A couple of months ago Dale, a friend of mine, was telling me about the Tour da Country, a ride he was organising for promotion and education on Indigenous Health issues. It was the second year for the event and he told me how he was hoping to get a non-Indigenous rider along this year and asked if I'd be interested. To me the idea of a ride promoting health made a lot of sense so I already had an interest to join.
So when I went home I decided to do some research on Indigenous Health as I really had little knowledge on specific issues they face and if I was going to do this ride I felt I really needed to first have a better understanding of the issues I was riding in support of. As different sources gave figures of between 10 and 20 years difference in the life expectancy of an Indigenous Australian compared to the rest of the population it was this from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare that really put it into perspective for me.
Indigenous Australians born in the period 1996-2001 are estimated to have a life expectancy at birth of 59.4 years for males
Or in other words, on average an Indigenous male isn't expected to live to retiring age. This on it's own was enough to consider Indigenous health a worthwhile cause to be riding for. Further investigation showed that a major contributing factor in this reduced life expectancy was that Indigenous Australians are significantly more likely to suffer from lifestyle diseases than the rest of the population. This aspect is where the Tour da Country has some real potential to have an impact. At the end of each day's ride there is a Gala health day where the local Indigenous community can get free health checks, some information and education on healthy diet and living and hear some of the riders share their message on living a healthy lifestyle and enjoy a healthy lunch. So the ride doesn't only raise awareness of the issues, it also aims to make a difference in the communities it visits.
The tour relies on sponsorship for funding so if you or a person or company you know may be interested in sponsoring the event then please pm me and I'll get you/them in contact with the organisers.
Now onto the details of the ride itself. The ride will be leaving Wollongong on the 28th of October, stopping in Nowra, Ulladulla, Moruya, Bermagui, Bega, Cooma, Adaminaby, Tumut, Wagga Wagga and Culcairn before finishing in Albury. Frequent readers of the 6k thread may be aware that my riding consists of an Audax ride every month or two but so far has been limited to single day rides so while no single stage of the tour is beyond my normal riding the backing up day after day will be a new test for me. Riding with a support vehicle is also a new to me and riding as a team is something I don't have a great deal of experience with either. I thought I'd start this thread as a place to share my experience as I prepare and do the tour.
In that regard it was just under two weeks ago that a few of us got together for the first training ride. Starting early I met Dale on his recently acquired single speed, a purchase off gum tree for specifically for training for the tour. Dale is not a regular rider but is a very active and athletic person and one of the four riders who completed the first tour last year as it made it's way from Wollongong to Sydney, over the Blue Mountains, accross to Dubbo then on to Walgett. We headed from Albion Park to Dapto feeling the cold of the low lying areas and wondering if warmer clothing would have been a better option. In particular I was really wishing I'd managed to find a pair of long fingered gloves as my searching the night before only found a couple of right hand gloves from old pairs.
In Dapto it was time for me to meet a couple more team members for the first time. The other organiser, Ben, was also one of the four from the previous year and had kept up with some regular cycling since. The other person to meet was Layne who was new to cycling having recently purchased a nice white Masi which he had taken on his longest ride to date of 10km. By the time we headed off the sun had risen and as we climbed out of the shadows at the top of the first gentle climb we were greated with it's pleasant warmth. Then we'd descend back into the cool mistiness of the rural morning on our way down the other side before repeating again on the undulating road out to Avondale and on to Marshall Mount.
Heading towards Albion Park Dale said he had to get moving to be home in time so I accompanied back to Albion Park at a fairly solid pace before saying farewell and rolling gently back to meet the other two again. By now the sun had risen properly and conditions where quite pleasant for the remainder of the ride. The setting wasn't as nice though as the rural back roads gave way to the highway for the return leg.
By the time we'd returned to Dapto Layne had more than tripled his longest ride having just done a 36km loop. He was certainly feeling it more than Ben and I but had really done well being so new to cycling. From there I was left to head for a solo run back home. A good workout into a slight headwind made for a good finish to the first training ride. Our next one is scheduled for this Saturday and so far it's looking like a few more of the team will be able to make it this time. Looking forward to meeting them and continuing what I'm sure is going to be quite an adventure.
A good cause. I used to teach a bit of development theory and disaggregating health stats can be a real eye opener. In Australia the state of indigenous health is something we really can't be proud of, especially given we have a universal health system.
Hey all, thanks for your interest. I'm getting details from the organisers on the best way to donate online and will get back to you as soon as I know.
Dr_Mutley wrote:Is there a website?
How many indigenous fellas doing the ride?
They have a facebook page and as far as riders go there's around 10 indigenous riders looking at doing at least some stages (including a couple of females), not sure yet how many are looking to do the full tour.
I threw together a rough draft. There will obviously be some detours off that but I don't know the spots we're holding the gala days, where we're staying each night, any other planned stops along the way or detours to avoid scetchy road etc. While everyone seams to have some level of fear/respect of Bega to Cooma I personally think the toughest day will be Adiminaby to Tumut (baring a southerly smashing us on one of the coastal legs).
