the 6 months Holmes Place Zurich gym and spa membership, as the article has been up for several weeks now.  Previously the reserve price was set at 1,000CHF.  To try and encourage more people to bid I have now lowered the reserve price to a bargain 700CHF.  Recall that the market value is 1,390CHF according to Holmes Place themselves.  This is not just gym membership but gym and spa membership combined.  700CHF for 6 months works out at only 117CHF per month.  The Holmes Place spa is very new and has a lot of facilities - it is not just a sauna in the changing rooms like you get in many gyms.  You can work out and them pamper yourself afterwards, and all for only 117CHF per month.  Please see my link on below for more details.  Remember that I am happy for you to verify the offer with Holmes Place Zurich before transferring the money to me on my fundraising site.  Both the manager and the deputy manager know about what I am doing, and are fully behind me.  And recall that all proceeds go to charity and not a penny goes to either Holmes Place or me.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Not exactly an exciting result but at least I am consistent - my 3rd time completing the Marmotte in around 10 hours

Hi everyone

Well I am now back in Zürich after La Marmotte on Saturday.  Tomorrow I will post a more detailed analysis of how it went, but just to summarise I am not overly pleased with the result as it was 4 minutes or so slower than the last time I did it.  But at least I completed it for the third time, and that I am happy about.  Looking at the results my official time is 10 hours 1 minute and 20 seconds.  The event did not go trouble free with the cleats almost falling off my shoes on both feet, and this lead to a lot of slipping and knee rotation.  At one point I did consider giving in, as my knee was really twinging and unlike last time I don't have 2 months to allow my knee to recover, as now I need to keep training for my Vuelta Sudamerica ride.  But then as I descended towards Bourg d'Oisans the knee twinges stopped and I was able to continue.  There was also not that much option as the chalet that we hired was on hairpin 2 of Alpe d'Huez i.e. pretty much at the top.

The other guys who I was staying with in the chalet all did well, and Pete did a particularly great time - just over 9 and a half hours.  He is knocking his time down by huge chunks each time he does it.  If I had got the time that Pete got I would have been happy with my performance.  Looking at the results it seems I arrived 12 minutes after him at the bottom of Alpe d'Huez but lost around 20 extra minutes on the climb itself.  The conclusion is that I must have climbed Alpe d'Huez really slowly to lose 20 minutes on that climb alone.

Overall though I didn't feel I was struggling as much as the other 2 times.  I was able to keep going without a problem and only stopped at feed stations, whilst the other times I had to take several rest stops.  So I think my fitness is definitely better.  The problem it seems is that the speed is not there.  I can discuss this point further tomorrow, but could it be that I focussed too much on endurance and not enough on speed training????

Goodnight folks