Went out for the second training ride yesterday. After a couple of days of rain and it continuing well into Friday night I awoke to wet roads on the Saturday morning but the rain had stopped. Unfortunately Dale wouldn't be joining us this week due to a family medical emergency so I headed off into the dark alone for the ride out to the Dapto meeting point. My gloves still damp from the afternoon before's ride took a little while to get some heat up and be comfortable while the water still in my shoes was slowly making it's way through the fresh socks meaning my feet where going in the reverse direction to my hands. Still, as the morning sun started breaking through it began to reveal a gorgeous clear day with the only new water to contend with being that already on the road.
I came towards the intersection to turn to the meeting point running a couple of minutes late with visions of a flashing light making it's way towards the intersection from the other side. Another tour rider perhaps? My suspicions confirmed as coming into view I could make out last year's tour kit before arriving at the intersection and heading to the meeting point at the same time. It was Shane V who I was meeting for the first time. He was riding the slick shod mountain bike he'd ridden last year as he informed me his new road bike was sitting at home without pedals after he failed to budge the ones on the mountain bike to swap over earlier in the morning. With new pedals on their way he expected the first ride of his new machine some time next week.
At this stage we where the only riders at the meet point. Apparently Ben had messaged Shane earlier saying he wasn't feeling well leaving the only other rider who'd confirmed they where going to be there today as Layne. A quick call to Layne found he was headed to Albion Park wondering if we were starting from there after turning up at Dapto early and having no one else show up as the ride time approached. He turned around and was shortly with us ready to start, commenting he thought he saw me as he drove past but without the second set of lights of Dale had concluded otherwise.
Still, with all this we where only around ten minutes late heading off on the same course as last time. I don't know if it was warmer than the ride a fortnight ago or if it was just the improvement from the last couple of wet and cold days but it certainly felt better. Not even my now wet feet bothered me as we headed out to the rolling country back roads. As we chatted along the way I found that since last years tour Shane had kept up his riding by commuting to work a couple of time a week. After a trip 4 weeks ago he hadn't started back again but was cruising along comfortably on the mountain bike regardless.
It was a pleasant run the whole way round the loop and Layne was already noticing an improvement from a fortnight ago, feeling better on the final climb into Dapto even though we'd gone around some 12 minutes quicker than last time.
Heading home it was good to be enjoying some sunny weather after the last couple of days, a great autumn day to be out for a ride.
Had the third training ride last weekend. Being the long weekend fewer could make it and this time it was Shane V, Dale and myself doing the same loop as the last couple of rides. It was another gorgeous morning for the ride and unlike a couple of weeks ago I didn't have wet gear to contend with in the predawn cool. Met up with Dale and rode into the meet point and enjoy a coffee waiting for Shane to arrive. Shane again arrived without his new bike. Apparently the pedals had arrived but after fitting them he hadn't made it out the driveway before the chain broke. I felt like I had an unfair advantage as we headed off with Dale on the single speed and Shane on the slick shod MTB.
Still, with just the three of us it was a quicker ride than the last couple and despite having plenty of time Dale was keen for another hard run for the last bit back into Albion Park before leaving the two Shane's to continue back to Dapto. Had time to take the long way home this week which, combined with the faster pace, made for the toughest of the training rides so far.
I also got details for anyone interested in donating today. thecaptn and DavidS, I've pmed you both the details. If anyone else is interested then let me know and I'll send them to you as well.
Way overdue for an update on here. The second training ride for June was cancelled with a couple of the riders driving the proposed route instead. The reports where quite positive with comments of some spectacular scenery along the way. I spent the later half of June battling some crappy weather and a virus with very limited riding taking place. I'd finally shaken the virus in time for the next scheduled training ride on the 6th of July. This just happened to be the date of the Berry Mountain Audax ride and so Dale and I decided to tackle that as our training ride for the day.
What a difference a month can make. While I had been getting very little riding in Dale had been training hard on his 'Silver Bullet' single speed. Now, back on his geared bike, the training was paying off as he was comfortably cruising along with some seasoned Audax riders. By the time we hit the hills around Jamberoo I was struggling to keep up on the climbs. As the ride went on it was becoming more obvious that while I may have shaken the virus I was still suffering from the loss of the fitness it had stolen from me. After the lunch break at Greenwell Point it was time for me to let the other riders go and to continue on with the rest of the ride at my own pace. I'd end up losing a little over an hour on Dale by the end of the 209 km.
Today would be the day for the next training ride and today it would be Shane V and myself heading off on a different route for the training rides. Shane had his roadie this time and had been building up the training during the last few weeks. I'd regained some of the fitness back over the last fortnight as well and once the sun had come up and we'd warmed up it was quite a pleasant ride with us sitting happily at a similar pace. Shane's new bike was still having some teething problems as he commented that his seat post had slipped a little on his last ride and today we had to stop and tighten the clamp on the seat rails that had worked loose. Aside from the teething issues his bike, with it's Tour da Country paint job, is quite a striking looking machine. The facebook photos really don't do it justice.
While it felt good to have my fitness going the right way again and to know Shane and Dale have got their training in order I have to say it's a little disappointing that this far in less than half the team have made it to one of the fortnightly training rides. Makes me wonder if the team will shrink in size as the date of the ride approaches or at least the number of stages some riders decide to take part in. Still, regardless of whether there's 4 riders or 10 on a stage I'm sure it's still going to be an amazing experience and something well worth being part of.
Last weekend Dale and I managed to get out for a training ride. I'd picked up a Shogun 500 touring bike of ebay to use as a commuter and shopping bike. As part of the commuting role I'd mounted my lights to it so with the early start I'd decided to take it for the training ride rather than pull the lights back off. With Dale on the singlespeed the old touring bike still probably had the advantage anyway.
It was to be an earlier start than I'm used to and the cold certainly wasn't helping to encourage me out of bed but somehow I managed to find myself on the bike and rolling off to meet Dale just after 5:30. We'd decided to head out along some of the country back roads to a hill I'd discovered on a solo ride a few weeks earlier. I hadn't followed it the whole was as I'd run out of time but as we approached it Dale realised it was one he'd used for training in last year's tour. This time he'd be attempting it on a single speed though.
Dawn had broken as we arrived at the hill and started the climb. It's a gentle start before the gradient pitches up for a little bit. It's here that the touring bike starts showing the clear advantage over the singlespeed as Dale is struggling to grind his way up while I go spinning off ahead. The Shogun might not climb like the Felt but it's more than adequate for allowing me to make steady progress up the climb. The gradient builds as the climb continues and it's out of the saddle for the final section to reach the large gate that prevents continuing any further. I pull my phone out to get it ready to film Dale coming up the end of the climb. As I see his light approaching he pulls off to the side of the road with the end in sight. It had been a valiant effort but the hill had beaten him this time. If you click on the pic below you can see a bit of a white smudge to the left of the telegraph pole on the bend. That's Dale's light as he pulls in behind some bushes before I can take the shot.
Heading back down gives more of an idea of how steep things got as, despite taking things cautiously and regularly braking to slow things down as I don't have complete trust in the old tyres still on the Shogun, the speed rolls into the mid 70s, much faster than either of us had taken these bikes before. After that it's a fairly easy run into Dapto for a coffee stop before heading home. At Dale's it's time for a quick shot of the bikes before heading back for home.
Well overdue for an update to this thread. I mentioned in my last post my lake of trust in the old tyres on the Shogun. Well it proved well founded as after only one more short ride I noted this on the front: With an old set of 700c rims in the garage and spare tyres I did a 700c conversion to the front end to get the bike ridable again for the next training ride. The 3rd of August training ride would prove a real test of pushing on when things didn't go to plan. It started off with a message just as I was about to get on the bike. Dale had slept in and said he'd be ready in about half an hour. No problem, that'll just mean the sun is up earlier in the ride, which I think is a good thing. Nearing the half hour I get a call, Dale is ready to head out and we head of to our meeting point. Only problem is I didn't hear the same meeting point as Dale thought he said so after about ten minutes waiting at the spot I thought it was I decided to give Dale a call and that's when I find out he's at a different spot so I head off to meet him there. The end result is we are now well behind our scheduled start time when we finally head off.
It's a nice run around the first half of the Lake to where we meet up with Layne before continuing further round the lake. It's at this point that we also turn to face the wind and it's obvious the second half is going to be much tougher. Getting towards our coffee stop Dale notices Layne's rear brake rubbing every wheel revolution. Inspection at the coffee stop reveals a busted spoke. The lateness of our morning meant that waiting an extra half an hour means the bike shop just down the road will be open so we decide to wait and drop in to get a spoke.
While Layne's spoke gets replaced and wheel trued I pick up a new cassette that will let me complete the 700c conversion and a pair of anti-theft skewers from the bargain table.
By the end of the ride we're probably two hours behind what we'd planned but the wind had ensured we'd got a good workout.
Things went closer to plan on the next ride. Brett, a friend of Dale's, would join us for this training ride. We started on time, had the meeting point right and had a good ride around the lake until we'd turn for the country back roads in the later part of the ride and Brett got a flat. A tube change and we where off again then a few kilometres down the road we encounter this:
If you watch the shadow at the end of the clip you'll see the bird clip Dale's helmet. The bird flew on, presumably ok, and Dale suffered nothing more than the shock of having been hit by a bird.
The arrival of the shirt pics also brought with it some more details of the tour as the back of the shirts has the details of all the stages, including dates and distances. So here's the breakdown:
25/10 - Wollongong Community Ride and Health Day 28/10 - Wollongong to Nowra 80km 29/10 - Nowra to Ulladulla 65km 30/10 - Ulladulla to Moruya 80km 31/10 - Moruya to Bermagui 76km 01/11 - Bermagui to Bega to Bemboka 95km 03/11 - Bemboka to Cooma 75km 04/11 - Cooma to Adaminaby 50km 05/11 - Adaminaby to Tumut 130km 06/11 - Tumut to Wagga 100km 07/11 - Wagga to Culcairn via The Rock 75km 08/11 - Culcairn to Albury 50km
Yesterday was time for the first ride in an 8 week plan Ben had put together for the team. Hopefully it will see more of the team getting together for rides and I'll get a chance to meet a few more, maybe even all of them, before the tour begins.
Yesteray's plan was to meet at Waterfall and ride back to Wollongong. After a warm day and night yesterday and the promise of a warm final day of winter I decided to go for the summer kit and with a new light I was back on the Felt again for a couple of rides. It was a cool trip to the station before dawn but the sun would be up and things warming by the time would arrive in Waterfall. That was my plan anyway.
Layne and Dale had to be back too early to do this ride so it would be Ben and Shane V(Veno) making the trip to Waterfall and we where also joined by Ben's friend Tim for the ride today. Descending into Watefall my thoughts of things warming up before the ride where quickly dashed. I wasn't accounting for the fact that the trees keep the national park in shade and it was a vary chilly descent, even for the guys with extra layers on. Down the bottom though it didn't take too long for the climbs in the undulating terrain to outweigh the descents and the summer kit was feeling comfortable.
The small climbs through the park showed that Veno and TIm would be pushing us whenever the road pointed upwards as was definitely feeling it maintaining their pace. It had been quite a while since I'd ridden this road and I'd only ridden it a couple of times so I was trying to remember that climb out of the park that Sydney to Gong riders dread. The familiar right hand bend prompted the memory as I set a comfortable pace to head up the incline. To my suprise this time I was setting the pace and not hurting the same as when they'd pushed me on the shorter climbs. I was waiting for a kick up in gradient as the road was flatter than I'd remembered but it seamed the climb in my memory was tougher than the reality, probably due to a couple more years riding in my legs that's included some much tougher climbs than this one.
Anyone, by the top the choice of summer kit was proving right, it was a gorgeous day and I was feeling very comfortable which I'm sure helped in feeling good on the bike. The run down bald hill was great. The road almost completely free of debris made for a smooth run down that was also completely free of traffic. In fact traffic was quite light as we continued a pleasant journey along the undulating terrain of the coast.
Veno's bike however wasn't sounding the best. With various noises from the drivetrain indicating it could use a service since early on in the ride a new rattling noise was giving an indication that something else may be amiss. It's going straight to the shop after the ride he said as we rode on. It was only a few ks further that the source of the rattling would reveal itself as the saddle coming loose and falling off. Time to stop and fix it, except my multi-tool wasn't quite long enough to reach inside the aero seat post to tighten the front bolt so Veno's seat would end up tilted a little further back than he would have like for the remainder of the ride. He's know going to make sure he has a long enough allen key with the bike for every ride just in case.
As we made it towards Wollongong we headed for Ben's place and I found he lived part way up a reasonable climb. The competitive side in me said I wasn't going to stop part way up and I needed to go to the top and finish the climb in one go before heading back down to Ben's place so I continued on to conquer this new climb. I wasn't sure just how far it would go or how steep it would get so I was just pushing on with the goal of making the top. There was one steeper bit half way up the climb before a flatter section for a bit of a reprieve before climbing on again. I had ridden part of this hill in the opposite direction before, coming out of a firetrail on the MTB after spending some time in the escarpment but I wasn't really sure where and didn't notice where that was on my way to the top.
Once the climb was conquered I headed back down to Ben's where I could try some kit on for sizing before the actual tour kit was made up. Unfortunately they'd been able to supply Ben with everything except my normal sizing so it was still a bit of a case of I'm fairly sure I'm between the small and large so the medium should be good. Other than the lack of medium to try on the sample kit seamed quite nice. Of course it's difficult to tell how well a pair of knicks will suit without testing them on a decent ride so I'm really looking forward to getting a set and getting out on the bike. They're bib knicks and the jersey has a full length zip, neither of which I've had before.
After trying the gear on and chatting for a bit it was time to head off to meet up with the family so it was a solo run from Wollongong down to Shellharbour. A nice leisurely cruise along the coastal cycleway in fantastic conditions was a great way to finish off my winter riding for this year.
With the tour date edging ever closer this week saw the start of me being a bit more deliberate in my training. Previously my bike training was as specific as I'll try and get out for a ride on this day, maybe pick a couple of strava segments to have a crack at or chose to go out and ride some dirt because I have a dirt ride coming up. For the Alpine Classic I'd got a little more specific by getting out for a few rides of hill repeats but as a general rule I just get out and ride. So really, my definition of a training ride was either to go out and ride harder than normal, either for some part or the whole ride, or to go and work on my dirt skills and a training plan was to pick what I might do that week.
I didn't really think this was good enough for the tour, sure I could probably get by and make it through the tour continuing on with this lack of planning but I really want to be a valuable team member and not just someone hanging onto the back of the pack. After all, before any preparation had began I was quite possibly the most regular of cyclists in the group and as such it would be reasonable to expect that I could be relied on to do a reasonable amount of work at the front of the group.
So in my search for training plans I'd come across this 8 week plan that I decided to use as a loose guide. I say loose guide because aspects of it just don't fit in with the reality of my life and it's going to take a bit of working out to see how things fit in with the plan. For example, Saturdays are mostly going to be group rides so while I'll try and fit the plan into the ride as allows the group riding aspect is more important and I'll just make up any bits that I miss from training on another day. I also have some dirt riding which I know won't fit in nicely with the plan but figure I can do my best to make it somewhat equivalent.
The other issue is what do I do about my 40-45 minutes of typical commuting each day? On Monday it meant I was riding on a day that the plan has designated as a rest day, I figure I'll just take things fairly easy on my commutes as surely some extra base riding will be fine. On Tuesday, the first riding day of the plan, that got thrown out the window when I got a call from my wife saying she'd got held up at work so I needed to get home quick to get our daughter to drama class. That meant the short way home and flat out so a reasonably solid 15 minute effort which was sure to affect getting out and doing the 1:15 ride with 3x15 minute tempo that the plan had designated. The time I'd planned for the ride was also thrown out the window as it was meant to be finished by the time Alex had finished her drama class as we where then busy from that point until later in the night. Now I was taking her to class that entire window was gone and I'd have to head out after 10pm to get the ride in.
In the end I decided I would count the 15 minute flat out ride home as one of the 15 minute tempo sections from the training ride and head out for my first structured training ride of 5 minutes warm up, 2 repeats of 15 minutes tempo, 5 minutes recovery then a 5 to 10 minute cool down while I rode home. How that really worked overall compared to the plan I have no idea but I'm sort of working all this out as I go along and it made enough sense to be considered equivalent overall to the plans day.
So with that decision made I decided it was time to start making some proper use of the Garmin as a training tool and set about setting up my first workout. I already had my heart rate information setup with resting and maximum heart rate, letting Garmin calculate the zones from that. To the best I could work out zone 3 would be the one for tempo so I set it up for the tempo section and just left the base component as target free. I know there are limitations to heart rate based training but I figure in the absence of a power meter (or the finances to justify purchasing one) it was the best tool I had at my disposal.
So all set up I headed out on my first attempt at a more structured training ride. Cruising along for the first 5 minutes then a few beeps from the Garmin and it was time to up the pace and try and figure out just what riding at zone 3 was like. It takes about a minute for my heart to fully respond to the work and I was happily in the zone feeling like this is about where I'd sit if I was trying for a solid 1 to 2 hour effort. Then there was a corner and my Garmin is quickly beeping at me telling me my heart rate is too low. It was only a right hand turn at a roundabout but it was enough for my heart rate to recover to below the zone 3 rating. Didn't take much to get it back up into the zone but other corners, intersections, slowing for someone crossing the road etc all saw it dip temporarily below the zone. Then there is a hill to get out of the suburban area, doing my best to keep within the zone and not push too hard on the way up it still doesn't take long for the Garmin to start beeping to tell me my hear rate is now too high. I back off a little more and it starts making slow progress back towards the zone then I crest the hill. Almost instantly I'm back in the zone and then a couple of seconds after that I'm too low again. It really is hard keeping within the zone out on the road. Thankfully after that I get to some flatter road with less interrupted riding and it starts getting easier to stay within the zone.
Then the 15 minutes is up and I ease of for the 5 minute recovery. I turn my thoughts to working out where I can get within the 5 minutes to work out the best turn around spot to make my second 15 minute tempo session end around when I'm re-entering the suburbs of Albion Park. I turn off the freeway for a detour on another main road as I know the next exit is too far, head up to a roundabout and turn around and am heading back over the freeway to the entry ramp in the other direction as the Garmin starts beeping for the start of the second tempo session. The flatter start certainly helps get things in the zone and under control although the gentle undulations ensure some control is still needed. A slight downhill section shows just how much easier I'm used to taking things down hill. You really need to keep those pedals spinning to keep the heart rate up. I get back to that same hill that caused problems in the first session. I do better at keeping the heart rate down on the climb this time but it still goes outside just outside the zone on the way up and dips briefly below on the way down and then just a little further along my 15 minute is up and it's a gentle ride home.
I imagine I'll get better at staying within the zones the more I do this kind of training but am quite pleased when I upload the ride to see that my average heart rate for the two tempo sessions are 162 and 163. The centre point for the zone 3 range is 163.5 so I'm pretty happy with those numbers.
AWESOME.... being an Indigenous Australian and taken up cycling in the last 12-18 months this is an awesome innitiative.... I would say I was in the 59yr target group in Nov 2011 (smoker and weighed in at 133kgs!!)... since then I have given up the smokes and then lost 50kgs (no smoke no mirrors just hard work and informed lifestyle choices)... got into cycling in June last year and now regularly ride each week and slowly improving my fitness - had a PB on Strava today smashing an average of 37.1kmph over the 20km commmute to work http://www.strava.com/activities/81349062.. . completed the journey to recognition ride (1200ks from Alice to Katherine) and came second in my age group in the ACT Duathlon champs held at stromlo (came last in my age group last year and improved my time over the course by 17 minutes)
soooo how can I get involved? can I ride one segment from Bemboka to Cooma?
Hey Chris, well done on turning your life around. Sounds like you're a great example of the type of change the tour is aiming to promote. In terms of getting involved it would be best to send an email to [email protected] or post your interest on the Tour Facebook page. I'll let the organisers know to expect a message from you.
With the Tour fast approaching training has been a bit of a mixed bag. The first week of the 8 week training plan was going well. That Saturday I got out for ride with Ben and Layne and even managed to do some threshold work during it. If you're wondering how to do some threshold work in a group ride of mixed riding abilities the answer was actually pretty simple. Throw in some hills. While we stuck together for most of the ride when we got to the hills it was a case of go at your own pace. It was quite a good workout to finish of the first week of the program. I'd managed to follow a bit of a modification of the program to fit in my commuting, send some time on the 29er and get a group ride in and was quite happy with how it had all gone.
A couple of days later, on Monday, things weren't going so well. A virus would keep me off the bike for a week. As the week went on the lack of riding was really starting to get to me although I knew trying to train was likely to do more harm than good and just put my recovery from the bug back. That Saturday was meant to be the Tour de SCUM, 100km Audax dirt ride and I was was determined to do that ride to complete the dirt series so I had extra reason to rest up and recover as well. By the end of the week I wasn't 100 percent but I was feeling like the 100km was within ability and so I spent Friday doing some carb loading and got of to bed early to ensure I was well rested and tackling the ride in the best state I could given the week preceding. Unfortunately the weather had other ideas and overnight the rain came and set in, putting down too much water over the course and causing the ride to be postponed. With the ride postponed I took the opportunity to spend the day with the family.
Feeling better, I was ready to get back into the training again the following week, however my wife's mother's health issues sent her to hospital and the week was spent either looking after the kids so my wife could be up in Sydney with her family or up there with them. It also meant driving the car instead of riding to work so most of another week off the bike. The mother in law came out of hospital on the Thursday, and although her health concerns are far from over, she came out of hospital in better health than at any time I've known her and has since made some positive changes which hopefully stick.
Thursday night also saw me get out for my first training ride in 10 days. I figured I could get Tuesday's 4 x 15 tempo session in on the way to the LBS to pick up a couple of things and then Wednesday's 1 hour base ride on the way home so I was only one day behind on the week's riding. The plan took a little in route planning to get the tempo sessions in with as little interruption as possible and the flatter course made things a lot easier when it came to keeping with the correct zone. By the time I got to the LBS I was actually feeling better and fresher than when I'd started and was confident of getting the training back on track. The ride home I ignored the computer and just rode. I wonder if the base component of the program is as much about just enjoying the riding as it is about time in the saddle. It certainly felt good to just ride and not worry about pace or heart rate. Turns out I actually pushed harder on that base section of my ride than the earlier 4 x 15 tempo session.
Continuing on and the following Saturday would be my next chance to try for the next ride on the training plan. I only had a few hours to spare, needing to get to Relay for Life in Wollongong by 9:30am so the plan was to meet up with Dale for a bit of a ride before a coffee stop then continuing on to get the rest of my training ride in on the way to Wollongong. So I headed off a little before 6 to meet Dale for a general ride to Maccas for a coffee.. While I wasn't really paying attention to the heart rate I know it was more than just a base level of effort but I really should have expected that with Dale, taking it easy is not really the way he trains.
After the coffee stop the plan was for Dale to turn off for to head home around the lake about 5 ks down the road at which point I'd start my next sesssion, today's was two repeats of 20 minutes tempo, 10 minutes threshold. So we headed of for part 2 of the day's training. It was only a couple of ks in that I felt we where already cruising at tempo so I pressed the lap button to start the session. Heart rate confirmed I was pretty much in the middle of the zone so it appears the training is at least making me a bit more aware of where the tempo zone is. A couple more ks and I waved Dale off and continued on towards Wollongong wondering just where I'd get to before starting the first threshold session. The time was ticking down while I did my best to keep within the zone over small hills and hoping each traffic light wouldn't get in my way. It was all going pretty well as the last few minutes of the tempo session approached and I started having a better idea of where I could be for the first threshold session. If I continued on my path I end up somewhere in the Wollongong CBD, far from the ideal location to attempt what would be my first threshold session under guidance of the HRM. The alternative was a left turn that would see me approaching Mt Keira at just about the right time so I took the turn figuring threshold sessions are a good reason to go do some climbing. The climbing actually starts gradually and while I was still in the tempo section but towards the end the gradient starts increasing at just the right time. I couldn't have planned it any better as the final seconds beeped by and my heart rate hit the 172 bpm border spot on the changeover from tempo to threshold on the Garmin.
From there it was a steady climb to stay within the zone and not push beyond it but the whole time I was thinking to myself, firstly how far up is the road closure? will I finish the threshold session before reaching it? and how am I going to keep even within tempo on the way back down? Turns out the closure was pretty much in the perfect spot. I complete the threshold session, turn around and try to keep the legs spinning enough on the way back down. One of the things I'd learnt since starting this training is I struggle to keep the heart rate low enough for tempo on climbs and high enough on descents. Thankfully the lower part of Keira is where the road opens up, being both wide and with fairly gentle corners compared to the upper areas that are closed off. I actually push too hard and stay within the garmin is beeping at me telling me my heart rate is too high for most of the descent. By the bottom I'm into the tempo zone and I set about trying to work out a loop in my head that will take me around the suburbs, avoiding interesections that are likely to stop me as much as possible, with the aim of getting back to the climb for the next threshold session. My plan wasn't quite so perfect this time as I find the timer running out while still on the rolling hills leading up to the intersection I wanted to get through. Pushing it on the down hills and trying to keep things under control on the ups, plus a fortunate timing of the lights at the intersection and I manage to keep in the zone (or slightly above) until I'm back on the climb where I'm able to settle back into a climbing rhythm to see out the rest of the session. Well that's what I thought anyway, the reality was that the last couple of minutes really tested me. This was the time that the garmin as my training partner was pushing me past where I'd normally be backing off for a bit of a break. It seamed a long two minutes as I kept pushing on up the hill and it was ever so satisfying to hear the final beeps to tell me the session was over and I could turn around to cruise back down the hill. From there it was just a case of cruising to the Relay, although some of the hills on the way meant it was a bit tougher than cruising.
By the time I got there I was well and truly worn out and looking forward to a break. However, a proper break would have to wait a little while, a bit over 24 hours after 120 laps at Relay and my legs had completely had it. Thankfully the next week of the program was an easy one, just some base riding which would give my legs a chance to recover.
A couple of days into the easy week and I was feeling ok on the bike, a lot better than off it actually as my legs felt better turning the pedals over gently than they did walking. On Tuesday I managed to get out for a ride with Dale. Again he ensured it was more than just an easy ride but for the most part I felt pretty good on the bike. I was careful not to push too hard on the hills though as as soon as the road pointed upwards the tiredness in my legs was really felt. Outside of that ride I mostly did my best to just cruise for my commuting, although at times the wind was doing it's best to make sure I didn't. By the time the weekend came around I was feeling pretty good for the next training ride with some of the Tour da Country crew.
Turns out the only other Tour rider able to make the planned ride was Ben. We'd also be joined by Tim again who brought along Luke. Several other's from the Tour where out doing rides in different places, including TJ who would be riding towards our start location at Waterfall. Oringally TJ was going to meet us at Waterfall and continue on to Wollongong but after fighting off illness had decided to finish her ride at Wollongong. Unfortunately the group she was riding with was nowhere to be seen as we ran out of time waiting so we had to head off without a chance to meet her this time. It's looking very much like the first time I'll meet many of the riders is going to be at the start of the Tour itself!
So we headed off and before long were descending into the national park. My bike started making a funny sound which was quite disconcerting with the speed of the downhill. It took a bit of working out to realise my light had come loose from it's mount and was hanging on by the chord to the battery. The sound was it bumping against the frame, front break cable etc. I pulled the light up and tied the chord around the stem to keep it safely out of the way for the rest of the descent. Then as we continued along at the bottom of the hill I was able to unplug and untie the light and shove it in my pocket to sort out later.
The pace was quicker than the last time we'd done this ride and before long we where climbing our way back out of the national park. The extra weight of the Shogun certainly made the climb tougher than last time but staying with Luke meant it was slightly quicker than the Felt! At Bald Hill it was time to stop for water refills and a quick snap.
From there on it became mostly a case of trying to keep up with Luke, with some sections of brisk riding then waiting for the four of us to regroup. The end result being a few strava PRs along the way and cutting around half an hour of the trip compared to the month earlier. It had been a tough but enjoyable ride on an absolutely gorgeous day and having completed the ride we stopped in at a cafe for a little while. It was during this break the wind came. A sudden gust blowing bottles and glasses over and signalling the start of some unrelenting winds. We would continue on to Port Kembla, alternating between fighting the crosswind to keep the bike going in the right direction to enjoying a push from the tailwind depending on which corner we'd just gone around. At Port Kembla I bid farewell to the others as the hope on the train back to Wollongong while I continued on home, turning to face the wind and battle it most of the way, while trying to get the ride back to more of the base level my training program said it should be. I elected the hilly option for the way home, figuring the hills would give some shelter from the winds and at times that worked. It also gave the nice bonus of a good tailwind for a few kilometres where I was able to have some fun flying along at speeds that would normally be well beyond my reach.
I ended up with a 90km ride that I was happy to finish off the week's training with.
That brings my training and this thread up to date as I look to the final four weeks of preparation, yes in 4 weeks from today we'll be heading off on Stage 1 of the Tour!
Thought I'd try something a bit different with last night's training ride. I was over sticking to the flatter roads to make riding at tempo easier plus there had been a decent westerly wind blowing all afternoon. When the wind is blowing I like to start my rides into it as well as head for the hills. With it coming from the west that meant facing it along the undulating road until reaching the shelter of the Escarpment then climbing Macquarie Pass.
Heading off and it was obvious the wind had eased since the afternoon and it wasn't too bad as I faced it. I probably didn't give myself enough of a warm up before pressing the lap button to begin the first of two 25 minute tempo intervals. After the week of riding without any HR based zones it took me a couple of minutes to get back into the swing of things and settle into the zone. Staying the over the undulations was going to be the next challenge. I was definately doing better than a few weeks ago, managing to keep the heart rate within target on the climbs but still struggling a bit to keep it high enough on the descents.
The real test was yet to come and with 7 minutes left on the countdown I reached the base of Macquarie Pass. It was one thing staying in the zone on the short climbs but it was more time to try it for a 7 minute climb. It was the first time I'd ventured this way with the Shogun. While it's a heavy bike the low touring gearing going down to 30x32 should make a tempo effort on the climb achievable.
I settled into a rhythm and to my surprise found it quite easy to keep the heart rate on target. Even though the lower slopes of the pass are the steepest the relative consistency of gradient made it a lot easier to maintain a consistent effort.
With the time up or was time to find a safe spot to turn around then work things out to try and stay the next tempo interval at the base of the climb. After his well the first climb went I was keen to see how 25 minutes of climbing at tempo went. Again the consistency made it easy to stay on target and for the most part I stayed nicely in the middle of the zone. The greater danger was when the slope eased of and I had to up the pace to avoid doing below target. In the end it was the best I'd done for any tempo session, so not only had I managed to get some reasonable climbing in, it had helped me stick to the training plan.
Thursday's session is two repeats of 15 tempo / 10 threshold. Thinking the pass would have to be the ideal place for that one. Nice to be doing some decent climbing again.
Well life had been getting in the way of lining up any training with the other guys for the past couple of weeks so the Garmin and on a few occaisions, Macquarie Pass, would be my training partners. Here's a few pics of the Shogun near the top.
Today's ride, with Ben and Shane V was time to get a few of us back together for potentially the last group training ride we'd have a chance to do. It would also be our biggest. Ben needed to be back in Wollongong by 10ish but also wanted to get at least a four hour ride in so I'd suggested he ride down south and we'd meet up at Shellharbour Village before doing a loop back to his place. It was agreed to meet their at 7 which meant Ben and Shane V would need to leave around 6ish while I could head off around 6:30 and Layne would need to leave around 6:59. I decided to head off a bit earlier and grab a coffee while I waited. It was a cold start at just after 6 and my pace was kept down more to avoid wind chill than anything else as I headed through the low lying fog to the village. Arriving at the village I could see the shop owners just starting to arrive and after a roll down and back up the street pulled into the cafe that looked closest to open. A few minutes later I was enjoying the warmth from the coffee as I thawed back out and waited for the others.
Ben and Shane V arrived spot on 7 and I was then informed Layne had to work and would no longer be joining us. Shane was also back on the flat bar today as had more issues with his seat staying on, this time losing one of the bolts. So the three of us headed off on what had become a gorgeous morning. We headed for cycleway and back streets down towards Kiama, quite a pleasant cruise with some awesome views...
From there it was under the freeway, then back under and over before a short stint on it would take us to another cycleway, back under a couple more times and then off towards the country back roads of Jamberoo. This cycleway along the river is a bit of a hidden gem thanks to the entrance point being well hidden by overlapping concrete walls and at the bottom of a hill where you would normally go zipping past it without noticing it. You actually need to look back to see it and the only way I knew it was there was from a previous trip following it from the other end. At the Swamp Rd the cycleway just ends, dropping into rock and gravel just ten metres short of reaching the road.
Back onto the road and there where plenty of other cyclist giving a friendly wave as they passed in the opposite direction, obviously enjoying the fantastic weather as much as us. From Jamberoo the hills make for the toughest part of the ride and the only real section where we don't stick completely together. They're fairly short hills though so it's just a case of regrouping heading down the other side. We've been making good time so we head for more country backroads through Marshall Mount before coming back into the suburbs at Dapto. It was somewhere out there that the wind has become noticeable, nothing major but a bit of a headwind for the rest of the journey back to Wollongong.
In the northern area it's time to follow the directions of the others and we take the lower traffic routes first to Shane's and then via some more cycleway and onto the climb up to Ben's. As we're heading up the climb he warns me to watch out for the magpie that'll start attacking just beyond the red car. I keep looking but there's no sign of it and the attack never happens. That was the second non magpie attack of the ride as we'd been warned of another earlier on by a rider passing the other way and although we saw a likely suspect sitting in full view on the correct corner and another on the power lines a little further down, neither seamed bothered by our presence.
We arrived at Ben's with him having done just over 4 hours riding and as well as being the biggest training ride to date, the 94.3 km with 944m climbing, was bigger than what an average stage of the tour will be, we also ridden it at about the pace the tour is planned at so it had been quite a successful ride.
From there I decided to climb the hill a little further and join the freeway for the direct route home, while the breakdown lane debris would be a shocker to negotiate in a group it was fine to dodge now I was solo and made for the quickest way back home. Even taking the quick way home it would still be my longest ride for some time and despite coming close on a few of the training rides this would be my first century since the Berry Mountain 200 back in July. This time it should only be a week until I do another, this time on dirt as the Tour de SCUM finishes the Audax Dirt Series and takes the role of a big chunk of next week's Tour da Country (and Husky 100) training.